This spider has built an award-winning orb and is waiting for its first customer.
The orb is attached on the back of my car, in front of the wagon door, with threads connected to both ends of the bumper, which is the dark pink you see, the window above, the recycling bin about two feet away, and the shed about four feet away. I really think this guy is having a good long nap after running back and forth, probably several miles in the construction of this thing! I went to open the wagon door this morning and saw him, took a photo instead and let him be. Not sure what he’s going to catch hanging out in front of my license plate, though. I won’t question his judgement.
My dad with a ukulele some time in the 1930s, aspiring pianist, composer and performer, life, the Great Depression, a world war, the family business, kind of got in the way of all that, though I remember my dad writing little squiggly marks on lined paper after dinner on the kitchen table, and I imitated this, though I had no idea what it was as he wrote up his arrangements of popular songs for the big bands still performing around Pittsburgh in the 60s and 70s. Born in 1919, he left school in the sixth grade in 1931; it was the Great Depression and he began working in his parents’ bakery, and never returned to school. He served all four years of WWII as an Army baker and cook, then came home to try out music again, but ended up working as a baker in small bakeries around Pittsburgh, creating incredible breads and rolls and amazing European pastries, skills which his father had brought from Poland. Working six nights a week, starting his day when most people were fast asleep and coming home at breakfast with a bag of imperfect doughnuts and hard rolls, still warm; the hours and had work took their toll, he had Parkinson’s disease from before the time I was born and was fully engaged with it when I was a child, though he wasn’t diagnosed until the early 80s, and he died after lung cancer and the final effects of Parkinson’s in 1991.
I wish you’d had the chance to follow your dreams. I’m doing my best to follow mine.
Happy Father’s Day, love, Bernadette
Kind of sweet and sentimental and actually the last sketch I did on my roundabout trip to the grocery store with pastels and camera. When I came home and parked my bike to unpack it, I untied the bunch of wildflowers I’d gathered and my sketching hat from the back of my bike and set them on my porch swing, then removed the bungies holding my bags of groceries underneath where they had been. I put everything in the house and came back out to get my hat and put the flowers in the vases on my porch and yard, and immediately felt another sketch coming on.
This is the straw hat I wear when I sketch. I can’t stand in the sun for too long without protecting my eyes, and especially not when I’m literally studying the sunny landscape for the time it takes to do a sketch, but I can’t wear my sunglasses because they change the colors. So I wear a straw hat, which puts my eyes and my entire face in shade so I can focus without squinting and see my colors without any modification. This particular hat is a pretty tight weave so it provides a deep shade, and the brim is the perfect width, not so far that it falls into my peripheral vision, but far enough, and stiff enough, to simply provide a cover. It fits me well, too, especially fitting a lot of my thick longish curly hair up underneath, though I do add a pin to be sure it stays in place. To paint From Hammond Street I was standing on a bridge above the creek, enjoying the breeze, and a few times, without the pin, the hat would have sailed off and down to float in the creek.
The wildflowers are some of my favorite colors at this time of the year for their brilliance. The longish stems of tiny yellow flowers on the right are yellow sweet clover, and its scent is intoxicating, that legendary scent of clover that grow in bunches just about anywhere. The yellow green bunches behind them are wild parsnip, an easily adaptable plant that can grow from two to six feet tall and kind of looks like a really big parsley plant with panicles of tiny yellow-green flowers; think of a large yellow Queen Anne’s Lace, though that comes later. The pink flowers are crown vetch, related to wild sweet peas that’s planted on hillsides and roadsides to hold soil in place and control the growth of other plants. The burgundy is a grass with lovely graceful burgundy seed heads that I just can’t identify!
It’s a rainy Sunday morning today, but not last Sunday when I did my roundabout trip to the grocery store with pastels and camera. This was the first sketch I had in mind, even before I left the house. It’s a view of Chartiers Creek from the Hammond Street Bridge. I knew that all the trees were nearly leafed out and even some wildflowers were blooming, and that on a sunny morning all those greens would look almost flourescent. The foliage is so abundant, it hides all the rest of what is along the creek except one house, but on the right there are industrial buildings and railroad tracks, on the left is West Main Street and Irishtown, building upon building and house upon house. But you’d never know it here.
This is the first of several sketches I did or began that day. My little traveling kit of pastels is missing a few colors important to the spring landscape, so I had to finish them all at home. I’ll be posting them throughout the day as I scan them.
Did an image ever stop you as you walked past it as if it had reached out and grabbed your arm? This one certainly did for me as I walked past it in my kitchen, and it was quite the auspicious moment. The sun shone through the leaves on the birch tree outside, but they were moving in a light breeze, one moment the apples were in total darkness, the next they were alight with direct and reflected sunlight. The sun shining into, on and through the basket remained constant, and something about the basket’s shadow makes it look as if the whole thing is floating on the surface of water.
I fabricated the need to go to the grocery story, on my bicycle, with my camera and art materials. It meant I didn’t have time for a day on the trail, but I had a real need to ride my bike and do some art and just kind of poke around and find what was interesting in my town. I did take a roundabout way to the store and waded in the creek and did a few paintings and followed a great blue heron and photographed wildflowers and saw both lovely neighborhoods and well-used alleys. Here’s a slideshow of the events in order.
This was a nice little interruption to my cleaning, having washed the tiny cobalt glass basket I use for toothpicks and placed it aside on the white enamel table right where the sun could shine on and through it. Love the reflections and refractions.
GOT UP EARLY AND GOT THE FIRST WORM…
AND I ATE IT!
For all my feline-loving friends, this little fledgling robin’s disapproving frown reminded me so much of Grumpy Cat’s frown!
Always put your coffee cup where it will reflect a pretty color!
They are stunning when you find a carpet of them, but those perfect yellow flowers can also be subtle and delicate.
Another from the spring flowers series.
Nearly everything in the garden is fresh and new—and green. These nascent green berries by mid to late summer will be rich and vibrant colors.
The little frizzy cluster at the top are wild grapes which will grow to about the size of a marble and turn a dusty indigo, though most will be eaten by birds as they ripen; these grow on a vine and match with the leaves just behind them that resemble maple leaves, and while the grapes turn purple these leaves will turn bright yellow.
Clockwise is a cluster of little green balls which are Virginia creeper berries which will grow to about the size of a pea and turn deep red violet while the compound leaves—appearing like a cluster of five or six leaves in a circle—will turn brilliant red on the vine.
Hanging underneath them and off to the right are pale green mulberries which resemble blackberries in their elongated shape and cluster of smaller green spheres clumped together, and will turn first red then the same black-purple color as black berries while the leaves on this tree, the wide shiny elongated leaf with the notched edge, will turn yellow.
If you love gardening and watching things grow, please enjoy a recent post by composerinthegarden entitled “We Must Be Mad With Joy” so titled for a quote from Iris Murdoch,
Truly, I am mad with joy that there is so much life all around me that is constantly changing and growing, and all I need to do is watch.
What a reward for a hot afternoon of thinning out my garden! A sweet wild strawberry.
I let many things grow in my garden along with my chosen plants, and wild strawberries are one plant that grows all over, wherever it pleases. It’s fairly short, just a crown of leaves, sprouts and grows early and reliably at the beginning of June I find tiny sweet-tart berries. The leaves shade the ground and act as a natural mulch around taller plants, and their shallow root system doesn’t compete with plants like tomatoes, peppers and corn. Where beans, salad greens and root crops like beets and carrots are concerned I remove them so they don’t shade the shorter plants, but I usually transplant them elsewhere. One great benefit is that the bunnies and groundhog like the leaves—a lot—and will often choose the strawberry leaves over my garden plants.
So it was that I was pulling other plants from around the tomatoes and encountered the first wild strawberry of the year. And more to come, as you see below.
This ancient rambler is blooming all over my gate, its blossoms filling the air with the delicate scent of the finest tea. It is old because I dug it up from my mother’s yard when I moved here and she no longer wanted it on her fence, and she had dug it up from the yard of a friend’s mother decades before when, newly married, she was filling her yard with flowers. Not doubt this rose’s lineage goes back dozens of back yards and a century or more, typically woman to woman, each of us feeling as if we’d won a prize in obtaining this wonderful rose for our yards.
It is not like today’s brilliant red roses, the color is less red than a light burgundy. The flowers fade quickly; this rose bloomed this morning, and by tomorrow morning the petals will be fully opened to expose the yellow stamens in the center, the edges curled and a deep burgundy, the petals themselves darkening, even as another bud opens just along the branch. They are hardy as rocks and difficult to keep in shape as we want them to look like nice full shrubs or at least grow up a trellis while they only want to produce a few long graceful branches that wave in the breeze, lined with roses that fade in a day and smell like heaven. The newer hybrid meets all our requirements for color and shape and staying power, but the scent is barely detectable.
I like that wild habit, those long reaching branches displaying the finest of flowers and while it’s difficult to get through my gate right now I can live with that for about two weeks while the rose does her thing. I did have a simple metal arbor over the gate and would constantly train the rose branches up and over the arbor, but an ice storm last winter took care of that, not that it ever made much difference to what the rose chose to do.
And while I like the brilliance of today’s red rose, there is something far richer and deeper in the color of this older rose, one that actually inspired a poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns who claimed it was lyric he’d copied down from a milkmaid as he had set about preserving Scottish songs during his last ten years, and set to the tune of “Major Graham” written by fiddler Neil Gow when it was published in 1797. I can’t imagine the world without this song, or that it be sung to a different melody. It is as lasting as this old red rambler growing on my gate.
Just about done blooming now, this rose made its first appearance here in my sketch “Lilacs and Laundry”. And this rose, along with another very old rose that blooms simultaneously in my yard, the old pink pasture rose, inspired one of my favorite paintings of flowers I’ve ever done, “Small Roses”.
Just one little sliver of sunlight crept through the blind and that was all it took to illuminate these old roses in a tiny glass vase. I stood in my kitchen and sketched this as quickly as possible before the light changed. The unbelievably bright pink pasture rose and the ancient deep red sweet-smelling climbing rose bloom plentifully in June. I placed them in an inexpensive glass bowl; they fall apart quickly but I still wanted to enjoy them indoors. I had prepared a number of drawing surfaces on old pieces of mat board, this being a combination of gesso and marble dust applied in a thick impasto, leaving deep brush marks for whatever I drew on it and tinted a soft green. It was over so quickly I barely had time to enjoy the process. (You can find canvas and digital prints of this in my Etsy shop.)
Poem: The Photograph
On the way to a friends’ home, late as usual, early on a June evening, I passed an older wood frame house that was obviously abandoned, though it had been freshly painted a cheery yellow; the grass grown tall and going to seed in the June growth, and an old deep red rambler rose at the corner of the house, below an old window with crooked lace curtains, just caught the warmth of the June evening sunlight, and I had to catch the moment, for the sake of that ancient rose and all who’d lived there and loved it.
An ancient rambling rose
Spread her arcs of deep red blossoms,
Rich against the yellow painted wood siding
At the corner of the house,
A creamy lace curtain in the window just above,
All soft, washed by the warm, gentle sun
Of an early June evening.
I paused, considered, returned to the spot,
Coming back to capture the last of the moment
Just before the shadow of the house across the street
Crept up over the rose,
The siding and then the window
Revealing faded, peeling paint
And a gray, sagging curtain,
The rose but a clump of brambles
Among tall grasses and thistles.
The Photograph ©2005 Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Paths I Have Walked, collected poems.
I’m proud to offer a folio of my poetry
Paths I Have Walked: the poetry and art of Bernadette E. Kazmarski
FROM FOUR ANNUAL POETRY READINGS AT ANDREW CARNEGIE FREE LIBRARY & MUSIC HALL IN CARNEGIE, PA
People who attended one or more of my poetry readings encouraged me to publish some of my poetry in a book from the beginning.
Once I completed my 2010 poetry reading, my fourth featuring the final piece of artwork in the “Art of the Watershed” series, I decided it was time to publish something and it should be those four poetry readings.
Poetry books are not best-sellers; it’s difficult to convince a publisher to risk effort on a beginning poet, and while self-publishing is the best option it’s not inexpensive and once you’ve got the book, someone’s got to market it. Plus, I’m a graphic designer and I designed books for years, and I want things my way.
All of this is a recipe for a little bit of trouble, but I decided the book was well worth the effort so I designed the book myself and had a set printed—no ISBN or anything formal, but it’s a start! I’m really excited to offer it.
Books are 4.25″ x 11″, 40 pages of information and poetry, with glossy covers featuring “Dusk in the Woods” and little thumbnails of all four pieces in “Art of the Watershed”.
$8.00 each plus $2.50 shipping (they are oversized for mailing first class).
About the books and the poetry readings
My biggest inspiration for poetry, prose and artwork is the world right around me, and I enjoy the opportunity to share it from the perspective of one who walks and hikes and bikes and carries a camera, art materials and journal everywhere—even around the house—so the inspirations are fresh.
In December, 2006, two of my poems were chosen to be published on a section of the Prairie Home Companion website entitled “Stories From Home/First Person” for submissions of writing about the place we feel most familiar. I’m a long-time listener to PHC and reader of Garrison Keillor’s books as well as a daily listener to The Writer’s Almanac featuring news about writers and writing and of interest to writers as well as a poem, all compiled and read by Keillor himself. I was astonished to find my poems were among the first chosen from apparently thousands, and so happy to be able to share them with a potential audience of so many similarly inclined writers and readers.
My poetry readings and art exhibits were the vision of Maggie Forbes, executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, after learning of my publishing of those two poems. I owe her many thanks for encouraging me to present this combination of my visual and literary art, a first for me. I love that building, every inch of it, and the opportunity to bring people in to visit is an honor.
No doubt you’ve heard of Wild Black Cherry flavoring for everything from cough syrup to chewing gum. Well, this is what it looks like—in bloom. For just a few days each year millions of tiny, nearly perfectly round white petals fall like snow all over my yard and any part of the neighborhood they can reach.
All these flowers produce tiny sour little cherries which later fall all over my car, and birds have their way with the cherries and my car as well. The tree is basically considered a weed since it grows in waste places—and my yard could certainly have been considered a waste place when I moved in here—but I would not give it up unless it became unsafe. This tree was about one-quarter its present size, but I learned what it was and also learned that the berries are favorites of many fruit-eating birds, and ants and other insects live under the bark to be jostled out all winter long by woodpeckers.
The tree is such a haven for birds, I could never consider giving it up, though the branches grow fragile as they get older, and sometimes fall in storms.
I’ve used the juice from the fruit to make juice, jelly and wine, but it’s actually the bark that has the medical properties that makes it such an effective cough suppresant—yes, that’s why cough drops and cough syrup are flavored with wild black cherry. Steeping, not boiling, the inner bark releases a multi-medicinal compound that is anti-tussive and often a mild sedative, though it’s a dangerous dance because part of the medicinal substance released is related to and extracted from the cyanide naturally occurring in the tree’s bark. Native Americans used the berries in their pemmican and drank tea made from the bark for a variety of conditions. I managed to make cough syrup from it and used it, and survived.
While regular cherry trees have lovely blossoms, I’ve often wondered if the “cherries hung with snow” which he rode off to see in the woods were actually wild black cherries in A.E. Housman’s poem “Loveliest of Trees”.
They look like little ladies in hoop skirts, delicate and beautiful, three columbine flowers in the morning.
In the dense, comforting shade of a century-old spreading maple, a section of the row of headstones farthest back in the military veteran’s section, the first stones to be installed during the Civil War, read only:
A father, brother, husband, son of someone, unknown, but honored by a headstone that tells of his final sacrifice, rests there.
One of the most moving photos I took from the 2010 Memorial Day ceremony at Chartiers Cemetery, but perhaps the most fitting, no name, no rank, no distinguishing remarks, but the most common thread of all, a soldier.
And not just in remembering the Civil War, or even other conflicts following. My ancestors were fighting their own civil wars in Eastern Europe at the time of America’s Civil War, only one in a long line of civil wars that perhaps finalized their decisions to leave the only land they’d known to come to America for freedom and a chance at the dream they’d never see, not even today, in the lands where their families had lived for centuries. A few decades later, they had no qualms about bearing arms and traveling back to those lands to protect the country they had embraced as their home. Centuries of soldiers everywhere who fought for freedom, protected their loved ones, gave their lives, each brought us a step closer. May the day soon come when no one needs to die for freedom.
This photo is one of my most often-shared images from this site and on Pinterest; I am honored.
The good old traditional parade on the good old traditional Main Street, in my home town of Carnegie, PA. I am not a big fan of parades but my mother loved them, so every year until the year before she died I set us up on Main Street regardless of the weather and we cheered along the high school marching bands and local dignitaries and fire companies and reenactors marching in the parade. Going out for an ice cream sundae afterward capped it off.
Each year our community held an art exhibit called “Carnegie Painted” for 2-D art depicting images of Carnegie; this was one of my entries in 2008, sketched from photos I had taken of the parade. Instead of color I decided to render it in pencil, in a style reminiscent of World War II cartoons. Pencil is so expressive, and it really reduces lines down to just what they need to be to get the point across, and this illustration style is almost impressionistic in its quality of line and level of detail.
Also, my father was a veteran of WWII, and my mother graduated high school and began her life during the war years—she considered it “her time”. I always felt as if I’d lived then with all the stories and memories. As my mother was growing older and finding and reading through my father’s service papers I actually came to feel closer to that time. This drawing in this style was a memory of that parade, of my mother, my father and a lot of other things combined. It all connects to a story I’m writing.
I sold the original, but have prints and notecards of it in various sizes. Visit my website to read about this and other pieces in my “My Home Town” series.
Well, maybe not tomorrow, but probably next week! Mmmmmmmmmm………….
My rhododendron is blooming. It’s blindingly pink when the sun shines on it. So welcome.
Yesterday they were all just slightly opened buds, like the first one, now they are popping open.
I’ve been running out of time to post, but not to photograph. I’ll have to double up some days to catch up on the photos.
I typically like to photograph light-colored flowers against a dark background, like the shadows in the woods, but the breeze was moving the shadows and sunlight around and a very light patch ended up behind these cranesbill geranium flowers. I love the shade of green, and I like the effect. They are in my back yard, and have naturalized in a nice row at the edge of my “woodland garden”. The are a native wild plant, and I brought home bits and pieces of plants from old homesteads about to be bulldozed for development. They are a geranium, and if you look at the shape of the flower you’ll see a similarity with the flowers that grow in clusters in the geraniums we find more familiar. The name “cranesbill” is derived from the shape of the seeds, which grow in clusters like the buds you see on the left, a small oblong shape but with a long pointed protuberance that is reminiscent of the beak of a crane.
Join us in Our World Tuesday blog hop.
My mother died in January 2011. I first wrote this post after her memorial; today we remember her.
I lost my mother at age 85 after so many levels of illness in her life: decades of chronic conditions and surgeries, the lung cancer ten years ago that weakened and eventually put her in personal care, the beginnings of dementia two years ago, the move to skilled nursing a year ago, the weight loss and greater need for care all leading to the last few months of decline.
She was in the hospital with the last bout of congestive heart failure when she died. The night she died my brother and I went to her room at the nursing home to take the few possessions she had left there; I didn’t want to go back there if I didn’t need to, and I knew the next few days would be very busy. I was holding back sobs as we walked in, but words were forming in my head and when we entered I took a small scrap of paper and wrote a few of them down. That was enough to ease my heart for the moment, setting the intent, enough to get me through that and back home.
After several phone calls, a visit from a friend and more calls, I had my time alone and was up quite late. As I sat in the quiet of the night outside watching the snow gently fill the air and fall in a soft blanket on the ground, the poem came to me in nearly one complete piece. I carefully went inside and tiptoed to my desk, wrote it down slowly, line for line, all as if I was afraid I’d scare it away, all the beautiful words I’d been thinking, or maybe I’d break it, like a bubble. I changed very little in a rewrite. I had decided I would go through with my poetry reading, just two days after my mother died, because it was an opportunity to share her with others, and to read the new poem, and that I would also read it at the little service we’d have for her at the funeral home.
I could never encapsulate 85 years of a life into one blog post or one photo or one poem, so I won’t even try, but I want to share this. The photo above is the one we placed in our mother’s casket, her wedding photo from 1946 when she was 21 years old. The little scrap of red in the lower left corner is the shirt she wore, the one she loved best, and I knew she’d want to be remembered in it; our mother was one who could wear a red chiffon blouse in her casket and be proud.
I’ve also written a post over on The Creative Cat about this process of loss.
Without further ado, here is the poem.
About My Mother
Regardless of the many outstanding qualities any person may have
we are essentially remembered for only one of them.
In my mother, all would agree
this one would be her remarkable beauty.
All through her life the compliments trailed her
as she carefully maintained “the look”, her look, so glamorous,
from tailored suits to taffeta dresses to palazzo pants,
hair perfectly styled, nails manicured and painted
a collar set just so, cuffs casually turned back,
hair worn long past the age of 50,
a dark, even tan and shorts into her 80s,
lipstick always perfectly applied,
and even at 84
people marveled on her perfect skin,
dark curly hair,
and big bright smile.
I see that smile
when I see my sister smile,
and I see my mother’s active, athletic bearing
when I look at my brother,
and her gray eyes are mine.
In each of her grandchildren
I see her round face,
graceful hands, pert nose,
proud upright posture
and a million other of her features and habits
and in all of us
her wild curly hair
is part of her legacy to us.
When we look at each other from now on
we will see the part of her she gave to each of us,
this little cluster of people who came from her
and who were her greatest treasure,
and when she looks at us from wherever she is
she will know that
she cannot be forgotten.
About My Mother © 2011 Bernadette E. Kazmarski