Moonflower Morning

Fall fell all at once this week.  One day the high was 90 degrees, the next the high was 64.  I expected a more gradual drop, but I love the cooler weather and the impending turning colors of leaves.  Here, we have a lot of oaks, so the dominant color of fall is this lovely golden light filtered through yellow and brown leaves.

But these last few days have been cloudy and my moonflowers aren’t following their usual bloom schedule.  The first cool cloudy morning, they were open, big as you please.


This is a bit blurred, but it was a delight to see the moonflower and dahlia blooming at the same time.

In these fall days, leaves are dying back.  Some leaves give you more color for a minute, but some just go from green to brown and you become deeply aware of mortality.  I don’t try to cut back the diminishing leaves too much.  That’s part of the landscape, even of a porch garden.  Plants bloom, give me pleasure, then fade away.

Moonflower among the fading dahlia leaves

I cut and watched a waning elephant ear leaf fade over a few days.  The yellows and browns seemed so vivid, I enjoyed watching the curling edges brown and the complex swirl of the leaf structure.


Fall is a welcome relief from the heat of summer.  A beautiful and melancholy season.  I stroll around the neighborhood and see gardens transforming.  People are decorating for Halloween and I see everything from ghoulish bones and monsters to funny pumpkins.

I think of the people I know and love who have died, and I long for another kind of ritual, more like the Day of Dead, celebrating those we have loved and lost and want to keep close through stories, food and visitations to their resting places.  Cleaning a grave, remembering that we are mortal, that we don’t have all the answers, that our lives passing like an undecipherable dream.

I saw a dead robin as I was strolling around and it opened up a stream of grief, I started thinking of lost friends, sad songs, and then actually started crying.  It was so strange.  I wondered if a depression was coming on.  Is the change of light going to be especially hard this year?  I have so enjoyed this sunny summer.  I can’t believe it’s over.  Though many sad and troubling things happen in summer, it seems I reflect more on them in fall.

I wrote a poem about 5 years ago about what leaves tell us about life.

Leaf Story

Under the gray sky

We walk upon a carpet

Of ruby and gold leaves

Enchanted to find

The ground so much

Brighter than the sky

We say this is the time of loss

The leaves blazing a

Last gasp of color

Before they die

Dust to dust


But the leaves crackle out

Another side of the story

As they make their yearly journey

Back to simplified elements

Flowing in the winter rains

Back to their roots

Where the tree absorbs them

Where they make their slow way up

To begin life on a limb


And again


A friend took me to a local nursery for discount plants — the ones that didn’t get watered and are drooping and browning.  We grabbed up all the ones with live buds and brought them home to give them some TLC.  I should have mums blooming in another week.    Another friend brought me some new plants, new color.

Ornamental peppers – probably will miss the heat but they hold on to their jewel like colors
Coleus good for summer and fall
Angelonia looks like a little orchid — one of the sale plants enjoying the care it’s getting
Egyptian Star flower and angelonia

I’m learning this year that there are flowers that prefer shorter days and long cool nights.  They are coming to life as others are dying back.  It’s normal to feel the sadness of this old world more keenly as summer ends.

A robin doesn’t worry about its mortality, it flies, it maybe reproduces, it lives, it dies.  As do all things.  Even the oaks, hundreds of years old, who will give me filtered golden light in the coming month.  They will one day fall, making room for some acorn to thrive.

Everything, perhaps, is as it should be.

Moonflower, watercolor and ink on paper


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Autumn Inspirations

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile, but between the Chronically Inspired Workshop and the Portland Open Studios, I’ve been pretty inspired.  I’ve also been deeply lost in thought about life and death, the thoughts and meditations that seem to arise in Autumn.

I had a wonderful conversation with Sara Swink, a vibrant ceramic artist,, about the art I make related to bodies in transformation.  She told me of a piece she made that came out of the kiln cracked at the breast and a woman who saw it and loved it, because it reminded her of her mastectomy scar.

A scar of any kind is a bit can be interpreted as a flaw, but it is really a mark of survival — and I have to say I admire the knitted skin of a scar much more than the delicate patterns of tattoos.  I have seen some artful tattoos patterned around scars but I think a scar itself is a powerful symbol of renewal and the body’s yearning to heal and be whole.  I have a scar from a major cut on my thumb and a major surgery on my wrist.  It has a long seam one little keloid bump that I interpret as a web.  You can’t see it very well in this photo, but in person it’s dramatic.  The skin is strong and smooth.  My hand works perfectly every day in spite of the fact that the thumb was cut to the bone and might have never worked if they hadn’t sewn it back together.  The knob of  my wrist bone broke off in a fall and was put back together with a screw.  Ahh, the miracle hand.

Miracle hand

One of the women in my Chronically Inspired class almost died from Lupus a few months ago, and she now has a tracheotomy scar on her neck.  For a long time she wouldn’t look in the mirror, then she felt like she should wear a scarf to keep from scaring people — but she got hot.  Now she barely thinks about it.  It’s a line, a life-line, a neck jewel that says survival.

So I got the idea to do an homage to scars, and have been working on doll who has had a mastectomy called Survivor, a sculpted doll about 18″ high.  It’s gone through many transformations (no surprise) and taught me a lot about how to balance things and make good armatures.

I’ve also been working on a doll for a friend and some ideas for heart ornaments.

This is also a season of mourning from me.  My younger brother died about 2 years ago.  We don’t know his exact death date.  He had schizophrenia and was often  uncommunicative.  His last call on his cell phone records was October 25th.  He wasn’t found until November 11th.  I mourn his death, but  more so, I mourn his illness that isolated him so badly, although he was high functioning and succeeded in being independent.  I have had many dream visitations from him since his death and he seems much happier.

Halloween used to be a favorite time, and I loved the whole macabre celebration.  Now I feel removed from it.  It’s a more sacred time and I don’t like seeing the glorification of insanity, wounds and zombies.  I didn’t actually see my brother’s decayed body, but we had to do some clean up of his apartment and the smell, the disorder, the fluids, the remnants and the depth of that experience has not left me, and I can’t get into the celebratory mood.

I wondered how I would feel today.  I wondered if I should erase the date of his last call and forget about it, at least on the calendar, make the memory less date related.  But something makes me want to honor this day, his memory, the thoughts I have of him as a boy, the odd things he taught me about perception.

Then yesterday I woke up to the sound of the first full rain of the season, so soothing and somber.  Years ago, I wrote a story about my son finding a loaded gun in a friend’s house, based on a true event.  And yesterday, in that time between waking and sleeping, listening to the voice of the rain, my brother’s voice came to me and retold that story, and his story, and my story, in such a profound way that I leapt from the bed and wrote it down in my little red book I keep by the bed for writing emergencies.

So today, I get to work on this new story that combines sorrow and magic; about the wisdom that the passage of time and the acceptance of loss bring.  It’s turned out to be a good day, a blessed day — the bonds between me and the world beyond life feel soft and comforting.

I’m not going to wear a costume for Halloween.  Instead I’m going to tell stories — about scars, about friendships, about portals of the mind, and about visitations from spirits far wiser than I will ever be.

He lives on in my dreams