The River Flows to the Sea

Sad but Not Surprising

Two days after River Cleanup and the first bits of trash have already washed ashore.

It’s not  messy boaters and fishing folk who create all this litter, as some assume. The bulk of the trash is washed down from storm sewers all over the metro area. When you toss an empty package or bottle, even into a bin, odds are it can find it’s way to the river.

Before the Clean-Up

Washed into drains from all over DC, tennis balls are common enough on my beach for the dogs have learned to look for them.  I’m sure that boaters aren’t dumping buckets of balls overboard! But I am busy training my girls to fetch plastic bottles!

Good news about river trash!

Hundreds of volunteers showed up Saturday all up and down the Potomac watershed. I joined friends and neighbors at the National Colonial Farm across the river from historic Mount Vernon. We enjoyed the low tide and beautiful day that allowed us to clean miles of shoreline. Now hikers, fishing folk, blue herons, eagles and osprey can all enjoy the shoreline without trash. For a little while.

But I did notice some improvement while trash-picking Saturday morning ; there was much less foam trash than  in years past.  Alice Ferguson Foundation‘s Trash Free Potomac 2013 has taken a survey of common logos found in river trash and pressured the biggest offenders (this year McDonalds , Pepsi, Deer Park and Budweiser) to change their packaging to biodegradable materials, and it looks to me like this has helped!

The biggest scourge at the moment is plastic bags and bottles. Please make sure your plastics are properly recycled, and replace them when you can with reusable containers. All of us river dwellers thank you!

Spring Awakening

Patrise on a Rock

Fifteen years ago I climbed this hill, carrying only a bedroll, a sheet of plastic, some twine and a gallon jug of lemon-maple cayenne water to carry me through a three day fast. Today I am sitting on the rock that I slept on back in 1997, listening to spring awakening the mountains. Here a hawk, there a crow. Further down in a valley, an owl calls, a fox barks.

The wind comes, I hear it chasing along the ridge through bare branches, coming closer until it passes overhead like a wave. Last time I was here it was July, mountain summer sweet and green. I slept in the forest with no roof and no tent for the first time in my life. When the sky showed first light the air began to stir and the sound of birds began, like the wind is coming today, first faint from afar, then moving closer riding the edge of sunrise. Theoretically I knew about this everyday miracle: Continue reading “Spring Awakening”

Art from Nature class starts March 29

Drawing & Painting from Nature

Traditional and Expressive techniques

Here’s a fun class to gain experience and develop technique in drawing and painting using nature as our subject matter. Working in a variety of drawing media and watercolours we will explore technique, composition and colour working from, and with, Nature.

The natural form has a an inherent rhythm whether it’s sky, sand, leaves, fur, flames. You can capture that rhythm in your drawing and painting, by tuning in to what we and all creation have in common. Your charcoal is burnt wood, your brush is animal hair, your paper is cotton fibre, your paint is ground earth. The art is in letting the natural ways of our materials interact with your natural curiousity about the world.

Today in the Garden – Surprising Rewards

Every time I visit the garden, I am rewarded, even when I dread what I might find.

I’ve been neglecting my garden. There, I’ve said it, and can heave a sigh of relief. The end of summer was terribly disappointing, as my tomato crop failed due to an aggressive wilt. Then we had a month of deluging rains. I confess I fall into a despondent state, don’t even want to look at my failure as a farmer. And it’s easy to avoid since it’s at the community garden, not at home.

Well, imagine my surprise when I came home with a heavy bag of food from yesterday’s visit! And not only that; this striking creature, the Argiope or common garden spider, who I had noticed in August, is still on duty, only she’s grown enormously. I’ve scaled the photo to about the accurate size — I’ve never seen one so big!

You may know that I have life-long arachnophobia, and I have worked diligently to educate myself about these useful and amazing creatures. I’m proud that in recent years I see them and feel admiration more than terror. I can really enjoy this wild thing who’s home is in my garden. She’s spun her web from a jalapeno plant to the stalk of a deceased tomato, and there she will stay until her work is done.

I recently learned that the signature zig-zag in her web is made by the much smaller male. I wondered… it’s an interesting and artful addition to the weaver’s art.

So last night I feasted on a salad rich with red leaf lettuce, arugula, yellow beans, radishes, the last red tomato and scallions. The stir fry was purple potatoes with sweet and hot peppers, onions and mushrooms. Only the mushrooms came from the store.

After harvesting, I cleared the old bean vines from half of one bed in preparation for garlic planting next month. All in all, a very satisfying visit.

Goldfinch and sunflower

Here’s a painting recently completed for my neighbors, to celebrate their 1st Anniversary.

The painting was purchased and a fundraising auction earlier this year, and I worked with them to create a bird painting that had special meaning.

Both K and her husband S live in close contact with the natural world. They keep chickens, raise award winning garlic, grow most of their own produce. S teaches organic gardening. They plant these flowers especially for the goldfinches and enjoy watching them from their porch.

Both of them love to watch the goldfinches, especially in late summer when the flowerheads on sunflower, coneflower and rudbekia are ripe for the snacking. The goldfinch is at its brightest plumage, too. Now that the air is cooler, the finches have lost their brilliant colour and are greying down for winter.

It was a pleasure to make a painting like this while watching these birds each day in the garden. I hope K & S enjoy it in their home as much as I did making it for them.