All fly photos sent in to me as inspiration by Karen Ekstrom. We do not know who created them/ If this is your work please contact me and I will assign credit.
This is the best assignment of the month. I was sitting under the palapa with Burt and Ed and Rosemary contemplating life. Where to settle if any of us ever settles, what to eat, how long will our intestinal upset last, why is Elvis humping Bowman’s head, whose art shall I steal for my blog? The usual yak yak yak when an email from a snow bound Helenan that we all knew came through. What a lovely surprise to hear from a long absent friend. I sent group salutations back. The four us us kept talking and then I recalled that Karen was one of my favorite painters and that I had even modeled for her. The great mystery of my disappearing ass painting still remains unsolved and Karen is the key player. It was she that painted my not so dainty derrière and hung it in her garden. Somebody absconded with my ass. It gives me a fit of giggles whenever I consider where and what might have been done to my bodacious butt in oil. Recalling that bit of Zazzali bottom lore I asked Karen if she had any recent art I could steal for my blogging project. You read that right. Today’s assignment was to change, steal, or copy somebody else’s work. The point being that all art is derived from other art so steal some and make something new.
The easy work for me is all my music is cover tunes derived from someone. It might be a 400 year old folk tune or some current alt-country but all my music comes from elsewhere. Boring. So done. So once I came up with Karen I thought maybe she has a nude or landscape or dog painting I can recreate in photography. Alas, Karen had terrible news. Karen has not painted in 6 years. On the up side she remodeled a house, tool care of elderly parents, and started to play music. I learned all this today because of this assignment. What a gift. No art from Karen. I guess I’ll use my Andy Warhol ripoff of Elvis. It’s a favorite piece of mine because, well, Elvis. Get it? No? Pop icon? Now?
I would have explained but now I won’t because a few hours later Karen sent me this fly work. OMG. It hits all my buttons. Simple, balanced, black and white, DEAD things!!!!!!! I haven’t had time to create my own but I will. Sadly I missed the opportunity to collect a massive dead cockroach today. I just wasn’t thinking. But now I am all over it. Stand by.
Love to you, Karen. This is really fun work thanks for sharing it.
So it comes to my attention this morning that there are some lurkers reading these daily writings and liking it. I never would have guessed but here’s what I heard from Al, my Irish emigree to Canada and Mexico friend, “So you’re 17/31 of the way through this project. How long are you going to keep writing everyday?” I expressed a stunned surprise that Al, a man I see about twice a year, was up to the minute up to date on my blog and a slight need for a break. He responded with, “Oh no! It makes getting up easier in the morning.” Or something to that effect. Wow, what a compliment. And perhaps a slightly Irish backhanded one but I’m gonna take it at face value. I said,”If you want me to keep writing you should make a comment.” My faithful readers motivate me (thanks Pat, Melissa, Becky, Burt…). So here I am trying to get Al out in the open, too. Even if he stays in the shadows I now have him in mind as I write into the ether. I miss seeing him more regularly on the tennis court. Once we beat Burt and Leslie. Those were the day.
So today’s assignment is to consider the source of your creativity. Harumph. There’s some loaded stuff for me. I do not see myself as creative. I see myself as a doer, observer, recorder. The vocabulary of science and engineering populate my mind. I do not write songs. I do not create art. I can’t even arrange a song. I don’t even cook anymore. I play music in a trained monkey sort of way. Other people are ‘real’ musicians and artists. So if I can’t see myself as creative how do I address the creative force? I have to leave the box of what art is and focus on creation. If I look at the totality of my life I see it, my life, as a work of terrible and beautiful art. I have used that drive to create to build a life that is far outside the norms of what society dictates for the likes of me. My inspiration has been to leave behind known and secure. Secure and safe have always let me down in the long run. The sketchy choices have lead to more interesting places physically and emotionally. I see my power in the ability to solve problems. I can find resources and determine limits and comply with the laws of natures and work within all that to create a life that is uniquely mine. This is how I left behind two marriages that were suffocating, a job with no joy but lots of money, a house I loved, and a community of nice enough folks that were too judgemental of me. In return I got to live a life where I work when I need to but mostly want to and to live in places I love surrounded by people from all walks of life that take me as I am. And just like any art it takes constant effort and practice to figure it all out.
There. That should motivate you, Al. I would like to admit I have a keen eye for proportion and color. I use it when working as a carpenter or taking photos.
Finally, finally, finally. You’d think we were trying to get to the moon for how many times we’ve tried to get to San Vicente to see the pottery. After 5 years and and least 5 misses we succeeded in finding San Vicente and the pottery. Burt and I and the Olvis canine team made a day of it. We decided to do a birding adventure. That way if we missed the pottery again we’d still accomplish something. Team Clay Bird left the Pescadero area at 10:30. The odometer was checked and the time noted on our bird list. First stop, the Pescadero presa. The presa is a small earthen dam just below our house. There’s a large puddle of water behind it. At the start of our tour we found coots, gadwells, ruddy ducks and assorted songbirds, most notably the friendly blue-gray gnatcathcher. We also detected a faint stench of decay.
Back on the highway we saw the usual flotilla of Turkey Vultures. I presume they were trying to pinpoint the stanch at the dam. we stopped at a couple of shady spots and added the cara cara above and some kestrels and more gnatcatchers. The cara cara was grooming. These dramatically plumed birds of prey appreciate carrion. I assume they must have to adhere to strict grooming protocols to keep tidy. Some say the signature cara cara toupee is the bird version of Donald Trump’s coif. I’m not so sure about the resemblance to the Donald but I do like the looks of the cara cara.
After two and a half hours we made it to San Vicente. The road had recently been graded so the going was fairly smooth. San Vicente is way up high in the Sierra de la Laguna. From up there we could see the fog layer far out over the Pacific Ocean. Our years of wandering have paid off and we finally recognize catcus cues and important road forks. Signage is faded and hard to find. The map is just wrong. Now saying we arrived in San Vicente might lead a reader to believe we found a town. We found a horse, a mini-church (seating for 20), a school, and one home. That home had a potter with pottery. Rumors of ostriches remain unsubstantiated.
Ramona, the potter, works in her home. Currently she says it’s too cold to work (its over 80 degrees). When it warms up and if God is willing (her words) she will start back at it. Ramona appears to be approaching retirement. I picked out a bowl and Burt bought a coffee cup. I wouldn’t be surprised if arthritis is slowing her down. From Ramona’s place we continued a short way towards the back road we had looked for a couple for weeks ago. Ramona’s husband Marcos told us the road no longer goes through to San Jacinto. Getting lost two week ago spared us hours in the dark on a road that would have eventually dead-ended. At an arroyo about a half mile past Ramona’s we turned around.
Our return route took us to Candelaria. The road to Candelaria is smooth and two laned dirt. It was a freaky Baja superhighway. No traffic. Below us were palm oases and a lush arroyo. We stopped and counted some more birds. I saw an unidentifiable sandpiper. Darn shorebirds. What PITAs. Eventually we found Candelaria. Imagine or surprise to find paved roads and street lights and fresh paint and a tidy community. There was a real church, school, government buildings…There was more pavement and sidewalks than in our own town yet this town was in the middle of nowhere. Home of a bigwig politician? A cartel strong hold? With no answers Burt and I tried to find our way off the pavement and back onto the dirt for our adventure home. This was harder than it sounds. The pavement had a way of degrading all the dirt roads into town. Nothing looked like a viable road except the main route we used to come into town. Trial and error found us heading downhill towards the Pacific. In a few miles we entered the El Migriño arroyo. This arroyo is famous for offroading and dune buggy adventures. We also no now there are no roads where dune buggies and quads play. We had a ten mile deep sand tour in the Exploder. Frequent comments were: Does it look better over there? No. Yes, yes, no, go, go, go…don’t STOP…Over there over there…no here…no….Oh F*#K…It just doesn’t matter. It’s all bad. It was all bad but it was also all good enough. Burt surfed the Exploder through washboard covered sand dunes and we made it out. The key was to maintain speed but not drive so fast that you wrecked. One time I heard the engine bouncing on a separate cycle than the chassis of the vehicle. I think it might have detached from the frame. Olive and Elvis are in therapy.
Seven hours and seventy one miles resulted in 21 bird species found and the purchase of a bowl and coffee cup. Afterwards we found out that the ostriches and the ‘famous’ potter lived just a little further beyond where we turned around. Add that to things we didn’t need to know. Some people might say we still failed to find the pottery of San Vicente. I’m perfectly satisfied and also willing to go back for another trip. Mostly so I can add ostriches to our bird list.
Towns of substantial size usually have a neighborhood where a preponderance of the neighbors go all out at Christmas. In Helena there was this 60s era subdivision in the valley that did the best work. It was always clogged with rubberneckers during the holidays. One year we rode a horse drawn wagon around and had a merry time with a pile of friends. There were tons of creches and Santas and Frosties to see. I was always struck by the 60s era architecture. It was similar to our NJ neighborhood. Modest sized split levels and ranches. There were probably 4 different styles of houses all expressing their uniqueness in Christmas lights.
A few days ago we had to go to Sierra Vista again for supplies. We decided to make a day of it. We had a huge German lunch at the German Cafe. Burt did Home Depot while I shopped at Best Buys and banked. Then we hit the matinee for the last part of the Hunger Games series. It was opening day for Star Wars so we even saw a few die hard fans re-enacting their favorite Star Wars characters waiting in line. Dinner at the Screaming Banshee in Bisbee. Burt had wings and I had a meatball sub. Big Grandma made meatball subs and this was as close as I’ve ever had. Then we did the Christmas light tour of Douglas, AZ. Douglas is a border town that used to be much bigger and much more affluent. The demise of the railroad and the mining industry has left Douglas as a place for the Border Patrol and Walmart. Agua Prieta lies across the border. Walmart is filled with Mexicans spending pesos in the US. And our Portal neighbors. A few weeks ago the Christmas lights in town caught our eyes as we sped down the highway to get home. This trip we swung in and did the old fashioned Christmas light cruise. It’s worth an evening stop if you happen to be in the area. There are high quality efforts and they are densely packed. Some houses are so close together the entire street looks like one continuous display. Holiday cheer abounds. I’ve decided this is one more thing to add to my list of ‘Why we are OK still in the USA for winter.’ The list of positives is quite long but DARK and COLD on the opposing side are very heavy.
Bobbie really liked the original blue door on the studio we transformed into her new home. Sadly, the original blue door was shabby. Years of service had left it dented and unsuitable for a front door on a new home. Burt moved the old Blue door to the garage where an even shabbier door was in place. Bobbie thought this meant she would get a more subdued door, a door that matched the rest of the compound. We didn’t dissuade her. We thought we’d surprise her with a new blue door.
The eye is a miracle. Depending on what you are (bird, ant, human) your eye can see different things. Birds see colors we can’t even imagine. Cats and dogs see motion long before humans. The human eye is a kind of hybrid. It does many things well but no one skill is as good as some eye in the animal kingdom. Then there is the brain. The eye might see but the brain can fail to interpret. I just read that there’s a wide variety of ‘sampling’ in human brains. We might be ‘seeing’ but the brain is ignoring some percentage of the incoming visual data. I guess that’s why some people can hit a curve ball at 97 mph and others can identify a little brown bird as it flits past and others, still, are oblivious to human facial expressions. A failure to see the visual clues that somebody is mad, sad, or happy. Currently there is a fad of color tests making the rounds on Facebook. I’ve done a couple but they are not difficult. Here’s a test I just developed. Try to match a color that you can’t see but must recall from memory. You have study time.
A month or so ago Burt and I went to The Home Depot (I just learned that the The is an important part of the name) in Sierra Vista. Burt had intended to bring a chip of paint to match the old blue of the original project door. He forgot the chip of paint. Burt looked at me and said, “Can you pick out a blue paint that is similar to the blue on the old door?” Can I? Yes, hell yes. It’s secret talent I have. I can see color well but more importantly I can remember color well. I stared at all the blue paint chips from all the manufacturers and in about 47 seconds I found the color. Nearly the exact color. I’m feeling pretty smug about my mad color skills but I also wonder if I just got lucky.
Back to the The in The Home Depot. A while back we mail ordered some things from The Home Depot. Light fixtures, towel bars, stove, refrigerator. For $75 shipping on each appliance they were supposed to come to our door. Well the refrigerator made it. The stove is a free ranging range. Nobody knows where it is. For a while there was a rumor of a successful delivery but now The HD thinks it never left the shipping dock. So they’re sending another. Now there are two ranges wandering the west. We are eager to have one. I learned about the The in The Home Depot while waiting on hold and endlessly hearing about the Power of The Home Depot. Supposedly we’ve been credited on the first stove and shipping has been waived for the second. I’m waiting for the Powers that be of The Home Depot to kick in and get me my stove.
Cleared by my cardiologist to continue doing it to the point of overdoing it we headed straight up yesterday. I will not tell you where. Duties at the VIC come with an array of benefits. Learning the location of some of the areas most treasured pictographs was one of the highlights. Cool autumn air makes for more pleasant strenuous ventures. Burt and I intend to take advantage while we are here. The mornings in the gNash are rough but sunny 60 to 70 degree days are our reward.
This trip was my first time making it to some of the many caves that line Cave Creek Canyon. One of the more popular questions at the visitor center is, “Why is this place called Cave Creek?” Now I have first hand experience. Even though I had seen pictures and knew that ancient peoples lived in these caves I was still surprised by the depth and intricacy of the spaces. Many, many people could comfortably find shelter here. In fact it was so appealing I suggested to Burt we start a reality TV show and try to live in one and live off the land. He liked the idea. Oops.
The horse and rider pictograph is post-Spaniard invasion of the Americas. There were no horses here before the Spanish brought them. Well there were horses here, but they died out a very long time ago. Modern horses rode over on Spanish galleons with the conquistadors. The Native Americans famously took to horsemanship and here we have some early art commemorating the newly adopted technology. My first day at the VIC some visitors came in and reported this particular artifact stolen. It was a sad start to the job. I was very pleased to learn a couple of months later that the searchers were merely lost and the picture was right where it was supposed to be. Now I’ve seen it for myself. Don’t ask me where it is. I won’t tell you.
I’m sitting in my stinky trailer. It’s sunny and humid outside. The monsoonal rains have diminished. Bugs are showing up. Burt found a tick on his leg yesterday. A mosquito is visiting us every night at bed time.
Last night I went to a book group to discuss the book Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I loved this book despite the fact that it seemed nearly plot-less and drug a bit. You can read about it HERE. The book was not universally liked by the group. I really liked the window it afforded into a cross cultural experience I, as a white American, could never have. While the specific cultural experiences were far removed from my own specific life I could relate to the alienation from my attempts to make sense of our life in Mexico. I could also relate to the desperation of a young college student with no resources. My own college start was a rocky cultural transition and fraught with money problems. My first moment alone in my dorm room I was approached by the Resident Assistant and asked if I would have a problem with my as-yet unseen roommate. I was informed she was an African American. I was stunned. Why could that matter? I had been assigned this black person because I was from the north and they figured I wouldn’t mind but they wanted to check because they could make a change before anyone was the wiser. Well they were right that I didn’t care but I sure minded that there was a bunch of bigots in the other rooms on the hall. Carol turned out to be a perfect roommate for me. She was older, open minded and shared her clothes. She was full of sage advice and did not treat me like a child. So many of the young southerners in my dorm were provincial, uptight, virgins it was a miracle I made any friends. I wish I knew where she was now. Her name was so ubiquitous, Carol Williams, that I have not been able to find her.
Anyway, if you read the book and want to discuss, let me know.
The other day we were sitting on the back porch of our friends Richard and Rose Ann house. It was mid-afternoon and their porch is a sanctuary from the sun and wind that time of day. We had just installed a new hanging feeder to replace one torn down by a bear last winter. Rose Ann was chatting with us about, what else, birds. Richard was sitting nearby working on a computer with the windows open to the porch. Rose Ann mentioned she had just read a NY Times article about interspecies communication between birds. I had just read the same article and the day before and had discussed it with Burt. You can read the article HERE.
Scientists in Missoula, MT had recently discovered precise interspecies communication between birds. If you spend enough time outside and pay attention it is no surprise that birds talk amongst themselves and that they talk across species lines. What the new research revealed is not that the birds eavesdropped and heard warnings from other birds. What was surprising was that the studied birds were actually saying very specific things. Instead of saying, for example,”Hey, look out!” the birds were saying, “Look out there’s a goshawk.” The species threatened by a goshawk took note and made evasive action. If you were a bird too small for a goshawk to bother you could ignore the warning. The scientists were able to do this by computer analysis of the warning calls. So what sounds pretty much the same to human ears sounds distinctly different to bird ears. In fact, some birds of prey might not even be able to hear the warning calls. The other surprising fact was that the calls travel by way of relay (neighborhood dogs barking) at speeds up to 100 mph. That’s amazing. So the three of us were discussing this. My conclusion: Only the slow, stupid or deaf are being eaten.
So there we were three merry nature lovers marveling at some new facts. In the midst of our discourse the Mexican Jays caused a ruckus across the creek. They started squaking and screaming. We could not see them but laughed and wondered what had them riled up. Then I heard the most annoyed cat sound come from between the bird screams. A kind of halfhearted roar. It sounded annoyed. I said, “Listen. It’s a mountain lion.” A moment of disbelief from my partners was followed by consternation that there was a mountain lion grumbling a few yards away and the birds were in fact harassing it while we spoke of bird communication. A few more roars ensued. They grew faint as the jays gave chase. All the commotion moved downstream. I swear I heard the lion say, “All right already, I’m leaving.” The jays responded, “Good riddance to bad trash.” Jays are not polite birds.
Meanwhile today the Gypsy Carpenters partook of some itra-species and inter-species communication. We played music for the 3rd annual Friends of Cave Creek Canyon (FoCCC) garden party. Our friend Buzz sat in with us. Buzz is a deeply religious man and we don’t share similar views on everything but we adore (or our side of the equation, anyway) each other. We love music, hunting, roaming the west, homegrown eggs, self-reliance, food, Montana….I bring this up because I think it’s important to share the world with lots of different people and be open to having positive experience with everyone. Buzz has tried to bring me to Jesus a couple of times and I don’t mind. He has only love in his heart. I hope he remains patient with my un-believing self. Some many of you have and I appreciate the respect. It goes both ways for me. I told Buzz today I appreciate all his prayers on my behalf.
Below is a picture in black and white by (I think) Jackie Lewis. Buzz is in the background playing his spoons. In the foreground are Bob and Gloria. Bob is 96 and Gloria is 92. Bob nearly danced himself off the porch today. I’d hate to have been responsible for life threatening injury. Gloria always asks me to sing Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows. She is one hip chick. All of us are having a wonderful time sitting on a porch.
The SewWhat? Club of Portal is a women’s organization with the mission of educating and providing scholarships and general community good deeds. The group meets monthly except for summer. The monthly meetings are only for members and their guests but the SewWhat? also has community forums free for the general public and an actual sewing group anyone can attend. I have been invited to many of the monthly gatherings. The monthly meeting features a seminar on any of a vast array of topics and a potluck. The potlucks are the best I’ve ever encountered. This high end potlucking stress may be why I haven’t joined. I could never match the fare. I guess I could see how fried spaghetti goes.
Yesterday’s seminar was on Balkan Folk dance. A local resident, Elaine Moison, is an expert in Balkan dances. Elaine worked-to-dance in her pre-Portal life. While Portal has many wonderful attributes a thriving dance scene isn’t one of them. Elaine is trying to change that. She started a class a few months ago and her students got up and showed us some of the things they’ve learned. Elaine explained that she preferred the dances from this part of the world because they aren’t focused on partner dancing. I like that idea. These are circle and line dances that young and old and single and partnered can participate in. Also, the music for these dances is very middle-European and exotic to our ears. There are strong Gypsy influences and very strange rhythms. Elaine taught two very easy dances to our group. I was second in line behind Elaine as we did a snakey circle dance and it was really fun. I could feel Elaine’s energy and drive as she lead us along in group movement. I opted out of dance two, my heart rate was high, and I was glad I did. It required hand clapping and finger snapping while moving the feet. Focusing on my feet or my hands is about all I can do. I can’t even tap my foot and play mandolin. Or sing and play mandolin. Or walk and chew gum. I took the time to make a video. You can see it on Facebook.
Our neighbor, Patricia Larsen, has a house famous in art and decor circles. It’s been featured in Architectural digest and other arty publications. Patrica is a well known painter and interior designer. Yesterday her place and our road were overrun with an army of fashionistas doing a photo shoot for Anthropologie clothing. Check out the company HERE. I love Anthropologie’s clothes but I can only afford it on clearance and when dad gives me access to his credit card to buy myself a birthday present. Now I know why the clothes are so expensive. This event looked like a small but very nice wedding.
My friend Rima catered the food. To mollify us for all the traffic and blocking the road we were offered leftover lunch. I skipped it even though I love Rima’s food. I should have asked for a handbag. The size 0 dresses wouldn’t fit.