Thursday, November 24, 2011


Today, among other more important things, I am thankful for socks. Specifically, 21st century socks. I remember when wool wasn't smart -- it was itchy. And when sweat socks lived up to their unpleasant name. The days before lycra, when socks would bunch up at the front of your shoe like a sixth toe with nowhere to go.

I also love all the colors and patterns to be found on socks, even if I am often bummed to realize I don't have any solid black socks in my drawer stuffed with polka dots and stripes. Colorful socks are like neckties with personality for your ankles.

I am grateful to the sock researchers and inventors of all sorts who keep making things better. What's your favorite improvement?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I don't like red?

I don't like red. If you asked me what my favorite color is, I would not say red. If you asked me to list my top 5, it still wouldn't come up. If I think about it as an entity - a field of red - I have to turn away (please don't even say red plaid). I don't like the red splotches my skin gets when I am nervous or angry or have a glass of wine. If I bought a house and it was red, I would paint it right away. I would never choose to own a red car (though the fact is, through no fault of my own, for many years I did own a rickety but reliable red car and I would often hope no one would see me getting into it and make red car assumptions about me). People who like red are not people like me.

But, it turns out, red and I have a pretty groovy relationship. When I put on my long red quilted coat, I feel like it's a good day. I would spend a week's pay on the perfect pair of red shoes. I'll eat a Swedish fish even if it has lint from my pocket on it. Haribo gummi bears? I always save the red bears for last. The shortest pencil of all my pencils? The red one. The cover of my agenda book, also red. My two favorite holidays - Christmas and Valentine's Day - have a strong streak of red. I've worn the same red Adidas Gazelles since 1999. Sometimes a red plate is the only one that will do, especially if sugar cookies are involved. Despite their epic fail this season, I am glad the Red Sox are my home town team. I love the sight of red berries on an otherwise bare branch. If the stripes on my shirt are not blue, they are red. What can't you do if you've got a red Swiss army knife on hand? And, let's face it, stop signs have got it all over yield.

So, actually, I totally love red. My life would be bleak without it. I want to publicly apologize to red for not putting it on my list of favorite colors before today. Red thank you for cheering me up so many times! You totally rock.

What, or who, do you love but you've been too stuck in your ways to admit it?

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Sure, there are some good things about winter.

But I love summer.
Everything is bursting with color, joy and ease.
On days like the one above,
I am just waiting for days like today.

As William Carlos Williams said:

"In summer, the song sings itself."

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I re-remembered one thing and discovered something else.

What I re-remembered is that I can draw more easily if other people are talking. For that reason, it's good to have some kind of talking radio show on while I draw. I think a lot of people like to put music on when they are painting or making and they say it frees their creative juices. If I do that, the music takes up my whole brain and I want to dance or sing (off key) or just sit there staring into space. Music is like a Vulcan mind meld for me. It completely removes me from my own ideas.

But, if someone is talking, their voice and the subject matter take up the talking, monkey-mind part of my brain, which opens the drawbridge to the part that can think without words. This is probably more true of everyone than we think - it's why you see people doodling in meetings but not at concerts.

The thing I discovered is that the Uni-ball Jet Stream RT 0.7 mm retractable pen is surprisingly good for drawing with. It makes a good wiggly but not too wiggly line, and is suited for lefties, unlike most gel pens, because the ink dries fast and doesn't smudge. You can find these pens at Staples, along with beef jerky.

What is your favorite thing to draw with?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hello French toothpaste

I have such awesome friends. A few weeks ago I came home to find a mysterious and unexpected package in the mail. When I opened it, inside I found a tube of French toothpaste. My friend Robin had seen my post about Swedish toothpaste and so when she was in Paris she picked up a tube of toothpaste as a surprise for me. How sweet is that?! It's so nice to feel understood.

Part II of the story is that last night, my brother asked me if I would illustrate the chapter headings for the book he's writing. I said yes and asked what style did he want them in. He said, "you know, like that Pepsodent tube you did". So this morning, while painting my French toothpaste, I was listening to the radio and they were recommending books to read this summer. One of the books was "The Sisters Brothers", which is the book you would end up with if you crossed Cormac McCarthy with the Coen Brothers. The reviewer was trying to explain the book and chose the example of how the brothers discover this great invention, the toothbrush, and how it connects them with other people in the story.

Isn't that slightly strange and coincidental? I mean how often to they mention dental hygiene on NPR? I won't mention that I turned off the radio after that, but then turned it on again a little while later, just as a woman who was reporting on military life, was saying, "a brother or a sister..."

I like coincidences. They make me feel I am aligning myself well with the hidden forces of the universe.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Back in the saddle again*

First day on the bike in 2011, and a perfect day for it! Some of the things I saw on my commute:
  • A young woman sobbing at the bus stop with her suitcase.
  • The row of lilacs coming into bloom in the Arboretum.
  • Several gaggles of Canada goslings, so yellow and fluffy. (In a few months they will be attacking and hissing at me, but right now, they are cute.)
  • A guy with bizarrely huge quadriceps running by in his shorts.
  • A woman with pink hair and big white sunglasses.
  • Three dogs chasing me, including a St. Bernard.
  • Starlings swooping after a crow.
What did you see today?

* If you would like to hear "Back in the Saddle Again", click here. (I wish my helmet could look like a cowboy hat!)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's true

I'm still not tired of the view off my back porch.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A month of poems

I came across this poem hanging on my Mom's cupboard door. (wait, are they still called "cupboards"?) She had cut it out of a magazine. When I researched it to find out its name, I discovered the magazine had only published half of the poem, and adjusted the line breaks. So, if you would like to read the poem as the author intended, and read an interview with him about it, you can do so here.

April is National Poetry Month. If you would like some ideas on how you can celebrate National Poetry Month, the Academy of American Poets has a helpful list of 30 ways.

What's one of your favorite poems? Please note, I have officially deemed it acceptable to like poems that you can easily understand.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spirit Storehouse

As you probably noticed, I haven't been posting much lately. I feel a little like a seed buried in the dirt, waiting for the right moment to poke my head out.

I have a few drawings in the works, but when I picked up my journal tonight, it opened to this page with my spirit storehouse on it. I drew this last fall after a visit to my acupuncturist when he treated what he called my "spirit storehouse". I really liked that concept. The point for it on your body is just above your heart. Your spirit storehouse should be attended to when your spirit requires nourishment. And, by extension, your spirit should always be attended to, so you always have plenty of nourishment in stock.

I meant to fill in my storehouse, but eventually moved on to other things. I made it through the whole winter with barely anything in my storehouse! I think it's a good time to get back to it.

What is nourishing to your spirit? What could you stock up on so you'll have it on hand when you need it? I can testify, an empty storehouse is not what you want.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Alarm clock

Every morning this past week a bird has woken me before my alarm has gone off. He is quite insistent. What he's really shouting from the treetop is, "I know there are still big piles of dirty snow everywhere, but spring is coming, spring is coming, SPRING IS COMING!!!!

Monday, February 14, 2011


I found some neat Valentine's in an antique store in Andover, Vermont this weekend. I came across a whole basketful, but limited myself to just three. It's clear that postcards were the original e-mail (which from now on I am going to call p-mail). These two were written by the same woman, Julia, who lived in Vermont, to her cousin Etta M. Gee, from Etna, New Hampshire (yes, Etta from Etna). The cards are postmarked October 5, 1912 and February 12?, 1914. A lot of the cards I sifted through were written by this woman to her cousin. I also discovered that people seemed to have used Valentine's postcards year round with no particular attachment to St. Valentine's Day. I found one that said on the back "Have a gorgeous Thanksgiving!"

In case you can't read it, the first one says:

Dear Cousin: - Your card received and was glad to hear from you. How are you all this lovely morning? Papa is sick abed with the grippe and a hard cold, the rest of us are well as usual. Yes I had a good time at the fair and did not get wet any, as I was under cover when it rained. Yes they did have a poor weep for the fair. I went down to Bellows Falls to the street fair, and had a good time.
Write often.
From Julia

The second one says:

Dear Cousin: - Your card received was glad to hear from you, and should have answered before but have been busy so letter writing was an easy job to put off. Many thanks for the cards you all sent grandpa up that way, and he received a shower of 91 cards. Hope this finds you all well. We are well as usual. Is it cold up there? 20 below here yesterday.
Write often.
From Julia

Perhaps it's heartening to know that even in 1914 people found it hard to find the time to write postcards, and so we are all still battling a timeless and universal pull to do other things.

To whom would you send a note if you could take a moment to write it? P-mail postage is only 28 cents - 28 cents! - within the U.S. How can you not avail yourself of such a bargain?

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you are spending it surrounded by love.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pattern interrupt

If you know me, you know I like stripes. Stripes do occasionally take a turn for the worse, but usually if there's a stripe involved, I am going to like it.

What you might not know is that I have a low tolerance for plaid. Seriously, it's a rare plaid that won't give me a headache. If it's made out of cotton flannel, the fuzziness can make it bearable, but beyond that, I steer clear of all things plaid. I can only look at houndstooth sideways, and glen plaid is like a three hour car ride on a rainy day while sitting in the middle of the back seat. People's fascination with the Burberry plaid (which they call "check") is totally lost on me. It's a good thing I have no pedigree and therefore am not forced to wear my family's tartan on special occasions.

This issue with plaid extends into the patterns you see inside of "security envelopes". These patterns are always a risky thing to encounter. If I was prone to seizures, these would be a trigger for sure. When I pay my rent each month, I slip my check into the envelope by feel, not by sight.

A while ago, I came across a collage that someone had made using all the envelope insides they had collected. At the time I thought "How could they stand to even look at it long enough to make it?!" But, it did get me wondering about the variety to be found inside a seemingly boring envelope. Then, recently, I came across an envelope, and lo and behold, I ~kind of sort of~ liked the inside.

So, like slowly introducing a food to which you are allergic back into your system, I decided to practice exposing myself to the insides of envelopes. I started looking around as I went about my days, and in less than a week I managed to accumulate a pretty good variety. It's amazing how many discarded envelopes you can find blowing around if you have your eyes tuned to look for them! I almost got rid of each one when I found it, since they were each so hard to look at, but I decided to keep them after all, for the sake of my experiment. And I think I now can handle the insides of envelopes a little better.

That being said, Glen Plaid and I have a long way to go before we will ever be friends.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Goodbye Swedish toothpaste

My Swedish toothpaste has finally run out. I had been rationing it since August (and still no cavities!). I got this toothpaste at the 7-Eleven down the street from my hotel on my first day in Gothenburg. 7-Elevens are everywhere in Sweden - who knew? I had to buy this tube because in my half-asleep state I left my Tom's of Maine toothpaste in the bathroom of my hotel in Dublin. (I once had one degree of separation from the real Tom of Tom's of Maine because I went to college with this son, and once, he gave me a ride back to campus from my internship at Real Art Ways so I wouldn't have to wait for the bus in the rain.)

I know Pepsodent is an American product, and I never buy it here at home, but it's way more interesting with some Swedish words on it. The fact that I am so enamored with this tube of toothpaste is probably a sign I should get out more, but, you could also argue I am easily pleased.

Here's an interesting fact about Pepsodent: according to my good friend Wikipedia, one version of Cole Porter's song "You're the Top" mentions it. The song is from the 1934 musical Anything Goes and is about a man and a woman who take turns complimenting each other. It was the most popular song from that musical, and was the subject of hundreds of parodies. The lyrics are particularly significant because they offer a snapshot as to what was highly prized in the mid-1930s, and demonstrate Porter's rhyming ability:

"You're the baby grand of a lady and a gent,
You're an old Dutch master, you're Mrs. Astor,
You're Pepsodent!"

I also want to give a shout-out to my little buddy Giovanni, who hopefully is making good progress on his school project. Hey Giovanni, make sure you brush your teeth before bed! :-)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

One more

Continuing with Appreciating Other People's Art Weekend (see below!), I want to include this one. Any sculpture I can stand inside of is alright in my book. This was a good way to end the day yesterday.

Other people's art

I am declaring this weekend to be "Appreciating Other People's Art Weekend". Truthfully, for me, every day is appreciating other people's art day - whether it be their painting or their shoe/sock combination. But, for this weekend I am more fully struck by all the good stuff that has been created.

This idea was kicked off yesterday when I was at Borders Books and I accidently came across The Paper Doll Primer by Emily Martin. Such a delight!

While in D.C. over Christmas, I had rewarding visits to the National Gallery and the Museum of the American Indian. I like Rothko's black paintings better than I thought I would, and if I could think of another good reason to go to Houston, I would love to go to the Rothko Chapel there. My picture above is a study of his painting "No. 2". And the functional art of American Indians - beaded clothing, woven blankets, shoes from a single piece of leather, carved instruments, painted pottery, arrowheads for specific animals, house posts, and spirit masks - always knock my socks off.

I used the proceeds from the selling of my two sheep paintings to buy myself some art...specifically a gorgeous painting of three feathers by Holly Ward Bimba.

A short movie has been made about the Sartorialist (see his January 6 posting). His photos make think that maybe I should start wearing clothes that fit. I like that he says he "feels very lucky to get to have part of my day leading a visual life." Lucky indeed.

And you can make fun of the 80s all you want, but that era gave us both Dire Straits' Making Movies and Paul Simon's Graceland. Two flawless albums that for more than 25 years (holy crap!) I've been happy to put right back on the turntable as soon as they are over.

Who or what have you been appreciating lately?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Clean plates and clean slates

I like when a New Year starts. I get that back-to-school feeling which makes me want to line up my pencils and get a new notebook. The coldness and short days promote being more cerebral than physical, so it's a perfect time to organize, reflect, and choose a Word for the Year* to guide my choices and actions over the course of 2011.

I had a word all picked out, but it still felt a little off. I even announced it at the gathering of friends on New Year's Eve. Then I heard P's brilliant word and instantly knew it was right for me too. So, we will share the word Ownership. It captures a lot of things well, and makes me simultaneously uncomfortable and hopeful, which is probably a good sign. I am curious to see how it will go for both of us.

* If you want to learn about picking your Word for the Year, some good places to visit are Christine Kane's site here and Susannah Conway's site here.)

Let me know what you will choose for yourself in 2011!

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Happy 2011! I hope your year is filled with peace and joy.