Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Sundial

   Something about the late fall and early winter puts me in the mood to read a good eerie, Gothic story. Around the same time of the year last year, I read Shirley Jackson's novel 'Hangsaman.' Since Shirley Jackson is always a dependable choice when one is in a mood for a interesting and unsettling yarn, I decided to follow suit this year. While at the library, rummaging thorough books, I found Jackson's novel 'The Sundial.' 


     A repeating theme in Jackson's books are creepy houses. The Haunting at Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle both feature creepy houses that act almost as another character. The creepy house in The Sundial is another example of Jackson's houses. This house is both lavish and creepy, and also full of lavish and creepy people. The story is about Aunt Fanny, who, while at the sundial in the middle of a shrub maze, meets her dead father who tells her of a coming apocalypse. Her father claims that the only safe place to be during the end times is in the house. Aunt Fanny convinces the rest of the people in the house of the visions validity, and together the family and their few followers prepare for the end of the world.
   This story, like most of Jackson's, is unsettling particularly because the reader is always on edge, not sure if Aunt Fanny is experiencing visions from madness or truly from an otherworldly source. But it is not just the suggestions of the world ending or the uncertainty of Aunt Fanny's sanity that is unsettling. It is the way the people respond to the news. Aunt Fanny's believers seem more excited for the new world that will exist after the apocalypse, rather than despairing at all the life that will be lost.
  One thing that was different about this novel compared to some of Jackson's others that I have read, is that 'The Sundial' was a lot funnier than her other books. There is both a playfulness and satirical humor that runs thorough the novel. My favorite funny part of the book is when Aunt Fanny's believers encounter another group who also believe the world is coming to the end.
  My favorite Jackson novel is still 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' but it was wonderful visiting her writing and the worlds she creates in 'The Sundial.' It is an entertaining, dark and funny book well worth the read.

   Speaking of eerie, the sky was looking quite eerie earlier today. But also, very beautiful!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Muddy Boots and Farm Friends

   The holiday season is so fleeting. It seems like I was just at the pumpkin patch, searching the ground for the perfect pumpkin to carve for Halloween. David and I went to the pumpkin patch on a rainy afternoon. We drove out of the city and down a winding road to get to the pumpkin patch which is also a farm. On both sides of the road we saw pastures full of grazing cows. The year prior, we went to the same place. It was bustling with people. Everyone was filled with good cheer and merriment as they strolled through the farm, caramel apples and apple cider in toe. But this time we went midweek and during stormy weather so it had a completely different feel. Most of the seasonal stands were closed. The other people that were there trudged across the farm, heads down to avoid rain splattering on their face, hands in their pockets. It was bleak and dreary but beautiful. The animals were quiet and reserved. Since there weren't very many people, the crows felt comfortable descending from the sky to perch on top of bright orange pumpkins.

   The first part of our pumpkin patch excursion was spent with the animals. I love any opportunity to see animals close up. As you can see a couple of pictures down, I made friends with a sweet miniature donkey. David made friends with a curious llama. What can I say, we make friends wherever we go!




I made a new friend!


David made a new friend!






   The second part of our pumpkin patch adventure was spent tromping through the mud in search of a perfect pumpkin. I couldn't settle on just one and chose one traditional pumpkin and one bumpy, reddish pumpkin. David was more practical and found one, very large pumpkin.









Friday, December 5, 2014

Little Pier and Mistaken Identies

     This summer I was in California for a week visiting my family. I spent one night sleeping across the street from a pier. I could hear the fog horns bellowing across the water and through the windows. At one point they infiltrated my dreams but I can't remember how. Maybe they were disguised as an alarm in a dream where I had to escape a burning house. Or maybe they were the sound of a doorbell being continually rung by a ghost. 
   Piers are lonely places, and even though this tiny pier had several people on it, it still felt dismal and abandoned. It was a gray place. The water was gray and the sky was gray and the birds that swooped down from the sky were gray. The water lapped around the pier in a calming swishing sound while the fishermen slouched in bored anticipation of a catch. 
  I walked to the pier with my family. We stood at the end, huddled near each other. We watched the birds and the boats and talked about people we use to know. 










  Last week, it snowed for the first time this season. It started early in the morning, but I was awake because I had to get to work. I walked to my bus stop as a flurry of snow flakes swirled around me. By the time I got to my stop, I had snow covering my jacket and the top of my head. Once I was on the warm and buzzing bus, I watched the snow fluttering from the sky. Snow is a big deal in Seattle. We don't get it enough to be tired of it. It is exciting!
  By the afternoon, the sun was back. But not the temperature. It remained below freezing for the rest of the day and on and on for several days afterward. After work, I waited for my bus. The street seemed extra quiet and cold. Across the street, a couple waited at the bus stop going the opposite direction. They called to me and waved. I couldn't tell if I knew them or not. They had hoods on their heads, and scarves bundled around their faces. So I jovially waved back. This is when they said something about "Sally," and I realized they were strangers and that they thought I was someone else. They thought I was Sally. They started walking across the street toward me, and they were almost fully across when they realized I was not Sally. "Oh." The woman said with disappointment. They turned around and walked back across the street.
   Some one else came to wait at the bus stop with me, an older Russian man. He seemed very concerned that I was cold, even though I wasn't. I had two coats on and gloves. He asked me if I spoke Russian. I wish I did, but I don't. I took French in high school, but have forgotten most of it. Except for 'pamplemousse', which means grapefruit and is most people's favorite french word, according to my own anecdotal experience. It is definitely my favorite. It is fun to say and fun to hear. The man at the bus stop then asked me if I was Russian. There are lots of Russian things I find very interesting like Anna Karenina and mysterious stories about Rasputin. But it is not the land of my ancestors. He wasn't convinced, he wanted to know if maybe my grandparents were from Russia. When again, I told him no, he seemed disappointed. He said, "Oh, you look like people back home." Then the bus rolled up to us and I jumped aboard. The man from Russia must have been waiting for the other bus, though.
   And this is how two sets of people mistook me for someone else on the same day: Sally and a woman from Russia. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Out of All Her Many Travels, Sadie’s Favorite Destination was the Elephant Village where she Met the Miraculous Dancing Water Man

            My friend Kelsey commissioned me to make an illustration for her. All she requested was that the picture include elephants. Hooray for me because this meant I got a lot of creative freedom.
            Kelsey has a great love for elephants and has even met a few in her day. When starting this illustration, I knew that besides elephants, I wanted the main character of the illustration to be a traveler. Kelsey herself is a world traveler with a great and adventurous spirit. You can read all about Kelsey's journeys on her blog: Lust for Life (and Adventure). It is aptly named, because Kelsey's love for life is apparent not only in her travels but in her everyday demeanor. Someday I want Kelsey to help me plan a grand adventure to a foreign land. It is amazing how many places she has visited and reading about her travels is giving me the travel bug!
 




            Sadie developed a keen interest in travel at a very early age. She was born with an adventurous spirit and a great, insatiable curiosity. By the age of three, Sadie had already visited every country in Asia. By the age of ten, all of Europe had been explored by the inquisitive jet-setter. By her twenties not only had she visited every known country in the entire world, but she had visited every known country in the entire world twice. Yes, this does include Antarctica where she spent several days observing the behavior of a the elusive fuzzy-backed rainbow seal. 
            One day, she was in the outskirts of Timbuktu, sulking because her over-zealous appetite for travel had left her with nothing else to explore. But young Sadie still had so much life to live and she wasn't ready to give up on her wanderlust. 
            It was at this low moment when Sadie saw the woman with the green beard. She was not startled to see a woman with a beard, and she was unmoved by it's non-traditional color. Sadie, after all, was no ordinary woman. She was a woman who had already seen the entire world twice so something like a woman with a green beard was hardly worth noting. Or so she thought! The green-bearded woman had a secret that would shake Sadie's entire understanding of the world and the countries within it. The hairy woman could tell by the restless look in Sadie's eyes that she had finally found someone who she could tell 'The Secret' to. 
            In the world, at any given time, there are about fifteen people who know 'The Secret'.  The green bearded woman was one of these lucky people.
            'The Secret' is that the world is full of lost countries that do not exist on mainstream maps. Once in a while, someone will come across a lost country by accident. But it is rare, and if you find one lost country, there is little likelihood that you will ever find another. Unless of course to have a map, or more specifically a certain very important map: The Map To Secret and Lost Countries. There are seven maps in existence. Once you have traveled to all the lost countries, you must give the map to another person. This person must be a fellow traveler and seeker of wonderment. 
            The green-bearded woman had been looking for her traveling kindred-spirit for a long time. When she found Sadie, she felt excited and relieved. Finally, she could pass on her amazing knowledge. 
            Sadie is a type of person who easily believes the seemingly unbelievable. It did not take much convincing for Sadie to take the map and start her new set of travels. The first country she visited was Alahashan. All the inhabitants of the country have two heads and everyone speaks in rhyme. The first head says the first part of the rhyme and the second head finishes the rhyme. Besides humans, the county of Alahashan has only one animal: A mammal who is short, stout and covered with softy, curly fur. 
            The second lost country that Sadie visited, was an island near the South of France where every three hours, all the inhabitants stop what they are doing to participate in fifteen-minute long dance routines. Even after the mandatory dance routines are over, most inhabitants of the island keep dancing. People don't walk down the street, they dance down the street.
            The next place Sadie plans on visiting is the Brittle Isles, where she will seek out the Secret Order of the Bearded Bear. Sadie's travel mentor, the woman with the green beard, got her own beard at the Brittle Isles. But with the green beard, the woman also gained the ability to speak to bears and other animals. Sadie thinks a beard may be worth the ability to speak to animals. 
            Sadie's absolute favorite place that she ever visited was The Land of Tusks and Talents, where she visited The Elephant Village. There were elephants everywhere in The Elephant Village. They were beautiful! Their gray, wrinkly skin and kind eyes beckoned to Sadie. She wanted to become friends with everyone of them. Luckily, in The Elephant Village, the elephants understand English. Sadie had many interesting, thought-provoking conversations with all her elephant friends. The elephants all had such unique and profound views of the world. 
            One day, while wandering the marsh with Lucile, her best elephant friend, Sadie made a solemn request of her friend. She asked Lucile to show her something truly amazing. Even Sadie knew she had seen far more 'truly amazing things' than the average person. But she would never quit asking to see more! 
            Lucile knew all about Sadie's great love of dancing, so it was easy to decide the amazing thing to show her curious friend. Lucile inhaled as much pond water as she could into her trunk, blinked her eyes three times, wiggled her nose and blew! Soon, dancing a jaunty jig in front of them, was the miraculous dancing water man! Sadie laughed and clapped her hands. She outstretched her hand and invited herself to dance with the water man. The elephants used their trunks to toot jolly songs, the water man bowed and Sadie danced.





Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Happy National Cat Day

  Today is a wonderful day.... it is National Cat Day! Happy National Cat Day to you and all of your fuzzy, whiskered feline friends! Here are pictures of some of the cats that have been important to me.










Friday, October 24, 2014

Art and Nature

   There is a recent controversy I learned about on the internet involving a woman painting pictures with acrylic on rocks or other natural objects in national parks. This makes me sad. Nature is so awe-inspiring and beautiful, it should be appreciated for that. Humans have their imprint all over the world. Our remaining havens of nature do not need any sort of permanent adornment from humans. We just do not need to alter, manipulate or add-to nature. I'm all about (well done and respectful) graffiti in urban settings. But leave nature be!
    This being said, I think there is a place for human's artistic inclinations to mingle with nature, in nature. When I was little and on beach trips, my family and I would sometimes collect rocks and driftwood from the seashore. We would then find a cozy spot on the sand to make pictures out of our beach combing treasures. I remember this amazing horse my dad once made out of driftwood and sea-smoothed stones. I wish I had a picture of it so I could share it on my blog. But this art was impermanent, and it was more like we were co-conspiring with nature to create art, rather than defacing natures art with our own 'art'. When we made our driftwood pictures on the sand, we knew who the true artist was, and our art was a celebration of nature. We also knew that later in the day, the tide would come in and swallow up our driftwood pictures, tossing the stones and smooth pieces of wood back into the sea where they came from.
    Thee are other ways to intertwine art and nature. Just recently I was at Carkeek Park where throughout the park were displays of art. It was fun to wander through the woods, and then come upon several interesting pieces of art once we were in the grassy meadow area. This art was respectful of nature. It knew it was temporary. It knew the debt it owed nature. The art I saw at Carkeek celebrated nature and worked with the natural setting it was displayed in.