Saturday, September 3, 2011

Art in Writing

I heard a report a few weeks ago that has really bothered me.  Apparently, in most states, it is no longer required to teach cursive!  The moment I heard that-my gut told me this was a bad idea.  When I started writing this, I had no "scientific" evidence, but I felt intuitively that we were overlooking some important role that this type of learning offered. Then I started to think about learning to write.  I remember the first time I printed my name with no help.  My "e"s were all backward, but I felt such a sense of accomplishment!  It was my very first conscious learning experience.  My first AHA moment.  Later in school I remember looking up at the cursive letter cards tacked up above the chalk board across the front of the classroom.  I loved the graceful lines and loops, the flow of it all.  The smell of newly sharpened pencils and the crisp feel of the paper.  I am to this day a pen and pencil freak and can appreciate a nice smoothly woven piece of paper.

Well- it turns out there are a great deal of scientific facts about the brain and learning to write.  Motor skills, hand/eye coordination, etc.  A fairly recent study of adults was very interesting.  Two groups of adults were given a new alphabet to learn. Group A: learned by writing it with their hand. Group B: learned it on a keyboard.  Lo and behold, Group A was better able to retain the alphabet and recognize each character.  Group B-not so much.  It also showed that the area of the brain that is used in processes like writing was far more active in Group A than in Group B.  So- there's a brief, yet significant scientific fact on this issue.

Let's talk about cultural implications of not learning to write.  This is one of the most common ways that we universally express ourselves.  Not just in WHAT we are writing, but in HOW we are writing.  Our cursive is very much a shout to the world about who we are or who we perceive ourselves to be.  An expression of our individuality.  Teenage girls modify their writing by using curlicues or hearts to dot their "i"'s and cross their "t"'s. We choose how loose or tight a loop we make. Those things change as we change. They begin to reflect our maturing persons. When we become adults we use our signature to really tell the world who we are.  Ever really look at someone's signature?  It can tell you a great deal about that person.  Try it.

So, if we no longer teach cursive and we no longer have that tool for learning and developing our brains, what will take its place?  What other ways will kids have to express themselves that are completely their own?  Because our handwriting is one of the few things that is totally and completely our own.  I know it seems such a small thing, but I think it has some concerning implications.  We are so quick to embrace new technology, but do we ever give any real thought as to how it will affect our lives and the lives of people in the future?    It strikes me that this is one more way to depersonalize our lives.  We are slowly taking away the organic, hands-on physical experiences of learning. How many kids can tie a shoe-since they started using velcro?  I work with a woman who can only read digital clocks and she's a college graduate! Surely all of those things mean something.  They do to me.

Enjoy and find something to be grateful for today

P.S. I have talked to several teachers who are going to continue to teach cursive!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I made a doll about a year ago.  I was a participant in a group show where 21 artists were given a 16 inch wooden doll form that we could make a doll out of.  There were no criteria other than the end result had to be a figure of some sort.  We could take it apart, burn it, nail it, wrap it-whatever we were moved to do.  I found that I really liked the process. I liked the small and some not so small challenges it presented.  I also learned that having deadlines is a good thing!  The doll I made is actually my profile picture on this blog.

In light of the fact that I really liked it, I decided to make another doll.  That was about 6 months ago.  The pics below show how far I've gotten.  And that would be not very far.  So I thought if I took some pictures and posted them it might motivate me to continue to work on it.  Below are my pictures. Again, my cheap-o camera doesn't really get the detail, but the general form is there.  This is a bird-child.  Or maybe a child that is also a bird.  My childhood was pretty challenging for me and I had difficulty in figuring out just who I was and what my place in the world was.  This doll-figure is meant to express the confusion of that experience.

As I make progress on it I will update the photos here.  This is, I believe, Day 6 or 7.  I can't seem to keep track of where I am on this 30-day project. (That may be the side effect of age-boo!) But I am taking pictures and following through with my commitment!

As you can see there is still alot to do-so keep checking!

Find something to be grateful for in your day!

Peace- Irene

Monday, August 22, 2011

Live-in Buddies

Day 6. I decided it was only fair to get pictures of my cats, since I got a picture or 2 of my sister's dog.  I have had these cats for 18 years.  I rescued a litter of 4 from a colony of feral cats.  They were 3-4 weeks old and we had to hand-feed them.  That was an intense experience!  Not as easy as one would think.  Between their natural urge to suckle and my being unable to get the right feeding instrument it was tough.  I never did find small enough bottles and so I used a syringe.  But they all grew up just fine.  Well, my cat Poppy is a little bit slow on the uptake sometimes.  The only thing she wants to do is sit in my lap.  She's never been very interested in the rest of the world.  I always felt like she was a little old lady from day one!  Rosita, on the other hand is the huntress. She came to the door one evening with a live, baby bunny in her jaws. (Presents for Mom!)  Mice don't stay long in our house.  Needless to say-she earns her keep!  She is also the only cat I ever had that likes-no loves- to have her belly rubbed! (So maybe she's a bit special too!)

Anyway, here are my buds-
This is Rosita, also known as Rosie-Bosie, Rosita Bonita and just Rose. I could only get one picture of her, she wouldn't stop moving around!
This is Poppy. Even though the color is not great, her eyes are green.  When she was very little and her eyes were beginning to open, only one opened for the longest time.  We called her Popeye then. And she's in the one place she loves-my lap!

See, if you put a little bonnet on her-she would look like Aunt Pitty Pat-from the movie Gone with the Wind!  She is also going bald! (She is 18!)  Right below the front of her ears. What has surprised me about that is A) that cats go bald! and B) her skin is not just white.  It's white with big dark gray splotches!  I never thought about what a cat's skin would look like. I guess I just assumed it would be white.  So my surprise when I thought she was just dirty and tried to wash it off!  She was not a happy camper.

Well, these are my live-in buddies.  They mean alot to me. They've given me hours and hours of laughter and comfort-Enjoy!

Find something to be grateful for in your life today!

Peace- Irene

Sunday, August 21, 2011

More neighbors...

Day 5 of my 30-day project.  Sometimes I fret over what I'm going to photograph for the day and other days the subject just presents itself!  Like today.  Our neighbors dog, Pepper, comes over at least once each day to just hang out and play with my sister's dog, Ace.  An odd sort of couple, but they are absolutely best friends.  They play for hours. There is a constant hum in the background, that arr arr sound that dogs make.  I got the chance to take some pictures of these two during their daily visit.

The black dog is Pepper and the little chihuahua is Ace. They played for at least 30 minutes nonstop, in the same spot, tugging on the rope braid.  Not a bad way to spend their Sunday afternoon!

Hope you enjoy your Sunday as much as they have!  And find one thing in your life to be grateful for!


Saturday, August 20, 2011


I can't remember if this is the 4th or 5th day. I seem to have gotten behind although I have taken pictures everyday. I am proud of myself for that! Baby steps-just one in front of the other.

So here are pictures of cows that live down the road.  I see them every morning and every evening.  They have a routine that they  follow.  Early morning they are grazing by the fence along my road. Later in the morning they are laying or standing underneath a tree by my road where in the summer it's nice and cool.  In the evening I have to look for them at the back of the pasture.  They have a feed station back there and there's a group of trees along the creek.  I love these cows.  I have seen probably 20 young calves born over the few years I've been living out here.  They are just too cute!  I have even gotten to see them romp together in the pasture!  Sometimes the baby bulls will butt heads in their playing, they'll kick their back legs out and then arch their backs like a cat and run off.

These are cows, however.  They are very shy.  It took me about 20 minutes to get them to come closer so I could snap a few pictures.  Not surprisingly, the calves seemed more curious about me although they were also more skittish.  Mama on the other hand came quite close-when she decided!  So here are some pictures of my neighbors.


                                                                    Her BABIES!

They came pretty close!  Sweet faces.  Enjoy the pictures and don't forget to find something in your life to be grateful for!  -Peace

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 3

I wanted to let folks know that this blog is a work-in-progress. I am still learning about all of the bells and whistles and how to use them.  So there may be some changes to the look of this blog.  I have looked at other blogs and the design really depends on what their focus is. Art blogs are very simple which makes sense, since they are all about the artists work.  Others are also very simple, because the blogger just wants to write and write and write.  Mine I believe is a combination of both.  So I'm still working all of that out. It's amazing how much time it takes to decide what I want and don't want!  It took me FOREVER to get the title of my blog.  Thanks to my daughter I finally got one!

So here is the photo for Day 3 of the 30-Day Project.  This is a cement mushroom that was in my sister's yard.  My daughter and I decided to fancy it up with bits of glass, beads and bottle caps. It was fun to do and even though I put 5 coats of sealer on it-the bottle caps still rusted!  Oh well-such is life.

 Enjoy your day-find something to be grateful for!   - peace

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 2

Saw the bear again this morning! That's the 3rd Tuesday in a row that Ive seen him/her!  Also-it's at the same time of day-7:00 AM! Must be part of their regular route. He/she came right down the driveway! When it got close (not that close) I made a noise and he stopped and looked at me and then moved on. Very cool to have a bear look right at you!

I have had a lot of animals coming around lately. Two nights ago, a raccoon was on my front porch and she had THREE babies with her!  So cute.  Later they were on my back porch, stealing the cat food!  Mom was eating when one of the babies tried to get food. Even though she snapped at him-he kept it up and eventually got some of the food. Little braveheart!  Then-last night I went out to call my cat in and there she was sitting not 12 inches from an oppossum!  Neither one seemed bothered by the other.  Weird.

Okay-so here is my photo for Day 2.  This is a wild cardinal flower growing next to a pond in back of the house. Very beautiful and VERY RED! Love it!  As I was walking along the pond to find something to photograph little frogs would jump off the bank into the pond.  Some of these frogs actually screamed!  Scared me at first. What an odd thing for them to do. Of course not any odder than humans screaming at little spiders! I have no idea what kind of frog does this, but I intend to find out.

Enjoy your day-find one thing to be grateful for-peace

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mother Tree

I started my 30-day-change-your-life project and here are my first photos! There are 2 trees along my driveway that are 2 of the most interesting trees I have ever seen. They are from the Catalpa family.  The grandmother name, at least here in the mountains, is the Forever Tree. And I believe it.

These trees are very old. The bark bulges and twists and turns as if it can't stand being rooted in the ground!  It is full of nooks and crannies that appear in the oddest places.  Some of the nooks, however, are more like small rooms!  Many years ago my great nephew Zach, was able to climb into one of the nooks are sit comfortably!   I have always wanted pictures of said bulges and twists and turns.  I have been inspired by these trees to use more organic materials in my art.  I find the subtle colors of the bark and the graceful lines very inspiring.  And it was fun to climb up and get just the right angle. I haven't climbed a tree since I was a kid! So-I chose to include it in my repertoire of photos.  I could probably photograph every inch of these trees and no one picture would look the same.  My only problem is that the little camera I bought doesn't quite capture all of the dramatic shapes and contrast, but enough that you can get the "picture". (get it? picture?-yeah I went there!)

I hope you enjoy the pictures and stay tuned for more!  Peace...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Change your Life with Baby steps

I have been caught in the doldrums for several months now. Doldrums, to put it bluntly, suck.  They weigh me down and cause foggy vision.  I hate it. I haven't felt inspired to create any new art or try anything new. Just get up, go to work, come home and fall into a vegetative state.  It causes me to watch too  much television and play computer games. AND-it's kind of embarrassing. Someone asks me "What's new?" I don't have much to talk about. How boring is that?  Then I came across a video on  If you haven't yet discovered this website-you should check it out. It's full of videos of people talking about or demonstrating what it is in the world that they are passionate about!  And I love that!  Interesting and for me, inspiring.  Anyway, I found a video of a young man who is a computer nerd/professional. In his work he sits in front of a computer all day and when he would go home at night-same thing.  He was caught in the DOLDRUMS! (sound effects please). He needed a change. So-he decided to try one new thing and do that new thing EVERY DAY for 30 days.  His first choice was to take one photo every day for 30 days. Next, he rode his bike to work, every day for 30 days.  It changed his life. He eventually went on to climb mountains!

Well, I wanted to change my life. So I decided to try it.  For my first new thing I decided that there were some criteria that I needed to follow. It had to be something that didn't cost money and I had to keep it simple. I don't own a camera or a bike-so those ideas were out!   So for my first new thing I chose to identify a tree every day. Made sense, I am in an area where I am surrounded by trees. We are known here for the views of trees from mountains and the fall show of leaves draws tourists from around the world. And I have always liked trees.

August 1st I got my first tree. August 2nd-my second tree. August 3rd-the third tree. By the 4th day I found that I was not into trees as much as I thought I would be.  So I tried to find interesting facts or folklore about each one. I don't know if it was the trees I had in hand or if it's a subject best suited to science/botany nerds. I did not like doing this!  And being a person who pretty much requires a certain level of instant gratification-I stopped.  But what's interesting about this process is that I learned some things about myself: 

1) I like trees -as they are- a massive, beautiful backdrop. Individually-it depends on the tree.

2)  If I look deeper (go down the rabbit hole), I do not commit to anything anymore. There-I said it! Identifying trees won't hurt me or kill me-so why not just do it?  I believe that part of the reason is that there was no thrill of discovery; no rush of any kind.  And that is a cultural conditioning that we all have, so no surprise there.   The only thing I have ever committed myself to is raising my daughter and whatever "job" I happened to have. I don't invest-I don't get hurt.  (Boy, does that ever look stupid in writing!)   If I continue to go through my life just skirting the edge and never diving in-then what's the point?  Even if what I choose doesn't work out I should just pick something else. Move on, get back on the horse.  AND  keep in mind that it will not change my life overnight.  It's all about the -Baby steps.  So I am re-committing myself to this idea.  I have bought a cheap little digital camera and I will take one new photo everyday. And I will post them here. It's the action, the commitment on my part that is important here.

It's like Maude says in the movie Harold & Maude, " have to try new experiences, meet new people, otherwise, you got nothin' to talk about in the locker room."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In the Beginning...

Good Morning! And good it is. Here in the mountains we are fortunate that the heat of the day dissipates when the sun sets. The mornings are cool and refreshing. It's one of my top ten reasons for living here. Originally from Chicago, I remember the many sleepless nights in the summer. It would be 80-85 degrees at midnight!  Though still 10 degrees or more cooler-impossible to sleep!

So, this is my blog. This is a place where I can write about "aha" moments in my life and just about anything else I want. I have always been a big journal-writer. Honestly most of my journal entries are a lot of whining and puling about how bad or unfair life is.  Pretty typical. Most people won't admit it, but that's what our journals are-a complaint list.  I admit that once in awhile I can hit on something profound, but mostly not.

So you ask yourself-why blog then?  Because I sometimes have something to say about the things I see in the world. I've been here almost 60 years-hopefully I have learned something about living!  I had a rough start in life and have managed to come through life fairly well. A few nicks and scars, but in the end they have been great lessons for me and I wear them proudly.

So-if you're looking for a place to find out how someone else does this life or another perspective-you might be in the right place.  And maybe not.  Ultimately, this is for me. (Isn't most of what we do for ourselves?) 

Early yesterday morning I was sitting on my porch having my ritual morning coffee when a bear came by. A magnificent & beautiful Black Bear. He just strutted down the road like he owned it! (I wouldn't argue with him.)  My heart skipped a beat; my breathing became shallow as I just watched him- be a bear.  That's the thing with animals. They never question who or what they are. Unlike me, who questions absolutely everything-including who I am on a daily basis!  I was awed by his sense of self and purpose-it literally took my breath away!  So maybe the lesson for me in this is to stop doubting or questioning who I am or where I belong. Yeah-even at 60-the questioning never ends!

So-Today-THE ROAD IS MINE!  And maybe again tomorrow...