Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Country Woman

For someone raised differently than me, their idea of a wonderful way to live will likely be different also. Some people have a childhood such that they can hardly wait to escape it, but I consider mine a rare gift of experiences and nurturing by the land that has colored my entire life. Are there more perfect ways to grow up, possibly, but not for me.

I grew up on the edge of wilderness, in a home at the end of a dead-end road. Beyond us was nothing much for many many miles unless Bigfoot really lived there.

When I had to leave there, I was not a happy young woman, but the land belonged to my parents. They needed to move and so goes life. When I got to a point of establishing my own home, my goal was to find that place again. Of course, you never really can; but I do live in the hills, where there aren't many people until you get to the ocean. I live daily all the pluses and minuses that are part of such a life.

One of the pluses are the wildflowers in the spring. Now a lot of the ones in these photos should have come earlier but this year, they are blooming their heart out on the edge of summer. They yield a beauty really beyond measure and it's hard not to be caught by them with any trip to town.

These photos from June 26th are from our own gravel road, the edge of our farm, wild roses, foxglove, columbine, daisies, and one I don't know. Why they need a name I am not sure as it's their beauty that is part of what makes me glad I live in the country. Oh I could come out here on a drive and see them, but these are mine in a way that I'd never know if I did that.

Incidentally, this is Farm Boss's 68th birthday.
Happy Birthday!

Monday, June 27, 2011


Finally I made the decision regarding which eReader to buy and am beginning with Barnes and Noble's Nook (mainly because it has color, can do email when I am online somewhere, and has a memory card which enables more storage), but with the intention to probably also eventually get a basic Kindle for its being more readable in sunlight.

Through this, I have begun learning a few things. One is that these readers are the best economic deal when it comes to classics, older books, or an author's earlier works.

First day I bought a collection including all of Zane Grey's books for $.99. Because the grandkids were coming, I likewise bought all Aesop's Fables, Beatrix Potter's stories, and Grimm's Fairy Tales also for $1 or $2 each. Also I got a very reasonable price on a large collection of poetry by E.E. Cummings.

Other Western authors that I like for instance Louis L'Amour is not so inexpensive. When looking at current authors and bestsellers, it looks like I can purchase them cheaper at Costco.

BUT, with the Nook, I can also borrow them at libraries as well as share them with other Nook readers. So it's a learning process but there is no way I will pay more for a book on Nook than I would at say Costco-- convenience or not. For one thing, when I buy a book, I can resell it at a used bookstore, no way that is possible with the eBooks.

I also have learned that Nook at least categorizes their books and also lists them with those under $5. Best selling authors are closer to $10. So you aren't really competing with every author-- just those in your category and price range.

When it came to buying books for the grandchildren, who weren't by authors I knew, it got complicated again as when you buy a book in a bookstore, you can judge its type, get the feel of it, know it was vetted by a publishing house. With the eBook, you don't have that security.

They do allow you to sample the first chapter but that's not good enough when it comes to my almost teen-age granddaughter. There is too much negative stuff out there to take the risk. She loved it though especially since it has crosswords and Sudoku.

Klamath Lake is the photo from our recent trip there for family time and canoeing.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Let it flow!

When I tried to think of a title for this blog, at first nothing came to me. Usually titles are the fun part of writing anything here or in my political blog; but if one isn't coming, that doesn't necessarily mean I shouldn't write anything-- well maybe it does. So I simply began with this and let it write its own title-- which it did.

My dreams have lately been either dynamic, creative and full of imagery-- or they are totally blah and filled with mundane events. It doesn't seem the two extremes go together in any one night nor does there appear to be a reason (from my daily life) for either kind.

I think maybe two weeks ago I dreamed I saw a volcano exploding. Red color and going straight up. I thought it an interesting and unusual enough image that I looked it up only to not like what I read. In the dream it didn't seem frightening particularly, just something to be aware of. The dream site said it means I am suppressing things that are about to blow. Interesting and it made me think I don't like my dream site much.

Last week I had a more favorable dream but didn't look that one up because it was very apropos. In it I was working on a large painting, one I have done before and keep trying to 'fix'. In this case, I finally got one corner perfect (in my eyes) and then realized you cannot do that. The whole painting has to go together or one perfect corner is really only a distraction.

This to me directly applied to all the fiction writing I have been doing. I had been working on the rodeo story which has come from being only on paper and poorly written to a story that seems to be working quite well to my eyes. The characters were always ones I liked but making it gel into a story that I felt was like my others today, well that was a lot harder. But pieces of it were happening in ways that made me feel it was coming together beyond my previous ability as a writer. I felt very good about them... except you cannot just have pieces (see above paragraph) and it's challenging to make those pieces, which really flow and have depth, fit with everything else. The word that comes to my mind is not a word-- argh!

Otherwise the stuff going on at the farm, I don't want to write about. It's bad enough to live it. On the day of the summer Solstice, when I had my plans for making it a day to goal myself for the summer, everything went awry, and I spent the day mostly outside dealing with a sheep tragedy that had me in tears at one point. There is nothing easy about raising livestock unless you maybe are the type to not care.

Since I know most readers here are tenderhearted toward animals, I will not be writing more about that day other than saying making plans with a farm seems to never work very well. I'm not overly fond of advance plans with anything else actually! Let it flow, that's what I like even though letting it flow often is anything but what I expected or good all the time!

The roses are finally blooming and much appreciated.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Drawing energy to us

My theory on Weiner and others like him is they do what they do to get emotional energy which they can then use other places. So the question that comes next is what are safer, more socially acceptable alternatives for the same energy boost?

How we draw energy to ourselves, how we get it, is what I think is good to look at every now and again because to just sit there and not look for excitement in one's life can lead to atrophy. Fear of doing anything leads to doing nothing. There are a lot of possible sources.

Sexually playing around might do the trick. I don't know as it wasn't something I found would yield energy to me. I also don't see it as the evil some do IF the people are all being honest with each other about what is going on-- and it is about the ones involved, not the rest of us. I think for me it would be more of a drain than a boost, but have known people who felt otherwise, and it worked for them. Couples need to discuss this and be honest with each other.

I've written here before about polyamory relationships. Whether the general populace knows about it, it happens and with couples or triples or whatever in agreement. Polyamory is NOT okay with the general populace in our country and in some nations could end getting at least the woman stoned to death or murdered no matter what agreement the couple had.

To me a first step in looking at what draws energy to us personally is starting with whether one is an introvert or extrovert. That will determine whether energy comes from solitary times or times in groups. Need alone time, then be sure you have it. Need time in groups, find those groups based on activities you enjoy.

Personally I find creative activities generally bring energy to me (and use it). Painting, writing, gardening, decorating, photography, etc. Creative cooking fits in the same category.

Travel and seeing new places gives some energy as they plan trips, experience new places, and then have the memories to draw upon.

Another thought is that building something can generate energy. Now that might be a home, a garden, furniture, or even a bank account.

Sports work for some people and even as elders they can find sports that might be physically less challenging (like canoeing), but still allow them to learn and practice new skills.

Service for others or working to help nature or animals can be another possible energy source. This might be where the person gets attaboys or even not and simply done for knowing they did it.

The issue of what works best comes with a couple of caveats. One is working to stay focused on it because distractions are everywhere. Focus in a culture such as ours can be a real struggle.

Another is whether the person has the skills where it is possible to gain energy from the desired activity or action. You can be an extrovert who needs to be with people but had negative experiences as a child that scared you away from people or maybe you never learned people skills-- therefore you are drawn to do what is also painful. Working at cross purposes only frustrates us-- which doesn't mean we can't learn new skills.

I do not believe we effectively draw energy to ourselves when it requires using other people and I do mean using as in getting it from them. Working with others isn't the same as an extrovert would find themselves excited and energetic when they are involved with groups. Each person there (assuming they are all extroverts) is getting energy from the interaction. That's not being an energy vampire (someone who gets their energy by draining it from others).

People like Weiner might not be energy vampires either. He was openly who he was, from what I saw of his interactions. He didn't pretend he wanted anything more than sex. He and the women might've each pulled energy from each other.

Personally I felt he was getting deeper and deeper into an area (his text to the teen was way over the line even though it hadn't yet gone to the sexting level) that was going to get him into legal trouble soon. It seemed to me Weiner was nearly or actually out of control, likely had a problem with narcissism (Edwards too) which pretty well says it's an unhealthy way to get energy. Nothing we really find giving us genuine energy will not be under our control. When that happens, it's addiction and energy draining.

The problem people have is living in a culture that uses sex to sell almost everything. The news media glommed onto the Weiner story as a way to salivate over something exciting to them and use it to sell their own programs. I think they were as disgusting in their coverage as Weiner in what he did. When I had my grandchildren here, I was not happy to have them in the room when news was on-- like who wants to explain that to a child!

Finally, any activity or action that draws energy to us can have a risk involved because that's part of what is exciting about it. It is probably why so many do feel they find energy through sexuality.

However one does it, I think it's good for us all to think what draws energy to us (it won't be the same thing) but whatever it is, make sure it can be done without lies. Lies and any deceit sap energy, whether someone knows it or not. I don't think you can live with dishonesty and not find it physically detrimental.

If you have ideas of things that build energy, I'd like hearing them. Or even if you disagree with my theory and think we don't really need to build energy and it had nothing to do with what Weiner (or a long string of names) did.

The photos here reflect a rather sad story about the attempt to draw energy to oneself. The peacock at the top, who obviously was released or escaped from someone's farm, has, for probably the last five years, often been seen or heard along our creek crying at the top of his lungs to draw to him what he wants-- a female. The only females even close to his kind are wild turkeys who are not running toward him but the opposite direction.

It does make for a rather eerie sound to hear a creature at night that should be in a more tropical setting-- especially if we are watching something like Jurassic Park and realize the cry we are hearing is not coming from the television...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Invisible to the Opposite Sex

The Summer Solstice, the longest, brightest day of the summer for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere of our planet. From here on it's downhill... Just kidding.

Since it's downhill and since I have actually been occupied elsewhere with family activities, etc., I thought a few links about a subject that has been of interest to Americans might be good. All right, some haven't cared about this at all or so they have claimed anyway. But there have been a lot of articles on why sexual cheating occurs.

Of course, these are all theories and some might say-- how do they apply to us? Well they could apply because this isn't something unique to the famous and powerful. This is the option mankind (womankind too) faces in any era of options. No options, no problems. People get no credit for being good if there is no alternative-- depending on what the meaning of good is.

You know what Weiner got caught doing hasn't been great for his life, but it might not be bad for our culture if it leads to discussions about something that is frequently not discussed because Americans are frankly a culture reluctant to openly discuss sexuality. Oh they like their porn; but to discuss why, now that makes many people uncomfortable and they want this to just go away!

But for people like me, who like exploring motivations, all kinds, it has seemed an interesting issue. I came across this article offering a reason which I have heard being said by some elder women about how they feel.

Now if someone has always felt invisible to the opposite sex, maybe this doesn't matter as they get older or then again maybe it makes them more desperate to do something to change the whole thing. It's hard to say what motivates human beings.

At any rate, the internet offers opportunities to be seen (even if with a phony image) where real life might not.

Then there is this side to it, the kind of thing that always mystifies other people. We hear it over and over, most recently with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This is the one that always blows people away when a man (generally it is a man) gets caught playing around with a woman who is not remotely as attractive as his wife. Everybody goes-- you are kidding! But he wasn't.

It comes back to what I was saying originally about this. It isn't about the other woman-- attractive or not. It's about the person-- and that is the same whether it's the woman cheating (yes, women do cheat also) or the man. People cheat for a reason but what is it?

My theory coming next.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Because I had showed some of the other parts of our June yard, I felt I couldn't ignore the rest.

Then, how could I not photograph again my rosemary which has to be one of my favorite plants, plus whatever else attracted my camera.

The bench I am sitting on below is made from big stone slabs that came from an original rock wall on this property, which had been part of the foundation for the original farmhouse before that, and that we dismantled a few years ago to put the rocks strategic places around the farm. We created the bench and then when I lost my little pal, Persia, we buried her beside it. I couldn't bear to put her way out under the oaks when for so many years she'd been near me wherever I was.

It's a late year for flowers and our roses have yet to go beyond buds, but it looks like summer is going to come when the calendar claims... maybe. Given the heat, gigantic storms, and horrendous fires elsewhere, I won't be complaining about our weather whatever the case.

Usually these rhododendrons would already be done blooming and not just in full flower. Some were here when we bought the farm which means shrubs over 30 years old, kind of amazing to me. The sheep have done a bonsai number on them this year. They would be poisonous to cattle but sheep can browse a lot of things. We will have to fence some of them off to prevent further desecration; but when I saw the shrubs in the Japanese and Chinese gardens, I thought possibly the sheep might want to charge us.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A rock garden at the farm

After seeing the stone gardens at [Manzanar], I wanted the feeling of one here at the farm, and I had the perfect place for it. It was a part of our yard that absolutely had never had any success with anything. It gets too wet in the winter for it to keep flowers healthy, couldn't keep grass growing even when we used already growing sod, and yet it's very important as it's what you see as you come down our driveway-- first impression. It is also visible right outside our large living room window.

To lay ground work, we visited a local stone store where we selected the shapes that we thought would let us create a stone Japanese lantern. We ordered a truck load of river rock from another source which we had dumped out by the barns as whatever we cannot use near the house will go to the sheep barn and the hope to get them, and us when down there, out of the mud. We also drove to Portland to see the Japanese and Chinese gardens for more ideas.

The basic goal was a rock stream bed, a stone Japanese style lantern, and a small pool which would be created from one of the plastic shapes you can buy at places like Home Depot. (For that we will have to acquire some gambuzia (mosquito fish) to make sure we don't end up with a lot of mosquitoes). I think the pool is too small for goldfish although I'd love it if it wasn't. Safest though are the gambuzia which we got for a small pool we had created in the house where we lived before this one.

With some of the big farm tools Farm Boss has (backhoe, ATV and a trailer for it) we still had some parts, of putting this rock where we needed it, that were hard on the back and muscles. The results, although not finished, have been very pleasing even though I had a couple of days where I thought the pain would never end. Nothing like moving around rock to remind you of what kind of physical shape you are really in.

I am still tweaking this and that, moving the rock edges, but it's taking a form that pleases me and will until the fall comes and oak leaves make this a challenge to keep it clear. I am thinking maybe a tarp over it for a month or so...

Cat in the photo with me is Blackie who actually adores Farm Boss and tolerates me except when I am outside and working at something. Then I become of interest to be forgotten again as soon as I am back in the house. He is a cat that loves outdoor projects and being part of them.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Come May and June, no matter how much sunshine we have had (or not had), one dependable in the farm house garden are the columbine which are hybrid versions of the natural columbine you would find in the forests right now.

These are lush, unpredictable and come in a multitude of colors that I never know what will be where. One might expect that would mean the garden would be a chaos of pink and purple colors.

Yes it is, and I love it!

For the rest of this month I have a lot of things scheduled including a week with grandchildren here at the farm. I wrote several photography type blogs which are pre-scheduled to go up as usual even though I will be doing anything but the usual. If I can get online during that time, I'll put up more of that sort of thing. It really is feeling like summer finally even though we seem to be getting a lot more grayish sky days. I should be back to a more normal schedule sometime in July, I hope.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

something to smile about

Generally I set my posts, here at Rainy Day Thoughts, to go every two days and generally I write them ahead of time by at least a day, but this made me smile this morning and therefore I thought I'd be sure others had seen it. It's what many of us had been waiting for because what happened in Tucson in January has had an impact that doesn't go away. It's nice to see the progress that Gabrielle Giffords is making where although she has a long way to go, she's come a tremendous way also.

Our country has been rocked by a lot of things, really the world has as change and violence have sometimes seemed ongoing, never ending, and during any breaks we feel like we are just waiting for another shoe to drop. This was one of those times that when I looked at an article, I left it smiling.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Human relationships in the age of the Internet

Actually, I would have titled this 'sex in the age of the internet' but didn't want search engines to deliver every reader to me who hoped for something salacious. This is more a sociological look at sexuality from the perspective of-- that depends on what the meaning of IS is.

Is internet sex really sex? Are those who engage in it, as so many have done, actually cheating the same as if they had an equal number of real time sexual partners like John F. Kennedy allegedly had?

If a person doesn't get sexually excited at the idea of showing someone else a nude photo of themselves, this is all kind of strange territory. It's strange for me where nudity is a natural thing not a pornographic one.

In the interests of being open here (photos will not be illustrating this piece), Farm Boss and I have taken nude photos through the years. The first were in our twenties with a borrowed Polaroid camera. That was fun. I lost those particular photos a few years ago as I had them in a manilla envelope where I kept other photos I was using to help me with a painting (I was doing both nude paintings and sculptures at the time). I set the plain looking envelope aside and somehow it (with them all) disappeared. Very bizarre but unless the angels took them, I am guessing they got thrown out by accident which is a shame given I was young then and the photos a lot more flattering than those in later years.

Off and on, in assorted outdoor settings, we did them, but all were what I call artistic shots-- like a bare breast against a cactus-- not literally against it, of course. None have ever been pornographic and not remotely seen as sexual by either of us. If you have seen the photos that Alfred Stieglitz took of Georgia O'Keeffe, you have the general idea of what these were like.

As a humorous side note, back then, if they weren't Polaroids, we had to take them to a lab to get them developed and that was the risky part because these were never intended for anybody but ourselves and to help my art work. One year we had been in Tucson, taken some down along Sabino Creek in a remote area, found a one hour lab which seemed the safest way as they had less time to look at the images. When Farm Boss went back to get them, the guy gave him a funny look and said they weren't quite ready. Our assumption was he made copies for himself. Those were the risks you took back then and nothing you could really do about it either.

Now with digital and webcams, it's quite simple to get photos and have them safely developed-- unless you send them out over the internet. That's where the rub comes in and what made the difference between what say John F. Kennedy did and now what Anthony Weiner did. Weiner left behind a cyber trail of sexually explicit photos and words that didn't just leave it as one person's word against another. He left positive proof and gave it to women he didn't really know which means he had no idea how they would use any of it.

Although this essay really isn't about him, it is triggered by what happened to him. It's about the internet and sexuality. It is how I think people who have a problem with firm boundaries get in trouble because it's now so easy to step over a line-- inch by inch. Farm Boss and I might see what we have done as being artistic and done for the sheer fun and challenge of being able to do it-- not for a sexual high. I am no fool to think it's how they might be seen by others. As what is acceptable to one person is horrifying to another.

When I painted nude paintings of men and women it was because it was for me liberating and yes, innocent. It wasn't about sex but about nature. It was and is a part of who I see myself as-- a being of nature.

And to those who don't see nudity as ever okay, it's why it might seem strange that I find what Weiner did to be the opposite of liberating. His actions, and those like him who use the internet as a way to be a legal voyeur, were all about ego enhancement, his own.

Maybe it came from a man who had been a boy women didn't desire and he has spent his life trying to reassure himself he is desirable. Maybe he's one of those people who loves a double life, likes secretly knowing he's a bad boy while he pretends to be a loyal husband or servant of the people. Maybe he had an addiction. I don't really know. I don't even want to know, not one more thing about him. I just want to quit hearing about it.

Why he did it, well that's for psychologists to ruminate over. BUT what he did next, that's when it applies to any of those who want to play around, at a distance or close up-- are they willing to pay the price if it comes out? Weiner not only lied. He tried to cover it up and the cover up became the worst offense to most people. He went into panic mode; and it appears has ruined his career and if he's not lucky, his life by what came next.

I think (personal opinion) that if someone wants to play around sexually, nearby or far away, they better have counted the cost. Sure a lot get away with it but a lot more do not. It is amazing how easy it is to find something coming out in a totally unexpected way. If you can't pay, don't play. Weiner hadn't done that, wasn't prepared for what he'd do if he got caught because if he had, knowing what else was out there, he would have admitted the truth the first day as the Republican representative from upstate New York did.

Sexual relationships in the age of the internet definitely have changed the options and the risks. For one thing, you really never know if who you are talking to is who they claim to be.

It's easy for me to see how someone can get in over their head fairly fast if they don't have boundaries clearly established. Weiner said in his press conference that there were six women... my guess is there are more and he was listing the number with whom he scored (if you can call it scoring). If there are more, one who is underage (a story that is circulating) then he's about to have legal troubles to go along with his social and career ones.

In the years I have been online (and sometimes in person), I, like probably many of you, have had those who have said something to me that I recognized as a testing of the waters for something more than casual. Only a very few, back in the chat room years, tried to go beyond that if they didn't get a favorable response from me. So I am guessing that Weiner hit on a lot of women, some who might've encouraged him first or others that he just liked how they looked; and if they responded at all, he was off with it and whatever he got out of a long distance, physical only with himself relationship. That is what the internet can provide, and whether a person sees it as a blessing or a curse depends on how it is used.

The internet, where it comes to personal relationships, is a lure and a hook. It can be used in a very positive way, to bring in information from around the world, a network that is seemingly unlimited for its potential and from which we can very much benefit, where we can make friends from anywhere. It has spoiled me totally for how fast I can get an answer to a question say about history, but there is a potential dark side to its use. The options are all under our control-- for awhile.

If people don't have a firm sense of their personal boundaries, then this kind of seemingly loose system can get them in huge trouble! I am not totally sure how we learn what appropriate boundaries are for us, probably taught by experience and parents (who sometimes are wrong), but a sense of boundaries are essential in a world where the culture doesn't force limitations onto people but often punishes them when they step over a line which they may have originally thought was harmless but ends up anything but.

And with the Weiner story, it's hard to say where it will end, hopefully not with a tragedy. He was reckless and didn't know the people he talked to or even their ages--not for sure. If he was sending such photos to someone underage, then he will face criminal charges.

It's too bad he didn't have a sense of boundaries because now we hear he and his wife are expecting a baby. Hopefully whatever happens with his career, his possible legal problems, he can get this together before he becomes a Schwarzenegger.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

cultural and political

Although I keep all things political in my other blog, cultural items are fair game for here, and this falls under that category but also political in that one division in our country wants to make the following more common while the other stands for the right of the individual to make their own decisions. You can guess which is which.

It is funny about conservatives, never mind from which party as it's a conservative mantra, that freedom of the individual is a cornerstone of our country. That is right up until it's the right to commit suicide, in the above case the right to end a pregnancy, or in some states (8 of them) like [Louisiana] they are trying to ban birth control pills. Those who thought that the attack on Planned Parenthood was just about abortion (which is a minor part of what it does for women), kid yourself no longer.

For all those who smugly say then don't get pregnant, guess they don't recognize that wanting to get pregnant and getting pregnant aren't the same thing. With the desire to also make many of the most reliable birth control methods illegal, this bunch are leaving women with one choice-- abstinence or pregnancy.

If someone believes abortion is morally wrong-- don't have one. If they believe ending their own life is morally wrong, don't do it. Freedom means you have that choice; but about the only freedom I can see some people valuing is allowing the oil companies to have monopolies, charge anything they want for their product, abuse the environment, AND still get subsidies from our taxes. When you want to press your moral views onto others, it's hypocrisy to say you are the party of freedom. The right has become the party of serfdom!

It claims it will do one thing, for instance get jobs or cut the budget, but once it gets in, all those social issues suddenly are sneaked through. Party of honesty my foot!

What the article describes, what is happening to women across this country, is what many of us feared would happen if the laws to allow women to end pregnancies in the early stages of their pregnancy were rescinded. Arresting women, killing doctors, all to save an innocent baby for which those same people want no help once she/he is born. no food stamps, no public education, no housing, no doctors. Is this ironic or what! Free to be born and then they don't give a damn.

I can tell you from my personal experience. There is nothing in this life so wondrous as to be pregnant and have a baby born that you want. Look at all the emotionally powerful, positive experiences in my life, and I've had a lot of them, it's at the top of my list. The key word there is a baby I wanted.

What I know from talking to many women, from reading articles, that when a woman already has three children and finds out a fourth is on the way, it can be a disastrous problem for herself and the children she already has. When she is pregnant and facing being an unwed, single mother, where there is so much stigma and where poverty is likely the result, it should be her choice what she does about it if it's early in her pregnancy. No way do I defend partial birth abortions and see no case ever where they are needed as if the life of the mother is at stake and the baby can survive out of the womb, they should do a c-section.

Freedom of choice is what the left wants. That's what I want. Not to force abortions onto anyone but to make it a real choice which is what Sarah Palin said she made when she learned she was pregnant with a Downs Syndrome baby. I support totally her right to make the choice to have that baby and have a society that will help her and women like her, with less financial resources, who have a special needs child to raise.

When states make it harder and harder to have a legal abortion, more and more expensive, when women have to walk past demonstrators yelling horrible things, when doctors are scared out of doing abortions because of threats, when they attempt to ban birth control methods that are commonly used, the options are purposely being taken away from women little by little. That is the agenda of a group of people in this country and they run under the banner of one party that is proud of it.

Even someone like Romney, who once spoke of believing in freedom of choice, politically has had to change his talk to fit the right wing agenda (and probably his Mormon religious dictates although how he got by with being for choice when governor of Massachusetts, I have no idea).

When I was coming into womanhood, abortion was illegal where I lived. There were girls with whom I went to high school who did have illegal abortions, and they never were able to have children later. This is what Americans want again? It won't stop abortions. It will just make them unsafe. It will possibly put in prison women who had one. Oh yeah, we need more people in our prisons.

So keep voting for the party that talks about freedom except where it comes to women, and it's yours! They are trying to make the coming election be about the economy, then will get in and put in place all kinds of regulations and rules to end individual freedom. Eventually they will get that fifth Supreme Court Justice, who will, despite Roberts talk of being a modest jurist, tell women they once again have no control over their own body if they become pregnant.

I understand a lot of people don't vote on this issue but frankly it's a very big one for me as a woman, as a mother, and as a grandmother; and it's hard for me to imagine voting for anyone who didn't want to keep abortions a safe and legal option.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Larkspur and Lambs

It's hard to believe how few really sunny days we have had this spring in my part of the Coast Range and Willamette Valley. The days have been mostly of the gray sort with rain sprinkled in enough to take care of any talk of drought until, well at least the end of the summer-- unless we get one of those green tomato summers where it rains and is gray and cooler than usual. They happen now and again without any global climate change, just normal variation.

So on one of our gorgeous sunny days, I took advantage and got photos of both lambs and larkspur. The larkspur are considerably later than usual at a small park not far from the farm. We haven't had any on the farm most likely because of all the years it has been a livestock operation.

Although, as I wrote earlier, it's been a tough year for losing calves, we have had a bumper lamb crop with few losses. In the first photos of the lambs, you will see Pinto, who I photographed a lot when she was born for her unusual markings (then-- now we are getting more and more like her). The black ewe we named Diva for all the problems we had with her near death experiences last summer. She is doing well and had her lamb a bit late this year probably due to all those accidents and recoveries last summer.

Personally I'd love more sunshine for days like these with the lambs and larkspur.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

An eBook cover evolves

Since I have been talking about the goals I have for possibly publishing some of my fiction as eBooks, I thought I'd write a bit about the process of creating the covers. When I first learned that I'd either have to pay someone to create a digital cover or do it myself, I was not thrilled. Like eek.

Then as I began working with it, I discovered it is very satisfying to figure out what images would work. Having created them, I know these characters better than any graphic artist. Plus the probability is I won't be making much if any money doing this; so I'd like to keep my costs minimal.

When I began working on digitals, I came up with the size I would need to approximate a paperback cover for ratio. I began many of them rather simplistically with iconic type images. I'd let them sit and then as ideas came to me. I'd add something, and if it didn't work, go back to the original idea. The surprise has been that in doing them it has helped me with the editing jobs as in personalizing these people, I think it's yielded better dialogue and given me more feel for the characters.

In the past, when I wrote a fiction story, to be honest, I never visualized the people I created. I'd write physical descriptions of them but never, in my imagination went there to see what that would mean. I don't imagine what characters, in books that I read, look like either. They are mostly dreamlike for how they appear to me. I also never imagine them as being played by any movie star.

Which left me with an issue. How do I then create faces for them? I definitely didn't want to use celebrity types as I wanted these characters to seem like real people even as such stories are not really like real life (we hope). I also didn't want to go for the photographic reality thing. I wanted the images to be painterly and done with digital tools.

The process I used to begin simply was iconic, looking at the meaning behind the story, then add this or that as more came to me. The examples below are from one of my stories which is about the trip West on the Oregon Trail. It's one I had thought might work to be published on paper but it doesn't really fit a genre and basically, at 140,000 words, is too long.

Average length from an unpublished author, if they submit to a publishing house that takes queries, is supposed to run from 70-100,000 words with ideal at 80-90,000. This particular story is one where over ten years ago I worked with a professional consulting writer who taught me a lot about writing (it was not cheap but well worth it) and helped me get rid of the excess verbiage. I don't see it being able to be shorter than it is and still tell its story.

The other two historically based stories (one of which is a sequel to this one) both came in at around 120,000 (still too long to attract a publisher) but they at least didn't have descriptions of the trip west with which to add to their length. My goals with the wagon train story was that it be both a love story and of the trip West.

Where length matters to a publishing house, online I don't think it will make any difference. Still this particular one is not one I plan to put out as an eBook just yet as I still hope someday to see it and the one following it to be in book form (but not going to use Lulu as I have no interest of trying as an individual to get books into bookstores).

The question might be asked then why do a cover for this one. It's because it felt like the cover became a part of its completion and they all deserved to be completed. Remember stories like these are like a person's children in a lot of ways. It also presented a challenge to me given it was the first story I ever wrote down and it has some character issues that I felt would make it difficult to do but that made me want to do it all the more.

In wanting it to illustrate the idea of the trip West, to attract a possible reader's attention who was only going to give it two seconds, the cover had an obvious possible iconic subject that would do the job-- Conestoga wagon.

I could have used just the wheels from such a wagon. I have two of them here at the farm probably from the family that homesteaded this property, but wheels suggest it's over. Wagon is better. Wagon might have been enough actually -- except.

I began to wonder if I could create the girl, a character I first created in my imagination when I was probably her age (17) and who I have written and edited over many times until I'd be her grandmother if not her great grandmother. So I played around with it. I had nothing to lose as I still could have gone back to just the wagon-- what I love about digital.

I really liked her face once it came into being. She had the strength and beauty that I felt my character had to have. She looked real to me (in painterly form at least) For awhile I thought maybe that would be enough-- until the challenge kept growing in my mind. What would the hero look like? He was a more complex problem.

This guy really is my major interest in the story although it's the story of both people as they follow the Oregon Trail, deal with the problems along the way, and possibly fall in love. He had to be young (21 or 22) and boys that age often don't look strong enough. My character had gone through a lot by this age, was toughened by that.

My first attempt got me the pose and general face but not quite right. This guy looked a little like a ne-er-do-well. That would never do. My young hero has to have a rough edge, strong, but not look like a bum even to me.

Finally I got to a face that looked as I imagined he might have. The first attempt though had his eyes looking forward or down, which made sense since he's bringing oxen up to hitch into a team. You know with a small figure like his, it's not easy to show the eyes at all and yet I kept thinking his eyes need to change. If he looks down, he looks submissive, not involved. What does he want? Can I show that in such a small image?

Where I really wanted the covers to also say something about the issues in the story, he should be looking toward her as she's staring off to something beyond the horizon. Once he did that, with almost a yearning expression, it did say something about the dynamics between these characters. The last one is the one I will use (unless I come up with something better) if this story becomes an eBook.

There would then, of course, be a title and my name; but I plan to keep the originals of them all as they are more like digital paintings without the necessary information.

Anyway editing these stories, writing some brief synopses of what the stories are about, is what I have been doing as all thirteen now have a cover. By the end of the summer, I'll have the stories where I want them and then hopefully I will have figured out whether creating eBooks is what I want for them and how I can get them seen by readers.

Update: After a helpful comment from one of the readers of this blog, I looked again at my hero's shirt and tie. Where I want to leave the shirt part way open-- this is a hot trip after all *wink* ,( there are some elements to the story which suggest an open shirt is a good hint to the plot) but the tie was obviously a problem. For cattlemen or on a trip like this working with livestock, dealing with the weather, and a lot of dust, a scarf is a serious part of the outfit, but I had it tied wrong leading to the feeling my reader suggested about the hero... He would have also had a hat but I'll keep thinking about that one as would he have to wear it all the time? I like his hair pretty much as it is. Maybe the hat is hanging down his back from a cord. Anyway on the open shirt, you do have to keep in mind-- this is a romance ;).

Friday, June 03, 2011

Who is that woman?

Aging is a fact of life, one that changes a person a lot when we go from childhood to adulthood (which we've all been through but barely remember but now observe in our children/grandchildren/etc.) then not so much for years until we get to old age where once again the body is changing sometimes quite fast. Is this a bad thing? That depends on what you expect from it.

Where it comes to old age, I find myself often at cross purposes with feeling one way about it and then boom along comes something, and I feel an opposite way which is actually pretty silly as it doesn't matter how I 'feel.' Aging happens whether it is accepted as a part of life or not.

We live in a culture that absolutely resists it and encourages us to deny it by all sorts of methods from how we look to what activities we choose. No more of these old lady shoes for elder women. And those dresses old ladies used to wear-- to where did those disappear?

These days there are many options where it comes to our skin and bodies. More and more regular people, those who aren't movie stars are following the pattern of what Jane Fonda has openly spoken about doing-- face lifts. The problem with those surgeries is they don't restore us to what we were even in looks let alone make us really younger. Plastic equals plastic. Fonda looks more like Mary Tyler Moore these days and she lost the chance to age into the old woman her face naturally would have yielded. With her bones, she would have been quite an interesting looking old lady and she probably knew that. She knew something else-- she'd get more work if she did it. We don't come from a culture that celebrates aging. We are in one that hides it or tries to.

The thing is none of what any of us could do surgically will change the age we are. All those who say they still feel like kids, all very well for them but reality is their body is not. Why do they want it to be? What have we decided is so wrong about being old? We live in a culture that demands aging to not be visible. The question has to be why.

It's not that way in all cultures. I was watching a French film the other night and they ran a few promos ahead of it. One was a love story with a lot of complexity involving three elders who really looked like elders involved in sexy looking scenes. Can you imagine that happening here where we expect an elder to look like Helen Mirren?

Having plastic surgery or using injections doesn't really make people look younger. They can inject poisons and lose lines, wrinkles and look different, stretched with eyes that look oddly wide open, but they never really look younger. They just look no age.

The natural lines and droop in our faces are part of our life experience. Why must we erase that to make those younger than us comfortable. I think it relates to fear of what aging means and a reluctance to accept that it comes to us all-- if we are lucky. It's not like I like those lines and droops either!

This was personalized for me recently by a photo of me taken by Darlene. She asked if she could take it. I admit I felt some reluctance because of lighting but said okay. I am no more fond of having others take my picture than most people are as when it's my own photo, I can toss it. When it's someone else's I have no control (rather like commenting on other people's blogs).

Photographs have to be one of the biggest reminders of aging. Now I personally like taking my photo with a webcam which is what the first photo here is. I have it set up with a light on the desk above it and have a window alongside where I can control the light coming in. Webcams usually don't capture every detail-- hurray for that!

When taking photos outside, I try to be careful where I am standing which means I am very aware of the aging aspect to it. Direct light like the one below taken at Manzanar, can sometimes be better than shadows as sunlight washes out a lot of lines. Outdoor lighting though is kind of a crap shoot as in not very dependable as to what it'll do if the camera is close. If you have ever seen a professional photographer work under natural lighting with a model, you would see spotlights, reflectors and screens to get the 'natural' look.
And let's face it, much as I adore my digital camera for being able to take a lot of photos and toss most, digital cameras are looking for pixils-- pixils are what lines are made from. Now I can take a photo like the one above and, if I want to do it, set up my clone tool to put a filter over the places I think are unnaturally dark. So the lines are there but not quite so defined. What I want with any photo of me is that it looks like me (or how I see me). I also though want it as flattering as is possible-- who doesn't.

I regularly remind myself of this fact. The pressure to look younger-- even when old-- is a negative thing. It makes me miss what is possible with being the age I am. What's wrong with looking almost 68? Who does that bother?

The sad part about someone saying you don't look your age is it puts you under pressure to not look your age. Why should we not want to look our age? To comfort others that aging isn't happening?

So since I wrote about it, I better put in the photo that Darlene took in Tucson or people will imagine it worse than it is. All the lines it shows are lines I do have but they don't always show up quite that strongly. Looking at it made me think two things. First never let anybody take my photo again when I have my head tilted forward that way. I could so easily have changed my position and avoided some of those lines. Second-- what was the name of that plastic surgeon again who did the light facelifts?

Just kidding about the second part. I will tough it out and adjust to the reality that aging happens to us all-- if we are lucky. Some days it shows up more than others. Actually how we look is the least of it even if it is the most visible. Don't get me started on the rest of it!