Equinoctial Wood

things I noticed
Equinoctial wood. Watercolour painting illustration of a bridge in a forest in autumn.

The wood is on fire tonight. Changeable light, the sun sinking, the sky shrinking into red and flaring up. Light, coming from the ground fills up the forest all with flame.

The wood tonight smells like a rotting apple, Dionysian feast for rabbits. Watch them run through their wanders, drunk, besotted on this goblin yellow yield. Fox, in this forest, himself a flame.

Who knew how this secret place would give one final graceful orgy out? Who could anticipate this mad enraptured succulence?

Over the bridge it seems the gully is not what it was. Live leaves run it down. They own it. They run in it a current of all currents, and not.

Woman’s face, a beaming brown sun. Her self one with the forest and the mood of this place, me, one, each of us greeting the other as she who has seen and taken part in revelry, this Dionysian moment, this hinge, as we fall from and into.

Once again, this woodpecker upon a tree holds his own reign, holds forth his rhythm. He fears not the fire running up the very limbs of trees, for his limbs are not tied to earth as rabbits are tied to earth. Let him be drunk on sap. If he falls he fears not. Flight carries him up, up, red jaunty cap its own rising lick of flame.

And if we built a shelter here, my love, what doves we could become! Thee and me curled small in the cave of fallen trees. What elegance need we, when this pyramid of our making will hold against any winter’s fall? Bring thee thy skin to my chin. We will curl small, smaller. Smallest of all, make me into a seed. Bury me under these trees, this mound, this architectonic ground. Let me sleep, shiver, as the last flames of autumn run high, higher. I sink.

And there she is, my other part, my counterpart, the flip to my friend. Her smile is galactic, wide as the wood is wide. Her eyes shine.

And there is the joy of the woman in the wood. And there is the joy of the wood in the woman.


Art + Creativity, Thoughts + Life

In theory

Watercolor painting illustration of a blue merle Australian shepherd dog. Dog portrait on a clipboard with a bright yellow background

For years, I lived by the maxim that inspiration is for amateurs. Professionals show up and do the work. I still see the truth in that, but lately I’m more interested in that amateur space, in making for the joy and the love of making, not because you need to make it work but because you can cause something to happen. Because you can create room for whatever happens to happen. When you focus on that, inspiration comes back into the picture. It can be anything that sets your thoughts and your paintbrush running, your body moving, your words flowing. It can be something outside of your control, and maybe this is an exercise in letting go of control.

For those of us accustomed to tying our value to achievements, letting go of control, taking the risk that we may not achieve, may be a step forward. Maybe, not manufacturing motivation, but opening the door to inspiration is the next right step. Maybe amateur practice is incredibly valuable because you’re not required to make some particular thing happen. You’re required to show up, but you’re not required to do what you expected to do.

Maybe amateur practice opens the door to rooms where the unexpected happens, so that professional practice can learn that that room exists.

In practice

I took a long walk last week under a heavy, stormy sky. The air was electric. As night came on, the sky dropped, and this is what fell from it:

Inspiration is seeing a toad on the road and taking it for a stone until it hops and hops again. Inspiration is Leonard Cohen in the dark. It’s walking fast in lamplight.

Inspiration is the frosted lustrous surface on opaque water under rain, covering for the night as it comes in.

Inspiration is gorging yourself on so much strange beauty it overflows out of your mouth like milk. It’s the red of an odd, gentle, tender, sturdy bush against the red of a hard, brick, encroaching building under an ash grey sky.

It’s the sign of the rain coming, and walking faster into it, harder, harder against the wind. It’s the first fat drops on your skin. It’s the face tilted up to receive, mouth open. Inspiration is the wind. Inspiration is coming. Let it come. Find the path of least resistance. Reduce friction. Let that flow through you, in and out. It will come. It will come. Escape your grind of daily motion. Move. Move.

Watercolour painting illustration of a ballet dancer silhouette in front of a parked car. Dance, night, freelance illustration.

My mother said, “Step away. Step away at the end of the day. Don’t tie yourself to work every hour of waking,” and she’s right. She’s a mother – she’s right.

Inspiration is cupping the flowers of that strange sturdy bush tenderly in your palm, noticing for the first time in months, since it first emerged from the winter, how it’s grown, how it’s come to be what you use to gauge the season as it fades. This bush will fade. This bush will come back to you, in the next winter, in the next spring, forgotten blooms lingering, brown, small, faded. Paint them. Paint them again as you painted them last year.

Lavender, coming forth where you knew not, where your hand runs, scent. Hold it. Hold it in your palm, that scent, between your fingers, to your face. Exhale. Inspiration is the inhale. Let it run through you in your blood, lungs, bloodstream, beat of your feet against the earth, this drum roll. This clink of keys between the hands, this roll. Make yourself this drum of beat. Inspiration is the breath in, reception, sweet, sweet, motion forward.

Let the rain fall down on you. You become cold but not cold, for this heat, this motion moving inside your core will hold you forward.


The artworks in this post are available as prints, apparel, accessories and home goods. Click through for more in each design.

Shallow curve of sound

things I noticed

Human double-tall, carrying son on his shoulders as I carry sun on my shoulders. Both in black, from behind they look like a great four-armed beast or being. Little fluff dog trots behind, familiar.

Mugs the sheepdog approaches with his human: pink-tongue smile, wiry long bangs, his rolling gait. He is the happiest and gentlest of dogs.

Goslings for the first time this year. Fat, fluffed and grazing on the grass like Canadian sheep. A Sheltie pup comes trotting and they eye each other, sit, amazed and sheepish. Alike in their tan downy coats, their unknowing.

Mother’s call is a shallow curve of sound, serrated.

New wet-looking leaves on the maples, still softly transparent and clinging.

The purple buds have opened up into bunches of white blossoms, still small. One half-bloomed cluster placed just at nose height, a heady scent of pear and something sweeter. Ice wine? Quebec cider. Light, sharp, neither heavy nor cloying but seductive to forest walkers.

First bugs buzz, here by the half-hearted creek in the heart of the wood.

Seat on a stump. They’ve been cutting again. Last year’s logs now green in the gaps of upped roots. These trees too vigourous to stay slain.

Scalloped edge on an old tree’s new face, trunk sawed straight to show bark split as the core once expanded. This tree fell quite lately, sprawled in weary dignity across the forest path. We climbed or scuttled under, we walkers, we runners, until men from the city came to clear the way.

Trees in this forest lean together drunkenly, murmur scandal to one another. The forest speaks in creaks and shushes, a language only they can hear. If there is a great awareness here, it is not in the beasts but in the trees.

Kites in the air

things I noticed

Reluctance waking. Wanting to stay in the warm depths of not-conscious in the blankets. Cool air does not call.

An hour, and by the time I rise the dawn is broken.

I dreamed that due to poverty the young one, the redhead, collapsed. I dreamed in isolated ages the old one, the bedhead, relapsed.

Things are not as they are. Faces flicker. On the wall, marks flicker. From the hall upstairs, voices, insistent, call. Rules are changing and you cannot even defend with the words, “This was never thus.” Cannot even hold to what was.

Today I am a wall awash in waves. A word could cave in the crack.

Smell through a florest’s open door: wet, green, lily-filled

Kites in the air over the hill.

On the corner, a baby’s wail that will take down the world.

Wind has a new voice

things I noticed

The wind has a new voice; “Hurry, hurry!” Playful and insistent.

High, a hawk or a falcon. Blunt head, flat wings, circling. Slivers in and out of the sun, becomes a splinter, is gone. Into the wood we go.

Who knew? The shap little buds become blossoms that bend in the wind, waving tender red leaflets. See!

A haze of green whispers around the elders.

The healing plants have flowered, but their eyes are closed in the morning. Sleeping? After noon, the forest floor explodes in white. Leggy and brazen in the light.

Hoya run

things I noticed

The little hoya plant coiled round a leaf of sansivera, what my mother would call mother-in-law’s tongue. Oh no, little plant, that is not your place. Here, embrace yourself. A second shoot emerging from the cluster of leaves at the base, one more tendril to contend with. Who knew a plant could be such mischief?

Running for the first time in my adult life. Running voluntarily, even. Pain in my right knee, on the outside of the bone, in my upper shin. Worse walking down hill and down stairs, when weight bears down on the joint. Give in, walk and suddenly walking feels slow. Even slowest runners pass me.

Running past me, old and small and round and large women and men, pear shaped and string bean, grandmothers and children. “Go,” I salut them in my mind. “I can’t, but you can. Go on.”

My flowered shoes are fading.

Old man heron overhead. The way his wings rise from his shoulders, cup the air, flight feathers dip down. Not like geese or ducks or crows, not like the hawks I see over the forest. He is the only one like him.

Dash from between town houses: a starling chased by a crow. Into the sun over the ponds, crow’s belly flashing. Twisting, turning after the little brown starling.


things I noticed

An urge to squabble, to win a stale argument, to define “prehistoric”, “pre-literate”, and “genocide”, but not as they are defined in a dictionary on my parents’ bookshelf printed in 1966. First, to un-define them, to say what they are not, that I may climb upon my high white horse.

Muttering to self, laughter that has nothing to do with humour. I notice gestures shifting across my face: frown, sneer, smile that is not a smile.

Why this, now?

Quarter moon still high, a chalk smear on blue.

Not a dog

things I noticed

A drawn out, high-pitched wail, ringing in the morning. Metal on metal? A dog in great distress? It sounds first like one, then the other. Sight of garbage trucks up the street, rumble of bins, again the wail and this time a distinctly mechanical edge. Not a dog, then.

Heron in the morning, ungainly grace. The weight of him hangs heavy from cupped wings.

By the brook, bunched buds, and what purple! Violet the velvet of bishops’ robes, of blueberries smeared across a suntanned cheek. To flower? Soon. Come this way in a day or a week, to see.

From needing an answer now, at all costs, to following my own distant interests, I watched my wants turn about overnight.

Desire tied to unknowing. Assure me, and the kick fails.

Racing the storm

things I noticed

Cold. Again.

Hesitancy. Fear of cold, of shivering. A timid voice,

“I’m not dressed for this.”

Halt. Weight on heels. Roll forward, a firmer voice commanding,

“Walk on. Walk faster.”

Onward, quickly, trusting in motion to outpace cold. Breathe through the nose to build heat. Shoulders lean forward in speed; no. Open the heart. Lean back. Shoulders try to huddle for heat. Lean back. Breathe deep. Right hip leads the beat, and awareness shifts to my pelvis: is the right side forward? Balance. Lead from the left for a step.

Up the stairs to the library roof, two at a time in strength. Feeling muscles stretch and flex, smiling. Over the roof and down the other side, the long shallow steps to the wood. One and two-three, again and again, like dancing.

Resistance, wood chips and mud underfoot. Pushing harder, shoulders roll again. Slower, lean back. Better heart open than feet fast.

Through the woods and out, and on the far side white dashes inhabit the air.


Turn to home. Sun hangs low under swollen cloud.

A mallard races the storm.

Green eyes gazing

things I noticed

Green eyes gazing.

Early sun slanting through the trees, and now every new leaf is a point of light. Sun a caress on the backs of my thighs, another staccato beat somewhere high in the treetops, pecking.

I wish I could paint this so that you could understand.

Snail shells by the creek bed in the mud, some inhabited. A mushroom cap, a rolled real of plastic: ephemera of the forest floor. And everywhere, that little green leaf that heals.

Rustle in the leaves and out hops a sparrow, fat brown bird in the undergrowth.


Leaves like slender fingers, furled. A closed hand around something precious.

One tree by the bicycle path covered not with leaves but with brown seed pods the size and shape of diminutive shoes. As if a company of elves had camped there overnight and left nothing behind but their slippers.

The smell of this pen’s ink, the ink I wrote with a dozen years ago at a slanting writing desk in my parents’ house.

How lonely the books seem when seen though library windows. Left stacked on shelves, not even filed in the rush to quarantine. I long to enter, to run my hands over them, to comfort them.