Pandemic Postcard Exhibit — SJB Creates Blog

A pleasant surprise across my WP Reader Dashboard – SJB Creates posted a video of Pandemic Postcard Exhibit at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center in Maryland. They had submitted some postcards and their cards are featured at around minute 10 of the video. I watched in anticipation, since I had submitted a card way back at the beginning of the pandemic (feels like 10 years ago now) and was thrilled to see my card around 1:30 of the video! The direct link to the Annmarie Sculpture garden is here. The video is a fantastic compilation of postcards from all over.

In 2020, Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center in Maryland invited all ages to send homemade postcards to be included an important community art exhibit. The goal was to collect and exhibit postcards from the community that express our feelings and share how we all coped during the social-distancing period of the COVID-19 crisis. I […]

Pandemic Postcard Exhibit — SJB Creates Blog

History Haiku – Red Hand Day – February 12

The army trucks drive so near
the children at play
they see the men take
their siblings away

Today is Red Hand Day – or the International Day Against the use of Child Soldiers – a U.N. observance to call attention to the use of child soldiers and children in war around the world and as a plea for it to stop. Much attention was paid a few years ago to the use of child soldiers in Uganda in the Lord’s Resistance Army (remember the Kony 2012 social media movement?), but worldwide, the use of children under 18 in military conflicts (both as soldiers and in “support” roles) happens mostly out of sight. Some articles on the U.N. day of observance noted that, although we tend to think of this as a problem of the developing world, historically, minors were used as soldiers in every “western” conflict up through World War II. I’d been struggling to write a short poem about this topic/observance until I read that perspective – it reminded me of Sarah Cleghorn’s poem about child labor, “The Golf Links.”


So with apologizes to Sarah Cleghorn, I modeled my little poem after hers. That historical connection also got me thinking about some common experiences we have here in the U.S. with minors and the military. While the U.S. military doesn’t allow minors to join its ranks any longer, military recruitment in U.S. high schools is routine and at least from my experience when I was in high school, could be rather aggressive. Family stories of a now grandfather or great uncle running away from home at 14 or 15 to join the navy or army are fairly common (I personally know of a few) and become part of a family’s origin story. It reminded me that the history of children (minors) in the military is not as distant in developed nations as we might like to think.

Red Hand Day website in English: https://www.redhandday.org/en/


Highway Haiku – Moon Slice Pie

Polaroid picture that has been overlaid with silver leaf and a transfer print of a full moon and the text of the haiku

moon slice pie
peeking
we rush to
see the
comet
before
it
fades

This transfer print was a bit of an experiment – when I was cleaning out my father’s house, I found a box of old tarnished ultra-thin silver leaf for gilding or embossing. I’m guessing my Dad got this at a garage sale or the like since he does not do anything (hobby or past career-wise) that would require books of silver leaf. I saved the box and decided to see if I could transfer print onto one of the leaves. There was some trial and error (still ongoing) but it more or less worked! The scan of the piece doesn’t do the texture and light quality justice. It’s been almost a year since I’ve gone out stargazing in the desert and I miss it. This poem (a haiku in syllables if not form) was inspired by the times we’ve been racing to beat the moonrise and set up telescopes and cameras in order to see or photograph something astronomical.

History Haiku – January 22 – Birth of Wilbur Scoville

Polaroid of abstract peppers overlaid with the words of the poem in white letters

snow covered
the ground
like milk the
sun was a red
crescent a
chili pepper
spicing the
air with a
baby’s cry


Wilbur Scoville was born on January 22, 1865 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. A pharmacist by training, he wrote a celebrated pharmacy textbook and won many awards for his research – but he is best remembered for devising the Scoville Scale, which is still in use today for measuring the spiciness or heat of chili peppers. One could argue he made possible such things as chili pepper eating contests and our cultural awareness of different kinds of peppers and their spice levels. It is interesting to think of the effect that the attempt to quantify something has on our perception of it!

Lady Bugs Loose – Haiku by Knoll

I hope that everyone had a safe and happy holiday season and that 2021 will turn a corner and get better! The start of the year was a bit sluggish for me in returning to making art and posting here – I had some potential COVID exposures at work and daycare. It turned out okay and neither myself nor anyone else in either place tested positive or got sick thanks to protocols in place and strategic closures. But it does devour all of one’s mental energy.

I have a new post going up on Friday and the theme of the upcoming post reminded me of this one, a fun haiku by Tricia Knoll. She is a very active Vermont-based poet and you can see all her upcoming events and poems at her website: triciaknoll.com

Original text of the post:
“This haiku puts a grin on my face every time I read it. And it never fails to launch me on an extended trip down memory lane as well – from the greenhouse in my grandparents’ backyard to one I visited once in Iceland. I consider this one of the superpowers of the haiku: they are a reservoir of memories stored in present tense words. Ms. Tricia Knoll is an award-winning poet working and living in Portland, Oregon. Her website, triciaknoll.com, has more of her wonderful haiku as well as links to many of her published poems and books – I definitely recommend a visit! Painting (acrylic on cardboard), digital collage, and composition by me. Have a wonderful weekend!”

Throwback Friday – Don’t Worry, Spiders – Issa

Abstract acrylic painting of yellow, orange and grey with words to Issa haiku

Looking back through the archives, I found that I posted this acrylic painting/haiku pairing almost exactly 5 years ago (Dec. 19th, 2015). At the time I was working through some exercises in a color mixing book, so much of the painting I was doing was abstract and focused on the colors. This translated haiku also reflects my house cleaning aesthetic – and I’ve read we are all falling behind on chores and cleaning even as we spend much more time at home (and therefore have a dirtier house) due to the pandemic.

Original post is below the read more tag. I wish everyone happy and safe holidays!

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History Poem – December 11 – Birth of Annie Jump Cannon

Collage of stars and star formations layered with an older woman's face and the words to the poem

the ether swirled behind her eyes
“It’s a girl,” the midwife said
lamplight flickered in the window
the new mother smiled, “My daughter will
count the stars,
call them each by name
one by one.”

My history poem today is in honor of the birth of Annie Jump Cannon on December 11, 1863. Ms. Cannon became famous as an astronomer who pioneered the Harvard Classification System for stellar bodies – a system that is still in use today. She was also a pioneer for women at Harvard and in astronomy. She manually classified an astounding 350,000 stars in her lifetime – a number that is still a record. Her career in astronomy lasted more than 40 years and later included numerous honorary doctorate degrees from top universities – often from universities that didn’t admit women in the 1880’s when she was attending college. The Annie Jump Cannon Award is still presented by the American Astronomical Society each year to an outstanding early career female astronomer.

I wish everyone a good weekend – stay safe and healthy out there!

Stopping by the Robert Frost Farm

Color picture of the Frost Family farm as taken from the woods

Even though I had to take a break from participating, I’ve been keeping an eye on the Kick-Abouts over at Phil’s Red Kingdom blog – the creativity is always phenomenal. Two weeks ago he announced that the prompt for Kick About #16 would be the last verse of Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening:

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

This poem was my first poetry love: I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know this poem and didn’t find it magical. I distinctly remember being in my grandmother’s house when I was 8 years old, in my mother’s childhood bedroom, reading it in an old school book anthology I found on a shelf. If my childhood in Southern California was filled with parched chaparral, cars, and Santa Ana winds, Frost described a world that seemed to me in a snow globe or fantasy book – harness bells, snowy woods, deep silence, and solemn promises. I’ve always held this poem close – and I’ve found that has made it difficult for me to make art about it. But I still wanted to participate in the Kick About, so I decided to revisit a trip I took 6 years ago to the Robert Frost Family Homestead in Derry, New Hampshire. All photographs by me on my old iPhone then equipped with a now ancient photo filter app.

Color photo of a plaque registering the Robert Frost homestead as a national historic landmark

The farm is a day trip from Boston – where I was living at the time – and is absolutely worth the trip if you are ever in the area (their website is here). I went in August, so everything was as green and humid as it could be.

Color photograph of the back of the Frost homestead

It’s hard to fathom writers as famous as Robert Frost being anything but famous and successful – how could anyone have ever doubted the man, after all, he’s Robert Frost? But the origin story of the farm speaks to the fact that there was a time before he was famous, before the Pulitzer and the Congressional Gold Medal. Despairing for the fate of his daughter-in-law and grandchildren, Frost’s grandfather bought the farm for Frost to ensure he had a means to feed and support his family. You can almost hear Frost’s grandfather now, more than a hundred years later: “You want to do what? Be a poet? What – how – how will you feed the children?” Frost enjoyed the farm for the solitude and privacy to write, but was, by all accounts, a half-hearted farmer. He did make a go of it, however, and it was a working poultry farm for a few years.

Black and white photograph of an egg scale
View of the trees from inside the Frost home

It is amazing to walk the nature trail around the farm and see the inspirations for his poems for yourself: the woods, dark and deep; the mending wall; the old barn and farm tools.

Color photograph of the woods behind the Frost farm
Color photograph of the dry masonry wall behind the Frost farm
Meadow and woods behind the Frost farmhouse

The Frost family sold the farm in 1911 and it changed owners many times until it became a car junk yard in the 1940s. There is a heartbreaking display on the nature trail with a black and white photograph showing the meadow gone and buried under a sea of wrecked and twisted cars, nothing but thick and clumpy mud. Fortunately, after Frost’s death, the state of New Hampshire recognized the historic value of the property and purchased it. Restoration was undertaken with the help of Frost’s daughter Lesley and the farm was opened to the public in 1975. It is a peaceful and beautiful place to visit. When I read the words of Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, I see the woods around the Derry farm, the road curving past on its way from town. I think everyone reads their own life promises into that last stanza – but standing in the meadow behind the Frost farm, it made sense to me that at least some of Frost’s promises were made right here, on an old farm in the New Hampshire countryside.

antique typewriter in the Frost farmhouse
antique ladderback chair in the Frost farm kitchen
Light through a window of the old Frost farmhouse
Black and white photograph of the view from the Frost farmhouse

Highway Haiku – Poppies

abstract collage with green, black, and purple shapes overlaid with words of haiku

Flashing red yellow orange
the poppies chase
me up the off-ramp

California poppies bloom here in the spring time – sprouting up in even the most marginal of habitats – freeway shoulders and empty lots. I wrote this haiku last spring, but took awhile to get around to working on a collage for it. I’m posting it now, in the “deep” winter here (I know it’s 73 degrees F here today, but we’ve had one brief rain storm and some Santa Ana winds! Weather!), as a reminder of what’s to come: a new year, a new season, of hope. The transfer on this one was done at the same time as my last Highway Haiku, but it turned out a little “better” than “Osprey” – for no discernible reason.

Persimmon Paintings and Cookies

abstract acrylic painting of two persimmons over strips of newprint

I broke out my acrylic paints for the first time in a long time – it felt good to just paint without any real goal in mind, just mixing color and having fun. I had some Fuyu persimmons in my fruit bowl and so they became an impromptu still life. I’ve always loved the color of persimmons – they always evoke autumn for me (they ripen here in October/November). I painted the top picture over strips of newspaper to give it more texture.

A few weeks ago I ran across a blog calling for artists and writers to submit recipes to share to help each other through the pandemic. I thought it sounded fun and community minded…but I did not get it together in time to participate in the call! But in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow, I’m going to share my recipe for Persimmon cookies. My grandmother gave me the recipe, but I’m 98% sure she got it from a cookbook (so it’s not some ancestral family recipe or anything). I’ve baked them many times and they make the whole house smell amazing and it is a fun way to entice Persimmon-doubters to try the fruit.

Persimmon Spice Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup of persimmon pulp (I’ve used both common varieties of persimmon – fuyu and hachiya. Hachiya gives a stronger persimmon flavor, but you have to wait until the fruit is extremely ripe before using due to astringency)
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
juice and grated peel from half a large orange
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup finely chopped pecans (optional – I don’t use but it’s in the original recipe)
1 cup golden raisins (I’ve also used dried cherries and that works too!)

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and add persimmon pulp. Sift all dry ingredients together and stir into egg mixture. Add pecans and raisins (if using). Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 375 degrees F for ~12 minutes. The cookies should be soft and cake-like. Enjoy!

For my friends and readers in the U.S., I hope you have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday! I myself am staying home this year, so no travels for me this year – the first time in a very long time!

Acrylic painting of 4 persimmons