I confess, I am in love with trees, especially in summer. And the woods! The way the sunlight splashes through the leaves is magical! I've been posting photos and sketches of trees on Instagram daily, reviewing my photos for inspiration and taking new ones, and walking in the sunlit woods with my camera and sketchbook in hand.
I've been exploring using new colors trying to capture the magic of the woods.
The trees seem to have personalities! Mythical creatures abound!
Suddenly, today it all seems pointless. My usual bubbly self has disappeared and I don't want to pick up a brush. I'm grieving. I have been celebrating trees while the most magnificent rain forest on earth is burning.
Is that irony? Or have I been in denial for the past few days?
Or perhaps I'm more in touch with the pulse of the world than I give myself credit for, and my celebration of trees is an important thing to do right now.
With each photo and each sketch, I am saying to the world--and to myself--
Trees are important.
Trees are beautiful.
Trees are to be cherished!"
We see not only with our eyes but with all that we are and all that our culture is.
I did a little painting and asked people what they saw in it. Many saw what I thought I painted--a joyful, playful image of children dancing with trees--but many did not! As I work to illustrate for children, this is very valuable information. Here are some of what people saw:
*"Why is the forest on fire?" The color is "hot, sun-like."
*"Joyful and playful."
*"A weird color."
*"The pink and yellow sky add to the bright energy."
*"Look ghostly", "like monsters."
*"Invite us to join in their warm, deep, soft, free and joyful world..."
*"Need to have more bark color and texture."
*"The tree on the right is scary."
*"Are trying hard but stressed."
*"Faces give more dimension to the children,"
Some people saw hope and joy, others saw sadness and the tragedy of climate change and our disconnect with nature.
So, I definitely need to work on this some more. First I did some experimenting with colors. I did 6 drafts, painted copies on plain copy paper.
I still need to work on the trees and give the child on the left a face, so back to the drawing board!
Your suggestions and comments are always appreciated.
I just posted my first YouTube video! A friend (Scott Gaul) helped me take the video and edit it. Very exciting!
I haven't quite figured out how to load it here. I followed the directions, and nothing happened, so here's the url:
The video is me, reading my first Children's Picture Book, Atom's Monster.
What do you do when you wake up with a monster in your room? When my 4 year old son woke up screaming, "there's a monster in my room!" I told him this story and later made it into a book. He and his little brother modeled for the illustrations! Now the son is a father and has shared the story with his 4 year old son.
When I made the story into a book, I was interested--still am--in ways to overcome fear without violence. We are taught that there are three ways we react to fear: fight, flight, or freeze. I believe there is another way, the hardest way of all: Stand and meet the thing that terrifies you with love, or at least without hatred.
I'm still learning this technique.
I'm working on a new story, The Seagull's Gift, inspired by our many field trips to the beach when I had Suzanna's School. I'm playing with different ways to depict my main character for picture book, Aria. She loves sounds, colors, and feels. She's a bit bossy. Here's my first attempt:
I think, though, that Aria is a bit sassy:
Too sassy? How about this?
What do you think?
Here are some more thoughts on illustrations for the book:
Here are the twins. They may or may not be in this story, but I'm sure we'll see them in a story soon!
It was a typical hot dusty day in the town of Oatman, in about 1978, when I bought these quilt tops from a swap meeter beside the road, Old Route 66. I paid only $25, but to me, they seemed truly precious.
Those hand sewn quilts I got from a swap meeter in Oatman almost 40 years ago--why did I hang on to them for so long?
I've been writing and drawing, trying to get to the bones of their meaning for me, remembering that hot dusty spring day--I think it was spring--when my neighbor was clearing out his grief when his wife died by selling the pieces of her life.
I tried painting the quilts before I sent them home.
That didn't come out well.
I tried drawing them as they might have looked in the old steamer trunk where I found them.
.Still no good.
When I touched them, there was something about the maker in every stitch, something that spoke to me over the years. Something that gave me hope that my chaotic life with young children and a stoner prospector life mate could someday have some order.
I tried to draw that. Twice.
I'm still not satisfied, but I think--I THINK--I like the bottom one best. What do you think? Any suggestions? I'm a big girl; you can tear these apart with ideas about what would make the images work better.
For 400 years the Alati family textile and clothing store served customers in the world famous La Medina Souq (Market) in Aleppo. Then the bombing started. Iad and his pregnant wife Safa fled with their baby to Turkey as their store was reduced to rubble.
In Turkey, Iad (pronounced Ee-ad) did whatever work he could find while Safa learned to speak enough Turkish to translate for refugees needing medical help. Eventually, Iad was able to open a clothing and textile store in Istanbul, with a long time friend. Still, at that time their refugee status prevented them getting passports for the children, or even green cards in Turkey. The UN helped them to get the paperwork they needed to come to the U.S. They arrived in Chicago the day before the president closed U.S. boarders to all Syrians
They arrived speaking not a word of English. Once again, they had to start over. “We did it in Turkey,” Iad said. “We can do it again.”
Today, with Safa’s eye for fashion and Iad’s contacts in Turkey, along with experience in the restaurant business Iad has picked up along the way, Safa and Iad are in business again. Safa sells Women’s fashions from Turkey. Iad makes Baklava from his family’s traditional recipe and cooks dinners for up to 100 people. Their vision is to have a clothing store and restaurant together, the Alati Souq reborn in America!
Last Saturday, I hosted the Alati Souq for a trunk show in my home.
We served Turkish tea in little Turkish Tea glasses, sampled Iad's Baklava, Yalangi (grape leaves stuffed with vegetables), and Fatayir (pastry stuffed with cheese), and tried on Safa's scarves and sweaters imported from Turkey.
Iad brought their two little girls, Juju (6) and Huda (7). The loving natures of both the children and their parents enveloped us all. When it was over, Juju gave me many hugs while we put things away, and Huda wrote me love notes with first grade spellings.
When I walked into the living room 2 days later, I could still feel the love and excitement of the event, like the fragrance of jasmine perfuming my home.
How can I explain the way this family has become a part of my family, and the joy it brings me?
Some bouquets are quickly forgotten--those I buy for myself, those someone brings for a dinner party, or those I put on the table to dress up the house for a gathering. Some, however, stick in my mind for ever. I still remember a handful of tiny blue irises a boyfriend gave me many years ago on Valentines Day, the huge bouquet my in laws sent when my husband Bob died,
the bouquet my beloved Rich/Rifaat brought me from an outdoor market just because. I even named that one: "Satisfied Woman".
I immortalize many of these in paintings or prints
After the Middle East Celebration/fundraiser the other night, Mary Rose was handing out bouquets to thank people for their involvement. Of course she gave one to Erin. Erin did an amazing job putting together the entertainment on short notice! Of course she gave bouquets to Iad and Jamila, who did the cooking for 100 people. But when she turned to me and handed me a bouquet "for all the work you do with the families as needed as well as for this event", I was so surprised I forgot to say thank you. This bouquet will be one of the immortals.
It goes beside the bouquet Rich received last week to honor him for his work organizing the Home2Vashon fundraiser (They raised thousands of dollars to help pay ferry fare for people going off island for cancer treatment! The final count isn't in yet).
Our two bouquets standing together bear witness to our shared love for our community.
Some beauty has come to live inside me today.
It feels open, colorful,
Tiled walls in blue and white or red and gold patterns
(photo from my visit to a Sufi mosque)
(inspired by dinner at Cafe Turko, Seattle)
It tastes like fresh pomegranite seeds, and black tea with lots of sugar
It smells like Jasmine, and mint, and roses and fresh air
(silk scarf inspired by Syrian refugees)
It sounds like the oud (Arabian instrument) and Illahes (music to praise God) and poetry spoken in Arabic
I want to stop thinking of people in terms of their country's military or economic importance to the U.S. and begin to appreciate the beauty of their ancient artistic traditions and the love in their hearts.
The other day I joined a group of friends playing music at the Snap Dragon Cafe. It's an informal group. Many of the musicians are graying, and most happen to be Caucasian. Whoever shows up has the opportunity to share a song while the rest sing along, listen, or accompany on their instruments. Sometimes I sit with them, sketching as they play.
This time a young black man joined us. Artis is from the east coast. He told us he moved out of his house and is touring and playing music with a group of friends.
When it was his turn to share a song, he sang of being together, as community. As friends. Just being.
I thought of "Black Lives Matter" and the backlash it is getting. I thought of how lately neighbors have called the police on black men, even when they are in their own homes or the yard of a relative! Even totally innocent, they have been identified as theives, as somehow dangerous, and shot, even killed. It occurred to me that Artis, is on a mission of healing, of helping to bring the races into better understanding, through music.
Artis is a treasure. I have known other black men who were gentle spirited as well, and never met one who was in the least disrespectful of me, and yet some people view black men as dangerous, as "the enemy". Why?
And who is the enemy?
When a neighbor calls the police on a black man who is in his grandmother's back yard and the police shoot and kill him when he pulls out a cell phone, who is the enemy? Is it the neighbor? The police? The black man?
My friend Edna says,
"I do not shrink from using the word "enemy": an enemy is any person or group who seek to do us harm, and there are now many powerful people who are doing great harm and need to be opposed."
For her, the enemy is "powerful people who are doing great harm", particularly to the environment and to less powerful people. For some people the enemy is black men, or immigrants, or liberals, or Republicans, or corporations, or....the list goes on. And there are people in all those categories who may be "doing great harm", but there are also many more people in all those categories who are doing great good.
Perhaps "the enemy" is not a group of people, maybe not even a particular person. Maybe "the enemy" is thought patterns that do great harm, especially when people act on them. What if we stopped fighting people who belong to this or that group we fear and instead oppose the actions of those people, and work to change the thought patterns?
My image of the little white girl playing with one of my silks
jars my sense of justice
when I think of the little brown children
separated from their parents
crying with no one to comfort them.
I pray for--no, I demand--a humane way to deal with people who come to us asking for help, for safety.
I demand a government that upholds the promise in our Pledge of Alliegence: Liberty and Justice for ALL--all the people, not just white folks like me who happened to be born into citizenship.
And always there is the painful question: what can I do?
Inspired by the places where land meets water, and by stories.