What do dogs and bikes have in common?

Marvin ChapmanMelli and Alberta

Imagine my surprise when I opened the Seattle Times and saw a familiar face from the prison-Summit collaboration–Marvin Chapman. Marvin and I had a wonderful dog, Melli, in common. He and his partner, Alan, trained Melli, and I entertained her during a three week break at my home.

The picture in the paper shows Marvin inspecting a child’s bike in need of repair. Marvin isn’t handling dogs anymore, he’s working on bikes in the prison’s program which returns repaired bicycles to kids in the community who need one.

Marvin is 25 years old. He’s doing time for manslaughter. He was an excellent dog handler and I imagine he’s an excellent bike repairman. I guess Marvin’s trying to “fix” things and in so doing he’s fixing himself.

Here’s What They Said

Driving to Monroe it was overcast, gray and raining. I had hoped to view the Transit of Venus in the afternoon.  With this weather there was slim to no chance of seeing the sun never mind Venus!  Ah, life in the Northwest!!

I noticed a neatly plowed plot of land waiting for seed as I drove to the TRU building where the training is housed.  I learned there is another garden that the inmates manage.  Compost for the gardens is made at the complex and used to fertilize the fields.  The produce ends up on the dinner table.  A great treat for the inmates!

Today was the next to last class of this session.  Lisa, Summit’s head trainer, asked the handlers to talk about their dog–what they liked; what characteristics they most appreciated.  Here’s what they said.

Hope has a sense of humor–she’s hyper smart and she snores!

Harper likes to train, she’s good natured, she’s affectionate, and smart.

Hyak is always happy, wants to learn, is very smart, playful and talkative!

Some of the men commented on characteristics that were less complementary: Hope is “Kong” crazy.  Harper will launch herself into the air for something.  But overall, a nice list of attributes from men who live in a small space with a lively dog and another person 24/7.

Touch of the Oracle

I saw The Touch of the Oracle at the Palm Springs Art Museum a few days ago.  I didn’t realize “oracle” can refer to a shrine consecrated to the worship or contemplation of a deity as well as an individual considered to be the source of wise or prophetic opinions.  Reading about the artist, Michael Petry, and his vision for this site-specific installation, I wondered if he was suggesting that the place–the art museum itself with it’s walls formed from volcanic stone-was his oracle.

The piece is composed of three parts, Golden Rain, Joshua D’s Wall, and The Dilemma.  The first two are glass created by a team of glass blowers that worked with Petry.  The third is sound: a vocal piece featuring male and female singers interpreting Petry’s text.  The music plays intermittingly.

The glass “boulders” are exquisite.  They are an array of wonderful colors with molten accretions fused to the glass surface.  The intriguing mirrored “golden” rain drops hang suspended from the ceiling.   Each of the 100 artists who created the drops wrote something which was placed inside their piece and then the opening was sealed.

The room was almost dark and very quiet.  It evoked the feelings I have had going into caves at archaeologic sites.  I jumped when the vocal piece burst into sound.  The exhibit will be up until July 29, 2012.


Palm Springs installed an enormous statue of Marilyn Monroe this past weekend.  She weighs over 34,000 pounds and stands 26′ tall.  Created by Seward Johnson in 1996 she is on loan from the artist. The installation will be in Palm Springs for a year.  Of course, we’re all hoping the city can come up with the money to purchase her as it seems the perfect venue.   Marilyn once owned a 50’s bungalow in Palm Springs and loved coming to the small, quiet town to rest and recoup.

As you might imagine throngs viewed the statue this past weekend and enjoyed posing for photos under her skirt.  The skirts (2 parts) weigh 9,500 pounds!


Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert

Yesterday in the 106 degree heat we drove about 20 miles down Highway 111 to see the newly opened museum and sculpture park.  The 8,400 square foot building was the Palm Desert Visitor Center and is now a well designed museum containing many interesting sculptures ranging from Rodin to Picasso including Red Lens (see previous post).  Much of the pieces have relocated from the Palm Springs Museum to this new home.

My favorite piece is Robert Therrien’s  “No Title.” A tower of stacked over-sized sage green soup bowls rising to 8 feet or so.  Each piece is stacked one upon another.  The stack appears a little wobbly–unevenly seated–but not yet toppling.  As you walk around the piece it seems to turn as you move.  When you stop it does.   It doesn’t really turn but the impression of movement is so real I became a little dizzy!

Outside you are delighted by the Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden.  Undulating landscape beautifully enhanced by native species and sprinkled with delightful sculpture–with more to come.  A blue mosaic trail leads to an oasis of running, tumbling water cascading over large boulders and splashing into the pool.  Fabulous on a hot day just to hear the sound of water!  The Museum formed a partnership with the City to improve and enhance city-owned property for the garden which is open to the public for viewing and enjoying.


Today I went to the Farmer’s Market in the Camelot Theater’s parking lot in Palm Springs at 8 AM.  It was already hot and going to get a lot hotter.  The vendors were friendly and helpful and their produce was terrific.  Here’s some of what I saw.

Here’s what I purchased for $60 including a pound of handmade ravioli with locally made chevre.


and heard

and saw


I just finished Colum McCann‘s novel The Dancer about Rudolf Nureyev the brilliant Russian/Tartar dancer who died of AIDS in his 50’s.  He was buried in the Russian cemetery outside of Paris January 12, 1993.  http://www.nureyev.org/rudolf-nureyev-grave/

At the beginning of his book McCann quotes William Maxwell from his book So Long, See You Tommorow “…Too many conflicting emotional interests are involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and possibly it is the work of the storyteller to rearrange things so that they conform in this end. In any case, in talking about the past we lie with every breath we draw.”

I found this quote very comforting as I struggle with writing about my ancestors and trying to tease out a narrative that makes sense based on their place and time and very little facts.  McCann has brilliantly shaped the outline of an elusive and complicated artist with great feeling and beauty.  I fell under his and Rudi’s spell as I read the book and later looked at photos and film showing Nureyev in performance.  I remember as a college student seeing the stunningly handsome dancer on TV shows and in magazines.

Tonight I saw “First Position.”  A documentary film about the international ballet competition held in New York City.  It is a lovely film.  There was one young man from Colombia, a graceful and handsome dancer, who won a scholarship to the Royal Ballet in London.  His name is Joan Sebastian Zamora, age 16 about the age of Rudi when he began his career at the Kirov.  Perhaps he has the drive and the courage to be the next Nureyev.

Mother’s Day

Since it’s Mother’s Day I thought I’d talk a little about Misty, Hope, Hyak, and Harper’s mom.   Misty’s proper name is Misty Mountain Labradors Miss Independence.  She was born in Woodinville, Washington in 2007.   I’ve worked with Misty and she is a sweetheart.  She is beautiful, gentle and very willing to work.   She is now living in Bethesda, Maryland and providing assistance dog work related to Walter Reed Hospital.  She works there with one of her daughters from another litter, Olive.  Click on the link below and learn more about her early years.  There’s a picture of her in the whelping box with the H litter pups!  The breeders and  owners, Toni Leitao and Lorraine Yu, of Misty Mountain gifted Misty and the H litter to Summit Assistance Dogs.  Five of the nine puppies were kept by Summit to train.  Two of the five, Hickory and Hero, were released and adopted.  Two the breeders kept.  Another was placed at the Assistance Dog Institute in California and another at Canine Assistance Network in Hawaii.

I am impressed by the generosity of Toni and Lorraine.  The value of each of the pups they breed is significant and yet they generously place them where they can ultimately bring joy and assistance to others.



Me at 70th party


I just turned 70!  Yes, it’s true.  As my sweet son said, “Mom, you are an exemplar of the notion that 70 is the new 50.”   I said he’s sweet!  My birthday falls around Thanksgiving  and sometimes on the day itself.  It’s also the date my grandfather, OP, died; and John F. Kennedy was assassinated.   Those were not happy birthdays at all!

It has always been a festive day (with those exceptions). full of fun, family, food, and football.  My dad usually had a game broadcasting on the radio (and later the TV) in every room–except the dining room–and would go from room to room to stay current on the scores.  The hard-cooking women would have to time the dinner and desert courses during half-times.  My oldest son inherited that footall gene.   My cousins have it too–maybe it came from the maternal and the paternal line!

Turning 70 was really painless.  My long journey was my present to myself and is really the gift that keeps on giving.  I’m still enjoying and processing memories and facts and determining how to integrate them into the memoire I’m writing.  My women friends hosted a wonderful birthday lunch which was fun, moving, and very interesting.  Each of them is an  extremely talented person.  I was the lucky beneficiary of their clever take on celebrating such a hoary age.

My yoga instructor left us with the following quote from Rumi  this morning: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of that which you love.”

Sculpture in Jajpanese garden Albuquerque