Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Four Seasons ... Around Here, Anyway

With the solstice this past week, I got to thinking about the seasons--about when and what they really are ... at least in these parts!

Everything from October 1 to December 31 is Christmas.  All the holiday hoop-la including finding great yucky spider decorations all over the place since people mistakenly think they're appropriate for Hallowe'en.  Having to hear Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Winter Wonderland wherever you go.  Figuring out gifts once again (or trying for no-gifts-this-year) and who-goes-where for holiday dinners.  And then sliding down into winter as the sun seems to set around 4:00, especially after the time change.  The garden gets put to bed--the hoses brought in, outdoor faucets drained, garden furniture and flower pots tucked into the garage.  The car gets winterized and its ice-deflecting wipers put on ... and I stick the car's snow shovel and kitty litter in back, not to take them out again until April.  (The litter adds traction if I get stuck.)

January and February is The Brutal Time.  Icy sidewalks that you have to treat with enormous respect.  Blizzards.  Deep penetrating cold.  No making any appointments or lunch dates without the disclaimer "I'm not coming if it's snowing."  (Which it often is.)  The smell of the oil furnace permeating the house.  Seeing that the front walk is cleared for the postman, especially after the town plow comes along filling in what I just shoveled.  Taking drops of flower essences to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder.  The constant thought that I really should live someplace sunny and warm if it was also affordable.

March - May is The Time to Pick Yourself Up Again.  Repair any winter damages.  Get tax stuff organized.  Do spring clean-up in the garden--move downed limbs, rake leaves, sticks, pine cones.  Figure when to do errands so that I can make a left-hand turn into town without encountering the two rush hours plus parents off-loading and loading their school kids.  And, just generally, feel that things are getting a little bit back to normal after that long haul!

June - September is The Happy Time ... which, incidentally, whizzes by. One day it's Memorial Day. Then a week or two later it's Labor Day.  It's also Road and Bridge Construction Time.  And the Noisy Season with the sound of power mowers echoing around town as well as hundreds of motorcycles on their way to (and then from) Motorcycle Week in New Hampshire.  It's the time to actually make viable dates to see friends ... to go to weekly farmers markets and tag sales (also called yard sales) ... to eat fresh strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes ... even sit in a back yard with a glass of wine and chat with friends, neighbors, family.  In other words, it's The Normal Time ... Time to Get Back to Business.  It's also the time for humidity, thunderstorms, and occasional excessive heat when you need to be sure to carry a sweater with you to counter too-cold air conditioning.

Except, sorry to say, there's one drawback to summer which the man who runs the local wine store recently reminded me about.  When it finally arrives, the days immediately start to get shorter as we then slide back down toward winter.  And after working so hard to get here!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Painting: Both Sides and the Middle

Rice Farm Road in Autumn 

(Note:  My next posting will be in two weeks, June 27th.)

During the years when I was doing a lot of painting, I found myself applying a technique which I will describe briefly ... and offer to any of you who might want to try it.  It's really quite simple ... and, I found, especially good with landscape though certainly not limited to that.

Simply, use different colors (or different shading) on the right and left sides of your painting.  Unless you're really looking for it, you don't even notice it since it can blend in so well, your eye accepts the different colors as a gradation of light.  Then, in the middle, you can also add what I like to call "a jewel"--a warm color or something a bit mysterious to draw the eye in.  (Even a good warm alizarin crimson for shadowing works well.)  Of course, there's also the compositional technique of taking the eye into the center of the work with a road or path.

Peach Orchard 
 Here, the left side has cooler tones than the right ...
with a warm orange "jewel" in the very center.
Last Light
 Yes, the composition puts the green trees in the middle,
but off behind them, I've added another bright orange.

I've posted some of these paintings before, but I include them again to illustrate my point.  Try this out and see what you think.  I've always thought it added just a little more interest, a little more oomph!

(Except for the final painting, a watercolor, these are all oils.)

October Pond
January Hillside
The "jewel" here is the lemon yellow in the sky as well as the deeper rust in the middle foreground trees.  Again, left- and right-hand colors differ.
Blue Trees
 The left/right variable is very apparent here.

Winter Along Kipling Road

West Hill Road 
  The "jewel" here is a lightening of the road's purple foreground shadows into pink shadows in the distance
where the eye then sees an aqua tint behind the far trees.
The left side colors emphasize purple and orange; the right green and yellow.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


"Harmful to Elderly Hearts"
"Severe Depression"
"Tell Grandpa to leave that glass of wine alone."

Just as we've become Consumers rather than Citizens (in the parlance of the times), doesn't it seem as if we've also become Objects of Study?  Watch out for this; watch out for that. By now, I've got things pretty well figured out for myself and doubt I'm going to be swayed by a study.  After all, wouldn't it be more fun to die after having been on a spree than after having spent years in some nursing facility.  I don't want to go THAT way.  Make it quick and snappy.  After a high on the town ... or rafting down the Colorado.  But don't keep me going because of some study until I'm so frail I can barely move.

And while we're on the subject, what about letting kids enjoy themselves in a park where they can climb trees and drive nails through pieces of wood just for the fun of it.  (As in Tokyo.)  What about not monitoring them quite so much.  I just heard a radio program about children going off to summer camp.  One week at this camp, then home.  Another week at that camp, then home.  When it was better for the child to have four weeks at one camp, do some bonding, and come out with some memorable experiences rather than break the time up so that the parents could hear everything that had been going on and give their approval or disapproval.

It's true, we lived in a nurturing village, but I know when our daughter was growing, my husband once said that we weren't afraid for her because we didn't have television and so didn't have all that fear drummed into us.  We tended to give her a good degree of freedom and let her figure things out.  And the product that we got was truly inspiring ... a joy and treasure of a person, filled with common sense ... someone who is now adventurous and creative.

So my hope is that we can add some fun and humor to our life.  I remember my mother once said she'd rather die than not have butter on her baked potato.  And in France, you see slim, trim women at outdoor cafes digging into ice cream sundaes ... eating with a sense of celebration rather than a sense of guilt.  And then there's that park in Tokyo where children are allowed to take a few risks.  I read about it in a recent book by Amy Fusselman--Savage Park, A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die.