Sunday, February 28, 2010

My friend Inez

People don't normally name the birds and animals they encounter, but after watching one ibis for over six years, I simply had to. I named her Inez. What was it that made her stand out? First of all, she had a bad limp that made it difficult for her to keep up with the other ibis when they foraged for food. And secondly, she came back to our neighborhood again and again for over six years. We're practically family.

Today she had two young ibis with her, sporting the brown feathers of youth. Her second family, although, I suspect there may have been a third. I was so happy to see them, even though they are skittish around humans. When there are long absences, I worry. She is usually gone when she has a clutch. But has always returned.

One day I was out walking and spied the remains of an ibis; nothing but a ball of tail feathers, a beak and the legs and feet. I was beside myself, thinking it must have been Inez for she doesn't move as quickly as the others. Today we saw a hawk devouring a white feathered bird in the field and I stressed out. There were snowy egrets flying about, it could have been one of them, or it could have been a cattle egret. There are many in the field where the cattle graze. When I saw Inez and her chicks, I was overjoyed.

Inez is a courageous ibis. She has regained her wing strength and flies as well as the others now, but the limp remains. I admire her for keeping on in the face of a crippling disability. She made me think about the countless children in our world who suffer in the same way. That was my motivation for writing "Inez Ibis Flies Again, The Story of a Courageous Ibis Who Never Gave Up."

If you know a child who needs encouragement and the will to "keep on keeping on," please take a look at my picture book. Samples are available at both of these web sites:
Hard Copy

You can also purchase hard or soft cover books directly from me via or my Etsy tab on Facebook: Carol Allen Anfinsen or AnfinsenArt.

Friday, February 26, 2010

New Series of Paintings -- "With these Hands"

I'm usually reluctant to show an unfinished painting, but in this case I wanted to introduce a new series of paintings I'm planning. The photo is the first in the series titled "With these Hands -- Wonder." As I've told you in my blog, I paint in my utility room on top of my appliances. The painting is a 24x18 canvas so I prop it over the back of the washer and use it as an easel.

Because of this, the photograph is off kilter and the lights glare, but you can get an idea of what I have in mind. The hair is noticeably missing or faded out on the first photo because I lost it while putting shadows on the face and neck. The cowboy hat is complete, more or less, and so is the face. I am finishing the hair in this session and will complete the hands and several other details. My loyal photographer (my husband) had another engagement, so these still photos are all that I could manage. I flipped the image on the first photo so you could see it from a different angle.

Other paintings in the series will include "With These Hands -- Comfort," and "With these Hands -- Working," at least I think so at this point in time. Your ideas would be welcome. I have always been fascinated by people's faces and especially their hands and how they use them to work, to play, to create, to explore. My series of paintings will be a tribute to the positive ways people's hands are used to make the world a better place. Since I love the innocence and beauty of children, this little cowgirl became the first in the series.

I will keep you posted on my progress and share with you my "Wonder" painting when it is finished. All completed artwork is on my gallery at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Twisted or funny -- you decide!

For the most part, artist's and writers are a serious and introverted lot. It's a necessary prerequisite that allows us the needed time and space to create. But before you go all weepy on me, it's a good thing. Artists and writers have a sixth sense that ignites if the right conditions exist, and if our perceptions are working at full throttle. We can see the humor in the darkest hours, and suffering even in the midst of celebration. It's a gift.

I saw a picture of a roseate spoonbill flying in for a landing. They are such funny and interesting birds that my creative mind couldn't help but add a parasail to the mix. The spoonbill looks the same, but with the straps added. Now he's having fun like every other tourist on our Florida beaches.

Flamingoes have always tickled my fancy. They're not native to Florida except in parks and zoos. They are more common on the Miami side. Still people associate Florida with old people and pink plastic flamingoes that are rampant in gift shops and department stores everywhere.

My mind went wild on Valentine's Day drawing flamingoes in heart-shaped designs. Their long necks and curved bills were a natural. This crazy way of looking at life does produce some cute drawings and illustrations. I hope you will check out my Beach Bum collection at

Monday, February 15, 2010

I'm being Catty, but...

When I was a child, I loved cats. In good weather, I brought home every stray cat within walking distance. My mother was patient and supportive. She placed a litter box in a recessed nook on one side of our big kitchen and indulged my love for cats, at least for awhile. The only rule was: one cat at a time.

I enjoyed cat ownership. I dressed each furry friend in my doll's clothes and pushed it around in my doll buggy. The strays were so hungry for attention and fondling that they never complained, even when made to wear a bonnet tied under the chin.

I lavished each cat with affection, but there was something abhorent about having a litter box in the kitchen. While I was eating my breakfast, the cat was always doing its business in the litter box. Maybe that's why every winter, without fail, the "cat-in-residence” managed to disappear. Mother would claim it wandered off or got lost, but I began to suspect that each cat I brought home was never going to stay for long.

I can't really blame my mother. We lived in a small upstairs apartment with no utility room and a teeny-tiny bathroom that caused grownups to lean inward with the eaves. The kitchen was the only room wide enough to accommodate the "box;" a name my mother said with disdain.

When I grew up and had a home of my own, a cat was given to our oldest son as first prize in a soap box derby for Cub Scouts. It was a wild little thing that scaled my draperies like Mt. Everest, leaving a trail of claw tracks and snags in his wake. He clawed his way up my sofas, my chairs, my bedspreads, and, as a last straw, up the kid's arms and legs. The product of a feral cat's litter we wondered? We never knew for sure. We returned our wild kitty back to the giver of the gift (adequate punishment, don't you agree?).

After that we became dog owners. As the children grew up, we enjoyed several canine lifetimes. It was while we owned a white and tan shih tzu named Pooky that a beautiful black cat with white sox came to live with us. My daughter dubbed him Demetrius.

We had no sooner gotten attached to him when we discovered that her younger brother was terribly allergic to cats. Deme's fur caused our son's skin to break out in bright red patches, followed by bouts of hay fever and asthma. Needless to say, the cat had to go. I cried like a baby when he left., but I didn't miss those patty-paw footprints all over my kitchen counter tops; a habit I was never able to break him of, even when I sprayed him with water.

Today I admire cats from afar. They're beautiful, they're soft, they're cuddly, and they belong to someone else. A friend's cat brought her a gift in my presence: a tiny gray mouse that he laid at her feet. As I watched the blood trickle out on the floor, I remembered those unsanitary patty-paws on my kitchen cupboards. I determined then and there that I was a dog person, after all, and I've been one ever since. I don't mean to be catty, but...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Love Notes

Valentine's Day is upon us. T.V. ads bombard us with ideas for gifts of love and the way love should be rewarded; schemes are rampant, manipulation games are playing, and the "fix is in." Okay, so I'm being cynical. But are gifts of love important? Are declarations of love meaningful? Do actions really speak louder than words?

When I was an optimistic young wife, I tucked small notes of love into my husband's lunch box. I wanted to brighten his day, and let him know that I loved and appreciated him. Sometimes I taped small notes of gratitude to his shaving mirror, hoping to boost his spirits before he went off to work for the day.

He never acknowledged them. To this day, I don't know if he appreciated my love notes or, if in his mind, they were foolish drivel. Once I asked him if he got them. He didn't respond. A few weeks later, I asked him again. Still no answer. When I asked him again a few weeks later, he responded angrily: "Yes, I got them -- what do you want me to say?"

So much for romance. Needless to say, I stopped writing notes. These non-interactions formed the basis for our "non-communication" style which escalated into rounds of verbal abuse and silent treatments throughout our marriage. Each day climaxed painfully with him turning his backside to me without a kiss or a "goodnight" before going to sleep. It's no wonder that eventually our marriage crumbled.

Are love notes important? Are expressions and actions of love important? You'd better believe it!

The Bible tells us that we love God "because he first loved us," and gave himself for us (died for our sins) so that we could return to our heavenly home. The first and greatest commandment in the Bible is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength," and to "Love your neighbor as you love yourself," on this commandment hangs all the laws and the prophets. In other words, this command trumps all others.

The Bible itself is full of "love notes" from God. Like a loving parent, these loves notes (Espistles) teach us, warn us, and express God's love for us his children. Prayers are our love notes to God, expressing praise, thanksgiving and need. "God is Love," and love is an eternal principle.

Love is meant to last. But like an unwatered garden, love shrivels and dies without cultivation, tenderness, and care. So is Valentine's Day important or is it just "foolish drivel?" You decide.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Martin Hotel

Our neighbor has a bird condo especially for martins. They clean and scrub it every spring, long before the martins arrive and give it a fresh coat of paint. It's the envy of the bird world and an attraction for every bird of prey within eye shot.

I've seen husky black crows stake out a watch on the nearby branches for hours at a time, hoping to snatch an unsuspecting martin on a food foraging mission. The tiny protective holes the martins use for entry prevent other birds from becoming unexpected guests.

The dark purple martins dart over the pond catching flying insects and bugs that hover over the water. When they forage, the martins flock together secure in their numbers. The owners of the condo keep shrubs and flowers away from the base to prevent squirrels or other critters easy access.

I understand it is difficult to attract martins. There is a method, a means, and a consistency that builds trust. Once this is established, the martins return every year, along with succeeding generations.

During the breeding and nesting period, the martins fly and forage almost continually, except for an afternoon siesta. Many times I've walked by and feared that they had left for the season. But the very next day, at a different time, they are feasting and foraging as usual.

I marvel at the martins ability to find their "home sweet home." each year. I know that spring is here at last when the martin hotel is open for business.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

An Artshow that Wasn't

Proud of our paintings that were hanging in the windows of the Harlowe Gallery, the members of Gateway Artists were saddened when they got rained out on Fort Myers weekly Art Walk. On Saturday, with a break in the weather, we headed for Ponce d'Leon Plaza with our prints, cards, and small paintings. The rain was gone, the sun was trying to shine, and we were positive.

Unfortunately, the wind a mighty enemy still, swept down the plaza turning the alleyway into a shrieking wind tunnel. We shivered, we held down our wares and tried to smile at artgoers who were more interested in finding a safe haven from the wind than looking at art.

This is the way of artists. You work hard. You gather your best efforts together hoping for some recognition or a sale, and you mostly return home with neither. If you're lucky, sometimes a referral is made. Sometimes a painting is filed away in someone's mind or they pick up a business card and later remember, but this is an uncommon occurrence.

As for myself, most of my sales have come via commissioned artwork or by word of mouth when someone likes my work. Why do I persist? Why does any artist keep going?  Because to stop would be to stop breathing or living. The need to express the passion you feel about life and the beauty around you is life itself to the artist. The same holds true for a writer. You can stop for awhile. You can put your passions, your thoughts, your ideas aside for a time. But do it long enough, and these emotions come bubbling to the surface either in anger, desperation, or depression.

Art is its own reward. You feel satisfaction and accomplishment when a work of art is completed. If others enjoy your work that's a bonus. If you make a living at it, you've arrived! It is the same satisfaction I get from writing my blogs. I've only been at this for a few months, and I don't know how many people are stopping by, but I do enjoy reaching out and sharing my thoughts and my artwork with you.

So if you ask me if I'll do another artshow or write another blog, the answer is a resounding yes, because I must. If you're a writer or an artist you'll understand.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Living in Paradise

While the rest of the nation hunkers down for more blizzards and freezing rain, those of us in Florida are content with a few extra blankets on the bed or a warmer jacket when we go outside. Fifty degree weather feels pretty cold to those of us who live here year round. Try enduring the 95+ heat in summer with 80%+ humidity, and you'll know what I mean.

This is the time of year when the cyprus trees turn brown and shed their feathery green leaves. And except for the golf courses and watered lawns, the grass turns into dry stubble and the fire danger rises. By mid March the smell of smoke and the blinding haze on the highway makes us wish for those muggy days of summer when the rain blesses us with a daily drenching.

My first year here, I was amazed to see the live oak trees shed their leaves and be replaced with bright green foliage within a matter of days. There are no Fall leaves to speak of, no diamond studded hoarfrost to adorn the trees or dust the ground. And snowmen? "Forget about it;" except for the blow-up kind that smile like foreigners on decorated lawns at Christmas time.

But as with all good things -- there are trade-offs. My husband and I joke around and call Florida "paradise," and 9 months out of the year it is. But some of us are spoiled by the almost perfect temperatures and mild conditions. The three slightly imperfect months ruin it for some, and mar Florida's wonderful reputation for others. But hey, it's only a few months!
When three hurricanes ripped through Florida a few years ago and two of them doubled back on us, many people scrambled to northern points, never to return. We weathered the storms, glad to be alive when they were over. The extent of the damage was a few uprooted trees for us, for other people, roofs were blown off, houses were destroyed, and hope was lost when insurance companies played a game of semantics and refused to pay for water damage and the resultant mold.

My favorite squirrels that nested in our cabbage palm for three years in a row and produced nine babies in the process lost their home. Our faith in God was tested. Our love for each other was strengthened. Frankly, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else!