April 12, 2015 § 9 Comments
There’s the occasional foot-in-mouth moment. The you-can’t-explain-why times. The useless but sometimes enlightening what-was-I-thinking’s. The poorly timed brain overload creating havoc with numbers (oops, I was only kidding?). And there’s always a child somewhere to help you keep it real.
And then, of course, there’s this. This grand, sweeping, marvelous magnificence of raw power and rumbling passion and crashing, curling waves that pound and push and pull (with equal parts grace and ferocity) on impossibly soft sand beneath never-ending cobalt skies ~ this incredible vastness where mermaids live and giant, finned beasts taunt sailors who chart their course by stars that shine from even more unfathomably large heavens above; all of this, too, will keep one humble.
You work. You love, and play, and learn. Laugh and cry. Scream out loud, shrivel into quiet corners. You try. You do your best, and wear your super-human-hero cape with pride. Even so, you always, always, at some point, find yourself inadequate. Or wrong. Or just unprepared. Because that’s the stuff of life ~ the mystery and the magic, the smooth, the bumpy, the “a-ha’s” and the “oh shit’s”.
We’re not meant to get it right all the time. It’s lovely when we do. It can feel ugly when we don’t. It’s exhausting and glorious (with equal parts grace and ferocity). No matter how high we climb the proverbial ladder, no matter how good, how brilliant, how well-intentioned ~ there will always be something to keep us humble. We’re just travelers, after all. All of us.
March 28, 2015 § 2 Comments
It’s no secret amongst my clients and colleagues – and let me preface this by saying I don’t “hate” much of anything, except maybe cheesecake (I know, I know…), and rudeness, or falling on icy steps – but sometimes I do hate Word. Microsoft Word, that is. It’s fickle. It’s not intuitive. It messes up. It can be nasty. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, I tell you!
Oh, and by the way, it is not, nor was ever meant to be, a design tool. Yet millions upon millions of people use it as if it were. I do not understand this. It infuriates me.
But I “must” use it because of those millions upon millions of people who use it, some of those millions being clients of mine and it’s a useful tool for sharing information. Note: Sharing information. Words. It was intended to process words.
Instead, it’s evolved into this messy catch-all of “things it can do”, most of which are not well done, hard to find, and tend at some point to rain on its own parade by crashing. Not crash as in “crash a party”; crash as in stop functioning. Nosedive. All systems out. As in, you’re barreling along when suddenly the spinny-rainbow-wheel pops up and begins its incessant twirl round and round and round and round, often caused by a task as excruciatingly simple as cutting and pasting a paragraph from one place to another. (Maybe it just doesn’t like Macs.)
It’s not well. It’s neither fun nor savvy. It’s a frustrating blend of “tools” that make people like me crazy. People who have worked with beautifully designed software programs that do what they’re supposed to do. People who have come to expect things to “make sense” when using them. (Personal flaw: Don’t like my time wasted, I admit it.)
Because it’s not going away any time soon, we all continue to use Microsoft Word. So we can’t actually break up. It owns the world. It’s the Big Cheese of Word Processing programs.
But, why-oh-why can’t they get it right? Why can’t they make it smarter and less finicky? Why does it try so hard to be things it isn’t, and why can’t it do the things it’s meant to do with efficiency and finesse? To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, if you’re going to do something or be something, be a good one.
Meanwhile, I’ll now go back and ONCE AGAIN, find the saved document remnants from my computer’s trash bin. And keep “saving saving saving” every time I dot an i or cross a t in my Word document.
March 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
A little St. Patrick’s Day inspiration, a few quick strokes on a paper scrap, and my lucky pencil is born.
Now, if only I were Irish and found me a pot o’ gold. (Or maybe the leprechaun comes first. Or is it the rainbow?) Until then, pencil lead will have to do, with a shamrock for good measure and a favorite Irish blessing for you. Happy St. Pat’s!
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
March 14, 2015 § Leave a comment
National Pi Day: Celebrating the irrational. (Or is it magical?)
Pi (π), the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet, represents the most widely known mathematical constant ~ the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which is approximately 3.14159 (which also explains why Pi Day is celebrated on 3/14).
No matter how large or small a circle is, pi will always work out to the same number. Pi is an irrational number, in that it goes on forever ~ and as such, there is no exact value, because the number has no end.
A bit of a mind bend, really.
Some mathematicians and math fans compete to calculate pi to as many digits as possible. The Guinness World Record for reciting the most digits of pi belongs to Lu Chao of China, who has recited pi to more than 67,000 decimal places. (I’d rather play scrabble, but to each their own.)
And honestly, I’m truly glad there are people with more math-oriented brains, so mine doesn’t have to be ~ and I can focus on the irrational and magical properties of words and art.
March 1, 2015 § 2 Comments
As the snow rages on here in the northeast, winter stubbornly insisting on showing its power over mortal beings, my discontent (affectionately called cabin fever) is assuaged by firewood and chocolate and beautiful things.
Because beauty, even in the middle of winter, is always within arms reach. The snowfall itself is a thing of beauty; but even then, yes, one gets restless for gardens and seagulls and afternoons on the porch. So I find bits of joy and comfort in things out of reach ~ things I can imagine, or dream of, or plan for. And somehow, just knowing that the purple doors below exist somewhere makes me happy.
Right, right, things, in and of themselves, do not “make us happy”. And what an empty existence it would be if we prized things over love, laughter and companionship. But our hearts can make us happy, and things can touch our hearts. Beautiful things.
Like a gorgeously purple garden gate, detailed by someone’s skilled hand. Like a well-made chest of drawers, or a child’s painting. An exquisite vase, a red cardinal on a branch, the smell of muffins in the oven, a tulip field, a perfectly comfortable chair with a lovely covering. All things of beauty in their way – expressions of love, a medium for experiencing this life with all the senses; to touch and see and hear and feel the endless multitudes of tastes and textures we have the opportunity to know.
What is life if not for diving in to sample its delicious variety. And what magnitude abounds! Even if we can’t see, hear or touch every bit, we can appreciate God’s – the Universe’s – the Great Creator’s – handiwork at every single turn. And the fruits of our own labors, too – the music, the art, the dance, the carefully crafted violin, the windmill, the garden gate.
We can appreciate the lush carpet beneath our feet, whether made of wool or sand or heather.
And when we do that, when we step out of our daily this-or-that, when we unclench our engagement with what’s wrong or what doesn’t feel good or what hurts or what’s bothersome, we elevate our experience. And what can be faulty with that?
We’re only here for an instant. We can believe it’s to struggle and fight, or we can believe it’s to learn and uplift. We can admire and expand, or we can shut down. We can stay small or we can let our spirits breathe large. We can be held captive by the world’s ills, or we can spread more light.
Beauty, and beautiful things, are a physical gift for our human experience. Seek beauty. Surround yourself. And let purple doors and other beautiful things do what they’re meant to do; nurture and inspire.
How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?
PS: I haven’t been able to find the original source for these 2 photos. They are not my own, and I would love to give proper credit if anyone knows.
February 20, 2015 § 4 Comments
If only it were true. Unless you count holly berries, there’s really not much in the way of floral color during northeastern winter months.
But “Twelve Months of Flowers” can be had via art prints, from the series published 1n 1730 by renowned British horticulturist and author Robert Furber. Mr. Furber’s name is the one most highly attributed to these exquisite prints, and while I’m grateful that he provided the insight, substantial research and knowledge (and, no doubt, the funds) to produce the collection, I’m mostly interested in the artistry.
Two of these prints hung in our dining room during my growing-up years – one May, one November, the months of my parent’s birthdays. Much admired, they gave a rich, subtle elegance to a modest space (and now that I think of it, may have influenced my own interest in drawing things botanical) ~ but in all those years, strangely, I don’t remember talking about the artist. So I went looking.
I discovered that the meticulously hand-colored engravings were created by English engraver Henry Fletcher, based on the paintings of Flemish-born artist Pieter Casteels, and that Twelve Months of Flowers was originally produced as a gardening guide in catalogue format and sold by subscription. (They also produced an equally stunning second series, Twelve Months of Fruits.) The images were aimed at wealthy landowners interested in growing plants for beauty more than functionality.
Each work is a glorious detail of plants in seasonal bloom, with each plant numbered, and, at the time, a list of the corresponding names. More than 400 plant species were featured. This was no small project. Huge talent. Enormous dedication to both botany and craft.
And so, a few centuries later, I thank them the three of them: Furber, Fletcher and Casteels ~ for their luscious collaboration of study, talent and skill. They are so beautiful, I would even venture to call them a labor of love. But that’s what art is.
February 13, 2015 § Leave a comment
Ah, Cupid, Roman God of Love ~ fickle, passionate, whose darting arrows don’t always hit the target ~ every year on February 14th we celebrate you nonetheless. And we celebrate love: the language of poets, songs of the heart, threads that bind us throughout time, the essence of life itself.
While I can count a few especially thoughtful, and even romantic, Valentine’s Day experiences, yea, well, those went all wrong in the end (beware the man who writes you poetry, a friend once told me…), so instead I turn to the unscathed memories of shared Valentines from grammar school, or the hand-made kindergarten cards we gave to our parents, with big red construction paper hearts and white lace around the edges, filled with unabashed adoration. And those we give our own children, marked with a thousand x’s and o’s.
And yet, despite what might seem a dose of romantic cynicism, I am a true believer. In love. Love is everything. Every task we do, everyone word we utter, every hand we shake, is made better if there’s love in it. Love is the root. Love is the cause. Love is the purpose. Love is all.
So I welcome any reason to honor love. Let sweethearts swoon. Let the day be thick with roses and chocolates for all who’ve ever felt the exultation ~ or the sting ~ from Cupids’ arrows, all who’ve felt their heart swell, their color blush, their energy soar and their selfishness cease.
And with or without a “Valentine”, fill your hearts with love. Love for self, love for others, love for your pets, for your garden, for your books, for your bicycle, for your favorite chair. Even for the guy trying to make a left turn on a busy street. Raise up the heart quotient all around, and feel the peace that settles in when tension is replaced by unbridled love.
Celebrate love. Read some poetic literary candy. Smell a rose. Give someone a cupcake. Smile because love still exists in this mad world.
Love is Not All (Sonnet XXX), Edna St. Vincent Millay
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
18th Sonnet, William Shakespeare
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43), Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Love’s Philosophy, Percy Bysshe Shelley
The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In another’s being mingle–
Why not I with thine?
See, the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower could be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;–
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?
February 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
proactively punctuating life with the plausible, powerful possibilities of positive thought presented through a plethora of “P’s”.
– ♥ –
So get rid of it. Toss it. Shake it off. Wipe the slate. Clear the way. Cleanse! Have a purification ritual if you must, but do part with doesn’t serve you. “Stuff”, relationships, situations, behaviors and unproductive emotions ~ all can weigh us down or tangle us in a snarled mess.
That said, there’s no need to go for an all out, bonkers-mad purging frenzy. No need to be reckless. Even just a bit at a time feels good; enough to lighten the load.
Consider your peace of mind. We all accumulate some chaos, whether internal or external, mental or physical, a lot or a little, and boy does it feel great to purge!
– ♥ –
I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of plumbing. Having traveled quite a bit, I think I can say with some confidence that here in the good ol’ USA, we have some of the best plumbing in the world. Knowing this makes me flush with pride.
It also makes me thank my lucky stars to live in modern times. Indoor plumbing didn’t come about til end of the 19th century, when its wonders were heavily promoted by London plumber Thomas Crapper. (No kidding!) According to Wikipedia: The flushing toilet was invented by John Harrington in 1596. Joseph Bramah of Yorkshire patented the first practical water closet in England in 1778. George Jennings in 1852 also took out a patent for the flush-out toilet. In a time when bathroom fixtures were barely spoken of, plumber Thomas Crapper heavily promoted sanitary plumbing and pioneered the concept of the bathroom fittings showroom.
And now you know.
– ♥ –
Some say it was Cleopatra; some name the woman who played her part in film, Elizabeth Taylor, as the most pulchritudinous woman ever to roam the earth.
Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder and there are far too many examples of pulchritudinous women to list. And yes, the word is generally reserved for female beauty ~ but it can also apply to the physical loveliness of grand landscapes, majestic mountains, breathtaking sunrises, sunsets, and perhaps a simple, elegant rose. …Ah, sweet pulchritude.
– ♥ –
Move over, blueberries; the mighty pomegranate has one-upped you in the Superfruit category. Not your everyday apples and bananas, superfruits are more exotic varieties with higher than average levels of antioxidants and nutrition, and the crimson seed packs nestled inside a pomegranate’s tough skin are the latest pièce de résistance in the fruit world for both taste and nourishing goodness.
Which reminds me, I need to make some pomegranate muffins. Mmmm.
– ♥ –
It is not what we see, but how we view it. Not what we hear, but how we listen. Not what we sing, but how we feel it. Life is all about our perception ~ how we perceive, intuit or understand any given circumstance or subject matter. It can make the difference between a good day and a bad one, harmony or confusion, truth or uncertainty, agreement or misjudgment. If something doesn’t feel quite right, it’s a good idea to step back and check our point of view, and then decide if rose-colored glasses might serve us better on or off.
– ♥ –
I ponder the stars, that I may feel part of this grand universe. I ponder the sea to soften my nerves. I ponder a tulip, to feel amazed at God’s artistry. I gaze into a fire and ponder the depths of my soul.
Sometimes I get answers. Sometimes not. But the pondering in and of itself is satisfying. Short or long, it takes one’s mind on a vacation from ordinary things, from problems that need solutions. Like meditation, a good ponder can leave you feeling inspired, energized and fresh.
Let your mind wander in wonder now and then. Ponder that.
(until next time, you can see the ongoing Plethora of P’s here)
January 28, 2015 § 4 Comments
Almost like clockwork, every January I’m reminded of my love for black and white. Maybe it’s the monotones of winter. Maybe it’s the bright white snow against a black sky. Maybe it’s because each year a new Ansel Adams calendar hangs on my studio door.
Whatever it may be, I’ve long been drawn to the beauty of black & white art, going back to the first time I picked up that favorite tool of mine (the #2 pencil) and sensed that magic was held within its lead.
From pencil or pen to the magnificent drama of a fine black & white photograph, I’m captivated by the power and emotional breadth that can be achieved without a spot of color. No distractions. Just character and grace, depth and strength and guts and mood. And like a good story, well done black & white allows your mind to add its own color by filling in what’s left unsaid.
Please note, I’ve tried to find image sources for all of these images, and sometimes failed. I would love to give proper credit where due, so if you know the original source of any of these labeled “source unknown”, please let me know!
January 19, 2015 § 1 Comment
Sweeten up! Nothing elevates your day like doing a kindness for someone else. It just feels good to let that person go in front of you at the grocery checkout. It just feels good to pay the toll for the car behind you. It plain and simply feels good to open doors, hold an umbrella, bake a cake, put a surprise gift on someone’s door, tell someone how much they mean to you, tell someone they look nice, they did a great job, they matter.
Doesn’t have to a Big Deal. Doesn’t have to drain your bank account. Doesn’t have to take much time. A little generosity of the heart is sometimes all it takes. (If you can do more, bless you!) Just be kind. Do a kindness. Unexpected. No hidden agendas. Not for gain. Not for praise. Not for anything but kindness itself. Because “just because” is a terrific two-way happiness breeder.
How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?