Good day on this fine Spring Equinox. I hope this letter finds you packing away that winter coat and fortifying yourself in sunlight.
Over the past months my husband and I have visited this empty grass field to look for hawks — they often fly here before dusk.
In order to see the birds, we must wait quietly for what can feel, at first, like a long time. For me, there’s some initial impatience since I’m not used to sitting still. But after awhile I surrender and find a kind of peace looking out into the grasses, having to wait for the wildness that may or may not show. It’s an outward opening to the world that feels opposite to my usual task-focused state of mind. Also I like having a chance to wear this large hat:)
I’m currently in love with a podcast called The Slow Down by poet Tracy K. Smith. These are five-minute bits about life plus a poem. It’s a wonderful daily meditation.
Speaking of meditation, I’m recently back from a one-week writing residency at the Weymouth Center for the Art and Humanities in North Carolina. They have the loveliest rooms.
While I was there, I met two writers also staying there: Marjorie Hudson, who has the most delightful collection of short stories called Accidental Birds of the Carolinas, and writer and teacher, Kevin Mcllvoy, who did a fantastic reading from his book, At the Gate of All Wonder. It is a special pleasure to talk shop with other writers and I enjoyed my time with them as much as the precious week I had to think deeply about my novel in progress.
In other news, I’m excited to be a small part of an upcoming writing retreat that begins on June 1 at Moravian College with a keynote address by Susan Straight: “Geography of Home and Soul”. The keynote is free and open to the public, so please come! The writer’s retreat follows from June 2 through 8th at the Highlights Foundation in Honesdale, PA and will be led by myself along with local writers Ruth Knafo Setton, and Kate Racculia. This retreat will be offered again, so if you didn’t get to apply this year, stay tuned for next.
My friend and artist Lauren Kindle took me to the Barnes Foundation to see the work of Berthe Morisot (1841–1895). My favorite pieces of hers have a sketch-like, unfinished quality, as though she wanted to capture life in flux. Here’s a quote of hers that I can relate to:
“. . . . Indefinitely prolonged idleness would be fatal to me from every point of view.”
—Berthe Morisot, 1871
I think Berthe’s self portrait captures her spirit:
Locally, my friend Ellyn Siftar will have a solo exhibit at Moravian College on March 22 from 6-8PM. She describes her exhibit as “a culmination of a 9 month research project into the work of philosopher Robert S. Corrington who suggests there are sacred folds within nature which contain and emit the semiotic material valuable for the process of psychic selving.” The objects Ellyn has created for her show “reflect a wrestling with personal memory and a cathartic shedding of the past by manipulating and ordering memories in ways that are life-giving and full of promise.” Ellyn’s a lovely, thoughtful person and seeing her work in person will no doubt be an enriching experience. I can’t wait!
Enjoy the full moon tonight and wishing you and yours sunshine and flowers,
‘This too shall pass.’ Good moments and bad are temporary constructs. Autumn reminds me more than any season of the promise of change.
In late August, over one weekend, I was hired to teach a geology class at Moravian College. I signed my contract on the following Monday and held class an hour later. I haven’t taught geology since I was a grad student some twenty+ years ago and even though I’ve worked in the field and have practical experience, the decision to teach was not a comfortable one. I work as hard as I can to prepare for lecture each day, literally just a chapter ahead of my students. I’m a planner who likes to be prepared weeks in advance. This time I don’t get that option and so I must adjust and do what I can. It’s good for me — this forced change from how I prefer things. I’ve taken a leap of faith and found that I like teaching. I’ve also fallen in love with geology again. My students often stay after class to ask questions and talk more. I think that’s a good sign.
My new job is keeping me busier than ever, but I find time to work on my second novel from 5:00-7:00AM every morning because that feeds my soul in essential ways l’d be foolish to neglect.
Speaking of novels, my talented friend, Jenn Rossmann, has her first novel, The Place You’re Supposed to Laugh, coming out on November 14. I had the pleasure of reading a couple early drafts of this extraordinary book about a family and neighborhood in Silicon Valley just after the Dotcom bubble burst, when everyone must try to figure out what will come next. At the center of the book is Chad, a 14-year-old black adoptee; Chad’s got to navigate a year of personal “disruption” while his white parents and their neighbors are reeling and anxious.
Jenn is a fiction writer and an engineer. Her short stories have garnered multiple Pushcart nominations. Check out her website here, and for those in the Lehigh Valley, she’ll be reading at the Easton Barnes & Noble on Sunday Nov. 18 at 3 pm. If you love words, don’t miss it.
On a recent trip to the Whitney Museum in NYC, I saw work by Mary Corse. She uses light as a subject for her art.
Her works look deceptively simple. Yet they are transformed by walking past them since she uses materials that respond to subtle changes in light. Walking from one end of a canvas to another, one thing becomes another, as though Mary Corse intended all along to stop you so you can reconsider assumptions. Her exhibit at the Whitney Museum, A Survey of Light, is on display until November 25.
Wishing you a lovely season of shifting light.
Until next time,
March was in like a lion this year and still roaring. I’m hoping we we’ll see much more of the lamb soon! In case you need photographic evidence of spring, this was taken just yesterday:
When it warms up and you’re ready for a walk, local friends might want to take a stroll on the Karl Stirner Arts Trail in Easton. There are many art works to see along the trail and among those is a wall poem, called Funeral, by the talented poet Beth Seetch.
Beth also had the brillant idea to do other wall poems in Easton by different poets. I love that these wall poems give people access to beautiful language and ideas right on the street.
Years ago I read an essay by Pennsylvania writer, Curtis Smith, that prompted me to contact him to tell him how much I love his writing. Lovepain is his fourth novel and twelfth book and it’s just come out. It’s been described as “an examination of a marriage torn apart by addiction and what happens to those left behind to pick up the pieces.”
In other news, I’ll be reading a creative nonfiction essay I wrote called Poker Player (about the death of my estranged father.) The reading will be at 7PM on April 26 at the Warren County Community College as part of their 2018 ARS POETICA release reading.
(Noticing a theme of darkness and death? That wasn’t intentional. But it is timely since now, in the spirit of the equinox, we can turn to light and life.)
Through April 16 there’s a fantastic show at the Bethlehem City Rotunda Gallery by my friend, the gifted artist and illustrator Tom Maxfield. His show, called Dreams and Visions, is a collection of imagined ecologies and future landscapes. Here are a couple images from the show, which includes more than 20 works.
Over the last few months I’ve read all three memoirs by the sculptor and writer, Anne Truitt. She’s a wise and eloquent writer. Last month, I went with my son to see an exhibit of her work at the National Gallery of Art, on display until July 8. I felt her art deeply when I saw it in person, so much more so than pictures allow.
The paper quilt project I’ve been working on for more than a year, called Seams, is now on exhibit at Nurture Nature Center, through May 2. Here are a couple photos by Armen Elliott from the lovely opening of the show.
We’ll see sun shine soon — I know it!
Happy spring to you and yours.
Today is the official first day of autumn! The arc of the sun begins to shift toward the south and the birds and butterflies are already migrating.
To mark the season, here are words from the venerable Mary Oliver:
Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness
Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
who would cry out
to the petals on the ground
knowing, as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married
to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do
if the love one claims to have for the world
So let us go on
though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.
— MARY OLIVER, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author, most recently, of “Swan: Poems and Prose Poems”
My friend and creative co-conspirator, Lauren Kindle, is working on a wonderful new project this fall called ‘Intentional Loitering.’ A sample of her recent work is shown above. She’s forgoing her to-do list for a bit in an effort to encourage “curious and shy” new ideas for her paintings. You can read her recent blog about it here. The author George Saunders talks about something similar in this podcast.
Along the lines of art projects, I received a grant from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts to show my paper quilt project at the Nurture Nature Center in Easton, PA, in spring 2018. (Yay!)
As is always true, the writing (in this case of the grant application) helped me hone what I’m really doing with this project. I’ve retitled it “Seams” and you can read about my new vision here.
One of the women inspiring the project is Jenn Rossmann, a professor of Mechanical Engineering and a gifted writer. For your reading pleasure, here’s a recent short story by Jenn.
And I’m working on my second novel. I use a Pinterest board as a visual for the writing. Thought you might be interested in checking it out here.
I leave you with this recent picture of a monarch in our yard. A few are still around before they migrate south to the overwintering grounds they have never been to before. They’ll find them, somehow.
Here’s to wonder and mystery.
Thanks for reading.
P.S. The photo of the monarch butterfly above was taken by my talented husband, David. Here we are together:
Day and night are equal in length. It’s a pivotal moment, that will tip the balance of light and dark.
So even though it still looks like this outside in my part of Pennsylvania:
Soon, very soon, there will be this:
That heart-quickening feeling of a first warm spring day is captured here by one of my favorite poets, Billy Collins. If you’re in a more melancholy mood this spring, see this beauty from Amy Gerstler.
I’m continuing to work on a series of narrative paper quilts made of thread, paper, and watercolor. These nine art quilts are based on nine women who, like me, are into art and math/science.
I wanted a way for other people to interact and be a part of my quilt project so I’m making two separate pieces that relate to identity and I’m inviting the public to help complete them by offering answers to two prompts.
I’ve included a picture of one of the pieces below — a tree. The other will have elements of wind in it. These will be on display at Nurture Nature Center in Easton, PA beginning in late April. I have one prompt related to each piece. Selected answers to the prompts will be quilted into these two pieces later, as leaves for the tree below and flower petals for the wind-related piece. I’ve already added a few responses (as leaves) to the tree (see detail, below).
I welcome your answers to the prompts, either as a comment to the newsletter or as an email.
For the tree:
Describe yourself in three words.
For the wind:
I would like to be more ________.
All answers will remain anonymous on the quilt:)
One of the women inspiring the series of nine paper quilts is Chawne Kimber. She’s a brilliant mathematician and internationally-renowned quilter. She’s changing the world with her art. See an example of her stunning work above and more here. And finally, after eight years in the making, my novel debuts on Earth Day, April 22, 2017! In April and May, I’ll be traveling around with my book talking about how one might pursue a creative life even if you’re not “that kind” of person. Because since I’ve worked most of my life as an environmental scientist, that’s how it was for me. Come to one of these events and if you show up you get a small prize to celebrate spring:)
“Something in the air this morning makes me feel like flying.”
Thanks for reading! xoxo