Day 112 Devil’s Walkingstick

March 31, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year where I write and illustrate a blog on each day's gift.)

I first heard of the baobab tree when I read The Little Prince. The little prince wanted his sheep to eat young baobab trees before they grew big and swallowed up the planet.

… there were on the planet where the little prince lived--as on all planets--good plants and bad plants. In consequence, there were good seeds from good plants, and bad seeds from bad plants. But seeds are invisible. They sleep deep in the heart of the earth's darkness, until some one among them is seized with the desire to awaken. Then this little seed will stretch itself and begin--timidly at first--to push a charming little sprig inoffensively upward toward the sun. If it is only a sprout of radish or the sprig of a rose-bush, one would let it grow wherever it might wish. But when it is a bad plant, one must destroy it as soon as possible, the very first instant that one recognizes it.

My back yard does not grow baobabs but it seems to nurture a thorny woody weed, known as the Devil’s Walkingstick (Aralia spinosa) or Angelica Tree, that can take over my backyard planet. They can grow as tall as 30 feet, 6-8 inches in diameter. For several years, I have ignored these small annoying plants and now there is almost a forest of them in my yard. I don’t have a sheep but I am grateful that I have enough health and stamina to have put a dent into getting rid of them today. With saw, bypass lopper, pruning shears and heavy gloves (which did not prevent the thorns from invading my hands), I went forth in battle against these treacherous weeds. 

There is a flip side too. Thanks to the Devil’s Walkingstick, I got lots of exercise today, gained new botanical information and was reminded of a life lesson—it is important to take care of small problems before they grow into big ones. 

My gift today is a thorny weed.

Here is an interesting amateur video that shows this weed:  

You can read my other posts on this project here:

Day 111 Discard and Delete

March 30, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year where I write and illustrate a blog on each day's gift.)

Broken pin sculpture proves that even broken things have something to offer.
I have given myself permission to begin a more serious culling of what I call stuff. I have thrown away hundreds of slides, photos, negatives and prints. In the past, I have held on to broken gadgets, with good intentions of either fixing them or repurposing them. Today I made a trip to the dump, after forcing myself to face the truth—I had no need for some things and neither did anyone else. There is a wonderful sense of release when I finally dispose of things. 

Some things, however, need to live with me just a little longer. For example, I have a pin sculpture toy from years ago. With your hand, face or an object, you push the pins outward to create a 3-D pin sculpture. At the last minute, I pulled it out of the dump pile, brought it home and proceeded to photograph it. Half of it is broken with bent pins that will not move properly but I used the other half to create a peace symbol of two fingers—proof that even when something is broken, it has something to offer. 

There remains more to physically throw out and useless, outdated digital files to delete, but sometimes I cling to things, even when it makes no sense. I refuse to delete the many dead people who live in my contacts. Relatives and friends remain in my Outlook contacts with name, address and phone numbers properly filed. If I write to those addresses, the envelopes will boomerang back. If I call, no one I know will answer. Yet, in my mind, they remain in the digital version of indelible ink. So does a phone message from several years ago. In a folder, labeled Dad on my hard drive is a WAV file:  “Happy Birthday, Bonnie. I guess you’ve already gone so I’ll talk with you later. I hope you have a real good day. Talk to you. Bye. Love you.”

My gift today is partial permission.

  > Day 112  Devil's Walkingstick

You can read my other posts on this project here:

Day 110 Nearly

March 29, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year where I write and illustrate a blog on each day's gift.)

Almost ready to bloom

A single word triggers an array of emotions.There is the frustration of almost finding the word you are looking for (often experienced at my age), the dissonance of almost singing the right notes, the disappointment of almost hitting the ball and the panic at only being almost at the next rest stop (also frequently experienced). Say the words, “Christmas is almost here,” and those who are unprepared will groan while others (especially children) will shout “Yea!”  

Everything is relative. As the Buddha said, “A spoon of salt in a glass of water makes the water undrinkable. A spoon of salt in a lake is almost unnoticed.”

The same word also stirs up anticipation such as when the cake is almost finished baking in the oven or the end of the school day is almost here which might bring feelings of relief to both students and their teachers. I like the feeling of “on the cusp” that the word brings— such as almost born or almost blooming—because it is a looking forward with hope to the future.

I especially embrace the motivation that word brings to those who are running and almost at the finish line and to those who are creating and feel the joy of almost being there. I like to let the word push me along as I journey out of my comfort zone and anticipate future blooms.

My gift today is almost.


You can read my other posts on this project here:

Day 109 You who are enclosed by ice

March 28, 2015

 (This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year where I write and illustrate a blog on each day's gift.)

Talented Dijé Coxson sat in diner booth after singing Tu’ che digel sei cinta.

The Baltimore art scene is flourishing. Baltimore Style Magazine listed Baltimore among its top ten big cities for art. Although I hate to miss anything, there is usually more going on in the city than is possible to attend.

Tonight I shot video of the New Mercury Nonfiction readings at the Windup Space in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District where we listened to transgender Tyler Vile read her poetry, David Sterritt read from his book about Clint Eastwood, Nancy O. Greene talk about becoming a Catholic and David Eberhardt who was incarcerated for pouring blood on draft records with Father Philip Berrigan to protest the Vietnam War. 

Then we went to G&A Coney Island Hot Dog Restaurant for another reading to celebrate the new baseball season featuring former Oriole Mark Belanger’s family and to raise money for Mother Seton Academy. Oriole orange was a dominant color. My husband David Ettlin and Jen Michalski were readers.  Among other items on the program, talented Dijé Coxson sang Tu’ che digel sei cinta (You who are enclosed by ice) from Puccini’s 1926 opera Turandot. The last stop for the night was Gallery 788 in Hampden for the Fun-A-Day closing reception where I was one of the artists.  

Such variety is part of Baltimore’s charm and quirkiness and is the norm rather than the exception. Poetry, religion, movies, peaceniks, hot dogs, Orioles, Puccini and art—all in one night. It may be only in Baltimore that you can eat hot dogs, sing the Star Spangled Banner and listen to opera without moving from your seat.

My gift today was opera in a hot dog joint.

> Day 110 Nearly

You can read my other posts on this project here:

Day 108 Hairy Times

March 27, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year where I write and illustrate a blog on each day's gift.)

The average number of hairs on the head is around 100,000 and humans pay a lot of attention to these hairs. I started out as a blonde, about 12 years after Shirley Temple had begun her career. Her influence on my mother, besides the song “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” was to re-create the child star’s curls on my head. With sink water dribbling to help, my mother used to sit on the closed toilet seat in the bathroom and attempt to create Shirley Temple curls on my head with a rat-tail comb. It was hard as a child to stand still during this process, especially when my hair did not want to coil that way.

By the time I was in high school, my hair had darkened and I was wearing a short proper hairstyle. When I was in my mid-20’s, my hair reached down my back to my waist in hippie style. During the hair-teasing days, I backcombed my hair and was quite a sight when done with long hair! In the early 80’s I got a perm and a poodle cut, something I’d rather forget. Now I am back to a medium length and lighter color which half covers the gray.  I’ve noticed that the older I get, the more natural curl I have. My mother would have loved this.

Now I go for the natural look—except for the color. I’m not ready to let the gray take over because I don’t feel gray inside my head yet. Today I got a haircut from my hair artist, Scott Ferguson. He is a sculptor who understands his tools and materials, knows how hair behaves and can sculpt it the way the hair is wont to go. Today was a treat for me to have my hair cut and shaped so I can fling my hair back and forth in a carefree style.

Maybe next year, I’ll go au naturel and gray.

My gift today was my hair artist.


You can read my other posts on this project here: