Sunday, August 30, 2009

One Single Impression -- Blue

blue skies

Longing for a time
when blue skies
unperturbed by
surface perambulations,
sublimely indifferent
to human strife,
before the machinations
of industry
could alter
atmospheric chemistry
or the devices
of war
could make
winter last
for years.

Sunday August 30, 2009

In the early 1960's when my preadolescent self discovered science fiction, I read a Ray Bradbury story entitled "There Will Come Soft Rains" (written in 1950 long before we understood the full destructive power of nuclear weapons). That story lead me to my passion with poetry, because it lead me to Sara Teasdale, author of the poem "There Will Come Soft Rains." Teasdale wrote her poem in the wake of World War I -- in 1920 before any one had added a numeral after the war.

For more poems on the theme "Blue" see One Single Impression.

Photo by sgreerpitt, a reclaimed stripmine in Letcher County, Kentucky.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--39 Glories of morning

I believe that I am finished painting the mural. The End!

It was a lovely, quiet Saturday on campus. Midway College, a private college in central Kentucky, offers a bachelors degree program on our campus on Friday evening and all day Saturday, but their students and teachers were in another building. My friend Angela Hunsucker was around -- during the semester when Midway classes are held Angela pulls the Saturday maintenance assignment. But mostly I was on my own, with my music and my muse.

Completed a dozen or more little things that needed to be done: repaired some ragged edges along the bottom, making a clean even bottom edge all the way across the painting (required using about eight different hues to do this); painted in a half-dozen or so books that had been left blank previously, and added titles to some of the books; filled in ragged margins between people in several places; provided writing students with pens, paper, books and notebooks and added little details of writing, etc; added detail to the respiratory machine -- but decided not to add anything to the x-ray machine (I might change my mind about that later).

The big task was to finish the irises and add the morning glory vines and flowers. I think that this worked well, and did what I hoped it would to help integrate the plaque area with the mural.

After I finished, I sat down and took a photo from a different angle then usual. Here it is the finished (I think!) mural:

All that's left to do now is spray the entire surface with a semi-matte varnish next weekend when everyone is out of the building.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--38 Ducks and flowers

This was such a different kind of painting day. All the people are done, every single one of them. So today I painted ducks and flowers.

The woman (Penny Ritter) whose vision inspired our college campus used to sit across the road from the old Coca-Cola bottling plant, watching the ducks and dreaming of a day when there would be college students feeding the ducks. So below the plaque (carefully protected behind painters tape and cardboard) I have placed a mother duck and two ducklings.

Then I needed to deal with all the rest of the empty space created by having to place the plaque in from the edge of the wall by some ten inches. I decided to use several types of blue/purple flowers, since the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) colors are a deep blue and gold. Violets do grow in places on the lawn that surrounds the college, although the photos I used for inspiration come from my own yard.

The irises are one of the first things you see in the spring when you approach the administration building and the Belinda Mason Building -- although they actually belong to Dr. Kathleen Caizzi who lives next door to the college. There are more irises to be painted. Some that are a white edged in very deep purple-blue. Also, the only flowers that I have any experience painting are irises; although all my iris painting experience is with water colors which work very differently from acrylics.

Later this week I will be adding morning glory vines and deep blue flowers climbing up the side of the plaque and across the top. Unfortunately, all the construction and renovations over the past eight years have obliterated the morning glories that used to exist on campus. So I have borrowed several photos off the web to provide a guide for how to portray these lovely flowers.

Below you can see first the area around the plaque -- safely hidden and protected from paint splatters by the cardboard. [After the official unveiling September 23, I will take photos for my blog that show the plaque in place]. This is what I worked on today, filling in all the blank white spaces, which included the drive in front of the administration building, the blouse, arms and computer of Pricie Young at bottom right, and the ducks and flowers. Below that is an overview of the whole thing -- almost finished!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--37 Really the last people!

Last week on Tuesday, my first day of teaching classes, two of my former students Mark White and Phillip Bentley dropped into my office "to annoy me" (their words). They got down to business -- please, they asked could they be in the mural?

Since I was trying to figure out what to do with a blank space, I said yes immediately. They gamely accompanied me and my camera outside and posed for photos despite cat-calls and ribbing from their pals.

Although I sketched them in that very day, I haven't had time for painting until yesterday (Monday August 24).

So Mark and Phillip, here you are!

If your computer screen resolution is 1152 by 864 (or close) you are actually seeing the figures of Mark and Phillip at their actual size in the mural -- pretty small.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

One Single Impression -- Allow

Pholcus phalangioides

dangling from your web
graciously sharing your space
keeping ants at bay.

This is the little (female) cellar spider or "cobweb" spider, some times erroneously called a "daddy long legs," that lives above my shower. I have come a very long way from the extremely phobic woman I once was, that I allow this lady to share my space, instead of vacuuming her up in terror. Don't get me wrong -- when a wolf spider the size of my right hand invaded my tub he was immediately dead! But I've learned over the years that the little Pholcus phalangioides will stay quietly in their corners and won't disturb me, if I don't disturb them.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--36 The last faces

Today I finished the very last faces in the main bottom area of the mural. Today's new faces were Nate Thompson (bottom right), Sharon Johnson (top left) and Tyler Watts (top right). I also gave Brandi some hair (bottom left).

This was the first time I've painted when all the students were on campus, coming and going from class. I deliberately put on big headphones (rather than just ear buds) so that people could see I was listening to music, and that cut down on the number of people asking me questions and talking to me. It was still a little weird to have a constant audience of dozens of students who were clearly observing me and talking about the portraits on the wall. Glad I didn't have that big an audience all summer.

There is one group of small figures to be added above these, but these are the last of the main faces/figures for the mural.

Looking back on it, I would have packed the faces/figures more closely in the first part of the mural. Especially if I had any idea that I would be besieged by student requests to be painting in the mural. It never occurred to me that students would come by and actually ask to be included. Of course if I had done that I would not be any where near as far along, and as much as I love this, it is becoming clear to me that it would be very hard to spend more than one or two days a week painting and still teach all my classes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

red sky at morning...

...sailor take warning. This was the sight that greeted me when I stepped out the door with Rosie dog at 6:45 this morning. Weather report says storms later today. Old wives tales and rhymes exist for reason.

guardian of the lock

Sunday when I went to the college to paint I encountered this praying mantis guarding one of the building doors (I left him in peace and went in another way).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

One Single Impression -- Copse

Nothing at all came to mind for me from today's prompt "copse" for days. With all the other things going on in my world (both family and school), I just resigned myself to letting this prompt pass without a poem. But then I sat and listened to my husband as he thought out loud about all the challenges he's facing: starting school tomorrow for the first time in many years in a wholly new direction, and wondering if it is the right direction; worried about the possibility of colon cancer (he has a colonoscopy before him very soon); still recuperating from broken ribs and still unable to do some of his normal routines. Suddenly the tingle of an idea.


the years have
hacked away
at the forest
of his youth;
hardy trees--
first growth--
brought down
by the chainsaws
of disappointment,
split twain
by lightening bolts
of loss;
on the ragged
and blackened
fresh shoots coppice
in the sunlight.

Sunday August 16, 2009

coppice (verb): to spout freely from the base.

For other poems on the prompt "copse" see One Single Impression.

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--35 The home stretch

It was quiet at the college today although I was not entirely alone. Our counselor Ron Brunty was buzzing about posting information and maps to help students find their way tomorrow -- the first day of classes. He caught me in the act of belting out Beatles songs at the top of my lungs while I painted.

The plaque was installed this past Wednesday, but our maintenance staff needed to re-plaster around it, and that had to dry. At the end of the day Friday I was able to cover the new plaster with gesso. And finally today, I was back to painting.

The two lovely people to the right are Pricie Young at the bottom, and Mitchum Whitaker just above her. Pricie got her ten year service award this year. She handles student records, does registration, order supplies for everyone, and many, many other tasks without which the rest of us could not do our jobs. She does it all with that brilliant smile! Pricie earned her associates degree at Southeast in business while working full-time and being a wife and mother to a beautiful daughter.

Mitch is the third Excellence in Sociology award winner I've featured in the mural. Once upon a time in a former life Mitch worked for UPS. Now he fills all his teachers with joy from his inquiring mind and lively humor. During the past spring term not only was Mitch in my Appalachian studies class where he helped to keep the discussions hopping, but we were also fellow students in creative writing. Particularly adept at humorous prose Mitch entertained us all with his readings. Mitch balances school and family with a job driving a school bus for the Letcher County Schools.

To the left you can see the whole area that I am working on, which is just to the right of the plaque.

Below is the panoramic view. The plaque was installed much further from the wall than I had hoped, leaving less room for students. I also have to do something with the blank area (currently painted green) to the left of the plaque and below it. I had already planned to paint a mother duck and her ducklings in the area below the plaque. After some discussion with Eugene Mead the campus administrator, I think I will put a simple flowering vine in the space to the left of the plaque, just something to set it off without distracting from the plaque or the students to the right of it. The white area above and slightly to the right of the plaque will feature another small outdoor grouping of students seated on a marble bench.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Our yard is encompassed with a bounty of wildflowers, shrubs and trees, with many treasures. Right is Virgin's Bower Vine (the white flowers) and Joe Pye Weed (the tall dusty violet headed stalks). But I had not been out to enjoy it much in the past month.

Between persistent rains, floods, flood clean up and John breaking three ribs a few weeks ago, our yard had gone unmown for at least four and maybe five weeks. John's ribs still are not up to tackling that kind of job. I managed to mow the small area inside our fence a week ago before my back gave out, but even that had grown back. We were getting depressed about the state of things.

Thursday I happened to run into a friend I hadn't seen for a while, and heard that her son was trying to earn money for college with odd jobs, but hadn't had much luck lately. We called Evan Friday morning, and by dinner time Friday, our yard was once again a pleasant place to spend time. That is, as long as one avoids the mud-plain left behind by the flood. (The coal company's workers fixed the driveways very nicely, but they just sprinked grass seed and straw on the mud).

I suspect Evan thought we were a little nuts, but he dutifully left the six foot radius circles of undisturbed growth around our big maples, where such late sumemr delights as goldenrod (above left) reside.
Along the fence we share with the Johnson's are not yet ripe pokeberries or pokeweed (below right) whose dark purple berries are a favorite with the birds. Over the last decade we've gone from one spindly plant to a small forest of pokeweed due to leaving them undisturbed and letting nature (and bird digestion) do its thing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--34 Fun Outside

Today I recruited several students to come outside and pose on the lawn. I provided a beach towel to protect them from the wet, and they provided me with smiles and enthusiasm. I particularly want to mention the very game young man on the right, named Jordan. This was Jordan's very first day as a Southeast student. He had just signed up for his freshman classes and was waiting to see the financial aid director when I approached him. Confronted by this unfamiliar (and also strange) dumpy middle aged lady in paint spattered overalls, he cheerfully left the building to pose. I predict that Jordan has a great college career ahead of him!

So here we are. I have completed everything that I can until the plaque is installed (I hope soon). Every inch of the mural has been filled in except for the area on the bottom left where the plaque will go. So now I wait.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--33 Three - two - one

Three figures, two ducks and one river.

The standing figures are Mitch Caudill, our stalwart library assistant and Sabrina Mullins who works in the business office.

Mitch started working part-time in the library as a students more than a decade ago, and got elevated to full-time library assistant. He has on occasion (once for a whole year, another time for one six months) run the entire library himself, when we were unable to find a professional librarian. [We've had six different librarians in the 13 years that I've been here. Hopefully our current librarian, Evelyn Hensley, is with us for many years to come.] Mitch is one of the few other people on our campus who is a rabid "LOST" fan like myself, so when new episodes are playing, we have to do the post-episode analysis.

Sabrina is one of the smiling faces who works on the front line with the students everyday (in addition to being a student herself). Just this last week, Sabrina introduced me to her daughter who will be starting as a student herself this fall.

The seated figure on the left is Paula Potter, one of my students from Appalachian Studies last spring. Paula's been a round a lot this summer working for the Adult Education Program whose offices are right behind the wall on which I am painting. Paula was game enough to go sit outside on the very wet grass (I gave her a bag to sit on, but still) and pose for me. Now I need to find two other students to fill out the grouping.

I put two pretty male mallards swimming in the river, and finished up the river itself. See the detail on the mallards below:

As soon as I find two more students willing to sit on the ground for me, I can finish the small white areas on the right. Then all I have to do is wait for the plaque to be installed, so that I can plan the rest of the remaining space on the lower left.

One Single Impression -- Ocean

Indelible Ocean

In winter dreams
the grey Pacific
rolls endless breakers,
ghosts of salt spray
and drying kelp
sting the nose,
my soul bent
like Monterrey pines
to the wind
echoing through

Saturday August 8, 2009

You can take the girl away from the ocean, but you can't take the ocean away from the girl. Looking back at the poems of my youth spent on the San Francisco peninsula, the vast majority invoked the ocean in some form.

and the sky fell off on either side
mixed with sea and city.

For other poems on the prompt "ocean" see One Single Impression.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--32 Time for Ducks

"Redirecting" is what the tab on Internet Explorer said when I clicked on "new post" and it occurred to me that is what I did today. I redirected my attention to a different part of the mural: the middle ground between the buildings and the people.

Moreover, it was time for ducks. The powers that be want ducks. I like ducks. Turns out I'm not as good at painting ducks as I am at painting people, but that's okay.

I'm also not as good a lettering (especially, tiny free hand lettering)! But the signs okay. It's readable, and its the right color and size. By the way, the stone work holding the sign was built well before I came to southeast by Jerry Hensley (featured in a previous post) and others.

By the way that's me hiding behind that tree, feeding that duck. I actually have taken a total of fourteen credit hours at Southeast (college algebra, trig, calculus, creative writing, web page design and several short business courses), so I sort of count as a student.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

splash of yellow

In an otherwise gray and rainy day (though no where near as bad in eastern Kentucky as it was in Louisville today), this bed of black-eyed susans practically shouted with joy! The flowers are in beds behind the administration building on the Cumberland campus of Southeast Ky Community and Technical College.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--31 A stopping point

Today's painting marks a temporary stopping point. I finished off the last grouping of students that I had sketched in. Now I must wait to see where the plaque is placed before continuing on this area of the painting.

Also I have to stop work for several days. Tomorrow begins our in-service meetings that mark the beginning of a new academic year. The first day's sessions will be on our "main" campus in town of Cumberland in Harlan County. Then Wednesday and Thursday in-service sessions will move to the Harlan campus of the college. We have two other campuses, both in Bell County -- one in Pineville and the other in Middlesboro. According to Google maps, it is 85 miles from the Whitesburg campus in the northeast of our service area to the Middlesboro campus in the southwest of our service area. Which is why aside from the in-service sessions, we hold most of our meetings using interactive television or Internet conferencing.

The last face I did today belongs to Brandi White Gentry, who like Johnny King has been a recipient of the Excellence in Sociology award given every spring. Brandi has overcome a lot of physical and mental obstacles to obtain an education. She is one of the most cheerful people I've ever met. She sincerely looks for the good in everyone, even those who cause her pain. She is not only very smart, but very curious about the world, and most of all she is persistent!

Below is an overview of the wall to date.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Southeast Whitesburg Mural--30 Working on Sunday

Today I wanted to feature a couple of faces -- faces of friends and colleagues who also happen to be graduates of the college. First up is Debby Young. Debby came to Southeast about 11 years ago, to handle the financial transactions of our campus. She deals both with accounts receivable and accounts payable. In addition to her full-time job with the college, Debby is a wife and mother of two lovely young women, who have grown up over the past decade. During her time at Southeast she has completed an Associates degree from the college, and then by combining various forms of distance learning and some travel has completed first a bachelors degree and then a masters degree both in business. She now teaches several business courses for the college. Whew! I get tired just thinking of all the things Debby does.

The smiling guy to the left is Jerry Hensley. Jerry is one of the hardest working men I've ever met, and is never without his hat! It's not unusual to find him at the college on the weekend finishing up some project that was not completed during the week. Jerry's wife and kids must be very tolerant of his commitment to the college. Jerry has the most seniority of our Whitesburg maintenance staff, and has been with the college many more years than I have. Jerry completed his associates degree at the college and took courses from both me and my husband John.

The next two weeks promise to be very busy with things other than painting, and I wanted to get finished with all the people currently sketched in before I had to stop for a day or two. So I took advantage of the empty campus today to put in another five hours of painting, and got five more faces completed today (including Jerry's). See below:

One Single Impression -- Windows

welcome summer nights
with open windows,
thunder growling,
blinding flashes,
steady rain,
damp earth,
peepers chorus.
window fans
blur hot night sounds,
dogs barking,
neighbors’ music.
the world comes
in the window,
filters into dreams
with summer wonder.

Sunday August 2, 2009

For other wonderful poems on the prompt "Windows" go to One Single Impression.