Sunday, December 15, 2013

Free to be

Out For The Day

The freedom to be. The freedom to roam, to explore, to enjoy, is the oxygen of creativity. Physically and mentally, this need is the dream dimension where newness is born. Like the birth place of the stars, we all need to nurture our nebula. Our intersellar cloud of ideas.

Every once in awhile, life offers a profound link to something special. I recently came across a unique and beautiful person, Katherine Dunne. She wrote a small treasure of a book, Misfits of Love,

about her brood of animals, rescued from different places, and retired to her sanctuary, Apifera Farm. The book is filled with these lovable characters who finally have a safe place to roam, to explore, to be nutured and to nuture in return.  Katherine is one of those miracles that comes along in life and helps reset our reality as to what really matters; that success and richness have nothing to do with status or money, they have to do with empathy, love and kindness.To learn more about Katherine's work and her brood of misfits please follow this link and experience richness which will fill your heart with love, compassion and joy;

Monday, December 9, 2013

Love Heals

Graffiti Buddha
Have you ever had a dream within a dream? You're awake, barely, and you witness a scene and as you're drifting back down into sleep, somewhere a voice, yours I imagine, tells you, you were asleep, dreaming you were awake and for a split moment, you are awake, realizing you woke to a dream within a dream. 
Scientist now believe there are 11 dimensions, going on simultaneously, from the experience above, I felt I was living in three of those dimensions for just a moment.
If you were to ask an animal, "What time is it?" They would answer, "Now." They live in all 11 dimensions, at once. We, humans, somehow have gotten severed from the "moment". 
If you've been reading my recent posts, which I hope you have, you know I am on a journey to find ways to become a more responsible and educated steward. In John Robbins book, No Happy Cows, he listed a resource where you can find truly cage free,fully beaked, happy hens,that lay delicious, healthy, eggs, On this site you will find local farmers and co-ops,  where you can buy healthy, non-toxic food. And become a part of your local farm community.
Here is a link where you can take action. On this page you can urge your local U.S. Representatives and State Senators to cosponsor and support The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments S. 820/H.R. 1731. The page includes the phone numbers of your representatives and senators, a letter you can sign and a script you can use when you call. It's so easy, and yet so powerful, because, one by one, we become many, and many become heard, and action occurs. 

We can speak for those who can not. Through our concern and love, we can heal.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Toothless Tiger

Holy Cow
I don't cry often, but yesterday morning, while reading The Food Revolution, by John Robbins, I could not stop the tears from forming and spilling down my face. A waterfall of sadness and anger.

One of the best things modern animal agriculture has going for it is that most people...haven't a clue how animals are raised and processed...If most urban meat-eaters were to visit an industrial broiler house, to see how the birds are raised, and could see the birds being "harvested" and then processed in a poultry processing plant, some, perhaps many of them, would swear off eating chicken and perhaps all meat. For modern animal agriculture, the less the consumer knows about what's happening before the meat hits the plate, the better.   Peter R. Cheeke, Professor of Animal Science, Oregon State University; Editorial Board Member, Journal of Animal Science.
 Is this how we want to get our nourishment? By the unethical, horrific, completely inhumane treatment of cows, baby cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, goats, lambs and any other animal we farm for food. 

I read these books and am devastatingly astonished that we allow this behavior. I realize most of the population doesn't know what is going on and the meat and dairy councils want to keep it that way. That's why they show us pleasing pictures of "happy cows" and beautiful people with milk mustaches and warm family scenes of dinner where meat is the main event. If we knew the true horror these animals are subjected to we ALL would never allow another morsel of animal flesh to pass our lips.

Certified organic, humane treatment, grass fed, free range, are meaningless advertising adjectives that are put on the labels to make us "think" what we are about to eat went to its death willingly, peacefully and benignly. In reality, most of the meat in the grocery stores, which were sentient animasl before going to the slaughterhouse, lived in animal concentration camps.

Europe has already outlawed many of the inhumane practices U.S. farm factories practice. Our FDA is a toothless tiger. Influenced by the moneyed lobbyist for the meat and dairy council, they won't pass stricter laws (because it would increase the cost of meat to the consumer, which a pile of cow manure), they don't demand third party auditing for those farms which "swear" they are treating the animals ethically. Most factory farms are self audited.And the laws on the books are weak and almost never enforced.

 Do we really believe putting ammonia in the hamburger (pink sludge) is good for us?
Wonder why we have so many hamburger and chicken recalls?Why so many people are getting sick with salmonella and E.coli? It's because these gentle, beautiful creatures are kept in filthy, dank, highly stressful environments. Our country's food business is killing us, slowly, bite by bite.

We can no longer remain ignorant of what is happening around us. Thankfully there are books like Robbins The Food Revolution
These are hard books to read. They shed a light on a very dark corner of our humanity. But read we must, weep we will, then action and change will happen.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Art Transcends

The Architecture Of The Quilt

A few days ago I was at the home of a  friend who is an art consultant and curator, so her walls are a mosaic of beautiful paintings arcing from representational to surreal and abstract. 

This morning I woke to the image of her home, filled with all that creative energy and it made me think how art transcends.

Next spring I'll be taking an 8-day intensive studies seminar in Taos, NM (magical, I hear). One of the early assignments is to look at art  and begin cataloging what I like and don't like.

This has heightened my awareness of the art around me and one category that inspires me is quilts, especially the Quilts of Gee's Bend.

Gee's Bend, is an isolated area in Alabama, once a cotton plantation, owned by Joseph Gee, where slaves lived and their descendents still live today. Reading about the Quilts of Gees Bend (there are several beautiful books on the subject) I learned how and why quilts became to be. One practical, one artistic.

As part of her wedding trousseau, the soon to be bride was supposed to make a blanket which would keep her and her husband warm. To make their blankets, they used their worn out clothing. Here's where it gets beautiful.

 Slave owners did not allow artistic expression from their slaves. So the slaves used their discarded bits and pieces of cloth to express themselves. And because most slave owners didn't look beyond their blind belief that these people were less than human, they never saw the beauty they were creating.

In the twisted realm of slavery, for a slave owner to justify their treatment of slaves, he/she couldn't allow that person to also have a  spirit capable of creative expression. In fact, in many households, artistic expression was a punishable offense.

One of the most famous folk hymns, Amazing Grace, became the lyrical anthem against slavery. It was written by a former slave runner, English poet and clergyman, John Newton, after he had an epiphany on a ship during a storm, which was carrying slaves.  On the brink of drowning, he realized how inhumanly awful his occupation was. 

The music is haunting and the words are a testament to the creative power of the human soul to transcend darkness and be lifted into the light.

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Morning Muse

Morning Meditation
Something odd and wonderful has been happening. Several mornings ago, somewhere between dream and reality, I heard a distinctive voice say;
Can't wait.
Not here.
Must go.
Waking up to a haiku is pretty special, even though the message did leave me with a sense of loss. 
Then today, at the wee hour of 3 am, I woke to this poem;
I am a paradox.
I am a conundrum.
I am not unusual,
           but I am unique.
I am a human,
I got up, made coffee, grabbed my journal and started to write. 
With so much time on my hands, I  finished reading The Mixed Media Artist by Seth Apter. Among the pages I saw some of my favorite artists; Geoffrey Gorman, Jeane Myers, Crystal Neubauer and Laura Lein-Svencner.

In the section, Beyond the Surface, Seth asked the artists in-depth questions regarding their inspirations and philosophies. I found that part most interesting. Of course the book is full of wonderful art, great tips and techniques. Each artist has a two page spread, with the artist in their studio and a featured work of art. They  also share their most inspiring art quote, 4 things in their studio and 3 things that inspire them (only 3!).

So I asked myself, what inspires me and I couldn't just think of 3, so I made 10 categories, with 3 inspirations per category. That was a lot of fun, and I could have gone beyond 10, but I stopped and took that creativity into my studio where I was able to get a couple of hours in before heading out to yoga.

Here are a few of my categories:
Category #1
* My eyes, they allow me to see the beauty around me.
* My feet, they carry me near and far.
* My spirit, which leads me to that mysterious place where creation and creativity reside.

Category # 3
* Love
* Touch
* Kindness

Category #6
* Baking bread
* Cooking
* Eating

I believe in engaging all my senses. They were given to us to explore, love and learn from.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

An Authentic Artist

Louise Nevelson
If there have been complications
in my life,
the work was not
the complication;
the complication was
the world and its blindness

As artists, if we could always live and create with that phrase rumbling about in our minds, we would stop judging our efforts and begin to allow the flow of creativity to course through our bodies and express itself onto the surface of our choosing.

I recently bought three books which I hope will help me mature my creative vision:
 Nevelson, The way I think is collage;  
The Art of Collage, Contemporary Collage in Modern Art
Robert Motherwell, Early Collages

So far, I have only been through Nevelson's book which includes more than 30 years of her collages and incredibly fluid sculptures.  The book is scattered with her thoughts, this one particularly resonated with me:

You don't necessarily have to take a pencil or a pen or something and draw. There are many ways. Let's say collage. By using it meant that it already gives me my drawing. Because the nails and the holes in the nails, and all the different things. What would you say when a car goes over a piece of wood and it comes out with all sorts of things, dents and things in it? Well those are drawings. It is much more direct, doing it the way I do it, it's immediate, it's true and it's there.

Nevelson was born in Russia in 1899 and passed in 1988 in New York. She left a legacy for us to learn from.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

It's Time to Stop Giving Time

Oil & Cold Wax with Collage
11 x 14 inches
Blame it on Netflix. We got hooked on, Orange Is The New Black, a new series about a young woman's year in prison. After we watched the last episode of the first season, I couldn't wait for season two, so I bought the book, which is a memoir written by Piper Kerman about her 13 months spent in Danbury minimum security prison.
I just finished her memoir this week and what impressed me, along with her story, was the appalling state of our penal system. It's a complete failure. It's an embarrassment. It's a travesty against human rights. Imagine, in 1980, 500,000 people where in prison. Twenty eight years later, 2008, there were 2.3 million people in prison , 7 million on parole, or probation or locked up.(2008 U.S. Bureau of Justice) Many of them for non-violent crimes. 
Today, we jail a higher percentage of our citizens than any other country, including China and Iran. And the price tag, about $80 billion a year.
How did this happen? Mandatory sentencing.  It began 40 years ago, in New York, because of a rapidly growing heroin problem. Republican Gov. Nelson Rockfeller created mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years to life for anyone caught with just 4 ounces of narcotics. Quickly other states followed suit, all wanting to appear tough on drugs. 
The war against drugs. Here's the problem, it's not working. The casualty count is enormous. Families torn apart, children left motherless, fatherless, disappearing into the void of child welfare, foster homes, group homes, ready to repeat the journey of their parents. The people in jail are mostly the users and the system isn't set up to rehabilitate, it's set up to de-humanize and punish. Over crowded, under educated, malnourished. That's our penal system.
Kerman has taken her experience and along with writing an interesting memoir, has chosen this journey as an educational platform to teach us what is really going on behind those bars and how hard it is for the majority of inmates to have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and return to the outside ready to be embraced by society and make a meaningful contribution. No wonder the rate of recidivism is so high.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The ghost in our home

Erika, 17
I was born in post-war Germany in 1951. We immigrated to the States when I was nine with my post-air force step father. My mother and her brothers and sisters grew up in Hitler's Germany. She never mentioned the war. 
If I asked she would say, "Evelyn, I do not want to talk about it!" 
At the age of 11, I became very curious about the war and began reading books on the subject. That's when I learned about Hitler's grand plan to make the Aryan race the superior, one and only race on the earth and his diabolic program to exterminate all other races, especially the Jewish people. 
I was stunned, horrified and stricken. Even though I was not born during that time, I felt the shame of being a German. How could a people do that to other people?
I believe we all carry darkness inside us. If we choose to nurture that darkness, it becomes a monster that rules and we become less than animals. Hitler nurtured his demons and surrounded himself with other monsters, and so the nightmare of the Holocaust was born, fed and committed. 
What my mother witnessed, I do not know. I do know it was impossible to live in Germany during that time and not know something evil was happening. But as a child and a teenager, what could you do? And as you grow older and your understanding matures, how do you carry that burden with you?  
My mother got pregnant in 1950. She was not married. I thank her daily for not aborting me. Today, being a single mother is an acceptable choice. In 1951, it was not. So much easier for her to eliminate the life inside her, than to bring that life to the light.
It took courage to give birth to me. Maybe it was because of what she had lived through, the waste, the sorrow, the deaths, that made her decide to choose life.
 Me, 4
Go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows. Rainer Maria Rilke

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.