Spring buds, day 1

Drizzly and cold here lately but the plants know spring’s coming. I brought branches of three shrubs inside, to watch their little packages of potential unfold. Today’s day 1.

As usual, willows are among the first to start to open. But the serviceberry is also surprisingly bold. Both have early leaves and flowers that are protected by furry coats, so the risk is probably a little less for them than for, say, a spruce. Cottonwood’s buds are packed with aromatic sap, which gives the enclosed leaves some protection, but I haven’t seen any sign that they’re taking the chance yet.

Mural project

A group of local artists just wrapped up a 35-foot-wide mural in the entryway of the new Gustavus Community Center. The mural is designed to recognize the hundreds of donors who funded and helped build the Center, so it includes the symbols for all of the donor levels: strawberry, shooting star, fireweed, spruce, Mt. Fairweather (Tsalxaan) and sandhill crane. The concept was drafted by local artist Jess Mulligan, and the rest of us worked with her to get it on the wall. I’ve never painted anything this big… it was quite a learning experience!

Just one slice of the mural….

Harbor morning

van's-sailboat-sketch-hocker-1

Weeks of clear skies and no rain have left us all a bit disoriented. It just doesn’t feel right to have so much sunshine here. And the river is so low that the returning coho are crowded into just a few pools by the dozen, jostling each other and (I assume) eagerly awaiting the taste of fresh rainwater so they can push further upriver.

But it does make for good drawing weather. My friend Carole and I went sketching at the harbor yesterday morning, and it was idyllic.

Gustavus willow

Hocker-gustavus-willow-sketchI just got back from a great two weeks in Gustavus, where I was working with students and teachers at the school.The school is wonderful; there are just over 50 students, grades K-12.  And Gustavus is a fascinating place: a broad, flat landscape, formed by outwash from the Glacier Bay glaciers over many centuries. The combination of flat land, lush meadows and wetlands, wandering rivers, and pine/spruce/cottonwood forest are an unusual mix in Southeast Alaska.I saw swans and herons, listened to a wolf moan under the stars, and got thrilled (even a little over-thrilled) by moose.

I'll post a series of Gustavus sketches next, starting with an iconic plant: willow.