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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End-of-Year Spring Tides Approach – El Matal Ecuador

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El Matal/Jama Canton/Manabi Province/Ecuador

December Solstice – 2014 from the Middle of the World/Ecuador!

As you dash between social engagements during this holiday season, take a quiet respite and think about where you are on the planet as the sun reaches the northernmost point in its yearly cycle.  Tomorrow it begins its journey to its June reunion in the southern hemisphere, while reminding us that we also make progress – a little each day.

Yoga alignment!

Yoga alignment!

Ponder where you are in Life and if you awaken with a smile in your heart.  If you don’t have that smile, try to figure out why and what can make your spiritual life happier.  Surround yourself with happy people, and reach out to others who are less fortunate than you.  If you’re facing challenges, send a quiet “Thanks’ that you have intelligence and the ability to find creative alternatives to the ones that have proven to be ineffective.  As my nephew Don stated, “We make choices every day…”   (See: When the World Outside my Window Goes Insane.)

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Although some challenges all but break us, we realize later that they formed us into stronger and wiser people.   I’ve witnessed many positive results from the ongoing crisis at nearby El Matal, and the biggest one for me is getting to know many of the locals who live at their own Ground Zero.  If one steps into the arena with empathy and an open heart, the social barriers are dissolved.  Those who are actively addressing the problems are ‘one’ in spirit, and they embrace all who show their support.

As most people prepare for the festive holiday gatherings, traditions and feasts, the people of El Matal are anticipating the approaching spring tide of December 24th.   I visted El Matal this past Wednesday and took photos as the municipality resorted to emergency measures to protect the thin necktie of land that remains.

The next four images illustrate the changes from June 2012 until December 2014:

Across the road from Hibiscus Post - June 2012

Across the road from Hibiscus Post – June 2012

From 2012 - Post Painting Competition

From 2012 – Post Painting Competition

(March 2014 - my favorite hibiscus post!)

(March 2014 – my favorite hibiscus post!)

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December 2014 – Same hibiscus post

Although they are not pretty – and I have witnessed how unstable these boulders can be when they shift and fall near my house on the river – they will help protect the front-line properties.

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Victor’s restaurant looks abandoned, but they were open for lunch a few hours before this image was taken. I worry about the loss of revenue during this ongoing crisis.

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I also worry about the safety of unsuspecting people who assume that the rocks are stable. The waves erode the underlying sand, and the boulders shift and sometimes tumble.

Hurried for time, I will leave these images in the ‘Pending’ folder and hope that they reach you tomorrow/Saturday.     (I gave those exhausted gerbils and hamsters a day off while I went to town for faster internet!)   I will be home at Casa Loca until early next week.

Warning:  The rest of this post is very image heavy!   Z Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Mosaics and Beyond

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Hmmm; what do we have staring back at us?

Hmmm; what do we have staring back at us?

As I look back upon my life, I see that every part of it was a preparation for the next. The most trivial of incidents fits into the larger pattern like a mosaic in a preconceived design.
Margaret Sanger

Last week during the 10-day power outage, I worked on several different projects.    The mosaic border demanded many more hours’ attention than I had planned, but the end result might fool most people who view it from six or eight feet.     Here is how it looked last week:

In progress - Mosaic Mirror

In progress – Mosaic Mirror

After about four layers of paint on each piece of the mosaic, much of the grout area was painted a second time.   Thick and a bit-sloppy paint gave the illusion of true grout.  When that dried, the edges were strengthened with straight, confident strokes and highlights were added along the top edges.
Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Little Ideas that Explode!

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“When I have an idea, I turn down the flame, as if it were a little alcohol stove, as low as it will go. Then it explodes and that is my idea.”   Ernest Hemingway

(Why didn’t I do this years ago?)  Th colorized version replaces the generic silver design of the mini-laptop!  With a little leftover paint, I also brightened the facade of my silver-colored camera!

Now if I can figure out a way to improve the internet signal strength!  John and Mary McDonald recommended that I upgrade from gerbil power to hamster. The hamsters, I’ve found, are a bit lazy and would rather eat than run that wheel round and round. With gerbil power, only this image uploaded.   Its been a busy week!  Part two should arrive tomorrow!

(Now it’s time to prompt those little gerbils into another power-up marathon!)

Z

Turn Up The Volume?

Chris Cardman - Lead Guitarist - County Line Road - 2013

Chris Cardman – Lead Guitarist – County Line Road – 2013

Over a year ago I wrote about my friend Chris Cardman, a former neighbor in Costa Rica.  Chris and I faced many challenges while living in a remote area of the Nicoya Penisula.  (Playa San Miguel)   He sometimes came to my house to brainstorm a particular problem, or I often stormed into the restaurant/bar that he managed, and I would wait until all got quiet to discuss a particularly challenging day.   Some days the sound of the guitar coaxed me from my project, and I followed the pied piper’s acoustic sound and shattered Chris’s quiet respite.

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Classic Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica

Classic Playa San Miguel, Costa Rica

Many days and nights were busy at the Blue Pelican, and I usually dodged the crowds and waited to visit when the beach was quiet.  When the customers left for the evening, Chris often retrieved the guitar from the wall and played music, shared some original tunes, or we listened to our favorite tunes and ‘talked music.’   He sometimes said if all else failed in his life, he knew he’d be happy strumming the guitar. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Painting by Candlelight!

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Small acrylic exercise in color (detail)

 

“…If the stories are true, van Gogh would seek out cafes at night to paint, wearing his candlelit straw hat beside other customers. (The Huffington Post- By Todd Van Luling)

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After ten days of using flashlights and candles to read – and sometimes to finish a painting session, I am pleased to announce that power has been restored at Casa Loca! I inquired (complained?) last Friday, and again this past Tuesday, and again today. Today the owner of the shrimp farm was with me, and for some reason Xavier’s presence made a difference! Two men drove to the house within half an hour, and  ten minutes later, the power problem had been found and repaired! Continue reading

Why Not?

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Near Rivas Nicaragua

Near Rivas Nicaragua

Debbie of Retired & Rewired in Nicaragua recently posted The Decay of Dignity and triggered a memory from four or more years ago when I was passing through Rivas Nicaragua.    Rivas was my timeout spot, where I threw on the brakes and rested while making the required 72-hour ‘border exits’ out of Costa Rica to keep my passport in good standing.

Rivas Nicaragua - the Bustling Morning Market

Rivas Nicaragua – the Bustling Morning Market

I often chose Rivas over the highly-popular San Juan Del Sur because I wanted to immerse myself in a typical Nicaraguan town untainted by tourists. I usually rested the first day, ventured around the town on the second day, took the ferry to Debbie’s beloved Isla Ometepe on the third day (for lunch and to see the museum!) then prepared to return to Costa Rica on the fourth or fifth day.    Most every morning I arose with the chickens and explored the streets in search of photo moments in the early-morning light.

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(Note the shoe-shine guy that’s sitting on the wooden stool.)

On several previous trips to Rivas, I crossed paths with a weathered man with a perpetual ‘fool-on-the-hill’ manner that made me wonder what drug had fried his brain, or if a lifetime of drinking home-brewed sugar cane liquor destroyed his mind a little at a time. I don’t enjoy photographing misery or the dark side of a man’s character, but this man photographed well;  he had presence!  Perhaps there was more to this man with the foolish smile?

One morning I spotted him walking up the sunny side of the street, and I stopped (on the shadow side) and prepared to photograph him as he passed.   Continue reading

Approaching Strangers & Making Friends

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Quite talented and perpetually happy, Miguel upgraded my choice of a petite five-dollar rain stick to a much larger one! He also had some amazing pre-Columbian artifacts.

Ecuador - Lately I’ve been home just long enough to say, “Ahhh,” before leaving on another journey.  This week I’ve been incubating at the Riverhouse/Casa Loca but have been totally off the grid, great for my creative focus.  An ill-tempered scorpion also set me back for a few days, but I’ve recovered and am proud to send a smoke signal that all’s great in Z’s world.

These beautiful faces have been in limbo since before Thanksgiving, so with a hiccup of on-line time, I’d like to introduce you to some of the beautiful people of Otavalo Ecuador. Continue reading

Timeout for Art – Bringing Nature Inside

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“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
— Rachel Carson

My friends’ Mindo garden inspired this Timeout for Art, although the true inspiration came from two forlorn vinyl “For Sale” signs that cluttered their storage room.

After scrubbing the panels with soapy water, we prepped them with a white acrylic sealer for a clean painting surface then went to the gardens for inspiration.   Contemplating the beauty of the garden plants, we set the panels near the orchids and zebra plants.  Julie watched as I drew the basic shapes.   Tiny biting insects and not-so-tiny mosquitoes prompted us to clip some of foliage for reference material and move the panels inside. Continue reading

Timeout for Art – A Measure of Thanksgiving

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. ~W.T. Purkiser

Rosa sets up her booth in the early-morning sunshine.

Rosa sets up her booth in the early-morning sunshine.

This dear woman, Rosa, patiently set her hand-made items in front of the restaurant where I enjoyed breakfast each morning.  With a smile, she tolerated the many photos I took while she flashed in and out of the early-morning sun.   I bought a small handbag and  a smaller zipper bag to hold my pens and pencils.

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On the third morning I invited her for a hot chocolate, which she drank while setting up the morning’s display.  I handed her a little scrambled egg sandwich from some petite rounds of toast and took more photos as she worked.  Continue reading

Ecuador’s Colourful Andes

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Stained glass artwork scrapes the skies over Otavalo.

Stained glass artwork scrapes the skies over Otavalo Ecuador.

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The Aya Uma mask is an important icon for the June Solstice Festival.

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There are subtle colors and explosions of colors in the Otavalo Ecuador area;  one can sample the quiet hues of the landscape or take a giant immersion in the Saturday market in town.  There are colors to suit all moods and personalities!

Let’s start with a leisurely walk in the mountains that overlook Otavalo. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: “Just Being & Growing”

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Oswaldo Guayasamin Sculpture - Overlooking Quito Ecuador

Oswaldo Guayasamin Sculpture – Overlooking Quito Ecuador

Guayasamin Bird-Sculpture

Guayasamin Bird-Sculpture

“Genius is not a possession of the limited few, but exists in some degree in everyone…

…To be an artist is to construct, and to whatever degree one shows the genius for construction in work of any sort, he is that much an artist.” –  Robert Henri – The Art Spirit

With slow and deliberate patience, this lady displayed each bag with loving attention to its best presentation.

With slow and deliberate patience, this lady displayed each bag with loving attention to its best presentation.

“…I think the real artists are too busy with just being and growing and acting (on canvas or however) like themselves to worry about the end.  The end will be what it will be.  The object is intense living, fulfillment; the great happiness in creation.  People sometimes phrase about the joy of work.  It is only  in creative work that joy may be found.  

… the object is not to make art, but to be in the wonderful state which makes art inevitable.  

 The artist life is therefore the desirable life, and it is possible to all.”

  Robert Henri  – The Art Spirit

Waiting on the 11 p.m. bus (left) and a hurried sketch in the Guayasamin Museum private collection of pre-Columbian art.

Waiting on the 11 p.m. bus (left) and a hurried sketch in the Guayasamin Museum private collection of pre-Columbian art.

The past few weeks have found me on the road with tour groups and with friends.  While embracing each moment, I have also dedicated time for sketching.

Friends have nudged me into a skull/bone series, and now cow skulls seem to wave to me most anywhere I travel!

Friends have nudged me into a skull/bone series, and now cow skulls seem to wave to me most anywhere I travel!

Robert Henri’s words resonate when I reflect on the interactions between strangers – how chance interactions open the doors to rich experiences.  I treasure my time alone when I can focus 100 percent on creating art, yet opportunities for cultural exchange inject amazing energy into my life.

Many times I stop and quietly ask, “What is your name?” and the person reflexively slaps his/her chest and replies, “Me?”

“Yes.  You,” I smile, and they immediately stand a bit prouder and hurriedly rattle their entire name.

Jose , with cataract-clouded eyes, appreciates  the chance to boast his age;  92.  He smiles, yet yearns for interaction with others.   "Hola," makes him proud to alive.

Jose, with cataract-clouded eyes, appreciates the chance to boast his age; 92. He smiles as tourists walk past his house at the Bahia de Caraquez lookout, yet he yearns for interaction with others. “Hola,” makes him proud to be alive.

Many times a tourist forgets that the experience is not all about being a tourist, but about slowing down and telling a local what’s great about his/her community.

This gentleman has taken photos at the same park location in Quito for over 70 years.  At age 90, he says that he has never been sick or in the hospital.

This gentleman has taken photos at the same park location in Quito for over 70 years. At age 90, he says that he has never been sick or in the hospital.

Traveling opens that wonderful state of being that Henri mentions.  From the flower markets throughout the country to the pastoral landscapes of the Andes, one’s day is enriched by slowing down and appreciating the local color. Continue reading

Magic Carpet Airlines – Special for Subscribers Only

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Good morning, buenos dias & welcome aboard all galactic travelers!

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As a token of appreciation, we’re offering you a free mini escape on the magic carpet!  You will be transported to a magical land, one that will help you connect to the person you might have lost somewhere along the labyrinth of life.

Did you ever pick wild berries when you were growing up?

Did you ever pick wild berries when you were growing up?

We at MAGIC CARPET AIRLINES think it’s best for our clients to remove their shoes and reconnect with Pachamama – or Mother Earth in the English tongue.  because many of you are not native to planet earth, she can – at times – feel foreign and at other times feel extremely foreign.

What if fish COULD fly?!!!

What if fish COULD fly?!!!

For that reason, we will transport you first to the middle of the world – to walk along an isolated beach, soak in the healing properties of equatorial sunlight and pure unpolluted air while connecting via bare feet with the energizing properties of slightly-wet beach sand.

Zen symbols whispered  in the sand.

Zen symbols whispered in the sand.

Prepare to glow in the darkness as you uptake natural energies from Pachamama. You’ll soon be communicating with the frigates and pelicans who will teach you the art of soaring.

Pelican Harmony

Pelican Harmony

Yoga alignment - Yep; ready to fly!

Yoga alignment – Yep; ready to fly!

Ready?

Click your heels together...

Click your heels together…

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Set?

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Let's soar!

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Let’s go there!

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Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Scavenging through the Seaweed

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Costa Rica’s beaches provide an abundance of material for Playamart!

“Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war.” – Loren Eiseley

Do you see anything useful here?

Do you see anything useful here?

The residents of El Matal surely feel as if they are veterans of an ongoing war and continue to search for a way to make peace with Mother Ocean.   The photo above is not of an Ecuadorian beach, but of one in Costa Rica during the rainy season.

In Costa Rica and also now in Ecuador,  my friends sometimes surprise me with unique pieces that the high tides wash ashore.     When I see a pile of debris waiting to be burned on Playamart’s beaches, I often exclaim, “NOOOOOOO! Don’t burn the sofa… or the bed… or the bench!”

It came from Playamart!

It came from Playamart!

My friends usually laugh, but know that I am serious! Some transformations take a short time, and others need a period of incubation, but eventually, I reach for the stockpile of beach treasures. Continue reading

RED FLAG… “It’ll Never Happen To Me”

Playamart - Zeebra Designs:

This has been a popular post and illustrates things that can go wrong when buying real estate in foreign countries. . Many more tales have reached me since this was published, but for now, this might be helpful. There are many great people out there and there are great stories, but there are also booby traps for unsuspecting buyers. Enjoy the reblog. Z

Originally posted on Zeebra Designs & Destinations:

A true fixer-upper!

A true fixer-upper!

Due Diligence: “Research and analysis of a company or organization done in preparation for a business transaction’ (Merriam-Webster) ” Due diligence is the process of systematically researching and verifying the accuracy of a statement.”(WhatIs.techtarget)

... But the landscaping has such potential!..

… But the landscaping has such potential!..

I love a good fixer-upper, and I’ve also learned that the best part of a property might be the gnarled tree that guards the entrance!  I’ve learned to spot potential problems, and I’ve also learned how to see past the neglect and find an ugly duckling waiting to transform into a swan.

With a dozen years of living in second and third-world countries, I’ve learned from trial and error and have also learned by watching others.  We applaud anyone who embraces a new life, but when things go wrong, often times those new transplants find they’re playing David against Goliath.

snake vine snake 1030463Over the past several…

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Paradise is not always sunshine and pretty flowers!

from riverhouse claro dud

The Claro USB Modem works well in cities, and by the graph above, it appears to work well at the riverhouse. But when you compare the signal strength from the house to the one near Canoa Ecuador… and then compare Canoa’s to San Vicente-Bahia de Caraquez, you can understand why it takes half an hour to reach the inbox and sometimes half an hour more to send an email. Ditto for viewing posts, images or opening a “New Post” page.

Compare the signal from Jama (far left) to the one in San Vicente /Bahia.   There are times when the Claro comes in handy, like any time I am traveling in the country.

Compare the signal from Jama (far left) to the one in San Vicente /Bahia.
There are times when the Claro comes in handy, like any time I am traveling in the country.

The Timeout for Art post waits in queue to fire out in the morning, Ecuador Time Zone, and for the next week I’ll be re-posting a few of the popular posts from archives. Thanks, as always, for your amazing support!

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Sigh; what one does in order to get an internet signal!

Sigh; what one does in order to get an internet signal!

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Z

Timeout for Art – Drawing & Memories

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“Drawing makes you see things clearer, and clearer, and clearer still. The image is passing through you in a physiological way, into your brain, into your memory – where it stays – it’s transmitted by your hands.”
― Martin Gayford, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney

"Daddy's Hands" 1990 - pencil - Lisa Brunetti

“Daddy’s Hands” 1990 – pencil – Lisa Brunetti

“Solitude has soft, silky hands, but with strong fingers it grasps the heart and makes it ache with sorrow.”  …

 “You may forget with whom you laughed, but you will never forget with whom you wept. ”
― Khalil Gibran

The pencil drawing captures my father’s love of turkey hunting;  a kind and unique man, he was once described by a lifelong friend as an ‘individual of individuals.’   He died in 1994, but his smile and spirit are still very much alive to all who knew him.

Today’s Timeout for Art is dedicated to my sister, Pat, who has been enduring some difficult times.   Remember, “Older” Sister, that tears can be a catharsis as they purge the soul.

“Younger” Sister – Z

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

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