Archive for September, 2008


September 30, 2008

I hope to avoid political comments on this blog; not that I’m not upset about the world situation, but many others are writing about it better than I can.  However, I need to make an exception today to share a wonderful piece my Jungian student, writer, and artist friend Kim Alderman created.  Enjoy and share it.


Wo Fo Yo O

September 28, 2008

I survived the Creative Arts Retreat at the Blue Cliffs monastery.  Whew.  I picked up Jerry and Lois at his place, and off we went. The ride there and back was spectacular, the road edging the “blue cliffs” overlooking a magnificent view–hang gliders swoop off these cliffs, and we saw a couple getting ready to leap.  Lois and I headed to our assigned room and it was completely empty–no furniture, trash on the floor.  I expected an ascetic environment, but not quite this bare.  We hoofed it back to the office and got set right–had a very cozy room which we shared with Lois’s friend Stephanie, Patti and her pal Karen.  The sign on the door read “You have arrived.  You are Home.” I got the lower bunk bed, and my head is a mass of knots from cracking it on the overhead bed.  And five women rushing for the one bathroom to get to the meditation hall by 6 AM when none of our alarm clocks went off deserved a YouTube video.

From the moment we arrived, all my garbage came up–body aches, crabbiness, judging my fellow retreaters, cynicism, self-pity…and that’s the point.  In such an environment we have no choice but to be with that stuff, and to look at it.  Not pleasant.  All I wanted to do was sleep, and each sitting became naptime.  As the weekend went on, I mellowed, relaxed, met some amazing people, heard some good dharma talks, listened to beautiful music, and ate and ate and ate…the food was Vietnamese, and vegan.  Much as we ate, we never got really full, and I think I can now go quite a long time without looking at another vegetable.  And ohhhh, how I missed my coffee.

I noticed small shifts in my perceptions on the trip home–I felt no need to drive fast, saw the details

of the scenery, felt the texture of the misty air.  The discomforts — the havoc beans and vegetables wreaked on all our digestive systems, the wet socks, sore back, caffeine cravings–are almost forgotten.  I’m still re-entering my own world, which has been a challenge with my rear neighbors running their power saws, driving a dirt bike round and round in the back yard, their radio blaring, yelling at each other and at their dog.  Breathe.  Breathe.  Be in the moment…..

catching up

September 24, 2008

Hmmm, I don’t seem to be doing so well with my promise to post three blog entries per week.  Waiting for inspiration, I call it.  Inspiration hasn’t come and sat on my lap, so I’ll write anyway.  Tomorrow I’m heading off to a meditation retreat; Patti, who’s also going, has written about it on her blog (eat man drink water, link is in my list) and I’m going to cheat and copy the schedule from that.  It’s called Wo Fo Yo O, and it’s at a center based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn.  I’ve done retreats before, and found them wonderful, but it’s been awhile, and it will be tough doing all the sitting and being silent, especially since my fella and 3 friends will be there.

05:00am Wake-up

05:30 Sitting Meditation/ Chanting
07:00 Exercise
08:00 Breakfast
09:30 Working Meditation
11:30 Walking Meditation
2:00pm Personal Time
03:00 Dharma Discussion/Activities
05:00 Sitting/Chanting
06:00 Dinner
07:00 Self study time
10:00 Lights out.
I’m psyched, looking forward to some time with my butt on a meditation cushion instead of this chair in front of my Mac.  I’m still deep in my project of photoshopping my brother’s old mideast photos–150 down, 50 to go.  Whew.
Today I took a break to work on an application for another sort of retreat, at the Millay Art Colony.  They award 48 artists a year with a chance to work without interruption for four weeks, room and board and studio included.  I would LOVE to be accepted, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I really can’t imagine a month without my usual distractions, the welcome and unwelcome ones–I wonder if I’d just go nuts.
I thought I’d post a couple of recent paintings I included with my application; I have no idea what they’re looking for, what they want, but the best I can do is just show them what I’ve done.


September 16, 2008

I’ve restarted a project that got eclipsed by other stuff; scanning and photoshopping old photos taken by my brother Gail Brooks 20-40 years ago, when he was a geologist in the Middle East.  Retired now, he lives in New Zealand and is writing his memoirs.  He is a fabulously entertaining writer, and writes of his wild adventures with great humor and an amazing skill for description.  I think he owes it to the world to publish this opus, but he claims he doesn’t have the energy for pursuing it, only wants to send it online to friends and family.  (And like him, I have no delusions about the ease of finding a publisher.) He can’t send it out until I finish with the photos…a huge project, with well over a hundred images, most very damaged, discolored and blurred.  It takes about an hour to rework each one, and the results are usually disappointing, but still I’m committed to getting it done.  It’s a labor of love.  My brother has always been my hero, my Santa Claus.  Twelve years my senior, he spoiled me rotten when I was little, and as I entered adulthood, he treated me to amazing trips all over the world–including a safari to Africa for my high school graduation gift.

Here’s a photo I worked on yesterday, and it stirred memories of the weeks I spent with him during two visits to his home in Cairo…his oasis of a house in the suburb of Maadi, tended by servants, the garden full of mango trees, the hot dusty excursions to ancient ruins and the rich chaos of the bazaars, then sipping Silver Mugs (frosted gin drinks served in chilled glasses…originally served in the silver mugs until the supply was depleted by sticky-fingered drinkers) overlooking the Nile in the air-conditioned bar of the Nile Hilton, evenings floating on the river in feluccas, lounging against cushions and eating shwarma sandwiches…I’ll resist going on and on.  This picture (yep, that’s me at 21, second from the right; Gail is in the center) was taken on a weekend trip to Agami, a beach on the Mediterranean, near Alexandria.  Palm trees and white sand, a vast stucco house with snakes in the bamboo roof, a flirtation with the Egyptian geologist on the far left.  I’m holding a fig plucked from the tree in the yard; I’d never seen a fresh fig before.  We would drink from morning till night, starting out with bloody marys and ending with gin and tonics, but somehow no one ever got drunk…maybe the sun just sweated off the alcohol.

Cairo was glorious; so were the other places I visited, thanks to Gail, and I feel incredibly lucky to have seen them when I did, since many are now too dangerous, and I wouldn’t see them with the same eyes–I was an innocent, barely out of Kansas, and looked at these exotic lands with complete and constant amazement.  Thank you, Big Brother, for giving me the world.

Granola and gummy bears

September 12, 2008

I’m still feeling my way into this blog stuff; I don’t know how personal I want to make it, how much to write, blah blah blah.  I’m just shooting for getting something down about 3 times a week, and I figure it will take form as I go.  I wrote an entry the other day following a line of thought inspired by remembering a blog I used to enjoy, posted by a woman who made bowls and lived in the woods.  I felt like I was entering her life for awhile, and I loved walking into her studio with her in the mornings with tea and granola, settling in for a day of making and thinking, before entering my own life.  I wrote out a day the way I wish I could describe it, full of green tea and meditation and work and Proust and such.  Then I wrote a paragraph about the way my days really go, leaning much more toward wine and online scrabble and netflix.  Well.  That was a bit of a wake-up, seeing it laid out like that, and it was much too embarrassing to post.  It did jolt me into really looking at all the ways I waste time, all the little choices I make, too often the easiest or tastiest ones instead of those I’d feel proud of.  What if I lived in such a way that I could be proud of posting a day’s routine?  I wonder what that would look like.  Hmmm. Nope, probably won’t do that, but I really might make a change or two.

My major accomplishments today were getting to the gym for a workout, and grocery shopping for South Beach Diet foods.  I was digging goodies from the unsweetened candy bins when I stepped on a lemon gummy bear that someone had dropped, and from then on my left shoe made a very loud “pfschLOCK” sound at every step.  When I walked over the carpet areas, the carpet lifted with my shoe.  People were looking at me.  I finally scurried into the ladies’ room, ripped a little piece of paper towel off, applied it to the yellow goo, and with footsteps soft as little cat feet finished my shopping.

This seemed appropriate; it’s the cover I just did for the most recent edition of the Nutrition Action Healthletter, which I’ve been illustrating for years and years.


September 9, 2008

Up at 5 and in Chichester for Christie Scheele’s mentoring workshop by 10, a long drive in heavy rain made longer by running up against a “Road Closed” sign, which added a half hour to my trip as I retraced my path to take another route.  Oh well, it gave me more time to enjoy the rain-grayed mountains with their feather boas of mist.  Christie and we five artists shared work and ideas for three hours, after which I had lunch with A.T. at the Alamo in Phoenicia, picked up old work and left new at Arts Upstairs, and got home at 5.  Christie’s sessions and talk time with A.T. always make me focus on what I’m doing, where I’m going, art-wise. I’m having trouble finding the time to get into a project…that elusive open-ended uninterrupted time…and I just came across a quote I pulled out of somewhere (I think it was a response on Robert Genn’s site) which I’ll share because I feel too drained to produce anything original this evening:

Recovering the isolation
by Lorelle Miller, CA, USA

How do I push away the world that surrounds me? The one I created, the bed I have made. To go back to the isolation that once brought me to my art. The place that was purely mine. I think about running away, packing my bags, living under a bridge. A fantasy, ridiculous. The great challenge is the discipline to find and/or create that island around me in the midst of my personal world. The world of family, finance, the everyday. To set up a mental fortress where the focus can reside. I long for where the discipline takes me. The sweat, the intensity and the knowing of my game. As if running a marathon, the pure self-indulgence of doing what I do best, uninterrupted. A sweet pleasure, the pure now. I lock up the doors of my sanctuary; enter back to my world as if I have returned from a great adventure. It was a good run and I am ready to face it all again, that cherished world of mine. Where I am surrounded by the wanting, needing arms of those love.

This image seems a fit; it’s a little vacated shop that intrigued me, in southern Maryland.  I used Art Rage to “paint” it on my Mac.  (Art Rage is a great cheap little program, if you have a Mac.  Google for it.)

A Moment in Time

First Posting

September 7, 2008

I created this blog awhile ago, but have resisted actually writing anything…where to start?  How to overcome the self-consciousness of putting myself out here in blogland? Scanning my bookshelf yesterday, I noticed a copy of Pema Chodron’s “Start Where You Are,” so I figured that the way to do it is to just do it, where I am.  It’s a sunny Sunday morning, and for a change I have a whole day with no place I have to be at any particular time.  Much as I treasure the activities and friends that fill my life, I need these unstructured times, days when I can ignore the clock and immerse myself in a project or fritter the hours away. My plan at the moment is to start working on embellishing a blank white cigar box for the upcoming box auction at WAAM, the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum. Beyond that, I don’t know, and I like not knowing.

Highlights of the past few days: Friday I  joined 4  women artist friends an a trip to The Fields, a sculpture garden in Omi (pronounced Oh my) up near Chatham, across the river. The heat made the thought of exploring 100 acres somewhat daunting, but we took our time and enjoyed the delight of coming upon wonders rising from the grass or emerging from behind trees or from the pond.

(Hmmm, I think I just inserted pictures; don’t know how this thing works.)  Hot and weary, we found a restored hotel in Chatham with a delightful tavern where we had a great lunch. (When the waiter recited the choices of salad dressings, I was bewildered and asked him, “did you really say Pork Rind dressing?”  He looked at me as if I were nuts and replied, “Port Wine!”)  That evening, J and I treated our friend Steve to a long and leisurely dinner at Reginato Ristorante in Lake Katrine, an old-fashioned place with good food and lots of little courses.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at the cozy Village Diner and shopped for yellow tomatoes, delicate green beans, and crunchy arugula at the Farmers Market in the parking lot of the Saugerties Historical Society.  As we headed toward the car with laden bags, we paused to admire the absolute cuteness of this town: traffic stopping for an elderly shopper making her way across the street to the home for seniors, next door to the school, down the street the diner, the church spire, the Orpheum Theater…it looked like a set for a movie from the fifties.

The afternoon was steamy, so I switched on the AC and settled on the sofa with the cat to watch a documentary, My Kid Could Paint That, about Marla Olmstead, a four-year-old “abstract expressionist” prodigy who swept the art world a few years ago…until Sixty Minutes questioned her authorship of the work.  It brought up a lot of questions about what makes art “art,” the role of parents, the importance of having a story when it comes to marketing, and more.  If it looks like art, is it art?  Is it less valuable if the dad helped?  Marla had no concept in mind, no training or intention.  She wasn’t the one who chose the size and shape of her canvas, she just was able to smear colors in an appealing way.  Hans Hoffman, abstract painter and teacher, stated it well: “The difference between art produced by children and great works of art is that one is approached through the purely subconscious and emotional, and the other retains a consciousness of experience as the work develops and is emotionally enlarged through the greater command of the expression-medium.”  The documentary was well-done and quite fascinating, and I’m still chewing on the thoughts it brought up.  If you get it (Netflix) be sure to watch the extra features; they are equally interesting.

The day ended with a friend’s fiftieth birthday party, in a ceramics studio between here and Woodstock.  Her kids and sister did the place up well with decorations, bubbles, poppers, candles and champagne and music, and we all gobbled up some amazing tamales purchased at the Woodstock Farmers Market.  I’m going to be first in line there next week.  It was well worth the mud and rain provided by the skirt tails of Hurricane Hannah.  And I got to use the fancy new umbrella I bought this summer in Halifax.

Okay, I did it, I done wrote a blog entry.  Maybe I’ll do it again.