the permanence of pattern

last week the paramedics came for dana.  i was really worried so i ran down the street to see what was the matter.  i couldn't really get a straight story, lots of theories as to what may have happened, a seizure or a panic attack, he fell down or bit his tongue or something about diabetes.  i waited around on the edge of the bulkhead, waited until he was wheeled out by the paramedics on a stretcher.  he looked a little confused, and worse for the wear, but i made an i love you sign with my hand and blew him a kiss as they wheeled him into the ambulance.  when he saw me, he smiled, as he always does. as surly as he is, he's always got a smile for me. dana calls me the twirp.  it's my favorite nickname.

dana is the grandaddy of the art community in edison.  he opened the edison eye, edison's first known gallery and the locale for many a raging art party in the seventies and eighties.  he has been known for his slick business sense and wry humor.  nowadays, dana loves to play cards at the casino, and when he rolls his little brown sedan through town on the way to get there, he might roll down his window too and tell ya he's goin to work.  he must be good at what he does, because he's still ahead.

dana wears an occasional eye patch.  these days, he is often seen trailed by his trusty black dog jake, who was given a death sentence by the vet years ago, but much like dana, has persevered.  in the morning, dana can be found tooting on his pipe, wearing three colors of plaid pajamas and slippers.  i love dana, he is a fixture of this town, as integral to the landscape here as the bend in the road.  so when the ambulence came for him, i was pretty worried.  

it's not the first time.  years ago, brandin told me that dana had died.  i didn't know him as well then, but still, i was pretty upset.  i went across the street to announce to andrew,  andrew, dana has passed away.  andrew was pretty upset too.  turns out, it was just a rumor.  false alarm.  just some small town bullshit drama, i suppose.

dana is home now, and recuperating.  every summer, depending on how he's feeling, he will host a few shows in his gallery.  this year's invitational is called "The Permanence of Pattern: What Is on Top?". 

as dana puts it: "The title springs from a book I've been reading, "What Is a Number?" by Robert Tubbs. A complex book. The title, fused by mystery and colour, should produce a substantial art show. Perhaps more than that.

The chalkboard drawings above will be tiled in a group as part of a larger piece for this show.


small miracles

this evening we got a call from toni-ann.  Theres a baby duck! it was in my house and now it might be under the deck, do you want to come rescue a baby duck?  yes, of course.  another recruit.  me and james hop right to it.  i guess we're the go-to people in edison for all your animal rescue needs.  

we go running down the street,  across town, around the flutter inn and along the slough we walk with a salmon net in hand, trying to track the little bugger down.  more elusive than you think, that baby duck is; we can't seem to find it under any porch or bush.  every cat seems suspect, i eye them suspiciously.  every dark corner is a hiding spot, a possibility.  we ask john and mike, have you seen the baby duckling?  they point.  there it is, james says, and i see it: the tiniest of things,  brown like the mud, tearing ass down the middle of the slough.  we follow it closely with our eyes, but soon lose track of it under a dock.

 after waiting a few minutes for it to reappear, we give up, decide to go home, to let nature take its course.  will the baby duck die without our intervention?  maybe.  we'll never know.  sometimes it's hard to make that call, but really, nature does what she wants around here where she's left to be herself.  yes, she'll do what she wants, with that duckling and with us too.  sometimes it's the miracle of life she gives us, and sometimes its the hard lesson of death.  one thing i've learned is that i have very little control.  and it's all a miracle, every bit of it.  it's all beautiful, really, it's just a matter of how you look at it. 


more important things

i haven't felt much like writing lately.  or painting.   i've been waiting until the last minute to do it.  and then just slogging my way through it.  that's just the way it is sometimes, and sometimes you can't fight it.  call it procrastination, call it avoidance, call it adrenal exhaustion....call it what you will.  a few weeks back into this one-a-day thing, now i remember why i was so excited to be done with it, once and for all.  

i started a cleanse last weekend, thinking of all the things that needed spring cleaning, little ol' me might need it the very most. no sugar, no wheat, no dairy, no meat....no booze. that's an awful lot of no's.  i thought that maybe it would up my motivation and energy, but so far i feel like it's only kicked up a bunch of dust and made me miss all of my favorite vices.  they were, after all, something i looked forward to.  every day.

there are plenty of things i do feel like doing, things that i am excited about...like spacing out, weeding the garden, picking the twining morning glory off of branches.    i like to walk in the school field, watching the pups run, holding james hand and watching the clouds play on the hills in the distance.  

and i always have time and energy to  fill the bird feeders.  i could sit and watch them birdies eat forever.  yes, i love it so much it even distracts me, like a buzzing cell phone, distracts me from almost every other thing i'm doing. 

and lately, i anxiously await the birth of baby birds around the premises as their mamas sit long and hard on those eggs.  i love to listen to the new baby robins, two of them, gently testing out their voices, squawking above my bedroom door in the morning. 

i love to watch the flowers bloom around me.  i stare at the colors long and hard, trying to burn those blossoms into my retinas for when i want to paint a picture full of life, long after the flowers have all fallen.  spring has hit the valley fast and hard this year, like a freight train, and i'm standing at the edge of the track marveling at it's force and velocity.

needless to say, i get distracted from my work.  but all of these other things take precedence sometimes.  sometimes, work must wait. for more important things.


playing catch-up

(as a pair)



it's not that i haven't been working...i have.  but i just can't seem to get myself to sit in front of the computer when it's sunny.  so here are the last five days worth of one-a-days.  now that it's raining, that rug in the backyard grass and the vulnerable little seedlings won't need me as much, and maybe one of these days, i can spit out some wisdom.  until then, i'll be trying desperately to squeeze everything  i can in to one short day.



 today, when we went to the river dike to walk the dogs, the grass was all mowed down.  i took it as a good sign, being that it was haircut day and all, looking for signs everywhere to help me muster up the courage to cut my hair in the first place.  it is, after all, a part of me, that hair is a timeline of my life.  but it's spring, and somehow, the new growth around me encourages me to shed the past.  the dogs reveled in the short grass path, the ability to see, how cutting the tangled tall grass makes space, makes way for new growth.  they ran joyfully hard and fast, two dogs full steam ahead, stopping every now and again to sniff the mounds of dry grass along the edges, hunting like coyotes for casualties of the mower blade, a mouse or vole carcass to swallow whole.  they are smart like that, instinctual, and we let them be wild on these walks.  for us, it's an exercise in trust.  because nature usually takes care of us, if we allow it the space to do so.  and we don't want to raise little obedient robots, after all. 

around one bend and then another we walked, until ahead, i spotted a coyote, hunting those same grass mounds as my pups.  colored grey as a sandy beach, all feral rough and fluffy, he didn't see us coming.  a rare sighting.  i froze, and then turned to make sure my boys were close.  coyotes are everywhere here, but they are elusive.  the wind must have been blowing in just the right direction, hiding our scent, so we were closer than i've ever been.  i took it as a good sign, and couldn't get the picture of that coyote out of my head as i drove up to town to get my long locks lopped.  

driving home with two cut braids in my bag, i felt lighter than i have in a while.



maybe you've noticed that the last few paintings haven't been for sale.  that's because i'm working on a series of illustrations for bellingham's subdued stringband jamboree.  who knows: these drawings might be on a poster, or maybe a ticket, a coaster, or maybe even a t-shirt.  but mostly, they're just a gift, a thank you, inspired by the enormously talented and supportive music community of this region, a community of players and listeners and venues that work really hard and give it everything they've got, for nothing more than the love of music and the joy it spreads.  there are few causes more worthy.



lately, my work has really started to remind me of my mom's.  i'm drawing animals in people costumes doing things that people do, if we were smarter we'd act more like animals and less like people, i think to myself.  i'm drawing while i'm sitting in the sunny backyard, surrounded by mourning doves, finches and hummingbirds, ducks, dogs and cats, all of my "friends" that i've somehow lured here to live here, with food water shelter and a soft voice only for them.  it's only natural that these creatures would make their way into my artwork.

 nowadays, there's a certain way that my hand wiggles to make the mouse's or bear's hair, or how i leave the highlights in the eye as two tiny dots of white, there's a finesse with the line, these certain things, that remind me of mom's illustrations.  i look at these pictures i've painted when they're done, and it feels like she drew them.  and sometimes, it feels strangely like i'm not even behind the wheel, like she's doing all the driving here.  it's a trance-like state, a deliberate intention with the work that i've never had before.  

all my life i searched for it, something to call my own, some purpose behind my pen....call it experience, call it a signature style, call it a good teacher's influence or just call it an idea that springs up amidst artists block....sometimes, it's hard to know what you want out of a piece of art that you're about to make.  sometimes, the pressure is frightening.  and sometimes, when you don't know any better, you think too long and too hard about it, and it comes out all wrong.  

nowadays, i've learned to just let the drawings draw themselves.



max the cat's blindness is getting worse.  he started bumping into things today, going into the wrong corners, looking blankly into the sky.  it may be the fault of his kidneys, or it may be diabetes.  it may be high blood pressure.  or, it just may be old man blindness.   it's hard to know.  with a cat of sixteen going on twenty, sometimes its just so hard to know....what to do, or when to jump...when to go to the vet, when to spend another thousand dollars we don't have, on antibiotics and tooth extractions, on x-rays and blood tests....it's hard to know when to turn the lights off,  or when to do nothing and let nature take its course.  as with everything in life, sometimes you have to make the hard choices, and sometimes you just sit on your hands and wait for those choices to make themselves.  which is worse?  i don't really know.

yes, animal ownership is a challenge. it tests my patience, my courage, and my intuition, daily.  sometimes it takes everything out of me.  and sometimes it fills me up.  it's unpredictable, hard to know what card you're going to draw on any given day.  for instance, yesterday, i drew the JOKER.   

yesterday, just like every other day, i took the dogs for their evening run, this time by myself.  to the wide open field at the elementary school filled with glowing dandelions wishes we walked.  i let them off leash, and instantly, sunny bolted.  this doesn't usually happen.  usually, my dogs are good boys.  feeling helpless, i run off to find him, yelling sunny, get back here. COME HERE!!  I feel like an idiot.  soon he comes a'runnin, looking like mischief.  no sooner do i turn around to find samish chowing down on something by the tennis court.  i run over to try and stop him but sunny beats me to it.  they have a royal buffet until i huff and puff over there to find them feasting on a pile of smelly barf, hidden under grass.  ugh.  i leash them up, exasperated, and cry a little, feeling beaten at the game. i guess that's parenting for you:  every mistake is a lesson learned.

tomorrow's a new day, i tell myself, try to reassure myself.  and of course, it always is.  because today, those pups were perfect little angels, sleeping all day in the warm sun of the backyard while i worked.



the grass on the river dike is suddenly tall, up to my chest.  the false bamboo is wiggling through the dry silt on the river's edge.  the morning glory is twisting and twining it's way up up up the garden.  tractors chug along  waking up winter's mudpack.  it seems like it all happened in a flash overnight, while i wasn't looking.  i start to get that overwhelming feeling, like spring and summer all happens so fast, whizzes right by like the scenery from a car window.  i fear i need to soak it up harder this time and store it deep within me for the next long winter, the winter that comes on altogether too soon.  wearing shorts for the first time this year, walking through the tall grass, my legs feel the familiar sting of nettles, somehow comforting, like a pinch to wake you up from a long dark cold dream that wouldn't end.  the dogs are just wiggles in the grass, flickers of color hidden beneath the fronds, they run through the cut paths but can hardly be seen.  they cannot see out to where the valley opens up,  which makes them a little more nervous than usual, staying close to our feet so as not to get lost.  this is their first spring, ever.  you can tell it's overwhelming to them too.

my hair is long now, longer than it's ever been, long as that grass on the river's edge, almost to my elbows.  last time i talked to my dad, he reminded me:  it's been four years since mom passed, jessie, not three.  i guess i stopped keeping track, but my hair is a good measure.  the last time i really cut it, i cut it short... it was this time of year, about four years ago.  when your mom loses her hair, a woman's best accessory as kate describes it, you may find yourself wanting to lose your hair too, to take away the pain, to shake the vanity that we still somehow cling to until the very end.  and now, all i have is hair, long as i can grow it, my hair.  it's heavy, tangled, dirty, and hard to wash.  it's beautiful, and real, not as much ash-blond as my optimistic mother would describe it as the greyish brown of dry earth.  my dogs pull it, chew on the ends of my braids, and step on it, yanking from the roots.  james loves it, how it reminds him of the nurturing yet untamed hippie women of his childhood. that hair, it's mine, for better or worse: every cell of my being, every life experience is in there, every breath, every tear, for the last four years.  

this spring, i think it's time.  i think i'm ready for harvest.


find your voice

one of the things i like best about being an artist is that you can reinvent yourself every day if you want to.  this year, for this one-a-day project, i'm trying hard not to fall into the same ruts, working to stretch my technique and abilities, going for something different every single day.  I want to create new flavors of art that surprise even me, work that reflects not only my personality but the various influences and artists i've admired over the years.  influences are a major part of developing one's own style.  my mom used to tell me, if you like a certain piece of work, it behooves you to try and copy it, just to see how it's done.  as a student of painting in college, we were challenged to imitate the work of an old master.  my monet copy wasn't half shabby!  by examining the work closely, even if only through photos, and dissecting it with my eyes, i learned a little about the artists approach, something i could later consciously and subconsciously incorporate into my own work. because as i see it, there's no such thing as an original idea, but there's also no one with an original voice identical to yours.  so let er rip!  find your voice!  because the only thing worse than taking a risk and making a dumb mistake is making nothing at all, and the only thing worse than giving up is not trying.


digging holes

as of last week, thursdays are now "home days". james and i have committed to spending an entire day every thursday of every week bettering our barn-home and tying up loose ends.    it feels good to dedicate a day to work together towards our goals, to nest a little.  it has become increasingly necessary when almost all of our time is spent working for others.  you see, the problem was, i begin to panic inside my head if i don't feel like i'm making progress on the never-ending master list of tasks.  i look at every nagging issue, point at it, look at james and say, now why isn't that done yet?  poor james.  yeah, so i may freak out, i may go a little off the handle.  it's embarrassing.  i'm supposed to be a mature adult for god's sake!  now we certainly don't need any more panicky moments out of me, do we?  hence, the invention of thursday, home day, a new and constructive preventative measure.  so far, it's working great.

today was a day full of digging holes and planting four gigantic blueberry bushes that we had salvaged.  each hole was about four feet in diameter and had to be dug through a five inch layer of gravel.  the rain didn't deter us, it almost made the work more fun, the clean smell of water on grass, sifting rocks from the soil, getting muddy up to my elbows. I fed the eager ducks every nightcrawler i could find, dangling it in the air to catch their attention. they always come a'runnin, flapping their flippers through the puddles in a quick waddle. those ducks are smart, they know to follow us around when we dig in the garden, searching for fruits of the earth, keeping us busy company.  

afterward, we washed the earth from our hands, drank some water, admired our progress.  every day, it feels more like home.  




it's that time of year again where i really start to think about my mom a lot.  right about now, three years ago, she went into the hospital, which is where she would spend her last days.  i remember counting every blossom of every flower in my yard in portland... all of the plants i had planted, dirt under my nails in the hot sun, turning in the year-old kitchen compost, everything we ate becoming black gold, churned into the vapid soil to make hospitable beds out of dry clay.  i remember cutting those blossoms proudly to bring to her room, anything, anything to fight the beeping and buzzing and clicking of hospital ephemera, the sterility of plastic and the smell of sanitizer.  i would bring fresh flowers from my own garden, a new bouquet every time those flowers started to begin to wilt.  it was all i could do, everything i could do, even after she went to sleep and didn't wake up again. how it all flashes back sometimes, especially this time of year.

today, i woke up sad.  it happens when i don't expect it, even three years later.  i guess that's inevitable.  james asked me:  is there anything you can think of that will make you feel better?  outside, through the window, i could see the sun peeking through the clouds.  springtime.  suddenly, i knew exactly what to do.  I pulled up my sleeves, grabbed a spade, and set to work in the soil.  life abounds in the garden.

wild world 


it's a stretch

watercolor on paper 9x12

This evening I had to have a reality check with myself.  I realized: I have to be honest about what i can and can not do on a daily basis.  I am ambitious, but i don't have superpowers.  I am ambitious, but sometimes it gets me into trouble.  By aiming too high, I set myself up for failure.  This is something i learned the last time i did my daily painting project, working, scanning, typing frantically, tears in my eyes, delirious tired.. sure, I can paint a painting every day....but just barely.  Some days, it's a miracle that i can even find the time to wipe the boogers out of my sleepy eyes.   Stacking even more responsibility onto an already full dance card leaves me with two left feet.  I do a lot to keep this ship afloat, hustle hard to keep my animals, my bandmates, my friends, my family and all of my customers satisfied.  I work a hell of a lot of miracles around here.  But I admit: I just can't do it all.  It feels good to say it aloud, to let go.  So repeat after me:  I can't do everything.   I can't paint a painting every day and, on top of it, write something meaningful every day.  It's just impossible.    So there.   Now, it's out in the open.  This time around, things are different.  I'm a little smarter.  And as i wait impatiently for today's watercolor to dry, you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see it.  That's just how it's gonna have to be.