The Real World

I had asked to stop near the riverside and was busy taking photos of the first wild iris I had seen in Mongolia (2010 two week camping trip)….
….when my driver told me that I needed to get back in the car NOW because he was watching this. And he didn’t need The Weather Channel to tell him that the heavy rain out there in the mountains upriver from us meant that the level of the river, which we had to ford (because the bridge downstream, which was why we were on this “detour” across country, had been washed out in a previous storm) could come up very fast. Took this photo through the windshield just before we went into the water. Our destination is the tiny building you can just see against the right hand mountain in the distance. Made it across ok, but stayed in a ger camp because he thought it was too risky to camp in tents that night. And it really poured.

I was out walking the dog this morning with my husband, having observed when we left the house that it looked like it wanted to rain and, as it happened, it started to sprinkle a few moments later. It continued for a short way up the street, then stopped. He remarked that the showers were early (which had been predicted for later today).

My response was that I thought that was an inversion. Showers, and any other weather phenomena, come when they come. They are neither “late” nor “early”. That concept is a result of human-designed weather forecasting, which definitely has a margin of error and can change hourly. I made my observation by scanning the clouds, sensing what the air felt like and from having lived in Humboldt County most of my life. And I never bother with the hourly forecasts or take any particular day’s forecast as more than probabilities that one can plan around, but that are subject to change.

But it got me thinking about how detached so many people are from the “real” world. From thinking that if they’ve seen something on tv, they seen the thing itself, to animal artists who only paint captive animals thinking that they’ve seen anything truly relevant to, or reliable about, that species. (More on that in a future post)

To me, the real world is the one that would go on if humans and all their human-created stuff disappeared tomorrow. Despite the ego-driven belief of too many, our presence here is not required. It is actually a privilege that we are busily squandering.

Western Homo sapien’s collective tendency to rely on information about the world in an abstract way via human-created means and then be surprised or shocked when nature does something different bodes ill for the planet and our continued ability to live on it with any degree of comfort.

It makes me think of a possible cartoon in which someone is hunched over a computer looking at a weather report and never thinks to look out the window behind them to see the tornado bearing down on the house.

I guess this will only change when climate change is so dramatic that it simply can’t be denied anymore. But by then we’ll be, if we aren’t already, far past the tipping point and starting to learn what the saying “Mother Nature bats last” really means.

Friday Features

Think I’ll start a couple of quick Friday Features:


Current regulars: American Goldfinches, Least Goldfinches, Steller’s jays, ravens, crows, house sparrows

Semi-regular visitors: one pair Black-headed grosbeaks, an osprey (!), a great blue heron (we have a large pond), a red-shouldered hawk, barn swallows, violet-green swallows

The Very First for our yard: this morning, one male western bluebird


Honey bees are in crisis. Without them, kiss fruits, nuts and berries good-bye. Visit this link, which was in today’s San Francisco Chronicle for more information.

What you can do: Set aside, say, a six to ten foot square or so in your yard and plant it with bee-friendly plants like lavender, coriopsis, sunflower, thyme and coneflower. Your local nursery should be able to point you to bee-friendly plants for your area. If enough people do this, it could make a real difference. Even better, replace some or all of your lawn. Just think, no more mowing, dethatching, fertilizing, weeding and you’ll save water, plus have flowers for your home.


Find the live cat in this picture:


Welcome to the blog of Susan Fox, contemporary nature artist!

I live about six hours north of San Francisco in Humboldt County. Our home, with my studio, is on an acre in a rural area called Dow’s Prairie, which is just north of McKinleyville, which is about ten minutes from Arcata and Humboldt State University. We’re about a mile from the beach (Clam Beach) and less than twenty minutes from Redwood National Park.

My website is at

I’ll be posting new original oil paintings and limited edition prints. There will also be accounts of my various travels to do fieldwork in places like Mongolia, Kenya and Yellowstone National Park. I plan to also write about what an artist’s life is like. I enter a number of national juried shows each year and participate in 3-4 art festivals in the San Francisco Bay Area. I also teach oil painting.

Besides my vocation as a professional artist, I have an abiding interest in environmental issues and animal welfare, so there will also be entries on those topics. Some gardening stuff will probably show up too. And interesting bits about life behind The Redwood Curtain.

On the environmental front, I’ve just contributed to the blog at on the topic of birdwatching. One comment that I’d like to repeat here was that everyone with any kind of a yard can help provide badly needed habitat for birds by providing food, water, cover and a place to raise young. Go to, the website of the National Wildlife Foundation, for more and to learn how to have your garden become a certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat. I’ll be posting pictures of our acre as we bring it back from bare dirt to what we hope will be an irresistible hang out. We’ve already had a young raccoon, a skunk and lots of birds. Oh, and the bat that flew into and then back out of the living room this summer.

I guess I’d have to say that my avocation is animal welfare and rescue. I volunteer at our county animal shelter showing animals, doing meet-and-greets, helping socialize shy cats and walking dogs. I’m also doing my first kitten foster. Having been allergic to dogs, cats, horses, etc. as a kid, it’s heaven to be over it and able to work with dogs and cats. Horses I don’t know as well as I’d like to. We have four cats and a tricolor collie boy ourselves. Pictures and bios to come.

Gardening: Besides walking, the best exercise the average person can get. And since I sit at my easel when I work, it’s a great way to get moving. My taste runs to classic English-style. I love heritage old roses and also those from David Austin. Our house is almost at the end of our street in a microclimate that is noticeably warmer and less windy than other parts of our neighborhood. Everyone had a amazing berry harvest this year. Blueberries, raspberries, wild blackberries, it was non-stop. I wonder if this was true in other parts of California.

So, once again, welcome and I hope you find your time here worthwhile.
Susan Fox