Thursday, December 31, 2020

a place of reflection



I can't think of a better time than New Year's Eve to reflect. 
For some of us the end of 2020 can't come fast enough. We all 
have changed, we all have something to learn, something to take 
to heart and care for it, like one cares for a seed... May those seeds
grow, blossom and bring good fruit in our lives in 2021.


I am always keenly aware that the ocean has depths. Those who know the ocean have profound respect for its depths. Some people may call it fear, but I think that reverence is a better word. 

The depths can be both exhilarating and terrifying. I discovered that even when my feet can't reach the bottom, and I am in way over my head, the ocean somehow never fails to support my full weight - effortlessly! And it does the same thing for the guy next to me, three times my size!

I am not the type who lingers long in the shallows. If I go to the ocean, I mean business. I don't mess around with petty stuff.  Within minutes, I am off into the deep end.

But, today, the little hand guides me along the shallows, tiptoeing on the edge of the glistening robe, chasing lazy birds that have no fear of humans and no end to their greedy appetites. I watch her skipping over the sea of glass sprawled endlessly in front of us.

"Wow, I never realized how BIG the shallow end is!" A thought strikes me.  "It looks... it looks like a giant... mirror!"

Indeed it does. The water is barely covering a large shoulder of the sandy beach, turning the entire thing into an enormous mirror - reflecting a million shades of the blue sky dotted with wispy and puffy clouds, with perfect veracity.

I look behind me, and it's there too - sprawled endlessly behind me as well. 

I've been walking on the clouds and I didn't even know it! 

I can't peel my eyes away from the sight even if I wanted to... 

There is unspeakable glory and unspeakable sadness in this strange union on the edge of the ocean... this unlikely marriage of heaven above and the earth below.

The familiar words bubble up... a promise and a taunt, a prayer and a longing... 

"Your will be done...

...on earth...

... as it is in heaven..."

Saturday, December 26, 2020

a place of prayer





I dropped my phone and broke the screen at the time
I was working on this painting. 'Broken' has a bad
reputaton in our perfection-driven world, but as I looked
at the painting through the shattered glass, it seemed
fitting as it added depth, dimension and meaning
beyond what was originally intended. 



Funny thing, this answer-to-prayer business.


Sometimes, we don't even realize we prayed. 


To us, it was just... a sigh. That deep waiting-to-exhale out-breath that escapes our lungs apart, even against our will.  


"What was THAT all about?!?!!"


"What?!!?? Oh, THAT! It's really nothing... it's... just a sigh."


"Oh. O.K. Glad you are fine". With that, both of us are greatly relieved that the sigh was a nothing and not a something that we may need to face or talk about.


Or, it might be a tear. A single tear that rolls down the cheek, we surreptitiously wipe away before anybody else notices.


Or, we feel an overwhelming sense of powerlessness and confusion, we can't make sense of any of it, much less put into words. 


Or, like a drowning man, we shoot out a plain old yelp for help, in desperate hope against all hope that it will somehow, somewhere pierce the impenetrable silence of the sky.


There are many languages in this world, but the language of prayer is by far the most fascinating, the most diverse, and truly, the most unifying of all.


Sometimes, we forget we even asked.


Sometimes we forget what we asked.


I do both.   A lot!


Sometimes the answer comes, but we are so set on how we expect the answer should come that we miss, or almost miss it. Because it came in such gentle and unassuming way.


But, then, there is also this imperceptible pat on your back you can't miss. Like a quiet yet unmistakable knock on the soul's door. You look up, and look again, and there it is! You see it, really see it, as if for the first time. 


I admit I almost missed it.  


There was so much ruckus, such disorder in the courtroom - the Editor, the PR Manager, the Facebook Prosecutor, the Defense Attorney, the Judge - all insisting on the indisputable value of their own unique perspective - that I almost didn't hear the small voice, and I almost didn't feel the tiny hand inside mine.

Monday, December 21, 2020

do you want to build a snowman?



Every once in a while I like painting little greeting cards.
They are easy, fun and cheerfully lightweight, providing both balance
and welcome distraction from the weightier things of life and art. 


"Today, I want to build a Snowman",  I announce to the ocean.  

"Well, a Sandman would be more accurate",  I immediately correct myself.  It's really the Editor speaking. Accuracy is very important to the Editor.  Inaccurate sloppy language is an indication of inaccurate sloppy thinking.  And inaccurate sloppy thinking coupled with inaccurate sloppy language leads to inaccurate sloppy living. Needless to say, the Editor can't stand sloppiness however you look at it.  It's one of the ten deadly sins in his meticulously kept little red book.

Then, for some reason, I proceed with the explanation, as if the ocean needs me to explain everything, or anything at all, for that matter.

"You know, it's winter. It's a very appropriate seasonal activity."  

Now it's the Public Relations Manager's turn. The PR Manager is intensely concerned with all things appropriate and suitable, with a discreet emphasis, 'just a touch', she would say, 'of seasonal'. She is a tireless vigilante ensuring we never cross the invisible albeit ever-shifting lines of 'proper'.  My PR Manager has the most difficult job because she always wants to tame my naturally color-outside-the-lines, fiercely disheveled, messy messy life.  But she is also a very smart lady and knows how to play my Cool-Me persona.

"This would be soooo cool", the PR Manager continues. "We could take a picture of it once we are done and post it on Facebook. People would love it."

It slipped just like that.  This people-would-love-it part. 

Suddenly there is a wailing of sirens inside my head, a red alert, indicating imminent grave danger.

"Are you telling me we are doing this just to get some 'likes' on your Facebook page?!!! I thought we came here to have fun for fun's sake, not to parade it to the world so we can prove to everyone how much fun we are having!"

But before I could even begin to think of how to respond to this deeply personal betrayal creating uproar inside my mind and heart, I feel a tiny hand slip into the palm of mine, and a small voice overwhelms all the noise with its simple invitation.

"Do you want to go for a walk with me?"

Sunday, December 13, 2020

a place of awakening cont.

 




The sand is seeping into my flip-flops, lodging between my toes.  I know it's just across the bridge and over the dune...

"There you are!" I light up. "I SEE you!"

"And there YOU are", roars the ocean, always happy to see me. "I see YOU too!"

I run and trip, the dry sand heaving under my feet until it turns soggy and I reach the very edge.  

Like the edge of a lavish robe.  

I can smell him.

I can hear him roar.

I can hear him breathe.

I can see him.  

Pregnant with incessant motion and rest. Dark and glistening silver and white. Deep calling to deep. 

The wind intensifies, enveloping us both.

I linger on the edge, waiting for him to make the first move.  I don't need to wait long. 

Now, I can feel him tickling my toes.

 I jump, backing off.

"You are too cold!"

"And you are too silly", laughs the ocean because little children are splashing and giggling and screaming all around me. 

"C'mon, let's play!", he calls.

"No, not today", I shake my head.  "Today I need to stay in the shallows."  

"Whatever you wish my dear..."

Monday, December 07, 2020

a place of awakening

 

'hope rising hope descending' I love this piece as it tells the same story
but from two different perspectives when you flip it around


The moment the air hits me, I know I am at my destination. 

You wonder how do I know?

I can SMELL it!

The unmistakable salty-dried-sea-weed-coconut-SPF30-Subway-spicy-Italian tingling my nostrils reminds me to do something I so often forget:

Inhale. 

Hold.

Exhale!

And, then, again, but slower:

In-haaaa-le.

Ho-oooold.

Ex-haaaa-le.

This forgotten breathing-in-and-out-thingie reminds me there is more to me - more INSIDE me - than meets the eye. There is this BREATH inside me, but, sadly, most of my life I live holding it back really really tight.

I am near.  I can smell it. But I still can't see it.

The wind is messing up my hair and whispering into my ear. Through its sound, like a layered symphony - the screeching seagulls and inarticulate noises people on the beach make - I can distinguish a steady rhythmic low-rumble - wave in, wave out.

I can hear the ocean breathe!

Wave in.

Wave out.

Already there is a dialogue between us while neither one of us has said a single word!

I can smell him.  

I can hear him.

But I still can't see him.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

a place of in-between




This collage was made as a part of Viral Collaboration during
COVID-19 quarantine. Each artist created a 10X10
monochromatic piece with a single word to describe
a feeling during this unprecedented time. 


When I am in desperate need of help, when I don't know what to do, I backpedal a little.

I linger and loiter. 

Wait and sniff.

Which is also what I usually do when I have a date with the ocean.

See, we have a little routine when we have a date.  The ocean and I.

It takes less than an hour to get there from our house. This serves well as a much-needed transition time allowing me to re-program my mind and let go of my inland-bound life which tends to grow these long tentacles all into and around me. 

It's not necessarily a bad life. In fact, it's rather comfortable and predictable, and most importantly I am (or think I am) in charge.   This life makes me think it's all there is - jobs to do, chores to knock off, responsibilities to fulfill. Sure, like everyone else, I weather storms, withstand pressures and navigate the chaos and turmoil of our world with various degrees of success and failure.  Then, at night, I watch a couple of episodes of Criminal Minds because it makes me feel my life is not so bad after all. It may not be as Pinterest-perfect as the life of my friends on Facebook, but it could be much worse. I could be having a serial killer breathing down my neck! Thus calmed, I brush my teeth, double-check that all doors are locked and tumble into sleep until the next morning. 

Inside my head I know that life is not about checking off a to-do list, but you wouldn't know it watching me scurrying around my moments and days. Some people may call this condition a 'tunnel vision' and they might be right. Going to the ocean helps me to get outside my tunnel.

The drive is usually smooth and quiet. This, along with physically leaving my little claustrophobic inland life behind builds anticipation and excitement that goes with it. 

Even though the ocean never ever fails to deliver, I admit I am tormented by questions and doubts each time.

Monday, November 23, 2020

a place of tug-of-war





This all-out, way-beyond-my-little-fist's-grasp extravagant greatness seeps through my pores and sinks down to the place I am mostly unaware even exists deep inside me. I feel the tension in my neck melting away and my fingers loosening the choke-hold of the impossible and petty demands I place on myself, others and even God!

The noise of the small claims court,  as well as the grand jury investigation which somehow always seem to be in session inside my head are tempered by this outrageous unwarranted mercy extended above, and below and all around me. 

Tempered, I say, not completely silenced.

I admit it's a struggle, an exhausting daily labor dealing with them... 

The Scrooge. The Judge. The Critic. The Editor. THE PREACHER!

They are all so very smart.  They know A LOT. 

But, they have absolutely no clue how to sit back and relax. 

As valuable as their gift of responsibility might be, they don't understand that their services are not always needed. 

But how do you convince a band of scowling crows that hovering over my head and pecking at my brain with their particular point of view as if it had absolute and eternal significance may not be the calling from God? 

In the past, I would simply hand them a particularly engaging and impeccably thought-out book on spiritual theology and that would keep them distracted enough. Quiet if not happy.  They would much rather sit in a comfortable chair inside their library, sipping lemongrass tea than deal with the screeching of unruly children and seagulls, and the annoying untamable wind messing up their hair and flipping their pages before they had finished reading them.  

Today, however, I want to try a different approach.  

But, I know I will need some serious help here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

a place of acceptance



The ocean has been here long before I made my little grand entrance.  It will remain here long after I depart at my days' end.

Every person dotting the beach is here today because they want to be or somebody who loves them brought them along.  Of course, there might be few who feel forced, manipulated or guilted into coming. Sadly, such approach, even if it's driven by good intentions, effectively ruins the fun available to all who come of their own free will. 

The ocean doesn't need anything from me nor does it place any expectations on me.  It doesn't judge me for being fat or skinny, smart or stupid, introvert or extrovert, clean or messy. 

This is hard to grasp for most of us who grow up and live under the burden of impossible demands our surroundings - family, school, church, social media, and even our own deluded selves - place on us.  Sometimes I don't even realize I've compromised my soul in my futile attempt to fit in and be accepted.

The ocean in turn says to me,

"You already fit in with me! You are already accepted here just the way you are."

I am a blessed beneficiary of all its affection, generosity and grandeur.

There is no age limit to enjoying the ocean - you are never too young, never too old to play.  

All our little labels - what you do, who you are, who you know, how many followers you have, even what you believe - matter little here.  The ocean is equally at ease with the scarred used-to-be's and the naive wanna-be's; the woman covered from head-to-toe in burka, the bald guy in Speedo showing off his full-body tattoo and the wounded artist plagued by unresolved anger and angst.

Surrounded by the vastness of the sky above, the endless sand beach under my feet, and the great big blue, my huge, unsolvable problems, my enormously unbearable burdens are scaled down to size.  

Curiously, as my problems are being reduced, I don't feel diminished as a person.

There is something deep inside me - something good, and gentle, and kind - that actually gets at least a little bit enlarged. 

Or perhaps, awakened...

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

a place of safety


I have discovered that palette knife is my favorite tool.
I love the rough texture it leaves and the message it conveys,
that even when we find ourselves in the rough waters of life
there is plenty of beauty all around us.


My daily dose of three pages of longhand sometimes feels like wading through a layer of muck that reaches up to my eyeballs. Other times it's as exhilarating and terrifying as a free-fall off a cliff while I count seconds before crash-landing.  

Even though I sure can talk, I want to think of myself as being a pretty good listener.  I am discovering, however, that I might be listening to everyone else except to my own soul. 

In my head I know I am safe, but my heart is unnerved by the torrent.  I need a place that would assure this anxious heart that it's O.K. and calm the rush of swirling thoughts.

Going to the ocean for my first artist's date seems most appropriate.  

Ocean has always been a dependable wellspring of safety for me. It never fails to welcome me with open arms, no questions asked. Not once have I heard him pout,

"Where have you been??? Why haven't I seen you in so long??!"

I admit that I do tend to say to myself,

"God, I MISS this!", every time I make it to the beach. 

I must be imagining because in the rumble of its roaring waves I think I hear an echo, 

"I missed you too. I'm glad you are back."

No cold shoulder. Not a hint of reproach.

Friday, November 06, 2020

mother courage





Mixed media collage replica of White Angel from monastery Milesevo
greeting the disciples on Easter morning with the words,
'Why are You Looking for the Living One among the Dead?' 



The little butt-naked word, the escapee from the rigorous sentinel of my Internal Editor, turns out to be a kindness of sort. The raw energy of its un-Photo-shopped truth does its magic inside our group.  

It scrub-cleans our ears, dull from being accustomed to hearing only what others think we want to hear. 

It acts like a mouthwash that wakes up our tongue accustomed to saying only what we think others want to hear.

She volunteers to be next.  A mother to many; a faithful, dutiful wife of a respected leader. Mostly invisible accessory to a greater mission.

On the outside her bowl is beautiful and rich and full of opportunities and experiences the rest of us can only dream about. Fascinating people and exotic places. We've known each other for years and I never bothered to look, to ask what's on the inside.  

Perhaps I wasn't ready then for what I may find there. I am not sure I am ready even now...

The bowl she brings to our communion table is full of emptiness, loneliness, depression, and meds that work and don't, and an ocean of unshed tears over a lifetime of losses. 

She attaches a label to herself that makes my heart sag. Somewhere along the way, in the crucible of life and ministry, her vast capacity for experiencing the exquisite joy of this life as well as its gut-wrenching grief was reduced to a mental illness tag.  To be numbed by alternating the assortment of religious platitudes and daily dose of Prozac.

We listen to each other and bow our hearts to the One who knows us better than we know ourselves. Worn out from carrying our own, we lift up each other's bowl to Jesus.

She wraps up our prayers by praying for me.

"Thank you, Lord, for these three daily pages of longhand vomit", she says. Then, after hesitating a bit, she adds in a barely audible whisper,

"Perhaps it's time for me to start my own..."

Sunday, November 01, 2020

artists anonymous



Much of my art starts out with random mixed media mark-making that evolves
over time. Often I am the one most surprised by what shows up on the page. 

We are huddled in our little groups of twos and threes, passing around in whispers our empty bowls of prayer requests.  She is a seasoned veteran in this business of service, sacrifice and self-negation.  Her husband a respected leader. Each of us hesitates a little before I finally take a chance and set out my bowl first.

"I am doing this...",  I search for words to describe the Artist's Way and keep falling short... 

A book? A workbook? A 12-step-like recovery program for wounded artists?

Their gentle eyes rest on my face, waiting patiently for me to clothe my squirming thoughts into ill-fitting syllables.  Finally I confess. I settle on a simple action verb that has over-arched my existence as long as I can remember.

"I write... Three pages. .. Of longhand...  Every day...  Of whatever goes through my mind."

Even as I say this, the filled-out pages flash before my eyes, and I know that these words don't give a shadow of justice to the reality of what these pages represent.

"Oh!"  Her eyes having endured the burden of my silent quest for adequate linguistic wardrobe suddenly light up in recognition.

"It's like a prayer journal!"

"Nooo!"  I blurt out. "Not at all! I would call it more like ... vomit", I explain and my eyes pop wide open the moment the word reaches the auditory processing system inside my head. I am thoroughly mortified together with my shocked praying friends.  We laugh even as I kick myself for being such an idiot and I want to kick God for making me look like a fool in front of these women.

My Internal Editor hisses: 

"You blabber-mouth! You should have said something like, 

'It's a  ham radio for the soul.'  Or, even better, 

'It's a lush, ever-present oasis of absolute safety where you get to hear your own thoughts and feelings...'  Or, 

'It's a critics-free zone where I get to be fully myself!' Or at least, 

'It's a self-deception lie detector tool that helps me navigate through confusion of life where the truth and the appearance of truth often don't occupy the same space.'

The Editor, of course, is right. There are a million other things I could have said, but no!

Of all the beautiful words in richly stocked up English language, my brilliant brain chose to publicly humiliate me by landing on... VOMIT!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

writer meets editor

I used home-made onion skin pigment in a series of ink sketches. 
The handwritten text blurs into background creating interesting markings.



"How about you, Mom? How was your day?" 

 The dinner is on and so is the conversation about the events of the day. We pass around questions and answers along with serving dishes from one person to the next.

"It was pretty good. I went to a meeting..." 

 "What kind of meeting?" 

 "It was a writer-meets-editor meeting..." 

 The collective groan that interrupted my sentence is punctuated by, 

 "Oh NO! The dreamer meets the dream-CRUSHER!" 

 The experience of our family fully confirms the bitter Dreamers vs Crushers stereotype. Every day one battle erupts or another between the right-brainers and the lefties. 

The creatives and the realists. 

 The dreamers and the dream crushers. 

Sometimes it's an all-out war raging under our bobbing roof. Nobody seems to notice that in this war both sides play the part of the half-wits. 

 "I know how it sounds, but it wasn't like that at all. I really like Marianne." They look at me as if I just produced a flying pig belting out 'Let it Go' inside a winter wonderland of the Frozen over hell. 

 A 'LIKE' relationship between a writer and an editor??? Impossible! 

 "She suggested that we go through this book, kind of a workbook, together...see where it takes us..."

 "A workbook?!! But, you don't do workbooks!" 

 You would think I just sold out my soul to the devil by trampling upon yet another time-honored family stereotype. Although I have to admit here that I still cringe from the fill-in-the-blanks, right-answer-left-answer type of learning tools. 

 "Well, it's not a TYPICAL workbook ", I proceed slowly. One must carefully defend their seemingly cowardly compromise. 

 "It's called...", I pause savoring the marvel which placed these two unexpected bed-fellows - the writer and the editor, on the same crumpled up page... 

"The book is called ...The Artist's Way."

Monday, October 26, 2020

the artist's way remix




The first couple of layers of a piece I worked on
recently at an abstract art workshop. I chose to include 
this image here because of it's unintimidating
messiness. Many people find creative process
terrifying, so I hope this eases some of those fears. 
 


My friend Susan encouraged and inspired me few days ago by re-reading one of the 'home-made' books I  gave her quite awhile ago. She came across it last week while organizing her piles and had the love and patience to sit down and read it. 

How many friends do that these days??? Like, NONE!  

Except, of course, Susan.

Her enthusiasm was so contagious that I went back to my old files and re-read it too! The message was so fresh, that I decided it's worth sharing here, especially during this crazy time. 

A lot has happened since the time I wrote it - my children are older and so am I. But the truth is the truth and remains the same, it may need just a little bit of dusting off and freshening up and it's as good as new, or perhaps even better, because more layers have been added that enhance it's richness and depth. 

The one thing that changed is instead of using Morguefile photo collection to illustrate the stories, now I have my own artwork! This, in and of itself is a testimony to God's amazing creativity and his ability to teach us, old dogs some new tricks, even when everyone, including ourselves, might have given up on us.

I hope you enjoy this remix and are encouraged by it's refreshing truth. 

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.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Art of COVID-19

Much of my time in quarantine has been spent talking (and writing!) less and making art more. Engaging in a creative process, regardless of the medium or subject, has been such an enriching experience on so many different levels. Anyone who does it knows what I am talking about.

Since picture is better than a thousand words, I am sharing just a few glimpses into my COVID-19 art-making 'routine'.




This piece Why are You Looking for the Living One among the Dead? was done in honor of Orthodox Easter. It's my interpretation of White Angel, a famous fresco from Milesevo monastery.



 


For Orthodox Easter I colored the eggs using natural onion skin dye. The process has become one of my favorite Easter traditions. 





Finally, after coloring Easter eggs in onion skins, I turned the leftover liquid into pigment which I used to experiment with negative painting techniques. This might be by far my favorite 'experiment' so far.





Monday, May 04, 2020

May the Fourth Be With You

In keeping with the tradition, I am re-posting one of our family favorites. May the Fourth Be With You!



We can thank my mother-in-law for introducing Star Wars into our children’s lives by getting our 5 year old son his first Star Wars LEGO set. He ripped the boxes open and within seconds our home was invaded by the Imperial Stormtroopers and the Droids.

I was mortified.

Star Wars?!!! He is waaay too young for Star Wars!


It wasn’t the complexity of the building process I was concerned about, because that never seemed to be a problem for our pint-size engineer. What bothered me much more was a matter of introducing complex adult issues into his immature mind, and the challenge that creates for me as his parent. But, like it or not, the door was open and there was no going back.

From that day on, my son turned into a miniature Star Wars maniac. So far, he’s been mostly preoccupied with recreating cosmic wars against his little sister. Along the way he somehow acquired a prodigious amount of information about the characters and the plot and various twists and turns in the storyline. He learned the difference between the Imperial and the Rebel blaster, the who’s who and what’s what of the Imperial Army and the Rebel Alliance, and all the whys and therefores of the narrative that molded the worldview of generation after generation since the first movie was released. He bought a Star Wars Visual Dictionary with his own money(!) and would spend his free time memorizing its content.

Now, all this wouldn’t be so surprising if it wasn’t until this afternoon, years after the initial encounter, that he saw his very first Star Wars movie. Watching him watch the movie was as much (or more) fun as watching the movie itself. It was as if he had all these loose pieces of a puzzle, and he finally saw how they all fit together, he could finally place them in their exact spots in the larger, 4-D story-puzzle. His delight was quite contagious. During dinner, he continued chatting enthusiastically about all the fascinating trivia he picked up during the afternoon Star Wars extravaganza. In the course of the conversation, my husband casually mentioned George Lucas and what his intent might have been for the unfolding of the various episodes in a certain sequence.

George… Lucas?!!
 Our son muttered hesitantly… And who is this George Lucas? 

There was no doubt that he was utterly confused. You could tell that he was scrolling down the imaginary database of Star Wars names and faces, from Emperor Palpatine through Chewbacca and Ewoks, but there was no suitable match for the name “George Lucas”.

It was now our turn to be confused. How is it possible that with all these years of borderline obsession with the Jedi and their pecking order, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, and R2D2 and Obi-Wan Kenobi, our son never ever heard the name George Lucas?

We looked at each other and burst into laughter.

Hmm …George Lucas…. George Lucas…. Well, he is kind of like God to the world of Star Wars. Without him, there would be no Star Wars, nor the galaxy, nor anybody or anything else belonging to this galaxy far, far away. He created it all. This amazing world exists because it first existed in the mind of George Lucas.


It took several minutes for the news to settle in his shaken-to-the core 9 year old mind screaming for a paradigm shift. Until this moment of revelation he was so preoccupied with the fascinating universe which George Lucas had created that for a brief while he simply couldn’t compute the information about the existence of the creator of that universe.

There…there is a George Lucas… there IS a George Lucas and I never even knew it!


In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Resurrection Art





This year the forty days of Lent morphed into quarantine (which incidentally derives its name from Italian 'quaranta giorni' meaning 'forty days' indicating the amount of time ships had to be isolated before entering the city of Dubrovnik during the Great Plague). Quarantine (or lock-down, or self-isolation) morphed into Easter, first following Gregorian then a week later Julian calendar.

It's been a busy season of surviving. Adjusting. Flexing. Re-aligning.

And art making.

First hopped in the Easter Bunny. It was a silly, spur-of-the-moment, safe-in-the-era-of-social-distancing experiment that warned me never to underestimate the silly, spur-of-the-moment bursts of creativity.




Birthed during COVID-19, it, of course, had to have a face mask­čśĚ .  One thing that this bunny taught me with its extra-large ears and its face mask was that sometimes the best thing to do is just cover your mouth and use your ears. 

Perhaps because the bunny knows what the poets have known all along.... that it's hard to listen while you preach.

As I said, never underestimate the seemingly silly, spur-of-the-moment bursts of creativity. You may be surprised what you stumble upon following the rabbit trail.



Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Boston Prayer Garden







Earlier this year, in anticipation of an extraordinary busy summer, I didn’t think I would have time for gardening… silly me! Man plans, God laughs.

As COVID-19 pandemic spread it suddenly created large blank spots in my schedule. Combined with state-wide lockdown, yesterday I seized the golden opportunity and basked in the pure luxury of rolling in the dirt for blissfully uninterrupted morning that stretched well into the afternoon.

There is a reason for the expression, Happy as a pig in muck.

I was buried deep inside my heaven, experiencing unadulterated joy of ripping things out, digging things up, tossing them in the garbage, while getting unashamedly filthy when my very much earthly husband called my name and said that the window guy was here and I needed to come in.

Everything was in place for the look. The wild disheveled hair. The sweaty/dirty clothes.  The dark-brown under my fingernails even after washing my hands twice. All this topped by the irrepressible grin on my face working together in perfect unison to proclaim to the world and the stunned Window Guy,

Here she comes, The Crazy Gardening Lady!

I am so sorry, I tried to apologize rather unconvincingly, the stupid grin contradicting my words.

Then, as if this was the most common, utterly normal occurrence I begun to ramble about all the other cataclysmic events over the course of last two decades we have lived through from the perspective of our garden. 

You can call it my version of The Brief History of Time  – from NATO bombing of Serbia, 9/11, one cancer after another, one hurricane after another, Global Financial Crisis of 2008, Boston marathon bombing…

Did you realize that tomorrow is its anniversary, April 15?,  I interrupted my history lesson, turning to now even more stunned Window Guy. All he could do is shake his head, No.

The reason I remember is because back in 2013. I was working on clearing this particularly messy and dingy area in our yard and converting it into a flowerbed. It was April 15, mostly known as the Tax Day. Then I heard on the radio about the marathon bombing… and the garden area I was clearing became The Boston Prayer Garden.

It may seem silly to you but every time I see it, no matter how bleak things may look in the moment, I am reminded by its quiet, blossoming presence, We’ve been through worser… we'll get through this pandemic too.

We chatted for a while, wrapping up the loose business ends. I might be reading too much into it, but his parting words to us were,

You know, I am glad you got to do some gardening today. I really am.

Me too, I thought, me too...

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Darkest Hour






I am sure I am neither the first nor the last one to recognize that many of us are spending Good Friday this year in isolation just the way the first disciples did on that fateful day that changed history forever.

They were in lock-down the same way we are.

They were in fear for their lives perhaps not too different from the way we are during global pandemic.

…the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of…  John 20:19

The instinctual human response when faced with a threat is to shut the doors. To hide. To self-isolate. 

Sometimes self-isolation is mandatory sometimes it’s self-imposed.

What were they thinking as they reflected on the avalanche of events that had rolled over them in the course of the past few days leading up to Golgotha?

The triumphant entry into the Holy City. The cheering crowds. The washing of their smelly feet. The somber supper. The wine and the bread. The traitor.  The prayer of agony. The ambush. The traitor's kiss.

The unthinkable.

How could something they thought so right turn into something so horribly wrong?

Now their leader is dead and their own lives are in jeopardy.

Murder and threats from without, swarming fears from within.

Were they second-guessing themselves and each other? Did they think if they had done something different they could have changed the outcome? Were they pointing fingers?

Were they assailed by every doubt fear despair disappointment and heartbreak plaguing mankind from the creation of the world??

Or was that reserved for Jesus to absorb on the cross?

In that moment of darkness did they forget everything - EVERYTHING - Jesus ever told them while there was still light?

Was all their hope swallowed by the day of darkness, with no way out as the doors were locked - from within?

Monday, April 06, 2020

Cheering and Jeering










I spent most of the Palm Sunday on our garage floor fiddling with an art project. I fit into being non-essential as a (sanitized) hand into a (nitrile) glove.  It was a gloomy, drizzly, bean-soup kind of day, unusual for Florida at this time of the year. But everything seems unusual these days, including the weather.

I felt a strange kind of relief that even heaven chose to cooperate with social distancing and self-isolation. On Palm Sunday, in particular.

I always struggled with ‘celebrating’ Palm Sunday. One day, Jesus is exuberantly welcomed in, few days later, he is equally emphatically jeered out and eventually crucified.  I often wondered if it was the same people who cheered one day were jeering by the end of the week? 

Maybe. 

Maybe not.

Sometimes those of us who cheer the loudest are the biggest traitors.

Take Peter.

Master, I’m ready for anything with you. I’d go to jail for you. I’d die for you!

I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Peter, but before the rooster crows you will have three times denied that you know me.

Or Judas

…a crowd showed up, Judas, the one from the Twelve, in the lead. He came right up to Jesus to kiss him.

Jesus said, Judas, you would betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

Or really, all the disciples.

Which pretty much puts a spotlight on each of us.

Humans are so fickle. You would think that with that kind of track record, one would find a bit more humility in the ranks.

One would think…