Pictured here: some of the pigs at TLC Ranch, taken in March. Yes, there is an explanation about its deliberate appearance.
Yes, another two weeks go by, and here I am, bedridden with one of the ghastly colds that is being shared by a broad userbase in Santa Cruz county. So between downing cups of tea and Vitamin C tablets the size of bricks, I have been scanning some blogs. I don't have the energy to catch up on reading all of my favorites—one of which I am currently 47 posts behind on!—because it's just too strenuous. You know, the contests, the solicitation of our thoughts on certain topics, and so on. Things I enjoy when I'm feeling great, but not when half the air is out of the tires in my brain. Too demanding.
There are a handful of blogs that I scope out first, and will always click in if I see a new post has been added. A couple of days ago, I saw that my friend, the beautiful and über-creative Jennifer Jeffrey had added a new post to Jennifer Jeffrey: Writer/Editor. (She's selling herself short: her design skills are fabulous, too.) At the top of the post is a photograph so brimming with life that my mouth dropped open. And true to herself as ever, she finds something to inspire on an otherwise miserably hot day in the city.
You would not think that the statuesque and lovely Ms. Jeffrey and I share a host of addictions, what with her doing yoga and all, but under the skin, we share an insatiable craving for at least four things: cheese, typefaces, the election of Barack Obama in this year's presidential election, and playing around with images. (Read my comment on her post, if you like, to see where we're going here.)
For a few months now, I've been
rabidly gleefully downloading Photoshop Actions, which are the graphic equivalent of every tool and utensil in your kitchen, bathroom, car trunk, and garage.
People all over the world make up these little choreographed scripts that turn modern-day images, such as the one of the pigs at TLC Ranch on Easter, at top, and the one of Kurt Christiansen's Oso Velloso Farm, look antique. Others take old, yellowed photos and make them look beautiful and fresh. Actions can do a jillion things, most of which don't interest me—what I seek is that, as a good typeface does, a good PS Action changes the tone of what I'm seeing in some way.
I think many creative people already have layers and filters inside that overlay our experiences and perceptions of reality. I'm not talking about delusions, but possibilities. The word "vignette" (used in the literary sense, though Wikipedia's entry certainly has other tasty phrases—such as the reference to vines in a vineyard) has long been a favorite of mine: "short, impressionistic scenes that focus on one moment or give a particular insight into a character, idea, or setting."
And because memory is not infallible, we all do our own "retouching," even in the very developing of the images and stories we are living. (In the Deep South, where I lived most of my youth, we said—before Brit Derek Taylor popularized it—"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story." In Hollywood, pre-Photoshop, they called it "airbrushing": I had a friend who specialized in airbrushing the armpits of divas like Diana Ross for their album covers.)
However, when I alter a photograph, it's not for the purpose of gloss and hype. It is solely with the intention of capturing the way my heart saw it before my camera clicked. I'm not trying to romanticize, particularly, but to see what I've seen before with new light and new potential for the story to be told. Well, I lied: sometime I do it just for fun…Ooooh, look at the pretty colors!
To me, a vignette is the quintessential distillation of "a picture says a thousand words."
Since I've not had the energy or time to write up my recent farm excursions, let me instead offer these vignettes.
TLC Ranch on Easter Day
Chickens. What more can you say about chickens, except that these are two of the three thousand layers that Jim and Becky raise.
Fiona. Fiona is about to turn three, and I've known her since she was an infant. On this particular visit, she remembered "Tana Banana," and held my hand while we walked.
Joy of joys, last Sunday, Logan and I brought her home from the farmers market for a playdate, so her mama could sell eggs and pork without having to tie Fiona to the back of the car. (Seriously, the little girl is a rambler!)
Love Apple Farm in April
Sweet Peas. My birth flower, and a favorite of mine for nostalgic sweetness. I can almost feel a starchy Sunday school dress on me when I smell them. This is, of course, an artificial memory, since the times I went to Sunday school were few, and I cannot believe anyone would ever have bothered with ironing. We were a wash-and-wear kind of group.
The hoop house. It's actually so beautiful that I hardly needed to play with it, but file this under "just for fun." Like a little girl playing dress-up, we can wash the make-up off with no harm done. This effect mimics a Lomo camera, which has a cult following in the graphics world.
UCSC Farm in early May
Forrest Cook. And yes, Forrest cooks. For a living. He's a talented chef whom I helped in the kitchen last week for the reception for the new class of apprentices in the CASFS program. He's carrying a beautiful brie, stuffed with his wife's spiced quince and toasted pecans, wrapped in puff pastry. What you can't see is the little shovel and pitchfork he snipped out of the dough to adorn the top of the brie.
We are very glad not to be losing Forrest to Vermont: he's staying local, and boy, are we blessed.
This one was just for fun, too—in honor of the fun we all had that evening. (Thanks and a shout out to Patrice Boyle at Soif Wine Bar and Richard Alfaro, of Martin-Alfaro Winery, for their generous donations of wine for the dozens of people atop the hill that evening.)
Fennel. What ethereal gauze and jeweled light must the Photoshop faeries draw from the ethers to make the delicate greenery of a young fennel plant dazzle the eye so? What incantations, what supernatural forces must they lay under rein?
Okay, enough bodice-ripping.
The answer: none. This photo is unretouched. Not only do we not gild the lily here at I Heart Farms, we don't gild the fennel. Instead, we sometimes trust enough in the wondrous color sensor and lens that work together on the Nikon D-200 camera that is one of the core blessings in a very visual life.
This is one of the reasons Hans Christian Andersen said, "Green is good for the eyes," a phrase I often repeat. Often. Repeat.
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Because you always ask. (Yes, that is a Photoshop Action that simulates a comic book. I did it solely for him: he will have a fit when he sees it.)
A friend, seeing the latest photos of the boy I used to call "The Little Prince" in an earlier album here, said, "All hail Caesar! I think you should start calling him the Little Emperor instead of the Little Prince." Well, Bonnie, that was a great idea, so I've started a new album.
You would not believe what an ordeal that haircut was. A full hour of bloodcurdling screams every time the scissors approached his head. We had to physically restrain him, Bob and I, and were waiting for the sheriff to show up asking if we removing his limbs with hedgeclippers.
Five minutes later, Logan was splashing and singing in the bathtub, with absolutely no memory that Freddy Krueger had chased him down the hall to cut his hair.
Logan turned four at the end of January, and when I say "turned four," I mean it as almost as if someone flicked a remote at him, and he went from Channel 3 to Channel 4. He's still a little boy, but he's a big little boy.
Days and evenings are filled with superheroes, knights, Star Wars, pirates, and the ever and ongoing saga of "Are they Good Guys or Bad Guys?" Seriously, when we turned on a documentary about the Revolutionary War, he yelled, "SOLDIERS! Are the guys in red on the good team or the bad team?" (Apologies to dear Simon: we said they were the bad guys, mostly, so just be glad you aren't named Josh or Brad.)
A couple of weeks ago, we rented the more recent "Planet of the Apes," and Logan became transfixed with good and bad on a new level.
I came outside the next morning, and saw him bounching on his rocking horse in full knight's regalia, flailing a Light Saber at unseen villains. "Come and kiss me good-bye, Logan, I'm going to the farmers market."
"Not now, Nana! I gotta bang these apes! … BAM! BANG! You're dead, you BAD APE!"
Logan stares at pages of some Star Wars comic books as though the words would leap into his ears and say their names. He's started reading in the smallest doses, because he wants to, but most of it now is memorization. Which he's also used on phone numbers, much to our chagrin, when Logan sneaks out of bed (morning or night) and starts dialing people on the phone.
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Well, that's the better part of an afternon well-spent for me. I never get bored at home, luckily, but I do get lonely for my true work sometimes. (That would be I Heart Farms, and all its branches and roots in the world.)
So that's all for now.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: " Love and a cough cannot be hid." —George Herbert
Thanks for visiting. (Did you bring me some flowers? The ones above are in the garden of Guillermo and Amber Payet...aren't they beautiful? The flowers, too.)