Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Real gansai paints for etegami are intense. 
 Love oranges in the winter.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Good Fairy

Looks like the good fairy, Inez America Madson has come to bless her new sister, Lucia Anahi Madson.  All are well and enjoying the California spring.  Aren't little girls the BEST?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cleaning my art desk

So I spent a delightful evening cleaning my art desk and putting everything back into little pots and jars and boxes.  There is something cleansing about this kind of an activity.  The net result is a sense of order and to a certain extent, control.  Now, I have it all in place.  Of course it won't' stay that way long, but it does feel good today.  It's a little embarrassing to report on this. With all that needs doing in the world cleaning an art desk must not be high on the planetary bullet list.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

My lamp

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

A day at the Museum . . .

Saturday was going to the museums alone . . . a favorite way to spend a day.  First I went to the De Young Museum to see the spectacular "Jean Paul Gaultier" show.  A high fashion and theatrical designer for the past forty years  Gaultier has produced a body of work that defies description.  You really need to see this show before it closes in August.  To clear my mind after this blowout I went to the Asian Art Museum for a cup of coffee.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bad Art Night etegami

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rhododendron at last

Shortly after moving into our El Granada home we planted a few hardy bushes and shrubs. Among them was a peach colored rhododendron. It has grown over the years--always a full coat of glossy leaves. But no flowers. Every year in the spring we watch this plant put out miniature buds that never come to flower. We have pretty much given up on ever seeing a peach colored blossom. And then, miracle of miracles this year the bush burst forth. What a joyous thing.
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Recently I've discovered an art form from Japan called "Etegami"  E stands for picture and tegami stands for words or message.  So, a small picture accompanied by words which are written on the painting itself.  In Japan many of these are done simply with black and white Sumi ink.  A distinguishing characteristic of these little treasures is the use of a red seal (chop) that gives the artist's name.  
Years ago when I was spending time in Japan every year I had a number of these chops made by a local seal maker in Kameoka.  I use them on watercolors to sign my pieces.  Now I'm enjoying embarking on an adventure doing etegami.  I've made a new friend in Japan, Debbie, who has been promoting etegami with a delightful website:  EtegamibyDosankoDebbie.  For  a while I plan to post my humble attempts at this form on this blog.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

On Kindness

One of the pleasures of retirement is the freedom to spend the morning in a contemplative way.  A favorite early beginning for me is to turn on our gas fireplace to combat the morning chill, make a steaming pot of Earl Grey Tea and sit in my chair by the window.  I may simply sit quietly and breathe into the morning or reach for something to read that can help set my intention for the day. 

Inspirational books are piled by my place.  This morning I turned to the Celtic poet John O’Donohue.  His early death at the age of 52 robbed us of a poignant and powerful voice.  His book, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, published in 2008, is full of rich insights. 

         There is a kindness that dwells deep down in things; it presides everywhere, often in the places we least expect.  The world can be harsh and negative, but if we remain generous and patient, kindness inevitably reveals itself.  . . . The word kindness has a gentle sound that seems to echo the presence of compassionate goodness.  When someone is kind to you, you feel understood and seen.  There is no judgment or harsh perception directed toward you.  Kindness has gracious eyes; it is not small-minded or competitive; it wants nothing back for itself.  Kindness strikes a resonance with the depths of your own heart.   . . .  Despite all the darkness, human hope is based on the instinct that at the deepest level of reality some intimate kindness holds sway.  This is the heart of blessing.  To believe in blessing is to believe that our being here, our very presence in the world, is itself the first gift, the primal blessing.  As Rilke says: Hier zu sein ist so viel—to be here is immense.       P 185-186 from  To Bless Space Between Us.

Kindness has been on my mind lately.  Recently on a trip to Denver my husband and I were invited to dinner at the home of a former Stanford student who had graduated nearly twenty years ago.  Jason and his wife Tonya and their two lovely daughters, Olivia and Ramona were living in a beautiful home with views of the surrounding Colorado mountains.  A young academic now, Jason was involved with the environment and public policy issues.  His wife had just launched a new career as a professional photographer.  They had just come back from a family weekend of hiking and frolicking in the mountains.  Thanks to the miracle of GPS we found their suburban neighborhood in Golden, CO and were welcomed warmly.  We proffered some ice cream to add to the dinner, which was swept away to the freezer until time to serve it.  

The meal was a wonderful roasted pepper pasta with a cashew sauce, made freshly in the kitchen where we set a family table to share the meal.  It was such a pleasure to catch up with the twenty year passage of time.  For dessert Jason brought forward a chocolate mousse cake that the girls had chosen at the Safeway along with the two cartons of ice cream which we had brought.  We all served ourselves and enjoyed the sweets along with some excellent herbal tea. 

Dessert was followed by a rousing game of “Apples to Apples” a family game that matches random words with some category or adjective.  Everyone tries to “win” each round and lots of laughter is let loose as we all vie for the best choice of what is “weird” or “green.”  After the score was tallied (I think Jason won) the girls said their goodnights and Tonya took them to bed.  She later joined us for a little more conversation and telling stories of old times before we made a modestly early departure.  It was one of those evenings that felt perfect.  It was wholesome and happy and natural. 

This morning as I was thinking back on the pleasures of that visit I had a satori.   “Ron,” I said, “It just hit me: Jason’s family is vegan.  They don’t eat dairy.  I remember now that they offered the girls soymilk for dinner.  VEGAN!!  Oh, my goodness, and we brought ice cream.  Ice cream.

And, the remarkable thing was that not once did anyone mention this.  And, when the ice cream was brought out each of them had a spoonful or two.  What is astonishing to me now is the unbelievable kindness of this. How marvelous that their young daughters knew how to handle this situation.  No one ever said, “Oh, thanks anyway.  We don’t eat dairy.”   Instead they all accepted our small but misguided gift and breaking their own preferences made us feel completely accepted.   What a miracle.  What a stunning act of kindness. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The joy of tea

In the late1960's a small company in Boulder CA started making herbal tea bags. Celestial Seasonings is now a well known company that provides a diverse and healthy selection of teas.  Although they have been acquired by a large food company (the Hain Celestial Group)they became famous for the artwork on their packaging along with inspiring quotes.  I remember cutting little sayings off the boxes and using them for inspiration.  This package, which you may already recognize as the artwork for the Sleepytime Tea is my favorite.  Can you imagine a more peaceful scene?  It doesn't get any better than this.  "Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea."   
On a trip to Denver we visited the headquarters of Celestial Seasonings in Boulder.  A wonderful tour and a visit to the "Mint Room" where bales of peppermint and spearmint leaves create a scent so powerful that Ron's eye watered.  I breathed deep and enjoyed the rich healing property of the herb.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring dances with winter

Visiting Colorado in April has provided a diverse set of weather delights. The cherry blossoms everywhere have been bursting their hearts out. Today three inches of snow blanketed the Denver area. We awoke to a white world. These photos taken with my IPhone show the dance of the seasons. We were in Boulder at the Celestial Seasonings factory when I made these shots. On the day we arrived, two days ago, Sunday, it was 82 degrees downtown in Denver.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Nnemkadi Ogwumike: Stanford legend

Most of my life has been spent ignoring sports. Never athletic myself, I somehow missed the roar of the crowd as a fan during my five decades as a student and teacher. I needed to be retired and have my sports-manic husband finally drag me to a Stanford women's basketball game to begin to get the bug. And as my Facebook friends can attest my fan status today is SERIOUS.

Looking at my closet there is a preponderance of Cardinal red hanging and folded. I've given up fashion for patronage. I love the Stanford women's team, especially this 2011-2012 team led by the incomparable Nnemkadi Ogwumike. We will not see her on the court at Maples any more. She graduates and moves into the WNBA next year. She will be missed.

Much has been written about her. She embodies the finest in athletics and scholarship. Eternally positive, always gracious, the soul of gratitude, Nneka is the true leader and sister that makes sports worth watching. Although the team lost to Baylor last night, I won't remember the loss in that game. Instead I'll remember Nnemkadi, Chiney, Toni, Joselyn, and Amber and Lindy, Grace, Sarah, Taylor, Bonnie, Sarah James and Erica. These women have opened my eyes and my heart to the deep delights of sport. I wish Nneka and the other seniors great blessings as they advance in their lives. Now a rest from hoops. Until next season. . .

Nneka is hugged by assistant coach Kate Payne after the Baylor game. Photo borrowed from the San Jose Mercury sports.