Saturday, December 15, 2007

Happy Holidays - Where Did That Year Go??

Another year gone by, and it seems like a good idea to mention a few highlights. Everybody knows the low-lights (they emanate daily from Washington, DC), so I won't go there, in this holiday season.

1. We spent 5 months on Whidbey Island this year (May-September). We were lucky to stay in a house belonging to our wonderful next-door-neighbors, so we could spread out and entertain, have visitors, cook real meals, etc. Hallelujah!
2. A new little pup, Django (above), joined our family in late August. He is like an animated stuffed toy, adorable and spritely, full of mischief. Having him gives me an all-day huge grin and expands my heart with happiness! He has become best pals with our other dog, Zuma.
3. Daniella (above with Zuma) had a great art year, with many honors, firsts, publications, and sales. You can read all about it on her blog ( Her art work just gets better and better. She's now working on some sensational, big installation pieces.
4. My favorite niece, Amy, (above, who lived with us a few years back) gave birth to a beautiful daughter on my birthday, April 18. I met Kasey for the first time in early November when we went to a family wedding (my nephew) in Annapolis, Md., and she is off-the-charts cute and smart. That wedding was a major family reunion - all my brothers and their families together for the first time in many years. My nephew, Peter, married a young Indian woman, Priya, and there were 3 days of fabulous parties.
5. I found out that I will become a grandmother for the first time in 2008! My daughter-in-law Megan, and son Phil expect a baby in July. The photo above shows them together at Phil's graduation about 1 1/2 years ago. Let the spoiling begin!! Whoooohooo!
6. My son Tom (above) rediscovered school this year, after may years away from it, and has been studying at our local community college. He has done really well and should have straight A's for the year. WOW!
I plan to celebrate the holiday season with my three grown children (and their partners), in a vacation rental house north of San Francisco for a few days. I think it will be great for all of us to go away together to a place where we can relax and just enjoy our time together without anyone having to be the "host". We're not big on the "christmas" thing, but we are all looking forward to the time together.

Every day I celebrate the joy of living (now 33 years) in our Santa Cruz home (we have the most amazing and generous friends and neighbors), and in our Whidbey Island home (where we have made many new friends). It is truly the best of both worlds, and life in both places is rich and full. I'm getting old(er) but my health and energy is still great, and I love the "retired" lifestyle. Never bored, moving at my own pace, enjoying every day.

This message comes with an abundance of good wishes and love for you all during the holidays. Let's try to brighten the world in our own special way in the days ahead, with kindness, generosity, and caring for those who don't have much to celebrate. Please, also, send healing energy to my beloved brother, Dick, in Florida, who is battling metastatic renal cancer. We're all hoping for a big miracle for that sweet guy.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Bundle of Joy

For months I've been yearning for a new (second) dog. For the last few weeks it has become almost an obsession. I've been browsing the internet, reading ads, telling everyone I saw that I was looking, and researching what kind of dog I would really love to have. It has felt almost like an overdue pregnancy, dreaming about this pup! I've seen a lot of dogs, but none of them felt like my dog. Until......
On Friday, we met Django, this little precious fellow. He is a combination Poodle/Havanese, a walking teddy-bear, 10 weeks old, jazzy and sweet, easy-going, good-natured, smart. He is caramel colored, with black tips and a black beard. Funny face, that's for sure! He adores little children (was raised with them). This was important for me because of little Tiare who lives in our back house, Olin who lives down the street, Kasey my new little great-niece, and the anticipated grandchildren who will (hopefully) someday be appearing!

So far he is just a great dog. He is almost house-trained (only one puddle in four days). We are training him to sleep in his crate, and I've been carrying him around in a baby sling when he wants to nap and we're busy. He races around, tumbles all over himself, and then falls sound asleep after an hour or two of wild exertion.
Here he goes, racing through the back yard! He and Zuma are getting along just fine. They're not playing yet, but it is close. Because we've had two small children visiting, it has been a little distracting for Zuma, trying to defend herself from them! Anyway, we are both madly in love with this little pup, and can't wait to introduce him to all our dog-loving friends!Meanwhile, he helps me with everything - here he is helping me post this blog!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Here's me now...

My old Blogger photo is several years out of date. Here's a more up-to-date snap of how I look now.

Picture me this week celebrating the resignation of Karl Rove, although as a Michael Winship wrote today,

"Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of Karl Rove?
Not bloody likely. If you think otherwise, you've got greater faith in the power of wolf's bane, garlic and wooden stakes than I have."

I couldn't agree more! I don't trust him, and fully expect him to emerge as a lobbyist for Diebold, or the weapons industry, or Halliburton, or worse.

I remember, as a kid, that we used the verb to "snick", which was what you would do to snap something forcefully away, using your thumb and middle finger. I'd like to snick old Turdblossom right off the planet, along with his best friend!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What I Haven't Been Writing About

The summer is passing quickly by on Whidbey Island. As you know, this blog has been silently collecting cobwebs most of the summer, while I've been busily enjoying myself here. There have been many moments when I thought I'd write something, but somehow they all went by unrecorded. Some of the things I considered posting included:

... the birth of a new colt next door in the pasture. He is chestnut colored, with white socks, and it has been wonderful watching him explore his new world, try out his gangly body, and romp around in the meadow.

... a kildeer who made a nest on a driveway down the street, not 5 feet from the roadway, in a gravel bed. She nested for over a month, fiercely defending her eggs from the neighborhood cats, dogs, coyotes, eagles, osprey, and people, finally hatching three healthy chicks. They grew quickly and vacated the nest, presumably all surviving. Madame Kildeer's defense tactics included feigning injury, to distract attention from the nest, dragging her wing or tail and shrieking pitifully as she hobbled around the driveway. It was great local drama for several weeks, and the source of many conversations with concerned neighbors cheering for a safe outcome.

... Zuma's latest accomplishment, catching and eating a small rabbit. Well, she is a rat terrier, and her genetic pre-disposition came through for her! I think it is the first time she's ever caught anything. We have (thankfully) an absence of rats, but a huge abundance of bunnies here.

... the 49 shades of grey that we have been living in for much of the summer here. This is not a complaint - it has been lovely in its way, and cool too. When everything is grey, the colors of all the plants and flowers and birds pop out dramatically against the leaden skies. The flowers and vegetables and fruit trees are abundantly producing this year, cherries, plums, peaches, apples, and tomatoes all dripping with ready harvest.

... oh, and the millions of blackberries about to be ready for the picking, literally everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.

... a day trip to San Juan Island, on a ferry, threading through many small islands en route, on a perfectly sparkling day, crisp and sunny.

... a richness of good books and movies. Add to the list from the last post a recommendation for a fabulous Danish film, After the Wedding, a rich and complex family story with so much development of all the characters. It is one of the best and most thought-provoking films I've seen in many years.

... the pleasure of spreading out in this borrowed house, having a huge kitchen and guest rooms, so that we have had the chance to entertain friends and family from off the island, and cook some pretty great dinner parties too!

... my ongoing despair with and rage at the current political regime. Every day, just when you think it can't get any worse, it gets worse. I stay well-informed and read a lot of news and commentary, and agonize about what to do to change things. You might think it would be easy to detach from it and just enjoy life on this beautiful and simple island, but I find that to be impossible, even without TV. Thinking about the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, the immigrants now being held in custody here in the US, the families who are homeless or without health care, the gross inequities between the rich and poor, the degradation of the environment, the lack of concern on the part of so many of us. Well, don't get me started....

... anyway, things are good here, and I'm so grateful for all the blessings of my everyday life, big and small. Let's hope that the miracle of peace comes to the world soon!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Good Viewing

We have joined the happy millions who subscribe to Netflix. Since we have no TV on the island, and not much in the way of movie theaters, etc., it is especially appreciated on these long evenings. Here are a few of the things I've been watching and loving:
Reckless - a 4 part series from England, that was on Masterpiece Theater several years ago. It is smart, sexy, funny, surprising, passionate, and beautifully acted. It's about a love triangle, it's contemporary, and it knocked my sox off!Painted Lady - part of my Helen Mirren immersion. This was also a British film, a murder mystery, and yet another way to showcase the brilliance of Helen Mirren who plays an aging hippy folk-singer. Awesome!Prime Suspect - This series was also from BBC, and began showing in the early 1990's. Helen Mirren (again) plays the role of Detective Inspector Jane Tennison in an ongoing series of murder investigations around England. Once again, a stellar cast, smart and sparkling scripts, and edge-of-your-chair suspense. Highly recommended.
Second Sight - One more series about detectives. This time, the hero loses his sight in the first episode, but with the sharpening of the rest of his senses, he continues his career as a detective. I haven't finished watching this series yet, but it promises to be another winner.

What prompted much of this was recently seeing a list of PBS TV's lists of most popular programs. I've always been a fan of Masterpiece Theater, but haven't always gotten to watch it. So now I'm catching up on some I've missed.

Do you have any suggestions for our future evenings' entertainment?? (DVD rentals that is...;-)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Painting Redux

It's the same one from a few days ago, just have been working on it. Here's the newest iteration. Size is two 16" x 20" panels. Acryllic on black gesso. Below is a detail.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Chocolate Ecstasy

Good chocolate is one of my great loves. Another of my great loves, Daniella, just sent me a generous gift from Kansas City, where she has been taking art classes and attending a Surface Design conference. When we were in KC in September, we found Christopher Elbow chocolates, a tiny shop tucked away in the back of a furniture store, as I remember it. We were stunned! The artistry of these fine sweets is in the combined beauty of each piece as a work of art to look at, as well as a taste sensation to eat! It is hard to disturb the artistry by eating the first piece, and equally hard to decide where to begin to choose. After much consideration I began with Orange Blossom Honey, shaped like a little beehive. It was superb! The promises for the days ahead are phenomenal. Where would you begin??

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Another Whidbey Walk

One of my absolute favorite places to walk is kind of a secret spot. I discovered it by accident a few years back. It is a wide earthen dike with a meandering pathway across the top, running between Sunlight Beach and Useless Bay. Scotch broom, wild roses, and blackberries rise up on both sides, opening to breath-taking views in both directions. Bunnies are everywhere - these days, lots of little ones. On one side is a large, muddy bay where the tide seems to be permanently "out". The little rivulets are studded with heron moving in ultra-slow-motion and staring attentively at some potential meal in the water. A wide variety of shore birds scurry busily across the sand. At the far end of the trail, eagles are often sitting in the treetops staring down at us as we pass below. On the other side is lush farmland, with ponds, ducks, marshes, and bucolic views. Kingfishers and swallows swoop overhead. Bees are buzzing in the wild roses. As usual, nobody is ever out there but us. The pathway is about 1/2 mile long I'd guess, and we go over and back. Each time I'm in bliss. Best thing is that this "secret garden" is just a couple of miles from our home up here!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Thundering Hooves

The house where we're spending the summer is surrounded on two sides by horse corrals and pastures. Tonight I was quietly reading and I heard what sounded like distant thunder. Then I realized that the floor was shaking beneath me. I stepped to the back door and was treated to the sight of four beautiful horses running full-out in big loops around the corral immediately over the back fence. I grabbed the camera and tried to capture the beauty and exhiliration of the moment. Apparently those four have just returned to the ranch here after being away for 8-9 months, so they were ecstatic to be "home". They continued to race and kick up their heels and roll in the dirt for about 1/2 hour before they finally settled down. All these photos were taken while I was standing on the threshold of our back door here. These horses are ridden constantly, and used as "polo ponies" in polo matches around the Northwest.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Painting Fool, or A Foolish Painting.......

I've been painting again. What happens on the canvas is always a surprise. This one started out as an all black-and-white painting, then took on a life of its own. I'm noticing that my past history as a mosaic artist still has a bearing on how I see the world. And I'm getting a little less scared of "abstract". The last two photos are details.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Daily Roundup

I still often feel at a loss about what to write about in my blog. Tonight I'll write about some of the odds and ends of the day. At my 8 am water exercise class, I met a woman, Monica, who turned out to be from Chile. We found out that we had many things in common, and had a great chat in the hot tub after our workout. I learned from her, among other things, that Whidbey Island is at a latitude in the Northern Hemisphere that corresponds to some parts of Chile in the Southern Hemisphere. This area is very similar in landscape and climate to where she and her husband grew up - who knew?? So they are very comfortable here.

Next I took Zuma to the beach for a romp. It was low tide, and the beach was wide and wet and briny. Some children there wondered why Zuma was afraid of them. A little boy, about 3 years old, said "maybe she thinks I'm a giant!" and his face lit up with a joyous grin at the notion that he might be a giant to someone. Adorable!

From there, I drove around to various places to look at houses for sale. A friend's mother wants to move here, and I've got a notion of what she wants. It's a great excuse to go house shopping, a favorite activity up here! I saw a few losers, a few odd but promising possibilities, and a couple of absolutely stunning places with views to make you never want to leave your front porch again (see photo above for an example).

Then Zuma and I went to a second beach for another run-around before coming home for lunch. This afternoon I worked on a painting I'm making, and that was all about being lost for several hours in the process, and all of a sudden it's 5:30 and the dog is giving me that look like "hey, I'm hungry, I'm bored, are you ever going to come back to this planet?"

Tonight a charming quail couple sat on top of the fence in the back yard, between us and the horse enclosure, looking like they were surveying our back yard for snacks. Later, when I walked Zuma down our street, a pair of crows was kicking up a major ruckus. When I walked down closer to the lake, I could see that a large bald eagle was sitting on the tip-top of a big tree, and the crows were dive-bombing it relentlessly, coming within inches of its head. The eagle was clearly annoyed (did those crows have a nest nearby that they were defending?), and frequently stretched his neck up and snapped at the crows as they whizzed by him. Don't ever think we lack for drama and excitement up here on our little island! It's a happening place, believe me!(photo by Ballard Blog)(of course I forgot my camera!)

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Deep Green Woods of Whidbey

I've often written about the Whidbey Island beaches, lakes, and meadows. Today I've been walking with Zuma (above) on some of the numerous trails through the nearby woods. Many of these trails are used for riding horseback, but they're great for walking too. Mostly when I walk in there I see nobody. The woods are silent except for the numerous bird calls from high above in the trees; the tapping of woodpeckers on old wood; the occasional snap of a branch under my own foot. Otherwise, the silence is complete. No car or airplane noises, no voices, nothing. I feel safe in here. Unlike many places where a walk alone in the woods can be unsafe for a variety of reasons, in these woods I breathe deeply and feel my body relax. The pathways are soft beneath my feet. As I gaze into the deep greens that spread out in all directions, I feel peace and serenity and a sense of timelessness. Zuma, on the other hand, feels frisky, adventurous, and excited. With her tail wagging, she races down the trails, only looking back at intervals as if to say "can't you hurry up??!"

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Our New Digs .....

This summer we're staying at our neighbor's house while they are away. Normally we stay in a small studio apartment, but this place is spacious, commodious, and offers all the comforts of a very lovely home! It is right next door to our place, so it shares many of the same views of the lake and the horse farm, although from the back yard the horses are much more up-close and personal. I've taken a few photos to give a feeling of what we're looking at. Above is the front yard, with blooming azaleas.Here is a view from the front of the house looking at the horse pastures, and a glimpse of the lake.
This is the side yard, seen across the front of the house.Of course there are always eagles. A few days ago, this huge bald eagle sat for hours on the tree beside our driveway, just watching the lake and the marsh.An artistic collection of bird houses in the yard.
The back yard and patios. You can see our studio in the background, a brown building with a round window.Canada geese sleeping in one of the pastures while the horses graze nearby.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

From Brill-o to Chill-o

In the last few weeks, since we got back to Santa Cruz, I've been engaged in a frenzy of deep cleaning, getting ready to leave our Santa Cruz home for several months. We have people coming to stay there throughout the time we're away, and I wanted everything to be in the best possible shape for our visitors. It actually felt good, in a way, to empty every drawer, closet, cupboard, box, and junk area and clean it all out. I made numerous trips to the Goodwill drop-off, and to the Dump. By the time I was finished, it was hard to leave. The place looked better than it has in years. Even the garden was glorious, with new plants just getting ready to burst forth, and so many things blooming.

But indeed we left, and after two days of driving north, we made it to our favorite summer location, Whidbey Island, Washington. I brought along lots of good books, my paints, the dog, my bathing suit (for water exercise), binoculars (for the birds) and most of all an intention to enjoy every minute of this lovely place. Picture me here.......

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Four Good Men

Today I’m thinking about the human landscape of this journey. In particular, I’ve had the pleasure of spending quality time with four good men, all of whom have enriched my travels immensely.

What a great guy! He is everything a brother should/could be – loving, fun, playful, creative, brilliant. He writes the most amazing humor pieces (wish I could get him to publish his letters). He plays music. He can make absolutely anything with his hands – the ultimate craftsman. He cooks fabulous meals. He has been happily married to his lovely Marnie, for ~35 years, and is a super-Dad to his 3 boys. Although he is an actual twin to my brother, Hunt, I often feel as if Dick and I are really the twins. Our DNA seems to vibrate in synch. I love it when he phones me early in the morning and asks “are you working on the crossword puzzle?” and I am, and he is too! Obviously I adore him!

This one I’ve known all my life too. I went to his and DJ’s wedding when I was 11 years old, and they are still happily together. John spent his professional life as a counselor/therapist, working for VA hospitals and local clinics. He is a wonderful listener, and his compassionate heart seems to always be open. What is so striking now is that, although retired, he lives a busy and full life giving to his community. He volunteers on all sorts of projects, is active in his church, spends quality time with each of his grandchildren (such as taking them on wonderful vacations), plays golf, and knows all about everything in his area of North Carolina. He lives a truly exemplary life, and has fascinating stories which he shares with a twinkle in his eye. It was delightful to reconnect with him.

I know him the least well of all these four men, but so much enjoyed deepening my friendship with him and his firecracker wife, Dee. Ben is a passionate and romantic man. The story of how he and Dee found and lost and found each other again is one of the most moving love stories I’ve ever heard. They are devoted to each other with such intensity, and Ben has been an amazing and supportive father to Dee’s two children (now teenagers). He is deeply engaged in the arts (theater, writing, film), a superb cook, and a riveting conversationalist. I loved watching him fill his back patio with candlelight, just for the pleasure of how beautiful it was! Now there’s a romantic guy!

In Grand Junction, Mark is best known for having started the highly successful Main Street Bagel Bakery. There, his creative talents are apparent everywhere – in the design and layout of the building, the choice of menu items, the attention to high quality, the superb food, the music, the inviting atmosphere, the cheerful staff. Mark loves to keep improving, and this work he has chosen lets him do that. My history with Mark goes back almost 30 years. I’ve been close friends with his wife, Missy, since our children were all little, and she and I were just young mothers struggling along. Mark, in those days, worked as a stone mason (did beautiful work), but had little to say to me. He seemed shy and shut down back then, and I didn’t know how to talk to him. Over the years, I have grown to treasure my friendship with him. Like a fine vintage wine, Mark just keeps on getting better and better. He is open and aware, kind and generous. When I come to visit, he welcomes me with such warmth and sweetness, and it is very genuine. His passion is music, and he plays his guitar for fun, and is getting a band together. He loves animals, has a great sense of humor. He is a great athlete and outdoor adventurer. He grows more handsome all the time and stays in great shape. He is a courageous risk-taker, and a truly fine man in every sense.

Men – sometimes you’ve gotta admire them!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Rocky Mountain High

Today I'm in Ouray, Colorado, a spectacular tiny town surrounded by towering, snow covered crags on all sides. My friend Missy and I are staying here at a place where there are natural hot springs where we can soak surrounded by these mountains, and by wild deer grazing on the grass a few feet away. I've been in Colorado since Monday, mostly in Grand Junction where Missy and her sweet husband, Mark, own the Main Street Bagel Bakery. This is the most soulful and welcoming place in town, and attracts crowds of hungry people all day long. Mark (below with his dog, Dora) makes the most amazing, frothy, home-brewed Chai anywhere, and their baked goods are just superb. It's worth a trip to Colorado just to eat here!
Missy (photo above shows her at the Bagel shop) and I go way back. We've been friends since our children were little, so probably almost 30 years. Even though we don't see each other often, our friendship is a treasure and we immediately fall into that easy conversation that goes on and on and on for days, deep and free and wandering and wide open to each other. I love her dearly and feel so lucky that we made this time together.

On Tuesday Missy and I drove up to the Colorado National Monument, an area of red rock canyons and hiking trails just outside of town, and hiked up there for several hours of solitary bliss. The trails and roads were so high up that you could sometimes look down at the tops of large birds soaring in the canyons below - awesome!Yesterday was my birthday, and as you can tell, it was celebrated in High style! There was an even more amazing icing on my cake - my niece Amy gave birth to her new baby daughter, Kathryn, yesterday morning in New Hampshire. Those of you who know me know how I adore Amy and her husband, Carson. She and I are bonded at the heart, big time. Even though it wasn't planned this way, for her first baby to be born on my birthday just feels like a huge gift. I'm very excited and thrilled for them and can't wait to see my new grand-niece and shower her with love!

Today we will probably go up to Telluride, after some hiking around Ouray. I return to Santa Cruz on Saturday. It has been a total joy to travel so extensively around the country and be with so many dear friends along the way. I'm flying!!