at play on a Monday morning

This post is a waypoint in the process of learning to use drawing tools to explicate mysteries.

I included this image in Elevenses but hadn’t parsed it for its content—for its component creatures:


Gradually I’ve discovered a variety of possibilities, beginning with a burro-like creature:

and an elephant:

and just yesterday a woman appeared:

and just maybe she’s holding a baby, though that’s not as clear… yet:

The imp on the shoulder suggests that this is a Sagrada Familia, where the part of Joseph is played by an elephant:

I’m not sure what the next steps are, but perhaps a refinement of my initial tracings would be worth attempting. The iPad/iPencil combo clearly works, but just as clearly I’m only beginning to explore the potentials of the tools. Stay tuned.

Descry: to see (something unclear or distant) by looking carefully; discern; espy

When I first processed this one

I saw the whole as a dog-like figure, but I completely missed seeing until today this marvelous face:

This sort of thing happens a lot, and is basically A Good Thing: there’s always more to be found in images and/or in one’s mind. The problem is often how to articulate, describe, convey what one descries. Another example from this morning, from the very same source material, in an unfolding I made a couple of days ago:

god of Spaniels

At first I saw the canine figure in the top third of the image, seemingly with forepaws raised in benediction, and the first thought was “ah! the God of Spaniels!”. And next I saw another and larger canine in the center of the image, and read that one as a fox. But this morning that central canine appeared as a spaniel in transports of delight, floppy ears flapping, smiling muzzle, and eyes expressing a degree of pleasure that I imagine for a young spaniel playing in surf. The figure I first saw, the God of, is a spectral presence, blessing the joy of the dog beneath.

Wholly imaginary, since the seed material was a stump, cut off flush with the ground:

spaniel precursor
and it may well be that nobody else sees what I see. And indeed, I had no idea there were spaniels to be descried when I snipped out a bit of the original image and mirrored it.

orphic or Orphic?

I’m not sure whether to be offput, amused, informed… or just what by Andrea Scott’s Reframing Modernism at the New MoMA. On the one hand, I love the basic characterization in her report of “The Shape of Shape” exhibit:

The ethos of the new MOMA—to revise the myth of modern art as a triumphant procession of great white men and instead tell the glorious, untidy truth of a bunch of weird human beings…

but I am less than charmed by

…the emphasis is on oddballs like Clough, whose orphic 1985 painting “Stone” is included.

Well, it’s not Andrea Scott’s fault that I am left cold and baffled by the “orphic” tag on a piece that seems to me to have nothing discernable to do with Stone in the sense that I understand Rocks. I did have to explore the Lexicon a bit to figure out just which “orphic” she meant: there’s the mystic, the oracular; the fascinating, the entrancing; and the “having an import not apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence” ( I’m going with the lattermost, which leaves Orpheus entirely out of the picture.

a voice from the past

So there I was, walking to work in March 2005, on a hilly woods path behind W&L, and talking out loud with a microphone attached to a digital recorder. And 14 1/2 years later I find the file at, where I had uploaded it shortly before I retired, in September 2005. The recording is rambling and only about 4 minutes long, but I’m quite interested in hearing what I had to say about courses, about teaching, about learning. I could only wish that I’d continued to make recordings like that.
Here it is:

From my walk to work

of Ot

This little story is complicated and digressive, but well worth trying to put together. It begins maybe a dozen years ago, in a taxi in Providence RI, a city that has a lot of public sculpture and other art stuff to look at. We passed by a particularly arresting sculptural creation and one of us said “What’s that?” and the taxi driver said “That? That’s ot” and thus the term ot was implanted into the Lexicon.

So yesterday morning one of the blogs I follow pointed to another tumblr with the stark message

2019 is almost over and all I gotta say is what the fuck was that

which expresses succinctly one of the mental states into which I occasionally stumble.

And the next though that coursed through my mind was

I take refuge in Ot

Where do these things come from? What imp instantiates them, sends them into Consciousness, which then offers them up to me to play with, these illusions and allusions that connect things to improbable other things?

The next thought was

hmmm. “take refuge in”…

which of course is a formula in Buddhist practice (one takes refuge in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha), and that led to the realization that I was a bit less clear about this Dharma thing than I thought I should be, so a brief Wikipedia digression happened, and that led to an article on the Vedic concept of Ṛta (“the order that makes life and universe possible”, which seems to be nothing more or less than the Tao, innit?). That Sanskrit Ṛ phoneme is “a vocalist r, like that in pert or dirt, when pronounced with a rhotic r, e.g. as in American…”, but in Providence or Boston dialect would be non-rhotic [caa, paak, ot…]. And /Ṛta/ can be glossed as ‘Truth’.

And so on.

This Ot in which I claim to take refuge is well known to whatever readers of this blog there may be out there. Yesterday produced several more examples:

admonishing the young

punk sensibilities

(name it and you can keep it)

a new toy

Not sure if this is a Good Thing or a calumny, but it’s progress of a sort.

The new iPad arrived yesterday, and I’ve been playing with Adobe Illustrator Draw, attempting to actualize an idea I’ve had for a few months. Take an image in which I see something that I want to call other viewers’ attention to. Sketch the outlines of what I see on a new layer, then export the sketch. Here’s an example, raggedy but clear enough to show the potential:

Start with an unfolded image (what I call a tessellation, though it’s just a single mirroring), like the one I labelled “voracious blue-eyed goddess”:

voracious blue-eyed goddess

sketch in the lines my imagination sees:


and turn off the background:


Who is it?

Hillary Clinton.

I had no idea…

Cucurbitae of November

I sent the eleventh photo book (called Elevenses) off to Blurb a couple of days ago, and I’ll put up a link to its pdf once I know that everything is as I intended. I’m quite pleased with what went into it, and almost feel that I’m in control of Adobe InDesign, such that other books will follow soon. Meanwhile, and while I await delivery of some shiny new Apple hardware in the coming week, I awoke this morning with an idea for a quick 20-page booklet with rock images. By 4:00 this afternoon it was complete and uploaded to Blurb. Here’s the cover, front and back:

A Pumpkin in Late November Cover

…and it’s downloadable as a pdf.

An explanatory web page is up in an early version, but I’m still working on what to include therein.


I’ve spent this week in a Maine Media workshop on InDesign, super-intensive because there were just two students, and the other has been away for the last two days. Today is the last day, and I’m trying to wrap my mind around what the upshot will be. In short, I seem to be deciding that I’m too old to do this: too old to learn my way around complex software (I can bumble through but can’t retain everything I’m told), too old to find it character-building to feel frustration with my own limitations, too old to revel in challenges. It’s akin to how I feel about physical challenges. Only a few years ago I’d leap from rock to rock while hiking, but now I go much more carefully. And I find that I’m using my reading glasses more and more, where I used to pride myself on uncorrected visual acuity.

So I’m beginning to wonder whether more InDesign Blurb books are the right presentation medium for the hoard of photographs I’m sitting on. The photographs themselves give me as much joy as ever, and certainly keep coming. This being appeared on a stump just outside the Maine Media classroom, and I had the wit to capture it:


I expect to have more to say about this general subject.


The life of a photograph is pretty chancy: many never get processed from their RAW capture, some of those that do never make it to viewers’ eyes, and some are out there on Flickr but hardly anybody happens upon them. And a few have second and third lives after their original appearance. This one was an offhand grab as we walked along the shore of a pond at Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland:


Surely geography. I liked it for its ambiguity of scale (an aerial view of an island? a closeup of a mossy rock?), but it’s had only 4 views by Flickr users. And then this morning (2 months after it was taken) it occurred to me to mirror it, and lo and behold:

verdant owl wings

I see an owl with wings spread, perhaps closing in on a mouse. There are other possibilities too, of course, but it seemed to me that it belonged in my Flickr Album called A Catalog of Wings for Celestials.

And then I happened to look at the lower left hand corner and saw this mountaineer coming around a boulder:


So many wonders…