"To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.".....The Secret Teachings of All Ages



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reflected Light



I don't usually go in for posting pictures of my house, but I loved these two, which I just took today. It's the living room, awash in sunlight reflected from the snow on the ground outside. It is probably the brightest this room ever gets. I like the picture because it makes the room look all cozy and warm, which it is. Also, in the second one, you can see two of our four cats. Domino is on the back of the couch, soaking up sun, and Phantom is curled up on the other end of the couch, next to the dark, wine-colored cushion.

Oh, and the little squares taped to the wall on the left in the first picture are paint sample cards. The room needs to be repainted because of a bit of remodeling work we had done in the dining room and kitchen, which left large areas of white plaster. These rooms are all connected, so are usually painted the same color...traditionally blue, since I love the way artwork stands out so beautifully against blue walls.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year


...This time of the year is spent in good cheer,
And neighbors together do meet.
To sit by the fire, with friendly desire,
Each other in love to greet.
Old grudges forgot are put in the pot,
All sorrows aside they lay:
The old and the young doth carol this song,
To drive the cold winter away....

(Verse from a traditional English song, eighteenth century)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sketchbook Self-Challenge

Okay, I am biting the bullet, or, I guess, taking the plunge? In any case, I have decided to join this journal challenge. With a theme only once-a-month, and with over a dozen artists sharing their work and methods for the rest of us tagging along, I thought it would be a fun and rather inspiring game to play. I've never done anything like this before, but have always been curious as to how it might feel to be a part of a shared experience. So, heart-in-throat, I commit to sharing my ramblings and artwork with the other artists brave enough to do the same.

Part of this challenge is to post some of my journal pages in this blog, then post a link in the Comments section of the Challenge site. That way anyone can click into the link and see my work, and I can do the same with the other participants. So you will be getting a sneak preview of the pages I submit, listed under whatever the theme for that month turns out to be.

As a show of my good intentions, I have added the Challenge badge to my settings, as a sign of my commitment. Of course, if at some point I chicken out—which judging by my personal journal keeping history, is a possibility (see previous post)—I will remove the badge.

Wish me luck.

Edit: Just discovered that the photos will be posted on a flickr site, not linked to Comments. But, I am all signed up and ready to go.

http://sketchbookchallenge.blogspot.com/p/how-challenge-works.html

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Scattered Journals


I love the idea of journals. I love to read historic journals or diaries, which probably has something to do with the basic human urge to stick our noses into other people’s lives—especially from the safety of our living room couch. I really love the current trend for art journals, although people have been adding drawings to diaries and journals for centuries.

Some of the new art journals are visually stunning, but since they don’t have any entries in writing, won’t have much meaning to someone looking at them decades down the road, other than, “Wow, ol’ Aunt Marge sure had a way with shipping labels, paint, and glue.” To me, there should always be writing in a journal. Even if it’s only one word, used to describe how you felt that day, writing will have more meaning to someone thumbing through the pages years later. Even if it’s only yourself.

So, as stated, I love journals. The problem I have with my own is, well, faithfulness. I start them with great enthusiasm, write and draw in them, add collage pages, photos, etc., and then slowly the intervals between entries gets longer and longer. Doubt sets in. I keep asking myself, “Who the hell is going to care about my less-than-exciting day?” Months go by and nothing gets written. Or, I see a really stunning art journal, look at my scribbling, and think I’ve just wasted a perfectly good sketch book.

Stashed away in bookshelves, or sitting in Documents on my computer, or languishing nearby, are dozens of journals I’ve started and then abandoned. There are small note books, large sketch books, and old, cheap lined notebooks. One of my favorite computer journals was a conversation between myself and one of my fictional characters, who played devil’s advocate. I called it Conversations with Rune. That got to be quite interesting, arguing with a character I created, who argued back.

Some journals I pick up periodically and add to. Currently I am on fire with a small ringed sketch book, using it to makes notes about a book idea I have, or recording how my leap back into horses after a twenty-five year hiatus is going. There are other things in it, because, as per my history, this book was started years ago, then abandoned.

Essentially, my journals end up a mishmash. They have no continuity, no cohesiveness. Years can go by between entries, and by that time my life circumstances have changed. What does that say about me? That I’m scatterbrained? That I can’t focus on a project for long periods of time? That I am easily sidetracked into doing other things? Or worse, that my life is too boring to write about? Maybe. But I prefer to think of it as showing that I keep trying. That I’m willing to go back, start again, and see if things work out. It may also be that, due to the fact that I don’t exactly live life in the fast lane, there are periods of time when there is nothing interesting to report. I don’t think entries like, “Went to the grocery store and bought a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, and some fancy cheese” would be of riveting interest to anyone—unless I was held up at gunpoint on my way to the store.

I also try not to be intimidated by the journals of artists I admire. It is wrong to compare my work to theirs. Sometimes that’s a hard thing not to do. But instead of envying them, I try to learn from them. Find out what techniques they used, what materials. If their journals have a certain format I like, I adapt it to mine. I have bought books on journaling, which are fun and inspiring.

I love journals. I like writing in them, putting artwork in them, and adding photos, ticket stubs, menus from a favorite restaurant, or any other bits of flotsam I like. When my husband and I travel to events, I keep everything from ferry tickets to gas receipts and it all goes in a travel journal. Well, it would. I confess, I have bags of stuff from events still waiting to be added to pages. Eventually I’ll get around to them. In the meantime, I have updates on my horse training to add to my current journal, ideas for jewelry (tiaras, maybe?), sketches for my book idea (it involves a map), and I have added a lists page, of thing I want to do—mainly because my memory is like a sieve, and if I don’t write an idea down, I won’t be able to remember it the next day.

And I have this Blog site, which is another type of journal. And as you can see by looking at the dates of older posts, much like all my other journals, weeks or months can go by before I add another entry. But I soldier on, I have fun, and eventually I will end up with scattered records of my life. However, I think a scattered record is better than no record at all.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Equine Madness and the Art of Staying Young


I’ll say it straight away. I love horses. Always have, always will. When I was a child, I drew horses, pretended to be a horse, and when I could coerce her into it, hung an old bridle and put a McClellan cavalry saddle that used to belong to my grandfather, on my next youngest sister, and turned her into a horse (that never lasted long).

I didn’t get my first horse until I was in my thirties. Tristan was a five month old Arabian and completely untrained. I had never trained a horse before. It was a classic case of the blind leading the blind. However, over the nineteen years we were together, we learned from each other, eventually trusted each other, and managed not to kill each other. We also had a heck of a lot of fun.

While I still had Tris, Poet came along, a half Arabian, half quarter horse filly I watched being born to the quarter horse mare I briefly had. Poet (full name Poetique NRG) came at a time when I was going through a lot of life issues, and when Tristan died a few years after Poet was born, most of my enthusiasm for riding died with him. Poet, and my husband’s mare, Roxy, paid the price by becoming not much more than spoiled yard dogs. We loved them, and they were well cared for, but rarely ridden.

Three years ago we decided to downsize (we have twenty acres), move into town, travel more, and get out from under the chores of keeping horses and also a very large garden. So, although it nearly killed me at the time, I found homes for those last two mares. I cried for days before their new owners came to get them, and cried for weeks afterwards. Then, one weekend, we held a giant garage/tack sale, and for two days I watched strangers carry away twenty-five years worth of horse equipment, right down to our last hoof pick.

The only thing I couldn’t bear to part with was my old Stueben English saddle. At first I added it to the other saddles we had put out. But as I walked away, I totally lost it, and burst into wracking sobs. Not just for that saddle, but for that whole period in my life when horses were the most important thing in the day-to-day existence of both myself and my husband. We did trail rides, poker rides, Mediaeval horse games where both the horses and ourselves were dressed in costume, and I did low level dressage just because I liked the discipline of it. That saddle stood for all that, and a million more emotions I couldn’t explain, even if I tried. A part of my soul was being ripped out, and although I felt sure it was the right decision to make—after all, I was one year away from sixty and figured my riding days were over—in my heart-of-hearts, I probably knew it wasn’t.

We went on a fifteen day cruise through the Caribbean and the Panama Canal. I loved it. Seeing the canal had always been on my “bucket list.” Cartegena Colombia was stunning, and I’d love to go back. Then we came home. We did a few four-day weekend trips, and still did our pirate reenacting, but didn’t travel as much as we thought we would. At the same time, the housing market tanked. Our house didn’t sell. No one even came to look at it. We changed realtors, hoping. Same results. We just couldn’t compete with all the foreclosure and short sales. After two years, we gave up.

So, there we were, still in the same place, with a big garden and an empty barn. Then fate stepped in. My husband and I attended a local Renaissance Faire. We watched a young woman do mounted archery, and met a man who headed a small group called Company of the Warhorse. He was there giving a demonstration of the type of Medieval horse games we used to do twenty-five years ago. As we talked (he from the saddle, me on the ground) he asked if we had horses. I explained that we used to, but because of the whole age thing, I had thought it best to stop riding, giving my patent rationalization, “Cause if I fell off, I don’t bounce so good as I did when I was thirty.” He looked me up and down, and said, “You look perfectly able to me.” That was the spark that lit the fire.

Finding his web site, I e-mailed him that we would be happy to be ground crew for him at his next event. We did that, and had fun, but that’s when it really hit me. I hated being on the ground. I wanted to be on a horse, having fun. The spark flared into flame. I wanted horses again. And why not? I was fit (okay, maybe a bit out of shape), healthy, and eager. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t been on a horse in probably seven years, and for my husband closer to ten.

I had the bug. My husband, always more cautious than I, got the bug as well...with reservations. When we told people we were getting back into horses, some looked at us as if we were insane. Others thought it was great, if that’s what we really wanted. The catch? Other than my saddle, we had no tack, not even that proverbial hoof pick. What we did have was a barn that had become a storage unit full of junk. Undaunted, I started trolling the Dreamhorse web site. That’s where I found her. My new mare, Delight, an Arabian and saddlebred cross.

And, fate stepped in again. When we went to pick up Delight, we were told of another horse for sale not far away, so we went for a look. That’s how we ended up coming home with two horses instead of one, and Little John (a BIG quarter horse) became my husband’s horse. We were excited, and scrambling to pick up the basics like halters, grooming tools, stall bedding, and feed (now that the junk was out of at least three stalls), and my husband managed to buy back the custom Australian saddle he’d sold to a friend.

Then we had to ride. That’s when the “new horse issues” set in. These were horses I hadn’t raised and trained myself, and both were twelve years old, and pretty set in their ways. Delight had been shown, and LJ, for the last three years, had been used as a schooling horse. Both have interesting habits that need work. We have riding skills that have atrophied, but are slowly coming back. In the end, with time, I know all will be well.

What I do know is the first time I walked out to the barn, saw those two happy faces, and heard the “Oh, goodie, it’s breakfast time” nickers, I burst into tears. I knew in that split second that we had made the right decision in bringing horses back into our lives. That empty part of my being was complete again. Yes, they are work. Yes, they can be a royal pain in the ass. Yes they are expensive to keep, and have a knack of getting themselves into trouble. I don’t care. For me, it’s all worth it when the bond starts to form, when they follow you around the pasture, when they watch you do chores, when you rub their special grooming spot and they groom you back. And I love the fact that I am back on a horse, and feel happier and fitter than I have in years.

Oh, and did I mention Delight and I have the same hair color? Ol’ fate can be pretty funny, doncha know.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hic Requiescat Corpus Tuum


Since Halloween and Day of the Dead are not far away, this seemed like a good time to confess....

I have a morbid fascination with cemeteries. Although I'm not brave enough to go strolling in one at night, and there is a local cemetery that is so spooky I avoid it even on a bright sunny day, for the most part I find them peaceful and melancholy. At this point I should clarify that I have no interest in modern, flat, bleak cemeteries where convenience in maintenance has pushed out poetry, art, and shady trees with benches under them for quiet contemplation. There is also the horrifying new trend of people leaving recordings of their voice which is later inserted into the grave marker, so relatives and friends can, at the push of a button, listen to “the voice from the grave.” Can’t you just imagine it? “Hi, my good friends. Gee I miss you all. How’s the wife and kids? How’s my dog holding up now I’m gone?” That whole idea creeps me out.

But old cemeteries have a dark romanticism about them. As I quietly stroll, I often think of the short-story by Peter S. Beagle, titled "A Fine and Quiet Place" where the lead character spends lovely hours in a cemetery conversing with a female ghost. In marble and chiseled stone the grave markers tell the stories of the people who rest there, the times they lived in, and the battles with disease they fought and lost. Some have been resting, peacefully or not, for hundreds of years.

Carved doves, angels, urns, leaves, obelisks, all mark a life lived, even if that life lasted only a day. Especially poignant are the family plots where due to some epidemic, the graves of the parents are surrounded by the small markers of their children, all perishing within weeks of each other. Or the gravestone of a beloved wife who died in childbirth within the first year of her marriage. Reading tombstone poetry can reduce me to tears.

The last cemetery I visited was in Ferndale, California, an old lumber town now more of a tourist attraction due to the beautifully preserved Victorian buildings. The cemetery, situated and terraced into the side of a hill, with hundreds of carved tombstones, flat crypts, and a few dark stone mausoleums, is an acropolis of the dead. As I took photos, my husband and I wandered for about an hour, before the heat became unbearable, radiating off the tombstones like hot ovens.

I have visited cemeteries in Riverside, CA (where my grandparents are buried), Port Washington, WI (A beautiful, romantic cemetery), Santa Barbara, CA (at the Spanish mission), Solvang, CA (another mission cemetery), Jacksonville, OR, and the really spooky Granite Hill Cemetery in Grants Pass, OR, where I live. That’s the one I can’t bring myself to go back to. I just know, in the older section, Dracula and his minions sleep there...or an Oregonian version of Dracula.

So, this is my entry for Halloween. A picture taken at the Ferndale cemetery, and played with in photoshop.

Hic requiescat corpus tuum — Here may your body rest.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Brain, at the Word "Computer."


Yes, it is like staring off into space. Alien, vast, and totally incomprehensible. Can you tell I've been having computer problems lately?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Frustration

This is a quick note to my few Followers. I am not ignoring your comments, or your blog sites. I am having problems replying, or leaving comments on my own and other blog sites. I keep getting bumped, and it gives me a blank comment box again. So, bear with me until I get this figured out.

Thanks...

Sharon

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Construction


I am writing this during week three of an outside remodel of our garage and deck. It sounds so simple when written, but the remodel was pretty extensive, and is still ongoing, although winding down. However, I believe there is at least another week to go. Alas.

Dealing with construction workers around the place, I suspect, is like dealing with servants. You know they are there, going about their business, but you have to ignore them. I’ve never had servants, so I can’t say this with any certainty, but the analogy seems fitting. Rather than cooks, housemaids, footmen, and char girls, I have Cement Guy, Back Hoe Guy, Plumber Guy, Electrician Guy, Drywall Guy, and Painter Guy. Directing this team of subcontractors is my Major Domo, or General Contractor. I like him, and my husband and I have known him for about fifteen years. He is also the one building the new deck, with the help of his fifteen-year old nephew, while overseeing the rest of the destruction/construction.

And, as with servants, you lose a lot of privacy, at least during the day. It is disconcerting, to say the least, when typing away at the computer, to suddenly have a strange man right outside the window. And since a lot of these guys go in for colored, mirrored sunglasses, it’s like being peered at by an alien. Also, invariably when I’m in the middle of something, I’ll hear a pounding on the back door, and then a guy sticks his head in and shouts, “Hello. Hello...M’am, are you there?” Even more surreal, is using the restroom, since the window faces the front of the house, right where the new deck cover is going up. Even though the window is opaque, there you are, sitting on the throne, while just outside men are talking about lumber and batteries for screwdrivers.

Then there is the noise. Oh, I can deal with hammers, saws, and heavy equipment. It is the battle of the boom-boxes I object to. In the garage, Drywall Guy likes to listen to hard rock at the decibel of a jet engine, while on the deck, the GC is listening to Christian rock—I suspect that when these two sound waves meet, it creates a black hole in space...somewhere. The Cement Guy loves talk radio, including Rush Limbaugh, who drives me right up the wall. On the rare occasions when the Electrician turns up (he is a bit of a prima-donna, and my least favorite), he changes the dial on the Cement Guy’s boom box (when Cement Guy isn’t there) to a heavy metal rock station, and he and his son loudly sing along...loudly off key. I like the plumber. He wears an Ipod on his belt and uses earphones.

Lastly, there is the dust. Dirt dust, saw dust, drywall dust, plaster dust—it goes everywhere and gets into everything. The floors are gritty with it, and the furniture coated with it, the cars shrouded in it—and I can’t describe how grubby the windows look. And, unless I make sure to close the lid on them, the water in the toilet bowls are rimed with dirt like a back-bay tide line. I have decided to ignore it until the construction is over. Why bother cleaning, when within 24 hours it will all be back?

So, I preserver. I try to ignore the battle of the boom-boxes, the strangers lurking outside the windows, and the new plaster which smells like a cat box. Instead, I walk out on our almost completed new deck and take in the view, I relax in the new hot tub, and revel in having, for the first time in my life, a house with air-conditioning, and heating, instead of only a wood stove. My husband is happy that when all is done, the converted garage will hold three cars instead of two.

Yes, our little place has been brought into the 21st century at long last...but I will be oh so glad when the “servants” leave for good and I have no more dust, no more noise, no more bug-eyed aliens looking at me through the windows, and no one sticking their head in the back door and yelling, “Hello....M’am, are you there?”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chinatown—San Francisco


Although I have been to San Francisco many times, I have never had the opportunity to visit Chinatown. So, Father's Day weekend, when my husband and I planned our yearly trip to Vallejo, CA for the Northern California Pirate Festival (of which we are participants) we drove down a day early, and spent the preceding Friday exploring this very interesting community.

Since we were staying at a hotel in Benicia, our day started with a ferry ride from the Vallejo ferry terminal, to Pier 1 in San Francisco, an enjoyable trip of about 45 minutes. We were traveling with four other pirate buddies who had come early for the festival, and like us, were playing tourist for a day. Three of us headed off toward Chinatown, and the other three stayed on the Ferry, heading for Fisherman’s Wharf’s Pier 41.

Once off the ferry, we walked...and we walked...and we walked—through the financial district, past the famous giant winged pyramid building, on up the hill to Chinatown. It’s easy to tell when you’ve arrived. All the store signs change from English to Chinese. The people around you are all speaking Chinese. Well mostly, but since Chinatown is a huge tourist attraction, we also heard people speaking French, German, Spanish, and East Indian. What struck me most, though, was that despite its touristy popularity, it is still very much a neighborhood community.

The main street, from the Chinese Gate to where things start changing to the North Beach Greek and Italian neighborhoods, runs maybe a little over a mile? Within that core, there are the usual tourist traps selling...well, junk. But there are also markets where I saw everything from pressed ducks hanging in the windows ( it turns out they were actually roasted ducks, but they were so flat they looked pressed to me!), Chinese BBQed pork also hanging in the windows, barrels of dried whole fish or just fish heads, packaged dried herbs from China, and dried mushrooms. The mushrooms fascinated me—from tiny little things to giant sponge-like specimens the size of a dessert plate, amazing mushrooms were everywhere.

We passed a fish market, where a very busy shop owner was selling live, still flopping, fish to customers, who took them away in clear plastic bags. Bins of fresh produce lined part of the sidewalk, the peaches and melons looking like jewels among the corn and greens. So many scents filled the air it was impossible to identify them all—a heady mix of ripe fruit, fish, strange spices, tea, cooking food from the many Dim Sum shops, and maybe incense, but so much more. I loved it.

Lunch was at the Oriental Pearl Restaurant, where we ordered the Dim Sum variety for three, along with a pot of tea, and a bottle of Chinese beer for our friend. The food, brought in sets of threes, was fascinating, both in looks and presentation. One dish, wrapped and tied in lotus leaves, was rice, bean paste, and a wonderful Chinese sausage. I kept getting behind because as I ate each little package I was trying to figure out what was in it and how they were made. The last treats were small custard tarts, a perfect ending to a lovely meal.

After lunch we walked around a bit longer, exploring the import shops, where they sold everything from wind chimes to rice bowls, wood carvings to jewelry, and everything in between. I was hoping to find more pieces of the Phoenix and Dragon china I had started collecting when I lived in Southern California and used to visit the Chinatown district in Los Angeles. No luck with that, unfortunately. The three of us visited a tea shop, sampled some of the tea for sale, and were amazed at the prices on some of the jars. Rosebud tea for $800 a pound. Our friend bought a canister of tea (I don’t remember what kind it was) for around $25. After he paid for it, they put it in a lovely shopping bag with a string handle. I bought some pressed tea wrapped in paper (mainly for the novelty factor) which cost me only $4. When I paid for it, they put it in a plain plastic grocery bag.

By this point it was late afternoon, and we hadn’t heard anything from our other three companions. We decided to head toward Fisherman’s Wharf. To get there, we walked...and we walked...and we walked. Through North Beach, then down the hill through a residential area, and finally to the mega-tourist area around Piers 39-41. At the Clam House we went upstairs for a drink in the bar, contacted our friends by cellphone, who were still exploring and not ready to head back to Vallejo. We took the ferry back to Pier 1, relaxed with another round of drinks at a sidewalk cafe waiting to see if our friends would turn up. They didn’t, so we hopped back on the ferry and returned to Vallejo.

Many things fascinated me about Chinatown. I liked that it was still a thriving community where people lived, worked, and shopped despite the fact that their neighborhood had become a form of entertainment for thousands of others. I was surprised at how clean the neighborhood was, and how polite the people were. And although I know it’s not the same thing as going to someplace like, say, Shanghai, I liked the feeling that I had visited, in a much condensed version, a foreign country.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bent & Twisted


Some might think the current title refers to my personality. Okay, I may be a little bent on occasion, but I don’t think I qualify as twisted. What I’m actually referring to is my decision to add worked wire to my jewelry pieces.

On beginning the new learning curve, I quickly discovered that wire has a mind of its own, and that mind can be kinda kinky at times. I also learned straight away that working with wire is a lesson in tweaking, futzing, and cursing. The rewards, however, are quite nice.

I started out simple, using fine wire to wrap around beads. This got me a few interesting pieces that resembled leaves on a vine, but the wire was too fine a gauge to stand up to everyday wear. Next I bought a stronger gauge wire, and made simple loops with needle-nose pliers, or wrapped it around a Sharpie marker, or plastic film canister. The results were okay, and I used two of these experiments to make pendants, adding beads, crystals, etc.

Then came spirals. Spirals are fun. Spirals become hypnotizing and addictive. I made lots of spirals. I even adapted a piece of a design from an ancient Etruscan tiara and necklace into a pendant, using a bracelet slide element, which is the necklace pictured. As you can tell, I really like spirals.

Now I have a wire jig for making more complicated wire designs. Great, another learning curve. I spent three hours yesterday playing with this contraption, which consists of a metal plate full of holes, metal pins of varying sizes to put in the holes, and tiny plastic tubes that I have no idea what to do with. Bending wire around the pins is like trying to scratch your head and pat your stomach at the same time. One hand holds the wire down, the other bends it while also turning the jig plate. Most of what I did ended up in the trash, which is par for the course. Two pieces came out rather nice, and one has already been turned into a pendant.

However, more hours of practice at tweaking and futzing, bending and twisting, are needed. A lot more. Maybe I’ll just go back to doing spirals. I really like spirals.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Playing Tourist


How grand it is when you go to a place you’ve never been, and fall in love. That’s what happened to my husband and myself when we got to Seattle last weekend.

It was a crazy, wild-hair decision to battle off to Seattle to see the Abney Park “Circus at the End of the World” concert on Sunday the 11th. We arrived in the city around 3:30 on Saturday the 10th, after a seven hour drive up from Southern Oregon. It was kinda love at first sight, well, except for that exciting, sweaty-palms ten minutes negotiating the I-5 freeway and the James Street exit. Okay, and maybe trying to figure out how to get back to the hotel when all the exits from the bay street said, “No Left Turn” wasn’t a laugh-fest, but, hey, we made it. Once we settled the gear in our room, we were off exploring.

First the bayfront area where the ferry terminals are. Lots of restaurants, shops, and an arcade. We had an early dinner there—crab cakes and merlot for me, and clam chowder and a Bud Light for the husband. Then we were off again.

We walked around Pioneer Square admiring the diverse and beautiful architecture. Then we signed up for the evening “adult” underground tour. That got you all the “inside dirt” on some of Seattle’s history, and a free cocktail. The underground tour is one of those creepy-facinating experiences. It also makes you wonder if some day the whole neighborhood is going to sink back to its original level, some ten feet lower than it is currently.

Sunday morning we jostled our way through the Pike Street Market, were amazed by the hundred-yard-long display of spring tulips, the glowing citrus, lush veggies, and glistening fish and crustaceans. I couldn’t help but think how grand it was to have such an amazing place open seven days a week.

From there we walked...and walked...and walked. Seattle is a city made for people who love to walk, and you see them everywhere. Either that, or they are on bicycles. What impressed us as we walked, was how clean the streets and sidewalks were. No garbage, no litter. It was amazing. Also, there is a Starbuck’s Coffee House on every corner. We saw the original coffee house, and the full-frontal nude mermaid logo on the window—no flowing locks to cover her breasts, like you see everywhere else.

It is a city filled with art, fountains, dozens and dozens of cafes, restaurants, delis, corner markets, and fascinating shops.

We had lunch at the Owl and Thistle Irish Pub —For the husband, fish and chips. For me, Shepherd's Pie. For both, a Guinness, of course! (The only beer I can stand) Later, after even more walking, we headed back to the bayfront for drinks and an appetizer of calamari strips. Before resting our bums at the restaurant, however, I rode the carousel at the arcade. Hadn’t done that in over 35 years, and it brought back all kinds of memories of riding the wonderful carousel at Fairmont Park, back in my hometown of Riverside, CA.

Sunday evening we headed to the Abney Park concert. What a blast. With the first salvo of the bass, I expected the windows to shatter and my heart to explode from my chest. We were only about four feet from the stage, which was great, as we could see the expressions on the band member’s faces, hear their jokes and comments, and also got a real up-close view of the between-set fire eaters and the very gymnastic woman performing on a hoop that hung from the ceiling. I came home with another signed CD, and also a signed poster. The Abney Park guys/gals are a great bunch, and mingled with the crowd after the performance, which they also did the last time we saw them, back in January in Eugene, OR.

With sore feet from walking all day, and dancing for four hours that night, the husband and I finally got back to our room and flopped into bed, tired, but very happy campers, indeed.

After another lovely continental breakfast at the hotel, we headed home, sad to have had so little time to explore such a beautiful city, but happy to have had such a grand time in so short a stay. Will we go back? Absolutely!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

April Madness


Maybe it’s because the sun has finally come out, or maybe it’s because we finally took our house off the market, but my husband and I seem to be struck with crazy enthusiasm. March Madness has bled over into April. Actually, we didn’t have much madness in March, but April, now that’s a whole new bag of confetti.

To send March off, we will spend next weekend on our boat. It’s always relaxing, even if the weather is nasty, which it usually is on the Oregon coast. We read, play endless games of dueling solitaire, or Blokus, and if it isn’t raining, or the wind isn’t blowing nine-hundred miles per hour, we walk along the jetty, or drive out to one of the beaches. Sometimes we drive either North or South to go on antique/junk shop crawls, and then enjoy a lovely meal of fresh seafood. My husband always takes an early morning stroll around the marina, while I sleep in, snuggled in the warmth of blankets, listening to seagulls...and the backup warning honks of the processing plant’s forklift as its operator loads bait fish on to fishing boats, or unloads their catch of the day. All-in-all, it makes for a very pleasant weekend, and the boat never leaves the dock.

Then April rolls in and the madness begins.

We will spend Easter weekend at a primitive lodge outside of Salem. Located in a state park, it is big, cold, and the upstairs loft is lined with heavy wooden bunk beds. Why would we, and thirty other people, put up with such discomfort? Fun, that’s why. Three years ago it was dubbed The Arms of the Sea Tavern, and everyone dressed in their best pirate garb. This year it has been renamed The Time Traveler’s Tavern, and invitees can wear garb from any time they choose. There will be classes and demos on projects ranging from how to make a flag, to converting a Nurf gun to a ray gun. Saturday night is a big pot luck banquet, then afterwards is the party. By Sunday morning we will be tired, sore from sleeping on plywood, groggy from a bit too many alcoholic beverages, but happy for having had such a great time with fun, crazy people.

The weekend after that, we head for Seattle and the Abney Park Circus at the End of the World concert. This decision, made just last night, is one of our maddest. On a total spur-of-the-moment whim, we reserved tickets, frantically looked for a Best Western close to the concert site, booked a room, then printed out a map so we’d know how to get there, having never been to Seattle before. Afterwards we sat staring at the computer for a minute, then burst out laughing at the craziness of it all. But really, it’s Abney Park, and how can you resist a concert called Circus at the End of the World, where there will be fire eaters, tightrope walkers, and who knows what else? Obviously, we couldn’t.

Toward the end of April comes my birthday. Now, what maddening thing can I come up with for that, I wonder? Buahahahaha...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Focus


The title of this entry really should be Focus—Or the Lack Thereof. I’ve been drifting since last December. Can’t get enthused about anything, which is not like me at all. Oh, I did have a brief flare of excitement at the end of January when my husband and I attended the Abney Park concert and masked ball, but since then nothing. I don’t count a bathroom rehab as the high point of February, although the end results are quite nice. Nope, most of the time I feel like I’m staring off into space.

I put part of the problem down to the weather. In Southern Oregon, it can be gloomy and rainy for months. I suffer from Light Deprivation Syndrome, and by end of January am pretty much climbing the walls due to cabin fever and lack of sunlight. A few weeks ago I attempted to talk my other half into heading for Hawaii, but he wasn’t going for it. He knows by this time I’m grasping at straws, and is smart enough to ignore me. I’ve been told there are special light bulbs you can get that imitate sunlight, but so far I haven’t tried them. I’d have to buy a case and replace every bulb in the house. Not too practical.

So in the meantime, my writing suffers or is ignored, my journal entries stop, my jewelry doesn’t get made, and my garden languishes or is flooded when the pond overflows after a downpour. As for any artwork, I look at a blank sheet of paper and drift off—might as well have snow blindness.

Spring, wherefore art thou?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Art Journals — The Good, the Bad, and the Frustrating


February 18, 2010

Over the past three years, I have been involved in three art journal rounds. I organized the first one, then participated in another two. Since this was done through a forum called the Pyracy Pub, naturally, the theme was all things from the Golden Age of Pyracy. Updates would be posted regularly to keep track of the books as they made their progress from one artist to another.

The first year only five people signed up to participate. Everyone was very enthusiastic. Most had never heard of art journals, so a lot of explaining had to be done. Books would make the jump every month, giving each artist plenty of time to fill between 2-5 pages. Within two months of the start, the frustration set in. People wouldn’t get the books out on time. One book got held up for four months, and then was sent home with no work done in it by that person. One person kept a book, and despite many attempts to communicate with him, never did return the book to the original artist. When the round finally sputtered to an end, I was sure no one would be interested in doing it again. When the person who never got his journal back volunteered to run a second round, I told him,”Good luck, but it’s like trying to herd cats.” From that point on, each organizer, whether for art journals or PTCs (Pirate Trading Cards, as opposed to ATCs) was dubbed the Cat Wrangler.

Round two started out with seven artists. Again, everyone very enthusiastic about participating. I was skeptical, but signed on because I liked the gent who had volunteered to wrangle the round. The books went out and everything seemed fine. Then problems developed. Two books were apparently lost in the mail while making the journey to Germany. This did not go over well with the two artists whose books had gone missing. One artist dropped out of the round, under accusations of really misplacing or sitting on the two books ostensibly lost in the mail. Books got stalled for months. For the Cat Wrangler, keeping the round going became a chore. Disgruntled artists posted heated complaints. I was relieved when my book came home, and vowed never to do another round. Some four months after the round was over, the two books lost in the mail miraculously reappeared, with no explanations.

The third round has just finished. This time there were eleven participants, many new to the art journal process, but again, very enthusiastic. The Wrangler for this round was one of the artist from the previous round. This time, things progressed fairly well. The books, with only minor hiccoughs, jumped month-to-month with no problems. At about month six, one artist dropped out, dumping two books on the next man in line. This got smoothed over, but then the holidays delayed books going out. As time went on, and enthusiasm levels dropped, more and more books were getting delayed. In some cases, two and three books would be mailed at one time, because an artist let them pile up without working in them. For the Wrangler, is was like pulling teeth to get people back on schedule. Then, with the round almost over, two books went missing in the mail, and one artist went incommunicado with a book still in his possession. No attempts to reach him have succeeded. The man whose book is being held, and who had mailed the two now seemingly lost, posted a virulent rant, stating in the end that he didn’t care if he ever saw his book again and would under no circumstances participate in another round. I calmed him down, but the damage had already been done. The rest of the artist were hurt by his accusations, and the two women whose books are gone were especially upset. It has been a year and four months and my book is finally home safe. At some point, a person thought my trademark “danglies” were a nuisance, and removed them.

In the end, I think the rounds were mostly fun, and I cherish the artwork in each of my books. But I will not do another. At the beginning people are excited by the idea, but don’t really understand the commitment it takes to see a round to completion. At about month four or five, they suddenly realize what they have signed on for, and end up resentful that they are trapped into doing something for which they no longer have any interest. Some bail out. Some drag their feet and hold on to books for weeks or months. Some do token work and pass the books on.

For the Cat Wrangler, it truly is a lesson on the good, the bad, and the frustration of trying to keep a group of people enthusiastic and organized over the long haul. Not a job to be taken on lightly.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chained Butterfly Necklace


February 10, 2010

While making this necklace I pictured a young woman carefully threading her way through the ruins of a post-apocalyptic city. As she goes, she picks up bits of flotsam — broken chain, rusty keys, a tin fumigation tag from a downed utility pole. Miraculously, she also discovers a small cask containing silver butterflies, shiny glass lozenges, and a sprinkling of ruby crystal beads. Delighted, she tucks all these finds away in a knapsack and returns to her garret high over the city. Alone and in safety, she takes these disparate pieces of a lost generation and cobbles them together into a necklace. Maybe she will barter it for food or supplies. Then again, maybe she will keep it for herself and wear it as a reminder that even in a post-apocalyptic world beauty can still be found, and might be appreciated again. After all, is not the butterfly a symbol of hope?

Friday, February 5, 2010

When Hats Had Names


February 5, 2010

I read that caption-line in a magazine years ago and was very intrigued by it. Was there a time when people named their hats? Did a man wake up, look out the window and think, “Drat, it’s raining, I’ll have to wear George today?” At some previous time did a woman dressing for a night out put on a pretty concoction of feathers and net, sit in front of her mirror and say, “Ah, Trixi, you’re just the thing?”

I have many hats — pirate hats, sun hats, everyday hats, vintage hats — but none of them have names. Currently I have two favorites. One is my trusty gray felt fedora that I wear when it’s raining because I am too lazy to carry an umbrella. It keeps raindrops off my glasses. The other is my short top hat. This one has turned out to be very versatile, its accessories changing depending on the season, event, or my mood. Whenever I wear this hat, invariably someone will say, “Wow, I really like that hat!”

Maybe I should give it a name, so that the next time I get a compliment while wearing it, I can answer, “Why, thank you. Her name is Victoria.”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Introductions

February 4, 2010

Found in the Ruins is the name of my Etsy jewelry shop, but I decided to keep the name for this blog site, as it works for me on numerous levels. It describes the jewelry I make from castoff pieces and recycle into something new. It also describes the photos of derelict boats and the flotsam washed up along the tide line that I find so fascinating, and in a sense, poetic. My collage artwork is made up of scraps of this and that — the ruins of old movie tickets, magazines, junk mail, postal stamps, etc. And then there is life, which can fall all around you in ruins, but from which can come rebirth, new understanding, and new visions.

I confess, I am new at this, so posts may be erratic at first, until I find my way. I’m not sure which direction this blog may go, but then, starting out on a new adventure is like that.