Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Eat Prey Love

I haven't posted nature photos for a good long while.  After I figured out the macro setting on the point & shoot and established a totally organic garden and suburban ecosystem, I joyfully documented the bugs in my yard.  But after a while, the images didn't seem like anything new.  I think because I am a human it is difficult for me to perceive the differences that distinguish one individual paper wasp (for instance) from another.

But things happen in the world of bugs.  The whole circle of life unfolds every season among the flowers.  Sometimes I see it.  Warning:  if you are disturbed by the gritty reality of nature, you might not care for these pictures.  

mating mantids; the female has eaten the head of the male

preying mantis eating a monarch butterfly

green lynx spider guarding egg sac soon after laying eggs  

newly hatched green lynx spiders

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Island in the Street

Chelton Way is a South Pasadena landmark.  It is a quiet residential street.  It used to be, in my time, distinguished by a giant oak tree growing in the middle of it.  But despite very heroic efforts to save the tree in the first place when the road was built around it, the oak tree eventually died.  Or probably just came close enough to dying to pose a big danger.  There's a large planted area in the middle of Chelton Way that is shown in the foreground of this painting.  I can't remember if this is where the oak tree was; I think the oak tree was a bit further north where the big Chelon Way sign is.  Anyway, there are more nice trees growing in the middle of Chelton Way.   This was painted in early June, when it was overcast in the morning, and the promise of summer still stretched ahead.

Friday, October 3, 2014


Another September is gone. My personal ups and downs in September were pretty nearly as varied as our weather.  I spent a week in Yosemite National Park, which I love.  In a whole other life, I bought my first pack of cigarettes at Yosemite.  I don't smoke now.

If you've poked around here at all, you know how much I love nature - all the sky, trees, stars, mountains, birds, meadows, beasts and tiny insects.  I also love forest rangers, and especially the ranger naturalists.  I think I should have been one.  One of the joys of visiting a National Park or State Park for me is going to ranger programs, you know like campfires with talks about bears, moonlit nature walks, stuff like that.

There's a pretty broad selection of programs at Yosemite, even late in the season.  I was a little disconcerted to attend an evening naturalist lecture by an employee of the corporation that runs the concessions at Yosemite now.  She was clearly no ranger.  And she even got in a little dig at the inefficiency of government agencies.   But on the opposite end of the spectrum, I got to take a geology-themed walk with National Park Service Ranger Shelton Johnson.  Johnson was the featured ranger in the Ken Burns documentary about the national parks, and he won the 2009 Freeman Tilton Award for interpretation by a National Park Service employee.  

Ranger Johnson spoke of the geological forces that formed Yosemite, and he spoke of how long it takes geological things to transpire, how old the stones are, and what's in the dirt.  He indicated that to the granite cliffs at Yosemite the 2000 year old giant sequoias are infants.  In the blink of an eye, or a single frame, our human lives come and go.  At the same time I was on the walk with Ranger Johnson, the wind picked up in the meadows in Yosemite's high country, and a small fire exploded into a big fire.  Over the crest of Half Dome we could see the giant plume of white billowing smoke turning to brown and glowing below.

The ranger talked about how fires are just part of the natural cycle.  Most Septembers bring fires to Yosemite, and the seeds of the giant sequoia never germinate until they are exposed to the heat of a forest fire. The ranger talked about transformation - how everything is becoming something else.  The granite mountains become the soil; the acorns become trees or food.  We become earth and star stuff.

  I hate change.  I hate getting old - the relative unattractiveness of  older flesh, and the fact that my legs don't move as well as they used to, and the difference in the way people perceive me.  I hate that things aren't the way they used to be.  I hate that people and animals die and that places close and get remodeled, and that everything from children's birthdays to weddings is grossly overdone.  I hate that people have given up up on comfortable clothing and natural appearances, that teenage girls wear make up and heels and push-up bras and that men remove their chest hair. I hate how polarized and uncivil politics has become.

Although I hate change, I'm thinking that I can embrace transformation.  I'm not deteriorating; I'm just becoming something else.  The world isn't going to hell in a hand basket; it's being born anew.

Monday, August 4, 2014


The way my thoughts flow these days, literally anything could be metaphor.  Bridges are easy ones.  Bridges get you over obstacles - real or metaphorical.  There are bridges that give teeth to the toothless and bridges that save music from being tame and repetitive.

We travel by bridges to safety, but we also travel by bridges to the new and unfamiliar.  I saw a counselor recently to work through my concerns about life transitions.  I came away determined to exercise daily, make lists, get things done, try new recreation, and stick with my employment for now but not let it be a drag on my spirit.  These things are like a bridge - to get me safely over stuff - to take me somewhere good and safe, but as yet unknown.

These are paintings of the Colorado Bridge in Pasadena, a spectacular old graceful curving span that the paintings barely hint at.  It is also known as suicide bridge, for the obvious sad reason.

Metaphors make me think of symbols, and symbols make me think of film class.  I took a film class in college, and recall the wonderful movies I possibly wouldn't have watched otherwise.  I think my taste for good films was timely nurtured.  I remember lectures and discussions of visual devices.  My recollection about symbolism, however, was not from my own film class, but an earlier film class that a friend of mine had taken and told me about.

The way I remember it, my friend told me about Ingmar Bergman films, and how there are children  that aren't so much individuals but are a manifestation of a younger self who is trying to show you something.  He said children like that showed up in dreams as well as film, and that film had borrowed from dream theory.  The other thing I remember is that when the wind picked up in a movie, it meant that change was coming.  So all these years since, whenever the wind starts to blow, I look knowingly at the sky, and say in my best wise-old-farmer voice, " Change is coming."   Of course, wind is wind, and life isn't art, at least not all the time.  But the thing I've figured out is that whether or not the wind blows or whatever the music does, change is coming.  Armed with that bit of truth, I'm a fortune teller.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 21st, David Angel Day

Tomorrow would be David's 60th birthday.  A couple of years ago, we talked about a party, but never really got to the planning stage.  I'd still like to do something.  So how could I observe David Angel Day?

Breakfast would be an important observance.  Breakfast could be Eggs in a Frame ala David with sliced cantaloupe.  Or possibly french toast, or pancakes fried in butter.  A cup of coffee.  Breakfast out would be an entirely acceptable option.  The Pantry or Shakers.  A newspaper would be good in the morning.  I could read the sports page and the front page.  There might be some harsh words for conservatives, especially Clarence Thomas.  Then I'd turn to the crossword puzzle.  If a newspaper wasn't handy and a computer was, I could take trivia quizzes and/or play some online Omaha.    

It would be important to share time with Frankie the Dog - David's best dog ever.  A walk in the Arroyo would be sweet, as would a trip to Hermon Dog Park.  A trip to PetCo would fitting, with a visit to the treat bar and a chance for Frankie to show his tricks to the employees.

I'd definitely need to spend time being useful, for sure doing the dishes.  Maybe a home project - something to glue, something to paint.  A reason to go to the hardware store.  I should try to be helpful to others too.  Maybe I could find someone who needed something typed, or summarized, or moved or connected.  Anything for the Temple or Tiger Bingo.

I could make a mini-pilgrimage to all the places David lived and worked and wandered about.  With a very brief exception, they are all right in and around Los Angeles - Boyle Heights, West Hollywood, Westwood, Downtown, Alhambra, South Pasadena.  More food couldn't hurt.  I'd have many favorite restaurants to choose from.  Tommy's; El Tepeyac; Wahib's; Baskin Robbins; Burger Continental; the Dresden Room; Canter's; Pink's, Philippe's.  If I could manage time travel, I'd also consider Rick's and Danny's Deli.  Then, again, if I could manage time travel, I'd likely just have a party with David.

The right music for the day would be George Thurogood, Randy Newman, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, or really just about anything.  Possible clothing choices (not to be worn together) include long-sleeved tee shirts, Hawaiian shirts, suspenders, Jerry Garcia ties, Birkenstocks, jeans or no pants.  

Other observances of David Angel Day could include playing bocce, taking a nap, more trivia, movies, concerts, trips to museums, tequila shots, walking tours, wine tasting, cooking, poker, reading, Scrabble, Frisbee, smashing coins on the railroad track, baseball games, basketball games, golf, comedy, television, and travel.  The foregoing is not intended to be a complete list.  Of course, the most important element of a celebration of David Angel Day would be the people - the family, the friends, the acquaintances and even strangers.  Long into the night, I would keep them close and talk to them.

Rest in peace David Angel, and a happy David Angel Day to all.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Sanchez Adobe

So a few weeks ago, I painted at the Sanchez Adobe.  A few weeks before that, I didn't know there was a Sanchez Adobe.  I wasn't at all familiar with its Montebello home, although it is but a few miles away.  I still don't know too much about the Sanchez Adobe.  Apparently it was one of the really early residences in this vicinity in the early to middle part of the 19th Century.  There are actual Sanchez family members who are buried onsite.  There is also a living rabbit.

The painting kind of grew on me.  That post at the corner of the pergola is just so anywhere.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Garfield Park 2

I don't know this for a certainty, but it's a reasonable inference that Garfield Park was named for James Garfield, the 20th President of the United States and/or his widow, Lucretia.  James Garfield had a long and distinguished career in Congress, but he had been President for less than a year when he was shot and eventually succumbed to his injuries.  He left his wife and seven children behind.  Lucretia Garfield lived out the summers of her long life in Ohio, but her winters were spent in South Pasadena.  She had Greene and Greene design her winter home on Buena Vista Street.  Mrs. Garfield entertained Teddy Roosevelt in South Pasadena, she volunteered for the Red Cross and she died in South Pasadena in 1919.  The Garfield House still stands.  For the second half of the twentieth century it was owned and occupied by an engineer/inventer and father of ten including Doublemint twins.  Now the Garfield House is  home to a songwriter musician producer.  

Then there is Garfield Park.  For a while, when my children were in preschool and early grades, Garfield Park was the center of my social life.  Weekend after weekend, there were parties under the pergola, with sheet cakes and pinatas and people dressed like Ninja Turtles and Batman.  There were picnics there with my husband's family, who loved parks in a way that went far beyond anything my parents conceived of.  They barbecued and played Frisbee and bocce and ate and watched the kids.  These days I'm likely to go to Garfield Park for Shakespeare or summer concerts.  And occasional painting.  I brought my dog Frankie with me.  It wasn't my first paint-out with Frankie, but it was the first time Frankie let me really paint.

Friday, May 9, 2014


Last week at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, it was very hot.  I sat in the shade where it was relatively cool and painted this.  I was approached by baby ducks, but I had nothing for them.  There was an event called Spring!topia going on, and I tried to take it in after I painted, but it was hot enough that my edges wilted and I just ended up going home.

This is the Queen Anne Cottage that I painted once before.  It has a good story that I told once before.  It was featured in the opening scene of a 1970s/1980s television show called Fantasy Island.  The period Fantasy Island ran pretty much paralleled the time when I lived without a television.  Although somehow I knew the show well enough to be familiar with one of its actors, Herve Villechaze, who walked into my pub one night, and walked up to the bar and ordered a drink.  I think I may have helped him, because he was extremely small, and unlikely to be seen from behind the bar.

I was recalling that I don't remember my parents ever taking me to the arboretum.  Which seems odd because my father was such a fan and walking encyclopedia of trees.  I went with the Girl Scouts, and got a bit of training about plants and did some nature-related crafts.  I went back on a regular basis as a teenager.  It was a place to feed ducks, hold hands with boys, and gather feathers to adorn our hippie-girl hair.   That was years before I knew of the migratory birds act.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Backstop Firefly

In the center of my town, there's a railway stop where there used to be a train station.  There's a history museum in an old building that used to be an iron works.  There is an old stone structure that used to be a place to water horses.  The weekly farmers market is here.  Painters love this place, and in a way I have to confess I'm not sure why here as opposed to a literally infinite number of other possible places. But it seems to work.

It rained Friday night, brought about in part by the power of my thoughts, or so it seemed.  So Saturday morning was one of those sparkling bright high contrasty mornings.  If not for being unseasonable chilly, it was perfect for painting.  Smells of garlic, and coffee, and toast, in turns, wafted over from nearby restaurants.  Before I began to paint, I got approached and then interviewed by a couple of filmmakers for One Day in Los Angeles.  I hope that if I end up in the final cut I don't look or sound too ridiculous.  

I picked this scene to paint for a combination of visuals.  I liked the bright color of the restaurant, although I rendered it more pumpkin and less saffron.  I liked that the sky wasn't visible through the trees, but only reflected on the windows and the street.  I liked the back of the stop sign, and how you know it's a stop sign without the annoying red color and stentorian message.  Although it's in the middle and foreground, it isn't overly significant.

The saffron colored restaurant is called Firefly.  I like the restaurant.  I kind of remember when it opened and I think the owner/chef was the father of a classmate of a friend's daughter.  It's been probably a couple of years since I've been there now, but I've had some good meals.  The food is prepared with thought and care. I did a New Year's eve tasting there once, and once had a birthday dessert splurge.  One time I went for a walk, and ended up having dinner there.  It's all outdoor patio seating, and one time a waitress noticed a big spider on my husband and calmly plucked it off and returned it to nature.  She was my best waitress ever.    

Monday, April 21, 2014

Eventually You Reach Water

The cool thing about this painting is that it looks like we're at the beach, gazing out toward the water on a sunny day, but the fact is there's no water there.  It's all just sky, viewed from a Mount Washington hillside at a perfect bird's eye angle, toward southeast.  In truth, it's all just paint.   I managed to get a lot of paint on it.  I may have even come close to covering the texture of the canvas panel.  A friend of mine who knows I paint gave me a huge stretched canvas panel.  I think it's about 3 by 4 feet - at least twice as big as the biggest painting I've painted.  I can't imagine even covering it.  I might need a roller.  And what would I want to paint that big?  I might go non-representational.  I know from looking at other big paintings that I don't like too much red.  It won't be soon.  That just isn't my pace.