Society 6 : : Free Worldwide Shipping. All weekend.

I jumped when I got this message, because I really need a tote bag! All I have is a black backpack, and that just screams “TOURIST” in a country where everybody else has big, roomy, colourful beach bags. And it would be nice to have something with one of my own designs on it…can you believe I don’t actually have anything of my own from Society6, yet?

Something to celebrate the fact that we’ll be driving into the foothills of the Andes sometime next month? Like a Pack Alpaca, maybe?

But Society6 doesn’t ship to Venezuela. *sigh* I have been dragging my feet about it, but it looks like I really will have to cobble something homemade together while I’m here. Without a sewing machine.

Clicking on the image will take you to my Society6 page.

blue glass

blue beer bottleA blue beer bottle from the fisherman’s restaurant on the beach along Paseo Colon. Picked some flowering shrubs along the way, but decided not to paint them in all their lilac-coloured glory, so that the blue of the bottle could dominate this sketch. beer bottles
If beer weren’t so scarce around here, I would start a series about beer bottles. Love painting glass.

Hay que vivir

colonial house VenezuelaSix weeks in Venezuela. I haven’t painted anything but this door and window…the ubiquitous pink-walled colonial house. Still charming. I haven’t been game enough to walk the streets with my camera, the economy is so bad at the moment, anything remotely valuable is like a red flag to a lot of desperate, angry bulls. I hope to start drawing on the streets more, though, so maybe there will be more to post here, soon (I hope!)

We went from being completely lost and bewildered (it was a struggle just to find a bit of food everyday), to functioning fairly well as visitors (we can honestly say we speak Spanish, now) and we’ve finally arrived at a stage where we’re actually looking around for things to do, and re-introducing little routines of a “normal” life.

After weeks of being intimidated by the new environment, mooching around on the boat or ordering a string of coffees at the marina’s restaurant, of eating way too much, napping too much, not going anywhere because of the heat and the difficulty, of getting soft, fat and feeling awful about myself…I went out and bought two pairs of dumbbells (1kg. and 3kgs.) and I am back to working out every day (there’s a long bench in the little-used ladies’ bathroom that’s just perfect, and it’s so convenient to be able to duck straight into the showers afterwards!) It’s become my daily ritual.

The regular exercise has given me back my energy, as well as lifted my mood, so that I am more likely to pull my running shoes on and go for a brisk walk around the neighbourhood, just for the heck of it. The “aches and pains” that I thought were the early onset of old age have vanished, and I feel great. I’ve been to the flea market, these past two Sundays, and the days when I used to be a shy spectator—looking at the stuff from a safe and uncrowded distance—are well and truly over…I’ve learned to deal with the incredible heat, push in with all the other people, to rummage patiently through all the second-hand clothing for sale, to haggle (just a little bit, for propriety’s sake, though really most stuff is under $2), try stuff on (you pull the clothes on over whatever you’re wearing) and fill my shopping bag with half a dozen articles of clothing in an hour’s time. Then i walk the kilometer back to the marina, stopping halfway to buy a cocada (a coconut smoothie…it is to die for!) My Sunday ritual. Crazy as it sounds, these rituals have kept my life from sinking into a meaningless swamp of lazy days. The greatest responsibility you can give a person is free time…what you do with it can make you happy, or make you miserable. This trip around South America for a few years feels a bit like I have been given Free Time as a job. The problem is not finding time, but figuring out what to do with what sometimes feels like a glut, a surfeit of free time.

Learning the language has, of course, helped me to live a normal, everyday life. Hours of study—I did all 5 phases of the Pimsleur Spanish language course on our way from Brazil—supplemented by books on grammar, making lists of words with a dictionary, reading everything—from newspapers and children’s books to short novels and books about Santeria—plus hours spent talking to friendly people…one Venezuelan lady, in particular, also living on a boat in this marina and the same age as I, has become a close friend. She speaks not a word of English, but we have coffee together, show each other slideshows on our laptops, and talk about all sorts of things, so I guess I can fairly claim to speak “conversational” Spanish.

I’m really proud of this. It’s the first language that I set out to learn from scratch, and I really did give so much of my time and energy to studying it. It has all paid off, because even though I still speak slowly, and I often have to ask rapid speakers to slow down or repeat things, I can read pretty much anything, now.
Neruda Anthology//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Kris brought home a fabulous anthology of Neruda’s poems for me…my prize, he said, for doing so well in such a short time. I had been looking for Neruda at all the bookstores, without luck, but he found this at a newspaper kiosk in Lecheria.

5 Days. 5 Deals : : Day 2

Oh, I missed Day 1…but here’s today’s deal. Click on any image to get taken to my Society6 pages. Cheers!

Echoes of the Mazaruni…

Remember my post Shipwrecks and Sand Shoals? A couple of months after the post went up I got an exciting e-mail from 7-year-old Thom (and his mum, Noemie). Based on the sketches and photos in my post, Thom (who tells me he is “really into wrecks”) made a gorgeous drawing of the wreck.

Thom's drawingAnd then he went into 3D and built a Lego version of the shipwreck.

Thom's Lego wreckThom’s a charming young man, one of maybe three people who immediately recognised that the name of our boat, Kehaar, was taken from the book Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Note: In the book, about rabbits, Kehaar is a blunt old seagull who speaks with an Eastern European accent. He is very knowledgeable about the world, and he often confuses the rabbits by talking about things that they do not understand or cannot comprehend, such as bullets and oceans. Kehaar is the reason our boat is painted black and white (or was, at any rate…right now it’s a patchwork of cheap paints found in South Africa, Brazil and, soon, Venezuela).

This is the most rewarding part of blogging, for me…when something I’ve posted resonates with someone else, spurs them to create a reciprocal work, or to look into the matter further. A lot of the time my posts are just the bare bones…I don’t do as much research as I should, or don’t include everything I’ve gathered about the topic because I worry that it will bore readers.

And then someone like Thom comes along, digests what I’ve published, gets busy (at his beautiful table covered in drawings—Love! We should all draw as freely on our tables…) and hands the idea back to me, imbued with a seven-year-old’s magical enthusiasm…fleshed-out, and given dimension. Thom and Noemie even did an internet search of the shipwreck, looking for more information…but found nothing (neither did Kris, who hunted obsessively for any stories about the Mazaruni and what happened to her). And it thrills me so much that I, schmaltzy sponge cake that I am, get teary-eyed.

Thanks for the photos, Thom! I’ll keep my eye out for more wrecks as we go, and be sure to send you whatever I find!

Black & Red journal spread

Black & Red spreadBased on all the reading up we’ve been doing on Orishas, I painted an Elegguá spread of pages in my journal.

Kris had bought an Elegguá necklace (two feet long!) and I drew it as the border. Then, I “made” my own 2D version of the orisha. Traditionally, every Santero has to build his own Elegguá—usually just a mound or cone of soil, clay, or cement—using dirt from a crossroads, a cemetery, a prison cell, a bakery, the entrance to a church, and an open field. I made mine from a collage of local newspaper items about traffic lights, obituaries, prison cells, flour shortages, religious events, and cattle ranchers, plus bits and pieces about roads…close enough! Cowrie shells (called caracoles) are used for the eyes, mouth, ears. I painted my caracoles, and stuck them on. I even gave him a paper cigar…Black & Red spread
The text around my Elegguá is just a Cuban Santero’s description of the orisha…his powers, his character, his areas of influence, his roles among the other orishas…

Elegguá is the master of pathways and doorways.
He is of the keys and the knots.
It is he that ties, and unties.
He is the beginning and the end of all paths.
He is the sentry of the days and the nights.
He mixes sugar and blood….
Everything is turned upside down, he is playful and sensitive.
Dangerous, like a child, he rescues or kills.
He is also tricky and bloodthirsty….
He is greedy and gluttonous, you win him over by giving him sweets.
He likes whistles, balls, kites, and spinning tops….
He holds the keys to the destinies of man.

Black & Red spread

So far, Santeriá has been the most interesting new thing we’ve come upon in Venezuela, and the richness of its rituals and paraphernalia have been feeding our creative appetites.

Santería sparklies

Santería braceletsA few days ago, I bought some beaded bracelets from one of the many Santería shops in town. I chose two bracelets, each, in the colours of three of the Orishas:

Yemayá (blues and crystal clear beads) is the mother of all Orishas. Her name means “Mother whose children are like the fish”, (referring to her fecundity as the source of all living things.) She is queen of the ocean, patroness of seafarers and fishermen, of pregnant women, and is the spirit of moonlight. Often depicted as a mermaid, I bought these bracelets for my friend, who is a real mermaid

Changó (or Shangó) is the most ‘popular’ of the orishas. He rules over lightning, thunder, fire, the drums and dance. He is a strong-willed and fiery Orisha, red and white, and loves all the good things of life: dancing, drumming, women, food and wine. He is ocanani with Elegba, meaning they are of one heart. I bought these bracelets for a fiery artist friend of mine, a Leo, a maven of good food, wine, music, books, and art.

Elegba (also Eleggua or Elegguá) is the owner of the roads and doors in this world. The colors red, black, and white are his. In particular, Elegba stands at the crossroads of the human and the divine, as messenger between the two worlds. Nothing can be done in either world without his permission. Elegba is always propitiated before calling any other orisha, as he opens the door between the worlds and opens our roads in life. He is my personal favourite, a trickster god and a child, and I bought his bracelets for myself.

Santería braceletsSome of you may remember that I made a new journal for myself last year, when the previous one had filled up, and that I chose to decorate its covers with the colours, symbols, sigils, and incantations of Elegba, because I was about to set off on a huge journey around South America for a few years (we are here, currently) and wanted to honour the Spirit of The Roads, the Opener of Ways.

Elegba journal

because I’m smitten

vintage camera
The camera, again, this time in watercolours and colored pencil, because I’m smitten (and can’t actually USE it till I get my fat little fingers on some film).