Category Archives: Art & the Garden

Making Like Monet

Claud Monet, Water Lilies, photographed by Harvey Schlencker  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Claude Monet, Water Lilies, photographed by Harvey Schlencker [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s my pleasure this week to introduce the work of Diane Halsted. Diane taught writing and literature at several colleges and universities for thirty years. Now she teaches the writing of poetry, creative nonfiction, and memoir, when she’s not gardening, traveling, or riding her horse.

Diane wrote me some time ago and shared several of her poems, including the one I’m featuring today on water lilies. Surely a water lily pond is one of the sweetest simple pleasures in a gardener’s life. It doesn’t matter the size of your pond, either; we started with a clawfoot tub, and “moved up” to a small insert surrounded by sandstone pavers. The joy of it all is growth and life, dragonflies and goldfish, and the thrill one gets each spring as the pond comes back to blooming, robust life.

* * *

MAKING LIKE MONET

Into a new garden fountain
she scattered pebbles so water plants,
gauzy hyacinths and loud lilies
on huge pads could root and grow,
forcing their green way
to the surface. She worked,
brush and palate in hand, mimicking
Monet, each day divining new images,
imagining greater beauty.
In her wicker chair, sipping tea
and nibbling madeleines, she sought
to capture the daily difference
of shape and shadow shifting
across her small world while ellipses
of days move toward the equinox,
summer fades to fall.
Claude Monet, Nympheas, c. 1897

Claude Monet, Nympheas, c. 1897, Wikimedia Commons

* * *
Diane Halsted

Diane Halsted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diane shares the following about her garden:

My garden is one-third of an acre on the central coast of California which means I have no winter respite and often have winter surprises. This year the banksiae roses bloomed full force in January with the daffodils and crocuses. The acers barely lost their leaves before nubs of new sprouted on branches.My garden has pieces of many other gardens, both in memory plants in recollection of favorites from my mother’s or grandmother’s gardens (such as the quince and the banksiaes) and donations from numerous friends’ gardens that live on in mine. In addition, my fiancé for life and I commemorated anniversaries with a redbud and a dogwood, with a Marilyn Monroe rose, a Cecile Brunner, and others.

The watchword for my garden is patience. Always give anything green a fighting chance. Years ago I was given a lily bulb while visiting the Faulkner garden in Mississippi. I planted it in my garden, marking its underground location, and waited. And waited. I finally gave up: how could I expect a Mississippi bulb to flourish in California. And then, years after I planted it, up came the distinctive lily import. I’ve had to be similarly patient with anemones, which now I have everywhere. Likewise with hellebores which seem to perform depending on weather more than on location.Visitors to my garden assume my thumb is green. I am the daughter of an Earthworm, I always say (My mother was a member of a garden club in Berkeley by that name.) but if I had a nickel for everything I’ve killed, I’d be one rich woman.
* * *
A Faulkner lily! A Cecile Brunner rose! Daughter of an Earthworm. I must say I was as enchanted reading about her gardening experiences as I was with her lovely poetry.
—Sandra Knauf

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Greenwoman Innovation: An Interview with a UCCS Student

Quote from Zera and the Green Man (drawing by Mike Beenenga). All posters are by Lisa Repka.

Original drawing by Mike Beenenga. Poster design by Lisa Repka.

These last few months I’ve had the pleasure of working with a team of students from the local university (UCCS). They are among the first in UCCS’s new Bachelor of Innovation Program. The students major in several disciplines but all have Innovation Core classes in common—27 credits geared toward innovation and entrepreneurship. Part of that core includes opportunities for students to work with a business on a project during a semester. I signed up (as I could use plenty of help on my usually-one-person publishing venture) and was accepted!

We decided to focus on trying to market my new novel, Zera and the Green Man, through social media and the internet, using methods that were, basically, no cost. The four students I’ve been working with Jordan Yee, Courtney Hammock, Lohitha Aayyanar, and Lisa Repka. All but Courtney are computer science majors (Courtney is a marketing major).

The team’s work spanned a variety of tasks—from working on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on all the websites, raising Google rankings, and installing and interpreting Google Analytics, to working on promoting the book through social media, including Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. They also participated in a Sustainability Fair, made posters of the book, helped me with writing scripts for a series of commercials, and the list goes on.

I learned a lot from these bright students and they learned from me, too. I was impressed with most of their work, but I have to say that the one thing that really stood out for me was the artwork that Lisa Repka created for Zera and the Green Man‘s Pinterest pins. We thought it’d be great to have some artwork with quotes from the book to share that would hopefully be eye-catching and thought-provoking. Without much input from me, Lisa did just that—times ten!

Since it’s only a few days before the end of the semester and I don’t have the time to do a post on each of the members of the Innovation Team, as I would like to, I decided to interview Lisa for this post and show some of the work she’s created.

Lisa Repka - her first "selfie" - at Manitou Springs Arcade Photo Booth!

Lisa Repka – her first “selfie” – at Manitou Springs Arcade’s Photo Booth!


Lisa’s 21 years old and is in her third year of college at UCCS. She lives in the dorm, which she says is much quieter than living with her two younger siblings (both sisters) at home.

Flora’s Forum: You told me earlier that you came to Colorado from California. What part of California and when did you get here? What did you like/dislike about your change of home?

 Lisa Repka: I came to Colorado from the Silicon Valley back in 2005. At first it was hard to get used to the snow (the most I remember it snowing for in San Jose was for 5 minutes), but after shoveling so many snowstorms I’ve gotten used to it. I’m still perplexed by the sudden weather changes, however. The mountains are pretty cool, too.

Flora’s Forum: What made you choose to enroll in the Bachelor of Innovation Program?

 Lisa Repka: It sounded interesting to me. I liked how it united the fields of business and computer science, which have both become hugely important in the workplace, and how it encouraged creative thought and teamwork. With knowledge of a lot of different fields, I feel it can help me make changes to the world through innovation. I am passionate for a lot of different fields so it felt like a loss to choose a single topic of interest and stick with it. It also allowed me to take some classes I enjoyed under the Communication Core that I wouldn’t have normally considered taking, such as creative writing and computer music. It acknowledges that it is important to discover multiple subjects and to think from different perspectives.

Zera Pin - Zinnias

Flora’s Forum: You’re a computer science major but you revealed at our first meeting that you had an interest in publishing. Do you still, after seeing some of the difficulties in today’s market? Especially with self-publishing? If so, what area of publishing are you interested in?

Lisa Repka: I don’t think there’s anything in the world that can discourage me from wanting to publish a novel, but it does worry me about what it will take me to get any work out there—mentally and financially. My expectations are certainly changed. I see now that self-published authors, especially those just starting out, could dedicate all of their time to promoting their book and it still may not reach a point of national bestseller that many of us dream about. It comes down to research and commitment, and to marketing to the right audience in the right way, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear path to success that works for everyone. From what I learned, I see that the platforms for selling and marketing books are still rapidly changing, and so are the audiences on these social networking sites. I really need to continue to watch the trends of online publishing very closely from now on. One day I want to publish some urban fantasy and science fiction work. I see that the path to get to a successful book might become frustrating at times, but overall I don’t feel discouraged.

Flora’s Forum: I’m relieved to hear that! What type of books do you like to read? And what were your favorite books from childhood?

 Lisa Repka: I’ve been slowly becoming more of a visual person when it comes to books due to having so little free time (yay graphic novels!), but I always enjoy a good fantasy story. I love to be immersed in the rich worlds that people create, and I love to experience it along with complex characters. I have a very fond memory of reading children’s encyclopedias to look at outer space images and types of trees. I remember wearing out those books with those plastic transparent pages with flowers on them after so many reads. At one point I loved to look at the types of trees so much I started collecting pine cones.

Zera Pin - Plants They Supply

 Flora’s Forum: You decided to work on Pinterest and Twitter in this project and you created these marvelous images with quotes from Zera and the Green Man. Do you have an arts background? Can you describe the process on creating these images? (In case others might want to do the same!)

 Lisa Repka: After I picked out a quote I found inspiring, I would begin with a solid background and add a few layers with some Photoshop layer effects to create subtle borders or gradients to make it slightly more interesting. As the focus was on the text, I had to try not to get too carried away and overdress the images. I tried to keep them very minimalist, but to have bright colors (except then the tone was very anxious, and then I used black). I wanted not only the text to be noticeable, but the mood and theme. And most of all I wanted them to add a little fun to a Pinterest or Twitter page. The hardest part about making them was choosing which font out of hundreds was the best to use. That alone could take 15 minutes.

Zera Pin - Three Nights Ago the Guardian Visited

Flora’s Forum: What are your hobbies/interests/obsessions? 

Lisa Repka: I definitely enjoy art as a hobby, especially painting and mixed media work. I am particularly enthusiastic about painting flowers. I just love working with bright colors, and flowers seem the most fit for that.

Spring Flowers by Lisa Repka

Spring Flowers by Lisa Repka

Flora’s Forum: Does anyone in your family garden? (Had to ask!)

 Lisa Repka: Unfortunately, no one does any gardening. I don’t think they’d be very good at it, either, given that the few trees in my backward have been browning for years.

 Flora’s Forum: In your work on Twitter you tweet a lot of great information and quotes about our food supply these days. Before you started this project, were you aware of GMOs and the issues that surround them? 

 Lisa Repka: I had known that produce was being genetically modified but I used to think it was to make food healthier or to make it last longer. I had no idea that pesticides were being added to the DNA of foods we eat. It really opened my eyes to be more mindful of what’s in our food. I am also quite surprised how little testing has been done on these GMOs, especially in the wake of many studies that strongly suggest that GMOs can be harmful for both the environment and human body. I am glad to see so many social networking movements taking action to label GMOs.

Green Man image by Mike Beenenga; poster design by Lisa Repka

Green Man by Mike Beenenga; poster design by Lisa Repka

 Flora’s Forum: What are your dreams for the future? 

Lisa Repka: I haven’t thought about my immediate future, but one day I would love to work in computer animation. I’ve always been fond of animation as an intersection between art and storytelling, and with a computer fascinating things can happen. It even has very practical uses from making everything from flight simulators to educational games. And if it’s not already, maybe it can be used to promote a greener world. With innovation added to the mix, a lot of new ideas are possible.

California Poppies by Lisa Repka

California Poppies by Lisa Repka

 

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Seduced by Trees

Song of Songs, #1, Summer

Song of Songs, #1, Summer

What does it mean to have a deep connection with Nature? Is it even possible in our modern world where we only experience small bits here and there—perhaps exultation at a spectacular view during a mountain hike, or a quiet moment of wonder in an early morning garden? For a moment, or an afternoon, we are enchanted, and we feel a true sense of unity. Then the spell breaks, and we go on with our busy lives.

Some of us are fortunate to have nature as a part of our life’s creative work, so even if we can’t experience it physically as often as we want, we can connect to it through our minds and hearts. Artist Sharon Carvell is one of these fortunate people.

Carvell, a long-time Coloradan, is 77 years old. She started out life in Evansville, Indiana, where she was raised in her early years by her grandmother and five aunts (it was during World War II, and her mother was away, unwittingly helping build the atomic bomb in Oakridge, Tennessee). Sharon describes her upbringing with her aunts in a “very Christian upright Methodist society” as very positive and supportive. Sharon’s father was a positive influence as well, but her experiences with him were at the opposite end of the socially correct scale. Sharon describes “Red,” as he was known, as an Irishman who was a rebel, a bootlegger, and a gambler. “So I experienced both worlds during my youth, which was absolutely wonderful. I would go with Dad to wire Bookie Joyce, and he would explain to me what he was doing, and on the other hand I was president of MYF [Methodist Youth Fellowship] in the church. So it was two worlds and they were diametrically opposed, but they were rich educations.”

When I ask when she became an artist, Sharon says, “I was always an artist, darling.” She excelled in art in school and won awards in art and other endeavors. She loved to draw, and tells me of the time in the 4th grade when she was punished for drawing a nude lady. Her knuckles were smacked, and one was broken. After that she learned to be more secretive in her art. “In the 5th grade, I discovered evolution,” she tells me, “and I did all sorts of nude things, and it was perfectly alright.” By the age of 18 she was married to a serviceman, and on her way to France. There she learned about life in Europe during the reconstruction period while raising her infant daughter, and studying art and architecture. She says she bonded deeply with France during her several years there. Her experiences included working at an orphanage helping care for American soldiers’ war children (some who were blinded by syphilis), and coping with the fuel shortages caused by the Suez Crisis in 1956-57.

When Sharon returned to America in 1958 she was a changed woman. She tells of culture shock upon her return, how everything was so much faster and louder here, with so many more radio stations and a booming consumer culture. She said she was astonished to find a hot conversation topic for women her age was the new plastic heads on safety pins for diapers! Her own awareness had blossomed into something with more depth. “While in Europe I realized how small the world is,” she says. “I think that is where I started my quest to try to understand our relationship to the Earth and all the other species that we share the planet with. And that’s what led me to the trees. Did you know our planet is only 24,902.4 miles in circumference, 7,926.42 miles in diameter? It’s very small, and it’s more fragile than we realize.”

Sharon’s quest for connection has been a lifelong endeavor. As her experiences have multiplied, so has her knowledge, her artistic expertise, and her love for trees.

She calls trees “an expression of love.” She tells me how they are ancient almost beyond belief—on this planet for 370 million years while modern humans have existed for only 200,000. I let that sink in, and think about what infants we are on this planet.

While Sharon works in many art mediums, including sculpture and painting, and her subject matter is varied, I wanted to share her fabulous tree drawings and ask her some questions about them.

Song of Songs, #3, Winter

Song of Songs, #3, Winter

Song of Songs, #2, Spring

Song of Songs, #2, Spring

* * *

Flora’s Forum: You’ve told me that you created these series of drawings, Song of Songs, in the late ’70s and that it took a about a year and a half to complete them. What inspired you to create them, and how did you decide to connect them to the biblical verses known as Song of Songs?

Carvell: What inspired me is that I do see them as expressions of love. I connected them to the Song of Songs because it’s one of the most erotic pieces in literature that you can find. And it’s beautifully done. The idea for the series came from a friend of mine who at that time was the president of Ski Colorado. He said, “Can you do something that will express the woman’s point of view on sexuality? That does not look like pornography?”

Flora’s Forum: You told me earlier that when they were shown in a Denver gallery you were threatened.

Carvell: I think our first show was here in Colorado Springs but our next show was in Denver, and there I was threatened  [death threats and threats to destroy her art] because I used the Song of Songs, and because of the sexual acts that are going on in the pieces. It’s very, very strange, I mean to me it was a beautiful way to depict them because the most important thing about trees is what they give to us, which we know very little about, and what they give to the rest of the world. They are the oxygen givers, they cleanse the air, they are hospitals, they protect life. We get medicines from them, we get our lives from them and we don’t even care. Everyone goes around cutting down trees, ‘that’s in the way, that’s in the way,’  however, one tree, the size of that one right out there [she points to a tree outside her window] makes enough oxygen for a family of four.”

Sharon Carvell

Sharon Carvell (photo by Debra Hurd)

* * *

Song of Songs, #1, Spring The voice of my beloved! Behold he cometh leaping upon the mountains skipping upon the hills. My beloved spake and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flower appear on the earth; the time of the singing of the bird is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell, arise my love, my fair one, and come away

Song of Songs, #1, Spring
The voice of my beloved! Behold he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. . . . 
My beloved spake and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flower appear on the earth; the time of the singing of the bird is come, and the
voice of the turtle is heard in our land.
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise my love, my fair one, and come away

To me, Sharon’s trees are powerful and beautiful images. I asked her more about the controversy surrounding the sexual aspects and she adds, “I think we live in a really weird society where you can watch people being mutilated, torn apart, blown up, heads chopped off, eyes punched out, all sorts of things, and our kids grow up with it, but sexual images are found to be disturbing. I wonder what it would be like if we turned it around? What if making love from the time our children were young was absolutely beautiful? What if we turned the whole thing around?”

—Sandra Knauf

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Spring Chicken

Appraisal by Grant Wood, 1931

“Appraisal,” by Grant Wood, 1931

Some months ago I came across this painting by Grant Wood and fell in love with it. The chicken was beautiful and I thought the farm woman was, too. I got into imagining what was going on in this story. Did the rich lady (judging from her jewelry and beaded purse) wish to buy a chicken? For eggs? Or for her dinner? Or maybe she’s there for some other reason and the farm woman just happens to be holding a chicken. (Yeah, I guess that sounds silly, but she does seem to be cradling it rather tenderly.)

I thought of the image again when I was trying to figure out what to share with you this week. I thought a poem would be nice, and this one from Lois Beebe Hayna resonated with me. She’s a celebrated local poet, and I treasure her work. It has been featured on this blog and in Greenwoman Magazine, Issue #2. She turned 100 years old last spring.

Of course, after deciding on “Spring Chicken,” I connected the farm woman in the painting with the farm woman in this poem; even though her coat’s green, not brown.

Spring Chicken

by Lois Beebe Hayna

The brown coat’s good for another
winter’s wear, one of the best
buys I ever made—a good warm coat
marked down. I wore it into town
this morning in the first hard frost,
and if I felt drab in it
and ‘country’—how else
can a woman my age expect to feel?

I sold my last good batch of eggs—
hens pretty much quit laying
when it gets cold. I made enough
to tide me till Christmas
and well into spring, if I’m careful.
I am always careful.

They were buttoning a red coat
on the fly-specked mannequin in Ebert’s
window—scarlet wool, with a jaunty flare
and a warm turned-up collar.
It drew me in, though I knew
it cost too much and anyway
this brown coat is still just fine.

It fit like a charm. A pretty woman
gleamed back at me from a scratchy
mirror. That woman dipped deep
into my summer savings and I rode home
not dowdy at all in the old
brown coat with the red glow warming me
right through the box.

I know what they’ll say, whispering
behind their hands—At her age!
Doesn’t she know she’s no spring chicken? Squandering
money on a coat that’ll show every speck
of dirt? I smile into the wind. The woman
wearing this red coat
won’t care.

* * *

I so love this poet, don’t you? I’ve read all of her books; check them out here on Amazon. There are many delights in their pages.

And doesn’t the painting fit well?

Now for the strange part. I didn’t really know a lot about Grant Wood so I read a short bio, and then looked up images of “Appraisal.” One led me to a blog, which led me to this article by Henry Adams in Arts & Antiques. Adam’s 2010 article is about a “remarkable” new biography of Grant Wood by Tripp Evans, Grant Wood, A Life (published by Knopf). Although it was mentioned in the Wikipedia bio that there was a “theory” Wood was a closeted homosexual, the article states that Evans was convinced. (Grant remained securely closeted because in those days homosexuality, even if you were a WWI war vet, as Grant was, could have you sent to prison, or condemn you to castration.) Evans’ book goes into that aspect of Wood’s life, and into surprising insights into his work. (I also learned that Wood’s Daughters of the Revolution showed our founding fathers in drag. Wood called it a satire.) Now for the big surprise. I learned that the farm woman in “Appraisal” was actually a fellow artist, the devilishly handsome Edward Rowan. From a bio on Rowan, I learned that he was a nationally-known leader of the arts during the Depression era and that he and Wood had met in Iowa (where Grant was from). Moreover, during a visit with Edward and his wife Leata at their summer home in the town of Eldon, Iowa, Grant Wood discovered the house that inspired his American Gothic masterpiece.

Wood and Edward’s friendship was the catalyst for the Stone City Art Colony in 1932-33. Rowan ultimately became the Assistant Chief of the Fine Arts Section, Federal Works Agency, Public Buildings Administration, and remained in that position through the 1940s. There Rowan supervised artists creating murals across America; ultimately there were over 1,000. Rowan, also a WWI vet, worked for veterans causes throughout his life.

It’s funny where a painting can lead you—and oh, the stories behind the art!

—Sandra Knauf

Edward Rowan

Edward Rowan

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“Springs Woman Tends an Amazing Garden and Equally Lush Magazine”

Now here's a "before" picture of the garden in early June. "Before meaning before a summer of distractions, publishing a book, fires and floods, etc. A bit more orderly for Lily's graduation party.

Now here’s a “before” picture of the garden in early June of this year. “Before” meaning before a summer of distractions, working overtime every day, publishing a book, fires and floods, etc. It is often wild and out of control (as seen in the Gazette article) but I wanted to show that it can be more orderly, especially when we’re preparing for a party. This was right before Lily’s high school graduation party.

Yesterday Carol McGraw’s story about Greenwoman Magazine, my gardening life at home, the novel Zera and the Green Man and everything else related to what I’m doing and a lot about the “why” came out in the Gazette here in Colorado Springs.  Carol did a wonderful job–beautiful writing and perfect reporting.

There are a lot of complaints about journalism, and about how reporters “don’t get it right” in interviews (and I’ll admit, it’s an imperfect world) but she nailed it.

I’m grateful to be able to share it with you today. You’ll find the story here.

 

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A Little Nonsense with Edward Lear

I thought I’d share some nonsense, but then it turned a bit serious. I’m referring to Edward Lear.

In the next issue of Greenwoman we’ll be publishing a few illustrations from Lear’s book, Nonsense Botany. I thought I’d share some other illustrations, to give you a taste of his nonsense, and then write a little about Lear.

A few of his illustrations:

Edward Lear's Shoebootia Utilis

EdwardLear_Barkia_Howlaloudia 001 (2) copy

EdwardLear_Enkoopia_Chickabiddia 001 (2) copy

Clever, don’t you agree?

I knew his nonsense poem, “The Owl and the Pussycat,” well. It is one of my favorite rhymes. When I read his biography, I learned that he was (as I often discover about artists) more amazing and interesting than I imagined. I did not know the more serious aspects of Edward Lear.

He was born in 1812, in Holloway, England, the penultimate (I learned that means second-to-last) of 21 children born to a middle-class English family. He was raised by his oldest sister Ann (who was 21 years older than Edward), and when he was four he left with Ann permanently, due to family financial troubles. His sister would play the role of doting mother in his life until her death some 50 years later.

Lear’s life was plagued with many health problems, including grand mal epileptic seizures (starting at age 6), bronchitis, asthma, and, later in his life, partial blindness. He was frightened and ashamed of his epileptic condition, and according to his adult diaries if he felt a seizure coming on he would leave as to not have any witnesses. Not surprisingly, with all he had to contend with, he also suffered from depression, starting at age seven.

Edward Lear drawing by William Marstrand

Edward Lear drawing by William Marstrand

In spite of these afflictions, he was hardworking and a highly skilled artist by an early age. By age 16 he was earning his own “bread and cheese” through his drawings. Not long after that he was employed by the Zoological Society as a serious “ornithological draughtsman.” Lear’s first publication was Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots in 1830. He was 19 years old and his work was favorably compared to that of John James Audubon.

You can find all forty-two lithographic plates (drawn from life, and on stone) here at the Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture and also through Wikimedia Commons.

 

Salmon-crested cockatoo, Plyctolophus rosaceus

Salmon-crested cockatoo, Plyctolophus rosaceus (Isn’t it GORGEOUS?)

He was also a fine landscape painter:

Masada or Sebbeh on the Dead Sea, 1858

Lear’s painting Masada on the Dead Sea, 1858

Throughout his life Lear painted and traveled widely. Near the end of his life he realized a lifelong dream, to illustrate a volume of Alfred Tennyson’s poems.

Lear’s love interests centered upon men and his most “fervent and painful relationship” was his platonic bond with Franklin Lushington. They met in 1849 in Malta and Lear fell in love. He spent some time touring with the young barrister through southern Greece, but Lushington did not reciprocate Lear’s feelings.  Nevertheless, the two were friends for almost 40 years, until Lear’s death. Edward Lear never married although he proposed to a woman twice. (This must have been late in his life as the woman was reported to be 46 years his junior. Both offers of marriage were turned down.)

In the 1870s, declining in health, he made his final home in San Remo, a coastal city in north-western Italy, best known as a tourist destination on the Italian Riviera. Lear named his villa “Villa Tennyson.”

He died there in 1888, of heart disease. He is buried in the Cemetery Foce in San Remo.

Lear’s headstone is inscribed with four lines from Tennyson’s poem To E.L. [Edward Lear], On His Travels in Greece: It references Mount Tomohrit in Albania:

Tomohrit, Athos, all things fair.
With such a pencil, such a pen.
You shadow forth to distant men,
I read and felt that I was there.
 

To leave on a happy note, I’ll end with his most famous poem. (By the way, “runcible,” as in “runcible spoon” is one of the delightful nonsense words Lear invented.)

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat

I
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
   In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
   And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are,
         You are,
         You are!

What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

II

Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
   How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
   But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
   To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
   With a ring at the end of his nose,
             His nose,
             His nose,

With a ring at the end of his nose.

III

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
   Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
   By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
   Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
   They danced by the light of the moon,
             The moon,
             The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

–Sandra Knauf

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Eerie Tales from The Haunted Garden

From The Haunted Garden's Facebook Page: "Calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire."  Illustration by the great Arthur Rackham in the 1921 Doubleday, Page edition of John Milton's "Comus." See the entire book online at https://openlibrary.org/books/OL14001590M/Comus.

“Calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire.”
Illustration by the great Arthur Rackham in the 1921 Doubleday, Page edition of John Milton’s “Comus.” (Brought here from The Haunted Garden’s Facebook Page.) See the entire book online at https://openlibrary.org/books/OL14001590M/Comus.

Are you up for a Halloween treat?

Yesterday Sheryl Humphrey was a guest on the show that Zora and I were guests on a couple of weeks ago, the fantastic We Dig Plants! We had great fun talking to Carmen and Alice about Greenwoman Magazine and so I was super excited to tune in yesterday and hear Sheryl talk about her amazing book – The Haunted Garden: Death and Transfiguration in the Folklore of Plants.

It was a great show. Fun and informational and perfect for Halloween! I hope you’ll share this listening pleasure (click here to listen) with all your friends for an All Hallow’s Eve gift.

Home of "We Dig Plants" and so many other fabulous programs!

Home of “We Dig Plants” and so many other fabulous programs!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

–Sandra Knauf

P. S. Sheryl’s book on always-intriguing and often-spooky botanical myths and legends is available in her shop on Etsy. You can enjoy her regular posts on plants and art by liking her Facebook Page and learn about her other great talent, fine art painting, HERE.

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Greenwoman Lit. on We Dig Plants!

Home of "We Dig Plants"

Home of “We Dig Plants”

Yesterday Zora and I had the pleasure of hanging out (on the radio!) with the proprietors of Groundworks, Inc. — Carmen DeVito  and  Alice S. Marcus Krieg. These ladies of the soil not only commune daily with the green world but they discuss it on their weekly radio program: We Dig Plants (on HeritageRadioNetwork).

One of DeVito and Krieg's gorgeous installations.

One of DeVito and Krieg’s gorgeous installations.

Carmen and I have been Facebook friends for a few years but I knew little about her on-the-air work. So last week, after we made a date for a show, I dug around. And I immediately became nervous! She and Alice have interviewed editors from Organic Gardening, Horticulture Magazine, Leaf Magazine, and many others who are immersed in the thought, literature, and fashion of gardening.

What an honor it was to be included!

I hope you’ll check out the show. Zora and I shared our experience of what it was like creating and getting the magazine on her feet for the last three years. We spoke about the big challenges and rewards of self-publishing and what it’s been like working together as a mother and daughter team. Zora told about how Zera and the Green Man came to be published, and she even read a passage!

As an important aside – I’d like to invite you to poke around the station’s site and see what they are offering, and perhaps consider becoming a member of the HeritageRadioNetwork. They are doing SO MUCH on the good food/healthy society frontlines.

Here’s the fascinating backstory, taken  from their website:

“HeritageRadioNetwork.org was launched in 2009 by Patrick Martins, founder of Slow Food USA and of Heritage Foods USA. The station is built into two re-purposed shipping containers dropped into the back yard of Roberta’s, a legendary Brooklyn restaurant-the premises of HeritageRadioNetwork.org aptly demonstrate the do-it-yourself philosophy of today. Almost every important figure in the American food revolution has been on the network, from Alice Waters to Michael Pollan. We have recorded and broadcasted over 3,000 shows covering a wide array of topics including food, agriculture, politics, design, art, music and much more.”

After reading this and spending some time with Carmen and Alice yesterday, I knew I had to be a part of this. Maybe you will be too?

–Sandra Knauf

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Alice in the Garden

A visitor (dressed for the occasion) examines Alice's fall.

A visitor (dressed for the occasion) examines Alice’s fall.

The Rose: Just what species or, shall we say, genus are you, my dear?
Alice: Well, I guess you would call me… genus, humanus… Alice.
Daisy: Ever see an alice with a blossom like that?
Orchid: Come to think of it, did you ever see an alice?
Daisy: Yes, and did you notice her petals? What a peculiar color.
Orchid: [sniffing Alice’s hair] And no fragrance.
Daisy: [chuckling, as she lifts up one side of Alice’s dress] And just look at those stems.
The Rose: [as Alice slaps the Daisy’s leaves away] Rather scrawny, I’d say.
Bud: I think she’s pretty.
The Rose: Quiet, bud

–Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I wonder — are there any gardeners out there who don’t love Alice in Wonderland?

Alice, a perennial (ha) favorite for me, returned on my radar a couple of weeks ago when I learned about “Alice in the Garden,” an installation of 20 photographs by Mabel Odessey. It’s now showing in the Oxford (England) Botanic Garden through August. The work explores Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass using a pinhole camera and marionettes made in the 1940s by the English artist Margaret Littleton Cook.

alicegardenwalk

Odessey describes the installation:

“Conceptually, pinhole photography fits right in with the topsy-turvy Looking Glass world. Things being turned upside down and reversed is just what happens in a pinhole camera. Carroll, himself a photographer, would have been familiar with the relationship between negative and positive.

Tweedledee and Tweedledum

Tweedledee and Tweedledum, of course.

“The characters are considered as representations of psychological states and Alice’s dream of Wonderland is seen as a spiritual journey.

“I found many parallels with Buddhist philosophy and psychology in Carroll’s books. Wonderland is another name for samsara, the wheel of cyclic existence that we are trapped in due to ignorance, attachment, and aversion. At the end of the book Alice wakes up, and Buddha means someone who has woken up.

“The photographs also explore time and perception. Carroll uses nonsense to explore these concepts and others such as impermanence, duality, identity, and the role of language. The use of marionettes is a playful visual counterpart to Carroll’s use of ‘nonsense’.”

[Another quote from Alice: “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?]

“With this installation,” writes Odessey, “the garden takes on new meaning as a setting for Alice’s adventures. Each visitor has a unique experience of the installation as the light and garden change throughout the day and season.”

A deliciously spooky Cheshire Cat.

A deliciously spooky Cheshire Cat.

Odessey writes that 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

She is currently searching for new settings to install her work between now and then. For more information, please contact her at mgodessey@gmail.com or check her website for more images http://www.mabelodessey.com.

aliceinthegardencorn

[Personally, I am very excited for this anniversary. Only two years to plan for the tea party!]

–Sandra Knauf

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The Nature Magic of Leslie Macon

Leslie Macon is an oil painter living and working in Archer Lodge, North Carolina. She started as a wood carver (fashioning decoy ducks from basswood and tupelo) and switched to wildlife painting in the early 90s. After winning some awards, she began experimenting with floral and still life. She would later branch out into historic portraits and visionary/fantasy art. She has had several collections published for the home décor market and some of her art has been made into licensed products.

I have been a huge admirer of Macon’s work for about a year now. It started with this painting:

Lost in the Moment (2)

I was smitten with “Lost in the Moment” from the moment I saw it in DailyPaintworks. I bid on it and won it, and then asked Leslie about possibly publishing it in Greenwoman Magazine. Leslie wrote back, giving me permission (it appears in our most recent issue). After learning I was a gardener who loved bees she shared the background story that she was reluctant to include in the painting’s description.

“My husband and I go to the NC mountains and stay at a cabin off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The owners of the cabin raise honeybees and harvest honey for sale. The owner has a friend that owns a bee supply store that wanted art and crafts to sell that featured honeybees. They suggested I paint some honeybees. I love to paint bumblebees but I had never done honeybees. I have a lot of reference so I sat down and came up with three small paintings. When I did Lost in the Moment I was caught up in how enlarging my reference on my monitor took me into this magical macro world that we totally miss because the exquisite details are so small. I got caught up in the idea of being the size of a bee and rolling around in pollen on a beautiful Spring day. I also really got Georgia O’Keeffe  and why she did those huge close ups of flowers. I created the painting and when I took them to the bee shop she almost cried when she looked at it. She knows a lot about honeybees and told me stories about them I never knew. She then spoke about my painting thinking that I had painted a bee dying. I was a little mortified and she explained that a honeybee knows when it will die. They leave the hive and bury themselves into a flower and die. They don’t want to die in the hive and disrupt the colony. She told me some really neat things about honeybees and I plan to paint more paintings with them. I am partial to bumblebees because I have a lot of them in my yard but honeybees really have interesting characteristics that would be cool to explore.”

Well, I have to say I was a little sad to hear the honeybee story but also skeptical. I had found a honeybee asleep in a hollyhock before (and had watched her wake up) so  I didn’t really think this one was dead (although it is true that they choose flowers sometimes as their final resting place).

Either way, I found the image enchanting. I started looking at Leslie’s work regularly.

She often has a story behind the painting, as in this one, titled “Golden Opportunity”:

“I have been trying to grow hollyhocks along my back fence for years. Last year one lone hollyhock decided to sprout and grow much to my delight and amazement. The hollyhock grew quickly because it would catch the overspray of water from my garden hose each day as I filled the birdbath sitting beside it. It grew tall and flowered and became a nice perch for the goldfinches waiting for their golden opportunity to bathe. At least they had something pretty to look at while they waited their turn.”
 

golden-opportunity

She also does floral still life paintings. I loved “Consider the Lilies.”

consider-the-lilies

Corresponding with Leslie, I learned she was also a photographer. I’ve had the honor to see a few of her images, including this extraordinary one:

Rascally heron and koi (1)

Here’s the story:

“The heron was fishing at the Koi pond at Duke Gardens and caught this poor koi. The heron ended up having to throw the koi back because he couldn’t swallow him. The koi was too big. You probably wouldn’t want this in your magazine because of it’s violent nature but it is a really cool photo of nature in action. The reaction of the bystanders was so funny. Everyone was mesmerized by the size and beauty of the heron at close range but horrified to see the koi being caught and possibly eaten. There was a few older ladies that were trying to shoo the heron away gently.”

(For the record – I thought this was kind of funny. Admittedly terrifying for the koi, but I couldn’t help but find it humorous that the heron was thwarted!)

This story led to me persuading Leslie to share with Flora’s Forum readers a little bit about her life as an artist who loves the garden.

FF: I find it fascinating that you started in carving. Why did you move from carving to oil painting?

Macon: There were two reasons why I quit carving. Decoy carving is sporting art and is popular with hunters and sportsman. In order to promote myself and be successful I needed to participate in events that promoted hunting. I wasn’t comfortable with that association. The second reason I quit was the lack of respect and dignity shown me by male carvers. This was back in the mid eighties and women carvers were fewer than hen’s teeth. I loved to carve decoys but I didn’t want to have to deal with the drama and negativity. I had apprenticed under a Cajun carver that had introduced me to oil paints and I just decided I would try flatwork instead.

FF: I love how you include very charming stories about your paintings on your gallery site at Paintworks! I’ve shared a few, but I would like to hear about your process of painting and how it connects to your garden.

Macon: I would probably say the garden comes first and the painting is secondary. Before any painting happens there is a moment of inspiration. It can be a simple thing that happens once like a baby mockingbird leaving his nest or it can come from a repetitious pattern that you see every time you are out doing chores like the comings and goings of a male wren collecting food for his babies. When I am in my garden my senses are in a really heightened state. I have always had telepathy with birds. I see pictures in my head and feel emotions from them that is our way of talking and communicating with each other. This is what gives me an endless supply of ideas to paint. It is actually the only reason I paint. I want to make these moments tangible and real otherwise I would just be a crazy lady that hears bird voices rattling around in her head.

FF: You have one acre of gardens on your property and many of your paintings are from your own flowers. How long have you been a gardener and what brought you to gardening?

Macon: My first memories were of gardens. My grandfather had a garden and grew all of his food. In the summer there was a circular garden in front of his house that was filled with cannas, gladiolus, dahlias, and other beautiful summer flowers. He grew some of the tallest sunflowers I have ever seen. My cousin and I would play between the rows of vegetables. Everyone in my family grew plants and had gardens so gardening has always been a true north for me. I don’t think I could exist with out it and if I could I sure wouldn’t be happy.

FF: On your Paintworks website you mention the NC State Arboretum and Duke Gardens. How do these gardens factor into your work?

Those two gardens are my Disneylands. They are my dreamworlds. My funds are limited in what I can buy and I am also limited by the size of my yard and the burden of it’s upkeep. During the Spring, Summer, and into the Fall I go to each of them at least every other week. They have master gardeners designing and tending their gardens and the beauty is beyond compare. I can see native plants but I can also see exotic plants. I take thousands of pictures as reference for my paintings. To have access to this kind of reference for my paintings is priceless. Duke Gardens is part of Duke University. They have a world class water garden that has the most beautiful koi and water lilies I have ever seen. There is no mood that can’t be fixed by a walk in Duke Gardens. It is heaven on earth.

 FF: Thank you so much, Leslie! It is a delight to share your work with Greenwoman and Flora’s Forum readers!

Oh, and here’s a picture of Leslie. And, of course, links to her fabulous work – available at DailyPaintworks and her website.

leslie macon color pic

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a little bit about Leslie. One of the greatest perks of my work is getting to meet and learn about soulful, talented artists like her. 

–Sandra Knauf

 

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