strega nona

September 24, 2023

The grilled cheese sandwich I ate for lunch today made my day. So did the rocks I found down on the lake. But the best part of my day was discovering the work of British collage artist, Jo Waterhouse. I’m not sure that I’ll ever have the good fortune of owning one as they sell out fast but I’m happy to know they exist. It’s her wonderful women –– all a bit grandma-witchy –– that I adore. And just as good, are their brilliant titles; “a sturdy woman on a mission to do something important involving some branches,” or “a sensual woman in the sheerest of dresses invoking the power of the piscean.” Please watch her short introductory videos. I bet they’ll make your day, too.


September 23, 2023

Today was one of those days that make you wish it was September all year around. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of it on a patio. If not for the intermittent breeze, I might have forgotten I was even outside. Not too hot, not too cold. This thinking always brings me to the same place: if there were no sweltering Augusts and frigid Februaries would I appreciate September as much as I do? Would I become complacent to the joys of warm and breezy if I felt it all the time? Are periods of “grace” that much sweeter when we know what it is to struggle? “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” Sing it, Dolly. One of my favourite summer pastimes is to sit on the bench on our front porch until it goes dark. Every year around this time I start to lament the loss of this simple pleasure. The days are shorter, the evenings are chilly. I retreat inside to baked potatoes. To Netflix. I try to get cozy. Prepare for Winter. And whatever it has in store.

once upon a time

September 18, 2023

Between a nasty infection in my chest, a vicious wasp sting on my son’s ring finger, and a skin infection that left a constellation of flaming red sores across the right side of my teenage daughter’s face, I’ve spent a fair bit of September in a doctor’s office. The upside of sickness was a chance to read books and watch films, two things I don’t do nearly enough of. Kerry Clare’s latest book, Asking For A Friend hit home in so many ways. Just as relatable, was Julia Louis Dreyfus’, You Hurt My Feelings. What I was drawn to in both, and what I’m mostly drawn to, is material that’s familiar and accessible and that helps us better understand and connect with the human experience. I related viscerally to Clare’s portrayal of post-natal anxiety and the unspooling that her protagonists undergo in early motherhood. And watching Louis Dreyfus cry on camera after her character overhears her husband, her greatest champion, admit that he hates the book she’s written, is shattering. The characters’ beautiful, relatable and unavoidable flaws make the stories so true to life that we can’t help but reflect on our own life experiences. “The secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets,” writes Arundhati Roy. “The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in.”

higher ground

September 12, 2023

My daughter, Luma is an avid beader. This aerial view of Labbezanga, a small riverport village in Mali, photographed by Georg Gerster in the early 1970s reminded me of our kitchen table when Luma’s at work. One of the magical things about aerial photography is the multitude of textures, patterns and visual references that reveal themselves when we shift our perspective. We see a whole new world. “I see my best aerial photographs as a kick-start for flights of thought. The aerial picture is a tool of reflection. From high up, one sees not only what is, but just as well what could be – the inventory of our possibilities.”

cat woman

July 5, 2023

As a kid, we had a cat that pooed in our bathtubs when we went out for long stretches or forgot to feed him. He was cold and aloof. If not for the fact that he made for a beautiful foot muff — he was a Persian Chinchilla — I’d have nothing nice to say about Mowgli. To be honest, I’ve never had much nice to say about cats, in general. Sure they’re pretty to look at, especially those Russian Blues, but for the most I’ve always found them self serving, unpredictable and arcane. It’s a running joke with one my best friends, Izabela that I am, in fact, part cat. “But they’re so neurotic,” I say scornfully, to which she always smiles and says something like, “umm,” or “uh-huh.” If I’m a cat, she’s a toad. Then a few weeks ago, I happened upon this description of cats by The Colour Purple author, Alice Walker, that made me re-consider my view on cats. “Cats, in particular, teach us to be ourselves, whatever the odds. A cat, except through force, will never do anything that goes against its nature. Nothing seduces it away from itself.” As someone who has too often abandoned her true nature for the sake of acquiescing others, and/or an image I would like others to have of me, I have great admiration for anything and anyone that protects theirs. If Walker’s right about cats, then living like one is gutsy as hell. It means risking being disliked, dismissed and misunderstood — are cats selfish or self aware, aloof or deeply sensitive — in exchange for a freer and more fulfilling life. “Contemplate ways we can strengthen our resolve to live our lives as who we really are,” writes Walker. I can be selfish, solitary and very sensitive, all common cat traits that most humans resist in themselves and yet no feline ever makes apology for. More and more so, I’m trying to do the same. There’s a cat in me, after all. I text Izabela with the news. “I always knew you had it in you.”


June 28, 2023

It’s my daughter’s birthday, and as is always the case when one of my children celebrates a birthday, the day was a smorgasbord of feelings, from nostalgia and regret to gratitude, pride and pure joy. Throw in some smoked ham and a boiled egg for good measure. It’s hard to celebrate your child’s next spin around the sun, without reflecting on the fourteen that have already spun. FOURTEEN. That’s a lot of highs and lows (hers and mine), spilt milk, exploding diapers, tears, laughter, jaunts around the shopping mall, to reflect on. That’s a lot of expectations not met (you will fall in love with her the second you see her) and so many that exceeded your wildest dreams (when the love comes it will be so immense that your heart will have no choice but to triple in size). That’s a lot of firsts; first steps, first stitches, first time away from home. It’s Iole’s birthday today, and I watched her open gifts and eat carrot cake with too sweet icing from our local bakery –– all the lovely, mundane things –– while quietly remembering and marveling and wishing her the universe.


June 26, 2023

Rolling out a slab of clay is satisfying. So is making something from it. And just as satisfying is waking up the next day knowing that the thing I made yesterday is waiting for me today. I am in a flow. Maybe I get to smooth down all the lumpy surfaces, add handles or carve into the rim. Maybe I get to paint the whole thing blue. But the point is, I am not starting from scratch; I have something to return to, something that’s alive and emergent. It’s like planting flowers in garden beds that you prepped the day before or lathering a crumb coat on a cake that’s been in the freezer since last week. Of course, in order to have work to return to, there have to be many hours spent wedging clay, tilling soil and cracking eggs. It’s the ground work, the grunt work, and the rewards are precious and fleeting. Soon enough the bowl will be fired, the cake will be eaten and our hands will once again be filled with raw clay, flour and the hope of what might be.

the stripes

June 21, 2023

In a contest between polka dots and stripes, I’d choose the latter. As teenagers, my best friend, Stephanie and I had amassed so many stripe-y t-shirts (many of them matching) we could have run a shop on the green outside our school. Stripes for Sale! Two for a tenner! Anytime I see a stripe, I get excited. These striped cups, coasters, dishes and bowls from ceramic artist, Amy Kraus are terrifically cool. A background in graphic design informs her approach to surface decoration. “Picking a simple pattern like stripes is great because it’s simple, and I can’t get overwhelmed by the possibilities of different patterns and graphics,” she says. There’s something about the stripe that’s bold, fresh and classic. Hello, Audrey sur plage! “The only rules are that I have to use stripes, and there has to be two colours in the piece,” adds Kraus. “Within that framework, I am able to explore different colour combinations and variations of stripe patterns, and I am pushed to see what colours I can make work together. The best results usually come from combinations I wasn’t expecting to work well.”


June 5, 2023

It’s at this time of the year that my camera roll is chock full of flowers. The peonies on Brunswick, the poppies on Howland, Irises, lilacs, and wisteria. Some flowers are easier to photograph than others. The translucent quality of a poppy’s petals is hard to capture when too much sunlight is pouring through it. All the beautiful detail gets erased by the sun. Irving Penn shot his fragile and exquisite poppy portraits in the natural light of his studio. No photograph of a poppy comes close to his. This painting by Brooklyn-based painter, Shara Hughes captures the wildness and the whimsy of poppies packed together with the early morning light dancing all around in a way that I couldn’t with my camera when I saw a similar scene last week. I was happy to have found this painting, to know it exists, and to know that I can look at it and trace my way back to that morning.


May 31, 2023

My studio friend, Amy lent me her sharpener today. It’s an excellent sharpener. And now all my pencils have lovely conical points. They’ve been dull for weeks, and I’ve made do. But working with a sharpened pencil makes the world of difference. I’m not sure why I do that, why I work with blunt pencils and paint brushes with splayed out bristles, why I let my tools get so rundown before I tend to them. Are they a sign of my hard work or laziness? I know the work is easier and yields better results when my tools are in shipshape, so why the neglect? And it’s not just in the studio. At home, my toothbrush has to look like wheat in a windstorm before I replace it. Here is what I know. A sharper pencil means greater control and a smoother finish. So, I’m getting myself a really good sharpener. As my favourite handman, Rawlie once said while painting our old wooden staircase white; “the work is only as good as your tools.”

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