Friday, August 8, 2014

The Wonderful Cormorant

  What happens to the cormorants during the Summer? They must be out there somewhere, but I only seem to notice them in the Winter. Maybe because so many birds fly South, they stand out against the bleak, bird-less landscape. Cormorants always cheer me up during the Winter. On sunny days (or more likely sunny moments during a cloudy day) I see them in the middle of the water, standing on a buoy with wings outstretched. They look like they are embracing the sunshine. Or like they are members of some ancient religion that worships the sun.
   When I was little and would spend my time pondering over which animal would be the best to turn into, I usually settled on a duck. I liked that they seem to feel equally comfortable in the air, on the water and on land. Ducks do not have the same lousy limitations that us humans have. But if I had known about the cormorant back in my childhood, I am sure I would haven chosen this bird instead to transform into if given the choice. They do not merely float on the water, but dive deep into, like a bird momentarily transformed into a fish.
  Another thing about cormorants- they are goofy. They are not graceful or dainty like most birds. Their looks are wonderfully strange.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bones and Other Lost Memories of Our Home from a Long, Long Time Ago

  A couple of weeks ago there was a random and wonderful rainstorm on my day off. I know it makes me a grouch, but I do not like hot weather and am looking forward to the cool breezes of Autumn. There is still a lot I like about Summer- late sunsets, evenings outdoors (when the temperature has cooled a bit and the outdoor air feels glorious) and fruit salads to name a few. But when I look at the weather report and see day after day of temperatures in the high-eighties and sometimes even nineties, it makes me cringe! So the rainstorm was a joy!
   I spent the day at the Natural History Museum. I love going to museums on rainy days. I like escaping to a cozy spot where I can spend some time engulfed in the other world the museum offers. I like when I happen to walk past a window, hearing the rain outside, which makes the inside world seem all the more like a haven, and like it's own separate world.
  The last time I went to the Seattle Natural History Museum was several years ago right after I came back from D.C. This was a bad idea. I had just spent a week exploring the free museums at the National Mall, including the Smithsonian Natural History Museum which is an absolutely amazing museum. Boy was I disappointed by our little museum. The Smithsonian was still too fresh in my mind for me to fully appreciate the museum Seattle had to offer.  But during this visit, I really got to appreciate our Natural History Museum. It was fun looking at all the different natural specimens and dinosaur bones.

Here I am, hamming it up for the camera, pretending to fly in front of the bird wall.

Here are bones, birds, bugs, rocks and other interesting specimens:

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sunshine and Picture Books

  One thing that I think is a great Summer activity is laying out a blanket on a nice patch of grass while perusing through art books. I got a stack of interesting picture-filled books recently from the library.

( I just noticed that Little Big Books and A Map of the World share two of the same editors. Obviously I like these two people's tastes!)

Unusual Creatures:

'Unusual Creatures' is a book full of awesomely illustrated animals. And as the name suggests, not your average animal, they are quite unusual. I like the giant salamander because I think I saw one once in some one's front yard. The leafy Sea Dragon seems like a beautiful creature. I wonder why there are not more animals that have evolved to resemble plants. It seems like a good method of camouflage.

Little Big Books:

 I love illustrations from children's books. I love that they are full of whimsy, story and imagination. I find this sort of art very inspiring.

A Map of the World:

  When I am using a map to actually try and get somewhere, maps stress me out. But appreciating the beauty of maps as pieces of art is fun. Also, maps inspire the imagination. It is fun to look at them and imagine going to the places depicted.

Fritz Kahn:

Fritz Kahn's illustrations are so cool! They are very scientific looking without always being true to science. Although that is not to say that all his science themed illustrations are inaccurate. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Sky Alert!

(A little toy mouse with armored ears; A glass on grass; Wires, weeds and duck faces; Kitty-cats.)

 A couple of weeks ago I woke up, checked my phone and was greeted with a barrage of instagram pictures of the most glorious sunset painting the Seattle sky.... and I missed it! Instead of starring up with appreciation at that sunset, I had been doing something mundane indoors with the curtains closed. This gave me an idea! It is for a new phone app called Sky Alert! (the exclamation point is part of the name). Sky Alert! would alert users whenever an interesting sky event was going on. Users could also pick and choose which sky events they want to be alerted to. If you are a rainbow person but not a sunset person, you would be able to set your alerts to include no sunset alerts. Besides rainbows and sunsets, Sky Alert! would also notify users of snow (very useful to Seattle users where snow really is a big deal, but perhaps Midwest dwellers will opt out of this one), sun rises, meteor showers, the moon when it is an usual color or especially large size, when the sky is especially clear and good for star gazing, hail, thunder and lightening (in case you are listening to loud music when the thunder begins) and surprise fireworks shows (you never know!). I thought about including in Sky Alert! alerts for when a cloud looks like some sort of picture. You know, like when a cloud looks like a bunny. But cloud shapes are so fleeting. I decided that this would only frustrate the user. I imagine someone dashing out doors in hopes of seeing a cloud with a remarkable resemblance to the Mona Lisa only to be greeted with fluffy wisps.

(Little Ball of wishes; A bouquet of lost flowers; Seashell between my fingertips; Little darling.)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Edna Knits a Cocoon for the Reluctant Caterpillar

Here is an illustration I finished recently of Edna using her crafting skills to help out a caterpillar not quite ready for adulthood.... or mothhood.

   Edna loves to watch the giant moths of Hillderberry Road soar through the sky. They flutter their gauzy wings and soar toward the sun. At night time, with the moon light illuminating their wings, they look like ghosts or the embodiment of dreams manifested into a physical form. Before the caterpillars change, Edna sees them oscillating along the ground, their fuzzy bodies collecting stray particles of dust or dandelion fluff. She often befriends the fuzzy fellows, and feeds them morsels of food. Mostly, the caterpillars like eating muffins or pieces of fruit. One of her caterpillar friends, Thomas, didn't seem to take the same cue and his companions. While the other's built beautiful structures to metamorph in, Thomas continued with his usual caterpillar ways. No matter how much encouragement or pep talks Edna gave the little creature, Thomas refused to participate in building himself a cocoon. Edna thought it was because Thomas was lazy, but one day, she came across Thomas in the woods. The poor little guy was trying his darndest to build a cocoon but he only seemed to produce rubbish. He was surrounded by lumpy and lopsided failed-attempts at cocoons. Thomas wasn't lazy at all. His reluctance to transform was only due to his failure at the craft of cocoon building. Edna decided she would help poor Thomas by using her own skills as a crafts person. She bought the softest yarn she could find and set to work knitting Thomas his very own cocoon.

  While working on this picture, I picked a bouquet of flowers (well, weeds depending on how you look at it) on the way home from work to set on my table. Mysteriously overnight, one of the flowers dropped a weird liquid onto my picture, leaving a brownish ring in the tree where Thomas's knitted cocoon hangs. Maybe the flower thought she was helping me out?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Creatures Crossing Streets

    A day spent wandering the woods and along the shore is a good day indeed! Here are some photos I took recently while walking around a local park.

   I saw the coolest thing yesterday. I was in the car with David on an expedition to satiate our hunger with sandwiches. We got to an intersection when we saw something strange. A creature lumbering across the street. It was not a dog and not a cat. Usually when a mammal is spotted crossing a Seattle street and it is neither dog nor cat, it is a raccoon. But this creature was no raccoon. She was larger than a raccoon, wetter than a raccoon and browner then a raccoon. She was stout and walked with a waddle. And most noticeably she had a flat, paddle-like tail... a beaver tail! That's right, I saw a beaver crossing the street. It was awesome! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Albert and Vera Listen to the Fox as he Tells Ghost Stories

  The fox was always a story teller. While living in the woods, he would tell stories to the birds, stories to the bears, and stories to the wilting wildflowers. With his stories, he could bring things into existence. He once told a story about a brave and noble fox who went on grand adventures. Next thing he knew, that very fox existed. For a while they were friends, but it turns out they were too similar, and after days of fighting, they decided it would be better if they lived on separate sides of the forest. When the fox is hungry, he tells stories of ice cream sundaes and pot pie. When the fox is tired of clouds he tells stories of sunshine and when he longs for a breezy, rain-moistened day, he tells stories of storms.
   One day, the fox ran into Albert and Vera as they traversed through the very woods he inhabited. The two young people had the look of bright-eyed enthusiasm that always tickled the fox.
  "Hello folks!" The fox said just as Vera was climbing over a log in her way.
  "Oh, why hello there." Vera said as Albert nodded his head bearded head.
  "What brings you to the woods?" The fox asked.
  "Well!" Vera exclaimed, already eager to explain their mission. "Albert and I are ghost hunters. And these very woods are supposedly haunted! We don't care what all the nonbelievers think. We just know in our heart that ghosts must be true!"
  The fox had on good authority that ghosts indeed were not true and did not exist. But he hated to snuff the twinkles that glimmered in Vera and Albert's eyes. Instead he hatched a plan.
  "Come with me and I will show you some ghosts." The fox said.
  The fox brought Albert and Vera to the top of the hill, which was his favorite place to tell a story.
  "Gather around me." The fox said. It was how he begun many of his stories. "Let me tell you about the Old Wailer of Haunted Hill. In his life, he was a sea caption, in his death, he was a wailing ghost!"
  As the fox told story after story, the two eager ghost hunters watched in delight as they finally saw real life ghosts flutter around them like moths in the daylight.