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Life with Dogs: Part 10-Tula

Tula came to me as a scared, skinny runaway from Chico, CA, age unknown.

She’d recently given birth, had a dry, raggedy coat and kept her tail permanently tucked between her legs.

She refused to jump into a car, but broke three (empty) bowls by jumping onto the kitchen counter in search of food to filch.

She’d had a hard life to that point.

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I took her to Holly Park on her first day in Bernal Heights so she could get  a view of her new neighborhood.

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Tula never met another dog she didn’t like, or at least tolerate. I saw her growl only a few times, and she had to be taught how to bark again.

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Though she always kept an eye on me, She liked and tolerated children of all ages too.

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Tula got around.

As my black and white shadow, she traveled from California to points all over the East Coast.

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On the Pacific Coast at The Sea Ranch,

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At the Brooklyn Bridge with Illustrator Paul O Zelinsky.

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And on top of Vermont’s Mt Abraham with Sabin Russell.

TulainCreek_web Tula’s favorite spot was belly deep in some body of water.

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but she was happy in all weather as long as I was there too.

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After any encounter with moisture, she would joyfully roll in grass or sand or the dusty driveway.

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Tula was the sweetest dog I’ve ever had and she will be profoundly missed.

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Life with Dogs: Part 9 Lucy

Children and puppies both start out small.

RowanBaby:webChildren grow fairly slowly, year by year, and only reach their full size in a couple of decades.

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Puppies start out small too, but grow SO much faster.

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Here is Rowan at almost 7 years and Lucy at age 12 weeks. 

Puppies are pretty much full grown in a year. This transformation provided the inspiration for my book When Lucy Goes Out Walking.

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Starting in January, the pup in the book grows month by month.

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By March she is leggy and adolescent looking.

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By July, she’s a mostly grown companion on a grassy hill.

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and by rainy November she can carry groceries and trot along through puddles.

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The weather turns cold again and this time Lucy leaves “big dog prints” in first December snows.

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A year passes and here is Rowan at almost 8 years and Lucy at 12 months. What a difference a year made for one small pup!

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Pumpkins

Pumpkin was an affectionate nickname in my family, so I chose it as the name for my 1st Border Collie.

I love the word Pumpkin-how it fills my mouth and suggests the shape of the fruit.

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Yes, a pumpkin is a fruit- actually a berry. It is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, along with melons and cucumbers. The rule of thumb to tell fruit from vegetables is that: if it has seeds, it is a fruit, no seeds, it’s a vegetable.

As with every experience, Pumpkin stands in for me and is able to do things I can never do.HalloweenMaskweb 

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Lately, I have found a new, black, love object named Baby Bear. He is enjoying every bit of autumn in Vermont, especially the pumpkins!

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The Painted Door


This summer my dear friend Barb took me on a field trip to The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

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In the summer of 1900 a boardinghouse for artists began operation in the quiet shoreline town of Old Lyme, Connecticut. For the next two decades Miss Florence Griswold’s house on Lyme Street was home to one of the most famous art colonies in America and critical to the development of American Impressionism. – Hildegard Cummings, independent art historian and curator

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The story of Miss Florence and this house is fascinating, but what intrigued me most were the painted doors. Her summer guests were an elite group of American Tonalist and Impressionist painters including Childe Hassam and others.

Miss Florence allowed her favorite artists to paint on her interior doors.

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I’m a door painter from way back. I started in the 1970s, painting rural trompe l’oeil on close to a dozen barn doors at Doolittle Farm in Shoreham, Vermont.

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Painting these gave a me a local reputation and I did several more barns before leaving the state in 1980.

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Like William Henry Howe, who painted this Normandy Bull on Florence Griswold’s door, I made portraits of animals, children, and random chickens.

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This busy scene on a barn in Shoreham needs only the kitchen sink to make it complete.

And this one is a faux door–painted to match the real one next to it.

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The nice thing about doors is that every house has some. You always have a canvas if you want to try this at home!

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Happy Birthday, Dear Rowan!

24 years ago I was waiting.

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I was expecting another child, sex unknown. I knew this one was big and strong.

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The kicking and rolling were constant. Working on a long, circus mural on the only available flat surface-the floor- was a huge challenge.

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But it was fun wondering who would arrive. I decided to design a new birth announcement print to celebrate.

I loved this excerpt from A Poem for a New Born Baby Girl, by Grace Hazard Conkling.

“Now from the coasts of morning pale
Comes safe to port thy tiny sail.
Now have we seen by early sun,
Thy miracle of life begun.”

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And soon, I was able to fill in the details:

Rowan Wolff Russell

 born September 25th, 1990

 in San Francisco, California

8 pounds, 12 ounces,

21 inches

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Happy Birthday, Rowan. You were SO worth waiting for.

I love you!

Painting a Cottage Card

Last summer I was into drawing fairies. The mushrooms in my forest were transformed into moonlight bathtubs.

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But this year I returned to ‘realism’ and featured the diminutive red eft. This brightly colored, juvenile phase of the Eastern Newt is on the move to winter quarters They are scuttling speedily along the mossy forest trails, looking for their new pond. 

RE_1 I paint a lot of Cottage Cards each summer and send them to my special friends. To make it a little faster I do them in batches. Each one is different, but they all use the same basic elements and colors.

After I’ve drawn the image in pencil, I completely saturate the paper with clean water. Using gouache, I paint the orange eft-wet into wet.RE_2 When the 1st wet layer has dried, I use a bright, mossy green to paint the background. reserving white areas as I go.RE_3 I add various colors to the mushroom caps.RE_4 The deep greens of the forest are added as an indigo layer in the far background.RE_5Purple-blue shadows under the mushroom caps and the eft’s body come next.RE_6 A winding Partridge Berry vine is added to three of the four cards, along with some mossy texture. I use a gold ink pen to outline the eft’s eye and the red spots along her body.RE_7 The final layer is a diluted wash of cobalt blue to focus attention on the red eft.

RE_8Now I remove the tape and, voila!

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Tracking the Red Eft

The Eastern Newt has a juvenile phase where these small amphibians are land dwelling and a striking shade of orange.

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These creatures are tiny–I am always afraid I’m going to step on them as they cross the mossy forest trail. As the summer wanes I see more and more of these on the move. They travel long distances using magnetic orientation. After 2 or 3 years on land they’ll find a permanent pond and become green aquatic newts.

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Their gold rimmed eyes and delicate spots are such fun to draw and paint.

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A Red Eft, painted in gouache, is the star of my 2014 Cottage Card.

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