Sep 22

Montana adventure – days 5 and 6

Yesterday I explored Missoula and vicinity in the morning before spending some time with relatives in the afternoon.

In in the morning, I went to a hiking are at Blue Mountain, which was beautiful, but I only saw a few birds, most of those Clark’s Nutcrackers.

However, I’m grooving on the rocks here. Very different than Oregon rocks.

This morning I got up and explored Greenough (said Green-o) Park, which was a nice little riparian park within the city limits.

There I saw American Dippers, but not too much else (lots of flickers and magpies with a squirrel thrown in for interest.)

After my walk, we packed up to move to our final destination, Hamilton. After settling into the new digs, I headed out to Lee Metcalf NWR, which is the premiere birding location in this area.

A flock of American White Pelicans was feeding in the slough.

But they weren’t the only spectacular sight.

As I was driving home, I captured this image of what I think is Blodget Canyon.


Sep 20

Montana adventure – days 3 and 4

Rain. Our prayers across the PNW have been answered.

Of course, the rain arrived a little too late to save our Glacier plans, so I’ve been exploring the Flathead valley before heading down south to Missoula via the National Bison Range.

Monday I visiting Wayfarer State Park, one of the places my dad’s ashes are scattered (picture above). The hike was lovely, with the under story foliage starting to turn.

Then we turned east and explored Swan Lake.

Monday’s birding wasn’t exceptional. In fact, with the exception of some wild turkey’s I saw on the side of the road, I think the day’s checklists were pretty sparse.

Today, however, was better. I got up early to explore the Kalispell area. To the west of town there were some “ponds” that were supposed to be good birding. I saw Sandhill cranes, Trumpeter swans, and yellow headed blackbirds, so I agree!

After returning to pick up Mom, we headed to the National Bison Range.

In addition to bison, we saw…

But honestly, the most staggering thing is…

We are now in Missoula for the next couple days. I’ll keep you informed!

Sep 18

Montana adventure – days 1 and 2

In spite of the fact that the entire Pacific Northwest seems to be on fire, my mom and I set off for our vacation to Montana yesterday. This trip had not even started when serious logistical problems challenged it.

The first was time. Mom and I had talked about hitting Yellowstone, Glacier, and the Bitterroot valley to see friends and family (Mom grew up in the Bitterroot.) I have this pesky job, and illness and various art classes have made racking up a bank of leave a challenge. But I have enough to take a week off, so we scaled back to Glacier and the Bitterroot.

Then Glacier National Park caught on fire. I was willing to chance it, but Mom made the (probably good) decision that a trip there might not be our best bet. So, we revamped our plans and decided to tour the Flathead.

Then, the Columbia Gorge caught on fire. I think it’s safe to say at this point both Mom and I thought about calling the whole thing off. But, I want a vacation and Mom wanted to see her friends, so we set off anyway.

We had to go down the Washington side of the gorge until Hood River, adding a little time to our first day of travel, but we reached Spokane with daylight to spare.

Spokane arrival

We went out to dinner with a college friend of Mom’s and then settled into a hotel. Where Key (yes, he came for the adventure, too) proceeded to keep us up all night telling us about every person who walked by the door.

Exhausted, I got up this morning to give him a bit of a hike and traveled to Liberty Lake county park. It was lovely, and I saw a Chipping Sparrow as well as several woodpeckers (it’s Ponderosa country, so it’s important to look for the little woodchippers.)

When I got back from the walk, we hit the road again. We had less distance to travel, so after crossing the pass, we stopped to look at the southern edge of the National Bison Range and saw four of the big guys. One, in particular, looked ready to meet mating season in heavy weight status.

From there we decided to tour the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge and saw many birds, including a Say’s Phoebe, prairie falcon, American white pelicans, and lots of water birds. Mom really liked the painted turtles, too.

A short break for lunch, then we arrived at our destination, the home of generous schools friends of my dad’s.

We all stretched our legs, especially Key. Deer roam here, and he made sure he enjoyed that.

The bed here is soft and the location quiet. That’s good… because after last night, we ALL need a good night’s sleep.

Sep 11


I spent the weekend in what my mom always called “putzing” mode. I didn’t do anything exciting, but I certainly did a lot of little projects.

After the exhaustion of Friday, I slept well and then slept in Saturday morning. After (finally) getting up and walking the dog, I hit the Farmer’s market. Apples are coming into season, but berries are having their last gasp. While coming home, I saw a sign for free figs and I decided to stop and pick some to do some preserving. 

I ended up making three varieties of fig jam: simple (an unfortunate pale green color, but yummy), blueberry fig (shown above), and Southern (contains ginger).

I also fussed around my yard. In spite of my lack of posts, I am making steady progress on my big yard project and I think I’ll be ready for my big planting part on October 1.

I saw some nuthatches checking out the newly placed birdhouses this morning.

I also started on my Peace Pole, though there were an unfortunate mishap with the nozzle to the spray can at one point.

The next step will be tracing the words on all the sides.

Key got good walks both days and went to training today. I went to church and heard a good sermon.

Art-wise, things have been a little slow, though that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working. My time in the studio has been spent mostly framing things. My piece for the American Academy of Equine Art, “At Liberty”, was framed and shipped to North Carolina.

I framed a few personal pieces for my home and I’m awaiting a delivery for “Scent of Season” and the three paintings I am entering in Paint the Town (Artists in Action.) Additionally, my mom and I will be driving over to Montana to see family and friends in a couple of days, and I will drop off “Strategy Session” in Big Fork while I’m there.

In short this was the kind of weekend that helps me get back to center and gather myself for things to come.

Let’s hope I can keep that in mind for a little extra time.

Sep 09

The fragile sorter

I am currently in the unenviable position of feeling both very fragile and having to make some big decisions.

As I said a few weeks ago, I am struggling with several issues right now, the largest being a return of my depression. Today was a big because I had two doctor’s appointment that I hoped would help me tackle some of my ongoing issues.

The first doctor’s appointment was with the podiatrist to discuss my 11-month battle with plantar fasciitis. This doctor was much more thorough that the last podiatrist I saw. The upshot is that while I did get a shot to help with the pain and a list of stretches, I need to get some serious orthotics that (naturally) are not covered by my health insurance. Over the years, I have heard various stories about orthotics, some good, more bad. So, I need to think about that step. In the meantime, my mom gave me her GoodFeet orthotics, so I’m going to use those while I ponder. And hobble.

Next, with my foot throbbing, I went down the hall to see the psychiatrist (who I will call Dr. Y because I hate typing psychiatrist). As I said, I am struggling with depression. As I did not say, part of the reason for this is because my health insurance plan did not want to continue to pay for a medication that I have been on for 17 years that works well for me. So they put me on a generic, which in the past has not worked as well. Surprise… I’m now in crisis.

Last week I went to see my long term psychologist (Dr. P, same reason); we discussed that if I wasn’t able to appeal my case (and I had tried previously) that a complete change in medication might be the next step. Today, speaking with Dr. Y, it became apparent that switching medications was about my only option at this stage. Logically, I can deal with that. Even emotionally. But I’m not sure the physical me can.

To “help” me with this, Dr. Y suggested I take some classes Kaiser offers about depression and anxiety. Okay, sounds helpful. Except they are all during working hours, meaning I will have to take more time off and I’m already concerned about my job status.

“Depression” sounds like it’s simple. Like you’re only dealing with one thing… like maybe being sad or tired. But for me, it’s a lot things. I’ve actually been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and PTSD (though the latter is less of an issue since my 20’s.)

When things get like this, every single aspect of my life is challenging, even the simple ones.

So, I’m trying to get my thoughts and emotions in order, and then medication changes come along, kind of like this cockatoo:

I have no idea if this new medicine regime will work, and it will take months to get fully on it. In the meantime, I’m pretty much an in chemical cocktail hell. I have no idea at any given point what is “real” versus what is just my various problems.

Example: Thursday, a new person had their first day on the job. Through a series of coincidences, I met her at the front door and attempted to help her get to where her new supervisor was. Afterwards, I was so stressed out and worried about possibly saying the wrong thing I was shaking. Logically, I did nothing wrong. I smiled, I introduced myself, I found her boss, I introduced her to people. I did not kick a puppy or set fire to anything. Nevertheless, i spent the next several hours worrying about the interaction.

This story is a benign version of the biggest worry about all this. I am very concerned about the possibility of loosing my job if I get too weird. One of the biggest (unspoken) mandates at my job is that everyone “get along”. Between the anxiety and irritability, my feeling is that I am not doing well at that.


Additionally, I need to watch for very real problems such as an increase in suicidal thoughts and other new side effects.

I just have so many concerns right now. I feel overwhelmed.

Dr. P suggested taking FMLA until I got all this sorted out. No one knows how long that might take, but it’s certainly an option.

On the bright side, next week I was scheduled to on vacation with my mom to Montana. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but basically, the entire western United States is on fire, and she is (understandably) nervous about traveling into and through that. So last night we cancelled part of the journey and I’m waiting to find out of she’ll cancel the rest.

If she does cancel, I need to decide if I want to take the time off and do something else, or save the time for a crisis. But I feel like I need a break. So, a staycation?

Back to feeling overwhelmed.

This is a blog I don’t intent to “publish” on Facebook, just in my own little corner of the web that few read. But I feel like it’s important to write all this down for a baseline.

Sep 07

A certain age

The saleslady said
“Ladies of a certain age shouldn’t wear red”

An odd thing to ban
Why not black, or gray, or tan?

It’s true that my complexion no longer shows
The smoothness that society poetically calls glow.

My breasts may tend to slightly sag
Another thing society deems bad

So why should red now be forbidden?
Could it be because I’m less likely to be bidden?

I now do what I think is right
And occasionally my words may bite

I’ve had lovers and worn rubies
I may even have smoked a doobie

But a blanket ban on red?
Surely something else would be better instead

A ban on shame
Or taking the blame

I’ll wear red whenever I want
Think of it as a taunt


Sep 07

Red moon

The red moon greets me on the horizon
Pale from smoke

At first there is no noise
Yet the crickets coo and hum
My feet scuff on the trail

There is no light
The merest shade of not black
A suggestion that maybe the black and white of the canvas can change

I have yet again missed the owls and nighthawks
Their hunting already finished

Finally a scrub jay announces night has let go
Day has not arrived so much as snuck in
In this time when I’m walking the dog

Aug 21

Studio recovery

Thank you all for your kind words, calls, stop bys, and other support from my last post. I process things with this blog, and occasionally, well, it’s just not the cheerful artist tone I’m trying for.

But among my goals for the weekend was to put my studio back together. After “only” an hour an a half, I was able to get down to paint and paper again.  After making several piles and doing some general sorting, I realized that I am once again “down to the deadline” on two projects.

The first is a long-term stealth project that I hope to deliver next month. I have lots of pictures, but I can’t show them yet. I guess you’ll have to hold your breath until October!

The second is the Artists in Action Paint the Town event. The summer has FLOWN by and I have only made it to three events, but I only have a couple more weeks before my chosen three pieces need to be matted, framed, and turned in. I’d like to turn in the full limit of three pieces, and I think it would be good to try for one from each place. With that in mind, I took a look at my options.

Busch Park – June 18

This was a good day, painting wise. Of my four starts, two turned out well. While I will probably turn in “Bush Pasture” I also made small adjustments on “Over Bush Park.”

Hummingwood Farm – July 7

After spending so much time just clearing out my studio, time got away from me and I was only able to finish “Hummingwood Cottonwood”, though it is “Fenceline” I will probably turn in. I hope you can see where “Fenceline” is going by comparing it to the initial draft above.

As you can see, I used an opaque white to tune down the red sky in “Hummingwood Cottonwood.”

Cubanismo – August 5

Once again, I basically ran out of time and didn’t have a chance to work on the third of these paintings, but I’m very pleased with the progress on “Smoke over Cubanismo”, which is the one I will probably turn in. I also made a series of adjustments on “Through the Rows” but I just don’t think that one is quite as strong.

As always, I love it when you comment. If you have a favorite, let me know. Maybe I’ll change my mind about which to turn in.

Aug 17

The trouble with being human

I feel confident that I am not the only person struggling with existence right now. Honestly, based on headlines, I feel like anyone would be hard pressed NOT to be struggling with something.

In my little life, however, there seems to be a bountiful array of issues that are troubling me.


I am fat. It’s not fun. I work on it. But some days the discomfort can be intense.

I have developed plantar fasciitis (small tears in the plantar fascia ligament) in my right foot. The best way to get over it is to rest. But I have a young, active dog and a variety of other reasons that I need to go for a walk every day. Because of this, I’ve been struggling with this for almost a year and it’s not, in any way, on the mend.

My knees are aching, probably because I am fat and I am walking funny to try to compensate for the foot pain.

I am hot. I hate summer. I don’t like anything over 75 degrees. And it’s been a hot summer.

I can’t breath. There are a bunch of wildfires nearby and the air quality is bad and my asthma has flared up.

I’m tired. Objectively speaking, it’s been a long time since my last vacation (I think that was Hawaii in December of 2015.) I’ve been saving up vacation time for a while now to go to Montana with my mom next month, and I’m really starting to look forward to getting away.

Note: This isn’t to say I haven’t taken days off work, but most of those days have been art-workshop-related, which is not the same as vacation or time off.


I struggle with depression and anxiety. I currently appear to be going through something of an uptick in my depression, which means that every feeling and plan has to go through rigorous screening to ensure it’s:

  1. Socially acceptable
  2. Real
  3. Helpful

It’s not so much like having a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, it’s more like…

In addition, I am feeling sad about some extra-family issues that are going on. Sometimes, just because it’s not your responsibility, doesn’t mean that you don’t feel bad.

And finally, I am having some serious anxiety about some social issues. I’m not the best with people, which is hard enough. But one of my struggles is with lying, which doesn’t always have the same meaning to me as it does to society. I am someone who does my best to do what i said I will do (I don’t know how true that is in reality, but it’s true in my head); the rest of the world has a looser definition. That can be hard for me to deal with.


I don’t feel creative. That statement is not altogether true. I have things I’d like to do, but the studio is just too overwhelming right now. I feel overwhelmed by the weight of everything I need and want to do. Going into the studio (currently a disaster because last weekend’s event) is not possible without some work.

I don’t feel very motivated. Believe it or not, this is a different issue that the first. The event last weekend (Englewood Forest Festival) was fun, but I didn’t have many sales and it was a tremendous amount of work to get out there. It’s making me wonder if I should be trying to sell my art at all. Which leads to a whole other set of questions about what I need and should have and should do… And there goes my motivation.

I am heartsick. I feel like current events have been hashed over enough. I won’t go into them more. But my heart hurts in the place inside me that believed that most people in our political arena were just doing the best they could. That all but a tiny percentage of people understood that some things just were not okay.


I see the term “triggered” a lot these days, to the point that I sometimes cringe a little when someone talks about it. But I believe that most of us have triggers. Kids and spouses are excellent at finding them and pushing them. Friends can hit them with a casual word. Co-workers can unintentionally kick them. The other day my dog joyfully jumped, rolled, and ate his way around one of mine.

For whatever reason, last weekend’s events triggered me and I’m going through another stage of grief: depression.

The real trouble with being human is that we are at the mercy of our synapses. And when those synapses get hijacked into sending alternative messages, it can be hard to get them back in proper working order.

One theory on depression, and it’s a theory that meshes well with my own experience, is that when you are depressed, the synapses don’t communicate as well, with positive messages being among the first casualties.

In other words, when I take my dog out for an early morning walk and watch the sunrise, I think, “How beautiful.” But my heart doesn’t lift. And I go back to brooding about all the things that need to be fixed.

I’ll sign off today with this, my favorite Bible verse. Read it, or don’t. But if you choose to read it, take it as an early recommendation to join the current mindfulness trend.

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7


Aug 14

Just a prayer

My heart is too heavy and my body too sore to write a good blog post tonight. I will try to catch you up on some important artistic contemplations later in the week.

For tonight, however, I just need to share this.

Condemn no man for not thinking as you think. Let every one enjoy the full and free liberty of thinking for himself. Let every man use his own judgment, since every man must give an account of himself to God. Abhor every approach, in any kind or degree, to the spirit of persecution, if you cannot reason nor persuade a man into the truth, never attempt to force a man into it. If love will not compel him to come, leave him to God, the judge of all.
John Wesley

There were some other good ones that I thought about putting up here. But tonight seems like a time for less not more.

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