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Thursday, November 29, 2012


Ladies, Gentlemen, Birds and Beasts: It's HERE! The 2013 UmberDove Calendar is ready for your gifting, hanging, keeping, gazing, storytelling, myth-imagining pleasure!
If you have not yet left a comment on the Calendar Giveaway post, well, get hopping!  I'll be drawing the three winners, quite randomly Saturday morning and posting the results right here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Twelve Months, Part Three PLUS a GIVEAWAY!

That's right: the final three!
Ladies and Gentlemen, here they are in their official order and chromatic glory!
~ From the 2013 UmberDove Calendar ~
top row: January/White-tailed Doe, February/Sea Otter (reserved), March/Peregrine Falcon (reserved), April/Barn Swallows
middle row: May/California Quail, June/Jackrabbit, July/Grey Squirrel, August/Dapple Grey Horse (reserved)
bottom row: September/Red Fox (reserved), October/Flicker (reserve pending), November/Grey Wolf (reserved), December/Barn Owl (reserve pending)

I'll be listing the ORIGINAL paintings tomorrow morning in el shoppito; in the meantime if you'd like more info, more photos, and to chat about reserves, just send me a convo here.
* * *

Now on to the real beets and potatoes:

It will be my excitement and honor to gift THREE of my calendars to you fantasmical readers (also, I am apparently in quite a mood for made up words - pay no heed!), in a delicious little package which will include an assortment of bits and bobbles from me!  You can count on the calendar, a mixed tape (ok, cd, but doesn't "tape" just have such a better vibe?) of tunes I've been listening to whilst painting my heart out, something tasty for drinking on chilly afternoons, and whatever other goodies I feel inspired to add in!
All you'll need to do is leave me a comment here,
just one,
say anything you'd like!
I'm looking forward to bundling up these presents for you!
Oh, and for those who do not live in the US?  Enter away!  I'm happy to ship 'round the world - it is the season for generosity and joy after all.

The giveaway opens, well, right now, and will close at the midnight strike of November 30th.
Good Luck!
* * *

And the 2013 Calendar?
She's on her way home from the printers and will be landing in the shop in just a few short days!
You'll be the first to know!

Friday, November 23, 2012

While there are pages of pages of lists of gratitude I could give, what I really want to say is how eternally thankful I am for you.
For being here, reading my words, seeing my photos, looking at the work of my hands.
For leaving comments, thoughts, encouragements, and camaraderie.
For telling me your stories, for extending the open hand of friendship to a so-called stranger.
For believing in, for supporting, for patronizing my art, which rides so close to my very soul.
For keeping my little family fed and warm, both in body and heart.

I am thankful.

So thank you my friends.
~ Umber ~

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Twelve Months, Part Three

It's almost time...

I'll have the final three ready to show in just a couple days!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meet and Greet

Well obviously they needed to get to know each other!

(tribe ring - I'll tell you more about them soon)
(2013 calendar paintings, all. most. finished!)

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Week of Mornings

I fall in and out of habits; poached eggs for weeks on end, then nary a salted pot of boiling water for a month.  Stacks of stationary covered in my rolling scrawl, stamped and sent out on wings, then somehow, the realization that it has been too long since a single letter was penned.  And every time the same: how did I forget how much I loved this?
A questionable internet connection kept me from watching a based-on-a-true-story movie of a boy who quasi lived with a wolf pack in the Spanish wilderness.  We all seem to act so surprised when a human finds connection with a wild beast, but truly, doesn't that happen every day in our homes?  This house holds an inter-species collection of life; we form bonds, pack structure, jostle for position, preform our jobs, sleep together at night, and talk endlessly despite the language barrier.  I can not imagine my life with only humans for company.  I am too much animal for that much civilization.
These old windows swept my heart away at first sight.  The glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling of the studio were merely a bonus.  Days like this, when the rain tumbles down and only the rare crow lands on the roofline, I keep the studio toasty.  This shelter is a comfort.
In between the perfect croque madame and rustic tarte I was struck, yet again, with how brilliant these women are.  Two and half years of near hermitude was what I wanted then, and while it is a hard habit to break, their company lights a spark that only human contact can.
The first order of business, on the first step outside in the mornings is the frenzied squirrel-hunt-perimeter-check-ass-on-fire gallop around the property line.  Lately it's been chilly enough that I join the pups on that first loop, looking wild and frenzied myself, arms flapping when I run down the stone steps, bangs standing straight up, rubber boots thudding along behind them.
We rose before the sun illuminated the fog bank, filled steaming cups, and joined the line of blinking lights.  It could have gone so many ways, but stranded on the inner shoulder of the freeway with a busted water pump and two agitated pups was nothing I expected.  Still, we found the silver lining and managed to laugh, grateful it was here in the city, grateful for friends who drop everything to pick you up, grateful for a salvaged afternoon in the open wild fields with the sun on our backs.
The pan was hot, the onions sizzling, the kettle whistling, but this leaning tower of eggs too lovely to forgo.  Most days I consider myself to be a dandy chef, but on the others I'm... well, distracted by beauty.  Thank god the coffee was still hot and Bon Iver still played on the speakers.
* * *

Friday, November 9, 2012


Five Things Friday (Delicacies)
This week I was hoping for a hawk feather, but instead I found a handful of these leaves, entirely skeletal, microcosmically delicate, and just as sexy as a pair of fishnet stockings.  I'll take them.

It's been difficult to stay indoors.
My feet have itched and I look at the solid blanket of gold covering the lawn and think of the yellow brick road.  Somewhere there is a destination I want to discover.  Out is just so... magical lately.

On that, I've been thinking on wanderlust.  My own definition of the drive that shimmies up the spine, sets toes tapping, that has the jacket pulled on and the scarf wound before one even knows where.  I want to see it all, but more than anything, I want to wander the earth right around me.  To walk the same mountains in all seasons, to see the leaves drop from a particular maple and know that just the week before, all was fushia and bright.  To know where the elk have been bedding down, tucking that knowledge away to check for antlers after the freeze.  To note the rise of the river or the creep of the snow line.  I'm thinking on it.
Tell me:
where do your feet itch?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Twelve Months, Part Two


The apron is on, the tea is steaming, and I've officially been back in the studio this week.  Outside there is a delicious bite in the air, but in true California girl style, I keep taking the dogs out still wearing flip-flops, toes turning pale and great puffs of breath riding the wind currents.

I LOVED hearing your thoughts on which paintings belonged to which months... Last time I had an inkling, that gut feeling and was so excited to see so many had the same months in mind!  Bring it on!  Tell me your thoughts!

Monday, November 5, 2012

I Sway with the rest of Them...

I sway with the rest of them...
... turning translucent and golden at the extremities, bending nearly double, shivering in the torrents, resting in the fog, reluctantly easing our grip, holding life in knobby outstretched limbs, reaching transfixed for the sun.

But I tell you this, we do not break.
* * *

I still hardly have words, and therefore can not even begin to thank you for the love, the light, the sharing and the kindness you've shown to me in this last week.  Thai was something to me for which there is no human language.  This is how we began.

It was April 12th, 2000, and the first hard rains of the year had hit.  Sacramento is forever declaring drought, but when the storms hit, they fall in blinding sheets.   I left work in the black of night as the drops began to land, pressed shirt crusty with food stains, legs aching from the long shift.  A few miles south, in the sprawling suburbs, a feral cat labored in a musty wood pile.  I drove my hulking truck up onto the freeway, hit the first dip in the ramp and lost all traction, spinning out of control until being hit by another driver who never even touched the breaks.  About the same time Thai was birthed, in an anonymous litter, in the wrong, but so very right, backyard.
The next day, while I stayed at the hospital, fractured and laid flat, he was found, alone, smaller than the palm of the hand and utterly, utterly helpless.  Some well-intending homeowner scooped him from the wood and dropped him off at their closest veterinary hospital, sure that the semi-rural clinic had plenty of room for one more kitten to love.  The tragic point few seem to understand is that it is a rare clinic who can take on and raise wild infants; but this clinic had something else to offer in the form of a huge-hearted technician and her animal adoring roomie.  Me.
On the 14th I was released back to my little apartment, a.k.a. "no pets allowed," a.k.a. "the animal shelter," about the same time my roommate brought Thai home to the fray.  I couldn't walk, I could barely stand, and I certainly couldn't take decent care of myself.  But I could care for that kitten, and did, as both our lives depended on it.
I fed him with a tiny dropper, wrapped him for warmth, and held him against my throat so he could fall asleep to the sound of a beating heart.  He first opened his eyes to me, my voice was the first he heard.  He grew healthier, fluffier, stronger-willed, and when he ran through the apartment, his massive striped tail would stream out behind his tiny body like a lemur.
That spring we took in so many forlorn beasts I lost count, healing them, feeding them, finding them homes and kissing the tops of their furry heads.  But Thai was different.  He was all mine, and I was all his.
He was dapper, debonair, independent to a fault, spunky, utterly striking, and full of charisma.  He was a talker, a luxury hound, a rabbit-furred little man who should have worn a velvet smoking jacket.  He rode my shoulder like a parrot, kept company in the studio every day, and slept at night nestled into the crook of my shoulder, face against my neck.

Last April he turned 12, but a younger 12 the world has never seen.  We joked about how he was probably going to outlive us all, but at the very least, pass the 20 year marker.
Then a couple weeks ago he started getting sick here and there.  He showed not a single other sign, so we just kept a tight watch.  Then he suddenly refused food, and a semi-lethargy set in.  Somewhere buried deep inside I knew.  At the vet we had a slew of tests run which led to a sonogram.  Four days passed with no food and no water, no matter the delectable concoctions I attempted to whip up for him. The results were the worst they could be.  He had pancreatic cancer which had metastasized to his stomach, and a tumor that had grown so quickly, eating and drinking were no longer even possible.

I held him against me at the end, and when he left I felt him tangibly rest against my chest for a few blindingly bright seconds.  He left because that body was no longer what he needed, but in that moment, he also left me with a reservoir of peace inside.
I miss him more than I can even explain.
I'm just so sad without him; he would be sitting right here on my lap if it was but a week ago.  The house feels less-than without his huge presence.  And even now, my fingers are choked up and my eyes burning.

So I ask this of you:
Whoever you have that you love, be they furred or feathered or smooth skinned, kiss the top of their head, not for me but for you, because love is what we have.
* * *