Monday, December 26, 2011

non sequitur

Perusing earliest entries of my own blog, I came upon the one about the German film Wings of Desire, and the Song of Childhood in it. A gentle melancholy veils my spirit on this post-Chritmas Day morning, like the overcast day it's turned out to be.

And this is beautiful. This kind of beauty used to cause me toothaches and neurosis. In some ways the longing for beauty led me to God, who authors all that is beautiful. Melancholy no longer alarms me, I'm at peace with it, for I understand now that it's a longing for eternal home:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mirth of the Day

If this doesn't make you doubled-over laughing, head over to Pioneer Woman, read her post on doughnut in the Confession section of her blog:

Love to you all!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Another Ruby

Well, what you know, after I showed the Ruby song by David Rowling and Gillian Welch,  to KDM, and it's connection to Jan, he informed of this other Ruby by Waylon Jennings. So here it is, Jan, double-dip:

Random Update

These are just some of the happenings with me (us), in no particular order:

  • Checked off a few more names on my Christmas shopping list today. Wrapping, is another story. I'm not going there. 
  • I've been officially inducted to the social network used by nearly all of China's internet denizens, called QQ, so that my family can get in touch with me easier - back home they aren't too fond of Skype.
  • Our four dogs have been put under new management, well, sort of. No personnel change, just different routines. In fact, radically different routines. The reason? I'll just say that it had something to do with the neighbor's cats. 
  • We've had at least three sightings of bald eagles in the sky over the homestead. 
  • KDM sold two bulls last Thursday.
  • Don't ask why this, I'm under an impulse to share a favorite drawing by Paul Klee:
  • We don't have a Christmas tree yet. 
  • It's too cold to climb into the attic, so our Christmas decorations remain up there. 
  • We nearly messed up every "And with your spirit" response at Mass this morning. Father spoke too fast and too smooth, we got all cozy and dozy. And you know what happens when you get cozy and dozy, you get ambushed by old habits.
  • When ordering the Magic Tree House books on Amazon for a little girl, I sneaked in one for myself: Being Logical: a Guide to Good Thinking. (You can see why I need it, right?)
  • I heard this singer on Garrison Keillor again today; I tracked her down, and discovered a new favorite: Gillian Welch:

And this one's for my pal Jan (Jan, you see why it's for you. All in the name, wink, wink):

Thursday, December 15, 2011

look what it has done to me

Done been to Confession.
And feeling light.
And feeling avian.
And feeling canine.
And feeling expansive.
And feeling hydrated.
And feeling nourished.
And feeling shampooed.
And feeling coddled.
And feeling indulged.
And feeling like this man:

Love to you all, you know who you are.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Last Year's Poinsettia

Just trying to get in "the spirit:"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Degas and Heart

Yesterday, I had an e-mail exchange with someone I've met via the internet, a person of courage and formidable intellect for which I have great admiration and respect. Relating the grave personal trial she found herself in recently, she quoted the artist Edgar Degas:
"There is art and there is life; and we have but one heart. We think we have two until it breaks. Then we know there was only one."

I can sit on that quote and think about it forever.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Work in Progress

The painting I'm working on:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Love Letter


I could write You so much. I have "topics," big, small, cute, full of Izy-profundities. But to do that I would have to dig in a little, to reach in, and, out for words, for flow, for a way for words to hold hands, all the while keeping an eye on grammar, in a language called "second" to me.

I'd rather think of You, then, in thoughts wordless. Or, better yet, in fugitive mental pictures. Sometimes they also reach in, and out, to one another, to the me who's often outside of me. Then I could watch all this as if a kind of spectator sports, amused, astonished, or afflicted. Somehow their ghost-like filaments, also reach in and out to form flows, constrained by a grammar and gravity all of their own.

There's an aching to all this, swelling, palpable, and literal in my chest. I remember Saul Bellow in his Anderson the Rain King, said something to the effect that when Anderson sensed beauty approaching, his teeth ached. How well I know that feeling! I used to have to flee the library when suddenly struck by an un-named force out of some words I had read, to pace clumsily all over the campus; round and round till the tide in my chest receded and exhausted. There was no one to tell, no one to make sound to. It came and went silently, in the greatest gush of solitude. Pain resembled ecstasy. Yet without a name. The closest word I had for the whole thing was beauty.

My heart ached then, as it does now. Back then I didn't know what it was aching for; now I am made to understand, so sometimes I weep without tear, or sound. My heart defies the constraint of silence, it leaps up, up, to Beauty, to its Beloved.

To You.

Then, I know once again that word fails, or cracks. What I wanted is a love song, but I'm the poorest soul for poetry. I searched and searched and came to settle for Chesterton's engagement letter to his beloved fiance, on these words, bouncier and sturdier than what could have been my own:

There are four lamps of thanksgiving always before me: 
The first is for my creation out of the same earth with such a woman as you. 
The second is that I have not with all my faults gone after strange women -you cannot think how a man's self-restraint is rewarded in this.
The third is that I have tried to love everything alive,
a dim preparation for loving you.
And the fourth is but no word can express that: here ends all my previous existence
Take it, it led me to you.
Unlike Chesterton, I have, in a manner of speaking, "gone after strange women."  Grateful thus more, I am, that I have been Pardoned.

Love, Izy

Thursday, November 10, 2011

For Jan

My friend Jan has been down on her back, twelve days in all. You gotta pity a woman when her only feasible entertainment consists of taking pictures of her own knees and feet. Might as well. With that much time on one's hand while down on one's back, not to mention whose back we're talking about here, I fear for those who find themselves in close proximity, and pray that peace be with them. May the lady of the house not act like she is drinking gasoline and spitting fire, like this woman seems to being doing:

Willem de Kooning, Woman I

As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure that my pal Jan doesn't drink gasoline. She seems to prefer rum or Bailey's Irish Cream. Can you spit fire by drinking rum? 

I just don't believe someone with pretty legs like these, and who wears socks like these, would drink gasoline (or rum for that matter) and spit fire. But I'm pretty sure that someone with pretty legs like them, and who wears lovely socks like them, not only would, but also deserve, to have some shoes like these:

A couple of notes: Willem de Kooning is an artist I like. There's a large hard-backed poster of that very image can be seen in the hall way of the art department where I teach. Hence the association. 

The shoes are the handiworks of Andy Warhol, the enfant terrible, or darling, of the art world, depending on your taste. But I have a tender spot in my heart for Andy. I can't help it. After all the guy is said to have lived and prayed with his mother often, went to mass almost daily, served the poor with monks at a soup kitchen, and left to be found a crucifix and rosary at bedside after death. I came across and bought a little book called Ho Ho Ho by him in a used book store last week. All Christmas drawings, utterly childlike and beguiling. Among them one showing two angels making acquaintance of each other, one rather bashful looking. On opposite leaf a quote of Warhol: "And they get to know you better, and they start to like you." That's the one I wanted to put up here to cheer the spirit of my pal Jan, but alas, the scanner does not work with my Mac, like, a lot of stuff don't work with Macs. Steve, you could have stuck around to get around fixing that. 

Sleep, as comfortably as you can manage, Jan. And I'll see your socks tomorrow.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Seven

...if you find yourself obsessing on someone, on some physical injury, or on some painful conversation, you risk becoming a bitter person obsessed with revenge, which is the sin of anger. If you let your soul feel total contempt and loathing for someone, and if you're always insulting and censuring them in your mind, you're living with envy. If you give in to a feeling of malaise and exhaustion, that's laziness. On the other hand, if you find yourself entertaining ideas so pleasant that you could rest in them forever, only to realize that these thoughts are all about your own natural goodness, accomplishments, intelligence, talents, position, or beauty, this is pride. And if you dwell on your wealth and what you own (or want to own), then that's greed. If you're preoccupied with lots and lots of food and drink and only the best will do, you know gluttony. And if you're seduced by an inordinate love for giving or receiving flattery and by a deep-seated need to be liked, or by sexual pleasure, this is lust
- from Chapter 10, The Cloud of Unknowing 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It has been almost two months. In these past two months, I find myself gradually adapting into a new routine:

  • two days a week, I spend six some hours among people half my age, talking, instructing, motivating, sometimes scolding. All this is done in a room full of easels, taborets, spot lights, broken chairs and trash cans, smells of oil paint and paint thinner and linseed oil, among youngsters in torn jeans, flipflops, purple or pink or blue hair, tattoos and nose rings, etc. And I am developing a feeling resembling affection for all of them - including the easels and the trash cans. 
  • one evening a week, I go to RCIA at my parish, as sponsor to a woman, whom I shall call D, that I met in an art class I taught two years ago. D was talking to other people in the class about having a blue heeler dog to give away, a stray she had kept and taken to the vet for heart worms etc. I overheard. I inquired. A couple of weeks later KDM and I paid a visit to her house and came home with the blue heeler, whom we rechristened Scooter. A few days later in class D was yet again chatting with another woman and mentioned that although she was Baptist she had wanted to be a nun since she was a little girl. I overheard that too. I inquired. Two months later, she started going to mass at my parish. Two years later, at present, I'm her RCIA sponsor. 
  • We're getting used to our new pastor. Father K would fill in at RCIA when the lady-in-charge is sick or for other reason can't show. Father K is from Africa and laughs very hearty and baritone laughs. When he speaks of God and Christ and prayer and pure silence you have something like goose bumps on the back of your neck. You become aware that something real is here. 
  • Ever since Fr. K told us that upon awakening he gives his first hour of the day to the Lord, I've been up to speed on my daily readings. I confess that I understood, intellectually, the importance of the morning prayer and offerings long before Fr. K's discourse on it. Yet I did not put it into practice. I was lazy, undisciplined. So many other things got in the way or took precedence: coffee, checking email, getting dressed and ready for whatever, doing dishes left over from the night before, you get the picture. Now I'm shamed into action. God does not need that first hour of my day as God needs nothing; it is I who very much need it sanctified in order to live, rather than sleepwalk through, the every hour thereafter. 
  • One morning a week, as has been for the past six years, KDM and I spend an hour at the little chapel of Perpetual Adoration, the Happy Hour. I don't think it's something I can ever stop doing. This past Friday a young Hispanic woman came in, a new face to us regular adorers. Shortly after we heard sniffing and what sounded like soft sobbing from where she knelt. We tried not to look her way, feeling bad that the chapel was too small and shabby to afford her the privacy she obviously needed. Clearly something happened to her, and she wanted to be alone with the only One to whom she could bare her soul and its burden and grief.
  • I've almost finished reading the much-discussed book by Father Robert Barron Catholicism. Reading the book, attending RCIA, wrestling with aversion for human interaction, coming face-to-face with conflicts both interior and exterior... have all been rocking my inner world towards a direction I would not have foreseen a merely two months ago. Simply put, I find myself so helpless in so many circumstances that I'm utterly dependent on my Catholic faith. I'm beginning to have a glimpse of what the saints must have meant by Love. And that disturbs, even pains me. I've always considered myself quick in perception and insight. Why, I've been sitting up in sofas and in pews alike reading, hearing, contemplating, analyzing the meaning of Faith, Hope, and Love, yet it is now being revealed to me that I know next to nothing about being in Love with God. Is there any other need in this life than being in love with God? 
  • I remember at one time or another wondered if  by picking Saint Therese "the Little Flower" as my patron, I had made a commonplace choice due to her popularity. Of late I've come to see more and more clearly how providential the choice has been. As Fr. Barron relates in his book what a brilliant French Jesuit friend concluded about her: "the Little Teresa is really the Big Teresa!" My beloved Little Flower, saint of the Little Ways, do teach me the way of Love. Pray for me that for the rest of my life, I will want no more, no less. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Still Alive

It's been such a while that I nearly forgot the password to sign in to my own blog. I've had thoughts, many thoughts, sometimes even cogent, clear, good thoughts. Ones that happen to me while I'm in Adoration, at Mass, taking a long shower, doing dishes, driving, brushing a shedding dog... Then they would just fade out, as the days worn on. Then new thoughts, broken, not very good ones surge in, piling over the previous, good ones. Then it would be just a mess, an indifferent, autistic mess.

There's at this moment only one jutting fact which I can report easily: I've finished reading Robert Penn Warren's All The King's Men, and I haven't been able to put it out of my mind. I have one word for it: Wow.

I've looked up movies made after the book, both the 1949 and 2006 versions. I've dismissed the 2006 version: it stars Sean Penn. I saw the trailer, can't stomach the Willie Stark under Sean Penn's skin. It won't cut it for me. The Willie Stark I envisioned in Penn Warren's dense prose didn't have a thin face like Sean Penn's. The thin face robs of Cousin Willie protein in both literal and metaphorical sense. I have a feeling that I would not keep from feeling sorry for Sean Penn through the watching. It just won't cut it for me. Jude Law as Jack Burden made me wince too. He looks alright messing around and steaming it all up with Kate Winslet in that trailer. I just don't see enough shades in that pretty face to mask a cynical soul dancing with the notion of the Great Twitch, as Jack Burden of the book surely was.

That leaves only the 1949 version. I don't remember the actor's name, but he has a round face, with both protein and shades made for Cousin Willie Stark.

I am very waywardly like that, when it comes to movies made of books I like.

That's all I got today.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Buzzing in

The Pioneer Woman posted on her Facebook page "Rain! Glorious rain!"

I wanted to say something similar, then realized "glorious" cannot be improved.

I have so much on my head that I don't know where to begin to sort them out. The heat has been oppressing me; my mind and mood were tangled and cranky. Besides, school will start in less than two weeks, and I'm about to begin doing something entirely different from what I've been doing the past five years (details later). This new something entails writing syllabi, supply ordering, classroom cleaning, networking with people who have been doing it long before I show up...well, let's just say it's all a little pressing on my nerves.

But, rain! Glorious rain!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I feel somewhat embarrassed of the early posting. I do not believe any ideology could change the world for the better. I much prefer personal sanctity (another topic altogether). I should have known better that although neither secular nor religious piety makes for personal sanctity, but telling someone, even if it's Thomas Friedman of New York Times, to go f*** himself, is definitely no way to holiness.

So here as a non sequitur to a non sequitur, let me share this delightful account by the one-and-only Max Lindenman at Diary of a Wimpy Catholic, of his encounter with St. Anthony:
Call it a Proustian moment. I remembered prosperity and nice accessories, an uncomplicated life of consumption. Then I remembered St. Joseph. Thinking again on my contacts, not wanting them to remain in situ as relics of an age, I recited:
“Dear St. Anthony,
I beg by the Rood:
Help find my contacts,
Or, baby, I’m screwed.”

China for a Day

Thomas Friedman, columnist of the New York Times, explaining his "China for a day" dream:

After your enlightenment session with Mr. Friedman, watch this next video. Visit Reggie Littlejohn's website if you are so inclined. Then think and decide for yourself the price of "efficiency" which Mr. Friedman so covets and wet-dreams about (by the way, nice chuckle, Brave Dave Gregory).

Update: I've taken the last part of the original post out because I couldn't stand the voice of a certain little bird chastising me, a voice that sounded a lot like...hmm, Conscience? Besides, tomorrow is Sunday, it was a bad way to move into a Sunday, to say the least. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

G.K. on Oscar

I have just (and FINALLY, sigh) finished reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, so I'm on an Oscar Wilde kick; and I've just picked up Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton (may I call him My Prince?) to read it for the second time, I am also on a GKC kick. It follows that it was irresistible for me to cut out and paste this quote by My Prince as I came across it:

"Oscar Wilde said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde."
A disclaimer: I don't dislike Oscar Wilde. In fact, if I run into him in an elevator today, I'd kiss his boyish cheek.

My Kiss to John Lennon

I'm posting the lyrics of John Lennon's Nobody Told Me. It has nothing to do whatever with what's on my mind or how I feel today. In fact, contrary to the madness and entropy described in the song, I'm feeling rather lucid and upbeat. The lyrics came up in an early morning conversation with KDM on our way to the chapel, and I simply wanted to share. I find a perverse delight in the contradictions laid out like a deck of cards by Lennon. It's up for grabs. Take it as you will:

Everybody's talking and no one says a word

Everybody's making love and no one really cares

There's nazis in the bathroom just below the stairs.
Always something happening and nothing going on

There's always something cooking and nothing in the pot

They're starving back in China so finish what you got.
They're starving back in China so finish what you got.
Nobody told me there'd be days like these

Nobody told me there'd be days like these

Nobody told me there'd be days like these

Strange days indeed
strange days indeed.
Everybody's runnin' and no one makes a move

Everyone's a winner
and no one seems to lose.
There's a little yellow idol to the north of Katmandu.
Everybody's flying and no one leaves the ground

Everybody's crying and no one makes a sound.
There's a place for us in movies you just gotta stay around.

Nobody told me there'd be days like these

Nobody told me there'd be days like these

Nobody told me there'd be days like these

Strange days indeed
most peculiar
Everybody's smoking and no one's getting high

Everybody's flying and never touch the sky

There's Ufo's over New York and I ain't too surprised.
Nobody told me there'd be days like these

Nobody told me there'd be days like these

Nobody told me there'd be days like these

Strange days indeed
most peculiar. Mama. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vice or Must-have?

This internet shopping thing is a vice. I hate to think what goes through the head of our mailman, who has known and been a friend of KDM's for several decades. You see, we live on the rural route; our mailbox is a quarter of a mile downhill from our house. Whenever something comes in the mail that exceeds the capacity of the standard mailbox, the mailman has to drive to our front door, honk, and if no one answers, step out to leave the package(s) on the door step or the swing chair.

And he has had to do that A LOT lately. If he suspects that his old buddy is married to a shopaholic, I can't blame him.

Since I can see this is just going to be a dry, hot, blah day, and since I'm in somewhat a confessional mood, I'll list my latest orders:

Book 1: How to Cook without a Book, by Pam Anderson (to understand the inner workings of food so I would never, ever, need recipes again.)

Book 2: Perfect Recipes for Having People Over, by Pam Anderson (for calming my paranoia over entertaining, and to compensate my grief for not winning the 3-day weekend with Pam Anderson at Ree Drummond's ranch). 

Book 3: The Power and the Glory (yes, Jan, one of those books I've never read; and for a glimpse into the inner workings of an imperfect priest), by Graham Greene

Book 4: The Dog of the South, by Charles Portis (to accumulate credits of fanship for the author of True Grit)

Not-a-book:  a couple of pan scrapers (to fill the purchase gap in order to get free-shipping; and yes, I just maybe perhaps possibly most definitely need them too!)

Yes, internet shopping may be a vice, but can't you see that I can't possibly live without these things?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Day: Planned and Unplanned

Of all the things I listed in my previous posted plan, here is how some turned out:

1. Painting from Best Buy parking lot: Check.

I arrived at 7:30 sharp, immediately set up to work. The view is an airport and environ. Despite the haze hanging over the entire field, the several layers of distant mountains were still visible in varied purplish blue. The Best Buy was built on what used to be a hill top, hence the bird-eye view which attracted me in the first place. The elevation caused a practical problem, though: the constant wind threatening to topple at any moment my easel which is pretty much just a skinny legged tripod. Having no time to waste, I decided not to use the easel but to prop the board on my lap instead. This allowed me to hang on to my painting when the wind blew hard. I soon discovered while I had control over the painting, I had to struggle to keep the sun hat on my head.The sun was climbing high and I desperately needed that hat. For the next five hours I battled to keep the hat from being lifted off my head and carried across the parking lot.

Things went pretty smooth. I stayed till past noon with practically no interruption save the wind. Because I was in a side lot for employee parking facing away from the customer parking, and set up behind a row of cars, I was out of the public view for the most part. The only exception happened when a youngish looking FedEx driver who apparently was there to deliver merchandise to the store, honked behind my back. He very politely, but persistently asked me how much I would charge for the picture despite my repeated answer that it was just a beginning sketch for a bigger painting, and that I was far from completing it, and wasn't sure I wanted to sell it. I don't know how sincere he was about buying the picture, nonetheless I was touched by his young and serious manner. If he was indeed sincere, I would be touched by that too, that in the current economic situation someone would give a thought for buying a painting.

2. The stovetop grill pan: Check.

My original plan of shopping after painting didn't quite pan out. Half way through the painting expedition, I got a call from KDM, who was supposed to see me at the parking lot with coffee and a pencil sharpener which I forgot to bring in my hurry to leave the house. He reported that his truck wouldn't start possibly due to a bad battery. Now he needed a ride to town to have the battery tested and buy a new one if needed.

So the rest of the day went like this: I wrapped up my painting, drove home with my tongue hanging out and in blurry vision (always after I paint), downed a large glass of cold water (check that, too) and a bowl of cereal, helped KDM load up the bad battery and headed back to town (we live 25 miles outside it). A little more than an hour later I was in a store looking for my grill pan, and found one for a very good price. By the time we got home, it was close to five o'clock.

3. Grilled eggplant: No.
4. Ten more pages of Dorian Gray: No.

Somehow I was satisfied with how the day went. The painting sessions yielded a lot of thoughts on painting better, which only make me want to go back to do some variations.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

In the Plan for Tomorrow

  • Get up early, hit the road with my painting gears to the parking lot of Best Buy in town over looking the airport, do a quick oil sketch or two; quickly pack up and desert the parking lot before the first curious soul approaches me wanting to know what quaint thing I am up to doing.
  • On the way home, stop at Saver's, the big resale store, on the way home, hunt for a used stovetop grill; if Saver's doesn't have it, to one of the other stores nearby, hunt till I find one. I love grilled vegetables but have never cooked any because I don't do outdoor grilling. I'm a girl, remember? These hot days make me dream of grilled veggies so much that I have to find a way to cook some myself. I love grilled shrimp and salmon, too.
  • Get home before the air turns sizzling in 100 degrees.
  • On getting home drink a large glass of iced water without stopping to breathe. 
  • When I have caught my breath again,  I'll clean out and wash off the goo in and around the fridge.
  • Put some lotion on my hands to eliminate the odor of residual paint thinner and Clorox. 
  • Sit down to read ten more pages of The Picture of Dorian Gray by the effusively wild Oscar Wilde.
  • Get up and stretch.
  • Go to the kitchen, season the stovetop grill if I have one and it's new; wash it if I have one and it's old; spray it with some oil.
  • Grill some egg plants, sprinkle them with some sesame seeds.
  • Eat them with some cold noodles. 
  • I'm running out of plans for the rest of tomorrow. Any ideas?
I have to stop now to read five more pages of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Must-have Mustard

By the way, if you need something of a mood improvement, buy yourself a bottle of French's Dijon Mustard with Chardonnay, put it on any ole hot dog and eat it, preferably without ketchup. You'll surely feel better. I like it so much I have an extra bottle in the pantry. I have what I call "My Dijon Mustard with Chardonnay Insecurity."

Feeling Weird

Not motivated to write much. For brevity's (and lethargy's) sake, let's just say that things have been weird, as regarding my sense of time and mysterious changes of my body.

I'm not sure what's going on. My pal/soul-sis Jan posts about her reactions to hormonal changes. I certainly haven't reached that biological landmark, yet I feel that I've somehow stepped in the similar marsh of scrambled sense of self. Maybe it's a sympathy thing? Like growing pimples to match your best friend's?

Last week, I bought three pairs of granny shoes (you know the kind) on a same day. It put a ding on my sense of style but I don't care. It's only a matter of time before my sense of style peels off clean anyway.

But I don't like feeling weird. I need to do something about it.

On a slightly more active note, I manage to paint consistently. I don't post the paintings because I've made a pact with myself not to be preoccupied with exposing my current work. They are part of yet another learning curve. Whenever I get on a learning kick, I fall into the sincere, thorough, even serious mode. My mom and elder sister used to tell me that the seriousness I have in learning was my precious (of not only) redeeming quality. They really told me that. Parents and elders tend to not mince word in their commentaries in my native culture. They'll tell you that you're fat if you are, which is one thing I do dread on going home.

I'll close here. I have changes to make about my life. I don't know what, but I'll put a stop to this feeling weird thing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Of Vegetarians and Sloth

Haven't been writing much lately. Well, haven't been doing much anything. Yet, May zoomed by, leaving me baffled as to what happened to it. It could have at least stopped to say "Hi," right? But no, It. Just. Zoomed. On. And. By.

Well, I DID go to two wedding parties, and ate my first Vegan meal at one of them. Not bad, but neither was I seduced.

You may check out what Vegans do here. Anthony Bourdain calls the food cult "a Hezbolah-like splinter group" of the Vegetarians. But you don't want to imitate Tony, who can be uncharitable. I already like him too much. He appeals to the uncharitable side of me.

Speak of the Vegetarians, I have a story. In a previous life, I worked with a good number of engineers from India, as with many from East Europe, say Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, along with Caucasians of various shades and geographical origins. Most of these people were somewhat "citizens of the world" due to constant inter-continental travels to work on job sites.

One of the Macedonians, let's call him Ivan, told of his experience in India, where vegetarians are common mostly due to religion. Ivan had just brought in another fellow Macedonian, Michael, to their Indian job site. Michael was painfully introvert (I met him later in China), not speaking much English didn't help. One evening Michael found himself seated at the hotel restaurant, along with Ivan and other expats. The waiter routinely inquired each guest if he was vegetarian so he might ask the kitchen to prepare his food accordingly. "Sir, are you Vegetarian?" the waiter asked Michael. Pained that he had to speak, Michael looked at his comrades for rescue. "He's asking if you are Vegetarian," Ivan repeated the waiter's question in slow motion. "Oh no. No. I'm Macedonian." Michaels answered the waiter.

Sorry for the digression. What I really wanted to post, is something to illustrate how I've been feeling and acting of late. Watch the protagonists in this YouTube video, they are me. The Churchmen named a sin after these guys. Or, is it that these guys were named after the sin?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Remember This Day

June 4th, an ordinary day for people of this country and around the world, extraordinary yet politically unspeakable in my native country, People's Republic of China.

Twenty-two years ago this day, I was attending a friend's brother's wedding in a Northern Chinese city. By the time the ceremony ended, and the wedding caravan entered in the heart of downtown area, the town's traffics came to near-stops. Throngs of people were piling into the avenues, many more streaming into the streets, mostly anxious-looking college students. One of them was up in a tree speaking to spectators into a bullhorn. His words were interrupted by shoutings issued by his fellows students with raised arms. We weren't close enough to hear what they were saying but we knew right away that something had gone bad. Just a few weeks ago the Army had arrived in the nation's Capital with armed men and tanks but hardly anyone believed they would open fire on students and citizens, who had been occupying the Tianmen Square protesting corruption and demanding free press since April.

After we inched back to my friend's house, we changed into street clothes and walked back to downtown to find out what had happened. When we got to the entrance of an underground mall, we saw pamphlets and hand-written posters announcing that the People's Liberation Army had started firing at students in Tianmen Square in the wee hours of that morning, killing many. My heart was beating wildly as I took a pamphlet from a young man passing by, my eyes fixed on the haunting black characters written in brush and ink on stark white paper. People around me were all looking around in confusion and anxious to know more.

Early the next morning I took a taxi to the train station to head back to where I lived. It was raining and when the taxi was stopped by some men near the train station, I realized that the streets looked different and strangely empty except for a few people moving about in hurried pace. There were buses and tires blocking all of the main entrances and intersections. I got out with my bags to walk the rest of the square toward the terminal. I stopped to ask someone passing by what was going on. He told me that students and bus drivers were setting up road blocks and some were taking the train to Beijing to support fellow students and protest the killings.

As soon as I got back to my dorm I threw off the bags and turned on Voice of America. I did not own a TV and even if I did, I could not believe a word the official media said. A mere decade before, getting caught listening to VOA would have meant prison time. But since the late 1980s the government loosened its grip on people's private activities, and I had used VOA to learn English. When the students' protests deepened the government took total control of the State media (there wasn't any other kind), I had to rely solely on VOA to get the truth. With what had transpired in the past 30 some hours, I knew I would have to take my listening underground very soon.

It was a massacre.

In the following days my VOA was scrambled almost non-stop.

Terror took grip of the country. Posters of twenty-one most wanted student leaders were plastered everywhere. Official TV was showing a charred body hanging from an overpass, allegedly burned by the students, hour after hour, day after day. Beijing was under martial law. Foreigners were taking the earliest flights out of China. Students were still taking to the streets in various cities but were immediately cracked down by armed police. I huddled over my little radio and through scrambled waves heard students speaking to foreign journalists just before or on their way into hiding or fleeing the country. There were sobbing and wailing, recordings of gunshots and shouting and screaming amid rescuing activities.

Time of sorrow. Time of snuffed-out hope.

My two nieces were born in that year, 1989. They are twenty-two now. They know nearly nothing about what happened in that year, in the Capital city.

Oh My People.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Just a quick update on my idea of painting the windows to save the birds: it bombed. I painted some flowers on one and geometric shapes on another. It was only then when I realized how wonderful it was to have large, CLEAR, unobtrusive, completely TRANSPARENT, glass panes on the windows! Both KDM and I decided we couldn't live with the painted eyesores. The end result of my endeavor was that the windows received several washings on a single day.

I have moved on with other ideas to alert the birds that those big, inviting skies and dark foliages they see in the glass are illusions. In the meantime I keep my fingers crossed and pray that the birds smart up before my help arrives.

And in the mean-mean-time, I've found this YouTube vid on one of my favorite American painters, Milton Avery, whose work never ceases to pleasure and startle my eyes and mind. I don't much care for the music, though. I watched it on silent:

Thursday, May 12, 2011

On My Calendar

For the coming two weeks:

  1. One First Communion, which I'm hoping and praying won't turn out just a photo-op.  But it really isn't my business to worry. Or, maybe it is.
  2. One church carnival, the occasion for justified /compulsive impulsive shopping and eating. We're known suckers here. I had the pleasure to be introduced to funnel cake just a few years ago. 
  3. One baby shower slated in a town about 100 miles away.
  4. One wedding reception/party the attendants of which are mostly likely arty brie-eating people, some of whom like to wear shoes of different colors, on the same day, one on each foot. I fear for KDM.  But it will be on the same day as Number 3. We still have our options.
  5. Three birthdays to send card/present to; probably just presents. We're hardly card people.
  6. One birthday party to attend where we will see people who are known not to enjoy the sight of us.
  7. One veterinarian appointment to dread because the dog is neither leash-trained nor knows how to get in the back of the truck on its own.
  8. One group painting session to consider
  9. Several boxes of mail to expect from various parts of the country, brought to me by eBay.
What's on your calendar? Feel free to scatter them in the comment section. And yes, I want to know.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This Was My Day

This was my day:
  1. Got up. Went sit on the porch with KDM. Drink Coffee. Watch birds (did I tell you that for the first time, ever, we saw Baltimore Orioles on our farm?). Shoot the breeze.
  2. Dragged the hose, watered flowers, trees, herbs. Dug out the crepe myrtle which was planted too close to another bush. Replant the myrtle after moving it to a spot where KDM will have trouble getting the mower through. KDM protested, I answered I ain't moving the myrtle again. He'll figure out how to mow around it. He has a manual mower. No, no push mower, but the old fashioned, mechanical mower. 
  3. Picked up one dead bird, victim of window crashing. I was sick to my stomach - it was the fourth one in three days. Yesterday I found a blue bird with wings spread out on the grass, alive, but couldn't get up. KDM picked it up. Blue bird was upset in his hands and made its feeling know LOUDLY. It flew away shortly. 
  4. Made up my mind that I would see to it that no more bird shall crash into our windows. My idea is to paint the glass with glass paint, tomorrow. 
  5. Bought bamboo Roman shades on eBay. I've been shopping on eBay quite a bit lately. As of today I have coming by mail shoes, shirt, paint, scarf, more shoes, and of course, Roman shades. 
  6. While I was making payment to the eBay seller, the screen of my computer all of a sudden went nuts. A window/curtain dropped down from nowhere with pulsating warnings of a bug, red-hot spots everywhere shouting "This system has been infected!!" Within seconds the downloader went into action and I watched, breathlessly, stuff being downloaded by an invisible hand onto the hard-drive. The pulsating window is now securely perched on the top of my screen, carrying on its fire and brimstone of warning and threats. When I clicked on what I now don't remember, to supposedly "clean up" the bugs, I was asked to register and purchase the software. In a second I knew I'd been scammed. When I tried to find where the malware was installed, the homepage of my browser suddenly disappeared and a porn page popped up in its place. I launched into warrior mode and closed it like I was slaying a dragon. No sooner did I get back to the homepage to check the Internet settings than another popup parachuted in with ads pitching Viagra...Long story short, it took me another good half hour to finally stamp out the vicious invasion. I double-checked all places, emptied the trash can, reset Internet preferences, shutdown the computer, restarted. I tell you, it was like breathing fresh air again. 
  7. Then I finished making my eBay payment for bamboo Roman shades.
  8. Ate lunch.
  9. Set up to paint a picture of the living room. 
  10. Painted for several hours.
  11. Meantime, KDM was on the tractor putting out fertilizer. Rain and storm were predicted to happen in the evening. Farmers try to time fertilizing pastures before the rain, which helps dissolve the material. 
  12. I stopped painting. Time to cook. But what to cook? I wanted to eat cucumber salad, Chinese style. I looked out the window and saw KDM hard at work. KDM is a cowboy. Cowboys shouldn't be fed cucumber salad after a day's hard work. I repented the idea. 
  13. I sat in front of the computer. Internet is where I find answers and solutions to all of life's persistent questions these days. "What's wrong with my azaleas?" "How to find a dead mouse and deodorize the place?" "What is color fruitwood?" "How to keep birds from crashing into windows?" Surely it would tell me "What's for supper"? I was poised to type the last question in the Google bar, then I paused. In stead, I clicked on Pioneer Woman Cooks.
  14. I could always count on Pioneer Woman. It was meatball sandwich for supper. 
  15. Dirty sweaty cowboy couldn't believe his luck. Turned out cowboy's wife liked the meatball sandwich too. Thanks to Pioneer Woman, and her insanely helpful, step-by-step, shot-by-shot photo illustration for making the meal. 
  16. Cleaning and washing the dishes. 
  17. Checked email, finding out that Neglected Teenager had just changed her college major for the, hm, the sixth time? Well, I guess she has time to make up her mind, she's only nineteen. 
  18. Reporting the above on my dragon-free computer.
  19. Good night.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Father Rutler on Mother's Day

I receive weekly by email the Sunday homily of Father George Rutler, pastor of Church of Our Savior, New York. Below is today's to share:
Our nation’s Mother’s Day was the worthy idea of a lady, Anna Jarvis, in West Virginia, but it took the promotion of Philadelphia’s department-store king, John Wanamaker, to persuade Woodrow Wilson to give it official cachet in 1914. Miss Jarvis died in 1948, regretting that her original intention of honoring motherhood had been commercialized beyond recognition.

     It is ironic that many people who think that Catholics pay too much honor to the Mother of God have set aside a day for their own mothers. If people are deprived of truth and the rituals that honor that truth, they will invent substitutes. Various cults and fraternal societies offer ceremonies that are absent in lackluster religious sects. The fact is, Catholics have three mothers: our biological mothers; the mother Christ gave us as He was dying on the Cross; and the Church.

     The Church was shown to the world when our Lord’s heart was pierced and there flowed from it the water of Baptism and the blood of the Eucharist. Just as the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” the Blessed Virgin so that she might conceive her own Saviour, so the same Holy Spirit filled the Church at Pentecost, bringing her to birth and empowering the apostles to preach boldly. We can no more have Christ without the “institutional Church” than we can have ourselves without our bodies. The Church is an institution, but one instituted by Christ. And the Church is our Mother, nurturing us in the Faith; thus, she is more our "Alma Mater" than any school. We do not call our own mother “it,” so we should not call the Church only “it.” She is our Holy Mother Church.

     Christ came to us with a human body that took physical shape in the womb of a mother, and this He did out of mercy, or “loving-kindness” as St. Athanasius wrote, so that we as humans might recognize the divinity that had always filled His creation invisibly.

     George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were born seventy-seven years apart, but each said virtually the same thing about his source. Washington said: "My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her." Lincoln said: "All I am or can be I owe to my angel Mother." My own mother would have marked her ninetieth birthday this week, and I can say the same, as all of us should. The best mothers teach us about our other mothers: the Blessed One who makes her Son our brother, and the Mystical One, into which we were baptized. St. Cyprian said: “No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother.” God wants every day to be Mother’s Day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Late, but not Never

This hasn't been a smooth day - the iPhoto application on my laptop went berserk. I un-installed and re-installed the operation system, downloaded and reloaded the program itself, each several times in between painting, laundering, and cooking. When I finally got it back to behave and accept photos from the camera, it was almost 10:00PM. I'm not sure how I got it back to work, though. It's a computer software, you know. You can't sit it down, hand it a cup of water, and say to it: "Well, now, tell me, what was the matter?"

The smartest computer is still stupider than Homo sapiens, it can't say "I've decided not to release the photos."

And all I ever wanted was to show you this:

Hot Cross Buns made on Good Friday, by me.

In both getting it posted and the timeliness of the subject matter, it's better late than never. That sums up my day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Morning Joe

  • They got Osama bin Laden. Here's what makes me glad: I am glad that our troops once again showed the world what they are made of. They sparkled and shone through years of what began to look like a quagmire. They proved that the American soldiers, when determined, and un-hamstrung, can pull off a spectacular operation as this. It gives me hope amid a global chorus singing the decline and unprecedented weakness of the United States.
  • It also gives me somewhat ironic satisfaction, to see the President, finding himself in dire need of a ratings boost, knew exactly where to get it. It seems that in his heart of hearts, he knows what REALLY works when the rubber meets the road,  and it is exactly the sort of thing which he despises, such as military might. This is why he hasn't closed Gittmo, this is why he has kept in place all those national security policies put in place by his predecessor, President George W. Bush, the man he ceaselessly, classlessly maligns. 
  • I am sick and tired of those so-called Trad Catholics, who hungrily grab attention in the comp boxes in the Catholic bloggersphere by attacking the Blessed Pope John Paul II. It's not the content of their criticism that bugs me, it's their smugness and hardly-concealed pride. I often remember what Blaise Pascal said about some heretic nuns of his times, that they were "pure like angels, proud like the devil."
  • Just to get a couple of things off my chest, so to speak, this morning. 
  • Also, get over to Ree Drummond's (Pioneer Woman) place. She's giving away $500 donations to your favorite charity. All you do is leave comment for a chance. She's also giving $.25 for each comment left to help the tornado victims in Alabama, who are virtually forgotten by media amid the royal wedding and the death of bin Laden.
  • KDM and I have a field trip date today: we are headed to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to see this golden painting at the Philbrook Museum by my very favorite American painter, Fairfield Porter:
October Interior, Fairfield Porter
  • Basking in the painting's golden light, I will surely feel blessed. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Drive-by Notes

  • Brothers-in-law and nephew departed. What a week! Enjoyed their company though. I appreciate spending time with those born of the same people as was my husband. I like taking notes of similarities as well as individual quirks among them, especially when it's all boys. 
  • Getting ready for an artsy fundraiser/cocktail party/artist-as-monkey-at-circus show tonight, wherein ten of us fellow painters will set up booth to paint live in the presence of/entertain the local philanthropists. The event is being put on by the organization who employs and lets me make a near-modest living. 
  • Before the party, though, I'm headed to Confession, either that or I'm not receiving Communion on Sunday. No argument about that. It's Mercy Saturday, baby, and the late pope John Paul II will be called "Blessed" by this time on Mercy Sunday. I'm bent on taking advantage of the occasion by cleaning out trash in my head.
  • Stole in a brief discussion with one of the brothers-in-law, amongst the utter chaos of a large, noisy family gathering last night. The topic was his son, my nephew by way of KDM, who had come out about a year ago and confessed to my brother-in-law that he was gay. It came as no surprise to my brother neither me, but was the first verbal confirmation of what everybody had suspected. In fact, about five years back when the nephew came to visit us during summer break, he and I had a long talk over his confusion about his sexual orientation. He is confused no more, that's what I heard the dad say, but neither he nor I knew that for sure. 
  • Then, this morning, as I logged on to the Anchoress, the "vicar" blogger, Max Lindenman, posted a discussion on Gays, Lesbians and the Church. It's interesting, check it out. Since I became Catholic, treating touchy issues half-heartedly is no longer an option, I've given the gay issue more serious thought, and grown more compassionate (not sensitive, mind you; neither am I fond of the word "compassion" but that's just what it is) toward gays. The seriousness goes right along with my awakened understanding about the human person. Now, just to be clear, I have very patchy, incomplete understanding of the concept of the human person, which, outside Catholicism, I've heard nobody talk about. But what little I do grasp about the human person, seems to tell me that it's lopsided to identify a human person by his sexual orientation, gay or straight. It would be wrong for me to look at a person, and see him in a nutshell of his being gay or straight. As Christian I must look at each fellow human person through the lens of our common Creator, who sees Himself in the person; for the same reason, it would be wrong for the gay person to be offended when the Church calls homosexual act sinful. The Church attacks the sin, not the person. Just as a rape victim is not defined by her victimhood, neither a person is his sin. He is not even his virtues which would not have been necessary if it wasn't for our fallen nature. The problem, as I see it, is that while the Church sees sexual orientation as extraneous to the personhood, many gays do seem to identify themselves by their life-style. I'm not saying that the Church expects us to live like angels, but she does teach that the only true END of our being, is to be face-to-face with our Creator, in a realm where we will be all "like angels" without the need for sexuality. This explains why there are men and women who embrace celibacy in this life, in order to live the core human person for which they are created thus hasten the coming of that beatific realm.
  • Allow me another point on what's intrinsic and extraneous of the human person. By now you might be familiar with the Tiger Mother controversy, and I have given up trying to point out what I thought it was all about. So far, all the commentaries I've seen, on both the Yea or Nay sides, seem to belong to that exquisite art called "missing the point," that is, the point of the Chinese Tiger Mother. Take for example, Amy Chua, the author of the Tiger mom book, recalls being called "garbage" by her father, because she had been extremely disrespectful to her mother. The word "garbage" would have caused someone marinated in our contemporary culture of sensitivity to check into a mental hospital, at least taken to a foster care provided by the Department of Human Service, yet Miss Chua wasn't offended, not to mention traumatized. Instead, she was ashamed, for she knew that her father did not attack her human person, calling it garbage; he was, unambiguously, attacking her attitude, in Catholic vocabulary, her sin of selfishness and disrespect to her parent. 
  • That sorta begs the questions: why didn't she think her father was insulting her personhood by calling her "garbage"? Is it valid, then, in a common sense way, to regard the word as deeply insulting? Of course it is! The difference here, if you paid attention to the context she laid out, is that her father loves her, and she knows it. His love is perhaps more constant and solid than the performance which we call "sensitivity" or "tolerance," perhaps verified by a life-time self-sacrifice and intellectual affirmation. Any child with an ounce of gratitude or willingness to acknowledge the privilege of another's love, could not have missed it. I think, that is why, Miss Chua was ashamed by her own conduct. 
  • I swear, that I didn't intend to write that much above. Happy Devine Mercy Weekend! 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Redemption and Hot Cross Buns

So, it's here, Good Friday, itself a paradox, looking like a contradiction. With all its bloody, thorny, dark, shameful and guilty historical narratives, those we hear each year in congregations, it is called Good.

Yesterday we somehow decided against all our ditherings to brave the storm to go to Mass. Once we settled ourselves in the pew, I was glad that we made that decision. One sight of the statues covered under dark purple drapes convinced me so. Being Catholic I was of course aware of the solemnity of these last three days of the Holy Week,  still I felt it was the first instant that I was reminded that it was Holy Thursday, that in a moment the space will be filled with incense, songs (how I wish it would be chants), bells, prayers...the priests will take off his "outer garments," and tie a towel around his waist, kneel down before twelve men seated on chairs, and one by one wash their feet; and that at the end of the "service", the doors of the tabernacle will fling open like extended wings, showing the emptiness within, and the priest will process through the congregation holding the Eucharist in his arms like a precious baby, the gesture that moved me to tears a few years ago when I was on the verge of conversion...Familiar rituals, yet always a surprise. So much paradoxes.

To me, Holy Thursday evening Mass is one of the most memory-packed, intensely emotional happenings. I had to swallow hard in order not to present myself for communion in a state of teary mess. Just a few days ago Ree Drummond, AKA Pioneer Woman, a non-Catholic, wrote on her blog about how she cried every time she stepped in a Roman Catholic Church. Something utterly mysterious overwhelmed her soul, many of her readers echoed the phenomenon. I wondered what if she had attended the liturgies of these last three days of the Holy Week, properly and lovingly done, would she have been able to stop weeping? So much history, so much remembrance, so complex the emotions, so timeless and so human.

I've had thick thoughts in my head but I refrained (or time-strained) from writing, these last few days. The onset of the Triduum, and anxiety of knowing how I had let my Lenten exercises lapse in free-fall, made me feel near-unredeemable.

My husband used to broadcast a piece of wisdom to whomever inclined to hear: "It's not how bad you fall, it's how you get up again, GRACEFULLY, matters." As I fretted over my own failings, I thought of that.

And I thought of how even a bloody gangster can be forgiven on deathbed if he asked for mercy, and I thought of somewhere, I had heard it said that each moment of our lives has the seed of renewal, the potential to be redeemed, and I even thought of T. S. Elliot's riddle-like bits on "time past and time present," "if all time is eternally present, all time is unredeemable," not that I understand the riddle, but it does touch on the notion of redemption.

Redemption is a big word, a big concept. But each moment is full of its own crises, big, medium, small, worthy of the dump or redemption.

Once I understood and remembered that, and the nature of my own crises, I was able to move and act.

The result of all that, is that I HAVE DECIDED TO MAKE SOME HOT CROSS BUNS.

We shall see the fruit of it.

Sorry for that sharp turn, but I smell the buns in the oven. I'd better pay attention to what's going in the oven.

Just in case I don't see you before Easter, Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Bird Is Back

The summer tanagers are back, about a week earlier than the date I marked on the calendar. I became aware of them back around 2002, and have been tracking their return around April 21 each year. Only a few days ago KDM mentioned that it was time to keep our ears open for their songs. This morning I heard the first unmistakable chirping out of a grove of distant oak trees early this morning, then again about noon.

As the summer draws nearer and deeper, our place is densely graced by the flights and calls of this red bird. During May and June, even into July, one or two of the males would come perched on the fence posts near our bedroom window at dawn, and sing so loudly as to seem piercing the early morning air. Sometimes when I happened to wake up before dawn, I'd wait for their first notes to appear, shaky, sleepy, incoherent , then slowly falling in tune and surging upward. Like a clockwork, they almost always begin at 5:30.

Welcome back, bird of my delight. Sing brightly, sing boldly.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

By the Way -

Oh, by the way, have I mentioned that my three out-of-state brothers-in-law, one nephew, are coming to visit and stay with us for the week after Easter? You are right to notice that it's all boys: it's one of the several annual boys golf meets. So, the dust-raising cleaning I mentioned in previous post serves double purposes. The several bedrooms-turned-storage have to be converted back to their original cause. That means some re-painting, possibly a few new drapes and furniture, wall-decor, etc. Sure we could justify the accommodation in its current, undisturbed conditions, after all we are country folks of unadorned simplicity, and all they needed is a bed to lay their heads after a day of chasing a little white ball into eighteen holes. But we decided differently this time. Our rooms could really use some maintenance, which just don't get done unless under duress. We've even called service guys to come replace the entire AC ductwork next week.

I haven't touched a paint brush since last Thursday. Now it looks like another kind of painting is in order: on walls.

Deep in the Dust

A few nights ago we were under tornado watch till past midnight. Somewhat out-of-character-ly KDM suggested that we cleaned out one of the closets for safety in case the tornado thing got real. When I started taking out clothes and more than a few other items whose reason for being in the closet was obscure to me, I lamented our repeated failure to un-clutter and downsize our living. Why so much junk? KDM concurred with my sentiment.

The tornadoes did not materialize. But the closet "junk" didn't return to the closet, either. What followed, as the day followed the stormy night, was a full-blown closet-cleaning. And up to this moment, as I write, I'm not done yet, with stuff/junk spilling all over the domicile, this after several trips to the dump and recycle, one trip to the Goodwill Store, and a number of boxes labeled "yard sale" and neatly stacked up in the mud porch (we don't do yard sales around here, nobody comes out to the boonies  for junk. We give these to city relatives).

And, all this, is taking place between nursing a newly turned up stray/dropped off puppy (she's no older than five weeks), and the fits and starts of my allergy attacks which are still keeping me sleepless despite the 24/7 humming of the air purifiers.

She is due to appear in the Sunday Classifieds in local paper, under "FREE to good home". KDM and I are trying not to get attached, which, is VERY hard.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Few Photos

This is what our dinning table looks like today. It looked the same way yesterday, and the day before. Hopefully this is the last day it looks like this:

A painting is in progress based on this stetup.

Since I'm not posting the painting in progress, you may have a peek at the paint. In case you are wondering about the "Jif" lid - it's just a cover for a tuna fish can with paint thinner in it:

And this next photo has nothing to do with the above two. When I was painting at the dinning table the other day, KDM came in and told me that there was a "lawn mower" out in our front yard, and that it wasn't even ours. Turned out to be just a neighbor's cow taking a stroll on a nice day and stopped by to visit:

Now I'm going back to finishing that painting in progress so that we could eat dinner at the dinner table tonight. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It Worked!

Why every house doesn't have at least one air purifier but every one has at least one TV? That was my question to KDM when I got up this morning. He replied that perhaps it is looked at as "sissy" to have, not mention to broadcast that you have, an air purifier in your house. It would be like admitting that you can't handle air as it is; owning a TV, on the other hand, is sinful therefore macho and dignified. I stopped brushing my teeth midway to stare at him, over-powered by this analysis.

But what do I care? I have fresh air in the house and I can breathe, on both sides of my nose.

Yesterday was a throwaway. I'm going to have to make it up today. A cool but beautiful day already full of big, bright, white light.

Have a good one for yourself, too.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fresher Air

Three posts in a row - I said I wasn't doing much.

Well, here's some development following my little dizzy spell early today. KDM must have gotten tired of my yearly episodes of ceaseless sneezing, nose-blowing, eye-rubbing, sleep-walking (not literally) and other miseries induced by the dense pollen in the air. This in spite of my tender loving cares of him while he was hit with a nasty cold, just this past week, during which I even made him chicken-dumpling soup besides making him swallow three packets of Theraflu with much coaxing and coercions. In a heartbeat he decided that we were getting us an air purifier, one per floor level. So off we went to the store, bought the first one we spotted on the shelf which happened to be a two-unit combo. As soon as we got home KDM went right to work and in no time he had the smaller one running in the living area. It's been running about three hours now, and I'm already feeling the cotton candy with all its gauze being sucked away from me, restoring me to my former crystal-clear-headed self. I'm breathing easier too and I don't care if it's placebo effect, I can live with it either way. At this rate I will lay off the medicine whose brand name ends with a D as soon as tonight, when the other, bigger unit is turned on just a few feet away from my bed.

You may say I'm full of hope.

FB Findings

Due to the goofy sensations of dizziness, I'm not doing much today. So I let myself do something I've been abstaining from since the beginning of Lent, I opened my Facebook page. There were pictures of a vacationing relative couple taken on their tropical cruise. They cheered me up and reminded me of Duane Hanson's sculptures. The said couple are by no means as plump, but the appearances, especially the touristy getups, bear striking resemblances. The knack of uncanny life-likenss is Mr. Hanson's ticket to magic. Take a look for yourself. More images can be seen on the website of Saatchi Gallery. What I'm posting are via the same site.


Duane Hanson

Tourists II

fibreglass and mixed media, with accessories

life size

And this, my favorite, which might just turn out to be self-portrait in a few years: 

Duane Hanson

Flea Market Vendor

polychromed bronze, with accessories

life size


Literally woke up with a light-headedness. When I first got up I felt a goofy sensation in my head and feet, an unfamiliar dizziness. I got downstairs and sat down and could feel my ears were doing something funny too: not ringing but  whatever sound came through did as if it reached through waves of wind or water. When I tried to get up from the chair my head felt big and airy and fluffy. 

Then I realized that for the past 5, 6 nights I hadn't had a normal, sound sleep. My seasonal allergies had started and I began to take medicines, the kind with a D attached to its brand name, somewhere between OTC and Prescription. You have to show your ID to the pharmacist to get it, in limited quantity. I've been using it for two years and thank goodness every time I take it for the relief it gives me, especially at bedtime, when the nasal congestion use to keep me miserable all night prior to the advent of this wonder medicine. 

Once I realized that I was having dizziness, I began to connect the dots surfacing in my sleep pattern during the past 5, 6 nights, wherein I felt neither totally asleep nor totally awake, with these slow-churning imageries running in circles in my head. Some were like dreams, others were my own thoughts fixated on one things or another, audible and quarrelsome. One night I "heard" myself making a point about kid's artwork, with repeated efforts, saying the same point over and over, like a broken record. The night before it was a scene of the principal at my parish school letting students in and out of a large auditorium, all the same time exchanging pleasantries with me about school and weather... It went on and on, over and over, like a slide-show on auto pilot, with no exit...The whole time I was aware of the fact of sleep, of dreaming, of wanting it to stop. I don't even remember what it was like last night, before I got up with the dizziness. I do remember dreaming of the dreams. Crazy. 

So I got on the Internet and looked up side effects of this particular medicine, and found "dizziness," "drowsiness," and "trouble in sleep," among others. 

Still dizzy here. I'm doing laundry, going about my business from room to room, pretending nothing wrong with this cotton-candy head bobbing over my shoulders. But I can tell you that I won't be driving nothing today. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What's on My Mind

I have become pensive, you may say, lately. Painting is taking over my mind. Frankly I am a little surprised by the urgency and encompassing force by which it has gripped me lately. At times I wonder if I'm letting work overshadow more important things. I find myself pausing in midday to catch up on the daily readings. I haven't said a rosary in a long while.

In a way, Lent, the season partially dedicated to meditation, has forced me to re-think about priorities in my life. In the center of all this is the vocation of being an artist. I ask myself what that exactly means, and how different it is from having a simple hobby. The demands of a vocation weigh on one's soul, it asks for more than what I have been giving it. There's no doubt that I have been given the talent, facility, and material means, not to mention a doting husband who would do anything to see me happy. There's simply nothing holding me back from advancing this vocation.

What I don't have, it has become ever clear to me, is devotion.

Devotion isn't something bitter, dour, to swallow and to occasionally choke on. Too often people look at a disciplined, structured approach to life as a negative thing. I don't remember who it was (Pope John Paul II?) that challenged the Catholic youths to strive for excellence. Why settle for mediocrity, when you can be excellent? He asked. Excellence is impossible without devotion. It so happened that art is given me as vocation, an indispensable thread of my being. It follows that I cannot run away from the excellence to which I'm called. The reason I find Flannery O'Connor such an inspiration is how she lived her vocation as an artist, and how utterly devotedly and fearlessly she went about serving the good of her work.

And just to make one thing clear, I've never seen the need to make my artwork religious. I don't, and never will, see myself becoming a "religious artist." I don't want to dwell on the subject because it's just too complicated to be made clear by a few words, at least not by someone like me. You'll have to consult theologians, or aestheticians like Jacques Maritain, whose theories on the subject was crucial to validate O'Connor own thoughts on her vocation as an artist (see also Maritain's book Art and Scholasticism). I, in turn, have found validation to my own feelings in both Maritain, and O'Connor.

Now back to my current re-thinking of being an artist. In the past, my work has been guided by a mechanical production, and by, I'm ashamed to say, deadlines. Needless to say, there was deeply embedded passivity of that type of routine. What's now I see clearly, is the need to break through the comfort zone. I've been in it too long. No artist who sees his work as part of his being is content with repeating himself. The analogy in spiritual life would be the advancement through the chambers of Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle.

Again, art as vocation is not the same as art as hobby. If my work does not mirror what I am, and how essentially I relate to the world, to Creation specifically, then it isn't a vocation. Although I have not treated my work as a hobbyist might have, but I'm far from tapping into the soul of and source of the wellspring of it. Art is utterly unique in that it lays lofty demands on both the intellect and nitty-gritty routines of the artist. Inspiration alone makes nothing. An artist is at once a thinker and blue-collar mechanic or he isn't one. As a fallen creature, my natural inclination is to take the easy way out, or not to get "out" at all. If you look at the dynamics of living one's vocation as constant pruning and cutting away a jungle, the easy-way-out, or staying in the same spot, is no way of survival. In a letter in which Flannery gives advice to an aspiring writer, she plainly calls routine as the means of survival for an artist. I put it in another word: devotion.

So there you have it, the bits of fruits of my latest navel-gazing. It also explains the slow-coming of posts on this blog. I have in effect suspended all other activities (excepting laundry and getting tax done!) for fear of dissipation of mental energies. I have succeeded in painting several crappy pictures in a row, but I'm refraining from pulling out my stealthily graying hair and sinking into moodiness. I'm not even repainting the crappy pictures, like I used to do so as not to face the embarrassment of failure and inadequacy. I'm keeping them. I want to see my own inadequacy and be sober about what lies ahead. It helps also to know that these crappy pictures serve their own parts in the bigger scheme of things, and one day I will have something to thank them for.

As my pal Jan likes to say, over and out.