Sun Dried Tomatoes

The art of Erika Oiler is delightful. It’s scrumptious! Every day I tear off a page from her “365 Daily Indulgences” calendar and sigh with satisfaction and contentment.  It’s impossible to explain why or how something artistic makes me feel so gratified so I’ll just stop trying. 

Admit it.  It made you smile.

Farm Girls

I picked this title instead of “Babes on a Tractor” to deter googling porn seekers.  LOL

Just another random picture that makes me laugh every time I look at it.  That would be me on the left, with bangs that will not see my eyebrows for as long as mom is able to keep track of her scissors;  baggy pants, hand-me-down boys stripey t-shirt, the ever present bare feet.   I’m sure we must have had at least one pair of shoes hanging around somewhere, no doubt looking brand new.  I am screaming and laughing with toe curling delight at being perched in this precarious position.  Cousin Elaine is screaming too, because she gets to drive.  And baby Ann is grinning because she’s on a tractor and kids are screaming.  You don’t have to understand what’s going on to have a good time.

Summer Camp

The reasons my mother sent me to church camp were (and I’m just guessing here) –

1.  To make me more religious. 

2.  To make it easier for me to interact with,  and tolerate, complete strangers.  Perhaps even to speak to them.  Out loud.

3.  To help me get over being homesick until I had been away from home for at least an hour, and thus ease me towards the inevitable state of being on my own in the big scary outside world.

4.  To make me understand what it’s like to be miserable.  Because it would be good for me.  Like asparagus.

The “camp”, better known as our church’s reunion grounds, was on a huge plot of land on the edge of our small town with a lot of buildings in random places and in varying sizes for a myriad of different purposes.  There was a large meeting hall, where church services were held.  This building had pews and an organ and a lot of open windows for children to gaze out of wistfully.   There was a huge dining hall, where my mother helped cook in the summers, for the kid’s camps and for different religious retreats.   She went home in the evenings and LEFT ME THERE!  In case you haven’t guessed, it was all rather traumatic for me.  Because of the age groupings and the fact that my brother was three years older than me, and my sister three years younger, we didn’t once attend summer camps together.  There were girls and boys dorm cabins, big enough to hold about a dozen bunk beds each, but I still always felt strangely alone.   There were buildings housing bathrooms and showers, and there were more buildings for classrooms.  It was a veritable maze of structures with numbers I could never remember, but if you followed the right group you were likely to end up somewhere or other doing something excrutiatingly boring.

What could be more wholesome than a large group of children of the same faith getting together for a week of fellowship and fun?  I hated it.  It’s probably the number one reason why I never joined the army.  At the beginning of our camp week we signed up for activities.   Some things were compulsory, like morning devotions, singing around the flag pole (I’m completely serious), attending evening campfires, and anything that could be considered even remotely church like, which made up a lot of our time slots.  I preferred to get baffling things like archery out of the way in the morning, so that I could spend my afternoons doing the creative stuff, like making plaster-of- paris praying hands.  Every day the entire camp population including counsellors lined up in bathing attire to make the long trek to the lake to go swimming.  This involved walking past summer rental cottages where I suspect tourists set their watches by us, and through a tourist trailer park.  We had to employ the buddy system on this outing, each of us responsible for someone else.  At any given moment a shrill whistle might sound, at which point we were required to stop dead in our tracks, grab our buddy’s hand and raise it in the air and be counted.  Woe to the buddies who lost eachother.  Although I don’t think it ever happened, even in the water.   The last part of our journey to the lake was through a fence and down a steep ravine on a foot path where it was always shadey and cool and smelled like cedar trees.  I liked that part the best.  The swimming part was just something to get through without drowning.  There was no such thing as easing yourself into the water – kids prefer to run in screaming.  I would be soaking wet before the water reached my knees.  I never once joined in the whining when it was time to leave the beach. 

Every day there was a “clean bunk-house” contest.   I never wanted to be the one to blame for point deductions, so I kept my little area and my bed ridiculously neat and tidy.  I never told my mother this, feeling it was to my advantage to keep this particular talent to myself.  One of the most daft pastimes we had revolved around mealtimes, where a table of kids would giggle crazily and confer, and then all start singing, to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down –

‘Round the dining hall you must go, you must go, you must go, ‘Round the dining hall you must go, Jane and Robert! (A second verse might add explicit instructions, like ‘hand in hand you must go’, or arm in arm, or walking backwards.  The possibilities were endlessly stupid.)

Then Jane and Robert (or whoever you felt like picking on) would feel obligated to act completely embarrassed as they got up and left to walk around the dining hall together.  Told you it was dumb.  But there were a lot of kids who thought this was great fun.  Even when I was on the receiving end and had to take a walk with a boy, I didn’t get it.  It’s not like walking around a building together had any magical powers that I could see,  the boy was about as tiresome when you got back as when you left. 

One year I helped work on the camp log that everyone got a copy of to take home with them when the week was over.  Besides a lot of unfunny stories about what went on in a week at summer camp, it contained a record of everyone’s name and address, so that you could write to the great friends you made.   Or so that you could jog your memory about the weirdos that were likely to show up again and make a more informed decision on coming back for more.  I always protested, and my mother always made the decision for me.  Go and have fun she said.  I still don’t do well when anyone gives me orders. 

But it’s now a thing of the past and I’ve chalked it all up to a series of life experiences.  You’re supposed to have a lot of those to develop character.  And I hate to think that even a week at a time for a few consecutive summers was a waste of time.   These are some of the life enlightening things I learned from summer camp:

1.  The words to a gazillion campfire songs suitable for accompaniment by ukulele.  The lyrics to “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” in particular are indelibly engraved on my brain.

2.  Religious people do not always give sound advice.  Like “if you can’t sing, at least sing loud.”  Hell, that’s not even grammatically correct. 

3.  My mother was one hell of a cook.  Lots of my fellow campers raved about her. 

4.  Jesus would not be pleased to hear you mention the word hell every single time you open your mouth.  Although I would question how we know that for sure.  So I guess that’s a healthy sense of cynicism.  Or sarcasm.  Or both. 

The campgrounds has been non existant for years and years.   The town bought the land and built a sub-division there before I had a chance to apply to be a camp counsellor.  Damn.   They still have the kids camps, but near a different town, and far enough away from civilization so as to be considered in the semi-wilderness.  The last weekend I spent at my summer camp grounds was with my best friend who was even less holy than me.  We snuck out of our dorm on Saturday night and ran across the road to a summer cottage to have a couple of drinks with some boys who thought it was hilariously funny that two girls on a religious retreat could be so bad.  We snuck back in before dawn and never got caught.  And then they tore the place down.  I almost feel a little bit responsible.  And a little bit sad.    


Slightly More Sophistocated Taurean Images

(Susan Seddon Boulet)


(Lesley Ann Ivory)

(Ann Griffin-Bernstorff)

I have to agree with Daphoenus’ comment on my previous blog (I always agree with her – we share a brain!  It’s true!!) that the images depicted for the zodiac characteristics are less than complimentary (although Virgo’s are at least vaguely human).   So I did an exhaustive search to find ways in which a bull can be made to look pleasant.  The results were rewarding, as you can see.

Say Cheese

I hope my mother had no intention of taking a photograph when she hastily dressed us for going outside and that she reached for the camera without considering the possible consequences of her action.  That would have been just too cruel if it was premeditated.  I look like one of those little Russian babooshka dolls, with the rest of the set gone missing.  And there’s my brother, the aspiring newsboy, clutching a stick the size of a small tree branch.  Our toy du jour is a wagon,  filled with blocks of wood, and sporting a piece of thick rope on it’s handle.  I’m sure there must be some sort of sane explanation for this enigmatic moment caught on film.  I just don’t know what it is.

Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

After I finished reading “A Fine Balance” I wasn’t able to pick up another book for a long time.  It was just that good.  Some of the images in that novel have the power to haunt.  So, I wondered, how could “Family Matters” ever measure up?  Well, the truth is, it can’t.  But it’s an awesome read just the same.  The setting is Bombay, but it could be a narrative about any family, almost anywhere.  It’s the story of family members trying to cope with the care of an ill and incapacitated grandpa (father/stepfather/father-in-law);  it’s also his story.  And the whole thing meanders along just like life itself.  Changes happen and people either are unable to adapt, or they learn to do so, sometimes in bizzare and surprising ways.  Life is not without tragedy, but it is also not without joy.  If you’re looking for ‘happily ever after’, you won’t find it here.  Mistry writes about real life, and in real life, there really is no such thing.

My Love Affair With The Captain

Avast Ye!  Somewhere in the 1980’s, purely by fluke, a little spice was added to my life.  Since then I’ve had an ongoing rum induced infatuation with a phantom lover;  a legendary buccaneer who sought thrills and fortune in the Caribbean.

Captain Morgan is a brand of rum, named after the 17th-century Caribbean privateer from Wales,  Henry Morgan.  Even though the label of the bottle portrays Morgan as a “pirate”, Henry Morgan himself was offended in his lifetime when people referred to him as a pirate, as he considered himself to be a privateer (one whose nation paid and licensed them to attack and plunder an enemy’s shipping).  Well, really buddy, it’s a fine line.

Just so no one gets the wrong idea, I’ve become pretty much a social drinker only.  It wasn’t always this way.  I blame W. totally for my rum addicted years.  I choked down rye before I met him, purely for the effect.  As far as I’m concerned rye and scotch are interchangeably vile unless watered down to the point of being unrecognizable.  Beer is generally gross, with the following exception:  if the beer is brain-freezingly icey cold and the day is blistering hot, beer gives a whole new meaning to the word refreshing.  Otherwise, it tastes pissy.  Wine is tolerable if it’s not too dry and can be knocked back with food.  On it’s own it gives me indigestion and a headache.  Vodka is tasteless but lethal.  One minute you’re fine and the next you can’t stand up.  Two things made me love rum and coke.  The mellow, smooth taste, and the numbing effect it had on my attitude towards W.’s mother.  I liked her just fine whenever I’d had a sufficient amount to drink. 

Thankfully it has become less of a crutch in that respect as the years go by and both of us invent ever more blatantly obvious ways to ignore eachother.  But for awhile I really believe the consumption of rum kept me sane for the duration of many of our island holidays.  On one fateful day when I was not completely sober but W. insisted he take me shopping for supplies anyway, I picked up spiced rum by mistake.  Best mistake I ever made.  My father-in-law loves to mix me drinks all day, probably to keep me happy and out of trouble.  Whatever his motives, he makes the best spiced rums ever with lots of ice and a splash of lemon or lime or a twist of one or both.  Awesome stuff.  It’s a beautiful honey amber color with a sweet taste, and subtle hints of nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla.   Makes W. gag.  But that just turns out to be an added bonus – all the more for the rest of us. 

I don’t have a problem sharing the Captain – my sister loves him too.  We’ve had many a good night setting sail with him.  He’s been known to give us sea legs without ever having to leave dry land.  Aye Captain, shiver me timbers, you’re no waister. 

Art of the Bear

I threatened bears, and ta da!  Here they are.

The light is shining on them strangely, or they might be more bear-like.  Bears in the mist/Fog Bears – your choice.

The little sayings are truly gag-worthy, but adding them was a popular thing with buyers, suggested by the lady from whom I rented my craft selling space.  She knew good methods for making merchandise fly out that door.  I guess this one just wasn’t a flyer.

Dancing bears in ballet costumes.  Something you have to see to believe.  And even then…..

This is a good sample of my painting on a blackboard period.  The little boy has had a few too many cupcakes, and the little girl seems to be missing half of her left foot.  Other than that, can we all say CUTE without tossing our cookies?

And finally, just to see if you’re still paying attention, a non bear.  I did a whole series of buck toothed mice.  You have to admit, the bubbles are pretty impressive.

I did a few special orders for people, but my heart just wasn’t in it.  Someone would ask me for something specific, and suddenly it was too much like real work.  I much prefer to paint something silly on a whim.  Wish you could make a living at that.

Animal Angst

Yet another ancient picture to ponder.  I don’t think the cat is exactly thrilled to be part of it – more kind of resigned to his fate.  The baby on the right is cousin Audrey, who was one of those children destined to be bald until the age of two.  My brother is sporting a terrible haircut.  Sorry I don’t know the story behind that one, but it looks shaved.  His pointy elf ears (inherited from our mom) are prominently displayed.  My daughter has them, and so does my grandson.  Funny how a trait gets randomly tossed around.

The grass needs cutting, we have no shoes.  I know my mother loved me – there’s a ribbon in my whispy hair.  And she’s letting me touch a cat.  Mom barely tolerated cats.  They were outside creatures only, meant to keep the mouse and other bothersome rodent populations under control.  Barn cats.  Cellar dwellers.  Anytime we snuck a kitten inside she’d yell from another room – Get that thing out of here!!  How did she know?

It’s not that she hates animals, or has a phobia about them.  They are God’s creatures after all.  She just never wants to have to share space with them.  It’s as though she’s saying ‘I like you just fine if you  stay way the hell over there, thank you very much’.

Dogs were never allowed in her house either for any extended period of time.  It must have driven her a little crazy to visit her grown up children, every one of whom had animals living with them in assorted numbers.  Whenever I visited mom I have to admit it was always incredibly refreshing to never be cleaning animal hair off of anything.  She didn’t even like squirrels in her yard.  She would run out on the deck with a broom to chase them away because she was afraid they’d take up residence somewhere in the walls or the roof.  I told her to get a cat.  HA.  

At the care center where they now reside there is a sort-of-resident dog.  She’s lovely, with long silky blonde hair and a smiley face, making her daily rounds, looking for pats on the head and dropped snacks.  Dad likes her a lot.  She smiles at mom but doesn’t come close, knowing I suppose that it’s a waste of time and respecting that.  Cats of course would have no such sense of consideration, being drawn like a magnet to people who dislike them, as if they can’t imagine such a thing is possible and are determined to disprove it. 

Dad with a dog on his lap, dog keeping safe distance from mom, mom keeping hands safe distance from dog. 

I don’t know why some people love animals and some people don’t.  I don’t know why my son is primarily a dog person, and why my daughter loves both cats and dogs.  My youngest sister doesn’t like dogs, and my brother hates cats with a passion.  Ann has always had a housefull of both. 

No picture of this, but now imagine ME, signing off from this rambling discourse which is really going nowhere.  Kind of reminds me of when our teacher in public school would give us a picture of something, five minutes to study it, and then we’d have to get up in front of everybody and tell a story about it, the whole point as far as I could see being to keep talking until the time was up and you were asked to return to your seat.  I haven’t progressed very far from that I guess.  Time to sit down.