I don’t have to go very far to find a salal plant growing. Our non-landscaped property is covered with the densely growing plant. The native plant grows wild on 75 percent of our property. The roots of the salal meander underground through the soft dry decayed acid mulch blending with dirt spreading up to around ten feet from the plant. Eventually, one of the wriggling roots will seek the sun and a healthy pink root starts to grow a new plant. No use trying to pull it from the ground if it appears in your flower bed. Splitting a shoot from the main plant only exacerbates the multiple growth of more roots that turn into plants! I love the wild thick salal bushes. It means no weeding, mowing or special care and the plant is a beautiful addition to landscapes with large masses of plants and trees. The flowers bloom during April and May attracting all species of bees; their wings create a loud buzz as they hover from blossom to blossom. Then the red to deep purple berries appear soon after blooming to give the birds a pleasant treat.
I enjoy collecting objects that are useful to me, or objects of nature with interesting abstract shapes, color and beauty that had a connection with the environment. All of these objects I consider great finds when found along my walks, in thrift stores or book stores. My favorites though are from nature such as the thoroughly rusted soda can that had been thrown from a car landing in the shrub by the road side. It must have been there for years with all the rust on it. The side of the can had a jagged open cut where I looked through and spotted an abandoned small hornets’ nest attached to the inside wall of the can! It is beautiful and it sits on my collection shelf. No one knows what’s inside the can until I point it out to them; not too many observers are impressed with my find.
Another favorite is the salal leaf after it has gone through its cycle of life; the nutrients are shut off from reaching the leaf causing it to wither and drop from stem to ground. While on the ground the leaf decays further into a very delicate frame with only the strong veins remaining to indicate the former shape of the leaf. It endures the hardship of the weather changes for a few months and then finally disappears. If I spot a leaf in this fine delicate state, it gets picked up and brought home to add to my collection of dried decayed leaves in a fiber woven basket.
The four leaves in the above sketch show the progression of a salal leaf during its early stage to decay.
Within the last month the songbirds had returned to the island for their summer mating. It was obvious they had found their favorite mating territory by their loud cheerful cacophony of songs that raised my spirits during the warm sunny day walks. It was a blessing to my ears; their music brought back those feelings of spring that had been dormant during the long cold and gray days of winter.
This early morning when I started down the driveway through the forest, I noticed the quietness around me. It was silent! Then, I realized the songbirds weren’t singing announcing their day was going to be bright and warm; a perfect day for collecting food, playing and attracting mates. So, the two mile walk I did on my own without nature music to accompany me along the way. Further into my walk big chunky rain drops begin to fall intermittently with large snow flakes grounding all airborne animals from flying. The birds must have sensed the minor storm arriving this morning giving them a few more winks of sleep until the weather improved.
My thoughts drifted at that moment to the birds behavior during these quiet periods: Where do they locate, how do they maintain body weight if unable to search for their daily food intake and how do they keep warm?
In the painting, I used crayon resist hoping the white snow drops would show through the watercolor paint but they do not show on the print. The scanner results always shows the white paper gray; so you are looking at gray snow flakes.
The other morning the sun met me as I stepped out of the shade into the warm bright glow of the sun. The rays filtered through the tall dark trees laying long shadows across the road. The change in the weather was a welcome and it felt like a warm spring day in the middle of winter.
The first song birds have returned to the island singing their joyful songs. It was delightful to hear them after a winter of silence while they were in their winter habitats. They were perched in the trees keeping an eye on me as I strolled through my neighbor’s driveway dreaming of the colors and fragrances of spring coming in the near future; following with long warm days of summer.
Sharp shocking white angles
cutting into the icy blue sky
winds passing over the Cascades
bringing a chill to cut the warmth
of the morning sun
Another day too cold for a walk along the beach so I sat in the cabin and sketched the Cascade mountain range with its sharp white angles piercing into the icy blue sky. From where I was sketching the view was sharply clear in brilliant shades of blues with Puget Sound in the foreground and the Cascades in the distance.
The Cascades divide the more humid, wet and cooler western side of our state from the very arid desert (hot in summer and cold in winter) eastern side. The tall mountain range starts in Canada and ends in northern California changing weather patterns to not reach eastern Washington. Consequently, the west side of the range keeps the clouds and rain hanging around for some time.
I sketched this scene using my watercolor pencils plus a small wet paint brush to spread the color only in certain areas while maintaining the textural feel of a sketch rather than a painting. John Law demonstrates this style using his watercolor pencils on his website (google John Law, artist) He has several free lengthy tutorials that are excellent if you want to learn how to draw.
Gracing my kitchen window
with sweet aroma
Today’s icy cold morning walk did not give me inspiration to collect objects of nature to paint for my journal so I decided to add some haiku lines to my recent painting of the orchid living in my house. Sitting on my large kitchen window sill facing west is an orchid plant given to me from my lovely sister-in-law, Shirley. It’s in a happy spot as it soaks up the rays during bright cloudy days or sunny days along with our very cold dark nights during the winter. Its botanical name is cymbidium and grows in the Himalayas, a climate similar to the U.S. Pacific Coast. The large plant has long grass type leaves and wavy thin air roots. Best of all it has a strong exotic fragrance which I think might be unusual for an orchid.
It bloomed for the first time since being adopted into our house; a celebration indeed! The blossoms have been open for several weeks now so I thought it best to paint it before they wilt and drop off the long stem.
Thank you, Shirley, your plant lives on in memory of you.
Fading brown blossoms
Withstanding cold wet winters
Dry withering shapes
Yesterday, I collected a few leftover blossoms from the shrubs and plants along the side of the road while on my morning walk. These scraggly faded flowers have lost their colorful luster of summer and now stand dry in shades of brown and gold. They are fragile and snap off their dead stems and branches when picked. With their lustrous colors of summer gone, their beauty has not disappeared but instead blends into the subtle landscape colors of nearby native evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs.
(I may have finally written a successful 5 7 5 syllable haiku. Let me know if I need improvement. Thank you.)
It has been one of those darn frustrating days I find myself working on an art project and then discover I should have reviewed the important part of the project before beginning it. Remember the standard rule: measure twice then cut! Oh sigh.
It took me two days to paint with watercolors a few small sketches on hot press w.c. paper: An agate, shamrock, and a blue robin’s egg shell I collected while on several walks; and a heron that I observed while taking photo shots of water birds along the lagoon trail.. Since the sketches were of nature, the idea of adding some haiku for each sketch was born. So it took another day carefully arranging words in 3 lines relating to each sketch in what I thought was Haiku form.
According to ancient Japanese haiku standards there are 3 lines: First line contains 5 syllables; second 7; and third 5, with a total of 17 syllables. The painting project was completed so I enthusiastically went forward with the haiku expression using what I thought to be the haiku style, 7 5 7 with a total of 19 syllables not knowing I had reversed the numbers.
The next part of the project was taking several photo shots of the finished project using my camera and scanner then after over 30 attempts finally produced a somewhat acceptable copy to share on my W.P. post. “Thank goodness, finally it’s completed and ready.” “First better do some checking on spelling of haiku” and that’s when I discovered half my day just went down the drain!
Not letting this failure get the best of me, I decided to post the project even with the broken rule in haiku. Even still, I enjoyed the challenge of arranging words to form a meaningful expression with words relating to my sketches. I will definitely do this again using the correct form. This was my first attempt creating haiku so please advise me with your critique.
I love the colors the earth offers us during our gray, cold and damp winters on the island; even the earth offers a mixture of enjoyable fragrances to complement the winter scene. The grasses remain a washed out mixture of light greens, ochres and umbers in the open fields. Most common bushes surrounding the open fields on the island are the white winter berry and Nootka rose bushes full of rose hips and deep red wine branches at this time of the year. From a distance these bushes contrast against the dark evergreens and other shrubs creating a striking scene. In this painting, a group of tall alder trees are growing in the distance further behind the mass of rose bushes. The catkins on the higher branches of the alder are slowly forming on the branches of the alder turning a mass of mauve.
On the same day I walked my neighborhood roads, several of the Gold Crowned Kinglets were hopping along the road picking up any speck of food they could find. They are a very small brown bird with a yellow cap on their head, almost invisible on the ground. They are unafraid of humans, vehicles and animals. I can walk within a foot of them while they remain busy collecting seeds and scraps; often times, I have nearly stepped on one while it was hopping along collecting its scraps.
There is also a Red Crown Kinglet that I have never seen in our area until the same day of this walk! It was a thrill; its crown was a brilliant bright red….oh, how I wished I had my camera since I was able to follow the bird to my driveway before it flew to the near salal bushes. It was my treasure for the day.
BRRRR, the unusually windy and icy cold winter day walk along the shoreline at a beach on Whidbey Island discouraged me from my usual 2 mile stretch. So I turned back and walked to a warm cabin to enjoy a warm blazing fire in the wood stove and enjoy the wildlife activity from a nearby window.
Looking out at the choppy steel waters my eye caught the marine ducks trying to catch a meal deep in the wild dark salty waters. So, I grabbed the binoculars to observe the interesting activity of the Pacific Sea Gull and Surf Scoter. The Surf Scoter was seriously focused on deep sea diving to grab a fish or other marine life for its daily meal. While the Pacific Sea Gull was stocking very close to the scoter waiting for an opportunity to grab the specimen before the scoter quickly consumed the catch. The sea gull was so near the scoter, I thought it would soon attack it for the live fish or sea animal.
Further in the distance was a lone Pacific Loon diving under the water surface bringing up its catch from the deep water. It struggled with the fish on the water surface before it was able to manipulate it at an angle to slip down the loon’s esophagus; then down the loon went for more goodies. I think loons are not social birds. I always see the Pacific Loon alone on the salt water searching for food but never near another loon. Loons mobility is more successful on the water or in the air. Their legs are further back on their bodies which makes it difficult for them to walk on land.
Sea gulls can be very aggressive birds in obtaining food from other birds, or their own kind crying a variety of loud calls to attract other sea gulls to the scene. I have observed them to attack a variety of birds during all the seasons; the crows have learned to be very cautious of them and will fly when gulls behave aggressively. But, when a gull spots an eagle silently gliding toward a fresh sea food item the sea gulls are gathered around, they will suddenly scatter. That’s when we look for the eagle arriving like a quick jet for its prey.
Even with the few minutes of observering the marine birds on the Puget Sound waters three days ago, I gained so much pleasure and knowledge of their activities; now I share those moments with those whom browse my journal.
The brilliant red berries have been decorative since late summer on the Hawthorne trees growing in the scrub on an empty field in our neighborhood. I walk by these trees almost every day while on my neighborhood stroll, observing the seasonal birds with their busy activities in the trees. Perched on a branch or flying from one branch to another pecking at bugs, seeds and the bright red plump berries hanging from the branches.
As the season matures, the leaves wither losing their color then leave the branches of the Hawthorne trees but the berries remain firm to the bare branches as they turn a deep burnt red. Mostly the winter robins and flickers are attracted to the winter berries left on the stark gnarly dark branches for their main food supply. The summer and fall foods have diminished during the cold, gray, wet and dormant months and they need a high powered carbohydrate food to keep them warm and active. They are there everyday harvesting as many berries that their beaks can hold before competing birds get to the berries first. Now, only a few really dark berries remain on the bare branches.
The young trees plus the overly mature trees now covered with thick lichen standout against the dark evergreens growing at the edge of the field. The rugged old trees with the lichen clinging to the trunks and branches will eventually decay, break apart and fall to the ground creating cover and nests for the small birds in the spring.
The young trees are fast growers; next spring their leaves will appear, small birds will hide in the mass of leaves, build their nests and sing again to attract mates plus bring joy to still and quiet listeners. Again, the trees will bear fruit painting spring colors to the native flora and attract the wild fauna.
The early morning frost covered the green grass creating sparkly silver green blades; old cedar fence post covered with a blanket of crusty frost, even the lichen living on the fence posts looked stiff and cold; clinging frost to the old rusty barbwire where a few Oregon Juncos and robins perched warming their small bodies in the bright sunshine. The lone road was striking in appearance with the brilliant sun rays shining adjacent to the shadows from the tall evergreens.
The early morning walk was exciting as I observed how nature changed the landscape overnight but it was also cold to my outer extremities not covered with protection from the cold. The walk soon ended back in my warm comfortable house where I could see the cold outdoors from inside the windows.
“The Oregon Junco quickly takes a short hop on the large mushroom to get a “bird’s eye view” of the black beetle as it transverses a fallen leaf during its escape to safety beneath the shade of moist decaying leaf debris under the mushroom. Possibly the beetle will be successful on its escape to safety due to its size and undesirable taste. The shy and quiet wild jack rabbit is nearby happily nibbling away on the short green grass and weeds all the while watching the Junco’s morning actions.”
Mushrooms have surged from the ground through the downed decaying leaves, twigs, weeds and debris this fall. They can be seen growing, almost over night, along side the road under the overhanging branches of the tall evergreens. The varieties were plentiful each having its own shape, size, color plus some being very scary and appearing to be highly toxic. I have never disciplined myself to learn the botanical names of all the mushrooms growing in the area where I live…so I am unable to identify this particular one.
The above large mushroom was at least six inches in diameter growing near the road where I take my morning walks. Its appearance inspired my thoughts to what the scene might be later during the day when humans and vehicles are not disturbing the resident wildlife.
Last Sunday was one of those days with high soft clouds and the sun filtering through for a soft bright day. It was warm, no rain or wind blowing so I packed up my art tools and drove over to Hammon’s Preserve to sketch Cultus Bay. I sat on a bench located at a higher level of the preserve giving me a terrific view of the wild grasses, old rugged apple trees covered with lichen and bright red apples. Most of the apples have ripened beyond their peak and dropped in the tall gold grass for the deer and wild animals to enjoy. The deer had already harvested the lower apples from the trees.
First I just sat on the bench in the warm sun taking in the fresh fragrance of the earth while enjoying the view. Then I started on the sketch with a soft graphite pencil onto sketching paper. When I was in my small studio, I did a final sketch of the scene using a Fantasia Sanquine oil pencil onto tinted art paper. Well the Sanguine was too light with little contrast on the tinted paper, so then I used General’s Charcoal which covered over the oil pencil perfectly to bring out the dark values.
The early fall came in like a sea hawk with a few days of rain and wind the previous week. The early strong winds always bring a change in weather. So today it was clear sunny and crisp cool weather causing people to clothe themselves with warmer garments. I challenged the weather by walking the beach on the eastern shores on Whidbey where the steep bulkheads are covered with wild brush, sturdy evergreen and alder trees, a small waterfall and lots of beach erioson. Some of these tree roots had given up holding on to the bank crashing down on the beach from the stormy winter weather beating against the steep bulkheads.
When I started on my 1 1/2 mile hike along the shoreline, I was able to pass between the fallen trees and the tide line. Being aware of the rising tide I didn’t walk further around the point concerned that I might be caught and unable to get by the fallen trees. I turned around just in time because the tide had risen 12 inches and I could no longer walk around the large log since it was now in the water. So I had to do a crab crawl under several fallen alder and evergreen trees and crawl over a large log to get through a difficult area on the beach.
It was a great walk with some small challenges along the way….loved it.
Creating journals, sketchbooks, notes, cards or any creative attempt using paper is one of my favorite art projects. This mini journal is an compilation of my watercolor painted scenes that still exist on my island. And, since there are still many lovely spots that have not been ruined by the increase of population, I’ll be painting and creating my own journals until I can no longer paint. This journal is in the accordion fold or Japanese fold so it can stand on its own for display. I just completed this project but it still needs front/back covers which is the most difficult part of these projects since they need to be the introduction and relate to the inside contents.
We love to take an afternoon respite on our covered front porch, where we are out of the hot sun rays, watching the wildlife scene before us with a glass of wine in our hands. During the sunny days of summer the dragonflies will perform their dances….zigging through the warm air catching bugs or just playing and doing aerobatics across the lawn.
We so enjoy the summer dragonflies but it’s always sad when they die away at the end of their short lived season. Next spring they will arrive young, strong and colorful for more dances across our lawn while we sip our cool summer wine.
The dragonfly in the above sketch was found on the road during my early morning walk one warm August day. It was a large insect three inches in length, fully intact and not making any movement. So, I picked it up and brought it home to sketch with pen and a few added colors of yellow on its body.
I love bright green tree frogs! They display a brilliant shade of green with a light touch of yellow, brown spots and creamy white on the its belly. I will find them during the summer hiding in the shade in very unusual well secluded spots in the garden, under the table on the patio, in metal pipes, in flower pot containers holding water in the bottom…and, sitting on a large string bean leaf hidden in the shade. This frog in the sketch surprised me when I stuck my hand deeper into the string beans to find a clump of hanging beans on a vine….There it was! sitting quietly and shinning its beautiful green color! Fortunately, I was able to get a quick sketch before it decided its privacy had been invaded. Thank you, little frog, for visiting my garden…..I hope you also enjoyed a great meal of invasive bugs.
During the first week of August several of my family members boarded the “Champagne Lady” Argosy boat for a private cruise from Lake Union through the Government Locks then into Puget Sound to celebrate the passing of my niece. It was a beautiful warm sunny afternoon and the waters were calm like a mirror. My niece’s ashes came on board with us and were carried by her sister to be placed in the water as we cruised further into the Sound. The pilot stopped the engines so the boat would float with the current and give us some quiet time for meditation while my niece poured her siblings ashes into the water; then we all said our good byes.
Before the captain restarted the engines, she announced a fin whale in the distance. We all watched the whale breach several times and then it dove deep into the water (the depth in P.S. can be up to 600 feet) and didn’t resurface again for sometime. And, then, we spotted it and this time the whale was quickly heading in our direction. Yikes, several of us were a little nervous; it got so close, we could see its foot print on the surface of the water heading for the front of the boat. Next thing we knew, the whale breached about 20 feet from the boat which startled all of us. The whale was huge! (Fin whales are the second largest living mammal on earth. They will average 75 feet and are seldom seen in Puget Sound.) Several of the relatives were able to get video and camera shots of it.
The day was special and we will all remember that Elaine’s spirit sent us her blessings: She was safely home. Thanks to Mike and Jody for such a special memorial ever!
It’s late in August when the squirrels start climbing to the top branches on the Douglas fir trees to pick the cones off the branches and drop them to the ground. As the cones glide toward the ground we can hear the loud clunk, clunk, bang as they hit and bounce off the large branches. It almost sounds like a bat hitting a baseball. The ground and road will be scattered with light green cones everywhere. Then the busy squirrels will scurry down the trunk and if no cars or people are nearby they will sit and remove the nuts from under the scales on the parameter of the cone. After they have gathered their cache, what is left is a pile of outer scales with the nuts removed and a demolished cone.
One does not select to pick up the green cones since there will be a sticky pitch oozing from under the spiky pointy scales. When the sun is low in the afternoon and shinning on the tall evergreens, we can see the pitch sparkle in the sunlight like tiny diamonds on the tips of the higher branches.
Drinking our morning coffee while sitting on the porch, we enjoy listening the chittering of the busy squirrels as they work throughout the morning removing the cones from the trees. We realize the reason for all the new evergreen starters on our property is due to the squirrels busy gathering season. Bill and I tease each other to bring an umbrella or wear a hard hat during our morning walks. We sure don’t need a traumatic head injury from a falling cone.
It won’t be perfect, just a little “crazy quilt”
This summer, I am taking a break from my usual sketching and painting; I’m warn out from spending several hours daily, this past spring, on several art projects that needed to be completed. Yes. They are done. So a break to do some reading, a little sewing, walking and spending more time on adventures with my spouse and family will be refreshing.
Stored away in my closet are several scraps of fabric that I would like to use in a project (my sewing quilt days are almost in the past.) There in the small stack were some 15 – 17 old quilt squares that someone had sewn together by hand. They must have been leftover scraps of material that were on hand in someone’s stash of goodies. Some of the fabric pattern designs might be back in the 40’s?
I was fortunate to find these squares over 10 years ago while browsing through our local thrift store….I bought them at a fantastic price and swore I would put them together in the future. The squares are three different sizes: 9 inch; 10 inch and 11 inch which really threw me off on how to put them together in a quilt. So they got pushed under the pile of other stuff in the closet. Then the other day they were rediscovered; I sewed strips of material I had on hand to each square under 11 inches square so all squares are now 11 inches square. Now, I’m in the process of sewing, by hand, all the squares together.
In the slow process of sewing each square onto the next it made me reflect on the person who had originally started this quilt and why it was never finished. What happened in their life that took them away from the quilting? The process of sewing by hand is very meditative, slow, rhythmic, and makes me appreciate the days when modern tech life was non existent. I find it a wonderful time to be relaxed and let my mind wander freely with pleasant thoughts. It’s also a time to be spiritual……so when this quilt is completed I will call it a Prayer quilt: I will embroider, by hand, onto the face of the quilt some of my favorite Prayers/Bible versus.
Similar to the prayer quilt is an old picnic yellow/white squares design table cloth my mother used at her large table when she entertained several guests. Over the many years my mother entertained guest in her home, each guest had to sign their name on the table cloth along with the year they were in the home. Afterward my mother would hand embroider each of the names…so now I have that table cloth and the tradition continues with my family.