Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Shadow shapes

I spent two hours this morning trying to figure out how light falls on tulips.  As a photographer, I try to spot the source of light and the patterns that light makes before I shoot.  It did not help me a bit this morning.  The camera does one thing.  My hands and eyes just don't seem to get it.  Right now, I'm trying to understand whether Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" hypothesis on10,000 hours is what I am looking at if I want to paint well.

Vincent Van Gogh and his tulips
 One thing is sure, 10,000 hours or not -- I need to become more comfortable with the brush and with mixing color and understanding how to make different types of shadow shapes.  (Take a look at the master, above.)

So I will be converting a corner of my snug into a place where I can paint  every day, moving closer to the place where what I know I want to do and what I can actually do are the same.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Three families, four boys, 29 years ago

James Harrison Sowers Searle was born at 5:41am twenty nine years ago today.  His lighthearted father wrote:

"Little James,
with all of his names,
was born to the world
on Tuesday.

We wrapped him in rugs,
gave him six hugs
and took him home
the next Thursday."

Though he spent the first ten days of his life in ICU at Swedish Hospital, he's been a blaze of energy since then, grabbing life with both hands.  Of course, one loves their relatives but him I also admire.  He does good in the world.  He cares about other people.  His is his own person.

Three other boys whom we know and love were also born on that day.  We met Sam and Belinda Bell in childbirth classes at Swedish, and managed through all their growing up years to celebrate twins Cameron and Claiborne Bell and James with parties that included magicians, board breakers, swimming parties, fireman, friends and family.  We came to know Evan Swink after he and James became classmates at Bryant Elementary School.  They went on  to Eckstein Middle School, then both to Roosevelt High School and the Roosevelt Jazz Band.

This morning has become an annual occasion for counting my blessings, to have such constant friendships  in my life as Sam and Belinda, and with Suzie, who is always there to cheer me on, to tease me out of a funk or to inspire me with her attitude toward life and the curves it has thrown her.

So out there in the world are four men who will each make their mark.  Today,  I'm cheering them on.

Friday, November 1, 2013

All Saints Day is my cousin's day

In New Orleans today, Catholics are in the cemeteries decorating graves in honor of All Saints Day.  As a child, one of my favorite religious books was "Lives of the Saints," that had beautifully rendered (like the image above) portraits of the best known saints across from a single page that told her/his story.  It's from that book that I picked my own confirmation name (from Dennis HayesSaint Teresa of the little flowers).   From that book and other biographies I read came a love of storytelling and aspirations to be good.  But November 1 had less a religious connotation than a reminder of my mysterious older cousin Dennis, who shares his birthday with the feast of All Saints Day.

Dennis is a well known playwright, director and actor today, but in those days he was merely older than my cousin Kathleen and myself.  We rarely saw him, especially after he went off to college.  He was different, and made a name for himself at an early age in the theatre.  He took on my Aunt Teresa one summer while doing a theatre residency at the University of Iowa, refusing to shave his beard in order to be an usher in his cousin's wedding.  You can guess how that one came out.

Dennis' father (Jim) and his mother (Alice) were my godparents.  His mother and mine were close friends their whole lives, and reconnected us years later on the East Coast.   When we moved to upstate New York, Dennis had relocated in Ottawa, and we got to know him and his children through summer visits back and forth that sometimes included our mothers.  I admire all of his children,  and think of them as friends as well as relatives.   Though we are flung about in various parts of the work, we manage to keep track of one another and to meet usually every five years at the Hayes Family Reunion in Iowa City, hosted by Dennis' brother, Jim.

So that's the story of November 1, a time of year when we know for sure that winter is coming soon, when the light is slow to arrive and quick to depart each afternoon.  Stories are what Dennis can tell, and stories are what bind us together, with more than enough light to go round.  Happy birthday, Dennis!