Hello, and Who Are You?

I’ve neglected this aspect of my life for a while, the one in which I write about the everyday things that are really the important details that should be noted. I don’t know why. I admit to feeling a sense of tiredness that won’t go away – the past few years have had its effect on me the same as everyone else. It’s sometimes hard to adjust to the altered state of the larger world and my own smaller world.

On the other hand, those little details just keep on coming. I need to pay attention.


A week or two ago, I was walking along the Green Ribbon Trail. It’s walnut season. They are dropping from the trees and landing in the path (where I take a lot of pleasure in kicking them along).

I was just going along, minding my own business, when I looked down and saw this little guy looking at me:

Yes, a walnut head, with a bit of a questioning look on his face. Hello! I said, took his photo, and left him there to greet others.

Happy Fall!

Art Drop-Off: Horsham Power Line Trail, 2/23/22

Another mild day, and we decided to go to the Power Line trail for our morning walk because we had a lot of rain yesterday, and this trail is paved. Not that mud bothers me but it slows me down and today I wanted to put on some miles.

We set out before 7 AM, I guess, and took along this little painting (6″ x 6″) to set along the way.

I decided on this bench next to the tiny bridge over one of the many small creeks running through this tract. I like this place at the bottom of the hill – I’ve taken photos of the vegetation in the water and done a couple of drawings from it. There are always so many patterns to look at.

And, it reminds me of the creek we had in our yard, when I was young, and how much fun it was to set our little homemade boats off on a “river” journey, sometimes with dolls precariously hanging on for dear life.

But I digress. Here is the painting in place:

You may wonder, Where is this painting’s little raincoat in case of rain? (See this post for what I mean.) Claudia, didn’t you say you were going to protect the art in plastic if you could not put it in a sheltered place?

Yes, I did say that. My thinking has evolved. (For one thing, I didn’t have any plastic covers of the correct size, but never mind that.)

I’ve decided always to try to set the art in a place safer from rain and so on, if I can. If I’m going out and it is raining, I’ll see if I can’t take along something that I can wrap up or can stand the rain. But if the weather is ok when I go out, well, I’m just going to pretend it’s always going to be that way until someone picks up the art.

There you have it. My plan is set. Life is too short, let’s just get some more art out there!

Art Drop-Off: Victory Field, 2/22/22

So many reasons to do an art drop-off today:

a mild morning

another chance to try out a category of new objects to drop off

this wonderful date, all 2’s of it!

So early this morning my husband and I went to Victory Field in Plymouth Meeting, about 15 or 20 minutes from home, to walk around the perimeter trail. Rain was threatening, so we wanted a spot where we could get back to the car quickly if need be (though I had my raincoat, so that I could just slip it on and keep going if we wanted to).

Victory Field is a complex of sports fields adjacent to Plymouth-Whitemarsh HS (my husband is an alum, but this field did not exist back in his day). The path is a paved one mile circuit, not very interesting, but easy to walk along.

Lots of groups use these fields besides the school students – when we arrived the Chestnut Hill College women’s lacross team was practicing as the sun came up.

I had chosen this 4″ x 4″ “portrait” done on 3/8″ masonite for today’s drop-off.

I realized it might get wet in the rain and I wondered if I could do anything about that. Yes. I have some plastic art bags left from other projects. This little guy fit inside. I put a tag in there with him with my standard line: Take me with you if you want to. So I was prepared before we left home for any location we might choose.

I set him on a bench in this small memorial garden.

I feel that I would rather just put the art outside with no coverings, but I realize there will not always be a good place to set a small painting where it will be protected. I think this solution does not take away from the experience of a person who might find it.

All right, that’s it for today!

Art at the Art Museum

Of course there is art at the museum, you say, it’s an art museum, right? Yes, if we are talking about the Allentown Art Museum, where my husband and I attended the opening of a new exhibit yesterday But I want to tell you about something else we did on this outing – we made our own art in the art activities area, too.

The art session was part of the members’ preview event we were participating in for the exhibit Eclectic Collecting: Curiosities from the Vault. We went upstairs to the art room and found out there were two activities: linoleum block printing and making buttons (like the one they gave us at the front desk to show we were members). I was all set to get to work. I expected my husband just to watch, as he has never wanted to participate in this kind of thing, but to my surprise and pleasure, he said he’d like to do a lino print too.


We were given a small piece of paper about 3″ square upon which we drew our designs. Then we transferred them to our lino blocks (actually it was one of the versions of the easier-to-carve soft block, I’m not sure what brand). Then we carved and then we printed!

I’ll start with my work. You can see I printed several versions all together on this approximately 6″ square paper.

Now, here is my husband’s work.

I was so happy. I think it came out great and what’s even better, he enjoyed doing it. To the point where he said, yes, he’d like to do some printing at home. Now, remember, I’ve done art and art shows for 25+ years. My husband has never had any interest in doing art, even though he can build anything (including installing our kitchen) and repair anything from plumbing to electricity to, well, pretty much whatever you can think of.

So I am thrilled. I think we will really enjoy ourselves.

I am planning to get some linoleum for us to work on (the easy cut blocks are quick and simple to carve, especially good for an activity setting like this one, but real linoleum gives the best results for clear sharp lines and shapes, I think). At home, I have the tools and the setting in which to work with standard linoleum.

Here are some more of our efforts.

Next, we decided to try making a button. They had some premade designs we could have used, but we decided to draw our own on the tiny round circles of paper that start off the process.

After we’d done our work the instructor put them through the little machine to make buttons. You know, I was surprised to learn that if I wanted to make buttons at home, the machine was very reasonable in cost…no, I do not need to add on another activity for myself, though I do think they could be nice for art drop-offs…hmmm, I’ll put this on my list. Maybe someday…

But let me get back to results! Here is the button the museum gave us, along with our own efforts.

And, I want to say thanks! to the Allentown Art Museum and all the staff and volunteers who made such a nice afternoon for us.

Washi Day

My husband and I are members at the Allentown Art Museum and I am sure you remember some previous visits I have described. They put on a lot of interesting exhibits as well as offering activities in which you interact with the collection (remember the Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt?)

We went to museum on Saturday, October 9, for the members’ preview of a new exhibit, Washi Transformed (which opens on October 10 and goes until January 2, 2022).

I also signed up for the members only art activity to be led by a local artist, Anthony Smith.

We arrived at our timed ticket reservation spot at noon and viewed the exhibit first. All I can say is, Wow! and that I will be returning to look at the art again. There is so much beauty and intricacy, it will take me more than one time to take it all in, I think.

I’m not going to write a lot about the art but instead show you some of the works. Although here is the introduction statement in the gallery, which can give you some background.

All of the art involves washi papers in one way or another, and as you can see, there are a lot of ways it can be used to express form, emotion, and just something beautiful to look at. The exhibit is laid out in two rooms upstairs, one larger than the other.

I took a lot of photos, more than usual. With my eyesight problems, I cannot always take in the details well. I thought if I had photos of the works, I could study them better at home, especially when it came to small details, that I could enlarge.

Here are some items from the larger room.

This large structure featured indigo-dyed paper panels suspended as you see in the photos. You could go inside. To me I felt as if I were in a sky full of stars.

This is a detail of a framed work in which the artist had pleated the paper and then dyed it indigo so that there were patterns left by the pleats – then cut the paper into squares and sewed them, like a quilt.

These large panels are a traditional Japanese form. The lamp in the second one is also constructed of paper.

This grouping was my favorite of the show. I love the colors. And the array looks like a school of happy fish to me.

These two pieces were made by the same artist who did the “fish”. The orange one is quite large and made of attached repeating sections; the little green one (that looks like a building to me) is at the opposite end of the scale.

The soft glow and the gentle shapes of these rounded lamps gave me a feeling of peace.

Here is a view of the second room:

And here is a close-up of one of that group of red sculptures to the right.

The same artist made these bowls; the paper fibers start off at the bottom as being in a braided pattern, very tight, and then blossom out into the free-form look at the ends.

And here is my other favorite in this show (yes, guess I had two favorites…) – this group of white organic forms, also made by the same artist (as the red group and the bowls). The forms are made int the same fashion – braided and woven tightly at the bottom and relaxing into their wild-haired personas at the top.

I loved looking at this group. It’s just beautiful and I liked the idea of restrained growing into free.

To me it was a metaphor for my life – when I was younger I was held in by many restrictions and responsibilities. Now—I let go, or things drop away, and though it is not always a happy process, it is a freeing one, too.


Then it was time for the art activity. My husband did not attend – he looked around at other exhibits for a while and then went out for a short walk around town.

I went into the activity room right off the main exhibit room. We sat down at tables – here is mine (including my purse, it looks like).

I’m going to be honest, I am not exactly sure how the activity fit in with the washi exhibit (though we did use some washi tape). But it did not matter, because I had a great time and so did everyone else.

Essentially, I believe the link was that we were working with paper and using it to create art, in this case, collages. The instructor had some people templates for us to use as figures in our compositions (one of whom looked like Carl Sagan, as the instructor pointed out, and after that everyone who used that figure referred to their character in that way) – setting them in an environment, clothing them, etc.

Everyone fell to work and found it absorbing and fun, I think.

I tried very hard to follow directions but I was unable to do so, and since I have reached my antique age I feel less and less worried about the implications when this happens (though I do try not to disrupt the class, because I know from teaching classes myself, it is hard to cope with a student who goes off on a tangent and is loud about it). I did stick with the theme of a figure, but I got drawn away by the magazines we were using – Bazaar, and all its clothes and people! Here is the final result:

Then, since I had some time left, I went on to the second suggested activity, a vertically-laid-out landscape, loosely following Japanese landscape principles, maybe or maybe not…

At the end we displayed our work – here is some of it:

Thank you to the Allentown Art Museum for this exhibit and all that it brought to me. I found the exhibit works to be beautiiful and prompting reflection. And, for the activity group, I just really enjoy being in a group that has the hum and buzz of people contentedly creating art.

Tornado and Cornfield

A few weeks ago Hurricane Ida visited my area, southeastern Pennsylvania, and left flooding in its wake. You may have seen photos of a highway in Philadelphia that looked like a canal – the Vine Street Expressway in Center City was flooded with muddy water from the Schuykill River. And that was just one episode among countless stories of floods, wind, and destruction.

I showed you photos of flooding damage along the Perkiomen Creek in an earlier post: look here.

I’ve lived in this area for 40+ years, never seen anything like it, never want to do so again. Our house was spared any damage, for which I am thankful. However, a tornado (one of several in the area) touched down about 5 miles from my house and left a swath of destruction that is still being cleaned up and/or assessed. Some of our favorite areas along the Green Ribbon Trail are now forests of topped trees with their leaves blown off, clear sky where there was shade and green before the storm.

And a lot of people lost roofs, trees, parts of their houses, and there was injury and death as well. My heart goes out to all who are just entering a recovery from this storm.

Tornadoes are dangerous. Goes without saying, but until you see it with your own eyes, the level of dectruction is hard to imagine.

A few days after the storm we were walking along the Power Line Trail in Horsham. One area is planted in corn. Take a look.

I grew up in Tennessee and tornadoes were an annual feature, but they are not common in Pennsylvania. We had tornado drills in school and in one memorable storm a house near us was cut in half, the middle destroyed and the two sides left standing, as the tornado plowed through its middle.

It’s a characteristic of tornadoes to bounce and weave their way across the countryside. An area totally destroyed can be right beside one left untouched. That’s what you see here with this cornfield. Notice the flattened areas next to an intact row. That’s how precisely a tornado can move.

I’m still shaken, remembering that day through these photos.

Next time your area has a tornado warning, think of these photos and go straight to your basement. That’s your best chance. If you are outside, look for a low spot in the landscape, such as a ditch or culvert. Cover yourself if you can to protect against flying debris. Most of all, pay attention when conditions exist for tornadoes to form and take the warning seriously.

Reforesters Update 7/4/21

This morning my husband and I took a trip over to the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust (PERT) to count our trees, do some upkeep, and maybe clear away some more invasives. I am a little behind on my report, since I haven’t been here since mid-June. Recovering from my shingles vaccine took a week and last week was either very hot or else thunderstorms, so I didn’t come over here.

Well, we are here now. It’s very green and lush these days here in the preserve.

We decided to count the trees first. I think this session we finally have found all our trees and cleared them. The count is 35 trees alive, 3 dead, and 2 vounteers we also are caring for.

We did some clearing. Those vines I mentioned in the last post, the ones with very weak stems and small heart-shaped leaves, are everywhere now. If they had any heft to them we’d be unable to fight our way into the plot. As it is, they have their own weapon – they are very sticky, meaning sticky like velcro, not sticky like popsicle juice, and if they touch your skin, it hurts to pull them away.

Ugh. Luckily, gloves and our usual array of cover-up clothes does the job. I pulled some vines away from this little tree. Ick, they arise in a mass and seem to stick to each other too, in order to get where they would like to go. I still don’t know their name – I need to look it up.

But today, I have a really exciting story to tell. Do you remember back at the end of May, I uncovered a dead tree still standing in its cage, buried under a huge mound of vines, weeds, and wild rosebushes? (Look here for that post if you don’t). I tagged it pink and left it. It then appears in several subsequent posts, a forlorn remnant, as I continued to clear brush.

Today I checked it, out of curiosity more than anything. I noticed some leaves that looked very much like oak leaves at the bottom of the cage.

Here it was this morning:

And those leaves…hmmm… I thought maybe a little volunteer oak was coming up, though I didn’t see any parent oakds nearby.

I found the former trunk of the tree and snapped the top off easily. Dead, yes. but I still wasn’t satisfied. I removed the whole cage and cleaned around the leaves. I found that they were growing out of the very bottom of the trunk. The tree was not dead!

Digging a little further, I found the nursery tag from the tree:

I was right, it is an oak tree. I carefully cleaned around it. I will be paying special attention to this little guy. It has survived years of living under a thicket. It’s strong. I will help it grow.

Well, that is it for today. Until next time.

Reforesters Update 6/17/21

Today I visited our tree plot at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust (PERT) to check on the trees and do some clearing. It was a lovely sunny morning, cool and with little humidity and a light breeze. Perfect for being outside with the trees.

I appreciate everyone’s patience with the continual stream of pictures of green trees and green weeds and green tangle. I use these posts to help me remember my experiences in order to write up my monthly report. It can get repetitive to see what looks like the same scene over and over. I wish you could come along with me to the plot and explore the whole area. There are many little landscapes within this big green one.

I thought that today I would focus on some details I noticed as I worked. I covered the ground in a wandering kind of way and did a variety of tasks – clearing trees of vines and debris, cutting away more invasisve plants from the area I have been working on, and clearing vines from some larger trees at the bottom of the hill that I have not visited much.

OK, let’s go. In no particular order.

Here is a close-up of that velcro-like vine with heart-shaped leaves as it begins its journey up a spicebush.

It looks innocuous enough, and it is a very weak plant – you can tear it away with your hands. I don’t think it enacts long-lasting harm on the trees. But I think it can cause difficulties in growth when it gangs up in a mass, and it adds to the weight on a plant when it combines with other vines as you see here:

Ugh, and it is really unpleasant when you touch it with your bare skin – it’s like sandpaper.

Here is a tiny tree inside its cage, besieged by vines and plant growth. If the tree is this small, I lift the cage away from it and clear out the whole area, then drop the cage back on it and re-stake it.

I have mentioned the strangling effect of the honeysuckle vine. Unlike the other vines I have observed, it has a tough fibrous quality that resists being broken or snapped, and it can grow to be huge – finger-sized. It twists around branches and trunks as you see in the first photo – I’m showing you sections left after I clipped the vine.

Sometimes the vine has embedded itself into the tree so that I can’t remove it, just clip it. The tree continues to grow but it is marred by the experience. The second photo shows a spicebush (I think) that has endured this situation. At some point the vine ceased to grow or was removed, but the scars remain and the later growth reflects the results.

I see instances of the damage the honeysuckle does all over the plot. In addition to wrapping trees it grows up into the crown, weighs the tree down, and eventually starves out the leaves, if left in place. It also provides a nice platform for quicker-growing and lighter vines to leap on to.

I have changed my opinion about how nice a honeysuckle vine is since I have been working here.


Moving on. Lots of wild raspberries coming out now. I am of course dedicated to removing them but I have a more lenient feeling about them than other plants here. Their fruits are useful. A lot of people around here pick them when they are ripe – I’ve seen people with baskets of them.

Here you see a tall tree in its cage., looking spindly and bent. This tree had vines growing up into its crown as I described above, when we first saw it. Now it is clean and maybe it will have a chance to gain strength and even out its growth.

This tree was in the middle of a clearing and growing pretty well, but needed more sunlight. We have cut back some of the surrounding spicebush and given it a little more room, but it was already pretty strong. Nice to see it doing well.

I spent some time today clearing around the base of these larger trees. I’ll need to continue the job, but I did clear a number of invasives from the base area and I pulled a lot of vines from the foliage. If I can’t pull the vines (in the case of the larger older ones or ones that are way up in a tall tree) I cut the vines, so that they will die up in the tree. Here you can see cut vines hanging in mid-air.

Here are trees I did not attempt to approach. Why, you may say? Well, those vines are poison ivy. Remember, leaves of three, let them be, and hairy is scary (meaning the vines are, well, hairy looking). Shout-out to my friend Diane for that latter hint – I’ve found it useful. Anyway, in our PERT orientation, we were told that the poison ivy vines do not stress the trees as the other vines do – they don’t travel tree to tree or leap branch to branch and create a mass and destroy foliage. My observation is that they stick to the large branches and they are very light.

In fact, blowing in the breeze as they were today, it was an attractive sight. But…don’t be fooled. They are lethal, if you ask me – I’m very allergic and let me tell you, the itching the oil produces is fierce and goes on for weeks.

I let these be.

Finally, here is a shot of the plot looking up the hill. From here it is easy to understand the layout – there is a cleared area all the way up under the power lines and extending back until it hits the line of trees/bushes, the area we have been clearing.

Until next time.

What’s New at the Farm Park

My husband and I took a walk this morning at the Norristown Farm Park. There was nothing exciting about it, really – but being outside on a cool morning in June, before 7 AM, and traveling a circuit of 4.5 miles or so around a place we are familiar with and yet always surprises us – it seems worth noting.

I’ll show you the photos and let you see.

We park at the East Norriton admin building/township park. The bocce court is open this summer, after being closed all last year.

The corn continues to grow up through the golden remnants of the winter cover crop.

I remembered to take a photo of the symbol for the Montco Trail Challenge – a trout. Very fitting for this park with a stocked trout fishing creek running through it, and its own trout fishery up on the hill near the hay barn.

Near the Getty Cottage, at the main entrance to the park from Germantown Pike, we decided to take the loop around the large field that fronts the road. We split up here, going in opposite directions, to meet and continue on together later.

I headed toward the road and turned along it. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has been developing a learning garden here for some time. It’s now taking form.

These buildings, right up on Germantown Pike, have become an area related to the garden, though I don’t know how, exactly. Looks to me as if they have building materials here. I wonder if they are meant for the greenhouse that’s to be built?

I continued around the field. I am always struck by how, if you look in one direction, into the park, the scene is so rural:

… and then you turn to the other side and face the highway and the hospital and the suburbs…

I’m seeing these plants all along the edges of every field. I don’t know what they are – I think last summer is the first time I have noticed them. I photographed some detail and will look them up.

I also took this photo of a flyer in a kiosk to remind me to look up the park’s programs. In the past they had quite a few events, walks, and nature sightings to choose from. There was nothing last summer but this year is different.

Well, that’s about it. Thanks for coming along.

Visit to the Allentown Art Museum 5/30/21

A visit to a favorite museum.

Claudia McGill and Her Art World

Our weather has been chill and pouring rain and clouds and more rain for this weekend. But my husband and I knew what to do – visit the museum. Off we went to the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown, PA, on this date.

Two new exhibits have just opened and both were of interest to me. I’ll do a quick rundown and then show you how I participated myself into an exhibit. Sort of. Kind of. If you stretch the definition…

But I digress. Let’s go.

The first we viewed exhibit is called Roots. It focuses on art or craft made by community artists and what happens when the mainstream art world discovers it and appropriates it or redefines it.

The exhibit contained quilts, furniture, sculpture, beadwork, and imagery. Pieces made by the community artists were shown along with works inspired by or derived from, or in some cases…

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