Galapagos Redux

Sally Lightfoot Crab
Sally Lightfoot Crab

Trip report from the singing and swinging group on the Letty. Susan and Burt, Susan and Bill, Amy and Edwin, Sue and Clay, Brian, and Fiona, and Robert. From this point on: Susan is Susan Mittelstadt. Susana is Susan Roth, Sue is Sue. There’s a full list of birds seen at the end.
2/4/18: The very first moments of our very first day looked like we might have a long week ahead of us. It all begin well enough with a fish dinner followed by Amy’s birthday cake at Puembo Birding Gardens. Then things went bad. Susan woke up with an intense version of tourista at 2 AM. With only 5 hours to go before the bus to the airport arrived some tough calls needed to be made. Pondering the hospital or disturbing a guest, Susan and Burt chose the guest. Edwin has been Susan’s intermittent primary care provider of 35 years and the two share a long tradition of medical care in remote locales. Susan swallowed her pride and gratefully accepted a shot of anti-nausea drug. She also despaired over the idea of dragging some noro-virus like disease onto airplanes and a ship with a group ready to enjoy the Galapagos Islands. Edwin assured her that if she kept her hands clean she would not infect the group. So she made up her mind to get herself to the Galapagos and recover en route. At seven she was able to leave the room and found the group rallied and taking over leadership roles. Burt was managing Susan. Susana was gathering people, luggage and keeping track of time. The bus was late. Twenty minutes after the scheduled pick up time the bus was spotted passing by a block away. Our hostess was excitedly trying to direct the driver by phone but it was not working. Ultimately Bill saved the day and ran down the bus on foot. Run, Bill, run! We arrived at the airport with only a little time to spare but EcoVenturas was ready and swept us though all the preliminaries with alacrity. Susan was wheeled about in a wheelchair. Sue and Clay joined us at the airport. We all made the flight. Way to go team. Roberto joined the group at the stopover in Guayaquil.
We arrived in San Cristobal on schedule and were ferried to the boat. The Naturalist Journey’s group met 6 new friends and we seamlessly merged into one group of friendly and excited participants. Susan passed out the species checklists and shared the extras with the other couples. We had our boarding briefing and then enjoyed the first of a continuous string of fine meals. After lunch there was a practice emergency drill. Susan slept through it but reports were it went well. We are all pleased there was no need to find out who or who not might have been paying attention.
The afternoon was the first snorkeling of the trip. Burt helped the newbies figure out the mask and snorkel and generally relax in the water. Fiona saw her first sea turtle. Highlights of the outing were the Pacific Green Sea Turtle, the blue-footed Booby, sea lions, great and magnificent frigate birds. That night an exhausted group headed to bed early. No music was played.

Fiona in the sea kayak.
Fiona in the sea kayak.

2/5/18: By the first morning aboard we were all under the Galapagos’ magic spell and the bad omens of the day before were forgotten. We started with a wet landing at Cerro Brujo and a beach walk. Our Ecoventura guides Cecibel and Giancarlo set us free to explore a lovely stretch of soft sandy shoreline. We walked in sight of Leon Dormido (or Kicker Rock). There we saw our first marine iguanas and lava lizards. The San Cristobal mockingbird, a warbler finch, and the velvety gray lava gull were also spotted. Elliot’s storm petrels danced on the water behind the Letty, too.
The late morning was spent snorkeling nearby. Words fail, mainly because I have no idea what we saw. The snorkeling never failed to impress.
After lunch we did a hike at Punta Pitt. Begging blue-footed booby babies. Dancing blue-footed boobies. Egg sitting blue-footed boobies. Blue-footed boobies are looking good at Punta Pitt. A marine iguana took a run at Susan and she leapt and screamed to the delight of everyone in her group. Susan swears she was not scared only startled by the love stuck reptile.
Highlights of the day: All three species of boobies (red-footed, blue-footed, and Nazca) were seen. We also enjoyed close up swoops of the nocturnal swallowtail gull and the red-billed tropic bird. Fiona is bitten by the bird listing craze and it is revealed that her SO is an eBird administrator. Fiona spots a pair of American Oystercatchers.

Brian getting groovey.
Brian getting groovy. Fiona on my fiddle. Brian on my mandolin. I am properly unarmed.
Mailing my post card.
Mailing my post card.

2/6/18: Day three found us walking at Punta Suarez on Espaniola and sea kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking along Gardener Bay. It was a jam packed day. On our hike we saw our only waved albatross. It was dead but nobody seemed to mind. Giancarlo explained that the largely unfilled niche of carrion eaters in the Islands was why skeletons and mummified remains were so plentiful. On the live side we saw more Nazca boobies, a snake, and sea lions and marine iguanas. The marine iguanas are especially colorful and active this time of year. Our boating expedition was a delight. Calm seas, clear water, balmy temperatures. What else could you ask for? Susan and Fiona went out together while Burt boated with Brian. Roberto did the SUP and all the other couples were paired with their mates. Nobody was thrown overboard.
During the snorkel we saw a massive ball of creole fish. A shimmering blue delight.
That night Susan ate her first solid food and the instruments and singers came together and got the trip groove going. Brian, Burt, Susan, Fiona, and Roberto got down. The Capitan danced with Sue to Love Potion #9 while Claudia drove the ship. Edwin wins the award for knowing all the words to all the songs.
The day’s highlights: Galapagos mockingbird, Espaniola warbler finch, wandering tattler, a yellow-crowned night heron, creole fish, marine iguanas.
2/7/18: On our fourth day we were getting the hang of this expedition. Our ship was anchored just off Floreana. Cecibel had us getting up early to avoid the heat. The early wake up call had the added benefit of avoiding other groups. We’ve hardly crossed paths with other visitors on any day. Despite our good natured grumbles about the 6 AM alarms we are happy. That Cecibel is a smart one. On this day we visited Post Office bay and learned the history of the area. Following a centuries old tradition we took the time to sort through the mail and find some post cards to hand deliver. We left our own cards behind with the hope someone would bring them to us someday.
Before the visit to the post office, we took a walk to the turtle beach and saw fresh tracks of a Pacific green sea turtle. She was swimming away from her nest as we arrived. On our return walk we stopped and watched American flamingos in the pond just behind the dunes. Joining the flamingoes were a whimbrel, a sanderling, some lava herons, white-cheeked pintails, and a black-necked stilt. The day’s bird list was very long and varied.
That afternoon there was more snorkeling and in the evening lots of fun music with Fiona singing Crazy and Danny Boy. The requests started pouring in and the whole group was singing along now. Brian wowed us with some Sligo solos and joined in on the pop tunes, too.
2/8/18: On this day we left the wilderness behind and visited the inhabited island of Santa Cruz. First up was a stop at Los Gemelos, the twin giant sink holes in the lava on the side of the highway. At this volcanic formation half our group saw the elusive woodpecker finch. The rest of us enjoyed hearing about seeing the woodpecker finch. Afterwards we bussed up to El Chayote Farm to see the giant Galapagos tortoises. The seasonal rains were late this year and so the vegetation wasn’t very deep or thick. While a dry wet season isn’t good news for all creatures it makes for prime tortoise viewing. We saw many fine creatures and they were in the mood for love. Tortoise humping is not as sexy as it sounds nor is it a high action event but it is very fun to see. We saw many Galapagos finches here and started checking off some of Darwin’s famous species. We walked through a beautiful and long lava tunnel. There were common gallinules, smooth billed-anis, a whimbrel and some cattle egrets in the ranch surroundings.
That afternoon we took a tour of the Darwin Center. Giancarlo and Cecibel explained the captive breeding program and the accidental finds of George in the wild and Diego in a zoo. We saw Diego, father of hundreds, in his compound with several lovely ladies. We also saw the remains of George, father of none, hermetically sealed in a glass case. George was the last of his kind so it’s appropriate he has a place where we can forever contemplate the loss of a species.

A wintry but warm day in the Galapagos.
A wintry but warm day in the Galapagos.

Afterwards we had free time in town. There was shopping to do and Ecuavoli to watch. That Ecuavoli is a high stakes game. Three on three for several hundred dollars a match. The Carnival parade with a band and the local beauty queens came by just as we headed back to the Letty for the evening.
2/9/18: On this day we visited one of the most spectacular scenes in the world, Bartolome. We took a boardwalk across a lava landscape to a view of Pinnacle rock. It was a stout hike but we all made it without distress. Again we were grateful to Cecibel for an early start. We had the island to ourselves and the dark lava was already heating up at 7:30. Our guides explained the geology of the area while we walked. Tuff was discussed at length. We saw some lovely lava cactus starting the process of vegetating the islet. At the viewing deck you can see the isle nipped in with bays on opposing shores and Pinnacle rock in the center of it all. Afterwards some of us snorkeled. Again, the snorkeling was worth the effort of donning all that gear. White tipped sharks lurked in shallow crevasse just below us. The lava landscape continued into the seascape. On our way back from the swim we passed the base of Pinnacle rock and spotted a Galapagos penguin. Fiona, on board, was watching the pangas and took note of our stop and saw the penguin from the Letty with her binoculars. Impressive skills of observation.
That afternoon we took a panga ride into the Black Turtle Mangroves on Isla Santa Cruz. Right away we happened upon a multi-species feeding frenzy. Sardines were running and everything else was chasing them. Frigates slid down in lazy arcs to just dip the tip of their bills in and flick out a fish. Pelicans and blue-footed boobies plunged deep from up high. Herons lined the shore and stabbed at passersby. Meanwhile bigger fish swam behind the schools and created vortexes of disturbed water.
We traveled deeper into the mangroves and found a hawksbill sea turtle and both white and black tipped sharks. Then we found one of the most delightful creatures to see from a boat, juvenile hammerhead sharks. We had stumbled into the recently discovered hammerhead shark nursery. There were clumps of five or more in several locations. Our guide, Giancarlo, had never seen so many baby hammerheads in one location. Hammerheads at this size look like a fun pet. This is such a recent discovery that it only made the news the week we returned.
More music and more singers let lose in public that night. Roberto slayed Dylan’s Another Cup of Coffee. Brian showed he’s got the chops to improvise on anything we throw at him.

Hammerhead sharks
Hammerhead sharks
Hawksbill sea turtle

2/10/18: The penultimate day. The previous day was one boggling scene or creature after another. On our last full day in the islands we had the time to look around and think about all the beauty we had taken in. First we took a long walk at South Plaza. We saw a hybrid of a land/sea iguana at the entry to the island. This streak faced animal is neither one nor the other. It isn’t even known if it can propagate. We also observed courtship between swallowtail gulls, a nursing sea lion and pup, some wrestling lava lizards, and some interspecies interactions between land and sea iguanas. I guess they have to interact if they occasionally produce hybrids.

Blue-footed boobies
Blue-footed boobies

We watched the shearwaters and swallowtail gulls soaring off the cliffs. A hatchling in a cliff side nest below us was fed by a parent. Half the group watched sharks eat a seal. It was reported to be a gory slow death.
That afternoon we snorkeled and hiked at North Seymour. Our hike was full of frigates in all stages of reproduction from courtship to eggs to hatchlings to juveniles. There were shrub climbing land lizards, too. There were also many blue-footed boobies. We saw two male boobies vying for the attention of a lone female. All that foot wagging and sky pointing and she seemed unimpressed. We enjoyed the show.
Our last night of tunes was full of group singing. The crew joined us for some well known numbers in both English and Spanish. Cielito Lindo, Besame Mucho, Quizas…
2/11/18: We spent our morning hanging in internet cafes and passing the time before our flight back to reality. Here’s the complete bird list.

White-cheeked Pintail

American Flamingo

Galapagos Penguin

Galapagos Shearwater
Elliot’s Storm-Petrel

Red-billed Tropicbird

Red-tailed Tropicbird

Magnificent Frigatebird

Great Frigatebird

Nazca Booby

Blue-footed Booby

Red-footed Booby

Brown Pelican

Great Blue Heron

Cattle Egret

Striated Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Galapagos Hawk

Common Gallinule

Black-necked Stilt

American Oystercatcher

Semipalmated Plover


Ruddy Turnstone


Western Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Wandering Tattler

Swallow-tailed Gull

Lava Gull

Brown Noddy

Galapagos Dove

Smooth-billed Ani

Galapagos Flycatcher

Galapagos Mockingbird

Floreana Mockingbird

Española Mockingbird

San Cristobal Mockingbird

Yellow Warbler

Green Warbler-Finch

Gray Warbler-Finch

Woodpecker Finch

Large Tree-Finch

Small Tree-Finch

Small Ground-Finch

Large Ground-Finch

Common Cactus-Finch

Medium Ground-Finch

Española Cactus-Finch




Burt’s sick! Struck down by a sandwich.

Besame Mucho by Priscila. She's a superstar.
Besame Mucho by Priscila. She’s a superstar.

It’s been non-stop action around here until this morning. All was going well for my cousin and her hubby on their first vacation to Baja. Hikes, food, music, sightseeing, whale sharks, whales. And then a sneaky organism found its way into Burt’s digestive tract. Super-host Burt was struck down by a microbe. I’ve never heard him in such agony. I’ll spare you the details. Today we are sleeping it off. Tennis and Bridge canceled.

Cara and Bobby arrived on Tuesday. Since then they saw a packed Gypsy Carpenter show, gone to yoga, hiked, boated and snorkeled with the whale sharks, and eaten a lot of fine food. The weather has been the usual 78 and sunny. Cara’s blog link is on the left. You can see her pictures and read her impressions there soon. I’m happy she and the big guy are here and having a great time. Until today.

When Cara and Bobby arranged their trip they asked if they could see whale sharks. Cara said it was on her ‘bucket list’. My previous experience with the whale sharks was less than interesting. It was a small, loud boat with loud companions. There weren’t many whale sharks and I only spent a quick moment in the water. After seeing actual whales I was underwhelmed by the vacant stare of the plankton eating mega-fish. And I was seasick. But since I love my Cara-pooh I tried to be upbeat and I made arrangements to see the world’s largest fish. I am glad I did. This second trip was far more interesting and exciting than the first visit to the Bay of La Paz.

Neza and Zorro were our guides. We met up with them at 9:00 AM in front of the Burger King on the Malecon in La Paz. It took some firm evasive maneuvers to actually find Neza. We had a date with Neza but several other boat guides tried to poach us as we walked the twenty yards from our car to our meeting place. These other guides all said there was no guy named Neza. Neza? Neza who? Then Neza showed up and they were all like, “ohhhh, Neza. Yeah, we know him.” All’s fair in love and the eco-tourism industry. Despite having an appointment with Neza we didn’t actually have a slot to visit the whale sharks. There was some explaining about the restrictions on the number of boats and swimmers. Neza offered to take us on a longer tour and we could explore more areas (for more money of course). We said, nah, we’re good. We just want to see the whale sharks. I had no problem with this idea but I hate motor boats and all day in an open boat is sun and salt blasted and tiring. No biggy, we’d just go out and wait our turn.

It’s a form of kidnapping. A pleasant kidnapping where you wind up loving your kidnapper. Stockholm syndrome. The guides don’t want to loose a client when they don’t actually have a slot for their visit so they get you on the boat and have you in the bank so to speak while they wait for a slot to open. Since we had to wait over an hour for a space for our tour we just wandered around and looked at things.  I think if you didn’t speak Spanish you might not even notice the guide negotiating over the radio to try and get in. It would be easy to think everything was moving along as planned. A pod of dolphins swam by so we followed them from a respectful distance. We saw a few magnificent frigates and brown pelicans. We enjoyed a lecture on all the names of the whale shark from around the world. Whale shark is a really extreme misnomer. This fish is neither whale nor shark. It’s its own thing. It needs a new name. Ginormo. Mr. Mouth. Godfisha. I learned that the fish are all in a database and can be identified by their unique spot patterns. The same technology on a smart phone that identifies constellations of stars can identify the whale sharks in photos.

After about two hours of wandering we finally were cleared to enter the whale shark area. It was a hoot. We immediately found some fishes and jumped in and swam with them. Quite literally. They swim and feed and you swim along side. It’s a terrific workout. Kicking like mad and breathing through a small tube while a 25′ fish with a mouth as large as a refrigerator cruises along. We were able to follow several and really see them in action. They were much more entertaining this time around. Cara has her own personal story that I’ll let you read from her blog. I’ll just say Zorro earned a large tip for his superb work.

In summary, I highly recommend visiting the whale sharks with Neza and Zorro. They kept us entertained and safe and we saw what we wanted to see.

Our guides Neza and Zorro with Burt. We saw many many many whale sharks.
Our guides Neza and Zorro with Burt. We saw many many many whale sharks.
Sculpture on the La Paz Malecon.
Sculpture on the La Paz Malecon.
Whale Shark. Just like the jaguars they can be identified by their spots.
Whale Shark. Just like the jaguars they can be identified by their spots.
The Gypsy Carpenters warming up.
The Gypsy Carpenters warming up.
Las Fuentes our favorite stage in Todos Santos.
Las Fuentes our favorite stage in Todos Santos.
Dad and SaraGay.
Dad and SaraGay.
Cartwheel at the end of the 5K. Photo by Lisa.
Cartwheel at the end of the 5K. Photo by Lisa.

Daily Delights

Reubbing Mimi's belly
Rubbing Mimi’s belly

What are your daily delights? That cup of coffee? A favorite mug? Filling the bird feeders? Think of the things that give you child like glee.

I was never a child-like child. My mother accused me of acting like I was 40 when I was 10. She did not mean it in a good way. Despite my inner curmudgeon there are things I take regular delight it. I love rubbing my cat’s belly. She hates it. Our daily wrestling match so I can steal a .0001 sec rub of that loose abdomen fur, her belly wattle if you will, is a daily hit with me. She bites. I laugh. Am I a bad person? I always pay her back with some ear rubs.

I also like saying hello to Olive the dog when I return home. Olive bounces up and down and I can’t encourage her too much or she’ll jump all over me but I love seeing her happy dance. Elvis always moans like we tortured him so he’s not as much fun to greet.

When I had a home without wheels I had some material belongings that I loved using every day. A special bowl. A well shaped mug. Trailer life isn’t as amenable to aesthetic beauty. I really like my hair things. Those stretchy tubes that keep my hair off my face. I have about 8. Those are comfy and make traveling hair care easier.

The birds on my feeder delight me. Yesterday I delighted myself by building a new feeding station from a cardon cactus log. I suspended it on our fence with a pair of antlers. Snazzy. So now my feeder delights me.

Breakfast in bed is pretty delightful but it feels like adult delight. Ny inner kid is ambivalent. Same feeling for chocolate. The inner kid prefers pie.

Lastly, getting into bed at the end of a day always delights me. I love bedtime. My cocoon, my nest, my safe place. I hate waking up and leaving it. I guess that might be why I torture Mimi.



Dream Big, People

Twenty years from now?
Twenty years from now?

Art Journaling is the first thing I do on waking. I don’t even get out of bed. I reach over and grab my phone and check the prompt. I sit and think. I open my journal bag and grab the book and pen and draw a picture. Then I write. Today’s prompt: What is you most outrageous dream? Two things about this prompt caught my attention. There’s some synchronicity out there. Firstly, I woke up from a very odd musical dream where Burt and I as the Gypsy Carpenters were playing a stadium sized gig with a back up band. The odd part was that I was singing on a ladder from back stage. We can analyze that some other time. Secondly, last night at dinner with my dad and Sara Gay we confessed our next big dream. Stage two of dream achievement plan accomplished. The confession came about because they asked if we were planning to get a new cat when Mimi eventually goes. No, we are not. We are planning on burying Mimi and Elvis when the times come and doing something else. More here down below.

So life dreams, the big ones, are hard to quantify. It’s a tricky thing dreaming. I could say I want to visit the moon. I do want to visit the moon. I wish I could be a universe explorer. But that’s not going to happen so I don’t spend much though on it. It’s a waste of energy.  I could also say I wish I was thirty pounds lighter and super-fit. Just not going to happen. There’s all kinds of reasons why but mainly I’d rather not be that kind of person that worries about those kinds of things.  I like to focus on dreams that I might be able to accomplish if I have the intention, resources, interest, and luck. Burt and I had a great conversation about how neither of us like to talk pie in the sky dreams but we are good at achieving things many people won’t dare to try.  The phrase “if wishes were horses” does not apply to us. I hate those conversations about if I was rich, if I was in charge, or if I was blah blah blah. I’m a down to earth. I can solve a puzzle. I have enough resources.

Here’s what I concluded today, for me, about dreams. Find a dream where you have the drive, the itch, the passion. Then look for the skills, resources, and luck you’ll need to achieve it. I don’t want to be a super famous performer. I’m happy as a community musician. I like to help our kids but I don’t want to run a school. I do want to explore the world. I want to drive. I want to speak Spanish. I want to drive the entirety of South America.

Just as the seeds of quitting work and hitting the road took root a few months before we did it eight years ago this South America idea has been sitting in the soil of our hearts and minds for a while. There are logistical problems with our current outfit. Then there are the elderly pets. There are money concerns, too. Safety, health, age…But recently we saw our window. Mimi and Elvis appear on convergent tracks of expiration. Two years at the most for either or both or them. First step towards down scaling the living arrangements: No new pets.

Last the idea saw life outside the gNash. Burt and I dared tell others we hope to drive to South America. Like all bold ideas it was met with questions and fears for our safety but also with support and excitement. It sounds like we are on teh right path.

So I insist, go find that first step to your dreams.

Below are the 5k race results. I was super pleased to see I had managed under 20 minute miles. Maybe that super-fit goal isn’t as far fetched as I thought.

The next adventure?
The next adventure?
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k
Carrera de Todos Santos 5K results
Carrera de Todos Santos 5K results
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k results
Carrera de Todos Santos 5k results



The gang's all here.
The gang’s all here.

When there’s blood in the first ten minutes you know you’re on an adventure. Vince is a kid that is kind and solitary. He’s got a ton of energy and he’s curious. He can also be a handful. Like many young boys and most men he doesn’t listen well and he takes action without thought of the consequences. Yesterday he joined our cast of thousands for a trip to the beach. In teh first 4 minutes he was causing a minor disruption. We were still withing sight of his house so I could say, “Vince, decide now if you want to go home or stay with us.” That settled him down nicely. No fear. Just a decision and it was his decision. He knew what I needed. In a car with 7 kids and no seatbelts there is no room for distraction.

Burt had decided it was time for a beach trip because it was Christmas break and we had an extra car. Also, the water is over heated and the weather is stunning. No joke on the water. Locals are starting to worry. The water is almost 10 degrees warmer than usual for this time of year. Hurricanes love warm water.

When we arrived at the beach I announced two rules. No littering and no going in the water until the adults arrived. We all walked together at a stately pace.  Last year only a few of the kids could swim. This year they all claimed to have the ability. I thought to myself, “This won’t be so bad. Twelve kids and four adults. We can manage.” Mayhem was on that sweet thoughts heels. Within seconds of entering the tepid water with inconsequential waves there was blood. Blood, when it’s gushing down a young person’s face is quite a visceral shock. I feared an accidental elbow to the nose or a tooth for the tooth fairy but it was just a routine bloody nose. I hadn’t thought about bloody noses since I was a kid. They seemed like a regular occurrence on the playground. I never had one. It kind of looked fun. I think I wanted to have one and enjoy the attention.

Vince the Bloody, was an expert. He held his head back and we walked back to my towel. He asked for a tissues to clean his face. He calmly cleaned up and then just lay there quietly. He told me it was a fairly common experience for him and I need not worry. I sat there for a moment and he sent me off to supervise the 11 swimmers. The epitome of manly maturity.

Meanwhile the kids were like atoms in Brownian motion. They expanded to fill the space. The just kept buzzing and bouncing further and further apart. The huge beach was flat and nearly empty and the waves were so small there was no fear effect to contain them. Usually they are afraid of the water and they cling to us.  Yesterday they were swimming and diving and running around liek teh proverbial maniacs. I must have counted to 12 six-hundred times. Every time I counted twelve kids I started over and counted again. Even Burt yelled at me once to try and get them closer together. Tom and Vikki were also standing guard and I could see Vikki counting, too. It’s hard to relax and count kids.

Vince was quickly back in action. Sand activities got some of the mob out of the water. My  still impressive cartwheel skills were in high demand. Soon we were doing yoga and back bends. These kids have zero cartwheeling experience. There is no grass here. None of them have lawns. I tried to explain the mechanics. I nearly became a bloody mess myself as feet flew towards my face. After six or so personal demonstrations I told them I had to stop. I am getting smarter. I’m only a little sore today.

Trips to the beach require snacks. We grouped up and sat in the sand eating tamales, fruit, and chips. The kids surprised me when they almost universally judged the tamales to be too spicy. For a group that takes chili on their watermelon they were kind of wimpy about some peppers in there pork.  As they say, more tamales for me.

Our journaling prompt for today was to draw a picture of ourselves when we felt invisible as a child. I did that but it’s not very inspiring. I felt invisible much of the time. Yesterday I was so visible and in such high demand that I teased the kids I was going to change my name so they couldn’t yell it.

Catching a wave Paola style.
Catching a wave Paola style.
7 year old man.
7 year old man.
Daniela and doll drawing
Daniela and doll drawing
Beto wows them all.
Beto wows them all.
Sand works
Sand works
La Yerasca
La Yerasca
Daniela y Vikki
Daniela y Vikki
My car. Okay, dad's car with my group.
My car. Okay, dad’s car with my group.

Day 4 Art Journal Challenge

Today’s work was to find a selfie from last year and draw it into your journal. I found a selfie I liked that happened to be a wefie but Burt’s presence is minimalized and I like the expression on my face. Bonus: no eyes to draw. Burt thinks he looks like an alien baby in the original. I think he looks like my accompanist.  Further down you can see another pair of selfie and self-portrait. I was so pleased with the first effort I thought I’d try another. I abandoned the effort when my face got all bulbous. Eyes are problematic but I still like the weird feel of the unfinished.

Rumpus room rehearsal
Not as easy as it looks.
Not as easy as it looks.


The next generation of Katniss
The next generation of Katniss.

Burt left out his archery equipment and the kids saw it when they came up for class. We made calendars and talked about dreams for 2018. What do you know? Somebody wanted to learn archery. So we notched some arrows and aimed at the straw bales a few yards away. This was one goal we could work towards. It was a little scary. Those bows were wobbling. Keeping the group behind the line took constant nagging. I don’t think they saw it as a lethal weapon. One moment I saw the tip of the arrow swing my way and even though the kid couldn’t pull the string I was alarmed. What a way to go.

We all survived. In celebration we ate watermelon sprinkled with chili, lime, and salt. Yummy.

Watermelon or sandia.
Watermelon smile or sandia sonrisa.

Growing Lessons 2017

Kids at Palm Beach
Kids at Palm Beach. Olive, the dog, on the right sitting watch.

Today’s prompt was to reflect on the growing lessons of 2017.  My inner critic lit up. She said, “Where’s the love? Lessons? Lessons means you fucked up…” The old adage of experience comes from bad decisions also rolled on by. The character building of mistake making. The endless list of ‘why did I say that?’ And I was all ugh…don’t wanna go there. I believe I have stopped learning from that negative critic. I still hear her but take what she says with more skepticism. I do have a sense I might be on the cusp of learning to forgive myself and others more readily when these blurts of mouth of micro-misjudgements cause pain. I am starting (not quite there) to feel an ability to let it go when someone says something harsh. The pain eases quicker and I know these kind of things they and I do are usually, almost always, unintentional. Recently I said something so stupid to a casual friend that I hoped she thought I was drunk. I finally confessed to Burt and he had me in stitches over how embarrassed I was over a silly, stupid utterance. But I could see the light of awareness. We all say really stupid shit. The mouth moves faster than the brain.

Then I sat with the idea of learning as a positive thing. After all, I study Spanish and am always proud of learning new words.I like to learn. Of course learning lead me to the kids here that Burt and I work with. And then I saw the love I had learned this year. What had I learned in 2017? What had I sought out and actually accomplished? My area of most important growth was obvious. It’s all over this blog. The kids that surround us in our neighborhood and my husband as enabler had shown me a way to have meaning in this wandering lifestyle.

I am proud of us (and Jolyn and Tom and April and all our adult helpers) and I am proud of the kids. Over the course of three seasons we’ve developed trust and friendship. In the past I disliked working with children. I taught many a kid their first roundhouse kick and kata in karate for over a decade. It was draining and uncomfortable for me. I rarely found joy. Now I realize why. Some might say American kids blah blah blah…I say it is free agency. No parental coercion. Our kids show up because they want to show up. And they have little else competing for their attention. Like when I was a kid. They are free range. The kids play in the streets. Their parents don’t always know who’s house they are visiting. Tuesday and Thursday are Burt and Susan days. Friday is art with Jolyn. They come, they go.

Kids need guidance and support to achieve skills like piano playing or black belts. Higher skills require consistency and practice. Adults usually have to push. Most of our neighbors don’t have wi-fi, laptops, computer games, or TVs. Many are bored. For some of them we are the only show in town. So we’re trying to be the best show we can be. Consistency is the key. We must be consistent. The kids can learn to rely on us. Classes are regular and repetitive. Success is built in.

This was a new lesson in showing up. I long ago learned showing up meant I could learn a skill. Now I have learned its a way of finding love and meaning.

Many thanks to Burt for being both the sandpaper that smooths me and the blackboard to create with.




Hey Diddle Diddle the Cat and the Fiddle

And the cow jumped over the moon.
And the cow jumped over the moon.

My friend Barbara has this darling Christmas ornament in her home. I saw it the other day when we met for Bridge. I was filled with covetous ideas and thought, “I need a cat and the fiddle ornament.” I’ve got to keep my eyes peeled. I can’t steal Barbara’s. She’s had it for 41 years.

There are all kinds of theories on the origin of this rhyme but I’m in agreement with most experts. It’s nonsense for the sake of nonsense.

Hey diddle diddle,
The Cat and the Fiddle,
The Cow jump’d over the Moon,
The little dog laugh’d to see such Craft,
And the Fork ran away with the Spoon.



Welcome 2018

Here's a peek in my art journal.
Here’s a peek in my art journal.

2018 is here. 2017 left quietly from the goat pen. Scattered neighbors sent the old year away with firecrackers as is the norm here. Last year I participated in Zöe Dearborn’s Art Journal project and I’m doing it again this year. If you want to join in you can follow along on Facebook. It was a very rewarding and demanding in January of 2017. Well worth the effort. Every day for the month of January Zöe sends a prompt for us to journal about. Today’s assignment is to write about what we loved in 2017. Then to write about what we want to love in 2018. Afterwards we are to circle significant words and draw a picture or several of the significant words. My picture is above. The words are incorporated here with slight revisions for readability. Journal writing is more stream of consciousness than blogging. Hard to believe if you read this regularly but I do try to make it readable. So off we go…

What I loved about 2017…

1. Mimi, Olive, and Elvis all lasted the year. It was not a given. It never is; Mimi is 19; Olive survived a poisoning; Elvis is a a big dog of 12. I am very glad they all are here with me this morning.

2. My dad has found new love.

3. Burt and I were able to travel and do so many different things together.

3.a. See the total solar eclipse in Oregon surrounded by friends and music.

3.b. Visit Spain, art, food, history

3.c. Italy, art, food, history

3.c.1. pantheon

3.c.2. walking Amalfi coast

4. Work in California (Hello Ursulaululates), Oregon, Washington, and Arizona

5. Portal Irish Music Week

6. Saw so many loved ones this year. Our immediately family in Europe and Montana. Scattered dear friends all over the U.S.

7. I loved missing Mexico so much. I missed teh neighborhood children. I constantly looked forward to seeing them again.

8. That we returned to Mexico sooner rather than later.

9. That we went to the Galapagos and saw so much beauty and so many animals.

9.a. marine iguana

9.b. land iguana

9.c. penguins

9.d. fiches, finches, finches

9.e. snake

9.f. fishes and octopus and sea lions

9.g. lava gulls

9.h. lava herons

9.i. I could go on and on

9.j. oh, yeah, blue-footed boobies

10. That Burt and I continue on in a relationship as good as I know. That we struggle to understand and support one another. That we try to bring love and kindness to each other. That we support each other. That we still do the deed.

I am a very lucky woman. I could go on all day about what I loved in 2017. I feel success in building the life I want to have. A life of meaningful work and fun and beauty.

For 2018 I want to be able to love many of the same things but I’d like to add some external things:

1. I want more kindness and generosity of spirit in the world.

2. I want political change in the US. I’m not talking parties. I’m talking love, kindness, support, healthy environment, health care, peace.

3. More travel with Burt (Hello, Galapagos).

4. More music with Burt (First gig announcement soon).

5. More peace for all of us.

6. More work and play with the neighborhood kids.

7. Continued good enough health.

8. I’d love the pets to all see 2018 through but I’m not sure that’s the best for them. We’ll take that month by month.

9. And, of course, health and love to my friends, family, and dear readers.

I recommend this exercise even if you are not in the project. I have a warm glow thinking about the good. It was a very good year for us.