Monday, April 28, 2014

Poetry Interlude

Shadows of Life

I am but a shadow passing through life
Substance wanes wandering over barren land
The inner essence twists in strife

Flickering light casts its familiar glow
As I cease to exist and meld within the sand
Slipping deeper into the darkness below

2014 - TFC (April 22)

What is, Love

Love is, the leaves sweeping across the land in a cool gentle breeze
Love is, a blanket of snow covering the earth protecting all that is beneath
Love is, the bud on a tree entering a tranquil life of purpose
Love is, an early morning dew sparking in bursting rays of sunshine
Love is, a flower on a warm summers day outstretched petals to the sun

You are the breeze that sweeps across me
You are the snow and I the earth
You are the tree and I the bud
You are the sun and I the dew
I am the flower yearning for your tender caress

1994 SM-TFC

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pondering over Pictures

(April 8- 2014)

**Any unauthorized reproduction of images/photographs displayed on this site in any form is strictly forbidden.**

Since the inception of my blog I have started taking a lot more pictures. I thought it would be a good way to compliment my written work with having visual aids to enhance my adventures. With amassing all those photos that got me to pondering…

Over the years I have taken only a few pictures of places that I have been, or snapped a couple off at a family gathering. (I know I am not unique in doing this -darn). However, I have to admit I have probably taken more pictures of my cats over the years than of my own family. (Horrible, isn’t it) 

I wouldn’t consider myself even an amateur photographer; I just think of myself as a ‘picture taker’ of sorts. Half the time I end up cutting off someone’s head or the subject I was taking ended up as a blur. Lucky technology has caught up to my inadequate photography skills and now it makes things very easy, like point and click. I still get the odd bad shot; at least my success rate has risen substantially J

Obviously my unintentional blur effect still creeps in once in awhile -
Several shots later and my cats got bored and stopped posing for me

I was still a “twinkle” in my Dad’s eye back then
I am lucky, my Mom and Dad have always been avid keepers of family memories. They have a basement full of plastic totes overflowing with pictures. On several occasions I got lost for an entire day wading through all those photos! From one generation onto the other, some handed down to create an even greater span of people and memories. I just love the feel and look of old pictures;  crinkle cut edges and sepia tones, they draw me in with that nostalgic feel. 

MaMére & Mom

It evokes a simpler time, the ‘good ‘ole days’. Personally I never did quite understand why people from that era called it the good old days, I didn’t see anything simple or good about lugging big blocks of ice from house to house (My PaPére [Grandfather] actually did that) or being on food stamps and rations because of the war.  Perhaps it may be just because life ran at a slower pace back then, it was more “pure” to the generation of that time. 

MaMére, Uncle, Mom
My Dad even looked cool sitting on Santa!
It is hard to believe that home computers didn’t even exist when some of these pictures were taken, let alone digital cameras. My Mom is still ‘old school’ when it comes to her photos, she insists on putting them in photo albums, of course after my Dad prints them from the computer (a modern convenience in which my Mom reluctantly allowed my Dad to have J

I can see where she is coming from wanting her pictures printed out, I feel more of a connection when I hold a photo in my hand, rather than looking at them on a flat computer screen. - I don’t think she really trusts computers – wink

I love this picture – My Mom calls it her ‘Colgate Smile’ - lol
When my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary (impressive, huh – wow, has it really been almost six years!) I decided that I would make a “Here is your life” memory book for them.

I descended into the cold depths of their cellar (really, it is cold down there!) and pulled out the plastic tombs of memories from their dark closet crypt. Inside I unearthed an additional smaller cardboard tomb, it was an inherited selection of even older photos that lay scattered about in no particular order. I was an archaeologist wading through the mounds of precious artefacts, sorting and pausing at the interesting images that were telling a story, while trying to fit the pieces together.

Black and white, yellowing edges, faded and creased with age; piece by piece I gathered up the moments in time. As I explored deeper I knew the instant I had hit another era just by the style of photo I held. (it also helped that most were dated on the back J) The 1970’s had a peculiar look, lending a surreal quality to them. The colour gave it an almost unnatural look, like someone had decided to paint an old black and white  – (or maybe it was just the style of clothes back then –wink

Can you tell it is 1971

Curious, I later discovered that it has to do with colour saturation and contrast and how cameras used to work back then – photography stuff, but I am not a photographer, I am just a picture taker. J  A small part of me took offence to the term that was used to describe the era, and how you could get that ‘vintage’ look in your photos of today. – I don’t feel vintage, at least not yet –wink 

I was getting closer to the current decade as I approached the 90’s. (Okay, I still had another 20 odd years to go J) I was a witness to the natural progression of aging while I was also reminded of the ones who were no longer with us as they faded out of view.

Sis & Me

I realized how important, really important, all these pictures were to me. The photos I held were memorializing all those precious moments in our life together. Even though in some of them I was too young to remember, they told my family’s story, preserving a section of our lives while serving as a visual resource for the moments in time we shared. 

Uncle, Mom, Sis, Me

Time has a way of making things fuzzy and I had forgotten many occasions through the years, but when I seen a photo it immediately transported me back to the exact moment in time or I recalled a story my parents had told me. As I sorted through the decades a spectrum of feelings were conjured up from the depths of my soul. I was immensely aware that one day if memory fails I might find solace in these old photographs again...

This post would of ended there until recently when I seen a newscast about a man named John Maloof,  he had discovered photographs from an unknown ‘Street Photographer’ after he bought a pile of boxes at auction. [Street photography is an art photography that features the human condition within public places and does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment.]  

The photographer was Vivian Maier, 1950-1990 she was a nanny living in Chicago with a passion to take pictures. She took thousands of photographs over her lifetime and just hid them away from public view, even her closest friends did not know about her passion.

For some reason I cannot explain a sense of profound sadness overwhelmed me at that moment… a captivating story in images… a woman’s passing… mortality… 

Then I contemplated over my own old paper photographs, crammed into my own tombs of plastic, where will they end up when I am gone and no one is left to cherish them as I had…would it even matter…

One day soon, I must return to the depths of the cellar and
take another trip down ‘memory lane’
**Any unauthorized reproduction of images/photographs displayed on this site in any form is strictly forbidden.**

Monday, April 14, 2014

Motorcycling to Solomon’s Castle

Trip taken on April 2, 2014

I have to admit that I never heard of the internationally renowned artist/sculptor Howard Solomon and his famed Castle in the swamp (I must have lived under a rock for the first half of my life) until I was searching the Internet for yet another “adventure packed” tour on our bikes. As the artistic blood runs through my veins, I was interested in seeing his ‘re-purposed’ creations and a visit to the amazing Solomon’s Castle did sound quite intriguing.  

The 75-mile ride (one-way) took us along scenic country roads and through some swampland, however the majority of the trip was along the extremely flat, straight as a board, just downright boring FL-31! (Guess you can’t have everything J) It was some consolation that we took our favourite curvy North River Road to spice things up before tackling the FL-31. Although I didn’t expect that much ‘spice’ with what happened next – (then again who would have)

View Larger Map

We were riding in the standard staggered formation of motorcycle riders, (I was a short distance behind and to the right) cruising along the peaceful N. River Rd. (FL-78) and enjoying the views. 

As we straightened from a curve all of a sudden a vulture flies across the road right in front of my ‘honey’! For a split second all I could see were the wings sticking out from either side of his head. Thinking back, it was quite the comical sight, but at the time I was scared to death he would loose control while fending the bird off. Thankfully, he is a skilled motorcyclist. J 

As quick as the bird had gotten in his face he dodged to the right and it went off in the opposite direction. (No animals were hurt in the making of this post) As I got closer to the spot where he had been rudely “attacked”, I noticed off to the right in the ditch there was still a group of vultures eating a tasty (I am just guessing that it was tasty) meal of road kill. The rumble of the Harley’s must have startled the first one making it fly directly into the middle of the road. While it’s companions decided they were too hungry to be bothered by the distraction and continued to munch on their free meal. 

Not wanting the same fate as my ‘honey’ had just experienced, I fumbled to find my horn and shot off a couple of blasts before I reached their roadside picnic. At least the ‘half-witted’ bird’s companions had a better sense of direction and flew off toward the bush. (Whew, lucky me - danger averted)

When we turned onto FL-31 we pulled over for a break. I am pretty sure my ‘honey’ wanted one too after almost having bird for breakfast. (He was still spitting out the feathers from the incident)

After our wearisome ride along FL-31 we passed through the “thriving” town of Arcadia. It is known for its historic downtown antique district and the Annual Watermelon Festival that happens in May. (or so their website tells me J)

We only had to go a short distant along Hwy.70 before we were smack dab in the middle of nowhere USA, more commonly known as the little community of Ona, Florida. From what I could find, Solomon’s Castle is the only thing that Ona has to boast about. 

At least the road finally got interesting as we turned onto CR-661, it was a pleasant cruise through orange groves and farmland, with a curve here and there thrown in to quell the tedium of driving on Florida’s flat landscape. Coming up to our next turn off onto the CR-663 there stood a forlorn sign with faded lettering baking in the sun, it was doing its best to assure us that we were indeed headed in the right direction to Solomon’s Castle. The pleasant cruise abruptly ended upon entering our turn off. We started dodging potholes and there were large sections of rough patches along with crumbling pavement that travelled the extent of the road. Several times I had to raise my 'butt' off the seat as not to get the full impact from the ones that were impossible to miss.

After being shaken like a martini from playing dodge the pothole, the road smoothed out as we turned onto CR-665. (Giving my insides a chance to settle back into their correct position) Another weather beaten sign announced that we were just about to get to our destination, 4585 Solomon Road.

As we made our way down the deserted road, I was half expecting that this was another one of my wild goose chases. Isn’t everything on the Internet accurate? – grin. But to my surprise after a short jaunt down the road there appeared tall white metal gates that were propped open, welcoming us in.

Cresting the top of each gate was the word SOLOMONS and CASTLE The Solomon gate was inlayed with a queen made of metal sitting on her throne and the other with a king on his. 

To my surprise there were about fifteen cars in the parking lot and some people milling about the grounds. We had found Ona’s number 1 (only one)  tourist attraction. J

Spanish Moss hung lazily from tree branches along the pathway leading to Howard’s Kingdom. As we ventured closer sprouting up from the earth stood the unconventional Castle with a multitude of plants and shrubs protecting its perimeter.
The artist/sculptor Howard Solomon combines his ‘eccentric’ artist style with a quirky sense of humour. His work is created from a collection of discarded debris that he has salvaged or was given to him over the years. His artwork is a mix of odds and ends from oil drums to beer cans and wood from old ladders from the citrus industry.
This earned him the name “Da Vinci of Debris”.  But I guess it was a win-win for all involved because Howard got free material to create his sculpture and people got rid of their junk! Today he has gotten so much ‘junk’ from happy contributors that he has asked people to stop donating to him. He has completely run out of room!

He had bought this plot of swampland in 1972 so that he could build a modest homestead  for his family and provide himself a workshop where he could create his whimsical sculptures. Twelve years later it turned into his largest masterpiece and he moved his family into the 12,000 square foot fantasy castle.  Building his entire castle himself, he salvaged old aluminium printing plates that had been discarded by a local newspaper in nearby Wauchula for the shiny siding. He also hand crafted each of the 90 stained glass windows portraying various designs and whimsical creatures. After it was completed he realized he should open it for tours. (I guess he figured that would be one way to pay for the upkeep!)

As we wandered around the grounds there was no mistaking that the artist had devoted a lifetime in bringing his vision to life. Everywhere you looked amusing figures and sculpture merged with the landscape.

A lone white knight in armour stands on guard at the grand entrance to the castle. Howard named the white knight ‘Day’. The other side stands empty, apparently the black armoured knight, of course named ‘Night’ was MIA at the time we visited - might have been in the shop getting greased and oiled J.

As we entered over the threshold we were just in time for the next tour to start. I was a little disappointed that Howard himself was not our tour guide, but in his place was an amusing replica (my uneducated guess would have been a close relative) in his place. After each purchasing a $10 ticket we were asked to give them back as Howard recycles everything. We then shuffled along with about 10 seniors to begin the castle tour – must have been seniors’ day J

The musty smell of the old rooms added to the mystique of the Castle as our guide steered us through narrow hallways and roped off alcoves pointing out sculptures and artwork while adding a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour to his commentary about how each sculpture came by it’s name. The guide informed us that Howard had written the script and not to blame him for the anecdotes that were overflowing with puns.

We passed the ‘Evil Kornevil’ sculpture, named because it was made from a corn planter (and various other metal objects).  It was clear that Howard certainly didn’t lack in his imagination or his sense of humour.

I was impressed at Howard’s resourcefulness at creating sculptures out of things that people had no use for anymore. He certainly is a master working with what he has on hand. (Our guide hinted that Howard was just cheap) There was even a zoo made from fifty pounds of wire coat hangers! (I guess the saying is true, one mans garbage is another mans treasure or in this case, work of art)

Some of his creations had moving parts, mechanical gears grinding together bringing his creation to life. Others had lights that flashed and one even played a tune reminiscent of a music box I had as a kid.
“Jeb the Bushman” The elephant sculpture that he created from seven oil drums, manatee ribs for tusks and clam shells for toenails.

I even found Waldo!

Howard Solomon's self-portrait also adorned the gallery
(uncanny resemblance!)

We wove our way through the Castle and were brought through the well-worn living room into the kitchen where his talents continued with the stained glass ‘story book’ windows. In the kitchen our guide demonstrated Howard’s electric elevator that he had made from scrap material and operated by a car battery. It screeched into life producing such a loud whining noise I cupped my hands over my ears. The guide turned it off and said that Howard made it that way so he would know if anyone tried to sneak up to his room.

Even Howard’s interpretation of a fence along the side of his Castle shows his unique take on what could be considered a mundane object.

 As we exited the castle through the odd three-sided door we headed over to the ‘Boat In The Moat’ Restaurant. In true Howard fashion he built the 60-foot replica of a 16th-century Spanish galleon to sit in the moat that surrounds his Castle. Keeping it all in the family, his daughter runs the restaurant and gift shop that also features a relaxing outside patio. 

The lighthouse sits next to it and is charmingly named ‘Lily Light’ serving as an event room that can be rented out for parties. (According to Howard, he built the lighthouse so his ship would never get lost)

As the guided tour ended we were told we could wander the grounds and that we might even catch a glimpse of the 78-year old artist/sculptor, Howard Solomon. As we approached his workshop almost like on queue the band saw whirled into action and there he stood engrossed in his work. As I watched him at the saw from behind the chained off doorway I was reminded of a mirage and thought that if I didn’t know any better the figure standing there was just another one of his mechanical sculptures - lol. 
As we watched he continued running the saw until we left – weird though, as we were out of eye sight the saw abruptly stopped, hmmm…

Tucked behind his workshop as we headed toward the parking lot we came upon the Texas Alamo. Complete with canon and bowling balls.

Before we left, I made a quick detour to ‘Rooms To Go’ (his humour never ends -grin)

It might not have been a typical ‘magic’ kingdom with wild rides and entertaining shows but it was certainly an interesting and quirky place to visit just to experience the world through the eyes of the talented artist/sculptor, Howard Solomon.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Writing Process -Blog Tour

What is ‘The Writing Process’ Blog Tour?
It is a fun way to connect with other writers and readers to authors they wouldn’t otherwise come across. (An excellent concept!) A cyber version of “word of mouth” J You answer 4 questions about your writing style on your blog, along with posting links to 3 other writers and a brief bio about each of them and in turn they answer the same questions and do the same on their blogs and on and on it goes…  (A great writing exercise too and allows your readers to gain some insight on you as a writer)

Best of all, it didn’t cost me anything! Okay, it did cost me one thing; my time. J I thought that was a small price to pay for being able to meet all the wonderful and talented writers that I encountered on my journey.

Even though I am not a published author yet, (unless you count the poem I wrote many, many years ago and was published in some obscure book with a lot of other poems…) Anyway, I love to write, and I think that my adventures that I write about might appeal to one, maybe even two of you out there - wink

I had just started my blog in February of this year (2014) and was very ‘green’ at the whole process. (Still am J) So I jumped at the chance to be involved.  I also thought that it would be a creative way to explore myself as a new writer, meet other writers and on a more selfish note, gain some exposure J

The Blog Tour was introduced to me through Amy Morse: 
a writer, artist, enterprise coach and entrepreneur. - I found her by chance from a post in a discussion group on Linkedin as I continued my quest to serve the masses my blog. 
A talented author I might add J (Thanks Amy!)
Check out her book! The Bronze Box (writing as Amy C Fitzjohn)

I have chosen to feature a few other talented writers Salvage Sister and Mister, Ty McDuffie and Ani Manjikian who were adventurous enough to tackle the questions and to continue the cyber thread of ‘The Writing Process’ Blog Tour.  You can read more about them at the end of this post and I hope that you will at least take the time to check them out! 

So lets get this started…

My Writing Process…

1.  What am I working on? 

I am working on fine-tuning my writing skills. I had left them on a shelf many years ago, so I figured now was as good as time as any to pick them back up and brush the cobwebs away. (I’m not getting any younger!)

Seeing I consider myself a complete ‘newbie’ when it comes to blogging, my first project is working on my blog of course; it is mainly about my experiences as a Canadian (Snowbird) wintering in Florida and exploring the area on my motorcycle. (I just love to ride!) It is going on six years since I started riding a motorcycle (never was on one before that – it was a ‘bucket list’ thing) See you are never too old to try new things! I thought that starting a blog about my adventures would be an interesting way to get my creative juices flowing as an aspiring writer. (And it is working; the tap is on! - I even have the first paragraph written for a short story I am working on!

I also have extended my blog to include my opinions and observations – an eclectic collection of the things I have encountered. There are so many things to write about who knows where this will go.

I admit, my writing still has some ruff edges and may need to be sanded down and shaped but it is a start and I am enjoying discovering myself as a writer in the process. I hope that you enjoy the ‘ride’ and find entertainment as well as a bit of useful information along the way with my journeys. I caution you, it is a work in progress as I spread my wings and test the air currents – So please, take some time to browse through some posts and don’t be shy to leave a comment. J 

I am also in the works of putting together a collection of my poetry and want to open a new section for my blog. I have written poetry on and off for most of my life and have shared the majority of my prose with only my family. It was with their encouragement over the many years (better late than never) that I have gotten the courage to finally share it in a public setting. 

In the mean time, while I discover my passion to write again, I still need to make a living. So between writing I continue to work on graphic and web design projects,  (designing has been just as much a part of my life as writing has) which also just happens to let me get a bit of creative writing in, just in a slightly different way. J

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

I really have struggled with this question. I am just not sure what genre my blog falls under, or at least I haven’t discovered one yet. I have read all kinds of blogs that are about travel and travellers, but I don’t exactly consider myself a “traveller”.  Sure, I have visited a couple of places abroad, and I spend the winter in Florida, but a traveller? No, that just doesn’t sound right…. 

Most blogs I have come across have very specific topics from technology to cooking, to how their cat affects their life decisions. Maybe I am just ‘the world through my eyes” type of blogger. However, I don’t think that is an actual genre J. So for now, I have yet to find where I fit in… (If you know please fill me in)

I do believe that no matter what specific genre a writer originally is associated with they would agree with me when I say, “I prefer not to be forced into a narrow space leaving me no room to explore the vast universe of creative writing”. (Personally, small spaces make me claustrophobic

I imagine my own idiosyncrasies… {Meaning; a mode of behaviour or way of thought peculiar to an individual. – ex: "one of her little idiosyncrasies was always leaving the radio on even when she wasn’t home"} – hmmm, sounds vaguely familiar …create my unique brand of writing distinguishing me from the masses – but then again, I figure it is like that for every writer - grin

My blogs are just my way of expressing my musings by adding a dash of poetry, a dollop of humour and adding a sprinkle of interesting information into the mix. (I think I may be hungry)

3. Why do I write what I do?

I never was much of a talker, (so public speaking was definitely out of the question) I am more of the solitary, silent type (I heard those are the ones to watch out for - grin) but put a keyboard in front of me and all of a sudden I have something to say. It is like turning on a faucet full blast and multitudes of ideas that had been swirling around in my head flood out.

Writing was always been my outlet where I could articulate and explore my thoughts, passions and fears. It then morphed into a platform where I could incorporate my unique personal twist on my experiences and inject them with my interests all the while entertaining people in the process. 

Simply put, it brings me joy J

4. How does my writing process work? 

I was asked a similar question in a discussion group that I had recently joined: 
“Sherlock Holmes once said: "I need to go to my mind palace". If you were to build your own "mind palace" to help with creative inspiration, what would it look like? 

My answer: “My mind palace is not really a specific place or location, it becomes a vortex where the world just dissolves around me and my thoughts flow - a gradual transition of twilight as it melds into the night - while light glides into the darkness and the shadows stretch, dancing along with the invisible currents - as the moon reclaims the darkening midnight sky and the stars journey along the universe...”  

It kind of works like that – I am sure that has totally cleared things up and answered the question. -wink

So to continue the cyber thread in ‘The Writing Process’ Blog Tour I pass you onto my adventurous and of course talented writers: (Happy Reading J)

Salvage Sister and Mister:

Salvage Sister and Mister is a site all about making the most with what you have.  We are a husband and wife team bringing ideas with this principal in mind.  Our site has posts ranging from thrift store finds and "dumpster diving" to using liquid gold (bacon grease) in the kitchen.  Anything that could have another life, we want to find it! 

Ty McDuffie:  (Husband. Daddy. Author. Serial Entrepreneur).
I write stuff to help Daddies build better relationships with their daughters. Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes, it’s a little sad. Sometimes it's serious....but it's ALWAYS straight from the heart with no chaser.

My unique perspective on Fatherhood ("Daddyhood") comes from years of raising two very beautiful daughters. It all started with a rocky adoption in which one of them wouldn't even SPEAK to me, to getting love notes left on my office whiteboard from them that I REFUSE to erase.  All in all, the work it took to win their hearts and to raise strong, independent, little women is a poignant testimony to the power of the journey from father to Daddy.

Ani Manjikian:  
I have strong design, development, and writing skills and an innate sense for composition and functionality.  I combine the technical knowledge and analytical mind of a programmer, the creative and detailed orientation of a writer / editor, and the aesthetic instincts of a designer / photographer in any project that I undertake.

There are two very important things that I want to do with my life. I want to own my own large multimedia company. I also want to become a published writer and make a movie or two out of the books. To that end, I’m working on, and have been, for several years, a novel series called Stars of Heros.