I am gardener …

Today I had to write about my recent experiences with gardening. We’ve worked very hard to create an oasis in our backyard, my husband and I, and I was really worrying about the new rosebushes recently. So I started to pay closer attention and walking around the yard more. Then I spotted something but it dropped to the ground and hid in the grass. I knew then what I was dealing with … the dreaded Japanese Beetle! So I became a gardener warrior!

Japanese beetle
Japanese beetle on a butterfly bush.

This is the most recent one that I found in my garden, just about an hour ago. No worries, it’s gone. I took care of it.

Dealing with these this week, I recalled seeing a post on Facebook from an acquaintance who had seen a pair of them mating in a bush outside a local restaurant. The plant leaves they were frolicking on were skeletonized. I remember thinking that my friend should have dispatched them because they are truly a menace here.

Then today, after getting rid of several more from some of my plants, I was inspired to write a poem and Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham came into my head so I allowed it to influence my writing. So here is my poetic effort. They say that poets use their work to share their feelings and impressions with the world. This poem does exactly that for me. I hope that it inspires you and makes you a gardener warrior too.

Dr. Seuss inspired “Beetles in my Garden”

I am gardener
Gardener I am!

I do not like shiny beetles in my garden
Those boxy ones with speedster stripes
Those iridescent shiny beetles
Those long legs and white stripes
Japanese beetles, on my rose leaves
Japanese beetles, in my basil leaves
I do not like Japanese beetles.
I do not want them in my garden.

I would not like them on a boat
I would not like them on a goat
I don’t like them in the rain
Or in the dark, or on a train
Or in my car, or on my trees
They are so awful, so awful you see!

They will eat flowers in a box
And would eat them with a Fox
They would eat them in my house
Or even next to a mouse
They will eat them here and there
They will eat them everywhere
They’ve no predators here you see!
Except for people, and for me.

So I catch them on my rose plants
And I catch them on my basil plants
And I watch for them each day
If I find one, it’s spa day
And I send them to their sudsy end
Into my jar of soapy water
I push them in and put an end
It’s the only way to keep them away.

They are ravenous those beetles
Eating buds, leaves, and branches
They will skeletonize your plants
If you let them, yes they will
They will multiply and hide
In your garden til next year
They drop down from their meal and hide.
Be sneaky! There and here!

I am gardener
Gardener am I!
Japanese beetles are my foe
Not my friends but my foe
My foe are these beetles
I do not like Japanese beetles
Gardener am I
And so they must die!

By
Christine Walter

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Art Making Day

It is World Watercolor Month apparently and daily prompts are provided for those who wish to use them through Doodlebug. I didn’t do any for the first four days but decided that maybe I might try doing one in my watercolour sketchbook today. The prompt for July 5th is “Shades of Blue” and I was at an interesting lotus event earlier this week that involved tasting lotus tea and trying a hand at painting a lotus using Sumi-e methods. I liked the tea but didn’t care for the method. I much prefer more western forms of painting. To be fair, I may not have given it a big chance but then, I figure that I’m still very new at watercolouring and that should be where I put my focus for now.

So when I saw the prompt this morning, I thought to myself that I might want to search for images of blue lotuses and I found a fairly simple one, which I used for this sketch. My sketch is not perfect but I like it. Egyptians associate this flower with the sun, creation, and rebirth, whereas Buddhism associates them with victory over the spirit. I like the Egyptian’s view a bit more I think. And today is certainly a bright sunny day, a day for creativity. Later, I am off to a drawing class with my husband. We will have dinner first and then we will go make art and be creative.

IMG_1261It’s not my first class, nor is it my first class with this teacher, and I am looking forward to having dedicated time to improve my drawing and pastel skills. These, I hope, will then help me improve my painting skills. Hubby wants to improve his ability to draw. He makes jewelry and would like to be better at sketching his designs, even sketching designs for incorporating into his pieces. I think we will have lots of fun learning together.

Playing mainly with shades of blue was an interesting exercise. I didn’t spend a lot of time on this sketch, only about an hour or two. But I was drawn to it because there are a lot of shades of blue in my watercolour palette and this gave me an opportunity to use many of them. There are cool blues and warm ones. I have favourite ones, such as Prussian blue, Cerulean, Cobalt, Ultramarine, and Indigo. But for this exercise, even Veridian green seemed to fit in as did the Blue Violet. This was fun to do and I may try it again on better paper and not in a sketchbook.

So what draws you to art? Is there a particular style or period that you like best? Do you have favourite artists? I remember a few years ago going to the mall with my then teenaged niece and walking into an art gallery. She was very patient and we looked at the paintings on offer. I could tell this wasn’t her idea of fun but she was indulging me as I had done in various jean shops. There were some wonderfully creative Canadian art on the walls for sale that day. I asked her what she liked.

She kind of smirked and said that she couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to put paintings or pictures on their walls. The most she would do, she said, is put up pictures of people that she knew. And she really couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to pay “that kind of money” for a painting. If she were to spend that much money, she’d hire a good photographer to capture some family photos. I felt sad but unsurprised. Then she said, she didn’t know anyone who had things like that on their walls. And in surprise, I said “no? … have you looked at the walls at my house?” She admitted that she hadn’t really paid attention to what was on my walls. There aren’t many photographs of people on my walls. Back then, we had prints, a genuine oil painting from a local artist, and some of our own nature photography in frames on the walls.

These days, we have more paintings and photographs, and even fewer photos of people that we know. I suspect that her tastes have changed too, now that she is older, but it struck me as interesting, this lack of awareness and lack of interest in art. I suppose that a love of art comes through exposure to it, preferably at a young age. My parents always had reproductions of famous paintings on their walls. The framed photos too were on the wall and on the shelves but my mother loved her paintings. A few of them were print reproductions of famous Renoir paintings and those were some of my favourites too. There was also a Gainsborough, The Boy Blue, and a few others.

As I personally start delving more and more into my artistic side, I am learning that the creative arts were popular in my mother’s family. Most if not all of my aunts and uncles have used pastels, oils, or acrylics, and even watercolours, apparently. It was fascinating to learn that and explained why I have always been so drawn to art and all things creative. I have older cousins too, who are very creative and make beautiful paintings. I remember admiring them when I was a child. A few even had the opportunity to attend art school.

So today, I am in a creative mood. I enjoyed my short time with the watercolour sketch and I am looking forward to doing more later this evening, even knowing that we will have a still life designed to teach a lot about perspective and shadows but which is rather boring. It’s okay. It’s all part of learning and improving. I will endeavour to embrace the Styrofoam block, ball, and cone. For next week, we move to a more interesting still life arrangement. Though, I probably won’t use conte or charcoal as I have never really liked them but I will bring my soft pastels instead.

I hope that you will find a way to express your own creativity today and share it with others. It is Thursday, so admittance to the National Art Gallery in Ottawa is free tonight. It would be a great time to go see what is on offering there.

Enjoy the day, look for the simple beauty around you, capture it. Use your phone, sketch it on a piece of paper, write a haiku about it, or just sit and enjoy it. Beauty really is all around us; we are just too often in such a rush that we miss it.

Carpe diem,

Christine

 

Watch and Learn

Starlings, Fledglings
Family life and parental duties, try doing it while flying!

I love watching! Watching wildlife, watching people, just watching! A couple of weeks ago, as I stood at my patio door looking out at my yard, I noticed these three fledglings sitting on the squirrel barrier attached to the bird feeder pole. They were hungry and kept harassing, or so it seemed to me, any adults that came to eat or pick up food for their own families. I wasn’t sure which of the adult Starlings was their parent. But, I suspect that this one might have been. As I watched, I noticed that the adult wasn’t hurrying to feed the fledglings and I wondered if this was a form of training. As in, “I’ve brought you to the food; feed yourself!  I’m tired!” The young ones were quite entertaining and awkward.

 

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My initial unease and worry eased as I continued to observe and figured out that this was just they way of things for them. And then, this happened.

Starlings and Fledglings
Get off my back! Stop that! Poor harried Starling!

I laughed and then imagined that poor harried adult starling telling her kid to “get off”. And of course, you might notice that since there are two babies and one adult on that feeder, their combined weight has shut the cage down on the access to the food. After some tussles, she did manage to get free from this hungry adolescent. The flurry of activity in that short time was quite something to see.

Starlings, bird feeders, fledglings.

Ganging up on the feeder, “feed me” they say.

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Wrath of the parent

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Now, get it yourself!

They are cute and never dull to watch, the starlings, but they sure are pests. Some of the other feeder visitors were not patient with these hungry kids and I was reminded of young teenagers milling around a food court at meal times, especially the ones needing an adult to pay for their food. We are often less tolerant of others and other people’s children than we might be with people we know and care for. In a mall, you’d see expressions of annoyance, fleeting perhaps, cross the faces of other patrons as they tried to get around young children mobbing a parent for some attention. The larger birds, like the male grackles just flew at them and cleared the way for himself at the feeder, not that the little ones on the barrier moved away. But the moral of this story is that by watching, we learn and so did the young ones. It was just easier and less scary to ask mom to get them a snack.

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The birds aren’t the only interesting visitor to my yard either and more recently, I discovered that we have not one but two rabbits that come to the yard. I thought it was just the one but then as I continued to watch, I saw a second one appear. The first one, had wandered from eating clover to the garden and made himself comfy under one of the larger tomato plants. The second one wandered around finding stuff to eat too and ended up in the garden patch, where he eventually saw the first one. They startled each other.

Wild rabbit, hare, bunny, gardenWild rabbit, hare, bunnies, garden

The second one didn’t stay long, though he did partake of the clover that seems particularly inviting to these long eared visitors. I keep an eye on their activities and have walked out to “move them along” when they loiter near the beans or other tender budding plants that we hope to consume ourselves. Hubby calls me “Farmer Brown” when I go out to shoo them away.

And of course, it isn’t uncommon when one is watching, to be watched. Although, I suspect that Mr. Chippy was probably keeping a closer eye on the round eared creatures with fangs and nails who would love to catch themselves a little striped speedster like him, than he was me. Shawny is on a leash though so unless Chippy comes too close; he’s probably safe … today. I did find one though a few days ago dead in the grass. It came to close to the house and the shed, where all three of my kitties sit and wait every day for him to show up.

Death is a sad part of life that becomes quite real when you pay attention to wild life in your world. The lives of birds and small mammals are much shorter than ours. The conditions can be quite harsh for them at times. The water and food that we put out as well as our goal towards creating a greener and more hedge-like space provides a bit of an oasis. The downside is that predators like oases too but they come not for the seed but for the feeders eating seed. The most powerful feathered visitor that I’ve seen in my yard, though not since late winter, is the Cooper’s Hawk. She is an impressive hunter and a beautiful predator. I will leave you with her image.

May the day bring you what you need, may you find lessons in what you observe, and may the warm days of summer bring abundance so that you can share your bounty.

Seize the day,

Christine

Cooper's Hawk
Mid-February, food is getting scarce. The huntress is here.

 

 

Summer

Handmade book
Sunrise and friendship quote from the little book of Love.

What a beautiful sunshiny day! I love the first day of summer. It brings back memories of staying up late, sitting outside, listening to crickets, and waiting for the moon to come to view. School was nearly finished by now and the anticipation of a summer off was exciting. No more homework, no more getting up at a given time, no more rushing to school, just an opportunity to chase leisure and be with friends. Why do we rush it? What is it that drives us to want to age faster? And then, when we do reach a certain age, time seems to fly by and we either develop the ability to ignore it, or we start to wish that we could slow it down.

Mindfulness is something that develops, if we are lucky and if we are exposed to the idea of this, later … after all the rushing to be 16, or 18, or 21 … is done. What do I mean by mindfulness? I mean sitting in each moment and enjoying it, feeling it, living it … fully! Being in the moment, not rushing the next one without appreciating this one. Marketing doesn’t help. As summer starts, we will also see the start of “back to school” sales for September. Each holiday “sale” is announced months ahead to build anticipation and to entice those shoppers who like to be first or who plan ahead for each season. And of course, you have the bargain hunters who pounce on these announcements for a different reason and that is to take advantage of the big “end of season” sale. Only, often times, the season in question hasn’t really ended yet.

So today, I want to bask in the sunshine, bask in the beauty of this long summer day. I will be seeing friends at lunch time, where we are celebrating an impending wedding with the bride to be. The journey then of my little book on Love will end for me and move on to the bride. And later, I will meet with friends to sit and knit together as we catch up on life since we last met up in May. Interestingly, both groups of friends are knitters but the groups don’t intertwine. Knitting is something that I have done since I was probably around 4-years-old. It has brought a lot of wonderful and interesting people into my life who also shared this skill. Or, who are eager to learn it.

I think that I may bring my camera along to lunch today. There is a knitted gift that the other women worked on that I have yet to see. I look forward to seeing their work and also to seeing the bride’s face, also a knitter, when she opens up our handmade gifts.

Weddings are something else that summer brings isn’t it? This year, I know of at least two friends who are getting married. Always exciting! And of course, weddings mean flowers. Summer brings us lots of wonderful flowers and other greens to admire. My house smells of peonies at the moment. After the wind and storm the other day, we had to trim off many of the heavy blooms and stake the peonies up again, more solidly this time. So I brought in some of the blooms and left some in a vase on the deck but ended up having to bring them in too.

I love the smell of them and Earl loves to sleep under them. With his big thick coat, he needs all the shade that he can find and the peony bush provides shade and coolness from the foliage.

Pink Peony

Interesting flowers, peonies, because they grow from what seems like nothing in the spring, into big bushes of floppy flowers by late spring or early summer. They will be around for a little while and then, we’ll have just the bright green foliage again until it is time to cut it back. They are so fragrant and ants do seem to love them. Did you know the ants are attracted by the sweet nectar the flower buds produce? The flowers would still open without the help of ants but the ants actually help keep away harmful insects that would damage the blooms. The ants come for a sweet lunch and find protein on the menu too.

An interesting analogy actually, this relationship between the peonies and the ants. It isn’t unlike the groups of friends that you have who get together for some common interest. There are always some that are perhaps more challenging to be around but the draw is the camaraderie of the group, and the opportunity to talk about shared interests or share activities such as knitting. Friendships and social groups are sources of support and they do help keep away the blues, the loneliness, and provide connections that would not otherwise take place. So each of us might be like the peony, knitting like the nectar, the closest friends are like ants, and as a group we chase away the harmful thoughts and feelings that would otherwise take the bloom out of our cheeks, so to speak. But maybe I am stretching the analogy a bit far.

Relationships and tulipsI haven’t had breakfast yet so forgive me if that was a bit far fetched. Relationships though are important in life and making time to smell the peonies, or roses, is too. Just today, try not to rush things, try to savour them, the moment will pass quickly enough. Do something for yourself today that you wouldn’t normally do. Make time for you. Then share your joy with another.

Off to have breakfast now and prepare for my day.

Thanks for reading,

Christine

 

 

 

Inspiration

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
― Maya Angelou

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Valentines Day card from me to my sweetheart, 2018.

To be creative though, you need to be inspired. What inspires you? Is it a sound, a favourite song perhaps, birds singing, a child saying they love you? Music certainly can be nostalgic for me, as I am discovering when searching for music for my guitar lessons. Not all of the songs that I remember fondly are easily found nor are they necessarily easy for me to learn just yet. The songs of the birds that visit my yard can certainly create a sense of relaxation for me, which I suppose works towards inspiration.

I don’t have children but I do remember what it was like to hold my first niece when she was not yet a year old. The feel of those little arms around my neck and the trust and curiosity in the gaze of a little one can certainly stir emotions. So that’s another ingredient that could inspire me to do something.

I think I feel most inspired when I am in the right frame of mind, the right mood, and being happy, relaxed, and curious about things. It can be more than that but these can most definitely get me there. It helps to have people in your life who are creative and who make, do, build, or otherwise create things of beauty … or even just “things” regardless of whether I think they are beautiful. It’s as though inspiration and creativity are contagious for me.

I like taking classes for that reason. In July and August, I will be taking a drawing class. It’s not the first one that I’ve taken but I know that I will learn more again. I am looking forward to the weekly opportunity to be among other students, led by a wonderfully warm and creative instructor and artist friend, because I know that I will grow and be inspired. Maybe, I will even be inspiring to others. Now that would be something.

I am going to enjoy these classes also because in September, I am returning to university, full-time. I am looking forward to that experience just as much as the art class. I expect that seeking another degree will also be inspiring for me. Learning is a life-long pursuit. We are never too old to learn. I suspect though that my opportunities to “play” at being an artist and being creative will be diminished while I study how to be a therapist. I’m okay with that; it’s part of life that we must balance our many duties and hobbies.

In the meantime, I continue to work on the little book that I mentioned yesterday. All the quotes are in now, and written on the pages of the Love book. Now, I am in the process of embellishing the pages with opal waxes, little watercolour drawings, rubber stamp impressions, and coloured inks rubbed on the pages to add visual texture, and whatever else I feel drawn to add. It’s a slow process. I have 44 pages to work with and I’m just at page 8 so far. It takes time to be creative and I find that if I try to do too much in one sitting, I get stale.

So, I’m going to go check all the growth in my garden, with camera in hand, and make sure Shawny is okay still. I fed the birds and replenished the water a few moments ago before sitting down to write. The foxglove is looking spectacular and I am drawn to go photograph it again. My small rosebush is also full of opened blooms, those lovely red roses like the one in my first post, so I need to go capture some impressions there too. I know that when I come back inside that my source of inspiration will be renewed and I will be able to keep going on the book.

Feel free to tell me what sounds inspire you, or anything else for that matter. I’m always interested in hearing what sources of inspiration spark people’s creativity.

Off to seize the day,

Christine

Learning curve

“To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is without creating still more of them.”– Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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This is a photo of my hands but no, I’m not doing pottery at the moment. This was 10 years ago. I do remember the challenges of learning a new skill though. I liked my pots well enough but I never really got very proficient at throwing a pot on a wheel. I did much better with hand building. No, this image just seemed appropriate to me as I learn about setting up a blog site. Every new skill has a learning curve but if you are lucky, then you already have some other related skill at something that you can transfer to the new thing.

After the downpour yesterday morning, I spent some time weeding the yard. We have lots of weeds in some places and they are hard to get rid of, but when they start to cause trouble with the shrubs you’ve put in … well, they’ve got to go. Our viburnum was doing really well and then the ants found it again. We had trouble with them last year too. I showed no mercy then or this year. I squished the gatherings near the tops of the new growth because they will kill the shrub if given the chance. I’m sure they will return so we will have to treat the shrub with soapy water. It is apparently what usually works and doesn’t harm the plant.

I had spent the morning playing my few songs on the guitar that I’ve managed to learn so far, and also practiced a new strumming pattern. I’ve only been playing for a year so I’m pleased that I know four songs well and bits of other songs too. Little by little, I am learning. It’s a bit of a hodgepodge of songs that I have learned so far. My first one was Time in the Bottle by Jim Croce. I play the melody for this one and I really like that. Next, I learned Country Roads from John Denver, followed by Cats in the Cradle and What a Wonderful World. Those are all strumming of chords for singing along. I did learn a couple of holiday songs in December but of course those will only be handy again later in the year.

I’m collecting quotes and words of wisdom at the moment too, for a project that I’m working on, a small book that will be given as part of a wedding gift. I had fun making the little book and thought it would be nice if a group of the bride’s friends would provide inspirational quotes or words of wisdom on love, marriage, happiness, relationships, and anything else that would fit the theme.

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Once I have all the quotes, I will sort them into a meaningful order and then write them in using a variety of coloured inks. I will embellish the pages and hopefully, make it feel special for the couple who will receive it.

I look forward to the creative and artsy part of this project to resume. I enjoyed making the little book in the first place. Waiting for others to provide their quotes is the hard part apparently. If there aren’t quite enough, I have lots more that I can include, though I really would like it if more came from the group. Time is running out though so once the deadline is past, I will have to just go for it.

Well, that’s it for now, hope today will bring you opportunities to play and create,

Christine

My first blog and so the journey begins …

DSC_0234Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

IMG_0005I love when life inspires art. Roses, a thorny issue, and yet they are the inspiration for many poets and artists alike. Growing them has been an issue for me here. I am working to figure out where they would grow best and which variety will tolerate our weather best as well. Last year’s climbing rose bushes didn’t survive the winter but they were glorious while they were blooming. The rose at the top is from this year’s bush; it isn’t a climber and was planted in the ground rather than in a planter with a trellis. I’m hoping for the best.

Now the little knitted bag with embroidered roses was inspired by my garden and the grey yarn, uneven and thicker than I was going for, represents the first yarn I spun on a borrowed spinning wheel. I didn’t mind that it was uneven. I thought it made a lovely little knitted bag that I closed using a crochet hook and simple crocheted edging. No pattern, I was just having fun. The large light pink rose was done using some handspun that I made using a drop spindle. It too was imperfect but I liked it anyway.

If I let imperfect yarn or art bother me, I’d have stopped creating things long ago. I think we can only improve by first attempts, and imperfect often turns out to be beautifully unique. It’s a way of looking at things and a way of life. I hope you too are enjoying making things.

I’m not sure yet exactly where this first blog will take me, or for that matter, how this blog space will evolve but I hope you won’t mind any imperfections and watch me grow as I get more comfortable with this format and platform for journaling.

The sun is now shining, a cardinal is at my feeder, and my camera awaits.

Carpe Diem folks,

Christine