Friday, January 6, 2023


The power went off for just a few minutes last Saturday. Just enough time to make all the analog devices in our house return to a blinking 12:00. Our cable went out at the same time and stayed out for two and a half days over the New Year's weekend. No Rose Parade, no Rose Bowl game, no 49ers or Warriors games to watch, no internet. What did we do before we had TV?

I looked around the room and saw a stack of books ruffling their pages at me in hopes that I would pick one up and read it. As a lifelong reader, I long ago limited myself to an hour of reading a day; otherwise, I could be so absorbed by the story that the day would slip away. This past weekend we had time to read for longer than one chapter at a time. Luckily, I had just begun The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles and had already decided that this book is my Book of the Year for 2023. Contained between the covers I found a terrific epic story with great characters, lots of adventures and misdirection, and romance. What more could I ask for on a weekend of rainy days?

When I read an epic tale or a mystery, I gallop through the pages, the tension building at the end of each chapter so that I am compelled to continue to the end as quickly as possible, and then regret having finished the book as soon as I close the cover. My run through these kinds of stories is different from my reading of a book of poetry. I have a copy of Billy Collins' latest poems, Musical Tables. I enjoy his work. He is as accessible as Mary Oliver and Robert Frost are, but each poem needs time. Reading a poem is like lifting the lid on a pot of simmering beef stew and savoring the aroma or smelling the fragrance of a newly picked peach or lemon. I want to pause for a moment to relish the arousal of my senses.

Friends love to listen to audiobooks or podcasts instead of reading a book. As a visual person, I tend to lose track of the spoken word as my mind wanders over my view. I watch as a trail of rain slides down the outside of the window in front of my computer. I glance at my neighbor walking her dog while holding on to his leash and her umbrella that sways in the wind. Today no one stops to chat with others like they usually do while their dogs touch noses and bow at each other to play. Because of the hard rain we've had this week, the hills are slipping down as they become saturated and the clay soil pushes down behind houses and onto streets. As I gaze out my window, these disparate images could be the beginnings of a story or the frame for a painting and I've lost my place in the podcast that comes through the speakers in my workroom.

I've continued to work on watercolor sketches of man-made objects. To my surprise, I'm finding that the practice is a good way to experiment with mixing colors right on the page. For me, choosing one object to paint comes closer to my abilities. I often get overwhelmed painting a landscape with many shapes and textures. Now if I can use what I've learned from this exercise on more complex images!


If you are in the Bay Area in the next couple of months, stop by the Harrington Gallery in Pleasanton to see California Watercolor Association's National Exhibition, which runs from January 7 to March 18. You will see some terrific watercolor paintings from painters from all over the country.


  1. I absolutely loved The Lincoln Highway! Your watercolors above are beautiful, Martha. Thanks for sharing and Happy New Year!

  2. Great book, isn't it? Thank you for your kind comments about my watercolors too. Happy New Year!

  3. From MP by email: I also enjoyed The Lincoln Highway, perhaps not as much as A Gentleman in Moscow. Reading really is such a pleasure.

  4. Hi MP: Yes, I agree. There are so many worlds to be found in books. Thanks for your comments!


Thank you for commenting! I love hearing from readers. I answer each one.

I do not post Anonymous comments because of problems with spammers.