June 20, 2020

urn with succulents
Urn and succulents at Descanso Gardens, 6/16/2020 (Inktense pencils, with sprayed water on watercolor paper)

As today is the first day of summer I am excited to begin a new season—exploring the new and numerous things related to my changing art and garden, as well as numerous thoughts about other changes in my day to day work life as a result of the coronavirus. To start with, my last day working with children online was Monday, the 15th. My therapy sessions for the last three months have been mostly successful even though I often felt like just a talking head—only able to use two of my five senses. However, there were a couple students left alone with limited adult supervision that indeed provided me some funny moments, gifting me the reminder that they need us and to not take myself too seriously. One third grader, in particular, seemed to be more creative than most. Several times he pressed a half full bottle of water against the computer screen, sloshing it back and forth much like underwater ocean waves. I guess he thought it more entertaining to imagine we were at the bottom of the sea having a conversation. But his final session with me was the most creative of all. He frequently liked to mute the sound and turn off the video camera at the beginning of our time together, as well as at other times throughout the session. Ok, I’d seen that trick before. This time, when he finally unmuted himself and turned on the camera, he was quietly looking at me through a pair of binoculars. I noticed the strap of the binoculars was in an odd place and soon realized he was looking at me through the wrong end. I seem to remember giving a loud snort of almost laughter, dutifully asking him to put the binoculars away. But of course he didn’t do that as he sensed my weakened condition. Instead he moved in closer, pressing one of the lenses against the screen. All I could see was one tiny blinking eye, way off in the distance. I lost it of course and once you start laughing, that’s the end of anything substantive. We ended with him not wanting to say goodbye, but knowing I needed a break from this process so I could begin again in earnest in the middle of August, when school starts up again.

But I didn’t wait until Tuesday to kick off some pre-summer art, I started it last Sunday. And how did I celebrate this momentous day? I went to the Descanso Gardens, of course. In fact, as of yesterday I have been there 3 times, sketching garden vignettes like the one you see here. I am so thankful they have once again opened their doors. But my sketching/painting routine in the garden has changed. Oh, I still head for the rose garden first, but for now I am just going early in the morning, when they first open and there are few people. And instead of my bringing watercolors, brushes several kinds of paper and water, I am just bringing small sheets of watercolor paper, Inktense pencils, a small collapsible chair and a sheet or two of bubble wrap. I have made this change, for now, as I want to do only small, quick sketches that I later spritz with water when I get home. This way I can do a couple sketches and also spend a fair amount of time hiking around as well. In the past, when I did full on watercolors I would leave the garden once the majority of wet had dried. It was always a little cumbersome to carry around a wet piece of art, plus all the supplies. Now, I feel like I not only need to sketch something beautiful, but it seems just as important to move around in the garden, wandering the trails and filling my lungs with fresh outside air. So, now I am content to do little vignette garden sketches, as you seen here.

monarch caterpillar
Monarch caterpillar on milkweed in SoCal garden (Fude fountain pen, Inktense pencils on watercolor paper)

What’s new in my garden? Thank you for asking. As you can see I have monarch butterflies hanging around my newly planted milkweed. It is quite exciting, for me, to go outside and watch a monarch butterfly flit from plant to plant, leaf to leaf and flower to flower. That event is lovely, but quite brief compared to the anticipation of the hatching of the teeny tiny eggs they lay. Yes, I have actually seen a couple, but you definitely need a magnifying glass to appreciate their pearlescent quality. But oh my, the real show comes when the wildly striped caterpillars miraculously pop from the eggs. And OMG, those creatures can eat—quickly chomping stems, leaves and seed pods down to nothing or a nub.

new cucumbers
New cucumbers in a SoCal garden, 6/2020

What else is new under my SoCal girl’s sun? Veggies! My tomatoes are coming along nicely. And as you can see, so are the cucumbers. Not really sure about the garlic, the early Italian seem to be laying down, but the CA select appear to be on track. The basil is healthy, but the dill is weird. The plant I bought in April appears to be going to seed, which usually means it’s about to finish its life cycle and die. And the dill seed I planted around that same time are pretty tiny and look as though a slight breeze could break them to pieces. We’ll see, I guess. 

As you can probably tell, summer has arrived again in all our neighborhoods. Now we can go outside and walk the perimeter and area of our gardens—looking for new life and hope that the tomatoes will be wonderful again this year. I hope you have something new to look for outside in your garden or in your city. I don’t think going back to the old is an option anymore. It’s time, once again, to carefully step outside to see what is new and somehow make it good.

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