October 31, 2004

The scrouge of Halloween


Halloween has become one of my not-favorite holidays. I don’t know why. But now that my children are gone (years ago when I could participate either through my children or myself carrying a large paper grocery bag around the neighborhood with my friends all of us dressed up in our wildest fantasies it was fun--going around begging for treats, sweets that would be doled out for weeks to come) I just want to get away--so I am off to the movies and dinner out on the town with Yoko.

Posted by leya at 12:32 PM

October 30, 2004

Where did all the flowers go


Well, that’s it. Summer is over. The screens are down and the dock is in. That’s it. A sad day at the end of October.

But the light has been so beautiful in the evenings. Everyone, even in Halifax, is commenting. And today the lake was like glass and the air soft.

Posted by leya at 07:07 PM

October 28, 2004

Which flavor/flavour will you have today........


There was an interview with three translators on CBC radio the other day. The main point was that there are often no direct word for word translations that make sense in another language. One translator said that because she didn’t write poetry herself she would never be able to translate poetry. Leave that to the poets. It is a fascinating art, translating.

Last night (after our duets) Yoko and her husband Hiro (who joined us for dinner) started talking about the differences in our languages. It started with Hiro asking me why we (English speaking people) call someone “cool as a cucumber.” We think of cool in this case as aloof. In Japan, someone is considered like a cucumber when they are rail thin. If you think about some of our idiomatic expressions, they can seem quite odd. For instance: It’s raining cats and dogs. Why cats and dogs? What a strange image, raining cats and dogs. In Japan the image is it is raining like a mud slide. Something they know a lot about in their country. But do we have cats and dogs in the air, sitting in the clouds waiting to come visit en masse when it rains?

I recently named a painting To Under Stand, but when I gave the image to the photo store to be duplicated with the title imprinted on the slide, the pun was lost: she printed it To Understand. To me, a big difference. Take the word “understand”: what are you standing under when you understand a concept? When looking it up in Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Universal Dictionary (who quoted Shakespeare: “My legs do better understand me, sir, than I understand what you mean”), the understanding immerged that you understand when you are emerged, surrounded by, and thereby standing in the concept. Understand?

Posted by leya at 08:56 PM

October 27, 2004

In the dark

As for the upcoming elections in the U.S. (and governmental greed everywhere), archy, of archy and mehitabel (by don marquis) hit it right on:

the bees got their
governmental system settled
millions of years ago
but the human race is still

I don't think he is suggesting human beings should live in a beehive, but what a sticky mess we make. And I don't see much honey.

archy is a cockroach of great wisdom who types his memoirs (i.e., jumps around the keys; therefore the lack of capital letters in his book), relates his discussions with the lady cat mehitabel and generally tells it like it is. Leaving jewels on the keyboard.

Posted by leya at 02:55 PM | Comments (2)

October 25, 2004

Shall we dance on the keyboard while a mouse squeaks on the floor

Saturday night I went with my friend Inge to an amazing , riveting performance, a concert of totally improvised contemporary music in its best form. The main performer was Lee Pui Ming, formerly from Hong Kong, now from Toronto. She played the piano with childlike abandonment, her fingers flowing over the keys. She also used the instrument like a total percussive instrument, tapping it, strumming it, rolling metal balls over the strings, playing with the overtones. Her energetic dancing body was a major part of the music. A joy to watch. She sang too, using her voice as yet another percussive instrument.

She was joined by the beautiful playing of Norman Adams on the cello and Erin Donovan on various percussions, such as stepping on a squeaky toy mouse while blowing on whistles or playing a child’s keyboard. There was wildness and dissonance, yet the melodic reverie was a thread that sewed one’s ear to very eerie sounds.

Just last week, Tom Allen on the morning music program had dissonance as his weekly musical word. He was saying how dissonance needs consonance to be dissonance, the contrast is what makes it be dissonance. And also that each generation finds the music that came before it easier than the one it is in. Schoenberg said at some future point after the ear becomes accustomed to the sound it will no longer be considered dissonance. People walked out of new music concerts (as they did with his Rites of Spring) by many composers who are now considered mainstream.

(I know people who are so accustomed to dissonance in their lives that they consider it concord, natural, don’t notice it. A couple of years ago a friend came to visit with her mother. As they sat there on my couch talking, I noticed how her mother expressed frequent little critical comments towards her daughter. And I know that the daughter expresses similar little comments to her partner. They get so used to the barbs that it becomes natural.)

In this case, the music was improvisation where anything goes! And the communication between the players was seamless. When we went up to him after the performance, Norman Adams showed us the score which looked like a drawing for dance steps across the stage. That was all. The rest was in their intuitive, skillful talking to each other in the language of music.

Listening to the CD I purchased of Lee Pui Ming playing the piano in her unorthodox and passionate way, I miss the visual component but can easily recall the experience. That feeling of sitting in a concert hall with a big grin on my face and an eagerness to hear and see what would happen next.

Posted by leya at 06:03 PM

October 23, 2004

Running away and coming back with a kite in hand

The first thing we did, after having brunch in a lovely Pasadena restaurant, when Tamar, Dan & Damian picked me up at the airport on that warm September Saturday (just a month ago), was to go to a (very big) bookstore. As I was standing there suggesting titles to Dan, telling him which books I had found such good reading, a woman, overhearing and connecting to what I like in books, suggested a book for me: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I bought it, read it, and think it was a very appropriate recommendation. Except that it was painful to read the first part of the novel. Painful enough that I had to skim through to get the flavor of the resolution so that I would be able to continue reading.

In the voice of the narrator Amir, the novel, written with spare and honest prose, explores a young man’s yearning for love/respect from his father and the jealousy he feels at the attention given to another child. Jealousy that leads to vindictive acts with enduring consequences. I know a lot about jealousy. As a child also yearning for familial acceptance and love, I felt intense jealousy of every other child who seemed to have something I didn’t have, to know happiness. And I was not nice about it. Sometimes quite petty and mean. This novel takes the personal struggle of Amir into a broad arena, from the peaceful setting of Afghanistan before the Russian invasion in the 1970’s to the Bay Area of San Francisco and back again in the 21st century to view the devastation brought on by political struggles, greed and intolerance. The story stays always within the view of Amir, giving it vivid, haunting power.

Amir’s friend from childhood, a friend of his father’s who was always supportive and kind to him, tells Amir that he has a second chance to be good, to make peace within his own personal world. “There is a way to be good again,” he tells Amir. Rahim, the friend, feels all the good deeds the father did, which were many and made him a very well loved man in his community, were a way of redeeming himself for the guilt he felt about his own behavior, his own secrets and shames. “And that, I believe is what true redemption is, Amir jan, when guilt leads to good……..but most important, forgive yourself.”

Not an easy (but oh so important) thing to do.

Posted by leya at 12:46 PM | Comments (2)

October 22, 2004

How many toys does it take to make a classroom


The main ingredient in making art seems to be fearlessness. (Either that or stupidity, but I really think it is the former!) In my figure drawing class I have a young student, a very young student. She is about to turn thirteen. She is fearless. She participates in everything: group discussions, critiques, homework. Has a real voice in a classroom of students between the ages of eighteen to possibly forty-five (or more). She listens to suggestions and corrections on her drawings, is developing a good critical eye and her work is good (sometimes spectacular) and getting better.

I’ve known her since before she was born and have seen her interest in art blossom. She has usually focused on imaginative drawing, fanciful, delightful images of imaginary beings. Now she is learning about proportion, foreshortening, line quality, composition and other meaty parts of drawing. She was interviewed by the faculty and given permission to take courses with the agreement of the instructor. She’s done figure drawing before but without an instructor. I am continually impressed with the courage that seems so natural to her, something I would venture to say is even more important than talent.

Another examination of artistic fearlessness is in comparing (which I cannot help wanting to do) the two groups I am teaching who are studying somewhat the same material. My NSCAD class is a fourteen week course exploring water media. Of course, with my bent, I focus on color. Then there is the group of Buddhist friends, some who have never done any painting before, some with a lot of experience, who asked for a four week series learning to use color. So for the past two weeks I have given both groups the same project. I put out all white objects and told them to use color, no white, just invent the color. The Buddhist students are very open to my projects, none of the resistance that I frequently encounter with art school students. The “do we have to do that” kinds of comments (that drive me up the wall!). But it takes a little more explanation on my part because of the lack of experience on their part. On the other hand, the art school students, when they do willingly connect to a project, take it on with an immediacy that comes from technical expertise developed over intense course instruction. It seems fearlessness comes in many forms but has a common denominator of “just doing it!”

Posted by leya at 01:57 PM

October 21, 2004

There is music in the air

You’ve heard of air guitar, no doubt, and Damian & Tamar play air hockey, but have you heard of air recorder? Last week Yoko came over for our weekly duet session (four hand piano) and after dinner I brought out my alto recorder. Since Yoko had left hers at home, she accompanied me on a tube of toothpaste. A new jumbo tube, so she also played alto. She even took the other part so we played a mean duet!

When I was in LA Damian, my drummer boy, accompanied me on his recorder while I practiced on mine.


Posted by leya at 07:08 AM

October 20, 2004

Up and running

What a shocking experience, to live without my computer. For FIVE DAYS! My normally quiet house was silent. Lost my main lifeline to the outside world. I found myself repeatedly going over to where my computer was supposed to be only to catch myself, again. Well, my once very sick little fellow is healthy, back in place and I have a lot of catching up to do.

Meanwhile now I’m the one not feeling well—a bad head cold that seems to be going around here. My nose feels like someone turned a faucet on in there. Used up two boxes of Kleenex in a couple of days! Not bad enough to stay in bed, not well enough to do much. But at least one of us is feeling fine now.

Posted by leya at 03:22 PM

October 17, 2004

sick computer

My mom hasn't gone away but her computer has, off to the shop to get diagnosed and treated for an as-yet unknown ailment. She wanted me to let you all know that she'll be back as soon as she can and she misses writing here.

Posted by Tamar at 10:12 PM | Comments (1)

October 13, 2004

What a pickle


My mother would spend long hot August days in a steamy kitchen putting up preserves: peaches, applesauce, tomato sauce, watermelon pickles, plum jam and more. She would enlist my help and I swore that when I had a home of my own, you would never see me doing THAT! And guess what I did this weekend! Just THAT! Zucchini chutney, with grapefruit, raisins, lemons, apples and spices. The zucchini was two feet long. The one that grew too big in my garden when I was in California. Every autumn it is a thrill to see the jars line up with the specialty of the day and I giggle, just as my mother did, when the lids pop as they seal. Very satisfying.

Posted by leya at 09:02 PM | Comments (1)

October 10, 2004

Reservation Blues

On my travels recently I picked up a copy of Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues, his first novel, about an all-Indian Catholic rock band called Coyote Springs. Having been enchanted by his book of short stories, Ten Little Indians, I expected more of the same. But this is a very different book. A novel. A very young novel, reminding me of Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March, which in its youthful enthusiasms and rebellious restlessness almost led to the demise of my marriage (which lasted only a few years more and, like Augie, I did make the Mexico trek later). Both these books are sometimes highly comic attempts to make sense of the complex world we live in.

At the beginning I didn’t think I was going to like Reservation Blues. It seemed at first inconsistent, drifting into reverie, dreams, narrative, newspaper clips, poems, songs. But after a couple of chapters I was able to get into the rhythm and style of the storytelling and really appreciated the view of Indian reservation life from the inside, something I could never have known about with this intensity without hearing it from someone who had been there.

There are some probing sections about God and indifference. As one of the female singers in the band ponders:

Can God be broken into pieces like a jigsaw puzzle? What if it’s like one of those puzzles that Indian kids buy at secondhandstores? You put it together and find out one or two pieces are missing.

I looked at Big Mom and thought that God must be made up mostly of Indian and woman pieces. Then I looked at Father Arnold and thought that God must be made up of white and man pieces. I don’t know what’s true.

This intimate view of reservation life , where alcoholism, hunger, and the intense impact of Christianity and the white man’s culture is painfully expressed in these words: “The old Indian women dipped wooden spoons into stews and stirred and stirred. The stews made of random vegetables and commodity food, of failed dreams and predictable tears.”

Yet the main characters are searching for reality and fulfilment and move on and into the world in a humorous and affirmative way, making the book a positive experience, well worth the read.

Posted by leya at 07:33 PM

October 09, 2004

Some words from the walls of the Art College:

No one thought much of
your art, anyway
But since others thoughts are none of
my business, anyway, they
were irrelevant, and I went on
my merry way.

Or maybe it’s just a dislike for the high p:T:Hod voices.
Who knows?
Who cares?

Conform when you settle and no longer have the will to live.

To experience a thing as beautiful means: to experience it necessarily wrong—Nietzsche

The only thing that’s constant is change

You must do what you are told (not) to do.
Resistance is fatal (fertile)
Conformance (Performance) is inevitable

Watch out for the sketchy NASCAD students

Watch out for the two way mirror…..

Posted by leya at 12:47 PM

October 06, 2004

Now I lay me down with a lot of color

Tamar is amused by my idea of site-seeing in LA: Whole Foods, Ikea, the Beverly Center, all on my must-see list for visiting the Big
City. We didn’t get to “do” the Beverly Center this visit, so I have to go back soon! I don’t really buy much, just want to SEE and absorb a big city.

I had the worst ever case of jet lag this trip! Headache, no sleep, shaky! And I had to teach two classes yesterday. I was so tired (on one hour sleep the night before) that I was punchy, cracking the kids up with a loose mouth, lousy jokes and stories. It was fun although I don’t think I want to get on another airplane for a few weeks!

One of the classes yesterday was a color workshop organized by some Buddhist friends (to run for four weeks). I expected six people and eleven showed up. At first I felt very nervous, knowing everyone from such a different context. But once I started talking and giving them work to do, it went easily. In fact it was very exciting teaching about color, something that is so close to my heart. And they also enjoyed it a lot.

I had them draw a grid of 36 squares (six across, six down) and fill them in with different colors. The only criteria was to have them bold, not pastel. From that they learned how the environment of one color effects the color of the ones next to it, how just changing a color, either in hue or intensifying, can effect the whole composition. It was fascinating to see the light bulbs go on in their heads, even if at times the dimmer switch was working. We even ran overtime. So I was happy to crawl into bed last night and sleep—finally.

Posted by leya at 05:49 PM

October 04, 2004

Am I dreaming when I am here or there?

Returning home last night after a loooooooong plane trip, amidst the sadness of missing Tamar, Dan & Damian, I was acutely aware of the softness and gentleness of the environment here. That, and the raw and wild quality that exists at the same time. A good place to have a home base.

Before I left, Damian came up to me unprompted and told me he would miss me. That when I come back at Christmas I should stay until the next Christmas, stay for the whole year because he loves me. Not possible, but not a bad idea!

Posted by leya at 03:57 PM

October 01, 2004

Things I want to know about

The past week has taken wings and is disappearing into a beautiful warm memory. And I haven’t even called home once for voicemail. This is all too quick a visit. I leave for chilly Nova Scotia in two days, but I will be back before Christmas. Last night I was so tired from all the excursions and activities, I couldn’t even write a word here; I didn’t think I had a word to say.

The warmest part of being here in LA is not the sun, the weather, but the people I am with and meeting. Slowly, slowly Damian and I are getting to know each other. Yes, I am the grandmother, that gives me status. But I can freeze when someone isn’t immediately forthcoming and Damian is not always available. We are both glad that I will be back again soon.

Yesterday I went to the Getty Center with my friend Karen, who moved here from Halifax last January to take care of her mother who was ill. Her mom has now recovered and her illness has been a blessing for both of them. Karen has blossomed here, getting ready (in her mid-fifties) to run the LA marathon in March, renewed old friendships, and looking radiant. Driving through the LA streets she gave me a commentary on life as a teenager in LA. Then we toured the Getty from a Karen’s point of view: the stainless steel bathrooms with beautiful toilets, the flowers, cactus gardens, waterfalls, architecture, trams, the view.

The day before, on Wednesday, Tamar and I met Tiny Coconut for lunch. I immediately liked her as much as I had expected from reading her blog. (She beat me to writing about meeting people from on-line experiences but I will put my twist onto it here.) Growing up before these technologies were around, even before TV, my generation is only slowly learning to use the internet. (I have a friend who just started using email!) I was, and still am, an avid radio person. Although there are really good interactive radio programs on CBC, I haven’t called in…….yet. But I do hear people I know talking on the radio, asking questions. In NS, I know only one other person who keeps a blog. I’ve stopped telling friends. Most of them think it’s weird.

Tamar has close friends she has met on-line. I have, off and on, tried the on-line dating thingie but nothing ever materialized beyond some interesting (and strange) communications. One man was ready to pack up his van and move in with me, coming all the way from Calgary after only a few letters and a couple of phone calls, without even a first sniff. I’ve had marriage proposals from young African men (looking for a way out of their country) that I have never said “boo” to. Mostly because I look so much younger than my years, if I put a photo up, I am contacted by far too much younger men. And sometimes I just feel too vulnerable. So I stop--this is not for me. But I have learned a lot about discriminating awareness and response from it. Yet I have friends who have happily coupled with men they have met on-line. When I first started looking into on-line dating services just a few years ago, I was severely warned that it was not safe, not a good idea. Now I hardly know a single woman who has not tried it, some very successfully. It no longer is a taboo. In this rapid transit world, where else does one go………But it is not just about meeting men. Friends are very important. And the community of blogs, which have a real-time component, an everyday glimpse into someone’s world (not just a one-time “profile”) is a very real way of extending my sphere. As an artist, most of the time I live inside a very active but singular world.

Before this visit my connections in LA were only Tamar, Dan & Damian and a couple of step-siblings that I enjoy visiting. Now that I have some friends here it will be even harder to go home. It was 90 to 100 degrees here last Saturday but cooling off now. And there was frost on my car windows the morning I left NS! It will be a shock, in every way, to return, no doubt. I’ve been telling Tamar that she needs to renovate her house, put in a real second bathroom for me, that I’m not going home. Wishful thinking. But not an unpleasant thought. Although it would be very hard to leave my beautiful home, weird weather and all, and the slow transit life I have there.

Posted by leya at 04:37 PM