Quotedium Update 31.11.vii.g

In other news (what??) I reopened my Etsy shop after someone contacted me through my email trying to find out how to buy notecards. What’s cool about that (besides the obvious) is that he found me through the information on the back of a card someone had sent him. It was the Sandhill Crane Walking among Willow Saplings. I ordered some for him and sent them along at a small financial loss for me. NOT the greatest business model but goodwill is worth a lot to a small business such as myself.

After I sold six more packs through Etsy, and I saw that a market exists, I looked into ordering more and realized (again) it’s not cost effective for me. I don’t know what their idea was raising prices as much as they have. I did more experimenting on printing at home, thinking, “People want these and the Crane Festival is coming up. I promised to donate some to Friends of the Refuge to sell at the festival. HFS, Batman. I have to do something.” So as one does when one can, I got better at it…

I experimented and got a very very nice product. Better than I was getting from the commercial printer, and now it’s possible for me to do custom orders — assortments and personalization and all that. It’s not like ink and paper don’t cost me anything, but it’s a far better deal for me AND customers. I print the ink drawings on textured card stock, and they look just like the drawings do in real life on the watercolor paper I used. The colored cards are printed on plain card stock, perfect.

I put more cards up on Etsy. Etsy is seriously flawed and annoying, but it’s simple for people to use. I have also decided to take custom orders through Facebook and here. That is an advertisement, I guess. My Etsy shop is linked below, but you can contact me through my Gravatar and order directly from me.


In other news, Bear and I headed out yesterday to see what’s going on in the Big Empty. Teddy and I went out Thursday, and Teddy has learned that he has a lot of freedom with the Halti. He also discovered how much fun it is to head into the deep snow and search for smells. Yesterday Bear found his little hunting efforts and checked to see what Teddy was after. The Refuge has filled the ponds and ditches because the waterbirds are on their way north — I saw and heard one Canada goose yesterday. It struck me as odd because you never see one goose. I thought about the single Sandhill Crane I saw last week, which was odd, too. I laughed to myself thinking maybe the birds have their own Natty Bumpo types in the flock who scout ahead for possibilities for the whole population.

There’s not much snow out there — we got more in town and Alamosa got even more (and record cold — -24 F/-31 C) but it has drifted into beautiful whipped cream shapes along the fences and reeds. Bear loves the deep snow.

Among other things I saw tracks where it seemed a fox had gotten dinner. Other tracks further on seemed at first to be elk tracks mostly because of their size and the location — a spot where the elk hang out, but now I think they’re Jack Rabbit tracks just because they’re missing features of elk tracks and they are really crazy. Jack Rabbits are BIG.

The featured photo is a filter from a well-used Bialetti.

Sedges in Snow

I don’t know exactly what goes into a painting. Whatever my “process” is, it’s as mysterious to me as to anyone else. I do know that since July, painting has been all but impossible for me. Covid brain is a real thing. I found it very difficult to hold an idea. It was as if parts of my brain just wouldn’t connect to other parts. I did do a painting in there somewhere, sunflowers with acrylic using a palette knife. I did that painting to try out the knife (I only have one) and to have something to hang in the show at the museum. I liked it a lot, and it seemed to prevision something changed in Martha the Painter. I wasn’t sure I could paint at all which is why I used the knife. I knew I didn’t know how to use a palette knife. It’s a simple painting of a common scene; nothing fancy but friendly and likable. I could also paint this in a very short time so there wasn’t the challenge of maintaining the image in my mind.

Last Summer acrylic on panel, painted October, 2022

What makes a painting, for the painter, anyway, might be more than the result. For me it is.

I love painting more than anything else I do. It’s just a wonderful thing to me, engrossing, intriguing. All of my paintings have been experiments because each one changes me and moves me to a different place along whatever might be my personal painting trajectory. I like that journey. Paint is part of it — just that, paint itself — and the image in my mind is another part. Doing the work is a pathway I’ve never traveled. I’m not sure I can explain this clearly because it’s not a word thing.

I think of the painters in the past, and I’m sure some of them must have loved painting. I think Turner must have. Kandinsky. Georgia O’Keefe definitely loved it. The jubilation in van Gogh’s work says to me he probably loved it, too. Back in the days when painting was a trade more than an ‘art’ those guys must have loved it, too, even though it meant a lot of hard work and the development of far more skills than painters today need to know.

I have an amazing book, On Divers Arts. That’s “diverse” not divers, but anyway. It’s by a guy, a priest, who’s writing under the name “Theophilus,” friend of God. His friendship with God is real. It’s not just that he is a priest, but also because of the way he regards all the material he works with. It would be a different blog post to go into that, so I won’t. But I share his feelings. Paint itself is a miracle.

Theophilus’ mission in writing the book was to pass down to the future all the things he knew about making art for a church and it’s practically everything — from pigments for the wall and manuscripts to the lead that holds stained glass in windows and the glass itself. It was written in the 13th century. I have found it very inspiring even though I don’t understand most of the technical instruction. The most inspiring part to me is the dedication where Theophilus explains to the person reading his instruction that the act of creating something is partaking in a little shred of the divine through physical gifts that have been passed to him through time. It feels that way to me.

For the past few days I’ve been really painting. It’s been the good stuff where I didn’t know where I was going and had to completely let go. All I had was a day week before last when Bear and I rushed out to the Refuge to catch the snow before it quit falling. We walked into a day unlike any I had ever seen. Bear and I wandered through a mystery.

Yesterday, when I finished this, I felt I’d painted that beautiful snowy afternoon.

FYI this is really just a painting of snow, fog and sedges. It’s not symbolic of anything. You’re welcome to see anything you want in the image, just don’t tell me 😀

It’s oil on acrylic primed linen canvas. The paint is Gamblin’s Flake White Replacement, a titanium based white designed to mimic lead white. Indian yellow, lapis ultramarine, and Gamblin Portland Gray. Gamblin is a paint company in Oregon. Most of their paint uses safflower oil rather than linseed oil because it doesn’t yellow over time but to make it true to the original paint, the flake white replacement uses linseed oil. The lapis ultramarine is from Daniel Smith. Indian yellow is very luminous, truly, and I chose it because there was no other color that day so the sedges seemed lit from the inside which, in a way, they were, holding summer’s sunlight in their persistent stems.

Thought I’d Write About Dogs for a Change

Yesterday was day three of the Teddy T. Dog Transformation Workshop in which Teddy is made over from the land-demon from hell into a responsive, well-adjusted, adorable little guy who doesn’t try to kill his human.

Not that Teddy tried to kill me but a little melodrama doesn’t hurt a blog post that will inevitably be like many others I’ve written.

We had a great walk, again, with minimal fighting of the Halti. I realized that the connection between the leash and the Halti was heavy for such a little dog and when we got home I set up a new system using a lighter leash with a different connector. It worked. I also began training Teddy to put his nose into the Halti. He’s getting it.

On our walk, Teddy was great. It felt as if there was nothing on the end of the leash. When I got home I gave some thought to Teddy vs. Bear. First, dogs don’t really mature “intellectually” until they’re 3 years old or so. Teddy is just 4. Bear did most of the early doghood education. She house trained him and taught him the routine of Casa di Martha. But there is no way she could teach him how to walk on a leash safely with me.

Dogs like Bear are famous for their intuition. Training Bear was no work at all. She picked up most things from Dusty T. Dog who was very well-trained. Besides my work with him, during the six weeks I rehabbed from my first hip surgery (2007) he stayed with a professional trainer where he learned, among other things, to walk at heel without a leash.

Beyond that, Bear can sense what’s going on with me. It’s pretty amazing but true. The livestock these dogs are bred to protect aren’t “teaching” the dogs anything. The dogs are learning from each other if there are more than one and from the livestock themselves. Most of the time they aren’t even near “their” human. Bear learned to walk with me from walks with Dusty (who didn’t need a leash) and from me. I understand that Bear wasn’t bred to be a house dog. I get who she is, and I’m happy to stand there while she smells things, and she’s happy to stand there while I stare into the Big Empty thinking about how strange and beautiful it is. I think it would be a pretty maddening walk for others to share, even a little dog.

There’s not much snow left out there for me to crunch my way through. As my little dog walked beside me (!!!!) I thought of snow and crunch and how we learn words. There are words like “crunch” that always bring up the moment I learned the word and the activity that goes with it. My brother and I walked to school every day. One day my dad asked me (maybe I was in 2nd grade) “Hey MAK, I used to walk to school too. I love the way the snow crunched when I walked. Do you notice that?”

I was bewildered. To me “crunch” required something different from snow. Cellophane paper crunched, for that matter, paper crunched when you balled it up, or hard candy crunched between your teeth, or potato chips were crunchy. Snow??? But my dad was right most of the time. I said, “When it freezes on top?”

“No, honey, fresh snow. Bill Kelly (his best friend) and I used to walk across Pioneer Park (Billings, MT) to school and the snow crunched. Listen sometime, OK?”

The requirements for snow crunch? Fresh, dry snow has the best crunch of all. But every time it happens, I have this conversation with my dad. I was taught to notice that.

I was no different from Teddy. I had to be told things. I responded to what I was told and, clearly, remembered it. Bear, on the other hand? She seems to have been born knowing almost everything.

In other news, the sweet aroma of linseed oil again fills the house. I started a painting yesterday. I haven’t done anything in there (studio) since early last summer. When I got Covid in late June, and then long Covid, I couldn’t hold an idea or image in my mind long enough to imagine how to paint it. It was actually worse than that; I couldn’t imagine even how I would paint something. BUT the cloudy, foggy, gray, lightless day out there last week seems to be where I’m starting.

And Yet ANOTHER Walk With Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog

It’s alleged that the cranes will come earlier this year because of a lack of food down there at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico. If they do, they’ll be here a while as there is no open ground at their next stop. In advance of the influx of Crane Tourists and the 40th Anniversary Crane Festival of Song and Story, Bear and I headed out for a walk yesterday even though the wind blowing from the southwest did not demur, but blasted like a MOFO. It was blowing so hard it seemed to suck my breath away, but probably it was just blowing at me so hard I couldn’t exhale. I’ve been out there in heavy winds before, but yesterday was a little different.

As I fought the wind, I thought “Chinook.” My friend in Wyoming could use a wind like that with her sheep out in deep snow. The situation is dire. Deep snow has covered the ground so the sheeps’ usual winter grazing is inaccessible and food — for the sheep, the dogs and the men caring for them — has had to be trucked in. The road is dangerous in winter and there have been numerous wrecks. You can read about it on her blog, Ladder Ranch.

“The warm wind kept blowing
…like a low chant from the land
or like the flurry of far wings…
lapping up the snow…
until the whole body of earth
lay brown and breathing
except for the topknots of buttes
and, away and away,
the high float of mountains…
Promise of Spring.”

A.B. Guthrie, Jr., from These Thousand Hills.

As happens, when we turned around with our backs to the wind, the day felt completely different. Bear found a patch of snow with some appealing scents to roll in. I studied the light changing on distant Mt. Herard. The wind was blowing snow over the Sand Dunes at the base of the mountain. I tried a photograph (featured photo), but the phone does not really have a powerful telephoto lens so it looks like a paint by number painting but you might get the idea.

As I photographed Mt. Herard I saw my reflection in my phone screen. I very very very seldom take selfies because I prefer the illusion to the reality of my appearance, but yesterday it was just too funny.

Bear is pretty well trained, but we’re doing a refresher course. Taking each dog out separately means Bear doesn’t get half a walk; she gets the whole thing to herself. I’m helping her understand that so she’s not in a rush to get to the scents. I don’t know if she understands the theory behind this, but it doesn’t matter. Theories might be for humans. For Bear the reality is we aren’t in a hurry any more because no over-enthusiastic, passionate, little land demon is pulling us. She’s getting it. I realized that yesterday when she stopped in front of me, leaned against me, and wouldn’t move. “OK Bear. We really do have all day.” I swear, she sighed.

I have had a couple of happy blips in my life as an artist. Last week a man in Tennessee did the research needed to find me. He’d bought notecards from my defunct Etsy shop two years ago and wanted more. Yesterday I learned that Colorado Central Magazine wants to run my painting of the Cranes on a Windy Day with the article instead of the photos I submitted from the festival’s media kit. 😊

HFS, Plato at 7 a.m.?

It’s a cold morning in the Bark of Beyond, the coldest yet. And, of course, as THAT would have it, a circuit breaker flipped just at sunrise. Speaking for the sunrise, it was beautiful. Speaking for the dogs, “Yay! She’s up! Let’s help her get dressed!” Speaking for me? It’s all good. Now I’m waiting to see what my supermarket will not have later when I go to pick up my order. I had planned to go Tuesday but, besides the roads, the store had NO YOGHURT. I have NEVER missed a grocery pick-up, but I called in “sick” for that one. Then I thought, “O Brave New World where you call in sick for a grocery pick-up.”

Last night I thought of the original title for my first novel. I wondered where I’d found it long, long, long ago. It was a quote from a Greek philosopher — I imagined Aristotle, but I wasn’t sure. I typed in the title — A Vast Chain of Dancers — and BAM there it was. I started reading and was (surprisingly) deeply moved. It was from one of Plato’s dialogues, Ion, in which Socrates is “talking” to a person named Ion who recites Homer.

I got dim memories of a class and teacher I hated some 40 years ago. It covered a mountain of material, truly 3000 years of literary criticism, in an 8 week quarter, and the teacher had total contempt for his students. He began lecturing while he was walking down the hallway toward the classroom, lectured for an hour. Stopped, everyone rushed out to find a restroom. Exactly fifteen minutes later, he began lecturing again and lectured as he left the classroom at the end of class. Strange and scary man with no tolerance AT ALL for the fact that he had at least 30 years on most of the people in his classes and could not (reasonably) expect them to be where he was, but OH WELL.

Having had a lifetime in the meantime, and forgotten almost everything about that abysmal “learning experience,” I saw the paragraph differently. But I must have seen something magical in it back then, too, or I wouldn’t have lifted the line and put it on top of my first novel.

I’m going to have to read the whole dialogue again. Plato is subtle.

Soc. Do you know that the spectator is the last of the rings which, as I am saying, receive the power of the original magnet from one another? The rhapsode like yourself and the actor are intermediate links, and the poet himself is the first of them. Through all these the God sways the souls of men in any direction which he pleases, and makes one man hang down from another. Thus there is a vast chain of dancers and masters and undermasters of choruses, who are suspended, as if from the stone, at the side of the rings which hang down from the Muse. And every poet has some Muse from whom he is suspended, and by whom he is said to be possessed, which is nearly the same thing; for he is taken hold of. And from these first rings, which are the poets, depend others, some deriving their inspiration from Orpheus, others from Musaeus; but the greater number are possessed and held by Homer. (The Ion)

Oddly, it made me think of Artificial Intelligence. And then it made me think of God in the Judeo/Christian sense — God picking up a lump of clay and breathing life into it. Inspire. For the Greeks inspiration came from the muses, Who the Muses were and what they did? Whoa… THAT was high school, so I consulted that repository of all knowledge:

In ancient Greek religion and mythology, the Muses (Ancient Greek: Μοῦσαι, romanized: Moûsai, Greek: Μούσες, romanized: Múses) are the inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge embodied in the poetry, lyric songs, and myths that were related orally for centuries in ancient Greek culture. Melete, Aoede, and Mneme are the original Boeotian Muses, and Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania are the nine Olympian Muses.

SO…the poet prays to the Muse for inspiration (or maybe the Muse comes unbidden?) and the human poet takes it from there. Fuck. Artificial Intelligence? I laughed.

Plato called this a “vast chain of dancers,” and as well as I understand/remember it, it goes from the gods through the human poet, to the performer, to the audience, each link a step away from the gods but leading to the gods at the same time. The Judeo/Christian god made humans in the image of God. AI. All derivative of something.

I saw this morning as I was making my coffee how dangerous this is, leading as it could to that ONE maddening question, “What’s real, anyway?” I think that was part of Plato’s thing, as well as I remember. Ion, the Rhapsode, reciter of poetry, could portray all the characters of the Illiad but that didn’t make him a general who could lead an army.

Caveat: I’m not afraid of AI. It’s just interesting and useful as a tool. My “worry” is what I would feel if I were teaching writing now. I used an AI program yesterday to help me put finishing revisions on the article I have finished about the crane festival. “OK Grammarly, I finished this, what do ‘you’ see?” It was helpful. Where I am as a writer, I can accept or reject suggestions. I’m not turning in my homework for a grade or ostensibly learning tools I will use later. My doubts and questions about AI in writing are focused on THAT; what would I do if I were teaching writing now? AI would be a problem.

Gone to the Dogs

Another intense week draws to a close but I KNOW better than to complain about it. It could be a LOT more intense and at least as bad. Yesterday I did the 15 questions, one of which was What are you most looking forward to in 2023? I responded that I had no idea and that, “…it’s all big crapshoot.”

The author of the questions didn’t agree that it’s a crapshoot. That’s OK, but I look back on this year and I could NEVER have predicted anything that happened and NONE of it was anything I looked “forward” to. It seemed that things just happened, mostly randomly. As far as I recall the only thing I looked forward to in 2022 was the arrival of the Sandhill Cranes. I can say the same for 2023, but I’m in no hurry. Soon after they leave, the deer flies arrive.

The past couple of years have shaken us all up, I think. Certainly they’ve shaken me up to the point where I’m afraid even to write something on the calendar like it’s going to happen.

I ended up going to the little art show at the museum. Luckily, I got there after the “crowds” had gone. It was quiet, and I felt, pretty safe from the boogie monsters. The fiddle player was there with his dog, Lola. Lola was actually the draw — I saw a little video of Johnny playing the fiddle, and his dog walked through the frame. I’d heard about Lola at the fancy dinner, so I cleaned up (somewhat) and headed out. Lola is a great dog. It was worth the trip. Not just Lola, but the continual sweet surprise of this community. I will never, never get used to it.

Louise, the former director, used to clear out the museum exhibits and turn the museum into a gallery. This was fantastic. The museum has gallery lighting and big, white walls. Lyndsie chose not to do that. It doesn’t affect where I hang my paintings, but it makes the paintings look like just another museum exhibit and people can’t get close to them to look at them. People LIKE to do that. It’s funny, but I don’t really care. I care enough to notice, but not enough to object. In fact, I don’t object. That old saw about “choosing your fights”? Well I understand it now. That’s not my fight. I know Lyndsie had to advocate with the county on behalf of local artists. I don’t know everything that happened in the last days of Louise other than it wasn’t pretty. I love Louise and I like Lyndsie, but most of all, I appreciate the museum. That is my “job” description. “Hi, my name is Martha and I support the museum.” One thing I would like to do in 2023 is find something to do with my paintings. I don’t know what that would be, but I think it might involve driving. Ha ha…



You just don’t know. I got the news that John Patterson — the “Farm Art” guy about whom I wrote an article published last month — died this morning. I want to close the book on this for now so I’m writing this post.

When I saw John at the Potato Festival on September 8, I was sure he recognized me as a person he kind of knew but not really. I mentioned this to my friend Lois who’d just bought something from him and she used my name, “Martha something something.” Then John knew who I was. We chatted — not small talk though still the usual thing about how I ended up here. Everyone is curious about that. I told him that I felt I’d been put here somehow. I told about having painted the area that is the Refuge before I’d seen the San Luis Valley. He said he thought that kind synchronicity happened a lot but people weren’t aware of it. As we were walking back to my house, I thought, “I’ll see if the magazine wants an article about John.” It seemed very important.

As we know, I’m afraid of men at a certain level of my being, and I was a little leery that John might think something that wasn’t the case. I was actually nervous about that when I went out to interview him. He had a strong and magnetic personality that most people felt. I felt it. But ever onward… Still, I couldn’t explain why I felt I MUST write about John. It was a feeling propelled by a kind of urgency.

Our interview lasted two hours and we had a lot of fun talking. He was just that kind of guy who probably never met a stranger. The article wasn’t hard to write even though I had nearly 2 hours of verbiage to condense into about 1000 words. I didn’t make that and the editor asked me to cut 400 but I kind of made her meet me in the middle and it ended up 1200 words.

And so, John, who was in a terrible car crash on November 12, and who has been in the hospital most of this time, died today. The cause of death is not known. I suspect his heart might have given out resulting from the challenges he’s had getting enough oxygen, but I don’t know. And now my article is a eulogy. It’s creepy, like a giant mind — the one that brought me here — reached out and said, “This person has only a couple months left, but he needs his story told BY YOU.” The story helped raise some money for what will now be final expenses. Is that why?

The world is full of good people who are loved by others, most of whom no one ever knows about. They’re not famous except maybe locally. They’re not empty fucks like Elon Musk or the younger royals or the Kardashians. People like John are legitimate human beings, good people, who work, and love, and create from the lovely vision of their minds and eyes. They are part and parcel of their community, home and family. Brilliant, thinking people who aren’t jonesing for empty notoriety. Some call them “ordinary people,” but there’s nothing ordinary about them. There was a moment — after I had written a novel that is actually fucking brilliant, complex, meaningful, inspiring, and beautiful — that I knew that I was one of THESE people. I knew that there were millions of us all across the generations and I was proud — AM proud — to take my place among them. As a young person, I maybe had different ideas, but 38 years in the classroom taught me some important lessons.

A lot of people will miss John. I will. His family is planning stuff like the now popular Life Celebration somewhere down the road (literally). As for me, I’m stunned by the inscrutable power of what John called “Synchronicity” that drove me (and my car) down the road to spend a couple hours with him just two months before he died. Crazy, but that I’m here in this place is also a little crazy.

Here’s the article I wrote about him and shared here on WordPress not long ago. 

To find a little solace, the dogs and I headed out to the Refuge. As we were leaving I was struck by the changing light over the San Juans. I stopped Bella — my Jeep — to watch it, and Cheech and Chong’s silly Santa bit from the olden days came on the radio. I put the Bella in park and took photos of the changing light through my windshield while I listened to that antediluvian silliness and laughed. 

That helped more than anyone would expect.



Meandering Blog Post about My Dilettante Life

In an effort to overcome Covid brain I’ve been doing languages on Duolingo, a free online language program. I don’t like it, but 1) it’s free 2) I have to concentrate. Multi-tasking is (as far as I can tell) the big challenge right now, something highlighted (why not high lit?) by having written the same thing five separate times as I was trying to label my paintings at the museum the other day. Someone was talking to me as I was trying to write — well, print. We won’t mention that I’d already written the labels correctly only moments before, but couldn’t find them (18 inches away from my hand).

I started with Spanish, my best foreign language. It was kind of fun to move ahead from where I’ve been for 50 years. Then, to challenge myself, I turned to Chinese. That was strange. Chinese ideograms were always easy for me to recognize, but not on Duolingo. I have no way to know if it’s my brain or the way the program has decided to “write” them. Also, the program presents Chinese the way it presents alphabet languages which is a little strange, too. But I honestly can’t tell if it’s strange or my brain is strange. And, since my Chinese is primarily directly out of daily life, the practice conversations seemed strange. But then, I never lived in a place where people speak Mandarin, so I don’t really know. Most of the ambient Chinese in my life was in Cantonese — which I don’t speak or understand well. I spoke Mandarin in Guangzhou, but it wasn’t until I visited Hangzhou that I had an actual conversation in it.

It’s funny but even thought mosquitoes were ubiquitous, I never learned to say “mosquito” in any Chinese dialect. I like the word best in Italian, “zanzara.” It sounds like a mosquito sounds. Italian is my second best foreign language but practicing THAT on Duolingo is incredibly noisoso.

I’m a dilettante in everything, the kind of person who walks around in the shallow part of a lake and imagines she’s an Olympic swimmer.

As I was writing Christmas cards, I was contacted by a woman I met at a conference — the SISSI Conference– Society for the Interdisciplinary Study of Social Imagery — really fun, very eclectic, conference. SISSI is long gone. We met what, ten or eleven years ago? She was giving a paper on Goliardic poetry which was mostly sung and written in Latin in the Middle Ages. I guess that’s pretty obscure but it’s right up my alley. When I saw the write up in the program I really wanted to meet her. She’s a classics teacher at Purdue. We had so much to talk about — it was as if we were old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a long time. She’s NOT a dilettante. She can speak and read several iterations of Greek and Latin. She has worked on many translation projects on manuscripts I dream of even just SEEING.

I was giving a paper on the Medieval Leper. I think we might have been the only two medieval topics in the whole show. Anyway, they scheduled us for the same session. I was sitting outside the session room, waiting for my session to begin, reviewing my stuff, and I saw her. She walked up to me, and asked if I were in the next session in that room. I said I was. Then I realized who she probably was, based on the program. I said, “Are you Liz Mercier? I really wanted to meet you!” She was so surprised and told me no one had ever really wanted to meet her. We struck up an instant friendship. I loved her paper and if I ever return to the story of Benedetto, Michele and Gaspar the donkey it’s all because of what I learned from her. Anyway, we both miss SISSI and our annual meet-ups and listening to each other expound on little-known and possibly irrelevant topics.

Anyway, I realized that Covid brain — which is either slowly receding or I’m getting used to it — is worse when I’m nervous, tired, or have been over-stimulated. Both were the case yesterday after all the events of Monday. I found myself struggling with many things that should not be a struggle.

Last night as I fought insomnia (thanks Covid brain), I was thinking that maybe the solution to the painting phobia might be small paintings like those I painted when I first got the natural pigments and didn’t know how they’d work or when I first started doing oil paintings again after not doing any during the forty years since high school.

That painting happened because my stepson and his wife gave me a canvas for Christmas. I loved that present, and the painting was surprisingly successful so I kept at it. Here it is.

A herd of red Angus cattle lived across the street from me and they liked to bunch up against the fence and watch me and the dogs. Their pasture was grass and oak trees with a few boulders interspersed. I liked them a lot.

I kept at it, doing small paintings because paint is expensive and surfaces are also expensive and we won’t talk about frames. The first oil painting I ever sold was one of the cows. It’s the featured photo, 5 x 7. My next door neighbors came to the little art and craft fair at the townhall and bought it, well my neighbor’s wife bought it for her husband for Christmas. I guess the moral of the story is just go try, dammit, Martha.

WordPress’ daily prompt is “Do you have a favorite place you have visited? Where is it?” Here’s my answer. Zürich. It’s in Switzerland.

Another Wonderful Day

Big day yesterday. After my internal conniption fit, I succeeded doing the brave thing. Then I took my four paintings to the museum to hang. As it happened, “my” nails were still in the walls from last year so it was easy, especially because Lyndsie did the the actual hanging, great since I couldn’t find the step ladder. The only bad thing was that when I was writing the titles of my works and prices on my business cards to hang beside the paintings, I wrote the same one 5 times. THAT is Covid brain. THAT is the brain, eye, hand thing that has made me scared to paint. When I saw what I was doing, I laughed, because it IS funny, but it wasn’t funny. It’s frightening. You think, “What if that’s me forever and it gets worse?” AND I’d already written those cards, but I wasn’t sure I had because I couldn’t find them. It happened that Lyndsie moved them, not far away. If I’d looked a little I’d have seen them, but I didn’t. True, I was a little adrenaline pumped from having done the brave, scary thing, but that wasn’t the WHOLE why for that bizarreness… Here are three of my paintings.

When I arrived I saw an old guy (older than me) coming my way. I said “Good morning,” he grunted. “Hmmm,” I thought, and shrugged. Later I learned his name is John. He had never shown his work before. He had about 15 vivid watercolors, pretty nice work, and he turned out to be a very nice guy. Turns out he lives at Homelake, the veterans home that was built here a long time ago for Civil War Veterans. He was so excited to show his work to me. So cool.

Then, another local artist came in — Laura Lunsford — a woman I have always wanted to know better. I walked up to her to say hi and she took my hand. She’s 85. She makes dolls — not normal dolls, but sculptures, really fun and beautiful sculptures with fabric. Other things, too. Her husband — who’s 92 — was bringing in boxes of her things. We ended up in a long conversation about everything — including China! Turns out a person (son?) in their family taught in China, also, married a Chinese woman, long story but that was fascinating. The thing about this place, we might not see people for a year because the “neighborhood” is so far flung. 40,000 people in an area as large as Connecticut…

Lyndsie, the new museum director, bought one of my paintings and left me minding the store while she went to the atm. I made her look at the painting (it was boxed) before I took off with her money. She loves it and was patient with me when I told her about what the paints were made of. Actually, more than patient. Her boyfriend loves rocks and knowing that actual lapis was used to paint Mt. Blanca? Wonderment. “I can’t wait to tell Justin!”

I finally took off for home. When I turned into the road leading to the bank, I saw the little old Hispanic guy who lives nearby was pushing a grocery cart, heading home with food for the week. He’s so small, the cart was nearly as tall as he was. I did a u-y and said, “You want a ride?” He loaded the groceries into the back and I brought him home. He lives in what can only be called the “projects” of Monte Vista — an old motel now apartments. I’ve given him a ride before. I like him. I like the way he talks to my dogs when he walks down my alley.

Finally home, I got Bear alone and we headed to the Big Empty. It was very beautiful — there are fronts hitting the San Juans that may or may not make it over that high-mountain rain shadow. It was wonderful seeing them attempting to crest the mountains and the various atmospheric forces working to keep that from happening. EVERYTHING is written in the skies of the San Luis Valley. The light was beautiful, December light, the low sun and the clouds. Bear got to smell, track and leave scent markings for an hour and I did what I do that might be the equivalent — though for me it’s less about leaving graffiti — pee, in Bear’s case — telling the world I was there than seeing what the world has to say to me.

What did it say? Well, of course, I took the brave thing out there with me to think about, to confer with the great mind. At the very least, doing anything LESS than the scary thing would be unkind. Simple. The light across the Big Empty was very clear about that.

In other news, apparently WP is now posting a daily prompt and calling it that, It was on my new post when I opened it this morning but I found it also on “home.” Well, hmmmmm… Five things I’m good at?

Typing. Listening. Endeavoring. Being outdoors. Hanging out with dogs.