Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More Signs of the Times

There is a backlog of photos of signs in my files. Add to that a lack of inspiration and sheer cussed laziness and it all points to "It's time to stick a bunch of photos on the blog and caption them and call it a day." Here goes.

"So don't bring us any of that stinkin' silver."

Well, at least it's truth in advertising.

Employees get to have all the fun.

Darn. I thought illegal dumping might be OK here.
Shoot. That must be why traffic is so darn slow.

Oh, good! I can bring my Komodo dragon.

C'mon in, the water's great!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rain, More Rain, Wet Squirrels and Giant Mushrooms

The sun did not shine
It was too wet to play. 
So we sat in the house. 
All that cold, cold, wet day.
             --Dr. Seuss, "The Cat in the Hat"

It actually would have been nice to sit in the house all the cold, cold, wet day that was yesterday, November 19, 2012. But there were appointments to meet, errands to run, and school to attend. So the only ones who stayed warm and cozy inside were the cats.
November 19 is statistically the day most likely to be rainy in Seattle; it has rained on this date 89 times in the past 120 years (including this year's gulley washer). Yesterday, however, set a new record for the date. The 50-year-old record of 1.23 inches was eclipsed by noon and by day's end measured 2.16 inches. Lots more fell in coastal areas and on the peninsula and down in Oregon, and winds gusted up to speeds over 100 miles per hour in some places

Basements flooded. Trees and even trailer trucks were toppled. Roofs blew away, avenues turned into rivers, train tracks were closed. Hillsides turned into hill slides, losing their moorings and slipping down slopes and over roads. Rivers crested. In some places, migrating salmon swam across waterlogged streets.

Every year, torrential rains pummel the region in November, and yet, every year, the fury and amount of it takes us by surprise.

For our household, the rain was mostly just an inconvenience and fortunately not a catastrophe. A pause in the daily rush meant savoring a cup of coffee while flipping through recipe books at the dining room table, listening to the rain crash on the window and run down in sheets while the birch tree's supple branches swept north with the wind. 

A walk with the dog during a half-hour of clear skies meant strolling along sidewalks dappled with fallen Japanese maple leaves pressed against the pavement like hands. 

Along the way we encountered a very damp, chilly squirrel using his tail as an umbrella. 
We also discovered a patch of mushrooms that look as if they came straight out of the pages of a children's book:

November 19 must be the date when Nature tots up all those other days of the year on which children chanted "Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day" and pours out the reservoir.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Phinney Ridge Deer: Bambi and Faline Scamper in Seattle

Eagle dining on pigeon on utility pole across from my house
We're blessed with an abundance of wildlife in Seattle. Orcas swim through Puget Sound, river otters cavort in West Seattle, and Pacific giant octopi lurk offshore. Ospreys nest in Ballard, peregrines on downtown buildings, and bald eagles fly over my neighborhood every day. My feeders are visited by a variety of songbirds, who keep their eyes peeled for the local Cooper's hawk. Salmon are currently thrashing their way upstream in Carkeek Park.

(And there are also squirrels, raccoons, opossums, coyotes, and the odd fox, though these poor critters rarely stir anyone to wax on rapturously about them.)

Even so, it's a bit of a surprise when larger varieties of wildlife show up on city streets. People still talk about "Urban Phantom," the black bear that appeared in Ballard in 2009 and proceeded to take a northeastern trek through Seattle neighborhoods until it vanished somewhere past Shoreline. And the cougar that prowled Discovery Park in 2009, forcing closure of that park until the animal was captured, then released in the Cascade Mountain foothills.

I'm extremely dismayed that I wasn't out  walking the dog on a recent morning when the latest Large Ungulate sighting occurred: two blacktail deer, a buck and a doe, nonchalantly nibbling plants in backyards mere blocks from my home in my close-packed, car-filled urban neighborhood. (My friend R., however, was fortunately up and about and armed with a cell phone, and she kindly loaned me her images.)

The deer trotted through our neighborhood and made their way east to the University District and Wedgewood, mightily surprising people in those areas.

USFWS photo
I haven't found any stories about them since. There are, however, stories from a few years ago about deer living in a greenbelt in the Capitol Hill neighborhood southeast of us, which these two deer could easily access via bridge or by swimming across Portage Bay (deer are strong swimmers).
Blacktail deer (a subspecies of mule deer) are regular visitors to yards in suburban and rural Washington areas. Mule deer and blacktail deer are two of the five types of deer native to North America; the others are the white-tailed deer, the elk or wapiti, and the caribou. (I haven't seen white-tails in the area, but a herd of elk live at the local zoo just up the hill, and currently the local nursery has a pair of the caribou's cousin, reindeer, in residence for the Christmas season.)

Blacktails were frequent visitors to my parents' home on Bainbridge Island--so much so that they started making my mom grit her teeth and mutter when they ambled across their yard.

That's because the deer devoured her lilies, browsed leaves and twigs off saplings, and gobbled up pansies. One morning, she went outside to admire the daisies planted in a barrel on the lower deck, only to find that the deer had neatly trimmed all the petals off of them, leaving just the round, yellow disks teetering on spindly stalks.

 Any bitterness, however, usually evaporated and all was forgiven when the fawns showed up in spring.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Zoowoology 101

I have craft supplies. I have a crafting group. I have craft books and cravings to craft.

What I don't have is time to craft. Which means I don't actually produce any crafts. In fact, I am starting to think that my craft is the collecting of craft supplies.

This abundance of unused materials, depending on the day, sometimes seems to represent Hope (oh, the possibilities! The things I'll create! Just wait!) or Defeat (who am I kidding? I'll never do any of this stuff) or Regret (I've wasted so much money...I'm such an idiot...I never accomplish anything). Perhaps I can get a grant for it as some sort of art installation about evoking raw emotions.

But this past spring I actually did produce something. Not much, but something, and he's kind of cute. It seemed appropriate for him to make his debut on Election Day, being a donkey and all.

He's a product of needle felting, which for those of you who haven't sat around stabbing an extremely sharp and painful needle into your fingertips involves repeatedly stabbing an extremely sharp and painful needle into streamers of unspun wool, or roving, in order to weave, or felt, the fibers together (while avoiding stabbing your fingertips).

Donkey's got an armature of chenille stems (fancy pipe-cleaners), around which I wrapped the roving as I felted. He's therefore poseable, should he wish to strike a dramatic stance or lie down for a nap.

Unfortunately I broke two felting needles making him, since I'm still learning to avoid stabbing the wire of the chenille stems as well as my fingers, so he won't make any friends (or rather, I won't be making him any friends) til I get some new needles.

Despite my low productivity in the craft arena, I really enjoy needle felting. I don't get much time to do cartooning these days; when I'm with my craft group, however, and take up the felting needle and wool, I find that the critters I make resemble the ones I draw. 
Molding animals out of Sculpey never produced the results I wanted, but a felting needle somehow draws the wool fibers out and forms them in the same way a pencil pulls a character together out of lines of graphite.

For some really fun examples of needle-felted animals, check out my friend Eliel Fionn's "Felties" here (her characters also look just like the ones she draws!) as well as fiber artist and author Laurie Sharp's works. My friend Ruth Hendry is a fiber artist who felts, too--her beautiful creations include rugs, scarves, and wall hangings and can be seen here.

In the meantime, anybody interested in some paints, stamp pads, beads, sequins, fabric scraps, artificial flowers, Popsicle sticks...? No?