Gray

It was as unexpected as the pandemic- going gray I mean.  I hadn’t planned on it.  For 15 years I doused my hair with Clairol Natural Instincts # 4 dark brown.  Just like not planning on going gray, I had not planned on ever coloring my hair in the first place.  Then one day when I was 50 the lady at the pool counter asked if I wanted a senior pass.

I let my hair grow out, again unexpected, and unplanned.  Closed salons meant getting a haircut was not possible.  So after years of stylishly short hair, I now sport a mid-length gray mop.

I hardly recognize myself anymore but I barely recognize the world I live in of face masks, lockdowns, and a sobering death toll.  I barely recognize this country after four years of political and social turmoil. 

Gray is a color that is neither black nor white but something in between.  It’s all gray now, a state of waiting, everything shrouded in a fog of uncertainty. When will I be vaccinated?  When will this isolation end?  When can I have my old life back?

In the matter of hair, gray signals more the end than the beginning.  My graying head has become a personal symbol of my mortality but I’m not afraid of it.  I’m going wild and just letting me be who I am without a care.  Write, draw, scribble, sing loud- it’s all good.

When we can all talk about this era in the past tense and even laugh a little, I will remain gray.  There’s no way I can go back.  There’s no way we can go back.  From inequity to racism too much has been exposed.  There can be no more cover-ups.

Escape to the Baylands

At the end of San Antonio Road, past the shopping centers, apartments, and freeway, across from the Google parking lot, the pavement stops and the wetlands begin. This is the Baylands a world of dikes, ponds, and meanders, where the San Francisco Bay meets land. Here the ebb and flow of the tide replaces the rhythm of rush-hour. Here waterfowl out number people. When family business calls me back, this is where I go to find refuge.

Equipped with my binoculars and bird book I set out on the dike trails to take a wander and look at birds on this rare sunny, pleasant, February day. I come upon a wonderland of shorebirds, and all manner of ducks. There’s a flutter of excitement as the tide ebbs exposing fresh mud.  Greater yellow legs, and avocets gather to probe for a meal. In the water, ducks dabble for food, dropping their heads into the water and then tipping upside down exposing their derrieres to the sky like a circus act. Some ducks are divers, dissapearing momentarily from the water’s surface as they fly underwater for their prey.

On a far bank, a passle of pelicans sit pruning their white feathers with their huge bills. A great egret poses for me graciously by the water’s edge.

Suddenly, a murmuration of dowitchers fly over me so close I can hear the force of their feathers. then land in the water with a satisfying plop. Two swift flying merlins exchange prey in the sky.

Continue reading “Escape to the Baylands”

Notes on Tossing Out My Old Artwork

In the doldrums of this pandemic my creative image energies are ebbing more than flowing. It’s times like this at times all I can muster is to tidy up. Usually that involves just organizing my workspace. Then after years of procrastination I faced down the leaning pile of old cardboard portfolios full of aging class artwork and design projects that lurked in my closet. The problem is when you hang onto old work there’s really no room for new- physically or metaphorically.

 Bye-bye charcoal nudes, bye-bye watercolors, bye-bye drawings. Yep you were “A” quality, fun, but at this point, are not doing anyone any good including myself.  And woe to my son who would be stuck sorting  them out when I’m packed up to the Rock of Ages Rest Home. The recycling bin is full. I have a well stocked collage box and plenty of classy bookmarks as souvenirs. I took pictures of the T-shirts I designed and donated them to a thrift store where someone can put them to use. 

Bidding farewell to old creative work of any kind is like saying goodbye to parts of oneself- but thinking about it, all that hard work and practice is still with me deeply embedded in the work I do today. When I peruse all those past efforts I think of them as either good or bad but merely steps along the path to where I am as an artist today. 

We are but at some total of all our work and practice. The beat goes on.

I love my clean closet. 

That’s over with!

There’s a Pen for That

You want to be a writer, but you don’t know how or when. Find a quiet place; use a humble pen.

Paul Simon

Recently I received a question on my Almost Daily Doodle Instagram feed.  “What kind of software do you use?”  I had to laugh.  I guess the software would be my hand and my hardware would be my pens.  Years ago when I had to make money I did much of my illustration work by computer but I found working by hand so much more intimate and enjoyable.

I began my love affair with pens in elementary school in the early 1960s.  In the third grade, there was this rite of passage where we all learned cursive handwriting.  It was time to put away those rotund pencils they gave in first and second grade to learn our letters with the privilege of using a pen.  This was the first taste of the grown-up world and we relished it.  My girlfriends and I were particularly fond of adding stylish curlicues to our letters and using flowers to dot our Is. Then there was the endless practice of refining our signatures.

To showcase our newfound skills we begged our parents to buy us Shaeffer fountain pens that used little ink cartridges. Blue was the preferred color of the day.  It was a badge of honor to have a blue knuckle on your middle finger where those pens would at times leak.

Many schools have dropped cursive handwriting in favor of keyboarding.  It’s a shame since there are documented benefits to the brain in the areas of thinking, memory, and creativity when you write with pen to paper. I do most of my writing by hand first before typing on a computer. My pen helps me think.

In my twenties, I became an accomplished calligrapher with all manner of dip pens until carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand curtailed that pursuit.  I’ve had all kinds of artistic endeavors since but now in my 60s, I’ve returned to the simplicity of pen to paper to do my artwork.

I have a variety of sketch pens I use- nothing too expensive.  Recently I’ve switched from Microns to Hi-Tech and now Uniball Signo.  Recently while perusing the Jet Pens website for a reorder I came across their fountain pen section. One can spend a fair amount of money on a fountain pen but I found a Pilot Metropolitan for $19.50.  Live it up!  Third-grade joy here I come! 

Since it came I’ve been sailing over smooth paper for my journal and other writing.  What fun to write with a nice pen!  If you want a simple pleasure consider getting yourself some cool pens (and nice smooth paper).  Check out your local art supply store or go to JetPens.com.  Below are some samples of my favorite pens.  Happy writing!

Bandit’s Last Ride

It was no surprise.  Bandit, our little red cattle dog, age 17 had been declining for months.  Like any elderly soul, we dealt with his incontinence and difficulty walking.  We put a doggy ramp on the porch stairs but on his last days put a sling under him to help him outside.

I’ve written about Bandit before in other posts- Stroller Dog and In the Company of Another Old Dog. I’ve loved all my dogs but he was exceptional in so many ways.  When his arthritis got too bad I  had altered a jogging stroller and a bike trailer so he would not miss out on our outdoor excursions.

The day before Bandit took his last breath, we carried him out to his beloved stroller.  I took him for one last ride down our favorite country road to the rushing creek swollen by the recent rains.  Even in his declining state, I could see the pure delight in his face as he took it all in.

We buried him out in a quiet corner of the yard under a big pine tree.  I fashioned a cairn in his honor to mark his grave and hung his collar on top. Bandit basically died of old age, wearing himself out by living well.  If we can only be so lucky.

We borrow the souls of our four-legged friends.  At some point, we have to let them go.  Their passing leaves holes in our hearts but in return, they give us such love and fond memories.

Goodbye Bandit

Rest In Peace

Jan. 16, 2021

Bandit’s final resting place
Continue reading “Bandit’s Last Ride”

A Zine is Born

Zine (according to the Urban Dictionary)

Some sort of publication, usually mass-produced by photocopying(in some cases, scanned, put on the ‘net, or copied via fax)on any range of topics, but usually filled with passion. A means of telling one’s story, sharing thoughts, and/or artwork/comics/doodles.

The instructor for the Zine lesson of my year-long Words & Pictures class made a 16 page zine of his favorite mustards.  Now there’s a quirky idea.  How could I top my favorite mustards?

 I took a look back in my sketchbook and came across some silly doodles of triangles.  The triangle doodles eventually morphed into silly triangle birds.  Then I noticed that all the triangles happened to be isosceles triangles (two sides of equal length).  Hmm.  How about if I made a zine just about silly things made up from isosceles triangles.  Thus I went about writing and publishing my first zine, The Isosceles Triangle Illuminated.

This was a perfect pandemic project.  I had a hilarious time brainstorming and drawing my triangle ideas.  The hardest part was correctly photocopying the back to back so the pages would be in the correct order.  Instead of Holiday cards, I sent them out to friends for a good laugh. 

Want one of my isosceles triangle zines?  Use my contact page and for only $5.51 I will send you one!

For more info on making a zine click here

My Words for the New Year 2021

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.  That concept sounds so burdensome.  Instead, I have a personal tradition of picking one or more words to aspire to live by for the coming year.  I revisit these words from time to time and check in on how I’m doing.  (Writing them on the bathroom mirror is a very effective strategy.)

My words for 2020 were acceptance and focus.  I almost wore out the word acceptance with the pandemic and political matters and it’s unlikely I can ever truly accept the damage of the forest fires had here in Oregon this year.  Climate change is unacceptable and is something I will always fight against.  Thus it has been a mixed bag with that word.  FOCUS has been an ongoing challenge for me but I am happy to report that I am BETTER!  Being a creative soul I am forever distracted by my thoughts and every shiny thing that comes along in my day.  Now though, I am more aware of my distractions and am honing a system to keep me on track.

This December I mulled over what my new words would be.  I wait to see what will bubble up to my subconscious and pick the ones I resonate with the most.  So drumroll..  my new words are:

Commitment–  I allowed myself this year to go “fallow” and dabble in a lot of creative pursuits.  Now I am ready to synthesize what I’ve learned into specific avenues.

Generosity– Give more of my time, talent, and money to others

Focus – This word remains on the list as I need more work with it.

Let the year unfold!  What are your words for 2020?

and my poem for you this New Year

A Toast for 2021

It’s the season of new

the Earth has spun through the heavens

and arrived at the place we call the beginning

a bookmark we humans have put in the order of things

the New Year, the first day of the first month of the 21st year of the 21st century

All is new, yet all the same

a cycle in a continuum of millennia

yet a comfort that we have a fresh start in our minds

Shall we proceed then with our new slippers

virgin calendars full of exotic pictures

day planners devoid of marks

and forge on with gusto?

for we have been given another turn

a blank canvas to paint another 12 months upon

Let us mix up our palettes with new intentions

hope, faith and the unseen circumstances that will surely find us

stroke, splash, and drip with abandon

make your marks with love, touching others with color

bringing forth new memories

painting this Earth a brighter place

Check out my other blog onesweetearth.art.blog on sustainable living.

The Darkest Night is Just Before the Dawn

We have arrived at the Winter Solstice, the tipping point where we in the N. Hemisphere mark the point where the earth will begin to rotate back to the sun’s full exposure. The Winter Solstice marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year.  While our modern calendar denotes it as the first day of winter, I and others from the time of the ancients mark it as the return of the light each day forward, bit by bit.  It is a time of hope and new beginnings – like a solar New Year. 

In a couple of hours, a few friends will gather at my home, take a walk, circle around a bonfire, sharing readings and thoughts.  We will also toss into the fire the things we are hoping to leave behind.  There are plenty for this year 2020 that I don’t even need to mention.  As we turn the corner in the heavens, let us heal from these disasters and let the fires of hope burn bright.

Happy Solstice!

Winter Solstice at Midnight

It is fairy dark

You can see their

Tiny torches in

The moonless night

Seeds stir

In their slumber

The earth turns on its axis

toward the light

The blaze of the fire

lights the shadows

hope burning bright

in our hearts

Sky Dance

Some of you may have witnessed this event called a “murmuration” of starlings- thousands of starlings swirling through the sky in a grand, seemingly coordinated performance. If you haven’t, do watch the video included with this post. I have noticed them more this year than in years past.

With technical photography, scientists are understanding more about the phenomenon. I think its one of natures “trade secrets.”

Murmurations

I am not fond of starlings

But in late autumn

Sometimes they crowd in the treetops

In a chirping chorus

Like a reunion of relatives

With an abundance of news to share

Who knows what stirs these rather uninspiring birds

To gather in in such a cacophony

Then on queue as if the din is too much

They rise from their perches to find positions

In an undulating dance that wafts over harvested fields.

They dip, swirl and twirl as one body

Thousands of avian forms performing with

Ballet grace in the sky

I pause from my walk to watch with reverence

A celebration?

A spiritual rite?

Scientists still don’t know quite how or why

A mystery

But I know magic when I see it

Alanna also blogs about sustainable living at onesweetearth.art.blog

Why I am Still Blogging After Four Years

My WordPress account just renewed.  Here it is- my fourth year and I am still at it.  My first post was on Jan. 4, 2017.  I started blogging during the aftermath of the 2016 election.  At that time, I thought I could not survive the chaos, but here I am, bruised by events but not defeated.  I am thankful for the companionship of my pen which has acted as a lightning rod, keeping me grounded during difficult times.

When I write down the bits of my life the unremarkable becomes remarkable. Those bits become a pathway back to myself when I get lost. Writing combs the tangled strands of my thoughts back into an orderly fashion. When I share my writing with others in a blog post it’s like leaving footprints in the universe to perhaps help others on their journey.I have shared poetry, personal stories, opinions, artwork and photography. It’s been a hodgepodge of myself.

For the most part, my blogging is a weekly practice, a Sunday morning ritual that affirms my existence. I have no master plan or theme as is advised.  During the week I try to pay attention to what pops into my mind worthy to blog about.  It’s an intuitive process.  I don’t fret about topics.  I write for myself but I’ve noticed that the posts where I stay truest to my own sensibilities get the most readers.

If you are reading this post, I am grateful for your time and attention.  It’s gratifying to have readers from all over the world, sometimes from countries that I have never heard from.  Today I have had readers from India, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Indonesia, Canada, Puerto Rico, Mauritius, and Malaysia. I have met some great blog friends and hope to connect with them in person some day in the non-Covid future!

If you are not a writer, I encourage you to write a few words a day.  It doesn’t have to be good- but if you make it a daily practice, you will improve.  It’s a journey worth pursuing.  If you choose to blog- go for it. It’s much more meaningful than Facebook Meanwhile, see you on the blogosphere!

Alanna also blogs about sustainablility on onesweetearth.com