Monday, September 29, 2014

Word of the Week - 30

Painting by N. C. Wyeth
Word of the Week:  FORETELL

As a younger creature, I wished to know what life held for me.  Consulting, even infrequently, psychics,  readers of runes and such had two fatal drawbacks: it cost too much money and the ones I consulted must have found me unreadable.   The conclusion I reached is that I was not meant to know.  Such information would be far more curse than blessing, I can see that now.  But once it felt intensely important to know if there would be a happy ending.  In the absence of knowing what would come next, the other option was to prepare for any eventuality, which we know is not possible.  For many years I described myself as "a belt AND suspenders" type.  There are no guarantees.

Recently I was referred to a website as the source for uncommon words related to color.  The site, The Phrontistery, meaning a thinking place, has gathered obscure, forgotten and little-used language for an array of subjects of which color is just one.  Another was "Divination and Fortune-telling."  Oh ho.  So many untried avenues, unexplored methods by which to foretell.  So many caught my attention but I think the best match would be stichomancy, "divination by picking passages from books at random."  Reaching for the book closest to the keyboard, a swell volume called "Beach Beauties: Postcards and Photographs 1890-1940," I found this on the first page I turned to:

"Of course, postcards are notoriously unreliable. (is this a clue?)  While they can serve as the cultural historian's dream, they are also sometimes creative works of fiction." (how to interpret this?)  As the Magic 8-Ball might say, "Signs unclear, ask again later."

I don't believe there was a single category for "divination by intuition."

What awaits is information beyond our knowing and for good reasons.   Hope and possibilities keep us showing up.  Predictions and proclamations are highly mutable.  I like to think that most doors remain open, in spite of what experts tell us, even those practiced in tyromancy, "divination using cheese."  I rest my case.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Can't whistle? Try this.

Kaffe Fassett needlepoint.
As my whistle is nearly inaudible, I've decided that color, ingesting, absorbing, overdosing and immersing myself in it, is my equivalent of whistling to keep spirits up.  I have a cellular response to it, the greater the profusion, the more strongly I feel it.  Color gives me pangs, but only in the best sense.

When he was much younger, my son would describe himself by saying, "I feel a bit dreary" when he was in the process of becoming ill.  He is descended from two generations that read way too much Edward Gorey.  Dreary doesn't get me in a choke-hold the way it once did but living the human experience can ambush us with disheartening moments, frequently brought on by our own minds and not specific external events.  Thus we seek avenues of cheer upon which we can be reminded that there is a sunny side of the street, regardless of what's going on (gestures with head) over there.

What happens to me is that I can forget the simple, accessible, free and non-food things that make me happy, forget them as though they never existed.  Wait! I exclaim to myself.  How did I not remember the way certain voices or instruments, lyrics, types of music produce pangs of joy?  It is not just age, it is not amnesia, though I think amnesia must feel a bit like it.  For a variety of reasons, I think we wander away from ourselves.  Fatigue produces a mental fog, as does pain, illness, lack of sleep, distraction, any of the naturally lower points that occur as we undulate our way, up and down, through the days.

I don't believe there is anyone completely immune to a sagging spirit.  It need not last long nor arrive often.  Just a state that is brightened (in my case literally), lightened by what delights us most.  For reasons too vague to ponder, we only just began watching the second season of HBO's series, TREME.  In the first episodes we saw last night there was a singer with a Sam Cooke voice and there was Lucia Micarelli, singing and playing the violin - heart-breakingly, again in the best sense.

Even when there is nary a shadow to remind us that darker moments do exist, what could be the harm in filling up on our favorite fizzy lifting drinks?  Based on very old business, I can tend to be stingy with myself, ration the sources of joyfulness as though they would run out or I was not fully deserving.  For this instant and, I hope, many instants to follow, I will be lavish, I will spoil myself with color and music, with beauty and every gleaming ray of life affirmed that I can find.  Why would we do less?  Take heart and we will dance together beneath a Kaffe Fassett-imagined sky.  Yes, I think the band has started.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Word of the Week - 29

Pencil-colored, stuffed kraft paper toy, M. Kelly.

Word of the Week: FACES

A timely topic, in seems, for so many in the art world to which I am connected as a blog follower, FB friend, actual associate or enthusiastic fan are showcasing faces as a favorite form of creative expression.

Since I began work with Rubbermoon more than 20 years ago, I have loved giving faces to ordinarily faceless objects like gourds, celestial bodies and flowers.  The sample above is my newest experiment, animal and cartoonish, mostly female, faces rendered in Micron pen and color pencils on kraft wrapping paper, cut out, glued and lightly stuffed to make what I think of as toys.  A source of happiness now and, I foresee, in the future.

In an overview of what others are sharing so generously, here are some of the artists and sources in the face bonanza.  The links will take you into realms of delight and my hope is they will become inspirations for you as they have for me.

Here is Elsa Mora's blog post of Faces by Different Artists.  To say the mind reels is an absurd understatement.  I challenge you not to shriek.

Julie Fei-Fan Balzer shares her Weekend Five, black-and-white faces.  As is true of Elsa Mora's blog, there is so much more to discover here.  I urge you to read beyond the linked entry.

On her blog, Lynne Hoppe discusses faces, journals, materials and much more.  If you Google her, the links are extensive.  After sharing a small sample of her art on FB last week, I heard from other artists who identified her as an inspiration.  Image collection here.

Friend, writer and artist Patti Edmon began a face journey last year, a process she discusses with her usual candor and gives multiple samples of the emerging work.  In her most recent post, she tells of painting faces in the context of chronic illness,  a shared circumstance which first connected us.

Because there is so much I admire about the painting below, just this minute found via Google, I share it and the artist, Karin Jurick, who painted it.  It is a rich world, full of teachers.
Oil on panel, painting by Karin Jurick, with thanks for its use here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Postcard collection grows

Three additional images added to the postcard collection  What makes me happy is having these bright and shiny examples of my coloring to send into the world without having to create each one by hand.  New possibilities.  Now, to create new work.

The earlier post showing the first 8 cards is here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Word of the Week - 28

Shadows of palm trees, with photo thanks here.
 Word of the Week:  BECALMED

My sister has a name for it, that first morning when you know summer has folded its tent and crept out of town, leaving the beaches, the hills and the cities to the spell of fall.  She calls it The Snap.  We in Southern California are nowhere near The Snap or even its second cousin.  It may have come to those of you in other climes.  Even if the weather warms again for any duration, The Snap, once declared, is absolute.  My son and I have traded Jack Nicholson's memorable line from Terms of Endearment, "I was inches from a clean getaway," to rue the arrival of hot days, one upon another, after what we hoped would continue to be a mild summer, all summer.  Alas.

I speak of it mostly because how un-Snap our days became, seems to have becalmed a portion of me, turned me increasingly leaden and dull-witted as the week advanced.  Life is cycles and if the weather plays a part, I can't say.  I have almost reached the border where staring and drooling become virtues.  In a world of strife, disasters, losses and alarms this is nothing, a mere bagatelle, and its unimportance is almost too embarrassing to mention.  Yet knowing where we are, creatively, emotionally, physically and otherwise, seems like good sense.  We will not be the same every day.  I would not be surprised to learn that last week's massive solar flare has put me off my, let's call it, game.  Between that unknown influence and a full super moon, who knows what havoc they shower on such creatures as we.

The possibility that I was intended to be a hibernating creature does not seem impossible.  It may be that, even without The Snap, my nature has already begun to slow me down in preparation for being packed into a box of dry leaves and stored in the laundry room for the duration, as my family did with our desert tortoises each year.  This will pass, as will our scorching days.  Before long, one morning when the slanting sun casts palm tree-shaped shadows on our stucco home, we will know it is here at last.  Welcome home to The Snap.  We are never entirely peaceful until you arrive.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Sometimes it's necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness"**

From Sunday's edition of Brain Pickings comes this book released last week, which insinuates its garden tools into soil I continually try to cultivate.  Being inclined to snarl at greatly delayed gratification but also being quite familiar with that as the way things work, I want it now.  Instead, I've added it to my wish list.

Marcel is a soulful old elephant who sets out to write an encyclopedia as his legacy. Having seen the Eiffel Tower built in 1889 and the first iMac introduced in 1998, and having filled the century between with a long lifetime of adventures and successes of his own, he undertakes “the enormous task of listing — in an enormous, illustrated encyclopedia — everything he’s learned throughout his long and exceptional life.”

The question might be, "What do I know for sure?" From another article in this BP edition comes the quote, “Knowledge,” Emerson wrote, “is the knowing that we can not know."  And, if I am any example, we don't.  With a few exceptions.

I think at times of a manifesto, never to be written for what cheek would that require?  It is the imaginary place where I store what I do know for sure, my own very personal truths that may have wider applications but not necessarily.  The possibility that I am doing nothing but blowing smoke remains real.  I am a stumbling human on a long road.  No two paths are identical.  Likely none of what I've collected would belong in an encyclopedia.  Notes to self:

- The high road is never a wrong choice.
- Being still is not being lazy, it is being wise.
- What appears to be the doing of nothing is actually the doing of quite a lot.
- An unraveled exterior may disguise unique order.
- When in doubt, sit.  Sleep as often as the opportunity appears.
- Since any destination only exists in this moment, you are in exactly the right place.
- Fall in love with as much as you can.
- Your soul knows what will nourish it.  Pay attention, no matter how odd the choice seems.
- Become soft and what you may consider foolish.  You will survive it.
- You don't need to explain.
- Magic is real.

**One further Brain Pickings link from this week, their Literary Jukebox and a poem by Galway Kinnell.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Word of the Week - 27

Sunlight through stained glass, Pasadena's Gamble House by architects Greene and Greene.
Word of the Week:  FILTER

We are each, for how could we not be, filters of experience and information.  What happens to us is sifted, strained, clarified, and transmuted.  Whether or not this is more true for anyone who creates I don't know.  All is process.

Taking exception to something I find on the internet is one of my least favorite, as it is so unproductive, things even to contemplate.  When I found BuzzFeed's "25 quotes that will inspire you to be a fearless writer" I knew I'd been challenged to a duel.  Generally (my interpretation) the quotes suggest than unless the story we tell is autobiographical, we are cowards.  I disagree.

I have told my story to friends, in 12-step meetings, in recovery groups, in therapy and I no longer find any benefit, for me or anyone, in telling it.  However, being a highly porous collection of particles and/or energy, by filtering it over time it has become something else, I hope something possibly more useful and more entertaining.  I assume, being optimistic that way, it will be more than one story.  Its current shape is the episodic fiction that found me, I was not seeking it, that follows the summer activities of residents in the coastal town, Billington's Cove, particularly Gloria who owns the tea room and Robert Apotienne, aka The Reading Man, who is vacationing in the Cove.

How everything I've ever experienced, heard, read, seen or imagined was refined into now nearly 70 episodes of this quiet tale is one of my personal Great Mysteries.  Yet this is the truth of it.  Plants take in sunlight and convert it to chlorophyll.   Or something like that.  If we are very lucky, we turn lead into gold.

If you create,  fashion by whatever means something that has not existed before, I find it impossible to believe there is one right way to do it.  There are writers who bleed on the page, whose  clear calling is to tell us exactly how it was, how it is.  There are others who send us tumbling down rabbit holes or leave us in strange company on desert planets.  Paint what calls to you, what demands your hand and no other.  Write the world that has taken up residence within.  I will survive being thought a coward, should I ever arrive at a place where critics get their hands on my work.  I am done being scolded. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Heroes and heroines

There is no single measure of a hero.  For some simply showing up is an act of great courage.  In the bigger picture we have clear notions of what defines those whose bravery is larger-than-life.   Some moments are only fathomable in context.

Following my theory that we never have to explain, I'll just share this Mary Chapin Carpenter song that resonates for me as profoundly as when I first heard it.  Just found that it was finally available on YouTube a few weeks ago.

What a miracle, if we are able to see our own heroic moments, claim and treasure them.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Word of the Week - 26

Word(s) of the Week:  PASSION and CURIOSITY

For three nights this week we watched documentaries, having completed all episodes of "The Sopranos" and the brief third season of "The Killing."  As one day spooled into the next, I thought I spotted similarities among the films, themes that were shrieking, mutedly, in my own life.  My son's life as well.  On Saturday night our choice was a 2014 release called "Particle Fever," following the completion and launch of the Hadron Collider with the hope of explaining the origin of matter.  In the film scientists frequently discuss how long they have been searching for, waiting for this answer.  It illuminates impatience over drying ink or paint as the microscopically trivial matter it is.
On the previous nights, we watched "The Battered Bastards of Baseball" which follows the impossible arc of one man's dream, to own a winning minor league ball team, and "Valentino, The Last Emperor," during which we get to attend the extravagant gala that marked the designer's retirement after 45 years as a man who made women look beautiful.
Valentino gowns.
Where the three stories intersect is that each, as I interpret it, was fueled and sustained by passion along with a curiosity, a refusal to leave until it is known how each drama turns out.  This is where my writer son and I could see ourselves, aware that if we don't write whatever has demanded us as its authors, neither we nor anyone will learn what happens.

We are called by some unlikely sirens, passion sparked by thoughts of a white pastel pencil in one moment, a scalloped circle paper punch in the next, while a dimly-lit slide show of text and images plays in the background.  However odd we may find these sequential obsessions, we would be fools to ignore their allure.  They call for a reason.  They may be considered pieces of passion, separate elements that will join forces when all have been collected, not unlike the thousands of scientists involved with the collider project, each an essential part, each bringing what they have to obtain the elusive answer.

The line between passion and obsession may become blurry, we may ask ourselves is this folly or wisdom and we may not be able to respond.  What we do know is this:  if we dismiss curiosity and intuition, decide not to follow the trail however poorly marked, we will never learn what it, what we, might have been.