Creating gardens for pollinators and art

Fall is here with so many things to do.

My memories of Summer days spent digging in the dirt, planting seeds and watching my garden come to life are fading.  I loved all the bumblebees, swallowtails, pearl crescents, frittilaries, clearwing hummingbird moths, hummingbirds and wasps in varieties I hadn’t seen before tumble, crawl and fly around the garden.

A garden for pollinators, an artist and other wild visitors

A garden for pollinators, an artist and other wild visitors

Now my days are spent cutting back the Lobelia cardinalis flower stalks, finishing up the art that began in my sketchbook and cleaning up the studio and gardens for the Countryside Artisans Fall Studio Tour visitors.

I am enchanted by the seasonal changes, and love capturing some of it in my sketchbooks and then in that art hanging on the walls.

Hopefully all the many tasks associated with the upcoming Fall Studio Tour will still allow me to watch the Monarch Butterflies and other visitors to my garden.   Right now I am living in the moment, sunsets, fall color, and the good life as an artist in the agricultural reserve.


Summer to Fall Transition

Summer to Fall Transition


I have no problem being present in the fall: Being outside, listening to the wind rustling leaves in the trees; bike rides; apples from the orchard; colorful leaves falling; collecting acorns, nuts and samaras; long walks with my dog; and trying to capture some of this in my art.

This leaf rubbing was created in a Greek restaurant (on the paper placemat) after a hike at Boundary Bridge with my buddy Melanie last fall.  I was so excited by all the trees we saw on the hike, I couldn’t resist rubbing the freshly collected leaves with color sticks.


The summer was great.   My days were filled with drawing and painting in my sketchbooks from the garden and from the car as i traveled south, north and to the midwest.  Taking walks and hikes, kayaking, working in the garden, and visiting with family and friends.

mixed media sketch

mixed media sketch

Now is the time to prepare for the Fall Studio Tour in less than 4 weeks, I can’t believe it is already upon us.  That deadline helps me focus on finishing art that can be put in a frame and setting the studio up for customers.  It is easy to be consumed with  finishing art, photographing art, framing art, social media, cleanup work in the studio and garden tasks, and all the clerical work.

As  I finish these essential tasks, the fall season is rich in color for painting, the mountain is calliing me for a hike, the dog wants a walk, and my new bike is sitting inside waiting to be taken out on the road.  I am lucky to have this life in the country, just hope I can work that studio tour list..

A hummingbird just flew nearby to drink from a late blooming Lobelia cardinalis, life is good when I can be present in these moments outside in nature.

Winter views of Sugarloaf and life

A reluctant writer, I hardly know when it is appropriate to share what’s going on as a mom, woman and an artist.  So this blog hardly ever gets updated.

Most days I am trying to capture the winter trees out my kitchen window, the changing colors of the mountain, and learning how to live with a son who is an Iraq veteran with PTSD.  Those sketches can take forever to finish, as the weather transforms my winter landscape.

winterTreeSugarloaf72dpiIt feels as if, it is the first time I have drawn this mountain view, every time I put pencil to paper.  Seasonal changes dramatically alter colors and forms, and that forces me to slow down and look.  Someday I will capture that feeling of being in this lively landscape.

Right now I am drawing this view as a meditative experience.  Getting lost in the purples and blue greys in winter trees, has a way of pulling my mind away from worrying about my Iraq Veteran son.  Grateful to have these compositional and drawing problems to solve, and wishing I could as easily help him heal his war wounds.

winter tree sketch72dpi


Challenge: Being present, make art daily, gardening a little and not stressing over life.

P1000063I love watching all the insects hanging out.  Wishing I could stay in this moment.

Life has been a roller coaster these last months, as life as a mom overwhelmed everything else.  When my boys were young I imagined myself at this age with long days making art, reading with no regard for the time, spontaneous happenings, and not worrying obsessively about them in their 30’s.

However, worry and despair dominated these last 6 months. As our Iraq Vet son moved home.   We had some good days, when I could focus on the art, good books, and enjoy the life I have created.  There was joy in planning a wedding for my older son, and the actual wedding weekend was wonderful.  I won’t soon forget our rehearsal dinner evening, nor the beautiful wedding in Nashville surrounded by family, some of our friends, and his childhood, high school and college friends.


It is hard tho’ to stay in those moments, isn’t it?   If only I could block out fear and worry over the daily struggles of the Iraq vet son, and return to memories of the wedding son in Nashville.   Focusing on that, being present there.

That is my challenge now:  how do I live with the reality of life never being okay for my Iraq vet son, and not worry or stress over his difficulties?  I wish sometimes I were one of those women who can block out family difficulties and make art, be happy with friends, but I am not.

In the week following that glorious wedding, our Iraq Vet son relapsed and became angry and depressed as the VA crisis dominated the news, and despair grew over his day to day life.  That was the backdrop at home as I worked to prepare for 2 naturalist hikes I co-lead that first weekend home.  The following Tuesday I taught my final Art/Botany Class,  I was exhausted and blacked out (or fell asleep) while driving home.

Car Accident-

The Police, Firemen, ER Doctors and the Ambulance EMT guys all said it should have been a fatality, and I was lucky to be alive.   It was a horrible accident, the impact was est. @ 45mph.  I hit a tree and guard rail head on, it folded then turned into a vertical spear eating the engine of my poor car.

After all the doctors, tests and the followup to a near fatal car crash, I am left wondering: How do I change my  head and heart?  How do I destress when my son is in crisis?  And how can I make art and live with a different mental/emotional approach to work deadlines as personal crisis develop at home?

These last few weeks, I am working in the garden, I am drawing plants, I am teaching, and I am slowing down.  My son has moved out, he lives with a friend now.  I am not sure how I will face the next  catastrophe he encounters, but I will try to let it be his problem and hope that I have given him enough guidance and support over all these years to be able to make good decisions.

Living in the moment right now on a beautiful June day, with my garden in full bloom.  Now to the studio…..

Monarda & Dill

West Harris Walks- Sugarloaf Mountain

West Harris Walks- Sugarloaf Mountain

I walk West Harris Road most days throughout the year. It is a charming rustic road right off of the back of our field, that leads to Sugarloaf Mountain. So many days my mind is cluttered with chores, to do lists and so on, then all of a sudden a bird will flit through the tall grasses and I am drawn in, somedays it is the light hitting the wheat or soy growing in the distance. This painting attempts to capture some of that experience that.

Cozumel Shell Diptych

Cozumel Shell Diptych

Back from my first time snorkeling around the beaches in Cozumel, Mexico. Everything was vibrant looking through the snorkel mask. Shells are subtle organic shapes with detail and colors that draw me in. This little watercolor – collage was fun to do and challenging at the same time. I love it when art isn’t a struggle, and my mind is in the art.

Especially enjoyed collaging the japanese papers and a fragment of the customs form we received upon entering the country.

As you know if you have read my posts too often the art projects I set out to do, are a mountain of work and the fun is gone long before the piece is done. My little shell diptych broke through that pattern. A good day in the studio.

Monarda didyma and Caterpillars

This doggone art challenge has gone on for too long, caterpillars keep showing up on the plant.

This doggone art challenge has gone on for too long, caterpillars keep showing up on the plant.

I have monitored my patch of Monarda didyma all summer.  Looking for caterpillars of the Hermit Sphinx Moth that I followed last summer, that haven’t shown up in the light of day this summer.  I found a caterpillar hanging on a leaf in July only to have a Preying Mantis eat it the next day.  IT was such a disappointment because I have always gotten a kick out of Preying M. and now I know it is a predator on the caterpillars that I am searching for.  So I relocated a couple to my deep field, and then found a Wheel bug laying in wait, looked up the life history of that insect only to find it also is a predator on caterpillars.  So when they finally show up and I find them chomping away it lights me up.   Now I have this piece of art that has a couple dif. species on it and I want to be done with this piece.

Hoping my art eye can manage to see the art without thinking too much about the specifics of the caterpillars and cocoons hanging on.  Someday I will capture this interaction with all the subtleties that go on during metamorphosis.  IT is a tough world out there for a caterpillar, I have a whole new appreciation every time I see a moth or butterfly, when I think of all the risks they face.