Playing in the Garden

Ladybugs and Black Eyes Tote

One of the things I love about participating in Art Shows and Open Houses is the opportunity to experiment — to play in the garden.

Back in what high school (the dark ages as T1 knows them) loved designing clothes.  I desparately wanted to draw, and I loved sewing, and the two matched up nicely. I designed a kimono and my prom dress. I painted on jean jackets and jeans.  In my mind I was the next Coco Chanel as I slavishly copied drawings and dresses by Erté.

The road back to drawing and painting has been a gratifying one, so a few months ago, looking for ways to make art functional, I decided to trace my steps back even further and started thinking about wearable art.

Not wanting to make something I wouldn’t use myself if it didn’t sell and realizing that I’m a tad old for a prom dress, I started thinking about accessories which, if you’re like me and strike fear into the scale every morning, are always fit.  I made up a fabric pattern from some designs to make scarves and, acting on my firm belief that you can never have too many handbags, started thinking about tote bags.

The result was a romp through the painting and sewing garden. My studio is just now beginning to recover.

Experimentation was rewarded at the Open House at Bedlam Farm with good sales, but playing in the garden and getting paint on your fingers is often its own reward.

Small Town Summer


honorbox II

Our family used to spend a good part of the summer in Southwestern Michigan. It’s still mostly rural, kind of like where we live in Vermont, and one of my fondest memories was spending summer mornings running around with my Grandmother to the butcher, the market and the farm stand as she shopped for the nightly  feast for the family.

Our last stop was at a driveway where a card table, laden with corn, whatever veggies the owner’s garden had yielded that day, and an unlocked cash box.  Folded index cards to display the prices.  The woman who owned the makeshift stand had usually retired to the beach by the time we got to her place. Even back then, I marveled at how successful the Honor Box tradition was.

I still love the honor box. It’s a quaint way to support a tiny business, but every little self-serve farmstand is also a kind of beacon. It’s a reminder that there’s still trust and trustworthiness. It reminds me there’s still something good out there that I can help grow, just by putting my money in the box.

Gone to Press!

jackiesbookI’ve been part of a short story class with bestselling author Jon Katz for the last few years. It is an offshoot of a writing workshop that started at Hubbard Hall, a community theater and arts center in Cambridge, NY. Now held at Pompanuck Farm, not far from Hubbard Hall, our group has changed little and exists to support writing and creativity in general.

One of the great things about being part of a community of writers and artists is not just the support you receive but the inspiring people you meet.  One those is Jacki Thorne.

Writer, photographer, poet and painter, Jacki has been sharing her journey of creative exploration with us in class and on her blog Creative Journeywoman. She is a natural writer, drawing in the reader and holding them hostage until the very last word, but she’s also a natural adventure as she forges her own distinctive path.

She has just released her first book of essays and poetry called Gone to Ground, and I am anxiously awaiting my copy.

You can buy yours here.  Jacki will also be reading from her collection at 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, at Battenkill Books in Cambridge, N.Y.


Yours, Mine, Ours


For some reason I had a lot of gay friends in high school. It wasn’t something I planned or even thought about until senior year, when a number of friends started coming out.

Homosexuality was not an issue prior to that, and my friends were my friends. Who they loved would never became an issue for me.  They were wonderful people before they were out, and they were (and are) wonderful people after they were out.

Those relationships stayed close beyond high school and brought new friendships with them.  It never occurred to me that there was anything unusual about having a lot of gay friends because that was what I knew.

Most of my close friends had relatively supportive families when they came out, but over time I heard horror stories of people being shunned and even threatened with violence by their own flesh and blood.  I knew of at least one friend who was beaten up simply for ‘acting’ gay even before he himself had seriously contemplated who he was.

It wasn’t until I started dating more that I realized that some people really did have a problem with homosexuality. Some of the objections were religious, but more frequently, there seemed to be an unfounded fear of unwanted sexual advances (ironically often in men who themselves were aggressive with me).

I ended relationships when it became clear that the man I was seeing would never accept my friends.  For a long time, I believed my own intractable position was founded on the fact that my friends were a non-negotiable part of my life, but as I’ve married and we’ve gone our own ways geographically, my feeling is stronger.

It wasn’t until I had a son who defied convention with his tutus and fairy wings that I understood why it had mattered to me so much back then that any companion be accepting of my gay friends.  But when my unconventional son began asking to wear his rainbow wig to the diner, the empathy and love I had felt for those people crystalized.

It wasn’t just acceptance of my friends, I had wanted. It was the assurance that if any child of mine was different, a future husband would respond the way the Big Guy does — by asking if our different child wants to wear his superhero cape with his wig.

It hit again Sunday when the news came in from Orlando, and I read of a mother reading the last texts from her son, knowing he might be dying and that his last moments were filled with terror.

It hit because as a mother I knew that the last thing she probably cared about at that moment was who her son loved.  The only thing that mattered was that she wanted him to be safe so that he could love.

I knew that could have just as easily been my kid who had wanted acceptance and freedom from fear.  It could be your kid that was refused housing or service or even medical care. It could be any of ours that was in that night club in Orlando, murdered for the crime of loving someone.

I don’t know what the future holds for my unconventional son, and it is not our job to project an orientation on to him. It is our job to make sure he knows that our love doesn’t come with conditions and to work for a world where everyone’s kid can be honest about whom they love without fear.

Just Fly

just fly
Yesterday, we went to the ballet recital of a young friend. The younger sister of T1’s girlfriend, we’ve come to think of both girls as practically family and were excited to cheer her efforts.

It was blissfully typical of most dance recitals.

We watched the older girls, getting ready to soar into the next phase of their lives, enjoy well-deserved accolades after years of practice. Then we watched younger dancers emerging like butterflies. Our friend distinguished herself beautifully, hitting her marks and helping the youngest dancers hit theirs.

As usual, those youngest dancers, with their fairy costumes and exhuberance, stole the show.

One little fairy in particular  captured everyone’s attention. About four, she sashayed onto the stage as gracefully as a four-year-old can, glancing back at her group for confirmation that the steps were right. Glee infected her as they began twirling, causing us to wonder if she would twirl right off the stage. She was often just a beat behind the others but always a bounce or twirl above, dancing to the music as if she had her own rhythm section in her head.

The music ended, and her partners sashayed off to the left. She began to skip and hop after them, and for a moment she seemed to be trying to fly. The audience chuckled as one and then applauded, as if we were all remembering what it was like to move just for the fun of it and hoping that the little magic spark that lit up the tiny ballerina might actually get her to fly someday.