Saturday, March 11, 2017


 Mallard pair
Canadian goose
Here are a pair of mallards and a Canadian goose.  We saw them together last year, well into winter, and then again as soon as the lake thawed in February.  The goose concerned me.  Geese are very social; this one did not mix with other geese.

There is an exhibit at the Japan Society in New York City, "A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints," in which many wakashu are depicted, young males who in Edo-period Japan are considered the height of beauty.  For a short time only, after puberty, wakashu permissibly could have sex with males or females who sought them out.  And so I thought of our "lone" goose.  Maybe he hadn't had a late molt last year, or a set-back or a loss.  Maybe this goose simply liked ducks.  And the ducks liked him well enough.  They shared a short time of species- if not gender-mix.

This week we have seen groups of odd-numbered geese, often 5, sometimes 3.  We now think our lone goose is mixing with other geese.  Whatever!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


I saw this field of winter cover crop, with a line of thaw, and some remnant of corn stubble. Thousands of rye seedlings -> one powerful color.

Sister Mary and I walked Saturday through a savanna near the Kankakee River watershed.  The ground there is already softening.  These clumps of wintered grass dotted a patch of ground between the savanna and a railroad bed.  They are as powerful as stumps, little plant mammoths.

Rhinoceroses are big, the second largest land mammal after elephants. They have very small eyes, and their eyesight is poor; still, no one says they are not powerful.  There are two southern white rhinos at the Detroit Zoo.  Will I ever see them as they are?

I put a rhino in the treeline of the rye field sketch.  If we live with them well, this gives power, yes?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Nuthatch signals new year

This Red-breasted Nuthatch did not give up his place at the feeder while I made noises nearby, amazing bird.  During the day I noticed a lot of bird activity: a Flicker had returned, not seen since October, and was eating ants in the grass.  Canadian geese had returned, and a pair of mallards flew over the thawing lake.  Many Tufted Titmouses were around for the first time this year.  All were busy and making fine trills and tweets, Americans all.

I've returned to Ai-jane because the birds prompt me to do what I do, busily, not giving up, with tweet-song-joy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Gruff is a part of Mary Oliver's tone in her recent poem, "Blueberries."


I’m living in a warm place now, where
you can purchase fresh blueberries all
year long. Labor free. From various
countries in South America. They’re
as sweet as any, and compared with the
berries I used to pick in the fields
outside Provincetown, they’re
enormous. But berries are berries. They
don’t speak any language I can’t
understand. Neither do I find ticks or
small spiders crawling among them. So,
generally speaking, I’m very satisfied.

There are limits, however. What they
don’t have is the field. The field they
belonged to and through the years I
began to feel I belonged to. Well,
there’s life, and then there’s later.
Maybe it’s myself that I miss. The
field, and the sparrow singing at the
edge of the woods. And the doe that one
morning came upon me unaware, all
tense and gorgeous. She stamped her hoof
as you would to any intruder. Then gave
me a long look, as if to say, Okay, you
stay in your patch, I’ll stay in mine.
Which is what we did. Try packing that
up, South America.

- Mary Oliver

(this poem appear in the recent issue of Orion.)
I just returned from visiting my getting-old mother in Florida, and last month M and I were in Cape Cod.  Florida is much different than Cape Cod.  Mary Oliver probably did not want to move south, away from Cape Cod.  But getting old trumps what we want, often.  We all wish her well in having to be away from where she lived for so long as a younger woman.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

dove, not

pigment, glue, charcoal/ paper

We call these little birds that skitter around below the bushes in our yards Juncos.  They never seem to quarrel.  They seem to wear hoods.  If I could name them, I'd call them monkbirds.

This little painting sold; I just found out today.  It is one that I might have liked to keep in our yard's home.

Monday, February 24, 2014


"In the Treetops, A Winter Gift"
by Guy Trebay

This two-page spread is in the middle of Sunday Review, in the middle of the Sunday New York Times (February 23 2014).
I'd been reading about the last day of the Sochi Olympics, El Chapo's arrest, Yanukovch's presidential residence, poop DNA collectors in Naples, an obit of James Cahill, whose books on Chinese art enlightened me, transgender soldiers, and then I turned the page to this spread:  WOW.

I like Guy Trebay's writing whenever I see it (usually about fashion, his writing often becomes a wide romp about culture), so deft and funny (e.g. about the American uniforms for the Olympics opening ceremony that they reminded him of bad Christmas sweaters, oh gosh yes).  Here he's writing about the Elms of Fifth Avenue, 2.5 miles of them, and amid the wonderful essay is the phrase "tabernacle of the air," glorious.  (Trebay cites Henry Ward Beecher for this phrase; however did he come across it!)

Thank you Mr. Trebay and the NY Times. I so love coming across news/ an essay and photo (by Craig Blankenhorn) not about us but about trees.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

winter mind

where we venture forth
oil/linen 30x40"
January 2014

I have taken this phrase--where we venture forth-- from a wonderful book, Hunger Mountain, by David Hinton, a long-time translator of Chinese poets and philosophers.  In this book, subtitled "A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape," Hinton merges his walks and thoughts with the thought and culture of classical Chinese. And he makes poems of his own:  assemblages with phrases from his translations, with pregnant spaces around the fluttering-like words.  It's a remarkable book.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Manet's flower paintings, mastery

Edouard Manet's "Roses in a Champagne Glass," 12"x9",  oil/canvas

During the year Manet was dying, he started doing small paintings of flowers. This is one. Though small, still it shows Manet's dashing brushstrokes and Velasquez-like Spanish coloring--blacks and deep greys mixed with bright color punctuations. There is a lovely book of the sixteen flower paintings done before his death in the spring of 1883, The Last Flowers of Manet, text by Andrew Forge.  Mr. Forge points out that the tabletop here is the same one that the barmaid leans upon in "A Bar at the Folies-Gergere," his last major painting, completed a year before his death in the spring of 1883.  In that complicated picture, there are two roses in a champagne glass in front of the barmaid.

I did a small flower painting yesterday, thinking of Manet.  Grey winter is all around us here.  The quick painting obviously nods to the one above, but has more paint and more inter-ference with the space around it, brighter color, less darkness.

Three roses in December, 12"x9," oil and pigment/board

Saturday, November 2, 2013

sky colors

by Katherine Irish

Katherine Irish has a wonderful collection of paintings on exhibit now in  Convergence Gallery  in Santa Fe.  Katherine is a master colorist, and she loves New Mexico.  The colors waft in the sky.  Bravo!

Thursday, October 3, 2013



Soon they will kill the falcons that breed in the quarry,
(it's only a matter of time:  raptors need space
and, in these parts, space equals money):

but now, for a season, they fly low over the fields
and the thin paths that run to the woods
at Gillingshill,

the children calling out on Sunday walks
to stop and look
and all of us
pausing to turn in our tracks while the mortgaged land

falls silent for miles around, the village below us
empty and grey as the vault where its money sleeps,
and the moment so close to sweet, while we stand and wait

for the flicker of sky in our bones
that is almost flight.

The poet is John Burnside.  He lives in Scotland, where he now teaches.  He was born in 1955.
The lovely flutter of co-life in the ending lines is wonderful.  The whole poem, quietly, is wonderful.

Friday, September 13, 2013


wild amid the walk

"The wild" is around us.  We all know this.  We all sense the wild even amid the most banal daily civilized activities.  It is there, maybe there, maybe a ghost, maybe a memory, maybe a hope.
There, here, with us, within us.

Friday, August 30, 2013

mary oliver's backyard

Here's another poem by Mary Oliver, that comes as an Afterword in her book Owls and Other Fantasies:

I had no time to haul out all
the dead stuff so it hung, limp
or dry, wherever the wind swung it

over or down or across.  All summer
it stayed that way, untrimmed, and
thickened.  The paths grew
damp and uncomfortable and mossy until
nobody could get through but a mouse or a

shadow.  Blackberries, ferns, leaves, litter
totally without direction management
supervision.  The birds loved it.

I like to say this poem out loud.  "haul out all":  the words move with difficulty, slowly and each word discreetly.  "shadow" slips into a spot on a new line/ new stanza.  "management supervision" is a mess of language/ meaning!

I have been painting woods that are on the edge of yards and gardens, images a little bit messy, in and out of light and shadow, and I hope suggestive of birds just out of view.

Edge of the woods