Wednesday, December 22, 2010


2010 is almost ended. The pace in which it past is breathtaking! Bruce is off from school and we are taking this holiday time to stay home and enjoy Spirit Hill. The non-stop storms that have washed over us this  past week, and continue as I write, are making our Oaks and other plant life very happy. The wild life manages to find ways to protect themselves. A Scrub Jay, and an Acorn Woodpecker, jumped in our pond and took a full on bath, while it was raining, to my great surprise. I put out seed and it is gone in short order. The birds need a lot more food to stay warm these days. They are all so fluffed up, sometimes I cannot identify them. A Northern Flicker, the Scrub Jay and the California Quail are eating the berries off the bushes and leaving the limbs bare. Robins were here last week gobbling up the berries, too.

On January 1st we will host our regular 1st Saturday. We expect fewer guests because it is a holiday, but some said they plan to use that day as a chance to visit the artists who are opened, and maybe get a little more attention since there won't be as many people around. Nikki Crain reminded us that it is 1/1/11 on 1st Saturday so we decided to have an 11% sale on everything, because it made us smile!

Here on Spirit Hill we have invited family and close friends for an Open House. I'll have a pot of beans (sprinkled with black eyed peas for New Year's good luck), and more. I look forward to hosting my loved ones, and any 1st Saturday visitors who venture out. It should be an exciting day. I look forward to it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pat O'Connell Images

This is Pat's latest Tow Truck, the one he was using when he retired. Pat went up north to buy the truck and was told it was his to take, but the man wouldn't take his money. People in Three Rivers had already paid for the truck, surprising Pat with this gift of thanks for all his generosity over his many years of service to the town and visitors who have passed through Three Rivers.

This could be the tow truck Pat used to pick up my nephew and his cousin in the story written early this morning.

A Pat O'Connell Story

The car broke down at Stoney Point Campground. My nephew was told my the Ranger that the closest Tow Truck was Pat O'Connell of Three Rivers. So they called him. Pat arrived, attached the vehicle and it was decided my nephew and his cousin would accompany the vehicle. The rest of the family would continue the vacation and return in the other vehicles.

It was obvious that this group of people were Muslim. The women dressed covered head to foot, the men bearded, and most looked like they came from Pakistan or India. Pat must have been interested because he asked questions about who they were and where they came from. These two were students, working themselves through college.

When they arrived at Three Rivers Pat suggested he take them to Visalia. He told them the auto shops, restaurents, motels if they end up needing one, would all be cheaper and they'd have easier access. So the young men told him they would pay for  the extra mileage. Pat shrugged and drove on to Visalia, Pat asking more and more questions. My nephew found Pat refreshing, a very open man willing to learn something about their religion without judgement, very unusual.

As they passed through Visalia Pat said, "I have nothing else to do today. How about I drive you to LA?" They were stunned and of course said, no. It was too much trouble, too far, and it was nice of him, but... Pat insisted. So they said they'd pay him, not really knowing how much it would truly cost, but my nephew said he'd give Pat whatever was in his wallet, plus the cousins wallet.

They had a very chatty nice trip and when they arrived at my nephew's home, Pat unhooked the vehicle. The young men took out wallets, and handed Pat whatever was in them. Pat refused. They were flabbergasted and insisted. He told them to finish school, take good care of their families, and have a good life. That was payment enough. He got in his truck and returned to Three Rivers.

My nephew said he thinks of Pat a lot these days when the airways are filled with hatred toward Islam. He uses Pat as an example of how simple acts of kindness truly matter, bridge divides and it has effected his decisions about how he treats people.

Alice Walker & Family

I read an interview of Alice Walker in this months Writer's Digest. Then I went to her blog. I loved her writing. I responded in her comment section to thoughts she kicked up. As usual I write too much, so I had to edit, edit and edit some more to get it down to the number of words they insist upon. She'll never read it so I am not sure why I spent so much time. I guess it has to do with knowing the writing is really for the writer. I love reading others. And then I love responding. That's enough.

As I read I could hear my Uncle Joe spouting his opinion of Alice Walker. He was angry at her Color Purple, the book and movie. Being a black man he felt she dishonored black men in the movie. They were the enemy. He called her a Lesbian, as if it was a bad word. I had no idea whether she was or wasn't at the time. I said, "Uncle Joe, what difference does that make? It's a book. A movie. A point of view. And so few people of color get the attention she is getting, especially women. There are very few black women published. Isn't that wonderful in of itself?" He shook his head and was silent. My Aunt Lalla eyed me and I got her message, to shut up.

Days later Aunt Lalla told me I came close to being banished from the house by Uncle Joe. He was a tyrant in his home, of the school that men rule the roost. "Don't argue with him if you want to visit. I love you and need your company so keep your mouth shut." Lalla explained how she lived with his overbearing self. "I told him early on, I will nod my head. I will smile as you wish. But I want you to know you cannot rule my mind." She did not agree with his point of view about Alice Walker but her marriage of 40 years survived because of her cunning. Aunt Lalla did not care if Alice Walker is Lesbian or not. She was thrilled to see a woman say her mind and rewarded for it.

Then the forbidden subject some how was brought up. Aunt Lala's #1 son was, and is, Gay. Supposedly, Uncle Joe did not know it, which I found absurd. Every one knew it. All the cousins, kids like me and my sister who were nieces-of-the-heart knew it. His two brothers knew it. None of us kids cared. And now I discovered his mother knew, and did not care either. But Uncle Joe refused to acknowledge it and so Aunt Lalla kept her mouth closed. It was the ridiculous family secret, kept from one person!

Memory is such a gift. I have spent the morning with Aunt Lalla and Uncle Joe, people I loved and who loved me. Such a surprising side effect to reading a magazine article that sent me on this path.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

1st Saturday August, 2010

Today is the Sunday before 1st Saturday. I am spending it clearing the clutter in my studio in preparation. I've done the bulletin board already, with photos that have a golden color to go with the theme of "Golden Hills."

Jeri Burzin, Photographer, will share space in our living room to display her wonderful work. We just spent 3 days in Yosemite, with a third friend, Deby Cook. We lucked out at the peak of flowering season in the meadows. Oh my, was it glorious. I'll post some of the pictures. And we hiked to the Chilualna Falls, a little known wonder, as beautiful as any of the water falls in Yosemite. The trail starts at a village called Redwood Village.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Statue of Liberty

Photo by Shirley A. Blair Keller ©2009
From the Circle Line Tour Boat

Photo by Shirley A. Blair Keller ©2009
A breathtaking sight, a first for me: Ms. Statue of Liberty.
I do not know if my grandparents were greeted by her when they came from Russia before the turn of the century. Some went to Canada so may have skipped this step. But I felt as if I'd been here before. Maybe its all the movies I have watched, books I have read, about the immigrant story. Such bravery to cross an ocean in the way they had to, steerage, to suffer all they did for hope of a better life for their children. From every corner of our globe people have come. Such bravery. I cannot imagine being able to do the same. I was born here have had the kind of life those ancestor's had hoped for their children. And I thank them in my heart daily.

Setting up the bulletin board in my studio to celebrate Independence weekend, starting with 1st Saturday Three Rivers, has kicked off all this above the line thinking. Fun! Nadi is the one who inspired me to change the environment of the studio each month for no other reason than to evoke a change of view. She is so right!

1st Saturday Three Rivers - July 3rd, 2010

Steve and Kathy Diamant accepted my invitation to show their stained glass art here on Spirit Hill 1st Saturday, July 3rd, 10-5. They will set up in our living room/dining room area. I will show my stuff in the studio and carport.

As you walk into our house the first thing you see is Bruce's bike hanging on the wall, a centerpiece to his life on Spirit Hill. Steve is bringing the bicycle stained glass piece that he designed and made at Bruce's request a couple of years ago. They will install it in its permanent spot, above Bruce's bicycle. The bicycle stained glass piece has been traveling from one art show to the next over the last couple of months so we have been looking forward to seeing it placed in its permanent spot.

The theme for July 1st Saturday is Independence. For me the word LIBERTY keeps cropping up so I have designed the bulletin board with the word at the center. Various images of the Statue of Liberty that I took on my New York adventure are added. I repainted the sculpture that Marn Reich made of the Statue of Liberty with a tear flowing down her cheek. At the time Marn made the tear because we had a President that didn't think we counted as part of his country. We are not rich. We are not conservative. We are not white. Nor our we men. I wanted to paint the tear away once we had a new President, but I never got around to it. But the tear must stay. We are still in two wars. The Gulf of Mexico is being ruined as I write by an oil spill that cannot be stopped. Our financial situation in the country, although not as bad as it was, is still a worry. Too many people are out of work. Our youth, even if educated might have no place to work when they get out of school. The immigration situation isn't solved. We need their labor but many want them to work and then disappear, where I am not sure. Drugs are purchased by enough American's to make criminals kill to keep control of the market. And yet American's act like they have nothing at all to do with supporting the drug cartels. So the tear has stayed, even through the repainting.

Annie Mae was making a Father's Day card for her Dad. She asked me for a picture of him. As she was cutting and pasting it, she noticed I had a few postcards, and other pictures of Obama pinned to a board. She asked if she could have one. As she looked at the back of the card she noticed his signature. "Oh no, he signed it for you! I cannot cut it." Why do you want to have his picture Annie? "It makes Dad so happy to see him as President I just thought he'd like to see his face." So I assured her that was far more important than me keeping the card. She cut the President's face and glued it next to her father's picture, and then smiled. I could hear Martin Luther King Jr.'s voice ringing, " four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." I saw before me the truth of his words made real. The face of my brown son, and our brown President, and my grand daughters proud smile.

Monday, May 10, 2010

1st Saturday Three Rivers - June 5th

Would love to entice another artist or two to display their wares here on Spirit Hill with me. Bruce has enhanced our garden with river rock, our path to the garden has been improved beautifully by Isaul, who laid old bricks in a design and width that makes entering the pond/deck area safe and comfortable. The chimes lull everyone who comes here, the bubbling pond, too. I would be in my studio and they could set up on deck or in the living room, depending on the weather. So I put this thought out into the universe and see where it goes.

Lavendar is our theme for June. We picked it because Barbara Lahmann, grower of lavendar, harvests first week in June every year, and she will join 1st Saturday this time. She makes lavendar drinks, food, and bouquets, I hear. So the rest of us will come up with ways to use the color, too. I've put up a bulletin board with the color lavendar, purple flowers, like Iris' and Lupins, and more.

Lavendar with sunflower

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Three Rivers Art Studio Tour 9

Tomorrow the tour begins. This is the first time we open on Friday so it is a mystery how many people will come out. I know some friends who said they might start the tour on Friday, continue Saturday. Delia arrives Friday night to be a helpful spirit for the weekend. Almost ready. A few details to do in the morning and then may the crowds come!!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

1st Saturday Three Rivers

If you are a writer and/or illustrator of children's books, live in or around Tulare County, you are invited to join a critique group on 3/6/10, 10 a.m. - noon, 43641 Skyline Drive, Three Rivers. 559-561-3463 to RSVP. Refreshments will be served.

Background: Members of the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) began a critique group in December for people in and around Tulare County. They met at Border's Books, Visalia and began a process of sharing writings, critiquing and meeting once a month in various homes. The group is large enough that we think it is time for a second group to form, thus the meeting on Spirit Hill. If you are curious about SCBWI, or have that manuscript sitting in a drawer, come and see what we are about.

After the meeting you will have plenty of time to take part in Three Rivers 1st Saturday event. My studio will be open Noon-2 p.m. for public viewing. Artists and vendors are out in force. See for where to get maps, details of what artists and merchants are offering March 1st Saturday, Three Rivers.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tiki Missing

Last night someone took Tiki from his home on the rock. Last time someone did this he was gone for three days. He was okay with a little vacation away from me. But lucky for the people who took him, they returned him before he missed me and became angry. Tiki's anger is huge. What he will do when angry I do not know but it won't be pretty. I only hope for the sake of the people who have him that they put him back on his rock, and soon.