Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sidetracked Again



Happy Halloween everyone. I bought a pumpkin a few days ago and my intent was to carve it on All Hallows Eve - yesterday. But that did not get done. I was cleaning up the studio before making a mess again with the pumpkin and got sidetracked into preparing two platforms for two new paintings.

I got out of Dodge over last weekend and came back to cold and extremely cold temperatures. It has been nice to be in the livingroom of my house not far from the woodstove. Yesterday the sun came out which warms the studio due to its passive solar design and ultimately the rest of my house. So it was comfortable to work in the studio. And the view was not reminding me of just how cold it was outside.

How cold was it? Well, yesterday morning when I walked the fur kids the recorded temperature was 13F but there was a bitter wind which went right through my old winter coat. That is toast. I figured I might have to buy a new one and was debating Sierra Trading on line or the local thrift store when I remembered the upstairs closet in the sewing room and a North Face ski jacket I was very fond of. Bought it the year I totaled myself in a ski accident. It still fit. And I am clearly not skiing anymore.

Coat problem solved I then tackled business insurance, commission issues, studio mess, laundry, dishes, and misting of orchids. I am told the lack of humidity is why my orchids do not bloom. It is amazing the lengths I can go to avoid cleaning up the studio. Or getting back into a routine after breaking it with travel. I got my confirmation for the holiday market show here in Angel Fire over Thanksgiving weekend and I do have to get back into a routine to produce some smaller paintings for Christmas giving. And then I want to have a December reception at the studio.

When I was living in Washington, DC I used to visit the West Virginia Mountains all the time. We camped on the Blue Ridge not far from Elkins and there was a major train yard there. There had to be over 500 rail cars sitting around on sidetracks in the yard. I read, a year, after we left the area that they were all stolen cars. A band of thieves would uncouple and derail boxcars there, steal the contents, and then they were trying to re-paint and re-sell the cars. That was obviously much slower going so the cars piled up.

Sometimes I feel like Elkins, West Virginia. Or the ghosts pictured above. Off on a siderail waiting for something to happen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Blizzard of '06/'07


Firewood half stacked

My father used to tell tales of the blizzards of his childhood in Kansas City. Like all young children I rolled my eyes sure this was a lot like the fish that got away which continued to grow upon every telling. As an adult living in the intermountain west and spending 20 years of that time as a ski instructor I have been trapped by avalanches and snowed into mountain resorts and snow blinded on the trail heading to the lodge. But all those were transient events compared to the Blizzard of '06/'07 and the winter that followed.

It started snowing I believe on the 29th of December. I went out and gathered up firewood from the unstacked pile just delivered. It had been a mild winter to that point and I was sure the wood I had would suffice but had gotten extra at the last minute. Snow storms in New Mexico seldom hang around but this one did. It was still snowing on New Year's Day. By then we had 6 feet of what skiers call Champagne powder if the winds had not begun. Winds pack the snow down, reform it and change the shapes of everything. I could no longer find the wood - either stacked on unstacked.

Snow sliding off the metal roof had knocked the satellite dish off the side of the house. I was cut off from the real world. Similar slides of snow off the back had made it impossible for the dogs to get off the porch once through their doggie door. I and the fur kids would go out 3 to 4 times a day and shovel snow to develop paths to where I thought the wood should be and to attempt to keep the driveway clear should a snowplow actually make it down my road. What I did not know is they were all busy with the main roads. The entire northeast part of New Mexico was snowbound. When the storm moved on state helicopters were dropping feed to stranded cattle. All the passes in and out of my valley were closed for 4 days. Continuing winds made road clearing a nightmare for state and county plows.

Once roads were clear I managed to get more wood delivered and piled I think on top of what was buried and entombed till spring. It was a long winter. A freak winter we all thought, but the next winter was almost as bad. Ergo the woodshed pictured above. And my drive to get all the two cords of wood I ordered stored snugly inside it. I may have to snowshoe to retrieve it but it will be dry and accessible.

And because the tourists residing in the vacation rental across the road think my wood is their wood I am able to lock it up. I will be very satisfied when it is all stacked neatly by noon today. What is pictured is only about half. When totally full my shed holds three cords. That and a full pantry takes some of the dread of winter away. Before the great blizzard snow never scared me.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Few Random Saturday Thoughts


We are currently enjoying some fantastic Indian Summer weather. So while I would love to be in the studio painting today I need to stop ignoring the snow fencing that needs restretched. And as tomorrow is Sunday I need to get to the hardware store today and lay in supplies for fencing and for framing of the pictures I have finished.

And as Halloween is just around the corner I need to pick up a pumpkin and then decide if I am going to carve one. I also want to make a new birdfeeding station for the winter - one that is visible from my studio windows. Actually considering placing it right under the studio window in front. Yes, within cat range but what isn't.

So these last nice days before winter settles in are divided between chores that must be done and those that would be nice to do. I should be totally focusing on the must get dones but my inner brat wants to do what it wants to do. Frankly I would like to go visiting a local ghost town or two. Yesterday, while visiting a house I am caring for this winter I picked up Ponderosa pine cones knocked down by the winds a couple days ago. Always good to make fire starters with. Or just decorate here and there around between the plants. There is that should and want again.

To make fire starters you melt down old candles in a shallow pan and roll the pine cones in it. To make them festive you can then roll them in glitter or confetti. Cool them on a cookie tray and store in a basket or bucket not too close to the fire. Great way to recycle candle wax and a green way to start fires this winter.

Maybe I should go collect more pine cones? Anything to not pound fence posts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When Things Go Missing


The opening photo may lead you to believe this post really belongs in my Creative Journey blog but what I am discussing today is not the technique illustrated above but that I forgot about it. It went missing from my mind.

One of my artistic transitions was from pen and ink with one color to water coloring in full color. And when I made that move it was because of a book on Chinese watercolor that told of how they often laid out the tones and line first with India Ink and then applied color on top. This of course requires waterproof inks and one day working on a particularly ambitious painting I discovered that not all India inks are waterproof.

I am not sure why I threw out the baby with the bathwater on this technique but I quickly went to applying ink on top of a watercolor instead of the other way around. Today most of my work still utilizes inks that are largely applied with calligraphy pens or lining brushes, but after wards as a finishing touch.

Yesterday when working on the painting on the left I suddenly remembered that inks can be laid down before. This painting is on a very smooth gessoed surface that resists glazing colors. I discovered that on a previous church painting. So to achieve my tones I laid down black and sepia washes in waterproof ink. The painting on the right show that before color has been applied over it.

Why did I forget this? It is a very useful technique especially on canyon walls where you want more definition of shape. And colors can look so much brighter in contrast to the darks. For eight years this Christmas eve I have blamed lapses of memory like this on my head injury. Now it could be just age. Or it all might be worse now because of the stress I am undergoing. I have been trying to remember every tit for tat from a two year old battle with the contractor from hell. Berating myself for things I have lost only increases the stress; makes more things go missing from my internal harddrive.

So I guess I will just be thrilled that I remembered this technique and paint happily on.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Ant and the Grasshopper


As a child I was overly fond of stories with lessons or morals. My reading matter included Greek and Roman myths, the Tales of Uncle Remus (African/American folk tales compiled by Joel Chandler Harris) and the fables of Aesop. Of my favorites of Aesop fables was The Fox and the Grapes vied with The Ant and the Grasshopper for first place. I was seldom, when left alone, without one of these classic tales running through my head.

I put my adults into various roles among my favorite moral tales. Dad was almost always Brer Rabbit. I quite frankly saw my mother as the ant and my father as the grasshopper. This parallel was clearly evident when we lived in the farm north of Kansas City which is probably now the main runway of the airport there. I frankly confess I always thought of myself as a grasshopper.

Until recently that is. I have noticed the hideous snows of the last few years (and the touted pandemic) has made me into more of a grasshopper than I at times find comfortable. Or was aware of consciously.

I was reviewing my bank accounts (something I do more like Brer Rabbit) and wondering where the money has gone this last couple of months when it dawned on me I had been stocking up the pantry like the ant. The hallway is now storing 6 bags of wild bird seed gotten at a fantastic sale. The pantry off the kitchen has been the benefit of every 5 for some sum sale in canned goods which includes beans, soups, pastas, stewed tomatoes, canned salmon, etc. The upper shelf holds enough dog biscuits for the winter. Next week I will hit Sam's and get dog and cat food, toilet paper and paper towels on the list I have been adding to daily. The freezer is stocked with elk steaks, chicken breasts, pork chops and frozen green chili. Three cords of firewood, ordered in August, comes in the next couple of weeks.

Last winter when the money got really tight I had almost exhausted all my stores of necessities. And I have lived through the summer with only weekly supplies. I had to be out before I got more. Typical ant behavior. But if my current trend of hording continues I will be set for being snowed in or for isolating myself from the germy tourists for any extended period of time. WHO, the World Health Organization, recommends you be able to live for three weeks without contact if there is a pandemic. And seven days if you get the flu.

Except for dog and cat food and kitty litter I am set. I just noticed I added them to the shopping list on the fridge already.

Are you an ant or a grasshopper?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Halloween Dreams

I had Halloween dreams last night. Grave yards and haunted houses and masquerade parties. It is what I have termed a "seeker's" dream. It does not matter if it is an airport or a multi-storied house I am seeking something throughout the twisted course of the dream.

We are told by sleep researchers that dreams can last no more than a minute or two and yet this one seemed to go on all night. As as kid I used to tell my mother I dreamed in Soap Operas, because it seemed that each new dream was an additional episode of an on-going story where the same cast of characters came and went not unlike As the World Turns. I also obviously reuse stage sets.

I have a memory of my parents helping my paternal grandmother move out of the huge house in the Prospect area of Kansas City. It was a mansion to my way of thinking with a huge entry area that opened up to the ceiling three floors above us. The room where we stood was ringed with a staircase and balustrade. Grandmother, dressed in unrelenting black taffeta, leaned over the second floor railing and stared down at us through her one good eye. A black patch was over the other and she wore a black hat with a veil. The woodwork was dark and the walls behind her in a burgundy silk pattern. A huge crystal chandelier hung over us and fractured the sparse light. Mom held my baby brother. Dad held my hand but I was not afraid of my grandmother just the palpable hate between her and my mother. I wanted to be free to roam the halls.

Mother used to tell me there was no way I could have any memory of that house. I had to be no more than three at the time. And yet that image comes over and over into my seeking dreams. Especially those around Halloween. It is forever my haunted house. And I am never surprised to find myself there again. Or in any of two graveyards I have visited. Actually I knew the one in the Garden District of New Orleans before I even visited it in real life.

I awoke this morning unclear as to what I was seeking beyond the perfect mask for a costume party. It really is never that simple.

The weather here is unsettled. The Weather.com link calls it Wintry Mix. Almost a freezing rain outside currently. But the chill in my bones that caused me to light a fire in the wood stove was more from the dream last night than the temperature in the house. It is more than three weeks to Halloween. There will clearly be more such seeker's dreams. And I will visit the Prospect house again and again.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

No Yards for Sale

The above poster was a blast from the past. I had forgotten that we once called rummage sales White Elephant Sales. I remember as a child being very disappointed there were no white elephants to buy. I wanted one badly.

Now, of course, we call them yard or garage sales, though like the white elephants, there are no yards or garages for sale. I am having a garage sale and I don't even have a garage. I and my neighbor, when working up ads for this event, debated various words and decided garage sale, whether you had one or not, gave people a better understanding of what was going on. Frankly, I am confused.

It has been a confusing ten days preparing for this. Going through the closets and cabinets and pulling out stuff. Each unearth item seems to raise some old memory to the surface which is why I think the "Been there/done that" title I attached to the event really fit. But dredging up the white elephants seemed unsettling for more than just me. The canine fur kids are having a shift of pecking order which seems to result in sporadic but vicious fights, so I have called the neighborhood dog whisperer to come consult next week. I am suppose to be the alpha member of the pack. So Audrey advised that for the next few days I really pull rank with both dogs. Morning walks will go back to being training sessions.

Trying to do four things at once yesterday morning resulted in a total melt down of my multi-tasking skills and I almost had a serious kitchen fire. No flames but the smoke was bad enough. Had all the windows and doors open with it being just 26 F outside.

Exhausted last night from dealing with junk, literally, and people calling about when we were open for business or when they could bring things over, I tried to watch a DVD and settle down for the night. Every scene in the movie I was trying to watch seemed to remind me of something else I had not gotten out of its hiding place to sell. Hit pause, run upstairs, carry stuff downstairs, resume watching the movie. I just hope I don't have to put all this stuff back.

I guess it is good I never got that white elephant. It would put a whole other dynamic to the fur kid pecking order that needs sorting out.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Best Laid Plans and flat tires


My neighbor invited me out to brunch yesterday so we could discuss a few last minute things about the upcoming Been there/done that sale this weekend. Estimated elapsed time (door to door) we figured would be two hours even if we ran a few errands at same time. Actual elapsed time was five hours.

Breakfast was delightful and then off to community center to post a flier about the sale. Then Jan needed mouse traps. It is a hideous rodent year and she has no cats. I have offered to loan her one or two of mine for a couple hours but she is allergic.

At the hardware store they were having a killer sale on wild birdseed. Yes, it will soon be that time of year. While loading the birdseed into the trunk I noticed her rear tire was almost flat. Easily remedied we thought. We drove immediately to our friendly local mechanic who also happens to be one of only two people in town that can fix a flat. He was off on a test drive the sign in the window said but would return ASAP. A half hour later we came up with plan two which was to go to the Valley Market with gas pumps and use their air hose to fill the tire and see if it held air long enough to get us back to the house and my car.

While trying to fill the tire I noticed it just got flatter. Time to change the tire. My father always insisted us girls know how to do this. But the spare donut tire was also flat. Mechanic calls back to say he has returned to shop (I have him on speed dial on my cell) but by then we had called a neighbor to come and get us. I warned Alan we would have a flat for him within the hour.

Home, van, back to town, pick up flat tire, off to mechanic. Back to car, change tire, take spare to mechanic. Meanwhile while waiting for our ride I mention to the store it might be nice to remove the air hose or at least post that it is not working. The were irritated with me for even suggesting such a thing. I felt they deserved a parking tons of cars with flat tires because of their bum air hose but I dutifully warned off five drivers looking for air.

Needless to say all I had planned to do yesterday did not get done. Any idea how many calories are burned changing a tire twice? I am pretty aware this morning what muscles it requires.