There’s a Message in There Somewhere

I like gawking at trees in their fall display. They’re so beautiful it hurts. The magentas, coppers, and dark greens flush out the year’s heaviness and replace it with an invigorating renewal of crisp air. I’m always amazed at the audacity of such a riot of color while in the throes of dying. I’m sure there’s a message there, but it eludes me at the moment. I’m too busy staring at the color palette. FullSizeRender (55)

I feel the same way in the spring when the cherry and dogwood trees are bursting with  blooms. I walk under them and look up. They envelope me in  their translucent petals, the whisper of fragrance, and a delicate air. There’s a message here too, but I’m transported.

Few things like these two seasons renew me like this. Not fireworks on the fourth of July, or a roaring ocean in the summer, or even a frolicking puppy.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Millions feel the same way. But having lived my life in countries with no fall foliage or springtime delights, I’m always arrested by these beauties. They’re gifts. They renew my soul.

Spring points to hope and a new beginning. Fall alerts to the death of all things, but in a dignified and magnificent way. We need to go out with a blazing splash. I plan to write a hundred blog posts, so after I’m gone, you can still read a new post every week for two years. After that maybe Calvin will take over.

Calvin says, “Good grief! What side of the bed did you wake up on? You’re getting weird.”

beagle

It’s All About the Drama

“People are basically insane,” playwright David Manet says in a writing class I’m taking. “We miss a connection, we have an evil impulse that wants to lead us astray,” he goes on. “We live on the dark side and the cure is religion. Another word for religion is drama.”

Did I hear him correctly? Yes. Manet is a devoted Jew, and espouses his religion with conviction and fervor.

“All drama is failure and lies,” he says.

You can say that again. Story of my life.

“Don’t be boring,” he warns. FullSizeRender (20).jpg

How can you be boring if your life is full of drama? Everybody’s life is dramatic. It’s so dramatic Hollywood couldn’t invent it, I say. And since you’re the protagonist in your own story, make it good.

“Dialogue is just gossip,” he tells me. Now he’s talking. I’ve got enough for several books.

“Narration is the death of drama,” he continues. No wonder school is boring.

“The live audience in a play are idiots individually, but collectively they’re genius,” he says. “They paid you a compliment by coming to see your play. Drama helps them face the truth and they come for the truth.”

“Movies don’t challenge people, drama does,” he says. I’ve been saying that for years. To prove the point, just listen to a child explain away something he did, like break the TV screen with a baseball. It’s drama at its best.

Calvin says, “It’s drama for me when I go after a rabbit. My nose quivers, my body is on alert, and my singing voice takes over. Better than opera.”  beagle

 

 

Tough Art

Time and time again Alf and I marvel at people who are immensely talented and yet shy away from their gifts. We know of several with writing gifts who never put pen to paper. Others who have a terrific fashion sense and keep it all to themselves. And there are those who do pursue their artistic callings with courage and conviction, but with little support from friends and loved ones. In fact, they’re often told to get a real job. What is it about art that garners less respect than other professions like business or engineering? Heck, there’s more respect for the G-Man (garbage collector) than a painter.

FullSizeRender

We live in a day of practicality. Does the job make money? Will it sustain you and a spouse and children? Will it give you a house, a car and a yearly vacation? Or will you have to eat out of a paper bag full of moldy veggies?

Being an artist is not for the fainthearted. It wasn’t easy living for Van Gogh and his generation nor is it any easier for people today. But one thing is different. Anybody with an ounce of skill is posting like mad on social media in the hope of getting noticed. Consequently there’s a lot of bad art out there. There’s also some good stuff. The serious artist, however avoids it all in favor of a website with class.

It’s like commercial fiction. The serious literary types look down their erudite noses at the fabulously successful writers who make millions with their popular, badly written novels. Secretly they probably wish they could make that kind of money, but they wouldn’t dare try. It would be beneath them.

So what’s an artist to do? I say keep at it, no matter how difficult the task. Post away. Talk it up. Send it out. You never know what door will open.

Calvin says, “I’m so glad I’m only talented in one thing – food. What’s for dinner?”

beagle

 

 

 

Sock It To Me

It was beginning to appear that her interesting face covered a most uninteresting mind. – Anne Perry

He would look at you as is he were really interested in all you said. Hcropped-photo1.jpge never seemed to be merely polite. It was almost as if he were half expecting you to turn out to be special, and he did not want to miss any opportunity to find out. – Anne Perry

Don’t mistake a street address for where you actually live. – Ruth Reichl

Art is what we call the thing an artist does. It’s not the medium or the oil or the price or whether it hangs on a wall or you eat it. What matters,
what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human. Art is not in the eye of the beholder. It’s in the soul of the artist. – Seth Godin

“So was that the reason you left Herminia?” Miss Prim said.

He looked at her in silence for a few seconds, as if trying to guess what lay behind her question.

“I think you didn’t really love her,” she said.

“No, that’s where you’re wrong,” he said firmly. “I did love her. I loved her very much. But the day came, or maybe the moment, I don’t know, when I realized that she was asleep, whereas I was fully awake, absolutely, and totally awake. I’d climbed like a cat up onto a roof and I could see a beautiful, terrible, mysterious landscape stretching out before me. Did I really love her? Of course I did. Perhaps if I’d loved her less, cared for her less, I wouldn’t have had to leave her.”

“I thought the religious were closer to other people than anyone else.”

“I can’t speak for anyone else. I only know what it’s meant to me. It’s been my touchstone, the line that’s split my life in two and given it absolute meaning. But I’d be lying if I said it’s been easy. It’s not easy, and anyone who says it is is fooling themselves. It was catharsis, a shocking trauma, open-heart surgery, like a tree torn from the ground and replanted elsewhere.

“And there’s something else,” he continued, “something to do with looking beyond the moment, with the need to scan the horizon, to scrutinize it as keenly as a sailor studies his charts. Don’t be surprised. My story is as old as the world. I’m not the first and won’t be the last. I know what you’re thinking. Would I turn back if I could? No, of course not. Would a newly awoken man willingly go back to the sleepwalking life?”

–         From The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

Calvin says, “Oh brother, what have you been drinking?” beagle

The Politics of Illusion

I had always known the Oscars were political, but my convictions grew to the size of Mt. Everest last night.

This year there were more actors of color nominated for awards than ever before. Why? Because public opinion had made a stink.  oscar

Why standing ovations for those of color who won? I think it was a way of assuaging collective guilt for only honoring white actors over the years.

It was good for their collective soul that they had a major blunder at the end. It revealed how choreographed and scripted the evening was, everyone on automatic, with no one paying attention to the details. It also humbled them, made them a little more like us.

The comment that gagged in my throat was Ms. Davis’ that “actors are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” What? You mean playing someone you’re not and have never been is the only way to live life? Really?

Calvin says, “She was in LA LA Land, didn’t you know?” beagle

 

Up or Down?

As a friend just posted on Facebook, “I’m thankful to God for daylight savings”. Frankly it’s a tradition that has outlived its purpose and it’s time to chuck it, but until that happens, this time of year gives me God’s paintbrush strokes all over the sky when I come into work.

No two sunrises are the same. Each one has its unique features.

Some are bold and striking. Others wear summer pastels. 

The cloud formations are different, too. Sometimes they come at me with furious energy and tones. Others are quieter and appear in a whisper.

The morning sky is like a fashion runway with the color statement for the day. I look forward to it.

What floors me is my fellow passengers on the train. Nobody looks out the window at the spectacle. They’re blind. They prefer their inner landscape curated by social media.

Calvin says, “Most people don’t look up or down. Me? I love sticking my nose into a burning bush of sunrise.” beagle

 

Shoving Out Art Again

It’s spring and the city is sprouting condos.

Every blighted corner has sprouted a fresh building like a flower in the desert.

The next casualty is my favorite art store.

It’s slated to be demolished this year.

For 37 years it has supplied artists of all genres the materials for their craft. Some people like clothes, I love art stores and this was one of the best.

It made me smile the moment I walked in. cropped-photo-59.jpg

I bought my canvases and paintbrushes there. My paints, pens and pencils, and papers for collages. And many gifts for my friends.

The store is moving to the farthest end of the city, practically under the Golden Gate Bridge where the birds are. I’ll need to rent a segway to get there.

Meanwhile a cold, impersonal building is going up in its place. I saw the renderings today. Looks like every other building built in the last nano second. These architects lack creativity and guts. The investment groups just want to make a buck, I get it, and capitalize on the hordes of young tech workers moving in to make their mark in the city. Except their living spaces look like their work spaces. It’s a crime.

It’s a shame they didn’t think of a way to build on top of my art store and weave the smells and colors into the steel and cement. That way the newbies in town could take painting classes on the roof like the little children they are.

Calvin says, “Money sucks the fun out of things. Look at dog houses these days. They’re revolting.” beagle