Saturday, October 31, 2015

Memorial Service

The Hands that Rocked my Cradle

Mom, a few weeks ago my memory took me to our 1950’s back yard in Cranford, NJ, where you stood on the little cement back stoop with a basket of washed clothing, your hands feeding rope through pulleys, your hands lifting one wet item at a time, your hands clipping each item to the line. 

So much life and love in the simple actions of those hands … so many ways they touched my life.

Your hands held me and rocked me through six weeks of colic … and occasionally put me in a carriage to wheel my incessant crying as far away as possible in your tiny apartment in Roselle!

Your hands braided my hair, tied plaid ribbon bows at the end of each braid.

They pinned pattern pieces to fabric, ran fabric through a sewing machine, made me clothes.

They pinned the hem—while I squirmed!—of the flower girl’s dress I wore in Eleanor Lamb’s wedding.

They made me cream cheese and jelly sandwiches on Wonder bread to eat at the backyard picnic table.

They leaned over my shoulders to tie bows at the waist of my Sunday School dresses.

They spanked and yanked me—more than once!

They showed me how to prepare dinner for Daddy from my Better Homes and Gardens junior cookbook.

They wrote my name on blankets and clothing for going to Camp Takodah.

They taught me how to use tailor’s chalk to mark darts, how to iron fabric.

They reached for menstrual supplies waiting at the ready when I got my first period.

They showed me how to roll out a pie crust, how to flute the edges.

They wrote weekly letters on thin blue aerograms sent from London, where you were, to New London, CT, where I was attending college.

They zipped me into your ivory satin wedding gown when I tried it on to wear for my own wedding.

They crocheted me a lace tablecloth.

They held my babies, cleaned my house, and got dinner on the table when I was postpartum.

They made Raggedy Anns and Andys for my children, knit a bear and stuffed a little pillow for my grandchildren.

This summer your left hand found the knotted sleeves of the sweater tied round my waist and took great pleasure in blindly undoing the knot, even after I doubled it!

Last month your left hand brushed my forearm giving it an accidental and totally welcome caress. I braided my fingers through yours and held your hand while I fed you.

A week ago I held and stroked your hands—one day, another day, another, another.

Your hands are still now.

But, still, they hold me and rock me.

I Love You, Mom
5x7', mixed media
[not for sale]
I painted this picture for my mom for her birthday this year in February. I wanted to give her something straight from my heart that might be accessible to her in her advanced dementia. I'd been trying my hand at "painting walls" and doing lettering the way David Shannon does in the illustrations for his children's books, which led to the idea for my gift. The pigtailed figure is a painted update of the crayoned self-portrait I drew for my kindergarten report card in 1955. I gave the painting to my mom in person in March, twelve days—as it so happened—before she had a stroke. The painting traveled with her to what became her new home at Norway Center in Norway, Maine, and spoke its message from its perch there until my mom died on October 25.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Without my Wits about Me

Can't much keep my thinking in order nor make my mind work smoothly.

Mostly make no effort to do so.

In my studio, at my easel, I paint intuitively, recklessly. I move fast, don't hesitate.

Mix a color, put it here, mix a color, put it there.

Then, put away paints, wash brushes, rinse out wipe rag, snap a photo.

Move on.

Saying Goodbye is a work in progress. So am I.

saying goodbye 4, 10/30/15
work in progress

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Messy Process

This grieving and saying goodbye gig is a messy unpredictable process at best.

Kinda like painting.

saying goodbye 3, 10/28/15
work in progress

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

With Prayer and Song

Most Saturdays on my way home from a coffee date at Zumi's with Dave, I notice a cornfield in Ipswich. Sometimes the field is covered with dazzling snow; sometimes it boasts corn as high as an elephant's eye.

This week, I passed it at the tail end of my drive home from Maine after being away for nine days.

The cornrows had been cleared.

The empty field caught my eye.

I tucked its essence into a corner of my mind and carried it home.

I am walking through this week baby step by baby step.

I am painting that harvested, bared field inch by inch.

Do you know the Garden Song?

Plant your rows straight and long
Temper them with prayer and song.

I'm planting my rows with paint. Tempering them with prayer and song.

saying goodbye 2, 10/27/15
work in progress

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Feeling my Way

I am grateful to be at home for a few days. Grateful to be with Dave. Grateful to be with my tutorial students. Grateful that our front-yard maple tree lights much of our home with a warm yellow-orange glow of reflected sunlight.

I am mostly feelings today. I have few thoughts.

I cry.

I laugh.

I flood with memories.

I do small concrete manageable tasks that come to my attention, bypass tasks that might need initiative or self-discipline.

I paint for a few minutes.

My hands have a need to move paint across a canvas after a week of using colored pencils, pastels, and ink pens. I reach for a 12x16" canvas, the largest support I've used in months. I grab a palette knife and dive in.

I spread a bright red underlayer on my canvas.

Enough for today.

saying goodbye 1, 10/26/15
work in progress

Monday, October 26, 2015


You might think that perhaps all the recent practice in decision-making related to Muth would make it easier to make decisions when creating paintings and drawings.


You might think that perhaps all the practice in decision-making related to my art would have made it easier to make decisions about everything related to Muth and the days (and days) of holding vigil.

Wrong again.

What is it about decision-making!

Practice making decisions leads to … more practice making decisions.

Here is what is mine to do: make a decision, run with it.

Make another decision. Run with it.

The Lord is my shepherd.

I shall not want.

I Shall Not Want
6x6", oil pastel on Aquabee sketch paper

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Movement and Stillness and Movement

Early this morning, movement into stillness.

And now we move forward in new ways.


6x6", oil pastels on watercolor paper
[not for sale]

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Cross Referencing

My electronic connectivity is scattershot and unreliable under current circumstances, but other connections are more than filling the space.

As we sit vigil with Muth, we often play music for her and ourselves. One day Barby pulled out Muth's hymnal from a drawer in the bedstand, thinking she might sing Muth some hymns. When Barby opened the book, she found a penciled list written by Muth, enumerating her favorite hymns. Bingo—hymns for the memorial service! Connection.

One of the hymns is "On a Hill Far Away," also known by us as "The Old Rugged Cross." It's a hymn Futh and former choir members have sung to Muth in recent months because, even in her wordlessness, even with a stroke under her belt, even with advanced dementia, when she's heard that hymn she's often joined in with her beautiful singing voice. Connection.

Marj and Futh stopped by West Parish Congregational Church yesterday to take a look at the sanctuary with an eye towards what flower arrangements we might want and to borrow a hymnal so we can finalize some details for the memorial service. Futh picked up a hymnal at random. When he opened the cover, he saw a bookplate on which the following information was inscribed: Given by Carolyn and Walter Hatch (Muth and Futh) in memory of Dorothy and Carl Chase (Muth's parents). Connection.

When I checked my email yesterday, I saw Karen Werner's blogpost in which she discussed the loose cruciform design of her composition. I had a guess as to what cruciform design was, but went online and had fun researching it to learn more—an old rugged cross, methinks! Connection!

The Old Rugged Cross
4x6", mixed media on canvas paper

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pocket of Stillness

Went to look at my calendar to see what might be on the docket for the coming week. Makes for great fiction!

My story is here and now, in Maine.

Set against a backdrop of wild unpredictability, little routines emerge. One of my favorites—I wake ahead of others in the sleeping house, leave Laur and Marj tucked in across the bedroom we're sharing this week, tiptoe downstairs barefoot, take care not to wake Jack who's bunking on an aerobed in the living room, and make my way silently to the enclosed sunporch, a favorite room of Muth's.

I sit in a pocket of stillness. I use my wifi-less laptop to draft messages, jot down reminders about this and that, delete tasks enumerated back when I thought I'd be at home this week, prepare for our memorial service for Muth, and bring tiny semblances of order to my days here in Maine.

The clock ticks, Jack snores softly, gentle rain taps the roof one morning, the furnace hums.

I pick up Kitchen Table Wisdom and read a few pages.

I smell traces of recent pizza, Chinese food, and pea soup dinners.

The sky lightens gradually. Golden leaves glow in one tree after another, stretching way back into the woods outside this well-windowed room. I watch tree limbs sway, leaves flutter. I trace the whimsical curlicue paths of dropping leaves, notice the shapes of patches of sky.

I soak up the quiet light, breathe in the stillness, open my heart to the day.

Sunporch Solitude
9x6", oil pastels on Aquabee sketch paper

Thursday, October 22, 2015


My mom was given a King James Version Bible in 1937 when she was eight years old. It is from that Bible that my nephew Stuart will read the 23rd Psalm during the memorial service for his grandma. My nephew Guy will read Psalm 121.

As I sat with my sisters around Muth's bed again this morning, I pulled out my supplies to rustle up two bookmarks. I chose to work on canvas paper, paper that is less stiff than my watercolor paper and more suited to the thin flexible pages of Muth's Bible. The task pushed me to use watercolor pencils again. I'm still not very fluent with them but I was happy to immerse myself in experimenting, happy to be creating a little something from my heart and hands for Muth's service.

He Leadeth Me Beside the Still Waters
1.5x6.5", watercolor pencil on canvas paper
[not for sale]
I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes Unto the Hills
1.5x6.5", watercolor pencil on canvas paper
[not for sale]

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Wednesday in October

The first night here in Maine at Muth and Futh's house this week, I go to get some applesauce for dessert. I open the fridge door. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, I am standing in a sea of blueberries. One second, no blueberries. The next moment, nothing but blueberries!

That's kinda what the past few days have been like. I come home from vacation expecting to pick up the strands of my life at home with Dave and my students and my painting. Then, suddenly, I am in Maine. One second, one life. The next moment, nothing but this different life with all my sisters, my dad, and my sweet mom whose life is ebbing.

Blueberries rolling everywhere.

Nothing to do but roll with what I find in front of me moment to moment.

Today I pull out my portable studio again—a plastic carry case that used to hold a Fisher Price toy set and now holds bits and pieces of my collection of art supplies. Bits and pieces that ground and center me. I grab a pen, draw lines to simulate the little 3x5" pads of graph paper Muth bought for us kids on a trip to Weggis on Lake Lucerne back in 1961 when we lived in Europe. I grab my colored pencils to simulate the Caran D'Ache pencils she bought us. We loved filling in those little squares with color, making patterns and designs.

I fill in some of today's squares and rectangles, feeling less focused than when I colored in squares at age eleven. But my sister Barby, without knowing what my intention is with my art today, leans over to look at what I am doing and asks, "Do you remember those little pads of paper Muth bought for us when we went to Switzerland?"

So many little bits and pieces—on the floor, on my watercolor paper, on this Wednesday in October.

Bits and Pieces
4x5", mixed media on watercolor paper

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tuesday at Norway Center

Where are my feet? Here at Norway Center today.

Muth sleeps in the circle of her daughters. We alternately weep, yawn, leave to take walks in the sunshine and fresh air of the great outdoors, dredge up memories of all sorts, wield a flyswatter, knit, solve advanced math problems, complete puzzles, and dissolve into laughter.

Futh joins us, or plays chess with Kim in the lobby, or works sudoku, or nods off, or sits alone with Muth. He takes his daughters out to lunch, tells jokes with impeccable mastery, sheds tears.

I pull out my mini portable studio and fiddle with mixed media again.

Ugly for ages but therapeutic nonetheless, and I am open to trying this and that to see what might emerge with materials I don't typically use. In the end I gather up this day with my family, stitch it together, and find its complexity and radiance manifested in pastel, watercolor pencil, and ink.

Finding Laughter
6x8", mixed media on watercolor paper

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sister Syndrome

I'm in Maine now. Different portable studio. Brought canvas paper, watercolor paper, watercolor pencils, pens, oil pastels, scissors, a few paintbrushes.

My four sisters and I are sitting in a shade-drawn room around the bed at Norway Center where our mom, "Muth," lies sleeping, kept comfortable and peaceful with morphine, cared for by hospice caregivers, and surrounded by our love, chitchat, afternoon stupor, tears, tear-streaming laughter, sudoku, knitting, and, in my case, coloring with watercolor pencils and pens.

A bittersweet family reunion.

Monday Afternoon in Hospice
6x6", mixed media on canvas paper

Sunday, October 18, 2015

On the Road

Two lonnnnng days of being on the road. Much in transition, on the road and off.

Anchored myself today between a drive from PA to MA and a drive from MA to ME by doing a quick sketch of some highway scenery I saw in PA.

Beside the Highway
6x6", acrylic on gessobord

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Wish I Were There

You know the iconic Wish-you-were-here! postcard message?

My postcard message today, having pulled up stakes from our cabin at Blackwater Falls, is Wish I Were There!

hearthside gallery, Blackwater Falls "postcards"

Friday, October 16, 2015

Letting Go

A paint knife, a few brushes, paint, gessobord, a fire in the fireplace, a hymn.

For the beauty of the earth, 
for the glory of the skies, 
for the love which from our birth 
over and around us lies; 
Lord of all, to thee we raise 

this our hymn of grateful praise.

6x6", acrylic on gessobord

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sunset, Sunrise

Painted last evening's gone-the-sun in this morning's God-has-created-a-new-day hush of our cabin while Dave sat in front of our warm fireplace fire. Once again—susurrus of flame and combustion, pops as gentle and soft-edged as bubble gum, occasional papery rattles of Dave's unfolding and refolding a trail map, and the whisper of my brush.

I moved acrylics around on gessobord with sunset at Lindy Point in mind. The painting is looking more satisfying to me as a thumbprint photo on my computer than "live" in its 6x6" format at the moment! I will play with the scene again, perhaps painting on top of the original, perhaps seeing who I am and what it becomes on fresh canvas.

Lindy Point, From the Hills
6x6", acrylic on gessobord

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sounds of Silence

Painted again this morning in our cabin at Blackwater Falls State Park in WV.

The only sounds:

My paintbrush moving across gessobord.

The subtle hiss and dry snaps and crackles of the fire in our stone fireplace.

The intermittent whisper of Dave's turning pages as he read in front of the fire.

Walking West Virginia
6x6", acrylic on gessobord

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

From Fullness

I set up my travel studio this morning in our Blackwater Falls State Park cabin in West Virginia shortly after learning that my sister-in-law Linda died last night. 

I looked briefly at a photo reference taken last weekend on a predawn walk in Shenandoah Valley, VA, and then painted from the fullness of my heart—quickly, unhesitatingly, gesturally—with a limited palette of phthalo blue, payne’s gray, and titanium white.

A bittersweet palette of tears, pain, and joy.

New day beginning.

6x6", acrylic on gessobord

Monday, October 12, 2015


On a September day when many externals and internals swirled around, this little meditation centered me. I am grateful that painting brings me back to awareness.

Paper Prayer 18
study/appropriation of a painting by Chris Breier
2x6", acrylic on watercolor paper
[not for sale]

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Child's Play

Three kids.
Five years old, 8, and 65.

Watercolor crayons.
Charcoal pencils.
Soft pastels.
Watercolor paint set.
Plastic tablecloth.

Camp songs.

G'ma Papawi's Pumpkin
10x7", mixed media on mixed media paper
[not for sale]
Papawi's Pumpkin
7x7", watercolor on mixed media paper
[not for sale]
Playing in the Pumpkin Patch
5x7", mixed media on mixed media paper
G'ma (aka Dotty)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Two Score and a Blink

40 years!

And still loving and surprising each other as we live the chances and changes of life.

Happy anniversary, my love.

You Ol' Rattlesnake
3x3.5", acrylic and ink on canvas paper
[not for sale]

Friday, October 9, 2015

Humming a Tune

Brookside School. Second grade. Music class. We learned to sing The Happy Wanderer:

I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track …

You may already be belting out the chorus:

Val-deri, val-dera,
Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha …

With Gwenda Waterink as my muse once again, I went wandering a few days ago. My rules of engagement: use only leftover paint already on my stay-wet palette; mix media; see what happens.


Gwenda recently posted the photographic story of one of her paintings. She wrote, of her creative adventures, you have to get yourself in trouble, and paint your way out of it. 

Painted myself into plenty of trouble. Had fun painting my way out.

Inner Terrain
9x9", acrylic, pen, and oil pastels on canvas paper

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Hasty Exit

Underpainted with yellow ochre. Let it dry.

Set intentions: paint quickly, stay simple, make a hasty exit.


A few self-critical thoughts touched down lightly. Brushed them off like so many early autumn flies. Their business is not my business.

Farnham Flats
6x6", acrylic on gessobord

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Celebrate, Sister!

My sister Lauren was born in October of my kindergarten year. I remember drawing a crayon pumpkin to take to the hospital when I went to visit my mom and meet the new baby (the third of what would later be four sisters) for the first time.

A few years down the road now, that baby sister will be celebrating a happy return of her birth day this coming weekend.

I went to my studio to paint up a card for her. Carried with me the spirit of freedom and carelessness artist Gwenda Waterink mentions in her blog—the freedom and carelessness of diving in, making marks, making messes, finding solutions to visual problems, and seeing what emerges.

Picked up a pen first, doodled up some lines. Picked up a paint brush, laid in some color.

Got into a mess.

Kept playing.

And found solutions to visual problems.

Had great fun thinking back on many a Lauren-and-Dotty memory.

Happy birthday, baby sister!

Big Birthday
4.5x6", ink and acrylic on canvas paper
[not for sale]

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

More and Less

What do I know about oil pastels and ink pens and canvas paper?

More than I knew when I woke up this morning.

Less than I know about paint; that's fun to realize—I know something about paint!

Gwenda, hope you are ready for my endless questions.

Den Haag
9x9", oil pastels and ink on canvas paper

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Break in the Action

I'm taking a moment off from painting to smile at yet another very satisfying bookmark-to-book pairing. Pleases me every single time I see it.

Part of the fun is the serendipity of these bookmark-to-book match-ups. I don't paint with a book in mind; I paint using paints that are cluttering my palette.

In this case, I played with complementary colors, set the painting aside to dry, added it to my growing collection of paper prayers, then waited to see what book it would first saddle up and ride. It took off at a gallop!



Some time ago—maybe 37 years ago, maybe not—I practiced Lamaze breathing techniques in anticipation of Meg's birth.

Turns out, that breathing stuff was no 70's latter-day-hippie woo-woo stuff. Breathing is the name of the game right on down the line.

My fall schedule has many competing pieces in it, and I'm feeling kinda breathless. Have I mentioned that I paint every day? Have I mentioned that I meet one-to-one with 17 students every week?

I'm sorting out how to breathe expansive spaciousness into the perceived contraction. I'm practicing how to be spaciousness.

Honoring those Lamaze breathing techniques from long ago, and to give myself some breathing room, I made the practical decision to work even smaller than usual—I painted a bookmark for Meg's birthday. 

The soft impressionism of a painting by Vova DeBAK called to me. I want to learn soft and impressionistic, so I used a slice of that painting as a reference to imitate. As I put paint on paper I reconnected with the arrival of the softer-than-soft baby who entered my life some time ago—maybe 37 years ago and maybe not!—and all the impressions I carry to this day of welcoming her.

Happy birthday, baby girl of mine!

Paper Prayer 17
study/appropriation of a painting by Vova DeBAK
2x6", acrylic on watercolor paper
[not for sale]

Sunday, October 4, 2015

First Apartment

I claim that I started painting a year ago on Memorial Day weekend with my friend Sylvia on a self-created painting retreat with New Mexico artist and nature lover Ann Marquis but, really, my painting career goes back to at least 1972 when coworker Julie and I shared what was a first apartment for me. We painted the kitchen bright yellow and orange. Don't ask!

After painting a first draft of a scene photographed on the equinox in Dave's garden (Dave's Garden, Equinox), I got my paints out the next day to create a revision (Equinox Tablecloth) and also to try my hand at a new version of the scene with a more abstract bent to it. I went back and forth between the two interpretations, letting whatever I learned in one inform the next brush strokes in the other.

Partway through, the abstract version felt very flat to me, and something about the shapes, colors, and time of year brought to mind the kitchen on Union Street in Manchester, MA, that Julie and I so enthusiastically brightened up. Both versions make me to think I could get a job creating designs for plastic table coverings!

Here's the new tablecloth painting.

Painting the Kitchen with Julie
6x6", acrylic on gessobord

Friday, October 2, 2015

Tending the Fall Garden

With Dave's Garden, Equinox I experimented with painting water on my gessobord first, then letting paint drip into the water and run where it would. I returned to the canvas later to paint onto that backdrop. When I stopped for the day, the study ended up feeling crowded. Colors and values were at odds with each other.

Went back to the garden to do some cleaning up and overall tending on a different day.

Decided to try warming up the green. Tried to brighten up the flowers so they'd pop to the foreground. Played simultaneously with a second canvas and a different interpretation of the same scene. Had fun and got into enjoyable flow moving back and forth between the two.

The garden feels a little less contrary now. Yay!

Still, something about both paintings brings plastic tablecloths to mind!

Here's take #2.

Equinox Tablecoth
6x6", acrylic on gessobord

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wrapping up September with a Bow

In September I bumped into Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge, something I waxed eloquent about a fortnight or so ago. Now the month has ended, and participants have been invited to create and post a collage—plenty to give me a run for my money with that little task, I have to say. Give me a paintbrush instead of a keyboard any day!

But, ta da—not only did I paint every day for 30 days but also I created a photo collage of a bunch of my September paintings!

Look between the brush strokes:

Can you see the new friendships?

The encouragement flying from one painter to another?

The tips?

The techniques?

The energy?

photo collage from September 2015
30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge