Joke to Art - the Real Story

Necessity is a great mother for invention.

I needed a new small sculpture to deliver to Gallery 10 tomorrow.

Yesterday I walked into my studio and began looking around. I had been thinking that I wanted to experiment with an "assemblage" - you know - a little of this, a little of that - like the ham salad the other night.

I gathered some layers: a wide frame for a base, a small unfinished canvas, and a smaller scrap from a frame. I kept looking around, poking my nose in here and there and then - - I saw it at the back of a shelf. I saw the hand made wooden bull-shit grinder my father gave me in the 1970s as a joke-gift - teasing me for working as a lobbyist for equal rights for women artists.

The grinder was perfect. It is a compact square - it just fit in the empty hole of the smallest frame and the grinding lever added a new dimension - it made the piece interactive. People could move the lever and actually grind. I could see these pieces fitting together. It would work.

Voila - all that was left to do was some hot glue gun action and I was home free.

Laughing, sometimes giggling, I glued the construction together.

Perhaps someday I will write an artist statement, you know bloated art talk, saying the piece was a social statement. I could say that it was inspired by these recent months and months of Presidential Primaries and all their campaign rhetoric -
and influenced by the art work of Robert Rauschenberg.

That's how art stories evolve - how myths are formed.

Today we know - the real story - about this art work.

I am sure Daddy would like the piece - the re-invention of his bull-shit grinder from a joke to art.

Its a Robert Diggle kind of joke.

Today, however, I get the last word -
my title for the art work:
Homage to My Father: A Great American Bull Shit Artist

from his loving daughter.


Washington Folk Festival May 31 and June 1

Great day at Glen Echo Park in Glen Echo, MD.

Family Fun, Music, Food and Storytellers Galore.

Noon to 7 pm both days - Rain or Shine.

I am looking forward to hearing all the tellers I can and telling myself at 5 PM on Sunday.



Left-overs and a Masai Movie

CNN and our bank account agree on the rising cost of food. Fortunately my interest in cooking has perked up lately, right when I need to call up my money-saving recipes and tricks. I am working up "refrigerator surprise" dinners- you know, what you have is what you get.

Cooking with left-overs is a challenge. Unpredictable. Kind of like my art work - a little of this and a little of that.

This afternoon I looked at the bit of baked ham left over from the family dinner the other night and thought ham salad would taste good. Even though it meant hunting up the food processor. I had not used that thing in so long I was not sure just where it was. Fortunately it was a short hunt and all the pieces were together.

Ham Salad
I ground the ham and transferred it to a bowl. Then chopped the half of a red onion left from a green salad and some celery. Mixed that all together in the bowl.
Hand chopped two hard-boiled eggs I remembered were in the refrigerator and added them to the ham mixture.
Shook on salt and pepper.
Mixed it all together with "real" mayonnaise. I like the taste of mayonnaise so maybe added three tablespoons.

Cole Slaw.
Since the food processor was found and set up I decided to make slaw with half the head of cabbage I noticed in the crisper.
Then chopped a yellow onion and some celery. Mixed it all together in a blue bowl. Splashed in some apple cider vinegar, shook in salt and pepper, and then added the mayonnaise. Mixed it all together and tasted what I had. Oops, a little too much vinegar taste. So I chopped half a yellow bell pepper for some more sweetness and mixed that in. Voila - a good tasting slaw.

I served the ham salad on a bed of sliced iceberg lettuce. For side dishes I added boiled sliced red-skin potatoes (which Jim loves), and the slaw along with toasted garlic bread and Arnold Palmer's to drink- that's one-half iced tea and one half lemonade.

A good warm evening supper.

Touching Base with Africa:
Once my supper was fixed and waiting I sat down to watch the Netflix movie I ordered the other day after Elizabeth Wallace recommended it as an excellent dramatization of a folktale and a good research tool for the African story I am working on.

Masai: The Rain Warriors
This is an intriguing movie adaptation of a Kenyan folktale - filmed in Kenya with Masai tribesmen acting out the story. The hunt for a mystical lion takes place on the golden plains under the limitless African sky. Well done movie. Interesting story.

Watching the movie was very special to me.
In 1985 I went to Kenya and my memories of the trip and the experiences are still vivid. This beautiful film intensified and adds to my memories. I am grateful for the images of snow-capped Mount Kilamanjaro, golden tall grasses, and majestic Masai warriors wrapped in red cloth.

It was far, far from home.

I tell a long story, 10,000 Miles TO Home, about the mis-adventures of that three week adventure during the 1985 United Nations Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya. My friend Josephine called it a transformation story when I told it to her Women's Studies Class at the University of Maryland. I know being tested by being so far out of my comfort zone on so many levels did change me. And I was gifted with a spiritual awakening in the vast Genesis-like plains when we made our game drives. Everything about the trip was unforgettable.

Masai Movie and Saladds


Three Beautiful Things

My heart is heavy right now with Mama's continuing decline so focusing on calling to mind three beautiful things is a helpful exercise for me.

1. Telling my program Patchwork: It's in the Stitches at Quince Orchard Library today and discovering that one of the women in the audience is also from Charlotte. Not just that. She graduated from Central High School
in the same class with my sister Lynda and they know each other. How's that for small world?

Celebrating Mama by telling Handmade, a story about her and some memorable outfits she made for Kathy, Lynda and me. Feeling her presence in the story is comforting. Thank God for the blessings of storytelling.

3. Our son-in-law Brad flew in from California on business and stopped for dinner with the family that lives here before he started work. Enjoying listening to the family catching-up. Seeing their faces around the table was a beautiful sight.


More on the NC trip.

Because of the week-end Race traffic my cousin suggested we take Hwy #51 to Hwy #601 so we would avoid the Interstate and the traffic congestion. This route took us right through the towns of Matthews and Mint Hill. Home country for my mother's long ago family.

Tunis Hood came to Mecklenburg County in the 1760s. He settled and sired a passle of kids who married and populated the area for generations. My mother descends from Tunis Hood. The only obvious remnants of his presence are street names and a sign on a small shopping area. But I feel good riding through the area recognizing names I have seen on census records and land documents. Names like Clear Creek, Morning Star, and Rocky River.

Gated housing communities with imposing titles on the rock walls dot Hwy #51 like some big giant had planted them along the road. Shopping centers with names like Arboreteum and Sycamore Commons have sprung up taking over acres of trees and farm lands. The road reeks of progress and expansion.

Mama says she first drove a car by herself down to Mint Hill and back because there were no cars on the road and Mint Hill was a "wide place in the road" where she could turn the car around. Today its much more than than - four lanes run through downtown and I saw new shops and we passed a couple of shopping centers on either side of town. Its a large suburb of Charlotte.

Wonder what this sign means?

Money probably.

I remember some years ago telling a friend of mine in Charlotte that Mama's family sold their "rock poor" farm in Mint Hill in 1889 so they could move to town for better opportunities. He laughed and shook his head, " too bad - your family sold too soon, Ellouise. Now is the time to make money on that land."

Today we sell the land and buy our food overseas.


Memorial Day - Another Old Soldier

My mother's maternal grandparents and many of her long ago people are buried in this old graveyard at the Philadelphia Presbyterian Church in Mint Hill, NC. My genealogy research first brought me here twenty years ago and I have come many times since then.

Its been a few years since I have been in this "neck of the woods" and I have been worried about the HALL plot. My mother's cousin Buck Hall used to send a man out to trim the large hedges but Buck died about five years ago. I was pretty sure no one had been tending to the trimming since then. And I was right. I knew exactly where to find Thomas Milton Hall and is wife Alice Shaffer Hall but you could never have found them if you hadn't known where to look.

Jim picked up some clippers and heavy gloves to deal with the long,vicious thorns on one to the volunteer wild rose bushes.

And filled large black plastic bags with cuttings.

At least now you can find them.

Remembering an Old Soldier.

On July 23,1863 Thomas Milton Hall was eighteen years old when he enlisted in the Confederate Army. He was a member of Company H, the 35th Regiment of the NC Infantry - known as the "Mecklenburg Farmers". They were all local boys and men from the Mint Hill area of Mecklenburg County. He was injured at the Battle of Petersburg, captured by the Union Troops and held prisoner at Point Lookout, Maryland. He was mustered out on June 6,1865. He walked home.

In case you are wondering - its 423 miles from Point Look Out Fort to Mint Hill, NC.


It's Our Irish Coming Out

Had not thought of Cheerwine in years until I saw the truck. Its a NC soft drink. A fizzy cherry flavored drink in a red and white can with a red pull tab. Can't buy it where I live. So I bought a bunch of cases. I know I will enjoy sipping the memory.

Memorial Day week-end is Race Week-end in the Concord- Charlotte area. Hotels are booked solid. I was nervous about waiting any longer to come down again to see Mama so my cousin Jimmy and his wife Pam took us in. Its always a pleasure to be with them and even though our major focus had to be spending time with my mother we did have a chance for some short visits.

We were sitting in their living room talking over the day and my cousin said, "Ellouise you make a story out of anything that happens."

"Yes, I guess I do. If you live it it should be worth telling about it."

Pam jumped in. "Jimmy, that's what you do. Ellouise, he takes forever to answer a question because it comes out a story."

It hit me. Clear as a bell. "That's what "they" did - our parents, his mother and my dad and thier siblings, the aunts and uncles we grew up with. We come by it honestly. And I know why.

Recently someone, maybe it was Kate last week end, told me that they had loved their trip to Ireland except - whenever that they asked a question they had to wait through the story to get to the answer, even if it was just asking for directions.

"Jimmy - I've got it. We can't help it. It's our Irish coming out!"

Frustrating or not, I am delighted for the evidence the connection to those roots is alive and well.


Pattern of love

Sitting with Mama while she was sleeping I was so aware of how she lives surrounded by the ones she loves.
The pictures make a pattern on the wall of her life and her dreams.
It reminded me of a Vuillard painting.

Last week Mama told me "they keep moving me around but I want to be with my family." It took me a bit to realize she was telling me that she wants to stay in her room - that's where her family is.

Makes sense to me.


Back to North Carolina - Being with Mama

Jim and I drove down today to spend time with Mama. No pressure, no stress. Just taking it easy and "being" here. Lovely.

These times are prescious.


My Knees, My Knees

These stairs are daunting.

It was my turn to gallery sit at Gallery 10 today. As I drove downtown I began to dread these steps. I call them an alp.

Fortunately I found a two hour parking meter on Connecticutt Avenue so I only had to walk up these stairs three times. That's 75 steps - yes, I count them - straight and steep - up.

I remember when Jim and I went to Switzerland about 20 years ago. At a charity silent auction we bid on a few days stay in a colleague's chalet in Verbier, the fabled ski resort. We were delighted when we took the bid. It was for September. Off-season. No skiing. Fine by me.

Well Jim and I trained for weeks by walking every day in our neighborhood where there are some really breath-snatching hills that make your calves burn. By September I was in top form. Ready.

We flew into Geneva and then rode progressively smaller gauge trains to reach Verbier. When the trains ran out we boarded a bus and watched through panoramic windows as the vista became wider and wider below us. Said bus dropped us in the center of the village.

A friendly soul pointed up toward a group of houses.

Forget all my training or my being in top form. Steep is daunting and this was the steepest hill I had ever encountered. As we struggled toward the houses locals headed toward the same place trotted past us. I was amazed they were walking, talking and laughing at the same time while I hoped I could keep breathing.

Four days we stayed there. Walking down at a fast clip with me dragging in the rear on the return trip.

I feel the same when I stand at the bottom of these steps - - wishing for a lift.


Keeping Track - Be Prepared

Three Beautiful Things:
1. Its back!
I called my TV producer first thing this morning and left a heart wrenching message saying I hoped my calendar was somewhere in her studio. She called a couple of hours later to tell me she found it on the floor, under a chair, safe and sound. I thanked her profusely, feeling very relieved not to have to track down all my gigs and appointments for the next few months by making embarrassed phone calls.

So here it is - safely back in my hands. Feels good to know where I have said I will be and when I said I would be there.

Just in case - - I sat down and made two copies of the the calendar. You know - Be Prepared.

And - - remember to enter each new appointment three times.

2. My new blue bottle. On my recent road trip with Kate Dudding we must have been talking about blue bottle trees at one point because Kate told me that it would be easier to gather blue bottles in her area. Saratoga Springs water is sold in blue bottles. Imagine that! Secretly I wondered how I could raid a few dumpsters but there was no opportunity. Perhaps Kate read my mind.

Before we left her house Kate gave me this saratoga Springs water bottle which I stowed safely in my suitcase. One bottle closer to my own blue bottle tree.

3. A sprig or two of parsley.
These are the two kinds of green parsley growing in a pot on our deck. For those who have vegetable gardens and plots to grow things that thrive under their green thumbs this may not look like much. But it's big for me - something I have grown that we can eat.

This is one teeny tiny step celebrating those people who are self-sustainable -

My friend Granny Sue writes about her life on a farm on a ridge in West Virginia where she and her husband Larry grow what they need to eat and raise the rest on four legs or in hen houses and pens.
They are self-sustainable.
On her blog Granny Sue shares the richness of her way of living. I admire and envy her independence and her closeness with nature.

For me, a sedentary city dweller, Safeway is my best hope for the makings of our next meal and I drive my car to get them and then carry them home in a brown paper sack.

This pot of parsley is my salute to Granny Sue and all of you who bring food forth from your own earth.


Oops - I left my calendar somewhere

After dumping everything out of my purse and ransacking the car I have to admit it. I have lost my calendar - not just a calendar - my appointment book. I can't believe I have let the long, slim, hot pink book slip through my fingers.

I know exactly where I wrote in it last today - and so I have my fingers crossed that it is on the desk at Montgomery Municipal Cable. After I finished taping my latest story Melissa and I agreed on another taping date and I took out my calendar and wrote it down.

If this seems like a lot of space yacking about a calendar - think about it. After tomorrow I don't know where I am promised to be for storytelling. Man, that's trouble. Trouble for me and whoever might be expecting me.

I am hoping its a simple fix tomorrow.

Three beautiful things today:
1. When I came to tell stories today at the Audubon Pre-school 20 kids ran up to me smiling and calling my name. ready for stories. I was wearing a jacket that has a bit of bright braid and sequins. One five year old stopped beside me, " you look like a rock star, Ellouise." I love it.

2. Stopping by the library and finding The Mistress of Spices, a book Elizabeth Ellis recommended. No wait. It was waiting on the shelf. I sat down and dipped into it immediately. The language is beautiful and the intriguing beginning on page one caught my attention right away. " But the spices are my love. I know their origins and what their colors signify, and their smells. I can call each of them by the true-name it was given at the first, when earth split like a skin and offered it up to the sky. Their heat runs in my blood. From amchur to zafran, they bow to my commands. At a whisper they yield up to me their hidden properties, their magic powers."

I am always glad to start a new book - hoping to meet characters that will capture my imagination and carry me into their world. While I was waiting for assistance I heard the woman in front of me tell the Librarian, " I am coming in more often so that I can cut back on how much I spend buying books." Yes! And aren't we the luckiest folks to have libraries open and inviting us in?

3. Being home with Jim.


Home Again, Home Again

We crossed the Mohawk River when Kate drove me to the airport bright and early on this sunny morning. After four such good days I hated to hug Kate good-bye but it was time to go home.
I had time to lollygag in the airport - look at the art on the walls, make phone calls, and peruse all the books in the shop. Nice, slow time to transition from the heady storytelling work-shop week-end back to "real life"

The flight with Southwest Air Lines
from Albany to Baltimore was quick, one hour, and smooth except for a few bumps on landing. Jim was waiting at baggage - hugs and smiles. He was holding a tall, iced diet coke from the near-by sandwich bar. Sunshine all around.

Until -

On the tall escalator up to the parking deck Jim, just ahead of me, tripped on a suitcase and toppled over, flat on this face on the moving staircase. A startling sight. I reached to grap hold of him but he was out of reach. He grabbed the hand rail to pull himself back up, instead the next thing I saw it looked as though he had flipped feet over his head - trying to regain standing. Two men behind me pushed past me and rushed forward to assist him. By this time they had all reached the top of the escaltor and Jim landed in a sitting position on the floor.

"Jim, Jim, are you all right?" I called out. Trying to keep my own balance, I walked up toward him. "Yes," He reached for his head - and then we all saw the blood staining his white hair bright red. The men, Southwest Air Lines folks, called for back up and paramedics. Someone handed Jim paper towels which he held to his head as a compresion bandage. I lifted the towel and moved his hair aside - a clean, deep cut, like a knife slice, where the razor sharp teeth on the edge of the escalator stair had clipped his head.

No other wounds. No torn clothing. No choking. None of the other horror stories you hear about such accidents.

Within ten minutes Jim was surrounded by efficient, friendly, and concerned policemen, Fire department paramedics and security guards. The paramedics applied a pressure bandage and an ice pack and wrapped it all together like a gauzy turban..

The decision was for me to find the car - remember I had not parked here - and take him to Surburban Hospital near our house - for stitches and a tetanus shot.

By the time I found the car and circled back there had been lots of male bonding and conversation and Jim and all were laughing like old friends. I can't say enough about the response and attention Jim received. Quite a homecoming. Not at all what we expected.

After a half hour ride Jim was checked in at the Emergency Room. Head injuries are "fast tracked" so in short order he was on his way for a head scan and then a very competent woman, the physician's assistant on duty, stapled him back together.

Feeling grateful, we drove home, unloaded the car and to tell you the truth, took a nap.

From Albany to Baltimore to home - - not eactly the story I expected to tell - but one with a happy ending.


Stories in South Duxbury

Three beautiful things:
1. I walked down the road to the near-by cove beach. The tide was beginning to run out-bound, retreating with soft lapping sounds.
Late afternoon light softened all the surroundings. I loved hearing the calls of the water birds and the familiar smell of the grey mucky Atlantic mud.

2. Stories all day. Wonderful storytelling followed by Elizabeth Ellis' wise coaching. Listening, learning, filling up with stories. Knowing each other better.

3. This must be prom night. I looked out the window and saw a group of young couples walking down the road toward their parked cars, girls in short evening dresses wearing fresh corsages, and the young me in tuxes. When they came to a wide grassy area one of the young men, a tall, husky, football player -type wearing a white tux, reached down and picked up his date and carried her across the wet grass to his car. Now that's a memory. Who says chivalry is dead?


Getting Out of Town

This morning we are in Boston. Storyteller, Kate Dudding and I are on a "road trip" wending our way to a workshop with Elizabeth Ellis this week-end. I would have written last night except the computer hook-up was slow and to tell you the truth I was tired - having been up before dawn to catch a plane in Baltimore and then the excitement of new places.

There are stories to tell - and isn't that what happens when you "get out of town".

Three beautiful things today:

1. With only half a day in Boston we decided to concentrate on the Boston Museum of Fine Art where there is a special exhibit, El Greco - Velasquez in the time of Phillip III.
Turned out to be a very good choice. The audio tour is so well done with explanations of the paintings and the period, including stories and music that it becomes a very rich experience. I loved seeing a large El Greco painting and a beautiful Still Like by Cotan (on loan from the National Gallery). Felt like the surprise of bumping into old friends when you are away from home.

2. Kate is filled with stories and information about the Impressionist painters and paintings and about John Singer Sargent. In fact she has several storytelling programs about their lives and works. It was fun to watch Kate spontaneously engage people in the museum galleries by asking, " would you like to hear a story about that painting?"
and then delight them with her stories. "I like to tell in museums." she says. A treat!

3. Seeing Trinity Church
in downtown Boston brought back memories of a delightful and special week-end Jim and I spent in Boston with my aunt and uncle in the 1960s. When all our kids were at summer camp at the same time we jumped the fence for a parents' get-away.

In the evening the group of storytellers assembled for the workshop in South Duxsbury, MA

We are meeting at Saint Margaret's, a rambling former convent for Episcopal nuns, that has plenty of room and a warm and inviting atmosphere. You feel the positive energy when you walk through the front door into the book lined foyer. Elizabeth told us we have come to form an artistic community where we will work on our art and you can feel it happening. There are 11 of us - 9 women and two men - a diverse group of ages and outlooks brought together to support one another as we work - - an artists community. WOW! Talk about a gift!

I will add three beautiful things for yesterday - Thursday, May 15:
1. Talking, talking, talking with Kate from stories to the world.
2. Kate had said she wanted to show me the The Clark Museum, in Willliamstown - and it was a treat. Smallish with a grand collection - Constable, Corot, the Impressionists, Sargents, a surprising painting by Mary Cassett that is not a mother and child.
There is always one painting that remains in your mind's eys -- and for me - its the gorgeous Smoke of Amberis by John Singer Sargent - the image, the composition and the mastereful paint handling.
3. Kate said, "are you a knitter?" Indeed. 'Then let's stop at Webb's on our way to Boston. That's Webb's " America's Yarn Store"
in Northhampton, MA - - known throughout New England.
It did not disappoint. Aisles and shelves of wonderful colors and textures - all possibilities. I came away with some great yarn - on sale, ofcourse - and Kate has a bevy of gorgeous socks in her future.


A Day of Three Beautiful Things

1. Sunshine, glorious sunshine early this morning and after the heavy rains everything is lush and green and blooming.
2. After a tense ten minute wait, the technician handed me a report, " we are glad to tell you your mammorgram is negative." Breathing again and promising myself that I will be back on time next year for the annual screening- I left the radiology department smiling.
3. Trying out the new story today when I taped my TV show - and it worked.

Tomorrow I am off to a three day storytelling workshop so it may not be possible to post until Monday. I am looking forward to new sights and people and good stories.



A Storytelling Day

Happily tired tonight.
This has been a storytelling day.
Two sets at a retirement facility this aftenoon and then Jim and I hustled downtown where I was given an Open Mic spot at the Speakeasydc.

To celebrate Mother's Day I told stories for the retirememnt groups that somehow connected with mothers or had a central mother character. I tried out a new story with one group, and made up a new story on the spot for the second group. I think both are keepers and with some more telling and a bit of work will be really good additions to my chest of stories.

I was telling the folktale The Thrifty Tailor as a lead-in for a story about the special dresses my mother made for us when we were growing up. As I told it I kept thinking about my Uncle Dunc. I need a story about him for a program later this month. So, I told the audience I was going to try something new and out it came. It was real front porch telling. Once I started the memories rolled out and the story took a few unexpected turns. Once I have it worked out I will share it with you.

For Speakeasy I revised a personal story with some tweaks that gave it a new life. And cut a fifteen minute story to 7 minutes in the bargain. That was a challenge and I am happy with the way it worked out. Now I have two viable options for the same story.

Storyteller and coach Doug Lipman has been talking lately on his website and in his workshop offerings about the value of paring long stories to short and shorter versions. So, I had been thinking about it. That ruminating made it easier when push came to shove and I had to do it with the one story I have that fit the theme for tonight.


INKHEART at Starbucks

I watched as the woman sitting across from me took out her
pen and underlined several sentences in the hardback book she was reading. Now any of you that have been reading this blog for awhile know that I have a story about the woman who soundly chastised me when I underlined in a paperback book in the beauty shop in CA.

After a long few minutes I leaned forward and said, "Excuse
me. May I tell you something." She smiled. "I have to tell you how delighted I was to see you underline something in your book." She looked surprised ." Oh, I always do - that's why I buy my books." Kindred souls.

While we were chatting about writing in our books a mother and son sat down in the two chairs next to us completing the conversational grouping. I was just telling my companion that I had recently re-read Inkheart and was glad I had unerlined passages. Then we greeted the newcomers.

A few minutes later the boy leaned toward me. "Did you say you are reading Inkheart?" A proper opening gambit wouldn't you say. " Yes, I am. Are you reading it." His face lit up. "Yes."
and he and I were off into our own conversation about Mo and Meggie and Basta and Fenoglio and where he was in the book, how he liked the writing, and did he know about InkSpell.

A very poised and articulate young boy. His mother sat by quietly enjoying the exchange between her son and me. "How old are you," I asked. "Nine." I have to tell you I was surprised.

I put out my hand. " My name is Ellouise. what's yours?" "Jacob." " Jacob, I am delighted to meet you."

We talked on for some time about books, when the Inkheart movie will be released, Harry Potter, ofcourse, and how The Golden Compass movie was disappointing when you had read the book. He told me about Eragon and I told him about Dragon Rider.

I am familiar with his school but he was not there when I came to tell stories last year. "Well, if I come again again and you are there be sure and let me know it. Come up and say hello. I will remember you."

Jacob finished his hot chocolate. Time to go. He and his mother left for their appointment. The other woman and I gathered up our books and briefcases and said good-bye as we walked toward Wisconsin Avenue.

With out a doubt the most enjoyable and surprising book talk I have had in a long time.


Happy Mother's Day

3 Beautiful Things:
1. Mama answered the phone, " I had a wonderful Mother's Day - a perfect day."
2. Juliana and Alison gave me a talking card, " we love you Weezie." Just like the TV ad. Its a keeper.
3. Jim's card - to my beautiful wife, the mother of my precious children and grandchildren. A love-filled day.

And I am grateful to my kids today for their time and advice as I struggle with writing my grant project. The story just isn't jelling - their ideas might slip some light in this dark hole.


Curious Leavings

When I was going through My Pictures today I found this shot I took in March at Stanford Hospital.
Jim, Robin and I were walking down the hall on the second floor when Robin spotted these shoes at the top of an escalator.
A pair of shoes abandoned like the owner had been snactched right out of them. No one around. No sound of running footsteps with a rescuer rushing back to get them.
Were the shoes lost or left.
If they were lost no one would even know where to look to find them.
Hmmm, a story?
Cinderella redux?
Robin saw the picture. She knows I collect shoes and stopped me - "that's a good one. get that"
I took the photo.
A collaboration.


Memories in a Bottle

The other day I did not tell all about my finds in Beggars and Choosers in Pittsboro.

Yes, I found the "snappy shoes" but I also came away whistling with these two blue bottles tucked in a recycled plastic bag- not for the blue bottle tree but for the memories.

The squat blue jar is a Noxzema bottle. Can't you smell it as you read that word? When I picked it up from the shelf my head filled with the distinctive, sharp odor of the crisp white cream. The first time I remember Mama adding a jar of Noxzema to her store of wonders in the medicine cabinet we lived in the # 12 of the Virginia Apartments at 814 Hawthorne Lane in Charlotte. I was ten years old.

When I took my prize to the lady sitting beside the old style cash register I asked her if she knew of any other blue bottles in the store, "This is the only one I saw." She stepped around the desk saying, " didn't you see the Evening in Paris perfume bottle? or maybe its too small."

She opened the windowed door of a chest where the tiny treasure was tucked in a corner. I gulped at the price - because I knew I was going to buy it. 'Oh, no, that's too much." We looked at each other quietly. Maybe she was thinking about how long the dusty little bottle had been stashed on the shelf or asking herself when there would be another "live" buyer for it. She nodded and slid the price down to fit my wallet. She cradled the bottle in her hand for a moment before handing it to me. "This is an original 1920s bottle." There was a bit of a wistful note in her voice.
Then with her soft British accent she confided, "Evening in Paris was my first perfume."

Maybe she was seeing this small Navy Blue bottle sitting on her dresser as I was seeing it on Granny's dresser. I held it to my nose. It still smelled faintly of the familiar fruity perfume - and that scent took me back to 2308 East Seventh Street, standing next to Granny as she sat at her dresser, brushing her hair and powdering her face.

I am glad the woman did not realize - I would have gladly paid her price - for the memory.

Later I checked Google for some facts.

Evening in Paris came on the market in 1929 in this very style bottle. It was designed as an elegant scent in a distinctive bottle for those who could not afford Chanel.

3 Beautiful Things for today:
1. Jim made yellow dried pea soup for supper. Thick and delicious on a coolish rainy evening.
2. Long chat over coffee with Lucy at Starbucks. We rambled back through shared memories of the Washington Women's Arts Center where we learned new stuff and were free to try out ideas to see if they would really work. An artist's support community in the truest sense of the word.
3. Vivid green of fresh plants sprouting up after a Spring rain.


Miksang - Mindful Seeing

Recently Jim went to his internist for a check-up and I went along. While I was waiting I thumbed through Natural Solutions magazine. When I opened the page to an article by Anne Ford, Turn a Lens Toward Your Life - how snapping photos mindfully can help you find focus,

I was fascinated.

She explained miksang (Tibetan for good eye) and talked about the practice of mindful seeing. Of using your digital camera to help you focus on the world you see.

I connected with the idea immediately - a meditation form of seeing.

This is not new to me. I have been doing it for years - I just never had a NAME for it.
I know the zen of drawing, and other forms of meditation but had not encountered a zen of seeing. Think of it. Combining technology - the digital camera- and meditation.

So my 3 Beautiful things for today:

1. Today when I reconnected in my journal with the word miksang, researching it and experiencing the joy of Goldilocks when she found the little chair that was "just right".

2. Surfing for connections and finding a miksang website.

3. But most exciting of all - discovering more than 1000 "good eye" photographs.

I just had to share this and hope you enjoy the treat in these beautiful photographs of our ordinary world.


Enjoying Three Beautiful Things Today

Recently I surfed to a blog, Three Beautiful Things, that I had seen before and it reminded me to look for the TBT everyday.

1. Friends: spent time sitting outside enjoying a coke and a long conversation with a dear friend I have not seen in some time. And, the sound of another friend's distinctive voice on the telephone.

2. Jim: leaving paper work behind and taking time for a lunch break on our deck in the warm sunshine with Jim.

3. This blue vase with a stalk of orchids sitting on our kitchen table.


Telling Stories

Telling stories this morning at a Silver Spring Elementary School.

I know this school! I have told Audubon programs here for several years and I told A 398.2 Sampler for their reading night a few months ago. The kids are bright and eager and excellent listeners. They love stories.

This is a primary school. grades K - 2. Today I told three sets and covered all the grades.

When I put on my "coat of many colors" they recognize me. Hands go up. "I know you." And I feel welcomed and at home with them.

They listen. I look into their eyes and watch their faces and we make the stories together. It is truly the magic of storytelling. What's not to love - I am grateful to be a part of it.

At the end of the sets I tell the children, "Now these are your stories. You can TELL them to your family and friends."

I hope they do.

Returning to a school keeps me on my toes because I know they remember the stories. The kids are quick to remind me "you told that before" if I repeat a story - - even when I can see they like hearing it again.


Hanging by a Thread

I have that feeling these days.
So must Hillary Clinton.
Its unfortunate that two "firsts" have to oppose each other at the same time to be the first.


Today in Washington, DC.


Junkin' Excursion

Jim and I turned onto Highway 85 about 9 am yesterday - heading home. After the bittersweet visit with Mama I was feeling a bit low. I guess Jim realized I needed a diversion because when we passed the huge sign anouncing the Webb Road Flea Market ahead at a Salisbury Exit he agreed for a stop. "Not for long." I nodded. "No, no, not for long. Just for a peak. " I have watced that sign fly by for years. I almost jumped out of the car when he pulled into the gravel lot and parked.

Listen, there is no such thing as a peak at the Webb Road Flea Market. It is a combination of tail gates, tables, and sheds of unbelieveable opportunities.

Even though the reason we had stopped was so that I could look for blue bottles who could resist lingering over this little six week old puppy. I had never seen one quite like it before. The owner said, "he's a miniature dappled silver dauchund. The runt of the litter. He won't grow to more than 8 pounds."
He looked like a nature's mistake. I was smitten. Jim was not. He won.

Let me tell you there were no blue bottles in sight anywhere. I was getting tired out and discouraged after trudging what seemed like miles along aisles of booths and tables when Jim rang my phone. "Look over here."

Jim had spotted these blue Milk of Magnesia bottles tucked into a box along with a bunch of clear, green and brown bottles. They were not what I had set out to find. And the preponderance of Milk of Magnesia says something about the prevalence of dyspepsia in the folks I grew up with - but what really prompted me to buy them - they reminded me of my Grandmother, her medicine cabinet and her administering hand. Granny believed in Milk of Magnesia. I can still remember gagging before the spoonful of thick white liquid ever reached my lips. I doubt these will be a part of my blue bottle tree - but I need to make a sculpture for a show that is coming up - they may be exactly right for that.

We made several other stops. The flea market we had been to on Hwy 64 E. several years ago turned out to be almost empty by noon and so it was not worth the time on the highway.

I bought a small vase for a dollar from a Boy Scout parking lot sale and we stopped at an antique store in Ramseur - mostly because we liked the look of the house.

By this time we were so far off Highway 85 that we decided to continue on toward Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill has been one of our favorite destinations since we lived there in the 1960s. Jim did his residency at NC Memorial Hospital, Jimmy started school at the Durham Academy, Karen and Robin were launched into pre-school at the Little Red School House, and our hearts hurt when our youngest daughter was born as a Downs Syndrome child. In the 1970s we brought Robin back to Chapel Hill as a Freshman at UNC and renewed our love of the area.

Along the way to Chapel Hill we stopped at Beggars and Choosers in Pittsboro. I was drawn in by the name and the purple and green paint job on the outside - it promised to be interesting - and it was.

How about these snappy shoes?
I collect shoes - well, pictures of shoes, and these were the most interesting in a long time. I would have bought them if they had been a couple of sizes larger.

All in all an interesting side venture.

It made the trip longer, true - but sometimes it helps to have some breathing space to recollect yourself.