Sunday, March 29, 2009


Yesterday I spent the day with some of my favorite people: my twin daughters, their husbands AND my only grandchild. We've all decided that this girl is going to be either a model or an actress because she LOVES to pose. Today she said "Grandma--look at me. I'm a mermaid". So, just had to post a photo of her because she makes me bubble inside. And, isn't that what it is all about?

She loves to draw and paint, has her own easel and when she doesn't have paint or paper convenient she'll paint with a brush and water on the cement! She doesn't need inspiration...everything is inspiration to and for her. She has the BEST imagination too. In the course of the day she was the mermaid, the painter, the T-Rex dinosauer, the sun-bather, and the princess, replete with her princess cape (blanket). She is one special girl and I never get tired of seeing how her imagination takes hold of her.

I wrote a book a short time ago that I self-published entitled "Natalie J. Bird---Imagination Way". I wrote and illustrated it and despite it being very small (only 6 pages) I am proud of it because it emulates her. The pen and ink drawings are of her and her shadow, which she was always curious about. Having taken care of her for over 2 years daily I really got to know her personality and I really have to say that her and I have a special relationship. I feel like her and I don't have to speak in order to understand each other.

I also have a couple of grand-dogs too. Each of them have their own unique qualities and individual looks. I love both of them in different ways and don't have a favorite. It's sort of like your kids: you love them all the same but in different ways and for different qualities. Not one more than the other ever. But, check out this picture of Taylor with her "gorilla lips"!. She just makes me smile!

How could anyone not love that face!! Sweet as can be. Funny yes...but sweet. I will have to post another picture of the other granddog sometime. He is a character too. It just goes to show you that "love is all there is", right? We can lose money in the stockmarket, we can lose our jobs, we can not be able to afford to go out to dinner all the time or buy the latest clothes, BUT...we can love our animals and our family with all we have. That is really all you need.

What I find helps me get through all the trying times in my life lately ARE my friends and family. Who would have thought that a birthday party at the local bar in town where they play karaoke would be so much fun! Our friend, Sunny, who is almost exactly 9 months older than our twin daughters, turned 33 last week and decided to invite all her public defender friends from work up to "The Georgetown Hotel" for an evening of singing and birthday celebration. Now, not being the kind of person who ever goes to "the bar" (it has a history of bar fights and some sordid characters), I was a bit reluctant to attend. But, not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings I decided to "suck it up" and just go "for Sunny's sake". Well, I have to tell you that these public defenders know how to have a good time. Maybe it is the fact that they are seeing the worst every working day and still having to find the positive spin to defend the public, but they sure know how to have fun. Nothing but smiles, nothing but positive comments, AND some pretty good singing voices too.!!

Karaoke is a funny thing: give a person a microphone and an audience and the inhibitions soon fade away. And, not always are the voices what they are supposed to be. Does singing behind that microphone and reading the words cascading down the screen make a person a better singer? Hardly ever! But, that night there were some pretty good voices; some powerful voices. And, it was fun and entertaining. Soon the bar was flooded with outsiders not associated with the birthday party. Maybe people are drawn to the sound of laughter and frivolity.

It just made me think: isn't that what we all want in our lives? To be with people who make us laugh until our cheeks hurt, to sing songs with people we love, to dance when the music moves us? I know that I really enjoyed myself and I didn't even have to drink to do it! Life is funny...when you least expect it (and in places you would never expect it) you can find people who are willing to come together and release all their inhibitions and create a positive experience for themselves and others.

It reminded me of artists in a way. Artists throughout history have typically been on the cutting-edge of what is going on in politics and around world. And, these happenings are not always positive; most often they are some really trying times filled with negativity. But, artists can put a spin on things that makes them seem better. Artists know how to buffer the feelings somehow and turn them into a forum that makes people aware, makes people think and conntemplate, makes people figure out ways to cope or fix potential pain and anguish. Art is not ALL about anguish and angst but when it is, it gives the public a way to deal with it and possibly make a difference...even make it right in some respects. Artists are like the "public defenders" in the art world. We know how to find the positive spin in something and turn it around in a piece of art.

We know how to do this because we know how to examine things. We know how to dissect something, take what we need from it, and then return it (not always with all the original elements in tact or even being utilized) to a form that has been re-thought and re-worked. We have altered the original but we have made something new and original to us. I find all this to be incredible and it is why I am an artist. I enjoy thinking, rearranging, changing, and putting forth something original with a positive spin on it. It, to me, is what life is all about.

I can put all this in one simple word (or two). It is THE QUEST. Plain and simple. This may not be what other artists are feeling but it is what I am feeling. It is how I explain what I do and why I do it. And ultimately, that is all that matters. I don't have to have approval or recognition to do my art. I don't even think I have to understand WHY I do it. I just have to do it.

Consider these words: SEARCH--PURSUIT--JURY OF INQUEST--AN ACT OR INSTANCE OF SEEKING--TO SEARCH A TRAIL--TO SEARCH FOR--TO ASK FOR--QUESTION=an interrogative expression often used to test knowledge-- CROSS-EXAMINE--CHANCE--POSSIBILITY. Are these not all related to public defenders AND to artists? The verdict is in for me: GUILTY AS CHARGED!!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009


There was a time in my life that I actually used to type on these. I did always enjoy the sound of the keys clicking as I typed but I hated it when I made a mistake and had to put a little strip of paper in behind the roller to be able to erase it. It is much easier to use a computer when it comes to making mistakes. You can spell check, hit the delete key, hit the backspace key, all those great things that modern inventions offer to those of us who are willing to make the change.

I still cannot get rid of my typewriters. They are a part of me and give me a touchstone to where I have been and where I have come from. I was prompted to read Jack Kerouac's bio on Wikipedia because of M. Heart's reference to being related to him via marriage (I hope I got that right!). I was amazed to read that at one point when he was taking a cross-country trip he took a bunch of tissue paper, ripped it to the size that would fit into his typewriter, and then taped all the strips together in a huge roll so that he could continually write while he was traveling. Now, that is dedication. And, that is certainly old school.

The computer generation has certainly changed the way that people do things as far as writing or keeping in touch. Wouldn't it be odd to see everyone at Starbuck's with their typewriters and long rolls of paper typing away? Besides being huge and cumbersome, it would just be plain distracting to hear all those keys clanking away while you were trying to enjoy a peaceful cup of tea or coffee.

I wish that my mother wouldn't be so frightened about learning something new. We have tried to give her a computer and show her what to do but she is dead set against learning anything new. If she wants to make reservations on-line she asks her friend to do it for her. If she wants to send a virtual birthday card to her grandson in Wales, she asks her friend to do it for her. At what point do you say to yourself "Enough is enough. I need to move forward in my life and learn new things?" Is it the fact that she is just not curious? There is a wealth of knowledge inside that computer just waiting to grace you with it's presence.

I don't think that I could get by without my computer. I feel that it is an extension of me in some way. It is my outlet and my confession box. I am glad that I was not frightened to learn something new like my mother. Granted, there are still things that I have to say "uncle" to and ask my husband for his help. Some things just don't sink in. But, I am learning more than I ever thought I was capable of. I have learned that the key is to just do it and not be afraid. I used to be afraid that I would lose everything if I did something wrong. Now, I have learned to back everything up and just take the leap.

It is good to be from an old school environment but not live an old school life. I admit, there are certain things that are fun to move away from but yet there are certain things that you want to keep around forever: old cars, typewriters, claw-foot bathtubs, actual books vs. books on a Kindle, some vintage clothing and jewelry, old paintings, and old quilts. Some things you just can't improve upon and they get better with age.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come.

Chinese proverb

This is a heart-shaped bottle that is sitting on my bedroom window sill. It is filled with sea glass that I have collected from various trips to the ocean throughout the years. From this view I can see down the road but my only neighbors are the trees and their inhabitants.

The trees at this time of the year are still bare from their Winter sleep but they will soon be bursting with new leaves.

Down the road approximately a mile and lower in elevation, the trees are starting to produce their annual leaves. As the new leaves start to unfurl they produce a great color that is really hard to describe. It is not quite brown and not quite green. but, by looking at it you know that it is filled with life and ready to start a new season. they are "turning over a new leaf", literally. New nesting places for the birds, new food for the squirrels, new food for the caterpillars, etc. Nature is incredible and quite the creator.

Mother Nature is the original artist. I look toward her for inspiration at points in my life; actually most points in my life. She can paint with such a broad stroke and doesn't concern herself with which colors belong next to each other. On the other hand, she can make finite decisions and details that I could not begin to imagine on my own. Wouldn't it be great if she would teach a class at the ocean some day? I could use a little R&R away from home. And more sea glass for my heart bottle.

I'm sure that if I was really paying attention I would find that she is teaching me classes each and every day. I am just not always looking or paying attention. That is the thing about life: you have to realize how lucky you are to be here and really be present in the moment; the NOW.

Each and every day there are a multitude of opportunities to create, explore, and experiment. I have to remind myself that it is OK if things are not perfect and that everything doesn't have to match and be exactly "right". Wasn't it Bob Ross who used to call it a "happy accident?" I used to laugh at him and the way that he taught painting on TV but now I think that really he had the right idea. He was doing it at least. He was exploring and experimenting. I'm sure he had some mistakes but then every once in awhile there was that "happy accident" --that AH-HA! moment.

I promise myself to create more; to explore and experiment no matter what the outcome might be. I, too, will be turning over a new leaf. Anyone want to join me at the ocean? Mother Nature is calling...

Thursday, March 26, 2009


I was inspired this morning by "Secret Notebooks-Wild Pages" comment on finding a heart that someone had drawn on her path to work from the parking lot. The bonus was that someone had drawn one on her ingress and then again on her egress! She will be reminded each and every day to enjoy life and cherish the love that she finds each day.

This is a drawing of three rocks that I have found along the way. I have a "thing" for hearts and have them everywhere. When I walk with my head down to the ground I seem to find heart rocks along the way. I have a huge collection of them now and this grouping that I did with colored pencils is titled "Three Sisters."

Was it John Lennon who sang "All You Need Is Love?" He was right you know. That is all anyone needs in life. That and good health to enjoy it. I am reminded today how lucky I am to have love in my life. I have a great husband, two identical twin girls and their husbands (they married brothers, if you can believe THAT!), and a wonderful (almost four years old) granddaughter. I have other family: a sister, a mother, assorted aunts and uncles, and friends but those closest to me are the ones that I cherish the most. They really touch my heart. They are my best friends in addition to being my love. Without them I think that I would be a hollow shell.

It is good to have a heart on our path every day. It is good to be reminded that we make a difference in someone's life. It is good to know that there are people in the world whom we have never met but yet they hold some of our most precious thoughts and dreams to be true also. It gives you hope that if enough hearts are spread throughout the world that perhaps we can erase the hatred and bigotry that still exists.

Thanks for the reminder M. Heart. I promise to spread the word and keep passing it on. Spread the hearts and share the love. Love is all you need! (Insert music here)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


This is actually a sign that has been on the road for as long as I can remember. I think someone has painted it yellow in the last year or so but it is still there on the road.

When we first moved here over 35 years ago from the Bay Area, we thought it was great that we lived so close to a lake. Little did we know that it was just an over-sized pond once we started looking for it. It is actually a reservoir for the water supply and used to be a great place to hang out when we first moved here.

When we first moved here we were in our early 20's, had just bought a piece of property without power, phone, or well and were determined to "live off the land". We arrived in our 1949 International school bus that had been converted into a "motor home". We didn't know any better at the time and thought we really had it made. We were happy to tote our water, to use kerosene lamps at night for light, and use an out-house. We soon drilled a well so the toting water part ended but it was about a year before we actually started building our home.

We were "hippies" I guess you could say. We were the only ones out of our entire group of friends who actually took the leap and decided to quit our jobs, move away from home and our ties to family and friends, and go off seeking something that was more important to us at the time: peace AND quiet. We had survived the 60's and the Viet Nam war and decided we wanted nothing to do with society and it's ills. We wanted to "tune in and drop out". And, that is exactly what we did. It was great and felt so rebellious and "right" (actually left!!).

Things have changed dramatically for us since then although I think that some of our friends still view us as "different". We aren't concerned with latest fashions, we don't spend lots of money on things we don't need, we work around our house most days but don't consider it work. But we have all the amenities that go along with raising children and buying back-in to society's commercialism. We have a remodeled kitchen complete with granite counter-tops and stainless steel appliances. We drive modern vehicles and have sold the 1949 International school bus although my husband still "looks" for it along the roads, hoping in the back of his mind that he may find it again some day. Nostalgia I guess. But, you can never go back.

GREENWOOD--BEYOND COOL is an actual bumper sticker that someone came up with and every once in awhile you will see a car around here with it stuck to the bumper. It says it all though: We live in Greenwood which is about 8 or 10 miles down Highway 193 past the town of Cool. Yes, Cool! It is a one-street town. It has a gas station, a fire station, a market, hair salon, deli, real estate offices, and a few other stores. Greenwood, on the other hand, is also a one-street town but there is really NO town. About the only thing you can buy in Greenwood is a drink at the local bar because Greenwood only consists of a local bar and the post office. That's it!!!

It also says that Greenwood is a great place to retire and it is also a pretty COOL place to live. It is actually BEYOND COOL if there really is such a thing. I love the sound of the word GREENWOOD. It sounds good. It conjures up good images. It is where I feel most comfortable and where I can live in PEACE AND QUIET. I can go to bed at night and hear the sounds of frogs croaking in the pond. I can turn off my lights at night and see millions of stars, not obscured by street lights or high-rises, or neighbors all around me. Living on 8.5 acres of land in the "middle of nowhere" has it's benefits.

I guess we knew what we were doing when we left the Bay Area all those many years ago. I am happy that we didn't get stuck in a place that we wouldn't want to be most often; a place crowded with people and cars. We were lucky: when we came home on Friday nights after a long work week, were were happy to be in a place that we didn't feel the urge to leave. Sometimes it is more quiet here than most places we go on vacation.

We don't go to Greenwood Lake anymore. They have taken all the picnic tables away and have basically blocked it off. is good to know that the sign is still there, pointing the way towards home and BEYOND! That's PRETTY COOL!!!

Monday, March 23, 2009


When I was working for the county one summer I was lucky enough to go down many country roads each day. I found this great garden shed on some one's property one day and was lucky enough to have my digital camera with me. From that day on, I never left the county yard without my camera. There were just too many good things that I would miss each day if I didn't have it with me.
I learned that summer that there are so many creative people that may or may not want the recognition. Some people just do it because they have an inner desire to create something. They are not doing it for anyone else but themselves. I think that the owner of this shed was really excited when I commented about how wonderful it was and asked him if I could photograph it. I even printed a copy of it and delivered it to him personally later that week. He was happy to have it yet still modest about his creation.
Looking at the blogs that I have been following and being inspired by as of late, I have seen a similar vein running through most of them. I see women and men who are creating because they need to. It is an integral part of their being. They post and talk about what is important to them not to receive recognition per Se but to share their feelings with others. It is their desire to connect with others and find the similarity that we all share. The common bond; the common ground.
I don't have incredible things to say. I am modest about what I create and really have no desire to sell my art or to put things in galleries. Yet, I do feel a need to put my feelings and some of my art on a blog. Somehow it satisfies my creative urge each day and is, in its own way, another form of art and my own creation. I think that is what I like about each of the blogs I find interesting. I get a glimpse of what they are thinking, feeling, doing, and living. It is kind of like people watching at a train station or the airport except more in depth. I can connect without having to connect.
It seems like such a silly thing really, to want to glimpse a part of some one's life that you know nothing about; not where they live, how they live, what kind of car they drive, etc. But, in this age of computers and Twitter and Facebook, isn't that how everyone is keeping in touch? We are connecting in sound bytes, in mega pixels, in video streams. It's a different world out there. It's a different road we travel.


I'm thinking about flying this morning. First, on the news a story about a plane crash in Montana into a cemetery. Next, a visual from an airplane flying over the erupting volcano in Alaska. Lastly, a phone call from our friends in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and what time they will be arriving at the airport this evening after a two week cruise through the Panama Canal.

It seems that my thoughts or feelings seem to come in groups or clusters. I am currently reading "The Secret Life of Bees" and there too, my eyes fall upon a phrase regarding flying. "When a bee flies, a soul will rise." It is explained as an old saying that means "... a person's soul will be reborn into the next life if bees are around." It makes me wonder about the people in my life who I have loved and lost. I hope they had bees around them to transport their souls.

I, personally, have never liked the idea of flying. I have done it out of necessity most often and really never for fun. Next year, however, I turn 60 and there has been discussion of taking a trip to Europe to really celebrate this special year. I am all for "being" there, seeing the countryside, the art, the beautiful scenery however it is the getting there that worries me. Maybe I will have to consider "bee-ing" there "just in case" I need to be transported.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Yes, Spring WAS here but has now pulled the covers over her head and crawled back in bed. Today, I woke up to snow! It is a good thing that I picked bouquets of daffodils the other day. Today they will be hanging their heads in the snow and by tomorrow their heads will be splattered with red dirt.

Here is a photo of my studio that I won't be going out to play in today thanks to the snow. I have heat out there but it just doesn't seem like a place that I want to be today. Today is the kind of day that makes you want to sit inside, make a cup of tea, read a good book or watch a good movie. That is what I will be doing today...watching movies and staying cozy warm inside.

As an artist, I am always wrestling with where to find my inspiration; my muse. It's surprising where the ideas come from sometimes and when they choose to make themselves appear. It's a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Serendipity. Inspiration is sometimes just around the next bend. Or under the next snowflake.

Perhaps when Spring decides to get out of bed the colors will start to flow. Nature has a way of bursting out just at the right time. I think I will burst forth also, just when it is right for me also.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I read on Richard Schilling's blog "Landart" that he questions whether his art is authentic or not. He also questions his ability to accept criticism well and is grappling with how to deal with it. He asks for advice on how to showcase his work on his Blog.
I say to him "it is your own art if you created it". Sure, we all wonder if we have copied an other's work occasionally and grapple with the idea of it not quite being our own. But, aren't we all inspired by other things?

In my own art I see inspiration from art done by Paul Klee in 1921. From Gerhardt Richter. Recently, since perusing the blogs of many fine artists that I have linked to my blog, I have seen shadow art done by some people. I have been doing shadow art for quite some time yet I had never seen any of these blogs until just recently. Does that make me a phony too? Richard's blog makes me question where all this art comes from and where do we receive our inspirations.

Personally speaking, I get my inspiration from many different places. I love sewing and quilting and so I try to incorporate thread-work and fabrics into my art somewhere along the line. I also love certain colors and tend to stick to that range although I think that I need to branch out. Speaking of branches: I receive inspiration from trees and twigs and all sorts of natural things. These sometimes show their "faces" in terms of a pen and ink drawing or a colored pencil drawing, even sometimes just a photograph. Yet, I call all these works of art. I have been inspired by "something", I just don't always know where it will lead me.
And so, turning a corner, I see that (as that old saying goes) beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And, so is the art we create and the art we view. And, perhaps I should clarify that statement and say that it doesn't always have to be "beauty" that inspires the art. Art can be inspired by some really awful looking sources. But, it still remains to be art. And that, to me, is what is truly wonderful about being an artist.

That one can take a horrible situation (a death or a sadness experienced for instance) and turn it into a work of art that can be displayed (or not) for all the world to see. We can also celebrate life and beauty and nature in all it's glory. But, always remembering that the antithesis of life is death, the antithesis of beauty can be gross or disgusting, the antithesis of natur(al) can be artificial.

We, as artists, are always struggling with feeling authentic; original. We have to remember that at the core of each one of us there is that word which says it all: unique. We are each unique. One of a kind as the word implies. What we choose to do with that is our own authentic version and no one can take that away from us.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Here in Northern California we had a glorious seventy-degree day! What could be better really. I heard on NPR that a change is in the air. I'm sure they weren't just talking about the equinox and the weather either. Jay Leno hosted the first ever seated President on his show last night. Change! President Obama was articulate and had a sense of humor. Change! He (I read on another blog) is having a vegetable garden planted at the White House. Change! And, I really feel it is change for the better. As the saying goes "change is good". Yes, indeed!

We had friend visiting from Vancouver, B.C. a week ago and I asked them how Canadian's feel about Obama. They said that he is well-liked there and they see nothing but positive coming from the new administration. It is nice to be liked again. We don't have to feel like the kid on the block that everyone tries to avoid.

Speaking of avoidance: my daughter travels via train to and from work every day and pointed out to me today that she doesn't understand why everyone waves when the train goes by? She thinks it feels"weird" to watch people waving at the faceless windows of the train as though they know someone on board.

There was a day when we first moved here to the Sierra Nevada Foothills over 35 years ago that you could drive down the road and everyone waved to you as you passed them on the road. Even the local barber used to walk to and from his shop (complete with a barber pole) and as cars passed him on the road, his hand would come up and wave to every car that passed him by. And I mean every car. He didn't necessarily look up at you or at anyone, but he was waving. That kind of small town familiarity has seemed to go by the wayside.

Is it weird to want to connect with strangers? Is it weird to wave when you don't know someone? I don't think so but then again, I am a dinosaur. However, the internet allows people to connect to other people that they don't know. There is a familiarity to these people we "meet" on the internet. Do they remind us of ourselves? Do we see something familiar about their lives, their art, their writing that makes us want to "raise our hand and wave" to them, so to speak? Perhaps it is the "faceless window" that the internet affords us that makes us want to "wave", to say hello, to connect and have people recognize what is special in us. The world doesn't feel quite so big that way. We are all traveling on that train. To where is still yet to be determined.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thoughts from the hill

Spring is in the air. The daffodils are thriving, the squirrels are chasing each other up and down the oak trees, the Canadian geese are flying north (am I sure they are going to Canada and am I sure they are geese?--I heard once that they might be cranes), Obama is in California propping up people as best he can, and I am sitting here on my hill contemplating my life, the life of those I care about, and the lives of those people whom I have never met.

Everywhere I look businesses are closing. Today the airport mechanic told me that he will be closing the door on his hangar on May 1st. What happens to all those airplanes flying overhead when their engines start sounding funny? How far away will they have to fly to have repairs done on their planes? I have hope for Obama's 'change' mantra but everywhere I look I see people struggling. Money is not going as far as it used to even though gasoline prices seem to be sliding downhill.

We still have options though. I guess we can all do what we can from our own part of the world. We can plant Victory gardens and reap the benefits of fresh, local-grown produce. My local nursery-person tells me she expects seed and plant sales to ramp up this year even more than last year. We can pack picnic lunches and take a Sunday drive. We can have Friday night dinner parties with close friends. We can get back to basics and bake bread and home-made cookies again. Slow down a bit and enjoy the ride.

I guess those card parties that my parents used to do every Friday night are back in style, minus the thick cloud of cigarette smoke that hung in the air over the heads of the players. Instead of bourbon on the rocks we can serve wonderful bottles of wine or fancy martinis. I wouldn't miss all that smoke hanging in the air at all.

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