Lilacs Everlasting

In the 1988 movie Rain Man, Tom Cruise’s character learns that his recently deceased wealthy father bequeathed him, in a stingingly worded last will and testament, his prized rosebushes. Not the $3 million inheritance Cruise was hoping for, but rosebushes. And a classic 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible. Needless to say, Tom Cruise was none too pleased with the arrangement and interpreted the act as a stern father’s final slap in the face from his grave. While he may not be the most subtle actor in the world, it’s amusing to see Cruise exclaim with great frustration, “I got the rose bushes! I definitely got the rose bushes!”. If you’ve seen the movie you know that as the plot line unravels, the family drama and its secrets are revealed which provide answers. The father, of course, had his reasons for doing what he did.

I’m bringing this up because part of me has always related to people who value prized garden plants, who place their worth above money and inanimate possessions. I read a story once about an elderly woman who had moved several times throughout her long life and each time dug up her cherished peony to bring it with her and transplant it at the new home. Peonies, with proper loving care, can live up to 75 years. That’s not a mere “garden plant” anymore, that is a resilient, tried and true friend – as familiar and comforting a friend as many human beings we’ll encounter in life. I totally understand why that woman brought her peony with her. There’s nothing remotely strange or eccentric about it to me at all.

It was still winter when I moved into my house 15 years ago. While my then-husband and I spent the cold weather months buying furniture and installing shelving, I was thinking about the coming spring, and what flowering plants I would put in the only spot on the property that receives full sun: the front right corner of the house. It was a plot of dirt when Jeff and I arrived, but it wouldn’t be for long. Roses were definitely in the running but by the time March arrived, I had decided on lilacs. And I personally picked out the two young lilac bushes at my local garden center. They bloom at the exact same time every spring, as if on a precise calendar encoded in their DNA. That time is now. Here are my beauties yesterday:

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I came home from work the other night, tired, still sore in my left hip from doing a standing pose. The second I opened my car door in the driveway the aroma – that extra potent nighttime wafting of late May blooms – transported me to paradise. After a day of trains and buses and city crowds and drafty studios full of easels and turpenoid containers and charcoal dust, and elbow pokes on the E train and stench-filled corridors of Penn Station, the lilacs delivered me to peace. Before I went inside I strolled over to the lilacs, in the dark with my house keys in my hand, to inhale them at close range. My beauties. My babies for 15 years. At that moment my communion with the lilacs was interrupted by the sound of my neighbor across the street dragging his garbage can to curb. He saw me and waved. The next morning I took a few cuttings for the house.

Jose the landscaper cuts grass and trims bushes for most of us on this block. I happened to be home one day when he and his crew were working precariously close to my lilacs with pruning shears. I bolted out of the house and, in my best broken Spanish, instructed them to not do anything to those bushes. I wasn’t a bitch, I swear! I just made it clear that those bushes are not to be touched. At all. Ever. I am protective of them like a mother toward her children. It’s slightly embarrassing ;-)

I probably shouldn’t worry myself about such things, but the thought that someday, maybe decades from now, this house will fall into the hands of strangers who may very well bulldoze this property and dispose of the lilacs makes me sick. Honestly, it throws me into a nervous panic. I may have to draw up a will and bequeath them to a loved one! Or someone who understands, like Amy Lowell. Check out her poem “Lilacs”. New Englanders especially should read it.

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I invite readers to share pics of their prized garden growings, or stories, or memories. Tell me what’s abloom in your garden, or on your fire escape or balcony, or thriving wild where you are.

Our Birds Besieged

What the hell. Have I left my little blog idle for almost a week? This is outrageous! Bad blogger. Bad bad blogger :lol:

Much badder than me is the Port Authority of New York, which has enlisted contractors to gun down over 18 species of migratory birds and waterfowl in the area of JFK Airport. Many of these birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. But they’re being shot anyway. The rationale behind this program is to prevent bird strikes on planes and nesting activities too close to runways. Didn’t the waterfowl get the memo? They cannot conduct their flying, migrating, mating, and nesting along the Atlantic coast or around the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge unless they stay safely away from planes. That’s the rule. Because jet airliners own the skies now. Those foolish ospreys and herons and egrets have to understand that they must accommodate the needs of modern man, and the millions of years of instinctual behavior embedded in their DNA cannot be acted upon, their natural primordial impulses to survive and breed must be squashed. And those snowy owls that were nesting on top of a taxiway sign at JFK? Those dummies should have known better. Now they’re on the kill list too.

Herons, by Christian Rohlfs, 1936:

Rohlfs-Herons

I apologize for the sarcasm, as I don’t mean to minimize the issues with regard to bird strikes and airplane safety. But this wanton killing of our coastal feathered friends upsets me a great deal. Among the birds being targeted are herons, egrets, plovers, ravens, and the gorgeous American kestrel. And redwing blackbirds! They’re shooting redwing blackbirds for heaven’s sake. There must be a better way. Surely we can find a solution more humane than just blasting innocent birds out of the sky?

Winslow Homer, watercolor, Redwing Blackbirds:

Homer-RedwingBlackbirds

It was disturbing enough to learn recently that our magnificent North American eagles – hundreds of thousands per year – are being sliced up in the blades of wind turbines at wind farms throughout the country. Our government has now granted the wind energy companies permission to allow these deaths without fear of penalty, for the next 30 years. Ain’t that grand?

Geese In Flight Before A Full Moon, Ohara Koson:

OharaKoson-geese-in-flight-before-a-full-moon

I love birds so much. I honestly don’t understand how anyone could not love them. They warble and sing outside my bedroom window every morning. They hop across my front lawn. They cheerfully perch in rows across telephone wires. They soar in the skies above my neighborhood. Eradicate all their colors, movements, and sounds from daily life and the absence would be sadly felt. And the observation of bird comings and goings inspires much of my other blog, The Salt Marsh. At this very moment as I’m typing on my laptop, one of those little downy woodpeckers is inching his way up the tree outside my kitchen. What a cutie :-)

New Blog

Greetings on a beautiful Sunday in New York! Hope this post finds you all well. I’m here to make an announcement of sorts, nothing that will alter the course of history or send shock waves into the universe! But something I’d like to share with my readers. I’ve started a second blog. Yay! It’s called The Salt Marsh. For those of you who are interested (and I hope many of you are) I suggest reading  the “About” page first.  And I might as well inform everyone now that there won’t be any nudity on The Salt Marsh. Stick with Museworthy for that ;-)

There are probably thousands upon thousands of nature photoblogs out there. I enjoy many of them myself. I’ll try to make The Salt Marsh unique somehow. Mostly it’s an opportunity for me to hone my photography skills, find a bit of peace from time to time, and deepen my connection to the natural habitats that exist right in my own neighborhood. I doubt I will post there as frequently as I do on Museworthy, as blogging can be quite time consuming. There are people who maintain multiple blogs – four, five, etc – and I don’t how they do it! Either way, if  some Museworthy readers choose to follow me there also that would lovely. And perhaps I’ll earn a new crop of readers as well.

Speaking of Museworthy, I will be posting the submission information for the Art Show very soon. We’ll have a new photo to commemorate Museworthy’s blog birthday on September 24th, in keeping with tradition. So Fred and I figured we’d wait until that picture is taken, as it may be one of the choices if it turns out to be a great one.

I actually have two modeling gigs this week, can you believe it? And before Labor Day, wow. It’s a miracle! :lol: Work is slowly coming back, and the summer is winding down. New blog, new season, fresh new discoveries on the horizon. I hope you all continue to share these experiences with me. Cheers friends! See you soon.

Free As a Bird

I crack the windows in my house and the furnace fires up. I tighten my scarf because I feel a chill on my neck. Back in February those know-it-all groundhogs predicted an early spring this year and yet it’s April and we got nothin’! This unseasonably cool weather is delaying the coming of spring and I don’t like it at all. The nip in the air just won’t go away, and it’s inhibiting my mood and activities. I think this officially qualifies as an abnormal seasonal funk :sad:

If it weren’t for the birds perched in the trees, singing their mating calls, starting to build nests, and noshing at my backyard birdfeeder, we’d have virtually no signs of spring here in the NYC area. This is why birds are awesome. They don’t give a damn. They go about their business in spite of rain, wind,  cold, providing visual and audible signs of energetic life even when the ground remains hard and dry and tree branches are still without leaf buds. Regular Museworthy readers may have noticed that birds pop up often on this blog in one form or another. Artistically and spiritually, I find them agents of cheer, beauty, and optimism. Right now as I write this post, I can see birds jauntily flitting through the trees outside my window and two plump robins digging for worms on my neighbor’s front lawn. Rock on my little feathered friends :-)

So to honor of the only creatures willing to carry on with springtime ebullience, here are a few birds of art created by some great masters.

Two Studies of a Bird of Paradise, by Rembrandt. Beautiful in pen and ink:

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The Kingfisher by Vincent van Gogh:

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Bird Returning to it’s Nest by Georges Braque:

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The cutest owl drawing I’ve ever seen, this is Albrecht Durer’s The Little Owl:

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The Promise, by one of my favorite surrealists Rene Magritte:

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And last but certainly not least, a bird by Picasso, work “Untitled”:

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Heaven and Earth

Easter Week – Charles Kingsley

See the land, her Easter keeping,
Rises as her Maker rose.
Seeds, so long in darkness sleeping,
Burst at last from winter snows.
Earth with heaven above rejoices;
Fields and gardens hail the spring;
Shaughs and woodlands ring with voices,
While the wild birds build and sing.

You, to whom your Maker granted
Powers to those sweet birds unknown,
Use the craft by God implanted;
Use the reason not your own.
Here, while heaven and earth rejoices,
Each his Easter tribute bring-
Work of fingers, chant of voices,
Like the birds who build and sing.

Krishna (Spring in Kulu), by Nicholas Roerich:

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At this glorious time of year, I hope all my readers have a very blessed holiday. I offer my warmest, sincerest wishes for peace, fellowship, strong spirits and joyous hearts, and respect for sacred earth.

See you soon :-)

Claudia

First Snow and the Critters

At first it was an annoyance. An early November snowstorm in New York City that caused treacherous conditions and added insult to injury after the still-fresh destruction of hurricane Sandy. But when I woke up this morning I experienced a childlike enchantment when I looked out the window and saw the winter wonderland of white covered twigs and branches bent over from the weight of snow. Even an avowed summer person like myself thought it was pretty cool.

What made the morning even more enjoyable was the presence of  critters in the garden. I love the word “critters”. Birds swarmed the birdfeeder oblivious to the fact that it was half-covered in snow. I love how birds don’t give a shit. They flit around, they eat, they chirp, weather conditions be dammed. Then the cats emerged, hungry, mildly irritated that they had to navigate around hills of snow and puddles of slush to get to the food bowl. And then a manic squirrel scampered across my roof, and in doing so sent a bit of snow down to the ground which landed in my driveway. And I also spotted some critter tracks in the snow. Not cat paws, not bird feet, but likely those of a raccoon who must have braved the blizzard last night in search of food and mischief. A nocturnal critter who, like the others, doesn’t give a shit about weather.

The Snow Maiden, by Mikhail Vrubel, 1895. Check out the squirrel in the lower right :-)

I am consumed in my personal life these days, friends. More so than my professional life. But it’s a good thing. It’s a very good thing in fact. Given how easy it is to succumb to stress and anxiety, and worry about the troubling developments taking place in our nation, our culture, and the world, I am positively grateful that I can immerse myself in some happiness and savor the affection being bestowed upon me. It warms my heart and soothes my soul. And I don’t take it for granted. We can turn to love, if we are lucky, or we can turn to music and art, or books, or friendships and family. And of course we can always turn to nature and the critters. CRITTERS!! :lol:

Deer in the Snow, Franz Marc, 1911:

Enter Autumn

A good Saturday evening to you! Hope this blog post finds you well. Let us say an official adios to summer as we celebrate the autumnal equinox with art and poetry.

Four Trees, by Egon Schiele, 1917:

For our poetry, one of my personal favorites from William Butler Yeats. This is “The Wild Swans at Coole”:

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty Swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

A little reminder to all Museworthy readers, please visit on Monday for another “celebration” :-)

See you soon, friends!

Seasonal Shift

Hello? Anybody? Yoo hoo! Who runs this blog? Is there a blogger in the house?!

:lol: Howdy gang. I’m back! Martha’s Vineyard was wonderful as I knew it would be. In fact, I probably should have stayed up there since I came home to a pipe flooding basement situation in my house. What a lovely welcome home. But it’s being taken care of as my life transitions from a week of beaches, jeeps, reading, and shell collecting to home repairs, dentist appointments and, of course, art modeling.

So the September groove begins. Whether or not I’m ready for it, it’s here. And my modeling calendar is written up with FIT, Spring Studio, the New York Academy of Art, private sessions, and many other bookings. Yes, it’s here. Later this month we will also see the commemoration of Museworthy’s fifth year. Last year’s fourth was a special one. My god, how the time flies!

I’ve uploaded my Martha’s Vineyard photos on Flickr. Here is one of those photos, a picture of the clay cliffs at Gay Head, located at the westernmost end of the island. They are a sight to behold.

Happy Labor Day everyone! I really missed you guys, and this blog, while I was away. I hope you all stick around for fresh new blogging, new art, thoughts, and ideas here on Museworthy. Oh, and nudity. Don’t forget the nudity ;-)

Watercolor in the Works

It’s just a late November tree on a street corner in Queens, NY, a few blocks from my house. Though it will be completely leafless imminently, it was still hanging on to its remaining leaves as of two days ago. I was on my way to work but had to stop and take of picture of it. My plan is to do a watercolor :-)

I think what inspires me here is that even though the leaves are sparse, they are still gorgeous and vibrantly colored. That’s one of the many intriguing occurrences of autumn – trees entering a stage of winter slumber, but going out with dazzling brilliance right up until the very last minute, until the final leaf has fallen to the ground. Autumn is sometimes misconstrued as a time of shriveling and withering, but it’s not. The transition from autumn to winter is vigorous, active, and dynamic. Nothing moribund about it at all.

So here’s the deal; I have Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Rose, Cadmium Yellow, Sap Green, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, and a few others. What I’m not sure about is how to approach this. Should I sketch it first then do colored details, block it in, diagram it, or just wing it from the get-go and let loose and see what happens? I welcome all suggestions!

The Cloisters in Bloom

I just spent a lovely afternoon at The Cloisters with my good friend Fred Hatt. It was a great day of looking at art, taking pictures and enjoying the woodland sanctuary found in the northernmost section of Manhattan island.

For those of you who are gardeners, like me, you know how even the most well-tended plants become ratty and worn looking toward the end of the summer and lose some of their earlier vitality and vigor. Well the gardening team at the Cloisters must know all the horticultural secrets because their perennials, herbs, and flowering shrubs are still looking pretty damn good in mid-August.

If it’s any shade of purple, I will photograph it. My favorite color! Deep purple, light purple, lavender or violet, bring it on :-)

I love these maidenhair ferns. They look wonderful in pots throughout the garden cafe:

This was my favorite plant of the day. It’s called Fuller’s Teasel. I actually like the thorny stems and prickly “flowers”. This plant is an unapologetic individualist. It knows who it is and proclaims it with confidence. Rock on Teasel!

By the way, I did take pictures of the medieval artwork at The Cloisters – yes, they have ART there too! – but those will come in future posts. Until then, this squirrel critter says, “Thank you for visiting Museworthy. Now give me a nut!”.

Water’s Edge

Some visitors on the north shore of Queens this afternoon. It’s always nice when these swan pairs stop by :-)

I love the reflections in this one:

My heart goes out to the people of Joplin, Missouri and all the surrounding areas that were ravaged by the tornadoes. I saw the pictures on TV and the devastation is absolutely unreal. Those folks are terribly traumatized and I feel for them. Between the missing loved ones and the loss of homes, property, I hope they find the strength to cope and recover from an ordeal of such magnitude. I had my own experience with a tornado last September, but it hardly compares to what’s happened in the American south and midwest in recent weeks.

Mellow Friday and Garden Plans

Heyyyy everybody! Are you all in TGIF mode? I have the day off today which is good because I can rest my weary artist’s model’s spine. I predict some yoga will take place at some point this afternoon. I need it badly! My back is all out of alignment. Some downward-facing dog will work wonders I’m sure.

I don’t have much else to share at the moment except that I’m trying to make spring gardening plans. I feel the urge to do something different this season although I don’t know what exactly. It’s not like I have five acres of land to work with. I wish! But on the other hand, having limited space forces you to be more creative. Maybe I’ll plant different vegetables and rearrange my containers. My herb section got really out of control last year. Thyme was the culprit. I’m thinking of a small berry patch of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. I’ve had great success with strawberries in the past. I know the birds get to them and have a feast, but if they can just save me enough to have with my cereal perhaps we can share :grin:

This redheaded model is ready for spring, holding a lovely vase of daffodils in Spring Flowers by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema:

Snow – The Good, The Bad, The Artistic

I was taking it all in stride. I really was. This twice-weekly snowstorm pattern that has developed this winter. But now I suspect I’m suffering from “snow fatigue”. Many New Yorkers are I think. The weather forecast predicts 6 – 12 inches of snow and we’re like, “MORE snow???? Not again!!!” :eek:

But like anything else, winter snow has its good and bad qualities and produces a variety of experiences and reactions. Allow me to share some of my personal snow-related anecdotes over the past few days.

Nice snow anecdote number 1: I looked out my bedroom window the morning after snow fell overnight. It was, in a word, beautiful. Pure white, totally fresh, fluffy, powdery, lightweight, accumulated along branches and twigs and everywhere. I watched a little bird as it attempted to alight on a snow-covered twig. It flitted around, trying to find the perching surface. Eventually it knocked off the snow and found its footing. It chirps. It’s happy. It’s a happy bird in spite of the snow inconvenience. It goes about its regular business of looking for food, surviving, just being a backyard bird in Queens. Birds rock.

Bad snow anecdote number 1: I discovered that a ton of accumulated snow slid off my roof like an avalanche and crashed to the ground, its weight breaking off four feet of the rain gutter AND a piece of roof slate in the process. The remaining broken and bent remnant of gutter sticks out from the house at a fucked-up looking 90% angle. Ugly and awful. Spring home repair, and it’s accompanying nuisance and costs, awaits. Oh joy.

Snow Effect With Setting Sun, 1875, by Claude Monet:

Nice snow anecdote number 2: Amazing icicles along the windowpanes! They put on quite a dazzling show with their crystal-like clarity and shape formations. A winter exclusive. Take that, summer!

Bad snow anecdote number 2: One word – SHOVELING

Morning Sunlight on the Snow, Eragny-Sur-Epte, Camille Pissarro, 1895:

Nice snow anecdote number 3: I enjoy a fun afternoon taking pictures of children sledding in the park.

Bad snow anecdote number 3: Cancelled art modeling jobs :sad:

A Morning Snow, by George Bellows:

The Snow Storm by Edna St. Vincent Millay

No hawk hangs over in this air:
The urgent snow is everywhere.
The wing adroiter than a sail
Must lean away from such a gale,
Abandoning its straight intent,
Or else expose tough ligament
And tender flesh to what before
Meant dampened feathers, nothing more.
Forceless upon our backs there fall
Infrequent flakes hexagonal,
Devised in many a curious style
To charm our safety for a while,
Where close to earth like mice we go
Under the horizontal snow.

Snowpocalypse

Ok, with a show of hands, who’s snowed in? :raises hand: It was a doozy, wasn’t it? I am super lucky in that I don’t have to work today, which means I don’t have to make the difficult trek into Manhattan. Instead, I can stay holed up in my house in Queens, toasty, cozy, and warm :-)

Georgia O’Keeffe, Bare Tree Trunks With Snow, 1946:

Since this morning, I have seen neither hide nor hair of my two cats (they’re ferals) and I’m worried. I know what you’re all thinking – don’t worry about cats. They’re smart, resourceful, and blessed with exceptional survival skills. Yet even though I”m aware of all that, I still worry. I was outside earlier shoveling out little paths, calling out “Prince? Jackson? Come on out babies!”. But no sign of them yet. The issue with this blizzard is the intense drift. The blustery wind is blowing wildly and forming huge dunes of snow. But a cat can’t get buried, right? Is that even possible? They know to seek higher ground, I hope. Where are my little boys? What if they’re trapped!! :cry:

This dove has been chillin’ out on the telephone wire behind my house. Maybe he knows where Prince and Jackson are? Speak bird!

I have to pull myself out of this missing cat panic mode. How about “Music Monday”? We’re all familiar with Antonio Vivaldi’s famous composition “The Four Seasons”. The “Spring” section, or “La Primavera”, is probably the most recognizable. But the “Winter” section is wonderful too. So for the snowpocalypse of 2010, here’s Vivaldi’s “L’inverno”, Concerto for Violin and Strings in F minor. WINTER has officially arrived . . .