Thursday, November 29, 2007


Just looking, really looking, can make you rich in an instant. In first love, you gazed into your Beloved's eyes, seeing their beauty so clearly, seeing beyond their beauty to their Essence. After a time, maybe
you don't see them as freshly; you're not so undefended, so receptive and full of wonder--do you barely glance now, satisfied with familiarity, instead of a Mystery, the miracle that is still here this moment?

Often what we really see is our handy handle for people and things--their name, the words and concepts we attach to them, our stories and memories and associations about them--not the direct reality of things-in-themselves. It's a vital, creative skill of the mind, to label this way, to identify and name things: egg, house, friend, tiger--run! We attach these word-handles to things so we can pick them up and play with them and move them around, inside or outside of our minds, for our purposes, for our survival and comfort. And so we objectify them. They flatten and become uniform to us--an example of a category. We take them for granted. We don't look deeply.

When learning to draw, we run into this flattening, generalizing mind-habit as an obstacle to realism. When we're mostly drawing a concept, we create a lifeless stereotype. You have to see from just where you are, the unique view from here and now, and look in, to the vitality of the thing. If you labor to make it "look like" a representative specimen of its named kind, it dies on the page. In truth, it's never been seen or known before, completely new in this unique, already changing light, viewed from this exact perspective through your eyes. It was just born.

Left-brain says, "Flowers! got it, let's go! OK, ok, I know! azaleas--satisfied?" but right-brain, face to face with spotted flagrant pink open-mouthed reality, has to commune and worship. It's a different kind of attention.

You can look with that kind of in-love openness for an instant at anything, at everything--it doesn't have to be "pretty" like a flower. A bottle cap shining on the ground, the rich brown hieroglyphics and warm yellows of a rotting banana--it doesn't matter what, when you look past your label and your preferences and see, through to the wordless truth.

My Sweetie and I will celebrate our 10th anniversary on winter solstice. This is a rose (by any other name) I made for her the first week we were together. Well, maybe a rotting banana wouldn't have looked like it smelled quite so sweet....

Scorpio Rose, detail, fabrics, '97


This 12 inch mixed media Dancing Star is for a Penquis charity auction December 7 to raise money for heating fuel to warm Mainers this winter. Many different artists contributed wonderful decorated tin stars for the auction--you can see them here. You can even bid on them on-line before the auction.

A friend passed along this space weather site--great for star-gazers.

This piece was made when the Hale-Bot comet came traveling by. I hear current Comet Holmes is called "the oddball comet." A comet after my own heart.

Here are some other stars I've made:

Star in the East

Two Stars

Three Stars


Wednesday, November 28, 2007


detail from Imbolc (The Creative Spark) fabrics 12x15"? '94?

Here's some fiction: a couple more of the Trixie and Luanda stories. (See the post Wilda for one about their cat, Molly).


"You left the kettle boiling away again, Luanda! I wish you wouldn't, I just wish you wouldn't. If I hadn't come in when I did, we could be up in flames in a second, I hate to think. I saw that movie up at the home, you never saw it, but I did, the movie from the Chicago fire department. They know how to put the fear of fire in you, those big Chicago firemen in huge black slickers with the shiny yellow stripes and their nasty sooty axes rushing around to chop things up, all your beautiful things ruined in just seconds, Lu! People think they have time to save their valuables, time to find the photo album off the bookcase and the jewelry box out of the other room, but when it gets down to it, they can't see a thing for the smoke! It's pitch dark, darker than night ever is, the smoke rolls right in and shuts out all the light and you don't know the way out of your own home from down on the carpet where you are breathing the very last of the oxygen. You forget what every mouse and spider knows about your house and you just plain panic and maybe open a hot door, but you mustn't! because that will just feed the fire more! and it takes 3 minutes,10 at the very most 'til its all a pile of rubble and wet steaming charcoal with gloomy tatters of your placemats amazingly spared, and I hate those placemats anyway, I never told you but now's the time, why should I have to live one more day with those horrible, horrible placemats? You are not the only one with feelings, Luanda, you are not the only one with sensitivities!"

(Here Lu hazards the first semi-ironic eyebrow twitch in her not-laughing, contrite face, a look saying, I guess not!)

"....We could go at anytime, anytime at all!"

She's winding down. She's looking by degrees less tragical, roving the room-still-here with her eyes, the green chunky glasses not melted into nuggets tramped by big black rubber boots, and more's the pity, really, she hates those glasses too. The parallelogram of innocent winter sun on the counter, the faucet dripping--the water bill!! The photo album, where is it anyway? It should be near the door at all times. The tires need rotating! Rubber, rubber suits and axes.... Luanda is hugging her really, not a pat-pat hug, a real holding. A slow hand circle on the back, a gust of tears and hiccuping, a sheepish looking out through wet spiky eyelashes, a quirk of the mouth edges, and who knows who giggles first: it is all over in minutes.

"Want a cup of tea, Trix?" Luanda asks.


Now Trixie has Mother's black leather album down from the attic, its big heavy wings splayed across a third of the kitchen table. The clock clicks, slow and portentous, outside her hearing.

Molly comes padding in and about-face out in one smooth move, whiskers hectic, tiny nostrils flared, from the noxious nostalgia weighting the air.

Trixie is pouring over photos, pouring her devout attention all over anonymous bland-faced babies, dead handsome men in tuxes, impossibly tall and stately gowned women, long-waisted as another species, none giving up a single silent secret. Her swollen heart pumps its hardy two-step while the frozen couples waltz.

Another page turned like the closing of a great trap door. There was Christmas. Little Lu and Trix, over-exposed, looking shell-shocked as refugees amongst the plunder. Tiny tufts stood out at odd angles on Lu's head, her little hand tagging a picture book like home base in a dangerous game of hide and seek.

Little Trix sat very straight, demonstrating good posture, cradleing her new Sam-the-Bear as proudly as the mother of twins. It was obvious, her radiant intention to guide, nurture and protect that tender bear cub through thick and thin.

And where had that bear gotten to? And where had the afternoon gotten to for that matter? The light was pinkish, almost throbbing, and the room so warm, intensely warm, hot-flash warm and dripping moist. And no little bear to raise up. No more hope of a little one now, something so matter-of-fact to her mind, but here her body was pitching a storm, a minihell, a tantrum of heat.

The Change, the change was coming on, and Luanda coming in now from the library, unchanged from her child self, still cuddling books as safest.


Change (Altar Cloth) fabrics 21x23'? '92?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Here's a little fictional beginning; add to it in the comments if you'd like:

She kicked off one shoe and used her toe to scratch her shin. End of one itch, beginning of the next. She was itching to know what was in the letter in her hand. It was rare now to receive a physical letter. All the gestures of letter opening that previous generations knew had now returned to the non-habitual. Tearing just the corner of the top, enough to wiggle index finger into the hole and use the length of it to rip jaggedly upward, opening a toothy mouth of paper, the finger still tingling with sensation. The other shoe off without notice, a butterscotch crinkled open and clicking sweetly against back teeth, she sat by the window and tilted the pages to catch the light, as her grandmother must have done.


Three oil portraits I've done of other people's grandmothers over the years.


A friend was sitting with Young People. One said, "Remember in Elementary School when we had those weird floppy disks?" My friend told them that when she was in Grammar School, lunch sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper, not in plastic bags, not even in wax paper bags. Every mother had her own style of wrapping. The Young People looked at her silently for a moment, and then resumed their conversation.


Here are two portraits of my grandmother, made 27 years ago, both about the size of a bedsheet: In Her Garden, and Putting On Her Face.


The photo I worked from:


Here's a better photo of her from her younger days:

A cloth portrait of my grandfather made around the same time, 1980? from a photo of him on the boardwalk in Atlantic City sometime early in the last century:

And my best-friend-growing-up Claire's Gramma, with Claire's cat and dog, from a few years later, also bed-sheet sized:



Abundance, fabrics, 12x15" (?) '91(?)

Sandy has long followed a family and cultural tradition of reviling the wealthy--people who "don't have to work for a living." She knows a woman named Anne who owns mansions and horses. When Anne complained that she broke a fingernail cleaning the kitchen on her housekeeper's day off, Sandy fumed behind fake politeness. It made a great story to share with other have-nots or have-to's (work-for-a-living) who enjoy eye-rolling and saying, "Oh, geez, tough life! my heart bleeds!"

Hating the rich is a popular sport. I have one friend who works 80 hour weeks and has something highly disparaging and comic to say about "Trust Fund Babies" almost every time I see him--his sense of humor is a priceless asset of his. Today I heard someone else spout off with vigorous (apparently humorless) judgment on "these trust-funders--hedonists who take and take and never give back." Neither of these people would probably want to question their treasured opinions.

Byron Katie sometimes asks, "Do you really want to know the truth?" because her Work only works when done with an open mind. Sandy did really want to know her own deeper truth about this. Nothing blocks real creativity, not to mention abundance, like resentment. Maybe there was a connection between the persistence of her painful idea that she and her successes are not ever enough for her, and the envy she channels into rich-bashing jokes. So she brought the belief "Anne shouldn't complain about not having enough" to the process of self-inquiry of The Work.

What she found surprised her. She saw how stressful it actually is for her to hold this belief, how she reacts to it with frustration, tension, and alienation, feeling cut off and artificial around Anne and separate even from herself when she attaches to it. And she saw that her complaint about Anne's complaint could not lessen the amount complaining on the planet, much less bring about economic justice.

Sandy asked herself what, if anything, this story really does for her. What would she lose if she didn't believe it? Suddenly she saw: "This blows my whole gig! It pops my bubble of believing that if you have everything, you'll be happy. I want her to stop complaining so I can keep my illusion that getting more, more money, more time off, more anything, will give me peace." And how could she safely accept the abundance she does want in her life, if she's busy thinking having means deserving to be hated and envied?

Without the belief, she saw Anne as an equal, a person she in fact likes; and she felt herself expanding in gratitude out of the tiny victim-suit she'd stuffed herself into with the idea that she "has to" work so hard for her money. In reality, she doesn't actually want mansions or horses. She wants her own abundant, free, life. She's the one who shouldn't complain about not having enough--because she sees that she actually does have enough, in the present, in reality. As it happens, none of her fingernails are even broken.

Katie says, "Reality is always kinder than our story about it." And she invites us not to take her word for this, but to test it for ourselves. Read Loving What Is by Byron Katie with Stephen Mitchell, and go to, to learn how to do The Work for yourself.

Abundance Bag, fabrics 6x10" '93(?)

I was tangled up about a business decision recently. I heard this wisdom from the incredible Molly Gordon, coach to Accidental Entrepreneurs, whose newsletter and blog are a treasure trove: "Either way, you'll be happy and rich!"


I went through a phase of making Abundance Bags--little purses with moneyish designs that were supposed to magically make you rich--in color at least--even if you had nothing to put in them. Naturally, I tried to sell them. And one of my favorites was stolen. Sometimes those cosmic jokes can get a bit heavy-handed, no?


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Friday, November 23, 2007

What Does Stinkwanink Mean?

The Secret,
18'x24"(?) oils, '05

Stinkwanink (made-up noun); 1. a mild, affectionate insult: You stinkwanink! (to cat who has shredded entire last roll of toilet paper).

2. someone who doesn't get it right and doesn't care or is even glad: That stinkwanink did all the dishes except two forks.

3. a gizmo, a whatsis: the stinkwanink and the thingamabob sailed off in a fragile skiff.

4. philosphizing; a hem-haw: This whole stinkwanink about Creativity being a stick makes no sense to me.

Please tell us some of your favorite made-up words.

In my family, we had poosley (adverb, adjective) meaning peaked or poorly: I was still feeling pretty poosley the day after the watermelon fell on my head.

One of my all-time favorites is connubiate (verb) heard from a woman from New Orleans; a culinary term meaning to leave alone to allow flavors to marry: now we'll leave that gumbo to connubiate overnight and it'll taste much better. To blend, rest, associate, come into harmony.

Imaginary Friend 12"x12"(?) fabrics, late 80's?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dogged Dedication

Stick With Love (18'x21") pastel on fabric and fabric applique  (available)

This is a portrait of an amazing athlete named Lady, who lived with my Sweetheart's neighbors. Lady was utterly dedicated to playing Stick. I'd be sitting on the porch reading, sipping tea; there would come a thump: Lady dropped a stick in handy reach for tossing. "Not now," I'd say, looking into her pleading eyes only briefly, hoping to avoid her hypnotizing mojo.

She'd pick it up and drop it again, enticingly. "Maybe later," I'd say, "Not now." Briefly discouraged by my stupidity, Lady soon was re-inspired. "OH! You don't like this one?" and she'd trot off to find another. Once she staggered over with a whole piece of firewood and offered it--"What's it gonna TAKE? come ON!!!"

Soon I'd admit to her superior wisdom--after all, "maybe later"
is the kiss of death to the creative spirit, which I recognized as what was driving my friend; only "NOW" will do. And what joy to watch her brilliant skill express itself! She'd dash and leap and pluck that stick out of the air with the exactness of a temple bell ringing. The ardor of her practice never diminished, until the moment it was suddenly done, and she'd pant in the shade for a few minutes to get ready to begin again.

I do not throw well. Never have. I have asked plenty of skillful throwers to teach me. I have practiced with elbow out, twirling the whole torso around, using power from the torque of the hips, is that it? Still the projectile lands a few pathetic feet away, somewhere irrelevant to where I aimed.

But Lady--the magnificent, Olympic-caliber Stick Genius--always seemed thrilled with our collaboration. Not a whiff of disappointment or criticism, when the stick sailed only a few feet like a shallow infield pop-up, offering no challenge at all. Once, with a big wind-up and heave-ho, I lost hold at the top of the arc, and the stick vanished behind me, faking us both out. "Whoa! Nice one! Didn't see that coming!" were Lady's only comments as she trotted past me with a toothy grin, to pick it up.


Lady also liked to chase cars, and that's what did her in. Now, from the spirit realm she channels these pointers for all ardent creators in any medium:

Do what you love for the love of it; this is where discipline in the practice of your art comes from.

You're born to do it; centered in this knowing, the tedium of repetition, the temporary confusions and obstacles, the splinters in your tongue, none of these really even exist for you.

When it doesn't go where you thought it would: even better.

Never criticize or reject your Friend's contributions. Your Friend is essential to your Work. No matter what comes through her, a botched toss, an awkward sentence, an off-key note, a mucky drawing, Just Go Fetch! There is only the glory of being yourself, or hiding that, hiding from that. Fetch to fetch. You won't get anything from it, there's nothing to get, except the stick you love. Fetch the stick you had before you started, then drop it at the Friend's feet. That's all.

I'll add:

The only thing that can keep you from Sticking with your passion to create is a thought. A thought like, "Maybe later...." which probably fronts for some flavor of fear. Or a thought like, "I am not really passionate about anything. There is nothing Stick-like for me." 

Louise Hay says, "It is only a thought, and a thought can be changed." For me, thoughts don't seem to change much by brute affirmation. And they do change. They change quite naturally, like the weather does, when I realize they aren't actually true, that they really are only thoughts.


Double Portrait of Buddy, 9"x25" oils, '04?

Buddy is another fine dog in the same neighborhood. He herds the UPS truck, and lives on. We do what we have to do.

Friday, November 16, 2007


This is Wilda, Queen of All. As far as I know, I am not Ancient Egyptian from another life. I just recognise the divine, at least when it is completely obvious, as in the case of Her Furriness. Wilda, as in Wilda-BEAST, which she certainly can be: she's an animal! Wilda as in Wilda-nests all over the apartment, especially in the fabric. My guru--so awake when awake, so relaxed when napping, so free, being completely herself.

This is the photo I worked from, taken by Stanley Butler, the wildlife photographer who lives downstairs:

Here's a bit from the Trixie and Luanda stories. Molly is a thinly disguised pseudonym for Her Excellence.

There is a crinkling from the corner, not necessary, just a notification. Molly the cat has situated herself neatly in the open shopping bag by means of a perfect 10 standing vertical leap, clearing the edge by a number of soft white belly hairs. She looks out complacently through one of the handles, her nose flushed with self-esteem and spunk, her calico colors glowing richly against the matte brown paper backdrop.

Luanda shoots her the glance she has been perfecting for several months. It is a glance as if over half-glasses and under beetley brows, a dim-view glance, delivered at an oblique angle sidewise with slight head cock. Her I-see-you-missy glance.

But even if she didnt turn back to the sink, where the faucet is blessedly pouring, gushing, frolicking full blast through all the dishes, since Trixie isnt home to fuss, there is no way she'd ever see missy Molly segue out of that bag. It is transubtantiation. It is astral travel. Next thing you know, where will she pop up? top of the fridge? Windowsill? Slat of sun on linoleum?

Whereever she's doing the nonchallant, or the hunker-dose, or the twisty spruce-up groom, whatever she's doing, whereever it is, is sanctified, a Place, a Spot Designate.

Luanda doesnt see. She doesnt even see the white bowl with cobalt flowers turning in her big tan hands, or the waterdrops rivering off the crepey skin landscape over tendons and greenish swelling veins. She is far away, the way she goes, to a place of no designations, that she needs like air.


An oil sketch of Wilda in her youth:

I'm not the only one besotted with her, by the way. She has quite a large fan club for a small town cat. A friend sang out with full-throated joy, "WILDA!" when she stopped by recently. I hadn't seen her in more than a month, but it wasn't me she was talking about when she said, "It's been so long since I was granted a Sighting! Oh, may I touch?"

Thursday, November 15, 2007


My amazing yoga teacher, Missy Hatch, has been giving satsang on her experiences learning to ride a motorcycle. It's brought up many yogic topics for her, from balance and awareness, to finding your edge, to acceptance and courage. Missy always invites wisdom from the class as well--a great teacher is genuinely open to learning. Today, class members commented on how the inner fire of creativity can stoke up to withstand the ice-water of fear, and the Course in Miracles lesson, "Your only safety is defenselessness"--how defense tightens us down, inhibiting the flow and flex of rounding corners and getting up to speed. Then we all rolled over on our backs clutching our knees to our chests, and started unkinking again. "Find the place where you can safely open into the space that's being created," Missy said, as we endured a difficult stretch, "That's yoga."