Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Human being - walking
in doubt from childhood on: walking
a ledge of slippery stone in the world's woods
deep-layered with wet leaves - rich or sad: on one
side of the path, ecstasy, on the other
dull grief. Walking
the mind's imperial cities, roofed-over alleys,
thoroughfares, wide boulevards
that hold evening primrose of sky in steady calipers.
Always the mind
walking, working, stopping sometimes to kneel
in awe of beauty, sometimes leaping, filled with the energy
of delight, but never able to pass
the wall, the wall
of brick that crumbles and is replaced,
of twisted iron,
the wall that speaks, saying monotonously:
Children and animals
who cannot learn
anything from suffering,
suffer, are tortured, die
This human being, each night nevertheless
summoning - with a breath blown at a flame,
or hand's touch
on the lamp-switch - darkness,
impelled as if by a need to cup the palms
and drink from a river,
the words, "Thanks.
Thanks for this day, a day of my life.'
Pulls up the blankets, looking
into nowhere, always in doubt.
And takes strange pleasure
in having repeated once more the childish formula,
a pleasure in what is seemly.
And drifts to sleep, downstream
on murmuring currents of doubt and praise,
the wall shadowy, that tomorrow
will cast its own familiar, chill, clear-cut shadow
into the day's brilliance.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
"Perfectly ordered disorder designed with a helter-skelter
magnificence." (Emily Carr, 1871-1945)
In this second year of my recovery from eating disorders came a new freedom, with tears AND laughter. All my life I had been running away from sorrow, not knowing that I was also running away from joy.
Monday, February 26, 2007
What a revelation it is to see clips from television programs from the 1960s about families, footage I hadn't seen since I was a child. I know I took this program very seriously, even though it was a situation comedy. I had and still do have a sense of humor, but I don't remember laughing at what I saw on television.
I am not aware of having Finnish ancestors but had heard about a Finnish word "sisu," which I understood to mean "perseverance." Thinking about the words from the I-Ching, "perseverance furthers" and about traveling countless times on California Coast Highway 1, I imagined a morning with three suns. There was a physical sun, an emotional sun and a sunlight of the spirit, all shining at once.
Funny where the mind goes. I wasn't thinking of My Three Sons, although that television show, which debuted in 1960 when I was 10 years old, entered my mind this morning. As I recall, it was a situation comedy about a widower with three sons. There was an older man who took the role of "mother." I can hear the voice announcing the show and see the three sons appearing one by one from behind a wall, followed by the family dog:
MY - THREE - SONS - WOOF!
When I painted this image, I was a million miles down the road from the 10-year-old girl who sat with her mother and father and two younger sisters in front of a television set and watched people acting out a family which appeared to be very unlike my own.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Saturday, February 24, 2007
To listen to Richard Brautigan read from IN WATERMELON SUGAR, click here. Hmmm .... that doesn't work. If still interested, go to:
In 1967, during my freshman year of college, I had read TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA. That book, bought at its 1967 price of $1.95, along with IN WATERMELON SUGAR, is still on my bookshelf, one of a handful of books from that period in my life that I still own. I did read his earlier novel, A CONFEDERATE GENERAL FROM BIG SUR and read a few of his later books of poetry but didn't find there what I had found so peculiarly moving in TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA and IN WATERMELON SUGAR. I have never forgotten the boy he wrote about who was a "Kool-Aid wino" or what I think of as his "ode to Alcoholics Anonymous" titled "Trout Death by Port Wine" or the places he created which were called "IDEATH" and the "Forgotten Works."
I was 17 years old. Richard Brautigan was "older and wiser," an imaginary older brother, much as Bob Dylan seemed to me in those years. I wanted to be as creative as they were. It has been said that there were "girls who wanted to marry a Beatle" and then there were "girls who wanted to BE a Beatle." As a 14-year-old girl, I had wanted to be a female equivalent of a "Beatle," which to me meant using creative energy in a lively and thoughtful way, although I wouldn't have had those words for that longing back then.
In September of 1984, Richard Brautigan, after suffering from years of alcoholism and depression, shot himself in the head. His body was found a month later at his home in Bolinas, California. I had not thought about him in years and was saddened but not completely surprised at his suicide.
His daughter, Ianthe Brautigan, wrote lovingly of her father in You Can't Catch Death, published in May of 2000.
As a tribute to Richard Brautigan, one of his friends told this story. This link doesn't work either. If still interested, go to:
There is a poem by Richard Brautigan set into the pavement in San Francisco at Folsom Street and Embarcadero
In 1989, not long after I painted "Watermelon Seeds, Alphabet and Numbers for Richard Brautigan," a friend of Richard Brautigan, Keith Abbott, published a book of his memories of Richard Brautigan, which he titled, DOWNSTREAM FROM TROUTFISHING IN AMERICA. Keith Abbott read from his book at our local independent bookstore. After the reading, I thanked him for his book about Richard Brautigan and gave him a photo of my painting tribute to Richard Brautigan. He took it and thanked me politely.
Friday, February 23, 2007
In early spring of 1971, on a particularly peaceful day, a friend brought me to Ano Nuevo State Reserve, a beach at the end of what we called New Year's EVE Creek Road, although its correct name was New Year's Creek Road. He and I were almost the only people on that beach, which was soon to become a popular tourist destination because of a growing colony of elephant seals who wintered there. What I remember best about the beach was that there were pebbles embedded with fossilized sea shells. On another visit sometime later with other friends, there were a few elephant seals sleeping on the beach.
My 11th favorite movie is "Shakespeare In Love."
On my Zen notepad calendar today was this:
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Try as I might, I was unable to adjust the color of the sky to anything near Payne's Gray. The full moon is rising, hidden by a cloudy Northwest sky. Below is the true sky color. The rest of the colors are fairly true.
What was it that the tool was singing? The song was written in "code." If I looked at the letters long enough, I would probably remember. Both sides of the tool are singing the same song. The tool was loaned to me by a friend who found it in his parents' garage. It was rusty and beautiful in the way old tools can be. As I recall, it was used in connection with the car his grandfather owned in the 1920s.
The painter, Jacob Lawrence, having observed carpenters and other builders, said, "It was beautiful to see them use tools as extensions of their hands. I've loved tools ever since. I collect them and I use them as subjects for my paintings." He also said, "Many hand tools haven't changed for centuries. They have such balance and are so functional. The human body is like a tool. Any living thing has this kind of structure."
In the spring of 1997, there was an exhibit of Jacob Lawrence's work at the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner, Washington. One of his paintings from his Builders Series, done using gouache on paper and titled "Carpenters," was used on the poster for that exhibit and is one of my favorite paintings in all of art history.
Lori Witzel from Chatoyance, a lively blog featuring her "pictures, poems and other souvenirs and artifacts," tagged me for my ten favorite movies.
Here they are:
The Last Temptation of Christ
The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Pier Paolo Pasolini)
The Last Waltz
Rabbit Proof Fence
Masked and Anonymous
I'm not going to tag anyone specifically. Feel free to be tagged for this meme.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Here I combined images from a solo road trip during which I visited my parents and sister in Northern California in the spring of 1987. This combination of landscape elements exists only in my mind but depicts a place I have visited often.
I remember learning as a child that all rivers were heading to the ocean and that at the ocean the water somehow rose into the sky to form clouds which rained into the rivers. A few years ago, in the fall, I was sitting alone beside Nooksack Falls in the North Cascade Mountains and remembered about that cycle and began to write the following poem:
FALL 2002 POEM
I carried myself to the mountains
Though the ocean wasn’t there
I carried the ocean to the mountains
Though the ocean wasn’t there
I carried God to the mountains
Though God wasn’t there
God carried me to the mountains
Though I wasn’t there
God carried God to God
Though God wasn’t there
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Looking at this painting today, I noticed that I had painted X = X as part of the spray from the breaking wave and remembered that I had often listened to Laurie Anderson's album, "Big Science", from 1982, as I was painting and drawing. I had forgotten that influence.
What I see today when I look at this image is a "garden" in an American flag-like arrangement, planted on scorched earth on the west coast of the United States, beginning to show signs of spring. The scorched earth is "speaking" in code, as are the garden and the ocean. When I painted the image, I believe I was thinking about Highway 1, the California coast highway, and that the "code" was in the line down the middle of the highway. A garden had been planted in the middle of a highway and was going to thrive.
Of course, as in all of my paintings, the image is completely open to interpretation. I wonder what I will see in this painting when I look at it twenty years from now.
Yesterday, one of my sisters emailed me a photo of spring wildflowers from 2005 in the Temblor Range at the border of San Luis Obispo and Kern Counties in California. Our family lived in the midst of the oilfields near this range between the time I was 5 years old and 7 years old. My sister and I took a trip to Death Valley during the time I was painting the calendars. On that trip, we revisited the region where we had lived as children. I can see how the overlapping shapes of the California hillsides I saw as a young child, and then in my 30s, are repeated again and again in my paintings.
The above photo of the Temblor Range was taken by Frank Kee.
I remember my father telling me that when he arrived in California in spring in the late 1930s, having driven alone from Minnesota, he thought that he had never seen anything so beautiful as the vast unpopulated region of the California landscape covered with wildflowers.
Below is a photo of Oboe, who likes to be nearby as I post entries on this blog.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Return (The Turning Point) is the 24th hexagram in the I Ching or Book of Changes. In the late 1960s, learning that Bob Dylan had been reading the I Ching, I became curious about that book.
My college roommate had a copy of the Wilhelm/Baynes translation, the 3rd edition, and she showed me how to consult the I Ching using three pennies. Eventually I bought my own copy. The last time I consulted the I Ching was January 1, 2006. Maybe it's time to consult it again.
The following is the Wilhelm/Baynes translation for hexagram 24:
24. Fu / Return (The Turning Point)
above K'UN THE RECEPTIVE, EARTH
below CHêN THE AROUSING, THUNDER
The idea of a turning point arises from the fact that after the dark lines have pushed all of the light lines upward and out of the hexagram, another light line enters the hexagram from below. The time of darkness is past. The winter solstice brings the victory of light. This hexagram is linked with the eleventh month, the month of the solstice (December-January).
Going out and coming in without error.
Friends come without blame.
To and fro goes the way.
On the seventh day comes return.
It furthers one to have somewhere to go.
After a time of decay comes the turning point. The powerful light that has been banished returns. There is movement, but it is not brought about by force. The upper trigram K'un is characterized by devotion; thus the movement is natural, arising spontaneously. For this reason the transformation of the old becomes easy. The old is discarded and the new is introduced. Both measures accord with the time; therefore no harm results. Societies of people sharing the same views are formed. But since these groups come together in full public knowledge and are in harmony with the time, all selfish separatist tendencies are excluded, and no mistake is made. The idea of RETURN is based on the course of nature. The movement is cyclic, and the course completes itself. Therefore it is not necessary to hasten anything artificially. Everything comes of itself at the appointed time. This is the meaning of heaven and earth. All movements are accomplished in six stages, and the seventh brings return. Thus the winter solstice, with which the decline of the year begins, comes in the seventh month after the summer solstice; so too sunrise comes in the seventh double hour after sunset. Therefore seven is the number of the young light, and it arises when six, the number of the great darkness, is increased by one. In this way the state of rest gives place to movement.
Thunder within the earth:
The image of THE TURNING POINT.
Thus the kings of antiquity closed the passes
At the time of solstice.
Merchants and strangers did not go about,
And the ruler
Did not travel through the provinces.
The winter solstice has always been celebrated in China as the resting time of the year--a custom that survives in the time of rest observed at the new year. In winter the life energy, symbolized by thunder, the Arousing, is still underground. Movement is just at its beginning; therefore it must be strengthened by rest so that it will not be dissipated by being used prematurely. This principle, i.e., of allowing energy that is renewing itself to be reinforced by rest, applies to all similar situations. The return of health after illness, the return of understanding after an estrangement: everything must be treated tenderly and with care at the beginning, so that the return may lead to a flowering.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
My mother's mother's female ancestors have been traced as far back as 1790 in Drumhecknagh, Kilmore Parish, County Cavan, Ireland. In 1836, my great-great grandmother, Jane Bennett, then 9 years old, was working on an embroidered sampler. In 1837, her family left Ireland and settled in Quebec, near New Hampshire. The unfinished sampler was passed down from mother to daughter, from New Hampshire to Boston to St. Paul, Minnesota until it came to me in Washington. Because I have no children and no possibility of female nieces in this generation, I have passed it on to a cousin who is my mother's great niece and who lives in California, in hopes that it will continue to be passed down the female line. While working on the Calendar Series, I looked at the 19th century embroidered sampler and felt a distinct kinship with that 9-year-old girl from County Cavan, Ireland. I am fairly sure that I added the alphabet to this painting with the sampler in mind, although when I got to the end of the alphabet, I began to make it into a palindrome and then followed no order.
When I tried to upload the image of the sampler, I got error messages. Several further attempts were also unsuccessful, but I will try later today.
Am unable to upload the complete image but can upload this detail:
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Friday, February 16, 2007
TRUE COLORS (Cindy Lauper)
You with the sad eyes
don't be discouraged
oh I realize
it's hard to take courage
in a world full of people
you can lose sight of it all
and the darkness inside you
can make you fell so small
But I see your true colors
I see your true colors
and that's why I love you
so don't be afraid to let them show
your true colors
true colors are beautiful
like a rainbow
Show me a smile then
don't be unhappy, can't remember
when I last saw you laughing
if this world makes you crazy
and you've taken all you can bear
you call me up
because you know I'll be there
And I'll see your true colors
I see your true colors
and that's why I love you
so don't be afraid to let them show
your true colors
true colors are beautiful
like a rainbow
Thursday, February 15, 2007
In 1979, Arlo Guthrie recorded an album he called "Outlasting the Blues." On that album was "Sailing Down This Golden River", a song written by Pete Seeger in 1971 as "Sailing Down My Golden River."
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Now I am beginning to remember that, over and over again, the ocean scene I was painting in the Calendar Series was from my memories of hours spent walking on the bluffs and beach at Montara on the San Mateo County coast in California, just about 12 miles south of San Francisco but a world away in terms of population and sense of place.
On my way to the beach, I used to buy a "lunch" of golden raisins at the tiny organic food store (in those days it was called a "natural food" store) in Montara and then spend the afternoon walking and taking in the extraordinary multi-sensorial experience of feeling part of the ocean, clouds, sky, horizon, wind, sun, fog, gulls, killdeer, sanderlings, sandpipers, crows, sea lions, seals, orcas, whales, blue-sailed jellyfish, kelp, sand fleas, broken shells, driftwood, agates, chaparral-covered coast hills to the east, coastal plants growing on the bluffs and in the distinctively golden sand, all not far from eucalyptus groves and straw-flower fields. Sometimes when it was sunny but windy and cool, I would dig a bed for myself in the warm sand of that steep-sloped beach and sleep and dream.
It would be almost 15 years before this experience of loving and being loved by a place would show itself in paintings. During the time when I lived within weekend afternoon driving distance of Montara Beach, I was not drawing or painting at all but working with brightly colored carpet warp, making small colorful tapestry-like images using a macrame technique.
(the photos are from an online album of splendid photos of the northern California coast by Daniel Wolf-Root that I found while looking for images of Montara)
Monday, February 12, 2007
Sometime after giving this painting its title, I learned that the 14th century German mystic, Meister Eckhart, had said, "Divinity is an underground river that no one can stop and no one can damn up."
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Today it occurred to me again that what I had been trying to do by painting the "calendars" was to reclaim, a month at a time, beginning in January of 1971 when I was 21 years old, those parts of myself and my experiences that I had relinquished while mistakenly thinking that that was what I needed to do to be accepted and loved.
I am also remembering that while in the process of beginning to paint "calendars," after being alone for almost two years, I had entered a relationship with a recovering alcoholic who gently suggested that I might benefit from an eating disorder support group. He was enthusiastic about my art work. As a result, I began making paintings with his acceptance of me in mind as well as my past experiences. He, along with most people I encountered during that time, liked the calendars more than my previous chalk pastel images.
By using color, symbols, numbers, letters and landscape, I was able to "talk in code." What I was talking about and what was experienced by the viewer were often two different things, but I didn't see that as a problem. For me, "222,222" was a visual depiction of a person's attempt to create meaning when feeling overwhelmed by circumstances beyond that person's, or anyone else's, control. It didn't matter if no one saw what I saw. I wanted to know what other people had seen and experienced. The words that often came up during this time when people commented on my paintings were "beautiful," "healing," and "celebration."
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Friday, February 9, 2007
To my dismay, I realized that I don't have reproductions of the 14th, 15th or 16th month in this series. Two of them were sold before I had photographed them. The third is framed, thus not easy to photograph, and is in storage. The 14th month was called "City," the 15th month was called "Night," and the 16th month was called "Sound."
Look closely at the very top of the painting for a line of green symbols which didn't reproduce well. Or, better yet, enlarge the image.
Some people began to comment, on seeing photographs of these images, that they looked like they were made from fabric and were embroidered.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
The above reproduction does not show the true colors or radiance of this painting.
Just as in 1982 when I suddenly was able to draw in a way I hadn't drawn before, in 1987 I sat down at my work table and painted what was to be the first in a series of what I called "calendars," although some of them included elements of what I had been drawing and painting previously, i.e. "witnesses" and "imaginary brothers." From this time on, I painted on various sizes of Arches watercolor blocks using gouache and watercolor only. At this time, I was working full-time on the evening shift as a medical transcriptionist, with Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. Tuesday became "art day," and between 1987 and 1989 I completed a painting nearly every week. During this time, I was represented by a gallery and eventually sold most of the paintings in the Calendar Series.
May 8, 1987, was the day that I began to recover from anorexia and bulimia and the inability to fully grieve the losses in my life. Although there are numerous theories about treatment for anorexia and bulimia, what worked for me was to make a decision (1) that I was not going to throw up when I felt that I had overeaten, (2) that I was not going to "diet" anymore, (3) that I was not going to drink alcohol because that triggered overeating for me, (4) that I was not going to eat even the smallest amount of refined sugar (to this day, I avoid all sweeteners, especially artificial ones), and (5) that I was going to join a nonprofessionally-facilitated support group that didn't insist that I believe in God and consisted only of people who suffered from eating disorders. No one forced this decision on me. Maybe that was why the form of treatment I chose was successful. Individual psychotherapy has also been crucial to my recovery.
Unlike many bulimics who stop throwing up, I did not gain weight. My weight simply stabilized at what had always been a "normal" weight. Gradually, my mind became clear, and I could see that I didn't need to lose weight. The horrible body-image distortion left me. I didn't require prescription medications. The recovery process has not been easy, but it has continued moving forward.
It has been nearly 20 years since I made the decision to change my life, after having obsessed about my weight since I was 10 years old, the year I went on my first "diet." I am grateful to have found a way to live where food and my body aren't "the enemy." I could easily have been Terry Schiavo.
The calendars were a visual way of reclaiming lost time. After a few preliminary calendars, I began numbering them by month, beginning at the 14th month and ending at the 71st month. In 1970, Yoko Ono and John Lennon had published a calendar with 13 months, an additional month after December. During that year, the man I loved and still love was in Vietnam. He came home in December and from that time until May 8, 1987, I was stuck in what I came to see as a series of months outside of time, a place of inability to grieve fully all that had been lost for both of us in 1970, a place not without its own beauty. Up until May 8, 1987, I had never really let go of the belief that we would be together again, marry and have children. On that day, I accepted that I would have to go on with my life.
Although I had written down the titles for all of the paintings in the Calendar Series, I am having some difficulty figuring out which titles go with some of the paintings. Another good memory exercise.
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Monday, February 5, 2007
As I uploaded this painting today, it seemed to be out of the chronological order I thought was accurate. It was in the fall of 1984 that I began to live alone, so it seemed likely that this was painted in the summer of 1984. As I looked closely at the painting, I saw elements of a later style and began to remember that this is another painting that had been put aside as a "failed effort" and then brought out again and finished by adding a border and words.
In the months before I began to learn to live alone, I had a dream. A few times in my life I have had dreams where I hear words which are more memorable than the visual part of the dream. In one such dream, I heard someone say, "Pelicans are the guardians of the world." In the summer of 1984, before I had made a clear decision to live alone, I heard in a dream, "Code is the farewell bride's bible." As I recall, there was vague imagery that went along with the words, and that was what I tried to paint in 1984. What seemed most important, though, were the words in the dream. In the summer of 1984, I was not ready to deal with the implication of the words.
Looking again at this image, I notice the "oooo" marks at the top of the painting. What I remember about those marks is that they came from a book by Alice Walker, possibly THE TEMPLE OF MY FAMILIAR, published in 1989. My recollection is that they were another way of writing the word "love." I just looked through my copy of THE TEMPLE OF MY FAMILIAR and can't find the passage. Typing "oooo" and "Alice Walker" and "love" in Google in various ways didn't get me anywhere either. Now I believe that it is possible that this painting was finished in 1989 or later. Who knows?
While looking for "oooo," I came across this passage from THE TEMPLE OF MY FAMILIAR:
"You don't know, or maybe you do," said Mr. Hal, a look of deep satisfaction with the coffee and with his thoughts on his face, "how wonderful a feeling it give you when you know somebody love you and that's just the way it is. You can be good, you can be a devil, and still that somebody love you. You can be weak, you can be strong. You can know a heap or nearly nothing. That kind of love, when you think about it, just seems like some kind of puzzle, and you can spend a lifetime trying to figure it out. If you puffed up with vanity, you can't help but think what they love is something you created yourself. Or maybe it's your money or your car. But there's something . . . . It's like how you love a certain place. You just do, that's all. And if you're lucky, while you're on this earth, you get to visit it. and the place "knows" about your love, you feel. That was the love and still is the love between Lissie and me."
That was the love I was talking about in code.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
When I showed this image to a friend, he said, "Aikido." Until that time I was not familiar with Aikido. I had borrowed the gestures from an image I found in a newspaper photograph and put them in an ocean landscape.
Saturday, February 3, 2007
Friday, February 2, 2007
Most of the cold symptoms have gone, without turning into sinusitis. I'm left with a debilitating headache that started day before yesterday. Migraine medication has not helped me. Feels like a mold allergy headache. The only good thing about headaches is how extraordinarily good I feel when they are over.
The above image is one of a handful done with acrylic paint on canvas, painted on one of the dark days before I left the marriage I had entered in 1976. My dream had always been of living by the ocean, so I painted a night ocean outside the windows of the home I was soon to be leaving.
As I looked at this painting, I remembered that I had used the image of "the place where two walls meet" before. I searched through my images and found that motif on one previous occasion (1974) and five later occasions (1988, 1989, 1990 and 2004) and uploaded them for comparison.
Coming up over the next four days are the last of the gouache and watercolor paintings to which I added Rembrandt chalk pastel. The chalky dust and pigment from the pastels were irritating my sinuses, and I began to worry about the toxicity of the pigments. I had tried using a protective mask but couldn't stand the feeling of a mask on my face.
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Still not feeling well. Looking forward to feeling better in a few more days. When I look at this painting, though, I remember what vitality feels like.
I gave this painting to a friend who liked it almost as much as I did. I remember identifying with the words of another artist friend when he said that he couldn't imagine anyone liking his paintings MORE than he did.
Of course, this goes against what is sometimes said, that artists are never satisfied with their work. Most often when I look at these images painted so long ago, it is as if I am looking at the work of someone else. I wonder how the image came into being, where it came from, what it means. I try to remember. Maybe I am satisfied with my work because it seems more like a gift received and shared than something I willed into being.
In the past few days, I have been reading Dreams from My Father and The Scarlet Letter. My cousin had recommended The Audacity of Hope on her blog and that led me to read Dreams from My Father. The second book, recommended on another blog I visited, is one I first read when I was very young, many years before I knew that my own great-grandmother (my father's grandmother) had been born "out of wedlock" in 1853, three years after The Scarlet Letter was published. I am moved by both books.
In the words of my mother as a little girl, "Books is my friends. I will stick by their sides until I die."