December 2016 art journal pages

While cleaning out my craft room I rediscovered my list of intentions for 2016.  I’d not done many of them – perhaps because I lost the intention list.  Can’t get anywhere without a map. Some I had done, and was glad.  Some I’d forgotten about, and have refocused my commitment.  One thing on it was to make an art journal page at least once a week.  I had some time off from work so I decided to catch up a bit.


“Fragile” – 12/12/16 – 12/15/16       Distress Ink, ephemera, gel pen


(detail of “Fragile”)


“Doppelganger” – 12/15/16  Distress ink, ephemera, colored pencil, gel pen, water


(detail for “Doppelganger”)


“To be a queen” – 12/16/16   Distress ink, stamps, gel pen, colored pencil


(Detail – “To be a queen”)


“Paramecium” made around 12/22/16   copied images from 100 year old Biology textbook, Distress ink, broken glass glitter, gel pen, matte medium, Sharpie, white gel pen


(detail, Paramecium)


“Shamash” – 12/28 and 29th, 2016   5th and 6th nights of Chanukah.  Distress ink, stamps, gel pen, Sharpie


(Detail, “Shamash”)



Travel (by) stamps

Some journeys are private…

1 …where we venture out alone, with few provisions.

2 Everything is a surprise, or a delight,or a wonder, or a challenge…

3 to be enjoyed or dealt with on our own.

But sometimes we travel with others. Then there are more decisions to make.

4 How shall we travel? How shall we move from here to there?

5 By helicopter? Or skis?

6 Or the unknown and as-yet unnamed?

7 Perhaps we will take a plane…

8 …to Spain?

9 Or a tiny boat with only room enough for five…

10 …to visit a mountainside where homes crowd atop each other.

11 Perhaps we will sail away in a ship out of the mists of time…

12 …to an island fortress long forgotten?

13 Or take a rickety, rumbling cable car up a hillside…

14 …to discover a medieval village unaffected by modernity?

15 Warmer climes, you say? Then we will travel by camel…

16 …and stay with Bedouins…

17 …perhaps enlisting the help of a local herdsman…

18 …to enjoy the wildlife…

19 …from a safe distance…

20 …for them…

21 and for us.

22 Then maybe you’ll tell me you can fly

23 …and we discover a land forgotten by time.

24 Maybe you’ll prove to have secret talents and we will travel in a small black box…

25 …to visit a large black box.

26 While there, we fall in love with minarets…

27 …and towers…

28 …even discovering that we now notice towers (bell, clock, and otherwise) in Western climes.

29 We are grateful for the new eyes our travels have given us.

30 We can fly to islands…

31 …where animals outnumber people.

32 There, we can ride a horse into the forest…

33 …to discover those who stand out …

34 …and those who hide.

35 Or we can take a canoe…

36 …along the shore…

37 …to see animals at a safe distance,
both large…

38 …and small.

39 Even America has undiscovered lands…

40 …filled with animals who are majestic and rare,

41 or common and equally beautiful.

42 p42

43 Travelling further, we see beauty everywhere we look.

44 Some of it stark…

45 …some of it serene.

46 We decide to take some of the beauty home with us, to decorate our table.

(This was assembled by hand in a 65 x 80 centimeter travel book. I wrote the words on the left side, and glued the stamps to the right. The book was purchased at least 12 years ago as a Christmas gift, yet it never found a home. It stayed in my gift basket all that time. Most of the stamps were given to me by a friend in a massive box from an estate – it was a man’s entire lifetime collection, unsorted, some glued together from damp. I sorted them into categories over a long weekend. That alone took at least 10 hours. Then I sorted out the stamps for this and worked on it over the course of a few weeks. I scanned, cropped, and uploaded this in a day – that took another three hours.)

Island adventure (with stamps)

My friend Kate and I decided that we wanted to go explore the Island across from us. We live on the mainland, and going to the Island has always been our dream. Nobody that we knew had been, so we wanted to be the first in our group of friends.

It isn’t something that is done casually, we discovered. It turns out that you have to apply for permission to go there. We didn’t know this and almost got into a lot of trouble.

We set sail on a sunny morning in September. We paid our fare to ride on a sailboat out to the Island. The captain must have thought that we had all of our papers in order because he didn’t ask us any questions. He could have saved us a lot of trouble.


There were many different kinds of sailboats in the water between the mainland and the island. When we got closer, we noticed that there were actually two islands. From the mainland, it looked like there was only one. We sailed for about an hour, enjoying the salt air and the sound of seagulls. The captain offered us tea and cookies but we declined. Having never sailed before, we were a bit queasy. Also, we’d packed a lunch for later that we were looking forward to.

The captain expertly steered his sailboat right up to a dock and waves us off. We thanked him and started to look around. There wasn’t much activity going on here. This must not be the commercial area. Perhaps this side of the island was just for tourists like us. It looked like we were the only ones today. This was surprising, since it was such a beautiful day and school was out. Where were the families? Where were the young couples?

Then these guards came up to us.


It was hard to take them seriously with their huge coconut helmets. They must be twins too. Look at all those awards! They have to be wearing these for show. No real soldier who means business would wear all of that nonsense on duty. We relax. Maybe everything is going to be fine.

He takes us to the guard booth and makes us wait. We can’t go further on the island until he can confirm our story, and he can’t do that until he can get a translator. He picks up a phone and tries it.


No signal. He picks up an older one. He has the same result. He picks up the oldest style and it works.

After about ten minutes another guard comes.


He looks at us suspiciously and speaks to us in a language we’ve never heard. When he sees that we don’t understand it, he tries another. And yet another. It is just like with the phones – no connection. By the fourth try we have something that will work. It isn’t a first language for any of us, but it will do.

He interrogated us for about thirty minutes. Somehow we managed to say all the right things and we are free to wander the island without an escort. This is the best possible outcome. We were afraid we’d be sent back home. Maybe he thought we weren’t a security risk because we were school age. Whatever the reason, we were grateful that our adventure could continue.

They had a few rules we weren’t aware of. We weren’t allowed to take pictures. They took away our cameras while we were on the Island, only letting the captain of the ship give them back to us when we were back at sea. We weren’t even allowed to draw pictures of what we saw. They are sure secretive! They didn’t exactly swear us to secrecy, but they sure didn’t want us talking too much about what we saw. Maybe some of our friends had been here, but just had been too afraid to tell us.

I decided to write letters back to myself on the mainland, and use their stamps to illustrate what we saw. They are certainly different about keeping in touch here! They don’t use phones very often. Nobody has a computer. They communicate in person or by mail. They are really thrifty too – they use stamps from all over. They don’t make their own. There is probably something about security in this idea too, but I haven’t thought about it much.

There are no maps for this island. It isn’t very big so you can’t get lost for long. We decided that we wanted to see as much variety as possible, so we went wandering. We went walking into the forest first.

2bonsai forest

There certainly was no fear of getting lost in this forest. It was composed entirely of bonsai trees. These beautiful old trees only reached to our knees. After about ten minutes walk the trees started to get bigger, but still not so tall that we couldn’t see our way through. There were wide easy paths to walk on as well. It was beautifully laid out and made for an easy stroll.

While walking in the tiny forest, I noticed this huge blue dragonfly.


He sat calmly on an immense fern and let me get really close to him. I marveled at how shiny he was and how he sparkled. He looked like he was made of gemstones, but he was alive. Maybe this was why this island is so well guarded.

Shortly afterwards I saw a lovely box turtle.


He was walking away from an unusual orange flower. I think he was trying to eat it, but didn’t like the taste. The turtle reminded me when I was a child. I used to rescue turtles who were crossing the road. Sometimes they didn’t make it to the other side. Sometimes they made it to my house instead. Boy, were they surprised! I left this one where he was. If they didn’t want me taking pictures, I’m pretty sure they didn’t want me taking wildlife.

We came upon a hillside covered with castles.


Normally hillsides are covered with flowers. These weren’t anywhere near as welcoming as flowers. Maybe this is what they were trying to protect. There were five huge stone castles, stacked almost on top of each other. We turned away, sure that we’d not be welcome here.

By this point, we were getting very hungry. We sat on the hillside that had the castles, but not in view of them. I put down my poncho so Kate and I could have a sort of a picnic. She took out our peanut butter and jam sandwiches from her satchel and we quietly ate them, thinking about how unusual our trip had gone. Our lemonade had gotten warm, and it wasn’t that sweet anymore. We looked around and saw just over the hill a large field of strawberries –

2 strawberries

and blueberries.


We ate ourselves sick on them, and curled under a normal-sized tree for a nap.

When we woke, we were being stared at by a bunch of black birds.


They were all the same, and all chirping animatedly at us. They looked a little ominous, with their sharp beaks and shiny black feathers. More started coming so we left the area and kept on exploring. We were concerned that their cries would draw attention to us and we’d not be allowed to stay all day.

Soon we found another tree to sit under. This one had three birds sitting on the same branch.

2tree birds

We liked the fact that they were all different and all getting along. We thought maybe this was the nicer part of the island.

Then we went to the shoreline and looked at the fish. We saw some large fish that looked like they were fencing with each other. I wonder how they decide who won, with three of the fencing at the same time?

2sword fish

Then we saw a huge school of fish, all swimming in the same direction.

2peace fish

We wandered on a little further and found a cove with only pink sea life.

2pink fish

Well, they all looked pink. Maybe it was just the light at that time of day. The sun was starting to go down, so we knew it was time to leave. We were told when we arrived that we had to leave before the sun set – no exceptions. There were no hotels on the island, and they didn’t like the idea of putting us up in a private house. We wondered how (or why) anybody moved here.

As the sun’s light was fading, we sailed back to our home. We loved the fact that the island was so large that it took two stamps to illustrate it.


One day wasn’t enough to explore all of this island. I’m sure there were more curious parts to it. If only we had more time. If only we were allowed to stay. If only never gets you anywhere, though. I’m just grateful there was a way to show you what we’d seen that honored their requests.

Memory postcard 3, Me the astronaut

This is what happens when I remember a picture but I can’t find it. I put things together in a way that remind me of it.


One of my favorite pictures of me as a child was me standing on my grandparent’s porch wearing a plastic astronaut helmet. I’m not sure why that was part of the toy collection. It was larger than my head by far, and had a green visor that could open up. So I could see the world with a green tint, or not.

I can’t find that picture, but I can find this one. It was from around the same time.

I considered making an astronaut helmet for me in this picture – watercolor paper and pencils, green acetate – but then I realized if I did that, my face would be obscured. There is enough of that in the other two memory postcards.

Here is a closer picture of me.


Then I added the “Women in space” stamp. I’ve used a photocopy of it for another project, but here I’m using the real thing. I love her smile.


Here are the fortunes.


I included things to remind me of my childhood and also point towards the future. What instructions would I like to give my former self and my future self?

My aunt mockingly calls hearing from God – at least when my Dad (her brother) did it – getting “Messages”. I think that she mocks it because she has never heard from God.

…lost penny…
My Mom was big on shiny pennies. She’d give me them for good luck. I’d almost forgotten that. It also reminds me of the parable of the lost coin – how God will go out of the way to find it. We are the lost coins, and we are precious to God.

…Never be less than your dreams…

Seems like a good message for then, now, and future me. My dreams are something to aspire to. And, they are like the mustard seed – from small things can grow big things. I just have to remember that Jesus tells us we have that energy inside us. If God gives us the desire to do something, we can do it. It isn’t just a fantasy – it is the seed of a reality. We have to give it energy to make it grow, and trust the process.

Collage, not painting

          I finally figured something out.  I don’t have to paint fine details.  I can do collage.  I can draw what I want separately, using watercolor pencils on watercolor paper.  Then I cut it out and glue it to the painting.  This is such a relief.

          One of my problems is that my ideas far outstretch my abilities.  I’m not very good at painting yet.  I’m trying, but it is going to take a while.  Meanwhile all these ideas keep coming that would work best using painting.

          I have taken only one art class, and that was in high school.  I don’t really know what I’m doing.  I feel like a feral child, wanting to communicate but I don’t have a language.  So I’m making it up as I go.

          One of my fears with painting is there is no “undo” button.  If I make a mistake, it is hard to fix.  It isn’t like working digitally.  Plus, it doesn’t work well with my schedule.  If I only have 20 minutes to work on art, there isn’t really enough time to paint and clean up.

          I have a space painting I was working on.  I’d created the black background earlier.  Just remembering to paint the background first was a big deal.  I thought I was going to paint planets and stars on it.  In the meantime, I started sorting stamps and fortune cookie messages, and came across an old packet of just space stamps.  They are pretty awesome, and I thought I should use them here.  But since they are so rare and I’m so unsure of my abilities, I went ahead and color copied them.

          Yes, I wrote a whole blog post about not doing that.  Yes, I did it.  Whatever makes the art happen counts.  I used funny scrap-booking scissors to cut the edges.  It is more interesting than a plain square cut, and it sort-of gives the impression that it is a stamp.  I looked for scrap-booking scissors that cut like stamp edges, but I didn’t find them.  I had these, and I used them.

          I really liked one stamp of a lady astronaut.   I plan on mixing in other stamps and calling this piece something like “Can’t we all get along / In Space” and having Space be the place where women and men are finally equal and respected.

          The stamp is a bit disembodied though.  I didn’t want just her head floating around.  So I wanted to paint a body for her, but again I felt like I would mess it up.   Then I had a flash.  Draw it separately using watercolor pencils and cut it out.   I put the stamp on the paper for scale and drew around it.  It worked great.


I’ve been using watercolor pencils for a year now, so I’m comfortable with them.  I pulled out an older piece that I don’t really like and tested the fixatives on it.   I used decoupage glue on one section, and matte medium on another.  From that I learned what will work best and how to apply it.  I also used some of the matte medium on a color copied stamp to see if it would affect it.  I know it works great on real stamps, but this is different.  So I put it together and I can’t be more pleased.

          I don’t really know why I didn’t think of this sooner.  Matisse did something like this in his later years.  He cut out construction paper and glued it together.  Eric Carle does this – he paints big pieces of paper and cuts them out.  This isn’t quite the same, but in a way it is.

          I am also working on a painting with inuksuit – the Inuit rock sculptures.   They aren’t just sculptures – they provide direction and tell something about the area.  One will indicate a good place to hunt.  One will indicate a beautiful thing to look at in the distance.  One will mark an initiation area.  Each different shape has meaning, and is often the only way to navigate in a snowy land.

          Here is a picture of one that indicates a direction to travel. It reminds me of a Japanese torii gate.



I was going to draw the whole thing with this new technique and then I had another idea. Draw the stones separately, and assemble them.


Sure, I’ll work on getting better at painting using brushes. That is the only way to get in any detail. But in the meantime, I’m glad I’ve discovered this.

Memory Postcard 2 – My Mom and me.

Mom and me

I decided to make another memory postcard, but this time with a picture of my Mom and me. I find it interesting that in both of these memory postcards my face is hidden, and water is involved. In the one with my grandmother, my hair is wet because I’ve been swimming in the pool at the Holiday Inn. In this one, I’m totally wet because I’d been swimming in the ocean.

More like near-drowning instead of swimming. I wasn’t a very good swimmer. I’m not a great one now, but I know enough to swim only in pools with lifeguards nearby.

This picture really tugs at my heart. It is really hard for me to look at, because of the look of love in my Mom’s face. I can tell that all of her being is locked right into me in this moment. It has been twenty years and I still miss her.

I felt like I had a great childhood. Some anomalies are rising up, though, that let me know it wasn’t that wonderful. I obscured a lot. I forgot a lot. I also didn’t know what I was missing.

What I was missing was some education. My Mom didn’t teach me how to take care of myself. Gardening, cooking, keeping house, sewing, – she did it all and kept it to herself. I don’t know why. Some of it might have been her attitude of “It is easier to do it myself”. I have some of that attitude. I need to work on it.

I’ve started to talk with my Mom and make peace with her while I bake. I bake banana bread every week as part of our breakfast. We connect this way. It is our time together. In a way, I’m teaching her what I needed to know. I’m becoming the Mom to my Mom, while re-parenting myself.

I mounted it on art paper that was made using dried flowers. I’ve had this paper for at least ten years. This is the first time I’ve used it.

Here’s a shot of the stamps.

I used a lot of stamps because I feel like it is a long way between her and me, and it needs a lot of postage. I put the one with the Queen first, because Mom was English. I like this one especially, because the building looks like it is Mont-St.-Michel, which is the original of St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. I visited there when I took Mom’s ashes to scatter. She couldn’t decide if she wanted her ashes in the backyard in her garden or in England. Cremation is easy. You can do both.

I’ve since moved, so I can’t visit or tend her garden. I have only visited England that one time.

I put a rose stamp because her ashes are mixed with the ashes of her parents and grandparents in a rose garden in Manchester. I put a morning glory stamp because it is beautiful and temporary, and they grow wild in my yard. This links there and here, where I am. This also reminds me to appreciate beauty wherever I may find it, and right then, because it won’t last long.

Here’s a close-up of the two of us together.


Such a shining smile she was giving me. I probably didn’t see it at the time. I was probably freaked out by the ocean. There are way too many experiences with me, my Mom, and uncontrolled water in my life.

Top left corner –

“A fond memory will soon lead to a renewed old friendship.” – I’m learning how to see my Mom as a friend and a guide. I’m learning, slowly, how to forgive her.

Lower left corner.

“Rely on long time friends to give you advice this coming week.” She advises me, now.

Lower right corner.

“Now is a good time to call a loved one at a distance from you.” You can’t get any further away than where she is, yet she is as close as my thoughts. I have to remind myself to keep the connection open.

“A friend will soon reveal an exciting secret to you!” – I felt like this was relevant. Perhaps prophetic?

Fortunate stamps – the background

I’ve got a lot of stamps, and a lot of fortune cookie messages. The stamps were easy to come by – I bought bags of them from craft stores. The fortune cookies weren’t so easy. I like Chinese food. I eat it at least once a week. And once a week I get a fortune. I get a little overwhelmed when I think of how many meals my collection of fortunes represents.

Recently I started to go through both of these sets and sort them into themes. From that I’ve been making art. I’ve done some of this over the years, but after sorting them I have a bit more focus. I found an “empty” book that I bought years ago and started arranging some of them there. I’m only filling the right-hand pages.

Of course, I’m doing this amid all my other craft projects. Either I’m getting distracted or I’m clearing my head so I can finish the other main project (my book). Perhaps I really am into the “jigsaw” method of life – do a little here, and a little there, and then it all comes together.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to do this, to put them together like this. I thought I was going to paint and put them in art, kind of like Nick Bantock does. But this empty book seems to be a good way to hold it all together. It is clean and simple too. All the focus is on the subject. It isn’t “busy”.

I had a bit of a pause – what if I put it in the “wrong” order? Then I realized I can scan it and re-sort it later. Sometimes I over think things, but I think that is part of being an artist. What matters is that I won that argument by deciding to just do it anyway. Half the part of making art is getting over the need for things to be perfect. Something is better than an imagined thing that ends up being nothing because I over thought it and was too scared to start.

I’ll post the pages in a separate post so I can add to it later and have the whole thing together for you. But I want you to see what I’ve been creating.

Holy Stamps! Or, the Gospel illustrated with stamps.

In the Beginning



John 1:1-4
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was in the beginning with God; 3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Birth of Jesus


Luke 2:1-7
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. 2 This was the first enrollment, when Quirin′i-us was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. 7 And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels



Luke 2:8-20
8 And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; 18 and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The Visit of the Magi


Matthew 2:1-12
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet:

6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will govern my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; 8 and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; 11 and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The flight to Egypt


Matthew 2:13-15
13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.”

Many years pass. Jesus begins to teach. He tells everyone that God loves them and that they are forgiven, and they are to love and forgive everyone else. Then it comes time for the Passover, and for him to be sacrificed.

Jesus enters into Jerusalem upon a donkey


John 12:12-19
12 The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”14 And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written,

15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on an ass’s colt!”

16 His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Laz′arus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him.”

Jesus dies and is raised from the dead.


John 12:27-36
27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify thy name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; 32 and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”


Austrian stamp story

My friend and I went on a trip to Austria. And we went on a trip in Austria. Confused? Keep reading.

Tom and I spent the day wandering around old churches. There is something about the architecture, the reverence, the style of them that we like. And, well, we like the ritual.

We’d already been to three churches that day before we found one that was celebrating Mass. But this wasn’t any ordinary Mass. It looked like something special was going on because a guy with a crozier was there. We guessed he was a bishop.


Sadly we hadn’t learned any words to understand what was going on. Our phrase books didn’t venture into religion. We could order our food and get directions, but we couldn’t follow along with the service.

Well, we could, sort of. We both had been to a lot of Catholic services, and they are all pretty much the same. Catholic means “universal”, after all. And it isn’t like we were going to be asked to speak. Church isn’t exactly equal in terms of the speaking parts. If the congregation gets to speak, it is given lines to say from a book.

Usually a guy dressed up like this and with this kind of accessory is a bishop. They only show up for special occasions, like a baptism, confirmation, or ordination. The average, everyday stuff they leave to the priests.

We watched what was going on, but we didn’t see anything special. It looked like a regular service. Tom and I stared at each other, shrugging a little. Who knows? Surely something different will happen.

And it did, but not what either of us could have ever expected.

The Bishop was celebrating Communion, as is normal if the Bishop is there. He outranks everybody except the Pope, so he gets to do this part of the service if he wants to.

We were pretty far away, but it seemed like something different happened when he picked up the chalice to bless the wine. It kind of looked like a snake rose from it. And then it kind of looked like he smiled.

We went up to take Communion and as usual, the Bishop administered the wafer. The priest of that church came by with the chalice.

Everything was normal when I took the wafer, but I felt a little weird when I sipped the wine. I felt a little dizzy, so I grabbed the altar rail to steady myself. I looked at Tom and he was doing the same thing.

Then we looked and saw the craziest thing. The Bishop was being chased by a skeleton!


It made no sense. I mean, this is an old church and all, and there are people buried in niches in the walls, but they are dead, definitely dead. This skeleton-guy wasn’t an accident. He wasn’t somebody who got interred recently and by mistake. I could see through him, for goodness sakes.

The bishop ran screaming down the aisle out of the church’s front door, all the while being chased by this skeleton.

We thought this would cause a panic, but nobody else seemed to notice anything. Now, sure, there are people who don’t move when a fire alarm goes off. They need to actually see a reason to run, like seeing actual fire, before they will take the alarm seriously.

But a skeleton. Chasing a guy. Who ran out.

Surely that is enough to rally the whole room.

Nope. It seemed like just Tom and I noticed all of this. We stuck close together after that, constantly looking at each other to check if the other one saw the same thing.

We walked around the church after that and came across this stained glass window.


Mary and Jesus were all sharp, and everything else looked like it was warping in time and space. None of the other stained glass windows had done that, but they didn’t have Mary and Jesus. Perhaps that was the difference.
Perhaps there was something that warped time and space when Mary had God contained within her. It is pretty trippy, if you think about it. We date time from when Jesus was born, after all. Things changed, so yeah, I can understand the fabric of reality warping around them. I just didn’t expect to see it.

We stumbled out of the church. The parishioners looked at us like we were drunk. Hopefully they just thought we were ignorant tourists and wouldn’t call the police. A night in a foreign jail wasn’t tops on my list. Actually, a night in any jail wasn’t even on the list.

We wandered around, getting further and further away from the church. Our hope was that if they did call the police, we’d be long gone.

Everything looked fine until the parade came around the corner. We saw a woman being led by these strange men. She was dressed like a queen, and it looked like she was wringing her hands. She looked so sad.


Were the men holding her up in her grief, or were they dragging her along to her demise? There was no way of knowing. Once again our tourist phrase book was failing us.

Then the heavens opened up and we saw an angel.


By this point we had given up trying to make sense of any of it.

(Notes. This is what happens when I have a lot of stamps. These are all Austrian stamps and they are all odd. They looked like they told a story that hadn’t been written, so I wrote it. I like the idea that stamps illustrate the story – in fact, the stamps are the reason for the story.)