Timeout for Art: Failures


clay work 005

This piece was great fun to create, though it did not survive the firing process. The sculptures that I made by building with soft coils of clay were very prone to crack and separate between the coils. That, I didn’t mind. I heated solder until it melted and let it run down a slope made of a metal panel to form irregular and various-sized silver beads, about the shape of fresh water pearls. With dark gray mortar and the silver beads, I filled the cracks to accentuate the flaws. It was not always possible, however.

This piece, which was built up in coils that swirled in figure 8s, at times joining columns together, at others letting them grow independently, cracked along the coil lines, as expected. It also cracked vertically, which was not something that I could remedy in a way that pleased me.

I should have anticipated the failure. There were too many pressure points and areas where the clay would heat or cool (thus expand and contract) at different rates in the kiln. It was so fragile throughout the many weeks I worked to build it, that it could not be lifted from the wood panel (covered with a layer of fabric, so that the sculpture could shrink as it dried) that I built it on. It was moved into the kiln on that board. On the second day – of a five day firing process – when the heat was sufficient to turn the support board to ash, the sculpture would have to endure settling. Often the clay is in a flux state, and that can happen without incident.

Sometimes everything works out just as it should. This time, it didn’t. With clay work, what you take away from a failure is the experience of all the steps along the way, and knowledge gleaned from what went right, and what went wrong.


Walking with Darla


july2016 328

I’ve been on the run lately. With company here, even my days off were spent out of the house, off and running. I was able to include the dogs, sometimes. They came along in our trip around the island to explore all the different beaches. They did not come with us the day we took in all the gift and novelty shops. Or the day we went to the museums. I’ve been feeling justifiably guilty.

Rushed to get out of the house in the morning and exhausted when I got home, their exercise was often limited to following me to and from the clothesline. Then dinner. Then bedtime. A great big canine sigh should go right here. What a life for a dog! Now, Rosa Parks is still nursing a bum leg (which, it turns out, is not the ACL tendon that I had diagnosed before taking her to the vet…her little kneecap had popped out of place! We are hoping it will stay put, without surgery, but she has to be careful), so is enjoying a lazier version of normal life. A little extra attention and a couple extra treats will allay most guilt where she is concerned. Darla is another story.

Darla likes a good walk, and usually gets one at least on Sundays (which is a shorter workday for me) and on my days off. To make up to her, I got up early this morning. I set the coffee pot to brew, and we headed out the door. It took her a moment to catch on. First, she stopped to pee, and looked to me for approval. Next, she headed for the clothesline (a good guess, considering…). When she finally realized that I was headed for the road, and that this was going to be a genuine good walk, she bounded out ahead, with a big grin.

Clover used to wear her ears like a gangster’s fedora: her mood was evident by the way she arranged them. Alert, curious, happy or threatened, the ears told the story. Darla seems to have no such control over that part of her body. Her ears flop on either side of her head in a manner that shows her calm and friendly disposition. As she walks, they flap up and down, like the wings of a little bird. Her tail, with its white tip, is held aloft like a flag for the entire distance. I’ve had dogs that would give up the walk for the chance to chase a chipmunk, or to roll in something disgusting. Not Darla. She shows mild curiosity to movement and smells, but nothing deters her from her path. When Darla is out for a walk, that’s exactly what she’s doing!

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #8


july2016 372

The exercise today comes from http://www.thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts:

Hey, even writers and creative artists have to do housework sometimes. Write about doing laundry, dishes, and other cleaning activities.

Well, so, having planned for and then (once again!) bypassed a seasonal “deep cleaning,” I am, as usual, just barely staying afloat in the housekeeping department. Every job is more complicated than it should be.

When Tommy was here, I sent him to the backyard to hang his wet beach towel on the clothesline. He was gone a long time. When I went to check, I found him trying kind of desperately to knot together pieces of clothesline rope. It was falling apart in his hands! Clearly, it had seen better days. We pulled it all down, and Tommy helped me to re-string it with new clothesline. I only had enough for two (twenty-foot)lines, though.

That was fine, until I pulled out the dryer a couple days ago, to check the venting. Loads of wash – even light summer clothes – have been taking an interminable time to dry. Laundry is just one task in this household. I don’t have that much of it, but I do need to keep it moving through the system. When a load of jeans takes three long dryer cycles to dry, everything is set back!

I brought home a long, skinny appliance brush to clean out the lint trap. It seems the problem is larger than that. Though the flexible aluminum vent seems to be intact, and it appeared to be properly connected both to the back of the dryer and to the metal pipe poking out of the wall, the wall behind, the floor underneath and the back of the dryer were covered with dryer lint

Ugh! I disconnected the flexible vent at both ends to take it outside, shake it out and check for leaks or blockage. Then, I got out the vacuum cleaner to clean up the lint. Unable to find a problem to correct, I pushed the dryer back up against the wall to wait for guidance. Now, until I can get the [very busy]plumber out here (who, by the way, set up a deal with me for the last repair he did out here: I would paint a sign for his office in exchange for the work. He did the work; I have yet to paint the sign.), I’m hanging all clothes on the line.

For that, two clotheslines are not enough. Yesterday, my day off, wanting to get laundry caught up, I started by taking the clothes off the line. I carried them in and deposited them on the dining room table, folded them and put them away. Clothes that dry in the open air smell wonderful, but – unless wind conditions are ideal – they tend to be very stiff and quite wrinkly. Because my clotheslines sag, they also tend to dry a little deformed. Folding clothes takes more thought and energy than usual.

I hauled a kitchen chair out to the clothesline poles, then came back for scissors and a new package of clothesline. First at one end, I climbed on the chair, found my balance and threaded the rope through one hole on the crossbar, then through a washer before knotting it. Down off the chair, move it to the other end, repeat. Then do it again. Now, I have four lines to hang laundry on!

Not yet finished, I then pull the wet things out of the washing machine. Full of optimism, I start another load of wash before going outside. Then, with one heavy wicker basket in hand and two dogs weaving around my legs, I head back to the clothesline. I start with towels. My lines sag, so the longest things have to go closest to the poles. The first corner gets a clothespin all to itself, but after that, they share. I lap the first corner of the second towel over the second corner of the first one, so that one clothespin will hold them both in place. Moving on to hand towels, kitchen towels and then wash clothes, I continue down the line.  One sheet, folded in half and held in place by three clothespins along its edge, gets a clothesline all to itself.

Time for a cup of coffee and another task, before taking the next load out of the washer. That is laundry day.



Birthdays Past

in garage, mom, brenda, me

Brenda & Cindy with Mom, on the car deck of the Beaver Island ferry, circa. 1955

Today is my Mom’s birthday.

When we were very small, Mom’s birthday meant a homemade card, and bouquets of dandelions. She was always very gracious.

As we got older, we added a cake to the list, baked in her kitchen, with her ingredients. We probably left a mess behind.

There were quite a few years when one of her children, as a representative for the family, would call Perkins Flower Shop and order a bouquet of roses to be delivered to her. As Mom had a charge there, they added it to her bill.

As adults, the gifts became more thoughtful. A dinner out, a night of entertainment, cards and gifts.

The ones that came from me, more often than not, were late in arriving. It wasn’t that I ever forgot; I was just lax in getting those packages and letters to the post office in time to arrive by her birthday. “It’s a good thing you had lots of kids,” I would say, “so at least some of them are thoughtful and on time!” Still, she was always very gracious.

Like so many things, Mom’s birthday has taken on greater significance since she’s been gone. It never goes by these days without consideration and gratitude for her having been a part of my life. As always, she’s on my mind and in my heart today.



The 52 Lists Project #30


july2016 234

List the qualities you admire most in others:

(Which, by the way, are the same qualities I try hardest to cultivate in myself)

  • Kindness is the most attractive quality in anyone, male or female, young or old.
  • A Sense of Humor. I see humor as insight, intelligence, and an ability to look at the world from a different perspective. And isn’t it just so fun to have a good laugh?
  • Tolerance. Because this world and the people in it can try the patience of a saint. So can I. Though it is sometimes good to see someone stand up for themselves against slights or injustice, I think it is too often the first response, and pushed too far. As a whole, we all need to relax a little. It is surprisingly wonderful to observe tolerance in the face of asshole behavior!
  • I admire a good Work Ethic.
  • Intelligence, in those that don’t feel the need to flaunt it.
  • Interest and Curiosity. Those people that lean in to truly listen, and want to learn are amazing to me. I will learn from a book, or alone, mulling things over in my own head. When I’m out in the world, I’m all too worried about how I’m coming across, whether I look okay or what worthwhile thing I could say. As a shy introvert, it’s hard to focus on others, or what is going on in the world around me. I admire those that do.

Draken Harald Harfagre


Jörgen Ask

This ship – whose name translates to “Dragon Herald Fair-hair” is a careful replica of a Viking ship, built by hand with what knowledge could be gleaned from archaeological artifacts and literary sources. It was built in Oslo, Norway, and sailed across the Atlantic. This year, it is traveling the Great Lakes. Yesterday, it stopped in Beaver Island’s harbor, Paradise Bay.

“Did you see that boat?” customers would ask, as they came in the door, “That’s really something!”

I hadn’t seen it. I was busy, in the back of the store, putting away freight. I had gotten myself in that “too much to do” mindset where I didn’t even feel that I could stop to take a look outside. We’ve had beautiful ships in our harbor before. I don’t usually get a chance to investigate. This was no different: something wonderful was going on; I was working.

Then, my boss, Jeff Powers, introduced me to one of the crew members when he came into the store. He told him that I was the editor of the island’s news magazine. He told me I should talk to him. As soon as I finished helping the customer I was working with, I did just that. We had a nice chat, and I took down enough information to do a story. I gave Christian a copy of my magazine, and thanked him very much for the interview…and I went back to work.

Then (amazing day!), Jeff asked if I wanted to ride out to see the ship close up! He took me out in his small motor boat, where I was able to talk to another member of the crew, and see, close up, the fine workmanship in this lovely vessel. Not to mention being out – however briefly – on the water in the middle of a workday, on one of the hottest days of the year. It was wonderful, and changed the tempo of the entire day for me!

Some Things…


july2016 401

Beaver Island is a magical place.

Really, a Magical Place.

I remember that about it, always, even when I don’t feel it. I’m not surprised to see the stunned awe on the faces of new visitors, or the bright smiles of return guests. I recognize that feeling, even when I’m too exhausted to feel it.

The fact is, I’ve been here a long time. I’m busy. I’m tired. I’ve seen it, over and over. Even the extraordinary seems ordinary when it’s right there, every day.

Then, suddenly, there’s that old magic again. Sometimes it’s just a matter of forgetting to be so accustomed to what surrounds me. Allowing myself to be amazed. Just letting the magic happen.

Some Things That Are Magical Until You Get Used To Them, So They Aren’t…Until You Forget That You’ve Grown Used To Them, And They Become Magical Again

[yes, a very long title, indeed!]

  • White sand beaches
  • Sunsets over the water
  • Whitetail deer
  • Black squirrels
  • Canopies of trees
  • Sand dunes
  • White birch trees
  • Conifer forests
  • Lilacs in the springtime
  • Milkweed in the summer
  • Apples in the fall
  • a wonderland in winter
  • the view of the lighthouse beyond the harbor as you come around the corner in to town
  • Hidden trails
  • Remote beaches
  • Barney’s Lake (and the steep hill leading down to it!)
  • Font Lake
  • Lake Genaserath
  • Fox Lake (especially in the fall of the year!)
  • Miller’s Marsh (loaded with little frogs right now!)
  • the church steeple
  • the Angelus bells
  • the moon over the water
  • and the water all around

No doubt about it, a Magical Place.