April 2004

Dear teenagers cruising my suburb with pounding hip-hop at top volume,

I realize that you think we are A) admiring your youthful coolness and rebellion, or B) horrified by the naughty words and shaking our heads like the squares we are, or C) terrified you’re here to bust caps in our glutinous suburban asses, but I wish to disabuse you of this notion. We know all the naughty words and use them frequently. We are not particularly offended. We do not care that the lyrics are about smacking your hos around because we know all about “shock value,” having been fans of the Dead Kennedys in our day.

If you could read our minds, in fact, you would find that we are thinking, “Aw, poor kid. He must have a penis the size of a matchstick.”

I suppose, as Douglas Adams once said, telepathy would be the cruellest of social diseases.

The conversation wandered around to it today, and it occurred to me–did I ever tell you guys about the time I got investigated as a threat to National Security?

Life Lesson #741, A-D

A. In retrospect, getting the easel into the bathroom was maybe not the great idea I thought it was.

B. Once you have successfully blockaded yourself into the bathroom with the easel, make sure you have a pencil, or you will have to crawl through the easel. Twice.

C. Do not block the cat’s entry or exit to the bathroom, or she will become irate.

D. It is much easier to get an easel into the bathroom than out of it.

Learning is fun!

O brilliant bird people! Do any of you know what the heck this is?


It was a sort of olive-drab color on top, a bit smaller than a robin. It was doing the my-wing-hurts dance, and one of its feet didn’t seem to be doing too well either–it could hop, and by means of mad fluttering, get a little lift from branch to branch, but it was obviously not going to be flying.

I felt bad for it, but since I wasn’t going to go clambering up a tree to catch it, not wanting a broken appendage myself, it presumably has by now met the fate that nature generally metes out to small birds with injured wings.

My attempts to identify it in a bird book have been largely foiled by the vast number of small brownish birds with white breasts, so I’m appealing to y’all’s brilliance.

Oh, also, new art!


I don’t know what it means, or why it’s there, but it’s acrylic 24 x 24 on canvas. I’m chalking it up to “Ursula’s brain occasionally does these things…” and calling it good.

I have a bizarre urge to do something with the caption “I’m not sayin’ it wasn’t your brother-in-law, Bob, I’m jes sayin’ he had a whole lotta legs on ‘im!”

I have no idea what image could possibly justify such a caption, mind you, but the phrase is rattling in my head like gravel in the washing machine.

I would like to attribute this to all those drugs in my youth, but without a control me to test against, I can’t prove that I wouldn’t have been weird anyway.

On a lighter note…

My little peat pots of seed starts, out on the deck, kept getting knocked over. I cursed the squirrels silently, and righted them.

Today, hearing a small peaty “Thud!” I rushed out, and discovered–one of those jaunty-butted Carolina wrens, blithely knocking crap over right and left. It flipped its tail at me and fluttered off.

So, I would like to issue a public apology to the squirrels. Only for this, mind you–you little fuzzy buggers are STILL guilty of eating my bird feeder and carrying off the other bird feeder and dismantling the OTHER bird feeder and ripping holes in the other OTHER bird feeder, but you weren’t the ones knocking over my seedlings. So I’m sorry that I thought dark and vile thoughts about you for that.

All the other dark and vile thoughts, however, were richly deserved, especially the one with the cuttlefish and the flamethrower, and I regret nothing.

Ze Issues!

Following the meme, and since it IS an election year…my stance on the Burning Issues of our Time. (Some of which I don’t think are all that burning, mind you–I wouldn’t have listed the legal drinking age and premarital sex as even issues, but there you go.)

Read more

Birds are weird.

For the past half-hour, it has been like living in the woods. (This happens every morning, mind you.) The birds are in the kind of multi-species cacaphony that cannot be adequately described in text. I’d need to do a comic page of warring tweeting in different fonts to really get the feel across. Because I have both the kitchen window and screen door open, generating a nice crossbreeze directly past my brain, I am getting a stereo version. When I work in the studio, a cardinal sets up shop in the bush directly outside the window and engages in a kind of manic, non-stop chirking that makes me glad that I can work through anything short of a nuclear explosion. (I may be able to work through that, too, but the situation’s never arisen.) Athena, who ignores most of the birds these days as possibly hallucinatory, is fascinated by this cardinal, and will sit in the windowsill for hours. The fact that the bird is maybe two feet away from a cat does not seem to register with either of them. I know that Athena is stupid, but I expected better of the bird.

So the birds’re loud. And there’s a lot of them. I don’t know birdsong from Led Zepplin, so I couldn’t tell you who’s doing what, but there’s a whole lotta chirpin’ goin’ on, generally at volumes that are fairly shocking for the size of the tiny little body. Those Carolina wrens, for example, which may well have the jauntiest butts of any bird in North America, can generate some astonishing noises when they get going.

And then, suddenly, there is a dead silence. NPR is suddenly clearly audible. (Since it’s pledge week, this is not a blessing, but still.) Vaguely aware that the birds have stopped, I wander to the screen door, glance around to see why, then shrug and go back. And a few minutes later, somebody chirps, and somebody else chirps, and one of the woodpeckers scuttles down the trunk for a hit of suet, and a nuthatch comes over, and the woodpecker releases a string of avian profanity, and then the cardinal decides it’s chirking time, and the whole orchestra gradually starts up again.

And then there’s dead silence again.

Birds are weird.

Went to Jerry’s Artarama. Thought “Hmm, I’m not confident I can find it again–better Mapquest it and print it out.” Which I did. The directions were clear and easy to follow, and thus, in record time, I arrived.

At their shipping depot.

Which is not a store, but rather the warehouse. Because I’d grabbed the shipping address, not the store address. Because I am something which resembles an idiot.

I called James on the cel phone. He laughed uproariously for awhile, then found me the correct address and tried to dictate directions. I took them. I followed a road that was supposed to cross another road, but instead became a succession of different roads wandering through a set of housing developments. I re-found the original road. I called James again. He expressed bafflement at how I had managed to get where I was. There may have been a tesseract involved. He got me headed in the right direction–sort of–and told me to take Buffaloe street to the right. Buffaloe did not go right. It was one of those streets that has a different name on both sides of the street, so what was Buffaloe on one side was New Hope Church on the other.

Thoroughly buffaloed, I called James again. For those keeping score at home, that’s three times. I took the street that wasn’t Buffaloe, but which should have been. I found my way to the art supply store, after some fairly dangerous swerving wildly into lanes, which I tend to do when I get really flustered and see an important sign, and the sign and corresponding lane become much more important than, oh, whether there’s anybody in the lane I’m about to rocket into. This is not a good habit to have, believe me, and only partially mitigated by the fact that I also have the reflexes of a small, frightened mammal. (‘Course, I’ve never gotten in an accident or gotten a ticket yet, so I’m really not that bad a driver. I just think I am.)

I finally arrived–called James so he wouldn’t worry–and bought the stuff I needed, a hot press watercolor block, some interesting canvas, and some hot press watercolor sheets. Perused their mini-canvases–gotta do more of the little froggies, since they’re a good saleable size for cons. Then I called James again, who directed me home. Got lost immediately, went the wrong direction on the relevant freeway, turned around, and headed home with my fingers slowly grinding the steering wheel into powder.

When they said I’d have to suffer for my art, I’m pretty sure this isn’t what they had in mind.

  • Archives

  • I write & illustrate books, garden, take photos, and blather about myriad things. I have very strong feelings about potatoes.

    Latest Release

    Now Available