Wednesday, September 30, 2009

lioness & cub #1

It sure would be a lot easier doing posts if my main skill was writing instead of the drawing, painting kind. Nevertheless, I thought you might like to see the image I've come up with for the next silk painting project. They do start out plain, don't they? I'll post more as it developes.

The funny thing about the little girl is that I've been looking at her in the treetops outside my bedroom window most of the summer - well, on those mornings when I can linger in bed with my cup of coffee. There are a number of benefits to being slightly myopic, one of which is being able to visualize things only half seen (also handy in not seeing wrinkles and acne :-)). The interesting thing is watching her move in rhythm with the sound of the breeze. I'm not sure my drawing has done her perfect justice but I think I've caught the essence.

Changing topic here, I'll have a new computer by Friday. Jerry bought a new Mac Book last year while I took over our by then 5 year old G4 Power Book. Now it's 6, the newish battery only keeps it running for half an hour at most so I've kept a separate power cord plugged in at my end of the couch. Recently it started burning through the power cords. ooops. Buying another Mac Book would have been easier and cheaper but I hate the high flash, glossy plastic screens. It turned out the new Power Macs all have glossy glass screens and I was very disappointed and, apparently, not alone once I discovered a number of artists have complained and were recommending refurbished Books from a few years ago - or companies that charge several hundred dollars to replace the screens. Turns out they're a very hot item. damn.

Anyway, unbelievably, after hopping around the Googlesphere for a couple of weeks I read in a blog that as of August if you order a 15" Power Mac you can also order a matte screen as a separate configuration for just $50. Apple does not advertise the fact but it turned out to be true. I clicked on 'buy now' and then 'configure'. Hurray! Half way down the list of special odds and ends was the choice of a matte screen. I'm far from being the computer genius my husband is - more of a Luddite if truth were told - but we both see the benefit to having a really good computer as part of our essential household goods. Now I'm looking forward to the multi-fingering touchpad and learning how to right click without a separate bar. It should be interesting but one thing I do know I'll enjoy is being able to look at high level visual blogs again.

If I haven't been by lately, I will be soon.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

autumn thoughts

I have a few things in the works right now including a new story for Adventure's Ink that will take a bit more time. In the meanwhile I was looking at some of the paintings done in Portland and realized I haven't posted this one since the early days so thought I'd share it again now. If you wonder where these images come from rest assured you're not the only one. Walking and thinking seem to go together naturally and those of us to don't carry cell phones also walk with invisible companions.

What was I thinking about? Among other things I was wondering where all the war protesters have gone. Now we have a big new war underway in Afghanistan and we haven't finished the one in Iraq yet. Nor do we look likely to do so. Once I used to think it was great the draft was gone but if the country you inhabit is one that continues to wage perpetual war without a draft then you have a natural division between the people who volunteer (the saps) and those who don't (the anti-saps?). Let's not even talk about the mercenaries.

Then I considered the fact the big banks are still very rich because they've been bailed out with our tax money. They also continue to be unregulated. Bernanke has ordered the Fed to keep adding zeros to the official money supply and it won't be long before we're facing a dollar crisis because none of that pretend money has gone towards paying for anything real or useful - like jobs. The stock market rebounded because those who can get into the game continue to make bets. We live in a casino with no exits whether we want to be here or not.

I was also thinking what a fine season is autumn. The skies are clear, the birds are calling, the fresh grass glows and I wonder about eternity. Every molecule in the universe is doing something and even if it's all mechanical (which I doubt) we, as conscious beings, have a place in its operation. The saving grace is that we're intertwined with everything else, a whole that is a unity and evolving.

I have to get back to work now and hope you're also doing something that feeds your heart.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

sweet peas

My mother and I were polar opposites in many ways. In the 70's when Astrology was being taken very seriously I had our charts done on several separate occasions by practitioners who were well versed in Dane Rudyar's methods and learned then how essentially opposite we were. I don't know if any of this means anything to you but it turned out my mother had four signs in Taurus, all in the first house while I have five signs in Scorpio, also all in the first house. Essentially, that meant someone very attached to the earth as the mother of someone born to a fluid environment. We loved one another deeply but were bound by our very natures to suffer through the differences.

The only man my mother truly loved, other than her brothers, was her father. As a late 19th century man, Grandad was a stone mason in the north country of England who built miles of the famous dry walls and dams. He was also a gardener. He and my grandmother had ten children with my mother being the first girl born after three brothers. My grandmother ran a village shop, post office and pub all at the same time. Naturally, as they grew up the children were expected to help. Grandad took flowers to the local church every Sunday morning and for all the assorted religious celebrations like weddings, christenings and funerals but never set foot in a church if he could help it. His adage was that he found more holiness under God's sky than he did in church but that he understood the needs of others.

When my parents married shortly before WWII Grandad carefully arranged a big bouquet of sweet peas as her wedding flowers. The south of England was far away from the north in those days and my mother had already lived there for seven years in St. Alban's where she'd been the lady's maid and companion to a pair of very wealthy sisters who'd lost their fiance's in WWI. My dad had never lived in the south but since that's where the work was in the huge shipyards of South Hampton, that's where they went. The war came. My dad joined the navy and my mother worked in a munitions factory. They ended up separated for most of the next six years. Like many more, I was born the year after the war ended and I turned out to be a weak and sickly child. The doctors advised my parents to leave England for a drier climate. I think they had in mind Australia or the southwest of the United States but instead they moved to southern Ontario in Canada.

By then my dad was in his 40's, mam nearly 10 years younger and both of them had to work if they were to afford a house, a car, a garden and plane fare back to England for family visits. It took five years. My mother always tried to grow sweet peas in her garden but the hot dry summers always saw them wither and die. I grew up and went to England and Europe for two years and when I returned to North America there were always places other than Toronto that seemed more interesting as places to live and explore. Both our letter writing skills grew and there were many visits but always from a distance, so the visits were intense.

Jerry and I were with her when she died one winter afternoon a few years ago. When I returned to work on a Monday morning in February there was a crystal vase filled with sweet peas on my desk. Whether from pain or deep happiness, certainly both if truth were told, I wept.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

spuds to us

Allowing big corporations to patent food crops always seemed like a bad idea to me since the GM seeds are designed to be sterile. Farmers buy the seeds, plant and care for the crops until the harvest without being able to save any of the seeds for the following season. It's just not the way humans have farmed for millenia and sounds not only wrong but dangerous.

Over the the course of our long history humans have relied on more than 10,000 different plant species for food. It's frightening to learn today there are barely 150 species under cultivation of which only 12 provide 80 percent of all of our food needs. Just four of them, rice, wheat, maize and potatoes, provide more than half of our energy requirements.

As markets became big global business, seed production and agriculture became more commercialized, and the old system of farmers saving their own seeds of a myriad different crops, has almost disappeared.

As a result variety is dwindling towards a vanishing point. China has lost 90 percent of the wheat varieties it had just 60 years ago. In the United States more than 90 percent of fruit tree and vegetable varieties found in farmers' fields at the beginning of the twentieth century are no longer there. Mexico has lost 80 percent of its corn varieties. India has lost 90 percent of its rice varieties.

It's kind of nice knowing the Quechua Indians high up in the mountains of Peru are being paid to maintain their diverse collection of rare potatoes. Along with 11 other communities around the world they are part of a major new initiative to ensure that the world has the options it might need to cope with future food crises.

Sometimes there's good news even if it's just small potaoes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Crow repartee

Crow here. It's a little known fact that a favorite hobby of the gargoyles at Notre Dame Cathedral is collecting jokes. There's nothing they enjoy more than a good laugh at the foibles of humanity. Why else do you think they allowed Quasimoto the leeway they did when he was running around the rooftops, ringing the bells, grabbing young women and generally causing a commotion? It's because he was a clown. A sad clown, yes, but he provided some amusement to their generally tedious task of spitting rain water past the gables.

I well remember when susan had decided to spend some time in Paris (unfortunately she'd chosen three months in winter but that's another story) and had flown off one afternoon to see the Eiffel Tower while I relaxed with my old friend Gregoire the Cracked Horn. He'd overheard a story that went like this:

There were five passengers on a flight - a politician, a rich man, an old priest, a hippy and the world's smartest man. After the plane had been in the air a little while they noticed the engines sputtering and wondered if there was trouble. Just then the pilot rushed into the cabin and said, 'I can't restart the engines and the plane is going to crash. I suggest you each grab a parachute and follow me.' He opened the door outside then went to a cupboard, grabbed a parachute and leaped out. The other passengers looked in the cupboard and found only four parachutes.

The politician took a parachute and said, 'I have constituents who need me to be in Congress for a very important vote so I must save myself.' He jumped out.

The rich man said, 'I have a very important business and my stockholders are counting on me to keep them rich.' He grabbed a parachute and jumped out.

The world's smartest man said, 'I'm the world's smartest man so it should be evident to all why I need this parachute.' He followed the others.

Now only the old priest and the hippy were left and the priest said, 'It's all right my son. I've lived a long and fruitful life and look forward to my reward. You take the last parachute.'

The hippy replied, 'Don't worry about it father. The world's smartest man just grabbed my back pack.'


Friday, September 11, 2009

rainy day thoughts

The beauty of our life is that, despite the danger and fragility and outright darkness that lie all around us, we are free. We are free to be something.

Anything can be chosen today; we can take ourselves down any path tomorrow. The day after we can choose another detour. We are free to live, free to die; free to be miserable, free to dance; free to fast, free to gorge.

We haul around an oasis of blood, bone, proteins, enzymes inside these carapaces we call our bodies. They aren't really even ours. They're like pets we wash, feed, exercise or let go. It's not even a luxury ride but a crude beast that happens to be required in order for us to happen.

We're each alone on this road, this place of moon and stars. We become. That's all. Exposed to novelty and chance and circumstance, not to mention our own sense of self and mindedness, we are our own perfect celebration. Unless subjugated or imprisoned we can do anything we want, but even under the most dire conditions we still have a choice.

We never know who will live or how long or whether it is ourself. We're born by lot and die when the time comes and that's a good thing. We don't have an expiration date or a guaranteed lifespan either and who would want that?

At the end we report back to the universe what we've seen.. a lake, a flower, rain, a shawl a mother made. There was a child, a lover, a friend. This is all we have or ever will have. We're free to hold on tight or free to let go. The moment belongs to us.

(the painting is by Michael Sowa who seems to have similar thoughts)

Monday, September 7, 2009

glad to know you

This weekend marks the second full year of phantsythat and I can't let it go by without thanking you for your visits and your support. When I started I hadn't painted or drawn much for a couple of years and didn't expect to either. I'd been working on the silks but things were pretty quiet in general. Within the first few weeks I posted pictures of all the paintings I'd done since arriving in Portland and then posted 'baby days' to a second blog. I was so new at the concept, having no idea how to arrange pictures and text, I did it as 18 separate posts. I never changed it because I treasure the sweet comments left as people discovered it for themselves. For me, having 'baby days' posted was reason enough to have a blog.

Anyone who blogs knows how difficult it can be finding things to talk about on a regular basis in a public forum. Okay, phantsy isn't all that public but you know what I mean. Eventually I got brave enough to visit blogs other than the two I'd shadowed for a while and actually left some comments. I was so delighted when some of those people whose blogs I admired came to visit phantsy that I was hooked into continuing. I've always just talked about the odd things that have struck me about living in the United States and the world in general so there's not much use in going to look at my old posts. I don't even do it myself.

What got to be really fun was the delight I found in the creative endeavors of fellow bloggers. I needed some new stuff and realized what was old for me might be new and weirdly interesting to others. I had old memories and some strange stories so decided to see if I could make them more interesting by drawing pictures to illustrate them. 'True Housekeeping' was the first and you liked it so much I wrote more. Before I knew it I'd illustrated over a dozen stories that got posted to my third blog, Adventure's Ink - more drawings than I had ever done in one year. That's all fallen off a bit recently mostly because I've only got so much time and I've been using most of it for silk painting and sewing. Nevertheless, there's a new one coming soon and maybe a few more besides.

Finally, I'm so glad I was able to introduce you to my dear friend, Crow. He's the one who shows up when I'm too irritated to talk about how we're all getting screwed by the super rich (those bastards). Crow is also very mindful of the natural world we share so is happy to fly around investigating places and people when other duties keep me at home.

The painting here is a scan of a rather tattered photograph I found of a very old one called Ibex Beach. (If you enlarge it you'll see it's dated 1982.) You can see my essential style hasn't changed much but I did get a bit more subtle with color as time went by. I guess that's what we hope for in life - to gain sensitivity.

I've learned a lot in two years thanks to my teachers. Thank you all.

Friday, September 4, 2009

gliding into september

I don't know if I should apologize for being in a grumpy mood last month or if anyone even noticed. Perhaps my bad moods are like other people's good moods. Nevertheless, I thought I should approach September with a better attitude (at least for the first post - I can't guarantee more than one day at a time).

Not having anything of a particularly positive message of my own what I'll do is tell you a story I read in a new book by Jack Kornfield last night called 'The Wise Heart'. He's a western Buddhist teacher from my generation so he's old and likely not very relevant to most but I enjoyed the story:

"On a particularly fidgety and distracted afternoon a high school history teacher told her class to stop all their academic work while she wrote on the black board the names of all the students in her class. Then she asked them to copy the list. She instructed them to use the rest of the period to write beside each name one thing they liked or admired about that student. At the end she collected the papers.

Weeks later the teacher again stopped the class. She handed each student a paper with his or her name at the top and on it she had pasted all 26 good things the other students had written. They smiled and gasped in pleasure that so many beautiful qualities were noticed about them.

Three years later the teacher received a call from the mother of one of her former students with the terrible news her son had been killed in the Gulf War. The teacher attended the funeral, where many of the young man's former friends and classmates spoke. Just as the service was ending, his mother approached her. She took out a worn piece of paper that had obviously been folded and refolded many times and said, 'This was one of the few things Robert had in his pocket when the military retrieved his body'. It was the paper on which the teacher had carefully pasted the 26 things his classmates had admired.

As the teacher dried her tears, another former student opened her purse, pulled out her own folded page and said she always carried it with her. A third ex-student said that his was framed and hanging in his kitchen; another told how the page had become part of her wedding vows. The perception of goodness invited by the teacher had transformed the hearts of her students in ways she might only have dreamed about."

Nelson Mandela once said, 'It never hurts to think too highly of a person; often they become ennobled and act better because of it.'

I know it's not always going to be easy but it's worth a try.