Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Among my sister's gifts, received over the years, is a handmade wooden sign, suspended from a length of barbed wire, that says:


I forget how prevalent true magic, the magic of poets and poetry, of everyday life, of simply being and breathing and staring for a long time at the sky, is.

We are, in any moment, creatures bewitched. Without spells, without potions. What greater conjuring than to take the alphabet, shape it into words, the words into images, emotions, landscapes, journeys; the soaring and plunging of human - or not-quite-human - experience. Is there any source of wonder to equal the power to sift and sort what our hearts and minds contain and make it manifest, give it form, remove its invisibility? On the previously bare page now rests a thought or insight or attempt to interpret the ineffable.

A friend/angel/guide sends me a poem every day. Today brought this:


They had faces open to whoever passed.
They had legends and myths
and a chill in their heart.
They had gardens where the moon strolled
hand in hand with the water.
They had an angel of stone for a brother.

They had like everyone
the miracle of every day
dripping from the roofs;
and golden eyes
glowing with
a wilderness of dreams.

They were hungry and thirsty like animals
and there was silence
around their steps.
But at every gesture they made,
a bird was born from their fingers
and dazzled, vanished into space.

Eugenio de Andrade

" every gesture they made, a bird was born from their fingers..." was the phrase that reminded me of our ability to embroider what we consider ordinary, based entirely on the intensity of being here now, into something richer, finer, transcendent.

Our walls are leveled when we root among the tricks in our roomy satchels of self to pull forth something clear and true, not before spoken or told. We levitate, assume unfamiliar guises, expand, burst forth like a bouquet from the magician's sleeve, when we surrender and follow where the words lead.

They belong to a club of masters of the craft, those who allow their souls to materialize as we look on. I would remind myself more often to expect magic, were it not for the delirious pleasure of coming upon it by chance.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Just me standing here shouting RUBBERMOON

Over at the Rubbermoon site, the new collections of unmounted stamps are available. From their Facebook post, the following offer:

A very special "Special". The new sheets are up on the website and can be located under "November 2011" There is one unmounted sheet from Gretchen Ehrsam, one from Daris Judd, and 6 small ones from Marylinn Kelly (four of them are in the photo that Marylinn colored for us) The special is from now till Nov. 30- if you order 5 of Marylinn's new sheets I'll give you the sixth one free! Just type in on the order section for special instructions to merchant "Facebook special."


Below are my final two sheets, color versions, obviously. It would be lovely if you took a few minutes to visit and see all the new images, browsed the samples and looked around. I think you'll enjoy the animated home page...the flying, disembodied color pencil captures the spirit of Rubbermoon perfectly.

Copyright M. Kelly for Rubbermoon

Friday, November 25, 2011

Big NASA love

We need to remember the significance of proportion. NASA's next mission to Mars is scheduled for launch on Saturday, Nov. 26. I have new rubber stamp designs. Thank goodness the two are not mutually exclusive. I am just as happy not to have quite so much invested in nor depending upon the success of my endeavor. However, I remain a believer-in/fan-of any voyage we undertake that tells us something we didn't know yesterday. Sending unlimited favorable aspects to NASA and everyone who has worked on this project, for all who watch and wait and hope. Yes, all is not as one might wish here in America, here on planet Earth, but exploration operates by a different set of rules. If we stop looking, stop reaching, stop learning...well, those are simply not options. I'll likely be out in the yard, throwing confetti at the sky, murmuring Bon Voyage.

Copyright M. Kelly for Rubbermoon

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Further revelations

Fans of the old "Rocky and Bullwinkle" show may recognize the borrowed Fan mail from some flounder. Note, if you will, that the Bat, when given a simple black line as a waistband, is able to wear pink tights with his ballet slippers.

Copyright M. Kelly for Rubbermoon

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Adjustments and revisions

Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations. ~Faith Baldwin

The ability to change our minds has to be one of the great gifts of being assigned life in human form. There is no rule or requirement that we continue to be who we were yesterday. If we can't change our spots, we can alter the way in which we judge them.

Revisions, adjustments, reconsiderations and about-faces are not signs of uncertainty but of awareness. I know discomfort is quantifiable and our wish to escape it, universal. Nothing else works quite as well as doing something - or everything - differently.

Think of these words as a kiss on the forehead, a blessing to go forward with a growing suspicion that not all of this is engraved on non-returnable marble. We are allowed, without being fined for littering, to leave ill-fitting notions, opinions, by the side of the road. Many of them will reappear to haunt and hector when we are vulnerable, but their visits will grown less frequent, their forms less substantial.

It may be foolishness taken to the extreme, but I have grown to believe that life, and our untidy, idiosyncratic ways of living it, are not meant to be sources of chronic disappointment. Whether we find happiness because of or in spite of our circumstances, a measure of peace and optimism is the goal.

Regardless of what you've heard or where you heard it, there is no such thing as too old to change. A feeble excuse at best, I can no longer even sell it to myself.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bonus post

From Debra at Rubbermoon, her sample posted to Facebook today.

A second peek

If you are on Facebook, you will find Rubbermoon, where owner Debra Valoff posts samples from near and far...colorful, inspiring.

Copyright M. Kelly, for Rubbermoon

If you were wondering, that is Screaming Donut Girl in the lower right corner.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A first peek at what's behind the curtain

Copyright M. Kelly, designs for Rubbermoon.

One of six, 4x5" sheets of unmounted rubber stamps, part of Rubbermoon's newest collections, a regular design bonanza. If the notion of "unmounted rubber stamps" is new to you, leave me any questions in the comments section or email me.

As soon as the sheets are available for sale on their website, I will let you know. You can also check the site from time to time for the newest supplement. While there, you may enjoy cruising through the images "by artist" to discover new-to-you art from this quietly whimsical, enduring company.

As the infomercial concludes, we move on to other matters.


Our flights to the moon occurred incrementally. System by system, stage by stage, unmanned craft, orbit, landing, return. Earthbound dreams are no different. Hollywood's fabled stories of overnight success involved a lot of invisible footwork. Even if all the actor needed to do was get here from some futureless there, somebody had to pack a suitcase, purchase a bus ticket, watch America roll past from the Trailways' window and find the right lunch counter at which to loiter.

The wish to create something that finds a home in the consciousness, preferably the hearts, of strangers is a pretty cheeky dream. What a blessing then that success comes in all sizes. There is the Steve Jobs/Apple success and there is the success of chatting in a Palm Springs hot tub with a woman who just happens to have read your book (a friend's, not mine) and it happens to have changed the lives of her entire family. There is the success of being remembered and revered for a concert your long-parted band played nearly 40 years ago (and you thought no one was paying attention). There is the success of someone saying, "I love your work."

Success by any definition or measure is an against-the-odds proposition. How many manuscripts, portfolios, demo CDs, reels and prototypes are created every day, every moment? Meeting the exact someone who wants to publish, produce or manufacture what you've created is beyond luck. Some doors will never open, no matter how long we knock. That the finished product finds an appreciative audience of any size has to be categorized as miraculous.

America went to the moon, we got there first. I hold that as a model of what can happen when all the work and talent and desire and pieces come together to make what seemed a fantasy become real. I have been fortunate in seeing creative whims turned tangible.

For me, the dream itself is nearly as thrilling as its realization. Beginning a day with the thought of wonders rolling in my direction is enough to let me, in spurts and longer, more focused segments, continue to believe in the unlikely, the impossible. Without dreams, there is no carrot, no fire, no need big enough to make us give up sleep, bathing, eating and showing up where we are expected.

I am nearly in the shade of the awning that is 70, or well along the sidewalk that leads to it. My dreams only increase. In addition to doing whatever real life footwork is necessary for their manifestation, I think speaking of them, where they will be respected and supported, lends power to the process. New stamps - I could not be happier. Maybe someday, there could be stickers, too.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A slightly rubbery day

M. Kelly for Rubbermoon

Perhaps snowmen attract me for having so little real-life experience of them. The family album has a couple snapshots of my mother and me next to the one snowman we constructed from the one snow that ever fell in recorded history on Baldwin Park, CA. It was in 1949.

While it is no longer part of their on-line catalog, the image above (the coloring will be up to you) does exist as an unmounted stamp. You may learn more by sending an e-mail to owner Debra Valoff at in Hayden Lake, Idaho, where they are much more familiar with snow.

To let you know, there will be more rubber stamp talk around here in the coming weeks. I began working with Rubbermoon more than 17 years ago and in early December or sooner, will have my first sheets of unmounted stamps released by them, in company with collections from two other artists, Gretchen Ersham and Daris Judd. I will begin sharing the designs soon, maybe even tomorrow. At the same time, I plan to continue the written posts which I have missed while my head was off somewhere else thinking other thoughts.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Yes, I guess you could call it a crush

If there is an unseemliness to women of a certain age going full-on fanatic, then I am guilty once again of the faux pas. I am not the equivalent of tent-dwelling outside the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles where the newest TWILIGHT feature will debut, for a list of reasons so long it might never end. I am quietly cruising around with my computer keyboard while a squirrel eyes me from the nearest palm tree. He can't possibly know there were walnuts in the oatmeal. It is not any of my doing that a random phrase or notion launches a John Prine song in my head.

Each week I write an introductory paragraph to the e-newsletter for a local rubber stamp store. Today I thought of life as an adventure, of escaping the mind-anaesthesia that is the Republican debates and other national debacles and, of course, heard the advice to, "...blow up your tv."

Mr. Prine, as the New York Times would probably still call him in civilized fashion, and his music landed aboard my wobbling raft - best guess - in about 1971. My then beau, later husband, then not, wrote music reviews. He played JOHN PRINE for everyone who stopped by, made them listen. Mr. Kelly was adamant about his music. Soon the album was in the collections of most friends. The words from those first songs and the ones that came after reside in my trunk of "This makes me think of that."

It is a bright morning in Los Angeles County. Peaches, as sung about in the following video, are no longer in season but the brilliant orb of an orange sits on my kitchen counter, symbol of California dreams, of sweetness, of plenty. My siblings and I always found an orange in the toe of our Christmas stockings. If you feel ill-matched to your life or your skin today, it is not too late to change or at least think about doing some part of all this differently. Pyrotechnics optional.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


M. Kelly for Rubbermoon.

Somewhere between the designations of matron and crone, my right eyebrow mostly disappeared. Thyroid is the best guess anyone can give, but is it too much or too little? I see myself having two choices: grow long bangs or find glasses that mask the deficiency. This is not complaint, for to whom would I complain, but merely observation. It seems we leave bits of ourselves in our wakes, the parts that fall off or erode. If only we could follow that trail of breadcrumbs back to the restore point, lessons learned. Let me close with Grace Paley's apt, memorable title, "In time which made a monkey of us all."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day

Veterans Day brings with it thoughts of my grandfather. He served in France in World War I and sang the songs of the day to me so often and for so many years that I knew them as well as any rock and roll that was to come. YouTube, for all its resources, did not seem to have a version of "There's A Long, Long Trail A'Winding" that did justice to the yearning the troops must have felt, thinking of the homes and loved ones they might never see again. Instead, you'll get the trailer for A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT which tells some stories of that war. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, starring Audrey Tautou, it is a movie in which I become lost, for the visuals, the story itself, the fact that our "war to end all wars" turned out to be only a preamble.

For Dad, Charlie and Gertrude, Uncle Charles, for Jack and Jay and all who serve. I wish we didn't have to keep asking this of you.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Focus is wherever we find it

M. Kelly for Rubbermoon

Two new chair stamps are part of my in-the-works collection for Rubbermoon. Keeping them company will be the phrase, "When in doubt, sit. Sit and Color." It all comes down to the point of a pencil.

Unlike writing, which usually gives me a stiff neck when I use the computer, which I mostly do, coloring, drawing and eraser carving send my mind and body to different rooms. Bickering children, they need to be separated to chill out.

When first creating samples for the stamp company, I worked with fine-tip brush markers. Coloring the images went quickly and shading was possible thanks to Marvy's extensive palette. It was a peaceful occupation, quieting thought, slowing heart rate.

When I switched to pencils because the colors were even more plentiful, the shading and layering possibilities more abundant, I smoothed out like a freshly ironed shirt. Later I realized this must be a meditative state, as everything beyond the tip of the sharpened pencil faded, caught the next bus out of town.

The doodling aspect of drawing produces the same effect. It feels like giving the Big Thoughts mind a paid holiday. All is reduced to one non-thought. Yes, the mind roams and rambles but doesn't latch on to anything, doesn't go dig up the bone it buried yesterday near the azaleas. Without its feet touching the ground, it muses upon the memory of the garden, recalls the verses of "Oh, Susanna" and sees the forgotten, unforgettable drawer where it left the yellow, leather-bound journal five years ago.

I've been doing that kind of coloring for more than 17 years. To achieve a state even distantly resembling real peace demanded incorporating other philosophies, becoming more intentional about disengaging from my fret-prone self. I have learned that a spiritual practice take unanticipated forms.

As the mania, my slavish devotion to the cult of the color pencil, has held steady for all these years, through personal and world changes never imagined, I think we have what my sister would call A Keeper. For today, I sharpen the pencils by hand.  There is even contemplative satisfaction to be found in turning the pencil just enough, while knowing the job will have to be done again in a few minutes. In the days when I wanted to believe that self-help books were my path to enlightenment, there was one, unread, called Chop Wood, Carry Water. At least its title helped put small, ordinary tasks in a greater context.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Some rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen

Pretty Boy Floyd
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

If you'll gather 'round me, children,
A story I will tell
'Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw,
Oklahoma knew him well.

It was in the town of Shawnee,
A Saturday afternoon,
His wife beside him in his wagon
As into town they rode.

There a deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude,
Vulgar words of anger,
An' his wife she overheard.

Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain,
And the deputy grabbed his gun;
In the fight that followed
He laid that deputy down.

Then he took to the trees and timber
To live a life of shame;
Every crime in Oklahoma
Was added to his name.

But a many a starving farmer
The same old story told
How the outlaw paid their mortgage
And saved their little homes.

Others tell you 'bout a stranger
That come to beg a meal,
Underneath his napkin
Left a thousand dollar bill.

It was in Oklahoma City,
It was on a Christmas Day,
There was a whole car load of groceries
Come with a note to say:

Well, you say that I'm an outlaw,
You say that I'm a thief.
Here's a Christmas dinner
For the families on relief.

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.
© Copyright 1958 (renewed) by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc.