This one is a low tide in the spring, when the leaves are coming out and the grass is that vibrant green!
Life has been busy, and I've been taking a break from the book about Thailand and Laos I was working on. Instead, I have been doing little watercolors, tiny, 5" x 7" paintings. I can make good progress on these when I have only and hour or even one half hour at a time to spend in the studio. I'll start several, go do some errands while the paint dries, then come back and add more color or more detail. It may take several sittings, but I've got half a dozen finished before I know it!
This one is a low tide in the spring, when the leaves are coming out and the grass is that vibrant green!
Journal entry, January 16th, 2009
The Halls were pioneer missionaries in Laos, just prior to the Vietnam War. Dick had a Seventh Day Adventist congregation in what is now Luang Namtha. He built a small church and established a school to teach children (mostly boys, I think) to read. He had a Cessna plane, a little 4-seater, which he used to reach villages in the jungle.
Last night, Dick told me what happened when the Vietnam War spilled into the civil war in Laos, in about 1960.
“It was Sabbath, and I was preaching the sermon when a U.S. Helicopter landed outside the church. All the people gathered around it. Without even turning off the engine or shutting down the blades, the pilot called down and told the people that they were surrounded on all sides by Communists, and needed to evacuate.
I stopped preaching and started flying.”
Dick started ferrying people out across the Mekong River to Thailand in his Cessna. They took out the seats and were able to fit as in many as 13 people. As word spread, the towns people crowded around the plane, and would not move away until not even one more child would fit in. Dick would taxi to the end of the runway, thinking if it looked like the plane wouldn't take off, he would need to make some people get out. He never had to put anyone off the plane. "It was as though there were angels under the wings", he told me.
“Put a white cloth on the ground in front of the church,” Dick told told the boys who stayed behind. “When the communists come, take it away”. Dick would circle around, and if he saw the while cloth, he would know it was safe to land. He worried, though, that the communists would come at night and the boys wouldn't have a chance to take away the white cloth.
“I flew people out, flight after flight, for 2 and a half days. I didn't know when I might be landing in a trap.”
Many of the people were wives and children of the military who were fighting the communists, and were prime targets for communist retribution.
“The people would crowd around the plane and not move aside so I could take off, until there wasn't room for one more person. I wondered how the plane could get off the ground so full. It was as though there were angels under the wings.
On my last trip, the people who knew they would not make it out begged to be baptized. I told them, if they would follow the teachings I had given them, they would be saved even without baptism. As I took off, I could see them below, crying and pounding the ground in their terror.”
Tomorrow, we are going into Bangkok to get our visas for Laos. No wonder I couldn't sleep!
Here is Mike
red brown hair, cut short
an observer, a scientist, loves to draw
likes order but not overly concerned about it
loves to watch exciting action
wears muted colors, earth colors (browns, grays, olive green, tan)
"Gram" and "Gramps" are -- well I can't help imagining Jean as Gram and Dick as Gramps. I see Jean as always being prepared with food and snacks for the children, and Dick as compassionate and comforting--the protector. I don't know if Mike and Mindy will make it into the book, but having them "with" me on the trip gave me a another perspective. My journal notes with them in mind really fleshed out the experience for me.
Perhaps they belong in a book of their own.
The temple courtyard on the way to Riki's house was packed with dogs; Mike counted 42. Mindy stayed very close to Gramps as they walked through. "When people don't want their dogs anymore, the Buddhist monks take care of them," Riki explained. "Thai people don't believe in neutering them, though they are beginning to."
Mindy wondered what lives in the water the houses have their feet in. "Fish", said Riki. "Crocodiles", said Mike. Mindy peered into the water to see if she could spot any crocodiles, but all she saw were empty water bottles and coconut husks.
Mindy wouldn't go to bed that night, thinking about crocodiles, although Mike told her that “crocodiles don't eat little girls, only sometimes a careless bird” and Riki assured her she had never seen a crocodile in the water. Mindy felt sorry for the birds and would not be comforted. Then Mike called out, “snakes live in the water too!” and Riki agreed that might be true.
That did it! Mindy wouldn't go to sleep until Gram and Gramps let her sleep with them. Mike thought that Riki's orange hunter cat, Charlie, would kill any snakes, so he lured Charlie into the room to protect him. Luckily, he and Charlie were fast friends, and Charlie didn't mind.
Mindy bounced out of bed as soon as it was light, but Mike lay in bed awhile listening to the temple dogs barking, to people nearby talking in words he couldn't understand, and to the "whoop whoop" sound of a strange bird. Riki was already at work, but Gram fixed breakfast. Mindy tried the sticky rice, but wasn't too sure about the mangoes and coconut milk. Luckily, there was granola too.
I've GOT to stop checking the news before bed! I wake up feeling grouchy and scared and vulnerable. If I don't get a chance to do some art, I stay grouchy--just ask my beloved Rich. I feel like I'm wasting my life!
On the other hand, a whimsical doodle like this one can remind me to sing!
Do you see the eyes? This "Winged Vase" reminds me of Mary Litchfield Tuel singing, "Make me a vessel of Thy Love"
The news last night--cruise missiles heading for Syria--hurt my heart so much! I have never felt such deep emotional pain. I thought of all the people who have had to flee the war. I thought of Jemilla and her five children who fled first to Turkey, then came here for medical attention she could not get there, of Safa, who fled Aleppo when there was not food, no work, no homes, no hospital, no diapers for the baby.
Most especially, I thought of Jamila "Rose Anne" saying in tears, "When I left Syria, the county was stable; now it is destroyed." And that was before the terrible events of this week!
Prayer helped a little. Talking with Rifaat helped a little. Even so, I found myself wondering if there was some drug I could take that would help me escape from the pain. I now understand why people get addicted to drugs and alcohol!
I was exhausted this morning from mourning all night, so Rifaat took me out for breakfast at Sporty's. "Lets Make A Deal" was on the big screen T.V., as usual.
Suddenly, I understood the silly costumes, the exorbitant prizes, the anticipation, the excitement. It makes a wonderful distraction for people caught in pain, emotional or physical. So, It has it's place.
But I don't want my life to be about distraction, so I tend to take it in small doses. Distraction that is (not life!).
Then I called one of my spiritual teachers, Khadija.
Khadija said that those of us who are emphatic or who are on a spiritual path, are more sensitive now, as things heat up. That some of the greatest Spiritual growth and insights seem to happen when the world is in greatest turmoil.
She reminded me how important it is to stay grounded in the Divine and in one's center (or Dantien, or Hara), and gave me a practice to help with that. She told me that the usual translation of "Allah Ho Akbar" as "God is the Greatest" is incorrect; it compares God, and God is incomparable. A better translation she says, is "Peace (Divine Peace) is Power."
God's Peace is Power. If I can stay grounded in that, perhaps I can weather these times and keep my sanity, and maybe even bring some peace to those around me!
My cousin Riki's house in Bangkok is in a village in the middle of a swamp--or what use to be a swamp. When I first visited, in 1997, every house in the village had a boat for the family "car". Houses line the canals--the klong--each with steps down to the water.
We arrived by four wheeled taxi, though. The taxi let us off at the gate of the Buddhist temple. We walked past the crematorium, past the temple, through the 40-60 dogs lounging in the shade. People abandoned dogs at the temple to be cared for; no Pet Protectors there! No neutering or spaying either.
We dragged our suitcases over a narrow foot bridge and came to a sidewalk with water on both sides. Riki's house is along this sidewalk. Her house is on a cement foundation, with the first floor more of an open air family area and the living area on the second floor.
There are watermarks about 1 1/2 feet up the walls of the first floor, left over from occasional floods.
I visited her again in 2009, with my uncle and aunt, Dick and Jean Hall. The Halls were missionaries in Thailand and in Laos in the late 1950's, when the Vietnamese war spilled over into the ongoing civil war in Laos. Dick and Jean took me to visit friends in Thailand and Laos, telling me stories of their lives and people as we traveled. I met the 80 year old dentist who taught Dick to pull teeth in Namtha. I met the Lao man who was inspired to become a doctor when, as a child of 8, he watched Dick do surgery on a man with a shotgun wound to his face. I met many such people and heard their stories!
I plan to create a book, using my sketches and notes of that trip, featuring Dick and Jean's stories. As I develop this project, I plan to send out occasional posts such as this one. You are welcome to comment!
Sometimes I walk down the hill to Tramp Harbor Beach, through the little community of Ellisport and on down to KVI beach. I cross the bridge where the children and I sometimes play "Pooh sticks". We throw sticks into the fast running current and rush to the other side to see whose stick comes out first. The pool drained by the current is dry at low tide; killdeer skitter across the mud. When the tide is in, Mallards swim there.
One day when I got home, I sketched the my favorite memories of the day.
I'm doing a long overdue studio cleaning and organization and found some pretty cool stuff in old sketch books! I found spot sketches of people in the coffee shop, the store, or where-ever, little water colors of trees or beach, doodles from waiting in lines or riding the ferry. There are Zentangles (patterned doodles), Life Drawings (people who actually posed), and thumbnails for work I might do.
And especially exciting--
Travel sketches from Thialand, Indonesia, Laos, and China
Sketches from sailing in the San Juans and Gulf Islands
Some of these things I plan to work up into a book or three, especially the travel and sailing sketches. In the meantime, while I am sorting through things, would you like a peek into what I am finding?
This is from one of the sketch books I took sailing with me. This Madrona was painted from the deck of our sailboat Sea Change, anchored in our favorite spot in James Bay, Canadian Gulf Islands.
Sea Change is a 32' Pearson Vanguard sloop that Bob and I owned in partnership with friends.
The sketch inspired two paintings on silk; one I gave to my boat partners. This is the one I kept.
I am excited about what I am finding and would like to share some sketches with you. While I'm calling this project "Sketch a Day", I actually plan on sending a sketch 3 x a week, with a little story/explanation about the sketch. If you would like to receive a sketch 3x a week.
When the world seems dark and scary, we need each other. We need ways to connect, to support each other, to create a common vision. Danielle Fodor does this with her art.
I met Danielle on a visit to California; she hosted my husband and I on our trip to learn about olive trees at UC Davis. I love Danielle's work and am impressed by her way of working.
Danielle is a muralist in Davis, CA. She lives with her son Raul and her husband Luis in a housing co-op unit. We fell in love with bright inquisitive Raul, who is being home schooled!
One neighborhood asked Danielle to help them design a mural for their street. Danielle gathered ideas from everyone, asking what they value, what they want their neighborhood to be like. People said birds are important, and creativity, and nature. One man grows bamboo and many of the neighbors host his bamboo plants in front of their houses. A lovely oak tree graces the corner where the mural would be. A cat wanders around the neighborhood making friends with everyone. The mural was to be painted on the pavement in a wide circle area where the road takes a sharp left.
Danielle's design included all these ideas. She made stencils of flowers, birds, cat, bees. Bamboo on the pavement "grew" out from bamboo in front of a house on the corner. In front of another house, an oak tree spread it's branches on the pavement design. Here was a cat, there was a bird. Was that a dolphin representing creativity? Nope, Danielle says:
there is no dolphin as it turns out, but a hummingbird who represents creativity reaching out into the city. But you can leave it if you like. I like dolphins, too!! And that's your role as the observer, seeing what you see. There is a fish -- a mosquito fish. The aquatic side turns into the neighborhood, which represent the quieter side of turning into our homes, observing, resting, nurturing ourselves.
In the middle of it all, there is a huge joyous yellow flower surrounded by orange ones!
Danielle helped the community chalk the design onto the pavement and handed everyone a brush and a paint can. When the mural was finished, people did not want to stop. In keeping with their value of creativity, they used the stencils and left over paint to decorate their driveways!
A friend took this video with a little drone:
The photos are from the Davis Media page, except for the bottom two, which are mine.
The Old Testament, the Torah, and the sayings of Mohammed all have have similar injunctions against making images. The Revised Standard Edition of the Bible, Exodus 20:4, says, " You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the water below." Even the Book of Mormon says this, (Mosiah 12:36).
Wait, what!!?? I am an artist! Creating pictures is what I do! My home is full of my paintings, of flowers, trees, even dragons! Yet it is full of joy and I do feel blessed by the presence of angels. What can the Prophets have meant? Why do so many scriptures forbid image making? Do they only refer to idols, or to all representational art?
What would life be like without representational art? No portraits, no statues of people or animals, no paintings of flowers. Paintings by Rembrant would have to go. No Monet, no Van Gough. No troll under the bridge in Freemont, Seattle. No Statue of Liberty. No family photographs. No stuffed animals even!
A huge piece of my world would not be there! What would fill it's place?
In the Arabic world, in the old testament world, words were highly valued. Poetry was the preferred art form. An yet, poetry depends not only on the sweetness of sound, but also on the images it makes in the mind. One makes images not only with line, color, and shape, but also with words and sound.
Do these commandments about making images refer to ANY images, or just to idols?
For me, creating art is a way of celebrating creation, whether it is the way seaweed gathers at the tide line in fall, or the uniqueness of a particular woman or man. Creating art is a way of honoring the creator. It is an act of worship, not for what I create, but for the Creator.
I wonder if the millennia old traditions of making images to worship made it hard for people to think of representational art having any other purpose?
What do you think?
How would our minds work differently if art was never representational? If visual art was patterns and abstracts only? Would we perceive the meaning of life differently? Give no meaning at all to art? Would the abundance of patterns encourage more mathematical thinking? Would the lack of images of people affect our ability to emphasize with others?