Friday, May 15, 2009

I survived the "Inland Hurricaine" of '09

I have already emailed and spoken to some of you, but I'm finally together enough to post about last Friday's event.

At around 1:30 pm the tornado siren went off and I grabbed pillows, my emergency kit, and a sweatshirt and headed for my "safe spot" at the end of the hallway. There is a sort of cul de sac where no windows are nearby, if the two bedroom doors are closed off. Madison (my Golden Retriever) and I hunkered down, covering our heads with pillows, and turned on the battery operated storm radio. When I heard the phrase "80 mph winds with gusts to 100" I knew we were in for it. I kept murmuring to Madison, "We'll be OK, we'll be OK", and I figured we would be--until there was a huge crash close by and the house shook. At that point I decided maybe we wouldn't be OK after all, but I just held onto him--it's all I could do. There were several more crashes, and the house shook with each one. I was totally terrified. At one point there was a brief lull in the wind and I stood up, opened the door to the room where I thought the first crash came from, and saw this:

and this....

and this....

and this....

...which used to be a vertical blind on the window above it.

The wind picked up again and I shut the door and sat back down, gathered the pillows and the dog around me, and just sat there, sort of numb. There were several more crashes and some more shaking, but after a total of 45 minutes it got very quiet.

I threw on the sweatshirt and sturdier shoes, and ventured out my front door. All my neighbors were coming out of their homes as well, and little knots of people formed to discuss what had just happened. One neighbor advised, "Take pictures now if you've got a camera handy", so I did.

This portion of a maple tree landed across the fence and gate, taking out the gate and one section of fence. Fortunately the fence is still functional so Madison can't get out of the yard.

Another piece of the tree that hit the fence, but this one landed smack in the middle of the back yard, missing the house, the shed, the birdbath, lawn furniture, bird feeders, and planters--thank goodness.

This is the back of my house, and the tree that came through the roof. I'm lucky it didn't also take out a couple of windows, but just one screen was damaged.

Closer view of the back of the house. Both pine and maple trees tried to get in--only the pine tree was succesful!

Don't know how well you can see it in this picture, but there was a huge limb of this pine tree just dangling by the bark. Fortunately I was able to have it taken down before the next storm came on Tuesday night.

There were hundreds of downed power and phone lines throughout the area. This one is in front of my house. Directly in the center of this picture you will see a tree downed on a van and house. That house is a home for high level developmentally disabled adults, and I expect they were frightened out of their wits when that thing came down on ths house. No one was hurt. In fact, thoughout our area, there was only one fatality, and only a few relatively minior injuries. The same storm system is blamed for three deaths in Missouri, however. I'm sure the early warning of our tornado siren saved many lives.
The rain held off until Tuesday night, but the temporary roof patches didn't hold. A lot of water came into the spare bedrrom, and I lost the mattress and some other items from that room. Also, a couple of light fixtures , one in the hall and one in the diningroom, shorted out due to the water. Could have been worse.
While this storm was technically a tornado or series of tornadoes, it has been referred to in the media as "an inland hurricaine" because it had many similarities to a hurricaine. The sustained high winds--the peak was logged at 106 mph--the duration of the storm, and the wide area affected are all more characteristic of hurricaines than tornadoes. Whatever you call it, it was a devastating storm, the worst I've experienced in my lifetime of living in Southern Illinois, which is part of the midwest's "tornado alley". Seven counties in Southern Illinois have been declared disaster areas, and the cleanup and repairs are estimated to take as long as 6 months. The power and phones are back up in most of the area, but this was the longest--5 days--I've ever been without power and phones. Yay for cell phones and inverter chargers. I will probably blog some more about this tomorrow, but I want to get this post up now.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Baby in the House

Everyone who has had one knows that a new baby in the house can be fun, interesting, and exhausting, not always in that order. It's been nearly 2 weeks since my new baby, Dusty, entered my life, and as often happens, the new arrival has taken over the household.
This is Dusty the day I brought him home from the shelter, called Rightway Rescue. It's a no-kill shelter located near here, but until 2 weeks ago I'd never heard of it. Two Fridays ago I attended a benefit spaghetti supper, auction and sale at my church, put on by a bunch of high school kids who have formed an organization they call MAD for Animals. They are doing all kinds of things to raise money for Rightway, the county Humane Society, and an area wildlife rescue operation. I think it's a grand idea, and wanted to support them. However, I had no intention of adopting another animal that night, and didn't even know there would be animals present who were up for adoption.
There were several cute dogs, but this little guy was the only kitten. I was told it was a female, and I made the (fatal) mistake of asking to hold it. Adorable doesn't begin to describe this (then) 8 week old Himalayan mix with fluffy fur, huge blue eyes, and a playful disposition. After thinking it over, I decided to adopt, and filled out the application on line that night after I got home.
This shot gives him red eyes, but trust me, they are sky blue.

I had to wait until the following Monday to pick him up at the shelter. When we arrived back at the house, I put him in the back bedroom, which was prepared with food, water, his own personal litter pan, an old bath mat, a pillow and a tee shirt of mine on the floor. After playing for a while, snacking on his kitten kibble, and exploring the room, he curled up on the mat and took a nap. So far, so good.
Like babies sometimes do, he often fights to stay awake, afraid he'll miss something. Here he's just about to plop down with his head on the mouse, a common sleep position for him.
A few days after he came home with me, he was checked out by my vet and pronounced healthy and a fine fellow. By this time, of course, I knew "she" was actually a "he". After a bit of ruminating, I decided on "Dusty" for his name, since he reminded me of my lamb's wool duster. I kept him isolated from the other cats for three days, but he finally wore me down wanting to go out of the bedroom. It took him about 10 minutes to make the rounds of all the rooms, find the "big kids' '" water bowl and litter boxes, and decide he approved of everything. He also demonstrated he was perfectly able to go up and down the steps to the garage, thank you very much!
His favorite place has turned out to be my computer desk, probably because I spend a lot of time sitting in front of it. He's a real "Mama's Boy", and wants to be near me--on me, actually, if he can. I don't mind, except he has one annoying habit--he likes to "nurse" my ear lobe! I'm aware he was separated from his mother and littermates at a very young age, and evidently needs the comfort of "nursing", even if no sustenance is forthcoming. So, even though it tickles, I let him nurse" for a few minutes every day. He purrs loudly into my ear, pumps his little front feet up and down on my neck, and slurps away. This has resulted in Dusty having to spend the night in his own bedroom, where I tuck him in when I'm ready to go to bed. Otherwise, he's up in my bed, slurping away on my ear and purring like a tiny buzz saw! Not conducive to sleep for me!
Dusty is a big fan of Hoyles Card Games, and tries to "catch" the cards as they move around the screen. Here he is "watching" a game of "hearts".
Everyone who has met him has fallen for his sweet face, funny antics, and cheerful disposition. The other cats are doing well with him, and Buttercup, who I thought might present a problem with jealousy, has adopted him as her chief playmate.
I mentioned his "little" feet, but actually they are large for a kitten. The vet tells me he's likely to be a large cat, so I keep warning Buttercup she better take it easy, or one day he'll whip her butt! She gets the upper hand in their play now, and occasionally he squeals when she kicks or nips him, but he shakes it off and dives back in for more, so he must enjoy it. I monitored their play carefully for the first few days until I was certain she wouldn't really injure him.
We go back to the vet next Wednesday for the next baby shots. Just like any baby, he has to be vaccinated and get regular health care. In about three more months, it will be time to have him neutered, but he'll keep his claws intact, since I don't have any of my cats declawed.
Right now he's napping on a dining room chair cushion, another favorite spot. Like all babies he sleeps a lot. It's a dreary, rainy day here, so it's a good day for cat naps. I may take one later myself.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Oil Paintings

Ever since I was a kid I had the notion that since I couldn't draw a straight line with a ruler, I would be wasting my time dabbling in any sort of painting as a hobby. In 2002 a friend who is a talented artist was starting a series of lessons in her home, and on a whim I signed up. I found I enjoyed it and actually seemed to have some small talent to put paint on canvas.

For some time I've been meaning to take pictures of the paintings I've done that are hanging in my house. (I've done at least a dozen others and given them away as gifts, donations to charity auctions, etc.) This morning I decided to get the pictures taken, and I thought perhaps they might make an interesting blog entry. So here goes:

Most of the stuff I do are landscapes, painted from snapshots that I've taken various places. However, once in a while I just start painting and see what happens. This is one of those. It's called "Rain At Sea".

The next two are a set, done as sort of an experiment. Remember I said I couldn't draw a straight line? Well, I wanted to see if I could paint a straight line, which is actually rather difficult. Anyway, this pair are called, "Desert Day" and "Desert Night". The idea was to depict the passage of light though the day, beginning at dawn, into the white hot noon and the colors of late afternoon. Then, picking up where "Desert Day" stops, "Desert Night" depicts the colors of the night, passing from twilight, into midnight, dawn and early morning. These are both small paintings, about 9"x12", and hang in my hallway.

I don't think this is one of my better efforts but I keep it for sentimental reasons. It depicts my backyard when I lived in Marion, IL. The yard was landscaped with river rock pebbles and plants around a pool (not in the painting) and I had a platform built for my swing. The yard was finished just before my back surgery in 2000, and I sat in that swing for hours, enjoying the yard and the plants as I recovered from the surgery. Before I moved to Carbondale, I took snapshots of the yard so I could remember it.

This was painted from a snapshot I took in Mexico on a trip touring ancient ruins.

I've also done a few still lifes. This was painted from actual squash and apples posed against a cardboard background on a checkered tablecloth. I was never happy with the tablecloth, but finally said the hell with it.
The picture above and the next two below all are from snapshots I took in Alaska. The above shows the entrance to one of the glacier bays (can't recall which one).
This one is from a snapshot of a glacier cascading into its bay inch by inch. The reflection of the ice in the blue water intrigued me. I tried hard to get it accurately in oil. Several years after I painted this, this glacier began "galloping" into its bay at several feet per minute and eventually disappeared into the water. It doesn't exist anymore!
The picture below is entitled "Tundra and Tiega", and is from a snapshot taken from a window of the train from Denali Park to Fairbanks. Tundra is the flater area at the base of the mountains and tiega refers to the low growth bushes and trees in the foreground.
This was painted from a snapshot taken in 1997, on the Dingle Peninsula on the west coast of Ireland. So much of Ireland is green, so the shapshot with all the blues and grays and lavendars made a nice contrast.
I rarely do a painting from another media of any kind, but this is an exception. My friend had an old calendar with a photograph of this beach scene from northern California on it. There was no attribution, so I don't know who the photographer was. Anyway, the scene intrigued me, and since I'm keeping the painting for personal use and not selling it, no sweat.
The painting below was another "start slapping on the paint and see what happens" effort. It's actually sideways, since I forgot to rotate it, but I suppose it really doesn't matter much! (other than my signature at the bottom is off kilter) I call it "Lawrence Welk on LSD".

The painting above is one of my favorites. It's from a snapshot of a castle in Scotland, and I love the lush flowers with the shadowy castle in the background. (I was walking on the tan path shown in the painting when I snapped the photo.) This painting, along with "Tundra and Tiega" and "Rain at Sea" were the three paintings that were juried when I was accepted into the local Associated Artists Gallery several years ago.

This is another favorite. Not painted from another art media exactly, but "copied" nonetheless. I wanted a painting for my bedroom to match the sheets and pillowcases on my bed. I took a pillowcase, folded it in half twice, and used the image on top to paint this rather large canvas, which is indeed hanging in my bedroom. An interesting note is that in China I recently bought silk bed linens--and picked a pattern to match the painting!

The painting below requires some explanation. The church I belong to is part of the Unitarian Universalist Assocation. The UU symbol is a flaming chalice, often shown within two intertwined circles. The flaming chalice represents the spirit of our faith and the intertwining circles represent our heritage of Universalism and Unitarianism. There is a bit of a story behind this painting. In 2003, we were in the process of building a new church building. I got the idea to do a painting of a chalice and donate it to the church for the new building, which I did.

After the new building was completed, I waited to see where the painting would end up. After a year, I found it in a storeroom. This requires some additional explanation. At that time, the church had what was known as the "Arts and Aesthetics Committee", a group of women who basically evaluated items donated or purchased for the decor of the church and decided what would go where. (Can you see what's coming?) When I found the painting in the storeroom, initially I was furious and had my feelings way hurt! I took the painting home in a huff and hung it on my wall. In the coming months several other items donated by members got short shrift from the AAC, and tempers flared. Eventually the AAC was disbanded, and things settled down. There was some discussion about this issue, and the consensus was that the AAC had "new white tennis shoes syndrome". (You know, how when you have a brand new pair of white tennis shoes, you hate to do anything to get them dirty---but eventually they do get soiled and then it's OK if they get dirty and you have to wash them.) With a brand, spanking new church building, the AAC wanted to keep it pristine and dignified! Now this is a church of 200 members, many of them young families with kids, and there's no way a building can be used and stay pristine--and frankly, there is a difference between dignfied and prissy. In good condition and clean, yes, but not pristine--and definitely not prissy!

I'm quite certain I could take the painting back and someone would see that it was hung somewhere in the building. However, it was an early effort and I've decided it's not really that good. But I like keeping it on my wall. It keeps me humble.

So, for now, those are most of the paintings hanging around here. (As I'm typing this I realized I left out three small paintings of flowers. I'll snap them another time.) I'm planning another painting for my bedroom, perhaps from a snapshot taken in China. I'll try to be sure it doesn't clash with the sheets.