AULD LANG SYNE – a toast to Anne

HEMINGWAY & ANNE  Papa Hemingway                                                     Running Girls –  JT Winik
“Characters who are on the screen from start to finish are not necessarily the ones who have the greatest impact.”—Jeanne Moreau
“No one you love is ever truly lost.” – Ernest Hemingway
“I know now that there is no one thing that is true – it is all true.” – Ernest Hemingway
New Year’s Eve we raised glasses to friends, to parents, to teachers, to brothers and sisters –  to those close as close can be and those encountered fleetingly – who with a touch, hard or soft, had somehow shaped us.  Whether with a moment or with years, with encouragement or challenges, lives are moulded and contours shifted by those we encounter.  We’re pulled and stretched and when need be, patted gently with kindness.  A few words uttered by a passing stranger might birth an epiphany while the cadence of long conversations shared with a friend are recalled less for what was said than for the smiles flickering in the waning of a candle.  Thus, we are built by those remembered, and whether by luck or fate, or my penchant for stumbling, I count myself blessed with these merging of paths.
And so, Lest old acquaintances be forgot … this is the story of one girl who left her impression, very clearly, very deeply, very truly, without pointing a finger, without the slightest demand.
Anne
Hop-scotching forward through this new year, I can’t help looking back. I turn my head against the cold and feel a breeze, soft and warm.  The ice thaws, the years melt and there it is, after all this time … the old schoolyard:  Six well-worn swings, their rusted chains creaking with soaring girls, toes pointed toward the clouds, skirts fluttering. Over there, a dusty baseball diamond and a couple bleachers four tiers high and all around a wire fence and the trees beyond it, green-green, with the promise of summer.  Kids race through the sunlight in a game of tag, their shadows darting like danger behind them. Tossed balls bounce off an orange brick wall while girls bounce through double-dutch ropes, counting 102, 103, 104… Listen: the wild laughter of boys in pursuit of their prey and the squeals of girls piercing the air.  And Anne and I, like conjoined twins, walking with whispers, somewhere on the perimeter of all this, our fingers tracking the diamond link fence, our brows knotted with untold tales.
Stories were our game.  With words or pictures, and often both, we took turns contorting ourselves into myriad shapes of being.  Trapping our shadows upon the sand, we traced the lines of wisdom, fear, power, boredom, anger or joy, hunger or hope … all with the sun at our backs.
 OK.  What do you wanna be, Anne?   She replied:  FREEDOM.
Rising upon her toes, she stretched herself tall and spreading her arms upward and out, froze her pose for me to draw.  With a stick I traced the shape she cast, like an insect navigating its edges from beginning to end.  Shadows never look like what you’d expect.  Taking their form from the angle of the sun, they often surprise us with a distorted blob, a form more akin to a dark deep-sea-thing, than to the girl in pink who stood emulating light.  Leaving no room for ambiguity, I scratched a sun into the sand above her head.
Anne sought, always, to portray what was good, whereas I courted mischief and monsters.  Humour did not come naturally to her and yet she could laugh, just not at the expense of anyone else.  Ours was a merging of opposites.  She posed as humility, I drew in her wings.  I posed as wicked, she added my horns. We examined, then, our disparate array of characters and with a wonky web of narratives, spun them together.
We were artists, Anne and I – at least, so we were told, our drawings and paintings praised as examples and hung side by side on the classroom walls.  I favoured people while she painted landscapes and her trees spoke more deeply than my faces ever could. Her scenes were not pretty, her visions not blind; her skies were skies be they heavy with grey and her trees were trees, no matter how broken.  From time to time, as a class, we sketched en plein air, each finding a spot in the nearby woods.  Why had she included that snapped trunk of a tree, white as birches are, in the foreground of her painting?
 Anne replied, “Because it was there.”
Again and again, from its place on the wall, that painting snagged me with its broken trunk.  Looking up from my books in moments of boredom, it drew me, dragged me deep into its world of imperfections, a place where nature was not sweet but raw, ragged with life, with growth and decay; my own painting beside it was deliberate and dull.  Had there been broken trunks I didn’t remember them or, perhaps, automatically, I’d effaced their discordance with a sprig or two of green:  hide what is ugly, shift what is wrong.   What rendered Anne’s painting powerful was the truth of it, its lack of disguise, its bare-naked honesty, its screaming tension amid her forest of silence.  Her painting spoke of architecture versus embellishment.  No butterflies wafted their gossamer wings, no flowers sprung where they should not be.  Simply, for all that it was, and it was a lot, I coveted that painting and hoped she would trade, sure that she would, either of us flattered at the request of the other.  But something happened that last day of school and the only thing I know is that after we rolled up our artworks and gathered our golden-starred essays from the walls, I never saw that painting again.
True, girls fall out of friendships for reasons unknown and, as easily, they fall back together. Although Anne and I disagreed, it was rare,  and often the case of me battling myself as she refused to engage.  In many ways she was already a young woman – stoic, dignified and generous of spirit – not one to fall prey to the taunts of a child.  She forgave without pause, with never a question, with a smile, even, yet her eyes spoke of disappointment, of pain.  Few though such ruptures were, they happened … and they ended.   I walked away sick with remorse and embarrassment and, yet, never seemed to learn.  Thus, I know:  whatever did happen that day must surely have been rooted in the quarrelsome me.
That summer, we glimpsed each other now and then, here and there.  Sheepishly, I looked away, turning to other faces to fill the void, to laugh, to run, to pretend, to play.  The days drifted like a boat on water, and July became August as though on a whim.  Time, free and lazy, wafted like pollen and without demands, shaped itself with the impulses of moments.  My only chore beyond making my bed was to polish the furniture Saturday mornings and then, one day, to my surprise, a new task was assigned: organize the hall closet.   Hmmm… on the one hand, the laughter of blue skies beckoned, but on the other, the closet brimmed with intrigue.  I’d poked around in there clandestinely from time to time but had never reached back into the guts of it.  The mystery of all that stuff stuffed into shelves, musty old books, cryptic notes scribbled, boxes of photographs and God knows what else, enticed me with an archaeological curiosity – I might not find Tutankhamun, but surely other treasures awaited the light.  Dark, cool and quiet, the hall was the perfect place for the unearthing of secrets.  As I began to empty the contents of these shelves I was handed some money to slip out to the store.  My mother was baking and something was missing: milk, eggs, yeast or vanilla – whatever it was, what was left over was mine to spend.
Stepping outside, momentarily blinded, the heat of the day toasted my shoulders.   What beckoned my eyes leftward in the opposite direction, I don’t know, but there she was:  Anne.  Not too far away, but not close either, she stood to the side of the path where it rose beneath overhanging trees.  She was dressed in orange.  Orange?   She often wore pink, white, blue or a certain kind of green, a cross between pistachio and mint.  A new dress, a new colour … hmmm … tangerine.  The sun-dappled light haloed her hair.  The summer shadows shaped her smile.  She waved.  And grinning, ear to ear, I waved back.  Really, that’s all it was, a wave to each other, yet, a great load lifted … we were friends again.  Flitting off to the store, what remained of the holidays unfolded with the prospects of walks and talks, of flying through the woods, of sitting in the tree house, of long days dipping brushes into colours, of questions and answers and a thousand tales told with shapes of being we’d yet to trace.  Returning with a clutch of licorice braids, both black and red, in a paper bag, I anticipated Anne’s delight, for unlike me, without a bone of greed, she’d divide them among her string of siblings, keeping but a bite for herself.
Those were the days of running.  I was quick.  Zooming and skipping and sometimes tripping, I was back within moments and while the kitchen clattered with my mother’s inventions, the hall closet project, yet, more inspiring, waited with wonders.  To a small pile of gems I added a protractor and a compass, a Coke bottle key chain and a pen with a blonde-haired figure of a woman, which, when turned upside down, was stripped of her clothes – that was the big brother factor, as most of this hall closet was. Standing on a chair, my reach extended to a jar full of coins – another treasure for the pile –  while those dusty old books, many, covers bent, pages torn, I plunked to the floor.   But the one book forever in my mind, was that one in my hands on hearing the news – Papa Hemingway.  Exhumed from the top shelf, the photo on the cover was a face, wide and white, bearded, not unkind, almost smiling … but not Was he tired?   Was he sad?  He was not happy.  He wasn’t angry, either.  What his face said was beyond my discernment. And just at that moment, the dark hall grew darker as the silhouette of my brother blocked the light of the living room behind him. He’d been running.
 On catching his  breath, he said: Anne’s dead. She drowned.  She drowned at the beach.
 What he said made no sense at all.  Anne didn’t swim.  I climbed down from the chair and turned back to the face of Papa H.
Although it was impossible – I’d waved to her just moments before – it was true.  Anne did drown that day. It was true because the stories came:  how the kids had run for help, how the grownups then ran to her rescue, how they dove into the lake to find her, how someone carried her dripping limp body and set it to lie on a towel on the sand, how her father tried desperately to revive her, not giving up until, finally, he was pulled away.  Anne was gone.  Although it couldn’t be true, it truly was.
The afternoon of her funeral, I searched through the hangers to the find the dress – a dress, suddenly, too childish with its empire waist and poofy sleeves.  Last week, I would have worn it with joy, it would have fit the girl I was.  Anne’s favourite, it was that certain kind of green, rather bright, too bright, my brothers said and, thus, not appropriate.  They were adamant. And they were right. I fully understood.  I would rather have worn almost anything else but sometimes choices are not choices at all.  Standing in the living room, ready to leave but unable to move, I waited.  And then, in a rare act of empathy, my mother said: She’ll wear what she needs to.
With Anne in pink, we were two bright spots in the room.  Like the wreathes of flowers we seemed fresh but everything in that room was wrong. Our summer colours defined our bond, renewing that last wave of friendship we’d shared and, yet, she lay silent now.  Behind me, someone whispered, she looks like an angel.  She did. She was.  But coffins are not places for angels.  Could I have drawn a nice pair wings for her, she’d be out of there in a minute.  She’d be freedom or joy, wisdom or laughter and never at the expense of anyone else, she’d be flying high.
 So … how did she shape me?  … Good question.
After all this time, throughout the years, as challenges drop, as they always do, with their weight of rocks into our laps, it is Anne – that girl long ago -who helps to transform those stones into diamonds and inspires me still. As life’s path unwinds and experience expands the brain and heart, it’s the memory of this childhood friend that invites me to retrace perspectives and shapes of being as though we were still tracing shadows in the sand.  That’s not to say it’s not always a struggle for one like myself who was born to criticize, whose opinions sometimes usurp my mind, hijacking reason with the passion of nonsense.  Patience, forgiveness, and the desire to see more than one tiny facet, are those things that draw a wider perspective, with one simple line, from beginning to end.
Those last weeks of summer, I turned the pages of Papa Hemingway, struggling dismally with words I hadn’t known existed, the big dictionary fluttering as I lay on the grass, while inside, the licorice braids grew stale and dry on my window sill.  Never opened, the paper bag was always there and then, one day, it wasn’t.
I’ve never been fond of licorice… not even as a child.   Only many years later, with a new friend, hiking through the mountains of Spain, did I develop a taste for it.  The earth spins, and what was once disliked morphs into that which, if not loved, is at least, palatable.  And so, we move on.  Going forward, we leave things behind, yet, there is much we take with us.  Anne filled my pockets for the journey ahead and with a soft line she widened my horizon.  Freedom, she whispered, Do you see it?  … and with the lightest of touches she set my course onward, as though blowing a paper boat upon a pond.
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Face Focus: reading between the lines

The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart. – Thomas Sowell
Pope Francis Rob Ford Pope Francis                                                                                           Rob Ford

Match the words to the Faces:

scornful    warm    aggressive   COMFORTABLE   irritable     engaged   trusting   FRUSTRATED     angry     optimistic suspicious  thoughtful  RISKY   kind   superficial  arrogant   open   confrontational   sympathetic  humble  IMPUDENT  FORGIVING   cocky    STRESSED   empathetic   contemptuous   DIGNIFIED  unhappy   sad    GIVING      happy    dissatisfied  CONSCIENTIOUS     EASY   closed    sociable   demanding    PEACEFUL     argumentative   loving    anxious
The two above need no introduction – the guy on the left having been recently ordained as “the most talked about person of 2013” while the fellow on the right does his best to catch up.  Whereas the old chap in white can seemingly do no wrong, the big bloke with the frown is doing all the wrong he can.  One is adored, his every nod seeding inspiration while the other, if not at times loathed, is at best, a source of sad entertainment, his every bungle lampooned.  The internet creates the famous and the infamous – as news and word of mouth always have – and where reputation precedes us, judgments are made:  culturally, socially, personally … and efficiently.  Character is defined often by actions, deeds or misdeeds, with all that is spoken, with words gifted or spewed.  … But do faces, two-dimensional and static, tell us anything at all?
Years ago, while a student, I was a docent at a museum, leading kids through an exhibition of portraits circa 1800s. Ornately and heavily framed, faces, young and old, gazed out from the past, clothed in their finery of high collared ruffles, lace and jewels.  These were formal portraits, their subjects mostly rigidly serious, without an obvious range of personal expression – no gleaming white smiles or contortions of anger — and, yet, children honed in on their nuances.
Which of these people would you choose as your uncle or aunt? I’d ask.
Who might you like as a sister, brother, friend? 
Who would you like to spend an afternoon with?
Who would you not want to meet?  
Invariably, in choosing an uncle or aunt, the kids gathered around the large portrait of an old crag of a man, bushy-browed and at first sight, severe, until one noticed the almost imperceptible sparkle in his eye, his gnarled hands draped serenely on his knee, his shoulders slouched in relaxation.  Children have an ability, it seems, for penetrating beyond the pose, for discerning a smile within a face of sadness, for sensing the gentle beneath the mask of decorum.  Be it the twist of an eyebrow or the subtle turn of a mouth, the lines which hold an eye or those that furrow a brow, the positioning of an arm or the angle of a head – all these little things speak of a subject as open or closed, thoughtful, angry, kind, mean, warm or disagreeable and, in the end, inviting or not.  And thus, the children chose each their own  ‘person,’ someone who intrigued them with the slightest of welcomes, sparking their imaginations to spend a little more time –  and they each knew, as well, very clearly, with whom they did not want to spend any time at all.  Can you tell me why? I’d ask.  And in the telling of why, there came always a story.
This is what I love about faces, the stories they hold.  A facial expression is both a fleeting moment trapped and a tale of all the past that face has lived.   Faces enthrall me and often, in meeting new people, their appearance takes precedence over the words they speak, thus, I rarely remember what was said nor even their names, for I was looking in their eyes, at their brows, at their lips, at the gesture of a hand as it rose to their hair.
A good friend, Pieter, with whom I’ve travelled extensively over the years, is also afflicted with this condition of face-mesmerization.  On our journeys we’d find ourselves in some new city or town, standing on a corner, a crinkled, coffee-stained map unfolded, wondering where we were, pondering which street – cluttered with the unfamiliar – might lead to the plaza, the cathedral, the restaurant, the museum, the park or the beach.  Often, a stranger would come to our aid, gesticulating directions, pointing here and there, and at the end of it, I’d ask Pieter…  So, what did that man say? 
His eyes popping, Pieter shrugged.  What? he said. What?  How should I know?  You know I don’t listen to what people are saying!  I’m too busy counting the freckles on their nose!
Generally, we got to where we were going but it was often a circuitous route.
Cadiz Cadiz, Spain
In Cadiz we wandered in circles our first day, down one street then another, searching  for addresses that didn’t exist, seeking a place to settle that winter.  With only the most general of maps and a sheet of newspaper apartment ads, numerous faces directed us – a finely dressed elderly man with a red onion nose, a middle-aged woman with a voice of dried leaves, a girl with eyebrows that spread widely like wings and, among others, a portly fellow who had no time to spare, his impatience flashing behind thick bottle glasses …  And so we trudged over the cobblestones of narrow, twisted alleys, up steps and down, through private crumbling courtyards crowded with broken flower pots, and stepped out again, back into the street or plaza where we’d begun.   Déjà vu — it’s a lovely and weird experience, but tiring.  Then, finding a bench and a coffee or water we shook our heads and wondered at the faces we’d seen.
Pieter:  Did you see that woman’s eyes?
Me:  HmmmA lot of pain there.  And that voice.   …What about that big mad man with the glasses?
Pieter:  Well, he just pointed anywhere, just to get rid of us!  I didn’t trust him.  Those crazy eyes.  He was having a bad life.
Me:  That young woman with the eyebrows was hypnotizing.
Pieter:  Yes, she was.  She was kind.  But she didn’t know the streets any better than us.  She just wanted to please, so she pointed us down that creepy street.
Ah well, perhaps had we been listening to their directions rather than looking at their faces, we may have found where we were going much sooner than we did.  And, yet, I imagine myself in some convoluted dream wherein the streets twist and wind like the lines of a face, and I see  two people nearby of whom I might ask directions:  an old fellow in white with a friendly suggestion of a smile and a guy, big or small, with a frown as deep as a cave.  Who would I ask?  Whom would I trust?  Well … the guy with the frown may know the ins and outs of the dark alleys better than most, and although I don’t want to be pointed toward the clouds, upward and beyond – heaven being a journey I’m not prepared for – I guess it would come down to:   who would I want to be with for a moment or more?  Whose face would I rather see unfold?  And given a choice of only these two, whose story would I rather hear?   … Basically, who would I rather walk the streets with for a moment, be it five minutes or an hour, be it an hour or a day?
I know which face I’d choose, as I’m sure you do, too – for whatever our reasons.  Deciding on one or the other is rarely a case of black and white.  Within each and every one of us, there are, if we look, various shades between the two.  Of course, we all feel more comfortable with one thing or another, with one person versus another … such is the way we choose our friends.  And so, like the kids in the museum, with so little to go on but the nuances with which we connect, we each favour and align with what fits us best.  So, ok, for myself, I’d opt for the smile over the frown – it’s easier, you see, to walk calmly through the unknown that life presents us than to battle our way – often alone – through a boulevard of broken dreams.
Green Day:  BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS – dedicated to Rob Ford and all those others who have forgotten, or who perhaps have never known, the grace of a smilehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-jFWOhQ61w SMILE:  A POWERFUL TOOL:   http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201207/smile-powerful-tool Proven: Pope Francis has conquered the Internet:    http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20755286,00.html BBC – Reading Faces: Face Value:   http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/articles/emotions/faceperception1.shtml Harvard Business Review – Anthony K. Jjan:   http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/06/becoming-a-better-judge-of-peo/
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Chet Baker — the temptations of mystery

Chet Baker Title Image

 “Chet Baker sang with an innocent sweetness that made girls fall right out of their saddle oxfords.”
– Rex Reed
It’s to Baker’s credit that he’s the most widely debated vocalist since Al Jolson: to some…there are incredibly deep emotions stirring or about to be stirred when he sings, while to others, there’s a whole lot of nothing going on, and to still others, that in itself is attractive – as Jim Hoberman says, it’s like “being sweet-talked by the void.”   –Will Friedwald
Being “sweet-talked by the void” may have been how many of the women involved with Chet Baker would have described their attraction to him. An American trumpet player and singer most popular during the 50’s jazz era that included associations with Charlie Parker and Gerry Mulligan, Baker, a James Dean look-alike, was known equally for his charisma as for his infidelity. During the seventies and eighties, despite a life seriously hampered by drug abuse, his career enjoyed a comeback. At this point, ravaged by his addictions and prematurely aged, he was not a pretty picture, yet, women were still drawn to him like moths to a flame. In general, it is said that, as an egoist, he shamelessly used and abused others and the women in his life, in particular, suffered his deceit. Drawn to him like magnets, they were easy targets and Baker was a willing (if not grateful) recipient of their offerings, be it love or shelter, money or drugs, or whatever else was needed to fill the moment that was his life. That moment ended in 1988, shortly following a concert in Hanover, Germany, when he fell from a second story window in Amsterdam to his death.

Chet Prins Hendrik Hotel

In the winter of 2000 I visited the Prins Hendrik Hotel in Amsterdam where a monument – a bronze relief – had been installed on the exterior wall to commemorate Baker’s place of departure. Inside, I was led up to the room where Baker had spent his last evening. “Chet Baker Room” the sign on the door read, and then, the number 210. I entered. It was an unremarkable but functional room, neither seedy (as I’d expected it to be) nor in any way luxurious, yet, I walked away haunted by the strangeness of it – strange because it wasn’t strange at all.
Had the door to room 210 never been opened I might have followed my imagination into its dark recesses to construct a room that would befit a jazz legend who was also a junkie, someone living so close to the edge that one night, inexplicably, he falls, jumps or is pushed from a second story window to his death. There is something very intriguing about a closed door or a door partially opened, inviting yet concealing all that is behind. In pondering this image, I realized then, where Baker’s power lay and, thus, in which direction the Chet Baker Series might evolve.
Originally, I’d envisioned the Chet Baker Series as incorporating Baker’s physical image from infatuating youth to captivating decay. I’d wanted to capture something of this person who was a complex integration of extraordinary musical talent and destructive susceptibility to addiction, the latter which may have governed a great part of his life – his role as father to his three children, his relationships with friends and colleagues and, ultimately, his intimate affairs with women. As I walked from Room 210 of the Prins Hendrik Hotel, however, and out into the cool air of a freshly rained upon street, my sense was that I had just experienced the intrigue of what Chet Baker might have represented as “a man to a woman.”

chet baker paintings

The Door – Chet Baker Series                                                                Listening – Chet Baker Series
Thus began a series of paintings in which Chet Baker’s physical image did not appear in any way at all. Rather, the image of a closed door or partially opened door, represented the man and Chet Baker became, simply, a metaphor for mystery.
The Chet Baker Series evolved around the images of doors and the women in these paintings are either going in or coming out or in a state of wondering if they should enter. In one painting entitled, Listening (above right)  the female figure leans with her back against a stairwell, her head tilted, her eyes closed, while in the hallway a partially open door discreetly beckons. One can only imagine what the woman in this painting listens to… what sounds emanate from behind that door? What music has transported her into an apparent state of ecstacy? What promise does that music hold?
This series was, of course, less about Chet Baker than it was about temptation, seduction and fascination. What lures us toward a “new door” – be that door representative of another human being, a new path in life, an unknown place (geographically or psychologically) – is the promise of what lies ahead. Generally, what lies ahead is the “x” in the equation; it is the unknown, the mystery which human nature craves to satisfy. In the case of Chet Baker, a man whose fascination transcended his music, the stories of women as simplified in the sparse compositions of this series, describe the seductive powers of the man.
Afterthoughts:
That mystery entices … well, that’s a no-brainer.  Human nature, it seems, dictates that we are more captivated by the question than satisfied by the answer.  For every unknown, after all, there exists a multitude of potentials, whereas an answer, plain and simple, confines one by its assertion.  The magic of mystery tweaks our imagination, while answers – black and white and all too clear – often disappoint.   Is it not mystery that once inspired explorations of distant lands and inspires, still, not only all areas of science but also the arts?  Is seeking not more exciting than finding?  Hmmm… more on this topic another time.

 

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TIME – Where Did it Go?

Under the Microscope

Time: Under the Microscope – October 2013

How did it get so late so soon? – Dr. Seuss
Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door. – Coco Chanel
Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do. – Jena Paul Sartre
“En in den beginne was er … tijd” — Translation: “In the beginning there was … time.” – JTW Sketchbook, 02/01/03
Time – it is the one thing that’s always there … in the beginning.  But where it goes, thereafter, is anyone’s guess.   You breathe it in, breathe it out, and then it’s gone, or so it seems.  And, thus, in the test tube labeled “October,” this month evaporated like water.  HOW?  Perhaps the Bunsen burner was set too high … or perhaps there wasn’t enough water to begin with.    Meanwhile, the great clock ticked, counting the minutes from three o’clock to four, while beating on walls, seeking a door.
As always, a mission begins with a plan.  To Do Lists are diligently and optimistically scribed with all the visual beauty of the Magna Carta – written on paper, with just the right pen – and with the speedy blur of a lipstick kiss (for good luck), it’s a contract signed and sealed, and it all seems so simple: just connect the dots,  1, 2, 3 …   these are the steps to get from here to there,  the point being to gain control, to harness the energy of all those little ideas bungling around up there.  You want to take them – these tiny sparks of inspiration – and weave them together like a string of pearls, each complete and perfect, each a success – something accomplished and checked off the list. And most often, this method, with a liberal touch of tenacity, works quite well.
But, in our excitement, we run hither and thither sniffing our way, down this path then that, without any landmarks to guide our route.  Our  peripheral vision recalls doors passed, as we sped too quickly in the wrong direction; yet, the maze method is undersold, I think, for although it induces panic it also stimulates and with senses peaked in our  race to get there, we may miss the obvious but discover the new.  We know there are answers, it’s just a matter of finding them. Our inherent treadmill snags our race-pace … so we nosedive and tumble, now and then, but without too much damage, just a bruise or two, we hop back on again for the ride, for the adventure, for the need to examine, for the need to explore.  We know there are answers, it’s just a matter of seeing them.  And we know there’s an end, for time defines endings like nothing else.
And then, after all that stumbling and fumbling and banging our pink noses against closed walls, if the maze method fails to turn up answers, we’ve, at least, a lot of data under our belts.  Experience is never wasted, you see, but accumulates, like a bag of gold,  to be used or saved as we need it.  And so, when the grand clock beckons our gaze and we see clearly that the seconds are ticking, we’ve these wonderful nuggets all shining and pretty, all full with potential if only we knew which to choose or in which order they are meant to exist.  … And this is the moment to shift perspectives.   I may don, at this point,  my explorer’s boots and climb a mountain for a vaster view.  Or, through a microscope observe the mystery of all life’s wonders.   The microscopic and macroscopic share patterns, it seems, and sometimes that’s all it takes – a new view from wherever – to find the smooth arrangement of things, to weave one’s ideas coherently into something that makes beautiful sense, and to fasten this glittering thing around one’s neck – this string of jewels –   to like and to own it, and to smile then, for a job well done.
Years ago, at a street market, a friend and I discovered a gargantuan old bottle, round as a pig and as tall as my knee — it was beautiful, transparent and faintly tinted green.  We labeled this vessel our “Jar of Accomplishments.”  Optimistic though we were, we’d also a pragmatic streak, and rather than filling it with peas (our first thought), we filled it instead with the biggest giant lima beans to be found  … And after 7 years they barely covered the bottom with 772 accomplishments.  Excluding laundry and sweeping (accomplishments undersold) we’ve all each our own idea of what an accomplishment is… for with the word, accomplishment, comes a weight of variables, the greatest of which is time.
And although much was accomplished this month, with To Do Lists diligently checked, this Blog was sadly neglected.  Well … no, that’s not true.  Not true, at all. In fact  I spent a great deal of time with it, really, but in obsessing on a subject I was not ready to explore, time tied me into a knot with that theme. Speeding down labyrinthine paths like a lab rat, my nose sorely bruised, I sought the solution for that idea for a while.  Ideas, visceral as they be, hook one into a scarf of crazy patterns and although it is a wonderful journey jumping from one thread to the next, frankly, one must know when to set it aside, for now. … Because time spent beating walls looking for a door makes no sense at all.  And, after all, time well spent is not just about putting another bean in the jar.  It’s about putting the right bean in the jar, while enjoying the moment, a moment born from the past and the present and all the fond light that the future casts.
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Señor H.D (a love story, a tale of a muse)

Spanish Humpty Dumpty
 Spanish Humpty Dumpty
You’re sitting there with your muse and your muse is telling you something and you’re following it, and you end up the next day looking at it and thinking, ‘What the hell was the muse saying to me?’  – Nathan Oliveira (Artist)
 “The real comic muse is the one under whose laughing mask tears roll down.”
– Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Venus in Furs, (Author)
Not always, but often, my muse arises from the inside-out, and from this place inside – wherever it is rooted, be it the head or the heart – from time to time, the whimsical, the weird and the humorous ascend unbidden from their crawlspace. Conversely, when working from the outside-in, we are inspired by the tangible; be it a luscious dish of fruit, the face of a stranger, a landscape or even a concept, the muse exists as a thing already, complete in its form, with its raison d’être … And wherever or however the muse originates, we take its hand and run with it.  And so, it was with Señor H.D.
 We met on a narrow side-street in Nerja, Spain, beneath a bright and burning sun, off the beaten path of restaurants and tourists.  Clothes hung quietly from balconies to dry, the air hummed softly with the gossip of neighbours; it was just a normal residential day, with children dressed in their Sunday best and a red ball bouncing over the cobblestones.  So, who knew passion tapped its foot, waiting, as sometimes passion does?
 But that’s life, isn’t it?  It’s all about the crossing of paths.
 Meandering along as a group of friends, we turned a corner and there he was – the love of my moment!  He was standing on a table – an appropriate place for his kind, and he was among good company:   a gang of Pez Heads gleaming in their suits of reds, blues and yellows, bobble heads of only the highest class, a few respectable dinosaurs, action figures bulging with promise, and, of course, the omnipresent teddy bears, a bit worn for wear with a life’s job well done … the crème de la crème.  Here stood an array of a little boy’s collection baking in the sunlight, a tale of love discarded, of toys outgrown.  Yet, among a crowd of even that caliber, Señor H.D., shone like an angel – with his fancy costume, that sexy hat, those crazy legs, and that smile (boding of an adventurous future) – well, the long and short of it was:  I had to have him.  And for a euro handed to a little hand, H. D. was mine.  …  As we sauntered away, it was Marion who noticed the peculiar compartmental crease in his face:  That’s got to be there for a reason, no?  Indeed, facial creases are never for nothing, thus, back we tracked to the table where the little boy explained, “Well, you see, if you scrunch his legs up into his chest, he opens his mouth.” He tried with all his might to demonstrate, and then, giving up, he sighed, “…But he doesn’t work so well anymore.” Indeed, scrunching one’s legs into one’s chest would open anyone’s mouth, but H. D. had retired from this monkey trick; his face had grown stiff with time.  His raison d’être – designed to entertain the innocently masochistic minds of children with his expressions of pain – had finally shifted.  Slipping him gently into my purse, I promised him a new life.  … One day.
Sometimes muses sit around for a while, even years, doing nothing, but in this case, although a quiet fellow, he begged attention. On returning him “home” to my goat shed studio in the mountain village of Competa, I set him safely upon a rough wooden shelf next to my laptop, and every morning, rain or shine, he greeted me with his renegade smile, as though bursting with the excitement of a new life and all the trouble it could throw his way. This was not a fellow who would fall from a wall, spilling his yolk among shattered shell.  After years in hiding, it was his time to shine and suicidal thoughts were the furthest from his mind.  As a woman, I must say that nothing inspires like a confident man with a joie de vivre … thus, one day, in the warm light of a day near done, with a palette of love, I painted him.
 … H.D. liked his portrait, I think, although he may have preferred, as do we all, that I’d blurred his creases or rendered him thinner – but, he is an egg, after all, not a string bean, and a good egg he is.  Now, many months later, he sits on a shelf in my kitchen and from his place above my stove, he watches me cook.  No doubt, omelettes are a source of some discomfort, but, for the most part, although he’s no longer the apple of my eye (again, he’s an egg) he seems content to be what he is, The Man of the House, habitually reading the morning news, and watching sitcoms at night.  … But that’s the nature of passion, isn’t it?  Being unsustainable it must evolve, eventually, into something else:   something quieter, something softer, something that smiles rather than roars.  That’s not to say he no longer inspires me.  One day, yet, he may climb the sixteen steps to my studio and posing himself on the windowsill, where the sunlight casts him in the most flattering way, he’ll tip his hat, wink, blink or blow me a kiss … and then, we will begin all over again.
…  Such is the power of the muse.
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Pen to Paper – a lost art?

LETTERS wordpress Blog 4

Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company. – Lord Byron
Or don’t you like to write letters. I do because it’s such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you’ve done something. – Ernest Hemingway
Long, long ago, before cyberspace hummed incessantly with its lightening whizz of emails, images and chats, there was the humble letter, traversing – through clouds, over mountains, across seas – from one hand to another. Pen was put to paper, an envelope sealed, and off it flew like a wonky paper plane launched from a window, subject to all the hazards and delays of real time. Between Europe and Canada, it would reach its destination within eight to ten days, if it was lucky with connections, with the wind at its back. It has been years since I’ve written or received an old-fashioned letter and given the speed, facility and options of current communications, one wonders at the longing for so-called ‘snail mail’ – what did it give us that email, texting or instant messaging cannot?
ANSWER: Individuality, intimacy, the beauty of language … and the luxuriance of time, ever so savoured when shared with another. Simply put – sent or received, a letter was a gift.
SPAIN  1999 Writing 5 wide
Spain 1999
In the old days, I’d light a candle or two, and on a table round or square, lay out several blank pages and a fine felt pen. To start, the act of writing meant matching pen to paper, often yellow newsprint, with its snag of surface and penchant for absorption. Wide margins to the left allowed afterthoughts or drawings and in green ink or black, words were scribbled, scratched and annotated and in the end, this messy but tangible gift replicated thoughts, abstractions, amusements and memories, as though a table were shared with laughter ‘til tears. Be they parent, sibling, friend, or lover, the recipient informed both the humour and gist, for sharing one-on-one is never generic but a fine tuning of things … a string of chords, a song for one.
Needless to say, things have changed. Current modes of exchange are instantaneous and there is great value in this, simplifying business negotiations, banking, purchases, sales, and especially, from an artist’s perspective, the sending of images – thank the cyberspace gods and the digital age for having put an end to the tedious preparation of slides!
… Yet, all this said, has personal communication become less personal as a result? Within our labyrinthine networks of friends we’ve never met – which, albeit, function beautifully to grapevine exhortations, opinions, and information – have we lost in this process, the concept of the recipient?
Those first years in Spain (before internet cafes) in finding a letter under the door, I’d make a cup of coffee, climb the stairs to my sun-filled studio and to the voices of children playing in the Plazoletta below my balcony, I’d taste the words of those dear, as though it were a meal, taking time to digest the humour, the thoughts, the imagery and the moments there described. Mar’s letters might take two or three sittings for they were like chapters of a book and were sometimes relished while soaking in a bath, Robert’s thoughtful meanderings arrived often in richly enigmatic handmade envelopes boding of mystery and the depth of his ongoing analysis of life and its experiences, Patrick’s wit and facility with putting things succinctly always brought a smile, BPZ’s warped perspective on little things – be they the Santoids of Xmas or the ironing of shirts – never failed to bring laughter, and Jim’s richly descriptive tales of countryside walks and art-making always left me inspired. And beyond what was written there was the writing itself, small or voluminous – my father’s hand shaken with age, and my mother’s flowing script – the way ink rolled across a page echoed the cadence of their voices and the paper they had touched brought me closer to their moments. Such pieces might be framed, like works of art, combining concepts, texture, colour, line and composition. As a recipient, such communications were the ultimate in correspondence – so why have we (and I, especially) abandoned the snail mail mode?
ANSWER: Time.
It takes time to live in the moment, to scribble words to just one when we are inundated with emails, queries, requests, and the now accepted instant responses that life demands. It takes time to write and it takes time to receive. Although I still write real letters – very occasionally – to a handful of friends, these missives are not as real as they once were. The thoughts may be the same but computers discard the mess in the margins, the scratched out words, the drawings and the scribbles, the speech bubbles and the cramped notes which twist around the lower corner of a page. That said, writing this has inspired me to take one day or one week each year, to scribble a letter to a friend or friends, on real paper with real ink, for old time’s sake and for the sake of the personal in communication, lest it be lost.
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Table Talk (… the real and the virtual )

1 The Costume Party WordPress
The Costume Party © JT Winik, 1998
“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.” – Desmond Tutu
“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something” ~ Plato
Walk down the street, randomly choose a few people and sit a dozen of anyone down at a dinner table. Conversations arise, peppered only lightly with humble opinions, swallowed with a liberal dressing of good will and humour.  That’s how strangers embark together … with a measure of reticence.
Interactions most often begin (if you’re Canadian) with the weather – not a terribly fruitful subject, but if you’re not living in a hurricane zone, it’s a comfortable place to start.  Then, with dinner served, words dribble from our tongues and with the primal oohs and ahhs of a well savoured meal, conversation shifts toward cooking, perhaps, or restaurants –  we recall a cozy nook somewhere in France or Italy, maybe, just a simple hole in the wall, where we relished the most exquisite this or that we’ve ever tasted.  Tales of travels unwind, and the “best and the worst” of adventures spark laughter as we compare other cultures with our own, and then, what began as a conversation on food has morphed into a debate on genetic modification, corporate irresponsibility, and the blind eye of governments.  This is the way conversation works, weaving and winding into an intricate pattern of shared perspectives and knowledge.  At this point, voices may rise a little – because we’re passionate in our beliefs, and we each know a thing or two.  I love this about dinner table conversations with like-minded friends – at the end of the evening we feel both verified and expanded, having both shared and learned.  … Table talk with complete strangers, however, is a different sort of feast.  At worst, you may gnaw at bones of contention until your teeth fall out – but at best, strangers, stirring the unfamiliar and introducing new flavours, may rouse ideas not formerly considered.
This brings me to the virtual dinner table of online discussions.
Recently, I’ve become involved with a few artists’ sites, online venues within which artists connect, exchanging ideas, information and opinions.  To start with, there’s no need to talk about the weather and certainly no need for humility.  You can jump right in and speak however you wish, about whatever you wish.  This is not a bad thing, overall – however, as a Canadian, I do miss the protocol (:)) – and much as I hate to admit it, perhaps LOLs and emoticons do serve a purpose in online/email exchanges, if just to set the tone of all that we are blind to when faced with only the written word.
The thing is, face to face, with real people at a real table (be they friends or strangers), beyond the words shared, we’ve numerous and diverse cues to inform us of another’s perspective;  gestures and body posture, eye contact, facial expression, voice quality (including volume, pitch, intonation, etc.)  all build a picture of that person seated next to us and intuitively we surmise whether we feel a connection to that person or not. For instance, one might say something quite over-the-top and drastic but, with a self-deprecating smile or gesture, render it a joke.
Each of us, (whether our encounters be virtual or real) is a bundle of opinions and, often, a contradictory bundle at that.  We all have our perspectives on food, art, architecture, music, film, literature, science, religion, sex, history, politics and everything else.   Regardless of where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, what we’ve read or what we do, these topics are so historically and emotionally intertwined that when words spill in one area, they spread like an upturned glass over the tablecloth, potentially permeating the whole.  Whatever the beverage, be it just the seemingly innocuous faint stain of virtual water, when we speak of art, for instance, we’ve seeped into the more volatile topics of politics, sex and religion.  In the real world, by the time we raise glasses to the first toast in thanking our host for a beautiful meal, we know, by then, with whom we feel affinities (those who share our palate – and palette) and those we’d rather keep at arm’s length – because, although, sometimes compelled to tangle with another, one must also weigh the prospect of getting into a knot not worth undoing.
That said, on my first visits to these artists’ sites, I was surprised, astonished, really, at how visceral was the experience – how, without the myriad cues of communication afforded in real life contact, we surmise rather quickly with whom we’re dealing with.  The credibility of our conjectures, naturally, is always in question as we’ve, in fact, but a partial picture – only words – on which to base our views.  Yet, it seems a primal condition to humans, as with all animals, to determine with zip-zap speed, one’s “friends and enemies.” The terms friends and enemies is used figuratively, of course, but for the sake of illustration, we might think of it as line which defines “our side” versus “that side.”
Unlike face to face interactions, however, online exchanges permit us time to sit back and wonder: What is that person really saying?  Is it worth responding to?  Personally, vehement, blind splatters of words strike me as arm’s length.  There may be something of value at the core of such expulsions but I’ve little inclination to wade through the mud.   The glass spills on the virtual table, permeating all areas and, as one traces a line around the perimeters of that stain, if  it’s shape replicates another Rorschach-like disgorgement, then, to my mind, it is best left as is.
So, inherently, human nature dictates that we define others on either side of a line – “our side meaning seamless acceptance and “that side” equating with disagreement. This is the way much of the world operates, after all.  We see this simplistic rule of thumb employed on grand scales – in politics, in religious feuds, in the disparity between the haves and the have nots.  Yet, we all know it’s all more complex than that.  Different opinions when articulated and structured to enlighten, rather than to blind, can be of enormous value.  A good adversary can do more than a good friend in enriching us with a new perspective.  Yet, that rarely happens.  Like kids in a sandbox, we seem most often to be knocking each other over the head with our plastic shovels.  No big deal on an Artists’ site, maybe, but terrifying, given the state of the world.
All this said, visits into these online exchanges between artists have been, at the very least, an education. As with any group, it is a microcosm, reflecting the ways of the world in general, complete with its fragilities, and its strengths.  At its best, though, it provides a venue in which many, if not most, are there to expand, share, and think together.  Exciting things happen when barriers relax – and the doors to communication open to understanding, expansion and growth.

 

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Where Do You Get Your Ideas? (… an attempt to deconstruct the mystery of inspiration)

“Ideas are one thing and what happens is another.” – John Cage (experimental composer)
“I foresee it and yet I hardly ever carry it out as I foresee it. It transforms itself by the actual paint. I don’t in fact know very often what the paint will do, and it does many things which are very much better than I could make it do” – Francis Bacon (painter)
 “I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking”  – Albert Einstein (physicist)
“The irritating question they ask us — us being writers — is: “Where do you get your ideas?”
And the answer is: Confluence. Things come together. The right ingredients and suddenly: “Abracadabra!”  – Neil Gaiman  (Author)
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while” – Steve Jobs (entrepreneur and inventor)
A painter, a physicist, an author, an entrepreneur and a composer, (and many others not here quoted above) all describe the creative process from strikingly similar perspectives.  Is it any wonder that as artists, when first posed with the question:  “where do you get your ideas?” we stand there, stupidly, gobsmacked that such a simple question is impossible to answer?  … So, where do we get those ideas, anyway?
Alfred Hitchcock said, Ideas come from everything, and I’m inclined to agree. Ideas come from all that I’ve lived, all whom I’ve met, all that I’ve seen, read, felt and experienced.  That sounds a bit pat, but is it not true?
This past winter, part of my mission was to revisit older, unresolved paintings, to drag them out of the closet and set them on the easel and in this process I was forced to study these works, several of which I’d not seen in some time.   One of these paintings, Torre del Mar, begun in 1999 (image, above right), needed something (what? I wasn’t sure) and while working on it, I found myself wondering at the roots of its imagery:  a woman in the foreground, two white cattle sauntering a beach, and a tower in the distance.  I know where the different elements came from, generally, but how did they happen to merge into this ambiguous narrative?
Torre del Mar – analysis of elements
a)       The title of this piece and the tower depicted in the distance, describes Spain with a generic view of its “towers of the sea,” these which dot the coastline of Spain’s southern region of Andalucia. It is no surprise that a tower appears in a painting begun in 1999, the third year of my visit there, while still enamoured with its mountain hikes and its dramatic shorelines.  These towers, despite their military past and function (to warn of territorial invasion), stand today as beautiful and simple architectural structures, their silhouettes rising from the edges of cliffs.  In the past they spoke of impending war but now they stand silently, with a voice of peace; for me, they conjure the sound of waves, the scent of the sea, the Mediterranean light and the taste of fresh calamari.
b)       The white beach-roaming cattle, however, are a flash from the past, born from experiences in Ecuador during several months of travels there many years ago, in the mid 80s.  Every morning from the window of my simple cabaña, I watched them pass, a herd of them, sauntering unsupervised, along the shoreline.   They knew where they were going.  They were not white-white as those depicted in this painting, but passed by my window in their soft tones of deep creams and browns  –  yet, now and then, a pure white bull or cow was born and, as with any anomaly (whatever the culture), it was regarded as special.  For instance, one early morning when the waves were wild with a pending full moon, a small, white bull broke maniacally from the herd and trampled head-force into the sea.  Men rushed in to rescue it but, too late.  The waves swept it away and, understandably, the villagers interpreted this as an omen of bad luck. –—  Again, due to this tragic episode, there is no surprise that white bulls or cows arise in my work from time to time, yet, I do not think of them as symbols of  tragedy or fortune. Symbolic of neither good nor bad, they are, however, ethereal somehow – they speak of magic, of silence and of mystery … because you never know where they’re going, nor from where they came.
c)         … And, lastly, there’s the woman. … She might be me. Indeed, she might be anyone who identifies with her.  But let’s look closely, now, at the new image (above left, 2013) juxtaposed with the old Torre del Mar (right, 1999).  As you can surely see, there is a drastic difference in the figure. In the old work, the figure is facing, if not challenging the viewer.  One might say she is drawing you into her world while simultaneously repelling you.  That’s not a bad thing – yet, I’d never liked this figure – her face, her posture, the stylized treatment of her dress and especially, that dark black horizontal line of her belt. For these criminal acts she was relegated to the closet for several years.  Simply, I couldn’t connect with her – didn’t like her at all, and in setting this painting once again on my easel this past winter, re-imagining the figure was my focus.  And, over a month or so, my brushes danced over this painting now and then, until, one fine morning with a shift of this and that, with the turning of the head, with lowering the defensive shoulder, and obscuring that damned black belt, well … suddenly, it felt right.  And, of course, as any artist knows, when you change one thing, you’ve got to change it all and, thus, the entire surface was reworked – not after the fact, not once the figure was “solved” but throughout.  In a painting, no element exists on its own.  The composition remained largely the same but the colours changed, becoming more complex, thus shifting the overall sense of the painting.
And, in the end, What does it all mean?   — Well, I truly don’t know.  I rarely set out to say “this painting is about…” As said, this is only an attempt to deconstruct ….  and as with the quotes at the beginning of this post, what is certain is that you cannot easily follow the creative process nor can one easily determine what the end result of such a process means.  I can sometimes define the roots of the elements within a given painting but rarely am I able to define how or why they fit together – I just know when they do. Were I a critic, knowing the origin of these elements, I might be inclined to read into this painting something tragic, sad, foreboding:  A.  towers (with a history of war and territorial paranoia), B. white (potentially maniacal) cattle, and C.  a woman who, after being many years in the solitary confinement of a closet, decides (one fine morning) to turn her head toward the sea. Thus, I concur with the above quotes of those far greater than myself:  Things come together, you don’t know why, but in the end, they amalgamate and transform into something like poetry.  For me, Torre del Mar infuses me with a wonderful sense of silence – at most, I hear the lapping of waves.  And whatever lies on the horizon is bathed in light. … Yet, I cannot predict how it speaks to someone else.
Art-making is an intuitive and interactive process.  As Francis Bacon, and many others have said, you begin with a vague idea and it shifts direction.  Bits and pieces attract each other like magnets and, in the end, the marriage of these elements opens a world that feels familiar. My work is often personal, the images arising from the nearly forgotten, and thus, when others connect with my work, it is a strange and humbling experience.
Just a few links which explore the idea of creativity:
John Cage (composer) speaks about motivation:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7O0VXzbV2Y
Duchamp Interview:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjecY4TrU5Q
An interview with Shelly Carson on the psychology of creativity, with a focus on “divine madness.”
http://www.extension.harvard.edu/hub/spotlight/creativity-madness-shelley-carson-psychology-creativity
Francis Bacon interview:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoFMH_D6xLk (This is a great interview, overall, but specifically, at the point of 12: 00 minutes onward, he speaks of the irrational aspect of creating, of suspending ‘rational decisions.’
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The Importance of Being Earnest (words on obsession)

Oscar Wilde said this about his process:  “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma.  In the afternoon, I put it back again.”

new and old homepages 2

And that’s the way it seemed to transpire in creating the new website.  The old website, dark, gloomy and sorely out of date had haunted me for some time.  Built in Dreamweaver, to seriously renovate it meant learning HTML code, and I’d not a single, anemic cell of desire to so.  That meant finding a website builder, a program that was easy and quick.  And so began stage one:  research.
Stage 1: Testing one site builder after another led only to testing my patience.  There are degrees of intuitiveness with website builders and various ranges of options, and these two components never seemed to balance very well.  So, I poked around with this program and that to a point of exasperation and eventual ennui.  Hopping on my bicycle or going for a long walk cleared the head momentarily but on returning, the closed door of my office resonated like a demon.  Close friends and others know that my studio is always open; my office, however, is my space, my sanctum, my place to think and no one is allowed there.  I had begun to wish I wasn’t allowed there, either.  But a choice of programs had to be made in order to get the show on the road.
Stage 2:   Not quite like pinning a tail on a donkey, but close, I chose a site builder.  Still wracked with uncertainty, however, from time to time, like an addict, I maintained an obsessive search for the perfect program as though it were the Holy Grail.  The importance of being earnest? …  Well, there is determination and there is fixation, the latter more akin to running on a treadmill.  Thankfully, we usually reach a point where enough is enough.  We jump off and back into the project at hand, resigning ourselves to making the best of what we have.  What I had was WIX, a program which by then had grown comfortable – intuitive, logical and affording a great deal of customization, it worked for me..
Stage 3:  Following several simultaneous months of plodding away with image preparation, writing, creating hundreds of documents (of which only some were used), the drums began to roll …  for a few minutes, at least.   One of my greatest weaknesses is an obsession to toy with every option possible, and in this case that meant design:  the look of it, the feel of it.  It commanded more time, of course, but this was the fun part:  tweaking.  I love tweaking.  Like a plumber with his pipes  —  a bit of tightening here and there and then, suddenly, it all fits together and it’s working.   Mission accomplished.  Then you make a cup of coffee and return to the studio.
Over the winter months many brushes were used and worn.  As most artists know, when bitten by the bug of making stuff (whatever the medium) an hour seems like a minute and time evaporates.  You’re in another world when working intensely.  In winter, night falls early and as your studio grows dark around you and your palette homogenizes into shades of grey (only 10 or so, not 50!) you look at your watch for the first time that day and realize you’d forgotten to eat or to run that errand downtown.  Sometimes, finding myself at 6pm, still in the studio and in dire need of a shower, I called to delay appointments, usually by an hour… which allowed squeezing in another 20 to 30 minutes of painting before trading my overalls for something less toxic.  —   This type of obsession has been kindly called passion.  I think it’s just laziness. … there’s no easier way to travel without going anywhere.
Although this was the first year since 1996 that I spent a full winter here in Canada, it really wasn’t so bad at all.   There were a couple of traumas (freezing pipes, etc.) but overall, there are things to be said for snow.  In deciding that a Canadian winter would be enjoyed rather than ignored, I made it my mission (added to the missions of website, studio work, etc.)  to enjoy a winter walk most mornings, sometimes dragging along a dear old friend who really wasn’t in to it.  On returning to my home one day for  a post walk cafe au lait , disrobing himself of scarves and parka, ice jewels decorating his moustache, he said, “There was a time I would have enjoyed that kind of challenge, but even young hearts grow old.”  Granted, there was a blizzard that day.  And needless to say, (understandably) he opted for the warmth of his fireplace thereafter.
So, winter was ok and sometimes stunningly beautiful, yet, I don’t know anyone (although I’m sure they’re out there) who doesn’t brighten with the longer days.  As Canadians, we climb out of our cocoons and spread our wings toward the sun.  Pale people emerge from their houses, recognizable now, stripped of their layers of thick winter clothes.  Our step lightens unencumbered by boots and laughter bobbles through back yards as BBQs are ignited and potlucks shared … and mosquitoes bite – giving us good reason to curse the summer although few do, no matter how good the winter walks were.
To Summarize:  A balance of obsessions is not a bad thing at all. 

Lastly, thank you to everyone who responded to my website with appreciated input and discovered errors.  Special thanks to Emilie Seaton for her most thorough critique and valuable suggestions, several yet to be employed. 

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