Art In Public Spaces



One of the more pleasant places to hike in L.A. is just over the hill, on the Valley side of town. It’s technically called Wilacre Park, but everyone knows it as Fryman Canyon. Unlike a lot of our trails, this one winds through loads of trees, which makes for some nice shade. There are also gorgeous canyon views, as well as the occasional celebrity hiker. And if that’s not enough, the road away from the trail goes right past Clooney’s house. The area is amazing.


Anyhoo – right outside the park’s entrance there is an odd installation. It’s only been there a couple of years, and I’ve meant to stop by and check it out since first spotting it. Yesterday I did just that.



There is what one might call a dinner table, a bench and a nice seating area with a low occasional table. There is also a gorgeous kaleidoscope, made of wood and metal.


The pieces are attached for permanence, which is cool. But I can’t imagine ever actually using any of it. Sure – they’re fabulous pieces. But the traffic on that crazy busy street – Laurel Canyon – is loud and unending. Taking a breather there is completely unappealing, and probably hazardous to one’s lungs.



I appreciate the craftsmanship and the installation. I do wish it were located some place a little more enticing. But just the same, it’s nice to see someone thought to beautify that little piece of land. And make no mistake – the pieces truly are beautiful.

Saint Descenders – 5-Year Anniversary



Dear Saint Descenders–


5 years ago we set out to summit the 3 highest peaks in Southern California. I can hardly believe so much time has passed, but it has so there you go. When I first received the invitation to participate, I was more than reluctant. I didn’t know any of you gals, save for one, and though I tried to exercise on a semi-regular basis, I knew I wasn’t fit enough to handle the 2 highest climbs. In all honesty, the very idea of tackling such an ambitious goal scared the hell out of me. And to do it with strangers? I was mortified. So I did what any frightened, scared-of-new-people girl would do: I signed up for all 3 mountains.


I don’t know what you gals did to prepare for the hikes, but I started training. And researching. I knew the first climb – Mt. Baldy – would be 7.5 miles round-trip. I was already doing a 2.5 hike on a regular basis, so I set my sights on growing my stamina for 3 times around that trail. Doing it twice was easy. Wait, let me rephrase that: It was do-able. My body did fight back, and I had to up my walking in order to get used to the distance. The elevation gain was something I’d just have to wing. I had no real way to train for that, so I basically ignored that part of the challenge.


As for not yet knowing any of you gals, I guess I ignored that part, too. It isn’t that I’m a total recluse, I just sort of have reclusive tendencies. When I find myself at a party with strangers, I’m more than capable of socializing and participating in various conversations. It’s work, but I can do it. The way I saw it, I’d wing the social aspect of the project, too. I adore the company of women, so I looked forward to meeting some new-to-me chicks. But again, I didn’t over-focus on meeting y’all. I just filed away any anxiety I felt and hit the road. Besides, the greater part of my fear was anchored in the physical aspects of the hiking. I figured the social part would take care of itself.


By the time the first hike rolled around in early June, I was mortified. I didn’t tell anyone, but I was. My preparation training had found me walking an 8-mile circuit through some hilly neighborhoods on a regular basis. It wasn’t the same as climbing a mountain, for Pete’s sake, but it was something. When a group of us met at Kimberly’s house on the designated morning, I told myself there was no turning back, that I was committed. It was enough to get me out of the car, down the sidewalk and ringing the doorbell.


When I think back on it now, the walk from the street to that front door may have been one of the toughest stretches of the day. I wish I were more confident, but I waiver. And on that morning, I was downright wobbly. Maybe I was comparing myself to you girls. Maybe I was judging me. I’m not sure. When Kimberly opened her front door and smiled at me, I melted. There was an openness and an honest nature in her pale blue eyes. She was kind and excited. Her spirit immediately put me at ease and I even managed to relax. By the time we drove into the wilderness outside L.A. and took our first steps, I knew it was all going to be okay. And it was.


Because of varying schedules and the large number of hikers, I didn’t get to meet some of you. Over the course of the summer’s 3 hikes, I did spend time with a few different gals, and that was great. I also saw a few of you again and again. That brought me tremendous comfort.


I have no idea how you all felt about the challenge. I know some of you gals are in amazing shape and probably weren’t fazed at all by the 3 Saints. I know some of you went on to summit Mt. Whitney that September. I really appreciated being invited for that experience, but I knew my limits. Thank you for not holding it against me.


As we approach the 5-year anniversary of the Saint Descenders, I just wanted to thank you all for helping to make that summer such a vibrant part of my memory. I have not forgotten the snow or the rams at the top of San Antonio, or how Wendy and I came up with the name “Saint Descenders” as we hiked down the side of the mountain. I can still see Kimberly scaling a fence to jump into a closed pool – in her dress – the night before we climbed San Jacinto. I still smile to think of Lisa’s pink tutu, worn the entire 11.5 miles of that hike.


And I will never forget walking behind Diamond Deb, as we trudged the final steps of the 22-mile hike that was San Gorgonio. I remember wanting to cry, as I’d never been that wiped out before. The light was just starting to dip in the sky, casting long shadows beside the forest trees. We’d been hiking 11 hours and I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I focused on Deb. She wasn’t talking – none of us were – but she was moving, steadily. Because Diamond Deb has great legs, I didn’t obsess over the exertion. I just watched her legs, step after step, and I tried to follow suit. When I thought I was beyond saving, beyond those gorgeous gams even, I looked up and could see the parking lot. I’d made it. We’d made it.


I am very proud of the accomplishments of that summer. I’m happy I met you girls. I’m happy I met me. Some relationships never end.


Here’s to a new month, a new season. May we all bag some peaks.


Your pal–


Hiking in The Desert



I wanted to finish up my desert business by sharing photos from a hike.



This particular hike took place in Pinnacle Peak Park, and man oh man is it spectacular. Living in La-La Land, I’ve become a bit jaded when looking at vistas and backdrops. So much of what I see around home is fake. So when I took a gander at the surroundings of Pinnacle Peak, I wondered if it was real. I mean, the terrain looked like a freakin’ professionally landscaped garden! How was I supposed to believe my rods and cones were accurately interpreting a natural, random landscape? But then I thought about it and decided Mother Nature is surely the ultimate gardener, so there you go.



This particular Saguaro Cactus seemed to be pointing the way, so that no one would miss the trail.



Speaking of the trail, it’s only 1 3/4 miles long (one way). And it isn’t a loop, so if you find yourself in Scottsdale and decide to hike this lovely terrain, keep that in mind. No dogs or bikes are allowed, but there were about a skillion people on the trail the day we hiked it.



But oh! It was glorious. I highly recommend it.


Too Much



The other day, after P90X-ing in the wee hours, I went for a hike with my buddy. I thought I’d be fine, and that I could handle it. Boy was I wrong.


I had done too much, and my body sort of shut down. Just after the hike, all my joints started aching, as if I had the flu. Then I couldn’t stay awake. Around noon, I realized I might actually fall asleep – mid-step – and so I allowed myself to collapse into a nap. That 40 minutes of sleep didn’t quite undo the morning’s damage, but it sure did help.


If you’re exercising in this crazy heat, please be careful. Hydrate like crazy and don’t overdo it. Trust me. I know of what I speak.

Portable Lid




Yesterday marked the first time I’ve hiked in weeks. That’s right – my foot has healed enough for me to get some exercise. And while I was extremely happy about this, I was super-not-happy when Mister and I encountered rain, just as we were parking the car.


That’s when Mister turned to me and asked, “Do you want a hat?” And yes, yes I did want a hat.


Only I hadn’t brought a hat with me. I knew he had a baseball cap in the trunk, but that was his. So I wondered what he had up his sleeve. Turned out, he had a Portable Lid hidden in the car.


This Portable Lid was given to Mister by his friend, Jack Daniels. And it has come in handy on more than one occasion. When not in use, it’s only a few inches wide, and fairly flat. That equals easy storage. Once needed, you just turn it over, unzip it…



open it up…



and hole-y doughnuts! You’ve got yourself a Portable Lid.



It didn’t rain on us too much, and we finished our hike just fine. My foot held up, and is still feeling pretty good. You know what that means, don’t you?


I’m back, babies! Woo-hoo!

Slowing Down



Life is good, I’m fully aware. I am blessed to be able to work on art, projects, cooking, life. I get to hike in the mountains of southern California. And the weather can’t be beat.


I also get to slow down once in a while, at my choosing. And those moments are lovely.


Those moments are lovely. This moment, however, isn’t my choosing. And I Do. Not. Like. It.


I’m not sure, but I think it began with one of those So-Cal hikes. I talked Mister into taking a side trail, off the beaten path. It was a new view for us, and we had no idea the uphill portion would be a bit more challenging than what we’re used to. But there it was, so there you go. And y’all, once you’ve started hiking, there’s no stopping. You’ve got to get yourself out of there. Ain’t nobody gonna do it for you. So we trucked up the side path and eventually re-joined the known trail. For me, it was hard. But I did it, and I didn’t think anything more about it. Until about 24 hours later.


I was standing at the grocery store, choosing a can of garbanzo beans (I kid you not). I placed the can in my bag and stepped away from the shelf. That’s when it hit me. The foot pain was major, and ugly. I knew it wasn’t good. Not broken, but still not good. My doctor confirmed my suspicions: injured tendon.


So now I’m slowing down, more than I prefer. It isn’t easy for me, as I tend to define myself by how much I accomplish on any given day. Doing mostly nothing leaves me with a low sense of self-worth. I know it’s whack-a-do, but it’s just the way I am. It’s a bad habit and I’m working on it, but it’s tough to shake. This little injury has left me struggling already, and as Mister puts it, I am a terrible patient. But sometimes life doesn’t give a doughnut hole what I think/feel/want. Life just is. And right now, life means being laid up for a while. Maybe I’ll read. Maybe I’ll write. Maybe I’ll do both, and everything else that doesn’t require the use of my right foot. I don’t know.


But though I can’t see it now, I’m sure there’s an opportunity here – for something. Wish me luck. Like always, I surely need it.

Hiking The Beast



I haven’t hiked in a long time. I’m not happy about this.


But as it’s Mister’s birthday weekend, and he requested a hike of The Beast, well, I guess that’s what I’ll be doing today. God help me.


For the record, Mister hasn’t hiked since before my last outing. But he’s a boy.


What-evs. I will hike The Beast today. And I will survive. No, I’ll do more than survive. I’ll thrive!


If I tell myself that enough, it will come to pass, right?


Prayers gratefully accepted, y’all…

Nature Boy



I’ve written before about the fact that Mister and I enjoy hiking the hills around Los Angeles. It’s truly one of my favorite forms of exercise, with the added bonus of taking place in Nature. Living in a city can lead to Nature-cravings, friends, so getting a dose now and then is a very good thing.


We particularly enjoy a certain hillside trail. And when we reach a designated bend, there’s always a decision to be made. Do we a)turn around; b)keep following the trail; or c)head straight up the side of the mountain? We usually choose option a or b. But once in a blue moon, we boldly choose c. We climb The Beast.



The first time we did it was New Year’s Day. We felt we needed to prove to ourselves it could be done. And we wanted to cleanse away the previous year’s negativity through our sweat and exertion. We made it, and did indeed feel triumph after that hike. As I recall, we even worked out some life issues during the climb. It felt good. It felt honest. It felt flippin’ hard.


Anyhoo, I came across these photos from a hike when Mister felt the need to tackle The Beast. I felt no such need, so I sent him on his way while I walked the trail around the hill, to meet him on the other side. The above photo is The Beast in profile. That tiny blip on the side is Mister…



While he was out of my view and I was out of his, we both kept pace and thought. Maybe our thinking followed similar lines, maybe not. I remember it was super-quiet, and I don’t recall passing anyone on the trail. Without Mister beside me, forcing me to keep my speed up, I worried he’d climb and descend The Beast before I managed to get anywhere near our designated meeting spot. With that in mind, I stepped it up a bit and kept going. And though I constantly scanned the landscape for rattlers, I did manage to look up once in a while…



When I reached the meetin’ place, Mister wasn’t there. He wasn’t coming down the side of The Beast either. I waited patiently, then I waited not-patiently. Mister doesn’t bother one iota with fear-of-rattlesnakes, and I was getting worried. At about the time I was ready to call him on his cell, I spotted him – making his way down The Beast’s back. And he was smiling, the day’s triumph on his face.



We walked the rest of the way down together. We talked and processed some more. And it was all just swell. But I think the next time we’re up there and he suggests tackling The Beast, Lord help me, I’ll have to go with him. Hiking alone just isn’t the same. I miss his company, his voice. And let’s be honest here – he needs me to hike with him. Who else is gonna scream like a crazy woman when a snake comes into view?


I’m just sayin’.




I returned to painting this week, and it felt good.



I hiked again this week, and it felt good.


These activities have become part of my routine. They help keep me healthy and sane. During the last 2 months or so, I put these things on hold so that I could tend what I deemed more urgent business. While skipping painting and hiking may have freed up a little more time, it also had the undesired effect of making me a little more crazy. And friends, I’ve got more crazy than I know what to do with.


So I’m getting back into a few routines. I already feel better, and I’m looking forward to feeling fan-freaking-tastic.


Your pal,

Smiley Mik-B

The Cool Kids



Yesterday morning, I hiked with a friend and one of her sons. I’m not gonna lie, he slowed us down a bit. But he brought a lot to the hike, too. He told us about serial dreams and various nightmares, all in such detail as to give me the heebie-jeebies. This kid, whom I adore, is incredibly creative in ways I can’t even imagine. And he’s cool, to boot. Way cool.


On the drive home, I encouraged him to write down these wacky dreams. I told him to just put it all on paper and then push the notebook away. I told him he may find a brilliant nugget in those pages, when looking back at it in years to come. Hey, it worked for Tim Burton.


I don’t care that he slowed us down yesterday. Why should I? I got to hang out with one of the cool kids. And it was awesome.