Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunlit in New Mexico

Isn't is marvelous the way a few photos that you haven't seen in years surface just when you are thinking about the very time and place when the images were captured on film? Mary and Queta and Queta's friend Kathy and I traveled in New Mexico and parts of southern Colorado in late summer 2001.
Queta and I've been thinking about revisitng New Mexico with new ideas in mind. Clearing the clutter - or reorganizing it - is bringing these new ideas into my space. I'll contemplate them all and act on some.
These are splendid days even though it is ever more difficult to walk from room to room as floors become covered with piles of books and photos and boxes. I clear clutter just the way I collage. Everything is out where I can see it and I work on several tasks simultaneously. I find that one task informs another. Here's to the ideas that hit like little zings in the brain and more importantly, in the heart. Each little zing is under contemplation as I shuffle all this stuff around. Queta, you keep contemplating too.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Clearing Clutter My Way

So, I've been talking about house cleaning for four weeks and, to my credit, I've sorted piles and filled garbage bags. I am not, however, methodical. I made a big effort to be methodical about clearing my bedroom after I read a book on Feng Shui and was reminded that the back left hand corner of my house represents abundance and prosperity. If abundance is in any way meaningful to me, that space must be free of 'stuff' so that new energy has a place to enter.

I dutifully cleared and then found that I had very little that I need and use in my bedroom. So the magazines and books and yarns are slipping back to the edges of my bed. I lament over potentially lost abundance and prosperity. Do good intentions count?

The bedroom was just the beginning. I've been sorting the books in my library, shelf by shelf. I loaded several boxes with books for a homeless shelter. And then ideas for a gypsy art installation at an East End warehouse site began to assert themselves. These charming ideas began to spill over into my clutter clearing activities. A voice said, "Take another look at those books you are giving away. You can tie then up in bundles and build a pyramid of books as a piece for the installation. And the piece shall be called Book Bundles."

The voice continued, "You can sell them and you don't even have to go to the post office to mail them like you would if you sold them on Amazon or Ebay." Good point.

Luisa is designing a new business card for the artistic enterprises in my new life. A night ago as I was making small collages using the scanner, I had another idea. I began to arrange photos in triptychs with the thought of using a threesome on the back of my new card. You can see a few of the triptychs on an earlier post. Point being - making the triptychs necessitated looking for specific images and that meant looking inside the armoire. Not something I wanted to tackle so soon in my clutter clearing process. Boxes of photo files are now all over the floor. I've found many of the photos I wanted and that is a good thing. But the way I approached the armoire was not in a manner that moves me toward a tidier, sparer looking house.

All a conundrum. Should I call Elizabeth and have her come and create a plan for me? Or shall I muddle and trudge along myself, hit or miss? I am not desperate yet. I am basically thinking about the warehouse installation and what I can use from my house. I am thinking I will move my living room furniture into the installation and sell it all. Tableau extraordinaire. Chairs for sale will be titled fittingly 'Second Sitting.' I'll be sending my things out to the universe just as I did at the last garage sale at Shadowlawn in 1987. That garage sale and the day itself were both charmed. Over and over again, people told me what they were going to do with the items they bought. My old aqua Royal portable typewriter went to Mexico, my king sized bed and all the bed linens would be used by a family's three little sons, all the toys and clothes left at the end of the day were to be shipped to Tampico, Mexico for resale.

Perhaps I am heading to another such 'universal' event. Perhaps my house truly needs to be less traditional. Perhaps my living room will become a dining room and my dining room will become my work space.

It really is already my work space. Every day I sit at the table with my laptop and take pleasure at looking out at that green vine ridden garden. The table is piled with photos and CDs and books and notes and clippings and other people's business cards.

Opportunities are knocking even with my house in this odd state; I am meeting new people and making notes in a little black book for my own strategic vision plan. The gypsy installation is imminent.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Studebaker to Covet in Seattle

It's just after midnight, a time that often inspires me to post something, whatever that something may be. Tonight, I have photos to share of a house in Seattle that I would buy if it were for sale. I've never seen anyone in the house. I expect that its owner is in a senior home and descendants haven't yet dealt with the property.
I would buy this house for one thing. There is an old Studebaker in the side driveway and year after year it becomes ever more covered with English ivy. Several years ago, I could see in the windows. Not now. They are totally obscured.
I absolutely love this turquoise car sitting there in its tomb of ivy. Reminds me of those enchanted castles covered with vines and sleeping away the centuries.
So if this unexceptional house goes on the market, I will be sorely tempted and should I buy this house, I would trim the ivy just a very little bit so I could see inside the windows once again and I'd leave the Studebaker right there in the driveway forever as an art car because it absolutely makes the house. There's not too much of a lawn to maintain either. I am not really moving to Seattle, even for a Studebaker. I don't think so. Maybe?

Friday, September 21, 2007

It Takes a Year

I had lunch with a friend today who told me it took him a year to clear out the clutter in his home during a time of transition. A full year. It's the journey, not the destination, right? Actually, in this case, I think it's both. Because my friend went on to say that it truly made a difference when things were cleared out, opening up space for the new.
I've been at this cleaning and clutter clearing for three weeks and seem to have little to show for it. I began the process in my bedroom after rereading a book or two on Feng Shui. I was reminded that my bedroom is exactly where the energy of abundance resides if, a big 'if' there is space for it. I've sorted through dresser drawers and piles of New Yorker and Vogue magazines, NYTimes clippings and other assorted print items and I did dispose of much of it. I also moved a lot of yarn that just ended up in the east wing of the house. Temporarily, of course. I will find a proper place for it within the year.
I've taken a quick look at my bedroom and I can see that it is filling up again. After all, this room is where I read and crochet and watch movies from Netflix. I will never be a purist whose sleep space is simply that.
That being said, I will continue to make 'space' in my bedroom for abundance. The two closets are next.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Still Sorting - Found China Circa 1979

In 1979, my good friend Sally, my mom and I traveled to China on a tour with the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. We were among the first tours as China had only been 'open' for fewer than six months.

Earlier this evening, I found these photographs as I sorted through the front closet. Yes, I am still house cleaning and clutter clearing. And yes, that is Sally on a side street in Shanghai.

How very different from the China of today, a country that leapt into the 21st century with greater gusto than almost any other. When we toured, the sounds of millions of bicycle bells filled the air. Crocheted doilies covered the seats of the few cars that were all designed by the Soviets from old Studebaker molds. We were objects of great curiosity and when I knelt and balanced my camera on my knee in order to change film, it was often hard to see daylight through the surrounding crowd of onlookers. Perhaps I'll write more about this trip. Even today, I tend to date everything either before or after China.

30 Years Ago in Houston Women Spoke

Thirty years ago in Houston, women spoke very well on behalf of themselves and their families and the future of the earth. It was a time of high hopes and big thinking. Two nights ago, I heard Gloria Steinem speak in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the U.S. National Women's Conference held right here in Houston. I was at that conference, sitting in up the bleachers watching the delegates, seeing three president's wives, listening to Congresswoman Bella Abzug, Coretta Scott King and our own Barbara Jordon. A torch was carried across the country from Seneca Falls, NY to Houston for this conference. Those were heady days, filled with possibility and sheer joy at seeing and hearing the voices of women making decisions. (Just pause to think of who the self designated 'decider" is today.)

The audience for Gloria Steinem was filled with women and their daughters and grand daughers as if to say, "See, this is how it was. We were there and we are all indeed a part of history."

Gloria reminded us that "Ninety-five per cent of human history was not patriarchal or nationalistic." She said, "It's time to declare them an experiment that failed." She reminded us that racism and sexism are intertwined because they both depend on the control of the birth process. Keep the races apart and women under control and you have human beings that can be labeled 'lesser than' and you can own them and take their land.

She reminded us that Greece may not be the sole model for democracy and that in Native American culture women had rights and spaced their children's births and that two Iroquois Indians were invited to the Continental Congress to discuss the drafting of our Constitution. Their views were sought out, but they were not allowed to vote.

Gloria reminded us that each day we can uncover our stories and act on this new knowledge - if we want a life for ourselves and the generations that will come after us.

And that brings me to the sad part of the evening which was the very unliklihood of a Federally funded and truly diverse conference for women being held today in 2007 in the 21st century. How things have changed in strange constricting ways. It's time we noticed how women are being tapped down and how civil rights are being whittled away. It's time we recaptured the Spirit of 1977. It was a very good time.

Sleepless in Seattle...ummm...Houston

I've been up since almost 3:00 a.m. so what better to do than scan images and post on two blogs. The sun is rising later these mornings. It is almost 7:00 a.m. and all is very dim outside those windows. The cats, of course, are in resting positions. And I am beginning to feel sleepy and hungry for a breakfast taco. Sure wish they'd deliver. Business calls to make this morning. Yes, I have my first consulting job and I am still following a few loose ends from the district.

Pilates this morning at 10:00 - I want to awake in time to get there. Class at 1:00 on the Iraq war called "At War: A Theoretical and Practical Examination." Acupuncture at 3:30 and perhaps a dash to Harwin. Sounds like an erratic day. Somehow putting the concept and history of war and the actual war up front and center sobers one up. Why follow that with Harwin unless a bit of consumer action is our response to all things troubling.

Innocent Follies of the Heart

I am remembering that green space in Marfa where for a time a window from my heart opened for all to see. The installation called 'la folie innocente du coeur' - 'the innocent follies of my heart' - was fleeting, but shared by dear women friends who could read the narratives found in images and garments, in two green chairs and a tea cup.They could feel the life that stirred when sunlight fell across satin comforters and when the green walls cried after a rain. They found wondrous women and time and space and dreams.

Here is how that green adobe space in Marfa all began:
“la folie innocente du coeur,” the Bulgarian doctor at the Texas Medical Center said to me. He was diagnosing the state of my heart and I asked for a translation. My heart is idiosyncratic. Its beats can lurch erratically, threaten adrenaline rushes. Tachycardia flips into high gear with the briefest of notice. Never mind. My heart is strong. I liked his description. I could live with it. It sounded like life itself.

We would do well to notice that we are one with our hearts. Rushing headlong here, backtracking there, sliding sideways, climbing below, flying high, soaring wide, filling with warmth, breaking like waves, crashing like glass – all innocence, enthusiasm and perversity.
It is our hearts that expand with joy at the sight of a good friend or a day in the garden and that burst with regret for misdeeds and forgetfulness. It is our hearts that ache when rain is coming and wind brushes through the trees, it is our hearts that cry when loves are remembered and the day overwhelms.

It is our hearts that tell us when fewer birds are singing, who to remember and who to forget and how we walk toward our destiny.

I sense that it is time now for me to follow my heart and find a space where my heart's window can open once again for all to see.


I just met Rebecca Kousky when I clicked on a Ladies Who Launch email. Rebecca is a young woman who founded Nest, an organization that provides microloans to women to begin their own craft based businesses. She sells their products on line on her blog at Build A Nest. Several of the women for whom she sells work are from the State of Michoacan in Mexico and they live in the small villages around Lake P√°tzcuaro. Two of the women live in Capula, where my friend Mercedes Fernandez moved back to the home she built there years ago, making her own adobe bricks right along with the men she hired to help build the house.
I've visited Mercedes' wonderful house. And I've visited this area of Michoacan in and around the colonial city of Morelia several times over as many decades. There are hundreds of fine craftspeople and each village produces its own specialty - hand loomed fabrics, reed mats and baskets, pottery and copper plates and bowls.
Mercedes tells me that now many of the men in the villages go to El Norte; her sister tells me that Lake P√°tzcuaro, where the fisherman used the delicately beautiful butterfly nets, is dangerously receding. Life is not easy here.
Clearly, microloans give the women who live in these villages a way to sustain themselves and their families. I noticed that several of the women belong to a project called Lead Free Pottery. That suggests to me that they are also continue to make really beautiful functional pottery as well as the products that I see at Nest. I wish we could buy their pottery as well. Yes, I know it's fragile and difficult to ship. It is also magical and indigenous to a way of life.
So as I end this post, I am beginning to think about the possibilities of connections and synchronicity. A circle of women all doing what they love to do best and making a living of it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Uneasily Familiar - Could be Anywhere and So Could We

Last Thursday evening I went to Rudolph Project/ ArtScan Gallery to see an artist friend's exhibition and to hear what she and two others, a city council member and architect and a professor of theology and philosophy, had to say about the work. After a look at the paintings, most of which were suffused with luminous early evening light, I said to Lillian, "They seem like such familiar places. I can almost tell where they are, but I can't quite name the street. The light and the sky are beautiful, but...." She suggested that was just the response that the paintings were meant to induce.

Uneasily or comfortably familiar, as the case may be, the buildings and the rain soaked street catching the dimming light could be anywhere and so could we. The paintings are so light-filled that I wouldn't mind having one to look at every day, especially the triptychs that offer both oddness and comfort stretched into several different views.

Lillian's paintings remind me of those evenings when, returning home from work, I pulled out my camera and shot through the windsheild to catch a very ordinary sight that was momentarily painted in peach and salmon and lavender.
When I left the gallery, I saw what looked like one of her paintings just across the street, except there was a person in the frame.

See Lillian Warren's work:
Haven't had my lesson yet on active links within posts. But a cut and paste will take you there.

Along the River

The day was exceedingly bright along the river in Colorado Country, TX., the sand brilliant and warm on the feet. The thing is, can we find ourselves and others if we look with curiousity and some abandon?

Sometimes We Dream

Sometimes we dream in living color. Those Texas peaches are ripe and get sweeter and juicier every year. We know this even in slumber. And we sense that the Hollywood of old had romantic swimming pools that were on occasion scattered with gardenia blossoms that invariably floated on the surface and never clogged the drain.

Fragrant peaches, pungent gardenias. At daybreak, will you remember the scent of voluptuous dreams?

Generations of Women

There I am with my mother in photos taken long ago in Aruba when I was 26 years old. I photographed my mother who looks unaccountably pensive and very beautiful. Beneath our gazes are two of my daughters, the third one just out of camera range. Those times have passed, but not so quickly.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 Ruminations

This is the anniversary of the morning that shook our world and changed it far more than we imagine six event-filled years later. Six years ago this morning there were splashes of pink on the front page of The New York Times. A large photo showed folks walking through Bryant Park where much of Spring Fashion Week is staged. Women are carrying shopping bags and talking on cell phones, a man checks his Palm and all are scurrying to their destinations. It was an image of a very normal day, but way more than frou-frou in light of what was actually happening on that bright sunny morning. As the minutes of that fateful day ticked by and we were confronted with images of the twin towers imploding and people running and dust covered, I kept remembering that front page photo on a page dated September 11, 2001 and feeling its growing strangeness.

Transfixed by the vision of those towers burning, I poured over newspapers for days, racing through column after column of the words of individual New Yorkers. Reading endlessly, I began to notice the number of references to purses and briefcases. On their way to safety, woman after woman grabbed one thing and that was her purse. Is that what we do when we run?

(I hate to admit it. If I could master inserting links in an individual post, I'd take you straight to those newspaper references at You can do a search on that site for the story called 'Handbags Here and There.' In the meantime, I'll make substantial efforts to have a tutoring session with my daughter Mommy McGrady to learn how to include pertinent links within a blog post. How embarrassing.)

This morning, I listened to a story on NPR on the growing strength of Al Quida, the expansion of terrorist 'franchises' in the Far East and North Africa and the suspected preparations for a biological or nuclear attack on the U.S. I grieve over the lost opportunities that the U.S. had immediately after 9/11 to form partnerships with other nations to truly make the world a safer place. The world was as horrified as we with the vision of those towers and wanted to help us by banding together to deter terrorism.

Our administration said we'd go it alone, thank you, and after a brief foray into the mountains of Afghanistan, we began a war in Iraq where, as our government told us, the 'real problem' was. It is horrifying to think of the U.S. citizens that believed that trumped up story and believe it yet. (Fox News, you did a heck of a job.)

Today, we ponder the report of General David H. Petraeus on Iraq, count the remaining days of this administration and pray that the so-called war on terror turns to the task of building the partnerships with other nations that are necessary to block extremist efforts. We might also read "The Emperor's New Clothes" again as a message for today's times and send up a prayer that more U.S. eyes might be opened. There is work for all of us to do after we take this day to remember the towers and the heartbreak and suffering of the people of New York.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Call of Seattle

Here is tub-a-love 'Lourdon" as her brother Kelan calls Lauren. The name is beginning to stick. She is quite the 'Lourdon', especially in these leg warmers. Jeanne's children always look like they are dressed in 'rigadedigs', a term we've always used for crazy combinations and dress-up play clothes. It's a way of life for her two.

Miss Lulu at Sunnyside is a different story. Since her infancy, I've searched for a word to define an innate quality of hers. It's a sort of elegance, even at her age and stage. Though that is not quite the word. She has a special bearing about her. And those sweet boys - well, they are truly boys now, not toddlers.

These four little people have become a most important part of our world in three short years. The call to Seattle is part of my everyday.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Home From the Hospital

Trish came home today from the hospital and unbelievably, is receiving visitors. John told me that Beth brought food and that I needn't run to Whole Foods and bring containers of soup and grilled veggies and packages of deep chocolate cookies. It is also unbelieveable to me that she has endured two holes drilled into her skull and yet is out range of immediate caregivers. (See 'Holes in the Head' posted yesteday.)

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Everything but the kitchen sink is on my kitchen table. It's piled high with stuff and so is the desk area in my library. I am posting these 'before' images because there is work to be done here on the home front. I've been watching myself as I go about my days and have confirmed that I do not like to clean up after myself, except perhaps as I cook a meal. If I am blogging, my diningroom table remains covered with ramdom CDs and newspaper and books and mail and remanents of other activities. Even if I have a burst of energy and clear a surface, all the stuff returns like a tide brought it in. I really like my stuff around so I don't lose sight of it. But I also know there is way too much stuff in the house at this moment. Therefore, I must make headway every single day.

As you know, dear reader, I did clear my bedroom last week. Cleared away piles of several years of Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and a few issues of Harper's and the Progressive as well as piles of books. I sorted yarn by color in big clear plastic containers and moved it all to a temporary space behind my living room couch. Interestingly enough, I find that now I do not have what I need in my bedroom. I get in bed at night and look for something to read and there is nothing right at hand. Now is there much to crochet with and so I go into other parts of the house and fiddle around looking for a book or a ball of yarn. Maybe it wasn't so bad to have this stuff in my bedroom after all. Maybe just not so much of it. I was attempting to follow the principle of Feng Shui that points out that the area of abundance and prosperity are in the rear left hand corner of the house and that this is an important space to clear out clutter to allow the the 'new' to enter.

Well, I've done that with the exception of my closets. But already, books and yarn are returning - not a lot, but enough to clutter the surfaces of my bedside chests. Which leads me to a new idea. Those chests have drawers and perhaps I can clear one for all that clutter that I seem to need every single day.

Holes in Her Head

Yesterday my sister-in-law had two holes drilled in her skull in a procedure set that will ease the terrible Parkinson's tremors that have overtaken her waking life. Trish's surgeon has done 1600 of these operations. She says she is number 1601. He's experienced, but that does not change the fact that this is brain surgery and that she was awake and could hear the drilling and the conversation and could feel her teeth rattle. And to add to all this, she is coming home today. One night in the hospital for brain surgery.
I sat with John in the neurosurgery waiting room. Trish's doctor came to speak to my brother around 1:00 p.m., saying everything had gone very smoothly, Trish responded well and he felt that the results would be successful. All good news. John made calls to Tanner and Carrie, to Beth and Glenn, to Kate and Mom.
We went to the ICU at 4:00 and there she was with shaved head and a-not-so-huge flat bandage over her skull wounds. Trish was alert and wanted pain medicine for a bad headache. She got it. She also got ice chips, followed by yogurt and was being served a real dinner when we left at 6:00, coating our hands with Purell as we exited ICU.
What a day. But the real story is the stoic 16 years that she's spent dealing with this insidious irreversible disease. Trish is a witty woman with great strength and she and John joke instead of crying. I hope that the procedure truly works so that Trish gets some semblance of her life back and they can enjoy the every day and that she can once again button her clothes and open a food container all by herself. I bet John will still be making stir fry suppers and leaving seared lamb chops and other good stuff in the refrigerator for Trish, but the hope is that things really will be better for awhile.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Summer Dining Tables

What is so fascinating about mealtime food tableaus? Plates with vegetables uneaten, serving bowls passed on for generations, family favorites, a dessert almost too gorgeous to eat, the cheese, crackers and wine before dinner. Food photos tell us about ourselves and our lives and far too often we eat and run, or eat and fail to see the fleeting beauty of a breakfast plate of french toast and sausage links or a toddler's food tray. Food is beautiful and in today's world, it is a luxury that millions of people do not have. The food I shared this summer with family and friends is an integral part of my memories. Here are images I am holding close because the food was very good, but mostly because of the very precious times we spent around the dining table. So, take a second look at the meals you've love and say thank you.

That photo above is Denny's traditional Triathlon high carb supper shared by the whole family. The goblet is one of a set that my parents got for a wedding gift in 1941. Mom gave the glasses to Kate and she uses them for holidays and special times.
Those busy little hands you see on the left are Lauren's as she packs in rice and broccoli. Much of her meal falls to the floor - she's experimenting with a spoon now and not much makes it into her mouth.
And that French toast above right is the breakfast that Jinny Avery made for me before I flew back home to Houston. It was a divine breakfast, especially when I threw a big handful of blueberries on top after adding the maple syrup.

I did a lot of cooking for Mom and Dad when I was in Seattle in August. I'd bring them to the Arapahoe house and load the table with fresh vegetables and salads. Mother's owned this china for years. She bought a whole set of it at Syracuse China's outlet store. We have a lot of random pieces of Syracuse China that Mom bought over 60+ years. The serving dish with potato salad belonged to my father's mother and her mother before her. So it's really Allie Keyes' dish and that makes it well over 100 years old. We've used it for years and years.

July was my time to visit friends on the East Coast. At Elita's family cottage in New Hampshire, we were treated to truly wonderful Elita-cooked meals and each evening we sat on the porch in early evening sunlight with cheese or olives or on this night, a bowl of fresh pesto with pine nuts.
Elita's puffy oven baked pancake was so perfect that we begged for a second one the next morning. Elita brought a stack of recipes with her to the cabin - I was impressed and not for the first time. She brought a stack of recipes with her to Maine a year ago. She's serious about cooking and we are the contented beneficiaries.

Jinny Avery serves summer meals on her two porches and brews sun tea on the back steps. There is nothing nicer than eating and sharing good company on the back porch on a summer day.

Well, posting these photos of the truly delightful meals I've shared since June 30 with family and friends evokes such pleasant memories. The dining table does indeed draw us together for more than fleeting moments. How could I not share vestiges of these good times?

I'm back in Houston for awhile and last night, spent an evening with old friends. We all brought good things to eat with our host's very good barbecue. Here is a photo of the last of a fresh mango salad I made with black berry vinegar from Seattle. It was served with dinner and we continued to pick at it as we ate desserts which were a surfeit of sweetness - caramel and chocolate sauces with strawberries and ice cream, pecan pie, homemade cookies and watermelon.

There is one dish that really defines this family and friend-filled summer. That would be a berry crisp. Not quite a cobbler and most definitely heavenly. The berry juices from a crisp just out of the oven are sensuous and soul-satisfying. We had wild blueberry crisp in New Hampshire and many blackberry crisps in Seattle. There is nothing quite like a crisp made with very fresh, ripe and juicy fruit, by the way.
To make a crisp, simply soften a stick of butter and crumble with one cup of flour and one cup of dark brown sugar. Sprinkle the crumble all over a baking dish of fresh berries or fruit and put in the over for 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees. The crisp is lovely with fresh whipped cream or ice cream, but not essential. So there you have my summer at the table.