Category Archives: Uncategorized

November Have I Loved

 

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The very last day of November.  November with its welcome chill air. November of strong winds and wild leaves.  November forests the color of flames and sun and cinnamon. I love November as the arc of the year braces into winter. As our bodies crave warmth beneath bundles of clothes. As we take note of home, hearth, heat.  Our spirits too reflect inward. A time to guard the flame of our being.

Many people I know are searching. Searching for guidance as we pursue dreams and ideas. Searching for answers when the wisdom lies hidden. The paths are unknown. Forerunners searching in open country, we wonder if we wander. Or are we exactly where we’re supposed to be?

Many I know are afraid. We are afraid to admit we are afraid.  Systems revealed as corrupt. People armed with weapons, words. We hurl them at each other, but I feel the enemy is not the other. The enemy is in all of us.  In our capacity to betray ourselves and all humanity.  The enemy is our capacity to forget; our incapacity to forgive. Our capacity for cruelty, deception, ruthless self-promotion.  Much easier to point the finger at all the evil in the world and say: die! Be removed foul contender! So much harder to place palm over my own heart and say, “Be truthful. Be open. Be cleansed.”

My heart says: “Pray. Pray for your enemies. Pray and bless and do not curse.” My Teacher taught us this and it is a hard teaching. Pray for the ______________? Fill in the blank. Who seems the great opponent? You can hear it in how we talk these days.  The enemy is the other party, the opposing ideologues, the systemic injustices, the invading hordes, the intricate cover-ups, the outrageous bribery, the ostensible ignorance. Whatever it is, my Teacher says pause. Cease plotting and pray. He says, “in this world people tell you to love your neighbor, hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

November. Thanksgiving. Hoarding. Fear. Courage. Hatred. Love. War. Peace.  Goodwill. Can a soul travel from one end of the spectrum to the other? Is it possible to love those who oppose and oppress you?  I will try. And may humble prayer, like the kindling of a nascent November hearth, begin to warm the cold places in my heart. May prayer release currents of wisdom, compassion, liberty, justice and every good thing, toward every man, woman and child, in this land, and everywhere. On this good earth.

 

 

 

 

A Song for Shabbos

The creek by Geronimo Park, a wonderful playground in our new neighborhood

The creek by Geronimo Park, a wonderful playground in our new neighborhood

It has been eleven days since I left Laguna Beach, and California, my beloved native land.  But I find myself in a high place surrounded by trees and birdsong, and I am home.  Our new address in the Austin hill country is like a cross between Bluebird Canyon in Laguna and Mount Hermon, in the Santa Cruz mountains.  We’ve been baptized by a mighty southwest thunderstorm, and we are home.  The kids are playing with Brio trains on the floor (well, Aaron plays and Tovah sits and watches on) and we are home.  My mother in law Mindy is preparing a delicious meal while I stand at the breakfast bar and type, and we are home.

To all of you who touched my life in California, I miss you profoundly and think of you often.  To all of you who have blessed our move with strong arms and warm welcome, thank you, you are so wonderful!  Most of all, to God my Savior, thank you.  You have always been my Guide and you have brought us safely to this new haven.  Your presence is the joy of my life.  No matter where I go, You are the One who makes hearth and home.

The last Friday I was in Laguna, Pastor Jay Grant of Church by the Sea organized a beautiful send off.  In the little “upper room” where so much of my life in Laguna began, Pastor Jay and others surrounded me with prayers and affirmations of love.  I was moved by the remembrances of these dear people.  Pastor Jay even brought forth a poem I wrote years ago – and forgot!  What struck me was the way that the Upper Room and the people of Church by the Sea had been the catalyst for a whole period of my life in which I wrote poetry and plays, participating in the creative life of worship of a truly artistic church.

It seems fitting tonight, as we enter into Shabbat in this our new home, to share this poem with you.

Come East, Come West

(a psalm for the Bridegroom)

Come East, Come West

Sister Water, Brother Fire

Ageless stars, Eternal ones!

High above our planet floor.

May I sing with you tonight?

May my mind perceive these thoughts 

Too beautiful for me

Heaven is your throne O Everlasting Father

Your Voice is the speed of Light

Your passion undoes the grave

O King of the Mysteries

Be extolled, be exalted, be blessed

By every creature here below

From this earth I cry to You

Maker of Sea and Stone, Glass and Fire

The thundering speed of the Stallion

The graceful leap of the Doe

The spirited songs of Sparrows rising

The noble strength of the Bear

You are the Poet of the Universe

The Father of Night and of Day

You shall train my hands for war

You shall teach my heart to fear

You shall speak such love inside me

And I will love you here:

With all my Mind, with all my Soul, with all my Strength

Blessed be your Name in all the Earth.

Recovering a Sense of Wonder

View from Heisler Park this morning

View from Heisler Park this morning

See the long shadows from the palm trees?  Long shadows and crisp salty air means a special morning in Laguna.

I am on a walk with my son.  It’s been one of those rare moments when awe strikes me.  Unexpectedly, fleeting as it is, but real awe all the same.

I was lying on the couch between 6 and 7 am, hoping to eek out a few more minutes of sleep.  Aaron toddles over and stares at me with these curious eyes, so full of his own personality now.  Tracing my nose, thinking his thoughts.  Amazing.  I get to thinking: two years ago you barely existed!  You were a tiny embryo, woven together in perfect structural order, cell by cell.  Now here you are, running, walking, climbing, choosing, delighting.  Talking fluently in your distinct form of proto-English.  You are a miracle!  A downright miracle!

Now we are strolling by the seashore.  Morning mist recedes over crisp, blue-grey tides.  A flock of gulls rests on the surface of the water about a hundred feet out.  Two treasure seeker comb the sand with their metal-detecting devices.  Aaron cries out gleefully at some kids playing in the “Tidepools” (Laguna Beach’s newly built playground).  Soon enough he’ll be running about here himself, climbing up the kids’ version of the iconic lifeguard tower, or playing pirate as he scampers over a crustacean encrusted rope bridge.  But for this moment, in the clear air of morning, I’m exceptionally grateful for Aaron’s chilled out vibe.

If I were a bird I would burst into a love song right now.  I love you Laguna Beach!  I love you life!  I love you Today!  Blessed Friday!  Blessed breath!  Blessed heartbeat!  I’m alive today and I feel it.  I cannot summon words to express all this joy.  Thank You Abba, Father, Creator of Life!  Shabbat comes tonight…may Your whole creation rejoice together with you as we enter into this Restful Delight!

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View of the new playground, with downtown Laguna Beach in the background

The Dinner Party, a Poem

I do not have any photograph to remember the scene by

So words will have to suffice

To render what love it was to be with you, All

Around a table served with color, lights and spices

Where the candles of christmas glinted back to us

through life-sized figures, drawings framed in glass

And water filled our wineglasses but chai spiced our lips

And dreams after long drought lifted on wings of words

Hope sprung like fish flying over the mismatched dishes with gilded rims

And we believed in this, again: humanity, camaraderie, hospitality

Making room, like a womb, it’s such a wanted tune

A melody to make glad the soul, lost amid modernity

My Peace I give to you, but not as the world gives

Says Jesus at a table with His friends

Such peace as we might find on this winter night, despite

Tragedy that wracks our land like a calloused demonic hand

I know.

There is such a thing as light, and dark

And the two contrast each other and frame the door

The door filled with light

Come inside I say to my soul

Outside in the cold, my soul is weary of the youth-glorying facade,

the numbness of innumerable vanities,

the shallow trade-off for an illusion of power

For true art must always have true humanity

Let fall the mask, your voice, your face

Is beautiful in this light

Tonight, says the door leading to you all

We will see each other as a painter might

And this our palette, filled with myriad color but all is one

One color: the color of love

 

Brooklyn Morning; Manhattan Afternoon

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I slept in as best I could while flanked by a little wiggly toddler and woke to a fine clear day in Brooklyn. Around 11 Rebekah (that’s my sister-in-law) and I put our little boys in their strollers and walked along streets like Prospect Ave and Windsor, past two story brick houses with curved glass windows, and colorful wood houses with small enclosed gardens. We dined on savory miniature pies at Dub Cafe and bought crisp-as-heaven, sweet-as-honey apples from the farmer’s market. Then onto a walk in Prospect Park.

I kept thinking as we were walking how grateful I was to be having this experience. For one, I am inspired by my sister-in-law and glad for the chance to get to know her better. For another, I am in a lovely section of Brooklyn, the weather is unusually mild for November, and my 13-month old son is cooperating brilliantly.

For lunch Rebekah made the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve ever had, made even more memorable by freshly-sliced gala apples on the side.

And then I took off with baby Aaron to try finding my way into Manhattan.

Whatever the reputation of New Yorkers as being rushed and unfriendly, I certainly met many kind strangers today. At the subway entrance a young guitarist helped me carry the stroller downstairs and offered pleasant conversation for most of the ride. Every time I got off the train, someone if not more than one person, kindly offered to help. And with the aid of a fantastic free app (Embark NYC), I had super easy-to-follow instructions for each step of my uptown journey.

My destination: 25 Central Park West. A beautiful gallery on the corner of 63rd and Central Park. As I approached my beautiful friend Lisa Raineywas visible in the rear of the gallery, hanging works of art.

Lisa is working to arrange and install a special exhibit which opens tomorrow night. As implied by its title (Converge: Where Classical and Contemporary Art Collide) the exhibit features painters of today who work at the intersection of refined, classical technique and contemporary content and themes.

Lisa will never admit to this, but she really is a genius when it comes to hanging a show. A brilliant painter herself, she’s also a kind of a visual choreographer. Her work of art tonight was the poetic interaction of the various paintings next to each other.

As I joined her for a few hours to offer what help I could, the passersby began to take note.

First one, then two, then as many as 12 different people, all of them residents of this part of Manhattan, came in for a sneak preview of tomorrow’s opening. All were amazed and in awe. Something beautiful was happening. We were witnessing busy, wealthy New Yorkers compelled off the street and face to face with art that was edifying them in some profound way. I was thinking about Isaiah’s words: oh you afflicted city, tossed with tempest and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. Could it be that in a city still shaken by the rage of a hurricane, 30 artists bring a balm of hope and healing? Oh let it be so.

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New York City: Arrival and First Impressions

We’ve arrived safely and I’m thrilled head to toe and soul to spirit to be here. New York has an amazing soul…I can’t put my finger on it but there’s something about the energy of this place that I find very bright and optimistic in a different way than anywhere I’ve ever been. In California the quality and quantity of light inspires optimism. The expanse of sea and the vibrancy of the colors breathes relaxation and playfulness and freedom. But here it’s something else…as if New York City holds in a condensed moment of history and humanity, all the energy of myriads of people’s hopes and dreams for a new and better life.

So much more to ponder and explore on that topic…

After a genuinely pleasant flight on Jet Blue (they really do have more legroom in coach than any other airline), we landed at JFK airport. It being late and having baby Aaron in tow, I took a cab over to Brooklyn. From the taxi window I could see the skyline of Manhattan. In the late autumn night the lights look cheerful and orchestrated. And I found myself pondering the way nature had prepared the land where those steel giants rise–a basin of ancient, once-molten rock lies under much of Manhattan. By night as the city lights glitter, the man made marvels seem a fitting tribute to the earth that undergirds them. And then I see the Empire State, and remember that the Twin Towers are no longer present, and consider how vulnerable we all are, as humanity, as fellow creatures living upon this earth. This great city built upon tough metamorphic rocks can be wounded, too.

From a fleeting glimpse through the taxi window I saw her–the Statue of Liberty–for the first time. Like the Manhattan skyline she was lit up for her evening appearance. Even from this rapid, distant vantage point I found myself moved. Lady Liberty…what a symbol for a city. No wonder I am moved by the soul of this place. Many cities I have visited have a masculine symbol, but not here. Which is interesting if I think about it. New York can appear so harsh and jaded and fast paced and no-nonsense. But it also has this maternal, graceful, regal femme symbol that is known through all the world. It’s like a picture of human ambition (the energy of the skyscrapers, the commerce, the buzzing punctuality, the strength of ideas) converging with mercy (the emblematic welcome to immigrants, the hopes and dreams of mothers and fathers, families and cultures). Fascinating.

My brother- and sister-in-law live in a charming brownstone in Brooklyn. Built in the 1920s, it has gleaming wood floors and many small rooms adjoined one after another. Within it feels surprisingly spacious, for the ceilings are high and the doorways are mostly double-wide (in bygone days there must have been French doors dividing the main rooms).

After I arrived we spent time watching our sons get to know each other. Aaron mostly scampers about after Sam, who is 3. Nathan who is Ben’s brother is a programmer for a design firm and Rebekah writes Young Adult fiction. I know it’s going to be a wonderful five days here.

It’s past midnight New York time. Everyone, including Aaron, is asleep. Except me, and I shall soon follow suit.

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October Brings Good News: 6 Reasons to Rejoice

Six things have happened since Rosh Ha Shana that give me good feelings about Hebrew year 5773:

1 – I started an Artist’s Way group with about 10 phenomenal women.  We meet downtown Laguna on Monday nights and each week I am amazed at the depth, courage and wisdom of these gals.  What’s more, I cannot wait for their creative endeavors to succeed:  we’re talking about original novels I would want to buy and read, a book of contemporary etiquette/cooking that re-invites sociability, a body of art using raw linen dyed in fantastic designs, a narrated collection of original photographs of Paris, and so on.  This is what Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way says about creative circles:

Artist’s often help each other.  We always have, although mythology tells us otherwise.  The truth is that when we do, very powerful things happen (p. 220).

2- I’ve begun a business plan for something I’ve dreamed of.  Something I went to Harvard to try to learn more about how to do.   I know it will come forth at its proper time and my heart is aflutter with its possibilities.

3- With the income from the Artist’s Way group plus some amazing discounts provided by my hero of an older brother (a tech support genius for Apple), I have a new laptop which I am at this moment utilizing with great alacrity.

4- We finally acquired a car with 4 doors!!!! No more backbreaking bending and twisting to toggle the increasingly heavy baby’s carseat into the back of our Scion hatchback.  Hallelujah!

5- The baby has learned to feed himself with a spoon.  This may not seem very important, but aside from being hilarious to behold (think pin the tail on the donkey…where is my mouth?  Sweetie pie, it’s not on your head. Nope, it’s not on the brick wall behind you either. There you go, open wide, bingo!) This signifies a growing trend of happy appetite from my hitherto reluctant consumer of solid foods.  The future prognosis: fuller tummy = longer periods of rest; mommy and daddy may once again know the pleasure of a full night’s uninterrupted sleep.

6- Aaron and I are going to New York City! I’m jumping on the band wagon of a powerful art opening to be installed by my painter friend Lisa Rainey and curated by former senior editor of American Artist magazine, Allison Malafronte.  This show, called Converge, is probably one of the most important exhibitions of the decade.  I feel dizzy in the strength of intuition’s pull that I go and be part – and for the wonderful opportunity to see my sister in law, author Rebekah Faubion, as well as Aaron’s uncle Nathan and cousin Sam, my college friend Mia Hall, and to meet up with Laguna’s own Sandra and Natasha Weir on the East Coast in fall glory.

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There is this amazing girl who I met years ago through an Artists Way group hosted at Rainey Fine Art Gallery. Jennifer Tenace is her name and her soul is deep and lovely. She’s living down in Chile as an English language teacher, and always, seeing the world through her unique lens as an honest, open, artistic soul. This post speaks to me and anyone I think who is finding that the real “groove” of life is finding ourselves ok with just being ourselves and receiving what life has to give us. Enjoy!

Chica Tranquila

Okay, so I’m really struggling to keep up with this blog and I can’t figure out why.  I love to write and I want to continue it.  But why can’t I make it come together as easily as it did, say, 6 months ago?  Every time I sit down to write, I find myself remembering to do things like pay for my storage space or worse…I dedicated an hour yesterday to skype Sallie Mae about my student loan payments….not to mention relentlessly checking the latest Facebook posts and finding new things to like.  Still, I am insistent on getting one more blog post in by June (and that leaves only one more day!).

I guess without being self critical (as I could call myself lazy)…I like to think that my circumstances have changed a lot from when I began writing on here.  Last year I suspect I used it more…

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Hopeless?

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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