Wednesday is Woody Watercolor Day

Wednesday mornings I join my watercolor friends in our weekly class with Woody Hansen.
Tuesdays I sweat, finishing (or beginning) the two watercolors that we bring in for evaluation in the second half of the class. I love Wednesday mornings, even though I usually am stressed, don’t like the pieces that I bring in. But the three years with Woody have been fun and enlightening, have pushed me out of my comfort zone, and taught me a lot about art and about myself. I would advise, when you have the time, to take up an art form, a skill, that is new to you. Your brain will stay active and life will be more interesting.

La Marcha de las Mujeres.

La Marcha de las Mujeres.

January 2016, the day of the Women’s march.

An abstract that reminds me of Hermit’s Peak, my favorite mountain in New Mexico

An abstract that reminds me of Hermit’s Peak, my favorite mountain in New Mexico

Be a Writing Rule Breaker: Blog About Your Dog

October 22, 2018

(Revisiting a favorite post three years later.)

Bella, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, teacher, guardian, and foot warmer.

I’m looking at Bella today, almost three years after this post was written. Not much has changed. She’s twelve years old, still very furry, a little more squarely built now, not quite as active, but still healthy, funny and loyal. People still stop us on the street to smile and talk to her. She is a working dog, and if that work is to bring a smile to someone’s face, it is work of value.

Bella guarding the porch in Sapello, New Mexico .

Bella guarding the porch in Sapello, New Mexico.



Bella the Cardigan Welsh Corgi ten years ago.

Bella the Cardigan Welsh Corgi ten years ago.

On any given day, it can take me 15 minutes to walk my dog the short distance from our house to the corner. This is what a typical morning looks like:

“Hey, lady, I like your dog,” the twelve year old boy yells at me from across the street. “Can I pet her?”
Of course.
Bella, our Cardigan Welsh Corgi, stands patiently while he strokes her back. 
“Wow,” she is so soft. She has so much hair. My dogs are big, they. . .”  
and he spends five minutes telling me about his dogs, which tells me about his character and the good man he will grow up to be.

Bella and I walk on half a block. A house painter, sitting on the grass, taking a break, smiles.
“Is your dog friendly?” 
Of course.
 “Can I pet her?” 
Of course.

A truck rattles by, the driver slows, leans out his window, shouts, “Hey, how’d your dog get such short legs?” and drives on, smiling.

A young woman slams her car to a halt, leans out her opened door. 
"Oh, my god, a Cardigan. Mine just died.
Can I pet her? I need to touch a Corgi."
Of course.

We named her Bella because she is so beautiful with her pure black and white markings, like a cousin to a panda bear. 
Her nick-name is the Smile Machine because she makes so many people smile when we walk through the neighborhood. People stop to ask, “Is that a Border Collie with no legs?” She has a long, feathered, black tail that curls over her back and is tipped with a spot of white, a lantern when we walk at night.

 

The lessons that Bella has taught me.

Bella has taught me that in this complicated world in which we live, when we are all, at any given moment, tired or sad or pained or anxious; 
when we may have had a bad day in school; 
or a sick child at home; 
when we are not sure if we have a job for the next day; 
or that our truck will start;
or we have lost something that we love,
having something warm to touch, something to look at that makes us smile just for one moment, can lighten the day for us.

Bella has taught me about the ways we love or don’t love people. How we might think or say, 
“Well, I would love you better if you lost weight”; 
“I can only love people who are tall”; 
“I can’t love you because your ears are too big.” 
“I don’t love you because you mess up the house.”

I look at Bella, whose body is the shape of a well-stuffed foot stool;
 whose legs are so short that when she walks, her long chest hairs graze the ground, magnets for dirt and leaves;
whose ears are longer than her legs;
whose long, fine, black and white hairs float above the floor like clouds of spiderwebs and clog the vacuum cleaner;
and all I know is how much I love her and the happiness she brings to people.

I like to think of Bella as a teacher for why we should
take time to talk to a child,
or check in on a sick friend,
or smile at a stranger,
why we need write or make music or art.

Bella has taught me that no matter what limitations we may think we have, 
—not smart enough, 
—not rich enough,
—not long-legged enough,
we all have the potential to make another person happy for a brief moment. 
When we act on that potential, we are better people. Our lives are richer when we make someone smile.
If we have a tail, it should wag.


*Corgi, in Welsh, means “dwarf dog". Corgis' legs are very short relative to the size of their bodies and heads . Most people are familiar with Pembroke Welsh Corgis, short-legged, big-earred, brown or black and tan, usually born without a tail. Queen Elizabeth is often seen surrounded by a pack of Pembroke Welsh Corgis, a rollicking group of oversized hedgehogs. Their only relationship to Bella is that both Pembrokes and Cardigans are  dwarf breeds of dogs, natural drovers and herders of cattle, sheep, and people. Cardigans are the older of the two breeds. They are heavier-boned, larger-bodied than the Pembrokes, and have  long tails. Cardigans are said to be distant relatives to Dashunds.  They are smart, non-agressive, and very loyal.

Thanks to the    Ulitmate Corgi    for this photo of Queen Elizabeth     and her pack of Pembroke Welsh Corgis.

Thanks to the Ulitmate Corgi for this photo of Queen Elizabeth
and her pack of Pembroke Welsh Corgis.

American Tumbleweeds: Marta Elva's story of life on both sides of the Mexican-American border

Well, this makes us very happy.

Marta Elva (Gibbons) who joined Green Rivers Writers Workshop last summer, has published her novel, American Tumbleweeds (Circling Rivers, publisher). The official release date is May 10, but already the book is receiving praise and wide coverage. No wonder. This is a lovingly told story of a young girl growing up in the 1960's, a time not so different from the present when language, culture, and gender are being used to divide people, to cause us to contemplate building walls to keep us separate from "those others." Marta's book breaks down walls and brings us together.

American Tumbleweeds is the coming-of-age story of Inez, a confused but gutsy adolescent who is trying to figure out who she is and where her true home is. Inez and her family tumble, psychologically and physically, between Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas. Inez looses her footing when her charismatic father is sent to prison for drug smuggling; she trips, but she never really falls down.

                                                                                                     Marta Elva Gibbons

                                                                                                     Marta Elva Gibbons

Marta attended last July’s Green River Writers Workshop, traveling with her husband Michael Gibbons from their home on the Gulf Coast of Florida to New Mexico, to be part of the workshop and, especially, to spend time with Gerry and Lorry Hausman who have worked closely with her in editing the book. Marta’s focus on crafting the powerful story that she has to tell and her willingness to work hard at writing and re-writing shines through in the words of Inez and her family members. Marta brought the same humor, insight, and wisdom to the workshop as she brings to her writing.

Corrine, Marta, Diana, Megan, Jean, and Pam at the Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas, New Mexico, Eighth Annual Green River Writers Workshop July 2015

Corrine, Marta, Diana, Megan, Jean, and Pam at the Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas, New Mexico, Eighth Annual Green River Writers Workshop July 2015

Marta starts her author signing  and book tour at Alliance for the Arts in Ft. Meyers, Florida on May 12, before continuing on through Florida, New Mexico, New England, and Texas, demonstrating her own form of being an American tumbleweed. Check the Circling Rivers website for dates of her appearances—and request an appearance at your local bookstore or bookclub. Meet Marta and talk to her about her writing process and her story. She will enhance your life, just as she enhanced Green River Writers Workshop.

With American Tumbleweeds, Marta Elva pulls us into the minds of a half-dozen members of a border family in crisis, dramatizing the state of living ni aqui, ni alla, neither here nor there geographically and emotionally. A moving first novel.
                        — John Sayles, film director, author, and MacArthur fellow
 

Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and through your local bookstore.                

Published by Circling Rivers                                                                             www.circlingrivers.com                                                                                                                    Jean Huets | 804-368-6833                                                                            jeanh@circlingrivers.com

ISBN 978-1-939530-01-1 (trade paper)

trim 5.5 x 8.5 | 298 pp. | $14.99

ISBN 978-1-939530-02-8 (digital)

all formats $6.99

 

What story do you have to share? Think what a difference your story might make in someone's life, just as Marta's story will change lives. Don't wait. Sit down and write today.

Be a Writing Rule Breaker: Blog About Your Dog

October 22, 2018

(Revisiting a favorite post four years later.)

Bella, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, teacher, guardian, and foot warmer.

I’m looking at Bella today, almost three years after this post was written. Not much has changed. She’s twelve years old, still very furry, a little more squarely built now, not quite as active, but still healthy, funny and loyal. People still stop us on the street to smile and talk to her. She is a working dog, and if that work is to bring a smile to someone’s face, it is work of value.

Bella guarding the porch in Sapello, New Mexico .

Bella guarding the porch in Sapello, New Mexico.



Bella the Cardigan Welsh Corgi ten years ago.

Bella the Cardigan Welsh Corgi ten years ago.

On any given day, it can take me 15 minutes to walk my dog the short distance from our house to the corner. This is what a typical morning looks like:

“Hey, lady, I like your dog,” the twelve year old boy yells at me from across the street. “Can I pet her?”
Of course.
Bella, our Cardigan Welsh Corgi, stands patiently while he strokes her back. 
“Wow,” she is so soft. She has so much hair. My dogs are big, they. . .”  
and he spends five minutes telling me about his dogs, which tells me about his character and the good man he will grow up to be.

Bella and I walk on half a block. A house painter, sitting on the grass, taking a break, smiles.
“Is your dog friendly?” 
Of course.
 “Can I pet her?” 
Of course.

A truck rattles by, the driver slows, leans out his window, shouts, “Hey, how’d your dog get such short legs?” and drives on, smiling.

A young woman slams her car to a halt, leans out her opened door. 
"Oh, my god, a Cardigan. Mine just died.
Can I pet her? I need to touch a Corgi."
Of course.

We named her Bella because she is so beautiful with her pure black and white markings, like a cousin to a panda bear. 
Her nick-name is the Smile Machine because she makes so many people smile when we walk through the neighborhood. People stop to ask, “Is that a Border Collie with no legs?” She has a long, feathered, black tail that curls over her back and is tipped with a spot of white, a lantern when we walk at night.

 

The lessons that Bella has taught me.

Bella has taught me that in this complicated world in which we live, when we are all, at any given moment, tired or sad or pained or anxious; 
when we may have had a bad day in school; 
or a sick child at home; 
when we are not sure if we have a job for the next day; 
or that our truck will start;
or we have lost something that we love,
having something warm to touch, something to look at that makes us smile just for one moment, can lighten the day for us.

Bella has taught me about the ways we love or don’t love people. How we might think or say, 
“Well, I would love you better if you lost weight”; 
“I can only love people who are tall”; 
“I can’t love you because your ears are too big.” 
“I don’t love you because you mess up the house.”

I look at Bella, whose body is the shape of a well-stuffed foot stool;
 whose legs are so short that when she walks, her long chest hairs graze the ground, magnets for dirt and leaves;
whose ears are longer than her legs;
whose long, fine, black and white hairs float above the floor like clouds of spiderwebs and clog the vacuum cleaner;
and all I know is how much I love her and the happiness she brings to people.

I like to think of Bella as a teacher for why we should
take time to talk to a child,
or check in on a sick friend,
or smile at a stranger,
why we need write or make music or art.

Bella has taught me that no matter what limitations we may think we have, 
—not smart enough, 
—not rich enough,
—not long-legged enough,
we all have the potential to make another person happy for a brief moment. 
When we act on that potential, we are better people. Our lives are richer when we make someone smile.
If we have a tail, it should wag.


*Corgi, in Welsh, means “dwarf dog". Corgis' legs are very short relative to the size of their bodies and heads . Most people are familiar with Pembroke Welsh Corgis, short-legged, big-earred, brown or black and tan, usually born without a tail. Queen Elizabeth is often seen surrounded by a pack of Pembroke Welsh Corgis, a rollicking group of oversized hedgehogs. Their only relationship to Bella is that both Pembrokes and Cardigans are  dwarf breeds of dogs, natural drovers and herders of cattle, sheep, and people. Cardigans are the older of the two breeds. They are heavier-boned, larger-bodied than the Pembrokes, and have  long tails. Cardigans are said to be distant relatives to Dashunds.  They are smart, non-agressive, and very loyal.

Thanks to the    Ulitmate Corgi    for this photo of Queen Elizabeth     and her pack of Pembroke Welsh Corgis.

Thanks to the Ulitmate Corgi for this photo of Queen Elizabeth
and her pack of Pembroke Welsh Corgis.

Ross Lewallen: Artist and Shaman Who Lived Outside the Lines

 ross and LauraRoss and Laura Lewallen

"I am an artist on a walkabout, an adventure in the landscape of my imagination."

  Our good friend and creative mentor Ross Lewallen died last week and his family and friends are left with a large hole of sadness. We are also left with the rich gift of the memory of a man who lived life fully and creatively. When Ross blended colors, called the spirits of the power animals, the crow, the hawk, the wolf, the turtle and their friends; when he  sailed a boat in the high desert of New Mexico, he was a teacher and a healer, inviting us to paint and live outside the lines.

The physical body of Ross lived almost eight decades. Ross led this body to northern New Mexico in the 1960’s to study art with the great teachers at New Mexico Highlands University, Elmer Schooley, Harry Leippe, Paul Volkening, and Ray Drew. Ross painted, sculpted, created jewelery, talked late into the night, stirred the thinking pot and made us see the world through a different lens.

Ross and his daughter Laura ran  LewAllen and LewAllen Jewlers  on the Plaza in Santa Fe for almost forty years. He traveled to Africa and Austrailia. He became a shaman.  In the past few years he drove (“boondocked” as he would say) around the continent dragging his little camper trailer, Shasta, behind him. He sat up shop in front of Shasta in camp grounds, painted and sold his mystical watercolors to other campers.

Ross swam with kindred spirits in Florida, sailed in the Florida Keys with his wife Hanne Moller. Hanne is a  violinist. Among Ross’s many videos on Youtube is one of Hanne serenading five  tortoises.

Ross was a gifted teacher. In two of my favorite videos, Boondocking on the Rio Castillo and Painting from Impulse, he shares his creative technique. Painting is a metaphor for how Ross lived and his lessons invite us to change our perspective on life, if only for a brief moment, to start coloring, living outside the lines just as he did, to wake up and go on walk-about.

 

ross and wifeRoss and Hanne 2008 clapping2  ross pope ross wife  ross wife night Alice rossAlice ross dancing

We all loved dancing with Ross.

My Best Christmas Gift? George the Chimpanzee and his Friend the Black Stallion

Chimp on my shoulder

1954, Fourth Grade. I wake up on Christmas morning knowing that George the Chimpanzee is waiting under the tree for me.

Why a chimpanzee? My favorite book was Chimp on my Shoulder. The cover photograph shows a baby chimpanzee peering over the shoulder of the author, Bill Westley, an adventurer who lived with chimpanzees on his farm in England.  What better life could one have?

When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, “A chimpanzee collector and raiser.” My mother and father said, “Well, that would be a fine occupation for you.” I knew then that my parents understood that I needed my own chimpanzee to start on my career.

My mother grew up in the Philippines before World War II where my grandfather, the Colonel, rescued a baby monkey and brought it home for her to raise. She named him George.

George ate the laundry soap and hid pieces of candy in his cheeks and had big dark brown eyes. If my mother once had a monkey, wasn’t I meant to have a chimpanzee?

I had not yet told my parents that I did not believe in Santa Claus. Grown-ups, I felt, were very sensitive on the issue and became sad when their children stopped believing. So I wrote a letter to Santa telling him that I wanted a chimpanzee and why, hoping that my parents read the letter. I never spoke directly to them about my chimpanzee, as I believed expressing my wish would be a jinx.

My mother hinted about my main Christmas present, words that had to do with jungles and tigers and lions and bears, solid evidence for my chimpanzee. Two days before Christmas, I heard my parents whispering. I could taste the excitement in our house. I knew that George, my chimpanzee, had arrived.

I worried.  Where would my parents hide George until Christmas Day so that he couldn’t be found by me or the dogs or my snoopy brother? Of course. In the chicken coop, tucked behind the garage, away from the normal traffic of the house.

How would George be fed? I decided that my mother would sneak food out back when we weren’t watching. I was very careful not to go to the back of the yard near the chicken coop, or turn my head in that direction. I didn’t want to accidentally discover George and spoil my parents’ surprise.

On Christmas Eve I kept myself from peeking out my bedroom window in case my mother carried a pan of bananas and grapes to the chicken coop. I went to bed early to make the night go by. I lay under the white sheets, eyes shut, envisioning my tiptoeing out to the living room in the early morning light, finding George under the tree. I could feel his big hairy hug and his weight as he jumped up onto my shoulder.

Well, you have probably guessed how this story ends. No chimpanzee under the tree on Christmas morning. My main gift that had to do with jungles and animals? A pair of tiger-striped toreador pants that my mother was obviously very proud of.  I acted very excited about this gift and wore the pants right away.

I never did tell my parents that I truly believed that I would be getting a chimpanzee for Christmas and how disappointed I was, not because I felt foolish, but because I knew their feelings would be hurt knowing that they had not fulfilled my wish.

I wore and wore and wore those tiger-striped toreador pants until they were too small, which was the following summer, when I read The Black Stallion and knew I needed a horse, a large black steed to carry me over the mountains and across the plains. I would name the stallion George. He would live in the side yard by the chicken coop and I would grow up to be a cowgirl.

                                           black Stallion

 As I think about my childhood fantasy about having my own chimpanzee, I remember all the books on the shelves in our house, just waiting for me to open them and read them. We were lucky because these books let us adventure around the world way before we were ready to leave home.

What books helped you create your own stories, your own adventures as a child?