Dear Republicans with a conscience,

I know you’re out there. You don’t like Trump, and you do like a functioning democracy. Your party is going to nominate him again, it seems virtually certain. So, my friends: are you going to get serious about starting a new party? And are you going to put everything you’ve got into teaming up with those of us in any party who want a free, fair election? Because it’s really on you. Without you, we may well lose everything.

I know it is really hard to be a Republican with a conscience right now. Creating a new party will probably split the conservative vote and greatly increase the odds that a Democrat will win the White House again in ’24. Opposing the Trumpers’ efforts to replace election supervisors with people who will declare Trump the winner even when he loses will drive an even deeper wedge between you and the people who were once your partymates. In the short term, it might look like you can’t win.

But look at the alternative. You’ll have to choose between Trump and the Democrat anyway, just as you did in ’20, unless you back a candidate who represents responsible conservatism. And if Trump possibly can, he is going to claim victory and create chaos, just as he did last year but probably more effectively. If he gets into office, do you think he will ever leave? If he dies in office, do you think his successor will be any different than him? We could see the end of the US American experiment in democracy. Two hundred fifty years, then devolution into a corrupt dictatorship.

You can’t afford to think about just the next election. The United States can’t afford for you to do that. The world can’t afford it. History has its eyes on you. And who knows? Maybe the middle will win. Maybe all the Democrats who think Joe Biden is a left-wing firebrand will join you in a coalition of the center. I don’t want that, because I’m an actual left-wing firebrand, but I’m willing to risk it because an election system in the hands of the January 6 apologists is such a grim prospect. What are you willing to risk?

For the love of all that is good about our country, please don’t wait. We need you, and now. Democrats are already doing what they can to stop the nightmare we glimpsed in 2020 from becoming our waking reality. The country needs you to put your muscle into it too. Are you going to do that, or just wring your hands?

In hope,

Another lover of our country

Have I been doing art every day? Yes, but this piece is so slow, and my time with it so short each day, that it’s only half done. I’m really liking it, though.

“Clearing,” work in progress, pencil on paper, 9×12

Playing this game with myself again. I drew 100 rectangles on a page of my notebook, dated them, and because I hate to leave a blank spot, will now feel a little self-imposed pressure to do art every single day for the next 100 days. This is known as channeling my compulsive tendencies for a good purpose.

Yesterday was day 1, and I finished (I think) a drawing I’d been making for a few days.

Clearing, pencil on paper, 9×12″

This sweet face greeted us from the counter at my in-laws’ house this weekend. It also chimed, “Draw me!”

Colored pencil on paper, 6×9″

What caused the blotch on this leaf? I’m pretty sure that whatever it was, it was just pursuing its own nutrition or some other such necessity, not setting out to create beauty. But it is beautiful.

I knew I’d be waiting for an hour or more for a car repair today, so I brought this work-in-progress along. I took a walk and then stopped at a cafe to draw; it is now closed, and I am hoping the car will be ready before they tell me I have to leave.

I’ve been doing a lot of drawing during this vacation. Everything we see is so beautiful. Sometimes I draw from life, in this case trying to squeeze in a recognizable sketch of the resident dog at the Bundy Museum, a lovely gallery in Warren, Vermont, before he moved again.

And I’ve taken lots of reference photos of water, since it confounds me by moving constantly, and erosion, which does hold still but where I might not be able to stay long enough to give the drawing the time I want. I felt like I was getting the hang of it with this drawing of fairly still water, the pond in the Boston Public Garden.

At the pond in the Public Garden, Boston
Brook through Warren, VT

But with running water, which I love so much, I made a note that I should try it as a painting, so as to put the swathes of darker and lighter shades in first and then go on to the detail. It was fun to try drawing this brook, though.

Lands End, Bailey Island, Harpswell, Maine

This is a first try at an erosion pattern I love, rock worn by water. I stopped when I couldn’t stand sitting on the rock any longer, but I have lots of photos and will draw some more.

Pavilion roof on the Waterbury, VT, town green

This building stayed obligingly put (though clouds kept changing the light), but I had to leave when I was only about one-third done, so I took a photo in order to keep working. Today I finished it.

As a Californian-by-adoption, I am sorry to say this, but I have never been able to find a soft-serve place in California that knows how to put sprinkles on a cone. I have not given up without a struggle. The resulting conversations tend to go like this.

Me: Small chocolate soft-serve on a regular cone, please. And could I have sprinkles on that?

Them: If you have it in a cup, yes.

Me: I’d like a cone and sprinkles. They’ll stick if you roll the cone in them.

Them, with an expression suggesting my sanity is in doubt: Ohhhkay. I could put them on top.

(They spoon some sprinkles over the cone. Predictably, only about ten stick.)

Them: Is this what you wanted?

Me, sighing: No, you have to roll it, but thanks.

Or:

Me: Small chocolate soft-serve on a regular cone, please. And could I have sprinkles on that?

Them: If you have it in a cup, yes.

Me: I’d like a cone and sprinkles. They’ll stick if you roll the cone in them.

Them: Here, I can give you both.

(They fill the cup with soft-serve and spoon a generous helping of sprinkles on top, then stick a cone on upside-down.)

Them: How’s that?

Vermont knows how. Connecticut knows how. New Jersey knows how. Come on, California, you can’t let yourself fall behind this way!

Me, grimacing internally: Thanks.

(I dispose of the cone at the first opportunity, because let’s admit it, they’re made of styrofoam and if unable to carry out their only purpose, which is to contain soft-serve, they might as well go straight to the compost pile.)

Or:

Me: Small chocolate soft-serve on a regular cone, please. And could I have sprinkles on that?

Them, definitely assessing me as cognitively challenged: Um . . . no, but you could have dip.

(I consider leaping over the counter and showing them how it’s done. Instead, I assent to dip.)

What I have said only once or twice, not wanting to begin a civil war, is that in the northeast, people know how to coat a cone in sprinkles. The gravity is the same in both places, so I’m sure all that is lacking in the California shops is confidence and know-how. As a result, our entire state population is deprived of one of the great pleasures of summer: being handed a cone loaded with sprinkles and taking in a mouthful of sprinkle-coated ice cream. As I am about to do in this photo, taken a few days ago in Vermont.

Day one in Boston was a Sunday. We let ourselves have a slow start, since we were on Pacific Time and had checked in around midnight local time the night before, and started the day with lunch at the Trident Cafe and Bookstore. It was my first time ordering via QR code and online menu in-house, for the record. Then we met friends of Joy’s at the MFA and saw the Ekua Holmes exhibit, which was gorgeous.

I took a photo of one piece I loved (“Pride”), a profile portrait of a young man with a 3-D gold earring in his ear, but respecting her copyright, I won’t share it. However, you can see lots of her other work at her website, here. She often incorporates elements like that into her collages–a bow tie on a portrait of her son and a flower on a woman’s hat were two others–in a way that brings the whole piece more vividly to life.

I love children’s book illustrations, I love collage, and neither they nor African-American artists get their due from our art museums. African-American artists who are also female and contemporary are even more sparsely shown. I hope exhibits like this show curators and funders everywhere what treasures they have overlooked.

I think the signature is “John R. Key,” which makes it likely that the artist is John Ross Key.

Another work of art that captured my attention was this drawing in the B&B, which, by the way, is called Abigayle’s; you can see lots more photos of the rooms here, and if you’re going to Boston, look it up via AirBNB–the innkeeper used a booking agent until recently, but now prefers to handle reservations directly. (And a good idea. We used the agent and she reported the wrong dates to the innkeeper! Fortunately, no one had booked the room immediately after us, so her assumption that we were leaving earlier than we’d planned didn’t leave us without a place to stay–just scared us for a minute.) The drawing is quite large–I’m guessing 18″x36″–and done in charcoal on paper. The signature looks like “John R. Key,” and the innkeeper said something about the artist’s brother having work in the Museum of Fine Arts, but a little research indicates to me that the artist is probably John Ross Key, who is quite well-known in his own right. The house was built during his lifetime, in 1896; it’s very possible that the art changed hands along with the house, going to her husband’s parents, who were only the second owners. I’m going to drop her a line.

I love the variety of textures: mist, tree bark, lichen-covered stones, water, needles. I have long been confounded by the question of how to draw moving water, and seeing this inspired me to stop being confounded and just try it–not as Key must have done, from life, but from photographs.

An opportunity came on our second day, when we had lunch in Chinatown and then walked to the Boston Common and the Public Garden. On Indigo’s short list for Boston activities was “see the ducklings”–these ducklings, of course. The sculptor, Nancy Schön, had a tough bill to fill (no pun intended), as Robert McCloskey’s drawings are so expressive and his style is unmistakably his own. She really captures them in such a different medium. I could never get Indigo to love his other stories the way I do, but I brought Homer Price and Centerburg Tales into the house in the attempt, and that led me to stories I hadn’t read, so it was not for naught.

Then we went on and sat for a while in communion with the living ducks. The one to Indigo’s left here napped peacefully the whole time, while others swam up to her hopefully and went away disappointed by her lack of snacks.

It’s been a rainy July in Massachusetts, and the lushness of the green here is so lovely. Even after the winter rains, it never gets this intensely green in the Bay Area.

The next chapter of our adventures mostly concerns Indigo, so it is at Mookie’s Mama.

I tried to take photos of duck tails out of the water, but only got blurry shots that did not capture the charm of this particular activity. But one made a good reference photo for me to use later to try a sketch. I always want to draw water, and am frustrated by the way it keeps moving–which motion, of course, is also what makes it such a compelling subject. But how do I draw something that won’t sit still? I began to get an idea as I drew this from my photo, and noticed the repeating patterns, the way the light sections are shot through with dark and vice versa. I’m going to keep at this approach, and see if I can get familiar enough with the patterns without stylizing them too much.

I’m skipping over a couple of days I must go back to, but we just arrived in Vermont and I am so happy about it that I have to post. We’re in Brattleboro, having taken Route 2 across Massachusetts rather than the faster route to our rental house. That would have been my old route between home in Strafford, VT, and Harvard Divinity School, I-93 up through New Hampshire. Boring. Today, we’ve met up with our friend EJ, who lives in Amherst. And I am soaking up the Vermontness. More later, since I want to pay attention to EJ and Brattleboro.

We are in Boston! We woke up yesterday in this beautiful B&B: an immediate immersion in the architecture of Victorian Boston. The skylight is stained glass.

Indigo was wowed by the opposite view. We don’t get many chances to look down stairwells like this at home.

I love the details of the woodwork.

If you’re running in the Boston Marathon, when you pass this house you have one mile to go. They have a guest each year who has run it for 20 years, and they commemorate every race on this wall.

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