An Artist’s Eyes Never Rest!

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“All artists are a little bit crazy!”   “Artists are different.”

Over the years, I’ve chuckled when someone looked at  my whimsical works and noted the difference in our personalities.

Yes, artists are programmed differently, and most of us rejoice that every waking moment is a gift!  Whether soaking in a sun-drenched street scene or admiring an alignment of  overhead pelicans or noting subtle color differences in a landscape, an artist’s eyes never rest!

When living in Costa Rica, I lived immersed in nature and marveled at the beauty that surrounded me.  I was also intrigued that most of the handmade products I bought were made in Ecuador.  Hammocks, pottery, linens, masks – Ecuador, Ecuador, Ecuador.   From my first exploratory visit,  Ecuador stole my heart!  I now divide my time between Ecuador and Central America, and I look forward to exploring more of South America.

Although you cannot step inside my studio from your vantage point, this site will give you a glimpse into the life of the zeebra.  Hopefully you’ll emerge with a lighter heart!

Thanks for stopping by!  Z

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El Matal – Trot Along With All Your Heart

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"Ok.. It's not a sword..."

“Ok.. It’s not a sword…”

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

El Matal (Manabi Province) Ecuador

A big “Thanks” goes to all of you for your concern and support for the people who are facing the ocean’s wrath at the little fishing village of El Matal, Ecuador.  Your comments are appreciated not only by me but also by my friends who live or own property there. With slow internet, this has been difficult to write and proof, so all mistakes are definitely mine. Thanks again, everyone… Z

The waves captivated the dogs' interest as well...

The thundering waves captivated the dogs’ interest…

We can talk about what has happened in the past, and what might have been (So easy to say on hindsight!) but the community now faces the ‘What can we do about this?’ dilemma.   No single person or even a collective group of property owners can afford the expense* for the options that have proven successful in other coastal areas of the world.  (*If by chance you CAN afford the expense, would you please take one giant step forward NOW?!) Continue reading

“If You’re Going Through Hell…”

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“If you are going through hell, keep going.”
― Winston S. Churchill

Monday, October 27, 2014 – As the sun settled behind Punta Ballena, the ocean slammed El Matal.

Walk with me in the twilight and whisper a quiet request to Mother Ocean, “Shhhhhhh;  go back to sleep and leave these dear people alone…” Continue reading

El Matal (Ecuador) – Don’t Give Up!

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Oct. 27, 2014... Will the ocean claim the post?

Oct. 27, 2014… Will the ocean claim the light post in the next few days?

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When the boat returns in 12 hours, will the ocean have gobbled more of the landscape?

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”
― Dale Carnegie

El Matal, Ecuador – (Manabi Province)

Words fail me.

Several people said that strong waves rolled in at high tide late yesterday afternoon (Sunday Oct. 26) and assaulted the beach in sets of five or six at a time.   Several more said that the worst happened at dawn this morning, when another high tide brought more angry waves.

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Alcade (Mayor) Angel Rojas visits with locals and inspects the most-recent damage to the beach.

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70 or 80 locals crowded into the corner restaurant, where Mayor Angel Rojas discussed options and patiently listened to feedback from the crowd.  As one person said, “Too little too late,” there are few options.

Alcade Angel Rojas listens to feedback from the crowd.

Alcade Angel Rojas listens to feedback from the crowd.

Large rocks, which the mayor really didn’t want to use, seem to be the only immediate choice.   The rocks and debris would prevent the fishermen from launching their boats and returning home each day.   Building a pier is one option for the long-term plan, yet it doesn’t help anyone now. Continue reading

El Matal – “It’s Bad.”

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Do the oversized sand bags work?   Seeing is believing...

Do the oversized sand bags work? Seeing is believing…

After a fast trip to the Andes, I returned home on the river late yesterday afternoon.  My friend Xavier and I stood on the back balcony and watched the river ‘jump’ faster than usual.

“Is there an aguaji?”  I asked as we admired the idyllic mangrove-studded river.  A haze shrouded the end-of-day scene as the incoming waters surged higher.  Sunday fishermen cast their nets and hand lines from the bank and canoes.

“Yes,” he replied.   (Shrimp ponds are usually harvested during new and full-moon aguajis…)

We watched in silence, and I wondered why a place that I knew so well suddenly seemed foreign.

 “Something feels wrong,”  I added.   “This feels eerie, like a storm is approaching.  There’s something different; something’s wrong.” 

My internet did not work at all last night, and this morning I was greeted with a message from Becky and Lesli with the subject, ‘Matal.’

Not, “El Matal” or “The Tides” or “Meeting at El Matal.”   Just one word, “Matal,” and I braced myself for bad news.    Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Subtle Surprises

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“Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

El Matal (Manabi Province) Ecuador

Life planted a subtle surprise in my path last week when I visited El Matal’s quickly-vanishing beach.  After walking the low-tide line from one end to the other, I turned around and walked back along the boat-crammed street.  Almost instantly, a flash of just-painted color caught my eye, and my serious mood (see:Esperanza-Hope) transformed into one of joy.

Esperanza - Hope -- A subtle message of hope smiled at me along the upper end of El Matal.  (Ecuador)

Esperanza – Hope — A subtle message of hope smiled at me along the upper end of El Matal. (Ecuador)

The bystanders confirmed my suspicions:  Yes; “Maestro” painted the post.   They seemed baffled at my enthusiasm.  I pointed out that he painted the post out of the joy of his heart and not because he was competing in another post-painting competition!    I took a few photos, retrieved a 4 x 6″ card of Diablo Uma and asked if they’d give it to him as a token ‘Thank You’ prize.

They peered at me as if I was the Caped Crusader!

They peered at me as if I was the Caped Crusader!

As walked away,  they called me back;  a surprised Maestro stood there buttoning his shirt and wondering what had triggered the infectious enthusiasm that domino-ed along the neighbors until the card reached his hands!  I congratulated him on his kind and giving spirit and said that the freshly-painted post represented hope – esperanza – for the residents of El Matal. (See previous post) Continue reading

Esperanza – Hope for El Matal (Ecuador)

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The Canton of Jama (Manabi Province) steps in to help the fishing village of El Matal. (Ecuador)

The Canton of Jama (Manabi Province) steps in to help the fishing village of El Matal. (Ecuador)

(Ecuador) After a month in the USA and another five days searching for missing luggage, I reached home sweet Jama last week.  Before making that last five-kilometer trip to the riverhouse, I visited the fishing village of El Matal to photograph the changes in the beach. Instead of taking a quick ten-minute tour, I spent hours and juggled emotions that ranged from sadness to anger and also hope.

The photos need little explanation. Continue reading

Timeout for Art – ES Coffee Timeout Project

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“ES Coffee – Be Part of It!”

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Old logo waxing out – New Logo of red coffee cherry waning in…

“It is much more rewarding to get to the top of the mountain and share your experience with others than to show up by yourself, exhausted.” ― -Shandel Slaten

After a three-day search, American Airlines located my missing luggage on Tuesday, and I found myself with a free afternoon in Guayaquil (Ecuador). A quick check with Miguel Rendon of EScoffee confirmed that he was in town, so I popped in to say, “Hi” and talk about coffee and art.

Little did we know that an impromptu art session was in our future! After a quick dash to the local art store, Miguel and I returned with acrylic paints, brushes and two painter’s pallets. Half an hour later, the entire staff took a Timeout for Art! Continue reading

I WILL NOT BE BROKEN – Teamwork

After the deluge.  Where are the low areas, the ditches, the washouts?

After the deluge. Where are the low areas, the ditches, the washouts?

I will always remember the year that Guanacaste Costa Rica recieved 50 inches of rainfall in three weeks.  The third week brought torrents, and the 7-inch rain gauge overflowed night after night.  I wasn’t surprised when Rio Bejuco jumped its banks and flooded the small valley.  Landslides and swollen rivers blocked all roads, and we were without power as well.  Unless one has a well-stocked pantry, supplies are often difficult to find.  After helping friends shovel mud from their homes, I was brought to tears when the first Red Cross vehicle delivered foam mattresses and basic food to my rain-soaked  and less-fortunate friends.

Cecilia - Pueblo Nuevo-Islita Costa Rica- We shoveled mud from her home for hours, but with each hour, more people showed up to help!

Cecilia – Pueblo Nuevo-Islita Costa Rica- We shoveled mud from her home for hours, but with each hour, more people showed up to help!

Bonny Raitt sings, “That was then and this is now,” and this week my attention has been on Nicaragua.    My friend Debbie at Isla Ometepe blogs with professionalism and knits well-researched facts with poignant stories about her beloved Isla Ometepe.   Not only are there concerns about the proposed canal that will surely desecrate that unique area, but this past week brought earthquakes, torrential rainfall and mudslides as well.

Left or Right?

Muddy roads near Limon Nicaragua

Please take a few minutes to read her posts, and perhaps some of you can help with with donations (candles anyone?) for the little village of Los Ramos, destroyed by this week’s mudslides. The last satellite check (10:00 pm Tuesday night) showed rain over Nicaragua and most of Central America.

http://retirenicaragua.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/ometepe-island-mudslides-and-destruction/

http://retirenicaragua.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/we-must-be-living-in-a-vortex/

http://retirenicaragua.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/help-los-ramos-rebuild/

This one’s for you and your friends, Debbie (and Ron!):

Thanks for whatever you can do to help; leaving a comment on Debbie’s posts will give a boost in morale!  Z

2012 flooding - Manabi Ecuador

2012 flooding – Manabi Ecuador

Whirlpools…

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Koi swirl the waters of the Guayaquil (Ecuador) airport pond.

Koi swirl the waters of the Guayaquil (Ecuador) airport pond.

Have you ever had moments when your hands were full of tasks, your mind full of ideas, yet your transmission stalled and refused to move forward?

With about 12G of images to sort and a month’s worth of new stories, I find myself a little bit trapped in “Groundhog Day” as I embark on my third day of trips from my hotel to the airport (across the street) in search of MIA baggage.

I never noticed the new addition to the Guayaquil  airport until something turned my attention in that direction.  Short story coming soon!

I never noticed the new addition to the Guayaquil airport until something turned my attention in that direction. Short story coming soon!

The trip to the USA went well, although a detective would have had a difficult time tracking me!  Thanks to my dear friends and family who shared the duty of escorting the Zeebra up and down and up that Mississippi River and back once more —all the way to New Orleans!

From the waiting room of Dr. Tillman's clinic in Vidalia, Louisiana.  One never wants to be sick, but wow, isn't this a lovely setting  to soothe the soul!

From the waiting room of Dr. Tillman’s clinic in Vidalia, Louisiana. One never wants to be sick, but wow, isn’t this a lovely setting to soothe the soul!

More soon when I can sort through the whirlpool of stories and decide where to start!

Until then, it's time to return to the airport and inquire about those lost bags!   Z

Until then, it’s time to return to the airport and inquire about those lost bags! Z

Yes, it’s time to say, “Good Morning-Buenos Dias” to those golden koi!

Z

Timeout for Art: Gone Fishin’

"We did this!"  (Koen Family "Gone Fishin'" project...

“We did this!” (Koen Family) “Gone Fishin'” project…

“Time is but the stream I go fishing in. I drink at it, but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.”–Henry David Thoreau

My oldest sister’s family and I took a Timeout for Art two weekends ago. Retreating to their cabin on Lake Chicot near Lake Village, Arkansas, we threw our energies into a collective painting project. My sister Kate retrieved some of her favorite lures that provided inspiration for the design.

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We took turns drawing lures, while I urged them to draw and paint with the spirit of a child so that accuracy played little importance.  (Serious fisher-persons sometimes have trouble altering the colors of authentic lures!)

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Time flew as we swapped colors, admired each other’s work and urged the bashful ones to ‘paint for just five minutes.‘     Once Dana quietly asked, “How did you mix that color?’ and she watched a silent demonstration and then replicated the chartreuse color. Continue reading

Ole Mississippi, She’s Calling My Name…

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The Mississippi River Bridge near Greenville, Mississippi and Lake Chicot, Arkansas

WordPress requested images of signs this week, and I’ve been snapping photos of road signs while traveling up and down that grand Mississippi River. Here are a few peeks of the river! Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Sculpting with Clay

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“Just wait and see, Charlie Brown. I’ll see the Great Pumpkin. I’ll SEE the Great Pumpkin! Just you wait, Charlie Brown. The Great Pumpkin will appear and I’ll be waiting for him…”
― Charles M. Schulz

This week’s Timeout for Art will surely inspire a few of you to purchase a package of modeling clay, a small-to-medium sized pumpkin and start having fun!

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From Little Rock and Monticello Arkansas, I introduce you to three unique pumpkin heads! The following photos illustrate a fun option for creating October mascots! Continue reading

Timeout for Mississippi

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Timeout for Mississippi has squeezed the Timeout for Art to the sidelines this week.  As you read William Percy’s words from his autobiography, “Lanterns on the Levee,” enjoy these images taken throughout the Mississippi Delta.

Cotton at its peak and awaiting harvest... Heavy rains at this critical time would ruin the crop.

Cotton at its peak and awaiting harvest… Heavy rains at this critical time would ruin the crop.

“My country is the Mississippi Delta, the river country. It lies flat, like a badly drawn half oval, with Memphis at its northern and Vicksburg at its southern tip…

Highway 61 near Clarksdale Misssissippi

(Highway 61 near Clarksdale Misssissippi) Memphis is an hour behind in the rear view mirror and Vicksburg is hours and hours away at the other end of the road!

Its western boundary is the Mississippi River, which coils and returns on itself in great loops and crescents, though from the map you would think it ran in a straight line north and south. Every few years it rises like a monster from its bed and pushes over its banks to vex and sweeten the land it has made…

Soybeans near Clarksdale

Soybeans near Clarksdale

For our soil, very dark brown, creamy and sweet-smelling, without substrata of rock or shale, was built up slowly, century after century, by the sediment gathered by the river in its solemn task of cleansing the continent and deposited in annual layers of silt on what must once have been the vast depression between itself and the hills.

Near Yazoo City Mississippi

Near Yazoo City Mississippi

Near Yazoo City, Mississippi

Near Yazoo City, Mississippi

This ancient depression, now filled in and level, is what we call the Delta. Some say it was the floor of the sea itself. Now it seems still to be a floor, being smooth from one end to the other, without rise or dip or hill, unless the mysterious scattered monuments of the mound-builders may be called hills…

Continue reading

TIMEOUT FOR ART: Capturing Memories

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Pencil - 1993 -Hen with chicks beneath forsythia...

Pencil – 1993 -Hen with chicks beneath forsythia…

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. – William Faulkner

The above drawing hangs on a butterscotch-painted wall in my son’s kitchen. When I recently looked at it, memories of that long-ago 1993 pre-spring day came flooding back, and we were once again at No Mistake Plantation in Yazoo County. Charles had injured his ankle during a sports event, and we were sitting on the grounds of a daylily farm and soaking in the warm rays of sunshine. The hen ambled along with her chicks, fluffed out her feathers and settled into a comfortable pose not far from where we sat. The pencil drawing captured the moment much better than any camera, and the memories were branded with each stroke of the pencil.

New Albany (Mississippi) Heritage Museum

New Albany (Mississippi) Heritage Museum

A few days ago I visited the Union County Heritage Museum in New Albany, Mississippi, and the back gardens provided an abundance of artsy material.  They will represent the first of many attempts to capture the essence of Mississippi!

Enjoy the walk through the gardens, and don’t forget to apply mosquito repellent!

Z Continue reading

“Please Moderate” Spammmmers

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Totem detail - artist Clyde Mcdowell

New Albany, Mississippi – Museum Grounds – Totem detail – artist Clyde Mcdowell

Numerous spam comments on images are slipping through the filters this week.  Is anyone else finding an inbox full of wannabe comments in moderation?

All’s fine here in William Faulkner and Elvis country! Will be back soon with the Timeout for Art!

Z

Planes, Trains and Automobiles…

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Hi from Mississippi!

Coming up for a fast gulp of cyber air, I am thrilled to upload photos in less than a minute instead of several hours!

The flights from Guayaquil Ecuador to Quito, and from Quito to Houston went well; after hearing that grand, “Welcome back,’ greeting at immigration, I boarded a flight to New Orleans.  Landing there 12 hours after leaving Guayaquil, I received a second ‘Welcome Back’ greeting from a friend, Danny Bond, who drove from Gulfport for a fast visit before I made the last leg of my journey.

After checking in at the Amtrak station and confirming a seat on the 1:30 ‘City of New Orleans,’ we visited several salvage shops crammed with antiques and relics from old houses. Hundreds of old wooden doors and wavy-glassed windows, claw footed tubs and wooden mantles triggered creative ideas, and I asked Danny if my family had paid him to take me to those places to tempt me to move back!

The $50.00 six-hour Amtrak journey from New Olreans to Greenwood Mississippi was surely the best travel value for the year!    There is so much to share, but for now, enjoy the views from the City of New Orleans! Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Deliberate Practice

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P9030027 timeout for art la division watercoolor circles y spirals

“Success has to do with deliberate practice. Practice must be focused, determined, and in an environment where there’s feedback.” (Malcolm Gladwell)

Last week’s drawing/painting class went well. The ladies no longer chatter as much as they did in the first few lessons! As we were painting in silence, every so often someone would ask, “How did you mix that color?”  

Most of the time I switched to a blank section of my paper and demonstrated the process; they watched as I mixed the colors, applied water to the paper and floated the pigment into a defined area.

The exercise began as a fun drawing, but the students learned that even simple designs demand an attentive eye and a steady hand!

Ready? Continue reading

“Welcome Back”

“Welcome back,” a straight-faced immigration officer often says when he returns my just-stamped passport.

Those two unexpected words always touch my heart, and I reply with a heartfelt, ‘Thank you’ and legally enter the United States of America.

Are the agents required to say that to all returning citizens, or am I just lucky to be greeted with those words?

Quito International Airport (Arrivals) - Hey, I think I know those people!

Quito International Airport (Arrivals) – Hey, I think I know those people! Hank and Marie Groff (pictured above) illustrate their mastery of positive airport experiences.

After placing my passport back in its proper place and double checking the boarding pass gate details for my connecting flight, I proceed to baggage claim – if needed – and then follow the maze of signs.

While preoccupied with flight arrivals and departures, one rarely has time to notice the other travelers and workers in the airport setting. Many times when I step on that ‘this will get you there a bit faster’ moving-floor option, I always look at my fellow travelers. Few people are smiling. When eye contact is made, I quickly smile or grin before they have a chance to look away, as if one might be arrested if caught interacting with a stranger!

There are other reasons to stay serious while navigating airports; those little bullet trams demand intense focus – to confirm you’re getting on the right one as a computerized voice reminds you to stand away from the door. Most of the people seem catatonic, as if any personal interaction might cause them to fall from the tram or miss their flight.

Long long ago, a 4-H judge awarded me top prize in showmanship with my 'steer' after it pulled me around the arena.   He quietly said, "Honey, don't you EVER lose that smile."

Long long ago, a 4-H judge awarded me top prize in showmanship after my ‘runaway steer’ pulled me around the arena. The judge quietly said, “Honey, don’t you EVER lose that smile.”

Realizing that I am also caught up in the hamster cage, I release that clenched-jaw tension and smile. I smile to remind myself that the world will not stop if I miss my flight. I then try to pass that smile to others and remind them to savor the moment. To watch someone’s tightened expression suddenly transform into a light-hearted smile touches my heart. There are times when a tired irritable toddler refuses to stop crying. When possible, I look into his/her eyes and ask, ‘Hey! What’s wrong? I’ll bet you are tired. Or hungry.’   That almost always halts the crying, and the child adjusts to the unexpected encounter (distraction!) with the stranger.

Surely these children were obediently sitting with orders not to move!  They did not want to smile either!

Surely these children were obediently sitting with orders not to move! They did not want to smile either!

If English is not their primary language, I then start chattering in English, and the child looks at me as if I am the star attraction of the circus! I talk for about a minute, then tell the child, ‘Goodbye!’ and go on my way. Almost always, the tears and heavy heart are forgotten, and the airwaves remain blissfully peaceful as the child and baffled parents wonder, ‘Who was that grinning woman?”

Some days my inner smile expands so much that I wonder if my heart might burst, and during those times of self-inspection, I worry that I might cry. Why is it so easy for me to find joy in the everyday experience of Life, and why is it so difficult for others? I do not know why, but I am grateful that through the random luck of the genes that make me ‘Z’ – I have evolved into a very happy person.

2011-  Brookhaven Airport (Mississippi)   Surely the man didn't just say, "You can use it as the courtesy car"!!!

2011- Brookhaven Airport (Mississippi) Surely the man didn’t just say, “You can use it as the courtesy car”!!!

This next month I will be traveling back to the alluvial flatlands of my childhood – the Mississippi Delta and surrounding area.

Atypical of my usual WordPress writing style, I will be observing and recording my thoughts with pen and paper and will pause every so often to transcribe and share with you. A month is not a long time when the circle of my loved ones stretches from the Gulf Coast to Memphis, across the Mississippi River to Little Rock Arkansas and back down to Natchez. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Sometimes…Little by Little

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“Little by little does the trick.” Aesop’s Fables – The Crow and the Pitcher

When traveling, I always yearn to stop when I see roadside stands.  Watching a skilled machete artist whack open a chilled coconut is a bonus for the one-dollar orb that holds nutrient-rich water.

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Sometimes I give a wistful look toward the pottery stands if I am traveling via bus.

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No matter what mode of travel, I ponder how much an item will weigh before I add it to my growing load of loot!  Pottery’s weight makes it hard to justify when using public transportation.  If I take that fateful first step into the pottery scene, a few new pieces will have a new home!

So many choices!

So many choices!

After getting those items home, I never regret the extra burden, although I have moments of self doubt when I’m in transit!

Ten dollars will buy a lot of pottery, but oh,  extra pottery will add a lot to my load!

Ten dollars will buy a lot of pottery, but oh, extra pottery will add a lot to my load!

Sometimes I wonder why road trips exhaust me, and then I ponder the items purchased (ahem – gallons of paint and varnish; quarts of special-colors of paint, plywood, items for the kitchen…) A day after the human burro unloads the parcels, hibernates and incubates a plan for the materials, she’s ready to proceed!  As stated with last week’s post, the difficult part is wading through that invasion of ideas and focusing on one.

Sometimes a dollop of unused acrylic paint prompts me into a ‘seek and find’ mission, and I walk through the house with paintbrush loaded with pigment! Too much black paint prompted the painting of the mask on the door! (Below)  It seemed a waste to wash that black paint down the drain – one learns to be frugal when good acrylic paints are not available in the area. Continue reading

The Mystery of Eyes

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The third eye icon, often associated with the pineal gland and the sixth chakra, dates back to early Egyptian times.  Long ago, the amulets represented protection, power and good health, and the designs were sometimes painted on ships for protection at sea.

Prompted by a desire to find creative ways to deter the neighborhood thief, I mischievously painted an all-seeing eye on the gate to Casa Loca.   (An amulet from the treasures of King Tut served as the model.)

From New Zealand, Gallivanta shared an article that supports the theory that the All-Watching Eye helps to prevent theft. ( Bike thefts slashed by 50% at University after scientists install a picture of a pair of EYES above the cycle racks) ` I am hopeful that the giant eye on the gate will have the same effect on the shrimp farm.

While the monochromatic art transformed the gate, a second, more-serious design evolved in the studio.

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When one focuses on a particular subject, more images seem to pop up in unexpected places.  While showing students my museum/archaeology sketchbook, I viewed this old sketch (below) with wonder. I never realized how this tiny detail resembles the Egyptian-Eye Icon:

From Quito's Casa de la Cultura - Detail from Golden Mask -

From Quito’s Casa de la Cultura – Detail from Golden Mask -

From Quito's Casa de la Cultura

From Quito’s Casa de la Cultura

Compare the pencil sketch to the eye of the coconut head (below) which was painted about ten years ago. Continue reading

Morning…the Most Memorable Season of the Day…

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Sunrise over the shrimp ponds...

Sunrise over the shrimp ponds…

“Morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour…”   and for a minute some part of us “… awakens which slumbers the rest of the day and night…” – Thoreau

I left my house around 4 in the morning to walk to this spot to capture the awakening day... and an ample amount of photo moments awaited...

I left my house around 4 in the morning to walk to this spot to capture the awakening day… and an ample amount of photo moments awaited…

Matt at WordPress tossed a morsel of a prompt, and since I had just reviewed the images marked, ‘Dawn,” I quickly opened a “New Post” page.

Sometimes I work on artistic projects all night and am brought to a stopping point by the sounds of the awakening birds.  Viewing dawn on the river reminds me of how timeless this last bend of the river can be.

The anticipation of dawn beneath full-moon skies

The anticipation of dawn beneath full-moon skies

The moon sets over the river.

The moon sets over the river.

My most memorable dawn moments happen when I awaken around 4 and venture outside to witness the visual beauty to the start of the day.  My senses are usually heightened, and with a strong attachment to the surrounding landscape, I try to capture that beauty.

Join me on a cyber walk on one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches, Playa San Miguel. We’ll start with photos from the awakening day photo from above: Continue reading

Timeout for Art: An Invasion of Ideas

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Hmmm, which task comes next?!

The problem isn’t coming up with ideas, it is how to contain the invasion. My ideas are like uninvited guests. They don’t knock on the door; they climb in through the windows like burglars who show up in the middle of the night and make a racket in the kitchen as they raid the fridge. I don’t sit and ponder which one I should deal with first. The one to be wrestled to the floor before all others is the one coming at me with the most vehemence. Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed — from Brain Pickings

Sundays at Casa Loca are deliciously serene.  The workers on the shrimp farms go to town or to the beach or family gatherings on their day of rest, and the pumping stations (supplying fresh water to the shrimp ponds) stay mute.   Aside from a random car or motorcycle passing on the road, the riverside’s background music comes from the whisperings of birds.

“Yikes! I’m growing feathers!”

The internet signal often works well enough to open emails in the early-morning hours, and most web pages show the text but drop the images.   Comments and emails that I write are often missing in action when I check later to see if they reached their destinations.   Brain Pickings, a once-a-week tonic written by Maria Popova,  arrives on the Day of Rest and delivers an insightful and comforting assortment of reading material that rivals the Sunday edition of one’s favorite newspaper.  Not seeing a Sunday newspaper for a fortnight of years, I look forward to the visual and intellectual tonic that Brain Pickings delivers to my remote location.

(Do I get a prize for breaking two hammers?)  Some of the hardwoods are as hard as concrete!

(Do I get a prize for breaking two hammers?) Some of the hardwoods are like concrete!

The above quote struck a strong chord as I peered into Herzog’s psyche.  He summarized and eloquently nailed how many artists approach their work.  It’s often difficult to explain the creative process to others.   There are times when one of my paintings is going really well, and after a break, I detour in a totally different direction with a new project!  I often create several small paintings while working on a more-challenging one.

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Those small exercises in spontaneity are like little appetizers that sustain me and provide a little kick of energy to resume the larger work.   “The one to be wrestled to the floor before all others is the one coming at me with the most vehemence.”

Continue reading

I’ll Be Watching You

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This Watching Eye never sleeps...

This Watching Eye never sleeps…

Earlier in the year someone broke into the house and stole a few small items. Small, but they were items of comfort – like a pair of binoculars that I used on a daily basis.  Because he had stolen a hand saw I had carelessly left in the yard, I suspected  that the burglar was the fisherman who lives downriver…

Busted!  I chose to pretend not to notice until I pondered how to approach him...

Busted! I chose to pretend not to notice; I pondered the best way to approach him…  “He needs it more than I,”  I said to myself.

I also thought that I might find the saw later beneath some leaves or misplaced in the house or gardens.  At the time there was no fence around the house, and I should have been more careful about leaving the saw outside where I had been working.

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When I pondered his basic life and lack of proper shelter, I reacted (after adjusting to the loss) with compassion instead of anger. I realized how lucky I am to have been born into a loving family, to have been raised with a loose rein, with the freedom to grow up with a proper education balanced with an immersion in nature. How might I have evolved if I had no proper roof over my head or a formal education and the best shoes I owned were a mismatched set of rubber boots?

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The canoe leaks but has character.

Instead of being angry, I decided to approach him through mischievous and creative ways. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Heroes in the Seaweed!

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"It came from Playamart..."

“It came from Playamart…”Would any of you like to guess the purpose of this piece of driftwood from the nearby beach?

“Suzanne takes you down to her place by the river…” (Leonard Cohen)

Jama Ecuador (Manabi Province)

When one of the Ecuador Expat tours visited Casa Loca, someone asked me, “Do you know Leonard Cohen’s song, Suzanne?”

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“I do!” I smiled, though I didn’t say that it was often on my painting playlist…

She added, “I just met Suzanne.”

I smiled, reflected on some of the lines and peered at myself through her eyes.  She was probably correct!

Although I have many images of the newest ‘driftwood’ projects, I left the USB stick with those images at the house.  While using faster internet in town, I am pairing a few new ones with older ones from the archives.

Quite handy for a kitchen towel!

Quite handy for a kitchen towel!

Here are some older photos and a few lines from the song to illustrate her point:

…Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river…

Before

Low tide – before the mangroves were removed…

You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her…

Continue reading

PEOPLE WATCHING

President Rafael Correa visited Jama - August 09, 2014

President Rafael Correa visited Jama – August 09, 2014

Jama Ecuador (Manabi Province)

Last Saturday when I was running a new water line to the kitchen sink, a friend stopped by with a message, “Lisa, President Correa will be speaking in Jama at ten o’clock this morning.”   Abandoning my task, I focused on getting to town in time to witness the event!

A neighbor was harvesting a shrimp pond, and I pondered the opportunity to photograph the birds.   Continuing my trek to town, the wood storks and President Correa's helicopter rewarded me!

A neighbor was harvesting a shrimp pond, and I pondered the opportunity to photograph the birds.As I continued my trek to town, the wood storks and President Correa’s helicopter rewarded me with a unique photo!

Five minutes later, the owner of the pond gave me a ride to town, and I took one grand total-immersion step into the crowd.

Click your heels together…

 Those red shoes might out steal the show from the President!

Those red shoes might steal the show from the President!

Step into the scene and join me in a people-watching session:

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P8090268 correa jama Continue reading

Gotta Wear Shades

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P8080039 IGUANA RIO JAMA GOTT A WEAR SHADES

The past few weeks have offered so many impromptu photo ops, and most of the photos are self explanatory!

(Jama-El Matal-Manabi Ecuador) August 2014
Are you ready for a feeling-alright-unique scene here at latitude zero?  Climb aboard!  (Sun shades optional.)

While photographing the frigates against the setting sun, I turned to see the rising moon sneaking into the scene...

While photographing the frigates against the setting sun, I turned to see the rising moon sneaking into the scene…

Using an irrigation pipe for a rest for the camera, I waited for the frigates to circle overhead...

Using an irrigation pipe for a rest for the camera, I waited for the frigates to circle overhead…

Walking toward home, I scanned the skies for returning birds.  I found an ultra quiet one sneaking across the sky...

Walking toward home, I scanned the skies for returning birds. I found an ultra quiet one sneaking across the sky…

The next day my feathered friends  (wood storks) escorted President Rafael Correa to Jama! (Post in progress.)

The next day my feathered friends (wood storks) escorted President Rafael Correa to Jama! (Post in progress.)

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Speaking of sun shades!  Wow, those shoes were bright! Now back to the story...

Speaking of sun shades!  Those shoes were bright!  Now back to the story…

In between numerous distractions, I have been painting mosaics on pottery.  (Timeout post will be a little bit tardy!)

In between numerous distractions, I have been painting mosaics on pottery. (Timeout post will be a little bit tardy!)

A few days later I wondered what the pelicans were doing at El Matal...

A few days later I wondered what the pelicans were doing at El Matal…

"Are you SURE you are ready for what we have planned for you?" asked Mr. Pelican...

“Are you SURE you are ready for what we have planned for you?” asked Mr. Pelican…

"Buckle your seatbelt and VAMOS a El Matal!"

“Buckle your seatbelt and VAMOS a El Matal!”

Ahem, well the past week has been in-cre-EE-ble, so I thought, “Maybe I should wear shades for this visit…”

In my haste to leave the house, I forgot to wear shades… Continue reading

Rockin´500!

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P8020442 END OF DAY PELICANS FRIGATES Y

Wow, amigos!

The previous post, Timeout for Art Start Small, gleaned a WordPress notice ´Congratulations on writing 500 total posts on Zeebra Designs & Destinations.´

Inward concentation and focus....

Inward concentation and focus….

Before logging off at the cybercafe, I checked the stats. In the history of those posts, there have been 107,225 views, 1,494 followers and 17,792 comments. With apologies, I am far behind on replying to your amazing comments. I will blame the burrito computer, may he rest in peace!

2013 Burrito repair ' external keyboard required...

2013 Burrito repair ‘ external keyboard required…

I would rather pick coffee cherries!

Put me out to pasture!  I would rather pick coffee cherries!

Without your approval, encouragement and support, I would never have reached those numbers. Thank you, thank you and thank you even more. Because of your support, my life is blessed!

Through the wonders of ´Schedule to Publish’ options, this will hopefully reach you on Friday!

Z

TIMEOUT FOR ART: Starting Small

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In the distance, beyond that middle power line pole, is the little beach community of La Division...

In the distance, beyond that middle power line pole, is the little beach community of La Division…

“I’ll start with small things.”—Vincent van Gogh

Jama, Manabi, Ecuador 

Looking out the window and over the river and across the shrimp ponds, I often gaze toward the little pueblito of La Division. About a half hour’s walk from the riverhouse, La Division retains a refreshing authenticity that many coastal communities have lost.

View from the dining and art class area

View from the dining and art class area

With that authenticity comes the ‘manana’ attitude, and the 2 o’clock classes usually don’t begin until 3. Paying customers trump art class, and sometimes Nely prepares lunches, insists on serving me the family special, then scrubs her kitchen squeaky clean before switching to student mode. On sunny days I usually order a cold cervesa and sit back and absorb the tranquil vibe and practice the Ecuadorian lifestyle! Continue reading

Timeout for Art – Barter Is A Noble Thing

Two students, Nelly and Margarita, study leaves on their second day of drawing lessons.

Nelly and Margarita(right) and Rossi (left) study leaves on their second day of drawing lessons.

“If I had my life to live over again, I would elect to be a trader of goods rather than a student of science. I think barter is a noble thing.” – Albert Einstein

Last Wednesday and Thursday I walked to nearby La Division to give drawing lessons.   When asked what I would charge, I said, “One dollar per class, but you don’t have to pay with a dollar.  You can pay with eggs or plantains or lemons or yucca, etc.” Many people do not appreciate something that’s free – they don’t show up or they talk during the class, and there had to be some sort of exchange.   I supplied the pencils and drawing pads, and they could pay me however they’d like and whenever they’d like.

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P7240277 la division class On the first day, I pointed out that a pencil and paper cost very little money, and the pencil could be a good friend to them. They could pull out the pencil and practice while waiting on the bus or an appointment.  They only needed the discipline to practice and they would improve each day.  If they wanted to paint well, they should first master drawing and shading. Continue reading

Who’s The Boss on this Shrimp Farm?

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Life on a Cameronera (Shrimp Farm)

Life on a Cameronera (Shrimp Farm)

Jama-Manabi-Ecuador  – July 2014

The shrimp ponds along Rio Jama are owned by a handful of families, and each one has a modest headquarters where pumps, feed and supplies are stored. Life is usually quiet on these cameroneras;  the pumps run when fresh ocean water ebbs upriver each day, and they are quiet when the river is low.

P7150817 quadrado shrimp harvest july 2014 Many times a modest living area is located on the second floor above the bodega. (My house is this type of design.)  Having someone watching over the ponds day and night helps protect against theft (yes- thieves sneak in at night and steal shrimp!).   The employee also turns the pumps on and keeps an ear tuned for signs of mechanical problems.  When the river water levels get low, the pumps are turned off.

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Storks clean up the leftovers after a harvest!

The health of the ponds is closely monitored from the time the tiny larvae are delivered to a small nursery pond until the day of harvest.    Oxygen levels are important, and sunny conditions produce healthier ponds than cloudy ones.   The ponds are deep enough that herons and egrets are not tempted by the shrimp that stay near the bottom.  If the birds line the edges, it’s a sign that something’s wrong – perhaps the shrimp need more oxygen, and they’re coming to the surface.   Continue reading

Not-Quite Summer?

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Peeling Shrimp - La Division, Manabi, Ecuador

Peeling Shrimp -“I LOVE my job!’ –  La Division, Manabi, Ecuador

Summer – “The warmest season of the year, following spring and preceding autumn.” (Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary” 1984)

Krista at WordPress prompted us to share images of ‘Summer Lovin”, and she mentioned southern vs northern hemispheres.  I snickered and thought, ‘- Summer? What about those lucky ones who straddle the equator?!  We don’t really have a summer on this part of Ecuador’s coast!”

P7190099 sunset pelican

After enduring Central America’s oppressive Pacific heat for eight years, I remain enchanted by Ecuador’s more-forgiving climate.   Just south of the equator on the Pacific coast, the days and nights politely share 12-hour shifts; January escorts us into the rainy season (invierno), and the June solstice weans us into a dry-but-slightly-cooler verano, their version of summer.   The low temperatures might bottom out at 70, and the highs rarely hit 90, although the sun can bite very fast!  (This past week has been cool, and many people wore long sleeves in the daytime and jackets at night!) When the ocean breezes stop for a rest, and the temperatures rise,  the nearby ocean offers instant relief!

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My perch on the river is nestled between two rapidly-vanishing beaches;  La Division is northeast from the river’s mouth, and Playa El Matal is southwest. The ocean stayed on its best behavior during mid July’s full moon spring/king tides, although another critical high tide will soon arrive in August.

La Division Ecuador - Nelly took a rare break from her restaurant for Mother's Day 2013.

La Division Ecuador – Nelly took a rare break from her restaurant for Mother’s Day 2013.

La Boca - Rio Jama

La Boca – Rio Jama

 

playamart la boca

Once upon a time when the beach was much wider: “The Boca” with El Matal and Punta Ballena in the background. (Image from 2011)

"Where's the beach?" - A concerned visitor assesses the vanishing beach.

Playa El Matal – “Where’s the beach?” – A concerned visitor assesses the vanishing beach.

Great illustrations of ‘summer’ can be found at Playa El Matal. As the ocean crowds the fishermen’s boats onto the road, the locals remain unruffled and adapt without any displays of frustration.  Let’s go on a beach-inspection walk and search for a sour face! Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Runaway!

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To enter, please pull cord!

To enter, please pull cord!

“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.”  Thyla Harp

Taped on the ugliest wall of the riverhouse is a growing assortment of clippings, scribblings and quotes, and the above quote always makes me smile. Today’s post gives you a little peek into the gates at the riverhouse, where the internet crawls slower than today’s low tide! Continue reading

TIMEOUT FOR ART: Be Still, Seek and Find

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Pencil (Continued from earlier post)

Pencil (Continued from earlier post)

All that you need is deep within you waiting to unfold and reveal itself. All you have to do is be still and take time to seek for what is within and you will surely find it. ~Eileen Caddy

I am writing from La Division, where I hoped to get away from smoke that’s been wafting ‘downwind’ from some sort of burn pile. The smoke seems to have followed me here! I was also hoping for a stronger internet signal. I was not planning to have many distractions, but they are here as the old battery runs down while the upload functions and pages fail to load!
P7170001 ceibo pencil

Perdon for this hurried post!  The quote is quite ironic for a day when I was unable to be still in order to publish this post!    Two of four images loaded, and I am going to call that ‘a good day.’  The battery is now at critical —- some days it’s best to stay home and draw!

Z

One Wave at a Time

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(retweeet)@Petchary @PanosCaribbean (ZeebraDesigns said: Beneath full moon will be at front line, feet in sand, staring mother ocean’s eyes (mouth?) one wave at a time. – 11 Jul)

Emma Lewis
@Petchary @ZeebraDesigns @PanosCaribbean “That sounds poetic, but sad… Will be thinking of you.”

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With little room between the high-tide mark and the buildings, Playa El Matal’s front street is choked with boats, fishermen, tourists and locals.

El Matal, Manabi, Jama, Ecuador

Mother Ocean was quite calm last night, and the night weaned into daytime without threatening and dangerous waves.  I peered out at the waves about once an hour and was glad to see dawn arrive with a gentle awakening.

With palm trees flanking each side of my friends home, I remained all but incredulous when they told me that in 2010, they could step 54 paces from the end of their lot to the edge of the dry beach that angled to the ocean!   I looked at their old photos, and I now sit with jaw agape at how much has been devoured by the ocean. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: So Many Colors!

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Oops, the sun turned into a flower, and the flower turned into — what?— fireworks? Who cares? It was fun to paint!

“If you could paint your current mood onto a canvas, what would that painting look like? What would it depict?” Ben Huberman –  WordPress – The Daily Prompt Continue reading

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