Tuesday, June 30, 2009

General Guidelines for Girls and Lipstick

When you choose a lipstick shade, make it one or two shades more intense than your natural lip color. Or, for a more dramatic look, choose a brighter color.

If you aren't used to wearing makeup, get some help from your best friend. She will give you an honest opinion of how it looks.

Be aware that you may have admirers, and you should treat them with kindness. After all, your beauty is irresistible!

If you are having someone paint your nails, it is a good idea to have something good to read while you wait.

Your smile will always be your best beauty accessory.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

A Small List

1. Rainy weather is good weather. A cool front has settled over our island, and the weather has been extraordinarily cool and rainy for weeks on end. I love it. I'm not in good company, though. Each trip into town, I invariably run into someone who moans and groans about how awful the summer is so far. I hold my tongue and make sympathic-sounding noises, but really, I want to say: "Ah, but don't you love how cool and green the mornings are? Look how much money we are saving on air-conditioning! Isn't it better to have this than a drought?"

I keep my silence because I could go on and on, enough to alarm my fellow islander. In fact, I am surprised myself at how much I love the weather. I especially love the strange feeling of mystery that comes along with the unseasonable foggy days. There is none of the melancholy that comes with the autumn fogs, no whisper of fading or death that the fall inevitably brings. Instead, there is just this pure, green, freshness in the fog, and it's exciting in some way, like something powerful and interesting and new is right around the corner.
I've also caught myself spending more time at the window, especially when it rains. My favorite thing to watch is the quick moving storm that drops rain so thickly that sometimes it looks like a curtain, and then, just as suddenly, it fades to an airy, lacy spray. On those afternoons, as soon as the sun smudges yellow against the clouds, the girls and I shout "Rainbow weather!" and run out into the yard to find one.

I have been walking in the mornings, and the air is heavy with the smell of honeysuckle and mimosa. The humid air doesn't discriminate about which scents it carries, and it's an olfactory map of our neighborhood. I like to imagine that if I close my eyes, I could tell by the faintly sick and musty smell of the turtles that I am near the pond to or by the wave of the smell of horses, that I am near the little rise in the road. On clear days, the water of the pond flashes blue and bright, and the leaves are silvery in the sun, and that is lovely too. But as I said, there is something special about the dense feel of the air and the light on a misty day. I think it makes me want to walk around in it more, and that can only be a good thing.

2. We are in a fix-it mode, as our house is about to celebrate its 4th birthday. It's clear that we need to attend to the little things projects now in small increments, or suffer the house needing more extensive work later on. Among our projects are cleaning out the garage, painting the outside trim on the doors and northern windows, cleaning the windows themselves, hanging blinds, repainting trim and doors inside, and repainting any areas that have excessive wear. The list keeps growing, but I must admit that doesn't detract from my happiness when I cross off an item I've completed.

The biggest and most intimidating is the painting. I might enjoy painting a canvas, but I am really poor at painting a wall, on which you are supposed to eliminate brushstrokes. I'm practicing and hoping to get better as we work our way around the house. My husband is much better at making it look neat, so he gets to do the second coats. It's slow work, and the rain makes me space out the steps--prep, tape, paint, paint again, touch up. In between each of these is the cleaning up, and the waiting for the paint to dry or the rain to stop or in some cases, both. It's paying off, though. The laundry room is done, and bright and happy in an orangey shade called Nasturtium (honestly, though I hate the vagueness of paint names, I love the names themselves. Regardless of how it actually looks on the wall, nasturtium has sweet ring to it, doesn't it?). I did the laundry room first because I spend enough time there, and it may as well be cheery and clean. Plus, it's a good testing ground. If I ruin it, I'm the only one who would really notice. I'm glad to say that it came out perfectly. Yay me. Now to get the stuff in there folded, ironed, and put away.

The front door was a more obvious place to begin, and we've been working on it in little phases. As of this morning, it's done! I just put the finishing touches on the front porch by polishing the aluminum threshold. I put away the polish, and felt the good gratification of a job well done when I stepped back and saw our red door and clean white trim. I think I'll keep walking back over there to give myself a mental "pep talk" when I feel like quitting...

3. In all of this, I have been writing in the lucid way that comes when you are writing in your head. The repetitive motions of moving the paint brush, wiping window sills, or pushing an iron are all equally monotonous, and in that, they are equally freeing. Ideas, phrases, and sometimes fully-fleshed out paragraphs come to me while I'm engaged in non-writing activities. And it is writing. I've always believed it so. When I was teaching, I even took the risk of telling my students that "writing in your head" counted. It does count, because even when it's in your head, it's clearly writing, differentiated from regular thinking because it's formed with expression and structure and-- and this is the the biggest difference--an inescapable desire to save it onto paper. Of course, when you're writing in your head, you are the only reader, but it's important to remember that the self is a worthy audience, perhaps the most valuable audience you have.

Now don't go imagining that I gave credit for "writing in your head" when I was teaching. As I would point out to my students, while writing in your head counts, writing counts even more once you put it into text and share it with someone. It was my hope that giving them permission to ponder and listen to their own writing voice would improve their confidence. I like to think it did. When I read my students' work, it was obvious to me which students allowed themselves the space to form their writing before they actually wrote it. Their writing was that much stronger, their "voice" that much clearer.

My voice is coming clearly to me these days, as I wind around the pond. I'm eager to share some of it with you in the next few weeks.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Open Heart Letter 4: to my Mom

Because there is not enough space and time, this is a short take. For all the love I have for you, Mom, it would eat the bandwidth of the internet...

To my mom:
As I write this, the kitchen is filled with the scent of peonies, and I cannot walk into the room without imagining you are here visiting me. How I wish you lived closer to us so we could spend time doing just the very basic ordinary things of life. We could pick the flowers in the garden together, fill the vases, wash the dishes, knead the bread. These are simple things, but I know how much you appreciate them and the space to enjoy them. It is one of my dearest wishes that you have that opportunity to take a breath and just be in the now, relaxed and free.

I know that when I was a very little girl, you spent many hours in the now, keeping house, baking bread, trying new recipes. You sewed my Halloween costumes and bedspread (and matching Holly Hobbie curtains!), dusted and vacuumed and helped me make lemonade for selling in a tiny stand at the end of the driveway. My mind was a fertile place of imaginings, and you kept me safe and cozy and let me wander in my own little world. In the process, I know you inspired my love of a homelife, and it continues today.

Of course, in those intervening years, you lost your own time to do those things. The business you own with Daddy actually owns you. It is a harsh master, and you have been in its service at the cost of your own desires. For all the good and opportunities it has brought you (and many, many others), it costs you a little bit of your dream each day. I ache to think of it.

What I admire is that in everything you have done for others, in all you have sacrificed, you remain sunny, bright and lovely. You did not have the best start in life, you have been handed a fair share of meanness in a variety of settings. But you rise above it all, and shine. It's funny: you are not unlike the peony in the garden, flourishing unexpectedly in the sand. You are quietly strong, filling the space around you with beauty, generous with yourself. You are unforgettable, and once someone meets you, they instantly love you.

I am constantly astounded by how many people flock to you. Each sings your praises, and makes a point of reminding me of how special my mother is. "I know!" I say, and I do. I think it is wonderful how you shine so clearly. "I am so lucky," I tell them, and I mean it. What a great gift I have in life to have you as my mother. I don't fail to think of it every single day.

Amidst all of it, you remain unsure of your own value. Humble as always, you doubt your own worth. You fear you haven't done enough. You, who is always, always doing things for others. I will be quick to remind you that you are so very much more than you do, you are extraordinary. And if you didn't do those things, you would still be extraordinary you. You are bright, and dedicated, and enthusiastic. Your optimism is contagious. Your energy is sometimes intimidating! You are lovely, and funny. You have many obvious talents, and just as many undiscovered! (While you doubt it, I know you have a great eye for color and an aptitude for art if you would let yourself try!) I wish you could see yourself the way others see you. I will not tire of reminding you that you are very, very special. Oh, how we all love you so very much!

It's a great coincidence that your given names describe you so well: Bonnie, of course, the beautiful. And Angela, the angel. You're those things, and so, so much more. I love you. I can't tell you that enough. But that won't stop me from trying.

I love you.

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Coming Along

I am a good cheerleader for myself. When I'm working on a painting, you might hear me talking to myself softly, saying, "Well, he's coming along."

The he in question here is Zeus, a lovely dog who belongs to my friend Dana. And while I don't know Zeus well, he is pretty strongly set into my thoughts these days. He comes along with me wherever I go; you might see me staring out into space sometimes lately while I try to figure out how to capture the brindled colors of the fur near his right eye. The photo above is a not-quite finished version. But it's close. This morning I've been puzzling over the details of his snout, Dana's hands, and those tags...If I am lucky, I will grab another hour this afternoon, and he will be done! What fun it has been getting to know him.

I must say that it amazes me that he even looks like a dog. I am not an artist by training, but I am one by will. This year marks 10 years of my practice with drawing and painting, and I feel as though I have more projects in my mind than ever. And lucky me, a few of them are close to completion! Zeus shares my thoughtspace and studio with 3 other paintings that are also "coming along." It is a quiet thrill that I carry them in my head as I go through my day...

Esme's naptime gave me chance to put the finishing touches, et voila!

Here is Zeus, just waiting to be signed and put in the frame. It feels great to finish a project.

UPDATE Again! Okay, I'm obsessed. Here he is, done, framed, signed. Whee! The last step is to get some nice giclee prints done so I have some copies. Now to get the skin tones blocked in on the beach painting.....

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