New Eyes

It feels like I have been traveling the speed of light during the past 2 weeks. Lots to process. I received some recommendations on what art shows not to miss in San Francisco from Elizabeth Corden of the Corden Potts Gallery . I had the pleasure of seeing a wonderful exhibit The Steins Collect at SFMOMA. Gertrude Stein and her 2 brothers, Leo and Michael, were among the first to recognize the talents of avant-garde painters like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. The stunning collection from the Steins' holdings included dozens of works by Matisse, Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. It was breathtaking.

I then headed over to 826 Valencia to visit author Dave Eggers's (my hero) pirate supply store where I purchased new eyes. I giggled as I slipped the eyes into the Frida Kahlo bird box that contained the wedding cookies I consumed at the coffee shop at SFMOMA, a perfect container for my new eyes!

July 18


Last night I went to a meeting where I heard about renovations on a turn of the century house. During the presentation by the architects I heard the term "sistering." which refers to reinforcement (used for joists).

July 13 ~ Milagros in my Sister's House

I am at my sisters home now and she just received the 4th delivery of nourishing food from a pilot program called Pathways Cooks. It is a program that provides nutrient-rich, whole foods, organic meals to women undergoing chemotherapy and their families in Union, Essex and Morris counties in New Jersey.

This was the brainchild of Karen Feldman who attended a workshop given in California by the Ceres Community Project which states on their website...

"We are in the midst of one of the most profound transformations in human history. Amidst global economic crisis, rising violence among nations, and a deepening awareness of the breakdown of the planet’s ecosystems, a tidal wave of change is sweeping through communities everywhere.

The change is coming not from governments or political leaders, not from the United Nations, World Bank or International Monetary Fund. It’s coming from people like you and me who are looking around our towns, neighborhoods and villages and seeing not just problems but opportunities. Often there is nothing more than the spark of an idea and the willingness of one or two or ten people to dive in and begin."

"At the time, I was dividing my time between two of my passions – working part-time as a chef at a retreat center in the western hills of Sonoma County and teaching horseback riding and training dressage horses at a farm in Santa Rosa. After spending ten years running a home-delivered meal service, I was enjoying the simplicity of getting paid for my work and not having to take it home with me.

On a lovely June day in 2006, I was driving to the barn when my cell phone rang. Sue Curry, my riding instructor, wondered if I could give her daughter a job over the summer and perhaps teach her to cook at the same time. There was no easy solution. I wasn’t in a position to hire anyone – and who takes someone who can’t cook on a catering job? But Sue was persistent and I have always been more inclined to say yes than no when the universe comes calling.

One conversation led to another and a couple weeks later I suddenly thought about a friend whom I knew was involved in the local cancer support community. One call confirmed that, yes, there were definitely families who could use help with meals. Sue offered to pay for the food, I donated my time, and Megan and I began meeting one afternoon a week to prepare meals for two single people and a family of four – all of them dealing with cancer or other serious health issues.

As Megan and I cooked together, I talked about my love of working with food. She gained confidence chopping and dicing and moved on to blanching and sautéing. Every afternoon, we packaged the food we’d made, creating grocery bags of meals for our three families. One of the first times that we cooked, the husband of a woman with breast cancer stopped to pick up their food on his way home from work. I had never met him before and introduced myself and Megan. We told him about the food we had prepared. I witnessed Megan’s pride in the contribution she was making in their life and his deep gratitude for the simple gift of the meals. Something about that moment took hold in me.

Several weeks later, I woke early in the morning with a vision of a non-profit that would bring young people into the kitchen to learn to cook and eat healthy foods and then provide meals to individuals and families who were touched by serious illness. I wanted more people to benefit from what Megan and our three families were experiencing.

What prompted Sue to call me that day? When the idea entered my mind to call the friend who was involved in the cancer support community – where did that come from? And the vision of this as a non-profit, whose idea was that?

The Ceres Community Project’s story is filled with seemingly inexplicable moments, connections, ideas and conversations. An expert in Quickbooks shows up to volunteer just as we’ve filed our incorporation papers and need to create our own accounting system. Someone passes a brochure to a local reporter in a moment when we are expanding. She writes a full-page story and we benefit from a needed influx of volunteers. A professional chef just happens to wander into an event we are catering as a fundraiser, picks up our brochure and calls me – a month before we are adding our second cooking day and I’m scrambling for help.

Over the past three years I’ve deepened my understanding of the energy or spirit at work in the universe. When we are able to open ourselves to its magic, when we learn to be attentive to where it is leading us – not just to our own plans and ideas – amazing things can happen. Today, The Ceres Community Project is truly the co-creation of hundreds of people, each of whom said “yes” in a moment of awareness that they had something to contribute, that there was a role to play in something larger. That first morning when I “saw” what would become The Ceres Community Project, I remember being filled with excitement. The vision was very clear and I sensed an elegance to it – the way that it addressed so many needs in the community and so many things that I cared deeply about. Young people would learn to cook. People who needed healing food would have it. We would help teach people about the link between what we eat and our health. And we’d help to restore the idea of caring for our neighbors, something that had been lost between my parents’ generation and my own.

Despite what I thought I understood, I can look back now and tell you that I barely had a clue about what the universe had in mind when it planted the idea for Ceres. Today, the project continues to unfold in ways that surprise me – and I imagine that a year or two from now, we will still be discovering more about how the heart of The Ceres Community Project wants to express itself."

from New Moon magazine...

"After a few hours of intense work, when my eyes are watery from chopping onions, my hands are cold from washing greens, and my apron is stained with food, I can leave the kitchen knowing that I made a difference in someone’s life—someone I will almost certainly never meet" writes Teen Chef Rita O-Young.

From my sister to the women who have prepared her weekly dinners...

"...Dinner felt like a little miracle tonight. A complete meal, so healthy, unbelievably delicious, and in our own home. Thank you from the bottoms of our hearts. My husband was moved to tears when Michele arrived with the bag of wonders. I think for a moment he felt he was being taken care of, rather than doing the care taking. Your gifts are touching people well beyond patients. My stomach is full, but most of all, my heart is full. What more is there?"

Using Art Making to Change the World

June 22 ~ Home by TreManda Pewett

Home, an installation piece to discuss homelessness, was created by 11th grader TreManda Pewett, from a 2 day inaugural Art Works Projects' Workshop to Change the World. It was organized by Leslie Thomas, the Executive and Creative Director of Art Works Projects and held at Marwen in Chicago. I was asked to be a creative advisor as students worked on varying topics that included water pollution, domestic and teen violence, bullying, genocide and homelessness. In a mere 2 days the work and ideas that were generated by these very talented youth (ranging from 8th grade to Sr. in High School) was astonishing.

You can learn more about the workshop by visiting their facebook page HERE or by visiting the Art Works Projects website HERE.

The Challenges of New Equipment

June 16 ~ Sixty plus 20 days

I just purchased this new camera with the help of the recent PDN Curator's Choice Award. The decision was based on wanting to shoot some video. The learning curve is STEEP as the camera is more like a computer and the choices are staggering. I am a creature of habit and keep longing for my Hassleblad...and then I am reminded of fabulous new Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, where the main character longs for the past only to learn that the present is pretty darn good! If you haven't seen it, you are in for a treat.

I also got a call from my 91 year old father last night who, after years as a PC user, has decided that for Father's Day he is going to take us up on our offer to help him switch to a Mac!

I am reminded that....

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” Alan Watts

Roy DeCarava on Photograpy

June 15 ~ day 20

excerpt from a talk given by Roy DeCarava at the Museum of Modern Art. © 1996 DeCarava Archives

"How do I know what to photograph? I am at a point where images find me; I don't go looking for them. I interact with the process of photography sometimes by anticipating, at other times by trusting and waiting, or by willing things to happen. Does this shape what happens? We don't know. The laws that are implied or invented do not determine what happens. A photograph is created by a machine, but the product of it is real; that moment had to exist in the real world in order to take a picture of it. No other process demands that kind of veracity.

When I first started, there were standard myths of photography: the individual becomes the subject, all sorts of obvious things. But the more you work, and your work has to be accompanied by an ability to know and to get deeper and deeper into it, the more you find that creation comes in the constructive exploration not only of the subject but of one's own self. To some extent, then, it no longer matters what the subject is; there is always something there to pull out.

The subject becomes a limit in this equation. What is not limited is you. I am not the same person I was 40 years ago, 4 hours ago, 4 minutes ago, yet I am all of them at once. You are multiple in your consciousness: you are the past, the future, the present or all and any other dimensions that we can't yet name. Consciousness expands and is unlimited.

At this point, subject matter doesn't interest me. There is something else out there---or I don't know if it's out there, but I think it is--- and I reach for it.

Photography is about getting back to the self, and the self is infinite, it is consciousness. The refusal to invent a methodology is what makes you free, what enables the consciousness to rise."

Harry Callahan on teaching

June 14 ~ Sixty plus nineteen

Tonight is the last critique session of the year. I really enjoy creating an environment in which photographers can have the space to reflect and grow. I came across an interesting quote by Harry Callahan a while ago while cleaning out my files...

"I really didn't have much to teach. I didn't even believe in it. I felt so strongly that everybody had to find their own way and nobody can teach you your own way. In terms of art, the only real answer that I know of is to do it. If you don't do it, you don't know what happens next."

so true

"Wholehearted and Vulnerable"

This 365 day photo project has brought up interesting issues for me, including feelings of vulnerability. When you photo journal everyday your life is more exposed. There are bound to be some average images mixed in with the not so good and great images. It leaves me with questions on the purpose of the project.

I came across a You Tube video (thanks, Val) which shed some light on the issue. In it Brene Brown, a researcher, storyteller and social worker talks about "leaning into the discomfort of the work." In order for connection to happen, we have to be seen, deeply seen and love with our whole hearts. She ends by talking about a practice of gratitude and joy and working from a place of "I believe I am enough." Being kinder and gentler with ourselves and others is the natural outcome.

For me, this is where life, connection and photography all intersect.

June 13 ~ Morning Light in my Studio

Here is the full TED talk

Nourishing our plants and ourselves....

Heading to Mexico in a few weeks and thought I would see how well an iPhone application works in anticipation of using it down there. It is always a challenge to master new technology. I must say that I am inspired by my father, who at age 91, just bought the iPhone!

June 9 ~ Day 14

As it is graduation time, thought I would share a graduation speech worth your time to consider...

For Grads: You are Not Amazing
By The Rev. Anne S. Howard on May 31, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Commencement Address by The Rev. Anne S. Howard*

We are gathered here to celebrate you graduates—you ascend to a new height today with the conferring of these graduate degrees.
And so I’d like to begin by saying: you are not amazing. Despite your accomplishments, your regalia, your degrees and pedigrees, you are not amazing—but you might be. Let me explain.
The Dalai Lama, in his book Ethics for the New Millennium—the book that was chosen this year for the UCSB program—said, “There is nothing amazing about being highly educated; there is nothing amazing about being rich. Only when the individual has a warm heart do these attributes become worthwhile.”
Well, I think it might be nice if your expensive education were to prove worthwhile, so I’d like to talk about the temperature of your hearts.
By warm heart, the Dalai Lama of course is not talking about the way you feel about your puppy. He is talking about an ethical principle that he sees as necessary for the peace and well-being of our fragile planet. He is talking about that imperative that is at the core of all the great world religions, about something more important than the practice of religion—he’s talking about compassion.

In his book, as you know, he presents a long list of disciplines for achieving a practice of compassion. It’s a daunting list. I recommend each and every virtue he names—but I know it’s just darn hard to master them all. And I’m aware (in my work with The Beatitudes Society with graduate students across the country) that the practice of compassion is not something that we naturally accumulate along with our degrees.
So today I want to offer you a short list, just the elementary basics--a toolkit for compassion. And because I know that commencement speeches are as forgettable as wedding sermons, I want to offer you a brief mnemonic device --the S-A-Ts. I want you to remember the SATs—not your high school SATs—but something new to tuck into your toolkit—along with your diplomas, resumes, job applications, and cleaned up FaceBook Profiles.
First, S. S means stop. Stop what you are doing. Stop working, stop pushing, stop achieving, stop producing. Stop texting, typing, clicking and twittering. Stop on a regular basis. At least once each day. Stop once a week. S means stop—it comes from something the ancients called Sabbath—the early Hebrew notion that workers ought to get a respite from oppressive overlords at least one day a week. Stopping was so important to them that they included it in their creation myth, in their definition of the Creator: on the seventh day, the story goes, God rested. The Hebrew word “rested” translates “exhaled.” God exhaled. Remember Sabbath, remember something you already know, deep in your bones, remember to exhale.
We have trouble remembering to exhale and we have trouble remembering that Sabbath was a time meant for rest, refreshment, delight. Over the centuries, we got it all wrong. Sabbath became a set of “thou shall nots:” do not work, do not dance, do not play cards.
The academy has done a bad job with the notion of Sabbath too—we know that sabbaticals are really only time away from classrooms and committees; time that must be justified by publication. Not time to exhale.
But the beauty of Sabbath persists across cultures. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk, rings a small bell throughout the day in the Buddhist community of Plum Village, a “mindfulness bell.” When the bell rings, it is a signal for all to stop, to take three breaths, and then resume work.
Sabbath means you take time out to engage in the things that feed your body and soul: you eat, you dance, you listen, you make art and music and love and prayer.
You might stop for one full day each week; or it might be an afternoon, a moment. Whatever it is, if we are going to check on the temperature of our hearts, we all have to stop.
Working without stopping, Thomas Merton said, is a form of violence—one that we have perfected with our 24-hour days. This violence colors the way we gobble up resources; it hobbles our capacity for creativity and clear judgment; it tears at the fabric of our relationships. I am told that the Chinese pictograph for busyness is composed of two characters: Heart-plus-Killing.
Stopping is the single most live-saving thing we can do—the most counter-cultural act of resistance we can mount. We stop, so that we can pay attention:
A is for Attention. Be aware. Take a look at where you are. Did you see that cormorant over the lagoon—have you ever noticed one? Did you notice the look in your mother’s eyes when she saw you today in your funny hat? And how about the way you feel right now inside your own skin?
And what about the world beyond your own little sphere? What do you allow into your field of vision, your range of care?
This is the reason Thich Nhat Hanh rings the bell. Be here now. The bush is afire, Moses discovered, and took off his shoes to dance. Heaven is here, Jesus said, and invited everyone to a party; this is the only moment we have to love one another. This moment matters.
Pay attention to what counts: What do you love? Is the work you are about to do with your new degree truly your vocation—that place where your deep joy meets the world’s great need? Or is it just what everyone expects you to do?
One last letter, T. T is for thanks. Practice saying thanks. Start by thinking of all the people who helped you get here today. You know who helped you believe in yourself. Say thanks for them. And you also know who stood in your way, the ones who made your way a little rougher. Say thanks for them too; they were your best teachers, and there will be many more like them along the way.
Saying thanks reminds us that we are contingent beings. We are not alone. You are, I am, more than a solitary mouse-clicking unit staring into a flat screen. We depend upon one another. We know in the 21st century that we can no longer live in our old myth of Western individualism; we do not ride alone on our ponies into the Western sunset. We are learning, after all those cowboy movies, what our great-grandparents knew—and Ayn Rand didn’t: we are better when we stand together, when we recognize our common ground, when we raise a barn roof or build a school or design a national health care system together—for the common good.
Most of you were born around the beginning of the 1980s—you spoke your first words in that decade known as the “me” decade; and here you are in a new century characterized by a new vocabulary: you live a reality shaped by words like network, internet, linked, global, web.
Saying thanks is one simple way to be mindful of your complex web of relationships, and of that pulse of Compassion that beats at the heart of the universe.
That’s it, the SATs. Three letters—and one last quick thing, a picture, a snapshot to paste to the lid of your compassion toolbox; it’s a picture of your Wild Space.
Wild Space is theologian Sallie McFague’s term for that part in each one of us that does not fit our consumer culture’s definition of the good life.
McFague suggests that we discover our Wild Space this way: imagine a circle. Within that circle is the model of the dominant culture: white, Western, male, middle-class, heterosexual, educated, able-bodied, successful. Now, put your own image of yourself over that circle. Some parts may fit that model, some may not. The part of us that falls outside the circle is our Wild Space.
The parts that don’t fit may be obvious: race or gender. Some aren’t so obvious: surviving a failure, or a loss, the struggle with addiction, or simply our refusal to buy into convention. Anything that causes us to question the dominant culture’s notion of success is our Wild Space.
It’s our Wild Space that allows us to question our definitions of power and so discover more egalitarian ways relate to one another. Our Wild Space allows us to re-imagine the way we consume the earth’s resources and so live in such a way that cares for our planet and our neighbors. It’s our Wild Space that allows us to create an alternative vision of the good life. Wild Space is our hidden key to the practice of compassion.
So that’s the tool kit:
Stop. Pay attention. Say thank you. And keep an eye on your Wild Space. I bet your heart will not only warm, it will light on fire.
And then you might just be amazing. I hope so. God knows we need you, our planet needs you, to be nothing less than amazing."

*2009 University of California Santa Barbara Graduate Division


June 7 ~ Day 12

You know, it is not what happens in your life but how you relate to it that is important...your attitude and perspective toward what transpired. You can't change what happened but you can change how you think about it. It is all about perspective. This is what I was thinking about when I took this shot.

June 8 ~ Day 13

Thanks for all your support on the 365 photo diary. Looks like I am continuing...can't keep the flowers from blooming!

I chatted with Cathy about the Just Connect video (see previous blog post). She said she could see it available for people in high stress jobs that just need to chill out for a few minutes. Thinking about retitling it to....
Got Two Minutes? Just Connect
It would be great if it could be used to aid in helping people find some space of peace and relaxation. Please pass on the video if know where it might be of benefit to others.

June 5

Sixty plus 10

"I don't even know you and it feels ok"... from the interchange when I requested to take the photo

having some reservations about the 365 project now...and the blog. more later

Spring Finds

June 3 ~ Day 8

Spring is such a wondrous time. Everything is bursting with life. I scoop up a fallen nest and an unhatched robin's egg, thrilled with the opportunity to further study objects that I would never dream of disturbing in their natural habitats. The intricate weave of the nest is truly impressive, as are the materials used. I reflect on my own pregnancies and marvel at the instinct for all life to reproduce itself.

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."

from Little Gidding, T. S. Eliot