Monday, December 25, 2006

Ode To Joy

If you want to temporarily leave your body, just but on Ode To Joy. The energy pulsing through that piece flippin' freaks me inside out. Trancendent! I've always associated Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with Christmas so Rob brought it up this morning on the MP3 and turned up the volume. I can only say, once again....WOW!

And in case you wonder what in the world they are singing their lungs out about, here's a translation ("fire-drunk"!):

Ode To Joy
Poem By Friedrich Schiller

"Joy, thou glorious spark of heaven,
Daughter of Elysium,
We approach fire-drunk,
Heavenly One, your shrine.
Your magic reunites
What custom's sword separates;
Beggars become princes' brothers
Where your gentle wing alights.

Whoever succeeds in the great attempt
To be a friend of a friend,
Whoever has won a lovely woman,
Let him add his jubilation!
Yes, whoever calls even one soul
His own on the earth's globe!
And who never has, let him steal,
Weeping, away from this group.

All creatures drink joy
At the breasts of nature;
All the good, all the evil
Follow her roses' trail.
Kisses gave she us, and wine,
A friend, proven unto death;
Pleasure was to the worm granted,
And the cherub stands before God.

Glad, as his suns fly
Through the Heavens' glorious plan,
Run, brothers, your race,
Joyful, as a hero to victory.
Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Do you bow down, you millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the star-canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.

Be embraced, ye millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Be embraced,
This kiss for the whole world!
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods."

Belief in a divinity aside, that is some rapturious singing, that is.
Picture:"Snow Star" by Richard Evans of

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Xmas Eve

It's the night the kids have been waiting for in dire agony of anticipation. Well, mine have been at least. There isn't much Christ in our Christmas but it stills reigns supreme as the holiday of choice. Maybe it just needs a new name. Celebration of family, generosity, light against the dark, connection, gratitude. All good stuff.

We cut an evergreen this year and it stands in a glorious multicolored nimbus like the Bean King of old. A few weeks crowned and brilliantly festooned as our holiday Tree only to be consumed in the woodstove come January. It resides over a small mountain of little wrapped things that give the girls spasms of curiosity. So mysterious and magical, the whole scene.

So we finish up the last secretive bundling, rest, sip wine and eggnog, open one gift, hang stockings and then prod the kids to bed because Santa is coming and he really needs his rest if tomorrow is going to be decent. Cheers.
Picture: The Tree

Pandora Radio

I've been enjoying some custom "radio" at which my dad recently steered me to. It's a "music discovery service" where users can stream audio based on their musical tastes. So I get to punch in some of my fave songs and get those and similar sounds in a nice mix. Very cool.
Picture: old Russian postcard

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Oh, My Gaudi

Spanish Architecture on the brain, I happened upon this interior view of Catalan Architect Antoni Gaudi’s masterwork, the Roman Catholic basilica “Sagrada Familia” in Barcelona. I am in awe of this space with it’s clear loft, treelike columns and starburst shapes. I tend be struck by particular works of an artist rather than the body of work as a whole. Consistently so, which I find unusual and significant somehow. I studied other images of this structure and was almost repelled by the burgeoning energies. A lot of it is a bit much, just a little too…well, gaudy. The Sagrada Familia is literally encrusted with Christian symbolism which puts me off but his use of writhing intertwining organic shapes, plays of surface light and undulations galore completely captivate me. It turns out that this interior canopy is currently being built based on reconstructed versions of lost plans and some modern adaptation so maybe it’s the interpretation that I’m liking. Gaudi distilled? But sunlight through the colored glass inside the basilica (below) and the sculptural curved façade and rooftop chimneys (also pictured below) of Casa Mila are enough to win me over. So I'm unsure if I am a Gaudi fan but I deeply appreciate some of his biomorphic creations and would love to see them in person one day.

Colored Light

Rooftop Sentinels

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Arrogant Architecture-Awesome or Awful

I recently watched Sydney Pollack's documentary"The Sketches of Frank Gehry" about the man who designed the Guggenheim
museum in Bilbao, Spain. Like the other Frank, who designed Fallingwater, the NY Guggenheim and (in my neck of the woods) the Marin Civic Center, Gehry creates structures that are iconic, sculptural and indisputably impressive. But I often wonder at the appeal of this kind of architecture. About its purpose for existing. Whether it can or should harmonize with it's environment. The Bilbao was built to house art but also to attract attention to it's city, in which it succeeds. But does it serve the needs of the humans who use it? The museum seems almost a distraction from and awkward for the purpose it exists to fill.

I've always secretly felt this way about Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings. They are definitely beautiful in that they are visually bold and modernly minimalist, full of natural materials with a consistency of form and vision from the overall floorplan to ornamental details. But at the same time they are strangely unappealing. Uncomfortable, angular and imposing with all the heavy beams and nerve-wracking patterns. Complete unto themselves, his spaces offer no sense of invitation. God forbid I should toss a throw pillow into a Frank Lloyd Wright tableau and ruin the effect. In other words, I wouldn't want to live in one. The impersonal quality of his architecture does seem better suited to public spaces. Frank Gehry's, too.

So, seeing footage of Gehry's Guggenheim (pictured here) I am curious how it would feel to live with such an overpowering presence on the periphery or what it's like to approach it and enter. The Project for Public Places lists the museum in its Hall of Shame based on it's failure to support human activity in and around the building. Lack of clear entrances, cumbersome stairways, dead open spaces with no seating or amenities, few growing things, nothing restful for the eyes. Essentially, uninviting. So even as it triumphs as an epic sculptural manifestation, a visually riveting man-made mountain, it fails to acknowledge us, the wee peeps, as anything more than admirers.

Balancing out the more oppressive facets of architecture with some humane features that serve and invite would be wholly worthwhile. Folding in more of the building theory a la Christopher Alexander's "A Pattern Language", paying attention to where sun shines and people gravitate, planting more trees, building more benches, encouraging folks to tarry and talk, designing spaces that can be used creatively by all of us so that we not only visit grand structures, we identify with them and love them.

Inadvertent Objects

More along the lines of words as art. A non-objective poetry collage by Cecil Touchon made of shards of text revealing talking faces, masks, a baby owl, a reclining figure in dark glasses and high-heeled boots, birds, shadows, horns and flying machines. Pretty objective, if you ask me.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Linguistic Linguine

Noodles with words. Love of language must have hit me young. Reverberations of “Hickory Dickory Dock” and “Hi Ho The Radio” echo in early memory. My aspiration at age four was to be a ballerina named Diarrhea. Or, I thought, Chlorine had a nice ring to it. To my young sensibility, what could be more pleasing? Articulated sounds seemed like music to me with meaning almost secondary. Words spoke themselves.

Sounds. Names. Words. Plays on words. I grew up with an ear tuned to impressive expressions. For sheer enjoyment: rhymes, idioms, lingo, nonsensical tongues. Igpay Atinlay orfay acttay. My childish tongue could handle twisters and rolled them off easily and often. In middle school English we coined wordplays and I came up with “Hey, sucker, you’re licked!” Thinking I was original, I was secretly proud but too abashed to share it with my class. My grandfather was a notorious punster and my mom inherited the knack and so it was an intergenerational affliction. I wasn’t surprised that my mind ran along similar lines.

I began to see how words could connect by common roots or just by a similarity of sound. Mysterious wistful hysteria (something I often succumbed to). Fluxy and flummoxed, how you felt when a bad flu hit. I slowly discovered the various charms of written language. Lilting alliteration, sonorous assonance and, the always popular with Batman and boys, onomatopoeia. I wrote long-winded bits dripping with description (still do). It’s a weakness for words that makes me swoon.

Deep into adolescence, I was collecting lists of them. Tepid, infusion, fanning, fused, wilted, wicked, silvered, silted, strand, stray, dimpled, rippled, fen. They stacked up in my notebook in piles like buttons or beads. Strung together in various patterns they led me down obscure paths in my brain, opening out into unexpected clearings. They exhibited an ambiguous sort of precision, which I now associate with poetry.

My dad studied poetry in college and read to me from Chaucer and Keats (ah, The Eve of St. Agnes). I raided our family bookshelf for his worn textbooks and so came to read Emily Dickinson, e. e. cummings, Robert Frost, and Yeats. I scratched out a few poems of my own in high school, just experimenting. I won the poetry contest in senior year (cringe) but mostly shelved any literary ambitions and kept to happenstance chicken scratches in my journals or notes to friends. These days, I recognize poetry rearing its head in popular culture primarily as songwriting and have joined the rampant ranks of ditty-noodlers.

Artistically inclined, I naturally favor the visual form. My teenage obsession with Rick Griffin’s psychedelic lettering on the Haight-Ashbury posters and Grateful Dead album covers extrapolated into my own brand of wild lettering and strange logos. I changed my handwriting style several times and designed a “glyph” signature for my paintings, which has morphed through the years. Scripts, alphabets, fonts, sigils, Chinese characters, Arabic writing, alchemical symbols, calligraphic forms like the Islamic zoomorphic pictures, all captivate me with their pictorial beauty and intrinsic or secretive meanings. I just recently heard invented writing referred to as “asemic” writing, as in “having no semantic content”. So even those glyphic shapes I doodle in my margins are graced with a name.

Beyond playing with words for the joy of it, I contemplate that essential core of the linguistic apple, which is communication. As a means of conveyance, language has catapulted me enough times into such alive revelatory spaces, unfolded, fluid and teeming with flippant shape-shifty sing-song syllabic sublimity that I eagerly penetrate any tangle or string out my own. Maybe I’ll write something worthwhile before my time is up.
Picture: Sample of asemic writing. (As posted on

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Collaborative Creature

”Greater than the sum of its parts”…the flower of collaboration. Co-creation is its own animal. The poem below was aroused and lifted out of my painting The Calling by the honed articulate pen of poet Amy Trussell. We paired up and put together a book of her words and my images titled “The Painted Tongue Flowers” (for which we are seeking publication). Many of the poems grew from her immersion into my paintings. She pulled so much out of my images of which I had no conception when I painted them that I was blown away. The evocative language that emerged inspired me to use her poetry as a springboard into some new narratives, style and execution. Bursting milkweed pods, ground cherries and rushes, ascending cranes and Erzulie herself appeared like visitors from her internal world. This overlapping of layers, of my visual and her lingual, revealed a third essence shining through that has proven unexpectedly and exquisitely pleasing.

The Calling
She hears the cries of the women in peril
and her hand reaches back to the time
when all was embryonic
and she arose from the middle of a pool of calm.
She can feel the distress of oysters and egrets
ruined and covered in oil
and predict where a pearl, black or white,
will light from beneath the skin.
We are layered up in mud and the wreckage of possession
and she waits on the sand in flamingo expectancy.
Now half of the seafood shacks are washed away
and the shrimp boats are on their sides
or smashed in the pine trees,
the camellia and crepe myrtle in ruins
and the children’s rooms full of standing water.
Even the beds are underwater
where the mothers and fathers used to read
But she hears the tears and the dreams of children
and will guide those who will incarnate again
Their perfect embryonic stages:
the tail and gills falling away,
emerging as water lilies from the mud.
She oversees the architects who use material and designs
that mimic the lotus flower
and raise buildings that stay clean against all odds.
When the sky is brown and the water big and muddy
in Sri Lanka, Cuba, Biloxi
she is the black Madonna found upright in the rubble.
And when a pinwheel forms on the weather map
she is large enough to take it into her
along with the quick and the dying
in the pink and green garden in her breast.

Picture: Painting "The Calling" by me. Poem by Amy Trussell

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bases for Withdrawal

Well, I for one have been deliberately keeping my head out of the sands of Iraq lately. The situation has become a hellish nightmare that deteriorates daily. Civil war does not remotely encapsulate the sense of utter chaos and violence roiling there. I haven’t the stomach for it but, as an American, that stance seems irresponsible. There are “vectors of doom” aplenty to anguish the soul: Darfur, AIDS, Global Warming, Human Trafficking, Depleted Uranium, Land Mines, etc. But this crisis is essentially homegrown in that we started it. We* illegally occupied a sovereign country unprovoked and irreparably mucked up the works. We made this mess so what are we going to do to clean it up?

Now the Iraq Study Group report is published and that part of the world blips back to front and center. Within days the report has soared to No. 18 on and is already into a second printing. Apparently, a lot of people are as interested as I am to see some things spelled out, finally, after years of the most inexcusably murky reporting on this war. The report is available to read at:

It is interesting to skim through it just to glean some details about the different warring factions which give a little insight into what’s unfolding. Anatomy of a Quagmire. Stressing a renewal of diplomatic ties and talks with Iran and Syria is all good. A proposal to recommit to resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a no-brainer. Talk is good but it’s cheap. Actions speak louder than words.

After the dissection of strategies come recommendations and what’s put forward doesn’t sound particularly effective. Courageously creative solutions are called for here. Not the same shit on a different bun. The powers that be should be mining minds in every quarter for innovative ideas. Asking Americans. Asking Iraqis. Asking elders. Asking women. We need something extraordinary, wise and ultimately healing. If we are honest about wanting resolution, that is. The real solution will not be military or political. It will involve new more humane tactics. Honesty, compromise, understanding.

Beyond the more complicated issues of addressing the rage and despair Iraqis must feel, exposing the hidden politics of this war and understanding the various cultural and religious perspectives that would necessarily inform any comprehensive solution, there seems to be some basic stuff left out of the equation. For instance, the fact that most Iraqis absolutely want the US to get the hell out ( and yet we have 14 major military bases strategically constructed throughout Iraq along major waterways and roadways. I mean BIG bases. What does that say to the average Iraqi about out true intentions?

The “super base” Barad Air Base north of Baghdad is run by our favorite Halliburton and houses over 28,000 troops and 8,000 civilian contractors who enjoy amenities such as a movie theater, miniature golf, fast food a la Pizza Hut, Burger King, Starbucks, etc., giant airstrip and full-sized swimming pool all surrounded by a monolithic wall of impenetrability. Speaks volumes.

Or the massive $600 million US Embassy currently being built in Baghdad, due for completion June 2007. When finished it will be the “largest, most secure diplomatic compound in the world”. It’s said it will be two-thirds the area of the National mall in Washington, D.C.. A 21-building compound sealed off from the surrounding area by massive walls. Inside residents will enjoy a swimming pool, gym, fast food court, beauty and barber shops, a school, apartment buildings, locker rooms, warehouse, vehicle maintenance garage, etc. All this to be self-sustained with water, electricity and sewage treatment plants independent of Baghdad's city utilities. Most Iraqis get about 2 hours of electricity a day from their disabled infrastructure and none of them are swimming in chlorinated pools. Do they even have clean drinking water?

There are no words.

Our continuing presence in Iraq is just one more reason for the violence. The most fundamental first step: Pull out completely.

Not forgetting how many of “us" knew invading Iraq was a hell of a bad idea long before we went in. How did "we" know this so certainly all those years ago? Could it have been as simple as basic information, common sense and good old-fashioned people skills? It's good to be able to tell if you're being sold a load of bull. Or phantom WMDs. To hear some interesting and heartwrenching firsthand accounts direct from Iraq, check out:

Photo:The swimming pool at Balad Air Base, as seen through the window of a Black Hawk helicopter.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Edge of the World

Yesterday was brilliant. Strangely cloudless with a dose of color and energy. After a week of languishing with illness, my little family broke out into the sunshine. We jumped into the car and headed into the late afternoon. We took one of my favorite drives which is west on Graton Road heading toward Occidental proper and then up onto Coleman Valley Road to ride out over the ridge for the most spectacular views down toward the ocean (our destination).

The visuals were mythic and poured in to replace any lingering sickness. The road snaked through the woods and meadows until about Oceansong when the vista really opened out panoramic. The atmosphere was so clear we could see down across the contoured Petaluma hills and valley all the way to Point Reyes stretching out into the open sea. Due west, the sun was lowering and sending out this uncanny corona of pure white light that made it look heavy and blazing. The sea, sparkling out toward the horizon, was reflecting back the sunlight in this wide swath that looked like a gold spill. I’ve never seen the like. I couldn’t get a picture. Just too much light.

We got out to clamor about on some big boulders and drink in some icy air. I wish I could take pictures with my eyes. My mental snapshots include: the nearly full moon rising out of the bright green hills, a soft white calf rimmed in sunlight beside his majestic jet black ripple-furred mother, big stones covered in chartreuse and yarrow gold lichen against a purpling sky, that blinding spill of gold as we descended toward the water.

We got to the coast near sunset and hit Schoolhouse Beach just in time to watch the show. Everything was on fire, even the kelp ruffles littering the sand. We spied out some big meaty starfish, in orange and plum, curled into some rock crannies and poked among the sea debris for shells. All of us were just in awe at the colors on the water as the sun sank. Like painted silk in silver green lavender gray with waves fringed in pink lace. We watched the glowing orange round soften out into what Eden declared “A teacup!” A perfect apricot teacup and saucer and then just a saucer, then a drop, then gone.

We drove toward home and the big milky moon still low in a sky darkening to dusky lilac. It hung there over the dusty dark hills foaming with blooming coyote bushes. Look! A rocket! So near, it looked like it had launched from the lunar white. A jet catching a last ray of sun on it’s belly was stretching off into the night, ablaze. It’s tail stretching out behind like a veil.

I have such love for this place that I call home. My edge of the world.

Picture: Pacific Parfait. Taken by me.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ground Work

Here are a few pieces of some current work in the early phase. I like how they look strewn out in the wintery light. I feel good enough about these to show them even though they are a bit naked (no color yet) and they aren’t exactly good examples of what I have steeping. That hasn’t emerged yet. The piece on the right comes closest. I’ve been writing, sketching and musing about some different threads of a developing narrative. Playing with some new visuals, though I am pleased to see the big flower and I could never abandon eyes, orbs or seeds. But I realized at a one point that my work has consistently depicted almost nothing manmade except the most basic items: clothing, vessels, a basket, an instrument. It springs almost entirely from a natural landscape. I suppose that’s for various reasons some of which are that I’m a nature-loving girl, I see the natural world as our most basic and common context as humans and I feel spiritually infused by the language of the nonhuman realm. I think it has things to teach us. The metaphors it offers of potential, germination, persistence, growth, balance, etc. are just so rich. I also see Nature as the Feminine (in the Jungian sense, not female necessarily) made physically manifest. So much of humanity’s imbalance and trouble seems to stem from our denigration for that Feminine (the earth, women, mothers, service, the healing arts, intuition, compassion, collaboration, empathy, inclusion, etc.) Since I paint primarily about emotion and spiritual questions that are timeless aspects of being human, using Nature as the context has made sense but I’m feeling a pull to broaden the vista and incorporate new shapes and stories. I have been tuning into my sense of our collective future. What does it look like and how do we get there? I'm not there yet but getting close. Ideas are brewing and that’s where I’ll leave it for now.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Seeing through. Peeking into the inner workings. Recently I’ve had x-rays on my mind. I just read a juvenile biography to Eden Fay about Marie Curie and her discovery of the elements Polonium (recently newsworthy when a pin speck’s worth apparently poisoned former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko) and the better-known Radium, which led to the common use of the x-ray machine. (Oh, so to see through). Next, I’m reading Danah Zohar’s Quantum Self and getting stirred (yet again) about quantum physics, that old wave and particle dance, and how the act of seeing collapses potential into reality and the practical implications of that. Ah, those elusive inner workings. Then I find myself studying the beauty of this Ibis cross-section (like a heart pomegranate with rings, faces and a poetic wishbone) pondering introspection and the Aboriginal x-ray art style in painting which I see brought to sophisticated heights in Alex Grey’s ( multi-layered spiritual/ anatomical works. Interiors revealed. So, with x-rays, electromagnetic radiation and all, on my radar, I feel sparked to know more about basic electricity. Delving there inevitably leads to Tesla and his phenomenal work. Vast in scope, it wanders into some pretty far out territory (time travel, extraterrestrial communication, etc.) Finally, while bopping about on Wikipedia, I spy with my little eye a list of the Unsolved Problems In Physics and start wishing I was younger and smarter so I could explore it all. Then I just sit there panting and pining for a better-lit cognitive infrastructure with superhighways, power hubs and bridges rather than my own bemused marsh wallow meanderings burbling with swamp gas. Sigh. Will o’ the wisps. Wisps of the will. I tend to get distracted by the least waver on the horizon and sort of stumble in its general direction. I’m a lackadaisical and just plain intuitive thinker and decidedly NOT a scientist nor a scholar and I really just want one of those “jacks” like in the Matrix for plug in expertise so I can stay focused, cultivate some depth and have, say, a point… So, this has shaped into an obtuse and verbose complaint about my perceived deficient mental abilities rather than an insight about, well, insight. So much for “transparency”. Apparently the only thing to see here is some incoherent rambling and a weakness for metaphors.

Which, by the way, is why I love the blog format because, hey, that’s OK!
Photo: Ibis mummy X-rays /Yale Peabody Museum's Mummy Collection of Ancient Egypt

Saturday, November 25, 2006


On a quiet morning my mind runs in tributaries through stratified territory, seeping slowly toward the bedrock. Contemplating reality’s true face in a house of mirrors. Holy men morphing into quantum physicists, dropping clues like candy wrappers through the centuries. I want to bite the nougat center myself. I can say I understand… I think. But the mind’s a slippery fish. Is it best to let it go? Navigating the fluid universe is the real trick when I am the fish, the current and the sea in one. Setting course, I imagine my future and she falls into my arms, so trusting. I choose my tine on the epic fork looming in the road ahead. This present is the gift (or booby prize) of yesterday. I lift myself out of my own context to revel in just this and I see the seer seeing. A first step onto a conscious shore.
(Photo by me: Morning light on the drawer pull.)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Gratitude and Stuffing

Sunny day. Hot bath. Family. Music. Belly laughs. Beauty. Color. Flavors. Homemade pie. Wine. Food, food, food. Surprise visits. Grandmas, cousins, nephews ,aunts. Crisp night air with a big new moon. So much to be thankful for.

Our Thanksgiving feast was assembled over a period of days by many hands (though my folks did the lion’s share AND hosted). Most everything was made from scratch. Love Food at its best. We were truly fed and filled. The menu was so ridiculously and beautifully decadent that it deserves documentation.

H’or d’oerves:
soft cheeses, water crackers, gourmet olives and homemade sourdough breadsticks

Roasted Turkey, Cornbread Stuffing with Fennel, Pine Nuts and Orange, Handmade Butternut Ravioli, Baked Tofu, Sourdough Stuffing with Mushroom and Artichoke Hearts, Candied Yams with Pecans, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy (vegetarian and bird), Creamed Spinach, Sautéed Green Beans, Waldorf Salad, Green Salad with Mom’s garlicky Green Goddess dressing, Jellied Cranberry Sauce, Cranberry Orange Relish, Rolls and Butter, Pinot, Lemonade and L’eau Gazeuse.

Pecan Pie and Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream, Chocolate Cream Pie and Stollen (plus the miniature apple tart Eden made). Strong Coffee (whipped cream optional).

A brisk walk around the neigborhood to round it out. Clean up, nibbling, laughing, then finally home, stuffed and happy.

(Picture: detail from my painting "Mother Tree").

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Poetic Onion

I am enamored of this Pablo Neruda poem: Ode To The Onion. (Not a tribute to the distinguished newspaper of the same name). I’ve excerpted my favorite lines as translated from Spanish by Stephen Mitchell. The picture is a detail of a watercolor by botanical artist Susannah Blaxill.

luminous flask,
your beauty formed
petal by petal,
crystal scales expanded you
and in the secrecy of the dark earth
your belly grew round with dew.
Under the earth
the miracle
and when your clumsy
green stem appeared,
and your leaves were born
like swords
in the garden,
the earth heaped up her power
showing your naked transparency,
as the remote sea
in lifting the breasts of Aphrodite
duplicated the magnolia,
so did the earth
make you,
clear as a planet,
and destined
to shine,
constant constellation,
round rose of water,
the table
of the poor.

you undo
your globe of freshness
in the fervent consummation
of the cooking pot,
and the crystal shred
in the flaming heat of the oil
is transformed into a curled golden feather.

Star of the poor,
fairy godmother
in delicate
paper, you rise from the ground
eternal, whole, pure
like an astral seed,
and when the kitchen knife
cuts you, there arises
the only tear
without sorrow.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This Turns Me On

Early technology?

I have a thing for Ancient Egyptian stone sculpture and bas-relief. Not the painted hieroglyphics but the smooth solidly graceful lines of the carved stuff. I just feel good when I look at it. I find it visually satisfying. I also tend to be intrigued by the “unexplained”. When the pseudoscientific “Chariots of the Gods” material surfaced in the 70's, I was suitably fascinated. Talk of “could it be, perhaps…space coveralls ? ? ” (insert Twilight Zone theme song here) gave me chills and made my eyes water. Laughable but I loved it. So, this week, I’m googling imagery from Egyptian tombs and happen upon the photo above. It’s a picture of one of three stone reliefs in the Dendera Temple complex at Hathor Temple, Egypt. Egyptologists call this a depiction of the mythic lotus flowers each spawning a snake. Huh? Um, those look like enormous light bulbs to me! That armed device looks very much like a simple voltaic pile. (Egyptologists also interpret the upraised arms to mean "power"). Could it be….electricity!

Trying to grok ancient use of electricity and such, I stumbled on the Baghdad Battery. Fist-sized little clay vessels each with a copper-clad iron pin down the center, stoppered with an asphalt plug, unearthed in the 30's near Baghdad, Iraq (250 BC-224 AD?) It is surmised that each little packet, when filled with lemon juice or vinegar, becomes a simple galvanic cell producing a feeble jolt. In an experimental recreation, when ten are linked together they can produce up to 4 volts. Well, pretty weak and used for what? Electrostimulation? Maybe an early model Zapper. Who knows ? Perhaps only those visitors from the stars in their intriguing space coveralls could tell us. All I know is the idea of an ancient battery made out of earth and juice is just so sweet.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Emo Evo

The evolution of emotion turns it around. I’m still riding the waves of my own optimism, wielding the power of “yes” like a magic wand. I am reveling in this fresh air blowing through everything, this exhilaration at slipping free of the demon juggernaut’s grasp. I had to lighten up in the face of darkness to do it and that’s no easy trick. Turning away from the riveting gaze of the monster of hell and lifting my face to a still starry sky of brighter futures, took focus and triple-strength intention. Expanding, releasing, letting myself get really BIG inside with lots of room for possibilities. The key was growing big enough to love it all in its glorious and perfect imperfection. Big enough to embrace it and take it down in a graceful aikido move onto a bed of fluffy pillows where it lay dazed and deflated in the face of acceptance. That which we resist grows stronger. Accept and transform. Is LOVE really all we need? Cheesey, naive and oh so true. Those guys were wise. I could attribute this change to various sensible-sounding factors but it so easily could have gone differently and it didn't. It didn't. I changed my mind about the world and the world changed. I am convinced: Hippie Shit Will Save The World.
Picture: Painted by me. "Spirit"

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

New Day, New Way

How satisfying to wake up to buttery autumn sunshine, fresh breezy air and headlines singing out “Historic Democratic Sweep!”, “Power Shift” and the cherry on the sundae: “Rumsfeld Resigns!’. I literally feel a deep collective exhalation of relief. I see it making the fiery trees outside my window dance with glee. Heck, I’m dancing with glee. Humming and hatching plans. Now let all the hard long held bitterness begin to wick away in the bracing surges of change, change, change. Let the true beauty and real strength of America begin to reveal itself starting today. I dedicate this happiness to the devastated souls of our Soldiers, Iraqis and the forgotten ones of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. May we make amends. May all be mended.

(Pic: Cousins, Daniel and Eden, walking ahead in Crane Creek Park where we got married).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Make Tomorrow A Happy Day

I voted by absentee last week (paper trail and all that) but I still want to approach today with the right stance. I am actively opting out of election coverage and turning my optimism on high. First thing this morning I tackled the housecleaning. A symbolically potent act that I want to reverberate out into our excellent nation. Let's get our house in order, people (and our senate too). So, I've already scrubbed the toilets, mopped the floors, composted the garbage, shaken the rugs and put the disorderly stuff back where it belongs all while envisioning the same happening on a national scale. There's a way to go yet because it's a pretty big mess but I fully expect this place to shine by this evening.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Trash Can Philosophy

NEW! Valu In A Box! Ultra. Extra. More. Cheap. Buy. Buy. Buy. The slick and slippery language of these Orwellian times. I don't buy it. As the stores change sets to gear up for the Holidays, the surreality of consumer culture hits me hard. Everything is backwards. Plastic shit is exalted while actual shit is reviled. (You know, shit. Nature's refuse. The stuff that makes gardens grow). Glamorous garbage is fondled and coveted while outside the gutters lay full of walnuts and windfalls. Food and compost... forgotten. Who really believes Value comes in a box? Taking the "e" off it doesn’t change the fact that the selling game is old. Oh, it's getting late.

Certainly there are many shades of gray in the territory between basic natural essentials and worthless junk. I mean a lamp is a lamp. It’s a useful illuminating device whether it's pink retro or classic faux marble but when we are bombarded with these “choices”, I can’t help reflecting on all the people on the planet who don’t have even the luxury of electricity. I struggle to stay conscious in the face of it all.

Martin Prechtel (artist, shaman and author of Secrets of the Talking Jaguar) talks about "storied objects". The importance of knowing the unique history of every object in your life. I like this idea of every thing I own holding connotations of particular experiences and remembered faces. Maybe an overwhelming concept for Westerners but a worthy ideal. Simplification. Reawakening beauty and story. Nice.

So, to the best of my ability, I try to avoid stores. I buy groceries, yes. But “shopping”? No. Christmastime at a mall is my idea of a nightmare. I don’t like to think of myself as a consumer but it’s unavoidable. Inevitably I find myself in line at some big box store with my eyes glazed in a quiet horror trance at the shelves burgeoning with arrays of the worst kind of crap. Stuff. Stuff. Stuff. Most of which has no intrinsic value except as physical markers of the energy wasted to make it. It’s like the factories have gone haywire pumping out colorful varieties of multi-shaped petroleum for people to buy, take home, break and throw in a can. Pure landfill. An obscenely lucrative system based on sheen and a ridiculous absence of integrity and substance. I often feel an impulse to pull out my camera and start documenting the tragic absurdity of it all because I know it just can’t last. If this keeps on, we definitely won’t. It sustains us not and is itself utterly unsustainable.

So, yes to storied objects. Yes to glazed pottery bowls that make me think of the friends who made them. Yes, to the willow couch my parents gave us in those early years of marriage as our first piece of real furniture. Yes to wool hats spun and knitted by the hands of dear friends. Yes to carved wooden elephants that conjure the smoky landscape of Thailand. Years ago, I read a book, Paulus Berensohn's "Finding One's Way With Clay" about the relationship between the human being and clay. It describes the simple act of making pinch pots, in particular "beloved bowls" made from the same piece of clay with the intent of sharing. The essense of the book stayed with me: Beauty lies not in what is seen but rather in what is revealed. Truly.

(Photo: Disney directive. This was neatly printed on a trash receptacle in Frontierland. Oh, snap!)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dia de los Meurtos

Day of the Dead. Ancestor Altar. After a good fluffing and reenergizing yesterday, the tableau glows with new candles, bowls of fragrant candies, nuts, fruit, chocolates, wine and fresh flowers. Pictures, poetry and names written in glittering ink, remember the ones who are gone. Even Boofer the cat and Ratty Rat Rat have a place. One of my favorite holidays, this Halloween/Day of the Dead. I am so amazed that in this age of plastic, folks continue to mutilate fat orange gourds and put fire inside them. So deliciously pagan.

Among the rememered is Papa, shown here young and strapping. I was in the room when he died. All present where moved by the grace of his exit. Here are the words his son Rob, my hubbie, wrote the day after he died:


Great booming voice.
Twinkle of mischief in solemn eyes.
Quick to befriend children.
Unafraid of striking up conversation with strangers.
Generous, supportive, a great friend in time of need.
A teaser.

Too hard to express love straight on.
I was proud of him.
Married 47 years.
He hated bureaucracy.
He loved nature.
He worried too much for too long.
Trusted TV news too much.
Was devoted to Nana utterly and blossomed when she died.
A teller of stories, a trickster, master of gallows humor.
He died with integrity, sweetness and dignity.
He taught me not to fear death.
So long.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Hallowe'en

The Black Rabbit Dies

The days shorten. The sunlight wanes. We turn back the clocks to get an edge on the gloom, milking the season for every last drop of light. But even as the year slips into gathering shadow, I feel a welcome dissolution. Some long pressing heaviness is losing its hold. There is a sudden lightening. The smoke is beginning to finally dissipate.

For the last five years I have felt a dark web settling over the world. A shroud of compounding density and creeping paralysis that conspires to smother and leave all dumb or numb and grappling weakly. With my own eyes I saw it take down diamond Venus the morning after the 2004 election. This fume engulfed her as she glittered on the pink edge of dawn. Like the scene in “The Silver Chair” when the Queen of the Underworld throws her green powder into the fire and the children struggle against the spell’s drowse, the atmosphere grew heavy. There came a point when it got so bad I began to implode. I contemplated relief. Getting off planet. Suicide thoughts. Grim.

That’s when the black rabbit flickered in.

He had slipped into our life and taken up residence under the shed near our door. Like a spook, he appeared out of nowhere, hovering at the edges of the yard nibbling and blinking. Silent emissary from another realm.

One afternoon as evening was coming on, he stood in a patch of white flowers and gazed intently into me. In that moment he embodied the dark thing that had settled on me. Full of a breathless whisper about soul surrender, he held it and transformed it like a magician messenger and friend. That was the beginning of my ascent out of constriction and the thinning of the haze.

My heart lightened enough that day to write a bit about him before bed that night. I eventually attached a mournful tune to the words and it became what I now joke of as my beatnik dirge of existential angst. But just recently we heard news of him. He was discovered by a neighbor, weak and ill. He was taken in and tended but he didn’t live. He always was one heartbeat away from fading into dream. Now he is one.

Black rabbit
in the shadows,
my soft and
subtle friend.
There between
the white flowers
drooping on

their stems.

No words here
to speak of
this sadness
you imply.
Standing there
at the edge

of dusk,
shape shifting
at a sigh.

One foot upon
a quick death
dark and fleet.
One heartbeat
away from
into dream.

Do you conjure magic?
Can you weave a spell?
Cast your net upon me,
my fortune for to tell.

The world’s grown
so small now,
in tangled
straining lines.
Traps the subtle
subtle softness
in a noose
of lies.

I tremble,
stand and quiver.
My heart is
small and tight.
The only light
A gleaming sliver
in your wet
black eye.

Do you conjure magic?
Can you weave a spell?
Cast your net upon me,
my fortune for to tell.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Jolie Jolie

A few years back I was selling art at the Winter Solstice Fair in Sebastopol (aka The Goddess Fair) when a young woman with auburn hair and glasses got up on stage with an old acoustic guitar and a little amp. Her presence at first was seemingly unremarkable…until she began to sing. Her voice cast a spell on me. Haunting, passionate, awkwardly graceful, startling. This timeless fragile poetry was just pouring out of her, smooth and slow, piercing the atmospheric buzz and bustle. Can you tell I was utterly captivated? When she meandered by after her set, I of course bought her CD “Catalpa” and subsequently fell in love with every track. That was my introduction to miss Jolie Holland. (

Her songs are at once a tonic, a shot, an antidote. A strange brew of Appalachian folk, country blues, jazz, experimental that she describes as “new time, old time, spooky American fairy tale”. Whatever it is, the sound of it woke sleeping parts, stitched together old fragments, disturbed the ground, infused the air. She breathes into old songs until they vibrate. She warbles out her own sweet stuff. I felt my own Southern roots tugged. Stirrings of my grandma’s childhood on an Arkansas farm attached to a thread of spirit and old story that began to weave through my veins. In other words, she really got into my blood.

I use the Jolie spell a lot to buoy me in the studio. Since I saw her those years ago she has produced two more CDs and I savor them. My latest addiction is her song “Mexican Blue” on “Springtime Can Kill You”. Endless high. Sigh.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Invisibility is a thing with me. Sort of like a superpower I didn't ask for. I considered it a braggable trait back when I was say ten and could remain hidden in plain sight so long that the seekers got bored and the game petered out. I thought that was terrific. I felt like an Indian or a ghost. But it's gotten old. It has something to do with needing to slip away when eyes are looking. My worst nightmare is being on stage with a hundred eyes honing in. Yikes! It's an irony since I really have a lot to show, express, share, tell but when people are looking I freeze. Drama was actually my strong suit as a young person. I was quite gifted at certain forms of "melodramatic expressionism". Hey, what teen isn't? My best friend Molly and I survived our adolescence by entertaining ourselves with various creative escapades. We were out there pushing people's buttons. Today they call it performance art. But back then it was just for kicks. Things get so serious with adulthood. Judgements loom. We get stuck in the Head. Anyway, I know I'm not alone in my affliction. So I cooked up an idea for a safe space to let loose. The Back Porch Forum. Just family, maybe some friends. An informal circle to hold anyone who wants to show their stuff. It will be pretty intimate at first but with the goal of perhaps opening out into a wider circle. I'd like it to be a space that can really be used to gain confidence in performing in front of others but with an emphasis on fun and casual. So my Dad's in. He plays awesome country blues guitar. My bro is a gifted drummer and writer. My younger daughter likes to dance and has real grace and knack. She just needs more gumption. I'm not sure what the rest of us will do but we're hatching plans. I'm a closet guitar player and writer of little songs so I will probably pluck and sing and maybe read some Neruda. Just like the good old days.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Quintessential Fool

Head in the clouds, feet off the ground. Stepping into the abyss. Feeling “cuspy” is what I call it, this sense of standing right on the edge of new development in my work. Gravity becomes involved here. Every move becomes serious, counts, informs, opens or closes circuits. I am about to step forward into new territory and I feel ungrounded. I may tip forward into something substantial and satisfying or I just might teeter into a nasty chasm with a shutdown of inspiration and subsequent period of inaction. I don’t like those plunges so I become watchful. Hyper-conscious of every move and that chills the creative juices.

Time to invoke the Fool. Play the Wild Card. Step outside the game. Start at zero. Eyes closed to the outside but open to Infinite Possibilities. Put on my naïve childlike optimism like a yellow cap. Keep the faith. Breathe.

I have so far taken an unconventional path. No formal education. Painting for myself. Focusing on universal human themes from my particular perspective. I’ve made some deep connections. I’ve had phenomenal conversations with folks about physics, shamanism, alchemy, psychedelics, creativity, Jungian psychology, magic, beauty, suffering, poetry, the nature of change….all catalyzed by a colored canvas. But the way is branching. I’m conflicted, pulled in alternate directions. Practical and profound issues are surfacing that require answers. Among them: money, service, sustainability, the future, healing, participation in old forms, creating new ones. I admit I’m lost. How does an artist integrate vision with making a living, self- expression with offering healing, staying real in a world of facades? What is the role of the Artist in the emerging culture? Can I play? Sometimes I wonder if I am just too naïve, too nice, too deep, too sincere, too scared, too careful. The old wisdom goes: the only way out is through. So I just keep feeling my way in the murk. You may not see far in a fog but sound carries well.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hope or Fear

Impeachy Keen

I also really jived with his feelgood Let's Impeach The President pic. I love the honeyed colors. Singalong, YES!


Today, after a delectable lunch at the Willow Wood café in Graton, we visited some ARTrails Open Studios. This was the work of one Tony Speirs. This painting was a big (say 9 feet tall) piece displayed on the garage at the entrance to the studio. The studio interior housed a related and larger ensemble about the Game of Life. Hope or Fear. Spin the Wheel. What's your next move?

A collaborative effort incorporating a multitude of drawings from multiple artists contributing their sketches about Fear or Hope. Exceptional. Eventhough the sketches depict so many of the faddy icons I see cross-pollinizing these days (i.e. tikes, retro commercial kitsch, cute animals, bad boy tattoo, antlered heads, zorro masks…) I like it. The overall feel was an amalgam of old carnival and high school binder doodling.(Don't know if there was a liger in there). And it has the particular distinction of being baptized by Burning Man of which this year's theme was...Hope and Fear.

I have participated in ARTrails for six of the past eight years and it feels strange to not be a part of it. But good too. I am incubating new work and need this time out of the light.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Habeas Corpus, R.I.P. (1215-2006)

October 17, 2006 Bush signs the United States Military Commissions Act of 2006

"With a smug stroke of his pen, President Bush is set to wipe out a safeguard against illegal imprisonment that has endured as a cornerstone of legal justice since the Magna Carta." -Molly Ivins

Terrorism. Violence. Invasion. War. Torture. Ignorance. Fear. Division. The language of Hatred. Deception. Corruption. Now this. Heavy. Is it not implicit that protecting the innocent is more important than punishing the guilty? Apparently not. Ugh.

The State of the World has got me pinned. For the last few years I have had a hard time metabolizing the unfolding awfulness. I find it tough to go about my business as usual. Naturally, it’s affected my work. I paint what is underneath and currently it’s pretty bleak. At a certain point I couldn’t keep painting like before. Flowers faded. Colors bled out. Pinks left. Reds and blacks took hold. Shapes broke up and lines sharpened. Dark fields, rain and fire imagery infiltrated. I’ve let myself paint awkward imagery almost as an exorcism but it has only skimmed the surface. Freedom has become an issue. I want to unbind and shake off the fears and deceptions that creep in from outside. I hold onto small honest things. Little touchstones. Loyal friends, kindnesses, family, kid joys, leafy greenness and hot baths. Looking for light.

It feels like we, the human collective, are caught in an endless loop of historic replay. The same battle of domination, clashing religions, powers plays, unfolding again and again and again. Another stage perhaps, a new set with new players but the same old stale story. So tiresome and depleting in its violent non-solutions and unimaginative scope that it has become an absolute agony. I want a new story.

"When all the broken hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer. Let it be."-Lennon/McCartney

Do we have to wait until every heart is broken? Why can’t we see each other in the context of our shared humanity? Focus on what we have in common. How we are the same. We all want pretty much the same things: to be sovereign, to be effective, to orchestrate our own lives, to raise our families free of violence and in relative prosperity, to thrive and fulfill our potentials. Why do we polarize into extremes? Why do we need to control others? Let’s inhabit the middle ground where there’s plenty of room. Cultivate a Culture of Connection. Can’t we agree to conditions that allow the most common good and concede/compromise or just agree to disagree on the finer points? Why the hell not? The alternative is unacceptable.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Thinking about ancestors a lot these days. My grandpa, who passed away four years ago, was an artist. Albert Quentin Scott. A Santa Rosa native he made his living painting signs for businesses around Sonoma County. He learned the biz from his dad, George Scott. At one point (in the 40s?) the Scott Sign Company* was a father and son operation run out of the garage behind the family home on Humboldt Street, about 6 blocks from where I live today. I walk by that house sometimes. Time warp.

He had success as a signpainter. There was a time when he kept the dome of the Empire Building downtown gold-leafed. He was an inventor, a talented cartoonist and he painted portraits and natural landscapes. His favorite subject was the giant redwoods of Northern California. There is still a large tile inlay of one of his redwood vistas installed in the courtyard in front of Roxy on the Square. Some of his paintings of the big trees hang in the Blood Bank of the Redwoods. He was prolific and most the paintings in his personal collection were dispersed among his six daughters after his death.

I feel a partcular connection to my Grandpa.We shared an artistic gift and that gave us a common language. He came to my first open studio. I think he was proud. He looked thoughtfully at my paintings which are nothing like his work and commented "You certainly have all the colors in there." I took that as both a compliment and a gentle critcism. He was a master of the restrained palette and took pride in his technical skill. I have a more intuitive approach. Since then I have played at cultivating a more tempered use of color...sometimes.

His picture now sits on our Ancestor Altar that we set out every October leading up to the Day of the Dead, November 1. He influences me now from beyond -wherever that is. Hopefully someplace with redwoods. Just like those other artistic ancestors Georgia, Pablo, Freida. They're all at hand, those who painted before.

*Today Scott Sign is Scott Architectural Graphics .

Little Tree

This Saturday past, we celebrated my grandmother’s birthday. Her six daughters (my mom and my aunties) with husbands and the grandkids all congregated. It was a hobbitish event with plenty of food, two cakes and gifts for the guests. My grandma had decided to present her grandchildren with paintings. Several pieces had recently come back into the family. So we drew numbers from a hat and went in turn. I came away with this painting that I love because it's a scene my Grandpa loved best. Sun shafting through the dark redwoods. I am calling it Little Tree.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Feijoa Offering

Yesterday was strange and windy. Went walking in the afternoon air. Wind always feels like spirits in the atmosphere to me. Especially in these waning autumnal days leading into the Days of the Dead. Veils thinning. Spied some feijoas knocked to the ground. I love this little green egg shaped fruit with it's aromatic tangy pulp. I rescued them and now they are nested in a green bowl on our ancestor altar. Here's Martha and George Sutherland smiling at them. My great grandparents. My Mom's mom's mom and pop. Their daughter, my Grandma Sylvia, just turned 86!


I am a private person, a witch in the woods type. The idea of a quiet existence somewhere remote is highly appealing because I run a bit on the sensitive side. It’s an affliction that seems to involve efficient radar scooping abilities and some pretty fragile wiring. Fine-tuned, it's easy to be engulfed by the sheer force of life’s complexities and start to go static. When I decide to face it, plunge in and ride the turbulence, I get some good stuff done. So, that’s how I tend to work. Ebbing and surging. This blog will purposely go against my low profile grain. I want it to be a stream of consciousness channel, a tune in tributary, my way to spill out into the world even when I’m suffering from inertia but especially when I’m covering ground.