My photography staff has been irksomely distracted of late.
I suppose I shouldn’t complain too strenuously as they seem to have finally clued in to the disgraceful lack of proper guarding posts from which to keep tabs on the neighboring riff raff. But what with the obsessing over engineering drawings, hand-digging trenches for the roadbed gravel to support the stone underdecking, dry stacking 90-pound Allan blocks, and so on, they have simply let my modeling career slip sideways.
Sometimes I think this world is going straight to the people.
Well, I’m a forgive-and-forget kind of poodle, and they seem to be back in the saddle, so let’s just say no more. I’m anxious to return to the craft.
And I do love my job.
One of the best parts of a shoot is the thrill of seeing that camera come out. Man, the adrenaline just flows!
It’s SO exciting to have to make those snap calls on how to set myself up for maximum lens interception to ensure a flattering result. For me, even small details that others might overlook, such as how to accessorize to set the mood, bring joy to my journey.
For instance, take this dazzling yet relentless execution of perfect right angles, re-angles, di-angles, and so.
One glance, and my inner knowing spoke to me: the scene just screamed for a rancid, broken-down, mud-infused tennis ball to soften the emotional focus.
(If you’re interested, there’s more of my portfolio here, here, here, here, and here. Riveting stuff, really, even if I did let them ghostwrite a few.)
No matter the motif, the thing is to Stay. With. The. Task.
I believe that more Model Artists fail to get that critical last 10% by giving up on the potential of a shot, one shot too soon.
You just can never tell when the money shot will magically appear.
Take the above, for instance. What if I had said, “No… no… I’m simply too exhausted to continue.”?! The world would have been denied the perfect intersection of grand luck and great execution.
No, my friends, do not give up before the Muse picks up her Kong and goes home.
However, there’s no denying it: super modeling is not only very physically demanding, it’s also intellectually taxing, what with sorting through all the decisions regarding best angles, lighting, poses, accessories etc.
Better sign off now and tap a power nap. I need ALL the blood back in my head so I’m fresh for tomorrow’s shoot.
Poor Winston. He’s been trying to extend his optical range by peering over fences since the beginning.
However, he remains somewhat limited in his wildlife viewing options, given his lack of wings, climbing gear, or the opposable thumbs necessary to hold our fabulous Vortex Diamondback binoculars or cherished Nikon body and lens.
She seemed to feel the same way. Teton Valley was consistent in that regard: visually speaking, her hellos and goodbyes and the moments in between seem to happen with a fair bit of drama.
This is where our hearts have lived for five years, and where we hung our hats full-time for the past three.
It’s where Winston grew up (and up, and up) and where he discovered the love of his life. (Hint: it’s snow.)
It’s entirely fitting that this is the last “Quick! [easyazon_link asin=”B001ENOZY4″ locale=”US” new_window=”yes” nofollow=”default” tag=”rickandkathy-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”no”]Get the D-90![/easyazon_link]” photo I took in our cherished farmhouse.
It’s by NO means the best photo we took in that magical space over the years, but it captures perfectly the delight we took there in the beauty of a million small opportunities, often in the kitchen, to slow down the ordinary until the moment became extraordinary.
Extraordinary breakfast potatoes.
In addition to “great friends and neighbors,” “jaw-dropping scenery in every season out of every window,” and “a place of deep, creative, peace,” it’s as good a summing up of our life there as anything else.
But there are seasons for all things, and at the end of April, it was time to pack up as much of our kitchen gear, art supplies, dog paraphernalia, etc. as would fit into a 26-foot Uhaul and head north to Vancouver Island, Canada to some new adventures.
It was a big (and by “big” I mean huge, complicated, and exhausting) job, but thank God I had at least made an early start on packing away a few memories in this blog over the past five years.
Do you have your exit buddy?
Yes, yes we do.
Have you taken all the necessary safety-precautions before launching?
Well, no… A life worth living inevitably comes with some risk, otherwise it wouldn’t be an adventure, would it?
Are you consistent, in that the first photo you took after having crossed the border into your new home and native land was also, coincidentally, of potatoes? (Poutine purchased aboard The Queen of Alberni, to be precise.)
Yes, yes we are consistent.
We have the most important constant in our lives firmly in place: each other.
We have Winston. (No choice there: he glued his butt to Rick’s left knee (see above) sometime around mid-April and stayed there until he was sure he was coming with.)
Cherished friends and family are all still just a text/phone call/email away, and now a good chunk of you are also within a ten-minute’s drive radius.
We have already had more delightful new adventures and taken more photos in and around our new home than I will ever catch up on, and I commit to remain consistent in my good intentions to post more regularly. (Ha! That should be an easy piece of cake.)
It’s funny how you’ll be bopping along in your life, wondering what would happen if you substitute quinoa for couscous in a recipe, when out of the blue, you learn a handful of important new words.
For example, last Tuesday night, Winnie, Rick and I learned the meaning, impact, and cost of three doozies: torsion bloat, gastropexy, and splenechtomy. Here’s a helpful one-size-fits-all article on how these topics relate, but the short story is that after a big hike, full dinner, and probably too much water, Winston suffered a bloat so severe that it flipped his stomach 180 degrees, ripping his spleen off.
The good Dr. Don Betts of Driggs Veterinary Clinic saved his life with a 1 a.m. surgery, and said that in 30-years of vet practice and on average 10 cases of bloat in dogs per month, he’d never seen that spleen-ripping business before.
We’re big fans of Dr. Betts. Big, big fans.
Experts agree that deep, narrow chested dogs with thin waists are most at risk, and while Great Danes, Weimaraners, and Irish Setters are all excellent candidates, my suspicion is that Standard Poodles may be even more at risk, given what delicate and particular eaters they can be.
Winston, for instance, makes it a habit to eat with his supermodel figure in mind. After checking his bowl for poison (this is accomplished by carefully selecting one random piece of kibble and spitting it out on the floor for TSA-worthy scrutiny), he’ll pick his way through a meal, stopping as soon as his hunger is satisfied and he recalls he has a photo shoot early the next morning.
We figure that on some days, he must be surviving on cigarettes and Chardonnay behind the garage.
That is, of course, unless he’s surviving on excellent vet care, rest, antibiotics, pain relievers, easy-to-digest prescription canned food, and the TLC of family and friends.
Did you know that flowers and a sweet card really do help with the healing process?
Anything that brings a smile to the face simultaneously lifts the heart…
… and there’s nothing better for the constitution than feeling loved and the anticipation of better days to come.
BTW, these are Winston’s buddies featured in this slideshow of a recent fishing trip with the Sordahls. He has asked us to relay his gratitude, and, LeRoux? You’re on!
I know the thoughtfulness and beauty made Rick and me feel a whole bunch better.
And as of last night, Winston was insisting he was feeling much better, too.
We’re glad for that shaved spot where the catheter was. It reminds us of Dr. Betts’ words at the post-op check-up:
“Winston will insist that within three or four days, he’s all better. DO NOT LET HIM LIE TO YOU. The stitches don’t come out for another whole week, and until then, no long walks, no excitement, no stress, and no ball chasing.”
So we focus on the leg…
… while Winston focuses on the ball and drools.
Hang in there, buddy.
It won’t be long before you’re back to your glamorous, elegant self.
I’m out on a walk on a day sometime shortly after the warm spring winds begin to blow and the mud appears, and I think, “You know, most people think this is an ugly time of year, but if you pay attention, there’s a lot of prettiness.”
At the time, this strikes me as an original thought, worthy of a blog post, even.
Is it just me, or is it repeating itself in here?
Who can blame me, though? When you first look down an unplowed section of shadowed, dirty-ish snowbank, it’s not all that appealing. However, when you know that you are walking on top of four feet of most excellent igloo-building snow, there’s something cool and unique about that. For one thing, it makes you wonder: how do they build igloos, and what it’s like to call such a place “home”?
This is the sort of snow that I affiliate with the stirrings of maple sap, and this is also lovely.
The crust on the snow crystallizes, throwing off colors you can only see out of your peripheral vision (they disappear when you look at them directly) or through a polarized camera lens.
This is not only stunning; it’s downright psychedelic.
Of course, the big picture isn’t too bad, either.
Snowplow blades have created the illusion of multiple geological eras, which, depending on how long a winter it’s been, isn’t too far off the mark.
There’s a simple joy in hunting the sides of the roads, anticipating the first blade of really green grass amongst the dead. This is a small pleasure denied to those who live in chronically verdant locations.
By the way, I told Winston he could come on my “camera walk” only if he promised to stay out of the photos.
What dog? I don’t see a dog.
I believe in giving the benefit of doubt.
The runoff creates winking streams in the road. This one actually burbled.
And when else in the year can you see this kind of mud pattern in nature? Or all across your living room hardwood floor?
Even the mud itself can be beautiful.
This reminded me of the incredible hand-made fudge-ripple mocha ice cream we had in Key West last August. What else in my day was likely to remind me of that?
The wind and sun conspire to drill mysterious caverns and tunnels into the banks. How, exactly, does this work?
And where does that blue, green, and lavender come from? On the surface, it all looks very white.
Don’t stare at this too long… You’ll see a face, an armchair, and a sci-fi snow monster in quick succession, and then it gets weird.
Oh, Winston… for the love of all things shiny, will you MOVE, please?!
I think I was setting up the shot to make a point about repeating cumulus shapes in nature, but now I forget where I was going with this.
Brace yourself: this post contains another parcel by mail, more shots of the damn dog, some very old news, and the extraordinary and entirely unexpected gift of healing and hope from someone I didn’t even know.
This could get weird for some of you before it gets better.
To set some context, this is as good a time as any to let you know that my employment situation with my company in California has evolved into half-time so that I can spend more time writing. I have a book underway called “The Accidental Speaker.” It’s about how to think about business presentations, and how they differ significantly from professional speaking gigs, and why knowing that can really help make the whole thing more comfortable and effective. It will be a fun book and the writing is coming along, but it’s difficult because it involves taking what I know and packaging it in text in a way that makes it accessible for other people. For me, this feels more like administrivia—organizing, cataloging, etc.—than it does writing. Still, it’s not horrible, and I think it’s necessary.
But in the last couple of weeks, I have also been exploring the idea of a parallel project of what feels like a more creative bent: a book that will be a hybrid of selections from this blog woven together with an easy going essay-style narrative of observations and musings on life, truth, and reality. Think “Travels with Charlie” or “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” except with photography, like here, and a storyline of two ridiculously happy fifty-something artists and their pooch moving full-time to a renovated 95-year old farmhouse in Teton Valley and figuring out what that looks like.
It’s the kind of writing that only happens in a flow, where I don’t really know what will emerge until I sit down, hands on keyboard, and just start. It requires the partnership of the Creative force, and looks more like a conduit than it does a file cabinet. It’s a decidedly un-corporate way to write, and while I’m familiar and comfortable with the bloggy part of the project, this other thing, this opening myself up and jumping into the stream, trusting that something interesting and engaging will emerge, is brand new, exciting, and frightening,
And my ability to leap thusly, it turns out, hinges on my being able to think of myself as a legitimate creator of valuable things that wouldn’t exist without me… an artist, and more specifically, a writer. This is not nearly as easy as one might think. A workbook called “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” by Julia Cameron is proving very helpful… life-changing, even. It’s about how to swap the “it’s too late…,” “you’ll never ‘make it’ as a real artist…,” type voices inside your head for ones that actually help you to get the work done.
Rick and I had just finished Week One in the program when this parcel arrived in the mail.
The return address said it was from Mary in Oregon. As I don’t know a Mary in Oregon, I opened it carefully and with a great deal of curiosity.
The note read:
“Hi Kathy, I know you don’t know me so I hope you don’t mind that I have been reading your blog since Kylie posted on Facebook about the SecurID that Winston chewed up. Your stories and photos are so creative.
I’ve enclosed some of the dog toys that I make for our company craft fair in Hillsboro for Winston. He looks a little pampered and I’m sure he must have a few toys already, but what dog doesn’t need more?
I hope you have a wonderful day.
Mary, there are just so many things about this that make me puddle up in a super-sized flood of gratitude, I can’t even begin to tell you. But let me start with the obvious:
Your following the blog at all. Seriously, there isn’t a blogger on the planet who “minds” if someone they don’t know reads what they write. In fact, the first time you get a comment from an unknown reader is a moment of pure disbelief and excitement. Your family is obligated, BY LAW, to comment once in a while to let you know they’re still reading it, but a stranger?! The completely voluntary comment lands in an entirely different place.
Your spontaneous generosity and for all the effort it took to actually act on it. Anything that requires finding the right box, getting it wrapped, labelled, and schlepped to the post office, then finally paying for the postage represents a serious intent to do good.
Your attitude that a dog can never have too many toys.
Your kind, kind words. You will see in what follows how they mean so much more to me than you can ever have imagined. Thank you.
Mary sews labels into her creations, identifying them as “Merry Bears.”
(Ready? More weirdness just around the bend ahead.)
In the early 90’s when I was busily employed mothering my kids, I had a Christmas craft business that made enough money to finance our annual family vacation for the years I did it. I made salt-dough teddy bear Christmas-tree ornaments, and for five dollars, would calligraphy people’s names on them with a fine-point sharpie, right there at the craft fair. People snatched them up as affordable gifts for music teachers, favorite aunts, etc. My mom helped out at the table, taking orders, getting the bears lined up with the names on little slips of paper, packaging up the completed ones and distributing them to their new owners while I churned ’em out.
I called them “Merry Bears.”
I remembered I had a newspaper clipping from those days in a scrapbook buried deep somewhere in one of the three huge, stuffed attics we have.
I hope you enjoy this photo. It came at a great cost of digging through mountains of old flotsam and other surprising and completely distracting finds of jetsom along the way.
The point here is that Mary’s gift, a token of appreciation and support of my writing and photos, pointed me directly back to a time when I did consider myself to be an “artist.”
There are still a few of these little critters that show up every year on our tree.
I was so excited by what was coming together that I did what I always do: yelled, “Where’s the camera?!” I wanted to set up a beautiful photo shoot for Mary’s creations so that I could blog here about how sweet and “coincidental” it all was.
And that’s when I learned that Mary puts intoxicating doggy-squeakers in all her toys.
Winston’s a sucker for a squeak.
I grabbed all three at once, and amazingly managed to connect with all three squeakers, simultaneously. Winston responded with enthusiasm to the sirens’ calls. Every time I’d get set up, he’d sneak up and slide one of the toys off the table, wrecking my photo shoot.
After five minutes of this fun game, I gave up and told him to pick which two he wanted.
Mary, I hope you don’t mind, but he left the blue one, and I’m keeping it for myself.
I wanted to have something to remember your kindness by, and W. has an intense focus on finding and removing the squeak. Death by nibbling, we call it, and he’s relentless.
Is there such a thing as “dognip” that they put inside those things?
Anyway, he settled in with the red one. I told him to lick it.
Dog slobber is a guarantee of permanent ownership granted to the slobberer. No one else even wants to touch the slobberee.
He seemed pleased with his choice.
In fact, eventually he took such umbrage at my own relentless camera work that he decided to seek more private quarters to bond with his new buddy.
Look out… comin’ through….
Remember I said above that in the search for the newspaper clipping of me at the craft fair, I came across some surprising finds?
One of those was my third grade report card.
In the first term, Mrs. Eglington reported that while I was A-okay on the basics, she felt that I “…daydreamed tremendously.” This apparently did not bode well for my future, especially when combined with a tendency to be “…too self-assured for her own good.”
I now take the “daydreaming tremendously” comment as a compliment. I only wish I could grab back some of that assurance that my eight-year old self had in the possibility of those dreams when the unison droning of multiplication tables I already knew weren’t enough to hold my attention.
I wonder what happened to that pure confidence that anything was possible, not just for me, but for everything and everyone?
Ah… I see where it went. It came down to earth.
Well, Mrs. Eglington, in the spirit of “better late than never,” I’d like to respond, if I may.
Leaving aside your own inability to stay within the lines and a questionable subject-verb agreement choice there, I beg to differ with your conclusion about both my downfall and where I need to be.
I’m still skipping along just fine, thank you, and sometimes my feet don’t even touch the ground.
Your report on my prospects is returning to the back of the attic where it belongs, and Mary’s blue Merry Bear will stand guard over my keyboard, with her encouraging note on my bulletin board above my desk, where they both will remind me that I’m not in this alone.
Don’t get us wrong: the whole of his parts is pretty great, even if he does sit like a splay-legged kangaroo on his guard perch (aka. the southeast window).
And at a lanky 75 pounds, those parts are tricky to get organized into a whole position at nap time. (And no, we had no idea how big he was going to get.)
And even while in a “whole” perspective, the parts don’t always line up the same. For instance, when wet and and worn out from a snowy romp, they look a little different. (Think “Peter Frampton on a bad hair day.”)
The thing is, when you start breaking him down to his composite parts, it’s hard to make the math line up to equal what a great pal he is.
For instance, that tongue.
Ew… that tongue!
And yet… once you rule out biting (as in, “We have a rule; you cannot use the BIG teeth to indicate love and a desire to horse around”) a dog’s tongue becomes one of the only acceptable dog-to-human methods of communicating affection and pack affiliation.
Acky icky ick!
I just don’t roll that way. Ack.
I’d prefer a civil handshake, please…
… unless the hand in question looks like a Steven Spielberg reject from the Star Wars bar scene. Those bony knuckles and oddly placed nails look vaguely human, but not quite. We suspect that Winston is an alien.
This particular alien is made to stand, one weirdo paw at a time, in a Lego bucket filled with warm water to melt his snowballs off his hair (fur?) before he’s allowed back in the house. Trust me… the look of those tootsies are not improved by being wet.
The good news is that when I get too weirded out by his disturbing feet, there are other far more attractive features to focus on.
Who else gets to flounce around with a feather duster attached to his heinie? We’re trying to teach him to help with the housework, but apparently it’s a tough concept for a pooch to reel in.
I often wonder how long those whiskers would be if the groomer could just shave around them.
What do dogs use whiskers for, anyway? Are we limiting his sensory input by whacking them off every six weeks? And why do whiskers grow at twice the rate of other hair? Maybe dog whiskers are biologically related to chin hair on middle-aged women. (Not me, of course, but other middle aged women.)
Wow… I’m really glad that I took that photo, and that we’re having this conversation, and that I took the time to do this research. Apparently, dog “vibrissae” are important to them. No more whisker whacking for the Winnerton. Next time you see him, he’ll be sporting a lovely moustach and goatee.
My only concern is that his new look might reduce the prominence of this magnificent protuberance. Truly, dogs’ noses–and this schnoz in particular–are a thing of functional and cosmetic beauty.
Enough said. I will leave you to contemplate it at your leisure.
Remember the “no biting!” rule? And this is just the anchor set that hold stuff in place so the uppers can get down to business. What I’d really like to point out here is the beautiful glossy blackness of those lips. They look like the licorice lips you used to be able to buy when I was a kid.
At a mere 18-months old, Winston has a very fine set of dewlaps. Did you know these hangy neck folds are called “dewlaps”? Me neither, and frankly, I’m conflicted about how I feel about knowing this. How do you feel about knowing this?
Let’s chat about dewlaps sometime.
I have to change subjects now.
It’s in his eyes that I see the whole of him most clearly, and it’s through his eyes that I see myself a little better, too.