Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 205: Two Buddhas and Aging Hints

Emphasize love, not hate
Imperfect but aim to improve
Try something new
Focus attention; don't waste time thoughtlessly
Find a model person to imitate
Seek to empathize
Value encounters
Maintain small eating habits
But don't be neurotic about diet; enjoy food
Walk; use stairs as much as possible
Participate in group sport activities
Enjoy leisure; avoid a life with only work
Handle stress by exercising; walk, play
Take responsibility for your own behavior
Change habits when necessary;
don't be obsessed with maintaining habits

Aging Hints from Hinohara Shigeaki
Born 1911 in Yamaguchi

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 204: Pema Chodron on transience

"The average human being thinks that happiness lies in stability, in tying up all the loose ends and having things under control. But actually, happiness lies in being able to relax with our true condition, which is basically fleeting, dynamic, fluid, not in any way solid, not in any way permanent. It's transient by nature." 
                                                            --Pema Chodron

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 203: Poem by John O'Donohue

BEANNACHT   (“Blessing”) For Josie         

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the gray window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colors,
indigo, red, green
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
in the curach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of  love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.    

by John O’Donohue

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 202: Wednesday Plein Air Painting at Farmer John's

Wednesday mornings I rise, make a thermos of Earl Grey tea, fill my satchel with watercolor implements and set out to the designated meeting spot on the coast.  Our Plein Air Painters of the Coastside is an informal group that shows up (or not) and paints at a different outdoor location each week.  The group is organized by our fearless leader and artist Eric Greenhut.  This week we went back to Farmer John's Pumpkin Patch.  Only the wind was so fierce that my easel kept blowing over.  I found it even hard to hold a sketchbook in my lap.  So, we accepted defeat and went over to Peet's Coffee to paint indoors and drink Pumpkin Lattes.
I was able to capture an 11 second video of the wind.  Here is the painting I did filling in the blanks from memory, which is never as good as sitting there to paint.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 201: The Canterbury Tales . . . two generations later

My urge to clean house has its benefits.  I went through a shoebox full of photos from the past thirty years.  This one surfaced.  It is a cast photo of a production of "Improvised Canterbury Tales" directed by Adam Tobin as his senior class honors project at Stanford.  The back of the photo mercifully has the date:  January 1993.
What pleases me about this wonderful photo (in addition to the youthful, smiling faces) is that I know everyone in this photo (with the exception of the mystery girl with the curly hair at the right).  All of these young men and women are still friends of mine.  I follow them on Facebook, go to their weddings, cheer when they have children and ache with them when some life difficulty occurs.  These are my children.  All grown up.  In the bottom row Christina on the left is a physician, Kellen next to her is a Pediatrician who recently examined the newest child of Adam squatting next to him.  (Adam's daughter is Tessa Cate Tobin, born on October 13, 2010). Next to Adam is Hilary Ryan Rowe and Jen Kramer Tate.  In the top left is Rob Baedeker, Jason Delborne, Tadasaurus Glauthopolis, Ross McCall, Andy Michael Paul, Chris Esparza and mystery girl. A few are married to other former students and Stanford Improvisors of olde.  Many have kiddos of their own.  What a magnificent group of young men and women.  I am so proud to have been a teacher, and thankful to FB for allowing me to keep watching their lives.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 200: Wear comfortable shoes

This drawing of my feet is in a watercolor journal that I carried around in 2009. I would  stop and draw or paint ordinary things.  I was at Wilbur Hot Springs when I did this sketch. It's a fair likeness of my old feet.  The bunions have been there nearly all of my life:  battle-scars of wearing "pointy-toed high heel shoes" when I was in my twenties.  They are worse now than when I did this drawing. Podiatrists looking at these feet have wide happy eyes:  "Ah, foot surgery is in your future, my dear," they gleam.  Well, my friend, Jo Landor, had feet that looked like mine.  She fell for that line from a foot doctor and had the bunion surgery when she was 60.  "Never do it," she counseled me as we padded around the hot tubs at Esalen in the early 1980's.  I've kept that advice in mind.  Instead of surgery I wear really comfortable shoes.  I mean REALLY comfortable.  They are the opposite of fashion shoes.  I wear the SAS clumpers with orthotics inserted to adjust for my tibial tendonitis.  I never ever wear high heels.  I think they are barbaric and truly unkind to the wondrous feet that carry our weight around all day.
Recently I was at an eye examination appointment and my glamorous Opthamologist, who is something of a fashionista was wearing five inch boots along with her white doctor's lab coat.  I know those shoes cost $389 at least.  My heart sank thinking of her standing on them all day as she put eye drops in her patients and adjusted that eye viewing torture machine to check your cornea.  I wish she would put on sensible shoes (we used to call them).  Your feet deserve better.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 199: Sunflowers at Farmer John's

I spent the weekend in the company of former students who have become good friends.  On Friday night I had dinner with Ted DesMaisons at the Greens at Ft. Mason.  Ted is a Religious Studies instructor at an east coast prep school.  He is also an improviser.  Following dinner I was "de Judge" at the BATS Theatersports match between the Stanford Improvisors and the BATS Company players.  Great show, lots of fun.  BATS kept the trophy.  Maybe next year for Stanford.
On Saturday I sat in the rain and watched Stanford's football team eke out a win against Washington State U.  Dinner that evening was with Catherine Hagan and her fiance, Dave Luxton.  Catherine is a Vet who is doing research.  She is a protectress of our animal friends in the laboratory.  Dave is working with suicide prevention in the military.  I am impressed by the quality of the young men and women who are changing our world for the better.  What a blessed life I have had to teach them over the years.
My painting today is from last Wednesday's plein air session at Farmer John's Pumpkin Patch in Half Moon Bay.  The sunflowers there were crying out to be painted.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 198: Rainy day with cat

The first real day of rain this season. Our beloved Bodhi loves the warmth from our gas stove. He sits in front of a rock painted as a portrait of our dear Himalayan Buddha who passed away some years ago.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 197: to see this clearly by Maya Stein

I continue to be inspired by the down to earth poetry of Maya Stein.  Her poem "to see this clearly" inspired me this morning to turn our ordinary breakfast into a special moment.  Toasting homemade bread and sweetening the world with "Blissful Blueberry Jam" made by a local woman, along with farm fresh eggs . . . well, this is my wonder.  As we say a lot:  Life is good.  I share her poem here.

To see this clearly

I am no magic trick, no doer of miracles, no water walker,
I am no architect of glory, no layer-on of hands, no angel wing,
I am no weaver of gold, no mythmaker, no parachute artist.
I am no halo of stillness in a downpour.
I am no treasure chest, no hero, no thunderbolt wielder,
I am no rabbit foot or lottery number.
I am no combination lock, no mystery ingredient, no optical illusion.
But there is a handful of sunflowers from the florist's sidewalk jungle.
Here is a blanket to spread on the grass for an afternoon.
Her is a song on the radio that calls for dancing.
Here is a chocolate bar I will share with you.
Here is a road sign, a notebook, photographs of those I have loved.
Here is a slice of bright blue sky, a hummingbird
thrashing her wings around an apricot tree.
To see this clearly
is enough.
  --Maya Stein

To read more of Maya's work go to:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 196: SImps VS BATS

Tonight join me as we watch the Stanford Improvisors face off against the BATS Company players, each hoping to take home the coveted Chicken trophy.   The trophy, by the way, was made by the amazing Ron Madson, my husband. 
Pictured here are Ted DesMaisons and Marshall Yuan, former Stanford Improvisers.  Wonderful to hang out with scores of returning SImps for Stanford's Homecoming.   

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 195: Irreverent baking by Maya Stein

Irreverent baking

I should be upstairs with the others, drumming up ways
to heal the world, save the animals, pray for water
in a far-off continent, devote the remainder of my days
to a catalog of restorations.  But this morning it was the matter
of scones that drew my gaze, and my feet remained
planted in the kitchen.  One must never ignore the instinct
to create, is what I told myself, and soon the counter was stained
with flour, my hands sticky with dough, the house inked
with the smell of blueberry possibility, and I knew I was not wrong
This was my prayer, my act of healing, my offering, my song.

--Maya Stein

And, if you are inspired to make some blueberry scones, here is a recipe that is heavenly.  I am indebted to Patti Digh for publishing this wonderful poem in her newest book,  CREATIVE IS A VERB.  I recommend it. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 194: Design and Improvisation

The intersection of improvisation and design is a fertile plane. I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Helms a doctoral candidate in Engineering who is studying anomaly detection. Fascinating subject. His colleague Neeraj Sonalkar is also studying improvisation as a modality useful to design. What exhilaration to smooze about our shared interests and vision.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Stanford Cantor Arts Museum

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 193: The remarkable Patti Digh

I have been a fan of Patti Digh for a number of years.  She is well known as a blogger.  Her blog, 37 Days  is worth a long visit.  Go back over older posts as well as checking out what she is saying today.  I recommend her books as well.  Life is a Verb  is a book to keep by the bedside and under the front seat in your car.  Read it a lot.  Scribble in the margins, too.  

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day192: The Joys of Family

Ever saw a cuter kid? Inez America Madson enjoys her first corn.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 191: Waiting for Superman

On Friday we saw an astonishing film:  Waiting for Superman  It is a must see for anyone who cares about education in America.  Take the time to discover the grim statistics on what is really wrong with the system that no one has been able to fix.  Please see this film. We all need to understand this.  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 190: Bridget Quigg: Amazing Woman

Sometime during the Punic Wars (or was it the late 1990's?) I had the privilege to teach a young woman named Bridget Quigg at Stanford. She signed up for my Sophomore Seminar on the Theories of Improvisation. The class met once a week to discuss readings and performances. All were centered on different forms of improv theater. I remember Bridget as being the kind of student whose eyes would light up in class. She appeared to be "getting it" (whatever it was I was selling in those days.) To my surprise and delight Bridgett showed up this February in Doe Bay, WA to attend a workshop on improvisation taught by the renowned Rebecca Stockley and Matt Smith of Seattle. I was there as a student, and it was with pleasure that I met Bridget again. She told me a story that my class had started something important for her . . . indeed her presence at an advanced improv workshop was a testament to this. Today I am spending the day as her student. She is offering a workshop in Palo Alto on using improv techniques to forward ones work as a writer. It is called "Unblock Your Brilliance: Writing Through Improvisation." Can't wait to wield my mighty pen under her tutelage.
In the evening you can see her perform an hilarious one woman show: Almost Female: A Jockette's Awesome Journey

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 189: The Pumpkin Festival Half Moon Bay

Each fall there comes a weekend in October that is called The Pumpkin Festival of Half Moon Bay.  All hail the pumpkin.  Highway 92 "over the hill" is lined with fields filled with pumpkins for sale.  Many of the businesses along that way have rides and games for children and are meant to attract families to stop and take photos.  Each year the biggest pumpkin is weighed in and celebrated. This years winner was more than 1500 pounds.  For two days there is an arts and crafts faire that draws close to 200 thousand attendees. 2010 has the festival on October 16 and 17.  The important thing to know is that if you live on the coast side, lay low.  The traffic is often crippling, so don't try to go anywhere.  We are keeping a quiet profile.  Happy pumpkin picking to all.  This painting I did last year at Farmer John's pumpkin patch on Highway 1.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 188: HH the DALAI LAMA at Stanford

Today is a special day. HH the DALAI LAMA will be giving teachings at Stanford University. We will be there at Maples Pavillion.  His sessions at Stanford will all be webcast.   Join the wisdom online.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 187: The Pumpkin Depot


It's that time of year:  the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival.  I stopped this morning at the "Pumpkin Depot" along Highway 1 to enjoy the display of pumpkin's large and small.  I was all set to do some watercolors when the proprietor turned on loud country music to liven up the displays and attract the paying customers.  Maybe it's my age but I'm no good functioning around loud music, so I packed up my painting gear, bought a few gords and headed home to paint in the quiet.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 186: Cypress Tree Farm

 The Cypress Flower Farm is a nursery near us on the coast.  Several weeks ago I played hooky from the appointed location for my Wednesday plein air painters.  I went here instead.  Here is a copy of the watercolor I did a few weeks ago.  It's pleasing to see how one of these paintings is successful as a small greeting card.  

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 185: The Cherry Orchard 1975

My teaching career at Denison University in the 1970's included a lot of directing.   My favorite playwright was Anton Chekhov.  Here is a staged shot from my production of The Cherry Orchard, circa 1975.  The student with the bald pate wig on the right is the famous screenwriter and author, Jose Rivera, Emmy winner and author of The Motorcycle Diaries.  I've recently been on a purge to get rid of the mountain of boxes with memorabilia from my past.  It's hard to throw away old theatrical photos.  I also unearthed a wonderful letter from Jose written to me as his teacher.  I am now trying to find a mailing address for him.  If anyone knows how I can contact him I'd be grateful to know.  

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day 184: Oh, and flowers at the Farmers Market

I must sing the virtues of the Farmers' Market yet again.  Along with the impressive show of vegetables are fresh flowers from the fields around here.  The Coastside is known for its flower nurseries.  And I would be remiss if I failed to post this photo of tomatoes.  Since we got to the market technically before anything went on sale we were able to see the stalls beautifully laid out.  All hail local produce. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 183: Fresh Vegetables at sunrise

This morning we got up very early to unload Ron's pickup truck at the local high school.  An inventive student group was having a rummage sale to benefit the victims of the recent San Bruno fire.  This had a double benefit for us since I've turned a new leaf. I am determined to get rid of useful stuff that is lying around the house. Every drawer, closet and shelf is full.  Now is the time to divest.  We literally filled the back of Ron's pickup and hauling it all to the schoolyard before first light.  To celebrate we went out to breakfast at Moonside Bakery.  Then on to the Saturday Farmer's Market in HMB.  This display of carrots caught my eye.  Don't we live in a world of plenty?  Amazingly beautiful and nutritious.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 182: The Italian Translation

For those of you who read Italian I am proud to announce a translation of the chaper on my fifth maxim, "Be Average".  The translator is Giorgio Paparelle who has a very good website.

Contact me if you'd like me to send you a PDF of the chapter in Italian.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 181: The Elkus Ranch

The Elkus Ranch is an educational center for learning about farming, animals and gardening.  They have llamas, chickens, sheep, goats and other animals to view and photograph.  Our painting group met there on Wednesday to paint.  I loved these hanging garden gloves.  They were hanging in a shed in the children's vegetable garden where I was painting. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 180: Back in my kitchen again

Along with the comfort of sleeping in my own bed is the pleasure of preparing food in my kitchen.  I don't believe I've shown a photograph of it in this blog series.  Ron built this kitchen, installing the patchwork quilt tiles over the stove.  The picture window looks out onto the koi pond and our Japanese garden.  I really love working in this kitchen.  Come on over for a cup of tea.  Right now as I type I'm making banana bread, or rather, the bread maker is making banana bread.  Yum.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day179: There's no place like home . . . Toto

In Richmond Airport en route to Cincinnati and then to San Francisco. There is no place like home.  This photo shows our comfy home in El Granada.  While we've been away workman have been refinishing the entryway hardwood floors.

I continue to be grateful for the wonder of owning a home.  Looking forward to the feeling of sleeping in my own bed.
Hooray home.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 178: Visiting the elders

Two of my oldest living relatives are in Virginia. My stepmother, Peggy Clough Ryan resides at the Envoy at the Meadows in Goochland VA. Ron and I went to spend a few hours enjoying her smile. Her sister Jeanne Hollins was visiting too. Somedays I feel like an elder. Peggy seemed well today. Then we drove to Forest VA to see Mary Frances Bethel Wood. She is my oldest living cousin. She is a quilter. She presented me with a gorgeous wall hanging. We are fortunate to have the means to make these visits. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day 177: Art with great nephew Hayden

One of the pleasures of visiting Richmond is the chance to spend some precious time with my great nephew Hayden Offenbacher. Today we spent two hours doing set together. He has a good sense of color and composition. Fun to share the arts together.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 176: The Reunion

Walking through the metal detectors was the first shock as I revisited my old high school Thomas Jefferson in Richmond VA. Lots of screams of OH PATSY!!!
The evening gala at the Willow Oaks Country Club was a blast. Music from the sixties blasted and we all did the twist. Here am I with old friend Gloria Corino and another with my best friend from those years, Beverly Davis Walters (in the green sequin top).  We look pretty good for almost being 70 years old.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 175: Visiting Kathleen

My lovely sister Kathleen Ryan picked us up at the airport and transported to her home where we are enjoying her hospitality as we go down memory lane to attend my 50th high scoop class reunion. Hard to believe how old I am.