I started this painting in late 2006, making it the longest I have ever gone between starting and finishing a painting.

It almost seems like longer, possibly because those three and a half years were the longest of my life. I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the changes in my existence since I started and finished this painting. It all seems like some other world and some other person.

On the other hand, it totally had to be me, because who else would have telepathic truffle pigs?

A Monk of Mycology

Okay, okay, I admit it. I occasionally get choked up during "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

Yes. I did grow up in the Eighties. Despite the best efforts of several people of very refined musical taste, I am still occasionally base.

…I also have a hard time with "No Woman No Cry." If I have PMS and it comes on shuffle, I may have to pull the car over.

Your derision is expected, and similar shames, of course, may be aired at will.

No reason.

So I come downstairs to check on the progress of dinner–Kevin’s out back with the dogs, the kitchen smells of garlic bread, and as I come around the corner, I discover Kevin’s youngest, standing straight up with his back pressed against the small swatch of wall on one side of the laundry door, staring intently at the opposite wall, which contained nothing more exciting than the pantry door.

This is not the place one generally expected to encounter a small child. I raised an eyebrow.

"No reason," he said, giggled, and ran away.

One of these days, I will learn to stop trying to apply logic to a non-logical system, but I have this horrible personal failing in that, while I paint surreal and whimsical things quite happily, I still keep expecting humans in the real world to act in a reasonably logical (if not always rational) manner.

I know, I know, this is horribly misguided of me, you think I’d learn, but part of my boundless personal optimism is based on the belief that if we could all just sit down and talk sensibly, it’ll all work out. I’m not sure if this makes me a humanist or just an idiot, but as a coping mechanism, it has served me well lo these many moons.

With kids, I assume there’s got to be a logic there somewhere, and I am merely too large and oblivious to be aware of the important bits that lead one, quite logically, to stand in an empty room gazing fixedly at the pantry. I remember well enough that there were many intensely vital and compelling things that occurred below the adult radar, or comprehension, so…probably there’s a logical explanation.

Probably.

Kevin shrugs, and is of the opinion that as staring into space breathing shallowly is not killing his brother, generating mess, or making loud noise, it is not something worth wondering about, which is why he’s a parent and I will never, ever be one.

Feline Standard Time

So Kevin started his new job today.

It seems like an awesome job, he’s excited about it, and employment is a Good Thing. But I will kinda miss having him around the house, since companionship is good and wonderful, he made french-press coffee on a regular basis, and also whenever I had the urge to grab his ass, I only had to go ten feet down the hall and get instant gratification. (Hey, it’s the little things. Now I have to wait until early evening to get my fix.)

Owing to him being home, our schedule got a little later–we slept until ten or so and stayed up until after one. Generally I get up at nine-twenty every morning when Ben the cat decides I should get up, but for whatever reason, Kevin being home meant the cat also slept later. I have no idea why this would be, but there it was.

Today Kevin headed off to work…and at exactly nine-twenty, Ben got up from his post (he was pressed against my back, making sure no stray ninjas went for the cheap shot between the shoulderblades) walked over to the nightstand, slapped the lampshade, knocked a book onto the floor, and then began noisily licking the sides of the remaining books.

The sound of cat tongue running over pages is a distinctive and obnoxious noise which can rouse me from a sound sleep. I looked at the clock. It was nine-twenty.

Sensing that I was conscious, Angus, who was tucked behind my knees, began purring thunderously, just to make sure I wasn’t going back to sleep.

Let me clarify that they get fed only in the evening. Ben getting me up in the morning isn’t going to get him fed. In fact, I go directly to the kitchen, make tea, and then into the studio or the garden for the next few hours, which limits feline interaction. The cat has absolutely no reason to get me up so punctually, except…apparently…that’s when we get up.

Weirdo.

The One Thing

Happy Earth Day, everybody!

There are so many things you can do for Earth Day that I can’t even begin to stay on top of ’em all, and I worry that half the time, we just wind up looking at all the things we CAN do and wind up feeling guilty about all the things we AREN’T doing. Activism paralysis. The minute you give twenty bucks to the Nature Conservancy you’re not giving it to the Audobon Society or Defenders of Wildlife or Bat Conservation International, or using it to buy composted cow manure or a rain barrel or energy-saving lightbulbs.

I mean, I’m into native plants and gardening for wildlife, and that’s great, that helps–I have to believe that helps–but I’m not setting up solar panels on the roof or recycling tires or planting trees in Africa or lobbying for fair trade coffee or washing ducks or picketing polluters or biking to work or driving a hybrid…

Well, you keep on like this, and pretty soon you’re convinced that you’re one of history’s greatest monsters (apathy edition) because of all the things you’re NOT doing.

Hell, even wildlife gardening becomes a huge issue if you look far enough, because, as with so much in life, everything bleeds into everything else and pretty soon you realize that controlling soil erosion requires more sustainable farming which requires a better standard of living in developing countries and you get your biggest bang for the buck on that by educating rural women and providing them with birth control, and pretty soon you’re trying to save tigers by handing out condoms because the world is just that insanely complicated.

I think the important thing is to pick something you can do. One thing you can focus on. For me–wildlife gardening. This is my thing. This is where I make my stand. Obsessed? Oh, sure, maybe. I’ll buy fair trade coffee and foster strays and use energy saving bulbs, too–but gardening for wildlife is the way that I can stand up and say "The world is better because I made this little patch of dirt into something special." It’s the thing I can get my head around, the thing that I can sort of see the edges of, the thing that I can do that I know makes a difference.

Yours might be different. My dad got into solar power and bio-diesel. Kevin traps and spays feral cats. There’s a zillion issues out there–water conservation and wildlife rescue and wind power and anything else you want to name. Find the one that matters to you. Like to cook? The local food market and farmer’s markets are a huge and oft-overlooked issue. (I was just at one!) Want to restore a prairie? There are organizations (at least in the plains states, where, y’know, you’ve got prairies to restore.) Install a rain barrel, buy local food, make a compost heap, plant a tree–whatever. You have options. And you don’t need to do everything.

Just do one thing.

Find the one that speaks to you. Find the one that you want to read about and go out and shake people by the shoulders and yell "Oh my god, did you know how much blank we blank in this country every YEAR?" (If you have no such issue, I am sure that commenters would be happy to provide one.)

So for Earth Day–and the rest of the year–I urge you not to get overwhelmed. Pick the thing that matters to you, the thing that makes you crazy or makes you happy or makes you furious–whatever it takes–and make your stand.

Futility Quest Update! (Now with 100% less futility!)

As I wrote awhile ago, a painting of mine got into the Spectrum Annual this year!

I had assumed that it was going to be the steampunk butterfly. I mean, that one got Boing-Boinged, I’ve sold a bunch of prints, it seemed like the logical choice.

Nuh-uh. They picked the Rabbirds.

I mean, it’s a good piece, clearly I liked it enough to submit it, but I honestly figured that was a long shot–when I asked my buddies Kevin and Otter what to submit, that wasn’t one of their suggestions, and I threw it solely because of my own vague fondness for the bunnybirds. I really truly thought that if ANYTHING got in, it would’ve been the butterfly.

Which just goes to show that there is no predicting anything at all.

Wacky.

Well, I had planned to dig another large hole today and plant a second wax myrtle, but on the way to get the shovel, I stepped on the edge of the concrete walkway wrong and took a header.

I seem to take about one spectacular fall a year. 2007 was the best, I stepped on a very large rock in a parking lot, skinned both knees and one hand, and wrenched my ankle spectacularly. Last year was in the same damn spot on the walkway, which probably means that we really need to take out those damn boxwoods which have been eating the walkway and pushing the unwary off and into the grass. Or possibly that I’m a klutz.

By now I’ve gotten it down to a science. First I fall down. Then I kneel there for a minute or two going "Oww. Oww. Okay. Oww. Okay. I’m okay. Nothing’s broken. Goddamn that hurts. I’m okay." 

(These statements bear no resemblance to reality whatsoever, it should be said–I would be reassuring myself that I was okay and nothing was broken if I was impaled on a wrought-iron fence and there were bones sticking out and organs flapping in the breeze. I’m fine. Totally fine. Can you hand me my pancreas? Ah. Yes. I see. In traffic, you say? Dear me. A Volvo? Well, it happens. Good thing I’m okay.)

Then I get up, and do the staggering dance of one who is not sure they are not going to fall down screaming. When it appears that no, nothing IS broken, I swear a little more, reassure myself that I am indeed okay, and assess the cosmetic damage, which in this case was my left palm and left knee.

Now, I skinned my knee approximately once an hour as a child, and it healed up beautifully every time. There was some scab picking and maternal scolding for said scab picking and I was ultimately left with a pristine knee surface.

Now that I am nearly thirty-three, I will be shaving around the scar left by this adventure for the next few YEARS. Hands heal a lot quicker, thankfully, but I’m not gonna be using a shovel today, anyway.

Oh well. Guess I’ll get some real work done instead…