Thursday, July 23, 2015

July Garden

We've had lots of rainy, stormy weather lately but this morning was glorious and can be summed up in two words: sunshine and bees.

It is so nice to see all of the activity and life in the garden at this point in the season. I feel weirdly proud that the bees like my garden and spend so much time in it. The bees aren't the only ones who are busy. I've been trying to garden every morning when the weather has cooperated. A couple of weeks ago, I figured out that if I spend two to three hours working in the garden each morning that, at the end of two weeks, I will have managed to work in each of my flower beds. So that's been my morning routine. I get up, make myself coffee and head outside. I paint inside in the afternoons when it's too hot to be outdoors.

All gardeners know that a weeded garden is only a theory. I am not foolishly expecting to have a perfect garden nor do I want one. I just want to feel less embarrassed about its state if we have visitors and to be able to to sit in a chair occasionally and admire it instead of feeling like I need to jump up and fix something right away.

This morning I pruned and weeded the back perennial bed. It's looking pretty full and lush. However, the end of the bed that extends beyond the right side of the photo is going to need work. It has become shadier and shadier in the past few years to the point that I've lost some of the plants. My oriental poppies are gone among others. It's hard to lose things but gardens tell us what they need and the right end of this particular bed is crying out for shade-loving plants. I may divide some astilbe and hostas from other parts of the garden and move them here this autumn.

Speaking of hostas, they are blooming in the front yard and were looking absolutely gorgeous this morning. These are 'Francee'.

Other favourites from my garden tour this morning include my Summer Snowflake viburnum (Viburnum plicatum) and a stunningly beautiful poppy.

The vegetable garden is also bursting with colour at the moment including this blue borage plant that reseeded from last year. The warm colours in the background come from ripening tomatoes, squash blossoms and nasturtiums. It's exciting to see so much happening at once but not everything is thriving. This morning I discovered that my hot pepper plant has wilted and my eggplant is struggling a little. In a garden, nothing is static which provides both its pleasure and ongoing challenges.

"The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature."  Alfred Austin

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Meeko Time

Every now and then, Meeko leans over and whispers 'If you're looking for a blog subject, I'm sure people wouldn't mind one all about me'.

It's hot and humid here. Even without the heat, in the summer my art productivity always slows down. My concentration is always off when others are in the house, even though I enjoy my daughters' school vacation presence. Snatching an hour to paint here and there doesn't always work. I'm better off with a stretch of a few hours of uninterrupted studio time--time to think, time to putter, time to produce. Plus I have a very big garden that requires my regular presence during the summer. This past week, I've been getting up early each morning to go out and work in the garden for two to three hours before the day's heat hits. If I don't look after it daily, it becomes an unworkable jungle.

The rest of my summer days seem to be a bit of a blur--dentist appointments (Chloé got her wisdom teeth removed this past week; Emma's appointment is in August), various errands, visits to framing suppliers, preparations for a garage sale, the beginning of a painting commission, mom's 'taxi', walks with Meeko.

Wait a minute. Meeko. Once again, I think the furry boy might be right.

A serviceberry from our garden. Meeko loves berries.
Gentle boy.
A rare off-leash summer run. Yippee!
"I stand on guard for thee." I think it's more to do with dogs, cats and squirrels in the park. 
Gardening companion whether at work or at rest.

A blog post brought to you by Meeko.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's My Birthday

It's my birthday on July 1st. Canada Day. I have always loved having my birthday the same day as a national celebration and holiday.

Today, I was walking Meeko and thought I am going to be 48 tomorrow. It took me a few more steps to do the mental correction. No, I am going to be 58. Kind of hilarious that I lost a decade but nice that I am feeling younger than I am.

When I initially launched my internet life, I hid my age like a closely guarded secret. I felt like everyone was younger than me. That was especially the vibe, although perhaps not factual, on Etsy. I worried that people wouldn't like or value me as much if they knew how old I was.

I have made many wonderful friends over the past few years of all sorts of ages. We have connected because of mutual interests and values: a sense of humour, art, gardens, music, nature, pets, food, family, life.

Over time, I have realized that creativity is not age-related. It just is. And really, if you're counting, maybe having a few more years under your creative belt is a good thing.

Plus, the age we are is not really relevant every-day conversation, unless you are under five. The people who spend time reminding others that they are younger are not talking about achievements or values. We don't choose when we are born. That's done for us. We're all on a timeline, just at different places. It's better to spend time appreciating connections, celebrating creativity and being who we are.

The photo above was taken three years ago. I found it in my files when I was looking for photos for my new website this past month. I didn't choose it because I wanted to look three years younger. The pickings are slim when you are as camera shy as I am (!) and I just love that it captures a sweet moment between me and Meeko.

To celebrate my birthday and Canada Day, I am offering a 20% discount in my (Shopify) shop  on July 1st. Use the coupon BDAY2015. It expires at midnight (EST) at the end of the day on July 1st.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Saying Goodbye from a Distance

This past week, my parents moved from their lakeside home on the shores of Lake Muskoka, a special place that has been part of our family for about thirty-five years. They purchased the cottage when I was in my early twenties. In those days, I worked and lived in Toronto so I would often go there on weekends and during my summer holidays.

When my parents retired, they rebuilt the cottage into a beautiful four-season residence and moved into it on a permanent basis. Although it had changed completely from its simple beginning and use, we continued to refer to it as 'the cottage' in our family. I moved to Montreal when I was in my early thirties. The eight-hour drive from Montreal to Gravenhurst meant that visits were much less frequent but the cottage continued to be part of each summer. Emma and Chloé, now 20 and almost 16, got to know it from when they were babies.

I had really hoped to go and help my parents with their move and to say goodbye to the cottage but, by the time Chloé's final school exams were over and we could have travelled there, it was too late to be of help.

If you are on Instagram and Facebook and noticed a reduced presence on my part in the past couple of weeks, it was because I was barely looking at my feed. Every time I saw a photo posted by a family member from the cottage, I would start to cry. So I stopped looking. I'm sorry if I missed other things.

As one friend noted, not being there means that my memories of the cottage will not be of its packed-up, empty state but the way it was over the years. Among the layers of things I will remember will be swimming out to a big submerged rock with my younger sister, Karen where we could stand and dive--'our rock' we called it. I'll remember laying on the dock on my stomach with Emma and Chloé when they were little, catching minnows in a fish net, observing them and then putting them right back in the lake. I'll remember the camaraderie and group nuttiness of the cousins--Emma, Chloé, Duncan, Mac, Katie, Erica and Sydney. I'll remember the beautiful sunrises and the late-night stars. Falling asleep to the lapping sound of the lake and the occasional haunting call of a loon. Reading books sitting in the big Muskoka chairs on the dock with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.  The boat rides to get ice cream and long walks with the family dogs. I'll remember the gatherings, the chats and the laughter.

The cottage and its gentle natural surroundings have also figured frequently in my art over the past thirty-five years. I have painted many Muskoka scenes, some in oil and then, in recent years, in watercolour.

I spoke to my parents yesterday. They are in their new home in town, a place that is more suited to them now. They said that the family who bought the cottage seems to really love it so it is in good hands. I have managed to write this blog post without crying so that's progress. We will be visiting my mom and dad's new place sometime soon. As for the cottage memories, they will always be ours.

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