when rain falls

No matter how far
I carry myself
or where I land,
I’ve no doubt that when,
deep into the dry summer,
rain
begins to fall and
thunder
tumbles across the
sky
you will find me on my
porch
with a sweating jar of
sweet tea
muttering, “mm-hmm, we needed this.”

sun prints

Earlier this year I read Louise Glück’s collection The Wild Iris. The cover photo intrigued me as much as the poems and I searched the cover to find out about the artist.

Anna Atkins. An English botanist who lived during the 1800s.

The photo: “Iris pseudacorus,” a cyanotype ca. 1861. Cyanotypes are one of the earliest forms of photography, and Atkins was one of the first to use the process to document the plants she studied.

Cover photo of The Wild Iris, by Louise Glück

I read a bit about cyanotypes, and the process; tucked it away as something interesting to maybe try later.

Later has become Now.

Cyanotypes harness the power of the sun to develop photos or objects laid on paper treated with a sensitizer–a mix of Potassium Ferricyanide and Ferric Ammonium Citrate. The treated paper is painted with the sensitizer and left to dry in the dark. Once dry, objects such as flowers or leaves, or a photo negative–in my case, a digital photo that has been converted to grayscale, inverted, and printed on a transparency–is laid on the paper and placed in the sun. The painted surface turns from yellowish-green, to deep bronze as Brother Sun goes about his work. Development takes as little as three minutes. The paper is then washed in cold water and the exposed areas turn a deep Prussian blue, while the unexposed areas–areas that were covered–turn white. It’s a bit like magic, and I love it.

SUN PRINTS USING PRESSED FLOWERS

Three daisies
Honeysuckle branches
sun print–this one smelled so good!
daisy bouquet

SUN PRINTS USING PHOTO NEGATIVES

wildflowers in a mason jar
winter tree:reflected

I have plenty to figure out about what works and what doesn’t, but I’m having fun!

PS: I later found out Linda McCartney did sun prints, too. *hearteyes emoji*

beautiful splinter

The moon was a beautiful
splinter last night, hanging
amber in the indigo sky,
while threads of milky purple clouds
drifted by like lazy hitchhikers
on a deserted highway.
Oh, I wanted a picture—or two—
but between arriving home
and chopping onions for soup,
leaving no time to get the camera,
the moon dropped behind the trees, 
then, slipped below the horizon,
out of reach, out of time.
If I’d known—
     if I’d known,
I would’ve stood
in her light a little longer,
gazed more fully, breathed more deeply,
taking in the angled crescent
nodding luminous
in the muted night. I carry
it now, a photograph in my mind,
as I do all beautiful things.

©stephanie g pepper, 2020

sister moon, 10/8/2021
photo by: stephanie pepper, 2021

make a river

How many drops make a river
where silver bellied fish flash in the sun?
How many make the puddle in the pothole
where a robin splashes in the rain?
For that matter, how many
make this mug, make this spoonful,
make a cup, make a kettle?
How many make a spring storm,
that soaks the winter weary earth?
Don’t ask about the ocean--
it’s futile to guess.
So.
What is one more drop,
or another tear that falls?

©stephanie g pepper, 2022

“Get Back”, Linda McCartney, and finding a new art

“McCartney has a formidable acuity of gaze, but her pictures eschew the perfectionism of a photographer like him [Henri Cartier-Bresson] for something that embraces instead the informal, accidental beauty of lived experience.”

from the introduction to “The Polaroid Diaries”

After catching small glimpses of Linda Eastman (later McCartney, of course) in “The Beatles: Get Back” I became smitten with her work. And reading more, her whole way of looking at the world, whether through a lens or not. Particularly mesmerizing are her Polaroid transfers. Misty and muted; enchanted, as though what she’s seeing is just beyond the Veil.

Simple subjects.

–a winter rose.

–scattered maples leaves on a wooden walkway.

–foxgloves.

Utterly breathtaking.

McCartney captured the extraordinary magic of ordinary moments.

Her daughter Mary says, “She’d always just be looking for everyday moments that interested her rather than manicured scenes. She wanted real moments.”

I wanted to try it myself, but I don’t have a Polaroid camera. So…I improvised.

My first successful attempt. Thistle field on 9×12 watercolor paper.
Trumpet creeper on a wooden bridge. 9×12 watercolor paper.
Reaching for the sun. 9×12 watercolor paper.
Tufted titmouse. 6×9 watercolor paper
Milk thistle. 9×12 watercolor paper. Perhaps my favorite piece so far. That wonderful rainbow of color wasn’t present in the original photo, but appeared in printing. The transfer process really brought it out.

And there is my new art.

wrapped: reading list, v.2021

Poetry:
Window Poems, Wendell Berry
Conamara Blues: Poems, John O’Donohue
100 Poems, Seamus Heaney
Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems, Joy Harjo
The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, Wendell Berry
Given: Poems, Wendell Berry
Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, Mary Oliver
Bright Dead Things: Poems, Ada Limón
The Mad Farmer Poems, Wendell Berry
The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: poems, Marie Howe
Breathing the Water, Denise Levertov
Entries: poems, Wendell Berry
Red Suitcase, Naomi Shihab Nye
Station Island, Seamus Heaney
What Do We Know: poems and prose poems, Mary Oliver
Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey: poems 1991-1995, Hayden Carruth
How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons), Barbara Kingsolver
Dearly, Margaret Atwood

Nonfiction:
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
Journal of a Solitude, May Sarton
A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There, Aldo Leopold
The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, J. Drew Lanham
Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics, Mirabai Starr
Standing by Words: essays, Wendell Berry
Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer
The Beginner’s Photography Guide, Chris Gatcum
If Women Rose Rooted: a life-changing journey to authenticity and belonging, Sharon Blackie
It All Turns on Affection, The Jefferson Lecture & Other Essays, Wendell Berry
Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés
The Body Knows the Way: Coming Home Through the Dark Night, Gordon Peerman
Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy, edited by Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll
Wild Like Flowers, The Restoration of Relationship through Regeneration, Daniel Firth Griffith
The Long-Legged House: essays, Wendell Berry
Late Migrations; A Natural History of Love and Loss, Margaret Renkl
The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle

Fiction:
Fidelity: Five Stories, Wendell Berry
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
The Memory of Old Jack, Wendell Berry
The Once and Future Witches, Alix E. Harrow
The Wild Birds: Six Stories of the Port William Membership, Wendell Berry
Remembering, Wendell Berry
Circe, Madeline Miller
A World Lost: a novel, Wendell Berry

the winter wren

This morning I had a long conversation with
a winter wren. I’m not sure what passed
between us, exactly, only that
something did. Something that
left me feeling

	joyful…

		giddy, almost… 

			and definitely delighted.

All afternoon I considered this,
and wondered why such a secretive
little bird would call me out for a chat,
which, clearly, she did, kit-kittering loudly
all around me until, at last,
I called out “hello, Little One,” and
rose to find her in the undergrowth.

She did not startle and fly away
at my approach, but studied me
quite carefully as I spoke. Neither
was she injured, as she crept around under
the rocks and hopped among the
tangled thickets, a worm dangling
from her fine, sharp beak,
chittering all the while.

And now, night has fallen fully,
and the moon peers out
behind the clouds, and I—delighted
     and grateful—am
no closer to knowing
what, exactly, passed between me and
the winter wren.

©stephanie g pepper, 2021

when I am beside the water

1.
When I am beside the water,
I sink to the earth,
to my knees in
shell fragments
and river stones,
polished and smooth
by the endless passing of
water this way

2.
and what troubles me dissolves
and the jagged edges of my
discontent soften

3.
how many times will I kneel
by the water to heal?

4.
the unseen heron cries
and reveals himself at last in the
beating of great wings

5.
and I rise,
saved again by
the clean air
and the blesséd earth
and the sweet clear water

©stephanie pepper, 2021

angled autumn light

I am thinking of light, and how,
after summer burns itself out at last,
and its sharp, hot blaze fades from thought,
light softens, drapes its brilliance in an airy golden veil, and
slips into hidden corners.

The good Earth tilts, 
     leans into winter,
          and the long dark,
               and the deep rest;
lingering, for only a breath,
in the angled autumn light.

©stephanie pepper, 2021

Stones River, December 23

Tonight it will rain and grow colder still,
but this morning is clear and bright.
The early sun is alive, awake behind the treeline,
its beams dancing like fairies on the water,
and casting long shadows on
blue-green glass, to the glory of naked trees.
The river exhales into the chill winter air;
its breath rises in smokey ribbons
through the stillness, like faintly whispered
secrets of its own soul’s longing.

Resting against an old sweet gum,
I sit on its knotted roots, unearthed, exposed
to light by untold years of the river
flooding and flowing and falling.
My gloved fingers lace around a
stainless steel mug of tea;
my restless mind works
the endless questions, asked–never answered–
time and time again.

Out of the hush, a voice breaks the
disquiet in my spirit, and maybe I heard
what the river spoke:
Stop.
Let it feed you.
Let this be only what it is: a quiet morning beside the river
two days before Christmas.

So I lean back into the rough trunk of the
time weathered tree, whisper the words of the
Irish poet across the water in thanks, and
swallow the sunshine with my tea.

©stephanie g pepper, 2021