autumn equinox 2022

Lately in the morning when I walk the fields it is wet with dew. I come home with my boots plastered with grass. Our front walk has begun to accumulate sugar maple leaves. The light and air have been so beautiful I took my paints outside. With a board on top of a garden wagon I painted in the September air, swiping paint in wide stripes on big pages, slowly moving the wagon-desk into the shade as the sun shifted. I was working out my dreams on paper and letting them dry like leaves on the gravel.

Yesterday morning I looked through ten years of photographed slip decorated plates. I scrolled through looking at each September to see how each autumn’s reflection looked. I studied each plate and the overall progression. I didn’t arrive at any answers for the next series, but it gave me confidence in a natural evolution. I gained assurance that I can trust my dreams. I can go to sleep in summer and wake up with the clarity of autumn.

During the summer my dreams are often out at sea. The floating ideas are rafts made of the flimsiest bits of marks and words. My work becomes an accidental accumulation of what floats by as I stare out to the horizon. I am rescuing the intriguing bits so that a rhythm of memory, insight and mark become woven together. The accumulation allows me to float with buoyancy out of the waves of summer into fields of autumn where the grass becomes my muse.

#21 summer summit 2022

Today is the summer solstice and the last image of this series. It is the longest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere. Warren and I always discuss what is the beginning of summer? Is it today, or was it Memorial Day, the end of one’s school year, or June 1st when the weather begins to warm. The solstice is a still point where we notice the nuance of the moment, remember other solstices, and the year’s cycle. We ponder the toasts we have made, the promises we kept or broke, the future of which we dream. We walked to the pond after dinner and talked of daylilies, the places we don’t mow, how the trees have grown, the grandchild sleeping in the house, and the porch door left ajar.

“This is the solstice, the still point of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold and unlocking, where the past lets go of and becomes the future; the place of caught breath, the door of a vanished house left ajar.”

― Margaret Atwood, Morning in the Burned House, p.135, 2015, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

#20 summer summit 2022

I have had a pile of small branches in the burn pile waiting for a bonfire. Tonight after dinner the air was still, the temperature was cool so I lit the fire. Pausing after dinner we were admiring the bluebirds from the porch, noting the bunnies, discussing the lunchtime bear sighting down by the pond, and perceiving the way fireflies become noticeable. So much of our day has been worn outside, attention paid today that might engage your perception and enjoyment tomorrow.

Cardoon

let me wear the day
well so when it reaches you
you will enjoy it.

–Sonia Sanchez, one haiku in Love Poems, 1973

#19 summer summit 2022

Each cycle of a firing feels like I am growing new bones. As I photograph pots with materials from the garden it’s like I am relearning my work by re-imaging a vision. I aim to see with an inventive view maybe that of a bee or to capture the novelty of a new home or to see afresh with the eye of a traveler. Today is my birthday, which marks another spin around the year. There’s no idea how long I have or how strong we are but I aim to keep trying to capture something specific, perhaps as clear as the view when the sun emerges after a long rainy stretch.

new bones

we will wear
new bones again.
we will leave
these rainy days,
break out through
another mouth
into sun and honey time.
worlds buzz over us like bees,
we be splendid in new bones.
other people think they know
how long life is.
how strong life is.
we know.

–Lucille Clifton

#18 summer summit 2022

I used to tell people that my daughter had grown up with a Tom Sawyer vibe. We ended the school year with a pond party where all her friends and many parents came. We all swam, ate and celebrated the beginning of summer. Initially, some of the kids were not sure they wanted to swim in the pond. But by the end of the night they had experienced what to me feels like the chemical change that happens when you swim in local water.

Today while she celebrated with childhood friends I walked around our hillside with our seven month old grandson introducing him to leaves, trees, flowers, and the pond. As we studied the milkweed my monologue reminded him that the monarch butterflies and their essential milkweed are now his responsibility.

Milkweed Boat, 2022

Water USA

america, tom sawyer, is bigger
than your swim
hole. You meant, the union, water-
falls, one waterfall
a path near, from which you
jump, folklore, holding
your nose. a chemical change
takes place as you pollute
the water i drink. as your
jet lands, crashing my
environment. tom sawyer can’t hold
all the dead bodies upright
nor get anything
out of a lecture on control
systems. and bigger
thomas didn’t have an even
chance to study chemistry

–Clarence Major

#17 summer summit 2022

This morning my daughter did yoga in our bedroom. She loved looking into the Mulberry branches that fill the window looking north. I remember the first time the trees seemed big enough to fill the framed view. It was so exciting to have an inkling of shade and life among the trees rather than on a bare hillside.

When I fire the woodkiln I am struck by how far I have come in the years I have lived in the country, now able to identify trees by leaves, bark, interior grain, or seed pods. Recently when I arrived home the green of the Redbud seed pods and the peculiar way they hang from the branch called out as if saying “stay a while.” Over and over again I learn the lesson of the trees, to be filled with light and to shine.

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

–Mary Oliver, When I am Among the Trees

#16 summer summit 2022

I always find it easier to work on my series of images in December. Because December with its shorter days is a harder time of year for me I push to find the beauty in the moment. In June the lush greens of Virginia, the long days, the heat, and the abundance lull me into a slow dance. I weave between the lists of things to be done, the exhaustion woven into the humid heat of the day, and a love of lingering in twilight.

At the end of the afternoon I raced to take a photo while I still had light before the brewing thunderstorm arrived. I chose the pot and the backdrop then set off to the garden for the perfect object to perch. Just then the rain pelted down. I reached in my pocket to find a red onion I had pulled by mistake while weeding. It was the perfect token to balance in my pot.

“There is a particular madness at both of the year’s extremes. Each point carries its own depths of longing. Each point moves us on. Between them, we find a kind of unsteady balance. Over the course of a lifetime, we will live out long cycles of high and low, and we rehearse that in the cycle of each year. Such is the tough love we are given by the world. It shows us exactly what it means by living, over and over again, until we remember it.”

–Katherine May from her newsletter Stray Attention

#15 summer summit 2022

When I am headed north to Maine each body of water seems like an invitation to swim. I study rivers, lakes, bays, ponds and the ocean as we make our way up the east coast. During this year’s early trip to Western Massachusetts the rivers seemed to call my name as I drove past. Now home in Virginia the pond is singing like a river in June.

“You taste like a river in June.”

–Arkaye Kierulf, from section 11 of “Spaces”

#14 summer summit 2022

When the mulberries come out the deer come closer and closer to the house. They sample more plants and as our tree grows bigger more berries land on the back deck. It is as if we set out a snack bar for our four legged friends. Putting pots on the back deck is an act of wishful thinking, almost as if I have been sitting under the tree of forgetfulness.

“This is the Tree of Forgetfulness. All the headmen here plant one of these trees in the village. They say ancestors stay inside it. If there is some sickness or if you are troubled by spirits, then you sit under the Tree of Forgetfulness and your ancestors will assist you with whatever is wrong.”
― Alexandra Fuller, Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness

#13 summer summit 2022

The Cardoon in my garden has been happy. It has many self-seeded babies. Often I am working at the edges of daylight. While weeding, picking herbs and veggies I admire the first fireflies. So distractedly reaching for the edible thing I often grab the thorny stem.

foolishly in the darkness
I grab a thorn
hunting for fireflies . . .

–Basho