Friday, December 03, 2021

Change for Good

Why can't our tasty blueberries grow as easily, as abundantly, as these blue berries, which are not tasty? I love these foggy mornings, when the dew is bejeweling the spider webs, and the berries have a reflective sheen. Blue and green, and sparkling droplets of marine layer come to rest on every surface. I love when nature is a wordless poem.
It's been a long time since I made this little wallet, from scrap wool, with a needle felted owl on a branch, and some blanket stitching, a bit of crochet. It's the perfect size for a handful of necessary cards, like my driver's license, library card, others. I've used it everyday, everywhere. Slowly, the tree rubbed away, then the owl became a ghost, hardly any hint of its former self. Even the button has a faded, worn away surface. Someday I can repair it was a soft resolve, unspoken, barely a committment. And then, sitting in Beach Chair Book Club, (They're reading Howl's Moving Castle) with not much to do, I saw my wallet, and felt resolved. I picked away at the threads holding the two felt scraps together. The crocehted loop had broke loose all on its own, like the blanket stitching. It's practically a complete make-over, which I thought would be too daunting, until now. Something gentle and calm overcame me, and the prospect of making this over felt welcome, manageable. What a nice sensation.
I didn't intend to share the updated wallet, the process of remaking it, until it was complete. But just now I need a distraction, something welcome and manageable, gentle and calming. You see, the recent latest gun murder spree at a school, has inspired threats of violence so credible that two area high schools are closed today. And even though Maria's school had an active shooter drill very recently, today they are going over procedures and guidelines, again. I can't read "active shooter drill" as even remotely a matter of fact statement, but it is matter of fact, today in America. Maria will be sitting in a class right now, being reminded about laying on the ground, away from windows, about fighting back if she feels this is appropriate. Seems like miliarty training, or war zone mentality. Some of us debated whether we should send our children in today. The closed school is only a few miles away. These are neighborhood schools, where our friends and neighbors go. Yet, how is this day really any different from yesterday, from Monday, or from 22 years ago? We have surrendered our lives, our freedom and peace of mind to the gutless wonders in Washington, to the idea that we have no choice but to cater to gun enthusiasts, to gun lobbies, and all of the people profting off of fear, ignorance, and the manufacture and sale of firearms. This level of threat and distress is matter of fact in America, where violence and racism, neglect of human dignity and needs, are not only prevalent, but legislated, protected, upheld, culturally ingrained. Are we helpless to change this?

I chose to applique an owl this time, instead of needle felting a little bird. Next I'll add branches, leaves, with both applique and embroidery. Then I will sew the pieces back together, add blanket stitching, and test my memory about how I made the crocheted loop that closes over the button. I'll keep the faded button.

I enjoyed making a new owl, while the Club chatted, crafted with resin, and played the Vince Guaraldi album. There wasn't actually a whole lot of talk about Howl's Moving Castle, maybe a bit about hat making. No matter. These young folk were happy to stay two hours after school, talking and making buttons, sharing thoughts on Christmas music, and anime. We could hear the band playing... a concert, or a rehearsal. No doubt the robotics club was busy, too, peer mentoring in the metal shop, learning to program, writing grants, screenprinting, hanging out. I love these young people. I love how much they want to do in lives, their intelligence, their creativity, and inate curiosity. I want them to have clean air, and healthcare, space and resources to explore their interests, to be heard. I want them to have access to safe, kind, constructive opportunities. I want them to see, to really know, that we value them, as they are, above anything else.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Tootling Through Daydreams

Grandma and Grandpa Boo's birthday package was full of goodies, including new bedsheets, covered in little cat sketches, and this hat. And a dress that fits like it was custom made! Her brothers gave her books, including Kiki's Delivery Service, which she's already devoured. It was only recently translated from Japanese to English. I think there is a little more celebrating coming up, when we have a family gathering at Holly and Rich's. Paul is flying in from Madison, so there's going to be a Thanksgiving sequel, and more catching up, commemorations, and fun.
I was thinking of everything we might do, want to do, hope to do, in the next few weeks. In a barely audible whisper, reluctantly I admit, it's too much. Insistently I declare that it's never enough! I am famished for traditions, for all of the familiar and comforting symbols and rituals of the season. I have a playlist for Christmas moods, for sitting quietly in a corner sipping tea, for dancing in the kitchen with pots bubbling and tamales steaming! I have playlists for tootling around town, looking at lights and window displays, for bicycle rides, and decorating the tree, and family dinners. I want to see the city, the tall buildings and couples dressed in their finest threads, small children buzzing with excitement. I want to hear bells, carols, crowds of shoppers, exclaims of joy, glad tidings, good will. I want to stay home, slide across clean floors in thick socks, while preparing an old family recipe, and signing holiday cards. I want to hum songs, because I can't remember all of the lyrics. I want to sit in church and hear the songs I recall, and join a hundred voices, rejoicing. Sentiment, longing, nostalgia, wistful waves of rememberance, and sqeezing... squeezing in activities, appointments, engagements, events. It's all in hopes of recapturing lost days, memories, of filling in the empty places of missing loved ones, feeling old, and being utterly smitten with the smell of pine, the twinkle of colored bulbs, the consolation of warm layers on a cold night.

For me, there is an almost equal risk of doing too much as there is of doing too little. I think I'd rather collapse in a happy & exhausted heap, by January 2nd or 3rd, than feel like I missed it. I don't want to miss the anticipation of seeing friends, the stimulation of listening to live music, a tinkling of bells, a favorite movie playing as we bake, or fold laundry. I want to see favorite ornaments on the tree again. I don't want to succumb to weariness or cynicism, and let things slide. If I don't make plans or give some push, it's easy for things to not happen, and that feels like a heavy loss.

Oh dear. Yesterday I wrote a post, hemming and hawing, as I tend to do, even skirting around the issue, then over-stating it, and all because I am so preoccupied with getting it right, not offending, being thoughtful and thorough... golly, I can be a long-winded thing. Someone read all that, then was kind enough to comment, and she summed it all up, neatly in not more than two sentences. Succinct. Concise and succinct, I said, aloud, then to myself, with every intention of adopting these styles into future posts. Alas.

I recall that Geoff suggested blogging, 20 years ago, because I was sending letters, all the time. To Hawaii, to Wisconsin, to friends. I'd fill them with news, and updates on our activities. I'd print photographs, and send those too. Snail mail, then email. He thought a blog would help me get the word out, and in one fell swoop. I don't know why I am sharing this, again. Just thinking of it. Thinking, maybe it's time to go back to letters, email. And maybe I do say too much, overshare. I got so excited when a blogger recently asked for readers to identify themselves, to wave our hands so she could see us. I think she probably meant a certain kind of blogger, maybe the ones that cross-stitch, or have some genuine influence in the world. That's not me. I am a blogger expert in longevity, longwindedness, well practiced in gliding beneath the radar.

As I mentioned on Instagram, I ought to make an inspiration page for the real holiday goals: Housework. I should draw whimsical depictions of cleaning the oven, degreasing the hood, de-cluttering kitchen drawers, of getting the car serviced, and detailed. I should add an illustration of scooping cat litter, mucking out the coop, and mending the stack of clothes I've been gathering. I should aim for getting my haircut by a professional; it's been at least three years since that's been done. But. Then I turned on a dime and started dreaming up a fantasy inspiration painting, and there was far more interest in that.

December in a dream world... Camping in the Redwoods, a cabin in snowy woods, and sleigh rides. Ice skating on a lake, in Wisconsin, then a train ride to New England, shopping in Concord, dinner with friends. A flight to Paris, a train to the Highlands, my birthday in Sweden. Somewhere we squeeze in a tamale making party, friends and family join in. Maybe it doesn't hurt to be specific, to elaborate. Maybe these words are my spell, and daydreams are the fertile ground for our plans to take shape and become dreams-come-true.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Is this... Tone Deaf?

I see a lot of these, on Pinterest, and Instagram. Christmas and holiday themed illustrations, happy little vignettes of our best hopes and wishes. Last year I made one of my own. I think of it as a mood calendar, a way to artistically express our hopeful plans and traditions for the holidays. I keep ours in an open, family space, as a low-key reminder of important dates, and key events I want everyone to be mindful of. I love how many variations and themes there are, the simple and folksy style, the personal touches. But.

This one has been bugging me all day.

These are wishes, ideals. And they are expressions of desires, goals. Right?

The thing is. What about the homeless guy? And how is the depiction of someone sleeping on the sidewalk a part of CARE?

Do we CARE about people without housing? Do we CARE about immigrants, refugees? Do we CARE about the issues of mental health, drug and alcohol addiction? Do we CARE about the lack of universal healthcare, mental healthcare, in this country? Painting an unsheltered human, shut out by a literal wall, from warmth, comfort, and the beauty of the season... I don't think this is a very good way to illustrate CARE. It seems to say, 'We see them, and we care, so we are going to put them in a Christmas color coordinated sleeping bag, and hip beanie.' And there they stay. On the ground. Shut out. Why not a picture of one person handing another a gift, or a painting of someone building a shelter, or volunteering in a shelter? Even wearing a mask, would show care. All of the other images are things we admire, or wish to attain, they are goals, actions. Homeless dude looks trapped, perpetually on the ground, which may evoke our concern, but... how's is this helpful or hopeful, or inspiring? How is this in line with goals and actions? I am not offended by the depiction of poverty, suffering. I don't ask that we brush all suffering aside for the sake of sticking to merry and bright themes. But, I don't think care is well represented by merely noticing that people are hurting, and depicting them in a tidy ornamental scene is no favor, either.

Care is voting for representatives that will pass legislation... laws and policy that provide for social safety nets, like healthcare, shelters, counseling, education. Care is lifting people up, with opportunity, respect, kindness, and resources. Care is contributing to feed the hungry by volunteering, and donating food, or money. Care is sharing time, kindness, and volunteering. Care is checking in on a neighbor, reaching out to someone alone, or struggling.

Maybe, I missed something. I am reluctant to criticize. I want to keep this constructive, even though my reaction was wth? And thank God the artist decided not to add "CARE" to the coffee mug they're selling. And, well, at least it got me thinking about care, about what I think caring means, and how I can do more to be conscious of hardships and the needs of others, during the holidays, and throughout the year, so that I can act more mindfully for the good of all.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Imagination Poetry Mochi and More

Happy Birthday To Our Darling Maria
An ideal opportunity for celebrating Maria's birthday came up when we discovered that "An unprecented retrospective of legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki" is at the Academy Museum. Seven years ago, when she turned 10, Maria was thrilled to celebrate with a "Miyazaki" theme, all things Studio Ghibli and her favorite artist and anime creator, and we were happy as can be to fufill that wish! The exhibit at the Academy Musuem is the first of its kind in North America, and we were excited to have the chance to see it... and now that we've been, we feel even luckier, even more in awe of what this phenomenal artist has accomplished. The Academy Museum, the special exhibit, LACMA, La Brea... are always such worthwhile and inspiring places to visit! Just to be sure the day was completely fun-filled, we added a visit to Little Tokyo.
Smooth sailing driving up to LA, and back home. If you don't know, when traffic is merciful in Southern California, you have to mention it, humbly, thankfully. It's too precious and rare to not appreciate!

I have this feeling of literally catching my breath... seeing these moments from the day, when we were so awe-inspired, so thrilled to be seeing original sketches, concept art, backdrops, paintings, scale models! He is one of our favorite artists, and first-hand glimpses into his imagination, and all in this space where we could be up close, and feel nearer than ever to art and a spirit world that we love was rousing.

Thanks to the smooth sailing, and little traffic, we arrived well ahead of admission time, and so we got to explore the Wilshire Boulevard museum complex that includes Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where First Lady and President Obama's portraits are being exhibited. That is just one more reason we can't wait to get back to Los Angeles! We would also have fun popping back into an old favorite, the Tar Pits! You can have a lot of fun both inside, and outside of the La Brea Tar Pits! It's been too long since our last visit in the museum.

Acorn, Janece, and Paul are big Miyazaki fans, too, and we all got to share in the magic, together. Alas, no photography was allowed in the exhibit, and believe me... it wasn't easy to resist. I am totally respectful of the policy, but I would love to share (at least) quotes, models, ambient elements, the stone spirit sculpture, the... everything! His background paintings are exquisite... the effect of depth, through colors, details, and skillful mastery of perspective are mindboggling. And how beautifully he can make simple sketches, mere lines and curves, evoke whatever he wishes to convey, including action, emotion, is simply breathtaking. All of our photographs are from LACMA, La Brea, and the approach to the Miyazaki exhibit... beyond those walls are some of the works that brings a spirit world of animation and imagination to life.
There is more to the Academy Museum, and we got to enjoy some of it, including the Toy Story Zoetrope! I love the film memorabilia, like scripts, Oscars, costumes, set pieces, and tributes. I was especially impressed, and moved to see not just a few references to racism, sexism, and other injustices; old and current issues that should not be edited out of the Hollywood narrative, and American history. Outside of the Academy Museum, we enjoyed panoramic views, including distant icons, the Hollywood sign, and the observatory at Griffith Park.
We saw a lot, and we missed a lot. We definitely want to return. At the risk of trying to do too much, we headed east, toward old Los Angeles, and the district called Little Tokyo, to get road snacks for the drive home, books, and mochi... birthday mochi, from Fugetsu-Do. These beautiful confections are made at this family owned and operated confectionary since 1903!

This was a special outing, a fitting celebration, and an auspicious start to Maria's new year. We were exclaiming, and sighing with awe, from inspiration.

The Miyazaki retrospective will be at the Academy Museum until June 5, 2022.