Using what lies in front of you

Picture of Agave cactus

My parents and their parents were children of the Depression. They saved string, wore hand-me-down clothes, and ate left-overs–ALL of them! A favorite expression was “Making Do.”

Native American families before the age of supermarkets and department stores did the same thing. In this picture you’ll see, on the right, a healthy agave cactus. Vivid green, with sharp spines at the end of the stalks.

But on the left, you’ll see something even more important. Notice those beautiful fibers that remain when the plant dies? They can be used to make sandals, weave baskets, line baby cradles. Making do.

Because of our routines,
we sometimes forget that life is a
an ongoing adventure.
~Maya Angelou~

Where everybody knows your name

PJs Bar & Grille, Village of Oak Creek

When I was researching the setting for the latest Pegasus Quincy novel, I wanted to include a scene where Silver Delaney and Rory Stevens meet in a bar. But just not any bar.

This one had to be the local neighborhood hangout, where after work the lineup at the old wood bar is three deep. Where, when you arrive, the barkeep has your favorite drink mixed before you reach the end of the room.

The Village of Oak Creek has one, called PJ’s Bar & Grill. I happened to catch it for this photograph on a midday, mid-afternoon before all the regulars started to arrive.

You’ll find it in PERIL IN SILVER NIGHTSHADE. Watch for it!

I prefer the folly of enthusiasm
to the indifference of wisdom.

~Anatole France~

Odd man out

picture of 3 ducks on a pond

Two ducks deep in conversation. A third trying to horn in. The odd man out.

I was delighted to see Google list so many variants for this term: oddity, nonconformist, maverick, misfit, fish out of water, square peg in a round hole.

One by one I tried them on for this little duck. Definitely not a fish out of water. A square peg in a round hole? I don’t think so. But one term, maverick, definitely seems to fit. This duck strikes me as someone who speaks his own mind, who will not conform, no matter what the odds.

We all need to be that odd duck out of water sometimes. It’s good for the soul!

The cure for boredom is curiosity.
There is no cure for curiosity.
~Ellen Parr~

 

 

Equilibrium for a planet of paradox

Picture of pothole in Arizona desert

I’m a Weather Channel junkie, and this week I’ve been glued to the screen watching rivers overflow, highways flood, people rescued from rooftops and attics. Water at its most destructive.

Yet I am reminded that it isn’t always this way. In the Arizona desert, water is precious, every single drop. On the trail around Courthouse Butte near Sedona, this little pothole has always been a favorite of mine. It’s not big–maybe a foot long and less than that deep.

But long after the monsoon rains have departed, it will hold water which sustains the desert animals: deer, javelina, coatimundi, rabbits, and pack rats. Reaching for the last drop, they will travel for miles to visit it. Water as precious as diamonds, life-sustaining.

We live on a planet of paradox!

As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.
As time remains free of all that it frames
May your mind stay clear of all it names.
~John O’Donohue, For Equilibrium~

Meet Silver Delaney, con artist extraordinaire

Peril In Silver NightshadeSilver Delaney, a major player in the mystery PERIL IN SILVER NIGHTSHADE, is special.

Most foster homes are places of love and compassion. Silver had the bad luck to be raised in the other kind. Rather than what COULD BE, she lives by the truth of WHAT IS.

She has three rules. #1–People don’t always do what they say they will do. #2–The world is full of danger. #3–Look out for Number One.

And that is exactly what Silver intends to do when she arrives in the Verde Valley. Her goals are simple: find her (rich, of course) birth parents, con them out of as much money as she can, and start over in a new life.

Her dream job will be a famous chef in Paris, or a doctor collecting grateful accolades and high salary, or even an award-winning actress. But then she gets accused of murder and scrambles to prove herself innocent.

Is she up to it? Find out how Silver’s brand of justice prevails in this fourth book of the Pegasus Quincy Mystery Series.

NOW for a limited time only, PERIL IN SILVER NIGHTSHADE, 99 cents for the eBook edition on Amazon! 

Keep your eye on the sky

Sunlight behind the clouds

I had just come out of the grocery store. My mind was filled with eggs and celery and pork cutlets. Then I turned around and saw this.

I was transfixed, and so was everyone else in the parking lot. We stopped and stared. And then turned and nodded to each other, aware that what had transfixed us had halted others, too.

For one moment, we were united in a community of beauty. Water vapor and sunlight. Transformed just for us.

Happiness sneaks in through a door
you didn’t know you left open.
~John Barrymore~

 

Everything vanishes if you wait long enough

Picture of Coffee Pot Rock, Sedona, AZ

One of the most famous rock formations near Sedona, Arizona is called Coffee Pot Rock. It is shaped like one of those old-fashioned campfire coffee pots that the cowboy cooks always used to keep at the ready, of course. What could be more fitting for this Western town.

I took this picture from an urban trail, located right in the middle of West Sedona. Later in the day there would be sightseeing helicopters buzzing over head and packs of tourists taking selfies. But just now, with the sun early up and the light still golden-wonderful, it was just me and the red rocks.

Coffee Pot Rock isn’t permanent, though. Just as the Old-Man-in-the-Mountain granite profile in New Hampshire lost its nose a few years back, this icon is slowly fading away, too. What you can’t see from this picture is a neat slice off the back of the spout of the pot, now lying crumbling at the base of the cliff. Nothing lasts forever!

Glance at the sun. See the moon and stars. Gaze at the beauty of the green earth. Now think.
~Hildegard of Bingen~

Happiness is a pink panther

Photograph of house restoration

In our neighborhood a house is being restored. Originally built in the 1900s and not much done to it since then, that meant the roof and windows needed to be replaced. The old siding was removed, and the walls patched where the wood had rotted away. Crews have been working on it continuously for weeks.

Yesterday, though, workmen had left for the weekend. It was raining, that quiet drizzly rain that farmers say, ah-yup, good for the crops. Sunday afternoon, and rather than watching football or socializing with friends, one man was out there, putting on Pink Panther waterproofing.

He worked quietly, with only ear buds for company, painstakingly measuring, cutting, and installing each segment. He was singing. In the rain. When I walked over to say hello, I realized it was the owner.

He didn’t have to be there, he chose to be there. This was how he wanted to spend his Sunday afternoon.

“It’s wet out here,” I remarked.

“I won’t melt.”

He smiled and went back to his work.

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, 
They danced by the light of the moon.
~Edward Lear, The Owl and the Pussycat~

Book Review: Old in Art School by Nell Painter

Book picture: Old in Art School

OLD IN ART SCHOOL by Nell Painter
My rating: 5 stars

What if you were ready to retire but not yet ready to devote your life to grand kids–or maybe there weren’t any. Your kids didn’t have any, or maybe you’d not had children yourself. What’s next? Become a full-time volunteer or a gardener or an expert at golf?

Nell Painter chose none of these but rather elected to become a lowly undergraduate student in art at age 64. She’d already made her mark in the world, a professor at Princeton, seven published books. She didn’t have to do this. Why on earth did she do it?

This was the question that I kept returning to as I read the memoir of the years leading up to her achieving an Master of Fine Arts. During this time her last professional book achieved best-selling status and a front page New York Times book review. Her mother died. She had to commute back and forth from Rhode Island to California to take care of her aging father, suffering from depression and loneliness.

Nell endured the alienation from other students who were four decades younger than she. She suffered the put-downs from art teachers who insisted she was not An Artist. “Bullshit,” she said, and kept painting.

She battled her own insecurities in this new way of communication with visual images rather than words. “I had no inkling of how thoroughly art school would instruct me–teach me, challenge my abilities, and question my sanity.”

For a time she divorces herself from the world of words to immerse in the world of images. At the end, she is able to integrate both together into a unified whole.

She DID succeed, and therein lies a message for all of us who are growing older. Life is more than just walking around. There is purpose and meaning to existence, no matter what age one happens to be.

You can never have too much yarn

Photo of blue red magenta yarn

I’m a crocheter rather than a knitter, but this exuberant bundle caught my eye when I visited a yarn shop in Jerome, Arizona.

And then I realized if I bought it, I’d have to keep it that way forever, never made into a project. Because, can you imagining unraveling a piece of work if you made a mistake, say, eight inches down?

Some things are just not made for a do-over.

You know you knit too much when you put your computer keyboard on the floor while reading your daily emails so you can hit the space bar with your toe to scroll through them while knitting.
~Stephanie Pearl-McPhee~