Thursday, November 29, 2007


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

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... 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:

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


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


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
BT Bear, esq.
Old Man Lincoln & Patty
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


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.

for A, who’s ready for more

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.

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!

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.

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,
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,
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.