Keeping Focused

I’m beginning to think that I have too many interests, things I want to keep up with. Each week I have scheduled several zoom meetings including regular class gatherings and then other scheduled webinars of many interests, such as climate activism, town halls about local government, nature explorations, and on and on. As I’ve mentioned before my primary focus is the book, the nature book with the pictures out of fabric.

Above is a fabric representation of the Western Fence Lizard doing push ups to attract a female or let the others males in the neighbor hood that he is strong and a force to deal with. I added texture on the lizard with a colored pen. The sky space above can be used for the words of the story.

And a picture of Mountain Lion tracks which can be detected as someone walks along the woodland path.

You can see that I am a minimalist because I use only enough information to inform the viewer. What amazes me is how I can do minimalist pictures but my day to day life is full of detail, filled up in fact, and I’m thinking maybe I need to cut out the nonessential. Now there’s a job for me.

Waiting for Life to Happen

Can you ever imagine staying at home and never venturing out for eleven months? Well, it happened to me. Although I did spend September and October in New Hampshire with my daughter hiding out from the fires in Sonoma County, California. The rest of the year I hunkered down in my apartment, peaking out now and then. As the pandemic grew and became a true monster I withdrew more and more. All my food I had delivered with my trusty friend and ever present helpmate, Amazon. It gave me whatever I wanted solving all my problems. My other close friend, Zoom, was always willing . I could go everywhere with Zoom and amazingly there were always some thing to see, to visit, to attend via Zoom. It offered unmasked faces with mouths that moved and smiled. What a wonderful thing, to be able to recreate a human interaction, over a computer, using the many electrons it takes to recreate reality.

Following this is a couple pictures from my collection. One represents the peace one finds in nature. The other creates a new reality, ordered, and free, all at once.

Look toward nature for peace.
Looking toward a new reality.

The New Project

Several year’s ago I wrote a story about a children’s hike at the Bouverie Preserve. I had trained as a docent and had led many hikes with 3rd and 4th graders. The story follows a group through the preserve as they look at what’s there to talk about.

Because I had a couple drawers full of fabric scraps, I sew a lot, I decided to make the pictures out of fabric. I enjoyed selecting the colors and the prints as I designed each page. For ease of producing pictures that include children I made them separate so I could photograph the children placed on each picture as needed. The final count is sixteen pages. And with the text pages the book would be about 22 pages, a nice size of a children’s book.

That’s as far as I got, then. The book has been tucked away in the closet for all these years. Now I brought the fabric pages out to photograph with the children, read the story on the computer, and started integrating the two. It’s hard work and I lost interest when I was through. I wanted to make it a printed book out of it. I knew I needed money to do that. So I waited as I wondered who to get to do the book.

I discovered my memoir teacher did editing and layout. As we talked back and forth we finally agreed to work on the project together. Now I’m busy redoing the children to make them more like 3rd and 4th graders. My cohort is editing and doing the layout and adding some science pages to the back of the story. I’m excited to be working on it with a partner and envisioning how it will look in the end.

Our Window Exhibition

During the pandemic my church group, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Rosa, knowing they were closing for more than a year, decided to display art in their front windows. Not being a typical church building, at one time it was a theater downtown, it has windows that face the street. The administrator asked if I had some paintings to show. I thought, great, I have been working on a project of endangered animals. I’d love the opportunity to show them to the walking public.

For the past ten months my paintings plus those of two other artists have been enjoyed by those walking by. This next week we are going to change the display and I will hang more animals on the list. A red Panda, who is as small as a cat, Bluefin Tuna swirling in the blue, a couple of Polar Bears moaning, several Lady Bugs roaming a geranium leaf, and a Karner Blue Butterfly hovering over its favorite flowers will displace those there now. The major cause of extinction is the loss of habitat. Insects like the wild, open spaces which are disappearing as we, humans, build our houses and farm huge expanses of land.

This is a watercolor.

Surviving Day to Day

How are you doing with this stay at home life for the eleventh month? During the happy days of Christmas, sugared things were available everywhere it seemed. My son sent me a box of very rich cupcakes. The neighbor girls gave me a plate of sugar cookies. Our church ladies delivered an bag of goodies plus other gifts. All in the name of spreading good cheer. And I loved every sugary bite. I even splurged and bought ice cream, a gooey chocolate variety, yum. Then the chocolate chips I needed for a very healthy oatmeal cookie made out of applesauce but I didn’t have applesauce so I substituted some leftover pumpkin squash which worked. Eggs and some milk and seasoning and the chips of course but only half a bag. Then it was all gone and now my stomach wanted more. So out comes the peanut butter. Just add the left over chips in the jar, stir up, and there it is, another thing to binge on.

Interview with Chlele Payne Gummer, Part II

Why do you like writing children’s books? 

After walking Spring Lake for many years, watching the geese and their antics, I wanted to keep an accounting of what I saw. In writing the book, A Family of Geese, Rufus was created and his stories occurred to me. I enjoy illustrating the stories.

How would you describe the Rufus series? 

A story of a Canada gosling, Rufus, and his experiences from birth to 6 mos.  I imagine that children from age two to age seven would enjoy the stories. I know adults who like reading them as well. My favorites are Rufus Meets Coyote and Rufus Meets Squeaky Squirrel.

In addition to writing children’s books I have two novels about relationships, some memoir and some poems in my computer.

Have you had any poems, or stories published?

 My short story, “Suicide Hotline” and a poem, “A Summer Parade,” were published in the Redwood Writer’s 2020 Anthologies. Two of my poems, “Spider Dilemma” and “A Page of Haiku” will appear in the Redwood Writer’s 2021 poetry Anthology.

What is your writing process? 

The stories seem to grow as I write them. I may make changes after they are written. I’m taking a creative writing class, so I receive good revision ideas there.

My goose character Rufus became a collector of items left on the trail at Spring Lake because he was fascinated by the color and design of them. That is very much like me; I will pick up something off the cement if it catches my eye and stimulates my imagination. 

Describe your desk

Imagine a 18 inch square cleared for my multimedia pad. Around the area are used yogurt containers filled with brushes, small and wide bristles, several sizes of scissors, palette knives, and other tools I use. Boxes of colored pencils, a stand of colored pens, and glue sticks sit to my right. An 18 inch ruler lines one edge. A high powered lamp with a selection of brightness available on its base mans the left corner. A small gourd and a strange shaped ball sit guard as my two talismans.

How do you choose your subjects?

In my picture making I am creating a show of endangered animals. I could make a book on that I’m sure. So the possibilities are, as the cliché goes, endless.

Art by Chlele Payne Gummer

In my heart I am a naturalist and I enjoy every animal I come across, in fact, I talk to them. I yell at the crows in an imitative voice as they watch me going here and there.

Every dog I pass in the park knows I’m their friend and they anticipate a nuzzle or two. I’m sorry what we humans have made of this earth, taking anything of value, and disturbing the natural flow of life, causing serious changes in the climate resulting in the extinction of some very important animals. I love painting them as well. Hopefully I can have a show in town in the future.

Interview with Chlele Payne Gummer, Part 1

How are you making it though the pandemic? One day at a time. The pandemic has presented an opportunity to consider what is important in life and to discard unessential concerns. I find myself more focused on what I want to do next.

art by Chlele Payne Gummer

Are you taking any classes?  I think I’ve been studying art forever. My first class after high school was watercolor. I worked in watercolor for many years.  During a break from teaching I worked on and received a bachelor of two-dimensional art from Sacramento State University, in 1994. Since then I take art classes from Santa Rosa Junior College which include printmaking and acrylic painting.

What other jobs have you had in your life? For 25 years I taught school first in an elementary school, beginning as a fourth grade teacher, then I changed to Resource and Special Education instructor and worked with learning disabled students from elementary to high school for twenty years. When I retired from teaching I worked as an administrative assistant for Trivisual Services which served the blind community. 

Where are some of your favorite places? Bodega Bay at the head is my favorite place to be, especially after a bowl of clam chowder. Watching the waves and the birds never tires me. I take the trail as it wanders around and check out the wild flowers that happen to be blooming. And I enjoy the smell as I take in deep breaths.

What kind of music do you make percussion for? In the band I play the tambourine, the triangle, the bass drum and the bells to classical, marching band, and popular song music. Rhythm is the most important part of the music. I like banging on things to hear what tones they might make, such as a paper towel cardboard roll which has an actual musical tone when I bang it.   

What else would you like people to know about you? 

Basically I like to make things, pictures, cards, boxes, and music as in piano, ukulele, and drum.

I enjoy cooking for myself and trying all kinds of recipes. I enjoy good conversation with family and friends especially while sharing a well-cooked meal. And I love dancing to the old favorites, by myself if necessary.

How did you get such an unusual first name?  Dad like the song “Chloe,” and wanted it to be my name. Mom changed the spelling to Chlele. And every time I meet someone new, they ask, ” How do you spell it?” Surprisingly I kept it even after thinking I could easily change it.