Crazy Week



Andy took these pictures last Thursday. The latest report says the fire has burned about 22,000 acres and is now 50% contained. Hopefully there will be no more surprises. There was one last weekend — they closed State Route 4, the one needed to get to the land, so Andy stayed home Sunday. But they lifted the restriction the next morning.

And, of course, other fires are breaking out in the state. It is that time of year.

In the meantime I’ve been dealing with the phone company. Our phone had a lot of static on it Monday morning, and my internet was out. I’ll spare you the details, but it turns out the problem is intermittent. I’ve spent many phone calls going through their menus, hearing different stories from different people, getting put on hold, etc. But I do know a lot more about the system than I did before. We had a similar problem Tuesday morning, so from time to time I reset the system by unplugging and reconnecting everything. Eventually it started working again, and so far (I’m writing this Wednesday afternoon) everything is working fine. And just as important, if it happens again:
For me getting curious, gathering information, and making plans is a lot more fun than feeling frustrated. Does that work for you too?

Thanks to Mike, Evan, tammy, bikehikebabe and Rummuser for commenting on last week’s post.
Posted in Lifelong Learning | 10 Comments


Andy took some pictures of the fire yesterday. The first four were taken on the way up to the land:




Unfortunately the fire was very active Tuesday evening, and it moved into the Valles Caldera National Preserve. As of 9:00 p.m. last night the fire had burned 10,400 acres, but the 816 people fighting the fire had managed to preserve the buildings and most of the old growth (300-400 years) Ponderosa pines. The fire spread because the humidity dropped and the wind picked up, but hopefully there will be a break in the weather.

Three air tankers and six helicopters are dropping fire retardant and water on the fire. A lot of them were flying over our land yesterday. Here’s a picture of one of the DC-10 air tankers. Andy says the picture isn’t very good because he was inside eating lunch when he heard the plane and ran outside to snap the picture.

And here’s a picture of one of the helicopters with the water bucket. (They fill it from a local lake.)
Keep your fingers crossed that the excitement will be over by next week this time! The fire is still only 5% contained.

Any news where you are?

Thanks to Evan, tammy, bikehikebabe, Cathy, Rummuser and Dixie for commenting on last week’s post.
Posted in Lifelong Learning | 6 Comments

The Father of Modern Art


[Cézanne] is the father of us all.
—Matisse and Picasso

[I]t is true that there is hardly one modern artist of importance to whom Cézanne is not father or grandfather, and that no other influence is comparable with his.
—Clive Bell, Art Critic, 1922

I was somewhat aware of Cézanne and knew that he had some connection with the Impressionists, but I hadn’t realized how much influence he had on later artists. People hated his work in the early days, but by the end of his life he had already become a legendary figure.

Here’s a five-minute cheerful video of Cézanne and his work:

This site had a more detailed biography and shows 739 of his paintings.

The thing that impresses me is that Cézanne rarely liked anything he painted. He destroyed many of his works and left a lot of the rest unfinished. He thought he had failed in what he was trying to do, in spite of his dedication. He died when he was 67 because he got caught in a rainstorm while painting outside. As a consequence he developed pneumonia and died a few days later.

His attitude towards his work was just the opposite of Renoir’s. When Renoir was an art student his teacher said, “Young man, you are very skilled, very gifted, but it looks as if you took up painting just to amuse yourself.” Renoir answered, “Well, yes, if I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t be doing it.”

How do you feel about what you do? Do you do it because it gives you great pleasure? Are you never satisfied? I can spend hours on tiny details, trying slight modifications and seeing what I like best. Sometimes I like the results, sometimes not. Even if I’m not satisfied and it’s time to move on, I figure at least I’ve learned something. Presumably it will be useful in the future. What about you?

Thanks to Rummuser, Evan, Ursula, tammy, Cathy and bikehikebabe for commenting on last week’s post.
Posted in Lifelong Learning | 11 Comments

Being Resourceful

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m fairly art-illiterate. I wasn’t even aware of Jackson Pollock (sometimes called “Action Jackson” or “Jack the Dripper”) until a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a short video (about four minutes) of him in action:


So when I saw Mike Venezia’s children’s book about Pollock on Amazon, I ordered it. It was worth it for the following quote:

Jackson Pollock always seemed to have trouble drawing things, too. No matter how hard he tried to make his drawings look the way he wanted, he just couldn’t. It was almost like his hand and pencil refused to do what he wanted them to do.

Jackson often became angry and upset, but teachers kept working with him, because they knew how much he wanted to be an artist.

I’m always on the outlook for inspiring stories, and Pollock struck me as a great example of

If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else.

Unfortunately the rest of his story isn’t so uplifting. He died in a one-car crash at the age of 44. He was drunk and driving recklessly — with two other people in the car.

Here’s a longer (about 56 minutes, if you choose to watch it) video of his life:

Quite frankly I thought the video was depressing. What about you?

On a cheerier note some teachers of young children are using variations of Pollock’s methods (some messier than others) to give the young ones the experience of creating art without knowing how to draw. That brings back warm memories of playing with finger paints and clay when I was little. What kind of arts and crafts, if any, did you do as a child? Do you think they’re an important part of education?

Thanks to Rummuser, Evan, tammy, Cathy and bikehikebabe for commenting on last week’s post.
Posted in Lifelong Learning | 15 Comments

Doing the Best We Can…

Years ago when my mother-in-law and I were both having some health problems I would tell her,

We’re doing the best we can with what we have left.

It’s still one of my favorite sayings, so I was fascinated when I read a charming children’s book entitled Drawing With Scissors, about how Matisse handled his fraility after a bout with cancer when he was 71.
Matisse had to lie in bed or sit in a wheelchair, so he could no longer paint the way he had before. That’s when he started doing his famous cut-paper collages, which he called “painting with scissors”. Many people think they were his greatest works, and he himself said they were the works that really represented who he was. He felt liberated and was grateful that he had survived the cancer and had 14 more productive years.

Here is a video showing him working:

And here is a longer video — about 56 minutes — describing his development as an artist and how he has influenced the modern world:

Here are a couple of short videos showing some of his works:


I cheerfully admit I’m fairly art-illiterate, so I learned a lot. And I’m impressed by Matisse’s flexibility and ingenuity in continuing to work in spite of his physical problems.

What about you? Have you ever had to work around handicaps?

Thanks to Rummuser, Evan, tammy, Cathy and bikehikebabe for commenting on last week’s post.
Posted in Lifelong Learning | 23 Comments


One of my mottos is

Stay curious and open to life. No matter what happens keep learning and growing. Find what you love to do and find a way to share it with others.

And so I’ve just been touched by reading about Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He loved to paint, especially pictures showing the joy of living — pictures that lifted people’s spirits when they looked at them. And he kept painting those pictures even when in his later years he suffered excruciating pain — toothaches, earaches and rheumatoid arthritis — and was partially paralyzed. He simply had people carry him to his studio, and he painted from his wheelchair.

His arthritis left his hands so crippled and claw-like that he couldn’t pick up a brush by himself — someone had to put it in his hand. But once he started painting he was happy and would hum or sing. He painted his last picture the evening he died, and his last words on the art of painting were, “I think I’m beginning to learn something about it.”

If that doesn’t exemplify love and lifelong learning, I don’t know what does!

What about you? What do you love learning and doing?

Thanks to Mike, Rummuser, Dixie, Evan, tammy, Cathy and bikehikebabe for commenting on last week’s post.
Posted in Focusing Our Attention | 21 Comments


We’ve had a couple of warm spring days with some wind, but tomorrow it’s supposed to be about 20° cooler and a lot windier. That means, of course, that in the weather report much of the state was marked red for fire danger — the downside of our low humidity. They’ve also been warning drivers on some of the freeways of the low visibility because of dust.

We’re not complaining. It’s not too hot, we’re not having a snowstorm like they’re having in Denver (about 350 miles north of us) and we have yet to have a tornado here. After our big burn in 2011 we’re not even worried about forest fires. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the rest of the state.

What about you? Is your weather to your liking right now?

Thanks to Mike, Rummuser, Dixie, Evan, tammy and bikehikebabe for commenting on last week’s post.
Posted in Weather | 9 Comments