Category Archives: Art

Appearances: Hiding our shabby underwear

back-wallOn our walking tour of Bath, England, our tour guide took us first to the back alleys of the ancient city.

He pointed out the squat walls, the irregular bricks, and the ordinary doorway the servants would have used to come and go. We noted the patchwork stonework and the unremarkable nature of the architecture.

Then we walked around to the spectacular front of “The Circus.”

Here three curved terraces surround a circular centre park. Here the architecture is not irregular, ordinary or patchwork. The ornate façades have carefully ordered and beautifully maintained design.

bath-circus

It was all about appearances, you know.

The people of the Georgian period cared little about the comfort or welfare of their servants, but they cared very much about appearances and protocol. If their homes, their clothing and their activities met societal expectations of the time, they spared little thought for what happened in the back alleys.

We know now that their habit of hiding misery behind ornate façades is as productive as plastering over a mildewed bathroom wall and as unsatisfactory as wearing your favourite outfit over uncomfortable underwear. Why do you think our parents always told us to wear clean underwear in case we end up in hospital? We never know when at turn of events might reveal our hidden secrets.  

But who am I to point fingers? When I work in my gardens, I take care of the ones in front of my house first—the ones that people see. My back gardens have been sadly neglected for years. “Who sees them?” I ask myself.

I do. And it has always bothered me that those poor backyard gardens get short shrift. “Oh, what lovely gardens you have,” people say when they pass my house. They don’t see the shabbier, neglected ones out back, but, like a pair of uncomfortable underwear, their presence niggles at me.

The high society 18th Century residents of The Circus, Bath probably never dreamed that several hundred years later a group of tourists would tramp through their back alleys and judge their shabby “underwear.”

You never know when a turn of events might reveal your hidden secrets, do you? 

It’s a sunny day. Maybe I’ll head out and work in my back garden . . .

 

 

 

 

12 steps to your dreams: Paulo Coelho and Alan Cohen

I am taking a summer blog break. While I refill my creative well, enjoy more thoughts advice from Paulo Coelho.

“. . . a system of twelve steps to help people to rediscover their “blessing.”

___________

“Dreams: the 12 steps”

http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2012/09/25/dreams-the-12-steps/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PauloCoelhosBlog+%28Paulo+Coelho%27s+Blog%29

 

Time and space for creativity: John Cleese

“. . . it’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking, and it’s also easier to do little things  we know we can do than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about. —John Cleese

I’ll be taking a blog break for the next few weeks—time to refill my creative well. While I enjoy this breather, I will ponder the wisdom of the oh-so-creative John Cleese and his five keys to creativity:

1. Space – a playful a creative space away from demands, an “oasis of quiet”

2. Time – a specific period of time, because play must begin and end, otherwise it is not play

3. Time (No. That’s not a typo.) – all the time the creativity requires to turn a problem into an opportunity

4. Confidence – openness to anything that might happen

5. Humour –  silliness

When I return from playing on the open road, I will seek to play in his open mode.

A bow tie, (ears?) and a hot pink feather

noteMany of our most successful writers recommend a daily walk as a source of inspiration. I am beginning to see why. Both of this week’s post arose out of incidents along the route of my daily walk.

Tuesday I wrote about camp counselors’ hats in “Do you love it or do you love it?”, and yesterday I found this note on the ground:

  • Bring:
  • bow tie
  • (ears?)
  • hot pink feather

I thought, “Whoa, I want to go to that party.” 

Bow ties are making comeback, so I wasn’t too surprised by that one. But what kind of bow tie did the writer have in mind? I ran through the list of possibilities. A classic black tuxedo tie, a dignified plaid one, or maybe a large, droopy hot pink number to match the feather?

I wondered why (ears?) needed parentheses and a question mark. Most of us come with ears firmly attached, so I assume the (ears?) referred to here would be detachable accessories. Perhaps the person needed to be Yoda, or a cat, or Spock. But not for certain, because of that question mark. Perhaps a friend could bring the (ears?) instead. Or perhaps the person felt that, with a bow tie and a hot pink feather already in play, (ears?) would be just too much—over the top.

Oh yes, the hot pink feather. That really made me smile. What day doesn’t get a little better with a hot pink feather? I pictured a luscious Ostrich-sized one. A puny one simply wouldn’t do.

As I walked on I realized I was close to the intermediate school in our area, and the note was likely a leftover from the school play at the end of the year. Then I pictured a child saying to a parent, “Oh yeah. I need a bow tie, (ears?) and a hot pink feather for tomorrow.” This would happen at 9:01 p.m., immediately after all the stores had closed for the day. (Similar scenarios played out in our house more than once.)

The writer of this note dropped it along the way. Did that mean that he or she arrived home and thought, “I know I was supposed to bring something. Now, what was it again?” Did a droopy, hot pink bow tie make it to the event? What about the poor, questionable (ears?)?

Stephen King is one of those writers who recommends a daily walk. Now I understand how he comes up with those out-of-this-world ideas of his.

 

 

Pendulum swings and evolution: Tucked or untucked

A few summers ago at our cottage, I sat at the kitchen table with my then 15-year-old daughter, my niece, my nephews and my brother-in-law. While we sat, my husband—happy and unsuspecting—came in from outside. My daughter gave him a disdainful look.

“Tucked, Dad?” she said. “You look like a goof.”

My husband, who until that instant had been perfectly happy with his wardrobe, looked down  and said, “What?”

“Untuck your shirt, Dad.”

I haven’t lived as long as some, but I have lived long enough to see fashion trends circle around a time or two: tucked/untucked, platform/no platform, stiletto/flats, wide leg/skinny jeans. Each time the fashion pendulum swings back, it brings fashion that has evolved slightly from the previous version: collarless shirts/button downs, earth shoes/ballet slippers, 4-star Howicks/harem pants, etc.

My nephew had his video camera at hand, so with a room full of witnesses, I made a bet with my daughter: “Within ten years, tucked will be back in and untucked will be out.”

A few weeks later, my daughter emerged from her room wearing a pair of jeans with a belt and a shirt—tucked in.

“Your tucked, honey,” I said.

“Yeah, this shirt needs to be tucked.”

“Geez, I didn’t even need to wait ten years,” I said. “It’s already happened.”

Such a common mistake—believing that what’s now will be forever. We look around us and assume things will always be the same. We think the Berlin Wall will always stand, the Soviet Union will never dissolve, and the tattoo we ink on our skin will be meaningful for a lifetime. We underestimate our capacity to create positive change. and we forget the inevitable evolution of life and the surprising changes it creates in us.

But the pendulum swings. It always does. Evolution happens. It always does. 

Have faith, get ready, and think long and hard about that tattoo.

The sacrament of waiting: . . .

winter-waitingThe sun shines in my window this morning in a February kind of way.  Winter wanes.

I celebrate the sacrament of waiting for a new kind of spring beauty.

As our calendars turn from January to February, I share with you this beautiful poem by Macrina Wiederkehr. Macrina is a Benedictine sister, author, and lover of the spiritual who blogs at Under the Sycamore Tree. Her poem celebrates the sacrament of letting go as a natural part of life. When we’re stripped down, vulnerable, and “wearing the colors of emptiness” we live the sacrament of waiting, ready for a new, surprising kind of beauty.

The Sacrament of Letting Go

© Macrina Wiederkehr

Slowly
she celebrated the sacrament of letting go.
First she surrendered her green,
then the orange, yellow, and red.
finally she let go of her own brown.
Shedding her last leaf
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare.
Leaning against the winter sky,
she began her vigil of trust.

Shedding her last leaf,
she watched it journey to the ground.
She stood in silence
wearing the colors of emptiness,
her branches wondering,
How do you give shade with so much gone?

And then,
the sacrament of waiting began.
The sunrise and the sunset watched with tenderness.
Clothing her with silhouettes
that kept her hope alive.

They helped her to understand that
her vulnerability,
her dependence and need,
her emptiness, her readiness to receive,
were giving her a new kind of Beauty.
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence,
and celebrated together
the sacrament of waiting.

© Macrina Wiederkehr

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