Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween, 2008

Hartley's Potato Chips.

Oooh, yeah. They arrived today, a couple days earlier than I expected them. I order them from a little town called Lewistown, Pennsylvania, at a ridiculous cost ... because they taste so yummy to me and they do not use sunflower oil, to which I have a hideously reactive allergy.

My Halloween treat was to open a bag and snag a couple mouthfuls. The Hartley's is to be my NaNoWriMo reward for when I get daily word count, but I couldn't wait. It's been so long since I had last snarfed the salty snacks...

I painted two extra eyeballs on my face tonight, by way of a costume, and I managed to freak my grand-daughter out when she saw me. That's a successful makeup job, I think. We took pics; if I can find one that doesn't make me look too aged or worn, I'll add it to this post tomorrow.

And rain is drizzling again.

P.S. There I am with my extra eyeballs.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Weather reports here have been changing hour to hour.

When I got up this morning, the weather report said it would rain tonight sometime. I went out to the ranch to ride mid-morning, and after riding, my friend and I cleaned the paddocks because rain looked to be close on our heels.

I wasn't home an hour before rain began to fall, and with the rain, lightning and thunder, which NONE of the weather services had predicted.

One of the few things I miss from Back East is thunderstorms. Bernie and I sat out on the front porch and watched the lightning and listened to the thunder for several hours. Glorious! And duh, so much for the weather services.

As I write, the rain continues to drizzle, though the thunder has moved away. Nevertheless, I feel pleasantly drowsy; I tend to sleep like the dead when a thunderstorm moves through. Maybe it is because I was born during a thunderstorm; maybe it's because while it thunders, I know I have nothing more that I have to accomplish.

Friday, October 24, 2008


After I'd taken a photo of my latest artwork, I took a break and tried to snap some pictures of the dogs. (Click on "latest artwork" for the link.)

It wasn't too hard to get them to lie down beside each other, but they would not look at me with my scary camera until I said, "Where is ball?"

Ears came up and I had their undivided attention.

Such good boys, Sebastian and Howie. They spent much of the morning with me in the garage studio, just peacefully lying on the carpet, watching people and cars pass by. (The garage door was open to warm it up in there a bit.) Even when a neighbor passed by with her dog, they didn't move.

My husband frequently asks me if I'm happy; I'm not sure why -- I hope I don't have a sad-looking face. Frankly, I think I am one of the most fortunate people in the world, and hugging these two big beasties reminds me of that in an instant.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Yuck, That's How Much Crud There Is in the Air

Oh, the hazy airs of autumn...

This tree is catty-corner across the street. I looked out the front window tonight and did a double take at the light. Grabbing the camera, I snapped a shot to record some very filthy air.

We're very nearly at the end of almond harvesting season here in the Valley; you can't see the mountains on either side of the Valley for the dust hazing the view, and everywhere you go, people are hacking.

Lillian is coughing at night; in the mornings I wake up and can't speak clearly until I get some hot tea down my throat. The cars, the sidewalks, the windows, the leaves on the trees -- everything is coated with dust kicked up by the shaking, sweeping, and vacuuming machines.

We had a trifling bit of rain the other week, and it dropped a lot of mud out of the sky. Everything looked splattered by mud. Amazing. We're hoping for a good hard cleansing rain in November, but the weather forecasters are changing their predictions from "rain" to "no rain" on an hourly basis.

I begged off going out to ride the horse this afternoon because it was too hot for this time of year. There wasn't a smidge of a breeze, the flies are insanely active before colder weather, and no amount of bug spray helps keep the biting flies off this old girl when she sweats. It was a grand afternoon to sit in the new studio and ply pigments instead.

Monday, October 20, 2008

This Then, Is the New Work Space

Look at that chair! All that expanse of table! Room for books and tools, and elbows ... heaven!

In this picture, the garage door is shut, because night had fallen, and I didn't want any more mosquitoes than necessary to drift in to gaze at my artwork, but for a good couple hours, that door was open, letting in a lovely afternoon light, and making my new "studio" seem tremendously airy and livable.

Today, I worked out there and kept an eye on Lillian as she drew on the driveway with chalk and played in and out of the garage until her mother arrived. It was wonderful, and I would be a liar if I said I wasn't longing to be out there from the time I got up.

The problem is going to be the cold. The area is neither heated nor insulated; eventually I may need to remedy that. But for now, I am in love with it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Me and the Phoebe

Yesterday morning I saw these clouds at sunrise, and went outside to take a picture of them.

Not only were they pretty pink, but their shape made me suspicious -- they looked, to me, like the kind of clouds that bring a weather change ... like rain.

No rain was in the forecast either by The Weather Channel, or Accu-Weather, or Weather Underground, however, so I put it down as just one of those tricky sky-flukes. Later in the day, a black phoebe was diving at specks on the surface of the pool, which also is a frequent harbinger of rain. I checked the weather again. Same forecast, no rain in sight for the rest of the month.

This morning, I blearily peered out the back door to see a wet patio! It DID rain!

I was so pleased by my weather acumen that I didn't even mind that the rugs I put out to dry yesterday evening ... weren't.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Getting Closer

This morning, after vacuuming 600 tons of dog hair off the carpets and the furniture, and mopping the kitchen, I treated myself to the assembly of my new drafting stool.

I've been pining for my studio, which I gave up in trade for the master bedroom; Alex took pity on me and tackled the horrid mess in the garage and cleared me a workspace that is wonderful ... but it's a standing-height workspace -- no way to sit. Until I got this drafting chair, which moves up and down at the touch of a lever.

The other problem with the garage workspace was the lighting. There's an incandescent bulb over the tool workbench (ugly) and a fluorescent fixture on the ceiling that doesn't like working and that was it. To see anything clearly out there, you have to open the garage door.

Today, in addition to construction of the chair, I de-structed my total spectrum floor lamp and converted it to a tall table lamp. Now I have the space, and the light. Unfortunately, I had to open the garage to get enough light in there to tear the lamp apart ... and so now I have not only the space, and the light, but also about 50 flies who wandered in to see what was happening.

As a side incident, the box the chair came in was large enough for a six-year-old to play in. The box, by turns, became a space ship, a dog house, a dog bed, a tree house, and a swimming pool. If I paid the box to entertain Lil for as many hours today as she played with it on the back patio, the chair would have been free.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Toys and Snacks

This, then, would be why my house is always cluttered with wood chips and twigs.

I try to keep an eye on Sebastian so that he doesn't drag in chunks of wood from the woodstack or shreds of papyrus, or stuff we've stacked for kindling and never got around to putting in the kindling barrel. But he managed to slip this one into the house without me knowing about it.

He knows he's not supposed to do this, and that is why the picture shows him lying very still: if he doesn't move, maybe I will not have seen him with the stick and won't take it away from him.

There was a spot of evening sun that I wanted to catch on the front porch, so I took my camera and went, leaving the dog with the stick.

I didn't have to take the stick away from the young hound: when I came back in from the front porch, Howie had taken it away from him.

Even though Howie hates the camera, he was jealous that I stopped to snap a picture, and so stole Seb's toy and crunched a good bit of it to smithereens. Jealous? My darling Howie? You betcha. He doesn't even like it if I look at Sebastian too long. Nothing can convince Howie that he is foremost in my heart, as far as dogs go.

Gee, thanks, How, for adding to the wood chips in the kitchen and living room.

Both dogs were disappointed when I refused to give them any of the chicken wings whose smell perfumed the house.

Can it be that their wood-chipping was a kind of revenge?

Thursday is Garbage Day

There's garbage, and then there's garbage.

The City of Ripon has this great idea: make a central recycling area where people can bring their glass, plastic, paper, cardboard, and electronic dinosaurs ... and recycle them, the proceeds from which go to the local schools. At first they only did paper and cardboard, but added the others not so very long ago.

From my point of view, it's highly successful. We went, as a household, from having an overflowing garbage can (and they are big suckers that the City provides) to having less than half a can per week. That's a lot of trash that DOESN'T go to the landfill.

Pickle jars, wine bottles, dish detergent bottles, even Oscar Mayer bologna wrappers -- all are recyclable. Plastic cups you can use for parties, the plastic foam platters meat is purchased in, mayonnaise jars, not to mention newspapers, drawing papers, cereal boxes, plastic bags for groceries and vegetables ... can be put to use if recycled.

I check everything now, searching for that little triangle on every plastic container. And frankly, if I don't find it, I won't buy the product again. Just today I turned down a plastic container of cookies because it was not recyclable.

Years and years ago, when I was still riding my first horse, the mighty and handsome Crow, a friend and I rode up Austin Road the next town up the highway, just to see how far we could go. We rode to the county landfill, which you can see from Highway 99 as a mountain -- something we don't really, naturally have in this valley. A mountain -- of systematically buried trash. It was amazing to see, that high, wide hill, and disgusting to think that it was all trash. I think of that ride, and that mountain, every time I take the recyclables down town to the Recycle Center.

I'm trying not to make that mountain any higher than I absolutely have to.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Learning About Creation

My granddaughter's artwork continues to amaze and inspire me. And to teach me something about creativity.

Lillian presented me with this picture of a jack o' lantern yesterday. She's almost always proud of her drawings, or at least enjoys doing them, but this one she knew was good.

I was struck by the sheer raw power of it. It arrests. It draws one's eye around and around. It makes me wonder just exactly how this little artist sees the world around her.

And then, after she had brought me this gem, delighted that I told her I was going to scan it in for posterity. She went back to drawing.

Lillian comes to me regularly to beg paper for drawing; that's why we keep a case of copy paper in the garage, because although she always asks for "a piece" of paper, I hand her anywhere from five to twenty sheets. She uses them up, one after another. A few minutes after she did the jack o' lantern, she presented me with a vivid picture of Molly the Macaw.

It's a cheerful picture, in spite of the numerous times that damned bird has bitten her. "This is Molly," Lillian told me, "but not in a cage -- in the jungle."

The white surrounding the parrot's eye, the scarlet and blue, the mix of colors in the tail ... impressive.

Every couple minutes for about an hour, Lil brought me picture after picture. Some of them were small, some filled the paper. The set of markers her parents bought her seems to have taken her fancy as a medium.

I suppose that I can see that; like the markers, Lil is a loud, intense, immediate presence in the world. No shrinking violet this one.

"Why don't you draw Molly flapping her wings?" her father asked her. It was inspiration enough, and she promptly got another sheet of paper and started, just like that. In short order, she brought the next one for me to see.

It's a very good representation of the macaw flapping, her wings moving so fast they blur. Again, I was impressed by Lil's willingness to attempt a subject she'd never done before ... and by her decision to include her own thought in the picture: Molly has a bow in her "hair."

Why am I so taken with a child's scribbles? Well that's really what this blog entry is supposed to be about, but I'm having a hard time ... admitting? ... confessing? ...realizing what a coward I am?

Lillian just DOES her art. She loves the praise she gets for it, but it's not WHY she does it. She is just as likely to draw and draw and draw by herself, and when done, cheerfully bundle up the used paper and stuff it all unceremoniously into the recycle bin. The closest I've come to that is playing with lines and colors in the computer Paint program. All one has to do is shut down the computer, and the evidence of playful artwork is gone. It says rather a lot about my artwork, doesn't it? Somehow I've internalized a little shadow voice that I can hear say, "Don't waste paper! Don't waste your talent with scribbling! Come on, do it right or don't do it at all!"

Lil brought me picture after picture, asking if I was going to scan them all. "No, just some," I told her, and she wasn't too disappointed.

However, when I picked up the pictures for scanning this morning, I found that she had slipped a fourth one in on the bottom. And this one is what prompted this post.

From colorful portraits of Molly, Lil had switched to pencil, and then back to markers with no hesitation. I know this drawing has a story that Lillian was telling to herself while she drew; there is a man-macaw in a sober hat, and a lady macaw with a fancy hat and lipstick. I believe that their egg is behind them.

The woman behind them has one long-lashed eye -- there may not have been room for two, but that wasn't important. She does have lipstick, also.

All three figures are in motion; they're not just standing there.

Creativity should be in motion, too, not just huddled in a drawer waiting for reincarnation in a new life. Whether it's writing, or drawing, or singing, it should be being done. Experiments should blow up the laboratory, over and over. Strange creatures ought to have the chance to see the light of day. Words should be sounded out, set in patterns to bring new thoughts to life, to freshen old thoughts to fit the world like new garments.

Lillian is teaching me to ... move!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Winds of Change?

The stock market fiasco and Everyone-Is-Bankrupt thing has me stumped.

I don't know much about money, except that you have it and buy stuff, or you don't have it, and you don't buy stuff. Most of what I'm hearing these days is that not too many people in the world have that sense of what money is about.

I appreciate credit; but I've always assumed that "credit" is an amount that you KNOW will be paid back to you, or that you KNOW you CAN pay back. Not speculation. KNOW. Not a gamble. KNOW. But then, I hate gambling, whether it is for pennies or peanuts. Calculating odds has no hold on my mind at all, thank God it wasn't a course in university.

Anyway, the headlines are full of dropping stocks, and bankruptcies, and economists and politicians with their hair on fire, and all I could think of was how gas prices skyrocketed this past spring and summer, and now oil is going for 40 % less and so OPEC wants to cut back production -- or so I was told. If true, why didn't gasoline at the pump drop 40% also?

If the producers of oil want to rape and pillage, are the producers of wheat and corn far behind? And that will require the producers of beef and pork to follow suit, perhaps not to rape and pillage, but to keep dem profits rollin' in to the max?

What a world. Greed and profiteering make the world go 'round, and that abstract, unimportant factor of "other people" is dust under the stony wheels of $$$$$$$. At the top of the market, our house could have sold for about $550,000. Bernie sputtered when he saw the realtor's suggestion that we sell our house for that, and "upgrade."

"That's immoral," he said. "I would never do that."

Good for him. He was right. Mortgaging yourself out into the blue because of a falsely inflated market is a stupid thing to do. (Add in that none of us want to give up this total peach of a property due to comfort and location and amenities.)

Nevertheless, the times seem to be in doubt, and I did not -- did not -- panic and buy stuff at the grocer's, but did pad the larder just a bit ... just in case.

And maybe I'm not the only one. There were only five bags of unbleached flour on the shelf. Coincidence? Mebbe.


Have I ever mentioned in this blog how I hate the wind?

Every time we get a windstorm, I ask Bernie if I've ever told him how much I hate the wind. He changes the subject, because to encourage me in any way is to invite a diatribe on dust, and sinuses, and detritus blown onto the back patio to be tracked through the house.

(Note from an Editor, however reluctant a one: had I not put a comma after "sinuses", the implication would have been that I had sinuses blown onto the back patio and tracked into the house. Commas are really, really important.)

Yesterday and today were very windy, with gusts to 40 mph. That's 'Blows over the garbage can' mph. 'Ripped the sun-shade off the bedroom window and destroyed it' mph. And 'Drops a film of dust over every single thing' mph.

This evening, the wind is roaring in the trees in the neighborhood, a sound that makes my skin prickle and shudder. I'm wearing my favorite cotton knit jacket to stay comfortably warm -- not a hardship; after so many years it is as soft and sweet as a baby blanket. But it is in sharp contrast to yesterday, when I had to wear shorts to keep cool enough to be comfortable. But that's the temperature gradient that is responsible for the wind, and such is life.

I woke this morning around 4:30 am and couldn't go back to sleep; I tried, but kept twitching awake, and finally got up around 5:45 am. When it was reasonably light, and the wind was not in evidence, I put Howie's collar on him and went for a walk. Gloves would have been nice, as it was very chilly.

He's a happy, tired dog tonight, and it felt good to be able to walk in the morning light... before the wind.

Perhaps I'll pretend that the sound of the wind in the trees is the surf-sound at Cape Hatteras, and sleep in deep, happy peace.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Weekend, and Stuff

My black bamboo still looks pretty ratty after its spring adventure.

The bamboo resided in a terracotta pot until this past spring, when the plant's roots simply shattered the thing. Naturally it happened during a hot spell, and by the time we got it repotted into a half-whiskey-barrel, it was fair to middlin' dehydrated. That Bernie had to take an axe to it and chop off the bottom half of its roots didn't help much, either.

But this post isn't really about plants, it's about the season, and people.

Cooler weather has arrived, just in time for us to host a pot luck with three other couples. We try to get together for pot lucks every other week, but damn, life is busy for everyone all the time, and this past year was just a doozy. On Saturday, we were all free and met at our house.

Three of the kids had never been to our house before, and they were fascinated by the sound of Molly the macaw squawking from the interior of the house. Alex decided to bring out Molly's perch and let the kids admire her, and let Molly know what all the jolly sounds were about.

That lasted about three minutes -- and then Molly launched herself from the perch, and FLEW through the front room into the kitchen, circled the screaming, ducking adults, and then landed on John's arm quite daintily, very pleased with herself for the panic she caused.

Who knew that dirty bitch could fly? She never did before!

Yet the shared surprise and terror cemented the group in heart and soul, so the rest of the party was filled with laughter and comfort. The kids played nicely and noisily until well after dark, and the food was delicious (one couple brought a savory bean soup, and another roasted veggies, and the last one brought two enormous pies for dessert).

As always, after everyone had left, and the next day dawned, I felt a sense of loss. For more than a year after the first (and only, sad to say) Piker Press Writers Conference held here, I missed the Pikers so much that I dreamt about them almost every night. Ah, I should live in a commune, I guess.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Horse Is An Ass

An evil scientist removed my good horse's brain and replaced it with the brain of a wild jackass.

When I got up this morning, I had in mind a route for the morning ride. We'd go down to the apple orchards and get away from the almond harvesting, which is in full frantic mode trying to beat the big rainstorm allegedly heading this way.

Once we got underway, however, the path to the apple orchards was a no-go; the harvesting machines were working away in the almond orchard we'd have to skirt. We turned to the east, and rode along a paved road until we could hit an orchard road to go south again. We were halted on the south leg along the walnut orchard when a harvester zoomed out of the adjacent almond orchard, stirring up so much dust that we couldn't see through the cloud -- no way would the horses have walked through that murk.

We turned back, and headed north, paused to exchange shouted hellos to a man with another harvesting machine, and went on. It was at that point that Dink decided he was fed up with me trying to slow down his fast walk (the older horse with us was relaxed and wanted to take his time) and began to fight me.

Now it is a fact that he wasn't being REALLY bad; he just wanted to walk fast and get back to his breakfast. Or something. Maybe the pretty pinto filly who thinks he's a hunk. Maybe the safety of his paddock with this storm approaching.

He pranced. He tossed his head. He tried to shove himself into the other horse to hurry him up. He walked sideways, he growled, he puffed. As I told my husband after my shower, "I had to ride like I knew what I was doing."

Instead of just sitting on my fat butt in the saddle, gaping around at the scenery, I had to put my heels down, listen to what the horse was doing -- with my legs, not my ears, sit deeply and securely in the saddle, sit up straight and keep those reins under control.


After a while he figured out that I'm more stubborn than he is and settled down, and the last leg of the ride back to the ranch was at a quiet walk. He is a good horse, after all.

But my God, I'm tired tonight.

More momentous things happened today, but they will have to wait for tomorrow, or maybe next week. And I HAVE to get up the gumption to install Photoshop on this computer one of these days.