Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 52: Going to Tassajara

Early today Ron and I are leaving to spend five days at Tassajara Hot Springs in the Carmel Valley.  Ron will be taking a workshop on "Photography as Zen Practice" led by with Hozan Alan Senauke and Peter Cunningham.  

Tassajara is a place of deep beauty and focused intention.  I have been going there for many years.  I look forward to having a chance to slow down, breathe deeply and concentrate on drawing and painting.  

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 51: Gross National Happiness

Perhaps you have heard of the notion of Gross National Happiness.  It is a term coined by the King of Bhutan and has become the measure of that country's well being.  The city government of Seattle will be hearing a talk about GNH in June.  World leaders have become interested in this concept.  The banner above comes from a webpage which offers information about the USA's interest in this.  There is a conference brewing in June.  Check out this site for information.

Bhutan has a daily news site.  Read this article by By Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 50: Stanford Improvisers to Shine Tonight

"There are two ways of being creative.  One can sing and dance.  Or one can create an environment inwhich singers and dancers will flourish."
         Warren Bennis

One of my proudest accomplishments is having founded the Stanford Improvisers in 1991.  I never dreamed that nearly twenty years later this group would have become a longstanding tradition of playfulness, cooperation and art at the University. 
Tonight the SImps give their EOQ End of Quarter shows.  I'm looking forward to sitting in the audience and cheering and throwing suggestions to the players.  

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 49: Sailing Home by Norman Fischer

I am revisiting a book I bought several years ago.  Using the metaphor of the Odyssey the former Zen Center abbot, Norman Fischer gently gives advice to all of us.  His words speak clearly.

"Repetition is the soul of spiritual practice. .  .  .  Whether we are in Hawaii on vacation, sick in the hospital, or absorbed in our workweek, there is always going to sleep, waking up, eating, going to the toilet, walking, standing, sitting, reclining, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, feeling, thinking.  Every day goes this way.  The sun rises, the sun sets.  Life comes, goes, and comes back again. You could see this as boring.  Or you could realize that life's archetypal repetition is a form of the journey of return, the deep joy of moment-by-moment renewal, with each breath and heartbeat.  The daily routine of spiritual practices brings this reality home to us.  Gertrude Stein, the great genius of repetition, once said, "The question of repetition is very important.  It is important because there is no such thing as repetition."  Each moment in the ever-repeated pattern is, by virtue of the repetition, always new; whatever comes back around again in the great cycle of things is always fresh."  p. 81

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 48: Lisa's Education Research

I braved the morning deluge in Half Moon Bay to make my way to Stanford today.  I am one of the faculty readers of a PhD qualifying research project done by the talented Lisa Barker.  Lisa (among many other distinctions) is a member of the Stanford Improvisers who will be performing this Friday and Saturday nights in the Little Theater next to Mem Aud on the Stanford campus.  

Lisa's project studied the effect of improvisation training for high school history teachers.  The hope was that the skills acquired in the improv classroom could help them learn to lead more effective and relevant classroom discussions.  And, it seems that it did.   Lisa passed her qualifying work with flying colors and impressed us all with her readiness to undertake the big D or dissertation research.  Good luck, Lisa.  You rock!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 47: Sakura - Cherry Blossom Tea

Perhaps the very best part of a lifetime being a teacher is having made exceptional friendships along the way.  Today was a banner day in that I had lunch and then tea with two of my favorite former students.  Both of these remarkable adults at a point in time several decades ago showed up in my classes to play as improvisers.   Adam Tobin (one of the founding SImps . . . Stanford Improvisers) is currently teaching screenwriting in the ART department at Stanford.  Eva Balint is a physician who also practices and shares improvisation in her practice and with her patients.  

Today I had a wonderful lunch with Adam followed by a meeting with Eva.  Eva arrived with a tiny shopping bag filled with goodies from Japan.  She and her husband had recently returned and she wanted to bring me a gift.  In the precious little shopping bag was a glass jar filled with a wonderful Japanese spice that is used over rice or udon or as a seasoning for meat.  Just seeing the tiny red and green dust of it reminded me of Japan.  In addition to the spice was a box of Sakura or Cherry Blossom tea bags.  It seems they harvest fresh cherry blossoms, freeze dry them (or something) and then vacuum seal them in a gold foil wrapper.  Along with the tea was a box of handmade cookies with lovely designs on them.  The photo at the top of this post shows how the cherry blossoms expand into the steaming tea water.  What a charming and thoughtful gift.

The real gift is the special friendships I have with Adam and Eva.
Thank you both for meeting me today.  

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

day 46: Playhouse

Anyone who knows me is aware that I consider my husband, Ron, the kindest and most helpful person I have ever known.  He is quick to say YES to any request for help and is generous, sometimes to a fault, with his time, money and tools.  Recently on Facebook a former Stanford student (and member of the original Stanford Improviser's Founding group) Rob Baedeker posted a request for materials to build a playhouse for his daughter, Nora.  Since Ron is now a retired contractor he has a garage full of odds and ends, tools of all kinds and lots of spare lumber.  I volunteered that Ron could lend Rob some items for his project.  Days later Rob showed up to collect the stuff to take back to Berkeley for his project.  The plywood that Ron was able to give him didn't quite fit in the back of his Saab, so Ron agreed to come over on Saturday to bring the materials in his truck and also to give a hand, if needed.  The finished product is fit for a Princess. And, as you can see Nora Is that Princess.  Behold the red playhouse!     

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 45: My IPhone

Homage to my IPhone.  I continue to be astonished at the tasks which can be accomplished on this small device.  Today I was driving on highway 280 past the Golden Gate National Cemetery.  I noticed that the large American flag was flying at half staff.  I wonder who died?  Using the phone to Google the Cemetery I found the phone number for their office.  Calling this number I reached a pleasant voiced woman who told me that their policy was to fly the flag at half staff whenever there was a burial in the cemetery.  Someone was being buried today and so in honor of this the flag was hung low.  How wondrous, I thought, to discover this fact while zooming down the highway.  Well, my husband was driving, and I was zooming as a passenger touching buttons on a tiny screen to learn something.

Memorial Day is coming up soon.  As Americans we have a very deep debt of gratitude to those who have given their lives in the service of our country.  My thoughts are with them today as I pass that cemetery. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 44: Our Koi Pond and Waterfall


Today has been one of those picture perfect sunny days in El Granada.  A serious wind is the only drawback to sitting outside all day long.  Some years ago Ron dug a hole for a koi pond.  Then we had a company named Alliance Waterscapes put in the pond and waterfall which graces our yard.  Meet our fish:  the Marx brothers: Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Gumbo and Karl.  The two white koi are called "the Angels" and their buddy is named God.  And this leaves one smallish orange goldfish named Julie.  Happy fish.  The pond was exceedingly clear today. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 43: Susan Landor Keegin's Paintings

The painter I want to honor today is my friend, Susan Landor Keegin.  She has a web site which shares her prodigious work (a little painting every day).  A month or so ago I bought two of her paintings, and just this week my husband, Ron, finished framing them.  The painting without frame are 6" X 8".  I adore their size.
Aren't they marvelous?  Monet, Manet, Renoir . . .  eat your heart out!

The Impressionist exhibit at the DeYoung which I mentioned yesterday is a beautifully presented show.  The first week crowds meant that I really could not linger to view the works,  but clearly it is a show that I will return to.  The Impressionist images I copied on yesterday's blog were not among the 100 paintings in this show.  In fact, overall it was short on the most famous works of this movement with the notable exception of the Whistler and the "Birth of Venus".  If you go to the museum on a Friday night the Cafe serves a delicious three course dinner that is an astonishing value for $15.  

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 42: The Birth of Impressionism

De Young Museum the Birth of Impressionism   This once in a lifetime show opens to the public on Saturday.  Today, Friday, May 21, 2010 we have tickets to see this celebrated exhibition.  The Impressionists in Paris lit a lamp in the art world that shines still today.  San Francisco is the only city honored to show this rare collection which is permanently housed in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.  Major works by Manet, Monet, Renoir and Sisley will be shown.   I'm borrowing these online images from the Impressionist collection.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 41: Advice to Emma

The amazing Patti Digh has invited everyone to send advice to her daughter, Emma, who is graduating from high school soon.  I sent the following advice and pictures: 

Collect tiny vases or thumb sized containers of any kind.  Everyday put a tiny vase on a windowsill or on your desk or dresser.  Keep the flowers fresh.  Use whatever is at hand, even a dandelion. If there are no flowers, a simple leaf will do. Having a cut flower in view reminds us of the temporal nature of things.  It also points to how much beauty can be found everywhere.  Let the flowers express your delight in life.  Congratulations on your graduation.  These flowers are for you.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 40: Barbara's Fishtrap Restaurant

One of the landmarks of the coastside area where I live near El Granada, CA is the classic seafood restaurant known as Barbara's Fishtrap Restaurant in Pillar Point Harbor, near the Mavericks surf beach.  They serve the freshest and most delicious seafood in the area, in my view and offer a salty quaint admosphere.  The building itself is a rusty red and has a distinctive large painted sign.  I've tried to paint this building a number of times, rather unsuccessfully.
This morning our Plein Air Painting group assembled in this area and I gave it another go.  Here is today's version of Barbara's.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 39: My tea-cozy

Among the joys of everyday life that I look forward to daily is my morning cup of Earl Grey tea.  First thing each morning my husband Ron brews a pot of my favorite brew and tucks the pot into a tea-cozy.  This knitted snuggle keeps the tea warm longer than it would without it.  Homage to the humble tea-cozy.  

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 38: Pescadero Church

On the second Sunday of each month the Pescadero Community Church hosts a "all you can eat"  pancake/waffle breakfast.  It is a friendly event that precedes the morning church service.  Along with the pancakes eggs and ham are served.  A hearty feast cooked by smiling church volunteers.  Ron and I have been going to this monthly event for several years now.  We don't go every month, but as often as we can remember and are in town.  

The painting is a watercolor of mine done a year ago.  

You may notice that this post (which was meant to be for Sunday) was not posted on this blog until Monday.  Ta-Da!!!  Sorry to miss a day.  My goal is to post thoughts every day for 365.  But, as you see, I'm not perfect.  Or, perhaps another way to look at it is this.  I am perfect enough.  Sometimes I screw up or forget.  Happy Monday.  

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 37: Meyer Lemons

When we moved into our El Granada home in 1997 the first thing I planted in our front yard was a Meyer lemon tree.  It was in a five gallon bucket and was about 36 inches tall.  Today this tree is roughly 12 feet tall with a wing spread of 12 feet.  It yields hundreds of juicy Meyer lemons each year.  I've learned to make lemon curd, lemon marmalade and lemon pound cake.  Few foods are as versatile.  The Meyer lemon is on the sweet side of lemons, sometimes their smooth skin is almost a pale orange. Blessings on you, Meyer lemon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 36: Plein Air Painting Day

Wednesdays on the Coastside I paint at different locations with my Plein Air Painting group.  This week we assembled at the Piller Point Harbor near my home.  I decided to paint a bunch of boats in the harbor.  What happened was a new blending of the wild and bold colors I learned to use with Carbonetti and the whimsical style of loose painting that I learned from Judi Whitton.  The result is this painting called "Pillar Point Marina."  

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 35: Magnificent Gibberish

A former Stanford student, Adam Tobin sent me a link to this delightful video clip.  In improvisation we study gibberish.  This is a wonderful performance.

 Several years ago, Rockwell International decided to get into the heavy duty transmission business.  They were getting ready to tape a first introduction video, and, as a warm up, the professional narrator began what has become a legend within the trucking industry.  This man should have won an Emmy for his stellar performance.  Now remember this is strictly off the cuff, nothing is written down.  It became the biggest talk in the industry, vs the new product which they were introducing.  

Day 34: A woven bookmark . . .

May 11, 2010
In a gallery in Jerome, AZ I found this small item for sale.  It is a hand made book mark.  It's about 8 inches long, and it is laminated. The artist has taken slim pieces of painted cardboard, cut them into strips, woven them and then laminated the whole thing.  After this she cut the ends carefully.  The artist signed the piece W. Wood.  I would love find this person and thank them for this unusually lovely work of art.  

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 33: Homage to my Tote Bag

My standing tote bag, made courtesy of LLBean, is my indispensable companion.  This simple, but remarkable carrier stands alone even when empty.  It has a zipper top so that I can close it, if need be.  It is the perfect carrier for my art supplies, or as a book bag, or for air travel as the carryon that works.  
It's stand-ability is its true genius.  It doesn't fall over, either full or empty.  One year I gave every one of my relatives one of these bags for Christmas.

Homage to the humble, but helpful LLBean tote bag.  

Day 32: Farmer's Market Half Moon Bay

One of life's great pleasures is the ritual of Saturday morning at the Farmer's Market in Half Moon Bay, CA.  Ours just started up in May and this past Saturday was our first visit of the season.  Organic beets, sumptuous pastries, flowers, Italian spinach, fresh oranges from the valley, a local brand of coffee grown by someone's grandfather.  All of this seems like goodness.  
Eating "local" is something we try to do.  If you haven't yet read Michael Pollen's important books on the food chain, et al, I highly recommend them.  His In Defense of Food is important.  Take his advice, three rules:  1. Eat FOOD  2.  Not too much   3.  Most vegetables.  Hooray for farmers everywhere.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Day 31: Mother's Day

This photo of a family dinner in 1959 ran in the Richmond Times Dispatch.  At the time my mother (left) was a local fashion model.  This "set up" shot (I'm sure I NEVER wore a party dress to a meal) was meant to glamorize my mother's life.  She was a beautiful and kind women.

After her death in 1998 the children planted a rose garden in her name at Imperial Plaza in Richmond.  Mother had worked there as the Resident Manager for the last ten years of her working life.  The stone in the garden reads:  "More than her beauty which was like the rose, was her goodness."

My love for her and my gratitude cannot be measured.  I think of her every day.  I love you, Mama

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Day 30: De Young at Art

The DeYoung Museum in San Francisco is a happening place.  Friday nights the place rocks!  Last night the main hall hosted a full jazz ensemble and a world class singer.  Folks were dancing in the aisles.  Quilters were sewing.  Children were painting, and a group of twenty of us were taking a class called:  "Drawing in the Galleries".  

Our first assignment before we settled in to draw necks and heads was to have a look at a new exhibition which opened today.  It is a room full of art, mostly figurative, painted by children and young adults.  The exhibit is cleverly named "Young at the DeYoung"  or "Young at Art."  The work is varied and inspiring.  Many media are represented.  Be sure to stop by the DeYoung Museum to see this wonderful show.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 29: My windowsill

Today's ordinary thing is a small vase that I place on the windowsill.  I fill it with simple flowers from our garden.  It makes me smile.  We are home from our sojourn to Arizona.  
There is no place like home.  No place.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 28: Coming home

Leaving Sedona we made our way for an overnight visit with good friends who live in a magical house atop a mountain in Atascadero.  Our hostess Carol made a beautiful meal and gave us a majestic room in their guest house.  This morning I watched the sunrise from our perch.  

I am grateful to wake up in beautiful rooms.  Home we go.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 27: The BEST meal

Saying goodbye to Arizona we traveled on Route 40 heading toward California.  For a lunch stop we found ourselves in Kingman, AZ roughly 100 miles from the CA border.  Kingman is one of those sprawling nondescript dessert towns that has the feel of a ghost:  gas stations, fast food, peach tinted motels and closed down diners.  The restaurant pickings were slim, and it seemed that we might find ourselves out of town and back on the highway before locating anything resembling edible food.  Just when we were disparing I noticed an "open" sign on what might be a local Mexican restaurant. I suppose we could manage a burrito, I thought, unhappily.  The Mojave stretched ahead so it was now or never.

Parking and then entering a nondescript white succo building we were ready for the worst.  To our surprise, however, when we opened the door of this place we found the restaurant brimming full of happy diners, locals we figured, who knew about the place.  The walls were decorated with garlands of flowers, the tables were colorful and clean with a four page menu of specials and wide ranging southwestern cuisine.  Even before we ordered a brightly clad waiter brought us giant glasses of ice water with fresh lemon, a basket of just cooked homemade corn chips and three salsas, including a warm refried pinto bean sauce.  I order the #5 special: a chile reano and a spinach and cheese enchilada.  Ron ordered the chicken and avocado tortilla soup.  HHmmmmm, let see.

Well, the food was extraordinary!  The enchilada had what must have been a pound of fresh steamed spinach and a tasty cheese rolled inside.  The sauces were delicate and everything seemed like it was prepared with great care and the freshest ingredients. The chile reano was light and heavenly.   So often Mexican food is greasy and flat.  This food was delicate and perfectly seasoned.  As the waiter brought us our bill he put a bowl of freshly whipped cream and two cinnamon sopapillas on our table.  Divine.   And, we nearly fainted when the bill came to $9.49 for the two of us!  

The restaurant's name is El Palacio 401 East Andy Devine Avenue, Kingman, AZ 86401-5826. Such a wonderful surprise. A treasure of a place hidden next to the Amtrak station in Kingman. Our lucky day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day 26: Life is Good . . . on the road again

So, the Madsons are on the road again.  Our Sedona adventure has been worthwhile.  Memories of red rocks, art galleries and Arizona protestors on the corners waving signs about injustice.  
We set out for Barstow, CA and then for home.  
As we drive we listen to the amazing story, Three Cups of Tea about the work of Greg Mortenson in Afghanistan building schools for girls.  Driving along all the world seems right and our family motto, "Life is Good" applies.  This lawn ornament, by the way, belongs to Ron's cousin who has a home in Sedona.  So today, after a cup of joe we are off to see the wizard. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 25: The Sedona Buddha

We are nearing the end of a fine trip to Sedona, AZ where I've been to study watercolor.  The scenery here is indescribably moving.  In West Sedona is a Buddhist Stupa that sits among the red rocks half way up a mountain.  Slightly higher is a statue of the Buddha.  Ron admires him.  "Which one is the real Buddha?
I like