Thursday, July 17, 2014

I Have A Yard

In my yard, there is a tree.

The sun has come out these past few months and both Alasse and I have fallen in love. I have some lovely flowering trees. I would love to sound incredibly knowledgeable about my plants, but you would all see through me. So I admit, I didn't know what they were. Dogwood I thought. Yes, I have six dogwood trees. Anyways, the most important thing was that they are mine. I don’t think Alasse cares too much about the trees. She pees on them occasionally.

Several months later I discovered that my "dogwood trees" were producing fruit. Cherries, must be cherries. I was excited for a few weeks. Very excited. Free fruit! A few more weeks passed, and something seemed fishy. I actually did some research. Ornamental plums. Ornamental plums are messy. Blossoms? Good. Lovely leafy foliage? Good. Two inches of rotting fruit? Bad.

But enough about that.

I have grass too!

The grass has just now started to really grow. I love it, my grass, even if it is a bit patchy. The patchiness, that’s Alasse’s fault. She is the most expressive fetch payer in dog history, and loves to skid across the yard while in pursuit of a tennis ball. It doesn't look too bad if you look at if form an angle.

I also have a bit of a jungle. I own that too. Some evergreen business, lots of bushes. It’s all overgrown and wild looking. I like that. I’m embracing the wild. I could be wild.

And there is the tree. I have a beautiful old Silver Maple. They told me it is old, diseased. It has hollow limbs. On several different times in the past, it was topped. It carried on, but in the wrong way. They told me the trunk to width ration is all wrong. The hollow limbs are at risk of falling. The weight of new growth could pull it down. I own it, it is my responsibility.

There is a hole in the trunk. The winter filled it with water, and by the time spring dawned, it was teaming with mosquito larva.

I don’t know how old it is. A hundred years? Maybe more. I am so young in comparison, and yet, I own the tree. And that seems backwards. But what if it fell on my house, the neighbors house? It could crush a child. That cannot happen. The tree must be dealt with. But who am I to end a hundred year life?

I waited. I didn't know anything about trees, as a responsible homeowner, I probably should have listened. I'm not trying to condone unsafe tree-keeping practices here, but I waited, and everything turned out alright.

My Silver Maple did just fine. There was a bit of a late start, but then it was covered in brilliant green, healthy foliage. I had it looked at again. Turns out the damage previously detected was mostly superficial. It will need a good trimming in the fall, but it will be fine. A happy ending. They tell me it has another good 30-50 years.

And isn't that what we all hope for?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Place of the Turtles

"Green Sea Turtle in Flight"  Prints Available here

Green Sea Turtles are a bit like cows. Sea cows. Cows of the sea.  I have had several wonderful occasions to observe them over the years, but have never had quite the experience that I did at Akumal. Akumal beach, in the Yucat√°n, is a habitat for the endangered green sea turtle. In Mayan, Akumal means “the place of the turtles.” And the place of the turtles it is indeed.

There is no scuba diving allowed at Akumal, which is why, initially, I wasn’t very excited about it. I wanted to be down there with the turtles, not snorkeling above them. But I can be an idiot sometimes. Above or below, it was hands down the best sea turtle encounter I’ve had as of yet. For one, the bay is very shallow- 2-10 feet at most, so even with a snorkel I was right there. And there were just so many turtles- in an hour I saw 20, maybe thirty.

They were not curious about me in the least. Since Akumal is a habitat, they see people all the time, who never do them any harm. I on the other hand, was very curious about them and followed them around like a deranged fan with a Polaroid camera. They munched on the sea grass. Very cute, the munching. These were juveniles I was observing, nowhere near the size of their 700 pound parents.

I was lucky to catch a few waiting at cleaning stations- yes, waiting. It was… Amazing. The cleaning stations, and the whole experience. For those traveling to the Yucatan, I would highly recommend it as a stop. It’s just about an hour drive from Playa Del Carmen, and car rentals are relatively painless. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Dead Fish

This story ends with a bath, and a face that looks like this: 
Alasse, at "Bath Time" (prints available here)

My dog loves the lake. She loves the lake a lot. Well, let me rephrase that. She doesn’t love the lake so much, but she really loves balls. And when we go to the lake, I throw the ball for her. So she now associates the lake with balls, and therefore, she loves the lake.

 The lake we go to, well it’s not the nicest of lakes, but it’s only twenty minutes away. And after a hard day of work, that’s about all I want to do. And Alasse isn’t the type to appreciate crystal clear water anyway. She only has eyes for balls.

 It is, however, that time in the season where the lake is low. Very low. We drove out about a half a mile on the dried up lake bed before we came to the waters edge- or at least fifty feet from it. For fifty feet around the dwindling lake water there lies a strip of mud. Now, a girl like me isn’t bothered much by mud, so off we went. I had however, miscalculated the depth of the mud. Up to my ankles to be exact. Alasse was in heaven.

 As the damage to my shoes was already done, I figured that we might as well go for it. I waded out slowly, squelch squelch squelching, while Alasse happily slid around me in circles, eyes never leaving the ball end of the chuck-it. Ten feet from the water I called it good and let loose. Alasse leapt into the water and paddled out as fast as she could.

 Thirty minutes later, when my shoulder was beginning to develop a twinge, I called it a day. It was then, staring down at my mud covered pooch, that I remembered the hour I had spent that morning cleaning out my car. I studied the terrain, determined to find a way to get Alasse at least reasonably clean before letting her back into the car. There was also the matter of myself. I stared down at the giant lumps of mud that now covered my previously white tennis shoes.


 I studied the terrain, determined. There was a slight hill a ways down the shore, that was rocky, and looked to be the best I could hope for. So we slipped, skidded, and squelched down the shore, took a wade, and exited via the rocky slope. I was elated. Things were looking up. Dog was reasonably clean. I was reasonably clean. Car saved!

 We set off across the lake bed for my car, now quite a ways off. The ground was cracked, like a desert. Alasse was spinning in circles around me, eyes on the chuck-it, and I was gloating on my cleverness. Then we ran into trouble. What I had failed to notice, was that the trickling stream of water that I had so easily jumped over at the shore had carved a six-foot ravine in the earth. Too wide to jump over, and the side and bottom were muddy, dissuading me from climbing down. I thought about all my hard work to keep the dog mud free.

 We kept walking, farther away from the car now, only to find that the canyon only grew in depth. And then Alasse jumped down and rolled around in the mud. At this point, I said “fuck-it” and climbed down with her and up to the other side. We were on the right side now, but it was for naught. I had a muddy dog, muddy feet, and a clean car.

Alasse of course, was having a grand time. She had finally given up on the hope of me throwing the ball again, and had run out ahead of me. She stopped suddenly and started to roll. I had seen some geese earlier. Probably goose poop. Alasse loves to roll in bird excrement.

 “Oye, cut it out!”

 Alasse ignored me.

 “Alasse! Leave it”

 Still no change in her frantic, rolling behavior. As I neared, I could see that she was definitely rolling on something much larger than a splat of goose shit. I soon discovered that it was a dead fish. One big smelly dead fish and a dirty dog, having the time of her life.

It just had to be a big dead fish. Thanks universe.

 But if I know one thing in this life, it’s that hope is never lost. I covered the seats with the towels that I fortunately keep in the trunk, and found a plastic bag to put my shoes in. I set the dog in the front seat and let her know just what would happen if she moved an inch. I settled for dust over dead fish and rolled down the windows. Alasse, still having a grand time, leaned out, tongue lolling.

 When we pulled up to the apartment, I cringed as I thought about my clean floors and carpet. I looked over at Alasse, staring up at me with love from mud-crusted fur. I sighed, and almost smiled. It was then that I remembered the two hours I had spent the day before cleaning the bathroom. The lost minutes lovingly scrubbing the tub with comet, cleaning between the tiles, and scrubbing the floor.

I put on my determined face. Alasse looked at me worriedly.

 I carried her to the tub, plopped her in and started the shower. She immediately leapt out of the tub. Mid flight, she shook, flinging mud everywhere. Everywhere. At this point I may have muttered a few profane things. And when I say muttered, I mean to say that I might have woken the neighbors. (did I mention I live next door to a graveyard?)

 Two shampoos later the dog was clean and sentenced to bed. Out came the comet and the sponges, and I cleaned.

 When the bathroom was finally clean I sat down on the couch, exhausted and hungry. Alasse slunk from her bed and laid her head on my lap. Then it was her head and her shoulder, then her back, and finally, there was a whole god damn dog in my lap.

“What are you doing?”

 “What are you doing now?”

 “What about now?”

 I sighed. Time for another walk.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

R Squared

Rachel. Not me Rachel, the other Rachel. 

                I am not the only Rachel. I’ve met maybe thirty, or forty, maybe more. I grew up with one. We were born in the same valley. Her father laughed at my father when he got his Rachel first. We grew up together, Rachel and Rachel. Our farms met at the west pasture, and we would go there to play. There was a trough there. We would wade through the mud in our gumboots and go snail fishing.

                We’re both blonde. When we were little, we both grew our hair out to our butts. She had blue eyes, mine were brown. Our families both moved out of the valley, both estranged. We both lived primarily with our mothers. Our mothers both re-married within a year of each other. Neither of us liked our step-fathers.

                We went through school together, all the same classes from first grade on. Teachers were always worried about getting us confused. On the first day, when they called roll, it would always be “Oh no, two Rachels…” They always seemed to think it would be a huge problem, two Rachels. But it never was. When someone called out “Rachel” we knew who they meant. We always knew. I’m not sure if people said it differently, or maybe it was body language or something, but we always knew.

                The other students kept trying to give us nick names. Tom and Jerry, Thing One and Thing Two. Nothing ever stuck. We were just Rachel and Rachel. And it wasn’t just the classes. We were both on the swim team in high school. With our long blonde hair and matching team suits, we looked even more alike.

                We aren’t alike though, not really. She’s assertive, I’m shy. She’s going to business school, to be a sports agent or a rep for a company that sells million dollar machinery. She would be really good at either. I went to school to be a writer so I can work from home and talk to no one. But I still talk to her. She calls me. It’s never the other way around. We talk about our plans, and the house we will buy together someday. She tells me there’s a little farm, in a little valley in Hawaii with our name on it. Rachel. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

In The Beginning, There Were Bantys

Now, you've all heard a lot about Alasse. You've heard a lot. 


But, before Alasse found me, I had two Banty hens. Banty hens, or more formally, Bantam Chickens, are a small variety of chicken. But Banty hens are not your ordinary poultry bird. I have raised a lot of chickens: Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Araucanas, but Banty hens are by far my favorite. Very noble birds, Bantys. They came from somewhere in Indonesia and have been domesticated for over 4,000 years. Marco Polo even said something favorable about them once.

Then there are the eggs. Some people don’t consider Bantys to be good layers because their eggs are so small. But while the Rhode Island Reds may have given me four large eggs a week, and the Araucanas did have really cool blue eggs, I was always happiest when I found a little Banty egg waiting for me in the coop.

The Banty is a handsome chicken. My Red Sussex Bantys were a dark, reddish brown, with a spattering of black feathers around the neck and in the tail. Very slim, very sleek. And while the Sussux Banty may not be as fancy as the Sebright, my girls were stunners. They loved to show off, spending a good part of the day preening and getting all their feathers in order.

But eggs and looks aside, Banty hens have more personality than any other chicken. This is why they were my favorite. My two hens would follow me anywhere. Sometimes I would carry them around in a little basket. They didn’t mind.

They slept in the coop with the others. And every morning it was my job to let them out for the day. Besides the Rooster, all the chickens were very tame. Some were older than I was at the time, but the younger ones had hatched in a cardboard box in my room. I repeatedly got in trouble for putting them all in my bed. My mother would be furious whenever she found me lying on the bed, letting them hop all over me, their peep-peep-peeping drowning out my giggles.

Then, when they were old enough, it was out to the coop. All the chickens were friendly, they would even come when called. But while the others strutted out on a pecking mission, the two little Bantys would spend the day with me. They trailed behind me or hopped into my basket for a free ride.

They were my first models. They would stand on the table, very still, and I would draw them. I would go through stacks and stacks of printer paper, sketching them again and again, day after day. I never got tired of drawing them. They never got tired of posing for me.

But most of all, I never lacked for inspiration, never wanted for something to draw. I had my Bantys, and you can never have too many paintings of the people you love. 


Original paintings and prints available here.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Eden Loves To Pee

My Name Is Eden And I  Love To Pee

Alasse has a friend named Eden who loves to pee. When we go on walks together, Eden pees on everything she can. Take a few steps, take a pee, a few more steps, let’s pee again! This drives Alasse nuts.

This drives Alasse nuts because Alasse has to pee on all other dog pee. If another dog pees, she has to pee on it, immediately. She sniffs out the past pees with vigor and excitement, but nothing compares to peeing on fresh pee. When she sees Eden squatting down, it’s on. She off, and she’s gonna pee on that pee no matter what.

So, as Eden is happily peeing on everything, a few drops here, a few drops there, Alasse is frantically trying to pee on all of Eden’s Pees. Now, both dogs are quickly running out of available urine. But when it runs out? No need to panic! They’ll just squat and pretend! Because if you can’t actually mark your territory, at least pretend and fool your friends!  

Stop Peeing!!!
Prints and original artwork available here

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Brief Interviews With Mangled Victims

Alasse, Cleo’s current roommate

I love her.
She hits me and I like it.
It’s a game, I know it is. I just have to figure it out and then we’ll be best friends and she will love me forever.
Frank, Cleo's Former Roommate 
Lived with her for over a year. Over a year! Tried to pay her visits, but no one got near her room without an invitation. I'd stop by just to say hi and she'd chase me off. Rude.

John, Cleo's Former House Guest

It was 2AM, so I was on the toilet. What I didn’t know was that she was in her box taking a dump. And then she just flew out and went straight for the ankles.
Ricky, Cleo's Former Roommate
Satan. Satan.
Oh man. But there was this one time I got Anthony so good. I didn’t tell him we called her Satan. Just told him to go and say hi to Rachel’s cat. So he got up in her bed and that fucking cat just launched herself at him, all hissing and shit. Never seen a grown ass man jump horizontally across a room like that before.

Monty, Cleo's Current Roommate
She lies on my terrarium all the time. She likes the heat, just like me. Doesn’t even say thanks for utilizing my lamp. Just basks and leaves. Not a word. I do like to watch her hit the dog though. Good times.
Lyra, Cleo's Current Roommate

Oh, I gave her the benefit of the doubt for a while. They told me she was snooty, to good for the likes of us. But I tried to introduce myself, more than once actually. She ran away. She actually ran away when I tried to- Is that cream cheese? I think you have some cheese on your face, I can clean that up for you…

Cathy, Cleo's Current Roommate 

Never cared too much for her. She doesn’t care for me. I don’t like the way she treats Alasse. That dog is mine to taunt.

Prints and original illustrations available here