Now, Let’s Sit & Talk about This for a Moment

Photo: Long Road 1After the flood of mindless vitriol in our American political scene—yes, an outpouring from all sides and hardly touched by facts and logic or by mere civility as everyone descends to defensive and angry namecalling—I am reminded that this is an age-old problem.

“Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.” – Carl Sagan, astronomer and author (1934-1996).Photo: Long Road 2

More importantly, I recognize that we would not now exist, certainly not as a federation of states we call a nation, but possibly not even as the chaotic, argumentative, and colorful mass of humanity we are, if there weren’t some among us who occasionally do sit down at the same table and work to reason out the complexities that try us all. Only then can anyone come to an agreement that, while it may be deeply imperfect at best, is still genuinely aimed at the longer-term ideal of growing gradually, of improving until it offers a possibility for better health, education, safety, opportunity, and well-being for all, not just for the privileged or noisy few. I hope that the antagonistic tenor of recent times can be put behind us in favor of work and conversation dedicated to nobler causes than self-interest and fear. I hope that we can let go of redefining hot-button words to suit our mood-of-the-moment and that we can reflect on how our own attitudes and imperfections, ignorance of the larger picture or of other people’s experiences, and our own prejudices and deeply held convictions can stand in the way of simply living together. It doesn’t have to mean giving up principles or changing hard-won beliefs if we will honestly examine our shared needs and our commonalities with equal fervor and attempt to find the best ways to uphold and accommodate all of them.

I’m tired of living in a place that could be one of the few on earth these days that’s not an actual war zone, yet feels as though we are all embattled on a daily basis. If even a modest number of us spent the energy we currently waste on perpetual shadowboxing with real-or-imagined enemies and evils instead on reasoning out positive change and growth in ourselves and our communities, what a different atmosphere we’d have. I, for one, am ready to commit to turning down the volume of my critiques, and persevering in sharing what I have that can give others respite, or hope, or a moment of beauty, no matter how small it may be, instead of wallowing in anyone’s bitterness and despair any longer.Photo: Long Road 3

Waste not those feet

I am still lurking about in my book-writing space, having now pressed Publish on my fifth Blurb book and working on a number of those yet in progress. But it’s happy work. On that note, I commend to you my dear friend Celi’s superbly crisp take on happiness from her own blog:

thekitchensgarden

How to change Big attitudes with tiny turns.
sheila

You know that feeling when you are half way to somewhere and you realise you have forgotton something that you need. Or you cannot carry everything you need down the back in one wheelbarrow and must make two or three trips. And you think – Dammit now I have to walk all the way back. Lately when I have these realisations I am pleased.
cat

All this has come down to a little plastic gadget my daughter has me wearing that counts my footsteps. There are a number of such bracelets, I don’t want to advertise mine as I am not in the business of advertising, and that is not the aim of this discussion, you may even have one on your phone but counting my footsteps has turned my attitude on its head. Now instead of being frugal with movement, efficient with my feet…

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One of the Other Handy Things about Slowness

Photo: Nocturnes & Lullabies, Book CoverThe gradual approach to the making of my art-and-poetry books means that, while the process itself is invisible to the naked eye and makes it look pretty much like I’m sitting around twiddling my thumbs for years at a time, I have built up quite an inventory of miscible ingredients for the non-nefarious sort of book-cookery. So I have another book ‘going live’ on my button-push today (a little gift to myself, admittedly): Nocturnes & Lullabies (poems of nighttime set with my landscape photography). And I have one in proof-production that is of songs and dances and romances, A Wanderer Wearing Art-Colored Glasses, expected to go live before we’re well into the new year.

And I have about four more in current process, not to mention a good handful of others on the docket to follow. This isn’t meant by any means to be a cheap stunt, but is merely the latest expression of my lifelong approach to creative endeavors. Collect: ideas, info, little bits of practice and revisions of them. Do more research, writing, rewriting, art-making, and photo taking. Collect some more. Do some more. Put all of the collections and doings into digital files so that they can be combined, rearranged, edited, and further refined until they begin to coalesce into another recognizable book.

That latter step becomes smoother not only as I get the hang of the various publishing templates that allow me to manipulate the content to my taste and satisfaction but, more especially, as I have been looking at and revising my writings and visual images over the years. Among the hundreds and thousands of texts and pictures are some that begin to stand out, to interact in their files, to show affinities that lead me to combine them and refine them in new ways, and eventually, to become what might be the next book or project idea.

Meanwhile, besides that I continue to have a daily life where sleeping, eating, keeping house, and having social or other obligations, there are other kinds of projects brewing in their own ways and at their own pace. I haven’t had a gallery or other-venue showing of my artwork in a long time, and am getting the itch again, so I think I need to set one up for a time within the coming year to motivate myself to be newly productive in some of my favorite media. I even have a few thoughts about inventions of various kinds that I think might be worth exploring for practical application.

But all of this is still so much fancy and fantasy unless I continue to (a) keep current with the aforementioned daily tasks of living, and (b) plug along with the book projects as much as I’m able. For now, I’m happy to have gotten another baby up and running, and hope you’ll have a look at this latest of my petite coffee-table books and enjoy reading and looking at it as much as I’ve enjoyed incubating and producing all of them. Cheers!

Slow and Steady Gets Books Written

It seems to take me forever, but generally speaking, I do eventually work to finish up my plans. Some of them I even manage to accomplish in reality, not merely simmer internally until they’re fully formed imaginings. Another book, for example, that has finally hatched.

Photo: Hot Flash Fiction (photo credit: Blurb.com)

The newest baby from a past-childbearing-aged person….

Hot Flash Fiction is coming your way.

Yep. I have completed another book, and there are several more in the proverbial pipeline. This one, of course, joins its predecessor Miss Kitty’s Fabulous Emporium (Vol. 1), which is still conveniently available at Amazon, and the new book, Hot Flash Fiction, will be for sale both at Blurb.com and Amazon as soon as it ‘goes live’—I’ve submitted the posting materials and only await the gnomic decree from Amazon to finalize the book’s availability. While MKFE-1 is only available in soft cover/paperback, it has hundreds of poems and graphite drawings. Now that I’m going full-color and making the new book available in both paperback and hard cover versions, it is necessary to keep the book shorter in order to make it affordable enough to be worth my while (and yours!), but then I think a shorter book, since this one is dedicated to ultra-short fiction, is entirely apropos. And I’m pleased with the rich color and crisp details of the print. I think you will be, too.

MKFE-1 (photo credit: Amazon.com)

The one that started it all.

Hot Flash Fiction is a collection of tales with tiny twists, terrible turns, and ticklish tidbits everywhere you look, both in their texts and illustrations. A jot of the ridiculous here, a dot of the delirious there—from science fiction to steampunk, from romantic follies to childish fancies, from cradle to grave and back again, it’s all squeezed into the compact form of exceedingly brief flash fiction. The illustrations, collages of my photographs interwoven with vintage finds and digitally drawn and painted elements into complex treasure-maps to enhance the stories, are a complete turn-about from the entirely hand-drawn black and white images of MKFE, but merely reflect another aspect of my many visual loves.

I look forward to returning with somewhat greater frequency to this blog in the year ahead, but am working in the meanwhile to put together yet more and further different books, so I shall leave you for now with this invitation to dive into these two while the others are still in their formative stages. Happy reading, image-gazing, and most of all, a happy autumn to you all!

Oh—and lest you think I’ve been lounging around listlessly while not posting and only writing books of my poetry and short fiction and art, I have also produced, with the help of a nice company in France called BlookUp, the first of a series of books documenting this blog. Which, I suppose, is yet another book of my poetry and short fiction and art. Never mind! But in case you’re interested, Art-Colored Glasses is now available, too. I recommend the e-book version of that one, because it’s printed on lovely glossy paper in full color and loaded with content, so it’s expensive. But pretty darn entertaining, too, for all that.

Photo: Art-Colored Glasses 1

Book 1 of my blog-documenting series, Art-Colored Glasses. With a Certain Someone silhouetted on the cover, no less.

Foodie Tuesday: Two Soups = Twice as Super

Photo: Roasted Veg for DinnerI’m experimenting with various vegetable combinations lately, for whatever reason, and finding more and more of them that please me than ever before. That said, no recipe or variation thereon is guaranteed to be ideal, either in its as-written form or to my personal taste. To wit: a split pea soup recipe I tried out recently.

Unlike my normal practice, I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter, the only change being to substitute russet for fingerling potatoes in lieu of an extra, last-minute run to the grocery store. This alone undoubtedly did skew the recipe, because of course russets or baking potatoes are mealy and liquid-stealing by nature, and I knew that the resulting blend would require a little more of its liquid to arrive intact…so I adjusted that amount very slightly and accounted for the concomitant change in seasoning with a pinch or two extra as needed.

Now, I grew up with split peas as a thick porridge or stew rather than a watery soup, so I had no worry about the stuff turning out thick, which it did. But this was no stick-to-my-ribs hearty porridge, only grainy and mealy slushiness. Worse, it was, as my superhero supertaster of a spouse agreed, the superlative of blandness. Even he couldn’t detect enough flavor in this mixture to warrant eating a whole pot of it, fresh or reheated.Photo: In a Maelstrom of Soup Madness

I will not, however, be defeated by a bunch of boring and dull-textured vegetables. Still, I had other meals to make in the meantime, so the remainder of that dinner went into the fridge to sit in the naughty corner and think about its misdeeds in the dark for a day or two. I had roasted vegetables to make.

This is something I crave in the cooler months, or what passes for such things in Texas. It’s one of my favorite ways to boost the flavor and character of not only the individual veg themselves when straight out of the oven but also the dishes to which I can add some or all of them later as slightly caramelized booster versions of themselves. This time I prepped a two-pan batch for the oven. One was a mix of thickly julienned potatoes and carrots and onion with a touch of garlic plus a paste made by blending turmeric, smoked paprika, a little smoked salt, and yellow mustard (the vinegary American kind) with a spoonful of my homemade veg broth (also turmeric-and-paprika tinged in this batch). I stirred those all together with a few brown mustard seeds, and stuck them in a big baking dish.

Joining this pan in the oven was another, filled with asparagus spears, julienned celery and red capsicum, quartered brown mushrooms, a small handful of broccoli flowerets, and pitted black olives. This got a good spoonful of veg broth in the bottom to keep the onions and garlic from over-roasting. Then, I dressed over the whole admixture with a sprinkling of dill, a slick of light-style Italian vinaigrette, and a sliced whole lemon.Photo: Thick & Hearty Asparagus-Mushroom Soup

Having these two ready at dinnertime, all I wanted to round out the meal was a light, crisp salad of romaine leaves and sweet kernel corn, lightly toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and piñons (pine nuts), a grind of black pepper, and my orange-orange-orange salad dressing (a puree of blood orange olive oil, blood orange vinegar, and canned mandarins in their super-sweet no-sugar-added fruit juice).

The asparagus mix went well together, but as roasted vegetables sometimes do, lost its good looks in the ‘old age’ of just-past-dinnertime, so I chopped it all up (except for the limp lemon rinds), poured some more veg broth in with it, and sealed it up overnight in the fridge to meld together. This, in turn, brings me back to redesigning or rehabilitating a dish from past days in a way that pleases better than mere reheating. For today’s lunch, I took out that batch of Asparagus and Friends, pureed it all together with a little extra water to make it less fork-meal and more spoonable, and it made a fine asparagus-mushroom soup, whose lemony intensity I balanced with a garnish of the aforementioned sweet corn and a flourish of cracked black pepper.Photo: Curried Cream of Split Peas

Meanwhile, back at the Land of the Lonesome Pease-porridge…. I pureed the pea-soup boringness into a nice, smooth actual soup with the help of a little coconut milk plus a goodly seasoning with my latest batch of home-ground curry masala, and by George, that was a major improvement! With a spoonful of plain whole-milk yogurt and a shaving of fresh nutmeg over the top, it was even my favorite of the two, today. (Pardon my steam for that blurry shot.) We shall see what tomorrow brings, whether a new favorite between them, or only more leftovers on which to experiment. Either will suit me fine.Photo: Two Soups, You Choose

Update: I did make a change to the asparagus soup that puts it in direct competition for first place with the split pea curry. I added some whole coconut milk to it. The added creaminess and the mellowing of the flavors was a good balancing element for the intensity of the other flavors. And then I topped the bowl with a dose of additional sliced mushrooms that had been slow-browned in vegetable broth, sautéed without fat but a hearty dash of coconut aminos and regularly-added splashes of the veg broth at intervals to deglaze the pan and keep the mushrooms from sticking. And behold, it was very good!

Let’s Talk about Truth in Advertising

As she so often does, my amazing friend Celi brought up once again the question of what we photograph, and how, and why, and what it can mean when we do so. As an avid, inveterate and truly—in the old sense—amateur photographer myself, this topic remains of great and constant interest. In the present climate of world politics, especially our wildly messy and weird American version of them, we certainly become obsessed with the idea of which of us has a complete grip on The Truth (absolutely nobody, in my opinion) and how we wield it (selfishly and manipulatively, IMO), and whether we’re arguing about what is real in visual or verbal images it pretty much plays out the same. We’re all generally trying to express how we understand the world, and to convince ourselves and others that our understanding is the smartest or best one.Photos: My HDR 1

Me, I edit a high proportion of my photos, many of them very heavily—but rarely do I do so to many for outright imaginative purposes. Aside from the (at least) 2/3 to 9/10 percentage I cull before using, what I do keep is for illustrative purposes at least as much as for documentary ones, but my intent with my photos is always to show others how I see the world, not necessarily how the world exists in an empirical sense.Photos: My HDR 2

In my opinion, that was always the purpose of photography: even the most rigorous of news and docu- photographers have always only shown us what they choose, and are able, to shoot, and from their perspective. Heck, people were manipulating photographs (early “ghost story” and “fairy” photos, anyone?!) as soon as they could shoot them. Photos are no more concrete proof of Truth than are written or spoken words. Current politics and social interactions merely continue to confirm all of the above.Photos: My HDR 3

So last night I was doing my own version of HDR, wherein I meticulously hand-alter (albeit with digital tools) the light/dark contrast in various parts of shots to replicate what my eyes and brain do as I’m seeing the images live, and my live-in art critic commented on my play with the pictures. And then I showed him how, for example, the pictures I took while he was driving here through west-Texas and New Mexico storms this summer are ‘readable’ only after such an edit, and that if his eyes weren’t already making such adjustments on the fly he’d not have been able to see, headlights or not, to drive in such varied light as the storms make.Photos: My HDR 4Photos: My HDR 5Photos: My HDR 6

I know that when I photograph my own environment, I do so with constant awareness of my version of Clutter Blindness, too, which makes me not see or notice things that are constantly in my environment—until I’m recording that environment with my camera. What an amazing tool is the camera! But it’s only a tool, and the images we take with it only the things we’ve chosen to note or share in our own ways. I love seeing the world through others’ photos, artworks, and eyes; my reality is frequently shifted and enhanced by this interchange of ideas and experiences. But I’ll always think it’s best, whether in attempts at documentation and recording real-life happenings and visions or in entirely handmade and invented artworks, to look with my critical thinking and logical skepticism engaged, and know that what I see and what I perceive to be real are all as ephemeral and dodgy as the brain and heart can possibly make them.

Digital illo: Editing Digital Art [Rumpy]

Editing my own digital art is simply a more complicated version of what I do with photos in order to make them more like I “see” them in my mind’s eye. I’m pretty sure Rumpy would agree that no matter how well-meaning we may be, we are all bound to see things from our own perspective.

Wake

Photo: Invocation at Morning

Remembering September 11, 2001, and looking forward to the ‘new day’ of a better and more peaceful world in every year to come…

Call Me Forth
The invocation begins
as the faintest whispering, barely a
decibel above the ticking of air in
poplar leaves yet unseen in the
indigo-tinged predawn dark.

From a place deeper than imagination,
deeper than dreams, than death,
the call begins to breathe and ascends,
invisible, a wisp of incense made
of the most gracious resins, of
cedar and pine and fir.

That fissure between absolute nothingness
and the invention of life
appears: the horizon.

And lofting on the breath of this
most delicate solemnity, the sky
opens the heavy shade of night, lifts
the lid to open up the eye of day.

I am summoned. At the call, I must
respond; I shall fly upward, will arise.
Though I am the roughest raven of
the night, I stretch my iridescent wings
and sing like the lark of morning.

Digital illo from a photo: Angel of My Better Self

…let us all be the angels of our better selves, wherever the day takes us.

With loving best wishes to Tore, who remains one of the best things that ever happened on the eleventh of September.