As I mentioned briefly, I just returned from a trip to Belize! It was my first trip out of the U.S. and was planned totally spur-of-the-moment. We didn't literally throw a dart at a map to decide where to go, but it was nearly that random. I have a bunch to share about the trip (which I'll break up into a few different posts) but first - howler monkeys! The afternoon when we first arrived we were greeted by this family in the trees, which was fitting because the home we had rented had been dubbed "Howler House" by the owner. To give you a sense of how close they were to us, here's a photo taken from the deck where you can see the roof of the house for reference... They were maybe 20 - 25 yards away? Which became very apparent when we heard this at about 4:30 a.m. the next morning...
This is just the audio because it was too dark to see anything. If you turn it up VERY loud, you'll get a sense of what it sounded like to be woken up by this haunting noise. They tended to do 2 or 3 rounds of calling - each for about 15 minutes or so every morning. I loved it! Had it been a more high-pitched sound it may have been annoying, but it was so low & loud...just cool. I guess it's the males that call like that. But the two females in this group had little babies that I tried to get photos of. Their fur is so black it was hard to see the little ones against their mamas, but I did get these silhouettes that came out nicely I think:
Early in the trip we visited the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich and I bought this painting at the visitor center there...It may actually have been painted in Guatemala (since much of the art I saw in Belize seemed to be made there & also because Xunantunich is so close to the Guatemalan border) but I liked it and it seemed represent our trip, in part.
*Yes, in case you were wondering - those are monkey testicles in the painting. Not sure why the artist felt the need to include this detail. We weren't even sure that's what we were seeing in the painting - until we saw the male of the monkey family near our house swiftly running from limb to limb in the tree right off the deck. Yep, no doubt about it.
I just completed my first year at my new school, Alaska Pacific University, which I love! But it kept me very busy and it was hard to keep up my blogging during the school year. I did manage to sneak in some creative time here & there though. In fact, for my last class of the year I was able to make a painting for my final! The class was on Crisis Intervention and in addition to our regular course work, we were able to design a project of our own. I chose to make a painting that would somehow symbolize "comfort in crisis".
Thought I would show you the progression of the work before showing you the final piece.... First, some color and texture. I wanted the image to be based on a hindu goddess with many arms...each arm holding something that would represent comfort in crisis. I wasn't quite sure where I wanted to go with the face, so I pulled out some black & white prints I had made about 15 years ago when I was working more in photography and doing art portraits. I can't remember this girl's name, but I thought her beautiful face would be perfect...The direction of her face suggested how her body would be positioned... I decided it would be fitting to have her holding the "wellness compass". It's a model or an idea that I just learned about this last semester. For people who have been operating or "steering" from a compass based on trauma or illness, the idea of the wellness compass is to offer a new way of navigating the hard times.
I decided that in one hand she would be holding a telephone receiver to symbolize reaching out for help and also the idea that talking about our struggles in life is often helpful.
In her last two hands, I opted for an hourglass and a coffee cup. The hourglass is meant to represent the perspective that with time, crisis tends to dissipate. Things that seem huge in the moment, generally won't feel the same way a month or a year from now. That's something my dad used to remind me of when I was upset. The coffee cup represents, well...coffee! Which may not solve the world's problems, but does make me happy and could maybe speak to the idea of taking a moment before making big decisions in life.
This is me, with a flower in my hair, trying to put a positive spin on this:
It started snowing (!) Friday afternoon and this is what we woke up to Saturday morning. I'm not sure, but possibly this in the latest it's ever snowed in Anchorage. Considering that I just grilled burgers on Monday, this is a bit of a set back.
But - I had a dinner invitation from my friend Meg so I put on something that felt sunny and tried my best to ignore the weather. I wish I had gotten photos of the meal! We had Chipotle Braised Lamb Tacos with Balsamic-Soaked Raisins - which may be the best thing I've ever eaten.
Speaking of weather... I just returned from Belize - where I went with Meg & her daughter Zelda. Ironically, we went to get away until winter was officially o-v-e-r at home. So much for that idea. :) But it was a great trip. It's funny how people who live in extreme climates tend to talk about the weather a lot. You would think that snow in Alaska or a 95º day in Central America aren't really notable, but they both seem to be. This photo was taken on Caye Caulker, and island just off the coast of Belize. It was so hot that day that even the locals were moving slow...the only sensible thing to do!
Went on the first bicycle ride of the summer this evening. Although I'm using the word "summer" loosely here - it was about 50-ish degrees and it was snowing earlier today. (Snow! On May 15th!) I should have been wearing ear muffs with my bike helmet. This is the creek that winds through my neighborhood. It was looking pretty on this side of the street, but directly across the way...
Apparently the sun doesn't really hit this side. I also rode down to a little park where I noticed evidence of last winter's wind storm...
All of the trees in the foreground there are broken off at the exact same height. It looks really weird...like a very tall moose came through and ate the tops off!
For awhile, months actually...I've been working on an art journal. Mostly I've been enjoying preparing each page to be a background for an image. It's been a fun, slow process. (And I do mean s-l-o-w...I expect it will take years to fill the book's almost 100 page spreads and I'm loving that pace.)
Rather than starting with a blank journal, I'm altering a 12x12" book. That square format is my favorite and it makes for these great panoramic spreads. This girl is the first thing I've actually draw/painted in the book and I really like how she turned out.
The thing about art journaling I can't figure out is - what to write! Journals, by their nature (in my opinion) are a place to record your mostly private thoughts and feelings. Writing things down not only for the sake of memory, but also to help work things out. Whereas art is meant to be shown. I can't quite figure out the intersection of private & public for this journal. I want to be able to show it to people, but I don't want to share my musings. And if I don't actually write in my journal, it's not all that useful to me.
That's why I haven't written anything in the "bubble" I left for text. I did write something beside the girl, but you'll noticed I blurred it out.
If you keep an art journal, what do you think? How do you decide what to write or what to show?
I've been so busy drawing, drawing, drawing & also altering a book into an art journal - but I've not been showing you! I'm into my first semester of school at my new university (switched schools) and it's going really well. But there's always a blogging delay as I figure out how my schedule is working.
All of that brought me to find the Etsy store of a (presumably) small company called Block and Sons Co., headed up by C. Everett Block out of Oregon. They produce these beautiful and one-of-a-kind bits of wood, shaped to hold an ipad. Established this year and new to Etsy by only a few months, they present as if they've been around for at least the better part of a century. Whether the "company" is really a 20-year-old kid with a fantastic imagination and kinship with the past, or indeed run by an anachronistic Mr. Block who resembles the pipe-smoking gentlemen in britches with braces shown in his profile, I love the voice with which their product and company is introduced. A bit of Twain in this narrative I think.
"June 2nd, 2012
Multnomah County, Ore.
Dear Honored Customer:
I take my pen in hand to share with you my aspirations for this enterprise, and I am graveled to admit, here in the pinch of the game, that not a single one of my sons ever took to the schoolhouse. They always were more complaisant with a felling axe or apple-peeler than a pencil or book. No matter the length or depth of my cogitations, I cannot understand exactly why.
Perhaps it is that as long as I can remember, my people have worked with trees and wood to the manner born. My grandsire Oren brought us West from the Old States at full chisel, a fortuitous event, and here we will stay in this verdant oasis until the sun sets before me for the last time. Since they were knee-high to a lamb, my sons, now directly associated with this enterprise, were drawn to the grain of hardwoods like hound-dogs on a scent in any old warehouse, mill pond, sawmill, refuse bin, or the like.
Presently, we are laboring to recue these imperfectly and impossibly beautiful pieces of Oregon timber that would otherwise be burnt or ground up and we permit you to enjoy them for a spell on your desk or work-table.
I declare that those of you spending your days in a paved burg, living in your world of glass, plasticks and metal, need a solid and simple place to set your brightest gewgaws and shiny devices. A bit of a reminder of where you really are. I make available to you Oregon hardwood of the first swathe, each piece being rubbed and polished with fine linseed oil and beeswax to make them set solid, smell good, and shine true.
Any chuckle-headed coffee boiler can play to the gallery and give a piece of wood a lick and a promise and that is just not a fair shake. You will see those dog cheap substitutes in many other locales and shop windows. Do not be gulled. This is the genuine article. No two alike. All from here in these United States of America. Reclaimed.
Let us directly wind up this trade, commence to spit on our respective palms, shake, and settle up. You cross my palm with silver and take away a block of Oregon hardwood I warrant to be as fine as cream gravy for the delight and amazment of those in your office or domicile.
Most respectfully yours,
C. Everett Block,
Cumberland Block, Farnam Block, Skete Block, Tilrow Block, & Olin Block
Block and Sons Co.
Hardwood Device Furniture
Isn't that wonderful? It kind of made my day. :)
Being a huge fan of the Tour de France, and of Lance Armstrong - I was really bummed to wake up to the news this morning that Lance is giving up his fight against the USADA. His stance however, is understandable. From his statement today:
"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, "Enough is enough." For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart's unconstitutional witch hunt. The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense.
I had hoped that a federal court would stop USADA’s charade. Although the court was sympathetic to my concerns and recognized the many improprieties and deficiencies in USADA’s motives, its conduct, and its process, the court ultimately decided that it could not intervene.
If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA’s process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and – once and for all – put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance. But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair. Regardless of what Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims. The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of controls I have passed with flying colors. I made myself available around the clock and around the world. In-competition. Out of competition. Blood. Urine. Whatever they asked for I provided. What is the point of all this testing if, in the end, USADA will not stand by it?
I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours. We all raced together. For three weeks over the same roads, the same mountains, and against all the weather and elements that we had to confront. There were no shortcuts, there was no special treatment. The same courses, the same rules. The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that. Especially not Travis Tygart."
I'm going to go put on my Livestrong bracelet and hope like crazy that somehow, even in light of this whole mess, he retains his Tour de France titles. Not that my opinion matters in the scheme of things, but I believe he raced clean until I hear proof otherwise and will remain a supporter and fan.
The dancer is Marquese "Nonstop" Scott & he's amazing. He's about 30 years old now & used to be in the Navy. Watching him, I thought - here's a guy who's found his calling. I hope he continues to find a way to make a living doing this. Art at this level is a wondrous thing to see.