Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Learning from a Dog

We have a guest in our house.  It is Pickles, our grand children's family dog, who we are dog-sitting while the family is away on vacation.

Lucky for us, Pickles is an exceptionally easy dog to take care of.  First, she is elderly and rarely barks; second she eats and sleeps a lot.  Her attention span is good, especially when it comes to watching us open the refrigerator or make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  

She loves to eat home cooked food, and will stare at us for hours if she thinks we smell like a hamburger, or a good piece of cheese.  

If I rub her head affectionately, she incessantly licks my hand to tell me to "keep going." I have to order her to stop.   If we lean down to pet her, she rolls over and asks for a belly rub.  It actually isn't very lady-like, but after all, she is a dog.

Lucky for us, Pickles prefers short walks with long breaks while she takes time out to sniff blades of grass and tree trunks.  One really doesn't have to go very far, or very fast, to make her happy.  

Lucky for us, our eldest granddaughter wrote down the instructions for how to take care of pickles, and the notes aren't that difficult or too demanding.  

Not so lucky for us, we attend to everything on that list, even using good manners and picking up the dog's droppings and taking them home with us to put into the waste container.  This is not my favorite task, but it is the law.

We do not have to put her to bed or read her a bedtime story.  At exactly 9pm every evening, she voluntarily hops into her indoor "dog house" and curls up and goes to sleep.  
When we first arrived, she was nervous and stared at us, wondering what's next, I suppose. 
Dog Staring at Spouse
After a while, she relaxed and now spends her time sitting on the couch and lounging about, or lying on the rug and rolling around.  She will yip if she thinks we might step on her by mistake, but we never do.  But she yips, anyhow, just in case.

She might best be described as a fully, unkempt ball of white fur, with a mouth and long ears and significant eyes.  

When she curls up beside me, she kind of looks like a smurf.

What has Pickles taught us?  

Here goes:  
  1. Food tastes better when it is not served in a dog dish;
  2. Walking at a very slow pace soothes the nerves and makes one relaxed, unless one is in a rush or actually has somewhere to go;
  3. Loud sirens cause one to howl; and, last but not least,
  4. Sleep is everything.

Pickles the Smurf

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Winter Wonderland - The Abacos

We stay for the winter months in the Abacos, one of the northernmost islands of the Bahamas.  It is a place often nicknamed Paradise by those who visit and by those who live here, when describing its natural beauty. The extent of its unending changing beauty is hard to describe.  Much of it is the subtle colors, the shifting of the light, the way the breeze runs across the beach.

Recently, I have tried to depict my feelings about this place using watercolors.

The more I paint, the more I see the wonder of this place.  The more I see, the more I paint the wonder of this place.  It is becoming quite an obsession.

The first painting is of early morning, what we see when we look toward the ocean.  It is followed by paintings at various times of day.

Early morning.

Late afternoon


Before a Rain
These paintings were from our front yard. The stillness and motion of the ocean is what makes for much of the beauty.

The natural island settings of the low trees and bushes along the beach edge, facing the backyard are also very beautiful, however quite different from our front yard.

More to follow, next time.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Turning Wood into Art - Through Woodturning

Our neighbor, Steve Knowles is a wood turner who makes beautiful wooden bowls and other wood products that are all hand crafted in his workshop at his home in the Abacos at Bahama Palm Shores.  He has taken on woodturning as a hobby.  Every year his work becomes more popular and he now shows his pieces at art fairs around the country.

He currently works at Abaco Hardware where he services home appliances.  He is also the Assistant Fire Chief for the High Banks Volunteer Fire Services.  He and his wife Anita live in a natural and woodsy part of the Abacos called Bahama Palm Shores, an area surrounded by beautiful trees and bushes, with many different kinds birds settled in the greenery.

Bahama Palm Shores is well-known for its parrots and for its natural beauty, and is also well known for being a vibrant, active little ocean-side community.  It is a great place for Steve to find wood for his many craft projects.  Neighbors call him to tell him that a tree or branch has fallen in a storm and he comes over and retrieves some of the wood.

Poison wood tree

Picking up wood from a neighbor.

Wood piled up ready to take to his wood shop.

Cutting wood into blocks.

Palm tree downed by neighbor.
Steve stacks the wood that he has collected and prepares it for woodturning through a process of cutting and seasoning.

He works with a variety of different kinds of wood, highlighting their grains in his designs.

Bowls emerge along with candleholders, bread boards, hot plates, billy clubs and spinning toys.

Candleholder, prepared years ago.

Ready to go to an art show.

Fish hot plate and bowls.

While he works, he thinks and dreams up new ideas for future projects, sketching them out as he goes along.

Interested people stop by his wood shop to see what he is working on or to ask him to make them something out of wood. When tourists and  birdwatchers visit the neighborhood, many stop in to see his work, some purchasing items to take home with them.

Neighbors drop by to purchase gifts for weddings, birthdays and other occasions and often bring their guests to see Steve's work.  Steve has also taught some people how to wood turn. 

Early shaping of a bowl.

Initial wood cuttings

Sawdust on the floor.

Turning the wood.

Bowl, ready to go.

Selected finished pieces of Steve's work were recently displayed at The Bahamas National Trust, Art for the Parks held at Abaco Beach Resort in Marsh Harbor.

Steve will soon be retiring, and when he does, he is going to be very busy just keeping up with all the demand for his beautiful bowls and other wooden items.

Steve Knowles' wood turning  is a good example of how one might ease out of the work force while adding a very interesting project to ones life.

Here is a short video showing his recent work.