Saturday, December 30, 2006

Why I Blog

Back in the 50s the Moms in my neighborhood used to get together in the morning in someones home for coffee, or chat together over the fence. I lived in a new subdivision and all of the backyards were connected by bare fences, making it fairly easy to see a friend playing in their backyard down the street. We would climb and criss-cross over those fences and play in anothers yard. Who wanted to walk around the block? Anyway, I digress...back to the Moms. Today, you see young mothers, nannies, grandmothers, congregate in the parks, or at planned Mommy & Child activities. Women come together in church, or quilt club meetings, lunches - all sorts of ways.

But by far - this, these blogs, are my favorite "new" way to come together. Yes, we are all miles apart, isolated in front of our little computer screen, talking to a keyboard instead of a real person, but think about it. We are able to share our thoughts with anyone at any time - any person, anywhere that wants to listen to what we have to say.

I know far more people read what I write than comment on it. But those that do comment let me know that there are people out there who are listening. From them, I know that what I have to say has planted a new thought, given a smile or a laugh, or inspired a new thought or action.

I do this to talk to you, but more importantly, I do it for myself. It's my 21st century journal. For some reason, it's easier for me to keep this kind of journal than a pen and paper one. Like any form of journal keeping, these entries allow me to see patterns, draw conclusions and connect the steps of my day. When I wrote yesterday's entry, I felt it was about 3 different things - the lunch, the flowers and the sky. But reading the comments, and then re-reading it myself, I see that they are all connected. Beautiful! I love to be able to look back and see how everything is connected.

Let me tell you one more story today, and this is something that I just now remembered. I am pretty surprised (shocked) that I had forgotten what I am about to tell you. (See? this journal writing is pretty powerful.) When I first started creating Fragments, the very first ones each had a story that went with it, along the lines of what Brian Andreas does. Just a paragraph or two, often a personal recollection inspired by the photo on the Fragment. When they got to be so popular, I had to forgo the story because writing them took too long. But here's the catch - for me, the stories were the part I enjoyed the most. I thought no one would be interested in reading what I wrote unless they were forced to read it or happened upon it. I had a few repeat purchasers who told me that they missed the stories. Most people never even knew they existed. And here I sit today, having totally forgotten about them.

So what does all this mean? Well, I for one, have totally inspired myself to take up writing these stories again. I'm very excited about this remembrance. This could be that hole that I have been feeling with my art. And what does it mean for you? Well, that's for you to answer. But I hope that our little chat today over the virtual fence does inspire you to journal, either in a blog or a book. This is the perfect time to start. Make a commitment to yourself, a resolution. On Christmas day, after my 12 year old daughter, Kelly, opened the gift of a journal, my 85 year old father said, "I wish I had kept a journal. It's really the best thing anyone can do." It is. You never know what effect your words will have. If I hadn't decided to write this blog entry today, I might never have remembered the stories. What a gift to myself!
Do not trust your memory; it is a net full of holes; the most beautiful prizes slip through it. ~ Georges Duhamel

Thursday, December 28, 2006

On the 4th Day of Christmas

Mini-reunion Class of 70Yesterday I had lunch with friends from high school. It takes much planning and special effort to get everyone together and even so, there were some missing. 36 years have passed since we spent every day together in our uniforms complete with saddle shoes, and bobby socks. Yes, the bobby sock days were long gone back in the late 60s but our school was slow to change. I remember working up the courage to meet with the formidable principal, Sister Mary Clair, to ask her to let us wear knee socks, especially in the winter time. It was a no-go. Imagine those Immaculata girls with their skirts rolled up at the waistbands, white bobby socks drooping around the ankles trying to be so cool when the public school kids in their hippie jeans and Birkenstocks sauntered by. We all look quite fashionable now, don't you think? Why, we don't look a bit older than we did when we graduated. My hair is now the pale, pale blonde I always wanted (OK, so it's white...platinum blonde maybe?)

I think we have all aged gracefully. Yes, there are a few extra pounds, smile lines abound, and yes, a few worry wrinkles (we are all mothers). But some are now empty-nesters and Glenda has even retired! We have suffered joy and loss, aging parents and frustrating teenagers. The beauty of it is - no matter where our lives have taken us, put us together in a room and it is 1970 again. We can pick up right where we left off. Gertrude Stein said: We are always the same age inside. So true!

These roses are days old. I love how they too have aged so gracefully, becoming more beautiful as they sag and wilt. They started out beautiful and they will come to an end just as beautifully, having done their job so well. This year is also coming to an end. Before I can look forward, I must reflect on all that has passed. Could I have done anything better? Did I make the right decision when there was a choice? Is there even a right or a wrong - is it just paths chosen on roads less taken? I am both reflecting and looking forward, determining whether to step back from all the teaching and traveling and spend time refilling the well. I am curious to see what lies inside my heart.

nothing but blue skies smiling on meI have a dear friend with whom I talk every morning. One of our catch phrases is looking up. We use it both metaphorically and literally.Yesterday I looked up and took note of this blue, blue winter sky. This song came to mind ~

Blue skies Smiling on me
Nothing but blue skies Do I see
Blue birds Singing a song
Nothing but blue skies From now on.

I never saw the sun shining so bright
Never Saw things going so right
Watching all the days Hurrying by
When you're in love, My how they fly

Those blue days, all of them gone
Nothing but blue skies, Nothing but blue skies
Nothing but blue skies, from now on.

That is my wish for you in this coming year ~ blue skies, from now on. Remember to look up.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Quote for Christmas

Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. ~ Mary Ellen Chase

Quote for Today

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. ~ Hamilton Wright Marbie

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Just a brief note combining yesterday's attempted post with today's Christmas wish for you. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Festivus, Kwanzaa or your own spiritual path ~ may the love that we feel and spread today continue throughout the year. May the peace and love in your heart multiply through the coming year.
For somehow, not only at Christmas, but all the long year through, The joy that you give to others is the joy that comes back to you.~ John Greenleaf Whittier

The new issue of INSIGHT Magazine hit local newsstands on Thursday. My brother-in-law was the first to see it, calling me from Starbucks early in the morning. Six or more free reading materials to choose from and he picked up this one, not knowing I was in the issue. And even stranger, he first opened to page 12 - and there I was! So I went out and gathered a few copies (they're free) to hand out as Christmas presents - very self-absorbed aren't I? LOL

I asked my daughter to read me the article as I drove away. She stopped reading when we arrived at the next stop on my errand list. I said, "Let's hurry! I can't wait to hear how the story ends!" They opted to use just one large Fragment photo so readers could read the quote on it. The quote reflected what was written in the article.
I'd gone through life believing inthe strength and competence of others; never in my own. Now, dazzled, I discovered that my capacities were real. It was like finding a fortune in the lining of an old coat. ~ Joan Mills
As I said, they put out a fine magazine with attention to detail. I have been trying to upload a pdf of the article all day but cannot get it accepted. Perhaps later!

Now go dazzle yourself and others on this eve of Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Art Respite

Book cover"Joseph Cornell (1903–1972) was a self-taught yet highly sophisticated artist who is celebrated for his pioneering achievement in the art of assemblage, often in the form of box constructions. Cornell’s lyrical compositions combine found materials in ways that reflect a highly personal exploration of art and culture and that represent his belief in art as an uplifting voyage into the imagination. This stunning book is published to accompany the first retrospective of the artist’s work in over twenty-five years." (Yale Press)

The book may be beautiful, but I got to see the real thing yesterday at the American Art Museum. It is quite a large exhibit, including many of his boxed constructions and collages, in a hushed, blue-tinted room ~ blue being Cornell's signature color. My friend, Melissa, had already been to the show, so she alerted me to the box in the back of the room that lights up on the hour. Lucky us - it was 5 minutes to the hour when we arrived!

Untitled (Medici Princess)I have several books on Cornell, so was familiar with many of the pieces in the show, but seeing them in 3-D, live and in all their nuances of color, scale and texture was wonderful. The workmanship, the dimensionality, the care are all so apparent. They really had auras or vibes, each one. There was definitely something present in each one that was not visual.

My favorite part of the exhibit were the cases filled with some of his collections - ordinary cardboard boxes filled with his "stuff". Each box was labelled in his scratchy handwriting: "marb. col. rubber balls", "nests", "deadwood pieces", "cylinder images", "L'aumeir vagabonde", "turkey feathers", "nostalgia of the sea". My favorite was the Quaker Oatmeal container full of ordinary sand. There were boxes of spring, bracelets, rings. One marked "notions", and "mouse material" (I didn't want to know what that was.) "nostalgia of the sea" shared space with "plastic shells", "coral".

Like many of you reading this, I have collected stuff for many decades, long before I ever knew what I was going to do with it. I was just drawn to certain disparate objects. For many, many years it was a mystery to me, "Why am I buying this?" "What will I ever do with this?" "Why, this piece?" At first there were just enough items to fill a shelf, later a bookcase, and now several. I no longer feel bad about my stuff. In fact, I now sophisticatedly classify it all as collections. They are my tools. They are both the materials and the art itself. Each piece, perhaps a fragment of a once beautiful or precious object, being old, or found, or rescued, has it's own story, it's own poetry. It's my job to continue or to reveal its story and in turn, tell one of my own, which in the making, becomes a part, a continuation of my life story.

a small portion of my collectionThere is nothing Joseph Cornell did that I do not have the skill to do. Many uninformed people may think that his art is nothing more than well-made boy scout projects...little boxes full of junk. But you and I know better. Many of you reading this know just how hard it really is to take unrelated and/or found objects and images and create something a) of beauty, and b) with meaning. Composition is key, of course, but so is understanding, or emotion ~ translating your soul into something visual and concrete for others to see.

Art is our memory of love. The most an artist can do through their work is say, let me show you what I have seen, what I have loved, and perhaps you will see it and love it too. Annie Bevan

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

And Did I Mention TIME?

For Cloth paper Scissors March issueI feel like I talk about time a lot - never having enough of it. I reminise about my 20s and 30s. Back then, I had five young children and thought there was no time. HA! Try being in your 50s. You still have the kids but now you have yourself too. All that free time that comes after the children grow up is now absored by living your life ~ the one you put on hold when they were young. Plus you still have the children who a)plan weddings, b)change majors, c)expect Christmas presents, d)want your advice and thoughts on their every move. I LOVE that they want my advice and thoughts, so that one is OK.

Amidst meeting with caterers, making the invitations, finding bridesmaid dress for my other 3 daughters (done - cross that off the list), Christmas shopping, and helping out my parents, I did manage to squeeze in some art this week. Sometimes I think you don't believe me, but I did get two things off in the mail this week. I just can't show them to you as usual, because they are for the magazine (sneak peek photo above) and another book that Lynne Perrella is writing.

I hope you are all having a smooth December and calmly preparing for your own holiday festivities. We'll be chopping down our tree on Saturday and I'm praying the unseasonal 60-degree weather holds out till then. It can get good and cold after that. And for you local Montgomery County, MD readers, INSIGHT magazine is due out on Friday or thereabouts ~ that's the issue with my artist profile article. Can't wait to see it! I'll post it on here once I have it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Spirit

My Winter WonderlandIt has finally arrived ~ my Christmas spirit. Perhaps it is the cold weather that has finally blown in to DC. Maybe it's the Christmas shopping I did this week. Could it be the lights Kelly has strung throughout the house, or one of my favorite Christmas songs playing on my computer? (Have you seen Love Actually ~a Christmastime must.

What exactly is Christmas spirit? How would you define it? Is it one of those "you-know-it-when-you-see/feel-it" kind of things? True, this time of year can be hectic and frazzled and frustrating, but it is also a slowing down time, when things that normally take priority slide into the backseat and the true, genuine things in life come to the forefront - family, love, random acts of kindness, smiles. People really do act nicer during the holidays. It's like we're all in a good mood at the same time. We're glowing, just like the lights strung on clapboards, bricks and boughs, mirroring the twinkling in our eyes, the overflow of light shining in our hearts.

Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don't quite know how to put our love into words ~ Harlan Miller

Now back to the studio. Or is that Santa's workshop? No matter what you call it, it's the place where I make my magic.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I've Finally Been Tagged

All this tagging that has gone on and I've always been able to dodge the bullet. But when someone as sweet as Annie Lockhart tags you, it's hard to say no. (She also tagged nina and Misty, so check to see if they did it too.) Besides, this one is funny - 6 Weird Things About Me. So here goes:

1. It's not weird to me, but my family says I hold my pencil, my brush, my fork funny. I rest them on my ring finger and control movement with both my index and middle finger. It's just not comfortable the other way. Am I the only one?

2. Nine out of then times I eat each food on my plate separately, saving the best for last. I taste everything, determine what the "best" is, then eat all of one, thing, turn the plate so the next item is in front of me, eat all of that and then there it is - the best for last. Obviously you would not see this behavior when I have a plate of spaghetti in front of me. I don't think it's weird at all, but my family begs to differ.

3. The latest weird thing (and again, it's not weird to me) is that I sing along with my new Ipod. Of course since my family cannot hear the music, they sit there laughing at me. But hey - I simply cannot keep my mouth shut or my feet still when there is good music playing. I think those who are not moved by the music are weird.

4. Speaking of music ~ I also tap my fingers a lot. On the steering wheel when I am driving, while I am watching TV, odd quiet moments. My husband has been known to lay his hand over mine and say, "Relax". But one of my kids pegged it - she asked, "Mommy, are you keeping time to the music in your head?" You betcha! And this was years before I got my Ipod.

5. I'm struggling here. Obviously we do not really think our own behavior is weird. It's the rest of the world that classifies it as weird. But the next one just occurred to me as I applied some chapstick. It's the chapstick! I simply CANNOT live without it. I carry one with me at all times and reapply several times a day. My lips really need it ~ really. I have heard that you can get addicted to chapstick. I once told my kids that if I am ever in a nursing home, please be sure my bedside table drawer is filled with chapsticks. More recently, when they announced the ban on liquids and gels, and before they approved lip balms (under 3 oz of course), I must confess that I snuck some onto a plane. I could not fathom going for hours without any. So I smeared some onto wax paper and stuck it in my pocket, praying that I would get through security without a major incident.

6.I like to hold my thumb in between my index and middle finger ~ another hand thing. I have a lot of hand issues don't I? Yep. I even like to look at them and admire them. They're not that pretty, but they are marvelous tools, an extension of self, my means of self-expression.

Should I tag anyone? I must admit, this little exercise has been very self-revealing and I have enjoyed it. So I tag you, the anonymous reader. It's totally voluntary.