Awesome Autumn

 

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The awesome colors of fall in New England can still be seen here and there but the cold weather of late is letting us know the party will soon be over. I’m already thinking back to relatively recent summer days at the beach with family like an idyllic memory. Lately I’ve been spending more time in my small basement studio here at the 411 Middle St. house. It’s warm down there, somehow just the right temperature now that the main source of heat for the whole house is turned on. I’ve been working on craft items for the holiday fair I was in last Saturday.

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This fair was a benefit for a woman’s organization in York, Maine, about a 25 minute drive from my house. Getting into Maine from here is easy and quick, but always involves a trip over one bridge or another. There are three to choose from. I followed the route that takes me into Maine on the same highway that leads to my granddaughter’s school. Her school bus makes the journey from her house in Rye to or from the school in about 45 minutes.

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The fair was my first occasion to show off a new tree ornament image, a mermaid. Before I moved to New Hampshire I had a dream where I was painting mermaids in an ocean environment. All very watery and flowing and feminine. In the dream I felt very “at one” physically with the painting, just as we imagine painting could be, an intuitive flow. Sorry to report that when push came to shove mine was more of a mental process. How do I create a mermaid that is modest and thus age appropriate for everyone? How do I suggest the bright colors of Christmas while presenting a cool, watery creature? In the end, by studying a lot of mermaid art online I came to a resolution that feels both lively and modest, beautiful and somehow seasonal. I can dream on about painting mermaids in a more spontaneous way. There could be more to come, however they find their way into form.

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The fair was also a debut event for my Soul Speak Oracle Cards, a deck of 44 cards and a booklet that has been in the works for some time. Silly me, I only took one deck for sale and one that I’ve been using myself and sharing with friends. I sold the one in the first hour. Many of you who read this blog know the history of the recent publication of the deck so I won’t go on. I do want to say that I’m committed to reprinting it as needed and keeping it available to interested people going forward. Due to high per-deck printing costs it can only be purchased from me but I am happy to work with that limitation and invite inquiries. At $35 plus shipping they make an affordable gift for someone special.

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Here is my favorite photo in this blog. I’d say it’s the beginning of a love affair that’s starting between me and the trees of New England. They are happy trees, living for the most part in locations where they have all that trees need, rain and sun in adequate amounts. Thanks to the climate there are LOTS of trees here and that, at first, felt oppressive to me. Where were the open vistas and inspiring skies of New Mexico? But I notice I’m adjusting to my new location on many levels (not bothered so much by the urban sounds and hectic energy of Portsmouth) and thankfully the trees  are starting to come into focus here.

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This photo shows the “outside looking in” side of the story of the amazing view we’ve had lately at 411 Middle St. from inside the carriage house living room looking out to a month of jaw dropping autumn leaf beauty. There are very few houses in the neighborhood that are painted brown, but I do have to say it’s very kind on the eyes and looks great as a  photo background.

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This is a closeup of the same area. The summer’s back patio area is still sporting an umbrella. That will probably disappear when the first snowflakes start to fall. I’ve heard it could be any day now.

It’s an interesting story how I came to be at the holiday crafts fair in York, Maine. The first business contact I made here was with a store on the main street of Portsmouth that sells imports from India. The owners, a couple, are from India, a country that I have come to love even though I’ve never visited it. My spiritual teacher, Gangaji, met her guru, Papaji, there, and opened me to the beauty of a Hindu branch of spirituality called Advaita Vedanta. Meanwhile I had already become enchanted by Hindu Goddesses and was integrating them into my art in many ways. And don’t forget Ganesha. He is the most popular selling card now in the store along with Lakshmi, Kuan Yin, Kali and a White Tara

A woman who works part time there saw the cards and suggested to me I participate in the crafts fair. She, it turns out, was one of the organizers of the event. And that’s how a newcomer from Taos makes it to a holiday fair in Maine. The experience was a very positive one, convincing me there will be many opportunities here to meet like-minded people and experience the satisfaction of seeing people interested in my art.

 

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Fall Unfolds

Fall unfolds here in New England and I anticipate the beauty of autumn leaves with childish enthusiasm. Just yesterday I began to photograph the drama around my Middle Street neighborhood. Those photos will have to wait for a new blog post.

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For now I need to share the photos and stories I’ve saved up for this early fall post. This first photo was taken back in mid-September when the first leaves began to change. My 14 year old granddaughter had already started her 8th grade of school at a new place, the Berwick Academy in South Berwick, Maine. Our application and her acceptance were both on the late side so there was a lot of drama around her admittance which happened very close to the beginning of classes.

She was required to choose a fall season sport and decided on field hockey. The photo below shows her (far right, pink shoes) in a recent match with a team in the nearby town of Greenland. I believe the score was tied. Just a couple of days ago I watched her team in a match with  Portsmouth and Berwick won 2 – 0. So far they are undefeated.

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It’s the beginning of October now and there hasn’t been any freezing weather as yet so there are still flowers in the backyard, such as the flax seen in this photo of the backside of the house. I’ve been told these solar panels were installed a year ago. I live on the 3rd floor. That’s my skylight window on the far right.

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I took this photo several weeks ago when the temperatures were still right for beach going and getting in the water, even if wearing a wet suit. This is a structure in the backyard that gets used for drying clothes and such. In the background you can see a roof lookout tower, a common architectural feature here in Portsmouth.

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Happened upon this display of falling leaves on a rainy day. They were tucked into a spot on the front stairs close to a drainpipe occupied by a sturdy spider web. You can see the granite step in it’s classic grey color. The city planners of Portsmouth are very fond of granite curbs. They are everywhere possible. I had a discussion once with some official city bricklayers and they said that for New England granite is practical. It doesn’t break down with the damp and temperature-variable weather here. And, I believe it’s readily available locally.

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In this photo there’s a nod to the also ubiquitous red bricks, a substitute for cement sidewalks here. I’ve learned that these bricks are traditionally made up in Maine and the various shades of color all have historic names and values. If you are a brick layer in this town you will never be out of work.

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The farm market we’ve been enjoying all summer will run until November. As this photo illustrates it’s a great time for root vegetables. The vegetable garden here at the house (sometimes referred to as Kate’s garden) is producing lots of greens such as kale, parsley, mustards and chard. I’ve found a new habit of drinking a green smoothie for lunch each day using these fresh from the garden (pick and eat). Doesn’t get better. For other ingredients I usually add a banana, some other fruit such as frozen blueberries, plus water, honey and some cashew milk or other liquid such as orange juice. Ice cubes can always be added, or an avocado. Yes, I’m still on the raw/vegan diet and finding new ways all the time to make delicious versions of breakfast cereal (my buckwheat granola) and salads.

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This last photo is, of course, Charlotte, looking into the back door that leads into the carriage house dining/living room. Notice the granite step. She had been making trips to the vegetable garden with me to water with the green plastic watering can. He favorite part was holding the can while I filled it up from the hose. Of course she led the way to the garden and watched me guide the flow of water onto the new lettuce seedlings I’ve planted late to see what happens. She has also been enjoying the ripening pears, part of the landscaping available to all of us.

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Hope to get a new blog sent out sooner than this one to celebrate those beautiful autumn colors and the interestingness that leads up to Halloween.

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Glorious August

 

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Here we are over half way through August! It’s been a beautiful season here in the New England region. Sun Valley, my home for many years, is suffering wild fires due to drought conditions. And earlier in the summer there were some similar fires, though not as dramatic, in New Mexico, near Taos, my last home. So I have to appreciate the opposite weather here which keeps coming with intervals of cool temps and rain. Where else can you have a lawn that never needs water and a garden that manages with an occasional sprinkle here and there? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. And, yes, I’ve heard this summer is unique, cooler and wetter than the norm.

I chose Day Lilies for my banner photo. There are lots of them planted here and the backyard garden here at 411 Middle is no exception. There are a surprising number of different colors and shapes. Most are more “fancy” than I’m used to, but they surely are a wonder.

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Early in the month my granddaughter, Emma, turned 14. This is her (in pink) riding her new longboard down the street in front of her house with her best friend (in front, in black, holding on to a cup of something and her cell phone). I’ve noticed that since teens like to participate in whatever is popular they are drinking fancy coffee drinks these days. Of course the coffee is generally watered down with lots of foamy milk and sweetness. In summer they order these drinks with ice and some drink decaf I hope.

Speaking of teen trends…my granddaughter also has quit using email and FaceBook. I’m sure there are other ways to communicate with friends but it makes it harder for the older set to stay in touch with her. Texting sometimes gets a response.

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I’ve been thinking about doing some mermaid art for my card line as a way of getting in the New England flow. So when I’m out and about with my camera I tend to notice mermaid products in local Portsmouth stores. They do have visible representation. Of course, I’m trying for inspiration to use mermaids in art that is more my style, whatever that may be.

In general it feels like mermaids are getting abused with stereotyping a la Disney, perhaps. So I’m hoping to bring something more worthy to the show. Can’t brag yet.

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A week or so ago there was an official opening day for the Memorial Bridge that takes you from downtown Portsmouth over to Maine in no time. It’s been out of commission for two years I hear. So late in the afternoon, after thinking about wanting to join the celebration by walking across it, I found a housemate (and her 4 year old son) who were heading that way. It turned out to be very fun. Everyone we encountered, walking, biking or in cars, seemed to be happy and excited. The bridge offers views that you don’t get otherwise, perspective really. It really helped me experience the important role the rivers and the ocean play in the history and current patterns of the area.

The next day I biked across with a different housemate and that was fun too. There’s a great place to stop on the way home to get ice cream. Think it’s called Orange Leaf.

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My daughter bought a new seat for giving toddlers a ride on your bike. It seems very safe and you have the child right in front of you to monitor their doings. I was also riding a bike on this day and we decided the beach nearby was as good a place as any. We thought Charlotte would want to get out and play in the water but she never did.

Those young people making the sand castle on the left side were making a day-long project out of it. What a relaxing way to spend a day!

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To celebrate Emma’s birthday she and her mom and I and Charlotte went to a water park that if fairly near where they live. No family member had ever explored it in the three years they have lived in Rye so Katrina thought it would be a memorable adventure. Emma is taking this photo at the beginning of our visit. We are trying to get Charlotte and grandma (me) set up in an area that is shallow before Emma and her mom go off to the more exciting and dangerous water rides.

Katrina has Charlotte on her lap and is coming down a small slide. What you don’t see is that the ending was a bit more watery than expected and despite my best intentions there wasn’t much I could do to mitigate the shock for Charlotte. After that we stayed away from slides and just puttered around. Can’t say we’ve never been there! The outdoor dinner at a restaurant afterwards was fun.

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And if that doesn’t prove we’re having an exciting life here in New England, yesterday we went to the zoo and amusement park in York, Maine. Katrina had it on her “must do this summer” list. The best part was petting the goats. They really were all most charming, like they had been to some training school for friendly manners. Many of the larger ones had horns but they still seemed very relaxed and docile. And the ducks were very friendly also. Of course the goats and ducks were being fed pellets frequently. That probably had something to do with it. I can’t recommend this as a four star zoo due to the short numbers of stalls in the restrooms.

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Can’t end without this photo of zinnias I saw at the farm market last Saturday. I realize they’re just like the ones you find everywhere this time of year, at least at farm markets if not in your own yard or your neighbors. They are one of my top favorites of all flowers and they wait for this time of year to show their beauty. Amen to zinnias in August!

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Chance of July Showers

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July is an active month for roses everywhere but here in New England you’re likely to find them all over the place. The one pictured above no doubt has a name but there are so many wild bushy types like this I could never hope to learn them. This plant was growing happily near the Peirce Island swimming pool along a path that offers a view of  boats big and small, water and the bridge from Portsmouth over to Kittery, Maine, that’s been under construction since I’ve been here.

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Speaking of plants…this was taken in the vegetable garden a week or so ago. Already this blossom has transformed into a baby cucumber, which I am keeping an eye on. It will be the first of the summer and seems to be jumping ahead of a rival first zucchini. Both plants are growing by leaps and bounds now making the garden look like it knows what it’s doing.

I have found the garden season here a bit confusing coming as I have from New Mexico. NM has it’s own odd challenges, especially early in the season when wind and heat is a real challenge to young seedlings. Here we’ve had lots of rain and short spurts of heat between a trend of coolness and cloudy skies. Of course that’s likely to change any time but the high levels of rain and humidity have both kept things growing and kept me wondering how things in the garden would turn out. Can too much rain and clouds be a bad thing? Apparently not if you’re a cucumber plant.

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My daughter and I have been spending a lot of time at a beach called Sawyer. If you have a Rye beach sticker you can park near the entrance for free and it’s less popular than others nearby so we’re enjoying the lack of hype and people. With the 2-year-old in tow                         “less is more.” Just across the busy street from Sawyer’s is a large body of water called  Eel Pond. I noticed these water lilies starting to bloom and walked around near the water’s edge for some photos. Startling natural beauty is never far away when you’re driving in this coastal area.

SONY DSCSome weeks ago we discovered Goat Island, near downtown Portsmouth and offering a distant view of New Castle beachfront homes. I looked to us like a perfect place for Charlotte to throw rocks into the water, still a favorite sport for her. It was an overcast day so I had my camera and was looking for photos of Charlotte to put in the photo book I was planning to make for her 2nd birthday.

Out of the blue up came this gentleman out of the water to drag his boat up to the tiny beach. Charlotte was already standing just where she is in the photo, far enough away not to be worried, but rooted there keenly observing the boat and the man from nowhere. Obviously I was ready with the camera. He proceeded after this to pick up the boat and carry it to a close-by hillside for drying off, or so I suspect.

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This is Emma, my 13 year old granddaughter, sliding in on a wave while I attempt to get a photo. Not too dramatic, but that’s how it is when the waves are small. She’s also showing little sister, Charlotte, the things you can do in the ocean when you’re older.

I’m just glad to be on the beach myself instead of hearing about how much fun it is from my family. The highest water temperature I’ve heard about so far is 68 degrees. For swimming I may try to hold out for the Caribbean. Been to the Yucatan a couple of times. Guess that spoiled me.

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Love this photo of mother/daughter at the beach. Charlotte is really happy with the challenge that the ocean offers her. They say that her age, “just turned two,” sets up a real inner battle between desire for independence and mother security. The ocean lures her strongly but shows its power too, of course. She has lost her balance in it, and felt a mouth and nose full of sea water several times, and yet she seems to be enthralled by the ocean’s ruthless strength and goes back for more. She is in love.

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Here’s my house on Middle Street. I think I’ve mentioned that I live in the carriage house. That’s it at the back and to the left of the “big” house nearer the street. The end of the driveway leads to the door to this part of the house. The beautiful back yard is the view from the carriage house 1st floor living room and kitchen. The bicycle  “barn” is to the left. You can see the shape of the roof that protects the bikes from weather. A trip to town by bicycle can take 5 minutes or so. I’m loving this feature of my urban life.

Until next blog…Love…Kate

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Kate’s New England – Chapter One

 

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It’s the season for Rhododendrons here in New England. The plants grow into large bushes and when not in bloom turn into tidy green humps of attractive leaves that stay green all year. The Blooms are large and riotously spectacular. This one is white and lives in the amazing backyard of the house where I’m living. At my daughter’s house there is a lavender one. I would say there’s a large Rhododendron plant or two per block along every street here in Portsmouth and surrounding towns.

I moved to New Hampshire from Taos, New Mexico, on May 1st, and there’s been the usual progression of amazing spring blossoms here to welcome me, but these Rhododendrons do take the cake. I bet I’ll associate their outrageous beauty with my first year here. The peony flowers and the roses are starting to bloom now.

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These were some peonies I saw yesterday directly across the street from my residence at 411 Middle Street. If you’re curious about the house you can Google that address. The house has its own website and is best known for its inspiring back yard garden. It’s a communal house with about 17 residents, more or less at any given time.

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 This steeple marks the center of downtown Portsmouth and like Mount Fuji you can see it from afar and it can be helpful for newcomers like me to orient themselves. I can ride my bicycle to town from the house in very little time. It might be a distance of 5 blocks to my bank or the downtown health food store or the post office. Just by exploring Portsmouth by bike or walking I discovered a store featuring imports from India and was able to open my first card account last week. Portsmouth has a lively retail array of stores that appeal to visitors so I am hoping there will be other venues for my art to meet the public. Speaking of which, I still have cards for sale in Taos in two locations, Garden & Soul and Wabi Sabi.

SONY DSC My daughter, Katrina, and her family, live in the next town to the south, Rye, which is famous for its beaches, especially Jenness Beach, which is near her home. As she demonstrates, if you don’t like the cold water but you want to swim you get a wet suit. Apparently Jenness is the best beach for surfing in the area so it’s a busy, popular place. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to go there with my family, a favorite summer hangout for them.

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Yes, Portsmouth has a great farm market every Saturday. I took this photo because of the name of the farm, Live Free. The state motto of New Hampshire is a strange one, “live free or die.” Not sure what to make of it, but it will soon be posted on my license plate. I do miss my favorite vendors from the Taos farm market but in time I’m sure I’ll make new market friends. I noticed maple syrup is a local product you don’t find in New Mexico.

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The girl doing the cartwheel is my granddaughter, Emma, who’s attending a weekly gymnastics class at age 13. She has astonished me with her strength and skillful poise. She and a close school friend decided only a month or two ago to take up this demanding sport at an age that would likely preclude their ever participating in competitions. They are just doing it because they have ability and interest and together they are having a lot of fun challenging themselves. Every few weeks I involve myself in transporting them and the fun of being an appreciative spectator. The venue is a large facility and they have numerous classes of different age groups all meeting at the same time. Very entertaining!

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And last, but not least, is my #2 granddaughter, Charlotte, age 23 months. Her 2nd birthday will take place on the 4th of July and I’m happy that I won’t be missing the occasion this year. She and I are forging a relationship that will last my lifetime and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

It has taken awhile to settle in since the move that started in mid April when I began packing up my things. At my age it’s quite a strain on the old computer brain to pack up and relocate. Eventually I found it helpful to allow myself to shift into a kind of right-brain flow with a focus on the present. Still losing track of all that left-brain order did seem to come with a lot of forgetfulness and general “spaced out” behavior. My mood, however, was positive and appreciative.

So here I am in mid-June, two months later, seemingly waking up from the transition and feeling more like my old familiar self, albeit in a very different environment. One thing for sure, I am not lonely. I have beautiful house mates here in the Portsmouth house and plenty of loved ones nearby. The time I spend alone seems precious and nurturing as opposed to the every-day normal thing that it was in Taos. Obviously I was ready for a change and I’ve found it in spades.

As my teacher Gangaji says “look inside for what doesn’t change.” I’m seeing that all this recent change is superficial to who I am at a deeper place, and yet I know all these new experiences will change me in subtle ways. I welcome it.

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