Monday, August 31, 2015

Word of the Week - 78

Four Pots by Cate Edwards.

A bristley pot by Claire Loder.

Words of the Week:  CUPS, POTS, BOWLS

To contain, hold, serve.  Function and delight.  In illustration, cups, bowls and pots are subjects that capture my attention.  In life, in my kitchen, it is possible I could never have too many bowls, certainly never too many in melamine.  Or green glass or yellow-glazed ceramic.  A bowl is a happy thing.
One of Cate Edwards collections of bowls.

Bowl with Fish by Sophie Adde.
Lithuanian ceramic bowls.
Study for Six Cups by Cathleen Rehfeld Meyers.

Tea Ceremony by Shaun Tan.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The swimsuit issue

Polka Dot Swimsuit by T.S.Harris.
Watery Bliss by T.S. Harris.
At the above link, T.S. Harris entices us, or certainly me with a description of influences on her work, paintings of women from another era in lingerie and bathing attire. One of her collections is called "Noir." I cannot help but think of Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, stars and pin-up beauties of the 1940s and 50s, along with the men they chose in the real world and in the movies.

It is the end of summer.  At the high school across from our apartment, school has been in session for more than a week.  During my childhood, we generally went back close to mid-September.  Of course it can be summer in Los Angeles until October when we often have our hottest days and worst fires.

There is something so unambiguous about a bathing suit.  Paintings of women wearing them feel as though the artist has pared away whatever else inhabits the subject's life.  Of course, that is what paintings do, catch and forever hold a moment in time.  The suit is a costume, not everyday attire.  Water is another realm, separate from ordinary time, ordinary pursuits.   I think of astronauts, of space walks, of leaving the familiar effects of gravity and terra firma for a cool and weightless world from which one returns reluctantly.

 For periods of my life when I've had regular use of a pool, I've been aware that there is a re-entry factor to leaving the water, consciously making an adjustment to the natural laws of land, its responsibilities, expectations.  Even in retirement, summer is another country.  A lifetime of having these month represent greater freedom, more choices, more ways to step beyond our everyday selves is not easily forgotten or surrendered.  No wonder most of us hold onto summer with both hands, even though we suffer the heat and long for the cool mornings to come.  Summer is youth and a bit of make-believe.  Winter comes soon enough.  Will anyone be surprised if we prefer to hang out here as long as we can?
Painting by Milton Avery.
Painting by Amanda Blake.
Painting by Jeff Hein.
Art by Anna Vaivare.
Painting by Jessica Brilli.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Teachings from the hermit crab

Amazon sells shells for hermit crabs.  They also sell live hermit crabs.  PETA asks us not to buy these.
Be sure that you don't buy a hermit crab as a pet.   Here's why.
I was thinking of the hermit crab in a context of symbiosis, how what we abandon may be exactly what someone else needs, how the universe will often send us the perfect missing item, one we didn't even know we were missing.  I felt hermit crabs had lessons to teach about friendship as love, as a source of giving and receiving what we need, no matter how odd or unlikely those needs might be, the way our neighborhood grocer used to save the outside leaves of iceberg lettuce for our tortoises.  I was once interviewed for a local paper about making stocking-faced dolls and teaching a class of teens how to make them.  A woman who had been saving nylons and pantyhose for reasons she couldn't explain offered me her stash, all lovingly washed.  Pantyhose for years.

I was thinking of the hermit crab as an example of adaptive living, something most of us do on a daily basis yet a behavior that seems generally assigned to those considered disabled.  If you have anything in your life that is held together with duct tape, you are living adaptively.  Anything that needs to be jiggled, fiddled, tapped with a hammer or generally used other than as directed, involves you in adaptive living.  A cane, a Dr. Scholl's gel cushion, an Ace bandage, a hyper-magnifying mirror, an eraser, a delete button - all of which are in use daily at our house - indicate that you live adaptively.

Though I wasn't aware of it on a conscious level, I must have had some inkling that,

"Hermit crabs need lots of friends! They thrive in large colonies, where they often sleep piled up together. They enjoy climbing, foraging, and exploring, and they even collaborate in teams to find food."

I see us, my friends and I, sleeping piled up together, like cats, like slightly-lesser princesses, the ones without dowries or castles, like hermit crabs.  We gather strength, warmth and courage from each other.  We commiserate over the paucity of royal prospects and share what remains of our finery.  We take turns wearing the pearls.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The bureau of weights and measures

I've decided the only sound plan is to act as my own yardstick.  I will be the one measure of my progress, achievement, evolution, existence.  While Facebook is the source of many delightful connections, provider of serendipitous information, it is also the long hallway down which I shuffle with my one and only bag of tricks.  It is essential that I see that as enough, for it is.  My perfect and unique match.
As what I will call a recovering amnesiac (see previous blog post), I realize I can only take the steps I can take, in the time and fashion I can take them.  Right now, one uncomplicated watercolored drawing a day seems like a gem, compared only to my own lack of any such TA-DA moment until four days ago, after what has been a drought nearly as long as California's.

Watching the news footage of tiny twin pandas born at the National Zoo, I thought how many hands wished to reach for the five-ounce babies, feed, comfort, cuddle, measure and marvel at them and how that was a model worthy of note.  Our own rarity is no less, regardless of how many humans inhabit this planet.  Not one of these things is like any other.  The fact that our species is not under immediate threat of extinction does not make any one of us common or ordinary.  Though we are plentiful en masse, taken separately we are snowflakes, we are the geode's cavern which can't be guessed at until broken open, we have no match.
The remarkable geode.
To be turned back, time after time, to the fact of being truly a party of one can wear the shine off a person.  It also exalts the quirks, proclivities, curious turnings of mind that let us each shine with an identifiable light.  I always imagine a potluck, each dish from its own recipe, each singular hand bringing the flavors together in a way like no other.  Mine is the potato salad in the green pyrex bowl.  If you like it made with sweet pickle relish, celery, dry mustard, light mayo and enough horseradish to notice, help yourself.  It turns out different every time.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Word of the Week - 77

Art by Kristen Vestgard.
 Word of the Week - AMNESIA

The words of the week could also be tempus fugit for the way in which time escapes from me or I wander off and fail to note its passing.  An article found this week, "18 Ways Women Are Disconnected From Themselves," brought the specifics of #18 in startling focus.

"18) Limiting joy.
Too many of us are not making time for the thing that most lights us up. Why does joy get put last?  Because we are so disconnected with ourselves we don’t realize the value, the importance and the sacredness of ourselves and how necessary joy truly is to our well-being."

Photo by Lindsay Adler, from here.  (Scroll down at the link for the floral rugs, if you like that sort of thing.)
My best guess about this specific form of my amnesia is that it is habit-based, not something acute and current.  It does have an aspect of putting more trivial things first, leaving no time or energy for what truly feeds the heart and spirit.   When considered, it feels punishing.  Visually, it comes with a stern, parental scowl and a no-dessert-til-you-eat-those-lima-beans admonition.  All unspoken, of course.

What I don't do, or do too seldom or too little is, among other things, sing.  Draw.  Practice the ukulele.  Write letters or at least notes using my dandy budget fountain pen.  Create decorative envelopes to mail.  If I understood this better, I could explain it, it would not be such a mystery.  Because I do feel joy on a continuing basis, interspersed, of course, with flickering shadows cast by the past or the future, it doesn't seem like depression.  What do I know?

I know I am not alone.  This appears to be one of the ways our gender has been conditioned to behave.  To consider, to honor, "the sacredness of ourselves" in ways great and small seems so easily postponed, deferred.  I do not have a smart phone or tablet, yet can easily spend far too much time on my computer, on Facebook, on tracking down an artist or looking at pictures of pretty things.  Even if I were 25 and not 70, time would be finite.  Frittering it away, general farting about with the unimportant IS a dishonoring waste all resources.

Perhaps we women can help each other escape these behaviors.  You are welcome to ask me if I drew or sang today, or yesterday.  Ask if I wrote to my aunt or cousin or any of my poet friends, the work of the hand and not the keyboard.  I may try to dodge your questions if I am still practicing amnesia rather than art.  I will ask you the same.  How much genuine joy have you allowed yourself today?  It is not about money or any material thing.  It is only about love.
Art by Ron Mueck.  (You want to spend your time doing WHAT?)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Word of the Week - 76

Joffre Lakes in British Columbia.
Word of the Week:  ELSEWHERE

With the exception of what tv meteorologists have come to call "monsoonal flow" here in Southern California and the general slime it creates on the skin, so far our summer hasn't been unbearable.  Until the past several days.  As I write this, our outside temperature is around 102.  My wits left hours ago.

I learned about the Joffre Lakes a few days ago when my son's friend, a Vancouver resident for just a year, sent him her photos and description of the hike to reach them.  I've never  seen bodiea of water that color.  While I shiver in the winter when we are  a mild 59 degrees, I no longer have any tolerance for heat.  Our living room air conditioning unit, which I bless with all my heart, does its best.  Southern California Edison calls me often with its "budget assistance alerts," telling me how far beyond my ideal bill I've surged.  Images of elsewhere become refuge.

What a remarkable planet we inhabit.  That a place as stunning as the Joffre Lakes isn't one of the seven wonders of the natural world speaks of our abundance.  While pondering the list, I may take mental holidays to Victoria Falls, Mt. Everest and the Great Barrier Reef.   On days such as we've just experienced, my childhood wading pool would be every bit as enticing.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Love to color? Think RubberMoon.

From my first purchased stamp, somewhere back in the 1980s, what I loved best about stamping was coloring in the images.  Fine-point Le Plume pens, mostly Berol Prismacolor Pencils.  When I was given the opportunity to design stamps, my focus was on designs that would be fun to color.

I've seen many mentions of the current enthusiasm for adult coloring books and a friend (thank you, Jean) just sent me a link to the reasons why coloring is good for us.  I've known that for decades.

The artists at RubberMoon have been, and still are, creating stamps to delight all of us coloring types.  I am sharing some of my designs here as illustrations.  The RubberMoon roster is filled with colorable (is this a word?  it needs to be) images.  Best part, RubberMoon is what we call in the stamping business an Angel Company, meaning anything you make using a RubberMoon stamp and not a copy of any sort you may offer for sale with our blessings.  Greeting cards, tags, with vibrantly colored-by-you designs.  Hmmmm.

At the company website, images are best viewed by clicking on Shop By Artist link, this is mine.  Allow yourself time to browse and choose from among hundreds of varied, versatile stamps.   Let every thought narrow down to the point of the pen.  You get the idea.  (Images are greatly enlarged here.  The original sizes leave plenty of room to color.) 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Word of the Week - 75

Painting by J.M.W. Turner, "Snow-storm - Steamboat off a Harbour's Mouth." c. 1842
Painting by J.M.W. Turner.
Word of the Week:  HOMESICK

The homesickness of childhood, a harrowing first summer at camp or visit to the grandparents with distant relatives, even riding in their Cadillac, is of a different species than the homesicknesss of a more advanced age.

The longing for family and what is familiar, one's own bed and one's stuff, may give a context for the more existential version of the affliction as I have come to recognize it.  I don't know if it is normal or pathological, the yearning for safe harbor, calm seas, reassurance and an external steadiness that life seldom offers.

Not a constant state, at least not a conscious one, this form of homesickness may be for something never experienced but dreamed of, idealized, sought.  It may be for the return to an earlier time when, whether it actually was or not, existence seemed less fraught with uncertainty.

Jobs and paychecks are more illusion than reality.  A roof of one's own is not a forever promise, nothing on the material plane is.

Home is a quiet mind.  It is the willingness to lean into faith in the face of so few guarantees.  It is acknowledging how much is unknown and uncontrollable and taking the next step anyway or standing still for a time, collecting my wits and other vulnerable parts.  It is a refusal to be swept away by fear or despair, by all the answers I don't have.

We are pieceworkers, patching together security blankets out of what we can gather, out of what we know to be true and lasting - beauty, love without expectations, serenity and an extensive collection of files detailing everything that ever, against great odds, turned out well, evidence of good outcomes.

It is important for me to know and name this yearning.  Otherwise, terror wins and I feel myself leaving this moment for tomorrow's shadowy corners.  Yes, it is a rocket ride to someplace I've never been.  It just might be home.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Happy Birthday, Little Blog

It is a week to think of friends, one just departed, to ponder the connections that flourish and endure because friendship is grace.  To all who stop here to read, perhaps comment,  my deep appreciation.  Today is Blog's 7th birthday.  In the past I called it an anniversary.  Today we have candles.  If I'm very lucky, a bit of cake may appear. 

What better way to mark an event than with a new-to-me artist.  JiHyeon Lee and her soul-nourishing, wordless book POOL.
In Maria Popova's exploration of POOL (see link above), Neil Gaiman is quoted as saying, "Behind every pair of eyes, there's somebody like us."  Thank you for being here, for returning.  Please put sprinkles on everything today, with my blessing.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Word of the Week- 74

"Arthur and the Triplets Waiting for a Letter from the Mailman."  (from the Babar stories)
Word of the Week:  WAIT

Patience, more a virtue than ever.  The willingness to wait for whatever is desired but not yet here seems to appeal to very few.  We wait for so much.  Mostly I feel as though I wait for myself.

I wait for guidance, for information, for clarity.  I've stopped hurrying.  I allow matters to unfold in quiet and calm, if possible.  If my inner wisdom is not a shrieking, "DO IT NOW, " I will do it later.  There was an article this week - somewhere - about procrastination not being only the refuge of slackers and layabouts.  The article suggested there was wisdom at work when decisions were postponed, immediate action deferred.

(From the album, "The 2,000 Year Old Man" by Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks)
Carl: Sir, could you give us the secret of your longevity?

Mel: Well, the major thing, the major thing is that I never, ever 
touch fried food. I don't eat it, I wouldn't look at it, and I 
don't touch it. And I never run for a bus. There'll always be 
another. Even if you're late for work, you know, I never run 
for a bus. I never ran. I just strolled, jaunty-jolly, walking 
to the bus stop.
It seems the popularly-held belief is that we miss so much by delaying, delaying anything.  I don't understand how this can be a universal truth.  Since we have no way of knowing what even the next moment holds, how can we be certain that not taking the trip, not seeing the movie, not rushing out in pursuit of 12 seemingly essential activities will cause us lifelong regret.  I have no "bucket list" and the name itself gives me hives.  We can be led astray by our wants, just as we can be inspired by them.

I am not one of the universe's bold children, I never have been.  Yes, I've done rash and foolish things, been incautious in dangerous ways.  The luck of fools or an army of guardian angels.  Haste is not my ally.  Answers DO come, or if they don't I assume there is no answer.  Rilke's* urging that we live the questions is my norm.  At times it seems to be only questions held loosely together by gravity.  Wait, is what I interpret him saying.  Wait.

* “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”