Friday, June 24, 2022

Walking the Wall - Part One


Do you still have dreams? Are you actually trying to make those dreams come true? I have a bucket list, which could also be called a "dream list" and I've been neglecting it for too long. Most of the items are travel or hiking related, so the last couple of COVID-19 years have made those dreams more difficult to achieve. I've also added other kinds of  personal goals like artistic/creative endeavors and simple experiences (particualarly shared with friends and loved ones) to capture all of the ways I would like to fill my life with whatever time I have left on this old swinging sphere. One of my top hiking dreams is Hadrian's Wall in northern England. It's not a particularly difficult or long trail running 84 miles from Bowness-on-the-Solway to Wallsend, but the history of the Wall and the fact that the route runs coast-to-coast captured my imagination. I love paper maps and find they make it easy to daydream about walking a path like this or following a coastline or climbing a mountain. The Hadrian's Wall Path looks quite inviting to me when laid out on the kitchen table, with a city on either end (Carlisle and NewCastle) and that big, beautiful, bulge of green landscape swelling in between, belted by the ruins of the Wall. While I do appreciate learning about history, I am not a history buff, so I'll spare you my fumbling to provide what so many others have done better. The barest of facts are; the Wall was built by the Romans some 1,900 years ago, which they maintained for about 300 years before leaving one day without a word of goodbye and left the Brits with a huge resource of cut stone block ready for repurposing as churches, homes and pubs, which is why the wall is mostly missing now save for some short sections in the middle. I'll stop there and point you here for the official facts. 

A photo taken of me by a fellow hiker somewhere in the middle fun bit of the trail.

It had been more than three years since I last embarked on a long distance, multi-day hiking adventure, that being the week I spend hiking in Nepal to the Annapurna Base Camp in March of 2019. I'm not getting any younger, so I wondered, do I still have what it takes to put the pack on and go the distance? I make an effort to stay fit by walking or running everyday, watch my diet, etc, but you never know until you get out there and give it a go. Besides physical fitness, long distance hikes are also a mental game. I've seen more then one hiker mentally surrender on a difficult stretch and the result is the same as a twisted ankle. Game over. One aspect that I crave from the challenge of a hike like this is to push myself and see what I'm made of. There's only so much planning that can be done and it's impossible to plan for everything, so when it comes down to it, you have to show up and put one foot in front of another (in this case about 257,000 steps!). When it comes to planning and deciding on what kind of experience you want to have, I'm of the mind that you should understand yourself and punch your weight. In other words, if you don't enjoy tent camping (particularly in a country known for it's rain) and physically aren't prepared to carry a heavy backpack loaded up with camping gear, then don't do it. It's not a competition, there's no medals handed out at the end. It's your time and money, so plan for the experience that you want to have. You win if you show up and do the thing, however you wish to do it. Some folks will camp out, others will drive and stop at certain historical sites, some will hike but use a baggage transfer service; whatever ticks your box. 

Of course I'm smiling, it's the start of the trail!
I planned to hike the full length of the trail carrying my full backpack (clothing, rain gear, food, water, etc) from end-to-end and stayed in accommodation along the way, so no camping. I set a six day itinerary, averaging fifteen miles a day. In hindsight, I would have divided the path into seven days, which would have allowed for more time to enjoy historical sites and have chats with the locals, but also would have left me less tired at the end of the day. 

Lesson Learned - Stop planning hikes like I'm still thirty years old and slow down and smell some roses, or sheep shit or whatever there is to smell along the way.

Another Lesson Learned - I over estimated my capacity to eat snacks, particularly trail mix and wound up carrying a 700 gram package of nuts  the entirety of the trail unopened, besides some other items. The Hadrian's Wall Path is never far from a village or town, so it's easy to buy snacks along the way, in fact many locals set out snacks and drinks along the way with an "honesty box" system, basically if you take anything, you pay for it. I always skipped these as I was always carrying more food then I needed. 

So which direction to go? Walk east or west? After doing some research (this blog was particularly helpful - ), more than one experienced hiker recommended heading east towards Wallsend, primarily because the prevailing winds would be at your back. I heeded that advice and don't regret it, but take note of my experience, which was, I hiked into a westerly wind for most of the trip! Some westward hikers (both older Americans) happily pointed this out to me on the windiest days, trail trolls. In response, I would urgently point out to them a suspicious-looking bump on their face that looked like melanoma and they should get checked as soon as possible. Happy trails trail troll! 

I felt like a Roman Centurion
An eastward plan put the trail's start at Bowness-on-Solway, a small coastal village on the Southside of Bowness Firth about twelve miles west of Carlisle. Instead of staying in Solway, which has few accommodation options and what is there is a bit expensive, I decided to stay in Carlisle two nights. which allowed me to take a bus (the 93 on Stagecoach Bus) to the start with just a daypack. I felt just like a Roman Centurion waiting at the bus stop that morning, eager to begin my quest! I noticed another hiker with an impressive sized backpack also waiting for the bus. This was Steven, a friendly Scottish fellow from Glasgow area, who turned out to be my first trail friend of the hike. He was camping along the way and had an open itinerary, stopping where and when he felt like it. I admired that approach, but it is not my way and I was glad for the confirmed bookings I had made. Steven and I hiked together on and off that first day, sharing a lunch break and discovered we are both widowed, so we had more than the hike in common.  
You shall not pass! 
It's not the first time that a chance encounter with the right person at the right time on my travels and I saw it as a good omen for the journey. Although we never did see each other again, we kept in touch throughout the hike and I hope to catch up with him again one day. The weather that first day was cool and mostly kind, with only a little rain, which we avoided stopping for lunch at park shelter next to the Greyhound Inn. I munched a snickers bar contemplating the memorial statue of King Edward the First who died there from dysentery in 1307. My Scottish friend said, "Good riddance" showing the strength of that grudge. 

The day's hiking was mostly uneventful, other then one stubborn sheep that block the trail. Despite her efforts, I found away to continue on! The trail ran through farm fields and along quiet roads following where Hadrian's Wall once was. The walking was easy, even relaxing and I settled into the rhythm of my stride, meditating with each footfall grateful to finally be back on the trail.

End of part one. Much more to come!


Sunday, May 15, 2022

Me and I has become We and Us....


My life has changed a lot since I last posted on April 11th. The biggest, most beautiful change was, I got married on April 26th in a simple civil ceremony here in Riga, Latvia. How does one go from being an "I" or "Me" to an "Us" and "We"? It's a mysterious process and different for every couple. It's a construction of a million moments of laughter and trust and patience. A daily risk that is part faith and part work and also fun. There will likely be some difficult moments that will test the strength of that vessel and hopefully make it stronger. I am grateful to have found someone to try again with. 

So, that is my elaborate excuse for not posting any drawings for over a month. Not the kind of thing you can use very often, or maybe just once. There was also an epic struggle with bureaucracy as I applied for residency here in Latvia, so I can actually live with my wife. It is not a status instantly granted. I will bore you the gory details.

The drawing this week is a "We Mask" (see what I did there...) taken from the instagram account of  "feereafricanart", which I have visited many times for inspiration. A quick bit of research on the We reveals that the name "We" means 'men who easily forgive', good advice, otherwise those toxic fumes will just damage your own soul. There's so much to love about this mask, the wide, powerful nose, the massive, gracefully shaped lips and the light geometric mask-shape around the eyes. It was a pleasure to have time on this peaceful Sunday to make this drawing.

And how was your week?


Monday, April 11, 2022

The Devil Rides Out


I've been occupied in mind and spirit by this terrible war. I am astounded at the massive display of evil deeds that the ruzzian (the way I choose to write "Russian" now. Small "r", double zeds to show my disdain) army has perpetrated. The pain and suffering being inflected is too disgusting to imagine. I cannot understand this depravity. In response, I'm trying to find ways to support the Ukraine people and their awe-inspiring strength and courage. I am an ally of Ukraine and anyone else who desires a world free of aggression. 

If you would like to learn about supporting Ukraine, Support Ukraine NOW is a great place to start.

Today's drawing is a Kanyok hunting fetish I found on the Instagram account "african_artefact_art". I choose it because it looks like the devil. The puka shell eyes give me the creeps because they look like mouths with rows of tiny, sharp teeth. The odd shaped head with the black, horn-like protrusions and mouth open in a frozen scream also are unnerving. This is a face that projects evil and fear. Perhaps the Kanyok people needed such a fierce talisman to face the dangers of the jungle?

Wishing everyone peace.


Friday, March 11, 2022

Draw Angry


African We Mask
The war rages on. I am in awe of the Ukrainian people, soldiers and President Zelensky. The grace under pressure they display every moment is inspiring. It is gut-wrenching watching the horror and seeing that the Western countries are unable to respond for fear of triggering WW III, but most especially a nuclear exchange. I don't know what the right answer is, but I am glad to see the lines between the free world and the so-called "strongmen" is clear now and the fight is on. My hope is that this dark time will lead to a new, bright era. One thought that won't leave my brain alone is wondering why this had to happen? Why couldn't putin turn all of that effort, resources and planning to something positive for the common good? This war is a horrible disaster in every way and will set back Russia decades. Russia is a huge, beautiful country and could be a true world leader, not the corrupt crime joke it is now. Why is it more difficult for some people to create instead of destroy?

All of those emotions were swirling around in me when I made this drawing of a an African "We" Mask from "feereafricanart" on IG. I decided to run at it fast and loose and let that rough, frustrated energy flow. I exaggerated the eyeholes for effect. The mouth was a definite attractor for me with those big, fat lips and sharp, tiny teeth.

While the war rages, I have volunteered to help preserve Ukrainian digital culture through Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO) and have been working to archive Ukrainian websites. 

Glory to the Ukrainian people!


Friday, February 25, 2022

This Should be a Dove


I'm feeling overwhelmed by the news of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It's a disgusting, unnecessary, illegal and immoral act that seems like it should be impossible here in the 21st century; aren't we past world wars? But here we are and all because of one asshole who is not smart enough to think of creative ways to contribute to the common good, instead he has to fuck it up for all us. The people most negatively affected besides the Ukrainians are the Russian people who will have to suffer the consequences of this nightmare for generations to come.

So, what does that have to do with today's drawing? I almost didn't do anything today because, frankly, I feel really depressed about the state of the world. The center does not hold and all of that seems to be the way of the future. Why bother making a drawing or anything else? But I got something done, thanks to a bit of encouragement from Ieva. I feel guilty because I should have drawn something related to the war, drawn attention to some image or hopeful idea, but I wasn't feeling that. I needed a break from the doom scrolling of images of destroyed buildings, scared people huddling in subways, blasted tanks and satellite photos of damaged airfields. I went for the safety and comfort of African masks and pulled this one from the IG account of feereafricanart. Ironically enough, many of these masks were designed for rituals to confront danger, ward off evil spirits or send curses to bring misery to an enemy. I don't know what this Dan mask was original used for, but let's send it out to inflect sharp pains through Putin's colon and send him running for the nearest bathroom and a long, painful explosive shit that leaves him and limping. Fuck that asshole.

All we are saying is give peace a chance...


Friday, February 18, 2022


This week's entry is a postcard I made for my friend, Micheal Wingfield (WingDing), mailed in December 2021. He and I have been collaborating and sharing DADA art for decades. These cards are collaged from whatever is on hand; catalogs, stickers, old postcards, cereal boxes, train tickets, a head gasket from a 68' Buick, a piece of tread from a Sherman tank, seabed sludge gathered from the bottom of the Mariana Trench, Abraham Lincoln's toenail cuttings, a Brontosaur sneeze, fifteen coins pickpocketed from blind nuns, a feather from the wing of a flying monkey, the color of the sunset viewed from a balcony overlooking the Chesapeake Bay as seen through a glass of white wine, trimmings from Groucho's mustache, all of the natives killed by King Kong when he went on his rampage, 2,312 grains of sand collected from the secret beach, Tom Waits' nose, Charles Bukowski's asshole, Jack Kerouac's lost sense of humor and destroyed liver, only perfect autumn leaves, disused Cracker Jack prizes patiently waiting on the shelf, the blood of a lamb, three guys named Mo-ham-med (a new set of stooges), the sound of an old man slipping and falling on the ice one full moon night, the smell of a baby's burp, all the missing jigsaw puzzle pieces, vodka, gin, rum, Mother's Milk, and tape, tape,  tape, tape, tape, tape, epat, apte, a, p, e, t, a, p, e...........a ....................p .....................t......... ................................t.................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................OK HW