Cool Tools: The Steal Like an Artist Journal

The Steal Like an Artist Journal by Austin CleonJoyous Paradox readers know that two of my favorite tools for caregiver wellbeing are creative self-expression and comic relief. Writer Austin Kleon’s new Steal Like an Artist Journal: A Notebook for Creative Kleptomaniacs offers us ample room for both. This graphical playground-in-a-book is packed with prompts for comic as well as serious journal entries. Take it with you and write, sketch, doodle, improvise away!

Today, I’m sharing a pair of entries from my journal with you. My choice of theme: cats vs. dogs. Which tip jars would get your money if you saw them on your favorite coffee shop’s counter? Check out Instagram for more #stealjournal photos.

Barista Tip Jar Page

Steal Like an Artist Journal Tip Jar Page

Barista Tip Jar page from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist Journal. Today’s theme: cats vs. dogs.

Tip Jar Sketch Page

Tip Jar Heart #1 by Mary Ann Barton

Mary Ann’s Tip Jar Sketch Page offers an expanded version of her Barista Tip Jar page from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist Journal. What gets your heartfelt vote? Cats, dogs, gerbils, or budgies?

 

 

Parachute Riggers by Paraskeva Clark

Elinor Florence on the “Chute Girls” of World War II

Author Elinor Florence

Canadian author Elinor Florence shares wartime stories.

Editor’s note: Canadian author Elinor Florence shares stories and pictures of life in World War II in her blog Wartime Wednesdays. Here is her fascinating photo story of Canada’s female parachute packers, reblogged by permission. I wonder how changing attitudes toward women’s roles in the 70 years since the war have affected the way we remember those who served. Have you talked about working women in wartime with your family? — MAB 

Featured image (top): Parachute Riggers by Paraskeva Clark, Russian-born Canadian, 1947, via Canadian War Museum. 

Cheers to the Chute Girls!

Of all the work performed by women in uniform, packing parachutes — those complicated contraptions of silk and leather — meant the difference between life and death for a man plunging from the sky.
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Canadian airwomen check the folds in a parachute during World War II. Photo credit: Canadian War Museum.

Here’s a photo of some very smart-looking Canadian women carefully laying out a parachute on a long table, checking that every fold is in place.

There was a tremendous need for parachutes in World War II.

Fliers not only needed them during training (especially then) but every time they went out on operational flights. During the six-year conflict, hundreds of thousands of parachutes were sewn, packed and distributed. Twenty thousand parachutes were opened in a single mission, dropping paratroopers into France on D-Day.

And for the most part, parachute packing was women’s work.

In the book We Serve That Men May Fly, the story of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division, author Mary Ziegler quotes one officer, explaining why women were particularly suited to the job.

“Take parachute packing. To a man it’s a dull, routine job. He doesn’t want to pack parachutes. He wants to be up there with one strapped to his back. But to a woman it’s an exciting job. She can imagine that someday a flier’s life will be saved because she packed that parachute well. Maybe it will be her own husband’s life or her boyfriend’s. That makes parachute packing pretty exciting for her, and she does a much more efficient and speedy job than an unhappy airman would.”

Perhaps there was even some truth to this outdated attitude!

Foothill Fliers was the station newsletter of No. 3 Service Flight Training School in Calgary, and in the October 1943 issue, it published an article titled: “Temptations of a ‘Chute Girl.”

Foothill Fliers was the station newsletter of No. 3 Service Flight Training School in Calgary, Alberta, during World War II.

“Temptations of a ‘Chute Girl” by Corporal Muriel Ellis. No. 3 Service Flight Training School, Calgary, Alberta, 1943.

Although the article was written by a woman, Corporal Muriel Ellis, she kept the tone light. Here’s an excerpt:

“Ever miss those nice sheer pre-war silk stockings, girls? When you work all day with enough silk to make stockings aplenty for the next eight years, wearing cotton stockings, it’s a great temptation to whip out the scissors. Particularly now, when real $1.50 chiffons are as scarce as beefsteak in Berlin.

“That’s what the girls in the parachute section, packing six to eight chutes a day, and thinking of the dear, dead days of silk-legged delight, are up against. The silk from one chute would make no less than 160 pairs of stockings, and if you like Nylons, there’s 200 pairs of them in one of the big umbrellas.

“Chute rigging has been on of the chief activities of the Women’s Division since Ottawa decided that there were hundreds of jobs in the air force that could be done by the ladies. And, as you can see, one of the most ironical jobs.”

The photo below shows AW1 A.S. Olive packing a parachute at Wolseley, Saskatchewan. Behind her you can see the individual cubbyholes, where each parachute was kept until checked out before a flight.

AW1 A.S. Olive packs a parachute at Wolseley, Saskatchewan.

In spite of this humorous approach, packing a parachute was far from simple. Here’s one description of how it was done:

“The main canopy is 56 square yards of silk and is 24 feet in diameter. Fastened to the pack are two rings known as the D rings. From the right ring run 12 rigging lines up the right side of the canopy and down the left side and then fasten on the left ring. These lines measure 52 feet apiece and total 700 feet. The canopy and lines are stowed in a small pack 11 inches by 16 inches in concertina fashion. The placing of such a large quantity of silk and lines in such a small space is a very intricate operation and well worth witnessing. The weight of the parachute complete with harness is 25 pounds.”

Sounds pretty complicated, doesn’t it?

Before the parachute was packed, it had to be minutely examined for flaws. Here’s a group of civilian women inspecting a parachute.

 

Civilian women inspect a parachute. Photo Credit: Bettmann and Corbis.

It was also examined in a hanging position. According to the article in Foothills Fliers:

“Each fold must be exact, all rigging or shroud lines must be in the pockets straight and true. The metal fittings have to be kept free from rust, and a dozen other things checked to insure the fast opening of a parachute. For a chute must not only open, it must open fast!”

Each parachute is also examined in a hanging position.

Then came the tricky business of folding it correctly, so the delicate lines wouldn’t get tangled and caught up when the silk unfurled. Once again, the racks containing the packed parachutes are visible in the background.

Then comes the tricky business of folding the parachute correctly.

The below photograph of Beatrice Jennox was copied from the book We Serve That Men May Fly, the story of the RCAF Women’s Division, by Mary Ziegler.

Women of all nationalities and branches of the armed forces performed this vital task. Here an American WAVE (short for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) demonstrates parachute packing techniques. Later this branch became known as the U.S. Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve), but the nickname WAVE stuck.

The lettering on the parachute bag indicates that the location is Naval Air Station, New York. Note her Parachute Rigger rating badge, and framed prints of Navy life on the wall behind her.

 

An American WAVE (short for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) demonstrates parachute packing techniques. Photo credit: U.S. Navy, now in the collection of the National Archives.

The care of the parachute was also of great importance. Records were kept to ensure parachutes were tested regularly.

The chute was opened and hung up for 48 hours to enable it to air; weather permitting, the parachute was taken outside and aired by nature, ballooning with the wind. It was then well shaken to get rid of any insects.

At periodic intervals, the women also went up in an aircraft and “drop-tested” the chutes, attached to 180-pound dummies. According to the Foothill Fliers: “The girls feel like bombardiers as they circle the drome at 100 miles per hour, hefting the dummies out!”

Here’s a group of WRENS (Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service) checking to see that a parachute is filling correctly, by opening it in the wind.

A group of WRENS (Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service) checks to see that a parachute is filling correctly.

If a tiny hole or weak spot was noted, the parachutes had to be carefully mended. This painting by Paraskeva Clark, who was appointed by the National Gallery of Canada to record the activities of the women’s branches of the armed forces during wartime, shows the process of sewing the parachutes.

Parachute Riggers, 1947, by artist Paraskeva Clark. She was appointed by the National Gallery of Canada to record the activities of the women’s branches of the armed forces during wartime. Image credit: Canadian War Museum.

The intense expression on three of the women’s faces draws attention to their tasks of cutting, folding, and securing the lines of the parachutes. This 1947 oil painting is part of the Beaverbrook Collection of War Art at the Canadian War Museum.

Here’s a photo of women mending chutes at No. 38 Wing RAF & Airborne Division Headquarters. You can see by the volume of fabric and the number of lines that this was a fairly cumbersome job.

Women mend chutes at No. 38 Wing RAF & Airborne Division Headquarters.

Mary Purdue, whoever she was, was named in this advertisement for an American brand of cereal as a Champion Parachute Maker.

Editor’s note: A 1940s U.S. cereal ad paid tribute to a Champion Parachute Maker. To see the whole ad, visit http://bit.ly/1Mj2Ee3.

The parachute-packing women were intensely aware that their activities were of the utmost importance.

A sign on the wall behind these members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force reads: “REMEMBER, A MAN’S LIFE DEPENDS ON EVERY PARACHUTE YOU PACK!” I doubt very much if the sign was necessary.

Parachute records noted when it was packed, and by whom, so every parachute could be traced back to its packer.

A sign on the wall behind these members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force reads: “REMEMBER, A MAN’S LIFE DEPENDS ON EVERY PARACHUTE YOU PACK!”

Many men died no matter how well their parachutes were packed. And in each fatality investigation, the parachute had to be inspected to see whether it was a factor.

Anna Dundas (née Mayer) of Winnipeg enlisted in the RCAF Women’s Division in January 1942 and served at No. 10 Service Flight Training School in Dauphin, Manitoba. You can read her whole story by clicking here: The Memory Project.

Anna Dundas of Winnipeg remembers inspecting the parachutes of airmen who had crashed.

Here she describes one sad but memorable incident :

“There were three of us in that section. We had to inspect parachutes for rips or tears and hang them in a well to air them for 48 hours, and then repack them.

“The only time I was nervous inspecting a parachute was where they brought it in after a crash and it had burned. And we had to go through it. We, when I say we, I had to. I was the only one that worked on it, to make sure there were no body parts in it. And the smell of that burnt silk was very, very strong, it was nauseating. And it was kind of a daunting job. But we had to do it, that was part of the ritual, before they could throw it out.”

* * * * *

Another woman named G.D. Martineau wrote an eloquent poem about her feelings, describing her anxiety at the importance of her work.

The Parachute Packer’s Prayer

 G.D. Martineau

When they posted me here to the section,

I was free as the pitiless air,

Unashamed of confessed imperfection,

Having no sort of burden to bear.

I was not an incurable slacker;

Neat, not fussy – I fancied of old,

But today I’m a Parachute Packer,

And my heart takes a turn with each fold.

When I think how I snugly resided

In the lap of this land we could lose,

I believe if I left one cord twisted,

I would place my own neck in a noose.

So I lay the fine silk on the table

And I lift each pale panel in turn.

They have said that my folding is able

But it took me a long time to learn.

For the cords must come free for smooth flowing

And the webbing attachment be stout,

For the brute of a breeze will be blowing

If the aircrew have to bale out.

‘Cos the flyer must float unencumbered,

Come to earth to complete the design,

See, the ‘chute has been carefully numbered,

And the name in the log book is mine.

So is conscience awakened and care born

In the heart of a negligent maid.

Fickle Aeolus, fight for the airborne,

Whom I strive with frail fingers to aid.

Give my heroes kind wind and fair weather,

Let no parachute sidle or slump,

For today we go warring together

And my soul will be there at the jump.

I found the last two lines very moving: “Today we go warring together, and my heart will be there at the jump.”

* * * * *

Here is the best story of all, and one that I located after much diligent searching of the Internet. It comes from a small town newspaper in Watkins Glen, New York called The Watkins Express, dated July 7, 1943.

This man, RCAF Flying Officer J.R. Delaney, had managed to bail out of his burning plane and was saved. In gratitude, he sought out the parachute packer, a young woman named L.A.C. Irene Camken, who worked in a parachute packing station in Rockcliffe, near Ottawa. Flying Officer Delaney was from Mount Vernon, New York.

A grateful airman visits Leading Airwoman Irene Camken at her RCAF station to thank her for packing the parachute that saved him. Credit: The Watkins Glen (NY) Express, July 7, 1943.

And because the old clipping is a little blurry, here is a transcript:

BRINGS HIM BACK ALIVE

When a flier has to bail out of his aircraft, he not only appreciates the parachute that does the trick of saving him, but looks on its packer as the person who threw a life preserver when he started to sink.

Flying Office T.R. Delaney of Mount Vernon, New York, who recently jumped from a flaming aircraft, landed safely and went to the parachute section of the Royal Canadian Air Force Station at Rockcliffe to thank the airwoman who “brought him back alive.”

She is Leading Airwoman Irene Camken, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Camken of Belleville. Formerly a fabric worker at the Cooey Metal Works, Brighton, Ont., LAW Camken enlisted in the Women’s Division of the Royal Canadian Air Force fourteen months ago, and has been packing parachutes ever since. In her estimation, that is a real war job.

“You can never let yourself forget how important your work is when you’re packing ‘chutes,” she said. “It isn’t your life that depends on them. It’s somebody else’s, and your best is the only job that’s good enough.”

Now transferred to another station of the RCAF, LAW Camken took along evidence of how good her “best job” can be. It is a new identification bracelet, one shining side bearing the RCAF crest, her name and Women’s Division number. The other is the side she prefers. That reads: “With sincere thanks, T.R. Delaney.”

On behalf of all those men who fell safely from the sky — not to mention their mothers, sisters, and wives — I want to send a big Cheers to the Chute Girls, wherever they are now. Happy Landings!

Bird's Eye View by Elinor FlorenceAuthor Elinor Florence grew up on a Saskatchewan grain farm that was the site of a wartime training airfield.  Her historical novel, Bird’s Eye View, tells the story of a female Canadian intelligence officer who works as an aerial photographic interpreter in World War II Britain.

 

Paintings for a Snowy Day

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Editor’s Note: I’m at home today, watching the snow fall and looking at paintings of snow scenes in Wikimedia Commons. Why not share these with someone you love? You could use them as prompts for writing, telling stories, or making art with the children — or grownups — in your life. — MAB 

A family watches as snow begins to fallA family watches as snow begins to fall: The First Snow by Adrian Ludwig Richter, German, 19th century, via Wikimedia Commons.

Now snow fills the streetNow snow fills the street: Fiskaregränd (Fishermen Alley) in Stockholm by Axel Axelson, Swedish (1854-1892), no date, via Wikimedia Commons.

Bundle up, my friends!Bundle up, my friends! Artillery Street in Winter by Alf Wallander, Swedish, 1892, via Wikimedia Commons.

Dressing warmly helpsDressing warmly helps: Girl in the Snow by József Rippl-Rónai, Hungarian, 1906, via Wikimedia Commons.

Snow is also for playingSnow is also for playing: Snow Balls by Bertha Boynton Lum, American, ca. 1913, via Wikimedia Commons.

In the woods, foxes step softlyIn the woods, foxes step softly: Common Foxes in the Snow by Friedrich Wilhelm Kuhnert, German, 1893, via Wikimedia Commons.

At the end of the day, let's warm up with hot drinks and a game of cardsAt the end of the day, let’s warm up with hot drinks and a game of cards: Getting Ready for a Game by Carl Larsson, Swedish, 1901, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Swedish National Museum gives us Larsson’s description of Getting Ready for a Game:

“It’s really terrible outdoors. The wind is whistling through the joints of the house and the snow is not snow but sharp needles that get into the corners of one’s eyes… Just the right time for a game of ‘vira’. Here is the tray full of comforting drinks and all the necessaries and Karin is still not finished with the final decorations which include the monastery liqueur which she is taking off the shelf. In the background is the altar itself, the card table that I have arranged myself.”

[This is] Carl Larsson’s own description of his painting, Getting Ready for a Game, in the book entitled Larssons which was published by Bonniers in 1902. The “vira” that Carl Larsson mentioned was an enormously popular card game invented in Sweden sometime in the 19th century.

 

Notebook: International Harvester Memory

International Harvester Truck photo by Christopher Ziemnowicz

International Harvester B-120 Flatbed Truck, Red, photo (cropped) by Christopher Ziemnowicz, via Wikimedia Commons.

Editor’s Note: Cars and trucks are vehicles of memory as well as transportation. When you look back at your life, what cars do you remember? This is a fruitful topic of conversation with our elderly loved ones, as well as a tool for our own thoughts. I wrote this little piece in an online writing class I’m taking at GrubStreet, the creative writing center in Boston. — MAB

I am riding in a red International Harvester truck in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, on the way to some scenic location that Norman thinks we should visit. I am twelve years old. I am angry.

It is full sun coming through the window, sun on my arm, sun bouncing up and down through the glass window, off Norman’s face and my mother’s face and my sister Katherine’s braids.

My mother sits between me and Katherine and Norman. The truck is painted the kind of bright red that you see in Spanish paintings of bullfighting, which is a red flag in my eyes. I taste salt on my lips because I am evaporating in the sun. I can’t see Katherine but I feel she is not as angry as I am.

“I’m going to throw up,” I say. I open the door and fall down off the step of the truck and slam the door behind me, out there in the sun in Mexico. I start walking back to our house at Estero Beach. I will walk all the way home so Norman can’t tell me what to do the way he does.

I’m walking.

Norman’s driving past me. He steers his truck right in front of me, cutting me off.

I see the barbed wire fence along the side of the road. If I climbed it, I could escape to the sea. There would be sand, air, sun, salt.

“Come back, Mary Ann,” my mother says. “Come back.”

Looking back, riding, what emerges is this precise memory. Sorry heat. Dry sweat. Salt.

PS: For another post inspired by family memories, see “Dear Judy, When My Mother Read the Part of Job’s Wife.” — MAB

 

 

Thanks for Responding to the Survey for Rest, the Book

May 11, 2014

Dear Readers,

Last week I asked if you would help me write my book about caregiving, Rest, by taking a word-association survey (Want to Help Me Write My Book?).

Many of you took the survey. I am so grateful for your responses. Click on the REST Survey #1 to take it now. Feel free to take it more than once, as some of you have done.

Brilliant, springboard, resilience, woof, idleness, forgiveness, hunger, satisfaction. Why are these eight words important for a book about caregiving?

The words seem chosen arbitrarily, as if I’d opened a big dictionary eight times at random and stabbed down with my finger on the page. Which is true, in a way. I was following my intuition. Your associations to these eight words, I told myself, would be a resource for me in my writing, even though I didn’t know why.

Yet reading your responses, I know so much more about the gut-level process of writing this book for you. Your willingness to read my words has been such a gift to me. Your words, responding to mine, are another gift: sweet, soft, hard, unexpected. Brilliant. Together, we will make a gift that neither of us can make alone.

Only connect,” writes E.M. Forster in Howards End.  “Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height.”

Caring for others can bring us closer to them and closer to each other, even in the raw hardships of illness and frailty.

“My father and mother-in-law died this winter within weeks of each other,” writes meditation teacher Kate Wheeler in her blog post, The Dying Season. “I have been imagining us as orphaned little kids holding hands by an open grave, trying to carve out a little piece of happiness for ourselves as we transit through this life.”

I’m in transit through this life, too.

I’m writing this book because I think that life is precious, rough, raw, and whole.

I’m writing this book because lately it has dawned on me that my pelvic-floor problem is getting worse, and surgery is in my future.

I’m writing this book because Elana Miller, the young doctor who wrote When in Doubt, Write the Truth, has a new post about her life with cancer called Loss. In this essay, Elana hits the ball of truth so hard that I’m still reeling from the blow.

Thank you for being there.

All the best,

Mary Ann

PS: Will you take the survey? Click on the REST Survey #1. Thanks! And Happy Mothers Day.

Want to Help Me Write My Book?

May 5, 2014

Dear Readers,

Want to help me write my book?

Mary Ann Barton, September 2012

Mary Ann Barton. Photo by Wendy Wolfberg.

Rest is a book of readings about finding rest and renewal as we care for others.

The poems and stories I’m writing for Rest are relatively easy to compose. How not to love a character, Grandmother Cellist, who appears suddenly before me as I gaze at a favorite painting on my widescreen computer monitor. I imagine her playing music after dinner with her grandchildren, drawing her bow in an exquisite arc of notes. I imagine their music as a balm of sound that reaches the kitchen worker toiling downstairs and the new mother resting, exhausted, upstairs in bed.

However, these evocations of happiness — of joy, beauty, comfort, and intimate family connections — aren’t just aesthetic considerations for me.

Increasingly, as I read about recent scientific studies of the structure and function of the brain, I’m coming to see poems, songs, and paintings as tools that we can use in structured ways to help ourselves become calmer and more resilient, even in the midst of hard times.

I first started thinking about art, happiness, and healing two years ago, when I took a course called Taking in the Good taught by neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

“You can use your mind to change your brain,” Hanson told us, in ways that “change your mind for the better.” Simply by paying attention to small moments of positive experience, Hanson says, we can, over time, strengthen the circuits of the brain that promote “contentment, calm, and confidence.” *

I wish I could write a brilliant essay for you that explains how modern neuroscience, ancient contemplative practices, classic European paintings, and my WordPress.com blog have helped me cope with the hardships of aging and caregiving. I’ve tried to do it, but I’m just not there yet.

Here’s where you come in.

I Want to Know What Brings You Joy

What brings you joy today? What are those small moments of relief that raise your spirits or ease your pain?

I’m talking about specific sights, sounds, tastes, smells. Touches. Textures. Heat. Cold. Flame. Glances. Words spoken and understood. Movement. Stillness. Silliness. Pratfalls. Puns. Wiggles. Giggles. Barks. Purrs.

So how do we do this?

Let’s start with a survey. I’ll give you eight words, and you give me eight associations. You could give me just one word, or describe a complex image. Tell me something you remember. Something you want. Something you’d forgotten. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with joy. But it has to be specific.

REST Survey #1: Eight Words, Eight Associations.

Take this survey any number of times. Forward it to your friends. Link to it on your Facebook page. Post it on your blog. And if nothing comes to mind for a word, just write “Nothing today.”

Writing is a mystery. Who knows where these words will take us!

All the best,
Mary Ann

PS: I chose the eight words in this survey for their somewhat mysterious importance to me as a writer, so they may not seem to relate to the topic of this post, which is about sources of joy in our lives. Please know that whatever you write will be received with gratitude.

* Hanson, Rick, Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence. New York: Harmony Books, 2013.

 

Dear Readers, I’m Writing a Book Called Rest

Purple paisley stretching out from yellow ground, by Mary Ann Barton. Inspired by Zentangle: 06/25/2012January 1, 2014

Dear Readers,

I love writing the Joyous Paradox blog for you.

Tonight, I’m so grateful to be sitting at the big mahogany desk in our little office off the kitchen, drinking ginger tea with soy milk under the attentive gaze of my stuffed-animal friends Kathybear, a venerable teddy bear, and Georges l’Oiseau le Chapeau, a vibrant plush hat in the shape of a parrot.

It’s so cold outside — a reminder that we’re in the Northern Hemisphere here in New England, where January is the middle of winter. It’s so warm inside, except for my feet, which are cold. I should put my shoes back on, but I like writing in stocking feet. Sometimes my therapist, Rebecca, sits cross-legged in her chair, leaning forward to emphasize a point she’s making, her shoes lined up neatly beneath her seat.

So yes, I’m writing a book for you called Rest. It’s a book of readings and resources for caregivers, a collection of pieces about finding the rest and renewal we need in order to be there for those we love. Or even those we don’t love. Or those we used to love but can’t imagine having loving feelings for again because the demands on our strength and attention feel so unrelentingly present.

As a caregiver who works with elders in their homes, I’ve found that one of the best ways to take care of myself is to connect with the beauty that surrounds me, even in the midst of stress and sorrow. I’m going to use some poems and short prose pieces from this blog, as well as offering new material. Some of the pieces will be refreshing and even sweet, and others will acknowledge the pain and hardship that crops up in life. I’m hoping to include beautiful illustrations in the form of public-domain paintings, as well as questions for discussion and writing prompts.

In this new year, I’ll be writing on two tracks: the short, week-to-week blog track in this space, and the longer-term, book-length track at my desk. I may ask for your help with ideas or images for the book, so if you’ll keep that in mind, I would be grateful. In the meantime, may we all find what we need to slow down, reflect, restore, and renew the spirit.

Faithfully yours,

Mary Ann

Image note: Purple Paisley Stretching Out from Yellow Ground, an informal, Zentangle-inspired drawing by MAB.