Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Beautiful Green World

I've been letting the days slip away, enjoying the rain and the green, gearing up for the trip to Santa Fe. We leave tomorrow for 5 days. I'm looking forward to relaxing and exploring. The past week has had some nice peaks: India has recovered quickly from her surgery and has her smile back, Rob and the girls have nurtured a lovely mess of seedlings out on the back deck and we are continually charmed by a sinuous gray squirrel building a nest in the trees near our kitchen window (this morning s/he actually jumped onto the sill and peered curiously in at us buttering toast). I've been able to put in some good time at the studio, had a few epiphanies about future work and began a Jitterbug class. Rosemary Gladstar (the original she of Rosemary's Garden fame-our local center of herbal wisdom and purveyance-who now lives back east) contacted me again wanting to use Green Man (as well as Mother Tree and Full Moon Flower) for this year's International Herbal Symposium, since the latter was so well-received at the last conference. That feels really good. I've also gotten a few beautiful letters of appreciation which always gives me a boost. (They usually pop in "out of the blue" when I'm at a low ebb). I've been in gratitude mode for our lovely neighborhood, with it's endless array of tangled yards loaded with flowers (the roses especially are in full glory) and the first signs of "hay bales in the hood" as conceived by folks inspired by City Repair. (The idea is, wherever you spy a bale you know it is offered as public space and is an invitation to sit a spell, so...yesterday we rested on one set up quite nicely in a corner garden under an immense redwood). Most recently, we spent Earth Day hiking about Sugarloaf, enjoying the fat moss, swollen streams and thick grassy contours of a rain-saturated landscape. I'm more used to being out there when it is cicada-buzzing hot and sucked dry so that was a treat. All in all, pretty tame days but good. More news when I return from the Southwest!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Lucky Thirteen

Paraskavedekatriaphobia has no hold on me. That is, fear of Friday the 13th. If I was burdened by that superstition, would I have let my daughter go in for major oral surgery today? I guess I'm a somewhat superstitious in reverse. I consider it a good omen when a black cat crosses my path. The fact that today was not only a Friday (Venus' day) and the 13th (sacred to some, 12 around 1), the moon is waning to dark. Witches know that's the best phase for banishing. Gardeners know that's a good time for dealing with roots below ground, the time to pull weeds, thin seedlings and prune. Well then, the perfect time to have metal screws removed from your palette. A bright day, skimming through commuter traffic, competent medical staff, a blessed nap on the drive home, custard, ice cream, movies, stories read aloud, pain meds and deep sleep. Puffy cheeks but wonderfully free of metal implants. A lucky day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Art and Eostar

I've been offline for days since my laptop started dying, snapping off at odd moments with increasing frequency. Thankfully I was able to retrieve all my writing and photos before it went completely comatose. Now it's in the shop for a month! Rather than endure four weeks sans machine...well, the decision to pop for a new one was easy. It's the decadent choice but not so much so considering we're an online sort of family. A family of four with only three portals to cyberspace AND we got this one for a really good deal. I guess we all have our indulgences.

So, meanwhile, I've been enjoying this lush Spring and a casual family and friend-oriented pagan Eostar with a focus on damn good food and the burgeoning green. Lots of seedling nurturing going on here with trays of fragile stems continually carried in and out of the sunshine and cold wind. Baby veggies! I managed to raise a small crop of wheatgrass in one of my nicer baskets to compete with the kids' jellybeans and paper grass.

Last Thursday my folks treated me to a day in the City, museum-hopping. I didn't do anything to deserve such a fab day but I enjoyed myself unabashedly. All three of us like soaking up art so we went for full saturation. Three museums in one day. I liked it so much, I will describe it in detail. So beware.

We saw the Masterpieces of French Jewelry at the Legion of Honor in the morning. Mom works in fine jewelry so it was a must see for her. The collection included Art Nouveau pieces from the early 20th century through to contemporary works. Sinuous filigreed exquisiteness (Lalique and Fouquet) to dripping with diamonds (Cartier), whimsical fruit and bugs fashioned from sapphires or emeralds (Van Cleef & Arpels) all the way to glittering marvels encrusted with tiny gems and a plumed zebra head brooch of variegated agate with a diamond bridle (by the exclusive reclusive JAR). There were a few chunkified horrors in the Art Deco style and rare bits, like the gold pin by Picasso. Everything from the usual pins, earrings and necklaces to evening bags, fans, vanity cases and an umbrella handle. Even a little cage fashioned for a tree frog. All of it stunning.

Then we hit the De Young which apparently I've never visited before, at least not in recent memory. Which was fortunate because I was blessedly unencumbered by fond recollections of the old museum structure before it was recently and completely razed and revamped. Now it is quite impressive and supposedly controversial, clad in a textural brown copper siding all embossed and nubbly, sporting a kind of skewed top-heavy tower at one corner (from which there is a panoramic view). Everything about it exudes a feeling both prehistoric and warmly futuristic. Elemental and essential. An Andy Goldsworthy installation marks the entrance with stone slabs split by an artificial fault line (a nod to the forces that damaged the previous building). Close-trimmed palm trees lines the front and slag piles of slate erupt with large fern trees beyond the glass windows of the interior. I liked it. Primitive, spare and textural.

There was a lot to see and much of it we didn't. Some was captivating, some not. Besides an amazing collection of photography, there were a lot of modern pieces including Cornelia Parker's "Anti-Mass" installation of suspended charcoal and wire, revealed to be the remains of a Southern Baptist church destroyed by arson. Also, some recent prints of Deborah Oropallo's computer manipulations of 18th century military men morphing into modern sexy women, including one rendered as a tapestry. Many American pieces of the Hudson River School style with the star being Frederic Edwin Church's
Rainy Season in the Tropics. (Wow, there were visionary artists in 1866! The only thing missing is the dolphins!) Aesthetically, my favorite was Ruth Asawa's woven wire forms hanging in the foyer to the tower with small lights angled to cast big shadows of the bulbous and branchy organic shapes. It accentuated the overall feel of the museum beautifully. I was also smitten with the huge collection of New Guinea carved wooden ritual implements: masks, bowls, shields, drums, spirit boards (these last looked like far out surf boards- for riding the cosmic waves, perhaps?) I could've taken in a lot more but we were starving so we headed to the SoMa district.

We ate at Annabelle's Bar and Bistro on 4th near Mission. We three had discovered it when we took in the Chagall exhibit a few years back. It's classic old San Francisco with high ceilings, chicken wire floor tiles, heavy glass fixtures and a great wooden bar stretching back to an open kitchen. Dark wood wainscoting, soft citron walls, big vases of lanky calla lilies and heavy white moldings made it all very atmospheric. A good place to rest, sipping pinot, which we did. Past 3 o' clock, after a perfect lunch, a shared gelato banana split and some good strong java we were ready to plow onward. To SFMOMA!

The whole point of coming to the City was to catch the Picasso and American Art exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Everyone takes it for granted that Picasso is considered great. That's easy. It's written in every comprehensive art book in the world. Maybe not everyone is clear on why. A majority, if pressed, would most likely admit they don't actually like his work. It can be challenging. I happen to think he was great, in the deepest sense of that word. He broke so much new ground that modern art became this burgeoning jungle, a new creature, another planet. This show was about just that.

So, I found myself in front of multiple great works by, among others, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichenstein, Jasper Johns. Each piece was juxtaposed with a relevant work by Picasso. It was striking, the degree of influence. Like the the Picasso piece was a seed that these other works sprung directly from. Ironically, Picasso is quoted as saying," A good artist borrows, a great artist steals." I don't know what that means exactly but he obviously encouraged some folks.

Coincidentally, I began a large painting last month that I built around a shape I was enamored of from his Guernica painting. It's a light shaped like an eye and it features prominently in my composition. Now I don't feel so sheepish having done so. I see it a little like the "borrowing" that happens in folk songwriting. A phrase or bit of melody from an old song will be the central thread of a completely new creation. It's just a jumping off point.

I always seem to be struck by just particular pieces (or even just certain elements within a work) by an artist rather than the body of work as a whole. I always thought that was strange. Now, I feel a renewed alertness to catching onto those threads because that's the "me" of it. That's where my fire, my juice is revealed to me. So, I stand in awe of de Kooning's Event In A Barn when I usually find much of his work a bit misogynistic (his women almost viciously drawn). I am left completely unmoved by Pollock's expanses of dribbles, visual white noise. But #18, 1951 had me riveted. A pure magic spell unfolding visually. His woefully inadequately titled #5 (pictured above), completely floors me. I want to call it She of Grass.

So, yeah, I came away from San Francisco all fired up, inspired and strangely consoled about the track I'm on. I think I'm doing fine.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Lazy Hu Man's Guide

“No Resistance.” “Love it the way it is.” And my fave: “Go beyond reason to love: it is safe. It is the only safety.” Just a few of the choice nuggets of wisdom in The Lazy Man’s Guide To Enlightenment by Thaddeus Golas. (I added the Hu).

Published in 1972, this slim little volume has been hanging around our house for over 25 years serving as “a handy trip guide”, offering suggestions for simple attitudes to help stay grounded during ”the most extreme freak-out or space-out, even when your mind is completely blown” or when you’ve had some ”bad dope”.

Lately, it has emerged from quiet obscurity. It just went out of print and now there are hardback editions showing up on eBay for as much as $75 a pop. Hmmm. Is it because this succinct little book is just so deliciously pithy?

Even though it seems like there were a lot more folks pursuing “enlightenment” in the early Seventies than these days, who couldn’t benefit from lightening up in the face of the daily bombardment of grim and heavy news. By that definition, this stuff translates and aptly.

On Love:

”Love is the highest and holiest action because it always contains that which is not love within itself, it always and ever moves to include the unloving.”

”Each of us is the same kind of being, capable of outflowing attention and awareness or withdrawing it. And that is all we need to do: Give full, permissive, loving attention to absolutely anything we see in our minds, in our bodies, in our environment, in other people.”

”Love is the only dimension that needs to be changed. If you are not sure how it feels to be loving, love yourself for not being sure how it feels. There is nothing on earth more important than the love which conscious beings feel towards each other, whether or not it is ever expressed.”

Is that radical or what? Love, not as mush or vague emotional swirlings, but as courageous bigness. Love as acceptance. Letting it all be.

On Vibes:

”The more you love the faster you vibrate, then the less need you feel to control anything, and you are not fearful of change and variety. When you raise your vibration level, you can neatly sidestep collisions, both psychic and physical, and quite literally change the world for the better.”

”A completely expanded being is space. Since expansion is permeative, we can be in the 'same space' with one or more other expanded beings. In fact, it is possible for all the entities in the universe to be in one space.”

On Fear and Attachment:

”Anything that really frightens you may contain a clue to enlightenment. It may indicate how deeply you are attached to structure, whether mental, physical or social. Attachment and resistance are appearances with the same root: when you resist by pulling away your awareness, the emotion is one of fear, and the contraction is experienced like magnetism or gravity; that is, attachment.”

This conjures an image for me of the universe as this great woven strangeness that we all wear like a vast stretchy sweater (Chief Seattle’s web). As each of us is an intrinsic fiber of this intricate intertwining, it is ridiculous to think we can pull away from any part of it without in fact pulling that very part directly to us.

Anyway, a lot of good sanity saving stuff pressed into 80 slender pages. Greatly recommended.