The destination for Sunday’s flash-bang trip across the equator of Wisconsin was the city of Menomonie. Arrived early (could have spent TEN minutes at the ethanol plant!) and cruised the downtown looking for any potential photo ops.


Please insert swirling pinwheels and music to indicate that we have fallen through a rip in the fabric of time.


My very first job ever: carhop at an A&W.  This isn’t the same building but the old-time root beer stands were obviously built to a certain design.


I can’t say it was my dream job, but I did have a couple of take-aways that have lasted me through the years.

     1. I learned to count change. No one had ever taken the time to school me in that fine art and after my first shift, I counted out the cash in my apron only to discover that doing the math in my head was not the best plan. I had broken exactly even and six hours worth of tips had vanished.


     2. The combination of draft A&W and Ruffles Potato Chips is such an exotic taste sensation that it can make me swoon to this day. 

On a flash-bang drive across the equator of Wisconsin on Sunday (four hours over, four hours back) I allotted myself EXACTLY five minutes off-road to take a few shots at the ethanol plant.

I was there once before in mid-March when corn-laden trucks were coming and going and the whole place seemed to be cooking full-steam ahead.

Is it painfully apparent that I found an unopened box of hyphens wedged in back of the junk drawer and I am trying to use them all up before they go bad?

On this day, there didn’t appear to be much action at all and those glorious steamy clouds of vaporized corn were just not happening. The air even lacked that cotton candy smell that had braided itself into my hair last time around.

Even the “Ace” sign was fully visible.

No matter.


Even with a dirth of steam-swirl, there was still enough to soften the light and filter my shots of the plant, giving the whole place a satisfying and slightly other-worldly look.


And then I jumped back into the car and disappeared in a cloud of…well, not so much of a cloud, but I did head back to the highway.


Clear proof that Wabi Sabi is perfectly capable of practicing restraint when she chooses:

     1. She did NOT include phrases like “Soylent Green is People!” in this post


     2. She did NOT finish the Lili Von Shtupp song started earlier in this piece.

Steamier views of the plant can be found at



While most teachers can regale you with stories about memorable students, both angelic and demon-possessed, most often our best stories are about our own epic classroom failures.

Once upon a time a friend of mine, Anne, was really and truly wound up, delivering a passionate lecture on Thoreau and his year at Walden Pond to a room full of 16-year-olds. She was on a serious roll.

Eyes blazing, cheeks flushed and waving her personal dog-eared paperback copy of Thoreau to the class, she knew every eye was riveted on her. This was one of those magic adrenaline-washed  moments that we all dream of.

skin painting 2

Time for the Big Finish.  Voice ringing with emotion, she declared “Ladies and gentlemen, I will tell you that if Thoreau was in front of you right now, he would say ‘Throw off your fine designer clothes, grab your hoes and head for the woods.'”

It pretty much took her the rest of the hour to peel those kids off the walls.

skin painting 1

Prepping these shots, I couldn’t help but think of Anne and those cast-off over-priced designer tee shirts she and Henry David Thoreau were railing against. Hard to say if the pine snakes from my last post are big fans of Thoreau or not, but they do cast off their fine garments from time to time.


Caution: if you suffer from ophidiophobia or a deep fear of snakes, stop here and catch up with me in a day or so. (Three images)

Yahoo! Time for our annual trek to Camp ZZ tucked deep in the heart of the UP. Four days of no electricity and no wi-fi, it is true, but a generator, pump, marine batteries, gas-driven fridge…you get the idea. Roughing it? Yes. Will CBS schedule “Survivor: U.P.” at this locale? Not so much. But there is no Starbucks within a hundred miles.

And I did draw a top bunk this time. There’s a weird time travel thing going on here: the guys who own the camp bought the bunk beds from Northern Michigan University in Marquette and installed them at camp. We all lived in the dorms at NMU mumblety-mumble years ago (the earth was still flat) so it is POSSIBLE that I have travelled all this way in my life just to climb into the same bunk I slept in as a 20-year-old.

This is a same-but-different aside,  but I have never returned to the house I grew up in since it was sold. It’s my understanding that it has been turned into a Ribs-to-Go joint. Wabi Sabi has an inventive mind, but even she could not fabricate that little detail.

We got up close and personal with a couple of the fulltime residents of the camp who are in charge of rodent and critter management: the pine snake or western fox snake (elaphe vulpine.) Three of them, actually, though I was assured that they do not travel in packs. Everything that I have read since I came home says that the snakes are from 3 to 5 feet in length. Huh! The first fellow shown here is 10 feet long, there is one checking in at 8 feet and then one at the prescribed 5 foot mark.

Even if snakes DO scare you spitless (and truly, I am not a big fan) put that aside for a moment, click on the images for greater detail and marvel at how beautiful their skin is against the wood.




A little slice of downtown Rhinelander.


Okay, not really right downtown. But still…close.

I’ve played fast and loose with exposure and saturation and all on this piece, just as a way of seeing the mill differently.

The opening reception at the Nicolet College Art Gallery was the best ever. It will take me at least another 48 hours to ease back down from the high produced by combining great art with great friends and reasonably good wine.  Yowza! What a wonderful evening.


Dear Patricia,

Congratulations! Your artwork “Fall from Grace” has been selected for inclusion in the 27th annual Northern National Art Competition. This year our judge, Linda Benedict-Jones, chose 87 images from the 512 images that were submitted by 266 artists. It looks like it is going to be another wonderful exhibit.

I am, to say the least, thrilled. This is the third year in a row that I have had a piece in the Northern National which draws submissions from across the country. This year, it means even more since the juror, Linda Benedict-Jones, has worked in the field of photography for her whole career.  The following is from the local Rhinelander paper:

“…Benedict-Jones is an adjunct professor of art at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn. She is also Curator of Photography for the Carnegie Art Museum. “

“It was an honor to be invited as the Juror for the Northern National Art Competition,” Benedict-Jones said. “I try to keep a very open mind when I begin the process, and typically I’m much more stringent with photographic images since I have worked in the field for decades.”

The opening reception is Tuesday night at the Nicolet College art gallery, an event that is so cool it borders on the swanky.


And just where have you been, young lady? Your mother and I have been worried sick about you.


Mea Culpa, Gentle Reader. I have been missing from your computer screen for two weeks now and I am darned sorry about that. There is a simple explanation involving Harley-Davidsons, international border crossings and a warehouse full of stolen tequila, but I am not at liberty to go into details. My sharing might impact the state of US-Bulgarian relations. As it is, there’s a lot of scrambling right now regarding that unfortunate near-fatal… 

At any rate, let’s just say that I have been busier than I normally am at this time of the year.

Here’s my “official” cover story–wink, wink:

From time to time, home owners take a look around and think “Holy Mother of Pearl! What’s happening here? The paint is peeling on the garage door, the front door has faded from cranberry red to dusty rose and it just might be that we are not actually living in a permanently crepuscular world. Perhaps the windows are so foul both in and out that the light of day no longer penetrates.”

Here is the horrible catch-22, snake-eating-its-tail consequence of setting out to fix those little things: righting one wrong only serves to shine a spotlight on the next problem.

And before you know it, there’s a line of paint-spattered dominoes falling as far as the eye can see.

That little spasm of clean-up, fix-up, paint-up has safely passed and my Wabi Sabi life should be returning to normal soon…right after a short totally cool and exciting mid-week trip to Rhinelander that I will tell you about tomorrow.

(Art show! Art show!)