March 2010

Today feels like spring.

There have been signs that we might finally be out of winter, which has been hanging around throwing snow and yelling "GOTCHA!" a lot this year.  Some are good, some are…well, not so good.

On the good side, the male mourning cloak butterfly is flying his serious little patrol around the house. He is a very militant butterfly. Other mourning cloaks are driven off with extreme prejudice (or at least a lot of circling and furious fluttering) and then he goes back to his careful clockwise patrol, presumably humming tiny insectile marching songs to himself. There has been a male mourning cloak here every spring, and while I know that it can’t be the same butterfly, I have to assume it’s a descendant.

On the bad side, I picked the first flea off Gir’s ear. Sigh. Can tick season be far behind?

And the juncos are growing scarcer. I never notice them leaving or anything, it’s just one day I look up and go "Huh. The juncos aren’t around any more." I saw them last week, there’s probably a few mixed in with the flock that hangs out in the boxwoods and flies frantically in all directions when I come up the walkway, but they are no longer the primary components.

Things are coming up in the garden. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again–no matter HOW often that happens, it still seems like magic to me. Not everything is coming up–I suspect the one salvia died the death, and my phlox should be out by now, so there’s a chunk of bed I’ll be replanting. But the strawberries are coming up (weakly, and annhilated by deer) and the chives are leaping back to life and the red hot poker, which I planted purely on a whim, is sending up pallid green shoots. The Texas sage and the milkweed never really died off at all, and the butterfly bush is a scraggly mass of gray-green. (Which I may have stunted by pruning at the wrong season. Damn. Well, we’ll see…) Lots of the bushes have tight little buds (or did, before the deer got ’em.) And a fair number of other plants are getting the little halo of green leaflets around the spikes of last year’s stems, most of which are nearly invisible under the carpet of pine needles–I lift up the needles and there are tiny green shoots.

Some old friends I haven’t seen yet, and have to hope–the anise hyssop, the chocolate snakeroot–but we’re definitely getting some survivors–probably more than I deserve, with my skills. Every plant that I find made it through the winter makes me want to crow and dance around and grab SOMEBODY and drag them out and go "Look! Look! IT CAME BACK!" as if perennials were a herd of puppies dropped randomly along the interstate and expected to find their way home.

Here’s another thing they don’t ever warn you about….

I got a very nice note from a library asking if I would be interested in coming to Minnesota to do a program for teens, since I was the illustrator on the summer reading program posters.

"What kind of programs can you do, and what are your fees?"

Cue the bit where Ursula stares at the computer with her mouth open, then stares briefly out the window, then wonders if her mother knows, since Mom was a teacher for awhile and has been an artist for a long time and, y’know, does stuff you could call a program with a straight face.

I have no idea what kind of programs I can do. I have no idea what a program IS. I could…um…talk a little bit. About illustration, maybe. If pressed, I could make handouts. The handouts would start out with bullet points, and then I would get distracted and begin bullet pointing everything, including random words like "sasquatch," solely because I am rather fond of the word "sasquatch."

Sasquatch. Sasquatch.

Don’t even ask me about fees. I’ve gotten a hundred bucks to be on a panel before, and that was awesome, and apparently something that other people knew happened. I did not. One of these days, I will actually figure out my fee structure, beyond "Well, buy me a plane ticket…" but at the moment, I am still quite baffled by the fact that people think me showing up and blathering is worth money. I have spoken to far too many mostly-empty rooms to be convinced of this fact.


It Just Goes To Show….

So last night, I was invited to dinner.

The pro–good restaurant, free food.

The con–it was a meal sponsored by Kevin’s church for a visiting representative of the Lutheran Synod, which meant I was going to be dining with three pastors, their wives, and a couple of members of Kevin’s church, who are generally nice people, although denizens of a largely different world than mine. (Kevin’s ability to be a pillar of his community and…well…Kevin at the same time is a source of bemusement for both sides.)

Still, free food, and all artists, however successful, are starving at the bone, so off we went.

I found myself seated in the vicinity of an elderly Lutheran pastor who devotes most of his time to prison ministries.* He looked like your father. No, scratch that–he looked like your father if you yourself were fortysomething and respectable. Church elder was written on him at the molecular level. If you were looking around the room for a living definition of "avuncular" you would stop at him. Had he not been a member of the clergy, he would have been a member of the Elks.

There was no doubt in my mind that he was probably a terribly good human being, but a list of stuff we had in common would begin with "oxygen breathing, chordate, mammal" and sort of peter out after that.

Hoo boy, I thought, this is gonna be a long evening.

So the nice pastor asked Kevin what he’d been up to lately, and Kevin said something in passing about playing some video games, and Pastor Jim (his name was Jim) laughs a little and says that his son bought him a couple of consoles over the years, and he doesn’t know anything about games, just plays the ones his son buys for him. "The last video game I saw before that was Pong," he added.

Seizing a conversational opportunity, however thin, I asked what he was playing.

I will be honest with you now, O readers. I was pretty much expecting that he was playing Extreme Putting For Non-Gamers, with a remote outside chance that, like my father, he was a military history buff and was playing Call of Duty or Command & Conquer. I was asking the question mostly for that outside chance, because then we could talk Tom Clancy games, and I did enough time in the Red Storm ambit to have a decent ten minute conversation about Splinter Cell.

Honestly, though? I was pretty much betting on Extreme Putting For Non-Gamers.

He frowned. "I can’t remember the name…the first one he got me, I loved. It was kind of a puzzle game…"

My hopes sank still lower.

"It was based on a movie, maybe? Good guys vs. bad guys, sort of…puzzly…you know?"

"Spy vs. Spy?" I hazarded.

"No, no. Um….the President’s daughter had been kidnapped, and you had to go rescue her–"

A suspicion formed in my mind. No. Surely not.

"There’s all these villagers…"

"Resident Evil 4?!"

"Yes!" He sat back, looking pleased. "I loved that game! Of course, the graphics don’t hold up now…"

"I have played that game a dozen times!" I said weakly, attempting to mash "elderly Lutheran pastor" together with "zombie-headshot-splatterfest" in my mind.

"Ooh! It’s great once you win it a few times and get the typewriter–" (The "Chicago Typewriter" is a tommygun, which you unlock after winning a time or two.)

"The zombie headshots!" I said.

"The ones with the chainsaws!" he said. "My neighbor was cutting down some trees after I’d started playing that, and I nearly had a heart attack! Aaaaagh! I know that sound!"

"Resident Evil 4?" said the busboy who was supposed to be picking up plates. "I love that game! Have you played the next one?"

So a good time was had by all, and I wound up writing down a list of the "If you liked Resident Evil 4, ask your son to find…" variety for the nice man.

I wrote the words "Dead Space," looked up at the grandfatherly man who spent a lot of time telling inmates about Jesus, looked down at the list…

…and underlined it.

*He is a sort of pinch-hitter for Kevin’s church, in that he preaches when the regular pastor’s out of town. I was seated near him, because the regular pastor and I get along like a house afire, in the sense that there is much screaming and collateral damage, and eventually someone has to turn a hose on the whole mess.

Blargh. Blargh, I say!

The recent dust-up over LJ slithering nasty code into each outbound page, while apparently being retracted, is another thing that makes me wonder if I need to find some kind of alternative blog hosting. (I mean, someday I probably will…)

And I don’t really want to do. LJ has a huge community, and everybody knows where to find the blog, and so on and so forth. And as webcomics people know, if you change your name or move your URL, you lose a fair chunk of readers.

So even if I did make a move to a wordpress blog (shiny visual layouts for dummies do appeal to me…) or Dreamwidth, I’d still be doing one of those "crosspost" things so as not to lose everybody, since–well, saying things like "I value all of you here on LJ" sounds idiotic, but seriously, I’ve met what feels like half the world and I love having you guys on the other side of the screen. So I wouldn’t want to do something that involved losing you, the readers, who are a vital part of my life (to say nothing of my success!)

So then I wonder if it’s worth it at all, or if I should be transferring anyway just in case our LJ masters decide to do something even more deeply bizarre to the site next month.

Pesky Plague Rabbits

These rabbits in masks are driving me crazy. I want to yell "What am I supposed to do with you? Where do you belong?" but I have generally found that yelling at sketchbook doodles just makes people look at you funny, and the drawings don’t actually answer you. (If they start, THEN I’ll worry.)

I have cut them out and put them on board and placed them on cut paper and then dumped acrylic medium over it, which would have worked well if I hadn’t mixed too much water with the acrylic medium, so that it escaped the little tinfoil ramparts I had created and is now a gloppy mess. (Good thing I put down the wax paper.) Then I tried turning the hairdryer on it to compensate for having overwatered.

Let’s just call that a Learning Experience and move on. Quickly.

It may not be dead–given a day to dry, it may be fine–but at the moment, it is not promising, and I’m anyway not sure that’s where the plague rabbits wanted to be in the first place.

They go somewhere. The guys in the checkerboard hoods went somewhere, and eventually I realized that they went by the name of the Monks of Perdition and wanted to be painted on stone backgrounds and slipped in and out of Gearworld (although they didn’t own it by any stretch) and that was as much information as I got or particularly needed.

The plague rabbits go somewhere else, and I don’t know where, and I’m starting to wonder if they need to stay on brown paper because every time I try to take them off, they cease working. (Some images, I start to think, are like fresh or saltwater fish–they exist in their medium and only in their medium, and if you try to dunk them in another one, you get an image that looks mostly the same but definitely isn’t breathing anymore.) For all I know,  I’m supposed to be cutting these out and using them the way that assemblage artists use faux-vintage photographs of sullen children…putting cut paper wings and crowns on them with a stamped directive to "follow your heart!" (One wonders what a plague rabbit would say…"Follow your mask!" "Follow the stench of rotting bodies!" "For the love of god, save yourself and run!")

Oh well, I’ll figure it out eventually…I think…

There is a pileated woodpecker busily excavating a hole in a tree outside. (The tree is missing a top and has no pine needles, a fact which I only noticed today–the front yard is a pretty heavily wooded area.) He’s really quite fast–the hole has gotten nearly as big as his head, and there wasn’t a hole when I sat down at the keyboard this morning.

Presumably there are tasty tasty bugs inside. The woodpecker keeps turning his head sideways and eying the hole, then poking his beak back inside. Occasionally he even does a swirly motion where he runs his beak along the edge of the hole in a circle, which is bizarre to watch.

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