Friday, May 29, 2009

Jonathan Haidt

Minds are very hard things to open, and the best way to open the mind is through the heart.
-Jonathan Haidt

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hands On

In schools, we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement. Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.
-Doug Stowe

The Princeton economist Alan Blinder argues that the crucial distinction in the emerging labor market is not between those with more or less education, but between those whose services can be delivered over a wire and those who must do their work in person or on site. The latter will find their livelihoods more secure against outsourcing to distant countries. As Blinder puts it, “You can’t hammer a nail over the Internet.” Nor can the Indians fix your car. Because they are in India.
-Matthew B. Crawford

The deeper I got into my addiction, the tighter the lid got on my creativity. When I got sober the lid just came off. In seven months I accomplished more than I could accomplish in three or four years doing drugs.
-Marshall Bruce Mathers III


I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone.
-Lord Byron

I feel more and more detached from the outside world, from crowds, from the public and from anything mechanized. I prefer mainly to be alone.
-Leonore Fini

The place where I had freedom most was when I painted. I was completely and utterly myself. It was more than a profession. It was even a therapy, for there I just told it as it was. It takes a lot of courage in life to tell it how it is.
-Alice Neel

What makes for great art is the courage to speak and write and paint what you know and care about.
-Audrey Flack

The outside world pressures you into a mold, but if you don't accept that - you gamble with life. Call it gambling. You know when I decided to become professional - that means to expose yourself naked to the world with the other creative minds - I said, I'm going into areas I don't know. I might just fall right down to hell and kill myself. And I said, well, who cares? I'd rather do it and see what it's all about. I don't want the safe way. The safe way limits you.
-Louise Nevelson

I have lived on a razor's edge. So what if I had fallen off, I'd rather be doing something I really wanted to do. I'd walk it again.
-Georgia O'Keefe

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Richard Diebenkorn

Notes to myself on beginning a painting:

1. Attempt what isn't certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.

2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued - except as stimulus for further moves.

3. Do search. But in order to find other than what is searched for.

4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.

5. Don't 'discover' a subject of any kind.

6. Somehow don't be bored - but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.

7. Mistakes can't be erased but they move you from your present position.

8. Keep thinking about Pollyanna.

9. Tolerate chaos.

10. Be careful only in a perverse way.

-Richard Diebenkorn, from The Art of Richard Diebenkorn by Jan Livingston

Monday, May 25, 2009


Last night we drove into big whipped cream looking clouds and when we arrived at our destination the skies opened up and it began to hail! It looked like glass teeth falling out of the sky. Then the sky cleared up and the sun came out. A few minutes later there was a big beautiful rainbow.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I love Spring mornings because I wake with the sun and sit on the bench in my yard. The families in the neighborhood are still asleep and it all feels magical in our little Urban ghetto.

We'll have a crop of urban raspberries and blueberries and mulberries pretty soon. I can't wait. I'm thinking it's another opportunity to make home made ice cream with the neighborhood kids.

There's a strawberry and blueberry farm called Tikkanen's and you pick your own! The family is Swedish and half the farm is in CT and half in RI. The valley of berries is hilly and beautiful and foggy in the early morning. I am thinking of going this year and our favorite pond is nearby.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Waning Crescent

We went to the dairy farm last night and I saw a newborn Holstein calf a few hours old. The mother was in her maternity barn still discharging the bloody glistening maroon-red afterbirth. Behind the mama cow's gigantic body was a calf the size of a medium-sized dog with wet black-and-white fur. I was afraid the big mama cow would roll over and crush her new baby as she heaved to squeeze out the afterbirth. I told the visiting families at the farm to look for the newborn calf behind the big momma cow, but not to be alarmed by the blood.

Dawn Swim

Yesterday we got up at the crack of dawn and went to our favorite pond with Lily and showed her how to swim. Lily was timid at first but then she got into it and swam like her genetics designed her to. The water was ice cold! I loved it! When Lily leaped onto a rock she accidentally pushed Bill and in he went wearing his black-laced plumbers shoes and socks and blue jeans. I saw little bubbles rise from his shoelaces and I laughed my head off, waking up all of the pond residents.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I have been angry for eight weeks. Sometimes this happens when I'm in transmit mode. I also tend to have allergies in Spring, so I enjoy drinking coffee and I have to take an albuterol inhaler for my asthma. Both albuterol and caffeine tend to make me angry as a side effect. So I am trying not to have more than one cup a day and not take my inhaler more than absolutely necessary.

Being bipolar isn't so different than being diabetic in that I need to constantly take my readings and monitor my mood levels and adjust accordingly. Call it being super sensitive. Call it being extraordinarily sensitive. So if I'm sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated, stressed, or emotionally over-stimulated, I'm bound to react to things three times more dramatically than I usually do. Maybe being so sensitive is a blessing. I am determined to convince myself it is so.

I remember as a kid having emotional meltdowns when I watched movies. Movies are way too stimulating for me, I rarely watch them now. But last night we watched a fabulous British detective drama and I was so riled up by it that I had a mini meltdown. I recognized what was happening and went right to bed. I immediately fell asleep. When I woke up this morning, I was restored.

Barack Obama

What’s troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics - the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem.

Spend time actually talking to Americans, and you discover that most evangelicals are more tolerant than the media would have us believe, most secularists more spiritual. Most rich people want the poor to succeed, and most of the poor are both more self-critical and hold higher aspirations than the popular culture allows. Most Republican strongholds are 40 per cent Democrat, and vice versa. The political labels or liberal and conservative rarely track people’s personal attributes.

What we can do is create renewable, cleaner energy sources for the twenty-first century. Instead of subsidizing the oil industry, we should end every single tax break the industry currently receives and demand that 1 per cent of the revenues from oil companies with over $1 billion in quarterly profits go toward financing alternative energy research and the necessary infrastructure.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Arthur Phillips

Books come from the act of writing, the habit of writing. Not even Nabokov wrote books as he thought of them. Everyone starts it one way and it becomes something else.
-Arthur Phillips

Writing Prague was "improvisational," he said. "I wrote two hours every day -- a rule," he said. "Some days, I wrote pages; some days, outlines or scenes that I would throw away. I'd write a synopsis of the story."
-Arthur Phillips

Ted Kooser

But if you're going to get better at writing, you have to write a lot. You have to press on. Isak Dinesen said, "Write a little every day, without hope, without despair."

Don't worry that the process of revision seems slow. The writer's tools were developed early -- paper, pen, and ink; a watchful eye; an open heart -- and good writing is still the patient handiwork of those simple tools.
-Ted Kooser

A Happy Birthday

This evening, I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand.

-Ted Kooser, Delights & Shadows

Flying at Night

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.

Ted Kooser, Flying at Night

Fear Behaviors

Out of the blue last night our dog Lily was afraid of descending the cellar stairs. The stairs she goes up and down a zillion times a day following us. She must have slipped on the linoleum. The steps are curved and always slightly unnerving to our dogs. Bill and I each tried coaxing Lily down the stairs in cheerful voices but no luck. This morning I put bits of kibble on the top three stairs. She descended one step keeping her rear legs on the top step. I imagined her point of view; being rewarded at every step with a few nibbles, I referred to them as "the money stairs". I continued to putz in the kitchen making coffee and toast. After about fifteen minutes I heard her taking cautious steps descending the stairs by herself. Fascinating. Perhaps I should make a set of money stairs for myself.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


We went to Wright's Dairy Farm and Rachel offered to let Lily play with her black Lab boxer named Stoli. They had fun chasing each other in circles and then they ran into the new red barn and drank milk dripping out of the black rubber hoses! We hope to participate in Milk a Cow Weekend in June. June is National Dairy month! Hug your milkman! Come out to Gaspee Days Parade and hear our dairy band play tunes.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Slow Down

I know there is a slow food movement But I'm thinking there should be a slow life movement. For example yesterday I spent the day making curry. Sometimes I walk 6 miles to buy a gallon of fresh milk at the dairy farm. I've spent three months on a painting! When I'm feeling speedy in Spring and Fall I have to find ways to slow down.

Today I walked with Lily to Fernandez Produce. When I got there I tied Lily up. She just sat still in the open doorway! I went in and bought two bags of McIntosh apples and two hunks of bananas and stuffed them in my red backpack and we walked home!


Once I trust a writer or a teacher they can take me anywhere. They could write about asphalt paving and sewage treatment plants and I'd be mesmerized.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
-Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lunch With a Star

I was so nervous and excited that I couldn't sleep for four days leading up to my lunch with Marion Cunningham and Judith Jones. I had illustrated a cookbook for them, 150 black-and-white illustrations on short notice for "Cooking With Children." Judith had suggested I come to NYC to meet Marion when she visited from California. The day I was to take the bus to NYC in early April 1996, it had been raining so hard that cars I could see from the highway in CT were 3/4 underwater. I was worried that I wouldn't make it in time. My bus left at 7:15 AM from Providence due to arrive in NYC 11:15. But the roads were jammed with traffic because of the floods.

When I finally made it to the city, I took a subway uptown. I stepped into Knopf's Cookbook Publishing offices at 12:30 on the dot. Whew! Judith was behind her large wooden dining-room-table-like desk covered with piles of papers and books, and Marion was seated opposite her. They were obviously great friends. Marion was beautiful with her silver hair pulled back and kind blue eyes. I liked her immediately. I was still terrified, feeling naked, haunted, and sleep deprived. I wondered, where was my appetite? Can I make intelligent conversation with these matriarchs of the cookbook world? The more I admired them the more foolish I felt.

I've never had luck eating during business lunches in NYC. My stomach always flies up above me, and hovers about 2,000 feet in the air and lands days later when I'm back home and have calmed down to my regular life. I ordered iced tea. Judith suggested "Oh, do have something a bit more daring." Iced tea was fine, with lemon and sugar, and my stomach promptly filled with air bubbles and cramps. I watched as they ordered platters of food, one of everything, on three tiered platters. We all shared. They discussed every bite. I said virtually nothing, hoping they wouldn't notice.

After the meal, Judith hailed a cab for us. We all ducked in and sat in the back seat. I was in the middle! As soon as we sat down we noticed the ceiling of the cab had a million trinkets attached to the loose gray cloth lining. We all oohed and ahhed and laughed and pointed. It was an unguarded moment for me, and the best moment of the whole visit!

Monday, May 11, 2009


Lily stepped into the ocean yesterday for the first time! She was timid but fascinated. She was born in Kansas so we're sure this was her first visit. She gulped the water and then was surprised by the taste. She stalked a cluster of seaweed bobbing underwater in the shallow waves, it looked like a cat! On the next trip we'll swim in the deeper water, together.


I am unable to make any distinction between the feeling I get
from life and the way I translate that feeling into painting.
-Henri Matisse


George Bailey: What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary.
Mary: I'll take it. Then what?
George Bailey: Well, then you can swallow it, and it'll all dissolve, see... and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair... am I talking too much?
-It's a Wonderful Life (1946)


There is only one success--to be able to spend your life in your own way. ~Christopher Morley

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hoop Day

The storm blew in cool clean air. This morning we woke to the sound of a tin can swirling in a wind vortex at five am!
Our 8 year stick and leaf pile has been cleared away into 8 barrels, revealing the cement slabs below. We wheeled the basketball hoop over and now we can play!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Henry David Thoreau

Go not so far out of your way for a truer life; keep strictly onward in that path alone which your genius points out. Do the things which lie nearest to you, but which are difficult to do.
-Henry David Thoreau

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he had imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
-Henry David Thoreau

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. It is something to be to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful, but it is more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which we morally can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.
-Henry David Thoreau

If I should sell both my forenoons and afternoons to society, as most appear to do, I am sure that for me there would be nothing left worth living for. I trust that I shall never thus sell my birthright for a mess of pottage. I wish to suggest that a man may be very industrious, and yet not spend his time well. There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living. All great enterprises are self-supporting. The poet, for instance, must sustain his body by his poetry, as a steam planing-mill feeds its boilers with the shavings it makes. You must get your living by loving.
-Henry David Thoreau, Life Without Principal

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bumper Sticker

I just saw this quote on the bumper sticker of a car parked in my neighborhood and loved it.
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
-Benjamin Franklin

Punctual Muse

Habit is the muse! Punctual and punctuating.


I make very little money. What of it?
I prefer the grass with the rain on it
-William Carlos Williams

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Food City

This morning I went to Fernandez just as they opened and the distributor, Tourtellot, was delivering the produce. I asked the trucker when Tourtellot picked up its produce. He said 1AM, in Warwick. It used to be in Providence at the train yard, years ago. I remember, because the Tourtellot trucks were in view below my studio window at the CIC mill complex (now called the Foundry). I've always wanted to go to a wholesale fruit and vegetable market in the wee hours!

Later I went up to the dairy farm and spoke to Jared who was wearing a green Wright's Dairy hooded sweatshirt but with his wife's name embroidered on it. I smiled but didn't mention it. It was probably 4 am and still dark when he put it on! I asked if any calves had been born and he said yes there were four born in the past four days! Darn, I missed them again! For years I've wanted to see a cow being born. I asked, do they give birth around the full moon, like fish? He said yes, but also when a low pressure system moves through and all the pregnant cows are lying down there's usually a birth following.

I talked with Jared about how I love to make yogurt and yogurt cream cheese from the fresh milk. For cream cheese all you do is let yogurt strain through a coffee filter overnight and you have your own cream cheese. You can use the whey in soup or bread or just drink it --it's full of vitamins!

The new red barn is now complete. I will go see the cows in their new milking parlor someday between 3-5 PM. Or 4-6AM!

Later still I walked to the fish market, tied Lily out front, and went in and asked about where they get their fish because I want to go along on the fishing boat. They said they get their fish delivered from a distributor in Boston. Then I went into Walt's Clothing next door. Lily was invited in! I looked at the bright rain gear and day-glo vests and work shoes. On the way home I walked by Pepin Lumber and saw two houses and a farm behind the lumber yard that I had never seen before. The houses are the Pepin family homes and next door, behind Honey Dew Donuts, the Pepins have a horse! So there ARE horses in Woonsocket! I stood and watched and it came over a few times. Lily actually barked! A woman on break from the donut shop told me there were four long-haired cows next to the Stop and Shop in Lincoln. I'll have to go see that!

Then I walked down a bunch of streets I'd never been on in 21 years of living here. I even found another fenced-in baseball field where I could run Lily. She got herself tired in three minutes of running in circles!

The sun came out and I turned over a few more chunks of weeds in my little yard with a pitch fork. I still have yet to spread the manure in the garden! I put the screen in the back door - we had all of the windows in the back room open today. The whole neighborhood was happy about the Spring sunshine.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Bus Stop

Each day the Red Maple tree out my office window is further along. Today the leaves are filled out with chartreuse fluff dangling! The tree looks like a 1920's Flapper dress.

A ten year old boy greeted Lily and me as we walked by the school bus stop this morning. He told me about all the animals he had when he lived in Cumberland. He said he had horses and five dogs; three chihuahuas, a German shepherd and a boxer. He said he missed his boxer. He said his boxer had seizures. I told him I had a cat once that had seizures. It can happen, I said. Then he said no, someone hurt his dog. He said many people had told him that his father had gotten angry at his boxer concerning the father's car and that his father hurt the dog in a rage and this is how his dog got seizures and died. I just watched the boy's face as he calmly told me this sad story. I wondered if the father still lived with the family.

Then a girl listening asked me why we can't have horses in Woonsocket. I said because we all live too close together!

At the next bus stop a ten year old boy showed me a four leaf clover he had found in his front yard. I was amazed! He kept looking and found four more and a five leaf clover and he gave them all to me! I told him thanks, this is a lifetime of good luck for all of Woonsocket! I took them home and pressed them between pages of our new phone book.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Lily, Lilacs and Rhubarb

I woke with the birds and took a long walk down my street. I saw a guy roto-tilling his huge garden opposite Cimetiere Du Precieux Sang (Precious Blood Cemetery) and guys paving the sidewalks in front of Turbesi Park. They joked about putting Lily's paw prints in the wet cement! I saw bushels of rhubarb growing and wished mine was as plentiful. I love rhubarb cooked and sweetened, or strawberry rhubarb pie. We met a few dogs one of whom is an authentic coon hound. She was as big as Lily and equally sweet. I wanted to carry Lily over the tall black chain link fence so they could play together. I hope the dogs can play sometime. I saw the two Boston terriers we had met the other night out walking. This time they appeared in the picture window of the house that used to have a sweet dachshund tied in the yard. I remember there was an elderly couple living there. I know all the dogs for miles in every direction!

Over the weekend we visited a few friends who needed their pianos tuned. Bill tuned and I cooked for everyone. I had fun walking Lily in a new area, watching my friend's fish tank at dawn, and playing my baby red accordion. We visited Stew Leonards and I was fascinated by the donut machine and the exploding rice cake machine! I love machines!

Saturday, May 02, 2009


I thought this article was fascinating and have been telling everyone I know to read it.
New York Times Magazine Sunday April 26, 2009
Enlightenment Therapy
How a Zen master found the light (again) on the analyst's couch.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Urban Garden

Today the two little boys next door were flying kites in our neighborhood parking lot. I watched the boys running back and forth to keep them afloat. Later I went out to cut asparagus and the young girl next door wanted to know what it was. I showed her and she sniffed it and had some bites too. Then Bill cut fresh rhubarb stalks and we ate them dipped in brown sugar. Delicious! I told the girl we'll be planting a big garden of vegetables soon. She told me she wants to get a pet bunny for her birthday!


Last night on the way home from the park we met another yellow Lab with a pink nose but this dog was shorter and wider. Ours is a Field Lab; they have longer legs, slender build. They are built to chase pheasants! The two dogs started to play and then growl. The owner of the other dog started yelling Lil, Lil! I said what is your dog's name? He said Lily! I said mine too! We laughed and the two dogs got to run together in the cemetery. As we stood there talking I found out his dog was also adopted from a shelter after his chocolate Lab died of Lyme nephritis. Ours too I said, what a coincidence.


There's always a danger that you let the machine do it for you. And I think what we are going to see in the next few years, is people finding a way they can do something themselves. Whatever it is.
-Pete Seeger


After a long walk Lily loves to cut loose in the fenced-in baseball field and run in circles. We found out that she's a Field Lab originally from Kansas. Field Labs are popular in the Midwest, and built for chasing pheasants! We always reinforce the command to come back, with a nibble of kibble!