Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December, Modern Dance and Japanese Art

December is here and the cultural fare Around Wellington is abundant. Seems everywhere I turn beauty abounds. Art, dance and music surprise and await admiration and enjoyment.

My first cultural surprise occurred in a modest church, just north of the Norton. One Sunday morning, while reporting to my accompanying post, I passed its warm brick facade, (bricks actually salvaged from the chimneys of the historic Royal Poinciana hotel), walked through the solid wooden doors to find a roomful of modern Japanese artwork greeting me. Seems Memorial Presbyterian's pastor, Randy Bare, a serious art enthusiast, was responsible for the exhibit by Sadao Watanabe .

And what an exhibit it is!

Watanabe (1913-1996) specialized in a stencil and dying technique that he learned from fabric dyeing masters in his home country of Japan. He applied the method, called katazome to special paper instead of fabric; kozo (paper made form mulberry trees) and the roughly textured momigami (kneaded paper). Seasonally appropriate, his works focus on biblical themes. Shown here is his Nativity.

Watanabe's uses the mingei approach, characteristic of the mid-century Japanese folk art movement. His unique and engaging prints have been shown at the Vatican Museum, the British Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo and the White House.

Generally speaking, places of worship don't double as galleries of world-class artwork. But because of the minister's  love for great art, Pastor Bare arranged for this exhibit from an organization named  CIVA to run through December. It's open Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm and Sundays, 9am to 12pm.

My second cultural surprise was to learn that a renowned dance company is utilizing the same room as Watanabe's exciting exhibit! (The hardwood flooring of this room, by the way, was also from the old Royal Poinciana Hotel..) The church's Great Big Room not only houses wonderful prints, but is also the rehearsal venue for Klein Dance company. Demetrius Klein has been a Palm Beach County dance fixture for over twenty-five years. (My son took tap classes in his Lake Worth studio). Here, surrounded by this wonderful artwork, Klein's company is presenting a December 4th and 5th performance called "Elbow" open to the public. View Watanabe's exhibit at 7pm, dance performance at 8pm.

An excerpt from their press release tells it best:

Asked about the new work, Klein said, “I’ve been listening to Elbow’s album [Build a Rocket, Boys!] since its release several years ago. I’d already created two works to two of the songs and I thought, wouldn’t it be great to complete the other eight songs?

“The album functions like a score, not thematically, but the music has an arc to it… a sense of completeness.

“This work delves into how to make partnering that is new, and not romantic in nature. It’s more about help, trust, and support. We integrated some movement from past works as well.”

Tickets are $20 ($10 for students with ID and seniors). Please contact Tracy at 561-758-8726, email dkdcdiyprojects@gmail.com, or visit dkdcdiyprojects.org for more information or to purchase tickets.

Demetrius Klein Dance Company ... is South Florida’s oldest modern dance company. Mr. Klein is a celebrated choreographer whose awards include the Hector Ubertalli Award for Artistic Excellence, a Choreographic Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and several grants from the MacArthur Foundation.

So friends, come get a double dose of culture in one night; a two-for-one artistic experience. Enjoy the season's offerings this weekend and all December long.

Monday, November 30, 2015

And So The Season Starts...

Last week the break in temperature and humidity brought a sense that the season really is changing. We've turned a corner from our long summer to the cool, coveted shorter fall and winter - Florida winter. With the lower mercury reading comes the glory and glamour of the equestrian world.

Colliding with 'Season'  is Christmas making for the most wonderful time of the year. We'll wrap our palm trees with twinkle lights, hang our icicle strands on the roofline and try to wear neck scarves without sweating. Our Starbucks beverages will most likely be cold, but the spice and peppermint flavors and smells will suffice to enhance the holiday.

Here's a repost of this seasonal change put to poetry:

   Wellington Calls!
Jumpers while the sun is setting
Turf is tossed where hooves are treading
Palms and pines stand straight and tall
Hopefuls for the cup, they traveled
Roads of air and sea and gravel
Wellington Calls!

Morning glow on fields and ranches
Fog lays low on green expanses
Softly shrouding barns and stalls
Trainers from the mist emerging
Reins and horses gently urging
Wellington Calls!

Polo's afternoon attraction
Crowds erupt with loud reaction
Cantering roars like cannonballs
Riders, ponies bump and pivot
While we race to stomp the divots
Wellington Calls!

Regal Dressage elegances
Hunters clear the rails and fences
Embrace the speed, renounce the falls
Audiences line arenas
Straw hats, boots complete the scene as
Wellington Calls!

Hopeful hearts for purse and prizes
Pain rewarded, dreams realizing
Chance to grace museum walls
The equine captivates and courts us
Both spectator and skilled sportsman
Wellington Calls!
by Angela Shaw

Monday, November 9, 2015

Writing the Rodeo

Great writers have good word control; something beginner writers lack terribly.

Skilled writers' thoughts line up like orange trees in a Florida grove. The rows and columns are orderly and understandable. My thoughts burst like wild bulls through the gate, words flying everywhere in the dust of dangling participles, the chaos of inconsistent tenses, the gore of disagreeing pronouns.  (I blame my sub-level, 1970's California High School non-education).

Furiously,  I wind up my rope and heave a lasso to try to contain them; those unwieldy words, snorting, slobbering and bucking in mad resistance. After a fierce battle, they finally lay on their side, panting in rebellious defeat, until at last I have a paragraph someone can read.

Successful authors like Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Marjory Stoneman Douglas seem to have it all together. They too have had their war of the words, but vetted at an early age have emerged the victors of verbiage. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings of (The Yearling) was published at age 11, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, (River of Grass) worked at her father's Miami newspaper.

For me, and unfortunately for you poor readers, my vetting ground is this blog. I apologize for dragging you through the muddy mess of my writing arena, for choking you with my excessive alliteration and making you endure the milieu of mixed metaphors. All writers must pay their dues and learn their craft. I'm sorry I must subject innocent readers to the bloody violence of taming my wily words. Thank you for being valiant and loyal spectators in this painful process.

Someday perhaps this venue will be more like playground than a bull ring. A happy place where phrases are playthings. Homonyms are tossed like bouncy balls, figures of speech delight like dolls. Then we'll play on words in a kinder, gentler read.

Friday, October 30, 2015

"The Property Known as Garland" Played in Palm Beach

When Lee Marlow's acting coach requested a cold reading of The Property Known as Garland, she jumped to the podium, script in hand. One doesn't normally drag their feet or refuse a director's request, especially if that director happens to be Burt Reynolds. Marlow read it with grace and ease; the words tripping off her lips and the content coming from her heart. She later said of the read that,

"It. Felt. Wonderful!"

The role of Judy Garland appeared to be tailored-made for Marlow. A perfect fit, like the red, satin gown she wore in the final scene.

If you were lucky enough to see the production last month at the former Florida Stage, I think you'd agree that

It. Was. More.Than.Wonderful!

Photo credit Jeffrey A McDonald

Set in Garland's backstage dressing room, the icon took us on a journey from her stolen Vaudeville childhood, through the relationship with MGM studios, her many husbands, her mercenary mother, and the nagging narcotics. Garland told her story of triumphs, defeats and come-backs. With biting wit she rails on those who forced their agendas on her, who started her on the 'pill mill' at 15 - a pill to keep her awake, help her sleep, shed excess weight. She struggled to regain her life when those around her orchestrated it against her will. She battled for her identity and independence despite being treated like a thing, a product, a paycheck for her producers. Her fierce love for her children was her only lifeline, her saving grace, for the moment, anyway.

The two-character script was written by Billy Van Zandt and played in New York for several weeks. How it got to the The Palm Beaches Theatre in Manalapan, is a story in itself.

Burt Reynolds had set things in motion for Marlow and insisted the show be a one-woman monologue. Marlow contacted offices in New York to see if Reynold's vision was possible and to procure licensing rights. Office workers directed her to Billy Van Zandt himself via email. A few emails later she got a personal phone call from the playwright. Delighted to speak with him directly, Marlow explained Burt's concept and where he wanted to trim the script. To her surprise, Van Zandt told her he had preferred it as a monologue and said it should start with the precise line Reynolds had recommended. Licensing was granted. With that kind of like-mindedness and affirmation, Marlow went to work and emerged with 90 minutes of a sparkling depiction of the true Garland.

1957, Backstage at the Greek Theater - LA Times

When many of us think of Judy Garland, we picture the young farm girl in a blue checkered dress, Toto in arms, belting out "Over the Rainbow." We soar with her mighty vocals to that magical land.

For others a darker image arises: one of a tragic, worn down woman. We mourn that she left this world so early.

Regardless of which image of Judy you ascribe to, you won't want to miss Marlow's grand portrayal of the legendary lady. The Property Known As Garland plays November 12th, 13th and 14th at 7pm and Sunday, November 15th at 2pm at The Palm Beaches Theatre, formerly The Florida Stage, 262 South Ocean Drive, in Manalapan. For tickets call 561-362-0003 or visit pbfilmfest.org.

You will see that Marlow's presentation is more than just a tribute, but a treatise on Garland's tenacious will. A declaration of her determination to resist defeat and to shine as the victorious star she was.

Photo credit Jeffrey A McDonald

Friday, October 23, 2015

My Son, The Rail Rider

Depression Era Rail Riders

Perhaps it was his west coast roots that drew him, having been born in hilly Thousand Oaks just north of Los Angeles, or a distant call from the restless youths of a century ago, or simply the breath-stopping excitement of conquering a monstrous locomotive.

Whatever it was, my son had to go, had to answer, and leave his Brooklyn abode for a month-long odyssey commencing in Los Angeles. Home of  movie stars, it was his Vine celebrity friend who concocted the idea:

"Hey guys, let's hop trains for the month of August and make a documentary film on rail riding." 

 He invited four of his childhood friends, of whom my son was one, and with a "Holy Crap, that sounds awesome!" they dropped everything and booked a flight to LA.

They sub-let their rooms on Air B&B, took a leave from their jobs and texted their families goodbye despite their moms begging them to reconsider so dangerous an endeavor. The boys turned a deaf ear on big brother-in-uniform's warnings and fathers' disapproval of the whole idea. After all if you get caught, it's a misdemeanor and an unnecessary smudge on your record.




How different from the first freight hoppers. During the Depression, their fathers kicked them out on the street to fend for themselves. One less mouth to feed. At fifteen or younger, the boys were capable of living on their own. The train got them where they needed to go. To this town where rumors of work flew. To this farm where walnut picking would bring in enough for a meal. To this field to harvest tomatoes to keep body and soul together.

1930's Train Hoppers

Decades later, my son voluntarily left his comfortable bed for the cold steel bottom of a boxcar, or worse the frightful underbelly scaffold of a grainer.

Doesn't look pretty.

The group spent a full week planning and researching which routes and lines would take them from the City of Angels to the Big Apple via the northern route. First stop Portland, then Montana, Idaho, eastward to New York. That was the plan - full of unknowns as it was, there was enough in their minds to go for it. The rest they'd figure out along the way like which car to hop, how to hide from the authorities, where to sleep and eat. Luxuries such as washing hands and showering were deliberated later when the citified boys would finally get sick of pebbles in their eyes and soot under their fingernails.

Sleeping bag, check
Neckerchief for toxic exhaust fumes while going through tunnels, check
Video cameras, cellphones, chargers, check
Freeze-dried food, check,
Jacket, check
Hat, check
Tent, check
Glasses to protect eyes from wind and grit, check

All packed, but missing one of their travel companions who got delayed on his flight. Once he arrived they were ready for their LA jumping off point. The tricky part was getting on the right train. Other would be hobos had erroneously hopped one headed to Arizona, intending to go north.

Finally, it was the early morning of their departure. Five young men headed for the station. If they hadn't quite awoken, their racing heartbeats were pumping adrenaline then. Shoes crunched the train yard gravel as they awaited their first ride on the iron labyrinth that would take them through scenery and experiences none of them half expected...

My son, the Rail Rider.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Haunted by the Presence of God

Children hold a deep consciousness of their parent's presence. The slightest hurt or worry spawns a cry for help. The mere sight of mom and dad restores their sense of security.

This was illustrated so clearly this weekend as my grand daughter Charlotte took ill on my son's wedding day. Daddy had just put on her pretty dress only to have her lose her lunch on it.  Neither daddy, Charlotte nor brothers got to attend.

Sweetie pie came down with the stomach flu leaving her feeling bad for several days. She clung to mom's hip and nuzzled her neck as she recovered.

She knew where her shelter and help came from.
Today I read Chambers' My Utmost For His Highest and am reminded that this too is my stance. I look to Him just like a little child.

No worries.

Just trust.

Just an ever present realization that God is mine and with me.

I am haunted by his presence.

Not just thinking about him, but interacting, clinging, resting my head on his mighty capable chest.


Friday, August 28, 2015

What I Learned About Myself From A Wise Woman of Twenty

The house was filling up with young people and the volume began to drown out Randy Newman on the record player. I welcomed my chatty guests with a drink and an introduction to the rest of the group. It was the beginning of the Merry Month of May, as I called it; a full month of parties starting by celebrating my son's college graduation and ending with another son's wedding. Back in the kitchen I almost cut my finger prepping vegetables when I heard our friend, Kristin's comment.

She had been reading some philosophical book and lamenting some girlfriend's take on men, weary that her all her female friends seem to treat men alike. This was her complaint:

"Men may view women as objects, 
but women are guilty of viewing men as projects!"

Photo Credit www.allposters.com

Ouch!! She was so right, my conscience (not finger) clearly cut! I've always felt a little self righteous about being a woman. Poor men, they can't help themselves and  how they see woman as objects to be possessed or used for their pleasure. Unashamedly judgmental, I felt the male sex was a little more defective and morally inferior to the female species.

But she was right! How often do we try to make-over our men.
We dress them,
Manipulate their occupations to what suits us,
Train them to be the fathers and husbands we deem best.
We style their hair,
Tell them how to shave, or not
Re-design them, renovate them, remodel.

Then we put them on display on our Pottery Barn shelves and Ethan Allen hutches for all to see.
We post them on Facebook to garner 'likes' and make all the unhappily paired women envious.
We put up our perfect man on Pinterest with a link to our craft shop on Etsy.
Offer him as another creation we made from scratch.
He is the featured item in our "Perfect Male" shop.

"Look what I made! You too can have the boy of your dreams!"

Or we post our product on Ebay. Bidding starts at $199.

Recovering from her incriminating comment  - a revelation to me - and the near slice of my finger, I wondered how someone so young could possess such insight on the conflict of the sexes. She's truly cracked the code of relationships. No wonder men get tired of our nagging and prodding and messing. We straighten their hair without asking, fix their tie and trim their eyebrows to our liking.

Photo Credit - www.zazzle.com

At that moment, there in my kitchen in a house full of noisy company, in the middle of a party, I vowed to stop "project-ifying" my man, stop making him my mission,  and let him be who he is.

And I was a little, not much, but a little more forgiving of men who objectify women, not excusing them but feeling a bit more empathy for their weakness and wiring.

My husband will be happy to hear of my fresh resolution for our relationship - about my self-realization and new-found awareness.

I couldn't wait to tell him after the party - how this young woman of twenty had revealed a considerable flaw in my attitude toward him and men in general.

So I told him at bedtime.

After I had picked out his clothes for the morning.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Will the Real Mother Goose Please Stand Up?

We never stop missing our mothers. Mine has been gone for five years and I still think of her daily.
But brothers help fill the gap our deceased parents leave. Siblings confirm our childhood years as reality, despite their misty memory.

One such memory is a set of Childcraft volumes that we children read and referenced. Seeing them now elicits a warm wave of security, joy and repose. For my father read them to me at bedtime. I repeatedly perused them to occupy myself when TV was not in our house.

So, on a recent Los Angeles visit to see my brother, I spied the old volumes in our guest bedroom. The bindings flashed before me in their burnt orange color, frayed spine bindings and whimsical illustrations.

Opening it, all the familiar pages met my eyes. But missing was the poetry volume that held:

Hush-A-Bye, Baby
What Does the Bee Do?
Pease Porridge Hot
Jack Be Nimble
Hickory, Dickory, Dock
Three Blind Mice
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
Peter, Peter, Pumpkin-Eater
The Old Woman In The Shoe
And a favorite, Eletelephony 

"I'm missing Volume 1," brother Pete said. "I think I loaned it to you so you could read it to April when she was little."

That was a long time ago. I'd kept it for over thirty years, but not on purpose. The childhood excuses echoed back through our Stanton home halls. It wasn't my fault! I didn't mean to! I forgot! I didn't know I had it! Lame, lame. So I happily said, "I'll return it as soon as I get home".

One might wonder, "Why did he get the set  anyway, and not me?" I don't think the item was any part of our mother's will, but the little sister in me submitted without question to my big brother.

So, today I am putting it in a padded envelope wrapped in wrinkled tissue paper and sending it to my  brother with this letter:

Dear Pete,

I'm reading the inner flap of the Childcraft, Volume 1 before sending it to you. I notice that the editors of this Mother Goose and Nursery Rhymes were all PHD's from the likes of Vassar, Stanford, Peabody and Columbia. Impressive, I think. 
   Then I wondered, who is Mother Goose? No one author is associated with her. She is a legendary character, with a scant connection to an 8th Century noblewoman named Bertha, who embodies the county wife/mother personae. She also is likened to a fairy bird mother (hence she's shown riding a flying goose), who told enchanting stories to children. Your wife, Terry probably knows better of her origins since she is a teacher. 
   The first collection of Mother Goose stories was published in 1667, with an earlier form in 1637, as "Tales from the Past With Morals." Over the centuries, it has transformed into many varieties, one of which we happily read as children in the Childcraft series. Glad to send the missing volume back to its 'family'.

Much love, 
Your sister

Mother Goose is the symbol of wisdom and comfort the child in all of us craves.

A real person? I think not. But those of us who were reared by her rhymes will always associate her with the nurture and love of our own, very real mothers.

Monday, August 10, 2015

One Hundred Years of Walter - A Tribute to My Father

The fifth commandment says, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long..."

I had decided to compile a scrap book of my father's life as his 100th year approached. He passed in 1998 at age 82. Good intentions aside, when work, summer travel and painting my marred walls got in the way of finishing dad's life story,  this scripture spurred me on - perhaps out of selfish gain, but hopefully out of a desire to celebrate my dear father's life.

Where does one begin? Four-score years is a long time. Several eras encompassed the life of this English/Dutch-German man named Walter Ira Allen, born August 10, 1915.

Sherman Alden Allen was an English professor who married Herta (Bertha) Schenk.  They had Ralph first, then "Valtar" as his Dutch-German mother would call him, an accent my dad told me embarrassed him immensely. .

Walter in perambulator, Ralph and Herta Schenk-Allen-1916
A new job took the family to Worcester, Mass., where Walter spent his childhood and early adulthood.

Sylvan Street - 1921 - A new sled!

After high school he traveled to London and served in Ethiopia as a WWII  ambulance driver. On his return, he briefly attended Clark University, then headed to Hollywood seeking fame. He landed a few small parts while driving a taxi as his day job.

1943 Hollywood head shot
 A mutual friend introduced him to my mother, Isabel  MacDuffie and they married in 1949, settling in Hollywood, where my two brothers, Christopher, Peter and I were born.

Hollywood, 1951 - First son, Christopher.

My father was unique and interesting person, always wanting to stir things up, whether it be at the bank, market or restaurant with his joking comments and antics - a practice he held from young adulthood. He saw "No Trespassing" signs as an invitation to trespass. Here, on a 1930's trip to London, he sat in a stranger's car and had a friend take his photo, book and cane in hand.

Later, when my mom worked at Disneyland, he wandered through a door and ended up on a bridge overlooking the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, passengers laughing at this real pirate mannequin.

 My father held strong opinions about politics, of which he was quite outspoken. The volume was often high in our household, (his middle name, 'Ira' means 'wrath') but I was never afraid of his yelling. He lived out loud, kissed my mother often and loved us dearly.

 Ever involved in city and state politics, he campaigned for Barry Goldwater, warded off communists like many conservatives of the day. He was adamantly against television, so we were raised as TV illiterates. My brothers designed and built things, I played piano.

He would take the family for long walks around Balboa Island and Laguna Beach bluffs or for Sunday drives to Pacific Palisades and places at night unbeknownst to me,  where all  I can remember is clear cold air, starry black skies, the smell of campfires and steaming, nearly-burn-your-tongue hot chocolate for all. We'd come home and he'd heat up smooth rocks in the bathroom sink full of hot water to put at the bottom of our sheets, warming up our cold feet.

Poetry and short stories occupied his free time, self-publishing several poetry books which  I've come to appreciate over time. He bounced from job to job, sometimes leaving us with very little - a result of the absence of a honed skill or degree. Yet he was articulate and self - educated. I can still see him  reading in bed; books like Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, Foxe's Book of Martyrs and Edmond Burke. He sang and played the piano.We lived in a modest house in Stanton, California and could see the Disneyland fireworks every summer's night from our driveway.

Forest Lawn - 1949 Wedding

When my parents' nest emptied out, they  moved to south Orange County into a new neighborhood until Alzheimer's struck. My mom cared for him as much as she could. We moved him from home to home, until he eventually refused food and passed  from the disease's advanced stage in 1998.

My father gave me the gift of himself. Something as simple as holding my hand on a walk to the grocery store, his giant dad hand enveloping my small little girl fingers. The strong sense of security and love that brought me still fills my heart today.

We went rock hopping in the Silverado Canyon creek, walking in the rain on the Huntington Beach pier, and wave watching at the Wedge. There was little money for vacations, but I never felt deprived of adventure. One New Year's morning, we jumped in the car  to see the Rose Parade in Pasadena, back when you didn't have to camp out for two days just to get a curbside spot. Or we'd hit the Hollywood bowl for Easter sunrise service or camp and hike in Yosemite. One rare day as an adult, we sat in the living room and he told me stories of living in the Middle east, adventures that made him the mysterious, daring and fascinating person he was.

That was my father. Sure, he had his faults. But today, I honor him and and remember him as a good father.

Happy Hundredth Birthday, Dad!

Miss you.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Church Bells Still Ring

I heard them today after the pastor declared triumphantly, "I now pronounce you man and wife." My son kissed his bride once, twice, three times with a careless embrace to follow. The wedding bells punctuated the nuptial celebration like an exclamation mark.

Suburbia dwellers don't hear them much. Not in the sprawl of Orange County nor in the western neighborhoods of South Florida. There is not a tone to be heard. In Thousand Oaks, bells sounded the time every hour, echoing from California Lutheran University about a mile away.

It had been years, but I heard them pealing above the vaulted church ceiling into the late May, Ceylon blue sky, proclaiming to the world that love is alive and well.

Love was no more abundant than within those chapel walls. And the bells burst out the good news for all to hear!

Love, barely contained inside two individuals, so full, that it spilled out onto every friend, relative and acquaintance beholding their union. My first-born son and the beautiful young woman whose warmth and genuineness is only equal to her wit, intelligence and brown-eyed beauty. A new daughter!!! How wonderful!

The church bells clanged and donged and rang, amplifying the joy in my heart and in the hearts around me. Oscar Rogers said it best in the theme song from The Sound of Music:

My heart wants to sigh 
like a chime that flies 
from a church on a breeze

The tenderness of heart was not just found in the the wedding pair, but found in their friends, also. The flood of affection could be seen at every turn during the ceremony. In the songs, the singers, the scripture readers, and in the father of the the bride.

Oh! the father of the bride! He had us all reaching for our handkerchiefs. At the front of the aisle, giving away his daughter, he touched my son's arm and said, "This is my princess. She never thought she could find someone who'd love her the way I do . But now she has. You are the one. Love her. Protect her. Cherish her."

After that, we were all a teary mess; bridesmaids pulling tissue out of their bodices to share with the others.

At the reception, the detail of decorations created by the bridesmaids showed even more affection. Married at 28 these friendships were true and vetted by time

But the keystone was at the dance. The group had a theme song that went,  "...You are my friend! You'll never be alone again". The anthem rose in excitement and volume until brother Jesse and friends hoisted up the groom.Then, right on cue, the bridesmaids and other men hoisted up the bride, bride and groom, carried on shoulders, shouting the refrain below to the dance floor full of bouncing friends, joyously churning like choppy ocean waves!

 .You are my friend! You'll never be alone again!!!

They sang that song at all their friends' weddings, but this was the first time they sang it TO each other!

A stupendous moment, never to be forgotten or diminished by time or hardship.That's friendship. That's marriage. Yes, that's forever love -

Ian Joseph Jones photography

Overflowing from a wedding couple and good friends.

Church bells still ring, and love is still found in the world!

Ian Joseph Jones photography

Monday, July 20, 2015

What Steinbeck Teaches Us About California's Drought

Sometimes all we need to do is read our classics to learn about the present world.

Take the California drought, for example. The dry state has been experiencing four years of skimpy precipitation. Already a semi-arid climate, any dip in the rainfall can change the lifestyle dramatically. Produce goes up in price. Water restrictions are enforced, landscape irrigation practically prohibited.

On a recent trip to SoCal I observed the brown lawns first-hand. A green golf course excused itself with a sign off the freeway: "Irrigated with reclaimed water." The only other visibly green color was on the faces of residents driving by as reclaimed water was not available to them. Their St Augustine remains parched.  The entire emotional climate was judgmental.  Any gardens that suggested adequate watering, pronounced immediate indictment upon its owners.

We visited a nursery specializing in drought resistant plants, succulents and flowering grasses. One is considered very hip if you plant them on your property. Especially if you do it in torn jeans, rumpled hat and thrift store work boots. A paisley neckerchief to catch sweat tied loosely at the throat finishes off the look. So dressed the nursery employees, scruffy beards for the young men, no make-up for the girls.

The classic I'm referring to is John Steinbeck's East of Eden and his commentary on the California terrain. He paints a picture of the chaparral, the wildflowers and weather patterns in a way no film documentary ever could. Bringing every foggy recollection of the golden state's flowers back into vivid color, he writes of the seasonal blossoming. Having been away for seventeen years, I had nearly forgotten about the lupins, the poppies, the mustard and the Indian paintbrush that popped off the drab beige hills, the dirt lots by freeway on-ramps, and weedy  shoulders of the streets.

"The spring flowers in a wet year were unbelievable. 

 The whole valley floor, and the foothills too, would be carpeted with lupins and poppies. Once a woman told me that colored flowers would seem more bright if you added a few white flowers to give the colors definition. Every petal of blue lupin is edged with white, so that a field of lupins is more blue than you can imagine. And mixed with these were splashes of California poppies. These too are of a burning color ---not orange, not gold, but if pure gold were liquid and could raise a cream, that golden cream might be like the color of the poppies. When their season was over the yellow mustard came up and grew to a great height. When my grandfather came into the valley the mustard was so tall that a man on horseback showed only his head above the yellow flowers.

And a little later in the season there would be red and yellow strands of Indian paintbrush. 

These were the flowers of the open places exposed to the sun."

Then Steinbeck talks weather:

"I have spoken of the rich years when the rainfall was plentiful. But there were dry years too and they put a terror on the valley. The water came in a thirty year cycle. There would be five or six wet and wonderful years. When there might be nineteen to twenty-five inches of rain,  

the land would shout with grass.

 Then would come six or seven pretty good years of twelve to sixteen inches of rain. And then the dry years would come, and sometimes there would be only seven or eight inches of rain. The land dried up and the grasses headed out miserably a few inches high and great bare scabby places appeared in the valley. The live oaks got a crusty look and the sagebrush was gray. The land cracked and the springs dried up and the cattle listlessly nibbled dry twigs. Then the farmers and the ranchers would be filled with disgust for the Salinas Valley. The cows would grow thin and sometimes starve to death. People would have to haul in barrels of water to their farms just for drinking. Some families would sell out for nearly nothing and move away. 

And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, 

and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way."

The author never mentions El Nino, the Golden State's great green hope. That term post-dated this story published sixty-three years ago.
Have the weathermen and bloggers forgotten their state's normal rain cycles as Steinbeck suggests? Is the state of emergency that the Governor has proclaimed soon to be lifted? Who knows?

What we do know is that the cracked lake-beds, the flinty soil, the dry man-made river bottoms will soon swell again with the cool winter watering that falls from the skies for one, two, three days at a time. 

California can keep calm because this is the way of its weather, the normal course of its climate.

Thank you for the reminder, Mr. Steinbeck.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fish Gotta Swim. Musicians Gotta Play.

Artist Credit:  Rollin McGrail

How long can a fish survive outside of water?

 Not long. Some say 10 minutes. Others say 10 months. Either way, not long. 

Fish gotta swim.

How long can a musician survive without playing their instrument? About as long as a bird can live without wings. Rhythm and pitch are a musician's breath. The forward motion of phrase and meter is their lifeblood. They will shrivel up and die inside if deprived of the opportunity to utilize their skill.

Musicians gotta play.

You can deny it for only so long. A guitarist who doesn't play feels like he's lost a limb. A pianist without her piano is sad as
an artist without her brushes 
or a writer without a typewriter
A chef without a stove
A swimmer without a pool
An actor without a stage
A golfer without his clubs
 A home run hitter without his bat
An architect without his CAD
A decorator without her swatches
A seamstress without her needle
A singer without a song

Try as you may, you can't deny your passions for long. Find a way in between your day job and the demands of home to pick it up again and
And live
And nourish your artist soul.

Then play like there's no tomorrow. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The People In My Closet

With foggy head and bleary eyes I approach the dim closet, clutching my steaming cup of coffee.

It's time to get dressed.

As a teen I kept a dated list of outfits taped to the door jamb to make sure I didn't repeat an ensemble more than once every couple of weeks. Now I rely on my memory, which is certainly diminished in capability since then. Repeating clothes just doesn't seem as important these days.
Photo credit - houzz.com
(By the way, this is NOT my closet, just my dream closet. Mine is slightly organized with Target shoe racks and Home Depot wire shelves, but nothing like this custom built closet heaven).

I brush my hand along the sleeves of tops hung by color, fanning them like pages in a book, waiting for inspiration to strike. A quick jog to view the patio thermometer or a glance at my weather app helps my decision. If tops don't spark an outfit option I turn to the row of hanging jeans and pants. What's an appropriate pant weight for the weather? Will I be hot in this? Or cold? Is it a boot day or scarf day? The wearing of both has rebelled against traditional seasonal demands and etiquette. Now boots and shorts go together. Bulky infinity scarves are as abundant in summer as they are in winter.

Finally, a top and bottom combination gets unhung. But as I disrobe, I suddenly have company in my small space. I hear voices. All sorts of people join me in my closet and it's quickly very crowded: my mother, my boss, my pastor, my kids' friends, my daughter, the pastor's wife, the worship leader, the worship leader's wife, my husband, the neighbors and perfect strangers are all talking at the same time. They're saying things like,

"That skirt's too short"
"The top's too low cut"
"You look like an aging hippie in that"
"Stop trying to look like a teenager"
"Will your midriff show if you lift your arms in that?"
"That's way too youthful for a middle aged woman"
"Cover your rear if you are singing on the church platform."
"That makes you look frumpy"
"How old is that dress anyway?"
"Skinny jeans just look wrong on a woman over 40!"

And on the voices go, till the cacophony is so loud, I want to shout


Image result for voices
Photo credit - littleactor.com

I'm just trying to get dressed, for crying out loud. Get out of my closet and out of my head!

At last, after the ruckus and unsolicited advice dissipate, I can hear my own heart talking.

You be you. Dress for the occasion and the weather, but you be you.

Getting dressed should not be so complicated!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

God Is In the Details ~ Sondheim

  Show poster
After taking in the Broadway production of  "Into the Woods" last December, I was hesitant to see the Disney film version.

Don't get me wrong, Disney's great. But this production was so creatively satisfying that I feared,  you know what I'm going to say, anything else would be a let down. The tickets to the show were a Christmas gift from my grown children, adding more sentiment to the occasion. Elbowing our way down Broadway during the impossibly crowded Holiday tourist season, winter chill on our cheeks, only intensified the allure and adventure.

The production was pared down to one upright piano and ten actors who doubled parts, hilariously at times, like when two guys acting as Cinderella's step-sisters held a curtain rod at shoulder height with cinched double panels that hung in front of them to look  like dresses. Ha. So funny!

What resulted was a most magical, organic and sardonically Sondheim experience. Take a look for yourself and Watch here.

Long burly ropes strung from floor to ceiling formed the backdrop resembling the criss-cross of piano strings and hinting at a forest. Stage left held a wall of piano harps from uprights and grands of all sizes creating the look of woods to the rear and woods to the side. The show did not disappoint.

The entire production corroborated Sondheim's writing philosophy that

God is in the Details. 

Other Sondheim-isms are 
                                                             'less is more'
                                                                                           'content dictates form.' (Take note writers.) But my favorite is 'god is in the details.'

I'm certain Sondheim didn't mean this as a faith statement. For Him, the essence of a well-written play is in the details of craft, lyric and song making a work transcend into high art and excellence.
So true, Stephen.

On the stage and more true in real life. For there the small events of the day are the shadow of God.Quite often it's not the epic miracles, but the small revelations that display the Creator's character and personal touch in our every day.

Couched in comedy and satire of four familiar fairy tales, Sondheim weaves a poignant message of longing, satisfaction and the universal 'fight in the forest' to secure our happiness.
In the the midst of the beautiful and ugly, the ordinary and strange, it's revealed that our deepest "I wish"-es are fleeting and disappointing at times.

Look for the divine in the details in Into The Woods and everyday moments. Your happy-ever-after may be in the very present, rather than in pined-for future things.
Alas, because of the sheer perfection of this masterful musical, I may just have to see the movie, after all.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Surfin' Jesus Style

In life challenges are a continual companion. Accepting the fact makes one an adult. Not freaking out makes one a mature adult. Easier said than done.

But what if we view adversity with new eyes? Rather than responding with that lead-weight-in-the-pit of-our-stomach, palpitating-panic-in-our-chest or tear-producing-lump-in-our-throat, we



and embrace the roller coaster ride of faith.

Oswald Chambers puts it like this from his March 7th My Utmost For His Highest 

"The surf (6ft waves towering over your small self) that distresses the ordinary swimmer produces in the surf-rider (1930's term for surfer-dude) the

Super - joy

of going clean through it. 

Photo credit - commons.wikipedia.com - Santa Cruz

Apply that to our own circumstances, these very things, tribulations, distress, persecution, (problems, flat tires, job losses, family illness, car accidents, stress, calls from your child's school, fevers in the night) produce in us the 


they are not things to fight.

We are more than conquerors through Him in all these things, not in spite of them. The saint (Believer) never knows the JOY of the Lord in spite of tribulation (turbulent times), but because of it--- 'I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation,' says Paul.

Undaunted radiance is not built on anything passing, but on the love of God that nothing can alter. The experiences of life, terrible or monotonous are impotent to touch the love of God, through Jesus." ~ Oswald Chambers

So, bring on the giant swells. Welcome the wall of water.

Photo credit - mysurfwaves.blogspot.com

Surf's up, baby.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Egyptians, Ancient Artifacts and the Color of A Dress

What was it about the banter over the color of the sequined dress that captivated us? Was it that our opinion was asked of? Was it a mindless distraction to much weightier things going on in the world? I confess I was sucked in to the dress debate just like anyone else. 

I was lulled and lured so I wouldn't have to think about the atrocities that I'd seen on the news this past week. I could not wrap my mind around what I'd seen. I couldn't accept it. Total denial was adopted.

And I turned to the talk of a dress and who was colorblind (or blind?).

Instead of sobbing over 21 innocent Egyptians slaughtered for their faith.

Instead of facing the images of priceless, thousand year old sculptures being viciously bludgeoned and defaced.

No more.


History and Art that elevate the human condition.
Art that washes from the soul the dust of life, as Picasso put it.

All gone. Now a heap of ruins. A pile of dust.

I'm struggling to understand the mentality of those that would do such things. In the name of a god that promotes death to any who hold thoughts, beliefs or ideologies contrary to theirs.

This is so far from our ideal of freedom of speech, religion, and press, that I wonder why we aren't crying out over the radicals' blatant hatred and death threats.

I wondered why my mother's generation didn't do more about Hitler. He sounded like a crazy man on the radio, my mother said. She was in her twenties and had more to think about than the possibility of genocide, torture, brutality and the firing squads existing in eastern Europe.

So I sent my email to the White House to ask what their response would be to this slap in the face of our Republic.

We better pay attention. Take care we don't lose the privileges and peace we enjoy,

As we debate about the color of a dress.

Monday, February 16, 2015

I Know I Saw A Pelican!

What a month to have been laid off from my job in! I couldn't be more grateful to be the casualty of a department restructure! February in Florida is when it feels most like California. The humidity disappears, the skies are cloudless and it is 73 degrees everyday!

Just after my son in NYC texted a photo of him bundled up to his nose saying, "it feels like 4 degrees out," and my daughter in Virginia texted back that it was 26 there, I did a gleefully evil thing.

"I hate to tell you all this," I typed away," but dad and I are off to kayak at John MacArthur National Park on this beautiful Sunday afternoon."

"You know you love telling your Northern kids that," my daughter wrote from VA.

Yes, I do enjoy flaunting our fair weather while they shiver.

Surprisingly, there was very little wind as we launched the double kayak into the cool lagoon. Normally we paddle out to a distant island in the greater intracoastal, but having less time we decided to go north into the upper enclosed part of the inlet. As we skirted the mangroves once and a while we put down the paddle and listened to the quiet; the waves barely heard from the beach side of the narrow peninsula, soaking up the weaker, but warm winter sun. Then we'd push forward . The birds were abundant; herons, blue and white, snowy egrets and others we weren't sure of.

Finally, we reached the north side of the pond. A great blue heron stood stately near the water. Above him to the right a huge pelican puffed up his wattle-like pouch below his bill, and fanned his feathers, reaching his massive beak to the sky.

 To his right, after we squinted and paddled closer, there sat another pelican, (am I seeing it right?) yes, on a nest!! Thus explaining the defensive dance of the first pelican. I confirmed with hubby that indeed it was a nest he was sitting on, the white stain of droppings extending below the perch, like snow, showing she had resided there a while, warming her eggs. There is nothing like seeing wildlife in its natural habitat! What an awesome sighting!

After our rowing, we hopped the shuttle across the inlet to the beach side. I excitedly shared with the driver that we had seen some beautiful birds including the nesting pelican.

He immediately discounted my delightful sighting by saying, "Oh no. They breed in North Carolina this time of year. You couldn't have seen a pelican. It must have been a blue heron."

"No, I'm pretty sure it was a pelican. Herons are slender with short beaks and this bird was stout with a long thick bill, " I pleasantly argued (especially after my last post promising to be nicer this year).

"Well," he continued in a condescending tone, "I'm a big Audubon buff and those birds go to North Carolina this time of year to breed. It must have been a blue heron."

I couldn't believe this man was about to kill my joy. It irked me that he would try to tell me something I know I had seen, so much so, that I couldn't let it go all through lunch on the beach with hubby who was siding with the shuttle driver, as being more of an expert!!

The argument with the driver continued in my head. The nerve! Yeah, have you read Audubon in Florida? I know a little bit about the guy. I've read 3 biographies of his and my great-grandfather's original print hangs on my living room wall. I know a little bit - enough to tell the difference between a heron and an pelican, for goodness sake!

I wanted to call my birder-brother, but I'd gotten my iPhone wet, so my vindication never came.
Until I got home and googled where Florida Pelicans breed in winter.

And yes, pelicans nest in the mangroves perched high over open waters, so they can soar in and out after fishing. So There, Mr Park worker!!

 I know I saw a Pelican!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Birthday Blogs - Saturday Night Live, 1990

I've been thinking about birthdays, as I hit another one today.

This one comes after an difficult job loss. I have more time to ponder.

My husband channel hopped to a throw-back SNL episode with Patrick Swayze hosting, a fine specimen of a man (though not my type) with his Fabio style locks coiffed with a layered cut and blow dry. They did racy skits poking fun at Dirty Dancing, Ghost and other hit films of the day.
I got the impression that it was hip and big and everyone in that New York studio felt cool and with-it and important to be a part of it all.

25 years later, who remembers? Who thinks about it? Are those names revered or reminisced?

Another year gone by, I ask, Did I do anything that was remembered?

What will I do this year that will be captured in anyone's mind?

Or is that the point?

No, it's not. Fame and the pursuit of making a name are foolish ambitions.

Stumbling on Ecclesiastes this morning, I read the same.  Solomon writes "For what has man for all his labor, for the striving of his heart (stress) and for his toil under the sun?....I made my works great, built houses, planted vineyards and gardens, orchards and pools. I gathered herds and flocks and servants, musicians and instruments- all the things that delight the soul."

He had made it.

He had arrived!

But it wasn't enough, for he laments that he will leave his accumulated wealth, possessions and accomplishments to another.

The point is to do good. That is what truly satisfies. Even God said it at the very  beginning.

God created ...... And it was good. Was the 'good ' in reference to the excellence of His created object? Yes.. But might I say it was also referring to the fact that God was satisfied in doing something good.

Do something good and you will be satisfied.

When we cut corners or cheat or hate, it leaves an undercurrent of  anxiety. We are vexed inside. We exist with this sludge in our hearts. All the pleasures and possessions in the world won't alleviate the problem. The quick fix dies fast.

But when we do good, the heart feels light and free and clean. When we resist lashing back when we've been unjustly treated; when we love our enemies and pray for those who have wronged us; when we pursue relationships instead of recoiling in bitterness, the satisfaction of doing right enlivens us. We can put our heads on our pillows in the comfort of peace.

Later Solomon gets it.

"For I know there is nothing better for a man than to rejoice and to do good in their lives.."

Here's to a year of pursuing and doing, to the best of my God-given ability, what is good.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Day It Snowed Stars on New York City

Photo by Arielle Rudin/Gothamist

God knows how to get our attention. And contrary to public belief, he usually speaks in a still small voice, rather than thunder and lightning and tsunamis. Which is why we sometimes claim to miss Him, though He may speak through our children's innocent wisdom, a stranger's casual comment, a lyric in a song.

Yesterday He came like snow, again. (Check out Winter Snow by Audrey Assad).

And the snow was in shapes of stars. Specifically 6 - pointed stars, like the Star of David.

I wondered if He might be asking us not to forget the country whose symbol that is. Not to ignore their existence; not to deny defending them; not to un-friend them as it seems America has on the worldwide facebook page.

For our leader doesn't have the time of day for our long-time ally.

Oh, he has time take selfies on a talk show with a woman whose you tube video went viral. A woman who filled her bathtub with milk and Fruit Loops cereal, got in on all fours and lapped it up like a dog. He has time for that.

But his calendar's too full to meet with Israel's prime minister on a foreign relations tour

or to march with heads of state to resist growing global terror. Or at least to send his representative who was across that Paris street.

Call it crazy or far-fetched, but maybe Someone is gently reminding us to never forget His people; to support and defend them by sending this never before seen weather phenomena

Photo by Arielle Rudin/Gothamist

 of snowflakes in the shape of stars falling on New York City.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sometimes Love is Like a Bad Tennis Match

Being married for ages has its ups and downs and back and forth's. Especially in conversation. Communication is the hardest part of marriage my father used to say. I didn't understand it then,  but I'm beginning to now.

The dialog often goes like this.

Love, love.

Do you think the paint treatment will hold? 

Don't know. It will be interesting to see if Canola oil can remove oxidation, or at least cover it up.

Of course when it rained I think the windows got cloudy. So I brought some paper towels and now we can windex them down.

It didn't rain before you left.

Yes, it did. Remember you said, wouldn't you know it rains the day you wash the car! It was covered with poinciana petals from the front yard branches that hang over the drive way.

Love, fifteen.

So I feel like our conversations are like bad tennis matches.

We lob sentences back and forth and keep missing the ball.

I send the ball, he misses.

He sends the ball, I miss, never seeming to connect.

I resist throwing the racket at him.

Fifteen, fifteen.

I serve, he misses, he returns it, I miss. We keep missing each other and mass confusion sets in. It's so maddening,  its a wonder we don't pitch the tennis balls and stomp off the court, the both of us.

Oh, he admitted. You're right.

Thank God! Because I feel like I'm going crazy when I cant' remember events that happened a half a day ago.

No it's me that's going crazy, he says.

Fifteen, thirty.

Well, just for today. I'm sure you'll be in your right mind tomorrow.

I'm working on it with diet and exercise, getting my mind back, that is.

We'll work on it together, ok? 


Love, Love.

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