Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sketching Daughter and a Viaduct

On our camping trip a few weeks ago, our daughter and I elected to sketch while the boys and my wife hiked up to the boardwalk at Rough Ridge (Blue Ridge Parkway, near the Lynn Cove Viaduct). We carried bag chairs and our sketching supplies to the next viaduct north, about a tenth of a mile, sat down and began to draw. I positioned myself so she would be in my sketch.

After what seemed 15 minutes my oldest was there to let us know they were done with the hike. One of the fastest hours I've ever spent. I finished the sketch (which is in my moleskine) over the next few days from memory. My daugher and I commented later, while driving over another bridge, that we would never feel the same way about them, now that we had carefully observed their parts in such detail. Drawing is a deep form of seeing and remembering.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Interesting Places

Somebody has to screw down the wing-nuts.

I have always loved to get into unusual places and look at the world from there. I remember a walk we took when our oldest was about 5 years old. We found a manhole open in a wooded area, and it was a very deep one with a prominent built-in ladder. I went down and looked back up at my family in the little circle of light at the top. Our oldest wanted to come down, too - so I climbed back up and helped him down the ladder, also. It was a juncture point, with big concrete pipes running away from it in three directions and a half inch of water running fast downhill in the middle of the curve. He liked it.

I like to boost my children up into huge trees with friendly low branches. We hike in places that have clefts and shallow caves. We cut out over land on hikes, going through unfamiliar woods. I have deliberately crossed bogs. I like to lay on my back on the carpet and imagine the ceiling is really the floor, and picture what it would be like to walk there. Maybe it has to do with my personality that naturally tries to see everyone else's point of view. It makes it hard to pick a favorite spot, or make decisions. But it's fun much of the time.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Better Mousetrap

I found a mouse in our bird-seed container in the garage. We keep the birdseed in a covered plastic trashcan, and the mouse had climbed up into it somehow (while it was closed) and had been unable to climb out.

So that gave me the idea to set up the trap in this photo. Where there is one mouse there are usually more. I even put in a small water dish (a jar lid) so the mice would be comfortable while they waited. Before 24 hours two more mice had walked the plank (see them in this photo). There have been no more in the 48 hours since, so I closed up the makeshift seed bin.

All three were released in a wooded stratch near us - no house for a quarter mile in any direction. I took them each time in a jar - it was a shot trip. I have heard that mice released in this way have almost no chance against predators, etc. - but really most mice have little chance (practically every predator eats them) and this chance is better than certain death from traditional traps.

The cats loved the mice in the jars; I let them see them before I took them. Mice are cute standing up against the glass; their feet are so pink, and so tiny. The mice didn't even sem to notice the cats outside the jar - no cat smell, after all.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cats and Koi

My latest watercolor - this is one that I mentioned painting over. It started as an abstract, then ended up turned 90 degrees and about fish, then it ended up with ink on it turned in yet another direction, then the ink went to cats, then the koi appeared (attracted by the cats?), then I added the goldfish and other little items...

See this and others on my webpage, second gallery page. The original is hanging at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts.

Friday, May 18, 2007

7 Random Facts Meme

I won't tag anyone, but I'll do this on the invite of Moomin Light. As I see it these should be quirky things others might never suspect.

1. My hair went rapidly salt and pepper starting when I was 28. Now that I'm 46 I am getting the usual sideburns and temple silvering over the TOP of the salt and pepper, and I like it.

2. When out at night with a flashlight I will always point it at the moon and look to see if the moon is brighter.

3. I used to be able to gently float down whole staircases without jumping or touching the steps, but I forgot how.

4. I carry two full rings of all my keys in my pocket, so I can rescue my own absent minded self.

5. My postage stamp collection has an orange Ben Franklin stamp that once mesmerized me for half an hour because the color slipped inside me and lit me up like a big candescent bulb. Goldfish and nasturtiums sometimes come close to this color and then my heart buzzes with the memory.

6. Though I have had a beard and mustache since I was 19, with only one six week break about 17 years ago, I do not picture myself with facial hair and my reflection sometimes surprises me.

7. In my inmost molecule I know exactly what the perfect painting looks like, and I have set out to paint it hundreds of times, but when I actually begin it always slips out of focus and I can't recall what it looked like.

Walking Sticks

Another habit of mine has been to make walking sticks from fallen limbs, toppled trees, and drift wood. When my oldest son and I helped a fellow choir member with her yard work one afternoon, we cut a number of dead limbs from a huge blooming George Tabor azalea in front of her house. There were a number of seasoned, crooked branches which we took home.

I've found that some of the best walking sticks are not straight, but bent in the right place to hold, hang, and swing with each stride. This one turned out this way. The wood was very fine grained, hard, and a lovely ruddy brown.

And the design I carved on the top, during quiet sleepy hours each afternoon of one of our mountain vacations, was suggested by our youngest, then five. Here are some shots of the carving, moving around the top of the stick. The color is colored pencil wax (prismacolor), put on the exposed wood right after carving, rubbed lightly with a smooth stone, then heated over a campfire. Hand rubbing completes the process which started with pocketknife and a stone from a beach on the Linville River, about two miles from the falls.

(Photo link for George Tabor azalea thanks to Donna Andrews)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Made up Games and Heart's Home

All five of us are prone to make up our own silly games, and some get attached to places. Here my youngest is the leader (though my oldest has stopped playing for now) in a game where you draw a line in the gravel with your walking stick and the other must follow it no matter how difficult or convoluted. My oldest invented this game to amuse my youngest, and now either one will lead or follow, depending on who gets the notion first.

We only play this in one place - this magnificent road around the Bass Pond at the Moses Cone Manor on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here is another photo of that road - one of my favorite glimpses as you make the one mile circuit. This place is one I go to mentally to revive myself. It's where I am lying in the photo on my profile on my website, and on that same page is another photo of the place, with the most important people in my world.

It's like the lyrics of "My Secret Place" as sung by Joni Mitchell:

"I'm going to take you to
My special place
It's a place no amount of hurt and anger
Can deface
I put things back together there
It all falls right in place-
In my special space
My special place"

When I was in my late teens and twenties my mental escape was to the grounds of the Livingston Manor, Clermont, on the Hudson River near Tivoli, New York. That used to be my secret place. As time and space separated me from NY and connected me to NC, and to this spot in particular, my heart moved its home.

I can't count the number of epiphanies and personal revelations we've had on this mile of old carriage road.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pablo Neruda

In my freshman year of college, at East Carolina University, I was invited by two English professors to join an honors seminar called, "Good Books." The point was that these were not great books, which might be overwhelming, and not invite much criticism. These were good books - worth reading, but with room for improvement, room for comment. The twelve or so freshmen were all interesting, from many different backgrounds, and the discussions were lively. The two professors were a bit like "Sneak Previews" hosts Michael Medved and Jeffrey Lyons, full of good humor and banter, and encouraging of any well considered, well expressed thought. We all learned a lot about critical thinking, critical reading, and the enjoyment of good books. I got to take part two in my second semester - all in all it was some of the best I had in college.

The books were all over the map. We read one of the lesser plays of Shakespeare, an early play, Titus Andronicus. We read two short baseball novels. We read Dune by Frank Herbert. We read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. A lot of these books I still own, and I've read them again.

And we read a collection of poetry by Pablo Neruda, from an out of print edition that had the original Spanish on the left, and an English transalation on the right. Part of what we discussed was the translation, as several of us knew some Spanish. The poems are beautiful, earthy, humorous, passionate, living things in any language. I sent parts of some to my girlfriend in Boston. It's been a while since she read any of these; the style might look familiar when she reads this post. I recall the students nearly unanimously enjoyed them, and had little criticism, just favorites that we read to each other and discussed. We didn't dissect them - we drank and ate them, which is what Neruda seemed to have in mind. We related most to the love poems and the odes to common things (like a lemon, salt, wine...)

This poem was the sort of thing that nearly expressed my loneliness and longing for my love while we were apart during that first year and a half of college. The hyperbole is almost enough.

Don't go far off... by Pablo Neruda

Don't go far off, not even for a day, because --
because -- I don't know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don't leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you'll have gone so far
I'll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?

Or this one, which also still fits.


Your Laughter - by Pablo Neruda

Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.

Do not take away the rose,
the lance flower that you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.

My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.

My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and if suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh, because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.

Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.

Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at this clumsy
boy who loves you,
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
light, spring,
but never your laughter
for I would die.

This last poem is one I would wish my children to consider. I think the outcome of this poem is what is called for - but I suspect "depression" might be a more likely translation here, rather than sadness. I think the description fits depression far better than it does sadness. Depression runs in the family, a natural outcome of our introspective ways, and all of us over 10 years of age have felt its touch or lived under its cloud.

Ode to Sadness by Pablo Neruda

Sadness, scarab
with seven crippled feet,
spiderweb egg,
scramble-brained rat,
bitch's skeleton:
No entry here.
Don't come in.
Go away.
Go back
south with your umbrella,
go back
north with your serpent's teeth.
A poet lives here.
No sadness may
cross this threshold.
Through these windows
comes the breath of the world,
fresh red roses,
flags embroidered with
the victories of the people.
No entry.
your bat's wings,
I will trample the feathers
that fall from your mantle,
I will sweep the bits and pieces
of your carcass to
the four corners of the wind,
I will wring your neck,
I will stitch your eyelids shut,
I will sew your shroud,
sadness, and bury your rodent bones
beneath the springtime of an apple tree.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Take Me out to the Ballgame

Moomin Light has a wonderful post ("How will they learn...") about pitching practice and learning sports.

Reading it brought up a major perplexity of mine.

It starts after the end of an entire public school education of Phys Ed, which every year included the dreaded softball section. You see, I still had no idea how to play baseball.

Oh I knew about scoring runs, batting runners in, tagging runners out. I knew about hits, fowl balls, walking to base, and striking out (I knew the most about the last). I knew a good play when I saw one. I knew the rules. But I could not tell what to do with the ball when it came to me in the outfield (I never had a chance to play the infield and I would have been petrified to do so - you get the ball a whole lot more often and so look stupid a whole lot more often). Being a kid who always knew what was going on in the classroom, and was seldom wrong, the befuddlement I felt on a baseball diamond was debilitating, and made me feel a kind of shame close to what I'd have felt if I'd publicly wet myself.

I loved throwing and catching, especially with my father's magnificently trained four finger glove. I had a pretty good eye for catching when warmed up. But games never came with any real warm up, or practice, or much of anything but the humiliation of picking teams (I was always last or second to last) and then the worse humiliation of botched plays and striking out.

One day several years ago I was walking with a very bright friend, an engineer, who loves to play league softball. I shook my head and said graduation was my ticket to freedom - the freedom to never play softball again in my life. He is a very patient man, and drew me out about what I had hated about softball. Ultimately it came down to never knowing what to do with the ball.

Then, in one thirty minute walk, he unfolded for me the strategy of baseball, from constantly planning what to do with the ball, depending on how and when it arrived, to the coach's strategy about batting order. Layers and layers of thinking between the moments of action, with every player planning the game from their slightly different position in the field. Almost like chess with each of the pieces doing the playing. I was agog. Why hadn't any of my Phys Ed coaches ever TOLD us about this? I was especially mystified about the coach who seemed to want to connect with the more intellectual ("geeky" we'd say now) of his students. I would have loved this side of baseball - why had no one TOLD me?!

But maybe the trouble is that to them it seemed obvious, like reading and writing seemed to me. Something you just KNEW, so why would anyone imagine you needed to be told. I mean, for just about every other game I quickly find and deliberately delve the layers of strategy. I push myself on Sudoku puzzles, and love the mental move of finding a new wordless pattern that deduces the value of a box. I love to play a neighborhood game of poker every month, and consider the strategy that underlies all the personalities and chance that courses round the table.

So I must have turned my back on the brainy side of baseball. The more I've thought about this, the more I've realized that I must have had some mental block - probably built of the humiliation. This gets back to one of the themes of Moomin Light's post - how the atmosphere of school sports makes them impossible for some kids to learn or to like.

Since that revelation by my friend I have had the beauty of baseball reinforced by reading Summerland, by Michael Chabon. It was recommended by my non-athletic children, and I actually heard it on tape during an extended business trip. It's a terrific story, but it's the writing about the magic of baseball, in particular, and the connections between it and all the characters, that makes this book something special. The phrase that stands out the minute you hear it is, "A baseball game is nothing but a great slow contraption for getting you to pay attention to the cadence of a summer day." Poetry. And the book demonstrates it, over and over again, delightfully.

I look back and grieve for something I can't have now. I can sense, from this book, how marvelous it might have been to really PLAY baseball as a boy. How all emcompassing this game could have been for me. I try to imagine playing now and, like my artwork, just starting from where I am, but it's no use. I know that there is a boyish simplicity that makes the present so potent, and you lose it when you become an adult. You can recapture something like it with effort as you get older and wiser, but it's never the effortless, wide-eyed, open armed, completely out of yourself, absorption of childhood. That's what I'd like to stretch over a baseball game.

And then I consider my introverted and introspective innards, and for how long I've second guessed everything, and I realize I was already divided inside before I could throw a ball or understand the rules. I was already battling perfectionism and prefering to do things I could do flawlessly to things that really challenged me. I hated to be wrong, or to look like a fool. I could relate to the frustation and hopelessness of Ethan Feld, the "worst ballplayer in the history of Clam Island" as the main character is described in Summerland. His battles through the book with his own past failures, his inability to let go and just DO, do his best, learn from the doing, eventually had me talking out loud in the car. I was so painfully there with him, and I am still so painfully bound up, so unable to step away from the critic who stands beside the batter's box in my mind and messes up my swing.

It is still so hard to learn to play.

And in the end that's what I have learned by writing this essay. My coaches in school could not have imagined my real problem. In the phrase "Play Ball!" my problem has always been with the first word, not the second.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thursday Thirteen - May 10

1. The last two days away from home have been intense, meeting new people and hammering out some interesting possible product combinations, then pitching them to three clients in one day to see how they were received. We changed the pitches on the fly, working as a team (though few of us had met before yesterday). It was successful, exhilirating, and exhausting.
2. I Stopped to visit an old friend along the way back, almost missing her (she wasn't home - I had her cellphone number wrong in my new phone - I put a note in her mailbox) and then I spotted her coming up the side yards between the houses as I was driving away.
3. We had a nice chatty dinner at a little Italian place in Hope Mills, her home town. I bought dinner, but she left the tip, so a five dollar bill I had meant to part with was still in my wallet.
4. On the road back, in a darkening rest area, I was approached by a burly unshaved fellow who was trying to get back to Vidalia, GA in his aging pickup, and had had to replace an alternator and was now short the money he needed for gas. So that's what the five dollars was for.
5. Coming out of the men's room a lady was waiting for me in the rest-area lobby, and asked if she could walk with me towards her truck. I had noticed her over the shoulder of the Vidalia fellow, along another sidewalk, hurry towards the restrooms as I was walking towards them. "That same man approached me just before he spoke to you, and he frightened me and I closed my door on him," she told me, embarrassed, I think, and anxious. "May I walk you to your truck?" I asked. "That would be so kind," she said. The helpful acts were all getting a bit jumbled for me at this point, it made me grin to myself.
6. "I'm on my way to Duke for my son's graduation," she confided, as we walked to her truck. "That's quite an accomplishment; congratulations," I said, as she opened her door. She thanked me and added, "He's going on to UVA Law School." I said that was also quite an accomplishment and wished her a good night and told her she was welcome when she thanked me again.
7. I pulled out in my car, and noticed that she had pulled over again in the last space in the rest area, and had a tiny dog out on the grass. She had her car door open and was right by it. I pulled up and got out. "I am so sorry," she said, and I just laughed and said it was perfectly all right. "I was in such a hurry..." she started. "That you almost forgot to let her take care of her business," I finished for her. She smiled and tried to get the tiny poodle to hurry. I said there was no hurry, and you can't really rush these things. As the dog finished and she picked her up in one hand I asked, "Is she a teacup?" "Yes!" she said, delighted it seemed that I knew that, "She's smaller than that, actually - only three pounds." She held her up for me to see and I caressed her tiny bright-eyed head, with a tiny pink bow in the topknot. "Her name is Miss Priss." I chuckled and told her she was beautiful. The lady put her hand on my arm, said I was very kind, and thanked me again.
8. The Tom Clancy novel I was listening to on tape got to a pause about 2/3 of the way through. Everything is going according to plan. Knowing this is where all hell must break loose and not wanting to get home in the middle of the rapid climb to the climax, I turned it off and will pick it back up next week. It was hard to stop, but I needed to wind down from it before I got home.
9. WQDR was playing country music, which I find best when I'm in a sentimental mood. It was perfect tonight. The patriotic, "proud to be American," flag and eagle flying high, if your don't like it that's too bad, etc. song didn't do a thing for me - they always seem like someone cashing in on patriotism, and an ugly side of America. I'm patriotic, but I have no desire to be in anyone's face about it. But the songs about family, and sophisticated girls loving country boys, and the special magic of a first love, all played well with me tonight.
10. That hill climbing up to Hillsborough on I-85 S, the last few miles of my journey, closing the 470+ mile circle of a Columbia trip, always makes me break out in a foolish grin. I will usually break into song, just joining in with whatever is playing.
11. At home all was quiet, with cats coming to greet me and a big tired smile on my dear wife's face. All is packed for camping, quite an accomplishment, and best done without me as few things make me grumpier.
12. My latest painting looked better than I remembered when I saw it again on my work table beside this computer. I managed to work another hidden cat into another spot as the PC booted up.
13. And now I'm writing this, somehow bringing closure to a long two days full of ideas, new friends, old friends, and a whirlwind of emotions. Life is rich and full of surprises. I wonder what the camping trip will be like???

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Painting over Paintings

OK - part of my artistic slump in recent weeks was that I was stuck in a few paintings that I really didn't want to paint. There is a place for discipline, and a place for "painting what you want" (see my profile on my website for a more colorful rendition of this idea by one of the more influential art teachers along my journey - Marvin Saltzman).

So I painted over that church painting - it worked small, but it was a yawn blown up larger (something else I learned to see thanks to Marvin Saltzman). Even though it started large, it never seemed to have enough going on.

And I painted over an abstract, that had started to become fish (but not very good fish). It was a watercolor, but now it's getting india ink on it (black - haven't used black in several years). Then it got a row of cats on the bottom, and then, lo, more fish appeared. Koi this time. Then I added more. Then I added much smaller goldfish (I love them and their bright colors) then some moors (with their goggle eyes), then things started getting out of hand in a nice way, with jokes and echos of cat and fish showing up on the wrong sides of the species aisle... Congress of Cats and Koi - I think that's what this one will end up. I'll post it when it's done.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Russell Hoban - Project Overlaps

One of my favorite children's books is The Marzipan Pig by Russell Hoban. We originally fell in love with this from a great short animated video, narrated by Tim Curry. The way the story moves in layers, with glimpses of each from the others, is enchanting, as are the images and dialogue. The story's cadences are hypnotic, especially in the hands of a master like Tim Curry. I love to read this book aloud, more than almost any other.

Several years ago I read Turtle Diary. I had always thought of Hoban as an author of children's books, and was surprised to find his name on the cover. I enjoyed the unusual double story, and found the characters believably ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. Like The Marzipan Pig, there are layers on layers, and some are just suggested. You catch throw-away glimpses of characters who will suddenly be the main focus later, and when they show up you have a brief flash of recognition, and a thread is woven instantly from where you were before to where the book is taking you now.

While other authors do this, there is something unique about the moments and characters Hoban uses to spin these connections. There are so many vivid little details, and you could probably recognize many of them again later, but he only chooses a few to make the connections. Somehow they seem unlikely choices - until he's done it, and then they seem inevitable. It makes you mentally blink when it happens, bringing you to a brief pleasant stop before you plunge back into the now noticeably deeper story. You are also left with the feeling that ANY of the other details might have been brought to life and connection, as well.

The best thing, for me, in reading Turtle Diary, was that images and details from The Marzipan Pig appear! The taxis queued up by the Prince Albert Bridge. The trains rumbling on the peaceful common. I expected at any moment the characters would pass by number 6, the house where the marzipan pig lived, seeing the owl asleep in the plane tree. I felt the two stories happen over and under each other, woven into a larger fabric spanning adult concerns and children's topics. Not only do the characters all seem to inhabit the same acres of physical space, but both books are about love, loss, longing, and renewed hope for the future.

Turtle Diary captures something I've long believed about providence. We work like it's all our own doing and, if we're paying attention, we might catch Hoban-like glimpses of what is really going on. You know, that's precisely what I've been trying to say about those little interconnecting details in Hoban's books. They're familiar precisely because they have the same odd glow of intervention. It takes a light touch to capture that golden color.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Mini-epiphany 521

After a hard couple of weeks and a disappointing couple of days, with rain on the way, driving a heavy van full of the strong smell of ten bags of hardwood bark mulch, feeling hopelessly behind on chores at home and on the job, with my artwork seemingly stalled again, I was looking into a watery sunset sky when I felt my clenched insides let go and I was consumed by a deep rolling belly-laugh. My two teens, one coming home from dance, the other having helped me load the cargo, looked at me with indulgent grins. They don't usually bother to look at me like I'm crazy; that's old news.

"I'm absurdly happy," I said. "Even in the midst of all the things piled on me I realized that I was thoroughly enjoying this moment and I felt really happy." I put my head back and laughed again.

I guess I could do that at any time. And actually, I am doing it more often.

The real secret is...

Eddie Valiant: You mean you could've taken your hand out of that cuff at any time?

Roger Rabbit
: No, not at any time, only when it was funny.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award

Moomin Light granted me a "Thinking Blogger Award" (in a PS sort of). Knowing her as well as I do, I appreciate this - she has pretty high standards for thoughtfulness and clarity.

Here are the rules for this meme, as she wrote them:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

She bent the rules and nominated 7 bloggers - when the meme is normally for 5.

So I'm going to re-establish equilibrium by awarding 3.

I would also have nominated Breakfast with Pandora - if she hadn't already. And I would have nominated her blog. So in a way I do have 5 in mind...

Three other blogs I read regularly because they make me think (and in ways I wouldn't on my own) are:

Some_myrrh - who writes about her unique view of the world through her faith and her ever increasing knowledge, about singing (possibly her brightest passion), about plants, about love and friends, about dreams and angels, and more.

Beyond the Fields We Know
- by Kerrdelune - who also practices a deep faith in the far north and shares it in essay, poem, and photo. "Thinking" is too limiting a way to describe her blog, because to me it seems written from places that are beyond what we normally call thought.

Learning Daily - by Cindy Woods - an illustrated blog. While there are few words in her posts, I find her drawings moving because of their immediacy, their intimacy, and their quiet love. She indeed learns her subjects, a special right-brained form of thought, and I learn from her blog.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

My Color Sweet Tooth

Here's another glimpse of what it's like to live in my head. Driving home from SC last week I saw my first new NC license plate. I had not heard that we were changing the letter color (all standard issue plates since April 16, apparently). The plate has looked like the example here (blue lettering) for over 25 years.

I felt an absurd powerful pleasure seeing the new plate. I chased the car on the highway, trying to get another look, to see what it was. I couldn't believe what I'd seen, or fathom the huge pleasure I felt at that red. Then I started to see more in parking lots and on the road this week. I LOVE this red color on the plates.

This photo doesn't do a thing for me. But the actual plates in sunlight... The real thing makes my heart break out in a wide grin. I can FEEL this color doing something to me. The glow of it gives me a mental suntan.

Thinking carefully about my reaction, though, I believe the color I'm experiencing is mental, a hybrid of the new physical red superimposed on the expected blue. So the new red, which makes me want to sing, is all in my mind.

Maybe you can see it, too? Maybe you have to have my kind of color sweet tooth to experience this? I expect others do something similar with music (the strange pleasure of an actual note superimposed on a mental anticipated note?)

With time I expect the experience will fade, as the red plates become more common, and the mental "after-image" of the blue isn't so strongly behind the new color. But I plan to get all the heaven-shining-through-red-jelly-bean jollies I can before that happens.

Wash the Car???

My car looked pretty dirty on my last long trip (see post Thursday Thirteen - HOME). I had a choice on the Sunday before to wash it, or...

Or I could spend the time flying kites with my eight year old son. We took the kites to the neighborhood park, with a backpack of water bottles (it was pushing eighty), kite alteration materials (string, surveyor's ribbon for ad hoc tails, etc.) and his idea of snacks - a few tootsie rolls. We chattered the whole way there, each carrying a kite.

We rigged them up and got the Cat and Mouse to fly right away. I put ribbons on both sides of the mouse so it wouldn't spin rapidly, like it did for the maiden flight, tearing the mouse from it's twisted string. There is a cheese section, too, but we left it at home. See the whole kite here - go to the bottom of the web page for the kites.

The Ram took a lot more work, and was only successful after I figured out how to yoke the cross spar bending it into a tense bow. My son held the kite and tossed it up when we got a little wind. Neither stayed up long, but it was fun to put them up. We chattered the whole way back, each carrying a kite.

All during the week long business trip, every time I felt chagrined at how dirty my car was, I thought, "My kids have good friends who live on a dirt road," and "I had a choice between a clean car and flying kites with my youngest. "

No contest.

A week later and my car is STILL dirty, because there were other things to do with my family... And I started another watercolor for a project - the third in a series of illustrations for a book...