Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Aline Smithson

I'm slacking off on my photography.  Not feeling very inspired to shoot self portraits or anything else for that matter.  I don't want to be the kid on Christmas who quickly tires of her new toy.  So in need of a creative kick in the pants I signed up for a workshop taught by Aline Smithson.  I became acquainted with Aline several months ago at a benefit auction when I bid on and won her photograph above.  I've been smitten by her artistic vision and blog LENSCRATCH ever since.  Her homage to Whistler's Mother is absolutely brilliant.  I'm  anticipating the class with a mix of excitement and apprehension, a feeling I've come to rely on as an indicator that I'm heading down the right path. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Muse Monday - Anna Wili Highfield

Anna Wili Highfield is an Australian paper sculptor.  While pregnant with her daughter and in need of decorating the barren room, she was inspired to construct her first fairy wren.  Her life size animals are created through a process: first she applies a multilayered stain and wash to cotton paper, then the paper is torn, and finally the scraps are sew together.  The best lesson Anna has learned along the way is "to spend more time making than thinking".  She was influenced by the several years she spent as a scenic artist at Opera Australia and her father, a puppeteer.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


After completing THE WISHING YEAR I reached for the next book on top of my nightstand, TEN POEMS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE.  A lofty title, I thought, but by page two of Roger Housden's introduction my highlighter was racing across the page, my jaw agape.
So this is a book that aims to alert readers to whisperings under their own skin, hunches in their own gut.  It is not for poetry lovers alone, but for everyone who knows there is more to life than they are presently living.  I intend it as a book of inspiration and awakening.
I was certain Roger was speaking directly to me.   I literally felt my heart releasing as I read these lines from Mary Oliver's The Journey
though the voices around you
          keep shouting

          their bad advice --

          though the whole house

          began to tremble

          and you felt the old tug

          at your ankles.

          "Mend my life!"

           each voice cried.

           But you didn't stop.

and Housden's analysis
A journey like this goes against the prevailing current.  It requires you to step out of line, to break with polite society.  Other people will feel the ripples, and they won't like it.  Any authentic movement usually requires a break with the past -- not because the past is bad, but because it is so difficult for a deeper truth to make itself known among the accretions of habit and conformity.

Brilliant!  And this was only the beginning.   I had to force myself to put the book down, pause, take a break and savor this literary work.  In The Time Before Death Kabir writes
If you don't break your ropes while you're alive
          do you think

          ghosts will do it after?

Housden's analysis gave me goosebumps
The ropes that bind you are your beliefs and preconceptions about how life is.  Kabir is urging you to break free of your belief systems and unexamined attitudes.  Whether you are on the brink of welcoming the inner lover, or in the midst of a challenging situation in your daily life, the sky will always grow bigger when you loosen your beliefs about how it is all meant to go.  Nothing can be more life changing than an escape from your own preconception.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I'm prone to boredom and have made many decisions in my life to ward off ennui.  As I've gotten more still, and my life has become quieter I realize I wasn't only chasing away restlessness, I was chasing away tranquility.  Everywhere I turn I'm reminded how good I have it, how free my life is from chaos, conflict and toxicity.  The trick is to keep moving forward, and to make decisions while maintaining this state of being.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Art of Napping

To nap in the afternoon, preferably on a couch with a decorative pillow under my head, is my definition of luxurious perfection.  The inimitable feeling of heavy eyelids succumbing to slumber is pure  heaven.  I court drowsiness, cajoling it into my day by lounging with a book, script or magazine, the secret portal.  I have no desire to chase it away with caffeine.  I often awake from a nap not knowing where I am, groggy as if drugged.  Thirty minutes could have passed or two hours.  Part of me is in another dimension as I walk into the kitchen to check the clock.  Fragments of feelings and conversations from I depth I no longer fully access remain as I try to gain full consciousness.   I like being caught between these two worlds. This is high on the list of things I will miss when I return to work.  I will still create space for naps, build them into my schedule on the weekends, but the daily indulgence will undoubtedly come to an end.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I'm filled with ease, contentment and joy this morning as I slowly wake and bask in the gradual blooming of  another summer day.  It's similar to a memory I have from my youth.  The morning alarm clock was silenced, the rush to get to the bus stop abandoned for three blissful months.  I'd wake to the sound of my parents' getting-ready-for-work routine, but wait until the house was quiet before getting out of bed, greeting the endless hours of possibility.  I'd lounge, read, talk on the phone before pedaling my bike to the local swim club to hang out with my friends.   Over the  years, I've longed for that memory to seep from the past into the present.  A seemingly simple wish, yet it would mean the chaos and stress from my hectic schedule no longer existed.  I wasn't wishing for a vacation, for life to be put on hold.  I was wishing for a change.  I'm reminded of this while reading Nicole Oxenhandler's THE WISHING YEAR, a memoir chronicling her deliberate attempt to make three very different wishes come true -- the wish for a house, the wish for a new love, and the wish for spiritual healing.  She approached her journey with an equal mix of skepticism and hope.  As her wishes started to manifest she wondered if it was due to her actions, like putting her wish list under her pillow or viewing properties that were for sale, or if the shift was completely random.   Researching her subject matter she found there is indeed a power to the ancient art of wishing.  Energy attached to a wish, even in the simplest form, can result in change.  Within twelve months all of her wishes had come true.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I was intrigued by a conversation I had last night with a friend who is unabashedly clear about what gets him out of bed in the morning, the desire to make money. Making a comfortable living doesn’t interest him. He only has eyes for attaining great wealth. Like an Olympian in training, he eliminates any perceived distractions in his path. I have no doubt his quest will be realized, but I wonder if he’ll be satisfied with the end result. Of course my examination of his choices led me to question the role money plays in my life. How much will a paycheck dictate my next career move? How much money do I need to be happy? According to a 2009 San Francisco University Study, “money can lead to greater happiness for the person possessing it and those around them, if it is used to buy experiences, not possessions.” This has indeed been my understanding, particularly in the past year. Money has afforded me a year sabbatical resulting in oodles of pleasure. Financial success has given me financial freedom, a status I can’t sustain at this juncture, but a goal that could ironically get me out of bed in the morning.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Muse Monday - Walter De Maria

Last summer I embarked on a road trip to New Mexico to experience Walter De Maria's The Lightning Field.  Constructed in 1977, De Maria's goal was to create an environment where landscape and nature, light and weather would wed and become an intense, physical and psychic experience.  Arriving at the DIA office in Quemado, our cars were left behind as the caretaker drove us in his mud encrusted SUV to a refurbished homesteader's cabin where we would remain for the next nineteen hours.   Although cozy with a well stocked kitchen, it was evident from the hard wooden benches and sturdy chairs that our pilgrimage was not about getting snug indoors.  Beyond the wooden windows the field beckoned.  Four hundred polished, stainless steel poles sprung from the earth like neatly planted corn stalks in a 1 mile by one kilometer grid.  Evenly spaced 220 feet apart, my steps between the posts became measured, my mind cleared, my breath slowed.  I was as enthralled by the installation as I was by the immense sky.  On the outer edge of the scape,  mountain ranges loomed haloed by cumulus crowns.  I had never known silence until this moment.  During my visit I spent inordinate hours walking in the field, observing the effect of the setting and rising sun on the steel rods.  My experience was profound, as intended.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Marking Time

Twenty four hours ago I cracked open the spine of the novel ONE DAY by David Nicholls.  I was immediately hooked on the tale of Emma and Dexter whom the reader meets on the same day over a period of twenty years.  The darkening sky outside my window signaled the passage of time.   I turned on a few lights and quickly prepared dinner not wanting to be away from the characters for too long.  By midnight my eyes were dry and scratchy.  Reluctantly, I retired to bed.  I intentionally woke up early to sift through a few more chapters before meeting a friend for a hike.  Em and Dex ambled on the trail with me, their banter fresh in my head.  I devoured the rest of the book before leaving the house again for an afternoon appointment.  ONE DAY underscores a familiar paradox-- how little things seem to change day to day, yet year to year monumental leaps have often been taken.  Two years ago, I had the opportunity to meet with a person who has been a profound source of inspiration.  In the moment, I knew our conversation would have a significant impact on my life.   And it did, but in ways I could never have anticipated.  A year later, to the day, I started my unplanned sabbatical.  Twelve months later my life unfolds as a gift of easy, uncomplicated days.  Stressed and exhausted, words I frequently used to describe my state of being, no longer appear in my vocabulary.   I spontaneously make plans, the benefit of a flexible schedule.  I am well rested.   Yes, well rested.  A condition I didn't think I'd experience again until old age.  Tomorrow's splendor awaits and I wonder which, if any, seemingly innocuous moments will have a noteworthy influence on my life a year from now.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I took my first yoga class in the late '80s at my neighborhood health club in NYC.  Why I chose to take this class in place of my habitual step aerobics escapes me, but I do recall the teacher's bohemian leotard and watching the clock tick during an endless hour of breathwork.  I diverged from my routine and quickly concluded sighing like a lion and puffing my stomach out with each exhale wasn't for me.  My next attempt at yoga was in LA in the mid '90s.  Power Yoga was taking the city by storm and my fellow spinners were all praising the new trend.  There was a cult like energy in the hot, packed room and a hush greeted the instructor as he strode to the platform.  I'm certain I rolled my eyes.  The pace was chaotic and guidance limited.  I left frustrated and concluded, once again, yoga is not for me.  In the following years I witnessed many friends benefit from the practice.  I envied the body and mind rewards they reaped.   I wanted to partake, but my prior experiences kept me away.  Slowly, I opened myself up to trying again.  I started with basic classes, subscribed to YOGA JOURNAL and went on weekend retreats.  My experiences were inconsistent as was my commitment, but I did begin to understand the allure.  In the past year I have made yoga a priority.  The changes in my body and mind are both subtle and significant.  I'm grateful I've been able to work through my ego and commit to a practice I've been seeking for decades.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Muse Monday - Ruth Bernhard

At 22 Ruth Bernhard left Germany for New York City and began to seriously pursue a career in photography.  But it wasn't until 8 years later when she met her muse, Edward Weston that her perception of photography changed forever.
I was unprepared for the experience of seeing his pictures for the first time.  It was overwhelming.  It was lightning in the darkness . . . here before me was indisputable evidence of what I had thought possible  -- an intensely vital artist whose medium was photography.
Bernhard worked primarily in black and white shooting the naked female form.  Ansel Adams called her, "the greatest photographer of the nude".  I happen to agree.  She died in 2006 at 101 years old.  Her glorious images will live on forever.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

All You Need is Love

What I thought was a typical summer party last night turned out to be a surprise wedding.  The couple's home, a former hunting lodge in Montecito Heights, was transformed by sparklers, illuminated stars and candles into a magical setting for their nuptials.  Spirits were festive as family and friends entered the hillside garden and realized an exchange of vows was imminent.  At dusk, the bride and groom took center stage and pledged their future to each other.  After a champagne toast, yummy Indian food was served. A traditional cake cutting ceremony occurred later in the evening.  The homemade confection was devoured.  Seconds were had by some.  The chill in the air was tempered by several fire pits and the power of love.   Congratulations Ethan and Amber!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Comfort in Pain

Last night I attended a gallery opening on Chung King Road, a pedestrian street in Chinatown at the north end of downtown Los Angeles. Several years ago a weekend art opening would have been the   impetus for other gallery and boutique owners to open their doors and show off their wares. A festive atmosphere would have spilled into the walkway illuminated by strands of red paper lanterns. Last night, the remaining store fronts were dark and vacant their doors blocked by metal gates. Overhead, rows of lights needed bulbs replaced underscoring the unfilled promise this art space once held. What happened to the revitalization of this neighborhood? Did the recession chase it away or will the art scene always have difficulty cultivating roots in this town ruled by entertainment? Thankfully all wasn't lost in the evening's quest for inspiration. The first piece I viewed in the gallery was vintage Jenny Holzer circa 1977 and brilliant.
When you start to like pain things get interesting.   Pain is the common result of a subordinate position.  Traditionally, suffering is uncomfortable and undesirable.  Perhaps it is more intelligent to cultivate pain as a means of liberation?   Is it possible that enjoyment of pain can be subversive?  When one does not fear pain, one cannot be manipulated.  When aroused by suffering, one can control any relationship.  When agony ceases to be a barrier, death is not forbidding.  The implications are marvelous.  Pain is not oppressive, but strengthening and most sublime.  It is necessary only to deny the pleasure/pain dichotomy. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

This Moment

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I've been a fan of Maira Kalman's illustrations, particularly her whimsical New Yorker covers for some time, but it was her love letter to George Washington in her Pursuit of Happiness blog that made her worthy of idolatry.
George and Martha entertained constantly. Martha wore fancy shoes. They loved each other. Martha would join him at winter camps during the war. They had many dogs. One of them was named Sweet Lips.
Her first museum exhibit will arrive in LA in the fall, but luckily I didn't have to wait that long and caught the show in SF last week. I was giddy with anticipation, and thankfully it did not disappoint. Hundreds of Maira's quirky, imperfect illustrations were on view. Giggles could be heard from the galleries. Although her drawings are childlike her subject matter is never trivial.  Kalman refers to her work as a form of journalism, an ongoing account of the world as she sees it.  I'm deeply inspired by her blend of wit and insight, wrapped in meandering narrative, executed in gouache.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I've decided to dip my toe back into the pool of working executives by consulting at a cable network.  I kicked off my part time gig today with a lunch meeting at a popular sushi restaurant in the valley.  It was like returning to the high school cafeteria after a severe bout of mono. Recognizable faces peered out from many of the tables.  Chatter about ratings, writers and the recent resignation of a network president could be overheard.  I marvel at how easily I replaced the business lunch with a hike in the hills followed by a home cooked late afternoon meal.  Without difficulty I had let go of the routine, and the dialogue that accompanied it.  I marvel at how easily I slipped back into the conversation today and how much enjoyment I received from accessing this familiar part of my brain.  When the restaurant began to clear as if a bell had rung to signal the next period I didn't have to rush back to an office for a meeting.  Instead I drove to the farmers market and filled my satchel with ripe stone fruit and fragrant herbs.  What to cook for dinner was the only thought in my head.