Four seasons

These are etchings by my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway, who died in 2000.

All four are done with the same etching plate.

Winter is done first. The zinc plate is covered with a protective layer and then she draws with tools, including dental tools. The plate is placed in an acid bath. The acid etches where the drawings are, different depths. The protective layer is removed. The plate is inked. Most of the ink is gently wiped off and the plate is placed on the press. Wet paper is laid on the plate and the heavy wool covers are folded down over that. The press is run. The wool is folded back on the other side and the paper is lifted and laid to dry.

The plate is re inked for each one.

She puts the protective cover back on the plate and adds the buds for spring. These are etched. Winter is now gone, the plate has changed. She prints all of the spring series.

Next is summer. Leaves are added. She prints those.

Last is autumn. Now there are leaves on the ground as well. She does some the plates with more than one ink color. This was one of her largest etchings. She did a small series first, where the etchings were about 4 by 6 inches. This was 18 by 24. She had a really big etching press. I don’t know who has it, my sister took it to California and it disappeared.

I have the etchings and I have all the plates. I can’t run this series, I could only run autumn. I grew up surrounded by my mother doing art, etchings, watercolors, oils, lithography, a constant sketchbook and crafts. I took a painting class a few years ago. The instructor says, “Acrylics are NOT watercolors.” I reply, “I know how to DO watercolors.” I was being quite creative with the acrylics only I automatically used the watercolor techniques that I grew up with.

The photograph doesn’t really do them justice. I will have to take some more. Plus I have her slides in some of the boxes left from when my father died. More cataloging.

Blessings and good memories of my mother.

obfuscate

“Mom, the chicken tastes funny, but good.”

“Shuddup and eat.”

“Mom, the salty stuff on the chicken is the BEST!”

“Move over, I’m eating yours if you don’t want it!”

“Mom!”

“That kind of chicken is called a potato, dears.”

“Yum, mom, more.”

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: obfuscate.

trilogy

The Lady Ox trilogy

The first poem in this trilogy was written in 1984. The next two were written twenty years later. Like ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail.

The first poem popped into my head while I was thinking about flowers. The second two were both problem poems. Most of my poems are problem poems: I sit down with a problem that I am working on and start writing about it. I do not know where the poem is going to go and I am always surprised. And it often goes somewhere that I don’t expect. Often it is a map for where I aspire to go emotionally, but usually I am not there yet when I finish the poem.

Advice to Michael

This poem is about a dream that helped me after my mother died and through a divorce. It was not an easy process, to look at my childhood and what happened. It can be a very frightening place to go. Good luck and health to everyone who tries.

Painting angels

You were an artist
You are an artist
You said that you’d have to live to 120 to finish all your projects
And died at 61
I keep wondering
what the art supplies are like
and if you work on sunsets
or mountains
or lakes

Trey, 9
made a clay fish last summer that I admire
He said grumpily “It’s too bad Grandma Helen died before I could do clay with her.”
He tells me he’s ready to make raku pots to fire in your ashes as you wished
I ask what he’d make
He considers and says, “What was Grandma Helen’s favorite food?”
I can’t think and say that she liked lots of foods
At the same time wondering squeamishly if maybe
he should make a vase and then being surprised
that I am squeamish and thinking of blood and wine,
too, I wonder if my dad would know. “Maybe guacamole.”
I need to find a potter to apprentice him to.

Camille, 4.
asks how old Grandma Helen was when she died.
I explain that she died at 61 but her mother died at 92.
Camille asks how old I am.
40.
When are you going to die?
I say I don’t know, none of us do, but I hope it’s more towards 90.

Camille studies me and is satisfied for now.
She goes off.
I think of you.

I perpetuate
the Christmas cards you did with us
upon my children.
They each draw a card.
We photocopy them and hand paint with watercolors.
Camille wants to draw an angel
and says she can’t.
I draw a simple angel
and have her trace it.
She has your fierce concentration
bent over tracing through the thick paper
She wants it right.
The angel is transformed.

My kids resist the painting after a few cards as I did too.
Each time I paint the angel
to send to someone I love
I think of Camille
and you
and genes
and Heaven
I see you everywhere


January 19, 2002

published in Mama Stew: An Anthology: Reflections and Observations on Mothering, edited by Elisabeth Rotchford Haight and Sylvia Platt c. 2002

For the RDP: another day.