The photo challenge for this week? Escape. So many associations….especially if you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. With whom would you plan an escape? I planned one with my oldest daughter yesterday. It was the only day I wasn’t scheduled to work in a museum this week, and she had just finished her last paper for her Master’s degree in Linguistics, so we decided to spend the day together celebrating Mother’s Day and her Graduation all at once. We planned to go to the Schlitz Audubon Center and play on the beach, but it was rainy and cold. Change of plans…
Escape can be running away; it can be freedom from entrapment; or it can be an egress or way of going forth, like helium from a balloon. A linguistics student might tell you the etymology of the word and how it relates to “escapade” and “vomitorium” (think “fire escape”)….which is why I recommend taking a linguist with you when you go for your weekly challenge photo shoot! Think of the interpretations that might open up for you! For example: in botany, a plant that becomes established in the wild outside of the area of cultivation is called an escape. (I have lots of botanical examples!) And all of us with computers know the little key in the upper left marked “Esc”. And birthing my daughter might be another example of escape as well…but maybe that’s a bit too graphic! (it was 28 years ago; no digital photos of that, lucky for you!) Here, then, are some of my shots of that marvelous day spent with my brilliant companion, Susan:
This week’s photo challenge theme is Pattern. Visually, this is a very strong subject in photography and has been illustrated in countless dramatic and stunning ways by much more talented artists than I. But what an interesting philosophical theme as well! Are patterns created by humans, or are they natural? Humans have a special knack for identifying and arranging patterns as well as re-creating, extending, and imposing them on all kinds of things. Is that a function of our orderly brains, our consciousness? Of course, there are also examples of patterns in nature….but, again, the concept of ‘pattern’ is something we invented. It wasn’t as if a DNA string said to itself, “I think I’ll create a pattern.” It was a human who saw what was in front of him/her and said, “Eureka! A pattern!” So, pattern…is it a real phenomenon or a construct of our consciousness? Discuss. (or just look at the pictures!)
This week’s challenge is about a universal favorite: FOOD! I grew up in a family that was highly educated about and highly appreciative of food. My family was started in Massachusetts, moved to Chicago and then to California. Regional ethnic influences were explored and absorbed with gusto. Last night, as Steve & I enjoyed dinner at our local sushi bar, we got to talking about our personal culinary histories. Steve adamantly refused to eat anything but hot dogs, potatoes and asparagus until he was 16. Then, on a trip to New England, he actually tried fresh fish and realized that he was missing a world of wonderful taste. You can get lost in a food wasteland, if you’re not adventurous, in the Midwest. But there are plenty of opportunities to branch out.
Last year, on St. Patrick’s Day, we ventured into the city to see what kind of shenanigans we could witness. We had lunch at one of Steve’s favorite places: Beans & Barley. I love it immediately for its California vibe. Here’s a picture of my portabello and gorgonzola and roasted red pepper sandwich with curried potato salad:
And the beer? New Glarus Spotted Cow. The best in Wisconsin micro brews, IMHO. And you can’t buy it in Illinois. Oh, but that’s not all! DESSERT!
The cafe has a deli and market attached, were you can find a variety of locally made sauces, mustards, natural soaps, and ART!
Yes, indeed, ladies & gentlemen! Step right up to the Art-o-Matic vending machine, insert your token, make your selection, pull the knob, and PRESTO! A cigarette-pack-sized piece of genuine, handmade ART will plop into the tray! Decoupage, graphic, random, actual ART. Really, isn’t this a cool idea? Get your local cafe to install one TODAY! All your neighborhood artists will want to supply stock for it. I think it’s brilliant.
This year, on St. Patty’s Day, we’re invited to the Finnegan’s house (Steve’s sister’s) for garam masala corned beef & aloo gobi, naan, chutney and Chai spiced rice pudding. See, living in Wisconsin need not be bland!
Our online store is up and running with over 200 items — finally! Check out the link in my sidebar to visit the site and find out what I’ve been photographing. Our Rocky Horror Picture Show Scrapbook is up for sale for the next 6 days. Buy It Now or give us your Best Offer…the perfect Valentine’s Day gift! Or check out our Vintage Toys and Games & Puzzles. Our first vintage toy sale was a thrill for me. He was a little Schuco wind up toy, a clown faced monkey that played the violin and shuffled around in a circle, made in US zone Germany right after WWII. He was in his original box and in excellent condition. We asked what we thought was a reasonable price after having researched other items of the same ilk…and there weren’t many! Within a few hours he was snapped up by a buyer in Braunschweig, Germany. It made me very happy to think the little guy was going back home! We shipped him off and just received confirmation that he arrived safe and sound and is making his new owner very happy.
This is the latest adjunct to Steve’s online book business which he’s been running from this location for about 5 years. In the process of buying books from estate sales, he’s also been in the position to pick up other items as well. He used to rent an antique mall booth to display and sell these things, but now we’re doing it all online. I am his new business partner, and so far, I’ve been “specializing” in Children’s Books, Toys, Games, Puzzles and Hobby Kits. That means I get to research where all these curious things originated and when they were manufactured. I tell you, I’m learning a LOT! Frequently, it’s a LOL experience, coming face-to-face with humorous cultural idiosyncrasies and fetishes. There’s a lot of history thrown in as well, which I find fascinating.
So pop on over and satisfy your curiosity. There’s much more to come! Haven’t even begun to list the German LPs, stamp collections, and QSL cards…
I was in a mood. A little pouty and weepy, my inner 4-year-old whining, “I just don’t feel special!” God, why does this keep happening every month? It’s so ridiculous. Okay, rather than stuff it and wait for it to go away, I will wrap that little girl in my own arms and listen to her. She wants to feel loved. She doubts her self-worth every once in awhile and wants someone to show a preference for her and please her. “Little One, you are precious,” I tell her. I am taking responsibility for caring for this vulnerable one. Me. Passing that burden on to anyone else is manipulative and fosters a kind of co-dependency. I don’t want that any more. Oh, but I used to rely on it pretty routinely. I had a husband who, for 24 years, lavished me with gifts and compliments and love letters. I have been with Steve now for 4 years. He has never even bought me a greeting card. I do not want him to be other than he is, and I believe he loves me profoundly. So, what is the love letter game about? “What’s in a love letter, anyway?” Steve asked.
Six parts flattery to one part youth…or is that a martini? So I began tomake a list of the elements of a love letter, Cat Stevens’ song “Two Fine People”running through my brain.In one column, I put the parts that I know Steve would never embrace. In the other column, I put the bits that I think he does communicate, albeit in person and not in writing. The list began to resemble another amusing song: “Title of the Song” (by DaVinci’s Notebook), which you really must click on and listen to if you never have before. …Now, wasn’t that fun?
So I showed Steve the little orange Post-It note that carried this weighty list. On the left, I’d written “flattery; promises: to rescue, for future, to provide; declaration of desire”. On the right I’d written “honesty, appreciation, gratitude, description of how I love”. I told him that his description of how he loves is unique and authentic to him and doesn’t resemble Cat Stevens’ (“…though Time may fade and mountains turn to sand…’til the very same come back to the land”). He walked to one of his bookshelves and took down his “Bible”, a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. “How’s this for a love letter?” he asked and read from “Song of Myself”:
The smoke of my own breath;
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine;
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs;
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore, and dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn;
The sound of the belch’d words of my voice, words loos’d to the eddies of the wind;
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms;
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag;
The delight alone, or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides;
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.
Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
Stop this day and night with me, and you shall possess the origin of all poems;
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun—(there are millions of suns left;)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books;
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me:
You shall listen to all sides, and filter them from yourself.
The little girl opens her wet eyes and looks wide. Wondering, feeling alive, an equal to the sun and the trees and the birds in the sky and every playmate in the Universe. Is this not Love, this embrace? I reckon that it is.
I’m not a media watcher. I don’t even own a TV, but for some reason, I found myself drawn to Jodie Foster’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards this morning. I read the transcript online, then did a youtube search to see her performance of it. How do you get to be a gracefully aging woman of 50? How do you leave behind the fluff and come out real and wise and honorable? That’s what my blog project has been about, so I wanted to see Ms. Foster’s take on it. I was not disappointed. No doubt the lady is intelligent. No doubt she has compassion for the human race. What essence did she distill and pour for us in those 6 minutes of impromptu address being recorded for millions to see? Art is significant work. Media without privacy is exposure and becomes ridiculous and dangerous. Gratitude is important. Relationships are essential even though understanding is fleeting and loneliness is inevitable. And change is the atmosphere we live in, grow in, and die in. Resisting it is a waste of energy. Embracing it is mystically regenerative. I get that. I concur. Maybe I could be her soul sister, too.
In my post a few days ago, (Oh! The Humanity!) I sent out a plea for examples of admirable human beings as an antidote to the kind of internet sensations who fail to inspire and instead make me nauseated. You know what I’m talking about, right? The rampant dumbing-down of our species, “urgent” stories of greed and fear and violence and stupidity and pettiness and the like are probably a dangerous toxin to our culture. Where are the role models who will help us do better and why aren’t we using our advanced media to promote them more often? For every “Who Wore It Better?”, we could be viewing 5 “Who Lived It Better?” stories. Why not?
I have enjoyed a morning at work in the kitchen and with the book business while listening to the music of my Mensch of the Day. This is an artist who has inspired me since my pre-adolescent days, and I’ve only just discovered this live recording from 2 years before his death. He is the recipient of the 1993 Albert Schweitzer Music Award and the only non-classical musician to be so distinguished. His humanitarian efforts supported the National Wildlife Federation, Friends of the Earth, The Cousteau Society, and the Windstar Foundation. The CD I have was a concert for The Wildlife Conservation Society’s 100th anniversary. Ladies and gentleman…….John Denver: a singer and songwriter whose lyrics ring with authenticity and passion, whose music spans genres from country to pop to blues to rock, and whose commitment to peace and preservation permeated his career. As a cultural ambassador for the U. S., he visited China, Viet Nam and the Soviet Union and recorded a duet with a Soviet artist, becoming the first American to do so. In my mind, he follows in the footsteps of another hero of mine, Pete Seeger, who, at 93, is still active in the same kind of musical ambassadorship that promotes cultural tolerance and environmental responsibility. I did have the privilege of hearing him give a concert for children when I was in my single digits.
Naomi Baltuck of Writing Between the Lines has nominated me for the 2012 Blog of the Year Award!Apparently, this is an award which can be conferred multiple times. I think Naomi has gotten nominated 7 times in the year she’s been blogging. I’ve been blogging for a year and one third, and this is my first star.Naomi is a published author and professional storyteller. How cool is that?! Her blog is a delightful place where family, food, twinkly lights, travel adventures and costumes all blend into a magic world of pictures and words that reminds me that the real world is actually that enchanted kingdom where our dreams come true. In her Blog of the Year post, she cites a list of nominations that is currently serving as my map to blog exploration. I have already discovered a poet to follow from her recommendations, and I’m looking forward to that enrichment!
I just nominated a few bloggers for The Wonderful Team Member Readership Award, but I follow another whom I will nominate for this award: Elena Caravela. Elena is an artist who shares her imagination in the form of sketches, watercolors, photographs, oils, and digital blends of all these techniques. I am awed at her skills and humbled by her collaborative spirit. When I write stories and poems for children (which I plan to submit for publishing as part of a New Year’s goal), I imagine her illustrating them because she is all about encouraging the artistic talents of others (see her blog & book: Portrait of a Girl and Her Art).
So, blog on! all you artistic, creative souls out there. “We are made of star stuff.” – Carl Sagan
Life continues; a new cycle begins. It’s the shortest day of the year. Imagine our ancestors noting the the diminishing of light and wondering anxiously if the sun would return…and it does! We are so used to “knowing” all this that we can grow so jaded and incapable of surprise and awe. But why not retain the ability to be surprised, delighted, bowled over by the wonder of Life?! And also to include Death in that cycle. One of my favorite passages from Walt Whitman (from Leaves of Grass, “Song of Myself”):
“What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere, The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it, And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”
Looking through my files of photos, I found two that I remember as being surprising moments of serendipity, both of which are of birds. Birds are surprising. They alight and fly off at their own whim, so catching one on camera is a gift. The first shot is one I took with the little Lumix when a hawk landed in the maple tree right outside my bedroom window. To have this elegant wild predator just a few feet from my hidden wide-eyed face was a real treat. I had to take the shot through a dirty window, but still…
This second shot is one I took the first time I went to a State Park with my brand new Canon Rebel T3i in hand. Sandhill cranes were flying overhead, and I took a chance that perhaps with this new camera, I would actually get a clear image.
A song from “Miss Saigon” is running through my head… ‘a song, played on a solo saxophone…so hold me tight and dance like it’s the last night of the world’. Not that I seriously think the world will end tomorrow. Aside from the darkness and the rain (instead of snow) here in Milwaukee, all seems fairly normal.
But it raises a good question. What would you do on the last night of the world? What would you want to be doing any or every night of the world?
My husband sang that song from Miss Saigon on a recital one February, a snowy scene visible through the plate glass window behind him. The tune was a tad high for him; his sweet tenor voice seemed a little strained. He lived only another 7 years after that day.
I would want to dance with him and Steve and my children and my mother, to hold them tight and look into their eyes until there was nothing else to see.