Pebbles on the Edge

Pebbles on the Edge
Lake McDonald, 2014

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tagged: The Next Big Thing Blog-Hop

Thanks to my friend Miriah, who is an an actual writer, not just a wannabee, I was tagged in this blog-hop, not to be confused with a sock-hop (is anyone else out there old enough to remember what one of those was?).

So here goes:
  • The working title of my book is "The Solitary" (now at 147 pages)
  • The idea for the story came from wherever magical ideas come from. All I remember was having a thought and writing the first sentences in my notebook while on a bus-trip to the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon last April 5th. They languished on that page for a couple of weeks before they made it onto my computer screen, and by the end of May, I had 90 pages (while teaching and finishing up our school's yearbook).
  • The genre might be fantasy
  • I can think of no actors who might play the major roles if this were ever to be made into a film. I generally loathe movies anyway and scarcely watch TV either, and the usual celebrities wouldn't be good enough. If surfer Owen Wright were an actor...(see earlier blog posts for characters.) 
  • In one sentence: Eilidh Runyon, a 30-year-old witch who practices as a solitary and lives alone on an ancient farm in some nebulous place like Wales or France, rescues an elf named Taliesin who is near death from an arrow wound, who has fallen into her world from the other realm, and who has partial amnesia. (Adventures ensue.)
  • If I ever finish the story in writing instead of just in my head, I don't know how I'll publish it. Still toying with choices.
  • I have yet to finish the first draft, although the story itself is finished. It has a beginning, middle, and end, and in fact, I usually write the end after I've written the beginning...the middle is the slog.
  • I hardly ever read fiction anymore because of time constraints. After I retire, perhaps...So I really have  no idea to what other books I might compare my story, although I love Shakespeare.
  • Related to question #2, I'm not sure who or what inspired me to write this tale. Most of my stories are inspired by my most vivid dreams, but this one wasn't. It certainly wasn't the bus trip, although I did have a great time and my students enjoyed it.
  • If anything might pique my reader's work is usually somewhat philosophical, with a bit of intertextuality, tragedy, and humor woven in. All of my stories, ultimately, are love stories, and center around the theme of redemption.
So...I hope I've answered the questions adequately. I have asked the story to stay on hold until June, when I retire from teaching. It's my favorite one and I don't want anyone else to write it!

(drawing by me)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Samhuinn to Thanksgiving

The rains of late October, falling through an autumn sun.
Has it been three weeks already since the first of November? How time is flying this year. And now, it's the morning of Thanksgiving day. The turkey is in its brine, the menu is planned around a Paleo theme, the house is mostly clean, we await the arrival of our guests, and I'm trying not to think about the buttload of work I have to get back to after the holiday.
As I reflect upon the things I'm thankful for: family, friends, sunshine, rain, the seasons, life itself--I am reminded as well about adversity, about those people, even in the midst of all this bounty, who have little to celebrate; about Thanksgivings in my own past which were colored with poverty and bitterness and being alone.
I am thankful those days are gone. I'm thankful that I am with who I am with, that I have two wonderful children who love me, that I no longer have to use a calculator when I go to the store, that I have decent employment with adequate insurance coverage, that putting gas in the car isn't really an issue, that I live a pretty comfortable life now, after early setbacks and adversity. I am thankful for all of this, and just for being alive today to enjoy the lovely sunshine pouring in through my windows.
As I reflect upon this day of thanks, I am full of both sadness for human failings, and hope that we all can look forward to a better future, that as a people and a nation and a world we may put aside our political and ideological differences and work together to achieve it. I may be an idealist, but I wish for peace in the world, and an end to hatreds of all kinds, even those that reside in the darkest places in my own heart.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Teeny Silver Surfboards

The fronts

and the backs. Not very good photography...
These are the first three surfboard pendants in fine silver (.999FS.) that I've made. I had fun making these, using textures with metal clay, and then cutting them out using templates that look sort of surfboard-shaped. I had to do a bit of sanding. On the backs of the second two are wave designs, and I made bails out of 18g fine silver wire, attached with PMC3 slip. The lot were torched, brushed, polished a bit, and put on chains. The top one I've been wearing for a few days. None of them have fins. I thought they'd catch on clothing. Earrings are next, but not until I get some other stuff done, like grading, laundry, vacuuming, scanning senior pictures, and donning my armor for another hectic week. It's the end of the first quarter already!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Surfing and Painting: Surfboards and the Elements of Design

All 38 surfboards. Whew! The last for awhile, I'm thinking.
Couldn't crop the picture because I no longer have Photoshop.
The latest four.
Surfing...So, my favorite surfer Owen Wright lost in the Quarters at the Rip Curl Pro in Peniche, Portugal, to Julian Wilson, who went on to win the whole event. I like Julian and he needed to win something. Owen eventually lost, but not before he surfed a perfect 10 and beat Mick Fanning in Round 5, which may be a vindication of sorts... Owen traveled to France and Portugal with his GF, his dad, and his little bro', Mikey. I wonder whether Tyler was there?

During the competition, I also enjoyed reading The Sardine, a nifty little e-mag Rip Curl published online during each of the many lay-days while everyone waited for the storm to hit and then abate, and the resulting swell to surge and then clean up. When surfing started again, one guy had sardines falling out of his wave right in front of him, slapping his face!
The world tour goes next to Santa Cruz, CA in November, and then it's on to the Banzai Pipeline on Oahu, Hawai'i for December, the last pro comp of the year. For someone who will probably never attend any kind of surfing event ever, it's fun, entertaining, and educational (!) to watch the world's best surfers fight it out on the world stage. These guys are serious athletes. A great many of the results rest on the luck of the draw, the waves one gets, plus a whole lot of other variables, and the finesse with which one can read and ride the sets. It takes physical skill, stamina, and an intimate knowledge of a swell and how to choose good waves that make a great surfer. And perhaps being born beside the sea and learning how to swim like a fish helps as well.
Painting...So what do surfing and painting have in common, aside from the fact that really beautifully decorated surfboards exist out there and people all over the world are riding art? The surfboard is a great canvas for art. Some surfers paint their own boards, and many of them are quite good. To paint a board takes skills other than how to surf: at least a modicum of art training (how to hold a paintbrush, say), and informal knowledge of the elements and principles of design (if it looks good it probably is).
Meanwhile, I love watching the aquamarine waves curl over onto themselves, break white, and fan out over the sand like foamy lace, and I like learning about surfing: the ultimate contest between man and the sea with nothing but a little bit of rigid foam between tiny human and big blue water. Foam-balls and chandeliers, two-wave hold-downs and barrels, floaters and face-carves. I love the ocean too, but not enough to live on the coast--the Oregon one anyway. Southern Cali--well, that's a different story that'll never be told. But I will always be an artist, and I'll continue making these little jewels until I get tired of them. I'm still hunting for an old genuine surfboard to paint on too. In the meantime, I'm making the tiny ones out of rag foam-core and just fashioned my first little silver surfbaord pendant. Picture later. 
Owen gu brath!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Paleo & Peniche, Eating & Getting Barreled

The logo design-work for my new company (haha) One Sea, or maybe One Wave--haven't decided yet...

Between gradually changing my lifestyle to one where carbohydrates are limited to vegetables and fruits, sucessfully making my first batch of coconut butter (yummy), watching the last 4 heats of the Rip Curl Pro Portugal Round Two at Peniche (along with a couple of previous heats I missed), grading a whole slew of papers (teacher's curse), and making a trip to the local health food store where I purchased some low-carb ingredients and a lovely turquoise scarf, I got some painting time in and have created a couple more tiny surfboards in the last few days.

Some new stuff...
And just to show the bottom of the Hawaiian shirt-themed one, on the left: I did a reverse.
It wasn't a 360-air, but hey...
Medieval-design surfboard with matching new scarf.
Although I love watching the ocean roll in over the sand, I know I will never surf in it, or swim in it, or ever feel comfortable in water, although I may try to paddle-board someday. I can't swim and I  grew up far from any beach. The first time I saw the ocean I was 33 years old: Long Beach Peninsula in Washington State. As sports go, I suppose I could like a worse one than surfing. It's fascinating and beautiful to watch. I know most of the pro surfers' names now and have my favorites: Owen Wright, Mick Fanning, Kelly Slater, Josh Kerr, Gabriel Medina, Jordy Smith, et. al. Everybody, really, unless they're surfing against Owen.
And this isn't exactly new: when I was in 8th or 9th grade, I was babysitting, watching the couple's color TV after the kids were put to bed, and I saw these guys standing up on longboards, riding the impossibly beautiful aquamarine-sapphire barrels of the Pipe in Hawaii, getting totally shacked. I was blown away. Maybe I'm just entering my second childhood.


Friday, October 5, 2012

The First Attempt is Often the Best

I still love this version the best.

Eilidh and Taliesin: the first incarnation, now nonexistent,
except within the workings of my computer...

...and more silliness from the world of tiny surfboards.
Having fun with my new colors. I haven't had new
acrylic paint for a very long time.
It occurred to me some time ago that the curl of a wave is the same curl of a vine-tendril, a whirlpool, a fractal, the center of a flower, the whorl of a galaxy, the spring of a fern; the Fibonnacci sequence as a metaphor for life, perhaps. For me the curl, the wave, the spiral, is endlessly fascinating. What is the basis of the primal attraction we humans have for this ancient symbol?



Sunday, September 30, 2012

Making Little Surfboards

I've been perfecting my "shaping" technique when cutting out surfboards. I use a very sharp exacto knife and cut on the bevel, using quarter-inch thick pieces of rag foam-core and a template. Then they're sealed with medium and painted. If I seal the back first I get a nice curve reminiscent of a real sufrboard. Here are some examples:

The bottom and top of a new board.
Another view of five. These are the bottoms.
And the tops of the same five. 
Then there are six smaller ones I just finished, sort of...
and bottoms.
These are fun and challenging to make. Someday, if I ever find a cheap real surfboard, or even recognizable bits of one, I'll paint on it. I have been no avail, of course.

I've also discovered that I can't upload images the old way--something about my new computer perhaps--so I have to put everything in HTML and post until I figure out what's wrong. Someone please tell me if you can see the images posted this way.

Summer's End, Work, and Dreaming

A great deal has happened since my last post, much of it trivial and silly--the normal every-day grind stuff of going back to work after a summer off. Here's a list then:
  • surfing (or watching it rather)
  • painting on little tiny surfboards, since I haven't found any real ones yet
  • getting ready to retire from teaching art--this is my last year
  • getting braces (no likey)
  • losing another tooth
  • entering a jewelry competition (I didn't get in)
  • getting a new computer
  • sending my sister my old one
  • planning an addition to the house: a 576 sq. ft. studio above the garage (still no viable bids)
  • planning a trip to Hawaii for spring break with my mom
  • finding the perfect jeans that fit (!!!woohoo!!!)
  • getting the perfect curtains to go on the clerestory windows: cotton voile
  • writing a story
  • studying Gaidhlig and trying out Level 4 at Slighe nan Gaidheal
  • getting through every day...
  • reinstalling my cool fonts onto my new computer (lost the Mason ones that I loved)
  • learning how to use this new interface
  • planning a birthday/retirement party on the Oregon coast
The list goes on, of course, but that's the way lists work. They never end.

some tiny surfboards (this is not all of them--I now have painted 24 of them, ranging from 8-10 inches)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Writing is Like...

Summer Haze, Summer Days

Writing. It's like building something from nothing. My current story, for example, at 124 pages and 68,474 words, is still just a disjointed skeleton with a few gobbets of flesh adhered here and there, but still undecided as yet what it will become, where the head fits, and the foot, and what will be done with the middle, that I'm thinking of putting nearer the front, and the other middle, which I'm leaning toward pushing out further into October (in the story).

Then there's the battle, and the time-jags, and the final denouement, who dies, who lives, who saves whom, coming home again, and how long they've been gone.

What of Minky the cat? What of the crops that need planting in spring on Eilidh's farm? The neighbors, who believe that Taliesin is a man from Australia rather than an elf from another realm? And Fannon, the enigmatic figure who becomes a key player in the plot? Can he come home too, for the first time?

It's all very exciting, building worlds, but a slog too, and one that, alas, in eleven days I'll have to give up on for ten months until I'm finished with teaching. I only hope the story's still there inside me, waiting for words to make it real.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fèis Seattle & Birthday Loot

A wee reminder of Scotland: Thistles at Siccar Point

I just returned from another fine offering from Slighe nan Gaidheal: The Fèis Seattle. Every other year this all-volunteer organization brings to the Pacific Northwest five days of learning and fun in the Gaidhlig language; a wee bit o' Scotland right here. It was my second Feis and truly an amazing experience. Those who participated will understand the word "cianalas." It was home for a few days, a place to sing and dance and tap one's feet; to learn and grow and be who we are without people giving us the stink-eye! Cairdean ùr, old friends too. Lots of craic as well: Buntàta and Ga desh air! Uisge beatha, a day of sunshine, a concert, some cèilidhs, lots of singing and purt-a-beal, learning to construct sentences about Bob kissing a pig in a car...and something about Donnie Munro in a phone-box. And an international Cranky star...We learn through laughter, and there was plenty to go around. Chì mi na mòrbheanna!

And since it's my birthday today, I thought I'd post pictures of some of the loot I got at the Festival, at Wandering Angus, and then in Tacoma whilst running around with my daughter. (The Rodriguez CDs arrived from Amazon when I was gone.)

CDs, stickers for my car, and a cheap sgian dubh made in China. (I'm saving for a real one)

My new little bodhran, which I WILL learn to play! I also bought all four levels of Muriel's Gaelic course, which can just be seen to the right in the stack by the journals.

...and some Viking-Ninja ducks for Jeremiah.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Aig an Fhèis...a-màireach

Skye: an t-Eilean Sgitheanach

Calanais: Leodhais

I awoke at 2 a.m. and couldn't sleep, so...In an attempt to get my head ready for the Fèis starting tomorrow, I thought I'd post a couple of pictures from our Turas Alba in 2010.

The one of the standing stones on Lewis was altered with solarization and other stuff I can't remember. I like the way the little tufts of grass grow around the bottoms of the stones, and the Lewisian gneiss with all its folds and striations is--well, gneiss!

The one of Skye was simply de-colorized from the original version. It was such a beautiful trip and I do want to return. Maybe we'll go next summer to hear Runrig during their 40-year celebration. They usually spend the summers touring Denmark and Germany. I hope they plan to play a couple of gigs in Scotland for their special year.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Progress on Drawing an Elf

Eilidh and Taliesin: Changes

Addendum: Taliesin is over 130 years old...time between the two planes--human and elf--has been messed up for a long time. Elves are not immortal, but they do have very long lives, provided they get to live them.

Update: Good progress but more work needed. It's funny how when one sees an image of what one is drawing, one sees areas for correction better than when one just looks at the original. Inntinneach...

And then one does not wish to utterly destroy what one has created, so one must find a way to make corrections--say to the longish nose and the resulting longish face (but, oh, that cheekbone, like a blade, and the perfectly good mouth...) sigh.

I used the eraser as a drawing tool for the hair, softened Eilidh's profile, put more shading on Taliesin's face, and generally wasted a lot of time I should have used doing other, less interesting things. Why aren't there jobs for people like me?

and...with a bit more work: shading.

...and then I ruined it completely. I'm not going to post the final version. It was an interesting process, however.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Surfers, Blue Water, and a New Story

Tilted view of the blue surf off the east coast of Kaua'i, Christmas, 2011

Just a song, just a story...just a random post.

On the 5th of April, I was riding a school bus to Portland with nineteen of my art students for a visit to the Portland Art Museum. It was a good trip and inspired me to prepare to make some changes in my life, one of which includes retirement...But, that isn't what this post is about, really.

It's about a story. On the way there I wrote two sentences: the first lines of a new tale: Eilidh was a witch. She had always known this, even as a child....

The words sat in my notebook for a few days, maybe even a week or more, before I typed them into Word. As stories go, I think it's probably my favorite so far, about a witch and an elf. Where it came from, I can't begin to say. From whence do any stories come?

Well, here's what happened: I started writing, and before too long I was building my characters, describing my two protagonists, Eilidh and Taliesin. She would have black hair and intense blue eyes, a Solitary; he:  ripe-barley hair, tall and thin, with golden-greenish eyes and a libido--but that's not the point either.

Back to the description: So I depicted them in words first, as I always do, and wrote some more, and then, in a moment of writer's block, I randomly searched the web for images so that I could draw them, because I like to know what my characters look like. It helps to solidify their personalities. So I typed in "guys with blonde hair." Here's the perfection I found:

Owen Wright, goofy-footed surfer from New South Wales, Australia.
Awesome, no? 6'3", lean, blonde...

 Looks like an elf to me...

And this is probably Eilidh...

And so, I have around ninety pages now, a tale full of intrigue, betrayal, lust, war, love, death,
Stay tuned--this one might actually get finished!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Writing With Light

So, Blogger has decided to throw a curve ball and make me learn something new...

Well, all I wanted to post was this:

The secret to good writing is learning to write an interesting sentence. Write another, and another. Do it differently. Say the same thing a number of ways. Pracice, practice, practice.

Sin agad e...There you have it.

When I have time, I'll learn to navigate this new (again) Blogosphere. Thanks, Blogger, for making my life even MORE complicated.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Landscapes of Mortality: Ruaraidh MacThomais (Derick Thomson)

Glencoe, our last sunrise

"Jessie Weatherston" Kelso Abbey (I think)

Melrose Grey

So...I have been thinking about mortality, about the brevity of life, and how we are never really finished. Perhaps it is this that drives the very engines of human endeavour. Our time is limited by the span of our lives, like breath upon the mirror. We are mist against a triumphant sun, here but briefly, then consumed by time. Dust in the wind...

Derick S. Thomson, Gaelic writer and poet, professor of Celtic at University of Glasgow, died yesterday at the age of 90. The New English-Gaelic Dictionary he wrote (published by GAIRM in 1981) is one of my treasured possessions. He was one of the foremost Gaelic poets of his time, and his influence continues to this day.

"A chionn 's gu bheil am bruadar sgoilte
cha chuir mi mo chridhe air cluasaig,
cha chunnt mi na h-eoin bhreaca
a chionn 's gu bheil an nead creachte."

Since the dream is cleft
I will not put my heart on the pillow,
I will not count the brindled birds
since the nest is raided.

From the poem A CHIONN 'S GU BHEIL by Ruaraidh MacThomais

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cianalas: Missing Scotland...Tillidh Mi Gu Alba

Abbotsford, Borders, with red red roses

Edinburgh Sky with a patch of sunlit green

Caisteal Urquhart, Bratach na h-Alba, agus Loch Nis

Maybe it's cianalas, that divine homesickness of the Gael, but I feel homesick for Scotland. So I thought to post some not-too-good photos to remind me of where we were, and where I want to return. Been revising the 30-year-old novel for the bazillionth time. The one about Skye and music and love....Cheesy, but each time it's better. Practice, practice, practice. And I have to go back to see all the places we missed, and the places in my story, and all the castles. Like for two months or something...

"Tillidh mi dhachaidh...cha chaidil mi gun till mi do mo ghraidh." Runrig, Play Gaelic

Saturday, February 11, 2012

On Writing...Or Just Because I Have a Computer Doesn't Mean I Can Write

Writing. I happened to look back over a book I was writing a couple of years ago called "The Island", the story of one James (Seumas) Mackinnon, thirty-four and a bachelor, living on the Island of Skye (an t-Eilean Sgitheanach), around Cruard on the Sleite penninsula: writer, poet, musician, Gael, and brooding farmer, &tc. And a young lady named Julia Herron who comes to the Island for the wedding of her father, and bla,bla,bla, and all of the predictable shite that occurs before they can be together. It might be a good story--I still think it is, as a story itself, but the writing is horrible.

Of course it is. All of my literary pursuits are the same. Why do I do it then? To torture myself? Because the stories are in me and they must come out? Maybe because I have always been a storyteller, just not a very good one where writing them down goes. Here's an example: (please don't laugh, those few of you who read this silly blog!) This is from the first chapter when James' manuscript, "An t-Eilean ag Eirich" (The Island Rising), has been rejected by a 7th publisher.

"James read the rejection letter a third time and looked out over the water and the brown strand glistening dully under a leaden sky as the morning tide receded from the shore, finding that his current state of mind was at least in agreement with the weather: grey and gloomy. Across the sound he could just glimpse the mainland with the humpy forms of Knoydart’s mountains displaying a forbidding aspect through sheets of misty rain, wreathed in low cloud that continually shifted to reveal first one part of their mass and then another. Fey, he thought. The fog was a Faerie bewilderment, the sleight-of-hand that veiled the Daoine-Sìth from human sight. The Faeries, James knew, conducted their daily business under cover of shadow and mist, and their nightly mischief by darkness and moonlight. So it had always been. On this day, they were convening a gathering amid the hills of Knoydart. Judging by the roiling mass of fog, it would be a large one.

Well, he had expected nothing less, either from the publisher or the Faeries. Like grasping at a handful of eldritch vapour, authorial success had eluded him once again...If ever an experiment had yielded such an unambiguous outcome, James couldn't think of one. His trial-run had concluded pretty much as he'd predicted: getting a major work of historical research published in Scottish Gaelic was about as likely as finding a live salamander in a peat-fire, or a Faerie asleep by one's hearth. Drunk, perhaps, but never asleep."
And so it goes and so it goes. And that's one of the better bits. The rest of it--all 145 pages of this drivel, is just that: drivel. Sigh. And I had the audacity to think, at the time, that it was pretty clever and witty. Alas, I'm no Jane Austen. I'm not even a good hack-writer.
I used to think that I was somewhat clever. When I am in the throes of writing, I have that belief. But as I open up these old files like the old, hidden recesses of my delusional mind, I comprehend that I'm not and probably never will be. I am, as a matter of fact, mediocre at everything. It's the one unyielding, incontrovertible fact of my life, and as I near my retirement, I realize that I will have left nothing but mediocrity behind. Depressing, really...
Jane Austen's writing table, at which some of the greatest works of clever, witty, and sardonic literature were written, by hand.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Emancipation Proclamation, Scottish Style

Free Scotland. Saor Alba. (Taken in Alba, summer 2010)

Below: Just an article to read that I found on Facebook. I thought I'd see if I had the technical skills to add it to a post, so here goes. It's a good piece--reasoned and intelligent--from the Belfast Telegraph.

Bruce at Bannockburn

Another good program to watch is the BBC Alba's story of Winnie Ewing, (in six-parts on youtube) ,which gives a good presentation of the SNP from its re-emergence in the 60s and 70s as the  tide of Scottish nationalism swelled and eventually led to a devolved Parliament, and finally, to the SNP's rise to power and the possibility of a free (restored) Scottish nation. No matter what happens in the referendum, the idea of independence for Scotland, and indeed, for Wales, Cornwall, Ireland (all of it), and Man--all the Celtic areas of modern Britain, is one that will never again be buried by those who espouse the "necessity and advantage" of an unholy Union.