That's Gneiss! #166 ~ A soggy start, a bit of art

Plus: gorgeous bird photography, and Soviet synth-pop fan boys!

It rained really hard last night. At one point, the rate of rainfall was .66” per hour. That pace was short-lived, but by midnight we’d reached 1.13” of rain for the day. The “event” started on the 31st, but for the year we’re already off to a soggy start!

When it rains this much, our gutters overflow badly in one place - right across the front walk! The water comes down in a sheet! Yes - I still have some of my lights up, don’t judge me. It’s dark and gloomy without them.

I finished up my rain chart for 2020 - over 46” of rain for the year here at our house!

The crummy weather has been conducive to spending time on a variety of artistic pursuits on my holiday break. I’ve flung paint all over myself, carved stamps, and done some drawing practice. It’s been great, and I wish I had many more days to spend this way. But alas, it’s back to work tomorrow.

I’ve really been enjoying the Big Art class, and am nearing the end of the lessons. If you want to improve your artistic skills or just try something different, I strongly encourage you to find some online classes that pique your interest. Chances are that some of the artists you like offer workshops. This is a fun way to support their work and explore new things. Amy Maricle of Mindful Art Studios offers some free lessons, as well as leading her weekly slow drawing sessions on Facebook (catch “Pod” before she takes it down!). If you’re not on Facebook, she makes the replay available for several days after the live event on her website - sign up for her email notifications for the links.

Another artist who has provided a lot of artistic inspiration for me is Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, of Balzer Designs. She’s the originator of #carvedecember, and a self-taught artist who works in a variety of media - there’s a little something for everyone here! Julie has an extensive YouTube channel where you can dip in here and there to get a taste of what she specializes in. Explore different art supplies before trying them out, or take a deep dive into gelatin printing. I’m tempted, but not ready to go there yet! My pal Amanda at Pantalones on Parade has taken up gelatin printing and is making some cool little books with her prints.

I spent about two minutes carving this little stamp yesterday, and it will provide endless use for postcards or other art.

No matter your interest, I’m certain you can find a source to learn more if you want. I’m not one for making new years resolutions - they’re just societal pressures that are good for nothing much but making you feel bad about yourself when you “fail.” Anne Helen Petersen hits it spot on in this week’s Culture Study:

Working enough to have a healthy and balanced diet and cultivate new hobbies (which cost money!) makes it harder to exercise, but you still need to fit in those hobbies and some spiritual growth and travel (which also costs money!) which means that sleep levels go down, which makes it harder to lose weight, which makes it harder to keep your stress levels down because you’re trying to do all of these things at once and constantly feel like you’re failing. Do one of these things and you will almost immediately start failing at the others, which ensures the need for more resolutions in years to come. And forget about spending more time with your family, developing new friendships, engaging meaningfully with your community — all that’s secondary until you can get the personal under control, which you never will.

It’s an impossible cycle of failure! My social media feeds are full of advertisements for exercise apps, weight-loss products, sleep-aid apps - you name it. Apparently there’s an app for everything now. Capitalism needs for you to think you’re not good enough as you are - and that there’s a simple solution that just costs a few bucks. The latest email from Costco is trying to entice me with exercise equipment, workout clothes, and protein shakes. It’s in your face everywhere!

Only you know what you really want (and that might take time to figure out). I’ve realized that art is important to me, and something I get fulfillment and satisfaction from - so I put energy and yes, money, towards it. If I want to improve then it’s up to me to put the time in. No app will do that for me, no resolutions needed. Just me, setting my personal priorities. I suppose that’s why this newsletter so often focuses on art, without me specifically choosing to do so.

The next couple of weeks are going to be stressful, and I know for many people it’s not going to really feel like a new year until we get through the 20th successfully. The only difference between 2020 and 2021 so far is the 1. We’ve got a long way to go yet.

Hang in there friends.


  • Reading: I’m nearly finished with Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (who you may remember from “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience(TM)”). It’s a pre-Columbian fantasy full of intrigue, magic, and crows. Lots of crows. Which characters should I feel sympathetic towards - and have I got it backwards? Some great world-building in this first book of a trilogy. Argh. I’ll have to wait a while for the next installment, so I guess I’ll be reading some of her other books soon!

Art Zone

I was meandering through Instagram trying to decide what to share with you here today, and came across this photo by my friend Mike.

Substack is rendering Instagram photos differently than it used to, and the captions are no longer included. I’ve added them below each photo.

A post shared by Mike Timmons (@miketimmonsphoto)
A Fiery-throated Hummingbird perched in the rain. (Costa Rica) 

Mike is one of my “online” friends who I met many years ago through the music website called MOG. He’s one of a solid group that has stayed in touch over the years, and unlike many of those friends I’ve had the opportunity to meet him in person several times. Mike is a traveler, and is known to pass through these parts now and then. He’s also a birder, and an exceptional photographer of said birds.

A post shared by Mike Timmons (@miketimmonsphoto)
I have been lucky to find several low Pileated Woodpecker this spring. This guy, by far, was the most cooperative for photos. (Indiana)

He’s documented the birds around his home in Indiana, as well as Costa Rica and Africa. Not surprisingly, some of his photos have been published and are beginning to be recognized by Audubon in their annual Top 100 listings.

Mike has a knack for capturing the beauty and exquisite detail in even the smallest or most common birds among us. It was hard to choose which photos to share here - they’re all so good!

A post shared by Mike Timmons (@miketimmonsphoto)
We got a quick snowstorm that melted by the end of the day on Saturday. I didn’t make it out until later and missed most of it. But this Red-shouldered Hawk waited for me. (Indiana)

Mike writes about his travels on his website, and you can peruse his photos in high-resolution detail. Enjoy!

Mike Timmons Photography

Video of the Week

What better way to start the new year than reliving the excitement of 1980’s Soviet synth-pop! Completely worth it just for the audience shots - especially the fan boys…

There’s no topping that this week.

Current Temperature: 48.4F (9.1 C)
Current Humidity: 87%
Wind (max gust): 18.3 mph
Precipitation: 0.03 in