From Astoria to Amherst

Last August our houseboat broke, along with our wherewithal to cope. So we decided it was time. “Where would you like to live?” I asked Greg the next morning. “New England,” he replied, with nary a doubt.

Because we’ve been traveling to the East Coast for 12 years, mostly to visit his daughter … at some point we grew to love it. So last October we headed east for the month to consider options. I’d like invite you to travel the past 7 months with me – I’ll move along pretty quickly – to get us current with the mise en scene we now inhabit.

The book I was reading at the time, Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward, was just right for the beginning of what was to come, of which I truly had no clear notion. That first day, he was reciting a Gerard Manley Hopkins sonnet I was not familiar with, and so, on a whim, I copied the first line. And off we go!

My Solstice Gift to You


Astoria Oregon, even in the dead of winter, is full of so many gifts. That we can be on the edge of the continent – a Columbia River estuarine blend of salty ocean and mountain snow. That the sun is shining on this shortest day of the year. That the hawk just visited our birdfeeder, but the little birds saw him first, so he settles on wire with a grumpy shake of his tail before he flies back into the forest. That on a winter morning we can see dawn reflected off the windows of our neighbor across the river, but the color shows up only in the water; the windows above stay dark-filled. That there are places downtown that invite us in to draw all winter long, maybe even a little pot-bellied fire for warmth.

I love this town. Its gritty, rusty, creosoted and moldy beauty. I wish it a peaceful Solstice, and you as well.

Osprey Talons


I haven’t been drawing in awhile and I wonder what’s up with that. So I’ve headed myself back into my sketchbook stack, just to think about pages. This one gives me something to think about.

On the left, draw while you eat, always fun. Later, a visit with Max, my grand-nephew.
(No, it doesn’t look like him.) But I often don’t “complete” a drawing, and these soft pencil sketches that float around in my pages … feel good to me.

On the right, an amazing experience on our river of finding a dead osprey on the road.
(It turned out it was killed by an eagle.) Before the wildlife center came to collect him,
I took the opportunity to draw. Can you see that I have patched the page where I just didn’t get it right the first time? Another little sketchbook trick.

It’s not easy for you to turn the page to read, so I’m going to transcribe that sideways text, because it matters: “June 10 ¶ Trying to catch up w/ your own sketchbook is like trying to catch up w/ your life … it can’t be done. Well, ok, then, in medias res, it is: A moth has been outside our blue kitchen door all day. I am exploring how to draw it. The beauty of it is in the shadowy grays and blue-grays of its very white body. ¶ Last night, a dead osprey on our road. Greg brought him down and today we examined him. His blue-gray talons are a wonder. Now, wildlife center is coming to collect him. ¶ Astoria’s friend, Carolyn Dunn, died Thursday.”

If you follow the arrows, you are able to finish the text.

Medieval Map of Home


I’ve been in a medieval frame of mind of late. I thought I’d bring up an old piece from my drawings collection, which was created as a “medieval map” of where I live – the John Day River near the mouth of the Columbia River. It’s an historic gillnet community; a pretty fun place to be. If you look closely, you might see some of the neighborhood dogs (where’s Zephyr?), a sea lion swimming, Heron Point, Cormorant Piling, our ducks, the neighbor boys swimming (by riding a bicycle off their dock), Mr. Johnson walking across the bridge, Tom’s dump truck, and more. Stop and sit for a spell with me outside on the deck, dreaming about summer, and watching the world float by.

Going back a ways …


Every so often I like to go back to the beginnings … show you (and remind me) where I’ve been. This would be day 5 of Mari Le Glatin Keis’ Travelling Sketchbook workshop (2008). On the right – where I came from: pencil drawings. And on the left, a little bit of everything she taught us: collage with a map background and stickers; stamped logos; a compass rose, one of my favorite devices; and especially color! Turning myself on to color was probably the single best break-through in my artistic life. Who knew I could be colorful?    In fact, there was a time I was scared of color. Just shows to go ya, we can effect change in ourselves.