Plummy Daydreams

(blue leaf kallima)


I was browsing through my Botanical Postcard Oracle and decided I liked these colours for today. They remind me of the Damson plum tree in my backyard which was surrounded by 4 feet of snow last week. No mail or driving for three days as we were snowed in. Finally the plough came and we were able to get to the grocery store.

When we lived in Ontario, this sort of weather was usual for the month, and they had the equipment to deal with it, but out here where they rarely get more than six inches of snow it has been interesting to see how things come to a standstill. I ordered a Kindle Paperwhite to better read classic books, and it would have been here Friday but for impassable streets, and I shall have to be patient until tomorrow.

So, a much-needed break to contemplate plums. According to the blurb on the postcard, domesticated plums are hybrids, and thus have many variations. Plums have delicate white blossoms that attract butterflies like the Blue Leaf Kallima which is the South Indian blue oakleaf (Kallima horsfieldii) according to Wikipedia, and this colouring seems to be one it sports in the dry season, it’s a bit more subtle but still with lovely gradations and spots.

That’s it! I’m having a dry season, dreaming of summer.



Festive Postcard

I like to use some of my botanical decks and postcards in the winter. We actually got a dusting of snow here on the west coast, and the spouse and I put our little tabletop Christmas tree up this week.

This postcard is from the postcard book Posta Cucina by Helen Buttfield published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, and it is part of my larger postcard oracle featuring all the botanical postcard books by Helen Buttfield.

I deliberately chose this one to represent Christmas because don’t we all think of baking and cinnamon at Christmas?


Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) was considered the tree of life by the ancient Chinese; early Christians thought it grew in the Garden of Eden next to the apple tree. Valued for its aromatic, medicinal, and preservative properties, it has been imported from its home in Sri Lanka since Roman times and was one of the most expensive prizes of the spice trade, worth its weight in gold. Today, for only pennies, cinnamon adds pungency and aroma to cooked apples and pears, sweet breads, cookies, and many hot drinks.”

This is my tabletop tree that I bought for our first Christmas 40 years ago. When we moved this year I discarded many of the old raggedy ornaments and we bought a few new ones this year. The monk with the plum pudding was repainted and urethaned to keep him fresh after 40 years. I bought him a ceramic black pig with two red cardinals sitting on its back to keep him company. The presents are fake ones that I made from aspirin boxes and similar boxes.


We were moving last year so didn’t get a chance to put the tree up so it’s a happy thing to put everything out this year and freshen things up for our new start.


Leeks and Curly Parsley, Pollinated by a Black Swallowtail

During yet another bout of insomnia worrying about pain I found myself reading a quote online from Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart, but I could not find my copy of the book. In the morning I eventually found it after looking at my other blog where I’d talked about buying it to make sure I did buy it and seeing the colour of the cover.

Since I couldn’t find it last night I opened up The Wisdom of No Escape at 6 a.m. and found a gem of awareness about the precision of feeling the breath go out when breathing during meditation. I never really thought about it, but after you let your breath out, there is a pause before respiration starts again with an in-breath. And during that pause which lasts maybe an eighth or a quarter of a second there is letting go. It all just goes out with the breath and during that pause, there is this soft space, this gap, and you can see letting go.

Brief, but such clarity, so that was my lesson last night. Today I found Pema Chodron’s book The Wisdom of No Escape, so I’ll read a bit of that. Something important is trying to get my attention, something about pain and suffering.



This is from a set of six postcard books that I call my Botanical Postcard Oracle. The artist, Helen Buttfield, has taken old engravings of plants and paired them with her own drawings of attendant plants and insects.

Leeks remind me of making homemade soup as they make the best base for soup, and curly parsley adds flavour to soups but is most often used as a garnish as it seems prettier than the flat-leaved variety. Black Swallowtails have two broods annually, so the postcard makes me think of nourishment and self-care and the idea that it’s never too late, there’s time for another brood this year.

I suppose the other obvious correlation is that pain makes you a better person, the experience of it, of sitting with it, feeling it. Pain is like other illnesses, it leaves you cut off from life, feeling out of it, in a bubble, unable to participate. That’s still an experience, a way to move toward something else.

You feel boiled in pain, make soup, and then add the garnish, then fly off to breed again, birthing.

Leeks are chatty fellows, eh?



Churchill Contemplates Varied Creativity in Libraries, Gardens, and Small Rooms

It’s been a strange week with our back fence torn out for repair and the neighbour needing help shifting wood, and our contractor coming by to put in a temporary downspout and measure windows. We got a tremendous amount done one day as I finished my studio organization, hung six pictures, patched some walls, washed a bunch of fabric, and bought the final acrylic paints and medium for my abstract diptych that I’m painting for the living room.

It went on and on. I cleaned the kitchen several times and cleaned all three bathrooms and made a rhubarb/strawberry/cherry crumble. It didn’t leave much time for cards, but amid the unknowable result of negotiations between the Union and Canada Post, I received a parcel from across the pond.

Ah, the magic of postcards from National Trust properties. A heartfelt thank you to my friend Steve Bright, who knows how to choose just the right postcards and art for me.


Winston Churchill’s studio at Chartwell, and the library off the writing room in the tower at Sissinghurst. Up Vita and Harold!

These are people that had some grief in life. I remember reading about Churchill building the garden wall at Chartwell during the time he was in political limbo in the 1930s. It must have been hard for him, but he wrote books and painted and built this incredible wall during those awful years. I imagined it as a three-foot wall, nothing special, but in a garden documentary I was amazed to see the height of it.

Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson lived at Sissinghurst. It is actually a medieval castle and must have been rather gloomy and needed constant repairs but they liked it and built a garden that influenced many others and still does today. I’m not sure that I like Vita’s poetry, it’s of its time and seems a bit stagey today, particularly if you hear recordings of her reading it. Still, she forged on writing poetry, essays, biographies and I’ve always been fascinated by the tower at Sissinghurst which was her writing room, her private eyrie. The tower is Elizabethan, and looks damp and cold, but what a place to create. When the mind tires of ideas, you can look afar, bring yourself out again with your eyes on the land.

A reflection today on how to surround yourself with pleasurable things and yet get things done, create, regardless of what the world thinks of you, their lack of respect, or your isolation, or poor health, or your house needing repairs.

It’s about doing and challenging yourself amid the turmoil of life, and the fundamental ambiguity that plagues the mind. Regardless, there is THIS, these rooms, this art, these books.

I close with a favourite quote by another hero of mine, Kenneth Clark. I was struck by this sequence in Civilisation, Episode 7: Clark is discussing the Baroque and exploitation by relatives of the popes, clothed in nepotism and housed in palaces of greed. He ends by saying this as the camera pans out and shows him walking down an enormous arched corridor that is thick with ornamentation and carving, and a sense of huge, whistling coldness and emptiness that goes on and on.

“I wonder if a single thought that has helped forward the human spirit, has ever been conceived or written in an enormous room.”




Transmission du Mouvement

Sometimes chains are the thing that move you forward is what I get from this. Look at those gears going, it’s my brain on three hours of sleep.

Art by Editions Rossignol


We have a conditional offer on our house, and have been sitting all week hoping everything will go through. We should know tomorrow, and if it firms up I’m flying out west to buy our new house. It brings new meaning to the phrase “high anxiety” as we have so much to do in so little time. The many cogs are moving in increments in the background.

I’ve spent spare hours trying to finish a baby quilt, and I’m just sewing the binding down in the next two days and all the baby gifts I made can be delivered. The piston goes up and down like a sewing machine needle.

Chains: it’s all how you look at it. Movement it is!




It’s Hard Not to Cry

This shocking news from Paris…I want to keep in my mind the millions of Muslims who are honourable, godly people, working and living peacefully, contributing to the well-being of society, and involved in their communities to strengthen them not to tear them down.

This open-hearted symbol of cheer graces the peace quilt made for Patch Adams M.D., 1989
Join us in people-to-people peacemaking.


Patch Adams started the Gesundheit Institute as “a project in holistic medical care based on the belief that one cannot separate the health of the individual from the health of the family, the community, the society, and the world.”

Rapids, Sunspots, and Plentiful Fish

Another postcard I found after cleaning my den. This was from my parents in July 1991, and they sent it to me because I was supposed to go to this camp when I was a teenager, but they didn’t get enough people joining from our area so it was cancelled. The story of my life.

“An eagle’s eye view of Malibu Rapids with Young Life of Canada summer camp on the right and Jervis Inlet beyond. Navigate these rapids with caution or at a slack tide.” Cruising in formation at Harbour Marina, Garden Bay.


My Mom describes in this postcard (written about 15 months before she died), Dad and a friend catching 16 small cod and 2 more pails of oysters. It sounds like a good trip.

A day with a reminder to enjoy things, enjoy life as it can leave pretty fast. Disappointments fade like the sunspots on this card, and flowing through rapids, leaving you with beautiful scenery.