Monday, March 30, 2009

Lost Arts and Skills

While my classmates in school were out picking out their prom dresses I was generally on the floor of the gym creating signs and decorations for the event. I could sit like these Navajo sand painters for hours painting free style letters and designs. Only I used tempera paint and a brush. And they lasted until the cleanup committee removed them.

I noticed on my budget for the studio I had included a fee for a sign painter. I know a great one. But in these pressing economic times I just did not feel I could afford him by this May. So I set out to do my own on plywood I had left over from some project and with paint from doing the interior of the studio. At that point I had not remembered all those hand painted signs so I was going to use butcher paper and a ruler and laboriously sketch out the words "Art Studio."

I have been trying to wrap myself around that for two weeks now. But today when I had the paint brush in hand putting on the base color all those hours with poster board and poster paint came flooding back to me. So what if I blow it. It can always be repainted. It only has to be readable. It is only going to be up until I can afford a better one. So with just skeleton pencil marks for placement on the space I began lettering in freehand with brush.

I can no longer sit for hours on a cold floor. The sign is on top of a table. The lettering looks nice. Very readable. When it dries it will get painted with a marine varnish because it will be outside and not in a gym. While painting it I think I remembered every dance I never attended, and every student office I never ran for. I always got invited just to make the signs.

Does that make me a medicine man like the Navajo sand painters? Or just a magician with a brush?


Friday, March 27, 2009

The Creek Will Rise


I had this horrid nightmare just before waking that my roof was leaking and the icy water was ruining everything in my house. I hate those sort of dreams. They seem so very real at the same time you know they are totally impossible. When that is the case for me I generally look for something happening in the world that my subconscious is tied into. I did not have to look far: Fargo, North Dakota.

The people along the banks of the Red River and the Missouri have been working day and night to fill sandbags to raise the dikes as both rivers reached 115 year record highs. To put this is perspective when the residents of New Orleans were treading the flood waters after Katrina it was warm. The above picture is of a barely thawed Missouri River dammed up with broken ice floes.

I am sitting here looking out at the six inches of spring snow and 6 F temperature and knowing that would be warm in relation to what they are experiencing in North Dakota. I went to Minot, ND one spring and saw the Missouri there as the ice broke up. I lived in Kansas City at the time. And worked on an automobile plant being built on a former floodplain of the Missouri. It is a river that goes where it wants and when it wants. And if it is at 115 year high in North Dakota it will be even higher when other rivers in its drainage system join it.

At St. Louis it meets the Mississippi. The Corps of Engineers have built levees and dikes all along both rivers to avoid flooding homes and businesses and cities that built too close. The trouble is all those flood plains (seen as cheap land to develop) are surrounded by levees that won't let the waters in. At the GM plant we had four huge pumps that constantly dewatered the land and spewed the water back over the levees into the Missouri to head downstream. Those now forbidden flood plains are how Mother Nature used to lessen the flooding downstream.

The ice in this picture will melt and flow downstream. And the creek will rise.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nesting Sites


A funny thing happened this morning. I opened Twitter first. And then Travels with Charley that has my most extensive blog list. I have been reading Shouting at Street Lights by my 360 friend Michael (Muttley de Arf Arf) and Treesparrow's Twitterings by Treesparrow who I met there too. And then a great poem by my old friend Catfishred at Catfish Tales. And another by Aimless Joys. Then I was off to the pages of the people I have met on Blogger like bekkieann of Red State Blues. And then, of course, Margaret and Helen at wordpress.

I finally swung back to Y!360 my old home blog. It has been rather quiet there of late and no doubt the problems with posting comments and blogs has been an issue for some. In fact it has been easier to send messages or post on profile on Yahoo or Twitter. I have tried Facebook and cannot see its draw quite frankly. I am using the 5 second rule to avoid malware is my excuse but basically I just find it boring.

All the blogs I have listed above have one advantage over 360 and Multiply; you do not have to be a member to post a comment. And you can follow the continuing conversation with e-mail notifications. So it makes it very easy to be Multi-bloglinqual. So on Poetry Wednesday this week I plan to link to poems on the Blogger (Creative Journey) as well as Y!360. Why should creativity have boundaries?

What other Ethernet locations entice you to wander?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Simpler Times


The above picture was taken at New Buffalo Commune during the "Hippie Days" in New Mexico. It was an interesting experiment for which many of the participants were ill prepared. It wasn't just the horse that had to be taught to pull a plow. Living and gardening and cooking in the high mountain west is not an easy feat especially when done in a minimal way. But some succeeded.

I rather admire those times. We sought ways to cooperate and barter and live a simple life. Very different than corporate jets, and huge bonuses, and off-shore accounts, and a new Hummer every year when the ash trays get dirty. We called that conspicuous consumption. and definitely put it down.

I have been watching the anger at AIG and other greedy banks like Citibank and wonder if these seeds of outrage are not leading us back to a more simple lifestyle. The pendulum swings wide the first arcs from one extreme to another so I doubt we will go totally back to the commune days but what about cooperatives? Or barter groups? Even the White House put in a Victory Garden. Thrift shops have become vogue as well as necessity. Craig's List abounds with barter offers.

I am now making frames not just for me but for my artist friends. Frames they can afford. And I will once again plant my two raised beds with lettuce and other green edible plants. I want to also raise potatoes this year. Those fancy ones like Yukon gold I used to pay a fortune for at the organic food store. I can trade the potatoes for tomatoes a friend of mine is raising in her greenhouse.

My neighbors, sister, and I are talking of going in on a butchered calf this fall to stock the freezers with. And while I got rid of the canning jars I do still have the pressure cooker. And I remember the lessons I learned from my hippie days. I think they will stand by me in the changed economy ahead.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Three Fates


The Three Fates

Today is Word Thursday on Y!360 and my word is Predestination.

Predestination is the Divine foreordaining or foreknowledge of all that will happen; with regard to the salvation of some and not others. And predestination was a particular favorite of John Calvin. And my mother when bad things happened to good people. But when good things happened to bad people it was just luck. I always felt it was a rather grim belief. It seemed to have no escape route. I like escape routes. Never burn a bridge if I can help it.

But perhaps after all those years in close contact with Mother I have become a bit of a fatalist in my own way, and some events really bring that home. Yesterday it was the death of Natasha Richardson due to a funny little beginners fall in a ski lesson. On Christmas Eve 2001 I had a much more serious fall. I was hit by another skier and thrown into the air and landed on my head I am told.

Both Natasha and I suffered a closed brain trauma or CBT landing on soft snow. Natasha had what emergency room personnel call a "talk and die" brain injury and I was lucky enough to have a "dropped jello" sort. Or was that determined by the three fates and not luck.

The Greek Fates or Moirae, the apportioners of life, are Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Clotho with her spindle spun the thread of life for each individual. Lachesis with her measuring rod measured out the thread of life. And Atropos with her dreaded shears chose the manner and timing of each person's death. It is not for mortals to know any of this precisely. Would we live differently if we knew the day we were to die?

We profess now not to believe in the predetermination of our lives. And yet we try merely to cheat the fates with modern medicine and organ transplants. We wonder at the people that missed their fate by missing the plane or were late to work at the world trade towers. But do we know anything more than the Greeks did when they talked of the Moirae?

Natasha Anderson and I both fell on the snow. We were both treated and streeted. She is dead and I am alive. They are making a case that all skiers should wear helmets. I don't know if it would have helped her. I was told due to the "shaken baby" type of brain injury I had it would not. In fact the wearing of the helmet would have worsened my neck injury and probably paralysised me from the neck down. I took my helmet off minutes before that final run that Christmas Eve.

Predestination?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Failure to Communicate


Ever feel you were getting absolutely nowhere? I have been attempting to get in touch with my legal aid attorney now for more than a week. First it seemed it was just the FAX lines that hand been disabled at the office. Then all the phones.

I called the Santa Fe office of Legal Aid and waited two days to get a return call to be told this was effecting phones state wide. There is a setting on this coming Tuesday which is a phone conference. My attorney has filed an appearance and the cover letter lists her cellphone number while acknowledging communication issues at the office. Called the cell number and left a message there yesterday! No joy.

Well, there is always the physical address. So I am on my way over the mountain to hand deliver papers to her. I certainly hope there is someone there.

In this day of e-mail, FAX, telephones, and cellphones we take communication for granted. And haven't a clue what to do when they fail us. A few years back some hungry prairie dogs south of here chewed through the fiber optic lines of Qwest and put kaput to all the above for almost two days for the majority of the state of New Mexico.

Something to think about. The next time you get a busy signal. That phone line could just be another bridge to nowhere.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why I Wear Black


I'm Irish. I just don't believe in St. Patrick. Now in my drinking days this was a great excuse to get roaring drunk with a bunch of people who were not Irish. And in later years I used it as an occasion to fix up corned beef and cabbage. Yeah, I really like it.

But St. Patrick's Day is about celebrating the fifth century conversion of the Irish to Christianity. And there began all the problems. Ireland was a peaceful country when they were all pagans. Well, except for a marauding Scot or two. I am not exactly sure St. Patrick's "conversion" was all that peaceful. Then Henry the VIII came along and wanted the Catholics to be Church of England. And Ireland splits between the Orange or Protestants and the Green or Catholics while the pagans in the countryside continued to make Maypoles and Jack-O-Lanterns.

My Dad's Mother was a Irish Catholic with roots back to the Kennedy's and my Dad's Father was Protestant Irish with some English and Scottish thrown in from a rape during conquests. Grandmother whispered Black Irish which hinted at the Moors in there somewhere too.

Dad, who had been forced to go to Catholic school and be called John instead of Jack, married a Protestant woman, my mother, and so began the next round of religious wars on the small level.

St. Patrick or no I think I reverted to my distant pagan roots. And since I don't know whether to wear orange or green on this day I generally wear black for all those that have died in Ireland because of religion.


Monday, March 16, 2009

The Origin of Charley


Where from came Charley? From John Steinbeck and his non-fiction book Travels with Charley. Charley is the black standard poodle in the above illustration from the book jacket in one of its many publication runs.

I chanced upon Charley and Steinbeck in the train station in Los Angeles on my first ill fated trip to the west coast. It was semester break of my sophomore year and five of us coeds had piled in Penny's Buick convertible and set off on the 17 hour drive to the coast. Well, it should be about 22 hours but this was before radar and at night. But the poor stressed Buick blew a con-rod and cracked the block in Kingman, Arizona. Heart of Goldwater country during the presidential campaign.

We all accessed our available funds. We were college kids! And decided to hitch hike from there. It was the middle of a General Motors strike so months before the Buick, towed to the dealership there, would be fixed. And it is probably why, Charley, my particular Charley was out driving west in his brand new Buick convertible. He was an interior designer for General Motors with time on his hands. And away from his mother.

He was a perfect gentleman and much thrilled with the company. He escorted us to dinner in Vegas and a little gambling, and a tour of Hoover Dam as we made our way west depositing some of us in towns along the way. Penny and I he dropped at Union Station where we called her mother to tell her we had come in on the train.

I was perusing the gift shop as we waited for her to make it from Laguna Beach and there it was - the book that altered my life: John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley. My parents raised poodles so I just had to have the book. It would launch me on a mission to read everyone of his books, do my spring term English paper on his work, and eventually name every one of my computers Charley.
I am typing this on Charley V.

That was probably one of my first major sidetracks. And one I will never forget.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

OMG Another New Blog!

Those that know me are probably totally mystified with another new blog. I already have, just here on Blogger, two others. Creative Journey is about my art and the creative process. Travels with Charley is now devoted almost entirely to political issues here in the United States and more specifically in the Mountain West. It did not start out as that, but was sidetracked. Ergo the name of this new blog.

I am very easily sidetracked. Maybe that is the creative mind or the fact that I ran with scissors as a child. Today we call that Hyper Active Attention Deficit Disorder (HAADD). And I was happy that research has shown we don't outgrow it. Means I am not crazy. As we did not medicate scissor running kids when I was a child I did learn some discipline. I can focus but sometimes for just limited periods of times. But it is best for me to always have a wide variety of tasks or interests about so I can shift from one to the other. When painting I frequently work on as many as four at a time.

So it is entirely appropriate for me to have multiple blogs. And skip blithely from one to the other. I cannot tell you what to expect on this page other than it will not be what is on my other blogs. It may not even make sense to anyone but me. But blogs began as on line journals primarily for the writer and not the reader.

I think it will be interesting.