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Constellations No. 3
Here we are in the hold of autumn’s equinox. As I pressed send on Constellations No. 3 we are experiencing equal day and night, the sun poised in balance over the equator. Here in northern Michigan we are at the start of seasonal transition - sunlight has shifted, shadows are tilting at more extreme angles, and Lake Michigan’s water is often warmer than the air temperature. But we are still hanging onto every ounce of summer that we can, not wanting to waste a moment knowing that we are on the precipice of losing the light.
Tove Jansson describes this feeling perfectly in one of my favorite books, The Summer Book, giving words to a certain kind of fleeting stillness; a pulsing pause before change:
“It is still summer, but the summer is no longer alive. It has come to a standstill; nothing withers, and fall is not ready to begin. There are no stars yet, just darkness.”
In some ways this palpable sense of time standing still has defined my whole summer. In mid-July, I experienced a sudden health issue (no need to fret - I’m ok now!) including a hospital stay followed by weeks of rest and recovery. It was a heavy and unnerving time (and if I’m being honest I’m not the best at being patient with myself). Amid the uncertainty, though, were many quiet and profound moments. And because I was moving through my days in a slower way, my perspective eventually began to shift, too. I noticed things that I might have otherwise overlooked; I became aware of subtle shifts in light as the season ripened, and I learned a lot about myself. There was a beauty in the depth of that stillness that looking back on even from this close distance, I am learning to appreciate.
In my previous newsletter, I wrote that I wanted “to try to stand still a bit more often, to focus my energy on patience, pausing, and looking closely.” As it turns out, my summer included exactly all of those things - only it all unfolded in a manner I never would have predicted. So in the stillness of this very brief autumnal equinox, before we begin our slide into the darker parts of the year, I am reminding myself frequently that it is possible to lean into uncertainty, and that periods of darkness and vulnerability are equally ripe with potential for infinite beauty and meaning as the lightest, brightest summer day.
Thanks for being here, friends.
Until next time,
GRANOR FARM BOOK + SUPPER CLUB WITH CHEF ABRA BERENS
December 2 & December 3, 2022
I’m thrilled to announce a collaborative dinner series in December with cookbook author, chef and Why We Cook contributor Abra Berens, of Granor Farm in Three Oaks, MI. Abra and I will kick off both evenings with a conversation about the cookbook making process, the current state of food writing and my illustration process before moving on to a lovingly prepared Why We Cook-inspired multi-course meal and book signing!
I have admired Abra's writing, creativity and food and farming justice advocacy since I first learned about her work and convinced her to be part of Why We Cook. I’m super honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with her on these events at Granor. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed that her Buttermilk and Butter Lettuce Salad (you can find it on p. 26-27 of Why We Cook) will make a cameo.
We hope you can join us for one or both of two fabulous evenings.
Friday, December 2
Book + Supper Club, 6:30 pm
Saturday, December 3
11 am-1 pm Book Signing at Granor Farm Store
Saturday, December 3
Book + Supper Club, 6:30 pm
Illustrations of my 2022 summer reading list, made with watercolor and colored
pencil on hot press paper.
Do you ever feel like books find you at the exact right moment? I had that experience in July and August while I was recovering from illness. As I made my way through the book mountain on my nightstand, it started to feel like all the books were subtly connected; they fit together just so. To see the complete list of books and read more about my thoughts on each one, head over to my journal.
*a brief note on process*
In the studio, I've been experimenting with adding texture to my paintings with different materials- gouache, pencil, old sharpies, colored pencil and varied surfaces. To make these illustrations, I started with layers of watercolor on hot press paper, then worked back onto the painted surface with graphite and colored pencils. I've also been teaching myself Procreate, and had a lot of fun playing around with adding motion to my illustrations - exhibit A: this GIF.
IN MY KITCHEN LATELY
Staying in sync with the seasons via cooking from our weekly Loma Farm CSA share is always one of my greatest joys in these abundant Midwestern summer months. Tomatoes, cherries, corn, peaches, green beans, herbs, peppers, onions, and eggplant flood the countertops, and every bowl is full of lush raw materials. I have fits of energy that follow each phase of the summer, cramming my freezer with strawberries from June’s lightning quick harvest, hearty ratatouille preserves, ambrosial peach compote and sun-drenched oven-roasted tomatoes. I often lean on the most straightforward preparations this time of year since everything is so delicious on its own, but when I need added inspiration I turn to Ruffage, by Abra Berens, which I adore for its thoughtful organization-by-vegetable, Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, and Tejal Rao’s weekly NY Times column, The Veggie. I love the challenge of using as much of every vegetable as I can and learning which ones I can store away for later (I'll see you in December, drawer full of beets and turnips!).
A BRIGHT LIGHT
Joni Mitchell performing "Both Sides Now" at the Newport Folk Festival in July 2022.
Joni Mitchell's performance at the Newport Folk Festival in July - her first in almost twenty years- stuck with me for days after I first watched it. I still think about it often, actually - the bravery it took for her to get on stage after so many years, and the tender way the accompanying musicians and audience were immersed in her voice. Singers have a way of stunning me like this; I have always admired the clear-toned note of another human being employing their voice as instrument.
Sniffling into my sweatshirt sleeve watching her sing, I thought about the tremendous arc of her career, the waves of history that she has been part of and reflected back to the world in song, poetry, and–as I later learned – painting. An hour later after a deep dive of internet research I found her 2019 collection of early paintings and poetry, Morning Glory on the Vine (see my illustration of the cover above). Until then I'd shockingly had no idea that she is as much a painter as she is a musician. Of course I ordered the book immediately, and later in the summer while browsing through it, admiring her saturated watercolors and the looping cadence of her handwriting, landed on her portrait of another art hero of mine- Georgia O’Keeffe. I was curious - had Mitchell and O’Keeffe’s known each other before O'Keeffe's death in 1986? More internet sleuthing confirmed my suspicion.
Though generations apart, the two shared a connection across time, facing and overcoming many of the same barriers to their artistic and professional ambitions. Here's what Mitchell said in a 2014 interview about visiting O'Keeffe in Abiquiu, NM:
"She was a testy old bird. She reminded me of my grandmother. When I first visited her, I left her a book of my drawings. She didn't like that and threw her head back like, "Oh for God's sake" and left the room. Months later, I was reading an interview with Georgia and she was saying, "In another life, I would come back as a blond soprano who could sing high, clear notes without fear." I visited her many times afterwards. She confided in me, "I would have liked to have been a musician too but you can't do both." I said, "Oh yes you can," and she leaned in, like a little kid, and said, "Really?" They gave her a hard enough time as it was as a woman painter! She told me that the men said she couldn't paint New York City and she did anyway."
I'll add this magical collision of two geniuses, their friendship and visits with each other to the many points in time I will visit when someone finally figures out time travel. O'Keeffe and Mitchell both exude an enduring and inspiring approach to art and living defined by unwavering creative independence and grace in expressing creative multiplicity. If you're as taken with these connections as I am and want to keep reading, check out this article, this, and this one.
Left: Mitchell's 1978 painting of O'Keeffe featured in Morning Glory on the Vine.
GET OUT THE VOTE
2022 midterm elections are quickly approaching and there are so many critical issues on the line. This fall, I helped artist Lena Wolff distribute 2022 VOTE posters around northern Michigan that she created in collaboration with multidisciplinary designer Hope Meng. Together Wolff and Meng have raised money to print and ship 30,000 posters to circulate in critical states throughout the US. Click HERE to learn more about the project, donate, and download images to print your own posters and postcards. And one last friendly reminder: make sure you and other eligible voters you in your community are registered to vote, and mark your calendars for voting day, Tuesday, November 8th! See you at the polls, people.