Homage to an oatmeal cookie

by cheri sabraw

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Yesterday, the sky was special. I had to take off my sunglasses to make sure of it.

The blue was deep and rich, which accented the vaporous bright white shapes of the clouds like a velvet curtain of French ultramarine.

In my small painting of a massive Hereford steer up to his belly in grass, I decided to float the clouds right onto his face and point the viewer’s eyes up the hill by way of dead weeds.

This painting is meant to be peaceful.

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You see what I mean about that sky and those clouds. This gate opens to a place I have never visited. Oh sure. I could hoist my little body over the gate and walk along, seeking out  photographic gems as I often do ( to honor my father Hugh), but the specter of baby rattlesnakes, of odd property owners, of mountain lions and of bobcats deters me. The oaks do beckon though. “Hello girls!”

At home, after serving myself a spicy fish taco and a tall glass of iced tea with a wedge of lemon floating above the ice for survival, Dinah and I trek up the mountain road to see how the maternity ward is doing.

All of us women who have carried a baby to full term can appreciate the  weight of that burden on the ankles. In my case, I spent most of my pregnancies oiling my belly with lotions and potions to avoid stretch marks. Those were the days when my belly was as smooth as a honeydew melon. Now, an over ripened cantaloupe is more descriptive.

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In the cool shade of a California oak tree stands this swollen Angus woman bearing the weight with grace. Her shadow reminds us of the precious life cycle in which  we participate–some wittingly and some unwittingly.

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The maternity ward is quiet today. At this precise moment in time, cud-chewing is out. The clouds float by, the oaks stop their whispering, the fence stands up straighter, and three women etch out what it means to be stalwart.

Dinah and I, for once, feel the need to be quiet too. No barking (Dinah), no talking out to the bull or the bluebirds (me).

Wherever you are today–in the glorious fog or the parching heat, in the windy valley or the confines of a room filled with bickering lawyers–perhaps a devotional to the sublime or, at the very least, homage to a oatmeal raisin cookie might be in keeping.

Posted in cattle, cheriblocksabrawfineart@wordpress.com, Life, My painting, My photography | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Open to Beauty

by cheri sabraw      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decorum was the Rule of Order during the US Open, hosted by the iconic and storied Pebble Beach Golf Course.

Unlike the drunken party that is the Phoenix Open, now called the Waste Management Phoenix Open (a perfect sponsor for the desert party that it is), Pebble Beach is like that innocent lass whose skin is milky and whose hue is rose.

At Pebble Beach, crowds are quiet; the ocean is still; the vistas are breathtaking; the turf is exceeded only by the opulence and old money that circulate like subtle breezes off the coastline.

I must admit that even though I had sprained my ankle the night before, tangling myself in my new vacuum hose and missing a step, I knew that nothing would keep me from the atmospheric fog of Pebble Beach.

We saw the usual crowd magnets but somehow the views and stateliness of old Pebble Beach dwarfed whatever expectation I had about seeing Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, or Brooks Koepka. (yawn). Only Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler–two fine representatives of their generation and of men who seem about something more than themselves, were of interest to me.

I’m over Tiger Woods. Actually, I never was in to him anyway as I was with George Harrison, Franco Nero, and other men whom I have admired along the way of life.

The real draw at Pebble Beach is a sensual, arresting, imaginative look at Cypress trees, small perfect beaches, and the luscious quiet, even around the greens. That sliver of turquoise water rolling into a white sand beach!

 

 

 

Posted in golf, My photography, Places | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

San Simeon to Gunnison…notes from an artist

 

San Simeon School House, 1909, oil on linen 9×12 2019

by cheri sabraw

My oil painting skills are maturing, a testament to instruction by self and by teacher.

This small painting above sprung from a reference photo I took several years ago when my sweet husband and I left our home in Cambria seeking tortilla soup and meatloaf sandwiches at Sebastian’s, a delightful restaurant in the San Simeon Cove.

Unfortunately, Yelp and other nasty apps have made Sebastian’s a tourist stop, so we do not go there in the summertime.

As a teacher, I am drawn to old school houses, where my imagination takes me back to a time when teachers taught multiple grade levels and multiple subjects to students captured in  rigid desks. Those were the days of spelling lists and rote memorization.

The Road to Gunnison, Colorado, 9×12 oil on linen, 2019

On our way to Gunnison, Coloado, a darling town on our road tripping down Highway 50, the Loneliest Highway in America, we passed exhausted sheepherders running along and several ragged border collies, pushing thousands of ewes down the canyon like a stream of undulating river rock. At first, I thought I was glimpsing a silver river but the bubbles of sheep backs were not river rock but bleating moving animals on their way to market.

At the turn, we passed a lovely canyon of autumn bliss set against a cerulean sky and orgasmic clouds. Cattle dotted the landscape.

I suggested we find our hotel and turn in for the night.

But not before sampling Trout Amandine at the local restaurant Trough.

 

 

Posted in Life, My painting, My photography | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Older

by cheri sabraw

Older means there was time before and there will be time after. Older is not Oldest.

Older can also mean a general sappiness in which you find your eyes misting up over a little fawn crossing the road or you break down and sob after eating lemon pound cake.

Or, in an effort to photograph a beefy bobcat trying to kill a turkey on your upper lawn, you just about kill yourself by tripping over a rug as you race to retrieve your camera.

Older, however, does not mean the loss of childlike curiosity.

I will admit to becoming more concerned about saving moths trapped inside my house, about rescuing a finch trapped in an outside sconce, and about communing with an old dog whose days on earth are now getting shorter.

Heck.

I bought a new rug in lovely green colors without considering that thousands of Labrador hairs would embed themselves into it.

Older means understanding that  even though you have a nice bed, lying on a new one is more fun.

 

I suppose part of understanding why an old dog would prefer a new rug concerns our own propensity for something new when we are not new anymore but rather older.

Recently, I bought myself a new pillow and when resting my neck and head on it last night, felt as content as a California sea otter who has found abalone in the kelp bed.

 

 

And then there is the matter of flying low.

Flying low provides you with the opportunity to examine the details that you missed when you were racing to punch the time clock.

In my case, flying low means occasionally ironing a pillowcase (!!!), replanting succulents in blue pots, and noticing if my eyebrows have a wayward hair. It also means appreciating the fact that I still have eyebrows and even a waistline. These are things that when younger I took for granted.

 

 

It is very important as older become the norm that you never give in or up. Otherwise, why live? Why brush your teeth every morning and even floss? Why look at your feet (if you can see them) and say to yourself, ” Good job Jack and Jill for carrying me up the hill every day in a trudge similar to mounting Everest.”

Then there is the matter of scenes that take your breath away and you start tearing up again.

 

To all of you who have left California because of traffic and taxes, I say, ” Take a look at this scene…isn’t it gorgeous? Don’t you miss the Pacific Ocean?” Don’t you miss the luscious cool humidity? Sea breezes on your aging face?

Just about the time you are wondering why you are on this earth or what your existence means, you come across a scene that takes you back to younger.

 

And the world looks fresh.

Looks perfect for me.

Shall we both go to that little house and have a tea party?

Posted in dogs, Life, My childhood, My photography, Nature photography | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

An older life in green

by cheri

As we age, we appreciate the beauty of a walk up the road.

Now, however, we look for shady spots to rest awhile, out of the sun. There by the side, sweet grass grows, which in our youth, we never noticed in our hurry to jog.

Our experience tells us that soon, the grass will change from its verdant radiance to a dull brown.

This awareness makes us sensitive and alert to the beauty of green now.

 

 

We seek out a thrill just to make us feel young again. Somewhere in that green is a delicious smell.

We give ourselves permission to take a break from our upward trek to lie down and cushion ourselves in joy.

 

 

 

At last, a comfortable spinal stretch where we are in the present moment, enjoying all of the experiences our senses offer.

On this holiday weekend, may you all enjoy a few moments like this one.

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What the University of the Pacific needs in a new president

by Cherylann Block Sabraw (School of Education, 1972)

Although I broke my father’s heart when I transferred from USC to the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, my decision to attend this small liberal arts gem in California’s Central Valley was a good one.

My days spent at UOP were thoughtful ones as I took my studies in English and education seriously. So seriously, that the professors at the School of Education–now known as the Bernerd School of Education–invited me to be the student speaker for the 1972 graduation.

My speech, titled” The Great Teacher” I delivered as a naive 21-year-old on her way to making the education of our youth substantive.

For 42 years I endeavored to be the main character in my speech.

In other words, I have been an alumna who should have made the University of the Pacific proud, from whom the university might have sought ideas in addition to monetary donations.

Last month, an announcement for a speaker coming to  the Bernerd School of Education slipped into my email box, inviting attendance at an event where Renato P. Almanzor was the speaker.

He is, the email text read, ” …a transformation catalyst whose experience emerges from dedicating over 30 years to developing leaders committed to equitable communities, multicultural organizations and social justice. An expert in leading social change, he has taught at a number of universities and currently teaches leadership at CSU Humboldt. Almanzor also has held executive roles at UC Berkeley and Oakland Unified School District….”

In the State of California where test scores and student abilities to write, compute, and calculate rank 44th out 50 in K-12 education, we are inviting speakers  focused on social justice, equitable communities and multicultural organizations? Really?

Within a week of this email, a young man called our home at dinnertime to solicit donations for UOP.

” You know, I am not sure the University represents my values any more,” I said. ” For example, I just received an email from the School of Education, advertising a speaker who is known for focusing on equitable communities, multicultural organizations, and social justice when most speakers ought to be concerned with the quality of education being delivered in the State of California.”

I went on, ” In my 42-year experience in education teaching students of all races, religions, and ages (including business students at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business) and in the academy I founded in 1998 , I observed that people are people, hungry for the knowledge they need to succeed in their next educational or vocational choices.”

After several minutes, I realized no one was on the other end of the phone line. How long I had been speaking to the flowers on my kitchen counter or to my old yellow Labrador rolling her big brown eyes, I do not know.

My donations are over to the University of the Pacific.

Perhaps I will now direct my educational funds to St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where education is the main goal of the university.

As UOP searches for a new president, it may want to consider  getting back to basics and away from programs that fragment rather than unify people.

Those are my suggestions to the search committee for a new president.

Posted in Education | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Finding meaning

by cheri sabraw

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photo by c. sabraw 2019

My sister and I are avowed bird and bunny watchers.

Instead of hashing over how miserable we are about the socialism creep (verb or noun depending on your perspective) or about Theresa May’s crippling act of personal wilfulness and abject defiance for the voters of the U.K., we employ a diversionary tactic–staring at the desert, clucking to thrashers and quail and throwing Shredded Wheat squares to lure them up on the patio.

First, a disclaimer: if any of the Gestapo that run this over-55 retirement community are reading my blog (instead of finding something to complain about), we do not feed doves or pigeons, bunnies or coyotes. So there!

I do, occasionally, feed the golfers by offering a beer to  those whose golf balls venture too close for comfort, but only if they do not swear. My act of Hoppian charity is rewarded with big toothy smiles.

In studying the birds that frequent my patio, my sister and I are most moved by the Gila woodpeckers, who in turn, are moved by hummingbird feeders full of sugar-water.

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photo by c. sabraw 2019

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photo by c. sabraw 2019

Then the late afternoon breezes,  made more melodic by the sound of palm fronds swishing and swaying, begin to subside.P1120028

The bunny trio emerges from under the desert shrubs to nibble on the soft grasses of the fairway.

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The metal friends continue their social engagement oblivious to the world’s problems.

They do fear the coming heat of the summer when their metal is tested.

 

 

 

Posted in My photography, Nature photography, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

The Oppressive Nature of Politics

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Photo by cheri block sabraw 2019

by cheri block sabraw

Oppression is no joke.

Marching into a packed  boxcar during the winter of 1939 in Prague is oppression.

Having a overseer whip and slash the  back until the flesh is shredded in 1858 on a South Carolina plantation is oppression.

Bending over with a short hoe in the Salinas Valley, weeding a field of strawberries in high heat, with few breaks and no toilet, is oppression.

Oppression.

The new political animal, the likes of Representatives Omar and Ocasio-Cortez- vying for attention by vacuous social media–lead by lightweights, play the oppression card often, shamelessly. And why should they feel shame about doing so if they have no idea about history other than what they can learn on Wikipedia?

The denizens of oppression–Obama, Ellison, Warren, Harris, Booker, Bernie, and a host of other people who have no real idea about it– slog on in the mines and factories, on the docks and picket lines of their imaginations.

It’s vogue to cite oppression in politics. It makes for sassy news clips and terse sound bites, the tropes now of the uninformed experts.

They seem to be as oppressed as stuffed animals in a baby’s crib.

 

 

 

 

 

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The game is on!

by Cheri Sabraw

I have surrendered to the tom turkeys this time of year when their fancy turns from pooping all over my driveway to the ladies. The lengths to which the toms will go to attract and finally mate with a hen are evolutionary at best and clownish at worst.

Take this group of four puffy noblemen ( or so they think…)

First, they must posture and meditate, making themselves as large as possible. Catching the afternoon sun on their tail feather fan helps their sense of Self.

Then, out of order, they begin a circular parade that is all about them–their feathers, their one-legged pose, their robotic Hokey-Pokey (shimmy to the right and shimmy to the left)–all while holding their breaths in order to push every fiber and feather into an enormous love machine.

Then, at the behest of the lead love-maker, they begin their march to sex.

“Yes, you heard me, ” Moe silently directs, practicing his machismo as he, Curly and Larry head toward the soft creek bed.

“That little gal over there can’t help but be magnetized toward my colorful face, big breast, and of course, those red balls at the end of my neck. God, I am so hot.

“Hey, you aren’t the only massive dark meathead, Moe, ” Curley and Larry chortle.

“Well, hey there, girls. Look on up instead of down. Not enough for you yet? Let me show you my backside. That ought to trigger your hormones.”

Hello you little wild cutie…are you heading for the creek?

[ Green piece of pottery speaks ]: “Hey there buster, it’s been very lonely here on the patio this rainy and cold winter. I am interested in you. You can see that my cup runneth over for you. Come on up…”

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A fire in Vermont

by cheri sabraw

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The rain has been good to Northern California

The propane delivery truck bellowed down our driveway last month, its brakes barking like a sea lion.

I peeked through the wooden shutters in my closet window. A familiar scene, one that I have watched every couple of months for 25 years, unfolded mechanically: The operator Sergio found the thick hose, pulled out yank by yank, and stretched it to our blue propane tank, across our  lawn mottled by gophers and over a rock wall until finally, hose and tank coupled in a gaseous ecstasy.

The momentary high left inertly when Sergio wrapped the bill around our door knob, hoisted himself back inside the truck, which  belched  up the driveway.

In my closet, I finished dressing for the day and trundled downstairs to the coffee pot.

Oh yes, I thought. That propane bill. I must retrieve it before the wind blows it into the creek.

When I opened the bill, and saw what two months of propane cost, I had a brief moment of breathlessness myself.

Either a gallon of propane has gone up in price or I have used too much. Reluctantly, I accepted the latter and at that moment vowed to reduce hot water and heat usage.

To that end, I have been making my own fires in our wood-burning stove, whom I will call Vermont.

Today, when the weather changed again, I made another fire, an inferno in Vermont, who complained a bit by rattling when I threw more kindling in her belly.

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The deer abound

I love the smell of oak burning in Vermont and the warmth that a fire provides. And I love the fact that I am not using propane.IMG_3870

The birds wait for foliage

 

Posted in My photography, Nature photography | Tagged , | 14 Comments