(Part One)

"Flying? I don't think so!"

“Flying? I don’t think so!”

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

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

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

“Any sturdy pet carrier will work.”

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

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

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

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

“Ventilation on three sides of carrier/kennel.”

“Ventilation on four sides.”

“No vent holes on top.”

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

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

“I’m not so sure about this concept!”

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

Timeout for Art – Conversations with Nature


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  – – John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938)


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

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

Look who came to critique!  A lightning bug!

Look who came to critique! A lightning bug!

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

Timeout for Art: Painting in Mindo

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

Working from life… bringing the outdoors inside…

“Nature did all things well” – Michelangelo

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

Angels Trumpet Acrylic

from last week:  Angels Trumpet Acrylic

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

Timeout for Art: Hurried


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 Angel's Trumpet, acrylic in progress

Angel’s Trumpet, acrylic in progress

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

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

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

Continue reading

TIMEOUT FOR ART: The Beauty of Grass


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It looks a bit flat… What’s missing?

Continue reading

Update – With a Little Help from Friends


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My friends' Property near Mindo Ecuador

(Watercolor) My Friends’ Property near Mindo Ecuador

My Friends and WordPress Family:

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

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

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

Timeout for Art – Beauty Everywhere


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Foliage - Pencil

Foliage – Pencil

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

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

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

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

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

Foliage Pencil

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

Sharpen that pencil and start drawing!  :)  Z

The Island of the Magnificent Frigates


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Isla Corazon, Rio Chone/Manabi Province, Ecuador

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

March 2013 Mangroves washing away in Rio Jama

March 2013 Mangroves washing away in Rio Jama

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

Preparing to leave the dock!

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

Happy work crew heading home.

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


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

P2110628 isla corazon canoes don francisco

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

Continue reading

Timeout for Art: The Art of Studying Works of Art


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Detail- Watercolor – Museo Bahia de Caraquez artifact…

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

Hugh Curtler/Daily Gadfly-The Eye of the Beholder

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

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

Museo Bahia de Caraquez down below along Rio Chone…

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Nelly at La Division

Nelly at La Division

Smiling Nelly gets silly!

Smiling Nelly gets silly!


Jama Parade


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

P1740800 stilts jama parade

“I can see all obstacles in my way!”

P1600353 hats  I LOVE A PARADE san vicente ecuador


Jama Mermaid

tope P1600414 san vicente little boy on horse

San Vicente Cabalgata

P1600469 san vicente young musicians

Near Montechristi

Near Montechristi


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

Photo by Henry Groff

Photo by Henry Groff


Marie Groff, Smiling with new friends in Cuenca!

P1340753 sombrero laughs

Silly moments in Jama

blue END OF DAY TIRED BUT SMILING colors adjusted

End of Day – Tired but Smiling… (Jama)

The rain is gone!

The rain is gone!

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

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

Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Fishin’ for Time


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Fishin' for Time

Fishin’ for Time – June 21, 2015

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

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

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

Mindo Cloud Forest -Rio Cinto Botanicals


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Rio Cinto Ecuador

End of Day

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

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

P1840117 mindo azalea pink

Tree Fern / Near Mindo Ecuador

Tree fern

P1870443 kings torch ginger

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

Dawn - Dec. 26, 2013 - Mindo Ecuador

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

For more flowers and foliage, keep scrolling!

Continue reading

Dengue & Chikungunya – What I’ve Learned


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Croaking Ground Dove – Ecuador

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

Manabi Province – Ecuador

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

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

Dengue’s Notorious Fever


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Sarah y Eloy help with the sunflower painting for their wash room.  June 2013

Sarah y Eloy help with the sunflower painting for their wash room. June 2013

My friend Sarah dropped off a care package last month when I was recovering from dengue. In that thoughtful assortment of goodies was a blister pack of pain relievers. “I’ll bet you’ve taken a lot of these,” she smiled.

Sarah is a nurse, and I squirmed a bit when I answered, “Actually, I haven’t taken anything for the pain.” I added, “If I take medicine for the pain, it will lower my fever, and I feel as if that fever is there to burn out the virus. If I lower the fever, the virus lingers in my body for a longer period of time…”

I also stated that I felt it my duty to keep my infectious disease ‘quarantined’ during the fever stage so that I did not infect other people or other areas. I knew that the clinic was a short distance away in case of an emergency. (After the fever passed and I was stronger, I visited the clinic.)


I would never advise others to avoid pain killers or fever medications, but fifteen years ago I took fever reducers and was sick for two weeks. This time the high fever lasted less than two days, though the evolution of this dengue was totally different from the last.  (There was also an added complication of the tag-along chikungunya virus that was hiding in the background.)

Little Miss Sunshine, my companion on the June Solstice 2013

I suspect there are as many people who believe in the power of a fever, as there are people who think it’s best to lower a high fever as soon as possible. Several reputable sites have published articles about the ‘benefits of fever:
Continue reading

Manta Galeria de Arte – Manta, Ecuador


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I am thrilled to pass along this information!  If you’d like Sharon’s email address, leave a comment, and I will pass it along to you. The gallery is located near the popular “Mama Rosa’s Restaurant” in the port city ofManta Ecuador. -Z

sharon manta gallery art logo

From Artist-Gallery Owner-Art Instructor/Teacher, Sharon Statema:

You and your friends are invited to

Manta Galeria de Arte
for our
Grand Opening Open House

Saturday, June 20, 2015

3 to 6 pm.

Stop in and take a look around. We have lots of artwork in all price ranges.
We look forward to seeing you,
Sharon and Marlin

Phone: 0969 667 891, US # 360-371-2496

Timeout for Art: Extended Sick-Leave


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P1530824 bahia museo

El Museo Bahia de Caraquez- Ecuador

“Okay, write that down,” Hermoine said to Ron, pushing his essay and a sheet covered in her own writing back to Ron, “and then copy out this conclusion that I’ve written for you.”

“Hermoine, you are honestly the most wonderful person I’ve ever met,” said Ron weakly, “and if I’m ever rude to you again –“

“– I’ll know you’re back to normal,” said Hermoine.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

P1030133 bahia

Study of Artifact – Watercolor – Museo Bahia de Caraquez-Ecuador

Sometimes ‘it’ is just not there, and until I have recovered from a ‘co-infection’ of dengue and chikungunya, even holding a pencil is difficult.  The fatigue continues as well.

Thumbing through a little notebook, I came across a sketch of an artifact that’s in the Jama Museum.  With paper and watercolors and pencils in hand this morning, I had hoped to spend an hour in the airconditioned museum and move forward with a more-seriuos study.  It’s just not going to happen – not until I am stronger!

Pencil sketch of artifact in Jama/Ecuador museum.

Pencil sketch of artifact in Jama/Ecuador museum.

Continue reading

Every Grain of Sand


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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA “In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.” Rachael Carson El Matal Ecuador – June 6 – 11, 2015 The coastline along Playa El Matal continues to change daily.  This post will show images taken on June 9th and 11th, 2015.   Before seeing this week’s changes, let’s turn back time and take a peek at this beach as it was in June 2012. 0 P1530456 GOT PAINT

One of the prettiest posts painted in 2012 anchored the end of the road...

One of the prettiest posts painted in 2012 anchored the end of the road. near the Coco Beach entrance…




Maestro painting the light post. June 2012

From 2012.. Coco Beach entrance ahead... (From post-painting competition)

From 2012.. Coco Beach entrance ahead… (From post-painting competition)

Let’s move forward to images from this week;  the image below shows the Coco Beach entrance at the end of the road:

Entrance to Coco Beach- June 8, 2015

Entrance to Coco Beach- June 8, 2015

Continue reading

Offense and Defense


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El Matal, Jama, Manabi, Ecuador

El Matal-Manabi Province- Ecuador

Once upon a time, a friend of mine gave me some advice that I carry with me every day. He said, “Lisa, remember to be on the offensive, so that you never find yourself in the defensive mode.” That advice from my Episcopalian priest-friend has been some of the best advice I’ve ever received.

I have watched my friends take a proactive role after Mother Ocean took her first big bites from El Matal 18 months ago. They researched, brought in engineers and specialists and selected the sand-bag approach based on the advice they were given.

From 2014:   One line of bags below ground level and a second half in and half out...

From 2014: One line of bags below ground level and a second half in and half out…

“The sand bags will buy you time to put a more long-term solution in place,” Engineer Daniel Santana suggested at a public meeting in March 2014.

A summary of those meetings and work done on the bags can be found HERE.

How well I remember the beauty of this beach.   Look at the image taken in June of 2012 during the post-painting competition…

From 2012.. Coco Beach entrance ahead... (From post-painting competition)

From 2012.. Coco Beach entrance ahead… (From post-painting competition)


Mother Ocean played a sadistic card this past weekend, and the people of El Matal do not appreciate her sense of humor. The critical window during the high tides passed, and when everyone assumed there would be two weeks of relief, she played her trump card.  Most of the following images were taken at the same spot as the image above.


Looking ‘down’ the beach…

Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Muses of Inspiration and Realization


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Paddling Against the Current

‘Cesar’ Paddling Against the Current – Rio Jama – June 2015

“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say “It is yet more difficult than you thought.” This is the muse of form.    

It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
― Wendell Berry

Frigates practice touch-and-go aerobatics --- Thursday morning, June 5

Magnificent Frigates practice touch-and-go aerobatics — Thursday morning, June 4

Fatigue and sore joints linger as I slowly reclaim my normal life ‘after dengue.’   Painting presents some new challenges; one is an unpredictable shake that suddenly takes control of my hand and then vanishes just as quickly.  I ignore it and assume it will eventually grow bored and vanish.   The fatigue affects my ability to stick with the painting, and after an hour’s session, I usually stop and rest for another hour.   The birds provide excellent distraction for those commercial breaks.


The watercolor study ‘Before Dengue” —

Painting this watercolor has been work.   It has also provided a necessary discipline for me to show up for work even if I feel like playing hooky.   I stare at the painting and nudge myself to move forward.   Losing electricity hasn’t helped, but I moved my work area to a window and cut fresh flowers for reference.


The first few sessions were brief, and I realized that I was not as strong as I thought!

We were without power all day Saturday and most of Sunday. Building a bit more physical strength, I squeezed in several painting sessions and then slept for ten hours.  While painting on Sunday night, we lost power again;  that’s one way to stop progress on a painting! On Monday morning, I could not find the painting.  I eventually found it propped on a shelf, where I had critiqued it the night before by candle light. Continue reading

Timeout for Art – Art Makes Us See


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Petite Morning Glory w/watercolor in background…

“Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see.”
– Paul Klee

This vine grows wild in the nearby landscape and has exploded into bloom from the recent rains. I often arrange the cobalt-blue flowers in nosegays, which perch on shelves or near the kitchen sink and give me little smiles throughout the day.  Planning to add the petite blue morning glory’s likeness to the butterfly study, I admired the sinuous lines and decided that it deserved its own study!



There are times, when my eye-hand-brain connection is so in sync, that using a pencil before painting would seem redundant. There are other times when that faint map of pencil simplifies the process and strengthens the end result.  After studying the lines of the trailing  vine, I began to paint without the aid of a pencil.


Watercolor – Blue Morning Glory

Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Scientific Accuracy


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‘We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.’- Maya Angelou

The watercolor (above) patiently waited for three weeks while I waded through dengue-clouded sleep and dog-paddled back to the land of the living. Like trying to remember a dream, I now recall details of the illness that return in little snippets, “Oh, the exceptional pull of gravity on my hands and arms felt as if heavy chains kept them cemented to the mattress.”  I remember seeing my puffy face in the mirror and wondering, “Who are you?”  After the fever left, I walked with a touch of vertigo and often listed to the left like an injured fish swimming in circles.  I walked little, as my blood pressure fell if I stood too long, so returning to the bed with easy sleep was a gift.

The butterflies and flowers from a year ago

The butterflies and flowers from a year ago

At times I forced myself to sit up, take my temperature, pulse, drink more liquids, and then I collapsed back into the world of dreams. Oh, the places I went in that dream-packed sleep, and though my dreams I could fly! I could roam the world and other worlds and spend time with a new cast of people! On awakening, the vivid recall kept me entertained, and I rolled back after a brief commercial break and returned a the marathon of dreams.

I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man. ~Chuang Tzu

Two days ago I peered at the watercolor in limbo and pondered the wildflowers in bloom outside. They were at their peak a month ago, and they were now going to seed and would soon be gone for another year. I could rely on reference photos, but there’s nothing (for me) better than working from life. I retrieved some flowers, revived the dried watercolor palette and began painting. Continue reading

National Geographic’s Great Nature Project: May 15-May 25, 2015


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Sunday Social Hour

 The global snapshot of biodiversity is a specific window of time when we especially encourage people to get outside and share photos of their encounters with plants, animals, and fungi. This year, the global snapshot is happening over 11 days, from May 15 to 25, 2015. The goal is to document biodiversity all over the world during this time period.” (from: Great Nature Project FAQ)

Name that bird!

Name that bird!

Why shrimp-pond owners dislike egrets, herons and ibis!

All-you-can-eat shrimp buffet for egrets, herons and ibis!

It’s late at night, and I’m feeling better but am itching, a side effect from dengue fever. Slowly regaining my strength, I look forward to photographing the flora and fauna at Casa Loca and contributing to the Great Nature Project. This is a great opportunity to involve the younger generation and get them interested in their natural world.  The deadline is Monday; for more information, start here:

Pelican Cheering Section

Pelican Cheering Section

Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Remembering Mosquitoes


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25143348 pencil mosquito gold

Pencil drawing with Gold Metallic Color Effects…

“Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid.”
Mark Twain

(I needed a chuckle and hope that the above quote gave you one as well!)

(Jama Ecuador)  Half of the month of May has passed, and I am just emerging from this mosquito-induced fog.   My friend Cesar complained of a tightness in his neck today, and later he mentioned an ache in his foot.  I remembered well the first arthritic aches, the ones that began a few days after I finished the mosaic mirror for the ladies’ room at Palo Santo.


The mirror photographed best in the gardens!

Luchi’s mother (Nieve) helped with the task, and she later said, “When you asked if you could paint something, I thought you were just going to paint the mirror a different color!”  Nieve helped paint many layers of precise color that created the mosaic effect. Continue reading

“Dengue or Chikunguya?” An Epidemic and the Local Clinic


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(Jama, Ecuador)—“Dengue or Chikunguya?” — In the evolution of getting well from this mosquito-inflicted illness, I’ve visited the local clinic four times in the past two weeks.   Although I have used the ER room before, it has been a different experience this time.   First, the clinic was filled with people tormented with physical pain, and second was the extreme empathy the sick ones received from their loved ones as they waited to see the doctor.

This past weekend after a three-day respite, I faced new symptoms.  There was a low fever, and muscle pain replaced the bone and joint pain.  Weakness returned,  my blood pressure was low, and a painful rash dotted my chest.   On Sunday night I found no relief from the discomfort, and as I awakened for surely the 100th time, I sat on the edge of the bed and peered out into the darkness.  I thought of the people in the world who are fighting daily pain, and that my pain would soon be gone.  I thought of Rob Thomas’s song, Her Diamonds, which describes his love and empathy for his wife and her battle with autoimmune pain.   I planned to return to the clinic for another round of blood tests, but I did not realize I’d be witnessing many illustrations of “Her Diamonds.” Continue reading

The Force of a Tiny Insect


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"I'm not afraid of skeeters!"

“I’m not afraid of skeeters!”

(Jama Ecuador) – I remain humbled by a tiny insect.  How many of you have ever been resting comfortably until the hummming sound of a nearby mosquito suddenly went silent?   We wonder where it landed, and if it’s about to take a blood sample!   If there’s a mosquito-borne epidemic in your area, you’ll dart for the repellent!  Oh, I marvel at the power of a tiny mosquito!

As I entered the clinic yesterday, another friend was leaving.

“Dengue,” Patricia smiled.
Patricia works at the corner grocery store, and I wondered if her coworkers were sweating out the same illness.   There seem to be just as many people sick with dengue as they are with Chikungunya.

Most any person in town seems to enjoy saying this new word, Chikungunya.  (Repeat After Me: “Chee-Koon-Goon-Yah.”)

As for my recent illness, it’s not dengue, but it might be Chikungunya, though the doctor seemed surprised that I am now free of all symptoms.

“What medications are you taking?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I smiled.

She looked at me as if I’d just told her that I’d cut off my fingers to stop the pain. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: The Gift of Friendship


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P1850448 good morning smiles

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. – William A. Ward

(Ecuador) – Located on the outskirts of Jama, the petite community of ‘Verdum’ is barely noted by those who race to the beach near La Division or to return. The owners of the shrimp farms and their workers ebb and flow throughout the day, but Verdum is a sleepy little hiccup along the route.

I often stop at the little tienda when I walk to town, and if I am going home, that’s my ‘last stop’ to buy something cold to drink or pick up a few odds and ends for the kitchen. Partly hidden beneath an almendra tree, the inconspicuous wooden structure suggests a life of eclectic construction. Half of the tin-roofed building sits in the open, where a walk-up window receives all-day use; the other nestles beneath the almendra tree, where locals sometimes swap stories while sharing bottles of cold cerveza at the end of the day.

(Grandson is hiding!)

(Grandson Justin is hiding!)

What I like most are the salt-of-the-earth people who live here. If Zoila is shelling peas or beans, I smile and pull up a chair and happily reach for a handful of legumes as we discuss the weather or the dust or the mud or what color paint I am wearing. Cars and trucks zoom past, leaving a cloud of dust in their wake; the drivers rarely stop to buy anything from the tienda.

Shelling "Lima" beans here is like being back in a syrupy-slow Mississippi of my childhood!

Shelling “Lima” beans here is like being back in a syrupy slow-paced Mississippi of my childhood!

Zoila and her husband Marco have lived in Verdum about 40 years.  I asked her how they met, and she said (with a coyish smile) that he worked for her father on his farm in the mountains!  Marco now drives a mototaxi and delivers people and cargo throughout the day.  He often parks beneath the almendra and waits until someone calls for a driver.


After receiving a call, Marco dashed away faster than I could retrieve my camera!

One day I presented an idea of painting the facade of their little tienda. Continue reading

“Find the Right Mosquito”*


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“You look awful,” were his first words.

“Thanks.” Nate grabbed the coat and put it on.

“You’re skinny as a rail.”

“You wanna lose fifteen pounds, find the right mosquito.”

*-The Testament – John Grisham

The houses in this image share the same power 'grid.'  Can you spot Casa Loca?

The houses in this image share the same power ‘grid.’ Can you spot Casa Loca?

(Jama/Manabi/ Ecuador)    We lost power last night, first here in this 7-house circuit and later during the night, the entire area went black.   I’m placing my bets that power will be restored to all areas except this one. We seem to be the power company’s step children!

I am elated to announce that today I feel 100 percent well – yee-HA!

Until today, one would have thought I had anorexia, as all possible food options turned my stomach. At one this morning, when I found myself dicing a ripe plantain and simmering it in a bit of water with lemon and cinnamon, I thought, “You’re on your way back to wellness!”

I sat on the deck and peered out into the cloud-filtered moonscape and enjoyed my warm, comforting snack. The simmered plantains are a bit like having fruit cobbler filling without the pastry!

Can you tell that I’m better? I am still weak but can now stand for more than five minutes without feeing faint. I can go up and down the stairs without having to stop and sit. The worst part of the sickness was the extreme fatigue, as if strong G forces had me strapped in a prone position that seemed impossible to break. Just lifting my hands took extreme effort. A bonus was that the sleep was deep, intense and easy. I rolled out of a dream-filled sleep just long enough to take my temperature , check my pulse, drink my water and roll right back into more vivid dreams.

On Saturday I was aware of dangerous high waves that would be assaulting the Pacific Coast, and at times I heard the waves ripping upriver.   The deep sleep often trumped my will to look out the window, but several times I pulled free of the fog, retrieved my camera and caught a few unique moments.  (Photos won’t upload here.)    Before fainting, I dashed back to bed and into instant slumber.   The sleep was a gift, thank you dear dengue.

If this was dengue, it was the fastest surgical strike I’ve ever known.  As if driving along on cruise control and suddenly you have a blowout.   Wham!  After the fever peaked at 39.5, each day it was down one degree.  As the fever lowered, my symptoms also lessened.   I kept waiting for that other shoe to drop, but it never did, grrrrrrracias a-Dios.    The weakness had the most endurance of all symptoms, but that’s probably Nature making sure that one doesn’t try to spring back too fast.  It’s hard to believe that this time last week I felt 100-percent well with no clue of the approaching train wreck!

I will be going by the clinic sometime today to get my platelets checked and to report my dengue — or whatever it was — and look forward to taking it easy and getting a little stronger each day. “Poco a poco.”

Last night I found myself irritated by the sounds of the pumps and aerators on the shrimp farms.  I couldn’t sleep, which is why I cooked the plantains.   I chuckled and knew that I was getting better!!


I think that sometimes we need to experience illness so that we can appreciate wellness.

Thank you all for your beautiful outpouring of love!

Weak but Improving

Grrr! This has taken hours to post! I select ‘Publish’ and it rolls around and goes to a blank page.. if I hit the back button, it’s also a blank page. Here’s the fifth or maybe sixth attempt:(Hee-hee, because the ‘update post’ often loses my work, and the publish keeps going AWOL, I outsmarted it and scheduled it to be published six minutes from now!)

Just a quick postscript before I nod off to sleep (again!) –

It would be very insensitive of me to go to sleep without giving an update, as I don’t want anyone to lose sleep while worrying about me!
The day has gone well, and my temperature is lower, today staying around 38 instead of yesterday’s 39. The aching joints are not so bad now, and my grip is stronger than those first days when I could barely shake the thermometer or hold a drinking glass.

My gift for the day was a young egret fledgling – or perhaps an immature blue heron – that was inspecting the Casa Loca gardens at ground level. Not wearing my contact lenses, I could only detect its fuzzy juvenile appearance as it quickly darted for cover. Since my stamina is still horrid, I did not allow it to lead me astray. Perhaps tomorrow if I’m stronger I’ll do my own garden inspection and see if there’s a new squatter in the neighborhood!

Good night, everyone, and thank you so much for the outpouring of love! I should sleep all night with zero problems, and hope to awaken feeling much much stronger!

Dengue Postscript

My dear friends; as I stated, I am usually unable to reply to comments but can email. Many friends have emailed, and I promised, most all want to do the same thing – come get me. I mentioned in the post that I had emailed Xavier and told him to stay away, but I didn’t add that I told him to keep it quiet or half of Jama would be coming to my rescue. Sometimes the quiet and serenity of one’s own home and bed is the best medicine. There are others on standby, and they know if I start feeling more serious complications, I will let them know. As the saying goes, I might be crazy but I’m not stupid!

I am very comfortable and am feeling pretty good considering that I have dengue. This case is much easier than the first. My temp is much lower, my pulse, which was up a bit one day, is now back to its 50 or so beats per minute.

Believe me, from year to year I keep up with dengue stats and the warnings. I wrote this so that others could understand what it’s like to have dengue. Don’t make me regret that I wrote this post! I am touched by your comments… I’d best publish this before the marines show up on my doorstep!

I love you all!

The Dreaded Dengue


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It hurts only if I move.

On the first night, I rolled over in my sleep and was aware of a stiffness in a few of my fingers.
“Potatoes. I haven’t been eating lots of potatoes.  Why are my joints hurting?”

Years ago I figured out a trigger for arthritis-like pain in my hands; some people are sensitive to foods in the nightshade family, and eliminating potatoes from my diet eliminated the painful joints.

I flexed my fingers; one was especially sensitive, like an embedded and festering thorn had lodged beneath the skin. Could the many hours of holding an extra-large paint brush had caused this pain?

Never having problems going to sleep, I rolled over and quickly resumed my dreams.

My hands still hurt in the morning, and when I took my first step, my ankle protested, “Yow!” The other mocked the first. Uh-oh. I suspected that this bout with joint pain would not be as simple as eliminating potatoes from my diet. As I mentioned in the last post, I had spent time with a friend last week who came down with dengue.  Most likely the dreaded dengue virus had climbed aboard via a teeny-weeny mosquito, and if so, it would probably torment me for several weeks before giving up. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Nature, the Great Listener


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Petite Residents of Palo Santo’s Gardens – 

“Lose yourself in nature and find peace.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Jama Ecuador –  This week’s work was painted in the serenity of the outdoors. The image below was started in the calm stillness of a late afternoon at Hostal Palo Santo, where I stayed this past Sunday night.  I worked until almost dark and was amused when two of the leaves nodded their heads back and forth as if to say, “We know you’re studying us and just wanted to say, ‘Thanks!’”   I acknowledged their subtle gestures, smiled and continued painting.  They resumed their poses as the silent communication between us remained strong.


Acrylic – Silent Conversations

Working outdoors presents its problems.   The sun and heat dry the pigments a bit too fast, and the wind scatters papers or flips through pages of sketchbooks.   Large works, taped or clipped to panels, often attempt to take flight and soar away on strong breezes.  Foliage flutters in the wind, so keeping an eye on a moving target presents its own set of problems. Continue reading

Nepal Update: Mick Bromley-Wilderness Trekking


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mick phoca_thumb_l_Tsum-Web-Page-6

Photo from Wilderness Trekking/Mick Bromley

My friend Mick Bromley of Wilderness Trekking specializes in treks to the Himalayas, and he often talks lovingly of Nepal.   I enjoy receiving his newsletter, The Dirty Sock, which is like having a visit with him in person. This past Sunday I was relieved to see a special edition titled: Nepal Earthquake Message.    I was glad to know that Mick was ok,  but he confirmed what many readers feared, “The epicenter of the earthquake appears to have been very close to the Tsum and Manaslu regions, where we have been trekking extensively over the past 5 years.” With his permission, here is that newsletter and a second update which arrived yesterday. Continue reading

Timeout for Art: Trading Gifts at Hotel Ciragan


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P1950585 ciragan plumbago mrror

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” ― Maya Angelou”

Ramon touches up the entrance...

Ramon touches up the entrance at Hotel Ciragan…

My dear friend, Gloria, who owns Hotel Ciragan, often refuses my money when I stay at her place in town. “You owe me nothing,” she smiles in her elegant style. “That’s OK,” I accept with a smile, “Two can play this game…”

Sometimes it's very easy to dress up a plain wall...

Sometimes it’s very easy to dress up a plain wall…

Continue reading

The Other Shoe Dropped


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El Matal – Jama/Manabi/Ecuador

Limbo: “An uncertain situation that you cannot control and in which there is no progress or improvement” (Dictionary/

The spring tides usually stop at the height of this rock. (Southern rough-wing swallows in photo)

The spring tides usually stop at the height of this rock at Casa Loca. (Southern rough-wing swallows in photo)

Two nights ago, the sound of thundering waves triggered my concern for nearby El Matal; I did not sleep well and was dressed and outside at dawn.  The day before, Rio Jama seemed to creep higher than normal.

The rock was completely under water.

The rock was completely under water.

A view of the mouth of the river confirmed my suspicions – after a year of good behavior, Mother Ocean was throwing a tantrum.

April 22, 2015 - The mouth of Rio Jama

April 22, 2015 –  6 a.m. – Strong waves leaped across the sandbar at the mouth of Rio Jama

My friends’ father/grandfather, Senor Jose Nestor Cevallos, died three days ago at the age of 103; after the services yesterday, I reached El Matal just before sunset and high tide. Some locals stood in clusters and watched the thundering waves while others watched stoically from their properties. The mood was somber.



Continue reading

A Fairy-Tale Wedding Reception (Hacienda Guachala)


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Ready to go to a fairy-tale reception?

Ready to go to a fairy-tale reception?

(Cayambe Ecuador) Climb aboard the wedding-party bus!  We’ll drive about three kilometers from the Mitad de Mundo site (of the wedding) to Hacienda Guachala, one of my favorite places in the Andes.


Elvis leads the way.. Have any of you ever been to Hacienda Guachala?

An injection of humor for the BEST bus ride EVER!

An injection of humor contributes to the BEST bus ride EVER!


Ahhh; I know where we are, and the entrance is a magical one!  Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present to you, Hacienda Guachala!

Continue reading


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