Starting Something New

In the movie “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” there is a scene where Harry is teaching other witches and wizards about defense against the dark arts.  He tells them that every great witch and wizard started where they were, that they had been students.  Every great witch and wizard had to learn.  It is only through practice and mistakes that the students will become great too.

Think about this concept for a minute.  Do you remember when you were learning to walk?  Toddlers are called toddlers for a reason.  They don’t have the best balance and often toddle over.  They are learning how to keep their balance and put one foot in front of the other.

Think about how you learn new things.  Where do you start?  Some things are easier to learn with a group or in a class.  Sometimes it is easier to learn things on our own through trial and error.  Some skills are best learned from one-on-one instruction by an individual who has mastered a particular art.  Sometimes you can read a book and figure out how to do something.  Another way to learn may be by watching a video.  What I am trying to say is that there are lots of ways to learn things and we all have unique learning styles.

I have been teaching art and creativity classes for almost 20 years now.  Every couple years, I encounter an individual who after their very first experience painting, drawing, etc. give up because whatever they were working on did not turn out like what they had pictured in their mind.

As an artist who has worked on her art for over 20 years, I can tell you that the finished artwork rarely looks like the image you first had in your head.  Usually, the finished piece is way BETTER!  Better than you could have possibly imagined.

That kind of better doesn’t happen with your first canvas, watercolour or drawing.  It takes time and practice.  I have entire sketch books of awful, marginal and just okay.  I didn’t think of them as awful, marginal or just okay at the time I made them.  I thought they were pretty good or at the very least a start of something that could be good.  But when I compare them to what I can do now after years and years of practice, the improvement is quite noticeable.

“Have no fear of perfection – You’ll never reach it.” -Salvador Dali

Go ahead and imagine.  But be prepared that things may not turn out the way you imagined.  There is a distinct possibility that things will be different.  An even better possibility that you will do even better than you imagined.  Have faith and let the creative process work its magic.

Featured image courtesy of

Joy of Reading

I Opened a Book by Julia Donaldson

“I opened a book and in I strode.

Now nobody can find me.

I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,

My town and my world behind me.

I’m wearing the cloak,

I’ve slipped on the ring,

I’ve swallowed the magic potion.

I’ve fought the dragon, dined with a King

And lived in a bottomless ocean.

I opened a book and made some friends.

I shared their tears and laughter

And followed their road with its bumps and bends

To the happily ever after.

I finished my book and out I came.

The cloak can no longer hide me.

My chair and my house are just the same,

But I have a book inside me.”

The previous poem “I Opened a Book” by Julia Donaldson captures the joys and delights of reading.

A friend and I were talking about reading the book “Alice in Wonderland.”  Although it had been at least fifteen years since I had read it and longer than that for my friend, we both were struck by the story.  Despite the years since we had read the book, it remained memorable to both of us.

Take a moment to think back to a book that you have read that captured your imagination.  How long has it been since you read it?  Was it fiction?  Non-fiction?  Do you read lots of books or once in awhile?

I have many favorite books by many favorite authors.  Some books I have read multiple times.  Some only once.  Many are fiction.  But I enjoy non-fiction books about adventure, travel and certain historic time periods. 

Do you prefer cozy murder mysteries? Maybe you enjoy fantastic adventures with hobbits, dwarves and elves? Reading about robots and all other future possibilities found in Science Fiction. Do romances make your heart go pitter-pat? Or is it horrific monsters, ghosts and terrifying tales? You may prefer Historic novels about people and places from the past. Whatever types of book you like to read, be sure to make time for reading.

There are some serious benefits of reading for pleasure:

  • Stress management by increasing enjoyment and relaxation.
  • Good for your brain and cognitive development.
  • Improves concentration.
  • Enhances vocabulary.
  • Increases reading and writing skills.
  • and, improves memory.

I hope that you have time today to read something you like, at least for a little while. Enjoy a creative escape.

Mixing Messages

Have you ever been told something that means one thing?  “I want you in my life.”  And in the very next sentence you are told something that completely cancels it out?  “I can’t be around you.”  The result is…… confusing.  What does this person want? Do they realize they are sending mixed messages?

One unintended consequence of giving someone mixed signals is that the person receiving the signals has to choose what they think you are actually trying to say.  A lot of misinterpretation can happen.  Wouldn’t it be easier to say what you mean?

I have a theory about people who send mixed messages.  I think that they don’t know what they want or what they are feeling.  A person cannot express something simply when they themselves do not know how they feel.

I can understand how mixed messages happen.  Most of us are a mixing bowl of emotions.  Imagine cookie dough before you blend it together.  Every ingredient separate but in the same bowl.  That’s like our feelings and emotions.  We are the bowl and our feelings and emotions are the ingredients.  They are all there together inside our heads.  The emotional mix we get is unique to each of us.

IMG_5719 (1) Cookie ingredients

And like making cookies if you take the time to stir everything together, it will become dough.  When you take that dough and make it into little round balls and cook it, you get a cookie.  Or in this case a fully formed thought.

IMG_5722IMG_5723 (1) dough on cookie sheet

I like it when someone is honest with me and tells me what they mean.  I think that most people would prefer to be treated with honesty and respect.  I also think that most people are like me and would prefer to be given a straight forward answer.

I am not talking about saying cruel or hurtful things.  Mixing signals doesn’t spare anyone’s feelings.  Both of those behaviors cause hurt, confusion and mistrust.

When you give someone the benefit of the doubt and do not try to second guess their feelings by giving them mixed messages, you treat them with respect and provide an opportunity for them to deal with their own feelings.  It is a positive and healthy experience for both parties.

Enough about mixed messages.  I really do like cookies.  And all of this talk using the cookie dough metaphor has made me hungry.  I’m going to mix together a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough and bake some cookies!


Know Thyself

With the release of the movie “Matrix Resurrections,” I was inspired to watch the original “Matrix” film again.  (I have not seen the newest film, at the time that I am writing this, so no spoilers please.)  I had not watched the “Matrix” in a long time and several things caught my attention.  However, this is not by any stretch of imagination a film review.

After watching the original “Matrix” film, I was discussing with friends about how ground-breaking this film was.  Special effects have been changed forever thanks to this movie.  There are a lot of really good life lessons in this film as well.  The biggest is the question “Are you really experiencing your life?” and “What does it mean to be alive?”  Whole philosophy classes could be taught based on the “Matrix” movie.

One of my favorite scenes in the first movie was when Neo is sent to meet with the Oracle.  He is in a room with other potential candidates, most of them children.  One child was bending a spoon and makes memorable comment “Do not try to bend the spoon.  That is impossible.  Only instead try to realize the truth.  Neo asks, What’s that?  The boy, There is no spoon.”  Philosophical question, “What is the nature of reality?”

When Neo goes into the kitchen to see the Oracle, she is baking cookies.  She directs Neo to look at a plaque on her wall with the words “Temet Nosce.”  Temet Nosce, or when translated from Latin to English, means know thyself.  I always thought this was interesting direction.  We are all trying to find out who we are and where we are going in a universe of limitless possibilities.

How hard it is to know oneself.  We are told things about ourselves from the instant we are born.   We have our own ideas of who we are.  There are things that we do not like to face about ourselves.  Sometimes our ego gets into the way.  Sometimes someone else’s ego gets in the way.

The journey of knowing who we are is the adventure of our lifetime.  The point of this journey is not to arrive.  It is to live, become and to grow.  Discover yourself every day.

I would go on to say that the Oracle missed something in her advice to Neo.  Not only should we work on knowing ourselves, but one needs to learn to love thyself as well.   There is a quote attributed to Buddha, “Love yourself and the rest will follow.”  Love is an important step in knowing oneself.  It is the basis of compassion and forgiveness which help us in loving others.

Have you heard the saying that you cannot truly love anyone else until you love yourself.  In the gospel of Matthew from the Christian Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying that the second greatest commandment is “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

The month of February is often associated with Valentines Day, an annual festival to celebrate romantic love, friendship and admiration.  Every year on 14 February people celebrate this day by sending messages of love and affection to partners, family and friends.  For Valentine’s Day this year, I challenge you to follow the advice of the Oracle from the “Matrix” and know thyself.  But I further challenge you to love thyself and as attributed to Buddha allow the rest to follow.  Allow forgiveness and compassion, for yourself and for your neighbor, following the second commandment as quoted by Jesus.  This year let’s make Valentine’s Day a celebration of love that not only begins with us, but within us.

Temet Nosce!

Network Effect

“Now we’re here, ready for the next major disaster. (Spoiler warning.)” – Murderbot, page 37, Network Effect

Murderbot is back!  If you are not familiar with Murderbot and the four previous books that comprise the Murderbot Diaries, you can become acquainted with these delightful books clicking on the following links and checking out my reviews :  All Systems RedArtificial ConditionRogue Protocol; and Exit Strategy.

The Murderbot Diaries were created by author Martha Wells.  Martha is an excellent writer.  I have enjoyed her creative writing skills in developing characters and the plot.  I also enjoy Martha’s descriptions of the places and people that Murderbot interacts with.  In some cases her descriptions are so well done, I feel like I could sketch the person or draw a diagram or schematic of the place.

The overarching theme of these novels, to me, is what really makes us human.  This theme doesn’t just pertain to Murderbot and other AI that it meets but to the people as well.

I enjoy how all of these books tie in together but can also be read on their own.  I am not the only human who enjoys these books immensely.  Titles in the Murderbot Diaries series have won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Alex Awards.

Murderbot is paranoid, anxious, doesn’t like to be touched and enjoys the human media program “Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon.” He has moments were he has feelings.  What Murderbot calls having an emotion.  He cares very much for the clients who have become his friends and recognizes why he considers them friends.

“Thiago had said he felt like he should apologize and talk to me more about it.  Ratthi had said, ‘I think you should let it go for a while, at least until we get ourselves out of this situation.  SecUnit is a very private person, it doesn’t like to discuss its feelings.’ This is why Ratthi is my friend.” -page 230-231, Network Effect

Things have a way of going sideways very quickly on strange planets and that’s why the humans need protection.  Providing security for humans is a monumental task.  Murderbot is quick to point the irony of its job with its quick wit and hint of sarcasm.

“I’ve had clients who thought they needed an absurd level of security.  (And I’m talking absurd by my standards, and my code was developed by a bond company known for intense xenophobic paranoia, tempered only by desperate greed.)  I’ve also had clients who thought they didn’t need any security at all, right up until something ate them.  (That’s mostly a metaphor.  My uneaten client stat is high.)”         Murderbot – page 9, Network Effect

Network Effect will keep you guessing until the very end.  And for those who have read the previous four novels, an old friend returns and desperately needs Murderbots help.  The description on the book cover reads as follows:

“I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90-plus percent of my problems are.

The bestselling Murderbot series exploded onto the scene with ‘one of the most humane portraits of a non-human I’ve ever read’ (Annalee Newitz).  Now one of the most relatable AIs in science fiction returns in its first stand alone novel.

It calls itself Murderbot, but only when no one can hear.

It worries about the fragile human crew who’ve grown to trust it, but only where no one can see.

It tells itself that they’re only a professional obligation, but when they’re captured and an old friend from the past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic Action it is, then.”  – Book cover, Network Effect

Network Effect by Martha Wells is a stellar read.  But don’t take my word for it, go find a copy of your own to read.

Cake Box Books

I got the idea to try making Cake Box Books from Esther K. Smith in her delightful and informative book, How to Make Books.  If you are interested in the art of book making, I highly recommend this book.  The instructions are laid out logically and come with illustrated diagrams.  There are a wide range of books to try for every book making skill and interest level.

Another delightful aspect to this book is the commentary and stories included with the  description and instructions for each book.  The following is from the section on the Cake Box Book:

“I began seeing box covers sewn into books in 2000.  At a time when high craft and the preciousness of artist books seemed like the macramé of the nineties, these frank, simple, funny books were fresh and unpretentious.  I have not thrown a box away since, and they are piling up.  I like cake-mix boxes especially, with their tempting serving suggestions and glistening frosted cake slices, but you can use any box that is about the size of a hardcover book.”  -Esther K. Smith

E5FE73A5-0F4C-4E20-B5DE-A3AC46BF1D13    FBB784E1-4E18-4ADB-9C2C-5B6408552854

The first Cake Box Book I made was not neat and elegant.  I was so worried that if I didn’t have lots of holes for sewing the spine into the cover that the book would fall apart.  I didn’t trust the instructions or my abilities.  I ended up making a lot more work for myself.  It turns out that four holes recommended by Esther K. Smith are the perfect amount and will align and hold the codexes (groups of pages) firmly in place.  Each Cake Box Book I made, the process became easier.  It was through trial and error that I got to a point where I began to trust my abilities.


In fact the process has become fun for me.  I have learned to relax and enjoy the creative process that it takes to make a Cake Box Book.

There are many creative processes.  It doesn’t matter what you are trying to learn: creating a Cake Box Book, painting with acrylic paint, sewing an apron, baking a cake, riding a bike, knitting a sweater, making paper, playing the piano….  We all start as beginners.  We learn through trying things.  Some of it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  It is only through practice and experimentation that we become comfortable with the process.  Once we become comfortable, we can have fun with the process.


I challenge you to learn something that you have wanted to do.  It may require taking a class, doing research, reading a book, finding someone to teach you.  Whatever it is, take the time to learn and become comfortable with the creative process.

Ability – Creativity Series

“Everyone is a genius.  But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” -Albert Einstein

The other day I was going through some art papers, notes about classes, ideas on sticky notes and quotes.  I came across a folded up little piece of paper that had this quote from Albert Einstein.  It really spoke to me and I found it to be the perfect inspiration for my second post in the “Creativity Series.”

Some of the lessons that we need to learn about being creative are not learned through doing an activity or by reading a book.  They are learned by changing our perspective.  In this case the perspective we are changing is allowing others to hurt us or judge us with their opinions and harsh words.

Just like the fish in Albert Einstein’s quote, we are not going to be good at everything we attempt to do.   A great pastry chef may not be able to grill the perfect steak.  And then again maybe they can grill a perfect steak but are unable to speak in front of a crowd of people.  What is being said in this quote is not to allow yourself to be judged by the things that you have trouble doing.  The chef is still an amazing chef even if they can’t do public presentations.  If the chef is content with their life, does it matter what others think?

Enough time and practice can help anyone to gain a basic understanding and minimal skill set in any area.  For example, I took an accounting class in college.  For me, it was a tough class.  I did fine, I got a C.  I am perfectly capable to do basic book keeping for my art as a business.  But I will not be remembered for my interest accruing skills on a spread sheet and I am more than okay with that.

Take a moment and think of how you have been compared by others or yourself in doing something that you are not proficient at.  How did it feel?  Did it hinder your ability to try to do the task in the future?  Did it alter how you felt about yourself?

I have shared this story in the past, but it fits so well with the Albert Einstein quote that I have to share it again.  I had a student who was in her seventies when she took my creativity class.  She shared a story about one of her creative blocks.  She had always been very tall for her age.  In her school choir classes she would stand in the back row and sing with her whole heart. When she was 12 or 13 a teacher told her that she shouldn’t sing.  That she should just mouth the words instead.  My student was devastated.  She never sang out loud again.  The words of one person had the power to quite literally silence a voice.

My student shared that she still wished to sing.  We talked about the fact that the teacher who said that had become her internal critic when it came to making a joyful noise.  We talked about ways to silence this critic.  We talked about ways that she could sing and feel comfortable.  Her church choir was recruiting “new songbirds.”  She auditioned and was accepted.  She was finally singing again.  After sixty years of thinking that she couldn’t sing, she had auditioned and was accepted in a choir.

I leave you with these final thoughts.  You are a genius!  You are a creative, imaginative, amazing human being.  Believe these words.  Believe in yourself.

Risk = Growth = Rewards

All of the artwork featured in this blog post was created by students of the Art Sampler class that I taught in the fall of 2019 at Flathead Valley Community College.  The paintings are pallet knife paintings.  Two of the students had previous painting experience but not painting with acrylic paint.  None of the students had painted using a palette knife before.


Painted by Amy Kanewischer

In college, I took a class on American women’s history.  The class started with the  colonization of the original 13 colonies.  It focused on women who settled in the north (the area of what is now Massachusetts) and women in the southern colonies. 

The women who settled in the north were primarily wives and daughters.  They arrived with their husbands and fathers.  As long as they stayed within the confines of society and family these women had comfortable lives and very little risk.  

The women who settled in the south were wives and daughters also.  But most of the women who settled in the south went as indentured servants (their voyage is paid for by a third party [usually farmer or landowner in the southern colonies] and then they had to work for a certain amount of time to pay off the debt).  Once the debt was released, they were free.  They could buy land, start businesses, etc.  These women faced huge risks but if they survived the rewards were big and they had the opportunity to make choices for themselves.

One could argue that settling in the original thirteen colonies was a huge risk in and of itself.  And they would be right.  Some parts of those colonies were wilder and riskier than others.

The bonus question on the exam for this portion of the class asked where we would live if given a choice?  Would we live in relative safety of the civilized north?  Or would we live in the wild south?  We had to explain our reasons for why we made our choice.  I chose the south because if I could survive, I would earn my freedom and the ability to make decisions for myself.  There were only two of us in a class of 20 who chose settling in the south or greater risk for greater rewards.

“If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.” -Geena Davis

Where is all this talk of risk going?  Creativity is about risk.  I was talking to a friend recently about how the images in the sketchbooks doesn’t always turn out like the finished piece of artwork.  That the artwork is often better than expected.  Creating a piece of artwork, writing a poem or a novel, acting in a play, taking a photo, any and all creative pursuits are about risk.

Think about it like this, if everyone only listened to the music of Mozart it would get pretty boring after awhile.  But there is a lot more than the music of Mozart to listen to.  There is rap, jazz, blues, polkas, chants, rock, pop, etc.  You get the idea.  Here is the important part to remember the next time a song that you like comes on, the artist who wrote that song and the artist who is singing it (it may be the same person) had to take risks to get that music on the radio.  They had to have faith in their creative choices.  They had to be willing to grow creatively to reach the rewards.


Painted by Judy Territo

Speaking of creative choices.  My friend Samantha was at a point where she needed more business cards.  When she went to reorder ones like she already had, they didn’t have that design any more.  Samantha felt that she was at a crossroads.  She had branded herself with the old design.  Did she want to keep the old images?  Could she still keep her brand and create new and exciting business cards?

Samantha chose to take a risk.  She created new business cards, using new images and her original business name.  And the new business cards turned out beautiful.  So beautiful that Samantha ordered a banner with the same design.


Painted by Diane Whited

Teaching art classes can be a challenge.  Teaching often forces me to grow as an artist and an individual.  As an art teacher, I take risks in teaching my students.  There is standard techniques that one can teach over and over to each class.  And teachers often do this to make sure that their students learn the basics.  But teachers can take the time to really get to know their students and tailor the class around the skills and abilities of the students.  It is these subtle additions that really makes the difference from an okay class to an amazing one.  I decided to teach the acrylic technique of palette knife painting with this group of students because I knew it would be a positive challenge for them.  My taking a risk, helped my students grow and the reward was to see the amazing artwork they produced. 


Painted by Arnold Kanewischer

Just because you take a creative risk does not mean that you will not have anxiety and fear.  Part of taking a risk is learning how to manage the fear and anxiety that comes with it.  Not every risk you take will produce a reward.  Some risks will turn into creative disasters.  That is okay.  There is opportunity to learn from failure and that is one of the ways in which we grow.  That growth helps us reach future rewards.

What do you need to do today to take that next creative step?  What risk will help you grow regardless of success or failure?  How can going further with your art and creativity provide you with an opportunity to learn and challenge yourself?  What reward are you seeking? 

Remember risk causes growth.  Growth helps one reach rewards.  Risk = Growth = Rewards

Nine Lessons from the Castle Garden Cats

While in Northern Ireland, I was able to see Belfast Castle and it’s lovely garden.  I also had the good fortune to have a chat with a lovely woman who worked at the castle.  She was very knowledgeable and told some delightful stories about the castle and the people who had lived in it.


One story that I found to be very delightful was about the tradition of the castle cat.  Apparently the Donegall family, who were the owners of the castle before its donation to the city of Belfast in 1934, always kept a white cat.  It was said that as long as a white cat remained on the premises good fortune would come to all who visit the castle.  When the city of Belfast took over the care and maintenance of the castle, they were not able to maintain the tradition of keeping a white cat at the castle.  To keep the spirit of the white cat alive and the good fortune going, nine cats in various incarnations (sculptures, quotes, mosaics, topiary, etc.) were incorporated into the garden.


It was fun to wander through the garden looking for the nine cats.  Nine cats are in reference to the myth that a cat has nine lives.  I found and took pictures of these nine castle garden cats.  I thought it would be fun to share them with you by pairing the photos with fun facts, quotes and lessons I have learned from or about cats.


Did you know that the average cat can jump eight feet in a single bound?  That is nearly six times its body length.  This fun fact holds a powerful lesson from our feline friends: one should not let things that appear challenging to hold one back from what one can accomplish.

My brother had a cat named Sanka.  She was a elegant, sleek, slender, highly intelligent, orange and white cat.  She seemed smaller than most cats I have known.  My brother is very tall, six foot four inches.  Sanka could jump from the floor to his shoulder in a single leap.  Everyone who witnessed Sanka’s leap from floor to shoulder were amazed.  To witness this little cat jump was to see elegance in motion.

Cats leap.  One could argue that this is instinct.  That it is in a cats behavior to know that it can leap and land on its feet.  How often have you thought about something and decided that it cannot be done?  For example.  I am to old to take piano lessons.  It would be unwise to switch careers after investing so much time.  It is dangerous to travel to foreign countries.  Instead of leaping, the person over-thought about this particular thing and it didn’t happen.

Making an excuse doesn’t change anything.  If you want to learn to play the piano, take lessons.  Start today.  Start tomorrow.  It doesn’t matter when you start.  You aren’t going to get any younger.  So do it.  If you are miserable in that job, make a plan and switch careers.  Yes you have invested time.  You can’t get it back.  But do you want to stay in a career you aren’t happy in?  Everything in life is dangerous.  Take that trip to Fiji, Mongolia, Sweden or where ever it is that you want to go.  Statistically you have a higher chance of being involved in a serious accident within one mile of your home than traveling abroad.  Leap.  Be like the cat.  Have faith in your ability to land.


A cat’s nose is as unique as a human fingerprint.  And speaking of fingers or should I say paws, cats are usually lefties.  Studies indicate that a cats left paw is typically dominate.

There have been too many studies to reference on why left-handed people tend to be more creative.  Let me share a couple of them with you.  One Study states that lefties have to find creative solutions to problems because they are living in a world where most things are set up for right-handed people.  Another study indicated that their creativity is based on the fact that they have to use both sides of their brain at the same time.  And yet another study suggested that they aren’t actually left-handed at all, but ambidextrous.  I don’t need a study to tell me that cats are very creative.  Maybe this is because they are left paw dominate or maybe it is because they are cats.

They are also incredibly smart.  My cat, Angus, will not play with a laser pointer.  When she was a kitten I got one and was moving the light around on the floor.  She played with it for awhile, but when she couldn’t catch it, she stopped.  She looked up to where I was sitting.  She looked at the red light on the floor.  Angus got up, came over to the couch, jumped up next to me, and swatted my hand that was holding the laser pointer.  She then turned away and jumped off of the couch and left the room.  From that moment on, she would not chase the red dot on the floor.  Angus had figured out that the object in my hand was making the little red light, she would never be able to catch it and therefore she could not be bothered to chase it.

The lesson learned here from cats?  Trust yourself and have the courage to let go of something and walk away.  When you figure out that something isn’t working for you, don’t continue to try to make it work.  Your actions are futile.  Let it go.  Instead do something where you can make a difference and see results.  (For a cat that may mean taking a nap in a sunbeam.)


In the previous photo there are two cat images together.  One is a picture of a cat and the other is a sculpture.  As the are hard to see, I have included the detail of the cats below.


In ancient times cats were worshiped as gods; they have not forgotten this.” -Terry Pratchett

Or stated another way.  Dogs have owners, cats have staff.

Speaking of the regal pasts of cats, I once read a great description about a cat that wrapped its tail about it like it was wearing the robes of state.  I think the above cat statue visually illustrates this concept.

In Ancient Egypt, when one’s house cat passed away, shaving off one’s eyebrows was done to show respect for the cat and grief at the loss.  Ancient Egyptians also mummified their feline friends to accompany them into the afterlife.


Cats seem to almost have supernatural powers.  A cats physique may have something to do with this.  Did you know that a cat has 3 eyelids which protect their eyes?  A cat has the ability to rotate their ears 180 -degrees with the help of 32 muscles that they use to control them.  All the better to hear you trying to sneak up on them.  The cats strongest sense is it’s sense of smell.  It is fourteen times better than that of a humans.  They rely on this sense to identify people and objects.  Cats also have the ability to twist their bodies when falling, enabling them to land on their feet.  This ability helps them reduce injury and maintain their balance.  These “supernatural” skills may have contributed to people’s fear of them in Europe during the Dark Ages.

The lesson here is to not make a judgment about someone or something until we have done the research.  Cats are not supernatural.  They are different.  And different is what makes living on this planet so much fun.  Learn about things, people and places that are different and celebrate how these differences enhance being alive.


The photo of the above mosaic shows that it has suffered some damage.  It was sad to see the damaged tiles; but it reminded me of another of cats unique abilities.  A cat has the power to sometimes heal itself by purring.  A domestic cat’s purr has a frequency between 25 and 105 Hertz, which happens to be the frequency at which muscles and bones best grow and repair themselves.

I have always thought that the cats ability to purr is magical.  And to find out that it has the ability to have healing qualities makes it even cooler.

I also believe that our feline companions know when we are hurting.  After my divorce, I was feeling as if my whole world was shattered.  Every night before bed my cat, Angus, cuddled up next to me and would purr.  She followed me around at home keeping an eye on me.  It was as if Angus knew that I needed her and her healing purr to get through that time.  I believe that she did help my heart heal faster.


The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”  -Leonardo da Vinci


Cats have it all: admiration, an endless sleep and company only when they want it.”  –Rod McKuen

Have you ever noticed that when a cat is ready to nap they decide where it is that they are going to sleep, they do their rituals for getting comfortable and instantly fall asleep?  I am very jealous of the cat’s ability to literally sleep anywhere.

Another ability of cats, that I have noticed over the years, is their ability to set boundaries.  When they want to be alone, you will not find them.  When they want attention, be prepared to pet them.  If they want your company they will follow you around the house.  It would be foolhardy to follow a cat around when they did not want your company.  Some may consider them to be aloof, but I think that cats are very discerning about who they will allow to pet them and for how long.


“Cats choose us, we don’t own them.” –Kristen Cast

If you ever go to Belfast, Northern Ireland, be sure to see Belfast Castle and take time to visit the nine Castle Garden Cats.  You may just learn something new and interesting.  And possibly create a tale of your own.


Recently, I had the great good fortune to pick up a book at a thrift store in Whitefish, Montana for a dollar.  A hardcover science fiction book by an author that I had not heard of before in mint condition, Polaris written by Jack McDevitt.  I was intrigued by the cover art.  (I know that you are not supposed to judge a book by the cover, see previous blog post on that subject here: Judging a Book by it’s Cover)  Once I read the description, I was hooked.

The description of the book from the inside of the jacket cover is as follows:

“The luxury space yacht Polaris carried an elite group of the wealthy and curious thousands of light-years from Earth to witness a spectacular stellar phenomenon.  It never returned.  The search party sent to investigate found the Polaris empty and adrift in space, the fate of its pilot and passengers a mystery.

Sixty years later, the question of what happened aboard the Polaris continues to capture the popular imagination, especially as the anniversary of the event approaches.  A major new book is planned, as is an auction of the things found on the ship – including personal effects of the missing.

Prominent antiquities dealer Alex Benedict manages to secure some of the artifacts before the auction.  But then an explosion destroys most of the collection, and an attempt is made on his life.  Convinced that someone is taking drastic measures to hide the truth about the Polaris, Alex is determined to uncover the truth – no matter how far he must travel across the stars, no matter the risk….”  – Polaris book cover

Jack McDevitt wields an interesting tale.  In this future time of space exploration and colonization, why does the captain and crew come up missing from the space ship Polaris?  This tale could have been told a variety of ways.  McDevitt’s writing is clever in balancing clues to they mystery, building relate-able characters, describing fictional places and keeping the reader intrigued.

All of the characters are interesting.  To me, the ship itself feels like a character as much as the passengers who disappeared.  And in the end part of the ship provides a very important clue that helps solve the case.  There is the story of Alex Benedict who secures and sells artifacts along with Chase Kolpath, Benedict’s employee, pilot and I would also say friend.  Chase’s voice narrates the story and I think that it is a creative choice that makes sense.  It becomes very important in sequences involving flight and space travel.  Because Chase is a pilot, she can describe the events in a way that is plausible and believable.

McDevitt has a talent for weaving humor into his descriptions of fictional creatures.  The following is a description of an evening on a planet that Alex and Chase were visiting and their experience with a yoho.

“It became an interesting evening.  The snowstorm renewed itself and turned into a howling blizzard, there was an earthquake warning at about the time we were going to bed, and a few hours later they evacuated the hotel because a yoho got into the building.

The yohos, it turned out, were arthropodic creatures with a taste for people.  Fortunately, they only showed up five days out of the year, which coincided with there breeding season, and on those occasions they rarely left the beach.  After an hour of standing in the snow, we were informed by management that the yoho had gone, everything was okay, and we could go back in.  When we got to our suite, we inspected it carefully and locked the doors.”  –Polaris, page 265.

The following is the description of a planet that Chase and Alex fly by during their investigation of the disappearances of the captain and crew of the Polaris.

“Markop III was hardly worth a visit.  But we went anyhow, because Alex insisted on being thorough.

It was an attractive world, lots of blue water, fleecy white clouds, herds of big shaggy creatures that made great targets if you were into hunting.  The weather through the temperate zones was almost balmy.

If it was inviting, however, it was also potentially lethal.  Unlike the vast majority of living worlds, its viruses and disease germs loved homo sapiens.” –Polaris, page 317.

My overall take on the book is that it is an interesting story that has a satisfying ending.  It was fun to read from beginning to end, with the mystery keeping me guessing throughout the novel.  If you enjoy a good mystery with your science fiction, I would highly recommend this novel.  If you have read the novel and would like to talk about it, please leave a comment or write to me through my contact me page.