Seeking Serendipity


“We don’t make mistakes; we have happy accidents.” ~Bob Ross

The man who popularized “happy little trees” in his television painting class truly mastered the art of gentle optimism. He reminded us that events may surprise us and work out beautifully, in spite of our foibles.  He knew that we needed to hear that, bless him.  He also knew that much of creativity is recognizing the solution when it is before you (I recall my high school art teacher, Mr. Leckie, persuading a panicked classmate to improvise on an ink blot upon her carefully crosshatched and stippled sphinx.  It turned out wonderfully.)

The painting above is based upon Mama’s word choice, “serendipity”.  What a happy word!  Our Webster’s Unabridged says that serendipity is “the faculty for making desirable discoveries by accident.”  It was coined by Horace Walpole to describe the knack of the heroes of The Three Princes of Serendip (Serendip being a former name of Ceylon, which is a former name of Sri Lanka.  So one might call one’s Ceylon Tea, Serendip-i-tea.)

In this little painting, the scene could be set for a fairy wedding.  In fact, Queen Anne’s Lace blossoms, being free and abundant, were scattered at our own wedding.  The feather has just descended softly, like a blue flash – much as serendipity dawns upon us.  Note, serendipity is not so much a lucky happenstance, as it is our capacity to act upon it.


My delicious new coffee from Judy at Southland Perk is called After Midnight.   Local roaster, Nate, stumbled upon this great taste in a late night happy accident.  He roasted one of his regular blends longer than intended, and, voila.  The result is an excellent brew!

Around The Bend

May you see serendipity peering ’round every bend.  If it is too shy to jump out at you, then smile.  Serendipity loves an optimist.

Write a good one!



Independence and the Inner Distance


Here it is — the first of my posts dedicated to word requests. “Independence” is for my Aunt Sheila, a retired teacher, a mother, a grandmother, and much more.

Noting that Aunt Sheila liked my “peace” banner, I gave her word a similar treatment, letting it billow over a medievalesque flowery mead.  A goldfinch presides over the scene, perhaps eyeing the thistles for future seed.

Independence is closely associated with freedom and liberty.  You might define it as room to act without undue hindrances. Or it could mean the absence of ensnaring dependencies.  And yet…

“No man is an island, entire of itself.”  —John Donne

Complete independence is, of course, an impossibility, as expressed in the Robert Frost quote, “You have freedom when you’re easy in your harness,” or the Bob Dylan song, “Gotta Serve Somebody.”

But as a useful part of the whole, there are times to spread one’s wings and progress in one’s “inner distance” as Antoine de Saint-Exupery put it.  In this pursuit, may we float as lightly as butterflies.

Here are Miss Flibberty Ribbit and Lady Ringabelle, to demonstrate.

Butterfly Yellow, Butterfly Blue


Butterfly yellow,

Butterfly blue,

Sometimes going with the wind,

Sometimes where he wants to.

~Tanny Gupton Barnes

Day Lily And Chicory


My next post will feature Mama’s word, or should I say, mum’s the word!

Write a good one!



To Dwell in Clutchpen

Pear Blossom

Emily Dickinson wrote, “I dwell in Possibility.”  Would you have guessed that it is a mere stone’s throw from Clutchpen?

A passing glance may suggest that nothing much happens in Clutchpen.  But closer inspection reveals that the columbines have done a year’s work as their seeds mature and scatter.

Columbine Seeds

Spring’s pear blossoms have given way to baby pears.

A Promise Of Pears

And elder is in bloom.

Elder Flowers

Clutchpenlings, Clutchpenfolk – whatever you wish to call them – are taking joy in the many Clutchpenny delights.  Long days, lightening bugs, good company, and good music, keep us in high spirits.

There is a lovely poem for June by James Russell Lowell.  Some excerpts:

AND what is so rare as a day in June?

Then, if ever, come perfect days;

Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,

And over it softly her warm ear lays

(and my favorite)

Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how


Pasture Rose

Stop, enjoy the flowers, and write a good one!


Everyone, I’m leafing!

Dave Reading

Leafing through my newly acquired book, that is.  I finally got my own copy of Sara Midda’s In and Out of the Garden.

It is full of my favorite things – plant lore, fanciful watercolors, scenes I want to live in, and a ribbon to mark my place.

In and Out of the Garden

Of Books And Solitude

Don’t you love to discover a book that is transporting, like a glimpse into another world?  It is a place to mull, daydream, and consider.

Skunk In Solitude

Botanical “Leafing”

And then there is another meaning for “leafing,” which is that magical process whereby seeds spring to life and trees go from this…

Treeline In Winter

to this!

Treeline In Summer

Yet Another Use For “Leafing”

This is when you embark out-of-doors to see what nature is up to.  A little airing is good for your health, but any excuse to watch the marching of the seasons will do.

Observation (alright, idle rambling) makes for great discoveries!  I spotted this variegated wingstem  (Verbesina alternifolia) near the creek.  There is a picture of the all-green sort, too.


One Last Thing

If you are one of the first five people to comment, I will hand-letter a word or quote of your choosing (with my approval) and include it in a future post.  Don’t feel put on the spot, though.  Go ahead and comment and tell me what you want later.


Next post: What do you call a person from Clutchpen?

Write a good one!


Full Strawberry Moon

Luna MothI have seen many butterflies and moths recently, but had not yet sighted a Luna Moth – one of my favorites – until I was out picking up sticks and a pale green shape caught my eye.  It was a little tattered and missing head and antennae, but still had its striking tailed silhouette.  With some embellishment, I drew and painted its portrait.

This serendipitous find came just before the Full Strawberry Moon, which appears tonight.  I can always find the names of the full moons, and when they occur, on our Old Farmer’s Almanac Gardening Calendar.  It is full of folklore, quotes and verse, and facts about nature and gardening.

My illustration, below, celebrates the peak season for ripe strawberries.  We have had such a proliferation of bunnies that I included a couple of cottontails, as well! Full Strawberry Moon

Here is a very brief story about two kitties:

Once upon a time, little Nixie Boy the cat sought a bit of quietude.  Having no room to call his own, he wished for a solitary space in which to bide his time.  How delighted he was, when he discovered a brown paper bag which happened to be the perfect size for one kitty!

Nixon In Bag After a short while, his good friend Little Britches came over to play.

Little Britches In Bag The End

Surprise!  Since I do most of the talking here, I have decided to let you get a word in.  Therefore, the first five respondents to my next post will get to pick a word, or short quote or passage, and I will hand-letter it for a future post.  I will retain the original, but you may enjoy the image for personal use.  I must approve all suggestions, and do keep in mind that they should be in the public domain should I sell them.  Most anything from “curio” to “gypsy” to nursery rhymes will work!

Happy Father’s Day, Sunday!

Write a good one!


Let Fancy Fly


    Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul,
    And sings the tune without the words,
    And never stops at all,

    And sweetest in the gale is heard;
    And sore must be the storm
    That could abash the little bird
    That kept so many warm.

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
    And on the strangest sea;
    Yet, never, in extremity,
    It asked a crumb of me.

by Emily Dickinson

If you have weathered a storm or two then you may know this little bird.  Miss Dickinson’s poem lifts my spirits, and I hope that I, too, may share something that lightens your day!

Hope Luminaries

To all the well wishers who have said such kind things about this fledgling effort, thank you.


Discoveries From Our Rambles

The big purple blooms of Ruellia would be at home in the fanciest garden.  But Ruellia, with a name like an old fashioned belle, is not too fussy to settle herself in field or fence row.





Deptford Pinks (Dianthus armeria) are even more brilliantly pink in person, and sprinkled with speckles of fairy dust.

Deptford Pink

Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia) is one of the loosestrifes.  From my Reader’s Digest North American Wildlife field guide: ‘”If thy yoked oxen show contention, give them loosestrife,” admonished the ancient Greek physician, Dioscorides.  “Do ye the same,” he added, “for quarrelsome lovers.”‘


I wanted to show you its trailing habit,

when what to my wondering eyes should appear…

Moneywort and Paw

…but the furry black paw of our Johnny Dear!  It seems John has taken an interest in botany.

There is glad news here in Clutchpen.  My little shop, Saffronia, is now officially open!  I am offering wooden wall signs painted in natural milk paint.  Custom work will be offered, and new designs, including florals, are on the way.

Saffronia Is Open!

It’s been a pleasure to have you in Clutchpen once more.  I do hope you return.

Flee As A Bird


“The bluebird carries the sky on his back.”

Henry David Thoreau


Write a good one!



Twice-steeped Tea and Other Economies

It has been a fine May in Clutchpen.  I offer you a small drawing of Miss Flibberty Ribbit greeting a cordial specimen of Aquilegia canadensis.  Please linger over a cup of tea!

Flibberty and columbine

The wild red columbine

I met while I was hiking,

I introduced it to myself

And found it to my liking

I first encountered this wildflower while hiking in the mountains.  It was a woodland wisp, competing for sun and soil.  I, having never seen the showy blossoms before, was completely taken with it.  Luckily, it grows freely in this corner of Clutchpen.


Flibberty and Columbine (pencil)


Here is the above drawing, before color.  Please forgive any lack of botanical accuracy.  I captured the columbine’s friendly expression as well as I was able.




Flibberty and Columbine (original)


When I thought of illustrating my flower ditty, inspiration struck on the back of a note card.





Bits of scrap paper and card, and the odd used envelope are some of my favorite sketching surfaces.  Pocket-sized drawing pads are excellent, too.  There are three reasons I like to work in these little spaces:

  • It allows an economy of precious art supplies.
  • It allows an economy of pocket-sized scraps of free time.
  • The private nature of small work allows unfettered creativity.


Now, on to the flowers of Clutchpen!  Here are some discoveries from a recent “expotition” as Christopher Robin says:

Native Miami Mist (Phacelia purshii) has made a good and welcome showing this year.  More flowers on this annual mean more seeds for next year’s crop!  The fringed petals resemble a frayed cloth edge.  Bees like them, and my Reader’s Digest North American Wildlife book says, charmingly, that Phacelias “yield a flavorsome honey.”


We have daisies galore!  There is the European Oxeye (Leucanthemum vulgare) and the more petite native Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron linearis).  You may spot pink fleabanes amongst the white.

Oxeye Daisy and Fleabane


The glamorous Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium augustifolium) is not a grass at all, but a dainty member of the iris family.  A sweetly harmless hoverfly takes its fill of nectar.

Blue-Eyed Grass

I could go on all day about flowers, but there is another economy which I should mind, and that is an economy of words!  One recently penned poem and I’m off.

O Sprightly May

She slips away

But faithfully returns

To bring each year

Some flowery cheer

And frolics ‘mid the ferns


O May so bright

She takes her flight

But softly back she creeps

To grace the dew

With sparkling hue

And night, with trills and peeps


O May you jewel

You fleeting fool

Please ever do come home

To place a flower

In every hour

And fireflies, in the gloam


Write a good one!


Rainbows & Time To Bide

Happy Maritime Day

Welcome to Clutchpen and a very happy Maritime Day to you all!

Do you need a bit of music to put you in a seafaring state of mind?  Enjoy a listen: Scilly Shanty Singers singing Row Boatman Row.  These fellows live in the Isles of Scilly and sing a cappella folk songs.

We are quite landlocked in Clutchpen but we have pictures, such as this old print of “Eventide” by Anton Otto Fischer.

Eventide by Fischer


And books…

2014-05 maritime books upright 2014-05 maritime book spread 2014-05 maritime book spread (2)


I love the watercolor seascapes of Alwyn Crawshaw.  He and wife June live and paint in Norfolk.

Even the glass bookends have ships, and a wavy, watery quality which catches the light.

2014-05 bookend


Also, today is my birthday. To celebrate the 22nd of May, here are 22 four-leaf clovers.

2014-05 4 leaf clovers


Lastly, here is a poem written by my daddy years ago:

Rainbows and time to bide

Now forth we go a searching

Where should a four-leaf clover hide

Among the charms of Spring.

– Tanny Gupton Barnes

Do enjoy the remainder of the Merry Month of May!  Until next time…

2014-05 Bon Voyage


With love,