Falling Into Summer

Even though we didn’t get the rain, things have cooled down and the air feels wonderful this morning.

Yesterday I felt a little hint of fall in the air as clouds rolled in and the temperature stayed lower than usual.

Today, with the clear clean sky and the birds singing, it feels more like spring or maybe what a summer morning would feel like someplace where the season is not so cruel. I hear there are such places, but my experience with them is so distant that I question my memory and their very existence.

Days like yesterday give me a little hope to help me make it through the month that starts tomorrow. August, the long hot month, makes me wonder what we are in for, having had such a merciless July. Then, of course there’s September too because I’ve learned that around here it’s a good idea to not expect too much of autumn until October.

At least I now have that little bit of hope and believe once again that fall does exist.

Feeling Friday

Friday evening and the white-winged dove makes its plaintive cry somewhere nearby. Sometimes they are relentless, going on and on like a lonely vendor in an out of the way stall at closing time, crying out to passers by as it tries to make a few more sales before having to go home to a hungry family.

This is that Friday time. This is that time—that expectant time that feels so full of possibilities, so full of freedom. This is that time—that time that never quite was and never is, always nostalgic without having any definable basis in past events. This is that time—filled with falsehoods and nothing solid, yet always feeling wonderful just the same. It’s that Friday evening feeling and the plaintive cry of the white-winged dove fits it perfectly.

Sunset on a Friday evening

Sunset on a Friday evening

Time to just jump in

One thing about this blog that I need to make clear (probably most of all to myself), is that it a part of what I am doing is learning, experimenting and exploring. So in my stubborn way, I’m currently enrolled in the WordPress Blogging U. Writing 101 class for the third time, hoping to further my communication skills and thus increase the quality of this blog.

The kind of communication that I’m interested in is dialogue — probably because I’m not much of an expert on anything. So I figure we can at least talk about it, right? One thing about blogs, though, if the blogger isn’t speaking then they won’t have much luck finding anyone who wants to talk  to them. 

I can be a very thorough and detailed person, wanting to follow all the steps of any project I’m working on and unfortunately this has been my downfall in my previous attempts at taking Writing 101. I always come up against that one assignment that holds me up. And since I get stuck there, that is where I stay. Then I get into this painful spiral of watching the assignments come in each day, sometimes thinking, “Oh boy, I could really knock that one right out!” but never moving past my sticking point on the previous assignment.

At least two things about this are a very sad comment on my psyche. One is that this doesn’t matter much in the huge scheme of things. There are no grades, the feedback is unfailingly positive and encouraging and this is just something that I wanted to do in the first place. The very fact that I do any of the assignments at all makes this a success on some level — it wouldn’t surprise me if there were some who sign up for these courses and never give it another thought. I know from other Blogging U. courses that not being able to finish a particular exercise or skipping around or spending more time on something hard is just fine. There are no stocks and rotten veggies waiting for me in the town square.

The second sad thing about not completing these courses is that the sticking assignment has never been one that was too difficult or that I couldn’t think of anything to do. Every time it has been one where I immediately had ideas and could have finished easily if I had just jumped in — but those assignments that have held me up were ones that I could see multiple ways to approach. It wasn’t a lack of inspiration, it was the inability to just pick one idea and work on it. And that is probably a sad state of mental affairs more worthy of the stocks and rotten fruit than simply being too busy to complete the course.

I enjoy writing. I enjoy communication and dialogue with fellow bloggers. I try to approach these assignments with a willingness to learn and improve. And that is why I have decided to just dive in.

It's nice that no one will mind if I do a belly flop

It’s nice that no one will mind if I do a belly flop

There’s always a choice

When I got home from work, Julie was waiting for me. She had a sheepish look on her face and we both smiled at each other. As she told me that she had done something and wasn’t sure how I would feel about it, I already knew exactly what she was talking about. She told me to follow her into the back yard and she would show me.

As I went out the back door, I spotted the pet carrier in the yard and my knowledge was confirmed. I knew that the momma cat that no one was able to catch had just had another litter and that Julie was going to go check it out that day. That’s why I knew the moment I walked in the house and saw her face that we had just gotten ourselves a new kitten. What I didn’t know yet was how much this cat would become a part of my life.

What's not to love about this little tiger.

What’s not to love about this little tiger.

I stepped into the yard and this tiny blue eyed kitten came running towards me. He seemed to be smiling at me and Julie told me that she had named him Wiley. I liked the name and I loved the cat — it was love at first sight. This tiny creature had more personality ounce for ounce than anything I had ever seen. That very moment that I first saw him, my choice was made. I said to Julie, “We are keeping this cat!”

She wanted to know if  I was sure and whether or not I was just being accommodating, but I assured her that the choice had been made and it was real. With this kitten, I was totally smitten.

Wiley and I bonded immediately. Every morning  I would get up and mix some kitten food and water and watch him lap it up with his front paws inside the food. I had to wipe him off after meal. Every time I sat down on the couch (and a few other places too), he would jump into my lap. It became a daily ritual and it went on for over 14 years. I had to have my Wiley time and he had to have his Karl time. For much of his life, he would come running whenever I called him — not necessarily normal for the independently minded feline.

He was my little buddy and he has brought me much comfort in my life. A few years ago I was giving a presentation to about 200 people (on a subject I knew well) and my entire preparation consisted of sitting with Wiley in my lap for 30 minutes and listening to him purr. I have never been closer to any creature of a species different than mine.

Now I am faced with another choice concerning Wiley and this one is not so easy. Wiley is terminally ill and I am faced with the decision to let him go. He doesn’t appear to be suffering but he is headed down a short road of no return. That is certain. Our vet will come to our house so that Wiley’s last moments can be here in his comfortable surroundings and not in the cold, clinical atmosphere of the doctor’s office (which has always been very stressful for Wiley).

Last night at work, I thought of Wiley and thought about what his life is like right now and the light finally came on in my mind. When there is a humane way out, am I keeping him around for him or me? The answer was clear. After all he has brought to my life, I owe him this.

So once again the choice concerning Wiley is made. It’s time to let my little buddy go.

Wiley in his prime

Wiley in his prime

Not that you were even wondering

…why I’m doing this. But here is why I write.

I write because I have to. I write because I love to. I write because it keeps me sane. I write because I like watching the words appear on the screen when I use my computer. I write because I like watching the words appear on the paper, flowing from my pen, when I write in a notebook. I write because I am a good communicator and I enjoy making contact with people through the written word. I write because I can be a lousy communicator and sorely need the practice. I write because it is easy. I write because it is extremely hard. I write because I always knew that I should. I write because there is always someone out there who can be reached. I write because the writing of others has helped me survive. I write because the writing of others has taught me that no matter how isolated or misunderstood I feel, there is always someone who can share my feelings and understand me. I write because there is always someone out there whose struggles make mine pale in comparison. So, I write because I can. I write because I have to.

My favorite place to write

My favorite place to write

Fifteen Minutes Three Songs

There have been many songs in my life that have meant a great deal to me. Three standouts that come to mind are songs that changed the way I thought about music in some way.

The first song is “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” by Bob Dylan. I think I heard this for the first time when I was about 10. The one thought that popped into my head when I first heard it and is also always what comes to mind when I look back is, “Am I really supposed to be listening to this?” I remember not wanting my parents to hear me listening to the song and I suppose the reason was the lines about “everybody must get stoned.” Looking back I ask myself why did I think this? How did I even know what getting stoned was? I had certainly never gotten stoned. I suppose that it brought about a turning point in what I thought music could be like because of the blatant lyrics and the raucous style of the arrangement.

This easily leads me to my next milestone song, “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones. Never in my life was there music that I was more ready for someone to event and start playing and recording than the Ramones brand of irreverent punk. For years I had been asking the question to myself, “Why doesn’t someone just record some mindless, loud, fast guitar playing and just use chords with no lead playing?” Okay, well the question was something to that effect – sure you get the idea. Then one day I was over at my friend Warren’s house and he said, “You’ve got to hear this, man.” I picked up the album and looked at those four troublemakers on the cover and was hooked even before I heard the first mis-timed count off or buzz saw chords. There it was. The world was changing. Music was changing. I had changed.

Not too many years later, something from another part of the world caught my ear and would end up playing just as important a part as those first two. It was “Awungilobolele” by Udokotela Shange Namajaha from an album called “The Indestructible Beat of Soweto.” The rhythms and instrumentation of this song and the others on the album changed what I thought about the concept of popular music forever. The realism and sincerity and earthiness of the songs suddenly made almost everything I had ever heard on the radio become meaningless and took my on a journey of musical discovery that I continue to this day.

Where I write

KarlsAttic_001Sunday night it was raining and I got to do one of my favorite things — sit in my attic room and listen to the rain fall just above my head. It’s the place to sit and write, paint, spend quality time with my cats or just think. It’s winter now and sometimes I nap there with visions of seed catalogs dancing in my head (you should see that — well, then again, maybe not).

Being up in my attic when it’s raining might be the most perfect circumstance I’ve ever encountered. Sitting at my desk in front of a louvered dormer window listening to rain fall creates a state of almost perfect bliss for me.

Our house was built in 1923 and the original owner was an architect who worked for Sinclair Oil (the Sinclair Building is one of my favorites downtown — classic Deco, with stylized metal eagles) and designed over 2500 gas stations in the southwest US from the 20s through the 50s. Gas stations could look a lot more interesting back then. There’s one only a few blocks from here, though of course now it has been unceremoniously demoted to a Dominoes Pizza and painted all one color. It’s not even a nice color. Still it retains its understated style.

This man painted and at some point finished out the attic to use as his studio. My guess has always been that it happened in the 40s though it could have been earlier. There’s wood paneling all around. It has two dormers on opposite sides (north and south facing) and a cute exhaust fan that lives behind a hidden door in the paneling. So the ventilation is decent. Later someone even vented it to the a/c. There are also several closets with doors seamlessly placed in the paneling and built-in shelves in one area. I did my best while designing and building two bookcases to create something modern yet in keeping with the spirit of the room.

Having coffee at my little table up here in the morning and listening to the rain hit the roof above is the best way to start my day. So I guess it’s just too bad we’re in the middle of this seemingly endless drought, huh? But, even I if lived somewhere it rained all the time and rain was nothing special, I would still love it. It’s wonderful up here rain or shine.


Tres Limbos – Dos

Scribbling, Scratching and Pecking Along

There’s something so wonderfully tactile about writing with a pen. I even still use a fountain pen regularly. It’s not some big statement about longing for the past, I just like using it. I like the way the ink looks on the page. I like the way the way the point acts as a tool for feeling the texture of the paper. And they look cool, too.

It’s been a struggle for me to get into any kind of groove when it comes to writing on a computer. I’ll do what I have to for work and I can send out an email but even that is often difficult. It’s been over thirty years since I discovered the solace that writing can provide. The comfort and release I get from writing is deeply rooted in both getting the thoughts down on paper and the physical act of writing.

Typing is also a physical act but it’s different. I don’t feel like the electrons are flowing out of my hands the same way that I feel the ink is flowing onto the paper. I enjoy typing and it has its own physical pleasure associated with it. Typing to me feels more like efficiency and progress and, believe me, there’s always room for more of those in my life. But, I can’t distance myself from all the machinery and technology and wired-ness of writing on a computer. So as much as I like it, it can’t really replace the intimacy of sitting down with just a pen and paper and clearing my head.

What I’m working on now, is accepting that both handwriting (although, actually I print) and typing can have important roles in my life. It’s become a lot easier recently to go back and forth. Oddly, as I write more on the computer, I’m also making more time to write in my journal. The thing I’m trying not to think about and that is staring me in the face — in the form of a big stack of notebooks  across the room — is will I ever type up much of what I have written in the past? I know there’s some good stuff in that stack but the thought won’t even stay in my mind more than a few seconds. I’m not allowing myself to think about the full implications of having to mine and bring to the surface any “gems” that may be buried there.

So realistically, I think that a certain amount of my writing from the past may just have to stay there. In the future, though, I have a feeling it will be easier to type up things that have been freshly handwritten. I’m currently working on a story in one of my notebooks that I’m looking forward to typing up, so I know it can happen.

In conclusion, just as with reading (see previous post), what I’m learning to like most about new versus old technology is the way they can live side by side and compliment and augment each other. I have a feeling next week’s installment may end a little differently.

Next Sunday: Pulling out all those old cameras and shooting up a storm!

And in case you missed last week’s post, you can catch up here: Still Searching for Paths…




This just in…

gardening blog to return to roots.

Over the last six weeks I’ve been taking Blogging 101 and Blogging 201 and as I’ve worked through my assignments, I’ve learned a little more about myself and what I like to write about. Let me tell you, it can zing and zip all over the map. As a consequence of my recent endeavors, it seems to me that the subject matter of this blog has drifted a little far afield.

In Blogging 201 we worked on establishing our brand, creating a hub and giving things a recognizable image across different blogs and media types. What I have decided to do is to create a whole new hub and let this blog be one of the spokes. I want to move all the subject matter that doesn’t fit the original idea (subject to my usual broad interpretation of subject matter) onto the new hub blog. I worry that this could, at least in the short term, amount to self inflicted blogicide. As my dear old friend Lee Jones used to say while giving me that askance knowing glance across his face out of his one good eye, “Boy, you’ve gone all the way crazy.”

So here is my plan for the new blog setup. There will be a hub which will include posts on general subject matter, blog event posts and occasional fiction pieces. I will still have my photo blog which will be entirely devoted to photography (with comments) without regard to subject matter — I hope to have an opportunity to post and comment on other photographers photos as well (no hints or anything). Then there will be this blog which will be devoted to gardening, art and nature and the ways they intersect and sometimes get all stirred up together in a big pot in my backyard. This was my original intention with this space and I hope you’ll find that it cleans up quite nicely after a little shipping of things off to other locations.

There is also my long term Neighborhood Photography project which has previously manifested itself in a number of collaborative exhibits at area venues. My goal is to move this online and with the help of interested photographers (of all skill levels) expand the neighborhood as wide as we possibly can. I’ve decided that due to the scope of my goals and intentions for the this site, it will better as a completely separate “brand” with it’s own community identity, galleries and a forum. I’m even considering a fresh start from scratch and taking the classes again just to get that endeavor underway.

Just so that you don’t think this sounds too ambitious, let me tell how I see it (rationalize it?). This blog (Learning to Paint) is where I talk about and chronicle things that are very important to me and part of my daily life. The hub is where I can put up anything that I want to write about that doesn’t fit here (there’s always something). The photo blog is a place where I upload and yak about pictures of any subject. Having things compartmentalized should help the individual areas make more sense.

Well, the migration (explosion) starts tomorrow. I hope that I don’t lose any of you cherished readers in the process. This blog will still be in the same place with the same name, anyway.

“One more thing — if anyone is the least bit inclined — please feel free to follow me on Twitter!” he implored. A big Valentine’s Day loving shout of thanks to the THREE of you have already taken the plunge!