Would You Like to Swing with a Duck?, collage/acrylic, 6 x 6
Elizabeth W. Seaver
It is hard to believe that my 30+ day odyssey is over. All the paintings in my 30 x 30 show are up and out, and what a fun thing it has been to write and interact with my blogging friends about them. Thank you for joining me on my silly journey.
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"Peabody, can't you do anything right?" his teacher asked. "Everyone knows how to use a stapler--look at all these flat staples on the floor. Clean this up!"
"Peabody, I told you to clean your room. You've been daydreaming again, haven't you?" his mother fussed.
"Peabody can't ride a bike!" the neighborhood kids teased. "Peabody doesn't know anything, nyah, nyah, nyah."
Well of course none of that was true. Peabody was no different from everyone else. There was lots he was good at; it's just that it was hidden way inside, out of the view of most people most of the time. Inside, he created rich, complicated stories in his imagination. And far away from critical, prying eyes, he drew pictures to illustrate them. One day, he would publish his fabulous tales, and he'd show the whole world what he could do.
On top of that, as if there needed to be more, Peabody could swing. He was fearless and stretched himself completely horizontal, pulling himself straight up to heaven. The whistling wind and freedom from earthly troubles created a bubble of happiness all around him. He could feel it from the tip of his blood orange colored beak to his sunset toes.
This was by far the dumbest scheme ever, Polly thought to herself as she pedalled at a snail's pace towards the rocky crest with the mountain biking club. Well, she was technically behind the mountain biking club rather than with them--way behind. I mean, in order to meet people, you actually had to talk to them, right? So far, when they'd stopped for breaks, she'd sweated, gulped, panted, tried to look nonchalant, chugged water and limped around trying to ease her charley-horsed muscles, but she'd not met one person or been capable of saying a single coherent word.
Back again in the saddle, which she noted was getting mighty sore, she began to be afraid that it was possible to pedal so slowly as to roll backwards down the mountain. She distracted herself by recounting all her efforts to make friends since she moved to California: a sky-diving fashion show (the heels were a daring choice of footwear, but hadn't actually been a great idea on the landing), extreme beach bathing (you haven't lived until you've gotten raging sunburn wearing a thong--for a time, she achieved a certain notoriety as That Thong Girl, but she hadn't actually made a single friend for her pains,) then there was the Saturday she went skating at Venice Beach. She felt grateful that her scabs had finally gone away, even though her technician winced when Polly went to have her legs waxed.
She looked up to see whether the top of the hill was any closer and blinked. Was someone actually waiting for her up there? And could it be the best looking biker in the bunch...ho, boy, was he adorable! She forgot her aching legs and burned out lungs, her dry mouth and her empty, complaining stomach, sat up straighter and accelerated to caterpillar pace to meet him.
A bicycle built for one, was in Sunny's opinion, the most wonderful invention--two-wheeled freedom under the summer sun. Because, let's face it, the nest was crowded, and some days he just needed to get away.
Billie was always hungry and squawking. Their parents had to fly far and wide to find enough to feed him. Millie was a happy sib, but had a piercing giggle which drove a spike through Sunny's eardrums and interrupted his reading. Pierce just wanted him to play pick up sticks all day, pulling on his wing and pulling him away from the sculpture he was building in his head. He loved his family, but he lived for the day he could move out and make his own nest.
When it all got to be too much, he jumped on his bike. He found that if he pedalled fast enough, the white noise as he cut through the wind made a perfect Sunny-sized space.
Present, collage/acrylic, 6 x 6, Elizabeth W. Seaver Sold
Finally, on the third morning of shopping for it, Isadora found the perfect present for her friend Pilar for her birthday. It wasn't just an ordinary birthday present, one that would be played with a little while and then break or sit high on a shelf, forgotten. It was special. Isadora wanted it to say to Pilar what Isadora could not say out loud. She wanted the present to say thank you for hugging her when her kitty died and what fun they had when Pilar threw the surprise party for her and for the worm bisque Pilar made when Isadora got sick that time. It was hard to find a small token which expressed all those things and fit into a box, but she did! She wrapped it in paper and ribbon as beautiful as Pilar.
Crumbs were all that remained of the corn meal cake, and Pilar opened her gifts. The stack of gifts dwindled until one lovely pink box was left. Isadora sat breathlessly on her chair, hoping that when Pilar opened her gift, she would know all the warm feelings in Isadora's heart.
Pilar slowly untied the ribbon and draped it over her neck. She carefully pulled the tape off and placed the wrapping on a stack of paper to be reused throughout the year. "OH!" Pilar gasped when she finally removed the lid of the box and looked inside.
Even with a special mallet, how long would a bird's wings have to be to reach a ball from the back of a horse? Really long. A bicycle is the only answer. In fact, bicycle is the answer to many questions about birds if you only think about it. And I have thought about it--a lot!
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Please join us on Saturday from 10-5 at LibertyTown Arts Workshop for our Holiday Open House. Many artists will be in their studios to help you find just the right hand crafted thing for Aunt Mabel or little Sam. Perhaps a gift certificate?? Come by to shop, talk, drink apple cider and eat cookies with us on Saturday.
Marvin refused to wear regular clothes. They poked and pulled on his softest places, and he loved being comfortable above all things. He was a busy boy, and he didn't have time for the distraction of a pinchy waistband. Luckily, he'd been able to sneak away from the house before his mother saw him this morning and made him change his clothes.
He kept to the wooded paths where he had the best chance of escaping unnoticed. Then nosy neighbors might not see him as they flew over and call his mom to tattle on him.
His favorite pair of pajamas zipped up the front. Best of
all, they had the feet in them. Then, no bother of crouching down, getting red in the
face while he tried to remember how to tie his tennis shoes. "Rabbit ears in the hole...pah!" He was too busy to learn that--besides if he had his way, shoes would soon be completely unnecessary. Marvin was currently designing a whole line of pajama-inspired outerwear. He'd set aside this morning's ride to brainstorm baseball pajamas with cleats on the bottom.
"At the very least, there should be no tie shoes in the world, only slip-on ones." Marvin dreamed. "Flip-flops. I wish I could meet the person who invented flip-flops. What a genius!"
Oops!, collage/acrylic, 6 x 6, Elizabeth W. Seaver
There comes a time in most parties when a little too much fun flies around the place. This time, poor Rachel got in its way. No one meant for her to wear a cupcake, but it happened, and once the shock wore off, everyone sped away laughing, leaving Rachel with icing dripping down her forehead.
How do you handle such a socially embarrassing moment? Do you stomp your prehistoric dinosaur feet and flounce home in a storm of plumage? Do you laugh with everyone else and find a sink to stick your head in? Or do you act cool and nonchalantly eat the cupcake off of your own head, acting like that's what you meant to happen?
It was the best job ever. Floyd and Fred and Erma and Amy sat every Monday morning on the Boynton's clothesline, making sure the Boyntons' Saturday night, whoop-dee-do, go-to-town, hoe-down clothes dried nicely, all ready for the following weekend. Mrs. Boynton paid them in as much birdseed as they could carry away in their plump, late summer bellies.
Now, Sunday night is the birds' whoop-dee-do, go-to-town hoe-down, so every Monday morning, there was plenty of fodder for the rumor mill. The latest was that Alfred Jay made a terrible fool of himself over Miriam Cardinal, and her a married woman. Tinker Jay let Alfred know just how far off base he was in the Peck-n-Paw parking lot. And then, Penelope Peacock looked upon the persimmon wine while it was orange, grabbing the microphone from the band. Her rendition of Feelings cleared the joint. The party continued outside. The paper-rock-scissors loser had to go back in for the next round. The owner of the Peck-n-Paw banned her from coming back for two weeks.
The weather turned out lovely, but the winds blew something fierce overnight. Mildred, Philbert and Auntie Prudence had a frantic time keeping little Orin safe. In hindsight, perhaps it wasn't the best idea to have built the nest in a pocket of a dress hung on a clothesline, but while nest shopping, Phil and Mil had watched the garment for a week and no one ever came back to take it down. There it hung, a haven in soft rosy pink. It seemed the perfect place to lay the egg of their one chick.
Mildred fussed at Auntie Prudence, "You are the one who is supposed to keep us from doing something dumb!"
Prudence grumbled around the clothes pin in her mouth, "I knew it would end up being my fault."
"What was that?" Mildred asked suspiciously.
"I'm not the one who laid an egg in a pocket," Prudie replied waspishly when she had gotten one side of the dress fixed back on the line, "What is wrong with the time honored twig nest in the tree, I'd like to know? And may I get some help here? Honestly, what would you all do without me?"
Phil cleared his throat, "Well, obviously, Prudie, we'd be at the end of our rope."
A clothesline can be a danger to avoid depending on your height, and then it becomes a verb instead of a noun. I leave you to draw your own picture of that. It is best known as a noun--a convenient place to hang freshly washed clothing.
On his way to school the other day, poor Egbert found himself in a curious clothesline incident, ending up hung out to dry.
Rupert bored easily. When he had whined for as long as his mother would allow and done all the resultant chores (picking down out of the nest, gathering bugs for supper, washing the windows) she kicked him out into the world to find somewhere you won't get into trouble!
Some place where I won't get into trouble, Rupert thought. Well, that doesn't sound like much fun. So, he grabbed a branch, swinging slowly back and forth and thought about it.
Julia liked nothing better than to sit by the river and paint the lovely summer greens of the trees and sky tinged water. She always wore her green beret and artist's smock, the universally acknowledged uniform of her profession.
Today she wandered farther than usual, hauling all her gear. The ordinary wouldn't do for a Wednesday. No, today, she wanted to capture something special on her canvas. She walked about a mile along the uneven grassy slope on the left bank. Then, she saw it, the perfect subject for her painting--a rare pink, yellow and purple Virginia elm. She'd heard there was one here somewhere. Best of all, it had yet to drop its music notes for the season.
Julia plopped down on a rock to paint en plein air. As who wouldn't in such a situation.
Drinks and laughter were two essentials to a successful party, and more of one, usually means an increase in the other, Althea knew from past experience. So she knew it was a mistake to have daiquiris at Naomi's christening, but Herbert insisted that his family would be expecting some sort of libation that didn't just sit there in the glass providing no pop and sizzle for the party. She tried to water the drinks, but Herbert caught her and put Uncle Charles in charge of the bar. "That's done it," Althea thought. The last time Charles poured, Althea woke up to ten extra full-grown ostriches sleeping it off in her nest.
Witherspoon didn't like to go to family parties, but he felt obligated to attend his niece's christening. She was pretty cute, and at 7 inches long, hers was the biggest egg ever incubated in O'ville. The newspaper was covering it. His sister deserved a party, after all she sat on the nest all day for six weeks. And their Mama Hen kept reminding him that his arrogant brother-in-law warmed the nest all night, so Witherspoon ought to give him some credit. Witherspoon reserved judgment for the moment on Roger, and he kept this thought to himself, too: it would be a cold day on the veldt before HE sat on a nest!
Sure enough, obnoxious Aunt Poppy sprang out from behind every bush to take "candid" photos with her phone. Everyone tolerated her because she made the best cupcakes, but then she spent all night posting her mug shots on Facebook. By Monday morning, Witherspoon's friends had found his dorky photo, and it went viral at Byrd High. Someone even found a way to print a Wanted Poster of him in the library: Would you vote for this guy for Prom King?
Yes, Witherspoon viewed family as a very mixed bag of blessings--on the one hand, cake, and on the other, social death.
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Don't forget that Witherspoon, Millie and seventeen of their friends are still available for purchase in the McGuire-Woods Gallery in Building 16 at The Workhouse in Lorton, VA. I happen to know they take credit cards over the phone! I have other work in the Vulcan Gallery on the first floor of the same building. If you live in the area and haven't visited the vast art complex there, do it. Get involved there. Classes, date nights, art openings, a gift shop, all kinds of fee events, plus reasonably priced ticketed ones, like plays and comedy shows are all available to make life more fun (and shopping a whole other experience!) It is also a great space for parties and events. Check it out, you'll be amazed.
Millie floated down from her favorite tree, holding a freshly brewed cup of coffee between her wing tips. She didn't have to go far--just being out of the office for a few minutes morning and afternoon broke up the day, along with lunch of course, when she usually flew to a nearby spot for a few grubs over mixed greens.
But, her favorite part of the day (and the reason she put in her eight hours of tweeting and singing for her supper and being early to get the worm) was when she returned to her other life. The night time one she hadn't told anyone about--secretly, she painted.
As she sat over her coffee, the images flew through her mind like geese at fall migration. She could hardly keep up with them. They came in groups, sometimes fully drawn as if she'd already applied the last brush stroke. Sometimes just a flicker of an idea popped in and then melted away, sunset behind mountains. Millie never worried that those ideas were lost forever because she didn't have paper and pencil with her, or her sketchbook. She knew they were hiding down there in the dark of her workaday world. She would see them again in her tiny studio when the smell of the paints and brilliance of the mixed colors shone light into those dusty corners and incubated inventions moved out of the shadows and onto her canvas.
Leaves rustled and twigs lightly snapped as the office slowly came back to life over Millie's head. She sipped the last of her coffee and bid a temporary farewell to the pictures in her head. Smiling and refreshed, she squared her shoulders and flitted back onto her perch. After clearing her throat, she opened her beak and began singing again. The sparrows, jays and cardinals stopped to stare at her. Millie warbled a complex aria unlike any they'd heard from her before.
John used the traditional fishing methods for birds of his ilk during his weekly feeding fishing expeditions. But on the weekends, he liked to take rod and reel and colorful flies he tied himself to sit on a rock in the river and cast and cast. It was a little like meditation. His wing flashed back and forth in a rhythmic, flicking motion which served to sooth his ruffled feathers and eased his worried mind. Yes, John was a worrier. Once he stopped worrying that the kids would get eaten by big fish or fresh water gars or turtles, then the big expenses would start. They all wanted the latest l-pads and fancy b-uggs. They weren't happy just to eat dragonflies and waterbugs and wear regular webs like he did when he was a boy. Today's -lings! If he didn't love them so much, it wouldn't be a big deal. But he hated to see them wearing used outfits from Featherwell's Two Times New. Mabel said he was too soft-hearted, and he supposed that was true.
But when he was fishing, Mabel's softly chiding voice faded away, and he forgot that all week long he was nibbled to death by ducks. He only saw the sparkling water and felt the warm sun on his shoulders. Unfortunately, and it was a big downside, sometimes he actually caught a fish. It ruined the rhythm, zapped the Zen and otherwise, spoiled his whole day.
Sometimes, like today, he quick pulled in his line when a fish jumped or struck at the water. Often, they felt like talking, so he listened and advised on the best places to go for sushi, that sort of thing.
It was a two-edged sword, this making friends in the work place.
Caroline couldn't remember when she'd stopped being Caroline and become 'Line. She hated having such a lazy name, just as if your mouth didn't wake up until you got to the end of it. What about a cute nickname like Caro or Carrie? She really wished everyone would just call her Caroline. Why not? Why did her parents name her Caroline if they weren't going to call her that?
But, she had discovered over the years that it was difficult to change your name. She had tried when she was little--a couple of times. Once, she asked everyone in her family to call her Liza, figuring if they called her Liza, then everyone else in town would follow suit. But her mother and father, brother and sister just laughed. Then, she thought she'd liked to be called by something beautiful like Opal or Pearl or Ruby, but no one went along with that, either.
Now, she dreamed about the day she turned eighteen. On that day, she was going to the courthouse to change her name, officially. And if she had to refer to herself by her own name for the rest of her life, she was going to make everybody call her by it!
As she clipped the laundry to the 'line, she pondered the problem, My new name has to be perfect because it will be mine forever, so who will I become? She had to think hard and fast; she only had two more years to get it right.
For some reason, when I was painting this one, I remembered visits when we were small to Mississippi. We used to go to Percy Quinn state park and other places to swim and camp with our cousins, my mother's brothers' kids. We were stair-stepped in age and always had a blast together. The time I remember in particular, we went swimming at a place called Cool Springs, I think. I was too small to jump off of the rope swing over the water, but I sure wanted to. The sheer joy in the whoops and hollers as the swingers let go still echo in my mind. I'm not sure I'd have the courage to do that today, but I like to think I would!
That's why Bliss. For summer, for cool, sweet spring water to sink into, for unbridled, simple joys of hot summer days. Bliss.
Theodore was Birdman; Birdman was Theodore. There was no separating the two. Now he hangs upside down from this tree, and it must be said, grace and attentiveness during flight is not in his skill set.
Enthusiasm, yes. Zooming wildly about rescuing chicks fallen from the cradling nest, yes. A heart as big as all outdoors when protecting the weak and the undefended, absolutely yes. Which, if you think about it, are all very fine qualities. And if, several times each week, Theodore wrapped himself around a tree limb and had to be rescued, well, it went along with being Theodore.
Looming tree limbs are a normal part of life when you fly. It takes lots of courage to yell for help when you're beak down, cape over your head, skinny legs hanging on for dear life. You are never more vulnerable than then. But that is what friends are for: to support your removal from that tree, straighten your cape, brush off the leaves and twigs which have gotten stuck in your feathers and say encouraging things so you can fly fearlessly again.
Go, Theodore, go!
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In other news, I cannot believe that I just blew by my fourth anniversary of starting this blog. I looked back at my first post about making tiny paintings on slate that had been removed from the roof of my church. Since then, I have painted enough slate in large and small pieces to roof a small building. I still find stacks of it in my garage and in my basement studio, and I took the last of the pins I made from it to Lorton this month for the gift shop there. So, there's a thread from past to present!
A creative life is essentially a solitary one. Most artists I know encounter deep pits of self-doubt and discouragement along with the heights of achieving something you never thought possible. If you stick it out, this roller coaster ride, the learning is incredible and such blessings emerge when you stop and look around. A blog is a historical document of your creative life, and sometimes even the personal one. It is proof that you stuck it out. It reminds you where you have been and how far you have come and that you CAN keep going because look what you have done so far.
So, blog on, blogging friends. Thank you for coming with me. Thank you for taking me along on your journeys.
Ooo, her tights were sagging around her knees and ankles. "I hope no one can tell from the audience," Bettina thought, disgusted. Her best pair were in the wash, and she'd had to borrow these from the Soaring Smiths' youngest daughter. Shondra Smith was round where Bettina was lean and straight where Bettina was round, and truth be known, should have gotten rid of this pair already since it had a ladder that ran right up Bettina's back end. At least it had made it easier to accommodate Bettina's spectacular tail feathers.
Not only was Bettina the tiniest tight rope walker at the circus, but she was also the owner. Tonight she almost missed her performance, making sure all her employees greeted the guests properly and then double checking their math when the ticket booth closed for the night.
Truvy the Bearded Turkey, who had been at the circus as long as Bettina, fussed at her friend nearly every night, "It's time for you to give up that high wire act. Pardon me for saying so, and you know I only have your best interests at heart, but you are getting long in the beak for that kind of work."
In her heart, Bettina knew Truvy spoke the truth. But Truvy never ventured out on the high wire, much less danced lightly along it way up in the air, feeling the spring of it under her weight, getting that regular infusion of adrenaline as she perspired in the spotlights. No, giving up all of that was not so easy. It had been her dream since chickhood.
Retirement loomed like a bad case of avian flu in her future, but tonight, she was on. Tonight, she took a deep breath, forgot about her baggy stockings, ignored Truvy's admonitions and gave herself to the act. She twirled and balanced, spun and jumped, tiptoed and back flipped, and the audience cheered. Ah, there was the music of her life. And Bettina knew, she'd be back on the high wire again tomorrow night, heart light in baggy tights.
Has this ever happened to you? You get out in the middle of something and then make the fatal mistake of looking down. That's exactly what happened to Bert.
He was doing fine, stepping to the music, enjoying the gasps as he danced on the wire. But there were more gasps and whispers than usual. He got curious. Not that he didn't think he deserved all the excited attention, but something just didn't feel right.
Maybe Alphonse who sold the peanuts and popcorn had fallen down the stairs again. Alphonse was one of his best friends, so he thought he'd better look and see. He stopped and peered over the ends of his toes. OMG! He'd done it again! He'd gone to buy the latest Jennifer Cruisie novel before the show, and he'd forgotten to change his shoes when got back. He was going to hear from the ringmaster for this.
Don't forget, tomorrow night from 5-7, 30 x 30 opens at The Workhouse. There will be artists there all day demonstrating in their various media. It will be the place to go for a local, cozy Black Friday shopping experience and entertainment. Click on the link to read all about it. Hope to see you there!
"Oh, no, not another one," you say to yourself while you sit on your tricycle, or balance marooned on a scooter with sand-clotted wheels, or worse, stand flat-footed holding a lame beach ball. There she goes, riding elegantly by, another of those gorgeous creatures, the beach babe on bicycle.
They barely sweat as they pedal lazily up and down the crowded shore, breeze blowing through feathers which never frizz in the humidity. The sun shines a little brighter on them and gulls and boys trip over themselves to buy her ice creams and lollipops to curry favor. Perhaps she will descend from her mobile throne and allow one to ride in her stead, and they may feel what it is like to be so blessed. But for now it is enough just being close to the queen of sand and surf, the goddess of the two-wheeler, an empress in golden suit and orange tights.
This is the first of five in a subtitled series (under the main series, What Birds Do When People Aren't Watching) "Ingredients for an Ostrich Birthday Party." I'll bet you never even thought about ostriches having birthdays. Shame on you! If you are ever invited to one, and invitations are as rare as hen's teeth--by all means, go. But be sure to take a present, and wear your best party hat.
Argh!, collage/acrylic, 6 x 6, Elizabeth W. Seaver
Avast! Here is me second painting of thirty, which now joins Archibald and 28 "Mateys" on the wall in the McGuire Woods Gallery in W-16 at The Workhouse at Lorton, VA. Please go by and see them. Don't be afraid. All walkings of the plank have been suspended for the duration of the show.
But here is something to ponder...What would you do if you came back to your pile of clean laundry to find a filthy pirate in possession of it? Would you run away screaming? Would you don an eyepatch and fight along side him? Or would you engage the scurvy swab in a duel for your dresses, a swordfight for your socks, an ferocious undertaking for your underwear, or give him a pounding for your pants? Are you a man, woman or mouse? Leave your responses below in the comments section.
(Truly, I won't judge you because yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum -- I'm already into the eggnog! See you tomorrow with painting number 3.)
What Birds Do When People Aren't Watching is the theme of my 30 x 30 installation in W-16 at The Workhouse in Lorton, VA. I and twelve others have accepted the challenge of painting 30 paintings in 30 days on 6 x 6 Masonite panels. I chose to do mine in collage with acrylic, leaving some of the paper under painting showing on each one. They sell for $95 each. I go to hang my work tomorrow.
The show opens on the Friday after Thanksgiving, November 23rd. I will be demonstrating 4:30-6, during the opening scheduled for 5-7 in
McGuire-Woods gallery upstairs in the main building, W-16. (Note: I belong to
the Workhouse Associates Gallery which shows monthly in the downstairs
gallery in that same building, so there is even more of my work to see!)
In addition to the show opening, The Workhouse is hosting a big blowout November 26 all across the campus 9-7. You will find wonderful artworks in all media, and each building will have activities, food and fun for the whole family. Anyone in the NoVA area, please stop by.
I plan to blog for the next 30 days, publishing one of these new pieces each day for as long as they (or I) last! They will come to you in alphabetical order.
I am showing up at National Institutes of Health in Bethesda as part of a program which puts arts in health care facilities. My husband and I delivered ten paintings up there early this morning, and they will remain through the first week of January, 2013.
Lillian Fitzgerald and her sister, Gretchen, are responsible for the shows at NIH and for buying art to place in area hospitals in Virginia. They purchased a work of mine for Charlottesville's new Martha Jefferson Hospital in January, 2011. Gretchen and Lillian decided to place it in a pediatric area, which was the perfect setting.
I gave Maisie a besotted mother smile, the one we have before the reality of spit-up, poop, sleepless nights and talking back truly sets in. If you have enough actual distance from those good old days, it's easy to look back on them fondly. I'd always heard that the mind is a compassionate organ, now I know what that means. The spit-up, talking back, etc., fades and is replaced with the memory glow of warm, sweet-smelling, relaxed baby weight in your arms. Maisie is in that honeymoon phase with her potential chick, taking just a moment to rest her "sitter" before she gets back to tedious process of incubation.
I'm not a nostalgic person. I have always said I live firmly in the present. I don't think the past is better, or the future. I don't spend lots of time talking about how great high school was or wonder what happened to that old boyfriend. I even listen to top 40's music, to the complete embarrassment of my children (indie music mavens), but I believe something in my world has shifted. And I'm afraid I've pinpointed what it is.
I have more past in my past than future in my future. It is so strange. I try to write a story, and it's often about someone my age or older. I try to write some sort of adventure, and an event that really happened to me stands right in the middle of what I had planned to be great modern fiction.
My new realization was really brought home when I read a story at my writing group, recently. It was about traveling on family vacations when my brother, sister and I were small. For two of the group, I had written a funny, "universal" story--can you guess how old they are? To the two members who are 18 and 20-something, I suspect my tale was like some distant, dry, slightly out of focus account from a history book--vintage, but not in a cool way. Crickets chirped when I finished. A car with no air-conditioning? No seat belts? No dvd player in the back seat to entertain the restless? No
laughing from that quarter.
So it caused me to ponder: Should I find some way to make my stories appealing to all ages with language and images? Can I do some research to see whether I'm stuck in old lady story/vintage land or whether I can somehow airlift myself into the 21st century? Or maybe, no upheavals are required just yet. I will continue finding the rhythm of my writing and see what happens.
There's one more possibility, which if a writer has enough ego, usually ends up being the last thing she'd ever consider. It's just possible that my story wasn't very good.
And that, my friends is what writing groups are for!
Burford Surveys His Crops, acrylic on linen, 22 x 28
Elizabeth W. Seaver
I'm sorry to say that Farmer Burford lost his tractor in a poker game, so he must ride his old bicycle about the farm. Today, he's just making an inspection, but when he has to pull the plow, he regrets his profligate ways most deeply.
Neither he nor Nettie Burford are sitting on their wings. Nettie, even now, bakes cookies, cakes and pies in their farmhouse kitchen to sell at church tomorrow. Burford cannot bake, but he has the best idea ever. It's such a good one, he hasn't even told Nettie yet--it's a surprise. He's setting himself up in a kissing booth, right on the church steps.
Wouldn't you pay a dollar to kiss this bird on your way into church? He really needs his tractor back.
Toes, known as Mary Smith in her everyday life, was in a pickle. The
dream part had been announced at Madame Featherwell's Ballet School
where Twinkle attended ballet classes three times a week. She'd
worked hard on her plies, her pirouettes were top class, and her
smiles sparkled even when her toes smarted. It had all been worth it.
She'd landed the role as the lead dancer of the white chocolate mint
drops in the Christmas production of Santa Cardinal and the
there was a fly in the meal worms. She must dance eight more
performances, and her costume was too snug. Her shoes pinched her
feet. And that night during a sold out performance her tights rolled
all the way to her hips when she bent gracefully at the waist. She
smiled and kept dancing, just as if the front row couldn't see the
bulge. The eagle-eyed stage manager noticed.
are you eating, Twinkle Toes?” Mr. Flapdoodle fumed. “Lay off the
chocolate-covered grubs, will you? The costume department told me
they've already let out your costume once. There's no money in the
budget for a new outfit for you, so I'm warning you; don't get any
her mother picked her up at the stage door, Twinkle sobbed out the
whole story. “Mama, I'm so afraid Mr. Flapdoodle might cut me from
the show and give Dilly Pinkfeather the part.”
Esther Smith was a smart mama, and she knew that Twinkle Toes'
expansion was a natural event. It was time for her daughter to grow,
and there was nothing either could do to keep that from happening.
On the other wing, she also had observed her chick's fluffy shape and
doubted that she had the traditional ballerina silhouette, the
long-legged stick figure of say, a flamingo or stork. But Twinkle
Toes loved to dance, and her mama hated to squash those dreams. She
searched for just the right words.
know,” Esther finally said, handing Twinkle Toes a handkerchief,
“I'm a fair seamstress myself. Why don't you see about checking
your costume out from the department after Sunday's matinee. I'll add
material where it can't be seen. We'll buy new tights and shoes
which you can break in during dance lessons this week.”
mama, do you really think that will work?” asked Twinkle as her
tears began to dry.
I do. And more than that, I believe it is time for you to try that
modern dance class you've been pestering me about for months. You're
not getting too big too fast, Sweetheart; you're growing up. It's
time for you to spread your wings and broaden your horizons. No
too-small costume could ever contain all that is wonderful about you,
kissed her chick good night.
Twinkle Toes Smith danced joyfully about her bedroom, stopping every
so often to practice her jazz wings in the mirror.
Like a single Who on that little speck called WhoVille, I'm here. I'm here. I'm here!
I have been very busy teaching summer camp, painting like crazy, preparing for two art shows in August, hosting a huge party to celebrate milestone birthdays and a 25th wedding anniversary (husband and me), and having plumbing replumbed. I am just beginning to take a deep breath and look around and I'm here to say, I've missed you all!
Here is some new work:
Hanging Six, acrylic, 24 x 24, Elizabeth W. Seaver
Now, I don't know about you, but I can use a little summer all year long. No seasonal painting for me.
Gramps has primary responsibility for the kids while the middle generation sits in the beach house in the air conditioning.
Which ecosystem would you be inhabiting if you were at the beach right this minute? House? Beach? Water?
Sir Walter in the Reeds, 48 x 60, acrylic/printmaking on canvas
Elizabeth W. Seaver
A wonderful customer who already has a couple of my works in her collection came by my studio this week and fell in love with Walter. She has a wonderful high- ceilinged place in a renovated school building, so he will have plenty of room to stretch his wings. She has also generously agreed to loan him back to me for a show scheduled this summer in August and September. What would we artists do without people who appreciate our work?
As a young bird, Braeburn spent lots of time standing on one foot, much to the consternation of his mother and father. They encouraged him to fly when his brothers and sisters learned, but he declined to do it. His parents even hired a private flight instructor for Braeburn, but Mr. Billmore gave his notice after just two lessons.
Mr. Billmore reported "It isn't that Braeburn can't fly; he can. Braeburn doesn't want to fly, except on a trapeze, maybe."
Indeed, Braeburn had his dreams firmly fixed on the big top life, and no one could make him change his mind about that. His parents just shook their heads; the neighbors, it must be said, gossiped about what a strange bird Braeburn must be to turn out so differently from all those nice boys and girls who were his siblings. But Braeburn didn't pay attention to all those nay-sayers. He waited until he was of age, scraped all his savings together from odd jobs and went to circus school.
At first, his teachers and trainers despaired. Braeburn's wings really weren't adequate for trapeze work. Having fingers to grip bars and wrists turned out to be pretty important. Braeburn faithfully visited Audrey in the hospital tent, though.
The elephants wouldn't listen to his commands during performance, they just wanted him to check them for fleas and other bothersome critters. He wasn't really strong enough for the acrobatic acts. But when Braeburn walked the tightrope, all who watched felt tears clog their throats. He was magnificent. He didn't even need a net because, at the end of his act, he could just float down gracefully, holding onto his umbrella. Test audiences loved him.
On opening night, his parents and all the neighbors showed up, skeptical, but supportive. Watching him balance on one leg way up in the air was like seeing that little bird from all those weeks ago standing on one foot for hours. Braeburn's mother sighed in relief, "Braeburn wasn't odd. He was practicing!"
* ** ** ** ** ** *
(The above is for all you other odd birds out there. We're just practicing, right?!)
Percival, collage/acrylic, 6 x 6, Elizabeth W. Seaver
I spent yesterday morning up at The Workhouse installing my featured artist show for May. The opening is this coming Saturday, May 12, from 6-9. All my birdie friends will be there, except for Ferdinand. He has found a new home, so he didn't get to make the trip with Frieda and the others. I hope some of my human friends will join me, too.
My right hand woman, Lynette, helped put the show up. Actually, it is more accurate to say that she was both my hands, since I tend to go helpless when trying to arrange my own work in a show. I finally quit struggling and just let her make all the decisions. It looks fabulous.
I hope anyone who is in the area will drop by. The Workhouse is a unique art destination, formerly a D.C. prison, now renovated into working artist and show spaces owned and managed by Fairfax County in NoVA.
Maybe you remember Zorah to the Rescue several posts ago. Well, Zelda is Zorah's baby sister who has been promoted (since Zorah got sold and flew off to be a superhero in someone else's back yard.) Zelda defends the defenseless, defeats the previously un-defeatable and is the mistress of all she surveys.
She looks a little nervous here, as if it might be her first day on the job which, by the way, comes with a lifetime supply of birdseed, 401k plan and comprehensive health care. Life is good.
Zelda's magic cape will fly her over to The Workhouse in Lorton, VA, for a showing of the artist's work which may be viewed May 9 through June 3rd in the Vulcan Gallery in Building 16. If you are in the area, stop by the opening on Second Saturday, May 12, and say hello to Zelda and Frieda and Ferdinand and Orville and me. There may be a few other birds you haven't met yet on my blog.
Zelda promises to demonstrate her cape's marvelous trick of flying, even when she is standing still. Believe me, such demo is not to be missed.
In which we see how Frieda keeps her svelte figure bikini ready -- careening up and down the boardwalk wearing a crab weight.
* * * * * *
Before Frieda left their waterfront condo for a day in the sun and surf, her mother cautioned her, "Make sure to wear your bathing cap today, dear. You must maintain your coiffure for tonight's ball. We won't have time for another visit to the Curl Up and Dye between now and then."
"Yes, Mother," Frieda called on the way out the door.
Her mother needn't have reminded her. Frieda liked wearing her new flowered bathing cap. Her mirror never lied. She knew it made her look fetching. No one else had one quite as fancy as hers. Frieda had seen the envious looks of other birds her age and how they whispered behind their hands as she passed.
Frieda hopped on her bike, excited to be at the beach for their summer vacation. There was nothing like riding. The world whirled by, making her feel giddy. If she closed her eyes, she could imagine she was flying.
She stopped for cotton candy at her favorite vendor, then got back onto the boardwalk, whizzing along at quite a clip. Good thing it was early--fewer bikers and pedestrians about. She still cringed every time she thought of Mrs. Birdwell from last summer. The dignified lady's toes would never be the same. At her mother's insistence, Frieda had written six apology letters this winter. She hoped not to run into the lady again this summer.
Just then, in the distance, Frieda spied the most virile creature she'd ever seen. He pedaled toward her on the boardwalk. He had an ice cream cone in one hand, and oh, what a cute feather adorned his lovely, egg-shaped head!
Did she dare ask his name? Perhaps a tiny bike crash would facilitate an introduction.
She must find out whether he would be attending the 23rd Annual Beach Ball tonight.
I'd Better Go Back to Paperbacks, 16 x 20, collage/acrylic
Elizabeth W. Seaver
A lovely lady came in today to buy this painting for her sister-in-law whose birthday is coming up. She had been in my studio with her sister in January and remembered she liked it. What a thoughtful sister!
There are times when one shouldn't do two things at once: chop onions and talk on the phone, walk and chew gum (at least for some of us) and ride and eat a lollipop. Disaster often follows.
The story I lay down here is true to life, out of the annals of our family history. It has nothing to do with doing two things at once, or the dangers of transportation of any kind, but it does involve lollipops.
One Christmas, the assembled family (enough for two cars of folk) planned to head north to visit MORE family. Now some of you might say, "There's your first mistake." But, truly, we went to see perfectly ordinary people whom we hadn't seen in a while.
Just as we were mounting up, men and boys in one car and women in the other, my younger son said to me, "I have a bubble in my throat."
UH OH. The only other time he'd said that to me, there was barfing in our future.
Feeling sly, I said, "Oh, Sweetheart, don't you want to ride in the car with your brother and all the other guys?"
"No, Mama, I want to ride with YOU!"
We were in for it.
About 20 miles up the road, I unwrapped one of my favorite candies, the one the Tootsie POP people only make at Christmas. A peppermint Tootsie POP. Yum!
At that moment, tragedy struck. Yup, barfing. Why didn't I think to grab towels, an empty bucket or, indeed, any manner of barf receptacle before leaving home? Obviously I had been hoping that there would be no barfing.
I stuck the lollipop in my mouth, grabbed my son's new knitted hat he'd gotten as a Christmas present and held it under his chin. Now, knitted hats are warm and fuzzy and perfect for when the cold wind blows, but they do not hold liquid well.
Using my elbow, I pushed the button to roll down my window and hurled (pun intended) that steaming hat as far as I could out onto the grassy easement of I-95.
The other driver in our party, realizing that there was some distress in our car, had pulled over just in front of us. I got out of the car, lollipop in mouth, and went to tell the fellas we were turning around and would see them later.
The whole experience left me with only one thought, really. Why does crisis occur every time you have a sucker in your mouth? It makes one feel so silly.
Did I give up lollipops? No. Did I stop going north to see family? No, but I started carrying around an appropriate container for vomit, and I learned to pay attention when I heard, "I have a bubble in my throat."
Eschewing all transportation producing waste, either into the air, or in great steaming plops in the middle of the road, Lord Spencer sallies forth on his bicycle to check on his tenants, the Moles.
He is conscious to wear clothing which will at once be suitable for riding out on a cool, crisp day, and proper attire for a bird of his station in life. One must show respect for oneself, after all, as well as for those on whom one calls.
And the poor Mole family has been beset by all manner of ills. Henry is recovering from having tripped over his own mole hill and spraining his ankle; he is woefully behind at work. His wife, Martha, is expecting a blessed event at any moment. Worst of all, their parents' indisposition is causing the older children to run amok.
Just the day before, Lord Spencer himself caught Essie in his stables, letting the air out of the tires of all his best mounts. His groom threatens to quit on account of it.
Petie, after repeated corrections, continues to dig random tunnels, hoping to join his burrow to his best friend Ronald's burrow, causing the entire field to look like it has been plowed by a drunken farm hand.
Lord Spencer remains sanguine, ever the practical landowner. "Moles are nothing if not great aerators."
Rita, Fran and Rob just wanted a quiet ride in the country. Where did a citified speed bump come from in all that pastoral beauty? Only the artist knows for sure, (and she's not as reliable as she might be.)
That happens to us all, doesn't it? Life sails along, comfortable, relatively easy, and then, a speed bump appears in our path, knocking our front wheel up into the air, leaving us vulnerable to losing our hats and landing ignominiously on our tail feathers.
Landing, legs splayed, rear muddied, bike in the ditch can be viewed as an absolute tragedy. Or, perhaps as we are picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off, we can think about things.
Oh, things like, am I on the right road? Is it time for a change? Perhaps one needs to don a helmet for safety, or one had such fun falling in the dirt it births a realization that life has become TOO safe.
I wish for you all that you take that journey/path/fall with the love and support of good friends around you. Ones who, once they have ascertained that you only got a bruise on your pride, may hoot and howl at your dusty form in the middle of the road, but will stick around to pick you up and make sure you are truly okay.
I have such friends. Thanks to you all. What would I do without you?
Melba and Bartholomew had been good all week. Not because they were naturally well-behaved, docile birds, but an enticing motivator for best behavior had been offered by their teacher, Ms. Betterfeather.
She announced her plan on the Monday before the circus was to be in town. With some difficulty she got the attention of the twittering group. "Behave well for a week," Ms. Betterfeather promised, "And you will receive a ticket to the circus."
Well, Melba and Bartholomew fell for the bribe, hook, line and sinker. And although neither of them had behaved well through an entire day before, much less a whole week, they knew they could do it. They must do it.
They chattered all the way home from school every day. They chirped and tweeted as they visited each other's nests. Finally, their mothers put wings over ears and pushed them out on the ground to play with the dress up box.
Here was magic! One couldn't go to the circus in one's every day clothes, could one? That would never do.
Well, you know what happened. Ms. Betterfeather enjoyed a blissful week in the classroom, at least where Melba and Bartholomew were concerned. And the jester and the king were granted permission to race their bicycles to the circus for the Saturday matinée.