Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Secret World of Trains

Sometimes I really dislike trains because there is a train track near my work, and sometimes when a train come, it blocks me from actually getting to work and I will have to wait up to 40 minutes! But, I am able to forgive this inconvenience because trains are romantic and their very existence encourages the mind to wander into daydreams.

I like imagining where they are going and imagining the people who have train hopped on them and are watching the world pass from their stowaway location. I also like how talented graffiti artists use rusted old trains as their canvas. Then the trains become like touring museums, featuring work from all around the country. Maybe on one car an artist from Kansas paints a beautiful graffiti mural and on the train car next to it, an artist from Delaware paints something else.

In Ballard, we have an old train track that isn't used anymore. There are weeds covering the tracks and people walk along them without fear of being run over. There are also some decommissioned trains that sit peacefully in the sun.

Although train culture is not what it use to be, hobos still exist today, wandering the the country on a rattling, railroad journey. One thing that is interesting about hobos is they have their own secret hieroglyphics so the can communicate important messages to other hobos. Here is what some of the pictures mean.

  • Cat: A kind woman lives here
  • An X with two eyes: Safe camp
  • A frowning crescent moon: A dishonest person lives here
  • A number 2 over the number 10: Thieves roam about
  • A symbol that looks like a child's stick drawing of a lady next to three triangles: Tell a pitiful story to elicit sympathy and get something good 
Hobo culture seems like a close knit community, despite being spread out far and wide across the country, always moving, always traveling. But the way the hobos communicate via these symbols is sweet, they are all looking out for each other.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Annabelle in the Woods #7: In the Brightest and Darkest Corner of the Woods, Annabelle Discovers the Forest Monsters

Here is the seventh of the Annabelle in the Woods series. I used acrylic, drawing ink and gouache.

Annabelle is drawn by a flash of color into the darkest corner of the woods. Carved into a bent tree dripping with sap were the words “Here be monsters.”

Annabelle had always been fascinated by monsters. She’d always wanted to meet one. She imagined having tea with bigfoot, or ridding upon the back of Nessie. When she was little and thought there were monsters under her bed or in her closet, she would ask them politely to come out and join her in a bed time story.

Annabelle descended into the dark and colorful woods. She began to hear howling and roaring. “The monsters!” She thought. Suddenly, she was seized with nerves. She never expected that she would feel such unease at finally experiencing something she’d always wanted to experience: meeting a real life monster.

Then, she saw them! The monsters! They gathered together in the clearing. They rumbled and growled. When she listened closer, Annabelle realized they weren’t rumbling and growling so much as having a conversation, a deep conversation about the meaning of life.

 Annabelle was fascinated as she eavesdropped upon them. It seemed over all the monsters had an optimistic view on the meaning of life. After the meaning of life, the monsters moved onto a new topic: what happens after we die.

“We turn into birds.” One monster said.

“We’re transformed into stardust.” Another monster chimed in.

“We go to a magical place.” One last monster said.

“Ahem” Annabelle said and came from behind the tree.

All the monsters looked at her, surprised and fascinated at the small humanoid creature.
“I’m Annabelle. I’ve got all sorts of theories about this topic!”

“Why lets here them then.” One of the monsters said.

Annabelle smiled, and began telling the monsters all her fantastic theories about life, death and the universe.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Review: Ufology by James Tynion, Noah J. Yuenkel, Matthew Fox and Adam Metcalfe

I recently checked out a new comic book from the library. It wasn't a book I had been seeking out. I was in the mood for comic books and exploring the comic book section for something that looked interesting when I came across 'Ufology.'

This comic book reminds me a bit of ET, Super 8 and Stranger Things. It shares with these stories intrepid young protagonists, encounters with the strange and hints of conspiracy.

Becky is a dissatisfied young woman who feels disconnected with her peers, her family and school. But one day she decides to hangout with a classmate after school. While wandering the outdoors, Becky and the classmate explore a seemingly abandoned house. But the house harbors something strange. The encounter in the house leads Becky to aliens and conspiracies and to a friendship with an paranormal obsessed classmate named Malcolm. The action and the mysterious twists that Becky and Malcolm encounter lead them to uncover mysteries from the past. Together, the two try to solve the mystery of the strange encounters and the stranger occurrences.

I like this book for several reasons: Good artwork, interesting, well-paced story and a fun subject matter. Alien stories are endlessly interesting! Being a child of the 90's, I am very much influenced by alien lore. Aliens were all the rage in the 90's from X-Files, to that so-called-real (but actually fake) alien autopsy video.

Ufology really captures the feeling of being young and seeking out answers in the world. Becky and Malcolm represent two different common mindsets of the teenage years. Malcolm is hopeful, still holding on to the hope of mystery that fills all of childhood. Becky is disappointed with what the world has shown her thus far. The encounter that both teens share with aliens and conspiracy work to alter both characters views so Malcolm becomes more jaded and Becky more enthused. But both characters become wiser.

When I checked this book out, I thought it was a stand-alone novel, but apparently there are more! I will definitely check out book two of this series. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Nature from Songs

  When I just barely miss the bus, it is the worst! Watching the bus pulling away from the curb as I dash toward it in a frantic and useless attempt to catch it always fills me with disappointment. Then, having to wait twenty or more minutes in the rain, huddled under a nearby roof eave squished next to a bunch of restless strangers. Sigh! Not fun. But just barely missing the ferry is full of delights. Once, when D and I were off on an island adventure, we missed the ferry by probably thirty seconds. At first, we were filled with utter disappointment! But then we got to spend a couple of guilt-free and indulgent hours exploring and lounging at the beach.

Before I moved to Washington, I liked to listen to the band The Microphones. There is something very dreamlike and wistful about their music. The band is from Anacortes (where this beach and the ferry terminal is located) and now that I have lived in Washington and visited Anacortes, I feel like I understand more of their inspiration. Just like this little beach, The Microphones music is beautiful, whimsical and a little lonesome.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Annabelle in the Woods #6: Annabelle Meets the Wild Children Raised by Wolves

Here is the sixth painting of the Annabelle in the woods series. I used tea, gouache and acrylic paints.

On the edge of the woods there was once an orphanage of sad and lonely children. The children’s lives were bleak and consisted of dreary days of cleaning and crying. Slowly, the children started to disappear. In the evening, they would all go to sleep together, but when they woke up, Greta’s bed would be empty, or underneath Martin's blankets there would be pillows and not a boy. Eventually, the entire orphanage was completely empty. People living nearby marveled at the tragedy and wondered about the mystery, but the children were parentless, and the orphan keepers were merciless, so no one mourned for the children individually as little human beings.

If anyone were to learn what truly happened, they would not be sad either. The children had not perished, but instead had been spirited off to a better life by a pack of loving wolves. The wolves who lived in the woods nearby heard the cries of the children and could no longer bear the idea of the horrid life the children lived. So the wolves sneaked in to the orphanage, gently plucked the children up and took them to their wolf village.

The children grew up loved by their fur covered mothers and fathers. They frolicked with their fur covered siblings. They learned how to howl, how to frolic, how to appreciate the beauty of a butterfly or wildflower and how to survive with joy in the woods. So in the end, all the orphans were adopted and raised with love by their lupine families. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Baby Bunny's Harrowing Ordeal With (Spoiler!) a Happy Ending

A couple of weeks ago, I heard a sad and strange squeaking coming from behind the building where I work. I looked through the cracks in the fence, and saw that it was a crow terrorizing some innocent, fuzzy creature! I bellowed loudly at the crow "Hey, stop" or something similar. The crow was startled by my voice and stopped engaging in his blood-thirsty scavenging, leaving the little creature alone. With help from my coworker, we were able to find the little creature. It was an itty bitty baby bunny! The little bunny had run across the way from where the crow had attacked her. In her frenzy to escape, she got her head stuck in a fence. Luckily I work at an animal rescue with vet staff on duty, so I ran to get someone from the vet clinic. With help from them, the bunny was safe and her intimidate medical needs were tended to. We named her Rocky because she is a survivor. The vet clinic we work with deals with domestic animals, so while they were able to do a lot to make sure she was safe and warm, Rocky wasn't in the right place for rehabilitation and reintroduction into the wild. Little Rocky was transported to the local wild life rehabilitation center. A couple of weeks after Rocky's near death experience, we got an email saying she was reintroduced to her natural habitat where she can enjoy her life as a little bunny. They also identified her as a cottontail rabbit. How precious little cottontail Rocky is!

A lot of times when you come across an injured animal, it is difficult to know what action to take. I was lucky in this situation that I was able to get help from trained medical staff. I also knew the bunny was in distress because I saw it terrorized by a crow. But sometimes, it is hard to know the best course of action when coming across an animal that appears to need help. Here are some helpful tips:
  • A no nonsense approach to helping an animal in distress is to immediately contact your local wildlife rehabilitator and describe to them the situation. Their knowledge and expertise are invaluable. 
  • Before interacting with the animal, make sure the animal actually needs your help. For example, on the beaches of Puget Sound, baby harbor seals come to shore. This is natural for them and their mothers will come back to take care of them. But humans often think the animal is in distress and will needlessly interfere. The humans with good intentions end up jeopardizing the seals well being rather than promoting it. Sometimes it is important to observe the animal first. Another such example is when a bird flies into a window. Often times, they are stunned shortly after the incident and will appear harmed. But after they are able to regain their barrings, the bird flies off to a happy life.
  • Make sure you are safe. For example, don't try to save a ferocious bear that is growling and snarling at you. But even small animals can be dangerous, so remember it is important to be both compassionate and practical in these situations. 
  • If you handle an injured animal or abandoned baby animal, wear gloves.
  • Find a safe way to transport the animal to a wildlife rehabilitation center. A cardboard box with air holes is a good tool to use. 
  • The goal should be to get an abandoned or injured animal to someone that can provide the best care for them. Here is a handy list from The Humane Society: List of Wildlife Rehabilitator Resources
  • For more in depth advice and species specific tips, read this, another helpful article from The Humane Society: How to Help Injured and Abandoned Wildlife
In the area I work around Seattle, we have lots of bunnies. Sometimes the dogs bark at them when they see the bunnies during walks, but the bunnies seem unfazed! Sometimes I see them on the way to my bus stop. They are beautiful little creatures.

I always feel lucky when I spot a bunny in the wild. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Walking and Walking and Walking

One of my favorite activities is taking walks with my camera. It is nice being outdoors and there is always so much to see. The other day, I took a walk from the Ballard neighborhood to the Fremont neighborhood. I had a particular destination in mind. Along the ship canal in Fremont is an amazing topiary bush sculpture of a Apatosaurus mother dino with her baby. It is really awesome. But then, right before I got to the sculpture, my camera ran out of batteries! Luckily, I still got lots of great pictures of the walk there.

I recently learned about an interesting fellow who when he was alive, also had a joy for wandering walks. His name was Raymond Robinson and he was born on October 29th, 1910 in the state of Pennsylvania. Raymond Robinson garnered much happiness out of long, rambling, nighttime walks. During his night time walks, he felt at peace and he felt freedom like he never did during any daytime walk.

But Raymond's walks inspired stories of a wandering boogeyman that haunted the Pennsylvania countryside. Children were warned to not venture out during the wee hours of the night because a faceless spook would get them. The fabled boogeyman was known locally by two names. Some knew him as Charlie No Face, to describe the faceless state of the wandering boogie man. Others knew him as the Green Man to describe the green glow that purportedly emanated from the man.

But the alleged no-faced ghost or boogeyman was really just Raymond Robinson, a kind-hearted, gentle man who enjoyed the beauty of a nighttime stroll. He didn't enjoy night to veil sinister deeds, but because it was the time of the day where he was safest from ridicule. When Raymond was a young boy he suffered a horrible accident that mutilated his face.

He was a curious little lad whose excitement to peer into a birds nest overwhelmed his natural good sense to not climb up the bridge where the nest was located. The bridge was the route for a trolley and thus had electrical lines upon it. When little Raymond climbed the bridge, he slipped and his face hit against the electrical line, which resulted in a serious injury.

Raymond was lucky to survive the accident, but his injuries left him blind and seriously disfigured. The world can be cruel to people who look strange, so he retreated from the public, spending his days in the safety of his home. But the night was his time! The cloak of night was his freedom.

Raymond Robinson walked with a stick to guide him. He didn't need his eyes. He could hear the world around him. The swoop of bat wings. The chirp of crickets. The scurry of tiny mammals feet pushing against the dirt as they scurried away from a hungry owl. He could smell the the close bloomed wildflowers, the trees swaying in the wind, the soil underneath his feet. The cool, nighttime air was cool on his skin.  He could sense the story of the night without seeing it. He belonged there with the bats and the crickets and the nocturnal mammals. The only time he didn't belong was when he heard the rumble of the car. Sometimes that rumble, that signal of his isolation from the rest of the world, was enough to send him hiding in the brush until the sound disappeared into the distance.

The neighbors who knew Raymond said he was a kind man. He spent his days with his family making doormats, belts and wallets to sell. He sometimes shared a beer or cigarette with a neighbor while exchanging pleasantries.

But he wasn't know for his ability to create or his conversational skills, he was know for his face, or the face that was missing. People's curiosity brought out their cruelty. The cruelty of curiosity went so far to inspire oglers to park outside his house, as they honked their horn and demanded to see Charlie No Face.

Raymond Robinson would not be their spectacle, but he would not let their rude curiosity deter him. Night came and he wandered. He was struck by several cars during his years of nightly walks. But this didn't stop him either. Night came and he wandered. His identity became blemished and convoluted so who he was to the world was a cliched story of a boogeyman. But this didn't stop him either. Night came and he wandered. Through his wanderings, he was free. Through his wanderings, he was the man he was meant to be.

His life would have been different if he had never climbed that bridge. Like hundreds of thousands of other men, his life would have been simple, his existence lost to history. Maybe he would have married and he would have had children and grandchildren. His descendants would have still been alive now, existing in the world, never thinking twice when they saw a bridge. Maybe Raymond Robinson would have moved to a different town in a different state and built a life for himself there. He probably would have looked like many other men. He probably would have blended in with the crowd. Or maybe he would have grown up to stay in his hometown with his family, making wallets, belts and doormats to earn a living. And even without the motivation to hide his face, maybe he would have been drawn to the night.

Nine months before Raymond Robinson lost his face and changed his future, another boy had an accident on the same bridge. That other boy had never got the chance to become anyone besides a little boy. He had fallen from the bridge and lost his life. Raymond Robinson died too, but not until he was an old man. He was buried at Grandview Cemetery, the same cemetery where the little boy had been buried, that other victim of the trolley bridge. Now they are just bones in the ground, forever connected by parallel fates, forever alive in the legends that galvanize the countryside.


"Raymond Robinson (Green Man)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 May 2017. Web. 13 May 2017. <>

"Raymond Robinson – the True Story behind the Legend of “Charlie No Face” (aka The Green Man." Altered Dimensions Paranormal. Altered Dimensions, 21 Jan. 2013. Web. 13 May 2017. <>