Category Archives: art

The Willow’s Bow

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“This is the bright home in which I live, this is where I ask my friends to come, this is where I want to love all the things it has taken me so long to learn to love. There is no house like the house of belonging.” – David Whyte

Well, I wanted to write a blog post about the fabulous home of designer Thomas O’Brien showcased in the latest video by Quintessence. But I’m fighting back tears…it has sparked childhood memories of sliding down the banister of my grandparents huge old Tudor in Detroit, shaking out cornstarch on the linoleum so our feet would slide when we danced,  and of watching scary movies at a friend’s renovated old mansion in Birmingham, where I used to dog sit…of the smell of old polished wood and ancient roses…and life.

My parents bought a rambling Cape Cod when we five kids were little. It was old by 1960’s standards; the architect had built it for his mother in 1926. I loved that home for many reasons, including the hidden staircase from inside my sister’s bedroom closet to the attic. And the faerie-sized garret doors perfect for squirreling through to hide. But I remember playing hide and seek outdoors most of all, crawling inside the peony shrubs that lined the 400′ lawn between the house and the Detroit River. They were so old, stems so woody, that they were hollow in the center, a natural fort of branches. They had been planted when the house and gardens were new as a frame inside the majestic willow sentinels. Those trees were taller than the fourth story of the house (where my room was in the eaves) and drifted lazily down to the grass. They whispered to me at dusk that everything would be alright; I swear they bowed to me every sunrise. They kept my tender heart swathed in hope.

As the house let sway the hours of the day, activity increased around me. I heard the movement of a family, sometimes peaceful, sometimes in glorious song together, often engaged in a personal war, always a family. The willows were still. Downstairs my father or my sister practiced on the grand piano in the living room hours on end. Their repetition, their mistakes, unnerving then, are now fond remembrances.

Such an enchanted life we all live, whether or not we realize it in this moment. I am grateful for all of it, all of the struggle and the beauty. Here, I get a sense of it all rushing back to me. I love watching and listening to these two. Thomas is obviously happy to be sharing the home he truly loves. Susanna Salk always puts a smile on my face. She’s such a “tourist” – she gawks and is demonstratively awestruck – as we all would be. And she’s paying attention! There is no pretension or affectation.  She admits she’s embarrassed at just noticing the fireplace two hours into her visit! They both make me feel more creative and more alive by their inspired way of life. Watch closely, you will see the willows in the garden bowing…

 

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Full Circle

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What seems like a lifetime ago now, I was suffering terrible illness, depression and anxiety. My life was falling apart. Without the support I needed or the means to get away, I began to think of how I could help myself through these dark days…and I remembered a book that had inspired me years prior: The Artist’s Way. I knew I had it somewhere, maybe in a box in the basement. It had not been unpacked since the last move. Perhaps this could help me. It was a good place to start, and I certainly had nothing to lose.

It was the holiday season and life was all busyness. So I set a goal to begin the first of the year. I went to the basement, brushed the construction sawdust off the boxes and found the book, inscribed by the friend who had gifted it to me in 1997. It was now December of 2012. Reverently I carried it up the stairs and set it on my nightstand where I could surely find it after all the hubbub and the visiting family had waned.

Within hours I received an email from another old friend, now a psychologist, who was asking if I would be interested in attending a group study she was about to facilitate –  based on the book The Artist’s Way. When “coincidences” happen like that – which they often do for me – I feel heard, and led, by God. I could hardly wait to go; but more importantly, I knew in that moment I would be alright. In retrospect I must report that I believe this class, and the extraordinary women I would meet there, literally saved my life.

Immediately I began the practice of writing “Morning Pages”, the commitment asked of her students in the book – to journal, first thing upon waking, at least 3 pages a day. One of my favorite diversions from the stress of everyday life at the time was my addiction to interior design magazines, and their new format online: BLOGS! And I decided to write a blog. Not necessarily for sharing, but for the cathartic writing that would pull me out of the darkness.

Well. Here I sit years later, still inept at the technology needed to do this efficiently! But late in 2012 I accidentally learned how to post a video from YouTube to WordPress. And for reasons I cannot fathom today, I posted a video on January 1, 2013, of Tina Turner chanting with children.

Yesterday a Tina Turner video showed up for some weird reason as recommendation after a design video – which I’m STILL addicted to! The dominos of time and space were falling…and so I watched. And became so inspired. I have read news reports lately of her continuing struggle with cancer and poor health. NOTHING keeps this woman down. I learned that she has had a kidney transplant, battled cancer more than once, and lost her beloved son to suicide not long ago. She has overcome more adversity than most of us will ever know, and still she rises. I am in awe. On May 16th, 2018 she was interviewed by Oprah and talks of how, at 73, she is happier than she ever could have imagined. There is hope for us all.

 

Chien Lunatique

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This house has been one of my “all-time favs” also…this artist has got it goin’ on. You know she’s living life to the fullest. Susanne gets it: it’s deeply personal. Not being a drinker, I don’t know what much of this stuff is that she’s talking about – but I DO drink Limeade…and am a coffee-holic. I’ve always made coffee ice cubes so my iced coffee doesn’t get diluted. I’m serious.

Anyway, I maintain that all “true beings” love color, Lulu, and that we make far too many compromises in our own love homes. My home is a love home – I love my home, my land, my pets, my bed, my memories, my time here , my sweet, sweet life…

“Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment.” – Claude Monet

you can do what you want…

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Friends often hear me say, “On the road to enlightenment, I’m taking the local.” Recently I told someone that I was not interested in spirituality. Least of all in “spiritual” people. They’re so screwed up. Everyone wants to talk about listening to your intuition…living authentically…living your truth. News flash: we all hear our intuition all the time. I am so much happier when I’m not trying.

Pablo Picasso said “Artists live out loud.” They do. They really don’t have much choice. You ignore the direct line God put in place to communicate with you, you’re gonna get unhappy fast. Or dead. They live with their heart on their sleeve, raw, because the process of creativity requires being present…and it creates it…and it requires it…it’s a way of life. All artist’s are making a living. Some of them even make money in the process.

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recognizes that “going sane feels like going insane at first.” She is acknowledging that when we finally decide to honor our inner knowing, people react badly to our being less available to THIER needs.  This is all the same thing, folks: we are a culture so enmeshed in the HABIT of being co-dependent that we are driving ourselves nuts. We are people-pleasers. We make decisions out of fear and need. Damn we are needy! I’m right there, every day, asking myself what I really want. That’s the pivot point where the healing occurs, what A Course In Miracles calls the Holy Instant: split second, gut reaction, yes to this, no to that.

“I wanted only to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?” – Herman Hesse

God is not someone separate from you trying to lead you or guide you or trip you up if you don’t comply. That way of thinking will mess with your head, make you old before your time, or at least miserable today. It will keep you constantly dealing with poverty and disease. Stop asking to know God’s will. It’s hard-wired in. Really, stop trying to figure this out.

Just BE. Make mistakes. Rant and rave. Sob uncontrollably. Breathe deeply. Scream like a banshee. Play like a kid. Make art. Never mind if it’s good or bad – that’s none of your business. Just BE already. That is how we practice loving ourselves.

“God has no secrets. He does not lead you through a world of misery waiting to tell you at the the journey’s end why he did this to you.” – ACIM

The Power of Not Knowing, or, how to Navigate the World with a Sense of Humor

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Artist, author and American icon Maira Kalman says “I love my empty mind.” Meditate, let go, empty, repeat. Michael Strang writes about this practice in The Surrender Experiment. It’s a way of life that requires courage. It’s The Artist’s Way.

In the movie Trouble with the Curve baseball scout Gus Noble is losing his sight. But he can recognize great talent by hearing “the pure sound.” I’m not much for sports movies of any kind, but I loved this one and Million Dollar Arm. They’re as much about life as baseball.

All the House Lights Left Up Bright

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“It’s coming on winter, they’re cutting down trees, they’re putting up reindeer and singin’ songs of joy and peace…oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.” -Joni Mitchell

In the dream I lived on a river. Mid-morning I took my dogs to walk along the shore, stretch from the early hours at the typewriter. That was so long ago, that dream. And dream it was, what little I recall of it as I entered another scramble morning. Steven ready for school and I for work as we head out the door, just a little late, forgetting some somethings. Half the time I swear I caught myself watching out the corner of my eye. Life moved so fast it was painful. You knew you were missing something, but you were powerless to slow down. So many demands.

Now I live on a river, have two dogs. Mid-morning we walk along the shore as I secretly shoo crumbs from my pocket, imagining some little birds delight at discovering the manna. My son has long since grown and lives away in his own scramble world. I’m still pulling at time, ever slowing the momentum it took so much life to build.

I wish I could write like Joni Mitchell. A few lines told the whole story; some part of your psyche filling in the future. It seems you knew that story before she reminded you. Again I must say: Thank God for the artists. The historians of our truth. Thank God for Joni.

“Read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river.” – Virginia Woolf

 

So Many Different People To Be…

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It’s been nine months since my Dad passed away. As time is a fickle and irreverent companion, nine months took but one beat of my heart…and some days take an eternity. I sure do miss him. If you’ve read past writings here about my Dad you know that he was a larger than life character…I love the movie Big Fish with Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor because it reminds me of him, of us. He was also not prone to express his emotions. I suspect much of his generation had no language for it. So in many ways it seems I am getting to know him better in his absence than I did in his presence.

After he died I found pictures of him as a child that we never even knew existed. What a cute kid! Do you ever look at childhood photographs of yourself or your loved ones and see the utter sweetness in our faces? And I don’t know about you, but often at night, in the vast dark silence, I still FEEL myself AS that little kid…I AM still her…perhaps that is always true for us all.

People sometimes ask me why I put up with so much from my family. Did they not see those photos of THEIR family? We are all innocent here. In the end we must give up our beliefs about what the past meant. We must forgive them…we must forgive ourselves. We must. I’m not saying it is easy, or that it means we allow any further abuse. We draw a line; we turn to face the dragon, we pound our staff and declare to our pain, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS.”

With Tuppence for Paper and String…

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I don’t know about you, but I see an awful lot of myself in P.L. Travers. The uptight intellectual snob who wrote Mary Poppins fought with Walt Disney over creative rights for twenty years. She needed the money, but she was utterly opposed to her beloved characters frolicking in a musical –  lest they be made to seem trite or unimportant, powerless. Sometimes a push is needed to allow truly magical things to happen that would otherwise never come into the world. It allows for healing to take place. I suspect that is true of all art. It gets away from the artist and takes on a life of it’s own.

To this day this is one of the best selling stories of all time, and I know why. It speaks to us all, to overcoming heartbreak and becoming powerful again, to healing. Heroes come in so many unexpected ways, don’t they?!

For my dear Dad and my beautiful sister Shelly, who both played piano and sang the soundtrack of my childhood.

Got my Mojo Workin’…

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As people get to know me they often say I must write a book about my life…and I reply “I wouldn’t know where to start.” How do you write of the remarkable and ordinary?

As I meditated on this I heard “begin with the soundtrack.” I have always been a shadow musician and artist…and have written stories since Carol Ruth Owens and I made books of scrap paper in our front yards on Sandra Lane and filled them with adventurous mysteries like our heroines, Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew…but with horses, of course…we were obsessed. We volunteered at Dick Trotman’s (yes, his real name…) stable so we could ride. I rode a gentle giant warmblood named Duchess. Even then in grade school I was tall and ugly skinny and the only bony child she would tolerate.

A junior high teacher told my Mother I was a talented writer…if only she could get me to finish something. I was not interested in writing. A sixth grade art teacher had entered me in the Detroit News Scholastic Art Awards unbeknownst to me, and I had won – with a watercolor homage to Rembrant’s Young Girl At an Open Half Door…all my waking hours I wanted only to paint. Little did I know I would win again, with an abstract oil my senior year of high school. I haven’t painted since.

Beginning college brought “two-fers” – creative writing instructors would have me complete two semesters worth of assignments in one. But I haven’t written since.

Let’s just say I lost my mojo. Has anyone out there seen it?

The last forty-five years or so have been about survival mostly. Learning how not to BE my emotions…how to navigate and balance the depression of addiction and medication and it’s insidious clusterfuck of side effects…the sins of my fathers…it’ll suck the mojo right out of a person.

Both my parents were “hobby” musicians, as were their parents. My mother’s father was a direct descendant of Franklin Pierce. He purportedly had some African American blood in his genes as well, and carried many of the physical attributes. But he passed for white, and made his quick and short lived fortune as a contractor building railroads, first for the booming automobile industry in Detroit, then across the continent, and eventually as far away as Japan. I ADORED him…especially on the weekends.

Amos Pierce lost his Golden Gloves to a young boxer named Joe Louis, and he and Joe became fast friends. In their twenties and suddenly well off, they hung around with their mutual friend, Chubby Checker…and many other young Detroit musicians, some who would soon have contracts with a new label called Motown…but first, they needed a big empty space to practice and relax in. So Amos built a rambling old Tudor mansion near downtown and finished the basement like a ballroom with a bar, a stage, and a big dance floor. Some of my earliest memories were negotiating the wide stairway, sister Sherry hanging on, carrying a heavy bag of cornmeal down to sprinkle all over the fancy new invention called linoleum so that the dance floor was slippery slidey…I’ve wondered if the Twist were born here. But mainly, I was just mesmerized by my six – foot – four grandfather with the head of curly black hair shaking to the beat. Late at night, perhaps early in the morning, I would flat out refuse to take off my new patent leather shoes. I remember those arguments; my grandmother coming to my rescue by making a pallet of blankets on the floor where I would eventually fall asleep. Somehow my sweet little self knew I didn’t want to miss a minute of this…

Thanks, Bonkey.