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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Happy Stuff: Sunflower!

Sunflowers sure know how to put on a show. One day, they push a little green point through the earth. It grows quickly, inches every day. Overnight it sprouts lots of leaves. They get big. One day you notice that a blossom is growing in the center. It’s small and green, but it’s there. After a while it stretches away from the stalk and you really see it. You wonder when it will open. Today? You want it to open!

One day you notice that yellow petals are visible.

The next day you notice that the petals are opening—slowly.

Then they really start to open—all except one section, which is taking its time.


And finally, one very warm morning, the wait is over. You wake up to see that it has opened fully. It’s an explosion of color. I’m happy.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Artist Interview #1: Yard Art? Yes!

Let’s play Pretend. Don’t worry—even if it’s been years or decades since you’ve played, it’ll come back to you. It’s fun. Let’s pretend I’m interviewing, well, myself. I will play the part of Me. I will also play the role of the artist being interviewed. You’ll catch on.

Me: Sarah—may I call you Sarah?—it’s such a pleasure to be the first person in the world to talk with you about your recent art creation.

Sarah: Yes, call me Sarah, of course. Although I answer to almost any name starting with an “S.” Thanks for inviting me to talk about the art I created yesterday.

Me: Can you tell us about the piece? What is it called? Why and when did you decide to create it?

Sarah: Well, its working title is Yard Art: Flamingo. You see, it’s a painting of a flamingo, and it’s in my front yard. I think all front yards need art. Wouldn’t that be fun? Like an outdoor art exhibit? As for the why and when, I dreamed it up yesterday, started it yesterday, finished it yesterday, and took photos yesterday. But I’m only human, so I also needed to sleep yesterday, which is why this interview is today.

Me: Wow, is it typical or unusual for you to dream up, start and complete a piece of art all in one day?

Sarah: Hmmmm. I work both ways. But it’s satisfying to start and complete something in one day. What I liked about this piece was that the idea came to me, and instead of planning and plotting and preparing and thinking and waiting and analyzing, I just dove in. I started sketching with a Sharpie (I adore Sharpies), and within minutes was painting. It was pure fun. It didn’t involve some of the baggage I used to bring to making art. At times I have worried that something wasn’t perfect, that it didn’t look realistic enough. Sometimes that pressure took a lot of the happiness away from making art. So doing it this way—just diving in and doing it—was freeing. It didn’t need to look photorealistic. I didn’t have to wonder whether someone would want to buy it, because it was for me. I could put things in that I like. I love flamingos. That’s when art is amazing—when it is created not with an audience’s preferences in mind, but just because. Same for music or dance or whatever else you create.

Me: Tell me about the asymmetrical shape of this piece. Do you usually paint on rectangles?

Sarah: Oh, that’s one of my favorite aspects of this! I love that it’s not the same shape from left to right. Can I tell you the back story? I knew you’d want to know. I bought two wooden panels many years ago—maybe eight or nine years ago—and screwed them together. I photocopied and enlarged a map of a neighborhood where I used to live fifteen years ago, and I glued the map to the panels. But then that art idea just sat, undeveloped, for years. I recently found the panels and decided the map idea wasn’t what I wanted to do with them, so I ripped the paper off. It left some wiggly lines of glue, which I kept because I liked that the panels had a past life, and I didn’t need or want a perfectly smooth surface. I painted right over them. I knew I wanted to put some art onto the front of the house because the plant I used to have there was sad and thirsty and I just needed a change. The spot stood naked for a couple of months until yesterday, when inspiration struck, and I got the panels out, ripped the paper off, painted, and hung the art piece. The front looks SO much better, having something fun and colorful and personal out there. My two plastic lawn flamingos are in front of it, because the only thing better than one flamingo is more flamingos!

Me: If other people want to try this at home, what is your advice for them? Do they have to have art training?

Sarah: Heck, no! All you need is an idea. If you’re nervous about whether you can paint something and have it look like you want it to look, try not to pressure yourself. Just enjoy making something. Look online or around you for inspiration and just try it. I think you’ll find it gives a lot of satisfaction. Trust me. Your home wants to wear art.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Wanderer

There is a tree in town that has a very specific idea of how it wants to grow. It’s doing its own thing. It’s resisting peer pressure to grow vertically.

This tree is so eye-catching. Every time I go by it I want to study it. Perhaps this tree had dreams of becoming a long jumper and growing horizontally is its way of living that dream…  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Happy Stuff: Small Spaces Pack a big Punch

I find small gardens extra charming. To me they seem like signs of hope because plants themselves represent hope. Why else would you take the time to water seeds, if you weren’t hopeful that they’d turn into something? Plants will grow almost anywhere. Mini gardens show that someone decided a tiny space needed some color and they took the effort to put some life into that small space. Delightful.

Recently I noticed a narrow sunflower garden in the neighborhood. The bed is only eight inches wide. But those eight inches give enough room for seeds to nestle into warm dirt, get comfy and sprout some leaves. Lots of them. They’ve brightened the neighborhood.

Space: small. Cheer: big.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

It's Contagious

In case you missed the big news, Germany just won the World Cup. This is huge news around here.

(Let me point out that of the 303 blog posts I’ve done prior to this one, perhaps only one or two referenced sports. I like sports a little bit but creative pastimes outweigh my interest in sports. So let's review: more than 300 posts have not focused on sports. Until today.)

If you live with someone whose blood is colored black, red and gold, you’ve been watching a lot of World Cup coverage over the last 32 days. If you live with someone who played soccer and loves watching soccer and whose family comes from Germany, you’ve had World Cup Fever, just by proximity.

Even if you don’t know the difference between offsides and an own goal, you’ll catch this contagious fever. It’s hard not to, when there’s this much electricity crackling in the air at home. Our soccer fan has been on pins and needles for days, and is elated about today’s victory over Argentina. I love seeing his happiness.

Soccer fans understand the magnitude of this championship. Before I met our soccer fan, I didn’t even know what the World Cup was. I didn’t know Messi from Mr. Rogers. That has changed. I know that on game days, the Bayern-Munich flag will be hung at the front of the house. I know how much this sport means to our soccer fan. I don’t live and breathe soccer, as some people do. But I’m so happy for the Germans and the loyal fans who have watched and cheered and waited and hoped, year after year, for a day like today. From us to you: Glückwünsche! (Congratulations!)


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hi ho! Hi ho! To the dirt pile I go...

I’ve mentioned the community garden before. Just a little. But I can’t help it—I’m excited! And there’s so much change happening there. We’ve created new garden beds, twenty of them. We've spent a chunk of today transporting dirt into the new beds. I’m sure my shoulders may be sore tomorrow but it's a good kind of tiring.

Less than three months ago it was announced that the garden was expanding. So much has happened in that short time.

Below is the wedge of land we annexed. The grass and trees were removed, stumps were ground up, and the fence was changed to border the growing garden.

Here is the same piece of land only a week or two later. Out with the old and in with the new.
We painted boards every Saturday for weeks. One day it was time to screw them together into beds. Some of our members dug trenches for our irrigation system. (Plumbing issues are not my strength so I just kept painting boards.)

Here’s what the garden looked like two weeks ago, with the beds in place, leveled, equipped with irrigation systems, and ready except for one thing. Dirt. (See yesterday’s post.)

Today a huge group of us gathered. There might have been as many as thirty people, including a handful of kids. We shoveled dirt for hours and filled those beds. It was a team effort and we filled all the beds, with dirt left over (which we then needed to move away from the front of the church and into the garden). Guess it's better to have too much than not enough.


Some of the group created a drip irrigation system using plastic tubing. This is kind of what it looks like, although eventually it will lay flat. Each bed has tubing shaped into a rectangle, with four lines that run the length of the rectangle and can water the middle of the bed. We use timers so that our beds are watered even if we aren’t there, but some of us visit almost daily to water our beds ourselves. I feel more involved in the garden when I go more often. You get to observe more growth and change.

I’m painting some columns that are now inside the new, expanded garden. The garden fund paid for paint and I’m volunteering my time. It’s typical of me to find new projects, even as I’m lamenting not having enough time to complete other projects (or boring household chores). But here’s why I’m drawn to this kind of thing: painting something that the public can enjoy makes me happy. It’s not something in my own yard, that only I will see, but something that can brighten everyone’s day. Bringing color to beige columns feels like an obvious solution, since color is an instant mood booster. I love collaborative projects, and everything related to this garden has a communal aspect. It feels good to be part of something that brings beauty to the community. The group is so nice, and I like working together, sharing our time and talents to create something bigger and better than what we could do alone. The garden gives me so much. I love it.

Any day now our new gardeners will begin their own stories at the garden. What will they plant? What will the garden look like a year from now? I can’t wait to find out. Let the growing begin (again)!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Let there be Dirt!

I did a double-take. Which—when you’re on a bike—is not the best idea. But I couldn’t help it. I was passing mountains where there had been none before.

I’d been on my way to the community garden. I took the back route, which passes by the entrance to the church. (The community garden is on church land, although it’s open to everybody.) There were three giant mountains outside the church. Mountains of dirt. They were four or five feet tall, and eight or ten feet wide. The biggest was right in front of the doors to the church, which I found odd.
It wasn’t unexpected to find dirt near the garden, because we have been expanding the garden over the last few months. But the location of the dirt startled me. When we first created the garden two summers ago, dirt was delivered inside the fenced garden, and it was dumped onto a dirt lot. I knew more dirt was coming but having it deposited on a concrete walkway outside the garden, and a hundred feet away, surprised me. But whatever. We gardeners roll with the unexpected. Water leak? We roll with that. We turn off timers. Hot spell? We roll. We water more. Bee infestation? We roll with that too. We call someone who can take thousands of bees to another location where their hard work won’t put anyone in danger. Mountains of dirt outside the garden? Guess we’ll roll with that, too.

Tomorrow we’re bringing wheel barrows and shovels and we will move that dirt. We’re a team of gardeners. Like the tomatoes we grow, you rarely see just one of us. We gather in groups. I’m proud of the work we’ve done. I never go to the garden without marveling at how much is growing: how much variety there is, how much care has gone into creating this garden of wonders. And I often laugh over how amusing the location is. We’re wedged among a church, a busy boulevard and an auto parts store, and close to the fire station. The fact that this utopia shares a wall with a place selling windshield wipers amuses me. The juxtaposition is part of the fun of it. I love that our garden comes as a surprise, as if dropped from above into an unexpected spot. The contrast is delightful. The boulevard only a few feet away is full of cars and buses, jostling for position. There’s the rumble of motorcycles and the pounding bass from someone’s sound system. I smell fast food grease from across the street. The fire station’s siren screams across the parking lot of the auto parts store. People are doing oil changes next door. There’s the beep beep at the intersection for visually-impaired walkers. Car horns.

And then, inside the gates of our garden: peace and beauty. Lillies growing next to succulents. Bees are buzzing while butterflies float through the air. The smell of tomato leaves. The chirp of birds. Tall corn stalks waving in the breeze. Bright orange flowers spilling over the sides of the garden beds. A piece of paradise, even with the sirens and the commotion just a few feet away. Or maybe it’s a piece of paradise because of the action outside. It’s a calm refuge from the hustle-bustle of life.

As for the dirt, we’ll move it into the beds, which we’ve painted, built and moved into place. Some of our group (not me) dug trenches for the irrigation system and the beds are ready for dirt, and ready to make magic once seeds and seedlings are tucked into it. We’ll bring color and life to those beds, an ongoing gift for the community to enjoy. Me, I’m ready for the show to begin. It’s going to be amazing…

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Origami for the Body

Attention, universe: I still can do a backbend!

This whole Turning Forty thing is still on my mind, even though I’ve had almost seven months to adjust to it. I’m much more at peace with my forty-ness than I was last year, before this big birthday happened. But I do still tend to measure my life in terms of my age. Hey, it’s hard not to. I know age is just a number, yada yada yada. But let’s face it: numbers do play some role in our lives. Anyway, I decided I was going to see if my forty-year-old back still would hold a backbend. At twenty I did these with no trouble, but that was a few years ago. My back sometimes gets mad at me for picking up kids, lifting things incorrectly and standing on ladders for hours on end. So I wasn’t going to assume that my body would be thrilled to have me bend it backwards into a semicircle. But I gave it a try and I have photographic evidence that I can do it. Go, me!

Friday, July 4, 2014

From Sea to Shining Sea

July 4th already? This year it really snuck up on me. June was a major juggle, even if the second half of the month became summer (AKA a break from nagging and re-nagging about homework). I’m late in my patriotic preparations but yesterday I managed to put up a few red, white and blue decorations out front (and not a moment too soon).

Last night I noticed that a friend had very festive toes and I asked her if I could take their photo. She is full of spirit, fun and individuality. Kind of like you, America. Happy Birthday!