What Do You Do With This?

It seems as good a time as any for collage, no?

But first one brief political rant because I believe silence is complicity:

Let me be clear: I am absolutely horrified by the current political situation in the USA, and I find reprehensible the utterances of anyone who professes support for those who invaded our Capitol; those who inspired them (I believe “sedition” is the word: look it up); and anyone who chooses not to see the horrors of white supremacy and white privilege in both the events and the aftermath. And if I hear one more “what about BLM riots,” I swear I will sentence you to ten years of being exposed to nothing but Black history in a locked room.

That’s a big mouthful. But I know the very thought of guns in my workplace destroyed my health and my teaching career, and I stand with those who are courageous enough to say this shit must stop. If you truly believe our election was rigged and your Fearless Leader actually won, go find some actual data and get back to me. Federal courts aren’t interested in your feelings, your beliefs, or your rantings. Find some evidence or just shut up, okay?

Well. All righty then.

If you’re still here, let’s talk about finding a few tattered shreds of sanity in art. Which happens, oddly enough, when you let go.

I can barely manage to make acrylic paints do what I want them to do. So of course I have to play with watercolors, a notoriously difficult medium to control. Hence the word “play:” it’s a built-in excuse for aiming really low.

I’ve always said I’m a doodler, not someone who can draw or paint anything that actually looks like anything real. Being a doodler is another great permission-giver. And watercolors do amazing things all on their own, so all I have to do is sit back and more or less let go of the outcome.

I take online classes through a website called Skillshare, and follow an artist named Robert Joyner https://www.robertjoynerartist.com in the hope of learning to paint “loosely:” not exactly abstract, you can clearly see what he is portraying as if it were real life. He calls himself a paint-slinger, and I love to watch the videos in which he appears to just slap on stroke after stroke, color after color, shape after shape and suddenly it’s a harbor, or a street scene, or a cow.

It’s like real life but through a kaleidoscope.

At some point over the holidays, Joyner posted some ideas for fun quick art pieces and naturally I had to try some out. Here’s my favorite:

I sent him the image as I was asking whether he would be okay with my getting it printed up to sell at what I hope will be our neighborhood Mothers’ Day Art Sale. He said that’s fine, there’s no copyright, and nice job!

Well, that’s practically right up there with the time Annie Dillard said she loved my poetry. It’s just lucky I have sufficient shortcomings to keep me bearable.

On the food front, I’ll start out with where I fall short: ciabatta. I think I may be too impatient with the final rise, but I cannot get a crust or crumb that makes me happy. Floyd recently cut me a beautiful baking steel, and I’m sure that will be the answer to all my bread-baking needs. Luckily, thanks to the best daughter in the world, we have a supply of olive oil straight from Tuscany. It helps.

And as everyone knows, even bad bread smells wonderful in the oven. So I shall continue to plug away at it.

For reasons I can’t begin to fathom, I had it in my mind to make cinnamon rolls. Part of the fun of baking nowadays is the internet search for the “best of” recipes and finding one that calls for ingredients that are actually in the house. I’m still not shopping out in the world, but Floyd is kind enough to pick up things like yeast when he goes to Central Market. I have no idea what I would do with the 32-ounce jar available at Costco.

In any event, I thought the cinnamon rolls were wonderful. The pecans were my idea.

I’d also had it in mind to bake a cheesecake, since 10,000 calories a day is hardly enough to get one through a year like this or a winter like this. More about winter in a minute. But what I mean to say is, I somehow had a whole lot of cream cheese inn the fridge.

So last Sunday I made my usual fresh tomato sauce. Tossed in 3 or 4 ounces of cream cheese, cut up, and a few handfuls of baby spinach. Threw in the penne and lots of toasted pine nuts and ate enough of it for two days to create many wonderful regrets. OOOOH, I ate too much, you know what I mean?

Best part: I made a double batch of sauce, so I can eat this all over again!

On to the gardening section: it was a long and dry autumn here in Central Texas. At such times the wisdom of native and well-adapted plants becomes evident – in case you missed it before. The sidewalk garden provided color and bee food throughout.

I don’t even remember whether I’ve told you about my cactus-ish planter made of six-inch tubing, but there it is. It is supposed to be West Texas on one side and Joshua Tree on the other. I think in Spring I’ll plant it with very drapey succulents. Or maybe very spiky yucca. In winter we must daydream about what we’ll do in Spring, or we would have nothing to look forward to at all.

Right outside the front door, lantana, flame acanthus, and shrimp plant were super colorful and therefore inescapably cheering.

I even had blossoms on my Stapelia, which are a great treat as long as you don’t stick your nose in too close.

In the back yard, I’d sit with Mary on the phone for hours and just kind of take in the space in all its tininess. While I thought on first seeing it eleven years ago that I could never live with such a postage-stamp landscape, I’ve reached an age at which a tiny yard has infinite appeal.

It is now mid-January. I miss my basil plants. I miss all the leaves, really, even when they fall and make a mess and a bunch of work for me. From the lemons-to-lemonade department, Floyd’s truck was broken into and some tools stolen (I hope that ancient grinder with the cord that was more holes than cord teaches someone they ought not to steal stuff, especially a working man’s tools). He replaced them with a bunch of Milwaukee brand tools, and holy Swiss cheese are they great.

I do love a good reciprocating saw.

And the Milwaukee leaf blower, battery powered, is far lighter and quieter than the gas version. Not to mention less polluting. I know everyone hates every leaf blower except their own, but if you were to borrow mine you would love my leaf blower too.

This year I did remember to start getting plants into the greenhouse early. Usually I am in a back-breaking rush as a north wind comes slamming down from Canada pushing me into the task. Not this year!

This is my therapy office these days, brimming over with oxygen and the smell of damp potting soil. By now there are hundreds of succulent buds trying my patience by making me wait for them; knowing, I imagine, that I need a great deal of patience practice. You can’t hurry succulent flowers.

I went out to the shop one day to pick out steel for planters, thinking of the Mothers’ Day Art Sale (about which I really ought to be doing something by now). Here we see a steel planter being born:

Isn’t a plasma cutter a wonderful thing? Everyone should have one. This particular piece of steel came with a pattern of rust that’s so pretty I hope to recreate it with paint.

Should have just clear-coated it on the spot. But maybe by the time it warms up enough to work in the driveway, the rust will have re-asserted itself.

Did I tell you our weather turned cold? Stop laughing, New England fam.

It was pretty enough to make me want to stand and scrub out the kitchen sink.

I decided to walk up the street instead.

Just around that curve the kids were having a great time – first snow for a few of them. If it hadn’t been so wet I’d have shown them how to make a snow angel.

The sidewalk garden was quite picturesque, I thought.

Travis, just back from a long hike in the greenbelt, was in no hurry to get back in the house. He would have hung out with the kids all day.

It’s hard to imagine he is turning twelve this month.

The kitties, on the other hand, were having none of it. Lucy refused to step foot outdoors, and although Marco did go out for a while, he spent much more of the day just watching from a warm perch, just like me.

I was so glad the year-long Knit A Blanket For A Tall Grandson project had been completed in time for such winter weather. Tracy says Jessie says he loves having a blanket long enough for him. Aww.

I am not as short as I look in this photo, just so you know.

As you see, we are all well and managing to keep COVID-19 away for the moment. I’m working on signing us up for the vaccine, but websites remain clogged and very busy. That’s okay; let the people on the front lines, the people with higher-level needs, go first. I’m not going anywhere and I am madly in love with Instacart anyway. We’ll get there soon enough, I imagine.

Circling back to collage, here are a couple:

Nothing like cutting up paper and getting glue stick all over everything to bring out your inner kindergartener.

I’m going to close with a photo that has nothing to do with gardening, food, or art. It has more to do with letting surprise in, and turning it into something beautiful. One day when the weather was mild and the front door was open, I caught a very attentive Lucy watching a bunch of noise up in the skylight tunnel thing in our foyer.

Fortunately the little noisemaker managed to fly down, take a few moments to reconsider the whole thing, and decide to go back the way they had come.

Go be surprised.

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