Thursday, April 23, 2009

Theme Thursday: Fire - and the aftermath

This is a common sight all over the South. All that remains after many a fire is what might have been the source of the blaze - the chimney.

Fire in the sky is less common, but once in a while I catch a few clouds ablaze in the evening.

One evening after a violent storm, I was surprised to see the sun setting again - in the north! It took a moment for me to realize I was seeing the glow of a forest fire started by the storm.

I photographed the storm on the news next morning (see my window reflected in the screen?) The storm set off the above fire and spawned two tornadoes and the largest hail I've ever witnessed. Luckily I only witnessed it after a friend put several hailstones in her freezer. They were nearly the size of baseballs!

Fire and ice - all descending from the heavens simultaneously...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cool spaces in way back far out places

The very best thing about my temporary job is that it gives me a chance to see people's personal outdoor spaces - places that I would otherwise never know existed - places that they have created for themselves.
Cause folks, these aren't places "put together" for the neighbors' sake. They aren't places created by landscape designers. These are places that can't even be seen by passers-by. These are unique little worlds, and I feel privileged to have been allowed to share them here.

After jostling down a half mile of dirt track driveway winding through thick pine woods, my van rolled around a curve and out into an open meadow of surprises. There before me was a series of rock gardens - and I do mean gardens of rocks! Crystals and geodes, mica and minerals, sandstone and quartz - all laid out in the sun to sparkle or to oxidize. Standing watch over the gardens were animal sculptures made from recycled metal, including this owl. His body is a former propane tank and the eyes are the wire brush wheels off of a bench grinder.

"Blooms" of crystal, iron and manganese...

Rose quartz!

A closeup of the iron (rusty orange) and manganese (deep purplish-black) deposits on crystals.

The largest wind chime I've ever seen/heard, made from aluminum baseball bats... And yes, it sounded great - not at all like the sharp tinny sound of an aluminum bat hitting a ball.

And finally an alligator, a rooster and a giant giraffe - all made from old farm implements and scrap metal.

Really a cool place!! The owner graciously gave me a tour and permission to photograph his private world. He also gave me a night blooming cereus (?), a plant with which I was unfamiliar. Check out the very short video below! I had to work an extra 45 minutes to make up the time I spent there - but it was way worth it.

I was taught that one should not say "thank you" for a plant - that the the giving of a plant is to be reciprocal instead. I returned there today and dropped off several new sprouted lilacs, and though the owner wasn't home, I know he'll find places to plant them.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More on my travels and tribulations...

It was a week crammed with must-do's and must-finish's. I completed a group of commissions (posted on my September Studio site) and I was juried into a new gallery center which meant delivering works and attending the first opening reception. I also began to be "trained up" for the resident artist position at the Heritage Center which means justifying the cash/sales at end of day. Somehow I still squeezed in over thirty hours at my canvassing job for the Census Bureau, but I am tired - and just wishing for some downtime.

Careworn and weathered kittens... left sitting in the yard of an abandoned home. It's as if they await the owner's return...

Another casualty of an abandoned homestead..

Yellow jasmine in bloom - and a bird's nest inside a mailbox.

Just a cutie I met in a parking lot during a lunch break... Notice he has "camouflage" dog tags...

And lastly - a heartbreaker...

The two horses pictured above look just the way well-cared for equine should. They are sleek and healthy and in excellent condition. Those collars they wear are only to prevent them from "cribbing" (chewing on wood/sucking air) - nervous or bored habit.

Compare them to the horse in the last photograph. This is what a starved horse looks like.

I turned into a long drive through a wooded area and came upon a lovely home sitting up above a fenced half acre or so. I glimpsed a leggy horse from a distance but could only see the horses head and hooves.

I had a lovely conversation with the owner - a very young woman with a 13 month old baby - and we discussed children, dogs and feeding hay. I asked her if I could photograph her horse and she said "why, certainly" - though he'd "not been brushed or groomed lately." I had no idea of his poor condition until I drove down to the gate. I nearly threw up as the sight of his ribs and backbone made my stomach roll over. This not just thin - this is critical - and criminal.

This is not an old horse. She never mentioned him being ill or made any excuse for his condition. I started to go back up to speak to her when someone else arrived - and I decided to just go ahead and report it to the authorities. Either this woman is completely ignorant of horse care - or she's so preoccupied with her child that she's completely neglected this once-beautiful Thoroughbred. His feet were in poor shape as well - and his mane was a tangled mess. My conclusion was that since there was some green stuff in the lot, no one bothered to feed the horse.

Sadly, this is all too common...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Meandering ... the ups and downs

I thought this blue just heavenly...

It's been a while since I worked for anyone but myself, and all too quickly it has been a return to a life of juggling. Forty hours on the new job, Saturdays at my gallery space, and Sundays at the Heritage Center (as I want to maintain my resident artist status) means I no longer have "a day off." I've rarely taken any days off of being an artist, but this is different as it's back to having to be somewhere every day of the week. I know for most struggling artists, this is everyday reality, this attempting to live two lives and maintain two full-time occupations. Just keeping up with things like laundry, vacuuming, and grocery shopping have become a challenge, and yet I must count myself lucky to have this temporary job.

For many years of my young adult life, I lived in the future, always waiting for the week-end, or the summer, or the future, while life went on. I'm not a Buddhist, but discovering the philosophy and practice of "mindfulness" has been invaluable for me. I look for the best in each experience as well as to consciously be aware that my life is each experience.

With that in mind, I've taken my camera and a notebook along as I scour parts of the County to update addresses for next year's census. I've driven down gated lanes lined with landscaped plantings, country highways and graveled roads - and dirt trails that seem to lead nowhere - but might. Some of the places I've been in the past week sadden me: old trailers and falling-down houses with piles of junk and debris and tarps over roofs to keep out rain. The poverty is palpable. Sometimes a door is opened to reveal toddlers and/or pregnant young women and the reek of tobacco smoke nearly knocks me out. This angers me...

But what breaks my heart are the dogs on chains, skinny wild cats, pregnant cats, and staked-out fighting chickens. Fighting chickens - or cockfighting - is illegal. Raising the birds used for this horrific "sport" is not. The birds are kept tethered by one leg to a stake out in all weather with only a piece of tin (and theses are the "lucky" ones) as a rain shelter. There is no bedding, no perch, no protection from cold or wind or heat. Barbaric - as are those who profit from this disgusting and cruel practice.

But it's not all bad. I came across a dirt drive that led up and up and around and on and on... and finally came out at an amazing place. The house, fence and outbuildings were all made from re-cycled materials utilized in the most charming ways. I asked the owner (a widow in her late 60's) if I could take some photos, and here they are.

She told me a wonderful little story. It seems her late husband was born and raised on this land. His family operated a sawmill there from the turn of the century until the 1950's. Before his death a few years ago, he contracted to tear down a gymnasium in the nearby town of Carnesville. He later used much of this lumber to add on and side their little home. She recently learned that the lumber to build that gymnasium had come from this very land back in the 1930's.
Full circle