Monday, January 31, 2011

Muse - Mary Oliver

West Wind #2

You are young.  So you know everything.  You leap
into the boat and begin rowing.  But listen to me.
Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without
any doubt, I talk directly to your soul.  Listen to me.
Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and
your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to
me.  There is life without love.  It is not worth a bent
penny, or a scuffed shoe.  It is not worth the body of a
dead dog nine days unburied.  When you hear, a mile
away and still out of sight, the churn of the water
as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the
sharp rocks – when you hear that unmistakable
pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth
and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls
plunging and steaming – then row, row for your life
toward it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


In the middle of the desert there is an oasis.  Water, lush foliage, and fan palms burst from the earth creating an environment that makes me giddy.  Dwarfed under forty-five foot trees and clusters of falling skirts, I'm transported to a land before time.  I imagine Indians building shelter from the trunks and expansive fronds as a hidden orchestra leads the brittle leaves in a symphony.  I envision Hawaiian girls swaying in the wind. The clump of trees gives way to rolling hills of sagebrush against a blue sky etched with clouds.  I'm thrust into a Merchant Ivory film wearing 19th century dress, a brimmed hat and impractical shoes, on a Sunday stroll liberated in the open fields.  The magic of the oasis is limitless.  It makes me want to set up an easel and capture the subtle range of greens, grays, and brown.  I get lost in the rhythm of the swooshing sand beneath my soles.  I've found heaven.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Guru in Me

Yogi Cameron came into my life at the precise moment I needed him most.  I was presented with a particularly challenging situation, one that triggered my ego, subsequently clouding my ability to make a sound decision.  Through yoga, mediation, breath work and conversation I was able to detach and move in the right direction.  Although my weekly practice with Cameron began almost two years ago and lasted for only several months, he made a lasting imprint on my life.  He was integral during my initial transformation and helped me see the path beneath my feet.  I'm still evolving, finding my way, but it's clear I'm making choices that reflect my awakening.  Reading Cameron's recently published book, The Guru in You, I'm aware again of the perfect moment.  The following passage resonated deeply when I read it this morning, so I reread it several times. 
When we attach ourselves to something or someone, we begin to feel the desperation and fear associated with not possessing it or them.  We do things that hinder our growth and distract ourselves from knowing who we really are under the egos we have created and that we believe in so much.
I recognize myself in the above statement, identifying why I experience tension in certain aspects of my life.  I'm fascinated by this realization and eager to practice detachment.  Forever grateful, Cameron.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Sometimes I forget I live in Hollywood.  Last night I was reminded.  What could have been a run-of-the-mill, average evening attending a book party was anything but.  My GPS guided me towards a large gated estate behind the Beverly Hills Hotel.  A long gravel driveway led to a fountain illuminated by candles, the entree to a breathtaking twenty room Mediterranean villa.  Whispered among the guests were tidbits about the mansion's history -- Buster Keaton built it for his wife Natalie in the 1920s, Cary Grant and Barbara Hutton once called it home, and it fell into disrepair during James Mason's ownership.  Although the house embodied perfection, a Google search revealed all of the marriages were pierced with infidelity and strife.  The echo of past trysts lingered in the intimate outdoor patios illuminated by eight foot tall wrought iron candelabras. Once again I found myself in the company of great artists -- Dali, Picasso, Wyeth, Kahlo, Magritte, Warhol, Renoir, Picabia.  They have been my companions, my guardians, the past month.   I was surprised, but delighted, to see them last night beautifully exhibited on every wall, in every room.  Yes, I hear the message loud and clear as if a demonstrator with a bullhorn is standing in front of me.  My forecast for twenty eleven is creativity, passion, beauty, and expression.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


While in NYC I finally made it to The High Line, an aerial greenway along the lower west side which didn't exist when I lived there 18 years ago.  How different the Empire State Building looked from this elevated platform.  Buildings whose doors and windows I passed on my morning walk were now fully exposed.  Architectural patterns floated in the sky.  Enchanted by this new perspective my numb extremities no longer occupied my mind.  I felt lighter, happier, inspired.  Slight adjustments can do that, the alteration was minimal, but the impact grand. Every day I get to choose from which angle I wish to view my life.  I can focus on the voids or the abundance.  I can be awed by the majestic skyscrapers or distracted by the dog shit on the curb.  I choose. Every. Day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Muse Monday - Stieglitz, Steichen and Strand

Recently saw the stunning photography exhibit Steiglitz, Steichen and Strand at The Met.  Pioneers of the medium, and cultivators of talent, particularly Steiglitz, the show was the perfect way to spend an icy winter's day.  I left energized and inspired and with camera in hand took a long walk home through Central Park firing my shutter along the way.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Art seems to be the central theme of my life these days, so it was fitting that I found myself at a party among artists, collectors, and dealers.  The celebration was for a new show focusing on Light and Space artists from California.  Yes, the gray January evening would benefit from some west coast light and warmth I thought as I entered the three story Victorian brownstone.  Nyehaus is unlike any other gallery I've visited and seems to be modeled after Alfred Stieglitz's Gallery 291.  The rooms were recently painted gray, the Corinthian columns white and the trim black to showcase the paintings.  Red silk runners and orchids decorated two large plywood tables in the dining room.  Salmon and braised vegetables were served among lively chatter ranging from the craft of negotiation, men who are ready to have children before their girlfriends, and rebellious adolescents.  Post dinner a handsome black man with a knitted cap rapped Alan Ginsberg's Howl.  Wine flowed and cigarettes were smoked indoors, a sight unseen in Los Angeles.  A band started to play on the third floor and a girl ascended the stairs with hoops.  The night was just getting started.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seen and Overheard

Sharing sidewalks and crowded subway cars with other Manhattanites is humbling, entertaining and cause for turning one into a germaphobe.  On a crowded morning 6 train a woman stood next to me engrossed in Bill Bryson's NEITHER HERE NOR THERE.  As if she was alone in her kitchen she stuck a stubby, nail bitten finger into the back of her mouth and unsuccessfully tried to dislodge a piece of food stuck in her tooth.  She sucked on her finger before removing it and replacing it on the subway pole.  A few seconds passed before she made another attempt.  Think of something pretty, clean and fresh I told myself.  Before I could get a cleansing thought in my head someone next to me hacked a bronchial cough.  I shuttered.  Soon I was out in the cold, CLEAN air.  On a street corner waiting for the light to change I overheard the following exchange.  "They call it Whole Foods, but it's nothing but nasty.  Everything tastes bad.  It's all bland.  Even the soda is nasty."  Walking through Central Park I saw an old couple, bundled up in coats, scarves and hats, reading.  They weren't waiting for a bus or a lunch date, they were just quietly reading their books on a park bench as if it was a beautiful, warm spring day.  Ah, Manhattan.

Monday, January 17, 2011

To Paint

I keep finding myself in white walled galleries staring at masterful artistic works.  Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Modernism, Post Impressionism.  I've unintentionally been on a three city tour and have seen some of the finest art in the world.  I think about the canvases in their original state, free of expression, awaiting their fate.  What happened in the days and hours prior to paint hitting the blank surface?  What thoughts swirled in the artist's mind?  What feeling was he/she trying to communicate?  What is the artist's point of view on light, isolation or tension?  Once completed what life did the artwork live?  What walls did it grace prior to finding itself in this particular museum -- a cold water flat on the lower east side of Manhattan, a salon in Paris, a cathedral in Spain?  I wonder about the day the piece was first unveiled for a lover's eyes, a critic's praise or the masses' assessment.  On the plaque next to the painting I glean bits of information -- the artist's age when the work was completed, who owns it, or bequeathed it to the museum.   I think about the courage it takes to commit one's life to making art.  How powerful the desire to create must be to go against convention and practical vocations.  The creative voices gushing like water down a gorge out of the mind and onto the canvas.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Phase two of putting away my parents' Christmas decorations led to horror as I ascended the unsteady steps leading to the attic.  The thought of my parents hauling heavy boxes of breakables up and down the steep stairs sent my imagination spinning.  I told them the attic was off limits for storage.  One side of their two garage would be the future warehouse for all things Christmas.  Sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffee at two in the afternoon, my mother complained to my cousins and several friends that I had been lecturing her about the perils of the attic stairs.  They were less than sympathetic.  "We've been telling her that for years."  "Maybe they''ll listen to you."  I picture my parents every holiday season sneaking around like elves, rebelling against rational advice, in order to fill their home with garland and joy.  I'm saddened by their limitations, but even more so by their inability to accept the truth and adjust their lifestyle accordingly.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Hero, Michelle Rhee

The riveting documentary WAITING FOR SUPERMAN sheds light on the forty year demise of public education in the United States.  It is truly baffling that this rich and powerful country is unable to proficiently teach its children.  I cried as I watched enthusiastic and bright students lose their only hope for a quality education, a lottery ticket to a local charter school.  A forlorn pit formed in my stomach and then I remembered  Michelle Rhee's recent endeavor, Students First.  As Chancellor of DC public schools Rhee battled with the powerful teachers' union, and concluded, “The purpose of the teachers’ union is to protect their members and to maximize their pay privileges. It is not to ensure the highest levels of student achievement.  The problem is that they’re advocating incredibly effectively and there isn’t another organized interest group in this country that has the heft that they do.”  Her goal is to give the reform community, essentially the interests of children, power and influence.  Her approach is brilliant for she is not trying to change the system, or abolish the teachers union.  Instead, she is leveling the playing field by creating a public interest group who will influence policy making on behalf of students in America.  Bravo!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Santa's Helper

After an early morning flight to the east coast and rush hour traffic on the NJ Turnpike I arrived at my parents' house in time for dinner.  I found them slower and more fragile than the last time I saw them, a mere six weeks ago.  The car accident has worn them out, aged them, and made it impossible for them to take care of simple domestic tasks like putting away the Christmas decorations. Well, simple is an overstatement. From a unlit crawl space behind a hall closet filled with winter coats I unearthed five large plastic bins filled with stuff -- bowls, vases, framed photographs -- that had been removed from shelves and table tops to make room for angels, Santas and snowmen.   Under my mother's direction, we made progress.  "I'm not doing all of this next year", she confessed.  "No you're not," I concurred, "It's too much." Too much stuff.  Too much effort.  Too much consuming, although she swears the majority of items were gifts.  I believe her.  Knowing my mother's philosophy -- if someone gives you something you display it -- I  comprehend how the holiday decorating had reached this level of absurdity.  "I wasn't even able to entertain this year, between the snow storm and the accident," she said with regret.  The twinkling tree and jolly St. Nicks were on display, but no one saw them.  The proverbial tree falls in the forest.  My mother's perfect presentation of Christmas is unseen, and the motivation to do it all again next year is thankfully questioned and hopefully not a distant thought next December.  Seven more bins, neatly stowed in the attic, await me tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This is My Life

I'm not in transition, or in between jobs, or anticipating my next relationship.   What used to be extraordinary is ordinary.  What used to feel like a vacation, a temporary breather from the rat race has become my life, and I like it.  I like it a lot.  I like the freedom and space to be, to think, to experience the little moments.  I'm forever grateful.  I'm eternally changed. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Muse Monday - Andre Kertesz

Spent several hours last week at the Andre Kertesz retrospective at the Jue de Paume.  The photographs were mesmerizing and inspiring.  His study of light and shadow, ability to capture seemingly unremarkable everyday people, and willingness to experiment with technique made him a pioneer in fine art photography.  I particularly responded to his philosophy -- I capture what I feel, not what I see.  Interestingly, his photographs were often misunderstood, especially from magazine editors who commissioned specific assignments.  Suffering from depression, Kertesz joins the ranks of tortured souls seeking connection and solace through creative expression.  Ironically, it's this very pathos that makes his images resonate. A happier Kertesz may have resulted in less poignant art.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


What to do when someone wants something from you that you're unwilling to give?  Is it selfish to hold one's ground?  Perhaps.  Or maybe it's what it means to have boundaries even if they are met with an unfavorable response.  That's the epiphany I had this morning when I realized the tension/conflict I'm experiencing in a relationship is because I've changed my behavior.  I'm not willing or interested in going to the same old well.  The proverbial dry shaft has nothing to offer me.  In fact, I find it draining, toxic and yet my desire not to go there has been met with strong resistance.  A weaker self would ponder if returning to the old familiar space is the lesser of two evils, and perhaps acquiesce in order to avoid the inevitable wrath that comes my way.  But I know better.  Suppressing my awareness and inclination are never the best path.  Yet, where do I go from here?  Is there a way to evolve from this impasse with grace and mutual satisfaction?  I hope so, but only time will tell.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Jet lag is nipping at my nose.  Falling asleep early, waking up in the dark, groggy by the time 7am rolls around.  Noon feels like 5pm, my head feels like it's bobbing under water.  Can't distinguish hunger from tiredness from ennui.  If it was only bright and yellow outside my window instead of cool and gray I may have more motivation to hike.  Crossing off things on my to-do list, trying to make most of my day, as I shoo my desire to nap away.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


After two weeks in Paris and London where I joined locals and tourists in cues outside of resplendent museums in frigid temperatures to glimpse a Monet, Kersatz or Basquit I returned to LA.  I was greeted by glorious late afternoon sunshine which melted into a neon pink and orange sunset over a clear and distant sea.  And that is why I have spent almost two decades in this city chocked with traffic, void of monumental architecture and stimulating pedestrian life.  I need to see the sun glowing on the hills in the morning.  I need to feel its warmth on my face through out the day.  I've lived in NY and London so I know what I'm missing, but it's what I've gained in California that I can't live without.  At first the realization made me feel superficial.  I live in a city because it's sunny?  Yes.  The sun makes me feel alive, energized, connected.  The more I thought about it my response no longer seemed superficial, but spiritual.  Hmmmm.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Spent several hours yesterday and today on the phone with various airline representitives trying to reroute my return flight from Paris.  Two days before the new year my parents were in a car accident in New Jersey.  Upon impact from another car their airbags deployed.  They were jolted, but thankfully not crushed. Emergency rescue workers transported them from their totaled car to the hospital where my mother remained for two days with a fractured sternum and bruises.  My father, who suffered a sprained knee, was able to go home that afternoon which happened to be his 82nd birthday.  Clearly, not the celebration they had in mind.  Receiving this news via email while on holiday thousands of miles away was disconcerting.  While gazing at Gauguin's portraits of Tahitian women I distractedly checked my iphone for updates.  I gained some comfort several hours later when I spoke to my cousin who had been at my parents side in the hospital and relayed the positive report from the doctors.  On the precipice of a new year I was reminded how fragile life is, how moments can leave a lasting imprint, and how unprepared I am for the inevitable consequences of time.  When I finally spoke to my mother the first thing she asked was "will you fly through Newark and see me?"  I need to hug at least one of my children."  Her voice cracked, exposing fear.  I told her I would, not realizing the logistical difficulties and cost prohibitive nature of my request.  My concern for my parents' well being, turned into frustration and a restless night's sleep.   I had to call my parents today and tell them I would not be seeing them tomorrow night, but I would get there as soon as I could.  Although disappointed they lovingly understood and wished me a wonderful last day in Paris.  And thankfully that's exactly what I had.

Monday, January 3, 2011


There's something about friends from childhood, friends who participated in those awkward experimental years when being silly and melodramatic were interchangeable.  Friends you saw every day in school, and spent Fridays plotting your weekend adventure.  Friends who celebrated the highs of young adulthood and were there to cushion the blow when life unexpectedly came crashing down.   I had dinner with such a friend tonight in Paris where she moved three years ago.   Post high school we traveled to different parts of the eastern seaboard, yet remained in frequent contact.  For several years we even overlapped in New York City, but in the last decade careers and families pulled us in different directions.  Yet on the Place Victor Hugo over a glass of wine, oysters and sea bass we reconnected as if we saw each other only last week.  Such familiarity comforts me, tethers me to the past and at the same time lets me know it's okay to keep moving forward.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Second Day of the Year

I awoke to a patch of blue and sunlight, unfamiliar sights reminding me if I stayed in London any longer I'd have to start popping vitamin D tablets.  Deep within I felt melancholy, a splotch of left over grief surprisingly rising to the surface.  An odd longing for what could have been, the what ifs playing in my head.  Given the choice I like to think I'd select the course I'm currently on, a risky path, the unknown.  I let the morning gloom wash through me as I took a grand walking tour of this city imprinted on my soul.  A familiar metropolis, in a past life sort of way.  And then magic happened.  Wandering into St. Paul's Covent Garden an orchestra was rehearsing Strauss and Hayden.  Flutes, clarinets and violins pierced the silence signaling to me I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  A perfect brisk winter's day, an ever changing backdrop of historic monuments and regal palaces while my soul reconciled with the past.