What is an Artist?

From Under the Pages

Orchid and Wasp

An artist is someone who:

Sees it all right away,
sees it in a different way,
pisses people off
doesn’t really care if people understand her or not
trusts her judgment
knows she is right
worries about what people think
wants to be liked
knows she will never be understood (in this life)
Must have chocolate every day
is obsessed with beauty
will hunt truth to the death
wants to live… really live
is interested in what other people think (and especially IF they think)
MUST see others’ art
loves the greats
needs to share
needs sunshine and plants
needs animals
ponders stuff she doesn’t think is great—but not for too long
must communicate
needs to be loved
can’t stand routine
needs self-discipline
is painfully sensitive
forgets what time it is
does it for love
obsesses over an idea
is anxious about the future of the world
is anxious about…

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Chilling Church Embers

Burnt Church 4

A visit to San Francisco’s De Young Museum on a calm Tuesday revealed, as always, some intriguing discoveries. An unexpectedly poignant piece is an installation of the charred remains of an Alabama church, suspended on wires from the ceiling. On entering, you feel as though you have walked into a super slow-motion explosion scene from an action movie; time slows to a standstill, and as you watch the blackened wood fragments hover in mid-air, the devastation seeps into your consciousness. This was a Black Baptist church, burnt by arsonists.

The very personable museum worker pointed out a piece of the piano wires, here, and a section of a pew, there; he even pointed out a piece of blackened wood that resembles the hand of Christ signaling peace. The work, entitled “Anti-Mass,” was created by Cornelia Parker in 2005.

Fascinating Finds at Pillar Point

Heading south from San Francisco toward Half Moon Bay, a worthwhile stop is Princeton-by-the-Sea, a small fishing community with a great collection of seafood restaurants on a wharf overlooking Pillar Point, the site of the (mostly) annual Mavericks surf competition. In the winter, a unique combination of factors makes for monster waves that attract hard-core surfers to the invitation-only event. The rest of the year, fishermen moor their boats here and fish for salmon, Dungeness crab, and other fresh seafood in season, which they sell directly off of the pier. A reliably good place to eat is Ketch Joanne, serving great seafood dinners, as well as traditional breakfasts, sandwiches, and burgers. Their Dungeness crab Louie or cocktail is not to be missed.

Kayak rentals are available by the hour on Princeton’s harbor, which is protected from the ocean by a series of breakwaters.

Walking along the rocky jetty at Pillar Point on a breezy May afternoon, I found a bird skull (maybe from a seagull) and vertebra, as well as a lot of crab pincers and some seashells. You never know what you’re going to find at Pillar Point!

Open Your Eyes, Kitty!

It must be summer. And I must have very strong mothering instincts. Well, I know that I do, since I happen to be a mom. Anyway, they led me to become kitten rescuer extraordinaire today.

(I should preface all this briefly by saying that I have never been a cat person per se. I have not had any personal grudge against the species (though many in my family have); it’s more that I haven’t had a lot of experience with cats.)

Somehow, I had talked my teenage daughter into washing my car (oh, I remember now: I had offered her money). As she was dutifully finishing up, I went to get a towel so I could “help her” dry. As I went to get the towel, I heard insistent mewing from the back yard. My daughter has always had a soft spot for animals, and the feral kittens in the yard are no exception. I told my daughter, and she came running. I dried the car myself.

Let me back up a moment. When I say “feral kittens,” I say it with a proviso, in deference to a tacit, but very real, agreement between this particular family of Felis silvestris and my own Homo sapiens unit. You see, the mother of this mewing kitten (the latter being now approximately seven weeks old) was once herself a mewing feral kitten, prancing naïvely between our neighbor’s front-yard rose bushes with her litter-mates, while Mom was otherwise occupied. It was cold and windy, and night was about to fall. Her mewing had triggered my (then pre-teen) daughter’s maternal reflex, and mine, too. Despite my husband’s caution (“The mom will smell your scent and abandon her kittens!”),

we scooped up the two slowest ones and brought them into our living room, delightedly stroking their tiny little heads and letting them curl up in our laps and cling to our clothing with their tiny fish-bone claws. We had serious concerns that the mom might have abandoned them. We would be the benevolent and compassionate animal welfare monitors, who would responsibly take the kittens to the SPCA to have them spayed and neutered and prevent unchecked population growth (already evidenced by a cat under every parked car on our street). I even went to Safeway and bought some kitten formula and a few cans of kitten food (they hated the formula but ate the food). We kept them in a box on the back porch with a little towel to keep them cozy, while we feverishly looked up how to care for kittens on the Internet.

Continue reading “Open Your Eyes, Kitty!”

Las de se faire aimer …


“Tout ce que j’ai prédit n’est que trop assuré :
Contre Britannicus Néron s’est déclaré.
L’impatient Néron cesse de se contraindre ;
Las de se faire aimer, il veut se faire craindre.*”

– Jean Racine, Britannicus, 1669


My translation:

“All that I have predicted is only too real:
Nero has declared himself against Britannicus.
The impatient Nero has lost all self-restraint;
Weary of seeking to be loved, he would rather be feared.

In this first scene of Act I of the famous neoclassical French play, Agrippine, the mother of Emperor Nero, uneasily confides to her friend Albine about her son’s intention to steal away Junie, the fincée of Agrippine’s stepson Britannicus.

*(text bolding added)

Dive and chase

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A mother’s Day treat today was watching two sea birds dart and soar through the sky in search of fish … and then fight over the catch.

Shooting fast-moving birds in flight is not an easy proposition, and it quickly makes obvious the limits of an automatic point-and-shoot camera. Pulling out to maximum zoom, it was all I could do to nab the birds in my view-finder, and then with a lightning reflex “click,” I hoped the shot would be focused enough to capture the instant. The photos are not very sharp. Still, I thought this not bad for a few moments of effort on an easy morning stroll.