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 divided my time between Ecuador and Central America and eventually weaned full time to Ecuador.  There have been good times, and there have been bad –  Destructive tides, the evolution of ‘Casa Loca,’ Dengue and Chikungunya epidemics, light-pole painting competitions, impromptu painting sessions, visits to the oldest hacienda in the country, a wedding on the equator, shrimp harvests, floor-painting memories.   The April 16/2016 7.8 earthquake upturned the coastal area, and with a heavy heart I watched the ‘Casa Loca’ chapter come to an end.

Most of my posts feature light-hearted stories, though at times I poke and prod at much-more serious topics.  Deforestation and continued abuse of our planet’s natural resources remind me to speak up for those who have no voice.  Our planet is sick, and we are the ‘predator’ responsible; it’s time for all of us to remember that the other species deserve the right to thrive in their natural ecosystems.

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.)

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The ElusiveBrown Wood Rail

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“An artist’s eyes ever rest.” Lisa Brunetti

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The Scarlet-rumped Caciques’ nest dangles almost-eye level from the corner windows where I sit.

Poza Honda – Manabi Province – Ecuador —-

After ten days in Portoviejo, I returned to discover a new addition to the natural sountrack – Chirpings of ravenous hatchlings! The parent birds seemed to glare at me with disgust, that ‘Just when we needed you, you vanished, as did the banana buffet. Could there be a connection?”
“Rangewriter Linda” commented on last-week’s post: “Ah Lisa, it is clear. Your purpose for being present in this Garden of Eden is to document the beauty you see around you. Your brilliant illustrations are so much better than Master Audubon’s because no creatures are harmed in your captures.
Those Caciques have captivated me. They are simply stunning with that bright blue eye set against the dramatic black background. Do tell about the scarlet bottom, though…I see only black. 😉 ”   

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For Linda!

      
I retrieved almost-ripe platanos from the refrigerator, warmed them slightly in a pan of water, then presented the anemic fruits with token apologies. For the next 24 hours, the pair provided easy entertainment for my daylight hours. Working in synchronized harmony, the pair darted in an out of the nest as they foraged for caterpillars between trips to the banana feeder. They also flashed their scarlet feathers – not easy to capture with the camera without blurred results!  Enjoy the slideshow!

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The Scarlet-rumped Cacique ranges from to Honduras in Central America to southern Ecuador.  Within the Scarlet-rumped Cacique there is a clear division between populations in the Andes and those in Central America and the Pacific Lowlands of South America. “ (Neotropical Birds Online)

There is also a Yellow Rumped Cacique which is more bashful/elusive than its red-rumped cousin.

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How about ‘Christmas Yellow’ for those with red/green color deficiency?!!!

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“Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the prettiest of us all?”

 

As lovely and entertaining as they are, these chatty and handsome birds were not the top act for the day. A quieter show awaited at ground level. This artist’s eyes are forever scanning the visual fields, and at times a new glitch taps at my subconscious. “Pay attention —“

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Look near the dragonfruit trellis!

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The rails stay close to cover

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Here’s one hiding place

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At the edge of the yard, they can often be spotted – but one must be quick to see them!

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From Neotropical Birds Online“The Brown Wood-Rail is a very poorly known species, which is reportedly rare over much of its range, with just one record from Peru, and at least in Ecuador it has apparently declined significantly in response to extensive habitat modification throughout the western lowlands in recent decades. “

Ah! It’s a joy to see the Brown Wood Rails‘ return to the comfort of the back yard. I would like to say that they are comfortable with my presence, but no, their reasons for loitering at ground level are obvious.  Their addiction – ripe bananas – lures them in the same way that their presence glues me to the viewing stage. I too am addicted to observing the Brown Wood Rails and all other inhabitants of the natural world!

Before the bananas ripened, a lone bird circled the perimeters of the back yard. Clinging near draping heliconias and other dense areas, the birds move between predictable hiding places.   An attentive observer will soon learn to predict the birds’ most-used routes, and with camera ready, I glean more images!

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The attentive observer might also be rewarded with other sightings, like another not-easy-to see Little Tinamou!  Sneaking under the Porterweed and Brugmansia, the Tinamou passed just beneath the windows, and I dashed to the kitchen window and waited for a second viewing.   Yay!   It emerged beyond a 5-foot tall boulder then ambled to the dense growth beyond the yard.

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When the bananas approach maturity, the Brown Wood Rails check the supply more often. Pumping its tail, one will strut across the close-cropped areas, pass near the bananas, then dart back to safer areas. Once the bananas ripen, the birds provide an all-day performance. I marvel at my luck, at my good fortune and realize how blessed I am to witness and document the behavior and quirks of this elusive species.

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These banana-feeding photos were taken on July 29 and 30. I will return on August 2 and look forward to the next ‘fix’ of immersion in nature!
If you’re interested in photographing these birds, this next week all but guarantees an opportunity to observe this bird in its natural habitat – with extra-easy photo sessions. There is one requirement, however, one has to be ultra quiet, as the birds dart away at the slightest movement or sound! (But you probably knew that already!) Contact the owner, Jorge via jurgarnet@icloud.com, as I will be off line and watching the birds, starting on Friday through Wednesday of next week.

The museo is about to close, and the laptop battery is almost dead.  Tomorrow I will be on line again and look forward to your feedback on both posts.   Thank you all for your support!   Love, Lisa

Several More Lives to Live

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Yesterday (July 30, 2019) a lone howler monkey loitered for barely a minute – but long enough to confirm it was there!

“…Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one…” Thoreau, from Walden

When I posted the above quote two weeks ago, Thoreau’s words nailed how I felt. “Several more lives to live,” was especially true. Unsure exactly what was in the future, I felt there was no extra time for dragging my feet – even though I loved that GPS spot at Poza Honda.

Because I treasured the flora and fauna – and neighbors, I felt it was time to move forward. Staying there, I would witness and document the deforestation, the decline of not only birds but also bees, yet I needed to be where I could visit with authorities and interact with activists and like-minded people who share my concerns for the health of our planet. If art played any role in my future, I needed better studio settings as well as options for showcasing my work. Poza Honda was the carrot on the stick, my ‘Johnny’s Garden,” where I hope to sink deeper roots in the future.


Starting with a blank kitchen, the first priority was ‘Stage One’ for the kitchen. A maestro and his assistant helped for two days, and I worked day and night to prepare the artwork before sealing it beneath a few layers of protective varnish.

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Kitchen ‘Before’  “She recycles things,” Melissa told the carpenter the week before.  (The painted boards on the floor were first a window at Casa Loca, then a drawing table.  Now they are part of the counter!)

Two slideshows best show the two-days’ worth of work:

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A small area, most likely designed as a wash room, (areas for incoming and outgoing water and also with drain in the floor) would better suit me as a work area for art and a reading/conversation corner. After the kitchen, this area would be the next project. I did what I could, as well as hung paintings. Ah, it’s good to get them out of protective wrappings!

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“Next project” – Kitchen is to the right….

Life had a grander plan, and less than a week after the kitchen was barely ‘in service,’ and with other areas awaiting attention, Melissa’s baby arrived on July 22nd! Almost a month early, Edward Johir Sanchez spent the next week in the ‘Neo-nato’ section of the nearby hospital, and Melissa ‘camped’ with me at the apartment. She was allowed three visits per day, each lasting almost three hours. The last visit for each day stretched from 8:30 pm until 11.

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Melissa and Joselo – viewing high water at the dam – March 2019

When her husband Joselo was at the Poza Honda finca, I accompanied her to the hospital. With one or two books tucked into my bag, I treasured the quiet time for uninterrupted reading sessions! When Joselo visited, he helped with projects in the apartment between visits to the hospital and taking care of paperwork for the baby and hospital. Most interesting, however, was trying to blend my own style of cooking with their traditional ways. Melissa had never eaten cooked oatmeal! I cooked an oatmeal/quinoa mix, simmered with diced ripe plantains and cinnamon. The traditional way to prepare oats is by blending into a sweetened drink! She seemed happy to experience another option!

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Photo from several years ago:  “ManaSissippi” – a skillet experiment that is now a preferred way to cook eggs for company. Green plantains provided a crispy bottom later, scrambled eggs with cheese was the middle layer, and a tomato salsa provided color and more flavor.

Green plantains are used almost daily in Manabi Province cuisine, and at times I asked Melissa for instructions. The results were often comical, yet we have enjoyed new culinary inventions! I also learned their secrets for cooking extra-flavorful lentils. Their list of ingredients contains two extra that I did not use: not only oregano but also green and ripened plantains! They sampled my evolving blend of options, including Mana-ssippi. Each meal was announced with a warning, ‘Comida loca/Crazy food.’

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“Madura’ and ‘Verde’ Plantains

This past Monday morning I drove Melissa to the hospital then returned to the apartment. A ‘maestro’ would be fine-tuning the water lines (another story!) and Melissa would take a taxi back to the apartment at noon. “Lunch will be ready when you return,” I had told her, so I was busy in the kitchen when she walked through the door. Turning to greet her – and to ask about her morning, I almost collapsed when I saw the bundle in her arms! The baby! What a heart-swelling moment!

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Joselo arrived about an hour later, and as soon as we finished lunch, a proud ‘gringita chofer’ drove them back to Poza Honda. We reflected on my dream (see: Put a Woman in Charge) and agreed it was fitting that I first saw them with a little child in my dreams, and now as a witness to that child and its homecoming, which included an extended family at Poza Honda.

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Like precious puppies awaiting the master’s return, lovely Valentina and Daniela were sitting outside of their home. They dashed to the road, oohed and awed at the sight of the newcomer, and we then drove the short distance to home base.

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From February – Neighbors Alex (far left) Valentina (middle) and Daniela (right)

After watching them enter their home with their precious newborn, I then walked to my house with expectations of seeing the Scarlet-rumped Caciques and the nest they have been tending. Indeed, the Caciques also celebrated new hatchlings! Ah, but that’s another story, which will follow this one as soon as I can pull it together!

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Can Birds have Addictions?

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Last month – on our way for Melissa’s checkup…

Forward to post:  One hour’s drive separates Poza Honda and Portoviejo,  the latter also known locally as ‘Rock City.’   I am now dividing my time between the two locations.   My neighbor Melissa lacks one more month before her baby’s delivery date – but the baby is impatient, and Melissa was admitted to the hospital on Saturday night.  (Perhaps ‘Bebe’ wanted to be born under the water sign of Cancer and not the fiery Leo?)  Melissa is doing well, and we all hope that the baby will be patient!

The above statement was written yesterday morning, and in the afternoon ‘little bebe’ was again impatient to be under the zodiac sign of Cancer!  Welcome, Little One, who might need to spend the next two weeks under the hospital’s care.  I will update when possible!

Now for the ‘Addiction’ story, which was written this past weekend  at Poza Honda – when I should have been packing.  There have been many detours and interruptions, so all mistakes are definitely mine!    Enjoy!

 

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Poza Honda – July 20/2019

Barely breathing, I watched as the sleek brown bird hurried from one side of the yard to the other. Elusive, this chicken-like visitor has mastered the art of stealth foraging, and I admired its ability to blend with its surroundings.  Without a watchful eye, one could totally miss a rare and fleeting glimpse of the Brown Wood Rail.

Perhaps eons ago its ancestors imprinted the importance of dodging predators. Perhaps its skittish nature is a recent adaptation, triggered by the humans’ intrusion into its habitat. Whatever the reason for their skittish behavior, the birds manage to elude many avian photographers; some of those photographers have stated that my photos are some of the best ever taken. I remain humbled that these sly birds have allowed hundreds of photo ops, and I am equally humbled to have watched their behavior over the past two years.

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Brown Wood Rail

There are special times when the neighborhood Brown Wood Rails are easier to observe than other times. These birds have a weakness, and their fondness for ripe bananas clouds their instincts. When the ‘Geneau Platanos’ (a shorter variety of bananas) ripen in the back yard, those Brown Wood Rails seem to lose most of their survival instincts; with addictive nearsighted vision, they see only the bananas and make repeated raids throughout the day.

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As I type, one Brown Wood Rail circles the back-yard area. Every half hour or so it leaves the unkempt wilder area under the citrus trees and crosses the recently-manicured (almost bare*) area near the house. Other times it emerges from dense natural areas that border the yard – and sometimes it emerges beneath ‘my nose’ from the plantings near the house!

 

A Scarlet-rumped Casique lands at the banana feeder, positioned only a meter or so from the 2nd-floor window, and beyond the feeder its recently-constructed nest dangles from an arching branch of bamboo.  I admire the squawking blue-eyed cacique as it complains about the not-so-ripe plantain I presented for its breakfast.

I whisper, “Well Good Morning to you, lovely Cacique!” – and instantly it darts to the far side of the macadamia tree which cradles the feeder.

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Scanning the area below, I note the Brown Wood Rail making an equally-quick departure from the not-quite ripe bananas growing at ground level. An exceptionally-happy Superciliated Wren chirps with top-of-its-lungs volume while another answers from a faraway distance.

One Bird at a Time - I am Blessed

I ponder what a small-but-significant role every single living organism plays in this delicate fragile planet we call ‘Earth.’ As if to confirm, the blue-eyed beauty named ‘Scarlet-rumped Cacique’ flies from its nest and lands six feet from my own perch. Exchanging intense eye-to-eye contact, we acknowledge one another before it inspects the just-replaced plantain. Between samples, it peers at me then peers left and then right before it pecks at the not-much-better replacement. I admire its crisp blue eyes and the slight fluff in its crown of feathers.

Poza Honda - Manabi Province- Ecuador

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A year earlier while struggling with grief over the felling of trees – some of them favorites of mine, I concluded that God gave us stewardship of the planet, and our species has done a poor job.  Perhaps we did not deserve this responsibility. We weren’t ready to grasp the importance – and instead of being guardians, we became the most-destructive predator to walk this planet. Perhaps its time we acknowledge that being in charge does not always mean that we have all rights to domineer.

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Living in harmony with nature

Presently, I remain all but frozen as I witness the movements of today’s cast of inhabitants. Almost cocooned in this magnificent slice of the Garden of Eden, I too am a part – but what exactly is my reason – my honor – my duty for being here? Perhaps by sharing these experiences, I am a biographer for this GPS point of the planet?

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A Southern House Wren chirps from a far corner of the house. In the distance the repeated call of the Gray Hawk overpowers the chattering big-footed water-loving Jacanas as well as the reverberations of the Great Antshrike. Serene doves coo at ground level and illustrate that they appreciate the easy-to-forage areas of a cropped yard.  Even a small plot can become a refuge for nature’s residents, and those spaces also give us peace.

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In another week three clumps of bananas will be ripe enough to lure the Brown Wood Rails within easy viewing.  I will return, with camera in hand to document this year’s census of Wood Rails – presently only two, in contrast to seven a year ago. Perhaps the others remain secluded? If so, their cravings for ripe bananas will bring them into easy view. I will be there to witness and be their official biographer and photographer. 

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Orange-crowned Barbet

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An extremely-handsome member of the feathered population lands in the Nispero tree and vanishes into the dark depths of its branches. The Orange-crowned Barbets recently presented their most-grand performances. Six or seven have foraged, frolicked, hissed and darted from Carambola trees to the Nispero to tall Tamarind, exchanging fruits for caterpillars as they probed and communicated. Seeing them after a too-long absence (four or more months?) I delight in witnessing their return.

Poza Honda - Manabi Province- Ecuador

Scarlet-rumped Cacique inspecting heliconias for caterpillars. Poza Honda – Manabi Province- Ecuador

As if to retort, ‘What about us?’ the cacique returns, chirps several times then darts away. The handsome pair works in harmony while taking numerous banana breaks. (It will be fun to witness the incubation and feeding of the next generation!)

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April 2019 – Limpkin forages in water hyacinths below house.

Not wanting to be overlooked in today’s census, a Limpkin barks from the cove of water below the house. After half a year of quite-high levels, the reservoir now lowers rapidly. I ponder the volume of water and wonder what source drains it so rapidly?  Human’s need for electricity? The need for irrigation of crops of citrus and papaya –  or routing water to cities that also tap this source for human survival?  How many months of an extended drought would lower this reservoir to critical levels?  How often do the masses of men consider the source of their water when turning on the faucets?  Is the original source of water being tainted by trickle-down effects of man’s presence?  How pure is our air? The fragile balance affects us all, one day at a time.

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Whooping Motmot on water hydrant

It is no longer ‘enough’ to strictly witness and admire this slice of heaven on earth. Today the area remains quiet – void of sounds of human’s encroachment, yet I know that all too soon the sounds of chain saws will return.  Aroma of fires will announce another area successfully cleared, wiped clean of original vegetation so that man can again state, “This is mine – with tiny respect to what once thrived here.’

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Late May 2019 – 2 weeks of felling Balsas near the house. Do you see the one tree that had just fallen?

It is time to find ways to better protect these rightful heirs to this environment – to be stewards and guardians – making sure there are enough bananas not only for man, but also the birds.  Our future depends on acknowledging that the old ways are not always the best, and it’s time to find new ways – if we intend to be worthy guardians of this planet.

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Like the Brown Wood Rails, I also have an addiction; my weakness is for nature, and I hope to find ways to help save what’s left of the Brown Wood Rail’s habitat.  A new file folder on my computer is named, ‘I have a Dream‘ – and it contains images of the neighboring pasture and forest that continues to be altered by chain saws and pesticides.

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In my mind’s eye, it has been replanted and designed with life-giving plantings – short term ICU options intermingled with long-term slower-growing selections.  It would be filled with poetic trails, places to sit, reflect and observe nature.   Of course the low-growing bananas would be planted in many areas so that the Brown Wood Rails were never denied their favorite food!

This slice of Eden deserves to be preserved so that the rails and the barbets and the chachalacas thrive in a protected forest that nurtures them.  Perhaps other land owners around the reservoir would notice that one can live in harmony with nature.  The dream is pending, and I can continue visiting and checking the status of this slice of Eden.

If anyone wants to observe and photograph the Brown Wood Rail, the odds are in favor of success in the next two weeks.  You’ll arrive with expectations of seeing the Brown Wood Rail, but will most likely leave with warm memories of many other bird sightings!   Contact Jurg Arnet for overnight accommodations: Casa Swiss – Poza Honda Ecuador  jurgarnet@icloud.com

https://casa-poza-honda-honorato-vasquez.hotelmix.fr

* The owner ‘Jorge’ respects the citizens of the natural world; however, there are times when one must make an attempt to reclaim what has returned to its natural state, which in this area, occurs once or twice during the rainy season.

“Why I Left” – Reflections on Two Years

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From final chapter of Thoreau’s Walden: “I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves. I had not lived there a week before my feet wore a path from my door to the pond-side; and though it is five or six years since I trod it, it is still quite distinct.”

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Poza Honda Ecuador – Yes; I am moving. Like Thoreau, I retreated to a pristine and serene location which served as an incubation chamber for inward and outward reflections.   Hundreds of bird species seemed to conspire to provide daily opportunities to ‘Name that Bird’ and learn more about each one.   Also like Thoreau, I chose to wean away after two years, most likely for similar reasons.   Soon there will be time to expand on the details of this new move, but presently most of my time is spent — moving!   It was time, however, to send a smoke signal!  I will publish this then get on the road until my next trip/load on Sunday.  See you then!

Your support continues to humble me, and I know that no matter what my choices are, you’re there in the cheering section and wishing the best for me.   Enjoy the post!

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Poza Honda dam – Even the authorities seem to ignore the side-effects of (cough cough gasp) smoke!)

Continue reading

Merging with the Earth’s Rhythms

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“You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns.” H.D. Thoreau

With fondness, I recall exploring the wilder areas along the levee, woods, lakes and fields of the Mississippi Delta during my early years.  When most children would still be sleeping,  I would tip-toe into the kitchen and leave a note to my parents – then strike out in search of my horse.  On horseback and other times on foot, I often made my own trail – depending on the whims of each day.

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Fields on one side of the levee, woodlands (and the river) on the other…

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On a hot summer day I might ride my horse into the deep woods and sit beneath a grand old tree. I don’t remember having profound thoughts – I just visually soaked in the surroundings and merged with the peace and beauty of wherever I stopped. Sometimes I rode ‘back in the fields’ where the persimmon trees grew – or along the lower bogs that drained the higher areas. Discovering an explosion of yellow wildflowers intermingled with cat-tails, I wove those small aquatic flowers into my horse’s bridle then resumed my journey. Even when young I rejoiced in seeing new species.

After describing one particularly-exotic flower to our neighbor, I learned its name: “Maypop,” and he – a mentor to me – always took time to satisfy my curiosity. “When I was young,” he smiled, “we liked to stomp on the ripe fruit – and they popped!”

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I never saw the ripe fruits, but now I live where that delicate flower has a monster cousin: passion fruit, called maracuya in Ecuador. With a rich unique aroma and quite-tart flavor, maracuya is popular (and affordable) for juices and desserts. (Do you think that those Mississippi Maypops produce an edible fruit as well?) I have veered far from my original GPS location, but that childlike curiosity remains intact! Continue reading

When the Big Creek Rises…

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September 2018 – The Swollen Mississippi River at Memphis Tennessee

“On the morning of Good Friday, April 15, 1927, Seguine Allen, the chief engineer of the Mississippi Levee Board in Greenville, Mississippi, woke up to the sound of running water. Rain was lashing the tall windows of his home near the great river with such intensity that the gutters were overflowing and a small waterfall poured past his bedroom. It worried him. He was hosting a party that day, but his concern was not that the weather might keep guests away. Indeed, he knew that the heavy rain, far from decreasing attendance, would bring out all of the community’s men of consequence, all as anxious as he for the latest word on the river.”
Prologue/Rising Tide – The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 & How It Changed America – by John M. Barry
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2018 View of Mississippi River oxbow lake from my friends’ home near Clarksdale Mississippi…

In January of this year, a friend wrote from Clarksdale, Mississippi and said that they had temporarily moved out of their home ‘behind the levee’ because the Mississippi River was over the road. I immediately thought of John Barry’s book, The Rising Tide, and the weather history that led to that great flood. Last September the river was exceptionally high for ‘the end of summer,’ and news of high water in January made me instantly concerned.

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Rising Tide and Lanterns on the Levee – Both books give a glimpse into the history – not only of the river but also of the culture – and we are still struggling to reconcile the differences and live in harmony.

It was time to read  Rising Tide for a third time and refresh my memory. After finishing the 426-page book, I then switched to William Alexander Percy’s Lanterns on the Levee, his personal memoir that includes recollections of that Great Flood of 1927. His book opens with this often-quoted paragraph:

” My country is the Mississippi Delta, the river country. It lies flat, like a badly drawn half oval, with Memphis at its northern and Vicksburg at its southern tip. Its western boundary is the Mississippi River, which coils and returns on itself in great loops and crescents, though from the map you would think it ran in a straight line north and south. Every few years it rises like a monster from its bed and pushes over its banks to vex and sweeten the land it has made. For our soil, very dark brown, creamy and sweet-smelling, without substrata of rock or shale, was built up slowly, century after century, but the sediment gathered by the river in its solemn task of cleansing the continent and deposited in annual layers of silt on what must once have been the vast depression between itself and the hills. This ancient depression, now filled in and level, is what we call the Delta. Some say it was the floor of the sea itself. Now it seems to still be a floor, being smooth from one end to the other, without rise or dip or hill, unless the mysterious scattered monuments of the mound-builders may be called hills. The land does not drain into the river as most riparian lands do, but tilts back from it towards the hills of the south and east. Across this wide flat alluvial stretch – north and south it measures one hundred and ninety-six miles, east and west at the widest point ffty miles- run slowly and circuitously other rivers and creeks, also high-banked with names pleasant to remember – Rattlesnake Bayou, Quiver River, the Bogue Phalia, the Tallahatchie, the Sunflower – pouring their tawny waters finally into the Yazoo, which in turn loses itself just above Vicksburg in the river. With us when you speak of ‘the river,’ though there are many, you mean always the same one, the great river, the shifting unappeasable god of the country, feared and loved, the Mississippi.” Lanterns on the Levee –‘The Delta’- William Alexander Percy

Now several days before June 2019, my Clarksdale friends have not returned – except by boat – to their home, still untouched by floodwaters, gracias a-Dios.  For the river to have been above flood stage for over four months in many areas – that is sobering and spooky news. After all, I am a self-confessed ‘River Rat’ and proud that I grew up a child of nature along the Mississippi River.

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Mississippi River at Memphis 2018

Anyone who has lived along the Mississippi river has witnessed its many moods. How well I recall a summer of drought when stranded towboats and their barges anchored in various bends and deeper waters and waited for rains – and for the river to rise. I also remember the “Flood of 1973” when I witnessed the impressive power of the river well above flood stage. Continue reading

Basking in the Presence of Talent – World Museum Day

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Warning! This is an extremely ‘image-dense’ post!

Manabi Province/EcuadorOpening Event/Museo Portoviejo –  Friday May 17, 2019 – 7 pm.  Art Exposition/Presentation by artists Ivo Uquillas, Vicente Ferrin and Carlos Fernández Ferrín.

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November 2018 – Kind words from Ivo Uquillas at the opening of “Lisa Brunetti – a Journey”

Quiet and focused on a set of illustrations, I had lost track of time. Like emerging from a deep sleep, I pondered, Is this Friday – or is this Thursday?”

It was Friday, and I needed to stop working and prepare to attend the World Museum Day event at Museo Portoviejo. The first stop would be the cyber to confirm the date and time of the event.

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“Time to stop working, Gringita!”

Sorting through ten pages of my day’s work, I spotted several areas that needed more attention. “Just five more minutes,” I thought.

A stronger voice overruled, “No. Stop. You need to support your friends.”

Two of the three artists for the event are friends; they are true masters. I reflected on how they support my work, especially Ivo Uquillas, who mentors many artists, and who spoke at the past two inaugurations/expositions of my work.

I realized that I was tired and thought about the hour’s drive to Portoviejo, the event, then an hour’s drive home. I pondered the crowded auditorium and that no one would notice if I were there – or not. I considered my concerns for the planet, and how this drive would negate my attempts to be more sensitive about my choices. I even pondered the costs to drive there and back (fuel prices have risen!)

That “stronger voice” gave a more-assertive nudge, “This isn’t about you. It’s about your friends and their work – and you need to attend. Period.”

If I reached the cyber and discovered that the event was scheduled for next week, I could have a nice long session of internet! Continue reading

Endangered Species Day – May 17

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P2090893 AUGUST 7 GREY-BACKED HAWK POZA HONDA 1 PM terrain

Where is the VIP bird?

Poza Honda Ecuador – I will forever treasure the moment I saw this bird.   Minding its own business, it perched on a branch of Cecropria in a small switch-back area between the reservoir and a small waterfall.   My eyes were on the gravel road, the downhill route and the upcoming curve.  Beside me and in the back of the truck were paintings to be delivered to Museo Portoviejo.  I was an hour late, yet when I saw that raptor, I braked to a stop, fumbled for my camera and took several faraway photos.  The bird had presence.  A strong presence.  Perhaps I ‘felt’ the bird more than I first saw it?

I drove a little closer, took more photos and wondered what magnificent raptor was peering back at me.    Satisfied with the photos, I resumed my journey and forgot about the bird.

A day later in another area of the country, I remembered the hawk and searched for its identification.   Grey-backed Hawk.  Endangered Species.    Range:  Western Ecuador and Northern Peru.  Reading the stats brought tears to my eyes.  From the IUCN RED LIST:   250-999 Mature Individuals. Continue reading

Coming Soon – Another Global BIG Day

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Global Big Day 2019:  May 04 —-   Nature enthusiasts look forward to the annual Global Big Day, where birders around the world document the bird species in their area.  Cornel Lab/Ebird hosts this event, and the bird-sighting information helps scientists track changes in the birds’ habits and numbers.

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The elusive Brown Wood Rail – 2018 – Parent (with yellow bill) teaches the juvenile how to select the perfect banana!

I’ve noted a great change in the most-common birds near my house since last year’s bird census.   The  carambolas, plantains and oranges – favorite fruits for the Barbets, Motmots and Caciques – often go untouched until they eventually drop to the ground.

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2018 – Scarlet-rumped Caciques. Oranges, Starfruit or Bananas? (They prefer the oranges!)

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Where oh where have the caciques gone?

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July 2 2018 – Whooping Motmot

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October 2018 – Lovely Garden Ornaments

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The Black-cheeked Woodpecker continues to drop in for banana feasts.

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At times the fruit feeder remains untouched, and the ripe plantains rot.   After last year’s abundance of birds at the feeder, this year brings a sobering concern about the changes.

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2018 – Orange-fronted Barbet

The butterflies, however, enjoy their now-private fruit feasts.

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While marveling at the beauty in front of our eyes, we often forget the ones that are absent.  This happened when I was searching for Seedeaters and Grassquits, but I overlooked the absence of the Scarlet-rumped Caciques, the Orange-fronted Barbets and the Whooping Motmots.  The Snail Kites no longer dotted the treetops.   Are their numbers dwindling, or have they moved – and if so, why?  Devoting one day to study the local birds might help decipher these mysteries, especially when scientists compare data from around the globe.

Below are a few birds that have recently dropped in for a photo op:

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Scarlet-backed Woodpecker

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Rufous-browed Peppershrike

P2580077 FEMALE ORANGE FRONTED BARBET

Yay-yay-yay!!!!  Orange-fronted Barbet

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Great Antshrike (Male)

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Yellow-tailed Oriole

 

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Peruvian Pygmy Owl – Between Rains

Take a timeout on Saturday May 4 and spend time with your feathered neighbors.  If possible, share your sightings with eBird.

An Appreciation for Nature

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“The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
― Jane Goodall

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Male Variable Seedeater

“Nature doesn’t need people – people need nature; nature would survive the extinction of the human being and go on just fine, but human culture, human beings, cannot survive without nature.”  Harrison Ford

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‘Seeds! Yum, yum!” – Female Variable Seedeater

“Hundreds of species are facing extinction due to human impacts on the environment.” – Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Poza Honda Ecuador

“Yum Yum!

“If we pollute the air, water and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us.” –David Suzuki

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2018 – Variable Seedeaters

“Humans regard animals as worthy of protection only when they are on the verge of extinction.” – Paul Craig Roberts

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“This seedeater is a common to abundant bird in lowlands and foothills up to 1,500 m (4,900 ft) altitude in semi-open areas such as forest edges, roadsides, low scrub and gardens. It also flocks with other species of seedeaters in pasture, weedy fields and other grassland…This species feeds mainly on grass seeds but also takes other seeds, berries and some insects.”  Wilkipedia

Poza Honda Ecuador – Last year while participating in the bird census for Global Big Day, friends and I noted the strong aroma of 2,4-D pesticide that had recently been sprayed on the pasture by the road.  The aroma lingered for months, and sensitive broad-leaved plants continued to die or curl for several more months.  The young balsa trees showed lingering effects half a year later.

I’m not sure when I noted the Variable Seedeaters’ absence, but their numbers declined rapidly – and have been almost absent until recently.   It’s been sobering to note the perfect seed heads on the pasture grasses, and to listen for the birds’ sweet songs but find there were none.

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Yay! A March 2019 sighting of a Grassquit!

I rationalized: “Perhaps they are nesting.  Perhaps they went elsewhere for seeds.  Or they are molting.”

Month after month, I rarely spotted a seedeater or grassquit.

The cutting of trees, bamboo, the fire that morphed into a larger one – surely all played into the disappearance of those precious little birds.    I wondered if the hotter climate pushed them to cooler areas.  We’ve not had as many cool days/nights as the year before.

I began actively searching for the missing birds, but no. They remained MIA.  Month after month after month I hoped for their return; I was thrilled to spot one or two.

Sometimes it takes a while to notice what’s absent from the normal scene.  Another species was often missing: the Ecuadorian Ground Doves. (featured below and in the header image.) Continue reading

April 16 Memories

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Manabi Ecuador –   Four days ago while working on photos, I switched from images to a blank Word document and typed, “10:45 PM EARTHQUAKE APRIL 12,” then resumed work on the photos.

For the next ten or so minutes, my eyes were perusing images while my survival instincts were tuned to the surroundings in case a second quake followed the first.

Some of those who experienced Ecuador’s 7.8 earthquake (3 years ago near the epicenter) said there was a mild ‘bump’  seven or so minutes earlier.

“Was that an earthquake?” they wondered.

The second one, they said,  arrived like a bucking bull coming out of the chute.

When I recall those days that followed, one of my most-comforting memories was the email from Helene, a friend in France.

Angels Watching Over Us – Ecuador Earthquake

Today her country is adjusting to its own heart-wrenching loss via the  Notre Dame Cathedral fire.

We often forget that we’re all part of the fabric of this planet.  Disasters can dissolve language barriers and invisible walls of separation.   Compassion for our fellow man links us at a soul level,  an attitude that overlooks our differences and focuses on our concerns for each other.

 

 

Latitude Living Weekly

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Ecuador – Arriving each Sunday morning as the sun announces a new day in Ecuador, Latitude Living Weekly awaits discovery in the morning email queue.

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Sunrise after the rain – Poza Honda Ecuador 2018

With short blurbs and images from articles and posts (about Ecuador) from around the world, Latitude Living gives an easy week-at-a glance summary that ranges from serious politics and business topics to weather notifications to blogs about life in Ecuador. I don’t know how Sara does it, but I am grateful!

This week’s summary features an abundance of stories about the arts in Ecuador, with many events in Cuenca. I am wistful to meet all of these artists in person.

It’s been my good fortune to have a little time out of the bosque, and I’ve enjoyed having internet at the hostal.  Now Cinderella’s Cyber Carriage reverts back to two cans and a string Pumpkin Communications. For some reason, the internet doesn’t work well on the latter!  After publishing three posts in almost the same number of days, I’ll wean back to random smoke signals.

This week’s April 07, 2019 edition of Latitude Living Weekly is HERE  .   (Thanks, Sara, for your tireless work!)

(Moon-set Header image: Rio Jama/Dawn)

 

 

ARDIS 2019 – Week of Design for Crafts

ARDIS at the CIDAP / Cuenca Ecuador
CIDAP –  (Centro Interamericano de Artesanias y Arte)
Feria de Comercio/ Craft Fair
12-14 – April 2019
10:00 20:00 in the Gardens of CIDAP
Hermano Miguel 3 – 23 y Paseo Tres de Noviembre
Cuenca – phone: 072840919

Cuenca Ecuador –  Many times I learn about events when the newspapers showcase the highlights – and the event is already over.  This conference, with participants from Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Cuba and Ecuador,  opens on Monday, April 08 (2019) and offers much more than the ordinary ‘Crafts’ fair!   Mindo’s Diego Patino will speak about sustainable carpentry at 9:45 on Wednesday.

The schedule of events for April 08 – 10 (and location) can be found HERE: Conferencia 08 – 10 Abril/entrada gratuita.

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Mindo Carpentry prepares for Cuenca ARDIS event

With profound respect for our forests,  the Patiño family salvages driftwood from rivers, find beauty in old tree roots and discarded limbs.  They create beautiful bowls, cutting boards – even earrings from the smallest items that many people might toss in the trash.

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Diego, who is also the president of the Nature Guides of Mindo, graciously allowed me access to their workshop as they prepared the final items for the show.

P2560009 diego patino workshop preparing items for cuenca show next wed

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The best treat, however, was seeing finished pieces displayed in their showroom!

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If you plan to be in the Cuenca area, I hope you can attend the conference and-or the fair and say “Hi” to my Mindo friends!

For more information: Ardis/CIDAP

If you’re in Mindo, drop by their showroom!

P2560219 diego patino mindo carpentry sofia in front of shop

The Patiño-family’s website: Mindo Carpentry telephone: 0981534809

 

With hit-and-miss internet, all mistakes are mine.  Lisa

Timeout for Art – “Believe in Yourself”

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“In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can.” Nikos Kazantzakis

Every so often Life presents tiny-yet-humbling gifts as if orchestrated strictly for my benefit. Sometimes it’s a mystical interaction with a bird – like when the pelican swam across the river, walked up the boulders where I was sitting – and gaped at me from about a meter away. Then it returned to the rio, swam back to the other side and joined its companions. Did they dare that pelican to interact with the human who fought to save their habitat?

P1530191 JUNE 10 2012 HOW MANY BIRDS

25184517 PELICANS

A very long time ago in Louisiana, while making a farm-road detour around a fierce thunderstorm, I approached a rainbow not far from the malevolent clouds.  The left side of the rainbow grew closer and closer and almost touched the car.  Navigating an ‘S- curve’ very slowly, I noted that the rainbow came through the driver’s window – I was dumbfounded and full of bliss – driving slowly, trying to comprehend this rainbow in my lap while approaching another curve. As I turned slowly to the right, the other side of the rainbow came through the passenger window!  There I was with the left side of the rainbow in the driver’s window, and the right side streaming through the passenger side!

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A very-subtle rainbow last month at Poza Honda Ecuador

Trying to comprehend this unexpected gift, I exclaimed to the rainbow, to the entire universe, “Thank you thank you thank you” and pondered that no one would ever believe me if I shared what happened! I still marvel and wonder about the science that allowed that ‘just-for-me gift.’  When I emerged from the curve to the straight road, the rainbow stayed behind. Next was the intense rain – and ten or so minutes later, I was home.  The magic was gone, but never forgotten.

Other gifts are not so dramatic, but they leave behind an imprint of gratitude. My neighbor Melissa, with her natural aptitude for drawing and painting, showed me some of her latest work. It speaks for itself – and for her: Continue reading

The Lovely Masked Water-Tyrant

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Masked Water-Tyrant – Fluvicola nengeta

“I never for a day gave up listening to the songs of our birds, or watching their peculiar habits, or delineating them in the best way I could. ” John James Audubon

Poza Honda Ecuador – These highly-active and perpetually-happy Masked Water-Tyrants served as good-will ambassadors in every location I’ve lived in Ecuador.  Attired year ’round in crisp white and black/brown, they chirp, chatter, dance and build nests – always near the water.   At Casa Loca along Rio Jama, they foraged along the mud flats at low tide;  in Mindo they nested in locations just above the water, and now at Poza Honda they thrive in an ever-changing playground of water hyacinths.

P2480866 masked water tyrant reflections

While I worked on the Common Tody Flycatcher study, the Water-Tyrants tolerated my presence;  ignoring the artist, they frolicked and provided ample poses for my growing collection of photos.      Painting these birds would be challenging yet rewarding.

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Masked Water Tyrants – Watercolor in progress by Lisa Brunetti

Working at night from reference photos, I also worked during the day by the water’s edge.    The bi-polar moods of the weather often sent me scampering up the hill to protect the painting!

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Just as I began the watercolor wash, the skies began to baptize the painting!

Within a week, water levels leaped to maximum levels, which brought those handsome birds (and the invasive water hyacinths) closer and closer to the human’s turf.  They provided a grand assortment of poses – as if to benefit no one except the human that studied them!  Continue reading

Water Runs Downhill

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March 08, 2019 – Currents of strong water over the Poza Honda dam. The water reached the 108 mark yesterday.

Poza Honda/Manabi/Ecuador —   With a meter of water over the dam, four inches of rainfall sent Poza Honda’s waters rising another meter.  Not only did Wednesday night’s rainfall send floodwaters downstream, it also sent another mass of water hyacinths downriver as well.

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Several landslides blocked the road on the  far side of the dam, but that was a very minor annoyance compared to what the folks downriver are experiencing.

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In front of Melissa’s House

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Big landslides, no – trees and bamboo down, yes!

If this weather pattern continues, and the flooding makes international news, remember that the little neighborhood where I live is fine.

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I’ll be off line until Tuesday, weather permitting!

Have a good weekend!

Trust vs Self Doubt

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Smooth-billed Ani in Calabash Tree – Poza Honda/Manabi/Ecuador

“… If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you – and make allowance for their doubting too…” from the poem If by Rudyard Kipling (for the complete poem go HERE)

Self doubt can sabotage one’s concentration. How well I remember standing at the free-throw line and hoping that I would not miss the final shot for a Jr.-high basketball game.  Aware of my teammates, of the coach, of offensive/defensive choices if the ball missed the basket, of the next team waiting for the buzzer and warm ups; I also considered the home-town fans and strangers in the packed gym. Would my team win, would we lose, or would we go into overtime? The possibilities provided many distractions for an inexperienced young-teen! * That moment taught me an important life lesson: block out the conflicting variables and focus on the goal.

The same self doubt inflicts the creative process. When I painted the watercolor study of Smooth-billed Anis, I used an ultra-smooth Bristol Board which is very unforgiving. Once applied, the dark pigments required for the Anis could not be lifted without staining(ruining?) the paper.

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Smooth-billed Anis – Watercolor in progress (Black and white image)

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” Elbert Hubbard

Quite social and affectionate with each other, Anis stay in family clusters. Sometimes while foraging they are scattered but remain in sight of one another; they also huddle – and even cuddle – during periods of rest.  The Smooth-billed and the Groove-billed Anis prepared a little slide show introduction:

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Painting just one bird would not illustrate the true behavior of the flock.

The painting advanced one bird at a time, and with each bird – self doubt peered over my shoulder and whispered, “Are you sure you want to add another bird? What if you make a mistake? The painting might be ruined.”

Continue reading

…Toss in an Earthquake…

“And now there’s another reason to ask, “Are you ok?” I just read about the 7.5 earthquake this morning. It does look as though effects in your region were light, and I’ve not seen any reports of damage or injuries. It did cross my mind to wonder how a stronger or closer earthquake would affect your reservoir. I’ve seen those videos of swimming pools in earthquakes — quite interesting.”(Comment from  multi-talented Linda in Texas – The Task at Hand)

 

Thanks to all of you for your comments, your critiques on the recent art, and for your concerns about yesterday’s earthquakes.  Yes, the first one gave us a strong dawn wake-up shake, and my house shook for over a minute.  The second quake hit four minutes later, and the third one waited 20 minutes as if to ask, “Are you awake yet?”

P2470387 water level at poza honda feb 21

(Poza Honda dam/reservoir – Manabi Province – Ecuador) Water hyacinths soar over the dam – Feb 21, 2019

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Poza Honda dam/reservoir – February 22, 2019

 

Ah, Lisa, your intuition is working overtime again, amiga! There was more reason than you imagined for people to ask after your welfare. Hopefully you are still OK, and I now see that you are pretty far from the earthquakes’ epicenters. “ (from another multi-talented blogger friend Lynn – Blue Brightly)

Would you like to join the ‘water watchers’ to see the water going over the dam?!! Continue reading

“Lisa, Are You OK?”

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Neotropic Cormorants /Poza Honda/Ecuador

“The friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you.” ~Elbert Hubbard, The Notebook, 1927

Our friend Hugh Curtler wrote this week about Friendship, a post worth pondering.  Reading off line, I wrote a reply to send when on line (now) but circumstances  dictate responding via a just-received example of friendship.

In my unhurried off-line reply, I mentioned one dear friend who emails about twice a month.  She always asks, “Lisa, How are you?  How’s your back?   Do you need anything?   Are you OK?”

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Dady inspecting the Squirrel Cuckoo watercolor at Museo Portoviejo

This past Tuesday I dropped a music CD at her house after visiting the nearby Portoviejo Museo.  Stocked with ‘survival’ groceries in case the heavy rains provoked more mud slides, I needed to get home before dark.

At sunset I photographed the reservoir, which lacked about a sneeze worth’s of water to send the excess over the spillway.

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P2470159 stilt at dam

That night and last night we received more heavy rains.     The waters now reach the high-water level, and the surplus is surely generating enough electricity to illuminate the planet!

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Water hyacinths cascade over the spillway, and chocolate-colored water marks the beginning of Rio Portoviejo.  After taking photos, I drove to Ayacucho to make progress on neglected cyber tasks.

Waiting in the inbox was an email from my friend Dady.  The subject read “Lisa Are You OK?”

“Hmmm,” I thought, “she must know more about something than I!” Continue reading

Thank You!

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A soaked Whooping Motmot!

A queue of amazing comments patiently awaited my return to cyberspace. Thank you, everyone, for the time it took to leave such heart-touching feedback to the not-so-traditional post. Some of your comments brought tears to my eyes, and I am touched by your kind hearts and your concerns.

Rains continue, and in one 24-hour period last week, heavy rains filled the just-emptied rain gauge. I hoped to catch up today via internet, but another session of heavy rains hit after I reached town! Without time to give each comment a worthy reply,  may this post serve as a token voucher until the next time I’m online.

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(I did not leave soon enough – the rain got me!) The water level is much higher now!

I’ve been drawing and painting a lot, and it will be fun to share images of the waterfalls that can be seen from the house – on the far side of the reservoir! The rains continue to chase me from lakeside perches – and up the hill I dash w/camera in hand/drawing supplies under my arm!

 

P2430505 whooping motmot after the rains

Ah!  Dry feathers – much better!

See you later in the week, weather permitting!

 

Put a Woman in Charge

“Common sense insists that we are awake and not dreaming. But the problem is HOW do we know this? … Carroll later wrestled with the problem in his book Sylvie and Bruno, in which the narrator shuttles back and forth mysteriously between dream and real worlds: ‘So either I have been dreaming about Sylvie,” he says to himself in the novel, ” and this is not reality. Or else I’ve really been with Sylvie, and this is a dream! Is life a dream, I wonder?’ “ Hugh Curtler  ‘Are We Dreaming?‘ March 2017

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Between Rivas and Limon Nicaragua

An early-December dream entangled itself in my waking hours – and lingered for over a month. The dream sifted through my wakefulness, and I wondered if trouble was brewing for Central America.

I had been dreaming of Nicaragua. Of living in a cozy attic apartment not far from the Costa Rica border, yet in a wild and rural area.  In the dream I was interacting with friends that I do not know in this present life.  Returning home just before the last of the natural light merged with the night,  I spotted a military helicopter sinking low in the distance – as if about to land.

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(Helicopter photo taken near Jama Ecuador)

‘Oh no,’ I thought (in my dream) ‘I’m not sure what is happening, but it’s not good.’

Almost immediately the local airport was barricaded – no planes could land or depart. I instinctively knew that I should leave immediately. I knew that all borders would be closed, and that my passport would be worthless – and perhaps even a liability.

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Nicaragua Border

In the dream, someone had just paid me for a painting in a strange type of currency.  Under the cloak of darkness and with money in my pocket, I headed for the mangroves, a place worthy of hiding until I formed a plan for sneaking to safety in Costa Rica.  (Growing up along the Mississippi River gave me great survival skills!)

…….

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I often visited that area of Nicaragua when I lived in Costa Rica.  The people were friendly, and I never felt in danger or threatened.  I could throw on brakes and rest for a week, and the cost was extremely low for food and lodging.  Why – after an absence of nine years – was I dreaming of Nicaragua?

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View of Isla Ometepe Nicaragua

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San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

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Between Rivas and the Costa Rica border

I’ve followed the news/stories of the crisis which started last year, and have heard first-hand reports from friends and new contacts.  People fear sharing many of the stories, which might place their lives in danger.   I wondered if I should take my dream seriously.  Was even-greater trouble brewing in Nicaragua?

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Waiting for the ferry to Isla Ometepe

In late December, my Ecuadorian neighbor asked, “Do you remember that dream you told me about?” Continue reading

The Personification of Trees

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Surely a great-great grandfather tree! Yachana/Rio Napo/Ecuador

..Inspired by the words of Ram Daas:

“When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees.

And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever.

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Guava tree

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Diversity; how many species?

And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is.
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You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

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The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are. ” – Ram Dass, On Self-Judgment

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Solstice Festival – Cayambe Ecuador – “Touch the Sky”

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See you a bit later this week!

Until then, Lisa

Chocolate and Manabi and Jama and Saving Precious Remnants of Bosque — AND— National Geographic!

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Near Jama – How many species lost their homes when this area was scalped?

Manabi Province/Ecuador  — Parked in Ayacucho with a load of plastic-wrapped paintings from the Museo, I am passing along great news about the Third Millennium Alliance.  (“Who?” – you might ask?!) I intended to write a few stories about this group in the future, but an email sent from the Alliance today prompted me to write AHORA/NOW!

Why so sudden; why NOW?  ( I am writing from the park, half an hour from home.)

If you have an interest in chocolate and its origins, and if you enjoy reading/hearing about people doing good things and making things happen – especially in Manabi Province, and if you respect anything that National Geographic publishes, then you’ll appreciate this hurried notification!

Tomorrow, January 28th,2019 – National Geographic TV will place the spotlight on this just-south of the equator group.   They wrote, “National Geographic sent a team down to Ecuador to shoot an episode of their “Explorer” series. The story is supposed to be about our efforts to save Ancient Nacional cacao from extinction—a project we’re doing in partnership with To’ak Chocolate, which was co-founded by one of our co-founders.”

For the rest of that story, it’s easier for you to visit  the To’ak Chocolate Website – HERE… .

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And the National Geographic Explorer TV site HERE...

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Golden Olive Woodpecker, Cassia Trees near my home in the The ‘Not-so-Protected’ Protected Forest of Poza Honda

As for the Third Millenium Alliance, I remain baffled at how I could have been living so near this area and never crossed paths with anyone from this group! You all know my concerns about the rapidly-vanishing landscape, and I am so relieved to know that this amazing group of people are saving precious remnants of my beloved Manabi Province.

They express my same concerns via this very-short introduction video from 2017:

 

and their New Year’s 2019 video gives a great update with startling statistics and will hopefully attract new supporters for the Alliance:…

Please pass this to anyone who might be interested in helping save what’s left – before it’s sold to others who will most-likely destroy it.  The Third Millennium Alliance website is HERE:  Third Millennium Alliance

Thanks in advance for giving them your support, and if possible, enjoy the National Geographic story!

Now I will dash home and hopefully unload the truck before it’s too dark to see!  The skies have been kind this afternoon!

P2270121 THE MUIR TREE W calligrahy

“The Muir Tree” with John Muir’s quote in English and Spanish . (Thank you again Steve Swartzman for the translation!)  (“Any fool can destroy trees.. they cannot run away… and if they could…”_

 

One Bird at a Time

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April 10, 1824. I was introduced to the son of Lucien Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon, a great ornithologist, I was told. He remained two hours, went out, and returned with two Italian gentlemen, and their comments made me very contented.” That evening he was taken to the Philosophical Academy[32] where the drawings were greatly admired…” –  (from AUDUBON AND HIS JOURNALS – 1897)

Ecuador – The Museo Portoviejo exposition nears the end and presents a new challenge; what will I do with all of these children?!!!!

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For a last-minute tour, here’s a slideshow:

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Alas, nature beckons and prompts me to continue, so I observe – and I paint!  Unlike Audubon, I have an advantage of a camera – but with most every study I wish to have a live (or preserved) bird for more-precise reference material.

July 19th (1824) – Young Harris, God bless him, looked at the drawings I had for sale, and said he would take them all, at my prices. I would have kissed him, but that it is not the custom in this icy city.” (Audubon and His Journals)

Continue reading

The Gift of Sight

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“After I’d drawn the grasses, I started seeing them. Whereas if you’d just photographed them, you wouldn’t be looking as intently as you do when you are drawing, so it wouldn’t affect you that much.” ― Martin Gayford, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney

Poza Honda/Manabi/Ecuador — Lluvia! Rain!   The statement, You’d better watch what you wish for, comes to mind when I share that almost daily – or nightly – the rains continue to fall!  Yesterday the nearby stream built enough confidence to roar – a comforting sound to one who lives slightly uphill from it!     A between-rains inspection revealed several fast-growing trees that had sloughed downhill, and a small part of the gravel road showed new erosion.  My camera chip and computer are not on speaking terms, so your imagination is required for the above scene! (Could the most-recent update have caused this new conflict?)

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Birds are happy, trees and flowers are happy – and the aroma of the orange blossoms reminded me of a springtime aroma from Mississippi.  What – could – that- be? I wondered, and then grinned.  “Mock Orange.”   Of course that’s why it has that name!

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Between rains, I usually take my art bag and spend time near the Common Tody Flycatchers’ nest.  Let’s go down to the water and see what’s happening!

 

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Shhhh – artista at work!

Continue reading

Timeout for Nature – and for Art!

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“Relatively few people know why an artist acts in this way or that . . . . A peasant who sees me draw an old tree-trunk, and sees me sitting there for an hour, thinks that I have gone made, and of course laughs at me.” (Van Gogh letter to brother Theo)

The Ospreys were calling! How could I ignore their distinct aerial cries? A decision awaited – continue dicing the onion or dash to the window? Trading knife for camera, I dashed to the window! Continue reading

Feliz Navidad

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Whooping Motmot y festive holiday colors!

At the midnight hour on December 24th, many people in Ecuador pause during their late-night meal and raise a toast to Baby Jesus,  then they exchange greetings with everyone in the room.  Then they return to their seats and resume their meal!

The rains continue, and for that we are grateful here on the western side of Ecuador.  For holiday cuisine, the Ecuadorian Trogons and Whooping Motmots might dine on festive red tomatoes.  They’re quite thoughtful neighbors, as they leave plenty for the resident artist!

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Ecuadorian Trogon snitching tomatoes!

What’s on  your holiday menu?

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Happy Holidays, and be careful if you’re traveling!

 

Shouting Against the Wind?

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Well-appreciated gifts! Hugh’s book and an article about Pluto Mississippi!

“I still think I prefer books to the internet – something more substantial about holding a book in one’s hands!” – Hugh Curtler

If one cannot visit with Hugh Curtler in person, then reading his most-recent book will transport you to a one-on-one imaginary conversation with him!  Over 400 pages of one or two-page essays, Alone in the Labyrinth shares some of his popular blog posts written between late 2011 and 2018. One can start at the beginning and read for hours – or randomly open the book to any page for an introspective ‘Food for Thought.’

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Timeout for Reading – Cayambe Ecuador

You might envision yourself sitting in his Philosophy and Humanities classroom or kicked back in a casual coffee-house setting. (He’s retired from teaching but not from mentoring!)  He shares his love of the great writers – and why they are/were great; he addresses his concerns for the devolving spiral of education. At time he makes me laugh, and sometimes I wish I were actually sitting in his classroom so I could interject, “Yes! But—-“ and of course that’s his intention – to make us think or to question.

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“Do you think that Professor Curtler will speak today?” (Cayambe Solstice Event)

Divided into six sections, Alone in the Labyrinth presents topics to consider:
Seeking Answers, Education, Law and Freedom, Virtue and Values, Society and Culture, Art and Literature.     The Bibliography provides a queue of inspirational reading material.

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Remember this precious young friend (Natalia) from 2012? Wonder how she’s doing in today’s challenging world?

Sometimes his message floats across in a straight-forward manner, and other times he pokes and prods us to look inward – or even outward and wipe the glaze from our eyes. Continue reading

Life-giving Rains!

“Worldwide we’ve got destroyed landscapes that was looking after itself until humans got involved. Wonder how we recognize that? Stupid – I mean if it were not preventable then I wouldn’t mind, but it is – completely preventable.” Peter Andrews

Rio Jama/Casa Loca – Once upon a time when mangroves surrounded Casa Loca – 2008

2012 – And then came the excavator and destroyed what thrived….

Casa Loca 2012 – almost-barren yard…

( 2014 or 2015?) Jama Ecuador – I stared at the parched landscape; the lovingly-planted gardens showed acute signs of drought. Little water trickled from the system that delivered water from the town of Jama, about 4 kilometers upriver. I peered at the maturing gardens, which transformed a once-barren lot. Native trees leaped skyward from seeds or roots, and transplants seemed eager to contribute.  In a two-year period, they provided shade, shelter and a perpetual leaf-rich mulch. A complete new assortment of birds in the canopy competed with the shorebirds for my attention.

Royal Poinciana – paired with the Green Kingfisher on the back balcony of Casa Loca. 2013

How long could those trees and flowers live without water? Frugal, I watered only those that suffered the most. With concern and empathy I thought, “Please; we need rain.”

Several hours later, my heart-felt wish was granted!

Rain triggers the Poinciana blossoms…

Scribbled in the dry season of 2014 or 15, the note captured my joy of hearing the barely-audible sound of life-giving sprinkles on Casa Loca’s roof. Slowly the sound increased until it roared in the unique way that a drenching rain sounds on a tin roof. Deafening, it can also be some of the most-beautiful music one can hear during a drought. I reached for a sheet of paper, and hurriedly wrote, “Thank you!” and propped it at eye level on a bookshelf.

‘Thank you thank you thank you!’ I smiled, opening the windows and inhaling that unique aroma when dust transforms to earthy loam. My heart smiled while my soul sent thanks to the universe…… The note stays close at hand as a gentle reminder to stay positive and grateful.

December 2018 – Poza Honda – Another fire

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December 2018
Ten days ago with qualms, I shared my concerns about the drought, the fires, and the altered landscape. Perhaps your collective empathy – my dear and cherished readers – conspired with the universe and helped break this long-term cycle of drought! First came a few drizzles, so light they were barely noticed. The trees noted, however, and surely sighed with relief.

This Ecuadorian Trogon zipped down to snatch a tomato!

For two mornings in a row, the sound of drizzle announced the end of the dry season, and literally overnight, that parched landscape sprang back to life! “YIPPEEE!” Continue reading

A Pencil and a Bit of Encouragement

Watercolor Study

“The first and most important thing an individual can do is to become an individual again, decontrol himself, train himself as to what is going on and win back as much independent ground for himself as possible”
— William S. Burroughs

Artifact from Museo Bahia de Caraquez/Ecuador (This museum is still closed)

Manabi Province/Ecuador –   Every so often a planned event affects me in unexpected ways.   This happened yesterday while giving an art workshop to a group of very-deserving people from the area.  Ranging from 5 or 6 year olds to 40-somethings, some were in small family units, and others were alone.  All I knew was that they were facing some personal challenges,  and an organization sponsors and gives them assistance as they find their way to a better stance in life.  Continue reading

“What’s Happening to My Planet?”

 

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Ah, that cloud-forest view but much lower!

Poza Honda/Santa Ana/Portoviejo Ecuador –  A year ago, the pristine early-morning view across Poza Honda equaled the beauty of Mindo’s cloud forest.  “I’m in Manabi Province?” I thought while considering pinching myself to make sure this was not a dream.

The skies tightened their taps months ago, and this year’s dry season has been exceptionally dry.  That dreamlike-view is still stunning, but the trees show signs of acute thirst. The abundance of last-year’s birds is quite low, and many are absent.  The Scrub Blackbirds hog the banana feeders, and it is rare to see any other species drop in for breakfast.   The Brown Wood Rails have been MIA for almost two months!  I worry if I’m witnessing the beginnings of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. 

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Nov 2018

Barbara has been here for a month, and there have been few days of sunshine;   the visibility was low, and grayness tainted each day as if someone cast a light-dimming net over the skies.  We wondered, “Is this some kind of fog, or is there a volcano spewing ash in the Andes, or is this some foreboding sign of the beginning of the apocalypse?”

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All-day Gray

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Between painting and varnishing and framing and delivering paintings to the museum – and then attending openings, we veered off the beaten path on three different occasions for a ‘Timeout from Art.”  In all three directions, the end-of-dry season ‘landscape desecration’ was sobering. Continue reading

A Lovely Gathering of People!

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A special thanks to my friend Barbara Seibel, who arrived two weeks ago to finalize a mountain of details for this Journey show!

Museo Portoviejo – Portoviejo/Manabi/Ecuador –

“Amazing!  Awesome!” my friend Barbara stated when asked what she felt now that the exposition has been formally presented to the public!   She could equally have stated, “Exhausted, depleted, over worked,” as we put in long hours, pushed our physical limits and battled insects if we worked past sunset.   Our self-imposed deadlines were pushed back when we could only work in daylight hours!

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(From August) They are harmless, but flock to any light and find their way inside the house! Best to use candles, and one cannot paint by candlelight! (Or varnish a floor!) (Linda, you surely laughed?)

Alas! The show does go on – and it did – though we worked until half an hour before time for the inauguration and then dashed to the ladies’ bathroom to change into more-proper attire! Continue reading

Lisa Brunetti – A Journey – Opens 7 PM -Nov 15, 2018

Portoviejo/Manabi/Ecuador —- Mfriend Barbara arrived two weeks ago to help prepare for tomorrow night’s inaguration of “Lisa Brunetti – A Journey.”

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Museo Portoviejo’s Carlos Wellington proofs the official invitation while dear Barbara surely ponders, “What was I thinking when I offered to come help?”!!!!!

With the truck loaded with paintings, we stopped to sending this post from a cyber.  The next stop – in 45 minutes – is the Portoviejo Museum.

Here’s a peek of last week’s delivery, when we I looked up and said, “Oh.  No,” – yet I smiled.  We were very tired and a bit ragged!

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Television channel 30/Portoviejo (?) arrived for a behind-the scenes chat!  We had been working for days on the floor, brushed three coats of floor finish on it, then loaded the floor and paintings in the truck…  We were not anticipating a photo session, but were honored to be featured on the local news!!

There are many ‘surprises in the show!  The floor is just one of them!

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Barbara painted two ‘New Year’s Effigies’ which is a story of its own!

Here’s the official invitation:

INVITACION LISA BRUNETI OFICIAL

More soon!

Lisa (y Barb!)

 

 

 

Grounded in Nature

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa

Cocoi Heron y Grebe  – Poza Honda

Poza Honda/Manabi Province/Ecuador    — Using a clothes-drying rack as my ‘supply’ table, I spent several hours outside adding details to two paintings. Many times the support-cast of items take more time to paint than the subject of the painting! With my feet propped against the tree trunk, and the painting taped to a drawing board, I added watercolor details to the orchid leaves.

Session One using material inside the house…

Ahhhhh; Session Two – Working from Life!

Sundays are often ‘family days’ when my neighbors visit loved ones, so the neighborhood was extremely quiet. An eclectic chatter of backyard birds provided a calming soundtrack. A Great Antshrike added its chortling rhythm to the afternoon chorus, which made my soul smile; I was painting that same species!

Male and Female Great Antshrikes

Our dry season has been extremely dry this year, and it followed a not-so-wet rainy season.  The landscape is parched, and even the birds display their distress:

Streaked Flycatcher

Barred Puffbird

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Even the squirrels are acting strange – or perhaps they often eat grasses?

The watercolor pigments evaporated almost as fast as I mixed them. Reaching a stopping point, I critiqued details and was about to add another layer of depth (darker) to one area when my own counsel to students spoke softly: “Always stop before you think you are finished.”

Great Antshrike Watercolor

No one (except me!) would note or care if one more layer of blue pushed some of the foliage to the back, which nudged other details forward. I rinsed my brush, mixed a new batch of blue-green and signed the painting. Continue reading

How Could 15,000+ Scientists be Wrong?

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Equinox Shadows

Poza Honda/Manabi/Ecuador –  I’m still a big baffled, here just south of the equator. The sun was still in the eastern sky at noon on the September Equinox. It reached ‘zenith’ around nine minutes past noon and began tipping into the western skies around 12 past noon.

“Amigos!” I called a few days later, when the sun repeated its high-noon stage fright. “Check your watches and help me understand why the sun is late for our noon date!” Jorge pulled out his fancy phone then gave everyone a mini-equinox lesson!

It’s easy to rationalize and say well, we’re not exactly on the equator or maybe all world clocks are running fast and should be re-calibrated with the sun!  Continue reading