Sunday, April 25, 2010

The little things creep out...........

As the weather warms we begin having more guests in this old farmhouse. The black ants have shown up to patrol Tinker's cage bottom and the floor underneath. They are polite enough not to get up into his food dishes. They used to bother me but now I just accept them as part of the warm-weather ecosystem here along with these really long-geared, spindly-legged spiders, click beetles and the occasional wolf spider. Later there will be crickets hiking around and the occasional daddy longlegs that gets in, as well as other miscellaneous visitors.

I find the black ants and the daddy longlegs to be very entertaining, going helter-skelter when they are disturbed as they are going about their business. They are sort of my comedy relief around here sometimes. The daddy longlegs are especially goofy-looking. Later I will enjoy the crickets singing until cold weather silences them in the fall. I have been known to bring in some of the last of them so to hear their cheerful songs for just a little bit longer.

Then there will be the lady bugs. I'm told they are not REAL lady bugs but a close relative brought in from Asia to go after aphids on soy beans, but as far as I am concerned, if it looks like a lady bug, trundles along like a lady bug, and smells like a lady bug, then................Lady bug hell is for one to climb up to the top of a cup and to go endlessly in circles around the rim as if stuck in that mode and unable to stop.

These "guests" and others are just part of my community. I can't be rid of them, as I won't have poisons sprayed around, so I have come to appreciate them. Even the tiniest creature possesses life from the Creator, which is something that humans cannot replace once extinguished, which is a pretty big thing. Some may have arrogantly defined humans as being created in God's image, but that's about as far as it goes - wishful thinking. When I look outside at the lush spring growth of myriads of plants tumbling out of the ground, old friend trees putting out their leaves again for a new year, and all of the summer birds coming back to the feeders and then off about their business, and chipmunks out and about and so on, then I know I am seeing the face of the Creator.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Inexcusable Atrocity in Pennsylvania

After talking with someone about Brian May's Save Me campaign to defeat the return of hunting foxes and other wildlife with dogs in the UK, I got to wondering about another barbaric "sport" that some had been trying to revive a few years ago in the USA.

If you have heard of trap shooting at clay pigeons, then you should know that it evolved from the barbaric "sport" of shooting at live pigeons who were in traps on the ground, that would be sprung open, releasing the birds to be shot at as they flew away. Upon googling this I found that there is one state that actually allows this atrocity to be practiced, and it is Pennsylvania. Apparently many of the people of PA have tried to get this outlawed, but the NRA (National Rifle Association) has stepped in to undermine their efforts by supporting those who wish to keep live pigeon shoots on the menu.

SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) has released a video showing just what a live pigeon shoot looks like, but be warned, it almost made me throw up:

It is hard to decide which is more abhorrent, the poor birds, (many of whom have been raised inside like chickens and have never even flown) who are sprung out of the traps, where many are shot as they stand, bewildered, or the children whom the organizers employ to pick up these birds, many of whom are still flopping around, wounded. The kids jump on them, beat them, or pull their heads off to kill them, or sometimes just carry them back and throw them in a barrel where they die slowly. It is obvious by the way they handle the birds that they don't even see them as living creatures with feelings.

What are these people thinking? Are they apes who have not yet come down from their trees?What is this disgusting spectacle teaching these kids?

If you care enough to get involved, or at least to send an email to Governor Rendell, go to:

It is just unbelievable that this is allowed to go on.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Save Me Campaign in the UK

Anytime a person wants to put himself out there on behalf of the natural world, well, my hat's off to him. That is what Brian May has committed himself to doing in the UK. He has launched a campaign to keep people out of office who will likely reinstitute hunting foxes with dogs. If you are in the UK, join him at:

He has also been trying to find a way of preventing the killing off of badgers in Wales due to the spread of bovine TB. If you would like to follow this then check in at:

Monday, April 12, 2010


I began this blog to share some thoughts with anyone out there who might also be on the same journey, but it became obvious that sharing my art had to be a part of this because I am enchanted by these gifts that I collect from the natural world. I have been investigating different ways to also sell some of the pieces. I thought I had found one, but as I have been trying to familiarize myself with the way it works, I realize that it just doesn't feel right. There just seems to be too much hoopla attached to it all for me to feel comfortable with the process. Nor do I want to become involved with something that ends up consuming so much time and attention that it cuts into my creative time.

So at least for the time being, if anyone who might come here would be interested in acquiring any of these pieces of transformed twigs and tendrils, with even the occasional incorporation of some of my father's collection of odds and ends of clock gears and the like, then please contact me here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Worm Art

I just went for a walk around part of the woods, and upon crossing a ravine I came to smallish dead elm tree fallen across the path. Most of the bark had sloughed off, revealing a treasure trove of worm art. This is one of my favorite things, and I will be sure to go back and haul it up. I haven't seen such fresh, fine examples in a long time. There is someting fascinating about the designs they leave behind as the larvae of these bark beetles branch out.

The Nature of Reality

After being told that I might be out of touch with reality the other day, I had to do some thinking on that...........

I am sitting here at a computer, so not so awfully far out of touch, but we don't have cell phones because we don't want to have the crazy human world reaching out and touching us at any moment, like being on a leash. I don't like instant messaging either. Email I can answer when it is convenient for me.

Back to the idea of reality. The natural world supports the activities of the human world, but the human world, for the largest and pushiest part, objectifies the natural world and destroys it, as in eating themselves out of house and home. But many have been worshipping at the alter of humans being created in the image of a god who gave them dominion over the Earth. That seems very arrogant and self-serving to me. The kind of reality that relies on the destruction of it's support system has to be a foolish one.

Mother Earth does not need humans. But humans need Her, and have been using Her, and raping Her, and now She is angry and we are having extreme weather and devastating earth quakes and tidal waves. These are warnings from Mother Earth that we had better change our ways or suffer the consequences. Like a hoard of locusts out of the Middle East, we have spread the gospel by nearly annihilating Native Humans who had respect for Earth and all of it's peoples, knowing that each depended on the other's welfare. If the Native Humans couldn't be corrupted and saved by the gospel, then they were enslaved or pushed out, forbidden their own languages and religions, until most died of starvation or disease. Talk about killing the messengers!

The Creator designed the various peoples of Earth so that if all lived in balance then there would be enough to support them. Native Humans still knew that we were not above having to live according to this natural law. We now proceed with our greed at our own peril.

That, to me, is the reality of it. That is why I see all of Nature as being the image of the Creator, and I pay attention to the words of our Native Americans, as well as those of other Native Humans of the world. Theirs was the original understanding of our place on Mother Earth, and still the right, or sustainable one.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Backtracking in the Web

I came here to this place 38 years ago. There wasn't running water or the inside facilities that go with it. That was when I used the old wooden washing machine. It had a wringer too. I haven't yet made the wringer to go with my little Acme Queen because I am one gear short of having 4 for the wringer gears.

Over the years I realize that I have always gone to more trouble to be with the natural world than to be with people. Most all of the pictures I have taken have been of plants and creatures. We have some spectacular old oaks here, but I have also seen a number of them come down. There was an especially beautiful and perfect burr oak on the neighbor's bottom pasture, down along Bear Creek. He stood by himself out in the open and had thus grown to a perfect form. I have a picture of him here, when he was in his full glory. Unfortunately 2 or 3 years ago he just all fell apart. Now he is home to insects and fungus and others who gradually return him to the soil where perhaps another small acorn will take root. But the way things are changing I doubt that a tree like him will ever be seen there again.

Many of our oaks have so much character that I have named them. Michael and Zeus guard our lane. Gemini stands out front. The birds line up on his limbs, waiting to descend to the main feeders when there is heavy traffic. Twister stands behind the house. His trunk and limbs have grown like a corkscrew, and he sports a gooseberry bush that some bird planted, about 10 feet or so up in a crotch. Knobby grows down by the ravine. He sheds some of the knobbiest twigs and all of the places where other twigs or branches join are large and exaggerated. If they have separated then what is left are two very pleasing large round features, one concave and the other convex, with ridges radiating out from the center. I call the concave ones Fingerprints of the Creator. If you ever need a shot of inspiration, just look at the gnarled bark or grain, or features like these "fingerprints" and see that it is as though the force of life were frozen into the features of trees. They appear to wear their hearts on their sleeves, so to speak.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Star Siren

She is a departure from my more light-hearted creations. I was looking at kachinas and then Star came along. She doesn't evoke a kachina to me, but has her own personality and form. I called her Wood Spirit for a time, until she had completely revealed herself, beginning with the woody base of a large mullein plant, and then the addition of burr oak, woody grape tendrils and fuzzy fungus. The stars in her eyes and on some of her decorations are at the center of every burr oak twig or branch, large or small. The stars on her necklace are at the center of cottonwood twigs. I found this relationship, in the reverse, to be fascinating. Cottonwoods were sacred to the Lakotas. She is 10 inches tall.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In Memory

My father passed away a little over a month ago. He was just about 10 days short of his 96th birthday. This piece, the old wooden washer, is a collaboration with him. He was the metal worker. A machinist, mechanic, watch repairman, clockmaker, jeweler and the go-to man in town to fix anything that no one else could fix. Give him a pile of scrap metal and he could build you an engine or a firearm. He was awarded a bronze star in WW2 for scrounging up parts, including an old vacuum cleaner to construct a make-shift iron lung for the army hospital he was assigned to.

I inherited his treasure trove of interesting junk and being the pack-rat that I also am I still have most of it, as well as most of his tools. When I first moved here, 38 years ago, there was an old wooden washing machine, and I used it for a time. It wasn't set up quite like this one, but the principle was the same - a handle and a reversible flywheel. I was messing around with a box of old clock gears one day and managed to come up with several that worked in just the right way, so I built a washing machine under them. I guess I am interested in combining a little more of Dad's junk with my creations. It keeps him in my life.

The washing machine is 4-3/4" tall, with the lid closed. The tub is red cedar from this farm. The top is apple wood, from a neighbor whose tree died. Dad contributed the hardware and the genes and the teaching. Thanks Dad. You are part of my sacred web too - gone on now, but never far away.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Music Shop

Just the place the crickets, frogs, birds and so on might go to find instruments to help them out. More burr oak, wild grape, shagbark hickory, goldenrod galls, stones, tree fungus and the like, who wished to participate.

The Great Hoobaroo

I like to have fun with things, so many of my pieces are light-hearted. My burr oak and wild grape friends give me lots of material to work with to make into fantasic things like musical instruments. This one, the Great Hoobaroo, has such a sound that an envious owl has dropped by to get a look while the player has gone on a break.

Greener grass, weeds, and so on......

Bhutan is still stuck in my head. I actually checked about immigrating there (curiously, not seriously), but they allow very few people to even visit. They are wise in keeping we westerners out. There is a Queen song, penned by Brian May, named I Want It All. It is one of my favorites in spite of the attitude - sort of a glorious anthem for globalization: I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it NOW! (I guess I just need to break free now and then.) We seem to feel entitled to everything, and if we could move to Bhutan, then it would become something else.

American is a land of immigrants for most of the population. My heritage is 1/2 Danish, 1/4 German, and 1/4 Bohemian. That said, I have always felt more related to the Native Americans. Vine Deloria said that in America God Is Red in his book by that title. The energy of American soil is Native American. I think I have always felt that, because when I first read Deloria's book it was like I got shot with an arrow of truth. Westernization has not been a good experience for Native Americans, nor for America for that matter. We could have learned so much from these first Americans. We still can, but now the damage is done and undoing it is another matter.

As I've already said somewhere, we live on about 50 acres, most of which is at the end of a dead-end road. Unfortunately Interstate 35 took the other half of this farm. Worse yet, they ran it out of it's straight course to get us, because the Army Corps of Engineers was going to dam the Skunk River, not too far from us, and they wanted this part to correspond with that with a scenic outlook. Fortunately they didn't end up getting to dam the river, due to opposition and changing attitudes, though they were serious enough to change the course of I-35 in the beginning. There is still a scenic outlook, though not the one that was envisioned.

I've always been sort of tethered here, either by keeping wood stoves going in the early days, or being tied to a workbench when I engraved firearms. So I have naturally become well acquainted with the natural features here and all of the other peoples, animal, vegetable or mineral. I have not always been on good terms with every other inhabitant here. But I have observed this place more intimately, as through a microscope. I engraved through a microscope so perhaps I just relate more to small things, though my father was a jeweler/watch repairman, so maybe it has a genetic factor.

The Creator did not make weeds. Humans made weeds. Raccoons are my weeds. If ever I needed to reframe a relationship, it is the one I have with coons. We have both done each other great damage through the years, and I don't yet have an answer. I guess I feel entitled to protect my own here. I don't think that coons see it as mine though. Mostly the havoc that humans wreak on the earth is inflicted on all of the other inhabitants, who don't have a voice in the matter, so I guess raccoons are just turning the tables on me.

I have always collected plants and been very curious about the native plants here. My reward is that my yard turns into a jungle of vines and other woodland and prairie plants every year. Some of our acquaintances look at the greenbriar vines and shudder. I do love vines in particular. I think it is because they are very expressive plants who are always reaching out. I have a very large grape ivy hanging in the kitchen. It has arms that dangle down to touch me, and is always so friendly and welcoming.

I must spend more time and effort this year in learning yet more about the interaction of the web of life here in regard to seeing the truth of those whom I still see as weeds.