Why I push My Dog in a Stroller

My dog Bandit is now 17 years old. He walks like a very slow wind up toy that sometimes tips over. The things that keep him going in life are his pain meds, love of food, and our stroller walks. Most of the time it’s local but on occasion he gets to the beach or on mountain trails. The stroller functions as his wheelchair. We are an item as we walk down the local roads. Often we are greeted by smiles and waves as people drive by. Then I get a lot of puzzled looks like “why is that woman pushing that 45 pound dog in a stroller?” Small children are often filled with a combination of delight and confusion.

I wrote this little poem to provide some insight…

Stroller Dog

I  missed our walkabouts

His cattle dog body

All worn out

So I bought him a stroller

That saw four children grow

Then fixed it up

So he could go

But instead of being side by side

I happily push him in his ride

By orchard, vineyard, fields of clover

Sheep and cows, up hills and over

His old dog face now young and free

I know he’d do the same for me

Up the lanes he would be panting

coasting down I would be chanting

“Good boy, good boy!” with so much glee

and he would say…

“Thank you, thank you for loving me.”

Young Bandit age 5
Bandit also has a bike trailer!

Alanna also blogs about sustainablity at onesweetearth.art.blog

Covid in the Time of Thanksgiving

As of tomorrow, Nov. 17, the state of Oregon, my home will be locking down again, but in a gentler way this time.  Covid is on the rise and steps are being taken as are all around the world.  (I do find it interesting this surge is occurring just about two weeks after Halloween- hmm).  Goodbye swimming pool and library for a bit (sigh).

Nothing much surprises me anymore.  Coming from a biology, ecology background I always thought it would be the microbes that would bring the human race down to its knees – but not in my lifetime. Then, never did I think I would witness our democracy chewed up like a dog toy in the mouth of a deranged pit bull- but here we are.

This reminds me of an incident I witnessed as a small child. My father was patching a hole in a wall of our house.  It was a substantial hole, at least 6 inches wide.  Now how that hole came to be will always be a mystery to me.  Was it from a fist? Unlikely.  It was probably an electrical fix that needed access through the wall.

Whatever the cause, it left a profound effect on my young mind. Until that time I believed my home to be an invincible fortress, impenetrable through any crisis. Then instantly I realized that it was merely a shell surrounding our family subject to damage beyond our control.  Oh, how that fact played out in the future.

I have found through the years that the only real security we have is in our hearts, minds, creativity, and spiritual life.  The rest is subject to holes (and sadly, sometimes even some items in that list). Politics will always be a mess.  This Covid thing will pass but then it will be something else.  This holiday season will be dampened but there is still room for gratitude and love.  Here is my shortlist…

The Color of Clay

Clay can be dirt in the wrong hands, but clay can be art in the right hands.

Lupita Nyong’o

I work in clay when the mood arises.  In its simplest form, clay is mineral earth, devoid of organic matter. 

For millennia humans have dug their own to make vessels and pieces of art. The clay most artists use in modern times comes from factories.  Different formulations of minerals will mature at different temperatures and will have different properties that are specific to wheel or sculptural pieces. The hotter the temperature the clay fires to, the stronger the finished product.   I generally work in a midfire range clay that matures at approximately 2200 degrees F. 

Within that temperature range there is a variety of colors to choose from that range from white, tan, rust, and brown.  The color of the clay is from pigments or minerals that have been added.  For example, iron oxide gives terra cotta its deep rust color and burnt umber makes clay a toasty brown.

 I like to experiment with different colors of clay.  Since I work with sculptural rather than functional pieces (such as mug and bowls), I use glaze more as an embellishment, preferring to showcase the color of the clay body I’m working with.

When you purchase clay, the fired product will be a different color than the wet clay in the bag. Often white clay will appear gray in its wet form.  Dark clays will lighten or darken depending.

The firing process used to be literally done with a wood fire and in some places still is. I use an electric kiln to fire my pieces.  When the kiln gets up to temperature the individual particles of clay will vitrify, or fuse, creating a permanent, waterproof object.

The clay will perform the same, no matter how it’s colored- it’s how it’s molded that creates differences in strength.  It’s only by fire that clay unites as one.

Clay has so much to teach humanity.

Visit my other blog about sustainable living at onesweetearth.art.blog

Zinnia’s Kittens

She was the fourth in a line of feral or stray cats that had found their way to our property.  First, they find shelter in the barn. Then, over a period of days or weeks, they grow bolder. Eventually, they wind up on the porch staring in the kitchen window, hoping for a meal.  They stay for a while, just enough time for me to grow fond of them, and then disappear- their fate not to be known.

Zinnia was different.  I could tell she was in the early stages of pregnancy looking for a safe anchor.  Poor dear- a teen pregnancy, barely not a kitten herself. She was petite, with a sleek body that sported a shiny black coat. Her topaz eyes that glowed like the high beams on a car, visible from across the yard.  This cat could model on a perfume commercial

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What We Lost in the Fires

DAVID RYDER/GETTY IMAGES Phoenix, Oregon

September has been a gruesome month in my home state of Oregon. We were traumatized by wildfires and smoke that began Labor Day Weekend staying in our homes for 10 days to avoid breathing the toxic cloud of air that descended over the state.  Thousand of people were evacuated from their homes.  The fires ravaged over a million acres of land burning several 2800 structures including homes and businesses.  About 11 people lost their lives.  Many are homeless and without jobs. The towns of Detroit Lake, Talent, and Phoenix were decimated as with many communities up the McKenzie River Hwy.  Many of the larger fires are still burning.

Particularly heartbreaking to me is knowing that some of my favorite places were hit especially hard; the Breitenbush Hot Springs Community, the McKenzie River corridor, and the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center and Wilderness.  These were places that recharged my soul.  Nature will renew them- but not in my lifetime.  It looks like my ashes will be scattered among the ashes.

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Bidding Farewell to RBG

We lost a giant this last week. Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at 87 years old working tirelessly for womens rights and equality up into her death. She was a lion in a diminuative, soft spoken body. Her passing was a blow for many of us.

330px-ruth_bader_ginsburg_2016_portrait

RBG legally orchestrated women’s’ rights and equal rights in this country after overcoming tremendous discrimination in her own career. 

rbg

Ginsburg was one of the first eight women to enter Harvard Law School 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 continued her hard work to her death sleeping only a few hours a night. Ginsburg survived cancer two times and followed a rigorous workout twice a week with her personal trainer. RBG became sort of a pop icon for her famous dissenting opinions on the Supreme Court becoming known as “The Notorious RBG.”

rbg sticker

To learn more about her life watch RBG, the documentary on Netflix, it is truly inspirational as well as the dramatized movie “On the Basis of Sex.” She has been a role model for us all, especially women young and old. Learning about her life gives hope and offers a welcome reprieve from the current events.

Losing someone of this character leaves a hole in the universe. I think this poem by Maya Angelou sums up the magnitude of this loss.

WHEN GREAT TREES FALL

by Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance, fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of
dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

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

What One Can Learn From an Octopus…

I watched an incredible movie last night- truly such a piece of art in so many ways I thought I would try to spread the word. The movie is called “My Octopus Teacher,” available for streaming on Netflix.

Here’s a summary courtesy Wikipedia:

My Octopus Teacher takes viewers into a world few humans have ever seen. In 2010, debilitated by adrenal fatigue, Craig began free diving in a freezing underwater forest at the tip of Africa. As the icy water re-energised him, he started to film his experiences and in time, a curious young octopus captured his attention. By visiting her den and tracking her movements everyday for months, he won the animal’s trust and they developed an unlikely relationship.

As the little octopus shared the secrets of her world, Craig became first witness to the beauty and drama of a wild creature’s life and in the process, underwent an incredible mental and physical transformation.”

Everything about this movie was stunning, the cinematography, the story, the narration, the octopus. It was like watching poetry. It made me ask the question, are we humans smarter than an octopus?

If you want a break from the ugliness of the world right now, this is a great movie to watch.

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

As Oregon Burns

We are among the lucky. Thus far we have only lost power and internet service. There is a fire a few miles away but it seems to be holding. My heart goes out to those who have lost everything and the 500,00 who have had to undergo the stress of evacuations.

As Oregon Burns

A dry wind howls from the east

We extinguish the candles

 and do not sleep

As Oregon burns

A black cloud draws across the sky like a flat curtain

Led by the dark horses of the apocalypse

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Of Voles and Holes

Image courtesy https://www.thetimes.co.uk/

If you have country property here in my corner of Oregon, you have probably noticed an explosion of small mammals, including ground squirrels, rats but especially voles this year.  Rodents have population cycles peaking every few years and then falling after the predator population catches up to them.  This is a banner year for voles

Voles are rodents, bigger than mice with smaller ears and short tales.  They are chiefly vegetarians munching on roots, nuts, young plants, and bulbs.  They are proficient tunnelers.  You don’t want them in your garden.

On the positive side, they aerate the soil and distribute nutrients in the soil layers.  My inner biologist recognizes their role in the great circle of life but my outer gardener is extremely frustrated.  I am perhaps the first person to write a poem about vole holes?.  Adding a bit a humor has made the situation in my lawn more tolerable.

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The Art Of Bothering

image courtesy BBC (RubberBall / Alamy)

Just when I thought the world couldn’t get any crazier, it has. The issues confronting this country (and the world beyond) makes one tempted to roll over on ones back, legs up in defeat. I need not mention them. You all know- especially in the USA.

This enormity of disasters makes one wonder- is it all hopeless? What good can I do that will make a difference? I’ve been thinking all this week about this question “why bother?” This is what I came up with…

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