Fall Song

This coming Sunday, October 28th, is the last day that Fletcher’s Boathouse will be open for canoe rentals. I had hoped for an end-of-season family excursion gliding up the Potomac River to gaze at autumn color, hawks and herons, and lichen-covered boulders reflected in the leaf-sprinkled water. However, it looks as if all will be rained out (or possibly snowed in) with the approach of Tropical Storm Sandy, which is already wreaking havoc further southeast. Let’s hope it’s short-lived.

Here is a poem for this bright and watery season.


Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,

the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back

from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere

except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle

of unobservable mysteries—roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This

I try to remember when time’s measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn

flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay—how everything lives, shifting

from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.

—Mary Oliver


YCandleAunt Mary

Sunrise, Deep Creek Lake

Today is the birthday of Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) and so I post this poem and its English translation, along with a painting created for our friend Martha, who introduced us to what is probably our family’s most beloved vacation destination. Thank you, Martha.

Oda a la luz encantada

La luz bajo los árboles,
la luz del alto cielo.
La luz
que fulgura
en la hoja
y cae como fresca
arena blanca.

Una cigarra eleva
su son de aserradero
sobre la transparencia.

Es una copa llena
de agua
el mundo.
—Pablo Neruda


Ode To Enchanted Light

Under the trees light
has dropped from the top of the sky,
like a green
latticework of branches,
on every leaf,
drifting down like clean
white sand.

A cicada sends
its sawing song
high into the empty air.

The world is
a glass overflowing
with water.
—Pablo Neruda

Book Festival


Today’s post is a watercolor from The Survivor Tree, a book by Cheryl Aubin that I illustrated, which was released last year for the ten-year anniversary of September 11th. Cheryl will be presenting her story and we will both be signing books this coming Saturday, May 19th, at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Our family is excited that among the other presenters are Andrew Clements, a favorite author of my daughter, and local writer Sara Mansfield Taber, who recently completed a memoir, Born Under an Assumed Name, about growing up as the daughter of a covert CIA agent.

And perhaps we will see some of you there, too!

Holiday Bazaar

On Saturday, November 19th, the Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda, Maryland will hold what is probably the most unusual holiday bazaar in the Washington area, reflective as it is of the artistry of Waldorf education.


Adults with an eye to gift-giving appreciate the wide range of beautiful handcrafts, from pottery to woven scarves to toys to jewelry.

Younger children enjoy the storytelling and puppet shows, candle-decorating, visiting the Magical Maze of evergreens and twinkling lights, making an excursion to the Children’s Shop for their own secret purchases, and taking a peek into the pockets of the wandering Pocket Wizard or Pocket Lady. Older children like making wooden toolboxes, or copper lanterns, or ornamenting themselves with a henna-tattoo.

All will happily sink into a seat at the Bazaar Bistro for a truly delicious homemade lunch, a special dessert, or a cappuccino, where they can listen throughout the day to live musical offerings.

Admission is free, but, although it runs from 10 to 3, arrive promptly, because handmade goods and puppet show tickets sell out EARLY.

Rain on Deep Creek Lake


We had a few days’ long-anticipated and most welcome end-of-summer R&R at the peaceful lakeside house of dear Martha. Our vacation was baptized with days and nights of amazing and nearly unceasing rain. I took advantage of a brief lull to paint this from the dock—until the rain resumed, adding its own washes.

CakeWeddingWalter & Seska


Garden of Lights


If you have never been to the Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland, I recommend it. Inside the Conservatory, different local musicians perform each evening, and you can fortify yourself with hot cocoa. Then, sufficiently warmed, you can venture out into the gardens. In summer this is a place of sunshine and glorious blooming color, but at the moment it’s a magical fairyland of lights twinkling in the darkness.

The best time to visit is when it’s bitterly cold, because it is not crowded. However, you might then be wishing for Irish coffee and hot toddies instead of cocoa.

Justice of the Peace


This sketch is from a canal barge tour we took on the C&O Canal as part of our homeschooling Local History & Geography block. It was mid-week, and my daughter and I were the only non-senior citizens on the trip, so she was definitely the focus of kindly attention (being small and cute with long blond braids), which was fine with her. The restored barge was beautiful, the costumed guide was excellent, the mules were friendly, and it was a lovely day.

ANYWAY, I post the sketch in honor of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas (1898-1980), whose birthday it is today. What, you may ask, is the connection?

Well, some of you may know that Douglas, in addition to serving for 36 years on the Supreme Court, was an avid outdoorsman and supported various environmental causes, even serving briefly on the board of the Sierra Club.

In the 1950s, an era newly keen on the divine glory of automobiles and expanses of concrete pavement, there was a movement in Congress, supported by The Washington Post, to replace the canal with a highway. Douglas, familiar with the canal’s scenery and wildlife, thought this an idiotic and short-sighted idea and challenged the Post’s editorial staff to accompany him on a hike of the canal’s entire length.

Douglas expected that perhaps a handful of folks might accompany him; however, news of the challenge spread, and by the departure date there were 58 in the group, including conservationists, historians, geologists, ornithologists, and zoologists. Each night when they crashed, the group had a free, informative lecture, offered by one of their traveling companions, on some aspect of the canal.

Word got around, and thousands of newspapers carried updates on the hikers. Organizations along the way hosted them and prepared meals. Children and townspeople watched for them and shouted their support. Some joined in for parts of the route.

Even given the ongoing attention, it was a tough hike. The C&O Canal is 185 miles long, and Douglas, age 55, maintained an average pace of 23 miles a day. This was a man who had, after all, hiked the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail. Only eight of his companions made it to the end. By then, public support to save the canal was enormous. Douglas organized and worked with a committee to plan its restoration and preservation, and The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Act finally passed in 1971.

Canal-lovers, imagine this place as a highway! Today it’s one of the most popular national parks in the U.S., enjoyed by millions of hikers, boaters, bicyclists, and birdwatchers. Not to mention the birds themselves, as well as countless fish, frogs, beaver, fox, and deer. Happy Birthday, Justice Douglas! We have you to thank for this gift, all year round.


CakeYellowRosesAunt Bett

Living History


Fall is the time for farm field trips, to see the bounty of the season and learn how it was achieved. These sketches are from a trip to National Colonial Farm, an 18th century living history farm in Accokeek, Maryland, which sponsors a number of school programs for children in kindergarten through 6th grade, including homeschool groups. Our homeschoolers were a pretty savvy bunch, already intimately familiar with carding combs, rollaghs, hollowed gourd containers, dried herbs and the like, but they enjoyed the informative walking tour through the farm buildings, the wagon ride, and the opportunity to milk the cow (THAT we don’t have at home).


Today’s post is in honor of dear and lovely Seska, married to Walter, one of my husband’s oldest friends (they were young adventurous guys together). She just had truly major surgery for ovarian cancer and will soon begin chemo.

Seska is many things—kind and sensitive social worker, artist and art lover, spiritual pilgrim, and determined optimist in the face of adversity. Most recently she has been working in post-earthquake Haiti, having accumulated a collection of musical instruments with which she has been helping children and adults to launch and re-launch music programs in schools and communities. Please keep her in your blessings, and think of her in your music-making.

This drawing is from Walter and Seska’s wedding invitation and seemed suitably hopeful. Their 14th wedding anniversary is later this month.


Yahrzeit2Rob’s Dad