Friday, December 30, 2022



The last week of the year provides me with a pause to do mundane things like update passwords and develop a report of the year's expenses, chores that I would normally put aside for another day. The "another day" is here. This year the cloudy skies and chilly weather gave me time to get these chores done as well as time for reflection, reading, and sitting with our ancient cat by the fire. Good times.

My sister Linda has been tagging me with Found Faces this year. She knows I look for these faces in objects that I see. There is actually a name for the occupation: Pareidolia.  I've found a few faces of my own to share to provide a moment of uplift for another day.

We spent a couple of days in Monterey in December. We toured the Monarch Butterfly Reserve in Pacific Grove. The number of monarchs has increased from the previous downward spiral toward extinction, but only one tree in the reserve was covered with hanging butterflies. In the past, millions had spread themselves over the grove. We came just after a rain so the butterflies were resting and trying to dry their wings. They can't fly when wet. A few had been caught by the rain and lay on the ground. We were cautioned to be careful where we stepped. They are small and hard to see. Each photograph here makes it harder and harder to spot them.

I still have to cheat with this photo. If you can't find the butterfly either,
 I've left the circled answer below. 

Walking in the grove was a good reminder to watch our steps wherever we are.

The website, Boredpanda has examples of faces in everyday objects:

Take a trip to Monterey and Pacific Grove to see the Monarch butterflies:

Friday, December 23, 2022


by Todd Heimdahl


As a teacher in middle school, I always hoped that something I said or did would have a good effect on one of my students. You never know who you will touch or what your words will mean to someone. I can think of some of my own teachers, who made that kind of a difference in my life.

The other day, I received a card from Carole, the wife of one of my cousins. Enclosed with her note, she included a comic strip drawn by my cousin, Todd Heimdahl, when he was about 13. Todd went on to become a fine artist and college art instructor instead of a cartoonist. In his own work, he used pencil, pen and ink, and watercolor to make beautiful representations of the Great Plains. His work shows the emptiness, the stillness, and the beauty of the prairie. He is one of several cousins influenced by my dad, who wrote to him about becoming an artist and writer. Here is what my dad said: 

"Todd, keep drawing everything you see, people, animals, other objects, and with both your writing and drawing ability, you have a wonderful chance to develop. Don't ever let yourself become discouraged at anything, drawing or writing, because there is always an answer. You are young and you may see later that you want to do something else, but no matter what, you are sharpening your brain and talents now, and that will mean a lot to you later in life.

"Besides your drawing, keep a notebook to write down the funny happenings around home or school, the things your mother or father say, and your grandparents, uncles and aunts do and say, and others. You will set a habit for observation, and an artist and writer needs that."

As I read this letter from 1954, I could hear my dad saying those words and knew that I had been influenced by his way of life as I was growing up. I hope they will have meaning for all of you too.

two pen and ink drawings by Todd Heimdahl

The best to all of you this season!

Two good books to read:

Friday, December 16, 2022


More sketches of man-made objects

When we hear about exciting scientific discoveries or achievements such as the recent creation of clean energy from nuclear fusion or the return to space flights to the Moon or the development of DNA-modified plants that will be hardier than their original, we have to ask at the same time, "What is the cost?"

The idea that we could make clean energy without toxic waste or develop a plant that could possibly grow into a building sparks the imagination. Back when we first landed on the Moon, the whole world watched in awe as Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the Moon surface. Those steps remain visible today. If you have ever tried the app SkyView, you will see the clutter we have dropped in the atmosphere around us as we venture out into space. As Newton's Third Law states, for every action there is a reaction. We need to decide where money is best spent.

Fire hydrant sketch

I turned the newspaper to the local news, and found articles about non-profits who are working with foster kids and disadvantaged youth. These groups are providing on-going support to young people who do not have the privileges or opportunities that many of us have and who could grow into insightful, strong people with our support. In the Bay Area, there are many small non-profits with this goal. One group, All Stars Helping Kids created by Ronnie and Karen Lott, provides grants to start-up non-profits who work with kids to develop their potential. Though the non-profit groups are small, with our support, they could continue to grow to change our world for the better.  If we care, we can do space and home at the same time.

Read about the latest development around clean energy: 


Continue your holiday spirit by making a donation to one of these important non-profits that are helping disadvantaged kids in the Bay Area. Check your own county listings for groups in your area.

AllStars Helping Kids. Check out the groups they are sponsoring this year on their website:

The next three groups are graduates of the AllStars Helping Kids program:

Writer Coach Connection:

Chapter 510:

Mindful Life Project:

Two that are not a part of the AllStars group:

Battle Tested Kids:

Beyond Emancipation:

Wednesday, December 7, 2022


A friend asked me for some art prompts to get her out of a temporary creative block. We all have those moments, don't we? Blocks remind me of trying to ride a bicycle with no hands or attempting to stand on a balance beam. My lack of confidence made me too shaky to do either one of those successfully.  Toddlers, who venture out to jump off a low wall, will either sail right into the jump or hesitate. It's the hesitation that can defeat us or it can lead us to discover a new way of getting off the wall.

I've realized that I'm more likely to hit a block if I don't practice daily. I've also discovered that the blocks usually are a moment when I am learning something and nothing seems to be going right. Doing watercolor and calligraphy has shown me one thing: just do it. Who cares if my project turns out awful or overworked or lopsided. The more practice I do, the less I care if it does. It's the failure that helps me develop new skills. I still look with envy at someone else's work that I think is better than mine. There is always someone. I now acknowledge my envy and try to learn from what I admire. I'm never going to be that person's equal and that is okay with me.

Thinking about prompts gave me an idea for a challenge. With the iPhone in hand, I decided to take photos of man-made objects on my walk. I have been walking our street for years and I've spent a lot of time taking photos of natural objects such as leaves, footprints, spiderwebs, acorns, and the sky, which all attract my attention. As I walked, I realized that my choices of small man-made objects would be limited. But I did find eight objects that I hadn't drawn or painted before. I've decided to do one or two a week in December and see what happens. Good practice.

My husband Bill has signed up for a photo challenge called 52 Frames. The group receives a weekly prompt and posts their results on the website each week. Wouldn't it be a challenge to come up with a prompt each week?

Pepper by Bill Slavin

Here are a few prompts to get you started:

*     Draw yourself using a continuous line. Look in the mirror and don't look at your paper as you draw. When you are finished, look at the result and have a good laugh.

*     Have a cup of coffee or tea and draw the cup and liquid first before you drink it.

*     Draw your favorite tool, whether it is part of the equipment you use for art, from the kitchen, or for gardening, woodworking, quilting/sewing, or skating. Try drawing again with a continuous line. You can look at your paper this time. This technique is a good way to get over a need for perfection.

And remember to have fun!

Other prompt and challenge groups abound on the Internet:
Doodlewash offers daily challenges to watercolorists.  

Sheila Delgado shares Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days on her website.

ArtWork Archive: 


Just received notice that this piece received
an honorable mention at
the Palo Alto Pacific Art League Member Exhibition


Friday, December 2, 2022


View from our Paris apartment

The last few weeks have been like a breath of fresh air. I can look up at the blue autumn sky and feel relief and some hope. For now, I don't feel the anxiety caused by our cultural and political wars. I am still cautious about being in big crowds. For now, instead of theaters or other large venues, we continue to turn to Netflix and other streaming channels for escape.

Before COVID sent us into sequestering, Bill and I watched TV every evening, usually to catch up on the news with a few Masterpiece Theater episodes thrown in. We didn't catch the popular game or contest shows that permeate TV land, and we had a hard time caring about the new Bachelorette. 

When 24 was in its prime years ago, a few friends binged on it. They would make a day of it with popcorn and propped pillows as they watched the suspenseful events that occurred in a 24-hour period. We watched it after the first season was over, but we didn't hunker down for hours. Instead, we watched one episode at a time and then turned off the TV. 

When we lived in Japan, we missed Seinfeld and Friends and instead followed Samurai soap operas with their view of old Japanese culture.  We learned how important cultural moments can be. When friends in California mentioned events in Seinfeld or Friends, we didn't have a clue what they were talking about.

Yet, during the height of the pandemic and for the last several months, we haven't focused on American shows, preferring other worlds than ours. We watched European and Asian series including Babylon Berlin, Occupied, Midnight Diner, Borgen, and Call My Agent to name a few. They provided an escape from American news and culture wars. None of them hooked us enough to binge on them. We could be satisfied with one episode and turn off the TV and go to bed.

Mick LaSalle, the movie critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote a column about superhero movies and why they are so popular. He explained that many of us are watching these movies because they offer a release from our feelings of helplessness and dread resulting from the chaos in our political system and the aftermath of sequestering.

Character from Japanese Kabuki theater

As we watched the foreign language TV series, we noticed one common theme in many of them: the outsider who becomes the vigilante hero by using methods outside the norm to solve problems for ordinary people. I think of American movies and TV shows such as High Noon, Batman, Watchman, and the recent Marvel and DC Comic movies that have the same characteristic. We have found that the superhero is flourishing in other countries' stories too.

Dragon monster on the roof edge of a temple in Japan

The theme of a silent, solitary hero to the rescue appears in a 2021 Korean TV drama series, Vincenzo, that we consumed (all 20 episodes).  Just as in real life, the characters in Vincenzo seek justice in the face of governmental corruption where rich and powerful people can circumvent the law.

The main character in Vincenzo is a Mafia consigliere, a true "bad guy," a Korean man adopted by an Italian family, who comes back to Korea to recover a ton of gold bars hidden in a basement of a slum building that he owns in Seoul. Preposterous plot? Yes, but in the process, Vincenzo comes to know the hard-luck tenants of the building. With his help and inspiration, the tenants uncover their own buried talents, including computer expertise, martial arts, and special effects training, that become important in the story. The tenants, who thought they were powerless, come to the gradual realization that by joining together as a community they can overcome adversity.

The idea of forming a community to work together reminded me of a postcard produced by Syracuse Cultural Workers which lists ideas for building communities. The last item on the list reads:

"Know that no one is silent though many are not heard. Work to change this."

Festival float made by a neighborhood group in Japan

Quilt made by a group of
Nishimachi International School moms
The quote on the quilt says,
"Let There Be Peace on Earth,
and Let It Begin With Me."

Check out the Syracuse Cultural Workers website here: