Saturday, June 30, 2012

Small Fascinations

Recently out for a morning walk, I noticed my neighbor's bushes filled with spider webs.  The unusual construction caught my eye, backlit by the rising sun.  I hurried on past, but on my way home later, I stopped to examine them more closely.

They looked like little upside down parachutes, including the first chute you pull to slow things down a little before pulling the main chute.  and underneath the bigger chute I could see a small spider on each one.

I went home to retrieve my camera, and after getting a few pictures, headed for my computer to see if I could find out what this little creature was.  Rather quickly I came across "bowl and doily" spiders - and they looked just like what I'd found.

So often things catch my eye or ear and it may register briefly, but I'm too busy with what I'm doing to stop and investigate.  I don't look up words I come across, just figuring I get the gist of it from the context.  I don't go look for the little moth in my book to see who's sharing our garden.  I don't follow through to see what kind of work an artist has done when I hear their name for the first time.  In this day of information overload, there's just too much to take it all in!

But when I do step aside and look more closely, I feel richer.  I feel more connected.  I don't have to go looking for learning opportunities.  They are coming at me every day.  How about you?  What has caught your eye lately?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

peacocks, salamanders, and grandkids

Al and I took Marcus and Landen to the Catskills for three days this week.  We found a little motel near Belleayre Lake where there's a nice beach and anticipated some fun days in the sun swimming and looking for tadpoles and salamanders.  But right off, plans had to change since the first day there were heavy thunderstorms forecast.  We decided to take our time getting over to Pine Hill and stopped at the Forsythe Nature Center in Kingston on the way.

Perhaps we should have taken a clue from the loud boisterous cry of the peacocks on arrival.  The birds  went into full display - the boys were fascinated.  They also loved the beautiful turtles and tortoises, the baby ducks, the rabbits and the pot bellied pig.  But it was peacock behavior that seemed to predominate over our time away.

Once we settled into our motel and they had a chance to explore their environs they delighted in the grounds and set up camp in the screen house in back.  But they also quickly started competitions that lasted the whole trip: who gets the lawn chair near nana, who gets more green m&ms on their cookie, who can get to the bathroom first, etc. We got through the first day in pretty good shape.

 But the next day deteriorated.  The weather was miserable.  It was rainy, drizzly and chilly.  Couldn't go swimming.  And it wasn't really inviting to go hiking since they'd just get cold and wet and there was no way to dry out all the clothes and shoes.  We hadn't expected ALL the rain - so we didn't take boots and other rain gear.  But we did have nets and containers so decided to go to one pond where we've always had good luck finding salamanders and tadpoles.  We figured we'd get wet, but then come home and dry out.  We lasted about half an hour there - I was only able to catch one salamander for them.  Which they fought over. Most of the day was spent in the motel, playing video games and looking up salamanders, newts, and dinosaurs on my Ipad.
Eastern Salamander

The third day dawned with gorgeous sunny skies - still too chilly for swimming so we decided to pack up and hike a trail that leads to some beautiful little water falls.  The boys were enthusiastic and hoped to find some salamanders along the trail.  But they jockeyed to be the leader, took some tumbles, and couldn't stop vying for favored status in their own peculiar little ways.  Perhaps they were a little homesick, but while they usually get along really well, this trip, they just couldn't stop bickering.  Their sweeter sides were as hidden as the salamanders they so wanted to find.

There were some tender moments - a time when Landen said he wanted to sit next to Marcus because he loved him; a time when Marcus, when asked what the best part of the trip was, said "just all of us being together".

The pictures will show a wonderful time was had by all.  And while I won't romanticize it and say it was all rosy, I hope that what will remain in memory are those funny and tender moments when we really were just happy to be together.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Small Peace Offering

This past weekend I was invited to demonstrate painting rocks for a sweet event at Locust Grove in Poughkeepsie.  The gardens had been opened for their Secrets in the Garden event.  Twenty two artists had fashioned the most charming little fairy houses which were hidden in bowers and around the grounds.  A storyteller set the mood, families were given a sheet of clues, and then went off to find the houses and leave little offerings for the "residents".

I painted little fairy pins, pendants, and pocket stones, along with pieces for a garden themed chess set I was working on.  Kids connect with rock painting.  They recognize it as something they can do.  One little boy wanted to play chess with me, but the pieces weren't finished yet.  Some children wanted to paint - but the event was not set up for that activity.  Others wanted their parents to buy a piece for them - and there were items for sale.  But often the parents were not ready to purchase one more thing, especially if they felt the child might not take care of it, would throw it in a drawer and go on to the next "must have".  Or perhaps it just wasn't in the budget for that day.  There were a few disappointed children, a couple who had to be pulled away in tears.

It was easy to understand both the childrens' and parents' points of view:  the ones who are so attracted to the colors, the small little treasures that they want for their very own; the others who are often juggling just how often they can give in to the desires that seem never ending.

I was dismayed at being a cause for family disharmony and felt I needed to come up with something that would make the next day go more smoothly for everyone.

I decided to make up little cards:  One Way to Paint a Fairy.  At first I thought I'd show a step by step procedure, but trusting that less is more when it comes to stimulating creativity, I decided to stick with the bare bones.  And then I brought a little basket of rocks.  When the children came to watch I could offer them a choice of a stone and a card so that they could paint their own treasure.  It seemed to work.  Peace reigned in the garden.