Friday random

I really have to pick up the camera more. I’ve been really lazy these days and not working on art and artistic things…as evidenced by the hopeless lack of posts.

But work in the garden for the Art in the Garden weekend is continuing. I’ve planted a sedum collection in a pot and I have dreams of a living wreath or living wall…but it’ll take time because all these sedums have been stolen divided and shared and have come from family and friends.

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Clover is using this amazing product called Sculpey baking clay to make a weird and wild taxonomy of fairies for a Cabinet of Curiosity display for her art history of museums course. Here, with Morgan inspecting, (as usual), she’s just placing her fairies into the shadow box she’ll use for the project. That clay was super fun for her to work with and there’s a little left over. I think I might have a go.

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I’ve been putting in a bit of time in the new jewellery studio. It’s working really well on the bench in the sun. The only slight drawback is that I can’t see the flame of my torch in the sunlight.

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And, as with almost any new art discipline almost anyone takes up, it’s going to be hours and hours of solid practice before I get good at it.

Chloe turned 22 this week and I was determined to make her a special birthday ring. So, after about three tries, (all of which ended up in the scrap silver for lost wax molding jar), I finally succeeded!

I made her a ring with a piece of beach glass she found in Mexico.

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She loves it. :D I’m so happy.

Sharing with Nancy and the random bunch.

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The Magnificent Frigatebird…my tropical love

There was a time when I though I wanted to be an ornithologist.

Quite earnestly and sincerely.

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Either an ornithologist or a marine biologist, I imagined happy hours trampling thru forest and fields or wading in the ocean, scuba diving, collecting samples…But then I realised that what I really wanted to do is photograph and draw the things and creatures and not actually dissect them and pickle them in formaldehyde and that was that.

One of my biggest loves in the bird world is the Magnificent Frigatebird and I’m always thrilled when I see them, no matter where I am; can’t get enough of this aviary pirate, the Blackbeard of the sea.

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Today we were having a rest day. Every once in a while we declare a rest day and it seems to pay dividends in our future energy.

So today I decided to study the Frigatebirds and sketch some in my travelling sketch book.

I couldn’t really get up close and personal with them and so took a liking from some on-line images for the close-ups.

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We scooped ourselves one of the beach beds this morning, hung up our beach tote and stayed all day.

A certain freckle faced girl kept stealing my new sun hat. :D

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And I watched the Frigatebirds and sketched.

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And C watched the people around us and chatted with some of our fellow holidayers.

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I used my water soluble charcoals and watercolour pencils, plus a light green and a grey crayon and India inks, and slowly, over a few hours, Magnificent Frigatebirds began to emerge and started to do their rolling, boiling, tumultuous flight on my journal page.

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So here they are. I figure I’ve drawn four males and two females. We’ll call them Demetrius, James, Heyreddin and Eustace, Rusila and Elise. All fine pirates, all Magnificent.

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Beach tote from old paintings

So, I guess I don’t have enough to do with organising the house for Eugenia to take over while I’m in Mexico, and besides, I’m not leaving till this afternoon and I needed an excuse to spend more time with my flowers, I decided to make myself a beach tote to take to Mexico with me.

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Now I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and finally got around to it. I have a collection of old paintings. Either ones I’ve painted which I no longer love, or thrift shop finds, (because I get some idea or other in my head). In this case, because, as usual I have very little idea of what I’m doing or how it’s going to turn out, I used two thrift shop finds and leather straps from a thrift shop purse, (which was bought for the straps and purse was recycled.)

Total cost: seriously under $10.

Ran the paintings past C and we both liked a West Coast mountain one and a rich Mexican colours one. A sort of yin-yang balance.

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I’m sure you all know that my sewing skills are very limited by now, but a basic tote pattern is easy as pie and there are loads of how-tos out there. I winged it somewhat. No paper pattern, very few straight lines, and my wonderful little Bernina sewing machine chugged away straining a little to get thru the thicker parts of the canvas, but I managed.

C and I took turns sewing the handles back on by hand. The wonderful thing about re-purposing leather is that someone probably already made convenient holes in it for you. :D

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And, so here you are, our wonderful new beach tote is all ready.

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I’m glad I used cheap thrift store paintings because all paintings aren’t made the same and all canvas isn’t the same either.

The thick, chalky “Mexican” side is sturdier canvas and a better quality of paint and didn’t peel or crack, (although some of the heavy bits did break off), but the “West Coast” side was probably painted with thin acrylics and maybe not a great quality, and in the turning right side out, a lot of the paint powdered and fell off.

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Not that that bothers us in the slightest. We love the well used/aged/loved to death look, and want this tote to show its wear and tear.

Next stop: THE BEACH! :D

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Ok, one more shot of those amazing flowers before we go. :D

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Trying the lost wax method of silversmithing…it’s a long one.

So this has been a very interesting experiment in yet another thing I knew absolutely nothing about.

This two day process isn’t as easy or as straight forward as all that and I can tell you right now that I’ve had a more epic fail than success with it, but the success is so astounding, (to my little butterfly brain anyway), that I’m not giving up. No way! I will find a way to make this work. :D

I’ll try to describe it to you here although I can only tell you the basics.

Day one:

To make a silver cast I used organic matter, two sea shells and a branch, plus a wax ring form, understanding that all of this will be destroyed in the process.

The first step in the process is to fill the bottom of a rubber cup with a bit of wax. I did this by heating up the little sharp tool and touching the aqua wax buds till they melted.

Then the organic pieces are glued to a piece of wax stick with a tiny bit of yellow sticky wax, (peeking out of the upper left hand corner), using the same heated tool. Then they are weighed to determine the quantity of silver needed.

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Then a small part of the aqua wax is melted and the organic pieces stood up inside it.

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Here you see the organic pieces, the outside metal cylinder and a small lamp for heating the tools in.

It’s very important to keep the organic pieces away from the sides and well below the top of the metal cylinder and they mustn’t be touching each other. This is a bit of a juggling act.

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Then the pieces are sprayed with an alcohol coating to prevent bubbles from settling. Remember, the trick is to force molten silver into a mould and it’ll go into any bubble spaces.

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The metal cylinders are fitted into the rubber bowl around the organic bits and wax.

A white powder, called an investment, is mixed with water in a rubber bowl to the thickness of something like pancake batter…remembering to not mix in air and create bubbles, and the mixture is slowly poured down the side of the cylinder. Here Walt is demonstrating.

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The cylinders are filled to the top, or at least a 1/2 inch over the organic bits and the cylinders are tapped all around to dislodge any air bubbles.

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And now we wait overnight or so for the investment to harden.

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Day two:

This is a good way to use up all your silver scraps. The silver is measured out to the amount needed for each mould. Oh yeah, did I mention that one needs to keep a journal of this? One does. :D

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This is the machine which will deliver the molten metal into the mould. It winds up clockwise and is held by a pin and, at the right moment, the pin is released and the metal is forced into the mould thru a centrifugal force.

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This is the bucket of water for the finished cylinder and for any emergencies.

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The crucible which will hold the silver is heated to make the melting easier.

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Heat proof tools are at the ready.

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The metal cylinders, with rubber bottoms removed, have been fired in a kiln to burn and destroy the organic matter leaving a mould.

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Now they are removed one at a time and placed into the machine.

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The silver scraps plus some fresh silver nibs are heated till they melt and are a red hot liquid. This is one of the most beautiful sights.

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Here it is puddling already, I know, not a terrific shot. It’s really hard to get the molten silver to pose for a portrait.

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When everything is red hot and glowing, the pin is released and the machine spins the silver into the mould.

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Then the cylinder is removed. Here you can see the molten silver in the space left after the rubber bottom was taken out.

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The cylinder is plunged into the bucket where it fizzles and spits and generally does its best Vesuvius impression.

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The water turns milky white with the melting investment and the silver pieces are released.

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Here in the first cylinder you can see my branch…which broke into three pieces…and the shell which failed to break down in the kiln process, and so failed to act as a mould.

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The process was repeated with the remaining two cylinders with epic fails each time.

Oh well, the silver isn’t lost and can easily be reused, and a lesson well learned so all good.

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Not willing to give up on my branch, I took it to the jeweller’s desk and placed it on a fire brick.

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Made a jump ring, fired up the torch and soldered the broken pieces back on, and threw it in the pickle for 20 minutes.

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Then, three hours later, it was time to go home.

So here is a rough silver branch. Unfiled, unpolished, (that’s all to be done still), but I think it’s rather spectacular.

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I love how this process made a one-of-a-kind silver branch complete with lichen and moss. I love the delicate simplicity of it, I love that I made this…with Walt’s generous help. I can’t wait to try this again.

So there you have it. If you ever wondered how this is done, it happens something like this. Pretty cool, isn’t it? Hope this has made some sense, and at least given you a small idea. :D

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Connections, Kristen’s wonderful challenge

It’s funny sometimes how a spur of the moment though…actually, maybe it’s more accurate to say, a mind empty of thoughts, a mind in the present, how that inspires the perfect action.

I knew that the challenge word for this week is connections. I knew this for a full week and everywhere I went, everything I did, I saw connections in. But then, you might be saying, you can hardly help that, can’t you? Well, it’s true, but rarely do those connections inspire a meaningful piece of art.

Yesterday at the beach, it was gloriously warm and bright. I picked up a piece of orange nylon rope thinking I would recycle it properly, and, as I sat looking around me at the sunshine and the happy dogs I decided to save that piece of rope and weave it into something which connects.

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So I walked along the beach to find the perfect branch and some other objects and took them home.

I was going to wait till this morning to do something with them, but the evening was so lovely that I decided to start right then.

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I wove the nylon rope around the branch and thru itself.

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I found some ribbon and yarn and wove that in to symbolise seaweed and the reflection from shells.

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And then I went to get my other found goodies to add those on, phoned Robbie and went to bed.

Sent photos for the weaving to R and he said, “you’ve made yourself a talking stick. Even more connections. I like it!”

This morning my newly proclaimed talking stick lay on the dining room table.

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It sparkles in the harsh morning light, with its beads of birch bark, its combinations of man-made and natural elements, discarded and wanted, saved and used. Offers, connections, from the ocean and from my hands to your heart.

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I took it outside to greet the day and held it up against the sky.

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When you have a chance, the list of participating artists is here on Kristen’s site. :D

Hair, Nadine’s wonderful challenge

You know, I’m one of those persons who knows her art limitations. Really I do. I do but, as you probably suspect, I tend to ignore them.

Last week my friend Nadine invited me to take part in a weekend drawing challenge. Just like last time, the challenge was to take a word and depict it in an image. This word was “hair”.

Now I feel that I can draw almost anything, but believe I’m absolutely naff at portraiture. It’s true! But the more I thought about it, the more I really wanted to draw some beautiful hair on a beautiful girl. Growing up, I did the requisite copies of my favourite album covers and people’s images, (there’s a whole portfolio dedicated to Bowie somewhere at mom’s house I think), and I also remembered drawing mermaids.

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I used to draw a lot of beautiful mermaids. Some coming out of the water with long flowing hair floating on the waves, pearls and seashells dripping from their bodies, well, anyway, that’s what I decided to draw.

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So I started this morning and have my mermaid finished by lunch time. (Only one day late…lol)

Well, finished is a relative term. I believe I could be shading and refining and lifting and tweaking for another four hours. But that’s not going to happen today, because I hear the mountains calling my name. :D

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Thanks for this opportunity Nadine. And thank you for inspiring me to bring back a skill from my childhood and give it another try.

If you guys have a chance to, please pop by and visit the other extremely talented and fun artists:

Barbara, Tammie, Ariane, Carole, Demie?, Emily, Joanne, Patrice, Leena, Celine, Renilde, Kristen, Roberto, Kim, Mano, Stefanie, Nadine.
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Sunday Whirl…blame the first lovely wood fire of the year

I sort of started this whirl in the morning over a nice cup of tea and it went nowhere. But then got on with my day of errands and running around and by the time I got back to it, it was late afternoon and Chloe said, “mom, it’d be nice to have a fire tonight.” and then that was that, the whirl became all about the fire.

How does that happen? :D Thank you to Brenda for the manageable words this week.

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habits, create, however, virtue, regard, gap,
cycle, undoing, lessen, choice, gathering, suffering

You regard the virtue inside the cardboard rectangle that fits in so nicely in your hand.
Smooth edges turning between your fingertips, sandpaper rough against the soft parts of your palm, inside holding torches, slides in and out and in and out, its one function: to light your fire

Lessen the load by one wooden stick. That familiar cycle, strike and spark, ignite, flicker, flame, burn.

Smell of sulphur, of smoke, of late nights in a cabin full of candle shine, gathering twigs and pine cones that sizzle and pop.

Of nights in the ashtray of a hotel bar. Of stick after stick, smoke after smoke blending in the hazy grey.

Of habits in pockets, creates excuses for names and numbers, lives in the junk drawer in your house, measures your choice and suffering, lets you know where you’ve been, where you might go again.

A carbon copy waiting inside the chamber holding fire, sliding in and out and in and out, now it appears in your hand to strike, split-second gap, then ignite and burn, sizzle, pop, hiss, choke, sulphur smoke.

Do it again

However, that is your undoing.

Two more finished, that makes four full-sized maps

Today I finished the kingfisher map. I’m really pleased with the way this turned out, but I used chalk pastels to deepen the blues, (because the watercolours are just so insipid sometimes!), and now have to find my Krylon spray to fix the pastels before I can fold it up or do anything else with it.

I stuck it up on the mantle; which is looking a little less autumnal and a little more wintery. I’m so bad about all this “must-decorate-the-living-daylights-out-of-the-house-for-the-next-holiday” frenzy I see out there in blogland…but I love it…and more power to you guys!…I’m just not that dedicated and tend to put the kinds of elements together which make me happy with my space.

Right now this includes the angel I painted after grandma died, old photos of my children, a naive painting from the flea market, a thrifted mirror from some vintage bureau, and my English elephant with a new whale ornament hanging from his trunk…why not? (Did I ever tell you I’m addicted to glass ornaments?) :)

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I love the kingfishers! Wish I could see more of them at the Thames, but I’ve really only seen them a hand full of times over these past 10 or so years at our neck of the Thames…but then, I don’t really take the time to belong to and walk out with a British birding society and really only rely on chance. But that flash of blue…it’s just magical.

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Here is a close up of the two birds:

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I also put the finishing touches on the nuthatches…I think.

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That’s the trick, isn’t it? I was just thinking the other day how many times I avoid signing a painting. To me signing is declaring that the painting is finished. Which artist was it who said something like, “easy to start a painting and hard to know when it’s finished.” EXACTLY!!! I’m still not quite happy with the left wing.

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But love the descending nuthatch and the blue bells.

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So here they are on the fireplace mantle…really my most favourite spot to prop new works, and I’ll walk away form them this evening and come back to them in the morning light and reevaluate them for the millionth time. :)

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Now what to do next? I have a started map with a red tailed hawk diving down over a particularly unattractive and industrial part of England. Maybe I’ll work on that, but yesterday I felt like painting some British birds called blue tits. Seriously…and they say it with a straight face in an almost “I’m so sorry, it’s not my fault” way. Anyway, felt like it so I looked them up in my field guides and then went on google images and googled “English bird tit” OMG!!! Don’t ever do that!!! Just a warning. 8O

Sunday whirl brought to you by Starbucks.

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Not that Chloe and I don’t have enough Starbucks around here, we drove the seven minutes away to our old hood to hang out at the Sbux up there to have the very same Earl Gray tea I can make here at home for the price of a tea bag, which is much less than the $2 Sbux price. What’s that all about? And then we watched the lovely people stop by to get their own drinks for 17 times the price of the home brewed.

I was reading the Sunday whirl words and thinking that we’ve all got an addiction to coffee shops, to coffee, a psychosis, and so I let the whirl spiral right down into the dark roasted bitterness of it all.

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buckle, gain, miss, instant, navigate, grace
visions, humming, drill, dignity, years, stride

Coffee is really a dominant force in her life right now. It has been for years. It’s a sad thing, but there it is. She takes it in her stride… it’s a city thing.

She likes to stop for coffee on her way, pay her money and hand over a crisp, white Styrofoam cup. She likes the way it looks. The boy behind the coffee bar looks up and smiles; he knows the drill.

Sometimes she has a latte, sometimes an Americano, she never misses a day. She thinks about that time, thousands of years from now, when she and this country will be known for the things left for future generations: Styrofoam cups, plastic bottles; things which may buckle with age but not decay. She is holding in her hand molecules which will outlive her body. Thousands of years of existence for an afternoon coffee finished in ten minutes…in an instant.

No, it can never be instant. That was left behind a long time ago along with her memories of her mother, fat and nervous. How her hands shook as she pulled the wet linens out of the washing machine.
She snapped the sheet open, folded it and put it in the laundry basket, wet, folded, but wet.
Washer woman, lacking grace or dignity, navigating children and chickens, humming her way down the clothesline in the yard.

She blinks away the frown. She smiles at the Styrofoam cups covering every square foot of her living room, each an organic reminder of the day before. She looks at the clean white order of her days.
Someday urban archaeologists will excavate her home and find a large cache of these things, lovingly organised and ready for study. Oh what a gain for science, how glorious that will be.

She picks up the magic marker and writes 09,10,2013 (thought of mom)
She walks over to the window ledge positioning it carefully next to 09,09,2013 (bought new cups)

Sunday night whirl

Lovely Sunday Whirl words.

When I read them, I got a glimpse of falling stars and so went with the feeling.

A little fantasy/nonsense/whimsy then.

stars

chance, nest, secret, clever, swept, ripe,
blinked, stars, basket, flesh, saw, hand

We grab blankets to steel ourselves against the icy bite of the night air.
We tiptoe across the lawn to sit on the swinging chair under the trees as stars fall down like ripe plums around us.
We pluck them from their grassy nest to cart them home when we have found our fill.

I lay them out across my open hand to feel their weight before I place each one in our basket, then bend to gently sweep another free; for pull too hard and break their backs.
I hold each of the stars up in the glare of the moon hoping she’ll tell me which one holds a secret, or at least a clever clue, in the chance hint of moon beams, the magical, deceitful light.

You fear the ancient superstitions.
You say we shouldn’t let fallen stars see the moon or they will forever long to join her floating far above, forever calling, forever whispering her name in your ear.
You don’t realise that lying there in my hand they can’t call the moon, only feel her aching pull.

Each time I hold a star in my hand I long to see its light, feel its weight, let it warm my flesh.
But you are right. Each star that saw the moon blinked forever out of reach.
And the moon is distant, smiling, lost in her own perfect world, impervious to our anguish, calling us to where she knows we can never go.

My hands are cold. Cherry burning, huckleberry bright and cold.