My First Year On The Road

What a year!

Has it been a year already?

Has it only been a year?

A year ago on May 23, 2018, I wrote and published my first blog as a RoadBroad! Actually it was my first blog post ever. Thanks to Melanie for having the wonderful idea to start a blog. I became an official RoadBroad and have been writing about my journey ever since. The first picture I ever included on a blog was a picture of one of my cats. I bought a new suitcase to make a road trip to Boulder, Colorado for one of Max Regan’s writing retreats and Hannah (the cat) was trying to figure out how to pack herself into the trip.

I still hold fond memories of meeting with other writers, having writing meetings at the Dushanbe Tea House and gazing at the Flatiron Mountains. I am including some of my favorite photos from that first road trip in this blog post. This was my first trip to Colorado and can’t wait to return.

May 2018 was also notable because that was when I retired from a 25 year career of being a Social Services Administrator for local government. I had been either working, going to school, being a part‐time adjunct faculty member, going to school some more, etc., since the age of 15. I completed all requirements to secure a pension and health care into my senior years. It was time for a change.

Now my entire life revolves around creativity. Either I am engaging in creative activities or I am appreciating the creative work of others. The Vincent Van Gogh exhibition is still going on at the Museum of Fine Arts. I have to go at least one more time before it ends.

Since May 2018 I have been a full‐time writer. Sometimes I submit a piece of writing and it gets accepted. Sometimes it doesn’t. I keep reminding myself that I am not personally being rejected. I merely wrote a story or essay that was not accepted for a particular journal. I continue to work on a book about Memphis, Tennessee in the 1960s and 1970s.

I am also a visual artist. I’m a photographer and I work with collage. In my spare time I take art classes at the Glassell and this summer I will add a class at the Art League of Houston to my list of visual studies.

There was one not so fun part to this past year; I discovered I had arthritis. Then I had physical therapy, bariatric gastric sleeve surgery, got to where I could walk a lot again and enjoyed many classes in water aerobics at the local YMCA.

I’ve read a lot of books and attended many lectures by other writers and authors. I love hearing other writers talk about how they write and what their creative process looks like. I heard Annie Lamott who was absolutely inspirational. Getting to hear Annie Lebovitz talk about her life as a photographer was fascinating.

My Dear Friend and I have walked many miles through the Museum of Fine Arts, The Museum of Natural Science, Bayou Bend, Rienzi and various other art galleries. We have attended performances at the Alley Theatre, Houston Ballet, Houston Symphony, etc. We have traveled to the beach over the winter holidays and Austin for a sister writer’s book launch.

As a RoadBroad, I have enjoyed my creative journey and love this new phase of my life. I am going to continue my journey as a RoadBroad and look forward to sharing everything I see and learn with you. Here’s to another RoadBroad Year!

Until next week.….

Rainy Days and Color

The weather in Houston can be so mixed. Except for the summer. During the summer temperatures are hot and the humidity is high. The only variation involves hurricanes and tropical disturbances. Those are no fun.

Yet, this time of year the weather can be cold or warm or rainy or beautifully sunny. Just the other day I posted on Facebook about how beautiful the day was with full sunshine and comfortably cool temperatures. The rest of the country was experiencing snow, ice, more snow and then blizzards.

This week here in Houston it is rainy. It was rainy yesterday and it is still rainy today. It will be rainy for a couple of more days. Sometimes it might just be cloudy, but then it will rain again. Not tropical disturbance rainy or hurricane rainy. No flooding. No worries. Just rain.

The days become gray. Dull, gray, dreary, rainy days. It is almost as if gray is the only color in the world. Is it just my imagination or has all the color been sucked out of the cars in the parking lot? Do you see any color there?

Really?

That is why my Dear Friend (DF) and I went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science this week and caught the exhibition called Biophilia.

What is Biophilia? I am so glad you asked.

The artist Christopher Marley has made a career of going out into nature all over the world and finding animals, bugs, water creatures, land creatures, flying creatures and snakes. Then, by capturing the innate beauty and color that naturally exists in nature, he makes beautiful art.

In the exhibition Marley defines Biophilia as, “.….an abiding reverence and appreciation for the creations with which we share our planet.”

I didn’t take enough pictures to do justice to the colorful array of art pieces that are shown in this exhibition. You will see bright blues, yellows, greens. Then you will see some water creatures and snakes that form some of the most fascinating geometric shapes. There are birds with bright feathers and sometimes feathers without the birds.

I was reminded in the middle of this very gray day that there really is a lot of color in nature. As I study art history classes at the Glassell School of Art, I am reminded that mere mortals can only strive to reproduce the magnificent colors that we see around us in nature.

Sometimes we get close. Sometimes, if you pay attention to the details, you will see that humans can make some very interesting objects. I took this last picture when visiting at a friend’s house. The house was built in 1938 and it still has some of the original glass door knobs. With the play of light and shadows this could look like some of the creatures that I saw in Biophilia or maybe it is just a pretty picture all to itself. Humans and nature can make very good artistic partners when they try.

By the way, just in case you were wondering.….Even though the animals in Marley’s artwork are no longer living, no animals were harmed in order to create this body of work. Here’s a quote from a recent NPR story:

Marley built a network of breeders, zoos, aquariums and importers who all send him their dead. He’s very clear that he only uses reclaimed specimens that have died from natural causes or been caught as fishing bycatch, and doesn’t buy from hunters.”

Likewise I assure you that no doorknobs were harmed while I was taking pictures of them. Just in case you were wondering.

Until next week.….

Groundhog Day.….Again!

Groundhog Day! One of the first early signs that we may have survived another Winter and Spring may just be around the corner? Such an odd custom. Depending on a groundhog to determine our future for the next six weeks. Just what exactly makes rodents so smart? How does such a custom come about?

In this country we need to look to the Dutch and German settlers. Back in the “old country” hedgehogs were used to predict weather. Apparently hedgehogs weren’t readily available for the settlers here, so they switched hedgehogs for groundhogs. Rodents are interchangeable? Who knew?

Is this really all about weather and agriculture? Or is this some Jungian tale of how we react when we see our shadow selves? What a fascinating tangent; however, it is a topic much larger than this blog will allow. Back to Groundhog Day…

Hollywood made a movie called Groundhog Day where the day kept repeating itself over and over until Bill Murray could figure out that Andie MacDowell was a catch. I would send you to Google to check this out, but I am guessing this movie will be showing on television several times this weekend. Just check the listings.

Of course if you keep going back in time, you will find that Groundhog Day was celebrated by the Pagans as Imbolc. It was one of the first rites of Spring. A re‐dedication to life and trust that soon plants would grow and that all of life would be renewed for another year. Then the Catholics came up with Candlemas. Again a celebration of re‐dedication to their faith.

However you slice up the cultural pie, this is a time when people look to the future. Even if you New Year resolutions have all fallen by the wayside, there is still hope for you to believe in the future and yourself.

As if in preparation, much of the country endured the Polar Vortex this week. Not only did the US Post Office not deliver, but there were even some bars in the Midwest that had to close, because the beer trucks couldn’t deliver. Talk about your weather emergencies!

Here in Houston, I spent some quality time on the road at the Houston Arboretum.

If you haven’t visited the Arboretum in a while, it has really changed. They are making some big changes as a result of the lasting effects of Hurricane Ike in 2008 and the Summer Drought of 2011. They are adding more ponds and walking paths. There is even a second entrance on the feeder road to the 610 Loop. So many paths to take. So much exploring to be done. If you haven’t visited here in a while, it is definitely worth an afternoon of strolling around to discover all that is new.

While I may not be ready for winter to be over, apparently Nature has other ideas. I even saw some of the early Texas wildflowers at the Arboretum. Can the bluebonnets be far behind?

In honor of this weekend of re‐dedication, new life, and the hopes of Spring, I re‐dedicate myself to writing and art. Writing projects continue even as I think up new ones.

Also, I have started another Art History class at the Glassell School of Art. We will talk in depth about lines, shapes, spaces, time and motion. We are even going to delve into the principles of design. I can’t wait!

I hope everyone has a great weekend! I will be practicing all kinds of creativity.

Until next time.….

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.….….…..

Witch!

Who were the witches,

Where did they come from,

Maybe your great, great, great

Grandma was one!

This is a snippet of a song that I learned years ago when I attended a women’s camping trip in the Texas Hill Country. I don’t remember who wrote it or when it was written. This is all I remember of the song, but I think about this every Halloween. Actually it is my interest in women’s history; including the history of witches and the Salem Witch Trials that has really sparked my interest in Halloween for many years. Anyone who is invited over to my house around October 31st gets my lecture on how witches were persecuted women. Yes, back in the old days (Really.…old days.…days even older than me!) women were subjected to torture and hanging if the local cow’s milk went bad or farmer Brown’s crops didn’t grow. Many women were killed because of the suspicions of others. I wish I had a broomstick I could ride around on today. Not only would it be better than Houston traffic, but maybe it would solve my fear of flying in planes!

Of course one would hope that after that dark period in history, humanity would evolve. However, please tell me if you have ever heard of Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, Mary Ann Evans, Karen Blixen, or Joanne Rowling? They are all women writers. Maybe you are familiar with their pseudonyms; George Sand, George Eliot, Isak Dinesen and J. K. Rowling. Even Louisa May Alcott started her writing career by publishing under the name of A. M. Barnard.

 Back in the day, women had a lot of trouble getting published. It was easier to write using a male pseudonyms or initials so the reader could not tell the author was a woman. It would be nice to say that this was not the case any longer. Alice Mary Norton died in 2006 having spent a career writing science fiction and fantasy works under the name of Andre Norton. One of her works was called Witch World.

Women artists have also had their troubles. There was a time when women weren’t allowed in art academies or art guilds. They were sometimes seen as mentally ill because of their avant garde life styles and independent natures. Sometimes they were merely shunned, because they were too different from those in polite society. One sculptor, Camille Claudel, spent the last 30 years of her life in an asylum in France because her mother and overly religious brother kept her in the asylum and wouldn’t allow her to return home.

I love almost any form of art. I love taking the art history class at the Glassell, Women in Art. I also love to write. Do these facts make me a witch or does this make me crazy? No, that’s not a trick question and I won’t put a spell on you if I don’t like your answer. (Probably.) I have been called a strong and independent woman; which I consider a compliment.

Consider the image below:

Do you think this is a picture of a male figure or a female figure? How can you tell? How does sexual identity change your impression of this critter? Does it make a difference in how scary this image is?

Halloween gives me so much to think about every year. I review my list of positive female role models and hope that I have been a positive role model to some of the women in my world.

Until next time.….….….

Things That Go Bump In The Night

I woke up this morning and the first thing I did was look out the window. Another grey day. It has been cloudy and rainy for over a week now. Houston goes through these depressing periods when you almost forget what it is like to wear sunglasses and see blue sky. There’s been a lot of flooding along the Gulf Coast.

I was on the verge of feeling depressed, but then I remembered what day it was. Ten years ago today Hurricane Ike blew through the area. I lost electricity for a week. Others did without power for longer. I had to take cold showers by flashlight, because as a local government employee, I had to get back to work as quickly as possible. At least at work there was air conditioning.

Watching Hurricane Florence move onto the Carolina coast reminded me of Hurricane Ike. The storm surge moved far inland before the actual hurricane winds and rain made landfall. There was a twinge in my stomach as I remembered sitting in my kitchen at 4:00 a.m. listening to the winds blow as various objects hit the walls of my home or land on the roof. A little storm PTSD maybe? I wish everyone in North and South Carolina all the best!

All of a sudden my grey day is not so bad. Instead of a hurricane, I only had to put up with some drizzly rain as I drove over to the Glassell School of Art for my Art History class. I heard a wonderful lecture on Women Impressionists by Dr. Anna Tahinci. Artists like Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot painted scenes from their everyday lives back in the late 1800s. The pictures were beautiful and colorful, but still easy to imagine how restricted life was for women back in that day.

I especially enjoyed this lecture, because I have not had much culture this week. Earlier on Tuesday; which is my traditional culture day, it was rainy. I needed to buy cat litter. My great culture adventure for the week revolved around buying cat litter. I promise to do better next week.

Also, I went to Local’s for lunch on Tuesday. I was fascinated by their wall decorations. It reminded me of the song by the band Chicago:

Does anybody really know what time it is,

Does anybody really care,

If so I can’t imagine why,

We’ve all got time enough to cry.

Okay, so let me see if I can end this blog a little more upbeat.

My good friend Melanie took a road trip to Portland, Oregon recently and brought me some of this dandy sipping chocolate! So, I took a fun road trip into my kitchen and made a cup. Yum! If you knew the level of my culinary abilities, then you would understand what a risk I took on the road trip into my kitchen. The good news is that I can occasionally boil water and the sipping chocolate was a delicious success! I am looking forward to trying a recipe that will include hazelnut milk along with the dark chocolate! I will let you know how it goes.

Also, on a very positive note, I purchased my first Halloween decoration for the year this past week. Every year I purchase at least one Halloween decoration and have built up quite a collection! Here is my most recent acquisition:

When Halloween gets here all hurricanes will be gone, cooler weather will be here and the sun will be shining again. I can laugh and make fun of all the things that scare me and all that goes bump in the night!

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!

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…