Sunday, August 30, 2020

Little Hummer

Little Hummer / oil on black canvas / 4x4 / $48 including shipping


MY FRIEND CAROL has been here about 10 days, and I've enjoyed every minute of our visit. She has, too - but it's not the vacation paradise one generally imagines. 

She came down from Pennsylvania during one of the hottest stretches of the Wachapreague summer, and stayed in my little house, where the central A/C is broken. She is leaving Monday, and the new A/C is coming Tuesday. We've managed with a couple window units, but only by tolerating a quite warm house, living with curtains and shades drawn, and watching TV in the evenings in the dark. 

Koko is quite in love with Carol, which is a delightful thing to behold (yes, I am a little jealous, but only a little). While it is of course, wonderful to be adored by a sweet dog, it bears remembering that Koko is a sweet and very warm dog, who loves to snuggle, and that's fine if it's cool but not so great when it's 86 inside the house. Also, Koko has the sharpest elbows of any dog ever. When they dig in, it's like no other kind of pain. 

And finally, Koko has a terrible habit of flinging herself to the ground and rolling on her back in the path of the people she adores. She has come to know that I detest this particular form of adoration, and so, usually, she doesn't do it to me - except, it seems, when I come in from a long outing, and really have to pee - then she does her flinging three or four times as I make my way from the door to the bathroom. Someday, I will end up peeing on her, I know. She does this to Carol pretty much every time Carol walks anywhere in the house, and my friend, bless her heart, puts up with it. 

All the doggies seem to love Carol, and that's great. It's given me a little break from the rigors of my daily festival of dog love. I'll be happy to be the target of their affections again, but it's been nice to be the sideman for a bit. 

For Today

"...when you are convinced that all the exits are blocked, either you take to believing in miracles or you stand still like the hummingbird. The miracle is that the honey is always there, right under your nose, only you were too bush searching elsewhere to realize it. The worst is not death but being blind, blind to the fact that everything about life is in the nature of the miraculous." 

- Henry Miller

Friday, August 28, 2020

Little Bluebird

Little Bluebird / Oil on black canvas / 5x7 / $68 including shipping


THE BIRDS ARE FLOCKING UP, getting ready to head south. In fact, I think they are already on the wing; I've seen different birds in the yard these past few hot days, birds I haven't seen since spring. 

It doesn't feel like autumn, but I know it's coming. The gardens have dried and faded. The summer's brilliance, in the sun and in the flowers, has subsided. The days are shorter, not as bright, the sunshine not as harsh, not quite as brutal as it was in July. In the studio, I barely need the north-facing room-darkening curtains that made it possible to be in there this summer.

This year, more than any, I welcome this coming of autumn, as slight and early as it might be. I long to live with open windows, to walk out into a fresh, crisp morning, to see a night sky free of summer haze. I won't get the beautiful fall colors of New England here, but there will be some red trees, and lots of gold, and the light will become more rounded, more orange, more pink. 

And maybe I will go somewhere, like the birds.

Dog of the Day

This is a photo Peter made, of Abby (in the lead) and Koko, racing around the backyard. Abby is living with our daughter Erika now, and is as happy as can be. 

For Today

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn't show." 

- Andrew Wyeth

Thursday, August 27, 2020


Pelican / Oil on black canvas / 5x7 / $68 including shipping


MY AIR-CONDITIONING AND HEAT machine died last week. Down here, this thing is called a heat pump, and either it or the roof is the most expensive thing on the house. It sits outside, and pumps either hot or cold air through the ductwork, keeping the house comfortable. Growing up in New England, I never encountered one of these things until we moved down here. 

I'd known for a couple years that it was on the way out, but I kept hoping that somehow, it would survive. I am still planning on leaving Wachapreague and moving back to New England, close to most of my family, but it's taking me longer to make this happen than I had thought it would. And I'd hoped that the big, important, expensive machine would last until the house had sold. 

But deep in my heart, I knew that that would have been karmically disingenuous of me, at the very least. Like making someone a sandwich made with deli meat that was on its last legs. Maybe they'd be OK, and maybe they wouldn't - but I'd always know that I'd done wrong. 

So, continuing my practice of seeking to be grateful for everything, I am grateful that I have the money to pay for this expensive thing. I am grateful that the old machine, tired and exhausted and wearing out, got me through the terrible heat of July and early August. And I am grateful that it happened when it did, when I didn't have to weigh and measure my own honesty. 

For Today

"You must go on adventures to find out where you truly belong." 

- Sue Fitzmaurice

For Today

"You must go on adventures to find out where you truly belong." 

- Sue Fitzmaurice

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Fat Little Wren

Fat Little Wren / oil on black canvas / 5x7 / $68 including shipping

This bird has flown...

THE ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY of Peter's death is coming. It's Oct. 10, so it is still a ways off, but I can see it out there. A dark patch in the approaching future. 

I told my counselor that I am dreading this anniversary, and she asked why, and the question brought me up short. Partly, I realized, it's because anniversaries by their very nature demand measurement - of time passing, of accomplishments, of healing - and there is something in me that feels, always, always, that when there is something to be measured, I will come up short. 

Those of you who know me well probably have seen this in me for years, but today was the first moment that I recognized it in myself. 

And whether I would or wouldn't measure up isn't the point. The point is, really, for me, at least, that there is no measurement. There is no set rate of recovery, of re-entry into the atmosphere of the living, of daily life, of the joyous. 

Even if there were something like that, there is no one to do the measuring. And even if there were both of those things, who cares? I am doing as well as I can, and that is all that anyone can ask of herself. 
Dog of the Day
IT'S KOKO, on home base. Almost every morning, the dogs and I walk with our friend Liesl. We let everyone run in the fenced-in ballpark down the street, and Lulu races like a rocket around the entire field, while Dr. Cooper sometimes runs with her and sometimes just lopes a bit, and Koko, bless her heart (in the southern sense of the phrase) just hangs around home. 

For Today


Already one day has detached itself from all the rest up ahead.
It has my photograph in its soft pocket.
It wants to carry my breath into the past in its bag of wind.

I write poems to untie myself, to do penance and disappear
Through the upper right-hand corner of things, to say grace.

- Charles Wright

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Canada Goose

Canada Goose / Oil on black canvas / 5x7 / $68 including shipping

flown south for the winter! 

MY FRIEND LIESL lives nearby (everyone in Wachapreague lives nearby), and was one of the first people to visit after Peter died. 

She came to the door, offered her condolences, handed me a pretty bag and went away, after offering to help with anything. In the bag were two more bags, one of Girardelli chocolates, and the other, Milo's meatballs - for the dogs. 

Even in my pain and grief, I saw that this was a thoughtful and interesting gesture. I enjoyed the chocolates and the dogs went berserk over the meatballs. Instantly, they became my little friends' favorite treats.

In the spring, Liesl and I began walking three or sometimes all four dogs pretty much every day, for about an hour. 

On our walks, we saw family groups of Canada geese - with teeny, tiny goslings - cross Atlantic Avenue every day, to go to the water. In an amazingly short time, the goslings grew bigger and bigger, until finally, they were about the size of the adults, and then, they were gone. 

I miss them! 

Above, the nearly grown geese with the adults. Below, Liesl with Doc and Koko

For Today

"The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience."

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, August 19, 2020


Kingfisher / Oil on black canvas / 5x7 / $68 including shipping

This bird has flown to a new home! 

THESE DAYS, I HAVE FELT DULL, in the Victorian novel sense of the word. I am sure that part of it is the journey of recovery that I'm on, learning to live alone, without the input from my smart and interesting husband. Without the sparking of ideas shared and discussed, pulled apart and put back together. Without the bits of nagging and temper that sometimes punctuated our peaceful life. Without the rhythms and patterns of decades together.

But I am sure, also, that part of it is the covid, and how my world has shrunk because of it. I see people, I talk to people, I go places - but it is all limited, in part by my spiritual and emotional frailty and in part by the virus.

I am in awe of my friends who live alone and who have carved out meaningful, onward-moving lives without the constant input of a partner, and all the ripples that person brings to a surface that I am finding to be too often too still.

So I will seek some different experiences, go someplace if not new, at least some place I haven't visited in a while. I will try a new color of paint, read a new book, maybe strike up a conversation with a stranger. And I will wait with whatever patience I can muster, for things to change. 

For Today

"People don't take trips. Trips take people." 

- John Steinbeck

Tuesday, August 18, 2020


Goldfinch / oil on black canvas / 5x7 / $68 includes shipping


THIS MORNING, WHILE LIESL and the dogs and I were walking, I heard Canada geese calling, and looked up to see a small flock heading south. It probably was just happenstance, but maybe not. Maybe the fall migration is starting. I have read that birds' schedules depend on the length of days more than anything else, and the days are certainly shorter now, on both ends. 

I myself am glad. I will be glad when this year is over and done with, and one of the signs of that happening is this brutally hot summer drawing to an end. Though I don't like the later and later dawns, I welcome the earlier sunsets, and the slight lessening of the strength of the sun's rays. I sure will miss the birds when they go, though. 

Liesl with Lulu and Koko, on Sunday, a beautiful morning in Wachapreague. 

A Final Thought

"The very idea of a bird is a symbol and a suggestion to the poet. A bird seems to be at the top of the scale, so vehement and intense is his life, large-brained, large-lunged, hot, ecstatic, his frame charged with buoyancy and his heart with song." 

- John Burroughs

Monday, August 17, 2020

House Wren on Black

House Wren on Black / Oil on black canvas / 5x7 / $68 includes shipping


WELL, MY BIG NEWS is that I now have my very own Zoom Room. I don't know how to use it yet, though I am learning on my own, and also have a tutorial scheduled. I have participated in a number of Zoom meetings, and that's been fun in a sort of Brady Bunch kind of way. 

I've been giving free painting workshops on Facebook Live on Saturdays at 1 p.m. (there will be one this Saturday, if all goes well), and I'm going to be doing a short series for the Academy for Lifelong Learning this fall. I want to keep doing the freebees, but I also want to start some for-profit workshops and demos - and what else? 

I've already thought of online painting parties, for kids and adults. I've thought of private lessons. I've thought of a series of lessons that I record and you take at your own pace. I've thought of paint-a-thon fund-raisers (What does this mean? How would this work? I have no idea, but I think there's a kernel of something there). I would like to take a painting trip at some point, and would do live plein-air demos from far afield, if I can get (or bring) a wifi connection. 

What ideas do you have? What would you like to see me do online, from my Zoom Room? I'd open to all thoughts and musings - and they don't have to be for-profit. Now that I have this thing, I'd like to have fun with it! 

For Today

"I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again." 

- Eric Roth

Friday, August 14, 2020

Hummer by Hanging Flower

Hummer by Hanging Flower / Oil on black canvas / 5x7 / $68 including shipping


THE DOGS, my marvelous, celebratory, loving dogs, have been driving me crazy this week. The reason is the overabundance of golf carts that the weekend people insist on driving up and down Bayview Avenue. 

Dr. Cooper and Lulu have a passionate hatred of golf carts, and bark ferociously whenever they go by. The bark and bark, and snarl, and the hair stands up along their backs, and sometimes, they get so riled up that the turn on each other, growling and snapping and looking for all the world like wild dogs. 

It's not only the barking, which has been blistering and unending, but it's also their latest and related endeavor, redecorating the living room.

When the couch is in the right place - where I, the HUMAN, wants it - the left-hand arm of the couch is where you see it in the photo below. 


See the little table? Before I took this photo, Doc and Lulu had managed to move the couch so that the left-hand arm was snuggled up against the table where it is in the photo. Of course, they had moved the table, too. 

They do this by pushing off from the couch, with their considerable muscle and vigor, as they leap to the bench under the window to bark ferociously at the passing golf carts. 

At first, I thought I was losing my mind. The couch was in a different place, I was sure it was. My neck was killing me as I watched TV! But then I realized what was happening. 

So this is just irritating, and while blame the dogs for it, I really blame the darn golf carts.

A Final Thought

"Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, 
still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings." 

- Victor Hugo

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Mr. Blue

Mr. Blue / Oil on black canvas / 5x7 / $68 including shipping

THE BIRDS DON'T KNOW that there's a pandemic. They pay no heed to social distance. They crowd the feeders, gather in big flocks on the lawn, string themselves side by each by dozens on the telephone wires. 

And if someone tells you that you eat like a bird, they probably mean to say you don't eat much, but they would be so wrong. The birds at my feeders are pigs! And I love them for it. They come back 100 times in an hour. They stuff their beaks full. They toss the seeds they don't like to the ground so they can get at the ones they do like. And they fight the other birds for food, and for the best spots at the troughs. 

It's how we are in our deep, dark souls, isn't it? 

For Today

The Pasture

I'm going out to clear the pasture spring;
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha'n't be gone long. - You come too.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf
That's standing by the mother. It's so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha'n't be gone long. - You come too. 

-Robert Frost

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Two Wrens

Two Wrens / Oil on cradled beech / 3x9 / $48 including shipping

These birds have flown! Sold!

THIS PAINTING IS A DEPARTURE for me on several levels. First, it's on wood - a box-like structure of beech, called "cradled beech." I usually paint on canvas, but saw this in the art-supply store and decided to try it. It was fun to paint on, but a little small, and deeper than my regular canvases. So I probably won't be doing a whole lot of paintings on this support - though it would be nice for a small, vertical floral. 

This is the first of three (so far) paintings of birds on plain black canvas. Those of you who have followed my painting for years know that I am often entranced by images at this point - on the black canvas, without color or pattern. I often want to leave them like this, because it highlights the images so strongly. But I have found that many people don't like the black. 

So - if you love the image but don't like the black, I will paint over it for you, with a color or colors of your choice. Or, if you'd like me to decide and paint whatever background I think would work, that's OK, too. Just let me know! 

And maybe you will like the birds on the black background. We shall see. 

A Final Thought

"I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird 
and not enough the bad luck of the early worm." 

- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Hummer by Purple Flowers

Hummer by Purple Flowers / oil on black canvas / 5x7 / $68 includes shipping


IN THE MIDDLE of the unpronounceable tropical storm, and in the midst of the even-stronger straight-line wind that blew through a few days later, hummingbirds showed up at the feeder. 

How is it that a wind that can break giant limbs off ancient trees can't keep a hummingbird quiet? 

I found an explanation of sorts from Science Daily, which described an experiment being conducted (this was 2010, so it's probably already done) at the Extreme Fluids Lab at Los Alamos National Lab. 

Hummers' wings move in a sort of figure-eight pattern, so they get lift on the upstroke and the downstroke. Other birds' wings don't move this way. The figure-eight oscillation gives them a huge lift, and allows them to hover. And they adjust the angle of the wing-stroke constantly, to let them weave their way though huge winds. 

But another article, from Backyard Wildlife Connection, said that scientists put hummers in a wind tunnel, and found that the little birds couldn't fly in wind stronger than 27 mph. But I saw them out there! Maybe they were flying just in the lulls between the big winds. 

Here is a cool video about hummingbirds and the way they fly. You have to scroll down in the page a little to find it.

For Today

"By the way, did you fellows know that a hummingbird weighs as much as a quarter? Do you think a hummingbird also weighs the same as two dimes and a nickel? But then she asked a question of her own: How do they weigh a hummingbird?" 

- Calvin Trillin

Monday, August 10, 2020

Puddle Gulls

Puddle Gulls / oil on black canvas / 8x10 / $88 includes shipping


WELL, I GUESS I took a week off last week. It wasn't planned, and there really wasn't anything wrong - I simply lost my momentum. 

And how much of life is really about that? I think a fair bit - at least of my life. 

While I do love starting things - projects, days, exercise regimens - I find sustaining them far more difficult. And finishing things? I am a Grade-F finisher. 

The Bird A Day project is one of my more well-sustained ventures, probably because it makes me so happy. I still love making the bird paintings, and I love it when you all buy them. The whole thing is very positive - and is a giant help to finding my way in life, post-Peter. 

So here's to the unscheduled week off, the chance to catch a breath in the hot August Confinement days. I recommend it. 

For Today

I'VE BEEN ENJOYING making limericks this week, for reasons I can't understand or explain. But it's fun! Why not try one, or 100? (It's a little addictive). 

Your standard limerick is five lines, with the rhyme scheme AA/BB/A. The rhythm is anapestic, which means two unstressed syllables are followed by a stressed one. 

The first and second line each has three anapests - da dum, da da dum, da da dum.

The middle two lines have two anapests each - da da da da dum, da da da da dum

And the final line goes back to three anapests - da dum. da da dum, da da dum

Of course, there are minor variations, squishing, squashing, etc. Limericks are supposed to be fun! 

Here's one that I made up to go with the painting above. Please add yours in the comments below, or email them to me at

There once was a gull with a thirst
Who looked for a fountain, but first
He found a small puddle
His joy wasn't subtle!
And in no time, his thirst was reversed.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Thurston Owl the Third

Thurston Owl the Third / oil on black canvas / 5x7 / $68 includes shipping!

YES, MY CULTURAL LEXICON includes "Gilligan's Island"! In fact, though I can barely remember what I did yesterday, or what I am supposed to do tomorrow, I can sing you the entire theme song of "Gilligan's Island." 

I would also more or less brag that I could tell you stories of the episodes, but first off, that would be a lie, and second, it would be more or less meaningless, since, as far as I recall, each episode went pretty much this way: One of the marooned people figures out a way to get off the island, Gilligan flubs up the plan, and they remain marooned. 

I've heard people my age (and even myself!) look at the current youth culture and rue the fact that today's teens and 20-somethings will one day run the world. I can bet that my parents looked at my brother and me being entranced with "Gilligan's Island" and had similar misgivings. 

For Today

The Ballad of Gilligan's Isle

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship. 

The mate was a mighty sailor man
The skipper brave and sure
Five passengers set sail that day
On a three-hour tour
A three-hour tour

The weather started getting rough
The tiny ship was tossed
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The Minnow would be lost
The Minnow would be lost

The ship set ground on the shore of this
Uncharted desert isle
With Gilligan, the Skipper, too
The millionaire, and his wife
A movie star,
The professor and Mary Ann
Here on Gilligan's Isle

That's all I remember! Or at least, that's all I thought I remembered, but "no phone, no lights, no motor car/Not a single luxury" did resonate. So the same tune recurred with new words on the closing credits. Here's how that part goes: 

Now, this is a tale of our castaways
They're here for a long, long time
They'll have to make the best of things
It's an uphill climb

The first mate and his Skipper, too
Will do their very best
To make the others comfortable
In their tropic island nest

No phone, no lights, no motor car
Not a single luxury,
Like Robinson Crusoe
It's primitive as can be

So join us here each week my friends,
You're sure to get a smile
From seven stranded castaways
Here on Gilligan's Isle! 

 - written by Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle