Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The First Sonnet

beloved friend, you have encountered me
amid a storm of trials & anguished cries,
our leaders fat with ignorance & lies,
this twenty-first, beleaguered century.
the shallowness of people’s goals kills hope.
the beings whom we trust are seen as meat
or measured for their profit in board feet.
we search for kindred souls to help us cope.
along your lines of face my thoughts are curled.
your gentle rain of words renews my heart.
what meaning in this chance our roots have crossed
within the struggles of a breaking world,
when creatures, sacred sites, & faith depart,
this time of blasted lands & species lost?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Crown of Sonnets

In a recent conversation, my poet friend Hale Thatcher introduced me to a startling concept: a crown of sonnets. 

Sonnets, traditionally, are 14 line poems written in iambic pentameter (5 2-syllable units per line, the 2nd syllable of each is accented), with a strict rhyme scheme. A crown of sonnets is 7 sonnets linked in this way: the last line of the first is the first line of the second, the last line of the second is the first line of the third & so on until the last line of the 7th is the first line of the first.

The heroic crown of sonnets goes further. There are 15 sonnets with the first 14 being linked by last & first lines. The 15th sonnet is the first lines of all the 14 sonnets in order.

Wow, I thought, what a great model for continuity in a series of paintings!

Then, sighing, I assessed that I wouldn't really get that model unless I wrote one.

So I did. Hale & I had also been discussing our fears for the world & our frail hope that our work as artists would somehow contribute to its cure. So beginning in the deep dark of waking one night, I wrote 15 sonnets about ecological trauma & the medicine of poetry & painting. It's called "Corona Gaia" & I'll be posting these over the next few weeks.

I'm making some hand-made book versions & a simple, illustrated chapbook. The image above is the cover of the chapbook.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fourth Mushroom Watercolor

The fourth mushroom is very common in my backyard in November & December. I pulled up an attractive specimen & laid it gently on my drawing table.

In this 7 x 9" watercolor, I added an element I'd been seeing as I drifted off to sleep: small colored squares coming off the mycelial base of mushrooms in varying patterns.

I like the compositional effect, & wonder what it means. Perhaps the relationship of mushrooms to the building blocks of the soil? A reference to the periodic table?

The quote from Paul Stamets: Under ordinary circumstances nature self-prescribes fungi for its own healing.

How beautiful is that?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Third Mushroom Watercolor

This third watercolor is called "All Habitats Depend." Written around the 8 x 8" tipped square image are these words from Paul Stamets:

All habitats depend directly on their fungal allies, without which the life-support systems of the earth would soon collapse. Mycelial networks hold soils together & aerate them. Fungal enzymes, acids, & antibiotics dramatically affect the condition & structure of soils. In the wake of catastrophe, fungal diversity helps restore devastated habitats.

Last week I wrote about my work with mushrooms in a grant application to Center for Cultural Innovation. I'd love to get this grant. It would enable me to paint BIG mushrooms, to visit Paul Stamets & other mycologists, & to devote a block of time to the project without wondering where the next month's rent's coming from. It's at least one or two orders of magnitude more probable than winning the lottery....

It felt good to clarify my intentions around mushrooms, Stamets' work, & mycological effects on the miracle of biological interdependence. Whatever happens, they were hours well spent. My fungal allies helped aerate & structure my artstic soil.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Second Mushroom Watercolor

When I started my second watercolor mushroom, I was inspired to rotate it 90 degrees, giving more drama to the small, fragile-looking mushroom I'd chosen to paint.

This little yellow mushroom was growing in Armstrong Woods. The fallen needles and sorrel leaves give an idea of its size.

The Paul Stamets quote I chose for this one is, Because ectomycorrhizal mycelium grows beyond the plant’s roots, it brings distant nutrients & moisture to the host plant, extending the absorption zone well beyond the root structure. The mycelium dramatically increases the plant’s ingestion of nutrients, nitrogenous compounds, & essential elements (phosphorous, copper, & zinc) as it decomposes surrounding debris.

How amazing is that! All those trees I love so much, continuously nourished by fungi I notice only during their brief "fruiting"!

This painting is now hanging with 6 other mushroom watercolors at Sebastopol Gallery. This rotation runs through February 27. I also have there a new chapbook of poems that includes 3 mushroom poems & 4 mushroom painting reproductions.

I continue to study mushrooms, in guidebooks & Stamets Mycelium Running, along the bikepath, in friends' yards, in the woods & fields, & at my drawing table.

My sense of mystery & gratitude deepens....