Thursday, September 30, 2010

K.B. Carpenter And Other Mean Flowers

Centennial Trail - Mile markers 11 - 13

We've been blessed with glorious weather this week. Yesterday I treated myself to a run along the Centennial Trail. It's a treat because I know it takes gas money to drive there which is hard to justify when I can just run in my neighborhood. I don't normally allow myself this luxury during the week. I justified it because I know that these beautiful days are numbered and because, quite frankly I needed it.

As I was running I looked at the plant life along the trail and noticed that at this time of year color comes from leaves and weeds. Fall leaves get plenty of good press but weeds are universally unloved. They have their own beauty though, remarkable in engineering for survival despite a hostile world.

There is an incredibly well written children's book called The Great Gilly Hopkins. Unlike most of today's children's literature, this book is a gem of a good story told with subtlety and intelligence. Most children miss the layers of deeper meaning woven throughout the story. In fact, most teachers in their quest for the holy grail of words per minute standards, miss them too. The main character is an unlovable girl who comes to live with a foster family comprised of mostly what our society would consider losers - overweight foster mother, weird, scared, easily bullied foster brother. All judged and found wanting.

The chapter titles in this book are chosen with great care and inspire wonderful discussion points with fifth graders. The chapter titled: William Ernest and Other Mean Flowers is an example. William Ernest is the little boy in the foster home. Up to this point the main character who is a sharp, but not very nice little girl despises and uses her foster brother William Ernest. Their relationship changes in this chapter as Gilly comes to appreciate and even care for him. The "mean flower" referenced in the title is a lowly dandelion, a maligned, despised weed. The word "mean" here is not used the way we commonly use it but is used in its older English meaning which is lowly. We come to find in this chapter that while it is easy to look at William Ernest as unimportant, lowly, even undesirable, to do so is to miss incredible beauty and strength.

As someone who grew up feeling like a "mean flower", I decided that I would go back to the trail today to run again and take pictures of these lowly plants which despite little encouragement and even active hostility, manage to survive. Everyone loves and encourages the roses of the world. Here's my tribute to the other mean flowers.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rock On!

I came home from my wonderful trip to Auburn to find our landscaping complete. I'm excited to begin tinkering with it...getting the feel for where plants should go, what other details we could add. I have gone from not wanting to ever walk around my yard to loving to meander the pathways. The dogs are enjoying this additional time together outside. I particularly enjoy the little natural birdbaths that have been created. Here are some pictures to give you a feel for the new look.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

On the road again

I got to run yesterday!

After a four week break to rest a hurting Achilles tendon, I took my first run yesterday. The first mile and a half felt wonderful. Actually my tendon felt pretty good throughout the entire run. I started to really tire early, which was a little disappointing. I was hoping that continuing to work out on the elliptical trainer would help me to get back into running quickly, but I think there really is no substitute for actually running. Maybe 2 miles my first day would have been a better goal than 3. Oh well, no matter what, it was a joy to be out. The only downside is that my tendon is a bit sore today.

I could feel summer slipping away as I ran the trail yesterday. The geese were honking and flying overhead and the breeze was warm but it had that feeling of lateness about it and the shadows felt longer in the afernoon sun. I wanted to reach out and hold onto summer, keep it from leaving. It seemed so short this year.

The good news is that I can really enjoy the thought of fall this year in a way I haven't for several years. It was much cooler today than yesterday, so I got out the old bread maker and baked a loaf of 100% whole wheat bread. I was really pleased by how high it rose.

Norm wanted gingersnaps, so I baked those up too.

There are some nice things about fall being just around the corner.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Live (part 2)


I thought you might like to know how the class went. The artist/instructor shared several portraits commenting on each of them. Then...she showed mine, saying that she liked it even more than her own, which she then showed next to mine. So they were side by side on a slide!! The truly amazing part was that we had chosen almost identical colors everywhere. She made a couple of suggestions that she had included on her own portrait which were:

  • add red to the ear lobes, chin, and under the nose area

  • put a dark background to make the figure pop

I tried her suggestions. What do you think?

Going Live!!!

My portrait is going LIVE today!!! Wow!

I've been taking a five week online watercolor class. The portrait was an exercise from last week. We were given a photo and our exercise was to draw the portrait (last week's focus was drawing). If we wanted to, we could paint it. Our instructor (this class is shown world-wide), encourages us to post our exercises on Flicker so that she can give feedback and she shares some of them at the beginning of each class.

As you, my loyal followers know, I painted it twice. I wasn't sure if I could paint a portrait in watercolor. It combines the most challenging problem: combining an unpredictable medium with a subject that demands control of small nuances. I was pretty pleased with the results, but decided that I needed to have the courage to throw my results out there for feedback.

My instructor said she couldn't believe I hadn't painted a portrait in watercolor before, and she went on to say that she was sharing the color version online today. How about that? I was so nervous to put the portrait out for critique, but I'm sure glad I did.

Here's to taking risks.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More before and after

Well, the destruction goes on. As my good friend advised, I am trying to enjoy the mess. Here is another before and after shot. We've not only taken out all of the railroad ties terracing, but also two pine trees and two birch trees. It definately opens it up. I feel very exposed.

We will be replacing the terracing with rock walls and creating kind of a meandering flagstone pathway throughout. I'm trying not to panic about the amount of work Norm is going to have to do on the sprinkler system.

I also thought you might like an update on the portrait. Here is the one color version along with the new color version.