Saturday, March 28, 2009

Say, Say, Oh Playmate

Irresitible, right?

I've been spending a lot of time with this little Peek into Heaven lately. My niece's daughter. I'm here now with her in Happy Valley, Utah. She and her mother and I are having a girls' weekend again while her father is away on army business. It's like little vacations for me. I can't spend the weekend cleaning my house or doing any number of other chores that should be taken care of if I'm not there to do it, now, can I? So we busy ourselves with eating big commercial strawberries, trying on shoes and walking along the river. Oh, and rough-housing on the floor or over the back of the couch.

Yes, and we did a "little bit" of driving.

I was just planning to enjoy the escape this weekend, but things have been messing around in my head and I visited another blog site where I was quite struck by the backlit pictures of a tiny little boy waiting and watching out the window for his siblings to come home from school. ( Castle on the Corner )

The picture and simple caption evoked something quite tender, poignant and maybe a tiny bit raw, in the wellspring of my consciousness.

I'm not so sure I'm ready to let what's wiggling to get out of my head find it's way onto this post, which is technically dedicated to all things aggreeable, but some tides you just cannot sway.

The first thought was that of how many times we seven siblings watched and waited for each other at various periods in our lives: as youngsters, waiting for someone to come and play or to be born or to listen to secret discoveries or to come and help clean up the bed room; and then later, waiting for someone to come back into our lives or to come out for a visit to places we had moved, or to be there during the really tough and terrible times, when life, as is its wont, had its way. (I may write later about the kid brother we lost several years ago.)

And since I'm right here right now with my niece and the Little Beat of her heart, I remember my niece when she was this age, of course, but for more than just being my niece. She and her mother--my sister--and I lived together for a while before I left the country again. We were quite the funny little family, actually, and very connected. It was a difficult leave-taking, however destined and wonderful I felt it to be.

Over the years, we re-grouped, lived together again, only this time I had a daughter, too. More leave-taking , more re-grouping with each other and other family members,

and life was still having its way.

This brave and dedicated little mommy is married and she has plenty of aunts, uncles and cousins to love her and her "best beloveds," and if I dare speak for her, she has a full life. But I know there is an irrepressible part of her, as there is of me, still waiting and watching at the window for her mother to come back and play with us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The T'ao of the Brush

Shots from my studio. Chinese ink (and sometimes color) on mulberry paper or rice paper or bamboo paper...

The five main subjects in Chinese Ink & Brush Art are bamboo, chrysanthemum, mountain orchid and plum blossoms. Each of these represents five characteristics of noble people:

Bamboo--upright character, bravery and grace, sometimes leaning and swaying in the wind, but not breaking

Chrysanthemum--endurance, as they are the last to bloom in summer

Mountain Orchid--far-reaching fragrance that wafts in the air from the tiny bloom in the crag of a rock

Plum Blossoms--courage in the face of late snow

The Brush Artist's indespensible "friends" are her ink, brush and paper. A cute little water dropper that her eternal friend gave to her on her first birthday in Korea doesn't hurt, nor do the granite name stamps given to her by another very lovely, much-loved "Korean mommy." I had these stamps for more than 20 years before I discovered one was broken! Does that little piece look like a piece of my broken heart?

I have much affinity for my brushes and the darling black frog peeking out from under a lily pad carved into my inkstone

Grinding the ink on the stone takes some time to get just right, and it's time spent contemplating mood, ideas, and absence of thought.

This is a very hefty slate inkstone and the ink stick is made of soot, tungsten and ox hide glue. If I left the ink stick standing on the stone, it would adhere when it dries. But I don't do that. That's a very unserious thing for a serious brush artist to do!

Another very important piece of equipment is the futon there in the background. Painting can be hard work and rest is not only necessary, it's a good time to reflect. Dream about misty mountains.

This is a detail of a tree I did for my brother and his wife. Swallows, that like geese, mate for life, to represent the Spring of their lives; Summer mushrooms and chrysanthemums; Fall colors on the bark; and finally, the pine tree promising longevity and signifying, also, of course, Winter. The name of the painting is "Couple."

Poppies for my sister because it's the right color for her right now. But you might like this story:

Poppies represent the loyalty and faith between lovers. According to Chinese legend, a beautiful and courageous woman, Lady Yee, was married to Hsiang Yu, a warrior with Herculean strength. When Hsiang led his troops into battle, Lady Yee chose to follow him and stood by his side in every battle.
During a long and arduous war, Hsiang's army was surrounded and defeat was imminent. Lady Yee tried to boost his spirits by dancing with his sword. The petals of the poppy flower reflect her spirit as she dances in the wind with the sword. When this attempt failed, Lady Yee committed suicide. A cluster of poppies sprang in full bloom from her gravesite.

I'm teaching a class on this subject at Ogden Blue in April.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Give Without Remembering--Take Without Forgetting"

This is a pay-it-forward post that I read on Lydia's blog (Tribe's Tepee.) The first five people to respond to this email will receive a gift made by me. There are conditions:

  • I get to choose what I make and give to you
  • But it will be just for you
  • You'll receive it by the end of April
  • You must re-post this on your blog, and if you don't have one figure out some way to offer the same give-away

I'm now in a very creative mood...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rockin' in the Cradle of the Wasatch

I'm starting a new, different blog about Ogden and vicinity:

Oh! Town Grab Bag
Ogden and its Satellites: Jetsam, Jewels, Jimdandies and Junk like that.

I've been out and about taking pictures and gathering stories of people, places and other sundries that I think might make interesting reading. It's been a stretch to zero in on things not already pretty much over-worked in this our season of blossoming, but it has been quite energizing to look at the same places I've been stamping around in for years with a new focus.

It kind of reminds me of when my sister's grandson came with my daughter to visit me in San Francisco and he spent hours on the beach sweeping his hand through the sand searching for sea glass. I had just shown him a couple of small pieces thinking he might find a couple more. I hadn't seen a lot the many years I lived there, but he came home with heavy sacks full of smoothe green and blue sea glass--a few pieces of yellow, orange and brown, too. I was genuinely surprised...and delighted, because to the young land lubber from Utah, it was a real find.

I'm going to tell new stories about old places, old stories affecting new people, and just generally shining a light -- maybe a floodlight, maybe a pen light, maybe a flickering candle flame on "stuff" right here in my back yard.


Please take a look and tell me what you think.

P.S. This cradle doesn't have anything to do with Ogden or my blog, but isn't it a cool cradle? I was looking for something to go with my originally- (I made it up trying to think of something different to use to place this area--and if it's not original, sorry, but it just came to me) coined term "Cradle of the Wasatch," and came across this. (I don't have a picture of a cradle or sea glass tonight and I really want to get this posted. This came from

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sermons in Stones

I remember walking through this little byplace way back in the olden days, the barefoot, braless (yeah, I said it) 70s, when I lived in Sugar foray into the adult ritual of moving away from one's childhood home. It was just hiding right there in plain sight; at first appearance, a mere driveway off busy 13th street. Step two feet into the driveway, and watch out Alice! You've dropped through the looking glass into a colorful and quirky homage to creatures most fowl."Dr. George Allen was a physician from Chicago, Illinois, who moved to Salt Lake City in 1921. In the late 1940s, his fascination with birds coalesced into the Allen Publishing Company, which produced The Pheasant Fanciers, Game Bird Breeders, and Aviculturist's Gazette, a publication devoted entirely to birds. He was also instrumental in establishing the Tracy Aviary, still in operation in Salt Lake's Liberty Park. Dr. Allen's home and its surroundings, Allen Park on 13th East in Salt Lake City, is still a local attraction. " UofU Marriot Library Special Collections


Proverbs, poetry and other musings carved into stones all along the road, up and down and around every turn.

It's quite a bit more rundown now, and of course it was old in the 70s since it was established decades before that. There's something very compelling about driving down into that gulley-like little niche, even today. Maybe it's all the no-trespassing signs posted on the fences, warning of camera surveillance. That old 70s rebelliousness coming back like last night's canned spaghetti and orange juice. The heart goes pitty-pat, I jump out of the car barefooted, (no, that's all--just barefooted because my feet were hot in the car) click here, click there, look around to see no one is hollering at me and I drive on to the next little gem.

My really new and little Costco Nikon digital doesn't do justice to the look of the place. It actually doesn't look this nice and instead looks kind of scary. Quite tattered and gypsy-esque.

Wait. What? Where'd this come from? Right there in the middle of Allen Park turnaround in front of a dried-up creek bed. A wonderful seque into my next post about another stone-carving enigma in Salt Lake City.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pack Your Bags And Come Follow Me

A young relative and I went to Salt Lake City on the FrontRunner the other day. I can't remember the name of the artist who sculpted these suitcase rocks that seem to be scattered over the plaza like so much abandoned baggage, and I'm not sure whether I like the work or not, but I have a lot of pictures of them. They look kind of strange. I get the idea of carrying our lives, or carrying something of our lives, when we travel, I guess, but I don't get the part about their coming out of rocks. Maybe the medium isn't necessarily supposed to be the message, any more than the idea of painting with oil on canvas says something about the picture itself. Maybe it's just supposed to be interesting and appreciated. Or maybe the rocks are necessary to keep people from carrying off the carrying things.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I Surrender

A guilty pleasure is...what? Something you know you shouldn't like, but you do like it, right? Or something you feel guilty for liking? Something you might listen to or read or even eat, but wouldn't wear a tee shirt sporting the fact. Beyond pretending to like or espouse something ironically, that is, just for the effect.

We all have 'em, those secret, guilty pleasures. I'm sure someone I know likes to listen to Celine Dion. That would not be me, by the way. I wouldn't even joke about that one.

How many times did you go see Mama Mia last summer? Eleven? (I don't care. I may be such a snob that instead of seeing movies, I watch "films," or "cinema," but those three "been around the block" broads in that Abba Fest ROCKED!)

But here's the real twist: I am an indisputable foodie. Gourmand unsurpassed, actually.
  • Just the right fruity olive oil drizzled over the creamiest vanilla-bean ice cream, sprinkled with Himalyan pink sea salt.
  • Award-winning Amadei Black 70% cacao-infused Chocolatier Blue truffles, (although, I prefer Amadei's Ecuador to it's higher prized Madagascar. And Chris Blue's passion fruit caramel truffles don't suck, either.)
  • Forever in search of the flakiest, puffiest-puff-pastry-like Almond Creme Croissant, which so far I found at the French French Bakery in Durango, Colorado. Ambrosia Bakery on Ocean Blvd. in San Francisco runs a close second. But I know there is an even better Almond Croissant out there somewhere, just because I believe in perfection.
  • Like Eric's soft and slightly chewey crab-and-cream-cheese-ballooned rangoons that think they're related to Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
All pleasures without an ounce of guilt attached. Also, no hoity-toity pretentiousness, either, because it really is that good.

AND SO IS SPAM.I know I shouldn't like it. I know I should make fun of spam sushi and spam burgers and fried spam with eggs and creatively carved spam loaves at weddings, (yes, it's true. I've been to those kinds of shin-digs, and spam disappears off the buffet before the deviled eggs, so there!)

I just can't help it. I LOVE SPAM...On big soft bread with French's yellow mustard and sweet'n'tangy Miracle Whip (seriously, the only time I can eat sweet mayonnaise) all sloshed up in the middle. Chased with a bottle of Orange Crush.

Monday, March 2, 2009

"In The Dew of Little Things...

The heart finds its morning and is refreshed." Kahlil Gibran
I choose one of the thimbles we made in Seoul. The Rose of Sharon embroidered in discordant colors is flattened, not fresh as at first stitching. I’ve had it coddled in cloth-like mulberry paper, closeted away from dust and wear and the trespass of ordinariness.

They laughed--Mrs. Kim and Old Auntie—because I questioned the careless color combinations they chose. We sat on the floor and clipped blued-white muslin, stiffened it with kitchen-pot rice glue and it crackled under the searing iron.

Twirling stubborn strands of knotting floss between fingers and teeth, talk turned from choosing yellows and blues to tales of old country days and ways when women in the village gathered to tender a young bride’s bundle, her trousseau of thimbles, needle cases and coverlets.

I wonder…what would be my gift to a baby-bride, a child plucked from her place of nurture like a submissive rice shoot planted in the paddy? Could one so green find comfort on a cold crossing to a stranger’s bed...from a cache of needlework? Can the colors of a woman’s aching be sewn into cloth?

I am entrusting this one to a collaborator in repairing things, this thimble, this memory of a time of remembering a time and place my own living has no memory of, (but how I absorbed Old Auntie’s telling!)

This mending tool I made in a place where thinned and worn parts of my soul were patched and restored.