Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thoughts, Dreams, and Wishes

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My top priority with this post is to say thank you to my friends who read my often pointless ramblings and continue to return in spite of my whines, periodic disappearances, and inexcusably bad manners much of the time. The end of one year and beginning of a new one is a good time for saying thank you's and for expressing some good old-fashioned gratitude. I am deeply grateful to have so many good friends. I know that I can confidently call my readers my friends because this is what friends do: accept you with all your warts and stick around even when you are not keeping up your end of the bargain. I am humbled.

I normally engage in a bit of contemplation this time of year and this one is no exception. Naturally, the Queen of Fantasies is busily scheming and plotting all sorts of projects and experiments, along with newer and better ways to get into more than time and strength permits. It has long been my MO. I set myself up for umpteen projects, actually tackle two or three, and then complete one or two. I suppose I am afraid that if I took on only three challenges (like a more rational person would) that I would accomplish nothing. Funny how we develop coping methods as a child and some of us never outgrow them.

I have a few New Year's resolutions, but one big one that sets the stage for all the others. I have been blessed in life and with blessings far greater than I deserve. My goal in 2012 is to be better at expressing my gratitude. You know the prayer, "Help me be the person my dog thinks I am"?  My prayer is "Help me be somewhat closer to the person who deserves all life's blessings that I have received and may the more deserving person whose blessings I have gotten by some cosmic mistake forgive me for my part in the error."

I will end 2011 with a heartfelt thank you to my friends on the web. May your New Year overflow with the best of days and may you find the strength to withstand the worst ones that slip in along the way. May your dreams grow ever more inspiring and your will to pursue them never falter. I look forward to continuing friendships in 2012. A toast to all of you.

- Posted

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

From the Mouth of the Cave

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I had no idea that my energy for interaction was so depleted when our December Art Show was over. Before long, I had crawled all the way back to the far corner of the cave, burrowed down, and hid out for a while. I pretty much forgot my email password and I sure hope no earth-shattering news was reported, because I unplugged.

I did have some looooong talks with my brother in Buenos Aires. Thank goodness for Skype. Otherwise, The Husband and I would have to live on cornflakes for a couple of months. My brother sounds good and we had fun fantasizing about getting strong enough to tackle that incredibly long trip for a visit. Talking and laughing about it didn't produce any aches and pains and the cost was minimal. It was a delightful game for the holidays.

There were sad talks with two friends that are terribly ill. Each of those visits sent me scurrying back into the far reaches of the cave for another couple of days. Some things in life don't observe holidays.

This year, we got Christmas cards done and I had forgotten how long it takes to make the special effort with the photos inserted in the special cards. We ended up being late with some, but it was worth every moment of time put in. The bonus was the responses that came back and the sound of voices we hadn't heard in a while.

On most of the brief occasions that I stuck my nose out of the cave to sniff the air, I didn't get far. I lost myself in daydreams about the next art show. It would appear that I have been bitten by this bug and, so far, no recovery in sight. I am enjoying the challenge immensely. Staying true to myself, not giving away my work, while providing pieces that some people want to buy is a tricky balance and I am getting a lot of satisfaction from hitting the target on enough occasions to keep me going. For now, I plan to continue on this path in 2011—"lord willing and the creek don't rise".

Since the Husband is off to Los Angeles to ride in the RoseBowl Parade, Galen and I have plenty of quiet around here and I feel even lazier now.The group he rides with will be dressed as Napoleonic era cavalry with the horses properly decked out. They are entry no. 69, I think, and I hope they don't get bumped for a commercial.

As for me, it will take me a few days to catch up—the cave still looks warm and cozy and I did enjoy the quiet way back there in that inviting corner. Never mind, I will venture out and eventually get caught up with all the energizer bunnies who have been posting.

Have a happy and healthy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Morning After the Show

During an art show, I am almost always having a great time. The day after—when the metaphorical dust has settled—I am nursing my aches and pains, assessing what I can do better next time, reviewing some of the people I met, and thinking that I am too old for this!

At the end of the day on Saturday, I was in fair condition and somewhat amazed. By the time we cleared out last night, I was barely functional. I was in bed by a quarter after nine and felt as though I could sleep for two days, at least.

Overall, I had a good weekend—in spite of the fact that traffic was slow. I think we were too close to Christmas. Anyway, I sold three pieces and with a small turnout, that wasn't bad, at all.

Small turnout or not, I am pooped. I will have to lay low for a few days and catch my breath. I am already thinking about the next show. Is that sick? I am looking forward to the next rush of creativity and what ever discoveries lie ahead. I already have a list of some pieces that I want to focus on and some that I didn't finish in time for this show.

I am just grateful that I don't have to start work immediately. I do have one task for this week. I have been asked to donate a piece for the raffle held at the big Bear Valley Springs show. That task has to be taken care of this week; but, after that I plan to kick back for a few days and pretend, once again, to be fully retired.

I will be back when the aching subsides and I am not constantly stifling yawns. I owe a stack of responses to all who have posted comments, but this statement of gratitude can't wait: Thank you all for the generous good wishes that I got before the show. Your kind words sent me off full of enthusiasm and optimism.

Answers and some questions coming soon.

P.S. I was waiting and hoping to find the energy to add a photo to this, but have given up. This post will have to go out on the big ol' World Wide Web unadorned.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, December 9, 2011

Another iPad Cover for the Art Show

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Tomorrow is the first day of our Art Show. I have sorely missed the web conversation going on without me and apologize for not even finding time to respond to some posts here. Naturally, I have been buzzing around finishing all the last minute jobs, so I will be ready for tomorrow morning—rested, and prepared for two long days of fun.

Today's photo is another from Highway 58, taken along the road to Bakersfield and featuring one of those oak trees that are such a dominating theme in my photography.

The December Art Show prompted the purchase of additional gear. When I bought the iPad I ordered a Smart Cover and have been quite satisfied with it. Then, I began doing these small art shows and using my tablet outside the house as a portable portfolio. The Smart Cover just seems a bit flimsy for that use.

I decided to try something a little heftier for those occasions. I chose a Bear Motion leather cover and, so far, I am quite happy with my decision. It feels good in the hand. The texture of the leather makes me feel a little more secure about handling the iPad with a number of people moving about in my vicinity.

Furthermore, this stand appears to be more stable. Since I place the tablet on a table during the show and run a slide show, I will breathe more easily now. People who are drawn to my display often linger to watch the slide show and frequently someone requests to see one of the pictures again. A couple of people have come close to bumping the screen when gesturing and this cover will, I think, minimize the potential for the tablet taking a fall. I have read that the iPad is amazingly resilient, but would rather not test its ability to survive a tumble off a table onto a tile floor.

At this early stage and with no test "in battle", I would recommend Bear Motion's cover. Good price, prompt shipping, fits perfectly, pleasant to handle. I bought mine through Amazon.

Friday, December 2, 2011

War Horse

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If you have heard of the multiple-Tony winning play, War Horse, you have probably been wondering why it has taken me so long to mention it. Naturally, I had long indulged in fantasies about whirlwind trips to New York to take in this production.  Many years ago, The Husband and I had the good fortune to see a staged version of the Tolstoy story, "Strider." it was beautifully staged and incredibly moving. It was  amazing to see Strider, the horse, so eloquently brought to life by a two-legged creature. It sounds as though it couldn't work, but believe me it did. I knew I would appreciate War Horse.

I wasn't completely surprised by the profound effectiveness of the illusion because of a previous theatre experience. Much earlier in my life, I had seen a Ballet Folklorico troupe out of Mexico City and included on the bill was a number titled "The Deer Dance." I rank that as one of my all time favorite theatre experiences. I never saw anything on stage in Los Angeles, New York, or London to top the emotional impact of the two dancers playing out the chase and ultimate demise of the deer along with the hunter's reverence for his prey.

The troupe performed in quite a large venue and when the dance ended, there was a brief moment of stunned silence, then a crowd of more than a thousand people leaped to their feet to bring down the rafters with thunderous applause that didn't want to come to an end. I lost track of the number of curtain calls. No one wanted the magic to end. The performance was wrenching, poetic, and has forever haunted my thoughts.

I have no doubts that War Horse, the stage production, would make for more wonderful memories. Of course, a cross country airplane trip now is about as realistic as climbing that peak in the Andes. But, wait! dum te dum! Steven Spielberg to the rescue!  A few weeks ago, I had read in one of the many horse magazines that come to our house that the film adaptation of the play is scheduled for release either Christmas or early next year. Theatre seats and I don't get along, so I will have to wait for a delayed gift from Mr. S. And, yes, the puppeteers from the play have been replaced by real horses, but the trailer already has my little horse-loving heart going pitty-pat.

If you haven't seen the trailer, check it out here.  I may not watch this film as many times as I have seen The Black Stallion—Caleb Deschanel's cinematography was inspired—but War Horse has made it to my must-see list.

By the way, the image here was included in the Bear Valley Springs Art Show last spring.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Deadline Pressure

I am feeling the pressure now. Our next Art Show comes up December 10 and 11 and you didn't need me to tell you that I came up with last minute "inspirations" and got myself in some deadline trouble. Tell the truth. You wouldn't believe it was me, if I did it any differently.

If I am more flaky than usual in the next several days, you will know where I am and what I am doing.

The photo above is from my last flurry of exploration with the LensBaby before my incarceration in the studio and office, sentenced to more days of mounting, matting, and framing along with sign production.

I was sick as a dog last Sunday, but refused to completely waste the day. Instead, I watched videos and read tips for using the LensBaby. Periodically, I put a couple of small items on the dining table and went searching again for that !?**@$ sweet spot.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Me and My (Lens)Baby—Maybe

Since I took up photography, it has become a tradition in our family for me to choose a combo birthday, anniversary, Christmas gift near the end of the year. Moreover, I always manage somehow to get the present well before December 25th. This year the package came before Thanksgiving Day.

I finally took the plunge and asked for a LensBaby—Composer Pro w/Sweet 35, to be precise. I have had it for a couple days and I am as intrigued as I am frustrated by the lens. My struggles have me wondering if I am cut out to use this gear. I admitted long ago that my eyes aren't great—and there is even more than age at issue here. Nearsightedness. Astigmatism. Then, add the age on, for good measure. It's a challenge. Since I have had time for only a couple of brief sessions, I am withholding judgement; but, I am obviously not a natural with this. So far, this is as close as I have come to getting anything that I am willing to publish here.

I love the look and want this to work, but the manual focusing and that seemingly infinitesimal sweet spot is elusive so far.

Obviously, I have to set aside some time to give this a fair shot. I want to feel confident in my decision before I commit to keeping the lens or returning it. Defeat certainly wouldn't taste good. However, neither would stubborn denial.

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Update three sessions later: Since I like this photo better than the one above, I am feeling a bit more optimistic. Limited as I am by my eyes, this could never be my #1 lens. Still I am leaning more to staying with this. Maybe I will eventually get the hang of it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Final Step with the Camera Connection Kit

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After a Wednesday late-afternoon drive around Bear Valley Springs with the trusty old 40D, I decided it was time to trot out that camera cable and connect to the iPad. It was simple as pie. Of course, the RAW files from the 40D aren't 21 megapixels, but the operation went smoothly. I can see that it chews up quite bit of battery juice. I decided what the heck. I had come this far without using the desktop I may as well complete the exercise and process the small set of photos with Snapseed and FilterStorm.

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't download more than half a dozen files on this trial run. That means I have no idea how this would work if I had attempted to transfer 50 or 60 files. I have read that this sometimes causes the computer to freeze up. I have also read that your RAW files are converted to jpg's as they are transferred and they are downsized. Both of those things make sense to me. Earl, have I got all this right? I think I read all this on Terry White's Adobe Photoshop tech blog.

I now pronounce myself ready to move to the next phase. Time to refine the basic skills I have acquired and begin planning a weekend trip. The fundamentals are in place. Soon I will be travel-ready and that means ready for traveling light. Should I tell The Husband? Yeah, I think he is already on to me.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

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May your day be filled with love and laughter. May you take joy in celebrating all blessings large and small.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On the Inside, Looking Out

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Galen is a funny pup. This picture of him sitting at the back door, gazing at his yard, depicts a sight that is not uncommon. Who knows whether this is about some form of canine longing, or maybe idle curiosity? If he has serious business to take care of, he finds a way to convey the urgency and does not settle for subtle signals. Sometimes it is the barking. But, often, if I am sitting, he has a different signal. He puts a paw on my leg to get my attention, looks into my eyes, and a sound comes from him that clearly says, "This is serious. Would I lie to you?" I have learned to heed that message. He isn't kidding.

Barking, on the other hand, may alternatively mean that he simply wants to go out. In those cases, when he does get outside, it is a toss up as to what he will do. He may be going out on business. But, there are times when he simply has a burning need to check out the newest smells in his territory. On another day, he just feels the need to sit on the edge of the berm in the yard and survey his kingdom. He is clear that that realm extends far beyond the fence that borders the little yard. Sometimes, he patiently watches riders go by on the trail to the south. There are days when his main duty is keeping an eye on the neighbors' horses and dogs on the property east of us. There have been times when I would swear that he is admiring the sunset.

In some instances, going out alone is not an option. He wants one of us to go outside and play with him. On those occasions, he has no use for private time in his yard. He wants to be the center of a very small universe—just Galen and at least one of his humans—sometimes it has to be the entire family. Nothing less will suffice. Other times, he watches from inside—perching by the door, or lying on the window sill, taking in the world out there.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What is the Emergency at UPS?

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When you are expecting prints (or any package, for that matter), this is not a message you want to see at the UPS tracking site: "Emergency conditions beyond UPS' control. / Delivery rescheduled." I had an order of prints that was scheduled to arrive Friday.  The package had left Mojave for delivery early Friday and ordinarily would have been here around 5 or 6 PM. Now, I have no idea when, or if I will see the package. Meantime, the window for framing is slowly creeping shut. No where near urgent, at the moment; but, certainly not comforting.

A Short Trip with the iPad

Okay, I didn't process this while on the road. It was a very short trip. But, the photo is a drive-by shot taken on Highline Road—part of the back roads route we take to Los Angeles. This was taken with the G7 on the way home and I did process it on the iPad.

By the time we got home, I had this bug to use the Connection Kit to get some files from the SD card to the iPad and then process at least one using the apps I have been experimenting with. Call it a dry run in anticipation of some travel in my future. Boy, it felt good to feel up to getting out and seeing some of the world. Our house is comfy. I love my views, but gee whiz I do get a bit of cabin fever.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Camera Connection Kit Finally Arrived

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I wish the package had arrived earlier. Too bad I dawdled before ordering. Now, I have to focus on meeting deadlines for our December show.

When the show is done, I also will have time to decide on how I want to use the photography apps I have installed. For now, I jump around from one to the other with no clear plan. I bounce form Filterstorm to Snapseed, likely on then to Photogene and, by the time I am done, I have no clue how I made use of the different tools.

The photo here is an iPad shot processed in that disorganized manner I described. It will be nice to have choices when away from home or unable to sit at the desktop computer. Sure, it will not happen overnight; but, by the time I am good and sick of winter—around late February or mid March—I will be armed and ready to pack fast and travel light.

A new wrinkle to consider. Last night, BlogPress not only failed to publish a prepared post, it ate it. Poof. Somewhere out there in that black hole of lost computer-generated material is today's original post. There is always something new.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Or, Fat and Happy Hens

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No sooner did I whine about never getting a remotely salvageable picture of quail, then I got my best opportunity to date. Heaven help me if I never improve on this; but, I take it as a hopeful sign. Next time I hope the topknots are visible.

The Husband and I stood inside watching the quail and marveling at how fat they are. I suppose all the fattening up might well indicate that we are in for a long, cold winter. I love watching these birds even if do they thwart my photographic ambitions. There is something about the rhythm of their movements that I find charming and mesmerizing.

I am most often silent on days such as Veteran's Day. Others write eloquent tributes, I am left tongue-tied. The radio station we get devotes a great deal of time to observation of the day and its meaning. I tend to keep the station on all day and appreciate the interviews, music, and tributes. I am grateful that others find words to express what is in my heart and hope you all found a satisfactory way to observe the day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Madder Than An Old Wet Hen

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Do old hens really get ticked off when they get wet? Can't say I know that for a fact. But, this hawk—busy shaking out his still damp feathers from the rain the day before—appeared impatient and  hungry. A rough morning for field mice near our back yard.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Another weekend test

Here I am stubbornly trying something else. Like a dog with a bone.

More Experimenting

I am interested in connecting a picture in Blogger to a photo in my Smugmug galleries. If this does not work, please ignore me while I fumble and stumble about in here. Too bad I am slow as molasses with these matters.

What link you are asking. Funny. That is exactly the question I was asking. I pasted it in but you would never know it. Oh well, maybe another day I will come back ton this and figure it out. Just not real soon.

Snow on the Tomato War Battlefield

We had our first snowfall yesterday. It was a mere dusting, but a clear death knell for our lovely Autumn. It certainly was a far cry from the days of "The Great Tomato Wars of August".

Back then, I wrote about The Husband's tomato plants and the critters that were munching on the fruit. In spite of the caterpillars and ground squirrels, many of the tomatoes survived. The Husband continues to enjoy the bounty of his labors. While I can no longer eat tomatoes, I have enjoyed watching him reap the rewards of his labor. I am not certain he will put in the effort again next year; but, he certainly feels that it was worth fighting off the marauding enemies this year. My pleasure is doubled by the sight of the last of the red beauties still decorating the kitchen island.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Overdue Answers on Art Show Adventures

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A while back, Ken asked which pieces of work sold in the recent art shows and here I am finally getting around to the answer. Ken has probably forgotten why he cared to ask, but he is going to get an answer—just not all in one post.

The piece above pre-sold the second show. (I had a couple of prints displayed at the venue as a preview of the show.) Printed on metallic paper, that background was a shimmering gold and made for a piece that was eye-catching. During the first show, I sold two pieces and I could have sworn that I had already posted one of them, "Blue Horse Dreaming"; but, I was dead wrong. The third piece is very new. I will post both of those over the next few days.

About the same time Ken asked his question, PJ asked if I planned to write a bit more about my experience with art shows. Frankly, I hadn't planned to since my experience is extremely limited. But, I have no pride. I will reveal how little I know. I have not pursued juried shows, nor have I submitted to prestigious galleries. Mostly because I am a hard-core realist and recognize that my work doesn't exactly fall in line with what is hot these days. (And maybe because I am chicken.) My work  embodies the opposite of edgy and I have visited enough of the galleries in Los Angeles to see that my work does not come close to fitting in any of those venues. Although they might be the logical market for me, the type of outdoor art shows often done in parks would be far too rigorous an undertaking for me. The galleries in the nearest town are really co-ops. The artists pay for their space along with a commission to the gallery owners.

Both my partner and I felt that the gallery/co-ops weren't our cup of tea. My problem is that the bottom line costs pretty much go through the roof with that arrangement. Most of all, I know myself well enough to know that the predictability of First Friday every month would become routine for me and wear thin. Being in the same place month after month would cease to be fun and stimulating for me. Yes, I am undisciplined in some matters; but, at least,I have learned to face my quirks and work with them.

Although we weren't interested in pursuing the other local opportunities,  neither did the once-a-year Cultural Arts Spring Art Show satisfy our appetites. Ultimately, we decided to make our own opportunities. I am okay with having sold three pieces in three days of shows. My prices are reasonable (I think), but I definitely don't sell myself short. I figure my costs—minus labor, unfortunately, then multiply for a mark-up. I love sharing my work and want it to be accessible; but I am not going to pay people to take my work home with them.

As I had already mentioned, our operation is unsophisticated and not a high profit venture. Hmm. Sounds like me. I have never been in a high-profit business and unsophisticated certainly fits me, as well as the area we live in. In another location, I might do things differently. Who knows? So far, our venture has turned out well. Our "What's-next situation?" suits me. At least for now.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Jumping the Line

I have other posts that I have been trying to add here, but they have to be completed at the desktop. Instead, I am taking the easy way out and getting it all done from the iPad. I have worked on some photos that had been synced from the desktop; but, with the end of flowers in sight, I succumbed once again to the temptation to use the iPad as a camera. (Ove, no one was watching—made sure I was home alone.)

We have a hard freeze, as well as some rain, coming starting Thursday night. Perhaps that's why flowers are on my mind. It appears that The Husband's pots have one more day to enjoy the beautiful balmy fall weather we have been enjoying before the axe of winter falls. Of course this photo was done indoors and these are dried flowers. What can I say?

- Posted using BlogPress

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Uh,Oh! Caught in a Filterstorm and Found Snapseed

I started experimenting with photo editing apps and what a keen distraction from real work and an excellent way to avoid deadlines. The truth is that I still have hopes of being able to do a bit of travel and, at least on some occasions, I would love to join the crowd that travels light.

The photo above was taken with the iPad—not my idea of a practical camera. Still, it provided sufficient material to keep me glued to the screen for an absurd amount of time stumbling about in the two new-to-me programs. The Husband is off on an endurance ride, leaving me here to get into all sorts of trouble.

I have another reason for wanting to do some photo processing on the iPad. Some days—many days—I do too much and have to park in the rocking chair for a good time before I am functional again. Once I can take full advantage of the editing capabilities (I may not have any hair left by then),I can both rest and feel somewhat productive. That is the sort of plan that suits me.

Of course, sigh, this means that I will be ordering the adapter cable so I can use a much more user-friendly camera. You would think that with the bucks paid for the iPad the darned adapter would be included. That Steve Jobs was no fool. A smart capitalist out for as many bucks as possible. Oh, well, shelling out the money will buy me lots of hours of entertainment. I am a confirmed capitalist myself and know I won't regret the purchase. Here’s to Steve and to many happy hours in the rocking chair!

Friday, October 28, 2011

This is a Test

This is just a test. This test will take less than 30 seconds. This test is to being run to check out BlogPress.

You will now be returned to your regular programming.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 27, 2011

No New Address

(Updated—Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

Someone new to my blog might deduce that I live either in a horse barn or somewhere on Highway 58. Nope. I haven't moved. No pun intended there. Calling what I feel "restless" would be a disservice to the English language. At least, I can find a small silver lining. Whenever I can sit at the computer, I do spend time combing through old folders for those files that I passed over for one reason, or another. I am clinging to that old wisdom (or is it wishful thinking): "When one door closes, another opens." Heck, I am up for testing the windows at this point!

Looking forward to the next small show in the teeming community of the Tehachapi Valley, I have purchased some metal easels through Amazon. they are sufficient for my needs, but gee, could they only find beginner welders? Not ready for prime time. Another two easels that The Husband picked for me when he was in LA will have to be returned. They are too heavy for me to handle. It is difficult for him—or anyone else—to imagine how little weight I can muscle around.

Since the latest two purchases are a bust, I am reluctantly returning to the Internet solution. The easels are to help me be more independent with my little art show obsession, and I am still a couple short. I have a little time to research, but burn out pretty quickly shopping online. Let's face it. I burn out quickly with any sort of shopping. It is a nasty chore.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Painful Admissions

Probably because I always over-valued my independence and dependability, this is painful for me and frustrating. Recently I have not been able to keep up my blog, nor have I been able to keep up with fellow bloggers. My back pain has come back with a vengeance and I have to take a lot of pain killers to function at all. They are just over the counter stuff—the heavy duty drugs knock me for a loop and my system rebels. Nevertheless, even the lightweight drugs leave me a bit fuzzy-headed and lethargic after a bit. I got through both shows in decent condition, but maybe I pushed too much. At any rate, I have been in rough shape.

This is not what I want to be talking about. It is so boring it makes my teeth hurt, but what is more painful is having friends think I am so caught up in myself that I have no interest in what they are writing about and the images they are sharing. I have hopes that my back will settle down. I have tried some remedies lately-all of which backfired, big time, but I remain hopeful.

I shall return! Meanwhile, I will stay in touch as best I can and am determined that this week I will at least be able to get out on the web more to see what everyone else is up to.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What Qualifies As New Work?

I don't plan to make this the official new format for the blog—going sans photo, but my limitations create some restrictions and I will settle for this again today.

Last week, I made fun of my "90% new work" rule and after some comments on that rule I thought I should clarify and ask the opinion of others as to what qualifies as new work.

Common sense and self-preservation told me to simply show mostly pieces that exist in present inventory of framed prints and enjoy the experience of our venture. Over time, I have amassed a decent collection and I could easily have had enough pieces for such a small show as this. Need I reference previous examples of ignoring common sense in my plans of action?

Therefore, after a brief period of struggling to talk sense to myself, I surrendered and admitted that I was going to spend a small chunk of money on new framing kits as well as dig into the work of prepping new pieces. My definition of new work, this time around, meant work that may have been displayed on my blog, but pieces that had never been given the final tweaks. Web ready, yes. But, not print-ready. From past experience, I knew better than to assume that a piece that had played well on the web was ready to be printed and framed for presentation. Sure enough, there were cases where I got some unpleasant surprises and spent quite a bit of time coaxing out the file that was up to the rigors of print.

By the time I finished the job, I had six framed pieces that were new to my framed-prints collection. I had planned on hanging eight pieces which would fill my small portion of our limited display area. Right off you can see that I didn't meet my 90% goal. I got close, but three pieces that I had my heart set on eluded me. (Perhaps I should be grateful. After all, we have another show in December.)

More to come on another day. Meanwhile, does your definition of new (for a show) come closer to the SoFoBoMo rules—meaning photographs taken in the period immediately before a show? Does it exclude work previously shared in any form? Maybe I am out there in some alternative universe making stuff up as I go along. Wouldn't be the first time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Between Shows

I am still here—still alive—although I am tempted to add, barely. And , that could apply to both statements. 

I regret having been completely absent from the blogging world for so long. Most of all, it isn't fun to admit that I managed to become totally overwhelmed by the preparations for this first new art show venture. Oh, I had not yet mentioned that there would be more than one, had I? Yes, long before I was ready for the first show I had opened my big mouth and booked another one for us.  The first was this past weekend and no. 2 comes up this Saturday. But, we have a short break. Show number 3 doesn't come up until December 10 and 11.

Unfortunately for my health and peace of mind, I suffered a severe attack of Compulsive Creative Syndrome. I had to put up at least 90% new work. Oh, did I write that rule for myself? Hmmm. I suppose I did. Maybe for the December show I can let up on that mostly new pieces rule. You think? You're right. Probably not.

There were four of us participating in this first show, and we had a marvelous weekend with fine turnouts both days. The owner of the winery seemed quite happy with the event and was happy to book us for December. Then, we take a break until next year and see what sort of trouble we can get ourselves into during 2012.

Just as it has been for any of these small shows that I have ever participated in, a number of lovely people attended, and I met more people in two days than I had met in the previous six months. Remember, my theme song is "Don't Get Around Much Anymore."

I sold two of the larger new pieces and have a special order for a Christmas gift. Not a bad weekend at all, in my little world. Thanks to two different chairs that were dragged along and lots of Advil, I managed to walk out each evening all in one piece and even got a full night's sleep, last night. Hey, things are looking good. I will be in touch more in the next few weeks, now that we have one under our belts and I have some fun stories to share about doing a small art show in between a very small mountain town and a mostly-sleepy, mostly-retirement community.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Like a Hawk

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Off and on for quite while, I had grieved over our loss of Betty. For a little history of Betty, see the Bitchin' Betty post. Finally, another hawk appears to have taken official ownership of Betty's perch on our roof. This fellow is big, aggressive, and appears rather young. Just this morning, I watched him drive another hawk of "his" fence south of the house. Yes, it seems this fine-feathered friend of ours has declared our fence his territory and that effectively makes the large open space west of our house his hunting ground.

Later, when I took this photograph, the hawk sat on the roof occasionally showing me those yellow eyes that you don't forget once you look into them. Periodically, he calmly checked on me, uttering that "guh-runk" I had never heard. If this fellow had let rip one of the shrieks for which these the Red- tailed Hawks are famous, I would have immediately abandoned my post. There is a reason that movie makers almost always use the screech of these hawks when they want any sort of raptor to curdle blood.

In spite of some interest in keeping track of me, this hawk was mostly attentive to signs of movement in the grass below. Eventually, when he flew away, he soared all the way to the edge of the road. That means his prey was at least one hundred yards away. Makes you think about that phrase watching like hawk.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Puppy Dogs and Flowers

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A couple of days ago, I recklessly promised photos of dogs and flowers to balance all the angst and drama around here. Still feeling a bit lazy, I thought I would see if I could get away with a cheat and combine the two.

As I have mentioned previously, Galen loves to perch on benches. If I hadn't met the dam and sire, I might wonder about our dog's heritage. Never in my life have I had a dog who so loves to perch on benches even the bedroom window seat for a good view. Heck, given an opportunity, he moves from the window seat to the window sill.

One day while hanging out by my rocking chair—no doubt lulled by the clicking of the virtual keyboard in my lap, our pup suddenly succumbed to an ill-advised impulse to leap up on the windowsill beside us. There is no window seat in the living room; but, I suppose, in that tiny doggy brain, he thought such a convenience was superfluous. Needless to say, I was yanked to attention by a crash on my left and the sight of a rather stunned looking pup scrambling to his feet.

In the bedroom, transitioning from the window seat to the sill is a piece of cake. Still, as you form your mental image of this maneuver, keep in mind that Galen is not one of those tiny, delicate Shelties. He is one of the "big boys" from the litter—just over the limit for showing. That, of course, broke our hearts. Such plans we had for the little one. Dreams dashed before he fully matured. I hope you realize that the last part was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek. We bought him with full intention of loving and reveling in being loved. We needed no more. It was a wise investment.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Still Here and Smiling Now

I am late with this and have no energy for an ambitious post, but wanted to thank all for the encouraging words. We never saw the fire in the valley. It was over the western ridge. But the ridge isn't far away; the smoke was a nasty reminder; and, what news we could get was not comforting. Waiting and watching, searching for updates with details—all were less than entertaining. Having always had a healthy respect for firefighters and a much more personal sense of the role they play in my life since living in southern California, my respect for these people has grown another notch.

The Comanche complex (four smaller fires that came together) is largely contained as of 8:00 AM, today. I found these facts interesting and thought I would share them. This complex was tamed by 35 crews utilizing 30 bulldozers and 136 engines. A total of 1586 people faced the four fires and won. By the time the smoke had begun to clear, 30,000 acres were devastated by the Comanche complex alone.

Here are my favorite facts: All evacuation orders have been lifted in the Tehachapi area; full containment is expected by September 15; injuries—0; structures destroyed—0.

Galen was sick during the night. It would seem that he picked up on the "local" anxiety. He seems quite cheerful now. By tomorrow, I should be ready for puppy stories and gardening tips-or something in that general neighborhood.

Have a wonderful day everyone.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where There's Smoke or If it Ain't One Thing....

No, it isn't a damp, foggy afternoon in sleepy little Bear Valley Springs. That haze is smoke from the Comanche fire to the west of us. This one has razed 15,000 acres already and, at 2:30 PM, it was 30% contained. We thought it had been wrapped up last night, but no such luck. By 10 PM last night, there were 50 fires burning in Kern County. Today, several are 80% contained, some 30%, and many we can't find figures on. The wind in our vally is still ESE, blowing against the fire. But, a few miles the other side of the ridge, the wind comes from the west. Tonight the wind here is supposed to switch around and come from the west. There wasn't much rain in our immediate area last night unfortunately, but the forecast offers hope once again: 30% chance of showers, tonight.

We are on Bear Valley Road and this afternoon I have watched bulldozers being hauled in, and fire engines rolling out with sirens blasting. Still, because I am not your intrepid reporter from channel whatever, I took this from the shelter on the safe side of my bathroom window. I am already breathing my allotment of smoke. You deserve a better photo since I chatter on about this, but chalk it up to lazy reporting. Hey, I am still worth every penny of my salary.

The Husband has sprinklers soaking the west side of the house. He is taking another load of lumber scraps to the dump. Is his work more than likely unnecessary? Yes. But, he takes this fire business seriously. (Not that I don't.) Not long after we met, many years ago, he faced a fire in Malibu Canyon fighting to save a house he had in the non-chic part of Malibu. More recently, he returned to help a friend and trailered horses out of that canyon during yet another fire—one that roared right down to the Pacific Coast Highway. He stood, on the beach, with horse owners trying to soothe their nervous and exhausted animals, while the flames danced just across 5 lanes of asphalt. He is not a man to take this lightly.

We hope our listeners will tune in the next few days for the latest on cute dogs and photos of flowers. Fashion stories and fishing news may be delayed, but we are looking forward to a moratorium on drama. Maybe a feature on square dancing, or a documentary on the latest Zumba workout videos. Sorry. No film at eleven.

While I was proofing this, it began to rain. It is the most beautiful rain I have ever seen. If I could be tap dancing, I would out be there dancing and singing in that rain. The sun is still shining, so it will be a brief shower, but this stuff is wet! Wahoo!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Good News Update

Things are looking good at the moment. No flames licking up over that ridge to the northeast. The fire on the opposite side of the valley over the western ridge is still going, but it doesn't appear to have grown and the best part of all is that some of that early darkness was about rain clouds—I hadn't dared to hope. The wind, still coming from the SE, has picked up; but, it is pushing a slight sprinkle of rain. The wind is expected to shift a couple of times during the night. Who knows how many directions it may come from before it is over. 

It was lightning that set all this off, now we can hope that rain will help to tamp it down. I am pulling for enough rain to douse these things. The poor members of the Kern County Fire Department had just proclaimed the Canyon fire (the first one) 90% contained yesterday and they are back at it. They barely had time to catch their breath before starting on this round. For this many fires, they will have help coming from surrounding counties.

Galen has been jumpy all day. I knew something had changed a few minutes ago when he suddenly became agitated and let me know that I had to follow him.  I assumed he was ready for another opportunity to "tend to business", and I couldn't move quickly enough for him. He urged me to pick up the pace and was in full emergency mode by the time we hit the door. I thought I had come close to waiting too late. It turned out he must have smelled and sensed the change. We had to go outside and verify the rain. It was coming down harder—not just the sprinkles we had earlier. That calmed him down. No need for "business" after all. The rain lifted my spirits, too.

Here We Go Again

I fear that I will become known as the "drama queen", but as we shifted into gear this morning, we discovered another reminder that fire season has begun and with a vengeance, this year. Last night, we had thunderstorms with lightning strikes galore. At 6:30 AM, I took Galen out and admired the beautiful clouds and drank in some of that sweet mountain air. Within less than an hour this is what we discovered. This fire is, unfortunately northeast of us and the howling wind is coming from directly behind that fire. It turns out that we have forty, yes, you read that correctly 4 and 0 fires now burning in Kern County. What appears in the photo to be one fire (that is what we thought) is, by now, four fires, all moving west right for our valley. Thank goodness the winds are supposed to shift tonight. Forgive me for sounding shamefully selfish. I want the fire to be turned back on itself not on someone else.

By the time I am finishing this post—it has been a strange disjointed day—the smoke fills the valley. In spite of our tight windows it has seeped into the house. No more of that delicious and fresh mountain air. The Husband is mowing as fast as he can. He was checking the tractor manual a while ago. Maybe checking to see how long he can run it without wrecking the engine? I have no idea. I said a fond farewell to what was left of the daisies this morning. It was a small price to pay for a smidgen more peace of mind. It is eerily dark for 5:00 PM and not still. The wind blows and the those beautiful early autumn clouds are barely visible. The canopy that was full of promise this morning is smudged with a dirty gray.

The drama queen comment is heartfelt. It is odd that we have for long led such a humdrum existence—quiet little lives and certinly not of desperation. Then, suddenly, almost literally all hell breaks loose. I talk about these things because they are, after all, what is now and I ask you to please know that I am not whining, "poor me". We are not in any imminent danger, only alert. We are perfectly safe and sound. We have been extremely fortunate and relished a handsome share of good fortune. There are so many truly suffering today. But to some degree my blog is reporting on life in our little mountain valley—telling stories about what I see here. Therefore, this post isn't completely personal then, just reporting what I see and what little I know.  Sometimes we are swept along by currents we didn't prepare for. It keeps life interesting, but may I order some boredom, please? And another order to go, if you don't mind.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Something Silly This Way Comes

I started at least three posts, but finally faced the facts. I could only manage something silly. A snapshot that makes me smile.

Of course, it has been easier to smile since The Husband was returned safely to me late yesterday. He is making only croaking noises due to bruising of vocal cords; otherwise, he is doing rather well. The surgery was the result of a parathyroid gland. I know. I didn't know we had any either. Turns out we have four, located near the thyroid gland and sometimes one runs amuck. When that happens, that one will begin to overproduce all sorts of things not good for the rest of the body. The gland that began the size of a grain of rice starts growing and needs to come out. He now has one less parathyroid gland (that had become the size of a large grape) and for the moment is quite hoarse. By next week he should as good as new—well, okay, a lot better than he was.

I was guilt-ridden because I couldn't be there to take care of him; but, frankly, he had said that if I was the one to take him there and back he would be burdened with the anxiety over my well-being. I had to admit he made strong points. I know that my anxiety over three friends who are dealing with devastating news tears at me. So his assessment was not what I wanted to hear, but factual.

This is a learning experience I hadn't planned on. Denial can be a wonderful tool, can't it? Besides, some things we just don't imagine ever having to deal with and that is healthy, I think. It truly is a blessing that most young people can't comprehend what lies ahead of them. Egads! If at twenty-five you could fully imagine what your body could be going through in later decades, you might not want to face it. You likely would, at least, be really ticked off. I am being flippant, at the moment, but I do believe that it is just as well that we have those early years of living in blissful ignorance. If there is nothing we can do to avoid what is in store, why spend time dreading it? I am thrust fully into my "education". During this schooling, I fully expect to drag out that old denial technique periodically. I suspect it will come in handy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Update to the Update

My slowness to respond to all the deeply appreciated expressions of concern and good thoughts is due to my back issues, rather than personal safety concerns. First, the fire is far enough from us to be comforting. Second, the prevailing winds here come from the west, occasionally north, and the fire is southeast of us. Still, I won't deny that the fire is distracting. (It doesn't help that The Husband's surgery happens this week. He is in LA today for a consult with the surgeon.) The Bakersfield radio and TV stations have begun to cover the blaze and it is difficult to put it completely out of one's my mind.

Even though this doesn't begin to compare in scale to the devastation in central Texas, it remains a concern for the community. Over 13,000 acres have now been consumed, a dozen homes have been destroyed, and 650 homes are threatened. Over a thousand firefighters are on the job now and the latest report says they have it only 10% under control. Not very encouraging. We are constantly being reminded in one way or another how little control we have over our environment and when it is even this close, it does tend to get one's attention.

Paul Lester asked about causes. There are dozens, but mostly it comes down to the conditions in which the fires start. The major factors are thousands of miles of kindling in the form of dry underbrush, extremely low humidity, and fierce winds. It is a recipe for disaster. As I mentioned a couple of days ago the winter and spring rains produced the kindling. Then, on the day the fire started, the humidity was a scant 25%. (You may remember I have mentioned that the Tehachapi Mountains sit at the edge of the Mojave Desert). As for the winds, they are a constant.

Steve Skinner would know far more about this than I, but the conditions are daunting for the firefighters. Steep, rocky terrain; erratic winds; low humidity; high temperatures; a seemingly endless supply of fuel; near impossible access. Steve could certainly add more that I have overlooked.

The fires are begun in almost any way you can imagine: lightning strikes; sparks from vehicles or tools; carelessness in hay-filled barns; stoves, lanterns and candles; campfires; plane crashes; and, of course in some cases, arson. Once again, Steve could point out how incomplete my list is. But the most important factor is conditions that are "ideal" for an out of control blaze.

My sincere thanks to all who left kind comments wishing us the best. I appreciate the concern and good thoughts. I have hopes of being able to work at the desktop this afternoon so I can soon publish a "proper" post with a photograph. For the moment, however, forget the pajama blogger business—I am president of the "rocking chair brigade".

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wild Fire Update

Before answering individual comments and questions, I want to thank everyone for thoughtful replies while assuring all that we are fine. It appears that the firefighters have this one pretty much under control. While the red glow on the horizon that persisted throughout the night was not comforting, there is much less smoke this morning and we are far more relaxed in the bright light of a September morning.

We still don't have much information. This one was started by a plane crash in the Tehachapi Mountains, the pilot and co-pilot are dead (no passengers), and late evening the fire had burned about 300 acres. That is the sum of the news we have. I have previously alluded to how small our nearest town is. Here is another fact to put it in perspective: There is no Tehachapi radio station. The nearest station is in Bakersfield which is close in miles, but in another climate zone and the only news they consistently cover up here is big scandals. We will learn more when it is all over.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

California Wild Fires—'Tis the Season

The sight strikes fear in the heart. While this fire is far enough from us to eliminate any need for panicked packing, it is a grim reminder that fire season is upon us. The rains last winter and spring produced a bumper crop of underbrush and there is ample fodder to turn one of these blazes into an inferno that could quickly consume thousands of acres. We are grateful for some routes that serve as emergency exits out of the valley, but pray we never have to try one—especially while hauling a horse trailer.  There are a number of planes in the air working on this, in addition to the manpower on the ground. We remain, as they say, "cautiously optimistic".

Monday, August 29, 2011

Trouble Commenting

I have encountered a problem posting comments at a number of sites. So far, I am mystified as to the why. Just living with the frustration for now. Sooner or later, I will stumble upon the solution.

Family Values

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Just a few words to put into context what happens here in the near future (or more accurately what doesn't happen). My back has gone kaflooie again, The Husband has a surgery coming up all too soon, and the deadlines for the art show loom in the background. Things are apt to get a bit wonky. But everything in life is temporary. All will be straightened out soon.

Meanwhile, life goes on. Our spring finally turned to summer, but a blessedly mild one, so far. Most days, we are filled with optimism and on the ones when we aren't, we mostly just stay quiet. Galen continues to fill our lives with joy. He supplies generous doses of love, education, and entertainment.

When he isn't streaking around the backyard at breakneck speed, he loves to jump up on things and negotiate obstacles. It is possible he was born to be an agility dog. While we have no intention of taking that seriously, we do plan to purchase some bargain-priced, "practice", agility obstacles for his play sessions. In the photo above, he is perched atop a garden bench. One of his favorite sports is racing across the yard to respond to "come", then reacting to a wave of the hand and "hup" with a leap atop the nearest of what have become Galen's benches. He also thinks racing, full-out, between a person's legs is almost as much fun as eating.

There is only one small downside to his joy in these family sessions. He is quite resourceful in making it known that he has spent considerable energy assessing the circumstances and insists on sharing the information—at full volume, of course. The message: "It is getting late and there is little time left for play. And, no, one of you won't do. This is family time." Naturally, the message is cleverly designed and delivered in a way to be mistaken for "I have to go outside, now, and if you wait there will be a dreadful accident in the house. Just don't say I didn't warn you."

Would we trade the head-splitting racket for peace and quiet? Would we rather settle down to TV? Do we ever regret following the furry little tyrant outside once we drag our sorry behinds after him? We may not be brain surgeons, but we aren't hopelessly stupid.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Golden Foothills

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I have been seeing Highway 58 more regularly as a result of my physical therapy. Because I am so fond of the scenes along the way, this is not tedious for me. The seasons change and the look and feel of the landscape evolves. The rolling hills that, a few months ago, turned that rich—almost other-worldly green are now draped in golden brown with bits of deep rusty brown and and sprouts of a new, more subdued green here and there. To me, the foothills are equally beautiful now despite the change in finery. Simpler garb, in the eyes of some—less showy, but I find the hills equally beautiful with their starkness, clarity, and plain-spoken manner. The golden foothills rising against the blue sky have a regal quality and a dignity that is just as seductive as the exuberant and luxurious green of spring.

Along with the pleasure I take in the colors and shapes of the hills, I am fascinated by the fences that wander—in what almost seems an aimless manner—up, down, and across the hills—zigging and zagging for reasons that aren't obvious. I can lose myself in the patterns of those lines.

When I was a child, my family took road trips on weekends for entertainment. When conversation tapered off and my siblings were tired of playing, I fantasized about riding my dream horse through the fields that slid by. Of course, when my mount and I came to a fence—mostly plain and simple affairs like the one here—we sailed over it effortlessly, scoffing at boundary markers, and continuing our race with the car.

Maybe that is when I was first drawn to fences. After all, to a carefree child, they weren't serious impediments. They were minor obstacles—obstacles that were meant to be sailed over. Hurdles meant to be greeted with relish and vanquished with glee. Ah, all is possible in the mind of an innocent.

Monday, August 22, 2011


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Once again, I saw this scene played out on Saturday. Poor Lancer was the one left behind. When The Husband and Night leave on foot, the chestnut is agitated and thunders around the pasture, bugling and expressing what feels like a mixture of panic and rage. Neither of the horses handles being left behind with grace. But, eventually, the panic subsides, the futility of the rage dawns, and whoever is left behind returns to grazing.

But, trust me, they know what a trailer means. When one's buddy is drawn away in that white metal box, it is serious business. There is genuine doubt as to whether the departing animal will return. Not only do the panic and rage run their course sooner, but, for Lancer, in particular, the deep anxiety and despair set in. Saturday was typical. At first he ran full out around the pasture, a frantic hell-for-leather version of nervous pacing. When he returned to the gate he began the weaving (shifting weight from one front leg to the other) until he was exhausted, then with his gaze fastened on the road, he whinnied, not those soft whinnies you get as a greeting, or those short, impatient whinnies that say "where is my hay?", but great body-shaking whinnies, that come from somewhere deep in the gut.

Then he stationed himself at the pasture gate—the gate that Night had exited earlier—and watched. Watched, and listened for signs that his abandonment was not permanent.  Attempts to distract him were met with impatience. Carrots earned only mild interest.  He briefly interrupted his vigil a few times only to get a drink of water and grab a quick bite of his virtually untouched breakfast.  From 7:00 AM until 5:00 PM he maintained his vigil. Standing. Waiting.

My heart hurts for them when they go through this. While animals are blessed with so many skills superior to our own, they are not equipped to deal with these human-engineered separations. Having other horses a pasture away is not enough. They want their buddy nearby. It is partially a matter of instinct. Like most prey animals, horses feel safer with their herd. They also form attachments. Some recent studies have indicated that horses may recognize other horses with whom they were associated many years before. That isn't surprising when you consider how many dogs cover hundreds of miles to find their owners. Whatever science may be able to demonstrate, you could never convince horse owner that these animals don't form deep attachments.

Our horses pick at one another like a couple little boys. They fuss, kick, and nip, lay ears back, and threaten mayhem. At times, you would swear they are mortal enemies. But, when abandoned, each is distraught. I always wish I could explain and assure the animal left behind that the separation is temporary. But, there is no reasoning with an animal separated from what has become family. It is painful to watch.

When Night finally came through the gate, he and Lancer touched noses and had a little horse hug (heads thrown over necks) before they set about their usual horse business of rolling in the dirt, eating—and fussing at one another.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Nothing is Safe

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In case you were wondering, yes, I am using this new style of processing on some equine images. After all, I can't lavish all of that love exclusively on landscapes and stills of flowers. At one point I thought about joking that I might be in danger of attempting to apply this processing to anything not moving. Oops! Well, at least I can assure you that this horse wasn't moving when I applied the texture layers.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Celebrations and Nostalgia

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This post has nothing to do with photography—it is strictly personal and reaches into my recent past. But, since this is on my mind and I am in blabbermouth mode, I am not going to sit on it any longer.

On occasion, I have mentioned, here, that I taught film acting and ran an actors' studio in Los Angeles for three decades. Having been retired less than four years, I haven't yet fully completed my long period of mourning for what I gave up. I may have left the life behind, but it will always be a major part of who am I am and it will always occupy a large and special part of my heart.

So here is the story. You have probably heard of the new DreamWorks film, The Help, based, of course, on the runaway hit novel by the same name. Well, it happens that the screenplay writer and director of that film is one of my students and the actress, Octavia Spencer, who plays Minny, also studied with me. No doubt, you will hear a great deal more about these two in the months and years to come and every time they make the news, you can bet that I will be bursting with happiness for two exceptionally talented, hard-working people—two people I adore.

I loved teaching with a passion that was difficult to put aside. Life changes—even the good ones—can be painful. Every time that phone rings and it is an actor asking about coaching, I feel a little ache in my heart. I begin wondering, again, if leaving was a mistake and I have a day or two of wistful thinking about the joys of watching talent blossom.

But, that was another life in another place. Now, I am that retired teacher who basks in the pleasure of memories and celebrates the triumphs of my precious students from a distance. It was a gift to have witnessed the journey of so many talented individuals. They taught me so very much and I will always be grateful. People often ask me if I have any children. I frequently quip, "No, but I sure borrowed a bunch."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Art Conspiracies

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I have had something on the back burner for a few weeks and, just to be certain I have pounded all the life from this old metaphor, it has started to boil. It is time to drop a few hints. Why bother with a few hints, you ask? Why even bring it up if I can't tell the whole story? Obviously, you haven't been reading my blog very long. Otherwise, you surely know me better than to expect hardcore reasoning on matters of the heart. And this is a matter of the heart.

As for why only hints, this venture is a partnership. This isn't just my story to tell and many details are unsettled, so I need to wait until I can "spill the beans". I am only good at keeping other people's secrets. Any secret you shared with me might as well be stored at Fort Knox. I carry around secrets that are decades old. I have held onto some secrets until I forgot I ever knew the information in the first place. On the other hand, if it involves me, I am a veritable blabbermouth. If I don't drop some hints, the pressure will build in my poor little brain and I can't handle the extra stress.

Now you know why, here is the what. For the last few weeks, I have been conspiring with my friend C to take some control over showing our work. C is a painter whose work I like very much and C is a delight. It is a great combo. On Saturday, we took the plunge. We pitched our idea to the owner and manager of a local winery. When I returned and walked in our back door, The Husband asked, "How did it go?"  My response was, "It couldn't have gone any better unless Chuck (the owner) had written us a check purchasing all the art in advance."

I don't know much—which is helpful to a blabbermouth, but I know we are investigating the viability of scheduling this for October 1. (Yikes, that's close.) The manager will investigate possible conflicts with local events as well as events that might complement ours. This I know for certain: I suddenly have to switch gears. Big chunks of my time must be devoted to printing, matting and framing. There will be publicity to organize and a million (well, almost) decisions to make. Work not yet finished will have to be shelved for the moment. That won't be easy.

The best part of this, in my mind, is that we have taken action. Whatever happens from this point forward is a bonus.  We fretted over so few opportunities to show that didn't involve membership fees and restrictive contracts, or waiting for the once-a-year Bear Valley Springs show. And, we took matters into our own hands. It feels good to have taken the step. It is going to be an interesting few weeks.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Making the Most of It

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I wonder if that is what is happening. Are many making the most of this waning summer? I know I become more conscious each day that this late arriving and much savored summer is coming to an end. The days are already shorter. The nights are cooler. Like the child out of school and dreading September, I want to hang onto each shred of my precious summer. The balmy evenings, the easy-going mornings enjoying the kinder summery breezes, even the cloudless skies have warmed my bones and brought a welcome relief from the long, cold, seemingly endless winter.

Yes, winter has its allure with bracing cold, crisp air; blankets of snow turning the simplest landscape into a wonderland; and cloud shows that provide inspiration for weeks to come. But, I never think to call winter charming or comforting. Spring invigorates me. Autumn makes me especially thoughtful. Summer calms me, bringing a kind of deep peace. Childhood memories? Probably.

These last few days are to be noted. Taken into account and stored in memory. I will need those images in my mind that first Autumn morning when there is ice where the daisies grew. Ah, well, each season has moments of being my favorite. For now, I am a summer girl through and through.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wild Daisies

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The wild daisies are one of the reasons I love summers in Bear Valley Springs. I never tire of them. Yes, they are absent the refinements of so many other lovely flowers. And, the daisies certainly are neither fragile nor difficult to propagate. Far from possessing the mystery and delicacy of so many other blossoms, these common, wild things—weeds, really—dominate the landscape here by July. For weeks, they stand, merrily waving in the summer breeze, savoring the sunshine, and generously spreading their simple joy.

Let The Husband wage his relentless war against the mustard, if he must. But, woe be unto any who dare mow down all my daisies. Fortunately, we long ago negotiated peaceful co-existence: a portion of our landscape has been assigned to the daisies; the remainder is subject to the mower. As a result, all all is well with us, just as it is with the ever-cheerful daisies.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Telling Stories With Images

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I enjoyed the responses to my last post and probably will post similar questions in the future. A great big thank-you to all who participated in the conversation. I appreciate the time taken to share your stories and each comment left me with something interesting to contemplate.

The story elements that evolved in my mind as that recent image emerged were rather dark. There was a sense of being lost in a forlorn and harsh environment—a cold, brutal wind stung my eyes. Even though there seemed to be vast open spaces around me, I was hemmed in by something I couldn't see. Everytime I felt I was about to gain control over events, I was faced with a dark and unexpected turn. The mountains were a challenge that I somehow had to reach, for the only hope lay on the other side.

I am intrigued by the connection between the elements in a picture and the properties of the story that emerges. For me, it isn't a clean and linear line. It is as if the image whispers stories to life and the stories then play on me as I process the image. I have come to think of that interplay as a kind of a dance. The intellect is in charge, then yields to the heart. I know precisely where I am going and how to get there.... Then, I lose my way and stumble about taking cues from what?  A dream, a memory?

When I stop molding an image—when I am ready to share it and say "This is it—for now", the result sometimes feels like something that is not really my own. There is no one or thing to blame, of course, but neither can I claim full credit—if, indeed, any is due. I led during parts of the process, but there were moments when it felt more like following. It was a process that took me to a discovery.

There is another aspect of images and communication that intrigues me. I have noticed that some people seem to think that if the image is made well enough it will say the same thing to all viewers. Wouldn't that turn the entire communication experience into a guessing game? "Guess what story I meant to convey with this image." That sounds like a really lame parlor game.

We all bring our unique life experience to every contemporary experience. We, each, arrive at any given moment with our particular baggage and that baggage will affect what we read into the story before us. Just as you and I would visit the same spot, but return home with different photographs, shown the same image we will read different stories featuring our particular characters and playing off our personal history.

The responses to my invitation for your stories gave me a good taste of what I was craving—some conversation about personal emotional responses to an image. What more could I have asked? The photo here was taken on that same stretch of highway as the last picture. This one calls to my mind very different stories, even though the setting is similar and the characters in the image certainly look similar. I hope this one suggests stories that speak to you.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What Is Your Story?

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Most often when I connect with an image it sparks my imagination and calls to mind stories. Characters and scenes often emerge. Sometimes, the stories are my own and powerful memories are evoked. On other occasions, the events involve imaginary characters. Some pieces set me off to pondering questions. Another will color the air, fill a room with its distinct atmosphere, and wrap me in a mood that may linger for quite some time. As I worked on this piece, a certain type of tale kept creeping into my head.

I wonder. What stories are suggested to you by this one?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Caterpillars, Tomatoes, and Kitchen Chores

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There I was standing at the kitchen sink—apron, rubber gloves, the whole rig, fully immersed in cleaning the kitchen, except for admiring the clouds, and the horses, and—and "tap, tap", it is The Husband beckoning me to come outside.
Now, to fully appreciate the tone of the moment you need a bit of background. I am not a full-out slob and I have never lived in what anyone would call a pigsty. Still, neither did anyone ever describe me as fastidious. I own white cotton gloves only for handling prints, mats, and glass when matting and framing my work. It would never cross my mind to apply the white glove test to furniture or any other belongings. Please.

I tell you all this just so you appreciate the risk of interrupting me while I am in the midst of a household chore. The mood is usually transitory, at best.

With a sense of misgiving, I dropped my chore and headed out the door. The Husband would not give up a single hint as to the cause for the summons. (Sure, I would have known had I seen the photos you have seen.) I had to follow him to the tomato plants and wait patiently (even as the enthusiasm for my chore in the kitchen waned), while he built the suspense as to who or what had had the temerity to munch on his plant.

Immediately, I was able to eliminate from the suspect list the baby bunnies, along with the ground squirrels, because of the height of the damage. Once again, I slandered the deer. I am ashamed of myself for jumping to such a conclusion.

When The Husband felt he could draw out the suspense no longer, he finally guided me around to the point where I could view this king-size caterpillar. Am I naive, or is this guy really huge? Maybe I just don't know that much about tomato plants and creepy crawler critters, but I was impressed.

Oh, by the way, there is a happy ending. The kitchen got cleaned up, also. Not bad after an interruption that engrossing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sweet Nectar and Nostalgia

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By now, a blind man could see that I am hopelessly ensnared by nostalgia. As I browsed old folders searching for the photo of the garden angel, I came across a picture of peaches, also taken in the backyard of our home in the San Fernando Valley. The peach tree, planted by previous owners, bore gushing, sinfully sweet and delicious fruit fit for gods. There is no way any mere photograph could do justice to such a fruit. Still, I decided that, at least, I might romanticize the photo a bit and convey some of my wistfulness by adding a couple of those Shadowhouse textures.

Did you ever taste a fruit so perfectly balanced with sweet and tart that you will never forget it's nectar? So delicious that you cannot resist licking the sticky juice off that finger? Any fruit is better, of course, if eaten immediately after having been plucked from the tree. Aiming for perfection, let us hope this experience was savored on a warm, sunny day with just a hint of breeze and you could tilt your head back slightly, close your eyes, and hear the leaves rustle as you counted your blessings.

Ahhhh, nostalgia. Digging into dusty boxes from the cellar or attic, perusing a tattered photo album, or searching through old folders on a hard disc—there isn't that much difference. Mostly, the memories are wrapped in the sweetness of time's healing and today's remembering softens the sharp edges of a time gone by.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Poltergeists and Such

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There are all sorts of names for mischievous spirits. Poltergeist has long been a favorite of mine. Perhaps, that is because of the smile the name brings me. When the  movie, Poltergeist, came out in 1982, my niece was a very small child and she called the spirits "poultry mice". I love both names, but admit that, in a pinch, I have to favor my niece's version.

Especially after the movie, I fell into the habit of blaming missing objects on the nature of these naughty spirits. I could just as well have blamed gremlins, pixies, imps, boggarts, brownies, hobgoblins, leprechauns, or even knockers—but the latter, only if we were in a tin mine. What mattered was that blaming a small impish spirit was more fun than simply admitting that I had absentmindedly misplaced something.

Soon after we moved in 2008, I told a story about the sad loss of the garden angel who had stood watch over our little garden in Shadow Hills. The Husband had made his final trip to gather the last of our belongings, and arrived there exhausted. A few weeks later, we discovered that St. Frances was not to be found. Somehow the angel never got packed. One of the angel's companions, a sweet garden fairy, and a treasured old branding iron picked up at a flea market were also missing. As is my nature, I grieved for some time.

It turned out that the new owners of our little house had assumed that the statue belonged to the property and that St. Francis had been left there intentionally that he might continue looking over the place. We didn't have the heart to insist on reclaiming the piece. Perhaps it was meant to be.

The branding iron and the fairy, however, continued to be mysteries that nagged at the back of my mind. The Husband insisted that he had packed them. I reasoned that the poltergeists felt they too were entitled to something out of all the upheaval in our lives.

Having been possessed by an urge to do some cleaning in the garage yesterday, The Husband, during the rummaging, discarding, storing, and sweeping, came upon something carefully wrapped in dusty bubble wrap. And, there she was. Our garden fairy. Out of hiding, at last. Returned, I reason, by the poltergeists, but, belatedly arriving in her new home. She has now taken her place among all the crippled angels that I rescued years ago from a garden shop we used to visit near the Ventura flea market.

If I squint my mind a bit, I can fathom the attachment poltergeists might form with a garden fairy. She might even have found the diversion amusing and joined in the game. Fairies are unpredictable, after all, and I like the image of our demure fairy cavorting with wicked little "poultry mice".

However, even though the fairy has been returned, those mischievous little devils are still hoarding the branding iron. Who knows? Perhaps, one day they will give it up, as well.  Let's face it, what use could mischievous spirits have for a branding iron?

I think I will leave that mystery unexplored.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stories Behind The Stories

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And, now, that is the truth. Better late, than never.

I will share some stories about my recent tall tale. The details of my story were fabricated strictly for your entertainment; yet, they are remotely connected to facts. Just as nightly dreams so often are connected to real events, my fantasies relate loosely to actual events. They are my daydreams embellished with a bit of pure fantasy. Or, maybe fantasies built on daydreams. Something in one of these neighborhoods.

Because my brother lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I do frequently daydream about visiting him there. All my various health issues pretty much preclude such an undertaking, but I do daydream about it. In terms of new camera gear, I am dealing with a serious itch for a couple of things. However, I can say that no Hassleblad model has ever been on any list, so far. My list tends to include more down-to-earth items such as a G12 and a few more Canon L lenses for the 40D and 50D. Some days the daydreams revolve around a new wide angle lens; some days it is all about 300 or 400 mm lenses. Once again the connection with my recent flight of fantasy is iffy. But, if you are feeling generous, you might say that one was somewhat rooted in a real desire.

I had to throw in the mountain climbing because that is something that I never got to do. It is a common fantasy. While cruises have never occupied a great deal of space in my daydreams, who hasn't thought about how exciting it would be to participate in an African photo safari?

I have gotten a big kick out of the response to my tall tale. On the other hand, I am wondering if this is a sign that my primary calling in connection with the blogging world is spinning wild yarns. Yikes! That would be limiting.