Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"... when the heart is right ..." / spontaneous thoughts in savasana / "I believe in the impossible."

















Ch'ui the draftsman
could draw more perfect circles freehand
than with a compass.

His fingers brought forth
spontaneous forms from nowhere. His mind
was meanwhile free and without concern
with what he was doing.

No application was needed
his mind was perfectly simple
and knew no obstacle.

So, when the shoe fits
the foot is forgotten,
When the belt fits
the belly is forgotten,
When the heart is right
"for" and "against" are forgotten.

No drives, no compulsions,
no needs, no attractions:
then your affairs
are under control.
You are a free man.

Easy is right. Begin right
and you are easy.
Continue easy and you are right.
The right way to go easy
is to forget the right way
and forget that the going is easy.
- Chuang Tzu
(Source: Whiskey River)

While in savasana (the relaxation pose that is also called the corpse pose and is done at the end of a yoga practice) yesterday, my mind drifted to Richard's last breath. Each time I breathed out, I began to think of Richard's last breath, and then for some reason I spontaneously remembered a book he had read in Vietnam and had encouraged me to read while he was there. It was called Johnny Got His Gun, an anti-war novel written by Dalton Trumbo. When I finished my yoga practice, I found this:



My grandfather served as a doctor in France in World War II. He was a witness to those images of war.

Then I found this about Johnny Got His Gun on Wikipedia:

"Joe Bonham, a young soldier serving in World War I, awakens in a hospital bed after being caught in the blast of an exploding artillery shell. He gradually realizes that he has lost his arms, legs, and all of his face (including his eyes, ears, teeth, and tongue), but that his mind functions perfectly, leaving him a prisoner in his own body.

Joe attempts suicide by suffocation, but finds that he had been given a tracheotomy which he can neither remove nor control. At first Joe wishes to die, but later decides that he desires to be placed in a glass box and toured around the country in order to show others the true horrors of war. After he successfully communicates with his doctors by banging his head on his pillow in Morse code (am's italics and am's note: The Morse code he signaled was S.O.S. or Help!!!), however, he realizes that neither desire will be granted; it is implied that he will live the rest of his natural life in his condition."
(Source)

In Richard's last days, he was a prisoner in his body in a VA Hospital as a result of a brain stem stroke that occurred while he was drinking. He had been using drugs and alcohol since his return from Vietnam in 1970. The hospital staff had his hands tied down so that he could not remove the various tubes that were keeping him alive. When visitors were with him, his hands were untied. He had a tracheotomy tube and was on a respirator as well as a feeding tube. He had been unable to speak since the stroke seven months previously and had lost his limited ability to write in the previous week. He was blind in one eye. He was emaciated. He was only able to move with great effort but continued to try to remove tubes unless his hands were tied down. At one point, while I sat next to him, holding his hand, just before the last time I saw him alive and was about to leave, he lifted his head and began banging it against his pillow. Until yesterday, I would have said that Richard's last words were earlier that week, when he signaled "Thumbs up" to me, but now I am wondering if Richard was remembering Joe Bonham and signaling, "Help!!!"

This brought tears and dismay and confusion to me as well as healing. I felt close to Richard and could feel his presence and his words, "I love you. Always will." As I am writing this, I hear his words "Please take all my love and go on with your life."

This is part of my grieving and healing process. I know I am not alone. It is important for us to tell our stories related to war and its aftermath. I am sharing my experience, strength and hope for a future where there is an end to war. I hope that in telling my story, someone else will know that she or he is not alone.

"I believe in the impossible. You know that I do."
(Bob Dylan's lyrics, taken out of context. The words have a life of their own)

My thoughts are never far from veterans and their families. My thoughts are never far from all those who are still in the midst of war in Afghanistan.

Sabine's words keep coming to mind: "Live all you can: It's a mistake not to."

Update: Lots of synchronicity going on in the last 24 hours. Something of Richard's energy is here today with me, encouraging me to go on with my life, beginning with laughter. His heart is right.

I wasn't looking for the video below, but it came up when I went to YouTube after writing about war and grief and was trying to figure out why the video that I had embedded in my post was showing up as only a black rectangle.

Richard had a splendid sense of humor. He loved this movie that he watched with other veterans at the VA hospital in 2001 and wanted me to see it, too:



"When the heart is right
'for' and 'against' are forgotten."

Monday, January 30, 2012

Boy, Horse, and Pelican Escaping by Moonlight






















Horses were a great comfort to me in my childhood and youth, but it's been a long time since I've spent time with horses. Seeing the trailer for this movie moved me:



Take a look here on page 3 for an article on equine-assisted therapy for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans on Oahu.

Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the human heart can hold.
-- Zelda Fitzgerald, novelist (1900-1948)
(source for quote)

(Trackpad drawing by am)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Standing Bow Pose Revisited / Sweet Baby James Revisited











































It wasn't until 2007, when I was 57 years old and in a Yoga Teacher Training setting, that I ever tried the Standing Bow Pose, although I had taken my first yoga class in 1970 when I was 20. I think that my pose from 2007 or 2008 (the second photo) looks better than my pose this morning, but I haven't been doing that pose regularly and plan to add that to my home practice. A few weeks ago, I returned to classes at the B.K.S. Iyengar School of Yoga in Bellingham after many years of a regular home practice. It is good to be working with my old teacher again. She has suggested several poses for me to add to my home practice.

Last week, Richard's sister and brother-in-law sent me the James Taylor Greatest Hits CD which includes "Sweet Baby James," which, like yoga classes, first came into my life in 1970 when Richard was in Vietnam.

Listen

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Visions of Montara

When I found this photo a few days ago, it was just like being there. It's a long narrow steep ocean beach. After walking from the south end to the north and part way back on a sunny day, I used to make a nest for myself in the warm sand and sleep peacefully there. That was in the early 1970s. Much has changed in California since then, but the headlands, beach and ocean look just as I remember them. Many of my paintings from the 1980s and early 1990s were painted from memories of Montara Beach.

















Source for photo

The ocean wild like an organ played
The seaweed wove its strands
The crashin’ waves like cymbals clashed
Against the rocks and sands

Lay down your weary tune, lay down
Lay down the song you strum
And rest yourself ’neath the strength of strings
No voice can hope to hum
(Bob Dylan, from "Lay Down Your Weary Tune")

Listen

















("Beloved Ocean With Fearless Room In True Colors"
by am)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Listening /Looking up and seeing crows in the cottonwood trees during the snowy days last week






















I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.

Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

The snow is gone for now. Snow never lasts very long in the lowlands of the Pacific Northwest. I'm grateful for that. I will walk four miles in the snow but that's all. When the snow is gone, I walk freely again, but it always takes a little time to get my sense of well-being back. Something about snow pulls the rug out from underneath my usually good spirits.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A message from Oboe and Joseph Conrad / An insurmountable palindrome

It's been cold here, and when I wasn't looking, Oboe stepped onto my warm laptop keyboard and wrote:

76666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666r55555555555555555555555adfCXZ$%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

Something about a countdown, money and the approximately 500% of cats that she speaks for?

I've been noticing that "insurmountable palindrome" keeps coming up on the Stats on my Blogger "Search Keywords" list which shows me how people come across my blog using Google search words. Just now I found that Oboe has been Photoshopped, along with the cedar-wrapped Nash Metro that appeared on one of my posts on coincidences last July.











































Oboe takes everything in stride.

“… the artist appeals to that part of our being which is not dependent on wisdom: to that in us which is not an acquisition – and, therefore, more permanently enduring. He speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain: to latent feeling of fellowship with all creation – and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hopes, in fear, which binds men to each other, which binds together all humanity – the dead to the living and the living to the unborn.”
(Joseph Conrad)

Insurmountable palindrome: No X in Nixon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What we are talking about when we talk about living with eating disorders






















"Return: The Turning Point" was painted in the first year of my recovery from bulimia and anorexia.

My blog isn't specifically about eating disorders, but I do mention my experience with them from time to time. This post and accompanying slideshow are inspired by Nicole who has been recovering from bulimia and anorexia for 18 months. Her blog shows that recovery from eating disorders is possible, and that it is not an easy road for any of us. Each of us has a different story, but we all have much in common in recovery as we find peace with food and with ourselves.

Nicole's photos from her years of living with eating disorders and her recovery inspired me to put this slideshow together.

I believe I may have been born with an eating disorder. My perception is that eating disorders are not about what a person weighs but about a person's difficult relationship with food.

When I was a baby, my first word was not "mama" or "dada." My first word was "cookie." I was what was called a "picky eater." It has occurred to me that it is likely that my mother gave me cookies because they were something that I would eat. I recall that many foods made me feel like vomiting, but I was always told to "at least take a bite." I remember my grandmother commenting to my mother when I was about 3 years old that I was "spoiled" because I wouldn't eat an egg she had cooked for me. My mother would give me only the yolk, because egg whites made me gag. I have many early childhood memories of craving sugar, of sneaking food, of hiding food, and of having adults force me to eat foods that made me gag.

I clearly remember being photographed at 2 years old in the first photo in the slideshow. My perception of myself at 2 years old, while that photo was being taken, was that I was a "bad" girl. I tried so hard to be a "good" girl but just couldn't meet the expectation. "Bad" girls were spanked, and I didn't want to be spanked.

I went on my first "diet" when I was 10 years old. I was not overweight, just taller than my peers and weighed more than anyone else in my 5th grade class, except for one friend who was shorter than I was and noticeably overweight. We went on a diet together. She ate only 1 apple and a cup of coffee a day and lost weight, and returned to normal eating as far as I knew, and didn't regain the weight. I wonder, though, if she went on suffer from eating disorders. Girls aren't overweight at 10 years old for no reason. I didn't lose any weight at that time because I couldn't stay on a diet. At 12 years old, I looked as if I were 16 years old. I kept trying one diet or another, thinking I was overweight. I wasn't. My weight would go up and down about 5 pounds. I became bulimic when I was 17 years old. My goal, beginning at age 17, was to lose 20 pounds. I did that once in 1970, becoming a borderline anorexic but returned to being a bulimic at a normal weight. When I was 21 years old, my boyfriend teased me that I had a "double chin." I vowed to lose weight and get rid of that "double chin." My dieting, binging and vomiting, continued throughout my 20s and early 30s. As you can see in the slideshow, my face and neck became swollen after throwing up regularly. I thought the swelling was "fat," and that only made me more convinced that I needed to keep throwing up to lose weight. Going back to college at age 30 made the bulimia worse. At 35 years old, I began to descend into anorexia again.

At 37 years old, I met a group of women who were recovering from eating disorders. I was at a normal weight, the same weight I had been at 17 years old. Most of the women were noticeably overweight. There was one woman, bulimic and anorexic, who had stopped throwing up six months previously and was at a normal weight. She was my role model as I began my recovery from bulimia and anorexia.

When I look through the photos in the slideshow, the change in me that began when I was 37 years old still astonishes me. I did not go through eating disorder treatment. I did not take any of the prescription medications that are routinely prescribed to people with eating disorders. What happened was that I had a role model for recovery, and I completely stopped eating trigger foods, i.e., any food that I couldn't stop eating once I started eating it. Alcohol was one of those foods. I could stop at one drink, but then I could not stop eating from the craving that the alcohol caused. That craving is a classic sign of a real alcoholic. Nobody told me to stop eating trigger foods. It was my decision. I found that there were plenty of foods that I loved that didn't trigger craving. I found that I could eat much more food than I had ever eaten since I was 10 years old, and I didn't gain weight.

My 50s were difficult years for reasons besides eating disorders. PTSD from the Vietnam War era caught up with me, and my sense of well-being was shaken to the core. I don't think I would have survived those years if I had been dealing with an active eating disorder. A friend of mine who had an active eating disorder during those years suffered a disabling stroke as a result.

The last photo shows how I look now. I look 62 years old and am grateful to have good health and nearly 25 years of freedom from something that took over my life for 27 years.

I doubt that anyone can recover from eating disorders in isolation. Nicole is hosting a blog that gives those of us with eating disorders a place to visit and know that we are not alone. I am much older than most of the visitors to Nicole's blog, but I can relate to much of what they say about themselves and their experiences.

In 1987, I was fortunate to find a small group of people in recovery in Bellingham in 1987. Those people were the key to my recovery. With Nicole's blog, one of many groups of people is forming on the internet to share diverse experiences with eating disorders and to share recovery.

My creative energy is going into writing this post today. I've been working on this since about 5 a.m., and it is after 1 o'clock now. It took some time to scan the old photos from a photo album, crop them, and then to create a slideshow on Flickr.

In this photo, I'm holding my hair up to see what I look like that way. I usually wear it down, or I wear a hat. I like being 62 years old, even on the days that are challenging.

















May all bulimics and anorexics be relieved of suffering.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Drawing and painting in the early 1980s while listening to Steve Goodman


















The interview below takes some time to listen to. It is worth the time. Reminds me that a sense of humor goes well with creativity and is a source of well-being that defies failing physical health.

Steve Goodman is an inspiration. His albums were were among those I used to listen to while I was drawing and painting. There was always music playing while I was doing creative work back then.

From the Wiki article:

"Basically, Steve was exactly who he appeared to be: an ambitious, well-adjusted man from a loving, middle-class Jewish home in the Chicago suburbs, whose life and talent were directed by the physical pain and time constraints of a fatal disease which he kept at bay, at times, seemingly by willpower alone . . . Steve wanted to live as normal a life as possible, only he had to live it as fast as he could . . . He extracted meaning from the mundane." (the words of his wife, Nancy)

Steve Goodman died from leukemia in Seattle in 1984 at age 36. He nicknamed himself "Cool Hand Leuk."



(The gouache and watercolor and chalk pastel drawing is "Mona Lisa and the Clown and the Cool Rain of the Law," by am)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Refuge / The capacity to love arising from savasana (the corpse pose)


























(Source for the above quote)

This morning I woke up at 2 a.m. feeling some grief and PTSD-related emotional distress and then chose to enter into what turned out to be a three-hour meditation, mostly positioned in variations of the yoga pose named savasana, with some drifting back into sleep as well as trying to stay with body sensations and mental imagery, not the thoughts that had disturbed my sleep and stirred up my emotions. There were shifts in and out of distress, some tears, some moments of joy. Whenever I would become aware that I was thinking, I would focus my attention on body sensations and the imagery that arises from them. I found refuge in the capacity to love that arose from the savasana practice.

At 5 a.m. as I got up from the savasana meditation I noticed my copy of Gentle Wilderness: Sierra Nevada where it leans with its book cover facing my bed, on the bookshelf next to my bed.

I remembered sitting side-by-side on a couch with Richard, looking through his brother's copy of the book, page by page, reading John Muir's words and looking at the splendid photos. It was not long after he had returned from Vietnam. Richard had brought me to his brother and sister-in-law's apartment to look at that book. Richard had said, "I know you will love this book, too. You are a poet and an artist."

I remembered driving from Modesto to Yosemite with Richard on my 52nd birthday, after not having seen him since 1986, the year before my recovery from bulimia and anorexia began. It was the day before his 52nd birthday. He was not feeling well but wanted to drive up to Yosemite in the Sierra Nevada. As we approached the gates of Yosemite on Highway 120, Richard quietly said, "Amanda, I have suffered enough today. Let's go back to Modesto."

I remembered driving alone from Manteca to Yosemite on my birthday in 2008, a little more than five months after I had spent four days with Richard in the ICU at the Palo Alto VA Hospital during the week before he died. As I passed through the gates of Yosemite on Highway 120, I knew that this delayed and long-awaited experience would be an ongoing gift from Richard, and it has been just that. As I took in the landscape that John Muir and so many before and after him have loved, I experienced the capacity to love that I had first felt at the ocean, even before I met Richard. It was no coincidence that I met Richard while walking next to the ocean when we were both 17 years old. It was no coincidence that I felt love as I entered Yosemite that clear sunny day in October 2008.

It is always my hope that sharing my experience by telling these stories can benefit others.

I've been in the studio for about three hours today working on this post, grateful for the renewal of creative energy that comes with blogging and the recent desire to do other art work as well.

"You will always, for the rest of your life, feel some grief over this death. It will no longer dominate your life, but it will always be there, in the background, reminding you of the love you had for the person who died."
(Alan D. Wolfelt, from Understanding Your Grief)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Refuge / The Lost Coast of California / Shelter from the Storm / Update



























Every day, throughout the day, I visit here, in Humboldt County, via webcam. The two photos above came from that site. Birds can often be seen on the sea bluffs and in the sky. This week, especially, it has been a refuge from the snow and ice here. More often than not, it is sunny for part of the day at the Lost Coast, but even seeing the mist and rain at the ocean lifts my spirits.

I haven't been to the Lost Coast or anywhere on the open ocean since 2008, and I miss it. When I was in my early days of recovery from bulimia and anorexia in 1987, just thinking of the ocean would give me the strength to stop compulsively eating massive of amounts of food and throwing up afterwards.

When I am feeling out of sorts, I am grateful to be able to visit the ocean by way of this webcam as well:

Mendocino, California

Listening to Bob Dylan helped, too, in those early days of recovery:



Update, January 21, 2012, at the Lost Coast:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Björk from Iceland visits my studio via YouTube on Janis Joplin's birthday with a gift of creative energy / "You shouldn't let poets lie to you"

















The YouTube video below is about all I know about Björk from Iceland: "You shouldn't let poets lie to you." (3:29).

If you have time, it is worth listening to all that she has to say in this interview from 24 years ago, before so many households had computers in addition to TVs and before flatscreen TV.



In the video, Björk's television is sitting on a table that reminds me of the kitchen table from my childhood! Did anyone else have a kitchen table with a red top and a silver-colored band at its edge? Our family of five ate around that kitchen table for many years.

* * * *

Today is Janis Joplin's birthday. She was born in 1943.

If you wish, you can listen once again to Janis singing "Me and Bobby McGee," which was written by her friend, Kris Kristofferson.



"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

The first time I heard this song was the day Richard returned from Vietnam early in the morning on December 8, 1970. I've told this story before, but I will tell it again in today's context. We were both stoned on bad acid cut with speed, given to Richard by his older brother who was also a veteran and had been in Thailand a few years previously. It was just after sunrise, and we were in my pale blue-green (anyone remember that color?) VW bug, driving out to Half Moon Bay to surprise his family who had no idea that he had returned from Vietnam.

Here's a photo my sister took of me with my 1966 VW before Richard returned from Vietnam:

















I can't remember which of us did the driving that early morning when we were 21 years old, but it was most likely Richard. He had survived a year in Vietnam while functioning on various drugs--marijuana, speed, LSD, heroin--for much of that time. He went through withdrawal from heroin in Vietnam and never used it again. That day I was unwillingly in touch with my total inability to handle drugs and was suffering from extreme paranoia and relentless hallucinations that lasted for about 24 hours. Janis' voice of experience and understanding, singing ("Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waiting for a train, feeling near as faded as my jeans...") from the car radio, broke through my shatteredness with about 4-1/2 minutes of relief from what was surely hell.

Janis Joplin had died the previous October 4th, alone like Amy Winehouse, suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. Jimi Hendrix, an Army veteran, had died under similar circumstances a few weeks before Janis.

Thank goodness for Janis' voice that day and always.

My surprise and relief at hearing Janis' voice singing a new song was much like that moment in my bewildering and often terrifying childhood, that moment when I was 6 or 7 years old, and my distress was interrupted by Mahalia Jackson's powerful voice, unafraid, coming from the television set.

It was like the moment I first saw Augustus Tack's painting titled "Liberation".

It was like the moment I learned about Ayin (nothingness/nothing left to lose) from a book and then was able to find that page again in that book this morning.

My creative energy is moving today.

One more chorus of Janis singing from her heart at 4:11 in the YouTube above:

... Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lordy Lord
Hey, hey, hey, Bobby McGee

(That photo up at the top of this post was taken from my porch a few days ago when there was a sun break. Mostly we've been under a heavy snow-cloud cover. It was 50 degrees inside my home when I woke up at 5 a.m. this morning to begin work in the studio. It's almost 11:45 a.m. now. Almost 7 good hours in the studio! Time for my yoga practice and then some breakfast. I'm looking forward to a 4-mile walk in the snow with a neighbor, Jenny, this afternoon at 1 o'clock.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Consent of the Networked / Speaking without words / Speaking with words






















For "Internet Censorship Affects Everybody" with Amy Goodman and Rebecca MacKinnon (author of Consent of the Networked, take a look here.

For more about the above painting of mine from June of 1989, take a look here.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
-- Viktor E. Frankl

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Beginning by standing on the porch and looking out from the studio into the snow and the darkness at 5 a.m.

















A single streptocarpus flower, from a plant native to Africa, bloomed here yesterday on Martin Luther King Day:






































Do not depend on the hope of results. … you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.”
-- Thomas Merton in a letter to Jim Forest dated February 21, 1966, reproduced in The Hidden Ground of Love: Letters by Thomas Merton)

(Source: beautywelove, via crashingly beautiful)

I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.
-- Frederick Douglass, former slave, abolitionist, editor, and orator (1817-1895)

(Source: A.Word.A.Day)

And here is something I found at Sabine's blog, along with other news of interest today:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A morning's work in the mystical studio / Martin Luther King's Birthday 2012
















Yesterday someone from Ashtabula, Ohio visited my blog without commenting. I knew that because their visit showed up on my ClustrMap. According to the Wikipedia site, Jack Kerouac passed through Ashtabula in a Greyhound Bus in his novel On the Road, Ashtabula is listed as a train stop in "The Pilgrim (film)" by Charlie Chaplin, and the name Ashtabula means "river of many fish" in the Iroquois language.

Immediately my mind starting playing Bob Dylan's song "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go."

"... I’ll look for you in old Honolulu
San Francisco, Ashtabula ... "

I found many many cover versions of that song on YouTube. Here are two I especially like:





For me, Bob Dylan's songs are mystical and wide open to interpretation. Bob Dylan loved how Jimi Hendrix took "All Along the Watchtower" and sang it his own way. Bob Dylan continues to reinterpret his own songs. He's done that as long as I can remember. At first the reinterpretations bothered me, but I got used to them years ago and began to appreciate the way a song has a life of its own and eventually had to accept that Bob Dylan could even choose to sing his songs in such a way that it is nearly impossible to know what he is singing.

"Old Man and Old Woman at the Ocean" is the gouache and watercolor painting at the top of today's post. Some years ago I had a clear vision of Richard and me as an old man and an old woman, reunited at the ocean. Maybe it was the ocean of compassion. Maybe it wasn't us at all. Maybe it was. Maybe "twas in another lifetime." Who knows? That must have been in the late 1990s when I was out of touch with Richard. The vision gave me hope. Someone else might see something different in this painting. Let me know if you do.

Mystical:

"Having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence."
(from Merriam-Webster)

From that definition, could it be said that Zen koans sail into the mystic?

Here are life-long friends, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan:












Here's an older version of "Into the Mystic."



In my searching, I discovered that Jakob Dylan does a cover of "Into the Mystic" that can be found on YouTube.

And today, on Martin Luther King's Birthday in 2012, I learned this about Ashtabula on the above link to the Wikipedia article on Ashtabula:

"Ashtabula was founded in 1803 and incorporated in 1891. The city contains several former stops on the Underground Railroad which was used to convey African-American slaves to freedom in Canada in the years before the American Civil War. Among the stops is Hubbard House, one of the handful of termination points. Ex-slaves would reside in a basement of the house adjacent to the lake and then leave on the next safe boat to Canada, gaining their freedom once they arrived in Ontario."



"... Yer gonna have to leave me now, I know
But I’ll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the ones I love
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go."

Studio:

"The working place of a painter, sculptor, or photographer."
(from Merriam-Webster)

I've been working in the studio since 5 a.m. this morning. It's 10:30 now. Creating these blog posts gives me the same feeling I get when I paint or draw or weave or write a poem.

"Work is love made visible."
(Kahlil Gibran)

“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
(Martin Luther King Jr.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Gardener with Ideas (from the 1980s) / Portrait of an artist at age 74 with 25 years of life ahead of her

















"I don't know where the ideas come from. They come from traveling, they come from working--probably from working more than any other single way. They come from talking to people, from looking at things, and I'm just fortunate that so often when one idea runs out there's another idea waiting in the wings."

-- Dale Chihuly, from Dale Chihuly: 365 Days, page 105.

Georgia O'Keeffe sketching in 1961 at age 74:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Starting with a child's koan and then going in and out of the shadows with something that is important to me




















Thanks to Beth for posting this on her Tumblr last week. She found it here.

"I think artists know quite often when they hit on something. In fact, artists really can't move ahead or go on unless they have that feeling. Sometimes you might have to fool yourself that you're doing something important, but unless you can make something important for yourself, you can't continue."

-- Dale Chihuly, from Chihuly: 365 Days, page 104.

"Most people think that shadows follow, precede, or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories."

-- Elie Wiesel, writer, Nobel laureate (b. 1928)

Listen.

Below are three of my linocuts from the mid-1970s, saved by my mother, rediscovered, and scanned on my new scanner:

1. "Nightmare"
2. "Flashback"
3. "Coming up from the shadows"























































Thanks to everyone for your recent comments and encouragement.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Happy 19th Birthday Lee!









Long may music, poetry, love, and hiking sustain you.

"Love is the strongest force the world possesses, and yet it is the humblest imaginable."
(Mahatma Gandhi)

Love always from your aunt.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Veterans for Peace, Jonathan J. Santos Memorial Chapter 111, Bellingham






















Veterans For Peace, Jonathan J. Santos Memorial Chapter 111, Bellingham

"We believe that the war is not ending - it is only shifting from the streets to the hospitals, the cemeteries, the community and our homes."

-- Michael Jacobsen, Vietnam War veteran; Evan Knappenberger, Iraq War veteran; and Carole Edrehi, Vietnam War Red Cross worker, are members of Veterans For Peace, Jonathan J. Santos Memorial Chapter 111, Bellingham. For more information, go to vfp111.org.

(Drawing of anonymous man from window seat at the Community Food Co-op on November 28, 2011)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"Boy Riding Home Before Dawn"






















Not all, but some of the drawings and paintings I have done are an attempt to describe what Virginia Woolf called "moments of being." "Boy Riding Home Before Dawn" was a moment imagined, continuing a story Richard told to me in 2001. Not the beginning of an endless happiness but happiness nonetheless.

The image was drawn in January of 2008, three months before Richard died. If you are a long-time reader at this blog, you've heard this story before, but I need to tell it again because it has a lesson for me today.

Richard's story was that late one night he went out walking down the hill in the direction of the ocean in Half Moon Bay, California. Before he reached the ocean, he noticed a horse standing in a pasture. After talking to the horse, he climbed over the fence and slowly and quietly approached the horse. He stood there talking to the horse at length, gaining its trust, and finally asked the horse if it would be okay for him to climb onto its back. The horse allowed him to do that. He told me that he took off his belt and was able to use it as a makeshift bridle.

At that point in his story he stopped to explain to me that although he had not known how to ride a horse at the time we went riding together in 1970 (in the first few months after he returned from Vietnam), he had learned later. At the time when we had rented the two horses and had ridden on the bluffs at Half Moon Bay, I had about four years of experience riding horses.

Continuing with his story, he told me that he rode the horse around the pasture for a little while and then opened the gate to the pasture and rode out into the night. He said that they went through the neighborhoods, out along the bluffs and then down to the long sandy beach. He said that they wandered for a good part of that night, and then they returned to the pasture, where he left the horse and went home and went to sleep.

He ended the story by saying, "When I went back the next day to see the horse, it was gone. I never saw the horse again. It was a magical night."

In the first days of January 2008, remembering Richard's story, I pictured that magical horse coming to him at night, coming to the bed where, depressed and anxious, he tried to sleep in the stroke rehabilitation unit at the V.A. hospital in Palo Alto. Richard was blind in one eye, unable to speak, breathing with the help of a tracheostomy tube, having difficulty swallowing and requiring tube feeding, and only able to walk with great effort. I pictured the horse talking to Richard, asking him if he would like to leave the hospital for a night ride. When Richard said, "Yes," the horse lowered itself down so that Richard could pull himself over onto its back. Once Richard was on the horse's back, he found that he had the energy he had had as a boy and that he was no longer in the hospital room but out on the hospital grounds. By the light of the full moon, he and the horse went out to the coast. They returned before dawn. Richard felt a peace of mind and heart that he had not felt since he was a boy. He asked for an easel and began to paint again.

When I woke up this morning, I was feeling depressed, still a little headachy and congested from a cold, wondering why, whenever I want to paint, there is some seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Mulling that over, I suddenly remembered the above scene from "The Hours," a movie that was released on Christmas Day in 2002, at a time when I thought I might never see Richard again or paint again. That movie put things in perspective for me.

I've been working on this post since about 7 a.m. It's 9:30 now. This is where my creative energy went this morning. So be it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In the studio 2012 / Not alone / Welcoming the inner demons with love this time

















In August of 2006, I vowed to go back to the studio, sixteen (!) years after having lost nearly all creative momentum in the wake of the First Gulf War in 1990 and Richard's descent into the later stages of alcoholism. The earliest manifestation of the above scratchboard drawing was the result. A year later in August of 2007, I brought that scratchboard out, made a few more marks on it and dated it. In 2008, four months after Richard died, I brought it out, made a few more marks and dated it again and wrote, "This isn't working, is it?"

A few weeks ago, I came across the scratchboard again and scanned it with my new Canon printer/scanner, bought with the thought that it is time to pick up where I left off in the series of black and white drawings that ended a few months before Richard's death, with this moonlit image of Scudder Pond:






















Today I have my first cold in years, along with a renewed desire to get back to work in the studio again in whatever form that takes.

It is just occurring to me that since December of 2006, this blog has been my studio. I have been working creatively and steadily, although not in the form I envisioned in August of 2006.

Interesting that as I was re-watching "Vietnam, Long Time Coming" yesterday, someone from Ho Chi Minh City visited my blog, and that yesterday I had about twice as many visitors to my blog.

Time heals, after all--although the clock that marks that kind of time has no hands.
(Suze Rotolo, from A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties):


















One of the great features of studio life is the capacity for renewal. Daily love manifests itself and is a fairly reliable prod. Some projects can be measured in no time at all. Sometimes three or four projects can be performed and completed in a single day. Other projects progress over days or weeks, dependent on the uncanny sleep-work that lies between. “Love does not just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new. (Ursula K. LeGuin):






















In the arts, as in life, everything is possible provided it is based on love.”
(Marc Chagall):





















Still, the joyful insists on getting a word in.
(R. L. Bourges):

















A gift of love from Richard from January 2008, three months before he died, an artist to the end:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I saw a good moon rising just before 2012


















There is some hard won wisdom here, if you have time to listen to this emotional roller coaster of a documentary. Some of us were stuck, and this moved us forward in a way nothing else could have.

"Wisdom is a living stream, not an icon preserved in a museum. Only when we find the spring of wisdom in our own life can it flow to future generations."

(Thich Nhat Hanh)

Thinking of the future generations on this first day of 2012. Searching for my spring of wisdom. Listening. Paying attention. I saw a good moon rising.