Saturday, January 31, 2015


Recently, I was asked a bunch of random questions about my childhood. "What were you afraid of as a child?" through me. Nothing sprang to mind. There are a zillion things I am scared of now, but as a kid? I'm not sure if I had any real fears. There are some old photos where I appear worried, but maybe that was just my natural expression that I still carry around with me today!

I was wildly blessed to have a smooth, calm childhood. I was warmed and loved and felt secure, which gave me freedoms that I wince at with some guilt, as I know now it is not every child's experience. It was also a different time, when society and the media confined bad news and dark issues to places not as accesible to younger eyes. It was easy to be a carefree kid.

My 85-year-old mom may not remember every detail of a day she lives in right now, but she can tell you about going to the market with her mother in 1940 with perfect clarity. So I enlisted her help. Does she recall...Was I afraid of the dark? No. Was I afraid of clowns? Not really. Was I afraid of being alone? Oh, she said. On the contrary. In fact, I scared HER by wandering off on my own in my early years quite often. She recalled a time at a busy English seaside, when I left the family gathering of chairs and blankets and disappeared into the crowd without a trace. She and my Nanna leapt into search action when it was discovered I was missing. About ten minutes later, I was found down the beach, enjoying a puppet show on my own. Another time, at an agricultural fair, I again vanished, only to be found happily looking at an animal display a few fields over. I do recall one occasion, as I blazed a trail through the woods at a local state park, quite content on my own, how my mom seemed to pop up out of nowhere. I remember thinking "How did she know I was here?"!! I think my mom got the message quickly on, that I felt comfortable exploring on my own. She must have stepped up her vigilance! I am quite proud of the adventuresome young Claudia. "Alone but never lonely"is how Beatrix Potter phrased it and I agree.

This bit of self-history intrigued me in view of the main character in my picture book "My Wilderness". It is the story of a boy who was not afraid of many things you would have thought he would be, like deep water and bears and darkness and aloneness.

Maybe I would have been okay as a kid on Fox Island, too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hello Blog!

Feeling like I am juggling many plates right now.  Just a friendly peek from behind my drawing board! Hope to catch up soon.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A new book warms the winter...

 It may be an Iowa winter howling outside my studio door, but it's sweet and gentle summer in the Upper Midwest North Woods on my drawing board! I've been steadily working on illustrations fora  new book project since the fall and am currently tackling the cover. The title is North Woods Girl, a forth-coming publication of Minnesota Historical Society Press/Borealis Books. Written by a very talented Minnesota writer- more details on her later!- I know readers will love this story of how the love of nature can pass from generation to generation.

I love drawing all the new animals to me, as I did my in my last project set in Alaska. Bunchberry, birch, sweet scarlet tanagers, red fox, shy hare, sleek merganser...all and more will have cameos along side the two plucky human characters as they walk their way through the North Woods seasons.

Now back to the drawing board as they say.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A New Year takes root

Happy Holidays! A green Christmas has given way to a greener New Year, which is rare in these parts. Kind of nice though, as it gives an opportunity to see nature in winter in different light and form. Especially some trees, bare of their leaves and poised against dramatic January twilight.

We saw a film over the break where one of the characters explains to his daughter his life-long search for a 'Soul Tree', a tree that reflects how he views himself interiorally. The character's tree ends up being a giant oak, with a massive double trunk, split while quite young. It fits. The character hints of a dark event that happened when he was a child but he grew up strong and productive in spite of this. The daughter we learn struggles with demons of addiction. She searches for her tree and also succeeds in finding hers, a twisted loner on a barren scrubby hilltop, but beautiful and "wabi-sabi" in complexity and shape.

This year, I will start my look for my tree. "You'll know it when you see it" is the only advice the film characters give. I've found contenders already, but I think I'm still in the search.

Do you have a soul tree? Perhaps you will find it in 2015!

This tree spied while on a walk this past Christmas Day at Squire Point, outside of Iowa City. It's a young burr oak, holding fast to the limestone at its roots. It seems to be looking out onto the water in observation. I was drawn to it; is this my tree?

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