Small Press Expo 2016

I had a wonderful time at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda MD today, with my companion Maddie who is 14. We each went to different panels and met up to compare notes.

I am new to the world of contemporary comics and I have to say: WOW! It was such a vibrant scene – the exhibit hall was packed with creative happy people, colorful, expressive, curious, interesting, and fun. I played a new card game with giant demo cards, met my graphic novelist hero, Noelle Stevenson, ran into some fan artists I know, discovered a magical book about Monet’s Mouse!

I attended one panel with several comic artists discussing how they support their drawing habits. Creatively, of course!

Tomato Fairies

Cathy G Johnson works as an illustrator, teaches after-school programs and sells books and prints- real hand made screen prints!

Here’s a book she offers for reading online: “Going Back” – a travel journal.

Eleanor Davis is an illustrator you’ve probably seen around. She recently illustrated a New Yorker article “The Most Exclusive Restaurant in America, and here’s one of a series of Google Doodles:

Aimée de Jongh came from the Netherlands to #spx. Here’s a video she animated:

The whole thing filled me with hope for the world, so many happy creatives making magic and sharing it with an enthusiastic audience. I won’t miss next year’s show!

Monarch update

My neighbor, naturalist Patrice Gribble-Fetter, was on TV this week, sharing about the Monarch research and support going on at Old Maryland Farm.

The farm grows milkweed  expressly for the Monarchs. See how they tag the butterflies, and also film clips of the huge migrations to Mexico.

 

I also learned about the Baltimore Checkerspot, a threatened Maryland butterfly with similarly gorgeous coloration.

baltimorecheckerspots

baltimorecheckerspotchrysalisThey like stream fed wet meadows and are found in the western uplands of Maryland. They like to eat milkweed but their key plant is the white turtlehead, I flower I see in the wetlands of Southern Maryland. Alas these beauties aren’t thriving around here anymore. They have a really striking chrysalis.

The Monarch’s Incredible Journey

The iconic Monarch butterfly certainly made an impression on my young self. Late in August we’d be out floating on the pristine marsh rivers of Ontario, picnicking after a swim, and in the balmy afternoon breeze a flutter of orange would catch my eye, brilliant against the teal green water.

In those days I didn’t realize the Monarch travels from Canada to Mexico on their monumental migration. I was impressed enough it would head out across the 30-mile span of Lake St. Clair.

Visit the Forest Service page to get all the details about thier incredible journey:

Eastern North American monarchs fly south using several flyways then merge into a single flyway in Central Texas. It is truly amazing that these monarchs know the way to the overwintering sites even though this migrating generation has never before been to Mexico!

Monarchs are Threatened

These beautiful and inspiring creatures are facing multiple survival challenges from commercial agriculture, deforestation and climate change.

What you can do:

•Create a habitat in your own garden and in your community. Plant milkweed (Asclepias L), the only species that Monarch caterpillars will cocoon upon. Invite and protect the flashy caterpillars and their homesand you can enjoy the Monarchs rebirth in late summer.

•Support the work of National Wildlife Federation and other organizations that have habitat projects, protecting and replacing lost habitat along highway corridors and agricultural lands.

Support World Wildlife’s efforts to preserve Mexican forests by supporting alternatives to clear cut lumbering.

DO NOT USE PESTICIDES

Please do not use pesticides or herbicides in your garden or lawn. These chemicals have a devastation effect on not only monarchs but all pollinators, the creatures that make our food grow. For assistance with organic gardening practises click HERE.

And, tell me your Monarch stories. I’m sure you’ve got some!

A Clouded View

When I come downstairs in the morning I open the door for my two critters, who trot happily out the door. They always greet the day with tails held high, so delighted to greet the world. I sip my coffee and come to consciousness more slowly.

PuppyKitty
Char (l) and Lily

In fact I’m cautious how I approach the day. Will I get it right, make progress, be successful? Or will I fail to complete enough tasks to feel at peace? Did I do well enough yesterday? Will I be ready for tomorrow? These processes are running constantly, just below my regular awareness.

Yesterday I was reading a list of affirmations from my therapist. I mentally knock them off: nah, not me, unh-uh, not for me, nope—then I come to one that hits a nerve:

“The present moment is perfect, even if I don’t like what’s happening.”

Somehow this one stops me, For a flash I see it: a perfectly beautiful world, my pets here with me, blue sky, soft green grass, the shimmering water beyond. I hear birds and feel the soft air on my skin, and think “how could I not see this a moment ago?” and with that, a shadow falls over my thinking again, doubt and judgement resume their program.

I felt a cloud of negativity lift, and I saw the world clearly, just for a moment. It was a bit astonishing. I’ve worked hard at keeping destructive thoughts at bay. I’ve learned to rely on my higher power and find peace in uncertainty.  But this – this grey film over my reality, I don’t want to see the world through gloom colored glasses!

I listened to the magical wordsmith Caroline Casey yesterday:

Expectation and Disappointment are dance partners. Better that we dwell on Willing, its dual meaning of intention and availability.”

Now that I’ve seen beyond the veil, I can’t lose this: a brighter world is right there, just behind that grey. That if I feel low, hopeless, or worthless it’s  only my old distorted view, and I can shift perspective.  That I can upgrade my thinking by deciding where to focus.

And when I forget, please do remind me!

wingcloud

The Surprising Love Life of the Fig

This is a reblog from the NewYorker.com. Please follow the link to read the complete article. Who knew fig reproduction was so unusual? 

Bite a fig in half and you’ll discover a core of tiny blossoms.

All kinds of critters, not only humans, frequent fig trees, but the plants owe their existence to what may be evolution’s most intimate partnership between two species. Because a fig is actually a ball of flowers, it requires pollination, but because the flowers are sealed, not just any bug can crawl inside. That task belongs to a minuscule insect known as the fig wasp, whose life cycle is intertwined with the fig’s. Mother wasps lay their eggs in an unripe fig. After their offspring hatch and mature, the males mate and then chew a tunnel to the surface, dying when their task is complete. The females follow and take flight, riding the winds until they smell another fig tree. (One species of wasp, in Africa, travels ten times farther than any other known pollinator.)

When the insects discover the right specimen, they go inside and deposit the pollen from their birthplace. Then the females lay new eggs, and the cycle begins again. For the wasp mother, however, devotion to the fig plant soon turns tragic. A fig’s entranceway is booby-trapped to destroy her wings, so that she can never visit another plant. When you eat a dried fig, you’re probably chewing fig-wasp mummies, too.

The fig and the fig wasp are a superlative example of what biologists call codependent evolution. The plants and insects have been growing old together for more than sixty million years. Almost every species of fig plant—more than seven hundred and fifty in total—has its own species of wasp. But codependence hasn’t made them weak, like it can with humans. The figs and fig wasps’ pollination system is extremely efficient compared with that of other plants, some of which just trust the wind to blow their pollen where it needs to go. And the figs’ specialized flowers, far from isolating them in an evolutionary niche, have allowed them to …

Continue reading at the New Yorker

 

The Rocket’s Red Glare

As I enjoy the long, fun weekend that celebrates American independence, I find myself trying to console my inconsolable dog who is terrified of loud sounds like thunder, fireworks and gunshots.

worriedDog
Not Lily, but a similarly worried dog

She hasn’t always been like this but a few years ago at a big holiday picnic, someone lit off a few firecrackers right next to us, and it has affected her deeply.

I don’t enjoy fireworks anymore, either.  Not since October 7th, 2001 when my country began bombing the largely undeveloped country of Afghanistan with 21st century weaponry.

I hold a soul-deep conviction that this was wrong.  That night I was awakened by the sound of a nearby garbage dumpster clanging to the ground.  I tried to dive under the bed, believing we were being bombed.

Our national anthem romanticizes the ‘bombs bursting in air’ yet the bombs that rained on Afghanistan burst more than just air- they burned the flesh of people who had no understanding of what was happening to them.

I understand the counter arguments. I realize there were terrorists hiding amid the tribes in the mountains. But we used a cannon to try to destroy a termite, apparently without considering the consequences of the ‘collateral,’ and cultural damage.

I believe in kharma – that our choices yield real consequences and that we will eventually be held accountable them.  And as a nation we have a great deal to answer for.  And some of those things could have been avoided.

 

 

Seeing More: A Scientist’s Field Journal

I’m linking to Isaac Yuen’s piece at the Ekstories blog because it tells a wonderful tale of art and science, as inseparable as mind and body.

Finding Place through Art and Science: The Field Journals of Lyn Baldwin

Biologist Lyn Baldwin’s field journals are full of beautiful watercolors from her travels as a biologist in British Columbia.

Her careful observation and reverence are apparent in the drawings.

“I always see more when I draw.”

from the post:

Baldwin describes the act of drawing as a powerful means to know something on an intimate level, whether it be a single flower or an entire landscape.

In an increasingly disconnected and attention-deficient world, sketching the veins on a leaf or the mountains out the living room window can help ground us in place and time, train our gaze towards the ordinary beauty we would otherwise skim over.

While her finished illustrations are stunning, Baldwin stresses the importance of process over product. “Regardless of what the final drawing looks like,” she writes, “I always see more when I draw.”

Do you sketch when you travel?  Document flowers and bugs in your garden?  Tell us about it, share your work!

Read the whole blog post HERE

Read an article by Lyn Baldwin HERE

To Stand Under

How do we learn to live with people who aren’t like us?

Mahzarin Benaji researches unconscious bias at Harvard. She discussed her fascinating and important research  this week on the podcast On Being.

Dr. Benaji uses the word “implicit” instead of “unconscious,” because of

“the implication that the unconscious is this incredibly motivated, smart process that is constantly trying to do things that are in my interest and shove away the deep dark secrets of my childhood that I don’t wish to remember. And the science has not produced good evidence for that.”

Her book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People asks the question:

“‘Are you the good person you yourself want to be?’ And the answer to that is no, you’re not. And that’s just a fact. And we need to deal with that if we want to be on the path of self-improvement.”

 

Who is ‘Other’?

According to Dr. Benaji’s findings, distrusting the ‘other’ has provided, until recently, an evolutionary advantage: discernment about who to embrace into one’s community was a useful filter in an agrarian culture.

But in today’s global world, this inner program doesn’t serve us when we are, for instance, hiring someone, or choosing the best candidate for a program. Someone who looks and speaks in strange-to-us ways is quite often the best choice. Yet those who haven’t experienced multiple cultures in a community like a university, urban life or the workplace still operate from this ancient, implicit view. This might explain some of the Trump phenomenon.

Apparently without direct experience of ‘others.’ we are not inclined to consider their humanness. In the wake of the horrifying Orlando shooting, teaching tolerance is clearly an urgent need.

Instead of the word tolerance Dr. Benaji prefers the word understandingUnderstand comes from Old English and is literally stand, read as viewpoint, and under meaning beneath or unconscious.

You are the Unreliable Narrator!

For an example of how unreliable our automatic perception can be, have a look at the Selective Attention Test video. If you haven’t already, watch the vid and follow the instructions carefully.

Are you willing to challenge your automatic assumptions?

Please share your insight!

Thanks to Univ. of Haifa School of Social Work for the header image.

there is a web that connects all things