Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Pianist

Lisa Jura & Michael Golabek
Something extraordinary took place last night. Fred and I went to the Royal George Theater in Chicago and became part of a community of listeners to a riveting and musical account of the early life of Lisa Jura, renowned concert pianist.
The Pianist of Willedsden Lane is told, through stories and classical piano music, by Mona Golabek, daughter of Lisa Jura and Michael Golabek.
 We were transported for 90 minutes as Mona, taking on the mantle of her mother and the rich characters that surrounded her during the war,told the story of her mother's flight to London and subsequent years in a youth hostel. 
Lisa Jura was one of 10,000 children brought to London right before World War ll as part of Kindertransport, a mission to rescue children throughout Europe, threatened by the Nazi's.
Mona weaves her spell on the audience, with candor, humor, humility and music. The tapestry she creates through the stories and the music is a gift, an unexpected gift we were fortunate to receive last night. We were swept up in the music and I can still feel it in my body, singing it's way into my bones. 

The show ends it's Chicago run on September 2. It's based on a book co-authored by Mona.
As I was sitting comfortably in my second row seat, I couldn't help but wonder, with what is happening in Syria right now, could we, along with our allies, offer safe haven for the  children in Syria with our own version of a Kindertransport?

Friday, August 30, 2013

The quilt of insomnia

Uncovered #6
What a night! Fell asleep at 10, woke at 12:47 am. The night before, went to bed at 10, tossed and turned  until 1:47 am. I have a small digital clock on my bed stand and I torture myself on these sleepless nights by checking it from time to time to mentally record the forever lost minutes of sleep. And even though I seem to forget many ordinary things, this record stays seared at least until the next morning. 
 I finally got up and took 1/2 an Ambien, something I rarely do, but I knew I wouldn't be able to operate on a  such a small cubicle of sleep.

When insomnia wakes me, it's as if I am slowly rising from unconsciousness to consciousness and somewhere between that gauzy line, I realize, "I'm awake" next thought, "What time is it?", and I hit the light of my tiny digital recorder. 
If I'm lucky and I've managed to get 5-6 hours of sleep, I'll get up, but that's not insomnia, that's a decent night's rest. When it's full blown insomnia, my mind is a constant chatter. I'm either singing a song (thankfully silently in head), or having mundane conversations up there. Sometimes they are so meaningless, they actually put me back to sleep. 
The bed is uncomfortable, the sheets are hot, my pillow is hot, I toss, I turn, I spin, I curse, I get up and pee. Then back to the mattress, position myself comfortably,  breathe deeply, meditate (try to), tell myself, optimistically, "even if I'm not asleep, I'm resting". 
At some point I doze off. I know this because minutes late, like cracking the sugar layer on creme brulee, I'm breaking the surface and frustratingly realize I was on the brink of deep sleep and just before I completely let go and submerged, my mind, like an evil wizard, woke me up.
This rhythm, this broken cadence, this patch work quilt of sleep sometimes goes on for hours until I admit defeat and get up. Anywhere from 3 am - 4 am is the acceptable point of surrender. 
I've tried chamomile tea, dark cherry juice, wine. None of it works. I've come to accept this monthly sequence. It usually lasts no more than three nights, so on the bright side, 27 days each month, I sleep like a baby.
If anyone reading this post has suggestions, I welcome them. On that note, Good morning!

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Adventures of a Wall Easel

I woke up one morning deciding I desperately needed a "boundary free" easel. After seeing an ad in The Artists Magazine, the idea of freeing up studio space and painting on the wall was deliciously enticing. So, like a lioness hunting for her next meal, I scoured the internet for the best wall easel I could afford. After searching several art store sites, I found  the BEST Wall Mount Easel at Cheap Joe's, and I pounced on it.

 Two boxes arrived via UPS. Box one, 42 pounds, box two,16 pounds. Oh my, the boxes were large, especially the 42 pounder. Major assembly required.

Like participants in a treasure hunt, my husband and I searched and searched the boxes for comprehensive installation instructions. Obviously the company assumed we installed these easels all the time, as the instructions were more a haiku than a sonnet. 

Fred, a wizard with a pencil, plum line and level, helped me get this behemoth on the wall. Step one, unpacking the boxes and carrying the individual pieces down to my studio. Then with alien-like vision, we kept looking at the meager instructions, as if some secret coding would unlock the page if only we stared at it long enough. 

Finally, like most savvy consumers, we went on the internet, searching for either a blog or a how-to-YouTube video to install this monster. Nothing, nada, zip. So we were on our own.

Fred did 99% of the work, while I handed him drill, wrench, pencil and a little muscle. Never leaving his side as he sweat, swore and toiled to mount my new prize.
During this process, I experienced fear in the form of a stomach ache. I feared this wouldn't be the right easel, that I had made a HUGE mistake, spent too much on the wrong thing. As you can see, it works and I love it!

I'm  curious what other artist's studio space looks like, how they organize their materials and work area. So as I was snapping my new easel, I took some pictures of my  creative space.

 Doorway to my heaven

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Taking care of each other, part 2

Bacon? Are you serious!

I began vegetarian path this past New Year’s Eve day. My husband and I decided to have lunch at Munch, a vegan-vegetarian restaurant in Oak Park, IL. A friend of mine mentioned the owner featured local artists in her restaurant. She suggested I contact her about exhibiting. So I wanted to check out the space before making the call.

Lunch was delicious and the gallery space, though small, was nice. As we were leaving, I happened to see a bundle of small pamphlets; Why Vegan? Help Stop Animal Cruelty! I almost walked by, but on impulse I reached out and took one. On the drive home, I began to read. Through a stream of tears I learned the brutal truth of industrialized animal farming.

In my twenties, I made the decision to stop eating beef and pork. Not for ethical reasons, but cosmetic ones. I needed to lose 20 post baby pounds. Giving up pork was no hardship because I was never a fan, but I did love a good juicy rare hamburger. After reaching my goal, I tried to eat beef, but it tasted like iron, so I never went back. I did eat chicken and fish so I guess you could call me a semitarian.

Then in my fifties I suddenly had an incredible urge for a steak. Uh oh, a mid-life meat crisis? No, it was something more sinister. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had surgery, chemo-therapy and radiation. And to all those fellow Sexy Cancer Chicks, bald is beautiful!

I still vividly remember that fateful June day, after my second dose of chemo, looking at my husband as the sun streamed warmly through our kitchen windows and saying, “I think I want a steak.” After the shock wore off, he broke out in a huge smile and literally ran to Whole Foods to buy the best New York strip he wallet could afford.

He grilled it perfectly rare and I LOVED every bite. At that moment I became a committed omnivore. Steak, chicken, fish, BACON, they all saw their way to my plate, until that New Year’s Eve day, when some energy (maybe a newly born piglet) made me step back and grab that life altering pamphlet. Who knew a 15 page booklet could be so powerful.

That night, I sat down with my husband and shared, why, ethically, I could not and will not eat animals. I didn’t and don’t expect him or anyone I know to change their dietary choices. This is a very personal decision. And I’ve come to the conclusion, even if the animals are humanely treated, allowed to graze in open fields and thrive, at some point we still have to kill them to make them food. And I just can’t go there, anymore.

I do eat fish, so I guess I’m not really a vegetarian, but a pescetarian. And I buy wild, organic fish. I’m still on the path of discovery, so that may change, too.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Taking care of each other

work in progress

Until we find each other, we are alone. - Adrienne Rich, Hunger

Ecoli, Cyclospora, Salmonella. These are becoming common terms in our everyday conversation.

 Why? Perhaps, as the origin of our food becomes more industrialized and less  farm stand to our hands, the level of accountability diminishes. Those working in the food factories have no vision of that food ending up on our kitchen table. To them, it’s just another commodity being shipped and sold.

 They don’t see us. They don’t know us. We are just part of a chain,  therefore, they feel no responsibility to rinse the greens properly, inspect the meat carefully, treat the food with honor.

Food, a product we must have to survive, has gone from simple pick and eat to a monolithic monster of processing. Removing all the nutrition, then supplementing what was taken out with chemicals we can’t even pronounce, let alone recognize. And the worst part, it’s making us sick and fat.

Fast food, bad food. We can’t get away from eating and drinking, and the few who are making mega billions on keeping us addicted to this pabulum should be ashamed. But money becomes their cloak of justification. It may not be criminal but it is definitely unethical.

Thanks to authors like Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food, and T. Colin Campbell, The China Study, we are waking up and creating a demand for simple, clean food and the market is responding. 

Grocery stores carrying organic vegetables and meat from animals that have been humanely raised, allowed to graze and eat the way nature intended. 

Not spending their entire lives in a hell constructed by big farma,  where they never see the light of day and are mutilated and force fed foods and antibiotics and hormones so they can grow faster and fatter to accommodate our voracious appetite for meat. 

Another bright movement is the resurgence of farmer’s markets where we can meet the people who are working so hard to feed us nourishing fruits and vegetables grown without harmful pesticides, raising their chickens, pigs and cows with love and pride. Looking us in the eye when they hand us our bag of food, saying hello and wishing us well.

And us, thanking them for growing  this beautiful, clean food that will nourish, sustain and enrich us with health. 

So there is hope. We are finding each other in our quest to act like the human spirits we were born to be. Let’s hope it’s catching.

The unfinished painting above is  titled; Until We Find Each Other, We Are Alone,which  is written into the canvas.