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Friday, September 30, 2011


Five Things Friday (Sprouting)
Who ever said wings only sprout in the spring?  The fullness of summer is stirring growth within me.  My hands keep moving, my ears keep hearing, my heart keeps seeing and I'm harvesting something here.
* * *
A beautiful gift of life and death arrived in the mail today, sent by a handsome feline.
* * *
I'm mourning a kindred spirit's loss.  Flinging tears like swinging incense, beseeching the heavens to allow me to carry some of the pain for her.  It never works that way.  So I will soldier up and broaden my shoulders incase she needs to lean this way.  And even if she doesn't, I'll be close, waiting.  Because sometimes love requires stillness, sometimes it requires patience, and always it requires space to breath.
* * *
I've lost myself in a book this week; chapter two is titled Moth Love.  I was exactly halfway through another book, and thought I'd just peek at the first chapter... 120 pages later...
* * *
Work in the studio has felt cumulative: one shape informs the next, one color educates my eyes, one motion becomes fluid and then we see the birthing of image.  My studio feels like a university of one: knowledge grows through trial, error and just showing up.  Showing up every day.
* * *
My family of five will only be five for one more week, before four more legs descend in a wiggling ball of energy.  All books must move up to high ground, all low swinging plants raised.  Batten down the hatches!  Say a pray for chair legs!

Here's to you, and me, and another week lived!
~ Umber ~

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sleeping in Bear Country

Last night, 
as the final hot arcs of sun stretched over the hills, after the tent was up and the sleeping bags unrolled, when the hum of ten million tiny wings grew to a roar,
I walked along the dirt path neatly separating the redwood forest from the open fields.  Sancho and I took our time, he busy sniffing out the trails of wild turkeys, me stuffing pockets with blue Jay feathers and plump rose hips.  Regularly I squinted into the sun, scanning the meadow; past the blackberries and thistles, around the scattered wild apple trees, keeping the pup close just in case. 
And then, against the far tree line, two black ears rose above the fescue.  Standing perfectly still, pale brown muzzle, sloped shaggy shoulders.  
I would be lying if I did not say my heart was beating a wild waltz.
I walked a few steps, shielded my eyes against the watery glare, and looked again.  The shape had changed, moved, but that profile was distinctive.  Was it a coy trick my retinas and my subconscious had paired up to play?  The sun was boring into my face, fading color to nothing but hot outlined shapes.  
We retreated calmly but with quick feet, climbing back up the short path to our site, glancing back at the now obscured meadow, adrenaline rushing in my ears.

When we entered the park, the ranger told us black bears had been sighted recently - and when it comes to caution I'm not a gal who needs to be told twice.  Before we tucked in for the night, every last stitch and crumb was locked away tight.  With the pup snuggled close at our feet, bellies full of flame-cooked food, and filtered moonlight on my face, we fell asleep to the sound of crickets.

When I awoke the first time the moon had set.  The black branches of the redwoods above us were barely perceptible against the midnight sky.  The pup was growling low and something large was rustling nearby.  SNAP a twig would break.  CRACK a branch would give way.  I tried to breathe silently in the futile way of humans; slow, open mouthed breaths so as to not compromise my hearing.  I poked BC's shoulder until he stirred with grunt.  The thwacking and crackling continued on, but no nearer the tent, until eventually we fell back into fitful sleep.  
When I awoke the second time, the stars were out, winking merrily through the needles.  Something walked across the tarp on the far side of the site.
When I awoke the third time, I needed desperately to pee, but a loud crunching sound was all I needed to convince my bladder back to sleep.
When I awoke the fourth time, the woods were blissfully silent.  Clear light was beginning to pool in the eastern sky and for the first time that night, I shivered.

When the first light of dawn brought color back to the forest, we pulled on layers and piled out of the tent.  Our little site was untouched, but the wild apple at the base of the hill, the one not more than fifty yards from us, looked worse for wear.  The ground below was scattered with broken limbs, healthy green leaves, and the largest pile of bear scat I had ever seen (composed primarily of apples, for interested parties).  The trunk held several sets of fresh gashes, deep marks from claws on their way up and one long stripe from what must have been a slip of the foot.

All of this to say,

I love the wild.

But I think I'll sleep sound in my cozy bed tonight.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Day in the Life of the Dove: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

[A photographic account of a single day in my life, a Sunday, a Sabbath, a day of rest, a day of action, and a day of staying up too late]

- Sunday September 25th 2011 -

8:13 am
9:03 am
11:23 am
11:36 am
11:58 am
12:30 pm
1:01 pm
1:07 pm
1:52 pm
2:25 pm
2:58 pm
3:20 pm
4:32 pm
4:59 pm
5:06 pm
5:13 pm
5:18 pm
6:09 pm
6:20 pm
6:47 pm
7:41 pm
8:51 pm
9:41 pm
9:50 pm
10:15 pm
10:51 pm
11:06 pm
11:43 pm
And with that, I bid you good night.
~ Umber ~

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What To Do With Fifty Pounds of Tomatos, Should They End Up In Your House

At the Tuesday afternoon Farmer's Market I may have accidentallyonpurpose bought 50 pounds of tomatos.  You see, one of the biggest trade-offs to living this close to the ocean is the fussy nature of growing tomatos.  They just don't love my misty, cool summers without a lot of babying.  So when the farmers 30 miles inland bring out the real summer produce I am a moth to the flame.
Diving into bushels of fruit without a care for my safety or sanity.  Open mouthed.  Wide eyed.  The girl in a mini skirt at the market, lugging around two huge flats of red goodness with canvas bags criss-crossed over her shoulders filled with zucchini and cucumbers. 
That said, the last 24 hours have seen a merry bubbling of multiple pots on the stove and a whirlwind of activity as I've tried to preserve every last drop for those dark grey days of winter.  All in all, 24 pints of tomato soup, 10 pints of salsa, and 13 half-pints of apple butter (did I mention the apples? A gift from BC's parents from their fuji tree; we stood together in 90 degree temperatures and filled a bucket last weekend, tossing bruised apples for Sancho and crunching through as many as we could). This year, when the hail falls and the birch trees shiver, I'll be sipping on soup and remembering when I wore tank tops and bare feet.

Actually I may start sipping soup now.  It's that delish.  So much in fact that I decided to share the recipe with you just in case you too are a nutcase for tomatos OR just have a bumper crop to preserve!
Tomato Soup to Cure the Winter Blues

You will need:
13 lbs Tomatos - scrubbed, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 Cups Chopped Onions
1/4 Cups Chopped Garlic - about 8 cloves will do
1 Cup Fresh Basil - washed and coarsely chopped
1 Cup Red Wine  - something just nice enough that you will enjoy drinking the rest of
1/2 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Sugar
1 6oz Can Tomato Paste

~ One ~
Put on some music.  Don't fool around here, this is important.  For me, I started a new pandora station based on En Vogue and TLC.  That's right folks, old school, belt it out over peeling tomatos.  They gotta hear the passion in your voice!
"Whatta man, whatta man, whatta mighty good man"

~ Two ~ 
Place tomatos in a LARGE stockpot:  I begin by washing, blanching (to make the skins just slide off), peeling, and rough chopping 6-8 tomatos, tossing them juice, seeds and all into the pot, and bringing them up to a slow boil.  From there repeat with remaining tomatos, keeping a steady low boil / high simmer.  Stir regularly and mash (using a potato masher) to break down tomatos.

~ Three ~
Pour 1/4 Cup Red Wine into a sauce pan and saute onions and garlic.  Toss 'em in the stockpot.  From here add all remaining ingredients: 3/4 Cup Red Wine, Vinegar, Basil, Salt, Sugar, Paste.  Bring back up to a full boil.

~ Four ~ 
Working in batches (or using an immersion blender if you're fancy and have one of those), blend soup until smooth and creamy.  Return to pot and bring back to boil.  From here, continuing simmering, stirring regularly, until soup reaches a consistency you prefer.  I like mine fairly thick and hearty.

~ Five ~
Fill hot, sterile jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace, and process in a boiling water bath.  If using pints, process for 35 minutes, for quarts process 45 minutes.

~ A Few Tricks and Tips ~
**  To make your soup as safe as safe can be, do not lower the quantity of acidic ingredients (tomatos, vinegar) or raise the quantity of alkaline ingredients (onions, garlic, basil).  Let's stay botchulism free!
** This recipe yields 10-12 pints of soup.
**  If you are not comfortable with canning / processing your own soups, I'm pretty certain this recipe would freeze BEAUTIFULLY.
** I plan on eating this with a dollop of cremé fraiche and a sprinkling of fresh herbs as well as with a crusty grilled cheese sandwich and a side of cucumbers.  YUMS!
p.s.  what the what....?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On the Subject of Unfurling

When I woke up this morning the air was so thick I could almost drink it.  Around here, tucked between the salt of the ocean and the heat of the mountains, the fog rolls in thicker than goose down.  When you step outside in the watery first light of day, a delicate tinkling greets your ears as every leaf and needle drips dew.
It's quiet and damp.
There is so much room to breath, to stretch, to sigh.
To be gentle with yourself, no matter what yesterday held.

This morning when I woke I had to remind myself to unfurl once again, to relax the spring-loaded spiral of my heart, to trust that I can be safe and open at the same time.

Unfurl those heart strings, let them curl towards the sky.
With every breath, broaden those fronds.
Take that tight curl, that coiled spring you hold in your chest
Let it open.
Let it open.
Unfurl Rings
Unfurl Ring
(100% Sterling Silver, pressed with the tiniest of ferns, plucked right here on the high Northern California Coast.  In US sizes 5.75, 8, and 9.5)

I am a little fern.
And this wet climate suits my soul.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sketchbook Writings

~ From my Sketchbook Writings, Thursday September 15th ~
It feels like fall.  Like damp soil and goosebumps on forearms and gray cashmere cardigans.
The leaves are falling.  Falling fat and flaxen but if I squint I can pretent they are snow.
I can not break this stare; is it possible to be hypnotized by a season?  To fall utterly and completely under the control of a force as distance and permeating as the orbital path of the earth?
Perhaps when I wake the shiver of bamboo will leave the taste of late season peaches on my tongue.  No.  My senses are confused.  They've been swirled and whipped up through the vortex of birch leaves and tiny gnats, spinning for one last golden second in the remains of summer.
* * *