Do poets wander alone “scribbling in notebooks, peering across moors, feeding ducks…?” In “Mary Oliver and the Naturesque,” Alice Gregory suggests that Oliver writes and invites us to ramble with her. As the poet says, “the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting.”
So … yesterday I wandered. After watching reports of far away blizzards, I followed sidewalks dusted with snow. It was my first time out taking photos, because last October I chipped a bone in my foot. Since I am just beginning to paint again, I’m posting this sketch.
Gregory’s article appeared in Poetry magazine on February 16, 2011.
We have a bumper crop of pumpkins this year but absolutely no sunflowers. I guess the squirrels ate the seeds.
My friend, author Jackie Jules, grew sunflowers on her deck. Her seedlings vanished once, then twice. But did Jackie give up? No. In fact, I bet that she sang as she watered her plants– songs of maidens and magic seeds. Her flowers bloomed in the brightest gold.
More than a thousand miles away, I dreamed of blossoms and howling guards that chased away the squirrels. In the morning I’d walk the dog and sneak past a neighbor’s house for a glimpse of her sunflowers.
Then one day Madelyn Rosenberg came to my rescue. She was typing away. I imagine her looking like a brunette Katherine Hepburn — author/ journalist. She took a break to bring sunflowers to everyone at our writers group. Madelyn, how did you know? I just had to paint them.
————— Even if plants can’t hear storytellers, what do we know of how plants respond to sound? A study of caterpillar crunching! From the California Academy of Sciences.
Making prints is like magic. You can paint an image on a sheet of plastic, place paper on top, apply pressure and lift the paper. Suddenly you have a new design!
This technique uses wet watercolor with either wet or dry paper, and I never know exactly how the paint will spread. On a grey day, we experimented. Our first grade students created prints with tempera paints on construction paper. In an instant the room filled with spring colors.
My daughter planted seeds and placed the pots in our kitchen window. They’ve sprouted! We forgot to label the containers, but we’ll recognize some of the vegetables by the shapes of their leaves. As for the others … oops! Expect a few surprises.
In April and May, I’ll join first graders to create art inspired by nature. One of the first things we’ll do is sketch the plants sprouting up at school. The students love to remind me to “visualize.” It’s fun to close our eyes and think of a picture and then paint it! Here’s my painting of the salad I’ll eat — made up of vegetables grown in the next few months.
How do you imagine you’ll enjoy the outdoors this spring?
Dancing. In my dreams. Last month I broke my femur. Thank goodness the surgeon put it back together. Now I’m painting and thinking about dancing. Maybe in the spring.
One of my favorite fairy tales is The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. I have A Little Golden Book published in 1954. The story is retold by Jane Werner with pictures by Sheilah Beckett. I love the colorful dresses, the trees studded with leaves of silver, gold and diamonds, and the mystery of it all. Where do the princesses disappear to in the night?
A fox ran past our house the other night. I spotted it under the streetlight. My neighbor saw it, too.
My favorite book from childhood, The Anthology of Children’s Literature, included “The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story” by Joel Chandler Harris. You might also remember the story from the Disney movie, Song of the South. Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox trick each other. The fox catches the rabbit with a very sticky ruse, the Tar Baby. To avoid becoming barbecue, the rabbit pleads, “Please don’t throw me into the briar patch!” Of course, the fox flings the rabbit straight into the thicket.
Virginia Hamilton retells this story in her anthology, The People Could Fly, and the rabbit cries, “Hot lettuce pie! This is where I want to be,” as he lands in the briars — free and safe.
Peter Spier’s The Fox went out on a chilly night features a roguish fox that fares better. He races through town and country and arrives home with dinner for a den full of kits. Emily Gleichenhaus sings this melody on the CD for her program, Sing Books with Emily. You can catch her performances for children at libraries in Northern Virginia.
Note: I noticed today (May 14, 2015) that my copy of The Fox went out on a chilly night, the seventeenth printing, has only “The Fox” capitalized in the title. The other words are written underneath in lower case. As the photo on Emily’s web site shows, more recent printings capitalize using familiar rules, The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night.