Thursday, April 30, 2020

Josie and Octalia

Hey, it's me Josie. When I came up to Meema and Grumpy's yesterday, what do you think I found? Octalia Octopus, the one my aunt Aileen made for me, was on the big bed in The Room and she was telling a stories to my animals.

I climbed right up to listen.

She told about a wonderful cave under the sea where the chairs  and tables and beds are made of shells and there are flowers called sea anemones and tiny fish flit around like butterflies.

It was a very good story.

I love Octalia.

She hugs me with her tentacles and I hug her with my arms.

She wanted to play dressup so I got the dressup box.

She looks good in blue.

Stegosaurus wanted beads. I gave Meema some too.

I put a rainbow of scarves on Octalia. And a hat too. She liked it.

Just one more then I will dress up too.

I am stylish. Like Octalia.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

An Outage of Cows

Cows will go wandering. A neighbor alerted us that they had come visiting. 

John went after them but instead of going down the road, as he wanted them to, they turned up the road to our place. He left them peacefully grazing and came and got me so I (and the truck) could block a crucial turning as he herded them down to the lower place.

It went well. With John behind them, they trooped down the road like good cows (and one donkey.)

I followed in the truck. . .

pausing to admire the yellow trilliums on the roadside.

Once the cows (and donkey) were where they belonged, I had a look at Dave and the Bobbettes in the little red chicken house where John put them for their own safety.

They aren't used to company. I'll try to take Josie down tomorrow, if the weather cooperates.

Spring green. Who can blame the cows for going exploring?

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Hilma af Klint

Yesterday's sunrise, captured somewhat imperfectly, made me think of the strange paintings of Hilma af Klint.

(From the Guggenheim Museum's exhibition of her work:)

"Born in Stockholm in 1862, Hilma af Klint began her artistic career as an academy-educated painter of naturalistic landscapes and portraits. Influenced by the spiritual movements and scientific discoveries of her era, however, af Klint soon strove to express abstract concepts beyond what the eye can see. She began creating radically abstract paintings in 1906, years before Vasily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, and others would take similar strides to rid their own artwork of representational content. Yet while many of her better-known contemporaries published manifestos and exhibited widely, af Klint kept her groundbreaking paintings largely private."

I'm fascinated by this woman and her work. She makes me think of Emily Dickinson, ahead of her time, intensely private, and with so much in her work that still speaks to us today.

Learn more about this remakable artist HERE.

Monday, April 27, 2020

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

One pleasant consequence of the plague that killed so many deer last year is that we have azaleas blooming again. For the past few years, the deer have done some severe pruning in late winter which meant no blooms. Just as the raging Covid-19 has decreased pollution, there's a bright side to the deer plague. For us, not the deer.

Yesterday was a beauty--sunny and not too chilly. I went out to take pictures and pull weeds. I was working along the rock wall where I killed a copperhead last year, but I kinda thought it was still too chilly for snakes to be out. So I was unpleasantly surprised to see a snake's tail sliding away, almost under my hand. It wasn't a black snake or a garter snake--I'm going to have to assume the worst. 

 I went and got my hoe and continued my weeding, first poking the hoe all around the area I was working.
 Mindful living, as I've said before.

These little late-blooming narcissi were a pleasant surprise. I'm going to have to plant more of this variety.

It's always a pleasure to see ladybugs outside rather than in the house where they are a wintertime nuisance, what with their kamikaze attacks on pots of soup or other food on the stove. Lady bugs taste awful.

A handsome frog in his lair . . . unfooled by the bronze cranes.

And a lazy blacksnake, taking the sun in front of the greenhouse. Black snakes are said to deter copperheads -- I wish he'd be about his business and go do some deterring.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

On Line Class

As you may know, my spring writing class moved online a while back. Night before last was our 6 or 7th meeting and I asked the group for a candid assesment of the online format. All of them agreed it was better than not having the class at all and all of them indicated that they would not be opposed to taking another online class with Great Smokies Writing Program. Some even said they preferred the online format -- no commute, wear whatever, have a glass of wine with class...

I agree. I've been pleasantly surprised at how personal the format can be-- see and hear the speaker, meanwhile others can insert comments in the captions at the bottom of the screen. And the normal commute for me is about an hour each way so it's nice not to have to do that. Plus the bedroom slippers.

I told the director of the program all this and he was pleased. The summer classes will all be online but no real decision has been made for fall. I suggested that there might be some who'd be happy for the online alternative, even if the university was offering in person classes. He asked if I'd like to lead another online critique workshop. Of course I would.

So we're going to give it a go. It will begin in September and meet one night a week-- probably Tuesday or Thursday -- from 6 to 8:30 E.S.T. Over the years, a lot of my online friends have said they'd like to take one of my classes--if only they didn't live so far away. Well, this is your opportunity . . .

Tentative class description:

Workshoppers at Home: Online Creative Prose Workshop - 15 weeks

Here’s your chance to have up to sixty pages of your creative prose – novel excerpts, short stories, essays, memoir – carefully line edited by the instructor and thoughtfully assessed by a group of your fellow writers, concentrating on what is working and what needs attention. And all in the comfort of your home! We will meet online though Google Hangouts, a venue that allows you to see and hear your fellow classmates with the option of captions as well.

This fifteen-session workshop is aimed at writers with work (novel, short stories, memoir, or other creative prose) in progress, almost completed, or completed but in need of a final polishing. Each student will submit up to sixty pages (twenty at the beginning of the course, twenty during weeks 6-10, and the final twenty during weeks 11-15) for discussion and critique by the class and close editing with written comments by the instructor. We will focus on the effective use of key techniques such as creating an intriguing opening line and a compelling first chapter, creating a likable and/or engaging protagonist, weaving in back story in small, manageable doses, setting up a dilemma that begs to be resolved, making the most of action scenes -- in general, producing a page-turner. We will attempt to weed out the mistakes that mark the amateur writer and turn each student into a discerning editor of their own work.  The goal will be to polish those pages till they are ready to catch the attention of an agent, an editor, a publisher and make them ask for more. The reference text will be the highly acclaimed Don't Sabotage Your Submission by career manuscript editor Chris Roerden (Bella Rosa books --ISBN 978-1-933523-31-6.

The classes are through University of NC-Asheville. They are for credit and tuition is charged. You can find more info HERE

Friday, April 24, 2020

Cream of Spring Soup

I picked nettles on Tuesday, tamed them with boiling water, and saved them--and the drained off water which I call nettle tea and enjoy hot. 

Then yesterday I picked a few ramp leaves from my little patch and made a soup -- nettle greens and chicken broth and a leftover baked potato whirred in the food processor, diced onions and garlic sauteed in butter, then flour added to make a roux, and more chicken broth  to make a cream sauce. 

Combined with the processed nettles, thinly sliced ramp leaves, some cream, and salt and pepper to taste, it made a lovely soup.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Fleeting Spring

The first iris unfurled on Tuesday, reminding me how quickly Spring moves.

Trees that were bare a few weeks ago have leafed out in Spring gold and green.

The iris buds are a promise--these old-timey bearded iris are the first, the fancy hybrids will follow. And soon the wild dwarf iris will show themselves, and the yellow flags and B iris down at the pond, and eventually, the elegant Japanese iris.

Below the house, the azaleas are blooming -- even some that skipped last year, due to deer damage. The plague that killed so many deer last summer meant less damage to foliage last winter. And farther down the hill, the redbuds blooms are being replaced by new leaves.

The rhododendrons are beginning their show.

April may be the cruellest month, but it sure is beautiful here. And it's hard not to feel hopeful, witnessing the eternal return. 

Star of Bethlehem