Friday, December 28, 2007

The time between

It is the time between Christmas and New Years, between fall and spring, between daylight and dark.
It is winter. We seem to get a few inches of fresh snow every day and the roads out our way no longer show any pavement. It would be classed as "compact snow and ice." It is not always so snowy but it is this year.

Yesterday and today as we have driven down the driveway on our way to town there have been pheasants at the side of the drive or sitting on a wooden cross piece on the fence. They appear to be in lovely shape for winter and they are colour (!!!!!) in our black and white (blue and white might be closer) world.

Last night we drove our son to the bus and he has returned to the bustle of the city and his final semester before receiving his bachelor of fine arts.

Here there is no bustle, in fact the streets very firmly rolled up by Dec 24 and are only reopening ever so slowly. Finally there are a couple shops where one can find coffee in town again! Some businesses don't plan to re-open until January 2 and some not until the 7th!

Those who can have flown away to Mexico or Cuba or some place warm. Here we stock the fires to keep the cold from creeping in. I managed to send the Naniamo bars away with Larry, but I should have sent the fudge. I have great intentions of moving furniture and rearranging work spaces but I keep finding myself "en-chaired" in front of the television watching sad reports on the assassination of Benezir Bhutto over and over again.

January will come, and will pass, and gradually the light and warmth will return and spring will cheer us on.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Another year is nearly gone

This has been a busy year but we have weathered it.

My mom went into Swan Valley Lodge in February and we are still sorting and compressing. Our house is an amazing maze at the moment and somewhere under the accumulation is a spare bed for our son who will soon be home for a brief Christmas visit.
James is farming less and painting more these days.
In March James held a one man show, "Gone Tribal", at Kingfisher Used Books, Creston's wonderful used book store which also features great coffee, cushy chairs, and good company.
He has an ongoing show in Creston at Annette’s Delicate Essen Coffee House which has 300 feet of wall space, which is very good when one paints big and James has numbers of works in the 4 X 4 ft range.
In June James taught a week long class in Acrylic painting here at the college and they have asked him to give a class again this coming summer.

Last summer my friend Betty Marzke and I coordinated our 40 year high school reunion here in Creston and found it to be great fun and wonderful to contact so many old friends...
I continue to co-ordinate Creston’s ArtWalk/ArtDrive which lasts from mid-June to Labour Day and runs a distance of 80 miles from Yahk to the ferry landing on Kootenay Lake. As well as the ArtWalk we sponsor a number of evenings of art and music throughout the year.
I have been building unique rustic birdhouses for 14 years and selling them all throughout the Kootenays and North Idaho but am having to cut back drastically as I have Dupuytrens Contracture, a condition affecting the ligaments in my hands and I have had and will continue to need multiple hand surgeries. It has left me without much grip, with very tender palms, and seeking new directions. I may be able to have birdhouses on hand here at our studio/gallery but I won't be able to continue suppying the other stores. I am meditating on what I can do next that is not as physically strenuous.

I've been making cards and calendars of photos of James’ paintings and am developing a line of cards made from copies of old post cards my grandparents exchanged in the 8 years they corresponded before their marriage in 1912.
I’m learning the good the bad and the ugly about printers too.
I’ve been using an Epson Inkjet which is VERY expensive to run as they don’t have the cheaper inks available for it and sadly most less expensive (under $600.00) printers only want to print on typing paper weight paper while I am trying to get them to run a heavier paper.

As I write I am looking at my new Xerox 6180 laser printer that says it will print on up to 80 lb card stock!
We shall see. I still have to get all the tape off and set it up. It came in a 3 X 3 X 4 ft box with 2 delivery men and a larger footprint than I had imagined so I’ve been reshuffling desks to get it in my office. That and finding the bed for Larry.

Wishing all a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Going, going, gone.......

James caught this little fellow contemplating his breakfast. He (or she) is a Merlin, quite a small hawk but a bit bigger than a kestrel. "Breakfast" is a native sparrow of some sort, as opposed to an English sparrow which isn't.
Fall is truly upon us now. Last week was warm and on the first official day of autumn it turned cold enough we've been having fires in the wood stove in the morning. Driving home today flocks of little birds wheeled overhead on the wind like the scattering leaves. It's amazing how many leaves can be blowing with the trees still full. The dazzling colours aren't here quite yet but they are coming.
The hornets were so plentiful and aggressive this summer that these cooler days are welcome. Many afternoons we spent on the deck enjoying the shade but armed with two of those electric tennis racket zappers. This was not an easy summer.
Tonight the deck is wet and black with rain. After such a hot dry summer rain is welcome. I'd love a good dousing and then a nice "Indian Summer."
James has been painting sunflowers and pumpkins in honour of the season and on Monday we drove to Sirdar on Duck Lake and, with a couple other local artists, scrambled down the little goat trail of a path to the shore where they painted the row boats tied up at the water's edge.
Duck Lake is part of the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, a wildlife refuge and jewel of our valley. It is home to many species of nesting birds, water fowl in particular, and a great Bass fishing lake to boot.
This week James has also been starting wine. All summer he got up early to pick the blackberries before the hornets could turn them to mush and before the deer picked them. He picked them a couple cups at a time and stowed them away in the freezer. Now he has a batch of blackberry wine and one of blackcurrant wine on the go. We know more than at his first attempt over 30 years ago. We will be patient.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Time sure flies when you're having fun, or otherwise.....

Oh my, somehow the summer has escaped us!
When last I wrote the ArtWalk was just beginning and now this year's is over and the planning begins.
James' class went very well and he is sure it is something he'd like to repeat in the future. He had a small group, 3 women, but they were keen.
We had my 40 year high school reunion and it is a happy blur. Tomorrow I will mail out the remaining class photos and memory books. We've decided 10 years is too long to wait for the next one and will plan to meet again in 5 years.
I had yet another hand surgery just a week before the reunion so I got out of moving tables and the like! It will be at least another month before I can get back in the shop but there are still things to occupy my time!
We have emptied the living area of my mother's mobile home so we could rent it out to a little family. That was quite the job for James and I and the sorting isn't done yet.
I am hoping to get some sewing done. It is the reward I give myself for finishing things and so little gets finished these days.
The picture is of a fellow artist painting at our mutual friends' garden. In that James was taking the pictures he failed to get one of himself.
Fall is coming. We've had cedar bugs for a while now and the hornets are relentless. I think our little hill is the brownest in all the valley. The leaves on the Ocean Spray turn a wonderful burnt sienna late in summer and their blossoms become panicles of brown tiny star shaped seeds. I understand the native peoples ground them for flour.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Snow & Roses

When the clouds lifted today this is what greeted us. By tomorrow it is supposed to warm up and of course the snow is vanishing off the mountains even as I type.
This has been a particularly good year for roses. My huge pink rose is a mystery. I bought it in a box but it is not the rose pictured on the box - not even remotely. We have decided it may be some sort of climber. I so love it!
The past 3 years, including this, I have been having a series of hand surgeries so have not been in great gardening form. This rose will not be lost in the tall grass.
The Mock Orange is still blooming and the wild Ocean Spray is about to burst forth. Mock Orange is also a native plant.
Yesterday we drove the 50 miles up Kootenay Lake to Crawford Bay for the ArtWalk opening we sponser there. (Friday had been Creston's opening and Saturday a friend was doing a concert so we had quite the busy weekend.) It was a lovely drive with all the bushes in bloom on the hillsides. The Scotch Broom is also blooming and whereas it makes some people happy it is actually a scourge escaping up the hillsides and choking out native species. It also makes me sneeze!
Coming home in the dusk and dark there were numbers of deer to watch for but we managed not to squish any "Bambies" and James only had to brake hard once.
This is the first day of James' week long class at the college. He is teaching a class on experimental approaches to acrylic painting.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Gray Catbird

I held a catbird in my hand today.
It was soft and gray, still warm,
But the heart no longer beat.
The gray cat brought it to me.
A gift.
He meant no harm,
And now it no longer dances in the bushes and flips its tail.
It no longer calls out in its mimic cat voice.
It is still, and gray, and warm, but cooling.
It is smaller than it seemed in life
And with the softest rust coloured patch beneath its tail.
I laid it in the tall grass away from the cats.
The ants and the beetles will have it.
It will go back to the dust.
We all go back to the dust.

Nora McDowell June 16, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Summer's nearly here, but spring's been iffy

It's a l-o-n-g time since I've been on here!

We've had a long cold spring, then blistering heat, now back to cool, windy, splatters of rain and dashes of sunshine. James has planted most of the garden - that which won't interest the deer too intensely. He's planning to plant squash and beans inside a chicken pen we aren't using this year.

We have planted broad beans out along the pea fence as we've been told the deer don't like them. We will see.

May 26th we had our annual spring "Paint-Out" when we invite our friends to come out and paint on our hill. It was a gorgeous day and "a good time was had by all." The Oriental poppies and irises were in full bloom and it was just lovely. The next day it absolutely poured rain!

This year there are a young doe and buck hanging around. I think the little doe thought she would like to taste my pansies this evening but Bandy, the cat, was on the deck and the little doe did not like him. She kept stamping her feet. Bandy just ignored her until she finally gave up and moved away. The other day the little buck was checking out my irises. Deer don't like irises but this little fellow didn't know that yet. He tasted one petal, kind of made a distasteful face, went to sniff another iris and decided if that was all I had to offer he'd just wander off down the drainfield.

The information for this years ArtWalk brochure is at the printers and we are waiting for a copy to proof. The Creston, BC Opening will be Annette's Bistro and Coffee Bar on June 22 and the Crawford Bay, BC Opening will be the evening of June 24 at Newkeys Place.

I am trying to get planters planted and birdhouses built between now and June 29 when I will have yet another hand surgery.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I think that spring is really here!

Winter has had a hard time letting go this year but finally, if only because the date marches forward anyway, spring appears to be here. The daffodils have bloomed and in that it was a cool spring they last on and on. Last weekend was warm and they are about done.
Here and there a lone tulip has escaped the deer. This year the deer trimmed the foliage on my grape hyacinths but early enough that I do have the flowers. Last year they decimated them.
Up on the hill the Avalanche Lilies have nearly finished flowering. Ours blanket a north facing slope and bloom later than other spots in the valley. The white, flat blossoms of early carrot-related wildflowers are done and their clusters of flat little seeds mark the spot of flowering. The slightly taller, finer yellow blooms of Narrow-Leaved Desert Parsley are about and we wait for the procession of other spring blossoms. The wild Saskatoons are flowering on all the hills around like so many little girls in fluffy white dresses.
I have begun a new line if birdhouses shaped like grain elevators. They are a fundraiser for Creston's Main Street Grain Elevators Society and I am selling them for $75.00, 1/3 of which goes to the Elevator Society. The society seeks to buy and preserve our elevators which have been listed as one of the 10 Canadian historical sites most in need of preservation.
James and I have been kept busy with art shows. James' one man Gone Tribal show continues at Kingfisher Used Books, we took part in the Crow Show, which celebrated crows, giving them some good press for a change. Now, from April 29 to May 20 the Kootenay Regional Arts Show , Eye Piqued, is on in the lower level of the local mall and James is showing one of his works in that show as well as doing a number of artist demonstrations.
The photo at the top is of a round painting by James, the prehistoric crow in clay and wire is mine, the staff was carved by Gary Smith, and the odd clay egg carton is a project from the paper clay workshop held here recently. The picture leaning on the bale of hay is a lovely pen and ink.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Busy, busy, busy.....

It is that time of year.
I haven't done all the tidy-up spring gardening but a little warmth is finally creeping in and the daffodils are starting to bloom. It hasn't snowed since Monday!
I did plant tulips years ago but the deer eat them - bulbs and all.

The little lawn violets are blooming too. The snow drops and crocuses are finished. In town today I saw forsythia beginning to bloom. Mine is always very late and a rather unkept scraggle of a plant but, in that we live on a hill without trees right close to the house, the forsythia is allowed to stay as a perch for the birds.
Last weekend was rather a blur. The local rotary club had its annual wine, cheese, and art evening and both James and I were asked to participate. There were, in total, 11 artists who each were asked to show 3 pieces. James did not show paintings, but 2 carved wooden cats and one of the dulcimers he has been building. I showed 3 different birdhouses, one on a post with a welcome sign. James sold a lovely stylized carving of a calico cat. It was carved from part of a poplar the ants had claimed, so we had it taken down. It had mineral figuring (spalling) in the wood and wonderful pinky orange streaks. I sold a birdhouse. We were pleased that 11 pieces of work by local artists sold.
Saturday was the opening for James' new show "Gone Tribal" at Kingfisher Used Books, a cozy little used book store here in Creston. Actually, not so little, as there are 2 floors of great used books. They sell Oso Negro coffee plus the fancy latte's and the like and there are arborite tables and comfy chairs.
The opening was a great success - probably 50 or 60 people milling about. Joe, the owner, had asked Elenna, a local musician, to play her banjo and she sang some of her original songs and a "good time was had by all." The show will hang until June 20.
Amid all the art shows and openings my sister managed to come from Kelowna for a short visit to see my mom at Swan Valley Lodge. We managed to take my mom out a couple times and eat in with her once and while James and I were hanging shows Eileen managed to visit our mom, and she was able to come to James' opening which isn't always possible, and then she was gone.
Now we are getting ready for the Crow Show which opens Sunday, April 15, and the Eye Piqued Show which is a regional art show and will open Apr 29 but work is due by the 21st.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Not everything new is better!

I recently changed over to the new Blogger option and I am having issues with it! If I try to center a picture over the blog it puts it below the blog.
I spent at least a hour trying to post a new message this evening (this is the 2nd.) and could not get anywhere until I moved over to Mozilla. Grrrrr!!!
Our WEB page reads badly on Mozilla Firefox. The lettering that should be brown is bright blue and the "buttons" are in a different order.
This is a picture james painted before Christmas and a dear friend bought it for his wife.
In April there will be a local art show - called "The Crow Show"- celebrating crows, a very intelligent and much maligned member of the songbird family. We have been creatinf work to show and realising how many crow and raven paintings James has done over the years. Here they are again, and he's done a couple more recently.
I'm g0ing to post a recurring image we're using in the poster. James made a 4 colour screen print of a raven several years back and the ravens head keeps cropping up in his work. For a fundraiser for the show James carved the image into a woodblock that various members of the Wynndel Mudders pressed into clay as a fundraiser.
Well now I tried to center the crow below and it put it above. Oh well, it keeps things challenging.

Spring will come. Spring will come!

Winter's fingers have certainly had to be pried loose this year, but despite getting up to our car doors being frozen shut the other morning, spring is coming. Yesterday, as we drove in from Wynndel, there was a large flock of swallows wheeling in air, and James heard the frogs chirping from the pond for the first time this year.
James has another show opening at Kingfisher Used Books this coming Saturday. He is planning to show some of his recent work which has a definitely tribal feel to it. I spent last evening creating the poster using part of a painting. On that Friday is the Rotary Club's annual wine tasting and they have asked a number (10, I think) of local artists to show work for a silent auction. Both James and I are taking part. Rather than James showing his paintings he is showing 2 hand carved cats one of which is a wonderful calico from the natural colour of the wood and he hopes to show one of his ducimers.
I have one freestanding "Welcome" birdhouse and will have a swallow and a smaller bird bird house - smaller as in chickadee, wren, downy woodpecker.
All the mailings are out for ArtWalk and we are getting back registrations.

We are finally full tilt into working on our (mine, not James) 40th year high school reunion. My friend Betty said, "Who would have thought this would be the hardest year to get the planning done?"
Last week I got back into the shop/studio for the first time since my hand surgery last September. This last surgery took far longer healing than the previpous and I do need to book another appointment with the specialist - in my spare time!
Life is spinning madly by.

The last 3 days James and I have been taking part in an ambitious workshop on using paperclay taught by Graham Hay, an artist from Australia. Check out his site. When I first saw his work it was so large and organic I felt like "This is what I've always wanted to do." That and learning to weld with the Oxyacetaline set James got me for our 30th wedding anniversary. but I digress. Anyway. after 3 days struggling with paper clay I still see great possibilities but I'm not sure it'll be so easy to step into. We will see. Anyway, check out Graham's site. Besides a fabulous representation of his work it has links to many articles and a wealth of information. .

Friday, March 02, 2007

The girls are back.

Four of these lovelies just wandered through the yard not 100 feet from the slider. I took about 8 pictures but they are amazingly good at stepping behind the bushes.
You can see they are in beautiful shape after our very long winter.
James has finished dulcimer #2 and has been doing other interesting projects like making and replacing a rod in a piano, setting the sound post in a cello, more guitar repair. He is a busy boy.
This afternoon he was off to Sirdar with a friend to look at some diamond willow.
I have finally finished making a list of names for ArtWalk in Access and now am redoing forms for this year. Monday we will stuff envelopes and send out this years "seed" hoping it bears a crop of happy participants in ArtWalk. Then on to the shop!!!! Oh, and a mailing to our fellow grads as we prepare for our 40 year Grad Reunion this summer.
The shop! I haven't worked there since Sept 21 when I had my last hand surgery but I am developing a grip again and now is the time to plung back in.

"As you wish"

James took this photo yesterday of Mt Thompson, shining over the valley.
Mt Thompson is the tallest mountain of those surrounding us and is named after the explorer David Thompson.
Spring came in as a lamb - if not a somewhat chilly lamb - in our little valley. Sadly it was not so "lambish" elsewhere.

Friday, February 02, 2007


This is not the groundhog but were he so he would have seen his shadow. We have had no sun today but the morning was bright with filtered sun and snowflakes. I am ready for spring.

So life is never without its changes. For the last 17 years, since my husband and I moved home to the farm I was raised on, we have cared for my mother to varying degrees.

When we first came my mother could tramp through the woods with us for miles, and every spring we would walk up on the large hill to the back of our property to see the wildflowers. My mother was 69 when we first returned.

Gradually our expedition changed. I began to drive by the road to the back so it was a shorter hike and I began asking my husband or a friend to accompany us in case something were to "go wrong." It has been some years since she could make the hike at all and we have tried to satisfy that loss with drives past wild flowers.
It has become more difficult to take her on outings as her ability to walk has decreased. She now walks relatively short distances with the aide of a walker.

Some years ago the cooking was too much for her and I began making and freezing meals for her to reheat in the microwave and came the day we realized that even that was not happening and home care workers have come in to microwave those meals and "present" them to her. The mechanics of the washing machine and the television baffle her. She no longer heats water in the microwave.

Her memory has changed gradually over the years. It has given me a somewhat cynicle view of history as she speaks with real clarity of incidents that are not as she used to recall them and I wonder if history isn't just to whoever writes it down first.

I have not felt graceful in her transition. I want my mother to be that strong vibrant woman she was. There is that voice in my mind crying "Think!" as she searches for the words and the answers.
And so we are to embark on another journey. On Monday we will move my mother into a local care facility. It is what she wants ( a great blessing there!) and what we want for her but it is another in a string of losses. She is now nearing 86. We will continue to care for her but in a different capacity. No one will ever say old age is kind.


These are pictures of the dulcimer James is currently working on. The top picture shows the sides being attached to the back, and the rough neck piece. The second picture shows the inside of the dulcimer with attachments and bracing and with the top laying beside it. Note the lovely f-holes with tiny valentines. This last photo shows the carved and finished neck attached to the dulcimer.

Friday, January 26, 2007

When bookworms mature: altered book

Tomorrow is the library opening and I have finished the altered book I was working on.

This is my altered book and may be hard to see.In the stepped down middle there is a tree branch with a cocoon hanging on it and there is the little green worm reading the book which says, "And so little bookworm, after a long sleep you will wake up as the most beautiful butterfly...."

I removed pages from the book and ran them through the printer for the flat pages of butterflies. The 3D butterflies were printed, painted with matte medium, painstakingly cut out, painted gold on the back, and glued on with a heavy bodied glue called "yes." The pages are glued together in groups and the left side is glued in a curve so the book will permanently sit open. There are a few butterflies crawling on the cover too.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What happens at the McDowells in the dead of winter?

This has been quite the winter so far. We have been spared the severe storms of the coast and the mid-west, and the east, but we have had cold weather and snow that has just hung on and on. Usually the snow comes, and melts, and then we get more, and then it melts, etc., but this has just hung in there, cold and inconvenient. We are burning more firewood than usual as are many others.

When one lives with 100 acres of woodland there are always more trees falling in the latest big wind and wood heat does seem the only way to go, though on cold mornings the idea of waking to a warm house is pretty tempting.

James began this dulcimer probably 15 or more years ago and got to the point where he needed tuning pegs and it went into "waiting mode." He has now finished it and its song is sweet, and he has begun another. The new dulcimer is more lute shaped or like a tear drop.

We are looking forward to the grand opening of Creston's new library and for it a number of us have been creating altered books. I haven't done this before and I'm not sure I'd do it again but it has been interesting. When I have a picture I'll post it.

It is again time to begin on the this year's Creston and Kootenay Lake Eastshore ArtWalk/ArtDrive and I need to create a good address list from all the "collections." We plan to meet March 1 to fill envelopes and mail out information and entry forms so I need to have that done by then.

I am about to take the plunge back into the shop to clear it out so it is workable and to begin building birhouses again. The hand surgery I had done Sept 21 took longer to heal than the other times but now I am really able to grip things again and shouldn't be a hazzard to myself.

The cats remain themselves. A bit of cabin fever has set in and Skeeter has taken to tearing the leaves off my fiscus and ripping corners off papers with her teeth. She would be most happy spending most of her time outside and even now, snow and all, she is outside a lot. On the other hand, Bandy spends great swaths of his time sleeping and doesn't want to go out and get his feet wet at all!

With the recent story of Goliath, the stray who got himself stuck in a doggy door as he was so big, I saw a sign on the back wall of the SPCA cattery that sums it up pretty well:

"Dogs have Masters.

Cats have Staff."

The staff is still pretty happy 'round here.