Saturday, August 30, 2008

Belongings and Belonging

Last week we loaded the Tacoma and drove Oaks down to UNM for the ritual unpacking of the socks and stereo gear. We helped him set up housekeeping in Hokona Hall on a co-ed floor. Unpacking a person's belongings provides a clue or two about that person. And my son is no exception. His belongings speak, if not volumes, at least a few notes hastily scribbled in a note pad:

Oakley is a person of character who reveres his ancestors. The first objet d'art he found an honored place for (atop one of the stereo speakers) was my dad's Roll Tide elephant keychain.

That takes a little character--to set up a University of Alabama mascot in University of New Mexico Lobos country. I was touched. I could feel Pa-pa smiling down.

My son appreciates the playful...

...and the less so.

Don't ask. All I know is the black comforter and sheets I purchased at Linens 'n' Things coordinate rather nicely.

Oakley's taste in clothing is diverse... is his taste in books.

And the first book cracked by my son this semester was the menu at the Route 66 Diner.

As you can see, it's one of those provocative books that leads to questioning: Shall I have the Fender Bender or the Pile-Up? Root beer or malt? Fried okra and french fries or coleslaw and mac and cheese and potato salad on the side of my chicken chimichanga? And on that chimichanga--red or green? Room for dessert? (Puh-Leeze. That's a no-brainer. Do I look like I'm observing Lent months in advance?)

Route 66 is a retro comfort food place where the excess of the portions is outshone only by the expanse of the Pez dispenser collection.

(Chewy, this photo's for you.)

Flanny joined us for dinner and afterwards we took an after-hours tour of her workplace, the Mind Research Network.

(This dazzling photograph was downloaded from the website of the MRN.) The building looks like a giant sculpture set under the turquoise New Mexico sky.

When we entered the vestibule, we were greeted by a Japanese rock garden. This split rock...

...continues on the other side of the glass, as does the garden. A subtle reminder that this is a place where breakthrough research occurs. And it occurs in a tranquil setting. Overlooking the raked sand and the flowing arrangement of rocks is a minimalist painting in shades of blue. The effect is calming.

Inside the lobby is the graceful curve of a contemporary stone sculpture....

...and a vibrant large-format abstract painting.

The forms in the painting echo the roundness of the sculpture and the rock garden. Even the night janitor's barrel echoes the roundness.

Flanny's office is upstairs.

Isn't this a great space in which to discover new frontiers in the human mind?
Isn't this a great space in which to conduct biomedical research?

Flannery, engaged in biomedical research.

And speaking of the biomedical, I've read that a sense of belonging, a feeling that one has a place in a family or in a community or in a social network, an awareness that one fits in somewhere, is an actual physical nutrient. This belongingness nutrient helps our bodies negotiate treaties with those hormones that trick us into feeling combative when we are really just feeling fragmented and overworked and stressed. When we belong to others, we're soothed. If that's the truth, that means that on this particular evening I got my fix. I loaded up on...

fried okra

green chile

and belongingness.

In my book that's a feast.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dreaming Hill

"Dreaming Hill," acrylic on canvas, 48" x 48"
private collection, Rock Springs, Wyoming

...We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

--from Shakespeare's The Tempest

The knowledge of contemporary quantum physics was presaged by Shakespeare. Illusion is the constant. Our "little life" in waking reality is just a variation of our dreaming life. The only way to discover anything is to keep observing/keep dreaming. Just know that your very act of observation changes the reality of what you are observing.

After we shipped Jo "River of Now," she and I were emailing. I told her I had a few days in the studio and was working on a small painting and a large painting. "I would love to see what you're working on," she said. I took this as friendly curiosity. After all, Jo had invested in one of my paintings and it's always fun to see what an artist whose work you've collected is up to.

So I sent her images of the two paintings when they were complete. "I envy the people who buy these," she said. "I love 'Hill of Memories.' I can't get it out of my mind.'" I smiled when I read this. The painting was called "Dreaming Hill" and was informed by the dream I had had of Jo and her sisters, also by the conversations Jo and I had been having through email. There were little bits of glowing light set on pedestal shapes, little eggy shapes with spirals etched deeply in the painting's surface. When working on this canvas, I began to feel as though I was in a ceremonial cave, a place where dreams are made. The work "underneath"--in the land of dreaming--was changing the curvature of the land above--the land of waking reality.

After a while another email came in from Jo. "I'm sorry. I called 'Dreaming Hill' 'Hill of Memories', but when I saw it, it brought back memories for me. I can't get it out of my mind." Again, Jo and I had connected on a level that is deeper than the waking life. There is no way I was consciously aware of the memories of which Jo was speaking, but somehow the magic that had been created under my little dreaming hill had altered the curvature of the land above. And so began the dialog which led to Jo's second acquisition.

I was so excited by this transaction, I had to prepare a little ceremony, complete with burning sage, to calm myself down. I am always deliriously happy when people choose to purchase my art. But the timing of this transaction was pure magic. The stuff that dreams are made on.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Feel Good Friday: Talk to the Animals!

Elephant Brand, mixed media on canvas
private collection, Iowa City

The maniacal, not-so-borderline nut case Crazy Cath of Crazy Cath's Reflections went on one of her award rampages. Seems she grabbed a slingshot (I mean blingshot), loaded it with first one award, then the other, and proceeded to shoot, willy-nilly, into the vastness of cyberspace. Lucky me, I got caught in the crossfire. This award that looks like an itty bitty TV struck me right in the crown chakra. Yes! Cath has honored me with the Must See Blog Award.

I haven't been the same since. Talk about the big head. Now I have the gift of tongues. I find myself fluent in baby dwagonese, bwogging cat lingo, gween wagonese, and Bob T. Bearalect. I beg of you. Do not envy me. It's a curse to be so talented.

You haven't really plumbed the depths of mental hell until you've began to think in dwagonese. You wook at a bwog and wead evuhwy r and evuhwy l wike a w. Itz scawy. Itz cweepy-cwawly. I am despewate. I am a wag. A wimp, wifewess, dishwag. In a moment of wunacy, I have decided to pass this Must See Bwog Awawd on to my bwogging animal fwiends. Maybe they will begin to talk wike human beings for a change:


OK. Duh winnuhs of the Must See Bwog Awawds (dwumwoll):

Awex duh Bwoggin' Cat of Alexicon: A Kitty Kat's Life with His Hooman. Spiritual nememis of wetired minister Sometimes Saintly Nick. Goes through all the jokes people send for Nick to put on his bwog Nick's Bytes, cweans 'em up wif his paws, and duh ones dat are too waunchy (wevolving awound duh theme of wawdwobe malfunction), he puts on Nick's othuh bwog, the UCC on the Net.

Bob T Bear, (esq) of Bob T Bear (esq.)'s Diary. A debonair British dude about town. Wooks kickarse in a red Pendleton coat. Filmmaker. Horticulturalist extraordinaire. (His secret's in his fertilizer.) Creative challenger. Statistician of the Daily Serprizity Score. Tabulator of the Gills/Simpsons/Tesco frequency. Lyric poet whose obsession is poo, which rhymes with loo. I told you he has a knack with fertilizer. Nemesis of:

Dilly, of Dilly's Castle, a bootiful gween wagon. Gwaceful. Pwetty in pink. Pwincessy. Pwissy. When Dilly picks up her awawd, I know the first show she will tune into on that pwetty wittle tv (except she calls it a tewwy). Miami CSI.

Dilly fancies wedheaded dudes. And dudes who can dwaw weally well.

And a dwagon who can dwaw weally well is Dilly's soul mate. Dat would be Chuck aka Meanie the Baby Dragon. Chuck dwew Dilly's potwait as a medieval dwagon-wady.

Is Chuck in wuv with Dilly? I hope so! Dwagon wuv is the tweetest. But I digwess. Chuck is getting the Must See Bwog Awawd for his timewy weporting on newsworthy events. Duh Enquiwing papawazzi know where to go for the weally big scoop.

And now you do too.

Friday, August 1, 2008

River of Now

"River of Now," 30" x 40", acrylic on canvas
private collection, Rock Springs, Wyoming

"San, I've decided I want to buy one of your paintings. Do you have anything in purple and green, with a splash of red?" That's what Jo's morning email said. I looked over my shoulder at the easel. There sat my in-progress-as-yet-untitled painting. Purple, green, and a splash of red.


I looked back over my shoulder. Purple, green, and a splash of red.

I somehow felt both reassured and discomforted. Reassured in that a painting fitting Jo's description was probably 90% complete. Discomforted in that I was a bit spooked knowing what Jo knew: a purple and green canvas, with a splash of red, sat on my easel. Many years ago I met a woman who practiced what she called "remote viewing." She was able to focus her mind on a person or a place and actually get fairly accurate details of their surroundings: San is sitting in her family room watching "Two and a Half Men." That kind of trivial but embarrassing detail. But here Jo was actually seeing a painting on my easel and describing the colors with amazing accuracy. A painting I'm birthing isn't quite as trivial as a TV show I'm falling asleep in front of.

"What are you? Psychic?" I emailed back, "Your description seems to be of the painting I'm working on. Now."

Jo, being Jo, passed the credit to me. "Why, no, San, somehow you had the intuition that I was ready to buy a painting and you knew what painting I was ready to buy."

I had no such intuition. Jo had alluded to having one of my paintings "someday." She had expressed her intention to visit our gallery in Santa Fe "within a year" and buy a painting then. I believed her. I had no reason to believe that she was ready NOW to buy a painting.

"Well, Jo, yes, the painting is your colors, but what you're imagining is probably quite different. It may be the wrong size, imagery, etc. It isn't finished."

"Well, San, when you've completed it, please send me a photo."

Over the next several days I worked on the painting. Something told me to paint a swath through part of the purple, to wash over other areas, to let some of the purple run in little rivulets here and there. I began to feel like I was negotiating little rapids on a river, bumping into the occasional rock, working with the current, going with the flow as best I could. I became a bit stressed. What if the painting wasn't what Jo had in mind after all? What if there were bad feelings? What if our friendship hit a rock? Then I had a beautiful dream:

I was standing in our gallery fretting. I looked at the front door and in walked Jo and her sisters Rubye Jean and Ellie. They walked over to one of my paintings hanging on the wall and proceeded gently to remove little glowing areas of light from the painting. Each sister cradled a bit of light in her cupped palms and ever-so-carefully carried the light to me. They held it near my body in the manner of someone cleansing a body with burning sage.

I woke up feeling deeply calm. Soon after that I completed the painting. I had negotiated the rapids and made it to shore. I took the painting out to the deck and propped it up in the afternoon light.

And when I stepped back and looked at the painting, it reminded me of a river. I decided to name it "River of Now." I sent the photo to Jo, along with various close-up views and several details. "This is probably not what you had in mind at all. If not, no problem. Friendship before business."

In an odd way, though, the painting reminded me of Jo. As I've mentioned earlier in this blog, Jo has been there. She has overcome setbacks that would leave most of us knocking our heads against the wall in a padded cell. And she has negotiated those Class 5 rapids on the river of her life brilliantly. She has gone with the flow of life when that made the most sense. And when she has had to paddle against the current, she has done that too. She has arrived at a place in her life that is about NOW, celebrating the richness of all she has now. And she is one rich woman. Not in a material sense (although she's doing rather well in that department) but in the sense of inner riches. I admire her deeply.

That's why when I sent her the photos, I knew deep down that if the painting disappointed her, it would in no way capsize our friendship. But here is her response: "Wow, San! The size, the colors, the EVERYTHING is what I had in my mind."

WOW NOW! HOW did this happen? Beats me. But I'm overjoyed that it happened.

Now that "River of Now" has been delivered to Jo's home under the big Wyoming sky, it seems inevitable it would hang there. Why did I fret? Why did I need for she and her sisters to come to me in a dream and reassure me? I'm nevertheless glad they did. That is one powerful, light-suffused image I can call to mind on darker days. And the knowledge that Jo lives with one of my paintings now is like the sensation of floating on my back on a peaceful river, gazing at the sunlight filtering through the branches of cottonwoods lining the banks. When I look up at the New Mexico sky, I am actually seeing Jo's sky after all. There's a place where the Wyoming sky becomes the Colorado sky and that eventually turns into the New Mexico sky. All I have to do is look up and I am connected to Jo...

...In my mind's eye I see her touring the big western countryside on the back of a motorcycle, celebrating life.

Thank you, Jo! Happy Trails...