Category : Art, Books, Color, Farm, Plants, Poetry
Date : July 12, 2024
plants as prints as watercolors as thoughts as sky as poetry
.
‘Verbal creation, he [Seamus Heaney] writes,
 is an archaeological dig, 
“a dig for finds that end up being plants.” ‘

From Elaine Scarry’s book, Dreaming by the Book 
and Heaney's  book Feeling Into Words: Selected Prose 1968-78

Caretaker Farm CSA flowers and summer ‘dahlia series’
plant inks and gouache on dahlia mono print


dahlias

Category : Art, Color, Fellowships, Plants
Date : June 30, 2024
started a summer series with
Mary Gartside’s colour blots
as inspiration


dahlia prints from Naumkeag Artist residency
daffodil ink from Suzi Banks Baum 
pinecone ink from Hancock

studio work table #workinprogress 
summer 2024 dahlia series
.
[second image, Gartside Yellow and Orange blots found in ‘Mary Gartside c. 1755-1819: Abstract Visions of Colour’ written by Alexandra Loske and published by Thomas Heneage Art Books]

endangered species

Date : June 17, 2024
endangered species

recently, a friend reminded me of 
a temporary art work I made for 
“Clean Out Your Files Week”

materials:
gently used file folders
print shop off-cuts.
items destined for the dumpster

each folder acquired a new label,
a long strand of paper with either —
a bird, crustacea, fish, insect, spider,
mammal, mussel, snail, plant, reptile
.or amphibian—printed on it

endangered species names from 
The National Geographic Society
Book, ‘The Company We Keep’
by Douglas H. Chadwick &Joel Sartore, 1995

Commissioned by The Department of 
Environmental Services and Arlington
Cultural Affairs, Arlington County, VA.
The 1998 installation was in the lobby
of the Bozman Government Center.

And, when finished, all materials were 
either reused or recycled. 

Thanks to Angela Adams for inviting me
to be part of Clean Out Your Files Week.

[photos by Jason Horowitz]






Date : May 31, 2024
is just blue, or azure sky blue?
red or scarlet poppy red?
pink or carnation pink?

In her 1898 book,
“The Use of Color in the Verse of
English Romantic Poets,” Alice Edwards Pratt 
delves deep into the poets 
“descriptive, discriminative, dramatic, aesthetic”
words of color
such as—
“pinky-silver’
“autumnal leaf like-red”
“purple-hectic”
“rose-ensanquined ivory”
and charts each poet’s color
by terms for--
“mountains and hills”
“sky, cloud and air”
“deep waters”


Happily I found Pratt whilst reading
Nicholas Gaskill’s essay, ‘Language and Psychology’
in the ‘A Cultural History of Color: 
In the Age of Industry’
edited by Alexandra Loske.

.



dandelions & dickinson

Date : May 5, 2024
in celebration of
dandelions
dickinson
poetry month
pollinators


…………………………….


The Dandelion’s pallid tube
Astonishes the Grass,
And Winter instantly becomes
An infinite Alas—

The tube uplifts a signal Bud
And then a shouting Flower,—
The Proclamation of the Suns
That sepulture is o’er.


………………..

Dickinson wrote this poem as a letter to her friend Mrs. Edward Tuckerman and included an additional line, “Vinne told me.”

Celebrating  Harvard University Press new edition The Letters of Emily Dickinson edited by Cristianne Miller and Domhnall Miller.

Dickinson’s letter to Tuckerman is in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society (Worcester, MA)

winter fields

Category : Art, Plants, Poetry, Textiles
Date : January 20, 2024

snow on fields

stitched onto cloth

and written into this poem

unfurled a field, a sea of snow grasping onto goldenrod
filling cups aplenty, double dotting punctuation
 
seeing scarlet swatches of bitten bittersweet berries 
 
grapevines curlicue up trees, squirrel nest spaces
unfurling, falling, flouncing onto the forest floor
 
oak, aspen, maple leaves carried into spaces
intervals interlaced into fullness
 
unentangle someone else’s scrawled 
no-sense sentences unto snow’s solaced silence
stitched work from the winter field series exhibited at 2017 Norte Maar in a solo show, bewildered


winterfield stalks and stems, silk/cotton thread on damask, 16 x 15 1/2”


winterfield dots and dashes, silk/cotton thread on damask, 16 x 15 1/2”

Happy Birthday, Emily Dickinson

Category : Plants, Poetry
Date : December 11, 2023

December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886

The Dandelion's pallid Tube
Astonishes the Grass
And Winter instantly becomes
An infinite Alas--
The Tube uplifts a signal Bud
And then a shouting Flower
The Proclamation of the Suns
That sepulture is o'er

Emily Dickinson
8 November 1881

Emily Dickinson's Poems: As She Preserved Them, edited by Cristanne Miller

and a bit more reading about the dandelion—-


fluorescent yellow

Date : September 16, 2020

Large swathes of goldenrod grace the fields now and sway in the wind on this late summer day. We natural dyers long for this time of year when we can harvest the brilliant flowers that make an eye popping fluorescent yellow on cloth.

The Shakers dyed with many fall harvests—goldenrod, sumac, walnut—but didn’t wear yellow.   Why I wonder didn’t they take advantage of these vast fields of bright flowers?  Deborah Burns notes “goldenrod grows in neglected fields” and “where corn had once grown tall, goldenrod now replaced it.” A ‘neglected’ field did not exist on any Shaker farm, so, perhaps, the goldenrod was not as plentiful as it is now. I still search for the reason that Shakers didn’t wear yellow, but maybe it is as easy as yellow shows dirt more than a deep butternut cloth.

If you go to harvest goldenrod, you will not be the only one, for the pollinators are out in full force taking nectar and pollen from the goldenrod, making stores for the winter months.

I invite you to carry Mary Oliver’s fitting poem, Goldenrod, in your pocket as you seek pollinators amongst the fluorescent yellow inflorescences. 

On roadsides,
in fall fields,
in rumpy bunches,
Saffron and orange and pale gold,
in little towers,
soft as mash,
sneeze-bringers and seed-bearers,
full of bees and yellow heads and perfect flowerlettes
and orange butterflies.
I don’t suppose
much notice comes of it, except for honey,
and how it heartens the heart with its
blank blaze.
I don’t suppose anything loves it except, perhaps,
the rocky voids
filled by its dumb dazzle.
For myself,
I was just passing my, when the wind flared
and the blossoms rustled,
and the glittering pandemonium
leaned on me.
I was just minding my own business
when I found myself on their straw hillsides,
citron and butter-colored,
and was happy, and why not?
Are not the difficult labors of our lives
full of dark hours?
And what has consciousness come to anyway, so far,
that is better than these light-filled bodies?
All day
on their airy backbones
they toss in the wind,
they bend as though it was natural and godly to bend,
they rise in a stiff sweetness,
in the pure peace of giving
one’s gold away.



Mary Oliver, Goldenrod from New and Selected Poems, 1992

Deborah E. Burns, Shaker Cities of Peace, Love and Union A History of Hancock Bishopric, (University Press of New England, 1993), pg. 190.


wearing color

Date : July 31, 2020

How do you pick the colors of your clothes?  What if you could only wear colors that you could dye, would this limit your palatte? Or might it open up a rainbow?

indigo dye bath

Recently, I read that the Shakers were allowed to wear any color they could dye themselves, and that fact stopped me in my tracks.  I imagined that the Sisters and Brethren would be clad in garments that were ‘drab’ in color and hadn’t imagined them wearing bright salmon—maybe made from a madder dye bath or pink from cochineal.

shades of madder

“Believers were told they might use any color they could dye themselves, and dye books indicate how broad that color range actually was.  Besides the popular (and practical) blue and the butternut shades, recipes for red, black, “lead or mouse color,” salmon, pink, yellow green, drab, brown, purple, crimson, lavender, scarlet, orange, buff, blue-black and slate were given.  Yellow was not used extensively, and the number of dye recipes for red shades, and, interestingly recipes for the brightest colors (orange, bright green, purple) often specified for dyeing on silk.” 1

coreopsis solar dye

“A variety of other dyestuffs were used during the remainder of the summer. Some were gathered or procured locally (purslain, hemlock, beech bark, sorrel, sumac), but most were purchased from chemist.  A wide range of dyestuffs and chemical “assistants” is mentioned in Shaker account and receipt books.  Cochineal, madder indigo, and logwood were common purchases; and alum, cream of tart, copperas, and bitrio were common setting agent, or mordant, purchases. Other dyestuffs—aleppo galls, camwood, brazilwood, fustic, annatto, redwood, catchetu, weld, and woad—were also mentioned.” (2)

coreopsis gathered from Hancock Shaker Village dye garden

At the moment, madder, woad, weld, and coreopsis are growing in the dye garden at Hancock Shaker Village and indigo in my dye garden.  For cochineal, indigo, logwood, fustic, brazilwood, my source is none other than Botanical Colors.   Purslain, hemlock, beech, sorrel and sumac are easily foraged.  And over the next few months, I will start to make a dye book filled with all the shades of colors worn by Shakers.  

Beverly Gordon, Shaker Textile Arts, (Univesity Press of New England:  Hanover, NH, 1980), pg. 78, 76


starting with seeds

Date : July 2, 2020

From seed to seedling to full grown plant–this process always amazes me. An entire plant is held in a seed, the size of a grain of sand. Start with good soil, add water and sun, hope for rain and allow time.

Now is the time that harvest begins both at Camphill Village and Hancock Shaker Village. Saved seeds transform into lettuces, peas, radishes and herbs. Pesky weeds are being pulled. Mouths water waiting for the green tomatoes to turn bright red.

Now is also the time to think about what fall crops will follow the glory of summer in the garden. Turtle Tree Biodynamic Seed, Camphill’s seed business, is offering selected fall seeds until July 9th. One may purchase seeds through their website, turtletreeseed.org

Tangible parallels between the Villages are seen in their summer gardens–the labors of one for another making a community. New Lebanon Shaker, Brother Frederick Evans said, “Only the simple labors of farming people can keep a community together.”

For more information on Camphill Village, please go to their website and make sure to watch the video on village life.

For more information on Hancock Shaker Village, please go to their website for revised opening information.


“Astonishes the grass”

Date : May 10, 2019

The Dandelion's pallid Tube 
Astonishes the Grass -
And Winter instantly becomes
An infinite Alas –
 
The tube uplifts a signal Bud
And then a shouting Flower --
The Proclamation of the Suns
That sepulture is o'er -
 
            Emily Dickinson, 1881

What if the dandelion heralded the same respect as the tulip or dahlia, commanded high prices, and could only be purchased at select nurseries?  Would it be more highly regarded if it cost more, rather than arrived on lawns and byways for free?  Every year, I am astonished by the number of people that vehemently detest the dandelion and seek to eradicate it by any means necessary. 

Our lawn, shall we say, is ‘littered with” dandelions, plantain, violets of all types, and clover, just to name a few.  Yet when we moved here 11 years ago, the lawn was a wasteland of pure grass, with nature’s bounty obliterated by the indiscriminate use of herbicides and pesticides.  Slowly, we have cultivated a variegated spring crop of wildflowers and now watch the bees and other pollinators relish in them.  We take cues from the bees, and happily gather the plants, adding them into our diet, since all four of the plants identified above are edible and provide nourishment.

One should not partake of dandelion wine or greens, make an infusion with the dainty violet flowers, add young plantain leaves to your spring salad or munch a ripe pink clover from the field, if herbicides or pesticides have been applied.

“Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.”

If one has any doubt about the effects of man and his man-made chemicals on the natural world, the New York Times recently published an analysis of a study done by the IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services; www.ipbes.net) that brings clear evidence to our dire situation:

Thoreau noted in his journal on May 9, 1858, “A dandelion perfectly gone to seed, a complete globe, a system in itself.”  Why not, for the good of the globe, let those dandelions grow, feeding the pollinators and yourself, let it go to seed and then rejoice in what grows naturally around you?

——————————————————————————-

Emily Dicksinson, The Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by R. W. Franklin (Cambridge:  The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press),  pgs. 577-78.

Brad Plumer, “Humans are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘UnprecedentedPace,” The New York Times, accessed on 5/9/2019.

Henry David Thoreau,  The Journal 1837-1861, (New York;  The New York Review of Books, 2009), pg. 495.

——————————————————————————–

Selected favorite books on foraging, plants and herbs:

Katrina Blair, The Wild Wisdom of Weeds 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival, Chelsea Green Publishing, Vermont, 2014.

Steven Foster and James A. Duke, A Field Guide to Medicinal plants: Eastern/Central North America, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 1990.

Euell Gibbons,  Staking the Wild Asparagus, David McKay Company, Inc., New York, 1962.

Rosemary Gladstar, Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide, Storey Publishing, North Adams, 2012.

NOTE: Elizabeth Kolbert writes about the IPBES report in the most recent New Yorker. Here is a link to the podcast: https://www.newyorker.com/podcast/comment/last-chances


summer reading list

Category : Art, Books, Farm, Nature, Plants
Date : July 5, 2018

Summer promises the great outdoors: time to explore new terrains or become more familiar with the world found on your doorstep.  As a primer to our summer exploration, we have been delving into ‘nature based’ reading.

on a colonial farm’s recommended summer reading list:

Carlos MagdalenaThe Plant Messiah:  Adventures in Search of the World’s Rarest Species(New York:  Doubleday, 2017), pg. 6.

“I want to make the world aware of what plants do for us.  I want us to give plants a value and appreciate what they do. I want us to understand their importance for our survival and the survival of our families—our babies, grandparents, and future generations.  I want us to realize that without them we would die, and most living things on land in the air would die with us.  I want us to be enthused by the importance of conservation, to be fired with determination that we should never give up, even if there is only one plant left in the world.  I want us to understand the importance of plants so much that we are moved to do something about it.”

 

Diana Beresford-Kroeger, The Global Forest 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us, (New York:  Penguin Group, 2010), pg. 69.

“But art has a sister.  The sibling is science.  Art and science are of the same house, of the same family.  Art in all its forms opens the way for science, because art is the precursor to science in all things.  Art sounds the bell of change that leads to discovery, and science runs in to listen, to test, and to learn.  Art sometimes molds and other times reflects the thoughts of culture and then defines the tides of fashion.  Science follows in the wake of those tides and looks back at the great fetch of “why” to derive the question “how.”

“There is some time left. There is time for a different way of thinking in which man can rethread the needle and sew a life for the future. For if nature is destroyed, art will stand still and the creativity of science will follow suit. “

 

Tristan Gooley, The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs, (New York:  The Experiment, 2010),  pg 3.

“Picking up one simple scent can take the mind on an extraordinary journey.  Sense and thought, observation and deduction, this two-step process is the key to transforming a walk from mind-numbing to synapse-tingling.  One cannot work without the other; the brain can build wondrous edifices in our mind but it requires the scaffold that our senses provide.”

 

 

Richard Powers, The Overstory, (New York: W.W. Norton, 2018), pgs.  454-455.

‘ “Trees stand at the heart of ecology, and they must come to stand at the heart of human politics. Tagore said, Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven…..If we could see green, we’d see a thing that keeps getting more interesting the closer we get.  If we could see what green was doing, we’d never be lonely or bored.  If we could understand green, we’d learn how to grow all the food we need in layers three deep, on a third of the ground we need right now, with plants that protected one another from pests and stress. If we knew what green wanted, we wouldn’t have to chose between the Earth’s interests and ours.  They’d be the same.” ‘

 

Andrea Barnet,  Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall and Alice Waters Changed Our World(New York: Ecco, 2018), pg. 330.

“People ask how can I as one person can make a difference……But if we can start making considered choices in our everyday actions, the little things – what we buy, what we wear, if we think carefully about the consequences of these choices – how it was made, where did it come from, was it child slave labor, was it cruelty to animals, etc., then we can start making different choices. Small choices. But multiply these small choices by a hundred, a thousand, a million and then a billion and then you start to see a different kind of world.”  Jane Goodall.

 

I will be tucking wildflower, bird and trees guides into my bag this summer, along with newly handmade books to start mapping what I see, hear and smell around the farm.  Delving deeper into where I live and what lives around me, guided by the thought that all is connected, and that by our choices we can make a difference.

 

[Note:  Click on Author’s name for their website, including Carson, Jacobs, Goodall and Waters.]

 


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