Saluti da Venezia redux

Yesterday I discovered a new reason to be especially glad I have a blog.

Storyteller Stephen Hollen and his writing introduced me to blogging in 2000 or 2001. I was intrigued so I started typng into an Easy Journal blogg of my own.

When Jim and I had our summer sabbatical in Venice in 2003 - I set up a travel journal - Saluti da Venezia to record the trip - and I did. The journal is still floating in cyber space.

Yesterday I sat down to make a folio book to accompany my show - Glimpses.

"you can write something by Friday," my friend Claudia casually suggested. So I sat down at the computer yesterday to struggle something forth. Mid-agony I remembered - I had written something - on the travel blog.

Yep!. There it was - the blog held the contents of the book I need NOW.

All those memories - small stories - even several poems - I extracted highlights, printed out images, added a full printing of the blog - for the hardy - and voila - quite a nice addition to the show. Venice Journal - 2003.

It is a taste of Venice, Summer, 2003.

I write this blog which I doubt has wide appeal - except for a few. Mine are not the musings of a "thought leader" - that's the new buzz title in storytelling for people who write things of consequence - but having it prods me to keep writing, to keep recording the ordinary and the everyday, to keep looking for stories. This blog is a place where I can talk about storytelling and art - and my life with them - to my heart's content.

you never know -

This is one of my Venice poems:


Venice is spell binding.
Is it being surrounded by water?
Or the timelessness of the place?

Perhaps it is the light:

Soft light in the early morning
Outside our bedroom window
a greyness
a caress
light just coming up
softens the decay
old becomes beautiful in the proper light.

We emerge from the shadowed tunnel of our calle
onto the wide, bright fondamenta
the magic of Venice is spread out ahead
shining in the bright yellow sunlight.
e Schoettler 2003


Rug report - and a memory

Put the final touches on Glimpses today. The show looks great.

I had been a little nervous about using digital frames instead of printing out images for the wall - but I should not have been concerned. Its my best installation set-up yet. People who came in today were enthusiastic. All the artists wanted to know where I bought the frames. Microcenter should stock up.

I like the15" frame but hanging the three 8" digital frames in a tight vertical line so the images interact visually is a very dynamic set-up.

The best news of all. The paint spot on the rug is gone. All gone.

One more hurdle - the opening on Friday - then I can forget about these babies until pick up March 1.

Feels like dropping kids off at the day-nursery assuring them I would be back in three hours. Then enjoying the break.

A memory - just a moment ago
a tv movie is droning in the background.
My ears pick up when I hear someone say, "Kilamnjaro, Africa."
I looked up, to watch an open land-rover speeding across the plains with zebra, or were they wildebeasts running along behind it.

" Is that where you were?" Jim asks.

I feel the heat and taste the dust of the July day I rode in a speeding land rover across the same expanse of plains, watching animals running free - as they should.

It was my 49th birthday. The first day of my 50th year.



A story for another day.

Preserve the memory.


On the brink - but saved

An image from Glimpses - one of a group of variations on this image of a stag's head. I first saw this concrete head over a doorway in Kenmare, Ireland when Jim and I were trapped on an elderhostel bus trip. But that is another story.

Jim helped me hang my part of the show yesterday. We went down to Gallery 10 about 10 am - and since five digital frames seemed very straught forward - I expected to be home no later than 2 PM.

But what is ever simple? Right? I stepped back and knocked over a can of white paint on the grey carpet. Would you like to know how sick it feels to look down and see a thick, creeping river of white latex paint speading at your feet? Pretty sick, I can tell you.

Thirty -five years of hanging art shows and I have never spilled paint before. I could not believe it. Lucy, our friend Claudia, Jim and I remained calm. No screaming.

We scooped up the top layer of juicy paint and stopped the spreading. I called a local paint store. 'Water and rags", hetold me. "Plenty of water and rags to blot it up with".

Six hours and six double rolls of Brawny paper towels later I had blotted up that white paint stain.

Today I can hardly walk. My knees are rebelling from the kneeling over a damp paper towel. Tight woven industrial carpet laid on an unpadded concrete floor is not kind to knees. My thighs are angry after all the squatting and stooping and crawling.

Jim hung the show beautifully - as he always does. This time he was measuring even more precisely than ususal with a lazer tool that our daughter gave him for Christmas. The digital frames are working. I love the way the images look as they slide from picture to picture.

Lucy's work looks great on the wall - wonderful printed digital image.

Our work and our approaches complement each other and combine for a strong show.


Storytelling and Bookmaking

For the month of January I working as an artist-storyteller - have been team teaching at Pyramid Atlantic with artist-author Adjoa Burrowes and Pyramd artist, Getchen Schmerhorn. We are working with a group of eighth grade girls and their volunteer adult mentors. What a great group - fun, interesting and interested - who have a positive friendship bond. Its an ideal group to work with.

Rather than have the girls write a new story we used a story with strong images - the Pumpkin Seed Bird - for content. Having that focus leaves the students free to learn how to make the book structure and create their collages from story images. Each student has made a long hand-made paper accordion book which has pockets for their collage images of the story. The images are collaged of vivid paste papers which they made in the class. If you have seen Adjoa's children's books you know that she masterfully uses the paste-paper collage technique for her joyous illustrations. Th students worked in the paper-mill with resident paper-maker, Gretchen Schmerhorn to make the paper for the book structures,

Sequentially the group each made long heavy pieces of hand-made paper for the main book structure,listened to the story and discussed the images, made the paste papers which would be their material for collage, constructed their collage images, more stories along the way and reminders of the original story, discussion of the collage technique and some historical connections, Romare Bearden particularly, folded the books and then assembled them. In ten days the books will be exhibited at Pyramid. The results are wonderful, vividly colorful books with expressive collaged illustrations. (If you read this before I add the pictures of the books, please come backto see what these young women made.) The workshop has been a wonderful art experience for these students and workng with them has been a gift.

This workshop leaves me more convinced than ever about the power of storyteling to complement learning in all settings.

Directions for making Paste Papers:

Paste paper is an easy, fun technique for making colorful papers to use for collage, and also for books. Artist books are often covered with paste papers and/or have inside end pages of paste paper. Its easier to make it in an art studio but its also possible in the classroom or at home.
Its messy, but a water clean-up.

Ingredients: wheat paste, liquid tempera paint, and water.
Supplies: Assortment of scrap containers: i.e. plastic cups, strong paper cups etc
1" and 2" cheap bristle brushes -
Stirrers for mixing the paint - popsickle sticks or plastic knives work well.
Spray bottles for dampening the paper
Implements like plastic knives and forks to scratch into the paper to make texture and design.
Large sheets of med. weight poster paper - to paint on.
you can experiment with other papers- shelf paper, craft papers, (construction paper is not a good choice - the paper must take water and not tear easily).
Paper to cover the work surface.
Paper towels.
Space to place the wet papers flat to dry.

Suggestion: experiment with some smaller size papers first to get the feel of the technique.

Set out cups, paints and stirrers.
Cheap 1 - 2" bristle brushes.
Fill a large container with tepid water or mix on a sink near the facuet.
Put a half cup of water in a cup, stir in a tablespoon of wheat paste, mixing to smooth, add more paste as needed to make it the consistency of cake batter, then add the color, drops at a time, mixing for the desired color. If you have only a few colors, after the basics are mixed, make a few colors by mixing colors into the paste: i.e. red and blue for purple.
CAUTION: Mix the wheat paste into the water - for a smooth paint.

Mix paint in scrap containers i.e. cottage cheese cartons, plastic or strong paper cups. Popsickle sticks are good stirrers.

Once your paints are ready, lightly spray a piece of the white paper with water, moist paper takes the paint better, paint the paste colors onto the sheeet, all over (you are making material not painting a picture), after the color is applied make texture marks on top (see photo), also leave some smooth surfaces.

Place the paper flat and face up to dry.

When you have a stack of dry papers they may curl. Place them under a large cardboad and put heavy books or bricks on top. Overnight if possible.

Making paste papers makes my fingers itch to sit down in my own studio with paper, scissors and glue. I first learned to make paste papers at Pyramid years ago and I had forgotten how much fun it is and how beautiful the papers are.


Oral Tradition Alive

Today I was telling stories at an elementary school - three groups divided into grades, 1 and 2, 3 and 4, and 5 and 6. Telling to the first and second grades was such fun. They loved the stories, sang out bombastically as the rooster in Rooster Calls the Sun. Kids love to be involved. They laughed and poked each other, smiling and happy. A delight.

The set with the third and fourth grades was a different story altogether. The third graders allowed themselves to get into the stories but the fourth graders were downright squirrelly. They could not keep still or pay attention. Their brownian movement was bothersome for my concentration but over time I have learned to just keep right on going.

When the fifth and sixth graders arrived their bigger bodies filled the library. They create a presence. I wondered how they would be today. Were they too having an "off" day. I told The Pumpkin Seed Bird and The Friendship Orchard . I like these stories because they have such vivid images Afterwards when I ask the students what images they would draw they are always ready with remembered scenes from the story.

We talked briefly about the oral tradition - that these stories had been passed down over many years and now, when I tell the stories to them the stories became theirs. "Take them and tell them to your families and friends. Carry the stories on."

At the end of the session when students were filing out, a sixth grade boy stepped around his classmates to approach me." When I tell the stories - can I change them?" There was a twinkle in his eyes. It was obvious he had an idea.
"Sure. The stories are yours now."
He turned away then turned back. "Thanks." He was smiling as he joined his class.

A young storyteller - I wish I could be there to hear his version.

Oral tradition is alive and well.


Long Day - Story and Art

Another preview from Glimpses. Photo taken on a September afternoon at a quiet, serene monastery outside Avignon, France.

My day was anything but quiet and serene. It started very early this morning. I am just now home and winding down and its 10:30 pm.

First a business meeting all morning, then a two hour session with a valued storytelling coach, and ending the day with team teaching an art/storytelling class this evening. Whew! I usually try to schedule so that there is not so much in one day but it happenes. So, I am tired but I feel good. Busy days where I feel positive and productive are exciting.

Why have a storytelling coach? I am preparing for a 90 minute solo program of folktales. I have selected the tales over the past few months by read, read, reading folktales and fairy tales. Now the list is narrowed to eight, long and short tales, which have some thing in common in theme or image. I am tweaking. I made another change to the list yesterday. I have been working on the stories for months - not intently true, but thinking about them and listening to the versions I have recorded on my iPod.

An all folktale program for adults is a new challenge for me. Usually my long programs are made up of family and personal stories. Except for Halloween.

I will take this program to Fresno, CA in March for the Rogue Festival. Since its a "fringe" festival I had thought I would tell stories that are a little racy but I changed my mind. The stories I am telling are interesting, mysterious, fun and difficult. They deal with romance and couple relationships but I will feel comfortabkle telling them for an audience which includes kids, 12 and over. In fact with what kids watch regularly on TV they will probably find these tame on that score. When it came down to it I asked myself, "why would I want to tell a program that I would feel embarrassed telling my older grandchildren." A good question.

Now its time for "feedback" from someone I trust. Someone whose opinion I value. Over time I have worked out a method of "learning" stories by listening to them. I record them onto my iPod and hear them over and over until I know, not the words, but the sequences and the images. Hearing them also suggests wordings. Today, when I told them to my "coach", was my first time of "telling" the stories out loud. He was interested in the stories, "they are different and they all have a certain mystery". He only knew two of the eight before hearing me tell them - and I felt good about that. This is a guy with experience, history, and a long repertoire. He made a few suggestions about how to tailor the final line-up for the program, i.e. type, length, emotional mood, rhythm, "be sure to plan it for variety". He did not solve the problem - he laid it out.

When I told him a quick version of a story I had thought to discard, he found the story interesting and advised me to wait before deciding to eliminate it. He asked me a few pointed questions that led me to see one aspect of the story a little differently. All in the interest of my being able to make the story real for the listener.

I guess you can tell that right now I am reviewing our meeting, thinking about his advice, comments, suggestions. Working on putting it all together. A lot like a painting. At this point with a painting each paint stoke brings you closer to a finish. A false move can also mean disaster and ruin. Careful, careful. Its the same with telling stories.

At the class this evening I tested one of the stories for the group of eighth grade girls. I figured they were old enough for the tale and would be intrigued. They were. Practice, practice, practice. For the next week everytime I tell stories I will be using a story or two from the Feb 3 program. I know each telling will be different.

No predicting how it will all come out.

That's the fun of it.

If you want to hear a folktale - my telling of the Bride of the Lindorm King is still playing on LocalPointtv.com. (go to their site, select performances from the header, then select Speakeasy, my telling is on the 2nd or 3rd page.)


After Thoughts on a Storytelling Performance

Tonight was a "once" chance to see James Braly in his One Man Show - Life in a Marital Institution.
This Washington event was sponsored by Speakeasydc and it was advertised as a must see "fringe" type show - sophisticated and edgy. Braley opens his show Off Broadway in NYC in February. Nothing but rave reviews on the web for his show. It is storytelling from New York City.

So I extracted myself from my own work and drove downtown to the Arts Club to hear him.

Braly's performance was tight, very professional. His delivery is polished with a casual look. I admired his language - surprising metaphors, rich imagery - by the end of the piece you had a feeling for the characters - but on the drive home I realized I did not like them.

Why? I ask myself. Am I not "up" on the hip outlook of today? Don't I understand dysfunction? All his reviews say he's wonderful. Brilliant. Insightful. etc. etc. What's wrong with me?

Look, I get dysfunction from my cradle, so I felt at home with his family. What turned me off was that by the end of the performance he had ridiculed every possible quirk, peculiarity, and New Age belief of his wife and used them to make the humor of his monologue. OK. OK. She sounds like a controlling, insecure flake who would be very hard to live with but this began to feel too much like wife bashing. I was reminded of how F. Scott Fitzgerald fueled his muse with the material drawn from his wife Zelda.

About twenty minutes into the monologue I realized I wasn't laughing. I just don't appreciate depreciating women. Mine were not the only laughs that sounded thin and hollow after a time. Even if this woman is a fiction - it gets to be rough going - if you are a woman and your consciousness recognizes what's going on. Or, am I too sensitive?

Yes, Braly laughs at himself, his weakness in dealing with his wife, his connection with her, his need for her - but, his swipes at himself are kinder than the ridicule being dished out for the wife in the piece. One wonders, is he a fiction?

Some people say that this type of biographical storytelling is "today", that it is brave - they favor it. Done well, I agree with them.

I was disappointed.

Braley performed skillfully, His work is cleverly written, but it doesn't come off well to my ear.
If these are real people - where is the emotional honesty?

I guess I expect more from storytellers.

For now, back to folktales, where even when the characters are two dimensional the truths hold.

Provence Memory

The Cathedral at Arles
memory of a September afternoon.
This is another preview of Glimpses show at Gallery 10.
As they say - a picture is worth a 1000 words - so I will use this one to mark today - instead of writing and whining about my running in place to meet my deadlines on this show and my story performance.
or ranting about
the stock market,
the political primaries,
the weather,
and the miriad other things that are worth a rant or two.


BRRRRRRRR - let's hear it for bears

Jim and I rode up to our PA place yesterday afternoon to check on things. It was cold, yes, but the skies were blue and the air crisp and sharp. As we moved NW from home the winds picked up. Riding so snug and warm inside the car I didn't think about what that could mean for the "outside".

At the moment my head was filled with stories, stories I am learning for a solo program February 3 - a pick of multi-cultural old folktales for grown-ups. The title of the program is Rogue Tales - stories of intrigue and deception. As I work on them I think they are more about tricksters - tricksters that are still about in the world today. And relationships. In these stories the trickster is not always the one you expect it to be. In one story its a father, in another an old, conniving crone who traps a young husband, in another a couple who set out to trick each other. By definition - a rogue is a trickster.

Jim and I talked about the program. He has not heard the stories yet but relationships and sometimes tricksters are his business so he asks good questions. Questions that help me clarify the story.

So you see how it was that we reached the house and were startled when the wind nearly yanked the door off the car when we opened it and it was more bitterly cold than we had expected. When Jim opened the kitchen door I rushed in to get out of the cold - and found myself stepping into a freezer locker. Brrrrrrr. Much colder inside. We raced from room to room - turning on floor heaters. I heated water from the Polar Water bottle for hot chocolate - just to feel the hot cup in my stiffening fingers. Jim asured me, "it won't take long to warm up."

It was bitter cold inside the house. Houses are supposed to be warm. Its a shock when they aren't.

Cook, I thought. Make lunch. OK. I stepped to the sink to wash the lettuce and when I turned on the faucet - nothing happened. The pipes were frozen. Not surprising really - the house sits on an unprotected rise and the kitchen wall faces a field. Winds buffet this wall. In this case - freezing the kitchen sink water pipes.

All the other inside pipes were flowing. Taps open. Toilets flushing.

We had come to check on things, right?

Despite many warming cups of tea and hot chocolate by five o'clock I was ready to go home! It was still cold in the house. I hunkered down in our back bedroom where it was a little warmer than the other parts of the house. But that's not saying much. We packed up. Then checked the kitchen sink. The pipes were still frozen. I was ready to abandon ship regardless but a casual call home to our daughter, another owner, reminded us what a disaster we would face if it burst. Her warning and Jim's good sense prevailed. We stayed.

Quickly Jim had a roaring fire going in the living room wood stove. All the heaters were running. I hibernated in the bedroom - now having added several more layers of clothing. Then I remembered the electric blanket on our bed. It did not take 20 minutes for it to heat up and for me to snuggle in. Remember what General Electric used to say, "Live better electrically."

I know. I know. Whining. What a wimp! But you have to understand - I am southern born, used to warmer climes, my blood is thin and I am shiver at the cold in a summer breeze.

As the winds whipped against the kitchen wall I thought of "Little House on the Prairie" where they had no choice but to stay put in hard times. My admiration for pioneer women soars. What a debt we owe them.

And a personal thank you to Thomas Alva Edison. Isn't he the one who harnassed electricity?

This morning I woke up warm as toast under a mound of blankets. As I savored the warmth of the electric blanket a few more minutes, I thought of the story I told last week at the ANS pre-school. "Why the Bear Sleeps All Winter" and I felt a new kinship with bears. Smart, aren't they?


Glimpse in Pink

A variation on a photo taken in a monastery outside Avignon, France. This is a keeper for Glimpses.
Juliana and I worked all day preparing the frames. Adding pictures, re-doing and resizing the images as needed. Adding sound.
Adding sound - simple right. Wrong. But Juliana perservered and worked out the technical bugs.
Making the show has been hard and fun! I have really loved revisiting these place through the pictures - the digital journals - and thinking about our journeys. That's where the stories come from.



Lucy Blankstein and I are sharing a show at Gallery 10 which opens January 29. This will be our third show together. We come up with an idea and then work out our individual "take" on it.

Lucy and I have history together. We met at the Washington Women's Arts Center in the late 1970s, have been in several artists' groups and many of the same shows. We laugh and we understand each other. Bottom line - I admire her work and enjoy working with her.

We both use digital cameras and we take quick photos rather than studied shots when we travel. We use the digital camera as a sketchbook - to take visual notes, to remind us of a detail, to catch an impression. One day at Starbucks we talked about our digital journalling and decided to develop a show from them. This is it. Glimpses: Digital Journals.

For months I have been going through photo files selecting, editing, and working with my "journals." Let me tell, you when you shoot randomly, catching glimpses of everything that catches your fancy, you pile up a lot of files to sift. The computer and cds hide the bulk - but they do accumulate. I am very grateful they are not all printed out.

My part of the show has evolved into an installation using digital frames - five digital frames of varied sizes. I am using about 400 images which are segmented into "story" groups which move, one image flowing into another. My primary aesthetic interest is, as always, color and light - so with some Provence images I have multiple versions of a single image - changing color and light with the feeling of Monet's haystacks.

My granddaughter, Juliana, has been the technical wizard - transferring the files to the frames. The frames are made by three different companies and their procedures vary. Some of that has to do with the size. I am using a 15", an 11" and three 8" for my collection of urban walls. The next hurdle is adding sound to several of the frames. ( a few of the urban walls series are in the small slide show at the top of this blog).

And, not to disappoint follks who expect wall works in a show, I have three 20" x 30" poster collages.

As I made the final selections, tweaking and changing, I was sorry to edit out the "mimes."
Jim and I were in Provence several summers ago. Walking through Arles we happened onto a street performer. This mime stepped onto a box platform and shifted poses for about 15 minutes. He was so good that at first glance I thought he was a plaster statue. Jim strolled on while I stayed to take photos of him as he changed poses.

I thought I would use the series of photographs in my art show, Glimpses, but so far they aren't working.

I will hold them for another day. Its hard to give up the idea. But when it isn't ready; it isn't ready.

I tell a story about how my grandmother made a cake - a little of this, a little of that - no recipe, all instinct. Watching Granny cook taught me to trust that the cake will rise.

Oops. Not always. But better to ditch the cake that fell than spoil the dinner.


On the question of "bucket lists"

Jim brought in the USA Today that someone tossed outside our hotel room door when we were in North Caroliina visiting with Mama this week. I like USA Today for its quick, sometimes off-beat articles but, its not a regular read for me. So, when traveling its a treat.I waited until we were on the road before I took my turn with the paper.

This past Tuesday, Janaury 15, Cathy L. Grossman and Laura Bly wrote an interesting article "Jump On It Before You Kick" about the bucket list craze that's everywhere today. One wonders which came first, the movie or the list-making. I am sure the list making was always there in some form - so perhaps its the moniker - "the bucket list" that's new.

The article quotes Caroline Adams Miller, an author and motivational speaker who lives in Bethesda, MD, " It's not enough to react to life on a day-by-day basis. People need a road map. Life lists are one of the best ways to plumb the depths of the human psyche." The article goes on to tell you that Miller is also a Life Coach and that she encourages people to make a 100 item roster. Her website Your100things.com, posts goals and lets users see how their list stacks up.

In the introduction to this website Ms. Miller says, "One of the best ways to achieve your own goals is to create public accountability and support by sharing them with a wide audience."

Now wait a minute. I feel the pressure already.

First, I admit it, I have not written a "bucket list" with 20 things on it. I am thinking about it but I have not done it. Now, here is someone who is saying I need 100 things- or goals - on my list and then advising me to publish it so people can watch me struggle under the weight of the list I have created.

Here is where I draw the line.

The premise of this website strikes me as setting up a competition with your life's dreams and goals at the center. When we kick the bucket are we to go down screaming "I lived mine better than you did!" I thought a "bucket list" was about joy, happiness, satisfaction, dreams - this sounds like winning.

The truth is (for me) my day-to-day lists are so long in order to keep up with the goals I am already working on that I cannot bear to think about any other kind of list.

I think this all started twenty years ago when I read some books, or maybe a newspaper article, on achieving your dreams, on making a life-map - something like that. I have always been susceptible to hints and suggestions on how to work out my life. Often they have worn me out

Today Staying in the flow and following my bliss work for me.

Here are a few headliners to start my bucket list:

Hold on to my serenity

Sleep close and warm with Jim

Hug my family

Savor my friendships

Keep telling stories.

When I left home at 10:30 am to tell stories at a near-by pre-school a very light snow had begun to fall. An hour later the snow had changed to large fluffy clumps falling and the world had been covered with white. Everything looked magically beautiful. I stopped to take some photos - to hold the moment.


Weather Alert

Jim and I drove back from North Carolina today. We started out at 6:30 am in the cold dark entering Hwy 85 to join a herd of trucks already galloping up the road.

We watched as the big orange ball of a sun came up. Seeing it, I thought of a story I have been telling lately, The Sun Catcher. In that story a hunter goes to that place where the sky meets the earth, puts down a net and catches the sun. I saw that it does look like the sky is touching the earth and the sun appears so large and close that you can imagine that you could touch the sun. I want to hold that image in my mind's eye so that from now on when I tell the story I will really understand and see how those people long ago could draw that image.

About 11 o'clock my phone beeped letting me know that I was receiving a weather alert text message for the Maryland area - a warning that there was an unexpected snow squall ahead. Sure enough, as we reached Fredericksburg the skies darkened, the winds picked up and snow began to sweep the road. We rode into a white haze.
We were in the squall about an hour. Sometimes the snow fell heavily, other times more lightly. Winds changed suddenly swerving the car on the road.

When we approached the exits for the Washington Beltway, 495,just as suddenly as we had driven into it, we rode through it and into sunlight and bright blue skies. We drove toward home as though there had been no storm. We might have imagined it - except for the white remnants on the hood of our car.

Isn't that like life? Sometimes you have a warning when things are changing; sometimes not. All the same you have to ride through the storm.

This week-end my siblings and I received an alert. Our 92 year old mother was in the hospital for a few days. She weathered the assault on her body this time but its clear there are more squalls ahead. And we have to ride through them with Mama.


Starting a Bucket List

Is it really January 14?

How did that happen? I mean other than one minute, one second, one day at a time.

I had such plans for how I would alter my schdule, stay on track, focus - you know, get it together - in 2008. Ah, the best laid plans.

Once again - life is what happens OFF the list, not On the calendar.

Since we came back from California I have been getting ready for my show at Gallery 10. And learning and practicing the stories for my Rogue Tales program here in February and in California in March. Sounds straight forward, not too complicated - but then - LIFE intervenes. A friend dies; my mother stops eating and lands in the hopsital - our dog, Princess Leia, has diarrhea and keeps pooping on the carpet in the living room.

All things that are out of my control. And isn't that what lists and calendars are about - trying somehow to control our world?
To keep ourselves comfortable?

Yesterday Jim and I left Washington at 7:30 am to drive to North Carolina to see Mama - in the hospital. The skies were clear and the world looked lovely dispite some dire weather predictions. Traffic was light and Hwy 95 seemed wider and faster as we rocketed through Virginia.

My chatty kathy self was in full swing filling the car with conversation. I told Jim about a recent discussion on a storytellers listserve I follow where folks were writing about their personal "Bucket Lists. - a topic raised by the new movie with Jack Nicolson and Morgan Freeman who play two old dying men. "Granny Sue started it. A list of 20 things, including wanting to learn how to make moonshine. Stephen Hollen chimed in with his wish to tell on the big stage in Jonesborough. I have not made mine yet." Then I askd, " What would you put on your bucket list?"

Scenery flew by in the silence. At first I thought Jim was just letting the topic slide by with the fields. Then he said, " I want to fly an airplance. I want to take-off and land a plane."

Who was ready for that? I felt my chest tighten. Words began to rise in my throat - words to discourage him, words to get between him and that dream -words to edit HIS bucket list.

When I heard myself thinking of words to edit HIS bucket list - I realized I was thinking about my comfort not his dream. Was I really doing that?

Instead I said, " I thought you wanted to learn to play a musical instrument."

" That's right. I do.
AND, I want to fly a plane."

"Well I want to learn to sing a song. I know I will put that on my bucket list. Maybe we can do THAT together. You play something and I will sing."

"Sounds like a good idea."

Had we just completed a negotiation?

I saw him lookiing out the window. I wondered if he was thinking about how it would feel when he landed a plane for the first time.

So I started to hum an old song, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. - - - - -"

Maybe I could manage that.

My Bucket List has begun.


Ron Haynie -

1969 was my second year at Dunbarton College of the Holy Cross. A thirty year old housewife and mother of three I was stepping out into a new world as a fledgling artist. That same September twenty something Ron Haynie, a newly minted MFA graduate from American University took his first college teaching position - teaching painting and art history at a small Catholic women's college - also Dunbarton.

At the time I had no idea how lucky I was to encounter Ron as a guide as I ventured forth re-discovering the world by SEEING it through a painter's eyes. Ron was determined he would help his students belly up to the bountiful feast the world sets before us. He urged us to dig in.

Ron did not walk into a studio classroom - he burst in, brush or book in hand, his mouth moving. A veritable cheerleader for art - our art. The studio was his oyster. His enthusiasm was infectious. His love for painting and paintings was soul deep and he shared it lavishly. He cared that we too would feel the same passion for color and light, paint and canvas that he did.

Ron was one of the most articulate people I have ever known. Behind a slide projector, lecturing on art history, he used words to paint the connections between disparate periods of art history - to show us the visual links between pieces of art made centuries apart. Always nudging, pushing his students to Look. Look, Look. Not to be satisfied with the first quick recognition, look harder, look closer, look and see - to understand. And if he thought you didn't get it the first time he could say the same thing ten more times, differently, until something connected.

I will never forget a field trip to the Barnes Collection Ron organized for us at Dunbarton. At that time the Barnes in Philadelphia was somewhat closed and you could only get in to see the works by special appointment. Masperpiece works by Matisse and Picasso held captive so to speak. When the doors opened promptly at 10 am he was so excited by the art that it was hard to keep up with him. He was like a kid in a candy shop. Racing ahead of us, calling back. "Come here. See this. Don't you recognize this one? Can you believe it." To this day, I never walk into a gallery that my heart does not quicken, that I don'l feel a rush of excitement, a heightened sense of expectancy. Ron Haynie ignited that spark and I am deeply grateful to him for sharing his love of art so exuberantly.

Ron's teaching 40 years ago at Dunbarton and later at American University still influences how I look at art and the world, how I make my art and how I teach. How I walk into a gallery. How I look at a painting.

In 1969 Ron stood at the beginning of a distinguished career as a teacher/professor and painter. He continured to teach at Dunbarton until it closed and then at American University until a few years ago.

Ron Haynie died January 4, 2008. At his service today a former student, a colleague, and a family member reflected on his impact on them. They teared and wept and we in the chairs wept with them. How could you not weep?

Isn't a teacher, one who has made a real and lasting impact on students and colleagues, a "father" of a kind.

I am reminded of the woman telling Atticus' daugher in 'To Kill a Mockingbird' " stand up, your father is passing by."

From Ron's Service:

Reluctance by Robert Frost

Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last long aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question 'Whither?'

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?


Home Again -

We are back home. It was a little easier to leave knowing we will return soon since I am performing at the Rogue Festival in Fresno the first and second week-ends in March.

Its always hard to leave when we are visiting with our grandsons and our daughter on the West Coast. 3,000 miles is a darn long way. Technology is a help. Email and telephone are important connectors. But they are not the real thing, are they?

The flight back was another one of those rocking and rolling journeys. I hate that! I just hate it. By the time we reached the Rockies the pilot announced that as soon as we reached the "front range" it would settle down. That would be in twenty minutes. HA! Two hours later we were still on a bucking bronco and landed in cross winds at Dulles. Karen met us and said, "Those winds just came up."

I know. We brought them.

So much for that.

We are home. Jim is back at work. I am back at work. Things are sliding back into our usual routine.

There is comfort in the ordinary.



The close of the Christmas Season - for another year.

Epiphany when the Wise Men followed a star to find the new born babe. Epiphany - a chance to see a great light.

This morning the priest preached on this topic. He said, "God gives us a star to follow - if we see it. A star to follow to find God."

I found myself writing notes in Mass, taking down tidbits from his sermon because I want to remember it. He went on, "technology gets in the way of our seeing our star or hearing our call".

Technology has us running so fast, becoming so impatient we cannot hear our call or see our star. I know that is true for me. I love technology. It diverts me. It can sometimes own me.

In this time for intentions:

I intend to slow down
to unplug,
to listen
to watch for a sign
to scan the heavens for my star
so that I have more of a chance to find where I am intended to be,
that I have a chance to fnd God.


12 Drummers Drumming

The Twelfth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me 12 drummers drumming - oh, please don't.

New things I have encountered, thanks to my daughter, during the past twelve days:

Reel Geeks - a site on YouTube where two octogenarians review current movies. They are witty, knowledgeable film professionals who don't pull any punches. They were recently written up in the San Francisco Chronicle

Books:My daughter has a knack for finding interesting books - so I love to cruise her bookshelves when we visit.
1. Living to Tell the Tale, A guide to writing Memoir by Jane Taylor McDonnell. Now out of Print I am heart broken to learn.
Really informative guide for writers and storytellers on how to shape a story.

2. Working Four Hours a Day by Timorthy Ferriss. I spotted that book open face down on the couch as soon as we walked in.
On a quick browse the best tip - don't open your email first in the mornings - that puts
you on someone else's fire drill before you put out your own fires or proceed on your list.

3. 101 People Who Never Lived - and Influenced Your Life. Think about it. Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, Doctor Kildare, and
a selection of other popular and classic literary characters. Fun to look through and something to think about for a

4. The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. Led to this by a poem Granny Sue quoted on her blog. Five interesting books
waiting for me at some library at home. I checked them out here just to take a look. Celtic fantasy for adolescents, well
written, pre-Harry Potter themes, written in the late 1970s.

5. Rent Two Films and Call Me in the Morning. A clever choice our daughter gave to Jim for Christmas. The premise - two
therapists have listed films by themes, suggesting that clients could watch two working the problem from different
perspectives and then talking about the films to get to the issues. A good gift for Jim - a practicing MD Psychiatrist.


11th Day of Christmas

Eleventh Day of Christmas - Eleven Pipers Piping.

On the eleventh 11th day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me,
Eleven 11 pipers piping,
Ten 10 lords a-leaping,
Nine 9 ladies dancing,
Eight 8 maids a-milking,
Seven 7 swans a-swimming,
Six 6 geese a-laying,
Five 5 golden rings.
Four 4 calling birds,
Three 3 French hens,
Two 2 turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

We drove back to San Francisco today - 3 hard hours through wind and rain. Jim had the hardest turn from Livermore to Walnut Creek riding into a driving rain. Limited visibility. Jim said, "I am grateful for those white lines." And it led him to remember one of the best papers he wrote in high school. He was a 16 year old new driver when he wrote an A paper about the importance of having white lines on the highway and using hand signals to commmunicate between drivers and promote safety. Anybody remember using hand signals? They are not seen often today.

We were glad to park the car on the street outside our daughter's house. Whew!

Tonight the area weather was the main story on TV news and we could see how lucky we were.


Tenth Day of Christmas

Tenth Day of Christmas
10 Lords a Leaping - for me that's basketball players, running and leaping from on end of the court to another.

We spent the day visiting with family. Lovely. Just nice to be together. We did take a group to see National Treasure 2 - the new Nicolas Cage movie. My second time seeing it. Jim slept through it and he had ever seen it before - too loud and not subtle enough to hold his interest. Not to mention how far-fetched. The best scene in the movie -when Helen Mirren, the ex-wife, gives Jon Voight, her ex-husband, "the look". She has such a wonderful face. I thought National Treasure 1 was more intriguing and clever. Will they go for 3 - I hope not - but if they do I hope they can convince HM to come along.

We drove in to Fresno and stopped by Ashtree Studio where I will be telling stories during the Rogue Festival in March. Glad to see the space. Intimate. Good for storytelling. I was surprised to recognize Fresno storyteller, Terence McArthur. I met him last year during the Rogue. He was putting final touches on his art show which was opening that evening. Nice to meet him in another persona.


Down Highway 99

Checked the internet for a more traditional look at the Ninth Day.

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me -

Nine Ladies Dancing
The nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit: 1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness
6) generosity, 7) faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

That makes the ninth day spiritually rich.

Today Jim and I drove from San Francisco to the San Joachim Valley to Jim's hometown. Memories all the way, especially when we rode down Highway 99 enjoying the mix of the old famliar with the new. But the real treat was riding down the highway with the visibility so clear that we could see the sun lit snow capped Sierra Mountain peaks to our left for miles. Beautiful. Awesome.

Brought back memories of Jim taking me to Yosemite Park in 1959 for my first sight of these majestic mountains. It was love at first sight although the drive up on a two lane road with no guard rails was the real reason my heart was pounding.

Jim and I played with those memories and later we brought his sister and brothers into the game of recapturing memories.

But you never stay on a straight path when you talk memories, do you? How we got
there I don't know but we started listing candies we used to eat at the movies: necco wafers, hot tamales, jujubees, raisinets, boston baked beans, and more and more. Brought back some good times and we agreed to meet for a quick supper before a movie date tomorrow evening. Sounds good.


Happy New Year

Oops, I missed the 7th Day of Christmas - I left those seven swans a swimming.

My excuse for the 7th day - San Francisco in December can be, has been, cold and raining and we caught something and have been sick. I spent the day parked next to the fire in the den. Jim rallied and made-up a delicious soup to celebrate our son-in-law's birthday.

and our daughter led the group in finishing the 2007 Puzzle.

With that tied up we are in good shape to enter the New Year.

The Eighth Day of Christmas is the First Day of the New Year.

Wouldn't it be great to wake up this morning - January 1 of a New Year without any carry over from the lists of 2007? I didn't.
Part of my intentions for 2008 is to face down procrastination and over-scheduling.

Intentions - seems like in everthing I read people are talking about intending to do something.

I like this new way of looking at new beginnings - to make intentions - not resolutions. Breaking resolutions just bathed me in guilt. Straying from intentions sounds survivable - like you can pick yourself up - and start over.

The other day I was shopping at Long's Drugstore - cruising the now drastically reduced Christmas goods. When I turned a corner and saw this woman selecting her Christmas cards for next year - I pulled out my camera.

I was struck by her optimism and her determination in the face of real challenges. Awed by her hope.

That's what I need for new beginnings whether they are resolutions or intentions. Or life.

Sbe's my 2008 Pin Up Girl.