I’ve got a rather intense project under way, about which more soon, so for today I thought I’d just share some photos of our family critters, three cats and a collie. The cats all came from a shelter, Niki from a responsible breeder.
To my amazement, this is the one hundredth post that I’ve done since I started to blog last January. It seemed to happen so fast. I guess it really is true that time flies when you’re having fun. Thank you to everyone who reads and comments!
We just got back from a four day trip to San Francisco, which is about six hours south of where we live. We knew that the weather was predicted to be “interesting”. Little did we know. But first, here’s a really special photo my husband took before we left. I was out running errands, he went to get the mail and saw this little grey fox snoozing in the sun right out in the driveway of a house across the street. He got the camera and he/she was still there. This is one of the best shots. Pretty cool.
As anyone who has cats and dogs knows, they figure out pretty quickly when something is up and the humans are going away. Some get anxious and some, well, don’t.
When we left, the ocean looked like this:
We speculated on where we might see snow on the mountaintops and maybe even on the road. I figured Rattlesnake Pass between Laytonville and Willits.
Wrong. This was almost an hour north in Redwood Country, where we rarely see snow on the coast.
Mmm, it’s getting heavier and right down to the road.
It’s a….Winter Wonderland!
Snow, snow all along the route. Laytonville and Willits were covered with snow. Really beautiful and an unusual treat for us coastal northern Californians where the average temperature in January is 55F.
But we got to our room at the Emeryville Courtyard Marriott and had this killer view of San Francisco at sunset. And the Golden Gate Bridge.
Notice the clear skies. So we had nice weather, but cold, for what we came down to do: Family visit, the Yves St. Laurent show “Style”, at the de Young Museum and the Afghani treasures show, “Afghanistan” at the Asian Art Museum. A bonus at the de Young was an absolutely knock-out show of geologic forms, “Systematic Landscapes” in a variety of media by Maya Lin, who designed the Viet Nam War Memorial in Washington D.C.
We got in a stop at IKEA, too.
Of course we took advantage of the culinary richness of the Bay Area, eating Thai (Boran, Solano Ave., Berkeley), Ethiopian (Addis, Telegraph Ave., Oakland), Italian (Pasta Pomodoro, Bay Center, Emeryville) and seafood (Sea Salt, San Pablo Ave.. Berkeley). At the Sea Salt Restaurant, I couldn’t an unexpected opportunity to try the legendary drink Absinthe for the first time. There were three choices and I went for the St. Georges, which is distilled in Alameda, right down the road from Berkeley. It was…..amazing. A little goes a really long way. We found it at a, hate the name, BevMo and indulged in a bottle, which ought to last a couple of years depending on how many artist and other friends care to try it.
And, since David had accidently put his cell phone through the washing machine and our contract was up next spring anyway, we went to an Apple store and got iPhones. Absolutely revolutionary devices. Effortless to use. Intuitive. More stuff than you ever thought you’d want to do. The procrastination possibilities are almost endless. And the phone works just fine, too.
The trip home yesterday was in rain, hard rain and pounding, monsoon-like rain. We were glad to collect the collie boy and kick back for a quiet evening.
I’m going to take next week off and celebrate the holidays with family. Mongolia Monday will return on the 29th. Before we left, I got this photo of Michiko snuggled in her chair amongst some garlands that I’d draped over it.
In three trips to Mongolia I’ve seen exactly….three cats, literally one per trip. In general it appears that Mongolians don’t much like cats. There are a number of beliefs about them, none particularly positive. I was told that the appearance of a cat meant that there would be a death. Two women that I’ve spoken with both said that they didn’t even like the idea of touching a cat, but one allowed as how her attitude was probably based on things older people had said when she was much younger.
On the other hand, when we stopped at a ger in the Gobi, I watched a woman shoo this cat into the ger while the dogs were clearly meant to stay outside. I remember thinking “It figures.”
They do seem to be kept around by some families for the age-old purpose of rodent control. This little cat was at the ger camp at Ikh Nart. She was fussed over by the cook, who I was told loves animals. She was very friendly, so David and I were able to get an unexpected “cat fix”. It was apparently impossible to keep her out of the staff ger because she would climb up to the top and come in through the center opening. One night she dropped down onto our guide’s bed, one of the women who was adamant about not liking cats, and proceeded to try to snuggle up near her head. I remember thinking “It figures.”
I suspect that Mongols have had dogs for as long as they have had horses and the other “Snouts”. The traditional greeting upon approaching a herder ger is “Hold the dogs!” and they aren’t kidding. The traditional herder’s dog is a Tibetan mastiff, which can take its guard duties very seriously. I was told on this last trip, however, that many herders do keep a dog as a “pet” along with the ones for guarding. I hope to learn more about all this on the next trip.
One consistant piece of advice that one runs across when looking into travel to Mongolia is do not, DO NOT, pet, pat, scritch, scratch or otherwise touch any dog. They have not been vaccinated for rabies and getting saliva on your skin, much less a bite, means air evacuation to a hospital for the (painful) series of shots. Foreigners who are working in the countryside get the rabies vaccine, but since nothing is 100%, it’s smart for them not to have contact either.
That said, I have found that most of the dogs I’ve seen don’t exhibit vicious behavior and a lot of them seem to be longing for contact with people. I finally relented once at Arburd Sands when this dog approached me while I was sketching and leaned into me. I decided that it was unlikely that the camp owners would have a dog around that was at all likely to bite the guests. I stayed alert while I gently petted his back and didn’t let his mouth near my hand. He seemed to really like it, but it was still a risk.
I hadn’t seen brindle dogs like this before this trip. Not sure where that coloration came from, but he has the mastiff head and body type.
I feel like I’m seeing fewer of the pure mastiffs since my first trip. When the Russians pulled out in 1991, I was told that they left their guard dogs, mostly German Shepherds, behind. And I remember seeing a couple of what looked like purebred Shepherds between the airport and UB in 2006. There has obviously been a lot of uncontrolled interbreeding. It looks to me like the dogs are gradually reverting to the basic dog form that travellers see all over the world in the streets, the countryside, at dumps, etc.
And, for something completely different, at Red Rock Ger Camp, there was this chow chow, the only one I’ve seen in Mongolia. Never found out who he belongs to, but a fairly wide area around the camp seemed to belong to him, judging by his thorough and conscientious marking routine.
From The Global Village Dept.- twice when I’ve been in the State Department Store, I’ve seen young girls with tiny “fashion accessory” dogs tucked in their arms, a la Paris Hilton. Sigh.
And finally, many of you know that I have a rough collie, named Niki, the same breed as Lassie. Imagine my surprise when I happened upon this banner in Ulaanbaatar:
JUST RECEIVED WORD-“Morning Break”, below, has been accepted into the Mendocino Art Center Animal Art exhibit! It will be on view there in Mendocino, California from Sept. 3-27.
AND…if you live in central Humboldt County, tonight is the opening reception for Wild Visions 2, a group show of nationally recognized nature and wildlife artists, including yours truly, at the Umqua Gallery, Arcata from 6-9pm. Lots of new work by all of us and some oldies, but goodies too. We snagged a great feature in the local paper this morning!
The other artists are Linda Parkinson, watercolor, who has done many commissions of birds and had her work published in American Falconry magazine; Shawn Gould, acrylic, who has done freelance art for National Geographic; Paula Golightly, oil and acrylic, whose day job is working as a biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service; John Wesa, well-known local serigrapher; and Derek Bond, egg tempera, who has recently had work accepted into the first Artists for Conservation juried show.
This is the first time all of us have shown together and we hope it won’t be the last.
BACKYARD BIRD WATCH
The two Allen’s hummers are showing up right around 1:30 every afternoon. How do they know? Can you imagine how tiny their wristwatches must be? Right now, if I only had room for one hummingbird friendly plant it would be Crocosmia “Lucifer”. If you have a little room for a truly red, red, red flower, you might buy a few bulbs.
WHAT ARE THESE? Answer on Monday
“Am writing an essay on the life-history of insects and have abandoned the idea of writing on ‘How Cats Spend their Time’.”
W. N. P. Barbellion (Bruce Frederick Cummings) 1889-1919
Well, here’s some evidence:
Eowyn and Michiko
Leopard at Berlin Zoo
Lion in the Masai Mara, Kenya
I think you get the idea.
(All photos copyright Susan Fox)
The kittens I’m fostering have gained ground faster than we expected. Merlin has doubled his weight in two weeks, from one pound to two. The shelter staffer who asked me to do the foster came over today and weighed all three. Their coats are now soft and fluffy and their energy level is normal (which is to say, they are total maniacs for hours, then completely crashed out).
I wanted to see how fast I could bring them along and it looks like a combination of three things turned the trick: a big helping of wet food every day in addition to free-feeding kibble; room in a covered pen to run crazy, climb and otherwise get lots of exercise and being handled, snuggled and petted at least twice a day.
Here they are as of today:
If you live in Humboldt County and are interested in any of these guys, go to my contact page on my website and email me. They are now about 8 weeks old and ready to go to great forever homes!
Julie Chapman recently posted a couple of sketches of her dog on her blog (no, we won’t go there). A series of comments followed about the value of drawing.
You can read my comments here: http://julietchapman.com/blog/?p=59#comments . They’re #5 of 6. She just finished doing her summer animal drawing workshop outside of Kalispell, Montana at the Triple D Game Ranch. I attended a few years ago and found it very worthwhile.
So, she challenged the readers of her blog to get out the charcoal and draw along. I accepted. It took a few more days than I’d hoped, but here’s the best of what I came up with over about an hour this morning. One challenge was drawing kittens that are black and fluffy. A little hard to see the structure. I also found that they would get up and come running to the front of the crate every time they saw me watching them. The trick is to ignore all that and go for the gesture. These took maybe 15 seconds.
Then I went into the house and there was Persephone, aka The Princess, taking her morning princess nap on the bed. She then sat up and I got a quick start on a head study. Didn’t get all the stripes in, though.
Finally, next to the window on the floor, Niki the collie was zonked out. This one is mostly coat (he’s got a big one!), but the curves were nice.
I used a 4B Wolff’s Carbon pencil for all the sketches and a Canson Universal Recycled Sketchbook. The paper has a good amount of tooth for the pencil.
ART THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Today’s thought is from Edgar Payne’s seminal book, Composition of Outdoor Painting, which every artist who paints outdoors or anywhere else, for that matter, should have. It’s expensive and might be hard to find, but it is as good a presentation of the traditional craft of oil painting as you will find.
“While talent or genius must exist, at best they are merely embryonic factors and no one can guide these into productive artistry without the initiative, perseverance and determination of the student. To say that the artist is born and not made, is only partly true. Actually, while it is an important qualification, there is no proof of real worth in talent until it has been developed and expanded by a tremendous amount of serious study and hard work.” (Bold added by me)
I’ve had the good fortune to take two trips to Kenya, one in 1999 and the second in 2004. It really is the greatest animal show on earth. What is happening there now is terribly disheartening. The Kenyan people have never known what it is like to have an honest, competent government and they deserve better. But when you have a young, educated population (most Kenyans finish high school and many have university educations), a lack of good jobs, a majority of the population that stills thinks more in terms of what tribe they belong to than being Kenyans and a one of the three most corrupt governments in the world, the stage is set for the situation that is occurring now. Kenya is very dependent on tourist income and when things exploded, I could hear the sound of safaris being cancelled. I don’t think that it would dangerously unsafe to travel there right now, since visitors have been wisked from the airport to the heavily guarded hotels and then out into the parks and reserves, also guarded, for a very long time due to the serious crime problem in Nairobi, but I wouldn’t take the chance myself until things calm down. The frustration level is clearly very, very high.
On a happier note from happier days for the country, I was fortunate enough to go on an art workshop safari with the late Simon Combes and nine other artists in October of 2004. (I plan to share some of my travel stories and the paintings that came out of them in this blog.) Afterwards, I flew back down to the Masai Mara and stayed a few days at a fantastic tented camp, Kekero, which in on the Talek River. Close enough that hippos woke me up at night with their grunting and roaring. Boo hoo. The routine, either on safari or at a tented camp, is to be awakened before dawn, which, with Kenya being on the equator, is always around 6am. Coffee and some cookies are delivered and you have 15-30 minutes to pull it together, get dressed and be out at the vehicles. So, every morning, you get to see the very light of the day, which suggested the title of this painting, “First Light”
He was a beautiful big boy, still resting after a night of feasting. It was magical to sit there as little by little the sun illuminated him in warm morning light. We had him all to ourselves and hung around until he got up and wandered off.
On the domestic front, I would like to introduce Persephone, who will be seven this year. We had gone to look at a puppy and the woman mentioned a cat she had rescued. Short version: the kitten wouldn’t get down off a fake ficus tree when ordered (!?) to do so, so was grabbed and thrown across the room into a wall. Grandson calls Grandma, who rushes over and takes the cat. Too many dogs in house, so cat ends up in the back carriage house of her small Victorian where we saw her, liked her, adopted her (puppy went to someone else). I watched for neurological damage, but she seemed fine (I know, some would say, with cats who can tell). We did have to take her to the vet for the removal of a front canine that had split vertically into three pieces after we noticed her jaw was swollen, undoubtedly an impact injury, but other than that she’s been fine. This is one of my favorite pictures from when she was about a year old.
She has ended up being not exactly a svelte cat, despite a weight management diet. She’s just an endomorph and has nicknames like The Princess, the Bon Bon and The Plush Princess. She is lightning fast though. I saw her catch a gopher once. Strike, pull it out of the hole in a split instance and then carry it off to eat the whole thing. Here’s a more recent photo. She really is a beautiful cat, but, boy, is she a princess.
Back in the saddle again for 2008. Lots to look forward to.
All the kittens I fostered have found new homes. I thought that I would start to introduce that permanent animal members of the household. First up- Niki, our four year old tricolor rough collie, self-appointed guardian of all creatures large and small. Here’s picture of him with Tucker and Katie. Niki had laid down by the crate and the two kittens came over and got as close as they could. All of them quickly became fearless of my 75 lb. dog.
We finally had our first ducky visitors to our pond, three hooded mergansers. One male, two females. I thought, uh oh, there go the goldfish, since mergansers are diving ducks and, sure enough, while we watched, they caught and ate two big ones. But we have since seen at least eight or nine in their usual hangout, so we didn’t do too badly. Michiko spotted them and instantly became a fan. More about her in the next week or so.
In art news, the latest issue of the newsletter of the Society of Animal Artists features drawings that I have done of Mongolian wildlife. Here’s three of them, an argali ram, an ibex billy and a takhi mare and foal (Przewalski’s Horse). They were done on 2 ply bristol with a Wolff’s carbon pencil.
The last of my first foster kittens, two of four, went out for adoption today and were adopted together! The wife wanted Juliet and the husband wanted Pippen, so it was easy for the woman I fostered them for to convince them to take both. They’ll join another young cat and a 100 lb. dog who loves cats. My guys adjusted quickly to my 75 lb. collie, so a big dog should be no problem.
Pippin and Juliet, above
I was told that they kept everyone entertained at the event, trashing the contents of their crate and playing up a storm. I’m so proud of them. It was a very rewarding experience and I’m looking forward to doing it again.
For those of you checking in for pond photos, I got some today and hope to post them tomorrow. This darn cold has really worn out its welcome.