Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Cherry Blossoms, Time to Celebrate!

Sometimes, during spring I'll see cars driving around that are covered with cherry blossom petals. Sometimes, I will look out the window in Spring and for a split second I will think it is snowing before I realize it is the wind blowing cherry blossoms loose from tree branches. 

In Seattle, we have lots of cherry blossom trees. It happens quickly. It will be cold and dreary. It feels like winter will never end, then suddenly, there are trees fully covered with fluffy pink flowers. Usually, after the cherry blossoms bloom, the worst of winter is officially behind us. Around this time, you see lots of Seattlites taking cliched pictures of cherry blossoms against blue skies (ahem, see above for evidence of this practice. Every year I always take a similar series of cherry blossom pictures, and I always love how they turn out!) The beauty of pink blossoms against blue skies never gets old. It is such a hopeful and refreshing sight after the infinity of gray, bare branched winters.

I read about a tradition in Japan called Hanami. It seems similar to what people do in New England in the united states where people go watch the leaves change color in the fall, but instead during Hanami, people have lavish picnics under the cherry blossom trees. They also sing cherry blossom songs while they watch the beauty of the cherry blossoms. It is a celebration that is all about having reverence for the cherry blossoms. Everyone treats the trees with respect. No one picks cherry blossom bouquets or carves their initials into the trunks of the trees. Also, according to the article I read about it, while celebrating the cherry blossom trees, you should take a moment to contemplate the fragility of life and how existence is fleeting. Hanami sounds like a really beautiful celebration. It seems like the sort of celebration where people are inspired by nature to appreciate the great adventure of being alive. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Annabelle in the Woods #4: Annabelle Enjoys a Ride in a Snail Drawn Carriage

Here is the fourth in the Annabelle in the Woods series. I painted this using gouache and acrylic paints.

Annabelle was never in much of a hurry while in the woods. She loved to just enjoy the beauty of the experience of being in the woods. So when the snail offered her a ride in his carriage, she was not concerned about the ubiquitous slow pace of snails. She appreciated the chance to relax. As soon as she got into the snails carriage, it was like suddenly she was in a whole new world. Things that once appeared small were huge, things that once appeared huge were monumental to the extreme of infinity.

The snail took her through all sorts of amazing scenery. Annabelle admired the underside of flower petals as the sunlight filtered through the thin, colorful petals. The snail edged past a caterpillar munching on a leaf. The sound of the crunch boomed around them. The fuzzy caterpillars fur looked menacing and sharp rather than adorable, the way it usually looked. Annabelle observed mushroom, the feathers of nearby birds, porous rocks, grass blades and other itty bitty parts of nature in a whole new light.

“If only I could be small forever and explore the world from a whole new perspective!” Annabelle thought wistfully. But soon enough, she was stepping out of the carriage into the perspective she was accustomed to. But never again would she look at any tiny thing the same way.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Mysterious Lands and More Strangeness

It is a story about a land with strange properties, mysterious cult like followers and mysteries infused with every turn of the plot! I could either be talking about the adventurous and mysterious podcast 'Tanis' or the equally adventurous and mysterious 'Southern Reach Trilogy' of books. I read the first two 'Southern Reach' novels over a year ago. I liked both of them a lot, so I can' account for why it took me so long to finally read the third, but I can say what inspired me to finally read it...listening to the podcast 'Tanis.'

Surely the creators of Tanis were inspired by The Southern Reach Trilogy. Not only do the two have similar story elements, but similar feelings of eeriness and mystery. I definitely recommend them both!
In the last novel of the Southern Reach Trilogy ( Acceptance), we get both an origin story and a conclusion of sorts. 

If you like the mystery and eeriness of these two works, here are five more stories that will leave your mind itching.

1. Book: The City and the City by China Melville
2. Book: Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
3. True life mystery: Mystery of the missing lighthouse keepers on flannan isles
4.  TV Show: The Leftovers
5.  TV Show: Fortitude (I haven't finished the first season, but so far it is really interesting and unsettling.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Ballard Mallards

Last spring and summer, I became acquainted with two neighbors. They are a very cute couple. They enjoy water and walks. They are......

....ducks! The best kind of neighbors!

Ballard is the neighborhood in Seattle I live in. It is fairly urban with lots of shops and restaurants in a cute downtown area, although there are nature spots nearby like the Ballard Locks, a marina, Golden Gardens beach and a couple of smaller parks and community gardens. It is still not the normal hangout for a couple of cute ducks. But these are streetwise ducks.

Last year, I saw them hanging out all the time, but colder weather came, and the ducks left. I thought I would never see them again, but now they are back! One of my neighbors says they have been coming here during spring and summer for years!

I have named the ducks Claude and Clover. It turns out one of my neighbors previously named them Ray and Georgia. I don't know where they go in the winter, but maybe there is someone in a warmer city somewhere in the south who has named them something else.

In Ballard, there are definitely people who are especially recognizable. Any neighborhood has their local characters who add charm to the neighborhood. But in Ballard, Clover Georgia and Claude Ray are two of the most charismatic eccentrics in town!

Quack on, little ducks!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Annabelle in the Woods #3: Annabelle Visits the Insect Village

Here is the third in the Annabelle in the Woods series. I used acrylic and gouache.

In a lush meadow in the woods, Annabelle came across the most delightful little village. The village was very tiny, yet with a robust population, yet not overcrowded….a riddle indeed! But the riddle is solved easily, because Annabelle was in a village of miniature…the insect village. Instead of a village of men, women and children, the village was full of grasshoppers, bumble bees and ladybugs. 

Annabelle had been drawn to the village after noticing a large blue beetle glistening on a tree trunk. She quietly sneaked up to it but the little creature was startled and fluttered zipped away through the air. Annabelle went chasing after it. But she was stopped when she heard a chorus of little voices saying “Stop, or you will trample us all!” She stopped in the nick of time. If she had put her foot one step further, she would have crushed a little acorn that was also a house.

“How do all you little insects of so much variety live together in peace?” Annabelle asked, her voice thundering around the village.

The cricket told her a little story full of little chirps and squeaks. “Once a long time ago, we didn’t live in an insect village. I lived in a cricket village. Bob lived in a bee village. Lacey lived in a lady bug village. Sometimes we’d see members from other bug villages, but we mainly ignored them. 

Then one day the ravens swooped down and ate all the tinkerbugs. Not familiar with tinkerbugs, you say… well, that is because they are extinct now. If the bees had been there, they could have stung the raven. If the crickets had been there, they could have distracted the raven with a song, and if the lady bugs had been there, they could have charmed the raven with their cuteness. That is when we learned we are stronger together then apart. The raven hasn’t bothered us once since we have joined forces.”

“The insects are wise” Annabelle thought as she carefully explored the beautiful town. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sunny Day Hobbies

The sun is back, time to catch some sun!

For some reason I had the urge to make sun know....those little plastic pictures that you paint and hang in the window. I have a prediction that these fun little projects will make a resurgence. First, they are pretty, and one might as well utilize windows as an added place to display decoration. Also, painting them is similar to coloring in a picture in a coloring book, and adult coloring books are all the rage right now.

When I got inspired to get a kit of sun catchers, I looked around at a couple of art and craft stores, but could not find them anywhere. I ended up getting these online. I noticed that there is a new method to make sun catchers with stickers instead of paint. So if you decide that you want to make some, make sure you aren't getting the sticker kind if you are in the mood to paint! I almost bought a sticker one, but luckily realized in time! Instead of getting to choose the colors yourself and paint on the parts, the blank plastic sun catcher comes with stickers you peel and put in certain shapes. I guess it is a little bit more like a jigsaw puzzle. So maybe if when you were a kid you preferred jigsaw puzzles to coloring, get the sticker kind but if you preferred coloring books to puzzles, get the paint you own kind.

I left the sun catchers on my windowsill to dry. It was a humid day and my apartment felt warm and stuffy so I kept all the windows open. But then we got a surprise rain and thunder storm! The wind blew the rain drops into the apartment and the windowsill was drenched. Rain puddled up in the shallows of the sun catchers. Luckily, the paint was dry enough no damage was done. But for a short moment, the sun catchers became rain catchers. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Parallel Universe Seattle

One thing I love about living in a city is even after living here almost a decade, I will find myself in parts of the city I am completely unfamiliar with. This is what happened when I met a friend at a vegan restaurant near the international district. I like taking pictures of the new (to me) corners of the city. It almost feels like slipping into a parallel universe for a moment. 

Parallel universes use to be considered a bunch of hooey, but now a days, even respected scientists believe they could be real. Someday, we may be able to figure out a way to travel between parallel universes. When people go on their honey moon, they will say "We are going to parallel universe 826! We're so excited because they have animals that don't exist in this world!"

Monday, May 15, 2017

Annabelle in the Woods #2: Annabelle Joins an Ornithological Glee Club

Here is the second in the 'Annabelle in the Woods' series. I used acrylic and gauche.

Annabelle likes to sing. She sings in the shower. She sings while she cooks. While immersed in a book, she sometimes sings aloud the words she is reading. When she heard the jingle jangle clamor of bird trills, tweets and chirps above her in the tree branches, she was inspired! Annabelle climbed the branches, higher and higher until she found herself in a spot surrounded by the most beautiful melody created by birds of all feather, chirping together!

Annabelle at first felt a little bashful. After all, there she was with bare arms and beakless face, an obvious outsider. So before joining in, she listened. At first, it sounded like they were just chirping cheerful melodies. But soon the bird chirps sounded like words. The words became stories and the songs became great ballads about the secret history of bird kind.

Annabelle quickly learned the chorus to the various songs the birds sing. After hearing the songs, she started to understand birds better than she had ever before in her life. She was part of them in a way, just by hearing their stories. So when they got to the chorus, Annabelle stretched out her arms, and belted out the words along with the wise and wonderful birds. Annabelle was one of them. Annabelle was part of the ornithological Glee Club.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Book Review: The Trespasser by Tana French

I read Tana French's novel 'In the Woods' several years ago and I was instantly hooked! I wanted to know all the answers to the mysteries in that book. Since then, I have eagerly read all of Tana French's novels. Her newest one is 'The Trespasser.'

All of French's books are connected because the story always centers around 'The Dublin Murder Squad' but the main character is always different. This time, finally French chose another woman to write about. 'The Likeness,' which was book two, was the last time the main protagonist was a woman. I like reading about woman detectives and mystery solvers best. The nitty-gritty world of crime and police work is still so dominated by men that in order for the women to succeed they must be at least twice as clever, resourceful and brilliant as all the men around them. The women are always underestimated but always prove their brilliance and often use their perceived weaknesses as strengths. It is just like the everyday world.

In 'The Trespasser,' Antoinette Conway and her partner Stephen Moran are tasked to solve a case that seems at first a murder related to domestic violence...the kind of case that is open and shut. Aislin Murray is found dead in her apartment after a tip is called in to the police line by a person claiming to be a friend of the murderer. Aislin had recently started a new relationship with a young man named Rory Fallon. Rory seems like the obvious culprit of the crime, which is made abundantly clear by a senior detective pressuring Stephen and Antoinette into pointing the finger at Rory. But the urgency of a senior detectives pressure on the two detectives to close the case makes them suspicious something isn't right. The book follows the two underdog detectives as they uncover truths on the path to solve the mystery.

The Trespasser was not only a nail-biting, page-turning, twisty-turny mystery adventure, it was also a thoughtfully crafted novel with characters that felt real and multi-dimensional. One thing I consistently love about Tana French novels is her characters are like real people. From Antoinette and her partner Stephan, the suspect Rory and the victim Aislin all are given emotional lives, flaws, quirks and layered dimensions that come along with being human. Sometimes mystery novels do suffer from flat characters, which I can often overlook if the book has a really good plot! But The Trespasser not only had a strong plot with all the right moments of shock and awe, it had characters who I truly cared about. When you care about the characters, it makes the stakes higher, which makes the novel all the more exciting to read!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Back in January I went to the women's march but never ended up sharing my pictures. Now that we are faced with the possibility of the replacement of obamacare with a healthcare plan that favors the advantaged and essentially ignores the disadvantaged, it is a good time to be reminded why we all came together in January. Right now we are living in a time where our leadership is essentially telling us that some human lives are more valuable than others, that some people don't matter. This is not okay. Keep reminding yourself that.

With all that is going on, it is so easy to get discouraged. I feel discouraged often. But we have to remember that even small acts of resistance are important. And in this environment and this culture, acts of kindness toward all humans is essentially an act of resistance. So even if you feel like you can't go out and change the world and fix this mess we are in, you can help by caring about each other and by treating other's with respect, dignity and kindness. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Annabelle in the Woods #1: Annabelle and the Forest Ghosts have a Dance Party

I finished a series of paintings recently. They are all about the adventures of Annabelle in the woods. 

Annabelle wakes up one day and is drawn to the woods. When she woke up, it hadn’t been her attention to go to the woods. She fully planned a day of browsing the library. But on her way to the library, she thought she saw the flicker of something magical in the tree tops at the forest edge. She followed the magical flicker until she was deep into the woods. She wasn’t afraid though, because immediately she began to experience things of great magic and importance................

The forest has been growing for thousands of years. In those thousands of years, thousands of humans had found themselves in these woods. The woods, while magical, can be dangerous. Not all survived the great woods. And while they may have died before their time, the ghosts had also obtained a certain level of immortality in the form of forest spirits. So instead of being mournful over their loss, the ghosts were cheerful over their gain of immortality. They celebrated their great fortune through dance.

Annabelle first noticed the ghosts from afar. She saw a moving, glittering, flickering mass in a clearing in the woods. “How peculiar!” She though as she edged closer to the spot. As she got closer, she saw that the glittering mass she saw were dancing ghosts!

Annabelle had seen a ghost before. When she was a child, her step mother housed a malevolent spirit in the kitchen cupboard. She avoided the kitchen because she could feel the evil radiating from the foul ghoul. But when Annabelle came across the ghosts in the forest clearing, she felt only joy and lightness. As she moved closer, she felt the rhythm seize her. She wasn’t walking toward the ghost, she was strutting, then as she got closer, she was shaking, then closer and shimmying, then, she was in the middle of the ghosts and she was consumed with the desire to dance! Her movements were full of twirls, twists, tilts and leaps. It was the best dance party she had ever been too!