Hey, Lookit What I Found!

Crows are a great source of pleasure to me. I admire their bold, graphic good looks: wiry legs and strong beak, shining eyes, and smooth feathers accented with iridescent shine. I enjoy listening to their noisy announcements and conversations, knowing that whether one is broadcasting his name in braggadocio or informing the rest of the neighborhood of what she’s discovered, there is often more brainy expression and interaction going than in many a text-messaging flurry from a pack of attention-deficient humans.

Crows can be aggressive and mean-spirited like humans, too, as I well know from working many years on a heavily treed campus where nesting season was Open Season on certain passersby whom the crows chose to bully. But for the most part, when they’re not busy trying to defend their territory they devote a goodly amount of time and energy to exploring and problem-solving and even humorous play, that is also surprisingly easy to see through an anthropomorphic lens. If I see a crow taking a particular interest in anything, chances are pretty good that I’ll find it interesting myself, should I follow its lead.
Digital artwork from photographs: Curious Crows

Shore Enough

I am too smart for you by half; you think you’re bright? Don’t make me laugh!

You think me infantile and boisterous, but cannot crack an oyster

With no knife? Ha! Silly chums: no fingers, no opposing thumbs,

And yet, I’ve dined on oysters thrice before you’ve opened one. How nice

That you consider yourselves wise to have your thoughts and synthesize

Them into action, yet still fail to see that mine makes yours seem pale,

When you consider that you’ve got advantages that I have not,

And still I’m able, while you strive and strain to merely keep alive,

To caw this jeering little poem at you from this, my beachfront home.

Keen Eyes do Not a Keen Mind Make

For most of my life I’ve had outstanding vision. I had a little interlude in grade school and junior high school when I wore fairly weak glasses to correct my slight farsightedness, but it was indeed correctable, and after about three years I was once again glasses-free, and this state of uncorrected bliss lasted until I was a whole half-century old. During my external-lens-less heyday I could see all sorts of things with great crispness and clarity and in glorious detail. Unfortunately for you, this did not extend to my seeing the truth more clearly than others could or to my understanding anything more clearly than anyone else did.photoHaving sharp eyes doesn’t, it turns out, equal having a sharp intellect. Dang.

It’s as if the universe didn’t care whether I’m a blithering idiot, no matter how excellent my eyesight. Come to think of it, a convenient combination in a person wishing to be an artist and writer and having no particular need or wish to do so in a reality-based universe. So here I am, all of those years post-first-spectacles, once again enhanced in my ability to see things by artificial means, and yet no smarter or better able to clarify the meaning of existence or even an itty bitty little part of it than I was with no glasses near my peepers. Go figure.photoMy appreciation and admiration for genuine intelligence may have increased over the years, to be sure, but the need for such things seems, if anything, to decline steadily and in perhaps directly proportionate amounts. What this says about me I will leave to your imaginations. At the same time, I needn’t leave everything to your imaginations, because as my goofy insight into things utterly fictional remains entirely intact no matter what happens to my eyebulbs, I can assure you that I will continue to produce all sorts of whimsical, bizarre and deeply educational items for your perusal here at my blog. It’s what I do.

Inverted Vortices & Puzzling Phenomena

I realize that all of us living creatures are scientifically explainable up to a point. We are generally parts of the natural world and therefore part of what scientists study and attempt to suss out and, in some wonderful instances, they do manage to make great discoveries about just what we are and what makes us tick. But me, I don’t really get any of it.digital illustrationHow is it, for example, that I have all of the parts required for me to be athletic, and yet I have never become anything remotely like it despite any school-required or even occasionally, self-imposed, practices? I’ve seen incredible athleticism in people with far fewer obvious tools for the task, not to mention having a visibly smaller inventory of raw materials in the way of the commonly used senses—blind or hearing-impaired athletes, for example—or functional limbs: any Paralympic athlete could clearly trounce my trousers in a trice.

How come, with all of my commendable efforts at garnering a real school-based education and my various attempts as an autodidact, I’ve still got an ordinary intellect and not the mega brain I see in some who appear to have been born to create shade for my dim thoughts?

I say this not to complain but, surprisingly, because it impresses and even sometimes thrills me, this magical, miraculous existence that we have. It’s actually exciting to me to think that there is so much around me and about me that I can’t begin to explain or understand. It may drive me a little batty at times to realize, as I do increasingly with the passing of said time, how little I will or even can ever comprehend about who I am and how I fit into the universe, but then I catch one more glimpse of a star—human or celestial—and remember how fabulous, how inexplicably yet palpably rich, this life can be. And I am both humbled and exalted.digital illustration

Only a Dreamscape will Do

It’s my big sister’s birthday. Granted that she’s already gotten to have more of them than I have, I still wish her masses more birthdays, and not just so she’ll set a good example for me to follow. She’s done that all along, and though I’ve been imperfect at best in living up to her fabulosity and smartitude and funny-tations and whatnot, I’m still counting on her to continue the kindly gesture for ages to come. Having an older sister like her is like going to see a pretty view of the landscape and discovering that all the landscapes along the way are connected into an equally pretty, endlessly inviting prospect full of breezes, candy floss clouds, sunlight, streams, and sweet wildflowers. If I could give her all of this as a birthday gift, it might suffice.photo montageShe’s no billionaire, but she seems to know how to live well and build happiness around her remarkably well, so unless I come into billions myself I might have trouble finding her a gift that’ll knock her socks off properly. Guess I’ll have to settle for loving her to pieces (all of them, hopefully, remaining firmly attached to each other as they should be), admiring her immensely (and that’s not a crack about my weight, wink-wink), and giving her the same old big, shiny nothing that I give her every year (though it’s always tied up with a massive bow of plots for sisterly laughter), wrapped up in good wishes and the promise of a paltry but delicious dinner in her honor when I finally get to see her again. The requisite amount of good chocolate included, of course.

Happy Birthday! Encore, encore!

What We Can Learn from Dogs

So it’s Monday. All. Day. Long. One of those times when you can easily believe in the purported accursedness of the day; one unlucky, frustrating, impossible thing after another and not a coffee break in sight. We’ve all had ’em. Rotten, rotten Mondays, no matter what day of the week in reality, are the bane of humankind.

Dogs, however, rarely let a Monday take their essential doggy happiness away. It takes, in fact, quite a lot of horribleness to take the equanimity and enthusiastic canine capering down to a level recognizable as sad, and once cheered up again, dogs are remarkably good at forgiving and forgetting. Barring ill-treatment or illness, every day is the greatest day ever to your average dog.

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Why lie around counting the time until your human will take you walking farther, when you can back-scratch your way headfirst right down the hill?

It’s not that dogs are stupid. Far from it; some dogs I’ve known would beat some people I’ve known at any IQ test, and the average dog is a pretty clever problem solver and able to perform all sorts of magnificent deeds, accomplish numerous astounding feats. It’s more that dogs, simply, seem to have a highly developed power for living in the moment, finding the good in the small and ordinary and letting unpleasantness drift past them as quickly as the turning of the world will allow. They’re not much on sulking, self-pity, or wallowing and very rarely hold grudges–and these, as far as I’ve seen, only when pressed to it by persons or events truly deserving of their scorn.

What dogs seem to hold among their many fine and useful instincts is the one that tells one to be thrilled when a maple seed helicopters out of a tree in his path, to slurp lustily at a handy puddle of water when thirsty, and to leap into the air rather than toddling through the weeds when crossing the parking strip to get to the park for a romp. The wisdom to nuzzle the hand that pets him, to lie like a shaggy, comforting blanket on the cold feet of a human companion when he’s sad and to shoot across the house like water from a fire hose when the other human gets home from her long day at the office. All of this is noble work, and keeping as busy at it as any good dog does makes him far too busy to mope and snarl and bemoan his bad fortune. Even on a typical Monday.

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It’s a good day to be a dog!

Get Your Mower out of My Driveway

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Hang up and mow!

There are things you would think you’d never have to explain to others, but no. That old term Common Sense seems to have aged poorly, becoming a wistful irony at best, an oxymoron in general practice. Sense, yes; in abundance. Good sense? O, would that it were so!

I’m recollecting the time when our then-regular yard service crew decided it was time for a general pruning in all of their clients’ gardens. Besides the butchery of our precious rhododendrons that made me almost apoplectic when I came home that evening to their skeletal remains–a heartrending sight that on its own would have driven me to buy a cheap push mower and better pruning shears and end the ‘service’ contract–they decided to clear the gate at the north side of the house. Not having noticed, apparently, that I’d sealed that useless gate in favor of the wide open passage on the driveway side of the house, where mowers and wheelbarrows could pass with ease. So they tore out the tender seedling Garry oak by the gate, the one I’d coddled up to nearly five feet tall.

I would have assumed that a longtime yard ‘care’ business would employ people who knew the basics, if not the art, of pruning to do it; the several years of assiduous nursing it took me to save the rhodies were spent in wonder that it was so evidently not obvious to that crew. But yanking up a slow-growing native seedling tree without asking? Really? If I’d had the broom to ride, I’d’ve been skywriting that company’s performance review with the postscript, ‘RIP: Common Sense.’

No, it was not the end of the world, or even (happily) the end of those brave, scrappy rhododendrons. I suppose the only thing that suffered fatally in the event was my trust in that yard company. That, and my mower-free personal time per the end of their contract. But it certainly dealt a glancing blow, as well, to my naïveté about what is and isn’t Common Sense. Guess there’s always time to learn new things. Just keep away from my garden babies in the meantime and nobody gets hurt.

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I don’t care if it *is* growing in a crack on the driveway; if it’s in bloom, don’t mess with it.

The Price of Innocence

Wye Not

Wye was an impoverished man

Because he didn’t know

The answer to all questions was

‘Because I told you so’—

Wye was a pauper and

He lies in Potter’s Field

Because he tried to find the truth

That others kept concealed—

Wye lived in such poverty

And died alone, unmourned,

Because he kept on asking things

Well after he’d been warned—

Poor Wye was a mortal fool

Despite being a hero:

In heaven, truth makes you a saint—

On earth, it makes you zero.graphite drawing

Righteous Doormats & Violent Cupcakes

digital artworkThey’re everywhere, I tell you, misunderstood geniuses and wolves in sheep’s clothing. The former, naturally, are a self-identifying group and the latter generally people who pose as, and more often than not, sincerely believe themselves to be, benign when they are in reality malignant. And it amazes me yet more profoundly to note how many humans manage to occupy the intersecting subset. A veritable embarrassment of riches, I say.digital artworkThe Misunderstood Genius [MG] sorts I have known range from those with certifiably stratospheric IQs to  folk I would deem more simply ‘certifiable‘, yet the number fitting into the truly brilliant bunch continually astonish me with their ability to be fantastically endowed with intelligence and ignorant or downright stupid in perfect simultaneity. The clear and incessantly demonstrated fact is that a high IQ has nothing to do with self-awareness, social skills, political acumen or just plain being right. While MGs are busy nursing their indignation over being ignored and repressed, made the scapegoat, under-appreciated, envied, maltreated and squelched by their personal versions of The Man, and muttering imprecations into their shiny academic loving-cups, their supposed inferiors are burnishing less impressive tools to get something real accomplished or merely live life.digital artworkMeanwhile, since the universe would so clearly be better (!) if it accepted MGs’ greatness, these people tend to see themselves as benefactors of the universe, if not its modest deities. Being misapprehended and under-admired is not proof, after all, that one isn’t fabulous. This is where the intersection of neglected magnificence and false-faced kindliness is nurtured. While there is a whole range of persons who present themselves as sweet and cuddly and kindhearted and are anything-but, right on up to full-blown sociopaths, there is this weird zone within it that is the dwelling place of those who think themselves unfairly ostracized or disliked. Whether they do so consciously or not, it seems to me that many MGs also build up quite a repertoire of acts wherein they play at sympathetic and philanthropic and other deliciously, invitingly admirable roles, all the while keeping a hand free to check on the availability of their ‘concealed carry’. It’s not only the guy in the clock tower that’s picking off passersby with his rifle but, more often, the one armed only with attitude that picks off everyone around, one chip of the communal atmosphere of support and collegiality and congeniality at a time.

It’s Not Enough to be Beautiful

digital painting from a photoReally, the stuff that lies inside is what matters, what always mattered. Wit, integrity, talent. Compassion, charm. Power and intelligence and courage and humor. The things that last go far beyond the mere physical and visible attractions that we, individually and collectively, consider beautiful. It’s more difficult to find and gauge inner beauty, and far more so to develop it, so no wonder we hunt for it and we treasure it so highly. Still, it’s funny that we do. We love, after all, what looks beautiful to us very, very deeply as well. And beauty for its own sake is not a bad thing, either.

Is one morally or inherently better than another? Certainly not. Are they mutually exclusive? Hardly. But it’s true all the same that visible beauty has its perks. We often don’t have to know anything about each other for us to want to be associated Beautiful people, to be around them and admire them, if only for how much we like the way they look. And they in turn, both those with the inner resources that we admire and those who might be closer to pretty, empty packages with nothing fabulous inside, get attention and get things done, their way sometimes greased by the access and support that their prettiness gets them. If it’s possible to have both the outer and the inner, that could hardly be objectionable, but if I had to choose, some days I suspect I would be quite content to be the beautiful one in the room; it’d be fun just to see what it’s like, I imagine. Might not be a Greta Garbo, with both the looks and the evidently impressive inner life, but even being a cheap imitation of the exquisite woman for sheer looks wouldn’t be too awful, I’d think. All I can say is that it really isn’t enough to be beautiful–but it’s not exactly such a bad thing either, is it, now?

All right, I’m only enjoying my little fantasy. My partner, husband, best friend and spouse tells me I’m pretty, I’m beautiful, and I’m full of all those dandy aforementioned inner resources too. And whether it’s flattery or his perception of the truth, I don’t much care. It’s more than enough to feel beautiful. Glamorous I may not be, and in fact I might not even be any of those other lovely things my guy tells me I am, but he’s pretty convincing, that fella of mine, and his word–with his impressive daily love backing it all up–is plenty for me. Any day of the year.

More Myths about Inspiration & Creativity

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Don’t accept a falsehood for your reality–if you have to create your own, then do it!

Back on that old topic of whimpering: of all the [wonderfully dire and woefully valid] reasons I can’t possibly do the enormous amount of work required by this assignment, there’s none simpler or more honest than Number 11:

11         BUT I DON’T WANT  TO _______________ (you fill in the blank)!

            Boo Hoo.  It’s not always optional, is it. Just keep firmly in mind that sometimes doing the required thing leads to unexpected delights in the end product. Not to mention the thoroughly predictable delight of having it done, finished, off the To Do list and out of nagging territory. Just get it out of the way now and you’ll be ever so relieved. Maybe even pleased with yourself!

12        ALL CREATIVE PEOPLE ARE (take your pick):

Eccentric; loose; savants; savages; radical; anti-intellectual; uncontrollable; fluff-headed; egocentric; snobbish; smelly…

Everybody is one or more of the above at some point; look at all of our pop-culture idols who get hung out to dry on a daily basis, not to mention all of the religious, educational and political Saints who irk the multitudes so regularly.  So imperfection is hardly a reasonable excuse for avoiding being (or being in the company of) an art maker.

13        IT’S SELFISH &/OR IRRESPONSIBLE TO BE AN ARTIST.

How about how selfish and irresponsible it is to be good at something that enriches lives and shapes culture and to refuse to exercise, to share, those gifts.  How unkind it is to stifle your true self and passions (and spend your life unfulfilled or with a chip on your shoulder) so that you live a half life and cheat your friends and loved ones out of your rich complexity.  How about that for selfish and irresponsible, huh? Choosing a ‘safe’ path never guaranteed anyone’s actually being safe, anyway.

14        NOBODY (read: Not Everybody in the Universe) WILL LIKE IT.

If you find anything that everybody likes, let me know.  For that matter, if you find anything NOBODY likes, I’ll be mighty surprised.  So, isn’t it good enough for you if you think your work has some value?  It may not make you a market mogul, but it’s amazingly fulfilling to be an artist, and (other than food, which is admittedly desirable) practically no other wealth compares.

15        THE GREATEST!!!

Who says?  There is no single Greatest of anything that everyone will agree on yet, and the odds are pretty good that they won’t all agree anything you do is the Greatest—or worst—ever, so why lose sleep over an untried concept.  Do your best and be done with it.

16        IF YOU CAN’T SAY (do) ANYTHING NICE (or well), DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL.

A half-baked effort is usually better than no effort at all; no effort guarantees a lack of (or negative) result, and misguided or incomplete efforts can occasionally be rescued or luck into a better-than-deserved result.

digital artwork from a photo

Think beautiful thoughts!

17        IT ISN’T AS GOOD AS _________________’S.

Probably nothing anybody else ever does will be as good as my work, but aside from that impossibly high standard, you have as good a chance as any of doing work better than somebody’s, at least occasionally, as long as you do work.

18        ALL GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT.

But they don’t come to all of the specific people who desire them, or ‘on time,’ or in the desired form.  Your dream might end up in someone else’s stash of prizes if you don’t put up a fight for it.

19        I CAN’T DRAW A STRAIGHT LINE.

No, but a computer can do it for you, or you can use a straightedge, or you can hire a stand-in to draw your straight lines.  Don’t tell me your whole oeuvre as an artist/designer is going to be straight lines.  Sheesh.

20        CREATIVITY = INTUITION.

Intuition is an indefinable sense or sensation that can bring soul and emotional depth to the work (both process and product), but true creativity takes that nebulous touchy-feely power and combines it with study, effort, logic, research, skill and courage and synthesizes all of the elements of an artist’s knowledge and experience and passions into a concrete Work of Art (process and/or product).

21        THERE’S NOT ENOUGH TIME.

True.  We’ll never be given enough time for everything that’s important.  So it’s up to us to TAKE the time.  And MAKE the time.  There’s no real alternative.  It’s called Making Choices (and living with them).

22        YOU CAN’T FAKE INSPIRATION.

Maybe you can’t, but I can.  Seriously, folks, most people won’t know the difference if you substitute delirious hard work and enthusiasm and use all of your know-how to its limits.  If that isn’t quite Inspiration, at least it’s mighty inspirational.  When in doubt, review Item Number 10 in Tuesday’s post (linked above).

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Go ahead: try your wings!