Friday, January 12, 2018

Book Review: Eartha by Cathy Malkasian

I recently read the newest graphic novel by storyteller Cathy Malkasian. I have mentioned in previous posts other books by here: Percy Gloom and Temperance. Malkasians stories are beautifully illustrated and the tales themselves or strange, surreal and eerie. I love her work!

I was pretty excited when I heard she had another book available to read, and Eartha did not let me down. It is a story of a kind hearted woman living in Echo Fjord, which was once the the land of dreams. While people in the city slept, their dreams escaped to the fjord where they were tended to by Eartha and the other Fjord townsfolk.

The story has a fairy tale quality but it is definitely a story intended for adults. Even though it has a playful feel due to the beautiful whimsy infused in the illustrations and plot, it still makes some pretty though provoking comments on topics such as tyranny, the way information is disseminated and the often perverse way beauty standards are created culturally.

I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it. This is the perfect book for those who wonder if dreams are bigger than we understand and those who have a healthy desire to question uncompassionate authority. Also, I wish Earth was my friend. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Ozzie at the Ocean

Oscar was found as a stray in a city only 15 miles from the ocean, so maybe he has seen the sea before. Maybe on particularly windy days, he could smell the salt and brine mingling with the sun saturated air around him. Maybe he lived with a family who took him to the beach every week. Maybe he had spent some of his days as a stray dog sleeping on the beach. Maybe he had never seen the sea before and the day we took him to Ocean Shores Washington was his first meeting with the sea. He certainly acted this way. As soon as he leaped out of the car and onto the sand, I could tell he was breathing in wonderment along with deep breaths of salty sea air. Everything was amazing!

He couldn't decide what he wanted to focus on first. The sea is a world like no other. It is full of smell, of movement, of sound, of strange plants and animals, of mysterious debris, a bizarrely textured ground, of dryness and wetness. Oscar loved it all...

At the sea, here were Oscars top favorite things he did.

Pee on a sand castle.

He walked up to it, he sniffed it, and he said to himself, this castle from henceforth shall be mine! Then he dainty lifted his leg and let the stream go!

Smelling Plants

Oscar is use to the smell of the neighborhood plants- the tenacious dandelions, the hardy rhododendron shrubs, the wilted daisies, the blackberry bushes....but the shore plants and the sea plants are a whole new wonder of scents!

Smelling dead things.

The sea is a harsh place for animals. It swallows them up and swirls them in its murky domain before spitting their bodies back onto the shore. There were lots of dead things at the sea. Dead birds. Dead crabs. Dead fish. Morbid little Oscar loved each and every dead animal lying limply on the wet sand.

Chasing live things, specifically sea birds.

There were lots of seabirds to choose from. Swooping seagulls, herds of merry sand pipers, birds moving so quickly away from sprinting Oscar, I don't know what bird they were.

In general, just running.

Oscar did not need a seabird to inspire him to run. The shear joy of speed and movement and the wind in his fur was enough to get him going!

Rolling around in anything with an unpleasant or pungent scent

There is nothing like rolling around in something really stinky, -like on top of a dead crab or pile of wilted, fly infested seaweed- to make this little dudes day! 

Feeling the mighty sea breeze gust through his scruffy fur

He has a pretty concerned expression, so maybe the wind was actually Oscar's least favorite thing about our ocean adventure.

I have always loved the beach. It is a place of wonder, peace, adventure and magic. All of these qualities are enhanced when you get to go to the beach with your dog. Oscar's utter delight at every little thing just tickled my heart and made the joy of the sea all the stronger. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Anya is the Melancholy Oracle in the Center of the Woods

Here is an illustration I did recently. 

Anya was born with a gift to understand the future and to understand the soul. She lives in the middle of the woods where she waits for those seeking out wondrous truths. She has met people like no ordinary person could ever meet a person because she does not just meet the person, she meets their future and their soul.

She met a man once who would die on a moutain top.

She met a woman who would invent a cure for a rare but devestating disease.

She met someone who would talk a man off a bridge just before he was about to jump.

She met a girl who would grow up to save a drowning child.

She met you once, and saw you in the future, sitting in a meadow and looking up at a pale blue sky as the white birds soared in circles.

Friday, January 5, 2018

A Gray Day at Seahurst

It was a gray day, but there was still color all around. 

Here is a man I saw on that gray day. He goes to the beach with his notebook. He looks at the water and ponders and philosophies. He writes down all his ideas, his dreams, his theories, his stories. When he is old he will have thousands of saved note books full of his words. He will read them all again someday. So will a curious descendant or two.

The seashore is speckled with all sorts of strange things. This most likely is a piece from a spaceship.

I wore yellow on the day I went to the seashore, and I picked up lots of things....seaweed and crabs and barnacles and rocks and shells and this and that. 
All of it was beautiful and interesting and I would have liked to slip it all in my pockets so they bulged and smelled like sea salt decay, but instead I snapped photos and let them rest in their natural environment to be picked up by the tide or another person to take to their house and put on their windowsill. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Introducing....My New Friend Oscar!

My partner and I recently adopted a dog, and he is not only the most amazing dog in the world, he is the cutest. We love him!

One of the first steps to becoming a new dog parent is choosing a proper name. Our little guy had already had several names. He was Maxwell at the shelter, Tucker right after the rescue we got him from pulled him from a shelter, then Hudson in his foster home when they realized the name Tucker didn't suit him well. Before Maxwell, he was called something else even. I don't know what, maybe Bob or Scruffy or Peanut. He was found wandering the streets when impounded by the shelter. He just barely made it out. He was pulled from the shelter dangerously close to the cut of for euthanasia. Thank goodness he made it out! It is only been four months, but he is already our best friend!

Our guy probably went two weeks or so before we finally settled on a name. Here was our criteria:
  • An old man human name. ( our little dude is a border terrier mix, and border terriers have cute old man faces.)
  • A name you could shorten with an 'ie' or 'y'.
That was really it. Despite the short criteria list, it feels like a huge responsibility to name a creature. We didn't want to choose the wrong name and have him go his entire life being called something that didn't even suit his personality at all! 

We had a huge list going. I wrote it in a little book with dogs on the cover. One day early on in our parentage of our little dude, I found him merrily chewing on my notebook! This is how I discovered he has a penchant for chewing. But when I looked at the mangled sheet with his potential names, it is hard not to feel a jolt of suspicion..does my new buddy hate all his potential names??

We had many top runners for names. One of my favorites was Douglass Fur. But, would the pun of fur instead of fir get old and eventually grating, was it too precious and not full of the dignity and gravity that a scruffy faced darling deserves? Another top choice was Roger, but the poor guy would surely start being called Rogey in no time, which isn't a charming nickname at all. We considered Walter, but I already know a dog named Walter. The Walter I know has such a strong personality, he has fully encompassed his name the way Cher has with hers. No one else can be Walter. We considered Harvey, Henry, Gulliver, Holiday, Stewart, Huckleberry and Charlie. We considered names we would have never really named him, like Cassius and Coriander.

We had crossed many names off our list and had our top five. One day I got a text from David saying "I'm leaning toward Oscar. We can call him Ozzie for short." Oscar was one of our top five names. At the point I got the text, I was so tired of our little dude being nameless, I said "let's do it!" It seemed irresponsible to make the little dude wander through the world for so long without a name to buoy him to his new life. He was no longer that nameless dog found wandering the streets of California. He was our little guy. He had a home, a family and he needed that name to fully tie him to us. David probably could have written "I'm leaning toward Sir Lancelot Furrington Scruff Face McGoo' and I would have jumped on it at that point. Besides, we thought if we didn't like it, we could always change it. People do that!

We took him to his first vet appointment under our care and wrote 'Oscar' on the paperwork. We went to our local pet supply store and made him a little bone tag with our phone number and the name "Oscar" proudly etched in the gold bone.

One day, shortly after he got his name, Oscar and I were on a walk together. At a stop light, Oscar looked up at the man waiting for the light to turn next to us. The man said "what a friendly dog. He is smiling at me! What is his name?"

Every other time a stranger had asked me this I had to awkwardly explain that I just adopted him. Our Oscar though, was settling right into his new name.

I said "Oscar!" It was the first time I had declared his name without hesitation, without the explanation that we just started calling him that and aren't a hundred percent sure we will keep it.

The man smiled down at my little dog and said "Hello Oscar!"

Like most names, Oscar has meaning different meanings attributed to it. One meaning is 'deer friend.' But in my heart, he is not a deer friend, he is a dear friend! 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Gertrude Fernbrook, Forest Librarian and Keeper of the Sacred Stories, Reads stories to the Trees

Here is an illustration I did recently of a book-loving forest person.

Gertrude Fernbrook is the forest librarian and she takes her duty with the utmost seriousness. Without her, the forest would be with out words and without stories. She collects her books from antique shops and used book stores in the city. She fills her satchel with dog-eared mysteries, periodicals splattered with coffee stains, true life adventures and biography's of great people.  She'll find old magazines about the moon. She'll bring to the woods stories about the sea. She collects young adult books about best friends.

While she is sleeping in her outdoor library, the forest creatures will come to check out the books. The books will be missing for a couple of weeks and then they return. She will sometimes wake up to see a raccoon tail disappearing into a dark and find her copy of 'The Man in the Iron Mask' missing. She will hear the clatter of deer's hoofs against the forest ground and find that now that all her Laura Ingles Wilder books are gone. But all her missing books always come back. And she knows that the forest creatures appreciate the stories. They have a craving for stories. Since some of the creatures are too shy even to come to her library in the night, she decides to start reading to them. She goes into the middle of the woods, stands on a stump, and reads aloud. She can tell they are listening. The birds in the branches, the rabbits in the warrens just beneath her, the bugs on the leaves, the owls resting in hollow tree trunks. They are listening with rapt attention. They must find out what will happen next. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Thousand Years a Tree

Here is an illustration I did of an ancient tree. 

For a thousand years, the tree was a tree. Before that, the tree was a sapling and before that the tree was just a little seed under the soil waiting for the rain and sunshine.

The tree befriended birds. The tree cradled their babies in his heavy branches.

The tree shaded the ferns. The frilly plants could grow and thrive because the tree filtered through just the right amount of sun.

Once a lumber jack walked past a tree. He pulled out his ax. But then he felt something stir in his heart. The old tree reminded him of the tree he had carved his initials on with his first love when he was only a teenager. His first love had moved away, become someone else, he didn't know who. But for that summer they had been together, he had loved her more than anyone else. So, because of that long lost love, the tree kept growing.

Another time, a lightening streak shot from the sky. There was only one tree taller and the moss covered giant cracked and fell under the strength of the lightening. The tree felt sad to see his friend fall, but he still stood strong.

Someday, something would happen. But for now, the tree kept growing and growing. Inside his great girth were a thousand rings, one for each year. Someday, the great tree may have a thousand more.