Friday, December 30, 2022

Last Post for '22

 Last Post for '22


Buddy the Christmas Cat

 I've started and discarded several posts over the last couple of weeks. I start writing about the stone, but the weather has been rainy and cold, and most of the work has been stalled at the 'sit-and-stare' stage. I haven't made much progress. I'd include musings from the Suburban Hermitage, but not very much of note has happened around here. That is a good thing. I'm not going to make any comment looking back at the past year, or forward to the new one. I am grateful for what there is to be grateful for. I grieve the loss of what has been lost. I pray for the wisdom to perceive God's will unfolding in each given day.

some bug eating my bush

We held our Christmas open house the weekend before Christmas. Going into the event felt like getting down to business, not play. I wasn't really enthusiastic about the whole thing. It felt like we were doing it because we didn't want to not do it, and it seemed like a strained effort as much as a celebration.

But the gathering was quite successful, despite my low spirits. Mary goes all out for these things, and she has a real gift for creating a festive household. We had a small tree, tinsel, lights, and Mary fixed a huge pot of chili for the party. My friends John, and Mike came over, and Jeff drove all the way up here from Hemet. Mary had guests from Tai Chi, SGI (Buddhist), and her Jungian discussion group, along with our regular guests, Linda, Andrea, Harriett, Bob, and Holly. Many of these folks had not been here before, but everyone mixed well. Several of the guests were impressed with our house. 

It's easy to forget that we do live an odd sort of lifestyle, and this home is unique. There is no media here: no cable, no TV, no stereo. Unless Holly plays guitar, there's no music. We depend on conversation, and storytelling. There is artwork all over the place, and it's all original stuff- no prints, or posters. No food comes from a can, or a mix.  

Being host, you circulate,  sort of play the room, and keep your spider sense tuned in to the vibe. The vibe was good, and the afternoon to evening gathering was relaxed. Mary's chili was a hit. Everyone seemed to find a good conversation somewhere. My artwork got a ton of attention, way more than I was ready for. Of course, it feels good to receive praise for the work, but it's also unsettling in some strange way. All in all the evening was a success, and it left me feeling more in the Christmas spirit.

Thu, 12/29:

 It's been cold, and overcast all day, and the rain  started about an hour ago. Too dreary to work. I walked a couple or three miles this morning, got back to the house, and checked the computer. I was out of the chair, and away from the desktop within ten minutes. Lacking other media, the computer has been my portal into the world outside the homestead for years, now, but I've become just plain sick of it.

 Read another essay. No. 

Check up on the latest outrage. No. 

Catch a glimpse of the toxic insanity, the sad sick mess our world has become. No. No more. 

I'm just hating it. And I'm not the only one. I talk with my few friends, and they're feeling it too. I end up making the same speech over and over: we can not change the mess, or stop the madness. So we have to play defense, stay focused on the immediate good we can accomplish with what resources we have to accomplish it. I preach about disengaging from the mess, but it's not easy to do so. Disengaging is taking a long view of things, and we live life hour to hour not age to age. On the day-to-day level it just gets depressing as hell.  I used to spend three hours or more every morning going through the bookmarks, reading opinion and news, going though the comments sections, and jumping in here and there if I think I have something on-topic to say. No more. Of course, I still visit American Digest several times a day, and I'm following several serials over at the Arkhaven page. Maybe I'll maybe check the headlines at Ace of Spades, but I'm no longer clicking through to the articles.


Here's what's up with the stone.

I started with this:

 I turned it up vertical,  cut a base, and knocked out some rotten rock:

 Now the problem is dealing with a flat face, and two very uneven sides:

I did not plan on this being a major project. I figured I could find some simple form in this splinter of rock, and finish it up in a few weeks. I figured wrong. Sometimes the sitting and staring part yields nothing more than more sitting and staring.


Until this started happening:

This may turn out pretty cool.

Maybe. We'll see.


Monday, December 5, 2022

The Winter Stone

 The Winter Stone


A new week, a new month, November is over, and I'm starting in on this odd shaped hunk of desert stone. This small white mountain is streaked with brown and black, and it weighs in at fifty pounds even. Much of the material won't be workable. The rock is triangular in cross section, and it has a big, very flat face on one side, and a very irregular surface on another. 
Flat is hard to work with, and there's a crack across the lobe at the top end that will probably have to be cut off. The result will be a lot of scrap, and a small finished carving.
I got more done Wednesday than I had planned. I was just sort of noodling around getting a base line established around the thick end of the rock, but one thing led to another, and I ended up cutting the base, and working it flat on the sanding board. This seems to be a softer piece of alabaster than the one I just finished. We'll see, as I begin to grind on it.
Truth to tell, I'm approaching this project without much in the way of enthusiasm, or inspiration. It's work to do, and a bunch of problems to solve. It will keep me busy for a while. I'll end up with something cool to sit on the shelf, and that something will sit along with the sixteen other cool pieces I have sitting on shelves around here. Will someone want it? Will someone choose to buy it? Doubtful. But this is how the business of Art proceeds. 
You just keep doing it it because there is nothing else you'd rather do. It's fun.  You keep doing it because if you stop doing it then you're no longer an artist. It's important to be an artist, right? Besides, what's the alternative? Watch some TV? Go on line, read articles, and drop comments? Better to work. I didn't make a conscious decision to disengage from news and current events. 
I mean, I did not sit down, think it over, and decide that all the time spent keeping up with the news is time spent falling behind in life. I didn't decide to quit like deciding to quit smoking, or drinking. I'm just sick of all this shit, and I'm not going to feed on it anymore.  My internet travels don't go much further than American Digest, and Arkhaven comics. And I'm fine with that. Energy has to go where it's needed. The news cycle does not need my energy. Creating something, even if it's just carving on a rock, does require my energy, and the task channels my energy, and effort into something beautiful, or so I hope.
I keep doing it because it's important to keep creating. It's what we do in our small imitation of God. It should be approached with joy, but it has to be continued whether joy is part of the process or not. If you work only when you feel all inspired you won't get much done.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Cold Midweek

 Cold Midweek


 I didn't bother with getting a post up last week.

Mundane stuff kept me from getting any work done. Many small deterrents in the path. Lots of time fiddled away, and just a couple hours here and there spent on the stone. Not much accomplished. And the last stage in the project is a slow one anyway. It's all about getting measurements just right, lines squared where they need to be squared, getting one side no higher than the other. It's tedious, exacting stuff, and it doesn't produce anything dramatic to show for the effort. Bit by bit, I pushed closer to finishing day. 

And yesterday I got there:


Something seems to have come over me in these last few days. Suddenly I've just lost interest in the internet. Somehow, I just can't get focused on anything having to do with politics, or current events. It's altogether too easy to get caught up in the news. It's easier yet, to unlock the keyboard, and throw a comment at a news story just like you'd throw a rock at an enemy. But the rock never strikes the enemy, and the throwing is a wasted effort. I have yet to see any comment on the internet change anything in the real world. And it takes vigilance to avoid the temptation. So I'm being vigilant in ignoring the news.

 It was a week ago last Saturday that we had the monthly So Cal RatRod Ride. It was just Troy, Penny, Dave, and me. Jim was under the weather, and didn't make it. We haven't had guests for a while now, and our monthly cruise has become more of a family gathering than an event. And we're OK with that. Most of the group rides are centered on bar hopping, and the group spends as much, or more time  hanging out as they do riding. We don't do bar hopping. We gather to smoke a little weed, and ride. Most of the group rides have several people with portable stereo systems sharing their music with everyone within a half mile radius. Most people spend their entire day enveloped in fields of distraction. Cell phone. Blue tooth. Always a text message, always a call waiting, always and always music in the background, because silence is solitude. Solitude is looking within. Looking within is scary if there's nothing in there to see. We ride quiet. Time on the bicycle is time away from the dealings of everyday life. I don't want heavy metal, rap, reggae, or any obscene ghetto noise while I'm riding. I don't even want the worn out oldies I've been hearing since high school. Bike time is for the wind, and maybe some casual chat while we're rolling. Mostly it's for quiet. We saw sting rays in the water at the wetlands jetty bridge. That was the event. (photo Penny Stocker)

So this week it's Thanksgiving. We're going small this year instead of doing a big gathering. I'll take a day or two to work out little finishing details on the stone, and then start taking a look at the next project.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Cold Wet Monday

 Cold Wet Monday

So it's Monday, and it's cold and rainy. Not much of a post this week, because not much has happened. I've been stalled for progress, beset by relatively small annoyances that have kept me miserable in small to moderate ways. Last week it was a tooth infection. It got painful on Monday, and Tuesday I got in for a check up. Dentist gave me amoxicillin, but it took until Thursday before the pain cleared up. I don't know how much work I'll be able to do today.


  Last two days I've been dealing with the allergy fit which is the worst. I get this runny nose, that just will not stop. I wanted to go to Cyclone Coaster Sunday, but I couldn't get across the room without a snot rag in hand. (I know- gross) Can't do anything because the nose just drips like a leaky faucet. The only thing that stops it is to take both benadryl and sudafed, but that combination leaves me feeling like total shit.
Even so, I did get some work done on the stone. I'm getting close to the home stretch, and the burn to finish is heating up. I could easily get into a run of all day hard work sessions until it's on the shelf, but today and tomorrow we have rain.  The pictures up today are from a couple days ago. Now, I'm working on the base. The last thing will be rounding out the inside of the big ring. The work gets slower, as the end gets close. I may hold off posting any new photos until the whole thing is complete.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Catching Up With Stuff

 Catching Up With Stuff


Now how's that for a catchy title? No doubt it foreshadows all kinds of action and suspense. But sorry, no chase scene, no near death experience, no sudden fame or fortune. No disasters either, except for a toothache. That's bad enough.  It's Monday night, the 31st. Halloween. Mary is in the living room handing out candy to the Trick or Treaters. She tossed both cats and me back here, and closed the hallway door, so the cats wouldn't run out  when she opened the front door to hand out candy. Buddy the Cat is sitting under the monitor, and I have to pick up his tail, and hind leg to use the keyboard. It's awkward. 

Tue. Early am:

 Sunday I brought my stones, and the graphic home from the Art Gallery. It was quite an honor to be picked for the show, and I got a lot of good feedback on my work. It's hard to see our own work objectively, because we're too close to it to get any perspective. Seeing all my stuff on display in a real gallery setting was refreshing. Now I'm eager to get back to work. And I will. As soon as I get this toothache taken care of. Which will happen some six hours from now, as I sit here. I'm counting. 

Sunday afternoon we had our friends over for a small party and BBQ.  The party was pretty tame. I didn't get buzzed, and nobody drank too much, barfed in the street, or anything. Show's over, back on your head, and all that. 

I got back to work on the pearlstone project, and made decent progress. I'll have pictures down below in just a bit. I got an email "Call For Artists" from a gallery not far from here. I got one from them last year, and it ended up costing me sixty bucks in entry fees. I emailed back, and said, "Don't bother me again."

I waited to post these pics. I'll make no comment.


Won a prize.


Won a prize.


Won a prize. 

And so it goes. 'Tis a fickle business, this art stuff.
Anyway, Here's where we are with the new project.

 I had enough clearance around the torpedo that I could begin shaping it. 


It's slow work, as always. Every stroke on one side needs to be matched with one on the other. Ultimately I want a dull point on either end.

I'll get there...


Wednesday, October 26, 2022


A Blast From the Past 


Thursday, 10/26/ 2006

My sense of time is still wrecked. I know that today is Thursday, and that this whole thing went down on Monday, but all the time between is either compressed or expanded beyond recognition. 

It's easier to think in terms of distance. Colima Road, Whittier Boulevard, and Hacienda Boulevard form a triangle over steep hills that would make a great all day hike. That was the plan.

I noticed it was 9:11 when I left the house heading west down Whittier Boulevard toward Colima. Whittier hospital is on the corner of Whittier Boulevard, and Colima Road, about a mile and a half from my house, and I was about half way there when I started feeling tightness in my chest. Under normal circumstances, three quarters of a mile is not much distance, but within a hundred yards the first sensation of pressure turned to pain.

 It began to hurt. Bad. Angina was cranking up like feedback from a microphone shoved into a loudspeaker. Everything went into slow motion. I was walking in a cloud of pain that grew thicker and heavier with every step. I could see the hospital emergency room across the parking lot receding like one of those weird nightmares where you want to run but you're mired in glue and can't move. All I could do was stay fixed on that goal and force my legs to keep going. Somehow I just couldn't get enough air. I don't know how I made it up the steps, but I shoved my way through the door, and collapsed in the waiting room."I think I'm having heart trouble here".

Suddenly I was in the hands of people whose business is to save lives. I was poked with needles, stuck with patches, clipped to wires, and hooked to incomprehensibly sophisticated machines. I was processed, admitted, and wheeled upstairs. In the next forty eight hours I'd get to see high tech magic worthy of a science fiction novel. But mostly I lay on my back and waited and wondered what would happen next.

Doctors came and went. I found myself sleepless at three in the morning watching the sign of the cross form in the ceiling tiles. Holy cow, I thought, this is straight out of some some cornball religious testimonial. I should expect to see an angel any minute. But there was no epiphany, no luminous moment. Nor did I feel inclined to bargain with God- get me through this and I promise to reform my wayward ways. I tried to get a prayer out, but I couldn't concentrate. The best I could do was- "It's in your hands. Whatever you want. I'm OK with it." or something like that. 

The next day was the stress test which had me howling with pain in just over four minutes. Six hours later I had the angiogram, and the cardiologist put a stainless steel stent in one of the coronary arteries. It was 95% blocked. That's the one they call The Widowmaker. Five percent more and I wouldn't be writing this. There was no damage to my heart. Much to be grateful for.

Mary brought me home Wednesday afternoon. I've noticed this before in times of crisis. There's a weird giddiness- an almost surreal euphoria that kicks in to sustain you through the worst. That euphoria was draining off fast, and exhaustion was rushing in to take its place. My wife picked up the pills I'll be taking for the rest of my life. Four hundred bucks, and we have no insurance. It struck me then that we are now pretty much ruined financially.  

We got take out Chinese food for dinner. I climbed into bed with my wife, held on to her, and only then did it hit me what had happened. I broke down and bawled like a little kid. But it's Friday morning now. Now I'm OK, and I know that somehow this will all work out. I said a while back that there was no epiphany, no luminous moment, but I don't mean to imply that nothing happened. Only now does it occur to me that maybe I didn't need one. I guess I really have acquired some faith. Throughout the whole thing I was scared, but not terrified. I knew, somehow, that even if I didn't make it I'd still be OK.