Magic, Not Resolutions

We say it once every 365 days.

Happy New Year!

What we forget is what else is true every January 1st.

It’s also Happy New Day!

And Happy New Week!

And Happy New Month!

Four times to thrill at a new start.

Next year, we’ll add a fifth: Happy New Decade!

It wasn’t that long ago that some of us celebrated Happy New Century and tag‐teamed with Happy New Millennium, too.

Why do we make only one of these happy proclamations then repeat it year after year, too? Are we numb to what the words really mean? Or could mean?

Photo copyright Rothko Chapel, Houston, TX.

Odd questions follow an otherworldly afternoon.

DH and I experienced the profound New Year’s Day Crystal Bowl Meditation at Houston’s Rothko Chapel. Neither words nor a singular photo can ever fully encompass this sacred space.

Multiply the mysticism by imagining people of all ages and types sitting on every bench with others camped on the floor on yoga mats and meditation cushions. Others crowd in quietly, filling the space at insistence to hear soul‐speaking chimes.

Dana Shamas of Bayou Bliss Yoga offered gentle guidance as harmonies rang out from crystal bowls arranged in the chapel’s center. From the chimes came a year’s intention for release, recovery, resilience, and renewal.

An hour later, DH and I emerged to the glory that is Barnett Newman’s incomparable Broken Obelisk. The reflection of Newman’s sculpture in the Rothko’s pool is only part of its charm.

The art honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, ironically, our nation will honor two weeks from today.

Synchronicity roars. 

Today also marks the New Year’s Day birth of Irish writer Maria Edgeworth in 1768. Praised by Jane Austen, the British‐born Edgeworth was noted for her ground‐breaking innovation to the novel form. She also issued an ahead‐of‐her‐time clarion call for women’s rights and children’s education plus pithy and comedic social and political observations.

Edgeworth penned the novel Ormond, a title only one letter removed from my already unusual surname.

Synchronicity returns. 

How did I not know of this woman writer before? She’s so prescient that quotes from her 1795 Letters for Literary Ladies were recycled by 1960‐era feminists in America.

Edgeworth also penned this quote: “If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.” 

Comforting words on this New Year’s Day. A sort of centering prayer.

As are the words of noted American author Neil Gaiman: “May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness.…I hope you read some fine books…Don’t forget to write…and I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

I’ll merge the wisdom of Edgeworth and Gaiman to craft my own vision for the new year: caring moments in 12 gentle months laced with magical dreams and self‐surprises, topped off with a dollop of healthy madness, all in service of full‐time storytelling and a life fully lived every day.

Four intentions of projects to embody, complete, and present by this time next New Year’s Day.

You heard it here first.

What’s your vision to surprise yourself?

Writing Chain

Prayer Chain, she called it.

I heard Writer Chain.

How could I not?

Look at its pieces—orange beads, angel wing, spiral, open hand.

Each, aspects of me.

The number four prominent—bead colors, bead types.

Divine Mother rising.

I bought Mary Jane White’s lovely bead work at Kay Kemp’s Holiday Marketplace in the Houston Heights. Upon returning to my writing studio, I laid the chain on my writing desk as you see it here—tucked in a circle and cradled in orange crepe paper as it was handed to me.

Words have flooded out of me since. More, better words than in months. Long‐percolating ideas and stories breathe with new life. Novel scenes possess a depth and weight unimagined at conception. Even scribbles from a novel initiated 15 years ago sparkle with invigorating possibility.

Best: feedback gathered on that writing stuns. (Note to reader: I share these comments begging your advance forgiveness for any perceived narcissism.) Some direct quotes: wow, what are you doing differently? Your writing has improved so much. Your stories flow so well; you’ve really crossed some kind of hurdle. How did you do this? 

I credit the Writer Chain.

Wonder invites pondering: what does chain mean? Words of pain—going dark and negative, a place I often reside—spring forth. Prison, gang, bindings, suffering. Then, Nelson Mandela.

To every yin, there’s yang. Mandela sought, and found, other meaning in his chains. Light to dark.

Perhaps chains serve as bindings, or links, to connect us, one to another. In uncovering those connections, we listen and interpret then discover what might move us forward. Uncover to discover.

Are these links, or chains, the key source for inspiration and progress in our journeys as writers, artists, human beings? How do we connect all the links we find?

Is this ultimately the Circle of Life?

The Lion King, courtesy Elton John’s songwriting wisdom, roars as the season encourages rumination.

I hope the chains, the links, in your life offer you similar inspiration and forward movement. Open your eyes and unclasp your hands. You’ll see chains and links illuminating your path. Little gifts surrounding you, awaiting uncovering.

On your desk. Under a tree.

Maybe take a quick, short road trip.

Only a half hour after I got into my car, I discovered Writer Chain.

I’m forever changed by a piece of art lying on a table awaiting my discovery. With my writing practice now unexpectedly richer than before, my life, too, stands enriched by a marketplace reunion with four wonderful artists—Kay, Mary Jane, Virginia, and Sharon. Thank you, friends.

A final thought for this almost‐over season:

Nothing reveals the truth like six little words on a t‐shirt.

Being Art

The headline stuns.

How did I not know about an art feast gracing a baker’s dozen intersections across my town?

My ego burns.

Isn’t a 26‐year, artsy resident — one who’s also an avowed news junkie — supposed to know all about the who and what of Art where she lives?

I share my discovery with fellow RoadBroad Ellen, who mentions that similar traffic‐signal art boxes stand across Houston. My mind wonders — is there anything Sugar Land has that the bigger, bossier sister city, 22 miles northeast, doesn’t?

My ego sizzles anew. Town pride smokes in the same skillet.

A Google search confirms Houston and Sugar Land are among hundreds across America that have repurposed ugly metal boxes into talking points for travelers stuck in traffic. The effort began at least 15 years ago in Connecticutt. Leave it to the Yankees to be so clever. And yet…

What a delightful way to turn unsightly man‐made mechanics into eye treasures for the stuck, the delayed, the bored! 

Ignorance morphs into curiousity which yields opportunity.

A day later, it’s time for an Art Box Scavenger Hunt.

First find is Judy Hope’s Tweet, Tweet, Sweet. Her melange of birds, hiding under this overpass, speaks to me. Freedom. Happiness. Peace. And color!

I dub the next stop “Blue Belle.” Not for that Brenham confection up the road.

Vivienne Dang’s Lady in Blue looks outward, dreamily, yearning of a bright future.

Her face rests directly atop the traffic box door. I wonder is that how she opens up — only at eye level? 

The sea of blue in which the entire image sits mirrors the background sky. Are we all sitting in a similar sea of blue?

The bees arrive down the road.

I offer thanks these insects are not this large in real life.

Why does this box scare me even as it lures me closer?

Mike Doan calls his creation Bizzy Beeze, praising the vital role played by honey bees in the farms that circle the Sugar Land community.

I realize an odd truth. The Bees have this blog post. Hmm…

Next comes Blossoms. That’s my title Artist Nataliya Scheib titled her creation, Butterfly Garden. 

I see only flowers. Zoom in and you’ll find butterflies by the dozen, darting to and fro among the color‐filled panorama of flowers.

This is the only traffic box I touch. Can you guess why?  

The final box I visit yields a single Butterfly.

Joy Chandler’s creation of Sweet Transformation highlights the plight of the endangered Monarch Butterfly, supposedly native to Sugar Land.

This lone image echoes Freedom. Joy. And the approaching Spring. The background of pastel circles add a sweet, supportive pallet.

I smile, standing here at the last traffic‐box art installation.

Birds. Blue Belle. Bees. Blossoms. Butterfly.

Don’t forget Boxes. As in Traffic‐Box Art.

The theme emerges: B Art. And now you ‘get’ the title of this blog post.

But what it all means? Alfie, do you know?

Me? I have no clue. But I will drive back down Highway 90A before long.

Eight traffic boxes await review.

Election Day Art Stroll

On election day while so many people were standing in line waiting to vote or working at the polls or watching the election news on television, I decided to take an Art Stroll. I had already voted and done everything I could do as far as campaign efforts. Watching the news was just making me nervous and stressed. I needed some self‐care and relaxation. As always, one of the best ways for me to stay calm and centered is to surround myself with art.

Lucky for me Wivla (Women in the Visual and Literary Arts) had an exhibition called Shape at the Downtown Houston Library. Visual art was combined with the written word. Artists and writers combined forces give their impressions of Space via paintings, poems, collage, short essays, and mixed media. I believe this exhibition will be on display through December.

As it turns out I recognized the names of several women writers and artists who were a part of this exhibition. Here is a mixed media piece by Sharon Bippus. Her piece deals with Space as it pertains to family and generations of relatives.

I took the following picture of a group of works in this exhibition. When I looked at it later I noticed that I had included the painting in the upper right corner that was created by artist, Josena Arquieta, who has a studio in the Silos at Sawyer Yards. She is a very talented artist I met in the Women in Art class I have been taking at the Glassell School of Art. I look forward to seeing more of her work during one of the upcoming Second Saturdays at Sawyer Yards.

After strolling through this exhibit at the Houston Library, I traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts. I wanted to see the exhibit of the British Royal Family. I especially enjoyed the following pictures.

I loved this one of Queen Elizabeth with Ann Richards who was the Governor of Texas in the early 1990s. The Governor was hosting a party for the Queen here in Houston at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Ann Richards was always self‐assured and projected a strong independent persona whenever she was in public. She also had a great sense of humor.

Of course the Queen remains a very powerful woman herself. Throughout the exhibit it was interesting to see how the various portraits of her have shown her over the years.

I especially liked this picture of Queen Elizabeth. It’s not the typical portrait where she is sitting down looking elegantly regal. There is a real strength in this picture that is not always shown in her day to day duties.

This exhibit will remain on display until late January 2019, I enjoyed it so much that I strolled through it twice and may go back again.

By the time I had made my way through all of the works by local women artists and the pictures of strong women rulers and leaders, it was time travel home. I was in a much better frame of mind and ready to take however the election results turned out.

Until next week.….….…..

Life Collage

Another great week full of art and writing. I found myself exploring Collage as a method of creating art by assembling different pictures, objects, photos, etc. into one piece of visual art. I went to the Texas Art Asylum to see the show, Cutting Edge Collage Show.

The collage show was a good demonstration of the various techniques involved in this method. Quite a good variety of local artists and their work. Also, The Texas Art Asylum is a great shop to find anything that you cannot find anywhere else. Check out their website to see what it is all about.

After that visit, I had to try some of my own collage pieces. I have been involved in Soul Collage for a number of years now. Typically I would use pictures from magazines, newspapers and brochures to create. However, I am now in a phase where I like to use my own pictures. I selected a number of the pictures I use in this blog every week to make the following collage piece.

I like the idea of using my own photography to make collage art. It is like making a series of pieces about the journey of my life. I am going to continue to explore this idea and report back to you how it goes.

As you can see in my Soul Collage piece that I am still working with images from the Museum of Fine Arts exhibition, Bambu: This Thing Called Life. This will close on September 3rd and I just wanted to walk on the bamboo trail one more time. Since this is the second time I have walked through this exhibit, I really walked at a slow pace.  The museum wasn’t crowded so there was plenty of time to walk and observe without holding up others. When the museum is crowded, there can be quite a wait to experience this exhibit. If you want to go this weekend, then plan on getting there early.

Finally, I spent an afternoon at the Glassell in an art history class called, Women in Art. It is taught by Dr. Anna Tahinci who is genuinely excited and passionate about her teaching. She talks about the artists and their works, but she also wants to make sure her students are taking the time to really observe and think about the art we are seeing. The enthusiasm Dr. Tahinci exudes in her teaching makes the class a real joy and the time flies by much too quickly.

Now after being so inspired by all of the art and creativity in my world, I need to get back to writing. I promised my writing coach at least another 1000 words by midnight tonight!

More next week!

More Reasons to Celebrate and More Creativity!

For starters.……Good News! A personal essay I submitted has been accepted by Story:Color 2019. This will be an art exhibition, reading, poetry slam, etc. sponsored by some of the artists from the Silos at Sawyer Yards, Words & Art, and WriteSpace. They asked for some poems and essays from writers that artists could use for inspiration to create visual art. I am honored and delighted my essay was accepted. The Opening Night Reading and Art Exhibition will take place on January 12, 2019. I will be sure to share more details as I have them.

As for the journeys I took this past week, I spent Saturday afternoon in a Process Painting retreat facilitated by Cherie Ray of True You Creativity. Ah, yes. Another internal journey!

For starters, this studio is located in a relaxing embracing environment. Here is the outside of her studio filled with plants, trees, art and bird houses.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure to experience Process Painting, I will give a very brief explanation. This is a process of painting where the end result is not the picture that is painted. Rather it is the process of creating that is the focus of attention. The purpose is not to paint a pretty picture; rather the purpose is to put paint on paper and see what the process of painting can tell you. It is great for unleashing creativity and creative potential.

Here are some of my painting samples as they were in process of being created:

There was no right or wrong with these pictures. They just were. I observed what came up for me as I painted. I considered what the colors told me. I loved my spot right by the window, because I was visited all afternoon by cardinals, turtle doves, and other birds as they snacked from the bird feeder and tried to figure out what the silly humans were doing.

This process reminded me of writing. I can’t write the “great American novel” in one sitting or in one draft. However, I can write by sitting down and putting words on paper. You can’t write a book or a short story without trying out ideas, putting words together in different arrangements to see what works. As my wonderful writing coach, Max Regan, frequently tells his students, just write something that is really crappy. Then if you like your draft or idea, you can begin to work with it. If your goal is only to write things that are good and meaningful, then you won’t get much done. Just write and then write some more. Whether you are putting paint on the paper or words, let the creative juices flow freely.

Thanks to the guidance provided by Cherie, I went home Saturday afternoon inspired and ready to continue creatively with both art and writing. As I walked out of her studio, I saw one of the universal signs that everything was going to be okay.

If you are interested in Process Painting or any of the other classes and retreats offered by Cherie Ray, please check out her website at Trueyoucreativity.com.

Then after a great weekend, I ended my day on Sunday by going to see the play, The Mouse Trap, which is currently being performed at the Alley Theatre. This play was written by Agatha Christie and is a good entertaining mystery for a late summer evening. I won’t give away the surprise ending. You’ll have to go see the play yourself and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. The stage design assures you of mysteries and murders just waiting to unfold!

I am looking forward to more writing this week and beginning an Art History class at the Glassell.

More details to follow!

Bean vs. Bullet

When I arrived at Houston’s answer to Chicago’s Bean, all I saw was a Bullet.

Houston’s Bean — or Bullet?

Ellen’s post and pictures last week lured me back to the road, this time to the Cullen Sculpture Garden.

Call it a silver siren song. Gleaming, mirrored surfaces screamed out. Release pent‐up creative energy. Retrieve roadtrip memories.

Three years ago, DH and I road‐tripped to Chicago. A swing by its Bean was vital. We were too old for Lollapalooza but never too cranky for playtime. 

Chicago’s Bean lures joy‐filled play.
Blondie holds up the Bean.

Remembering that long‐ago pose, Houston beckoned the same treatment. Same dress. Different hair.

Happy pose notwithstanding, I hated Houston’s Bullet. Immediately.

Can you see the rope‐like steel cable that wraps the granite base? It prevents human touch. Saving Windex money?

Look a little closer. See reflections of cracked eggshell below? Translation: metaphor for an ever‐expanding urban area with its multiple, diverse personalities. Truth?

In the shadows loom omnipresent building cranes. Prepping walls and floors of concrete. Another anniversary this month. Hurricane Harvey; Houston floods. We pour more concrete this storm season?

Step a pace or two to the left. Spy the first thing to love of this Bullet art. A concave side revealing…a ghost? A baby bear?

What do you see?

Lay down this baby and she’s a bed for cradling. Lush bedding mandatory. Not now, though. It’s August in Houston.

Can I sleep here in December? A Christmas present to myself? No. Guards say “no touch! Ever!”

Fine. Playtime calls.

First. Let’s play compare & contrast. Look at the pair of images below. Ask, as I did: when did local art go to the birds?

Sculpture “Bird” frames Bullet
Bean previews H‐town?

Ah, Monday philosophizing about art — be it beans, bullets, bears, or birds — beats writing on a novel.

To life! To distraction!

Imagination, Inspiration and Originality

Wednesdays are fun here in retirement land. It is one of the few days when I look forward to waking up and getting over to my friend’s house by 10:00 a.m. Why yes, I set an alarm clock to get somewhere by 10:00 a.m. That’s how I roll now. I can’t remember the last time I got anywhere by 8:00 a.m. Morning rush hour is a memory.

Now I get to my friend’s house and meet up with a group of women writers where we all practice and improve our craft. The size of the group fluctuates, but there is a dedicated core group of us. You can see a sampling of the group below:

Some of the group is a bit camera shy, so I am just showing a sampling of what we look like while we are reading our work and receiving feedback from each other.

After being inspired such talented friends, I went by the Glassell School of Art. The new building and campus is really nice and finally open for classes again.

I have heard this artwork just outside the main building referred to as the “Glassell Bean”. I am fascinated by this sculpture. It sees everything and it reflects everything around it.

The class I have signed up for is called “Women in Art”. We will study women artists from the 19th century through to the present. Some of my favorite artists will be included, such as; Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo, Judy Chicago and Camille Claudel. This is also the best kind of class to take, because there are no tests. Just a gathering of people who have a strong desire to learn and discuss.

The lobby of the Glassell is a wide open room with lots of light coming in from all directions.

There are stairs and hallways that go off in all directions. It makes me feel as if there is no limit to one’s creativity. In the past I have taken many classes at the Glassell in the areas of ceramics, photography, and design. I have loved them all. Now I am looking forward to this next phase of my art education.

I personally find that art and writing go together. If I am feeling creative in one area, it helps me feel creative in other endeavors. Sometimes when writing about a particular historical topic, I will develop some collage work to help me to visualize particular events, styles, etc. I have also used collage to help me develop characters for short stories.

Now it is time to get back to writing and creating.

Until next time…

What’s Your Woman?

Medial Woman screamed “Me!” in the morning.

Afternoon, I yelled back, “Me, Amazon! Next, Mother!”

I saved my loudest roar for “Hetaira” – there’s something about a woman focusing her life on a man that simply does not ring my chimes. Dare I ‘fess up that I heard my dark side shouting?

A weekend drive to Houston’s Jung Center — past a 4‐car freeway pileup (a high five for what lay ahead?) — brought an in‐depth study of these four aspects of the feminine psyche.

Which Archetype(s) are you? (Image copyright Suzan Cotellesse).

The workshop promised this RoadBroad an opportunity to expand her knowledge of female archetypes. My novel demands character exploration. I never anticipated a bonus: riches of personal learning and expansion.

Indulge me as I take an esoteric dive.

Archetypes are, in brief, an imprint all humans carry. In psychological theory, they’re original forms, or models, of people or ideas that others recognize universally.

In “Four Aspects of Woman,” workshop leader Suzan Cotellesse synthesized the groundbreaking work of psychoanalyst Toni Wolff who posited that, across a woman’s life, she dances with four archetypes in both her personal (individual) and non‐personal (collective) relationships. (Authors Mary Dian Molton and Lucy Anne Sikes later expanded on Wolff’s work in their book, Four Eternal Women).

Those four natures include Mother, the nurturer; Hetaira, the relater; Amazon, the striver; and Medial Woman, the wise woman. Suzan’s clear and wise teaching explained each of the four functions in detail.

Which fits you now? (Image copyright Suzan Cotellesse).

Immediately, I slotted my novel’s six primary female characters.

Then. Off came the blinders.

My turn. Personal truth.

Easy at first: Medial Woman. Intuitive. Spirit Seeker. Mysterious. Crone (rising because, at age 61, she’s not very old. Cough. Cough.).

Amended at day’s end: I’m actually a growing Amazon followed by a creating Mother supported by evolving Medial Woman with full‐on‐resistance mode at mention of Hetaira. There’s something about this broad who self‐selects as a man‐slave. Over‐reaction, of course. I’ll explore. Later. 

At workshop’s end, we collaged our learnings. I used a single piece of paper, collaging its two sides.

Amazon roars; Medial Woman meditates (Collage images copyrighted by their respective magazines).

Here’s Afternoon Me. Young again, she strides into the world as an independent Amazonian woman. Her white and black attire symbolize the clarity of her life mission and purpose.

Interesting that Amazon’s stride comes atop Medial Woman’s natural wisdom. The latter’s represented by images of clear water and shining sun, the foundations for a strong feminine force re‐entering the world.

To her left—as a guiding mantra—balances the red and black passion of woman and man evenly weighted with each other, moving upward toward a better future. I hope.

On the reverse appeared the supporting forms, Archetypes #2 and #4, if you will:

Mother creates, Hetaira relates (Collage images copyrighted by their respective magazines).

Mother anchors this side with her Gaia representation, stand‐ins for the gestating/birthing role of the creative feminine. She stands on what she brings to her role: ‘The Woman who Knows what Women Want.” Apt for an author of women’s fiction?

To her right stands Hetaira, daring any challenge. On anything. Closed‐off arms offer aloof confidence. Attractive. Fearsome. Yes, work to do, both of us.

Splitting the page, the four faces of the female archetypes reveal different looks. Each glance, shaded by artfully applied make‐up, reveals as it also hides. Can you see why each face was placed as it was?

Two days after the workshop, I look at these pages and ask—my god, where does this stuff come from?

Medial Woman wants to know.

For Amazon Mother.

∞∞∞∞∞

Suzan will offer this informative class again this fall at Houston’s Spectrum Center (www.SpectrumCenter_Houston.com). You can explore Suzan’s other work and teachings at her website (www.suzancotellesse.com).