Saturday, December 31, 2011


image via

Like just about everyone else I'm reflecting on the year that is ending. My first immediate response was...good; good riddance, glad for this one to be done, just like the last one.

But then, upon further reflection I remembered that although the state of the economy and this nation is still depressed and struggling, that despite the extremism that has taken hold of congress and their contempt for the people they are supposed to represent and the powers that be that continue to stomp on our civil rights, that even though we continue to personally struggle to keep afloat in a climate where art isn't even on the list of things for people to buy because the system itself helps the rich get richer while everybody else loses their jobs and their savings and their homes and their health and finally their lives, that although we suffered through the worst heat and drought on record resulting in the deaths of millions of trees; that even though all those things and more, a lot of good things happened too and there was a lot of joy in my life in the last 12 months.


Watching the birds at the birdbath.

Picking food out of the garden that I grew myself.


Wearing my woven plaid western style flannel shirts with the pearl snaps.

My grandkids visiting and face timing me when they don't.

My anti-social cat climbing in my lap for a short while when it is late and just the two of us are up.

The small jobs and sales, the part time job that came along just in time.

Seeing my sister begin to emerge from her cocoon of grief.

The smiles and friendliness of small town life.

Seeing the finished work of my students.

Waking up in the morning with my husband next to me.

The love and support of my family and friends whether virtual or otherwise.

For all that and more I am grateful.

Happy New Year to all.

May the coming 12 months be bountiful.

Friday, December 30, 2011

white wing doves

Woke up to fog this morning and two hours later it is still foggy, maybe even less bright than it was earlier though it is supposed to burn off.

There is a huge flock of white wing doves that has been hanging out around here. They are big clumsy birds and noisy fliers.

This morning about two dozen of them were crowding around the turtle pond getting drinks and taking turns bathing.

They entertained me for about 20 minutes this morning while I took pictures through the window and screen.

It may look like they are walking on water, but they are actually standing on the turtle's sunning stone which is submerged from all the rain we had last week.

The ones flying in for the submerged stone would sometimes miss their mark and land in the water instead or get pushed off the edge if too many birds were trying to occupy it at the same time.

They sit on the edge of the pond and lean way over for a drink, sometimes losing their balance in the process.

Others are perched on the fence rail or the branches above waiting for an opportunity to barge in.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

the winter garden and other stories

The weather has been outstanding the last three days. With the solstice came a thunderstorm, rain, overcast skies, and cold. My blood has slowed and thickened, my brain incapable of processing the higher functions. A couch, a blanket and a book have been about all I've been about.

This last week of the year, coming as it does between christmas and January is a lost week. People are drained from the expectations and activities of the holiday season. It's just as well no one really expects anything to get done during this time because nothing is going to get done. Around here the cold days and overcast skies were like a hand holding me down.

It cleared up Tuesday though and started a warming trend. Tuesday all I could do was admire it. Wednesday I thought of a lot of things I ought to be doing. Today I finally shrugged off my lethargy and actually got a few things accomplished, puttering around outside soaking up the sun.

mustard greens, kholrabi, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, mustard greens, broccoli

My neighbor Frank of the bountiful garden, whose wife recently died, doesn't seem to remember that he must harvest his produce. The chain has been broken and he has no one to bring the harvest to. I've been checking on his garden now and then and I noticed that beans had gone unpicked, broccoli is flowering. His son Alan comes over regularly and today he gave us a broccoli and a cauliflower and a couple of kholrabis.

Here's a picture of the food he gave us.

I put the quarter there to give you some idea of the size but it doesn't really convey how big they are.

So I put my hand in there.


Later I picked a big bowl of spinach and lettuce from my garden. And harvested my first carrot. According to the package I should be able to harvest my carrots.

So I did a test.

It's tiny.

Perhaps they will be spring carrots.

Monday, December 26, 2011

from one 'mas' to another

Yay! That's over for another year.

There is one reason why I do like christmas day though. Not the christmas season, not the two months of having a holiday I don't celebrate crammed down my throat everywhere I go, not the attendant hypocrisy of good will and gift giving and good deed doing by people who every other day of the year can't be bothered with those things, but the actual day.

Christmas day is one of the few days of the year when you can be a complete slug, spend the whole day on the couch with a good book doing nothing, accomplishing nothing and no one will think ill of you for doing so.

I know the madness isn't really over yet, not for a few more days while everyone takes back those gifts that were lovingly or thoughtlessly selected, those gifts they really don't want and exchanges them for something else. It sort of cheapens the whole thing to me, this wanting the value of the gift but not the gift.

So here we are now on the other side of the winter solstice, the shortest day and the longest night. The days are now getting incrementally longer, the light is increasing but with it also comes the coldest days of the year. Now, winter sets in for real. The solstice here was ushered in with a thunderstorm and it's been cold, overcast, and rainy, ever since.

I am glad of the rain. We've had more rain this week than in all of last year I think. There are still some puddles here and there around town. The ground has been so dry that puddles have been a rare sight. I heard last week that they think Texas lost a half a billion trees from the drought. Five hundred million trees died of thirst.

Well, the only thing left to do before the end of the year is Marcmas. That's tomorrow. It's the special 60th anniversary this year. We think we might drive down to Aransas Pass and see the whooping cranes to celebrate. Maybe. Marc already got a present...

sniff sniff sneeze

Saturday, December 24, 2011

on the eve

The grandkids are gone back home and the house is quiet again.  And cold.  Those four additional bodies added a lot of heat to the house.  And noise.  And energy.  And germs.  The twins were sick and now I am getting it.  I can't remember the last time I was sick.  One of the benefits of being a hermit.

Sunday night all four of the grandkids arrived for the week. On Wednesday morning my sister brought over the little dogs.  She has gone to have Christmas with her elder daughter and her family.  Which means that I am working for her at the store while she is gone.  I worked Wednesday and Thursday and the kids were retrieved on Friday.

And the little dogs are very sad. We don't play with them like the kids do.

When my daughter and I were making plans for the kids to come, I told her that I would be working at the store those days.

"And Dad's OK with that?" she said.

"Well, he didn't say 'No, hell no'", I answered.

Later, telling Marc about my conversation, he said he didn't think he had a choice.

"You don't." 


So, this is sort of entertaining, working at the store.  All sorts of people come in.  That is when people come in.  So far, I've had enough people come in on my days to break up the hours but my sister has had many days when not a single person has come in.

Thursday an older lady came in and looked around the store and as she was leaving she told me that we had two paintings in the other room that she had done many years ago and had sold them in a garage sale.

I saw them the last time I was here and was wondering if anyone had bought them” she said. “They're the ones of the boats with houses behind them.”

Well, you already got rid of them once” I told her when she mused about whether she should buy them.

After she left I was curious and went around the shop to see which ones they were.

They were 'paint by number' pictures.


Well, it's christmas eve for those of you who celebrate this holiday. I'll be working at the store today handing out germs to anyone who ventures in. I don't really expect to see anyone though as it is cold and rainy.

I imagine everyone in this small town has already done all their shopping and they will be snug in their warm dry houses cooking and wrapping presents. As well they should be.

I wish them all a happy time and me a speedy recovery.

sniff, sniff, sneeze

Sunday, December 18, 2011

the answers

Thank you everyone for participating. This was fun for me and the results were very interesting. Everyone managed to identify most but the two that were consistently missed were #2 and #4 although Vickie at Nature's Details and Butternut Squash from goddessoftheconfluence did correctly see the clouds in #4. No one saw the prickly pear cactus flower buds in #2. That really surprised me. But then, as I told Hilary of The Smitten Image, I think one of the problems with it, besides not knowing what prickly pear cactus buds look like is that in the picture above it, the white is the positive part of the image whereas in the next one, the black is the positive part of the image.  I think after seeing the first one, the brain is primed to see the white as the positive. Once I pointed that out to her, she could see the image. Steve at Out On The Prairie was closest with his guess of asparagus.

The ones I thought would be hard to discern were the boulders, the clouds, the canoes (which just about everybody saw as some type of boat) and the landscape of the river and canyon wall which most people also saw as some type of landscape involving cliffs and water.

My other thought about these pictures was that if they could not be recognized it would somehow diminish the piece but I've changed my mind about that after all the wonderful comments about the vagueness of some of the images. Memories do get fuzzy.

And the images themselves. Besides my daughter's baby shoe, which has always been one of my most favorite pictures (both shoes are in the actual photograph), all the images are nature oriented, well, except maybe the one with the canoes. So I wonder if the picture of the shoe really fits in with the others. When I was preparing the images (and I had 15 in all), I wasn't really trying to represent any particular memories, well except for maybe the one with the canoes and the one of the river, because I didn't necessarily want the piece to be specific to me, but obviously my love of nature came through.

The 10 of the 15 that I actually printed up and fired that day had mostly to do with selecting the ones I thought would translate best and my favorites. If I hadn't run out of time, if my morning hadn't been so incompetent, I would have done all 15. Alas, that didn't happen.

I'm still not settled on a title. I always had it in mind to be a reliquary but I've thought of it as 'reliquary for a life' or 'reliquary of memories'. Perhaps 'reliquary for a planet'. I sort of like that since most of the images are nature oriented but I think I'd have to take out the shoe and maybe the one of the canoes which means I'd probably want to do some more images for the box. I do have all the supplies and materials I need here and I feel a little more competent in the technique.

So for those of you who don't allow email response to your comments and for those of you who didn't guess at all but loved it anyway, here are the answers.

1. boulders in a lake

2. prickly pear cactus buds (two of them side by side)

3. canoes pulled up on a river bank

4. clouds

5. eggs in a nest

6. oxalis flowers

7. tallow leaf

8. moth

9. landscape view of river and canyon wall

10. toddler shoe

Friday, December 16, 2011

guessing game

Some of you may remember that I have, over the months, been working on several cast glass boxes, one of which I have referred to as the Memory Box. This piece has been in my head for years and this particular effort is the second one. The first try had some problems in the way it cast but, more importantly, the colors, the design just didn't work for me and I never finished it. So now I finally have the container, the box which I like very much, and I have been struggling with the images that were to go inside.

I took a workshop a couple of months ago at Hot Glass Houston with Carrie Iverson who teaches a lithography method for printing on glass using ink and glass powders and I left with the means to try it on my own but never did actually dive in.

I did, however, spend a quite a few hours on some images and got them printed with the proper ink, and cut and pre-fired the glass blanks for the images.

You may also remember that I took a one day refresher with Carrie at HGH two weeks ago expecting to print out all my pre-fired pieces and then some and then had the most frustrating day while all my expectations were trashed. I did finally, by the time I had to leave (early), get the 10 pre-fired pieces printed and dusted with powder and ready to be fired.

Well, one of the things I did whilst in the city this week was to go pick up those pictures. I'm delightfully surprised. They came out much better than I thought they would, though some of the images might be a little hard to discern if you don't already know what they are.

So I have prepared a little quiz for you all. Below I have posted all ten images and sized them, hopefully, so that they appear on your screen close to their actual size which is 3 1/2” x 3 1/8”.

Here you can see how small and thin they are.

They actually have some texture and a little sparkle that does not show up in the pictures here (and they aren't actually quite as dark as in the images here) except for this one that I took with the flash.

So here are the images, numbered 1 – 10. Let me know if you know what they are but please don't look at anyone else's answers first. I want uninfluenced first impressions.

# 1 

# 2

# 3

# 4

# 5

# 6

# 7

# 8

# 9

# 10

And one last pic of the box displaying one of the memories.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

enough cold for color

While I didn't take any pictures of the very colorful trees in the city, I did take some of the ones in our yard when we got home. These trees all turned during the three days we have been gone, well except for the tallows which were giving us some brightly mottled red, orange, and green colored leaves. Now, though, they've all gone mostly yellow.

a tallow on the edge of the driveway

one of the three big pecans in the big backyard

the maple

the oak by the garage

another tallow with the oak behind it

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

city life too

It appears those two consecutive nights last week where the temperatures dipped to 30 just before dawn were enough to trigger some color in our deciduous trees.  The city is yellow and burnt orange for the most part except for when it is brown from the dead ones.  The tallows, the ornamental pears and the sweet gum throw some red and bright orange into the mix but its mostly a yellow and brown landscape.  The cypress are a mystery to me because they rightly turn brown and the needles fall.  But they also love water so I guess we won't really know if the cypress survived the drought until spring.

That little frost also took my pole beans even though I covered them.  And it nipped my zucchini, which I also covered, but didn't kill it.  It's in a big pot so I'm prepared to bring it in next time.  Get me a little grow light.

We're in town to do two small jobs.  One we finished up today and the other tomorrow.  But this long hot summer and lack of use required a half day of equipment repair.

Coming back into the city is always interesting.  While I was living there, changes were a little bit more gradual but not entirely.  Even then new construction would spring up whole and leave you trying to remember what had used to be there.

The city is finally repaving the two main arteries, the eastern and western boundaries, our N/S corridors.  In other words, I traveled on those two streets for practically everywhere I wanted to go.  Those were the two closest bridges over Buffalo Bayou, the only natural bayou left in the city (there are 4 major bayous passing through the city and I can name 8 in the larger metropolitan area).  

They have been needing to be repaved for many years but only now that the population density and per capita income in this part of town have both increased considerably has the city finally got around to it.  

I had occasion to go to a mall today, a very large mall, one that I haven't been to for a good many years.  It's a little farther than I ever wanted to go and it's also quite larger than it was last time I went.  I was taking my twin grandgirls to get their hair cut at the place of their choice but this isn't really about that.

It's about all the stuff that is for sale, everyone vying for those dollars.  As if the number of stores itself wasn't overwhelming enough, all the corridors were filled with carts and kiosks and they are all selling stuff!  I couldn't even look at it.  So much totally useless stuff when you really stop to think about it, whose sole purpose in being is to generate the transfer of cash from one pocket to another.  

Although I did see a very cool remote control helicopter that flew and hovered and the operator had it fly right to his hand where he plucked it out of the air.  I kept walking.  We were on a mission, not to be delayed or sidetracked.

The twins got their haircuts, had ice cream and a pretzel, we browsed Claire's, and made it back to the truck in an hour and a half.  Not bad.

Tomorrow we go home.  The cat will be glad.  She was starting to disbelieve in the existence of the dog and was wanting out.  We wouldn't let her out and a little while ago her faith was restored when the dog started barking and making his presence known.

Monday, December 12, 2011

T is for...

T is for...tree houses

I think we moved from the house I was born in to the house I grew up in when I was about 6 or 7. Well, I wasn't actually born in the house but it was the house my parents lived in when I was born in the hospital like all good modern babies were.

We moved from a post-war housing neighborhood to a custom built home on one acre in a neighborhood carved out of a pine forest across Buffalo Bayou from the heavily wooded and mostly undeveloped (then) forest of Memorial Park. We didn't actually live on the bayou but it was a short walk down the street and through the yard of a house that did back onto the bayou.

A couple of years after we moved, my father built us kids a tree house. He selected three large pines on the wooded side of our acre so that our tree house was triangular in shape and built maybe 10' off the ground, perhaps 6' x 10' on two of the three sides. The only picture I have of it is the one in my head so I'm guessing at any and all dimensions. It had a board ladder nailed to the trunk of one of the supporting pines, low walls probably 3' high and was roofed and sided with cedar shakes.

Well, probably he built the tree house for my brother, but I spent many an hour up there.

Like all kids in all neighborhoods we would, every so often, divide up into factions and war on each other. Every year after christmas, we would make and raid each other's christmas tree forts but what I really remember were the pine cone wars. Not for the meek were they. They would always start in someone's yard, pine cones were plentiful and hurt like the devil if one of the missiles hit their mark, but once we retreated to the tree house, we were unbeatable. We had not only the advantage of high ground but we also kept a stockpile of the closed hard prickly pine cones up there.

Eventually, as we all grew older, the tree house was abandoned and after we were all grown, my parents sold the house. A high rise stands now where our house and the tree house once stood. The woods and fields we played in are also gone.

I've never lost my love of tree houses, gained though watching many a Tarzan movie, and I sometimes wish we had moved out to the country sooner. Any one of the three large pecans in the big back yard or even the tallow in the little back yard would hold a small tree house. I fear the grandkids are already too old though for one to hold much mystery for them.

While the one we had as kids was quite simple, I could easily live in one of these.

If you would like to catch up on the rest of my alphabet posts, click on the link on my side bar. It's up there near the top under 'stuff about me'.