Breath of change

One of the best parts of a regular routine lap-swimming is the focus on rhythmic breathing. Another is the sense of entering into a different environment. The water makes me more aware of my movements and muscles while eliminating all sorts of distractions. As I get deeper into a work-out, I find it takes great concentration just to keep count of the laps . I devise various patterns; four breaststroke; six alternating backstroke and breaststroke, four breaststroke; six alternating crawl and elementary backstroke... Letting go of the concentration required for counting and patterns in exchange for the total peace of breathing and muscle rhythms is seductive. Sunday's swim felt like I didn't even have a body. It seemed effortless and timeless. Fortunately, the impending disintegration of my swimsuit's spandex from all the chlorine kept me tethered to the mortal realm!

There is a similarity between swimming and backpacking/hiking. There is an expanding of the energy in the upper chest that is clarifying. I am more able to trust that energy and clarity with swimming, probably because there are fewer variables. Maybe it's because most of my backpacking experiences occurred in the context of a very dysfunctional marriage. I do know that putting on a backpack or daypack instantly changes my breathing, posture, stride/rhythm, and observation/awareness of my surroundings. I'm thinking I should put on an imaginary backpack every morning when I wake up.


Photographing buildings

It never occurred to me as I was walking around the University of New Mexico campus taking digital photos of the buildings that Tom Ridge might arrest me. Thank heaven I didn't end up in a cell on Guantanamo! I just wanted images to show my high school senior son to explain this lovely campus.

Few people would look at me and yell, "Terrorist spy!" That's a good thing, and it's mostly that I look every bit the nearly fifty mother of three grown kids that I am. My hair is chrome colored, my shoe choices are based on comfort, and my body is pear-shaped. As an art teacher I am more afraid of students losing control of bodily functions in my class than of airplane hijackers. But we can't just go by appearances anymore. We can't use common sense to decide what or who is a potential threat. And so, I am glad that none of the dog-walkers, bicyclists, or joggers on the UNM campus Sunday morning called the cops to notify them of my aberrant photographing.

I don't know the truth about the Pakastani man who photographed that Texas dam and buildings around the country. I did run into some photos I took at a dam near Yankton, S.D. on a vacation in the Sixties when I was looking for an old scrapbook to show my students. We will be talking about how artists use memories as inspirations. We had a lot of fun at that lake long ago, wading, and taking a tourist boatride, as I recall. I've taken photos of sensitive buildings in Washington, D.C., too, on more than one vacation. I've even taken photos in airports, mostly of little boys wearing Texas Rangers baseball caps.

A few posts back I wrote about buying some packing tape at Walmart to close the battery compartment on the digital camera. It was a good thing, too, because I used that tape to seal a box of books I mailed home to myself from Santa Fe. I used it to keep the poster mailing tube shut before I checked it at the Albuquerque airport. I was afraid I would forget my Georgia O'Keeffe and El Malpais posters in the overhead bin when I deplaned if I carried the tube on board. I did have enough sense to throw away the tape cutting edge once I sealed the tube, and before I entered the airport. I'm not a box-cutter maniac! I kept the packing tape, though. You never know when I might need to make a large papier mache animal.

This is outside the UNM Student Union looking toward the Sandia Mountains.

Here's the atrium of the UNM undergraduate art building.

The UNM campus is much more green than I had expected. I saw two weddings being held at the duck pond.

Let's think a bit. When cameras become illegal, only criminals will have cameras?


Scheduled maintenance

Stopped in at my eye doctor's office and had my glasses adjusted. This is my week for boring real life stuff. Prescription refills, car repairs, ironing, bill-paying, cleaning, making appointments, and, in my case, sorting recyclables for future art projects. Lesson plans for the next month need to be written, but I can't quite get into the mindset for that. At least the adjustment of my specs eliminated my headache. My week in New Mexico was for rose-colored glasses. This week is for lineless bifocals.


The Elephant's Child

Thank heaven that I've been given "insatiable curiosity" like Kipling elephant's child. And thank heaven my mom read me Kipling's stories while we rocked in the yellow Eames rocker. Curiosity is one of life's great gifts. For many years of my marriage it was too dangerous a package to open. Thank heaven for a wonderful therapist. My trunk may be much longer than it was a dozen years ago, but my life is infinitely richer. O, best beloved:

Ask questions!
Keep learning!
Expand your horizons!
Fire all your senses into warp speed!

You have entered a carrot no fly zone

The high school lunch bunch is back! My schedule finally allows me to resume feeding this gang one noon a week. Today there were six seniors, all guys. The girls haven't been joining them for lunch, possibly because the gang hadn't been able to go to homes much. Moms can't always change from summer schedules to fall at the same time as our schools (which started up on the ridiculous fourth of August)!

I'm glad Stephen can join the bunch this sememster. Steven and Stephen are a bit like Darryl and his other brother Darryl from the old "Newhart" show (or from my auto repair shop). Either of them are capable of showing up with the round-table discussion topic equivalent of a varmint in a burlap bag. The film-makers are back, and the theater techie, and the very funny physicist. They brought their appetites, too. They like to come to lunch at my house because they don't have to worry about messing anything up. They aren't slobs, and they always clear up after themselves, more or less. It's just that my condo has been more of a guys' locker room than a Martha Stewart Living home for so long it just gives off that vibe. When all my sons move out I plan to burn the carpet, the couch, the armchair, all the muddy cleats left at the front door... It will be quite a marshmallow roast.

Back on 3/26/2004 I blogged about the Carrot Bowl competition invented at a lunch bunch lunch. You can look it up, but it involved place-kicking carrot sticks toward the mini-blinds and impaling them on the slats. It was too funny to get agitated about, although I did quit serving carrot sticks for the rest of the semester. When I put out the bowl of carrots today, I just posted a sign on the mini-blinds, "This is a carrot no fly zone." There aren't any WMDs here, but two-thirds of the guys removed the dangerous cucumber slices from their grilled turkey/avocado/swiss on wheat sandwiches. I just wanted to add a little crunch now that I'm a bold jicama convert.

When these guys head off to college next year I sure hope they plan some lunch bunch reunions over winter break. I'll be sure to serve carrots.


In My Room

That is my fantasy in both personal and professional spheres. My own room! How splendid. Space. Quiet. Privacy. Control, I guess. Maybe I'm tired of sharing. Maybe I don't play well with others. Maybe I have unresolved issues related to the birth of my brother in 1958, for crying out loud. Or maybe I just want to be the creative scenic director for this production.

Here are the Beach Boys' lyrics in case you need a fix:

There's a world where I can go and tell my secrets to
In my room, in my room
In this world I lock out all my worries and my fears
In my room, in my room

Do my dreaming and my scheming
Lie awake and pray
Do my crying and my sighing
Laugh at yesterday

Now it's dark and I'm alone
But I won't be afraid
In my room, in my room
In my room, in my room
In my room, in my room

Now, that's darker than I had in mind. I just want to create a teaching environment with plants, rocks, shells, surprises, lizards, turtles, magnifying glasses, prisms, and maybe an aquarium. I'd like to hang a birdfeeder and windchimes outside the window, and plant canna bulbs or sunflowers. I want to sprout sweet potatoes and let the vines go every which-way across the suspended ceiling. Newsprint and markers on the shelves for sketching... Maybe even twinkly lights sparkling on a garden arch... An art room should be a magical place. That is true whether you are a preschooler or a college student. Professor Butt's classroom was as much a conservatory for bromeliads as it was a classroom for watercolor students. I will take my bromeliads to work this year. [I can see the media campaign for National Take Your Bromeliad to Work Day].

I like having a puzzle table in my classroom. Puzzles help kids learn to visualize and manipulate shapes. And building toys! How can we create our own building systems for structures and mobiles this year? I am still pondering that afghan of crocheted recording tape that I saw at the Albuquerque Museum of Art.

Visiting the Girard Collection at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe reminded me that art is about play. The wonderful processions of miniatures from one hundred different countries aren't really so different from my students' creations of castles, troll houses, castaway islands, and jungle safari camps with tiny clothespin people. As I toured the museum I watched many young families. I have never seen kids so engaged at a museum--well, except for maybe little boys at the battle diorama at the Alamo.

One Step Ahead of the EPA

If I had a good car, I would live in squalor. The only time I deep clean is when my car is in the shop. I can't go anywhere today, so I've been sweating with the moldies, and the dust bunnies, and the greasy cobwebs. I've even sandblasted the microwave, and that's staying the course! It's exhausting and disgusting work, and keeps me from pondering the hideous cost of the repairs and maintenance.

A CollageMama Serenity Secret: Cleaning the upstairs bathroom of teen sons is an effective way to banish fearful thoughts about expensive car repairs.

Sometime this week the Buick odometer will turn to 100,000.0 miles. So the Buick could celebrate and have a little ego booster, I wanted to send it to a day spa for a tirecure, and some chamois pampering. Can't you see the cucumber slices over the headlights while it has a relaxing soak in hot carnuba wax? Instead it is getting front and rear brake jobs, lube, transmission service, and some kind of bolts that broke off when Darryl and his brother Darryl were evaluating the brake situation. Even for a '96 Buick Skylark this doesn't sound like the equivalent of kicky hot pink sandals and a matching handbag. So I am getting the Skylark a flirty new driver's side window motor so it can pull up and roll down next to graphite gray Mercury Cougars at stoplights and say, "Hey, Baby!"

After driving the rental car for a week, I forgot that my window could be rolled down but not back up. Oops! I hope to have my car back tomorrow with brakes that work, and even a window that I can roll down at tollbooths for a change! After that, I will check out the gently-used record store for a recording of "Don Giovanni". Of course I will have no money once I have working brakes and windows. It is a vicious cycle. Let's diagram it this way:

car works >>> condo is a pit >>> can go anyplace >>> have no money to do anything when I get there,
car doesn't work >>> condo is fit for habitation >>> can't go anywhere >>> have no money anyway
desperately want Domino's to deliver a sausage pizza.

I've never had a toll tag, mostly because I've never gone anywhere. [See Diagram A.1 above] Lately I've realized that I will probably have my arm ripped off when I'm hit from behind in the toll lane should I actually get to leave the condo. There I will be, trying to throw the coins into the basket-chute with my car door ajar in the narrow lane. Some impatient pick-up driver or momentarily distracted SUV parent will ram into the Skylark. My arm will fly off into the basket. This will tie up the toll lane, and bring the radio station traffic helicopters. It will be inconvenient for metroplex motorists, to say the least.

The non-functioning driver's window is a major nuisance in parking garages and the drive-thru bank, too, but it does cut down on my drive-thru fast food consumption. And, yes, I want fries with that.

Larry the Shark

Got to read one of my favorite picture books to the kids today. It's called Punia and the King of Sharks: A Hawaiian Folktale. Elementary kids love it! Kids are fascinated by sharks in the same way they are fascinated by Egyptian mummies and the Titanic. I once read a Bailey White interview or story about inspiring kids to read by setting a shelf of books about the Titanic in the first grade classroom. The kids were desperate to become better readers so they could find out more about the Titanic. What a powerful example of self-motivation.This is the beginning form for our giant shark. We will start the papier mache tomorrow, but today we had to work out the form. The shark is about six feet long. We began with a cardboard tube from inside upholstery fabric, crossed by a shorter, wider tube from a roll of butcher paper. We added a huge bottle from an Ozarka dispenser, but I don't really recommend that. I was hoping for a trash bag full of small Ozarka water bottles, but the donor's roommate mistook it for garbage! Imagine that. We did use about three dozen small bottles to add bulk without much weight. We also used Styrofoam egg cartons, meat trays, and mushroom containers, foil pie pans, coat hangers, and four rolls of clear packing tape.

We looked at photos of sharks, and did some careful analysis of shapes. I presented the seven and eight year-olds with a Trojan Horse scenario: You have made an emergency landing on an island inhabited by two tribes that have been at war for a long time. You realize you could help the tribe that has befriended you if you could show them how to make a mock giant shark. You do not speak their language, but you have all the different things that wash up on the island available to use to make the shark. This led to some really imaginative diagramatic drawings. Several kids drew cross-sections to show the oarsmen sitting on benches inside the fake shark. Others drew cut-aways to a high tech control room. Two kids drew instructions for chopping down palm trees. One drew specifications for sharp carving tools to shape the shark eyes. The best drawing involved a system of pulleys to lift the fake shark up into a tree during construction, and provided a security force of soldiers with bows and arrows. One student elaborated on the scenario to have the fake shark appear to leap from the water while being controlled from a small submarine. Some drew their shark being made from all the recyclables, and some showed the various equipment needed. One shark appeared to be grinning at the thought of eating a pair of scissors. That led to a fun discussion of the weird things really found in the stomachs of sharks, like a full suit of armor!With the five and six year-olds, we worked more on figuring out how to draw a shark using lots of triangles. We also folded pieces of paper into triangles for shark teeth the way an honor guard folds an American flag. It was hard work, but a shark has rows and rows of teeth, so we were up to the task. We will keep the shark around the school for a long time. It will be fun when kids come back and show their friends our group creation. They will say, "I helped when we made the giant shark," in the way old-timers said, "I was there when they drove the Golden Spike!"

In this photo our shark is nearly finished. Some students want to name it Bruce, while others prefer Larry. We have used gray tissue paper to make the finish, rather than painting the surface. The students have united through their ownership of the shark.


Morrill Hall


Go in this link to "Galleries", and then to the "Natural History Series 2003-04". Ian Van Coller is a photographer who finished his MFA at UNM in 2003. This series was on display at the university art museum along with a display of Taos modernists. I loved his artist's statement comparing museum dioramas (using stuffed specimens, natural materials, and impressionistic background paintings}, to his process using photographs and printmaking. He is originally from South Africa.

The skunk diorama in the basement of UNL's Morrill Hall is one of my earliest vivid memories. The baby skunks and the stump and the painted rosy pink sunrise background linked with Hershey's kisses wrapped in crinkly foil with that little flag is such a multi-sensory memory that it will probably be the last view I have before I visit the big natural history museum in the sky.


Two Favorites

From Pierre : A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue, by Maurice Sendak:

Arriving home
at six o'clock,
his parents had
a dreadful shock!

They found the lion
sick in bed
and cried,
"Pierre is surely dead!"

I arrived home at seven o'clock, but that would have been six in New Mexico. Mike met me at the airport in his black Dodge Intrepid. He had on his sunglasses, and looked very much like Tommy Lee Jones. As we left Love Field he picked up his cell phone and called Steven at home. "Start the spaghetti in fifteen minutes," he told him. I expected him to say "Over and out!" Had my sons synchronized their watches??? If we went through a tunnel, would the Intrepid kick it up to warp speed?

You might suspect me of recreational use of Dramamine (rhymes with "Drama Queen"), but that was not the case. This was the first flight I ever made without Dramamine, because I was feeling so darned relaxed. I did have some trouble with plugged up ears. When Mike commented that I hadn't ever flown very much, I mistakenly thought he was sad that I didn't phone home very much. Yeah, right!

When we got back to the condo Steven really did have the spaghetti ready. Spaghetti and a half cup of Ragu. Apparently there's nothing else edible left in the house. Steven, Mike, a friend-girl, and I sat down to supper. Mike spooned into the spaghetti and lifted up the entire glob. "Probably should have used more olive oil," he said. I promised that I would go to the grocery store right after this dinner. I sure hoped the boys would still be home to haul in all the groceries. Mission Control, we have re-entry!


From the NY Times

"How Can You Tell if a Violin Is Really, Really Happy? Listen", by Jeremy Eichler, page B1.

An addiction is a powerful thing, even if it is an addiction to NY Times crossword puzzles. By Thursday I needed Will Shortz BAD! As wonderful as my vacation had been, I was at sea. I couldn't tell down from across. If measures weren't taken immediately, I might forget that Asta was Nick and Nora's dog, a Key contraction was o'er, and Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace prize in 1984. I might have to go back to working the puzzle in #2 pencil instead of ink. How humiliating!

Funny thing. When you buy the $1.00 crossword puzzle you get the newspaper for free! Is America a great place, or what?! I read stories about Renzo Piano, Gertrude Bell, Wilma Mankiller, and Anne Midgette's review of the Santa Fe Operas in just one section.

There's a lot of talk about voter virgins this election year. Voter virgins don't read a newspaper on a regular basis. They don't know about blissful double basses or Renzo Piano's new spiderman cathedral in Italy. How sad to not know what's going on in the world so you can be an informed citizen!

Sandia Crest Tramway

Thanks to a middle-aged friend for explaining that neither of us have "crested" yet. That's reassuring to know, but I do like the crested crane hairdo. When I reached the Sandia Crest Tramway in Albuquerque a storm was brewing. Two storms, actually, both approaching the Sandia mountains from the west. To the northwest I watched a group of dust devils traveling parallel to county roads. Slightly south, I watched a rain storm cloud darken from blue gray to rich, velvety, swirling CHARCOAL BLUE. Amazingly, I am transported to memories of our neighbors' long-haired blue-gray cat forty years ago.

Homing in on the Range

I had so much fun having dinner at the Range Cafe on Menaul (location #3) in Albuquerque, that I had to arrange my departure from Santa Fe to allow a late lunch at the original Range Cafe on historic Route 66 in Bernalillo. My boss has been giving workshops on creative visualization of prime parking spots, and this time her technique worked. I saw myself parked in front of the Range, and sure'nough there was a parallel parking spot by the front door with my name on it. I even parallel-parked in only one try, and I can't remember when last THAT happened!

Walking into the cafe I felt washed over with a warm and timeless vibe. This place feels like it was there before the beginning, and will be there after the end. The word that sprang to mind from my high school Greco-Roman history (not wrestling) class was omphalos; the center, the navel of the world. How strangely wonderful to feel totally at home in a place one has never been!

Now in Albuquerque I had the Hoosier pork tenderloin sandwich, and I had expected to have another one. I'm sort of the poster child for vanilla ice cream. "Food" and "unknown" and "try" are not words that meet in my language. My normal menu anxieties were far, far away. You might like to read The Range Cafe menu. What sounds good to you?

I ordered a chef salad even though it contained a previously untasted vegetable, jicama. Tasted it bravely and boldly and liked it. So don't say I wasn't adventurous on this trip! Then I had an orgasmic piece of Roadhouse Chocolate Cake, which is as close to getting lucky as I could do for you ladies.... If you had tasted it you would know why I bought the souvenir t-shirt!

Bees in Hell

What a luxury to have another day at the Girard Collection. This time I went through it backward just to absorb the objects, rather than the descriptions. There are surprises at every turn. What wit and wisdom assembled and arranged this collection! Way back in a corner I reach the angel collection. Not to be forgotten, Girard has a collection of devilish figurines from many cultures. The bees in hell are my favorites! My visions of hell regularly include annoying insects, but these bees seem to be especially annoyed about being dressed in bug costumes and pressed into underworld service. I think they were expecting bigger tips.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Have to fess up right up front. Canyon Road makes me claustrophobic. I can't see any horizon! The road is mighty narrow. I did know I needed to visit this famous collection of Santa Fe galleries, but I didn't exactly imagine why. When I reached the historic gardens of El Zaguan I thought I had found my purpose. What a beautiful spot!

My wandering eventually led me to Housang's Gallery. I've put in a link over there on the right. This gallery had large photos of rusty old cars and trucks. No 1961 Plymouth Sport Furies, but a wide spectrum of rust colors to enjoy. When I started to select the poor man's art form, the art greeting card, the woman behind the counter introduced herself as the photographer. Soon Barbara Bowles and I are in a discussion of junkyard dogs as dangers on our rusted vehicle photo shoots. I explain about my never-finished quilt of Kansas storms through car windows made with dyed and distressed fabrics. Barbara explains the process of scanning her negatives then correcting the colors in Photoshop. What great fun! Our chat becomes more personal and specific. Barbara tells me that she has the best results using 3M framing tape instead of archival glue sticks. That probably sounds petty to anyone who has never tried to create photo greeting cards, but it was the equivalent of telling the location of pirate's gold. Soon we were pondering the best college education choices for my high school photographer son. Please check out the link for the "Pickup Artist". Barbara has some great discoveries in her auto photo series. I really appreciate her willingness to discuss arts and education.

Pharmaceutical rep

I went to the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival performance this evening. Ticket sales haven't been real good, apparently. There were a lot of vacant seats. I had an aisle seat, so I didn't move forward. I am always grateful for extra leg room. Sitting up all prim and proper and cramped makes me crazy. A boorish tourist couple was sitting next to me. The man was chewing a toothpick, for crying out loud. I was probably one of the youngest people in attendance. The Lensic Performing Arts Hall reminded me of the Stuart Theater in Lincoln where the touring Broadway shows like "The Sound of Music" and symphony concerts were held before it got turned into a movie theater. Stencilled gold decorations, ornate light fixtures, boxes for the King and President Lincoln...Can you say "loge", boys and girls? The Lensic was not as groovy as the Orpheum Theater in Omaha, which was more of a gilded opera house. I got to see Jean-Luc Ponty and Alvin Ailey there. Sorry, I digressed. The trio came on stage for the Beethoven Trio in E-flat Major for Violin, Viola & Cello, Op. 3 (before 1794). The trio consisted of two old guys in white dinner jackets, and Amanda Forsyth, cello. Amanda is totally tan, blond, wearing a low-cut white top with spaghetti straps, tight white pants, a chiffon sarong around her skinny hips, and Cinderella sparkly glass high-heeled sandals. I thought the guy next to me would swallow his toothpick. It was like half the audience had the air knocked out of them, and then collectively went, oooophf! They were extremely grateful and appreciative when she bowed.

After intermission, a new ensemble came on stage, but Amanda was back, positioned in the center. By the end of the Septet in E-flat Major for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Violin, Viola, Cello & Double Bass, Op. 20 (1799-1800) the geezers were ready to jump to their feet and give a standing O, with special bravos and wolf whistles for the cellist. This woman could really boost Viagra sales. Forget Bob Dole.


No Parking in the Flow Zone

Maybe it's just because I haven't had much sleep, but finding a parking space near the Plaza in Santa Fe seems like bartering with Ursula, the Sea Witch in the "Little Mermaid". I've lost my voice, but still, I am unperturbed. If I had my blood pressure cuff, I bet I would register in the twinkly star happy face rainbow sparkle sticker range.

Once I find a parallel parking spot, I am loathe to surrender it. Of course I don't know where I am after driving around block after block in search. Still, I find my way to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. And it is FABULOUS! FABULOUS! The exhibit is called, "Georgia O'Keeffe and New Mexico: A Sense of Place". Sense of place is what my trip is all about. I am drawn to the images of the black places.

What wonderful landscapes! All around me whiny tourists are pestering the guards with, "But WHERE are the flowers?????" No wonder the guards are pacing like the caged tigers at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo!

These landscapes are pared down to the essentials. Distractions have been banished. Somehow a sudden downpour seems an answer to a prayer. Santa Fe is desperate for rain, only partly because it is watering those golf courses for the rich and famous. The rain keeps many tourists in the museum gift shop. I have been breathing the paintings in and out amidst an enlarged sense of open space. Now I'm trapped in the tiny gift shop with MANY people wanting Red Poppy souvenir keychains. When the rain slows it feels good to break out into the street, even if I don't know which way to head. I bumble into a store with Flax clothes on sale.

Finding the Santa Fe Museum of Fine Arts seems to give me focus. The museum is also the box office for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. There are tickets still available for the Beethoven evening featuring Pinchas Zukerman. Upstairs there's a dandy group of prints and paintings about making music. Naturally, the pieces I really want reproductions to show my students aren't available in the gift shop. You will just have to imagine a Red Grooms' piece of Fats Domino playing Blueberry Hill. Please see my rant of 7/13/04 about special exhibits without postcards. AARRGH!

Lost Wax

(No ear wax! This is a hoity-toity fine arts blog!)

I've been traveling with four invisible vicarious companions on this solo trip. My parents love frequent updates, and my bosses want juicy details. Enquiring minds want to know, don't ya know? I feel like the star of my own reality show!

Have you gone to the Shidoni foundry?

Yes. It turns out my mom's sister granddaughter has large kinetic wire sculptures in the Shidoni Sculpture Garden. I arrived at the Sculpture Garden pretty early for having had four hours of sleep after the opera, plus a Denny's Original Grand Slam breakfast. I wandered around, but didn't find anything that fit my misguided preconception about this second cousin's art. When I found the gallery guy and explained that I needed help finding her sculptures, Dave went into an absolute rapture about Reven. (I haven't seen her since she was three--at least thirty years ago.) I will put up a link since I was very excited about Reven Marie Swanson's sculptures. They were bright, joyful, playful kinetic wire sculptures of flying women. I felt an immediate artistic kinship stronger than any shirttail family relationship. This woman ROCKS!

My new buddy Dave also gave me info about a fabulous sculpture by Joe Barrington of a giant bass loaded into an ancient pickup truck. Since my students had just finished the papier mache shark, I thought they might like information about the giant bass! I'll try for some links here, too.
Dave made sure I took a tour through the Shidoni foundry. That's where the lost wax comes in. The foundry is working on a thirty-six foot-tall equestrian conquistador statue for the El Paso airport. I could park a rental Kia Rio in the helmet! It's time for me to plan the fall session of art classes, but I don't think my little students will be doing any bronze casting!

Red Rover, Red Rover

Scott Cantrell's review of the Santa Fe Opera production of "Don Giovanni" in the Dallas Morning News was pretty tough on the totally red and pink set by David Zinn. Noelle and I liked it. The patterns across the building fronts reminded me of over-dyed Indian bedspreads from Pier One that I had in college. The hippie Summer of Love vintage seems appropriate for the legendary Don Juan.

I wish Zinn had thought more about the costuming. The colors worked, but the time periods didn't make sense. If he wanted to remove the production from an historical time-frame he could have gone way more eccentric, or way more tame. Half of each didn't do it. I liked the private eye Baretta trench-coat look for Leporello, but the other males needed something beyond leather coats. Are we thinking Brando? Gatsby? Hamlet? 007? And even if he is dead, the statue of the Commendatore needs to look more weathered. Most of the lighting was too dim for persons of my advanced age, but when the statue appeared it was bug-zapper spotlight on chicken pieces just rolled in flour for frying. If we are going in that direction, why don't we just do it in black light???

I've been rather recently added to the list of Don Giovanni's conquests. The comparison of this opera to "Hamlet" makes sense. There are so many ways to interpret it. So far, Donna Anna has been a big dud. She's engaged to the safe wimp, Don Ottavio, but doesn't really want him, and who can blame her? She's known all along who murdered her father, but she still finds the murderer attractive. Why does she just stand in one spot singing? With so many internal conflicts how does she keep from physically using the entire stage to express them? This is a woman with serious ISSUES. What kind of car would she drive?

And speaking of vehicles, what was the idea behind the hedge that rolls on stage from the right in Act II? As I mentioned, the whole set is red and pink. So is the hedge. Its function could easily be replaced by a fence of any sort. But, NOOOOO! We have the giant mutant Brillo woolly caterpillar from Mars!!
Thanks so much to Spirit and Opportunity for finding life on the Red Planet:
Red Rovers Come Over

Muu-muu for Mozart

I have expounded previously about the impact of the musical, "Gypsy", on my formative years. I haven't spent enough time on an analyst's couch to really sort out the effects of, "Sing out, Louise!," on a person with Louise for a middle name. I do know that I can't see a woman in a muu-muu without launching into "Dainty June And Her Farmboys":

Extra! Extra! Hey, look at the headline.
Historical news is being made.

Extra! Extra! They're drawing a red line
around the biggest scoop of the decade.

A barrel of charm, a fabulous thrill,
the biggest little headline in vaudeville!

Presenting--in person--that 5' 2" bundle of dynamite--
[drum roll]

Hello, everybody! My name is June! What's yours?

[music playing]

I have a moo cow, a new cow, a true cow named Caroline.

Moo, moo, moo, moo.

She's an extra-special friend of mine.

Moo, moo, moo, moo.

I like everything about her fine.

Moo, moo, moo, moo.

She likes to moo in the moonlight when the moody moon appears.
And when she moos in the moonlight,
gosh, it's moosic to my ears. She's so moosical.
She loves a man cow, a tan cow, who can cow her with a glance.

Moo, moo, moo, moo.

When he winks at her she starts to dance.

Moo, moo, moo, moo.

It's what grown-ups call A real romance.

Moo, moo, moo, moo.

But if we moooved to the city, or we settled by the shore,
she'd make the mooove 'cause she loves me more!

It was a night made for moosic with Mozart at the Santa Fe Opera! I was sitting on a bench watching sequined elderly ladies wheel their oxygen tanks past, and scarcely-attired voluptuous young women, who must not have received the memo about the cool evening breezes at this outdoor venue, click by on dangerous shoes.

I was not sequined. I was in fairly safe shoes and malachite jewelry. Surely I have told the Sunday School teacher story in this blog at some point. My little sister, Dainty June, raced out of her Sunday School class to report that her teacher was wearing "high heels and pearls!" [Malachite is the mineral "for balance", so I feel compelled to explain that I was wearing clothes, too.]

You can wear just about anything to the Santa Fe Opera. I doubt anyone would be surprised to see the Sunday School teacher. And to complete the fashion picture, there was a robust couple in matching muu-muu and Hawaiian shirt! Tres Butterick! I feel inspired to create some operatic muu-muu animals when I get home.

Superhuman AND Nonexistent

The only for sure thing at the Santa Fe Opera's performance of "Don Giovanni" is the elevation of the tailgate picnic to a fine art form. Forget Wimbledon's strawberries and the Derby's mint juleps. I have a friend who should quit her day job and become an opera tailgate banquet consultant.

Got to the opera early enough to attend the first "prelude" lecture. What fun! The old ladies with their wheely oxygen tanks and I grooved on the insights of the handsome young tenorish lecturer. I am beginning to understand the comparison of "Don Giovanni" to "Hamlet". There are so many ways to interpret the opera. Is it a conflict between lust and respectability? Is it about revenge vs. forgiveness? Is it about the mystery of what women really want? Our lecturer indicated that we might be added to the Don's list as we became fascinated with the questions.

After the lecture I had time to loiter around the box office waiting for our wonderful Noelle and her young man. What splendid people-watching! What cloud and mountain watching!

On the way to the opera I saw this wonderfully effective sign in a construction zone:

Please slow down. My daddy works here.

The opera, art museum, and chamber music gift shops were all about fancy shawls of velour and lace or beads. Back on Saturday when I went to the Albuquerque Museum of Art I saw an afghan crocheted of cassette recording tape. Maybe there's a market for something in the middle!


Alexander Girard


My visit to the Girard Collection at the Museum of International Folk Art was like a pilgrimage to a spiritual home. This is the most playful art exhibit on earth. I can't begin to explain its impact. It is too much to take in during one visit.

Girard was a buddy of my fantasy dinner party guests, Charles and Rae Eames. I may have to invite him next time I revise the guest list!

The only thing missing from this incredible collection of toys, miniatures, and textiles is kites. This is surprising since Girard was a designer for Braniff Airlines during its Calder plane phase. Flying toys must have been in his radar screen.

Walking the labyrinth

This is the day I've been looking forward to for the whole summer. Today I will visit the Museum of International Folk Art, and tonight I will attend the Santa Fe Opera production of Don Giovanni.

My previous visit to Santa Fe with young boys did not allow much time in art museums. And that was a good thing for everyone but me! We have wonderful memories of Bandelier's cliff dwellings, the Los Alamos science museum, hikes in the ski area, wading around Nambe Falls, and taking other excursions. My ex generously watched the boys for three hours one afternoon so I could visit the Palace of the Governors and the Santa Fe Museum of Fine Arts by myself. I never knew about Museum Hill.

My life was very different then. Sometime soon I will post some links about Anxiety Disorder. The summer of 1992 was the very worst time in my life, but I never lost my interest in returning to Santa Fe.

I allowed plenty of time for getting lost, so I arrived on Museum Hill before the museums opened. My swimming buddy and I have always wanted to walk a labyrinth, so I walked the labyrinth on the museum plaza. I wasn't meditative, but just astounded by the gorgeous view each time I took a turn in the path. My composition professor used to explain that you can never go wrong with a blue/brown color scheme. The blue mountains and flowers against the adobe walls and terra cotta tiles with the turquoise sky and dark log beams seem to support his thesis! He would then tell us of the accent colors--pimento red, lime green, and cobalt blue oil pastels. A wash of cobalt violet...silver ink mixed with phthalo green wash and lighter fluid to add the sagebrush. Cadmium yellow butterflies flit around this painter's paradise.


Pit Firing on Monday

Set out from my Santa Fe motel to visit the Plaza, and managed to end up on Museum Hill at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian by being thoroughly lost. Amazingly, the Wheelwright is the only museum open on Mondays, and nobody's there. The Wheelwright is displaying pottery by the women of the Zia Pueblo. When I ask the woman at the desk about how the giant storage pots were fired, she launches into a history of the museum and explanation of its Navajo construction with cribbed roof beams. A docent walks up, and next thing I know I'm on a private tour of the exhibit! The docent's name is Nancy, too. Nancy Jane, not Nancy Louise...

I like the way rainbow curves swoop around the contours of the Zia storage pots. The pots have many linear interpretations of birds and feathers. My favorite is a roadrunner pot. The docent points out pots made in the 1920's that were influenced by Howard Carter's discovery of King Tut's tomb. "Walk this way", the birds seem to say.

Missing Luggage?

I arrive in Santa Fe without my sense of direction. Don't know quite when or where I misplaced it. Fortunately, I'm so atypically serene that I don't get worked up over the large amount of time I spend being lost in Santa Fe. When I'm not lost, I'm looking for a parking place. By the time I find one, I don't know which direction to walk to my intended destination.

I remember my dear composition professor giving the lecture about form. Classical form is based on a geometric grid. Symbolic form is based on spirals and starbursts. Natural form is related to the land, the rocks, the shells... My comfort zone is the grid. Numbered streets crossed by lettered avenues at right angles and regular intervals.

Santa Fe is illogical, symbolic, and natural. Yoda wants me to become one with my light saber and fly blindfolded. Use the force, Louise. Alas, my time in Santa Fe is not long enough to complete my Star Fleet Academy training.

Cell Phone Travel

This is a new era. I can stand on a sand dune next to 150,000 year old volcanic rocks marked with six hundred year old petroglyphs while talking on the phone to my mom in Lincoln, Nebraska about my parents' dental problems and the funeral of their old friend. I can check back with Mike about the malfunctioning smoke detector while I empty sand from my shoes in the parking lot. I can nearly crash the rental car when the cell phone starts playing the Toreador Song when I am on the exit ramp from I-25 to Bernalillo. I'm into a very quiet journey, traveling solo, speaking rarely, listening to birds and rustling grasses. Even in my normal life I get discombobulated when I receive a rare cell phone call. I am the Maytag repairman of cell phone calls.

Thank heaven the call is from my dear summer intern/assistant, so she understands that I am technologically challenged. Her news is great. She and her boyfriend are going to use the opera tickets that my parents couldn't. It will be fun to share the special occasion with friends, and it is a relief that I won't have to stand outside the box office trying to find a buyer. It's so amazing how everything is flowing on this trip.

Millipede Spirals

Rinconado Canyon Petroglyph Trail is in the southern part of Petroglyph National Monument, and is administered by the National Park Service. Last time I visited the Albuquerque city-administered north part of the Monument. During my ninety minute hike I only saw two other people, both jogging. One guy even had that hose contraption for drinks of water that made him look like a scuba diver out of water. I was reminded of stories of Anasazi messengers running through this country to deliver news to other settlements.

I'm not Hawk Eye when it comes to spotting petroglyphs on the escarpment unless they are smack dab in front of me. I could blame this on my bifocals, but it is more often because I get distracted by lizards, birds, wild flowers, cloud formations, and millipedes as I walk along.

The millipedes are everywhere! They are five to six inches long. They make delicate curving tracks in the sand that look like the sketches of sleep-walking highway engineers. Sometimes the millipedes curl themselves into tight spirals. Are they resting? Sick? Dying? Warding off enemies like the wagons in a circle? Clearly, I don't know beans about millipedes. I will have a new challenge when I get home, as this is one of the first trips I've made without a backseat full of field guides and reference materials.

It is fun to look at the spirals pecked into the stone faces as I hike. The spiral is one of mankinds oldest symbols. My $1.50 kiddie pamphlet that I got for teaching art indicates that the spiral can mean the migration of a clan or tribe. What if it just means, "Look at all those bizarre millipedes, ladies and gentlemen!"?

When I was driving in El Malpais yesterday there were signs warning of elk crossings. We've all heard stories of the damage caused to a minivan that hits a deer. Imagine what hitting a big daddy elk could do to my little rent-a-car. Just in case the spiral petroglyph is a millipede crossing sign, I am careful not to step on any.

Quoth the Raven

Mike called me about 10 p.m. The condo smoke detector was going flop bot and cracker dog. I wasn't very with it since I had been sound asleep. My best guess was a spider was doing the bossanova inside the detector. I had fallen asleep during a PBS show about ravens.

Ravens are amazingly smart and aerodynamic. They hang out in great groups of adolescents waiting for some mom to offer them chips and salsa with Dr. Pepper. Bernd Heinrich wrote a fascinating book about ravens called Ravens In Winter.

Woke up about 5:15 Monday, so I just got up and got dressed. When the motel was ready for its continental breakfast I consumed more grape jelly. I was excited to head east watching the sunrise over the mesas. Feeling rosy pink down to my very core!

Arrived well before the visitor center opened at the Petroglyph National Monument west of Albuquerque. Watched gambrel quail mutter-puttering around, lava colored lizard, and hot air balloons above the Rio Grande. Breathe in. Breathe out. The ranger was glad to chat with me about ravens since he watched the show, too.

A dozen years ago I awakened to Texas music during the drive to Petroglyph Park. We drove up Coors Blvd. listening to Mary Chapin Carpenter singing, "I Feel Lucky". It was such a surprising song to me. This time I truly feel lucky on the drive.

Tropical Storm Earl

Chatted a bit with an elderly couple traveling west while we all consumed our motel RDA of grape jelly and toast. We are all staring at the Weather Channel report of Hurricane Charley's devastation in Florida. I say that I hope the next storms don't hit New Mexico. Huh??? The couple and the motel clerk stare at me.

"One of them is named Earl", I say.

Beat one,



"Yup. Earl could do that", says the elderly lady firmly.

I know we are both seeing Hurricane Earl in our imaginations as a sweaty fat guy wearing a gimme cap and overalls with no shirt. We wink at each other.

Walking on Hot Coals

I've wanted to return to El Malpais National Monument for twelve years. "The Bad Country" always beckons me. I need scruffy country with bare rocks and wide vistas. It is a bonus when I can smell the sage and wild flowers, the sun-warmed rock, the coating of dust+sweat+sunscreen+bug repellant. The fakey scent of Tang is linked with a sense of true return to nature.

Twelve years ago I bought the poster of La Ventana natural arch in El Malpais, and had it framed for the ex-man's office. I've enjoyed a small photo of La Ventana taken by Mike, who was going into 2nd grade. After the difficult hike back up to the arch I wonder how little Mike got such a great photo of the arch. I am glad to learn that he remembers that day...

After climbing back down from the arch I set off for the trail at Lava Falls. This trail was rough going, as it was across lava with fissures, craters, and falls. My ankles were a wreck. Not a place for an evening stroll!

The motel in Grants was next to the Walmart, so I dropped in to buy camera batteries. The store was full of poster children demanding affordable preventive health care. The town of Grants is dying. The change in twelve years is obvious. The economy based on Route 66 motorists and uranium mining has cratered. It was too sad and depressing to go tromping around taking photos of rotting neon motel signs. Be sure to watch "Destiny Turns On the Radio" sometime.


Let's give a big hand to Rudy and the Tadpoles!

It was so great to be back in El Malpais! What a place of power! What a place of danger for giant poodles!

I left the Monument visitor center at the same time as a very married couple, older than me, traveling with Rudy the Giant Poodle. We arrived at the first scenic overlook within seconds of each other. Rudy escaped from the car, and galomphed to the water pools on the sandstone ridge. I tried to gaze off toward the perfect blue Mt. Taylor like some inscrutable Tony Hillerman character, but I couldn't pull it off. I was too busy laughing at Rudy's discovery of tadpoles in the rain pools. Rudy was trying to catch the tadpoles with both paw and mouth, and dancing all around the edge of the pool. Rudy's classic tourist owners were hollering warnings to the poodle about falling off the cliff, while shrieking about guppies and trying to sneak up on Rudy with a red retracto-doggy leash. I had to go off hiking and clambering around on the rocks because I wanted to holler, "Run, run like the wind, Rudy!"

Turquoise Toenail Trail

Woke up too early for the motel's continental breakfast, so I watched CNN Headline News and painted my toenails. Used my charm to convince the desk clerk to upgrade my Thursday reservation to a King with a view of the Sandia Crest at the price of a Queen with a view of the interstate interchange.

After my requisite meal of grape jelly I headed back to the UNM campus with my camera. Wandered all through the art department and performing arts center, and around the residence halls. Then headed west out of Albuquerque on Central, which is both the campus drag and the historic Route 66. Wish I had brought the 66 travel guide from Janie! Anyway, I grooved on the old neon motel signs. Stunned to find a Stuckeys still operating at exit 89 from I-40 just east of Grants.

Checked in with my folks. Howie had lost an inlay. This is on top of Fritzi's root canal nightmare. I would have loved sharing this vacation with them, but am so relieved that this latest complication occurred back home.


Uncharted Culinary Wilderness

After my Walmart safari it was time for food. Bumbled into the Range Cafe on Menaul. Alice does Wonderland! I just wanted food that wasn't real fast. What I found was a papier mache decor, a collection of toy ranges (think burners!) from the Fifties and Sixties, and a yummy "Hoosier sandwich" of chicken-fried pork tenderloin. I'll have to put Jeff on the case researching the history of Hoosier pork tenderloin sandwiches.

Jeff reports a tornado warning in Bloomington this week. His dorm, next to the Hoosier basketball coliseum, is made of solid limestone. He also wrote that he remembered watching a show about the Range Cafe on the Food Network. (This is a mind-boggling concept.) I am inspired to visit the original Range Cafe on Route 66 in Bernalillo. I had no idea I had wandered into culinary and cultural sacred ground!

Ultralight Flight

Amazingly, it is still the same day that I departed DFW. The Albuquerque Museum in Old Town has an exhibit of aerial photographs by Adriel Heisey. He takes his photos while flying a one-seat plane slightly larger than an ultra-light. The photos show prehistoric sites, archaeological sites, and modern human impact on the land. I'll try to put in a link, but you can check the web at www.cdarc.org. I particularly liked this quote from the exhibit:

Querencia is that love of place--ensouling. The land ensouls you...I think you're born with that in your genes when you're born on this type of landscape. When you're young you don't see it that way, but the older you get the more attached you become to the landscape. Juan Estevan Arellano, journalist and descendant of sixteenth century Spanish settlers of Embudo, New Mexico

The New Mexico landscape is ensouling for me. So is the South Dakota Badlands/Black Hills area. Nebraska and Oklahoma landscapes also form my taproot to Mother Earth. "Ensouling" is the perfect word. I feel New Mexico in my molten vertical core, and in my horizontal, branching airy limbs.

Library Junkie

I am in the UNM Student Union at the e-mail station. It is beautiful in Albuquerque today, about 70 degrees. After I visited the Anthropology Museum, I walked over to the Zimmerman Library. Once a library junkie, always a library junkie! UNM is between sessions so the library is closed. I could see into a huge, old-fashioned reading room with rows and rows of dark wood study tables and chairs. Walking around campus I passed two weddings being held in the beautiful surroundings. The UNM campus has lots of pine trees and fountains, stunning glimpses of the Sandia Mountains between the adobe buildings. Having lots of college days flashbacks, but UNL didn't have mountains!

Anthropology and Undergarments

My first destination is the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. It is on a straight line between the airport and my motel. I am fascinated by the exhibits on clay preparation and glazes by the Anasazi, Hohokan, and Mogollan peoples, but can't absorb it all. The next exhibit is Kuna molas. Among the fabric molas of animals, airplanes, and insects, there are molas of bras and panties. Since molas are traditionally used as the front bodice of a dress, this is a pretty weird concept.

After I check into the motel I go off to the nearby Walmart to buy some bras for myself. Didn't have enough bras for normal life, but had no time to shop before the trip, so it's imperative that I find some that fit. Thank heaven my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Korinek, won't require an essay on what I did on my summer vacation!

Kia Rio

Center-pivot circles of lush green within squares of tan always look like a quilt to me. I drift from watching the ground, to reading the Grisham book, to drowsing, (lather, rinse, repeat)...This Grisham book, King of Torts has many characters, but I can't work up enthusiasm for any of them. Long ago I read a story about lawyers, possibly related to a Native American legend. It seems that our conscience is a rough stone in our belly. It pricks and pokes us, and reminds us to do the right thing. A lawyer's conscience stone is worn as smooth as a river rock, and it bothers his tummy not one little bit.

The flight seems way too short the way a haircut often does. I claim the belly-flop bag, and board the shuttle to the car rental Sunport center. It's so great to be on vacation that I babble to the young mother behind the Dollar Rent-a-Car counter about the last time I was in Albuquerque, twelve years ago. We took our three little boys to a July 4th fireworks display at Kirtland AFB, and my ex locked the keys in the rental car. We had to get the armed forces to break into the car so we could take the tired, dehydrated, over-excited boys back to the motel. I promised the woman that I would NOT lock the keys in the car.

"What are your travel plans?," she asked. I babbled on about going out west on I-40, and up I-25 to Santa Fe. She told me that the Kia Rio I had requested was only good for in-town driving. "It goes great downhill," she says, "but you have to push it uphill." I envision myself driving a Model T across the desert in a grainy sepia photograph. It's not a good visual. Remember the hilarious scenes in "The Gods Must Be Crazy", and the disasters in "How the West Was Won"? You will understand why I upgraded to the Dodge Stratus. As newlyweds, we owned a rusty puke-yellow Chevy Nova called "Old Paint". In the winter it would stall at stoplights in the worst part of town. I would have to jump out of the car, open the hood, unscrew the butterfly wing nut to open the lid to the air intake valve, stick a screwdriver down in the opening, jump back into the car, start it, jump out, remove the screwdriver, screw the lid back on, shut the hood, jump back in the car, turn onto 27th St. and drive off on the ice when the light changed. Each time I did this I recalled a vague story of Isadora Duncan being strangled by her silk scarf while driving her roadster. (Don't quote me on the details.)

I am too old for that stuff. I succumb to the pressure to upgrade to a Dodge Stratus. The Stratus doesn't have much more power than the Kia Rio, but it gets great gas mileage.

Rhoda Goes To Love Field

Yee-haw! I am getting out of town! I just had to stop by work to fax Jeff's birth certificate to him in Indiana before going to the airport. I am so grateful for Mike taking me to the airport and taking care of the condo while I'm gone. I am just letting go of all the worrying and care-taking of my normal existence. An egg McMuffin and I'm out of here!

There is a learning curve to my new wheely suitcase. I loaded it wrong, so it keeps flopping over on its belly. I get tangled up between my purse and the wheely handle, but fortunately I don't break my arm. It weighs entirely too much for me to boost it up into an overhead carry-on bin. I'm thrilled to check it and break free. Somehow, I don't think Mary Tyler Moore would be tangled in her suitcase when she strides off into her new life and throws her hat in the air. Still, I might just make it after all.


Good Friend Books

Last year I was surprised to find a book by a Nebraska author on the "Staff Picks" shelf at my Barnes and Noble. I took the book home and read it slowly to savor every chapter, and to delight in the sense of the seasons and the gentle wisdom on its pages. I was compelled to share it with two friends who also loved it. That author, Ted Kooser, was named the U.S. Poet Laureate this week. That book is Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps; 2002, University of Nebraska Press. It is not a book of poems, but a journal of a year in small-town Nebraska. The words made me slow down, pay more attention to small things, remember, and heal.

Some books have healing properties. Sometimes authors become dear family friends. When my oldest son was high-chair age, I was reading Margaret Truman mysteries and James Herriot books checked out from the old-timey Benson Public Library in Omaha. Sometimes I would put little Jeffy into the stroller and push him the two miles to the library up Sixtieth Street, since I was a stay-at-home mom with no car. Jeffy, who just turned twenty-two, loved being read to. If I was reading while the two of us were eating lunch, he would say, "Read me a murder." I admit this is an odd thing for a child sitting in a high-chair to say, but this is the kid that also said, "I believe I have a fork in my diaper," while sitting in that same high-chair. Jeffy didn't care what I read, as long as I read. He loved the sound of the words. His gift is his amazing verbal memory. He was soaking it all up and storing it. So I read him the "murders". More especially I read the James Herriot stories, and we laughed about Tricky Woo going flop-bot.

Whenever Jeff was sick as a kid, I would read James Herriot to him. The stories are so kind and gentle, observant and funny, that they are good medicine. In return, when I became very ill with pleurisy in late 1995, thirteen-year-old Jeff read those stories to me when the pain and cough medicines had me too loopy to read. Although it hurt when I laughed, it also healed. Herriot had died earlier that year, and Jeff had told me he felt he had lost a good friend.

Ted Kooser's stories in Local Wonders have many of the same qualities, and I celebrate that a "good friend" is our new national poet laureate. I hope this honor will bring his books to many new friends.


Baggage and Luggage

In the divorce I got the Samsonite hardshell overnight suitcase, and my ex got the matching three-suiter. It was prophetic. In the past eight years, I have enjoyed one week in D.C., and five days in Lincoln one winter (and my luggage was delayed!). I've taken the guys on one driving trip to Nebraska, and some three-day weekend outings around Texas. The few times I've needed more than the overnight suitcase, I've shooed the brown recluse spiders out of the olive drab canvas Samsonite duffel I bought myself in high school thirty-two years ago, about the time I took my first big airplane ride--to Minneapolis.

My three-suiter ex (I briefly wrote three-suitor, and that would be correct also), has traveled around the globe to First World, Second World, Third World... He was always free to go, because I was always home to be the Parent On Duty. He would give me a three-day notice that he was leaving for a month in Bangladesh, or a year in Armenia. No problem. I've sent him several emails reminding him that I am LEAVING TOWN for a week to meet my parents in Santa Fe, and he needs to keep track of our high school senior. He can't be bothered to reply. Steven will be fine, and Mike will keep an eye on him as the responsible college brother. I have to believe I have raised them to exercise good sense.

I am sorry, however, to report that the vintage canvas duffel bit the dust. The zipper ripped out, and the sewn-in plastic framework popped out of the canvas. They just don't make them like they used to! That duffel was far more dependable, practical, and sturdy than my ex.

So, I was pleased to walk into Sears and see wheely suitcases on sale for Thirty-Nine Ninety-Nine. I don't want my gentlemanly eighty-one year-old father carrying my suitcases. I went ahead and bought the Cornhusker scarlet instead of the basic black. This wheely suitcase may not last thirty-two years. I hope to do a bit more traveling in the next thirty-two than in the past thirty-two.


Patio Umbrella Olympics

There was a finch fight tonight at the condo. The rosy house finches were being downright ugly and territorial, and making a racket. At the same time, two mourning doves were using the patio umbrella as a trampoline. If you are of a certain age you will remember waterbeds. These mourning doves act like they have been beamed down on a waterbed. Whoa, dude, maintain!

To complete the circus, a lime-green anole is traveling the circumference of the umbrella stopping at each spoke to do a throat display dance. Reminds me of the time I saw Chaka Khan, the Eagles, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. This line-up makes me giggle, but without the brownies.


Riding Giants

You wouldn't expect that a summer surf movie would lead one into spiritual and religious musings, but that is one of the results of seeing Stacy Peralta's documentary, "Riding Giants" that opened here this weekend. There are a lot of reasons to go see this movie in August in Dallas. The star of the show is the ocean. Lots and lots of water. More water than it's possible to comprehend. Some of it warm, much of it cold, all of it powerful and seductive. These are images to remember when you get into your car after work and can't even touch the steering wheel.

My tried and trusty summer escape video is "The Hunt for Red October". An all-male cast led by Sean Connery with that cute beard, and the cold, deep waters off Newfoundland. It is not necessary to discuss the symbolism of submarines in this PG blog.

"Riding Giants" has an almost all-male cast, all muscular and bronzed, and all crazy in their obsession. The documentary is a history of surfing, but the first 1000 years of surfing are covered in two minutes in an imaginative children's' book pop-up style. The giants of the title are both the waves and the legendary surfers who ride them. Some of these "giants" have been surfing for over fifty years. Their comments are insightful and entertaining, and my friend was ready to invite them all to her house for dinner. These are fun guys of all ages, and much more intelligent and philosophical than the stereotypical surf bum.

The surfers sometimes refer to the wave as a woman who allows them to have their way as long as they respect her. They more often refer to the challenges of extreme surfing as "faith". It becomes clear through the movie that surfing is about both being one with the wave and being one with the moment. A blink of self-consciousness and loss of focus can easily result in death. Surfing is play, but in the sense of "flow", where challenge and ability are matched to lift one out of the mundane realm. Obviously, the surfers tackle the giant waves for the adrenalin and endorphin rush. They are devotees, fanatics, enthusiasts in the ancient meaning:

enthusiasm...n. ... 3. Archaic. a. Ecstasy arising from supposed possession by a god. b. A fanatic religious ardor.--See Synonyms at passion.... from Greek enthousiasmos, inspiration, from enthousiazein, to be inspired by a god, from enthous, entheos, possessed, inspired : en-, in + theos, god...

And if religious ecstasy were not enough, there's lots of vintage footage of automobiles from the 40's, 50's, and 60's, and Dick Dale's surfer guitar music! My Barbie used to listen to that music! My clueless Ken who could not bend was absolutely hopeless on the surfboard I cut for him out of a cardboard shoebox. Wipe out!



Jeff has safely arrived at the midwestern university where he will attend grad school and be a residence hall manager. He is there with all the worldly goods he could stuff into his little used car and still see out the windows. And, he is there with his galoshes! As the Boy Scouts say, "Be prepared, and get those puppies out of your mom's coat closet."

We have lived in Texas for fourteen years now. It's not my idea of an hospitable clime. This time of year when I walk out the door, the muggy heat slams me backward against the nearest wall, czungkak! My chest hurts, and I feel exhausted by my exertion. And that's just going out front to pick up the newspaper at 6:15 a.m.

I started my "new job" the day we all woke up and realized the world did not end on Y2K. One of the first weeks on the job I had to use my break between classes to go to the nearest mall in search of galoshes. Jeff was going to a high school debate tournament at Harvard. He was required to take two suits, a winter coat appropriate for wear over the suits, AND galoshes. I had already searched everywhere in my suburb for galoshes, and I was having to expand my search. My new co-workers offered advice and directions to the mall, and I raced over there. I hit every possible store setting a world speed record pace, and still couldn't find any galoshes.

What I remember is that I was learning this new job, and meeting all these new people, and feeling overwhelmed with their creative brain-storming effort to help me find the darn galoshes. What I forget is that they were learning about this new super-stressed single mom/art teacher and her three sons. As Dr. Seuss writes in What Was I Scared Of? about the empty pale green pants, "...I began to see that I was just as strange to them as they were strange to me!"

So this week these dear friends have laughed with me as I sent Jeff off into adulthood with those darn galoshes. I'm not sure he ever even wore them at Harvard in 2000. I know they've been in the bottom of the coat closet ever since. After we located his coat and the zip-in lining I told Jeff to wait! He needed to take the galoshes, too. I unearthed them, and Jeff said, "So these go on over my shoes, right?" Right, and they are not my responsibility any more! One son crossing over into adulthood as equipped for the real world as I could make him. One mom letting go of the small stuff.

And, just in case you are wondering, I finally found those galoshes at the Army/Navy store. They cost $19.86.


Cue up the Hawaii Five-O theme song!

This is the day I've been looking forward to all summer. This is the day we started our giant papier mache shark. I love doing group art projects in my classes. It is a trip!

This is the beginning form for the shark. For more information, click on the link to Itty Bitty Art Projects over there in the sidebar.

I love teaching figure drawing using photos of surfers. I am not a surfer. I'm not a traveler. I've only been to Galveston, Corpus Christi, and South Padre, and then not until I was in my late-thirties. I can teach kids to analyze and draw figures using my collection of photos torn from the wide array of surfing magazines available in Dallas, Texas, though. So I am looking forward to seeing the new surfing documentary, Riding Giants, this weekend.

Is it just a bad dream, or did Lucy and Ethel once sing a song about a surfboard that came back by itself????


New lint for old

My washer and dryer have been running continuously for about a week now. All three of my sons are briefly in residence at the tiny condo. The guys are large people now. They have work clothes, gym clothes, and leisure clothes. They have many, many towels because showering is their life. They have towels and rags from washing their three vehicles. One son has the towels he uses to plug the places where his car roof leaks. These Star Trek crew members have the dress shirts they wore to our family portrait photo sitting that need to be washed and ironed. Add in the black dress socks. Add in the white crew socks from the Blues Brothers son who was just released from Joliet.

Now add to that the rags, towels, and art smocks from work. Then the pirate costumes with the make-up stains--must have been Johnny Depp's eyeliner!

It was taking a long time for the loads to dry. Time to move all the toolboxes, hangers, small change, lonely hearts club socks, and abandoned Christmas tree decorations off the dryer to extricate the lint trap. Ooh-la-la! The thick blanket of dryer lint was layered in pastel colors. It looked like a recipe for Jello and Dream Whip that I received in a packet in home ec. class in 1968.


The Trouble With Memory

For reasons I won't go into, the phrase "fatty tissue" kept nagging at the corner of my memory all week. Finally remembered a tape of a PBS kid show about using arithmetic to solve mysteries. The boys probably watched the tape in the early Nineties. I think Fatty Tissue was the name of a character on the show--sort of a hapless former baseball player with a heart of gold...

Fatty Tissue was not the name of the poolshark in that Jackie Gleason movie. About that time I realized that I had confused Fatty Arbuckle with Chubby Checkers again.

The trouble with history is that it won't stay pinned down and neatly labeled in my memory like the entomology specimens in the cases at the Field Museum in Chicago. Whatever I once knew has scuttled under the refrigerator during the night. It may have been a shiny scarab, or a hideous roach, but it'll be mighty tricky to find it now.

"Whittaker Chambers" flashed in my stream-of-conscious this week, too, in a very small font size. So who was Whittaker Chambers? Someone in history....someone with a pumpkin....someone with McCarthyism...I had to look it up, of course. It's a sickness. If you already remembered Alger Hiss, you win our grand prize. Don't get mixed up with Horatio Alger or Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlin. Obviously, the memory roaches are breeding further confusion down there under the refrigerator.

Last week when I was looking for padlocks that still had their keys, I came across the Ento-Pins from the ninth grade biology class insect project. I still need the display board and the labels, and a long-handled net...


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