Monthly Archives: September 2012

Beating the Heat


September is a playful month. It presumes to promise Fall-the cool, crispness of air, the fresh unfolding of a new school year. Rosh ha Shana being around the corner I am amped on this season and the sense of new beginnings held out like a crisp green apple dipped in honey. Except that for days now September has played me for a fool!

Today Ben and I grabbed baby Aaron and drove to San Diego. It’s become a little ritual for our anniversary. Go south and buy a special piece of art or pottery from an artists village in Balboa Park. But we were unprepared for the hundred degree weather and the dearth of shade. Our picnic melted and we hung out in the air conditioned art museums.

Still, art was found. We bought some small, incised cylindrical vases from a favorite potter named Doug Snyder. And I found fresh inspiration in a Russian born painter, Igor Koutsenko. But the best art was the conversation – with Ben as we drove, sharing our artistic goals for the coming year – and once home, with the baby. Ok, the baby doesn’t talk yet in the grown up sense, but he’s very conversational. He wanted to draw and make a tent out of a giant brainstorm page I made. So out come the crayons and in comes the fullness of fun. Leave it to the baby to help me get my art supplies out and begin to draw!




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The Secret Place

When I was 10 or so I had this Asian-American friend named Bevin Lin. She was spunky, clever and brave. With her sleek black hair in a side ponytail, she was high style in the early nineties. Bevin and I had an obsession back then with finding and creating a special hideout, a secret place. We rode our bikes along the paths that flanked superbly boring stucco houses and it’s a tribute to the power of children’s imaginations that we were able to “see” these paths as as anything other than what they were. To us they were intricate and hidden, leading to mystery. We even made maps to our secret place. If I remember right our maps had something to do with the order in which we crisscrossed this or that cement walkway in order to unlock magic and take us to our secret place.

We never really discussed what was so important about this secret place. It was somehow a given. A place where we could be close to home-very much at home-and yet in a world apart. A place that would declare our pact of friendship and also provide solitude and scope for our imagination.

We never quite succeeded in finding this secret place but the act of looking thrilled us both. It was like the very fact that two of us together were seeking such a place proved that it existed. It wasn’t just my fantasy or Bevin’s. We both believed in the quest.

This afternoon while strolling little Aaron through shaded sidewalks I got to thinking about how the childhood urge for a hideout is present in the adult psyche. It isn’t to my mind the need for escape so much as a longing to go somewhere where you can tune out the world and tune into your own stillness. No, more than that. The secret place is about finding stillness and adventure. It’s a place you go to allow nature and heaven stir you, safeguard you, identify you and send you on your mission. Its the place where you can let heaven and nature sing to you in a mysterious, only-for-you-way. A place where you pause to listen with all you have. Like Bevin and I with our bikes and our maps, daring to believe in the magical other side of a beige apartment complex.

In my childhood brain magic was like another word for Heaven. Something magical encompassed all
the stuff that transcends this world and yet exists parallel; the infinite and the peculiar; where everything wonderful, amazing, awesome and beautiful originates. Invisible but utterly real, and just one imaginative thought, one hands’ breadth, apart.

When I was in my early twenties I used to go for these long morning runs I called “chasing the dawn”. As I put on my sneakers my eyes were on the sky. My course would be determined by where the morning light was leading. I was driven to find a place of beauty, where I could watch the Creator’s canvas unfold. Running toward a prime vantage point for the split second euphoria of light and color that is otherworldly. I would watch as up over the mountains peeled the sun, and in an instant, the spectacular exhibition was done. Daylight. A new, fresh morning. But on such mornings it felt nothing close to mundane. Now my eyes have seen-however brief and flickering-this touch of Heaven’s wand. I saw the magic. Even if no one else did. This was my secret place.

Now my life is so altered. I don’t have the liberty to run at the cusp of dawn. But still I hunger for the essence of the Secret Place. The place of tryst with heaven and nature.

It does exist. I catch glimpses here and there. Like the view, from the office/nursery window, of a magnificent tree that claps its thousands of hands when the wind blows through. Or sometimes it is the window into another world offered by the paintings that adorn our walls. Some days it is the corridor between two bookshelves in the local public library, where hundreds of adventures beckon from the stories they hold. I am grateful. Grateful that, as an adult and a mother now, the secret place is still only a handbreadth away at times.


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It’s unclear to me whether creative types (artists, writers, musicians and so forth) are more susceptible to self-criticism, depression, etc., than other sorts of people.  What is clear is that the inner critic is never more ready to pounce on my day than when I’m about to do something creative with my time.

It’s mid-day on a fresh, breezy Saturday.  I am in my swimsuit and a skirt (we went to the beach this morning) preparing to work on a canvas I’ve started.  A pretty big one.  Maybe 3′ square.  The composition is sketched out and I’ve applied the base color layers. The subject of the painting is a sequel to one I made in 2009 with me and Ben and Santa Barbara in the background and all of these magical goldfish swimming through the sky.  In the new painting Ben and I are actually inside a giant fish, swimming through a dynamic sunset over our city, Laguna Beach.  (We recently moved back to the city where we met and fell in love.  A city I’ve wanted to settle in since the moment I laid eyes on it.  It’s marvelous here). 

Before I get to work though, I find my thoughts heavy.  You know, the kind of thoughts that weigh you down with accusation.  You’re no good.  You are so selfish, rude, bad-mannered…you are hopeless!  Ugh.  What a weight of doom.  On a bad day, a day when my cumulative sleep-deprivation from hungry-at-night baby has not had respite, I’m not too great at extinguishing this ill-speaking blaze.  There are days when it goes from tiny spark to a forest fire in the soul and I let myself get burned by the inner dialogue.

But not today.  It occurs to me that these thoughts are very likely not healthy and certainly not helpful.  I do wish I were more unselfish, modest, well-mannered and more of a listener than a talk-your-head-off chatterbox.  However, there is a mustard seed of faith in me that tells me I was born for better stuff than this negative thinking.  So I am sitting at my computer and opening a small Bible with this really cool magnetic cover on it.  Here’s what I see: (and this is my “heart” translation – not the literal text, but I think it is accurate):

Psalm 39:7

The hopelessly selfish earthling asks: “So, LORD, what hope do I have?”

The Wonderful Creator answers: “Me. 

I’ve got your back.  I’m not ashamed of you, even when you behave badly.  I get you and I like you.  A lot.  Don’t worry.  I really AM your hope.  And anything and everything good in you comes from Me.  Just dial in.  I’m your Hope and I’m your Source.  My love is the ‘beauty that fills all spaces.’  My love in you is stronger than your human weakness. And if you let it, My love can pour out of you and touch others’ lives.” 

Pfew.  What a relief.  Now on to my painting.  And for the record G-d, thank You.  You really are the best Counselor in the whole universe.

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