Sunday, September 30, 2012

From the Window, Part Three

   I definitely prefer the window seat on an airplane ride, even if it does make for a slightly more claustrophobic traveling experience  It is amazing to see the world from so high up.  I was told that in the 'olden days' people would dress up in their best clothes to go on an airplane ride. Luckily now it is acceptable to where cozy and unflattering clothes for an airplane flight.

  I looked up 'Interesting Aviation Facts' on google in hopes that I would find some interesting knowledge tid-bits to go along with my airplane pictures. Well, the word 'interesting' is definitely subjective. But I did learn something very interesting, whose existence is up for debate. According to some, there is a phenomenon called ball lightening that forms inside planes and rolls down the aisle way. Scary! Flying is stressful enough without having to worry about balls of lightening rolling about the plane. But apparently no airplane lightening balls have harmed anyone. Ball lightening is not unique to airplane aisles. Throughout history their has been reports of ball lightening sightings. They vary in size from pea-sized to half a foot long. Lightening balls last longer than a strike of lightening and some say they explode instead of disperse away. But just like traditional lightening, lightening balls are seen when thunderstorms are present.  (Info found here and here.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wildflowers and Shooting Stars

(actually, I over packed a bit especially since the camping trip was only a day.) 
  This summer I went camping with my pals on beautiful Mount Rainier. I took so many pictures so I am going to share them over a couple of posts instead of all at once. These first ones are of the mountain top where we took a short hike.

Smiley Face in the Snow

   I felt very lucky to see all the wildflowers. They were spectacular! Besides the hike, my camping friends and I also made the traditional and much loved campfire at night. For dinner we cooked hot dogs (or tofu dogs in my case) on a stick. We also made s'mores. Marshmallow preferences were discussed by all. I like mine slightly burnt and crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. How about you? When I was little my family and I would tell ghosts stories around our campfires. I suggested this to the group, but the suggestion went no where.
  After the campfire fun, we watched a meteor shower! The sky from a mountain top is amazing even on a non-meteor shower day. I cannot even remember the last time I saw so many stars! But watching shooting stars zip across the sky made the view even more beautiful and awe-inspiring. My camping trip to Mount Rainier made me want to run away from the city and move back to the country.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

With Her Back Crooked, The Contortionist Can Carry the Village

   Here is an illustration I did for Illustration Friday. The week's theme is 'crooked.'

  The contortionist trained for years to refine her bodies ability to bend. She was always naturally flexible and learned how to do back bends before she could walk. Now she can twist her body into strange, crooked shapes that astound every normal bodied human. She can bend so she will fit into the tiniest of spots. One day after a performance with her circus troupe, she met a raccoon who insisted he needed her services. He lives deep in the forest, on top of a forest fire scorched hill. The forest that the raccoon lives in is inhabited by tiny people, no taller than a redwoods needle. They all live in tiny villages built upon the forest floor. The villagers love the forest except for the fact that they do not get enough natural light. The tiny forest villagers are morose and lethargic from their lack of sunlight. The raccoon loves the villagers and his forest. He wants to help the villages get more light. He has devised a plan where he will bring a new village to the top of the hill everyday. For the entire day, the villagers will enjoy the sunlight. Once the sun sets, the raccoon will bring the village back to the forest  until it is that villages turn again. The only problem is that the raccoon's back is just not long enough. But with the length of the contortionists legs, he thinks he will be more successful in his sunshine mission. The contortionist  a free spirit who likes adventures and odd experiences decides she will give it a shot. After all, she would love to see the tiny people. On top of the hill, the raccoon is able to give pleasure to the forest villagers he cares for so much and the contortionist is able to practice and stay in shape while the circus is on it's off season/ 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Science and Speculation

   A couple of months ago I went to he Pacific Science Center with a group of friends. One of my friends had a free pass for himself and three friends and I was one of the lucky beneficiary of this free pass. The Pacific Science Center really is more targeted for children but it was still fun to wander around. The butterfly room was especially impressive.

Meg and I observe the odd opticals with enthusiasm. 
Half of Pete
Beach Ball Head
The Brain Exposed
Ferris Wheel Miniature 
Gigantic Praying Mantis!!
Occupants of the Butterfly Room
On the fence
Bryan Rides a Caterpillar 
   Speaking of science, I learned about an interesting, NON-scientifically proven phenomenon called Street Light Interference Phenomenon. This is when a person seems to turn on or off street lights or other outdoor lighting just by walking past or under the light. It is the type of thing I can definitely imagine happening to a character on X-files. Many skeptics think people who claim to have SLI are just wishful thinkers who attribute common streetlight flickering to claims of paranormal powers. People who believe that have SLI say they have no power over the lights turning on or off, thus the phenomenon cannot be repeated in a lab. I can imagine it being really irritating to have SLI. Imagine walking home from the bus stop late at night and every time you get near a street light it turns off. Creepy!
  The SLI phenomenon is related to something else called the Pauli effect. The Pauli effect is when mechanical equipment stops working in the presence of certain people. Since I have already referenced the X-Files, I might as well reference the Twilight Zone. The Pauli effect reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode about a crotchety old man who loathes both humans and machines. His great hate of machines leads him to behave in an abusive manner toward the machinery in his house. Eventually he becomes convinced that the machinery in his house is purposely conspiring against him! The technology in his house is not behaving in an expected way (similar to suffers of the Pauli effect). Anyone would rightly believe that the angry old-timer was stark raving mad. But he was right, the machines were out to get him! This machine hating man would be especially unhappy to live in the modern day. Our lives are so much more intertwined with technological devices and machinery now than in the early sixties. Imagine what that man would think of a smart phone!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Blackberry Delights!

  This summer the blackberry bush in front of my home was very abundant with delicious berries. I made three different baked goods with blackberries I picked from the bush.

Branch of the fruitful blackberry bush. 
Just a small portion of the many blackberries I picked throughout the summer. 
Blackberry closeup! 
   First I made scones. I really love scones but this was the first time I attempted to make them myself. I was very happy with the result. I got the recipe from the website Inspired Taste. I've browsed through more of this website and have seen many pictures of other delicious food. I'm sure I'll visit this website again for further recipe direction not only because I was pleased with the scone recipe but I like the authors enthusiasm for cooking and food.

Pre-baked Scones
Scones with iced coffee... a delicious pairing
 A single scone
   The next recipe I made was for muffins. I had never had blackberry muffins before but blueberry muffins are quite popular, so why would other berry muffins not be equally enticing? I go the blackberry muffin recipe at Simply Recipes. While searching for a blackberry muffin recipe, I kept running into very complicated recipes. I was feeling lazy the day I made these and did not feel like heading to the grocery store to shop for ingredients. So I chose this recipe because I had all the ingredients. My laziness did not steer me wrong though because these muffins turned out tasty.

Blackberry muffin.
  The last thing I decided to make was a blackberry pie. I really enjoy making pies but have made mostly apple pies so I was happy to try something knew. I prefer berry pies to apple pies so my taste buds were excited for this variation on my normal pie baking habits.  This recipe was a mash up of several recipes and my own heavy handed tweaking, so I can't give an accurate link to the recipe. Instead of using pie crust on top of the pie, I used a crumble made of brown sugar and butter. The crust was made from an old family recipe. It is the only old family recipe I have. The blackberries were mixed with flour and sugar. After thoroughly scavenging my small kitchen I could not find my pie dish anywhere so I improvised and used a cake pan instead.

Pie in the cake pan
A single slice of blackberry pie
   Last week I went outside to the blackberry bush. I had a new baked delight in mind- blackberry brownies! But my plans were rudely ruined by the lack of blackberries growing on the bush. I had to come to terms with the stark reality that summer is now over. I will have to wait till next year to start picking blackberries again. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Walk

  Here is a fictional short story I wrote probably a year or so ago and recently drew pictures to go along with it. It's called 'The Walk.'

   While I walk along Third Avenue I follow a woman in a yellow coat. She looks like someone I once knew- an old friend who I never wonder about but I’d still be happy to see. I can’t tell if the woman in the yellow coat is her or not. She is several blocks ahead of me. She is walking briskly like she is in a hurry or she just likes the feel of the pavement pounding against the soles of her shoes. At the corner she pauses and looks up at the sky. I look up too, to see what she sees. All the clouds look like animals. Fluffy white polar bears drift lazily across a sleek blue stage. Lions with wispy manes slowly stretch apart.
   When my gaze returns to street level, the woman in the yellow coat is gone. I look around for her almost frantically. I feel like I lost track of a kid, or my puppy some how escaped his leash while I was window shopping. Yellow isn’t a very popular color, especially in the Winter so I scan the scenery focusing only on the insistently cheerful color of yellow. A yellow poster advertising a music show is stapled crookedly on a telephone pole. A yellow taxi rumbles by, but there is no sign of a familiar woman in a yellow coat.

   I keep walking toward the direction I last saw her but am distracted by two street musicians. A man plays a guitar and a girl in a floral dress sings. I move closer so I can hear the song through the constant whirl of city sounds. The girl sings songs that sound far away. They are songs she has collected from the tops of mountains like fistfuls of mountain flowers.
   The guitar case is open with a few suggestively placed dollars lying flat on the velvety lining. I search  my pocket for crumpled dollar bills or forgotten coins. But all I find are the two dollars I brought along for my bus fare home and a few seashells. I wore the same jacket when I went to the shore a couple of months ago. My fingers feel the rough edges of the shell. I remember salt air and shuffling through the sand. Most of the shells I found were broken pieces but I only keep them if they are pristine. I want them the way the mollusks had them during life, before they died and withered into unseen molecules while their study shells remained. I drop the shells and bus fare into the open case. The guitar player glances at me and smiles but the girl ignores me. Her sad songs drift into unseen street corners, twisting around bare tree branches and filling empty ally ways.

   I continue walking down the street the same way that the wind is blowing. It is the same direction the woman in the yellow coat disappeared to. I want to find her. I hope that she is my old friend and not just a stranger with the same dark hair and confident stride.
   I imagine us getting coffee and pastries together at the cafĂ© on the corner. We will sit across each other with straight backs and attentive smiles. She’ll tell me all about her life. How she is married now, but no  kids yet. “Hopefully soon.” She’ll say. “We are trying after all!” She will tell me all about her job. She will work as an archeologist or anthropologist or biologist, or whatever it was she was studying back then.
   Then I’ll tell her about my life. Except I will make it all up. I have a husband too. “Yes, he is sweet.” I’ll say. “Handsome too. The whole package.” I’ll tell her about how we like to ride bikes together.  And every evening we cook dinner together. He always sings old pop songs while we cook. He says it makes the food taste better.  In our garage he has a makeshift workshop where he carves wooden figures and sometimes makes furniture.  He always smells like sawdust and sweat and it is my favorite smell in the world.
   Somewhere in between watching the music and daydreaming, the clouds bunched together ruining the sunny day with rain. The light sprinkles swiftly transform into an angry down pour. I huddle under an awning in hopes that the rain will stop or at least lessen. I didn’t think it would rain and had not brought an umbrella. I am entirely too optimistic about weather. If I see blue skies in the morning I think it affords me rain protection for the entire day despite what the weather forecasters with their pearly smiles promise.
   The window is open in the apartment above me and I can hear people arguing. The man’s voice is loud but hollow and the women’s voice is like an angry song.
   “You always do that.: she says, “You always, always do that. Why do you have to always do that?”
   “No, no.” he denies. “I don’t. No, I don’t.”
   When they repeat themselves again, they sound like birds chirping. I imagine two human bodies with bird heads chirping ‘always, always’ and ‘no, no.’ I laugh aloud at the image. But they hear me and the arguing pauses. I hear the window slam shut. But through the patter of the falling rain I can still hear a muffled ‘always, always’ and ‘no, no.’
   The rain gives no indication of softening and I am tired of waiting in one spot. It is time to find a more entertaining place to wait out the rain. I jog toward the library. I wonder if the girl is still singing on the corner, her floral dress heavy with rain water. The wet guitar strings probably sound thick and dull but her voice will still be clear.
   When I get to the library, my clothes and hair are wet but the heater is humming and I already feel warmer. I wander though the bookcase rows, picking up  books and skimming different passages. Nothing keeps my interest until I find a book about the ocean. I learn that ninety percent of all Earth’s volcanic activity occurs under the sea. I learn that around 200,000 known marine species exist and even more are speculated to exist. I imagine all the animals swimming around in the ocean. They get to see things I’ll never see. But they have no idea about the world of land. They don’t even know what it feels like to be dry.
   I hear a sneeze in the row beside the one I’m in. It is one of those light, girlish sneezes that all princesses and Hollywood starlets have. It is the type of sneeze that makes men want to wrap their arms around the person that helpless little sneeze came from. My eyes are drawn to the noise. It is one of the few sounds besides the hum of the heater. I look through the empty spaces in the shelf to see who sneezed. My pulse quickens with the thrill of discovery. The dainty sneezer is the woman in the yellow coat! But now I see it is not her. I mean, it is not the girl I use to know. Close up, their faces don’t even look alike. And of course now I remember, my old friend would never wear a color as bright as yellow. She only wore drab colors like gray or tan or sometimes olive green.
   The stranger in the yellow coat catches me staring at her and smiles uncomfortably. She shifts her position so she is out of my line of sight.
   “Bless you.” I say, but it is several moments too late. Her only response is a light sniffle. Later, after the stranger is gone, I go investigate what she was reading. She was sitting in front of the section on ornithology. I imagine that she grew up in the tropics where there are hundreds of bird species, all of them bright and colorful. In our city most of the birds are crows and pigeons. She must get sad living here where all the birds are gray and black. She must cling to that yellow coat in the winter when the sky is gray and all he birds with their beady eyes look drab and dreary.
   I skim through the books on birds too and choose out one to bring home with me along with the ocean book. I think again about the arguing bird people and laugh.

   Outside it is dark and I am hungry so I check  out my books and head toward home. My bus fare is gone so I must walk the several miles home. The rain only lets up once during the walk and only when I am a few minutes from home and already so wet it makes no difference to me if it is raining or not. My library books are wet too and when I get home I lay them on the kitchen table underneath the hanging light. The books smell musty and the pages have already started to warp.
   The house feels empty. It is silent except for the creaking of my foot steps. but when I get to the living room, I see him sleeping on the couch. Behind his sleeping form, the light from the TV flickers on the wall. But he must have muted the volume. One of his legs is straight with his toes pointing toward the ceiling. The other leg is bent so the sole of his foot touches the ground. Spittle is dripping from the corner of his gaped mouth. It drips toward his chin like the glistening slime of a snail. His rounded belly peeks from beneath his too tight shirt. He won’t give up the shirt. He thinks it still fits him like it did when he was in his twenties. An inch of skin protrudes ostentatiously from the bottom of his shirt. The dark curly hair on his belly fluffs outward like his shirt has a grotesque version of a peach fuzz moustache. I touch the exposed portion of this stomach lightly and can feel the hair bundled beneath my palm.
   “Wake up, Manny.” I whisper.
   From the other room, I hear his dog stir. His big paws patter against the hardwood floor. The dog see’s me crouched on the ground. My face is right next to Manny’s sleeping face. If he was awake he’d be able to feel my hot breath against his cheek. Even now my breath may have changed the course of his dreams. The same way my alarm clock manifests it’s self in to the sound of some sort of demonic doorbell in my dreams. The exteriors attempt to penetrate the interior but only managing partial success.
   Manny’s oafish dog bounds toward me. I ignore him.
  “Wake up, wake up.” I chirp and push Manny’s slumped shoulder.
   The dog growls as if he is trying to protect his person’s sleep from me. I glare at the dog and swear he returns my stare with just as much menace.
   “Fine.” I say to the dog. I stand up. “I really don’t care that much anyway.”
   The dog plops down and stretches out across the area where I was sitting. The dog looks content like it had been his plan from the beginning to take the spot.

   I go into the bedroom and close the door. Goosebumps sprout on my skin so I finally take off my wet clothes and leave them in a heap in front of the rooms entrance. I change into a dress I usually wear in the summer. It’s yellow. The exact shade of yellow as the stranger’s coat. Even though I am not tired I lay on the bed. It’s only six o’ clock. I usually eat dinner at this time but I lost my appetite.
   Last summer I painted the bedroom ceiling to look like the sky. Pale blue with fluffy white clouds. I had never noticed before but the clouds I painted look like fluffy animals. They look so much like animals that I wonder if I did it intentionally and somehow forgot.
   Next door music vibrates thorough the walls an penetrates the sterility of silence in my own house. The neighbors have a teenager who likes to play his music on he highest volume his stereo will go. This would be annoying if he played the angry or mopey songs so many teenagers relish, the type of stuff I use to like when I was his age. But he only plays music from way before he was born. He plays swing bands and old jazz from Bing Crosby to the Boswell sisters. I‘ve had more exposure to the music of my grandma’s generation from that boy than anywhere else.
   One time I heard Frank Sinatra blaring from his room. It was summer and I was outside drinking lemonade. The sun had just set and it was the first time I had felt comfortable all day. The neighbor boy had his curtains open and I could see straight into is room from where I was sitting. He was standing in front of the mirror wearing a beaten up old fedora and singing along with Frank. I couldn’t hear the neighbor boys voice over Frank and the band, but the way he cocked his head or dramatically gestured at certain verses made me think he must be good. He moved with a certain graceful confidence that most adults would envy. There was something about the scene that was dopey and cute and sad all at the same time.
   I hear the same Sinatra song coming from his room right now. The boy is probably singing along again. I start to sing too, to accompany the kid. But I only sing under my breath so no one can hear me, except for maybe Manny’s dog. Before we can finish the song, I hear the boy’s mother yell something. The music stops abruptly and we are all silent.