Thursday, January 28, 2010

When is an Elephant Bed ... not for an elephant?

When it is a coccolithophore!!

On a beautiful Friday in January, I collected three women friends and we journeyed
to Bellingham, gasping regularly at the Cascade and Olympic mountain views. Significant amounts of new snow in the previous days, the air so clear and the sky a brilliant blue, meant that we could see every peak: unbelievably beautiful. Our plan was to have lunch with the northern Darling family and then visit the new Whatcom Museum to see the current exhibitions.

There is a new restaurant in the Fountain District of Bellingham, opposite the Re-Store, aptly named The Fountain Bistro. It recently opened in a former KFC building and it is a delight for the eyes and great food for the tummy!
Following a visit to show my friends A Little Darling School (the fabulous preschool and kindergarten owned by Jason and Netta and directed brilliantly by Netta) who by the way were as impressed as everyone we have eve
r taken there, we adjourned to the Fountain Bistro where Eva proceeded to charm everyone around her in the restaurant and we ate a delicious lunch.

Whatcom Museum ( was next on our agenda. If you have read my recent postings you will know I have been much involved with elephants for some weeks! ( We then stepped into a different world altogether by visiting Bloom: The Elephant Bed - an amazing and wonder-inducing installation by John Grade, a local Seattle artist.
"Inspired by natural cycles of creation and destruction, John Grade's abstract sculptures reference the formation and erosion of landscape. Bloom: The Elephant Bed reflects the artist's fascination with microscopic organisms 
(called coccolithophores) whose limestone shells formed the chalky White Cliffs of Dover in the United Kingdom. Geologists call this exposed layer of calcium, laid down over 200,000 years ago, the "Elephant bed."
It is simply spectacular. I had seen the show before and so had the pleasure of sitting quietly in a corner and watching people's response to this amazing creation. The huge sculptural pieces hang and move quietly in this gallery, with twenty six foot high ceilings, in a slightly eerie manner. People are amazed, entranced, curious and amused: they walk around the suspended giant pieces quizzickly. Angling oneself underneath you can stand up inside of them - a slightly disorienting/dizzying experience as the piece moves gently arou
nd you.
On April 10th the giant pieces will be carried through Bellingham in a procession and lowered into Puget Sound where, because of the construction materials used, they will slowly dissolve! Be there.
At the Whatcom Museum there are other very worthwhile artworks to see from a Boise, Idaho couple's collection. Check the website ... it's worth a visit.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

THIS is how many elephants it takes to make a pile!

Today I crept into the gallery at the Tacoma Art Museum where a new exhibition is being installed by the talented TAM staff: it is called The Secret Language of Animals and will open this Saturday - January 23rd, 2010. I couldn't wait till it was all completed.
THERE!, said James, is your pile of elephants - what do you think? Not 'my' pile of elephants - but 'our' pile of elephants, I corrected,
and they look spectacular!, I said delightedly.
What a thrill to see something you have participated in creating sitting there in a large gallery space. A lot of "installation" art goes right over my head; it leaves me feeling a bit stupid that I don't "get it". I may enjoy looking at it but not really have a clue what the artist is or was trying to say. And here again I don't really know what Jeffry Mitchell is or was trying to say with this pile of elephants installation, but here for some reason it doesn't matter. This grouping makes me smile and the irony of a "pile of elephants" fitting in a museum gallery is pretty intriguing and amusing to me. The remainder of the show looks pretty wonderful too, I can't wait to see it all completed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A January Delight for the Senses

It was at least 5 years ago that I walked into the home of Ottie and Clara Ladd and stopped in my tracks. Lingering in the air, after the front door closed, was the most unusual, but gentle fragrance. WHAT could it be? I asked Ottie? In a large vase were bare looking branches covered with little yellow spidery-looking "flowers". Smell it, he suggested. And sure enough that was where the fragrance was coming from. Come, I'll show you - he offered - and there in his yard was a very large tree covered in the same yellow blossoms. That was my introduction to Chinese witch hazel! I have had a small, struggling tree in my garden since then.
Walking in the rain soaked streets of Seattle on an "art day" outing, last week, with Peter we were delighted to come across a huge Chinese witch hazel tree in full bloom in a tiny urban park. Skies were heavy and grey but walking into Waterfall Park ( on the corner of 2nd and Main Streets in the Pioneer Square area of the city) our senses were overcome. Brilliant yellow blossoms on branches, bare except for where some brown, sculptured-looking leaves remained trapped by twigs of the tree and the perfume ... almost overwhelming.
This easily missed oasis in the city is one I always walk through when in that area and I always walk away refreshed. The park is a donation to the city from the United Parcel Service and there are places to sit and rest, tables on which to place your food, beverage or book. A roaring waterfall in the corner of the park masks the sounds of traffic going by: wonder awaits you when you walk through the portal. Chinese witch hazel blooms in January, sometimes late December, and some of them have the most exquisite perfume. It seems doubly amazing to me that it blooms in the middle of winter and that the blossoms which are small spidery-looking tufts of yellow can give off this amazing fragrance. My photo doesn't do it justice.

The other image is of the waterfall corner of the park, taken when visiting there in October 2009 and autumn colors were at their most spectacular. It's a beautiful and refreshing spot to pause in, anytime of year. If you hurry you might still catch the Chinese witch hazel in bloom ... otherwise it will be a reason for you to make sure you go there next January.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Alice it's fabulous, love Eva!

Our cousin Alice Addison taught my Nanna how to make Butternut Squash Bisque (no mere soup for this girl!) years ago and it has been a favorite of my parents and family ever since. When my Nanna came to care for me this weekend (while Peebo was busy helping my parents shovel the junk into a truck for delivery to the dump, and other treasures to the Re-store for resale) she thought it was time to introduce me to Alice's fabulous soup. It was an instant hit and I simply couldn't wait for Nanna to get it out of the pan and into a bowl before I laid into it with MY spoon (see me in the picture ) and I wanted you to know that I had 2 more bowls full before I signalled enough! Thanks Cousin Alice ... anymore recipes like that you want to share ... please feel free to do so.
love, Eva
P.S. Nanna included the recipe in case there are others who have a hankering for Butternut Squash Bisque on a winter's day.

2 T unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tart apples peeled, cored and chopped coarsely
2 Bartlett pears,peeled,cored and chopped coarsely
1 Buttern
ut squash - about 2-21/2 lbs- peeled and chopped.
4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t.powdered or fresh ginger

2 T. brown sugar (optional)
salt and pepper to taste ... sour cream and chopped walnuts for garni
sh (optional)
Saute the onions in the butter ... add everything else to the pot, bring to the boil and reduce heat and cover and cook till the squash is tender. Cool slightly then puree in batches till smooth. Gently reheat and enjoy, topped if you wish with a dollop of sour cream and chopped walnuts.

My Cousin Alice

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Turquoise Moment of the day

My Dutch friend Agniet and I found out, when we met in Italy for a vacation, that we are both intrigued by what she calls the blue moment and what I always refer to as "that turquoise moment". The Hawaiian Islands have their green flash ... a sight many have seen at that very moment when the sun dips below the horizon.
But for both Agniet and me - it is this amazing, incredibly clear blue which can there and then gone as quickly as you see it ... that holds us
: it comes just before dark. I am left in awe each time I am fortunate enough to witness it: a sacred moment for sure. If you haven't witnessed this phenomenon ... look particularly toward the west on a day when the sky is very clear, after the sun is well set and just before dark. This image I took looking SW across Puget Sound from our home.  
You can see Agniet's wonderful works on her website:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

THIS! is a pile of elephants

How many elephants does it take to make a "pile?"
In the first photo, of this posting, you can see a pile of stitched, but not yet stuffed elephants, and the weary pattern maker and stitcher. The delighted "Elephant Queen" can be seen with a completed, stuffed friend in the middle image and the third image shows most of the 57 elephants that we created last week. We had Tacoma Art Musuem (TAM) volunteers, some neighbors of mine and some students from Tacoma School of the Arts (TSOTA) to help. Oh and the occasional dabbling staff member who just "had to have a hand in this"!!! James Porter, the senior preparator for TAM, was our support person extraordinaire.
Beginning January 23rd a new exhibition will open at TAM; it is called The Secret Life of Animals.
Jeffry Mitchell is the Seattle artist who created the idea and exhibited a slightly different version of the elephants as an installation at the Seattle Art Museum in 1990. He gave the go ahead, located a couple of the remaining elephants from which we made patterns and the new elephant pile was born. I haven't had the opportunity to ask Jeffry about the reasoning/inspiration/idea behind the work yet: stay tuned. Rock Hushka, Head Curator, has wanted to replicate this installation at TAM for many years. He is to get his wish as part of this new exhibition. It promises to be a very fun exhibition ... do come and see it all. Leroy our pup will greet you, and among the many interesting pieces of art in many different media the elephant pile awaits you! May be the only time my "work" is exhibited in an Art Museum. Look forward to seeing you there.

Monday, January 11, 2010

It was there for just a moment!

At the Tacoma Art Museum on Saturday last there was a celebration of NW Coastal Native American culture. Dancing, drumming, singing, artists creating - it was a great afternoon celebration. It was also a last opportunity to see the amazing show of Native American Indian artist Joe Fedderson which has been hanging in the museum. Walking from the gallery, where Joe's work was hanging, to the entry area the blazing sunshine momentarily captured the image of the clouds on one of the stainless steel walls of the museum. I captured this photo, and as quickly as it appeared ... it was gone. Never go anyplace without a camera at the ready!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

How many elephants make a pile?

If someone had told me I would spend a major portion of a week, hidden away in the basement of the local Art Museum ... directing a "sweat shop" (joke) of wonderful volunteers, creating elephants!!! ... I would have laughed out loud for sure. However that is exactly what I have been doing for this past week.
The results are spectacular ... but I can't share much more than that for a little while. Stay tuned!
Yours most faithfully ... The, newly titled, Elephant Queen!!!

Monday, January 4, 2010

In the very early hours of a December 2009 morning

Sometime in the very, very early pre-dawn hours ... wandering in an insomniacal (is there such a word?) manner around the house ... I looked out the window toward Mt. Rainier and registered that the lights, from the ships and the Port of Tacoma, were nothing short of magical the way they were playing across the surface of the water. The patterns of wind across the water made unusual shapes and designs from the reflected lights of the ports and ships anchored out in the ways. What I wanted was to be able to sleep, but the urge to record this brilliant scene was too much! It was spectacular - I wanted to share that view.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Where to begin?

As a student at The Evergreen State College from 1983-86, I wrote many papers; one of which was entitled "From Pebbles to This" ( "this" being a computer)! At that time I had access to university libraries all over the country. The facts of that paper were credited to be true at that time. I want to share part of that that paper, written in January 1984, as my first blog entry ...
"Hundreds of years ago, men used notches in sticks or scratches in the sand to help them remember numbers. Smooth round pebbles made handy counters ..... so a handful of pebbles was the first calculating "machine". It is a long, long way from pebbles and marks in the sand to modern, electronic computers. But the methods of calculating have remained the same. It is the kind and complexity of the tools ... that have changed. One of the earliest kinds of computers, the abacus, is still in use today in most of Asia." ( the author of that quote is lost! ... but to continue in my own words)
It was not until the 1940s that the computer was first made available for commercial use: its primary tasks being those of solving mathematical problems. More generalized uses of the computer have developed rapidly during he past 40 years and it is that rapid development that is responsible for me sitting here for the very first time before this machine and its various attachments, determined that my very first words from our personal computer should come written about science and technology!
I thought to myself, as I faced the keyboard, of anxieties of the past that I had somehow managed to master: math to some degree, science, having my ears pierced!, handling our sailboat by myself ... all of which for some reason at this stage don't seem quite so "ominous" or quite so quantum a leap as I have made by taking the time to sit down and actually make out how to get "that thing" started up and going and to make it do what I want it to do!!*
The encyclopedia I was reading (ah ha! definitely pre the Internet and Google searches) speaks at some length about the "sequence of operations" that a washing machine makes when it washes a load of clothing. The washing machine even "makes some decisions" along the way: when the water reaches a certain level something is tripped which then sets another function working and amazing to me to realize that it is the very same feedback operation that works the computer I am using today. It is the feedback that I give to the machine that makes it carry out the functions I choose. That is of course unless I operate it incorrectly or give it a wrong command!
Electronic computers perform these functions on a very grand scale. Automatically they are able to run through numerous sequences of steps ... . and it was in reading about one of the basic elements of computing that I found where the pebbles on the beach turned into electronic pebbles!!! This basic element is called a flip-flop circuit. Included in this circuit is a pair of either tubes or transistors which are connected to each other in a manner that ensures whenever one is on, the other is off. ... Today I have played with those "electronic pebbles" and it will no doubt take me some period of time to injest the meaning of this new mastery. In no way have I mastered this computer, hardware and software, but I have with the aid of my son, the manual, and a couple of semi hysterical calls to the computer dealership,managed to get the muddled thoughts from my head onto this piece of paper .........."
How much of this writing is still true today is uncertain. I have recently witnessed Chinese merchants using an abacus with which to count and at the very same time I know that less than 10 years following the above writing the entire country of China was electrified providing access to all manner of communication.
I am awestruck that I can hit publish on the keyboard in front of me and, thanks to my friend Alicia, make my ramblings available for countless people to read ( or to laugh at) around the globe and at the same time very mindful of the clutter of the internet. Whether or not I feel this is a way I want to communicate, be visible, remains to be seen. For now I need to surrender to the electronic pebbles and simply push ... publish post!
The fresh New Year of 2010 is upon us and my wishes for anyone who reads this are for good health and great joys in the coming year.

Morning across Puget Sound's Commencement Bay

Grandparenting IS all it's cracked up to be!

Eva Grace is one year old! Holding the crown her mother made her - but which she would have NOTHING to do with as far as wearing it on her head went - she is here wearing a dress that long-time Kiwi friend Rosalie knitted for my daughter Amy when she was born - many years ago now! It fit Eva perfectly.