Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Painting detail 5/25/12

Last Thursday I burned the red beans I was cooking while a man was rumored to be holding his family hostage a few miles from my house. I imagined at gun-point. On Friday with my skin still smelling of the burned beans I melted down and spent the weekend puffy-eyed and pale while my family simultaneously stroked my hair and avoided me. As scary as my mood swings are to me they must be terrifying to those around me. On Sunday I confided to my dad that I had been having a rough week. He has these rough patches too, we all do. On the bright side I did not hurt myself or take anyone hostage, and after a few rounds of Bananagrams Friday night we were able to laugh about the debacle of the day, the misunderstandings, and I think we may have all experienced teachable moments. I slept so hard that night that I didn't know where I was and on Saturday morning when I visited my stepmother and suddenly found myself trying to hack up a lung like I had TB, my stepmother who is struggling to get her words organized easily uttered "pollen". I agreed because it felt too hard to say no, it's a chunk of grief passing through me, but I feel certain I am going to be okay.

During my painting class on Friday I could feel myself relaxing into the work. The technique seen here involves creating a quick and simple gestural layer followed by subsequent layers of warm and cool colors all applied with tons of water. It's pure magic watching the image emerge.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Drawing from Life

Detail from 5/22/12 

Had my second life drawing meeting at UFO Studios yesterday, my drawings were nothing short of awful. Today I spent some time looking at David Hockney's early work and felt better about everything. The woman who hosts the class has a very predictable style which is slightly intimidating to someone just coming in to the group. I remind myself that she draws everyday. my skills might improve if I drew a bit each day, who knows. The interesting thing to me is the pleasure I get from drawing, even badly and how much I like some aspects of what I have put down on the paper. The host announced a "Drawing Pathologies" class where they look at the hidden meanings in your work based on your approach. I am not sure I will attend but I have an idea what my strokes might indicate. Each drawing is very different suggesting an absence of attachment, the bodies are out of proportion which could indicate my lack of knowledge of my own form and finally the filled in backgrounds might mirror how interested I am in knowing what someones back story is. This might not be fodder for a good draftswoman, maybe they are better skills for a party planner. At any rate I am struggling a little at the moment and going to these classes takes my mind off things. It's cheaper than therapy and honestly I am not that interested in sitting in someone's office weeping about it all. I'd much rather have a quick cry in the car on the way to class and then go make a mess quietly in a group of strangers who are devotees of the instructor and barely pay attention to me. I know what my problems are, I know what I need more of and less of. The hardest part is when my anxiety gets me pinned and I feel like the only way out is so final. The feelings pass but being held down by the black mass is frightening in the moment because it feels like my normal life will never return, it's hard to not want to do something, anything to make it all stop. In those moments I have to tell myself, this too shall pass. This too shall pass, and it generally does.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Grand Coulee, Part 2

Roll on, Columbia roll on. 

Roll on, Columbia roll on. 

Your power is turning our darkness to dawn.

Roll on, Columbia roll on. 

-Woody Guthrie

We left our campsite and raced up to Mason City for the tour of the Grand Coulee Dam. I look forward to visiting this park again as there is much to discover.

The tour was reasonable but the security on the dam makes the whole experience feel somewhat surreal. The presence of an armed guard sort of puts a chill on your holiday sightseeing adventure. On the positive side the hum of the turbines is soothing. The reception area is a relic from the 70's.

High above the dam the hillside is covered in high tension power lines and the over sized tubes that carry water, pumped up from the dam to fill the thirsty land on the other side of the hill. The water ends up in Moses lake to the south and feeds irrigation systems along the way.

We headed south to Dry Falls and Soap Lake and then west along the 90 and home. A circuitous route to be sure, next time we'll take the 20. Had to take this picture. Nothing like big neon letters in a hot barren landscape.

We stopped at Dry Falls along the way. Another spectacular area carved out by massive flows of ice and debris 15000 yrs ago. The pools are a result of the water from the dam, all deathly still but apparently fishable. Being from an area where there is plenty of moving water I find it hard to totally trust water this still. It was gorgeous though, in it's vastness. 

Looking south toward the interpretive center. The rock posts lining the canyon were lovely and lichen covered, made from the basalt which is plentiful.

View of the falls through the lookout gazebo.

Still bare trees and windmills at the rest stop on I-90. Although we took the wrong route home home, we'll know better next time, it was nice to show P the Columbia River as it cuts through Washington and there is a new sculptural piece on Iron Horse Ridge which was cool. I found PSE's 150 windmills pretty great too. Big art in a vast landscape.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Grand Coulee Part 1

So we took a little impromptu trip last week. The idea for the trip came from a combination of sources, including; a TV show about the Hoover Dam, a classmate's social studies report, and last but not least—and most importantly— a friend's facebook post. We agreed we should dash out to Eastern Washington and see the The Grand Coulee Dam! We decided camping was the thing even though it has been cool out west I knew that the east side would be a tad warmer. We set off Saturday morning, heading East on Highway 2 and enjoyed the sights as the landscape  rapidly changed the farther east we went. This photo was taken on the approach to Steven's Pass.

The eastern slope, wildly different from what we are used to in the west.

We arrive at the dam late in the afternoon and miss the tour but make a more bulletproof plan for the following morning. The air was very still, it was warm and I was relieved I had not brought the dog.

Six new turbines installed in the 1980's produce two thirds of the dam's power now.

Looking down at Grand Coulee and Mason City, across the bridge from each other. Engineers lived on the left and construction workers, closer to the dam on the right.

Back of the dam and Roosevelt Lake. Stiller than still.

Looking up Roosevelt lake to the north. It extends 151 miles to the Canadian border.

Driving away from the dam along Banks Lake which is fed by the dam and in turn spills down into the valley supplying the farms with much needed water. Banks Lake is 26 miles long and has many little islands and inlets.

Taking pictures at sunset. My partner in crime.

The basalt formation is covered in lichen which changes color as the sun subsides and emerges.

Little Pine on the sandy shore near our campsite. The park itself was very nice. Good amenities and over all very clean and serene. Lots of people fishing, and one nice thing about fishing is that it behooves you to be quiet. This is a very good thing.

I brought my bike on a whim and enjoyed the ride up the hill at 7am. Best mother's day ever.

Steamboat Rock in Sunday's sun. Now that is something to be thankful for.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Sometimes it takes all day just to wake up. Sometimes I even have to sleep a little after I have walked and gulped down my lunch because my blood sugar got low and never hit the switch that sends the hunger message to my brain. I shuffle around feeling stoned and fuzzy and slightly tippy until I lay down and fall like a stone into sleep. When I get up I feel better and I go back to work and I think how sometimes it takes all day to wake up and then just when I feel truly alert and ready to face the day it's already time for bed.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Deer Story

Generally I do not post twice in one day. Truth be told I wrote today's post yesterday and posted it this morning once I had regained my sobriety. But now, I have news! This short piece, excerpted from a longer short story I am working on, has been rejected by Geist Magazine's Postcard Competition so I am free to publish it here. I am not embarrassed to report my failures, why should I be? If you've been following this blog closely you'll know that failure gets us closer to success and if you've really been getting the gist of what I am putting out there, you'd know that success and failure are meaningless concepts. Just Do It, like the folks at Nike say and I did.(ps, if you read this post previously, re it again, I posted the wrong version of the story)

Deer Story

The woman who walks down the road each day, hound at her side, imagines the injured deer tucked into a little iron bed, propped up on thick pillows with feathers poking out under a duvet that is cozy despite being a little bit worn, attended by two doting deer parents. She imagines the deer is a
doe, immature, in her first season. White cotton bandages wrapped around her delicate legs, an ice pack rests on her head. Above the bed is a picture of a Robins nest filled with blue eggs, likely cut out of a book about birds, hung there to suggest beauty and perfection. Its an old room built inside an
old growth tree stump by a small family of settlers who, with their jagged tools, logged these foothills ages ago. She imagines an opening in the forest canopy, a beam of sunlight raining down on the family assembled below. One resting, comforted by the other two who are feeling worried about their
only offspring. The woman projects hopefully that the patient will sleep for a few days and then the three will go back outside, unscathed.

She and the hound had arrived on the scene and had waited silently up the hill as the men stood below, talking and gesturing over the prostrate animal between them. The hound drew in the morning air, filing away the information, revealing nothing. No one seemed excited. The first man must have struck the deer and the second man stopped to help. The first man, picks up the deer, wrapping his hands efficiently around its fine ankles, two in his left, two in his right. He crosses the yellow line holding the deer’s body out in front of his own body pausing on the white line, rocking back on his heels engaging a pendulum effect with the limp carcass, swinging it toward and then away from himself and at just the right moment releases his grip letting it fly in a low unceremonious arc into the grass and skunk cabbage that fill the ditch at the road’s edge. The two men get into their vehicles and drive away. The woman snaps the leash, and the hound instinctively follows her in the opposite direction, the days walk cut short.

For weeks afterwards she searched the edge of the road and found nothing. No evidence. No bent grass. No indentation. No smell of rotting flesh by the seventh day. She considers getting down on her hands and knees, to follow the scent into the woods to where it crept away. Or was it dragged? Abandoning her sight at ground level, turning all her focus into her nostrils quickly drawing in air, considering the elements and implications of each morsel of humus
moving as the cunning hound does in a predetermined pattern in order to find the
answer she seeks.

Snap out of it

I have a friend who is sick. I don't speak to her often and so I didn't know she was sick until her husband told me. She is home now from a 2 week stint in the hospital. I spoke to her husband today, I have known them a long time, we have been through a few things together over the years. I wanted to sweep in and be philosophical for them, to tell them if this is the time you have left or whatever then rejoice in it. We have no time, we run out of time slowly or quickly. I have not lost a friend my own age since car accidents in high school and chronic illness in college of a person merely on the periphery of my experience. I have lost my mother and adult friends my parents age. I am putting you on notice. We are going to start losing people, it could be you, it could be me, it could be your sister. This is the wake up call I got so long ago after my mother died. Quit fucking around and rejoice in this life. Don't worry, put on a few pounds, enjoy flowers, hug everyone even if you feel uncomfortable about it. One day you will go to a place where there is no one left to hug and then what. I am not brave in the face of fearful situations and cancer is scary but have you ever noticed how everything melts away in your own worried life when you stop to help someone who needs a little help? Right now I am texting my friend and I am telling her to enjoy every breathe and I am going to do the same and you should too. Who knows what tomorrow brings.
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