Tea with Bilbo

Bilbo watched me expectantly, his stub tail wagging, as I put the kettle on, took a mug out of the cupboard, and rustled in the tea cabinet. He knew what that meant: time for afternoon tea. Bilbo, a rescue Australian Shepherd with an unknown history, had a tendency to become anxious if anything in his routine changed. And, of course, most routine went out the window for our family of five during holidays, with three active teenagers and their friends in and out of the house. Add to that my tendency to become stressed during the holidays, and neither Bilbo nor I was a happy camper.

One year, as Bilbo’s anxiety mounted and my holiday-related stress rose, an idea occurred to me. Why not share a cup of tea with Bilbo? I started making a pot of chamomile tea each afternoon, knowing the calming qualities of chamomile, and looking forward to a few quiet moments for myself. Very soon, Bilbo and I were both looking forward to this daily interlude of quiet connection in a busy time of year. I’d make the pot of tea, pour some in a bowl and add a couple of ice cubes, pour myself a steaming mugful, then give Bilbo his tea at my feet, while I sat in my rocker with mine. He would lap, I would sip, and both our stress would retreat for a time. After drinking his tea, Bilbo would settle with a sigh, always touching one of my feet. I would sit quietly so as not to disturb him, and we would enjoy a few moments of quiet connection.

Each dog has given me different gifts; one of Bilbo’s gifts to me was a way to slow down and enjoy simple peace and quiet in the midst of holiday stress. Bilbo is long gone, but those quiet moments shared over a cup of tea are some of my most precious memories of him.

Walk in the Woods with a Child

I recently came across the following poem that my Grandmother wrote many years ago, after walking with me in the woods behind our home one day.  I think I was probably about eleven, when Gramummy asked me to take her for a walk in our woods and show her some of my favorite places. (At that time I spent most of my free time exploring our woods and the 750 acre sanctuary beyond our stone wall.) I remember the joy I felt at the opportunity to share my wonderful world and point out the little signs of the wildlife I loved. I didn’t know Gramummy had written about our walk until years later, after she had died, so it was a special gift to receive this poem.
Walk in the woods with your children
And learn the wonders of God.
I walked in the woods with Melissa
And heard the song of a bird,
I saw the print of a field mouse
And smelled the scent of the wood.
I felt the presence of creatures
That gave perspective to man
And yearned for the power of
To know God’s miraculous plan.
               Edith D. Beach

This Barred Owl reminds me of one early morning years ago, when Jonathan, Arielle and I got up before dawn and went out into the woods to observe and sketch. We were thrilled to find a Barred Owl posing beautifully in a tree, and we stood for a long time admiring and sketching him.

Riga Falls, where I sat on the damp woods floor and sketched with my nephew Felix last summer

Babycakes Cafe Exhibition

Babycakes Cafe in Poughkeepsie, NY offers space for local artists to hang their work, and my work will be there through the month of December. I’m delighted at the opportunity to exhibit my work locally, and Babycakes has become one of Steve’s and my favorite spots to go for an evening out dinner date. Arielle and I have also been there for brunch, and so far everything I have tried there has been delicious.

Here are some of my watercolors you can see at Babycakes.

Surveying His Kingdom