Sunday, April 29, 2007

Deep Talk

When does deep talk happen? I mean the conversations that touch us deeply, or where one or both of us are revealing things we normally don't share...

I know (from my own experience) it can happen with a psychologist, but that's not the kind of deep talk I mean.

What about the important conversations with kids, spouse, lover, friends? I think they happen partly by chance, when the right circumstances and emotional positions all line up. You can stack the odds by arranging a trip or a retreat; you can learn to listen well, and invite confidences, but I believe the opportunities still come and go largely by chance.

So you need lots of chances.

Even with teenagers, and different work and class schedules, we try hard to have dinner together every night. We succeed better than 90% of the time. The result is that someone is in the kitchen cooking for an hour or so beforehand. People drop into the kitchen, get caught up in conversation, and topics come and go. Dinner is often a continuation, with others joining in. We end up discussing the day's events, music, books, the arts, and inevitably we get around to values, beliefs, feelings. Could this happen on a schedule? Could it happen if we were rushed? Could it happen with us scattered in different seats in the car going out to dinner instead of cooking in our own kitchen?

By chance my love and I ended up in separate bedrooms on our last two week mountain vacation. It took almost the whole vacation to notice that we were not feeling close or relaxed. We realized one thing was a particular cause; we were not having bedtime conversations after the light was out.

I think that many of our most important talks MUST happen by chance, or woven into the natural fabric of the day. They can't be planned, because the moment has to take us by surprise for us to open up enough to talk - or listen.

And this is another strike against the myth of "quality time" that was so popular in the 90s. You can't have a great relationship on a schedule, or built out of really special, but infrequent moments. I would even venture that great conversations need something else going on, something to occupy just enough of the mind to let the rest free, to create the quiet pauses that allow someone to take the talk deeper. This is how we use cooking, eating, walking, and even getting ready for bed. This is what bedtime rituals are about, too - some reading aloud, a song, some conversation at the bedside before turning out the light.

Deep conversation comes out of silence, and peace, and time without pressure. It comes out during a meal with no set end time. It happens when there is no itinerary or agenda. Our feelings and inmost thoughts are shy and slow, and they don't come out until it's quiet and calm.

So when we fill our lives up with events and accomplishments and running, who do we become? Who do we become to each other? And what would happen if we had more open ended time and peace with each other? What would happen if we did less and were with each other more?

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."
Luke 10:38-42

Saturday, April 28, 2007

CD Cover - Grizzlies in Central Park

One of my watercolors that did not work out had at least one fun thing going on - the combination of the grizzly's ears and the headlights of a parked car. This painting was to be called "Grizzlies in Central Park," and it featured two grizzlies, some of the Park Ave copper-oxide green roofed buildings, trees, and, prominently, the famous Central Park street lamps.

When I burned a CD of some favs from my PC (so we could play them on the trip to VA) I cut this CD cover from the watercolor. Fringe benefit of having some failed pieces lying around. S CD1. The Central Park lamp posts also made a good cropping - but that's another CD.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hillsborough Farmer's Market

We love to go down to our lovely village and buy the best brown eggs, great vegetables (like two pounds of terrific chard! so hard to find good chard!) and maybe hear a little good music.

Thursday Thirteen - HOME

1. 900 miles and four days later, climbing the big hill on I-85 towards Hillsborough, "That's MY hill - my home is up there on top of that hill!"
2. The flowers in all the gardens around the house, eye poppingly pretty after 4 days of interstates and conference rooms.
3. Finding out that my love was on a walk already, dropping my bag, changing dress shoes for sneakers and dashing out to find her.
4. Knowing we almost always take the same evening route, because of the light, so I could take it backwards.
5. Seeing my love ahead of me going down one of the streets in our neighborhood.
6. The way the world had been only teasing until I saw her.
7. When my love heard me whistle our signal and turned, her smile and the way she skipped towards me.
8. The long hug when we met on the street.
9. The talk on the way home, washing away my trip.
10. Neighbors passing, smiling and waving at us as we walked, but leaving us to our tete-a-tete.
11. Just sandwiches for dinner after so many overly large portions on the road.
12. Seeing my children and talking with two during dinner, while the oldest was upstairs working on a story.
13. Being here thinking how lucky I am to have all this to come home to, and counting these 13 blessings.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Previous Post (Removed)

As long as our beliefs are held inside, and not shared in any way, it is easy for them to be flawed and still govern our thoughts and actions. Once you share them and people you trust and love can comment on them, you can see the flaws, and, hopefully you can change them or even discard them.

So the post on Beginnings and Endings, which some of you may have read before I removed it, helped me adjust some beliefs I have held that were fatalistic. They seem to offer some comfort on a small scale, but they don't really make any sense on a larger one. The Holocaust, the Virginia Tech tragedy - these can't be understood, really. Christ spoke of two tragedies in His own time, but explained neither. He burst some common explanations given by teachers in His day, but He did not offer an alternate explanation.

The broken nature of humanity partially explains these horrors, but it can't make us comprehend God's portion. Free will and God's desire for us to be His children, not His slaves or automata, also helps us make some sense of human tragedy. Remembering that human existence is not just about our time here also helps. But while we have some pieces that begin to make sense of the existence of evil in God's presence, we can't fully comprehend it; we can't really get our minds around it.

And this is where faith must enter, I suppose. Our "hope in things unseen."

"I believe in the sun even when it isn't shining
I believe in love even when there's noone there
And I believe in God even when He is silent."

This was scratched on the wall of a cellar by a victim of the Holocaust, beneath a star of David.

My prayers are for all who die tragically, and for all those who remain behind without them. As a parent I pray especially for anyone who has lost a child. And I give praise and thanks for people like the professor at Virginia Tech, a Holocaust survivor, who gave his life while his students escaped. May God have mercy on us all, may He bless us and keep us, may His face shine upon us and give us peace. Amen.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pie II

My kids came downstairs at the dinner bell and found that we were having pie. This is the pie they saw as they entered the kitchen. They immediately took in the circle-slash symbol but were unsure what it meant. "Mushrooms and no mushrooms," I said. I thought I had been so clever to mark this chicken pie so the mushroom lovers and haters would all be set.

"I thought it was pumpkins and no pumpkins," said my oldest. I was standing on the other side of the pie from him - it was right-side up to me, like this.

Then the best part was when I sliced it and realized that when I'd spun it round to seal the crust, I had gotten confused, and the sides were marked backwards. It was easy enough to tell as I sliced the first "no mushroom" slice and it was plainly full of mushrooms. I laughed out loud.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Church of the Great Outdoors 2

Here are some color cartoons of the next canvas, shown in a previous post with only the charcoal sketch. Any opinions on which of these you like best (and why)? Click on the image to see it larger.

I have a favorite - it's not quite right in the cartoon, but it's far enough in the right direction to show me the way. That's all I needed to start painting.

In the much larger image (30x30) I will need to do a lot more detail and surface work than this - but this gets the general gist.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Next Canvas

It's another Church of the Great Outdoors image - just charcoal on the canvas at this point. I'm experimenting with color combinations on a mouse-overdrawn black and white version of this. It's a bitmap cartoon, of sorts. I'm enjoying completely changing large color relationships with the paint can tool in Paintbrush. I may post some of those color cartoons in a later entry.

Water's Edge - Acrylic

Here is the final version of this painting, now hanging in the gallery. It will be on my website soon, as well.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


We just spent much of the last week with my wife's family, down here in NC for a reunion planned by my mother-in-law. It was a huge success and took a lot of work on her part, and on the part of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, who pitched in and worked in the kitchen more than anyone else. I was grateful for their help.

As introverts we didn't know how we would manage so many days of intense conversation and (for us) crowd scenes. There were 13 people in all - hardly a big group - but it is always overwhelming to us to have so many voices, so many simultaneous conversations, and mostly, non-stop talking. Due to the Easter worship schedule we were not able to be there more than 3 or 4 hours at a stretch each day, but we left quite spent after each visit. The 40 minute drive felt like an hour and a half these last three times, I have gotten so tired. We truly run our batteries down in social situations, even when we thoroughly enjoy them. We have to recharge in peace and quiet and there has been almost no time for that all week.

That said, I would not have missed this event, or those conversations. Aunts, uncles, cousins - it was fascinating to me that people we don't know that well (we only see most of them briefly every 3 or 4 years) can mean so much to me. I inevitably end up realizing that we don't just love these people because they are kin - we love them because they are lovable. We did not get to pick them, as we get to pick our friends, and what a pleasant surprise to find that we would pick them if we had a free choice.

Then we arrived home and got an answering machine message that I have been expecting, from my mother. My grandfather, my father's father, has been in the hospital the last few days with a respiratory infection, and now pneumonia. I called Mom and was not surprised to hear that Grandpa will probably not last the night - he's 93.

So soon I will be travelling back to NY for another, much larger family reunion. I am so glad my two oldest and I were just up there this summer to visit these grandparents and four sets of aunts and uncles of mine. We got to see them again before they passed beyond communicating. The trip will be to my family home, Poughkeepsie, where my grandfather, my father, and all of my siblings and I were born. There, as here this last week, I will be amazed and warmed by the wonder of family, and realize how blessed I am in the people God chose for me, on both sides.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


This is the companion to the earlier Dallas post. In Dallas we stayed in a hotel near the airport, and we were tired and didn't do anything special. In Houston my compadre on the trip had done some research and had booked our hotel in the Galleria district.

We actually only saw the center of Houston from miles away the following morning enroute to the airport and NC - this area is just a posh secondary business district, like Tysons is for DC. We checked in about an hour before sunset and got out and walked. I never feel like I've really been in a place unless I walk through it.

One of the lovely things about the Galleria district is the live oaks. They are all over it, in parking lots, along wide avenues...

It's great to see the modern buildings through and above these lovely Southern trees.

On the way to Houston we had gotten off the highway to travel some of the back roads and see the East Texas countryside. In an earlier post I showed a photo from one of these side trips. The back roads in Texas are called Farm Roads. I grinned when I took this picture and I asked my friend what he thought they grew on this farm.

Inside the Galleria mall (one of the largest in America) is an ice skating rink. At this mall we got a beer (I a local lager and he a black and tan - $13 for the two of them!) and sat outside and enjoyed the sun going down and the fresh cooling breeze.

Outside after sunset we saw how things were lit, and could better appreciate the way everything was chrome plated. Light poles, arches over the streets, and street signs like this one.

We wandered around a while longer, had steak dinners on the veranda in front of a western grill, with big braziers flaming on pillars on the stairs up to it, and then headed back to our room and crashed.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

My Old Garden Journal

Today we bought perrenials, annuals, and looked at vegetables and herbs for our garden. I consulted some old garden notes of mine - one section of the journal mentioned a list of plants for that year's garden:

Bleets - a vegetable grown for the sweet purple roots. The root is ready to harvest when the plants put out round, white, fluffy blossoms. The worst pest is wolf-beetles. Some gardeners have recently begun to combat beetle outbreaks by using llama wasps. Bleets are notorious for staining wool garments.

Flocolli - Green cabbage family vegetable grown for the flower heads, eaten in the bud. If allowed to bolt, the seeds queue up in "v" shapes and fly south for the winter.

Plumpkins - Similar to the more familiar squash-family member, but even rounder and with impish smiles. Look lovely in sun bonnets, which can be used to prevent sunburn.

Monkmelons - Rarely grown due to low yields. Each plot will grow only one, and they avoid companion planting. Very difficult to pollenate. Seeds grow into peculiar shapes, like little black medieval Latin characters. Some gardeners insist the plants do better if exposed to chant.

Tomandos - The crack troops of the garden, crossing enemy lines and setting explosive red globes packed with vitamin C.

Lemon Blam - mistaken for an herb, this actually refers to the guilty pleasure of eating lemon meringue pie hot out of the oven.

Porous chorus chard - Mild leafy vegetable, with tall curly leaves full of holes like Swiss cheese. On windy days a row of this chard sounds off in four part harmony. Recently taken as the patron vegetable of glee clubs.

That year's garden journal also mentions some trouble with this last vegetable:

One row of the Porous, which we had within earshot of the monkmelon, sang nothing but "Glow little glowworm..." for three weeks. The melon was so sour we used it to make a mock lemonade. And the weeds got rather high for a bit as none of us could stand that whole side of the yard until the chard changed their tune.

Yet another note indicated a neighbor who complained that while her chard was porous enough (thanks to grasshoppers), she never heard it play any tunes. I wrote her a note with some helpful advice:

We found that our chard had to be taught to sing. Perhaps you and other friends/family could help by practicing hymns or barbershop quartet within earshot of the chard. This is liable to help in one of two ways - if the singing is good, your chard might at least take up the tunes (be carefuly what you sing in front of such impressionable plants) - if the singing is bad it might solve your grasshopper problem (they might all move to neighboring property since grasshoppers have such audio-sensitive knees).

Finally the garden journal concluded by saying:
I certainly hope no one ever takes this as commentary on any type of actual gardening. (Perhaps I should have said, "The characters in this story are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual vegetables and fruits is not intentional.")