It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet.... As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye... ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn. ~Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Photos should have fragrance

I wish I could send the way it smelled when I stepped out the front door this morning.
The rain came, for a while, last night and kissed the earth with its moistness. We will take any amount we can get. This has been a desperate summer.  California is having a drought and even though it has happen before, it's always scary. We are at war with the powers that control and use water. We are conserving like crazy. It's even a status symbol to have a dirty car here, because you can show others how you don't even wash your car because that would be a frivilous use of water. I think it's an excuse for some folks who never washed their cars anyway... but it's another way to cut down on water useage.
This morning was so beautiful.
I walked out to the edge of the garden and just stood there... breathing in the wonderful combination of moist earth, cold air, Oaks, Manzanita, Toyon and my garden... the blend of fragrance, of place, of home.

I had a cataract removed last week and a new lens put in its place. Amazing what can be done. I mention this only so that I can tell you what a gift it is to be able to see the fog settle into the Mokelumne River canyon instead of remaining in my eye. The surgery took the fog away and now I can see my surroundings, drive at night and not mistake a road sign for a person. It's wonderful. My life, for a few weeks, will be about eye drops, not leaning over or lifting heavy things, and not coughing. But, I'm here to say that if you need this kind of surgery... don't hesitate. It's very easy and the results are astounding.

I've been walking. Every time I go for a walk, I look for some fuzzy dark movement in the corner of my eye. The Tarantulas should be moving around. It's their time to walk the earth looking for a mate, but over the years there have been less and less of them. I've looked everywhere... In the crevasses...the holes...
In the grassy ridge lines...
Among the garden rocks...
I've not found one Tarantula... anywhere. This is the second year without a sighting. This is sad.  "I find them to be fascinating creatures." she says... (Miss Arachnophobia). But these big, fuzzy spiders are different. They stay outside, for one thing. They don't sit in the bathtub... waiting for you... or go "Boo!" at you from the corners of your bedroom. They are upfront about their purpose in life and don't care about humans very much.
 I miss them.
Well, time to go drop more DROPS in my eye and fix some lunch. Take care.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Very Green Pear... a true story.

Last week when Sis and I went to the Art Is You workshop in Petaluma, part of the benefits for signing up  was a free lunch. Most days we had a lovely buffet lunch outside. The lines were long but the food was delicious.
But one day, for some reason, we all got a bag lunch. A sandwich, a bag of chips, a bottle of water and I also got ... a very green pear.
So we took our lunch, sat in the bar and watched a little golf, and ate our bag lady lunch for an hour. When I saw the pear, this very green pear, I decided to save it for another day... hoping it would be ripe in a day or two and I would enjoy this piece of fruit then. 
Well, I'm sure you can see where this is going. This morning I went to get my extra camera battery that I keep in a cloth camera bag. I reached into the bag and guess what? I touched something squishy, cold and rather disgusting.... and it wasn't green anymore. 
Yes... I forgot the very green pear for a whole week. Sometimes you just get so caught up in the joys of vacationing and having fun, that you forget about a small piece of fruit in the bottom of your camera bag... you forget that a very green pear doesn't stay that way when wrapped in a warm place for a long time.

Well, it did what a pear does when left to its own devices... it got ripe... really ripe... all over everything in the bag.
So... the pear took a fast trip to the compost.
And everything is being wiped off or washed.
Sometimes life gives you lemons...
Sometimes life gives you a rotten pear in the bottom of your bag.
And sometimes you don't get to make lemonade... or anything.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

deMeng Madness

Last Saturday morning sis and I dragged our tails to the shower, put some cloths on and went to breakfast  before our next workshop.
I highly recommend the buffet breakfast at the Sheraton Sonoma Hotel. The food is delicious and there's a  lot of fresh fruit, yogurt and granola.
Oh... and sweet rolls. This is a sample plate. Some mornings there was BACON, sometimes delicious potatoes with egg casseroles, scrambled eggs and always Starbuck's coffee or tea. Delightful way to start the day.
So... after breakfast we would return to our room, brush the teeth, grab our supplies and head for our workshop of the day. This one, on Saturday, was called Dreampunk Mask. Our fearless leader and instructor for this class is one Michael deMeng.

I don't know what it is about this man.
He looks like the average guy. He's very nice. He is an exceptional artist and he loves to teach...
But... he has this more sinister side and it comes out in his work. Before I tell you about his class I want you to go to this link.. and his Google images.  Take a good look at these images. This is what he does.... and I believe that inside this mild mannered person is a full blown. dead or alive, Alchemist... made of toy parts, paint and an insane brain function that transcends mortal man. He probably has all the "snips, snails and puppy dog tails" in there too, but mostly it's weird, demented de Meng stuff... done really well.
This is my second workshop with Michael and I believe that I have officially become one of his major fans. He is one cool artist and this class was more fun than a barrel of (reassembled and transformed) monkeys. When I find myself laughing out loud, because I just figured out how to paint "light" into a series of colorful layers of paint... I know I have learned something about art and myself.
This workshop was called Dreampunk Mask and we were asked to bring a mask of any kind, a product called Epoxy Clay, some acrylic paint and some brushes.
I found an inexpensive mask at a party store and I wanted to use the deer skull that a neighbor had given me. This is how it all started. This would be a mask to hang on the wall, not to wear.
After the mask was firmly attached to the skull... with Epoxy clay and tin foil...
I added some clay embellishments and brought this deer 'back to life'... in another form. I call it Revenge or "He who seeks those who destroy animals."
It's all about anthropomorphism and myth. In Jewish mythology  there exists a giant kind of stag creature by the name "Keresh". maybe this would be a good name for my mythical creature.
 In the story of Saint Hubertus (a Christian saint)  on Good Friday morning, when the faithful were crowding the churches, Hubertus joined a hunt. As he was pursuing a magnificent stag the animal turned and, as the pious legend narrates, he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix standing between its antlers, which gave him a change of heart that led him to a saintly life.
And then....Cernunnos, a god in Celtic mythology that possessed two deer antlers on the top of his head. He was known as The Horned One or The Horned God despite having antlers and not horns. Cernunnos is also known as The Stag Lord, The Horned God of the Hunt and The Lord of the Forest.
I like to think that these myths about deer are because they are such tranquil but strong creatures, with a look of nobility and pride. In Celtic mythology, the deer is a magical creature, able to move between the worlds. In Ireland, many tales have humans transformed into deer.
 And so, with these images in mind and the idea that this deer might want revenge for its death by other animals or humans, I chose to make my new creation a buck that would wreak some form of retaliation on others for its demise. (Oh my, that says something about me doesn't it?)
Yes, it's sinister and scary to think that every deer that is hit by a car or shot by a hunter will come back as a huge fiery monster that seeks revenge... but this is Art and the myth is mine.

I secured the mask to the skull with foil and epoxy clay and then started the process of building up the face and blending it into the antlers.
Can you see were the skull plates are connected to each other in the middle bottom of the photo? Isn't that a beautiful pattern? Nature is an intriguing complexity. There is always some amazing intricacy in forms that are not man made. Look again at the antlers. They're like a tree that grows out of its skin. Antlers are extensions of the skull grown by members of the deer family. Antlers are shed and regrown each year.
(My neighbor did not kill this deer. He found the deer already dead. We don't know the cause. "D" is a hunter and has killed other deer before... but only for the meat and always with great respect for the animal. I couldn't, personally, shoot and kill any animal. You do have a choice when you have an abundance of food available, as we do in this country, but that's not always the case and some folks have to find their own sources.)
Anyway, my feelings are known and I will move on to the artwork.
After we finished, we displayed the masks and Michael critiqued them.... always pointing out the best aspects of each one and ideas for improvement afterwards.
This mask was my sisters. She is showing how it's worn.
It was kind of a Pinocchio mask that she completely changed.
She put a small set of antlers on the top with some found dried grass for hair.
This is Big Bird at his most incomparable moment.

This artist went outside the classroom and found some dried twigs to use on her ladies mask. Then used some horns that she had ordered and shells to embellish. The most amazing and creative idea was the use of peacock feathers for the eyes.

I love her fingernails. Each was a different color.

This mask was a very simple mask that, with the use of epoxy clay, was recreated into this amazing creature.The mouth, eyes, nose and forehead were all built up out of epoxy clay. Great work.
She then used a thin "slip" (water and clay) to covered the whole mask. I love the wings for eyebrows.

Keep in mind that all of these faces were started with a plastic mask like my grandchildren would wear on Halloween. In Michael's information sheet he wrote, "Making masks is different than merely wearing them; it can be a process for artists to reveal what is veiled inside one's soul."
When I look at these... and especially when I look at mine... I think that man, or woman, has a definite "inner place" somewhere deep inside and whether myth or magic, it is in our abilities to believe what we choose, given the scope of our imagination.  Mr. deMeng says, "It is a strange art form that keeps secrets, but also simultaneously unearths hidden worlds. Oh, the irony."
Where do you think your "inner place" is? What is it like?  How do you express this in the real world?

Here are some photos of my mask taken after I got home. I don't feel any animosity from this mythical deer... but I will watch for any change of expression or movement on the livingroom wall.

A view underneath the mask. 

I would like to do more work on this mask. There are some transitions from the mask to the bones that I need to make. 
The dogs do not like it sitting on the front porch. They back away and growl... just like in a spooky movie. Maybe there is a deer spirit there. I will let you know how this plays out and if any odd occurrences come of it.
After all... Halloween is almost here.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"Creativity is a drug I cannot live without." ~G.B. Shaw~

Oh, did we have fun in "Chickaluma"... oops... I mean Petaluma... P-Town, Egg Basket, Egg Capital of the World. I guess that, historically, chickens were a big deal here. Petaluma is known for its chicken, egg and grain production. In 1879,  the egg incubator was invented by Lyman Byce right here. Chickens use to rule in this town... well, for the good of the humans anyway. It was big business. It's still a tourism attraction.
This was our hotel on highway 101 (taken from the marshland walking trail). It's a big blue and white hotel with a marina and some really beautiful boats floating around its edges.
That's highway 101 in the background.

This is the Alman Marsh...
To the south of the hotel are miles of converted wetlands that continue to San Pablo Bay, a tidal estuary that forms the northern extension of San Francisco Bay. So we not only learned all kinds of wonderful artistic things at this workshop, we also had a beautiful place to create them in.

This is what the hotel really looks like.
We had wonderful, RAINY weather with lots of sunshine in between.

This is the lobby of the hotel with our fearless leaders, Sallianne from Australia and Ellen from Connecticut, welcoming us and registering everyone as they arrived.
We came over from my sister's house on Wednesday afternoon, so we could be there on Thursday morning for our first class.

The first class was called Text & Textiles: Hand Stitched Story Squares. Our instructor was Jane LaFazio... take a look at her blog for more information on this textile artist.
We were taught how to make small squares of quilted fabric with text written by each of us. We were given a prompt, like "a childhood memory", and asked to spend three minutes writing something about this on a piece of cloth, with a fabric gel pen, which then would be incorporated into the small (about 3x3) quilted square. We did nine of these and each one was about a different aspect of our lives... ("What do you want to do with your life?", "What do you love?" or "Where were you the happiest?" etc.) and along with each square came a "gather round" at Jane's table, showing us a new fabric technique and a new embroidery stitch.

Then we would go back to our table and work on that piece of the quilt.
It was labor intensive, especially for me, because I don't quilt and I don't embroider. So it was a long learning curve and somehow... I ended up with eight, not nine, of them. But, I wasn't the only one.
At the end of the day, we laid them all out on a felt backing of our choice...
And, although most of them were not finished, we had a session of comments and kudos to show what everyone had done.
This was my sisters...lovely isn't it?

And this was mine... with a square missing. I still don't know how I missed a square, but I will add one more and practice my stitching on them all.
 Mine are my usual catty wompus, fully loaded, "what more can I add" creations, with most of the pins still holding everything together. I have some work to do.

Here are some close ups on other pieces, so you can see what one finished square is suppose to look like.
I don't see any writing on this one, above. Maybe she wasn't finished with it. There is still a pin holding things together. I feel better.
This one is very nice. 
I love the loose weave on top of the other fabric. She still has some stay stitching to do too. Now, I really feel better.
Some of these ladies really knew what they were doing with the stitching. But, in my defense, I now know the difference between a back stitch, a blanket stitch and a cross stitch. I also know how to make a French knot. Ta da!!!
We attached the pieces of fabric to a small ( again, approx. 3x3 ) piece of low loft batting. Then we added any embellishment that we wanted to. 
For me, this was a labor intensive class that taxed my ability to hand sew fabric, but I learned a lot and will hang this small quilt on my livingroom wall... as soon as I finish it. I need to start soon, before I forget all my new found stitching knowledge.
I'm hoping for something close to these... the examples...
I'm hoping for some semblance of order on my square piece of felt... something that looks like I knew what I was doing and that I learned something.

This was our view out of the window. That's a huge yacht floating in the water outside the classroom... HUGE and definitely sea worthy.
Some folks have some money...

On Friday we left the venue. We didn't sign up for any classes that day... on purpose. We choose to just have fun and go into town, eat lunch and shop... all day.
It was a beautiful day.
Petaluma is a cool town. Many buildings survived the 1906 earthquake, (Petaluma is just north of San Francisco.) so the old town is still filled with great architecture. The Petaluma River runs right up through town and they have a river walk behind all the buildings, along the river. The downtown Petaluma Historic commercial District  is a very pretty place and still has the old historic chicken processing plant and grain mill buildings that now house restaurants and businesses.
We walked down Petaluma Blvd. from the old Mystic theater to Washington St and back. We had to move the car three times because there was only a 2 hour limit on street parking. Never found a parking garage.

We hit the Halloween store...
and the sport shoe store... Two of our favorites from years past. We did more looking than buying but it was fun. We ate lunch and then found a beautiful yarn store right next door on Kentucky St. We also found one of those picture booths that you go inside of and have your photos taken. We decided to try it.
Good grief.. she actually stuck her tongue out. 
We did this twice (they cost $4.00 each time) and never did get both of our heads in the picture window frame together... but it was fun. I don't think that I have done one of these photos since I was a kid at Playland, on the beach in San Francisco. It's been a long time. Still, we laughed ourselves silly.
We ended up driving to the outlets, walking around until we were so tired that we just about died. Didn't buy much. I bought SOCKS... hey... important stuff. We picked up some salads at Trader Joe's and went back to the hotel, settled in with a pay per view movie and went to bed early. We needed a good night's sleep for our next class... Dreampunk Mask with Michael deMeng.
Just wait until you see what I did with the deer skull that my neighbor, Dennis, gave me and a cheap Halloween mask from the Party store.
Wild stuff... continued.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Being a bad blogger... for good reasons... kind of.

I meant to sit down and write. I certainly had enough to say... about friends, fires, pillowcases from blogging friends, emails from Montana. But... here I sat with this and that... always saying, "I will do a post tomorrow, the next day, this evening... sure did intend to write something ... I just don't know what happen. Well... yes, I really do... last week anyway.
A few weeks back I got an email from my friend Dawn, who lives in Michigan. She said she was going to be out here, with her husband, for a visit and could she come and see me. This turned into the biggest reunion you can imagine. We had not seen each other since we were 16 years old. It's a very long story about how we found each other again after all these years. You can find it here.
So in the hottest part of summer, with the huge King fire to the north of us and my drought ridden garden looking like it was just about to lose its battle with Mother Nature... Dawn arrived. I had replaced some bedding plants, made up the sofa bed, planned a few dinners, had a long talk with the dogs about their good behavior (she was bringing her dog with her.) and I stuck this sign on the screen door.
Her husband dropped her off. He waited in the RV while she yelled "Where the heck are you, Connie Mae." and then she made a big scene... crying and everything. My goodness... it had only been 55 YEARS.
We hugged and cried... then hugged and looked at each other... and hugged and cried more. Two old ladies, with a lot of life and distance between them, finally after all those years, seeing each other again. It was quite something.
Dawn is still the pretty, tall, opinionated, noisy person that attracted me to her when I was a little girl. Well... when we were little I was taller than her. I was shy, she was confident. I was afraid to get on the bus and go to school on the first day of first grade and she came over to me, at the bus stop, and asked me if I wanted to sit with her. That was the beginning of a fun and wild friendship.
In Junior High School her parents got a divorce and by the time we were heading for High School she left to live with her mom and brother in another town. I visited her once or twice... maybe more. We had some wild times. Too much so. My mom found out just how much fun we were having (a letter found in my room) and she told me that I couldn't go visit Dawn anymore. When I told Dawn, she got really angry and we had a very bad "parting of the ways". In the next few years we just let go of each other and even though I looked for her over the years, I never found her. She married and had a different last name. I did too.

We spent last week catching up. We talked all day and into the night. It's a good thing that the Prospector was gone on a fishing trip with friends. We would have driven him nuts.
First thing we did was make sure that the dogs were OK with each other. Little lady, Mugs, was not about to let Carl push her around.
She established her territory early on and let Carl and Cutter know that, under no circumstances were they to get up on the recliner with his Dawn.
Mugs told my dogs, in no uncertain terms, that this was her person and this would be her chair while she was here.
She was always ready for the camera... a star was born.

There were some tense moments but all in all, the relationship between the dogs went well enough that
 Mugs finally relaxed, curled up and took a nap.

The first day Carl watched some TV , like he usually does, but never moved from his position near Mugs. He was very nonchalant about it all. He always made sure that everything was under control and kept a watchful eye on her.
After he realized that Mugs wasn't going to cause trouble, or leave, he move himself to the couch and sat there watching Mugs with that regal "I'm in charge." look.

Cutter spent a lot of time right next to me.
 Then, he followed Mugs around ... like a puppy dog. I think he was in love.

We had a great week.
I showed Dawn what was left of our beautiful Mokelumne River and she even posed for a picture... the only one.
It was kind of sad that this was all I could show her of a river as majestic as the Mokelumne.
...the drought has taken its toll.

We spent one day in Sutter Creek. Had lunch and looked at all the stores and galleries. Most of the stores were closed. Business is not very good right now. There were signs in the windows of some shops saying that they were closed because of... lack of people, slow business and sales.
We had lunch and then hit the ice cream store.
Oh that Root Beer float was so good.
We bought some fudge. We ate fudge for dessert that night.
Dawn just lost 60 pounds. she looks so good. I think she may never speak to me again. But, we sure enjoyed the fudge.

One day we went to Walmart. We both had things to buy. My chickens need their scratch. They stop laying if they think that I'm not taking care of them like the Prospector does. Even a chicken can get an attitude.

At some point Dawn broke her glasses, so we went to an eye clinic in Sutter Hill.
That is when we noticed the cloud. I knew it had something to do with the fire but it wasn't until we got up on Ridge Road that we saw this huge cloud clearly.
I stopped twice to take some images of this massive Pyroclumulus cloud that was being produced by the King fire. Check this out. Massive, scary and getting bigger as we watched it.
It's one of those "worlds coming to an end" images, with smoke and clouds that you only see over a huge fire. It was actually creating its own weather. Amazing, and beautiful. 
We stopped a few times along the ridge. So were other folks. It was a sight to see.
We are about 30 miles from Placerville and the fire was northeast from there. It started in Pollock Pines on highway 50. They have arrested someone for arson.
We drove up to the Jackson Ranchera Casino. It was very busy. (Doesn't anyone work for a living anymore?) We had confined the dogs together in the backyard for quite a while. I thought that we should go home... so we didn't go into the casino and we didn't loose any money.
We drove home and spent another evening talking about our families and living in Pleasant Hill, CA. in the 50's and 60's . It was a great place to grow up.
On Thursday we stretched the day out until it was late afternoon and she had to go. Her husband asked if I could meet him down at the Walmart parking lot. He had gone to visit with his daughter in Alameda. Guess my steep, dirt road was a little intimidating for his RV. on that first trip up, so I drove Dawn and Mugs down town. They had to be in Modesto the next day and wanted to get there before dark.
We hugged and hugged... and she started crying. she cries a lot... but that's OK. 
I told her to text me along the way. She did.
They are heading back to Michigan now, with little Mugs. I think they did an awful lot of driving, but they saw lots of family and Dawn and I got to connect with each other again. That was huge!!
Whats the poem..

Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.
New-made friendships, like new wine,
Age will mellow and refine.
Friendships that have stood the test-
Time and change-are surely best;
Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray;
Friendship never knows decay.
For 'mid old friends, tried and true,
Once more we our youth renew.


I hope to go visit Dawn next Fall. We won't lose each other again.

(I'm leaving tomorrow for a week. Sis and I are going to Art Is You in Petaluma. This is our annual creative workshop we always do together.  I will have lots of photos and stories when I get back and some pillowcases to tell you about.)