Tuesday, December 29, 2009

There's No One Like Flannery

Die-hard Flannery O'Connor fan, do yourself a favor by clicking here, read the review of her new biography. There's also an MP3 interview by NYT with author/biographer Brad Gooch on the page, which is a real treat.
To give you a foretaste of the review by Joy Williams at NYT:

Flannery. She liked to drink Coca-Cola mixed with coffee. She gave her mother, Regina, a mule for Mother’s Day. She went to bed at 9 and said she was always glad to get there. After ­Kennedy’s ­assassination she said: “I am sad about the president. But I like the new one.” As a child she sewed outfits for her chickens and wanted to be a ­cartoonist.
She reluctantly traveled to Lourdes and claimed she prayed for the novel she was working on, “The Violent Bear It Away,” which she referred to as Opus Nauseous. She referred to each of her novels as Opus Nauseous. Rust Hills, the fiction editor of Esquire, put her in the middle of the “red-hot center” in his Literary Establishment chart of 1963. Elizabeth Hardwick took her to dinner at Mary McCarthy’s apartment, where McCarthy conceded that the communion wafer was a symbol of the Holy Ghost and a pretty good one, whereupon Flannery made her famous reply, “Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.”

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas: continued

Jan's threatened "cork-popping" about the Christmas-is-over-crowd is well heeded here. In certain real sense, it has just begun for me. Here's a confession for you: I'm still learning to love Christmas. That may astonish some, but it hasn't been long since I began to dissociate the season with shopping and eating and gaudy decorations and music that incessantly attacked my senses, and, more, shopping. A couple of years ago Rush Limbaugh had a feast day over Maureen Dowd's article in The New York Times about her bitter and depressed regards towards Christmas. Rush offered to reboot her perspective and cheer her up. It was a radio riot as only Rush was able to muster. I love Rush, but secretively found Dowd's sentiments sympathetic.

But that was then. What difference a few years have made! I'm not saying I'm totally smitten with the season; I can't be blind to the cultural and commercial side of it, which is easily overwhelming; and I am every bit prone to the distractions and diversions from between the store ads and the kitchen pantry. The last several days found me all Martha, nearly completely absent of Mary. When the parties receded, the remains of the parties shoved away or hastened into the dish washer, and I finally had the rest of the night safely parked on the couch and next to the silent lamp, what I reached for was Dante, in stead of the Bible or The Little Book of Hours: my wayward heart wanted art after several days of "martyrdom" in the kitchen and amongst wrapping paper, it wanted luxury in lieu of necessity.

So, you see, I haven't quite gotten over that residual, hmm, to put mildly, ambivalence, about how much I have to do to be a social and family creature. Generosity of the heart is hard to come by when one is sluggish in seeking external assistance. But at least, I'm able to shift vantage points, shake my head, and laugh at my own forgetfulness and childish ways.

Roll on, Christmas! I'm ready to recollect, gather my dissipated self. After every tiny shattering, there must follow every re-creating. Roll on, Christmas!

Maureen Dowd on this Christmas: fun to read, and I didn't know she had a conservative brother, to boot.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

The night is descending, temperature is dropping, Christmas Eve is upon us. Let us rejoice. Let us keep in our hearts the true meaning of this very night, and give thanks and sing praises (the last I will do so very silently).

Merry Christmas to all my friends whom I've come to love in this truly peculiar space wherein our paths have crossed.

To Jan, my sunny-delightful, albeit self-admittedly-sometimes-temperamental, friend: may your Christmas Eve be frozen but not your dreams; may the goddess of punctuation, and the angel of spelling be on your side always; may your pictures be forever blurry and beautiful; may your nifty-crafty Advent wreathe resurrect and stand firm; may all the juxtapositions run away from you, or, at least, run away from December.

To Sally, whom I tracked down only to find having admitted a "Seasonal Fraud:" May your writings grace First Things often, and give it the zest as only a home-schooling mom / poet could; may your little warriors and princesses grow in fearlessness, knowledge and grace; may it snow at least once again around this time next year where you live, so that you will have a timely photo of genuine snow-shrouded, fairytale house (not that I have any problem with the existing one, but that you'll never have to call it a "fraud").

To Webster and Frank: may your blog long live, and your followers grow to a million! May your two personalities be always so perfectly juxtaposed that we, your faithful readers, whenever logged in, always feel comforted and entertained, not to mentioned informed and edified.

And to everyone else who has ever set "foot" in, or simply stumbled onto this little corner of mine: may your spirit be settled and tout, your heart broad and free, your foot steady and strong; may you find whatever I humbly offer kindred to your fancies or memories. And pray for me, if you would, for the ever enlarging of my heart; and I will pray for you, for peace.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Briefly Again...

KDM and I are in self-congratulatory mood: we are nearing the end of Christmas shopping- names are being checked off, the "Done" pile is heaping up in the closet where we keep it hidden, wrapping paper and ribbons are beckoning... all so promising of an end of a task which looked endless merely 48 hours ago. That's an accomplishment we can believe in!

As I type, KDM is out tree-hunting. You read me right, tree hunting. We try to live up to our tradition of not getting a tree until two days within Christmas Eve. We have a cool name for this tradition - Christmas Tree Rescue. We scout the city looking for that unwanted, picked and left over, perhaps crooked, scrawny, short, little Christmas tree. Sometimes the store owner would just let us have it, for free. We'd bring it home, put it in water, dress it up, turn on the lights. Then we'd sit down, holding hands while admiring our adopted orphan, imagining it happy and merry, no longer forsaken and forlorn. When the holidays are over and it's time to remove the tree, with a slight pang of melancholy, we'd take it to the pond, where it will become a haven for the fishies to escape the big bad turtles. As of now, there are about 4 tree skeletons floating in the pond.

Well, I did say we are "nearing" the end of the shopping list. That means some names are still remaining, just so you know what I'm up to when I'm not around.

O, BTW, with all that's going on, shopping list etc., I still have been able to get my daily doses of disgust by keeping up with what's going in our nation's Capital. Thankfully I have just enough light in me to not to despair. My zoom lens is working still: I zoom way out in times like these in order to really see the "big picture." Try it, it works. And keep in mind the difference from self-deception.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Missing Dogs: the False Alarm

Inky and Barney

I hope nobody saw the post I put up earlier this morning: the soggy, weepy sob story about two missing dogs (the two Blue Heelers in the pictures, not the yellow one) and a teary plea for prayers for their return. The fact that these two rascals had gone missing since late last evening made me sick and wanting to cancel the day and possibly, the night too.

But my darlings are back, mysteriously, and dare I say, miraculously. Now let the day resume, and a light-bedecked night to follow! Hallelujah!

I hope you forgive my display of irrational exuberance following the irrational (can there be another kind?)hysteria. Would you not have been as broken-hearted had you believed you'd never see these blue beauties again?

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Just so you know, I'm kinda taking it easy with blogging. My shoulder and back have been hurting lately and this sittin' and typin' and thinkin' stuff is kinda getting to me. I still slip in here, however, when I get a minute, to check on my buddies (you know that I've been at your door :)) and would share my earth-shattering opinion in the comment section where I see fit.

A brief update -

I finally saw Charlotte's Web the movie, on VHS, with Debbie Reynold (sp? too lazy/hurt to look it up; edit later) as Charlotte, just to give you an idea how old it is. Oh the part when Charlotte began her magical web!! I felt like four and silently cheered, "O Weeeeave, Charlotte, Weeeeave!"

How lucky is Wilbur. If Wilbur buys lottery he'd win every time. I know in real life folks like that.

I received the box set of E. B. White's books including Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan, which I ordered for a child for Christmas. The box came shrink-wrapped. I wanted to open it and read the two I haven't read yet. KDM stopped me, wisely. Although I still don't see any harm it would do: the child would never know the box came shrink-wrapped. Or, would she?

Arrived with the children's books was a little treat to myself: Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. Some wisewoman, upon reading my blog post on The Elements of Style, recommended it to me. The cover alone cracks me up: Why o why, does it have to be a panda?? An upright panda, mind you, gun in hand (or paw?), exiting a cafe (the book cover, really). "I'm a panda. Look it up." (Now I'm nervous about whether that period, uh, full-stop, was supposed to be inside the quotation marks.)

Have we not enough neurosis without all this? Wisewoman, it'll be all your fault, if I develop a paralysis over punctuation.

The things we do to ourselves. Sigh.

Night, fellow crawlers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ms Bass: My Model

Portrait of Ms Bass, oil on canvas, 24"x30", 2009
Ms (m-i-z) Bass was 95 years old when she posed for this portrait last summer, when I belonged to a group of artists who met on weekends to paint from life models. Ms Bass came wearing a neutral colored dress with floral prints and a black hat. Her companion carried this two-piece, royal blue suit in a long dress bag behind her. She changed into it before taking the model stand. Ms Bass sat patiently for us for about 3.5 hours. Then it was time for her afternoon nap, as evidenced by the numerous miniature naps she took during the pose, for which she scolded herself and apologized every time she snapped awake.
I absolutely, positively, loved painting her.
  • I loved her blue suit - it had shiny jewels on it.
  • I loved painting it using my very expensive cobalt blue paint.
  • I loved the way she folded her hands over her laps.
  • I loved her flat-soled shoes, clunky but neat and clean.
  • I loved her patience.
  • I loved her falling asleep, her head drooping slightly over one of her shoulders.
  • I loved her waking up, and in her little-girlish, spidery voice, apologizing for her failings.
  • While surveying the works-in-progress in the room during the break, she stopped at mine, pointing to the head part and saying in a firm tone, "Put more white on the hair!"
  • It sounded more like an order than suggestion, still in that same, little-girlish, spidery voice.
And, I really, really loved that she came to the opening of my show!

 Upon entering the gallery, she asked the cameraman, in her little-girlish, spidery voice: "Do I need to comb my hair?"

Posing before her likeness

Ms Bass: best-dressed woman in town

She stayed a good part of the party, and enjoyed the crowd, cookies, fresh fruits and cheese. When she was tired, KDM drove her home. She told him that she had been raking leaves in her yard the day before. She also showed him a street named after her.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Just Another Picture

Time for another piece of
eye candy -I personally endorse
this one.

"Oil and Citrus"
oil on canvas

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I want to look heroic

Still trying to get over this flu-ish thing. The ginger tea comfort lasted for about an hour. After that I had fever and chills, aches and pains all over, and at bedtime, made a couple of trips to the bathroom to give back both the ginger tea and the shredded wheat I forced down an empty stomach earlier.

It turned really cold overnight and we were surprised by a very light snow at breakfast time. It lasted for no more than 10 minutes. Since then it's nothing but sunny sky and a ground returning to its moist and soggy previous self.

And I have paperwork to do. I really just want to sit around reading Dante till I feel justified for a nap. Besides, I have excuse: I'm sick, and I still can't eat solid food. But I'd promised an education partner for my next teaching residence, that I'd get the paperwork required for getting a grant done before Christmas. I also figured that typing away on the computer, occasionally pausing to ponder, study, and put cirles and marks on the paper draft on the table, would give me an air of diligence, even heroic fortitude, in the eyes of KDM. I need that kind of respect from this man, who thinks I'm soft, flabby, wimpy, spoilt, and an all-around squanderer of the gifts God has given me.

All that said, he's real sweet when I'm sick. He takes my temperature, puts extra blankets on me, brings hot water and aspirin, stays up listening to my puking, tells me to stay low and not to worry about anything...

There you have my bit of update around here. While here,I did sneak over to Sally's place. In case you read this post, I want you to know that I'm grateful that you have added me to your blogroll and even mentioned my blog in your post today! Along with Webster and Jan, you have just given this fledgling "blogget" a lift in reaching more readers. Although my original motive for blogging was to organize and record my own thoughts, I have discovered a friendly and mutually uplifting community out here.

I promise to share my thoughts on art.

Back to the paperwork.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Feels like I'm coming down with something. Besides the obligatory headaches, I'm having my first taste of joint pain starting from my neck, shoulders, down through the wrists, even thumbs. I've refrained from complaining so that I don't have to listen to KDM's refains: "Offer it up!"

But I'm hopeful: I drank ginger tea, a home remedy I learned from Mommy when I was a little girl. It's simple: boil slices of ginger, add a lot of brown sugar to it, and drink it piping hot. I don't know if it really works, but there's no question it comforts. Comfort is what I really ache for more than a cure, and ginger tea has never failed me on that account.

Just meandered over to the Achoress, saw the pictures of snowflakes in which she saw Christ's perfection mirrored. While marveling over the geometric symmetry, I was struck by something I had mused on recently: what makes beauty?

Don't worry, I'm not that deluded as to stick my face in such a bottomless, not to say, murky, hotpot of aesthetic, philosophical, theological potion. After some years of hand-wringing, I've come to the affirmative side of the notion of beauty. I really don't need a dissertation in order to uphold that affirmation. But what an ever edgy, ever exhilarating topic for contemplation!

What I concluded was: for beauty to be manifest, there must be repetition. Obvious it is, I was still somewhat startled by my resoluteness. Repetition is one of the principles of design we learn, and teach others in art classes. Symmetry is the most typical and formal way to repeat a motif. There are other ways to repetition with variations of size, color, and texture.

To be true to my digressive mind, I have to quote Chesterton again (is there any subject this man did not put his million-dollar worth in? I'm reminded of Fr. Richard Neuhaus who admitted that there was scarcely anything he didn't feel compelled to comment on, shamelessly. But again I digress), on repetition:

"A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough... It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again," to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again," to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tracking Down Sally Thomas

I noticed that Sally Thomas of the Icons and Curiosities blog on First Things disappeared a while ago. I made a mental note that I would track her down some day. And today I done did it! I even located a post in which she discussed her and others's conflicted feelings about blogging. Such introspection could not have been unique: within a period of a couple of months I'd seen it discussed on FT, expressed by Webster Bull, by Jan, not to mention flip-and-tossed over internally by myself (and I'm but a yellow-lipped birdie at this enterprise!), now in veteran Sally.

There might be something to it. We would understand ourselves better if we sit back, look at it for what it really is. One thing I want to avoid is undue embarrassment or guilt which may trap us in scrupulosity.

Another internal debate incessantly occupying me has a striking parallel to the "To blog or not to blog" question. It has to do with the function of art: "To teach or not to teach." More on that later.

I think Sally's piece would help us too.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Without a Name

My show opened tonight. The reception was great, good turnout, good party. For a couple of hours I was the center of attention. I talked to and met more people than I had the entire year, or so it seemed.

I was tired, thirsty, stiff-necked by the time we got home. After a cup of hot chocolate we went to bed. KDM fell asleep quickly. I tried to do the same. 40 minutes later, my mind was still racing. After another twenty some minutes of trying, when it was pretty clear that my efforts were a waste of time, I got up, put on a sweater, came downstairs and turned on blogger. It was the last thing I'd thought I would do tonight.

As I was lying in the dark with my eyes wide open, my tired body pleaded with a mind which refused to give up the sights and sounds of the evening. They crammed it like an unstoppable train. I closed my eyes tight in order to shut out the madness, only to find my consciousness on a collision course with another entirely unrelated thought: the recent death of my college professor. Regrets and sadness got into the mix. In a clumsy manner I found myself commending his soul (who probably was agnostic, at least a sceptic of organized religion) to the Eternal Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit...More sadness and regrets. Once again sights and sounds of the evening rushing back to cram my head barely resisted. Some strange, nameless emotion began to rise and disperse within my chest. It set about to gather, with its multiple tentacles, the shapeless orgy of memories under one overwhelming urge: to get on my knees and to pray, for what I know not how to fit in one abstract notion expressed in words. All I wanted to was to be on my knees, to gaze upon one Entity, one Unmoved Mover, at a still point, and "let the darkness come upon me."

Whence this emotion? What's its name? It's wholly unfamiliar to me. The faces I saw tonight spun around in my mind and slowly and eventually merged into one with my art and my devotion to art, with all the teaching, giving, sharing, nourishing that had been lavished upon me over these years...Could it be gratitude that I was feeling?

But, still, there's that nagging, undeniable, stubborn emotion which felt like anguish.

It was gratifying to see my own work beautifully framed, displayed, all at one place. It was good to see people, acquaintances and strangers alike, study and enjoy them, approach me and talk about them. I've had shows before, but somehow it feels different this time. Somehow, it no longer feels like a trip for the ego, but rather like a harvest of sowing, of growing, pruning, and all the labor and mistakes that went into the making of a good thing.

Vaguely, I seemed to grasp what I read in Rebbecca West's A Strange Necessity, what she described as art's ability to bridge odd things. It is very hard to elucidate such amorphous feelings. Writing it out helps bring some peace to it all.

In a few hours I will be on my knees, in Adoration of the only Still Point keeping the world from spinning out of control. I will commend my confusion to His Sacred Heart, and I may know what it is that is storming my own heart tonight. Then all the weariness will give way to clarity.