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Archive for the ‘The deep cold days’ Category

Eternally Snowing--Winter 2014--2

The salt trick is too much fun!  ↑ Here is “Eternally Snowing — Winter, 2014”, sprinkled with very coarse salt.  Our Wisconsin world!

But every year about now I begin dreaming, and my dreams morph into paintings.  Voilà “Windy Summer Day” ↓ .  This one was embellished with Kosher salt.

Windy Summer Day

After the painting dries the salt is scraped off, leaving textural marks plus a bit of “shine”.  The coarser the salt, the more of a job it is to remove.  A credit card works well for scraping, but hopefully not the card which is currently being used.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, February 2014

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For the last two decades, Joe and I have made a pilgrimage West at least once a year—frequently in the Winter or early Spring.  Our destinations were Colorado and New Mexico, and we combined our love for the West with a visit to loved ones who live near Denver.

This year, the trip is not happening—but never mind.  My paintbrush travels to the High Rockies of Colorado, to the adobe houses of Taos and Santa Fe, NM, and to those fascinating Cliff Dwellings on the Four Corners.  Just as I never tired of traveling West, I will always love reading about the West via documentaries, histories, and Louis L’Amour novels.  And likewise, I probably will never tire of painting the West.

My favorites of L’Amour’s novels are those mysterious tales of lost canyons, valleys, and ancient cities in the regions surrounding the Cliff Dwellings.  My mind paints as I read, and eventually the paint materializes on paper.  Hence the above pair—Lost Valley of the Ancients I & II.

The paintings are propped on another passion of mine—my piano.  A collection of Scott Joplin rags peeks over the painting on your right as you view the photo.  Playing a Joplin rag never fails to make me smile!  Such mellow music, with soul! 

To the left of Scott Joplin, sits my venerable book of classics by Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Beethoven, etc., which are infinitely satisfying to play.  (That’s why they are classics!)  The book was my mother’s, and it dates to the late 1920s or early 30s.  Not only did she gift me with her love for music, and of course the music lessons, but she left me the actual music books to enjoy.  My fingers don’t flow as effortlessly across the keys as hers did, but with practise I can play.  Mom would be pleased! 

Meanwhile, with books, paints, and a piano I really don’t need a “vacation”!  It’s all here, at home!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Winter has finally arrived in Wisconsin.  The Northern counties were buried in snow a few days ago, and now we “Southerners” (just north of the Illinois border) are suddenly remembering what winter is all about.  Beautiful!  Pristine!  Cold!

The wind travels and moans through our lane, which is actually a wind tunnel between condo buildings.  I love the wind, so universal and all encompassing.  I could be on the Yorkshire Moors or Scottish Highlands, or at our home in Northern Wisconsin where the furies of winter rampage, and the wind would sound exactly the same.  For me, the music of wind is a lullaby at night and an invigorating motivator in the daytime.  

Winter wind means business.  It’s cold, brutal, unfeeling, and unforgiving.  Yet as I hunker down and enjoy the peace and respite of winter weeks indoors, I can dream of those winds to come—always howling through our wind tunnel, always sounding like wind, but heralding new seasons:  the March wind—boisterous, vandalizing, arrogant, and presumptuous; the April wind—capricious as an April Fool’s joke, yet whispering change; and the winds of May—melodious, enticing, redolant with lilacs.

Lilacs!  Yes, I can dream!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Winter is beautiful.  Winter is invigorating.  Winter is fun.  Given these attributes, we can also add:  winter is cold, winter can be treacherous on the roads, winter paths are slippery, and winter is long.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that it’s a social “No-No” to talk about spring in the winter.  If I so much as mentions lilacs or soft south winds, someone will say, “I LOVE winter.  Winter is so beautiful.” 

The inference is:  “What in the world is wrong with you, to talk about lilacs in the gorgeous winter?”  Or:  “Are you ever a wimp!” 

Nearly forever, I have written poems about life lying dormant in winter–waiting to burst forth in spring.  Nearly forever, I’ve used the metaphor of winter to express the darkest, coldest moments of my human soul.  People who “just don’t get poetry” have read these poems, and commented with a sneer, “You don’t like winter very much!”

But I’m not alone in my choice of metaphor.  The four seasons would be hackneyed symbols in literature, were it not for their universality–their ability to touch sensitive people in many cultures with a common experience.

Disregarding skiers, dog-sled racers, ice skaters, and other lovers of bitter cold weather, I’ll go on dreaming of lilacs.  And while dreaming, there are things to do in anticipation of spring.  I cut dogwood and honeysuckle branches, place them in a vase of water indoors, and watch the buds pop.  I save my long hair, culled from my hairbrush, to hang on tree branches for birds’ nests in May.

No one should ever apologize for dreaming of lilacs!  We have a right to dream! 

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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Every little trace of wildness thrills me to the core.  Today while walking Dylan (our Pembroke Welsh corgi) I saw rabbit tracks leading from our driveway into the pine trees that border our park.  (It is really everyone’s park, but we call it “ours”.)

I followed the trail until it disappeared into the evergreens and never came out.  Did the rabbits burrow into their warrens through the frozen (zero degree) snow?  Do they live under the pine trees?  Certainly they don’t fly, but the tracks evidently went nowhere. 

If we can only stay up late enough, maybe we’ll see the rabbits out at night.  I’ve always enjoyed fanciful pictures of rabbits dancing by moonlight, on a snowy landscape.  While Dylan would probably love to chase the rabbits, I suddenly have a burning wish to capture them with my watercolors.  I’ll let you know if I succeed!

While we left the bears and wolves behind when we moved 285 miles south, there is plenty of wildness here.  Coyotes abound, sneaking around suburban neighborhoods and farmyards.  Hawks soar over our park.  Some Canada geese winter in open streams near farms, where they can glean the harvested cornfields.

One day we saw a grouse in our front yard.  And our two funny friends, the chipmunks, live in a hole by our garden wall.  As I type, they are probably busy chomping away at the basketball-sized food cache of our bird seed–one basketball per chipmunk.  We won’t see the chipmunks until spring, but it’s delightful to know that they are close by!

Last week I saw the tiny saw-whet owl perched on a tree limb beside our road.  There is always plenty for the nature hungry heart to relish–so long as our eyes and ears are open wide! 

Now I’m going to “adjourn” and try sketching rabbits.

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved 

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Wisconsin begins a new year with brilliant sunshine, so lacking in recent weeks.  The price we pay for this sunshine is a thermometer reading of zero and below.

Never mind.  I always say the deep cold is good for our souls.  And with the deep cold comes a gradual, inexorable increase of daylight minutes.

At our lowest ebb in December, we had 8:59 minutes of daylight here at our home in Southern Wisconsin.  Where we lived up north, there are something like 8 hours and 39 minutes on the shortest days.  That’s a lot of darkness, and it is dreary.  I shudder to imagine what Alaska is like during the downward plunge.

But the downward plunge is worth it all!  What a joy, to welcome a new year of daylight.  Now, on New Year’s Day, we have 9 hours and 3 minutes of daylight–not including the twilight which will stretch out more and more as January progresses into February.

In about 8 weeks, the redwing black birds will begin returning.  We have a spot about 20 miles SE of us, where we will venture to see them before they fly into our neighborhood.  And hear them!  My blood surges just to think of hearing redwing blackbirds.

Meanwhile, the cheer cheer cheer of the cardinal will begin in just a few weeks–perhaps by the end of the month.  The mourning dove will start mourning sometime in mid-February.  It happens every year!

Great is Thy faithfulness, oh Lord!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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