CREATIVITY is the soul reflected

Master Painter

Master Painter
Prairie Sunrise by Charlie Clark

Friday, April 18, 2008

March for Babies

On Saturday, April 27, my 3 1/2-year-old granddaughter and her parents will join others in one of many worldwide events in the March of Dimes March for Babies.

every step

Tabitha is our little miracle, and I'd like other families to be able to experience the joy we have. She was a mere one pound, 13 ounces at birth and spent her first weeks in the NICU.

Tabitha's birth

Thanks to the M of D, incredible strides have and are being made in "preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality...through research, community services, education and advocacy to save babies' lives."

Tabitha at 6 months
Tabitha at 6 months.

Princess, at 2 1/2 years
Our little princess at 2 1/2 years

Please visit Tabitha's website:

Here are some other worthwhile March of Dimes links:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fire and Ice


Springtime in the Flint Hills

The week's only half over and already it's been one to remember. Before I moved to the Flint Hills, I was driving the turnpike from Topeka to Wichita one evening, and I saw huge amounts of rolling smoke and some flames. I had never, at that time, heard of prairie fires or burning the prairie. Now it has become a spring ritual to which I look forward each year.

Yes, I even enjoy smelling the burning grass and I know that sometimes the smoke-filled atmosphere creates the most incredible sunsets.
The burning is another signal that soon these blackened hills will be covered with lush green grass and bright wildflowers.

In past years, I'd often jump into my car and drive and drive and drive if I smelled the hint of smoke or saw it or the flames in the distance. Many nights I spent chasing the almost elusive fires because they always seemed just over the hill. In reality, they usually were many miles and many hills away.

Monday night, we had a wonderful fire "just over the creek and the next ridge" (in reality it was a little further!) The coyotes and turkeys were raising quite a ruckus. By the time I got my cameras and a jacket, the north wind was so brisk I couldn't hold the cameras steady and the rain began pelting me. But I did manage to snap a couple shots before it came down so hard it doused the fire. None of the shots is good, but you get the picture (pun intended!).

Prairie fire 08-2

Prairie fire 08-3

Then, I was awakened at 1 a.m. to a terrible crashing sound on the skylights and roof. I soon discovered it was hailing. Although not the largest (only pea to marble size), it was certainly some of the most and the hardest I've experienced. Covered the ground with about an inch of ice. And, the wind was horrific.


By morning, despite it being 45 degrees, the ice was still piled against the house and we could barely open the back door onto the deck. Piles of it still covered the lawn.


We were lucky, though. The wind blew over a cast-iron hand pump in back and it rained in around the skylight in the guest bath. An internet report from the National Weather Service and Butler County Law Enforcement indicated the brunt of the storm hit not far from us, maybe 10 to 12 miles to the southwest, with wind speeds exceeding 80 mph:


Yesterday as we drove to Wichita we saw lots of damage between Burns and El Dorado. Power poles and trees just snapped off and some roofs missing. We saw one of the semis mentioned still sitting at the entrance to the turnpike; it was part of a UPS truck. Utility crews were everywhere replacing poles and restringing wire, and we saw a greenhouse that had been destroyed.

This morning Charlie braved the fog and below-freezing temperature to hunt one of those noisy gobblers we've been watching and hearing.

Just another week in the Flint Hills.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Party Time!

Spring is Nature's way of saying "Let's have a party."
—Robin Williams

Spring flowers comp

Blue Eyes, Veronica or Speedwell (left); daffodil

We're about to have a party here in Kansas. Seems like it's been a long time coming, but spring is creeping in on little frog song and robin wings.

Bright spots of tiny Blue eyes (veronica or speedwell) dot the prairie and magenta henbit carpets the fields.

Buzzards, phoebes and red-winged blackbirds.

Forsythia and daffodils bursting forth like sunshine.

Smoke hangs in the air from prairie fires; some hills are blackened, and some already are covered with a green haze of new grass.

Fragrance of freshly tilled earth in the garden.

Blue herons rising majestically from the pond.

Flocks of turkeys gathering. Deer grazing tender new grass in our yard. Gentle rain and soft breezes.

These are the soft signs of spring, sighs as Earth is awakening.

Sometimes, though, it is more like a sleeping giant awakening from hibernation: stretching and clearing its lungs with great gusts of wind, blowing limbs off trees and threatening to turn everything inside out. Lashing lightening and booming thunder. Filling the creeks with rushing water.

These storms—or showers—will bring more flowers.

Yes, one way or another, it's Party Time.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

More Pets and Prairie

Right now I am so tired I can barely move my fingers. But it's a very good exhaustion, for a change. It's been a stressful week, and I needed a long walk on the prairie to cleanse my mind and drain the tension from my body.

It was a good time to do this. When I started out, there was barely a breeze, the sun had just gone behind the mounting clouds, the sky was gray and the hills beige. Not much for distraction. No birds even singing. No cows in sight or hearing. Grass not stirring. The only sound in existence seemed to be the quiet crunch of rocks beneath my boots. In fact, each time I stopped, just to listen, I heard nothing.

A blank canvas. One on which to ponder. Or not. Sometimes it's good just to BE. That's enough.

By the time I had walked to the second high pole gate, the farthest I've made it since last summer, and was halfway back, I was beginning to be more aware of my surroundings. The little bluestem grass tufts had become russet in color against the backdrop of charcoal blue sky. A bird flew above me. I saw big paw prints in the mud along the side of the road: a coyote, maybe? I noticed how black the briared stems of the wild blackberry and plum thickets were. Flint rocks, crushed by the road grader two days ago, showed their blue centers against the gray outer shell. Speaking of shells, some broken pearly clamshells were scattered in the ditch near the creek.

The wind picked up to the point that to hear the silence, I had to stop and shield my ears from the rush.

The week
Now, a bit about why my week has been so stressful....

Sadie has written a letter to her little friend Benny, so I'll let her tell it:

Dear Benny...This has been the worst week of my life. It started out pretty boring because Quest hurt himself and couldn't go outside with me. He wouldn't get up off the floor, even, and growled at me once when I got in his face. Sometimes I try to get him to play by biting his ear. Then our humans kept telling me to leave him alone.

They took him to the doctor Tuesday and I heard them say he had a sore shoulder (wonder if he caught that from our master. He had to have his operated on last month.) Then they said he had a torn tendon or ligaments. Mom and Dad yelled at me louder each time I tried to play.

So on Wednesday I was outside again by myself. Once, I wanted to chase the mail carrier's truck, but Mom wouldn't let me. So after she went back inside, I was looking for something to do when one of those monsters—humans call them trucks and cars—came down the road. I ran as fast as I could out to the road. I thought I'd run along the side or behind it, but it must have been going slower than they usually do, and I went underneath it.

I'll spare you the grisly details, Benny. Let's just say, rocks are very sharp and tires hard and heavy. I found out my skin is pretty thin, too. I could only walk on three legs, barely. I think I scared my humans pretty bad because they scooped me up in a sheet (I was bleeding a lot) and rushed me to the vet clinic, a long, long drive. I thought we'd never get there. They did not talk much during the ride except to say I was "one lucky puppy" and I was being very brave.

Things got scary again after they put me on that shiny, cold table. A woman doctor came in and after feeling me and looking at me, she tried to assure Mom and Dad nothing was broken and it didn't look like "permanent damage," whatever that meant. She poked me with a big needle. I didn't like that, so I made it fall off the table. But she got another one and stuck it in a different leg. Then she got still another one and stuck me with that!

I couldn't believe Mom and Dad both held me down so I couldn't move while that doctor kept punching some metal things they called staples into my whole leg and thigh. I thought it was bullets. The doctor said I was very good and even gave me TWO treats.

Back home, I just wanted to curl up in my bed, but I couldn't bend my leg or lie on it. I was hurting really bad. So I started licking my hurt places. I'd heard the doctor say I shouldn't do that, but it made it feel better. After trying to stop me lots of times, Dad went outside a while and came back in with a plastic flowerpot and some duct tape. He actually put that thing around my neck after he cut open the side of the pot! But I fooled him—I could still lick my leg. So, he stayed up all night to keep me from doing it.

Sadie comp 1

Sadie with her makeshift cone, left, and with the real "lampshade," right

The next day, Mom really added insult to injury. She left home for a few hours, and when she came back, she said to dad, "Sadie's really going to love this." I thought I was going to get another treat. They played with this plastic thing, calling it a puzzle. Then they called me over and they put a lampshade over my head!! They fastened it on with my collar. Then they stood there looking at me and trying not to laugh. Dad said, "If I put a light bulb in your mouth, will it light up?" VERY funny.

Mostly Mom and Dad have been really good to me, though, giving me extra treats and telling me I'm a "good girl." Mom even brought me a new toy, a squeaky snake.

Sadie and Squeaky Snake

I really wish I could get this thing off my head so I can play with my toys again. All I can do is hold them in my mouth now. I can't throw them around or run around with them. And Quest gets mad when I run into him with the edge of this thing—but I can't see around it. Once I just fell right over the top of him!

Well, Sadie got her wish today: the "lampshade" has been removed and she's dancing, literally.

Things are looking up, I think, after a tense weekend. Sunday morning Charlie's back went out (better now); Sadie's wounds seemed worse, so she got to visit the vet today (healing nicely now, he said); it has sleeted, snowed and rained. The creeks are close to overflowing.

Robins, buzzards, red-winged blackbirds, and meadowlarks have returned. Frogs are croaking; ranchers have begun to burn the prairie, calves are appearing everywhere, and daffodils are blooming in town. Can spring be far away now?

On the way home from the vet this afternoon we saw four—that's FOUR—bald eagles sitting in a pasture. They took flight as we drove near and we watched them circle and soar. And, the sun peeked out a little bit.

Yes, things are looking up. Now, if I can just get this *&)^@^% photo and text spacing figured out so I can place my pictures where I want them, I'll be soaring with the eagles!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Life artist Ali Edwards issued a challenge last year to think of a word and concentrate on it for a year: meditate, take photos or draw pictures representing its meaning, and post the word in a prominent place. I couldn't get focused enough to do this, but I thought about it occasionally.

January 2008 came and I decided My Word should be FOCUS. Get that—"should be." I have a friend who says, "Don't should on yourself."

But, two months have gone by and I haven't really done anything, again, but think about "focus."

A couple mornings ago the light bulb came on: My Word is not "focus" right now, but INSPIRATION. Even though I now knew this to be right for me, at this time, while listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer on PBS the light bulb began pulsing and I realized the truth when he said, "there are no coincidences." When you are in harmony with Spirit and on your own right path, you begin paying attention and become aware that a message is being delivered. (apologies to Dr. Dyer; he's more eloquent.)

How many times in a day lately have I read about "inspiration"? How many times have I been asked to think about what inspires me? How many times have I thought to myself, "This book-quote-story-picture really has inspired me"?

Okay, so Spirit-God has my attention. Dr. Dyer also said that as we develop this awareness, we also must be open, ready and willing because the next step involves doing. Our purpose in life is to serve and give back.

Now I am asking myself:

How? What am I supposed to do? How can I help? Serve? Give back? Am I—perhaps—doing a little bit already?

When I first became serious about photography and was preparing for an exhibit, I was asked to write a statement about myself and photography, something about why I do it and what inspires me. It came to me (another light bulb) I had basically two reasons:
  1. I needed some way to preserve, to document, to hold onto a specific: a moment in time, a piece of Nature, a child's expression. These are fleeting happenings, never to be exactly duplicated or repeated. Gifts from God to me.
  2. No. 2, I was also struck with the thought that while these were gifts to me, they were not necessarily just for me. I needed to share them because maybe—just maybe—I was the only one who could share this particular thing in a particular way. This seemed to be God's message to me: preserve this memory and share it.
Before I started seriously photographing, I was a reporter and a graphic designer. While I never had such a clear revelation, the theme was there: tell the story.

I found when I was surrounded by Nature, living on the prairie as I was, away from the distractions of city life, traffic, manmade noise, daily reminders of violence and negativity, God's voice was clear and pure, no longer muffled.

I began at first taking pictures of sunsets and fall leaves floating in the creek, for me, because I was starved for this beauty. I picked the wildflowers in the spring and dried grass and seedpods in the fall to bring inside, to save and to savor them.

After a while I no longer had to pick them. I had my photos, and I had begun to recognize the rhythm of Nature, the ebb and flow of the seasons. New versions of the same plant life, different colors in a sunset, patterns of the clouds before a storm. All out my front door.

As I wrote last month, I began writing my IDEAS TO IMAGES blog and have become more involved with scrapbooking for the same reasons: to preserve and to share.

Back to My Word. Dr. Dyer's latest book—are you ready?—is "Inspiration." I don't have it yet, but over the past month I've come across several references (coincidences?) and have checked it out on I'm ready to order it.

Dr. Dyer books

I've read about 10 of his books and have some tape sets. I looked back in my journal a couple years ago to a a list of people I found "most inspirational" (not "influential") in my life. Dr. Dyer is high on that list.

I opened "Simple Abundance" for my daily reading today and what did I find? Ms Van Breathnach says her personal ritual in preparation for work is "priming the pump for access your inner reservoir—that place deep within you inhabited by imagination."

I particularly love one phrase she uses as she describes the setting which includes a "pile of dog-eared circle of saints." The author is referring to people, specifically a group of women writers.

Even though I've read references to "spirit guides" and other descriptions of the muse, this is one to which I'll cling.

I'd include in my "circle" some special people: authors (I've listed some already), artists (Klee, CD Muckowsky, Ali Edwards, Stacy Edwards) relatives (an aunt, my mom, grand-daughter Tabitha), friends; things: a cardinal, my grand-daughter's sweet face, puppies and kittens, a sunset; and music: Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto No. 1" and Celtic ballads. There's much more, but you get the picture.


What constitutes your circle of saints? Give it some thought. Write me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Two things have come to my attention tonight that bear clearing up:
1. The filmy portions of Charlie's sunrise photo are not jet trails, but cloud formations.
2. I did not REALLY "nearly die when I was 16" from an illness or accident; but the effect was traumatic when I discovered my brother had broken into my diary and read it. At age 16, that is akin to "dying." Especially when he threatened to reveal the contents (some fantasy) to our parents and his friends.
Everyday Grateful

written February 20, 2008

The north wind is bitter and another winter storm is expected. All I can do is look out the window, hoping for a glimpse of deer in the alfalfa field and dream of spring and watch the dogs teasing each other with their toys.

Since I can't go outside and dig in the earth, I dig into other media: books, the internet, my mind. Lately I've participated in an online Reading Group. ( The January selection was A Thousand Splendid Suns, a thought provoking and disturbing study of women in Afghanistan. This month, it is Journal Revolution by Linda Woods and Karen Dinino.

I've journaled since the days I wrote my secrets and dreams in a teenage diary. I nearly died when I was 16 and my little brother picked the lock and read it. Over the years I've accumulated and destroyed many trees' worth of pages, I'm sure.

I've found inspiration in some wonderful books: The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, A Daybook of Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, and Plain and Simple by Sue Bender, followed by the Plain and Simple Journal and Everyday Sacred. I've used everything from yellow legal pads to pretty and artsy journal books to "marbletop" composition books. (The latter have probably been my favorites, by the way.)

Sometimes I'm directed to document the simple, everyday happenings of my life. Other times, encouraged to dig into my memories, often a painful task. Sarah Ban Breathnach likens this to a safari—Swahili for journey, to leave the comfort and safety of civilization to venture into the wilderness, which, she says, "brings with it the struggle to survive and a heightened awareness of how wonderful it is just to see the sun set and rise again in the morning. Each day on a safari is lived to the fullest because it is all that is guaranteed."

Is this why I love the prairie so much? Sunset and sunrise here are spectacular. Once a city dweller said to me, "You've seen one sunset, you've seen them all." Oh, how wrong he was! Each is a new creation. And, within the span of only a few minutes, the canvas can change drastically. One November evening I watched as the sky turned golden, and with each passing second the color deepened into fire-orange into coral into deep magenta into majestic purple, and in its final stage before the light was gone, an inky dark blue.

One morning Charlie recorded a rainbow sunrise—colors bouncing off the jet trails and clouds reflected all of God's glorious palette.

Back to Sarah's prompting to live each day to the fullest....I've noticed a trend amongst scrapbookers (or, as Ali Edwards calls us, "life artists") to savor each day, each moment. Yes, it is important and fun to record those milestone occasions (birthday, holidays) and special achievements (graduation, retirement), but isn't it also interesting to look into the everyday happenings of a person's life, to see some of the details and activities that made up a "day in the life of...."?

Many cultures make no distinctions between work and play, religion and day-to-day life. (But this is fodder for an entirely different post; more on this theme another time.)

There is a contentment and satisfaction that comes with sitting back at the end of a day with my gratitude journal (or my mind) and looking over that day—if I've been mindful and observant and not taken it for granted. Did I take some time to look out the window? Did I pull my hands out of the dishwater when Charlie called me to "come and see" something—a tiny skink, a new leaf or bud on a struggling plant, a huge squash blossom, a rising harvest moon, a whole parade of turkeys strutting their way right through our yard.

Maybe what seems mundane to us now will be interesting to our grandchildren or future generations. I was thrilled to discover a ledger my grandpa kept with notations of expenditures for grain and taxes, and a similar account kept by my great-grandmother in the mid-1800s—purchases made for calico, string, medicinal powders and tinctures long forgotten, for "reciepts" for toothpowder and other home remedies. I treasure the few stories recorded by my grandparents, memories that would be forgotten if not preserved.

Will my great-granddaughter care that I ate Post's Great Grains cereal for breakfast or spent the evening struggling while pulling a needle through my quilt until a friend recommended a small square of rubber cut from an old latex glove?

A friend this week admonished me to write shorter posts for my blog. I had every intention of doing so this time, but as I told him, I have trouble being short-winded. One thought leads to another to another....

What little thing are you grateful for, or do you really appreciate today? Did you "save" it some way—journal, photo, scrapbook, e-mail, letter? Did you at least give thanks for it?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pets and Prairie

Ten days ago I made yet another attempt to post and was interrupted. Even though this isn't quite fresh, I'm posting it anyway. I have a friend who always tells me, "Kay, just DO it!" So, I'm giving up my nap this afternoon, and if I get as far as putting it out there, maybe I will have broken the block.

I also know WHY I don't get my entries posted. Along with other matters (attempts to make it perfect, for example), when I do finally attempt to publish, I run into a major problem with it. I've now been trying for a few hours and it will be something of a cyber miracle if what I intend to put out there actually makes it.

It's been such a long time, since my previous post, I don't want to try to play catch-up. But a couple big changes have occurred that need noting: my companion of nearly 20 years, Heidi cat, went on to the Big Cat Heaven last summer. And at the end of the summer, we welcomed a new pet: Sadie, a black pointer labrador retriever, hoping our old lab Quest would take the new one under his wing (or leg, as the case warranted). He has been a godsend, I might add, but he's also learned a few things (who says old dogs can't learn new tricks?!) from the little one.
February 8, 2008
I've written so many entries to the blog lately, all in my mind. Usually it's as I'm driving or riding and, by the time I get home, out of my winter coat and boots, put away groceries, go through the mail, all those pressing matters, I am out of the mood. Or the inspiration is gone.

The same thing has happened tonight, but I'm going to try to entice my muse back. I'm closing my eyes (luckily I learned touch typing and can get this down without looking at the keyboard) and remember what struck me so deeply two hours ago.

Charlie and I had just spent the most enjoyable afternoon visiting some old friends. Actually, what prompted the visit was a play date arranged for our dogs! I cannot believe I am even saying that. We have a seven-month-old puppy, a black lab named Sadie. Mason and Betty lost their little Nipper, a Jack Russell, a few months ago and recently acquired Benny, a feisty, untrained, handsome rat terrier. He has more energy than the two of them combined, they being in their 80s.

Betty recently started "Benny's Blog" and had been asking us to bring Sadie over to play with him. We finally got around to it. After the initial barking, sniffing and sizing up, they really got into playing. They chased full-speed through the house, in and out the dog door, around in the snow, under the bed and tables, and teased each other with the toys.
Hi friends. This is your favorite rat terrier here. Wow! What an afternoon. Shortly after the boss's nap, some of his and the wife's friends drove in and when they got out of their pickup, I nearly fell down. They had a beautiful black lab with them, who looked about my age. Of course, being a lab, she was twice as big. At first we were very formal, wearing our leashes for the first 15 minutes. Once the people were persuaded that we weren't going to fight, they took our leashes off and then the fun started!

Sadie, did I say she's a girl? and I ran around wrestling and grabbing noses and smelling tails. Then we had some real fun. We played keep away with some of my toys. Sadie carried a squeaker in her mouth, daring me to take it. Then, she'd chase me. The funny part was when I ran under a low table and she couldn't get under it. (I learned that from when the cat runs from me.) Then we took a play rope and grabbed it out of each other's mouth. Finally I ran out the dog door and Sadie had to work really hard to get through it. We played in the snow for a while, then I went inside to get warm.

The woman visitor kept taking our pictures and saying how beautiful I am. Mr.K (the cat) was up on the counter by his food bowl, and he kept making insulting remarks that the people couldn't hear. I'll get him for it later.When the visitors had to leave, they put Sadie's leash on again and walked to their pickup. The boss put my leash on me, but I bit it in two, then he held my collar while we watched them drive away. I heard the lady invite us to come to their house so we dogs could have another play day. Not right away, but in a couple of weeks after Sadie recovers from some female surgery she's having next week. 'Bye for now.

Betty and I always enjoy discussing art and language and books and have Show-and-Tell. I hadn't taken anything today, but she shared with me several items. We mourned the demise of the English language, she loaned me a novel and book of puzzles, we took lots of photos of the dogs, and talked about flowers.

Charlie and I thought we'd better head home. The sun was setting over the snow-covered prairie, with the frosted cedar trees in the distance along the creek. First we saw one deer, then a couple more, and this continued all the way home. The clouds spread the golden orange glow of the sun across the horizon, and we watched three deer bound over several fences. I thought to myself, "Watching deer float so gracefully like that is one of my greatest joys!" I said to Charlie:

"I still have to pinch myself sometimes to realize I actually live here, in this beautiful country." (Flint Hills of Kansas I used to drive the turnpike from Topeka to Wichita and wished I knew someone who lived here just so I could get off the highway and drive around the area.

Then one day I did just that, even though I did not know anyone here. Two weeks later I was actually doing a retreat on a ranch, and after that experience I knew I had to get back here on a regular basis—but could not imagine it happening. Lo and behold, less than six months afterward I was offered an opportunity I could not pass up, even though it meant leaving a fairly secure, well-paying job that I didn't particularly like any more. The rest, as they say, is history. I really felt I had come "home" when I drove into that ranch driveway, surrounded by the russet waves of tall grass. FYI, there is almost no native tallgrass prairie left in the world, and most of it is right here, surrounding me.

Well, that's it for now. I have lots to talk about, but it will have to wait until next time....and I definitely want to comment on that novel Betty loaned me because it's now added to my "all-time favorite reads." Until then....