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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Timeout for Art: Ancient Man’s Best Friend?


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Watercolor study --- Artifact from Museo Bahia de Caraquez

Watercolor study — Artifact from Museo Bahia de Caraquez

“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.”
― John Steinbeck

(Ecuador)   Allow me to introduce you to a new watercolor study, inspired by an artifact in the Bahia de Caraquez museum.     I don’t think it reflects the emotion of contempt, but it seems happy and makes me smile.

Several years ago I was allowed into the Museum’s special glassed room filled with artifacts.   A guard accompanied me while I admired various pieces and was allowed to photograph a few.  The director of the museum has given me permission to return to this room so that I can capture the likeness of artifacts that the public never gets to see. This precious artifact (above) is one of my favorites.

Museo Bahia de Caraquez

Museo Bahia de Caraquez – Bahia de Caraquez/Manabi/Ecuador

Now that we’re receiving afternoon rains in the cloud forest, I work on the gardens in the mornings and switch to art when the rain chases me inside!   This past week I even remembered to take a few photos while I worked!  (Although I do not like working from photographs,  I will be able to adjust colors when I return to the museum for another work session.) Continue reading

Timeout for Art – For the Birds!


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Aracari critiques my work!

A colorful aracari critiques my work!

(Mindo Ecuador)

Let’s start with a few birds that highlight every day I am on Jim and Julie’s property!

Quetzal often laughs over my shoulder!

Quetzals often laugh over my shoulder!


A male and female quetzal perch on a tall tree on a hill near the house.

About a 30-minute drive from Mindo is the hub of “Los Bancos.” I was there last week to pay the car tag fee for Jim and Julie. After an hour’s wait in line at the bank, I was told, “The system is down,” and was dismissed.

I stood there with mouth agape, pondered my choices, and quickly decided, “I’ll go to the Mirador Restaurant and not let this bother me!”

Patricio, the owner of the Mirador Restaurant and Cabanas, has great hospitality skills and always has time for his guests. Not only is the food exceptional, there are stunning views to the valley below as well as an ever-changing cast of birds that visit the feeders near the tables.

(Aracaris) These stars often make an appearance at the Mirador Restaurant.

(Aracaris) These stars often make an appearance at the Mirador Restaurant.

Patricio’s nephew greeted me and said, “I saw you in the bank. That was a long line!” He could not help with suggestions for paying the tag fee, but Patricio came along and assured me that I had all month to pay it.
“I’ll try again in another week,” I smiled, then sat at a table near one of the bird feeding stations. Continue reading

“We have a rookie in the house”


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"It's here.. it's back.."

“It’s here.. it’s back..”

El Matal/Jama Ecuador –  Around  4:30 this morning, after peering into the pre-dawn seascape from my balcony perch at my friends’ home, I tipped downstairs and wondered whether to awaken Lesli or Becky or both.   If I knocked on Becky’s door, the dog might start barking, so I tapped lightly on Lesli’s bedroom door.

“It’s here,” I said as if I were a child announcing the devil peering through my window.  Or perhaps a dragon or some malevolent creature from a Stephen King novel.

Becky opened her door.  “Are you OK?” she asked.

Seasoned veterans, they’ve learned the nuances of sounds that the ocean makes as it gauges its daily appetite.  “It’s OK right now.  We would hear the sound of the bags if they were falling.”



“But it looks like it’s reaching Paul and Cinzia’s house.   It’s —“   I felt so silly, but my friends turned on the outside lights, which confirmed that the bags were in place.  We stepped outside and stared quietly at the waves.
“What time is it?”

“I think around 4:30, “I sheepishly replied.

Becky checked the tide charts and said we were about half an hour from high tide.

Lesli, in her dry sense of humor, stated, “We’ve got a rookie in the house.”

We wondered what Linda was experiencing, as the municipality did a lot of work/rearranging the toppled rocks in the area near her home and Pat’s.

“Leroy and Shirley seem to be getting more water today,”   Leslie stated, and we peered in the other direction as the water found its way back to the sea.


I don’t know how one can face this night after night, week after week, month after month – wondering if the next set of waves will break through the weakening defense.  Some of the waves reverberate through the ground and shake this well-built home.   How does one deal with the emotional and physical fatigue without having combat training?

Yes, this rookie tips her hat to the stoic ones who have been enduring this for two years.   May today bring news of hope.

“Is It Too Risky To Invest In Ecuador?”

Clear skies produce this stunning jaw-dropping effect along Ecuador's Manabi coastline. (Punta Ballena near El Matal)

Sunny skies produce this jaw-dropping effect along Ecuador’s Manabi coastline. (Punta Ballena near El Matal)

El Matal/Jama Ecuador – You have witnessed (via photos and posts) the Pacific Ocean slowly devouring the front line at El Matal.  We have watched the ocean crack the swimming pool – and then take more bites with each high tide at Pat Godkin’s home. I am pleased to introduce you to Pat via a story she wrote in September. Here’s Pat:

Pat Godkin

Pat Godkin

Is it too risky to invest in Ecuador?

One retiree’s cautionary tale

As a single woman with no pension, I was understandably nervous about retiring early and building my beachfront dream home in a foreign country.

Over the years, I had casually researched several countries, mostly in South America because of the affordable beachfront, great weather (below the hurricane belt!), breathtaking scenery and wonderful people.

As I neared retirement age, I decided to attend a seminar hosted by International Living in Quito, Ecuador. I fell in love with Ecuador, its natural beauty and its people.

The seminar was great. I met a lot of likeminded people. I was pumped! In addition, I was completely bowled over by a couple of American Developers who were selling beachfront property at the seminar. They were experienced builders and as their website promised – they would take me from start to finish. Eureka! My prayers had been answered! I immediately put a down payment on a lot.

Look how pretty it is (was, but more about that later!)

Pat Godkin with a vast beach between her lot and the ocean.

Pat Godkin with a vast beach between her lot and the ocean.

I was still working in Canada but couldn’t wait to start construction.
Fast forward, two and a half years – shell of a house, empty Ecuadorian bank account, unfinished development, two Ecuadorian lawyers and countless visits to the Fiscale (similar to our district attorney) – I was feeling more than a little naive and more than a little disillusioned.

Not willing (or smart enough) to give up on my dream, I cut my losses, found a new builder and (sort of) finished my house (lesson number 327 – don’t build a house when you live in another country or you might be very, very surprised and not in the good way).

I moved into my house February 2013. I was “all in”. I easily obtained residency and paid approximately 10,000 to ship my furniture/effects from Canada. I was here for the long haul!

P1690936 WHITE FOR PEACE 3 - Copy

Pat and others from El Matal joined locals in the White for Peace March several years ago in Jama.

Amidst all these adventures, there was some chattering about beach erosion – no worries – normal erosion is 1-2 meters a decade my research told me! “The ocean takes and it gives” everyone said. Relax, breath – so what if you are losing approximately 15 meters a year – it will come back!

Fast forward September 2015 – without a miracle (government intervention) there is a very strong likelihood that our houses will be in the ocean in the next several months. It’s not giving back. And it’s no longer pretty.

Pat's home

Pat’s home

Pat's neighbor's home, three lots beyond her property.

Pat’s neighbor’s home, three lots beyond her property.

There is little sympathy for *rich gringos* (especially from the much smarter gringos who didn’t build on the coast) and I get that, I truly do. There are a lot of people with much bigger problems in Ecuador.
However, this area has so much potential and there are people and companies poised and ready to invest millions of dollars. The economic spin off and employment it would create is enormous.

During this week's crisis, Pat hitched a ride up the street via the truck delivering the new supply of sand bags.

During this week’s crisis, Pat hitched a ride up the street via the truck delivering the new supply of sand bags.

An eminent Ecuadorian Coastal specialist has said Geotubes would not only protect this stretch of the coast, they would also bring back the beach. And although it is prohibitively expensive for the handful of us living here, it is a small investment for the municipality to make with huge returns.
The municipality is *protecting* the little fishing village next door by putting massive rocks, which seem to be sinking as fast as they can bring them in (exactly as the Coastal specialist said would happen) – it is not a good solution. In addition, the rocks have caused the direction and energy of the waves to change and we are being hammered with unprecedented ferocity.

Coast Guard Boat seems to be stranded...

The rocks continue to sink into the sand, and the lastre is pulled into the sea.   The Coast Guard Boat  (at the former Coco Beach Gate entrance)  seems to be stranded…

We have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours trying to protect our properties. We have written countless letters, visited countless ministries and they all seem to agree that it is up to the municipality to protect us. It’s not happening. We are slowly running out of steam. Morale is at an all-time low. We are out of options.
Sadly, we are invested in Ecuador, but Ecuador, in particular the Canton of Jama, is not invested in us.

Pat's pool..

Pat’s pool..


Pat walks to her neighbor’s home as crews work with what little beach is left.


Pat walks past her home.

Update Friday, 24 October 2015
Things always seem worse in the dark. High tide was around midnight last night but the waves pounded the pool and my deck for at least two hour prior to high tide. My neighbour and I stood on the deck and marvelled at the amount of water coming at us. And then we turned, bumped into each other and starting running – what was that noise? Ah, and so it begins…

At this rate, it could be days before the house suffers the same fate.

Pat's pool and home

Pat’s pool and home

Above story shared by Pat Godkin, El Matal-Jama-Ecuador

Postscript from Lisa:   It’s very serious here; the ocean took big bites from other properties last night.  The mayor has been here, and hopefully as the Sudden-Death Hour approaches, he will find the resources to save this area.

Pat Godkin, who evacuated her home, has not lost heart or spirit.  Hang in there Pat and all of you on the front line!

Pat Godkin, who evacuated her home, has not lost heart or spirit. Hang in there Pat and all of you on the front line!

Bad News Morning


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Late yesterday, October 28, 2015 El Matal, Jama, Ecuador

Late yesterday, October 28, 2015 El Matal, Jama, Ecuador Pat Godkin inspects a neighbor’s frontage. The ocean advanced last night, and crews are working to prepare for the next high tide.

El Matal, Jama, Manabi Ecuador

My friend Dady and I visited El Matal late yesterday out of concern for the property owners at El Matal.   The waves were dramatic, but it seemed that the worst was behind for this month.

Waves Slamming Waves - There's a force at work when the waves slam the rocks then ricochet back to sea  with equal force.

Homeowner Paul Hughes looks down the line of homes after another wave slammed the narrowing space between his home and the ocean.


Waves Slamming Waves – There’s a force at work when the waves slam the rocks then ricochet back to sea with equal force.

This morning a friend wrote to say, “We got slammed last night…” so I am sharing a few images from this morning and will be back with more updates. Continue reading

Diplomacy, Integrity and Wisdom


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Three homeowners discuss dwindling options.

Oct. 27, 2015 – El Matal, Ecuador – Three homeowners discuss dwindling options.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

The multi-layered and ongoing crisis at Playa El Matal (Ecuador) often reminds me of character studies in literature.   The ocean’s change in temperament dominoes in many directions and affects many classes of people in the community.    I’ve witnessed arrogance, apathy and denial as well as compassion, integrity and diplomacy.    The homeowners display amazing inner strength, though like battle-weary veterans, they are running on reserve energy and little sleep and are in need of some much-needed rest.

How can one sleep when wondering how much the ocean will advance, one wave at a time?

How can one sleep when wondering how much the ocean will advance, one wave at a time?

Each person has his or her own breaking point, and no one knows how much reserve strength is left as the ocean continues to build toward the highest tides at the end of this week.     There have been unselfish gestures prompted by empathy and compassion, although there is an undercurrent of sadness and sorrow.

Oct. 26, 2015

Oct. 26, 2015 – Photo by Lesli Flaman


Oct. 27, 2015 – Between high-tide periods…

The waves hit with extreme strength.

Oct. 27, 2015 – Afternoon session –

The following photos illustrate the seriousness of this week’s tides. Continue reading

Life’s Teachers


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"Look at me when I'm talking to you!"

“Hey, leave some for me! – And LOOK at me when I’m talking to you!” 

I have learnt silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers… Kahlil Gibran

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.  — Kahlil Gibran

“Yow!” I mumble each morning when I step from the bed. “Yow, yow, yow, yow” is my morning mantra as I hobble ducklike across the room. By about the sixth step, I remind myself that the ankle pain will be gone in five or so minutes, and for the rest of the day my body will feel ‘normal.’

Attempting to hold the hairbrush, I struggle to detangle my rapidly-thinning hair. My fingers feel like lobster claws, and I remember my Aunt Lulu’s deformed hands. I hold the brush with a loose grip and ponder bobbing my hair to ease the morning struggle. (Is there a barber in the house?!) A new style would not affect the hair loss – each day a week’s worth seems to slough as my thick hair turns into my mother’s. I also think of those who lose their hair thanks to chemotherapy, as I have a token sample of one of the side effects.

I can thank chikungunya for the painful joints and hair loss. Every single morning, I  ponder those who suffer with pain all day every day – and night. I always think of the quote from Kahlil, and yes, these challenges have been great teachers. My struggles seem quite tiny compared to others’ – like the escalating crisis at Playa El Matal.

The past few days and nights have  brought dramatic changes to El Matal.

The high tides from the past few days and nights have brought dramatic changes to El Matal.

Continue reading

Shades of John Barry´s RISING TIDE

The waves cbatter the coastline. (From June 2015)

The waves batter the coastline. (From June 2015)

“Water runs to the sea. If an obstacle — such as a dam or a levee — prevents water from flowing where gravity would send it, then the water’s mass and potential energy builds. The greater the force applied in an effort to block water from its natural flow, the greater will grow the mass of water so blocked, and the greater will become the potential power of its energy.” RISING TIDE – John M. Barry

El Matal/Jama – Ecuador)  A week ago friends visiting from the UK said that they’d like to visit Jama again, and asked if I’d like to go with them.

“Of course!” I beamed, and we enjoyed a mini trip to Jama, Casa Loca and El Matal. John and his brother Barry experienced Manabi Province’s breakfast of encebollado (Yum yum!) then willingly participated in a late-morning Playamart shopping spree. They not only are great Playamart shoppers but are also great set designers as well!

A month ago there was little inventory at La Division. Seeing this new supply worried me - the tides have been busy.

A month ago there was little inventory at La Division. Seeing this new supply worried me – the tides have been busy.

I nudged my friends to check the fire sale for early-morning Playamart shopping!

I nudged my friends to check the fire sale for early-morning Playamart shopping!

A touch of Zen?

A touch of Zen?



I rewarded my assistants with a second culinary experience of the day – Corviche, which is a bit like a hushpuppy made from grated green plantains with a fish or shrimp-filled center. At fifty cents each, the just-made finger-sized fritters made the perfect appetizer to sustain us until our late-afternoon seafood dinner at El Matal.

After the corviche break, we switched beach locations and drove to nearby El Matal. I warned my friends, “You won’t be getting a tranquil Playamart shopping experience here. What we experience will not be pretty.”

Continue reading

An Early-Morning Walk


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The ripples in the water nudged me out for an early trek.

The ripples in the water nudged me out for an early trek.

“The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour. Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night… ” Henry David Thoreau

Fringe benefits of watching over my friends' property until it sells! Just wait for today's story - grab a cup of coffee or tea and come join me!

Fringe benefits of watching over my friends’ property until it sells! I look forward to sharing today’s story – grab a cup of coffee or tea and come join me!

(Mindo Ecuador) – The expectations of the morning always nudge me from sleep quite early. Some mornings a sharp “thud” announces that a bird has slammed into the window, and I dash to look for the victim. Other mornings I slowly awaken and peer from the windows as if to expect Jack Frost to be visiting the tropics! Then there are mornings when I sit on the porch and watch the hummingbirds fight for dominance over the feeders. Their first drink of the day is as important as that first cup of coffee is to many people!



What’s there?

This past Wednesday, I noted the ripples in the pond and assumed there were fish feeding on insects. Having seen the ripples for several mornings, I put on my outdoor gear and took a dawn walk to the pond. Yes, fish were feeding on the surface, and I chuckled as they spotted me and scampered for cover beneath the vegetation!


Looks like a Monet painting…





Young strangler!

I admired the vegetation on the old footbridge and wondered if it should be removed/transplanted to the plant rescue garden. The strangler would surely overtake the bridge one day, but perhaps that’s a decision that the next owner should make!


Wanting to check the route around the upper end of the pond, I decided to go pick a few lemon mandarinas. Ten minutes later as I inspected various plants, a large raptor soared overhead. “Wow! that wasn’t the laughing falcon!”

Let’s hurry down the trail and see if it’s still there!

Barbara helped clear this area! Still looking good, BB!

Barbara helped clear this area! Still looking good, BB!

This old dead tree hosts a wealth of species!

This old dead tree hosts a wealth of species!

This waxy flower has been in this stage for weeks. Another part of this plant now lives in the plant rescue garden.

This waxy flower has been in this stage for weeks. Another part of this plant now lives in the plant rescue garden.

Another secret passage!

Another secret passage!

Sweet wilflowers.

Sweet wilflowers.

Way over there is a limon mandarina tree!

Way over there is a limon mandarina tree!

Just when I was about to pick lemons...

Just when I was about to pick lemons…

Oops! In my haste to change lenses, I caugh a colorful stranger looking over myh shoulder!!!

Oops! In my haste to change lenses, I caugh a colorful stranger looking over my shoulder!!!

Shhhhh.  Be very quiet and look up in that old bromeliad-filled tree!


All of this before 7 in the morning!



I continued to take photos as I returned to the house. Once the osprey was in pure morning light, it was difficult to photograph.

From the front of the house...

From the front of the house…

Ah, but I could trek up the hill behind the house and hope for a very close shot from a much-higher vantage point!


"This uphill trek had better be worth it!"

“This uphill trek had better be worth it!”

A little nibble for breakfast?

A little nibble for breakfast?




… and to think what I would have missed if I’d stayed in bed a while longer!





Dear Martita

Dear Martita

It’s her sparkling eyes that I’ll remember.   A lovely woman cherished by many, our dear Martita Brito passed away on Saturday, October 3, 2015.   Marta embraced life with infectious enthusiasm, and she seemed to pull energy from the earth and radiate it out through her touch, her smile and her eyes.  She often put others first and herself last, and she spread a large swath of sunshine wherever she went. Continue reading

Upside Down


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Upside down!

Upside down!

(MINDO, Ecuador)The view of the bamboo was as lovely upside down as it was right-side up! I am in town to get a few supplies and head back to the property before dark catches me on the road. Will be back next week, but wanted to send a smoke signal that all’s fine in the cloud forest!

Aracari landed at the front of the house as if to ask, "What in the word are you doing, Gringita?"

Aracari landed at the front of the house as if to ask, “What in the word are you doing, Gringita?”

Enjoy the song (below) and a sample of photos taken this week.

Suffice to know that all’s going well, the weather’s been absolutly perfect, and I’m squeezing the most from each day. Whoever buys this property is going to gain a gem! Continue reading



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Rio Cinto

Rio Cinto borders the property… how’s this for peaceful?

(Mindo-Rio Cinto- Ecuador)    Last week’s Timeout for Art was published through the magic of “Publish at a later date” option, so I was immersed in the cloud forest when “Timeout” rolled out last Thursday morning.    Suspecting that my buddy-support system might be worried, I drove into town this afternoon to buy a few supplies, check emails and return before dark.

Look who came for breakfast chats1

Look who came for breakfast chats1

Your comments gave me grand smiles, and I’ll be back online at the end of the week to properly thank all of you.  Ann, I’ll dust off the magic carpet and catch those magical full-moon-eclipse beams for a fast kitchen makeover!   Karen, thanks for your beautiful comment – you are an extremely-talented artist, and I’m glad that my unique life gives you such pleasure!

How's this for whirrrrrring of wings?  Where's Barb, btw?

How’s this for whirrrrrring of wings? Where’s Barb, btw?

Photos won’t upload, emails won’t open – the internet keeps ‘dropping’ the signal, so I’ll publish this and scram home just ahead of the rising moon! After a restart, it would not connect to any network. I selected, “Cannot Connect, Help” and was given this message: You are not connected to the Internet. To get online Help, which shows you the latest help content, you need to be connected to the Internet.”

Always lovely flowers - this orchid was especially lovely!

Always lovely flowers – this orchid was especially lovely!

Thanks again, everyone!  See you at the end of the week, weather and internet permitting!


Timeout for Art: Collective Intentions


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Say, "Good Morning!" to a Happy Kitchen!

Say, “Good Morning!” to a Happy Kitchen!

“When women come together with a collective intention, magic happens.”
Phylicia Rashad

Mindo Ecuador –   Cutting a few old boards to custom fit the sink area of the kitchen, Barbara and I enjoyed a 2-day Timeout for Art this past weekend. We took turns with the hand saw then checked to be sure the boards fit the spaces.  After being sanded, the boards were then prepped with white paint. Mixing paints to match the yellow and green kitchen tiles, we sat on the front porch and painted while hummingbirds critiqued our progress. Adding cup hooks and an under-the-counter light helped pull together a photo-worthy kitchen!

Step inside and join us for a cup of coffee; or perhaps you’d prefer a cup of hot chocolate instead?! Continue reading

“It’s Like A War Zone.”


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September 17, 2015 Coco Beach Village - El Matal/Jama - Ecuador

September 17, 2015 Coco Beach Village – El Matal/Jama – Ecuador

(Playa El Matal/Jama/Manabi/Ecuador)

“It’s like a war zone,” I said more to myself than to my friend Barbara as we approached where the entrance to Coco Beach Village once stood.


The cluster of palm trees that anchored and framed the classic postcard view was no longer there.  A lone sentinal remained, and its leafless trunk stretched skyward like a tattered symbol of a battle-weary war zone.  Its neighbor across the concrete wall leaned dramatically toward the ground as if to echo the posture of discouraged homeowners.

December 24 2014

December 24 2014

September 2014

September 2015


September 2015

The sand bags held for almost 2 years...

The sand bags held for almost 2 years…

Stephen Hopkins and Pat Godkin inspect the changes in late June 2015.

Stephen Hopkins and Pat Godkin inspect the changes on June 25th 2015.

The last time I walked this section of beach was in late June (photo above), and seeing the accelerated damage twisted an invisible knife in my stomach.  The changes in June were alarming, and I stared in numbed silence as Barbara and I walked the same route two months later.

Flash back to February 2014, two months after the residents living on the beach first sounded the alarm.  (See:  It’s Devastating) There’s a vast difference between the people who observe the daily changes and those who second guess that feedback – yet don’t step onto the battlefield and witness those destructive waves from the front line.

One of those front-line people is a Pat Godkin, who allowed me to use her photo from when she first purchased her lot and slowly watched as her dream slowly evolved into a nightmare.

Pat Godkin with a vast beach between her lot and the ocean.

Pat Godkin with a vast beach between her lot and the ocean in February 2011.  (Stay tuned: Pat’s story will follow in a few days in a guest post.)

The Ocean devoured this post that marked the entrance to Coco Beach Village. (June 2012)

The ocean devoured  the beach, the palms, the boat sheds and even this light post that marked the entrance to Coco Beach Village. (Photo taken: June 2012)

The same post sometimes vanishes beneath the sand, and sometimes it's totally covered. June 2015.

That same post sometimes vanishes beneath the sand, and sometimes it reappears as if to say, ‘Don’t turn your back on the ocean.” (Photo: June 2015.)

Continue reading

Timeout for Baskets – Timeout for Art!


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“The House of Baskets”

“If we know exactly where we’re going, exactly how to get there, and exactly what we’ll see along the way, we won’t learn anything. ”
― M. Scott Peck

(La Concordia Ecuador)- Several years ago while riding a bus from the cloud forest of Mindo to the Pacific coast, I spotted a simple tin-roofed home with a variety of baskets displayed out front. The sight intrigued me, and I watched with wistful eyes each time I zoomed past in transit.

This past week as Barbara and I drove from Mindo to the coast, I watched for the “House of Baskets” as we reached the ‘rotunda’ at La Concordia. We parked just past the house and crossed a primitive footbridge that delivered us to the yard. Two smiling women immediately greeted us, and Barbara and I stepped into a beautiful cultural exchange.

Never sure if I’d be targeted as a tourist willing to pay twice the normal price, I bashfully asked, “Quanto cuesta?” and pointed to one of the larger baskets to define a starting point.

Continue reading

Meet Some Great Birds


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Buenos dias!

“Buenos dias! We wondered if anyone would ever awaken this morning!”

Mindo Ecuador –     My friend “Hummingbird” Barb calls my friends’ property a bird sanctuary.   Join us in a cyber birding tour and let us know if you agree with her description! Sometimes words are an intrusion, especially when watching  birds, so we’ll save the stories for another post!

Yes, I'm pretty, but would you like for me to sing for you?

“Yes, I’m pretty, but would you like for me to sing for you?”

I like - BIRDS!

“I like – BIRDS!”

A little music might be appropriate if we keep the volume low!

Let’s start in the ginger gardens near Casa Colibri! (Hummingbird House) Continue reading

Timeout for Art & Friendship


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Guess who flew in LAST NIGHT to help Zeebra?

Guess who flew in LAST NIGHT to help Zeebra?

Seeing Cotopaxi blowing off steam was quite sobering. (Taken from airport.)

Seeing Cotopaxi blowing off steam was quite sobering. (Photo taken from airport.

Standing at the arrivals gate, I held a sign that said, “Hummingbird.”  – Many of you will know what this means! (The following photo was taken when she helped design the magic carpet;  we had just finished painting the hummingbird for her home.)

Barbara and Lisa critique hummingbird

(I forget how much taller I am than she is until I see a photo like this!)

Yes, my dear friend Barbara flew in from Panama last night and will be helping with various tasks in Mindo.   I handed her a new pair of work gloves last night, and we’ll purchase the mandatory boots in Mindo!   It will be fun to see what creative projects we tackle while she is here; for those interested, here’s a link to my friends’ property: A Little Bird Told Me

Speaking of gates, the all-seeing eye that watches over Casa Loca did not do the best job while I was in Mindo. My friends on the farm were trying to make the ‘bridge’ easier to use, but the workers forgot to clean up when finished! Continue reading

Buckle Up for the Butterfly Safari!


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(Ecuador) – Last call to board the Magic Carpet for the Butterfly Safari!   The gate’s about to close!  Please have your cameras in hand and batteries charged!  Volcano Cotopaxi released a bit of stress, but she’s quiet again.  The clouds and volcanic ash have gone back to sleep, and we’ve been cleared for takeoff!



All ropes are secured; all systems on go!

All ropes are secured; all systems on go!

Wait.. There's a touch of a repair --- we don't want any threads to ravel on this journey!

Wait.. There’s a touch of a repair — we don’t want any threads to ravel on this journey!

The full moon will be escorting us around the globe, with stops in South America, Central America, New Zealand, Australia, Europe and North America.  Put on the headphones for in-flight music and prepare for the most unique safari you’ve ever experienced.
Ready?  Set… Let’s Go!


“Well she’s walking through the clouds
With a circus mind
That’s running wild
Butterflies and zebras and moonbeams
And fairy tales,
That’s all she ever thinks about
Riding with the wind”  – (Jimmie Hendrix)

We have nets, but a camera's a more respectful way to capture butterflies!

We have nets, but using a camera is a more respectful way to capture butterflies!

Prepare for the first landing; it might be rough because this flight is loaded to full capacity. Oh goodness – excuse the turbulence — we veered beyond the landing spot!!! Our apologies – complimentary drinks will be provided!

Now where in the world are we? My navigator is checking the GPS…. Continue reading

Reserve Your Seat! – Butterflies and Zebras

Butterfly Safari - Reserve your seat!

Butterfly Safari – Reserve your seat!

Last-minute booking!  Many people are signing up for the Butterfly Safari, so my navigator suggests we embark at midnight tonight beneath the full moon.

Norway, Prague (Sorry Lynn, but we have to at least buzz you and Ron while you’re on the river cruise!);  Babs in the California foothills made a request, “Then let us land at that spot on that quiet lake, near the lily pads and reeds to watch the flitting around of the very colorful dragonflies.”
Barb, who is pondering flying here to help with some projects, will hop on in Panama and maybe she’ll stay onboard until we return the magic carpet to Casa Loca.     We’ll pick up Wendy in Costa Rica and Debbie (and Ron too?) in Nicaragua and – wait, there’s John and Mary in Ecuador!  So much planning, but hey, it’s a magic carpet Butterfly Safari!

Maurine in New Zealand, Maurine (and Jack) in Australia- boodness, we definitely have a magical ride on the wind as we chase butterflies around the world!

Leave a comment with the names of passengers (many of you will be bringing a guest?) and the location, and the navigator will get busy plotting the new itinerary!  Wait, is there a lepidopterist in the house?


Thanks, everyone! It’s good being back online if only for a few days!  What a finale, a moon-light Butterfly Safari!

It’s Luchy’s birthday, so I’m making a detour thru the middle of the day.  I look forward to seeing the final passenger list.  Will be  back late afternoon to coordinate the flight.

See you tonight!


Timeout for Art: New Endings?


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Angels Trumpet 01 - Detail

Angels Trumpet 01 – Detail

One can almost smell the fragrance!

Angels Trumpet 02 – Acrylic Detail —One can almost smell the fragrance!

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.
– Carl Bard

Although they 'match,' I'm pondering changing the one on the left to a night image, appropriate to the true nature of these flowers.

Although they ‘match,’ I’m pondering changing the one on the left to a night image, appropriate to the true nature of these flowers.

In order to make the dark painting work, I should probably start one more study and make this a triplet series!

Hope to be back tomorrow with a butterfly safari!  Would anyone like to book a seat?  The magic carpet will leave around noon, Ecuador time!   Z

Timeout for Art and for Updates and for Cats!

Wildflowers facing north! (Acrylic)

Wildflowers facing north! (Acrylic)

Hello All!
I’m alive and taking timeouts for Art. The post was written, as were the final parts for Flying Solo with Cats, but alas, the documents are now mysteriuosly absent after an update and restart. The power has been off each day from morning until 4 in the afternoon. Going to Mindo was not an option, as they would nhot have power or internet either!

Jim has flown to the USA and took one cat, Magpie, with him. Magpie is now in Colorado, and Jim is with Julie in Nebraska. Julie is doing better but has a long way to go before she regains her health.

Here are a few more images.. See you next week!

Preparing for a flight to the USA. Yaros helped with the cats!

Preparing for a flight to the USA. Yaros helped with the cats!

Tramites! Paperwork all approved for sending two cats via Cargo/United.

Tramites! Paperwork all approved for sending two cats via Cargo/United.

One sweetie remains at the property to keep me company!

One sweetie remains at the property to keep me company!

Mindo has been without power during the week days as they change power lines and posts. There have been few options for using the internet.

Suffice to say that all’s going well, and I’ll be back next week, power willing!




After leaving AllPets Vet Hospital, Jim and I followed their directions to find a pet-supply store near Quitcentro. We had already checked a pet shop in a mall in north Quito, and the carriers were too small. We searched for a second ‘big store’ that someone predicted would have three ‘kennels’ large enough for the airline requirements.

View of Cotopaxi Volcano (Tuesday August 11, 2015) two days before she started blowing off steam!

View of Cotopaxi Volcano from the Quito airport – (Tuesday August 11, 2015) two days before she started blowing off steam!  Yes, the ash reached Mindo, and I wondered this morning how the truck got so gray and dirty!  Now I know!  Read more HERE.

Surely there's a pet store out there that has four kennels in stock!

Surely there’s a pet store out there that has four kennels in stock!

After a maze of wrong turns and being pointed in different directions by various people along the streets, we found the pet store with the big spotted dog sculpture outside the entrance. The very-nice man showed us one kennel that was large enough for a whopping price of almost 200 dollars. (This was on a Monday.) They only had one but could have three more for us by Thursday. We thanked him and said we would try to find more. He recommended we try a pet store in the nearby Quicentro mall.

I am dreaming about my cozy kennel they will surely find for me! (Ha!)

I am dreaming about my cozy kennel they will surely find for me! (Ha!)

Five or so minutes later we reached the shopping mall, and after several trips up and down escalators, out the doors and through an underground parking lot, we found the pet store tucked around a corner at below-ground level! Yes, they had one kennel that would work, and it was not as expensive as the one at the other store. He said that he’d call to see if he could get three more and to come back in five or so minutes. In search of white acrylic paint (for the Angels Trumpet painting) we went up one level to the art-supply store (No white paint!) then returned to the pet store. “Yes, we can get the kennels delivered here today. They will be here after six.”

(Ugh. The drive from Quito to their property in Mindo takes three hours! ) I politely explained and asked if it were possible for us to go to the supplier and pick them up there. He phoned someone and then said they would have them at the store at five. “Yes! Thank you so much! We will return at five!”

I wonder if the kennels will be there as promised...

I wonder if the kennels will be there as promised…

Continue reading




(Part One)

"Flying? I don't think so!"

“Flying? I don’t think so!”

(Ecuador) Most of you know that my friend Julie is battling cancer in the USA, and I’m helping her husband Jim as he moves their home contents, personal belongings and 4 cats back to the USA. I am also helping him prepare to sell their 100+ hectare property near Mindo. After we waved ‘Goodbye’ to the moving company crew and their trucks, we began gathering information about sending the four feline members of the family to the USA. Before purchasing appropriate cat carriers/kennels, we needed the specs. Jim checked with USDA websites as well as the airlines. We also asked various friends and professionals, and we received conflicting information.

“It’s easy to send pets back to the USA.”

“Just be sure the vaccinations are up to date.”

“Any sturdy pet carrier will work.”

“All you need to do is show up with your pet and up-to-date paperwork, and fly the pet as carry on.”

“Measure the height of the pet, from the floor to the cat’s head or tail when it’s sitting or standing, and add two inches to that…”

"Quick! What's the distance between the ground on the tip of my tail?""

“Quick! What’s the distance between the ground on the tip of my tail?””

“Ventilation on three sides of carrier/kennel.”

“Ventilation on four sides.”

“No vent holes on top.”

“Container for food and water must be attached to the inside of the carrier/kennel and accessible to the outside so that the food and water can be provided without opening the door.”

"I'm not so sure about this concept!"

“I’m not so sure about this concept!”

Every airline’s website seemed to have different online information, so we drove to the Quito airport (3 hours on a good day!) in hopes of finding the most reliable information. Continue reading

Timeout for Art – Conversations with Nature


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“When one is alone at night in the depths of these woods, the stillness is at once awful and sublime. Every leaf seems to speak.”  – – John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938)


From the 2nd-floor balcony – The tree is loaded, but for only ten days or so….

The days have been full helping Jim (and the cats) prepare to fly to the USA, but there are flowers in the garden that awaken when I am normally sleeping! The blooming period is quite sort, so at night I work on the studies while most people in Ecuador are sleeping!  Nearby Rio Cinto provides a subtle backdrop of sound, though there is a hushed stillness aside from random moths fluttering at the windows.    Every so often an insect finds its way to my work area – maybe in hopes of having its portrait made with the flowers?

Look who came to critique!  A lightning bug!

Look who came to critique! A lightning bug!

Before focusing on the main subject, I usually work on a smaller study.   The upper and lower views of a  black/brown and white butterfly provided perfect challenges on different evenings. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Painting in Mindo

Working from life... bringing the outdoors inside...

Working from life… bringing the outdoors inside…

“Nature did all things well” – Michelangelo

(Mindo Ecuador)-  The Angels Trumpet painting continues to grow!  The design evolves depending on which flowers open each night.  Because their peak bloom is at night, I bring one or two blossoms inside, where I arrange them to hang beside the canvas.  (Their intoxicating fragrance is a grand bonus!)

Angels Trumpet Acrylic

from last week:  Angels Trumpet Acrylic

There are four or five more evening painting sessions before the 3′ x 42″painting is finished.  My internet time is limited, so enjoy watching these flowers come to life, and stay tuned for a more-technical post next week!
Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Hurried


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 Angel's Trumpet, acrylic in progress

Angel’s Trumpet, acrylic in progress

The week has been busy and very full, but I have managed to take some timeouts for art.  Enjoy the photos, and forgive me for this hurried post.

The week has been full;   prep for moving my friends and then the Global Transport crew arrived for three days of intense work.   They were so nice and respectful!

The week has been full; prep for moving my friends and then the Global Transport crew arrived for three days of intense work. They were so nice and respectful!

Continue reading

TIMEOUT FOR ART: The Beauty of Grass


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“To the artist there is never anything ugly in nature.” – August Rodin

Remembering my promise to draw a blade of grass or two, I searched for worthy specimens of dried grass and worked a little each night before going to sleep. Missing the ‘Thursday Timeout for Art,’ I pondered waiting until next week to share the drawings. Ailsa’s travel theme for the week is GRASS, the perfect nudge to share these quite-tardy images.

Take your pick; one blade, two blades, three blades... It's your choice!

Take your pick; one blade, two blades, three blades… It’s your choice!

I enjoyed limiting myself to one blade per session, and I spent half an hour to an hour on each one.  After sharpening my pencils (I keep four or five handy so that I don’t have to stop often to sharpen the points.)

I selected this one and taped it to the surface to keep it in place.

I selected this one and taped it to the surface to keep it in place.

It looks a bit flat... What's missing?

It looks a bit flat… What’s missing?

Continue reading

Update – With a Little Help from Friends


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My friends' Property near Mindo Ecuador

(Watercolor) My Friends’ Property near Mindo Ecuador

My Friends and WordPress Family:

The dengue and chikungunya side effects have all packed their bags and have left me in good health! Thank you so much for your support and concern as I regained my health. I am almost ready for the hurdles and am pain free. Yay!

Unfortunately, my Mindo friends are now the ones facing unexpected medical challenges, and I am in the cloud forest helping and will be mostly offline for the next few weeks.  Julie is undergoing chemotherapy in Nebraska now, and I am helping Jim prepare to ship their belongings back to the USA. I will oversee their amazing property until it sells.   It is with great sadness that I witness their dilemma, yet I am glad to be of help.

Will be online soon with details, but I will based in Mindo for the next few months and online briefly.   I will leave you with sample images of the beauty of this area. Continue reading

Timeout for Art – Beauty Everywhere


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Foliage - Pencil

Foliage – Pencil

“If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”
– Vincent Van Gogh

When given a sharp pencil, a blank piece of paper, and ten minutes or more of quiet time, I can usually find subject matter close at hand to occupy my attention.    I have learned to admire the simplest of plants.  A desiccated blade of grass can transform into an object of beauty via a finely-honed drawing.

The meandering philodendrom makes, for me, a fairly easy study.    The basic shape and details of the leaves are forgiving and can be lightly drawn without too much fuss.  The shading can be added later.  This drawing is an unfinished work, though I am hesitant to continue.

My critical eye goes to the two simple leaves in the middle of the drawing.  They seem to have a push-pull effect as if they’re not sure where they belong. Ten or so minutes of subtle shading will place them more firmly in the background.   But wait -overworking a picture often ruins it.

The decision belongs to all of you; should I continue shading and adding depth, or is it time to stop? Thanks in advance for your feedback!

Foliage Pencil

Would any of you consider drawing a blade of grass or three?  I will try to do several studies of grass and will share those results next Thursday.

Sharpen that pencil and start drawing!  :)  Z

The Island of the Magnificent Frigates


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Isla Corazon, Rio Chone/Manabi Province, Ecuador

With a potential El Nino Phenomenom percoluting along the equator, many locals along the Pacific coast reach back and share stories of the El Nino of 1997 and ’98.    One veteran of that extended season of torrential rains and mudslides is “Don Francisco”  from the petite community of Puerto Portobelo on the north-east side of Rio Chone.  The mangroves on the upper half of Isla Corazon washed away during the 1997/8 disaster, and silt from landslides and farmlands destroyed more trees and altered river channels.   Francisco Reyes, who worked on a farm before the upper half of the island washed away, dedicated his time to replanting and restoring this heart-shaped island.

March 2013 Mangroves washing away in Rio Jama

March 2013 Mangroves washing away in Rio Jama

My friend Stephen visited several weeks ago, and I rode with him to Isla Corazon, where we took the two-hour tour of the island.  Known best for having one of the largest colonies of frigate birds along the Pacific coast, Isla Corazon hosts many other bird species.   I never tire of visiting Isla Corazon, admiring the bird life and hearing new stories.  Each tour is unique, depending on which guide takes you on a special canoe ride and which birds and critters step onto the stage.

Preparing to leave the dock!

From February 2015 – Ecuador Expat Journey tour – Preparing to leave the dock!

Happy work crew heading home.

(High tide last week) Happy crew heading home so the tourists can enjoy the results of their hard work.


As we watch the work crew go back to shore, our boat pulls beside a flat-bottomed canoe. The transfer is quite fun!

P2110628 isla corazon canoes don francisco

Timing is important, and the small window of time changes daily with the tides.  This particular tour was racing the fast-falling tide of a full moon. The trees on the left side of the tunnel are all new-growth and planted by the community; the ones on the right are the older survivors of the flood.

Continue reading

Timeout for Art: The Art of Studying Works of Art


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Detail- Watercolor – Museo Bahia de Caraquez artifact…

There are three things to consider when talking about the fine arts. There is the object itself, say, the painting in the gallery. Next, there is the spectator who is gazing at the painting with varying degrees of attention. And finally there is the interaction between the two — which some insist is the actual “work of art.”

Hugh Curtler/Daily Gadfly-The Eye of the Beholder

Bahia de Caraquez-Ecuador –
This week’s quote came from one of Hugh’s recent posts. I’d like to hear your feedback after reading his post, though Ron Mayhew published a few images that same week that confirm Hugh’s observations. See Ron’s: At The Museum Looking At Art Distracted  (Ron, I’ve been unable to comment, but suffice to know that I enjoyed the photos!)

Museo Bahia de Caraquez down below along Rio Chone...

Museo Bahia de Caraquez down below along Rio Chone…

This finds me writing from Museo Bahia de Caraquez (Ecuador) where I’ve been staying and working on watercolor studies of artifacts this week.   It’s great to work during the public-viewing hours, but it’s blissful when working after hours!  I’m sobered by the staff’s trust in my presence here as I meander between my favorite pieces, settle in and merge psyches with the ancient artifacts!

There are lots of heart-warming stories from my time here at the museum, but it’s time to go to work!  I’ll leave you with a thumbnail sheet of the progress.


Have a good day, and see you again soon with stories and more images!  Z

New Month, New Week & a Bright, Bright Sun-shining Day!


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"Let's get moving!" - Otavalo - Child in Bucket!

“Let’s get moving!” – Otavalo – Child in Bucket!

With great pleasure, I embrace the start of this week feeling much better! I’m not ready for the hurdles or pole-vaulting competitions, but as Johnny Nash’s lyrics state, ‘I think I can make it now, the pain is gone.’

Enjoy Jimmy Cliff’s version of the song while cyber-strolling through Playamart’s Ecuador files.

Pour a cup of coffee or tea – hot or chilled and take a magic trip to the middle of the world.  My neighbor Nelly will lead the parade!

Nelly at La Division

Nelly at La Division

Smiling Nelly gets silly!

Smiling Nelly gets silly!


Jama Parade


Oh, to be tall! (No Chikungunya in those joints!)

P1740800 stilts jama parade

“I can see all obstacles in my way!”

P1600353 hats  I LOVE A PARADE san vicente ecuador


Jama Mermaid

tope P1600414 san vicente little boy on horse

San Vicente Cabalgata

P1600469 san vicente young musicians

Near Montechristi

Near Montechristi


It’s a bird.. it’s a plane.. it’s — SuperBarb!

Photo by Henry Groff

Photo by Henry Groff


Marie Groff, Smiling with new friends in Cuenca!

P1340753 sombrero laughs

Silly moments in Jama

blue END OF DAY TIRED BUT SMILING colors adjusted

End of Day – Tired but Smiling… (Jama)

The rain is gone!

The rain is gone!

It's going to be a bright, bright sun shining day!

It’s going to be a bright, bright sun shining day!

Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Fishin’ for Time


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Fishin' for Time

Fishin’ for Time – June 21, 2015

“Time is but the stream I go a-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

(And what did you do to record the shadow at noon during the solstice?!)

The fishin’ cat was a gift from my son years ago, and it presently fishes over my kitchen sink.  It’s also posed for a portrait or two. Continue reading

Mindo Cloud Forest -Rio Cinto Botanicals


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Rio Cinto Ecuador

End of Day

End of day  – view from my friends’ front porch…

Subtle moods wash over the cloud forest from hour to hour.  She can be sunny and bright one minute, and mysterious and moody another.  Here is a token sample of specimen and native plants that decorate the landcape and gardens of my friends’ property in Mindo. Getting stronger every day, I’m hopeful to be visiting this lovely area in a few weeks and doing a few nature studies. Which ones do you think might inspire me?
0 julie yellow orchid

P1840117 mindo azalea pink

Tree Fern / Near Mindo Ecuador

Tree fern

P1870443 kings torch ginger

Ginger – Delicate to see,  hardy with the right weather conditions, and these beauties thrive here!

Dawn - Dec. 26, 2013 - Mindo Ecuador

Ahhhh, for sure I will paint these night-blooming angels trumpets, if they are blooming.

For more flowers and foliage, keep scrolling!

Continue reading

Dengue & Chikungunya – What I’ve Learned


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Croaking Ground Dove – Ecuador

(Note: This post addresses the side effects of dengue and chikungunya viruses and would probably bore anyone who is not facing a current or possible infection.  Those not interested have my blessings to cross this page off their screen now!)

Manabi Province – Ecuador

Most every day someone asks me about chikungunya and dengue fever, as the mosquito-born viruses sweep through warmer/tropical areas of the Americas.  Debbie, in Nicaragua is presently experiencing the fickle moods of what she suspects is chikungunya, yet it’s hard to get a firm diagnosis.  My friend Jody and I swapped stories today, and she is also baffled as we wonder, ‘Which symptoms are linked to dengue, and which are linked to chikungunya?”

“Did the skin on your feet peel?” she asked. Continue reading


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