Feeds:
Posts
Comments

I could use a vacation about now. How about you? I don’t see one on the horizon for awhile, so I guess I’ll be content with the occasional day trip and travels with authors who take me places I’ve never been and/or long to be.

 

CapeCod-SconsetBeach

The Outermost House is a narrative about the year Henry Beston spent on Cape Cod in 1925. His intention was to spend two weeks, but “The fortnight ending, I lingered on, and as the year lengthened into autumn, the beauty and mystery of this earth and outer sea so possessed and held me that I could not go.”

OutermostHouse-HBeston2I visited Cape Cod several times when I was younger, and I loved it. Even though I grew up with fairly easy access to the many beautiful shore spots in New Jersey, there was something different about Cape Cod … even the air. A vacation for me could easily be living near the ocean, sitting peacefully, maybe reading, maybe just watching the tides. The ocean is immensely restorative – her rhythms, her colors, her moods. Nothing really needs to be said when you sit by her side. But I would like the option to enjoy this as a relatively solitary activity most of the time, i.e., not accompanied by the noise, activity and intrusion of beachgoers. And so I will be turning back the clock and enjoying the unspoiled magnificence of nature in this spot on Cape Cod.

DuneGrass-Ellywa2

Henry Beston and The Outermost House actually came to my attention at least 15 years ago through a magnificent quote from his book:

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

And that’s another reason I’m joining Henry in Cape Cod.

 

Today is World Elephant Day, and I wanted to share with you two things – a wonderful video of a baby elephant in a protected nature preserve for rescued elephants in Thailand;  she finds a long piece of ribbon and plays with it. It’s enchanting – she’s just like any other little kid, (she’s 5 years old), with a new toy …

And the rescue of a humpback whale who was saved by a group of researchers out on their boat. They came across her so entangled by discarded fishing net that she is slowly drowning. One of the men swims out to her to let her know that they’re there to help. Ultimately, when she seems to know they are freeing her, she patiently stays alongside their boat as they cut her free, and then she shows them what freedom really is.

There is much sadness in the world as to how man treats his animal brethren, but it is always so wonderful to watch him rise above. Thanks to the people who take such good care of these elephants and the individuals who freed this magnificent creature and saved her life.

 

Top on my list today? Jersey tomatoes!

TomatoSandwichFixins2

Slice into one of these ruby red gems and it’s pure heaven. What’s for lunch? A Skellig sweet cheddar from Ireland, Vegenaise and organic sprouted grain toast – yum!

And I don’t care what anyone says – I’ve had tomatoes from other places and they just don’t measure up to real Jersey tomatoes. They don’t call us the Garden State for nothing!

JerseyTomatoes2

And the best part? In my part of the state there are farmstands and farmers’ markets dotting the back roads and main roads, so you never have to go too far to be absolutely delighted with these sweet, juicy, delicious tomatoes. (Corn, too!) Gratitude for little things comes easy out this way in summer.

Summer Reading

Summer’s a great time to read – it doesn’t matter if you’re on the front porch or in the A/C, if it’s in the cool morning or squeezing it in for a half-hour before you turn out the light – it just seems that time must be made to read. So what are you reading? And how do you decide what to read?

OneCrazySummer-RWGarcia2I find that friends often have great suggestions, especially if they’re involved in children’s books, too. One friend, getting her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, comes up with great suggestions because she’s reading like a fiend while getting her degree, as does another who does constant research for her own writing in picture books. Of course, I always come across fabulous finds at our huge annual county book sale, but let’s not forget one other source …

Our humble librarians. The local librarian in my little town is a wealth of information, and by now, she also knows me well enough to make some wonderful suggestions as well, especially in KidLit. Awhile back, she had mentioned how much she enjoyed the first middle-grade book of a trilogy by Rita Williams-Garcia, One Crazy Summer. It’s about 3 girls who live in Brooklyn traveling out to Oakland, CA to meet their mother who left them 7 years earlier. I hadn’t realized initially that this is historical fiction, and the story takes place when the p.s.BeEleven-RGWilliams2Black Panthers were active in CA, as was their mother. It’s a fascinating tale that takes place when I was well aware of all the goings-on at that time, the assassination of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, Bobby Kennedy, the Vietnam war, etc. But what really brought the story to life is Garcia’s three main characters, Delphine, Vonetta and Fern. They are so real; it’s no wonder Ms. Garcia-Williams won so many awards, including a Newbery Honor Award.

So endearing and engrossing are these sisters, that I brought back the first book, and walked right out with the second, p.s. Be Eleven, advice given to Delphine by her mother at the end of each letter she sends her, (Delphine being the oldest.) The author doesn’t shy away from big topics and now the girls, back in Brooklyn, are trying to understand what’s happened to Uncle Darnell who’s returned from Vietnam, not the Uncle D. they knew just 15 months ago. Family plays a big part in these stories and Big Ma, raised in the South, has her own ideas about raising the girls, as does Pa, but then the girls must also deal with him introducing a new lady friend and getting married. It’s real life, and all shared through the eyes of these three wonderfully drawn young  girls.

I’ve just put in a request to get the third book in the trilogy, Gone Crazy in Alabama, through inter-library loan, but meanwhile, have jumped into an adult novel, recommended by yet another friend and avid reader, Defending Jacob.

It’s summer – are you reading?

 

 

 

I have a love/hate relationship with the marketing world. I am so, so weary of having a zillion products and services pushed at me relentlessly in every media avenue I could possibly be in touch with. It’s annoying and sometimes exhausting, and, I suspect, touches your life as well.

But then … I come across a commercial which is absolutely brilliant, moving, and says something so important in a way that I could never imagine. At first, this short, wordless commercial shows us a touching relationship between man and his best friend, the steadfast devotion dogs have for us. But that’s just a part of the message. What’s ultimately being said is so unexpected and so beautifully said — take a look.

IndianRunnerDucks2I am a big believer in synchronicity. To some of us that means that there are no coincidences. That we are sometimes/often given little signs that what we are doing is right, what we are thinking is on the mark, that others are thinking of us, and so on. (How about when you are thinking of a friend, you go to pick up the phone and it rings, and your friend is on the line?) Not everyone believes in synchronicity and these individuals attribute such things to luck, to chance. I am not one of these individuals.

Here’s another example. When I lived in Brooklyn, I lived on Union St.  As I searched for the right place to move in New Jersey, the perfect apartment opened up – in the town I wanted, on Union St.! When I was planning to move out to the western side of the state, the perfect house turned out to be in Union Township. That’s what I’m talking about!

So how about the small and happy synchronicity? At the upper left, you see carvings of two Indian Runner Ducks*. They were in a local import store, Two Buttons, and I was just entranced by them. They were not outlandishly expensive so I decided to treat myself to these two, chosen from a nice selection of different positions and attitudes. They are carved from the roots of palm trees by Balinese, (I believe), artists, and they’ve been gracing my living room for several years now.

IndianRunnerDucksBaby2Not long ago, I received some birthday goodies from two people very dear to me, and what do you think was inside? A baby runner duck! It was the wife of the couple who spotted the young duck with the polka-dot rain boots, and they both thought it would be perfect for me. Little did they know …

So the duckling, whose name is Hattie according to her name tag, has now rounded out the little family quite nicely. I am also finding inspiration for a possible children’s book, but that’s another story.

Is this synchronicity? Methinks yes … a small and happy one, that tells me that two people dear to me, even though they live at quite a distance and were unaware of my two ducks, are in tune and knew exactly what would be perfect for me. Pretty cool!

Is there synchronicity in your life? Of course there is! Keep an eye out and you’ll be amazed at what you can find.

* p.s. Indian Runner Ducks are a domestic breed of duck that stand upright on their legs, just as you see these carvings, and walk and run, rather than waddle.

For those of you who enjoyed the art of Seward Johnson in a previous post, I am sharing a bit more of the sculptures (mostly) inside the gallery. It seems almost everyone is familiar with the iconic figure of Marilyn Monroe taken over the air blast from a sewer grate. Johnson has done a fine job of Marilyn in this lovely tableau …

SJohnson-Marilyn2

but many more people are actually familiar with his outdoor version of Marilyn …

SJohnson-MarilynOutside2

SJohnson-MarilynOutsideB2

And back to the gallery … perhaps one of the reasons I am drawn to Seward Johnson’s work is that we share something in common – our love of the Impressionist period of painting. Many of his sculptures based on famous paintings are inspired by artists of that time.

SJohnson--LaJaponaise2

SJohnson-LaJaponaiseHead2

Johnson’s study above is based on “La Japonaise”, a painting by Monet, the model being Monet’s first wife.

SJohnson-YoungGirlAtWindow2

He was also inspired by Mary Cassatt, an American-born artist, (Pennsylvania to be exact), who spent most of her adult life in France, where she soon befriended Edgar Dégas and exhibited with the Impressionists. Cassatt’s painting is “Young Girl at Window.”

Manet is another favorite of Seward Johnson, and there are tableaux of Manet’s paintings throughout the Grounds for Sculpture. Below is a small part of the installation based on Manet’s “Olympia.” My crop reflects what the entirety of Manet’s painting looked like.

SJohnson-Olympia2

 But Johnson took it one (huge) step further …

SJohnson-OlympiaRoom2

He created an entire room that one can walk into, such as he imagined this woman might have as her boudoir, historically correct to every detail, as are all the items she wears, right down to her shoes.

The last installation I’m featuring, which was actually the first room you walked into, was deeply touching to me, but I didn’t even realize its significance until I got home and looked at the photos I had taken.

SJohnson-Memorial911-2

There was a figure in the room just to the right of the sculpture, looking at it. As is often the case, we wondered if he was “real.” It soon became apparent he was not. Then we wondered about another figure a bit further away, who sat motionless on a museum bench. He was so still that it wasn’t until he flicked his finger to scroll down on his iPad that we realized he was not a part of the installation. Distracted by this, I somehow thought that this was a memorial to a soldier.

SJohnson-Memorial911Close2

When I looked at my photos at home, I had no idea how I could have missed that this was a tribute to those who died on 9/11. It is a deeply moving piece, with the helmets of firemen, police and EMS workers, the fire hose, the flowers done in bronze and cement, the figure’s head bowed behind two plaques above and below our flag. The marble plaque below says “Im memory of all those who lost their lives.” The piece above, looking as if it were written on paper, has scrawled on it, “In memory of those who gave their lives to try and save so many.”

And then I saw the two shafts of light in the background where our twin towers once stood, and was overwhelmed with sadness yet again. Thank you for this piece, Mr. Johnson.

You may know from watching nature shows that there is something in the animal world called symbiosis or mutualism. What it means is that two unlikely creatures form alliances for their mutual benefit. I will offer a few examples with stunning photographs from Wikipedia and then my own humble example.

Perhaps the most well-known example of symbiosis in the animal world – only because there have been so many photographs circulated about it – is that of the clownfish and the anemone.

Clownfish-Nick Hobgood2

The charming little clownfish seems to be one of the only, if not the only, sea creature that is immune to the anemone’s sting. That works out perfectly. The clownfish has a place of safety to which he can swim when predators pursue, and in turn, brings dinner right to the anemone.

Then we have cleaner shrimp. These slender, delicate shrimp perform an important function for a variety of sea-dwellers from groupers to anemones to eels, as we see below.

CleanerShrimpMorayEel2

Here a cleaner shrimp does a tidy-up on the mouth of a moray eel. The benefit to the eel is that of a good dental/oral cleaning as bacteria is removed from its mouth. For the shrimp, who is a scavenger, a meal on the go.

Not all examples of symbiosis are under water. For example, oxpeckers are birds that often co-habit with zebras, (and other large mammals), for mutual advantage. The oxpeckers eat lice and ticks from the zebras’ coats and help the zebras by screaming when predators are nearby. Crocodiles and plovers co-exist with the plovers popping right into the crocodile’s mouth. Once again, in exchange for a good dental cleaning, the croc allows the plover whatever morsels he can find.

And then we come to my personal example:

Pumpkin-Symbiosis2

A cat and a car. Perhaps the most mysterious and least understood, (to the average passerby), of symbiotic relationships, there are even tertiary benefits in this relationship – to me!

Pumpkin, my buddy from next door, likes to take his nap in the shade of my bumper. The hotter it gets, the deeper in the cool shade he lies. The benefit to Pumpkin is obvious, but what about the car?

Two stories came to my attention awhile back. My neighbor across the street found one day that his truck wouldn’t start. It was taken by flatbed to his mechanic who found that a goodly number of field mice had set up housekeeping in his engine and chewed through all the wires. So bad was it, that it couldn’t be repaired. It was either a new engine in the truck or a new truck. The neighbor across the street on his other side was driving to work when her car simply stopped running. She coasted to the side of the road, was taken by flatbed to her mechanic, who found that a goodly number of field mice had set up housekeeping in her engine and chewed through her wires as well. Luckily, her car could be repaired.

Getting my drift? So while I am always aghast to see the occasional mauled mouse that Pumpkin, (or his cohort Cloudy, my other buddy from next door), leaves lying about, I also know his presence is keeping my engine intact. Which means I get to drive knowing my wires are not chewed through, both cats get shade and bottomless bowls of food and water on my back porch, and we all get some cuddling and hanging-out time.

Beats eating ticks and lice or screaming at the approach of predators, eh?

As promised, I will try, as time allows, to bring you some of the amazing works of the sculptor Seward Johnson. He is the founder of the Grounds for Sculpture Museum, which is largely outdoors, and in his 80’s, he continues to work today. A retrospective of his work has been on display for well over a year now, and I feel fortunate to have gotten to see the many pieces that will soon return to their homes around the world.

Just inside the Welcome Center is a large gallery of his works; all but two are based on famous paintings. Today’s post focuses on a few of the works inside the gallery.

SJohnson-BedroomAtArles2

What you see above is a 3-dimensional room created from Van Gogh’s painting, “Bedroom at Arles.” When you step inside the room, there are two shiny black footprints upon which to stand. I, (yeah, I know, shame on me), didn’t read any of the art notes provided, but obediently stood on the footprints anyway and photographed the installation. What I didn’t see until I got home, is that by taking the photo from that exact angle, the effect was that of the 3-D room being flattened to appear as Van Gogh’s painting.

SJohnson-InsideBedroomAtArles2

To me, the genius of this sculpture is not just in Johnson’s usual accomplishment of turning a 2-D painting into a 3-D sculpture, but in then finding a way to reverse it back to 2-D. Above is a photo I took inside the room where you can see that the bed is made up with a real blanket, pillows and sheets.

SJohnson-GirlWithPearlEarring2

Stepping back in time, we have Vermeer’s “Girl with A Pearl Earring.” Johnson sometimes uses a suspended real frame to perfectly surround the subject as he/she appeared in the original painting, while they sit in the proper pose.

SJohnson-MonaLisa2

In more than one example of his work, we see Johnson’s sense of humor, and his “Mona Lisa” installation is certainly one of them. Here she sits, nicely framed, as was our girl above. The guards you see below are, of course, part of the installation, but what about the other people in the photos?

SJohnson-MonaLisaGuards2

Maybe not so much! What is truly enjoyable as you tour the grounds and this gallery and see his work, is that you are frequently left wondering, “Is that person real?” In a world where only a base under their feet can indicate that the people might not be live, it’s not always so easy to tell. Sometimes you do have to come pretty close to be sure.

SJohnson-MonaLisaPhoto2

Who knew the Mona Lisa offered photo ops? I can’t help but think Da Vinci would have been amused.

SJohnson-MonaLisaBoots2

And who would have suspected that the Mona Lisa was a much more modern young lady than her rather serious portrait might indicate. Cheers to Seward Johnson! You put a smile on every person’s face that looked at this exhibit.

If these works appeal to you, I encourage you to go to Seward Johnson’s website where you can see all his works, often multiple views, and have a link to take you to the original painting upon which he based his sculpture.

More sometime soon …

Summer Mix

JeannesNewFlipFlops2

Why, you may ask, are you looking at a pair of feet in (… well, a pretty cute set of) flip-flops?

Here’s why. For the same reason you’re about to look at a yummy summer salad sitting on an antique kitchen chair complete with original milk paint, (which by the way, doesn’t hold up all that well to everyday wear and tear.)

Salad2

It’s an offering. A little tide-you-over. I’ve been somewhat absent from my blog, but I do think of you, and I do miss the delight of writing more frequent posts, as well as stopping by your blogs. (Just because I don’t follow you or comment doesn’t mean I don’t stop in for a quick peek.)

The last few weeks have included some exciting things – a visit to the Grounds for Sculpture to see the Seward Johnson retrospective before the borrowed pieces return to their permanent spots all over the world on July 1. So much to see, and such genius! I’ll be posting more on that soon. Meanwhile, here’s a little teaser of what’s to come.

SewardJohnson-HotDogMan2

Johnson is known for his sculptures of people in everyday life and his 3-dimensional interpretations of famous paintings. Throughout the grounds one finds groupings of people as well as individuals, such as this hot dog vendor along one of the walkways.

And then there was the NJ SCBWI June Conference where we all ate, drank and slept children’s books for nearly two days straight. It’s intense, exciting, rewarding, and based on everyone’s collapse on Monday, a major rush! The workshops, meeting and dining with agents and editors, connecting and re-connecting with fellow writers and illustrators is quite the whirlwind of an experience, and has us all coming home with a renewed sense of purpose, our dreams fired up, and ready to further our goals and experiences in children’s books.

Intermezzo: a French Bulldog illustration of mine, for summer. (p.s. This is available as part of a boxed set of Frenchie notecards.)

Frenchie-IceCreamSodaSig

And then of course, there’s work. LOTS of work. Not to complain; paying one’s bills is a good thing, but between it all, well, my blog bore the brunt of it. As have my poor LightBetweenOeans-MLStedman2porches which remain bereft of a single flower this year. (I’ll spare you the empty porch photos.) And then there are the everyday demands of just plain life. Busy!

And of course I’ve been reading. I am always reading, no matter what. Great book – just finished – I highly recommend it.

Soon I will share with you some truly amazing treats from the Seward Johnson exhibit.

So stay tuned … I do believe I’m back!

Sunlight in Spring Forest, Bavaria, Germany

TheTigerRising-KDiCamillo2What first draws you to physically pick up a new book? The title? Perhaps. But what makes you think that it may be truly wonderful? Chances are it’s the cover. And when it’s a children’s book?  The artist’s cover illustration is what will make you long to see more.

As an artist/illustrator myself, I am always thrilled to come across new and fabulous illustrators whose work I’ve never seen. This has happened twice recently and I was so impressed with these two artists’ work, I thought I’d share with you.

The first artist is Chris Sheban and I searched him out because I was so taken with the cover art on the Kate DiCamillo book I’m reading – The Tiger Rising. Turns out, Chris has also illustrated another favorite middle grade novel of mine, same author, Because of Winn-Dixie. Take a look at Chris’ portfolio – he’s amazing.

InAVillageByTheSea-AChu2The second artist is April Chu. She came to my attention because she is the illustrator of the soon-to-be-published Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, the debut children’s book written by author and dear friend, Laurie Wallmark. What inspired me about April Chu are the illustrations of her most recently published book, In a Village by the Sea. It takes a lot of talent to portray the ocean as beautifully as she has, not to mention everything else in her illustrations. Take a peek at April Chu’s portfolio. Her work is truly outstanding.

Just as reading, as well as watching plays, movies, and yes, even TV, adds to our depth as writers, looking at other artists’ work adds to our richness as illustrators.

EdmundDulac-PrincessPea2I’m going to add one more artist who has been a longtime favorite of mine. I can’t add a link to his portfolio because he is no longer alive, but his work glows with a richness and vibrancy that I have loved since I first set eyes on it many years ago. He is Edmund Dulac, born in 1882, passed away 1953.  You can get background on him here, if interested, but will see more of his images here, where prints of his work are for sale. Pictured here is a 1911 illustration of Dulac’s for The Princess and the Pea.

It’s a good day to be inspired!

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 75 other followers

%d bloggers like this: