Plan for the Future

Suzanne McDermott 
after Gentileschi, watercolor detail


​"History is for human self-knowledge ... the only clue to what man can do is what man has done."
— R. G. Collingwood
 Last Novemberthe 9th, to be exact, I made a vow to myself.

I'll read deep history and make magic (something out of nothing).

Turns out, I made more of that vow than I could have imagined and have been working away at it ever since. I mean, every, single day.

I've created a three-part series of courses on the history of painting and will be offering it online starting in January. I'll write more about it in the coming months and you can read preliminary info on it here but wanted to mention it now so that, if you think you might be interested, you can add your name to the waiting list and be notified of more details as they arise. Small groups, as usual, and limited space.

I've been (mostly) down with a debilitating infection for the past six days so I'm going back to bed now with my new cozy murder mystery (author's description, not mine), Graham Norton's HoldingIt's good company.

Is that so?


Suzanne McDermott
Tree Glow, Watercolor

You just never know.

It's hard to not judge an experience or situation that, on the surface, in the context of our present culture or personal emotional life may seem like a horrible blow or a tragedy or a major pain in the butt. Something "bad". Or, something "good".

These small and large interruptions in THE WAY THINGS ARE have potential to change us within, and the course of our lives. But only if we let them. Only if we do not try to resist the situation, control the outcome, or cling to any solid thing or certain thought about THE WAY THINGS ARE GOING TO BE NOW. I mean, really, nobody knows what's going to happen next.

My favorite stories illustrating this, the ones that my mind turns to when I find myself reverberating from an unexpected "bad" or "good" situation is as follows:

Is That So?
(Zen Story about Hakuin)

The Zen Master Hakuin lived in a town in Japan. He was held in high regard and many people came to him for spiritual teaching. Then it happened that the teenage daughter of his next-door neighbor became pregnant. When being questioned by her angry and scolding parents as to the identity of the father, she finally told them that he was Hakuin, the Zen master. In great anger the parents rushed over to Hakuin and told him with much shouting and accusing that their daughter had confessed that he was the father. All he replied was, “Is that so?”

News of the scandal spread throughout the town and beyond. The Master lost his reputation. This did not trouble him. Nobody came to see him anymore. He remained unmoved. When the child was born, the parents brought the baby to Hakuin, “You are the father, so look after him.” The Master took loving care of the child. A year later, the mother remorsefully confessed to her parents that the real father of the child was the young man who worked at the butcher shop. In great distress they went to see Hakuin to apologize and ask for forgiveness. “We are really sorry. We have come to take the baby back. Our daughter confessed that you are not the father.” “Is that so?” is all he would say as he handed the baby over to them.

The Farmer's Son
(Taoist variation on a theme)​

An old farmer who had worked his crops for many years set his aging horse free to pasture. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors said, "Such bad luck, to lose your only horse." "May be," the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed. "May be," replied the old man.

The following day, the farmer's son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "May be," answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. "May be," said the farmer.

And then, of course, the young village men were killed in the war and the farmer's son, limp and all, was the only able bodied man remaining. The farmer and his son prospered. When his neighbors praised his fortune, well, you know how the farmer replied. "May be".

Here's Eckhart Tolle’s commentary on Hakuin’s Zen story and its Taoist variation:
“The story of the Zen Master whose only response was always “Is that so?” shows the good that comes through inner nonresistance to events, that is to say, being at one with what happens. The story of the man whose comment was invariably a laconic “Maybe” illustrates the wisdom of non-judgment, and to the fact of impermanence which, when recognized, leads to non-attachment. Nonresistance, non-judgement, and non-attachment are the three aspects of true freedom and enlightened living.”

― Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose)

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute


Suzanne McDermott
Backyard, 2006, Watercolor

“There is a long time in me between knowing and telling.”
― Grace Paley, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute



What is happening

There is no question about it.
​Some changes are predictable,
Expected.
Sumer, Fall, Winter, Spring,
with plenty of time to
turn, turn, turn.

Lately, though, change arrives in a flash.
A drop dead, earthquake, bomb of a moment.
Crash.
If you're still upright,
the resonance alone is enough to knock you down.

Time stands
Still we keep revolving around the sun,
the moon orbits
and breezes sweep us up with their
demanding, obligating pals:

Sleep
Wake
Eat
Wash

While exploding now onto
new playing fields we did not imagine.
Why would we?

Just last year, (or was it the year before?)
There was only fall around the corner
coming with dry, bright leaves,
crisp, fireplace air,
fleecy sleeves and scarves,
more moisturizer.


—Suzanne McDermott
21 September 2017

©2017 Suzanne McDermott/All Rights Reserved

Straighten Up and Fly Right


As I was thinking about tonight's full moon (technically, tomorrow morning at 3:02 am), I could not get this song title out of my head.
The general consensus in the astrology world seems to be that this a) this is a good time to clean up and clear clutter out (Straighten Up!) and b) it's an auspicious time to buckle down, focus on, and do exactly what needs to be done for important long term project (Fly Right!).
It's always a good time to clean and de-clutter and I must be in alignment with the moon as I am as buckled down, focused and hammering away at a long-term project. You?
As for the song title, I looked it up and did not know that Nat King Cole wrote the song with Irving Mills (the publisher, et al) and that it's "based on a black folk tale that Cole's father had used as a theme for one of his sermons." (I love Wikipedia.)
I have to get back now to buckling down and flying right... 

The last days of white linen



The last days of white linen

The last days of white linen,
of wide brimmed hats
slanted against the sun,
stroll into the long weekend bookend of summer—
Toes in salt water and sand (if you’re lucky).

The last days of white linen
flap against still summer breezes and
wrinkle into sun-kissed skin
lined with all of the preceding seasons of stories
and marbled with yumminess, forgiven in the moment.

The last days of white linen
whisper of gentle folding and tucking away
with trust in the future.

This will be good next season.
I will be here to wear it.

Acrid, smoky, nearby smudges of fire will expire
with the rising of crocuses, daffodils.
Damp from the floods will evaporate after the
ice and snow (if you’re lucky).

The last days of white linen
will resurrect their fabric and form
early next summer,
as they always have

In seasons of heat
and bare shoulders.


—Suzanne McDermott
30 August 20017

©2017 Suzanne McDermott/All Rights Reserved

©2017 Suzanne McDermott/All Rights Reserved

Beauty begets Beauty


                                                                                                          

"Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love... Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding."

—Martin Luther King, Jr. 

                                                                                                          


Because my mind was going a mile a minute when I sat down to meditate this morning, I plopped a vase of mums directly in the line of my meditative gaze. I'm not sure that this helped me step out of the thought stream but they sure were beautiful to look at. Before I stood up to move along with my day, I gathered them between my hands, buried my face in them and inhaled deeply. I love the smell of mums!


It is too, too easy to be sucked into the virtual world of (often) horror and mayhem. Make it a practice to focus on the beautiful objects in your space. After all, you put them there, didn't you? If you haven't filled your space with objects of beauty that the light can find, please, do yourself a favor and do so now.

The objects that the light finds and illuminates will illuminate your mind, whether you love them or not. Practice seeing what the light illuminates. Practice loving that.

Short post. I'm looking away now. Looking for the beautiful in my immediate vicinity.
                                                                                                          


"I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains."

—Anne Frank


What matters are tomatoes.


Let's get our priorities straight.

Our government and much of the world seems to be in utter chaos if we take the major news outlets as our source of information.

But if I move away from the computer or radio and tv news and look around my rooms, there are so many more interesting and wonderful things to behold, to read, to make beautiful things with.

If I step out my door and bump into neighbors (and often, their dogs), happy transactions (and often, lickie licky? kisses) await.

A few steps more around the corner and I find my fabulous garden, exhausted from the heat but still bringing forth peppers, collards, leeks, herbs and, yes, tomatoes!

I just read an essay by Garrison Keillor and the line that jumped out at me was "What matters are tomatoes". Well, I thought, that's it.

And it's true.

It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.
--Lewis Grizzard

Happy full moon. Think pleasant thoughts. Enjoy your tomatoes. 

Read more...

The Value of Practice

Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), 
Chair, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, April - May 1890 
chalk on paper, 33.0 cm x 24.7 cm, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Why bother practicing anything?

Isn't it enough to just get out of bed in the morning and go through the motions of your well-planned or follow-your-nose around day? I guess that depends on who you are and what you want out of this all-too-brief life. For the sake of argument, let's just say that your answer is, no. That's not enough.

Also, for the sake of argument, let's say it doesn't really matter what you practice. You could be practicing law, tennis, meditation, a musical instrument, sobriety, writing... usually, when I talk about practice, I'm talking about drawing and watercolor. And I'll get to that shortly.

Whatever you practice, you're usually going after a result. Generally, you want to "get better" at or master an activity or experience. Maybe you're in it for the competition, with yourself or someone else. For a score or an accolade or, simply, just to do it.

If you measure practice on a graph, you are not going to see a straight line ascending at an angle. That graph line will shoot up one day and plummet the next. Or plateau for long periods of time. Again, that's generally speaking. If you're Federer, with a lifetime of discipline, your calendar planned at least a year out, surrounded by a support team and trainers, your results might look different but even someone at the top of whatever game they're playing has to manage daily practice and deal with daily results.

If you're not a pro and don't expect to master whatever you practice, why bother practicing anything? Every discipline has its own set of rules and regs and quantifications, but just consider your personal experience and level of satisfaction with a practice.

No matter how long you've been practicing, you're not always going to be happy with your results. Which means that you're not always going to be happy with yourself. You're going to succeed sometimes and you're going to fail. A lot. You're going to trip and fall and hurt yourself. Even if it's just with the thoughts you think about yourself (which can be more damaging than a broken bone). Like it or not, that's just the way it is.

But the true value of practice is that every time you set out or sit down to do so, you meet yourself. You show up to practice, you meet yourself in whatever condition you find yourself, and that, right there, adds up to a lot. 
"Exercittio potest omnia." *
(Practice makes all possible or Practice is everything.)
—Periander

*Often (almost always) mistranslated as "Practice makes perfect."

As you succeed, fall down, get back up, fail, succeed, fail miserably... you learn about your weak points and strong points and get to know yourself. If you keep on going, practicing, you have the opportunity to accept your weaknesses and appreciate your strengths.

Contrary to popular belief, it is your weaknesses, your limitations, that give you your personal style. No one else in the world has your particular set of strengths and weaknesses. If you can learn to embrace your weaknesses, you can turn them into strengths.

Above, the simple, charming, kind of wonky, drawing of a chair was made by Van Gogh during the last four months of his life, after many, many years of practice. It might not hold you up if you tried to sit down on it, but it certainly is alive. And unmistakably Van Gogh.

What do you practice that makes you feel alive? What have you learned through that practice that makes you unmistakably you? 

Why fight it?


I think it's hysterical that my intention was to write about the value of practice and instead, I am surrendering to a quick post on...surrender!

After almost two weeks of serious over-scheduling, my mind, body and soul are telling me, "break time!"

Anyway, it is very, very, very hot where I live and work and I must move to the drawing table and surrender to my pencils, brushes and colors, if only for my mental health. Well, spiritual health, too. Okay... for fun. Actually, I have already been working at the computer here for hours today and I must switch gears.

Sometimes, even when you feel (or are) obligated, even if only to yourself, it's good to say, "Sorry, Charlie!"

Must go scribble.

"Always say 'yes' to the present moment... Surrender to what is. Say 'yes' to life - and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you." —Eckhart Tolle

Getting Started



What do you do when you over-schedule yourself? Do you over-schedule yourself? I do. And I'd like to knock it off or at least find a better approach to work.

I wish that I could say that I just came off a couple of jam-packed weeks but I still have a few intensive days to go. I love my work. It's just that my primitive brain reaction to too much on my plate is to find any way at all to go unconscious.

The problem with going unconscious, at least for me, is that I need recovery time from unconsciousness more than I need recovery time from too many responsibilities on my schedule.

Above pictured is my morning chair where I sit with coffee, my Lamy pen and notebook and have a meeting with myself about the day. This morning, I missed my meeting. Not a good sign.

For me, going unconscious is a failure. Yes, I am hard on myself but the thing about failing and getting started again is that it builds resilience.

So, because I have another block of writing to do before teaching a new class tonight, I'm going to jump off and do that. The topic is related both in theme and activity. You may read that tomorrow.






Thank you, Gustav



Gustav Mahler
, 1907

7 July 1860, Kaliště in Bohemia, now Czech Republic – 18 May 1911

Because I've been working so hard on composing my art history courses and teaching, and unable to carve out time for personal expressive creation, I've been thinking a lot about Gustav Mahler lately. Mostly about his response to someone about his time spent composing vs. conducting and, perhaps, which may have been more important.

"I conduct to live. I live to compose." —Gustav Mahler

Unfortunately, I don't have the source or context. But, regardless, the drift is clear.

The first time I ever heard Mahler was while watching Visconti's Death in Venice while still in high school at the Ardmore or Bryn Mawr Theater in Pennsylvania. Already primed with a lot of listening to and love of Richard Strauss, I was completely swept away without having any idea of what was happening to me. I was falling in love with the music of Gustav Mahler.

At later viewings, after knowing Mahler's music far more intimately and because of how often Visconti uses themes from that one Adagietto movement from Mahler's 5th Symphony, I had to hold my seat when I really wanted to walk out because of the overuse of snippets of those particular passages and because, though I loved Death in Venice at first sight at 16, I later found it cloying and overdone. Still, considering the time frame in which the film was made and Visconti's attempt to merge Thomas Mann's character of Aschenbach with Mahler, the composer, and, I'm sure his personal experience and maybe, longings...the mishmash, lusciously shot by Pasqualino De Santis, featuring a not so flattering but profoundly made performance by Dirk Bogarde in the title role, it is still a cinematic masterpiece.

Donald Elfman or Chris Rouse, or both, gave me a recording of Mahler's 9th for my birthday - Bernard Haitink's recording (really, if you're going to listen to one thing, listen to this.) recording with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra — for what must have been my 18th birthday or maybe just for fun, and I fell hard for at least a decade. Really, for the rest of my life

I listened to every recording of any Mahler I could get my hands on and while we were all still hanging out together in Philadelphia, Donald and Chris picked out for me what they thought were the best recordings. (There were few at that time.) A few years later, in 1980 — before the wide public embrace of Mahler — I knew a UCLA professor who would say in lecture, "If you were going to buy stock in a composer today, I'd advise you to invest in Mahler."

I went to Mahlerthons where nut cases like myself would listen to Mahler's entire output uninterrupted. I never actually stayed through the entire 'thon but it was fun to stop by, lay down on whosever carpet it was and listen for a couple of hours.

When you become familiar with Mahler and all of his music, it's easy to perceive it as one, long gigantic piece of music interrupted only by the composer's conducting obligations. A cathedral of themes and variations. I still have scores for all the symphonies. I think. If so, they're in storage near UCONN.

Although I'm listening to Haitink's 9th right now, I haven't really sat down and listened to a Mahler symphony or song cycle in years. If I had a proper system, I'd schedule Jascha Horenstein's 1970 recording of the 3rd with the London Symphony Orchestra asap. It's a little too quiet on computer uploads to be fully appreciated so I recommend Pierre Boulez's more recent recording of the 3rd with Anne Sofie von Otter and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra .

The best Mahler symphony I ever saw performed live was conducted by Boulez at one of his Avery Fisher Hall Rug Concerts. It was an absolute thrill, the whole thing. So I downloaded the Boulez version of the 3rd and though it's a completely different approach from Horenstein's, there are some really interesting choices and interpretations and, being as it's conducted by Boulez, it's meticulous and transparent with a web-like rhythmic structure.

I think I read somewhere that upon its completion, Mahler showed the 3rd Symphony to Bruno Walter and asked Walter how he might conduct it because Mahler — the leading conductor at the time — did not know how. Boulez certainly did.

Now, there are plenty of books on Mahler and loads of recordings of his music. Make your life better. Listen to, learn about Mahler if you love music.

Ken Russell made a film about Mahler that only Ken Russell could have made (Ken Russell's Mahler). I think it was  Robert Powell's destiny to portray Mahler and Georgina Hale is fab as Alma. Watch it. It is, I think, the quintessential example of Ken Russel's cinematic expression and, in that, a brilliant, if brutal, portrait of Mahler. In another film, Bride of the Wind, Jonathan Pryce plays Mahler.

I'm glad to have made myself sit down and listen to the 9th again while writing this post. It's been a great, emotional pleasure. Mahler is not easy, especially in this day and age. You have to take time out and really listen. He requires your full attention. At length.

Listening to, obsessing over, Mahler's music has made my life a profoundly richer experience. Thanks again, to Don and Chris for giving me an enthusiastic foundation.

Click here for Leonard Bernstein conducting the Adagietto from Mahler's 5th with the Vienna Phil

Walking home on a summer's evening



What a great fortune to live in a beautiful neighborhood under a mature canopy of trees with room for a garden. I walk a few minutes through verdant streets of historic houses to a vintage art film theater.

Last night, I walked down to see Beatriz at Dinner. I was surprised by the final unfolding of the film and am still thinking about it. Loved the music by Mark Mothersbaugh.

I walked to an early evening show because it was so hot outside, I thought that I may as well spend it in air conditioning. Sure enough, by the time I walked home, it was twilight and the air had cooled down considerably.

I spied these glowing hydrangeas a block away from the theater and stopped to take them in and share.

One thing at a time


“A weakness of all human beings is trying to do too many things at once.” 
—Henry Ford

There's no such thing as multi-tasking 

The ocean waves do not try to reach shore at the same time. 

The leaves on a tree do not try to change color at once. 

Each wave, each leaf is a unique manifestation of an unfolding process of living experience. Human beings moving through space and time are also unfolding processes of living experiences. 

But the human mind? Especially with gazillions of distractions here in the early 21st century? We are so easily distracted that we miss much of the beautiful unfolding process of life. 

I make this claim with confidence because I am one of the most easily distracted people I know. 
I practice meditation briefly every day but nothing, no meditation I have come across, calms and focuses my attention like drawing or painting. It may not be for everyone but it sure works for me. 

In my experience, multitasking is a myth. Trying to multitask, or even expecting yourself to be able to multitask, can leave you dizzy, drained, overwhelmed, ungrounded. You may think that you are working on several projects simultaneously but, in fact, you can only take action on one thing or think one thought at a time (no matter how brief that time may be).

Expect yourself to do one thing at a time and plan for that. It's a sure way to sanity. 

"Two things cannot happen at once; it is impossible. It is easy to imagine that two things are happening at once, because our journey back and forth between the two may be very speedy. But even then we are doing only one thing at a time. 

"The idea of mindfulness is to slow down the fickleness of jumping back and forth. We have to realize that we are not extraordinary mental acrobats. We are not all that well trained. And even an extraordinarily well-trained mind could not manage that many things at once--not even two. But because things are very simple and direct, we can focus on, be aware and mindful of, one thing at a time. That one-pointedness, that bare attention, seems to be the basic point."

— Chogyam Trungpa, from "The Four Foundations of Mindfulness Meditation"

I have a long list of reasons why I continue to teach drawing and watercolor after 20 years. One reason is that the process allows people the opportunity to quiet their minds and practice focusing on one task at a time.

Practicing drawing and watercolor is mindfulness training on steroids.

What creating a course looks like


Not much! At least the researching and writing part of creating a course is primarily a keep your butt in the chair kind of activity. Speaking of which, I must grab a bottle of Lemon essential oil to help myself focus for this evening's work.

Late last night, I completed all the notes and presentation document for Lesson One of my landscape painting history practicum. That's a mouthful. Must come up with a more succinct, sexier description. And I will, but not today.

I've moved into a play by day, work by night schedule. Not that I'm playing exactly but rather doing housework, chores, gardening, swimming or working out at the gym, reading... that sort of thing. In part, I like to spend my days enjoying the daylight, not staring at a computer screen. So I tend to settle down to "work"in the late afternoon or early evening and force myself to stop by midnight.

Yesterday, I really did spend all morning, afternoon, and evening at the computer screen so I snapped myself staring at the screen and again, in the throes of research.


Writing this blog post today is honoring my commitment to renewing my blogging practice. I have a feeling it's going to mostly be slice of life stuff. It's also yet another way to procrastinating getting back to work. I don't know why. I love the work. I think it's mostly a writer's issue.

Anyway, that's it for today. Except to say... 

Howdy, Joshemari! I always love hearing from you, appreciate your friendship and, as I become more active here again, will come visit more often. I can't stand Facebook and agree with you that here, on Blogger, is where I've forged my best internet friendships. You've inspired me to schedule in daily drawing and watercolor again very soon. I remember your hospital sketches. Love to you.

Blogging

All rightee. I am going to start blogging again regularly. Here. On Blogger.

I have not been entirely silent here but it's mostly been weekly missives directing you to my main home site.

Over the past several years, I have been playing with different website and blogging platforms, at first, in order to create a membership site. Then to handle the various projects I've worked on. Basically, I have been driving myself crazy in that the result of all this experimentation has splintered, splattered my attention.

This wonderful blogger blog was originally devoted to my watercolors. My personal daily practice of drawing and watercolor has fallen by the wayside as I've turned my attention to teaching and coaching. At this moment, my drawing and watercolor practice happens mostly in the classroom. This is good, but not good enough for my need to do watercolor.

Nonetheless, I've become a much better teacher and have developed some awesome new teaching programs. Also, because I've been working with a super coach over the past year, I've become a much better coach.

Yesterday, I spent a stupid amount of time working on and researching new platforms because the one I have been working on over the past couple of years has failed me in a number of critical ways. Maddening! Alas, typical, as anyone who has strayed into the variety of available website/blogging platforms can understand.

As it turns out, in the meanwhile, there seem to be new options in Blogger that offer me a way back in to this platform. We shall see how this turns out over the next month.

But for now, I am not worrying about uploading images. I am simply going to blog fresh daily while finishing up the history courses I'm creating and will carry on about my business at hand, prioritizing daily because I have a lot of work to do.

My goal is to get back into the habit of writing fresh daily, get my online shit together and, once my history courses are up and running, start drawing and watercoloring for myself and posting those things here along with slice of life photos.

So, that's what's up. You'll see some changes here and there. It's good to be home in Blogger. Let's see what I can make of it.

Five ways to let nature nurture you

One way to allow nature to nurture you?

Get your ass under some trees!

More ways...

Behold the life forms on our planet from whatever vantage point you have...Experience the sky. The birds.  The land. Trees. Squirrels. Water. Fish. So much. Everything.

Experience a Forest Bath. Just go for a walk as close to your residence or work place as you can, to wherever there are trees and other species of animals (mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians). 

Appreciate the interconnectedness. All read more...

What I'm reading this summer (2017)

Clouds from my garden

Summer rolls in on the 21st at 12:24 am. Do something special to mark the longest day of the year.

Any plans for the season? I'm preparing a set of new online drawing and watercolor courses that debut (to alums of my foundation courses) in September. Also, I am taking my first, actual, planned vacation in late August and truly looking forward to that. But on the other hand, I'm enjoying life immensely right now, so I can wait.

I am leaving behind the habits of checking the news more than once daily (if that often), and of streaming movies and tv shows online. I'm sick to death of both and am back to reading.

I've just discovered Andrew Garve (aka Paul Winterton, aka Roger Bax, aka Paul Somers), and finished his Hide And Go Seek this afternoon. I discovered this book in a free basket (as I have several other fab reads over the years), opened to a random page, read a paragraph aloud, put it under my arm and am committed to three more of his.

Here's what else I have stacked up for summer: Click here to read more...

About my Dad


Edwin J. McDermott, Esq.
1907-1978

Recently, I have been missing my Dad. A lot. I think of him now, especially while I am swimming laps, remembering the simple, loose, lined '60's swim trunks he wore in olive green or khaki.

Approaching Father's Day, rather than compose some sentimental essay, I am making a list of random facts about him, as they come to mind. The massively interesting, good stuff I remember. Okay, here goes.
He
  • was once arrested on Atlantic City beach for bathing without a top on.
  • had just come back from horseback riding on Atlantic City beach when he heard the news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.
  • taught Naval officers accounting at Penn during WWII.
  • was one of the youngest lawyers to go before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1932 at the age of 24. 
  • graduated third in his class, Order of the Coif, at University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1930.
  • entered St. Joseph's College in 1927, at the age of 15.
  • rowed single scull on the Schulykill River.
  • regularly bought records from Sam Goody at his first record shop on 9th Avenue in NYC, relying on Sam for au courant recommendations.
  • said, "Here. I understand that you should listen to this." while handing me a copy of Meet the Beatles.
  • taught me how to work an amplifier and tone arm...read more

The Growing Season


“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud                                                  was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ― Anaïs Nin
The garden is coming along.

I can't get the ever-expanding plots all in to one shot so the above photo is a detail of Russian kale that's been keeping me in greens all winter, flowering zucchini, dill, beets, leeks, tomatoes, vinca, lavender, anise hyssop, scabiosa and some native plant in violet bloom that a neighbor gave me last spring. There's more, much more... but you get the idea.

This time last year I started with discarded heirloom tomato seedlings in old recycling bins. I knew little about growing vegetables and still have a lot to learn but I can say that about almost anything.

Along with the garden, I've been growing new drawing and watercolor studio classes in art history. These have evolved since January in dramatic and exciting ways. Dramatic because of the phenomenal results of student work. Exciting because, well, any...read more

Sleep on it


You need more sleep.

That's the name of a book on the shelf in my bathroom.​ It's a bunch of good advice to humans from cats.

I'm going to make this post quick because I'd like to get to sleep, oh, right about NOW. But I'll sleep better if I write this post and publish it first. I've missed my regular weekly posts because I've been profoundly exhausted from a sinus infection and have used every ounce of energy to do only what was necessary. Although that also happened to include outlining and partially designing three new courses (one of which I created while teaching the first iteration).

Have you ever been so tired that you cannot sleep? That's the way I've been feeling. Laying down a lot but not getting proper sleep. That, however, is changing. Right now. Tonight, in fact. Because, hey... click here to read more...