Friday, November 12, 2010

Ignore That Mess Behind the Curtain...

If that title makes you think of The Wizard of Oz, then you and I are now on the same wavelength for a few minutes! Don't be scared, it's not you that's a little warped, your mind just veered a bit because I dangled the Emerald City on the end of a stick. Oh, but I do love to watch "The Wizard of Oz," and I do love the man behind the curtain and his all too human attempt to control his world!

What is this "mess" that you are supposed to ignore? I'll tell ya. It's all the junk and overgrown patches of weeds in the spot that tried to be my garden this year. The spot isn't to blame for my shortcomings, though, in case you're wondering. I put out the garden. I made mistakes. I neglected things when I didn't know what to do with them. Now that Jack Frost off'ed the last of the atomicblasthardy cherry tomatoes, it's time for me to clean up, clear out, and generally put things to bed for the winter. The wheelbarrow with tiny pebble rock that I moved from one place and didn't get to another place has to be emptied. The fire ring that had to be relocated so we can have a nice apron and drive to the new pole building has to be tidied and filled in anticipation of a good burn day. All the makeshift stakes and mini-umbrellas have to be picked up and put away for re-use next year. The stray plastic hand tools that were made to withstand weather deserve a wipe and a dry spot in the shed. That's the mess behind the curtain.

See, the mess is just the backdrop for this trip to see the wizard. Honestly, I'm not sure why I got off on the tangent of Emerald Cities and Wizards! What I was thinking about is cleaning up my mess and having a little fun, too. This past summer, I gathered wishes from friends and family on Facebook and then gave those wishes a real world send-off into the Universe. One time, I wrote everyone's wishes on great long scraps of paperboard left from the building crew when they put up our new shed. Then, I rolled the scraps and burnt them, watching the wishes turn to ash and spread into the sky. Another time, I wrote wishes on leaves and let them fly away on the breeze. This time, I'm going to gather wishes and dreams and requests from everyone, use markers to color them onto a dead branch that needs to be burnt, and then put that branch into the fire (after it rains! we're much to dry here to be burning leaves and branches and such right now).

So, you wanna join me? What's your wish? Do you have a request for someone else? Would you like to just have your name thrown into the pile and say your wish silently to yourself? Whatever you'd like to do, you're welcome to join! Please, leave a comment so I know what to add for you... and everyone who reads it will be virtually joining hands with you and extending your wish!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

Well, Veterans Day has come and almost gone without me putting much pen to paper. Here's my blurb for Facebook today, short but sincere:

Because a veteran has seen the things he has seen, my visions are possible. Because a veteran has done the things she has done, my to-do lists are filled with things that can be freely done. Because veterans have given their lives, I can have my life. Because veterans have fought, I am free to spread peace. Thank you. That's hardly enough, but I'm not sure you could ever be repaid enough.

My father-in-law, a man I never met, served in the Army just after WWII. He brought home another Angie from Germany and started a family. My paternal grandfather, another man I never met, joined the service during WWI. My uncles, four of them, did their stints in the military during Vietnam-- a Duncan who spent his Army gig in the U.S., a Duncan who re-upped with the Marines at least once, and two Greers in the Army. In the Garren family, my husband's brother is a chaplain in the Air Force, a man whose daughter served, a man whose two sons-in-law served/serve.

So, I've known veterans, but that's about the extent of my military knowledge. When recruited by the ROTC guys at Murray State, I gave a non-interested kid's flippant response. I didn't like green, and I didn't want anyone telling me where to live. Yeah... that wasn't my best moment, but I had no clue at the time. Thank goodness there were other people who did understand and did take on the responsibility!

Today, we went to the Veterans Day Parade in Germantown, a town just a few miles down the road from here. It was awesome, and by "awesome," I mean smack your forehead and say Duh AWESOME. The younger military people deserve much thanks, but it was the faces of the older veterans that really drove the point home to me. The saying goes that all gave some and some gave all. After some reflection, I'm convinced that All gave All. It doesn't matter how they got into the uniform (happenstance, circumstance, or Uncle Sam grabbed them by the seat of the pants), once in uniform, they gave every second of their life to their country. Oh, sure, they had leaves and furloughs, but they were still on Liberty's clock. Wives and girlfriends waited. Children grew taller and taller each month. Parents grew older. No one gets to turn back time, but it seems to me those guys should've gotten the chance in exchange for what they did. Then, when their time in the service was finished, the "lucky" ones who came home on their own two feet and not in a casket were given the privilege of picking up where they'd left off as if nothing had happened. For the most part, I think that's what they did, too. For the most part, they didn't complain about it, either. AWESOME. Yes, that's the word:


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Well, Flock It All, I Never Thought about It That Way :)

Ever hear someone complain about flocks of noisy birds disturbing the peace and leaving mondo poops everywhere? Of course, you have. I know I've shoo'ed away seagulls in grocery store parking lots, and I've tooted the car horn at massive flocks of blackbirds chattering in an empty field. Maybe those seagulls were confused by the Long John Silver's restaurant and thought they really were seaside, I don't know. I do know I have only a vague idea why I would be bothered by big gangs of vagabond birds.
I was much too much of a scaredy cat to ever have watched more than a clip from an Alfred Hitchcock film, so flashbacks of birds pecking out eyes and such can't be to blame. Quite possibly, the bird poop is at the root of the distaste we seem to have for big groups of blackbirds, seagulls, or pigeons. Duh-- that has to be the reason when the birds congregate in towns or cities where people will have to walk around the poops.
But is there a good reason for me to look with distaste on a flock of blackbirds in the field?
Now, that probably sounds like a stupid question, and I know there are smart answers having to do with some birds threatening other birds, etc.
What makes me ask the stupid question, then?
It's like this: I was sitting in the living room earlier this afternoon, trying to stay out of the sunshine because my eyes were still a little dilated after an eye exam. Suddenly, the sunlight slanting across the other side of the room started wavering and quivering. My first thought was that my eyes really had gone bad! That couldn't really be the problem, though, so maybe we were having an earthquake? That could happen, but it wasn't very likely to be the culprit since I didn't feel anything quivering and shaking. So what was happening?
It was blackbirds, flocks of them, flying across the sky. Keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut, I stepped out the doors and onto the upper deck (the kiddos call it our "sky deck") to watch the birds. It was like watching waves breaking and curling in the sky. The ones that settled in the trees at the back of the yard looked like so many flecks of pepper on the trees. The noise fills the air, not at thunderous levels but definitely fills the space.
It's really a spectacular sight if you view it without preconceived notions.
Blackbirds, I think I might not dislike you so much.
I'm not sure I can say I like you,
but you're not so bad.
P.S. Dear Seagulls at the Beach,
You are at least on the right track, since the lake is a bit bigger than a puddle... I do like to watch you!
P.P.S. Dear Seagulls in the Parking Lot,
Stop begging for fries when I happen to eat my lunch in "your" parking lot!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Who? Me?

Heehee... guess that was false advertising, since I'm not sure I have a good Katie story to tell you that you haven't already heard. You know the caption fits the picture, though, especially with those wings!
Did you hear about the ghost hunting she did this summer with her friends? They were all around the house, inside and out, with their pretend ghost detector gadgets (old cell phones, toy calculators, whatever was handy). One pleasant afternoon when the windows were open and the wind was blowing, they walked through the downstairs just in time for the wind to blow James' door shut with a loud bang. You should've heard them scatter!
That's all I've got for you this morning. It's time to drink the coffee, wake up the kids, get all of us dressed, and get out the door in time to drop them off and make my own way to school. Yesterday was my first day as a teacher aide in a local school's pre-kindergarten class, and it was fun! Better run for now! Have a terrific Friday!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yoooohoooooo, Jack! You Forgot Something!

Dear Jack Frost,
Please be advised that remnants of your laundry were left hanging on my clothesline. If it weren't for the fact that I might need that clothespin if I hang out all the wash on a single day, then I'd let you slide on this. Unfortunately, I have D.W.C.S. (Don't Waste Clothespins Syndrome) and cannot abide spurious use of clothespins.
Dear Ang,
Please forgive Jack's lack of oversight. Details tend to get lost in the freeze-everything-you-can-before-the-sun-comes-up shuffle. You do like the colors on this leaf, though, don't you? I mean, it was all sparkling and crystalline and flashy and blingy in a "kissed by Jack" kind of way, wasn't it?? Not that Jack requires your approval or anything.
Now, be a good girl, and explain to Jack this D.W.C.S. in more detail. I, uh, Jack must know more!
Jack Brrrrr Frost
Dear Jack,
It all started when I was a kid. My sister and I often had to hang clothes on the line when our mother was doing laundry. I'd hang out a basket. She'd hang out a basket. Sometimes, we'd both work on the same basket. Anyway, all four lines would be filled by the end of the day. There would be no room to spare, so you had to work in a meticulous manner. Okay, so not much I do could be described as "meticulous." Fine. You had to pay attention to detail, though, or you'd run out of room on the line before you finished! Oh, and clothespins! You had to creatively engineer the hanging of the last few batches of clothes, otherwise you'd run out of clothespins before you finished!
White clothes are the most clothespin intensive, by the way. Socks, socks, and more socks will deplete the clothespin stash quicker than you can say "Frost my ankles, and freeze my knees!" You have to make sure no sock hangs alone. In fact, if you can squeeze three socks under one pin, you're on the right track. Underwear is a similar story. Besides the fact that no one wants to flash their drawers like so many flags on the line, there is also the fact that drawers tend to be almost as plentiful as socks. Panties, schmanties, you better hang those babies up two to a single clothespin! Those tighty-whities might need more airspace if they're very large, but you get a feel for these things after a while.
T-shirts are a whole story unto themselves, Jack. If you hang them by the corners at the tail, you can connect a bunch in a row by overlapping the corners slightly so that a single clothespin catches corners of two shirts at a time. This means less than two clothespins per t-shirt! However, this has its drawbacks, as the tails of the shirt tend to stretch and cause mega-weird clothespin-ghost tracks when you take the shirt off the line. Same thing will happen if you overlap them at the shoulder seams, too, except the stretch is not as bad if the shoulder seams happen to be reinforced. It took much experimenting as a child, as well as a goodly amount of experimenting as an adult, to figure out the least noticeable spot for clothespin-ghost tracks is under the arms. It goes without saying, too, that you must continue to overlap these parts of a t-shirts in order to cut down on the required number of clothespins!
Jeans and pants require judicious use of pins, too, you know. Don't waste two clothespins to a single leg of lightweight khakis because you're going to need those pins for all the jeans. Denim is kind of heavy when it's wet, in case you didn't know. (Jeans zippers are also kind of hard to zip and unzip when wet, too, but that's another story about Opryland and high school senior trips that we can save for another time... well, just know you shouldn't ride the log flume *before* you go to the bathroom... otherwise, you might find yourself borrowing enough money from a loanshark classmate to buy yourself an extra-long t-shirt...)
Sheets, towels, and blankets take up the most space on a clothesline, but they are the easiest to manage, with one caveat. Do not drag them across the yard while someone might be watching. That's all I can say about that.
So, Jack, I guess you can see now that D.W.C.S. is often rooted deeply in the brain, or at least, it is ingrained at an early age. Not that it really matters in the grand scheme of backyard activities, but now you know!
P.S. I am sorry you tripped on all the weeds in the garden. I find it best to balance the D.W.C.S. with a healthy dose of willful neglect in other areas :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wanna Walk?

Come on, let's walk side by side through the late afternoon. We can talk about the weather, or we can talk about our "whether or nots," or we can walk in silence.

We're on the low side of the Carlyle Lake Dam right now, on a Nature Trail by the side of the road. The trees are so tall, reaching up and up, forming a cathedral under the bluest sky.

Now, lean against this tall maple goddess of a tree, and look up into the fading green canopy of leaves. It's dizzying and awe-inspiring, all at the same time, isn't it?
Did you feel the shaggy bark as you leaned back against her? I did, and I told her "thank you" for letting me enjoy the view at the expense of a few pieces of bark that crumpled when I moved.
Cottony clouds float along the bluest sky ever, whispering secrets to the treetops.

Isn't it funny how thorny situations can stay at the back of your mind for such a long time? Walking with you makes me loosen up, makes me think I can talk about anything, even those thorny situations... Maybe I won't talk about anything in particular, but I know you will listen while we walk. That is a good feeling.

Or maybe, this tree is in our path today because it symbolizes something larger than our problems. Maybe we are meant to think about crowns of thorns and prophets and philosophers?

Look. I think it's a reminder to cross bridges when you come to them. Don't worry so much about the bridge until you reach it, or you might miss the sights and sounds which build up to it.

Standing here with you, listening to the breeze through the drying leaves, watching for birds flitting here and there, I feel peaceful and happy. Even a dead branch seems beautiful in this frame of mind.

Of course, it's always true for me that driftwood and dead branches and such have an impressive beauty, but it's not always that I connect that to the beauty of the circles of life.

Who really needs to say anything in a spot like this? I'll put my hand on your shoulder and thank you for sharing this with me.

There's part of the dam. Our trail is coming to an end. The sign at the beginning asked us to take nothing and leave only footprints, or I would be tempted to make a bouquet of delicate dry weeds and seeds.

Goodbye, Trail.
May each of us who walk you come away with a sense of calm and belonging.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Can You Hear Her?

This is Annie Marshall's grave.
Annie lived and died over a hundred years ago, but her story lingers, thanks to the haunting strains of a violin that some say can be heard at midnight.
Annie was eleven years old when diptheria killed her.
Annie probably gets quite a few visits from the curious living souls this time of year. I can tell you from personal experience that walking up to Annie in the daylight, or in the dusk, is a strangely compelling experience. I can't tell you what it's like to walk up to her at midnight and hear the strains of violin music, though. Never have done that one yet.
You know what I think about when I walk the loop that comes past Annie? I imagine a real little girl, a practically homeless and oft neglected girl spending lots of her after-school time flitting around the graves and mausoleums near Annie. Can't you just imagine the thoughts of such a little girl, if she existed?
That's Annie. She's my friend. She don't talk much, but neither do I. We kind of like it that way. She done give me so many of them little bears of hers, I couldn't never not call her my friend.
I been wishing I had a dress like that, but Annie says she'd rather have some jeans and a t-shirt like mine. She didn't know little girls ever wore anything except dresses! Come to think of it, she didn't know little girls could ever be wandering around outside any time they please, either.
I like coming here. It's safe here where nobody can reach out and grab you. Ain't nobody trying to tell me to get outta the way. Ain't nobody making fun of my hair or talking about my mama's boyfriends. Shoot, ain't nobody here at all most days. And when they do come here, they's always whistling or singing to themselves, so I hear 'em and hide.
There's some good hiding spots over there by that stone house thing. Annie says there's dead people's bodies in there, but I don't care. I do wish they'd open their door and let me see inside sometime or another.
I hear my mama hollering for me. Shhhhhhh... don't you tell no one you seen me here. It's our secret. You, me, and Annie. Our secret.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tooooooooo Spooooooooooooky for Halloooooooween?

This is too spooky for words, my friends. This 'fraidy cat to beat all 'fraidy cats has come to a decision. I am no longer afraid of the dark. Ghosts, apparitions, aliens, and strange unidentified creatures can rest easy now, knowing that I feel no need to rid the world of them. It's Halloween, and all that scares me is. . . humans.

If the ghost of my Grandma or my Granny could appear and give me a real hug, then I would revert to my old fears because that would mean bad spirits could also touch me. It hasn't happened yet, even though I've wished for it so many times in my life. So, that's it, in a nutshell. It sure took me a long enough time to figure out this one!

Whatever scares you, try looking at it from a different angle. You might still be scared, but who knows? You also might chip away at the fear, creating a new handhold for courage.

That's my Halloween thought for the day. It's certainly not spooky in the conventional way, but sometimes "a-ha!" moments regarding real life sneak up on us and spook our brain with their uncanny appearance :) Hope all of your tricks have been balanced with lots of treats this Halloween! Nighty-night!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lessons in Life

Lesson #4,742:
Well, actually, this could be Lessons #4,742-4,746 or so. This picture brings to mind a bunch of different little blurbs.
For instance, Lesson #4,742 could indeed be that oak trees do not care whether (or when) other trees have changed colors. Oak trees are apparently stubborn like that. They will also hold on to their leaves long after the poplars are bare and the pines have shed beaucoup needles.
This observation leads to Lesson #4,743: Don't worry about raking the yard until all of the trees have lost their leaves. The poplars were losing them so quickly that the ground I had just raked would be covered again in an hour. I put away the rake. I'm waiting.
Lesson #4,744: If you sit under an oak in autumn, then you should not be surprised when an acorn falls on your head. Ask Katie. She knows from personal experience. She said it didn't hurt, so I don't feel so bad telling you it was actually funny to watch... exactly like a cartoon scene, it was.
Lesson #4,745: Frost is beautiful, but it is not easily captured in a photograph. I know. This was supposed to be a stunning photograph of a frosted leaf sparkling in the morning sunlight. Ha.
Corollary to #4,745: Don't forget to put down the darn camera and actually look at what you're attempting to capture. Otherwise, you're going to miss a lot of beautiful tidbits from Nature! The sparkles were spectacular in person, by the way.
Lesson #4,746: If you mess around too long writing your blog, instead of straightening the house as you planned, you may run out of time.
Corollary to #4,746: Ain't no corollary, really. I just need to say I better finish up here and zoom through the house one time! Bet I won't get to come back from the Fall Festival stuff and clean up before Parade time, and then family is coming to spend the night (and hopefully not look at the dust I let grow this week!). Have a terrific Halloween weekend, Everyone!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Squiggly Lines and Half Moons

Always, the moon is a drawing force upon my soul.
That squiggly branched dead tree in the backyard is, too. It may not pull me the way the moon does, but that tree makes me fall in love with it every time I look out the back windows.
The other night, I was walking back to the house from the shed. My feet stopped at the tree, even though I try not to stand under it when the wind is blowing. Before I realized what I was doing, my hand laid itself upon a flat part of the trunk where a branch had once been. It was the same motion as someone resting their hand on a loved one's heart. So instead of a tree hugger, does this make me a tree patter?
I also happen to be a tree watcher. This one has a few different woodpeckers who treat it like their very own buffet, as well as plenty of sparrows and a stray goldfinch or two who drop in to rest on a favorite tall branch. Exotic birds and pet birds will catch my eye, but my true love is simply observing whichever wildbirds are near me. Hummingbirds at my mom's feeders, sandhill cranes in the fields near my parents' home, blue jays in the tall trees along the ditch at the back of our yard, hawks on light poles, and even turkey vultures resting on a neighbor's split rail type fence. . . those are my delights. Just like the squiggly tree, their adornments seem subtle but fascinating.
Hmmm. I'm not sure how that all ties in with the moon, although Luna is the retiring and shy counterpart to the blazing sun if you think about it.
Anyway, just a little rambling to go wiggle its way into your brain, just like the squiggly branches are always wiggling their way into mine!
Have an awe-inspiring Friday!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Staring into the Eyes of God, or Why Artists Need Time to Waste

I will now cop to spending an hour one afternoon this past summer taking pictures of this praying mantis that graced the front sidewalk. It was obviously a "she," and she was moving very slowly, as praying mantises are wont to do, even when they aren't as pregnant as she appeared to be. Besides having a huge abdomen, she was also one of the longest mantises I remember ever seeing. She was gorgeous, all subtle brown tones and elegantly armored. How could I not run for the camera? She had beautiful patterns on her gently folded wings, and the colors were so intriguing.
Here's where more practical people (or people who are gainfully employed at "real" jobs) snort and mutter something about wishing they had time to take pictures of bugs. . . and I understand why, I really do. Why do you think I waited to write this until I found out I have a full-time, outside the home, job lined up? Being a stay-at-home mom and artist is a job, but one with leeway to do things that people on the clock for the man don't have. Often, other people only see the leeway and forget about the 24/7 responsibilities and the fact that a stay-at-home parent never clocks out and leaves the job. Maybe that's too much of a tangent off of today's discussion, but believe me, it is something that crosses your mind when you're enjoying the perks of that position.
Anyway, we were talking about wasting time taking pictures of bugs, weren't we? Soon as I finished following this one around the front sidewalk, I came inside and googled "praying mantis." It has always seemed entertaining to me that insects who eat other insects would be called praying mantises when they are actually preying, but then I do love a good play on words! The "praying" obviously comes from the folded front claws and the meditatively slow movement of these creatures. In fact, one description of them likened looking into their eyes to "staring into the eyes of God."
Staring into the eyes of God is an excellent metaphor for my interaction with this praying mantis. Far as this spiritual mutt can tell, God and Nature and the Forces of the Universe are all intermingled in such a way that even this former athiest is awed by the magnitude of power embedded in all that is life. What I wish you could see in the pictures I took is the incredible depth in the eyes. It was like looking into a clear marble with millions of translucent layers, practically endless.
It took me a while to come to the conclusion that it was worthwhile to spend the last hour of that afternoon in that way, observing and contemplating with no specific goal. A long time ago, before I'd read as many bits and pieces of books about art and spirituality and such, another glass melter told me there are people who think artists fulfill the duties and responsibilities of shamans in our modern culture. If that is the case, then who better suited than the creative soul to observe, experience, and pass along the wonders of nature to the souls who don't have the leisure to do the mundane footwork? It seems appropriate that we would all have something to contribute. The people with the technical skills dedicate their time and energy to building us homes, making our tools, sewing up our wounds. . . why shouldn't those of us with a different set of time constraints be obligated contribute what we are able to glean from our interactions with nature?
Oh, and all this speculating and pontificating does not mean that people with "real" jobs aren't creative or don't enjoy nature. That's not it, at all. Many people make those things their priority during time away from work. Many people find ways to integrate the soulful with the practical. All I'm saying is that maybe artists aren't merely "wasting" time when they do things like spend an hour staring into the eyes of God, take a day to research and interpret background information for their projects, and allow their brains time to incubate ideas while physically occupying themselves with mindless tasks. Many times, those "insignificant" actions will result in a time shortcut to education or momentary enlightenment for another individual. Making those moments more accessible for everyone adds so much to our overall quality of life, don't you think? I think so, and I think that I will work harder to make other people aware of that, no matter which side of the got-time-to-waste side of the fence I am living on!
So, go ahead. "Waste" some time when you can. . . and I will thank you for it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When It's All Said and Done

When it's all said and done, I guess the thing that attracts me to these older gravestones is the intrigue, the mystery, the stories. Time has worn them, but it hasn't erased them completely.

Who was lain to rest here? Pauper or prince? Does it matter now?

Memories upheld, bolstered by more memories.

Is it sad, or is it simply the results of time's march?

How can you not wonder about the connections this human had to other humans? How can you not wonder whether this person's life has touched yours by some series of connections?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What's Locked Up in Your Head?

If it wasn't protecting some family's old mausoleum in the graveyard, I'd be looking for a way to pick it. Okay, so I wouldn't really do it, don't even have a clue how to do it, but I most certainly would wonder about it! Seriously, I wonder how long it's been since anyone pushed those doors back, sneezed at the mustiness inside, and greeted their ancestors' remains with a faint "hello"?
What parts of the life of a family remain hidden behind those doors? Are all the generations gone, leaving behind no one to care about whether or not that door can be opened? Are there children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live too far away to even know that lock is frozen? Are there people who could try to unlock it but choose not to do it?
What is locked up behind those doors?

Pondering these locks and their rustiness, I make the leap to pondering all the things we lock up inside our heads, hoping the locks rust shut, hoping the concrete doors are too heavy to heave with our shoulders. Obviously, that sort of pondering could get very dark, very quickly... but that's not exactly where I'm going with this train of thought. I'm thinking in terms of the parts of us that could be good, except we're too afraid of them to let them come into the light of day.

How many times do we bar parts of ourselves from being seen by others? How many times do we close up our dreams and longings and aspirations so that no one else can see them? Is it because we are afraid we won't be able to live up to the potential we have in ourselves?

I think so.
I know so.

We don't have to tell each other about all of those potentials, but when we do, we often find success is not as improbable as we think. Amazingly, the people who know and love us are often able to see straight through our concrete doors, with no need to pick the lock. What we think we have secured so well is not as hidden as we'd like to believe.

It seems that with all this talk of "concrete," I should give you a concrete example of something locked up in my head, instead of dancing around abstracts, right? Well, I'm not so sure I can really do it. There are great potentials hidden in me, just like there are in you, that will never even peek through a crack in the door because I am scared to throw myself into life without a safety net. From what I have seen in other people, though, the better you are at throwing yourself into the abyss without worrying about where you'll land, the more you can achieve in life.

And because I know that is true, I tell you about one potential (and it's conjoined fear) that lurks in my head, waiting for me to get the courage to unlock it. It's about writing. Gaaaaaaaawd, I love words, always have and always will. I remember writing Composition 101 essays at the breakfast table in college (this was long before assignments were ever expected to be anything but handwritten). . . my comp class was an 8 or 8:30 a.m. one. The inspiration would hide from me all night, and then finally make a splendid leap onto the paper in the morning. Higher classes required longer papers and more preparation, of course, but it was basically the same story. Once I found the inspiration, the words flowed well. Nowadays, I write Facebook status lines, and sometimes they are eloquent little blurbs and descriptions (and sometimes not). I write short blog entries like this one. When the flow hits me, I love it! It's why I write again (and again and again and again) in hopes of finding it one more time. So, that's the potential.

Here's the fear: exactly what do you make of writing like that? how do I ever turn it into a book? is there anywhere to take it, when it's basically limited to short venues? there are tons of inspirational writers, why aspire to be one more? how do I ever make an essay into something more than an essay? is there any point to it?

And that's where I am on that particular monster lurking in my head. Funny thing is, at least one of you has seen it without having a key to the rusted lock! I am so grateful for that, and I intend to pass along the kindness as often as I can. Writing this is one way. At least I hope it speaks to someone somewhere along the line and encourages them to let us see what's locked up inside their head. Chances are, we've already seen it in you and can't wait for the opportunity to cheer you on toward your dreams!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

How Do Thunderbirds Speak?

How do thunderbirds speak?
Well, if it's extremely early in the morning, then this one speaks through a less than perfect photograph. I may have the urge to write again, but I know better than to try to get out the camera and disturb the rest of the sleeping household, ya know! I'd also like to go outside on the upper deck and look at the clouds covering our part of the sky like a downy blanket. Once again, though, I know better... the hound-doggies in the neighborhood have gone to sleep, and far be it from me to awaken sleeping children OR quietly slumbering puppies :)

So, what you see is what you get for photos of this thunderbird right now. That doesn't mean we can't talk (make that "whisper" and "tap the keyboard a little less noisily") about it right now, though! Technically speaking, this bead was melted out of dark ivory and coral colors of glass. That thunderbird design was done with thin stringers of coral glass. Gravity helped me with the contours of the bead itself, playing and pulling the glass around the rod as I thought of old pottery and beadwork.
Something else was on my mind, too, as I turned the mandrel and meditated. Could I use this pared down thunderbird symbol? I seem to have no problem making Buddhas, even though I'm not a Buddhist. I love to use Chinese inspired themes, and even though I'm a spiritual mutt who thinks the Tao comes pretty close to summing up my thoughts, I'm not Chinese. I adore making Madonnas (the Mother Mary, Queen of Heaven, not the pop star), even though I don't call myself a Christian. I love religious art, and it inspires my creativity! I try to let the glass tell me what it wants to be, but part of why that works is that I fill my brain with all sorts of material and images from the world's religions and cultures. Am I misappropriating someone else's culture and beliefs when I do that, though? I don't feel as if I am, I feel as if I'm honoring and connecting with another part of the world.
But if you look at it from the other side of the images/ideas, maybe it does make me a bit of an interloper. It's a fine line, if you ask me. It's a line I've thought about many times. Most of those times, I choose to use my inspiration and let it flow because I tend to think my intentions are good. When it comes to Native American inspiration, I have trouble doing that because I've read the other side of the story. I have a tiny book filled with pictures of Zuni fetishes, such intriguingly pared down shapes. The book mentions counterfeiters who sell fetishes to the detriment of the Zuni artists who attempt to make a living sculpting fetishes based on their culture. I've read an incredible book/conversation with Lame Deer, even keep it handy because I like to re-read snippets that resonate with my own beliefs. When you look up "Lakota spirituality," though, you are almost certain to come upon warnings about charlatans who don't belong to the tribe but try to sell themselves as "medicine men." You find admonishments that the Lakota way is cultural, and only members of the culture can claim it. Can you really argue with it?? This continent was wide open and land "belonged" to no one until our European ancestors came. I am thankful for my country, and I can't go back in time and stop change... but I can also see "progress" from the perspective of those whose world became smaller as it filled with settlers from other lands.
All of which brings me to my measley little glass thunderbird. In the big scheme of things, who would spend the time to argue with it, even if I sold it? It's just a piece of glass, not a million dollar conglomerate in the making. One of my cousins used to tell me our grandmother was part Cherokee, explaining Granny's complexion that was so much tanner than our own all year long. While looking over the family tree with my own Mom a few weeks ago, I mentioned that story again and asked her about it. To my surprise, she said it was her father who told her his mother was part Indian. Well, like lots of information about past generations, it's not easy to confirm or deny. If one of my maternal great-grandmothers did have Native American ancestors, would that make it a little more acceptable for me to use Native American stories and symbols for artistic inspiration? I don't know. It feels as if I'm stretching, as if I'm trying to find a handhold to grasp a door that isn't mine to open. I don't know.
Who knows how we make all of our decisions in life, and who knows for sure whether we make the right ones when the details are inspected? For now, I will keep toying with the art in my books about North and South American native cultures. I'll keep toying with ways to let my inspiration flow without overstepping boundaries... who knows, who knows.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

That's That... The Cat Is Where It's At

One night this summer, I grabbed the fancy chalks and headed to the patio to doodle a colorful mandala. The mandala was fairly quickly forgotten, being merely a piece of meditative art that has served its purpose once it is created.
The kids had other uses for the chalks on their minds, though, and their feline inspiration shone brightly. James and Kate do adore our cats! Moochie is just older than James, and Momo was a Christmas present of sorts a few years ago. Kate likes to play "cat whisperer," teaching Osiris to sit and follow her.
As far as these children are concerned, the cats are connected to them by cords of love so strong as to never be broken. Cats being cats, sometimes they respond accordingly... and sometimes they blow ya off just for looking at them.
My point, if there is one in this rambling, is that James and Kate made some incredible pictures that night, and the electricity in their images was definitely fueled by their love of their subject. James' vibrant chalk cats were especially amazing to me because he is the child who usually doesn't want to draw or make things. Ah, but when his subject was near and dear to him, his hands were on fire with passion, his creativity was ignited.
We all know loving what we do is important. We all know artists are inspired by the people and things they love. We all know it's important to follow our hearts.
And we all tend to forget these things, or put them on the backburner, from time to time. Don't let another day go by without doing something you love! It may be as simple as stopping on the sidewalk to pick up a leaf with all the burnished oranges and glorious reds of autumn. It may be as complicated as heading to your studio and spending hours making something just for yourself. Remember your heart, and do your soul happy today!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Long Time, No Write, Right??

I am such a dork, such a doofus. I neglected this blog for months, all because my writing muse seems to throw a huge tantrum in the summertime. What I didn't realize is that my neglect, coupled with the blurb at the top of my page, might make someone wonder if something was wrong with me. D'oh! I am so sorry. The request for prayers is for Mallory (Rosebud) H's daughter, who is fighting and beating cancer even as we speak. I am sure Jenny can still use all the prayers and healing vibes you can spare, just because it's a time of upheaval of "normal life." I, on the other hand, request your forgiveness for not keeping up with the blog. Pretty please? Coincidentally, last night Mallory herself was asking me when I was going to start blogging again! Thanks, Mrs. M, for all your encouragement, especially when I know you have more important things on your mind! Okey-dokey... gonna post this, gonna make one more bead or sculpture since I finally have the torch set up again, and then gonna try my best to get you all a new and improved blog post :) Toodles, Ang

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Wake. Rise. Crow about it. Really, when you think about it, that's not a bad way to start any day, huh?

Metal rooster, cool tree stump, and sunrise light all courtesy of Mother's flower garden :-)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cat Whisperers and Such

This is Charlie. My parents and little brother are on his staff. Mother is his hot food chef and belly rubber. Bubby is his crunchy food chef and play/battle friend. Pop is not his chef, nor his servant, but he is probably Chief of Staff in Charlie's mind. Pop, the man who never cared much for cats until now, is Charlie's cat whisperer extraordinaire. Charlie follows him to the shop. Charlie winds around his feet and legs. Charlie meows at him. Charlie watches him. Charlie apparently hangs on every whisper from Stanley. . . and I get the feeling they both like it that way.

Ever since Charlie arrived and finally warmed up to his humans, Bubby has been calling Pop "The Cat Whisperer." Well, of course, Kate and James have heard this term before now, but I don't think they realized they'd ever met one in person until Granddaddy started being one. Watching Animal Planet's "Cats 101" is one thing, being a real life cat whisperer is another, you know.

They've been discussing it, too. Katie came to me with a sad face yesterday and told me about their conversation:

K: I'm going to be an animal whisperer when I grow up.
J: You can't do that. Those people don't make any money. You'll be a hobo, and I'll have to tell all my friends, "Yeah, my sister is a hobo."

Can we insert a virtual eye roll here? I sure hope her knowledge of self rubs off on him, his knowledge of practicality rubs off on her, and they both end up somewhere comfortably in the middle!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bastages! This Means Farging War, You Little RingTailed Corksuckers!

This must be the work of raccoons. There are a few ears left, and I'm going to snatch them out of the garden whether or not they are completely filled out. . . we might not get to eat all of them, but I'm done providing raccoon chow without a fight!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Angie, Angie, Quite Contrary...

Angie, Angie, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?

I'll tell ya how my garden grows. The weeds grow quickly, and the grass crabs it's way across the short rows that aren't easily tilled. Oh, you meant the vegetables? So far, so good, as far as there have been any results. Three, 1-2-3, count them, of the many cherry tomatoes have ripened. I hope they don't all decide to turn pretty red this weekend while the kids and I are gone, because the hubby won't give them a second thought. The stalks of the sweet corn are tasseled out, and you can see two or three ears silked out on each one. The potatoes are growing like Godzilla hybrids of some strange sort, but I haven't gotten up the nerve to dig down under a hill and see what actual progress is being made. The lettuce is supposed to be a summer hybrid that can withstand heat, and it does look pretty. . . pretty lonely, that is. I'm pretty much the only one who'll eat a green salad, so I keep forgetting to grab some lettuce at the right time. What else is there? Oh, yes, green beans are growing and growing and growing. I staked some of them early on, forgetting to check the description on the seed packet. These are bush plants, not vining ones. Of course, I still like the look of the twig teepees standing uselessly over them, so those remain. Toss in a few bell peppers that I hope make it to the ripe red stage, some cabbage that may or may not finally make full heads so late, and an assortment of regular size tomatoes, and that's it.

The good news is that part of the garden is going to have to go soon in order to make way for the driveway to the new pole building. HOORAY! I'll give up that southwest corner, no problem. I'll just till a little farther north and east next spring. . . that is if I have any gardening inclinations left once I have my torch set up in the corner of the new shed. Goodgawdglass, here I come. . . it'll be August before the building is done, and who knows how long after that before it has electricity and I have walls enclosing my section at the end, but IT'S IN SIGHT :-) Yeah, who gives a rip about the poor garden anymore, huh? Heehee, I guess I do, I really do because I'm waiting for lots of corn and tomatoes. I'm just happy as snot about the reason I'm going to have to change the garden boundaries!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Put Me in, Coach! I'm Ready to Play!

Well, it's Wednesday, and it's summertime. You know what that means, don't you? Gotta be a girls' ball game going on somewhere! Our kids joined teams for the first time this year, and it's been fun watching them play.

Boys' games are up on Thursday's, and it's really fun watching them slug it out against other teams, too.

Go, Kate!
Go, James!
Go, Indians!
Go, D-ville!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It Is

The world is a sacred vessel.
It should not be meddled with.
It should not be owned.

If you try to meddle with it, you will ruin it.
If you try to own it, you will lose it.

-- Lao Tzu

Damn! Been upstaged by a translation of something an ancient Chinese dude said thousands of years ago. Ha! Humbling, isn't it? You can't see me, but I am smiling as I write these sentences.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thank Goodness, It's Not a Hard Tack Life We Live

This was meant to have been written and posted on Memorial Day. Thank goodness, the soldiers who protect us in any day and age are not as lackadaisical about deadlines as I am. For your service, you are admired, thanked, and placed on a mental pedestal. You sacrifice your own safety, your family's sanity, and so many small moments of what would be a normal daily routine. I would like to say I understand what you do, but I can't, simply because a civilian can come no closer to completely understanding your life than an occasional foreshortened glimpse of your day. If I am honest with myself, I have to admit that you are taken for granted many days of my life. So, when there is an opportunity to reflect closely upon what you and your forebears have done for our society, then I owe you time and thought. . . and I apologize for what a small drop in the bucket of gratitude that is, and I hope you won't think writing about my small personal experiment trivializes your life in any way.

Here's what I did. During Memorial Day weekend, my sister, the kids, and I stopped at Fort Duffield to see what the reenactors were doing. We stopped late in the day, but we did get to see a couple and look at their tent and campfire. They were generous with their information, as well as their hard tack and snickerdoodles! James and Kate happily chose snickerdoodles, but I figured I ought to try the hard tack. The "soldier" let me attempt to nibble a corner of the "cracker" and then let me in on a little secret. Most Civil War soldiers would bust it up with the butt of their gun before attempting to eat it. They would sometimes soak it in their coffee cup, making coffee pudding. Hmmm, I thought, I guess I could try that. I carried the rest of my chipped off hard tack. I carried it in my sweaty palm while we finished walking around the fort. I carried it in my sweaty palm while we walked farther up the bluff to the cemetery. I carried it in my sweaty palm while we swam through the ninety-ish temperatures and almost visible humidity on the way back to the car. It still looked exactly like it did when I first put it in my hand.

That's tough stuff, that hard tack. You can find an official Army memo about it here. Did you read the ingredients? Four cups flour, four teaspoons salt, and about two cups water are mixed and baked in an oven. "The fresh crackers are easily broken but as they dry, they harden and assume the consistentency of fired brick." I think the sample I received had reached that kiln brick stage.

Memorial Day morning, I cracked my hard tack (no gun butts involved) and put it in my coffee cup. I indulged in my usual sugar, even though I imagine sugar in a soldier's pack after so many days and years at war would not have been likely.

As I poured my one cup of coffee for the morning into the hard tack and sugar, I had a very mundane thought-- this stuff is going to absolutely ruin my coffee because it's going to dissolve and turn the whole thing into a starchy mush. I quickly sipped what I could, hoping to avoid any globs of hard tack, hoping that didn't make my Memorial Day tribute too trivial. You know what? The hard tack stayed hard. I caught a crumb or two, but they were more like grit than mush. For once, though, I didn't finish my morning coffee. Figuring that wasn't in the spirit of my experiment, I poured the leftovers into a travel cup and took it with me to town, just in case I got the urge to cheat and get a hard tack free cup of espresso while I was at the bookstore.

I did finish most of the coffee, but the hard tack had soaked up some of it. When I opened the travel cup the next morning, here's what I saw-- leathery pieces of moist hard tack. Soldiers, thank you for what you do, that's all I can say!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The N.H.B.

That's "N," as in "naked." That's "H," as in "headless." That's "B," as in "Barbie doll."

She lives in our backyard, you know. The furlines greet her every time she lands someplace different around her tree home, and this has caught my attention. It seems to me that I have to pick up the N.H.B. and move her every single time I mow the yard. I always perch her somewhere on the half dead tree that needs to be cut down (except that I can't bear to bring up the subject to the bill payer in the house because that squiggly tree has so much personality, as well as so many bird homes in its branches). The next thing you know, she's back in the grass, risking her plastic limbs in order to instigate more cat investigations.

I am beginning to wonder if she's alive.

Yeah, I said that. Me, the scientifically oriented skeptic of all things supernatural, I just suggested the N.H.B. might be a phenomenon worthy of a Scooby Doo episode. Well, I'm not sure the Mystery Gang would find the requisite sinister culprit and plot, but I do think the N.H.B. would entertain such an inquisitive group of youngens.

This leads me to the idea that I could use the N.H.B. to create a summer mystery for James and Kate to investigate. Um, great idea, but not for my two. Kate still hasn't recovered from the time I jokingly referred to the ice maker dumping sound as "the refrigerator ghost." (I thought it was funny, Ricky thought it was funny, and Katie screeched and has been spooked by it off and on ever since.)

So, dear N.H.B., you and I will continue this little game with the cats by ourselves.

P.S. to the N.H.B.-- Your head is living in a basket full of hen 'n chicks, in case you'd like to mosey over that way and really freak me out!