Saturday, December 29, 2007

Backing into 2008


I was born breech. As my mother says, I entered this world "fanny first," and since then, my sense of direction has always been a bit strange. I seldom approach anything head-on but am more apt to get a vague sense of the lay of the land, then back my way into a given situation.

The heyokah is an indigenous sacred clown who does things backwards. His purpose is to remind the rest of us to take ourselves somewhat less seriously and he is called to this purpose by an encounter with the Thunder Beings. Purportedly, the heyokah, after this powerful encounter, can influence the weather himself.

Last summer I was working on my heyokah collage. It was the height of our desert monsoon season and rain was falling in torrents outside my studio. I was backing away from the easel for a longer view of my painting, when a flash of lightening swept across the floor, knocking out my computer modem. The ensuing crash of thunder was deafening. My little encounter with the Thunder Beings was sufficient for a lifetime. I knew I'd rather paint a heyokah than be a heyokah.

"Heyokah" is the only painting I ever made that works equally well in any orientation. You can turn it upside-down or rotate it 90 degrees in either direction, and it'll look reasonably balanced, or at least I believe it does. In that way it lives up to its name. "Heyokah" is custom-packaged and awaiting pickup by DHL for its insured journey to Argyle, Texas. Here's hoping the driver doesn't have to go the distance in reverse, that his encounters with thunderstorms are few and far between.


I am happy to report that the Santa Sales Spirit has been good to me of late. "My Misplaced Wings" will be flying to an entryway in Oklahoma City. And "The Alchemist's Dream" is bound for Tucson, where it is destined to hang on a bedroom wall.

The paintings, once they're in the gallery, have a way of holding out for the right person. When that certain person comes along, it's a sweet, inevitable encounter. It's always a pleasure to send a painting to the proper home.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Two Recipes for World Peace


"Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me." I sang that as a kid, especially around Christmastime, and the older I get, the truer it is. Peace marches and public prayers for peace and the repeated proclamation that one wants world peace are wonderful in themselves. Then again, what kind of clown isn't in favor of world peace? I mean, do you ever hear anyone saying, "All I want for Christmas is a big world war."

What I want for Christmas is a smattering of peace within my own heart. It is so tempting to play back the dwindling year and count the ways I've failed: Didn't make as many paintings as I'd intended. Didn't sell as many paintings as I'd intended. Didn't eat healthily enough. Didn't exercise enough. Didn't pray enough. Fell behind in church attendance. Fell behind in bookkeeping. Spent too much money. Argued too much with my spouse over silly, inconsequential matters. Kept too quiet over more important matters.

But it's done. What good will it do to mourn these shortcomings now? It only eats up today, and today is what I've got. Today I'll listen to Joseph Rael's "Song of Peace." A friend of mine says that a group of people have been listening to it daily for several weeks. They will continue to listen until the dawn of 2008. It's one of those "let's attune our hearts to peace and see what happens" kind of things. Me, I'm game. I'll listen for that inner song of peace.



And I am most definitely game for making and eating World Peace Cookies. Dorie Greenspan in Baking: From My House to Yours (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), relates that her neighbor, upon eating these cookies, (the creation of legendary Parisian pastry chef/peacenik Pierre Herme), vowed that they were so completely satisfying on the most basic human level, that one cookie, consumed once a day, by each person inhabiting the planet, would result in world peace.

Know how they proclaim a worldwide ceasefire for a period of time on Christmas Day? What if they passed out cookies while they were at it?

WORLD PEACE COOKIES


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

3. Turn off the mixer. Pour in the dry ingredients, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don't be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you've frozen the dough, you needn't defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

Getting Ready to Bake:

5. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

6. Using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you're cutting them — don't be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won't look done, nor will they be firm, but that's just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.



Haven't tried the recipe yet. Flannery discovered it. She and I will be testing it later this week. We'll see if Monsieur Herme is Nobel Peace Prize material.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Blogger Header Chainsaw Massacre



A couple or so weeks ago, my header photo got cropped beyond reason. The mountains up and vanished, as did most of the sky. Some of the words took to hiding behind what was left of the foliage. Worst of all, Lily's chair lost its legs. I'd noticed this but hadn't realized it was happening all of the time. Thought it had something to do with the fact I was putting more images in my posts. Got an email from Lee asking what was up. Next morning the blogger troubleshooting email feed I subscribe to came rolling in with tons of complaints from fellow bloggers:

HEY, MY LOGO WENT AWAY!

MY IMAGE SHRANK!!

GIVE ME BACK MY HEADER!!

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS MY HEADER IMAGE BACK! (That was me.)

F*#@ YOU AND YOUR CHAINSAW TOO! (Me too. Well, not really. But it should have been.)

Seems someone at Blogger had decided to make all of our headers the exact same dimensions. A one-size-fits-all mentality so flies in the face of why we blog.

I've noticed that some of you, such as Daphne, have fallen victims to the massacre. A more symmetrical, repetitive image such as Daphne's, luckily, doesn't look quite so foolish in its truncated state as did mine.

Hiram, the rakish spirit who frequents one of our spirit chairs, (I highlighted his name, so you can read about him, if you're curious) has been livid. He was already sulking about my decision to leave his chair out of the heading, but to see Lily's reduced to a shadow of its former self simply unnerved him beyond belief.

Me, I'd gotten used to his incessant clanging on the roof in the early afternoon, but now he's come inside the house. He's taken to setting the little vintage horse rocking in the wee hours of the morning. Waking up to that hateful thing swaying back and forth on the bricks of the living room floor, night after night after night--it's like being trapped in a David Lynch movie. Nonsensical, dark, never-ending, and annoying. I'm a rag.

Tis the season for miracles. Mine arrived in the form of one Mishka, a brilliant troubleshooter who speaks my language. Follow this link to Mishka's blog and you'll see an explanation on how to get your amputated headers up and running again.

Mishka. Patron Saint of Cascading Style Sheets.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What I Did During My Blogger Vacation



I was touched when Bennie forwarded an email from the gallery the evening before last. It was from Paula. "Are all of you OK?" she asked. "You haven't blogged in a while."

As I told Paula, I've been home and in the stores and on the highway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and my vintage laptop doesn't allow me to post. This is what I've been doing instead:

1. Purchased presents for relatives in Alabama, California, and Illinois. Was in particular pleased with a set of "gnarly teeth" I found for my great-nephew. A kit that comes with teeth for a host of personalities--the Six Faces of Kade--Werewolf, Grandpa, Clem (country bumpkin), Mad Scientist, etc. Almost kept them myself. After all, we give what we'd like to get.



2. Wrapped presents. Discovered a plastic bear that poops jelly beans is a bitch to wrap.

3. Wrote annual Christmas letter, wherein I condensed 2007 into two pages, 10-point, single-spaced.

4. Addressed Christmas cards, inserted letters in cards.

5. Did some cleaning out of drawers, in anticipation of the arrival of new space-occupying stuff in the form of Christmas gifts. Was stunned to discover medical records from 1984. This means I hauled all that from lower Pacific Heights in San Francisco, to Laurel Heights, to Parkside, to Pacifica, to the southside of Santa Fe, to our current home outside of town. Why? Am I that sentimental about my old blood lipids readings?

6. Went to see the Coen Brothers' "No Country for Old Men." Thumbs up! Maximum creep factor! Gnarlier than gnarly teeth!





7. Went to see Flannery's African dance performance. Totally gnarly, and in the very best way. STANDING OVATION.



8. Went to see Andre Rieu Orchestra with my in-laws. Somewhat gnarly.

9. Rearranged furniture to make room for Christmas tree.

10. Found this poem I wrote, published in 1982. I retroactively dedicate it to Heather, since she's an Einstein adorer:

IN EINSTEIN'S HOUSE, IN THE CLOSET

in Einstein's house, in the closet
every corner is singing

the black, explicit song
of the closet

the hat boxes
the lyrical curves

of the violin case give way
to corners, the closet's

boxed-in, singing
angles. or are they

angels?
are there angels, singing

in the corners?
are there angels boxing

in the darkness?
if angels, will they hold

fiddlesticks
against the darkness?

will they take bows
against thin air?

is it air we hear
when we hear

that singing?
if air, are the angels why

this unstrung music?
are the angels why music

goes on falling
from nowhere?

why the violin case
hums and hums?

are they why the insides
of shoes

and the pockets of clothing
fill with song?

are the angels why
Einstein's overcoat hums along?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sweating the Smalls


Tuesday evening of Thanksgiving week I participated in a sweat lodge ceremony. I'm a relative newbie to the practice, having been in only a dozen or so. Someone told me "each sweat ('sweat' is short for 'sweat lodge') is different from the others." And I've found that to be the case. I once read a rather sensational account of a woman's first sweat lodge experience in Mexico. She described the intense heat, so hot she had to tear off the necklace which was burning her skin. What I wonder is why she wore a necklace into the lodge in the first place. People don't wear jewelry in sweat lodges, or eyeglasses, or contact lenses. It's extremely hot in a sweat lodge; it's also pitch black. Someone with extremely poor eyesight, such as I, can see as well as anyone in the lodge. We're all equals in there. That's part of the appeal.

The sweat lodge ceremony is of course indigenous in origin. The details vary according to tribe, but for me, the sweat is the best way I've found of releasing stress, worry, guilt, anger, and that sense of frantic rushing most of us are so familiar with, especially this time of the year. The lodge is about re-connecting with Mother Earth and Father Sky, our bodies and our spirits. Prior to the ceremony, large stones are heated in a fire, which is maintained by a firekeeper.

It is customary to bring an offering to the firekeeper and to the leader of the lodge, also known as the pourer. An altar with sacred objects is set up between the fire and the entrance to the lodge. People smudge themselves with sage, or are smudged by another, before entering the lodge. Sage is a sacred herb known for its purifying properties. To direct the smoke from burning sage around my body is, for me, a way of focusing my intention to cleanse myself of clamoring concerns that might steal my ability to be one with the approaching ceremony.

When it's determined that the stones are sufficiently hot, everyone enters the lodge on our knees, humbly, as a baby returning to the womb of earth. It is customary to say "All My Relations" upon entering. This signifies our connection to the others in the circle, to all of humanity through all of the ages, to all of the animal kingdom--the Four-Footeds, the Winged and Finned Ones, the Creepy Crawlers--to all of the Plant People, in fact, to All. The lodge has been constructed to face a certain direction, usually east. It is made of saplings covered with tarps. (In the past, animal hides served as coverings.) People crawl in a clockwise direction to sit in a circle around a pit in the center.
The pourer speaks to the circle of people. He/she expresses the purpose of this particular ceremony. Then the firekeeper delivers the first group of heated stones. They are borne in, one at a time, on a pitchfork or on a set of antlers. Often the people inside greet each stone: "Welcome, grandparent!" This is an acknowledgment of our origin in the earth, an expression of gratitude for the opportunity to reconnect with the very bones of the earth, where we came from, to receive the teaching to follow. Each stone is usually blessed by the touch of an herb, such as lavender or bear root or cedar. The touch of herb to hot stone, earth to fire, creates a heady aroma that begins to permeate the air. With the arrival of each stone, the anticipation mounts.

When the determined number of stones for the first round has been delivered, the pourer requests that the firekeeper close the door. (Traditionally, there are four rounds of ceremony, each with a fresh group of hot stones added to the pit, after which the door is opened for a time to allow people to catch their breath and cool down a bit.) It is when the door closes for the first round and total darkness suddenly envelops the circle, that I get a sense of whose company I share. If I'm with a group for whom the sweat is a customary part of their lives, there is a peaceful sense of settling in to the sweet quietude. If, however, there are many newcomers present, the fear and sometimes, outright panic, is palpable.

I'll never forget my first experience. I had been fearfully anticipating the heat. A concern over possible claustrophobia or fear of the dark hadn't even entered my mind. Those two things don't generally bother me. But that day, on the Cree reservation in Saskatachewan, when Victor the firekeeper closed the door, and the darkness descended, I felt immediately overwhelmed by darkness and the closeness of the other bodies. I honestly thought that if I didn't leave right away, I would surely smother. Then John, the elder who was to pour the ceremony, asked for people to take turns praying. I sat in silence, completely mortified with the knowledge that I would be the first person to ask Victor to open the door so that I could exit. (Participants in a lodge are always allowed to ask to leave if the discomfort becomes unbearable.) Then I heard a man somewhere in the lodge--I'd lost a sense of who was sitting where--begin praying fervently that his "heart of stone" be able to love again. I had never heard anyone pray for such a thing with such sincerity. He was pleading actually. I was moved and began to sob. My claustrophobia and fear of the darkness vanished as quickly as they'd came. I was amazed. I welcomed the newfound closeness to these other people. I knew I was going to be OK. Talk about the power of prayer.

Since that first experience on the Cree reservation, I have sat in Ojibway and Lakota ceremonies, in all-women sweats under the new moon in New Mexico, and this past Easter, in a very special ceremony that included every member of my family. These ceremonies have featured song and chants in various tongues, including English, although hearing it all in one's native language isn't as essential as you might think. As Maria, an elder, once remarked, "If your ears don't understand the meaning, your spirit will." I completely agree. There is drumming and rattling, and depending on the leader's background, there may be a passing of the pipe. Above all, there is warmth and prayer.

The warmth is physical and is created by the leader's pouring water over the heated stones, repeatedly. With each round, more stones are brought in. More water is poured. The body's temperature can rise to around 105 degrees. We have carried towels with us, to protect our faces from the steam in the later rounds if necessary. As the steam rises, ever hotter, from the stones, so do our prayers.

I have prayed for much in the dark womb of the sweat lodge. And I have listened to prayers. I have sat beside those who prayed for their loved ones with cancer, I have sat beside those who were about to undergo surgery for cancer, I have wept with a mother begging forgiveness for her perceived shortcomings towards her now-adult child. As Maria also said, "Forgive yourself and the others are taken care of." I have mourned alongside those saying goodbye to beloved sisters and mentors who have passed on. I have felt the earth literally begin to sway, gently, beneath me, as the sweat streamed from every pore in my skin, soaking my clothing and hair, soaking even my towel.


I have also heard prayers for the ecological health of the planet, for world peace, for a return to reverence for the earth. Although I don't doubt, for one minute, the sincerity of these prayers, I tend to agree with my friend Lewis, who advises people to keep their prayers "finite," to pray for something which might bring results within four days. 4 is a sacred number for Native Americans, and I have personally witnessed what I call a "sweat lodge event loop" in the four days following a lodge.

I will speak of this in made-up terms so as not to betray the confidentiality of what transpires in a particular lodge: I might, for example, feel led to pray for one of my gallery clients whose wife has taken seriously ill. Four days later, that client calls me out of the blue, to say that he is feeling quite at peace and wants to purchase a painting he saw in the gallery a while back. Now, had I set out to pray for a painting sale, I very seriously doubt this same sequence of events would have occurred. Such a prayer would have been selfish, a kind of grasping prayer, and that's not what the sweat is about. Although I am very capable, more often than not, of the grasping kind of prayer, that's just not what the sweat is about.

The sweat is about letting go. As the water flows from our bodies, so do our fears, our grasping desires, our anger. When I feel the earth gently rocking beneath me, I imagine that a river is flowing underground, a river of all of the tears that have been shed as long as humans have been around to cry. I feel that Mother Earth is crying with us, receiving our tears and our sweat. We are sweating our "smalls." We have entered the small contained space of this womb to think small, and personally, as human beings, as humus beings, made of earth. We are reminded of how very small we are. But in our smallness and humility, we are comforted.

And when, after the final round, we shout in unison "All My Relations!" that is the signal for the firekeeper to open the door. That's when we crawl, one by one, out of the door and back into our lives. We have suffered a bit, and now we are reborn after those hours in the lodge. Our skin is softened, our defenses down. We are ready to enter the world again.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

ROFLMAO & OMAONROFL

I have huge, make that HUGE, gaps in my knowledge base. Just last evening I had to ask Lee the meaning of the acronym ROFLMAO, when she made that cryptic comment on my previous post. I thought she was referring to a rolfing session with Chairman Mao, as disturbing and surreal as that strikes me. She explained that ROFLMAO means: Rolling on the Floor, Laughing My Ass Off. In the meantime, JS's curiosity had been aroused. An internet search for ROFLMAO led her to this rollicking image of Chairman Mao at urbandictionary.com:


I was then reminded of this photo of my son Oakley. Thanks to Lee, thanks to JS, I now have a new name for it: OMAONROFL (Oakley Mao Not Rolling on the Floor Laughing). It was created by a fellow writer at the Sewanee Young Writers' Conference, 2005. Kids today.


Now, if you're curious as to what all the ROFLMAO was about, proceed (at your own risk) to the "Hell on Wheels" post.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hell on Wheels



The members of the San Antonio contingent are sick puppies. They're obsessed with answering online personality questionnaires to the point of masochism. Still worse, they egg me on to ape their sad behavior.

I took the "What Color Crayon Are You?" test. I'm orange.

I took the "Are You Right-or-Left-Brained?" test. Right-brained. According to that one, it's a wonder I finished first grade. I mean--I do read, you know. So what if I follow the lines with my fingers? Right now I am typing with one hand, following the lines with my other. I call that daring, innovative, and highly intelligent. Yessir, my left hemisphere is firing like a munitions factory.

Next came the "What Movie Are You?" profile. I couldn't be some uplifting tearjerker like "It's a Wonderful Life." Of course not. I couldn't be something cool and controversial like "Sling Blade." No way. I wasn't even allowed the dignity of being associated with the desperate, bullet-riddled "Pulp Fiction." Not on your life. That might elevate my feistiness quotient. Me, I was mellow, drugged-out "Easy damn Rider." I never even saw it, for Chrissake.

The "How Old Is Your Inner Child?" test. Broke down. Took that one. I paint. I'm right-brained. My inner child must be tiny and cuddlesome indeed, I thought. Turns out I'm a troubled teen of 16. My inner child's idea of fun is shoplifting Clearasil at the mall.

I drew the line at "What World Leader Are You?" when I saw that JS was Adolf Hitler. Actually, that makes sense. I believe she's the one who started all of this test-taking.

And now Lee contacts me and says they've all--the San Antonio contingent--been consigned to hell and invite me to join them there. Some kind of Episcopalian she is! Come to think of it, that's their problem, every one of them--they're just too Episcopalian for their own good. And if they think I'm about to give up and spend eternity with a bunch of backsliding San Antonionians, well...

...it looks like they're right. Here are my results:


The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Moderate
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

It coulda been worse. Lust isn't the worst thing to be guilty of. Is it? I learned that Helen of Troy and Cleopatra share my fate. That doesn't bother me. But the knowledge that Paschal and I are both consigned to the second level of hell and are orange crayons whose inner child is 16--that, my friends, scares the hell out of me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rift/Split/Tilt


My sister just called with the most beautiful news--my mother received the results of her PET SCAN and she is cancer-free! My Thanksgiving, despite being lovely in almost every other way, was darkened more than a bit by anxiety over Mother's not having her test results yet. I wondered why her oncologist had seen fit to put her through a process that is quite painful for her, given her severe arthritis, and during the holidays. Naturally, I was worried that he suspected her cancer had recurred.

Mother learned in mid-May that she had breast cancer. I flew out to be with her for a couple of weeks, to see her through surgery. Then I rushed back to Santa Fe the day before Oakley graduated from high school. I was torn between anxiety for Mother, elation for Oakley. This Thanksgiving I was torn between the joy of being with Oakley and Flannery again, the sadness of not being with my mother.

Life is something of a balancing act, isn't it? It's never perfect and there are always choices to be made. The older I get, the more I feel the need to heal the rift created by these conflicting inclinations. Painting helps me do this.

I'm posting three paintings which explore this theme; all of them reside in private collections. "Rift," the most minimal one, above and to the left, is the newest. I painted it during my last studio marathon a couple of weeks ago, hung it in the gallery for "Black Friday," and sold it on "Blacker Saturday." Today it's being picked up for shipment to Kirkland, Washington. You can't tell from the digital image, but it has many, many layers of color, so many I lost count. I felt rather peaceful on its completion. The two areas on either side of the "rift" are similar but different, just the way I feel about urgings in life. I may feel torn between two different people's needs, but they are really just varying hues of my most basic need--to honor the relationships that are important to me.

Bennie mentioned that he liked the way the "rift" gradually changes color, from teal to blue. I felt that it was a river flowing, changing color depending on the light hitting it at a given point. Yes, life changes the color of our personal outlook from time to time. But we have to keep flowing.


"Splitting Chairs," the collage to the right, was completed during a time Bennie and I were quarreling. Yes, after almost 22 years of marriage, we fight! Our longevity as a couple I attribute to the philosophy of Phyllis Diller: "Don't go to bed mad. Stay up and fight."

Or better yet, paint the bitterness out of your system! "Splitting Chairs" was purchased by the same couple who own "Night Textures." It hangs in Seattle.






"Tilt," the happy-colored painting to the left, was one of those pieces which sold the day it hung in the gallery. Correction. It hadn't been hung yet. It was propped against the wall, and a couple from Fort Worth saw its worth. I called it "Tilt" because, despite its carefree palette, I had a devil of a time painting it. It was one I obsessed over and no matter what I did, it would look off-kilter. I showed it to Bennie and Oakley at the end of one day. Oakley was straightforward: "I just don't get anything out of it." I went to bed, feeling the same way. I'd wasted an entire day, hadn't gotten a thing out of it.

Woke up the next morning with the thought: Turn it upside-down. I did, somehow it suddenly seemed to work, and I took it to the gallery. I just needed a new tilt on things. Don't we all, from time to time?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tag


A few of my friends have posted the following tag game. Although I haven't been officially tagged, I've decided to play:

Two names you go by (besides your given names)?

1. Tiny (Bennie calls me that).
2. Mom.


Two things you are wearing right now?

1. Black suede boots.
2. Black broomstick skirt (No, I'm not dressed as a witch for Thanksgiving. It's a Santa Fe style pleated skirt.)


Two longest car rides?

1. Santa Fe to Chicago.
2. From 22 Heather in the Laurel Heights neighborhood in San Francisco to UC-San Fran Medical Center--lots of hills in between, and I was in the transition part of labor.

Two of your favorite things to do:

1. Dinner and a movie with my husband.
2. A walk in the early morning.

Two things you want very badly at the moment:

1. More hours in the day.
2. A new laptop (that seems to be going around).

Three animals you have or have had:

1. Trudy, a pound puppy we've had for almost 9 years.
2. Merlin Jones, a cat who adopted us.
3. Montague and Capulet, goldfish.

Three things you ate today:

1. breakfast burrito with green chile at Flying Tortilla.
2. leftover pizza from Fatsos (I know, I know. But it's the holidays!)
3. Isn't that enough already???

Two things you are doing tomorrow:

1. Working at the gallery.
2. Going to my in-laws' for dinner.

Two favorite holidays:

1. Thanksgiving.
2. Christmas.

Two favorite beverages:

1. latte.
2. margarita on the rocks.

I tag:

The San Antonio Contingent: Paschal, Lee, and JS
Heather
Daphne
Paula
Dilly
Meanie
BT Bear, esq.
Old Man Lincoln & Patty
BBC
Anybody who wants to play and hasn't been tagged yet. I know many of you have already played and others I'm thinking may be too busy for such shenanigans.

Paste the questions onto your own blog, inject yourself with truth serum, and post your answers. No copying from others.

A word of explanation regarding photo: It's from Thanksgiving 2006--this year we forgot to take pictures of people! Flannery did, however, photograph the food for her cooking blog. Pictured above: Bennie, Oakley (in a moment of father-son bonding), me, Ben Sr., Lois, Flannery, Gary (exchange student from UK).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cornucopia



I'm heading into a Thanksgiving week chockful of riches: I'm intending to be in an evening "gratitude" sweat lodge, followed by a friend's birthday celebration; the kids are coming home; Oakley's friend Kayla is arriving from Chicago; my in-laws are coming over; Flan and I are preparing the feast; I'll be consuming that feast, then cleaning up after that feast (with plenty of help from the co-consumers, mind you); then we have one of the year's busier weekends at the gallery beginning the Friday after Turkey Day.

I am feeling overwhelmed, and in the very best way. Rather than write something new to express what's within, I'll post a poem I wrote several years back for my friend A (initial changed). She had hit a particularly rough patch in a life that had been particularly rough by almost anyone's standards. In respect of her privacy, I don't want to reveal that much. I'll just say she's a woman of daunting gifts who's experienced equally daunting setbacks.

Many, many years ago I published a fair amount of poetry in respected literary magazines. When I sent this poem "Cornucopia" to A, she showed up, out of the blue, at the gallery and gave me a hug whose warmth I can still feel. "You know more about me than I do," she said, "and that's good." That was better to hear than any acceptance letter I ever got from any editor of a literary magazine.

When I was younger, my poems were of the lean, mean, sculpted variety. The older I get, my poems, like their author's body, are succumbing to middle age spread. This one could definitely be thinned down, but hey, it's Thanksgiving week! This week's all about excess, and I simply do not have time to wield a blue pencil.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who will be observing the holiday. Itemize those blessings in your personal cornucopia. Take stock, and express the proper gratitude. Whatever you do, remember to shine, and know that you shine.


CORNUCOPIA
for A, who’s ready for more

1.
While you were sleeping, a prosperity elf rolled back the odometer
in your battered, army green Volkswagen van.
When you wake up, that cream puff, like magic,
will have been driven eighty-eight miles in 18 years.

As you slept, a crew of grease angels descended in coveralls.
One of them, who looked a little like your father,
stuck his head under the hood
and topped off the fluid levels with Dom Perignon.
From now on you are entitled:
to Happy Hour 24/7.

Another of the celestial mechanics, the dreamy-eyed one, got busy
hefting a large aluminum hammer.
He began plumping out the bashed-in driver’s door
with marshmallow Bondo,
siphoned down from cumulus clouds.
As you slept, mischievous cherubs, holding funnels,
smiled down on you from that great detail shop in the sky.

Still another worker, who resembled your great-great-grandfather,
rolled under the engine.
Stretched out on one of those little wheeled contraptions,
he replaced your master cylinder
with a system of pie tins and miniature pulleys
connected by a spider’s thread to your future.
From now on, you will know just where you are going.

Even as you were sleeping, the new car smell drifted from the parking lot
and into your nostrils. You sighed.
Now you were in the driver’s seat, your hands on the wheel.
An enormous stretch of fresh blacktop waited to be traveled.
You heard the engine turn over.
You turned on the lights, looked into the rearview,
and saw the back of your father’s head disappearing into the stars.

2.
While you were sleeping, an enchanted plumber,
with a crooked smile just like your younger son’s,
tiptoed into your bathroom. Lifting your tank lid,
he made subtle adjustments in the attitude of your float ball.
The next time you flush,
you will look down and observe the faces of ex-husbands
made palpable, going down.

The faces of husbands
will spin round and round.
The faces of husbands,
with a slurping sound,
will spin counterclockwise,
and under the ground.

Each night, as you lie down to dream,
your sorrows, like so many digested meals, will begin their journey
down 13 miles of pasteboard pipes.
13 miles of pasteboard pipes,
a thirteen-circuit, glittering spiral, a sorcerer’s path of glitter and glue
dreamed by 13 wizards who resemble you.

Even now, as you are dreaming,
wee alchemists, just beneath your bathroom tiles,
have begun to whirl away your sorrows with miniature rotors.
While you sleep, your troubles turn into dollar bills,
meringue pies, lucky pennies, new wheels, amazing sex.

Little wizards cast their spell,
wave their wands at your gates of hell:
Cast your sorrows down a paper chute.
Abracadabra! Presents to boot!



3.
A small naked fertility god has risen
from a trap door on the dark side of your brain.
In place of a cock, he has a horn of plenty,
and he is dancing a little fertility dance,
back and forth, over your corpus callosum.
He spills his blessings, this way and that,
into the dark rivers of your dreaming hemispheres.

Allow please, your closed eyes to dance back and forth.
Follow with your eyes the movements of your fertility god. Back
and forth.
Imagine that your eyes are connected by spider threads to the future.
Your eyes moving can move the future.
Moving your future can move the past. The past moves back,
and forth to the future.
Now dance with your future. Dance
with your past.

Imagine please, a small cornucopia that spins in front of your eyes.
This cornucopia is your present.
You make it spin by being still and opening your eyes.
Now open your eyes please.
Watch your cornucopia spin.
Spin it please, and don’t move just yet.
Don’t close your eyes until your prizes spill out.



4.
Shiny hubcaps,
sorcerers’ caps, cups
of coffee,
coffers full
of lucky pennies,
pieces of pie to go around.
One for you.
One for you.
And one for you.
Peace, gossamer threads,
float balls,
new car smells,
miles
of fresh blacktop,
boyfriends who can drive it.
Yes! One for you!
Winking cherubs
in the rearview,
twinkling wizards
in the sideview.
Headlights, taillights--
they look like you.
You shine.
Your face,
beamed back
from any mirror,
smiles.
You look
like you.
You’re shining too.
Like a penny
you shine.
Can you see
you shine?
You’re lucky
you shine.
It’s plenty
to shine.



Saturday, November 17, 2007

I'm Dreaming of a White Thanksgiving

Today's the lull before the buying storm. The weekend before Thanksgiving is traditionally slow for tourism in Santa Fe. The days are tedious. The sidewalk in front of the gallery is as lonely as anything Edward Hopper ever painted. Available parking places, a solitary pedestrian, a local merchant hurrying back to his lonely store after a green chile fix.


Witness the difference a few days can make. The weekend after Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. Icy sidewalks and yet people are finding their snow feet, negotiating the treacherous ice, headed to my door with the kind of determination that retailers dream of. Pinch me. Is that a super-sized art shopping list under that one customer's arm?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The World Is Made of Conversations




Last fall Oakley wrote a poem called "Expressions." It spoke of the way we're all connected, how a kind of narrative thread runs through all of the world--our bodies, our spirits, the places we inhabit, the people we meet on the street, the bench we sit on in the park, the ducks on the pond we watch from that bench, the pond. I know I'm mixing up several of his poems--he has written so many memorable ones, and he is all of 18!

Here are a few passages from the poem:

The world is made of conversations;
Slips of the tongue birth children,
The inflection of the word
Crashing, calling into the other,
The idea becoming the leaf
That falls into a puddle
And changes into a skeleton,
A statement upon the world...

In the darkness
Voices instinctively fill with light
And begin to share themselves with one another;
It is customary to reach out with inflection
And feel the bodies ambling through
The corridors of the earth;
The schools,
The cathedrals filling up with prayer,
The hospitals withholding laughter,
The graveyards settling the dead,
The streets that never accommodate silence...

The world is made of conversations.
A person becomes the world
The various afflictions,
The wars that shatter children,
The moments of love that violate
The chemistry of the heart,
The suicide of summer into autumn,
And speaks about it in order to create another.


"The world is made of conversations." The way he said that moved me. It told the truth in a new way. It inspired the collage above, in whose wrinkled surface I embedded that sentence. The painting sold, happily, the very day it hung in the gallery, to a physician/author.

Now that I'm part of the blogosphere, those words have still more meaning to me. I count myself lucky to have found this world, where the conversations never end. Where a single thread of thought can wrap itself around the world, become entangled with other threads, and return the next day, enlarged, sparkling.

If you've made it this far, kindly proceed to "Inside the Pyramid." I seem to be in a blogging frenzy today.

Inside the Pyramid



Back in the 70s they talked about "pyramid power." I didn't listen. I never got around to looking it up even. Not till today in Wikipedia. There I learned: "The term pyramid power was coined by Patrick Flanagan in 1973, to describe alleged supernatural properties of the ancient Egyptian pyramids and scale models thereof...According to Flanagan, pyramids with the exact relative dimensions of Egyptian pyramids act as 'an effective resonator of randomly polarized microwave signals which can be converted into electrical energy.' Flanagan's claims range from enhancing the nutritional value of foods to sharpening knives by placing them under such a pyramid (aka the 'Pat Flanagan Experimental Sensor') overnight."

No, I didn't rush out for a Pat Flanagan Experimental Sensor in which to place my nutrient-impoverished Cheerios. As to my lackluster knives, they just kicked back and watched "Barney Miller"; not one of them vied to be the sharpest in the drawer. Pyramid power passed me by.

Or did it? Now that I think about it, I've had my moments.

Both of the days I gave birth, for example. Seven pounds of human being, all determined cylinders firing, pushing through an impossibly small trap door and into the light of day--if that doesn't require a kind of magical geometry, what does?

Haven't we all had our moments inside the pyramid? Anyone who has given birth, or witnessed a loved one exhaling their last breath, anyone whose body has run a marathon or entered the strange territory of cancer--they've stepped, or been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the pyramid.

Anyone who's lost a job or a home or a spouse, they've been there too. Sometimes just going to the grocery store or sitting down to puzzle over one's algebra homework requires at least putting a toe inside the pyramid. We say a private incantation, we breathe a prayer. Something has gotten too big for our day-to-day algorithms to handle, and so we retreat into the pyramid, the place within ourselves that sustains.

We enter and hear our own prayers reverberating from wall to wall. We hear the prayers of others blending into a soft hum, a mantra coming from within the deepest space. We look at the shining walls and see our own reflections given back to us a thousand times over. For a time, we find our peace, we locate our power.

Friday, November 9, 2007

My Misplaced Wings


Pinch me. Am I really back to blogging? After better than a week of cloistering myself in the studio, I feel I may have lost my ability to discern what's real, what's imagined. Being knee-deep in paint for a prolonged period does that to me.

One thing did happen. I located those wings I'd misplaced a while back. They helped me fly into my work with a new focus. Although I seldom (if ever) feel I'm done with a painting, there comes a time when it's done with me. I give up and relinquish it to others' eyes.

This is one of the new: "My Misplaced Wings," mixed media on canvas, 30 inches by 24.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Four Apparitions in Holding Pattern over Santa Fe


Devil's Night. All Hallows Eve. All Saints. All Souls. As my nod to being right now in the midst of our annual four-day celebration of other realms, I'm posting an image of "Four Apparitions." It was my first acrylic-and-CT-scan-film on canvas.

Last spring Oakley's sinuses kept acting up and so his doctor, to rule out "anything serious," ordered a bunch of CT scans. There was in fact nothing serious, and Oakley went home with a huge envelope stuffed full of a dizzying array of images of every hole in his head. Naturally, when I saw that tempting parcel bearing the words PATIENT'S COPY, I couldn't resist taking a look for myself. I held those films, sheet after sheet of them, up to the light. Who knows? Maybe I'd see something the radiologist didn't.

And wow, did I ever! What I saw was a levitating chorus line of otherwordly beings. They were linking their outstretched arms, celebratory, ready to kick their choreographed legs in the air at any minute. And I heard them too. They were belting out a gutsy rendition of "There's No Business Like Show Business." Go ahead. Enlarge the picture and look closely. You'll see that Ethel Merman is on the far left, followed by Hiram, then Lily. The last one's identity I'm still puzzling over. Any ideas?

I found them quite the festive ensemble, more than worthy of gracing one of my humble paintings. So I completed "Four Apparitions" as a part of our "Medicine Show," a show involving sixteen artists at the gallery this past August. I also labored over an "Alternative Medicine Cabinet," which found the proper home rather quickly. The apparitions are another story.

It's not that my dancing spirits haven't gotten their share of interest. I have been told that the two predominant colors vibrate against one another effectively. I have been told that the reddish line serving as a sort of "horizon" works, that the little strip of black with the intriguing shapes completes the composition with grace.

That's when I go and open my big mouth and say, "YES!--aren't those just AMAZING? You'd never guess--they're CT scan films of my son's sinuses!!!" Then my prospective buyer slowly backs away as though I'd just said the media involved are acrylic, crushed gallstones, and old liposuction extracts. One woman said, "EW!!! That completely changes the way I look at it now."

Oh well, I have a fondness for the piece and if I don't sell it, I'll take it home. A place of honor over the dining room table awaits.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Visitors from Art History


Look who came calling to wish Flan a Happy Birthday.

Savoring the Sweetness



I am still savoring the sweetness of Friday evening. Bennie and I drove down to Albuquerque to celebrate Flan's 21st with the kids. For starters, Oakley showed up in an elegant, double-breasted pinstripe suit, which he wore with a Kennedy-era narrow tie--a simple black affair, solid save for a single understated green polygon. (Bennie purchased the tie at a San Francisco thrift shop in the Eighties, and a couple of years ago, he passed it on to Oaks. Oaks got the suit at Buffalo Exchange in Albuquerque. Yes, thrift and chic do go together.) The tie was held together by a Masonic tie tac which belonged to my dad. The kid has style!

Flannery was lovely in a tapered long gray skirt and a white low-cut knit top, layered with a black lambswool cardigan with small white buttons. She wore classic black pumps and her recently acquired faux diamond hypoallergenic studs (from our ear-piercing adventure) and a choker that sparkled in the light of her birthday candles. Flannery's unique glamor combines the classic and the artful and typifies her fashion sense as well as her life.

We had a delectable northern Italian feast at Scalo. I had quail for the first time, and had Flannery not kept reminding me of those sweet little crested birds that frequent our property, I would have been in gustatory paradise. Seriously, it was a succulent treat--quite rich--the smallness of the species is a good thing when it comes to feasting. The golden quail was nestled in the center of a graceful arrangement of winter squash tortelloni. I never would have anticipated that squash could prove so decadent-tasting, but once that subtly sweet vegetable is encased in freshly made pasta dough, the result is dessert-like. Not terra-misu-dessert-like, but dessert-like nonetheless. We had terra misu too, and a cheese plate with currant jam, sliced pears, and strawberries. Oh well, a 21st birthday is a momentous occasion. To the vomitorium, shall we? Make room for more! ("More" would be a BIG cake at Flan's place.)

Flannery enjoyed her first legal cocktail, a pear gimlet. I tasted it and it was sublime. The real sublimity, though, was being in the company of my family. Dinner conversation sparkles all the more with each passing year. To see each of our children coming into their own as uniquely spirited individuals is sweeter and subtler than winter squash.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

And a sadder synchronicity...


I am very sad to report that my Uncle Kermit (as in that gentle frog) passed away rather suddenly yesterday afternoon, the day after Flannery's birthday. He had suffered from Alzheimer's for a couple of years but had been able to remain at home on his beloved farm. Last week he took a dramatic turn for the worse, was hospitalized for a couple of days, and then went home to be under hospice care. The family was told Thursday he had about 72 hours. He went even more quickly. My mother is heartbroken. That is her baby brother and she is the last surviving member of her birth family.

Although it sounds so trite to say "he's in a better place," I do feel that on some level, he made the choice to take off without troubling people overmuch. That was Kermit's way. He lived a quiet life. The things that mattered to him were his family, his faith, and his farm. What brought him satisfaction in his later years were feeding the ducks on his pond and talking to my mother on the phone. Before the onset of the insidious Alzheimer's, they used to chat regularly. Together, they could take their health and family troubles, and with a gentle complicity, joke about the darkest subjects, making them somehow tolerable. My mother, who is disabled by arthritis, seldom leaves the house. Conversations with Kermit enlivened her days. She is beyond sad. And that makes me beyond sad.

When I think of Kermit, the word "artist" doesn't readily spring to mind. He was an electrical contractor by trade and he raised Texas longhorns as a hobby. Then, twenty or so years ago and to the family's surprise, he took to writing country/western tunes. He even traveled to Nashville to have them recorded by a professional musician. When the love of his life Nancy died, he had her mausoleum wired so that, at the touch of a button, that part of the cemetery comes alive with a soulful rendition of his musical tribute to Nancy. Truth be told, it's pretty hilarious. Even my mother has said, "Future generations of children will dare one another to press that button on Halloween night." He paid a small fortune to have that button kept in operation for the better part of a century.

Then there was the commissioned Texas longhorn painting. We were home one Christmas, and Kermit and Nancy were perusing a portfolio of paintings by an oil painter from the Bay Area Figurative School. Suddenly Kermit lit up. "Do you think he would paint one of my bulls?" He was so impassioned about the idea, we asked the artist Bill if he'd consider it. Bill, being an amiable man, and like most of us, always appreciative of a sale, agreed to the commission. In a moment of quirky inspiration, he painted the bull beside a rosebush. Kermit immediately recognized the rosebush in Bill's painting as the same rosebush that he transplanted from my grandmother's garden upon her death. Sometimes there's much, much more to a work of art than even the artist realizes.

Although I see much humor in both of these stories from the book that is Kermit's life, I relate them to honor his individuality and his passion for life. It's often the eccentricities of a person that we miss the most. And when it comes to our own quirks, we should probably celebrate them--they're what make us the true artists of our own lives.

I am including my own painting "Night Textures," which now resides in Seattle, in the way of a small tribute to Uncle Kermit as well as to that sometime disturbing mystery we call life.

Synchronicity Boomlet




Remember my "Crossed Trajectories" post about our Chicago visit and the ensuing coincidences? Well, on that trip in June, Oakley had a blast touring the city with his friend Kayla, formerly of Santa Fe. Then Kayla joined us all for a few days at cousin Paul's lake cottage. One night, over take-out pizza, she talked about her excitement over the anticipated birth of her little sister Olivia, due in early October.

As it turns out, Olivia took her sweet time arriving. She, in typical strong-willed Scorpion style, held out, not only to be born under the sign of Scorpio, but on our Flannery's birthday! As you can see from the photo of Kayla and Olivia and Brother (whose name I cannot recall--apologies, Bro), lovely Olivia was well worth the wait. With her siblings, it's clearly a case of Enamored at First Sight. Looking at her picture above, we too are smitten.

Kayla, when you come out west to spend Thanksgiving with us, any chance of smuggling Olivia into your carry-on???

Thursday, October 25, 2007

You've Come a Long Way, Baby!



Today at 3:20 p.m. (Mountain Time) Flannery will be 21, a card-carrying adult.

I couldn't resist posting a picture of my baby back when. Those eyes say it all: Don't toy with me, people. I am on to you.

AND a picture of my baby now.

Never one to shy away from challenge and hard work, she's come a long way. A few of the things she's done in her 21 years:
* Worked the graveyard at a recovery center
* Volunteers in the University Hospital ER
* Volunteered in the Agora Crisis Center
* Editor-in-chief of her high school paper for 2 years
* Won the UNM RA Iron Chef title 2 years running
* Sold a painting at our gallery at age 14
* A Santa Fe Super Scholar
* Presidential Scholarship winner
* Flew to London on her own, paid for it herself
* Was a teen reporter for the Santa Fe New Mexican
* At the age of 4, embellished a five-foot painting and a brand new white comforter with my brand new lipstick, in five minutes flat
* Was born 20 minutes after we arrived at the hospital--a mover-and-a-shaker from the start!

Happy Birthday, Flannery.

I LOVE YOU!

My First Painting Sale






I'm a newbie at painting on canvas. For several years I collaborated with Wild Bill Tick Tock on painted wood constructions. We called them story doors and they were a hit. I also tried my hand at painting pots. They did well too. But Bennie kept saying, "Hey, you have a way with color. I'll bet you could do some nice work on canvas." And yes, I'd been privately tempted. So in the spring of 2005 I got together a rather small body of work and with great trepidation, hung half a dozen paintings at our gallery. For a couple of weeks, nothing happened. People walked right by. My paintings were invisible.

Then one day a man strolled in. He was one of those quiet people, the kind who takes his time and looks at everything in the gallery quite seriously. I sat at the desk, hesitant to disturb his looking, wondering which artist he might take interest in. Would it be one of Albert's skyscapes that caught his fancy? Maybe one of Laura's jaw-dropping realist paintings? Could it be a Wild Bill Tick Tock or a light-suffused interior by Mimi? When he turned around and said very casually, "Tell me about this San Merideth," I was stunned.

I got up and began babbling like an idiot. Now, when it comes to those other artists, I have spiels--they're sincere spiels, but they're rather practiced deliveries, polished from years--count my gray hairs--of experience selling art. I didn't know what to say about my own paintings. So he did it for me. "Would you consider a little better price were I to take three?" I liked what he had to say! He just wanted a modest courtesy discount for a multiple purchase and I was happy to oblige. Turned out he was an architect with a prestigious firm in Dallas--he didn't brag on himself like this--I googled him after he left--and he wanted my paintings for his very own home!

The paintings each measured 24 inches by 24 inches and their titles, from left to right, are "Irresistible Impulse," "Primal Identity," and "Messages from Undersea." (Now that the images are loaded, they're overlapping, at least on my browser, but they can be enlarged individually.) As someone once remarked, "You have to come up with catchy titles after you paint them." You don't really have to, but titles seem to serve as doors into paintings. Many people find abstract imagery inaccessible, and titles sometimes provide an entryway of sorts.

I've been lucky since that time. I've sent my paintings to L.A. and Seattle and New Orleans and Miami and Omaha, among a bunch of other places. (I have a map in my head and enjoy picturing my art on the walls in various locales. It's a spirit-booster on dark days.) They've been purchased by cardiologists and particle physicists and actuarial consultants. Twice they've been purchased by employees of art museums. I've been especially flattered when someone has elected to add a second and third painting down the way, after beginning with one. In these cases, I think: Yes, they enjoy my art enough to want more. Then my Shadow, the Doubting One, says: No, they're hoping to replace that disappointing one with something else. That's when I bribe my shadow with tickets to Cleveland. I figure if I can get my doubting, shadowy self far enough away, I might get some painting done.

Wild Bill Tick Tock



One of the many hats I wear is that of Mrs. Wild Bill Tick Tock. That's right. Bennie has been making clocks under the name of Wild Bill Tick Tock for better than ten years now, and we have shipped hundreds of them worldwide. Some of the more interesting places where they reside: a Tasmanian sheep farm, an auto dealership in Albuquerque, a headmistress's office in London, a New Jersey town hall, and finally, our living room. (It took "Bill" about five of those years to get around to making one for us!)

How'd he get the name? When Oakley, always an original soul, was 8, he walked through our bedroom mumbling to himself. What he said was "Wild Bill Tick Tock." Bennie was just starting to make the clocks then, and in a moment of marketing math, I put 2 and 2 together and asked Bennie what about donning the pseudonym Wild Bill Tick Tock? It stuck. Now it's amazing how many emails we get at the gallery addressed to "Bill."

The purple and black clock is called "Soul Train." It, like all of Wild Bill's clocks, has a top that lifts off to reveal the contents of your choosing. We keep those pesky Estimated Tax forms in ours, along with dental appointments, the occasional love letter, and utility bills. Wild Bill always tells people to hide their chocolate there. In our household, chocolate never seems to make it that far.

We recently shipped one of the "grandfather clocks," which are large enough to stand on the floor, to Australia. Diane, the buyer, is pictured above--she's the one holding onto "Grandfather Magic"--with her entourage, a group of family and friends who'd decided to rendezvous here in Santa Fe. Once her clock arrived in New South Wales, Diane emailed to tell us that "Grandfather Magic" is bringing her family and friends much joy, reminding them how good life is. They use the box as a repository of well-wishing messages to one another. And when we receive such messages from our clients, that's as good as it gets.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Safety First



Just as I thought Junko Shimada had outdone herself with sideways heels, now another Japanese fashion designer has come up with awesome threads that do double duty as urban camouflage.

My son Oakley, who has his finger on the pulse of absurdity, sent me the New York Times story which discusses, among other things, a dress that converts to a coke machine and a purse that looks like a manhole cover--you just lay it on the street and criminals walk right by! They're the creations of Aya Tsukioka. According to the story, the designer "lifted a flap on her skirt to reveal a large sheet of cloth printed in bright red with a soft drink logo partly visible. By holding the sheet open and stepping to the side of the road, she showed how a woman walking alone could elude pursuers by disguising herself as a vending machine."

As you can see from the picture, the coke machine dress is pretty convincing, but once they catch on, won't it become second nature for the criminal element, when confronted with a line of vending machines, to stoop down and look for tell-tale feet? I mean aren't we all conditioned to do this already in a public restroom? And when everyone starts to lay their sewer cover purses on the street, how can you tell which is which? People will be walking away with each others', and occasionally, they'll run off with an actual sewer cover. Then you'll have people falling into sewers. YUCK.

And what'll happen when this trend crosses over to America? In Manhattan will there be any number of sleek black garments that double as hot dog stands? Fairbanks, will it become known as the home of dogsled trousers? Mush! Texas ladies will have their big hair coifed into..let's see...into...come to think of it, I'll bet that hair's already hiding plenty of valuables. Mississippian fashion will add another layer of meaning to the expression "play possum." Here in New Mexico, broomstick skirts will slide open to reveal convincing fajita concessions and Stetsons will convert to orange highway barrels. I shudder, God forbid, to think about what convincing replicas they'll be wearing in D.C.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Rakish Spirit

A commenter on my last post said that my "Wayward Angel" reminded her of the photo atop this blog. And Flannery says the "blue being" looks lonesome. Yes, I can see that too. You both may be on to something. A couple or three years ago, two of our prized pinon pines succumbed to bark beetle infestation. It was a heartbreaker. Those trees held memories. The kids had hung swings from those trees and climbed them, and built make-believe houses and castles under their branches. Those branches provided shade for the trampoline and privacy for the deck. But we were in a drought and that's what happens during a drought--things die.

We couldn't bear saying goodbye completely, so Bennie decided to leave the stumps on our property with a vague intention of turning them into totems or something artful. A few months passed and no one made any move to transform the stumps; their desolate forms reigned over the east side of our house with a misplaced, forlorn air. Then one day I came home to see the old "captain's chair" barstools perched up there. For all the world, they looked like they'd been picked up and blown there in a Wizard of Oz kind of storm.

Bennie called them the Spirit Chairs, thinking that perhaps wandering spirits, or ancestors, or who-or-what-have-you, weary from a night of moving between this realm and the next, might enjoy a seat now and again. He was right. The one I call Lily has claimed the left chair, the more upright one that sits atop this blog. Lily is quiet and mannerly and I believe she followed us here, demurely, all the way from Pacifica, California. There, within our cozy little walls on Banyan Way, once in a blue moon, Lily would appear and ever-so-softly walk across the hardwood floor at the top of the stairs. We would look up from a "Night Court" rerun we were watching downstairs, look at each other, and acknowledge in silence: Lily. She was kind of fun to have around, never truly disruptive, just a gentle reminder that there's a life beyond TV and checkbook-balancing and PTA fundraisers.

Hiram, he's another story. He has laid claim to the chair on the right, the one at the rakish angle. That chair keeps falling down, the back detaching itself from the seat, and Bennie keeps putting it back together again, and back up on the stump. It's as though someone repeatedly falls off that chair, laughing his ass off. Yeah, Hiram laughs at his own jokes. His idea of a joke: Just yesterday, as I sat at the computer, on the east side of the house, a knocking began on the roof above me. There was no wind. Even if there had been, there just isn't anything on the roof up there something could knock against. Even so, the knocking became more insistent; it turned into a clanging, like someone was banging a hammer against a metal post. No metal post up there. No hammer. No wind. What the...?

Despite knowing deep down it was Hiram, I found myself getting up and stealing down the hall to the living room, where I could peek through the window and get a vantage point of that part of the roof. For a moment, I'd thought I might discover some carpenter's truck in the driveway. I halfway expected--was hoping?--to find a carpenter on the roof of the wrong house. But no. The minute I peeked at the roof, the clanging stopped. And did I hear laughter coming from the right chair, now swaying in the breezeless air?

Hiram, what is it you require of me? Am I to paint your picture too? And, if I do, what exactly will "A Rakish Spirit" look like?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wayward Angel


I've got a love/hate (or at least like/dislike) relationship with my latest painting. Bennie named it "Wayward Angel," since I was at a loss. He said that's what popped into his head when I said, "What can I call it?" and I guess that describes my own feelings towards it. The sunniness of it appeals, but that predominant form just left of center feels weird to me. I kinda like it, but there's an awkwardness that embarrasses me. I remember a term of my mother's that seems to apply: "engagingly ugly." It's like when I was younger and had a crush on some guy who I knew was all wrong.

Bennie says it reminds him of a bison walking away. Why, I ask, did he not call it "Wayward Bison"?? My wayward one has been hanging in the gallery a couple of days and is getting something of a positive response. One woman said, "That one does it for me." She just didn't say exactly what it did and she didn't proffer a credit card either.