Comings and Goings – Springtime Migration

DSC01697Lately I have found myself reading up about migratory birds.  I am reading Songbird Journeys by Miyoko Chu.I realized how little i knew about these little marvels who live in our woods. I learned that they migrate for thousands of miles each spring and autumn.  That they will fly over our homes by the thousands while we sleep unknowingly in our beds. That thought really got me.  These little souls flying tirelessly through the night while i sleep under my down comforter. 
DSC01700 How do they do it? I can barely find my way to the bathroom at night if our night light goes out. Scientists have spent millions of dollars and hours , and  more studying birds and their beautiful navigational ways. They have followed birds, on foot through the jungles, by helicopters, and land rovers. Night and day the scientists have followed these little wonders in order to discover the secret within their small frames.  I cannot help wondering if the birds have feathered creatures following the scientists to see why they are going all over the place.  The idea would make a great cartoon- Birds being studied by people who are being studied by birds

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The researchers have come up with all sorts of theories and thoughts about just how these birds are capable of doing what we “smarter” creatures cannot. So these small wonders are mysteriously equipped with sensors in their eyes, noses and brains which enable them to detect and respond to the earth’s magnetic field.  I did not even remember what the earth’s magnet field is.

Are you ready to have it all become crystal clear?

Wikipedia says:
Earth’s magnetic field, also known as the geomagnetic field, is the magnetic field that extends from the Earth’s interior out into space, where it meets the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun.

I know that helps.

 

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Songbird Journey’s (page 147)

” In addition to the sun,stars and magnetic fields and polarized light,birds probably use other cues to navigate. They can check their position against landmarks such as rivers and  mountain ranges.Pigeons are capable of smelling their way home…”  Really????

In our present culture it is hard to find someone who can even find their way to a destination without a GPS. These birds have got us beat!!!!! Can you imagine smelling your way home?

 

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I have been using my paper collage as a way to think and meditate on the lessons of the birds. I am awed by their mysteries, their fortitude and their hidden talents. I am amazed by the intricate balance that guides them over thousands of miles each year. For me, these wonderful details continue to speak of an intelligent and loving Creator.  These birds didn’t think of this themselves!!!

 

Scheherazade and the Inner Workings of Plants

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I am often asked where I find my inspirations for my paper collages. I have to say that my themes come from many different and often unexpected places. I often find inspiration from nature, music, and  my reading.

Each winter, living on the edge of the woods, I find myself fascinated with the inner workings of winter plants. I look out the window and see all these trees, grasses, and shrubs stark, snow-covered, grey and bleak. They appear dead. Memories of their autumn splendor, spring time awakenings and summer abundance  run  through my mind. How can these vibrant plants just stand there, day and night for months, appearing dead and yet still carrying within them the spark of life? Against all evidence they are not dead.

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This morning I turned on my Scheherazade CD and decided to read up on just what plants are doing in the winter. As the music began I found myself imaging the inner workings of plants set to music. What interesting ballets or concertos could be based on these themes. I  thought my horticultural reading would be uplifting and poetic. I imagined with the music in the background and the frozen grasses outside my window that I would be transported in some lyrical manner.

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Unfortunately that did not happen. As I began to read i discovered words like tracheids, xylum, vernalization, extraorgan freezing, extracellular freezing, conduits, desiccation and freeze-thaw cycles. Not very inspiring I am afraid. Many words even my spell check did not approve of.

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So I closed the book, turned Scheherazade up louder and went back to admiring the frozen swaying grasses. As I watch their winter dancing, I imagine a tiny flame of life deep within them held lovingly by the plant’s dreams of summer days to come. And I imagine them  as ballet dancers swaying gently to the evocative strains of Scheherazade.I lovingly pick up my scissors and papers and continue to collage my thoughts about the inner workings of plants  and I join the grasses in the music of the spheres.

Life on the COLORFUL Planet

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Autumn and early winter are here among us in the woods of the Cuyahoga Valley. This is always a “heads up for beauty “time for me. The world suddenly (sometimes very suddenly) looks different, new and somehow wilder. Nature once again shows us just who is boss!

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This is a time of year that red, gold, yellow and burgundy finally show their stuff and have their say! We are simply spectators. We can do nothing to improve on this phenomenon. I marvel in the colors and every year I am surprised-like it has never happened before. The colors are so wonderful that I find myself transported. I am moved and changed. In considering this I realized how colors surround us and usually we ignore them and take them for granted. Nature and gardens are true showcases for color and we find great solace in them. Then I realized that the other planets in out system appear to be lifeless and without much color. This is a very deep mystery to me. What an awesome under-appreciated privilege to live on The COLORFUL PLANET!

Tending My Inner Garden in the Western Reserve

One of the greatest joys I find in my art is the privilege of working with so many wonderful wonderful colors.   I particularly enjoy working with metal gilding and acrylics paints together as they create colors that transform with the changing light of day. Colors are free, to be enjoyed without cost by the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy, the old and the young… and everyone in between. I believe as though I am on a journey exploring the rivers and pathways of color.

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Summertime-Nature’s Great Shout-Out

DSC_0599 copy    Somehow I have seen that being a collage artists has made me more aware of the simple beauties of everyday living.  Every where I go I see  fascinating textures, amazing colors, new and  intricate designs. This  flows over into my everyday living.  I see things I never saw before and experience life with a new attitude.

Summer always amazes me. In the woods, in our garden…..abundance of life and such a shout-out to the wonders of living.  Celebrations going on everywhere in the natural world.  All too often I find myself ignoring the party and getting wrapped up in work and concerns.  Summer is here, in-my-face, up close and personal, trying to get my attention..DSC00575 (3)Wake up  Helen and Celebrate !

Join the dance, sing to the music, get “carried away” with the grateful joys of living. Let a single flower amaze you and a whole field of them bowl you over!  Nature is free! It costs nothing to admire a tree, bush or running stream. If we are in good health or poor health, rich or poor, appreciated or not… we can still take joy in the loveliness around us.  No more excuses!
Tending My Inner Garden in the Western Reserve
 I am happy to say that I have had three of my paper collages accepted in the the Artists of Rubber City show at Summit Art Space.  On of them eve won an Honorable Mention! If you are in the area come and see them during the month of July or first week of August during the first  Saturday  Art Walk.
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The Slow-Coming of Spring

 

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As I have mentioned before, living on the edge of the woods is an awesome education.

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Posed as we are now, on the edge of Spring, there are wonderful lessons to learn. This spring started early and then has been playing tug-of-war with winter for several weeks now. Its in the 60’s, its in the 20’s… the herons return and take up nesting and then the blizzards come again. The lesson I am taking from this is that nature works slowly. It is not an over-night, magical transformation into a Green and Pink loveliness. Spring is coming a daffodil at a time. Change and renewal are coming one bright green leaf at a time. We can be too busy to see the new green shoots or we can seek them and savor them.

This time of year, let us take lessons from the daffodils.

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So I am thinking about how spring comes so slowly to the woods North East Ohio. I remember Mark Twain’s quote about spring:

 

In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.

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I am thinking about the coming of Spring if people were in charge. It would be a very different thing for sure. We would pick a date, hire a PR person, get a branding agent, select a CEO, organize committees, hire a designer, an attorney and a fund raiser. Plans drawn out, hours of meetings, discussions, emails, faxes, and blue prints. Then as the date approaches, late nights, pots of coffee, fast food, frayed nerves and neglected families.

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Then, day and night, the frenzy builds until the eve of Spring is upon us. Extra workers, students, volunteers, migrants- every able bodied person.

 

Then on the first day of Spring we all wake up and

“TAA-DUH” SPRING HAS ARRIVED!

The leaves are out, the trees in full bloom, daffodils, tulips and crocus all blooming at the same time. Grass is bright and green, blue sky, nesting birds, hopping bunnies, butterflies flying across the skies. 70 degrees with just the right breeze to spread the smell of flowers and sweet grasses.. An over night transformation! This is what it would be like if we took the coming of Spring out of Nature’s Good Hands and let people do the job. I think I really prefer the slow approach and one daffodil at a time.

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Winter – A Season in Waiting.

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Over the past few years I have discovered that Winter is an ideal time to create art. When I am forced to stay in is a wonderful time for me  to take an artistic journey. While the woods outside my window seem still and dead I find my creative juices going strong. Winter invites me to creativity in it’s own quiet way.  I find myself once again learning from both the Natural world and the world of Paper Collage.

Winter in Ohio this year has been like a difficult  eleven month pregnancy.  Nature is waiting, and we wait with it.  When will the snows come? The grasses and weeds stand waiting in the fields.  The bare trees stand  as waiting sentinels. The cold woods are  like a waiting room, filled to capacity with well-wishers and wonderers. When will the snows come?  

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The old wait in concern and  dread: how “bad” will it be, will I survive?  The young wait with restless anticipation…will  there be enough  snow  to use my new sled: will the schools close? Those in the middle- wonder what  will the roads be like; and like the squirrels with their nuts and seeds set aside ,do we are have all the shovels, mittens, vitamins, salt, blankets, that we need?

 

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Winter is a time of waiting and deepening.  A time to ponder, reflect and think.  This is Winter’s invitation to all of Nature and to us.  “Take a break”. “Take a chill pill.”  Now that Christmas is over i know that before long the Spring Garden catalogues will begin appearing in my mailbox.  From past years experience, I know as soon as I open the first  Spring Garden Magazine, I will close the book on Winter and  wait for the coming of Spring.

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I will find myself dreaming of spring before I have learned all that Winter has to teach me. This year I resolve to try to stick with winter until it passes the baton to Spring. Until I hear Spring grasp the stick in its Merry hand and swiftly run on. Winter is a teacher with  millions of years of experience. Winter can teach us to let go and to not be afraid to be empty and barren. Winter has lessons about endurance and fortitude that any General would benefit from.  And Winter is an expert instructor about the Powerful Art of Waiting. The woods look dead, beyond hope and lifeless. But that is simply Winter’s great trick. Deep within the rivers, the fish sleep,  and the frogs dream. The trees are not dead lifeless things-within their walls the insects and animals are  refueling and remaking. The owls and turkeys perch in silence and the squirrels sleep and dream. The plants look dead, many cannot even be seen.  And yet  both deep within,  and barely beneath the surface, the triumphs and glories of the Spring are waiting and  and rehearsing for the Great Spring Extravaganza.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Sweet Company of Flowers

 

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Lately I have found myself often in the Company of Flowers. This spring and early summer here in the woods of Northeast Ohio we received the gift of a lot of rain. I Know some of my California relatives would be envious. That great rain was at times annoying but it has worked to produce a lovely summer here. A summer full of flowers. I am a true flower enthusiast and the daughter and granddaughter of true flower enthusiasts. I come by it honestly. My father never tired of flowers and at 93 he could still find himself amazed by their elegant, abundant beauty. I am making an effort to not take them and their lavish beauty for granted.

 

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This summer I have had the honor of hosting these wonderful Annabelle Hydrangeas here in my garden by the woods this summer. I did very little to help them. A few minutes of trimming and fertilizing and I am rewarded with this spectacular display of floral beauty. I simply feel very blessed and privileged. To me its like the crown jewels. Their abundance makes me feel like royalty.

As I have been so surrounded by these lovely things I have found myself being philosophical about them. I think that these beauties are not just the result of random evolution. These marvelous creations could only come from the heart and mind of a loving creator. I am sure that the world could devise other ways to go on without the beauty of flowers. Flowers scream to us that we are loved and abundantly so.

 

 

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In the spring I began to create collage flowers and found it a very exciting adventure. I have been privileged to have the enjoyment of using my painted and gilded papers to create some unique and lovely specimens. I have found insight and refreshment in the Sweet Company of Flowers

 

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Spring, Merciful Spring!!!!

P3030179 copyThose of us who live in Northeast Ohio, have come through another long,cold winter.  Just when I thought I was all died up, that my dry bones would splinter and blow away, my hair fall out and and my cold skin flake off into a pile around my blue feet… just in the nick of time, Spring arrived! A small faintly warm breeze quietly blew in and we were saved!

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Oh Sweet Spring thy name is Mercy! This year I felt so completely rescued and delivered by that slightly warm breeze the sweet hand of Providence  sent  our way. In my last post about winter I think i mistakenly said that Winter is the divine tool that reminds us that we are not alone and that we are not in control.  Maybe I shouldn’t have written that as I experienced it so very strongly this year.

 

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Spring. A beautiful invention by our Creator. We need to make time in our schedules to just enjoy the Season!!!  My husband and i had the enjoyment of a short trip to California in March.  We  went to San Francisco and had a wonderful visit with my high school friend Hayden Ellis. Hayden has been in San Francisco for over 40 years and I appreciated her insights. She said that she envied our experience of the seasons!!!  She mentioned that she had only seen one real spring in her life and that she longed for the experience again. Her words really inspired me to look at Spring more closely, and to strive to enjoy every part of it.  We must not rush through the experience.  Take each new leaf, and every new flower and bask in their wonder!

 

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Spring is here to remind us that Mercy exists, that we can try again, that there are second chances and that we are loved!

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At Home In the Winter Woods

 

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One of my special life blessings has been to be honored to live with my family on the edge of the woods for these past 16 years. I am not sure how I was gifted with this wonderful experience when most people are not. The woods are a way of life. I am not trying to give the impression that I sleep out in a tent in sub-zero weather, and make tea out of frozen tree bark. No. I live on the edge of the woods. And in the Winter that edge is dramatic and exciting.

 

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The woods were here first but kindly allow us to be neighbors. Living in the woods and among the trees, plants, and animals is to me like being apart of a living piece of art. As a collage artist I see myself as a piece in a massive living collage. In these long cold weeks of “Bleak Mid-winter” the life collage that surrounds me is stark and dramatic.

 

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Winter’s layers

At night I look out my window and see the long blank inky shadows that the moon has painted across the snow. In the morning I see the lovely pinks and golds that the sun is painting across the frozen sky like a painting on frosted glass. Sometimes I am a part of a symphony of wind, whirling snow, or coyotes and other times it is an icy symphony of frozen silence.  Often I feel a certain tension between the woods and its strong message and the everyday duties and distractions of this technological age. I find myself not wanting to feel the breeze, or look for birds or admire the snow sculptures the wind has made. I want to focus on my own thoughts and concerns.  Every day i am given the choice of listening to nature, to Winter, to the chill and ice or ignoring the whole thing and trying to live my life as if i was in control.

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And that is the gift of the Woods and the Winter- they both are here to remind us that we are not in charge, that we are all simply sojourners and pilgrims.  I am daily trying to learn that lesson and let winter’s icy fingers remind me of who I am and who I am not.

 

 

 

Getting Down and Dirty in a Paper Slurry

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Over the summer I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a Western paper making Class at the Morgan  Art of Papermaking Conservatory  in Cleveland, Ohio.

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This is something I have wanted to do for several years and  finally it happened!  Two wonderful days just hanging out with gooey hands, slightly wet feet, an enormously unattractive plastic apron, and a big smile on my face.  In my artwork I use paper in many different ways and I have encountered a multitude of types and characters of  paper.  How little we consider its source and creation.


The process is simple, messy and ancient.  I was intrigued by how one takes the wet slurry mixture of fiber and water, scoops it artfully into a deckle, or frame, lets the water run back out, and then “couches” the sheet onto a soft resting place.  Then  with time and a little pressure and paper is born.

 

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As usual, there are all  sorts of different fibers to use, interesting colors, additives, and so forth.  And as usual I got carried away experimenting and discovering. It really is a very meditative art.  I was reminded how things in life can be changed from one  form to another.  How the seasons change, water changes form, and how relationships  change and how I change. I was reminded that change takes patience, time and sometimes a little pressure. Paper making is a little shadow of giving birth.  It is wonderful to create something which has never before been.  An encounter with the divine. Have you hugged your paper today?

 

 

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And then at the end  there is a terrific amount of clean up.  Doesn’t that always seem to be the case?  And as the sponges were being propelled, the buckets emptied, the trash deposited, the tables and counters wiped, supplies replaced to their spots and the mops came out… I couldn’t help but  see the  simple beauty in a well organized cleanup job.

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