Thursday, April 15, 2021

M is for Making faces

For the past year, a mask has been part of our fashion statement. We wear masks to keep one another safe. But we are missing out on all sorts of facial expressions. So, in this blog post, I am posting pictures of faces. Some are photographs and some are drawn or painting. And some are carved, especially those of men. Just because making funny faces or lovely faces or incredulous faces is fun. I hope that you enjoy the gallery of faces... 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

L is for leaves and blossoms that come early


Today, I went to see the cherry blossoms at the Japanese Gardens behind the Buffalo History Museum. These gardens were built in 1974, as a sign of friendship between Buffalo and its sister city, Kanazawa, Japan. 

This year, the cherry blossoms have appeared early. Normally, in Buffalo, cherry trees bloom in late April to early May. But here they are.

The timing was completely unexpected. In fact, the cherry blossom festival (which did not occur last year, due to the pandemic) is scheduled to be held from April 26th until May 1st. It is unlikely that any cherry blossoms will be left by then. 

There have been years when the cherry blossom festival was held before any blossoms appeared. Some things are impossible to predict.

Who could have predicted that leaves would appear on the trees in April? Normally, that happens in May. Not this year. Spring is early, as if to make up for lost time. Last year, at this time, it was still cold, snowy, and wintry. And the world appeared and felt dreary.

But this year, spring is bright and early. It feels like a sign of hope. At least, I would like to believe that.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

K is for kitty cat


Three weeks ago, I became the foster mommy to a three and a half year old cat named Lucy, after her human mommy was placed in a nursing home and her human daddy passed away. Our start was very rocky. The cat had been torn away from all that she knew and was placed in an unfamiliar apartment with a strange human. She hissed and growled and sounded very fierce but was, in reality, a terrified cat.

After a few days of hiding under the bed, she came out and began to adjust. She is still adjusting and the process will be a slow one. There is no way to explain to a cat why her human is never coming back to her and why she can't go home, where she had lived for her entire life, prior to her sudden uprooting.

As Lucy continues in her process of healing, she is showing more of her real self. She is an energetic young cat who enjoys climbing and jumping. She loves to sit on top of the tall bookcase and look at the world from her high perch.

She likes her crinkly tunnel toy and her other cat toys. She knows how to tell time because she asks for her breakfast at about the same time every day. She has happy meows and mad meows. Sometimes, when she is particularly peeved, she hisses. She is truly throwing a hissy fit.

When she's happy, she likes to roll on the floor. She is the queen of all she beholds probably because she is Cat.

Monday, April 12, 2021

J is for jab????!


It's J day! What do I write about? My favorite baseball team is the Toronto Blue Jays! No one is really talking about baseball yet. Jumping jacks? They give me vertigo! Oh never mind! Not that! How about something that we talk about incessantly? Our favorite topic of conversation these days seems to be comparing notes on the Fauci Ouchie (aka The Jab). What brand did you get? Do you need two shots or just one? What kind of side effects did you have? Are you eligible for your Fauci Ouchie yet? Before long, everyone will be eligible and we can be on our way toward herd immunity. Speaking of which... I get my second Moderna shot next week. Oh, and speaking about shots, it seems that for a few months, we were treated to the sight of people receiving The Jab on a daily basis, thanks to the news media. Really? Was that necessary? Sometimes, I am willing to agree that things happen without a picture.

I was given a fashion statement to wear for the Momentous Occasion. 

Never did I imagine that I would be this excited about a vaccine. Oh, I lied. I have been excited about vaccines in the past. Late in 2007, I had a very unpleasant case of pneumonia. It was very rough. Fortunately, my mom took good care of me and she even read fairy tales to me, which calmed me down. I still love fairy tales. Well, actually, I always loved fairy tales and folk tales. But I digress. 

Anyway, back to being on topic. In the fall of 2008, I was very happy to receive a pneumonia shot. I have since gotten another because the pneumonia shot's effects last ten years, and, when I got the second one, the first ten years had expired.  Oh, and the other shot that I was excited about was the shingles shot. That came in a set of two, as well. I remember how my dad suffered when he had shingles. The shots were definitely the better option. And, yes, I did have a reaction to the second shot. I was told the reaction is good. My immune system is working. I didn't have the energy to cook meals, however. I'm gonna plan for my second COVID-19 shot. Have food pre-cooked. Easy to prepare is all good.

I wore jammies the day after the shingles jab. And speaking about jammies, I was wearing them all day for a while early in the pandemic. I've got a pair of jammies that are warmer than regular clothes. I had nowhere to go so I wore them. After a while, I realized that wearing jammies all day was something that I had to place in the Bad Idea category. I needed to get dressed to feel like I was part of the real world. Even if I couldn't go anywhere, I needed to do that much for me. Also, I was starting to get into the world of Zoom and I didn't want everyone to see me Not-So-Fashionably-Attired for a Zoom meeting. Of course, people only see you from the waist up and you're in a box on the screen, like a Muppet. So... sweatpants were fine! Oh, and jewelry! I could wear that, too, if I wanted. If that made an impression in the Land of Zoom.

On the other hand, some of us don't need to Dress for Success. But not everyone gets to be this good looking!

Well, that's that for today. I will talk more about the Fauci Ouchie after next week! Also, I'm going to make sure to have easy to prepare food on hand so I don't have to put much effort into cooking!

I is for imagination

 "Fly me to the moon,

let me play among the stars. 

Let me see what spring is like

A-Jupiter and Mars..."

--Frank Sinatra

If you have imagination, you can fly to the moon, dance with planets, and make stars into your friends. You can travel back or forward in time and you can go anywhere you want. Your mind and your energy will take you anywhere that you wish to go. During this time of isolation, your imagination can be either your enemy or your friend. I suggest that you make your imagination your friend. It is pure energy, waiting to be brought out of you. What tools do you need to harness that energy? Here are a few suggestions.

****A book.

Full of stories and wonder, books will take you anywhere you wish to go. Because I have access to books, I have recently delivered books to people in the Kentucky mountains of the 1930s who had no way of traveling on their own to the public library. Because I have access to books, I could choose one of many keys hanging by ribbons from a ceiling and I could open doors. Because I have access to books, I could follow a pianist and an architect wanna-be through the dangers of World War I as they worked to find their way back to each other. And because I have access to my local public library (the Grand Island Memorial Library), there is no end to the adventures that I can take via books. Go visit your library and nourish your imagination by borrowing books.

****A song. I have always loved music. Singing and playing an instrument are ways to explore what is inside of you. When you create music, you are expressing yourself in a universal language. During this past year, I have had to change direction in my musical journey, away from choral singing and toward something different and even creative. The last time that I went to choir rehearsal at Saint Martin in the Fields church on Grand Island, New York, was early in March of 2020. And then, it stopped. Not ended. Stopped. At first, I was so stunned that I didn't sing a note. I felt that music had been torn away from me. But then, I realized that I had to use my imagination to bring out the music that was inside of me. I knew that it had to come from me.

I started looking for free concerts on FaceBook and on YouTube. I listened to so much music. But it wasn't interactive. And then, one day early last spring, I discovered a live on-line concert featuring a songwriting duo that I've enjoyed listening to since about 2004, Emma's Revolution! When I travel from city to city by bus, I listen to their music. I look out the bus windows in the middle of the night and I hear, though headphones attached to an MP3 player, "In the soft of the night, we are learning not to fight, in our hearts, in our drum, we are one." And I listen to it over and over when I travel to participate in walks about ending wars. I listen to it so much that I memorize the lyrics and the words and, at home, I sing along with gusto.

And all of a sudden, a year ago, Emma's Revolution was there, in my world. Not just inspiration, but really, really there for me, when I needed music the most. Sandy and Pat were on line and interactive and running a weekly program called "Learn an Emma's Revolution song." So I join and I sing, by myself because there's a lag in Zoom. It's not possible to sing as a group on Zoom. I start making up harmonies. Why? It's safe. If you make a mistake, no one can hear you! And now, I am learning songwriting from them. I have discovered that I can sing the songs inside of me into reality. All it takes is imagination and encouragement.

****A picture. Use a camera, a sketchbook, a canvas. What do you see? Photograph it, paint it, draw it. You can make it as representational or as nonrepresentational as you choose. It's your creation. Oh, and you can paint on just about any surface, including wood, fabric, glass, and rocks. You can create worlds where nothing existed before. 

****other tools. There are so many. A few other tools for me are crochet hooks and yarn. I've made a few afghans which, mostly, I've given away. What would you like to do to explore your creativity? It's up to you. Some people like to make sculptures from tree trunks after the tree has died. Some people like to use welding to make sculptures. Some people use glass and other materials to create mosaics. 

What is your imagination leading you to do? How can you fly to the moon and play among the stars?

Saturday, April 10, 2021

H is for hiking through beautiful Buckhorn Island State Park

Today, I took a hike in Buckhorn Island State Park. It was a beautiful early spring day.

On my way to the park, I noticed that the forsythia is blooming, as well as the daffodils. It's so encouraging to see all of that yellow. The forsythia blooming occurs in early spring. When that happens, you know that it is the right time of year to prune your rose bushes to encourage spring growth, to reduce the size of your bush (especially if it is a bit overgrown), and to encourage your plant to be bushier, which is very desirable.

The sight of all of that new growth is very exciting. On the bike path and in the park, I saw other signs of early spring and new growth. I saw tiny leaves on shrubs and very small ground plants. I saw a relatively large vernal pool near the bike path. It was beautiful, and the trees looked like they were okay with having wet roots for a short time each year. Vernal pools are temporary wetlands, which appear early in the spring. They later dry up because they are ephemeral. In the vernal pools, you might spot salamanders, frogs, toads, and turtles. I didn't see any critters in the vernal pool along the bike path.

But in the park, I found a narrow section of Woods Creek that seemed to be filled with very shy life. They hid every time I moved so I was unable to photograph them. But I did see a turtle and I heard at least one bullfrog.

The marks on this tree trunk were made by the emerald ash borer, as it ate its way through the tree's nutritional system (the xylem and the phloem).

The demise of the ash trees, due to the infestation of the emerald ash borer, has had a negative effect on Buckhorn Island State Park. There are many logs in the park, the direct result of the dead trees having been cut down over the winter. When I took a closer look at the logs, I could see the characteristic marks of the emerald ash borer in its larval stage, as it ate its way to adulthood. In the process, the trees were destroyed. 

Dead trees aren't especially gorgeous but they are an essential part of the life of the forest. Decomposers, such as ants and worms, break down the trees, and they enrich the soil. It is a type of recycling.

Fungi grow on the dead trees, which also helps to break down the tree and to make the forest more alive. The decomposition of dead trees is part of the life cycle of the forest. The forest will continue to live and thrive as the tree materials are recycled. New trees will grow in the place of the old. It is truly a wonder.

G is for growth


T.S. Eliot described April as the cruelest month in his poem "The Waste Land." It is cruel, even though it's the time for growth, for revival, for rebirth. Despite the beauty of the green growth, the potential for a bone chilling coldness and a sudden snowstorm is always present.

Last April was an extension of winter, with bitterly cold air and random blasts of snow that covered daffodils and hyacinths with icy cold whiteness.

So much was shut down that we looked at the cold, cruel April through window panes. This April feels warmer and gentler. We are experiencing reopening and renewal in many ways. The daffodils and the hyacinths are blooming in the bright colors that have been absent from the landscape for months. It feels sweet right now but maybe the cruelty of the month is hidden beneath the surface. Hidden so that, after a long year, full of loss and sadness, we can enjoy revival, rebirth, new growth. We have come full circle, and it is April again. Full of optimism, we hope that it will be different than it was just a year ago.

Friday, April 9, 2021

F is for flowers made out of paper


Yesterday, I went to Buffalo to talk to Janna Willoughby-Lohr about the paper flowers and seed bombs that she makes in her store/workshop, called Papercraft Miracles. The place where the paper magic happens is located in the Block Rock area of Buffalo, New York. If you were to walk by the store/workshop, you would see a beautifully decorated picture window that features many varieties of flowers in bouquets or just scattered about the window on different levels. You might have to glance a few times before you realize that all of those flowers are made of paper. That is the magic of Janna's papercraft.

Here are some of the things that Janna said about creating paper flowers:

It’s just so much fun to take a picture of a real flower and try to figure out how to make that out of paper.

Making paper flowers is a "really fun challenge. It's a sculptural method, even though it's paper because it stretches, and we can curl it and apply coatings to it so that, once it dries  it will stay in that shape."

Janna describes painting petals as "fun." Her favorite medium for that is pastels. She does say that, for certain flowers, pastels are not ideal.  "Sometimes, if there is a flower with petals that have two very stark and different colors, like the blue irises that have the yellow stripe in the middle… stuff like that, you can’t really use a pastel for it." Then she chooses a different medium to get that two-toned effect in the flower.

"Most of the time, I like using pan pastels. You can use the design master spray paint for flowers, for covering silk flowers. But because I try to be as eco friendly as possible, I don’t like using spray paints and things like that if I don’t have to. They are no good for me or the earth. That’s why we like the pan pastels. They are cool because you can just brush the color on. You can blend it to make a gradation of different colors. It’s just so pretty. I love it."

Why paper flowers? What are the benefits to people of having flowers made out of paper?

"Paper flowers are good for people with allergies and they are also good for hospitals and nursing homes, places where you can’t bring fresh flowers because of the allergens and stuff like that. 

Especially during COVID, it’s really nice being able to buy flowers that are going to last forever. If your event is going to get canceled or you have to do two small events because you can’t have that number of people at one event, you can invest in the flowers once and then have them forever. You can use them to decorate your house or you can give them as gifts. When you buy fresh flowers for a wedding, most people spend at least two grand on flowers and they last about two days and you have to throw them all away. We’ve had a lot of people investing in their paper flowers and they last forever, which is really nice.

How did you get started as a maker of paper flowers? 

"After I quit my job, to stay home with my kid, in 2016, somebody just randomly send me an email, saying, 'Hey, we saw these paper flowers or, actually, it was sola wood.'  People make these flowers out of this really thin, flexible, moldable wood. They saw a listing for that and they said, 'Can you make paper flowers for our wedding?' Even though I had never made paper flowers before, my response was, 'yeah, totally. You tell me that you want them, and I will figure out how to make them.' 

I bought a Cri-cut machine, which I needed to make paper flowers. 

"Well, at the beginning, I did because I was making them out of a shimmery text weight paper. But I didn’t really like using that paper because there are so many things that you can’t do with it. So I then started learning how to do the crepe paper flowers. I fell in love with how sculptural it is and how realistic it is and how there are different ways to do flowers. Certain flowers require certain types of paper because they have delicate looking petals and other flowers have really thick petals so you have to glue several layers together to get each one. It makes the flowers look so much more realistic. I started making them because somebody asked, “Hey, can you do this?” So it stuck. The more flowers I made, the more pictures I took and put them on the internet. And people responded with “those are awesome! I want those!” So we started selling a lot of them, which is cool."

How do people go about ordering flowers that last forever?


"You can find them on our website, at click here for papercraft miracles. If anyone wants custom flowers or custom seed bombs, there is a tab on the website. We do all sorts of custom orders. Book an appointment to talk to us about whatever custom order you want. We do have our Earth Day seed bombs. They just got listed on our website, if anyone wants to stock up for Earth Day and plant them for Earth Day."