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.

Teaching People To Draw

I can’t. I’ve tried, even making “educational” videos to demonstrate the process, but nothing has ever succeeded in teaching anyone to draw. I couldn’t teach the kids (though they would draw if we played the drawing game — an important message about how to draw which is forget you’re drawing but never mind). I haven’t been able to teach anyone else. These efforts and these failures led me to remember my college drawing classes — probably the only formal drawing classes in my life. We did everything; blind contour drawing where you look at an object and draw it without looking at your paper to see if you’re getting it “right.” Value drawings where you only draw the shadows, no lines (which is valid since stuff isn’t made of lines). All this was just unfathomable to me, but I did it. The classes I liked best were the timed gesture drawing in life drawing classes which were just a naked person on a stage and me with a giant news print pad and a timer. The goal was to capture the motion and the life of the figure without getting every line in each eyebrow. These are normally used as warm-ups but for me they were the whole point. BUT there was ONE class where I learned something about how to draw. I can share this method, but did it “teach” me to draw? I can’t say it did, it just made me a better human being.

I was standing very close to a piece of drawing paper using a number 3 pencil to draw a couple of tiny figures. My teacher stood behind me and watched, then, utterly frustrated, she ripped the pencil out of my hand and said, “Wait!” She returned with a little can of black tempera and a can of white tempera and a 1 inch brush. “Now DRAW!!!” She didn’t say anything about how, she just told me to do it. Then she said, “Get some decent paper.”

That was a life changing moment. Everything I needed to learn as an artist happened right then and there. Risk it. Risk something. Risk certainty. Risk control. Risk. I felt a sense of freedom I had never felt before and I never lost it. In that moment, even though I could draw already, I had the key.

I’ve thought about why it’s so hard — impossible? — to teach. Now I think it’s inside each person, talent, maybe (I don’t know what that is) and the drive to represent the world in images (I believe it’s a drive), but more; the willingness to pick up a large brush and risk. In my teaching attempts that’s what I’ve seen. I think a teacher can teach technique and the use of materials, but somewhere in there a person has to be ready to risk something. I can’t even explain WHAT a person risks because I’m not ever risking anything. To me the danger has always been not doing it. That’s the risk. I WILL get stuff wrong. I have told my “students” “Don’t worry about making mistakes. Just draw. Look at what you’re drawing and draw.”

Completely useless, unconvincing instruction.

I look at the work of some artists and see they are not risking much. I can see that in the fact that their paintings — beautiful paintings — are feats of technique. They know how to do what they want to do, and they do it over and over and over. I respect that. Other artists push against something and I hope I’m one of those. Is it better? No. It’s just…

The other day Ancestry informed me that based on my DNA I’m 60% more likely to take risks than other people. My first thought was, “That’s fucked up. Risk taking isn’t a DNA thing,” but then I thought, “Martha, what do you know? Maybe it is.” There are people who are reckless risk takers (my brother) and there are people like me who take different risks, more measured risks. One thing I could never understand about my immensely talented artist brother is why he would risk himSELF and sacrifice the possibility of making art. Pondering the differences between us I make a division between recklessness and risk; counting the cost.

I choose. One day in the mountains of San Diego County with two dogs a couple of women stopped me on the trail and asked if I wasn’t afraid to hike alone. “There are mountain lions up here.” I knew that but I figured the greater risk was missing out on a beautiful autumn afternoon hike. We all die, anyway. In my mind, solo hiking was not dangerous, but it was. I also figured my dogs were decent insurance against a cougar; at least they’d warn me. Here are the dogs who were with me that day. Ariel, my wolf dog, and her little Aussie/Chow sidekick, Matilda.

So teaching drawing. I tell my “students”, “Don’t be worried about getting it wrong. You will get it wrong.” I think for many of them it’s a risk they don’t want to take. They might take risks in other places, but not there.

I’ve been working on the Rainbow Girls in Wheatland Wyoming for more than year now and I still don’t have it right, but what difference does it make? It will matter when I start the real deal because I’m not using a forgiving medium like oil paint, and everything I’ve had to buy for the project has been expensive for me. Money is probably the biggest risk here.

In art, what you get from making mistakes is knowledge. To draw, a person has to fuck up. There’s no other way to learn. It is a risk.

I’m kind of happy to know that there is a DNA contribution to this, though I’m sure environment has a lot to do with it, too. Do I think it’s a good thing? I don’t think it’s good or bad, but it is informative.

Rainbow Girls in Wheatland Wyoming, 1957 again and/or still

Still working on the light post. I think this is too short and/or needs to be a different kind. The Three Graces are in the right place, so… Probably just scared to start the real thing or I’ve fallen in love with the Conte Crayons. Not sure…

I think the light will have to come from the gas station with maybe a streetlight in the background. In other news, the doc called I don’t need more surgery on my hip. The implant looks fine. I’ve asked for a cortisone shot, but I don’t care that much.

Artist Brains…

One of the ideas of God I got in American Baptist Sunday school that I loved as a kid was that God made — carved? — each one of us individually for a purpose. However and whatever we were, we were meant to be that way and, therefore, worthy of respect as God’s handiwork. That is a beautiful notion and I’m not sure I ever fully let go of it.

Over the last few days I’ve read some interesting articles — one came my way accidentally and the other I found more-or-less on purpose. The first dealt with the role of gossip in human interaction; the second dealt with research into the “artist brain.” The two articles — actually more than two — shared as a theme the idea of belonging.

I don’t like gossip. I’ve seen it destroy organizations. It destroyed the artists coop to which I belonged soon after I first moved here. The article explained that gossip is not all bad because it’s a way humans have of establishing identity, belonging and territory, in other words, establishing who is “us” and Who is “them,” a way of reaffirming bonds. Somehow that all seems obvious. I read the article not so much out of a feeling that I needed to learn about gossip, but because it showed up on Social Media and I’d just attended a tea party where gossip was a primary feature. I understood what was happening (the “meta” message?). We hadn’t seen each other in a month or so and were catching up, not only on the news, but on “us.” As I read about gossip I thought, also, about social media. It’s brought the whole gossip mode of human interaction to a new place, given it a new importance, and it threatens the stability of this nation.

The other article(s) I sought brought me some pretty disturbing information/speculation (not sure). I began thinking about “Rainbow Girls in Wheatland, Wyoming, 1957” more than a year ago. Maybe even seven years ago when the memory wafted through my mind and captured my imagination. I wrote about it here “Going to Billings with Hank, Mom and Kirk.” In that post I wrote about the wonder of seeing Aida performed in Verona. The scene in Wyoming has been like a friendly splinter in my mind.

Anyway, the articles were about research done into the minds of visual artists. Apparently science has found differences between artist’s brains and, uh, other? normal? brains. Two basic differences came out in the articles. First, and most disturbing, is a chemical similarity between the brains of visual artists and schizophrenics. Second, there is a structural difference:

In a study published last year in NeuroImage, researchers looked at the brains of art students and non-artists using a brain scan method called voxel-based morphometry. This type of scan helps scientists look at specific brain structures, and the images from the brain scan look like this:


When the brains of the individuals in the two groups were compared, it was discovered that artists have significantly more neural matter in the parts of their brain responsible for visual imagery and fine motor control. Specifically, those who were better at drawing had more grey matter in the precuneus of the parietal lobe. Unsurprisingly, this region has been linked to creativity and being able to manipulate, combine, and deconstruct visual images. There were additional increases in grey and white matter in the cerebellum and the supplementary motor area, both involved in fine motor control.


There’s also the old song about being an artist and being mentally ill. I read just one article (didn’t want to pursue it) on this topic saying that new “discoveries” connect the brain chemistry of artists to the brain chemistry of schizophrenics. The voices told me not to go into this too much 😉

The popular perception of creative thinkers and artists is that they often also have mental disorders—the likes of Vincent van Gogh or Sylvia Plath suggest that creativity and madness go hand in hand. Past research has tentatively confirmed a correlation; scientific surveys have found that highly creative people are more likely to have mental illness in their family, indicating a genetic link. Now a study from Sweden is the first to suggest a biological mechanism: highly creative healthy people and people with schizophrenia have certain brain chemistry features in common.”


The title of this article is, “The Mad Artist’s Brain: The Connection between Creativity and Mental Illness.” Well that sets it up…

It’s been “proven” that artists have higher rates of mental illness than do “normal” people, but is it a result of their brains or is it a result of the objective challenges artists face in society that non-artists don’t? Is it the result of the way non-artists respond to artists which, I can tell you, is a little strange or, worse, the way artists often respond to OTHER artists? No amount of friendly gossip in the world is going to make artists “belong” with all of these objective obstacles.

I laughed to myself then I thought, “What is it that makes people curious about this at all? Do we smell weird or what? Why is it even interesting? Why am I even READING about it?” At that I took my “extra” gray matter into the kitchen and warmed up left-over enchiladas.

We might not fit in even with excellent gossiping skills; we might smell weird or something, but damn. Without visually creative people I think our world would be greatly diminished. Being an artist is not a pathology, however much science might like to study “it.” Among all the bizarre “determinations” of “science,” they’ve also determined that we can’t help it, which is good. First, our “weirdness” gives the “normals” something to worry about and to keep them busy, and we give the world new ideas, paintings, sculptures, innovations, and visions.

Rainbow Girls in Wheatland, Wyoming, 1957, Sketch 6, Breakthrough

I’ve been really stuck with the “how” of this project even as pieces of the puzzle seemed to come into view. I have really liked the Conte Crayons, how they look and what they’re like to work with. I’ve been practicing on newsprint. Newsprint is a pretty toothy surface, and the crayons like it, but it’s not an enduring surface. It’s two steps above TP. It has given me a sense of how this could work, though. I couldn’t see attempting this on anything other than a board of some kind and my imagination isn’t really “feeling” oil paints. A friend said I’d drawn the “ephemera of motion,” and I realized that that’s it. Movement really IS the story here. The girl and her mom, bro and uncle are only at that gas station for a few minutes. It’s one of those serendipitous things that takes maybe 20 seconds of our lives, but we remember it forever. Oil seemed kind of static (even though I LOVE it). And, this was working every time, and I’m not even good at it. Not sure how to do faces with it, but colored pencils are fine with me. I don’t mind mixing things up at all…

So, a little research showed me that I can get a board for pastels. I’m getting one in gray which will be a foundation for night and will bring the white up which the newsprint does somewhat. The lighting puzzle will be easier to solve on a gray surface and the conte crayons will make it easier. Also, the board will take an underpainting of gouache which is a good way to block in solid areas that don’t want to come forward, like the gas station or the ambient darkness.

I think it will be fun.


Surreal is just a word. If you look straight at reality it’s, uh, surreal. Think about it. What’s more surreal than any single day? What’s more surreal than a whole planet going on about it’s (bizarre) business and being hit by a microbe? To add super-surrealism to that, imagine the most affected species on that planet ARGUING about the reality of that microbe while, ultimately, six million people die? What’s more surreal than a species working daily toward its own destruction and then paying good symbolic wealth (in itself surreal) to watch films or read books depicting dystopian futures? What’s more surreal than a tiny, tiny, tiny bird flying all the way from the Yukon to suck nectar from my Scarlet Emperor Beans for a whole 3 minutes? What’s more surreal than any single day on this planet? It’s not surreal. It’s real. Like me, just now, typing “How many people have died of Covid?” and getting the data for the US as if there were NO OTHER COUNTRIES? And why did I do that? Because I confused the number of people who died during the Holocaust with the number who’ve died from Covid. If THAT isn’t surreal what is? Not surreal. Real. Absolutely totally real. OH and that we refer to THE Holocaust. Wow. I don’t think it’s even possible to count — or describe! — the number of historical holocausts. It’s just the “one” closest to us in time. Our penchant for naming things in order to dismiss them or pay knee-jerk respect to them is surreal. That’s surreal. A great poem that demonstrates the surreality of this naming fetish is The Naming of the Parts by Henry Reed.

On top of this reality we create philosophical structures to help us understand it, and they are completely bizarre, then, to add a skosh of total absurdity to THAT we have wars over them. Or are they just what our species would be expected to do by its nature?

Surreal isn’t all bad. I have a 90 year old pen pal in Seattle. How did I get this penpal? Well, the woman who ran the museum in Del Norte’s husband’s cousin, who became my penpal, wanted my notecards, and preoccupied with the museum and her husband’s extremely surreal death (not surreal, real), she didn’t send them to him. He found my business card and called me. Where did that lead? Well, among other things, the gift of a thermal cup from Starbucks at the Beijing Airport. Not surreal; real. An old man, on the trip of his dreams, through China with his daughter, bought souvenirs that he would have no use for, but he has a friend in the remote valley where he grew up who might value them. Real.

My dogs? “So, Martha, what do you want to do with your life?”

“Thanks for asking Walter (Cronkite). I want to walk dogs.” Everything else has been ancillary, apparently.

Surrealism in art is another thing. “I’m going to paint weird shit to show the world as it really is,” or something. I don’t know, but other than Dada which set out (partly) to depict the horrific reality of WW I to counter the (surreal) propaganda, I don’t think surrealism is nearly as “surreal” as daily life. When my friend, looking at my paintings, made the comment, “What’s your obsession with reality?” I thought, “You’re blind.”

Nowadays when someone says, “That’s surreal,” I just shrug. Clearly they were just born. Our ability to perceive reality? Never expressed more clearly than by Towelee in this episode of South Park

Featured photo: me with a torn ACL back in 1992. The evening after this photo was taken, the Boys on Bikes took me to see Jurassic Park and to dinner at McDonalds. They’d scraped together all their money so I didn’t have to pay because they respected my injury and loved me. Surreal? Or the fact that the hospital refused to repair my ACL with surgery because I had no health insurance?


Here it is. I’ve only painted one or two other things I’ve been really sad to finish, but if you don’t stop when you should, you end up very sorry. As I cleaned the lapis ultramarine from the brush, I might have shed a tear.

In other good news I spent an hour at the Rio Grande County Museum with the new director whom I already knew and liked. The grand re-opening is a month from now. I took a bunch of notecards and learned that they don’t want to do consignment any more, but they want to sell my cards. Yay!

A couple of tourists came in (the museum is also the town/county’s visitor’s center) asking for directions. Somehow the word came out that I’m a painter. The woman asked if any of my paintings were hanging in there. I said no, but I had made notecards of some of my paintings. She wanted to see. I pulled some out. Two of them that I told her about she ended up buying. $20. BUT once again I learned that when someone can talk to the artist and find out something about the story behind the painting, it’s MORE to that person that if it were just something to look at. I told her one of them involved time travel. And showed her, explaining that as she drove out of town she’d see this mountain and these bison, but she’d also see our hospital. Time travel was NOT painting the hospital. This painting is 24 x 36 and is in Maine.

I told her the story behind the big crane painting, too, and how I’d seen him in March 2021 when everyone was still staying home. I explained I’d been out there alone and seen the crane in the willows and thought of him as “my” crane. She was moved by the story and said, “He IS your crane.” Because I gave her something personal, she wanted the images. That’s actually very awesome.

I’ll be helping out a little with the Grand Re-opening, maybe reading a few poems from Shit, Fear and Beauty. I’m very happy the museum is up and running again, and that the new director is a person who actually LOVES the museum. It’s a little place, but its ours and I love it.

Hanging Out with a Friend

Yesterday my friend Perla came to Monte Vista (from Alamosa) to see the eye doc who is two blocks away from my house. We spent three hours talking. It was great. She’s an artist and a thinking person so the conversation was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful and even included a little time spent in my frowzy studio where I introduced her to lapis lazuli ultramarine. She is extremely talented and skillful in a wide, wide, wide variety of things, so I was surprised when I could show her something new. She understood totally when I explained that the paint is like a person to me, a person who wants to help me paint. She laughed, but she got it. I told her about my dream of owning lapis ultramarine with lapis from Afghanistan, and that I’d tried to buy some with my Christmas present money, but the upheaval in Afghanistan meant no one had it. “Don’t feel bad,” I said, “but all I could get is lapis ultramarine with lapis from Argentina.” She’s from Buenos Aires.

That’s when we went to my studio so I could show her the paint. She looked at the painting that’s on my easel drying, the painting of the storm — which she loved — and at the one that’s in progress. “That’s hard. I couldn’t do it.”

“I don’t know yet if I can,” I said. I was, at the time, showing her the lapis ultramarine by putting it on the canvas with my finger. She compared it to indigo which she’d seen growing — and which dye she had used — at her recent experience as an artist in residence at a farm in Arkansas, an experience she’d loved and that had given her great stories and much needed renewal. Jeans are died Indigo. It’s a great blue and in medieval times was used to replace lapis ultramarine for walls and manuscripts. Lapis ultramarine which was expensive and hard to get. There was even a FALSE Indigo, or woad Indigo, that came from a nasty plant that made the ground useless for anything else, it depleted the soil so completely and so rapidly. Still, it’s pretty amazing. Here’s a great explanation and visualization of the difference between real Indigo and Woad. I didn’t argue or “clarify.” There’s no way to know what another person sees when they look at a color AND we look for familiar shades and patterns all the time. The chart below is excellent. The top blue is synthetic ultramarine. They are all great blues. The featured photo of my work in progress is not color true because the underlying ground is not white, but this chart is.

The subject of representational vs. abstract art came up and Perla has always let me know what she wants me to do. I accept that — a push from a knowledgeable person can be helpful in defining direction and everyone’s free to reject it. But knowing her and her work, I listen. Yesterday she said, “You’re obsessed with reality.” That’s true. As a person who lives largely in my head, reality is an important question for me. I’m not a subjectivist; I believe there is an objective reality and that is why I love nature so much. It is what it is whether I recognize it or. not. I WANT to. But as we talked I realized that I don’t see a difference in my work between the stuff I do that’s representational and that which isn’t completely representational. Wanting a tree to look like a tree isn’t, to me, a bad goal because a living thing is only static until you start engaging with it. I quickly find there is more to it than what I recognize as a tree. I realized that I don’t think most of my “realistic” paintings are realistic.

We discussed another artist’s paintings — which are really beautiful nature paintings — and she said, “I don’t like them. Every little thing,” and she made as if she were painting with a tiny brush on a wall. I think his work is lovely, but not exactly what I would paint (obviously). I proclaimed my theory of art, that nothing in nature is what we see, but the life behind what we see. I didn’t add the rest of the idea which is that the life within everything inscrutable and answers to its own demands. The only response I have to THAT is gratitude to nature for letting me in on a little something from time to time.

But the point — to which we both agree — is that it’s all very personal, meaning to the person looking at the work, maybe buying it.

And, of course, we talked about what probably every two artists have spoken about together since the beginning of time. Which is why are we doing this? After looking at my paintings, she became a little frustrated with her work which is felted clothing. I listened while she worked that all out — she makes money from her work and I, obviously, don’t make money from mine. It isn’t that I don’t want to, it’s that no one sees it. So far in my life, when people see it, they buy it. We talked about marketing and promotion — she’s a good saleswoman and goes to shows and has her work in stores. But THAT? In any case if I want to sell at the Crane Festival next year (which I do) she’ll help me by loaning me panels so I can hang my work. Behind the conversation was the immense expense in even getting work out where people can see it and buy it.

It was great conversation, inspiring and fun. Then “What will you do if Trump is elected president again?”

“Perla, remember? We already have a plan. We’re going to Argentina.”

“That’s right Patagonia. Good. Good.” It was a wonderful, wonderful day. And THEN?

Wu Song appeared in the garden and this morning? Two more — Lao She and Pearl Buck. Three have emerged in the house this morning, as well. Looks like I’ll have beans after all. Thank you mysterious forces of the universe that combine a seed, dirt, water and light. They will be growing among several sunflowers who will help hold them up, attract bees and add general amazingness to the garden.

Under a Painting…

The ultimate clock face took a rest yesterday, and we had some actual clouds and maybe fifty or sixty rain drops! In the distance was a lightning storm that set fire to grass near The Great Sand Dunes, some 45 miles/72 km away from me. The fire is already out.

Bear’s superior hearing alerted her to the thunder and that led her and Teddy into the Room of The Bike to Nowhere where they hide in thunderstorms. They were a big help to me doing my balance exercises because Bear kept leaning against me creating a new challenge for which I was grateful.

When I finished my training for the Idiotride (my personal challenge), I saw the wonder and beauty of how the afternoon had shaped up. I smelled petrichor; I felt the cool breeze. Teddy was on to me, and ran out the back door and into the garage fearing I wasn’t going to take him. (But I was!) I leashed Bear and we headed out to the Refuge.

I knew it would be good and it was. I was able to identify a bird I’ve been seeing, an American Avocet. Very pretty small being somewhere in size between a blackbird and a duck, with long legs and a curved bill.

The clouds to the south reminded me of a painting by Georgia O’Keefe. Above the Clouds.

She said she was inspired to paint this (and at least one other) from looking down at clouds from an airplane. The clouds I saw yesterday would have given O’Keefe the same view if she’d been flying from Monte Vista to Ghost Ranch.

The good news is — obviously — that I have a bean. Tu Fu’s little leaves will unfold today. This has been a little lesson in optimism and faith which, together, are synonymous with “do it anyway.”

The featured photo is of some strange stuff that hit my windshield. I just don’t know…


In creativity news, my drawing of the cranes on a windy day is going to be published in the Willow Creek Journal, the literary/art magazine from the Creede Arts Council. I needed this little “pat on the head.” 🙂

Sandhill Cranes on a Windy Day

I still think of turning the drawing into a painting and I probably will since all that can happen is it doesn’t work which is really not such a big deal.

Creativity is strange. I’ve had the word slung at me as a compliment and as an insult. Some of the people I’ve worked with it were convinced that creative people are unreliable, not quite right in the head. Other people have admired my talent (which is just that, talent, not genius) way more than it deserves. Talent is nothing if it’s not honed and developed. It’s like being born beautiful, an accident of genetics. Talent does not equal creativity.

People like Vincent Van Gogh haven’t done us any favors. 😉 The idea that BESIDES being (probably) bipolar, Van Gogh was also a hardworking, disciplined artist just hasn’t gotten through the hype of madness. So much effort and attention has gone into posthumously appreciating and understanding Van Gogh and truly, I think he might be past caring but there we are. Looking at art through time — all of it — I see imagination, discipline, and necessity. I will always (mildly) wonder what kind of artist he would have been if people had bought his paintings. I think it might have been the best thing for his work (not him) that people didn’t.

Goethe — who was pretty creative — shared that idea, that as a writer he might have been better if it had not been for the meteoric popularity of Sorrows of Young Werther. That book — and its sad story and tragic fallout — followed him most of his life. He even tried running away from it, incognito, to Italy.

For me, Federico Fellini defined creativity best.

“I hate logical plans. I have a horror of set phrases that instead of expressing reality tame it in order to use it in a way that claims to be for the general good but in fact is no use to anyone.

I don’t approve of definitions or labels. Labels should go on suitcases, nowhere else.

Myself, I should find it falls and dangerous to start from some clear, well defined, complete idea and then put it into practice. I must be ignorant of what I shall be doing and I can find the resources I need only when I am plunged into obscurity and ignorance. The child is in darkness at the moment he is formed in his mother’s womb.

Essentially, to me, creativity is this; “Here you are. This is what you have. What are you going to do with it?” A person doesn’t have to be an artist to creatively engage with that question and solve that problem.

Featured photo: Me getting ready to go meet a friend at Bassam’s Coffee House in downtown San Diego, afterwards we’d go to Cafe Sevilla, October 31, 1993, the very day Fellini died.