The Deer

Two days ago, I wrote a poem. That shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, seeing as I have been writing poetry for almost forty years. And yet it was a shock to my own person. And that statement begs an explanation. So, here goes:

I am a former abuse victim, both psychological, as well as physical and sexual. That might not be news for many of you who have read my stuff in the past. But what I want to write about today is the reality of the long term affects of being such a victim. Yes, I am a survivor, but I am also very human. Which means I was conditioned to accept that kind of treatment, and learned some ways to deal with that reality. The main one was to silence myself. I have to be very clear here: I didn’t understand that I was silencing myself, I thought I was keeping me safe.

When anger or violence came into my present moments, I became the deer frozen in the headlights of any oncoming vehicle. I would still myself, because to do otherwise was to make myself the focus of that oncoming rage.

But then I went to college and found words and writing, but especially poetry. It was really difficult to allow myself a voice of any kind. I had to constantly fight my own ingrained response to whatever was happening around me. Eventually, the words won out and I accepted my new role as a writer. And after that, as an advocate for other survivors. It wasn’t easy, life never is.

College is a sheltered environment, meant to create an opportunity for discovery and growth. I flourished there and was scared silly when it ended. But the writing stood me in good stead, brought me awards and acknowledgement that eased the fear, and allowed me to continue. Until recently.

I leapt to join the #Me Too movement. It was something I’d unknowingly waited for almost my entire life. Why wouldn’t I? It was empowering to see and hear all these women speaking their truth. But, then came the Larry Nassar trial. I began shutting down, receding into my quiet, and mostly silent self. The enormity of what this one man did, and was allowed to do over decades, was too much to absorb. And disguising it beneath the white coat of a healer and care giver was beyond comprehension. This was just one privileged man, living in a male-dominated society. How many more could there be?

I turned away from the words. They no longer held meaning for me. Instead, I dove into my quiet escape of visual art. Didn’t realize that I was shutting down. Just taking a break, I told myself. I live in a world that has been completely altered. The man who leads my country is a self-proclaimed abuser of women, who calls his actions “locker-room talk”, and simply denies the numerous accusations that have been brought against him, defining them as lies, falsehoods, and the words of individuals seeking some sort of publicity. And his followers, whipped into a fury by any opposing voices, are willing to do violence both in word and deed, because he encourages that sort of behavior. I live in a world fueled by greed, whose leaders tell us that a massacre of children can only be met by thoughts and prayers, because they get pay-offs for not legislating the sale of guns. I could go on and on, but I won’t.

I’ll go back to the poem I wrote. It was very short, very simple, but I struggled for almost 24 hours about whether or not to post it, before realizing that I had allowed myself to slip back into that victim’s mode of silence. I thought others would laugh at its simplicity. They didn’t. I thought a great many things, before pushing that publish button, but did it anyway. I had to, because I am a writer, and words are the world I live in and have created for myself. And the poem pushed me to continue, to come here today and reassert that reality. I was that deer in the headlights, but I refuse to be frozen, to be silenced, especially by my own fears, old and new.

The poem may be found here:

It’s an invitation.

Elizabeth Crawford 2/16/2018

Elizabeth Crawford



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As a writer, I collect words. Going so far as to receive a new word, in my mailbox each day, from Dictionary.Com. I do that because they are not common words, not the stuff of everyday usage. I actually enjoy exploring their epistemology, where they originated and how they have changed over time, their history. The word that titles this post has been sitting in my mailbox for a week, just waiting for me, because the moment I saw it, I knew I wanted to write about it. But, I also wanted to give myself some time to gather my thoughts, which exploded all over the place when I read its meaning. It means: the process of forgetting.

Because I am also a creator of images (artist), I like to introduce, and enhance my posts with images, my own more often than not. This morning, when I came here, I didn’t have a clue which image I would use, so just started looking through my media library. When I found the one above, I figured it was perfect. It’s a pen and ink line weave doodle I made nine years ago, and it has always made me think of a woman, seated with her back turned, with all of her myriad memories clinging to her. They change and are altered by simply existing, moving one from another, flowing together as memories have a tendency to do. Meaning one thing in the moment, but pulling up others that somehow connect with them. Some of those memories are precious, held and kept close, while others we’d prefer never happened and often push away because they hurt or distress us. But both have value because they help us to understand the individual we have been, and that one we are becoming.

I have good memory function.  Not eidetic, or what is called photographic, but more like good recall. When I read something, and later want to go back and check it out, I can usually remember what book it was in, approximately where in the book it might be located, and sometimes even which page (right or left), and which position (top, bottom, or middle) on that page where it might be found. Of course, add strong emotions ( like relationships) to that, and it becomes a different story.

Forgetting is a natural part of living life everyday. And that has been the cornerstone for all of the writing that I do. If one writes it down, one is far more apt to remember it, most of the time. Writing it down means making note of it, making it noteworthy. We make grocery lists because we don’t want to forget what we need when we are there in that huge supermarket being stimulated by all those people and choices, colors and noise, smells, and a ticking clock. How much more important to remember special people we meet, occasions that altered our way of thinking, or changed our patterns of behavior, good or bad? Words that we hope we may always remember, or attitudes we wish to mirror?

We already know that we are prone to forget, to lose track of things we wish to remember. It is a part of life, and a piece of everyone’s experience. It is oblivescence. Although I agree with Clarrissa Pinkola Estes, when she writes that nothing is ever lost from the human psyche, I also know that we do forget, especially when we most truly want to remember. We pick things up and set them down elsewhere, then spend lots of time trying to recall just where we put them. But, like the woman who spends an hour trying to find her glasses, only to find them perched atop her head, instead of on her nose, we have simply placed them elsewhere. Perhaps on the top shelf of a terribly cluttered closet in the back hallway of the mind. Like those bright red mittens, now faded, but kept because they were a gift from someone who truly understood our love of the color and the real warmth behind the giving.

That’s why I really started writing. Keeping notes on what I wanted to remember. I had no way of knowing that it would become more than a desire, but a calling, and eventually a profession I would teach to others. This blog was started ten years ago, and no, I don’t remember everything I’ve written. Which means I come back here, not just as a writer, but also as a reader, pleasantly surprised, at times, to find sense and meaning in what I’ve done. But also to remind myself of who I am, what I want to be, and even how much more I could still do.

The process of forgetting has a purpose. It makes room for more gathering. We want to remember certain things, or deny that others even happened. Memories help us learn, sometimes what we don’t want to be or become. Forgetting is not always a permanent loss, more often it is misplacement. And writing is the greatest tool for keeping certain things where we can find them again, and even learn more from them.

This one word had me pondering for days. And no, I haven’t even scratched the surface of all that it brought to mind. That might come out in further posts. It just helped me to remember how and why I love words enough to keep writing them.

Elizabeth Crawford  2/6/2018

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Awakening Moment

When I woke, this morning, an image came into my head. It was a long ago memory, but I suddenly understood something that I have always been curious about. Yes, I am a writer, and have been writing for close to forty years, but I also dabble in visual arts. And have been doing that a lot longer. I call it dabbling because it’s playing, for me. I don’t take it seriously, it’s more of a hobby, a result of my own deeply embedded curiosity. “If I go this way, where will it lead, and what will be the result?” In other words, if it doesn’t work out it’s not a big deal, but it might lead to more ideas, and that is just plain fun.

But, writing is different. It’s far more serious, somehow. When I sit to write, I usually have a simple, but specific plan. A path that includes a beginning, a middle, and an end, a conclusion. Those three things might be represented by no more than three words. The rest is up to me and how well I follow the path I have placed myself on. And, I must add, this is work. It takes careful thought, the ability to choose just the right words, in just the right manner, so that whatever I am choosing to say is comprehensible to others, able to be understood. At least, that is my hope.

The awakening moment, this morning, came from when I was in fourth grade. My teacher had taken me aside and told me that I had been chosen to attend a special drawing class being given on Saturday mornings at another institution. The special class teacher was a well known artist, and I’d have to get permission from my parents to attend. I did so, out of curiosity, and my parents agreed, after an initial period of indecision. I had no idea that I was the only one from my school who would be attending. And, perhaps, the only one invited to do so.

Family dynamics are often a tricky business. My older sister, by three years, had already taken possession of the family’s ‘artist’ designation. In high school, everyone knew that she was headed for a position in the visual arts. After graduating, she worked at a local paper mill as a commercial artist, and later worked for the State Historical Department in the same capacity, while developing her own niche as a painter.

Meanwhile, I found work at a factory, behind a machine, and then became the relief girl as I knew how to work all of them. But, due to physical issues had to quit. Got married and had four kids, and continued to dabble with all kinds of crafts and art projects. Finally decided to try college due to that unstoppable curiosity, and found several things. I could write, I loved learning, and my marriage was a mess. Got a divorce, graduated with two degrees, honors, and later was invited to teach writing at the same University, because one of my poems anchored an anthology that was nominated for a Grammy Award.

Now, back to that awakening moment. Back there, in fourth grade, I had no idea that I had been chosen to participate in a special program. And, although I was often awarded for my artistic talents at school, I also knew it caused a problem at home. I was somehow, inadvertently invading my older sister’s space. The moment, I finally remembered was when that special teacher took me aside after viewing a pencil sketch I had done of my father. She asked me several questions about how I had come to do that, and if I’d ever done anything like it before. I told her the truth. She had told us to try sketching different things in our own home. I’d never tried to draw another person, so decided to try doing a picture of my dad. I didn’t think it was all that good, but she felt otherwise, especially because I was only ten at the time. The following week, I told my parents that I really didn’t want to go back to the class, and they seemed relieved at that decision.

All those years later, in my second year of College, one of the first poems I had ever written, won first place in a writing competition on campus. I dug in and learned as much as possible for the rest of my college career. I had finally found my own space, one in which I wouldn’t be stepping on anyone’s toes. I never lost my play space however. When words fail me, I turn to lines and colors and get lost in them until I find my equilibrium again. In that way, I keep both of my favorite spaces and they serve me well.

Elizabeth Crawford  1/28/2018

Image is a kaleidoscope made from a bonfire photo taken in my sister’s backyard.

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The Business

I am back to business, writing. Finishing up a year-long online class, while dipping my toes in something called Micropoetry, but doing it in my own fashion. A poem a day through the month of November. Although I can, and have done, my share of writing form poetry, I definitely have a rebellious streak, and enjoy engaging it, especially when writing. I have decided to define my postings as Stray Thoughts. No particular form, just an exploration of a thought in a conversational format.

Back in college (I attended when entering middle age), I repeatedly heard one rule in all of my Creative Writing classes: Writing is a discipline, there are rules and you must learn all of the rules. Only after first learning all those rules, by practicing them over and over again, may you break them.

Having a rebellious nature, I took that statement as a promise, not a caution. I set about learning the rules (at least most of them), but with one eye on that priceless promise that one day I could (and would) break them.

What can I say? I was already in my late thirties, newly divorced, with four children. I had a great deal of learning to do, and not a lot of time to do it in. Needless to say, it was an intense time period. But, I did learn a great deal, and far more than just the rules of a writing discipline.

For instance, I learned that my fellow students (most of whom were half my age), had a great deal to teach me. They knew that all work and no play makes for a very dull Jack or Jill. Play was a needed release from that intensity of focused learning. And learning how to play with others, is a necessary discipline of living life fully. But, there are rules to that as well. The desire for acceptance and belonging are built in, but can become dangerous if they become the primary goal and engender a loss of individuality. Conformity may look like unity, but in reality, it strips its membership of uniqueness. They, in turn, become susceptible to any false leadership, having given up their own right to determine an individual future.

So yes, I learned how to play, but also how to retain my right to go my own way, and even break the rules where and when it was necessary. Because of my age, my student friends often sought me out for leadership. Sometimes I accepted that role, other times I simply said, “I have to go home, make dinner for my kids, and then study for an exam.” Sometimes leadership is done through example. Not that I knew that at the time, I was still learning, and for me, learning was as much fun, as playing. In a very real sense, learning is playing. Playing with ideas.

So, I’m back in business. I’m writing, doing it in my own way. Do you ever break the rules? How and when?

Note: Image is a pen and ink doodle that always makes me think of how individuality can cuddle up next to conformity and form a better, sometimes even, more pleasing image.








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In Black and White

My niece challenged me to participate in the seven day, black and white photo challenge on Facebook. We were to post a b and w photo each day without explanations, and without people in the images. The hardest part, for me, was to challenge someone else each day. I have too many online friends, family, former students etc. But, I did manage it and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

I have spent the last three months preparing for an Arts/Craft Fair. Inundating myself with colored kaleidoscope images I’ve created over the past few years. I also created a small, take along coloring book, and a series of Templates for others to color. It turned into a sort of cataloguing experience because I hadn’t really kept track of all the stuff while I was busily entertaining myself by simply playing with them. The Fair was a flop due to mismanagement and other unforeseen factors. And yes, that took the wind out of my sails.

But, the black and white challenge helped me turn the corner and find me again.  You see, I stopped writing during that time period of preparation. And afterward, was finding a blankness every time  I even considered the possibility of doing so. I had ideas, but couldn’t find the thread that would allow me to continue. It wasn’t so much a writing block, as it was more a writing cramp, taking place deep inside of me. I did do some writing, had to, because I’m teaching an online class. But, it was difficult and I felt no real satisfaction in the doing of it. And that has never happened before.

Writing is a door I walked through many years ago. Didn’t know, at the time, that it would become the cornerstone of my existence. That it would be, and become, my truest definition. It fueled all my other creative endeavors.  Especially those that had been dormant for so many years: the sketching (doodling, digital painting, and the love of color). And yet, here I was, almost daily, turning away from this cornerstone, distracting myself with binges of watching old TV series. The very thought of writing brought on that psychological cramp, and I’d come to in the early morning hours, knowing I’d just wasted another day.

I tried to color, even bought myself a new set of pens, different from those I’ve been using for years. Realized I didn’t really understand how to use them, but instead of setting myself the task of learning how to do so, dove right back into the old TV series. But then, came the photo challenge. Black and white, no people, no explanations, but had to be about my life experience.

I have a lot of photos, most of them in color. No problem changing them to black and white, done with one click. These are the first six photos I posted, and what they have come to mean to me personally:

Lightning Strike

Pelicans symbolize buoyancy



water symbolizes life = ever moving, evolving

individuality – personal power

fawn – deer symbolize the need to be gentle with self

Had no idea I was giving myself such a clear and well defined message. Was far more interested in what I saw in the images without the distraction of all that color. The details began to jump out at me. But now, I had to put up the seventh and final image. It was a toss-up between two images. The first, being a photo of a portion of my library. All my books on writing and things I had published or been a part of publishing, my reference materials, and things I’d used while teaching writing. I hesitated to use that photo, because when my niece had done the challenge, she’d used a photo of her book shelves, and I didn’t want to look like I was out of ideas and copying her.

I got out my camera and started taking pictures of my office. That’s when it hit me. Everyone knows how much I am into dragons. That I see them as teachers, a higher life form, come to help us be better human beings, and especially to help us grow out of old coping mechanisms created when we were children. This was my final b & w photo.

He was a gift from one of my students and takes a prominent center place on the upper tiers of my huge desk. He’s actually a large sculpted candle (never to be burned), deep purple with bright red sparkling eyes. Purple is the color of personal power and red is the color of Creative Fire. His name is Neosaphalus and I do believe we are back in business.

Elizabeth Crawford  10/24/2017




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Yesterday, a poetry prompt site I often respond to, asked for poems concerning the subject of respect. ( ) The deference we offer, as individuals, to those around us. Although several things came to mind, when I read the prompt, I decided to let it go because I’m still quite busy getting ready for the Art Show, and had taken part in an interview, on the same site, the day before, using most of the day to respond to the comments from individuals within that community. They had given me, a great deal of respect for my ideas, as well as my poetry.

I usually begin my day, by coming here to my computer and checking out what is going on in the world around me. Imagine my surprise, when the first article I read was from Reuters, about how Mexico has sent a group of aid workers to Texas to help with the relief of the victims of Hurricane Harvey. That article may be found here:

Given the fact that our president has, to some degree, been elected because of his desire to build a wall on our border to Mexico, and has just recently pardoned a man who defied the law in order to continue his personal persecution of those of Latino descent, such an act on the part of the Mexican Government is beyond amazing. What’s more, it is deserving of the greatest respect we, as a nation, have to offer.

Over the past year, our world has been seeded with an astounding amount of division, mistrust, and outright hatred. It has affected everyone. The dis-ease we feel is a palpable presence in our everyday lives. And affects even the most mundane activities we are involved in. I, for one, have little or no desire, to go out into such a world. Fear is crippling, and it is growing stronger every day, fed by the divisiveness of distrust and explosive anger, and fueled by leaders who see diversity and science as weaknesses, instead of the strength and progress they underscore.

Into all of this distress comes a Hurricane. A deluge of tragedy, crippling loss and unbelievable harm. Thousands evacuated from their homes, left with nothing to begin again. And yet, Mexico, with every right to turn its back, instead offers aid and solace. And by doing so, gives us the greatest show of respect one might offer to another. One can only hope we are wise enough to extend our own respect in return. Given the opportunity to learn what might be the greatest lesson humanity can encounter, I must applaud and humbly say, “Thank you.”

Elizabeth Crawford  8/31/2017

Notes: Image is a digital painting done many years ago, with the help of a friend whom I deeply respect and care about.








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Indigo Blue

Digital Painting
Elizabeth Crawford

I have this thing with Indigo Blue. It started a long time ago, actually the first time someone told me to try playing with the paint program on a computer. That was almost thirty years ago. The image above, was the result of my ‘playing’. The paint programs, back then, were pretty simple, but still far beyond my ken. I spent a good amount of time just swirling the color around, not with any intention of creating a picture, but simply enjoying the play and the movement.

Until, I realized I had created a background sky of my favorite time of day: twilight. And, decided to take the next step, like maybe putting a tree up against that background. It took a while, but when my friend came back to see what had kept me so quiet and busy, she grinned and said, “Not bad, for a first attempt.”

I nodded, and said, “Too bad, I don’t know how to draw a bird of prey, that would be perfect, having it coming in to perch for the night.”

“Well, that’s why they have a cut and copy/paste function. So you can do that.”

“Have no idea what you mean by copy and whatever. You forget, I’m a writer, not an artist.”

“Move over, Grasshopper, and I’ll show you.” I did.

“First we have to find the actual shape you want. We’ll go looking for a bird of prey, you think is appropriate.” We did that and found one that was suitable.

“Now, I’ll cut it out, and then we’ll paste it into the background you have created.”

And I promptly lost interest and wandered off elsewhere. Only returning when she called my name. When I was finally seated next to her, she asked me where I wanted the bird, and I pointed to where I thought it should be. Then watched as she carefully positioned it, and clicked. Then with a few strokes, added a bit of the color already on the monitored canvas, and there was the image, I had imagined in my mind. It was magic. And I clapped in whole-hearted appreciation. Then I carefully transferred the image to a floppy disk, yes, that’s how long ago this took place. And it marks my falling in love with Indigo Blue, which continues to this present moment.

When I feel a bit lost, out of sorts, or just plain angsty (I just made up that word), I will eventually find myself in front of the paint program, dabbling with Indigo Blue (even its name feels good on the tongue).

And can see my own slow progress, as I eventually became more proficient with the always changing and new effects within whatever paint program I might be using. The friendship hit some very turbulent waters and ended in ten long years of silence. But, I never lost my appreciation for that search in twilight shadows.

Staring Into The Future
Digital Painting
Elizabeth Crawford

A single phone call put an end to that silence, and we began to chat, regularly on Messenger. In the course, of which, we also began sharing the different art things we were doing. I sent her an image of my first attempt at creating a rainbow. It had started, once again, with swirls of Indigo Blue. When I shared it with her, I told her that I thought lightning might be better than my attempted rainbow. She sent it back, only a short time later, having replaced the rainbow with lightning.

Having spent the past few weeks, sorting through my picture files, I’m very aware that Indigo Blue has spoken to me in all the forms I have used to express myself. That would include some photography,

my pen and ink doodles,

and even my kaleidoscope images,

hand colored or from photographs.

Perhaps it is the call of the sea, buried in the human psyche, calling us back to our beginnings. On a personal level, I find something soothing and comforting in its language. It speaks to me on a deep soul level, perhaps in words, or music, I can’t translate in any other fashion. Only know that I will continue to seek it out, wrapping myself in its comforting wisdom.







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Fire and Water

Am up to my ears in ink, kaleidoscope photo prints,

coloring templates,

colored and not,

bonfire kaleidoscopes,

and Black Gold photo designs.

Don’t really know if I’m treading water (never did get passed the doggie paddle), or running from the fire of my own creative urges. Having committed myself to this Art Show, I am now lost in the sheer volume, and amount of things I have done while “playing.”

Because all of these images were made because I was having fun, exploring, and trying to see where all of it would go. But now, I have to make choices. What to take, what to leave out? What will sell? Just because I like something, doesn’t mean others will do the same. And, of course, as I’m trying to make those choices, other ideas start popping up and I end up making even more images. Like the bonfire image above. Couldn’t resist trying a bit of distortion and this is where it took me.

I like both of the images, but I have only so many I can choose. So, I find myself moving between treading water, and running from the fire I myself have created.

I work on it everyday, telling myself it will all come together somehow. I have at least one month to get it together. And, at this point, I don’t know if that together is me, or the images. I’ve even considered going out and finding a perfect stranger. Hauling him, or her, back here and letting them make the decisions.

I’d like to ask my sister, but she is recovering from wrist surgery, and getting her own things together. She did come, one afternoon, with a box full of frames that I might want to use to showcase a few of the prints. Just another set of choices to be made. Tried to enlist my helper’s advice, but she just shook her head and said, “You are the Artistic one here, and I know nothing. ”

So, I’m on my own, all because I really enjoy dabbling in color, and making unusual things. I’m pretty sure I knew that to begin with, but resistance is a cornerstone of any creative endeavor. We resist because we are afraid. Will we, and our creations, find acceptance? I also know the answer to that one. Won’t know until I put them out there and give them a chance. So, I guess I have to jump into the fire and find out.

Which only reminds me of this:



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A Bonfire Celebration

Have been here, several times, but couldn’t collect my thoughts enough to write anything. That happens at times. And is usually depressing on some level. However, this time it wasn’t. I’m still teaching online, and working my way through my own current assignment. Can’t ask someone else to do what I am unwilling to do myself. It also allows me to model what I myself, as a writer and reader, would look for and find satisfying.

This part of the writing had to do with the rewards of going through an Ordeal experience. It highlighted the use of a campfire, in books and movies, to acknowledge a new level of camaraderie, bonding, and even romance (not necessarily sexual). An opportunity to tell the story of the Ordeal, what was done, the actions engaged, and to celebrate and remember the experience, for all who took part in it, and those who couldn’t for one reason or another.

I had written about an Ordeal experience from middle-age. And until that incident, had never really experienced a bonfire, other than as a cook-fire for hot dogs and marshmallows.  But, a friend, who had been through the Ordeal with me, introduced me to the absolute delights of building a fire and just sitting around chatting and reminiscing. And, to be honest, began a life-long love affair with that particular experience. So much so, that even my family knows that a sure way to get me out of my hermitage, is to invite me to take part in just such a gathering.

When I came here, I was again, hit by that nothing coherent to write about thingy. But decided to take a look at my media gallery to see if I might find some inspiration. This blog was started in 2008, which means there are a lot of images in the media file. But, I kept looking and finally came upon the bonfire photo that introduces this post. It is from 2012, five years ago.

I have been putting some things together for an Art Fair that my sister plans on attending. She loves the digital art I do, but her favorite is the kaleidoscopes I make from the bonfires, we’ve had in her backyard. Not only did I find something to write about, but now have a new set of images to show her, as well.

I love it when everything comes together and makes sense, and includes a delightful surprise, as well. All of these images came from that single photo, I took years ago. I’m pleased, and my sister will be happy as well.







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Black Gold

The other day, I was looking through my files to set aside for an upcoming Craft Fair. My sister had suggested that I might want to pull out some of my doodles and make some black and white prints. I was inverting some of them, just as an experiment, when I came across one done in blue ink, rather than black.

Without a thought, I inverted it and what came up was that first image. I love Happy Accidents. My mind started jumping, so I immediately took the black and gold image to the kaleidoscope app, and started playing with it.

I felt that I had struck gold, literally and figuratively. I stayed with it for quite some time.

Thought they were amazing and before I knew it, I had over twenty different images. Each one different, but all of them unique and more than pleasing.

The last one had a blank black center, and I wasn’t sure I wanted keep it. Then remembered some of the things I used to do with other images. Did a bit more playing and digital sketching. Did I mention, I love Happy Accidents?

Decided to title the whole series as Black Gold. I think I might be busy for awhile.





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