Saturday, December 31, 2011

Virtual Paintout #3: Eureka Salt Flats

Eureka Salt Flats; TRYing again, hasty attempts, next time I'll have more time. I found
out too late this time.

Friday, December 30, 2011

I attend a Virtual Paintout in Eureka, California

My friend Gail Slaughter who lives near Eureka California sent me a newspaper clipping about the Virtual Paintout.  I decided to try submitting, and this is the first painting I did:

Sequoia Park Zoo, Eureka California
small watercolor on Canson Paper
by me, Mary Stebbins Taitt
The instructions said to go to google maps and using the streetview, choose a view.  I had never done that before, and I thought I'd done it but it turned out to be a photo--I didn't realize it, being unfamiliar with the google maps and streetviews, until it was too late.  So I can't submit it.

So I did another one:

Redwood Highway (101), Eureka, California
by Mary Stebbins Taitt
Unfortunately, being the end of the year and the end of the month, both of these were done more hastily than I would prefer to do them.  But we are out of town visiting and I have limited art supplies and limited time.

(NOTE: we are 400 miles from home and may not be able to get on the internet!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Crowman and me
After The Crow Man, by Winterwolfe

From a dream which you can see here if interested.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

ArtRage: Insomnia 111218

One of my ArtRage paintings: Insomnia 111218 for the poem below. 2:38 Am and not a wink of sleep yet tonight. Not one wink.

In the Way; Insomnia # 111218

In the Way; Insomnia # 111218

I lie in bed and twitch, tired, but not sleepy.
 I don't know what to do with my extra arms and legs.
Wherever I put them, they are in the way, cordwood
piled against raw skin. My body twists into a mobius strip,
a single surface of angst. Electricity crackles and snaps
down my spine, leaping from vertebrae to vertebrae.
 My left foot circles and rears like a wild stallion.
 When it leaps from the bed, it drags the rest of me,
protesting, with it, out into canyons of darkness,
 lighting the night with the lantern
throbbing from my weary skull.

 Mary Stebbins Taitt 111218-0200

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Making Christmas Cards

I've been very busy.  This is just ONE of my ongoing projects:

drawing the design

carving the design

inking the design

first print


printing the cards and drying them
Making Homemade Christmas cards is a slow and tedious process with many opportunities to mess things up or even even ruin the work.  There is no undo button.

Mailing Gifts

I mailed off my first Christmas gift a few days ago to Mubin in India, a painting I made, also another for a late birthday gift.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Goldfinch and the new chapter 12

Today I wrote a new chapter 12 and the old one (last post) is now chapter 13.  I am the author, and I can do that.

The new chapter 12, however, is unfinished--intentionally--I want to use it as a repository for certain things that need to be communicated.  Later.

Goldfinch, by Mary Stebbins Taitt
So, what does the goldfinch photo that took with a long lens at the Pinery in Ontario in May have to do with my new chapter 12?  Absolutely nothing.  I just wanted to add a pretty picture.

You can see that the oak leaves are bigger than a squirrel's ear and yes the morels WERE gone by.

If you would like to read the new Chapter 12, it is HERE.

Chapter 13, Day 5, part 3, Night visitor (NaNoWriMo 2011, Death Angel)

What follows is an entire chapter.  I realize that's a lot to read online. First draft, still many things to be fixed. And somewhat out of order.  I hope to assemble the chapters in order somehow, somewhere.

Chapter 13, Day 5, part 3, Night visitor (NaNoWriMo 2011, Death Angel)

Saturday, September 10, 11:15 PM

Chapter flyleaf illo:  raccoon

“You save yourself or you remain unsaved.” ― Alice Sebold

 “It already is bigger than everything else. It lives in front of me, behind me, next to me, inside me every single day.” ― Daisy WhitneyThe Mockingbirds

            When the festivities of the Mycology Picnic were dying down and the stragglers were leaving, Rune said goodnight to Elizabeth and McHaggerty, who were themselves still saying goodbye to last departing guests, shouldered her backpack, put on her headlamp with a red gel, but didn’t turn it on, and headed up the trail to the lean-to.  Once she was out of sight from the lights of the house and party, she paused to allow her eyes to adapt to the dark.  She knew that in twenty minutes, she’d be able to see as well as a cat in the dark—or, nearly as well, close enough. But she didn’t have to wait that long.  The trail was wide.  The McHaggerties kept it mowed until it became too steep, and by then, she could see well enough to navigate the trail, which was still well-trimmed against encroaching branches that could poke an eye.
                      Rune had stayed at the lean-to before, on a number of occasions over the last few years of her undergraduate work, and remembered the first time.  It was in the fall of the year she had first taken Mycology 158 with Dr. McHaggerty.  It was during her first McHaggerty picnic when McHaggerty had taken her, Larry and about 5 other students including Jody and Bart out at the end of the evening to the lean-to.  Almost everyone else had left, and McHaggerty built a fire and he, Larry and the six students ((Name the others?)) had roasted marshmallows and made s'mores with supplies that McHaggerty had secretly brought in his backpack.  They drank a little wine, sang some songs and went back to McHaggerty's and on back to campus flushed with happiness and good feelings.
           Some time later, Rune had told McHaggerty that she liked to camp and had camped all her life.  She'd asked if she could stay in his lean-to sometime, and he'd readily agreed.
           On a fine sunny afternoon one weekend in October, Rune rode out on the Indian.  It was Indian-summer warm, the fall colors resplendent.  Elizabeth had invited Rune for dinner, and they'd grilled round steaks with thin slices of garlic in little slits in the meat and parsnips and carrots from the garden, wrapped in several layers of foil with butter and garlic chunks and laid on the coals. A colorful tossed salad with radishes from the McHaggerty’s garden and mushrooms from their yard and small cooked bits of summer squash complemented the meal.  One of McHaggerty's favorite meals, Rune recalled.  They'd sat out back admiring the sugar maples, which were bright red at the top, orange in the middle, yellow at the bottom and in green inside. Rune had set up her small tripod and taken pictures, first of the trees, and then of Dr. and Mrs. McHaggerty, first in their Adirondack chairs and then standing with a pitchfork in front of their house glowering.  That picture had been put on the flyleaf of the school yearbook that year.
           McHaggerty and Elizabeth walked Rune out to the lean-to just before sunset, and they'd all three carefully climbed on the roof to watch the sun set over the hills. It has been the reddest sunset Rune had ever seen.
           Then Elizabeth and McHaggerty had left, and Rune had set up camp in the lean-to.  It didn’t' take long; she laid out an air mattress, a sleeping bag, and a canteen.
           Suddenly, it was pitch dark, and Rune heard appalling noises in the woods, screeching and shrieking and howling and the send of footsteps, sometimes quite loud and close.
           Rune was terrified.
           She'd been camping all her life, since she was 6 weeks old, but it suddenly occurred to her that she had never before camped alone.  Never. Family or friends have always surrounded her.
           She told herself to stop being so foolish, and that she was a big girl now, and not afraid of the dark.
                       But she was unaccountably terrified of the dark.
                       She wondered if there were ever any bears around here, or wolves or coyotes or wild dogs or escaped convicts.
                       The woods were alive with sound.
                       There were hoots and whistles, cracklings, stampings and snortings.  Did bears snort?
                       Wild pigs?
                       Rune was in wildlife management at the time, and tried to remember everything she'd read.  Wild pigs were dangerous, but she didn't believe they lived around there.  There weren't supposed to be any dangerous animals nearby.  But what about rapists and murderers?
                       Rune shivered.  It was incredibly unbelievably cold. It had been such a warm day.  She curled into a ball inside her sleepingbag with the bag’s thick hood over her head and the drawstrings pulled tight around her nostrils. She listened to the night noises, the loud clatterings of branches and twigs and leaves, the snorts and screeches.
                       She laughed now, remembering.  Now she knew that the sounds were made by screech owls, deer and raccoons, none of which normally dangerous.  But that night, they seemed monstrous in her mind.
                       She had wanted to go home, desperately.  Not just back to the dorm, but home to her parents.
                       But she embarrassed to leave in the middle of the night.  Ashamed to admit her fear.  So she stayed, and eventually slept.  And woken up to a hard rain.  She was soaked and bedraggled by the time she’d hiked back to McHaggerty’s for breakfast, but secretly exultant that’s he’d camped alone for the first time ever.
                       She'd like to think that that was last time she'd ever been afraid. But it wasn't.  She wasn't afraid of the dark most of the time, but if she'd seen a scary movie or read a scary book or was just feeling low for some reason, she could work up a good fright not only in the woods, but also at home.
                       Still, Rune generally felt much less afraid in the woods at night now

            Rune folded her sleeping bag and sat in the dark and meditated, counting breaths and letting her thoughts float through, observed but not followed.  That was the idea, anyway.  She floated along on the surface of her thoughts, hearing the screech owls and the great-horned owls and barred owls calling back and forth.  She knew more owl calls now than she had that first time.  She named the sounds without losing herself in them.  Then she suddenly surfaced to realize she had been dragged below by an errant thought to which she'd inadvertently attached herself.  She'd float up, observe and slip away again.  
            The darkness grew velvety and rich.  She became increasingly aware of smells, a smell of soil, the smells of mushrooms and worm castings, a musky smell of some animal, maybe a woodchuck.  The sweet fragrance of an autumn flower or a very sweet grass or fern.  The crashings in the woods behind the lean-to were probably raccoons.   She could smell the damp and slightly rotted smell of the old logs of the lean-to. The memory of the shower scene in Psycho, the knife going up and down, the hands frantically covering the breasts, which ironically, McHaggerty had taken her to see a the Manlius in some rerun festival early in their friendship, flitted through her mind and she felt a momentary sense of panic and dread and then watched it drain away again as she slowed her breathing.  She’d never let anyone take her to another horror movie.  Breathe in; breathe out.  Why would anyone want to be frightened intentionally? Adrenaline rush.  No thanks.  Breathe in; breathe out.  The fear lingered around the edges of her thoughts, and then vanished as she inadvertently followed a more cheerful thought of the big breakfast Elizabeth would prepare for her in the morning.  Smiling, she returned yet again to her breath.
            She didn't time her meditation, she just decided the moment had come to lie down, and crawled into her sleeping bag and closed her eyes.  She'd taken off her jeans, folded them carefully, and put them under her head for a pillow.  She wore the rest of her clothes, including her sweater and socks, because of the chilliness of the night.
            She woke some time later, listened to the night, turned on her side and drifted away again.  Later, she turned to her other side, waking only enough to notice the chill air on the skin of her cheeks.
            The next time she woke up, she was not alone.  

            Sleepily, Rune started to sit up, to look around the dark lean-to, to listen. But someone pushed her down and laid on top of her, fumbling for the sleeping bag's zipper.  All Rune's fears from the first time she stayed here flooded back and she screamed.  A hand clamped over her mouth.  Another hand snaked into her clothing from the top of the sleeping bag.  Rune struggled, but she was trapped, held tight in the bag, and whoever held her was stronger than she.  The hand wriggled among the layers of clothes until it found her skin, the skin near her collarbone.  
            The hand stroked in an odd way, pressing rhythmically, then slid down into her bra to cup her breast.  Rune struggled and fought.  She felt herself becoming sleepier, lethargic, and wondered if she'd been drugged.  She went limp, lay still, and the hand came off her mouth.  The weight lifted and the sleeping bag was untwisted and unzipped.  Suddenly, Rune rolled to the side, scrambled up, and ran, tripping over the edge of the lean-to and sprawling on the ground.  She was desperately sleepy and dizzy, but she had to get away. She crawled on her hands and knees and managed to get up and run into the woods.  She crashed through the underbrush.  Someone followed, with a flashlight.  
            Rune stood, swaying, weak and woozy, with her back to a large tree and reached up to her collarbone.  Just under the collarbone, she found a patch of some kind, stuck to her skin. She peeled it off and folded the sticky sides together, wrapped it in a leaf and jammed it in her bra.  She wasn't wearing pants, and had no other pockets but wanted to save it to examine later.  She didn't move.  She waited.  Whoever was nearby was waiting too.  
            Rune clung to the tree.  She had managed ever so slowly to turn around without making a sound.  She could feel moisture seeping into her socks.  A flashlight scanned back and forth through the woods. It arced toward her and away, without coming quite to her tree. When the circle of light, broken by leaves and branches, was at the far end of the arc away from her, she peered around the side of the tree.  Faint light reflected back from the trees and bushes showed her McHaggerty’s face, looking both anxious and evil from the weird lighting.  It was so much like something from a horror movie that Rune almost screamed.  She covered her own mouth, biting her fingers.
            Then she calmed slightly, as she realized that McHaggerty wasn't planning to kill her. Probably. No, he wasn't, he wanted to have sex with her, and she hadn't encouraged him, so he was taking it into his own hands.  He wanted to make love to her.  No, he wanted to rape her.  He had given her something to make her sleep or at least relax, it was on her skin, where he had rubbed his fingers, and he had intended to take her without her permission.  Maybe even without her knowledge.  
            A great rush of anger flushed through her, anger, rage, shame, and disgust. Fury. Her head was clearing, she felt less dizzy.  She considered grabbing a branch from the ground and attacking McHaggerty, but instead, she stayed absolutely still.
            McHaggerty came into the woods, but she knew he couldn't see her, he could only see the circle of light where his flashlight fell.  She knew this from a series of activities she had participated in at Poconos Environmental Education Camp (PEEC).  They had a had night walks and night activities all without the use of flashlights, and Rune had come back to Syracuse with a new love of the night and a new respect for it. She had taught a series of the workshops as a projects course at Beaver Lake Nature Center in Baldwinsville.  Funny, she thought, that with all McHaggerty's knowledge and experience he didn't seem to know this simple fact.
            He looked back and forth, and then called her, "Rune.  Rune?  Rune!"  Rune thought that if she hadn't peeled off the patch on her chest, she might be passed out on the cold damp ground with no covering and no jeans.  She could be getting hypothermia.  She was pretty cold, though her anger warmed her some.  But if she was passed out, and McHaggerty didn't find her . . ..  She could become ill or die out there in the cold.  But she wasn't.  She wondered, though, if he were now worrying about her safety and well-being. Too bad he hadn't thought about that sooner.  Before he tried to . . .rape her.  It was hard for Rune to even think the word rape in conjunction with McHaggerty, whom she had loved for several years.
            She found herself thinking, would it have been so bad if I had just let him? And then was disgusted and shamed at the thought. She felt a tear trickling down her cheek and angrily wiped it away.  Dammit, I love him, she thought, but not that way.  And now, how am I supposed to feel about him?  Always afraid and angry?
            She began to shiver, and shivered harder until she was afraid she would make enough noise in the bushes for McHaggerty to hear her.  She steeled herself against the shivering, which was more than just cold.  McHaggerty cast back and forth, back and forth, with the light, tromping further into the woods.  He was making enough noise that Rune crept back into the lean-to and grabbed her jeans.  She crossed the trail to the other side, pulled on her jeans and ducked into the woods.  Since she'd obviously gone into the woods on the lean-to side, McHaggerty would be unlikely to look for her on the far side.  Hopefully.   She could hear him calling, sounding more and more worried.
            Finally, he came out, and taking one cursory swipe of the flash light and glance into the lean-to, retreated down the trail toward the house.  He was abandoning her limp, drugged body to hypothermia, she thought, angrily.  
            As soon as he was out of sight down the trail, Rune went back in the lean-to, shoved her hiking boots on over her damp leafy socks, crammed her sleeping bag into her day pack, tossed her canteen and her few other things in on top, zipped it, and put it on her back.  She tied a bandanna around her head and followed McHaggerty down the trail.  He had a good stride and a head start, and she only occasionally caught a glimpse of his flashlight at a distance.  Good. He'd know soon enough that she was safe.  
            But when they got back to the house, Rune discovered that McHaggerty had, sometime earlier, blocked in the Indian with his Land Rover.  McHaggerty was in the garage, rooting around in piles of stuff.  
            The Indian was heavy. It was blocked in by the Land Rover behind it and by a row of boulders on either side of the driveway.  Rune pushed it toward the two lowest boulders, tugged a wheel up, pushed it.  The engine made a small scraping sound and Rune waited, holding her breath, but McHaggerty was clanging around in the garage still.  She pushed it a little further and then hoisted the back wheel over the rocks.  She pushed it around the Land Rover and back up onto the driveway through a gap in the rocks.  
            The garage light went out, and Rune held her breath, but McHaggerty was temporarily blinded by the sudden darkness.  She saw he was carrying a suitcase-like object, only different, sort of like a sewing machine case.  A small generator, maybe, because in the other hand, he had a (()) of electrical cord and a large light.  He apparently intended to search the woods for her, imagining her to have passed out, she guessed.  In a moment, he'd notice that the motorcycle was gone, but if he was thinking clearly, he'd know he hadn't heard the sound of its starting up.  
            Rune jammed the helmet on her head.  It was cold and damp with dew from hanging over the handlebars.  Then she prayed and jumped on the starter. The Indian did not like starting when it was cold and damp, but miraculously, it fired up immediately, and she roared down the driveway and out onto highway 13.
            She flew into the night, twisting in a dance on the night highway.  There was not another car in sight.
            She imagined McHaggerty chasing after her in his Land Rover, but what would that accomplish?  No, he'd be relieved she was safe and not passed out in the woods dying of hypothermia, and would go inside and go to bed.

            As she drove back toward Syracuse, the thought that McHaggerty had intended to rape her raced through her mind over and over.  How was she supposed to feel about that? How could she continue to work for him?  What should she say to him? How could she keep herself safe?  She wondered if she should report the incident to the police or to the Dean of students at ESF, or to anyone.  What would happen to him if she did?  What would happen to her?

Friday, December 09, 2011

WeekWord: COLOR

Sally at Sow and Sew has picked the WeekWord, colour.  Please go there if you would like to participate and/or learn more.

We live in a colorful world!  Even in December, it's colorful!!!  (Either that, or I am!)

"Self-portrait at Three Rivers with Hug"
photograph by Mary Stebbins Taitt

It can be colorful at night, even though darkness causing our color vision to diminish. This is the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club from Lakeshore, near where I live:

"The Yacht Club by Moonlight"
Photo by Mary Stebbins Taitt
(Click image to view larger)

Winter can be colorful, in spite of all the white ice and snow:

Ice on Lake St. Clair at Lakeshore
Photograph by Mary Stebbins Taitt
(Click image to view larger)

Color affects our world, our tastes and our choices:

Photograph by Mary Stebbins Taitt
Click to view larger.

As an acolyte artist, (acolyte used here to mean, in this case, a beginner, one who studies, and a follower of art as a spiritual and plebian practice), I am fascinated by color.

The three primary ways to talk about color are: hue, value and chroma or saturation.

Please note:  because I am a BEGINNER, I may get some of this wrong, but I'll try.

   COLOR THEORIES Two theories explain how colors work and interact. The light, or additive theory deals with radiated and filtered light. The pigment, or subtractive theory deals with how white light is absorbed and reflected off of colored surfaces. As an artist, I am primarily interested in pigment theory. As a scientist, I am interested in light theory. Light theory has to do with the wavelengths of the hues. I probably won't have time to talk about that in a meaningful way this week. So I will talk (briefly, I expect) about pigment theory.

HUE We all learned about color wheels when we were in grade school. The primary colors in a PIGMENT color wheel are red, yellow and blue. 

by Mary Stebbins Taitt
(Click image to view larger)
I painted this image last night when I was up with terrible insomnia.  It used the three primary colors of pigment theory, which of course, everyone knows from primary school.  One thing I realized is that I create very few images with primary colors.

I did locate this photograph I took of a blue vase on the windowsill of a red barn with yellow flowers:

by Mary Stebbins Taitt
(Click image to view larger)
Of course, the primary colors can be used to create secondary and tertiary colors.  I painted the painting below as an exercise, copied from a book, using only the three primary colors.  Absolutely no other colors besides red, blue and yellow were used in painting this pictures.  It's a water color, one of my first:

"The Gatehouse"
by Mary Stebbins Taitt
(click image to view larger)

The secondary colors are orange green and purple. These colors are hues. They can be combined into other colors or hues.

VALUE The value of a color is how light or dark it is, how much light is reflected from it.
The picture shown below is "play," play with color. In this case, I was playing with value. I chose a single hue, red, and added light and dark to that hue. I arranged the pigment on the screen in a way that pleased me--for fun.

"Remembering Our Love"
by Mary Stebbins Taitt
a value study of sorts
(Click image to view larger)
Value without hue is white, shades of grey and black.

"Keith with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)"
by Mary Stebbins Taitt
A value study in black, white and grey
(click image to view larger)
This is a black, white and grey "value study" of my husband complaining of "Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)"--or maybe he's just tired and depressed.  Unfortunately, all the shades of grey did not reproduce.  Black, white and shades of grey are colors, in that artist can buy tubes of paint.  Some scientists consider black, white and shades of grey to be an absence of color.

This color value wheel

Shows the primary, secondary and tertiary hues in the white-marked portion, with darkening values going toward the outside of the circle and lightening values toward the inside of the circle.

SATURATION (or Chroma) is the color intensity of a hue. 

This is a kind of clumsy saturation wheel I hastily painted myself.

The colors (hues) around the outside are very saturated, and then are increasingly desaturated to the middle.  This is not entirely successful, because the values of these hues are not identical, but I couldn't colors with identical values.  It does show the effects of saturation.  Note that desaturated orange tends to resemble brown and desaturated yellow tends to resemble green.  (Olive green).

The orange was most successful, as shown by the desaturated version of it:

This fully desaturated orange section shows how closely the values in the orange section are to each other, meaning that the "color variations" in the colored saturation wheel above are do entirely to saturation levels and not to hue or value.

For comparison:

The color value study ("Remembering our love") shown above still shows values when desaturated (changes in light and dark).

In the following unfinished painting, done right over an older painting, I used desaturation to indicate distance and saturation to indicate closeness.  (I know the painting needs more work, but I am running out of time for this post.):

"Autumn Lane" (unfinished)
by Mary Stebbins Taitt
click image to view larger
"Autumn Lane 3-111207"
Can't leave it alone, got out the old palette knife
This image started out as a pointillistic pice in Tami's moleskine sketchbook (real ink on real paper).  Every time I play with it, I change it.  It is still supposed to be an example of saturation of color, and how desaturation makes things appear to retreat into the background.  However, this copy fails to reproduce the colors accurately.  And I can't fiddle with with it endlessly to get it perfect right now.

I hope you all have a colorful and joyous holiday season.  (I could add that on here, too.)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Rune's Presentation, Part III, from Death Angel, Mary's 2011 NaNoWriMo Novel

Amanita muscaria
Fly agaric
this is not my image but was borrowed off the internet.  I found many copies of it but did not locate the photographer.  I would be happy to give credit if I did. 

Rune's presentation part III

Rune showed slides of morels, of her grandmother frying them in butter and garlic and white wine.  She showed shaggy manes and Coprinus. She mentioned how she thought it was odd in a way that the inky caps were among the first mushrooms she learned and explained that the students should never eat them and drink alcohol.  Her grandmother had not told her that.  Rune wondered if she knew.  She did not tell them they shouldn't drink; most of them did and it was their business, not hers.  She thought about the way her presentation wove in and out of McHaggerty's, how there were differences and similarities.  In no case were her pictures or her wording the same.  She didn't go for pyrotechnics.  She thought, as she spoke, that she might add more flare in the future, when she was away from Dr. McHaggerty and Dr. Otis.
She talked briefly about chicken of the woods, hen of the woods and black trumpet mushrooms, which her grandmother used to flavor soups, stews and sauces, and then switched to poisonous mushrooms.  She showed several of the white varieties of Amanita, and then talked about Fly agaric, Amanita muscaria.
"This is one of my favorite mushrooms," Rune said, showing a brightly-colored yellow Amanita muscaria.  My grandmother told me that it was poisonous.  I have friends who told me you can get high eating or smoking it.  My research tells me that it is both poisonous and psychoactive and has been used by shamanic practitioners for centuries.  But it is a dangerous mushroom to use for psychoactive properties because the dosage to get high is somewhat variable by season and location and by whether you dry or heat the mushroom and the dosage to get high and the dosage to to poison yourself are fairly close.  Muscimol and Ibotenic acid are two of the psychoactive chemicals in Amanita muscaria. A fatal dose of Amanita muscaria is estimated to be approximately 15 caps whereas the amount recommended to get high is 1-6 dried caps.  That may not sound like much of an overlap, but keep in mind that the dosage varies extensively."  As she was talking, Rune showed a number of slides of different colored fly agarics, including bright red ones she got off the internet--she had never seen red ones in person.  Only yellow and orange.  
Amanita muscaria, yellow
Photo by Keith Taitt, Three Rivers GMA
"To further complicate the issue," Rune continued, "there are people who use this mushroom for food.  They slice it thin and boil it.  The toxins are water soluble and if properly prepared they become a food source.  Deaths, which occur infrequently, are caused by coma and inability for self-ventilate-- that is, breathe.  The prognosis for recovery for most people who eat these mushrooms, even in fairly large quantities, is good if they medical help.  However, keep in mind that you can die if you eat them.
"If you are interested, compare what it says about Amanita muscaria on Wikipedia and at Erowid with what your textbook says.  And consider taking Dr. Ned Tedeschi's course on Drugs from the Wild, keeping in mind that most of the drugs he's referring to are medicinal rather than psychoactive."
"The Drugs from the Wild course is too hard for most of you!" a laughing voice said in the back.  Dr. Tedeschi had slipped into the back of the classroom, the fourth member of Rune's graduate committee.  "I don't want a bunch of druggies taking the class thinking it will be an easy A," he added, still laughing.  "What do you say we give Rune I mean Miss Carmichael a big hand?"
Everyone clapped and cheered and Rune asked if there was any questions and answered a few.  As she was packing up the projector and turning off the computer, Dr. Otis returned to the front of the room.  
She pushed the cart out of the room and paused in the hall to scarf down a couple of Larry's cookies.  She heard Dr. Otis say to the class, "Even a hobbyist can collect a lot of good pictures and information."
McHaggerty, Hanselman, and Tedeschi were coming out and almost ran into Rune, who stood by the door with her hands balled into fists and tears welling up in her eyes.  Darn, she thought, for the hundredth time, I wish I didn't cry so easily!  She turned away so they wouldn't see her tears, but they all wanted to congratulate her on a job well-done.
"Why does he insist on calling me a hobbyist?" she hissed to McHaggerty.  "I'm a graduate student at an accredited college doing research in his area of expertise and what I've said is correct." As soon as she spoke, she knew the answer.  Dr. Otis respected only hard science and rigorous research.  He wanted Rune to do 'real' research, not become a naturalist and teach kids about nature.  He wanted double blind studies, he wanted controls.  She wondered if she could somehow get Dr. Otis off her committee.  He could skew the results of her work.
"Don't worry," McHaggerty said, "there are three of us and only one of him."
"Wait, did I just speak out loud?"
"No, he was reading your mind," ((Hanselman)) said, laughing.
"We'll outvote him," Dr. Tedeschi said, his face serious and concerned.  He had big sad eyes and Rune knew he hated to see anyone cry.  But she couldn't help it.
"It's a great program," Dr. McHaggerty said, "I'm going to arrange for you to give it at Beaver Lake."
"I'd like you to give it to my drugs in the wild class," Dr. Tedeschki said.  "They would love it, especially the bit at the end."
"I'd like you to give it at the senior center--a lot of those folks grew up collecting mushrooms and would love it.
Rune was nodding and nodding, but wondering why it was with all this praise, the thing that really got her goat was still Dr. Otis's comment about her being a hobbyist.  As if her work didn't count, wasn't real or was less than.

Rune's Presentation Part II

photo (c) Fred Stevens
from a website on mushrooms, see link below.

This is continued from Rune's presentation part I, here.  This is a little bit of editing and a little bit of addition to the last post.  I added a photo (above) from this website:

            A picture of Rune's grandmother holding small tan mushrooms came up next.  She had a pained looking half-smile. 
"The second mushroom my grandmother taught me to collect and eat was a small tan mushroom she variously called a fairy ring mushroom and a tan toadstool. It’s Latin name is Marasmius oreades.”
Another shot showed the mushrooms growing in a circle.  “They grown in a circle,” Rune said, “As they use up the food in the center.  Some circles get hundreds of feet across.”  A third shot showed their peculiar hat-like shape. “Toadstools,” Rune said, "are often considered poisonous, that is, anything called a toadstool is usually thought of as poisonous.  Everyone in my neighborhood when I was a child called these toadstools and were horrified that we collected and ate them.  But they were good.  Extremely good.  And I am still alive.”
Rune passed a handout to the boy at the corner seat. “Here are some recipes for fairy-ring mushroom soup, fairy-ring rice pilaf and others, along with some links to other recipes.  I got these off the internet.  My grandmother, my mother and I always used these mushrooms like any other—cut the stems off first—in stir fries, on pizza, in lasagna, or fried in butter and served as a side dish.” (to be continued)

NOTE:  Although this is a novel and the STORY is from the imagination, the plot and characters, parts of it are true, and this but about my grandmother and the mushrooms is true and from my real childhood.  These are, in fact, the mushrooms we ate.
I do not, however, have any pictures of my grandmother with mushrooms (I don't think) In fact, I have very few pictures of her, as she did not like to have her picture taken.  Here is one.  

I am the kind of dy-eee-ah looking child on the left of the photo.  My grandmother (the one who gathered mushrooms, though my other grandmother may also have gathered mushrooms) is the one in the center, between my mother and father.  

Doodle for your Noodle

The Daily Challenge, which I do almost every day, said to "doodle for your noodle" today, and so I doodled while watching a video on you-tube about hue, value and saturation (I watched 3 videos and doodled without looking at the page).  Okay, I'm weird, but you already knew that, right?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Erin's Blog and Rune's presentation, part I

My daughter Erin has a new blog.  It's called Erin in the Woods.  In today's post, she wrote about writing while walking.  I was both happily amused and interested, because this has been a long-time habit of mine.  I write while I am walking, and I would say 3/4 of my NaNoWriMo novel (as yet incomplete) was written while walking.

Erin's Blog banner
(Click image to view larger)

Here is the banner from Erin's blog.  On the top right, in case you can't read it (click on it to see it bigger), it says, I am at my most content while walking in the woods.  I have felt this way most of my life.

Today, I wrote the following during my walk, which is an unfinished section fairly early in the novel.  And remember, a first rough draft, and not even finished yet:

            Rune had arranged to give a presentation on edible and poisonous mushrooms to Dr. Otis’s Mycology 101 class.  It was something Dr. ((Hanselman)) had arranged last spring when Rune had contacted Hanselman about doing a MS in Natural History Communications under him in the fall.  She was to give a series of presentation to various groups, and Dr. Otis was the first of these. 
            Rune had worked on the presentation all spring and summer.  She already had an extensive collection of slides and photographs, and she asked Peter Schilya to make drawings for her of the few things she did not have photographs of, could not obtain in time and wanted to talk about.  It turned out that Peter had lovely drawings of most of those already and only had to do a few.  He seemed pleased to be asked and Dr. Hanselman)) had arranged for him to get a projects course one credit for assisting Rune.
            Rune scanned all the slides and artwork and made presentation slides to go between and put them together in a digital presentation that could be shown with one of Larry Thompson's digital projectors.  She created a voice over for it and gave a copy to ((Hanselman)). for her project grade.  She intended to not use the voice over but to actually speak aloud in her own voice in real time so she could answer questions.  ((Hanselman)) was the chairman of the Forest and Environmental Communications department and Rune's major professor for her interdisciplinary master's degree.
            Dr. Otis seemed willing to have her lecture to his class and smiled at her when she arrived fifteen minutes before the class with Larry's digital projector.  Rune wanted to get everything set up and test it before the students arrived. 
            Dr. Otis disappeared as she was setting up and came back with two cups of coffee and some cookies.  "Larry dropped these off for you.  You and me, he said, but they must be primarily for you, because he doesn't usually give me cookies," Dr. Otis said. 
            Rune turned to look at him, because his voice has an unidentifiable note of jealousy or annoyance or something.  But he was smiling amiably and holding out a paper plate of cookies to her.  Rune set them on the projection cart next to the projector.  She didn't want to eat anything until she was sure everything was copesthetic.  She used one of Larry's tiny little notebook computers on the lower shelf to run the program through the projector.  She put her test slides up on the screen and everything seemed to be in order. 
            She took a bite of one of Larry's cookies and a sip coffee.  It was cherry hazelnut with sweetened vanilla cream.  She peeked at Dr. Otis.  He wasn't grimacing, so Larry must have sent up two carafes of coffee.  She knew from past experience with Dr. Otis that he hated flavored coffee.  He thought anyone who liked flavored coffee was a wimp.  Talk about an opinionated asshole.  Rune thought to herself.  He thinks that what he likes is right and what other people like is wrong.  Black and white.  But she smiled sweetly and sipped the coffee Larry had made for her.
            "He was wearing an APRON when he came with the cookies," Dr. Otis said, a note of disdain and disgust in his voice. 
            "I think he looks cute in an apron," Rune said, cheerfully, smiling sweetly again.
            She was pleased that Larry trusted her enough to allow her to take the AV equipment herself instead of insisting on coming along and setting it up for her the way he did for everyone else.  It's true that she was a high school AV geek, but a lot had changed in the intervening years.  Technology was changing in leaps and bounds.
            The first students filed into the classroom, talking quietly among themselves.  Rune stuck the dish of cookies on the bottom shelf of the cart and set her coffee where she could sip it when she got dry.
            Dr. Otis moved a little closer to her.  "You're not following Dr. McHaggerty's outline," he said, very quietly.  He had apparently deduced something about the order of her slides from the test slides that she had projected.
            "No," Rune said, "I have my own story." Again, she smiled sweetly.  Dr. Otis was rubbing her the wrong way, as he often did.  It wasn't his actual words, which seemed harmless enough, but his tone of voice, expression and body language.
            He was handsome in a huge bear-like way.  Like McHaggerty, he had a beard and longish hair, but his hair was curlier than McHaggerty's, and very dark.  His skin was dark, too, well-tanned, and his eyes were such a dark brown to be almost black.  His eyebrows weren't as bushy as McHaggerty's. 
            Like McHaggerty, he was large and strong, but his strength was not diminished as much by age as McHaggerty's.  Not that McHaggerty was weak; he just seemed not quite as bearish as Dr. Otis.   Dr. Otis seemed to shrink McHaggerty when he stood beside him.
            As Rune was thinking of McHaggerty, he and ((Hanselman)) appeared at the door and sat quietly in the back.  They, along with Dr. Otis, were on Rune's graduate committee and wanted to sit in on her actual presentation.
            Rune had a pang of nervousness and then relaxed.  She'd gone over the talk so many times she knew it by heart, and McHaggerty and ((Hanselman) etc had seen the recorded version and already essentially approved it.
            Rune smiles to herself as she forwarded the presentation through the three test slides.  Those slides were there so that she could test the equipment without anyone seeing any of the actual presentation ahead of time.  This was for the sake of any early-arriving students, but Dr. Otis hadn't seen it either.
            "This is one of our graduate students, Rune Carmichael," Dr. Otis said.  "She's working under Dr. (Hanselman)), Dr. McHaggerty and me and is going to give a slide presentation of edible and poisonous mushrooms.  As you know, Dr. McHaggerty, who is in attendance today, teaches a whole course on that subject.  This will serve as in introduction to the possibilities in that course.  Miss Carmichael has a BS in Biology, Natural Sciences and Wildlife Management from ESF, and I might add, graduated magna cum laude and second in her class.  Miss Carmichael . . ."
            Rune stood up.  She smiled at the kids.  They looked so young and wet behind the ears. When she was a freshman, she thought she knew everything.  Hah!  What a joke.  What a rude surprise, actually.
            ((Dr. Hanselman)) was sitting next to the light switches, and Rune turned to him and said, "May I have the lights?”

            “This was my grandmother, Teresa Elena Carmicael,” Rune said, as the first slide filled the screen.  It showed a old sun-browned woman with a square face, grizzled braids wrapped around her head and a bit of a scowl on her face. Rune smiled at the scowl.  Grandma, she thought, never liked having her picture taken.  She was holding a basket full of mushrooms.  Rune smiled at the look of surprise on Dr. Otis’s face.  He had expected she would begin with the slides she had put up first.
            The next slide showed Runes grandmother in a gingham dress and a mismatched apron, bending over to pick mushrooms.  “My grandmother was Italian and came to America from the ‘old country.’  She gathered wild edibles to supplement her family’s diet, including mushrooms, and she was my first teacher.  These are the first mushrooms she taught me to collect and eat as a child.”
            The next slide showed a close up of a white mushroom with pink gills from slightly below, and was followed by several white mushrooms with pink gills and brown gills in a hand. “Grandma called these field ‘mushrooms,” Rune said.  "The first mushrooms my grandmother taught me to collect are Agaricus campestris, which are closely related to the white mushroom commonly sold in stores, the cultivated button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus.  I've been collecting and eating them all my life.  Campestris means 'of the field,' so field mushrooms is an appropriate name for it.
            "Few mushrooms can easily be confused with this field mushroom, Agaricus campestris.  Grandma told me never to collect a white mushroom with white gills.  Most of your probably already know that Amanita phalloides and several other similar poisonous Amanitas are white with white gills.  They are so poisonous that it's not even a good idea to touch them."  Rune showed some slides of Amanitas.  As long as you do not pick any white mushrooms with white gills, you should be safe from the deadliest Amanitas.
            "Another mushroom that could be confused with the common field mushroom, Agaricus campestris, is a close relative, The yellow-staining mushroom, Agaricus xanthodermus.  This mushroom makes some people quite sick, whereas others can eat with no apparent problem." Rune showed a slide of a mushroom cut in half.  It resembled the common field mushroom but was colored yellow at the base in the bisected part.  "in addition to the obvious yellow coloration at the base of the stem, this mushroom has an odor of phenol similar to carbolic soap.  The smell is unpleasant and strong when cooked, so you would be unlikely to eat it."
            "Some sources cite Clitocybes as being similar to Agaricus, the field mushrooms, but this is only true if you're dyslexic." Rune showed a slide of a pink mushroom with white gills.  "If you're dyslexic or forgetful, mushrooming may not be a safe hobby for you.  I'm dyslexic and forgetful, but I seem to be able to remember that the edible mushrooms have white caps and pink or brown gills.  I suggest if you have any doubt about your ability to remember this, don't eat wild mushrooms."
            "Again, the edible field mushrooms look like the regular store-bought mushrooms, white caps with pink or brown gills."  Another slide, this one showing Agaricus campestris cut in half. It lacked the yellow coloration of the similar species.      
            A picture of Rune's grandmother holding small tan mushrooms came up next.  She had a pained looking half-smile.
            "The second mushroom my grandmother taught me to collect and eat was a small tan mushroom she variously called a toadstool and a fairy ring mushroom."  Another shot showed the mushrooms growing in a circle.  A third shot showed their peculiar hat-like shape. “Toadstools,” Rune said, are often considered poisonous, that is, anything called a toadstool is usually thought of as poisonous.  Everyone in my neighborhood when I was a child called these toadstools and were horrified that we collected and ate them.  But they were good.  And I am still alive.” (to be continued--on my next walk)

the next part is located here