Stars & Stripes: A Visual Tribute to the American Flag

July 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

In May 1776, Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag. A year later, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act, establishing an official flag for the new nation:

“Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

However, between 1777 and 1960, Congress passed several legislations that changed the shape, design and arrangement of elements on the flag, eventually settling on extra stars and stripes to reflect each new state. This broad span of time without specific guidelines resulted in many design interpretations – which, in a way, also reflects the deeply rooted sense of freedom so cherished by Americans. The expressions were rich and proud, eventually evolving into the flag we pledge allegiance to today.

Carrying that theme of evolvement forward, in 1986 I discovered a beautiful book by Kit Hinrichs, called “Stars and Stripes” – a compilation of exceptionally creative American Flag images created by some of the finest graphic artists of our time. I found it absolutely delightful, and a great tribute to the creativity and talent that abounds amongst us – and the creative freedom we’re able to enjoy in this great land of the free and home of the brave.

Below are just 13 samples of the many ingenious designs from that book honoring our American flag.  Enjoy, and Happy Birthday USA!

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all images copyright of creator

Things My Father Taught Me

June 21, 2015 § 2 Comments

How to change a tire. How to balance a checkbook. How to pack a suitcase efficiently. That at one time a slide rule could solve almost any homework problem.

He taught me that weeds are best pulled close to the ground when the soil is damp and the moon is waning. Almost anything can be recycled and remade. Material things are overrated. Contribute something positive. Leave the world a better place for your having been there. Nothing is more meaningful than family and nothing more beautiful than the earth.

My father showed me practicality, patience and perseverance. He showed me modesty and humility. Loyalty. Honesty. Standing up for what you believe in.

He gave me his long legs and his sensible disposition. He gave me a weakness for potatoes, and all things fresh from the garden. He did not, however, give me his creative math genius, nor his pension for saving old nails ~ but I’m pretty sure if you looked in the dictionary for the meaning of the word “integrity”, you’d find his name. For that alone I am eternally grateful.

Here’s to you, Dad – and all the fathers who teach even half this stuff. The world is a better place because of you.

Because strawberry shortcake was your favorite dessert.

Because strawberry shortcake was your favorite dessert.

A Plethora of P’s / #87: Peony

June 13, 2015 § 6 Comments

proactively punctuating life with the plausible, powerful possibilities of positive thought presented through a plethora of “P’s”.

– ♥ –

#87: Peony

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Dear Peony ~ Your bloom is brief, and your heavy heads droop low under the weight of folds and folds and folds of petals – deliciously soft, intricate petals going every which way, having blossomed from tightly packed, perfectly round balls to form, perhaps (if there could by such a thing), the perfect flower – oh, how I adore your sweeping grace! You are elegance and beauty; you are divine.

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……………………

(until next time, you can see the ongoing Plethora of P’s here)

Tea, Guacamole and A Blanket

June 7, 2015 § 12 Comments

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Intention: Early morning Sun Salutations. Long walks along the shore; the wide, cream-colored beach hedged by flowering dunes and solid, old homes with weathered shingles and thick white pillars holding up wrap-around porches. Bike rides and ice cream and warm sea breezes fueling inspirations that spread themselves like butter, page after page, in my notebooks. Skin, tingling and alive from the surf and the sun. Hair in happy, salty tangles. Laughter as the sun makes long shadows in the sand and friends share a toast to the tides; to each other; to the red glow on our shoulders (pass the aloe, please). Meditations under the moon; breaths keeping time with the rumbling, tumbling, humbling waves.

Reality: Early morning drizzle followed by chilly, windy torrents. Cold; did I mention, cold? My giant-sized, fluffy red blanket and I step, daily, onto the thick-pillar-adorned porch to admire the angry sea’s spectacular beauty; this week she’s a pounding, twisting, frothy tempest. My blanket-bundled self takes 20 yard walks to the bench at the top of the beach, finds a dry-ish spot to watch the sky for signs of sunshine. Friends arrive, singing “the sun’ll come out, tomorrow…”. My girls, generally hunkered down with their laptops and phones, are otherwise perfecting their omelette and smoothie-making skills. We eat exorbitant amounts of whole-wheat tortilla chips with guacamole dip. We find that Scotty’s fresh flounder tastes just as good in stormy weather as it does in good weather. Thank goodness I remembered to pack the Scrabble board and card decks. And my red blanket.

But still, it’s not enough to see the sea, I need to stand close, near the edge (but not so near to risk dipping my blanket in the surf) ~ so we venture time and again onto the wide, cream-colored coastline and marvel at the ocean’s extraordinary magnificence. My blanket and I enjoy tea under the eaves by the flowering dunes. We read. We take pictures and post them on Instagram. During a break in the unforgiving wind and rain we settle into a comfy spot on the soft sand and attempt to write in my notebook.

Drip.

Drop.

“Oh cruel fate . . . why do you mock me?”

Surrender.

So it’s short walks, no bikes. Ice cream, no warm breezes. Writing inside, not out. Skip the aloe. And despite the lack of shadows for five straight days, we do laugh; and we share toasts to the tides, and, mostly, to each other.

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“Serenely full, the epicure would say, Fate cannot harm me; I have dined to-day.”
– Sydney Smith (1771 – 1845)

 

What Is Art?

May 19, 2015 § 4 Comments

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After creating this poster for my Facebook pages, someone asked me to define art. You might think I’d have a ready answer, but no. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve given it much thought, which is equally surprising. I liked the question though, and what follows is an expanded (rather long-winded!) version of my reply:

Art has varied definitions, I suppose, depending on those doing the defining. As an artist myself, I didn’t always appreciate art, because it was “something I just did” ~ I didn’t consider it a statement or a dramatic emotional expression, or even that it might do something other than possibly give pleasure. I didn’t question why. I didn’t scheme about what I’d do with it. It was simply woven into my being. The same way I have hazel eyes and wild hair; it just is.

That said, my own leaning seems to have been to create art that represented, or imagined, or inspired beauty; even, perhaps, a sense of hope. But that’s me. I know that not all art reflects beauty ~ it may reflect a social condition or an intellectual or philosophical position; it may be confrontational; it may be humorous; it may be elegant or raw; it may be positively ugly to one, pure loveliness to another. It can be painted or crafted or performed; made by hand or machine or both. It can be abstract or figurative; coming from a deep well of spirit, a spark of consciousness, a passing thought or a well-formed concept. Its roots know no economic or cultural boundaries. It transcends, disturbs, balances. It’s a driving force, a balm, an evocateur. It’s so broad as to be nearly undefinable.

But what I’ve come to realize ~ surprisingly late in the game ~ is its value; that a world without art, a world lacking the creative expression that can touch souls in ways otherwise skirted, unseen, unfelt, or trapped, would be a much more dry, sterile place. If there were no paintings, no music-making, no dance, no story-telling, what a very different existence this would be. (The mere thought of its absence feels dark and repressive!)

Art is life, breathing. A passionate, textural experience in this business of being human. An extension of who we are, often with an unwitting power to affect others ~ to inspire, to explore, to uplift, and sometimes, even to heal.

We need it. We need it to buffer the madness; to soften realities or shape new ones. There are such seeds within art, able to plant tonics for the soul, heighten awareness, ignite hearts, raise vibrations. Art is record-keeping and diary-making broadcast from individuals to the world. Shouts in the wilderness, relief from chaos, a connection to the divine. It moves us. It’s entirely personal in origin and yet has the ability to somehow matter to others.  It does matter. It matters a lot.

However we define it.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”. ~Thomas Merton

Celebrating Mom

May 10, 2015 § 4 Comments

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When I was a little girl, my mother was “my world”. She did all the things you’d expect a Mom might do, like hold your hand, read you a story, fix meals, teach manners, dry tears, cheer you up and on. She loved to laugh. She loved to give. She loved life, and tried to worry only on Tuesdays.

She left this world much too soon – but she left gifts. Cherished, timeless words; gifts from the heart, mind and spirit. Her poetry was first published while still in her teens, later works appeared in several anthologies. Perhaps her greatest work was the collection of sonnets published in her book The Pine and The Power.

So on this day reserved for mothers, I’d like to share some of those words as I have in year’s past, in honor and life-giving celebration of mothers near and far, here or remembered. Happy Mother’s Day!

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God help our children to transcend the dark

And walk the earth with dignity and cheer;

God help them seek the mountains, persevere

The road that twists through thorn and tanglebark,

Ascending finally where eagles mark

Their point of vision. Help our children find

Two masters ~ one the spirit, one the mind ~

And rediscover constancy of heart.

Help us to find cathedrals in the skies,

A will to walk the long uncharted mile;

(The will to find in winter’s legacy

The ochre sands from which the lime trees rise!)

Help us to know the measure of the child ~

To live in time and in eternity.

© Carolyn Naught Saxton

Outrageous Happiness #17: Seizing Moments

May 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

When something happy/pleasant/cheerful crosses your path, embrace it. Seize that moment! Enjoy it. Savor it. Let it seep in so you really feel it – no ifs, ands or buts! No “if only (fill in the blank) wasn’t going on so I could really enjoy that.” No “and now something’s bound to ruin this.” No “but I can’t stop to appreciate that, I’m too busy.” None of that. No, no, no.

We’re talking simple things (or big things ~ hey, no discrimination here on size of joy!). Maybe it’s noticing a tree with particularly pretty blossoms. Maybe it’s the sunlight through a red leaf. Maybe it’s a compliment received, or a perfectly cooked plate of fresh vegetables. A goldfinch on your bird-feeder. A favorite song on the radio.

Or maybe it’s a picture, like this one of my daughter, which made me smile on a whole bunch of levels and reminded me how much I love paint and the creative spirit and happy, unpredictable messes. I could have given it a quick “oh, I adore this!” and gone back to my at-the-time incredibly heavy workload, but I chose to take it in, let the happy feeling fill my space for a little longer.

And that ~ moments grabbed, even briefly ~ can make a real difference in the bigger picture. They add up. They might even become habit-forming.

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

 

Praising Mother Earth

April 22, 2015 § 1 Comment

“I love not man the less, but Nature more.” ~ Lord Byron

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After a month or more of intensely intense (yes, twice for emphasis) deadlines ~ sanity sustained by pure will, innumerable chats with the Universe, bouts of lavender sniffing and heaping doses of hot fudge ~ I look out my window and see a lone tulip in an unexpected spot, happy and proud as can be where it landed; and while admiring this cheerful sprout, I’m reminded that we have arrived at Earth Day.

In my still rattled brain, I can’t recall if there’s something more significant to Earth Day than honoring this amazing planet we call home, but that’s enough for me.

I grew up with woods as my private playground, with lawn and gardens and trees attentively cared for by my farmer-turned-engineer father whose love for the earth was profound ~ all of which found its way into my mother’s poetry and onto my the pages of my sketchbooks (when my presence wasn’t required for the dreaded chore of weeding). It also found its way into my heart.

I am a lover of the earth. I have, on occasion, been known to hug trees. I find solace in mountains, renewal in the sea, joy in the nightingale’s song and peace while digging in the dirt. I love a cathedral ceiling of deep green hickory leaves as much as the wide open, top-down desert sky watching over red clay carpet and brightly colored lizards and noble cactus families. Grass between my toes. Wind in my hair. Sun on my skin. Rain on my roof. All of it.

The earth is miracle after miracle. Inspiration. Replenishment. It is living, breathing strength, tenderness, wisdom and resilience.

Be good to Mother Earth. She is our lifeblood.

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Really, I’m Fine

April 19, 2015 § 7 Comments

These things are sent to try us. When it rains it pours. This too shall pass. All things for a reason. Yada yada.

Sometimes life seems to run roughshod over your best intentions. Drizzling calamity over your best laid plans, mocking your sense of responsibility. (You got that covered? HA! I think not.) Throw in this twist and that turn, this disappointment and that aggravation, and pretty soon even the most stoic among us become like Sandra Boynton’s cow in the field.

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Yea. Sometimes that happens. And yet, the show must go on. And it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings. But not to worry, because all’s well that ends well. ;)

Staying Humble

April 12, 2015 § 10 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.

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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.

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