The Road From Spring Into Summer

I don’t care what the calendar says. I know what I know.

This is the last week for Spring weather here in Houston. Except for a few monsoon floods, we’ve had a pretty good run. In between rain storms, there were many days where morning temperatures were in the upper 60’s with low humidity. I walked. I opened windows and enjoyed fresh air.

Yet, the weather forecasters are all telling us that by next week the temperatures will rise and it will definitely feel like summer.

So during these last few days of not only tolerable, but lovely weather, I decided to visit some of my favorite strolling spots. I wound up going back to the Rienzi with some of my writing friends. We received a brief tour inside the house from Ms. Ryan Hernandez. I have to admit this was my second tour of the house and it was just as fascinating, if not more so, than the first time.

After our indoor stroll, we were free to roam around the grounds. Some of us stayed inside to write and others of us went outside to be inspired by the nature that fills the lovely grounds.

Carroll and Harris Masterson lived in this house during the post World War II years through the 1960s and beyond into the 1990s. These two were major philanthropists helping the growing city of Houston develop both culturally and with a social conscience.

Carroll Masterson served on many boards for the fine arts including the Alley Theatre, Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera among others. She also supported charities that supported both the elderly and also women and children.

Learning about this family reminded me of the research I conducted a few years ago on local poor farms and pauper cemeteries. There were many charitable organizations that were supported by local society matrons. Now that I am retired from the rigors of Social Services and local government, I now spend a lot of time at the arts organizations that the Masterson family helped to create. No wonder I felt so comfortable walking around the Rienzi House and Gardens.

There is one last field trip this weekend when I will go to the Houston Symphony to hear Blue Beard’s Castle. Then I will retreat underground and inside with lots of air conditioning. I will even switch from walking outside to enjoying water aerobics at an indoor pool. Even when I do venture out to attend the Summer Chills play at the Alley Theatre, I can get there through a parking garage and a downtown tunnel.

Not to worry. I will continue some road trips and all blogging activities before re‐emerging into polite society sometime in the fall. This will be just in time for Halloween! Since my favorite holiday is just a mere 168 days away, the days will fly by quickly.

Until next week.….

Many Roads To Creativity

It’s raining again in Houston. Again. Raining. My heart goes out to the ones who had their homes flooded earlier this week. I am currently high and dry.

Since I am stuck at home waiting for the monsoon season to end, it is a good time to try different art forms. I think about the new Aladdin movie that is coming out soon. I wonder what I would do if I found a lamp that I could use to conjure up a Genie that would grant me wishes.

I would wish that I could draw. I have always wanted to draw and have been at least a little bit envious of those that can. However, I cannot draw. Maybe a straight line if I used a ruler.

Yet it is my desire to draw, combined with my love of art, that keeps encouraging me to find new creative outlets. I have done needlepoint, abstract painting, collage, photography, ceramics and I have dabbled in fiber arts.

This week my creative urges have taken me down the road to Alcohol Inks. As you can see in the various samples in this blog; it does not require drawing talent. I bought an assortment of bottles of Alcohol Inks, then I sprayed some rubbing alcohol on paper. The next step involves dropping the various colors of Alcohol Inks onto the paper and then I use a straw to blow on it and spread the colors around.

What you see here are my very first attempts at using these inks. Please be kind and gentle on your judgement of my artistic attempts. I think I will combine these inks with some collage and see what happens.

Of course when I am not playing with lots of pretty colors, I use my creative talents to write. I write essays, short stories, some poetry and blog. Of course I am working on a book.….aren’t all writers? I am quite sure that given enough time, I will bring forth the Great American Novel. But even if I don’t, I will have fun trying.

What is the connecting thread to all this? Creativity. What I have observed is that once I walk down one creative road, then I am always inspired to walk down others. I surround myself with my favorite artists and writers and include my own art and writing. As you can probably imagine, the walls inside my home are quite eclectic. And I am always open to trying new art forms. Book shelves are full and stacks of books sit on the coffee table and bedside table.

If the weather will cooperate this weekend, I want to spend Saturday afternoon strolling around Sawyer Yards. There are so many artists who have studios over there. It feels creative just to walk around. Unfortunately, the weather forecast indicates that all of Houston may be under water by that time. And I don’t own a boat. Sigh.

As I write this, the rain has really started coming down outside along with a good bit of lighting and thunder. Time to sign off and go hide under the bed with the cats.

Until next week.….

The Road From Form To Matter

Form pre‐exists in matter.

Now that’s a deep philosophical statement to start your day. If it’s too early in the morning then you may roll your eyes and wonder what the wacky blogger is up to now. However, take a moment and a deep cleansing breath.

You remember Michelangelo, don’t you? Renaissance man? Sculpture, Painter, Architect and Poet? The Sistine Chapel dude. Yeah, that’s him.

Well, Michelangelo was a neoplatonist. He put forth a philosophy about sculpture where a work of art was already living within a block of marble. It is the calling of the artist to chip away and free the work of art and bring it to life. Through the artistic process of sculpture, art emerges from marble.

What a concept! What if I look upon myself as a big block of marble? I was born with a work of art inside of me. Then as I grew up and continuing into today, my life experiences chipped away at the block of marble that is me. Slowly over the years I have emerged as the person I am today. Each of us is a block of marble with beauty emerging from within.

Sometimes you may see a sculpture that is intentionally left unfinished. The work of art continues to emerge from the stone. A work of beauty already, but still emerging into form.

As any sculptor can tell you, sometimes the block of stone will resist. This can happen even if the artist carefully works with and goes with the grain.

In sculpture, art is forever emerging. Moving towards freedom from the captivity of the stone. Waiting for insight and clarity to merge with life experiences.

Does this only apply to sculpture? Of course not. Whether you are a painter, writer, photographer, scientist or any other type of creative person, there is a beauty that only you can bring out.

Once again, many thanks to Dr. Anna Tahinci, Professor and Art History Chair at the Glassell School of Art, for teaching wonderful classes in Art History where I got the inspiration for this blog. Also, the pictures of sculptures in this blog were taken while on a recent visit to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

Until next week.….

The Zoo Road

I can’t stop walking. I walk around the neighborhood. I walk around the park. I walk when I am running errands in the neighborhood.

Thanks to gastric sleeve surgery and physical therapy for my “arthritic knee”, I have lost weight and can walk for a couple of miles at a time without any pain or discomfort. Please get out of my way and don’t slow me down.

The other day my Dear Friend and I went to the Houston Zoo. They open at 9:00 a.m. and we were there walking around by 9:30. It was cool and the sky was overcast. There was a nice breeze. What’s not to love?

Our first stop was the area that housed the elephants. There were no elephants. I am guessing that elephants are not morning critters. Bummer. I love elephants. DF and I kept walking.

We came upon the cougars. I love big cats. Let’s see the cougars! There were no cougars. Apparently they were up late last night partying with the elephants. I wish I had been invited to that party!

Finally we walked into a building that looked out on the gorilla section. Seems as though the gorillas were not invited to the elephant/cougar party either, because there were several gorillas looking wide awake and enjoying a leisurely breakfast. They didn’t seem to mind that we watched them and took pictures.

It was just DF and I and the gorillas. We could dawdle and slowly observe these magnificent creatures. They ate lettuce and drank from coconuts.

As we continued walking through the zoo we saw more and more animals. There were many flamingos. They had just finished their breakfast and were strolling around their area visiting with some ducks and other birds that came by for a visit.

I had never seen so many pink flamingos together in one place. Why yes, I did see a couple that stood on one leg. Did you know their knees fold backwards?

It was about this point when DF and I noticed that we were no longer strolling along without any other zoo visitors. Mothers were also strolling pushing baby strollers. There were parents with toddlers. Then there was one school group…and then another. Quickly the children were greatly outnumbering the adults.

One of our last stops was the giraffe area and these wonderful animals did not disappoint. There were several giraffes of various ages and sizes along with some ostriches and one zebra. I had never noticed before that both giraffes and ostriches have long necks. Who knew? Well, I guess I knew, but had never had cause to stop and think about this before. I had never seen them standing side by side for the comparison. The zoo is so full of all of these educational experiences. Unfortunately there was only one zebra. I wondered if there was another zebra who had partied with the elephants and cougars and was still asleep.

We weren’t able to visit with the sea lions, because several school groups were getting a private showing of the water creatures. Then the closer we got to the front there were groups and gaggles of students everywhere we looked. All ages and all sizes plus teachers and parental escorts. Adults were seriously outnumbered. Time to go.

After walking around for an hour, we had not seen all the animals we had hoped to see. Not a problem. This just meant that we get to go back for another zoo walk to visit the elephants and lions and tigers and bears! Oh My!

Until next week.….

When The Road Changes

Things change. It’s inevitable.

I visited the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center again this week. The purpose for this particular road trip involved a photographic expedition. I wanted a location where I could find interesting pictures of light, sunshine, shadow and nature. It was a partly cloudy day where the sun came and went behind the clouds which kept the light changing throughout the morning. I took many pictures of the varieties of light available to me that day.

I also took pictures of several of the critters I found while walking around the various trails. It seemed as though the animals were cooperating with me most of the time. Some of them even seemed to pose while I took a number of photos.

A long time ago I developed a year‐long habit, or meditative practice if you will, of walking in the Houston Arboretum routinely once a week. I started this in the month of January and kept it up all the way through December. I had great fun watching nature go from one season to another. I watched wild flowers bloom in the spring and I watched great numbers of monarch butterflies as they migrated. I got to know the animals around the pond. A couple of turtles and I were on first name basis. One time I saw a poisonous snake swimming across the pond.…..thankfully away from me.

By the time the year was up, I knew the Houston Arboretum forwards and backwards. You could drop me down onto any trail and I could find my way out. Several times I would help guide folks who were walking around looking very lost.

But not anymore. The Arboretum is getting updated, upgraded, made fancier? Whatever you want to call it, my beloved Arboretum is changing. There are now two entrances. A new office building is going up and a new education center. Trails are changing…I think. There are more ponds. There are a couple of spots where I was used to seeing a particular tree leading to that particular trail that I can no longer find. I actually had to use a map to find my way around during this last visit. I found the largest pond that I was looking for, but I could almost swear that a smaller pond disappeared in that one spot that I was used to visiting.

Unless you are a member, there is now a small charge for parking. Of course if I wait just a couple of weeks then I will qualify for a “Senior” membership. I will get free parking and a discount in the gift shop. Who says life doesn’t keep getting more exciting as you get older?

There was one thing that I was very glad to see had not changed. There are still turtles in the large pond. There were at least 10 of them sunning themselves on various logs in the middle of the water. None of them waved at me or asked me where I had been, but I was delighted to see them anyway.

I’ll use a map until I learn the new layout and pay attention to detail so I don’t get lost. The trails are being improved and there are more benches so a writer can sit down and create in the middle of nature. I may not visit weekly like I used to, but I can see myself showing up there maybe monthly.

And I like to hug the trees. Yes, I am a tree hugger. Yes, they hug back. It’s all very nice.

Until next week,.„„

On The Road With Scooters

Keep Austin Weird!

No, I am not being rude. Maybe you’ve seen the t‐shirts. Anyway, it’s an official slogan that was adopted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance.

And keeping Austin weird is fun. When I was there a couple of weeks ago for a book launch, I had the grand pleasure of staying at the Driskill Hotel. Yes, I have a weakness for historical and haunted hotels. Unfortunately I did not meet up with any ghosts while I was there, but I did spend a lot of time walking around downtown Austin. If you are familiar with the neighborhood, I walked up and down 6th Street, Congress, etc.

My Dear Friend and I walked carefully. To avoid all the scooters. Downtown was crawling with them. Apparently you only need the right app on your phone to rent one. Both citizens and tourists were riding them around the downtown area seeing what there was to see. Then when folks were done, the scooters were left on the sidewalk. There seemed to be an amazing lack of rules to this. Kinda like bumper cars except that half the folks were going 15 miles an hour on two wheels and the rest of us were walking on two legs.

Do you notice the nice gent in this picture driving his scooter down the street? Well, most scooter riders weren’t like this nice person. Most scooter aficionados traveled in packs. Sometimes they traveled on the streets and sometimes on the sidewalks. Sometimes they stopped for red lights and stop signs and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes they went the wrong way down one way streets. They were wild boisterous packs of swarming scooter hordes.

In this picture it looks like the red scooters are taking aim with a cannon on a lone green scooter. Of course the statue helped by lighting the cannon. I wonder if the green scooter did some egregious act to rile the ire of the red scooters? I asked, but neither the scooters or statue would talk about it.

Many of the fun loving speedy scooter critters were young. I’m guessing a lot of students and recent alums from the University of Texas cruising the bar scene on 6th Street. But I also saw a lot of grey hair flying in the breeze as a gaggle would soar past. Was this part of a mid‐life crisis ritual? Go to Austin, ride a scooter, drink beer and bemoan a lost youth?

I only got almost hit once. According to the traffic light, I had the right of way to cross the street. I began walking, my Dear Friend tugged on my arm. I stopped just in time to see a woman careening around the corner.

And finally I leave you with this picture. Was this scooter on sale for $5? Was it free as long as it was adopted into a good home? Who can tell. Maybe there were rules to this sport that I just didn’t have time to learn.

Back in Houston we don’t have scooters flying around the streets of downtown. No one wants to keep Houston weird.

Until next week.….

Road Trip to a Book Launch

What a spring time! What a weekend! What a life!

I felt excited about all three of these as I spent the weekend in Austin, Texas. Another road trip for this RoadBroad! Usually it is just fun to travel to Austin and soak in all the “wierdness” that is the State Capitol of the Lone Star State. However, I had a very important reason for this most recent trip.

My dear Friend and I went to Austin to visit the Book‐Woman and enjoy a book launch for an exciting murder mystery called Death Unchartered by Dorothy Van Soest.

I met Dorothy last year when I traveled to Boulder, Colorado for the 10‐day writing intensive with Max Regan. It was just after my retirement from local government and I was beginning to make my way as a full‐time writer.

Dorothy lived in Austin for a while when she served as an associate dean and professor at the University of Texas School of Social Work before she became the Dean of the University of Washington School of Social Work. Turns out we knew some of the same folks in the Social Work field.

Dorothy has already published 10 books and Death Unchartered is the next one in the series of Sylvia Jensen mysteries. This is my first Sylvia Jensen mystery and I can’t wait to read the others. If you like mysteries, you will find this to be a real page turner!

The book launch was a success. The crowd was all but standing room only and Dorothy kept us all captivated as she shared several short readings with us. The story opens with a murder and gets more exciting from there. I won’t say any more, because I don’t want to spoil it for you. Believe me it is good!

Several of us writers traveled from Houston to Austin for this book launch. Melanie was there dressed in her traditional orange. RoadBroads are nothing if not loyal and supportive of each other.

Actually I am delighted to know that I am a part of a really great team of writers. Between Max Regan’s Colorado retreats, classes with the Spectrum Center Writers Guild, and weekly writing get togethers, we are at all stages of our writing careers. Some, like Dorothy, are old hands at the publication game and are willing to help those of us who are just now beginning to send out essays, short stories, and the like.

From Spring 2018 to Spring 2019, I have written a lot (but never enough!), I have submitted pieces for publication and occasionally get accepted, and continue to develop my writing chops. People like Max, Dorothy and Melanie have helped me transition from being a retired Social Worker wanting to write to being a full‐time writer and hanging out with writing friends at book launches.

Thanks to Dorothy Van Soest for coming to Texas for a book launch of Death, Unchartered! You can find it on Amazon, you local bookstore, or wherever you get your books! You can also check out Dorothy’s website at dorothyvansoest.com.

What a great Spring! What a great life!

Until next week.…..

The Floor Show Before The Show

Theater or Theatre? Does it matter? No. I don’t even get confused when I go to the Houston Theater District to enjoy a play at the Alley Theatre. I’m so smart.

All I know is that one of the best reasons for living in Houston is the Houston Theater District. This includes 17 blocks in downtown Houston that houses 9 professional performing arts organizations. My Dear Friend (DF) and I go to as many performances as possible.

However, if you think the only performances worth writing about are found in venues such as The Wortham Center or Jones Hall, then you would be mistaken. Just the other evening DF and I decided to go downtown for dinner before attending a performance by the Houston Ballet.

We decided to eat at The Blue Fish. If you have never been there, it serves a wide variety of Japanese dishes that will delight both the meat‐eater in your crowd as well as the vegetarian. I personally swear by the Agadashi Tofu and the Grilled Veggies. However, this most recent visit had us placed at a table where I could observe the bar area, the reception area and one of the doors that led to the kitchen.

What a floor show! The choreography displayed by the staff could rival anything I have seen created by Stanton Welch (Artistic Director of the Houston Ballet). Movement never stopped and I only saw a waiter hit the kitchen door once during our visit.

Why such a display of ecstatic waitstaff dancing? At night when several venues have scheduled performances, most of them begin at either 7:30 or 8:00. That means that everyone who wants to enjoy dinner before their show gets to the local restaurants at the same time. By 6:15 the tables are filling up fast. There is a line of customers coming in the front door. Everyone wants to get to their theater performances on time. No time for dawdling!!!

Water is delivered to the tables, orders are taken, the bartenders are shaking their martini shakers, sushi chefs are slicing and dicing, and customers are chomping and imbibing. I couldn’t even get a decent picture of the bar staff, because they were moving too fast. Once all the shows begin there might be a lull until later when everyone who didn’t have dinner before the show enjoy a light repast before heading home… or elsewhere.…..it’s not for me to judge.

When our dinner was over, DF and I made it across the street to the Wortham Center in time to enjoy another wonderful performance by the Houston Ballet. After the show, DF and I made our way back to the car as we observed another round of theater‐goers making their way into the Blue Fish. I hope they enjoyed the floor show as much as I did.

Until next week.….

Flinging and Swinging into Spring

It is now officially Spring! I hope everyone had a nice Vernal Equinox. Did you run around outside picking flowers and dancing? I didn’t either. Have you planted all of your spring flowers and gardens? Again…me neither.

However, I have been walking. I have walked around my neighborhood, I have walked at Bayou Bend, I have walked around the grounds at Rienzi. I have observed nature and art. Yes, sometimes nature is art and sometimes art is nature. Think about it.……you’ll get it. I may not have planted any spring garden, but the fabulous people who work for the Museum of Fine Arts have put a lot of work into the Gardens at Bayou Bend and the Rienzi. As you can tell I walked among the Goddesses and Muses (great inspiration for writing) and took lots of pictures of flowers and butterflies.

For those of you who are not in the know about Houston culture, Bayou Bend is owned by the MFAH and showcases the home and gardens of the Great Dame of H Town, Miss Ima Hogg. Yes, for anyone who is not knowledgeable about Houston culture, this was a real woman (stop that giggling now!) who had lots of money and spent it on a beautiful home, the Houston Symphony, the Houston Ballet, among other things. I can paraphrase the line from the movie Steel Magnolias and say that Miss Hogg “had more money than God” and I don’t think she wasted a penny. When she died, she left her home full of art works and antiques to the MFAH. The ongoing success of the Houston Symphony and Houston Ballet speak for themselves.

The Rienzi is another such home that is also located in River Oaks. Formerly the home of philanthropists Carroll Sterling Masterson and Harris Masterson III. I don’t know as much about them as I do about Miss Ima Hogg, but they also left a beautiful home full of art and antiques plus acres of beautiful gardens to the MFAH.

The exciting part about all of this walking is that I feel really good! I have successfully survived gastric sleeve surgery, losing weight and can get up and move! I am literally having a Spring Fling! My once upon a time arthritic knee is MUCH better.

I first started going on long walks when I was about 12 years old. You know, that age when just no one understands you and you almost sprain a muscle in your face from your eyes rolling so much at everything everyone tries to tell you? Just gotta love those preteen years. And yes, I was just that kind of preteen. Yes, I have matured much since those days. No…really!

Anyway, I would go for long walks around the neighborhood. There was a shopping center and an 18‐hole golf course. Lots of places to walk around and get lost in the scenery and sort out my pubescent thoughts. Mom and I both had a nice break from each other. My siblings never followed me on these outings. What’s not to love.

Besides, it doesn’t cost anything to walk. Except there is sometimes an admission fee. It is actually good for you. Except for when the refineries in Deer Park are on fire and the air is filled with smoke and benzene. Don’t forget to breathe deep!

So, I hope you have enjoyed all of these pictures of flowers and springtime. Soon enough it will be summer and hurricane season and it will be 100 degrees in the shade.……you get the idea. I am going to walk as much as possible until that time gets here!

Until next week.……

Surrealism and the Bowler Hat

I read with great interest Melanie’s most recent blog post about hypnagogia. In case you need a brief refresher hypnagogia refers to the state between wakefulness and sleep. It is a state where people attempt to grasp creative ideas that percolate up from the subconscious and unconscious. Melanie mentioned she keeps a journal by her bed to capture those early morning creative glimmerings.

I also have a journal by my bed. I use it to capture dreams. Is there a hard and fast difference between dreams, creative glimmers, free thoughts? Maybe or maybe not. All can be included as fodder for writing prompts, ideas for painting or collage works, etc. However, reading about this type of free form writing reminds me of Surrealism in both art and writing.

Surrealism refers to the avant‐garde movement in art and literature which sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind. Often you will see surrealist art that juxtaposes images that you would not otherwise think of going together.

Miro’and Dali are some of the more popular surrealist artists. Of course there were women surrealists that never receive as much attention as the male artists. Many people consider Frida Kahlo to have been a surrealist painter. Gertrude Abercrombie was a painter who specialized in working with moons, cats and mysterious women. What’s not to love about pictures of moons, cats and mysterious women?

I must admit one of my all time favorite surrealist artists is Rene Magritte. This gentleman painted a lot of pictures of men in bowler hats. Sometimes he painted pictures of men in bowler hats without faces. Other times there are faces of men wearing bowler hats, but the face is hidden behind an apple or a dove. He also painted groups of men in bowler hats wearing black overcoats floating in air. Are they floating up or down? That’s open to interpretation.

I have recently become fascinated by the use of bowler hats in art and literature. Traditionally a man in a bowler hat is a version of the “every hat” worn by the “every man”. Informal. Practical. Combine the bowler hat with a skeleton and you have a bit of surrealist photography.

What about women who wear bowler hats. Think of Liza Minnelli in the movie Cabaret. What good is sitting alone in your room when you can come hear the music play?

Bowler hats are not traditional headgear for the “every woman”. When a woman wears a bowler hat, is she picking up on a surrealist life style? Looking for meaning in the unconscious? Gleaming insight and inspiration from the area between waking and sleeping? Can you find writing prompts inside a bowler? A male character in a mystery novel who wears a bowler hat is a hidebound traditionalist. Yet, a woman in the same novel wearing a bowler hat is a bit quirky and unusual.

Can you find inspiration and creativity just by wearing a bowler hat? Sounds good to me!

Until next week.….…