Saturday, December 31, 2005

ART & SCIENCE Introduction to Color/ cycles, Silk Mural

ART & SCIENCE Introduction to Color/cycles            Silk Mural                      

OBJECTIVE: To incorporate science and art. Choose a theme: the elements (air, earth, fire, water), an environment (land, sea, sky), cycles (weather, day/night, seasons, etc.) Prepare by studying science lesson/concept you wish to enhance with art. (The history of the Chinese Silk Road and materials used[silk, brushes] is another area to explore.) Then brainstorm to show what concepts students have learned.  This project spans about 3 to 6 one+ hour sessions.

Pre-planning: for each student have white scratch paper, pencil, black felt tip pens; magazine & calendar pictures of animals, plants, ecosystems, etc. Have students individually come up with drawing ideas, using contour or solid (not sketchy) line (another lesson), and then trim drawings, glue them into a larger piece on butcher paper—this step is especially helpful with young kids (grades K-3). For 4-8th grades: divide students into teams (5+, with one team captain). If you rotate several kids in, keep team captains for continuity.) Students can finalize mural drawing on white-board. Mark out 3 x 3’ squares.

MATERIALS:  Each student should have a small Elmer’s blue glue bottle for gutta resist to draw on the silk. This will contain the dyes like a dam. Small squeeze bottle acrylic fabric paints with plastic tips work great. I like the metallics. (Save those used bottles and refill them with Elmer’s blue glue. If the fabric paint is dried, soak in hot water to clean.)

Or use real gutta resist bottles with metal tips and water-based resist for thinner lines. Real gutta is made of rubber and solvent (like rubber cement), so don’t use it with small kids. Metallic guttas are great, I’ll let a student use guttas but only with parental permission, and only if they’re careful.

One to six 3’ x 3” silk scarves, or silk yardage. (I’ve made murals with as few as 5 kids assigned per scarf, or with an entire class, but you have to work everyone in during shifts.) Use simple ponge, or habotai weave silk, 5 to 8 mm (thin gauge). Polyester & cotton won’t work at all. (Burn a thread, silk leaves no residue, just a fine ash, polyester leaves gunk.) (OR if you can’t set up for silk, use white butcher paper or heavy 80 lb. white sulfite paper and watercolors.)

Stretch silk onto 3’ artist stretcher bars, or duct tape together four 3’ wooden rulers, or duct tape corners of silk to 4 chair backs to keep scarf taut. I’ve also used cardboard windows to stretch silk.  For a paper or tagboard mural, no need to stretch! Like cats, most papers (except w/c& sulfite) don’t like water. Experiment.)

Each student should have a small half-sponge, 2-3 Chinese, or sπumi ink brushes (they’re cheap) resting on damp sponges which are better than paper towels for taking excess water off brushes. DON’T leave sumi brushes in water jar!!! They’ll behead themselves....and jars tip over.

Two students can share a water container, and an ice tray arranged with 3 primary (printer) colors, Cyan (sky blue/turquoise), Magenta (red hot pink), and Yellow. I use Jacquard silk dyes. They’re non-toxic, brilliant, pure color and last forever. 

Reserve one brush for yellow as it pollutes easily. (For watercolor on paper, I use Crayola 07W mixing paints to get magenta & turquoise). You can also use diluted silk dyes like watercolor. Also have a few large watercolor brushes or foam brushes for painting large areas, rags, water spray bottles.

ART SCIENCE VOCABULARY: Composition, balance, contour line, wet-on-wet, texture, salting/ osmosis, etc. Utilize the arts components: Artistic Perception (planning), Creative Expression (hands-on), Historical and Culture context (models), & Aesthetic Valuing (sharing) with the Science vocabulary: Observe. Ask questions.  Make a Hypothesis. Experiment. Make a Conclusion. Share what you’ve learned. What surprised you? etc. Artists and scientist use many similar skill sets: observation and hypothesis are key components.


1.            Have students draw mural ideas on white paper (I use Xerox paper folded into a square.) I do a lot of pre-drawing warm-up exercises using a solid contour line which we’ll do in class. Black felt tip pens also discourage sketchy lines.

2.            Using photos and pictures for reference, students can also draw detailed individual things for mural, then cut them out and glue them onto a master mural mock-up on butcher paper. Optional: color mock-up mural in with water-soluble media.

3.             Older student teams can draw mural directly on 3 x 3’ butcher paper. But it’s far easier to collaborate on a drawing on a white board. I like to use a picture within a picture, which allows for more drawings and color fields. Have student transcribe white board drawing (called a cartoon—like a coloring book) onto paper. A digital camera is handy to document drawing as it changes & formalizes.

4.            Using the gutta/glue, firmly hold tip against silk like a pen to draw cartoon. Gutta MUST go through to the back of the silk. Lots of gutta piled up on top of the silk is useless, messy and wasteful.  ALWAYS practice first with each and every gutta/glue on scratch paper using CONTOUR or smooth lines. No sketchy lines with breaks. Dye will run through cracks. Doing the gutta drawing on silk requires patience. Young kids have trouble using the squeeze bottles alone and will need some 1:1 supervision.

This is a good place to talk about osmosis, hydrology & shriveled toes too long in the bathtub. Maybe raise some silk worms. Talk about the Silk Road. Check gutta drawing for cracks/breaks in the lines and mend them. Either let gutta dry, or paint while gutta is wet BUT DON’T paint on top of the gutta. It will ruin the brush.

5.             Dyeing the silk. Using the tip of the sumi brush, paint in all yellow areas first. Start light and work to dark colors. You can’t lighten dye. This is a good place to use scientific inquiry to demonstrate color mixing. Observe. Question. What happens if  you paint blue on top of yellow? 

Make a hypothesis. Experiment. Conclusion. You get green. More water gives you pastel hues. Blue & magenta make purple. Yellow & magenta makes orange or red (really). If you don’t want to limit their palettes, you can introduce pre-mixed green and red, etc. I don’t use black. (Secondary colors mixed together make mud, brown/black.) A limited palette makes for a more brilliant piece.

Start dyeing in the center of each drawing. Dye will wick out to edges and stop at gutta line. Fingers (and hair) will also stain nicely. Barrier cream or rubber gloves helps. Non-toxic dye will come off hands after a few washings. Salting for texture (great for water images) must happen while dye is still wet.

6.            Peer complimenting/aesthetic valuing session. Model with, “I like they way this part has colors that blend...”etc. Look in the Visual & Performing Arts Framework for other ideas.

7.            Dye is not permanent set. DON’T get mural wet! Best to cure it for a few week before fixing it with a commercial acid-based fixative bath. You can also steam it but research before you attempt steaming (see links below). If it’s hung on a wall, just like any fine work of art, it doesn’t need fixing. Silk is protein, like hair. DON’T leave in direct light. NOTE: Procion H dyes can be fixed with soda ash in the microwave, and there are iron heat set dyes but they are extremely caustic in powdered form. Use a mask when mixing.

Rupert, Gibbon & Spider, Healdsburg

Check out the silk hoop class pack and order the 3x3’ scarves separately.

Dharma Trading Co., San Rafael

Rockridge Longs, Oakland, and other fine art/textile stores. (not Michael’s Crafts).

Facebook photo album: Mo's silk painting (photos, ...
Cyclamens silk (art)
Nasturtiums silk (art)
Lilies, silk (art)
Lilies, 2 silk (art)
Flower: silk painting (art) 1998
Pesach silkscarf
Celtic beasties on silk (art)Celtic beasties on silk 2 (art)

Young Audiences of Northern CA Calligraphy Residency

YANC Calligraphy Residency Outline

Artist: Maureen Hurley                                    
Discipline: Introduction to Calligraphy & Graphic Arts

Goals of Residency/Teaching Philosophy

Goals: For teachers: to spark ideas for the creation of an integrated curriculum, using visual arts and language arts. For students: this calligraphy residency will teach the art and history of fine hand lettering, and instill in students, the historical and aesthetic tradition of the art of calligraphy.

What is your approach to working with children?

I am an active published artist, performer/writer and educator. The excitement of, and proximity to creativity carries over into the classroom and ignites students and teachers alike with a desire to learn a difficult skill. Sharing this inspiration in the classroom allows me to create an arts community and foster a nurturing and safe space for students of all ages to explore divergent thinking skills.

What approach do you use to teach them skills in your arts discipline?

I love integrating core curriculum into my lessons, whether it be language arts or visual arts, social studies or science. I share my artistic process with students and instill in them my teaching philosophy which includes a sense of excitement, playfulness, and a burning desire for exploration and experimentation. I use specific models, class demonstration, group and one-on-one instruction, review process, critique/compliment sessions, and portfolio assessment.

Learning Objectives
(what do you want students to know by the end of the residency?):

Objectives: During this six-session residency, students will practice various skills in the visual and written graphic arts. At residency’s end, students will have a grasp of the mechanics of fine art lettering, and with the skills they’ve learned and the handouts I’ve given them, they will be able to continue learning long after the residency is over. I often ask them to teach a sibling or friend after class so they have a sense of ownership in the learning process.

Six-Week Residency Outline

CALLIGRAPHY SAMPLE LESSON PLAN                                  

DAY ONE                                                                One hour workshops

Prep School supplied butcher paper, artist supplied materials & handouts. I will need occasional access to school copy machine.

Intro. to Calligraphy. What is Calligraphy? Calli-graphos = beautiful picture/writing.

Show samples of my work and show historical samples of calligraphy from around the world.

I will give a brief history of the western alphabet: Phoenician to Greek to modern Latin/Roman alphabet: parchment to paper: scriptorium to the Gutenberg press.

(If there’s  time, we’ll also review Phoenician alphabet. Students will write their names in Phoenician symbols on Avery labels to glue onto their folders. Otherwise, this is a Day 2 activity. If time, I will show some Chinese, Arabic & Cherokee alphabet samples beginning with Cro-Magnon cave paintings. Discuss pictographic alphabets.
Alternate hand/symbol exploration lesson plan may be inserted on Day 2 if residency is longer than 6 sessions.)

Introduce Italic Chancery Cursive (Humanist) easiest to learn, easiest to read.

Discuss materials. Make individual calligraphy folders. Distribute handouts/wide rule binder, and graph paper. Discuss right side/wrong side of paper. Pass out  2.5 mm Sanford felt-tip calligraphy pens. We will save all our practice sheets so we’ll have a portfolio to measure progress.

Demo on board on butcher paper (3-6’ lengths with poster size felt markers. Discuss 45° angle, 5-pen widths for body of letter.

Activity: Begin basic construction “c e o” shapes. The standard 2.5 mm Sanford pens make letters approximately one line tall on wide rule binder paper.

Go around room and individually demonstrate correct pen angle, size, letter angle. Lots of praise. (If time, begin  the “a” shapes. Usually Day 2 activity.)

Closure. Discuss process. Raffle off demo letters on butcher paper. More praise.


Prep butcher paper. Distribute supplies, pens, handouts/wide rule binder paper.  Reiterate historical info (annotated.) Show samples. Pass out historical alphabet chart & other handouts.

Activity: Warm up/review of pen angle, pen size,  practice “c e o” shapes.

Introduce the  “a” triangle shape.  If time, do the “b – p” triangle shapes.

Discuss ascenders/desenders (each  d  g  q  ) are 5 pen-widths tall for the body and five pen-widths tall for the ascender/descender = 10 pen-widths total. Roughly 2 lines on wide rule paper.)

Circulate around the room and individually demonstrate correct pen angle, size, letter angle. Lots of praise.

Do a historical review of Phoenician alphabet. Have them guess the pictogram drawing behind A, B, C, etc. Also discuss/show cuneiform/Egyptian writing, if time.

(If more than 5-6 sessions: make stylus & do cuneiform tablets on clay or salt dough. Ties in nicely w/ 5th and 6th grade social studies curriculum. Write cartouche names in Egyptian sounds. Have worksheets ready for both activities in case there’s interest.)

Activity: Write names in Phoenician symbols on Avery labels. If time, write a secret message in Phoenician or Moabite. Trade, translate secret messages.

Share samples. Students write Phoenician names on board. Discussion. Surprises.

Closure. Discuss process. Raffle off demo letters on butcher paper. More praise.

Homework: invent a new alphabet. Write brief message & name. If not as homework, then, use as Day 3 or 4 activity.

DAYS 3 & 4  (Same format as Days 1 & 2. How much material we cover depends upon class age, class size, motivation, and student hand motor skills.)

Review letters demonstrated so far;  special request reviews/ demos, etc.
Intro. “ b” & “p” with ascenders/descenders.  Circulate. Catch/correct their weak letters.
Intro: l  k  i  j  Circulate. Special letters: f  (15 pen widths)  t ; (6 pen widths)  bowtie top.

If there’s time on Day 3  Intro. m/ n lines....  I try to push to demonstrate most., if not the entire alphabet by Day 3… then Day 4 or 5 is for practice, review, and intro. of Capital letters; usually Roman.)

intro.:  u   v   w    y    and    x   z.

Activity  Students translate invented alphabet homework. Share names on board. (This may be done at end of class.)

Activity m- or n-line (to build rhythm.)

Activity: alphabet sentence Alternate: haiku, or one short poem. Discuss page layout, lined guides, etc.

Closure. Discuss process. Raffle off demo letters on butcher paper. More praise.

Homework: invent several monograms.

DAYS 5-6 (Same set-up as pervious days).

Review of problem letters by request.

Intro. of Roman Capital letters (7 pen-widths, 35º angle) vs. 45º angle.

Introduce varying pen sizes (1.5 mm to 5 mm) and applying appropriate guide sheets for pens.

Activity: final alphabet sentence on unlined  paper. No mistakes, even letters,  lines, etc. Redo several times if necessary.

Activity: Share monograms on board either at beginning or at end of class. I prefer at beginning.

Activity: final project 1) poetry broadside, or 2) unique holiday or greeting card (inside & outside drawing/text.

If time, intro. other alphabets: Carolinian (King Charles invented a readable alphabet), insular uncial (means inch tall) and half-uncials, Gothic or black lettering, etc.

If time, I demonstrate using quill, reed and metal nib pens with dip ink. I used to routinely include this in my classes but open ink jars and carpets makes teachers (rightfully) nervous.

If time, share final work of classmates. (usually put on display for  later viewing.)

Homework: practice alphabet sentences and letter/word spacing. No pen, then use a double pencil (2 pens/pencils taped together) as a pen. Remember pen widths.

Closure. Wrap up. Give students a chance to discuss what they’ve learned.

VAPA Standards:
ARTISTIC PERCEPTION: Students will process, analyzie, and respond to art leading to the development of writing including paleolithic cave paintings and rock carvings, medieval illuminated manuscripts and modern calligraphy. They will use their knowledge to describe similarities and differences in works of art and calligraphy.

CREATIVE EXPRESSION: Students will apply artistic processes and skills, using a variety of media. They will demonstrate skill in the manipulation of imagery and lettering. They will create an expressive composition based on historical objects and ideas in a two-dimensional composition that reflects unity and harmony and communicates a theme.

HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL CONTEXT: Students will analyze the role and development of writing through the visual arts in world cultures, noting human diversity and ingenuity. They will Identify and describe various fine, traditional, and folk styles from historical periods worldwide.

ESTHETIC VALUING:  Students  will identify selected principles of design elements used in a work of art and assess their own art, using specific criteria, and describe what changes they would make for improvement.

CONNECTIONS, RELATIONSHIPS, APPLICATIONS: Students apply what they learned in the visual arts across subject areas. They develop competencies and creative skills in problem solving and communication. They will  develop an acute sense of visual literacy. They will identify and design icons, logos, and other graphic devices as symbols for ideas and information.

Young Audiences of Northern CA artist bio and residency workshops

Poet and visual artist Maureen Hurley has led creative writing and art workshops for 20 years in California, Montana; Europe and the USSR. Maureen was awarded seven California Arts Council Artist in Residency grants, and numerous awards and fellowships for her work. Maureen' holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art Studio and Expressive Arts from Sonoma State University. She holds a MA and MFA in Creative Writing (poetry/playwriting) at San Francisco State University, she minored in Celtic Studies, and Folklore at UC Berkeley. She is a storyteller for Oakland USD. Maureen often bases her classes on school curriculum— especially Social Studies or Science, or classes that combine the literary and visual arts. Maureen has taught students of all ages and levels—from Special Ed to GATE; pre-school to Elderhostel. Classes include Poetry & Silk Painting or Calligraphy; Murals, Painting & Drawing; Poetry & Performance. Residencies may be adapted to all age levels and skills.

Residencies (Visual Arts)
Drawing & Painting
How does an artist see the world differently? Students will develop the ability to observe like an artist or a scientist by exploring aspects of drawing and painting using contour line, form, and color composition. Media may include tempera paints and watercolors, India ink scratchboards, oil or chalk pastels, specialty pens and papers. Our models will be the great masters as well as other students’ work. Student-artists may develop a portfolio of their own work and display it in an art exhibition at the school site.

Painting "Sun Catchers" on Silk
Discover the magic of light and color with silk "sun catchers." Students will explore painting and drawing (see above). Using gutta serta—a technique similar to batik, and brilliant non-toxic silk dyes, they will apply their newfound skills to create stunning works of art on silk-covered hoops, or "sun catchers," and on silk banners and scarves. Or we might create large themed group silk "mural" or a series of self-portraits. This class also works well with a poetry or science component.

Murals: paint a story on the wall
Make murals for a school play or event using cardboard and tempera, or create a permanent installation with acrylics on canvas or plywood. Mural painting—whether it tells a story, or records a historical event—is a collaborative process where everyone gets to help with the design. We will incorporate drawings into a mural, create an outline or cartoon mock-up, and then under the guidance of a student mural captain, teams will paint the mural.

Calligraphy = Beautiful Writing
Calligraphy, the art of beautiful writing, develops observation and reading skills as well as fine eye-hand coordination. Students will learn the history of the Roman alphabet, from its pictographic beginnings to modern shapes. "A" is an ox; "B" is a house. We will write secret messages in Phoenician, invent our own alphabets, look at other writing systems including Linear A & B, Mayan, Chinese/ Japanese and Egyptian/ Cuneiform to see how the art of writing evolved. This class is an excellent addition to 6th grade Social Studies curriculum.

Residency (literary)
Poetry, the Mother of Art
The Greeks called poetry the mother of all art: Poetry allows us to synthesize what we know, explore new ideas, and ask questions in a safe format where there are no right/wrong answers. Poetry builds language skills and is an important component of both the Performing and the Literary Arts frameworks. Using their own unique perceptions and relevant life experiences, students write, perform, and publish poetry that creatively expresses their feelings, thoughts, and dreams. They will use culturally diverse model poems from both their peers and by world poets while exploring the use of metaphor to develop their own poetic voice. We will unravel language and make it our own. Many of the poetry recipes may be taught in bilingual Spanish. Publishing may include designing broadside posters or a poetry book. Longer residencies might also include the visual arts such as silk painting or calligraphy.
(Available in Spanish or English)

Young Audiences of Northern CA painting and color mixing workshop

Five Session painting and color mixing workshop

Day one will introduce simple color mixing techniques with tempera paint, and give a brief overview of the ten-session art and poetry lessons. Painting exercise will focus on primary colors (yellow, magenta, cyan) mixing with tempera paint using geometric and free form shapes. Students will learn the proper use of brushes, supplies, etc. We will have a class complimenting session at the end,

Whenever possible after every session, we will close each class with a complimenting session (using Visual and Performing Arts Standards (VAPA): aesthetic valuing) of each other’s work. Teachers will also display student artwork in classrooms and in halls.

Day two focuses on building (9 x 18”) simple landscape, using layers and triangles, using calendar photos and artist landscapes for inspiration. We will draw simple miniature (baby) contour line drawings to identify the shapes. We will build landscapes in layers and artist will introduce age level appropriate key VAPA vocabulary and concepts.

Day three focuses on primary and secondary color mixing with the addition of white/black (hue/shade) with tempera and we will make very large paintings based on landscape. We will use culturally appropriate artist landscapes (reflecting classroom diversity), calendar photographs for our models.

An alternate teaching idea is to have students cooperatively paint a large landscape (18 x 24”) in pairs. Whenever possible, all art lessons will be theme based according to grade level language and or science/social studies curriculum (weather/water cycles, land/sea/sky, transportation, CA history, etc)

Day four will introduce the concept of (solid) contour line drawing with black felt pens using toy animals and cars as our models. We will use blind contour drawing, opposite hand and freestyle drawing techniques. Or, if the teacher prefers staying with color exploration, we could do more landscapes using oil pastels or chalks.

Day five is an optional follow-up drawing lesson, using larger scale toy animals and each other to develop comfort and confidence drawing in a black and white medium. Students will do partner drawings and mirror drawings, if there’s time.

This could also become a Day six lesson for the older grades. See hand drawing exercise below. Another idea is to introduce life drawing with students as models. We may also experiment with other drawing implements: roller ball/gel pens, or explore rendering and shadow with stabillo pencils. A student portfolio of work will be developed and reviewed.

This workshop, written in 2005,for Young Audiences, was the basis for the more indepth art lesson plan.

ART & SCIENCE: Color Mixing teaching notes

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


FIRST FREEWRITE TO KIRK    ramblings that wouldn't separate themselves into orderly piles of air earth fire and water let alone, transcendence

In the beginning was verb
fire danced on water
myriad fireflies etched traces of fire and starlight

in the bayou    crossing the bog
where at water's edge
live coals
sang a reptilian siren call
it's an eat be eaten world
and on it goes

Orion stands on the shelf of the universe,
javelin poised at the ready        

amid the cattails     
ghostly apparitions   
herons in shadows   

light caught by the corners of the eye    
tugging it like a net

as does the nocturnal eye
of the alligator from the swamp   

primordial ooze
ancestral slime
mud swollen     mudbelly dance
lumbering undines
crawling out of the darkness toward the light

marsh dawn orchestrates light
unravels the unheard music of stars
catcall and cough at the edge of night
the night heron stirs

the water alive and breathing
lapping at the shore
like some monstrous leviathan

our hearts race, our breath
etches arias of mist in the cold night air

birds fluttering from the throat of fear   

the night grows ravening shadows
the illusion of river eddy and flow    sweetwater
patterned moonlight ripples
across a tawny carpet of pine needles

the night would grow lonely shadows   
outruns the illusion of river floodwaters
and moonlight circling the trees      saplings   

the predatory eyes
of hunger glow red as coals
while the eyes of fear,
the hunted glow with phosphor luck

fire flame fury magma heart beating earth blood fire
the hunter sun hurls shafts of rainbow light through fog
arrows of light pierce morning mist
meet the water half way

fire hunger in the belly

myriad suns trapped on a rippling net
of shadow and light
bob and dance and disappear
beneath each crest of wavelet

tracks of shore birds scrying
a spell at the interstice of mudflat and shore

fog sea and sky are one thing    wetlands

a breeze luffs the leaves
and Spanish moss
birds test wings against a dawning sky

an allelulah of geese veeing toward the horizon
their atonal song would stop the sun in its tracks
sweeter than the downshift of engine
or bulldozer snore

how then, to hone this amorphous swamp
of words into a prism of thought?
an aria of thought       an aria of the mind      an aria of verb
I am trying on clothing of words
 to dress the dawn
how then to dress the night?
let it dress itself in verb verb verb

evening's painted shadow  canopy of stars

a lure burns beneath the surface
like a ruby ready to burst into flame
bleeds into the retina

from the cove you rise
swift as gulls to the blue ache of sky
trailing sheets of seaweed
as if from the bed

tangle of hair against a pillow of white sand
glacial quartz ground to a fine sugar
ices the wedding of your bare feet
to this shore, this beach

an arcane dance in cadence with the wind       
rhythm admixture of light and wind
sea   liquid and light

languid water     lush heat   
lurking shadow glimmering    
glamoring languid solitude
soothing the meadow's melodic tendrils

swathe the swamp lilies
undertoe and current   
strange solitude of self      swaddled

the music of wind vocalized against bare branch
the wind sings in the branches
to the birds bittersweet woodsap and pine

"when night fell ebony water wept with the moon"  (not my line)
fearless stars speak a muted truth of light and age

A salvation of light dressed
you in mirrored prisms
toe first you disappeared into the mirrored dawn
into the surcease between ebb and flow

waves pull up delicate lace sheets to cover the shore
rollers of pounding surf
gulf equivalences  of air and water
atmosphere  a sphere of air
clattering palm leaves gallop across the eardrum

the sound of crushed shells beneath the foot
royal red and rainbow indigo

horsemen of the apocalypse
apocalyptic cloud and storm
rides across the sea and sky
heavenly roof of fire.

10-12, 2005

this project never got off the ground because I was working in a void, channeling images from Air earth fire and water, plus quintessence but not having any music to bank off of. Kirk was in Miami or Cape Cod and I was in Oakland, not an easy way to collaborate long distance.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005


From the earth comes love
Trees, beast and bird
From the sky above
Stones fall at your feet
Secret heartbeat
Desert skin, mountain
valley, green meadow.

2005 November?
found on the back of a receipt from Office Depot, hence the date.
I think it was from my writers' group.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Huckleberrying with Bears

SUE: How’s it over there?

BOB: Pretty good.

DAVE: I found a really good patch. Handfuls of berries. Big ones too. Blues.

SUE: Really? Where are you?

DAVE: To your right. More. A little more.

SUE: Keep on talking. I still can’t see you.

DAVE: I’ll rattle the bushes, OK?

BOY: Aooooo!

LORA: What was that?

SUE: It’s just the boy.

LORA: Are there any bears here?

DAVE: Naw, not yet.

BOY: Aooooo!

LORA: Whaddya mean, not yet?

DAVE: Not bad, kid. Scared the shit outta me. They're working their way down the coast. Already got ‘em in Sonoma County.

SUE: I still can’t see any of you. Rattle the bush again. Thanks.

BOY: Aooooo!

DAVE: Wait. I didn’t rattle any bush. Did you? Mmmm, these berries are good. Sweet too. I’m coming over. Quit playing around, now Boy. Won’t be long now. Grrrr! Where are you?

BOY: Grrrr!

SUE: Over here. Are you moving around? How come you rattled it from a different place? You're freaking me out. You trying to get me lost or something?

DAVE: But I didn’t move. And look at the bushes. Can you see them? Do it again.

SUE: Do it again Dave, I missed it. Man this wood’s thick. A fire waiting to happen like Inverness Ridge.

DAVE: Hey, I'm talking. Ya find it?

LORA: Think he was guilty?

DAVE: Who?

LORA: OJ Simpson, of course.

DAVE: What brought that one on?

LORA: The fire. It was during the trial. We were stuck a week in this camp and the only news we got was the fire and the trial. Yeah, I was stuck a whole at Camp Mendocino Woodlands. Not bad. Hey, has anyone heard Bob lately?

BOB: I can’t get through. The brush is way too thick. I gotta go around. Dang! I lost my watch. You gotta watch out for sinkholes too. Next time bring a machete, will ya? We gotts ta head back, it’s nearly sunset. I'll catch up with you at the car. Everyone move west, towards the light. Stay in pairs, OK? See you on the other side.

 DAVE: Bob? Bob?

(this piece was a victim of epic ASCII fail....I was only able to resurrect fragments of it.)

Friday, August 26, 2005


Fall slaps us surely
in the face, shaping us up
for coming winter.

Summer's End Galore

Plenty, and good enough, my grannie would always say. I grew up tin-eared to so many of her odd turns of phrase. I was too easily tortured by schoolmates because my English was lilted. Pure Bantry Bay it was, and I fought my tongue's inclination.  I ruthlessly stripped those phrases from my speech the way a gardener tackles spring weeds in a no-nonsense sort of way while I became mute, lacking for words, between languages, I was. English to English. The ancestral tongue structuring a bearla and nearly a half a century later, I can still hear the Irish word go leor (galore), that meant plenty and enough.  My grannie was keeping the old tongue alive in a transplanted language. How many centuries were those words passed down, an unconscious act, a weed in the garden. English flourishing, despite England's best effort to strip Ireland of its Gaelic. She always said that the Irish beat the English at their own game when they took to writing. Revenge is the best sword. Drop the s and the word becomes the last word. there was nothing left for me to do but pick up the pen, a gauntlet thrown down in the grass. Ten paces at dawn. Summer's end, the end of innocence. Galore. Good enough, she'd say.

This was from my Writers' Group. I wrote little poetry but the prose went deep enough.

Roadside Weeds

Deep summer. Weeds by the side of the road, fallen pieces of the sky. Won't do any good to pluck them. All that periwinkle blue going to waste. A blue blur I acknowledge at 70 mph, as I careen north, crossing the Russian River, muddy, churning. Late rains have confused the flowers. First, the yellow flowers, then the poppies, followed by lupine and chickory. There's an order to the blooming of flowers. As if there was a grand scheme of color opposites at work. Yellow / blue. Orange / purple. The mallows and clarkia have little competition, it's magenta all the way, baby. No complement of color, unless you count the grass, but it's gone tawny as a lion, despite the late rains. All next year's seeds will germinate, only to sizzle under August's hot anvil. Dog days of summer. In my Elderwriting memoir group, Catherine says it's because the dogs always go a little crazy for lack of water. People too. The discussion circles the phrase, hackles raised, a low growl at the back of the throat. What does it mean: end of summer? The threat of disease. Lael says Rabies. A farmer's daughter would think of that. A neighbor lost his cattle when an august dog hankered after a shank of beef. Afraid to drink at the trough, bright green algae curls amid fish and cress. In a fit of domesticity, and brandishing a green thumb, when the mesclun lettuce had roots, I planted a few seeds in the herb box: arugula, and raduccio, not knowing its ancestry. But the lettuce bolted in the heat, reaching for that shiny patch of sky, it flowered and opened its blue hands. Chickory weed by any other name, by the roadside, a weed in my salad bowl, I garnish with sun-ripened tomatoes and basil. I am rabid with desire, all that red and blue and green and purple in my bowl. A bouquet for the dog days, and for what is to come. Sharp tang of fall in the air, knocking on the door of the sky.

This was from my Writers' Group.

Friday, August 5, 2005

Novato woman found dead in pool, Verona Seiter

August 5, 2005 | Marin Independent Journal (San Rafael, CA)Author: Gary Klien | Section: Marin Independent Journal 

A 68-year-old Novato woman was found dead of an apparent drowning yesterday in her neighborhood pool, police said.
Verona Seiter, a longtime resident of the Crossroads area in southern Novato, was found around 5:30 p.m., when a neighbor saw her face-down in the deep end, said Novato fire Battalion Chief Mark Heine.

The neighbor called 911, and two Novato police officers arriving at the scene jumped into the pool and brought her to the surface.

"Initial rescue efforts were attempted, but she died at the scene," Heine said.

Police and the coroner's office are still investigating Seiter's death, but Novato police Lt. Tim Christensen said it does not appear suspicious. An autopsy is planned for today.

It was not immediately known how long Seiter was in the pool, but it might have been a relatively short period of time. A longtime companion, Herman Berlandt of San Francisco, was scheduled to meet her yesterday afternoon but his bus was delayed in traffic. Seiter left a note at her Cheda Lane residence for Berlandt to meet her at the pool.

When Berlandt arrived, police were already there with the bad news.

Berlandt, a poet and theatrical director, said he had known Seiter, an actress, for 30 years. He first met her when she auditioned for a Maxwell Anderson play he was producing.

"We became inseparable friends," said Berlandt, founder and director of the International Poetry Museum in San Francisco.

Neighbors and associates described Seiter as an irrepressible character - active, free-spirited and bold. She was known in the neighborhood both for her distinctive English accent and her penchant for sunbathing openly in the nude.

"She was very theatrical," said Mary Van Muckey, a neighbor.

Residents said Seiter performed regularly as an actress and also did voice-over work. Her recent productions included Samuel Beckett's "Happy Days," "Footfalls" and "All That Fall" at the EXIT Stage Left theater in San Francisco.

"Verona was a delight," said San Francisco director Ugo Baldassari, who directed Seiter in "Happy Days" in 2001. "She was a free spirit, an imp and a very dear old soul. It was a pleasure for me to have worked with her."

Seiter had spent the last several years battling bone cancer, enduring repeated chemotherapy and radiation treatments, neighbors said. Still, she remained active, swimming regularly and traveling. She had returned earlier this week from a trip to Europe.

"She's gone through it all and keeps coming back," Van Muckey said. "She was such a fighter."

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Goodbye God, Gone to Bodie (Monologue)

Jim Cain's house, Bodie used by permission @Allen Saywer

"Winter is here—the snow part at least.  A nice little cabin on Wood Street.  A winter's supply of grub; a few books, including a pack of cards; and—half a barrel of whiskey will carry a person through until spring." —Free Press, Nov, 1881

James "Jim" Caine and Joe Maguire got themselves a nice little grubstake saved up after shipping all that lumber up to Bodie, and they became partners. Imagine a Scotsman and a Mick pairing up like that.

Stranger bedfellows have been made. But in Ireland the Catholic & Proddies are oil and water with a little fire and brimstone all mixed together in a strange baptism. Now, that was a long-standing taste of hell if ever I saw it. See, they had to come to the New World to put aside their differences.

At nearly 8200 feet straight up from the bosom of the sea, it was damned cold at night. Bodie had the worst climate out of doors, save Alaska. Up on the plateau, it was exposed as an ass in the outhouse, and cold as a witches' tit. Shaving water froze in the cup. And when the winds blew at 100 miles-per-hour off the mountains, it was the banshees straight from hell singing a funeral dirge with your name on it.

Joe Maguire said Potato Peak was wearin' a snow jacket again. And here it was, mid-August. He missed the sweet taste of new potatoes roasted in their jackets in the embers, all slathered with butter and salt, he missed it more than the Emerald Isle itself. About the only other thing that would willfully grow in Bodie was the hops plant in front of the Donnelly house. Handy for making beer.

All this brown and dust and sage, sometimes if you didn’t look at the long narrow valley head on, and sort of blur your side- vision, it does look a bit like Ireland with all that green growing in the crevices and the wild irises nodding their dainty purple heads.

A pity about old Waterman (William) Bodey dying in that freak blizzard in '59 and all, he never even saw his namesake town. He would've been real proud. Just look at it now. That's B-O-D-E-Y, not I-E; some illiterate sign-painter got it wrong. Said it looked more refined that way.

They say Bill Bodey got caught short in an unexpected storm while making a supply trip to Monoville. November. Shoulda been fine. Some say it was the Bodie Curse, he took some ore with him. Bodie's mighty protective of its sugar quartz, there's always the risk. 

Bill was the first one to find the placer gold, you see. Sparked off the biggest gold rush in the west, he did.  Would you believe that 20 years later, they dug his body up and reburied it again just to celebrate him with a big bash. We were waking the dead twice.

Joe Maguire came up from 'Frisco with Johnny and Tom Parr. Joe was Bill Irwin's foreman at Standard, and Johnny was foreman of the Syndicate Mill. Irwin put a donkey hoist on one of the shafts and did right well, indeed. That's when they called themselves the Standard Mine and built a 20-stamp mill. That's what kick-started the town of Bodie.

They say in '77, the boomtown's population swelled from 20 lost souls, to 7,000, then by '79, to 10,000 headless, bedless, and souless grubbers and claim jumpers that kept streaming in from all four corners of the globe—and hell and highwater all that summer long in search of gold. The dividends alone sent a thrill throughout the world.

Bodie has better climate than Rhyolite or Furnace Creek, a lot prettier too. Funny, how some folks believed that hell was hot when Joe knew firsthand that hell was cold as a frigid hoor on a Bodie winter's night.

Well, then, when the news got out in '77, all the boarding houses were busting at the seams. Men bunking down with their mules and hunkering down with all forms of whatnot for warmth. Every imaginable shed & sty & stable turned into bunks...a whole lot of housing was needed—and pronto.  

It was the worst winter on record, to boot—20 below zero and thousands were dying of pneumonia. Why they stayed on through the winter was foolish. No food, no place to sleep, but still they trudged up the mountain to Bodie. With stardust in their eyes. Only the town Madam, Rosa May, braved the cold to minister to the sick and dying. Lord knows how many she saved, and later, the church wouldn't even give her a Christian burial when her time came.

No wood was to be had for miles around, see? Bodie was above the treeline. That's where Jim came in, he transported timber for the mines, and the steam engines. Then he had so much gold, he opened up a bank, and well, the rest is history. He built himself an empire, he did.

What few newspaper to be had were pressed into service insulating thin walls against the cold, if it was rescued from the outhouses in time. The valley was filled with 10,000 illiterate asses up to no good. Couldn't read a newspaper sideways and certainly not with their backsides. Staking and jumping claims like rabbits, they were. And we had two rival newspapers, we did. 

And we had a lawyer too. Patrick Reddy was his name, and boy was he was ready for anything. Maybe for a piece of the pie as bail for the "guests" was $5. As Johnny Parr said, It was dangerous to run a bluff on a gun play in Bodie. There was an open season on killing but it didn't last long. Eventually law and order prevailed. But we ran Sheriff Davis out of town when he got too trigger happy. We took care of bidniss ourselves.

Imagine milling all that wood and barging it across that hellish alkalai sea, what do they call it? Mono Lake, yeah—hauling timber 2000 feet straight up Coyote Creek Canyon. That's just what Jim and Joe did. Sweet smell of Jeffrey pine, like vanilla shortbread cakes. And sweat of salt mixed with success. Eventually they got some track laid out for a train, but most supplies arrived by stage.

They made plans to lease out the old Bunker Hill Mine claim, I mean, the Standard Mine. At the time, it wasn't paying out much, hardly worth keeping it open. But as luck would have it, danged if they didn’t have a cave in (they didn't properly shore up the roof—wood was so scarce) and uncovered a rich quartz ledge right before the lease went through: they hit paydirt indeed! 

Some $90,000 worth of gold in 90 days! That was over $1000 a day between them. They went wild with joy. Luck of the Irish haltered to the business wagon of the Scots and several fortunes were in the making. Not just theirs.

Luck must've rubbed off on the neighboring hills too because suddenly there were claims everywhere: in one month, the Syndicate Mill and Mine produced more gold that most of the claims in California and Nevada combined. The engine and boiler were said to have come 'round Cape Horn.

Here was Joe, at 25, filthy rich beyond his wildest dreams. Jim already had a taste of the fine life. It was all imported cigars and quail in aspic every night at the Hotel Maison Doree. A rich, fine ash, indeed. He began to buy up the town.

No more ready-made sandwiches from the Philly Bar Depot for Joe, though he had to admit it was right handy, with its pool table and roulette being open 24 hours and all. Someone was always willing to lose a little goldust over a bad hand of cards. Like Wild Bill Walsh. Sold his own wagon in Ione for a good hand of cards and a barrel of whiskey. Joe was no stranger at the poker table. No siree!

Big Black Bill's cook crew still made the best grub. Bodie attracted men from far and wide. Uncle Bill was a South African, with an Irish name—O'Hara. Figure that one out. He must've come from the Cape with the mining equipment. Everybody called him Uncle in reverence.

Fortunes were routinely traded every night in the 65 saloons lining Main Street. You could drink in a different saloon every week and still have a baker's dozen extra to spare for emergencies in case you needed to double up your drinking routine. That’s where the real money was to be had, in the transaction process.  Not the town bank. The straw bosses knew that much. 

It kept the mortuary in business too. Not that it needed help where murder was a daily event. Caskets had spring-loaded false bottoms to keep up with the burial demands. Stagecoach robberies, to shootouts, Bodie was one wild and lawless boomtown, second-to-none in wickedness and sin. 

Jim began to dream about his future. A man need a family. He was a Stuart. Substance. Put down some roots. A son and a daughter. A mail-order bride, say, a sweetbud of age 14, not like the bloozy "Ladies" on Maiden Lane at the north end of town—that was the ticket. 

No more riding into Carson City or Aurora, no more Lottie Johl or Madame Mushtache with the wooden leg for him! He'd dance with his pure flower of a bride at the Fireman's Ball in the Miners' Union Hall, he would.

He'd move his new bride into his new house sporting the only glassed-in front porch in Bodie. Glass was damned hard to get up the mountain in one piece. Hardly worth the bother seeing as it would crack in the cold, come winter, if the transport mules didn't get to it first. But she’d keep him warm. Yesiree indeed!

He'd put some real kimberly glass on her finger, he would. Get married in Carson City. No churches in Bodie, see. Saloons was our religion. Sweet little Martha. So young. So trusting. He'd change his evil ways, he would. Yep. No more Rosa May with the wild eyes and windblown hair for him either. No sirree! 

Would the little mite come up the mountain? But if you were sick, or got the lung disease, or having a baby, you sure wanted Rosa May on your side, she had the healer's touch. She did.

I can't help but think of that little girl who wrote the last entry in her diary, "Goodbye God. I'm going to Bodie," she probably wound up working the pox-infected cribs as Cain pondered popping the question. 

Lottie Johl gave up her wicked ways and took up painting, she was purty good at it too. Never knew whatever happened to Joe. Some say he went to San Francisco, some say he went back to Ireland, but I think it was the mountain that called him home with a good hand of cards, and a six-gun.

© Maureen Hurley
6/2005, 2008, 2009

Bodie, Jon Sullivan photo—Wikipedia

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Gone to Bodie, v. 3


After Jim Caine and Joe Maguire got a nice little grubstake saved up after shipping all that lumber to Bodie, they became partners. Imagine a Scotsman and a Mick pairing up like that. Stranger bedfellows have been made. But in Ireland the Catholic & Proddies are oil and water and fire all mixed together. Now that was a long standing taste of hell.

At nearly 9000 feet, it was damned cold at night. Shaving water froze in the cup. Joe said Potato Peak was wearin' a snow jacket again. He missed the sweet taste of new potatoes roasted in their jackets in the embers, all slathered with butter and salt, he missed it more than home itself. All this brown and dust, sometimes if you didn’t look at the long narrow valley head on, and sort of blurred your side vision, it did look a bit like Ireland with all that green growing in the crevices and the wild irises nodding their dainty heads.

A pity about old W.S. Bodey dying in that blizzard in '56 and all, he never even saw his namesake town. Just look at it. They say in '77, the boomtown's population swelled from 20 lost souls, to 7,000 bedless and souless grubbers that kept streaming in from all four corners of the globe all that summer long in search of gold. Better climate than Rhyolite or Furnace Creek too. Funny how some folks believed that hell was hot when he knew firsthand that hell was cold as a frigid hoor on a Bodie night

All the boarding houses were busting at the seams. Men bunking down with their mules and hunkering down with all forms of whatnot for warmth. Every imaginable shed & sty turned into bunks...a whole lot of housing was needed—pronto. Imagine milling all that wood and barging it across Mono Lake, 2000 feet straight up Coyote Creek Canyon? That's just what they did. Sweet smell of Jeffrey pine, like vanilla cakes. And sweat of salt mixed with success.

They made plans to lease out the old Standard Mine, it wasn't paying out much, hardly worth keeping it open. But as luck would have it, danged if they didn’t hit a quartz ledge right before the lease went through: paydirt indeed! Some $90,000 worth of gold in 90 days! That was over $1000 a day between them. They went wild with joy.

Here he was, at 25, filthy rich beyond his wildest dreams. It was imported cigars and quail in aspic every night at the Hotel Maison Doree. No more sandwiches from the Philly Bar Depot, though it was handy, with its pool table and roulette being open 24 hours and all, someone was always willing to lose some goldust over a bad hand of cards. Fortunes were routinely traded every night. That’s where the real money was to be had, in the transaction process. The straw bosses knew that much.

Joe began to dream about his future. A man need a family. A mail order bride, say, age 14, not like the bloozy "Ladies" on Maiden Lane--that was the ticket. No more riding into Carson City or Aurora, no more Madame Mushtache for him! Move his new little bride into his new house sporting the only glassed in porch in Bodie. Glass was damned hard to get up the mountain in one piece. Hardly worth the bother seeing as it would crack in the cold, come winter. But she’d keep him warm.

He'd put some real glass on her finger, he would. Sweet little Martha. So young. So trusting. He'd change his evil ways, he would. No more Rosa May for him either. No siree! But would she come? The little girl who wrote the last entry in her diary, "Goodbye God. I'm going to Bodie," was probably working the pox infected cribs as he pondered the question.


Sunday, May 1, 2005


The sun is shining,
and the sky is that incredible cerulean
I stare straight up at infinite blueness,
and forget everything for a moment
only to have an egret enroute to the lake
cross my trajectory and I remember
we're in the city after all:
that distant pounding of surf:
really cars on the freeway
I hold vigil for my cousin in NICU,
a victim of that same stretch of road.
Hit and run. who could do that to another?
With shaking hands, I paint three silk scarves,
the gutta, forgiving. I painted beauty:
Roses, egrets, orchids,
and the sky emerges from void.
We wait for a pattern to emerge from the catscan.
Any sign of recognition will do.


Where the sun is shining, and the sky is that incredible cerulean when you stare straight up at its infinite blueness, and you forget everything only to have an egret enroute to the lake cross your trajectory and you remember it's in the city after all: the distant pounding of surf, the cars on the freeway while I hold vigil for my cousin in hospital, a victim of that same stretch of road. With shaking hands, I made three silk scarves, the gutta forgiving. Roses, egrets, orchids, sky emerge from the void.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Confessions of an iPod Roadie


Our peculiar form of iPod madness began last June in conjunction with my partner Neil’s Big Five-Oh birthday. For months, I’d been fretting over what to get him. Something special, something interactive that would involve all his friends for such a momentous occasion, but what?

I needed a happening, but I kept drawing a blank. Zip, zilch, nada. Neil had just been laid off his teaching job and he was not going gentle toward the half-century milestone. More like kicking and screaming. Fifty body blows to the psyche. The bases were loaded. No way to ease his pain as the dreaded birthdate inexorably drew nearer.

Pondering that notion, I found the answer at the bottom of a bright yellow MacWorld Expo bag, a poster. I unrolled it. I was gazing at Apple’s 20th anniversary “Think Different” commemorative poster of that amazing 1984 TV commercial of the woman runner—who so famously interrupted half-time and changed computing history as we know it.

For the 20th anniversary poster, the jogger is updated with an iPod. Very cool. Synchronicity struck with the force of a sledge hammer. Give him an iPod to ease his pain!

We decided to update Neil O’Neill (who is a musician, actor and teacher) with an iPod for his 50th birthday. He was constantly losing CDs and his CD player was acting strange. Via clandestine emails, I tapped some 50 friends to fork over some music and dough for an iPod and accessories galore.

When I had collected enough moolah to buy a plane ticket to Tahiti, I ordered an iPod, an iTunes music store gift certificate and chotchkies from Apple’s red tag store and it arrived the next day!

Now, I had a an elderly cobbled together Mac PPC 9600—someone’s obsolescent technology was my ticket to paradise (alas, no firewire; OS 8.6), so I couldn’t upload music onto the iPod even if I knew how to do it, which I didn’t.

I smuggled the iPod off with a bunch of Neil’s favorite CDs (Beatles, Van Morrison, the Corries, Bob Dylan—Neil shook Bob’s hand, and wouldn’t wash it for a week! But that’s another story). I took the iPod to a friend with an iBook to DJ it up. (Friends also gave him a favorite CD to download special songs into the iPod.)

During the party, while Neil, now officially 50 and loaded, was jamming with Mike Husser on the base guitar, I ushered everyone into the back room where they signed the 20th anniversary “Think Different” poster. It was a cool sacrilege.

Neil was pretty blown away when the iPod was presented to him hidden inside the poster—after he blew out all 50 candles that melted the frosting, singed his hair and nearly set the deck afire. We all ate cake with wax, jammed on, and a good time was had by all. A real 49er send-off. Hello 50, the last good decade to be middle-aged. Time to hit the road, Jack. Have to pack our things and go.

We took off on vacation and shared earbuds as the new iPod sweetly serenaded us with a little Ray(ban) Charles at 40,000 feet, on a series of rather hellish plane rides with far too many layovers (and 12 hours of no food) from Oakland to Florida. Most fellow travelers will whip out pictures of their kids faster than pistols at the OK Corral, so we retaliated, we drew out our iPod and fired back a tune or two.

The iPod did famously at Miami’s “unconservatory“ school of music; most folks we met had never seen an iPod in the flesh—er—chrome and Lucite. The musicians loved it. Everyone oohed and ahhed—especially over the accessories. It had a stereo adapter? a FM and a car cassette converter? a microphone? Hook it up to MIDI and digitally record with it? Use it as a jump drive? You could see their (click) wheels spinning.

The iPod was such a cross-cultural smash success, even our friends’ Cubans relatives all wanted an iPod too. No translation needed. I think I must’ve “sold” a few dozen virtual iPods while in Miami.

I didn’t know a thing about downloading music into iPods or how to use iTunes, neither did anyone else. Hot Miami nights, no AC in the practice studio, plenty mosquitoes and geckoes galore. While the musicians jammed on Calle Ocho (a kilted Neil in a Cuban guayabera playing “Those Were the Days” to a frenzied Cuban audience is another wild cojone story), While a former Californian, composer and world class pianist, Kirk Whipple, and Neil were in the studio talking shop, I was figuring out how to use iTunes, and the iPod on a borrowed iBook with OS X. Baptism by fire.

I was a classic OS 8.6 California girl mesmerized by an OS X world. Luckily, MacWorld’s Mac 911 guru, Christopher Breen, graciously came to my virtual rescue; he was my sweet email roadie guide; he told me how to upload tunes (you need to be online to get the titles? I’d typed in about 50 titles), and how to make playlists. I uploaded a little Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffet), Gypsy Kings, Celia Cruz, and Kirk Whipple & Marilyn Morales’ nocturnes, “Elemental Portraits,” (for which I’d written a suite of poems in collaboration) and we were good to go on a little road trip of our own.

After our unconservatory gigs were over, we took off for a little snorkel trip down to the Florida Keys and the Dry Tortugas—until three whopping hurricanes chased us home. We shared the iPod with musicians in Key Largo, we listened to the iPod as we drove across the Seven Mile Bridge to the old bridge at Pigeon Key—that’s Flagler’s Folly, Key West railroad bridge for the Havana-bound gamblers during the Depression. The bridge was featured in “Key Largo” with Bogie and Bacall, and again in “True Lies” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis.

We put our lips together and blew a few sultry tunes to the iPod as we kayaked and snorkeled (it stayed on the boat, alas no wetsuit, but Chris Breen assured me even that was possible) we saw manatees in the mangroves, swam with sea turtles, and dolphins. We even took our iPod on those famous Key West sunset cruises (their music seriously sucked.)

It’s a long way to the Dry Tortugas, a civil war fortress a tiny coral atoll in the middle of the Caribbean, several hours from Cuba, Cancun or Key West by fast boat. You have to want to go there. Samuel Mudd (John Wilkes Booth’s doctor) was incarcerated there, and Ernest Hemingway was shipwrecked there after a hurricane engulfed the atoll.

When the coffee and booze ran out, Hemingway fashioned a raft and made for Key West, 70 miles back to civilization to write “For Whom the Bell Tolls” before Cuba beckoned for good.

Our boat ride back to Key West was hellish, with pitching indigo-black seas, frothed with 10-15 foot swells, lightning striking the water. The first of four storms, Hurricane Bonnie, was brewing. Oblivious to the storm, Neil was in the cabin happily iPodding it with a little Led Zepplin while I rode shotgun outside to avoid mal de mer. I was distracted by dolphins and flying fish off the bow, a wayward barracuda miscalculated a wave and nearly jumped into my arms. Finding or losing Nemo?

Everything was going swimmingly until we got home and decided to upload more songs. We were getting a little tired of what was on the iPod and wanted a sea change. Change is good. But we had very little spare change and an elder Mac, a PPC/9600/200MHz. No USB, no firewire.

So I snagged a beige G3 mini-tower off of Craigslist. Dangerous learning curves ahead. I learned to swap parts, I put in USB and firewire PCI cards, rearranged a few ATA and SCSI hard drives, haphazardly flipped SCSI ID switches until I got everything to load.

I replaced the wonky modem, loaded OS 9.2.2 so we could use iTunes and download music from the iTunes music store. (The USB card is not OS 9.2.2 friendly; it only works under OS 8.6; I’ve tried various combos of USB drivers. No luck, To use my jump drive or download pictures, I have to load OS 8.6).

I added more memory, a 500 MHz Sonnet chip to speed the Gossamer G3 up, but we still couldn’t use the danged iPod, other than as a hard drive. I was able to load an old version of iTunes under OS 9.2.2. But it didn’t recognize the iPod. We’ve got great playlists, with some PC speakers, our G3 is a really great juke box. Neil rarely uses the analog stereo or the PC anymore. Well, I gutted the PC, so he couldn't use it anyway—even if I wanted to get it up and running again.

Back to the drawing board. It turns out, this particular iPod needs OS X. Well, I found out that first generation G3s (ROM v.1) are not happy with OS X, especially with a 500 MHz Sonnet card.

(I won’t mention the Superdrive (v. 105) I installed, that needed serious convoluted software patches under OS 9.2.2 because Apple doesn’t have a DVD Player driver in classic mode (not an issue under OS X. No media/video card meant the Superdrive was merely a hood ornament/CD -R burner. DVD files show up but DVD Player won’t load. Alas, no Nemo screensaver for us. But at least we could burn CDs of our growing iTunes collection).

I loaded OS X (10.1.3) onto an auxiliary hard drive, and it worked for a while. I loaded iTunes 4.6 needed for this third generation iPod, only to find out that it in turn, needed OS 10.1.5. ARGHHHH! It actually worked for a while. The IPod showed up in iTunes! We were good to go. Not.

Meanwhile, all manner of strange things happened, mainly Siberian-sized freezes; I was eventually able to jumpstart the G3 off an OS 9 formatted hard drive after hitting every panic button I could think of, but the OS X christened hard drive became a shy truant, it quit showing up to work on the desktop altogether. So we’re back to using OS 9.2.2, and using friends’ Macs to load new music.

I am at present cobbling together yet another beige G3 (ROM v.2) with OS X (10.2.8) to tide me over the next few weeks (or months) until I cobble together a blue and white G3, or maybe even a G4 (but I can’t use my Sonnet card in a G4-and all the G4s at 300 MHz are slower than molasses: 500 MHz is bare minimum requirement). I need a Mac with SCSI PCI card slots & serial adapters so I can still use my legacy SCSI & serial stuff.

If money were no issue, horses were wishes and pigs could fly, I would’ve bought an iMac last summer, and a Mac Mini, last Fall. But hey, I wouldn’t have learned all this obsolete Mac technology. I can now rebuild damn near any PPC you put my way.

The lucky recipients of my rebuilt PPCs are the public schools where I work as an artist in residence through non-profits, Young Audiences and California Poets in the Schools. A Title 1 (poor) school, Golden Gate Academy, in the Western Edition got a carload of  my 75xx series PPCs.

I believe in the Apple credo to think differently empowers us, it changes people’s lives. It changed my life. As a practicing dyslexic, I could not use computers, it was their way or the highway. With Mac, I can problem solve in any manner of ways. If one way doesn’t work, at least I can fix it. I discovered too, along the way, that I could strip & rebuild a PC too if needs be...I ripped wires and hard drive out of our dead PC to fix up the G3—Neil was once a confirmed PC junkie but he's since seen the light.

As soon as I get a new Mac, I’m fixing up all the old G3s I have lying around (3) for Cabrillo School in Fremont. Meanwhile I’m waiting for my ship to come in, onboard is a Mac Mini and a Powerbook. And maybe an iMac with Airport Extreme while we’re at it. It looks nice coordinated with the iPod. maybe a buddy, an iPod Photo would be nice too so a California girl can dream big. Maybe take a few pictures, play a few tunes of her own.