Ten Years Later…

Many years ago in the year 2007, before Barack Obama was president and social media was a college dorm room pipe dream, I was living a half-life. I wasn’t aware of it at the time. My weight was 215 pounds, 30 pounds heavier than I had been in college only five years before. I would hang with friends, occasionally unsuccessfully dated, and had no idea how I was going to use that $90,000 private school art degree.

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Then, on a blustery Monday that happened to fall after Thanksgiving, a rusty green minivan was under the control of a cell phone user who was too busy texting to see little old me crossing the street. In the five seconds that I was aware of the impending doom, everything that I hadn’t done with my life was suddenly urgently important. Those five seconds felt like an hour as the green beast rolled into the crosswalk. It hit my hip and left a livid bruise that went to the bone. I tore several muscles in my right leg that left me with a severe limp for almost a year. Because I view myself as Wonder Woman, I put out my hand as if that would stop the minivan from hitting me and my shoulder still twinges when I lift something too heavy. In five seconds my life was flipped upside down and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I wasn’t aware of that at the time either.

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In the years that followed, I got my weight down to 150, opened an Etsy page that keeps my art degree diploma happy, and have traveled the world. I’ve completed 14 of my top 15 bucket list items, although seeing a Packer game at Lambeau Field still needs to be done. My body feels fit, with my right hip giving me the occasional reminder of how quickly things can change. That pain keeps me honest. It appears just when I find myself getting lazy or complacent. Even Wonder Woman has her bad days.

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Ten years ago my life really started. Once, while traveling southern Australia, I was chased by an emu. I laughed while I ran for my life while also hoping that the six-foot-tall bird didn’t peck me to death. The Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas almost had me as a clumsy fully clothed swimmer. Twice. I wore a sombrero while enjoying margaritas and fajitas on my thirty-seventh birthday and I enjoyed every minute of it. I discovered a couple years ago that Arches National Park should really be named Big Giant Cock National Park. This year I tried cannoli for the first time. Why did no one tell me it was so delicious?

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I could write you some clichés about living life to its fullest and life is short but I won’t. I will, however, tell you that if you have the opportunity to take a plane ride over Kakadu National Park in northern Australia you should without hesitation. If your brother asks you to be in his wedding and wear a bridesmaid dress even though you would rather wear combat boots and yoga pants, you should wear that dress with Wonder Woman type strength and class. When the day comes that you might fail, you shouldn’t fear it. You are stronger than you know.

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The Source of My Crazy

When I was in high school I was a socially awkward, chubby, volleyball playing artist in a new school where I knew very few people.  During my sophomore year, I entered the art room second period thinking that I was going to spend the rest of my life being a veterinarian or zoologist. Then I met Mrs. Prince.  She was a kind hearted educator with a love for gardening and art history.  This past week she passed away after battling a long illness.  It’s only now that I realize how much she affected my life.

Over three years in that large third-floor art room, Ruth Prince and I became friends.  When we were alone, we were on a first name basis and laughed daily. She suggested what classes I should be taking, not only the drawing class that she thought I would do well in, but also the sculpture and painting classes that I wasn’t as comfortable in.  She pushed me to get better.  Because of her, I know about negative space and that some of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings were….. not flowers.

Gardening was more than just a hobby for her.  Her garden was famous in Western Michigan, and people came from miles around to see it.  I looked forward to spring every year because I knew she would bring in flowers from this garden for us to draw and paint. She would take us on a field trip in the spring to see this amazing garden. My love of botany and flowers started in that garden, and in the art room while drawing gardenias and listening to Enya.

During my senior year, when I spent three of my seven class hours in the art room, she gave me pamphlets for Minneapolis College of Art and Design.  I instantly fell in love with the concept of going to art school.  She supported me wholeheartedly even though my parents (a CFO for a law firm and a postman) were not on board.  They didn’t understand how someone could make a living as an artist.  It was a foreign concept to my parents, to say the least.  Ruth Prince persisted though in her quiet way.  MCAD was the only college I applied to and I got in.  I received my acceptance letter the day that Titanic opened in theatres, and I showed the letter off to my girlfriends over popcorn and Leonardo Dicaprio.

For her departing seniors, Mrs. Prince always bought an art poster of their choosing.  I chose Van Gogh’s Starry Night.  It still hangs framed in my living room, a constant reminder of who sent me along the less traveled path.  I’ve struggled through at times but knew that I had made the right decision. Ruth’s guidance was on point and true.  Because of her, I live the awesome, artistic, adventurous life that I do.  She accepted my chaotic personality and taught me to be proud of who I was. I hope that her soul has found a beautiful garden to rest in and though she and I lost contact in recent years, I also hope that she knows the positive influence she had on my life.

Thank you, Ruth Prince, for believing in my talent and showing me how to follow my dreams.  I am forever grateful for your kindness, your knowledge, and your acceptence.  Rest in Peace.

Sleep is for Toddlers.

Four states in four days. That was the plan for my annual adventure. It was shorter than usual by a few days so I had to cram as much as possible into a short amount of time. Sleep was never part of the equation.

I arrived in Las Vegas late, well after midnight, and all the regular hotel rooms at Treasure Island were taken. That left me with an upgraded corner room with a panoramic view of the strip. Awesome, right? Mostly, except during your two hours of allotted sleep are interrupted by the Treasure Island hotel’s large plasma screen sign changing advertisements every thirty seconds. No black out curtains will keep that out.  My love/hate relationship with Las Vegas started then.

If you have ever been to Las Vegas, then you know that the quietest time of day is between four and eleven in the morning. The strip is quiet, except for the occasional runner and the last few drunk stragglers in stilettos. After I procured a $7 soy chai latte (yes, $7), I began my walk toward the Bellagio. The conservatory is my favorite location on the strip and I couldn’t wait to view their Japanese-themed spring flower show. It didn’t disappoint. Fremont Street, on the other sunburnt hand, left me feeling like old Vegas should offer more than streetside lap dances and bad cover bands playing the same tired rock songs.

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After a couple hours of sleep, I awoke the next morning ready for a trip over to California in a pink jeep.  Death Valley National Park was residing at number seven on my bucket list. I was so giddy that I didn’t mind handing over $7 for another soy chai latte. By eleven, it was 102 degrees. Walking on the salt flats should have worked up a sweat, but it evaporated quickly so I hardly noticed. What really struck me, though, was Artist’s Palette. There, the minerals in the soil and rock turn the landscape green, purple, yellow, and red. Truly a sight to behold.

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The following day, which happened to be my birthday, lead me to Antelope Canyon in Arizona. It was a long ride at over four hours one way, but the route took us through Utah so I didn’t mind. We drove by Zion National Park and it brought back memories from a previous Utah adventure.  With Antelope Canyon being such a narrow slot canyon, the sun needs to be right overhead for good lighting. At noon, the sun shone through cracks and crevices in the rock and warmed my spirits. It made rising from my beauty sleep at four that morning worth it. Suddenly the long drive in an aging tour bus that smelled slightly of dirty feet and onions was forgotten.  The sun cutting through shadow warmed my soul.

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One last full day in the desert and I had to make it count. I woke early once again took a tour with Pink Jeep Tours (they also took me to Death Valley). The group tours are small and the tour guides fun and knowledgeable.  The south rim of the Grand Canyon would be our destination, me and a family of four from New Zealand. After the long drive, it felt good to take a short hike down Bright Angel Trail and stretch the legs a bit.  The scent of ponderosa pine trees and sage kept my mind at ease while I put my camera aside and took in the sights. Here, where I was hoping to see a rattlesnake, I ended up seeing a dozen elk instead. I couldn’t have asked for a better last day in the desert.

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Back in Las Vegas, I packed up my possessions which never seem to fit back in the suitcase even though I had room to spare when I left home. When I landed in Minneapolis the next day, I was thrilled that I no longer had to pay $7 for a soy chai latte but could have done without the forty degree temperature difference. Maybe it will be warm when the fourth of July arrives. Maybe. Until then, the desert warmth calls to me while I dream.

In the End, They Always Find Me

Normally I plan my projects well in advance. As I draw one subject, the back of my mind is already hunting for the next.  My brain is always on the prowl. Forever searching for inspiration in any place it can find it. My hands greedily take it and draw, knowing where I would like a drawing to go.

Snow Leopards

Like the food snow leopards search for in a stark mountain landscape, inspiration is often elusive.  It is blown off course by the wind of a strong storm. Whiteout conditions blind your vision.  All you can see is a polar bear in a snowstorm because life steps in and hurls an obstacle into your path.

 

Black Phillip GoatDark, inspirationless days turn into sleepless nights. Drawings that want nothing more than to be realized haunt your dreams relentlessly.  One dream, in particular, left the inside of my skull hurting as a temperamental black goat tried to poison my mind.

In the end, it seemed all he wanted was to be put on paper. Colored pencil layered over watercolor on a dark sheet of paper was all it took to banish him from my mind, him and that not so innocent smile he wears.

 

ViperIn depths of winter, I find myself thinking of warmer climates. The desert often comes to mind but the occasional foray into the jungle is equally tempting. I am reminded of many hikes through such places without a single encounter with a snake.  Warnings about the dangers of those that slither met my ears, but I’ve never come across one on an adventure.  Maybe next time.

 

Earth Day 2017This winter, an unusually mild one, also brought thoughts of those in the arctic.  The large herd of Canadian caribou, whose numbers are on a slow decline, have stayed with me throughout the spring.  I worry about them, as I do all the animals I draw.  One caribou (and a hummingbird) became the centerpiece of the 2017 Earth Day drawing.

Even as I write this I know many are so tired of politics that hearing about Earth Day in our current political environment makes eyes roll.  I do understand. I’m tired of it all too.  That won’t stop me from trying to save our planet in what might already be a losing battle.  I donate part of the proceeds of my animal drawing series to the World Wildlife Fund.  The WWF works to fight the effects of climate change, protects endangered species, and works to keep less vulnerable animals from the same fate. If you would like to know more about the drawings I donate, visit my Etsy page.  If you would like to read more about the WWF or donate to them directly, please visit their website.

Stupid Cupid Had a Great Fall

They come around every year. Those holidays that really aren’t holidays. You don’t get a paid day off from work. Instead you get out of bed and head to work like it is any other day. Your kids go to school with full knowledge that they will spend their day eating candy and giving out pink heart shaped cards. Stores fill their shelves with heart shaped propaganda in shades of pastel pink, magenta, and blood red. Naked baby cherubs with cute bows and arrows stare down at you with mocking whimsical smiles. Flower shops order extra roses in hopes of enticing those of us who forgot to get our loved one a dying flower on a Tuesday. Restaurants fill to capacity with couples trying for romance, which is something that they shouldn’t need a holiday to tell them they should try for. But there it is, on every calendar known to man and womankind: Valentine’s Day.

Not all of us like this love themed holiday. The dislike is not about being single or grieving a lost love. Some of us just prefer our romance not be planned out by stores and restaurants. Sometimes, romance is pizza and beer with your partner while the kids are at Grandmas. Romance can be found in the negative space that surrounds our lives, giving us the opportunity to poke fun at such a holiday. Here are some fun ways to cope with Valentine’s Day for those of us who prefer laughter and spontaneity over glossy red heart shaped pieces of 80 pound cover stock.

1. Bring a couple bags of chocolate hearts to work. Before you put them out to share with your coworkers, break all the hearts in half. If they are wrapped in foil then wrap them back up after the hearts are broken. If people expect you to be depressed about you single status, you might as well live up to the hype. An added bonus to this strategy is that people are less likely to eat all the chocolate you brought once they realized that you touched them all. It means more Dove Dark awesomeness for you.

2. Have a chick flick movie and wine night with your other single friends and watch movies about friendship. Sometimes, all it takes to lift your spirits is good company and a bottle of red. Some good choices are “Muriel’s Wedding” and “Bride Wars”. If chick flicks aren’t your thing, “The Goonies” and “Breakfast Club” are good choices from the eighties.

3. Throw condom water balloons covered in glitter at lovey-dovey couples that pass by your home. Even if the condom doesn’t break you will still get glitter on passerby and they will be reminded of your treachery for the remainder of their romantic evening. If the condom does break, it will be an ironic reminder of the benefits of the birth control pill.

4. Put a Valentine’s Day tree in your office break room (a mini Christmas tree will work, or a droopy plant). Decorate it with headless cupids, black roses, and empty condom wrappers. You did make the condom water balloons after all. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

5. Send yourself a carnivorous plant at work. Venus fly traps are relatively easy to care for. When it arrives, caress it lovingly and water it. During your lunch break feed it some bugs you bought at the pet store. Make sure at least one person is trying to eat their lunch while you do this. Talk to it like it is the love of your life and nickname it Baby. Offer your coworker a bug to eat when you catch them staring at you.

6. You know that rotting pumpkin you forgot to throw away after Halloween? Bring it to work and set it outside the main entrance. Put a sign on it that reads “Cupids latest victim”.

7. Buy some extra small condoms. Fill them with the leftover glitter from your water balloons and tie the open end in a knot. Attach pink valentines that say “Hope your date is bigger than mine”. Give them out to random strangers.

8. Have a horror movie marathon. “Warm Bodies” is a good spin on “Romeo and Juliet” and it’s about zombies. “My Bloody Valentine” was made for Cupid’s big day. If you want something not related to Valentine’s Day then “The Bride of Frankenstein”, “Psycho”, and “The Perfect Guy” are all good examples of love gone over the deep end. Bloody Mary’s would be a good choice with this marathon.

9. Dress in all black and let your hair fall limply in your face. When your coworkers ask what is wrong, stare at them forlornly until they get uncomfortable and back slowly away. If they persist in wrangling an answer out of you, tell them you wanted your clothes to match the darkness of your mortal soul.

10. Make sugar cookies that are dyed red. Use gingerbread men cookie cutters. Before you frost with icing, casually break off random heads, arms, and legs until your cookies look like a Jack the Ripper victims. Frost the cookies, both the broken off pieces and the bodies. Neatly stack the bodies on a plate and put the body parts in a separate bowl. Put a sign next to them that reads “Stupid Cupid sat on a wall. Stupid Cupid had a big fall. All the Kings horses and all the Kings men didn’t bother putting Stupid Cupid together again”.

One Drawing at a Time

Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I am a big supporter of saving our planet from climate change. This isn’t meant to be political. It’s just the truth. I want to do what little I can to help.

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I have been working on a drawing series dedicated to animals since I started my business in 2010. Since then, my photography has been added into the mix as well. It was my hope when I started the series that I could raise some awareness and help save some critters.

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Keeping in with that theme, I started donating 50% of the revenue from this drawing and photography series to the World Wildlife Fund. The WWF concentrates it’s efforts fighting climate change and protecting endangered animals and habitats. If you would like to know more about the WWF, please visit their website at www.worldwildlife.org.

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If you would like to know more about my animal portrait drawing series, please visit the Animal Portrait section of my Etsy page.

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Now, more than ever, helping our environment feels like the right thing to do. A planet without wildlife isn’t one I want to live in. Lets give future generations a planet that is as beautiful as it is plentiful.

A MinneAdventure

It was a hot day, all those years ago, when my parents left me at my college dorm with my two new roommates. One of those women I am still friends with today, and had you told me that day that I would find a permanent home in Minneapolis, I probably would not have believed you.

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Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis

There have been ups and downs. The lowest point was my junior year at MCAD. A perfect storm of circumstances (my computer crashing and losing my entire semesters worth of work three weeks before semester end was the least of it) left me not wanting to return to school for one final year. It took a great professor to talk me down from the ledge. I would have regretted not coming back, and I would probably be back in small town Michigan working at Walmart or Quality Farm and Fleet. That lifestyle was never for me.

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Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis

The best of times ebb and flow over the years, as I have picked up some life long friends along the way. Birthdays have been celebrated. Jobs have come and gone. Apartments have been moved in and out of. Boyfriends made life better and sometimes worse. Neighborhoods have changed. I have changed too, for the better I hope.

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Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis

The Twin Cities fit my personality. St. Paul is slower paced and friendly in a Minnesota Nice kind of way, which fits my introverted side. Minneapolis fits my extroverted side, with it’s constant change and fast paced atmosphere. I love that I can get coffee at eleven o’clock at night if I need to pull an all nighter in the art studio.

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Mississippi River, Minneapolis

This summer has been especially amazing. From an eventful State Fair, to seeing people come together after Prince passed away, to walking and cycling my way around the city, and drawing and photographing everything in my path, I can honestly say that my city is amazing.

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Farm Machinery, Minnesota State Fair

Thank you, Minneapolis, for being my home for so many years. Thank you to all the amazing people I have met along the way. You have taught me a lot about myself and about life. I’m hoping the next eighteen years bring just as much enjoyment to my life as the first eighteen.

Together With Solitude

I’m not what anyone would call a religious person. I was raised in a catholic household, but do not practice the religion. Or any religion. Being spiritual but not religious (and sometimes identifying more with the agnostic persuasion)  puts me in a small group of people who don’t identify with any religion, but live our lives by simply trying to be good people. We make our own fate. We go after the things we want or need without asking a higher power for guidance. We try, but don’t always succeed, in giving as much as we take. When something bad happens, we try to do more than send thoughts and prayers to help (not that thoughts and prayers are a bad thing).

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The Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis

It’s simple really. I’ve found peace with it over the years. Wanting to see the world, but tired of trying to find a travel companion, I started traveling by myself. The solitude brought me peace of mind that I was never able to find before.

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The Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis

The Grand Canyon made me realize that I need to make my own happiness a priority. The Australian Outback taught me that the world is both bigger and smaller than I could ever imagine. Yosemite National Park brought beauty into my life. The companions I met in the National Parks of Utah proved to me that I can let people in and not get hurt. Alcatraz, of all places, showed me the ghosts of our past are meant to teach us to live better in the future. Live and learn.

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The Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis

Over the years, while living in Minneapolis, I have avoided seeing the many churches around the city for what they were. Religion made me uncomfortable. So many people in my past used religion to hate. Christian values seemed to give anyone the right to judge someone else as they perceived God would, regardless of the ignorant hatred it caused. It never sat right with me. I stayed away, missing the beauty that lay within.

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The Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis

The last couple of years, I’ve been able to let go of that part of me. I realized the beauty of the architecture of my cities many churches were there for everyone to enjoy and feel close to. I can appreciate their beauty without feeling trapped by the constraints I felt from religion. Recently, I explored the Basilica of St. Mary in downtown Minneapolis for only the second time in 18 years of living here. It’s beauty is amazing, even for the spiritual but not religious and often agnostic person.

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The Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis

I’ve accepted who I am because I try to live my life well and do some good for others along the way. I’m not sure if whatever higher power that might be out there is okay with that, but I am. Having the Basilica to myself for an hour this week taught me that.

Daydreams About The Desert

The day was hot yesterday. Turns out, the heat makes me miss the Utah desert. I found my mind wandering into desert vistas. Hiking through awe inspiring sandstone formations and sun baked sand is where I wanted to be. The smell of sage and ponderosa pine surrounding my senses. Hiking until my legs shook and then hiking some more. A day dreamers paradise.

With the desert on my mind, today’s new featured Etsy listings include photographs of Arches National Park and Capital Reef National Park in Utah. Also, photographs of a textured leaf, a butterfly and a bromeliad (all taken recently while on some local Twin Cities walks and hikes).

bromeliad-2Bromeliad Fine Art Print

Print Sizes: 5×7, 8×10, 11×14

Medium: Macro Photography

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Found this beautiful bromeliad at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in St. Paul, Minnesota. It made me smile when I first noticed it.


arches-devils-garden-5Devil’s Garden, Arches National Park, Fine Art Print

Print Sizes: 5×7, 8×10, 11×14

Medium: Digital Photography

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Arches National Park is huge. On of my favorite hikes was in Devil’s Garden. Trails along the edges of towering sandstone rock formations make for some lovely views.


textured-leaf-6Textured Leaf Fine Art Print

Print Sizes: 5×7, 8×10, 11×14

Medium: Digital Photography

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When walking around my Minneapolis, I often happen across gardens or cemeteries that I had no idea were there. This photo was taken recently in a garden a couple blocks from where I live.


capital-reef-treesCapital Reef National Park, Utah,  Fine Art Print

Print Sizes: 5×7, 8×10, 11×14

Medium: Digital Photography

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Looking back, Capital Reef National Park remains my favorite of Utah’s national parks. Perhaps is was the smaller crowds. Perhaps it was the sun setting over Hickman Bridge. Perhaps it was the cave I happened across. Or… Perhaps it was the awesome creepy dead trees and volcanic black rocks. Yeah… the creepy dead trees…


butterflyButterfly Fine Art Print

Print Sizes: 5×7, 8×10, 11×14

Medium: Digital Photography

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The Como Zoo in St. Paul converted the edible garden to a butterfly sanctuary this summer. I couldn’t be happier about this.

Patterns Of Summer

It’s a warm day in the city, but not as warm as the day before. A breeze blows benignly. A bird sings a new song. A fish jumps in a local lake. A cicada buzzes on nearby tree. They are the sounds that I look forward too every year while enduring the depths of winter.

petunia-pinkMonday mornings are calm at the gardens around the city, as most people make their way to air-conditioned office buildings. While they breath in their recycled air, I breath in the scents of petunias, lilies, and roses. Everything is green now,  as the summer flowers give splashes of pinks, oranges, yellows, and purples. I listen as a rabbit hops out for under a rose-bush, its escape likely since I have no desire to give chase.


textured-leaf-2Leaves of yellow and shades of green draw me in close, hypnotizing me with their calming patterns. Symmetrical and asymmetrical at the same time, my mind plays tricks as if they were a Rorschach test. I’m convinced Caladium leaves are narcissists, adding pink and white to their faces to gain the attention of others.


spider-webA spider web hangs loosely over a pond, accepting summers gifts in the form of unsuspecting insects. The thin skeleton of string reflects in the sunlight, but its master is nowhere to be found. The spider lays in wait for its next prey, hidden in shadow.

 


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Elsewhere, a butterfly rests on a leaf. It cannot hide in shadow. The wings made of blues and oranges stand out in a sea of green. There is no mistaking what it is. Its agile flight is gentle and whimsical. The most delicate of winged creatures, the patterns on its flying apparatus remind me once more of a Rorschach test. Perhaps this garden plays mind tricks on me today.


brassia-orchid-3As I wander aimlessly, something I do so rarely, I happen across some orchids. Brassia orchids, with their green spots and yellow petals.  Their scent invades my nostrils with the best of intentions, only to make me sneeze. Sneaky orchids, sending pollen my way. Perhaps they, too, work against me.  I know I sound mildly crazy, but would you rather I quote songs about summer lovin’ and having me a blast? It would happen so fast (sorry, I had to), me delving into that depth of madness. So, I’ll spare you anymore quotes from John Travolta musicals and leave you to enjoy your Summer Solstice. It truly is a beautiful day for it.