Friday, March 21, 2014

Turn About's Fair Play

"Snapshots from the trip"
Click the first image to see it bigger.
These pictures were borrowed from the internet
from several different sites.  The links to the pages from which
I borrowed the images are at the bottom of the page.

This is a new story which is in the "writing-down-the-Bones" stage--it's a first rough draft. (*I may change the title)  Since this is a first rough draft, I will not apologize for errors and omissions.

Turn About's Fair Play*
                No one has seen Uncle Beast.  Trey and I asked everyone we met, fishermen in their boats, fisherman on the docks, kids swimming, some ladies having a picnic, and no one has seen him since the fisherman this morning, the first ones we asked. 
                "I can’t understand it," I tell Trey.  I am afraid Trey will want to take back his canoe. This must be really boring for him.  But I don't want to jinx myself by saying it out loud.
                "Do you think he'd leave the river?" Trey asks. 
                I say no.  Then I think about it a little more.  Meanwhile, we're drifting downstream.  Downriver, rather, of course.  "Beast might tie up and go for booze," I say, "If he couldn't find any on the river."
                "But then he'd come back?" Trey asks. Of course, Trey doesn't know Uncle Beast, he's never met him; he's barely met me, since he caught me stealing his canoe this morning.
                "I don't think Uncle Beast would leave the river.  He wants to ride the raft all the way down it, like Huckleberry Finn.  It's been a dream of his ever since I can remember."
                "Maybe he's hiding on us.  Or on you.  He probably doesn't know about me."
                "That's just what I was thinking," I said, "Exactly. Unless he saw us going by together."
                "Two can play at that game,"" Trey says, "or three.  Why don't we hide on him?"
                "Well, for one thing, if he did leave the river to get drunk, we won't be able to stop him.   1 want to keep him from drinking.  He's all depressed about stuff that happened when he was in Iraq, and the doctor says that if he drinks again, it could possibly kill him."
                "We didn't see the raft coming down.  We could go look for it, but we might pass him again, and going upriver will be harder.  And, if he's got a mind to drink, I don't see how you're going to stop him."
                "I know.  I've been thinking about that, believe me.  I feel as if this whole scheme of mine is totally harebrained.  I feel like a dunce.  I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I didn't think it would be that hard.  I thought that if I went with him and stayed with him, he wouldn't drink.  My parents forbid me from going.  They said Uncle Beast (only they called him your uncle David(?)) had a dangerous addiction and it wasn't something to trifle with.  I really thought I could help.  Maybe I should just go home."
                "Let's hide on him and see if he comes.  If he does come, we'll see how he is, and then decide.  If he doesn't come, we'll go back to my house and my parents can help you get home."
                We find a super spot to hide.  Two trees lean into the water in graceful arching curves, down nearly to the river's surface, and then up again.  We've backed in between them and the leaves and branches hide us from view, but we can see out.
                Trey goes ashore by climbing onto one of the trees and running up the trunk to shore like a monkey.  He's going to pee and then see if he can find something edible.  I admitted I hadn't eaten and was hungry.  But I hope he hurries.  What if Beast comes by while he's messing around?
                I am getting dozy.  My head keeps dropping.  I can't afford to sleep.  Beast could slip by.
                Ah, here comes a rescue party, a gang of mosquitoes whining in around me in a cloud from inside the branches and leaves.  That will wake me up for sure.  But where is Trey?
                Oh, snap!  There's Beast and Killer.  They are poling along under the trees across the river, which is wider here than it has been.  I look frantically around for Trey, and then here a thump.  The canoe jerks upward on my end as it sinks downward on his, like a teeter-totter.  I almost fall out as a flail to catch my balance, swinging my arms and accidentally dropping the paddle that was resting across my knees.  It slips into the water and shoots away under the trees toward shore.
                I'm thinking, "Oh snap, I've lost one of Trey's paddles and Beast is getting away."
                The trees are too low to paddle under, but Trey is good.  We slide out from our spot, clearing the low trees by about a foot, and slide back in on the other side, close enough to maybe grab the paddle.  I almost fall in headfirst reaching for it, but Trey gives an extra tiny push and I snag it.
                Our attention is focused on the paddle, and when we back out again, Beast, Killer and raft have vanished.  I stare at the spot where I'd last seen them, but nothing moves other than the ripples in the river and the leaves on the trees.  The treetops sway slightly, leaving east in the small breeze. 
                I can't imagine that Beast would go back upstream/upriver, unless he spotted us.  I can see under the trees for quite some distance, probably farther than Beast could have traveled at the rate he was going.
                It occurs to me that there might possibly be an unseen hiding place along there somewhere, like the ones Beast and I tied up in several times before.  We always looked for places to hide so that we wouldn't be troubled by thieves and other scoundrels, as Pa would say. 
                I explain my theory to Trey and he agrees immediately, and we paddle upriver at our edge, where the current is the weakest and we're party sheltered by overhanging trees, in case Beast can see out from where he is.  When we're up high enough to cut across and end up above where we spotted him, we paddle hard for the other shore.  The current takes us down, and paddle as we might, we still end up below where we wanted to be. 
                Now it occurs to me that I should have attempted a disguise, so Beast would not recognize me.  Too bad I didn't think of that sooner. 
                I had marked a tree in my mind as the last spot we saw Beast, and we'd only been looking away a brief time, getting the paddle.  He could not have gotten too far on the raft, which is not a speedy craft to say the least.
                The tree I'd marked in my mind was a box elder with a lot of whitish blue sucker shoots, and tabled in the sucker shoots was a blue plastic bag, probably windborne, and below that, a yellow plastic bag, probably waterborne from the river was high after a rain.
                There are several other box elders with bags in them, and at first, I think I might have misremembered, but finally I spot the right one, and Trey agrees.  We're whispering, in case Beast is nearby.  We can't believe how far we drifted downriver in spite our hard paddling.
                As we're approaching the tree with the blue and yellow bags, Trey points.  I follow his gaze and spot an inlet, screened by low-hanging leaves.  It looks too narrow for the raft, but it is just the kind of spot Beast liked to camp at night. 
                Only it's not night, so if he's in there, he could be armed and dangerous.  When whisper this to Trey, he looks worried.
                "Does he have a gun?" he asks.  Beast is a soldier, back from Iraq.  He knows how to shoot.  But I don't think he has a gun.  What if I'm wrong?
                "I meant, armed with beer or something worse.  That makes him turn into a monster, into a beast.  We have to be careful.  He probably won't hurt us, but if we surprise him, startle him . . ." I trail off, suddenly worried about Trey and his safety.  I may have done a stupid thing, allowing him to come.  This whole venture, right from the beginning, is probably ill-advised, as Pa would say.
                Still, here we are, so we paddle though the narrow opening, ducking under the leaves, and there's the raft, just like that.  No sign of Beast, but know where he is.  He's the tent, with Killer.  And the booze. 
                I make a very tiny whistle, like the sound of a wood thrush deep in the forest, and then a little quiet down-spiraling song of the veery.  The tent bounces, the whole rafts shifts from side to side, and there is the sound of frantic barking followed by high-pitched yelping.  Killer recognizes my secret call.
                "Tiny?" I hear Beast's sleepy voice, and I'm afraid we're too late. 
                I spot a case of Bud, just outside the door.  Beast isn't usually fond of Budweiser.  He calls it “swill” and prefers something darker, like Black and Tan.  He hates wheat beer.  I don't like any kind of beer, but if I had to drink it for some reason, I'd choose wheat beer.  This is one of the areas where Beast and I are different.
                "Yeah, it's me, Beast, me and Trey."
                "Who's Trey?"
                "He's the guy whose canoe I stole after you abandoned me, Beast!  That wasn't nice of you."
                "You were being a pain, Tiny, watching my every move like a hawk."
                "But, Beast, I was trying to take care of you.  The doctor said  . . ."
                "I know what the doctor said, he said I could die.  Fuck the doctor, Fuck Death, Fuck the army.  Why do I want to live, anyway, after what happened to Sadhi and Carl and Fred and Angelina?  And everyone?"
                I've had snippets of the story, but most of those people were in the army with Beast and were blown up and killed by land mines.  Sadhi was a little girl whose parents had been killed and Beast was taking care of her in the parent's hut.  It was near the base, and he slipped food to her and stuff and apparently, someone killed her because she was friends with army guy.  A little girl.  He says they did bad things to her and wouldn't tell me what, so of course, I probably know what and it makes me sick.  I don't like to think about it.  I'd be upset if I were Beast, I am upset, but I don't want him to die, too.
                "If you die, Beast, you're depriving me and Pa and Ma of someone we love, and depriving yourself of your future, and you're letting the 911 terrorists win and the evil people who kill children win.  Is that what you want?"
                "Go away, Tiny.  Leave me alone."
                Trey had been silently paddling the canoe close to the raft.  I stepped out of the canoe onto the raft and was startled to see that the case of Bud had not been opened.  Did he have something else in the tent?
                I pick up the case and stagger to the canoe and hand it to Trey, pointing out toward the river.  He understands, and back-paddles. 
                Meanwhile tent is bouncing around like Crazy.  Killer was trying to get to me. 
                “I'm coming in,” I say, and unzipped the tent.  I am immediately knocked flat on my back by Killer, who is licking my face with gallons of dog slobber.
                I sit up, hugging Killer, and look in at Beast, fearing the worst.  He’s curled up in the fetal position on his sleeping bag, and he’s been crying.  No sign of a bottle.  I crawl in and put my arms around him.  His shoulders are shaking.  I try to surreptitiously sniff his breath, and don’t smell beer or wine or liquor.
                I start crying, too.  I was so frightened that I had failed in my mission, but hadn’t let myself know how scared I was. 
                Trey crawls into the tent and plops down right over the top of both of us with his arms around us and begins singing quietly.  At first, I am too upset to listen.  Then, I realize he is singing in French.  The tune seems vaguely familiar. I can’t catch all the words at first, but finally, I make them out. 
Il √©tait un petit navire, qui n’avait ja-ja-jamais navigu√©.”  Trey sings it through several times, and when I start understanding it, it seems like the worst thing to sing.  It’s about people on a boat who run out of food.  They draw straws to see which one will be sacrificed and it’s the small child who draws the short straw.  I start crying harder when I realize this, because it seems so perfectly wrong for Beast, but Trey only sings louder. 
When “les petits poissons” or the little fish, jump into the boat so they have something to eat, I start laughing and can’t stop.  Trey keeps singing, and I can tell now that Beast is listening too.  Then he surprises me, by sitting up in such a way that I am sitting on one of his legs and Trey on the other, and he begins singing in his surprisingly deep bass voice, harmonizing with Trey.  He knows the song.  From far back in my memory, I see an image of Beast before we called him beast, when he was just David (?), singing the song to me in French when I was tiny.  His voice hadn’t changed then, and was so sweet and high.

                The tune is catchy. I hum along, picking up the words, remembering them, too, from someplace deep inside.  And the three of us sing and sing and sing.

links to images:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Making Homemade Block Print Christmas Cards

drawing the block print design

carving the block print design

inking the block print design

first block print

block print inside

printing the block print cards and drying them
Making Homemade Christmas block print cards is a slow and tedious process with many opportunities to mess things up or even even ruin the work.  There is no undo button.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

ArtRage: skulls

One of my ArtRage paintings: skulls

Monday, March 28, 2011

Jacob, Merjon, and the Great Fish (or, and the Sea Witch)

This is the first draft (well, draft 1.5 or 2) of new story for a children's picture book and novel. It is for my grandson, Frankie, who shortly will be 5 months old.


Jacob Merjon and the Great Dream Fish
by Mary Stebbins Taitt, second draft (1.5, really!)

Back in the times when there was still magic in the world, yesterday, or the day before, Jacob, who gathered crabs and clams, lived with his fisher-folk parents. The times were changing and magic came less and less often, and many people said it was gone from the world, but Jacob knew better.

When Jacob was out clamming in the fog, he had seen merwomen and mermen rise out of the water, riding on the backs of dolphins, and had often wished he could do that, too. He knew that the word mer simply meant sea. These were the sea folk, who were blessed, in these days of fading magic, with more magic than the landfolk.
One day, when Jacob had bagged his clams in nets and set them in a shallow tide pool to stay alive until later, he went exploring, as he liked to do. He swam out to a little island with a rocky cliff around it. He saw no way up the cliffs, so he swam to the other side. The waves there crashed hard on the rocks, and Jacob almost turned back, but he saw a crack in the rocks, and swimming hard against the power of the crashing waves and the suck of the undertow, he slipped through the crack to a small beach.
A boy his own age was sitting on a rock in the water staring at the sky, and he turned to look at Jacob, and smiled. "I've been waiting for you," he said. I was hoping you would come."
When Jacob swam close, and sat beside the boy, he saw that the boy was a mer child. Under the water, which was clear and still in the tiny bay, Jacob could see that the boy had a tail instead of legs. He sat in the water beside him.
"You,” said the boy, “are not the 7th son of the 7th son, but you have the seed somehow, in spite of this discrepancy. You have the sight, the ability to learn magic. That happens only extremely rarely, so you are truly blessed."
"I thought magic was leaving the world," said Jacob.
"No. It's going into a hiding. That's almost the same thing. But the sea witch has seen you seeing us, and she knows. She will visit you soon, if you give the word."
"What is the word? And what will happen?" asked Jacob.
"Have you heard of the great fish?
"You mean the whale that swallowed Jonah?"
Not exactly, explained the boy. "My name is Merjon Marlin. (In expended story, he becomes Merjon Merlin) You can call me Jon. I am the seventh son of a seventh son, something that doesn't happen often, even among our people. We have fewer children now that we are withdrawing from the world. So seven happens very rarely."
"According to our people, there is a great fish dreaming the world. It is he who dreamed your sight. He swallows people, humans and mer people, and they ride in his belly and learn to see the world in a new way. Then he either digests them, or spits them out. It depends on what you see from inside him.
“Did you ride inside him? Yes. What did you see? I am forbidden to say. Everyone sees something different, according to his or her nature. But how will I know if it is safe?" You won't. But if you do it and succeed, we will be friends, and you can swim under the sea and play with me, and I can walk on land and play with you."
"I can't promise anything, said Merjon, the merboy, but I can tell you this: the point of being swallowed by the fish is to test you for magic, and even though you are not the seventh son of a seventh son, I know you're magic, because you're sitting here talking to me, and because you can see the merfolk, and always have been able to, since you were tiny. Do you see anything flying overhead?"
"Yes, said Jacob, “there are eight miniature winged dragons, about the size of seagulls. Only they are all the colors of the rainbow and flying in rainbow formation, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet." "We call them dragonets," said Jon. "Okay, said Jacob, I will risk the test. I am not eager to die and I am not without fear, but I will do it."
The next day, Jacob went crabbing and clamming as usual. When he returned to the fishing shanty for lunch, he senses a presence outside the door. He knew right away that t was the sea witch. He could ser, right through the door of the shanty, in her flowing blue and green gown. He knew she had come for him, but he was frightened, and left by another door.
He continued his clamming and crabbing, always aware that sea witch was waiting for him at the shanty. She floated, unmoving, a few inches above the stoop, waiting, patient. At dinnertime, he returned to the shanty through the back door. When his parents returned with their catch of the day, he suddenly remembers the sea witch who was waiting for him. He had been working all afternoon to not think about her, and it was hard.
He opened the back door, not the one where the witch had been waiting earlier, but the one he and his parents had used. A woman dressed in the rags of a peddler stood there. Her face was wrinkled and old, her eyes hidden in many layers of skin. But they were bright and piercing.
"Who's there, asked Jacob's father."
"A peddler woman," Jacob said, turning to his father, and holding the door wide so that the woman could be seen. But his father was busy cleaning fish and did not look. "Ask her what she is selling," suggested the father, without looking up from his work. Jacob's mother, too, was busy. She was peeling potatoes.
Jacob looked the peddler woman in the eyes and said, loudly so his father could hear over the sounds of his work, "What are you selling?" The woman wasn't there. One moment, he'd been looking in the eye, and the next moment, she was gone (don't forget the merman consort). She's gone, Jacob said. She disappeared." He felt a simultaneous rush of both relief and disappointment. Now, he night never be magic. But he would not have to face the fish that would swallow him.
"Nonsense," his father said. "She just gave up because you took so long to speak to her. Step outside and catch her." Jacob stepped outside and looked down the cobbled path for the peddler woman or the sea witch, but saw no one. Instead, he saw a whirling waterspout, a combination whirlpool or tornado, and before he could move or speak, it lifted its tail toward him, opened its mouth, and swallowed him.
The waterspout dove into the bay carrying Jacob in its belly, swimming like a fish. It swam deep into the ocean, moving faster than a bolt of sea lightning. In almost a single instant, coral reefs hey appeared around them. Jacob had never been that far south. But somehow, he knew what they were. The fish talked to him, not out loud, and not in words, simply in knowing.
The fish that Jacob rode in was as transparent as if it were made of glass. The glass was colored, like the stained glass of a church window, and the colors changed, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. ((Red-winged blackbird. It's eating crabapples. I took a shot of it, but it won't be good, too many branches in the way. Here's another, and another, tried another shot, also not good. The third one flew.)) The colors seemed most often to be yellow and a pale but bright orange. Red, blue, green, purple and other colors shimmered through. The more Jacob watched the shifting colors, the happier he felt.
Suddenly, Jacob was flying. He soared like an eagle. He remembered flying in his dreams. Maybe this was just a dream. He wondered if he could find Merjon Marlin. He pictured Merjon, as he has last seen him, sitting on a rock the shallow bay. Whoosh, there he was. But Merjon was standing on the rock with two human legs. Jacob landed beside him.
"You passed the test," Jon said. And he dove into the water. Jacob dove in after him. As they swam deeper into the water, their legs joined into a strong tails. Jacob whipped his back and forth to catch up with Jon, who already knew how to use his tail. As Jon swam deeper and deeper, and Jacob followed, it occurred to Jacob that he should have to breathe, to go up for air. But he didn't feel out of breath. It was the magic. He smiled. A great fish swam up and swam along beside him. Jacob felt peaceful and happy.
Jon took him to meet the merfolk and they welcomed him as a friend and emissary from human land. "We will teach you the great secrets of magic," they told him. They gave him crabs and clams and a huge tuna to take home to his family, since he'd been to busy for his afternoon crabbing. “I’ll take you dolphin riding tomorrow,” Jon promised.
When Jacob returned home, his parents were waiting. "Did you enjoy the sea witch?" his mother asked. His parents smiled. They knew his secret, and they didn't seem to mind. He was glad, and wondered if they too had met the Sea Witch.
The end. (--of the short, little-kid, picture-boo version. The novel version is much longer and involves evil and secrets.) No writing of it until other books are complete!!! (But I can make NOTES!!)) Mary Stebbins Taitt, 110323 1st draft

110328-1511 NOTE: There is another version of this somewhere—R’dale? The two need to be compared and justified! IMPORTANT!


here are two of the tentative illos for the book, or studies for them. They were done by me in Ballookey's Mole.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Art in Progress

I love doing art! It's so satisfying and a great way to spend a snowy evening. This piece is for a book I am working on for my grandson. it's not done yet.

Click image to view larger.

Stay safe and warm!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Crickets, Brush painting





What could be simpler than a Zen brush painting? One brush, one color, only a few strokes. Right. What no one tells you is how many times you have to do it over and over to get one to come out right. Practice practice practice. This painting is new. I did it the night before last. I did not follow a prescribed pattern, I studied instead the insect itself. Or--rather--some photographs of crickets. I have had no training. I just want to achieve simplicity on some level. I did, however, use a real bamboo brush, a large one--which is very challenging (for me). You can see how many I did before I got one I really liked.

I'd like to try some more when I have time. I think with a little more practice, I might be able to get it to be better and more consistent. MAYBE.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Considering, small revisions

I didn't like the flea image (see previous post), it didn't sit well with the rest of the imagery and the mood. I also felt the ending wasn't clear enough. I wanted to leave a little mystery and uncertainty, but to indicate the possible ending more clearly. I hope I've done that. Feel free to comment on the changes, but don't be too offended if I go my own stubborn way regardless. Sometimes, I like suggestions, and sometimes, they fall flat.

Considering

No screams show on the map, though you know
they hide there, perhaps below the cryptic markings,
the dragons, mermen and tridents. Red
bleeds the tattered edges of terror. Jagged, the ink
hemorrhages into the long fibers of the map’s rough paper.
The ink burns the flesh of your fingertips when you reach
to locate the memories. You stand on that cliff looking
down, twitching your shoulders for wings, but this isn’t
a dream. This is your life; each breath catapults you closer
to his opened fists, his fingers poised at your neck
ready to close. Suppose you ran? Who can explain
the geography of the heart, the way the blood and ink
of your story is ground from the same DNA as his father’s
and his father’s father’s? Observe how your own father
holds hands with his father; conjoined twins—they connect
at the out-thrust jaw. Note how together, they caress the map.
They paint your name across a heart with a blade suspended
above it. Small stars indicate honing, and the tip
draws to point sharper and smaller than the needle canine
of a ferret. From the margins of the map, they erase your face
with a wash of your tears. When wind fills with the taste
of iron and fear, and you consider your options, you take
one small step toward a hurtling topography of rock,
shattered promises and silence.

Mary Stebbins Taitt
for Peter, Joseph and “the General,” with love (Also for Brian Powers)
110107-0940-2a(4), 110106-1537-1c(3), 110106-1023 1sr—1st poem of 2011

Thursday, January 06, 2011

First poem of 2011: Considering

Considering

No screams show on the map, though you know

they hide there, perhaps below the cryptic markings,

the dragons, mermen and tridents. Red

bleeds the tattered edges of terror. Jagged, the ink

hemorrhages into the long fibers of the map’s rough paper.

The ink burns the flesh of your fingertips when you reach

to locate the memories. You stand on that cliff looking

down, twitching your shoulders for wings, but this isn’t

a dream. This is your life; each breath catapults you closer

to his opened fists, his fingers poised at your neck

ready to close. Suppose you ran? Who can explain

the geography of the heart, the way the blood and ink

of your story is ground from the same DNA as his father’s

and his father’s father’s? Observe how your own father

holds hands with his father; conjoined twins—they connect

at the out-thrust jaw. Note how together, they caress the map.

They paint your name across a heart with a blade suspended

above it. Small stars indicate honing, and the tip

draws to point sharper and smaller than the baby toe

of a flea. From the map’s margins, they erase your face

with your tears. When wind fills with the taste

of iron and fear, and you consider your options, you take

one small step toward a topography of rock,

shattered promises and silence.

Mary Stebbins Taitt

for Peter, Joseph and “the General,” with love

110106-1537-1c(3), 110106-1023 1sr—1st poem of 2011


Second poem of 2011 (a Haiku):


Sweeps of Blue


Like simple brushstrokes,

snowflakes whisper over drifts,

pile in arching curves.


Mary Stebbins Taitt

Friday, November 26, 2010

Baby with cat, in progress

for my secret project. Not quite done yet.