FREE ART

I don’t paint with the expectation of making money. If I can cover the cost of my supplies and maybe go out for sushi once in a while, I’m feeling pretty successful.  I have sold many pieces of art over the years but no matter how many are gone, more remain. Partly this is due to the nature of art economics.

Let’s say I have a picture that I want to sell for $100. I have to add at least $25 on to that to cover the cost of mats and framing (which I do myself) which brings the sales price to maybe $125. But then I have to add another 50% to cover the commission to the art gallery. The picture now retails for $250 and the potential market for the picture dwindles. Buying original art is still a luxury for most people.

So the other day I was doing one of my periodic rummaging through the art files and saw many, many pieces that for one reason or another will never be entered at an art show, or that I will never get around to framing for my own home. I feel too full! I need to create a vacuum to let more in.

So I had this idea. I have an embarrassment of art riches and I would like to pass some of it on to the readers of my art and writing blogs – like finding homes for a new batch of kittens. I’ve made a new page called “Free Art” on my art website (http://MarieTaylorArt.wordpress.com). I will post pictures and freely give them away for just $10 to cover the cost for postage and mailing materials.

I want to keep it simple so this is how I think it will work. If you would like to have one of the pictures, send me an email with the name of it and your mailing information. If it is available, I will email you back and you deposit $10 to me via PayPal. I will then package the picture in a mailing tube and send it off to you. Voila!  (I am not sure right now if I can figure out overseas mailing – how complicated is it? Will $10 cover mailing costs? Stay tuned for more on this.)

If you don’t see something you like now, come back in a few days. I will put up new pictures weekly or oftener. My babies need homes.

IT AIN’T EASY

When I woke up this morning my shoulder was stiff and aching and one knee didn’t want to work properly.  It ain’t easy getting old. As you age the body’s demands seem never-ending. There’s always an ache or pain somewhere, a stiff muscle that doesn’t want to stretch, a swollen joint that doesn’t want to bend, a body that seems heavier this morning than it did last night.

At the same time the body is becoming less obedient, the heart requires more compassion. We have to get used to letting go – of expectations, of opinions, of control. Closed fists must bloom because one by one our fingers will be prized from the things we own, from the people and pets we love, the abilities we value and from the freedoms we cherish.

This letting go of the outward gives us the freedom to roam the interior. We are at leisure to examine our lives, to toss out unkind judgments, forgive others, and finally to release the need for perfection from our own shoulders. We have the freedom to take up hobbies, travel, eat junk food and wear clothes that don’t match.

Some say we’re not as sharp as once we were. While we may not remember if we turned off the stove, we can easily recall our first kiss, remember the faces of our children running through the violets, or recall the blue flowered wallpaper of the family home.

Admittedly, our hearing may not be what once it was but the words we spoke in anger or in love so many years ago still echo in our hearts; we continue to hear the songs we sang in celebration and in solitude.

Then one day we experience the shock of attaining the childhood wish of near invisibility. Like the old Sicilian women wrapped in black shawls sitting on wooden chairs in front of ancient houses, we no longer have to meet exhausting standards in sexual attractiveness. We are no longer expected to climb career ladders, to possess status symbols or wield power. We are no longer seen as significant players in the game.

As our focus becomes less acute, our field of vision widens. When we take off our glasses we see that beauty shines forth everywhere, in beetles and birds and weeds along the road, in old buildings and old dogs and soup simmering on the stove. Even in its horrors, we see that life is resplendent in its creative power that is never-ending and truly benign.

And while our soul is quietly pulling out and examining suitcases in preparation for the journey ahead, we wonder what we will be allowed to take – and what must be left.

“To forgive is merely to remember only the loving thoughts you gave in the past, and those that were given you.

All the rest must be forgotten.” The Course in Miracles

 

SHOPPING DAZE

Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday which means it is inclusive of all beliefs and everyone is invited to celebrate. It is not a commercial holiday; other than food there are no presents to buy. Thanksgiving was founded to encourage us to spend time at home  with our families and reflect on our many blessings. At least that was the intention. That was the way it used to be.

Now Thanksgiving is just the warm-up, a time to rest and fuel up before the real holiday begins on Black Friday (which is not to be confused with Good Friday). Black Friday is the starting gun for serious shoppers. In many communities this year that bang went off as soon as the last football sailed through the goal posts on Thanksgiving evening. Large retailers opened for business before the drumsticks were in the refrigerator.

The holiday shopping season now stretches from Halloween through Christmas and then into the after Christmas sales that often continue until mid-January – that’s two and one-half months of intense consumer indoctrination. The Christmas season is now a feeding frenzy when we as a culture give ourselves permission to indulge our fantasies, give into greed, and satiate our desires.

We are willingly seduced when we are told that once we purchase that big screen/I-Pod/video game/cashmere sweater we will be happy – and for a few hours we are. But the craving comes back, again and again for seeking/shopping/buying/owning is an addiction – a sickness of the soul.

We are so busy eating and swallowing the material things of the world that we can hardly breathe. There is an insatiable emptiness within that demands to be fed with things, with sensations, with fame, with power and no matter how much we buy, it’s not enough.

We remind ourselves to curb our spending and shop on a budget; to remember the real meaning of Christmas. But as soon as we walk into the mall and see the twinkling lights and bright colors, we become entranced, entrained and all our good intentions are forgotten as we pull out our credit cards.

Is it possible to enjoy the holidays and buy only token presents, gifts that cost little or no money? Could we buy all of our presents at a thrift store? Can we exchange material presents for the gift of time? Instead of buying things for each other, can we buy things for those who have little? These are all rhetorical questions because the answer is obviously ‘yes.’  But do we have the will to do it?

Don’t be surprised if a year or two from now, the After Christmas sales start at 6 pm on Christmas Day. After we open the presents what else is there to do anyway and the stores will have such good deals! Remember, the holidays are all about togethernesss and the family that shops together stays together – if only to pay the bills.

THE FOURTH DAY

For the fourth day in a row I sit beneath a small maple tree at the local park. Its gold, yellow and orange leaves create a canopy of color, an exultation of life, a last great “Yes” to the life of autumn. The air is filled with a golden vibrancy that warms the fresh cut grass and sweetens the air with a green perfume. The park is glorious today.

After an unseasonably warm fall, the first rain since last April fell two weeks ago and the temperatures finally started to drop. As the nights cooled, the trees turned inward and began the yearly journey back to the core. The mighty oaks which just last week were full of green leaves are now coyly dropping one after the other, showing a bare limb here and a dark branch there. Soon they will stand exposed, tall, proud and darkly powerful.

I sit near a crossroad; the dog park and tennis courts before me, park trails all around. People pass and rarely notice as I remain as motionless as the trees and silent as the clouds that are circled by Canadian geese who call out cadence to the beat of their wings as they slice across the southern sky.

At the dog park, owners sit and smoke cigarettes around the picnic tables as five large dogs chase each other within the fenced field. They gallop in wide swinging circles like young ponies. The leader feints right, then left, with the others close behind.

A new dog enters the enclosure and they all set off at a run to investigate this visitor, eagerly sniffing mouth and tail to ascertain what has been enjoyed. The dogs bark and snarl and woof, tails wagging, hips swinging in happiness while their masters idly chat.

In a nearby field a small dark dachshund is let off the leash, speeds across the ground like a bullet and chases a laughing girl whose long blond hair flies behind her. In the foreground, a slender black woman carrying a large plastic bag filled with empty cans slowly walks with a jerky military precision down a dirt path. Each time her right leg lifts and descends I hear a clicking of metal, a ratcheting of gears.

As she marches into her horizon, I shift into dreamtime where long forgotten memories are released, unnoticed desire flow forth and unhealed wounds lie exposed for warm tongues to lick. I sense the need to acknowledge these internal energies for the solstice is soon to come. This dark night of the shortest day is the time of seed planting and conceptions. It is the time to prepare for virgin births.

The noon sun cuts through my reveries with a hot intensity. The lens of the coming afternoon has sharpened its focus and my legs burn in its rays. I slowly fold up my lawn chair and look one last time at this apex of autumn. From now on, each day will be a little shorter, a little dimmer; the trees a little more bare and dark. Soon all will feel the cool lavender touch of winter.

What seeds shall I plant in the soil of my soul tonight? What door shall I open and what guest admit? What shall I bring forth in the year to come? And what is it that waits in your heart to be born?

THIS ‘N’ THAT

1. The big story of the week is the closing down of the Hostess bakery. No more Twinkies, Ho Ho’s or Ding Dongs. No more green cupcakes on St. Patrick’s day.

I must admit that in these latter years my Twinkie consumption has lessened as I noticed a measurable decline in Twinkie tastiness. The sponge cake was too grainy and the cream had lost its fresh gooiness. The cupcakes likewise had a coarser cake and the frosting was leather-like. Though never a Ding Dong fan I dipped into the occasional Ho Ho.

Even as I write this I hear that community outrage has prompted the re-opening of arbitration. Who knows where this will all end. The big question is will the Twinkie defense now be a footnote in legal history?

2. I watched the original Star Trek on TV when it first came out in the 60’s and William Shatner has always been an interesting figure to me. A while back I watched a documentary he made in which he interviewed all of the Star Trek captains and then the other night I saw another called “Get a Life” about the Trekkie conventions and meetings. No, he did not mock them as the title suggests.

The documentary gave an interesting look at the people who attend Star Trek conventions and how the series touched a mythological nerve in the cultural psyche (as did Star Wars). Lots of people came dressed as ST characters, complete with elaborate hand-made costumes. For many, individual characters became life role models.

It set me to thinking who I might like to be. Data? Q? Ohura? Spock? Deanna Troi? Ryeker, Picard? So many great characters and great stories. I think I’ll vote for Deanna’s mother. One of my favorite stories was “Who Mourns for Adonais?” Who would you like to be? What story is your favorite?

3. From the Opinionated Reader: I don’t think I’ve ever gathered a more disappointing selection of books than I did at the library last week. Almost all without exception let me down. The mysteries, in particular, were a fiasco. I hate ‘cute’ settings and characters. I don’t like animals who are the detectives. I don’t want a lesson in Amish culture, I don’t want to read about middle-aged women who sleuth on the side while baking cookies. It makes me appreciated Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, Ngaio Marsh, and Dorothy Sayers all the more. Ok, I am leaving out some really good ones, I know.

The spy book I had turned out, not to be short stories, but ‘ excerpts’ of great spy stories. So I was given enough story  to be intrigued but there was no denouement. It was the mashed potatoes without the gravy, the turkey without the cranberries.

One book did shine. It was “One of Our Own” by Willa Cather, a Pulitzer Prize winner. I have become a Cather fan in the last few months. I love her prose, her description of life on the great western prairies at the end of the 19th century, her sensitive eye. She had a great sense of environment and the setting is frequently a powerful but silent character – it reminds me of Dickens in that respect.

I’m going to give “The Book of Sand” by Borges another try. He has such an international reputation that I entered the book predisposed to like it but… he plays too much with time, dreams, illusions, etc. for me. I am easily confused and look for sign posts and direction in life which Borges is not inclined to give.

Meanwhile, I picked up an ancient paperback at my son’s yesterday and while the turkey was cooking delved deeply into “The Princess of Mars,” a John Carter adventure by Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan. What a hero! It is very well-written for an adventure story, fast paced and imaginative – a perfect boy’s adventure.

The library is closed today but I shall stop by on Saturday for a new supply of reading matter. If you happened to have read any on the list, drop a comment.

THE TABLE

“Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.

The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted sno-o-o-ow.”

When I was young we had weekly music classes at our school, and art classes, too! We learned all the old standard American songs and the one above was the tradition for Thanksgiving. We might not have sleighs anymore – I’m not that old! – but we did have grandmothers and woods and snow.

Cooking the Thanksgiving turkey was an honor and responsibility reserved for the older generation in the family. Thanksgiving dinner was usually a large one because all of the parents and aunts and uncles would come with their children. Every year the same menu would be served, except when a marriage brought an ‘outsider’ into the fold who brought a side dish we all would view with suspicion.

After dinner the boys would go outside to test each other’s physical prowess, the men would turn on the football games and smoke cigars, the girls and women would clear the table and make a start on a formidable pile of dishes while gossiping about absent family members and neighbors.

In the 60’s and 70’s as more children went to college, got smart and followed jobs out of town, the family gatherings seem to get smaller and smaller. Extended families were replaced by nuclear families. There were fewer places laid at the table and smaller turkeys roasted until now the grocery stores sell ready-to-go Thanksgiving dinners or turkeys comprised of only a breast and leg.

Another thing that has changed is the Thanksgiving table. At how many tables is grace actually said now? How many blessing are acknowledged and enumerated for all to hear? Are we really grateful for anything other than the end of the meal – so we can go shopping or watch football? Why has it become strange to sit around the table at the end of the meal and just talk?

Is it because everyone is playing some long-running role that we play every time we get together? Is it because we do not feel we can ‘be ourselves’ in this room full of relatives? Is it because we expect too much from our families? More than they can give.

If we no longer share some of our family’s beliefs or viewpoints, the dining room table can become a combat zone. It is a favorite location for making sweeping announcements – we come out of the closet or announce impending (undesirable) marriages, switch political parties, join cults that require unquestioning obedience, leave the law firm and decide to become an actor.

We make our announcements and then want validation, approval, acceptance. When we don’t get it, we get angry and say nobody understands us. When they don’t agree with us we accuse them of being short-sighted, small-minded, prejudiced or without vision.

Who says they have to understand us? Just because we may be related doesn’t mean they have to support and agree with everything we do. When was the last time we understood, accepted and validated them? What we are really asking for is unconditional love and approval – and most of the time that just ain’t gonna’ happen in this world unless we happen to be related to a bunch of saints.

‘Being ourselves’ is one of the hardest things to do in a family. It seems easier to be cool or wise or enlightened or spiritual when we are with friends or acquaintances. They didn’t know us ‘when’, they don’t know of our bad choices, stupid mistakes, dark secrets, and may not have any long-term investment in our lives.

Perhaps we should just accept our relatives for who they are and leave the judgment and the need for approval behind. This Thanksgiving let’s focus on what we have to be grateful for. After all, in many homes will there be one less setting at the table because of death or illness. Perhaps this will be the last time we will be together with our grandparents, parents or siblings. We never know what the future holds. Let’s be grateful for today and what we have and who we share it with.

NOTES FROM AN OPINIONATED READER

I patronize one of two local libraries every week, one of which is near my bank, the other near my preferred grocery store. Located in aging residential neighborhoods both sport a 1960’s architectural design with arrow-shaped roof lines and Sputnik-like accents. The browning grass and parched flower beds provide a background for rusting bike racks and empty candy bar wrappers.

Like most municipal services in these economic times, the libraries have substantially cut back on their days and hours, and many formerly paid positions are now filled by volunteers. Surprisingly (?) the library is always busy. There is always a line of people waiting before the doors open and during the day there are old people reading the newspapers and magazines, young ones using the computers and little ones in the meeting rooms having stories read to them.

The selection of books is adequate although I am always astonished when I look for the classics – Dickens, Tolstoy, Marcus Aurelius, Henry James – and often come up empty. Anyway, enough of this carping, they are doing their best and I am grateful to have access to free books, movies, cd’s and tapes.

Since I read so much I thought it might be fun to start a sort of book review column once a week. I don’t mean that I’m actually going to provide any kind of scholarly précis; it is more likely to be some gratuitous observations and a few opinionated, and, if I am really jealous of their literary expertise, mean-spirited remarks.

And then I thought why keep all the fun to myself. This should be an audience participation sport. So here’s the deal. Every Friday I will include a list of the books I check out of the library and plan to read the coming week. I invite you to pick one to read along with me – if you so choose – and thereby have the opportunity the following Friday of also making half-cocked and sarcastic comments and thereby tap into a small but select international readership.

You don’t have to really read any of the books – there’s always Wikipedia for those short of time or opinions.  Or, if you’ve read another book by one of the authors, chime in with that.  And I don’t promise to read all of the books in any given week – if a work doesn’t grab me by the first chapter I’m outta’ there. Life is short and books are too long.

So here’s this week’s selection: (A warning: I enjoy reading mysteries for entertainment and often have a disproportionate number in my stack.)

The Cloud Pavilion by Laura Joh Rowland: a medieval Samurai mystery

Reunion at Mossy Creek by numerous writers: a look at small town living

The Book of Sand by Luis Borges: short stories by award-winning South American author

The Book of Spies edited by Alan Furst: espionage short stories by famous writers

One of Ours by Willa Cather: winner of 1922 Pulitzer Prize

Killing the Emperors by Ruth Dudley Edwards: frivolous mystery book

The End of Summer by Rosamund Pilcher: slice of life short novel

Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates: suspense tale by award winning writer

The Ravi Lancers by John Masters: a tale of India

A Plain Death by Amanda Flower: a silly mystery

So enough talking. I’ve got a lot of reading to do. J