Sunday, March 22, 2009

Never A Wasted Day

As I drove home on Saturday from the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show in pouring rain and slow moving traffic, I tried to find the kernels of value in an otherwise disappointing day. A vision of mining for gold with a sieve in the cold waters of a river the location of which I no longer remember comes to mind. And then a related image, paying for the privilege of panning for gold as a child at Knotts Berry Farm. In all these instances, the prize was unequal to the cost of the experience. Yet, a gracious life requires one to look for the small scraps of joy amidst the trash.

The San Francisco Flower and Garden Show was a commercial display of things to buy and vendors to hire. Perhaps I was naive to expect that the 25 gardens the marketer promoted would actually be gardens. I spent the first few minutes being disappointed about where my hour and a half drive had taken me, then cruised around making the best of it. On my drive home, I searched for the nuggets of gold:

A few minutes chatting with a woman in her early 80's while I sat at a bench eating my barbecued beef sandwich. She was from Pennsylvania visiting her daughter for three months. She'd come out for the first time in nine years to attend her granddaughter's confirmation.She told me that her husband died a year ago and that she now felt homeless in the home that they'd occupied.

A conversation with a vendor who was selling silk backed glass items that she had created. She told me how she makes them, stopping short of revealing what she uses to adhere the silk to the glass. She said that she enjoys working with detail. I told her that I enjoy working with fragments in my glass art. Our conversation ended when customers came. Before going to them, she asked for a link to my glass site.

I came away from the show with an idea of what I'd like to do with a very small patch of land in our backyard. In that patch are the remains of a mostly unsuccessful attempt to grow vegetables. A hint: vegetables don't do particularly well in a mostly shady area, particularly if the ground is hard and the one gardener who's willing to take time with it moves on. It had been my daughter, Rachael's, project. If I follow through with the inspiration that I got from the show, it may become a meditation area of sorts with a statue or two or three and some of the glass stuff I've made and will make.

There were some vendors who sold art glass or incorporated it into their creations. The pictures of the items they were selling will inspire my own creativity.

I had the radio on as I was sorting through my day. At one point, Garth Brooks was singing "Friends in Low Places" just for me. With my car at a virtual stand-still and the rain pounding on my windshield, I turned the volume up and, for that moment, everything was in blissful harmony and I was at its center.

I grab on to these experiences and hold them tightly. And I smile.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Reflections on Things Created

Within the span of eight days, I will have experienced three outings that are in some way related to art and creativity. While I very much enjoy hunkering down in my own little cave, there is something about these explorations that add dimension to my life.

This past Saturday, March 14th, I went with a friend to San Francisco's Legion of Honor to see an exhibit entitled "Artistic Luxury: Faberge, Tiffany, and Lalique." I was particularly interested in seeing the Faberge eggs about which I had learned in a Russian art history class. These eggs, which could take several years to make, were created for Czars Alexander III and Nicholas II of Russia between 1885 and 1917. An individual egg could take Peter Faberge and his assistants several years to make. I was familiar with Tiffany as a contemporary source of jewelry that is probably well out of my price range, but unfamiliar with Lalique, who regarded himself as a sculptor as well as a jeweler.

When I go to museum exhibits, I often play at choosing one or several pieces that I imagine taking home. My friend and I enjoyed this little game, agreeing to a round of rock-paper-scissors when we both wanted the same piece. After a while, the sheer extravagance of the wealthy original possessors of these beautiful items began to annoy me. I began to contrast their possession laden lives with the lives of the ordinary and very poor people beneath them. A commentator on the auditory tour to which I was listening with headphones explained that for these very rich people even the mundance items that they used were expected to be works of art. One gentleman had dozens of cigarette cases, each made with precious metals and jewels. Choosing which one to use was a daily decision

As my friend and I stood judging these long dead people for their obscene avarice, we also had to chuckle at our own sense of moral superiority. These shallow rich folks were as much products of their own time and culture as we are. Though their shoes were far more comfortable than those on the lower rungs of the social ladder, we haven't had to walk in them. In fact the bejeweled aristocratic women looked pretty darn uncomfortable in their splendor. Beyond that and with few exceptions, we who live in the U.S.A. and other "modern" countries routinely enjoy a level of material abundance that even the very rich could not have imagined. Modern plumbing is the first thing that comes to mind. Mass produced automobiles and the freedom of movement that they provide comes second.

At another level, I think there really is something unappealing about too much of a good thing. It would be fun, I think, to own some of the beautiful pieces on display It would be even more fun to be able to purchase all of them while choosing to own only a few. If everything that one uses is a work of art, don't they all blur together and lose value by virtue of being part of an endless collection? What emerges here is private art, privately owned and used to flaunt one's wealth, available now to the masses to look at, but not to touch.

My second art related foray took place on Tuesday, March 17ith. I am the newest member of a local group called Sculpture Jammers. Each October the group produces a free week-end community art experience. They meet throughout the year to plan the activity and to enjoy art related outings and workshops. The Tuesday outing was to John Lewis Glass, a studio in Oakland, California. Their facility is warehouse massive. While there, I saw liquid glass, made from specially selected components, being poured from a second story furnace into a mold that was on the ground floor and directly under an opening from the furnace. The furnace burns 24/7/365. After the mold was filled, the production team carefully put a top on it, then slid the topped mold into an annealing oven. This mold was a negative
cast of a letter, approximately 5 feet high and three feet wide, that will be used in an architectural project in Texas. The studio
produces both functional and decorative items, though all items contain both elements to varying degrees.

The third outing that can be loosely considered to be art related will take place on Saturday or Sunday if the weather and my energy level cooperate. This is the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. The producer of this event plans to retire this year. Unless a new sponsor comes forth, this might be the last year that it takes place. I haven't previously attended this show and find myself compelled to do so by the sense of now-or-never.

It is 1:43 a.m. I had planned to write a bit more about the flower show and then brilliantly wrap this all up with some reflections about creativity and art in its various guises. This could have been a pretentious reach or an entertaining journey of the mind. Right now I'm too sleepy for either. I'll most likely have moved on to other things by the time I'm ready to post again sooo - with visions of Tom Sawyer and the partially painted fence - I invite you to offer your own reflections. As for me, it's pillow time.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What Kathy Said

Kathy said it all only better.

Here is my response:

Kathy, you are expressing so much of what I've been going through. I read stats that say that women who eat more healthfully and exercise more regularly than I do live, on the average, 14 years longer and yet, though I covet those extra years, I don't seem to change my unhealthful ways. Unlike you, I defeat myself with binges. Also I thoroughly enjoy working out on my elliptical (even as I choose not to in favor of other activities). Like you, but with a few extra years - I'll soon be friggin 63 - I want to enjoy my remaining years. Enjoying food is a part of this, though being a size ten again would be highly enjoyable too. Anyway, you've expressed it so well that my post for today will be a link to your blog followed by this comment.

I looked at your cake recipes before reading this post. At friggin 63, I want the freedom to make those cakes and have reasonably sized slices ever so often. I need to get a handle on the binging before I can do it though.

Beyond my comment to Kathy: I will not longer be writing about my progress in dealing with the various aspects of weight loss and exercise until I've managed to accumulate 3 solid weeks of success with either. I still intend to walk to Quebec and will note my progress (unless I wimp out and delete that section of my blog). I haven't given up with my move to a healthier lifestyle, but I need to shut up and get on with it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

More Fun With Dates

Awesome Dates:
Rebecca made the following comment to my last post:
"Arlene today is 3-6-9. Does that mean anything to you? I'm thinking it must!"
My response: 3-6-09 is 3M awesome. The last such date was 2-4-06 and before that 1-2-03. The next such date will be 4-8-12. The series continues up to 12-24-36.

Walking to Quebec:
With the excuse of a morning dental appointment, I took a break from my walk to Quebec yesterday. Unfortunately and inevitably this effected my food choices. I find that I'm able to eat sensibly and without a specific diet program when I'm being disciplined with exercise. Shock of all shocks, I discovered for the seven billionth time that the opposite is also true. Today is a new day. I'll be putting in an hour on the elliptical later in the day.

A Review of Books:
I'd forgotten how much I enjoy Kaye Gibbons' writing. Her style is deceptively simple and compelling. In Charms for the Easy Life she writes in the voice of Margaret, the grand daughter of respected folk healer, Charlie Tate. Beginning with Charlie's marriage to a worthless husband in 1902 and spanning the years until just after World War II, her canvas is a large one and filled with a lot of interesting people. The setting is rural North Carolina and the various interconnected stories have a Southern feel to them. A most delightful book.

Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama: I enjoyed this book, yet sometimes found myself noticing the quality of the writing instead of being pulled forward by the story. It's not that the writing is bad; it's just that it doesn't seem to have the natural flow to it that I find with the writers who's books I most enjoy. In fairness to Gail Tsukiyama, this is her first novel.

Women of the Silk
focuses on Pei who, at the age of eight, is abandoned to the silk industry by her father. The year is 1919. The story spans the next 20 years of Pei's life as it is played out in the silk industry in a very small town in China. Through her story and the stories of the women she encounters. one gets a sense of what it meant to be a women in the China of those years as well as a hint of the changes that were forced upon them first with The Chinese Civil War and then with the Second Sino-Japanese War beginnning in 1937. While I probably wouldn't actively search for another book by this author, I'd choose to buy it if it showed up in my local used paperback book store or in Costco.

Eeek, it's 3:52 p.m. and I had planned to spend today working on glass. I always end up spending far more time writing my blog than I'df intended.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Square Root Day

Those who have followed this blog for awhile know that I adore certain number combinations. Until I watched the Rachael Maddow show this evening, I was unaware that today is Square Root Day. 3/3/09 is also 3 X 3 = 9. The last Square Root Day was on 2/2/04; the next will be on 4/4/16. I am sooo excited. (It takes little to excite me.) With the next Square Root Day 1 day, 1 month, and 7 years from now, I affirm that on that date I will be alive, healthy, joyful, and at my goal weight. Also that my country, my world, and all worlds beyond will be in much better shape than now.

I am currently 10.2 miles closer to Quebec than I was in my last post. My first stop, Fairfield, California, is now 32.91 miles away. The Jelly Belly Candy Company has its corporate headquaters there. Perhaps I'll do a virtual tour of the place when I stop there.

I'm finding this virtual walk to an actual place to be very motivating. I think one of the reasons is that no matter how little time I spend on the elliptical, I'm accumulating the mileage of success. Once the mileage is earned it can't be taken away. I think it would be highly awesome if the same dynamics would apply to weight loss, that once the lbs. were gone, they remained gone. I haven't yet taken the few minutes needed to get comfortable with my pedometer. I'll probably do this before my next real world walk.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I'm Walking to Quebec

It is approximately 2978.52 miles from my house to Chambly, Quebec, the home of The Fauna Foundation, one of the animal groups to which I donate. Caring for chimpanzees that have been rescued is one of their primary missions. I'd like to see their facility in person and also possibly volunteer there for a while. I'd also enjoy spending time in Quebec, maybe brushing up on my college French and putting it to some good use. So I've decided to spend the coming weeks and months and years, walking to Quebec (virtually). It's going to be a long walk. I'll have to plan out my journey and figure out where I'll want to stop along the way.

At this point, I haven't even gotten out of my own neighborhood, but I've started the journey and that's the important thing. I walked 1.4 miles on Thursday, 1.8 on Friday, and 2.5 today. These are the mileages indicated on my elliptical cross trainer after I've worked out on these days. I could accumulate mileage faster if I kept the resistence and the incline of my elliptical at the lowest levels, but that hardly seems fair. The real world has hills and varying elevations.

I'll also be counting the distance that I traverse in my daily life - once I take the minute or two that I need to spend figuring out how my new pedometer works. Knowing that I'll get to Quebec quicker by doing this should motivate me to do this. I'm such a terrible procrastinator. My hubby, Matt, got me an IPOD 2+ years ago and I still haven't uploaded (or downloaded, I can never figure out which) songs to it. The musical keyboard that I purchased about eight months ago is sitting on the desk in our guest room untouched.

Walking to Quebec is not an original idea. Well maybe the place is, but not the process.
A while back, I came across the blog of a woman walking somewhere else. Unfortunatley, I can't credit this particular woman, because I didn't bookmark her blog. If anyone reading this has that info., I appreciate getting the link.