Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas

Karen and I stopped sending Christmas cards and messages some years back but, as some of you know, our faithful canine, Niko, intervened and wrote some rather unflattering letters about us.  Sadly, Niko answered a higher calling last summer.  Thus, we were going to run with our earlier decision until...

Wow, what is this?  Ooh, white pegs to hide peanuts under.  I just have to dance.  Oh look, when I do the Sassy Squirrel Shuffle, I see marks on the screen behind the pegs.  Neato!  I’ll just keep on dancing.  By the way, I’m Sasha the Supreme, the red squirrel overlord of the deck.

I moved into their attic with my family last spring, but the grouch found out, evicted a small herd of us and pronounced my digs, “squirrel free.”  Ha!  I learned you can’t run around like a couple of loose bowling balls in the attic and not garner attention.  The grouch and the pretty lady just don’t know about me because I tippy toe.

It’s been a shaky year here -- ushered in with a 7.5 magnitude earthquake that rearranged the pretty lady’s rock collections and knocked a few things off the walls.  So what does the grouch do with sirens wailing out tsunami warnings.  He heads for the internet.  Of course!  He claimed he wanted to see when it was supposed to hit.  No use rushing out in the dark to join the rest of town at a higher spot when he’s not feeling real sociable at midnight.  Before the tsunami was scheduled to arrive he found Al Jazera news saying warnings were canceled in British Columbia.  Meanwhile Petersburg along with the rest of southeast Alaska was fleeing to higher ground.  If British Columbia was safe, why not Petersburg?  By the time outer coast towns were reporting tsunamis in the range of inches and with him feeling pretty sleepy at that hour he went back to bed.

This spring the grouch and the lady who feeds me peanuts read that it’s good for artists to have blogs.  He likes to write and she does everything else around here so, “why not?”, he said.  It would be a way for them to share their paintings with the world.  The paintings part mostly fell by the wayside when she kept taking such good photos that he just had to share them instead of their paintings.  Looking at the shiny box in front of me I see over 40,000 of them.  He says they both like to take photos, but can’t bear to throw any away -- that’s there’s a bit of redeeming value in at least one pixel on each of them.  

In July they flew north for daughter Tamia’s wedding to Cash Philo -- an outdoor affair above timber line with temperatures a tad above freezing (on the third of July) and the wedding party dressed like they were on a Hawaiian beach -- but so romantic because the upper Willow Creek fishing hole is where Cash and Tamia fell in love.  David (our pizza deliverer and computer repairman) chauffeured Cash to the creek with a coat over his head so he wouldn’t see his gorgeous bride until she walked down the aisle -- OK, it was across a culvert on the gravel road.  The grouch says she was absolutely dazzling.  Tamia may be the first bride on record to go fishing (in her wedding gown) on the way between the ceremony and the reception.  Cash must really like to eat salmon and trout. 

Inspired by Tamia, the grouch planted a garden this year.  The carrots stopped growing when a deer ate all the tops.  Then the pretty lady pulled the remains a day or so before they set off on a fall road trip.  Figuring they wouldn’t keep, she gave most of them away.  The grouch did get to sample one, though.  Yum.  The potatoes -- they hope potatoes are that good in Heaven.

The road trip began as they set off for the sunny south -- Cape Meares, Oregon with daughter Mandy (now a nursing student) and her Mike, the coast of Washington’s Olympic National Park and  three days admiring the tail end of a Typhoon near the southern entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park.  Sunsets “plunging” into the sea, the thundering roar of ocean waves, misty salt-laden air, foam flowing out of a dishwasher, the typhoon’s rainy offerings -- they’re ready for a rerun -- except the typhoon part.

They headed in different directions for the last 2/5ths of their odyssey.  She flew to Iowa to link up with cousin Connie and her Bob, splitting time between Iowa and the Groth (Karen’s family name) home at Wisconsin’s Four-Mile Lake.  Brother Peter and his Mary Ann have put the place up for sale so it may have been her farewell to that link with her childhood.

Meanwhile the grouch headed east as far as Montana following his nose for two weeks.  The idea: plein air paint his way home.  He missed the pretty lady, but he knew his agenda (there wasn’t any) would have driven her crazy.  She doesn’t thrive on -- Hey, there’s a road.  I wonder where it goes?  -- day after day -- sometimes covering maybe 300 miles, other days ending up at the same motel he slept in the night before.

Uh, oh, I hear someone stopped snoring.  Gotta go.


Oh no!!!  KAREN....  Have you seen the computer this morning?

Karen and I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and may 2014 be filled with many, many blessings.  Now, KAREN, where is that squirrel live trap?

It is Not Important Whoo You Are, but Whose You Are  9 x 12 inches  Watercolor by Karen Cornelius

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Under the Wings in Seattle

I groaned when Karen announced her flight from Seattle to Iowa would leave at 6:50 AM.  She had the direct route  -- similar to my attempts to draw a straight line -- Seattle to Los Angeles.  Change planes.  Los Angeles to Minneapolis.  Change planes.  Minneapolis to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  But then I remembered it took Lewis and Clark a few more hours to make a similar trek and they didn't get to see the lights of LA en route.

So, on Mandy's suggestion we booked a room near the airport through Airbnb.  We got an unbelievable rate (the low side) and Mandy (who lives in Seattle) could sleep in that morning.

Airbnbs are rooms that homeowners rent out to travelers.  We wanted to be close enough to SEATAC so I wouldn't get lost on the way and airport proximity this one had.  I could almost near the pilot tell the flight attendants to take their seats as each landing jet passed overhead.  Did it have to be so noisy?  Obviously the problem was the room window was open.  I'd just close it and...  OK, Don, you can do this.  You've closed a significant number of windows in your lifetime so this shouldn't be an issue.  But, what do you grasp to pull the window inwards.  Seconds ticked by, then minutes, more minutes.  Then I did the unthinkable.  I called for reinforcements.  KAREN!  Alas, we could not pull the window to the latch.  Finally I noticed the closing apparatus sitting in a nearby pile.  Surely, the home owners would know a way when they came home.  Eventually we gave up waiting for them and spent a restless night uner the wings of the big jets.

At least we could be clean while we lay awake.  We'd take showers.  There we discovered another quirk about this Airbnb.  The glass door at the bottom of the shower stall had some sort of "I won't" pact with the window.  It wouldn't seal -- meaning more than a few drops made their escape onto the slanting floor of the room.  Now when I entered the bathroom I did not make a full assessment of the living conditions.  There were hooks on the back of the door, but as Karen will attest, I couldn't find a jar of jam in a refrigerator even if it contained nothing but a case of them.  So, of  course finding the hooks was way beyond my skill level.  Thus, I laid my clothes on the floor downstream from the shower stall.  Remember I said the floor sloped.  Also remember I said more than a few drops escaped the stall.  I'm just glad no one saw me walking around with that large water stain in such a strategic location.

Six fifty doesn't sound bad until you take into consideration that half the planes departing Seattle on any day schedule their departures within three minutes of six fifty.  That translates into long lines as TSA inspectors check everyone's shoes for unpleasant odors.  We decided to cut it short and shoot for getting Karen to the airport somewhere around 5:15.  It was an easy run -- hardly a car on the road until we reached the approach to the airport.  Aaacckk.  Four lanes of cars in the dark, every one knowing exactly where they were going -- all timed to the last millisecond to get dropped off -- all racing at 70 mph while I poked along at 25 desperately reading lane signs, each seemingly hovering over the line between two lanes -- arrivals, departures, rental car returns, lost drivers -- walls of cars darting off one exit to be replaced by another wall entering on another ramp while those racing cars weaved around me like a spider encasing a fly in it's web.  Driving this route in the dark at 5:15 AM must be a requirement for the designers of video games.

The fact that you're reading this is proof that I survived although I wasn’t exactly in control of the situation.  Once again my Guardian Angel had to take the reins.  Next time Karen can add one more flight to her itinerary -- perhaps one originating in Coldfoot, Alaska.

Lacking any photos from this portion of our road trip, this seems like a good time to add images of several of the paintings I completed at Cape Meares, Oregon and Olympic National Park in Washington.  I didn't post them earlier due to the large number or irresistible photos Karen took during these segments of our trip.

                          Cape Meares  9 x 12 inches  Alkyd on Raymar Panel

                Cape Meares Shoreline  9 x 12 inches  Alkyd on Raymar Panel

On several different mornings I wandered from the cluster of houses and vacation rentals marked on Google Maps as Cape Meares -- down to the long sandy beach on the north side of actual cape.  Warm shirt-sleeve temperatures, the roar of the surf with waves racing up the beach only to ebb before reaching the logs on which I sat while painting these images -- I can't imagine a better way to start a new day.

                             Cheese Country  9 x 12 inches  Alkyd on Raymar Panel

Before driving to Cape Meares, Karen and I were told the drive between nearby Tillamook (famous for it's cheeses) and Portland was a beautiful route.  In the end, we opted to travel along the coast, but on one day I set out to spend a few hours painting at least one canvas along that route.  Much to my dismay, I immediately ran into construction with a flagger ahead.  Not known for a lot of patience in these situations, I set off on a side road.  Sure enough, a pasture framed by a low mountain (by Alaska standards) caught my eye.  I did take one liberty with this one, though.  I moved the barns.  I didn't think the cows would mind.

                         Wild Water at Rialto  9 x 12 inches  Alkyd on Raymar Panel

Onward from Oregon, Karen and I drove north to Rialto Beach, near Forks, Washington and part of Olympic National Park.  There, a steeper beach seemed wilder, the driftwood more massive and piled higher.  It's one of our favorite beaches.

                             Along the Hoh  9 x 12 inches  Alkyd on Raymar Panel

Karen knew I wanted to paint in the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, yet she has vertigo and gazing skyward at enormous old-growth trees would be her undoing.  So, bless her heart, she insisted she wanted a day of down time lazing around our B and B, Manitou Lodge, while I fulfilled my longing.  It rained most of the way to the Hoh, then quit and bathed the forest in sunshine as I drove into the Park.  However, it took me awhile to find a suitable location.  I'm a shy painter and try to avoid places where I'll be discovered.  The Park road is narrow with virtually no shoulders.  Most pull offs had multiple parking lanes, even though cars were few and far between.  I kept hunting -- until I found one track where I could pull off the road, wander into the forest and set up.  I couldn't have been more content although the sun disappeared shortly after I set up my easel.  Still, the rains remained a bay until literally the moment I returned to the car to head home.  And then it just plain poured.  Nice timing, I'd say.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Art Show Continues

Our last blog post included images of paintings Karen and I exhibited the first Friday of December at Petersburg’s Wild Celery.  We had a good turnout for the event but, unfortunately, Karen had the worst bout of vertigo she has ever experienced -- perfectly timed to coincide with the opening.  All she could do was sit in a chair and not look up.  Just her presence at the affair was testimony to her courage.

In all we had 19 paintings -- 14 of mine, 4 of Karen’s and 1 collaboration.  I know I sound greedy, but initially I was scheduled to be the artist for the show.  However, when Karen got so involved in one painting we decided that a joint show would be more fun.  Thus, while I had lots of time to prepare, Karen produced her pieces in a much shorter time frame.  We showed all but one of hers in the last post so we'll include the missing one this time.  Below you’ll find a few more paintings from the show:

                          South Side Beach Fringe  18 x 24 inches  Alkyd on Canvas 

Last June we included photographs from a trip to Agate Beach on the south side of Kupreanof Island in our post -- A Special Place.  One photo from the trip particularly appealed to me as a painting subject -- an image of the forest adjacent to the shoreline -- termed beach fringe.  As a biologist, I've come to appreciate this important area for wildlife in the Tongass National Forest .  It's the area that deer are forced into during winters with deep snows, an area where they can hopefully forage when movement and access to food in higher elevation habitat is restricted by the snow.

                           The Old Beaver Pond  18 x 24 inches  Alkyd on Canvas

Canoeing up Blind Slough years ago I explored a side tributary to see where it lead.  Much to my surprise I discovered a large beaver pond.  Some years later I decided to canoe across the pond.  Dragging my canoe up the creek with detours over chest-high wind thrown logs overgrown with dense blueberry and devil's club thickets I eagerly anticipated climbing over the beaver dam and into uncharted territory.  Aaack!  The dam had been breached.  All that remained was a vast meadow.  However, I still had the old photos taken during that rainy outing.  The photos included images of snags in the area flooded by the beaver.  However upon reaching this juncture I decided one advantage artists who paint have over photographers is we can leave out whatever we want.  I liked the painting at this point so...  Maybe one day I'll try another composition which includes the snags.

                          Last Light on the Range  12 x 24 inches  Alkyd on Canvas

Every time Karen and I see the Coast Range with alpenglow highlighting the high peaks, we wish we had our cameras with us.  But not always, because often we don't need to wish -- we do have them handy.  Thus we have a large selection of photos taken from Petersburg of one of our most exciting views.  This painting was completed from one of them.
  Why Snowmen Don't Have Noses  16 x 20 inches  Acrylic on Gessoboard by Karen

At last -- Something by Karen.  She didn't begin this painting until the weekend before the show's opening, but once she started, her whimsical side poured out.  It's based on the image from her studio window, but somehow our cabin -- before being remodeled turned around and moved across Wrangell Avenue.  Wow, I hope she isn't predicting an earthquake that could do that.  It also seems that our local deer herd likes carrots (now how would Karen know that?).  Thus you certainly can't expect any snowman around here to retain that part of it's anatomy.  There's plenty to see in this one.  Karen says she "felt like she was a kid again" as the paint flowed from her brush.  

                                  Rugged Range  12 x 16 inches  Alkyd on Canvas

Driving "out the road" from Petersburg a gap in the mountains that dominate our island reveals a glimpse of the Coast Range.  Of course we've photographed it more than once.  I began this painting basing it on one such photo, a telephoto shot with the idea of abstracting the scene.  I did, so don't try to hold this image up to the actual scene and expect to be identify every rock, crevice, tree and eagle on top of a snag.

                          Turn of the Season  18 x 24 inches  Alkyd on Canvas

Last spring, before the meadows greened up, Karen and I wandered about Blind Slough with our cameras.  It's a favorite time of year because you can actually see where you put your feet -- not in deep snow or wading through waist high grass.  We photographed plenty of potential painting subjects that day and here is the first to emerge from that wonderful outing.

                            Alaska Monolith   12 x 16 inches  Alkyd on Gessoboard

This is the one painting from our show, titled Our Rainforest Home, that isn't from this corner of Alaska.  It's a mountain one views driving towards Hatcher Pass in the southern end of Alaska's Talkeetna Mountains.  I planned to paint an abstracted version of the scene, but somehow got pulled back into the representational mode because I was so enchanted by the actual vista.  Now that I have that out of my system, maybe I should try to do the abstraction again.

We have a few more in the show, but this gives you an idea of what it was all about.  It's still up this week so if any readers have the opportunity, come on down to Wild Celery.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Our Rainforest Home -- An Art Show

Next weekend marks the opening of the first Don and Karen Cornelius Art Show.  The event, which features paintings by each of us and one combined effort, is titled Our Rainforest Home.  It opens the first Friday of December (Dec. 6th) at Petersburg's Wild Celery Gallery from 5 to 7 PM.  Thus, instead of resuming tales of our fall travels, once again we are deviating from our plan to share a sneak preview of the show.  We hope any local blog readers can break loose for at least a few minutes to see what we’ve been up to.  They always look better in real life.

                             Courtship  12 x 24 inches  Acrylic on Canvas by Karen

Karen is hooked on photographing our local ravens and crows so any time she ventures forth with her camera she is likely to return home with images of these amusing birds.  After conceiving the idea for this painting she searched through her hundreds of digital files of corvids and picked out her raven "models" for the painting.  As for the foreground branch, she dragged a few broken branches into her studio, plopped them on the table she paints on and... viola she had her painting -- as well as a few spiders and a small pile of moss, lichens, and broken twigs on the table.

                             Fresh Snow 2  12 x 16 inches  Alkyd on Canvas  by Don

I based this painting on a photo Karen took one blustery day late last winter when old growth trees along Blind Slough were sheltering the forest floor from blowing snow.  I was drawn to the unusually colorful mosses contrasting with the fresh snow on the ground in this area.  It's one of two paintings in the show based on photos Karen took that day.  

         Fledglings in the Blueberry Patch  9 x 12 inches  Acrylic on Canvas by Karen

American robins seem to be a ubiquitous species across North America and they thrive on our southeast Alaskan island.  Their newly fledged young have a lot of learning to do about the ways of predators, so while they are still young and innocent they are no match for Karen with her camera.  As a result she has a collection of robin fledgling photos which she drew on for this painting.  As for blueberries, there is no shortage of patches around here.

                 Northbound Impressions 12 x 16 inches  Alkyd on Gessoboard by Don

During a ferry ride north a couple of years ago Karen and I thoroughly relished taking photos of mountain vistas that might make good painting subjects.  One image, in particular, seemed to fit into my abstraction painting motif  -- if I could just play with the shapes and forget all the little crevices, rock outcrops and spruce needles..  It's hard for me to break away from more representational pieces, but when I can , I'm always (OK, often) happy with the result.

                          Siskins Settling In  9 x 12 inches  watercolor by Karen

We had an irruption of pine siskins this past spring and it didn't take them long to find the array of bird feeders Karen is constantly rearranging around our deck and yard.  Often, when competition is intense (like maybe 50 of these tame birds all vying for five or six feeders) and a few dominant males seem determined to hoard an entire months stash of sunflower seeds just for themselves, less competitive birds will dash in, grab a seed and retreat to a hemlock branch to consume their meal in peace.  One of their favorite branches is right out Karen's studio window.  Thus the "seed" for Siskins Settling In began to germinate in Karen' mind.

                          As Far As We Go  12 x 16 inches  Alkyd on Canvas by Don

It seems the majority of times when Karen and I have had a chance to go to LeConte Glacier, we end up concluding this is "as far as we go."  Once again thick ice conditions, ice bergs calved from LeConte Glacier, block safe passage.  Occasionally we see the face of the glacier, if only from three miles away, but more often we are content with savoring the myriad of shapes and sounds of the ice pack.  As Far As We Go marks the turn around point on one such effort to get to the glacier.

      Suppertime in Gnomeland  12 x 16 inches  Alkyd on Canvas by Don and Karen

Seeing some paintings of night scenes in art magazines and on the internet gave birth to the idea of doing our own version of a nocturnal subject.  Could we pull one off featuring our gnomes?  With a joint planning session and Karen's critiquing my ongoing efforts, the two of us collaborated in creating "Suppertime in Gnomeland. " It wouldn't have been painted without the involvement of both of us.

This is a sample of the approximately 16 paintings we'll have in the show.  If you're in town the night of December 6th or sometime during the following week, we hope you'll stop by Wild Celery to see what we've been up to.  You can find Wild Celery's web presence on their Facebook page.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

An Alaska Ferry Tale

Somehow our road trip has shifted into the realm of lock problems.  Thus, while we’re in that sphere, we’re going to briefly digress from our fall travels.  While we still have more of our autumn travels to relate -- this seems to be a good time to add this event from a previous road trip.  It happened during a ferry ride from Petersburg to Haines, Alaska in May, 2010.  I wrote a poem about the event after we returned home.  We’ll include a few photos from our past ferry voyages at the end.

An Alaska Ferry Tale

On a ferry voyage, sleep has it’s worth
So we made reservations, a two bunk berth.
To twenty eight B, we followed the sign
Karen led the way in, said “the top spot is mine.”

I followed along and shut the door tight.
She pecked me a kiss and bid me good night.
Me, I was restless, I’d graze the cafeteria
When traveling or not, food’s in my criteria.

If she’d give me the key there’d be no need to knock
“Uh oh, “ she said, “it’s outside in the lock.”
I turned the door handle, but it just turned back
That door latch was jammed like a wedge in a crack.

With the key in it’s slot and us in the room
We were trapped in our berth, like a babe in a womb.
This door had a knob, that with the key in it’s slot
To go from within to without was a thing you could not.

I pulled out my knife, I’d settle the score
I’d pry that thing open, I’d done it before
I scraped and I twisted, as I started to sweat,
But that lock would not yield, had our fate we now met?

Fear crept up my spine as it occurred to me
We might never be found in twenty eight B.
Karen hopped out of bed, wearing nary a stitch
She’d get us some help, this was only a glitch.

She banged on the walls, stuffed a note through the door
Bellowed a yoo hoo, with a soprano-like roar.
All the while wearing not a shred of her clothes.
Should I laugh or cry at her ridiculous pose.

But rescue ne’r came, we’d not be discovered
By some wayfaring trav'ler who’d find her uncovered.
Was this the end, would we both die at sea
Spend the rest of our days in twenty eight B

Would some refurbishing crew in a shipyard some year
Open that door and two skeletons appear
One with a knife worn down to a hair
The other it would seem exceedingly bare

Back at that lock I worked like a fiend,
I was ruining my knife, as that door latch I reamed.
Scraping and clawing, I gouged and I swore
And as I spent my last wit...I opened the door.

Out on the deck a grizzled watchman I found
Wandering the ship, just making his rounds.
I queried the old man, “in his years at sea,
Had anyone been lost in twenty eight B?”

He scratched his head, then laughed to the core
“Twas a new one on him, it never happened before.”
Of course I muttered, as I headed for bed
“Only my wife,” is the last thing I said.

                    Karen captures the passing scene with her camera while I capture Karen.

Passengers in the forward lounge scan for perhaps whales or a passing boat or even a new bird species.

Up on the solarium deck a couple of young women discover a point of interest in upper Lynn Canal.

               Even a crew member gets a break in time to relish the last rays of the sun.

                                        The setting sun reflected in the ferry's wake.

A passing northbound ferry on a hazy (smoke from interior forest fires) in upper Lynn Canal.

              Smooth sailing on an Alaska Ferry.  Can travel at sea be any more pleasant?

                     OK, sometimes there's a bit of chop to add a little interest to a voyage.

                          Ah, but there always seems to be smooth sailing ahead. 

Now that we have you primed, you can find out more about this unique mode of Alaska-style transportation at Viking Travel.  Maybe we'll see you in the cafeteria (after we get the door unlocked).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Locked Out, In and Out Again

Staying in an isolated cabin at Moon Mountain cabin rentals near Packwood, Washington, I opted to leave the door unlocked as we headed into town -- never taking into consideration how Karen's wayfaring sleeve could trip the locking mechanism. Thus, when I headed back inside through the record-breaking rain for my camera (why was I even thinking of taking my camera with me anyway?) we were locked out.

Oh please be here we prayed as we headed to another cabin we thought the owner lived in.  No answer, but the door was unlocked.  When we checked in she had said we could use her phone anytime.  We figured that moment qualified so after a long search we found it , but no phone directory.  Actually that didn't matter since we had no idea where to call anyway.

Wringing our hands in despair we contemplated how to spend the day where flood and landslide warnings dominated the news.  Even so, how could we survive without our cameras?  As our spirits bottomed out, we spotted her dog herding two children across a meadow.  Children!  Dog!  Just follow them.   Sure enough, rescue was at hand.  I still can't help but wonder why, in that terrible storm they just "happened" to be out at the precise moment we needed their guidance.

                                      The forest around Moon Mountain cabins.

Less than 24 hours later, with her raincoat zipped to her neck, Karen exited the local grocery store.  Ducking out of the rain, she slammed the car door on the one part of her ensemble that remained at large. -- the trailing tail of her raincoat.  Karen was pinned to her seat.  ”Help,” she cried.  OK, Honey, just pop the door open and... oh oh, it wouldn't open.  No amount of pulling on the handle and shoving would budge it.  I tried from the outside while Karen pushed from the inside.   Same conclusion.  Karen was locked in her raincoat inside the car.  I figured we could just cancel her flight to Iowa in two days and I could bring her bread and water -- until, figuring sacrificing my fingers was a mere pittance when compared to my sweetheart's freedom, I managed to wedge my fingers in the crack of the door and, with her desperately pushing from within, free her.

                               Looking Towards Mt. Rainier through the car windshield.

                   A close-up view of our view of where Mt. Rainier is reportedly located.

“Needing” an encore, I arrived home several weeks later at 11:30 PM sans Karen (she was in Iowa for a few more days).  Fatigue reigned.  I just wanted to get in the house and go to bed -- after one last chore -- turn on the hot water.  OK, I must admit I'm a woosie, but I'll take a hot water bath over it's cold water alternative every time.   The water heater resides in our basement -- the part of our house you still have to go outside to get inside.  For probably the first time in it’s history we had locked that door when we set off on the trip.  Too tired to even get a flashlight to see the latch (how much light does one need to put a key in a lock anyway?) I knew I could feel my way through it.  Wrong.  In a nutshell I ended up with two half keys.  One half in the lock and the “handle” of the key in my hand. 

I knew you can open doors with credit cards, but looking at the seal on the door frame (now I had the flashlight) I figured, not this door.  I called the police.  Is there a locksmith in town?  “You have to be kidding.”  I slept intermittently that night imagining ways I could get in -- like sawing the handle off. 

The next morning, before setting off to buy a hack saw, I thought I should at least give the ultimate problem solving resource a try -- YouTube.  Sure enough.  Some kid had a post using the credit card trick on a door just like ours.  His video showed the right way to do it.  I gave it a shot and in one quarter the time it would take to use a key I was in.  Another prayer answered.

We got a glimpse of surrounding mountains during lulls in the storm, the remnants of typhoon Pabuk which "turned into a monster" over the Gulf of Alaska (why do we always get blamed for these kinds of things).

                              The Cascade Range east of Packwood during the storm.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Treasure Hunter

If you asked me to consolidate Karen’s favorite activities under one label, I’d have to say treasure hunting.  Like a basset hound catching the scent of a snowshoe hare, she’ll strike out on a treasure hunt at every opportunity.  Had she been born in the 17th or so century, she probably would have tailed pirates to dig up the chests of gold and jewels they buried on desert islands.

Fortunately times have changed so Karen has been forced to find other outlets for her passion -- activities like the quest for the ultimate bargain at thrift stores, pretty rocks on beaches or the photo ops that most of us never notice.

These activities have become a major part of our road trips.  After blowing it numerous times, I’ve finally learned that whenever we pass a sign that says “Thrift,” “Used,”  “Salvation Army” "Goodwill" or “Value Village” the wisest course of action is to surrender -- just turn off the road and savor the glow in her eyes -- like we find so endearing in young Children on Christmas morning.  Forget covering miles, forget the passage of time, just enjoy her look of triumph when she emerges with an expensive Norwegian sweater or delicately printed blouse worn perhaps once. 

I’ve tried the tactic of saying “how about if I come back in an hour,” certain that she’ll see how ridiculous that sounds since we only have a few hours left in the day to get to a destination that is exactly that far away.  “Wonderful,” she’ll say and off she prance into a store about the size of a large closet to spend the allotted time trying on every sweater they have on the racks.  When she returns she may have just one or maybe none and will be fast friends with the clerk and have exchanged email addresses with half the clientele in the store. 

Then again, she may have real treasure.  Here in Petersburg, she once spent 50 cents on an externally beat up folder of prints of fish and wildlife from the state of New York.  Since I had graduated from high school in NY, she thought I might be interested.  “Wow,” I said.  “I wonder who the artist was?”  Denton!  A few hours later, after looking up the value of all 50 of the prints, still in mint condition, we realized that Karen had scored $5,000 worth of artwork for that 50 cents.  Not a bad return on her investment!

Since we never seem to see these “treasure” shops where I want to set up my easel, painting locations need to be selected where there is a beach or at least a river where she can wander about in search of another kind of treasure, the ultimate rock.  Those quests are perfect since she forgets all about time when she’s out in the natural world. 

This year I figured I could get some painting in if we opted for five nights at Manitou Lodge near Rialto Beach on the northwest coast of Washington.  It’s an isolated fragment of Olympic National Park where rock treasures abound.  Unfortunately for my artistic objectives, I got so caught up in photographing the rocks, the pounding surf and the sunsets that I neglected to do much painting.  

            The forest around Manitou Lodge often lured us away from Rialto Beach

As for Karen she packed enough rocks home that the US Geological Survey is going to have to remap the coasts of Washington and Alaska to account for all the rocks transferred north in our sagging car.  It was her personal contribution to continental drift.  Ah, but that Christmas-morning glow in her eyes as she stacked the rocks in the car made it all worth it.

A couple is caught in the foamy surf that continuously pounds the shoreline of Rialto Beach, waves that over countless millennia shape the cobbles on the beach.

Judging by the number of personal examples of rock art that we saw, Karen is not alone in her fascination with the rocks on Rialto Beach.

                        Piles like this abound on driftwood logs all along the beach

       Even the waves themselves contribute to decorating driftwood with polished rocks.

                   Another treasure for Karen, this photo op with a Savannah Sparrow.

Further down the coast, Ruby Beach, another isolated fragment of Olympic National Park provides more opportunities for photography and rock hunting...

As well as playing with hyperactive dogs.  (Yes, the dog is in mid air)  Here the rocks were more scattered, but no less fascinating.

                             Karen's discovery of natural foam art on Ruby Beach

The front row of trees along Rialto Beach never ceased to excite us, particularly at sunset.

                      Back home, Karen sorts her latest contribution to continental drift.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Acres and Acres of Foam

Foam invaded our personal space at the Heron’s Nest Vacation Rental in Cape Meares, Oregon.  Four adults (our daughter Mandy and her Mike, Karen and I) have about as much experience with an electric dishwasher as Lewis and Clark had with renting a vacation rental on the Oregon coast.  Thus, as usual, we just washed dishes by hand during our entire week -- that is until we read the instructions for leaving the house.  "Put the dishes in the dishwasher and turn it on as you leave." Maybe we should practice.

OK, no problem.  Let’s see -- two bottles and the small one we know is dish soap.  The big one must be dishwasher soap, so we’ll just pour some of this fluid in the cup for washing.  Oh heck, let’s put some in the rinse cup, too.  Fill ‘em up.  We want these dishes clean.

Somewhere in dishwasher manuals a warning must be inscribed -- always read the label on soap bottles.  We didn’t have one of those and probably wouldn’t have read the fine print anyway.  It's obvious dirty dishes need soap. 

The first sign of impending disaster came when Mandy noticed a wall of foam creeping across the kitchen floor -- like something from a scene cut from a Steven Spielberg sci fi movie because it was too scary.  As we started running around in all directions -- get a mop -- get some towels -- do something -- help -- it was apparent the foam was gushing in copious quantities from the bottom of the dishwasher.

An urgent call to the manager of the rental led to the conclusion that we had used dish soap which is not the substance of choice for dishwashers -- that there is a distinct difference between dishwasher soap and dish soap.  As usual it’s exhilarating to expand your knowledge base.

Thus, we had a memorable evening bailing the dishwasher of acres of foam, refilling it with rinse water and bailing again.  How much foam can one of these machines hold?  Certainly enough to fill a pool at a hot springs resort to overflowing, I’d say.

    Everyone was in a state of panic as we scooped acres of foam from the dishwasher.

The dishes, you may ask.  Oh, we abandoned the machine to wash them by hand.  The next day when we left, they were all put away in the cabinets.

But nothing at Cape Meares could remotely compare in volume with our second encounter with foam at Rialto Beach on the northwest coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.  There it came in the form of a biology merges with chemistry merges with physics lesson.  We’ve always noticed foam and bubbles in ocean surf.  In fact, adding it to seascape paintings is like lighting the candles on a birthday cake.  It shows you really know your "stuff."  However, at Rialto Beach, it seemed like we had returned to a sci fi movie set.

                                           Foam rolling in at Rialto Beach

                            Foam dampens the waves as they roll into the shore.

After extensive research about the situation (I asked a National Park Ranger followed by looking up sea foam on Wikipedia) we learned that warm ocean temperatures this fall had produced a bloom of diatoms -- one celled plankton of which there may be as many as 100,000 species.  Alas, we neglected to bring a microscope on this trip so we could key them out.  So much for our quest for scientific knowledge.

Anyway, when the reported 16-foot seas started breaking down the algal blooms, the dissolved organic matter acted like foaming agents (surfactants -- sticky molecules that separate water from air). -- like dish soap in a dishwasher.  The agitation of the these surfactants by the churning waves along the shoreline traps air in bubbles that stick together until you get foam -- acre upon acre of foam.  During one of our evenings at Rialto Beach the sea foam was so thick that, as it washed up on the shore, winds blew it landward until it piled up on the top of driftwood logs sometimes several feet deep.  

Yes, it's all sea foam.  Somehow this doesn't look like the classic seascape painting subject.
As a consequence, although Karen tried her best to find the perfect rock to bring home from that Beach, we can only surmise that it was hidden somewhere under piles and piles of sea foam.  However, she did manage to find enough substitutes that our car groaned from all the added weight of rocks piles stacked under and behind the seats.

                       Karen, the rock hunter forced up into the driftwood logs by foam.

             Sea foam blown clear up into the trees before it really started to get thick.

Sea foam is comprised of bubbles (it seems to me they should be called sea bubbles) that pile up together following the laws of physics.  These laws mandate they have the minimum surface area which just happens to be a sphere. 

Never mind the spheres.  Karen was more interested in a different attribute of the sea foam.  The piles washed up on the beaches took on all kinds of forms -- like cloud watching converted to bubble watching.

                 ...Bubble watching sometimes augmented by Karen's whimsical side.