Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hairless Rats Make Me Feel Warm and Fuzzy

 I had a great day signing books at The Center Valley Animal Rescue in Quilcene. Santa was there among the amazing collection of rescued animals, many of which are up for adoption.

"What do you want for Christmas, Richy," he asked.  This particular Santa, a.k.a. John Franklin, has been with the Port Townsend Fire Department for twenty-nine years (apparently he goes back and forth between here and the North Pole).

 At the open house, a young girl adopted this rat and his siblings.  A ONE-EYED HAIRLESS RAT! You don't meet those everyday do you? Do you? Well, if you visit this remarkable animal shelter, you'll meet a lot of cuddly critters who need a home.

 To get to Quilcene you first have to journey to the outskirts of civilization.

When I arrived at the shelter, they set me up next to the cage of an enormous parrot named Peanut Butter. In his cage he perches quiet as a dead mouse, and likes to bob up and down to the inner beat of distant Amazonian jungle drums.

Then when you are happily signing away or cooing at the turtles or bunnies, he lets out the loudest scream you have ever heard. As in, Nazgûl scream. Your brain actually does a 180˚ turn inside your cranium when this parrot SKREEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeCHS!!! But other than my frayed noives, we DID have some in depth discussions about global warming and manners, and I wish I could take him home.

A fellow who was at the open house told me that he had A.D.D. and has two screeching birds at home. He confided to me that the sudden screams in fact calm him down. So.

 Here is the director, Sara Penhallegan holding Maya.  I learned that the bulbous things hanging on his jowls are called "false eyes" and the flap hanging down is called his dewlap.

 I would love to have this cuddly bear in my studio, but I would have to mist it throughout the day and set the temperature at 80 degrees.

 This dude's name is GODZILLA. Notice the blood on his lip. Seems he busted out and tried to kill one of the other iguanas. But not to worry, they are vegetarians, I'm told. Yeah, right. How many vegetarians do you know who have blood dripping down their lips?

Have you ever met a chinchilla?  This guy looks a little sad, because he had just gotten fixed. My heart goes out to you, man. Nevertheless, this furry rabbit/mouse/mink type animal had the softest fur I have ever felt. Like a cloud, only softer.

 Hi there.

 This is a feline version of "dog pile!"

Scotties rrroool the werrld.  Will ye pop over and toss me some shortcake, laddy?

 I'll bet one of you needs a pony.

Alright, I will.

But the ones that you really need to beware of are these sheep with the glowing eyes. They were rescued from the Sand People near Beggar's Canyon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Powerful Magicians Eat Pi, I mean Pie

 Every child is a powerful magician.  They can imagine new worlds with the snap of a finger. SNAP! Whoah!  Suddenly I'm a talking rabbit. Fine, I can deal with that. Munch, munch, chew, chew. Why am I chewing my fingernails? Now I'm gnawing on my desk.

As a wee rabbit, I liked to draw magical things. Like clowns. Notice the black hat. It's a magic hat.  Clowns must have incredible self esteems because, I mean,  look at the pants they wear. They don't care if you stare. Clowns pull flower bouquets out of the ears of people who stare.

Speaking of magicians, a friend of mine baked me a pi, I mean pie. Actually two. I met her at the Central Valley Animal Rescue (see my July 13, post).  Her name is Candy Garrison, a powerful pie magician.  Her pies are so good that people lose track of time and space.   Candy is in fact famous around here for her pies. 

A perfect pie crust is no mean trick. Hard to do. But I am convinced that great and small alike are swayed by the perfect crust, be you king or carpet layer, alchemist or mesmerist.  Pies are powerful,  magical.  Archemides knew this in 202 B.C.  He was no clown, but he was a bad speller. He spelled pie, "pi". At any rate, those remarkable ancients came up with their brilliant math insights because they ate pies. It's so obvious.

I'm pretty sure his motto was, *Will work for pie* Of course with his little spelling problem his sign read, *Will work for pi*

People like Archemides worked up an appetite dealing with irrational numbers.  For instance, the first 1000 decimals of Pi are:


And this goes on infinitely with no repeating pattern. I ask you...
Well, pies are infinite. They are round. And once you have eaten a pie with perfect crust, it lives on in the FAV section of your memory.
Do you love pie? What is your favorite? Please tell me. π

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Poetry

There is a tree that likes to sprout and grow from a well composted life. I have never claimed to be a poet. Come to think of it, I have never claimed to be a human. If I did...I AM HUMAN!!... you might have second thoughts. So the claim department is closed today. Nevertheless, here is one.

The Poetry

You wander
Longing for the shade
Kicking dirt-clods
That both wet and dry
Have made.

Your tree
Will not appear
Unless both wet and dry
Have molded, squeezed and baked
You dear.

Yes, you, clod
Kicked along the path
Pounded, trod on, smashed
To dust, then formed again
By tears, or fears, or bliss, or wrath.

You sigh...
You murmur, you moan, you curse
You have no choice, really
But to find the words
And rant for better or worse.

You roll your eyes,
Such bare-assed honesty
Happens in spite of you
In the dirt at the base
Of your poet tree.


Another Poet Tree, this one wrapped in bacon, I mean a mystery, which hails from the Scottish Poetry Library:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Book With Kick For Boys

I love a good read. Especially when I get a behind-the-scenes peek at the roots. Greg Neri's new middle grade novel, Ghetto Cowboy, is a great read. My son, Jesse, collaborated with Greg on another novel, Chess Rumble.  In this latest book, Jesse's illustrations  provide backdrop to Greg's street-strong text.

There is a serious need for good books targeting boys aged 10 and up.  Here's a book that  begs you to read it. Starting with first glance, the cover talks back, "So what are you lookin' at?"

Greg says this book was inspired by the real-life inner-city horsemen of Philadelphia and Brooklyn.

An excerpt: "I peek inside the hole, but it's dark 'cause all the windows is boarded up.  But man, it really smells like animal in there.  Suddenly something big moves in the dark and I jump back.

"That's Lightning," says Harper.

My eyes adjust to a pair of dark eyes staring back at me. It's a horse. He's got a horse in the house.  No wonder Mama left him.

Harper must see my eyes buggin' out, cause he smirks, "Welcome to Philly, boy."

Check out this YouTube video:"This American Life: Horses in North Philly"

Monday, July 18, 2011


I've been thinking about what makes a poet a poet. Well, his mother. And before that, his father. And before that the twinkle in his mother's eye. But once the poet is up and running, how does the poet know that the poet is a poet?

 Chewing on this bit...the poet discovers it is a poet when it gets wounded. Many kinds of wounds. Beauty can wound. A wounded poet bleeds poetry. 

                                                            poet wounded
                                                            poet bleed

 There is an old Turkish saying, "I have a problem, and I would not trade it for a thousand solutions".

I posted the image of this tree before, but now it has a new raison d'être. This painting was an obsession, a problem for me. But I did not want it to go away. It was my therapy for many years. I dabbed a daub of paint here and there, then put it away. Months later, bring it out and bend a branch. Put away. Get out. Put away. Until I finally had to let it go.

Now my friend and poet, Mary Bradley has written a poem about it. 

Waiting for Springtime in the House of Leaves

The wind

           that’s mourned for weeks beneath the eaves
           and blustered, drifting snow on wet dark earth —

is hushed.

In dusty rooms

          the silence settles like a solid thing,
          until I’m wild to leave the house.
          and walk in air that’s brisk and bright,

          to roam the ancient woods above a surf raked bay
          and listen to the distant drumming of the sea,
          and search for shoots of hyacinth among the trees.

In dwindling light of day,

          a ghostly moon is rising, soft as smoke,
          among colossal branches of a stately oak
          that stands as it has always stood upon the shoulders of the world
          —grown tall and greatly patient, darkly beautiful and good.

And in the tree’s unhurried heart,

         concentric memories of a hundred years—

         the blur of wings, tranquility of clouds,
         the sweetness of a summers’ temperate rain,

         the blaze of living canopies gone red and gold,
         the brand of lightening’s kiss along its grain.

If only I could be a child again,
alive in fairytales of simpler times,

         I would not leave,
         but stepping through its bright enchanted door,
         would climb an inner stairway to the topmost branch
         and fall asleep,

dreaming the restful dreams of gentle trees,
waiting for springtime in the house of leaves.

--Mary Bradley
c. 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


BE HONEST. Don't you just want to kiss that sweet mug? Such sincerity. Such give and take. Such je ne sais quoi.  I think he looks like George Clooney. Matter of fact, George has one these hoofers in his actual mansion. No lie.  Hey, maybe this is George's pot belly pig! Must have knocked over that Ming vase. Or eaten the Hope diamond. No worries. Wait a day or two, take it out and hose it off. Good as new.

See how happy he is. He might be a she.  I didn't really check. But I did get to do a book signing as part of the fund raiser at the Center Valley Animal Rescue in Quilcene, Washington.

This place is amazing. They take pets that have conquered their not-too-bright owners, or animals that need help. It is a no kill shelter for iguanas, llamas, parrots, ferrets, emus, turtles, goats, horses, chickens, rabbits, sheep, cats, dogs, piggy wiggies, and even hermit crabs. What?

I love these guys. Look at this gorgeousness! Oh, my gosh, I am currently working on a  prehistoric picture book character, and hello!! Anybody home?  I could really use this animal in my studio. Course, I'd have to keep it at 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity. But they eat salad, not grandkids. So I'm really close on this one. Did I mention that these are five feet long?

This parrot is smarter than you are. Deal with it. They talk. Like several languages, including pirate talk. 

Rooms full of cats. Little kitties. Old cats who will live out there lives in comfort.  Millions and millions of cats. ( Zounds! There's an idea for a children's book. { :>)

Director, Sara Penhallegon, wrangles the coolest volunteers you can imagine to care for more animals than you can imagine. What a place!  Animals are available for adoption. Drop by for a visit, and a brain cleansing. Seriously, it will inspire. I was quite moved.  See their site:

Cute butt, or what?

Special thanks to Candy Raab for one of her famous pies. We're talking pie so good that you loose your sense of time/space.  Sear. Ee. Us. Lee.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Writers are Wrestlers

Photo by Miho Fletcher

When I make art, I say, "I'm an artist, so that's that." And I go ahead and jump into the volcano of weirdness. And everything eventually works itself out.

 I mean I am in the business of making books ~ sometimes I'm illustrating, sometimes writing, and sometimes staring at snails. But the outcome can be so satisfying.  A good yarn, brings lots of smiles. So whether the "book" arrives in the traditional form, like on papyrus, or whether it zaps us via digital whatchyacallits, stories can captivate.

 But when one begins writing, "they" swoop down from Valhalla's underbelly and block the path.  I'm talking about the guardians. "Sorry, you can't get there from here," they insist.

 Pay them no mind, and don't give them eye contact. Close your eyes and let the daisies flow out of your brain. It doesn't have to be daisies. But I have been writing about daisies and I have to tell ya, I've gotten quite chummy with them.

I find that when writing, it's hard at first to tell what's real, what's reflection, and what's ridiculous. It always starts out as a wrestling match. But in the end, one of you will win. Unless it's a draw.

I'm wrestling with this poem to say what I mean:

Writing is like
A scarf that won't silk
A cow that won't milk
A corpse that can't die
And a fish that shan't fry

The butter don't melt
The hat's not felt
Why it's a dog cain't hunt
A football won't punt

A fly no fly
Glue no glue
Thought no think
Stopper no sink

Pig no sty
Blush no shy
Pen no write
Plane no flight

Flower no bloom
Rocket no zoom
Clock no time
Poem no rhyme.

Writing is wrestling
With thoughts
That have thoughts
Of their own.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Garden Gladiator

 Early this morning when Dawn was still dressed in her lavender nightie, I heard a "flinking" sound. Flink. Flink. My subconscious folded the noise back into a dream omelette.  The flinks got louder. Then it dawned on me that someone was throwing something at my window.

 I hauled my achin' bacon downstairs to the kitchen, instinctively reaching around for a coffee cup. Scratching my head, I wondered if this was a happy dreamwalk, or...FLINK!! It hit the window hard! "What ...?"
 A robin bobbed up and down outside on a branch and glared in the window. He looked pissed. And then he hurled himself right at the glass! FLINK!!! Again, and again, and again.

 With open mouth, I noticed a small figurine on the inside window ledge. An antique porcelain blackbird used for venting hot pies. Maybe that bird outside is a mother who is trying to rescue her poor chick. Awww... Her baby has fallen into the evil clutches of humans who bake chirrens into pies.

"I'm coming my darling!"
"I'll rescue you!" FLINK!! WAM!!
 [Or] perhaps the blackbird appears to be a threat? Nah, it's too cute.

I remember when I was four years old my mother sang, "Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie..." Sick. As I remember, the birds' relatives hired hit men, rather "hit birds" who came back and pecked off her nose. Which goes to show yah.

I was a wide-eyed child thereafter. Waiting. Watching. Expecting any moment for those bad boy birds to come calling. and so after all these years he's come for me. FLINK!! WAM!!

After a couple weeks of this hell-bent, and now beak-bent bird-brain smack down, I realized that he was fighting his reflection. I overheard the following:

"Hey you! What are you doin' here?"
"You talkin' to me? What are you doing here?"
"I own this yard!"
"Oh, yeah? I own this yard!"
"You're a stupid looking bird."
"You're the stupid one!"
"I will fight you!"
"I will fight you!"
"I'm not kidding!"
"Me neither!"
Swoop! FLINK!! WAM!!
"Owww.. That dude has a hard head."
"What? You still here?"
And so on.

"We have met the enemy. And he is us."––Walt Kelly

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chickens And Their Friends Come Home to Roost

Usually when one says, "The chickens have come home to roost," they mean that the chickens are not nice chickens. Or that the chickens have come for revenge. Or could be that the Fates are using them as ironical weapons in their war games against nearsighted humans. 

I guess it could also mean that a farmer's chickens were out free-ranging, and have returned to lay   eggs for the benefit of one and all~especially at breakfast.

But I am referring to the chickens of the mind. Those bawking thoughts that peck around the cerebral cortex looking for stray electrons, or juicy bugs. It might be some concept that we are trying to develop which lives in the tangled brain bushes. Don't you often find that a "great idea" will scratch all around because it's not sure where it lives. For me, most of these pithy poultry are stories that have made a nest in my brain. I can't get rid of them until they are good and ready. When they are,  they squawk like Valkyries and fly right out of my  meatus acusticus externus ( ear hole).

Here is one that I had a recurring dream about. It's a story that is presently hatching. 

Here is another. I don't know if dream tigers lay eggs. Sure, why not?

This guy is taking over my studio. He's everywhere! 

When these "chickens" do finally hatch, I become a busy den mother. It's now my job to keep them warm and feed them with a dropper. And lastly I need to find them all a nice home. 

Maybe some day they will come live in your bookshelf.  Do you have chickens that have come home to roost? Are they nice chickens?