Saturday, August 30, 2014

Small, or perhaps not-so-small, pleasures

Words are tools and companions.  They do their best to establish some order in the mind, they look swell on the page.  I am a fan.

It was 28 years ago, give or take, that I discovered art rubber stamps.  Images, alphabets, words, quotes.  It was 2 1/2 months ago that I discovered the site for rubberstampchamp and for scarcely more than the pennies retrieved from beneath the cushions of our old couch before it was voted out of office, I can order small (they also make LARGE) custom rubber stamps of words I would not find on the open market.  The link, by the way, is to the rubberstampchamp page for custom hand stamps, where prices start as low as $3.25 for a 1/2" square stamp.  Yesterday I ordered one that size, 2 lines, that says Thank You.  Nice and tiny.  Do not underestimate the usefulness of a tiny cluster of words.  Earlier I ordered a 1/2" image of my crocodile puppet drawing, shrunken yet defined, with my initials. to use as a logo.  In addition to stamps that cost less than candy at the movies, at rubberstampchamp, shipping is free on orders of $10 or more.  I ask you!

Expected to arrive with the wee square Thank You are a caption for one of my rubber stamp figures and a quote I wrote about this week, "be vast and brilliant" which can be a caption for the new sun postcard I will order before the sale ends tomorrow.  Among my two new and most favorite things, ordering Vistaprint postcards made with some of my art and dreaming up rubber stamps I never thought I could possess for less than $4 apiece.  Other recent, nourishing pleasures include the discovery of new-to-me artists, Pinterest most of the time and summer, simple and free, summer. My son proclaimed years ago, when we used to, for reasons now murky, watch Dawson's Creek, that he didn't believe in the existence of "guilty" pleasures but rather, just pleasures.  I could pretend that we were visionaries, capable of knowing the break-put potential of Michelle Williams or, even more surprising after the train wreck that was Pacey, Joshua Jackson in Fringe, but the truth is we like what we like, no explanations, no apologies.  So while there may not be guilty pleasures, I do believe there might small ones, joys that cost little or no money, that are available to all or nearly all of us.  Or no, this may actually make them enormous pleasures.  Foolish woman and her foolish semantics.  Pleasures make us happy, may actually alter our chemistry (if happiness is the opposite of abuse).  Whatever summer remains where you are, be greedy, grab it by the handful.  I'm glad the cherries and blueberries were so delicious and frequently affordable this year.  If only they could be year-round products at discount prices, all orders over $10 shipped free.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Postcards - individual views

Clearer views of the 8 designs in the newly-offered set of glossy postcards, A2 size.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Word of the Week - 25

Word of the Week:  REIMAGINE

Today I declare that imagination is our top and truly kick-ass superpower.  As with other endowments, it may be used for good or ill.  Today I declare it is no longer appropriate to employ imagination to  enlarge or inflate fear or worry, to use it as the magnifying glass that sharpens a focus on our suspected defects, to bend it to our will for the purpose of keeping us frail or tepid or less-than.  We, as Werner Herzog reminded in a recent interview, are able to give success our own definition and we certainly are here to save the world by whatever means possible.  This will involve stealth, humor, beauty, love and patience.

Without being vast and brilliant, saving the world, even a section no larger than a collar button, would be impossible.   Therefore, we must reimagine, redefine what we believe about ourselves and how we fit into this world that needs us at our truest.   Recently I found a quote by writer Paulo Coelho, “Don’t be intimidated by other people’s opinions. Only mediocrity is sure of itself, so take risks and do what you really want to do.” As the loudest voice of disapproval is usually the one in our own heads, that is the first one to ignore.  Sing louder than it shouts.  Make faces and do a silly dance.  Righteous mediocrity can't stand any of that.  And, above all else, throw your arms around every lumpy, battle-scarred, making-it-up-as-you-go-along inch of your brilliant being and squeeze until you can hardly breathe.  Don't let go.  I'm not saying this will be easy.  It may seem impossible, but, as Coelho also said, "Impossible is just an opinion."

In our reimagining, let's imagine this:  that most of what we've been told is wrong or, even more likely, was lies intended to keep us quiet, submissive, to stop us from being troublemakers and siphon our unmistakable coolness out of the tank, leaving us stuck and dispirited.
Empowering words from Lisa Congdon.
I realized this week, in visiting some top-drawer work from artist Lisa Congdon and writer Maria Popova on women who have changed the way we see the world, that it is, at this late date, unlikely that I will be (a) famous or (b) brilliant on the BIG screen.  That does not mean I am not or cannot be brilliant.  The stars come in all sizes.  Brilliant, and successful, by my definition.  Some days all that requires is being alive, reasonably awake and aware that none of us is ordinary, unless we choose to be.  Imagine something brighter, something better, something that makes your heart happy, not lurching along with grim foreboding.  No one has ever known what will come tomorrow.  I imagine it, and we, will be magnificent.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Five ways to think about sky

Tony Fitzpatrick tells of his artist-in-residence time in Montana and shares a story about the sky.
Find the story here.
"Yves Saint Laurent’s muse Loulou de la Falaise’s wedding was possibly the most magical ever. Wearing a blue outfit with stars, Loulou told friends she wanted to look like a summer's night sky in Marrakech."
From Rick Stevens Studio,
Fred Cuming, RA | Cloudscape Camber #art #inspiration
Pastel & pencil on paper
2014, by Claire Beynon
Maynard Dixon, Mojave Desert, 1923, oil on board

Monday, August 18, 2014

Word of the Week - 24

All art today from Domenica More Gordon.
Word of the Week:  COMMUNION

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”
James Herriot, All Creatures Great and Small 

This week my Facebook feed was alive with animal videos and I watched them all.  As I am allergic to cats and dogs, I don't have extensive first-hand experience of communion with other creatures.  Being, at least, a reasonably observant human I understand the depth of such love, of such relationships.  In the recent past, too many friends have lost beloved companions.  Grief is grief.  It is not exclusive to a particular species.

I wondered, briefly, about my sudden affinity for watching cats, dogs, penguins and unidentified small birds being remarkable.  I realized their presence gave comfort.  That their presence was virtual made a connection to them no less real.  A dog splashing water on beached fish, attempting to revive them, astonished me.  A cat luxuriating in a lengthy massage, paws, chin, ears, head, torso, made me grateful there was such an attuned and caring friend.
More about Domenica's felted dogs, and more, here.
Being human and being a grown-up carry similar responsibilities.  The guy driving the car has made a covenant with fellow creatures to be sober, attentive, safe, as wise as possible, compassionate, trustworthy, and to alert someone if these conditions can't be met.  We know it doesn't always play out as this ideal.  Watching and absorbing the significance of interaction with our furred and winged fellows, observing their unambiguous responses, the result of their communion, elevated my consciousness, informed me, softened and humbled me.  I am still digesting what I saw, what the videos were teaching me, why this seems to be a lesson needed NOW.  Today the answers are still arriving at their pace, not mine.

There is no such thing as too much love, the real deal and not some poseur.  Love without guile, expectations, conditions and limits, how and where do we find that.  Surprisingly - or not - Facebook for all its drawbacks may have offered a clue.
Animals and art, does it get any better?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thoughts of the summer dance transfix Billington's Cove inhabitants - part 2

Bite-size grilled cheese sandwiches.

Cake bites.
The bite-size buffet worked before, Gloria knew, but not a serve-yourself free-for-all.  There would need to be servers,  sharp-eyed servers, and a way for guests to feel abundance and not lack as they carried their treat-filled plates to a table beneath the strings of fairy lights.  She talked to all the other restaurant owners and volunteer chefs in town, a menu was set, commitments made, watches synchronized.  She scanned the tearoom to see which of her most reliable helpers was already present, which would need to be called.  After a quick inventory of supplies on hand, she started the first batch of cookies.

She was of two minds about how she wished she could spend the day.  What a luxury to be a girl again, all dreamy and a'swirl in tulle and silk, trying on gowns, party dresses, nearly hypnotized by anticipation and her youthful image in the dressing table mirror.  Truth was, she was as enamored of preparing her treats as she had once been of, as she called it, sashaying about, fussing with her hair, writing some boy's name over and over in a notebook, wishing for things she couldn't actually name but felt she would recognize  when they arrived.

Work was a tonic, a cure-all, even when no actual ailment was present.  She was not moonstruck, not adolescent and definitely not confused.  No, she amended.  She WAS moonstruck and with good reason.  It was rare in what she knew of the world to be so aware of another's essential self as she was of Robert's, without having been told.  Gloria believed we possess aspects that never lie to us, that simply receive what is true and allow it to flow freely, a stream returned to life with the first snow melt.  Though this was a new experience, she could trust it.  She wondered if she ought to rethink trusting the townsfolk not to serve themselves too generously at a buffet.  The answer to that was not yet clear.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Thoughts of the summer dance transfix Billington's Cove inhabitants, part 1

Painting by Andy Smith.
From time to time throughout his life Robert wished he'd been born a poet.  He knew enough of the process to realize he could, upon occasion, corral a poetic expression of what he intuited wordlessly.  As much as he hoped this could be one of those moments, he knew he was on his own, no muse in his pocket.  To feel the sun on his face, the way it warmed a building's chilled facade, would be enough of a gift for today.  That the sun's lemony tang would ultimately seep through him, to his feet and the parts of his brain where music and besottedness resided, made him so giddy he worried he might topple to the side of the road in a fit of giggles.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Word of the Week - 23

All art today by Francoise de Felice.
Word of the Week:  CHIMERICAL

As my art for the past 20 years has been primarily involved with designing rubber stamps, there have been, of necessity, lines around everything I do.  Recently my thoughts, and heart, have shifted to a more chimerical presentation.  I have a deep hunger for what is more flowing, more created of smoke, of vapor, of what may be at least partly imagined, of dreams.  As I fall asleep, I imagine paintings as yet non-existent, yet distinct enough to be seen by the mind's eye.

The art of Francoise de Felice, which I found just a few weeks ago, is the manifestation of what seemed too ethereal to become solid matter.  That her images are women, the women we may be in our own memories or dreams, the embodiment of the numinous with which we seek enduring connection, draws me even more fully into this world, a world I know though I cannot say from where, or when.
In the process of maturing or evolving or being prodded into consciousness I feel we are asked to fall in love with ourselves as we never have.  The scenes, the groupings which de Felice brings to full, robust, soft and not-quite-solid life give me the sense of seeing a self that is at once idealized and yet authentic.  Her women are dimensional in a way that seems to have little to do with day-to-day experiences of hacked passwords, overdue medical procedures, ants in the kitchen, as though they have found the secret to existing outside the limitations of time, space and what is expected of the rest of us.  They inspire me about my work, they make me feel illuminated from within rather than standing in some external spotlight whose glare is just too harsh.  If I am one of them, I am not just shadows, lines, creases and age.  I am timeless, I am beauty, I am depth and I am not too late for anything that matters.  Though they, in their softness, may seem chimerical, they are the reality in which I choose to believe, the world I prefer to inhabit.  Perhaps some illusions are actually life affirming.  I believe these are.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Word of the Week - 22

Its Aboriginal name is Uluru.  We know it as Ayers Rock.  More than 600 million years old, this ancient sandstone monolith originally sat at the bottom of the sea.
Word(s) of the Week:  SOLID MATTER

From Sunday's Brain Pickings, excerpted letters from Jack Kerouc, including this poem:

The world you see is just a movie in your mind.
Rocks dont see it.
Bless and sit down.
Forgive and forget.
Practice kindness all day to everybody
and you will realize you're already
in heaven now.
That's the story.
That's the message.
Nobody understands it,
nobody listens, they're
all running around like chickens with heads cut
off. I will try to teach it but it will
be in vain, s'why I'll
end up in a shack
praying and being
cool and singing
by my woodstove
making pancakes.

If what appears to be solid matter is really energy, of what is consistency made? I suppose the answer would be energy or nothing. Today, August 4, is my 6th Blogiversary, an unimaginable event, as I've probably written in other years but even more true today as time wears on.

More and more I tend to believe that much of what surrounds us is illusion, into which we may or may not buy as suits us.   We have wisdom, I believe, within each of us that can bypass the illusions, lift us out of the past's repressive bonds and our mind's whispered fear about the future.  Which is how we end up making pancakes in our shacks or cooing at the moon, teaching ourselves to do things we thought we couldn't and protecting ourselves from noises that would lure us off course.  This is a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other business as I experience it, truly a next-indicated-thing assignment bursting with lessons about kindness, beauty, gratitude, forgiveness, going slowly, giving up counting, choosing (as often as possible) the high road, resisting engagement in squabbles, surrendering a need to be right, valuing sound sleep above many other things.

What I have learned since I began blogging (still a word that lacks music and any speck of loveliness but it is what we have) might be described as finding, through trial, error, intuition and enormous grace, a way to become an island in the moment, no longer so firmly attached to what did happen or what might.  The blog and I are works in progress, or process, not fully formed as what we may yet be, not as we were, complete for now, with an asterisk (*) that means aspirations.  The best description I can give you right now is this:  you wake up and have an intense desire to go fishing.  You do not, as a rule, fish, but you acquire the necessary gear and find a spot at the end of a pier or the edge of a lake and never think again for an instant about fish or catching them, cooking them or what in the world you are doing there.  The universe, as I understand it, needed for you to sit and stare at a body of water until the sun went down and sent you the message it knew would get you to where you were needed.  And so I blog.

Deepest thanks to all who have ever read a single sentence here, who have come back, left comments, shared the link, left this space renewed in any way and been silent, solid observers,  witnesses, of whatever occurs.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

How we did summer in the 1950s

Our first wading pool, summer afternoon relief for my sister, brother and me, must have been acquired around 1954, when my youngest sibling would have been three, almost four. Over the years we went through a series of these water-filled havens, eventually enjoying one that was deep enough to be submerged in, big enough to play with inflatable toys.  The earlier ones were set up on a bit of lawn behind a hedge so every kid in the neighborhood wouldn't see us and so there was a bit of shade.  The last, biggest pool had to stand on a paved area, including the driveway, at the side of the house.  As the lot - and driveway - sloped rather sharply, we had a deep end and a shallow end
Pinterest photo, but it was just like this at our house.
The smoggy heat of L.A.'s San Gabriel Valley was also relieved by the Good Humor man (truck), from whom we did not purchase every day but regularly enough to feel abundant, and the year-round
favorite, Helms Bakery truck. The sound of its sliding wooden drawers remains unique, as familiar as the rhythm of tap shoes leading up to a recital.
Learn about the Helms Bakery and its trucks here.
At some point, another date lost in the mist, our family added a window air conditioner in the living room, which I don't remember our running all that much.  I'm sure it was costly.  It was not humid then as July and August have become.  The phrase "monsoonal flow" was unknown.  We had one state and that was hot.  We went to the library in the cool of the morning, sometimes went downtown to movies in the afternoon.  We languished like beached whales reading on our beds while our dad took his daily nap, during which no noise could be made.  When he drove back to work,  we at least got to speak with indoor voices and may have actually made some noise as we splashed in the water. 

After I had left home, the family moved to a house with what we used to call a "built-in" pool.  What a dream that would have been.  The next best thing was the interval when our grandparents lived in an apartment building with a pool in which we got to swim at least weekly.  Generally it was hotter than ever when school started, always the cue for a significant warm up which I suspected was to keep us from being able to wear our new school clothes, better suited to autumn days.