Friday, September 25, 2020

The Lost Art of Letter Writing








After picking up our mail this morning, my husband gave me a letter. 

It was from a friend.

Written on paper. 

Front and back. 

Mailed the old fashioned 'snail mail' all the way from California.

Such incidents have become so rare in this day and age that some may think our friend is one of those 'living off the grid' weirdos... 

Let me assure you, she is not. 

She is extremely technologically savvy lady. 

Connected to the Internet.

She even has a cell phone. 

But, instead of emailing...

Instead of texting...

Or even calling..

- which would be...

faster...

cheaper...

more efficient...

more convenient... -

She took the time... 

put forth the effort...

chose to say 'no' to all these obvious, logical choices

and 'yes' to something else...

I can not begin to describe how this sheet of 8.5X11 plain bond paper made me feel. Dancing on the inside is the best I can come up with.  

I immediately stopped whatever I was doing, and started reading... really more like savoring...

Her name, address, the day of the week and the date - month, day, year... September 20, 2020 - in the top right corner.

Our name and address on the left, a bit below. 

Does anyone remember that this is how the letters used to be formatted?

And then, 

Dear...

I don't remember when was the last time I received a letter like this... I realize that some people have NEVER received a letter like that... personal, from a long-time friend, thoughtful.... that makes you feel vulnerable, treasured, connected beyond the marvels of modern technology that so loudly brags about 'connection'... 

I used to get A LOT of letters like that in the past... I used to both receive AND write... 

But something happened and that delicious exchange was suddenly interrupted, and eventually stopped altogether on both sides...

This morning, however, it hit me that with all the awesome high-tech advances, I  feel kind of impoverished,.. 

perhaps even a little cheated... 

as if I was duped by all these

helpful

convenient

efficient ways we do life these days...  

and the trade-off doesn't seem worth it....

Monday, August 10, 2020

Luda Manda

 

My aunt on my Dad’s side was well into her seventies when she was still riding their donkey to and from working the tobacco fields and vineyards, chasing goats up and down the rocky Dalmatian mountainsides, and climbing fruit bearing trees.  All the adults called her Luda Manda meaning Crazy Manda. To them, her life and everything she was doing with it was nothing short of crazy.

To Manda, it goes without saying, everything she did was completely normal.

But, when we would descend onto their microscopic villagefrom the capital, hardly setting our shoe-clad feet across the doorstep, begging her,

Strina, make us your bread!,

now, that she found odd. Really odd.

Vrag vas odnia, what do you see in the cursed bread??? Pobenaviste od oni trula zraka biogradska nek' ga vrag nosi!

 She cursed the foul city air for causing us to lose our minds, and kept  grumbling and complaining about the strange ways of her city-dwelling relatives.while reaching for the giant vangla and stained cloth bag filled with sand-colored flour.

It took years for me to finally realize what she was making and what we went ga-ga over was sourdough bread. Panja is what she called it. She couldn't understand why would someone turn their nose on pure-white melt-in-your mouth kiflice and go nuts over her dark ‘peasant’ bread.

If I’d told her that in the third decade of the 21st century, during global pandemic, inside the fancy modern kitchens armed with digital scales and instant thermometers men and women all around the world would be making – or at least trying to make – her crusty, chewy panja, she would conclude that the whole world indeed had gone crazy.

Or, perhaps, it's finally becoming a bit more sane…who’s to judge?



Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Prolific Garbage Creator





Somebody said that it is impossible to get better and look good at the same time. In the similar vein, in order to make something good you have to make a lot of garbage first.

I would say, and my family would agree, that I am an expert in making a lot of garbage. I rarely set out with that as my goal. In fact, most if not all the time, I set out to make something good. Perhaps even REALLY good. But one way or another, I end up with trash.

For years I struggled with this.  I have an irrepressible urge to create – I can’t help it. But most of what I make isn’t that good. Sometimes it feels like sheer waste of time, energy and resources and that goes against my deeply ingrained frugality. You wouldn’t know by looking on the surface, but there is a proportionate amount of guilt associated with being such prolific garbage creator. Try as hard as I could, I couldn’t resolve it. 

It became quite a conundrum… if I stopped making things, that would be the death of me. My soul would shrivel up and die. I may still look alive on the outside, but on the inside, I am as dead as an Egyptian mummy.

But burdening the world with so much unwanted garbage isn’t a way to live either… What is the prolific garbage creator to do???

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Complete Idiot's Guide to Lazy Baker's Sourdough




Along with everyone else, I jumped on the sourdough bread baking bandwagon during the pandemic. Years ago, I had attempted this culinary suicide mission with mediocre results. Looking back I think my real motivation to do it was not so much the allure of the exotic bread making. I just needed inspiration, something to write about and the process promised to provide sufficient drama.  I know, writers are weird like that. 

Back then, I was inspired by a Complete Idiot's Guide to Sourdough Bread I'd stumbled upon in our local library.

Times have changed since then, we all went digital. So, one day, couple of weeks ago, as I was scrolling through YouTube,  a video caught  my eye, promising sourdough for lazy bakers. In a split-licking instant, I was hooked.

All these emotions started bubbling inside like a healthy batch of yeast.

This is going to be grea....!  But before I could finish the thought, new more ominous voices clamored their way in...

No, it's not going to be great. It's going to be a disaster. Do you realize how tricky it is to make sourdough? If it was easy they wouldn't be charging four bucks a pop for a small boule... 

But, but... they guy said that the recipe is for the lazy bakers. I qualify! 

Of course you do! So spare yourself unnecessary pain and suffering and just go to Publix...

Somewhat perplexed by the intensity of the opposition and the brevity of the na├»ve enthusiasm stage, I grabbed a bag of white and a bag of whole-wheat flour, and pushing through the noise of dissenting voices begun to scoop…

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Confessions of an Artist





I stumbled upon these words that struck me as genuine and fresh, part confession, part prayer, even though they may not be introduced with 'Dear God'. I rarely hear anyone speak in these terms anymore. It resonated with me because of its courage, humility, self-awareness and determination. It was spoken by an artist but I feel like it could have been spoken by any of us, regardless of the label we attach to ourselves and others. 


I have lots of habits that are self-defeating.

I’m my own worst critic, a people pleaser.

I compare my work to others and get discouraged.

I’m a perfectionist with a bit of OCD thrown in.

I’m pretty much always afraid to step out and try new things that are outside my abilities...

I really want to loosen up and give things a try and know that others fail too.

I get really caught up in staying with what I know to the point of shutting down on occasion.

Fear of failure is so ingrained, and I need to move beyond that to become a better artist.

I want to be brave.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

#BLM




To say that we are living in historic times would be an understatement.  It is difficult to keep up with the events and the subsequent emotions generated by them. We all have so much to say. We all want to be heard. But, some of us have been dominating the conversation for far too long and there are times when it’s appropriate to shut up and make room for the unheard (or heard but not heeded) voices, no matter how uncomfortable they may make us feel.

As artist, my heart is expressed through my artwork, I believe better than any words I might use.


I can't breathe


#B&W





RIP George Floyd



Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Secrets of the Angels





Back in April, I thought it would be neat to do a mixed media replica of the famous monastery Milosevo fresco – White Angel.

It was Easter.

We were in lock-down.  

What could possibly go wrong when one wants to celebrate this strange COVID-19 Easter by painting an angel idling around Jesus’ empty tomb, wondering why would anyone be looking for the Living One among the dead? 

I scoured the Internet for a reference photo I wanted to use and once I found it, went to work.

I intended - to the best of my ability - to stay as close to the original.  With that in mind, I took a pencil and I started lightly outlining the image on the paper.  The head and halo around it. The folds of the robe. One wing and the other.

I am not sure at what point in the process a human photo-copy machine gave way to an artistic libertarian with a mind of her own.  All I know, by the time I was finished what (or rather, who) showed up on the page was NOT the same angel depicted in the renown fresco.

I stare at the woman, wondering where did she come from? Who is she? Why is her face sad and her robe, her hands, even her golden halo, and all around and behind her splattered with Daler Rowney Brilliant Red mingled with gold?

What kind of messy post-resurrection messenger is this?!?!!

I step back, the words of American abstract painter Robert Motherwell, now in focus. 

In the brush doing what it’s doing, it will stumble on what one couldn’t do by oneself.

Clearly both history and our daily reality bear witness that we don't live in some kind of post-resurrection spiritual Pleasantville.

When I think of it, it's a sad thing, because we don't realize that in our insistence on being ‘in control', and sugarcoating reality we forfeit the opportunity to allow a deeper and perhaps more edgy truth that wants be revealed in all its disturbing beauty.