Sunday, June 29, 2008


A watercolor artist friend of mine signed me up to a twice-weekly newsletter that I am really enjoying. The newsletter's author, Robert Genn, is an accomplished artist. As well, his style of writing is thoughtful, intelligent and wide-reaching. This is more than a newsletter for the painting artist, but is an insightful, thought-provoking, teaching newsletter that covers all spectrum of the creative. I've learned so much, including terminology that apply to arts of all kinds.

Like "shibui." From Mr. Genn's May newsletter "Shibui is a broad term that can mean irregularity of form, openness to nature, roughness of texture, and the naturalness of daily life. Also known as Shibusa, it refers as well to the Japanese "Seven aspects of being," which are simplicity, implicitness, modesty, silence, naturalness, roughness and normalcy. It's seen in raku pottery, architecture, folk crafts, haiku, gardens and painting. Shibui is worth thinking about no matter where you are or what your art."

Sharing this particular newsletter topic with my road trip buddy, Carroll, she began lamenting that she had zero artistic tendencies. I vehemently disagreed. She is a fabulous cook, putting the term "shibui" into play with each dollop of cream or sprinkle of herb. Rarely does she use a cookbook, choosing instead to pull culinary masterpieces together from what's in the cupboard on any given day. She does this successfully day after day with yummy results. THAT is artistic, as are her cottage gardens that are delightful paintings of blossoms sprouting up randomly and sporadically through flagstone pathways. Man...can you get any more artistic than that? I think not. Cooking and gardening are shibui in action.

Had I known of this term before I might have titled my blog "Shibui." Many of you are aware of the inner struggle I'm having with whether to keep my blog random or reign it in to one subject. However, Life blesses me with so many lessons each day that I just can't hold it all in. One day I'm compelled to write about a family member and another day some bold insight comes to me during a walk and I have to share it. My thought process is irregular in form. Obviously, I'm extraordinarily open to nature. I'm drawn to roughness of textures, whether tree bark, surfaces of stones or pollen covering a bee's legs. These details and patterns tell a deeper part of nature's stories and reflect the naturalness of daily life.

My blog is an artistic outlet for me. Blending music and photos with writing feeds a need deep within my soul. Further, communicating with like minds and meeting people around the world deposits another layer to my personality and character. My blog shall remain random and will remain Giraffe Head Tree as the concept of shibui will always be in the back of my mind.

If you are interested please do check out The Painter's Keys and sign up. I promise you will not be disappointed.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008


"Inside my head's a box of stars I never dared to open."
I grew up knowing in my heart that I was not creative. Shy, submissive, quiet, wallflower - that was me. Creative people got attention and I was uncomfortable with attention. Fast Forward to Today. As much as I enjoyed my childhood, I am really enjoying my age. No, not the new aches and pains but the freedom from caring what people think and a joyful sense of Self as I embrace my creative side. The sense of fear has been replaced by a sense of utter joy. Writing, photography, graphic arts, blogging, gardening, cooking, parenting...breathing.
It didn't happen overnight nor did it occur in a vacuum. I had a lot of help. Key were my parents who loved me and launched me with all the resources they had at the time. My father taught me to appreciate the wilds of nature while through my mother's eyes and ears I became aware of the smallest flower, a songbird's heartbeat and the sound of cicadas. They're still here for me. Throughout my journey of growth teachers and bosses granted me opportunities and encouraged me to create. Today, my friends give me wings and help me find my true path, my husband is my cheerleader and main support, and my daughter pushes me to try new things. Music releases my inhibitions and certain artists speak to my very soul. Sting, Chris Botti, Dominic Miller - whose works you hear on my blog - are keystone artists in my life. Life is good and I am creative.
"Outside the stars are turning."
Thanks, Sting.

Monday, June 23, 2008


"Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts." Arnold Bennett

A good friend recently shared with me her need for change in her life, to which I replied "me, too." She and I are so much alike. Similar ages and stages, similar unmet needs, similar ponderings.

I'm at a point in life where I know I need to make some changes, but am unsure of the direction. Neither journaling, blogging, praying, photographing or even drinking too much wine have offered enough insight to date. There is a fear involved when one begins to think of change in their lives, which is why I chose the quote that I did today. Whatever I choose to do to bring one or more positive changes in my life will indeed cause drawbacks and discomforts in some capacity. It sounds odd, but this quote struck home this morning. The knowing ahead that upsets will occur grants me some sort of ease. I'm better prepared, maybe. It's the flow of life.

It think change is rather like this tree you see above. It has changed over time, as evidenced by it's crooked trunk and random branches. The tree is not perfect but I was drawn to its stark, uneven beauty nicely silhouetted in a morning mist. This tree teaches me that one can change, endure the discomforts and still come out beautiful and happy in the end.

At least, that's what I see.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Lake

"A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. The fluviatile trees next the shore are the slender eyelashes which fringe it, and the wooded hills and cliffs around are its overhanging brows." Henry David Thoreau

I love living on water. The sights and smells and noises have become part of me. This place has given me inspiration, unleashed creativity and catapulted me out of myself, revealing the spiritual well within my soul. I cannot imagine another place that fits me better than here, on the water, surrounded by nature.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Things for which I am grateful for today:
Sunsets that bring me to my knees
Soft river waters
Fishy smells on summer days
Cacophony of cicadas on muggy evenings
The thrumming of passing barges that match my heartbeat
Good friends who "get me"
My good health and sharp senses that allow me these pleasures
My mom
...not necessarily in order.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


An overnight misty, dampness settled upon the lake cloaking everything in fog. The old sodium lights glowed orange along the roadway, their reflection barely discernible in the gloom. Bed came early, and we woke surrounded by a dense, white mist. Along the front path spiders had woven their nightly magic, stringing garlands from leaf to leaf, branch to branch. The soft dampness had lined these webs with liquid pearls that glinted in the morning haze. The beauty was there, but there are those who never see that sort of subtle miracle.

There's much to be said for optimism. Optimism is seeing liquid pearls instead of brusquely brushing away annoying spiderwebs. Every day we are inundated by negativity. It surrounds us in every form of media. It's easy to get sucked into the mire and spiral down into a pit of hopelessness. Our challenge is to face the world with optimism and enact positive change in our own small way. Daily.

I'm an optimist, which annoys my husband and embarrasses my daughter.

I'm an optimist anyway.

Monday, June 16, 2008

To My Dad

My weekends were spent outdoors. My dad would load up a cooler with drinks and my mom would make sandwiches, packing up chips and cookies. We would load up in the car and drive to some wildlife refuge or riverbank or hiking trail. Or we would launch the boat and head to the nearest island, build a bonfire. We would explore the riverbank, climb the cliffs and see what we could see. We would find pottery and arrowheads - this was long before rules against such - and we would make paint out of mussel shells, marking our bodies with symbols and laughing. We would have lunch watching the barges go by, the silence only broken by their thrumming engines. I always looked forward to these outings with glee. Hot, cold, sunny or overcast - nothing dissuaded us. This passion for nature extended through my teenage years until college. Us kids became other-oriented, and the empty-nesters changed hobbies. Those days drew quietly to a close but they had changed me forever.

I had a great childhood. Not a "perfect" childhood, mind. My father taught me the love of exploring, that you're never really lost on country roads, that bobcats are cool, that trees make noise, that there's nothing anywhere as nice as the smell of woodsmoke from a campfire, how to make s'mores, that simple things are best. Take your kids out into the wilds and let them experience our natural world. It will stay with them forever, as it did me.

Thanks, dad.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Game

My creation, originally uploaded by debi.bradford.

Diane at Alberta Postcards did this game on her blog, and I found it fascinating. It's too hot to work outdoors today so I'm learning how to do this thang. Here are the instructions from Diane on how to play:

Here’s the how-to for playing “the Game”:

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page of search results, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

The Questions: (my answers in parenthesis)

1. What is your first name? (Debi)
2. What is your favourite food? (linguini w/white clam sauce)
3. What high school did you go to? (Sparkman High School)
4. What is your favourite color? (red)
5. Who is your celebrity crush? (Sting)
6. Favourite drink? (Merlot)
7. Dream vacation? (Tuscany)
8. Favourite dessert? (strawberries with chocolate)
9. What you want to be when you grow up? (happy)
10. What do you love most in life? (daughter)
11. One Word to describe you. (creative)
12. Your flickr name (bradford)

My challenge was to figure out how to get the mosaic onto my blog. I'm HTLM-Challenged, I'm afraid. But, I'm learning....I'm learning.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Road Trip - Montgomery's Birds

Gentle readers I must share my bird friends from Montgomery. First, the stately and elegant egret encountered at the Montgomery Museum of Art. This particular egret was extraordinarily used to people and allowed me to get quite close. A family with bags of bread kept him nearby and focused, allowing some nice shots including a lovely portrait.

My hotel faced a small man-made lake, punctuated at the center with a tall exclamation point of a fountain. The lake was healthy and popular, as evidenced by the presence of several varieties of ducks and the ubiquitious Canada Geese. I was delighted that a family of 5 were constant residents. I watched them over coffee in the morning and wine in the evening, enjoying the peaceful and tranquil sight. The parent's protective posturing was constant as they kept the three goslings close by, usually in between the two of them. They were a joy to watch, but I was careful to keep my distance so that Mr. Goose wouldn't become alarmed and give chase.

A sunset swim.

Finally, I'd seen flitting amid the cattails and grasses a little green heron, but was never able to capture him digitally. Loading up the car I hear all the birds sounding alarms and the little green heron is perched on a wire above the parking lot. Odd, that. Herons are ones to perch in such a manner. The reason becomes clear - a cat walking about underneath is causing quite a stir. Thanks cat - I got my photo.

So that's it. The birds of Montgomery, or those I spied anyway. The ones that gave me pleasure and added to the texture of the trip.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Road Trip - Montgomery

My daughter attended a leadership conference in Montgomery last week and through the weekend, representing her school among 150 other delegates doing likewise. She had a ball, learned a lot and made a great many new friends. Moreover, the experience opened her eyes to the future and changed her forever.

She had to stay on the Auburn University in Montgomery campus, so The Mama got to stay in a hotel. All. By. Herself. The hotel was new and located right smack dab in the middle of the exclusive EastChase shopping area. There was a fitness room, a pool, business center and great shopping and restaurants nearby. The suite had a separate living room with kitchenette, and a bedroom with two queen-sized beds that were THE most luxurious and comfortable beds I've ever, EVER slept in. I wanted to take one home. Actually, I didn't want to leave.

I decided to read and rest, pamper myself, and simply visit nearby gardens and museums. The first was Blount Cultural Park, which are the photos you see here. "Uniting art and nature which fosters education and the preservation of open space." This park was calling my name.

Driving in through curling roadways and gently rolling green hills dotted with trees and walking trails, this bridge, "Thunderhouse" and viewing deck, above, was the first sight that greeted me. "Thunderhouse," is named such as it provide shelter during the odd "pop-up" thunderstorms that are common.

Standing on the observation deck, this is what you see. There were Canada Geese in abundance, and many had babies in tow. There were many areas I wish I'd seen but didn't. The heat was pretty intense, and I wasn't acclimated to it. Still, this lush green park instilled within me a peace deep in my soul.

I was drawn to Shakespeare's Garden, which is located next to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival building. The bronze sculpture, above, is one of my favorite titled "The Puddlejumpers."

Lovely bench in Shakespeare's Garden where I rested and pondered.

These trees lined the paths within the garden. I thought they were sycamores, but can't find a sycamore listed on their website. More research must be done and I'll update this post when I discover what it is. Anyone know?

The lighted amphitheatre is the center for outdoor musicals, plays, concerts and lectures, in addition to being a prime location for weddings and receptions.

I visited the Museum of Art as well, but of course no photos were allowed. However, I was serenaded by two cute teenage guys who were playing guitars by the waterfall, entertained by children feeding the egrets and Canada Geese, and amused by the little goslings following their mom and dad around.
Getting away by yourself is good for one's mind. At first I felt a little lost, but the first moment I spent sitting by the pool dangling my feet in the water, a glass of wine at my side, I felt a wave of tranquility. I'll post more later.


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