crawling out


I was quite wrong, thinking that I was finished with the flu after two days. That was just the end of the violent phase. It lingered on in a most uncomfortable form, and, alas, has been passed to Paul. During it, more snow and cold temperatures came. The snow’s gone now, and its arrival made a good thing out of the fact that I had not yet cleared the gardens, but still: an insult.  We missed Tuesday’s pup class, neither of us were well enough. Chance returned to the vet yesterday. The rest of his stitches came out and he is no longer drugged. Fortunately I do actually seem to be getting better; someone has to direct his considerable energy as it returns, and also to begin to deal with with the total wreck the house has become with both humans ill. That will be me.


I did some rather belated reading about aging during it all. Yes, I am hitting the time when the flu strikes harder (not that I really needed to confirm what I vividly experienced, I just wasn’t capable of much else). I guess that is why people retire to warm climates.  I won’t do that, but what I will try is a flu shot for the first time next fall.  It doesn’t prevent contracting it, but supposedly buffers: you get a milder case.  Paul had one, and that’s what ’s happened for him.  Today he has no voice, and my ears are somewhat worse from the assault on my sinuses.  We’re lucky that we have many years of alternative communication under our belts. (Gardens, very soon, please. And studio. And spring: true, headed-towards-summer, no-going-back spring?)


(Let’s try this again, and get it right, shall we?)

Oh, important SUMMER CLASS addendum / update: the Morgan class is now full; a waiting list is being created, but there are other 3D courses available, including Julie McLaughlin’s Big Ass Paper Kimono class, and Tom Balbo’s pulp casting extravaganza. There was one single space left open at Women’s Studio Workshop last time I checked, and I’m afraid that’s it for me this summer. Thanks for your understanding and interest!

Joyeux vieux jeux


Drawing with two translations.

I am a happily anachronistic geek: not only an artist who works with her hands, but one who still always makes working drawings, particularly when I am puzzling out the colors of any given piece.


Often,  I bring colors home with me. Immediately after I made the drawing, I found this on the sidewalk, with no similar plants nearby. I only used portions, and not that vibrant pure green (but that will happen).

You see, the interplay of color and shape is music to me, something that still makes me feel the exquisite multitude of sensations that being able to hear music once provided. I walk outdoors without hearing aids, and prairies, mountains, seashore, woods and even alleys become symphonies; the tiny details of plants, fungi, lichen, bark and rocks are poignant intimate passages, loud and blatant or infinitely subtle, and sometimes I am blessed with the sight of a clear perfect note that can just pierce the heart and gut with delicious, soaring impact.

Back in the studio, deaf with my colored pencils, paints and dyes, I reach for a replication of the sensation I felt while experiencing particular passages.  The  drawings are my scores, the finished work a recording of the playing.


And then, I go back out to fill my eyes, to listen. Happy May / Beltane!




Segue: on the Vineyard

When Sandy and I were discussing the upcoming workshop, she said I must take time to spend on the island. I’m very grateful to her for that, because Martha’s Vineyard is a place I’ve always wanted to visit, not only because I love being on islands, Atlantic islands (on both sides of the pond) in particular. I also love – and even have a need – to physically experience places that are steeped in human history. The Vineyard holds fascinating, uplifting history that resonates at my core.


I borrowed and read this excellent book about twelve years ago. In anticipation of my upcoming visit, I recently acquired my own copy. Re-reading it now, not so long after experiencing first-hand how ridiculously easy it is for corporations to blatantly, casually flout ADA laws, is proving to be an emotional event.

For about 300 years on Martha’s Vineyard, due to hereditary factors, there was an unusually high percentage of deaf people (one in 155, as opposed to one in nearly 6000 on the mainland). As the title of the book states, hearing and deaf alike learned sign language along with English as a matter of course in early childhood. Hearing people used sign language among themselves, whether or not deaf people were present; it was simply second nature. As a result, deaf people were full participants in every aspect of island life: like their hearing neighbors, they were farmers, fishermen, shop owners, churchgoers, members of local government and fully present at every social occasion. ‘The deaf’ were not though of as a group, but were remembered as individuals, according to their accomplishments, personalities, professions, and relationships first. To be deaf was simply not perceived as being unusual in any way. “It was taken for granted…as if somebody had brown eyes and somebody else had blue…They were just like anybody else.” Perhaps the most telling of many such quotes in the book is this, a reply by an island woman in her 80s when asked about neighbors who were ‘handicapped by deafness’: ‘“Oh,” she said emphatically, “those people weren’t handicapped. They were just deaf.”’

The history of Martha’s Vineyard definitively points out that the notion of ‘disability’ is something a culture creates by tacit agreement (as discrimination often is practiced as well). Perhaps walking the land and breathing the air of an island imbued with such beautiful history will provide my own last bit of healing, finally obliterating the remaining scars left by sanctioned bigotry. I felt a bit guarded about writing of this, until I read the jacket notes by no less a personage than Oliver Sacks: “ I was so moved by Groce’s book that the moment I finished it I jumped in the car, with only a toothbrush, a tape recorder, and a camera – I had to see this enchanted island for myself.”


Spring is here! And I’m in the studio, making books (but out every day, basking).

Good Questions


Battling with the last of the text and then (alas) taxes, but: Return To Studio is imminent! So is spring, and already the improving weather is bringing Chicago people (including me) out more: I have had and am having an upswing in visiting friends, catching up: another reason to be happy to be home. My computer had been seriously rebelling, making me a captive of the Mac spinning color wheel over and over again, so I also had to spend two days upgrading and clearing out old files. I found this from 2008:

“Interesting conversation last night here at Ragdale with authors from across the spectrum: novelists, poets, essayists.  It began with the writers’ incredulous reactions to artists’ statements, and was the most fertile conversation I’ve ever had about them.

Their observations: artists’ statements are written in interminable language, which seems deliberately obtuse and nonsensical. Artists’ statements all sound the same. Artists’ statements rarely offer even a shred of human insight into the work.  The most intriguing observation to me was: writing IS an art, a difficult and demanding art that takes years to hone.  Poets and writers are never expected to clarify their work for their audiences in visual form; they’re not required to become photographers, painters or sculptors in order to BE writers. Why is it that all visual artists are required to write?  Why isn’t a visual experience enough in and of itself, particularly when so much of the dismal writing actually detracts from the work?”

Good questions, to which I’ve never found answers beyond the homogenization of MFA programs, particularly as colleges and universities have become more and more corporate in outlook and structure (which was my answer then). These questions are still particularly poignant to me, especially after this recent period of struggle with words while longing to use my hands, heart, mind and body doing what I do best, and love.



In the past few days I have, among other things:

  •             Been rejected.
  •             Received a wonderful, singular honor (on the same day).
  •             Estimated taxes and mailed forms.
  •             Gotten info, images, etc. out for two shows.
  •             Acquired three years’ space on the web.
  •             Registered a new domain.
  •             Built the tiresome text-based half of my new site.
  •             Begun reading a rather excellent manuscript.
  •             Made sketches and plans for three new pieces.

Today I walked away from everything and got my hair chopped, learned a few new, excellent tricks to tame it, and then spent time in the forest preserve, visiting spring.  The shy early wildflowers were out, pleasing me to no end. It made me recall a comment by one of those people who describe themselves as friends, but make me wonder: “Spring happens every year!  Get over it!” No. No matter how many years I spend on this planet, I hope I will never get over it. It’s an annual miracle, and there aren’t enough miracles, until you slow down enough to notice them. Noticing is celebrating.

Out there in another fantastic part of the world, the waiting list for my Women’s Studio Workshop class has grown into an already nearly full second session, to be held the week before the original: July 2-6. I can’t think of a better place to celebrate summer…and paper!


A page from the beautiful ‘Bacon Eats Books’ by Sarah Lee & Jessica Wright

NOW it is spring, for I have Eaten Books.

‘Materia Medic-yum’ by Heather L.G. Bella

Whatever I had in my system last week caused me to sleep for four entire days; I finally arose, cautiously optimistic, on Friday, and on Saturday all was well, enough for me to shop for ingredients and then cook a book (not without amusing oven-explosion type mishaps) until late in the evening.

Eat Your Words, Evanston Print and Paper’s first ever Edible Books celebration yesterday was superb, well-attended, and appropriately accompanied by co-proprietor Eileen Madden’s lovely graphic sense and wicked good humor on all the letterpress printed acoutrements (not to mention her entry, “A Pail of Two Zities” which was just that, and delicious). Excellent!

‘War & Peeps’ by Lily Madden

Today’s photos are just a wee taste of my favourites, shot when I wasn’t busy talking or eating; there were lots more, with puns (and peeps) abounding.

‘Cookie in Death, by JD Robb’ by Martha Chiplis

Marnie Galloway’s hilarious (and superbly tasty) ‘Les Miserapples’ – featuring ‘Jean Valjean (with a bit of bread), Cosette (a far too sweet white chocolate), Inspector Javert (a bitter dark chocolate) and M. & Mme Thenardier (nutty!)

And, below is mine. Now, it’s back to the Lost Week’s even more ridiculously backed-up projects on top of this week’s regularly scheduled projects. I needed to eat a few good books to fortify myself for that!

Harbingers, local and global

Harry Potluck and The Source O’ The Scones by Melissa Jay Craig 2005
Currant scones, Vermont cookie house dough (w/currant jam, lemon curd, butter).

I still think of this blog as a device to keep (vaguely) in touch with a few friends, so I was stunned when I looked at a new-to-me WordPress statistics feature which lists views by country. The number and range of international visits was amazing (and rather mind-boggling.) To put it accurately if less than articulately: Wow…Thank You!

While I’m processing that information, I’m absolutely pleased to share the news that the lovely ladies of Evanston Print & Paper are hosting their very first Edible Books event!  It’s an essential rite of spring for me (as evidenced at Penland last year). Definitely, I’ll be cooking some books, to eat locally and to become part of the eye-feast globally.


That massive restructuring I wrote about two and a half weeks ago?  Barely begun.  Unexpected things emerged, good but unresolved, requiring my attention.  And tomorrow’s continued warm weather mandates a day in the garden, a different sort of restructuring.  I laughed out loud when I read this post of Aimee’s; I feel the same way about not having paid for this weather, and I also didn’t quite trust the first few warm days.  But the crocuses and other wee shoots are proof that, even if there’s a relapse into the winter we didn’t have, spring is determinedly on its way. I need a day in the garden for more than a celebration of warmth; life right now parallels what’s happening out there.  I cast out a few random seeds over the winter, and some of them are sprouting, but I won’t know till later in the season which will thrive.


Day after Deaf Day

I had a rather rough week.  It’s gone, and there’s no reason to dwell on it. But even though the worst was over by Friday, I was still utterly exhausted on Saturday night, when I hit a huge low, became acutely homesick.

Mary had offered me her house for the weekend while she was visiting her family, but I couldn’t take her up on it; I had to be here. So I sat in the studio Saturday, using up wet sheets left over from the week’s demos on little objects, available for advice.  I skipped dinner, went into town and splurged on a recent novel and some takeout…but then, hit that low when I returned.

Fortunately, I got some sleep and it’s helped. Today it’s lovely and sunny and warm, in the 80s. It is the Easter holiday and there was a massive egg-hunt. During the week I made two rather silly eggs to contribute to it (as well as two martini glasses for one of Friday’s two events, the only one I attended), but the very last thing I want is a crowd right now. I’m skipping everything today: the hunt, the brunch, wireless access in the studio, and the studio itself. I may skip dinner and wait to publish this till tomorrow as well. I found some window screens and am airing out the winter-musty house where I stay, while reading my novel on the porch in the balmy air, eating my own food, doing laundry during my actual laundry hours for once, drying my jeans in the sun and being deaf and peaceful, relaxed and content. Later, I’ll go for a walk.

Two weeks from today I’ll be in southern Ohio, visiting a dear friend, and then, home: to Paul, to Lupe, to my garden (I found some seeds in anticipation: flax!) and to my studio, where I’ll be able to return to my own work. Spring Concentration at Penland is not like a residency, at least not for instructors, but it’s utterly beautiful here in the mountains; the wisteria has begun to bloom up here, and the lilacs and dogwood and tulips are in full glory, irises are just peeking out enough to see a tip of color, and the green has crawled slowly up almost to the peaks. I’m sorry I’ll be leaving before the rhododendron show, but I’ll be very glad to be home, too.