Fog in the Front Yard

comments: 39

Foginfront3While we don't get much snow here in Portland, we do get this deliciously mysterious, frosty fog that settles into the hills and dales of town and down our street. This morning, it really feels like fall is here in its more quietly Novemberish (rather than its blazingly Septemberish) way.

Foginfront2I have so loved the comments that have come in here this week — thank you for all of those, especially yesterday's, about influences and what engenders them. It's funny to stop and think about it, really; when I woke up this morning the first whispering thought in my mind was Oh, Arthur! Arthur Rackham, a huge influence in my life. He captured these frowsy, sylvan atmospheres (my favorite kind of weather) in almost every painting. I could look at them forever.

FairiestiffThis is The fairies have their tiffs with the birds, for instance, 1906, from Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. When I was studying in London for a little while in college I lived just blocks from here, on Queen's Gate, and I sat in front of the Serpentine for hours, trying to imprint it. I wrote my senior thesis on Arthur Rackham in 1991, a year-long project where I analyzed Rackham's fascinating blend of magic and the prosaic, fairies dressed in tattered calicoes. I had been mesmerized by his paintings all my life — my mother was since childhood and is to this day a great lover of fairy culture — and Rackham's work still moves me. In 1990 it was difficult to find information about Arthur Rackham, believe it or not — a major biography came out about him that year, just after I was finishing my own research, but previous to that it was hunt and peck, at least from my study carrel in Denkman Library. Around that time the Grunge and the Waif movements were happening in fashion, so there was a bit of a Pre-Raphaelite revival, too, and it became easier to find images and information about John William Waterhouse, for instance, whose art also had this same blend of magic and realism, with its tangly haired, melancholy beauties in their moody realms. There have been some gorgeous books published on Victorian painting in the last decade, and I now have a few. Doing research was so different before the internet. Wow. Now it's all here, in seconds. Then it was hardcover editions of the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature and a bunch of inter-library-loan-request slips, and weeks of waiting, or a long, blizzard-blinded drive out to Iowa City to use the University of Iowa library.

Foginfront1I've had a conflicted relationship with the forest all my life, and that stems from childhood. It's what happens when you have a father who wakes the whole family up at 3 a.m. to head out to the woods and help him search for wild dogs. I can imagine my mother, zipping coats over our own torn nightgowns, dragging her three little girls through the dark streets to the edge of our neighborhood forest preserve, and then inside that pitch-black otherworld, my father stumbling ahead of us. It makes my heart hurt now, just thinking about it, the fear I felt both about the wild dogs and the adults leading me to them.

With some influences, there is little-to-no mystery about their genesis. I only rarely feel at home in the woods, though I long for them some days. My front yard has, most of the time, magic enough (dogwood buds with fairy wings and silken-stranded cobwebs) for me.


My husband spent a few months in Switzerland, and he said that this one forest near Lake Lucerne was carefully tended to, almost like a room in one's house. He was always amazed to see people using brooms to neaten the leaves and twigs :)

As I think I have mentioned I Love, love, love Arthur Rackham. My grandmother did too and as a result I have many lovely books with his illustrations. His images to me are everything I love in the world - this one and an imaginary one (that might be real too. So much to say about him - but I think you know. The last few days here in Portland have been his kind of weather - thanks for the reminder.

I love Arthur Rackham's paintings as well. You are so right that your pictures of Portland look like his somewhat ethreal world. I expect fairies to come out of nowhere in your pictures. Tera Studios, where we went last Saturday had the very same feel. It is always strange to me that I feel so at home in weather/places like that.

I have always said that if I had the money I would install a fairy door, window and partial room right by the front door of my house. I just love the idea.

We have the same weather here today, except for there is a cold front heading south and a warm/moist from coming up from the gulf that are going to collide and produce some pretty nasty weather this evening.

"I wrote my senior thesis on Arthur Rackham.."

I knew there was another reason I loved you; I adore Rackham.

"In 1990 it was difficult to find information about Arthur Rackham, believe it or not — a major biography came out about him that year,"

Oh, I won this book. Read it cover to cover. Loved it.

Fairy culture has always been a part of my world, too. I credit it to always being read to as a child, watching Disney movies, growing up in the 80's when Jim Henson was at his best, movies like Legend and Labyrinth came out and Brian Froud was a god, and being lucky enough to spend many days at tromping around my grandmother's 25 acres of woods where my imagination went wild!!

It wasn't until the mid to late 90's that I really became fascinated with pre-modern fairy culture: paintings, drawings, poetry and prose. Now it seems that fairies have gone from Rackham beauties to darkly gothic, scantily clad buxom - dare I say - bimbos (though not all of them are bimbo in nature - Amy Brown completely rocks and she's created some goth girls).

But I do find that the resurgence of fairy interest is a wonderful thing. We need a little magic and otherworldliness in our lives these days!

I really enjoyed reading this post, as I do all of your posts! You never cease to make me laugh (which makes my coworkers wonder what I'm reading!)

Thank you!

What an atmospheric post! I am not sure how else to say it.

I am yet another big Arthur Rackham fan, by the way.

Am I the only one who is going to ask what the heck your dad was doing looking for wild dogs? Sounds terrifying. And why did the girls have to go?

Aside from that, you always make me think. I've been thinking about my influences since yesterday. And what will influence my daughter...

Thank you, as always, for your pretty, thought-provoking posts. They hit bloglines right at the boring part of my day, stuffing envelopes. Yesterday got me thinking about my influences and today I figured it out: at 24, I'm still deciding...which inbred cravings am I fulfilling? Which tacky 80s, child-of-a-hairdresser tastes am I trying to avoid and which am I embracing? My decisions in my first home, my first new couch, my handknit pillows, they all take me one step closer to "my style". Until I've chosen a bit more, until I've replaced all those hand-me-down linens with ones of my own choosing (although I find myself choosing the old, still) I can't really comment on my influences.

Your father did what? And your mother let him? You poor darlings. I shall have to stop thinking about this or else I'll cry. But you're really happy and secure now (except in forests of course) so that's better. Phew...

beautiful photos, alicia. making me very excited to come to PDX next week. and despite my very modern taste in art, I have also always been smitten with Rackham's work and it's fuzzy, grey tones. so very beautiful.

I hadn't even had time to wonder what my reward might be at the end of this long day of meetings, problems, and words about children, seizures, nightmares, and what can we do!? And, then, here you are with beautiful words, pictures, and the lovliest of fairies. I'm instantly calm, rewarded with peace. Thank you, dear one. As always, I love you.

Beautiful post! I love fairies and everything fairy-like. I get it from my mother and my aunt, I suppose. They have always had fairy collections, and books and paintings around. My aunt has bought me a fairy figurine for all my big life milestones and I am truly hoping that she does the same for my little girl.

Apart from them I think my big fairy-infulence was/is actually LM Montgomery and her stories. Anne of Green Gables, Emily on New Moon, etc. Though not specifically about fairies, they are about people who understand and love fairyland as much as I do. My first thought when we found out we were having a girl was "Yay! Someone to share fairyland with and read Anne of Green Gables to!!!" I can't wait to share that world with my little girl!

Does your neice love fairies?

Wild dogs?!? Egads, woman!

Our only forced nighttime forest activity was mist-nettin, examining, and recording different species of bats. And going out to listen to the frog chorus in the spring. Now I know I had it easy!

(why were you trying to find the wild beasties, may I ask?)

..:: Alicia ::..
It's so funny that yesterday you talked of influences from your childhood and today you talk of your love of fairies and Rackham. They both come from my childhood and partially my mom's influence too. Now I have my 2 yr old daughter loving fairies. Rackham is one of my very very favorite artists and having went to art school we studied him also. I will never stop loving his paintings -- they are a part of me too forever.

Thank you for bringing some light to our world - you are like a breath of fresh air!


Rackman is a genius. His work is so evocative - mysterious, magical and just a little dark. I was thrilled to find a large art book about him a few years ago, I had to treat myself to it.

I keep thinking about your post on drawing horses and how valuable artistic abilities are. It is something to carry with you always, like a secret. Drawing especially is such a malleable art - all you need is paper and something to make marks with. You always have it with you. It never goes away. From 7 years old to 104 - always.

The red of those leaves made me gasp! Nature amazes me daily!!!

I searched and searched that pic for the frog in the front yard, in the pot? No. Background? No. Then realized it said fog.The early morning fog is one of the things I remember most about my prac. teaching on a student teacher exchange visit to the U.S. - the early morning school starts in Wisconsin, driving with the host fellow teacher along misty freeways from Stillwater - the bright yellow school buses in the fog.That was over twenty five years ago now, and I'm still teaching, and still travelling. Recently (I'm Australian by the way) I went to Wales and a delightful B&B had beautiful Arthur Rackham pictures in one of the bedrooms. Magical! I love your posts Alicia, and can't wait to see what you come up with next. One of my little students was taken wild boar shooting in Queensland, and I think it affected him quite a bit, with the dogs and everything. Guess his relatives thought it was a "manly" thing to do,but a young child? Anyway, keep up your lovely insights - they are a joy.

Alicia, check out the site Forests Forever.

the wild dogs memories must be horrid. no wonder you are apprehensive of forests. great entry


Wild dogs?!...It sounds like something out of "The Hound of the Baskervilles"...What are they - Chicago???

I must take a break from your blog! LOL! I dreamed you made me muffins and painted on my shirt. :)

Thank you for these photos. I have been missing Portland something fierce lately, fog and all.

What beautiful photos! WOW....I love the fog. I have never been to the North West but am planning a trip in the next year. I have heard how beautiful it is!

Lovely post as always. I am absolutely delighted to hear you wrote your senior thesis on Arthur Rackham! He's one of my favorite artists, along with Edmund Dulac,Brian Froud and Waterhouse. I have so many fairy and Victorian art books, I can never have enough. Did you go to the Tate Gallery while in England?Anyway, thank you for this post, your pics and fairy talk!

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at