Monday, August 31, 2009

Cute Murderer

I took this picture through the glass of the dining room window. The raccoon is eating out of the bird feeder, and somehow didn't notice me. He, or one of his family, killed one of my chickens last night. Pansy must have gotten out of the yard before I closed them in for the night and I didn't know she wasn't there. When only five chickens greeted me this morning, I knew immediately what must have happened. I saw a pile of feathers near the fence, telling the story.

There isn't much I can say beyond what I have already said many times before. It is terrible to see nature at work, see the consequences of this ecological system we live in. It's startling how little meaning individual life has in this system, whether it be a spider eating a fly, a raccoon eating a chicken, a human eating a cow, or a shark eating a human.

Seeing Pansy's killer put a different light on things for me. This adorable little animal has as much or as little right to live as Pansy, so how can I make a judgment on which one is more important. Because I love my chickens, does that bestow on them the right to a long, happy life? I'm afraid I'm not that powerful. What does nature care about who or what is loved or not loved by another creature? We all stand alone, equally, when it comes to living or dying.

Our lives, Pansy's and the raccoon's and mine, are all the same. My delight at seeing the raccoon, and my sadness about Pansy, struggle to cancel each other out. I don't know what to feel. I guess the danger for us is that if we don't cultivate the non-objective emotions we feel, we lose our humanness.
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Outdoor Painting, Ted Kennedy

Toni and I planned to go kayaking today, but it didn't work out. Instead, I went with Diana to paint outdoors at Gleason Cove. I like the little painting I did, and it certainly captures the sunny day. I did in in oil, simply because I'm getting tired of watercolor and don't have all my colors in acrylic. Oil is messy outside, and I think this is actually the first time I've used it. The look is different from acrylic because of the creaminess of the paint, and besides the fact that two bugs got stuck in it, I really didn't have much trouble.

Ted Kennedy died the day before yesterday, and I was unexpectedly upset by it. He has had brain cancer for over a year, so it was expected. Still, I always thought of him as a rather sad figure never quite able to live up to his brothers. I remember the incident that ruined him politically as if it were yesterday. Even then, I defended his actions, seeing things the way I thought he did and understanding his predicament. I was loyal to the Kennedys, beginning with John, waving my John F. Kennedy for president poster and wearing my plastic "straw hat" with the read, white, and blue paper band. I was stunned when he was assassinated and sat mesmerized in front of the TV for the four days the event was shown, analyzed, commented on, and replayed. I was there when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald on national TV. I was at the funeral, saw John-John salute the casket as it passed on the way to the cemetery. I saw the lighting of the eternal flame (which went out shortly thereafter and was re-lit). I cried and cried, losing a piece of my optimism and naivte for good. Later there followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, and then Bobby Kennedy............that haunting popular song, "Has anybody here, seen my old friend, Martin......Abraham, Martin, and John. I still choke up when I think of it.

Ted Kennedy was not particularly well-known then, except as Jack's little brother. He is the one who lived on, though, and doggedly persued the same dreams his brothers had, in a quieter way. He earned his own place. He lasted. His death seems to put a period at the end of an important sentence. And because I was there for all of it, it makes me feel old now that they are all gone. I'm the last generation who knew them. I feel as if so many important people left without me, left me to see what comes after, left me to face the anticlimax alone.
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Saturday, August 22, 2009


Yesterday I removed the partition between Petunia and the other chickens. She was very happy, but the others didn't seem to realize she had been gone. Since peace reigned, I took the chance of letting them all spend the night together. When I opened the door this mornig all six came running out as if nothing had happened in the interim.

With my history of chicken disasters, I am very thankful that finally one incident came out happy.
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Monday, August 17, 2009

and once again, plus Annie Dillard

I don't know how many of these I will do, especially since I claim to be bored with them. It seemed like a good activity today, though, because it is so hot. I moved my painting stuff into the living and placed myself directly under the ceiling fan. Thus I managed to avoid complaining about the heat and created another pile of razor rocks.

Before that, though, I spent a little time reading "Teaching a Stone to Talk." Annie Dillard is so dense that every sentence has to be savoured. Every idea she writes down spawns fifty in my own head so I didn't get far. I have to ruminate on every one. I've read this book before, so I can open it up at any page and be delighted. Today I fell on "I have a taste for solitude, and silence, what Plotinus called "the fight of the alone to Alone.'" The last line of that particular paragraph is "the lightless edge where the slopes of knowledge dwindle, and love, for its own sake, lacking an object, begins."

This was a day that I got inside of, instead of skimming along the top of it.
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Next Yupo Painting

I feel the ominous edges of boredom creeping in..........more razor blade rocks, more wiped out tree trunks. Yesterday I did a portrait using this very same piece of paper. It looked like an illustration for a romance novel, so I wiped it off and used the paper to do another one of Deep Cove. Since I was visiting Diana while I did it, I enjoyed it, but as a serious painting experience, it was a bust. It reminds me a little of the Chinese painting workshop I took once. The point is to create a bamboo branch that looks exactly like everyone else's bamboo branch. Every nuance is judged against a certain ideal and success is achieved when you can't tell the results apart. I can't imagine anyone making rocks any different from my rocks, or trees different from my trees. It's a tecnique that could be easily taught to anyone with basic watercolor skills. I have heard of artists making wonderful abstracts on this paper using all kinds of tricks to move the apint around. I can see the potential for that, but I don't understand where the satisfaction would come from. The paper makes the painting, not the artist.

The experience must be something like what Jackson Pollack used to do......dripping paint to record his movements as he worked. The finished product was the result of a physical action, devoid of conscious emotional content. Well, he was trying to discover the meaning of painting in a world where the camera replaced the artist as a record keeper. We are still wondering about that, but I don't feel that I want to keep asking the question over and over again. Big deal.......I moved a razor blade over some paint.
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Friday, August 14, 2009

Check It Out

For the last few days I have been painting the kitchen. I don't know when it was last done, but I know the paint that was here when I moved in eleven years ago was still here. It was not in very good shape even then. Tenants in the intervening time have painted the other rooms, but neglected the kitchen.

I had a hard time deciding what color to use, and even when I got to the store to buy it I wasn't sure. Finally I chose blue, remembering that every kitchen I've had since middle street I wanted blue. Every time someone talked me out of it. Well, I love it. I painted the cabinets and woodwork gray to soften the effect of the bright blue against white, and even though I did my usual sloppy job it is wonderful to behold.

As I worked on it, I was thinking of the people who have been here before me. I felt a kinship with them, since they obviously held the same standards as I. The previous green paint was clinging in hardened drops over nails, bubbling around the edges of holes, and spattered on the ceiling. Unseen areas behind the stove and washer and dryer were left undone. The edges of wallpaper from yesteryear curled along its seams. I followed suit, painting a curvy line along the ceiling moulding, sometimes hitting the ceiling, sometimes missing the top quarter inch of wall. Most everything needs another coat of paint, which it will not get. Still, to one such as I who does not see or care much about detail, it is a fine job.

I love the fact that this is the same house it has always been, with people like me living in it. As far as I know, there have been no renovations to speak of..........a superficial coat of paint, slapped on over grease and dirt was about all that was needed to perk up the place. I feel in the right place.
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I've tried to let Petunia go out and mingle with her sisters as she feels better. Unfortunately, they lack sympathy for the sick and injured. They surrounded her, striking out to peck her wounds as the opportunity arose. This has gone on for a few days, and I wasn't able to leave her with them unattended. I decided to make an isolation chamber for her and divided the pen in two. It's a flimsy barrier, but hopefully effective. The five other girls were very indignant and clucked along the new fence, poking at it and digging in front of it. Petunia was in heaven, kicking the dirt and making herself a nice hole to lie in. I hope this arrangement won't have to continue for long, but I felt that she really needed to get out into the fresh air. We'll see how it goes.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Art Day Painting

Today is the first time we have had art day for several weeks. Sydney has been in the hospital with her recuurent heart problems, but today she felt well enough to have us over. I decided to give the Yupo watercolor paper another shot. I've been thinking about it off and on, and it occurred to me to treat it like a monoprint. I used to love rolling up the glass with ink and then subtracting the image with Q-tips and cotton balls. So I approached this paper the same way, basically wiping out the light areas. It was really quite enjoyable and I wielded my razor blade and paper towels without guilt.

The photo I used for subject matter was taken this morning from the kayak as Toni and I paddled around Deep Cove. What a great life I have..........
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Friday, August 07, 2009

The Patient

Here is Petunia taking a look out of the bulkhead after the other chickens were safely in bed. Some of her wounds are visible, but believe me, this is her good side. Still, she's a hardy soul by any standard and I'm starting to think she has a chance to survive. I wish I had a way to put some antibiotic on her. It's hard to believe she can avoid infection with so much exposed flesh.
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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Return of the Kayaks

This has been such a rainy, cold summer so far that the kayaks have lain dormant in Toni's yard until today. We finally took the giant plunge, so to speak, and took them out on Boyden Lake. It was great to be on the water again.

There has been an unfortunate chicken event since I last wrote. A Racoon got into the chicken house through the door I was making to expand their space. Luckily Diana was spending some time in her house and heard the noise. I slept through the whole thing, including her phone calls to alert me of what was happening. She and Jim chased the racoon away, but it had already mangled one of the chickens. I can't believe that she is still alive, but she is. She has been bitten to a bloody pulp. Part of her rear end is actually missing. Yet she is still walking around, eating and drinking. Jim thought she was beyond hope and should be euthanized, but I couldn't do it. She is isolated in the cellar trying to recuperate. If she were with the others, they would cannibalize her.

The familiarity of the event was all too evident and often I have tried to make life better for my chickens and ended up killing them instead. How I didn't foresee preditors getting through the new doorway I can not fathom. I covered it so they couldn't get out, but didn't think beyond that. If not for Diana, they would all be dead. It remains to be seen if Petunia survives.

Needless to say, I am abandoning my expansion project.
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