Friday, December 31, 2010

New Beginnings

I can't quite believe the year is almost over. Where did 2010 go? Only a few hours to go. Faster and faster time goes, it seems. But as fast as it's gone, the last decade has brought deep change in how I see myself, how I relate to the world, my priorities and how I feel about my responsibility in being on this planet.

When I ask, "Who do I want to be in the world?" It's not so much the "who do I want to be" that has changed but the how. How do I want to express the best and most loving, creative version of myself.

Do you see yourself differently in the world than you did 10 years ago?
Have your priorities shifted?
Who do you want to be in the world in the next 10 years???

Pastel on La Carte 2010

I hope your new year and your "New Years"
Are filled with many miracles.

"People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle.

But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air,

but to walk on earth.

Every day we are engaged in a miracle

which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves,

the black curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes.

All is a miracle."

~Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Oh Holy Night

Merry Christmas!

St. Patrick's Cathedral New York City

Truly He taught us to love on another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

John Sullivan Dwight
from 1855 Version of "Oh Holy Night"

Friday, December 24, 2010

Santa Maria Maggiore e Duomo di Amalfi ... a little more Italy for Christmas!

Well, Rome and Amalfi. After my post a couple of days ago on one of Rome's many beautiful churches, I heard about the attacks on the embassies in Rome. It's sad and shocking but all the more reason for prayer and shining the light of love into the world.

I have been reading a book about the Renaissance poet Vittoria Colonna. (1490-1547) It's called "Sonnets for Michelangelo" after a book of her poems she had bound for him as a gift.

Below is one of her sonnets with an English Translation.

Founded in the 4th century
Dedicated to the Virgin Mary
Byzantine and Paleochristian architecture
Fully restored in the 18th century
It's huge.

How much joy brought to the hearts
of the wise kings from the magnificent East,
O sign and burning star, when you fixed your beautiful
living rays upon that happy lowly hut.

Quanta gioia, tu segno e ardente,
Alor che i vivi bei raggi fermaste
Sul tugurio felice, al cor mandaste
De i saggi re del bel ricco oriente.

And you kings, how much more did your love your own great king,
how much higher and more powerful did you consider him,
the more lowly you found him then, swaddle tiny and poor,
and his great humility lifted your souls to heaven.

E voi, quanto piu` basso il re possente
Fasciato, picciolin, pover trovaste,
Pui` grande, alto il vedeste e pui` l'amaste,
Ch'al ciel tanta umilita` v'alzo` la mente.

Duomo di Amalfi - Amalfi
13th century
Romanesque architecture

The stable, the animals, the cold, and the hay,
and his poor rags, and his hard bed,
all were a sure sign of his celestial grace;

Il loco, gli animali, il freddo e 'l fieno
Davano, e i panni vili, e il duro letto,
De l'alta sua bonta` sicuro segno;

Then, your hearts filled with joy, you worshiped
that star and the sweet countenance
of our Lord, holding your gifts before you.

E per la stella e per lo chiaro aspetto
De la potenzia, avendo in mano il pegno,
L'adoraste col cor di gaudio pieno

Buon Natale!
Merry Christmas my dear friends!
Blessings and light to you all!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

San Luigi dei Francesi

Darn Rick Steves! They replayed his European Christmas special with footage of the holidays from all over Europe including Italy, Switzerland, Norway and Austria. It made me want to jump on a plane! Someday... perhaps Rome for Christmas? Yes, I think so.

These photos are from last spring but with the gold gilt and nativity painting they fit the Christmas theme. Plus, any excuse to post Italy photos!

Built with funds donated by Catherine de Medici
and the "heart" of Rome's French Catholic community.
It also houses three amazing Caravaggios!

Enter the innermost sanctuary of the soul.
... Remember and realize
the forgotten image of God within you.

Each of us is a child of God.
We are born of His spirit,
in all its purity and glory and joy.

True prayer is an expression of the soul,
an urge from the soul.
It is a hunger for God that arises from within,
expressing itself to Him ardently, silently.

Constantly, inwardly, talk to Him;
then He cannot remain away from you.

Remain in the castle of His presence ...
Carry within you
a portable heaven.

~Paramahansa Yogananda

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Birds and Butterflies

It's pouring here. POURING. I know we need rain but things are getting muddy and hillsides are beginning to give way. Driving to my friend's place in Ojai I have dodged giant boulders and pieces of hillside property that are now in the road.

I am also taking care of my friends' German Shepard Koa. She is very sweet and a good sport about my process of cleaning her paws and drying her off every time she comes back inside but she shakes and muddy water hits the white walls and my p.j.s or whatever I happen to be wearing. I realize though that there are much worse things to deal with and frankly right now I am just grateful to be living with heaters and not to be stuck in an airport somewhere trying to get home. Those poor people!

There's no good segue out of that but few years back I started collecting little bird Christmas ornaments. (Topic whiplash?) Although I am kind of bird girl anyway, the collecting didn't really start consciously. I just kept finding or being given these wonderful little birds so I just went with it! There are many more than this but here are just a few ...
(Oh, and a couple of butterflies!)

Sweet right? And here is something I want to share today from Marianne Williamson about Christmas.

Life is sweeter, as millions of people throughout the world
consider the possibility that a higher love exists.
For one day we lay aside our cynicism- if not completely, then enough.
We lay aside our faithlessness and our judgments and our blame.

We embrace the notion of a light at the center of things
that casts out darkness and cast out fear.
Millions of people think thoughts of love on Christmas.
That is why it is an important day.
That is why it gives us joy.
That is why it is such a blessing on the world.

~Marianne Williamson

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Movies ... That Christmas Feeling

What is it you want Mary?
What do you want?
You-you want the moon?
Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it
and pull it down.

I love movies and I love Christmas so it stands to reason that the two would intersect. I realize Christmas isn't about movies but there are some movies that have become such a tradition that they have become a kind of ritual and just make it feel more ... like Christmastime. Some are obvious, but always fabulous holiday fare, like It's a Wonderful Life, A Charlie Brown Christmas or Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer which happened to land on my birthday quite a lot as a child and felt like an extra present!

Right now I am waiting for Netflix to send me "Meet Me in St. Louis" which I haven't seen for a few years. I expect to become completely unglued when Judy, in her gorgeous red velvet party dress, sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to adorable little Margaret O'Brian, tears streaming down her face. I sang that song as my first solo in a Junior High Christmas pageant and made some lady cry. "Wow," I thought, "this gig's for me!" Anyway, the song really hit me my Junior year of high school when my parents announced a transfer out of state around the holidays. "It's just like the movie!" I thought. Click here to see it. (they won't let me imbed it on the blog!)

This week I have watched Elf and The Family Stone. BOTH of which crack me up and both of which make me cry. I know, Elf? Cry? But when Zooey gets everyone to sing Santa Claus is Coming to Town near the end? Yep, I choke up every time. Plus I love her voice on "It's Cold Outside." Again, I couldn't imbed so ... go here.

For some good old holiday cheesiness rent White Christmas (I love Rosemary!) and for fun romance and star power? Love Actually.

One you may not have seen, that is a must see for me every year is Going My Way. I love it. LOVE it. It's not an "in your face" Christmas movie but it ends with Christmas and the gift in the end will make you cry. Plus, as you might have gathered from this and the previous post, Bing Crosby just sounds like Christmas to me.

From Going My Way

My favorite from Going My Way ...

Hope you are all enjoying some holiday fun! Christmas or otherwise!

Blessings and light to you!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pastel Snow ... and White Christmas

I am craving seeing the snow. In Southern California it exists, of course, but you have to drive to the mountains for a couple of hours. It will happen but until then ...

This is a pastel I did of Massachusetts this year. I thought the shallow layer of snow would be a challenge but it was actually pretty fun! Of course, the early evening light helped.

Near Cambridge 2010 pastel on LaCarte

I have always loved Christmas carols and as a kid I can't count the times I turned my birthday into a caroling party. Our little street was mostly elderly people and they loved when all the kids would come to the door to sing.

One lady, who I adored and had many visits with, lived in what looked like the cottage of the seven dwarves. Her name was Beth Brown, and she'd tell me stories of traveling and teaching in Japan after the World War II. Mrs. Brown, who'd been widowed since before I ever knew her, would invite us all in and ask us to sing from the stairs that lead to her tiny a-framed loft. Every year she would request White Christmas. And every year she would cry, smiling through her tears.

As a child I wondered what made her cry. I wondered if it was the song, the singing children or that she missed her husband. For me, singing from the stairs in her cottage is one of the most vivid Christmastime memories I have from my childhood. I still miss her and sometimes when I hear White Christmas, I cry.

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

With every Christmas card I write

May your days be merry and bright

And may all your Christmases be white."

~ Irving Berlin

Friday, December 10, 2010

Un Buon Compleanno!

There is always a lot going on in December and this one is no exception. Yesterday was my birthday and my Italian final. The day before I finally shot a commercial that I found out that I booked the day before! I was very nervous because word has it that this particular director insults people and makes people burst into tears. As I stood there with my hair partly up, glasses, and suit and pearls, I waited but the worst I got was being referred to as Sara Palin for the day. Phew.

The Italian final took two hours and I have no idea how it went! Parts were easier but a couple of things ... well, it was as if I just couldn't find that file in my brain! After 5 pages filling in blanks, I got to the essay. 100 words. Unfortunately I think I might have used "molto" and "bella" about 10 times.

The best part of my birthday was of course when the professor stopped the final exam and everyone sang "tanti auguri a te" to me, the happy birthday song in Italian! Then, after the final, a group of us went out after class and I got another rendition of Happy Birthday at the Jazz place by the man who sang "I'm just a bill" for School House Rock! How cool is that?

As a child I collected mice and still have a great affection for the Christmas variety! Aren't they cute? The mouse couple didn't actually come as a couple. They were given to me separately as a child and I played matchmaker. The mouse below was from Anthropology a few years ago and I just think there is a stoic proud nature to this little mouse.

I fell in love with the "snowing blog" at Erin's Art and Gardens. She has one of the most beautiful blogs ever and if you haven't visited her, I would highly recommend it! Anyway, I think I may have to have Cobalt Violet snow for a few days!

I am off to more birthday celebrations and pastel class.

I hope you all have a beautiful and amazing weekend my dear friends.
I will soon have more time for blog visits and postings!

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
toys in every store
but the prettiest sight to see
is the holly that will be
on your own front door."

~Meredith Willson

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pa Rup Pum Pum Pum ... or however you spell it

The parking lot was crazy. It took an act of God. Really. I am not taking his name in vain. I really was praying. I was praying for peace of mind mostly and a space with an easy exit. Eventually, I made it into a parking space in the tiny lot adjacent to the 99 c store on La Brea. It seemed like a lot of work for Ziploc bags but the big ones work well to discourage moths from my cashmere sweaters and for only 99 cents? I guess it lessens the cashmere guilt.

It was madness in there. People everywhere, giant boxes of wrapping paper and shelves full of porcelain nativities made in China. I had to make two round trips around the store. One to fill my basket and the other to return items back to their shelves after realizing that I already have a number of handmade nativities and probably don't need the one made in China or that additional 6-pack of household sponges.

As I came around the automotive isle I heard Bing Crosby singing The Little Drummer Boy over the 99 cent sound system. As I hit the plastic hangers and reusable food containers, I heard women's voices singing along with Bing in beautiful "choir of angels" harmonies. Two women, unconsciously singing as they picked up candle holders and other various tchotchkes, unaware of the beautiful moment they were creating in aisle 10.

I left the store with my 2 rolls of wrapping paper, 3 little 99c poinsettias and smile on my face. Oh, and two boxes of Ziplocs. I love the holidays.

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world,
and behold,
everything is softer
and more beautiful."

~Norman Vincent Peale

Saturday, December 4, 2010

baubles bangles and beads ...

My sister Penny is an artist and she makes some seriously gorgeous jewelry. I wrote about it in a blog post some time ago but I figure now is the time to show off her new stuff. (Being the holidays and everything!)

These beautiful pieces made from pure silver clay, were fired in the little kiln in her studio at home in Ojai. She uses both her own drawings or as in the case of these pieces, Afghan jewelry dies. She found the dies many years ago on a trip she and I took to see our parents who were living in Pakistan at the time.

They are so beautiful and unique and it is pretty rare to find silver jewelry that has that unique ethnic quality but that is also still very refined. They are really exquisite! I am so proud of her.

Don't these look so perfect for Christmas?

Penny gives a portion of the profits from her sales to The Central Asia Institute which is Greg Mortenson's charity. He is the one who wrote "Three Cups of Tea" and builds all the girls schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. What he does is so amazing and if you haven't read the book, it would be a beautiful Christmas gift to yourself. It's incredibly inspiring what one person can do in what seems to be impossible circumstances! We may know it intellectually but it's important to remind ourselves.

Penny has a beautiful Blog and a wonderful Etsy site if you want to check them out!

Well, I am off to teach some art then study for my Italian final! OH, by the way I did the final oral exam and it was hilarious. We were broken up in to groups of 3 or 4 of our classmates and Flavio asked every group different questions. I ended up with two other single women we ended up talking about several things including what we wanted in a man - in Italian! "Intellegente!" " Divertente!" "Simpatico!" "Gentile!"
But of course, who wouldn't want a smart, funny, likable and kind man? Unless of course you want a woman. ;)

Have a beautiful weekend!!!
Blessings and light!

"Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm."
~George Lois