Category: animals

perception: part one

per·cep·tion
pərˈsepSH(ə)n/
noun
noun: perception; plural noun: perceptions
  • the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
    • the state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses.
    • a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.
    • intuitive understanding and insight.
    • PSYCHOLOGY/ZOOLOGY
      the neurophysiological processes, including memory, by which an organism becomes aware of and interprets external stimuli.

 

(For the purposes of this blog post, I am concentrating on the second part of this definition, the mental impressions we have of ourselves and the world around us.)

I have been pondering this term perception for quite some time. It crept into my brain during the elections, most specifically to explain the outcome. I began to realize that it didn’t matter what Hillary Clinton did or did not do, the perception that she did something wrong (or even illegal) was strong enough to stop people from voting for her.

Perception is much different than reality or truth. Perception is based on all sorts of factors, some of which have nothing to do with the truth and everything to do with our backgrounds, our experiences, our morals, our wishes and our desires. It is not quantifiable, nor is it something that can be predicted on an individual level.

There are many ways that perception has been wandering around my thoughts lately. I had actually planned several other posts about it, but I think they will have to wait. This morning there was an image on facebook that hit me squarely in the gut.

The image was of a lion lying dead among the rocks.

Considering how many images flash before my eyes as I scroll through facebook, it is fair to ask, why did this one catch my eye? I don’t have a pet lion, I don’t go to the zoo often enough to get to know the lions personally. I can’t say I have even seen this lion.

Here’s the thing. Tullamore was a part of a (now) rare group of lions. Most of the time we see lions living in the savannah, moving through the grass, showing up around waterholes and hunting the plentiful game. The lions of the west coast of Namibia are desert lions. They live in some of the harshest conditions, little water, little vegetation and little game. They have lived in this area for a very long time and once were pretty plentiful. Then came man. And cows. And other livestock.

In an area that is short on game, it makes sense that a herd of cows would be seen as a gift to a predator. It would also make sense that the owners of the cows would take great offense at having their livelihood eaten by a big cat. Here is where the perception thing comes in.

I am a rich American. I take a trip to Africa, stay in a lodge in the middle of a dessert for three days. I hear about these animals and I see the beauty of them. That is, after all, why I am there. I am a woman from the east coast of the US where there are no predators and I get to stand in front of a cheetah, or a rhinoceros, or to get close enough to practically touch an elephant and it seems like a dream. In the safety of my vehicle or standing beside the tracker with his gun, I am allowed the luxury of “being with” the animals, seeing them walk, run, play and hunt. I come home to watch countless videos of animals in the wild or Planet Earth or read books about how many species are going extinct. I view, from afar, the devastation of man around the world. And I judge. And I grieve. My perception of the death of a lion is based on my need to pet the fox when I was three (my mother nixed that idea quickly). My heartache comes from knowing that “Tullamore” was the last of a group of five male lions in the area (they were called the Five Musketeers). His four compadres were shot or poisoned over the last few years by farmers. I grieve because I met the guy who has has been studying these proud animals, a man who spends much of his life in isolation, and loves it. Unless someone kills an animal.

So what would be my perception if I were a Namibian farmer who does not see any monetary gain and many deficits with the lion population? What if I wanted to send my children to a good school, or build new fences, or dig a new well and a lion started to eat my profits? What if I am of a generation that grew up killing predators without judgement, in fact was rewarded with a pat on the back from my fellow farmers? How would I perceive lions then?

I don’t know. That is the thing about perception. You can’t always tell how you would react if you were in someone else’s shoes. I can only hope to feel compassion for this person. It is tough, it is a stretch for me, at least until I stop feeling so very angry and sad. Until I stop feeling. But right now, my perception of the person who poisoned this lion is that they are not a good person. I don’t know them, I will never meet them, but at this moment I hate them.

I will end by showing three photos. The first two are of cubs in the sand dunes. The last is of Dr. “Flip” Stander monitoring the lions. Despite the setbacks of the last couple of years, he continues to work with the growing population of lions, as well as finding ways of connecting with the surrounding human population. Looking at these pictures makes me smile. Life includes death, even if it doesn’t feel good. But for now, I want to concentrate on the living…

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Namibias-desert-lion-Flip-Stander

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Open Studio and Sculpture Garden

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Lucy is waiting patiently for all her visitors!

Open Studio and Sculpture Garden

May 20/21

10 to 5

415 Heath Dr. Eldersburg, MD

FREE!!!

10 Reasons why I like the yearly spring open studio:
1. The gardens look fabulous. Mulching is done, weeding is, well, never done and I have planted lots of new things. There is a new moon garden (behind Lucy) due to the removal of a very old, very cool and very rotten tree in front of our house. I have spent hours at various plant nurseries around the area, perusing what’s new and what’s old and planning new designs in the gardens.
2. The grounds look great. It is the time of Green and, despite the grumbling, my husband works hard to maintain the yard in tip top shape.
3. The sculptures get some upkeep. Maintenance of the animals is an ongoing job but this is a good time of the year to make sure that they are looking gooooooooooood.
4. The studio magically gets clean. Okay, not really. I lied. Or maybe exaggerated. There are several days put aside for making this a reality. However, it is always such a good feeling to walk into the studio after the event and realize that all I have to do is PLAY!!!
5. I sense the excitement in the air. A friend of mine said today “Aren’t you excited about your open studio? I am!!!” ‘Nuff said.
6. I meet new people in the quest for ways to market this event. There are such neat people here in Carroll County and I love finding new friends who will help me promote my open studio.
7. I get excited about showing off new works. This year, I have the beginning of a really exciting project in the studio and I can’t wait for you to see it!!!
8. I get to meet such great people each day of the event. Last year I was overwhelmed at how many people showed up despite the abysmal weather. Rain and 50’s is not my idea of a perfect day but over 100 people showed up to see the sculptures. This year the weather is (so far) promising to be warmer and who knows who I will meet during the two days?
9. I often make contacts that produce more studio visits throughout the year. This year I had a visit from the high school kids from Winters Mill high school. A bus load from Carroll Lutheran stopped in on a very hot day in July. And a group of guys in Model A Fords drove in one afternoon earlier this year to spend some time with the sculptures.
10. I get to see people’s reactions to my work. Artists have egos and I am no different…I love to see the smiles and the “oohs” as people walk around the property. I am always honored when someone takes the time out of their day to come see and enjoy my creations.
I hope you can make it this year, it is such a treat to see you!
AND:
Don’t forget…you can still go to Buickster Hall in Taneytown to see some of my smaller works until June 11. See my website for more info. www.virginiasperry.com

busy

Busy.

I am busy trying to forge my way through each day in the best way I can. I am busy watching spring come…slowly. I am busy digging in the dirt outside and planting seeds inside and putting grow lights on top and watering them and watching them sprout and grow and thinking of the beans and peas and tomatoes and flowers that will be adorning my garden in just a few weeks.

I am busy handing out rack cards for my Open Studio and finding creative ways of getting the word out so that it will be a busy weekend on May 21 and 22.

I am busy making sure that my intern has plenty of work to do in the studio. This means I am busy working on two new pieces that are both pods of some sort and will have interesting seeds inside. Here is what one of them looks like. I’m too busy to explain it. You will just have to come back and see it when it is finished. See all those pieces that have been cut and sanded? That is what my intern has been busy preparing so that I can be busy welding them on to the form.

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I am busy applying for shows. Busy applying with work that is really still just in my head so I have to find ways to describe it, draw it and explain my meaning, my raison d’être. I am grateful for the ease of applying online, yet I know that it really doesn’t cut down the time because every application has different criteria (72 dpi with file size no larger than…) and each gallery or art center uses a different application program. I am busy making usernames and passwords and signing up for all these programs that are supposed to make my life faster, speedier, less busy.

I am busy with the animals; cats who get into fights with the barn cat next door who wander onto our property with alarming frequency. Busy with cleaning wounds and monitoring abscesses and trying to run off the neighbor cats before there is a fight. Busy with dogs who don’t seem to understand the invisible fence anymore and whose passion for goat by-products entice them to go visiting the neighbor’s barns. (Yes, the same neighbors that send their cats over here.)

Yes, spring is a busy time. I’m okay with that.

 

release

Here are some comments made this past weekend by my father.

“I think it’s time for me to come back to civilization.”

“I keep thinking I’m in Florida.”

“What town are we in?”

“Who are those people outside?”

“What is my nurse’s name?”

“Where are you living?”

“Where have you been? I’ve been pining for you. Where have you been the past two days?”

“Where are you from?”

“How far away is that?”

“Do you have children? How old are they?”

“Who are those people outside?”

“Who was that man? I know him very well but I can’t remember his name.”

“Have you seen the head woman? What is her name again?”

“I think in my 95th year I’m going to retire.”

 

I think you get the picture. Dad has stepped further along the dementia path. He knew who my sister and I were, but couldn’t really come up with our names or where we were from. His ability to track time and place is gone for the most part. And it seems that life happens in very short spurts for him, then it happens again. And again. And…

It is fascinating what he does remember though. He knew that Saturday was the memorial service for his long time friend, my godfather, Al Sly. And he was thrilled we were there so that we could go together. I am also very glad I was able to sit with him and share a hymnal and prayer book and point out which hymn to sing. As an ex-organist, I was pretty sure he would have no problems singing the hymns. The Lord’s prayer seemed beyond him but it’s possible he couldn’t hear what we were saying.

(I just read an article that said that hearing loss and dementia were linked. Duh. It is harder to be in the world if you can’t hear what is going on. But really, even if he could hear, I think his ability to take in the words, figure out their meaning and come up with a response is mostly beyond him. Although he sometimes can surprise me by coming out with some gem of an answer that shows that, at least at that particular moment, he has grasped exactly what is going on.)

So where does the release come from? It comes from the fact that in some weird way, now that he has progressed so far, I feel absolved of my duty of trying to make him happy, of visiting him, of taking him out to lunch, of playing a game of Scrabble with him. I have done my share of this over the past few years, especially after mom died (which was five years ago this week). I don’t feel the need to check in on him and make sure everything is okay. He has an army of kind, caring people taking care of him, ones whom he recognizes almost more than his children. And I feel for the first time like I can really let go of that part of him that has resided in my brain for my whole life and just focus on ME. Even as I write this I feel the guilt and shame and thoughts of selfishness that over the years have caused me to stop everything in order to help him in some way. I know I am and have been a good daughter but I will always feel like I could have done more…it’s the nature of the beast. So before you start saying that he could still enjoy my visits, I know that. The thing is, I don’t enjoy those visits, and I have done a LOT of things I didn’t enjoy in order to make him (and my mother before she died) happy. Call me ungrateful, but stick a fork in me, I am done.

So what now? Well, I will continue to explore my artistic life. That is the most exciting thing for me. In the past year or so, I have been able to develop, expand, deepen, and redefine my creativity. My plan is to continue this exploration. My experiences with dementia will, no doubt, show up at some point. I have signed up for a trip to Namibia in November, which will bring about a long-time desire to go to Africa. And I plan to spend more time simply being…but that is the start of another blog post. Stay tuned…

I’ll end with one of my favorite photos of the recent 2 1/2 foot snowstorm…Ginger always expresses my sense of tiredness better than I can…

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it is too exhausting trying to move around in this snow…but it is easier to get up on the rock!

 

 

 

the sun…it doth shine

This has been a particularly foggy week. Both literally and figuratively. A warm trend for December, making it possible to drive convertibles with the top down, go golfing (both accomplished by my husband…he is happy now) and walk with out shivering. Not typical December weather but, quite frankly, I don’t know what is. What this leads to, of course, is dense fog, both at night and in the morning.

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musk ox? what musk ox?
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giraffe looks a little fuzzy
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even foggy at night

My brain, ever the willing conspirator, went foggy as well. It was a long but happy weekend, lots of people came to my open studio, some I knew and others I met for the first time. People wandered around the grounds, saw the sculptures, ate chocolate chip cookies and asked tons of questions. (The most often asked was “how did you get into this welding thing?”)

Fortunately the fog stayed away, the sun shone and everything was really great. Even the dogs behaved themselves, greeting visitors and making sure that everything was okay.

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Ginger, making sure that nobody misbehaved.

Unfortunately, the weekend did not end on a great note. Sunday night, while in the process of getting the signs that I had put out on the street corners to guide people to my studio, I managed to misstep and fall face first into the road. Fortunately, there were no cars to run me over. Unfortunately, I had to drive myself back home while bleeding from abrasions on my face. Long story short, I am fine, other than some cuts and swelling on my upper lip (exacerbated by my braces), a small knee abrasion and a hurt hand that has healed nicely. (I returned to welding yesterday). My dignity and self-confidence were maimed, however, and I have been hiding out and healing physically, mentally and emotionally for the past couple of days. I only emerged from the house occasionally to take pictures of fog and get the studio back in working condition. Here is Ginger who is modeling my preferred position since Sunday night.

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Tonight I can confidently say that the sun is back out in my brain. My body has kindly worked hard on healing itself and I can now eat without pain. That is always a bonus. Tomorrow is another day and I am looking forward to it. The sun will shine, the Christmas tree will be picked out and brought home and I will go for a long walk with a friend in the warm weather that is reminiscent of May, not December. Life is good.

looking behind

Have you ever walked through a pile of leaves, then looked behind you to see what kind of trail you left? How about walking through the snow? Ever looked to see where your footprints landed? Were you surprised at how much you scuff your heels on the ground? Are you the kind of person who is aware that other people are behind you when you go through a door so you hold the door open for them?

I recently spent some time in CT seeing my 94 year old dad. He is starting to spend more time in two worlds, this one and the one in his mind. I can’t follow him through the door of the other one, I can only hope to share time with him when he’s in this one. That requires some extraordinary patience on my part, waiting for him to form his thoughts, then waiting for him to put his thoughts into words. Often this is a slow, yet creative endeavor, for he is no longer able to pull words out of the hat in the way that he did for most of his life. Mind you, he can still beat me at Scrabble, it’s just that he is unable to come up with simple sentences to explain what he is thinking. I find I spend my time thinking about what came before, what he was like a few years ago, what he would have said about Donald Trump running for president…and I feel sad. But when I look back at my footsteps of this weekend, I feel that I left behind good feelings, a connection that my father enjoyed, even if he won’t remember all of it.

While I was in CT, I walked on the old railway tracks that were turned into a walking path many years ago. This path runs behind the house that my parents owned. I took pictures of the path ahead, and the one behind me. I took the time to make my homage to Andy Goldsworthy. There are some new benches on the trail and I thought one of them needed to be adorned by the seed pods that decorate the pathway at this time of year.

P.S. As I was writing this post in my head, the events in Paris (and Beirut and Egypt) unraveled and I feel that I must write a postlude of sorts. While I am the type of person who looks behind me to see what my presence has left on this earth, I can’t even fathom the idea of doing so and seeing dead bodies. My mind will not wrap itself around this image. Causing pain, discomfort and death is such an anathema to me that I cannot even begin t0 understand the life experiences that can lead some to do this willingly. However, I also know that if I am not careful, I can absorb the pain and chaos of the last few days into my psyche and become debilitated in my creativity. So to counterattack this, I offer you one last image of what Izzy thinks about all of this.

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Izzy

 

camera club

Yesterday I hosted the first event since bringing all my sculptures home and finishing the kangaroo. The Carroll County (MD) Camera Club started arriving around 9 a.m. Over two hours later, the last of them left, happy with a successful morning taking pictures of the sculptures, the barn, the studio, Ginger, Lucy and Izzy. (Max decided he would rather take a nap than be photographed.) I was thrilled that they found so much to photograph and in fact some people are planning a return visit in the future. This is exactly why I wanted to open my own sculpture garden.

I am always humbled by the pictures that can be taken by those with good cameras and a bunch of talent. I have a somewhat decent camera and a modicum of talent but I do NOT have the patience to learn and remember all the tricks of the trade, it is as if that part of my brain has a little door that lets out all the information I try to put in it. I’m hoping that I will see more pictures in the future but for now I will share with you Cathy Gilleland’s photos. She took lovely close-ups of a few of the steel animals, some great pix of the live animals and blew my mind with her “Infrared” pictures…enjoy!!! (Click on any picture to start the slide show.)