Saturday, November 20, 2010

There's a Full Moon Out—Do Your Full Moon Dance!

This time of year, it's all about the weather for me. I'm a compulsive radar-map and thermometer watcher. I just saw that there was a small radar blob on top of my house and I went to the back door to see if it was indeed sprinkling outside—but the sky looked clear and a big full moon is shining brightly, rising behind the tall firs. I will never figure out the weather in Oregon. One of my favorite days was a few years ago, I don't remember if it was late spring or early fall, but all day long from the time I woke up, thick dark clouds rolled overhead from the southwest. Hour after hour it looked like it could rain buckets at any moment, but by mid-afternoon, it was still dry, just wind and clouds. Then while I watched through my living room window, the clouds began to break and quickly they shrank and disappeared, and the brilliant sun came shining beautifully from the west as it headed toward the coast. And that was when it started raining, with no clouds overhead—a soft, steady, light rain that kept falling for a quarter hour. All I could do was laugh in wonder.

I actually went out and dug up a half dozen weeds—well, Labrador violets—this afternoon, out of the mud, it was so nice. Cold, but nice. I think the garden is all ready for the impending freezing nights. I'm sure my geraniums and begonias are going to bite the big one, but that's the circle of Life. The begonia tubers will sleep all winter in my garage, and I'll be ready to buy more baby geraniums next spring. I planted the two new hardy sedums I just bought from Anthony and Susan of Green Gate Nursery in Willamette (old West Linn). It's tough being a plant junkie. You try and try to resist them, but then you get close to one you've never seen before, and it's soooo cute, and then you hear the words, "It's so easy to grow..." and you're sunk.

But the winter weather is here, and it's time to take all that digging energy and put it to work in my studio. My little glass fusing kiln has been helping keep my garage warm, as piece after piece has been coming out. I've been having several thoughts of new designs, some fairly easy and some I'm not ready to try yet.

I wasn't just happy that I finally got a good-looking 8-ray star form, using a square center, I fell in love with the color combination of the amber-gold with the cranberry red. With the orange accents, it looks like a sunset.

I had to try another one, with another color combination I hadn't used for years—lime green opal (translucent) glass with deep turquoise transparent:

Of course I had to add a few more colors, medium and lime green, and green iridescent. The pieces stayed almost square to each other, and I was so excited when I opened the kiln I did my little happy kiln dance.

You can dance if you want to! You can leave your cares behind! And in winter when it's 55 in your garage, it'll help you keep warm!

Happy freezing!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Growing for growing's sake

I found a tiny miracle in my house this morning when I got up. This summer a friend gave me some prunings from one of my favorite shrubs of hers, an unknown variety of Pieris that has bright pink new growth every winter. I potted up several cuttings from it and they've been living under lights inside my house, along with a hydrangea cutting from my flowers-bigger-than-my-head plant. Although none of them  have died, they hadn't shown any signs of growth either—until this morning. One of them has a tiny new branch with several miniscule leaves on it. Sure hope it keeps growing till spring, when I'll be able to put it out in the garden.

A couple days ago I did a piece that reminded me of one of Diebenkorn's Ocean Park series—the blue and green colors and the blockiness of it. Usually the shapes of the pieces don’t add that much to the overall look of the piece, but in this one the color shapes combined to make a real composition. Looking at his work again reminds me of where I got lost in my painting, when it seemed like I stopped getting what I wanted, and I realize that never happened—I just kept changing what I wanted. Learning to paint what’s inside you is exploring the unknown, and exploring the unknown is like going up a staircase and thinking every step is the summit. You spend time at each one, examining every bit of it in detail so you can translate it into your experience.  You paint it this way and that until it’s yours, all yours, and suddenly you realize—it’s not the top, it’s not where you’re trying to get to—it’s just another step. You start looking around for the rest of the staircase, the next step. You come upon something that clicks with you—it might be anything—something that stirs you, that makes you want to run and grab your paints and start working again.

Looking at Diebenkorn's work on the web made me feel that way—that I wanted to grab my paints—but I didn't, I made more glass instead.

I made a peppery color scheme, for a fellow gardener, that looks good enough to eat in the sun.

And then I made one that looks rather unfortunately like a really old piece of pizza. It will go to a lonely, dark corner of my garden where no one will ever notice it. I hope. Or maybe I'll bury it, so a hundred years from now a future resident can dig it up, and go "Ewwwww!"

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for a member of our local Hardy Plant group, a wonderful woman whom I clearly did not get to know well enough. The pastor who officiated said something at the end that touched me. "If you want to honor Ann, take a little bit of whatever she gave you, and pass it on to someone else."That is a way of growing that I hadn't thought of—growing a memory into an act of friendship, growing a previous relationship into a future one. By passing on even the tiniest gift, you multiply it far beyond its original size.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Getting a lesson in ZING

If you're already sick of my garden photos, might as well turn away or grab a's a new week and new colors are out. And miracle of miracles, 3 sunny days in a row to enjoy them! Hooray!

My 'Hilleri' Japanese maple is hitting its stride now. You don't usually notice this unless you're right down in the northeast area I call my grotto, but this time of year you can't miss it from the house, even.
It's a very nice little tree with dark green leaves 50 weeks out of the year. Then for a week it slowly shifts to dark burgundy, then dark brick red, and then--POW!

I mentioned before that my Satomi always turns orange red. This year it got more sun than every before, I wonder if it'll go brighter next week?

This was the second 'Forest Pansy' redbud I got, and it gets more sun than the first one, but usually it just goes yellow gold and then immediately sheds. This year it has a lot more red in it than I've ever seen. I wonder if it might be in love?

That's it, except for my 'Bloodgood' Japanese maples and my Cotinus 'Royal Purple', which haven't even started thinking about changing yet. But I do have some new glass pieces. I wanted to try a mixed fusing of opal glass (mostly opaque) on the bottom and colored transparent cathedral glass on top. I think they'll work better than just the transparent in areas where the light may not hit them directly, or there may be a dark area behind them like a dark wall or thick greenery, but the opal still lights up when the sun hits it from behind. It's a different effect, and I like it.

I had taken my last load of pieces down to the Howden Gallery on Tuesday, and my studio looked really empty except for a few "seconds" that exhibited one or more glaring defects or a general lack of appeal. It's good to have some bright stuff back hanging around, at least for a while. I fired my 23rd piece last night. The two below I really cranked out quickly, but now as I'm seeing how they turned out I'm seeing there are a lot of possibilities in mixing the two styles of glass. I'm realizing that each piece really is a painting on its own, and worth spending the time to play with. I noticed on a couple of the recent pieces that I may have all the colors I want in a piece and it still won't look "together", or have that particular—well, hook—that grabs your eye. I would think I was done putting the chips together, but still be wanting to play with it. I'd rearrange a couple pieces a little, or replace one or two with slightly different colors, and suddenly there's a ZING! in my gut, and I knew it had gone to a new level. I look back at all the paintings I've done and finished, and know that sadly, there were a lot of them that didn't have a ZING. ZINGless. I'm thinking this is a good thing to know, when you have ZING vs. when there is no ZING. Some ZING is definitely better than no ZING.

I must have a new brain cell or two (I was SO happy to read that adults can still grow them after all), because I've been realizing a lot of things just lately. One was that I need to add a link to Shari Erickson's webpage. If you've never seen her miniatures, they really are rather jaw-dropping.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Thank You For My Garden

I woke up early this morning, in time to catch the first light coming through the fog. Every morning that I do this it reminds me of just how lucky I am to live here in such a beautiful place.

As the good-bye colors come out all over the countryside, I really want to offer my heartfelt gratitude to all the plants that have continued to grow and thrive in my garden. I started planting trees and perennials five years ago, and every year since then they have been growing, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Every month there's a new surprise to see when I walk outside, new growth or new flowers. This fall they're really starting to show their colors.

Two years ago, this Acer circinatum was a pair of four-foot sticks. Now it's starting to look like a real tree. I love the rounded palmate leaves, and the fact that it's a perfectly adapted and adaptable native of Oregon. Shade, sun, heat, cold--it doesn't care. It's just happy to be here.

This Cornus kousa Satomi was the very first tree I planted here, a bare root twig. Now it's 7 feet tall and about to turn the brilliant red-orange it turns every fall. Oh boy!

This Acer palmatum Sango Kaku, coral-bark maple, in the foreground is a young tree I just planted a year ago, and it started turning color almost a month ago. In early morning when the sunlight hits it, this baby lights up like a Las Vegas marquee. I'm already imagining what it's going to look like two years from now when it's a foot bigger in each direction (drool). Behind it is one of the Viburnum plicatums, the snowball viburnum, who is still getting established and couldn't manage to crank out any snowballs this year, but is making up for it with a really lovely fall show.

The aforementioned snowball viburnum. Ahhhhhh.

My extra-super-special scoop of the year, a very hard-to-find Disanthus cercidifolius, in the middle of transforming from green to crimson. It's also covered with tiny flowerbuds the size of ladybugs, that I think will open this winter.

My Sedum 'Brilliant' is still living up to its name this fall, even though the flowers have already dried.

And last on the list but right at the top of my heart, all my beautiful hydrangeas that bloomed so richly this year are in their gentle fall colors. This Sister Theresa has big, pure white heads of flowers, and now they're lovely pink and green. Other ones are blue/green, blue/violet, and blue/pink, I could cut some off for inside the house, but they're still so pretty outside I haven't wanted to.

So thank you, dear plants, for making my garden so beautiful, for being a continuous source of joy and inspiration to me, for making me feel like an artist every time I walk outside. May your roots grow deep and your trunks strong, and may your beauty bless the earth till the end of time.