Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Saturday night I got a second wind and lifted off from the sloggy mental state I'd been in for two months. Rather than go to bed, I had a cup of tea at eleven PM and started thinking about books I could turn my students onto on those forgotten Fridays, or on any days that needed enriching. Of course, being the slightly overly exuberant wacko that I can sometimes be, I had to resist e-mailing the principal and vice principal of the school at two AM with my ever-growing list of inspirational art and books, and ideas for collaborative English-Art courses.

I want to expose the kids to both art and writing that I love. I know they will get the basic art and literature from their teachers, but as artist-in-residence I get to turn them onto the wild stuff that fills my bookshelves. Have they ever seen Antonio Gaudi's mosaics? Have they seen the naive artists who wrap trees with tin foil or pave their walkways with cement and wine bottle bottoms? Do they know about Ivan Generalic, who painted in reverse on glass? Have they read the essays of E.B. White, the poems of Jane Shore, Jimmy Santiago Baca's memoir, the diaries of Anais Nin and May Sarton, the letters of Georgia O'Keefe and Vincent van Gogh, the episodes of Pierre Delattre, the graphic novels of Franz Masereel? The kids might have read the children's book Goodnight Moon, but I want them to read about the author, Margaret Wise Brown. I want them to know that she lived and wrote in a tiny house with miniature furniture and furry walls, and swam nude in the icy Maine waters as the lobstermen teased her.

As you can see my curriculum would be best described as Cool Stuff That Emily Loves. I'm not much for historical overviews and sweeping timelines. For me, Duchamp, Botticelli, and the dinosaurs all share the same moment. I'm sure most of these kids have a better sense of linear time than I do! I just have a passion for the true voice that has spoken to me from books and art, and which has changed my life, repeatedly.

All this art has nourished my world - maybe half of the educational process is just getting exposed to cool inspiring stuff. The whole examining and measuring and testing process sometimes bypasses the crucial life-changing nourishment. But I'm the artist-in-residence, so I can read them a poem or show them an art book for the sake of sheer joy! Maybe loving teaching is really about loving learning. And an inspired receiver can be an inspired transmitter.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Art Food

My class Friday was the last class of the last day before the holiday break, and I didn't want it to be a wasted session. I knew for some kids it would be impossible to focus, but I also knew there would be kids ready to draw and I wanted to be there for them. I brought my Dover book of Reginald Marsh's art, and I went around the room having one-to-one meetings with the students, showing them his work. I am so glad I did because even a few kids who were chatting and not working stopped to let me show them every picture! I had a hunch that my enthusiasm might rub off on them. The fact that Reginald Marsh was an urban artist who drew people on subways, beaches, and in bread lines during the Depression was also a plus. I showed them that Marsh was an amazing photographer, too, and his photos that he took for reference are now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. We laughed about the 1930's bathing suits in the beach photos. I told them, "You never know where your inspiration might come from. Look at this guy, he carried a sketchbook everywhere, and here he is drawing bums passed out on the street." The students were fascinated and I was pleased to have reached the sometimes-hard-to-reach kids. Maybe I should introduce a favorite artist each Friday.

One girl told me she was too exhausted to work, but I asked her to let me show her this cool artist who I thought she'd appreciate. When I showed her Marsh's engraving of a dance marathon, she told me she had been in a dance marathon once, dancing for eighteen hours with her mother to raise money for a homeless shelter when they lived in Maine. I told her I'd never met anyone who had danced in a marathon, but that I had always wanted to do it. She said she hated it, it was torture!

Another girl who knew about New York City recognized Times Square and the subways in Marsh's drawings. She told me her mother and sister had both worked at a hotel in the city. Her 27-year-old sister had the job of walking the famous rich hotel owner's poodle. The poodle wore a diamond-studded collar, and when the sister took the dog out she had to be accompanied by two bodyguards. Her sister hated the job and quit after three weeks. I told her I didn't blame her sister for quitting and that sometimes dignity and fulfillment are more important than the paycheck.

Like the Salvation Army

The compassionate army - that's what I am calling teachers. There's a huge number of kids in any school, and their heads are all in different places. They do want to learn, but what works for one kid won't work for another. With the proper mix of understanding, compassion, and skill maybe we can make a difference for them.

That Guy

Thursday when I got to class a student told me about a portrait he had done on the city bus on the way home the day before. I said really? Can I see it? Sure, he said, and reached into his black shoulder bag to dig out his sketchbook. I could tell that he'd been hoping I'd want to look. The drawing was of a face of a burly guy with a crooked mouth and a scruffy beard, wearing a wool cap with his hair covering his ears. I said I love it, everyone has seen a guy like this. It's "That Guy!" We laughed, and I tried to imagine him sitting on the bus and drawing this total stranger. Maybe I'll bring in a book of Reginald Marsh's art and show him the drawings of people on subways and guys passed out on the street.

Still Life

On Wednesday I asked the art teacher if I could use my still-life materials (from the old YMCA class) for the kids to draw. She was OK with it, and so I set up my purple towel in the center of the table and positioned my wooden parrot, and the small, square, clear glass mason jar full of thirteen-year-old candy corn, and the blue glass jar with sugar cubes in it, and the skinny glass flask with one vanilla bean in it, and the bright orange teacup and saucer. After stealing a few sugar cubes to pop in their mouths, the kids started to draw. I was thrilled to see my objects come to life on their pages. I love everything they do. Sadly they are overly harsh critics of themselves. I try to explain why I think they have done well, and encourage them to keep going. One girl at a different table was drawing a wine glass, and she complained that it had no definite shadow. I said I know how to fix that! I got a floor lamp, plugged it in, aimed it at her glass, and turned it on. Shadow! She was happy, and got right down to work.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Surreal Fun!

We had a snowstorm late on Thursday, and the streets looked like the inside of an oreo cookie after you've scraped it once with your bottom teeth.

In my art class the impending storm was in the air. A bunch of kids were finished with their art projects, so I had them play a game. My pal Keith taught me this game: a person draws a character and writes words in a text balloon, and the next person also makes a character and writes words in a text balloon, but without seeing what the first person has done. Each person is writing in the balloon pointing to the other person's drawn character without knowing what it is. By dividing the page in half and hiding what you've written and drawn from the other person until the end, you make the final cartoon a surprise. I find it so fun and silly. My text balloon said, "I told you not to open that door in daylight." The student who was my cartooning partner had drawn a guy about to hit another guy with a huge mallet. On the other side of the page I had drawn a guy playing cello, and the text balloon that she had written said, "I love cats." The whole page when unveiled as one big scene made me laugh and laugh. I love random surrealist stuff. Maybe tomorrow the text balloons could hold tiny poems. Or the text could be a piece of what you happen to overhear in the classroom.

I also love the game Exquisite Corpse: someone draws the head of a person or creature, folds it over so it can't be seen, and passes the paper to another who draws the torso, folds it over, and then a third person does the legs and feet. Then you open it up and see what you've created. There's also the game of drawing a squiggle and passing it to someone who has to incorporate it into a drawing. As a kid I played that game for hours with my little brother on long car trips. I think it's cool to have these games that link students together, and there's absolutely no way to fail! I think they need a little of this wacky fun stuff. I know I do! These drawing games are like theater improv games except using writing and drawing. I'd like to get my adult friends to play this game with me, or perhaps the next time I am waiting in the dentist's office or at the Department of Motor Vehicles I will ask the nearest stranger if they'd like to play!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Don't Give Up

The other night we caught a TV documentary on playwrite Tony Kushner. One of his beliefs is that we have a moral obligation to not give up hope. This has stayed in my thoughts, and I've been chanting it to myself throughout the day! I also loved listening to him tell high school kids how scary and difficult it is to write because being all alone with your own mind is frightening. The honesty and power of his words inspired me. Thank you Tony Kushner!

I want to continue to connect with my community, but the agonies and joys are swirled together in equal parts like stripes on a zebra. Part of me wants to run into my room and pull the shades and hide under the covers, giving up on humans entirely, and the other part of me says "Refuse to despair, be brave, believe in every step you take in spite of resistance, and build hope."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Illumination vs. Alienation

I am reminding myself that a psychic injury or wound can be transformed into a window, a gift. My feelings and fears of tribal abandonment can be a vehicle for understanding the human condition. Helping one kid at the school can help a whole community. Today I am thinking about illumination versus alienation. I am trying to cultivate a refusal to despair, to see the sparkles of snow and ice glittering on the overflowing piles of sidewalk garbage.

I am afraid of being abandoned, yet I already have been. So there's no need now to hide, just recognize, love, and have compassion for the other floating children. Be firm and clear because I care. Because I am. I'll park my anger at the door because it just fogs up my windshield. All of the guidelines in teaching apply to everything else in my life. Education handled deeply can be a spiritual and creative act.

I love to work with the broken children, the melt-down kids, and I get them to focus and find their strength. They all have strength and gifts, with a thick layer of fear on top. I know, because I do too. I like to dig for gold and then hand it to them. Maybe we all can be wounded healers.

Bit by Bit

A new girl got placed in my class yesterday. It was her first day at the school after transferring from the regular high school. I zeroed in on her immediately and didn't leave her side for the whole class. She put up the "I can't draw" fight, but that didn't stop me from asking her to start drawing. Her main issue was focusing, so I kept tapping her shoulder and bringing her back to the page when she got distracted. She knew the other girls at the table and they were trying to engage her. I fended them off, suggesting we move to another table if concentrating was tough. She got down to business and we created an intensive work bubble around us. Through close observation and small achievable steps she drew first three butterflies and then three spiders. Together we dismantled and reconstructed them, limb by limb, wing by wing. Her observation and drawing progress was immediate.

Today she sketched the spider again and then announced she was ready to launch into the big construction-paper version. She immediately stopped looking at her reference spider and instead drew from her head, but she was unhappy with how distorted it was. I suggested she start over, and this time we took it step by step, again, discussing the ratios and measurements while looking at the spider reference engraving. I suggested first she draw the circle for the head, thinking about where it is on the page, then the body, then one leg, and then another. At each step I pointed out "use your eye." I coached her gently on each part of the spider and mentioned things to look for. She made a magnificent spider! I told her I was thrilled and asked her if she was too. She nodded and smiled. I went home after class elated, ready to dance in the streets!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


There's a kid in my class who looks like he stepped out of central casting as the quintessential sidekick. He's petite with a very round head, dark thick eyebrows, rosy cheeks, and a chiseled jaw. He usually wears a white T-shirt. The teacher had asked the students to draw bugs but Sidekick had picked a boxing kangaroo out of the pile of engravings instead. I thought it was a perfect choice for him. I went over to him and said, "I love your drawing, are you going to work more on it today?" And he said "Yeah," his mouth scrunching way over to the side. He always sits nestled in between the tough kids.

Sky Hawk

Another kid in my class is shy and hides under his hooded gray sweatshirt. He speaks softly, has pristine caramel skin and a long face, and wears braces on his teeth. He said he hated bugs, so he had picked a hawk from the pile. He drew it beautifully. I told him I thought of him when I saw three hawks flying over the cemetery last Sunday. I explained I had been out walking my dog when I heard them screeching. I looked up, and saw them flying in a circle overhead. They were getting harassed by a crow. He smiled.

Heavy Metal Daughters

Yesterday a girl told me that she had taken out her various piercings the night before, and her mom had said "What happened to your face?" She was laughing as she told the story. She told me she had several piercings. She described the locations; above the eyebrow, at the bridge of her nose, through her nostrils, on her upper and lower lips. I looked at her face up close and said I couldn't see where they had been. She said they were very fine so they wouldn't scar. She was sitting with another girl and they were telling a visiting teacher that they both were very angry at their moms for abandoning them and going to heavy metal concerts, back when the girls were seven years old.

More Classroom Characters

Romeo and Juliet. They seem like they've been married for years. They sit together every day, and draw, and they both really sink in to their work. They draw beautifully. Sometimes they hold hands.

The Hip Hop Twins. On most days these boys refuse to work but when they do I am elated. They joke with me when I come over to set them up with paper and pencil, which makes me hopeful that we are making a connection. They have beautiful articulated curls.

The Arctic Wolf. She's a sassy, short, curvy girl with bleached blond hair, milk-white skin, and glasses. She wears a white coat with a fluffy fur collar over her tight low-cut shirt. Her eyes are always painted with a thick line of black eyeliner above and below each eye.

The Door Behind the Door

I'll admit I'm feeling a big nameless, faceless sadness, the agonies of the human condition. But I'm trying to console myself by sinking into my work. Sometimes the door behind the door opens. When it does, I feel so grateful and lucky to find a tranquil place to be.

Into the Moonlight

Down up, down up. Energy pouring out, energy pouring in. It seems I'm either pushing boulders uphill or flying down the hill with my feet in the air trailing behind. Currently I'm pushing a boulder uphill. The thing that is hardest to remember is that with patience and love there is a way to make a home, even in the uphill house. Meanwhile I'm trailing a line of pebbles in the form of words hoping to make my way up into the moonlight.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

More Sun Dogs!

We saw sun dogs today while walking home from the reservoir. This display had three chunks of rainbow and you could see the arc shape quite well on one of them. If you imagine the face of a clock with the sun in the center, there was one rainbow dog at the three o'clock spot, one at the twelve o'clock spot, and one at the nine o'clock spot. The twelve o'clock dog had the largest arc, reaching to connect to the others in a faint ring.

Then we saw one very deeply colored lone sun dog later in the afternoon, lighting up a fluffy cloud-top poking out among the thin high clouds.

Teaching Art

I've been hired to assist the freshman art class at the local charter school as an artist-in-residence. It's been a real trip!

I sat with one of the introverted students and encouraged her to draw her hand; she did it in class, and then that night at home. She came back the next day with doubled improvement; I was elated! This girl has a narrow thread she is clinging to in order to communicate and to develop self esteem, but I could see that she responds well to simple, well-defined goals. I looked at her sketchbook. In it she had drawn the little bathroom in her apartment with such jauntiness and affection. It was fabulous, and I told her so! So I knew she had it in her to sink in and make something she cared about. I want her to be challenged and engaged in this class.

At the moment I am most interested in the kids that are in danger of falling off the map. They are half the class. They respond well to my one-to-one visits with them. I ask them to draw. I offer to set them up with paper and pencil if they don't have it, and I look them in the eye and put my hand on their shoulder. I never draw on their pictures but I sketch when necessary to show them how to pay attention by looking, measuring with their eyes. Observation is a skill that is a life tool and is never wasted. So whether they become artists, detectives, firemen, teachers, dental hygienists, or asphalt pavers, observation is important.

I am pleased when the students are drawing and really looking. I feel that they can always doodle on their own time (or in math class!) but in this class I want them to observe from life and sharpen the skills that come with that practice. When the kids doodle or refuse to work, they yack, and the room gets very noisy and ridiculous for concentrating. This becomes destructive for the kids trying to work, and takes down the whole room. When the kids are bored, or overwhelmed by busy-work projects, the desire to escape or slack off becomes pervasive. At these times the whole room can have the feeling that art is just babysitting, that art doesn't really matter.

I am interested in seeing the students held accountable, but in a compassionate way. I try to approach them with an I-believe-in-you-I-care-about-you vibe along with an achievable goal. Small daily victories build self esteem. I have found this to be true in my work. The students all have drawing ability and I tell them improvement is rapid and will surprise them when they put in the effort each day . . . but using their eyes, not their memory!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sun Dog, Comet, and Shooting Star

On Sunday we were driving to rehearse in Chester CT, and we saw two sun dogs in the sky. When we put on our sunglasses the colors were even more luminous; there were two slices of rainbow on either side of the sun. I wanted to signal to strangers driving on the highway to check it out. If I had been walking I would've gone up to people and shown them. After our rehearsal the sky was clear and full of stars. Bill remembered we should be able to see the comet and showed us where. We all took turns looking through binoculars and we found the comet lined up with a star directly overhead. It looked like a cotton ball surrounding the star. As we stood there straining our necks staring at the stars in the dry cold darkness I saw a shooting star leap by!

No Need to Be Alone

This morning I couldn't move my arms without pain in my shoulders. I felt like I had rusted, like the tin man in The Wizard of Oz. It was time to loosen up in the pool. In the locker room there was a woman who I chatted with. She had pale green eyes. She told me her husband had died this past February, after 62 years of marriage. I told her I was sorry. Her eyes became slightly teary. She said she had just started dating a man she knew for a long time because he was her painting teacher. I said how wonderful; good for you for circulating. She said it wasn't easy, that she had a lot of guilt. I said I bet your husband would have wanted you to be happy. She paused and said well, I know he wouldn't have stayed alone! And we both laughed.

Rings in the Pond

This time of year it is so easy to get caught in spin. I do and I am. Receive mode is about pain, anxiety, doubt, fear, but also the poignancy of vulnerability, and compassion. Sometimes my steps into the outside world reveal the little victories among people; the bits of daily drama and life that embody courage and love. Other times I am overwhelmed by the never-ending poverty, abandonment, and suffering I see at every corner! At these times I need to be reminded to participate in making my weensy piece of the world more humane and more loving and more compassionate. I want to believe that the rings in the pond formed from my tossing the stone will radiate out and touch others.

Musical Lathering

The last jam I played in was a musical healing. I arrived in a state of emotional anguish for no particular reason except that life is this way for me half the time. I had a brain washing, a true musical lathering and rinsing of the best kind. I am continually amazed by what making music can do to the emotional centers of my brain. Speaking of which I am reading the new book Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks, the neurologist, and he has amazing stories about music and the brain. I hope to lather up my gray matter for as many Thursday night jams as I can.

Out of My Head

I am feeling the agonies of the world, the pain of my neighbors' lives, and everything I lay my eyes on seems to be groaning back at me in anguish. Understandably I get spoiled rotten from three solid months of unending energy and joy. But there are two sides to the coin and I've learned to respect that. I've been reading lots of books lately and walking for miles. Today, with deadlines looming, all I want to do is stare out the window. So I am! And that isn't so bad really. A bit of that is good for all of us, but I'd hide in my house for the next three months if I could. I need to get out and laugh, get out of my head.

On Language and Healing

I think language gives us courage. Poetry gives us courage and faith to live with open wounds. Poetry gives us the means to understand pain in a meaningless age. Language gives us insight into the darkness that we all stumble into today. So, I don't know if it heals, but I do know that it provides us with what we lack. Language provides us with something that we desperately need. Not to close the wound, but not to forget it. Language makes us not forget what we went through. I've been shot. I've been stabbed. I got scars all over my body, and my face. My jaw is wired. My teeth have been kicked out by the narcos. My jaw was beaten . . . was knocked out by the police. My head is full of cracks from the guards. My stomach is all scarred up. I've been shot in the legs, and those are just the visible signs. The wounds that I carry inside of me are even deeper and graver. Language is the only thing that I can go to and drink from, and feel invigorated and feel happy about living. It carries the magic of my people's heart. It carries the magic that I'm in love with. If you took language away from me, I would immediately pick up a gun and go to the mountains and become a rebel. There would be no doubt whatsoever, no hesitation. So, I use language as something that connects me to beyond the world I live in, that connects me to a cosmic kind of destiny that helps me towards living a good life. So it heals me in that sense. It heals me in the sense that I'm able to love living and I'm able to look at the living. Language provides me with a journey I would not have otherwise had . . . a journey into myself and my people.

     - Jimmy Santiago Baca, from an interview with
       Gabriel Meléndez


I took Honey for the big loop walk, which is the walk through the Precious Blood Cemetery and around the reservoir in Blackstone. It's a three-mile loop through mostly residential neighborhoods.
I forgot how necessary looking around and seeing signs of life is for me. I hunger for it when my energy has switched back to being internal. I spotted carved pumpkins and spider webs and lots of hand-made decorations in peoples' yards.

I saw a three-year-old dressed up as a bumble bee with gold wings on her back, and I saw a full-grown adult dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz go into the pizza parlor with pony tails and a blue-and-white checked dress over a puffy white blouse. She looked so matter-of-fact, like she forgot she was in costume. I saw an empty house for rent and I imagined people living there. I saw an empty rabbit hutch and I imagined having rabbits. I have fallen into my internal place but I don't want to dig a dark hole which is so easy to do. I want to walk and swim and read and keep working with my new head.

Monday, October 22, 2007


The Urban Mermaid is one year old today!! Maybe I should bake a carrot cake with turquoise frosting!

Autumn Orange

Today we're going to the orchard to get apples and look at the foliage. I have been taking every excuse in the world to walk everywhere and soak up the colorful trees. I've been taking detours three times a day to walk by the red and orange maples on Social Street. It's that little bit of green mixed into the red that kills me. I laugh when I look at my redheaded friends - as if their hair has turned orange like the leaves!

Quotes of the Day

I expect to be astonished, to hear things I haven't heard before, or haven't paid attention to before, or that I understand in a new way. . . I'm never finished with anything, nor do I think one should be. My motive forces are wonder and curiosity, and I think these are good motive forces. People want to know about the wonders of the world, whether it's white tigers or the total wonderland of being human.

     - Oliver Sacks

A tree grows up out of the ground, but it uses a lot more ground than just the ground that’s right under the tree. There’s got to be a whole lot of music that you don't play in front of people. There’s got to be something that you play when you're by yourself. It could be anything. I'll play along with Tuvan music, or I might play “Oh, Danny Boy,” or I might take a guitar in standard tuning and start playing Elmore James chops. It doesn't matter as long as you're playing with it. That’s why they call it playing guitar, they don't call it working guitar. You've got to be having some fun with it, and particularly if you're going to entertain people. If you're just hacking the stuff through, you're not going to get anywhere.

     - Maynard Silva

My City

I've been thinking a lot about literacy and languages. There are so many languages spoken in my little city. I would like to learn them. Maybe we need a language exchange program. I can picture it. I teach English while learning Spanish. A linguistic enrichment tutoring teaching exchange. At the public library. Our city is enriched by multiple languages and cultures; Spanish, English, Laotian, French, Portuguese, Polish, and many more.

There's another grant-funded job-placement program opening for kids ages 14-21 on Main Street opposite the Heritage Coffee Shop. I am going to go talk to the kids and show them my portfolio. Maybe they will be inspired to chase their artistic dreams. It always helps to meet someone doing what you'd like to do, and it's really cool to discover they are doing it in your town! I'm glad there is a lot here in our city to help young people get a good start. Many of the kids need all the help they can get.

There's a guy in my neighborhood who rides an adult tricycle with a huge black speaker in a box attached to the back of his seat. He plays Latin music while he pedals. It's run by a motorcycle battery, and my favorite part is how the sound gets warped as he pedals by.

The girl next door has her bedroom window facing the alley literally four feet from my kitchen sink. Our houses are that close together! In the warm weather all the windows are open and the sounds travel. I worry that my morning coffee grinding will wake her up. Her mother told me don't worry she sleeps like a log! At night she has her friends and cousins over and they play music and laugh and watch movies until well after midnight! I am glad to know she is having fun. It's like I have a daughter!

A World of Faces

I have met a few emaciated women who have exceptionally large and theatrical facial features. My theory is that they are trying to make their noses and eyes and mouths smaller and more conventional by losing weight. It doesn't work that way! It saddens me because it is important and wonderful to embrace what you've got. I was lucky to walk through Grand Central Station often as a kid and there were always inspiring faces from around the world. Faces in magazines or on television are never as interesting to me as faces on streets and buses and subways.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


A dear old friend of mine is a well-known blues guitarist living in Martha's Vineyard. He was interviewed about his music-making, and I'm quoting from that interview:

. . . Music is how I express my essence, express my spirit, and I share it and get closer on a real level with other human beings.

The thing is the relationship between the truth of the music and who you are. There've been nights in my life where my only friend is that guitar. Everybody’s got something they do on those nights, and me, I play music for myself . . . and I'll share that with people, because there’s a real closeness, this is who I really am, that’s who you really are.

I don't want any other cards, I just want to be able to make a better hand out of the cards I've got.

You don't have to add stuff to the music; it just accumulates. One note leads to another. If you can play one note, after a while you can fit two in there, and it just grows.

Listen to (Tuvan bands) Hu’un Hu’un Tu, or Chirgilchin. Beyond that, slide players should listen to trumpet players, and people who are playing rhythm guitars should listen to piano players. They're the chord doctors. Listen to everything. I also think you've got to listen to stuff that isn't music. A friend of mine took me for a ride last night in an ancient Volvo station wagon with this little four-cylinder engine. And they own two huge French poodles. And driving up Lambert’s Cove Road, with the wind blowing by, the sound of that motor, every once in a while the poodles barking - it was just such a great sound.

     - Maynard Silva

Crone of the Year

We are approaching the old age of the year. Autumn is in the air and winter is coming. We are all on death row. Every morning I sit and write in the last patch of sun in my yard before the shadows take it away. Honey and I sit squinting in the warmth. Our maple tree is nearly completely orange! I have been sleeping ten hours a night.

Recently I met an eleven-year-old boy at a performance. The boy is a classical pianist and he had rosy cheeks and was wearing a suit and tie. His father said he practices twice a day; pre-dawn and evening. The boy was an old man in a child's body. He told me he has three music teachers and has been playing since he was six. Maybe when he is 40 he'll get to be a kid, like what happened to me! The hostess for the event had a wild face. Her pale translucent skin was taut and smooth and her helmet of gray curled-and-sprayed hair was an eerie halo. Only later did I realize she must have had a face lift. Her 75-year-old skin was tight as a drum across her jaw bone. There was no extra skin on her neck; in fact the muscles and arteries on her neck looked like the exposed drainpipes under my kitchen sink. Her hands were arthritic and her knuckles were frozen into a slightly bent position. It scared me when I reflected on her face. Why hide your age? Wouldn't you like to set a good example for those of us who will be old soon too?

I just saw the Chagall Man walking through the parking lot of the elderly high rise. His back is so bent over he looks like a walking question mark. He walks in little clumpy steps, determined and animated, wearing a dark green baseball cap and a cobalt blue fleece pullover, white pants and white sneakers. He focuses completely on the ground while he walks. Maybe he has always been an old man. My friend's daughter just turned 21 and we celebrated with her. She went from being a kid to an elegant, elongated, graceful woman in ten years. I am now the age my mother was when I turned 21.

I am enjoying the quiet of closed windows and neighborhood children indoors at school. In one hour everyone will be out again. Our neighborhood schools start extremely early, 7 AM, and the kids walk home at 2 PM.

Quote of the Day

The fundamental aspect of bravery is being without deception.

     - Chogyam Trungpa

I Love My Town

It immediately caught my eye; a signed imitation Botero oil painting in the window of the junk store on Main Street. It was pretty good, complete with fat man in a suit, cigarettes strewn on the floor, and the artist's unique interpretation of light falling through a doorway.

More on Food

My dough had to wait two days before I had a chance to bake it. By the time I did it looked a bit odd but it had become a real tangy cheesy sourdough! Delicious!

I made mashed potatoes for supper with milk and butter, then sauteed three bunches of steamed kale with garlic and olive oil and mushroom soy sauce. Yummy mushy foods.

Someday I want to make my own wine from my own grapes and cheese from my own cow!

I love pumpkin and apple and the first cup of coffee of the day - perhaps I think about food too much!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Quotes from Grist for the Mill

The greatest thing you can do for any other human being is provide the unconditional love which comes from making contact with that place in them which is beyond conditions, which is pure consciousness, pure essence.

There's nowhere that you have to go to work on yourself other than where you are at this moment, and everything that's happening to you is part of your work on yourself.

I have three major instructions for my life from my Guru: Love, Serve, and Remember. Love everyone, serve or feed everyone, remember God.

There are many stages on this path, many lessons; don't stop anywhere. It's all part of the process of awakening. You have all the time in the world but don't waste a moment.

As long as you are attached to your separateness, you can't help but perpetuate fear, because there is a subtle fear in you of losing your separate identity.

When you acknowledge that your life is a vehicle for your liberation it becomes clear that all of your life experiences are the optimum experience you need in order to awaken. And the minute you perceive them that way they are useful within that domain. The minute you ignore that perception, they won't work that way.

     - Ram Dass

The Chagall Man

There's a little hunched man I have seen for years in my neighborhood. I finally discovered he lives in the tiny red cottage behind the Romanian Orthodox Church. I call him The Chagall Man because he looks like he stepped right out of a Chelm story or a Chagall painting. He must weigh all of 90 pounds. When I see him he is always walking briskly, with small steps. His shoes slap the sidewalk noisily when he walks. You can hear him tramping down the street. One day while I was with Honey he walked right up to me and growled "Got a cigarette?"

Powerful Silences

There's a kid in my art class who concentrates so hard while he is drawing that it can be felt; he turns my classroom into a library. He anchors the room. I met his parents when they came to pick him up. They both love him so much.

I used to have moments when I would look at my palette and think it was a beautiful perfection. Why do I need to paint? It's so beautiful as it is.

I am soaking up the quiet solitude and long shadows of autumn. The trees are orange and the sky is clear blue and my dog is itching her pesky fleas.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Apple Schlumpf

I just recently made what I call apple schlumpf, an apple betty which I learned to make as a hippie apple pie! A dozen small apples cored and sliced but unpeeled, baked with a granola-style oat topping. Set the sliced apples in a baking dish. Make the topping by first heating and stirring together 1/4 cup molasses (mine is blackstrap but any kind will do), 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup corn oil, vanilla, pinch of baking soda, pinch of salt, and sprinkles of cinnamon & nutmeg (or you can put the cinnamon and nutmeg over the apples instead), then stirring in a quart of rolled oats until the oats are coated with the dark sweet sticky mixture. Then spread the oat mixture over the apples and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Odds and Ends

What I try to do (with great difficulty): ignore the bad behavior that people throw at me and instead hit 'em with the love bomb.

It is a blessing in disguise; I've always required many hours alone, every day. If I don't get it, I'll stay up all night to have that time. But I'm not completely alone. My dog Honey is always with me, sleeping on her bed, holding down her piece of the world.

In my after-school drawing class at Beacon I turned them onto Edward Hopper and Reginald Marsh. I showed them that Marsh would go to Coney Island and draw guys passed out in the gutter. A good model knows how to stay still!

Teaching is performing! I get wired up and flipped out (in a good way) but then I am wasted, ready for bed!

I'm allergic to bureaucrats!

Every reform, however necessary, will by weak minds be carried to an excess, that itself will need reforming.

     - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

More Band Names

Here are two more band names to add to the list:
Love Bomb
Meat Raffle

Fall Foods

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday but usually arrives too late for catching my happiness! Last Monday was Thanksgiving in Canada. Turkey is my favorite food especially midnight turkey sandwiches on my homemade bread with mayo and purple onions! I love to roast a turkey outside over hardwood charcoal and have parsnips, turnips, carrots, collard greens, and corn with it.

I've been making cornbread with buckwheat flour in place of wheat flour and a touch of blackstrap molasses added too. Wholesome and hearty earth taste. Excellent with cafe au lait!!

Big Day

We had another amazing parade on Columbus Day! The rain held off. We were having a blast. Richard had so much fun he filmed the whole three hours (lots of film editing ahead!) Playing to an appreciative audience is the best high around!! I felt we played our most jubilant ecstatic parade ever. We gushed our full energy nonstop for all three miles! Even Gerry's shy son was beaming. I think he got hit with the love bomb!! Frankie and Justin got to go home wearing their new Munroe Band varsity jackets.

Bill and I stripped off our happy sweaty clothes, jumped in the shower, then had a snack, and finally crashed at five-thirty. Around 10PM we heard many fire engines. The fire trucks had been right behind us in the parade, so I thought I was dreaming of the parade, but no. Bill got up and looked out the window and said that the fire trucks were in our neighborhood. We got dressed and went to investigate. A building in the next block was smoldering. This building has buildings very close on either side of it. All the neighborhood families were in the street watching. It was an electrical fire, and the firemen were having trouble getting to it. They punched a big hole in the side of the building. Hats off to the firefighters! They saved the house and the neighborhood.

Nun's Hat Dumplings

We just made Chinese wonton-style dumplings for supper! My pal Lisa C taught me how. First you grate cukes and carrots into a bowl, then add chopped scallions, garlic, and ginger. Knead one pound of ground lean pork into the ingredients, then mix in a little sesame oil, asian hot sauce, and soy sauce. Spoon the mixture into fresh wonton skins, pinch and seal the dumplings at the top (into nun's hats), and steam or boil! They will stick together, so be careful.

Quotes of the Day

Face the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.

     - Maori proverb

The way you look out at the world is the way the world looks back at you.

     - Avon Neal

YMCA Teacher

Part I

I am teaching an after-school art and poetry class through the YMCA. My neighbor Lisa, who is 23, is my assistant. Being new staff members we get to have YMCA memberships for free! We took a tour today of the newly renovated part of the Y, across the street from the pool building and connected by a skywalk. There were half a dozen Nautilus rooms! Lisa was impressed - she loves to do that stuff. I never knew the Y had so many gyms. I like basketball and swimming, but I fell in love with the dance studio! I couldn't believe everything was air-conditioned. There was even a room full of computers. Our class will happen on Wednesdays, 3:30-5:30. It is free to local teens, and funded by a RI Foundation grant. We will be working toward creating panels to install in the skywalk. We'll combine original poetry and illustration into what will be essentially posters!

I am happy to work with Lisa because she is a perfect assistant - joyful, energetic, positive, and good with people. She will probably be hired for more things at the Y. She loves babysitting little kids and has done that her whole life so far. I helped her fill out an application for babysitting work at the Y.

I am having the class meet across the street from the YMCA at the Beacon School, which is a charter high school. They are letting us use the big beautiful 3rd-floor art room which overlooks Main Street and the Stadium Theater marquee!

Part II

I am pleased with how my first art class went and I'm already looking forward to next Wednesday. I had the kids draw their hands a few times and then some objects I had brought; antique shoe forms, an old-fashioned egg beater, and a potato masher. We took an apple break and all ate Empire apples I bought from a nearby orchard, The Big Apple. During the break we looked at books; I showed them a bunch of illustration and art from my library, the diary of May Sarton, and Jimmy Santiago Baca's poetry. Then we all drew a view of Main Street from the window. Each person got their own window. We have such a fabulous view up high above Main Street and so many windows!! Then I had everyone sit opposite each other and draw each other's faces (an exercise where you don't look down while you draw). I was pleased with how they did, and Lisa was great. She knew how to help a grieving girl in the class who she knows. For homework I am asking them to keep drawing and writing in their sketchbooks. They had fun and they are bringing friends next week. There were some Beacon School theater students who wanted to attend, but they had a meeting to go to. Maybe I should put up a shocking pink poster in Beacon's lobby next Tuesday: Illustration/Poetry class Weds at 3:30. Next week I'll show them work by Reginald Marsh and Edward Hopper, Max Beckmann, Toulouse Lautrec - urban visual artists!!

Part III; Burning Up the Baklava

I wanted to publicize my free YMCA art class, so I had the Y print up a bunch more flyers, made some phone calls, and hopped on my bike. I first visited the boys Feinstein School directly behind my house. I was able to speak with the principal (cool dude) and art teacher (cool lady) and secretary. When I made it clear the class was free and that we wanted the kids who don't normally get this kind of opportunity, they were on my side. I could see my house from the classroom windows!

Then I went to the middle school. I carried my bike into the building. The secretary was annoyed. "This is a school!" she shouted. I just smiled. When I told her about my free art class she cheered up. Then she said she would announce my class over the loudspeaker and mail my flyers to all of the parents!

I took another trip to the Beacon School to say hello to Robert and Tina again and give out more flyers. I LOVE THAT PLACE!!! I visited the public library and left flyers with Chris the children's room librarian and Claire at the main desk. I took a pit stop at Sheahan Printers (to ask for paper scraps for the class) and stopped at Joe's Moldy Oldies record store on the way home and told Joe all about it! He was thrilled and thought of some kids to tell.

I took a spill when I saw Lisa and waved to her while trying to pull over and jump the curb on my bike (stupid me!). Luckily more humor than blood. Two more schools to go; Woonsocket High School and the girls Feinstein School next week. I figure I should keep pedaling to burn up some baklava I have been enjoying lately!!

One Man's Trash . . .

Our neighbors were emptying their garage the other night and I saw them carrying beautiful old furniture out to the sidewalk. I intercepted, and they were happy to give us the goods; a writing desk, two wooden chairs (one was an oak rocker), and a white metal toaster! I'll need to re-upholster the chair seats some day, but they are beautiful. Bill fixed the toaster and scrubbed it with a citrus cleaner. Now it's perfect! Better than new because it's an experienced toaster!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Rolls of Faith

The torpedo rolls and hamburger buns I stroll by every morning outside the Castle Luncheonette on Social Street are stacked in clear bags. They are always on the fifth barn-red picnic table, the one closest to the dining room entrance. They're delivered early in the morning, before the luncheonette is open. The bakery order is always scrawled in pencil on a turquoise waitress receipt taped to the kitchen window, facing out, so the bread man knows just what to leave. It is a great comfort to me to see the bread sitting there each morning, undisturbed, and it makes me think for a moment that we live in a trusting and cozy world.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Quotes of the Day

Whoever walked behind anyone to freedom? If we can't go hand in hand, I don't want to go.

     - Hazel Scott

Losing also is ours and even forgetting has a shape in the permanent realm of mutation. Things we've let go of circle and though we are rarely a center of these circles, they trace around us the unbroken figure.

     - Rainer Maria Rilke

Bee Hive

Someday I want to build a traditional outdoor beehive oven and have a neighborhood bread-baking fest! Bread and poetry . . . and chicken soup! I have mused about this for years and people love the idea. The return to bread! Teaching kids how to incubate their own yogurt!

As a child I loved the Sunday table. It was about food and eating and talking all day. My Jewish grandparents would drive up in their beige Buick from Brighton Beach with bagels and honeycake and potato knishes. The trunk would be filled with Grandpa's latest: cases of Wrigley's spearmint gum, or boxes of brand-new sneakers. My grandparents smelled good, reeking of Canoe cologne. My Sicilian step-father would put out plates of smoked whitefish and bright orange lox, a mountain of cream cheese, and a basket of fresh biales. There would be a percolator of hot coffee and a pitcher of orange juice on the buffet. I would sit at the dining room table all day listening to their stories and eating. Food was sacred and our table was the altar.

When I was in college my drawing class would run from one till six p.m. By two-thirty I would have snuck out and bicycled home to my little third-floor kitchen. I would cook and bake for the rest of the night; chicken soup, onion soup, chili, chilies rellenos, wheat bread, and hummus. I required solitude and nest building on a daily basis. I loved not having a roommate! Just me and my dog. I would sit and write letters during my solitary supper meal.

Being a restaurant prep-chef taught me more than art school possibly could have. And it was a ton more fun! For the first time in my life I was in a room full of people who actually listened to things I said and even laughed at my jokes. I once named and labeled all the salad dressings after erotic movies. I sometimes changed recipes for things, and sometimes got in trouble for it. I flirted with the bartender each time I had to run for milk and coffee for making the chocolate pudding trays! On the major holidays the chef encouraged me to drink beer that had been hidden in one of those gigantic aluminum flour measures in the fridge. I learned to love the voice of Dolly Parton, who seemed to be always on the radio. Chef Bruce was a tall pony-tailed history major who was perfect as my new older brother. Most nights I showed up to work after crying my eyes out at home for no particular reason. Life just hurt! I was hooked up with a perpetually on-the-road philandering musician who would check up on me, calling long distance from Chicago or somewhere. I discovered that I looked good dressed up in 1940's suits I'd find in the thrift stores along with, for instance, imitation-alligator pumps. So every night after my seven-hour kitchen shift, I would strip out of my jeans and dirty apron and hiking boots, and dress up in nylons, suit, and pumps! Lois Lane would emerge from the kitchen. This is where I met my beloved husband. He was celebrating his birthday out front at one of the tables and I joined the party, all dressed up.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Quote of the Day

Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.

     - Leonard Cohen

Queen of the Blues

Last night a tall thin wrinkly hunched old lady was at the blues jam. I had never seen her before but others acted like they knew her. She was drinking a martini, smoking, yacking, laughing, having a grand old time. When she got up she walked slowly, with a cane. She came over to us while we were on stage and gave Bill a silver dress pin of a piano. When she walked away I said to Bill she's right out of Grimm's Fairy Tales! We examined the silver pin closely and it was ugly, a totally distorted rendering of a grand piano. I told him it's magic, you better wear it!

Prison Literacy

I am involved in a big Prison Literacy Project. So far it has been a lot of organizing work. I have invited 160 people by e-mail to participate and now I am tracking down the few who have written back and agreed to give it a try. I am also tracking down others who may have overlooked my invitation! Each person requires letters of encouragement and explanation to be involved, and so far I have been finding the energy and courage to do it. I also have to coordinate my wrangling with an editor (in Saskatchewan!) Bill says I am passionate about prison literacy because in a sense I was an illiterate prisoner in my mother's house. I'm hurrying on this project. It is my zoomy squirrelly season and I know I will eventually turn into a gray winter squash for three months and not have the patience, optimism, or stamina. But for now I am a bright orange pumpkin!

Odds and Ends

I can't be so busy in my life that staring at a wall and writing letters isn't part of my job description.

I love to hang my laundry in the sun. It's like making a marinade; "the work" is happening while you are doing something important, like napping!

In my family nobody listened. They just shouted louder over me, with their mouths full, while I was talking. I think this is why I developed a passion for writing letters - when I had something to say, it was my only way to have people listen.

I Love Cauliflower

I love cauliflower
more than whipped cream!

Poor abandoned misunderstood
vegetables, always being upstaged
by other foods.

I'd love to lay down
on a bed of shiny black

I'd gladly walk down the aisle
with a bouquet of purple kale.

I'd wear a bodice
made of cabbage leaves,
and toss bean sprouts to the crowd.

-Emily Lisker 1/5/06

Hound Dog Blues

I am distracted today because I smell like somebody else! I smell like shredded soap. The generic deodorant I usually buy changed their regular scent to "Irish Spring" - blechhh! I feel like my dog who needs to go roll in the leaves and mud after her bath. I'm all nose - a Russian Jewish hound dog.

Last night I blew my heart out at the News Cafe blues jam. Sometimes I get lucky and there is no fear, just breathing. Last night was one of those nights. I love using my body to push air. I would love to try a sousaphone because I love the way it wraps around like a serpent. But I'll admit I am partial to reeds.

City Life

The city has lit the bocce courts on Elbow Street so people can play bocce at night, while the baseball games are happening! I will have to give it a try. I have authentic Italian bocce balls I got from an Italian-American hardware store in Providence twenty years ago. Italian hardware: bocce balls and pasta machines.

I think the city needs a dog park, but my husband reminds me 99 percent of the dogs in this city are pit bulls! So maybe we should have a community garden instead. The Lao families grow amazing peppers and vegetables on their porches - they would have more space in a community garden. We could learn more about what they grow and how to cook it!

I saw Donat this morning while walking by the Castle Luncheonette. He was lookin' sharp in gray slacks, leather belt, blue ribbed polo shirt, and brown penny loafers. I said "Hi how are you?" He said "Beautiful day for a walk!" It was 85 degrees and the trees have been turning orange. He said, "I have heartburn. I can't complain at my age, but I think it goes with you." I laughed and said I would hate to think of having heartburn while I'm in the grave! He then told me he has a stuffed tiger he got fifteen years ago propped on his bed. When the landlord comes to check his apartment he says, "Watch out for the tiger in my bed!"

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Advice to Myself

Your energy and time on earth is limited, so put energy into the light. Don't let the bad guys drain you. You're creative, be clever! Don't hang yourself up! Don't fall for fear wearing the mask of excuses.

Poem for the Blue Shirt Boys

I am subversive
and clever like Houdini,
I know the best weapon is pencil and paper.
I was given that;
I fought the scariest woman in the world
And I won.
I won!
I won't be put off by the stiflers
and the game players.
To be creative
is to outsmart them all
with pen and paper.

Quote of the Day

I don't know what poetry should do, but I know what it can do. It makes people feel better and it's liberating. Poetry has been used as an empowering tool because of its healing agencies. It liberated me mentally and physically from jail, and it made me feel good about myself. So, that's how I put it out there. I don't know if that's my theory or my prescription, but that’s what I have found.

     - Raul Salinas

Kitchen Dream

Today is overcast, but it didn't start out this way. When I woke I saw Venus in the sky, a bright light in the cobalt sky. The cloud cover rolled in and it's soothing. I have to go to the Woonsocket Police Station to get fingerprinted for a criminal background check so I can teach my poetry + art class at the YMCA. Times sure have changed from when I was a kid. But I am so excited about my class. I wish the YMCA had a kitchen because then I would make the class be the poetry and art of bread-making! Maybe we can get a grant or perhaps a local philanthropist will build us a YMCA kitchen. We could have seasonal favorites like an apple pie class in autumn and a winter breads and soups class. I'm drooling just thinking about it. Home economics is important and seems to be a dying art these days.

Dry Goods

Bill and I just went to JAR wholesale bakers supply in Lincoln RI. We got 2 pounds of dry yeast for the price of those tiny jars in the supermarket! We also got 50 pounds of fresh King Arthur bread flour and 50 pounds of old fashioned rolled oats and 50 pounds of medium grind whole wheat flour, all for half the supermarket price. The supermarket flour tastes like a supermarket; nobody bakes except at holidays, so the flour is stale! Of course you need a place to safely store these quantities. Once a cute little mouse ate a hole though our bag of oats and ate until it died. Now we put our flour and grain into huge food tins originally intended for dry dog food (free from Eukanuba!) and keep them all in a cold cellar room. We also got a gallon jug of molasses and ten pounds of hulled raw sunflower seeds. The seeds will get stored in the chest freezer downstairs. We're thinking of getting the wholesale raisins, but 30 pounds might be too much even for us.

Pauper or Millionaire

I have problems getting money for what I do, and part of the problem is I don't like to chase people. I am ambitious but I don't chase people; I chase my art. Currently a local collector has agreed to buy one of my more expensive paintings, but he seems to require my chasing him for every penny including the down payment. This drives me nuts! Meanwhile I am doing everything I want to do as if money didn't matter; playing music, writing, painting, swimming, dancing. Pauper or millionaire, my goal is the same.

New Head

A friend gave me a Dr. Kevorkian gift certificate as a joke. It was a piece of paper that said one free visit with Dr. K or something like that. It was the size and look of a dollar bill. In those times when I think life is a bad deal and I want out, I keep this around to make me laugh. Right now, though, everything is visible, sensory, and lush to me. My skin is singing to dance and swim and wear leotards. I walk my dog and write a lot. Small things have a big effect. Sometimes it is the very everyday things "coming in" that I can hardly keep up with. I race to jot it all down. I say to Bill, "I have a new head," or "First day with the new head!" I think I could write a group of bipolar jokes!


Our doctor is fabulous as ever. He invited us to a dinner recently at his old farmhouse. Before the meal we ventured into the jungle behind his house to pick wild Concord grapes. We stood on tiptoes and pulled at the vines to reach the clusters of grapes. You could smell the grapes in the air even before we picked them. We filled two big round wicker baskets. Later I dove into icy water and swam, and we ate colorful summer food and then we gathered around his enamel kitchen table drinking coffee and telling stories until well after midnight. When we left, the stars were so bright and the air was cool. I popped awake at 5:30 the next morning and took Honey into the yard. Life is amazing and everything is lush and humming when I'm in transmit mode. A natural high. My ears are perky and I'm taking notes. The days seem ten minutes long, but I know this too will pass.

Good Vibrations

My ten-year-old neighbor said "I hear you playing your tuba!!" I asked, "Does my saxophone playing bother you?" She said no. Her bedroom window faces the alley between our buildings and my saxophone sound must zoom right up into her window. All my neighbors tell me they can hear it but they like it. I am very lucky. I try not to play at crazy hours (heh heh heh). Well when I play crazy hours I play in the living room (which has no windows) so the sound won't wake anyone outside. One day Bill came down for breakfast and said I heard you playing your sax very early. The house apparently vibrated with the low notes.

Walking Around

It so happens I am sick of being a man.
It so happens that I walk into tailor shops and movie houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.
The smell of barbershops makes me break into hoarse sobs.
The only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool.
The only thing I want is to see no more stores, no gardens,
no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators.
It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I am sick of being a man.
Still it would be marvelous
to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,
or kill a nun with a blow on the ear.
It would be great
to go throught the streets with a green knife
letting out yells until I died of the frost.
I don't want to go on being a root in the dark,
insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,
going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
taking in and thinking, eating every day.
I don't want so much misery.
I don't want to go on as a root and a tomb,
alone under the gound, a warehouse with corpses,
half frozen, dying of grief.
That's why Monday, when it sees me coming
with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline,
and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,
and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the night.
And it pushes me into certain corners, into some moist houses,
into hospitals where the bones fly out the window,
into shoeshops that smell like vinegar,
and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin.
There are sulphur-colored birds, and hideous intestines
hanging over the doors of houses that I hate,
and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,
there are mirrors
that ought to have wept from shame and terror,
there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms, and umbilical cords.
I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything,
I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic shops,
and courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow
dirty tears are falling.

     - Pablo Neruda

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Quotes of the Day

Without suffering, happiness cannot be understood. The ideal passes through suffering like gold through fire.

     - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

There is a day
when the road neither
comes nor goes, and the way
is not a way but a place.

     - Wendell Berry

You can write a song anywhere, in a railroad compartment, on a boat, on horseback - it helps to keep moving. Sometimes people who have the greatest talent for writing songs never write any because they are not moving.

     - Bob Dylan

Toaster Love

Another toaster died. They get a workout in this house of bread! Bill has rebuilt our current toaster three times, but this time it's done for. We have a graveyard of buried toasters in the backyard. (Just joking, they're actually in the cellar.) I will try to find a new one that is built like a tank, like the ones in diners. When I was young, I did a series of photo postcards called Toaster Love. They were black-and-white photos of me in my grandmother's flapper dress kissing my art deco 1930's toaster. I took them using the camera's self-timer, printed them up on pink card stock, and mailed them to my friends.

Tibetan Proverb

For one with faith,
Even a dog's tooth radiates light.

Mos gus yod na,
khyi yi so yang 'od bton pa.

A Joke from a Friend in Dublin

A woman in her fifties is at home happily jumping, unclothed, on her bed and squealing with delight. Her husband watches her for a while and asks, "Do you have any idea how ridiculous you look? What's the matter with you?"

The woman continues to bounce on the bed and says, "I don't care what you think, I just came from having a mammogram, and the doctor says that not only am I healthy, but I have the breasts of an 18-year-old."

The husband replies, "What did he say about your 55-year-old arse?"

"Your name never came up," she says.

The Blue Shirt Boys

I went with Angel last week to the Training School, which is what they call the juvenile prison. A few other teachers from AS220 met us there for the voluntary after-school classes. It was my first time there, and coincidentally the first classes of the semester. I was amazed at the faces of these young boys, a mix of Aztec princes and West Side Story gents. Sad, lively, and forgotten boys. I was hypnotized watching them in their cobalt blue shirts, some with collars and some without. I was soaking them up.

When I got home I ate cold left-over sesame noodles with lots of hot sauce. I went to bed very early and fell asleep in minutes. I woke at 4:30 a.m. thinking, where are the boys right now? I hope they are asleep. I got up and let my dog out and looked around my neighborhood. I spotted Michael, who lives across the street. He was nine in 1988 when we moved to Woonsocket, in a different neighborhood. He would knock on our door and ask to play with our two big dogs. Sometimes I turned him away. Now he's 29, a full-grown, handsome, angry, young man. Now he's a father, sometimes riding a motorcycle with his seven-year-old daughter on the back wearing a helmet, clutching his waist. Now he's dealing drugs and shouting curses at the neighbors. When he moved here we both recognized each other. We always wave hello. I hope he stays safe. I thought of the blue-shirted boys' faces again.

There was only one boy in the writing class I sat in on. He talked about getting married in prison, and seeing his daughter, who was born six months ago. We wrote poems, and he read his from his black-and-white composition notebook. I talked about the pitfalls of waiting for inspiration or stirring up drama as a way to get writing, and the importance of looking deeper to find the door behind the door. We laughed about the irony of all the clocks in the building being caged! He talked about books he liked. I said that I loved memoirs. He and I had both begun the same book! We had both read the opening pages of Blindness. I would like to visit again, and bring poetry.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Red Light

I almost ended up with another dog. I was in the passenger seat, at a red light, and the vehicle next to me had a droopy-faced long-eared Basset hound in the back seat and I was cooing at him through the window. The owner said, You want him? You can have him. I said ahhhh . . . yes! But at that very moment the light changed and Bill took his foot off the brake and gave me a little kick. And we drove off. I would've named him Red Light.

Quote of the Day

The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding. Finally, the lessons of impermanence taught me this: loss constitutes an odd kind of fullness; despair empties out into an unquenchable appetite for life.

     - Gretel Ehrlich, from The Solace of Open Spaces

Early Morning Tea Poem

Waking up at six feels like oversleeping when
I know the sky brightens at 4:30 am.
The loud neighbors are sound asleep.
Early morning tea in the backyard is a delight.
I am off to swim
while the park rangers scoop goose poop.

I'm In the Mood to Adopt Fifty Pugs

My aunt gave me a collection of little brightly-colored plastic slide-viewers that contain photos of my grandparents. I was reminded once again how much I look like my grandfather (blue bright eyes) and my sister looks like my grandmother (smile, head gestures).

A neighborhood girl told me she found a half-sister she had never known, aged 20 and pregnant, on

I'm enjoying coffee-mousse-filled chocolate dipped in peanut butter.

Ray, the New Man, got a brand new top layer of teeth, which he proudly showed me when Honey and I walked by the Castle Luncheonette the other morning. He wanted to buy me a coffee, and I accepted. I told passers-by, "We're celebrating Ray's upper deck!"

When I was five, I thought monkeys talked. Now, knowing what I know about people, I realize they do.

One morning I walked by a huge bright yellow tow truck that had red script outlined with blue across the back of the cab. It said, "We don't want your arms and legs we just want your tows."

One drink is too many for me and a thousand not enough.

     - Brendan Behan

Doing the twist at the Brave Combo concert split open the soles of my shoes. They looked like smiling hand puppets. The shoe repair man on the bridge said he'd fix'em for five bucks! They'll be ready in a few days.

Sentiments & Heirlooms

I have never been given a truly valuable heirloom but there are things I have that I call my heirlooms and they are in my everyday life to remind me of my beloved grandparents. For instance, the pink Lady Ace comb from Grandma that is now missing half of its teeth, and my blue terry-cloth robe that was Grandpa's. My aunt and uncle have graciously sent me a coverlet that Grandma crocheted, and my grandparents' fancy stemware. I found a dish at a junk store that I use now to put teabags in. I love it because it's made of the same iridescent ceramic that Grandma's tea mugs were made of. I guess this makes me sentimental.

Cilantro Pesto

I had never heard of cilantro pesto until my sister suggested I make this, and it is fabulous. This is great news because I buy a bouquet of cilantro at the Asian store for a buck and tend to only use a sprig or two on our beans and tortillas before the rest goes bad. Now we can make use of all of it! I used one bouquet of cilantro, rinsed and chopped, olive oil, salt, toasted pine nuts, and garlic cloves. I buzzed everything in my antique Waring blender using a chop stick to mash things down. It made a mighty green goo. I put it on whole-wheat angel-hair pasta and shared it with ten people.

Poem of the Day

Carry me away seeds
is what I like
to call them.
When I examine one closely
it looks like a gondola
for a flea.

Moon Walk

Last night we saw the moon, huge and yellow, while we walked Honey in the dark. We sat on the bottom step of the Pothier monument in the Cimetière du Précieux-Sang (Precious Blood Cemetery) and watched wisps of long thin gray clouds wander over the face of the moon. Afterward, I went to bed at nine o'clock with a good book that my friend Phoebe had told me about: The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich. I'm loving it.

Doctor Poets

We pay our past little honor by pretending we can shed it easily.

     - Robert May

Ask not what disease the person has, but rather what person the disease has.

     - William Osler, as paraphrased by Oliver Sacks

I am fascinated by and love to read about mental and neurological quirks. I am reading a quote from a favorite book today; Hypochondria by Susan Baur, a psychologist. She writes like a poet. Just like my other favorite doctor writer Oliver Sacks, she is a pleasure to read. Poets pop up in many guises. When I read Sacks and Bauer I wish they'd come over for supper and break bread with me at my picnic table in the backyard.

Dog Joy

Dogs are our link to paradise.

     - Milan Kundera

Yesterday I brought a tennis ball in the canvas bag while walking Honey and when we got to the park I tossed it in the pond. She swam after it, and a blond-haired girl with blue lips who looked like she had been swimming all morning in her green cut-offs was all excited to throw the ball for Honey. Her older brother came over. He had a washboard stomach. They were having a blast throwing the ball for Honey. I just enjoyed them all enjoying. Today Honey is clean and content. This is what mothers must feel after taking their children swimming.

The Poets Way

I leave no trace of wings in the air, but I am glad I had my flight.

     - Rabindranath Tagore

So long ago my father led me to
The dark and impounded orders of this canyon,
I have confused these rocks and waters with
My life, but not unclearly, for I know
What will be here when I am here no more.

     - Thomas Hornsby Ferril

My desire for knowledge is intermittent, but my desire to bathe my head in atmospheres unknown to my feet is perennial and constant.

     - Henry D Thoreau

I visited the poet,
Precisely at noon. Sunday.
It was quiet in the spacious room,
And beyond the windows, intense cold.

     - Anna Akhmatova

The Elders have waited for the young people to ask such things.

     - Wawatay Eninew

I regard the Poet as a sentinel warning us against the approach of enemies called Bigotry, Lethargy, Intolerance, Ignorance, Inertia, and other members of that brood.

     - Gandhi

More about The Poets Way at the Boulder CO Public Library can be found here and here.

Music and Mars

We are playing at a library fundraiser for the Chester CT Library, performing on Saturday, September 15th. It will be a tribute to Leonard Cohen. Bill and I are learning ten new songs on bari sax and keyboards. We are rehearsing tomorrow with a bunch of people we've never met. I am packing my jaw harps and accordion along with the bari, and sourdough bread and gazpacho for the pot-luck dinner! Seems like it's all magic this week. Even mars is big and bright in the sky.

How It Is

My friendly neighbors next door on the first floor are moving to the Coventry exurbs because they are so sick of the prostitutes and drugs in our neighborhood. The mom grew up in the neighborhood, and I can see she is disappointed with how things have changed. And the family upstairs in the same building has decided to keep their ten-year-old daughter from going back to school because the kids tease her about being fat! She is smart and special and loves her teachers. Staying home with nine cats in a smoky third-floor apartment with a sick mother, a grandmother, and a grandfather working three jobs is not good. She lives a half-block from the school. School is important and the child's weight problem should be tackled rather than run from. I brought her to the YMCA with me one Monday night and she loved swimming laps. I gave the family the scholarship application, hoping they might join the Y, but I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Quotes of the Day

The trick is to make time not to steal it.

     - Bernard Malamud

Art - the one achievement of man which has made the long trip up from all fours seem well advised.

     - James Thurber

If we are to change our world view, images have to change. The artist now has a very important job to do. He is not a little peripheral figure entertaining rich people, he is really needed.

     - David Hockney

I don't believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one's aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism.

     - Virginia Woolf

People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.

     - Iris Murdoch

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Too Loose

People tell me I am way too trusting and open, and reveal way too much about myself. When I was eleven I played theater games in a drama class. There was a game where everyone would make a circle around the person who is supposed to learn to trust the group. The person would climb a ladder to the top rung and fall backwards, to be caught by the whole group. When I climbed and fell backwards I was so loose and trusting my head touched the floor as I was caught. I didn't get hurt, but I always remembered it.

Cucumber Habit

I was going to buy two fifty-pound bags of flour at the baker's supply in Lincoln today. Not surprisingly they keep baker's hours, and had closed earlier than we were ready to go. So instead we walked to the Asian market on North Main Street, opposite Jaime Sullivan's meat market. We got two bags of bean sprouts, 6 blocks of fresh tofu, two bundles of scallions, 8 cucumbers, two packages of mushrooms, all for eleven bucks!! Bill carried it while I walked Honey. On the way home we found four stray tennis balls for Honey on the courts in Social Park! It was a good day.

Music Love Bomb

Justin and I had our two saxes going on stage last night at an outdoor party in Attleboro. I love to be underneath Justin's higher-pitched notiness with big baritone bops and long tones. My sound supports his, and it makes me happy to play a role I musically understand. I was lit up, whoopin' and hollerin' into the mouthpiece, dancing while playing with full energy. My thighs and feet and arms felt electric. Chris joined us on trombone. Bill played Hammond organ, Steve was on drums, Mark Jr on bass. Then at eleven-thirty a local beefy cop (right out of central casting) came and broke up the music.

Quotes of the Day

Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

     -Jalaluddin Rumi

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.

     - Andre Gide

You say nothing is created new? Don't worry about it. With the mud of the earth, make a cup from which your brother can drink.

     - Antonio Machado

Gravity Defying Tomatoes

The little house on the side street behind Sunrise Bagel has a porch with two number-ten cans covered in decorative wrapping paper hanging from the ceiling. Each can has a tomato plant poking out of a hole in the bottom, yet growing up towards the light. I saw them in the spring when the owners first put them up, and I wondered if it would really work. The other day Honey and I walked by, and I saw that one tomato vine was loaded with green cherry tomatoes, and the other had plum tomatoes. Urban farming, how brilliant!

Blue Cow Yogurt

I have been visiting the Randall Lineback blue cows at the dairy farm, and making yogurt from their two-percent milk. I put it on everything; beans and hot sauce, gazpacho, fruit salad. It's my urban harvest!! And a form of cow worship. As a kid I experimented with growing sprouts and making bread, granola, and yogurt. My mother scolded me one day, "You can't eat yogurt for breakfast!" I retorted, Why not? People in India do!

The Scent Creates a Home

I'd be happy to be the village baker, and swap bread for milk and veggies. I'd gladly bake my breads for the town! I have often thought of making one of those clay beehive ovens and teaching kids to bake bread as community outreach. The smell of baking bread is one of the best anti-depressants I know. The scent creates a home!

This Too Will Pass

I am energetic and sensory and feeling very alive. Ragweed pollen has my hands and feet burning up! I don't mind. But in twelve weeks I will be slow and contemplative, quiet and inward, experiencing autumn molds and allergens. The wheel goes round and round.

Gut Rush

I think singing is the highest art form besides dancing. Using the body as your ultimate instrument is most admirable. I have always appreciated the voice. I love opera, and I would love to sing. A friend once said, with your laugh you can definitely sing! Finding a safe place to make sound definitely helps, like singing in the car. Bill suggested I sing along with the sax tunes I know when I'm practicing in the back room, and just sing the notes the way I play my sax. I tried this the other day and was surprised at how fun it was and how well it worked. At one point I felt the sound energy rush from my abdomen and gush up out the top of my head.

Social Animals

Recently, when Honey and I swam at 8 AM in the park, I noticed a man in a bathing suit hanging out opposite the pond. When he saw us jump in, he decided to swim also. It seemed like our swimming gave him permission to swim. That made me happy. We are, after all, social animals. We need the support of others.

Later I hung out on the green plastic bench at the group home around the corner with my pal Ray, aka The New Man. We sat on the bench with Honey at our feet and ate green olives with pimentos and peperoncini and orange juice, all of which he had brought out from his apartment. He gave me a handful of the trinkets which he finds in the street on his daily walks; assorted lugnuts and washers, a flip top that was cobalt blue, and a toy ring that fit on my pinky. He also likes to pick up broken glass, to protect the dogs from cutting themselves. He sorts it into piles of green and clear and brown on his windowsill. I've become very fond of Ray. He is always in the present and speaks quite slowly, so I find it very calming and enjoyable to talk with him. He has gigantic eyelashes framing his huge round sensitive eyes. His hair is gray but his eyebrows are black and bushy. He has no top teeth at all but his speech is fine.


Nearly all of my creative friends have some degree of bi-polar energy and mood swings. Maybe it is a good thing and not a disorder after all (except when it's extreme). What does it mean that this has been kept alive in our genes? When hypomania hit Vincent Van Gogh and Ludwig von Beethoven they didn't go shopping at the mall, they composed and painted and wrote. Is the bipolar cycle a remnant of our agricultural heritage? Now our society wants us to always be INDUSTRIOUS MANIC ROBOTS and just race time and spend money, have no yin to counterbalance our yang, no grief to offset and nourish our joy. The medicines are treating only half the cycle. We should be embracing and learning about the whole.


I bicycled to the grocery store to buy bananas. After I paid at the checkout, there was no sign of my bananas! The person in front of me had accidentally walked off with them. The checkout lady and I laughed!! She said just go get another bunch. But people will think I'm stealing, I said. So the cute bag boy offered to be my banana escort while I picked out another bunch of bananas.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Quotes of the Day

Physical violence can end even before we have learned the way of love, but psychological violence will continue until we do. Only outer peace can be had through law. The way to inner peace is through love.

     - Peace Pilgrim

Providing ways to help and support each other on our journeys to truth may be the highest form of love.

     - Rob Lehman

A Return to Love

When I first encountered this quote, it was attributed to Nelson Mandela. It turns out he was himself quoting it in his 1994 inaugural address.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

     - Marianne Williamson, from
       A Return to Love


They say if your only tool is a hammer, you're gonna treat everything like a nail.

I have been programmed by the consumer/commercial culture I live in to see myself in terms of illness; my mental and emotional states, attention span, temperament, physical attributes, age. Everything is an illness to be treated, an illness whose diagnosis and cure is a consumer commodity. I want to develop my soul and my awareness so I can be better able to examine myself in a healthy way, rather than get herded around like a sheep by the mega-corporation robots.

Blueberries, Blackberries, and a Lipstick Tattoo

I went into the backyard at dusk and the blueberry bush was drooping with berries. I feasted, imagining making hand-cranked blueberry ice cream with the neighborhood kids. I just might have to surprise them and get some cream and ice and salt and invite them to make it in the backyard!

Yesterday while walking Honey on the fire-road at the edge of the cemetery I spotted blackberries. Honey and I both feasted! She loves eating berries off the bushes and off the ground! Blackberries are so delicious! They look like those gigantic black ants. They dye my lips purple. Nature's lipstick!

Speaking of lipstick, my Grandmother Sophie would say it's nice to buy a lipstick at Woolworth's to cheer yourself up. I love what lipstick does for my face - it's the only makeup I wear, and it changes everything including my mood! I've imagined getting a tattoo of dark red on my lips, but that would ruin the fun, and probably hurt like hell. I once put on lipstick just before bed even though my bedroom is pitch black as I sleep! I wanted to feel beautiful in the dark! In the morning I laughed when I saw that the white pillowcases had lipstick smears on them.

Quote of the Day

In summer, the song sings itself.

     - William Carlos Williams

Farm Shade

When we first moved into our house, my husband asked me what shall we plant in our new yard? I said, anything edible; fruit trees, rows of corn, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes! I said, why mow the lawn and trim shrubs when you can be harvesting asparagus and plucking herbs, but I'm no farmer. When it comes to gardening I have no patience! I'd rather work or swim or bake or eat, than garden. We live in the city, and our yard was a vacant lot, a small and sandy pit. My husband imagined trees and bushes and began to cultivate them. He rescued shrubs and plants that he spotted on walks and drives. He even cultivated a crabapple tree from a lone crabapple! He planted cuttings donated by friends and relatives. He patiently collected, watered, and nurtured these plants which are now a gorgeous jungle of a backyard. The only trees in our neighborhood are here! We farm shade!!

Refrigerated Bedsheets

My pal Jenny told me that when she lived in the deep South she had no air-conditioning, so she and everyone she knew had another way to cool off at night. She would first soak and wring out her bedsheets and then put them in the freezer. Then she would take a cold shower, make her bed with her ice-cold sheets, turn on the fan, climb in, and hope she'd fall asleep before the sheets warmed up and dried.

Fish Out of Water

In this hot and humid weather I like to hose myself down with cold water in the backyard and then work at my desk soaking wet in front of the fan. Unfortunately I generate so much body heat that my bra mildews in an hour! But it's still worth it to be wet! I took Honey swimming in the park pond today. I love to see her shape when she comes out all shiny and wet. She is so sleek and trim. Some of the kids in the park were on a field trip to swim and picnic for the day. They were part of an inner-city day camp from South Providence. One boy, seeing that Honey was wet, said he had never seen a dog swim and asked me if I could get Honey to swim again. So we went to the part of the pond where Honey is allowed, found a stick, and he threw it for her a few times. Honey put on a real show, swimming in circles and retrieving the stick! The boy was amazed. When she got out I showed him her webbed feet, and how she uses them to swim.

My Garden is People

The local YMCA just asked me if I'd like to teach a class on illustration and writing being offered to local city teens for free. I told them I was interested. It will start this fall. I am inspired by Jimmy Santiago Baca and the amazing work he has done bringing literature to his community. My garden is people, right here in my city.

The Right Book

There is a special place in my heart for books that have been exactly the right book at the right time. I'm not sure how it works but I cherish it. A few days ago I woke up and my first thoughts were to look up Ram Dass. I still remember the day I read his book Be Here Now. I was in high school, and my parents were gone for the weekend. I lay down on their bed and read the book in one swoop. The top of my head blew off and I was never the same. I called my library, and they had a recent book of his called Still Here. I've inhaled it! He is a magnificent teacher.

I particularly love transformation memoirs, and one of my favorites is A Place to Stand, by Jimmy Santiago Baca. He is also a magnificent writer of poetry and short stories. He gave an inspiring lecture in December 2006 called The Power of Books. It's available on-line as a 35-minute audio file, provided by the Pima County Library on their website.

Speaking of memoirs and lectures, Julius Lester wrote an amazing memoir called Love Song, as well as many other books. Recently Julius published a fabulous lecture about Children's Literature on his blog, Olio.

A painter named Justin Clayton of Austin TX is posting a visual blog of his realist oil paintings, called Daily Paintings. I am so inspired by this. Habit is the muse, and this guy is demonstrating it!

Lazy Man's Summer Gazpacho

Refreshing, simple, inexpensive, and fast to make. Open 2 large cans of diced tomatoes and empty into a bowl, add a few bloops of olive oil, one large chopped cucumber, a quarter of a red or white onion chopped, a pinch of dried or fresh oregano, a generous dose of Cholula (or other) hot sauce, 2 cups of sweet corn fresh or frozen, a splash of red wine, salt to taste, mix it all together and refrigerate. Enjoy cold.

Smile Ache

Have you ever smiled so hard for so long your face hurt? My favorite band Brave Combo has recently produced another CD, Polka's Revenge. Talk about blowing the top of my head off! Their music changed my life by making me realize that I had to play music! I think of them as my five-headed muse. I've made a shrine to them in my living room, displaying all of their CD's, facing out, on my antique pump-organ.

Recurring Truth

When I was very young I had a recurring dream. I would be in my family's car with the whole family, driving along, except that no matter how hard I tried to stay seated, after a few seconds I would drift up through the roof, and couldn't get back down. My butt and the seat were like reverse magnets. I would try to seat myself, only to float up through the roof again. I understood this as an important message from my psyche.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Reagan Administration Pants

For nine years they were in my rag bag; my favorite blue jeans with the worn-out knees. Then I got an idea to sew large black denim patches over the knee holes so they would look like chaps! It turned out to be a lot of hand-sewing over seams and things and I am not patient!! So they rested in a pile, unfinished, on my sewing table, gathering dust for three years. Recently I took a look under the patches, and discovered that the holes underneath weren't actually so bad compared to my other old jeans that I wear regularly! So today it took me three minutes; I ripped the patches off with the amazing tool for undoing stitches. Now everyone will say; Wow you've got holes in your jeans, how fashionable!

Dreams Coming True

I always ask myself, what is it right under my nose that will make my dreams come true? I am thrilled to now have my books and my new little oil paintings selling in GiGi's Global Specialties Art and Gifts, a new shop right here in Woonsocket's historic and newly renovated Main Street. A dream come true! I think GiGi and her store are magical, and I have great hopes that her store will thrive. I have always wanted to print more postcards of my favorite paintings and maybe even silkscreen an Urban Mermaid T-shirt. This could be the venue! Maybe Bill and I could play music on the sidewalk for my art opening! Wednesday nights in the summer the whole of Main Street is closed off, becoming a pedestrian heaven, for the vintage car rally.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Quotes of the Day

I would say that the thrust of my life has been initially about getting free, and then realizing that my freedom is not independent of everybody else. Then I am arriving at that circle where one works on oneself as a gift to other people so that one doesn't create more suffering. I help people as a work on myself and I work on myself to help people.

     - Ram Dass

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.

     - Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Brindle Bull

There's a young bull calf at Wright's dairy farm with unusual markings in black and white resembling a brindle. He's a young brindle bull. I live in New England because I must live near apple trees and dairy cows but also be within walking distance of the public library and YMCA pool.

Summer Icy Cocoa

I wanted a fudgicle and this is the same flavor! Buzz in a blender a handful of ice cubes, a cup of low-fat milk, a tablespoon of cocoa powder, a tablespoon of sugar, and a splash (about two ounces) of cold coffee. Pour into two small glasses and eat it with a spoon! (Give the other glass to a friend.)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Work I Care About

My life is made of work that is not easy, always a challenge, occasionally fun, and consistently scary, but it's work I care about. I remind myself of this because fear frequently warps my perspective and erodes my faith. I remind myself that I am choosing to have the freedom to engage in work I care about even when it means that I cannot engage in everyday acts of commerce. I remind myself in the hope that being engaged in what is meaningful to me could also be meaningful to others.

Pink Lightning

This morning I woke at five AM from crashes of thunder and bright bolts of lightning. We had no electricity for over an hour. I fed my dog by flashlight. There was torrential rain, and the city was all gray, with only the flashing pink dawn lightning. The view of our city out the window looked like old photographs of winter in Russia.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Jungle Smile

When I was a child I had a dream that is still powerful to recall today. In the dream my family was on a trip in the jungle. We drove right into the greenery with our big brown Ford station wagon. A deer licked my younger brother's face through the open way-back window. My sister got out and approached a small brick building looking for a job. I looked around and spotted a rubber smile with red lips and teeth sitting on top of a plant. Our tour guide told us someone had been given a face lift and that must have been the scraps.

Snakes in the Bell

Last night at the jam my horn was making notes that were completely out of whack. I raced over to try tuning to the keyboard but I was still out of whack with the other players. Each time I made a note it was like five snakes jumping out of the bell! Horrified, I jumped back from the microphone. I nearly died of embarrassment because I loathe bad intonation, and bad tone curls my teeth and straightens my hair! The problem seemed to be a leak.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pedaling a Postal Toaster

I dreamt that I was offered the job of delivering mail in a nearby town, replacing a retired mailman. The job required a special vehicle - a three-speed bicycle with a musical toaster attached near the back wheel, like a saddlebag. The toaster would carry letters in the slots, and play music as you pedaled.

Completing the Circle

There's something off-balance about practicing music all the time in your house and never getting out to perform, even at a jam. The same is true for writing and never publishing, or painting without ever exhibiting. It is important to complete the circle of art-making by sharing it with an audience. We need both legs to walk, and if we only develop muscles in one leg we'll be forever off-balance, dragging the weak one.


My current mid-life crisis is really just a bit of vanity. When I look in the mirror I see a lady face and lady body, not a young woman shape anymore, which is a good thing but a shock. I like my silver hairs, though. Now it seems I can merely look at food and gain ten pounds, and shedding them is much more difficult! I swim laps and then rotate in front of the full-length mirror at home in my black bra and turquoise panties. I don't want to become a squishy and jowly grown up. Thank God for the pool! I also swim to develop the strong lungs, arms, shoulders, back and stamina I need for playing my baritone sax without hurting myself.


I've been hacking away at a bunch of 11 by 14-inch paintings for my November show. Bill just rebuilt my painting/portfolio website. Please check it out! (Click here) Now I need to find gallery representation. I got word recently that I was not selected for a fellowship grant I had applied for in February. There were 146 visual artist applicants and three were chosen. At least I can finally stop holding my breath after waiting six months to hear!


Tonight is the Pawtucket blues jam. I am looking forward to it. I love to jam with a bunch of horn players. There are usually two other saxes, a trombone and a trumpet. I hold down the bottom!! Our new band gig at the American Legion went well, especially considering we had never performed together before. The Motorcycle Vets fed us lunch (BBQ chicken, corn on the cob, potato salad, and baked beans) and they paid us fifty bucks each!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Quote of the Day

We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.

     - Albert Einstein