Image

Wild Geese, Mary Oliver

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Mary Oliver.

A poet that made me see truth in the natural world. The depths in the pure animal self.

In the mire of government shut downs and false poets being dropped from their record label I hear a singular voice taking a walk in the woods near her home. Aware. Taking in with the senses of a poet. The bear, egret, and the hawk. These encounters don’t bear headlines but to notice is to live in reality.

The greatest gift we have is our senses. Use them. Use them all. To read our world around us. Power off and power on to the sound of strong winds in rushes, the persistent call of a black phoebe, a red shouldered hawk arcing up to capture its perch, the rush of ants on the forest floor, clouds painting a moving canvas beyond the hands on human.

Mary paints in words, her words. I want to write like her but will never be her.

Her words in one of her most well known poems, Wild Geese, which ends:

Meanwhile the wild geese, high the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like wild geese, harsh and exciting-

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

 

Image

2017 Winter Linocut Print

It is that time of year when I continue my tradition of creating a linocut print, a gift to my friends and family.

I had read that children in Japan, design, cut, and print a holiday woodcut for their families. Over the past ten years I have started this tradition in my own life.

This year I decided to keep it basic. No background. No Border. No complex lines. Just a snowman on white.

In the past, I tried to get perfectly inked blocks that would leave perfectly black lines. This year I want to embrace imperfect perfection. A celebration of the medium, its benefits and it’s limitations. As a result, this years prints has more of a brush-like quality.

A coffeehouse design sketch in a Stillman & Birn journal. This is the sketch that would go on the linoleum. When it prints, it is the mirror reversed image (featured image).

Over the course of a week I sketched out designs for the print, making small changes until I had settled on an image that worked. In the end, the image is a snowman, facing away from the viewer, his head held up, scarf flowing behind, and his arms raised to the sky. The title of this print is “A Prayer”.

Preparing to print with a charged linocut and my Speedball printer’s press. For these prints I used black oil-based ink and then mixing in a little brown ink. The prints will later be hand painted with watercolor.

I leave it up to the viewer as to what the snowman is praying for or even if he can pray at all.

The title was inspired by the Mary Oliver poem, A Summer Day. In the final few lines she writes:

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

I have always loved this poem. It captures the ephemeral nature of life. Just like the snowman, who lives but a short season. Maybe that’s what he’s praying for: more time.

Like the proverbial snowflake, each handmade print is unique. 

Image

Sketch Poetry

Poetry frequently makes it’s way into my journal.

One afternoon I was listening to one of my father’s Duke Ellington CDs, a CD that I had gotten him for Christmas a while ago. My father loved big bands and he saw Ellington, Basie, and Ella as well as west coast greats Brubeck, Cal Tjader, and Vince Guaraldi. It was one of those beautiful February afternoons where the trees have blossomed early and the White-crowned sparrows were singing at the tops of trees to mark out their patch. It seemed to me, and the sparrows, that it was a spring day. As I was listening to Ellington the white-crown in the backyard seemed to be singing with the band so I wrote a poem about it and created a spread.

Duke and White-crowned

Duke takes the intro

as Cootie floats above

muted horns below

Hodges leans into his solo

squeezing every ounce of joy out of his horn

White-crowned counters

and the Rabbit responds

while Sonny Greer keeps time

Long after the strains

of Mood Indigo had ended

and the curtain of dusk has fallen

White-crowned is still singing

the only song he knows

at the top of the berry bush

just outside my window

defining his place in the band

as the day’s heat turns to blue.

I added two illustration as “bookends” to the text, one was sketched from the Ellington CD cover and the other was from a photograph of a white-crowned sparrow.

Condor

This spread was about my experience watching California condors at Grimes Point in Big Sur. it was a magical day with about ten condor perched by Highway One. The drawing is based on a photograph that I took and the condor’s massive wingspan seems to span the coastal hills in the background. I wrote a poem about the condor, included underneath it’s wings.

Bee

This poem is about my philosophy of nature, that we should not fear nature but embrace it. The poem is dedicated to three of my students as I taught them not to fear the honey bee. During recess on day, I found a bee on the blacktop and I picked it up and showed my students that they had nothing to fear. I then let the bee crawl on their hands and they learned that if you treat nature with respect and acted with confidence the bee will not cease its life by stinging you. I don’t think that lesson is a California State Standard!

Leaves

This spread was created to illustrate a poem I wrote shortly after my fathers passing in October. It’s really about accepting what life has dealt you and coping with change.