February 2005

In response to overwhelming public demand, I did mention “Saturn Devouring His Children” although with the caveat that it was very weird and scary and I would never put it on the wall for fear of getting up in the night to get a glass of water and having a heart attack, and offered a James Christiansen piece as an alternate. We’ll see.

I was working on an oil pastel piece, and I think I may abandon it. I got one really great section and a bunch of not very great sections. I am, however, quite enamored of the sketch, so I may start over, do it in acrylic, and then use oil pastel for a few areas where it’ll shine. We’ll see how it goes. Mixed media, thou art a harsh mistress.

My new holy grail for the feeder is a cardinal. I have practically everything else in the yard, but have not succeeded in attracting a cardinal. Moving another feeder within my line of sight, (which means I remember to fill it regularly!) got me Carolina chickadees, more titmice, and some gold finches in winter plumage, but the cardinal remains obstinate. One hopped thoughtfully along the deck, cocked its head, and sampled a seed, then flew off. I may have to stock up on black oil and safflower mix. I do not have any low hanging limbs on which to erect a fly-through feeder, which they are said to favor, and anyway the squirrels would have it tipped over in a trice–I wonder if I could rig some sort of pedestal thingy.

I can see how people become obsessed. I’d like to think I’m not, but I’m definitely standing on the edge of the abyss, looking down. It’s probably a good thing I don’t have my own home, or I’d be hammering nest boxes up on every available surface. (Man, I wish I had my own home! Oh, well…someday.)

I am trying to fill out an interview sent to me by a fourth grade class. This is harder than it should be.

The questions are somewhat generic, which isn’t too bad–I mean, interview questions are almost always pretty generic, so you learn to work around it. The tough part is trying to be clear and concise but not condescending. This makes me realize how much my writing style depends on a sort of verbal equivalent of waving my hands around going “You know? You know? Like–the thing–” (hand gesture, hand gesture.)

The other problem is appropriateness. I should never do such an interview in person–my vocabulary devolves into a sailor with Tourette’s when I’m nervous, and the first “Fuck! WAIT!–ARGH!” would slip out within thirty seconds. Fortunately this isn’t a problem with an e-mail interview, but I find myself choking on it occasionally nonetheless–for example, when asked “What is your favorite artwork?” the back half of my brain screams “It’s Saturn Devouring His Children by Goya! You know it is! LIAR!” Since there is an excellent chance that they might try to FIND that, we can’t have it–that painting gave me nightmares when I was in high school, let alone inflicting it on a pack of 10 year olds. (They’d probably love it, I know. Nevertheless, this has to get past the teachers.)

Likewise, while the answer to “Why do you like art?” is, in all honesty, “It beats flipping burgers,” something a little more inspirational may be in order. Unfortunately, if you think about this long enough, you realize you don’t much like art, you hate art, art done you wrong, art ran over your dog and ran away with your woman, and if art ever comes back, you’ve got a shotgun loaded for it, that bastard. This is also probably not appropriate.

Oh, well….

…and more about animals…

Caught another big-eyed mousey visitor under the sink. Asked James to take him to work to release him. James gave me a look. Guess not.

I was reading about deer mice yesterday, and evidentally my catch and release program is pretty damn futile. Deer mice will travel over a mile, cross rivers, and ignore better offers to return to home base. I am giving them a good nosh and a brief, puzzling journey. We may have to go over to snappy traps after all. (James, who can go from blowing up virtual zombies into showering explosions of gore to gently shooing an insect out the door with glass and paper in under ten seconds* absolutely refuses to use glue traps. And poison, of course, is right out.)

Armed with this knowledge of futility, I dumped the miscreant ten feet away in the back greenbelt and sighed. I tried to be nice. Really, I did. The irony is that I would happily feed the mouse to a snake without a twinge, I would praise Athena for catching one, I would toss dead mice down the gullets of practically any species I could name with a glad heart–but simply killing them because they’re annoying me with their unsanitary ways seems like a wasteful tyranny.

On the other hand, I’m sure that a dead mouse tossed out in the greenbelt would rapidly be usefully employed by any number of birds or nocturnal omnivores. But I still feel a twinge.

*James is my great refutation of the belief that violent videogames cause violent behavior, as he not only plays them, but makes them for a living, and you would be hard pressed to find a mellower and less violent individual. His general response to finding an enormous insect in the house is to look it up online and see if he can figure out what species it is.

Two flickers are jockeying for position at the suet, in a bizarrely symmetrical display of grumpiness. Meanwhile, Notch the squirrel has returned and is contentedly sitting in the shallow dish of birdseed on the deck. Gimpy was around earlier, and got into a chase with (him? her?) but once they hit high speed, you can’t really tell who’s the pursuer or the pursuee.

Yesterday evening, I watched another nameless squirrel, with a stripe of ruffled fur down his back, walk up the tree, stopping every two or three hops to make a peculiar humping motion against the bark. I assume there was a whole lotta scent marking going on.

I wonder what took such a neat round hole out of Notch’s ear–it’s such a clean circle it seems unnatural. I’d expect more like cat ears, with the ragged chunks and wedges torn out. Maybe it’s just the way squirrel ears heal. Maybe he ran afoul of a BB. Hard to say, I guess.

“Dixie Dingos”?

Dude! Why have I never heard of this? Has it been debunked yet? Has anybody else heard about the Carolina dog? Supposedly descendants of the domestic dogs brought over on the landbridge lo those many moons ago, they’re supposed to be a North American equivalent of the dingo, living in the swampy areas of the south. (Alas, not around here. Oh, well.) They’re recognized by the AKC, so I suppose they’re a definite existing breed, regardless of whether the antiquity of their origins has been confirmed. They appear to look pretty much like your standard pariah dog, dingo-esque critter. Presumably any dog population left to inbreed for long enough will come out looking like a pariah dog, so that by itself proves nothing, but if they were genuinely an ancient breed that would be just unspeakably cool!

(old article, which is why I ask about updates)

One of these days, when I have a house, I want to get a dog. However, being me, the only way that I could keep a dog happy with my schedule is to find something that is a total couch potato for nine-tenths of the day, will get up for a nice walk, and then go back to the couch. All the breeds I love, like Rottweilers,* would require a lot more play time than I can reliably give them–if I get obsessed on a painting, I can kill fourteen hours without feeling it, and this is not fair to a big active social dog. Maybe greyhound rescue is in my distant future. I’ve heard they fit the bill, although I’d need to read a lot more about it to be sure.

But anyway! Carolina dogs! Is it true? Anybody know about it?

*Despite their bad rap, I grew up around Rottweilers and they were without exception big, amiable, intelligent dogs, including my father’s dog Brewster, who was a truly superior dog. Every Rottweiler I’ve known has wanted very much to figure out what you want, and then do it, which is why I think they do so badly with poor training–if they can’t figure out what you want, they go bonkers.

I am taking today off.

I don’t actually care all that much about the birthdays of various presidents–I have been known to forget my OWN birthday, let alone those of long dead statesmen. (Seriously, I had one time where I could not figure out why I kept writing 5-28-77 instead of 5-28-99, and spent a morning baffled until around noon when it occurred to me that it was my birthday, and years of filling out paperwork had conditioned me to end 5-28-?? a certain way.) But James has the day off, and the swamp is manageably sized, so I figured what the hell.

Mind you, I slacked all weekend in fine slacker style already. And I feel a twinge of guilt for Not Working, but I’m trying to learn to squelch that. I am actually rather grateful to be so hooked on World of Warcraft–it means I don’t work weekends, and since I have had a few brushes with burnout in recent months, this is probably a good thing ultimately. I need to remember that I am asking some sort of bizarre alchemy of my brain, and I really do need things like “time” and “inspiration” as obnoxious and froofy as it sounds. (Some day, I will come to terms with this and stop whining about it here. I hope.)

I was also pleasantly surprised today, reading “Suburban Safari” about the wildlife of suburbs, to find that the author had a local squirrel missing a hind foot, which she promptly named “Stumpy.” HA! I wish limblessness on no squirrel, but at least now I know I’m not crazy, or if I am, other equally crazy people are writing books about it. (No word yet on botflies. It takes place in Maine, so they may be too far north for a serious infestation.)

Waiting for lightning to strike…

I am waiting for an idea.

There’s a certain irony to this. I need more ideas the way I need more deer mice in the cupboards crapping on the silverware. (Speaking of which, I caught one this morning, and didn’t even bother trekking out to the empty field to release it–it’s bloody cold out and I’m groggly. I let him go in the greenbelt behind the house. He looked a little stunned when he dropped to the leaves–perhaps he couldn’t believe his good fortune. He’s almost certainly back in the house by now, but at least he’s got a good story to tell the other mice.)

But anyway, the idea. I need something that will lend itself well to the oil pastel on clayboard experiment I wish to do, which means that rather than the broad general morass, it is a SPECIFIC SORT of idea I need, it has specific parameters (which I’m only vaguely clear on) and any old notion won’t do. The ideas surround me in a cloud, like mosquitoes, but rather than just grabbing a random one and running, I am looking for one specific one, with a crooked probascis, and a blue spot on the back right leg, and hoping it will bite me soon.
Read more

More bird photos!

Having spent several days skulking around the windows like some kind of birder ninja, I figured I’d share a few more photos of the birds that frequent my area…

I think this is a house finch. I could be wrong.

After days of flying off whenever I approached, finally the northern flicker started to pose. A lot. Now I have like twenty good shots of him. Never rains but it pours…Also, is it very 80’s of me that the red V on the back of his neck reminds me of, well, “V”?

This tufted titmouse has a seed. Back off, or he’ll use it!

One of the slate-sided race of juncos

All’s well that ends well–while I had a spectacularly unproductive day yesterday, I did manage to finish off a nagging hanging project, pending revisions, and all those little bird photos turned out for the best, because my mother e-mailed to ask if I had any good bird photos because she’s working on a painting for a show with a bird theme. So I could laugh maniacally and send her twenty shots of bluebirds, and all was right with the cosmos.

Well, except for the fact that I’m behind on Diggers for this week and need to scramble, a situation not much helped by my tendency to suddenly dive for the floor in mid-work, wriggle across the floor, and try to get a shot of the increasingly less elusive northern flicker.

Experimenting with oil pastel on clayboard now. It’s really cool on the textured clayboard, and the tooth of the board allows for some neat mixed media effects, which in turn allows me to get much better detail. So hopefully that’ll work out.

Also, idiot that I am, I had no idea that turpentine would affect colored pencil. Everybody else knew this already, I’m sure, but I was wowed.

I did manage to do this over the last few days. It’s another experiment with oil pastel–I just can’t get the tight detail I like, but I love some of the texture effects, so I keep trying.


  • Archives

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

    Latest Release

    Now Available