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

* (Click the sidebar  at the top left to receive updates in your inbox, or scroll to the bottom of this page.)

Touch the Sky!


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Cayambe Ecuador – From one side of the country to the other and halfway back again, I’ve been in transit a lot and online a little. On June 21, I reached Cayambe Ecuador after dark and decided to stay in the city instead of my normal stopover at Hacienda Guachala.

Map from Flor de Valle “Ofelia’ bus terminal-Quito.

This alignment of choices placed me square in the middle of a June Solstice event, where the locals still honor Pachamama, known to others as our dear Mother Earth.

This event is part of a month-long celebration called the Fiestas de San Pedro* y del Sol, which bridges the Catholic religion with the ancient Indigenous customs.  –  *This year’s festivities will continue until July 8, but the San Pedro customs are observed throughout the country, sometimes for several more months.  On June 28, I will be attending Jama’s on the coast.

San Pedro/Inti Raymi

Hostal Cayambe, between the main square and Cayambe’s most-famous Bizcochos cafe.

The night manager of Hostal Cayambe told me of a ‘children’s parade’ that would start at nine in the morning. Her description was quite modest, and the extremely-colorful parade lasted several hours! Continue reading

Going, Going, Gone!


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Jama Ecuador –  Each week oversees the repair or slow destruction of earthquake-damaged buildings in the area.  A few buildings worthy of saving now have stronger spines and will preside over the newbies.  Some city blocks are almost empty, and one adjusts to seeing open skies where two-story buildings once stood. Some might see an empty lot, but many ‘ghost buildings’ still reside in the memories of many.

Before the earthquake: Once upon a time sun-loving plants welcomed visitors to the central park.

The old park in the center of town was razed, and a new ‘historic’ one will replace it.  Less than two blocks away, a second much-larger park will have areas for strolling, sitting, exercise, skateboards, as well as providing public bathrooms and a little sandwich shop.   Progress throughout town is slow, and the incoming and outgoing streets serve as dump sites for construction materials like gravel or sand or are littered with debris waiting to be hauled to a landfill.

One friend pointed to a well-built two-story house that appeared to have few structural problems.   “See that little house in the back?”  She pointed and then added, “They live there because they are too scared to live in the big house.”   Continue reading

Wish Man & 21 Wishes


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I wish… I could climb that tree!

Ecuador –  A search for lupine images took me back to a post, Twenty-One Wishes, which I wrote last year while helping friends in Mindo’s cloud forest.    The title referred to the 21 shooting stars that blessed my pre-dawn hours in August.    Seeing the post allowed me to reflect on images – from the handsome Black-Striped Sparrow to the lupines near Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest peak and to the memorial for my dear friend Marta.  I also noted the comments, which were unanswered but greatly appreciated during that time.

Thanks to all of you who faithfully followed those stories during that 15-month period – especially when the earthquake hit – and I was offline most of that time.  I apologize again for causing great worry when your queries went unanswered, until I was able to send a smoke signal that I was hundreds of kilometers from the epicenter.   Manabi Earthquake -First Report

What burned strongest today when I pondered the post and the word ‘Wish,’ was a song by Trevor Hall called Wish Man.

Enjoy the story he tells before singing the song, and ponder, ‘What’s your wish?”

“Down by the bayou,
Down by the bayou, I saw
Good things inside you
Good things inside you, they call
Into my memories of old,
Tell me what you know!
I saw a man there,
I saw a man and sat down
I shook his hand there
I shook his hand,
he laughed loud
And put a question to my heart
A question, oh, so sharp”

I marveled at his story, as he could have ignored the man when asked, “Hey Wish Man, what’s your wish?’ – but he didn’t.  He stopped and gave the man respect, which prompted a profound interaction – one that inspired a great song. Continue reading

WordPress Email Subscriptions


As the Pink Floyd song goes, “Is anybody OUT THERE?”  :))

Recently there have been glitches in the WordPress Notification system;   just-published posts land in the WordPress ‘Reader’ but they oftentimes don’t reach the email subscribers.     It seems to be a hit or miss option…

The Reader works well for at-a-glance updates, but that option often fails to load when the internet is slow.  I rarely use the reader, especially now that posts are condensed to postage-stamp glimpses.    I subscribe by email to bloggers, and I am especially respectful to those who take the time to read- as well as comment – on my posts.  They represent real people in my network of friends.  It’s nice to receive their posts via email, and then lob to their sites.

Every so often I’ll check when one goes silent, and sometimes there are new posts that never reached the inbox.  An expanded search finds them in the reader.  When I share that info with them, the replies are similar, “I thought that maybe no one liked the post,” or “That might explain why no one seems to read or comment on my posts any more.”

I subscribe to my own posts by email, and the most recent one, published about 15 hours ago, never reached the inbox.     Thanks, Gwen, for your comment, which confirmed that it reached at least one regular email subscriber!  Thanks, as well, for being such a loyal reader and cheerleader!

The ‘pingbacks’ are not reaching the inbox either, though the drop-down comment notification works well for those messages.

If you have a wordpress account, and your feedback seems low, it might be that people like me are not receiving the notifications!  I use Yahoo mail, btw, and this is the feedback from WordPress: “…In your case, Yahoo is intermittently rejecting mail sent to your address. Please contact them to work that out, since it’s likely affecting other mail as well. “

I’ve written Yahoo.  Place your bets; do you think that Yahoo will say the problem is with WordPress?

Stay tuned!


Timeout- Creative Incubation


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Incubating – Croaking Ground Dove

“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers this morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth, what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation….” — Joseph Campbell

Ecuador – Every so often someone offers a mirror, and we see ourselves through another’s eyes. That happened this week via Dennis Koenig aka Balsamean’s  blog.   Thank you again, Dennis, for an exceptionally-written ‘About the Artist’ review; I remain humbled.

Here’s his post


“Is that ME he’s talking about?”

His kind words inspired me to finish organizing words and images on an incubating website that showcases my art.

Fledgling’s first flight!

‘There was an ole artist who lived in a canoe… she had so many paintings, she didn’t know what to do!’    Pencil, Museum Studies, Flora, Fauna, Whimsical, Contemporary, Hand-painted Floors –  it will take a while to lasso the offspring and tweak their placement in this eclectic family tree of art!

The ‘Portfolio’ site starts HERE: SKETCHBOOK NOTES

This week’s art is still growing, but a new member of the family tree is ready for a pre-party viewing.  Meet “Abuelito” Grandfather Ceibo: Continue reading

Sometimes We Argue – The Muir Tree


In the late hours of the night we fought.   He began asserting his strong will several months ago.  After two clashes of wills, I distanced myself from him and hoped that time might help mend those unspoken words of conflict.

Waving a flag of peace and with a cautious approach, I focused on secondary parts of his character while trying to decide how to move forward without conflict.   I dislike conflict.

Nocturnal battles sometimes continued into the daylight hours.  Paint on, paint it back out, paint on, paint it out.

My hopes were to hide this deer’s face in the trunk, but the hybrid wanted its own voice.
Attempts to sneak the suggestion of ears into the limbs made it look like a fox. When viewed from across the room, the head looked like it was glued to the trunk.  No No No – and in the wee hours of the morning, that version was painted to fade into the trunk.    Better; but no, it needed details, perhaps working gnarls and knots into eyes, so one first saw the tree and later the deer.

No no no.. That didn’t work either.  It looked creepy…. Paint it back out…  strengthen the darks, highlight the brighter side.

It looked very false, back to the effect of a deer’s head glued to the tree.  Add more texture to  the trunk, starting with the hide and making the texture of the hair become the bark.

Yuck.  A furry tree.

“Put a dark wash over it.  tone it down.  work the texture of the tree on into the lower limbs/antlers..”

“It’s just an illustration,” I reasoned with myself.

The fox returned…  NO!  A fox is not the desired effect!

‘Why not?” it seemed to retort, “Why can’t this be a hybrid with a deer’s antlers and a fox’s face?” Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Imagination vs Scientific Seriousness


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“I spread out my map under a tree and made up my mind to go through Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia to Florida, thence to Cuba, thence to some part of South America; but it will be only a hasty walk…

I wandered away on a glorious botanical and geological excursion, which has lasted nearly fifty years and is not yet completed, always happy and free, poor and rich, without thought of a diploma or of making a name, urged on and on through endless, inspiring Godful beauty.John Muir — The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (1913),

Like John Muir, I had a childhood dream,  but mine was to live in Argentina’s pastoral Pampas region, painted so lovely in my fifth-grade geography book.  I wanted to raise quarter horses and ride the pampas like those gaucho cowboys!

Those Mississippi-childhood dreams faded, though every so often I was wistful to live in the Neotropics, home to exotic botanical specimens I thirsted to see in person, where locals conveniently used large tropical leaves for impromptu umbrellas and where heliconias soared to the moon.

The road less traveled eventually delivered me to Central America and then Ecuador, places where the temperatures never dipped below freezing – unless I desired to visit the peaks of Chimborazo, Cotopaxi or other high-altitude landmarks that dot South America’s Andean spine.

There are times when I enjoy an eye-to-eye inspection of those exotic plants, and by capturing their likeness with pencil or water media, I discover minute details that otherwise might be missed. I always walk away with deeper respect for the plant and its support cast of companions.

Brugmansia leaf detail – acrylic

Detail: Brugmansia y Ginger – Acrylic

Wildflowers facing north! (Acrylic)

While painting this Thunbergia study, I noticed monarch caterpillars nibbling the leaves of a nearby milkweed!

There are times when I toss the scientific seriousness aside and allow the personality of the subject to emerge. These always bring great mischievous joy, as if freeing a personality that was trapped by a long-ago wicked spell.  Most people can easily spot the human spirit in Ecuador’s Ceibo trees Ceiba trichistandra.

Presently I’m in the tropical dry forest, where for half a year the climate is humid with bi-polar rainfall, depending on moods of the nearby Pacific waters.   The rainy season weans into the dry season, and many trees go into a dormant stage.

It is in this section of Ecuador’s coast where the gigantic Ceibo trees join forces with the much-smaller Palo Santo.   These two trees leave lasting imprints on those who bond with the flora and fauna of the area.

‘What is that unique sweet smell?’ people might ask.   Many times it’s the subtle aroma of a just-bruised branch of Palo Santo.    The dried ‘holy’ wood is burned to repel mosquitoes as well as to clean a room of heavy energies or bad spirits.

Palo Santo tree

Recently my friend Luchi and I began work on a painting of a Palo Santo tree, which grows along Ecuador’s Pacific coast.  He presented some photos he hoped to work with, and we inspected two trees growing in the hostal gardens.  I began the painting as he watched, and then he joined the painting session! Continue reading

Interiors of the Soul

Jama Ecuador – My creative mind immediately painted the room’s interior walls with vibrant colors.   In seconds, that easily-accessed area of my imagination organized what was inside, traveled to the market and returned with tossed-aside crates previously used for transporting fruits and vegetables.     In another direction, my mind found discarded boards from construction projects, which could be altered to make shelves.

Click, click, click  – My imagination zoomed with ideas.  It would almost work for a temporary studio…   But – wait… water.. .a sink… a bathroom.

“Perdon,” I asked with an awkward approach, “Do you have a bathroom?  Water?” Continue reading

Timeout for Art – When Away from Home


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Memories of painting sessions at Hotel Andino.

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Sweet Gaby took a Timeout for Art several months ago, though she was absent last time thanks to a broken wrist while playing basketball!

“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” ― Pascal Mercier

Quito Ecuador – Returning to Hotel Andino is always a pleasure, and I am able to rest, run errands and almost always take a Timeout for Art.

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Upstairs – the view from the doorway of Room #7.

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Time to go downstairs for breakfast!

Tucked on the back corner of the second floor landing,  Room #7 offers a sweet little nest for one.  A small built-in wall unit makes me wonder what the room’s original purpose was, and I suspect that the towel-rack area in the bathroom was once a doorway.

Each time I return, I hope that Room #7 is available for another Timeout for Art. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Under the Influence of —


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Jama Ecuador –    “Lee-sah,” my friend Nieve said when I stepped out of my cabana, “We were calling you and thought you were gone!”

With a bit of a shell-shocked gaze, I laughed and said I could hear nothing over the sound of the construction.

Just behind my cabana, workers have been working day and night on one of many ‘relief-house’ projects for those who are still living in tents.   Ground shaking machines prepare the new areas before portable concrete mixers belt out their own source of background music.  Workers tackle each house with amazing skill and seem to work in harmony, even if the noise level tested my patience.

Whenever I found myself getting frustrated about the noise, I reminded myself, “These sounds are like music to those who will wean from a tent to one of these houses.”   Yes, if I had been living in a tent for over a year, those sounds would represent an upgrade in my life. Continue reading

How Long Can You Hold Your Breath?


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‘If you really think the environment is less important than the economy, try holding your breath while you count your money.’ – Dr. Guy McPherson

Manabi Ecuador –  About eight years ago the climate on Ecuador’s coast seemed to be almost perfect.  I could work outside for hours and never feel over heated, yet the sun would burn my skin quite fast.    Many times in the night we needed long sleeves and/or jackets.

P8020012 night shrimp harvest

Now it seems that the cloud forest, which I remembered being much cooler,  has the ideal temperatures, and the coastal weather – on a cloudless day – is stifling!


June Solstice 2016

Today I asked an older lady if she thought the coastal climate was warmer than in earlier years.   “Yes,” she said, “It is much hotter now.”

Why do you think it has changed?”  I asked. Continue reading

Timeout for Wanderlust, Accidental Experiences – and a Little Art!


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Between Yachana Lodge and Loretto…

“Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.”   Andrew Zimmern

Ecuador – As a child growing up in the Misssippi Delta, I was painfully shy and dreaded interactions with strangers.  A loner, I thrived when roaming the outdoors, inspecting wildflowers along ditch banks or immersed in the dense canopy of the woodlands, where I might sit for hours in hushed tranquility.

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My favored destination on my childhood roamings were big trees in dense areas.  – Ceiba tree Near Rio Napo – Ecuador

I am grateful for  young-adult opportunities of teaching art as well as speaking to groups as ‘A Gardening Artist.’   I realized that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and that unique threads connect us all.    Slowly I grew comfortable with interacting with strangers, and now I embrace those opportunities to know my fellow man.

After leaving Yachana Lodge on Good Friday,  friends Stephen and Xiomara and I embarked on a journey that presented many unique experiences which almost always included the locals. Continue reading

Honoring our Planet



The El Lechero Tree – Sacred Site overlooking Lago San Pablo, Ecuador

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

When the health of our planet suffers, we suffer as well.   May we all take time to appreciate our natural resources and work together to be guardians of Mother Earth. She will might survive without us, but how much longer can we survive if the delicate balance is tipped too far?

Join me via cyber visit to check on some of my favorite locations.

Vicunas near Chimborazo

Chimborazo – Brrrrrrrr!

Between Otavalo and Volcano Imbabura (Ecuador)

Quinoa – near Otavalo Ecuador.

Lago San Pablo 0 Near Otavalo Ecuador

Shrimp pond – Jama Ecuador

Amtrack – somewhere between New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta…

Continue reading

Unconditional Acts of Kindness


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A nocturnal beach performance – Bellavista /Don Juan/Ecuador

From the acoustic-friendly cushioned experience at Quito’s National Theater to a rustic sea-level setting on the beach at Bellavista/Don Juan, ArtesXManabi left a trail of beautiful memories.   Please visit their website and facebook pages, and give them a ‘thumbs up’ for their kind and generous efforts.  If you live in Ecuador, perhaps you can coax them to continue their show in your community!

The slideshows showcase the events, including one dance workshop – on the beach – with the children!
ArtesxManabi – Slideshows

ArtesxManabi Facebook

Thank you, ArtesXManabi for your display of unconditional love for your fellow man.


Timeout for Barter!


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An old painted wall needed a facelift…

Quito Ecuador –  “Lisa, how much does it cost to stay at Hotel Andino?”  my friend Stephen asked a few weeks ago.

“I don’t know – I don’t remember,” I replied, “It’s been a long time since I paid to stay there…”

He laughed, and I gave a quick summary.   Their sweet hotel has many opportunities for touches of art, and we trade art for the hotel costs.

While guests were sleeping, I painted this ginger in the breakfast room.

Recently I stayed in room #5 which is quite lovely, and there were several areas that seemed perfect for original splashes of art.   Years ago another artist painted the hummingbird and flower in the bathroom, but the hotel’s well-scrubbed maintenance and new applications of white paint slowly altered the design.  A bit of mildew also lurked around and beneath the pale colors. Continue reading

Candles and Lanterns – One Year Later


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Playa El Matal, Jama Ecuador — 7:00 PM  16/April/2017 –   Locals gathered at Playa El Matal  just past sunset to release hand-made lanterns on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake.  For half an hour, I enjoyed the low-light show before saying a quick goodbye and driving to attend the mass at the Catholic church in Jama.

Please take my seat and join the locals of El Matal via the photos below!

Continue reading

Remembering 6:58 P.M. — April 16, 2016


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Please join the sparrows in one minute of reflection…

“The earthquake was presaged by a magnitude 4.8 foreshock eleven minutes before the main quake struck,[19] and followed by over fifty-five aftershocks in the first twenty-four hours.[20]” – Wilkipedia

Jama/Manabi/Ecuador — This post is scheduled to be published on the one-year anniversary of the 4.8 earthquake that preceded the historic one that hit 11 minutes later.    Imagine what it must have been like to wonder, “Did we just have an earthquake?” as the twilight faded into the night, and then be jolted into a nightmare that shattered the coastline.

El Matal – April 2015- destructive waves

April 2015 – end of day El Matal

This year, at 6:58 pm, the people of El Matal and Jama will release hand-made lanterns at the time the earthquake hit a year ago.   I will witness the lantern release at El Matal and then attend the mass that follows in Jama.

Please join the sparrows in a moment of reflection, not only for those who are opening tender year-long wounds, but also in support for closing those wounds.   May this also extend to all who are suffering worldwide, as love for our fellow man is greatly needed.

Below are images taken yesterday and last night at various events in honor of those affected in the Canton of Jama.

Continue reading

Timeout for Art – The Muir Tree


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The trees are watching!  Near Rio Cinto-Mindo Ecuador

“Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed — chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. .” — John Muir

Sometimes a work of art ‘just happens’ as if some invisible hand guides the process.  Everything aligns as if magically orchestrated.

Watercolor  by Lisa Brunetti –  With no pencil prep, I focused on one part of the flower then went straight to painting; the initials strokes of paint slowly evolved into the study of the Thunbergia flowers.

Othertimes a work of art requires preparation and homework, which starts as a spacial gathering of information and honing that data until clarity guides the artist forward.

The Muir quote has always fired my imagination, and I pictured trees frowning in disgust or wide-eyed with fear of being felled or even timidly hiding and peering from behind rocky facades. While pondering ways to illustrate the quote, I began seeking out and studying the twisted growth of mature guava trees – cousins to crepe myrtles – to merge the illusion of limbs and antlers. Continue reading

Yachana Bound!


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Photo courtesy of Yachana Lodge – Napo Province – Ecuador


With painting supplies, boots and flashlight already tucked into my bag, I’ll be Yachana bound soon!

“Boots? Raincoat? Flashlight?”

Yes, because I am a seasoned ‘Girl Scout’ and know to be prepared, especially if I’m returning to the gateway to the Amazon.  This time I’ll be even closer than I was on last month’s trip to Cosanga!

I’ll be taking trusted travel ‘needs’ AND a new pad of Canson Watercolor Paper AND very-special brushes! Thanks Pachamamas!

You must be wonderning, “What is Yachana; where is Yachana?”

Don’t worry for even one second that I will be treading in uncharted or unsafe territories! Continue reading

Lenin Moreno – The Celebration Turns up the Volume!


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Mindo Ecuador – Impromptu Street Fiesta! – April 2, 2017 9:00 pm

Mindo Ecuador – A very quiet evening suddenly erupted into a music-filled street fiesta, and the now-familiar Green Party’s music announced the answer to the question of the year, “Moreno or Lasso for President?”       I heard a young child chanting, ‘4 years more! 4 years more!’ in Spanish, which confirmed, Moreno had been declared the winner.

“…With 94,18% of the ballots officially counted, Lenin has a lead of 51,07% against 48,93% of banker Guillermo Lasso, of the coalition CREO-SUMA. On what analysts consider an irreversible trend, the PAIS candidate has so far 4,823,513 votes, a lead of 201,859 over the neoliberal politician.

After the first results were released, Lenin Moreno came out to thank his voters. ‘I thank the millions of Ecuadorian who supported us. Democracy won today; Ecuador won today’, he told a large joyous rally….”  Prensa Latina

Ecuador’s Flag

The exit polls were equally close, with one showing Lasso winning with 53 percent of the votes and another showing Moreno winning 52 percent.  With the official results naming Moreno the winner, one can expect Lasso’s supporters to voice their concerns. If there are protests, hopefully they will be peaceful ones.

The following photos are from January 30, 2017 when the Alianza PAIS “Green Party” #35 rolled into Mindo.   Lenin Moreno wasn’t present, but there were many opportunities to photograph Jorge Glass and the sea of green.   Continue reading

Las Artes por Manabí – Don’t Miss this Event!


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QUITO, Ecuador – Life sometimes gives us sweet little packages wrapped in unique ways.  Because I planned to visit Quito’s Casa de la Cultura regarding the ‘on hold’ exposition of my paintings, I reviewed their website last week:  CASAdelaCULTURA

The ‘Events’ page mentioned a fundraiser for the coastal community of Don Juan, which is 10 kilometers from Jama in Manabi Province.  Casa Loca is about half way between the two areas!

Looking up the coast to Don Juan and Punta Prieta/Punta Blanca

Rio Jama’s “La Boca’ area – before the earthquake:  Can you spot Casa Loca?

A fundraiser for the community of Don Juan?  My imagination raced with possibilities as I tried to connect the WHERE with the WHO. Who inspired this, or was it a random and compassionate person or persons who visited Don Juan and realized they could use some support?

My plans were to be in Quito at Casa de la Cultura the same day the Las Artes por Manabí would be held at the National Theater!  After the meetings – which went very well, I inquired about the event.  Yes! It was scheduled for that night!

Friends Stephen and Xiomara joined me that evening, though we were not quite sure what we would be watching!  We gladly paid our ten dollars to help support the Don Juan community in the canton of Jama.

Don Juan, Punta Prieta – from 2014

The show, which showcases Andean Contemporary Arts, started around 8 pm. Enrique Males, a popular musician, has been creating melodies for 50 years and calls attention to ‘cultural respect.’

Patricia Gutierrez and Enrique Males

“…His songs remember famous people of Andes. For example, the indigenous general Rumiñahui (from spanish conquerors of Quito, 476 years before) or Mama Dolores Cacuango, a political figure of 80’s that talked about human rights, but from the thoughts and traditions of indigenous communities.

With all this context, the performance tries to remind the people to love Allpa-Mama (Mother Earth), to be at peace with themselves and with each other.

The connection with Don Juan’s people is the joy for life, the desire to improve and be more sensitive and creative, using Arts and our ancestral culture to be a big family, from the coast (Jama) to the Andes (Quito). ” – Sayri Wladimir Cabascango – Las Artes por Manabí

Like thrilled children, we sat toward the front of the National Theater and looked forward to the show.

Image in the background is from a preColombian Jama Coaque Sello/Stamp.

Information about the community of Don Juan.

Poet Diego Velasco Andrade

The stage went dark, and as our eyes adjusted, musician Enrique Males swept us into a magical realm.

Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Bringing a Quotation to Life


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“Abuelito Ceibo” The Grandfather Tree Still Stands – One block from the center of Jama Ecuador

“Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed — chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. .” — John Muir

Thank you for your positive feedback on the post, In Celebration of Trees!   The tree theme continues with a rollback to last March when my friend Barbara helped with improving the trails. We selected many nature-related quotes then had fun painting signs on rainy days.

Here are photos from last year’s signs:

22013404 shhh duendes are watching

Shhhhh! Don’t wake the duendes!  To learn more about duendes, go here:  Frigates of Isla Corazon


For the Trails! (Acrylic on old board – words are below)

“Hummingbird teaches us to transcend time, to recognize that what has happened in the past and what might happen in the future is not nearly as important as what we are experiencing now. It teaches us to hover in the moment, to appreciate its sweetness.” – Constance Barrett Sohodski

Barbara/aka Hummingbird not only helped with painting signs; she also helped transform some of the trails.

We pulled grass and pulled grass and pulled grass…

But the efforts were rewarding!

Painted by Barbara!





Before selecting a board for the John Muir quote, I tossed around ideas for illustrating the message then decided that a board was too small.  It deserved to be a more-serious work of art.
Continue reading

In Celebration of Trees


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The other creatures with which we share this world have their rights too, but not speaking our language, they have no voice, no vote; it is our moral duty to take care of them. –  Roger Tory Peterson

Mindo Ecuador –    Sentinels of our communties, trees posses a strong power.   They plant their feet firmly and stretch their arms toward the heavens as if tickling the sky.  Horizontal branches provide support for a child’s  dreamy afternoon respite or a house cat or even a jaguar! In the Neotropics, trees provide a unique ecosytem, where bromeliads, orchids, vines and ferns provide food and shelter for insects, birds, reptiles, mammals, etc.    The dense shade cloaks the ground with welcome relief from extreme heat.  Ah, who hasn’t expressed gratitude when stepping beneath the canopy of a large tree on a sultry day?

The people in the tree had the best seats for the game!  The ones on the ground clustered beneath any shade! Jama Ecuador

One friend long ago mentioned ‘custom harvesting’ a tract of land, and he knew that it bothered me.    He explained, “But the trees are going to die anyway, so we might as well harvest them while the wood can be used. ”

I mentioned the dead trees’ importance and reminded him that dead trees were important habitat for the presumed-extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker.  “Where will YOUR chidren take their children to see a really-big tree?”  

This past week while sorthing through old drawings and sketches, I paused when reviewing three or four pages of attempts to illustrate a quote.    Then Rebecca Budd /Clanmother shared a quote about trees, which nudged me into bringing that sketch to life.

Those lovely sentinels watch over us, yet many times we forget to acknowledge their presence or worth.

Join me in this celebration of trees! Continue reading

Eleven Months and Counting…


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JAMA – MANABI – ECUADOR –  Young Valentina sits in the doorway while her Aunt Marie and Uncle Edgar show cracks in what I thought was their temporary home.  Marie and Edgar, I discovered, live elsewhere.

“When we feel weak, we drop our heads on the shoulders of others. Don’t get mad when someone does that. Be honored. For that person trusted you enough to, even if subtly, ask you for help.”
― Lori Goodwin

Ecuador – There seems to be a running clock/calendar that keeps track of the days and months since the earthquake destroyed much of Ecuador’s central and northern coast.  Each month when the calendar approaches ’16,’  I note the time and remember the 7.8 earthquake that hit just after 7 pm on April 16th.     Does anyone ever get past that feeling of premonition – or wondering if it might hit again?

Continue reading

A Sweet and Distracting Melody


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Mindo Ecuador –  Garbed in raincoat and mud boots this past Saturday around dark, I trekked past Mindo’s  Catholic Church on my way to the market.  Through the whoosh-whoosh sound of my rain gear and the drizzle hitting the roofs and sidewalk, a stronger much-sweeter sound brought me to a halt.  

Mindo’s Main Street

“Is that a violin?” I wondered, then followed the beckoning music until I stood in the doorway of the church.    The church was empty aside for one lone figure standing to the side near the front row.  In formal attire, perfect posture and with violin at his chin, he seemed like a mirage.  Or was he a life-sized poster?  No, that was a real person standing there, and his music was pure and sweet.

Captivated, I listened for a very short time, and decided that my presence was most likely an intrusion.  I bowed slightly and backed away, all the time wondering who was this person and why was he in this empty church?   I resumed my trek, bought my token items and returned for one more discreet glance before going home.

A second person was peering inside, and this younger woman and I exchanged mystified expressions.  Who was this person, and why was he there? Continue reading

Timeout for Art: A Child’s First Drawing Lesson


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The Texas Pachamama Christmas Fairies brought a huge assortment of art supplies. The airlines might have taxed them for extra weight!

“It was amazing what an hour with her sketchpad could do for her mood. She was sure that the lines she drew with her black marker were going to save her years of worry lines in the future.” ― Victoria Kahler, Their Friend Scarlet

Cosanga Ecuador – Napo Province – See Map

The Pachamama Birding Group also brought treats for the teacher… Really really really-nice treats!  Watercolor paper!  Brushes! Sharpie Markers – not used ones like at my drawing table, but brand-new ones with precise points!!!!  But that’s for another post.   Check below to see the view from the table where I took a 30-minute personal timeout for art:

The Pachamama Christmas Fairies delivered high-quality art materials 8 months early!!! Thank you Pachamamas!

… While the ladies were out birding, the two boys and I sat on the front porch for an impromptu art lesson.

Remember Jordan and Rudy?

Please join me as they experience a fresh pad of drawing paper while they discover the magic of a well-sharpened pencil. Continue reading

Exploring New Horizons

When setting out on a journey, do not seek advice from those who have never left home. ~ Rumi

Ecuador’s Andes:  Eastern Slope – Cosanga – Western Slope -Mindo — Having just returned from a ten-day trip to the eastern side of Ecuador, I chuckled when I read Judy Edwards Thought For the Day, shared above.

My friend Susana had often mentioned their ‘little cabaña’ tucked in a quiet area somewhere on the ‘Eastern Slope” of the Andes in the Napo Province, gateway to the Amazon.  Over the past year, she’s been fine-tuning details for a birding tour for a group of ladies from the USA and had asked if I’d help during their time at their Cabana El Aliso.  The tour would start on March 1st in Quito, end on March 10th in Mindo, with lots of great experiences in between.

Cosanga area landscape

Of course!  I would love to help!  I looked forward to seeing their cabaña and the surrounding landscape, but first needed to take care of my life on the Pacific side.  While in Jama, I received an email from Susana regarding plans for the week before the birding tour.

“…hopefully we can travel to la Cabaña El Aliso. How about Friday, Feb. 24th? This weekend (25-28) is Carnaval and I would like to spend these days in the Cabaña. Can you come with us.”  – Continue reading

Closures at the Cemetery


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Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve. – Earl Grollman

Jama Ecuador – There was something in his eyes, or perhaps in his voice when Marcos spoke to me on the busy street corner.  He had never asked me for anything except for an exchange of smiles during the many years I’ve known him. I knew little about his personal life; he was the smiling person who helped in his sister’s store, who sold colas and ice cream at the corner, and who made New Year effigies to sell during the final week of each year.

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Marcos Cevallos crossing the street – From once upon a time years before the earthquake…

I knew he had lost famiy in the earthquake, but I knew few details.   When he spoke to me in the street, he was worried about his 12-year old son and  mentioned a lack of money for food.  Planning to be out of town for a few days, I promised to return on Saturday.  Over those next few days, I often reflected on his somber tone;  I thought of Phil Colin’s song, Another Day in Paradise.   How difficult it must be for someone like Marcos to ask, ‘Sir, Can you help me?’    I’m glad he found the faith and comfort to approach me.

When I returned on Saturday, finding Marcos was no easy task on the weekend of Ecuador’s Presidential elections; I was determined to follow through with my promise and found him one day after the elections when the mass of people had gone home.    A friend tended the ice-cream box  while Marcos shared the story of losing his wife and three children during the earthquake.   See: The End of the World.

He invited me to go to the cemetery the next morning..
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“I thought it was the end of the world,”  – Marcos Cevallos

Jama, Ecuador – When people  share their stories of the 7.8 earthquake that struck 10 months ago, many use the same description as Marcos: “I thought it was the end of the world.”

With no electricity, there were few options for connecting the desecrated zones with the outside world.   Many kept cyber vigils in hopes of gleaning tidbits of information and passing that information to others.   News reports illustrated the devastation and provided interviews with people who survived the terremoto.   Many people from around the world met Marcos via the following news clip, beginning at minute 2:20: Continue reading

Private Sanctuaries


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“…you should never have to watch your only children lowered in the ground — I mean you should never have to bury your own babies…” –  (From the song Gravedigger ) –  Dave Matthews Band

Jama Ecuador –  Recently many people opened their doors and hearts and invited me into their private sanctuaries; they shared stories of the night of the earthquake and the days that followed.  One person, Marcos Cevallos Mendoza, seemed more affected than most, and I was eager to find him again and listen to what he had to share.   One person pointed me to one corner;  another said, ‘No, I saw him about ten minutes ago near the new market. ‘

The buildings are gone, but spirit remains....

Almost sunset – the buildings are gone, but spirit remains….

As I stopped at random places to ask for Marcos, heart-wrenching stories added more frayed threads to this town’s patchwork tapestry.  Some suggested that I check the cemetery, which offered an instant solace from the reconstruction chaos in the center of town.


Just to the right of the entrance.. Seven people who shared the same day of death: April 16, 2016

Just to the right of the entrance, seven people share the same day of death: April 16, 2016.  Four of those were Marcos’ wife and three of their four children.

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Resilience – Ten Month Anniversary of Ecuador’s 7.8 Earthquake – Part Two


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Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles. — Alex Karras

Jama Ecuador – Taking a timeout from the earthquake-recovery zone.  I watched my friends harvest a shrimp pond about a kilometer from town.   It seemed surreal to be surrounded by stunning landscapes under the influence of a pristine sunny morning while the nearby town provided little aesthetic beauty.


8 am Harvest Underway…






This Snowy Egret swallowed this entire fish in a few gulps!


The landscape frames haunting beauty in one view and a devastated community in another.

After harvest, my friends and I enjoyed a hearty brunch, said our “Goodbyes,” and I stopped to check the progress on the ‘kit’ house. Continue reading

Resilience – Ten Month Anniversary of Ecuador’s 7.8 Earthquake – Part One


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The human capacity for burden is like bamboo- far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance. – Jodi Picoult

Jama Ecuador – Every so often, void of pomp and circumstance, a large truck backs onto the eastern end of a small vacant block and unloads organized piles of boards, bamboo and roofing materials. The truck then drives away.

In December I witnessed this for the first time and noticed random clusters of people loading the materials into smaller trucks. One of the people watching over this process was one of Chana’s sons. I approached him, gave my condolences regarding his mother’s death (See Angels Watching over Us) and asked about the mystery event. He told me that a church from another area was the benefactor of these ‘kit houses’ – donated to those in the campo/country who were receiving no help. Feeling a bit like an intruder, I refrained from sticking my camera into the lives of strangers.  With patience, I hoped to learn more when a more-appropriate time presented itself.




We are stronger than we think. We have emotional, spiritual and even physical resources at our disposal. We may get knocked down, but we don’t have to stay down.”  – Steve Goodier

This month, my first time back since the December visit, I was again walking past when a truck unloaded another cluster of kit houses. I felt stronger, more ‘entitled’ to learn more in order to share this story with a larger audience. I took a few photos from the far side of the block then cautiously approached from a corner tangent.

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“Leeee-SAH!” someone called from a mototaxi that was parked near one of the stacks of supplies. I waved, aimed my camera in that direction and wondered who was greeting me with obvious affection… I looked at the lady standing near a stack and thought, “I’ve never seen this lady before..” I smiled,  asked her name, permission to take her photo and closed the gap between the taxi and me.


Her name is Iliana, and she lives about 10 kilometers ‘up the coastline.


“Leeeee-SAH!” exclaimed a second person, one with an armload of boards. He stretched one of his long spindly arms with a heartfelt greeting. Ah.. the puzzle pieces were falling in place. His brother and father and I have many ties through various people. I think that the brother Carlos was in the room long ago when a mouse ran in my direction, and I screamed and flat jumped high onto a chair!  They later commented, ‘You screamed like a girl.”


After a heart-warming reunion with the cluster of happy people, I was invited to go to the site where the house would be built.  Yes, Giddyup!  Let’s finish loading this truck and roll forward! Continue reading

The Ten Month Anniversary of Ecuador’s 7.8 Earthquake




Minutes from Jama – A Serene Respite from the Earthquake Recovery Efforts.

February 16, 2017

Ten months ago,  a subtle 4.8 ‘bump’ gave no fair warning of the 7.8 nightmare that would soon turn Ecuador’s northern coastline upside down.   No one suspected that in ten minutes, they’d be scrambling for safety as the earth rolled in spasms and tossed people across rooms like a cat toying with a mouse.   From Catholic   story about Jama, “The ground moved like waves on the ocean,” he recalls, while a pall of sulfurous-smelling haze rose over the town.”

“The earthquake was presaged by a magnitude 4.8 foreshock eleven minutes before the main quake struck,[19] and followed by over fifty-five aftershocks in the first twenty-four hours.” — Wilkipedia


“We will never lose hope.”

Over the months, various people described that terrifying minute and its after effects:

“My sister was outside, and she wrapped her arms around a light pole and hung tight until it stopped.”

“From the upstairs window it looked very black to the north, and then the house started shaking.  I ran to the kitchen and turned off the gas.”   She choked back tears and told how the house rocked back and forth before starting to fall.

One man described how the earth pulled apart and  a geyser of black water (?) shot skyward behind his shattered home.

“I don’t know how I got out alive.  Things were falling, crashing, and I had to crawl…”

“I reached town, and everyone was gone.  I did not know where they were.”

“There was a tsunami warning, but I first checked on my parents and then went to the hills.  We spent the night on the hillside.”

“We swam across the river to get to town.”

“Thieves stole from the pharmacy after we left for the tsunami warning.”

“We were too scared to go back inside.  We sat in the street until morning.”

“Look;  I lost everything.  I don’t have any clothes.”  she frowned at her hand-made blouse and shrugged.


“Lee-sah!’ One person called from the far side of  the street yesterday.  A look of desperation bled through his attempted smile.   This man with the perpetually-happy personality seemed broken; he explained that his family was still living in a tent, and he was concerned about providing food for them.

I’ve been working on posts to share stories of different people who have opened their hearts and invited me into their make-shift homes.   Two posts will follow today, and  more as time permits.


Thank you in advance for reading with an open and loving heart.



Do You Truly Know Your Neighbors?


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Jama Ecuador - Little-dog Candy barked and barked and barked at the Gringita, to the family's amusement....

Jama Ecuador – Little-dog Candy barked and barked and barked at the Gringita, to the family’s amusement….

 “Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How well do you know your neighbors; your neighborhood?  If you live in a petite town, you probably know them on a personal level.  Hopefully they are ‘good neighbors,’ ones who make you smile, and if they are lucky, your presence makes them smile as well!  Once when visiting a friend in a larger city (in Mississippi) I asked about the next-door neighbors.  He shrugged and said he didn’t know them.  In disbelief I made some general exclamation but kept my stonger reaction in check.  Just because a neighbor doesn’t extend the first token gesture — doesn’t mean that you cannot!

After meeting this gentleman, I was invited to the back of the house, where water was stored in a bucket, they cooked on an old tree stump yet had dignity and strong spirit. he showed me a snake skin, and we discussed a little snake that they call a 'bejuco' becuase it looks like a litte vine..

After meeting this gentleman, I was invited to the back of the house, where water was stored in a bucket;  they cooked on an old tree stump Even though the earthquake stripped them of their belongings, it did not rob them of their dignity and strong spirit.  He showed me this snake skin, and we discussed a little snake locally called, ‘.___-bejuco’ becuase it looks like a litte bejuco/vine.

Challenging neighbors have sometimes dotted my past, but I eventually realized they had extreme personal burdens or wounds, which had nothing to do with me.  By being neutral, many times I witnessed the softer side emerge.   We as humans often don’t take time to consider how uncomfortable the other person’s shoes might be.

After visiting the family with the dog, and the family that cooked on the tree stump, I saw this person across the street. With a pinch of guilt, I 'only' waved, but plan to go visit this person soon.

After visiting the family with the dog, and the family that cooked on the tree stump, I saw this person across the street. With a pinch of guilt, I ‘only’ waved, but plan to go visit this person soon.

There are many people still in recovery mode on Ecuador’s earthquake-ravaged coastline.   I’ve had time to walk slowly through neighborhoods and talk with friends, talk with strangers, and to marvel (and laugh) at children’s natural gift of inner joy.  I realized that in good times we often don’t stop to exchange greetings with strangers, and in bad times, we’re so busy trying to survive, that we also forget that others are doing the same.  In good times or in bad, we sometimes forget to take time to listen – truly listen… Continue reading