Starry Nights

starlightProbably more than ten years ago, textile artist Beth Nash gave me a bag of her scraps. I have rediscovered them and have been bonding small pieces (about 4 x 6 inches) to lightweight cardboard, then punching holes and sewing with white crochet thread. The needle and thread and comfortably hefty, and it feels very much like sewing on the “sewing cards” my mother used to let me practice on when I was very young.

I’m having fun. I have attached some of my little stitcheries to notecards, but am having even more fun photographing them and playing further with Photoshop, adding background textures, drop shadows, and feathering. Here’s the same design after some Photoshop play. Which one do you like best?



Seems I hardly every get around to posting anymore, but here’s an image from a couple of weeks ago, when I was working (and playing) with 22 students from Heartwood Montessori School in Cary, NC. In preparation for a performance for their parents, the students learned to fold origami butterflies and folded 305 of them over the course of a few days. We attached them, with glue dots and tape, to fishing line and hung a “curtain” of butterflies as a backdrop for their performance.

Stop the Hate

WV map

Some of our legislators are running amok in West Virginia. They are close to passing a so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the intent of which seems to be to allow discrimination against the LGBT community in particular. I’m offended by the legislation for several reasons, and I’m betting more people agree with me than don’t. So I have designed a simple sign for individuals and businesses to post in their windows if they agree with me.

A few misguided legislators can pass a law, but thousands of private citizens and businesses can show that they are open to all, regardless of race, religion, sexual preference, or gender identification. If enough of these open-for-business messages show up in storefronts, maybe the public servants will get the drift. I think discriminatory laws are bad for the economy. This is my personal economic development project.

You can download the artwork here: https://motherwit.smugmug.com/Stop-the-Hate/i-S2hCtNP/0/O/stop_hate.jpg

Print it out and put it in your window. Print out a few and ask local businesses to post it if they agree with it.

And, especially for mayors, city councils, large businesses, and anyone else with the means: get in touch if you want vector artwork to print large posters or billboards. I will gladly provide it.

The Winter Day

A sort-of-poem in homage to one of my favorites.


The Winter Day


Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life? — Mary Oliver


In about ten months

I plan to vote.

It is my sacred privilege, as is

the right to keep my choice



Today, I choose to walk

on a snowy path

hushed but for the sounds

of birds conversing

in a language

I don’t understand.


Tomorrow, the same.

First Day of Spring


So it seems that I am posting quarterly now, instead of daily or weekly. Today is March 20. (I thought the first day of spring was the 21st, but I keep hearing it’s today.) There was a solar eclipse I didn’t get to see, but I’m glad I took a walk up the carriage trail on this rainy day in Charleston. I wouldn’t have missed these rain-dappled beauties for anything. The last one is the first bloodroot popping out.


‘Tis the Season


Yikes, it has been four months! Which means the holiday season is almost upon us. I get the Christmas blues, like many people, but wrapping small gifts beautifully—especially with origami boxes—makes me feel good.

In a book of Japanese package design I bought a few years ago, one artist’s essay pointed out that Japanese spirituality holds that all things are living, including things that we Westerners might consider inanimate. So a package for a gift or even an item of food is essentially a little house, a dwelling for the living thing inside. I love that idea.


Fruits of Foraging


This morning’s yield was worth every bit of bushwhacking. To go with them, here’s an essay I wrote a few years ago for West Virginia Public Radio:


My love of berry picking goes back a long way. My grandmother was famous for baking pies. Family lore has it that she baked her husband a pie for breakfast every single day of their marriage. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know this: During summer vacations at her lakeside cottage, my cousins and I had a bargain with her. If we brought her enough blackberries, we could count on blackberry pie after supper.

The best time for berry picking is the cool of the morning. I get up and put on my uniform: long socks covered by trousers I altered myself, for the purpose, with elastic at the ankles. Waterproof boots to repel the morning dew. A long-sleeved T-shirt. I grab an empty quart yogurt container and head out to the berry patch behind the house.

The house belongs to my friend Michael, who has given over his large backyard to raspberry vines. For a couple of weekends each summer, this is my paradise.

I start at the edge, but soon wade into the middle of the patch, bushwhacking when necessary. The vines are taller than I am: I’m hidden, I’ve escaped from the real world and landed in this kingdom of briars. It’s a place chock-full of smells and sounds and sensations: the fresh scent of mint leaves, growing somewhere nearby. The trills and chirps and scolding of birds all around me. The drone of a bumblebee and the whine of a mosquito. The trickle of sweat on my neck.

I love the crazy zigzag patterns of branches and thorns. I marvel at the variety of spiders and beetles and tiny winged creatures, and a kind of pink grub that curls itself into a cluster of berries, pretending to be one of the delicious morsels and sometimes fooling me.

I go for the ripest berries, dark and plump, rolling them off their stalks into my plastic bucket. Soon my fingers are stained red with the juice, and the backs of my hands, inevitably, bear little beads of blood from the thorns.

Along with this feast for the senses, the berry patch has life lessons. Progress comes in small increments, but patience pays off. Sometimes a slight change in perspective yields a new opportunity. Some prizes really are just out of reach, and you might as well let them be, but the sweet rewards you can reap are worth a few scrapes and scratches.

I carry my sweet rewards into the house. I’m not a pie baker, but I can manage a pretty good cobbler. With vanilla ice cream and a cup of coffee on the side…it doesn’t get any better than this.


…and on clematis and jewelweed as well. How I love walking after a morning rain. Even with that song stuck in my mind.





In January of this year, a coal-cleaning chemical leaked out of a tank less than mile from the intake for West Virginia American Water Company. Some 300,000 West Virginians lost their water for drinking, cooking, bathing or cleaning. For quite a while, the liquid flowing through our taps had a weird, licorice-like odor. Even after it was declared safe, many people did not trust that it was, and continued using bottled water. (Some of us still are using bottled water.)

Politicians—including many who collect big money from their coal investments, and including our governor—skittered to distance themselves from any responsibility to protect West Virginia’s environment or the citizens who depend upon it. As I took my daily walk around Charleston in the weeks following the chemical spill, my thoughts were angry as well as sad. A melody and some words began to take shape in my mind: a from-the-heart, straightforward message.

In early February, there was a public hearing in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Although the prospect terrified me, I decided to “speak” at the hearing by singing my song. Many legislators were absent, but I sang my song anyway. Many other citizens also stood up to express their outrage and to beg our so-called public servants to quit serving extractive industries at the expense of public health.

Now my friends Julie Adams (producer), George Castelle (guitarist), and Paul Flaherty (sound engineer) have helped me record the song, and yesterday I successfully uploaded it to CD Baby as a single (for download only). It’s deeply satisfying to me to send my song out into the world on the same day that the EPA proposes new, stricter standards for water and air quality. Our politicians will no doubt scream bloody murder over the new standards, the way they should be decrying the mining and fracking methods that are fouling our state. They will declare the new standards as a “war on coal” instead of what it really is, a plan to protect public health and safety from the ones who only use us for the riches they can steal.

You can download or listen to a 30-second snippet from the song at CD Baby. You can read the lyrics right here:

If you love my West Virginia, you will keep her waters clean

If you love my West Virginia, you will keep her mountains green

If you love my West Virginia, love her Wonderful and Wild

You’ll respect her like your mother and defend her like your child

If you love my West Virginia, you would suffer for her sake

If you love my West Virginia, you will give more than you take

If you love my West Virginia, you would grieve to see her kneel

To the ones who only use her for the riches they can steal

If you love my West Virginia, you will hold her in your soul

If you love my West Virginia, you won’t let her mountains fall

If you love my West Virginia, you will fight to see her stand

With her summits bathed in glory like our Prince Immanuel’s Land

Color of the Key of F


It is still (just barely) National Poetry Month, and I am thinking of Edna St. Vincent Millay, particularly since the subject of one of my favorite Millay poems, “The Strawberry Shrub,” is in bloom now. It’s an odd poem, a very close examination of this plant that she calls “old-fashioned, quaint as quinces,/Hard to find in a world where neon and noise/Have flattened the ends of the three more subtle senses,/And blare and magenta are all that a child enjoys.”

She describes its color as the “color of dried blood, color of the key of F.” I love that last metaphor. Although I do not have synesthesia in the medical sense, Millay’s “color of the key of F” makes sense to me. When I sing my own songs, my natural key is generally A or G. The key of F is lower, deeper, fuller, a bit darker. If fire red is middle C, the key of F is this color.

This past week I have been having a good time finding other blooming plants in the color of the key of F. Here are a few.


The interior of a jack-in-the-pulpit.


Pawpaw blossoms.


A kind of red trillium.