Category Archives: BLOG–One Page True Tales

Short stories from across eight decades.
All true stories

Are You Hearing Voices?


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When blogging, do you find new voices within that were silent before?  They were there, but there was no place to speak them so they went unheard, unformed and just bumped around sticking to each other until some critical mass forced them in or out of your mind? No place for them in the social normal world.  Like a record un-played.

The hard part is creating new sentences to exhibit these voices; to express them by word-smithing so they can be said.  Realizing that the way we talk and the way we write are not the same, especially nowadays, not the same as we learned in our youth, either.  The way blog readers read and the way they perceive the story are also not the same as in the walk-around world, either.  We are socialized individuals, specific to our own people, time and environment and choices and our thoughts don’t always fit just because we have them.

I gave some really deep thinking time to this and a few unseen thoughts came up.  For one: Those of us older than a CD player, our world had to add new words just to keep up.  For those who played with cabbage patch dolls or micro machines, the words, sentences and ideas are made of even different elements.  Brown paper wrapping and string ties mean little to modern children, but the care and value of a friendship once was discernible by simple tells in the tidy twists of a string bow, and saving both the paper and the string was normal.

Another was: These things are deeply seated in the sentences as I try to form a communication with a world that no longer remembers how those specific things felt.  I worry not that those feelings are lost because they are not, they are just assigned to new icons but are still felt in old common ways.  When the language of today’s younger folks is understood, and we take time to express out our older word assemblies, most of us can still communicate, but that is where those new voices that were silent emerge.  With new constructions of how to explain old memories arise, new thoughts arise with it and new inner voices introduce themselves.

I didn’t know at first that as I go out looking for interesting blogs to sift through, this other voice, the one that I don’t show in the walk-around world, is here within the internet, here in a new time.  At first it felt as if, we who are older than ball point pens or pocket calculators, might be at a disadvantage but now I realize that I have been alive through all that today’s youth has been, though I am not immersed in it, while they have never received a gift wrapped in brown paper tied with string that has been used a dozen times, nor eaten fruit preserved by being dipped in wax.  No one can keep up today; actually, no one wants to, but all of us are discovering new voices within, courage to use those voices and not being silent anymore because there is a place to speak.  No one glances away or says to be still; if they lose interest they just click away and what is written sits and awaits someone else to speak to.  I go to bed and don’t wait around, then magically someone rings the bell and comments to my new voice and we all smile.

Don’t you just love blogging with a new voice?

Getting in a Rut to the Moon


27-Southbound-2_webHOW  WIDE ARE RAILROAD TRACKS ANYWAY?

Glad you asked.   The real answer involves horses.  Stay with me, okay?  After the Civil War, the Congress declared that all new railroad tracks had to be a standard 4-foot, 8 and one half -inches.  Before that time there were not so many rail roads and the track sizes were all different sizes all over the place, whatever each rail company wanted, it did without measure of any other rail company.

Standardizing is of course a good idea, but why the odd number? If you can pick any size why pick 4 foot 8 and a half inches?

For a start – because the English made them that way, and English ex-patriots built our railroads.  Fine, but why did the English build track that size?  Well… Because the Romans did, not rail track, of course, but they did build roads, and the wheels on their chariots cut ruts into the stone roadway and if your cart wasn’t that size you had a really rough ride going in and out of the ruts. This forced everyone after them to make wagons the same size.  Four feet, eight and a half inches between wheels- because in ancient Rome that was the size of their war wagon wheels and that was determined because it was the width of the back end of two war horses harnessed together. Someone way back then had decided that the wagon should not be any wider than the horses so they could go through the same openings. Time has a way of carrying its’ ideas forward so … it gets better.

You know those huge booster rockets on the space shuttle?  Engineers wanted to make them fatter, but they couldn’t because they had to be shipped by train and had to fit through a tunnel.  Tunnels are only slightly wider than rail cars that run on the tracks, you know 4 foot 8 and a half inches, which means this: engineers had to design a sophisticated rocket capable of thrusting a shuttle and people into orbit to go to the moon…but they also had to honor how wide a horse’s rear is, times two, because they shipped parts of the shuttle by rail cars which had to go through tunnels and gateways. Rail cars are, however, wider than 4 foot 8 one half inches; some can carry 12 foot wide cargo on special carriers, but is generally limited to 10 foot wide carriers.  This limits the size of rail cargo in many areas and limited the size of the booster rockets.  Keep in mind that many of today’s horses are much larger than the ancient Roman version and if they had them would we would have had bigger boosters?  Not really the point of this story.

Recipes are ruts too!

When I was a child my mother used an old recipe handed down to her from her mother. It was for a beef roast. After doing all of the sauce and meat prep, the final instruction was to cut 2 inches off the rounded end of the roast before setting in a pan and placing in the oven. Every time, for many years, as my mother made a roast she would dutifully follow these instructions. One year my grandmother, (my mother’s mother) came to visit. Mom decided to make the traditional roast and just offhandedly my mom asked her why she had to cut off two perfectly good inches of the roast before inserting into the oven. Time has a way of carrying things forward-remember? Well, Grandma had a really good laugh….. “Dear,” she said, “I was cooking on a small wood stove and if I didn’t cut 2 inches off the end I couldn’t get the door closed. I wrote the instructions so I wouldn’t forget at the last minute!”

Don’t you wonder how much of our daily life is run in a rut?

I heard once that a rut is a grave with both ends knocked out, but sometimes it is good to have something to keep you on track as well and often it leads to someplace or some way that is worthy of going. Ruts are not all bad but I can’t help think that without some ruts we missed a lot of roast and we could have boosted more cargo to the moon, too!

I got into a rut of not posting often and now I think I’m out of that groove!

Thanks for reading on my blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From a tiny acorn-a blog grows


oak-acorn_webBlogging is a lot like exercising, you get benefits later and the work out now! A year ago I posted my fist effort and today I noticed that it is still one of the most viewed stories I have done. Is that encouraging or discouraging? Having spent the last two months building a .org site, (still not done) and feeling, at times like an old dolt, It gave me great pleasure to read an article about how we respond slower as we age because we have so very much more information to process (Article here).

So when I finished this little drawing above, I felt it fit this little story because of the age of oaks from the time of acorns, how many years they have stood and how wise they seem. Yes I know it is just a tree, but it is a universally accepted icon because wise old owls like to sit in them, right?

So as I work forward on my .org and work long on the .com I now feel more the acorn than the aged oak, and look more the oak than the acorn.

A Sand Bucket and the Writer’s Quill


Downstream results, a lesson learned from making movies.

Sunset in the late summer on Pismo Beach, a windy Southern California beach, casts shadows eastward into timeless drifting dunes. Yellow highlights on the wind swept sand, blown from the crests, make the dunes look as if they are smoldering from the blasting sun’s rays. The eastern cloudless sky is dark early from loss of light, turning purple and mixing with sloped backsides of dunes dropping down into undefined darkness. The western sky is bringing in cloudy fog.

Wind is what happens when warm air rises and cool air rushes in to replace it. At the end of each day the heat rises off the dunes and the cool evaporating ocean air rushes in.  Crossing the dunes, the cool advancing air is heavy with salt and moisture feeding the sand grass and ice plants, the only things that can actually survive on the sand.  Plants especially adapted, drawing their water from the air and feeding it to their roots, anchoring themselves in the wind in some strange backward manner.  Sheltering small rodents, birds, sand crabs, spiders and bugs, and keeping the tops of the dunes from blowing away, making the dunes somewhat stable to catch more moisture.  A micro eco-system.

Dunes are like living things, always moving beneath the wind, always changing, and somehow always the same.  Lift is what an airplane wing accomplishes when forced through air.  A strong enough continuous wind will lift most anything not held down, shapes, large or small, even if it is not shaped like an airplane wing.  The tops of the dunes are domed; they push the wind up just as an airplane wing does, and on the back side of the dome is a downward slope lying in the downwind draft, and similar to an airplane wing there is a lift created, not beneath the wing, but behind the edge of the top of the dune.  It is this that makes the dunes move.  It is this that makes the plants choose to grow here which resists their moving.  It is a sand dune that is responsible for the first flight of man in an airplane.

Like most things in life, these elements don’t at first appear to be related, but when odd things come together they often come out even.

Over a hundred years ago, on a sand dune on the east coast of North Carolina, a place called Kitty Hawk, the sun was rising, and the warming air began to rise off the beach, drawing in fresh heavy cooler air from the Atlantic Ocean.

It was this very effect that had brought the Wright brothers to that beach, that and the sandy landing field for their first experiments in flight.

They had observed dunes to find out how lift worked; a stroke of their own genius, they had come to take advantage of the incoming strong wind, and the high ground of the dune tops.  They chose this location for their flight, and forever will be remembered for their first airborne flight from a dune into the lifting wind and across the sand.

75 years later on the west coast, the dunes at Pismo Beach, California were being used to film a re-creation of that historical event.  Not so much because they look so much like Kitty Hawk, but because they are so close to Hollywood.

On the day before the filming out on the dunes, the sun had almost given all its light, and there were flash light flickers coming to life down in the deep purple slopes behind the dunes.

The heavy lights and equipment that normally accompany a film crew would not be on the location until the next day, and then only for one day as the permit to place things in the dunes was limited to three days of construction of small sets, with one day of filming on that particular set. People are required to remove everything they bring in every day. Cans, wrappers, chairs, even bottle caps, tooth picks and cigarette butts. This would limit any damage to the dunes.

These dunes are federally protected and also a state park.

Instructions had been given to all of us to remove any and all trash, tools, equipment and gear whatever, each day.  Leaving only the specially permitted movie set of the Wright brothers building, and a night guard posted providing around the clock attendance.

The crews left, assuring the park ranger that all things, except the set, had been removed.  No tools, ladders, paint cans, ropes, cords, materials or supplies had been left.

It became too dark to see anymore.  No one could see the small toy sand bucket that had been left by my child who had spent the day visiting me “on the set” (I was the construction chief).  But it was there, it wasn’t far from the set, perhaps fifteen feet.  The set, positioned by the ranger, was behind a dune, out of the wind, but the bucket was just outside the protection of the huge dune; it was not a tool anyone missed, it was not materials to be accounted for, had not been noticed. He was only 7 and neither the ranger or myself caught this.  It was setting in a wind row down at the bottom of the dune. The wind followed its own path it had carved out for itself.  In these lines of wind drift, the sand moved little.  This location had been mostly undisturbed for perhaps decades.  The dunes are resting in their own self established equilibrium. But they do slowly move.

Long after all but the guard had gone home, and a little after the guard had fallen asleep, the Pacific Ocean surface cooled, the warm sand returned its heat to the sky, and the wind arose.  It slid under the mantle of stars across the water and onto the beach.  The domed-topped dunes lifted the air and the compression of wind against the dunes whistled across their tops, causing a slight vacuum on their backside edges, lifting tiny grains of sand from between the rooty toes of the sand grass and carrying them over the angle of repose on its backside down slope.

At the bottom, the wind met new resistance where the child’s sand bucket now sat.  There the wind swirled about this foreign object, the bucket.  The lift of the little sand grains was lost.  They fell just behind the sand bucket, forming a new small rift in a half curl.  As night stars drift overhead, sand grains began to drift below.  Some free from their resting place for the first time in decades.  All through the night the wind pushed against the new riff in the dune floor, moving sand from beneath the bucket, moving sand from tops of the dunes now feeling new patterns of air and placing it on an ever-growing new small dune. Something had changed in the wind rows, something that affected every dune around it.  The wind was moving differently this night than last night.

As the bucket went down, a new dune went up.  At first it was inches, then it grew to feet.  By morning when the guard awoke, and the crew arrived the wind had stopped.  Sunrise was a beautiful, cool clear crisp day.

There where the child’s bucket had been overlooked was a new hole almost a dozen feet deep and near thirty feet across and behind it was a new dune twice that size.  It had collected sand from dunes all around with every passing wind all night long.

How can there be a treasure in such a tragedy?  The set was wreaked, now tilting towards the new hole with sand piled halfway up.  The sand would have to be moved back into place before the next big wind storm or the entire dune range would be affected.  Fines would have to be paid, and the filming would be delayed, thousands, tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Not only had the downwind effect on the little bucket had huge consequences on the dunes, it had changed the events of the lives of several dozen people.

Long term, that spot in the dunes will never be the same. It was an enlightening experience.

We do not control the moving forces within which we live, but by placing something just so in any moving force we will greatly affect all things downstream.  A pebble in a stream, a word in a crowd, an insult, a compliment.  Whether by accident or by purpose, there will be an outcome.  The outcome cannot be predictable but there will be an outcome.

It is the same with placing a word on a page, paint on a canvas, notes in a song; it brings irreversible change downstream.  We cause invisible dunes all life long.  Play, work, do, make a downstream outcome, even if it cannot be anticipated.  Life is a constant moving force, put your sand bucket in it, it will bring change to your life and like the dunes, whatever you do will find equilibrium.

That was forty years ago and the gift of knowing how things are affected by my actions has impressed every decision I have made since then.  For a day my son had the greatest sand pile ever to play in, and I am careful how I stand in the wind.

jmc/emc

Something to say for the new year


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Sunset on Contemporary Resort Hotel Disney World (1972)                                                                                               Acrylic on Illustration board 8″x10″

Something To Say For The New Year

Here is a truth:  often a painting is done just so the artist can get to do a small favorite thing, or idea.  Entire paintings are done just to get to put highlights on a glass, or shadows on a lemon or sunbursts in the distance.  Whole landscapes are painted just to show a small flower in the foreground, or a water drop about to fall from a rose petal.  A moment of inspiration to render an idea, so simple a truth that it cannot be rendered simply, but surrounded by complexity of seeing our world, lest the idea be lost.  When done, often the original intention of the painting goes unperceived to the casual viewer, but it is there.

Every artist has something to say, even if it is vapid and shallow.  Many just love to paint.  Great masters labored to say things of worth, depth, with a genius and clarity.  Some masters did this early in life and some late.

As time passes, talented and developing artists gain a voice, learn some way to communicate in their work and contribute to the world wide body of work.  A few are late bloomers and decide to speak after many years of mumbling out their art.  Whether small or genius, the years usually have trained the work into an acceptable voice or even into excellence.

Once an artist learns that their work really is just their voice, applied to materials with tools, and that the observed perception rendered is in the mind of another, something we can not control, just influence, the artists begin to offer up a communication of worth.  Their art resides in the mind of the viewer as in the art itself.  The Mona Lisa is in the mind of millions of people, each with their own thoughts about it, no matter what Leonardo wanted.

Good art is common to the understanding of all; it is spoken of as if it came from the artist, but it did really?

It came because the artist was observing through time, things others have experienced and the artist spoke it out in an image remarking about that time.  Seldom if ever does an artist say something new that is actually profound or unknown, but really says something already known that is put in a new and perhaps original way; it is understood by the masses because they already have some understanding of the topic, subject or image. That can become a profound perception in the world.

A six year old child with a crayon can make you cry with their clarity of seeing and saying what you know; if that clarity remains, as skill grows, they become a master, an artist.

A sixty year old can pick up a pencil and start drawing for the first time and make you laugh, but if they have something to say, regardless of how poorly they might draw it, if it touches us all, it is art.  That is why cartoons are so powerful, they speak to us and about us all, and are often done by young artists who grow old in their craft.

A master does both, renders beautifully and has something to say. Saying something is the highest form of art, and saying it well is glorious.  Having accumulated the skills to render, it becomes very important in delivering the idea in its whole form, even if it is just a rose with a water drop.

This puts more artists to silence than any other thing, recognizing one’s own inability to say it well or even to know what to say.  Better to say nothing so they don’t.  So many young and new emerging talents silence themselves long before they discover they were actually on path to arrive, but judged wrongly their primitive learning as lack of talent.

Just because we, as artists, can see our own work path and struggles is no reason to withhold our work.  What has changed is the internet and speed in which we hear feedback.  We can post our images, and get comments; the pain and glory are instantaneous, and both are also fleeting.  The amount of really fine art work out there is astounding, access to visual resource is so huge it is daunting.  Both discouraging and encouraging.  It is still one person viewing one image one at a time. Perhaps hundreds or thousands or millions of people, but each one views it one at a time.  It is personal, it is a singular event and a singular response.  Not a crowd or audience of thousands, just thousands of individual observers with no crowd influence, no one watching them while they observe.  They comment, and it is powerful, it is direct.

So take a good idea, even a tiny one, and build a painting around it and show it, or write a new book and publish it, or take four notes and build a symphony around them and perform it.

jmc/emc

Loco-motive Christmas


I think most people love trains, especially at Christmas! So a couple few years back doing a card with a train engine just seemed to be the ticket. My family had been giving me train parts for a few years so I could put one in my studio, you know up overhead so it goes around to my delight and for everyone else a distraction. It is an LGB that stands for Lehmann Gross Bahn a German toy train company.  these train sets are a large gauge (G scale) and designed to go in the garden or outside as well as inside. So that year on my birthday I finally had received enough pieces to put the train on enough track to go around the kitchen and dinning room floor. Kids and grand kids all helped, real smoking smoke stack, light in the front and all. My wife loved it for a couple hours then started pointing to the upstairs where my studio is and began mumbling something about the ceiling. It just seemed to be the perfect Christmas card subject. I scanned a photo of the engine into photoshop and painted in a background. The original engine was all yellow, and that would never do for christmas so I added some red and black. Distractions have kept me from getting it put up but I think this year I will get it installed into my studio. Since that time I have been collecting a few pieces of old Lionel trains and now have enough to put one of those together too.

After Christmas i will also post a few rail road paintings I have done.

58 Years of Christmas Cards


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Seasons Greetings

Christmas is a favorite holiday and making and sending cards is a tradition in our home.  My wife loves to send them out and I have been making Christmas cards since childhood.  First time I sent out my own cards was at age twelve, hand-painted, about a dozen, cost 4 cents to mail one.  Typical postage was 3 cents, but I went heavy on the glue and glitter, so I had to add a one cent extra stamp.  There was no way for a kid to reproduce cards in those days, so each one was different.  Many people did this, and my inspirations came from the work of others, and observing cards made by Hallmark.  It would be a decade and a half before I learned how to silk screen cards, which my wife and I did for a decade after that.  Once we acquired our own copy machine we began to produce a black and white outline and then hand-colored them in with paint and colored pencils, and that went on for two decades.

Let’s see—that would add up to forty five years.  Along came the computer!  The world of handmade cards changed.  With a scanner and a color printer I could do one original color card, scan it, edit it and print a whole bunch.  Our card mailing list grows and shrinks over the years as people move in and out of our lives.  Over the years we have had maybe a half dozen people who told us they have saved them all. I haven’t even saved them all, maybe I have twenty or so.  I missed doing cards maybe five years out of the fifty eight years of cards where I either bought or failed to get them done.  Perhaps I will make an effort to find the lost ones; I don’t know, but I will post a few of them over the next few days just to wish you all well and what else can I do with them but share on a blog?

Seasons best to you all……………..

jmc/emc