The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

I was reminded of my childhood in Pakistan in the early fifties at every turn in this extraordinarily engaging novel. Amir, the narrator, begins this seeming autobiography–it is that convincing–as the son of an upper-class Afghan man who brings him up, having lost his wife at Amir’s birth. The reader is not spared the horrifying effects of Afghan politics, but the real story lies not so much in these events but how different people deal with them. This is a novel about truth and lies within families, secrets that can destroy lives, loyalty and the long-term price of even small disloyalties, and how important it is to recognize how much we may not know about even those closest to us.

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Dolling up for Robert Burns

This year I’m dressing more conservatively–wine velvet and satin, sleeveless but no cleavage or hip-high skirts slits, like last year–but I’m coming down with a cold so after all this might not make it at all. One is expected to bring something Burns-ish to perform. Most guests are musicians and sing but singing is not one of my gifts. Being a teacher, however, I have come up with a game that I’m hoping will acquaint the 24 guests with Burns’ humor and style.

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On a Portrait Roll….

I did this one in two days. The first day I drew it and started painting it with acrylics. Then I quit because I didn’t like what I saw and didn’t know how to fix it. Yesterday, I tried again. I got out a box of pastels which I’ve only used a couple of times in years and I colored right over the acrylic, which I’d painted over a coat of gesso on a cold-press watercolor paper block. Wow. There was plenty of tooth to catch the pastels but leave exposed a rich texture of acrylic. I didn’t know you could do this, mix media this way, but it worked. I was able to capture John’s likeness really well from a picture I took when he and Carol took me out on their sailboat on the Saginaw Bay last summer.

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The Story of my New Website

Dylan and Ann Kuhn live in Fort Collins, Colorado, where Dylan applies his considerable programming skills to the virtual world at Colorado State University. He’s been keeping a journal for years. Share his adventures on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and his bike trip around the perimeter of the continental United States on his own website, Ann took this photo of Dylan and me last summer (July 2004) when I met them in Steamboat Springs. They’d worked themselves from the Mexican border to northern Colorado, three months into their Continental Divide project. Ann walked 700 of those miles. Then she car-camped and hiked in to find Dylan every couple of days to resupply him. Me, I drive the mountains. I only walk flat places, like the beach.

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The Process of a Portrait

It began last fall when I painted a portrait of an old friend I hadn’t seen in years, using an emailed photograph. No one knew I was doing this outrageous thing that I shouldn’t be able to do. It turned out strangely well, considering it was a first and I was just playing. When a friend saw it, she asked me to do a similar portrait of the man in her life. She wanted a painting, not a coulda-been-a-photograph, although she gave me a photo to work from.

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Paperwhites explode!

In this quick watercolor sketch, done with those Dr. Martin’s watercolors, this time I used a Japanese squirrel brush, which has a floppy mop with a distinctively fine point. I confess that PhotoShop does misrepresent some of these little sketches. Mostly I intensify the color. It’s a lesson to me, to be more bold with color. PhotoShop also teaches me to let go of nature’s palette and impose another on what works otherwise as composition. Here I simply clicked on the Invert option, under the Image >Adjustments >Invert menu.

Beaver Island Sketches

The paper is too thin for watercolor, but I love these brief little paintings. This is just how I remember the harbor outside my Beaver Island house. A road wraps around the entire town part of the harbor, a good twenty-minute walk. Everything–grocery store, post office, bar, restaurant, deli, hardware–has this million-dollar view. I like living within reach of three airports and easy access to almost anywhere, but I miss this remote peace.