Blue light haiku

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Blue lights in morning
pull close above winter’s gray —
words like stars reveal.

What is a haiku? It’s a short, three-line poem of Japanese origin that juxtaposes two images, often following a 5-7-5 pattern of syllables. A reference to the season, or a kigo, is normally included to signal the time of year.

One of the most famous haiku poets is Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), whose likeness is presented here by Japanese painter and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).

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You might be familiar with Hokusai’s legendary woodblock prints; they adorn everything from t-shirts to tote bags. Below is Under the Wave Off Kanagawa (c. 1830-31), which is also known as the Great Wave.

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Barnes & Noble sells a 200-page Piccadilly Sketchbook featuring the Great Wave:

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Thinking about trying your hand at a haiku?

Do it! And send it to me. Your piece might be featured on ink + sky.

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Note – The image of Hokusai’s woodblock print was found on Matsuo Basho’s Wikipedia.org page. The image of Under the Wave Off Kanagawa was obtained from the website of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

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New Year’s Adventure Journal

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On December 15, I finished the last page of my Viking Bear Journal. But several days prior to that I had selected a yellow composition book and an image — a greeting card from Trader Joe’s — to serve as my new journal, one that would take me into the New Year. Knowing that I would have to customize the journal by cutting up the card and affixing parts of it to the notebook’s front and back cover, I figured that I would make a post that includes before and after photos.

The above image features the tools that I used: an inexpensive composition book from Meijer, a metal ruler, an X-ACTO knife, 2″-wide STAPLES-brand packing tape, and a Creative Memories cutting board that I found next to a neighbor’s garbage can several years ago. (Why do people throw away functional objects?) The focus of this journal is the artwork featured on a Happy Birthday greeting card designed by Rae Ritchie. I found the card at TJ’s, so it only set me back one dollar. A buck!

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Who is Rae Ritchie? She’s a Minneapolis-based illustrator who has created work for a range of clients, from the Los Angeles Times to American Greetings to the Manhattan Toy Company. Purchase her prints and original artwork at her Etsy shop. Learn more about this talented designer at rae-ritchie.com, which is where I obtained this photograph:

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After spending ten minutes with the X-ACTO knife, ruler, and packing tape, here is the finished product:

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One aspect that I really like about this particular card is that it features artwork and text on the inside in addition to the expected “Happy Birthday” message.  The presence of the bonus language and illustration allowed me to adorn the composition book’s back cover with a small insignia:

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Wondering what that small red object is in the center? It’s a lantern. What better way to symbolize the concept of starting a New Year — and embarking on a new adventure! — than an old-fashioned lantern?

Here’s a photo of my first entry (penned several weeks ago) followed by a transcription:

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12-16-18  7:37AM — Starbucks, M-24

Yesterday I finished the last page of my Viking Bear journal, so today I begin a new one. This composition book lacks at [sic]* a cover, but I have selected the greeting card that will adorn the front (and back!) side. It’s a Trader Joe’s birthday card, and it will work perfectly because of its “new year” greeting and a scene of forest animals who are hiking into a “new adventure.” I’ll be proud to carry this notebook to the end of December, and then onto the first frosty days of the New Year.

Starbucks is quiet at this hour — only one other customer, a gentleman in shorts ( ! ) who is wearing an Oxford Wildcats t-shirt. There’s a few [sic] crew of baristas, probably six, talking cordially behind the counter. Even the drive-thru is slow. No music yet, which is nice. The silence is accompanied by pops, clicks, whooshes, and the low grumble of the garbage disposal: the sounds of preparing coffee and salvation for sleepy-eyed visitors. Before long the volume of the bean-machine will increase, and the silence of a Sunday morning will vanish beneath the clamor of orders and blenders and children’s voices.


My Challenge to You, Dear Reader…

Start your own journal in 2019, and begin a new adventure of writing, reflection, and renewal. If you choose to make this simple yet powerful investment in your health and well-being, please send me a photo of your notebook. I’d love to feature it on ink + sky as a separate blog post created exclusively for you. Think of the post as an affirmation of your bravery, initiative, and resolve.

Contact me here.

If you’d like some tips about the journaling process, please see my Getting Started page.

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* – [sic] is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase sic erat scriptum, which means “thus was it written” or “intentionally so written.” By including [sic] in my typed transcription I am alerting readers to the fact that an error — two, actually — was made in my hand-written journal entry, but that I am recording that error exactly as it was written.

Lucie Rice’s sports-themed cards

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Bowl game season is here, and if you have recently cheered on your favorite college football team at a friend’s party then you have several options for a proper thank-you: (1) send a thoughtful text, (2) place a phone call, or (3) mail a card like the one featured above by Nashville-based designer Lucie Rice. (By the way, doing nothing is not an option; hosts deserve gratitude.)

Curious about the cool purple dragon stamp? Learn more about the artist who designed it — as well as see the three other boldly-colored serpents in the series — in my post entitled Dragons are descending!

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Who is Lucie Rice? She is an artist and illustrator who, in her words, creates “whimsical and sometimes ridiculous imagery” for children and adults. Her work adorns book covers, posters, and corporate publications. In more than a few of her creations you can find references to animals, one of her passions. She and her husband live with two dogs, Lola and Hank. Learn more about this talented graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design at LucieRice.com.

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Through her affiliation with the Jen Vaughn Artist Agency, Ms. Rice has produced a series of blank cards (i.e. ones that feature no internal greeting) for grocer Trader Joe’s. That is where I purchased the football and basketball cards pictured in this post. And because they were obtained from TJ’s, the price for each one was a mind-blowing $1.00. That’s more insane than a 60-yard field goal or a buzzer-beating jump shot launched from a yard behind the three-point line. One dollar!

When March Madness rolls around in three months, you can use this card to send a few words of thanks to whichever friend or family member invites you into his/her family room — and grants you access to hoop hysterics on a 77″ OLED 4K television.

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Ms. Rice has also designed a baseball-themed card, whose image I found on the Jennifer Vaughn Artist Agency website. As of now, TJ’s is not carrying it. Maybe in the spring?

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If you are curious about the writing supplies available at Trader Joe’s, please click on this link to reach my post entitled Trader Joe’s knows cards.

If you are interested in learning about how Trader Joe’s has risen to become the top-grossing grocer in America (based on sales per square foot), click on this link to reach my post entitled Succeed by defying conventions.

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Note — The image featured above was obtained from jenvaughnart.com.

Dragons are descending!

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These stunning stamps, which feature digitally-produced artwork, are available at post offices and USPS.com. A sheet of sixteen stamps — four each of four different designs — will set you back $8.00. Ordering from USPS.com adds a modest $1.25 shipping charge.

These remarkable dragons were created by Don Clark who, along with his brother Ryan, established Invisible Creature studio in Maple Valley, Washington in 2006. Here is an image of the siblings at the entrance to their two-story barn/workspace. The photo was obtained from the duo’s extraordinary website. Ryan is on the left; Don is on the right.

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The Clarks, who are talented designers and accomplished musicians, benefit from a strong family influence of creativity. Their grandfather was an illustrator who worked at NASA for 28 years. Their father tinkered passionately in his home, where he produced furniture and toys made of wood. The upper level of the Clarks’ barn studio houses a workspace that their formative forebears would be proud of:

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The online store at the Invisible Creature website features a range of products created by the über-talented brothers. Books, t-shirts, toys, prints, posters, and super-cool wool felt pennants are all available. If you are searching for a special present for December’s celebrations, check out the 2018 Holiday Gift Guide. There you will find, among other dazzlingly-designed goods, a Little Golden Book version of the Disney PIXAR film The Incredibles. Its illustrations were created by Don Clark. Here is an example of its retro-styled artwork:

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Do you have holiday cards to mail? Stop at your local post office or visit USPS.com for a sheet of Dragon stamps, which feature the Forever USA guarantee. You will always be able to use them to send first-class letters.

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Note — Except for the photograph at the top of this post, all of the images of Don and Ryan Clark and their products and artwork were obtained from the Invisible Creature website.