Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One Story

Louise at "Recover Your Joy" talks about being emotionally hungover this morning.  I read her post carefully ... partially because I care for her and am always inspired by her, partially because I have one of her stories in my family.  Knowing one of these stories makes me wonder anew how she does the work she does.  The stories are at once heart-breaking and maddeningly frustrating.

The story I've watched unfold began with a beautiful little girl ...shiny bright, sensitive, funny and determined to get her own way.  Caught on the playing field of a broken home she marched through high school the All-American poster child ... show choir, church, good grades, too busy for boys and then off to college, confident, creative and caring.  We thought she had survived the teenage mine field.  We thought the world was her oyster.   Enter a boy, alcohol, drugs and a slow, downward spiral.

Twenty-years later she is a bag lady.  She hasn't quite reached the permanent state of pushing a shopping cart around the streets of Santa Barbara but she is panhandling for change and sleeping in a box at night.  She is moving from one abusive guy to the next.  Recently her sister tried to rescue her and brought her into her own home for a week, took her to AA meetings, let her play with her nieces, tried to show her what "normal" life is like.  The funny thing is "S," the subject of the story, saw no connection to her own life other than to say that her sister was "lucky."  She can talk about how to live life as if she were actually living it.

She says she is "too tired."  Too tired to get sober, too tired to get a job, too tired to get on a bus and go to her sister's for help when a ticket is offered.  Yet, every day she has to scramble for the money she needs for food, cigarettes and beer.  Every day she has to wonder if her current guy will beat her up, throw her out, or, possibly, be nice to her.  Every day she has to wonder where she'll sleep, who she can scam for money, how to hold herself together.  

It makes me tired to even think or write about her life.  All of us in the family have been drained of money, energy, emotion, ideas.  We don't know what to do and it makes us crazy to admit that there is nothing we can do.  That sentence generally ends with ... "except love her."  But how do you love someone who doesn't love herself and looks upon everyone around her as a "mark" who might be able to supply her need for money?  Maybe that's the ultimate frustration ... my own inability to feel loving toward her and the feeling of guilt I have about that and about not being able to help her.

And, once again, I come back to Louise and the work she does.  All I can do is pray that somehow there is a Louise in my family's story and let go of that image that keeps coming back to me of that bright, shiny girl turning cartwheels on the beach, long red-gold hair flying.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What's in a Name?

This is "Wind," the second of five columns (center) in the piece of mosaic yard sculpture I've been working on for a few months.  It is an emerging piece that changes in scope and detail frequently.  The concrete columns were found at an estate sale, the left-overs from a huge balcony.  I bought ten of them, having no idea of why.  The person who died was a fireman so there were also a lot of fire house items including one heavy, metal "thingy." I don't know what it was originally used for but it called to me and and became the center because it held a large, cobalt blue egg ... found at the same sale.

The egg on top of the holder launched the very vague idea of a starting place.  Yesterday at the Positive Living Center, one speaker talked about "starting without knowing."  This piece definitely follows that suggestion.  Most of the mosaic people I talk to seem to be able to sketch out their ideas, make patterns and actually design their works.  All I had was a rough idea that I wanted a "spirit garden" and the willingness to take one step at a time and then wait for the next step to reveal itself.

But, so far, the one step and then the next seems to be working.  The next "next" was the number five.  In numerology, the number five carries the idea of playfulness and fun, which seems like a good core concept.  So five columns were placed in a ring around the core.  They became earth, wind, fire, water, and spirit and shadow.  Yesterday I finished "Wind" and planted it.  But, I also found a small, winged sprite on sale at the garden store.  She demanded her place on the central blue egg ... the muse of play? the spirit of laughter?

Now that the piece is taking shape, names are playing around in my mind.  Bob Hand, our speaker at PLC yesterday, gave us a different take on Genesis as he told us that our place is not to "create" ... that's God's job ... our job is to name God's creations.  At first I resisted the message ... of course we create.  I've spent most of my lifetime teaching that creativity is part of each of us.  But, perhaps it's definitional.  God (feel free to substitute any of the many names of God here) created everything first ... before that "big C" act of Creation, nothing existed.  Maybe what we do is "little-c" creativity, which is actually just rearranging already existing things in, perhaps, a new way.

I also resisted the thought that we were just namers.  How much could it matter what name we give to something?  Call a child Devon or Don ... does it change the child?  But Bob's message was deeper ... what we call something changes us.  And, we have the opportunity to name everything around us every moment.  We can wake up and name the day busy, scary, bad, hectic, a disaster ... or we can name it promising, joyful, fun, loving, wonderful.  We can look at a piece of key lime pie and name it "fattening" and fear it or we can name it "sweetly tart" and decide whether or not it fits our health objectives.

So, with the idea that what we name things is truly important, I'm looking for a name for this piece of sculpture.  I've thought about "Sol y Sombre (spirit and shadow)", "The Five Columns of ... (Abundance, Joy, Prosperity, Spirit), and a few others but so far none have stuck.  Yesterday Bob ended his talk by suggesting that when we wake up each morning, we might want to name the day "Wonderful."  I like that and it's a possibility for a name, but ...

But, I'm still looking ... so if you have an idea, I'd love to hear it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

PhotoLarks: San Diego

Have you ever looked at a rack of postcards and wondered where they were taken because you'd like to go there and see the place for yourself ... and maybe take your own picture of it?  Me, too.

That impulse has prompted a new project which will be to document the most photogenic places in San Diego County (a place that I lived for many years and have visited almost every year since).  I love taking photos in San Diego but always feel like I'm missing the hidden places ... the places only local photographers know about.  Enter the iPod/iPhone/iPad and those delightful little, who-knew-we-needed-them-till-we-got-them things called apps.  Knowing how great it would be if I had a map of all those places on my iPhone, I've just launched a project to develop that guide to help visitors and local photographers know just where to go to get great pictures.  They will also get advice from great local photographers along the way.  In addition to the app, it will be available as a book and a DVD.

In order to fund this project, I'm going to submit it to (if you're interested in backing a creative project ... or just want to see what people are thinking about, check it out).  Because they need an image to go along with the project, I pulled out a lot of my San Diego photos and created the attached image.  It will be one of the rewards people get when they back my project ... I'll tell you more about this part of it once the project has been accepted by Kickstarter.

Anyway, I'm off on a new lark and will keep you posted as things change.

About the Image:  Coming Together in San Diego

One of my favorite pieces of public art is Niki de Saint Phalle's giant mosaic statue titled "Coming Together" near the San Diego Convention Center.  The skyline is seen from Coronado.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

We're Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto!

Yesterday in Redding it was blazing hot.  Today on the north coast there are gale force winds ... cold, gale force winds ... and evacuation route signs for when the big one comes.

In between there and here were three hours of wildflowers, miles of wild river, tiny towns, new gold claim markers, the oldest continuously used Taoist temple in California and a stop for rocks at agate beach ... the car is now about five pounds heavier.

The beach was also covered with beach morning glories.

Ahhh ... California!

RoadLark: Lake Shasta

I'm on a road trip and yesterday I discovered a sundial bridge that's only correct once a year and walked into a cloud of scotch broom that smelled like heaven. I'm in the Northern California area looking at mosaics, talking to mosaic artists and doing whatever else captures my attention.

The Sundial bridge spans the Sacramento River and is simply for pedestrians as part of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park.  It is glass decked in order to allow light to the salmon spawning habitat below and designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.  It is the world's largest sundial and the only bridge of its kind in the US and quickly becoming a California icon.

 I spent a couple of days in Chico which has the largest city park west of the Mississippi (3800 acres).  The downtown area has a series of "legacy benches" and this is a picture of the one honoring Raymond Carver:

The Current:

These fish have no eyes
these silver fish that come to me in dreams,
scattering their roe and milt
in the pockets of my brain

But there's one that comes --
heavy, scarred, silent like the rest,
that simply holds against the current,

closing its dark mouth against
the current, closing and opening
as it holds to the current.

It is way hot here so today I'm off to the coast to meet another mosaic artist.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Coleman Barks Update

In January of this year this blog was dedicated to Rumi and Coleman Barks and in mid-March I reported on the stroke that had mainly affected Barks' voice.  I checked with him and am delighted to report that he says his voice is "workable" and he is accepting speaking engagements.  He is such a treasure that we wish him ... partially selfishly ... many more years of vibrant health.

Here is a repeat of one of the videos posted in January ... we hope you enjoy!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Poetry Month #7: Lost by David Wagoner

This is a powerful poem and a great reading about being lost .  It sounds like David Whyte but the video doesn't identify him.  It's worth a short break with a cup of tea.

Lost by David Wagoner
published by the University of Illinois Press in 1999

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


"I do not seek; I find."      
 -- Pablo Picasso     

A few weeks ago, on a trip down the Big Sur coast with my friend Judy, I found an image of striped stockinged legs on the tank of a commode.  Since my camera is always with me, I took a picture of it.  This weekend it started calling me and wound up flirting with a piece of paper that came in the box of a plate I found at a flea market. I liked the Asian look of the paper.

As these unlikely pieces came together, it struck me that I am a gleaner ... someone who gathers up useful bits from the field after the harvesting.  There are many of us and we can be seen every weekend, scurrying around like ants gathering up bits and pieces from yard sales and flea markets, picking through the chaff of our commercial lives to find bits that might have just a little life left in them.

These two images ... one western, one eastern ... called to each other and merged together gracefully as if their union was meant to be.  I'm not sure what message they send but when I found the Picasso quote, it made me wonder if all art ... possibly all life ... really is an act of finding ... of gleaning the value from whatever comes our way.

About the image:  In the Garden

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Art Class

Yesterday was my day to sit at Timberline Gallery as part of my co-op membership duties.  It is always a pleasant day with lots of lulls that can be filled with personal projects.  I planned on making cards to replenish my inventory but things change, as they always do.  On my way to the gallery, I stopped at a garage sale and found a small acrylic frame embedded with crayons ... or what looks like crayons ... for $3!

I didn't know why I was buying it since it only holds a tiny 3.5x5 image but buy it I did.  And, almost immediately, it began working on me.  This image was the result.  The stimulus image is an oil slick at a gas station after a rain so it basically delivered the message to me.

It was a lovely day of making art, talking art with the people passing through on their way to Yosemite and being surrounded and inspired by all the artists in the gallery.  Definitely an art class day!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Honey Wind Blows

Yesterday's memories of Kahlil Gibran, made me think of Rod McKuen and Glenn Yarbrough.  McKuen was a pop-poet of the 60s and Glenn Yarbrough was, and continues to be, one of my favorite singers.  His soothing, honey-voice was lost in the tempestuous times of the 60s but the combination of his voice and McKuen's lyrics is a return to the belief in fairy-tale endings and love untainted by harsh realities of the world.

Here's my very favorite Glenn Yarbrough song ... he's also the best whistler I know of.  I took my step-daughters to a Yarbrough concert when they were in their early teens and they were singularly unimpressed.  I guess it's a generational thing but I still experience a thrill when I hear his voice.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spiritual Ancestors

"The earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." 
 -- Kahlil Gibran

Remember Kahlil Gibran?  At Oklahoma University in the early 60s, Gibran was our Rumi, taking our spirits out of the square boxes of our childhood churches and setting them free to find new ways to be in the world.  Born in Lebanon, English was Gibran's acquired language.  His best known work, The Prophet, has never been out of print since its publication in 1923 and he is the third best-selling poet in the world, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu (according to Wikipedia).

I can remember the feeling of strange attraction and fascination with his poetic words just as I often feel when reading or listening to Rumi today.  It was a feeling both of strangeness and familiar connection, the recognition of some piece of me that had lain dormant until his words lit a warming candle that gently awakened it.  

Here are a few of his words and a reminder that we have ancestors in many ways ... those whose DNA we carry, those who have nurtured our skills and talents and those whose words lighten and enlighten our spirits.  Today, on this first day of June in this no-longer new year, I acknowledge and honor all my spiritual ancestors.

"Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity."    

"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.  Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain."  

"Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty, and obey only love."  

"Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror."

"The obvious is that which is never seen until someone expresses it simply." 

"You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance."   

"Keep me from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children."

"But let there be spaces in your togetherness, let the winds of the heavens dance between you."

"The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?"

About this image:  Earth

I am creating a mosaic sculpture piece in my front yard.  Five columns:  Earth, Wind, Fire, Water and Spirit surround the birth of Transformation.  I just finished Earth.