I was sitting on Grace's bed in her Seattle home (she had kindly let me sleep in her bed while she slept on her parent's floor on a blanket) sorting through stuff that would go into a gift package for my flickr friend, Liz.

Grace was "helping" me do my sorting. Every few seconds she would see something she wanted, and very nicely ask me if she could have it. I obliged. When we got to the little bag of colorful vintage buttons, her eyes lit up like small candles. I asked her if she would like to pick out three buttons for herself (she is almost 3.) Of course, she nodded her head vigorously and proceeded to hem and haw over exactly which three buttons she wanted. I could see it was a really hard decision since there were at least 7 or 8 really cool colors represented in this pile of buttons. So, I told her she could pick out enough buttons to make a small picture on her sweater.

Grace chose a large yellow button for the sun. Five or six reddish buttons for the rays of the sun, a white button for a bird in the sky, two purplish-maroon buttons to be dogs and a blue button for the ocean. I sewed the buttons on her favorite sweater and she wore it to her daycare the next morning.

Her, Grace is showing me the sun.


Blog Friends Meet in Person

Beautiful Wayward Tulip

Last week, I had the great pleasure of meeting and playing with two friends I met through flickr and blogging. One, the beautiful Wayward Tulip, yoga student and instructor, editor, poet, writer (check out this amazing post of hers), artist, and general-all-round-amazing-woman, Liz ... this pic I shot while in the midst of a four hour conversation, hopefully the first of many over the years. Liz, I am so glad to have met you.

And, Kim, who has lots of interesting things to say, as well as cool things to show me, and even more delicious things to eat at her house, graciously agreed to let me take her picture in her studio. Her crammed studio that is.

What a stimulating, cool, fun place to hang out and do art. You guys would love all the weird and wonderful gadgets, bits and pieces of stuff, art supplies ... just about anything you can imagine. Kim probably has it stashed somewhere in her studio.

She is currently in the process of making some interesting and beautiful assemblage-boxes. I love this one.

I got the grand tour, can you tell?

Besides being entertained by all of Kim's exuberant creativity, I was invited to dinner (!!!) by Kim's very cute mom, Diane. Delicious! Diane has her own cooking blog and I am waiting for her to post that incredible peach and gorgonzola cheese recipe she made for our dessert. OMG! it was incredible.

Kim, I meant it when I said anytime you're in Montana .... or anywhere close to my home.

To both Liz and Kim ... there will always be an extra (comfy) bed for you and open arms at my house. It's your turn to play in my space! :-)


Silky Skin on Quadra Island

Silky Skin
This driftwood looked so much like skin. I coudn't resist ...

Hi I'm back and glad to be home! I have been on a long road trip for the last two weeks or so - first time in a long time I've driven by myself on a long distance trek. I had such a great time stopping whenever I felt like it -- to pee, to shoot photos, drink espresso, nap in the sun somewhere along the roadside .... I drove from my hometown of Helena to Kelowna ... then with my mom to Vancouver, then on the Horseshoe BayFferry to Nanaimo with my sisters, up island to Campbell River, over another ferry to Quadra Island and the Quadra Island Harbour House, which was our destination and home/retreat for the next three days. All of my sisters, my sisters-in-law and our mom spent those days just relaxing, exploring, playing, eating, hanging out together, making beadwork, shooting tons of photos and of course, talking.

After spending a few more days with my youngest sister, Marybeth, and her family, at their North Vancouver home, I drove down to Seattle where I stayed with my dear friend (formerly of Missoula, Montana and now attending UW Medical School) and her family. I met up with Kim and Liz, and had huge amounts of fun getting to know them in person.

Kim entertained me by giving me a grand tour of her house, garden and .... her incredible studio. She has her hands in so many creative projects! Her mom cooked us a delicious dinner topped with an amazing and really different dessert - peaches with gorgonzola cheese and nuts. Oh, scrumptious.

I met up with Liz at Pike Place Market over coffee at Local Color. We spent four hours -- talking -- in a space of time that truly felt like just one hour. What an amazing person she is -- even more loveable in person than on her blog. I am so glad I got to meet both of these wonderful women.


Continuing with the grassy theme ...

Sam's View of the Marsh
Sam's View of the Marsh

I got down on Sam's level in the marsh with my camera -- so, about 12 inches off the ground. This is what he sees when he charges into the grasses, nose-first, full of enthusiasm for finding the source of those deliciously ripe and pungent odors.

Me: What is in there? In the shadows in the tangles in those damp dark hollows and burrows?

Sam replies: Why? Need you ask at all? Just smell! Just suck in that pungent air with each breath, let it roll around inside your cheeks and jowls ... taste the smells, smell the tastes. Close your eyes and don't even think of the darkness. Think of all the delicious messages and stories and tales of those who have come this way before us!


Variations on a Grass Theme

Digital paintings based on two photos of grasses that I shot in the marsh near our house:




Beautiful Bathing Place

Bird Bath

A reflection of a slice of sky and the horizontal fence boards along the back of the garden. These are marbles in the water of aone of our garden birdbaths. It's made of a large old concrete culvert, shaped like a curved piece of macaroni. The culvert is sitting on top of a clay pipe as the pedestal. I keep my favorite marbles in the water, just to give the birds something beautiful -- and different -- to look at while they splash in the water. The little songbirds love this birdbath because it's "enclosed" and feels safe and sheltered to them.


Our Metaphorical Brains

Synesthesia (also spelled synaesthesia) occurs much more frequently in artists, poets and novelists than it does in the general population.

Yesterday I wrote about Jason Moran and his approach to jazz composition. I started writing about the idea of synesthaesia -- I admit it's a bit of a stretch to jump from Moran's jazz style and artistic influences to the peculiar ability some people have to see colored numbers or colored days of the week ... but hang with me here a minute and hopefully I'll stimulate your modalities to start thinking in synesthetic-like ways.

Synesthesia: A condition in which a person quite literally tastes a shape or sees a color in a sound. This is not just a way of describing experiences as a poet might use metaphors. Synesthetes actually experience the sensations.

From the Wikipedia article on synesthesia:
While cross-sensory metaphors are sometimes described as 'synesthetic,' true neurological synesthesia is involuntary...

Many people with synesthesia use their experiences to aid in their creative process, and many non-synesthetes have attempted to create works of art that may capture what it is like to experience synesthesia.

My point is not whether non-synesthetes are successful or not, in capturing the essence of synesthesia. For me, trying to simulate synesthesia might open a crack in the door to a deeper level of metaphorical thinking ... a richer way to see and experience the world around me, or just another way to intentionally stimulate parts of my brain to cross wire or cross-pollinate.

Just for fun, listen to/watch this software-generated simulation of a quasi-synesthetic song-round. Click on the center arrow:

When I watch all four voices in the animation above, slightly squinting my eyes at it, I can see dancers moving around in the space, interacting with each other, interweaving the melodies in a very physical way. It occurs to me music animation such as this, might be an effective way to teach music.

More links:
Museum of the Mind, a web portal for synesthesia. There is almost too much to take in, at that website, but for starters, if you are an artist or poet, you might be interested in Dr. Hugo Heyrman's fascinating lecture on Art and Synesthesia.

One last reference on synesthesia as it relates to artistic endeavors is this, from the Contemporary Aesthetics, a paper titled, Kinetic Synaesthesia: Experiencing Dance in Multimedia Scenographies


Artists Ought to be Writing
On July 31, National Public Radio had an absolutely fascinating musical piece featured as their Song of the Day ... by Jason Moran, from his cd, Artist in Residence.

I love the way
NPR's songs of the day
introduce me
to musicians I might not have encountered otherwise.
I had never heard of Jason Moran,
but I just cruised around
on his web page and his
mySpace page and
now I know I dig his music.

But even more I like the way he puts things together: like in the Artists Ought to Be Writing piece - working with the sound of the human voice, the inflections and inherent musicality of speech, he transcends both the spoken word and the music. Or he pulls from dance, other kinds of movement; paintings, other visual arts. Wow! it's like synaesthesia: tasting sounds or smelling colors!

Moran's way of composing jazz reminded me of the way some people mix their senses, so I got to digging into the fascinating ability known as synesthesia. I'll write more on that later. For now, I am just going to quote the NPR introduction to this piece and hope you go listen to this awesome collaboration.

... there's an edifying tenor to "Artists Ought to Be Writing," as sampled orator (and performance artist) Adrian Piper uncorks a manifesto urging artists to demystify the esoteric by letting people in on the inspirations, intentions and machinations of their works in hopes of building a more informed audience.

The composition, nevertheless, rewards the listener with emotional magnetism via Moran's elegiac piano work. At first, Moran underscores Piper's androgynous voice with lovely chords; then, he slowly unveils melodic phrases that shadow-dance alongside her rhythmic cadence. Soon, it's easy to discover the inherent musicality of Piper's speech patterns -- and, conversely, the soulfulness in Moran's analytical experimentation. As the sampled voice disappears, Moran continues to build upon Piper's recitation, unraveling a surging and sanguine improvisation.


Smoky Morning After

Smoky Morning After, originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

Wildfires are burning up the land here in the Rocky Mountain West. The places we love, so dry from eight years of drought, are like tinders and kindling laid carefully -- ready for a match. Lightning, an engine spark, an ember flying up from a holiday barbecue, a carelessly tossed cigarette butt ... these are enough to set off a 100,000 acre blaze. Our August and September breezes can pick up and breathe power into even the tiniest smoldering coals. Then as the forest and prairies burn ... the air swirls with acrid layers of smoke. The smoke settles down into valleys and coulees: blankets of yellow-gold haze. Dawn, the sun glows a red ball hanging sluggish in the thick sky. It hurts to breathe. It hurts to be outdoors with your eyes open.

The morning news blared that the Derby Creek Fire, burning 180,000+ acres east of us near Big Timber, was the top priority wildfire in the nation. I am staying inside today ...


Rooted Cuttings

Rooted Cuttings, originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.


Rocky Mountain Maple Ceiling

Rocky Mountain Maple Ceiling, originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.