Lovingkindness: My Experience Growing Grandiflora Magnolias From Seed

Magnolia Grandiflora watercolor and ink by Julianna Paradisi 2019

Two years ago, I became enamored of magnolia trees. It began with my observations of a particular tulip magnolia tree I passed by while walking to work and home from work, almost daily.

Portland’s neighborhoods are rich in many varieties of magnolias, and soon I found myself fascinated by the multi-lobed pods of other varieties such as Little Gem, and of course, Magnolia grandiflora, also known as the southern magnolia, or bull bay.

I collected a few fallen pods from sidewalks, and decided to try growing seedlings. I’ve grown houseplants and gardens most of my life, and supposed growing magnolia grandiflora from seeds would be as simple as planting them into potting soil, placing them on the windowsill, and providing lovingkindness. After a couple of months of trying to cajole growth from the pots, I was disappointed: Nothing sprouted. So I did some research. Magnolia grandiflora seeds require several steps of preparation before planting. There’s actually a 6 month process to starting magnolias from seed.

A year ago this autumn, I collected new pods with fresh seeds, and tried again. This time I was successful, but magnolias seeds are so fussy, it’s a wonder to me they are able to survive in the wild at all. They require a great deal of lovingkindness.

I planted nine seeds, and this spring eight of them sprouted, but not without complications. Three broke ground upside down, roots skyward. With the gentleness of a nurse who once cared for tiny, premature babies, I replanted them roots down. Only one survived the procedure.

Another pair could not break free of their seed casings even though I had removed the tough outer shells with sandpaper before planting as instructed. Their tender leaves withered within their tiny prisons.

Four hardy seedlings survive. I gave one to my mother-in-law, who is a master gardener and I suspect will have the ultimate success with her tiny charge. It sits on a table facing west, with a view of the Pacific Ocean; what or who wouldn’t thrive with expert lovingkindness in such a favorable location?

The other three seedlings face east on my windowsill in Portland with a partially obstructed view of the Willamette River. So far, they too are thriving.

Above is an ink and watercolor painting I made of the largest of the trio.

According to Wikipedia, magnolias produce their first seed pods at ten years of age, but the height of production occurs at 25 years.

Really, it’s a wonder magnolias have survived through the centuries at all.

My Wild Oregon: The Wreckage of The Peter Iredale

The Wreckage of the Peter Iredale watercolor and ink by Julianna Paradisi 2019 (sketchbook)

David and I spent several days in Astoria, Oregon last week. The town is steeped in history, and not only as the final destination of Lewis’ and Clark’s historic cross continental trip, wintering at Fort Clatsop.  Astoria is notorious in Maritime history through the present for the difficulty encountered by freighters and fishing vessels crossing the bar, the point where the mighty Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean converge. In present day, crossing The Bar requires the expertise of pilot ships and their captains to navigate safely. And yet, occasionally there are mishaps

If you’re interested in the history of the Pacific Northwest, I am, and the history of Astoria in particular, I recommend reading Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire, a Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival, by Peter Stark.

David and I drove to the Clatsop Spit to see what remains of  the wreckage of the Peter Iredale, a cargo ship with an empty hull that went aground on October 25, 1906. It was sailing to Portland to load with wheat for export in the UK. Although the ship was a total loss, fortunately, the crew survived.

The weather was beautiful this particular day, and lots of people had the same idea as David and I. There were children joyously climbing the rusted steel and iron wreckage as though it were a jungle gym, laughing and playing while their parents supervised.

The Wreckage of the Peter Iredale watercolor and ink by Julianna Paradisi 2019 (sketchbook)

I found a spot in the sand and began to draw…


I Wish I’d Said It

Whether I’m painting or not, I have this overweening interest in humanity. Even if I’m not working, I’m still analyzing people.

Alice Neel

The Manor of Art: Julianna Paradisi in Room 360

   My summer hiatus after installing two gallery exhibitions last month proved to be short-lived. I am now planning a new installation that goes up next week (watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat).  I am one of “100 artists and exhbitions” participating in The Manor of Art at Milepost 5,  900 NE 81st Ave., Portland, Oregon 97213, August 14-23.

   I have room 360 on the creepy third floor(which is perfect for my installation) of  The Manor,  formerly The Baptist Manor Retirement Home,  established in 1915. The 10 day festival of exhibits, live music and performance is housed on three floors of the soon to be renovated building.  The renovation of the building into artist studios signifies phase 2 of the Milepost 5 art campus/community.

   Follow this link:


for the complete schedule and information about The Manor of Art.

Thoughts from the Bedside on Health Care Reform

   Open your mouth for the voiceless,

For the rights of all the unfortunate.

Open your mouth, judge righteously,

And defend the rights of the needy and the afflicted.

Proverbs 31:8-9


The other day I heard someone ask if health care is a right.

   I don’t know, but it is certainly humane.

   It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard the question, but usually it’s worded more like Why should I work hard and get taxed so that people who’ve made bad choices get bailed out?

   That’s a fair question, and I don’t know the answer to it either. But I do know that most of the people I meet as a nurse, who are uninsured and in need of health care, didn’t necessarily make bad choices. Unless you consider being self-employed a bad choice, or being an artist, a cab driver, a waitress or waiter, a hair stylist, a laborer, a writer, a student…you get the idea. All of these people work, and work hard.

  Another population getting stung when catastrophic illness or injury hits, are people who worked very hard, made lots of money and managed it carefully, in order to retire younger than 65. Oops, here comes the cancer diagnosis or disability and now they are paying out of pocket for what their insurance doesn’t cover and they are too young for Medicare. They worry that they may survive their cancer, but not have enough money left over to survive retirement. They see their assets eaten away, even if chemotherapy, surgery and radiation are effective at preventing cancer from eating their organs. Or it’s the spouse who has the catastrophic diagnosis, and worries that he or she will use up all of their assets, die anyway, and leave their life partner penniless. As if diagnosis and treatment aren’t enough to worry about.

     Most insurance companies deny coverage for experimental treatment that is unproven or off-label already. Unless a patient can pay out of pocket for it, or qualify for a study, it’s a moot point.

     I don’t have data for any of these statements, they are simply observations of what I see daily at work in an outpatient facility.  I do know  a lot of my paycheck goes to taxes and our health care system is broken.  The money used for health care is spent inefficiently at this time.  I’m open to ideas to fix it.

The Care and Feeding of an Art Exhibition

The inscription on the table is from Icarus Again, one of my stories in New Lives. Photo: J.Paradisi

The inscription on the table is from Icarus Again, one of my stories in New Lives. Photo: J.Paradisi

   I just got back from PNCA, where my art exhibit/installation The Acorn Contains the Tree is available for public viewing upstairs in 214 Gallery. I’d stopped by to check on the exhibit after working at the clinic for a few hours this morning. Oh crap, three spotlights had burned out! So, we got a ladder and David replaced the burned out bulbs for me, because I get dizzy on ladders. I took 409 cleaner to the fingerprints someone left on one of the little chairs. I know white surfaces are tempting to fill, but as a general rule, unless you are invited to do so by the artist, don’t touch the artwork, please.

   It’s remarkable how well the cake has held up in the summer heat. I replenished the stack of postcards for the show on the little black table by the elevator. A copy of New Lives: Nurses’  Stories about Caring for Babies is on that table, in case a viewer wants to read my stories (my business cards mark the pages). The stories supplement the Artist Statement.

The inscription on the table in the photo reads:

In time, I gained a small amount of peace knowing that his parents were able to hold him one last time. He did not die in the night skies of Oregon, a rare Icarus in a haywire Greek myth.”

The line is from my short story Icarus Again, published in New Lives: Nurses’ about Caring for Babies.

   The show runs through July 30th.

Urban Horses at Anka Gallery

Twenty-One mixed media on vellum (2007) artist: J.Paradisi

Twenty-One mixed media on vellum (2007) artist: J.Paradisi

Follow this link 


to see my  Urban Horses paintings on the walls of Anka Gallery as part of the “One more than four” group exhibition. The show runs until the end of July.

Nursing Process & Process Art

This butterfly photo has nothing to do with this post. I just like it. photo: J.Paradisi

This butterfly photo has nothing to do with this post. I just like it. photo: J.Paradisi

      I have an adulterous relationship with the word “process” and I am unashamed.

       The word process has several meanings, but I only cheat with two of its definitions.

     The first definition (according to Encarta) is a “series of actions: a series of actions directed towards a specific goal. ” This is the definition I am faithful to when nursing is my focus. I use nursing process and evidence based care in the clinical setting. While there’s room for the occasional “reasonable man” approach, most of the time the answers I need for safe and effective patient care are found in nursing policies and procedures. This issue comes up from time to time when someone wants to try something new (usually after reading an obscure study in “the literature”), before the treatment has been evaluated by the policy and procedure committee and approved.

      I know, I know, some times it feels like there’s too many rules getting in the way of what feels like good patient care. But the longer I practice nursing, the more I value  evidence based practice as a structure to build sound clinical skills upon, much like an armature for a sculpture. It ensures patients get consistent and proven treatment.  Occasionally, I have heard of nurses “cutting corners” during busy or emergent situations that can lead to more harm than good, like giving a medication that one is unfamiliar with incorrectly, instead of reading the drug information or calling the pharmacist for advice. Performing a procedure without familiarity with the hospital policy, is another example.  I know, I know, our nurse work loads are heavier by the minute, and we are busy. Taking the extra time to look up a procedure or a drug indication slows us down, but offers our patients an extra measure of safety. Becoming an Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) this year was driven by my belief in evidence based practice, patient safety, and applying both to my clinical practice.

     When my focus is art, I give another shout out to Encarta for the second definition of process, “series of natural occurrences: a series of natural occurrences that produce change or development.” I am a process painter. Unlike a nurse working to achieve a specific patient outcome, process painters may or may not have an idea of a finished image in their heads. It’s pretty vague. A surface and medium are chosen, and the artist begins to make marks, scraping and adding until an image emerges. There’s freedom in art to let an image declare itself, without putting a lot of rules or limitations on it. It’s a lovely foil to my need as a nurse to follow procedure.

     In either vocation, nursing or artist, creative use of resources is a valuable skill, but I’ll reserve my artful risk-taking for the studio.

J.Paradisi in “One more than four” at Anka Gallery July 2nd-30th

Lung Ta   mixed media on vellum by J.Paradisi

Lung Ta mixed media on vellum by J.Paradisi

Anka Gallery, 325 NW 6th Ave. Portland, Oregon, 97209

   Anka Gallery exhibits a group show in July featuring digital art by Nance Patemoster, sculpture by James Proctor, glass art by DonnaLaPlante, and paintings by Sarah Cosman and Julianna Paradisi. First Thursday Reception July 2nd 6pm-9pm.The show runs through July 30th.

   Julianna’s paintings in this exhibit explore the boundary between figurative and conceptual imagery by abbreviating her subject into ambiguous and sometimes dissolving forms. She asks the viewer, how much information is required for understanding? Painted on vellum, the translucency of the paper creates layers, which contribute to the metaphor of comprehension.

Wielding a Stethoscope or Paint Brush, It’s all Work

yes, one of my shows includes a birthday cake. photo: J.Paradisi

yes, one of my shows includes a birthday cake. photo: J.Paradisi

   When I left Pediatric Intensive Care nursing for adult oncology, I was making more time for myself. The idea was to create more free time and energy so I can make art and write.  It works, but little did I realize how much energy and time art-making consumes. This past month, I have used every skill of prioritization I learned from nursing to implement the exhibition of not one, but two gallery shows in July.

   Besides making the work itself there is a myriad of tasks  required behind the scenes to produce an art show.  Artist statements are written and mulled over,  images are created for advertisement, postcards designed and printed.  Lettering for the walls is designed and made.  Are we serving food?  Don’t forget the wine and cheese.  It goes on and on. Remember: the outcome all of this will be viewed publicly and judged by your peers.  In the beginning, it feels like a train wreck: how can all of this work be completed and visually coherent?  Obviously, the experience pales next  to nursing in a trauma center and working with a team to save the life of a critically ill child. But the ability to organize the information and prioritize it is the same. Time is critical, and rapid assessment and a plan to meet the need, adjusting it whether to the patient response or the visual whole uses the same skill set.  It’s another way nursing informs my art and art reinforces the clinical skills I use as a nurse with an active clinical practice.

   I will post updates about each of my upcoming shows soon.