October 26, 2008

Fall's Gold

Forest paths, all damp and mossy,
maple leaves smother hidden trails,
and that's where you're going to find me,
gathering wild mushroom with my girl...

With summer gone, as soon as the days begin to feel cooler and damper, R and I morph into hunters. But while the guys I work with prowl the woods for deer and moose, our hunting adventures are much more pacific. Our forays into BC's wilderness focus on something that is maybe a bit more prolific than wild game and yet is, often, just as hard to find. Wild mushrooms.

I can smell them in the air as soon as the temperatures drop and the damp sets in and I become driven to head for the forest. I've been hunting wild mushrooms since I was a kid in the Czech Republic, where it's something close to a national obsession, and I've continued doing so through the years until now. Luckily, although looking for wild edibles was something R never did until he met me, he embraced it readily. And why not? There's something authentic and grounding in moving through a silent forest, eyes to ground, scanning for hidden treasure.

These days, we pretty much only pick Chanterelles. Bugs don't seem to like them much, they're never worm-eaten like other wild mushrooms can sometimes be, and I like their texture: they're almost "meaty" and have a great flavour. They also dry well so I can keep them through winter for adding to soups and such. R did find some Pine mushrooms years ago in Squamish and we'd be thrilled to find some more here, but they don't seem to show up in this area. Even Chanterelles are elusive enough. We can sometimes spend hours and find nothing and then, other times, we hit the pot of gold.

The last few years we've been lucky. R found a hidden spot we return to each year, where we always manage to gather enough for a couple of suppers and for drying. Today we even had a special treat: a red-headed woodpecker, hard at work above our heads, bits of wood flinging around us as we walked.

* * *

We were back in time for me to print the next two colours for the current prints. Eve and the Serpent is still looking sort of weird,

but the Dragon Maple is nearing completion. One last colour left to do on that one.

That's just as well, seeing as it's almost time to start thinking Christmas cards again SIGH. Not my favourite thing for sure not.

October 19, 2008

Fall Blues?

I'm not sure why, but my mood for the last couple of days has been totally blah and I've had to drag myself to virtually everything I did.

Is it Fall melancholy settling in? Colder, damper, darker mornings to wake up to and signs of Christmas showing up in the stores might have something to do with it. Normally though, I don't mind that all that much; less to do outside means more time for my printing. And yet, I had to really push myself to print the next colours for my two blocks today and it seemed like a chore.

It really didn't help that I had a hard time getting the right colour mix I wanted and in the process managed to get ink everywhere. Twice. By the time I was done, I was feeling ridiculously sorry for myself and frustrated with the world. And the reward for my efforts:

Just a patch of new colour in Eve and the Dragon,

and a misleading field of green (of which very little will stay) for the Dragon Maple. At least the raggedy edges are gone.

October 13, 2008

Giving Thanks (aka: Turkey Day)

We interrupt Printmaking 101 for a brief digression...

We're celebrating our Canadian annual day of thanks, Thanksgiving, and I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It's colouring my approach to food and how I prepare it. Not that the book is a total revelation, I've been convinced for many years that what we put into our bodies to nourish them has a relation to our health and well-being. And I'm already a label reader, I stay away from processed foods, I opt for foods that come from my own region, in season, I don't buy strawberries in January or asparagus in August.
But reading this book reinforces those concepts some more. As a result, I gave even more thought to where the food I put together for Thanksgiving came from, and just who was involved in putting it there. And, even if the only sacrifice this year were those peeled little baby carrots from California (local regular carrots took their place) it felt right to be more conscious about the decision I made.

Our feast: potatoes from the garden, a medley of veggies grown by local farmers (bought at the farmer's market) and seasoned with my own herbs, and a "happy" turkey: free range, no meds, no steroids etc. The turkey was one of our few departures from a vegetarian diet and due mostly to peer pressure. I think R and I would have been happy enough with a stuffed squash but don't think my dad would be. I was assured that the poor bird received humane treatment and wasn't one of those beakless, medicated, half-crazed beasts of the mass production farm, but still. I guess what it comes down to for me is if I'm going to eat meat, I should be prepared to actually kill the creature who provides it and I'm just not convinced I'd be able to do that. It's easier to just evade the issue and keep our meals vegetarian as much as I can.

Anyway, that was yesterday's news; today I printed. First, Eve and the Serpent, which is finally beginning to take some shape:

I added some transparent medium to the ink mix to allow for some of the earlier layers to come through a bit and I'm pleased with the result.

Second, Dragon Maple, which is not looking like anything new happened. You have to look really hard to see the darker red added today. Next week will hopefully be the big AHA moment for that one:

It's still a bit ragged around the edges because today I found it easier not to use a mask, but the next layer will take care of the fuzzies.

So it's been a very productive weekend and, yes, I gave thanks for so much: for Family, for bounty on the table, for the time and the ability to do my artwork, for good music to warm the soul, and for a warm house to hold us all. What more is there, really?

October 05, 2008

Striving toward Patience

Sometimes the hardest thing about doing these prints of mine is the patience it takes to wait for the image to develop. No instant gratification here, that's for sure. But maybe that's also one of the good things: the contrast to the fast track so many of us seem to be living life on.

I was watching the dog sleep today. His day, with little breaks for eating and walks and play time, is pretty much a string of naps, taken in different places around the house. This is followed by more sleep at night. How can he sleep so much? He seems happy enough; a bit of raw hide to chew on is all it takes to send him spinning in circles of ecstasy.

Wouldn't it be great to be like that? Were we ever? Satisfied with just laying around in the sun and siesta-ing? There are still cultures where the pace of life is slower, where people don't chase around all the time like we in the west seem to do, and yet they don't seem to suffer any for it. On the contrary, they're probably happier than we are. Anyway, the whole point of this is that having to carve an image out of a piece of wood, a little bit at a time over a period of weeks, is my way of tuning into a different speed of living. It's taking time to listen to whatever music is playing on the radio as I work, taking note of the little swirly curly wood shavings collecting on my work bench.

All of this is a lead up to the story about my printing efforts today which are, moving along slower than slow; visible progress is limited: the darker tone I added to Eve and the Serpent barely shows up at all and will need the later more contrasting colours to set it off,

and, although the Dragon Maple has advanced more, the next stage for this one will not change much. I have a long way to go for both still.