Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Omens of the night . . . and surface serenity delights

On my walk to the Kendall Theatre last night to see Paul Giamatti in Cold Souls, I saw this stenciled image that was sprayed on the side of a building on Portland St. Spooky. This kind of anonymous message put out into the ether usually stops me cold and makes me think. I have some others, too—stenciled messages that speak to me from the sidewalks as I walk along.

To return to a former topic, "Energy in Completion," I must report that I did wash that window in my kitchen and then, using all my female enginuity (intuitive engineering) I was able to slide the AC along the floor and somehow lift it into the window. Within moments, the new, cooler air inside my apartment energized me so intensely, that I washed the other windows and re-arranged my entire space. I threw out a bunch of old junk mail that had accumulated and hid things away to create the first steps of organization which I call "surface serenity." Once surfaces are free of piles of magazines, papers, mail, etc., the air is cleaner, my head is clearer and if properly fueled, I can dig deeper to go below the surface and throw out more stuff. As I've said in my article Clutter Kills, clutter is like a virus that hides in those little corners that you overlooked when you thought your place was clean and organized. They patiently grow and multiply, soon to attack your sense of peace only hours or days after you've put your feet up to enjoy the seeming order around you.

My life has been a continuous struggle to make order out of chaos. And the conflict is that making art often means making chaos. With all my supplies and tools around me mid project, order disappears. I can feel myself revving up for some major creative project this fall. My pattern has always been to make order first, so that I can begin with a clean surface ready to receive the next mess.

And getting back to the thought provoking stenciled images above, if you want to see some moving images that will really get you thinking very deep thoughts at the same time that you're laughing, don't miss the movie. I loved it!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Energy in completion . . .

The humidity is peaking and I'm almost at the point of putting that old AC into the window. But first, I've got to wash the window. I've been procrastinating about that because I haven't had the energy to do it. Another circle. But today I bought extra paper towels in anticipation of finding the energy to take on the task. Several years ago when I had the drive to network like crazy, I went to a breakfast networking meeting once at week that started at the uncomfortable hour of 7 a.m. I remember someone there waxing rhapsodically about the "energy of completion." I've come to find my best defense against a collapse into a puddle of sweat and surrender during this heat wave is to do some tiny tasks that have been on my list for weeks: make a doctor's appointment for my annual check up, make that print of a photo I promised to a friend three months ago, work on my resume until it's current . . . wash my windows. I haven't got to the windows but I will, I know I will this weekend—heat wave or no heat wave. Those little actions have energized me and moved me forward enough to take on bigger and bigger tasks....but I'm not at the bigger tasks yet, still got to tackle a few more smaller ones, then some medium sized ones, and then, hopefully, the heat wave will be over and I'll have not only an inner momentum from small tasks completed, but also cooler air to move me forward.

Today I discovered the Dana Greenhouse Nursery which is part of the Arnold Arboretum—a local treasure I haven't visited in years. They offer classes to the general public on everything from pruning to raising Bonsai. They have a large wooden gazebo in which are housed some of the most astounding Bonsai I've ever seen. You can't go inside the gazebo, but you can look through the slatted open walls and take in the wonder of these collaborative works that combine the gifts of nature with human artistry to create miniature universes. It reminds me of how a balanced life must include the right combination of delayed gratification mixed with instant gratification. Certainly the Bonsai are in the realm of delayed gratification if one is going to create one from a tiny starter plant. But each day if we do one little small thing on our to-do lists, we get a bit more energy to keep going, and to keep tending to the other parts of our lives, the long term investments we make with our children, our art, our friendships, our health and well being. Enough of that philosophical meandering, it's time for some instant gratification—. J.P. Licks, here I come.

Speaking of those aesthetics of decay.....when instant gratification adds to entropy, here is today's image. It's a close up of the cracked white paint on the cross walk markings on Mass. Ave. Getting to the other side. From inertia to completion. Crossing the street is as good a place as any to start moving a body through space.

Thursday's walk . . . a little bit of everything

Don't have an overarching theme today, just some shots as I walked past Fenway Studios, then down Lansdowne Street (which is just across the street from Fenway Park) to the House of Blues to buy a ticket to the Regina Spektor (probably the most brilliant singer songwriter we've had in decades) concert coming up this September. As it turns out, I had to walk to the Orpheum to buy the tickets so it gave me a great excuse to head all the way down Commonwealth Avenue, across the Public Gardens, past the Swan boats, through Boston Commons, crossing Tremont and then to the Orpheum Box Office. The opening collage is a close up of a pole just a few feet down from the House of Blues on Landsdowne St. I couldn't resist including some of the leaf compositions, too. Enjoy.

Along Commonwealth Ave., the small gardens in front of the brownstones are lush with rich colors and textures that delight the eyes and lift the spirits.

And then, Public Gardens and the Swan Boats . . .

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Circles in time and space . . .

Going back in time to those old corner soda shoppe days is pretty easy if you head over to Medford Square and sit yourself down in Colleen's Ice Cream & Soda Shop, 61 High St. Not only is her clock a circle, but so are the home baked cookies and, of course, those round scoops of ice cream made especially for Colleen's. The bright black and white decor has splashes of color. The soup and sandwich combos are great. My longest term friend, Penny—we met in 6th grade in Malden—and I often meet at Colleen's to catch up. We have a history from bicycle rides around the streets of Malden, circling all the way forward in time as we encourage each other in this transitional time of life (we're officially "senior citizens" but that bond that brought us together in the late 50s is as full of laughter as it was back then).

Another circle (below) popped out at me when I was walking yesterday on Arlington Street and saw this simple architectural detail.

And as for circles in the world of flowers, I've got a couple of those, too. The petal span of this pink/lavender colored flower is at least twelve inches! You can't appreciate that without seeing it in relation to the other flowers in the garden of the Old South Church on the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth Streets.

And here are a couple more circles—on the segue (sp?) that caught my eye.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sweating Bodies fly above the mat . . .

Moving from the last post that connected the Diving Ducks Blues Band with the actual diving birds in the Winged Migration movie, today's images continue the theme of bodies moving through space. In formation like a flock of birds, these sweating bodies stretched together in a 100 degree room in Auburn, Mass this weekend at Bikram Yoga Auburn studio. The owner Sam Goldman hosted the event that brought seminar leader Diane Ducharme of West Roxbury's Bikram Yoga For You studio to lead over 50 Bikram Certified Yoga teachers through a 90 minute class followed by three hours of discussions about the challenges and rewards of teaching this healing series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises. You can link to an entire slide show from the event by visiting my mobile me gallery account and click "slide show" at the bottom of the window. It will take you through the day and most of the postures and give you a real sense of the sequence. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Diving Ducks . . . on film and in East Providence on the same day

Little did I know weeks ago when I ordered Winged Migration from Netflix, that on the very day it would arrive, I'd find myself at Two Jerks Pub and Grill in East Providence listening to the Diving Ducks Blues Band. Is that an instance of harmonic convergence or just a funny coincidence? A coincidence that didn't occur to me until sitting down to write tonight's blog entry and remembering a scene from the movie when one particular species of bird dramatically dives beak first into the water after its prey. The Diving Ducks Blues Band, however, has as its motto, "If the river was filled with whiskey . . .I'd be a diving duck."

The ride from Boston to Two Jerks was an easy one: straight down 95 to exit 2A onto 1A south, then right onto Waterman Ave, and there you are. Michael Forstadt and Koby Rosenbaum took over the Two Jerks in the spring of 2009. They increased their beer offerings and brought the live entertainment schedule from two nights to SIX nights - bringing in bands that play the Blues, Motown, R&B, Soul, Rock and Acoustic Rock.

Diving Ducks put on a great show with lead singer Tom wailing on a vast collection of harmonicas and belting out some classic blues arrangements with drummer, lead guitar, bass guitar all jamming together to create a classic blues beat that would have easily got me up on a dance floor if there was one. Pool tables, great burgers, all-you-can-eat popcorn, and a selection of munchies abound.

The play of lights on ceilings and walls kept time with the beat of the music and kept challenging me to find a way to record them. Gotta study that camera manual so that I get some better night shots the next time I'm there. Still I like the light patterns and wanted to share it with you.

And not to forget the diving birds in the movie Winged Migration, if you haven't seen it yet, you must absolutely rent it. I have never been so close to birds in flight. They used fan powered gliders to fly in formation with flocks of geese they "imprinted" from the moment the goslings hatched. Imprinting is a bonding with the first living being the newborn sees and takes that being —bird or human— to be the mother. Many, but not all of the birds in the film were trained to trust their caretakers, to follow them on land and in flight and as a result the perspective we see and feel is one as though we are one of the migrating birds flying over the Sahara or the Arctic circle. If you rent the film, be sure to watch all the special features where you learn how this film was made and how the loving imprinting was done. Patterns of light, patterns of flight, patterns of notes played in the night, it's all connected. A symphony of opportunity plays to us at every moment if we take the time to listen.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

negation of the negation . . .

On a lesser scale than what Robert McKee had in mind when he borrowed the phrase "negation of the negation" to describe pushing a story past any point of predictable outcome in the midst of the highest possible conflict—in the photo above, Nature has found a way to negate the man-made confines of these metal walls that enclose a parking garage in Cambridge. The roots of this phrase go back to the Greek philosophers and have continued through the works of great thinkers. Engels said: "The law of the negation of the negation is a concrete form of the law of the unity of opposites, that is, the law of the struggle of opposites and the resolution of their contradiction." The film Pulp Fiction illustrates this concept when two warring characters— each on a mission to kill the other—are both captured by a third character who uses them in sadistic, life-threatening sexual games. One of the prisoners escapes, but returns to rescue his arch enemy. The two opposites have been bonded by their shared experience of being captured and tortured by the third character, bringing their conflict to an unexpected and satisfying resolution. That's enough philosophy for tonight, but I wouldn't have even thought about it if it weren't for taking a closer look at that garage wall as I ambled along toward the Kendall Theatre.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Proclaim your rarity to the world . . .

I was at a cookout this afternoon in Brookline and couldn't resist taking a picture of Jeannie's T-shirt and Karen's brand new tattoo. Og Mandino wrote a series of tiny books filled with big thoughts. One of the secrets to success that he shared was to "proclaim your rarity to the world." I've forgotten the others, but that one came to mind when I saw both of these images and met the people wearing them. They both were clearly proclaiming their rarity to the world.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Scars on our city . . .

As you must know by now, I'm fascinated by the aesthetics of decay. These two images are close ups of the crumbling surfaces on the concrete walls on Mass Ave that bridge the four lanes of Commonwealth Avenue that pass underneath. These decomposing walls got me thinking about not only city scars, but human ones, too.

How does one live this life and escape scarring? Even if we've managed to survive without scars on the body, there are always some internal ones: scars on the mind, scars on the heart. How many of us have phrases that were said to us by parents or lovers, or children—phrases that we can never forget? Hopefully, we have a balance between the ones that cut deep and the ones that have built us back up. For some reason, it's those deep verbal slashes, often said thoughtlessly, that fester and stay with us our whole lives, often casting spells over us in some psychic way.

Sometimes, I'll ask my writing students to make a list of four or five of those phrases, then have them pass their list to another writer in the group, and that writer picks one and creates a scene in which that phrase is uttered by some fictional character. It amazes me how someone who does not know the details of our personal history—cannot possibly know the context in which that scarring phrase was uttered—can show the truth of that scarring quote. Other times, students pick one of their own phrases and write for twenty minutes without worrying about grammar, spelling, or whether or not the resulting piece makes any sense. One night during this summer's workshop, I asked them to write about the history of a scar.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Argentinian Beauties in Boston . . .

Today's walk took a new route: over the Massachusetts Avenue bridge, but then I turned left and walked along the river until crossing over the Boston University Bridge, then down Commonwealth Avenue towards Kenmore square and home again. On the way, however, I was drawn into a shop with extremely large and stylish bags that had been calling to me for months every time I drove by the shop, but today I went inside. What I saw exceeded my expectations. These bags are all made in Argentina, some designed by the owner, Eva Barral. The shop—Las Cholas— is right across from Boston University at 708 Commonwealth Avenue. The prices range from $40 to $170, depending upon materials and whether or not the bag is made of 100% leather or a "green leather" composite that is a dead ringer for the real thing. What I liked about these bags was that they are comfortable to throw over the shoulder and to stuff to your heart's content. Some could even pass for an overnight bag for the weekend while during the week would look totally elegant with hardly anything in them. In addition to the bags, Las Cholas has a wide variety of jewelry and accessories like belts and scarves. You will see originals, here, and not knock-offs, so if you're looking for something roomy and elegant at the same time, don't speed by. Walk up the stairs and take a look. The prices are very good. I'll be back soon to give myself a summer gift once those first-of-the-month expenses are paid. Also, if you want to see the bags in greater detail, just click on the pictures and examine the blow up more closely.

While the city breathes some seem not to . . .

Today's walk started at North Station and meandered through the North End, past Haymarket and into the Quincy Market area. Drummers, dancers, and ladies standing very still added to the sense of a city alive and well, breathing in and out the glorious weather today.

Lisa and Cody of the Equal Exchange Café stood outside of North Station offering free samples of today's brew. I'll be back to cross the street and sit down inside the Café at 226 Causeway Street the next time I find myself in the neighborhood, but friends were waiting for me in the North End so I headed over to Endicott Street to meet Nancy and Paulina.

This is Paulina's handcarved front door. Her condo has enormous windows that let in wonderful light but with her solar shades we could see out and no one could see in. Then, we were off through Haymarket and then to Quincy Market where Nancy introduced me to vanilla chai made with soy milk. Creamy and sweet without the lactic attack.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A picture a day keeps boredom away . . .

As I write this blog tonight—far away from the scene from Hamilton's Asbury Grove pictured above—I can hear some muffled strains of music wafting through my window from Paul McCartney's concert in Fenway Park. Soon the pedicabs will be peddling by and a loud rumble of voices leaving the park will mix with honking horns and the sounds of gridlock as buses, cars, and pedestrians all mix together moving out from this hub to their respective destinations.

Maybe there will even be some people in the crowd who have driven in from Asbury Grove, a Methodist Summer Camp that has been in existence for over 150 years.

I learned about Asbury Grove several years ago when I visited my friend Dorene who lives there during the summer months. The outdoor pulpit above has been the scene of historic meetings at a time in our country when these religious camps flourished. To learn more about this historic place go to the website and download a powerpoint presentation that shows scenes from long ago. Below are a couple of shots from Dorene's house.

Back in the city on Tuesday, I found this stone lady inside a window on the corner of Fairfield and Newbury Streets.

Wednesday I found another "accidental composition" that I might want to title: Will Branding Ever Die? If you click on it and look at the details you'll see the subtle markings on the cigarettes that suggested the title.

This morning I had a great breakfast at Sofra Bakery and Cafe on Belmont Street in Cambridge. Great Turkish/Middle Eastern menu complete with Flower Tea. I had iced coffee with one of their sumptuous macaroons and the people at the next table allowed me to photograph their plates before they dug in. I've tried to go there many times, but it's usually packed. Today, however, at 11:30 a.m. was a perfect hour because there was no line.