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Month: June 2018

Planet Gazing

Planet Gazing

When I moved into my house twenty-one years ago, I made cafe-style curtains for the five windows in my bedroom, which is in the back of the house. I wanted to be able to wake up and see the sky as soon as I opened my eyes. At night, the moon shines into the room, and when it is clear I see some stars even though I’m only two blocks from several busy intersections.

Some years ago, I realized that the brightest “stars” were planets. I’ve read a few books by armature astronomers, seen a few presentations, and I try to remember which planets are in which window. Last Saturday night, I actually saw the planets.

On the third Saturday of the month, weather permitting, the local astronomers set up their telescopes and invite the public to come see our universe. I had been seeing a notice in the newspaper for at least the last two years, but never got around to going. I’d put it on my calendar on Tuesday and come Saturday we had clouds all day. Or, I’d get busy in the yard and decide that finishing what I was doing was more important.

This event, by members of the Stockton Astronomical Society, (, is held at Oak Grove Regional Park on Eight Mile Road in San Joaquin County, along side of I-5 going north from Stockton, about three miles from my home.

I got there before dark so I could look over the park, because I drive by frequently, but had never actually been inside it. The park is loaded with ducks and other birds. The day had been hot, but the Delta breeze was making it a perfect night.

Venus is the brightest planet and the first to appear in the west just after sunset above the trees. For a brief time, Mercury could be seen as a bright pin- point between two trees near the horizon.

The moon had been visible since late afternoon, high in the sky looking south. I saw its lacy-looking surface in the first telescope I looked into. There were eight or nine telescopes of all sizes set up by individual owners.

As the sky darkened, Jupiter became visible just to the right of the moon. I was getting acquainted with some of the astronomers and their family members. The owner of the scope gets the planet in view so each visitor can take a look. When I looked at Jupiter through the scope I was surprised to see three round balls next to it all in a row, similar to this photo, but they were graduated in size and looked like little creatures following mama.  Amazing!

Jupiter with moons in a row on right

There was a lot of standing around and waiting for darkness so more things would be visible. I was watching the people. And making a mental list of things to bring next month. Like a chair, a flash light, and munchies.

One of the astronomers told us that he has a set up at home to take photos of stars and other space objects, like a star that blew up in 1054, which somehow he saves on his phone. Fascinating. Way beyond anything I can understand.

To the east, Saturn appeared near the horizon. We had to wait until it moved up in the sky a little and somewhat clear of the “dust” from earth. By now it was dark, and many more people had come to look through the scopes.

Saturn tilted

Saturn was tilted so its rings looked like a doughnut standing on its side, bright yellow with a touch of orange. What I saw in the center was the grey ball of the planet. This image is the closest I could find on the net. We were told Saturn will be better next month.

By this time, my body was telling me it had stood around enough for one night. Next time I come out, I’ll know what to expect, and I’ll stay longer and see the stars.


Color – Influence or Reflection?

Color – Influence or Reflection?

Lilies in Marilyn’s garden

My garden was a riot of color in April and May, but it is settling into a more sustainable level of bloom for the hot months ahead. The lilies above show up while rose bushes and other plants are reorganizing to bloom again. Having brilliant color in my life is so important to me.

In the years I was weaving, I accumulated a good size stash of spooled and coned yarns in an enormous color range, and I still have a lot of it. Last week, as I made a repair on a woven item that I had picked up at an estate sale, I looked though my cabinets trying to find similar colors.

Just looking at the colored yarns is a delight, an emotional tug to play with them again. I get lost in the color so easily. Color is a huge influence on what I’m attracted to, and this is probably true for most people. Like who pays attention to ads with small black type on a white background?

This seems to be innate in creation—birds and insects are attracted by the colors of plants that will provide them the food they need. I’m personally most attracted to greens, particularly those that lean toward blue, like teal and aqua. I’m so attracted to this color that I can easily spot burr clover anywhere in my yard. If I see an item of clothing this color in a store, I must stop and look at it.

The emphasis on grey for decorating makes no sense to me. There is no energy in this boring color. So, when I come across articles in magazines or the newspaper promoting this trend I ignore them. Two years ago my dentist started to redecorate her office a little at a time. Now the walls, floor, and counters are all shades of grey, with black window blinds. It doesn’t look bad, but it is somehow disturbing. Going to the dentist is depressing enough.

From my limited perspective, it seems that the people who decide on the colors for the manufacture of clothing, vehicles, and home or business decor are in dense urban environments with lots of concrete. So we have car dealers displaying black, white, and grey cars and trucks, with a few bright reds.

For the last number of years the color of clothing, even for summer, tends to be dark, muted, and mottled. Not to mention that the styles do little to enhance the appearance of our less than perfect bodies.

On the other hand, I see photos in my local newspaper of ordinary citizens promoting and attending community events that are full of color and energy.

The question in my mind is: are the designers trying to influence how we feel about our culture through the colors they choose, or are they reflecting the mood of the culture they are part of?


The Whirlwind at Grandma’s House

The Whirlwind at Grandma’s House

Baskets have been made all over the globe for thousands of years, usually with a specific purpose in mind. Some were for storing foods, used as cooking pots, to separate grain from chaff, or as containers for carrying things from place to place.

Last summer at the Ship Wreck Museum in Key West,

Baskets around jars.

I saw basket covered wine jugs that had been recovered from wrecks. The basketry probably protected the jugs from breaking on the long ocean voyages, and provided a handle.

Traditional baskets were made from whatever natural materials were at hand using tree bark, branches, grasses, and even roots. Today there are basket makers who still follow the traditional shapes and designs, but there are others who use basket materials and techniques to make more sculptural forms that are not intended to be containers that store things.

I usually begin a basket by deciding I want to work with a certain material, maybe yarn, some cord I like, or something I find in my yard or at the beach.

In late summer of 2011, my three granddaughters and their parents made a quick trip to the Bay Area for a family wedding. They stopped by my home for a one day visit before heading back to Camas, Washington.

My granddaughters with their uncle and cousin

My other son, who lives a bit north of Sacramento, brought his family here and we had a cookout.

While the adults sat and talked, the four children ran around my big yard making up games. At one point they asked for a deck of cards. The kids had so much energy, the day went by like a whirlwind.

Walking through my yard the next day, I picked up a long green branch with a few leaves which appeared to have been torn off the sycamore tree. I suspected someone was swinging on it like Tarzan. Then, I spotted four playing cards a short distance away.

Grandma Meets the Whirlwind

Instead of putting the branch into the green waste bin, I wound it around a few times until I had a shape I liked. I inserted the playing cards, still in the shape of my grandson’s hand, between two circles of branch, and named it “Grandma Meets the Whirlwind.”

This is the quickest I have ever made a basket. It reminds me of a perfect day with all my family.



In the middle of May, I needed to get my work tables cleared off so I could have space to sort the ephemera I have collected over the last two years. Ephemera— I just looked the word up in the dictionary—means “for the day, short lived,” and is also the name of a group of insects like May flies.

Mixed media artists use the word to refer to odd things that are attached to art pieces to add interest, texture, and complexity, fill in spaces, and give the work a personal touch. Some things that are commonly used are small artificial flowers, plastic gear shapes, beads, and ribbons.

For me and my collage artist friends, ephemera is anything we find that catches our interest, and appears to have been abandoned or no longer needed. For instance, I have acquired frames from glasses that have been driven over numerous times in parking lots, which are easy to use because they are so flat.

Ephemera & glasses frame on book cover

My favorite place to acquire and enlarge my stash is in the garages of estate sales. Dusty box lids or jars with odd nuts, bolts, washers, screws, extra pieces of things—junk to most normal people—can be had for small change. I also find all sorts of junk in my yard, even after twenty-one years. Rusty wire, nails, shoe cleats, hooks, as well as bird feathers, seed pods, butterfly wings, palm bark fiber, and termite sculptured wood pieces, to name just a few.

On my “To Do” list for May 15, was to put away the junk on the drawing board. I had been dropping things here all though March, intending to make a collage as soon as I could get to it. By May, I’d rather lost the “want to” feeling, but when I looked at the items, I quickly decided it would take longer to put each of them away in their designated container than to assemble the collage.

Collage: March 2018

The large yellow sales receipt is from the mattress I bought in December, 1996, which I had just replaced with a new one. I have been cutting up old magazines for months, and found an article about the San Joaquin Delta, just west of here, with a nice map, as well as the two square photos of animals.

The odd dark shape in the lower right is some palm bark fiber which landed in my driveway. The half circle next to it was found on my lawn. It is half of a label from a spool of wire . The twig in the center is from the birch tree outside my dining room. I don’t know which bird left me the orange and black feather. The rusty nail is the latest one I found.

This 10” x 10” collage is glued to watercolor paper, but still needs to be mounted on a stiffer surface to keep it flat.

Over the holiday weekend I sorted my metal ephemera, including some weird things in the garage that came with the house. I have it all in same size plastic containers, arranged so I can see what I have at a glance. Ah, the satisfaction of a project completed.

Until last Friday, when I went looking for a sprinkler part in the garage, and discovered a drawer of pieces for things that I no longer know what they came with. Some of them look very much like what I was sorting. More ephemera.