Hey Everybody, Wanna See My Vacation Slides? (Part 2 of 2)

Hey, come back here!

Welcome to part 2 of my vacation slides. This part will be about our trip to the Orkney Islands and down the northwest coast of Scotland. In order to keep this brief, I've left out a lot of the good parts like the time we stayed in a little B and B on the highway outside of Wick and it was just like staying at your Aunty Bee's house, with a nice couple in their 80s, lots of rules, old quilts, and a shower that ran on what sounded like an old weed whacker motor.

I digress.

Let's start with the ferry trip over to the Island.

View from the ferry between Scrabster on Stromness. Those are real names.

View from the ferry between Scrabster on Stromness. Those are real names.

Drew bought us the special Big Spenders' Lounge ferry tickets. There were four of us in a lounge the size of an average bar, so that was nice I guess. There were shortbread cookies, some weird caramel bricks, plus a glass of wine. I felt quite posh as I Jansplained to Drew how the term posh was reputed to be derived from the old pleasure cruises down the European coast from London. The best tickets were for seats on the port side of the boat while traveling south (as one had a view of the coast as opposed to open ocean) and the starboard side of the boat when returning back up north (same reason). Hence, PORT OUT STARBOARD HOME were the best and most expensive tickets. POSH. He was, naturally, eager to learn and not at all humoring me.

Standing Stones of Stenness

Standing Stones of Stenness

You can take really awesome photos of the Standing Stones of Stenness, a small but impressive henge that archeologists are still studying, but if you look closely at unretouched photos, you can spot the farmhouses and sheep that crowd up around it on three sides (the road is on the fourth side). So it is hard to feel as if you are surrounded by the ghosts of the mysteries or whatever, especially when you read the interpretive kiosk and learn that a farmer had once planned to blow them up with dynamite to get them out of the way of his farm.

BUT STILL. They are big, impressive, ancient, and I touched them. You can walk right up to them and touch them. And I also want you to see this cool photo. 

Standing Stones in full drama mode.

Standing Stones in full drama mode.

We got sidetracked at the Standing Stones because it was on the way to Skara Brae.

Skara Brae looking its best for me

Skara Brae looking its best for me

Skara Brae is a 5,000 year old stone age village that lay buried under sand for 4,000 of those years until uncovered after a particularly hard storm in 1850. It was fitfully and destructively excavated until proper study began in the 1920s. It has remained an archeological treasure ever since.

You can see that the entire village was connected by little passageways because even though Orkney was warmer than it is now, the winter nights were long and cold.

You can see that the entire village was connected by little passageways because even though Orkney was warmer than it is now, the winter nights were long and cold.

Skara Brae has been a fascination of mine since I first read about it, I'm guessing in National Geographic, some umpteen years ago.  I don't know why it captured my imagine so fully, but if you feel the same way, you can learn more about it here.

There were other ruins, other henges, but there's just one more thing I want to show you from Orkney: The Tomb of the Eagles.

The entrance to the Tomb of the Eagles

The entrance to the Tomb of the Eagles

The Tomb of the Eagles sounds pretty cool, but I think I would have called it the Tomb of All Those Skulls Plus Some Eagle Talons, but they didn't ask me.  The tomb was found on a farmer's land when he happened upon a cave filled with human bones and skulls. There were also a number of eagle talons mixed in with the skulls, so they theorized that maybe the eagles knew a good snack cupboard when they saw one and took advantage of the free food.

Of all the attractions I dragged Drew to, this one was one of the few not owned by either Historic Environment Scotland or the National Trust for Scotland. This one was privately owned (actually by that original farmer's family), and was much more cavalier about the artifacts found there. I TOUCHED A SKULL! I also touched some stone tools and maybe some eagle talons? I lost track. And bonus, the entryway is so small, you have to get in by scooting in on your belly, on a wheeled cart. Like this:

Scooting inside the Tomb of the Eagles. 

Scooting inside the Tomb of the Eagles. 

FYI, there are no bones left to discover in the tomb. (I checked.) But you can touch some in the visitors center. Tell them I sent you. (It will mean nothing.)

Thanks for visiting Orkney with me. If you ask me, I'll show you one hundred more photos I took.

Smoo Cave

Smoo Cave

We wanted to make sure we didn't miss Smoo Cave in the far northwestern tip of Scotland. Some of the reason was because I read about it, but some of the reason was because of the name.  

Heather, peat, and lochs under blue sky.

Heather, peat, and lochs under blue sky.

I took this particular photo out of a moving car because I wanted to capture the colors happening to the water on this beautiful sunny day in the far north. 

Posh faces for posh food

Posh faces for posh food

Whew. After a long day of driving on one-lane roads, it's time to choose a menu, wait in the drawing room of our posh hotel until called upon, then be served a number of courses with little bits of lemon sherbet in between to cool our palettes. I thought a lot about Rodney Dangerfield's character in Caddy Shack. 

The grounds of the Eddrachilles Hotel in Badcall Bay outside Scourie, Scotland

The grounds of the Eddrachilles Hotel in Badcall Bay outside Scourie, Scotland

Whereas the northeast coast of Scotland seemed to alternate between sheep farms and industry, the northwest of Scotland seems to alternate between sheep farms, wild moors, and gorgeous seascapes. Our catch phrase for this area was SCENIC AF.

Just another scenic AF view.

Just another scenic AF view.

The heather hills are dramatic. The clouds are dramatic. And the roads are dramatic AF because there is only one lane, lots of corners and hills, and you never know when another car is going to come barreling toward you. There are turnouts for when you meet a car coming from the other direction, but they are not always there when you need them.

Scotland roads are for gamblers. 

Scotland roads are for gamblers. 

Hey, let's see more of that dramatic Scotland scenery!

OMG ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL THING. WHEN WILL IT END?

OMG ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL THING. WHEN WILL IT END?

Apparently mistakes were made when we got to the Torridon Hotel, the one real posh splurge we had planned, and they gave us the fanciest room in the place, the room with the big bow window looking out over the grounds of the estate. See the biggest room in this picture, the one on the second floor? That's our room.

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I knew I overpaid, but I didn't realize by how much until I saw the room.

My Patagonia duffel bag looks right a home here.

My Patagonia duffel bag looks right a home here.

...and the bathroom.

Draw me a bath, Jeeves.

Draw me a bath, Jeeves.

In the morning it was time to remove our Nissan X-Trail from among the Teslas and move along before they realized their mistake. Next stop: Isle of Skye.

Here's a taste of one of the quieter pockets on the Isle of Skye.

Here's a taste of one of the quieter pockets on the Isle of Skye.

Now that we have driven many miles south on the west coast, we are now down closer to Glasgow and other population centers, which we noticed because of the amount of tourists we had to navigate through on the Isle of Skye. We no longer felt like we had the place to ourselves. Luckily, our hotel was tucked away on a less traveled thumb of the island and we had a nice evening there.

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

These castles sure know how to pose for photos. I dragged Drew to many more ruined castles, but I won't drag you there. I just want you to see this one last castle.

Castle Stalker

Castle Stalker

This is not the best photo of Castle Stalker, but it is MY photo of Castle Stalker. I made the hotel reservations in Port Appin for it, I hiked a couple miles for it, and I lugged my telephoto lens all over Scotland for it. So I'm going to leave you here with this photo of this ridiculous cardboard box of a castle, beloved for only one reason.

Castle Stalker as seen in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Castle Stalker as seen in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Thanks for watching my vacation slides and only yawning once or twice. If you like what you see, I have about 480 more where these came from. 

Hey Everybody, Wanna See My Vacation Slides? (Part 1 of 2)

Hey, where are you going?

I'll keep it brief. I just want to let you know that I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, I just went to the other side of the earth for an extended romp around Scotland. OH MY GOD DID YOU KNOW SCOTLAND EXISTS? THEN WHY AREN'T WE ALL THERE? Oh, you don't like the real possibility of cold drizzly rain every single day of the year? Well that kinda weather is right down my alley, so I was HOME.

Glasgow has the BEST CEMETERY EVER, called The Necropolis, on top of a hill.

Glasgow has the BEST CEMETERY EVER, called The Necropolis, on top of a hill.

I have one hundred photos of Glasgow sights, but I am choosing this photo of The Necropolis to share with you because look at it. 

Actually, Glasgow is lousy with museums and not just local, volunteer-operated repurposed houses with a couple dusty dioramas, but huge, stone temples to the past with so much awesome stuff they have to keep most of it in storage. Oh, man, Scotland has lost track of more history than we even have. I couldn't get it all in. My eyes got sore from looking. Drew's feet got sore from walking. My feet couldn't have been happier. 

Criagmillar Castle outside Edinburgh.

Criagmillar Castle outside Edinburgh.

Would you like to know how it feels to be inside the courtyard of a 14th century castle? I don't because I ALREADY KNOW and it's AWESOME.

Fluffy coo

Fluffy coo

They really do have these fluffy coos in Scotland, although I suspect they keep them around for the tourists as they are outnumbered by their less fluffy cousins. They seem to know that their job is posing for photos.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

Here is Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness (pronounce "Urkurt," but in a Scottish accent). It's very popular because of its position right on Loch Ness which is popular because of a fish monster. 

Girnigoe and Sinclair Castle, Wick, Scotland

Girnigoe and Sinclair Castle, Wick, Scotland

Here is a cooler, just as ruined castle on the east coast that we got to explore by ourselves because there are no road signs to it and there's a bit of a hike to get out to it. I hope that never changes.

Inside a Neolithic cairn

Inside a Neolithic cairn

When you travel with me, you get to see all KINDS of burial ideas! Here's a stone-age one: build a big pile of stones with a secret chamber in the center.

Outside a Neolithic cairn. In particular, the Grey Cairns of Camster outside of Wick.

Outside a Neolithic cairn. In particular, the Grey Cairns of Camster outside of Wick.

This is another thing that requires a good GPS and a guide book because there is not a lot of signage. WHY AREN'T MORE PEOPLE INTERESTED IN STONE AGE DEATH CAVERNS?

Stacks of Duncansby off of Noss Head at the far northeast corner of Scotland

Stacks of Duncansby off of Noss Head at the far northeast corner of Scotland

I'm beginning to appreciate all that I put Drew through as my driver and companion to every offbeat, off-the-beaten-track bit of beauty that I was able to research during my vacation preparation. Here we are on another hike in the far northeastern corner in the rain to view this bit of earthly mightiness. Pretty cool though, right?

Drew at John O' Groats

Drew at John O' Groats

We'll leave Drew here at John O' Groats. In my next slide show, we will cross the Pentland Firth to the Orkney Islands, even norther than Scotland to find Skara Brae and other stone age treasures, then head down the west coast.

You're coming back for the second half of our trip, right? 

Right?

Does Everyone Deserve to be Heard?

This is the first in a planned occasional series using questions from a favorite podcast, Spontaneanation. In it, Paul F. Tomkins uses a question provided by a previous guest as a jumping-off point to a conversation with the current guest. I plan to do the same – only TO MYSELF.

Does everyone deserve to be heard? That depends. Do I have to listen?

For a short period of time, I attended a Unitarian church here in town. I felt their ideas and mission most closely mirrored my own: respect for every faith and the fruit of one’s own faith ought to be works that relieve pain in others. (That’s a MY theory of faith and not necessarily that of Unitarian/Universalism. Don’t hold them to it.) I discontinued my attendance there after it became clear that I was a square peg and my attempts to fill any of the round holes in their congregation were met with indifference. I never stared at so many backs as I did during their after-service coffee hours. And at 5-foot-3 I’ve stared at a LOT of backs.

Wait, that was not my point. HERE’S my point: there is a moment during each Unitarian service where congregation members are free to share a life event that is either a source of grief or joy. A microphone is passed around for this purpose. In this congregation, there was a young man with developmental challenges who would take the opportunity every week to tell everyone about his cat and various other “I love lamp” issues that might occur to him. He loved holding the microphone and he loved talking and he had no dismount. And the congregation, as they should have, let him bathe in this moment of weekly attention. No one was hurt and the young man, when he finally exhausted all his thoughts, sat down beaming. And I SQUIRMED. And DOODLED. And thought uncharitable thoughts. But that boy deserved to speak. And he deserved to be smiled at. And heard, I suppose. Why am I writing this? I end up looking like an impatient grumbler.  Actually, “Impatient Grumbler” would be an accurate subtitle to this blog so I guess no one should be surprised.

That was the story that popped into my head about two weeks ago when I first read the question, “Does everyone deserve to be heard?”. After the events of the last weekend, the question has become much more meaningful and loaded, so I will ask myself once again, 

Does everyone deserve to be heard? Even white supremacists and pretend Nazis?

Yes, everyone deserves to be heard. No one deserves to be hurt.

How should we approach a Nazi/Confederate rally then? Nazis and white supremacists are angry weaklings who blame others for their own failings. They spread their hate to other, insecure and sad minds, so that their evil thoughts never quite die out, no matter how many wars they lose.

They want to be taken seriously. So we should stop giving them the microphone.

What if, instead of counter marching at the same day and in the same place as the Wieners (I’m tired of calling them Nazis because they seem to like it – go figure - so I’m going to start calling them the Wieners), a counter march is held, in the same place, but the NEXT DAY? It would make it much easier to gauge the relative size of the marches. The Wiener march would be maybe 50 people and the next day I’m guessing you might have 500 peaceful marchers for racial equality in the same place. BAM. PWNAGE.

In this way, we do not allow clashes where the Wieners might end up looking aggrieved by being the butt of a beat-down, peaceful people will not get hurt, and the Wieners would get much less attention.

IGNORE. Let them speak to a dead microphone. They may not go away, but they will own less real estate in our thoughts and our news feeds. They will shrink like a cancer bathed in chemo.

THEN MARCH IN PEACEFUL STREETS. If you believe in the teachings of Martin Luther King, then live them. 

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

I don’t expect my prescription for a Wiener-less peace to be filled, because it is so easy (and, I am sure, satisfying) to give in to the rage caused by such evil, malignant intent, but I can dream.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

And now, your art tax.

Big Sur, 20" x 16" oil on canvas (palette knife application), on display this month at Gallery 360

Big Sur, 20" x 16" oil on canvas (palette knife application), on display this month at Gallery 360

Sunsets and Pebbles

When I type “sunset” into my iPhoto picture catcher, it returns 156 matches. That’s only the ones that the iPhoto brain can identify as sunsets. There might be just as many that it misses. The technology hasn’t quite perfected this game.

That’s at least 156 times that I needed to record the moment of a beautiful sunset, and approximately 150 of those times I was at the beach.  I’m not going to attempt to analyze this need. I’m sure most peoples’ photo collections are similar.

I’m also not going to analyze the need to then reproduce the sunset artificially using paint and canvas. It just happens. It happens to me a lot. Usually they are not as good as the original photograph, let alone as good as the original moment, but I keep trying because that is my compulsion. (Ugh, I hope you feel for me, living with this burdensome compulsion. GOD I can be pompous.)

(I KNOW. I could have just erased that whole thing and rewritten it, but I want you to know what a ridiculous child I am. It’s part of my charm.)

(THERE I GO AGAIN.)

Here's that beach in the daytime in 2004 with my favorite model, Drew, for perspective.

Here's that beach in the daytime in 2004 with my favorite model, Drew, for perspective.

Let’s get this back on track. Here I am, making another attempt at depicting a sunset. This one is based on one I photographed on Cobble Beach on Yaquina Head (also called Black Pebble Beach), just south of the lighthouse. It’s an unusual beach for the area. It’s a little cove packed with smooth, palm-sized rocks that slide around under your feet, making walking tough going. The surf sounds extra tinkly, roaring up and sliding back out, causing the stones to roll around under the force of the water.

You can’t see the little stones in the painting, but I tried to depict the feeling that you get when you have to take yet another picture of a sunset, even though you have plenty.

Yaquina Sunset (With Extra Seabird). Oil on Canvas 20" x 16"

Yaquina Sunset (With Extra Seabird). Oil on Canvas 20" x 16"

Trail Rage

So we took this great trip to Moab, Utah a month or two back. Drew had been there several times on mountain bikes and vroom-vroom bikes and wanted to share the place with me. And what's not to love: canyons, color, ancient petroglyphs, modern recreation, and RV parking. 

I expected to love it, and did some research on the hiking opportunities in the area. Drew had the two-wheel trails pegged, but I wanted at least one day of two-footed adventure. 

I found the Fiery Furnace trail hike. It is a very lightly marked trail in Arches National Park, which can only be accessed by ranger-led group hike, or by self-guided permits which require some prior video training. The National Park requires all participants to be of good enough physical agility to clamber up and down rocks, jump gaps, and squeeze into tight spaces, and to be able to complete the 2.5 hour loop. 

This will be perfect. I can go on a somewhat challenging hike in unfamiliar terrain, and I don't have to drag Drew along as my buddy-system buddy. I'll have a ranger and a group. Drew can drop me off like a soccer mom, go ride his mountain bike, and come pick me up when my hike party is over.

At the ranger desk when I bought the ticket, the ranger showed me a laminated hand-out that showed all the squeezy, clambery types of agility I would need to possess, showed me a visual example of the amount of water I would need to bring, and made me promise that I was man enough to handle the trail's trials. I promised. Watching her explain the rigors ahead, Drew was all the more certain that, one year out of back surgery and 55 years through a life lead by avoiding the agonies of hiking, he would happily leave it to me. 

I bought a new little day pack to carry my required burden of water. Even though the weather report was for mild conditions, I did not know how strict my ranger guide was going to be and I did not want to get turned away for breaking water rules. I did not need (a) so much water, and (b) to worry about my preparedness.

Five hundred yards was all we needed to know that someone, actually three someones, did not listen to the ranger with the pictures of clambering hikers. Two were past their prime hiking age and one woman was probably younger than me but carried too much weight on a bum knee that she admitted earlier was either pre- or post-operative. (I don't remember which. I actually heard that remark at the bathroom before the walk began and I didn't think she was part of the group at the time. She somehow neglected to mention that to the ranger.) The ranger gave them all a chance to ditch the hike, which had already visibly taxed them. They did not take the hint.

Our personal Park Ranger. Let's call him Justin. He kept trying to teach us stuff. Ugh.

Our personal Park Ranger. Let's call him Justin. He kept trying to teach us stuff. Ugh.

We moved on with the three stragglers straggling further and further behind. We would hike for a while and wait. And wait. Finally our ranger (I don't remember his name. Let's call him Justin), for the safety of the stragglers, made them lead the hike with him so that he could help them over every clambery bit. That meant the rest of us (maybe 12 of us) were in a continual bottle neck, waiting to do in a second what it had taken five minutes for the trio of dumb to manage.

Ranger Justin doing the heavy lifting

Ranger Justin doing the heavy lifting

Ranger Justin did not know when he woke up that morning that he would spend the day lifting three people up and over the entire Fiery Furnace trail, and neither did we know that we would spend the day in a line behind them waiting. Alas.

I see a few crossed arms. I am not the only one not believing this is happening.

I see a few crossed arms. I am not the only one not believing this is happening.

I am SO SORRY about using the word "alas." I will do better. It's just that...I mean...gaahh.

Here's Ranger Justin, bent over as ever, as he tries his best to help, while the rest of us wait and not hike.

Here's Ranger Justin, bent over as ever, as he tries his best to help, while the rest of us wait and not hike.

Ooh, sorry again for that "gaahh." That's not even a word. As a journalist, I am supposed to be able to use words to express any thing or circumstance. 

Here's a hint as to the speed of our "hike." The ranger-led hike that started an hour later caught up with us and played through, as if we were an aged and bumbling golfing foursome.

As you can imagine, we "hikers" at the back were exchanging a lot of careful "what were they thinkings" and "didn't they get the warnings," but we had all paid a lot in time and money to travel to the park, find lodging, and buy tickets for this hike, and we were trying to salvage the day by trying to put a pleasant spin on it. I spent a lot of my free time at the back of the line taking photos, which was pleasingly distracting. I got some good ones.

One of the photos I took was the basis for the following painting that I think is complete.

Can you feel a little extra anger or frustration in this piece? Good, and now you know where it came from.

I really enjoyed being down in those little slot canyons. I wish I could have been able to really clamber and jump, and I hope to get to go back to do so. Hopefully it won't be so long that I will be the slow one.

Bear Promised, Bear Delivered

Leave me alone for a minute and I'm back communing with Bears.  Here's one in acrylic on mixed media paperboard.

Her Favorite Tree. 12" x 16" Acrylic on paper.

Her Favorite Tree. 12" x 16" Acrylic on paper.

This one was inspired by a moment in the recent Planet Earth II series. Bears skritching on trees. Aaah. That's the spot.

Medium

My business cards say "Paint on Canvas. Words on Paper." If you ask me my medium, I will probably say oil paints because that is the majority of my output. However, like most artists, I have yet to rule out a medium. Somewhere tucked in my studio corner you can find:

  • oil paints
  • acrylics
  • watercolors
  • watercolor pencils
  • Sharpies
  • screen printing ink
  • acrylic ink
  • pastels
  • charcoal
  • graphite
  • collage paper
  • coffee filters

I haven't quite found a use for the coffee filters yet, but I bought the wrong size once and didn't have the ecological heart to throw them away, so stay tuned. If you see me turn out some particularly bumpy collage work, you might wonder if a shopping error played a part in its creation.

I resemble that remark. Watercolor on Arches 300 lb. paper

I resemble that remark. Watercolor on Arches 300 lb. paper

Here is a watercolor that I did a while ago. A friend of mine bought an oil painting of Pilot Butte, so I threw this one in as a bonus because I know her daughter, who has just graduated high school, is an enthusiastic and talented horsewoman. 

Today in my studio, I am working on a bear in acrylic. Remind me to show her to you in a week or so. Then maybe on to glitter paint. Never say never.

Ouch.

Almost But Not Quite. Mixed Media, Paper mounted on wood. 11 x 14.

Almost But Not Quite. Mixed Media, Paper mounted on wood. 11 x 14.

Ouch. That hurt. Another art jury rejection. It’s like cutting yourself in the kitchen. At first, you look down and see the skin opened and the blood start to seep, but there’s a delay before the pain starts to register. Then there’s more pain, then it reaches another level, then you have to sit down with a bloody towel wrapped around your finger and wait it out for a bit.

I’m at the sitting down part. I'm sitting in it and wondering what it means and what it can tell me. Luckily there's no blood.

Does it mean I’m a bad artist? I hope not. It helps that I know other, really great artists who have been rejected by this particular jury. It hurts because I'm pretty sure it means I’m a mediocre artist. No one aspires to mediocrity.  I’m hoping that it means I’m just not quite cooked yet. On the verge of 55 years of age (the last 20 of which include any art experience), I still have work to do. That I can swallow and use.

Not one hour after I read the email with that rejection, I got news of a sale of another one of my pieces – the fifth sale this month (if you count prints).

Art is subjective, you guys. The Chief tells me art is a glass cage of emotion because he likes to quote Anchorman. And who doesn’t? Time to bring out the Band-Aids and get back in the studio.

--

I finished the above painting this last week. The fact that I mounted it on a wooden cradle board means that I like it. Abstract painting is even more subjective than representational art. It tends to get "my kid can paint that" remarks, but I've learned that good abstract or expressionist painting can be just as difficult to get right. To me, this piece depicts an attempt at creating a peaceful, ordered balance within a messy world.

Peace be with you.

Wills and Fates

Our wills and fates do so contrary run

That our devices still are overthrown;

Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.

-       William Shakespeare

So things never turn out as we imagine or wish.

When I was 18, I wanted to be a psychologist. When I was 20, I learned what a psychologist could and could not do and what they did and did not know. Then I had to figure out what else I could do with a psychology degree.

The first thing I found that I could do with a psychology degree was to work as a sales clerk at a Motherhood maternity shop.

The next thirty years brought more experiments in what I could and could not do. What I was good at (writing) was not lucrative. What I was competent at (analytical thinking and grammar) was valuable but not fulfilling (“fulfilling” = crap word that means fun). What I found fun (art) I was not yet particularly competent at. So I quit trying for a rewarding career and settled on a fun one.

So I don’t have a life’s work. Just a house hung with art in varying degrees of competency and a website I saddled with a ridiculous name.

What should I have done differently? It doesn’t matter. All that matters is the time ahead of me. And I want nothing more than to paint.

Here’s a picture of a forest fire.

Too Late. Oil on canvas, 20" x 16"

Too Late. Oil on canvas, 20" x 16"

Soft and Strong

I bought a shirt when I was in college that I miss to this day. It was mint green, the color of institutional walls. It didn’t fit. The shoulder seams went way past my shoulders and the sleeves petered out long after my arms did. It was of the kind of material that the disco era was made of – polyester and dreams, Baby. But it was soft and satiny and cool to the touch, and made me feel small and lithe and full of talent. I wore it to dances, class, and dance class. I don’t remember what happened to it. I suppose I wore it until it was no longer made of matter but memories, because I don’t think I had it in me to dispose of it.

Disco shirt and TWO SETS OF LEGGINGS. This is peak flashdance.

Disco shirt and TWO SETS OF LEGGINGS. This is peak flashdance.

It did teach me to feel clothes before buying them. I have many shirts that feel better than they look. I also have way too many velvet things. Velvet is not a day-to-day fabric. I’ve found that if you show up to a casual thing in velvet, people assume you have misjudged the import of the occasion when actually I have just misjudged people’s sense of humor.

Do you know about Tencel? I love Tencel. It’s a fabric made of wood fiber (!) that is supposed to be environmentally friendly. What I like about it is that it is soft and heavy at the same time. Like a blanket that you couldn’t give up when you stopped sucking your thumb. I used to have a pair of pants made of Tencel. Tencel is so drape-y that the pants ended up looking kind of creepily saggy, but that didn’t stop me from wearing them like ALL THE TIME. I would still be wearing them, still rocking that 00’s cargo pants look, if I hadn’t gained that last five pounds.

I have a workout shirt in highlighter yellow, not because I am worried about being seen in the dark or because the Oregon Ducks sometimes enjoy visually shocking their opponents, but because it is so soft. Unfortunately, soft things don’t last, and that shirt might have one more season in it at best.

Soft and strong is a myth, at least where toilet paper is concerned.

I guess I'm telling you this because I'm feeling sad about losing an extremely deep pile fluffy jacket that died in the washing machine this week. It was like wearing a teddy bear. It's in the bottom of the garbage can and I keep planning rescue attempts that I know are doomed to failure.

Touring Yellowstone in 2013 in Tencel pants and teddy bear jacket

Touring Yellowstone in 2013 in Tencel pants and teddy bear jacket

I don’t know if I have a point, so I will think of some and you can choose: (1) The disco era was helpful in shaping my fashion destiny. (2) If you see me wearing something odd looking, you can safely think to yourself, "I bet that's soft." (3) Always wash your hands after using the restroom.

What I Can Guarantee RE: Your Baby

Hello. I understand that I am entering my grandmotherly years, and to many I may already resemble a grandmother, whether because of my chubby cheeks, or my jolly demeanor. However, I feel it incumbent upon me to lay down some ground rules as to how grandmotherly I am able to act vis à vis your small human offspring.

1.     I WILL be polite to your baby.  I will refrain from deploying swear words in my speech and will not bring up the subjects of procreation activities or the theories regarding the existence of either Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny (FAKE), Sasquatch, or the Tooth Fairy.

2.     I MAY greet your baby. If it seems socially contracted, I may greet your baby with one of the following standard greetings:

a.     How do you do.

b.     Hello, Baby.

c.     Good afternoon, Baby (as appropriate)

d.     Fancy meeting you here.

3.     I MAY compliment your baby’s attire, knowing full well that it had little, perhaps nothing, to do with either its procurement or its donning.

4.     I MAY carry on a short conversation with your baby, if asked a PERTINENT question by said baby.

5.     I WILL NOT engage in undignified gibberish with your baby.

6.     I WILL NOT touch your baby unless circumstances require it, such as the existence of smudges, soil, or rodents on its face. Or to free myself of its grip.

7.     I WILL NOT pick up your baby unless it is blocking an emergency exit.

HOWEVER:

8.     I WILL rock your baby IF the baby appears fatigued, I am near a rocking chair, and I am fatigued as well. At such an occasion, I MAY smell your baby’s head. Do not be alarmed. I am merely checking for rodents.

Instant Nostalgia

They paved a dairy farm and put up a McMansionland.

My daily walks have taken me past this dairy farm, tucked onto a bluff overlooking the Columbia river and surrounding lowlands, since we moved here in 2005. It was a two-lane road with often no shoulder, but the traffic was light and courteous.

If this road didn't turn here, it would run off a bluff in about 100 yards and end up either on the major north-south interstate railroad line, or in a wildlife refuge set up for water birds beside the Columbia River.

If this road didn't turn here, it would run off a bluff in about 100 yards and end up either on the major north-south interstate railroad line, or in a wildlife refuge set up for water birds beside the Columbia River.

Once I made the turn in the road by the dairy farm, I could continue north, where there was a little orchard on the left and the border of McMansionland on the right. I would eventually turn back and head home through the McMansionland where there were some nice rolling hills (less conducive for farming, perfect for 4,000 square foot, split-level, architectural nightmares).

One morning I took this stunner of a photo. MAN I'll miss this old barn.

One morning I took this stunner of a photo. MAN I'll miss this old barn.

I enjoyed the peek through the dairy and orchard, to the river and lowlands below. Like a cat (or a short person), I like to peer down from heights onto smaller, less better things below me. It was a highlight of my walks. I could often see red-tail hawks trolling the pastures for field mice.

Then this happened. 

Same corner. No barn.

Same corner. No barn.

I say "this happened" like it was an act of God or something, but it was an act of change. The old farmer died, the kids were not interested in dairy farming, they found out how much the land was now worth, and an eager developer made them an offer they couldn't refuse.

There goes the neighborhood.

There goes the neighborhood.

I get it. I don't want to milk cows either. But it's still sad. And you know the houses aren't going to be as cute as those cows. And I won't be able to look through the fence and through all the houses. The river will be a secret for those few, super-rich ones who can pay, not only for a new McMansion, but one with a primo view.

Last chance to see. (Reference-getters please pipe up in the comments.)

Last chance to see. (Reference-getters please pipe up in the comments.)

Even though I don't enjoy painting buildings, I thought it was important for me to paint that barn, especially since I had captured that photo, and it begged to be recaptured in paint. So I've been poking at it all fall (and now winter). It's close to being done, in that there is little more that I can do that will improve it. I'm sure I'm not the only one in Felida (my neighborhood's feline name - another story) who feels as instantly nostalgic about this barn.

Not sure if I improved on the photo other than making it bigger.

Not sure if I improved on the photo other than making it bigger.

Here is my attempt at a barn. The Pleasant View Dairy barn. I may try it again with a little more style, but this one is what it is. And it will live on while the original is gone. Like a bad rock music lyric.

PHOTO DUMP! The first SWA Artist's Market at the Artist Loft

Hey everybody! Here's some of the work displayed for sale yesterday during First Friday. The Society of Washington Artists held a special Christmas-centered Art for Under $100 sale at the Artist Loft in the old Academy building in downtown Vancouver. It was OFF THE CHAIN.

I can see Cindy Lundy's beautiful floral paintings on the right. Center, a peak at Will Ray's watercolors, and left, a peak at Katey Sandy's acrylics.

I can see Cindy Lundy's beautiful floral paintings on the right. Center, a peak at Will Ray's watercolors, and left, a peak at Katey Sandy's acrylics.

Will Ray's watercolors on the left, and some of Carol Lytle's work on the right.

Will Ray's watercolors on the left, and some of Carol Lytle's work on the right.

Some of Elaine Evans' lovely work.

Some of Elaine Evans' lovely work.

Walter Sanders. Nice, right?

Walter Sanders. Nice, right?

A little of my booth (left), Carolyn Gunderson's beautiful work in the center, and a peak at Katey Sandy's booth at the end.

A little of my booth (left), Carolyn Gunderson's beautiful work in the center, and a peak at Katey Sandy's booth at the end.

Hey, that's my booth!

Hey, that's my booth!

From left to right, artists Lila Martin, a friend I met yesterday (I'm sorry, friend, I forgot your name), Cindy Lunde, and Carol Lytle.

From left to right, artists Lila Martin, a friend I met yesterday (I'm sorry, friend, I forgot your name), Cindy Lunde, and Carol Lytle.

Carolyn Gunderson's booth. Beautiful work.

Carolyn Gunderson's booth. Beautiful work.

Some of Carol Lytle's work (left) and Renee Bryant's work (right).

Some of Carol Lytle's work (left) and Renee Bryant's work (right).

I see some of Lila Martin's work on the left and some of Carol Lytle's in the center. They were all under $100!

I see some of Lila Martin's work on the left and some of Carol Lytle's in the center. They were all under $100!

More of Carol Lytle's booth

More of Carol Lytle's booth

More from Lila Martin

More from Lila Martin

Gina Marie Kendall's booth and the right, with a little of Walter Sanders' work on the left

Gina Marie Kendall's booth and the right, with a little of Walter Sanders' work on the left

Here's something

If you like, you can visit my Zazzle store, where you can buy my art printed on all kinds of stuff (the list grows every day) for a paltry, paltry fee. Much cheaper than what I can make it from scratch for. Here is an example: my first t-shirt. A vintage-style shirt with my new band, Haystack Rocks! on it. (Well, it would be my new band if I played any instrument besides classical flute.)

So, Doin' Anything Fun This Weekend?

It’s Friday! It’s time to go to your favorite grocery store and report to your cashier about your plans for the weekend! Don’t tell me you go to one of those rogue grocery stores that isn’t on board with the new trend of instructing all their cashiers to poll each and every customer about their plans. Then you really need to switch stores! Because it’s fun!

Let's go grocery shopping! Cashiers need your weekend fun reports!

Let's go grocery shopping! Cashiers need your weekend fun reports!

Look, you could tell them the truth. They hear truth all day long and it is slowly sucking the soul right out of them. Look into their eyes. They do not want to hear about your errands, your in-law visit, your soccer games. They are up to here with soccer games. It’s time to brighten their day.

I will give you some pointers. You can use these, or make up your own.

  • Glad you asked! I’m building an ark in my backyard using old election yard signs! Come on by!
  • Glad you asked! I’m developing my inner sonar by learning how to drive blindfolded! Want to ride shotgun?
  • Glad you asked! I’m making my own stuffed animals using my body hair collection!
  • Glad you asked! I’m starting a new cult! Want to get in on the ground level? I have an opening for a tiara polisher.
  • Glad you asked! I’m teaching a seminar on turning your disused shed into your own abattoir! There will be breakout sessions on bone burning and soap making!
  • Glad you asked! We will be digging a moat around our house. Do you have any alligators?
  • Glad you asked! We will be going to our daughter’s soccer game. Did I say soccer? I meant duel to the death. She got into a little tiff with the neighbor girl. They’ve chosen broadswords at dawn. That’s the reason for these Band-Aids. She likes the kitty cat ones.
  • Glad you asked! We will be rampaging through the countryside Mad Max style. Murdering!
  • Glad you asked! We saw this enormous spider in our house so we will be burning it down. Better safe than icked out to the max. Come by! Bring marshmallows!
  • Glad you asked! We will be gathering all the neighborhood crows and driving them to the local republican headquarters.
  • Glad you asked! We are going to brunch and then attending a chainsaw massacre.
  • Glad you asked! We are putting on prom dresses and riding Segways through town singing Neil Diamond’s hits.
  • Glad you asked! I am going to ask my tattoo artist if he can do gifs.
  • Glad you asked! I am going to get a tattoo of Keanu Reeves’ English accent in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

I hope that's enough to get you started. Report back to me with your plans.

Sitting the Show

I’m sitting the fall SWA show.  That means I’m part security guard, part cashier, part museum docent and mostly bored. When art guilds like the Society of Washington Artists puts on a public art show, especially one open to the public during all business hours, someone has to pay attention so that the art doesn’t walk away under its own power (or through the power of art thieves, the most criminal kind of thief). In addition, the art is for sale, so someone must be on guard in the event of art purchasers (the most admired and sought-after kind of art lover). But most of the time, we sit. Hence the name.

As I sit, I am keeping my hands busy by typing away. That way the people who are using this public building for something other than art-gazing (which is most of them – there are a lot of business tenants in this building) do not feel obligated to acknowledge my odd existence here at a table set up at the entrance to a public building, as if I were about to ask them if they are happy with their cell carrier.

I face the walkway with my laptop screen in front of me. This way, it’s easy to tell those who wish to engage me in conversation about the art from those who just want to escape the building without an awkward encounter.

Other jobs I have had in the past 24 hours are: database coordinator, art work recorder, art panel mover, printer, printer loaner, secretary, art judge wrangler, and winner’s certificate creator.

Art shows like those put on by the SWA do a valuable service to a whole range of artists, from seasoned professionals to those who may be beginning to find where they fit in the art community. There is nothing like seeing your art displayed alongside art of a completely different caliber or style to make you aware of your strengths and your many, many weaknesses. Many. Many.

There are always moments of panic for those of us who put on art shows. (Listen to me: “those of us.” I’ve been doing this for [watch check] six months.) This time around, the hinge bits that allow the panels to stand upright disappeared when they we needed them and reappeared in front of us as soon as someone made a 12-mile round-trip to re-check the storage space. Nobody remembered to print out extra registration forms for the organizationally challenged who always come unprepared. (Luckily I found one extra with which I copied ten more.) We ended up with too many boxes of panels from storage and no dolly to help get them out of the hallway. (We managed to heave them out of the way with a minimum of hernias.) And we just looked at the prize ribbon box and found only half the ribbons we will need tomorrow. This one is a little more difficult to solve. Our prize ribbons are normally custom printed with the name of our organization, so whatever we end up doing will be half-assed. Ah well. Admittance is cheap. You get what you pay for.

What do I get out of it? Today isn’t the best day to ask me. I ate a granola bar for dinner last night and again for lunch today and I was up late last night creating show programs with the name of each artist, their works, and their purchase price. This morning I printed labels to hang next to each piece. Tonight I will add the names of the winners to the programs and print them. Then I will create fancy certificates with gold seals.

But next week I’ll have an answer for you. It will probably have to do with the benefits of friends with similar interests. Also, artists talk a lot about perspective as a quality of a painting that makes the 2-dimensional seem to have depth. There’s also the perspective gained from interacting with other artists working just as hard and gaining just as much from it (happiness: yes; wealth: no). But mostly what I get are the health benefits of pats on the back. That’s enough.

I Am SO Back to School Right Now

I'm taking an art class through the local community college taught by a respected colleague and friend. It is a class called "Mixed Media and Painting Abstractly." Mixing media is not a challenge, but I have never been good at painting abstractly. I always end up seeing things in my shapes and then teasing them out until the shapes are no longer abstract, but are actually meerkats. Or turtles.

In fact, if my first assignment is any indication, I might fail at this class, but I totally blame The Chief. I brought home a colorful underpainting, an abstract start to a painting achieved through artistic secrets and trickery. The Chief said it looked like a prehistoric scene with volcanoes. I am too suggestible for a comment like that and this happened:

If I fail this class due to an infestation of velociraptors, it is all The Chief's fault.

If I fail this class due to an infestation of velociraptors, it is all The Chief's fault.

I've started a new underpainting and have an idea of what my next move is. It's not quite as representational as a couple of frolicking velociraptors, but it's not exactly abstract.

Baby steps.

Stay tuned.

A Pumpkin Spiced Splurge

If you are what you eat, then I really am sugar and spice and everything, well, sweet, if not nice, as nice seems a little judge-y. Especially when we are talking about my poor eating habits.

Over the past two years, the Chief has had a more standard, 40-hour-a-week schedule, as opposed to our usual firefighter routine, which consists of 24-hour shifts at the fire station, flanked by more-or-less 48 hours of downtime, spent in part napping to catch up on sleep. This has meant that for the past two years, I have been planning and cooking evening meals seven days a week. This is not a hardship, but was a challenge to my waistline, as I was used to skipping evening meals to make up for the sorry-ass way I snacked during the day.

These didn't come with chocolate frosting. I made some and frosted them. That's the kind of maniac we are dealing with here.

These didn't come with chocolate frosting. I made some and frosted them. That's the kind of maniac we are dealing with here.

Now the Chief is back on 24-hour shifts and I’m back baby, allowed to be left to my own kitchen devises (so to speak) for at least one day out of three. As you can imagine, the rubber band, stretched over the last two years of healthy eating, has snapped back a little hard, and kitchen cams (if we had any) might have caught me eating meals consisting entirely of (1) chips and salsa, (2) a few tablespoons of smoked salmon, and/or (3) a few handfuls of popcorn. These less-than-square meals are what’s left of my appetite after an afternoon spent eating candy and/or cookies, and/or chocolate protein bars and/or, in the event of an emergency, chocolate chips.

Okay, now I’m judging me.

The pendulum will swing back and I will resume a somewhat healthier daily diet. I have already begun to sentence myself to remedial training. Last Saturday, while the Chief was at work, I decided to give my appetite a little Time Out and spent the day fasting, drinking tea, water and a little chicken bouillon. It didn’t feel good, but it was completely doable and I did not feel the need to overeat the next day. It made me remember that hunger is not something to fear. Hunger may be a better alternative than the pain of too-tight pants.

I may try to fit a 24-hour fast in my weekly or monthly schedule, when I have a day here and there with no plans that call for a lot of effort or proximity to good food.  Also, as long as I am writing or otherwise producing content, it is hard to use my hands for eating. And I do not own a feedbag. YET.