Thursday, December 31, 2009
It's been ages since I did an oil painting, and I just couldn't let the last of the year slip away without slapping away at a canvas. Now, this is rough, but the idea is there, and next comes some decisions about where to refine, where to keep it rough, local or non-local colors, all that stuff. So far, so good. Not terribly unhappy, not terribly thrilled yet, either. Artists are such tender little souls, you know. We are easily wounded by a look or word, and just as easily buoyed by a soupcon of praise. Always more to do. Maybe I'll start a second one. It seems like a good idea to keep two working, so that when one seems stale, the other one can be approached with new eyes. I like that idea.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
On occasion, I am just kind of bouncing along, doing the day, the moment, trying to be present as the witness of my emotions and actions, feeling the inner body that Eckhart speaks of, that pulsing, vibrant lifeforce that lives within, and I remember. Death is coming. For this human, death is coming not so far around the bend. There are a few years ahead, but who knows if they will be good years. Makes me run to the gym with new fervor, keep what I have humming and working at full capacity. And yet, there is no exit here. And here's the challenge; I think that if I cannot conquer my fear of the unknown, if I don't enter the portal into the immortality of the Universe, let go of my ego and body and tiny self, I will have to come back to this big dirt ball and do it all over again. And who wants to do that? Not this being. This life has been painful as hell, not only the physical stuff, squeezing out a couple of human beings, enduring numerous supposedly necessary medical and dental procedures, but also emotionally, as in three divorces and a few breakups and other slights, real or imagined. And that doesn't even take into account a childhood spent tiptoeing around the emotional minefield of my FOO (family of origin). And in many ways, this time around was blessed. I have never known want of food or shelter. I have always been surrounded with many creature comforts. Next time, I could be born into an untouchable caste in a backwater slum of the Middle East. Or an urban ghetto. Lord knows what indignities await! So, I am working like a longshoreman here, mastering that dreaded thing called FEAR. Every day, in every way. Yes.
Monday, December 28, 2009
The holiday is history. I have such baggage around Christmas. It is a time of high drama, all of which I make myself. How much does everyone love me? Will they show up for me? Am I OKAY here? Today, I am realizing that, though I am better, I am still not well. So, a few reflections. Love is not measured in dollar signs. Time spent together is the most precious gift. It will not be long before my FOO (family of origin) is fragmented by the Great Beloved, which makes this time even more precious. It doesn't help that Christmas comes at the darkest time of the year, either. It took getting sober to see how much that affected me. Now, armed with foreknowledge, I can work through it without being bowled over. And yet, here I am, sitting in a stew I brewed up overnight. It helps to remember that after the dark sacred night comes the bright blessed day.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Funnily enough, as fast as the years zip by these days, it always feels like forever until my sobriety birthday comes around. It is today, December 26, otherwise known as Boxing Day in other countries on earth, and this is number 20. That seems so very momentous, but it is really just 7,305 days, one at a time. And 4,000-5,000 meetings, because I do at least four a week, and often as many as seven. People ask "are you STILL going to those meetings?", and I say, gee, if I were a diabetic, would you ask me if I was still taking my insulin? To an alcoholic, meetings are what keeps the disease at bay, because it never goes away, it is incurable and chronic and deadly if it gets out of hand. I have seen many people who once had meaningful sobriety die once they started drinking again. And those who make it back to start over ALWAYS say that they stopped going to meetings. This is not a self-help program. Hundreds of other recovering alcoholics have stood beside me, showed me by their example how to do this work (and some showed me how NOT to do it, too, remember, if you can't be a good example, you'll have to be a horrible warning). And I used to think I was sitting in a folding chair at a meeting to save my own ass, but it turns out I have saved some others, just by showing up over and over and over again. Imagine that. So, WOW! 20 Years!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
You know how it is - hurry up and get there, sit and wait and wait. And fill out the same forms I did last time, because they didn't get them into their "system". Sigh. So I picked up a Time magazine, and had a happy half hour to read the whole article about scientists who are studying dog behavior. There is this age old rivalry between cats and dogs, which is smarter. Dog people think dogs (duh), because they learn commands and perform on demand. Cat people think cats because they don't. Well, it's actually more interesting than that. Dogs were domesticated (from wolves, originally) because of trash. Yep. Smart wolves followed nomadic packs of humans to scarf up their leftovers. Smarter ones ingratiated themselves, and formed a symbiotic relationship. It was easier than hunting. And, of course, humans took their furry pals and bred them to their special interests. Oh, and that face licking thing? Think that is a show of affection? Think again. Pack members would lick the mouths of returning hunters to see if they had been successful, and the returning ones would obligingly throw up to share their kill with the pack. And it seems that dogs are so fixated on their masters, they can be taught behaviors that chimpanzees cannot. Even babies won't learn things dogs will. Perhaps we were meant to be, dogs and humans, a love affair for the ages. Now these researchers are seeking among the myriad of breeds for the most intelligent of the species. You have to agree, when it comes to expedience, dogs rule. Cats, on the other hand, never lost their hunting instinct, are capable of faring for themselves, and need you only peripherally, at best. Dogs like their creature comforts. Which is why you probably won't find packs of feral Pekingeses any time soon.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
For some reason, I got up grateful this morning. Probably it was about tripping over the pile of shoes by the side of the bed. I seldom wear the same pair twice in a row. I also seldom put them away at the end of the day. Now, I don't consider myself a shoe person. My aim is comfort. No more stiletto heels with witchy points. Two inches is as high as I go these days, stacked heels or wedges. These here are the shoes du jour, my Bass distressed leather wooden-heeled clogs that I imortalized in oil painting class a while ago, ala prima (all at one sitting, about 2 hours), and with palette knife, which was a new way to do things at the time, too. I framed this and put it up here in the office/library/music/meditation/computer room in the little yellow house. I love this painting. Okay, the photo is a tad fuzzy, but the painting is as well. These are my favorite shoes. I have had them about 15 years now, and they held up admirably. I can slip into them, with a pair of my joyous socks on my tootsies, and head out in any kind of California weather, even rain. Another grateful moment; how wonderful are hands, that can pick up the Sketchers Maryjanes, the witch boots and the schlepp-around walking shoes all at the same time and hurl them into the closet? Pretty wonderful. Grateful days are the best.
Monday, December 21, 2009
I just framed and wrapped this painting to give to a dear friend. It was done on campus, one of six I did that day, very quickly, very gestural, just on instincts. The paint did its thing, as it is wont to do, and the result was surprising, to say the least. And, on later perusal, rather magical. We were learning about mark-making, one of the techniques real painters use in their work. I liked it ever so much more than washes, and painting negative space, and painting skies, which was all I had done up to this moment in time. That day, I got on paper some of the most astonishing images. I look back at it now, and I am in wonder - of the process and of the end product. Surely, God painted this picture. I just happened to be holding the brush.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
I think Christmas should be suspended for those over 10 years of age, around the time most kids have decided Santa Claus is just another action hero. Okay, I believed a lot longer than most, but I stand on my estimate of 10 years. The rest of us should just order Chinese takeout and crawl under the covers for the day, watch It's a Wonderful Life for the 50th time, and pop See's orange and raspberry creams into our mouths. Let the kids caroom around like Dr. Suess characters in Whoville. Then call Maids R Us for a quick cleanup the day after, and forget about the whole thing for another year. And if you are like me, and the kids are off on their own, well, no clean up! Hell, it's winter! It's dark! It's cold! An even better idea: let's all hibernate! Oh, I like that. On a more serious note, it is the winter solstice, which marks the return of the light, a deeply holy time of year. Okay, I can celebrate that, light a candle, say a prayer for world peace and another year of life on the Big Blue Ball. Namaste.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Okay, another semester bites the dust. This was the big final project for drawing class, a drawing of my living room (drastically picked-up and somewhat simplified living room). That's Days of Our Lives on the TV, of course, and Boo and Pickle are there, as they usually are anywhere I am. The elephant lives there, too, a small, tidy, easy-to-live-with elephant these days, but he has never really moved out, though he is considerably smaller. I had buckets of fun doing this drawing, and learned a lot. Like, I have improved my skills a lot in this one semester. I have become much braver than I have ever been before. And I actually got an IDEA (!) and worked it through to its consummation. That is probably the biggest thrill I have had in a really long time. Which means I really have to get out more often!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Everyone should know how to knit. Women, of course, but men, too. They do it in England, you know. Men, I mean. There is nothing so comforting, so meditative, so productive as taking a piece of string and two sticks and making a garment. Okay, mostly I knit scarves. I have, in the past, knitted sweaters and baby blankets and hats, you know. And I am working on a hat right at the moment. Cannot wait to see how it turns out. But the outcome is not the main object in knitting. It is just the whipped cream on the whole scrumptious sundae. The doing is so restful all by itself. It is an exercise in being here now. Ram Dass would be proud of me, to say nothing of Deepak and Eckhart. So, that's my two cents for the day. Back to knit one, purl one.
Monday, December 14, 2009
I realize I have not kept up the Pickle Chronicles, so here goes. My Pickle is a year and a half old already. No, she shows no sign of being grown up. She still has ears that can suss out the tiniest disturbance in the sonic universe, and this little bark that is like a seal barfing. She is variously known as Pickle Fluffybutt, Pickle Wickle, Pickle Bigfoot, and Pickle Paininthebutt. Her habits are simultaneously irritating and endearing. Like, when I am here at the computer, oblivious to the world in general, suddenly there she is, with her big feet on my thigh, just wanting to be noticed. Like, right at this moment! Sometimes she has a toy in her mouth. Gee, I remember how cute I thought that was, the first time she did that. Throw my toy! I'll bring it back! Over and over and over and over and over again. Then there is the habit she has of taking paper things out on the back lawn and shredding them into tiny bits. I get lots of exercise picking them up, that's for sure. And sometimes, they are things I wanted to keep. She hasn't chewed up any books lately, library or otherwise. I know better than to leave them withing range of her sharp little teeth. Boo loves and hates her, and then humps her, which makes her presence tolerable for him. She hasn't sat on the doggie bed steps to keep him from getting up lately, or pushed them away, either. Maybe she is over that stage. Gee, I hope so, because Boo always calls me to mediate, in that whiney little way he has. All in all, Pickle is a perfectly wonderful little creature, well worth the time, energy and money. God knew what She was doing when She made my Pickle.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
It is not true that one needs other people to create drama. I, myself, am capable of stirring up a whole big bunch all by my lonesome. Eckhart says drama is resistance to what is. And that is what surrender is about, letting the present moment be whatever it is, without labeling it good or bad. It just is. Yeah. So, I am working on it. Already, I have had a little hissy fit about reloading my printer cartridges. Insanity led me to continue to put them in when reality was clearly showing me it wasn't working. A trip to hp.com/support helped me see what was wrong, and you don't push them down, you push the UP. They are all loaded, and working. Which was going to happen with or without the swearing, stomping of feet, gnashing of teeth and other histrionics. I can only believe that I am used to my drama, that I expect it to overwhelm me, and do nothing to move out of its way. It's like paddling upstream all the time. Tiring, yes, and doesn't get me very far, ever. Nice to know there is still work to do. Gives me a reason to get up every day.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
My pseudo-Cezanne is almost finished. Debating putting a chair back behind the edge of the table. Cezanne would do it, but he's not around at the moment. Fun thing about this guy, don't need to worry if things are wonky. He did that a lot. Hopefully on purpose, because otherwise, he wasn't seeing too well. I did some things he didn't, like crop the flower arrangement. Actually, that wasn't really my plan, I just sort of ran out of room. Hey, that's a really big vase. I think it makes the painting, though, and Cezanne loved patterned china things. And I just adore the bowl of pears. It came out really sweet, I think. So, back to the great big drawing. It, too, is almost done. Have to put the dogs on the couch, or at my feet, or both. Another semester. More successful conclusions. It is all happy and satisfying.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Rough draft of my drawing final, where I am supposed to show my expertise in things like perspective and values and volume drawing. Gee, think this will do? Okay, I am a little, well, little, but I needed to be able to lean on my elephant. And my elephant isn't as big as he used to be any more. I've done a lot of work on my elephant. I'm doing most of the work standing at my kitchen counter looking down into the room. The light keeps changing, and cast shadows are going to be interesting. Probably need to do them all at once. So far, I'm pretty happy with it. And it could be much better. As always.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
You know I have been wallowing in the muck of self lately, and that I have sucessfully extricated myself, once again. One thing I know how to do well is bounce. Of course, if I stopped hitting walls that would not be necessary at all. Sigh. And that is not likely to happen in the near future, so, yay, I have risen from my bed of (self-inflicted) pain. I did it by connecting to Spirit again, and becoming a conduit for Its power to bring me peace and fulfillment. It is the only thing that can really. Cannot rely on people, places, things, or situations to do that. All that is external, and in the world of form. What I needed was some substance, and that lives within. And, in keeping with the usual routine, my heat dish died. Now, last time I was doing this work, it was my iron that bit the dust. No big problem as I use it as seldom as possible. But, folks, it is very cold here at the moment (okay, if you live in Minnesota, we are basking in balminess, but, then, you live in Minnesota, what do you know, anyway), and I find it difficult to be truly spiritual when my feet are cold. My bedroom has no built-in heat source. I need my heat dish! As luck would have it, I am prosperous enough at the moment to buy a new one, so I did. Except it is a much improved appliance. It is a tower, which brings the heat up to where I am, stretched out and propped up in bed. It has a fan, to waft the heat over me. It oscillates, so I can be warm from nose to toes. It has a thermostat so I can set it and it will turn itself off when the desired temperature is reached, and back on if it dips down. It has a REMOTE! Every so often last night, as I lay there in my little bubble of warmth, I told it how much I loved it, my new heater. It was the best thing that could happen to me, the demise of my heat dish. Except that, after assembling my new one and disengaging the old one from its extension cord, I found that the heat dish was miraculously resurrected. It was the cord that got fried. So now, I have a spare and portable heater to take with me wherever I am in the little yellow house, and save me beaucoup bucks in PG&E bills. Definitely an act of God. Pure grace.
Friday, December 04, 2009
Wouldn't life be so much more simple if we all looked at it out of the same eyes, with the same attitude, the same experience, and a desire to understand one another? Okay, that's not about to happen. Nevertheless, I just have to expound on my lack of ability to step into another person's shoes, or head. Some people live in such different reality bubbles, I could not begin to fathom their processes. And yet, this statement is as true for them as it is for me. Whatever I think of the situation, it is what it is. Rather, it is what I think it is, because, heaven knows, it could be something entirely different. If I decided differently. Oh, hell, now I'm so confused, I can't remember the main point at all. If I even had one. It's cold, folks, and my brain is all frosty around the edges. Not that it works all that well when thawed. Working on becoming enlightened can be such a screwed up process. Actually, confusion is a good thing. It begs for clarity. Lay it on me!
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Confession: I have been all bound up in my painbody, again. It seems like I have spent my life looking in at it, not a part of anyone else's happiness, like Stella Dallas standing in the crowd, a forlorn baglady watching her daughter marry into high society. Ouch. It has never been okay to just be who I am. It was easier to be a victim, an sack of past pain. Now, I have worked hard to crawl up out of that hole. The 12 Steps have helped a whole bunch. But, every so often, I fall back into the hole. Now, crawling up out of it, again. I am not a victim of the ants that keep creeping into my kitchen every night. And I am not a pile of past pain. I am listening to Eckhart, again. I may have to do this for the rest of this human existence. So much for hubris, that idea that I knew something others did not. The holidaze have blown my cover. Nuts. Cashews would be nice.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Oh, save me from another Cezanne! This is my fourth, in a series of six. At least one has to be of my own composition. Can barely wait to see that one, that's for sure. When this is over, this interminably looooonnnnng semester, I look forward to getting out the oils and painting some cows. And some birds. Of my own choosing. School is wonderful. You learn so many things. One of them is what you don't like to do. Imagine that.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
I was sitting in the Sunday morning Sober Sunday meeting, thinking. This is a no-nonsense, closed AA meeting, for alcoholics only, no window shoppers or academics trying to dissect us or the disease. They even frown on repeating the usual phrases, like the last tradition, which begs us to consider "principles before personalities". It seems to me if you are this picky about your meeting, you probably should be saying this out loud at least once a day, but, hell, who am I to say what should happen there? Like I have all the answers. Anyhoo, I was not alone there. Sitting around me was the most astonishing array of the human condition one could hope to run into in this lifetime. Some of us were dolled up, heading to places like church or the relatives house for Sunday dinner. Some of us were in our grubs, looking forward to an afternoon of raking leaves or cleaning gutters. Some were young and full of juice. Others were old and shriveled. Diamonds sparkled on a few hands. We were smiley, frowny, and just plain confused-looking. And we were all there, hoping for the kind of transformation that turns lowly caterpillars into butterflies. It was a moment of grace for me, sitting as I did squarely in the middle, not young, not discernably old (yet), not dressed up or down, just me, happy to be there, happy to be sober, happy to have my meeting behind me so I can do all those other things I get to do because I got to a meeting. I am changed now, ready to rake leaves and render a huge drawing and paint a Cezanne hommage and run the dishwasher and fold the laundry. Life on life's terms. With wings.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Anyone else looking at my life might think I made a lot of mistakes. Well, not so, despite appearances. Yes, I was divorced - three times. Each husband came into my life to teach me something, and was exactly the right decision for me at exactly the right time. Trouble is, you see, I keep changing. They didn't. Funnily enough, often the reasons I married them were the same reasons I divorced them. He was strong and opinionated. I was, too, and he hit me. I left. He was intellectual and effete. I wanted to not feel, he worked for me. Except it became an emotional dessert. I left. He was conservative and a great provider. I felt out of control and needy. He tried to control me. I left. Every upheaval in my life has taught me something new, about myself, my values, my real wants and needs. I don't need a vacation cabin with a sweet Mercedes convertible attached. I don't want it, either. Everything I have is more than I need, and most of all, I have the peace of mind that knowing I am clean in the world gives me. I am enough now. For me. If I'm not enough for you, bless you and goodbye. Too little time left in this life to worry about how to please you. Hard enough pleasing myself!
Friday, November 27, 2009
It is interesting to note that personal responsibility has taken a pretty big nosedive in our day and age. When I was growing up, I was responsible for EVERYTHING, especially my mother's feelings ("you make me so mad", "see what you make me do", etc.). Since everything was my fault, I really didn't like myself very much. It was hard to like you, too. Now, I am not even responsible if I spill hot coffee from McDonald's on myself, at least not according to the litigators. That's sad. Look, what happens in my life is the result of where I go and what I do. I have some responsibility in EVERYTHING that happens to me. Sometimes that responsibility extends to putting myself in your sights. Sometimes it is more active. That is a good thing, actually, because I can then remove myself from the presence of people and things that are going to screw me up and over. Mostly, I am responsible for what I say. My thoughts, well, that's another story. They seem to bubble up of their own accord, out of the stew of experience I have lived through. But I don't have to say them out loud. Hell, I don't even have to believe them. Most of the time, they are not true, anyway. But what comes from my mouth, well, that can never be unsaid or unheard, and I want to not make any more of that bad karma that comes from cruel words. So, excuse me, but I am responsible for me. You, that's another story.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Another Cezanne hommage for my final project, this time a rendering of one of many paintings he did of Mont St. Victoire in near his home in Aix-En-Provence. Cezanne loved mark-making. He slashed this way, then that way, making little rectangles or lines of color, lots of color. That is easier to reproduce in oils, or acrylics, as I once did. Watercolors just make puddles, though you can run those puddles of color together to make interesting effects. I was talking to a fellow student, remarking as she worked on three small paintings at the same time, letting each dry thouroughly before going back into it, how patient she is. She thought it was more compulsive-obsessive. And where I saw myself as impatient, she saw me as very brave. It's all in the mind of the observer after all.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Those of us in recovery pray a lot. Our Big Book says the proper prayer is for God's will for us. So, I pray for guidance a lot, and I pray for the highest good to come to all, even those who drive me screaming up the wall, they need it most of all. Sometimes, their highest good may be a piano falling on them from a great height. I mean, what do I know? God has the plan. And, even though we are not supposed to treat our Higher Power like Santa Claus, I must admit that occasionally I will add the proviso "and, if it be your will, send money". Just in case God does not know that I want it. I really am quite grateful that money has flowed adequately through my life. I have never known true want. Once, I was unemployed, briefly, and my job came back to me before my unemployment insurance or my auxiliary funds ran out. But, hell, the Bible says "ask, and it shall be given unto you", doesn't it? So, yesterday I got an unexpected check in the mail! For $2.62. Very funny.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
First image for my final project is done. I chose Cezanne, because he is imprecise like me. Okay,he was messy. And he had this love affair with color that just leaps off the canvas at you. Here is a portrait he did of his gardener. I fell in love with all the yellow, and with the big feet, and with the hat. How dignified he looks! What an honor, to sit for this great artist. Of course, I was unable to replicate the subtleties that make this a masterpiece, but it is a fairly accurate rendering, and was majorly fun to slap away at. The next will be one of his many, many renderings of Mt. St. Victoire, this really puny mountain near Cezanne's village of Aix-en-Provence that fascinated him. I began to see the pull of it once I started the painting. It has a peacefulness that was so refreshing. Really, how much fun can one have in one lifetime?
Sunday, November 22, 2009
As a kid, I loved rain. Rain meant no jumping around outdoors, where I was the last to be chosen for any team, the slowest to run that dreaded dash, all arms, legs and big feet. Rain meant we got to do recess and lunch indoors, and play games at our desks, like fruit basket upset, or kings and queens, where we ran around like idiots with chalkboard erasers on our heads. Rain became my mortal enemy in my adolescence, where the vast majority of my time was spent worrying about my hairdo and my outfit. Curl just pooped out in any kind of humidity, and my mother made me wear a really clunky pair of plastic overshoes that I managed to lose as soon as possible. (I also had to carry a lunchbox in eighth grade, very embarrassing, and since I couldn't lose it, I hid it outside under a bench most of the time.) Rain was also dreaded when I was commuting. The first rain of the season had all the maniacs out on 101 skidding into each other till they figured out, gee, it's wet and slippery here. It added time to the drive, sometimes more than an hour, and often, that wasn't due to accidents, either. Umbrellas are collateral damage in themselves. I have lost so many of them over the years, I just buy two at the beginning of every rainy season expecting to not have any by the end. Now, in my netheryears, rain is welcome. There is nowhere I need to rush to get to, and I read the news and know that water is precious. Rain saves me beaucoup bucks in water, and heat, as it is warmer when it rains. Right now, the sun has broken through, and everything in my little front yard is sparkly and fresh. Please stay that way till I get back from dunch (dinner at 2:30 PM) with the FOO (family of origin). Thanks.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
In my kindergarten for adults yesterday we assembled collages from bits of colored paper, old watercolors that we cut up, and pictures of stuff out of magazines. Mine tended to be pretty simple compared to others, that got big and cluttered. However, themes escaped me. I was just looking for shapes and colors that seemed to blend together. Nevertheless, this one is definitely about natural objects, sumptuousness, illusion, and yes, vanitas, because all are supremely evanescent. Ah, that's it, evanescence, the inevitable fading away. Now to make a painting of it, that's the trick.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Two subjects have plagued me lo these 6 1/2 decades: my hair, and my attire. I have more or less found the answer to the hair thing (short, of course, and (gulp) blond - who'd of thunk it?). Still working on the outfits. Like, what to wear to the gym. I used to have little stretchy capris or Bermudas that I wore under a leotard thingy. Nothing spandex or sparkly. Black or grey, very classic and understated. When I was in full bloom, men much younger than I would trip over barbells watching me stride across the gym floor. Now that the bloom is off this rose, I think that statement is a little out there. Now I wear charcoal yoga pants, so comfy and loose, with either a light grey long or short sleeve tee over my sports bra. Since this has a tendency to flatten my attributes, I look like a grey string bean, with a haystack on one end. Hey, I am trying not to draw attention to myself here. I tend to be a bit of a klutz. It is hard to look cool when mystified by a Nautilus. However, I got tired of the black Speedo (and it was getting tired of me, too, kind of stretched here and there where there is less of me than before), so I got a RED swimsuit. I don't know what I was thinking, just that I like red, and needed a lift that gray day when I logged in to Swimoutlet.com. Okay, I am proud that I have whittled 20 lbs off the old bod, and gotten some tone here and there, and this may be my last gasp. It is hard to overlook me, anyway, since I am tall and fail to blend anywhere. No use hiding, right?
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
We learned about "vanitas" yesterday in watercolor class. It is an artistic expression of the fleeting quality of life, the inevitable passage of time, and yes, death awaits. The Dutch had those amazing still lifes with an overturned glass, or a piece of fruit in the process of being peeled until the peeler fled the room, or even a piece of rotten fruit, signifying the evanescence of the moment. So, here is a collage of the cowwoman's transitions. First the baby cowwoman, all done up in pigtails, two sweet years old. And there's that dreaded rosary, the cross she bore for decades before deciding it was all just fear-mongering dogma, let the old folks roll around in it, I'm out of here. Glasses, well, they arrived around 40, and hung in there. My teddy bear Hermione is my eternal youth symbol. I have that youngun right here, in my heart. The Olay cream is the last ditch effort to keep everything hanging together just one more day. Love my toenail lotion, and, while I will go out without foundation or mascara, I always put on my lipstick. It's the least I can do for the world at large. Vanitas. Tempus fugit, folks.
It is Tuesday, almost 1 PM, and I notice I am not at school, sitting in the northwest corner of the art studio, portfolio and ArtBin poised for a good workout. I just didn't want to go today. I hated my vegetables on the gray paper in Conte crayon. And I don't like the assignment we started, on a huge piece of colored paper, where we reiterate that blasted toy I drew 99 times last week. I am just not into it today. So, I am settling in to watch my soap, with a cuppa, peppermint tea, and a warm dog or two. And then I think I will mosey over to the town next door for a women's meeting. And then, into a warm bed, the one I shouldn't even have gotten out of in the first place. Mental health day, a time to put a big bandaid on my head trips and just veg out. Thinking and planning are forbidden. Forgive me.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
It was a particularly cold autumn night, and, typical of Saturdays, a dearth of decent television. I eschewed the six big movies that the independent stations show perpetually (The Matrix tops the list), and the dreary network programs, and put on a DVD. I watched What the Bleep Do We Know, probably the fifth or sixth time I have done so. I understand less every time. But I do get that those mystics known as quantum physicists surmise (no one KNOWS anything, they just make the best possible guess, like no one can SEE a quanta) that atoms, the stuff that make up the known universe, are basically just tiny nuclei orbited by tinier particles that seem to flash in and out of existence. Now, there are vast distances between the nuclei and the particles, and vast distance between atoms, in fact. And in that space there is nothing. Nada. Zippididodah. On top of that, everything is made of those particles, so, in reality, though there seem to be vast distances between you and I (or I and my mother, there's a HUGE distance), what we perceive as reality is ALL THE SAME THING. One thing. One. It was almost more than my tiny brain could take in all in one gulp. The truly spiritual believe that this vast emptiness is the mind of God. I like that idea. I'll take that over nothing any day.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Friday means no school, laundry, cleaning, and my weekly Costco safari. It was a cheap day there today, only $37, and I will get $13 of that back tomorrow when I serve up the muffins and strawberries for my home group meeting. I got apple streusel and poppy seed this week. I like those best, and now that I am off my eating plan, I can indulge, a little. I dropped in to the Cafe des Croissants for a 16 oz. non-fat latte, then headed to the noon meeting around the corner. Got to schmooze with dear friends, hear a stirring share, then left early to get home and have my pumpkin pie lunch (I got hungry for it writing about it here, actually). After putting laundry in the dryer, and watching my soap opera (will Nicole get away with Sydney now that Sami knows Sydney is actually the baby she (Sami) gave birth to?), I headed out to the gym with my new red swimsuit, red and orange towel and personal Speedo kick board. I found that 2:30 is a better time to get there than 10 AM, not very many folks on the weenie workout circuit, and I got in a good workout without skipping any machines. Then I struggled into the new suit (a little tight, but then so was the Speedo in the beginning, and it is starting to sag here and there, probably because I am 15 lbs lighter now, so I got a smaller size, hope it works), took a cool shower and jumped into the pool. Oh, it was heavenly! I got in 15 minutes of laps to cool down, then a lovely dip in the jacuzzi before showering, drying off, dressing, blowing dry and heading home. Then I paid some bills, vacuumed, cooked some dinner and had my pie for dessert. All in all, a well-balanced day, to be finished off with a good book and some inane television, and a large portion of doggie love courtesy of the Pickle/Boo folks. Oh, and folding the laundry in the dryer. And determining my morning wardrobe, so I can sleep till the very last minute. What can I say? I'm retired.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I was perusing my Bas Bleu catalog last night, this wonderful conglomeration of odd and wondrous literature, games, toys, fun stuff for the Mensa crowd (oh, lord, not me, but I like hanging on the fringe, you know). And there was this offering called Things We Eat When We Are Alone. After recovering from my incredulity that someone thought to write such a book, I had to admit I was tempted to BUY it, as well. Like, what do the rest on the single folks out there do? It is as if we are some kind of exotic sub-species, us singletons. Having been part of a relationship, on many, many, many occasions, and mothering more than a couple of kids of my own, I know how to do life in relationship. And I have cooked many a family meal, as well as festive occasion feasts for happy crowds. But these other people have no idea what MY life is like here, living as I do with two neurotic little dogs and a paranoid canary. Well, it seems the world wants to know, so here goes. My favorite eating habit is the all-pumpkin-pie, all-the-time. I go to Costco and throw a pie the size of Brazil into my cart ($6,99), pick up a gigantic tub of (Light) CoolWhip, and eat nothing else for the first day. That's pie for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, and for dessert. Seems like a no brainer to me. My mother always served meat (protein), potatoes (starch), and vegetables. Pumpkin pie has eggs, crust, and pumpkin. It satisfies all my mother's criteria, so hell, it has to be GOOD for me, right? That's an occasional plan. Most of the time, I chop up some veggies, saute some meat with them, and throw it all on top of a tortilla. Very satisfying. Today, I cooked some chicken, cut into small slices, in spices and olive oil, threw on some butter lettuce and sliced carrots, put the whole mess on a warm flour tortilla, and topped it with Light ranch dressing. Then I had low fat, low calorie ice cream for dessert, butter pecan, about 200 calories worth. Tonight, I think I will have some of my homemade meat sauce on spaghetti (yummy with mushrooms and olives), and steam some fresh asparagus. Yes, I cook, just for me. I am worth it. And the good news is I don't have to cook things I don't like any more. Because I am cooking for my favorite person in the world. She deserves good things. Always.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
We're coming up on final project time, and in watercolor class, it will be a series in the style of a favorite artist. Six images. That's a lot, folks. So I began with Van Gogh, because I have a book on his flower paintings currently in my possession, and, let's face it, translating his impasto oils (he squeezed the paint right out of the tube to make the stems in some of these paintings) into wimpy watercolors is a real feat. I cheated on this one, and used white paint, something that is kind of a nono. White is the paper, period. Well, my teacher will get over it. Some of Vincent's mania came through in this very care-full rendering. My teacher thought it interesting that I was working from the bottom of the page. There was method in my madness, I told her. That was so I would be PATIENT, and be certain the paint was dry before moving up to the next part of the painting. Notice that nothing runs together here. That in itself is success. I am not terribly unhappy. No, not at all.
I developed the theory of reality bubbles after taking my 15 year old daughter to see Pulp Fiction. Pretty heavy stuff, and hilariously funny. (Yes, I knew she was young, but she was also going to see it whether I took her or not, and I thought more better to be with common-sense parent than not, right?) These people just lived a wholly different set of values than I do. And it occurred to me that the same thing is true with EVERYONE. We all have our quirks, little ways of shaving integrity to suit our egos. Mine do not extend to killing anyone, and not even to character assassination, a previous passtime which bit the bullet in my recovery. But I am not immune to gossip, though I may label it as a heads-up, necessary to keep dear ones from falling into another person's black hole, as I did. I took political science in college, and let me tell you, politicians live in an alternate universe of power and entitlement heretofor unheard of by the likes of little old me. And even though I know this stuff, I am always surprised at what my fellow humans do out there in the Big Bad World. I know it is all scripted to make them feel not even good, but at least okay in their reality bubble. And it is not bad so much as sad. Compassion is the key here. It's all about FEAR, people. Self-centered FEAR. My motto for the day: It is better to be kind than it is to be right. My way may not be your way, but it is not right just because it is mine. And your way is showing you who you are. And you could, if you wanted to, change. Yes, you could. Would you, please?
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Okay, once again, it is time to gripe about the superabundance of leaves that seem to wind up in my front yard this time of year. I live on the east side of the street, which means only half the leaves are mine to begin with. Think the neighbor comes over and helps me rake up his half? Think again. He could at least give me some room in his yard waste bin, but, oh, no. So I spent a happy hour today raking up 7 huge piles of them on the lawn, while the lazy bums down the street ran their infernal leaf blower in my ears like an angry hornet on steroids. Then I dragged my bin over, flipped up the lid, and oh, no! It was full from earlier rakings this week. Well, the truth is, those bins are bottomless. You just have to punch down each new heap and magically, you have a whole half a bin to work with again. I bet myself that I could get all the piles on the lawn into that sucker. Did a whole bunch of leaf punching. And, TADA! I succeeded. Of course, there are a few piles along the street and by the side of the driveway still. At least this was not a windy day, which would mean the lawn would be strewn again even before I was through picking them up. And I am remembering thecool shade in the summer, and the warm sun in the winter once the leaves are gone. It's just that the landlord told me they all drop off over one weekend, you rake, and they are through. And, idiot that I am, I believed him. In reality, I spend 6 or 7 weeks raking and stuffing the trash bin. Hell, it's great exercise, right?
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Anyone else perplexed by what goes on with all those other people on the big blue ball? It's difficult enough that we all speak different languages in different latitudes. And then there are those speaking the same language who are pretty much indecipherable, too. It would be nice if one could rely on others to show up, too. Like, I show up. Most of the time. Of course, lately I have been sick. That is a good excuse not to show up. My drawing teacher didn't show up all last week. No excuse was offered. And yesterday, when we were all in our places with bright shiny faces, we found out she is never going to show up again. No, I don't think she died. Of course, that is the ultimate excuse. I think she was just one of those fragile folks who trembled on the edge of sanity like a tightrope walker, and she fell off. Am I disappointed? You bet. But we got a new teacher, one who does staccato speak. She is a ball of energy, and I just snuck a peak at her art online. Edgy. Am I excited. You bet. Things change. I'll get over it. And God speed, dear fragile woman.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
There was nothing on TV last night until 10 PM, when my new heartthrob Castle was due with a sparkly new episode, so I settled into some favorite old music. I chose Rachmaninoff's 2nd Symphony. Once upon a time, we were all excited to go hear this pistol performed by the Honolulu Symphony, only to find they had wimped out and substituted Beethoven's 5th, a very sturdy workhorse, indeed, but not the prancing, snorting stallion I had expected. This music has the distinction of never quite sounding the same, depending on the rendition. Gee, even the cadenzas in concertos are scripted these days. What gives? Well, it is so multifaceted, so prismatic, it must be easy to lose the delicate thread of line that is supposed to emerge at any given moment. I have owned three versions of it myself: vinyl, cassette, and CD. All are different. And the vinyl version, the one done by Eugene Ormandi, who premiered this work under the supervision of the composer, has always been the best for me. In my musical life, the 2nd symphony represented a major leap for me. I usually fell in love with a phrase or a melody, and suffered through the rest of the piece just to roll around in that emotional paydirt. And that was the original appeal of this work, too, except it was the entire third movement, a haunting ripple introduced by a solo clarinet before swelling like a tidal wave, sweeping through the entire orchestra. Then the rest of the work caught up, and it became all one thing, vast and awe inspiring. I reached a new level of sophistication in my quest to feed my soul. I headed off for my date with Castle, all new and juicy for the listening. Bless you, Sergei.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Okay, I am in a big bunch of self-pity here. Any other atmosphere and I would have set foot out my door, braving my way through the day, cold and all. Oh, I would have suffered. But I do suffer so very nobly, you know. But, because everyone is so very paranoid about the flu this year, I have suddenly become Typhoid Mary because of some little sniffle. Well, maybe not so little. And I do feel crappy, even medicated to the gills. And maybe this is the way it is supposed to be. Get sick, slooooooow down? You think?
Amazing how this happens every year. Even when our weather is hot well into November, the leaves know it's time to give up the ghost, the birds know it is time to head south, and the grass quits growing. I think it is the angle of the sun that is the key. I am taking the cue myself. This fall and winter I dedicate to making a new me, inside and out. Well, that is new, to begin with. I used to just care about the outside, how do I look, am I okay here? Now, inside is much more important. How do I feel, what needs attention? I had some big heads-up moments this year, never very comfortable, but oh so revealing. So, while my sycamores are busily depositing their abundance on my pseudo-lawn, I will be just as busily shedding old, no-longer-needed layers here in the little yellow house. The world will thank me for this. Right.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
I was all comfy in my bed of pain last night, quilts up around my chin, dogs at my feet, watching a panoply of horror movies celebrating Halloween. They showed Bram Stoker's Dracula, a faithful version of the tale, starring Gary Oldman as the big guy himself. It was a resplendent picture, magnificent costumes and sets, great cast (Keenau Reeves as Jonathon Harker, Tom Waites as Renfield, very edgy). And I realized that, in his fancy duds and little blue smoked glasses, Dracula was looking pretty good. And it was all very sexy. And I wanted it to work out between him and Mina (Winona Ryder, very winsome). Not the first time I have noticed that propensity. I was rooting for the Phantom to get his gal, and for Tony Soprano to get his shrink, and Frankenfurter (best, best bad boy ever) to get Janet, too. Nothing makes me want to dive in more than telling me not to touch that. Forbidden fruit, I think it is called. I have gone for it a couple of times in my life, myself. It always ended badly, but for the first few moments, it was sublime. Well, Mina got Jonathon in the end, and, as a consolation prize, he didn't exactly suck. In fact, he didn't suck at all!
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Oh, I am so very smart. I wasn't feeling 100% yesterday, and I have a commitment on Saturday morning to fulfill, so, just in case I felt worse in the morning, I arranged to have a couple of friends fill in for me. And, feeling very smug that I remembered, I set my clocks back an hour. I figured I would be ahead of the curve. Except that I was a day early in that regard, and didn't call my people to help, thinking it was too early. HP took care of me. One of them called ME! And it all got done, a little late, but still in time for the rest of the folks to have their coffee and rolls and fresh fruit at their very spiritual Saturday morning meeting. I am humbled beyond belief. And, if I had gotten up on time, I might have been tempted to go do it all myself, because it appears that all I have is a little head cold. However, we are all so paranoid this flu season, more better I keep my butt indoors, with aspirin, fluids, and mega-doses of vitamin C. I feel that I have some immunity to that dreaded pig thing anyway. About 36 years ago, my whole family got together and played games on New Year's Eve. The next day, we were all desperately ill, with the London flu, which blindsided the whole nation. I got pneumonia, too, and was down for a month. My brother got scarlet fever. I would bet this is the same strain, and the reason that only young folks are dying from it, because it hasn't been around in their lifetime, and they have no defense. This little cold may keep me from getting to my drawing homework, which was to visit a pumpkin patch and do some quick pen and ink sketches of the kids and the veggies. I had actually planned on cheating, anyway, and getting photos online. Venal me. Now, I have an excuse, and can be, as I usually am, honest. It's a better deal, I think.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
What better subject for this medium than leaves? They are non-specific in color, especially this time of year. In fact, except for the first one I laid down, they were all pretty much still green. I livened them up a little here and there, and everywhere. Then I put in some of the chestnuts and shells that a friend brought me. Because they screamed of autumn, too. Okay, it's not my most exciting image. But I got pretty excited about it because I got the paint to behave most of the time, and I could get a likeness of my objects with a peculiar ease (and a sprinkling of salt here and there). It was an exercise in patience, not my most abundant attribute. Nothing ran together and made a puddle. That alone makes it a triumph!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I first joined a gym back in 1990. My motives were not pure. I knew my ex went there, and I was hoping to reconnect. That did not happen. What did was a total surprise. This hunky trainer, Ward, told me that if I applied my self just the tiniest bit, I could sculpt my body. And I did. I became addicted to the gym, so much so that Ward told me to not come so often. I was rail thin. That didn't last, of course, because eventually, I moved to the coast, where there are no gyms, and even the 52 stairs up to the house and the 45 degree grades in the roads there couldn't keep me in shape. I eventually went on an eating plan and shed 35 lbs so I could be svelte for my 40th high school reunion. And then I gained about 20 back, over the next 7 years, not a difficult thing to do when eating and not moving very much. The swimming this summer got me back into active mode, and now, I am back to the gym. Like it is a new idea. I love my days there. I wear my gym clothes there so I can dig right in to the weenie workout circuit, after my warm up on the exercise bike (rode 1.95 miles and shed 30 calories this morning). I have already begun upping the weight on some of the machines, while others totally do me in at 20 lbs. After two circuits, I change into my suit to head for the pool. Today, on my way there, the scale grabbed me. I was all ready to accept a gain, as I am hopefully replacing fat with muscle, and so what a surprise to see that I had dropped 3 lbs! And I wasn't even trying! Which makes me think that it takes my old bod a while to catch up with what's (not) going down. I had a lovely cool down in the pool, lazy laps for 10 minutes, then a dip in the jacuzzi, how sweet it is. Then into the shower, allover lotion, into my skinny jeans (single digits, folks), blow dry my haystack, smear on some lipstick and mascara, and prance out to the car. I have become, once again, long and lean. I no longer resemble a string of Italian sausages. I think I am done with the eating plan for a while, anyway. At my age, it is easy to turn into something resembling a plucked chicken if you get too thin. And I do love to eat, especially in the winter. Stew! Split pea soup! Turkey with stuffing! See's candy! I can get away with it if I keep pumping away. It's a plan.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Drawing class was cancelled today. I didn't find this out till I had driven 16 miles to Petaluma campus, but, gosh, that's the way the cookie crumbles, I guess. So I came home and worked on our assignment, this weird little image you see here. The objects had to be organic, so I chose a shell and a piece of driftwood. I drew each one in pen and ink four times, beginning on the left with a simple contour line drawing, then a cross-hatching, then line with ink wash, and finally ink brush only. I tried to rotate the objects to get different perspectives, but also because I was going to be bored out of my tiny mind if I didn't give myself some variety. Frankly, I hope I never have to look at these things ever again. And I think I got some interesting results. Actually, I am most at home with painting, so the last image of each object appeals most to me. But I seem to have gotten the idea of the cross-hatching this time. Great tool for doing value studies (looking at contrasts of light and dark). Michelangelo used that method, as have most great artists. Who am I to bitch? And this is only half the assignment. I have to render two more objects four times. What fun.
A friend asked me the other day "Gee, you've lost weight. Are you okay?" I remember when losing some weight was an occasion for rejoicing. Now, it's a fearful thing. So many of my friends and acquaintances are battling dreadful diagnoses. It seems like life is hazardous to your health. In my FOO (family of origin), there is a lot of longevity. My great great grandmother lived to be 106. I also had a grandfather who died suddenly at 66 of a massive stroke. So, although there has been virtually no cancer in my heritage, that could happen, too. I am happily alive at the moment, healthy, even kind of fit. And this is the only moment, right? So, I'll just keep trucking here. For today. In the autumn.
Monday, October 26, 2009
This is one of my favorite things about recovery; it is never too late to start over. Spiritual advice from Dory, in Finding Nemo - "just keep swimming, just keep swimming". So, I went to the gym at 10 AM this morning. Not early enough, I found out when I finished the weenie workout. Lots of folks in pool doing strange things with floaty devices, only one lap lane open, and big guy churning away. So I went into hot tub first, which makes getting into the pool a religious experience. It only hurts for a minute. Being so righteous deserves some reward, so the eating plan is history. On my shopping trip yesterday, I noticed that HaagenDazs was on sale, 2 for $6, so into the cart went Vanilla Swiss Almond, and Cherry Vanilla, my two all-time faves. Very happy to dig in, eating 1/4 of carton at a time, only 250-300 extra calories, which means intake is up to 1,500-1,700 a day, and I should be able to maintain my current slim self at that level. If not, well, I can always start over, again. But not until the ice cream is gone.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I woke up kind of murky this morning. Sleep eluded me for a great big hunk of time in the night. I meditated. I prayed. I wrote a novel. And eventually nodded off, only to have a dream where I was, once again, lost in the city, couldn't find my car. Powerless. The darkness and I are old friends. I spent most of my life there once. It is different now. Now I play in the light, most of the time. Not at this particular moment, where I feel like sinking into my little hole and pulling it in after me. I won't, of course. I have learned that, if I keep moving, it goes away, that yearning for my own darkness. So I am off to the neighborhood pool, to use one of the six or seven swims I have left on my card, because, despite my mood, HP seems to have given us one of those amazing Indian summer days, and I miss seeing the sky when I swim. That should yank me back to my gratitude place, where everything shines.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Art, like beauty, is in the eye (and opinion) of the beholder, a totally subjective experience. There are those who loathe Vincent Van Gogh, poor misguided souls that they are. Who doesn't adore the energy and vision of that tortured heart? Well, he's not for everyone. I myself find him fascinating, especially knowing his history and struggles. Yet, in his lifetime, he sold one little painting. And it wasn't his best, by far. In Vincent's time, what he created did not qualify as art. Isn't that amazing? If the aim of art is to stir the emotions, what could be the feeling attached to furry bowls and spoons? Yet, that was in my art history book, along with some really ugly Dada creations, grotesque social commentary on the futility of life between the great World Wars. And, isn't that what it's all about anyway? Art reflects the society out of which it is created. In our little community, we seem to be striving to depict the beauty and simplicity that surrounds us. There is not a lot of prickly stuff happening here. And there will always be that thorn among the roses. Without ugliness, there could be no beauty. And without art, how sterile life would be.
Friday, October 23, 2009
When I was a baby, there was a big war waging, and Mommy didn't have those disposable diapers or even plastic pants. Instead, I wore soakers, thick padded pants over the cloth diaper. After I was potty trained, which my mother tells me was around six months of age, we wore little nylon panties, briefs, they called them. These monstrosities are still around today, panties that begin at the top of the thigh and extend to the belly button, great big Briget Jones underpants. Sometime later, after I was out of school, we found out that nylon didn't let our nether parts breathe well enough, so briefs came out in cotton, ever so much more comfortable and healthy, but still not very pretty. They were like Jockey shorts for girls. Well, sometime in my thirties I gravitated to bikini panties, still in cotton, but in pretty prints like pink polka dots or blue daisies. Then high top panties came along, still cut up above the thigh on the sides but not as low on the belly as bikinis. I was 50 before I wore a thong, and have to admit, I had spent decades trying to keep my panties from creeping up there, and found that thing really uncomfortable. Not my style at all. And I balk at the new style of boyish panties, sitting about the same latitude as bikinis but below even the traditional brief in the leg. They just look really unweildy. So I will stick to my healthy cotton ItseBitsy bikinis, thank you. So much more feminine and comfy than my mother's tap pants, which were like boxer shorts for girls, and my grandmother's bloomers, just short of pantaloons, that bunched up under all those petticoats. Let's face it. These things are IMPORTANT. Just knowing my underwear is au courant gives me a lift. Yeah.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
I remembered to bring my camera to class with me yesterday, because I looked up as I was lurching toward the garage with my portfolio and tote bag full of watercolor necessities, and noticed how magical it is when the sun goes down and the lights come on. We have a beautiful campus at our lovely little community college: heritage oak trees, brick buildings (some older that I am), tenderly cared-for gardens. But the greatest improvement in my estimation was the parking garage. And look how pretty them made it! It is brick, to match the rest of the campus, and they gave us our own camponile, to rival those big Universities down south of us. It is really magical to be able to go back to school at all. Then I get to see all this wonder around me. Wonder, even in a parking garage. How sweet is that!