Friday, October 25, 2019


Photo by Bill Slavin

Five deer, three adults and two half-grown fawns, stood in our yard next to a window as I came into the kitchen. They could hear the creak of the floor and looked up to stare at me. Their large, deep eyes asked questions about me. I stopped and didn't reach for the faucet. I knew that any noise would startle them away. I watched as one fawn, whose spots had faded from bright white to beige, climb the two steps to our deck to snip off the heads of begonia flowers, flowers that deer usually avoid. We've found that deer don't avoid much during the year though, just thyme and mint. The fawn then stepped into a planter box and chomped on a large foot-wide succulent. She moved with the other deer as they looked for food in the yard until they all found a shady spot, pawed at the ground, and settled down for a nap.

I made my lunch and moved to the dining room. I sat and looked up at one deer watching me. I could see her face between the slats of the chair opposite me. I stared back for a while as I continued eating. The deer never took her eyes off me and eventually, unsettled by my presence even through the glass, rose and nipped at the nandina before turning around and jumping our low fence.

Before I came into the kitchen, I had a million things on my mind, a busy week unfolding, and I was trying to figure out how I was going to manage it all. The deers stopped me, slowed me down as I watched their grace, and gave me the chance to observe their silence. It was like taking a deep breath and meditating.

Photo by Bill Slavin

Friday, October 18, 2019


Are you like me, a grammar curmudgeon who cringes at poor grammar or punctuation?

Never mind that I make my own share of mistakes. I'm well-known for run-on sentences and other misdemeanors, but some examples aggravate me. One of my pet peeves is the Oxford comma or the lack of an Oxford comma. The Oxford comma is the final comma that separates a word in a list and in some writing style books is routinely left out. Punctuation provides clarity; otherwise, writing can become unintentionally humorous.

An example of how important that comma can be:

"Among those interviewed were Tommy Smith's two wives, Mark Zito and Robert Wentworth."

"This book is dedicated to my parents, Ann Patchett and God."

"Highlights of the Branka's global tour include encounters with Mick Jagger, an 800-year-old demi-god and an exotic art collector."

All three of these sentences could be rewritten by either adding an Oxford comma before the word "and" or changing the order of the words in the list.

"Among those interviewed were Mark Zito,  Robert Wentworth and Tommy Smith's two wives."
(As I write this my computer's grammar app has underlined the "and" to tell me to add a comma.)

Clarity counts!

AP Style, used by most newspapers, does not require Oxford commas, but that style guide expects you to remember to check your work. In order to eliminate the Oxford comma, I need to be sure that I write with clarity. Otherwise, I will give someone the guffaws, chuckles, or giggles.

More from Inktober

What a little water will do to a piece of paper! Good thing this is practice.

Have you worked on an October daily project?

Check the Comments from my blog post "What's Good For You" to see one of Teresa Caldwell's daily poems at


Rest in Peace, Elijah Cummings, you stood for justice.

Friday, October 11, 2019


Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Italian American Heritage Month. Country Music Month. Every day in October appears to have a celebration of one thing or another. For me, October is Inktober, a worldwide challenge to artists to do one ink drawing a day.

This year I've decided to practice hand lettering. I've chosen to do a name a day so that I can practice what is called Modern Calligraphy, which is a more casual form of old fonts. The casualness of the various alphabets lets me stray above or below the pencil foundation line. I can stretch out the letters or condense them. I still need to know basic calligraphy to make my letters sing.

The pencil drawing before I apply ink

I first draw a bottom line on the page, which gives me a visual starting point. As a hand letterer, not a calligrapher, I then pencil in the letters, adjust the spacing where necessary. Once the underdrawing is complete, I usually use a light box with another piece of paper on top of my pencil drawing and  use better paper to outline the letters with ink and fill in the weighted parts of the letters. Better paper avoids the feathers that appear on the edges of letters when I am using practice sheets. Because this is practice, I'm doing everything on one piece of paper.

Oh, smears! Even small ones need to be fixed.

I walk out of the room, do other things and come back to erase the pencil lines, which still show beneath the inked areas. As I touch the kneaded eraser to the paper, I smear some of the letters. I remember my dad in his studio when he was having a bad day. We could hear the swear words ripping out of the studio door in our backyard and knew that after many hours of work, he had probably smeared something or dropped a spot of ink on the page. He could use white-out or scrap off the ink with an Exacto knife, but sometimes he had to start over.

Self-portrait by Ralph C. Heimdahl

And that is what I had to do today. Start over. Smears happen.

The corrected version of the names that smeared. I also corrected the awkward "o" in Carolyn. This is why artwork takes so long to complete. Three versions so far.

Friday, October 4, 2019


An apple a day...

"Stick your bootie out!"

A command I've often heard in exercise classes, but not one I expected in a class about good posture. Amy, the Gokhale (pronounced Go-Clay) Method instructor, told us to sit down in a chair following her command. She wanted us to forget all the ways we had learned to sit, stand, walk and even sleep. Instead she said to pay attention to three-year old children and how they do the same.

"They know how to walk, pick things up, and sit."

Amy also showed photos of people in Asia and Africa who walked with their glutes instead of pounding their heels on the ground as I have for a long time. The exercises reminded me of walking around with a book on my head as a teenager to improve my posture. She asked me to pull in my ribs and maneuver my head so that I looked straight ahead, chin slightly down. She said to forget the extra chin that appears. She claimed it would go away. She showed me how to hinge from my hips when I went to pick something up. No curved backs allowed.

Most of those positions felt awkward and uncomfortable at first, but then my body started to kick in and responded to the change. My knee stopped hurting. I walked as if I had a string attached to the top of my head as I did when I took modern dance classes. I didn't even notice my feet touching the ground. No pounding heels anymore.

I've done one form of workout or another most of my life. Each time I've found benefits from the practice. Kerry, my Pilates instructor, reminded us to use our Core. Different instructors have recommended two exercises that use all of my muscles. One is the Burpee, or squat thrust (try doing it one leg at a time at first), and the other is to sit on the floor and stand up without using your hands. Try it.

Habits take 20 days to acquire, so someone once said. Since this is Inktober, many artists worldwide make an ink drawing each day and post it to any social media account. If you don't want to make ink drawings, October is a good month to start a new daily practice. Let me know what practice you decide to do.

one of 31 names for Inktober

Gokhale (pronounced Go-Clay) Method here:

Check out Shape online for the best how-to for burpees:

Find out more about Inktober here: