Category Archives: creativity

dear mr. sendak

"Hands Are to Make Things."  From A HOLE IS TO DIG by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak; copyright 1952 HarperCollins

Dear Mr. Sendak,

I have packed a wooden ruler in my box of supplies for the Farmers Market.  I never again will be without it… or without you, of course, even though my heart must adapt to your more cosmic body.

I spent hours and hours of childhood hiding in a corner of my grandparents’ house, wandering inside your illustrations for Ruth Krauss’s books.  I liked the lack of borders.  I liked that the kids had big heads and were playing hard.   Later, Max and Mickey became good friends of mine.  I grew up in a time when a child still could get lost for long hours anywhere as long as she or he made it home for dinner.  Your books made sense when the grown-ups around me were acting like monsters.

As a young grown-up, I spent hours and hours looking at your drawings.  For relief.  For hope.  You achieved a quality of line that is playful but serious.  As a bookseller, not a heck of a lot made me happier than handing someone a copy of one of your books and explaining why it might be a window into a new world.  Of relief.  Of hope.

I landed in NYC with Oregon moss on my shoes, two suitcases, nowhere to live, and a couple of lines on my face already.  I jammed up the phone lines at the youth hostel on Amsterdam Avenue and walked all over the city to figure out how to work in the world of children’s book publishing. HarperCollins came through, and it became my honor to send a Wild Thing around the country to support your work.

I helped on some other projects and learned how important rulers and pencil lines can be.  I tried really hard to understand every centimeter of what was being explained to me, but ultimately I failed at HC and with your editor.  My passion for your work and how it had changed my own life wasn’t enough in that environment.  I couldn’t separate enough from what Jack and Guy meant to me to look carefully enough at the borders that framed them in the advertisements.

So I left HarperCollins and then left NYC soon after.  I never left you, though, dear Mr. Sendak.

After I failed at HC, I kept trying to get back to center.  What is true?  Well, “a hole is to dig.”  Even though lions chase through my head, sometimes a forest can grow in a room, right?  “The ground is to make a garden.”

So I did make that garden.

And as Ms. Krauss would say, “ooie ooie ooie ooie ooie ooie ooie…  and Everybody’s yelling for more More MORE.”

Curious Farm wouldn’t exist without you.  Thank you for it all.  Even though.  In any case.  All of it.  Every jar of sauerkraut I make is a tribute to you.  And you know why.  Thank you.


the fairy gate later

Do you remember the fairy gate we made?  More than two years ago, the crape myrtle suffered wind damage so we kept her shed branches.  They had so much character that we decided to create the Fairy Gate.

eloise under the fairy gate

And then there was this later in the summer:

e under the fairy arch in 8/10

And now there is this:

eloise under the fairy gate, 2012

This was taken today, two years after the first photo — E missing her two front teeth and wearing the same shirt as almost two years ago.

Remember, though, that last year I found that a volunteer rose had come up at the base of the fairy gate


And here is that rose today:

fairy gate rose

And again from a different perspective:

rose at curious farm

While I love the images that show how my daughter has grown, I also am so touched by this rose that grew on her own right next to the fairy gate.  She grew in the middle of a bed of brassicas.  She hasn’t flowered yet, but I think she’s a dog rose or a climbing rose of some kind.  These small miracles keep me going.  How could a climbing rose know to grow right there, where she could stretch happily over some old branches?  I think the fairies planted her. 

Magic is afoot at Curious Farm. 


fairy gate

eloise under the fairy gate

Hey!  Look at some of the magic I helped make today! 

My heart broke last year when those big branches fell off the crape myrtle, but I saved them because they looked like antlers, and I knew there was something fun to make from them.

I was fiddling with them for awhile, trying to put them into a teepee shape for beans, and then I saw how the two pieces wanted to support one another like hands with fingers intertwined so I imagined a fairy arch in the garden for Eloise.

The structure is quite stable.  The two halves held each other up on their own, but I added some bamboo crutches around the base of each half and then the rocks.  A child can’t hang off of it, but it can be bumped squarely by an old woman (me) and not fall over.

I love when magic happens so easily! 

We’ll plant purple and yellow pole beans around the base of each part of the arch and hope they’ll grow happily over the whole structure.  I looked for scarlet runner beans at a couple of nurseries today and came up empty.  Hopefully these other beans will work well.

Eloise loved the gate and took to decorating it right away with rosemary, sage, and straw.  I had a couple of moments of feeling like a good mom.