The Eighteen-hour Butterfly

I never took art in high school. In grades 9 through 13 it was an elective, and I didn’t think it worthwhile since my marks in grades seven and eight had been so poor. The following account, fleshed out from my time sheet, will suggest why.

On December 5th, I practised a watercolour technique using felt-tip pens. Mark only the outline of a given space — a petal, say — with the pen, and then use a fine paintbrush and a little water to spread the ink throughout the space. Nifty, n’est-ce pas? I also used the brush and water to blend three different green markers for three-dimensional effect.

Then I got greedy. How about more markers, for more shading fun? 

Unfortunately, Michael’s was having a sale on themed ten-packs of the kind of pen I was interested in, congealing my lust and soldering it to my determination. What colours were in each package? How could I purchase the maximum number of colours with the fewest duplications? Why is this website so bleepin’ slow? Three hours’ research scuppered December 6th’s time allotment.

Of course it turned out next morning that the store offered different packaging options than did its website. Only half an hour later, though, I was staggering triumphantly to the car, bearing five packages totaling 48 new colours. That evening I passed three febrile hours testing the reds, oranges, and yellows in a colouring book.

Three hours, and barely into the greens.

On December 8, I scattered the new pens across my desk in rainbow order, plus pinks, greys, and browns, and made a swatch sheet in my drawing book. Two and-a-half hours.

On December 9, I redid the swatch exercise onto stiffer, smoother paper, only this time tripling my work by adding in the markers I already owned, and doubling it again by organizing one swatch sheet by brand name, and a second sheet by colour groupings. Six hours to make 268 little squares. 

Thank heavens I’m not into makeup.

Yesterday, December 10, I went to Catapult Café (yes!) with my swatch sheets (no!) and my butterfly photo book. Over a 50-minute mochaccino, I squinted at the photo of a brown and yellow butterfly, sussing out eleven different hues or shades of swatch. Once home again, I traced and coloured the little beast. The day’s total: three hours, twenty minutes.

So, a mere eighteen hours and twenty minutes over five days produced a rough-copy, 3-inch by 2-inch butterfly. You can imagine the number of finished products I produced in those mandatory 7th- and 8th-grade art classes.

Maybe today I’ll practise music.

From Yuck to Yuks

This is Janet, reporting that I’ve finally started in on a regular, 20-hour week in creative pursuits, eleven weeks later than the planned start of mid-September. Who would’ve thought that moving house was such a time waster?

Anyway. The first two four-hour days were spent in card-making. Here are both attempts at a Christmas card for Gillian’s cousin Angela, whose beloved, sweet and funny husband Bob died this summer.

With Angela’s bereavement in mind, I at first considered the Darkness of Advent, and the sliver of Light that appears at first so faintly, it may be misconstrued as an idea of light rather than light itself. Four hours of work on Monday produced this:

First attempt.

Hmm, not so good. More faded than fresh, more mournful than merry, and tauntingly reminding me of the Bad-Apple Forest from “The Wizard of Oz”. I kept the ornament, but ditched the rest, and started over the next day.

“I’ve considerably lightened Angela’s card,” I announced to Gillian, before showing her the brand-new version.

“You certainly have,” she replied, understanding my multiple meanings.

Second attempt, outside.
Second attempt, inside.

Household Haiku

Haiku. More of a word puzzle than a poem: one line of five syllables, one of seven, and another of five — 17 syllables and you’re done!

But there’s more to it. First, there should be two distinct images, separated by a turning-point word. And second, there should be a seasonal reference.

So I guess I didn’t write any real haiku yesterday. Several of my quasi-haiku have turning-point words (“no,” “none,” “but”), and “The Mud Room” pretty much sounds like winter, but no poem here follows all the rules.

However, they’re fun, so here they are. One for each room of our house and a bonus haiku about the telephone.

Note: Hitting return in this program double-spaces the lines, so I’ve set them down here with a slash between each line.

B edroom. Loud pulse wakens me. / Padded footfall on wood steps? / No. Cat throwing up.

ashroom. Brush. Toothbrush. Nail brush. / Toilet brush. All useful; none / interchangeable.

M ud room. Food bank for street birds. / Unassuming socks line-dry. / Peaceable kingdom.

G illian’s studio. I used to clear it, / revealing floor to vacuum. / Now I shut the door.

C all display. “To what do I owe / this unrequited pleasure?” / Marketer ends call.

M y study. I think, work, or read / at desk or in papasan / (unless Cat’s in it).

K itchen. Aging leftovers / seek Narnia, but the back / of the fridge is closed.

L iving room. Cardigans reign here. / We curl up, dogs on our laps / and fur in our tea.

Whacks Eloquent

The wife of a friend of a friend gingerly handed me her 60-page manuscript a few days ago, asking for line editing and correction of any grammar or punctuation errors.

She did not want line editing. She wanted me to tell her her book was perfect.

I read the first eight pages. The spelling was fine, of course, and hidden among all the airy-fairy moralizing there lurked a good story. But I knew I would never forgive myself if I simply corrected a few typos, especially if the writer acknowledged me as an editor. Ack! Besides, I was doing this work for free.

So I line edited and sent her two pages of her own work, rearranged, weeded, and with half a dozen empty words substituted with expressive ones. Naturally, she fired me. Phew.

This morning, during journal time, I wrote a folktale to express my annoyance. I hope you like it.

A rich man with a fine Cadillac took it to a detailer’s shop. The luxury car was coated thickly in road dust and spattered with bird droppings on its roof and pine pitch on its windshield. Its interior held empty potato chip bags and drippy soft-drink tins, cups of clotted coffee and wads of blown tissue, gritty floormats and fingerprinted windows.

After several hours of hard work, the detailer presented the clean, shiny Caddy to its owner. But the rich man refused to pay him, shouting “That’s your car now, it isn’t mine anymore!” as he jumped into the driver’s seat and squealed its tires on the way out of the lot.

The detailer, wiping his hands, briefly considered taking the rich man to small claims court. “But why bother?” He concluded. “That man is more unhappy than I am.”

The Smoke Alarm Jump

Two alarms actually, the lower one next to the staircase, the upper one at the top of said staircase, with neither wall nor ceiling between them. At slightly different pitches. In a post-war, one and-a-half storey home.

Whatever possessed us?

Even after the noise ceased, poor little Savvy sat as if frozen to the couch cushion, shivering twice, pausing, shivering twice again. “Poor little tyke,” I soothed her. “Shiver shiver scree, shiver shiver scree, eh?”

And voila! An idea for a blog post. I may not be able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but even I’ve gotta admit that discovering music in a pair of electric banshees and a dog with satellite-dish ears is pretty resourceful.