Saturday, December 31, 2011

This year


"Leroy says, ah, keep on rockin', girl. Yeah, keep on rockin'."

This year I remembered...I have faerie folk in my lineage.

Previously, poetry grabbed me by "the sharp lapels of my checkered coat" and this year a teacher/friend/mentor/poet/angel appeared who reminds me that I can know with my heart and need not care so much about gaps in my formal education, yet steadily, subversively, affectionately, addresses them as well.

Those who would be called angels are abundant in my life, shoring up the still-skeletal hull of this vessel I decided to build in my second-floor living room. I have their unspoken promises to help me launch it. For today, we are not required to know how. It seems I have what I need to do my work. This year delivered my two assignments: show up and get out of the way.

It is a job of paring, paring, discarding and evaluating, finding how to keep the good from being siphoned off for no purpose. This year I have begun to see options where before there appeared to be none. I make my best choice and reserve the right to change my mind.

This year, as do all my years and other measures of time, evaporated. I am less and less inclined to count or quantify, growing closer to allowing events to unfold as they do. Unfolding is not a process to be hurried. Trusting it is no job for the impatient. At times the fluid quality of my days hisses at me about idleness. It may be true but I now have just the one speed and am learning not to call it by unloving names.

There have been miracles this year, as there have in years past, whether I recognized them in the moment or needed distance to clear my vision. Either I've relaxed my earlier definition of the miraculous or, as I suspect, it is ever more plentiful. What more could be asked of any year?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

More questions: I blame Jack

Jack Skellington, the purse.

No longer one to look back on the year behind and find its faults, I am also no longer one to set impossible goals because the calendar says January 1. I do, however, have a specific question: am I, a genuine senior citizen, able to carry, happily and unapologetically, my new Jack Skellington purse to the cardiologist, etc., or do I want to keep trying for invisibility?

Jack's round face fronts a roomy bandbox-style bag with a cross-body length strap. There are four little metal feet on the bottom to keep it up out of the sludge - or germs.

In her Artist Success newsletter, Lesley Riley reminds us that life is one long continuum. She suggests that the New Year is not necessarily more auspicious as the opportunity for a fresh start than any other day, and offers three questions to act as compasses. The middle one, the one that spoke most vehemently to me, was, "...which ideas, which dreams hold the most meaning for me?" Regardless of our age, do we want to dribble away our time and creative energy on things about which we feel lukewarm? Also regardless of age, there are only so many things we can do well, so much focus to give to one or two projects. It matters that we make our time here count, however we define that.

Which brings me back to Mr. Skellington and who we believe ourselves to be, how old thought patterns and stored misinformation undermine authenticity, how to get over our own damn selves.

Having felt odd ("other") my whole life, I have also spent way too much of this fleeting existence trying to pass for regular. The gift of Jack's big, decidedly "other" head is an opportunity to meet truths about myself and my comfort levels. I do not have the answer today and I have begun to lay the diplomatic groundwork for whatever I decide. I often say, when I ask a favor of my son, knowing it may not fit with his plans but that he may squirm his way into doing it so as to be agreeable, "There is no wrong choice." We need to leave clearly marked, safe exits for us, for those around us. Choice allows dignity, being backed into a corner does not.

Whether Jack becomes a studio companion - and has already started nagging for other Nightmare Before Christmas gear to keep him company - or an age-defying fashion statement is really not the issue, though following an old pattern, I tried to turn it into one. I am at my best when I am comfortable in my otherness, without wearing the sandwich board that proclaims it. As soon as I begin to speak, a cloud of odd otherness starts seeping into the room. It can't be helped. The Jack purse was, obviously, chosen with much thought. We have a lot in common.

(Lesley Riley requests that, when sharing newsletter information, bloggers include the following, which I do with gratitude for her continuing, generous sharing of inspiration: Lesley Riley, The Artist Success Expert, is the creative founder of Artist Success, Solutions for the Struggling Artist. To receive her bi-weekly articles on creating your own success as an artist, visit ; www.ArtistSuccess.com.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why the USPS rocks



(Oh, I wish I'd been able to post the Mad Dogs and Englishmen version of this with Leon Russell, being decidedly 'elsewhere' on keyboard. Vocally, however, this is better, if not such a 1970s artifact.)

I have a story, greatly shortened to prevent boredom, about the postal service, Christmas and why the word "service" is not misplaced. There was confusion on my part and that of our letter carrier on Dec. 21 about a Priority box for which I had requested front-door pick-up, while, at the same time, putting a Priority envelope downstairs in the out-going mail. A call to the national help line, an assigned "case" number, a call (once the number was shared like a secret handshake) to our local P.O., a bit more confusion, then our regular carrier at the door around 5 p.m. to take away my package so that it could reach its destination by the 25th, with kindness and an explanation of where things had gone awry. Having learned, on Saturday, that the box arrived on the East Coast, I was surprised to receive another call from the local P.O. after 6 p.m. (Christmas eve) to be sure that the problem had at least been addressed, if not resolved. I assured them all involved had done everything to see that the mail got through in a most professional manner. It would be nice not to have good customer service in the real world come as a surprise, but it does. Thank goodness we do experience it, and I am so grateful when I do.

My next post, after I do a bit more reading, will also be about letters or postcards and more mail art. I worried that by calling I had created a problem for our carrier in uncertain times. I love snail mail, sending and receiving. I love our colorful postage stamps, that I can print out Priority labels on line and mail, from my home, packages that weigh more than 13 ounces. If you didn't send cards for any December holidays, why not send some New Year's greetings or belated Solstice wishes? Please send snail mail. Send lots. Decorate it and make it fun for all those who handle it. I can't bear to think of the USPS riding into the sunset.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

For You

From the late (and, at our house, much lamented) STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP, "The Christmas Episode" segment with New Orleans musicians, post-Katrina, playing "Oh, Holy Night." The perfect show to watch tonight. Merry Christmas, merry and peaceful December 25 and the days that surround it. Joy, love and light.

Monday, December 19, 2011

To the doodlers, the daydreamers, the lost

Copyright M. Kelly

Some words to ponder from Henry David Thoreau:

"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves."

In my land of curious synaptical leaps, this, of course, connects to doodling. I believe unshakably that our best focus comes down to the point of a pen or pencil. There are others who share and support this notion. One of them presents her thoughts here.

Between staring out the window, my splendid view being of treetops and the sky, and doodling, I am never more than inches from a pen and paper, I could easily be chosen Least Certain to Pay Attention in any group. I maintain it is more likely that our very best ideas and interpretations come from inner-generated concepts rather than from those forced upon us by the outside world.

Doodling, or sky gazing, connect me to a fluid mental state where the obsessive and compulsive no longer exist. I am afloat on a vast Jules Verne-esque subterranean sea of imaginative no-thought. With no credentials whatsoever, I propose that we are the better, the saner, the more tranquil for time spent outside the company of conscious, purpose-filled thought. There are no lists in doodling, no clocks. The notion of here is in a state of flux, for we are free-wheelingly transported by a mind no longer under the influence of nine forward gears. (We seemed to get along very well with four, maybe five speeds, four plus overdrive in a 1956 Austin Healey 100-4. More has never meant the same as better.)

We may become lost through denial, avoidance, illness, forgetfulness, apathy, indifference and life being life. We get thrown off the bus, drummed out of the corps, abandoned, rejected, ignored, shunned and snubbed. We can also choose to be lost inside our daydreams or within the lines and shapes of doodles. Once removed from our thinking, ordinary-reality selves, we have time and space to encounter spirit. It is my theory that spirit always seeks to connect with us, to reach us beyond all that is busy and distracting, and will use whatever means are necessary. In my experience, spirit finds us through health-crises, through seismic shifts, through reversals of fortune if our attention can't be caught any other way. Or we can volunteer as doodlers and wool-gatherers and see what happens.

In her TED talk, Sunni Brown explains how doodling assists in retaining information, demonstrating how it is not a wasteful activity. Beyond that, I believe it aids us in uncovering information, allowing us access to collective knowledge or our own greater, undiscovered wisdom. By wandering away from ourselves, we are returned but at another level. Lost does not equate with emptiness. Lost is how we begin to fill.

Monday, December 12, 2011

This is NOT my studio

Photo from apartmenttherapy.com

However, in MY studio, in a drawer of quite fine papers, envelopes, valuable resource materials, I found what follows, the beginning of something. Does that happen in an orderly space, where the location of everything is known, the treasure hunt is over, there are no discoveries to be made? I think not.

-----------

David was smiling the foolish, open-mouthed, lip-twitching smile that reminded Gloria of a dog sticking his head out a car window. She imagined she could hear him panting, the rapid, shallow breathing making his heart beat faster. David even blinked, as though the rushing air caught him by surprise.

When he smiled like that, she usually started picking on him about something, like forgetting to bring health insurance forms home from work or leaving the butter out all day. It didn't seem to her appropriate to scream, "I hate it when you smile like that." If she had, he would just blink more rapidly, shake his head and ask, "What are you talking about?"

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Solid matter

While it is not what I intend, my mind has the habit of seeing things as connected. In most circumstances, I find this beneficial, even enlightening. There are moments, however, that deserve to have no ties to anything that came before. One such settled upon me this week as I opened and gazed into a box of the 50-some ready-to-stamp images (thank you Debra of Rubbermoon for the work of affixing rubber to wood), my new collection. Detaching this experience - or myself- from other debuts/releases, I was aware of how extraordinary it is to trace the process of imaginative spark becoming solid matter. Hardly an event to compare with, say, the first flight of the Space Shuttle, it is an emotion that may not stop to measure world impact. No matter what idea takes us on this journey, the transformation of electrical impulse to physical form, whether it is the work of one or many that bring it into being, ignites a sense of wonder. And appreciation.

It has taken me a long time to recognize, then own, that I have a problem with consistency. Because of that, evidence of borderline-reliable, possibly grown-up behavior takes on greater meaning. The least significant event turns me to examination of a bigger picture; if I had to write my life story today, the two key phrases that I see pulsing just above the horizon are "slippery fish" and "the bigger picture."

Life is peanut brittle before it hardens, the thick yet vaguely fluid substance peppered with bumps which it eventually wraps and includes. It flows at its own rate. It is not the fast-dispensing, watery ketchup, yet the time it takes to move from one level to another allows so much else to unfold.

The photo is shadowed, crowded, highly informal. The forensics lab would probably be very critical, yet it is evidence enough for me. I become even less focused by things that feel like a tentatively approaching cold, especially when accompanied by a cold sore that may be visible from space. We each have our unique milestones, dragons slain, peaks scaled. It matters that we acknowledge to ourselves and, as a friend calls them, enlightened witnesses that which moves us. Life is too short to take the meaningful for granted.

Copyright M. Kelly for Rubbermoon

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Visitors

(I begin with the acknowledgement that other people's dreams are probably pretty boring. If we just pretended they were fiction, fleshed them out, they might be passable. What follows are as many bits as could be gathered from a dream, held as a blog draft, never quite gotten back to. I assume there is a reason that I searched my drafts today and found this. Possibly because I had another visitation dream this week, a different friend of whose death more than 10 years ago I just learned. Are others visited in dreams by the departed, knowing in the dream that they are no longer with us here, yet awakening with the sense of having been given just a little more time in their company?)

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There is no door at the street level to keep anyone from drifting up the stairs. Our rooms are singles; we live where we work, bringing whatever aid, comfort and strength we can summon to children who wash their own tattered socks and underwear, then hang them to dry on the rusted handlebars of wheel-less bicycles at the end of the corridor.

I have another home somewhere but this seems to be where I can be found. I answer a knock on the door to my room and one of the children tells me there is someone looking for me, says he didn't want to startle me by just showing up. It is Jack and even in the dream I know that he died more than 9 years ago. And here he is in workingman clothes with smooth skin and kindness.

He has been looking for me, I know without being told. We half hug and even kiss about 80 per cent, edges of lips touching; it was never like that. Both my dream and dreaming selves feel a deep wonder, heart-stabbing, breath-stopping joy. Is he thinner, is it someone else who just reminds me, in some ways yet not others, of the man, smart and lost, whose Impala was named Magnolia, his dogs Morgan and Bodie?
Reasonable facsimile Impala, thanks to oldparkedcars.com.
His car is downstairs, he tells me, and says let's go eat. Since leaving reporting to work as a city planner, he has been the first to know about new businesses - restaurants - and become friends with the owners. He parks on the dream version of Colorado Boulevard outside a sandwich shop with a frontage no wider than two bodies. They know him, greet him, show us to a table - the inside not much more spacious than the entry suggested - and he orders for us...pork sandwiches, Cuban, Mexican, I'm not sure, but spicy, on fresh-baked, thick bread. In moments of the dream he is more Jack; as I work to remember it, he becomes more slight, quavering almost, yet his essence true.

As we drive from the restaurant, I ask him what writers I have to read before my days run out; who is essential. I say I've never read Joyce, never read Faulkner. He answers but in a voice so soft that I have to lean closer and ask him to say it again. He talks about who were his favorites; says something about Joyce that makes me laugh. Then we are walking on streets near City Hall where he once worked. He tells me he has found free parking, since the meters are now so expensive. What he had done is bury his car in the plantings along the north side of the abandoned YWCA building. I never learn what I must read.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Borrowed delight and birthday wishes

As it is now Dec. 8 in West Australia, I can wish my brother Mike a Happy Birthday. And I have just the new acquaintances to help launch his celebrations.

Penelope at Rosa Mira Books has obtained the assistance of Ratty as the whole of her Sales Department. In words and engaging illustrations, we learn that Ratty and his exotic Lily, a Pink Fairy Armadillo, have increased the customer roster and shared adventures.


Images, characters by Penelope/Rosa Mira Books.

The warmth and whimsey of Penelope's inventions have the capacity to charm, as a friend of mine says, the ginger out of a gingersnap. That they help promote her publishing endeavor as it nears its first birthday makes them all the more inspired. Please visit Lily, Ratty and Penelope at her blog, discover her titles and authors, leave comments and bookmark the site for return visits. As we in America are clubbed senseless by uninspired advertising, offering new automobiles as the Christmas gift of greatest choice, an entirely different approach has been minted in the southern hemisphere.

And to my brother, who will find kindred spirits, I know, as each new chapter of Ratty's and Lily's story unfolds, the best of all years. From our Los Angeles childhoods, here is Sheriff John with a portion of his unforgettable birthday song. May you sing and play the day away.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Discord and harmony



There are 1,551 words about Robbie Robertson's song, The Weight in the Wikipedia entry. Robertson has a fan site that details the beginnings of The Band, origin of this classic.

Beyond having loved this song for years, hearing it performed by this group causes me to think more of the word harmony, and, by association, discord. The following fact will reveal me as the para-amnesiac I am. I forget to listen to music.

There is a history behind this which is complicated and of very little interest. Though I do sing when my tasks don't require all of my attention, I've grown away from a habit of intentionally brightening my life with music. I am working on doing that differently.

A friend's mention of Gillian Welsh led me to YouTube just before sleep last night, and I found the blended voices created a sense that was soothing, stilling, like a laying-on-of-hands. So much of what simply comes at us without our consent results in an effect so contradictory it seems almost too simple that, under the right conditions, with proper input, we can feel some of our overload drain away.

Doing Christmas, for that is how it feels, in a fashion that comes close to matching what is in my heart and not that toadstool-sprouting part of my mind, is a process of ignoring, avoiding and dismissing all that gives me the December whim-whams. It is a process of pruning, selecting, identifying and savoring, not getting caught up in what could set my hair on fire or reduce me to tears. The fact that the NBA lockout is over and Christmas day will include BASKETBALL is no small joy.

That this is no longer the 1950s, that I don't have, really, such things as Christmas wishes that involve gifts, that many pieces of the coming few weeks are very different than they once were does not grieve me any more. I have almost come to tolerate my indecision and pokiness about the gifts I make which are often delivered late. Christmas waits on the other side of a narrow plank that I cross with great care; care enhanced by harmony, by willfully remembering about music (not Christmas music), by taking suggestions from trusted friends as to what are reliable sources of peace, lowerers of blood pressure, raisers of spirits.

Discord can be measured by how far we tilt away from what is nourishing and mistake the mediocre - or worse - for a prevailing norm. We are intended, I absolutely believe, to be as unjangled as possible in each moment. The firm, gentle banishment of frenzy is to be sought not only in the midst of other people's aggressive jitterbug competitions, but daily, year 'round. It is a word upon which to ponder: harmony. Like any old friend, we will know it at once, no matter how long we've been apart.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Conjurers

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

EXPECT
MAGIC

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:

PENNILESS LOVERS

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

"...at 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 www.rubbermoon.com 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."

FYI.

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.

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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 rubbermoonmail@gmail.com 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

Missing

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, Sussanah" 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, though that color-core-chewing, battery-operated model has not be abandoned. 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.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dime store days

Neither my brother, sister nor I would know how to do Halloween if we found ourselves as children in 2011. In the 1950s, Halloween began at the dime store.

Several years ago, I participated in a Halloween-themed collaboration for Somerset Studio magazine. My contribution was memoir/fiction, illustrated with watercolor vignettes of childhood Halloween highlights. The elementary school carnival with its cake walk and cascarones (confetti eggs), the five-and-ten wax lips and masks, our mother's enthusiastic costume creation, all run together, one year indistinguishable from another, all happily revisited.

Whether or not what I remember is the literal truth of the moment, I trust the feeling that I've carried forward, certainly about Halloween. Yes, a huge bag of candy was an enjoyable pay-off, yet the heart of the holiday was more nuanced, more affectionately recalled. I hope the sight of jack o'lanterns and aisles of miniature Snickers put you into a state of smiling reverie.

Watercolor-illustrated trick-or-treat bag, from a collaborative project for Somerset Studio, several years ago.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Borrowed beauty: Sherry O'Keefe

The following is a reprint, with permission, from poet Sherry O'Keefe's blog. Rather than a link, I wanted to share its fullness and add the mentioned song, which continually repeats itself in my head since I read this. When at her site, please explore the categories atop the page. I apologize that the formatting here varies somewhat from the original. About that, I share my grandmother's saying, "It isn't Boston but it IS Massachusetts."

Thank you, Sherry.

-----------
abundant

He is not the sort to say It is raining on my windshield. There is a difference between that and: Will that truck need our help getting off the sandbar now that it is raining. And this matters in a vast, desolate country. Desolate being the word we use for the way any beauty hurts.

Forty-five miles past this point is the valley’s airport: a strip of prairie grass, mowed; a length of cones, white; a small 1960′s camper serving as the tower, one red hanger providing shelter for one blue prop plane. Open range country means the cattle are not fenced off the runway.

Not five miles west of the truck almost stuck on the sandbar, serious mountains redefine the landscape. We count the cords of wood (six, seven, eight) stacked near each homestead we pass on the way to the cabin we’ve rented for the weekend. There are seven cabins in this hunters’ camp and this being opening weekend for deer season, the rates are $1 higher than they were this summer: $36.00.

I point out a salmon-colored shack set in a russet-colored meadow. How odd, I say. He says, all chimneys are that way up here. What way is that, I wonder, realizing again I am slow to see past the obviousness that is me. I hadn’t even noticed (yet) the chimney.

Didn’t you notice chimneys rise higher above roof lines here than at lower elevations?

Um, no.

Long winters, deep snowdrifts on rooftops.

I smile. He smiles. We are both feeling warm and round: Earlier we’d caught eight large trout. Such a blessing, such a gift from the waters! We kept four and returned four. This is what abundant feels like, I tell him. He mulls this over. What is it to say: enough or many? What is it to feel: plenty? A word to measure the difference between how much we want and how much we actually need.

And from there, we move into deeper conversation. A rustic cabin, complete with a propane stove, but no running water is just a few minutes ahead of us. Steamed trout, fresh tomatoes. Brown bread from a can! And Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash dueting, North Country, on the CD permanently stuck in the CD player of his borrowed car. Whose voice is worse than the other, we debate. Worse being the word we use for what is most stirring.



Saturday, October 22, 2011

When lost...



Found on Kelly Kilmer's blog this week, where she offers a bright, enlightening post on artist Mary Blair, a quote from Henry David Thoreau which tells some of my story: "Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves."

When lost, panic is pointless. What serves us is a version of treading water, staying in place, yet not idle. And companions, as they might be called, such as flat tin boxes of watercolors or polychromos (is it not a graceful word?) pencils. As I became lost while going about my life in my own home, I, in the only true preparedness I can claim, had emergency supplies on hand, including, in no particular order: a blank envelope, a pencil, a very fine-line waterproof pen, scissors, a glue stick, a sheet of white card stock, a Prismacolor Sunburst Yellow pencil, something red, glitter, color photocopies, paper for drawing, a good eraser, a rainbow ink pad, alphabet stamps. Bottled water and dark chocolate are also recommended to keep one company for the duration.

If there is a trick to what Thoreau described, it is to be lost long enough for awareness to wander along and sit down, let us get caught up in its story and realize that lost is not who we thought it to be.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Flash Fiction Challenge: Lifeguards

At her blog, Pattinase invited readers to create flash fiction, 1,000 words or fewer, based on a painting by social realist Reginald Marsh. For each entry, she pledged a donation to Union Settlement. My first flash fiction challenge.

Reginald Marsh, Lifeguards, 1933

“Rainwater collects in the dents of my car hood. That is, the ones that don’t slope. A few, perhaps three, remnants of a fearsome hail storm, are perfect little craters. Yet I believe tomorrow will be sunny.” Yr. friend, Warren.

For more than three years, Warren had sent a postcard each month, the card always arriving on the day of the full moon. He wrote letters, pages of precise and immaculate self-taught calligraphy. If he had illuminated the first capital on each page, she could imagine them as work from an ancient monastery. His stationery was rich without opulence, creamy in color, high rag content, a good tooth yet smooth enough to cause no unevenness in his penmanship. She savored and saved each bit of mail.

The postcards began with this message:

“Though Morris died 41 years ago, I have the feeling I need to find some place where I can go and talk about him. That he is gone does not unwind the tangle in which he left my life. As I am the only one remaining, it seems up to me. The other knots will not be undone. Perhaps some of mine will.” Yr. friend, Warren.

His cards, which she pictured him choosing even more carefully than he selected a peach at the farmers’ market, were photos of writers or actors or scenes with bodies of water, if a river may be called a body of water. She thought that really described a sea or a lake, something that stayed in place. She wasn’t sure that bodies meandered. Other months, he chose the reproduction of a painting, something she would lean on her desk where she could look at it, turning it over occasionally to study what he’d written. It wasn’t hard to memorize the few sentences.

“As I hear the stories other family members tell in these meetings, I am relieved to know I was not alone with such thoughts. Yet I still struggle to keep hold of a belief in love that can emerge from the wreckage I know. Perhaps I will ruminate upon a word that could rename a love so battered.” Yr. friend, Warren.

Of course every postman who ever brought one of his cards, and every post office worker between him and her mailbox, read what he wrote. She could never leave that sort of information out for her neighbors to see or for her mailman to know. Warren mentioned that he always delivered them to the post office. It allowed him to hold on to some of his anonymity. Still.

“They have ceased the manufacture of my writing paper. It feels like having to find a new therapist, something perhaps more trouble than it is worth. Though I do not believe I am so fixed in my ways that change is not an option, to weigh the balance of cost and quality, to search and experiment, holds no thrill. Would you recognize me in drugstore ballpoint on a lined yellow pad?” Yr. friend, Warren.

She wrote to him in response to all his letters. There was not one specific product she preferred to another, though she could not abide a pen that skipped. At times, she sensed her handwriting was becoming less legible. Even she was unable to decipher notes written quickly. She thought, “I am becoming my father,” whose brief addenda to long-ago typed letters remained mysteries unsolved.

“It is a fellowship here, as they describe it, in these community rooms and church halls. Transgressing what I presume to be written and unwritten rules, I have identified favorite speakers whose words invariably echo recent awareness of mine. I feel less like a dazed fish who flops on the pier, less like one whose lungs cannot draw enough from the atmosphere to sustain me.” Yr. friend, Warren.

Left to make whatever she wished of the coinciding post cards and full moons, she saw it as a way of keeping track, for someone who found no beauty in dates or weeks or ordinary measures of one’s life. Where she once noticed the moon’s phases by the light cast through her east window, she now sensed the rhythm of time, felt more aligned with its flow. It did flow, as those pictured rivers, not taking its own pulse constantly.

“After speaking of Morris last night, our final moments, my helplessness and despair, a young woman touched my shoulder as I was leaving. I recognized her but could not remember the sound of her voice, which must mean I had not heard it before. The word she chose to call me was lifeguard, one who watches over those for whom the water becomes too turbulent. After tonight, she told me, I know I will be able to stay afloat.” Yr. friend, Warren.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Revisited: Post from March 10, 2010

OUTSIDE THE LINES
In the foothills above Pasadena, hiking trails either slope or climb quickly, delivering adventurers to nature's version of quiet - songbirds, raptors, running streams. A reverie, not quite a dream, during the night took me to a long-ago afternoon in the headland of the Arroyo Seco; it must have been spring for the water ran clear and fast from bank to bank. We crossed it on rocks as we found them for it was too deep to wade.

The picture I retrieved was of a moment when the stream paused, fallen limbs created a pool before the run-off picked up speed once more. On the grainy bottom, amid pebbles and spotty plant life, a coral-colored salamander or newt lay in the shade. It was bright and warm of hue, an element of fire that shone its small light upward through the dimness. I remember surprise at discovering the amphibian; that land spends most of the year with few options for a water-lover to dampen its skin.

Soon that memory shifted to another, yet the day had been returned to me, filling my cells with the information they absorbed, afoot for only an hour or so with my father and brother, just out of view of neighborhoods, roads and outward signs of civilization. It did not feel random, the gift of moments from a much earlier time. Was there a message and, if so, would I be able to decode it?

As I considered the pieces, collectively or sequestered as their separate parts, I made the hasty leap to a dismissive attitude I often have regarding dreams: it was an entertainment, an amusement, just an anonymous offering my brain decided to bring forth. Yet as I also find with dreams, the awareness of journey was strong. When your senses tell you that you've gone to a place other than where you began your sleep, believe them.

Operating on the assumption that our first sincere take is the true one, I found myself thinking of hidden jewels: the half-dream, the salamander on that day, all the clips from all the years that hold blessings unacknowledged. I had asked for inspiration and illumination yesterday and here was a story, breathed in my direction like a dandelion wish. A barrier had fallen, a path had been cleared. Having lived more of my life than not with a mind that selectively offered grim and discouraging thoughts or images, what a reversal of fortune to be shown the peaceful and lovely.

I will pay attention today to the ghosts that stop by, willing myself to embrace scenes from the shadowbox past. I will welcome the unexplained and know it is here for a reason. The gleam on the creek bed may be fool's gold, yet if what matters is the glow it casts and not its worth at the assay office, I'd say the effort has been rewarded.

2 comments from original post:

Erin in Morro Bay said...
And how interesting that the fire element shone through the crystal clear water. I love that imagery - it must mean something. I think you should run with!
Erin
March 10, 2010 10:29 AM

michael jameson said...
so your marylinn im michael jameson oldantiqueguy@hotmail.com , im the misguided philosopher and the thoreau translator/commenter, you made a comment after me,i smiled so curiosity bit me and i looked,i too have to write!, mind and memory! i enjoyed some of your stuff! so a note was in order! stay safe and happy and jot an email when it moves you to do so! michael
April 1, 2010 10:23 AM

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nothing Is Impossible Thursday

Go on with your miraculous selves. Everything awaits. xo

Rubbermoon image, copyright M. Kelly

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

When you care enough to send the very best...

Send Mail Art.

Mail art by A. D. Eker (Thuismuseum), 1985, from Wikipedia article.

Once I discovered rubber stamping, I found mail art. It seems the definitive text from the 1980s is still available. The Rubber Stamp Album may yet be found, along with newer books, many focused on using recycled material.

In Southern California, Anne Seltzer's "Postmarked" shows raised funds to purchase books for prisoners through auctioning donated art. If you Google "call for mail art submissions," you will find current opportunities to take part in larger projects. What I still like best is sending - or receiving - something that gives them something to talk about at the post office and along the routes between here and there.

Rubber stamp images, copyright M. Kelly.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Otherness

Copyright M. Kelly

One of the tells of otherness might be cutting one's own hair. Which I have done for nearly 32 years, this go-round. A natural curl is very forgiving. I'd much rather, if there were the funds, pay someone to houseclean than to cut my hair. Yet I know I am a minority voice here; and, thus, know this inclination to be part of my own brand of otherness. Well, it wouldn't be otherness, would it, were it being practiced in the same way all over town?

I wonder, do we recognize it in ourselves first or does it scream at family members and schoolmates? Regardless, we know it soon enough and then, oh, joy, get to spend the rest of our lives growing into a state that looks eerily like acceptance of it, of us. Bless its pointed little head.

There is otherness in each of us, only some received larger portions. I suspect it is most clearly exemplified by states of mind and heart, conditions best known to ourselves, not as screamingly public as the wildly gesticulating hands or the breathless rush to describe a just-seen photo of the dream box of cheaper-than-cheap watercolors in 36 named shades. But there are further giveaways: vocabulary, the diverse categories of arcane gleanings we share too willingly in conversation, our passions, our pasts.

When I asked my son what the word otherness brought to mind, he reeled off two of my favorite things: a parallel universe and astral projection. That is atomic otherness, or simply, purely, other. In my dreams.

As the news continues to show footage of Steve Jobs and recall his life, I feel we are observing otherness in full flower. Unassigned territory is where all about us that is not sameness gathers its strength and gets to practice its best parlor tricks. I put more faith than is probably wise in what we each bring that is unique, for who can know where our one-of-a-kind brains will take us, possibly take us all.

Where I lose patience, and try to know as little of these matters as possible, is with bullies of all ages whose own inescapable otherness is so unbearable that someone must be punished. It is a world full of weirdos; we're all bozos on this bus. My former in-laws, people of superior-to-extraordinary intellectual gifts, were once denied the Checker automobile they wanted to purchase, told by the sales person that they were "not self-realized enough" to drive such an other car. I think he misread the signs.

My favorite show on broadcast tv is FRINGE - they still have dirigibles in the alternate universe! And they/we have Walter Bishop, played with such range by John Noble, who has my vote as poster boy for everything that is other. That the character was institutionalized for 17 years has contributed to his inability to blend, yet he would be exotic, unidentifiable and far from ordinary had he somehow managed to run the toy department at a Target store for that vanished span of time.

While the sense of being the one thing that is not like the others may have felt like a pox on your life since you began to think for yourself, it, too, is something so different from what it seems. Strangeness, oddness, peculiarity, individuality, all are really synonyms for special, wondrous, rare, unique. Each of us, whether it can be seen by the masses or requires a closer look, a more intimate knowledge, is in some way or multiple ways as other as it is possible to be. There are very few who can disguise it forever, and who would choose to spend so much energy for so long trying to pass for normal, a state which doesn't even exist.

What is great in us comes from our otherness. It is the compost in which we bloom and thrive. It will carry us past our imagined limitations. All we have to do is scratch it behind its curiously-shaped ears and love it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (aka: Happy Birthday)

Copyright M. Kelly for Rubbermoon

There were showers this morning, just after dawn. Actual early-in-the-season rain is forecast for later, tomorrow and, perhaps, beyond. We have also entered a big month for birthdays. Sincerest happy wishes today to Jean, and for tomorrow, to Alia and Morgan. Before the week is over, Joyeux anniversaire to Dana. Ah, Libra, fellow air sign, fellow troublemakers. Blessings, all.



Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday tune


What was playing on the mind radio this afternoon.

(P.S. Happy Birthday, Wallace Stevens)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

And then it was now...



Rubbermoon stamp images, copyright M. Kelly.

It is a Rip Van Winkle day, this first of October. If I had thoughts, and I did, I do, of making Christmas gifts or cards, it is already what I think of as "too late to be early." October doesn't dither about, though in LA it may bring our hottest days; no matter what, no one can pretend it is still summer.

Here, at 3:15, a warm (high 80s?) breeze rustles the palm trees and sways the curtains in light that would signify, on a true summer day, that it was around 5:30. With no effort I could swivel my chair and commune with air and sky. Which is how I end up sitting in October in an August state of mind.

One can grow weary of self-rebuke, of always at least half-assuming the label "fixer-upper" applies. But, argues that prissy Puritan Ethic, there is evidence. Yes, and perhaps there will forever be.

My affliction today seems to be Autumn Fever. It has nothing to do with baseball play-offs. It certainly is not connected to professional basketball, which may have gone the way of Kodachrome, just when I was beginning to know the who and what of it. I believe that some of us, for I cannot be the only one, have a touch of benign narcolepsy. We fall asleep, not behind the wheel of a moving car, but while punting on the slow-moving tributary of a larger, swifter channel. We drift...I see willow branches trailing in nearly-still water...for what we think is an afternoon but awake to realize it has been a month, maybe more. It is an enchanted state in which thirst, hunger, appointments and obligations are erased, until the spell ends.

And then, as a friend once said so precisely, it was now. I am not prepared to say what any of this means. The best I can do today is tell you that it IS. Once again, time and I have turned in opposite directions, to meet later by the Union Square flower stand that sells gardenias year-round, blinking at each other in happy though faint recognition. At what point must I admit that my fluid relationship with time is the real thing, not some dalliance, and simply surrender to it?

Friday, September 30, 2011

READ

Poster/Lee's Summit High School, Lee's Summit, MO

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crying: for many reasons or no reason at all

Stampington & Co. image, M. Kelly.

Back to high school music, back to the oddities that loop through my brain. When I found the Everlys, young and harmonizing on Ed Sullivan in their Marine Corps uniforms, well. Even if there hadn't been a crying theme, I had to invite them over. Regardless of the lyrics, the sentiment today is not loss, nor heartache, nor being a fool.

Sometimes we cry with relief, when a great wrong has been righted, when a long-awaited solution appears. We weep with gladness at weddings, births, events of intense, overwhelming happiness. We cry for reasons we cannot name but know the tears do not represent sadness. We cry because we can, because we have a language that transcends words, heart language. Once upon a time, ladies carried hankies tucked into their sleeves, at least the ones I knew did. This is a day of promise, a day for doing the dance of joy and I believe I will just have myself a cry. Meanwhile, the Everly Brothers have something to say. I couldn't think of a song about crying in quiet gratitude.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Samples, just a few samples



Eraser-carved stamps, original, copyrighted work by Marylinn Kelly, stamped with Kaleidacolor rainbow ink pads.

The samples shown are my original designs, copyright protected.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Somewhere, near a river in Egypt...

Felted crocodile by Kerry O'Gorman.

Her name is Masika, created by Kerry O'Gorman whose profile page you need to visit to see her picture of Mole and Ratty, of Wind in the Willows fame, sharing tea and animated conversation. This is the link to Kerry's blog...please linger and soak up her photography of British Columbia, then click on her etsy site and learn more about Masika; learn enough to cause you to click that PayPal button and call her home. Last Christmas my gift to myself was a wee elf named Frode, one of five, I believe they are brothers, smaller than a golf ball, full of magic and ancient intelligence, more of Kerry's enchanting wool felting. Discovering Ratty and Mole, their enduring friendship, absolutely made my week. There are those among us who say, "Step away from the computer. Go do something real." And miss all this? Are you mad?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who will speak?

Rubbermoon image with color pencil.  Not currently in catalog.

Today I may have a new aspiration: to become a Professional Stink-maker. Can you see the buisness cards?

I learned advocacy when my mother went through heart surgery 23 years ago. Following what was diagnosed as a transient ischemic attack, she was admitted from the ER to the closest our neighborhood hospital had to an Intensive Care Unit. Not all that close.

She soon began hallucinating, which I learned in the middle of the night when they called and told me someone would have to come and stay with her in the room. Not one professional on duty was willing to take that assignment. My training had begun. I don't think I've ever been without a notepad or pen since. You never know when it will be necessary to document or quote or preserve essential facts.

Diminishing health is not the only reason behind a reluctance to confront. Many of us are simply too battle-scarred, too weary for the toe-to-toe combat needed to see our rights protected. Years ago, a friend whose job was as a court advocate for children in the foster care system suggested that to me as a career option. And at that time I felt I was too leaky a vessel to speak convincingly for any child whose trauma and abuse were likely more horrifying than my own; my skin was impossibly thin.

The aftermath of my son's illness required putting on my step-up suit again. Eventually we were strengthened by a lawyer on the front line to help secure benefits, since a civilian, even a persistent one, can only achieve so much. Today I was reminded how thick the underbrush has grown, like briars around a fairy tale castle, to keep as many of us as possible separated from what is our due as aged or disabled, in financial distress or without resources of varying descriptions.

Whether you believe in astrology or not, Aquarians, myself among them, are the zodiac's champions of the underdog. I feel the need acutely to see justice, or simple fair play, prevail. Good luck with that, right? But even in my state of limited mobility, tucked back into my reclusive and daydreaming tendencies, I have a voice, I have words and I still possess a bit of fire. As a teenager, I admired Upton Sinclair - all the more when I learned he had run for governor of California as a Socialist - and believed in muck-raking, fuss-raising, stink-making. Not on my behalf but for others.

We don't even need to explore tasks assumed during the Vietnam war. I am one of those who knew we were seeing a revolution. While visions of torches and pitchforks have faded, the awareness remains that many of our brethren would benefit from a reasonably sane, decidedly insistent voice speaking for them. There are times when thinking the call might be for me makes me cranky, but I turn my head with the secret smile, for it feels good, the chance to be of service.

This may be merely today's fancy, especially the conjured vision of business cards, or there may exist a niche in the bureaucratic maze for a creature with my specific combination of pluses and minuses; I am not afraid to look a fool, actually posses a minor talent for diplomacy and can be found, loitering at the station for the good outcome to arrive, when everyone else has gone home. At the very least it is something new to ponder. I wondered how I was going to fill all those idle hours.

Monday, September 19, 2011

On Raglan Road

We are fortunate in living across from our town's high school, a school so known for its music and scholastic achievements that families move to our town so their children may have the benefit of a superior public education. Then, as the sons and daughters go off to college, the adults return to their homes, often in other countries.

The marching band practices at least twice a week, that we hear, beginning well before the start of the fall semester. Before football games they smooth out any imperfections in their best numbers. As the team is the Tigers, I'll let you guess what spirited song is their rallying tune.

This Saturday morning, as we could hear a soccer game in the background, the sound of a single bagpipe - something new - floated to us between apartment buildings. Then it was joined by others and my son, who can stretch himself to see the campus better than I, reported a group in full regalia. They did not need warming up for very long and I forget, at this moment, their first selection.

Ah, but the second, easily recognized and unforgettable, was On Raglan Road, based on the poem by Patrick Kavanaugh, the source material introduced by a dear friend for whom Monday is not going as might be hoped. With her in heart and mind, I offer two versions of the work. While its gist expresses loss, the beauty of the poem and the music it became are worth holding close. (My blog format cuts off some of the lines on the spoken-word video. I don't know how to change that.)



Saturday, September 17, 2011

Falling back on what works


Shy suitor, remorseful friend, low-key celebrator of diverse tidings, he was raised well and does not arrive empty-handed.


What to bring, what to send, what to say...I think some among us have an intuitive gift for comfort, encouragement, support, a true form of grace under fire. I say bring love. We can get squirmy, judge a sentiment as inappropriate, get knotted up in our own shyness or discomfort, but the truth of it is, what works is love.

A kind word, a cookie, time to listen, a hug. We forget how much we have to offer. The eloquent bouquet or the last summer flower from your garden, bring it. Say what is in your heart. Laugh or weep or both. Show up and be you, the real you. No matter what, do it, speak it. This may well be your turn to be the last ray of light in the world. Go.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Compartments

Portion of a page from journal fiction.

In the 1980s, I was part of two (well, really three) different fiction workshops and because of that was motivated to write fiction every week. For the first group, which held together for about a year and a half, we had assignments and I used that as the weekly task.

There were also in-class exercises and reading aloud, something which I had never done. Finding that my voice gave further dimension to my voice transformed my view of self. Reading my work made me happy. It still does. A wall slid away and someone I had not known was there stepped forward.

With each day measured in finite hours and myself no longer - if I ever was - seen as any version of a dynamo, I find limits of time, focus and energy, versus the list of what might become real by my hands, frustrating. I do my best to think in reasonable compartments, yet the past few nights when I woke up, instead of just going back to sleep, I turned on the light, found my glasses and drew. This is not time stretching to accommodate my needs, I realize. I will called upon for a payback later in the day when I fall asleep like a narcoleptic at the computer.

Life as a bento box: in theory, a portion of fiction, non-fiction, correspondence, conversation, chores (though truthfully, with the exception of cooking this finishes a distant last to all other options), aspects of art, time spent with my son. Yet if I set a timer for, say, writing a blog post, the bell would ding and I'd either hear it and wonder what it was or it would whistle past like a night train as I slept.

Slow, I feel that I am slow, yet also know that the wish to achieve renewed goals, to breathe life into more of my ideas, tugs at me like an impatient child. "You promised..." she says, pulling my hand. What I know that she does not is that life drives this car, not I. The bigger picture, the broader agenda, things happen as they do. The same unseen conductor who summons me and what I hope I possess has also set the pace. For now, I am a very old tortoise with just the one speed. But trust that my mind is spinning, or at least whirring, with each jolting yet firm step.