I'm chasing my tail at the moment shipping books and doing commissions for Christmas, but I did do a sketch the other evening sitting by the fireplace. I've got out some of my Grandmother's madonnas for the season, tucked in amongst the family photos over the fireplace, and Mr. Darcy was on the rug in front of me, so I did a double sketch. It was peaceful and happy. I'm grateful that people want art for Christmas, and I will also celebrate getting back to doing a bit more sketching for myself and prints for my WAMA show once we get past the holidays.
I've been running a little crazy since I got home, dealing with mail and other things that had been piling up, seeing people I've been missing, and trying hard to get the book published in time for the holidays. I had a whole plan that failed on me, and I'm regrouping. So I haven't sketched much, but I have done a couple. Above is the Shelby Farms dog park, at the east end of the park. I hadn't been there before (further into the park than I've ventured on my bike, and my dog isn't a dog park kind of guy). But it was just around the corner from the vet where I had to leave him several hours, so I took a walk with my sketchbook and did a bit of exploring. If I had a more social dog, it would be a wonderful resource to have available. I see why people drive out from midtown.
I'm also back at my local farmers market with joy. It was lively to have tomatoes, broccoli, fresh flowers, and bread (though that didn't make it in the sketch). I really like the rhythms of Saturday mornings at home, though there certainly things I'm missing about out west as well.
I’ve been balancing work, vet care, and vacation out here. With P is for Possum finally finished, scanned in, and at the printers for a proof, I’m leaning more towards vacation (and preparations to head home, which is a bit of an undertaking). So I celebrated a couple of lovely small things in my latest journal page — an enormous tomato gift from a friend plus a second breakfast. I did that a couple of times this past week, having berries and tea when I got up but then joining Jude in an egg a bit later. It’s nice to be cooked for sometimes.
It's been a tough week with various large griefs around here and among people I care about. I've been carving on my new block, the 18x24" one, while watching some escapist BBC mysteries, but it's big enough to be going very slowly, so there's nothing really to share yet. I'm grateful for that meditative work, and I'm grateful for sketching, where I can turn bits of daily life into color and pattern and be-here-nowness. I'm also grateful that this was the week when strawberry rhubarb pie showed up at the local grocery. Rhubarb doesn't grow in Memphis, and that's a treat I really look forward to coming out here. It hasn't been available, and then yesterday it was. Baked goods, stones with strong life lines, walks in great beauty, and tea have all been balms this week. So there they are for my journal this weekend.
I lived the first 15 years in this house without a screened in porch, and mosquitoes in Memphis are pretty fierce. A decade ago I finally tacked one on to the back of the house, just off the kitchen. The space was pretty small, so it contains a table and two chairs plus a one person hammock chair, and that's really all it can manage. But it has a blue ceiling, a ceiling fan, and lots of birdsong.
With the stay at home spring and my new-found fascination with birds, I've been eating more and more meals out there through the temperate part of the year. Sometimes it feels like a lot of trouble to carry things out, but I never regret it. Now I've got this new illustration project going, and, unlike my printing, it's beautifully portable. I've carried stacks of sketchbooks, my ipad, and my paints outside, and I've been spending all day making art on my porch. It's a delight. Yesterday, after my brain had shut off for serious work, I decided I wanted to put this period in my Quarantine Journal. The sketch isn't my best, but it does show you the chaotic, colorful process of illustration. The stack of sketchbooks are to look back at on-site sketches from the forest, done over years, to refresh my memory and keep the book vivid. I'm having a ball working on this project.
I feel like most of us are having these most weeks. This week has been especially so for me. I had a lovely mother's day visit on the patio with my folks, from a safe distance. Then the baby Cardinals finally hatched. And then they died overnight in the nest, I think from cold. It affected me in an outsized way, although I imagine some of that is just the grief and stress of these times also showing up, and it's not bad to push a little of that out occasionally. Plus Mr. Darcy came over and gave me big sloppy kisses to make me feel better.
I found that I needed to physically turn the page on this page of my sketchbook, so I drew my dinner last night. I've never cooked beets before. Thanks to Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything (which I think is going to be key for my CSA journey), it was super easy, and I've had a couple of truly lovely beet salads with goat cheese and slightly candied walnuts.
Then today was lovely again. I met Dad and Pat at his grandparent's house, my great grandparents, about half a mile from their daughter's (my grandmother's) house where I live now. I never knew my great grandparents, or the house, and it's recently been bought by a lovely woman who is lovingly restoring it and who wants to know the history of the house and of our family as she moves in. It's beyond special to have someone there who wants to know and carry forward those family stories. We've had such a great series of emails over the last week, and it means a tremendous amount. I sat afterwards and sketched the house to have more happiness in my journal from this time. My favorite thing, aside from getting to see the place, was finding out that the sunroom off the main bedroom was called "The Joint" because it was jointly owned by my dad (with his bed there for weekend visits) and his grandfather, who kept his desk in there.
I've never done a CSA before, and for years now I've traveled too much to even consider it. This year, however, I will be staying home, and I'm trying to shop as little as possible. Plus I'm tired of my same cooking, so it seemed like a good idea to branch out, support fantastic local farmers Whitton Farms, and learn to cook some new things. Boy howdy, it's a lot of food for one person though! I can see that I may be sharing some with my folks as we go along, but it's exciting and very beautiful to paint. This week I am going to learn to cook beets (which I usually just buy cooked and ready to go), and I think I'll try my hand at a beet/goat cheese salad. Or feta, depending on whether I can get some goat cheese easily. And I haven't had sweet potatoes in a while. It's good to bust me out of my routines.
I also did a nest sketch. The mama goes off occasionally for short periods, so I sat up on a ladder (inside my kitchen, not near the nest!) to peep down in. It's quite a deep nest, and I'm hoping another egg or two is hidden on the near side that I couldn't see. But it was fun to glimpse the one speckled one. I didn't even know what a cardinal egg looked like. I'm so excited about a baby or two.
It's a glorious day, I got through the Farmers Market early enough to feel safe being there, and I came home with the most beautiful eggs I've ever seen. I sat on the back porch and sketched them, had my lunch, and watched Papa Cardinal chase off a Blue Jay and a mockingbird. I had grand plans to get back to my seagull block this afternoon, but I may take a nap instead.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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