In the Company of Another Old Dog

img_2131(The other old dog was Dougan, who passed away at age 14 earlier this year)

Bandit was found abandoned in a horse ring in Texas tied to a wood rail.  Witnesses said he was badly abused.  A menacing four-inch scar on the base of his spine was evidence enough. A dear friend’s daughter was at an event at that very horse ring, took him into her care and drove him back to Oregon.  She named him Bandit because of the mask covering the top part of his face.

Bandit is a cattle dog – a breed also known as an Australian Red Heeler (there are also Blue Heelers).  They are a plucky breed, stout medium size dogs with a mixture of dingo, kelpie, highland collie, and Dalmatian, bred to withstand the rigors of herding cattle across grazing lands in Australia.  They are also extremely intelligent, active, loyal, and protective of their owners and property.

Bandit was maybe a 1 ½ years old when we were introduced.  He was about 40 pounds with a gorgeous rust-colored coat tipped with white fur.  With his pointy ears and mask, he was as cute as a red panda.  Beyond the cute factor, we had some kind of connection.  It was like his little spirit said: “pick me!” If there is some kind of commandment that said, “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s dog,” I had definitely broken it.  Regardless, I had to have that dog.

It took about 4 years.  His owner, in college and then off to the world, was in a nomadic phase as most young adults are.  I was always there, raising my hand volunteering to take him in when she couldn’t accommodate him well.  After being put in less than optimal situations, she conceded.  Bandit was dropped off at my home, a fenced acre in the country nine years ago. My gregarious golden retriever, Dougie, had been aching for a canine companion and was thrilled.

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Bandit seemed to sense that he was in his forever home.  He slipped into our family life seamlessly, enjoying all the attention along the way (I’m a dog spoiler). The two dogs took to each other like long lost friends. By far Bandit has enjoyed trips to the beach the most, long walks with me and Dougie, and patrolling the fence line protecting us from loud trucks and farm equipment that drove past the property. Bandit’s sparky personality gave us many a laugh especially when he was excited and acted like a wind-up toy.

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Unfortunately, dogs don’t live long enough.  Our walks grew shorter and shorter as the dogs aged. Sweet Dougie passed away at 14 last spring. Bandit, now also 14 could only manage maybe 15 minutes of sustained walking.  We bought a ramp so he could make it up the two stairs to the porch. Then finally late this summer, his old injuries caught up to him.  He went through several bouts of crippling back pain and could barely walk.  We thought for sure we were going to lose him.  With the aid of a img_3051dog sling with handles (that he wears around his midriff all the time now) we had help him do his business and walk around. Sometimes he messed in the house. Luckily with several trips to the vet, figuring out the appropriate medications, and a little acupuncture, Bandit is now ambulatory and can take care of his personal needs on his own again.  Although he has physical limitations and is in the house the majority of the time, he is back to being his happy self.

During his convalescence, I was so mournful of not having a dog to walk with that I purchased a jogging stroller off Craig’s list for $50 that I converted to be dog-friendly.  We were a team again!  The stroller was so successful that we found a bike trailer for $40 that I also converted so he could join us on bike rides.  Bandit loves his wheels and sets up a barking fit when he sees his rides come out of the shop.

Some might think we have gone to ridiculous lengths and should have just put Bandit down sooner.  The deal is- this dog was given up on once and I was not going to give up on him again, especially knowing he was not ready to leave our company.  Yes, it’s been expensive, a big commitment and at times upsetting, but he’s back with a smile on his face. I know he’s grateful.  This us what you do for the ones you love

Four legs, fur, friend and family- Bandit is all that.

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Cheering on RBG

 

330px-ruth_bader_ginsburg_2016_portraitThere is nothing like hearing about an honest hero these days. It seems like we are in a short supply of role models from the top down. If you want one, take a look at the picture of the Supreme Court Justices. On the bottom second from the right sits a diminutive, soft-spoken older lady.  That’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg age 86. Don’t be fooled by her looks. She’s a powerhouse
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Last week I watched RBG, the documentary (available on Netflix disk).  I knew she was a liberal vote on the court but had absolutely no idea that she legally orchestrated women’s’ rights and equal rights in this country after overcoming tremendous discrimination in her own career.  This movie tells the story of her life from childhood up through her roll on the Supreme Court being after being nominated as a justice by President Bill Clinton.

Ginsburg was one of the first women to enter Harvard Law School. She was one of the rbgeight women among 500 students and was told by the dean they were taking the place of qualified males. Even after graduating from the top of her class, she could not find a job because of her gender. With the help of her supportive husband, she persisted, raised two children and ultimately rose to the Supreme Court. She continues her hard work to this day sleeping only a few hours a night. Ginsburg has also survived cancer twice and follows a rigorous workout twice a week with her personal trainer. RBG has also become sort of a pop icon for her famous dissenting opinions on the Supreme Court becoming known as “The Notorious RBG.”

RBG the documentary is truly inspirational.  I highly suggest you watch it if you haven’t already.  Learning about her life gives hope and offers a welcome reprieve from the current events.

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The Day Before Halloween

 I was out in the garden today “putting it to bed “ for the winter.  It’s good work on a chilly autumn day.  I looked up at the sky and the colorful leaves and said to myself “this day deserves a poem- just do it” so I dashed off to the house in search of a notebook and pen.  Sometimes you just have to pause, be amazed, and write about it!

 

Putting the Garden to Bed

Under an intense blue sky

My garden disappearsimg_3033

with each whack of the machete

As I work I discover monstrous cucumbers

Submerged in dying vines like green submarines

And overlooked onions hiding below the straw

The parsnips pull out of the ground reluctantly as always

Sadly too mature to be good eating

As my armloads of spent foliage build up the compost pile

I sigh with memories of sweet tomatoes

And savory salads

I leave the dried heads of the sunflowers standing

For the chickadees’ delight

The Anatomy of an Open Studio Tour

img_3017Every October the Art Harvest Studio Tour provides an opportunity for local artists to open up their studios for the public to get an intimate look at their work and process. Thirty or so juried artists about Yamhill County, Oregon participate. Studios are open for the first two three day weekends in October. Some artists are clustered in the local towns and others, like me, are peppered about the wine country in quaint settings. Art Harvest is in its 27th year.  To visit studios there is an $8.00 fee for a button which acts as a wearable ticket to gain entry to the studios

For some Art Harvest is a purely recreational experience, making a fun day with friends, buying a few small items and going out for a nice lunch in between.  Others are serious art buyers looking for unique pieces to purchase directly from the artist. Some drive as far as 200 miles away to make a weekend of it or fly from across the country to visit relatives during tour time.

For artists, it’s a chance to have a more interactive experience with people while avoiding the commissions and control that galleries levy.  Often being on the studio tour can lead to other sales and contacts.  I made sure I had items such as magnets and notecards of my prints that were only $5.00 for “takeaways” and for gifts.  Most of my things were in the $20 to $50 range on up to a sculpture for $380.

Spring Migration

I was on the tour 20 years ago and then had a hiatus for a teaching career and raising my son.  Now in retirement, I thought I would give it one more shot. It’s a huge undertaking and expensive for the artist.  The entry fee is $300 which pays for the glossy catalogs, advertising, buttons and a part-time coordinator. Artists must also volunteer on one of the many committees to make the tour function.  On top of that, I had expenses of at least $200 for art supplies and display materials.  That means I had to earn $500 before I would start to make any type of profit (For anyone wondering why art can be expensive, this is why!) Here is a timeline of the tour experience for the artist…

March– Submit application, images, and fees

April– juried in. Continue to amass a volume of work in ceramics and mixed media monoprints.

Summer– attend committee meetings.  I served on the education committee to facilitate school children visiting participating studios.  Make more art!

StandingMaskAugust– drop off two pieces of work to be in the Chehalem Cultural Center show running for the months of September and October.  (Many stop by this exhibit first to decide which studios to visit). Be filmed by a local cable access show Wild Geese mary oliver tributecalled Arts Alive.  (See video here.  My spot starts about 15 minutes in)

September– distribute signs and programs to local businesses and organizations.  Get work framed.  Clean out the studio with a dear friend who offered to help me.  Drape tables, add lighting, hang wall pieces and arrange ceramics on the tables. It’s a huge undertaking to get a studio from a workspace to a display area!

October– Price all work. Place bright yellow At Harvest signs along the routes leading to my studio. Oct. 4-6 AM and Oct 11-13 open my studio from 10 am to 5 PM.

Black Sheep 3Fridays were very slow so I had time to finish up items not yet completed. Saturday & Sunday could get quite busy.  I tried to spend as much time with people as I could to visit and answer questions.  In between weekends I made a new herd of ceramic sheep as the first one was almost sold out. The following week was spent in recovery mode.  I’m not used to that much talking and being “on” since I taught middle school!

Overall, the studio tour was a great success.  Beyond making a respectable profit, it was so sweet to get such validation of my work.  I had numerous visitors make a beeline for my studio after seeing my pieces at the Cultural Center show or seeing my page in the program.  My new work is quite eclectic and unusual.  Working alone as most artists do, I

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Tea Time 2

have to work hard at times to keep my insecurities at bay so having such positive feedback was food for my soul.  Thematically I range from whimsical to spiritual depending on what needs to manifest.  It’s not for all but there were a fair number of people that resonated with it and gave me positive feedback.   It was a great time to  make new friends and connect with old ones

I let a few favorite pieces go during the sale.  Thes beautiful pieces were kept in storage as I had no place to put them in my house.  I was surprised at the twinges I felt as some of these were purchased and left the studio with happy customers.  But art should be seen and enjoyed, not hidden away so they needed a new home.  I was especially pleased when they were adopted by friends.

If you have not participated in a local open studio tour, try it!  Lookup for them online in your area or afar.  It will take you on a mind-opening adventure with not much expense.

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On Finding Inspiration

The last few weeks have found me too busy preparing my work and my studio (while sick) for the 2019 Art Harvest Studio Tour to get out my weekly blog post. Since this question came up frequently during the event that ended yesterday, I decided to reblog this post I wrote two years ago until I have time to write a fresh post!

By Alanna Pass

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There is a magic in the creative process.  When I am totally in the  “zone,“ it seems as though some divine force plants a seed of inspiration into my psyche & leads me on a journey to bring from the ethos something new & different into the world.  Generally I need to be in a space where I am fully present-  at least with my own thoughts.  I don’t necessarily have to be in my studio.  Often inspiration comes on a walk or doing something as innocuous as washing dishes or weeding the garden.  At this point it is important for me to get the idea either in process immediately or at least written down, for inspiration can be as ephemeral as fairy dust in a breeze.

Sometimes I must plant a seed myself if nothing has been offered from above.  I keep a list spirit-of-g-r-horse-qeof concepts that fascinate me. …

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Beyond the Studio Door

“Failure is success in process”- Albert Einstein

Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”  ― Salvador Dali

img_2951So you walk into an art gallery or an art festival and there is the fruit of the artist in all of its magical glory, looking like it was created effortlessly.  What you don’t see is the plethora of mistakes and sometimes heartaches that go into making art.  It’s a part of the process.  If you aren’t willing to fail, you are not going to learn.  This is especially true in the medium of ceramics.  There’s no way you can work with mud and transform it into permanent objects without running into some challenges.  There are so many variables to contend with in the making- construction, drying, firing, glazing, and firing again at a temperature around 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.

img_2950This week before my open studio on the Art Harvest Studio Tour of Yamhill County I img_2960opened my kiln to find my share of disappointments.  The beautiful grape leaf plate on the upper left (traced from one of my grapevines leaves) has a crack down from the notch of the leaf shape.  It’s still lovely but not saleable.  I’ll use it though.  No one will notice under a pile of carrot sticks.  Those three lovely bowls with incised grape leaves rubbed with iron oxide all cracked.  This was a img_2961puzzle.  Maybe they got jostled when I removed them from the press mold?  These will become part of a mosaic on my future walkway. Then there was the barn owl sculpture with hairline cracks in two places – maybe from cooling too quickly in the pit fire?  I love this piece though and I am not sad to keep it.

The failed prints I have cut up and am using in other img_2962incarnations such as “quote blocks,” little sculptural pieces with collages.

Thankfully, there will be plenty of other lovely things to look at my studio sale-  but the invisible mistakes will be just as much a part of it for me.

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Beautiful Failures

They are the cracked

The not quite right

Products of my hands

And soul

Victims of experimentation

Poor judgment

Or forces beyond my understanding

 

Sometimes their enduring beauty breaks my heart

Their fatal flaw rendering them undesirable to others

Then sometimes their glaring shortcomings

Are so embarrassing

They are destroyed or reincarnated

Taking on a new form that will touch my soul

Or someone elses

 

The buyer will never know

That my work is built on beautiful failures

Marveling at my wonderful talent

Wishing they could have it too

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On Noticing Small Things

Pay attention, be astonished, tell about it.  Mary Oliver

vintage-1135015_1920I was never much of a noticer until I took Glen Moffat’s Natural history class in my sophomore year of college. Until that time most birds other than gulls, jays, & hawks were all little brown things that flit about in the trees.  Wildflowers were all pretty.  Trees were either pines with needles or trees with leaves.

We wore hiking boots to that class.  Armed with binoculars and magnifying glasses off we went on various field trips up into the Bay Area hills and beaches.  Mr. Moffat was a short middle-aged guy with the jan-meeus-xV7Fxi5xjJM-unsplashexuberance of a young golden retriever.  His enthusiasm was infectious.  Suddenly all those little brown birds were visual wonders with names.  Among the many were wrens, bluebirds, flycatchers, tanagers, warblers, and sparrows with all manner of coloring, beaks, and feet.  Ducks were not ducks any more but dabblers and divers, shovelers, canvasbacks, and scoters.  There were actually five types of gulls I could img_2728identify: Ring-billed, California, Herring, Glaucus, and Western.  I began to recognize the calls of birds. The wildflowers took on identities of their own and I learned to tell them apart, asters, shooting stars, goldenrod.  There were differences in the shrubs, gooseberry, goat’s beard, California buckeye.  The pine trees became firs, hemlock, cedar, red, yellow, and white pines.

My fear of science dissipated to the point that when I transferred as a junior to a university I changed my major from Art to Natural History, an interdisciplinary study of botany, ecology, zoology, and geology. My studies of botany turned more intimate. I peered into dissecting scopes and marveled at the inner structures of flowers, algae, lichens, and fungi. Slime molds had designs that were worthy of a display in an art museum. I was introduced to the world of mushroom-2786789_1920lichens, mosses, algae, & liverworts.  I learned that most fungi were not mushrooms but rather molds and yeast.  Mushrooms were merely the fruiting bodies of the spidery white webs of mycelia living underground or in rotting material.  Latin names swam about in my psyche. Now everywhere I walked was a treasure hunt of natural wonders.

Eventually, I became so adept at plant ID that as a junior I was hired on a botanical study to map rare and endangered plant species in a potential wilderness area.  The plants we found, among them, a sundew (a small sundew-2783310_1920insectivorous plant) eventually converted the land into a protected natural area.  After graduation, I worked in Alaska for a forest fire ecologist, cataloged sea life with NOAA, and mapped vegetation types with the US Forest Service.  I walked the sandy barrier island off the coast of Prudhoe Bay identifying sea birds on a study with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and counting the abandoned but ever warm eider-duck-2020993_1920downy nests of eiders.

Those years of scientific study are long behind me but I am still an observer always looking for acquaintances in the natural world around me. I know the name of the birds about my yard and their calls.   I don’t have to worry about filling the hummingbird feeder so full as I noticed that their skinny tongues are over two inches long.  I noticed that the little myotis bats that darted about on warm summer nights have all but vanished as with the

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Courtesy phys.org/news

warblers, the tanagers, swallows, cedar waxwings and other seasonal migrants. This troubles me. Some years back after the neighbors sprayed the brambles on the fence line, the quail disappeared. The red wind blackbirds still pass through winter and springs filling the air with their songs.  This year, the aphids did not show on my kale!

 

When I learned to notice nature, my life changed radically to the point I made a career out of it.  Science became my friend rather than something to be afraid of. The environment became something to enjoy and protect.  It is not necessary to go to the extremes I did but it is important to be aware of the natural world that surrounds us.  It can form and direct us. We humans as the decades pass are losing our connection to the earth as we retreat further and further into technology.  But it is keyboard-393838_1920important to remember that our so-called civilized lives are built on the back of nature from the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the raw materials in our house, cars, devices, and the fuel in our vehicles.  Without a connection to the earth, we continue to degrade the planet to the point it will be unable to sustain a quality of life for ourselves or its other inhabitants.  It’s happening now with climate change, pollution, and degradation of the land and oceans.

roof-768735_1920One way to keep that connection is to learn the names of the birds, animals, and plants that inhabit your environment.  Even in the city, there are species that have learned to cohabitate with humans.  If you look closely, you may see there is more than one type of sonny-ravesteijn-xsJka-hK8Gs-unsplashsquirrel, & brown bird.  Watch the crows going about their day.  There are communities in the sky conducting business you are not savvy to.

By naming the plants and creatures we encounter, we offer them respect and become aware that the earth does not just belong to us. We become advocates for our environment rather than just exploiters. Give your children binoculars and magnifying glasses rather than devices to rob their minds. Give yourself some too. Look up and around you and learn to notice the magnificent gifts that this planet has to offer.

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