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The Magnificence of Antoni Gaudi (or “Things to Marvel At”)

With Europe on my mind, and my daughter studying in Spain, I’m reminded of my fascination with Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. Known for his engineering genius, there are so many elements at work in his work that he bursts the seams of any one title – except perhaps that of artist, whose buildings were his canvas representing a treasure trove of design and unbridled creativity. You look at them and think “How….???!”

Revered worldwide as one of the most important modernist style architects, Gaudi lived from 1852-1926. “Over the course of his career, Gaudi developed a sensuous, curving, almost surreal design style which established him as the innovative leader of the Spanish Art Nouveau movement. With little regard for formal order, he juxtaposed unrelated systems and altered established visual order. Gaudi’s characteristically warped form of Gothic architecture drew admiration from other avant-garde artists.”

To view Gaudi’s work is to see “thinking outside the box” at whole new levels. His extraordinary examples, many of which reside in Barcelona, are movement and dance; they’re sugar-laced monuments with creamy frosting; they’re marshmallows and gingerbread, sand-castles, stone, glass and iron; they’re original, dramatic, striking blends of angle and color.

I marvel at the boundlessness. Fantastic. Illogical. Stunning.

 
*References
Dennis Sharp. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Architects and Architecture. New York: Quatro Publishing, 1991. ISBN 0-8230-2539-X. NA40.I45. p61.
Muriel Emmanuel. Contemporary Architects. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1980. ISBN 0-312-16635-4. NA680.C625 1980.
 
Images via Google.
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A Month of Poetry

“I say, ‘Get me some poets as managers.’ Poets are our original systems thinkers. They contemplate the world in which we live and feel obligated to interpret, and give expression to it in a way that makes the reader understand how that world runs. Poets, those unheralded systems thinkers, are our true digital thinkers. It is from their midst that I believe we will draw tomorrow’s new business leaders.”

– Sidney Harman, CEO Multimillionaire of a stereo components company
from Daniel H. Pink, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

……………………….

Be still my heart. April is National Poetry Month, and all the world is celebrating poetry’s glories. Well, maybe not the whole world, but surely as it runs in my blood, I can revel in the fact that poems and poets get a broader spotlight.

So I hope you’ll read some. Write some. Sing some. Because the world needs poetry – if only to remember to savor things like words and feelings and moments; if only to soften the rough edges or roughen the soft ones. Because, whether beautiful or raw, simple or complex, poetry has the power to reveal and re-shape our emotions; to know expression differently; to connect with the human experience.

I’ll leave you with this gem for now. Expect more poetic sharings to come.

 

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My Lucky Pencil

Some St. Patrick’s Day inspiration, a few quick strokes on a paper scrap, and my lucky pencil is born.

Now, if only I were Irish and found me a pot o’ gold. (Or maybe the leprechaun comes first. Or is it the rainbow?) Until then, pencil lead will have to do, with a four-leaf clover for good measure and a favorite Irish blessing for you. Cheers!

…………..

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

…………..

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Lessons From A Daffodil

Mother Nature likes to play in March. One day it’s glorious and spring-like, doors and windows flung open to the fresh air; the next it snows.

And what of the daffodils?

Fooled by the weather, some full-grown and giddy, their golden cups reach proudly for the sky. Then winter rains down again, and you feel sorry for them – yet, in the same breath, admiration. They’ve done this drill before. They’ve got looks, delicacy and toughness all wrapped up. We could learn a lesson or two from the daffodil.

Maybe it would be to rest in winter, allowing our roots to replenish.  And after the cold weary days have dragged on and on, be the first to send out hope, defiantly and boldly sprouting up in February’s first light.

And maybe then, ignoring suggestions like “it’s too soon, nobody else is growing yet”, or “don’t you know something bad could happen?”, or “ah, such a dreamer” – we stand by our conviction. We encourage others. We grow taller. We bask with confidence.

And when the inevitable happens (but is it inevitable? they say it is, so it must be) – when the inevitable bad thing showers down upon us ~ we cover our heads, huddle together, look inward and brave it out, the strength from our nourished roots holding us tight. Knowing this will pass. Knowing we’ll stand again, straight and tall. Knowing, that bending in the breeze and holding steady, we can bloom just as brightly after a storm.

Lifting hearts to hope and renewal. Resilience and determination. A bright disposition. If we could learn these simple things, perhaps that’s good enough.

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Friday Night Book Club: A Love Letter to Art

I cheated on this one. It’s not actually one of our book club books, but I’m going to recommend that it become one – because if you take love, art, World War II and the south of France and put them together in novel form, it’s an almost guaranteed win for me.

In Lisette’s List, Susan Vreeland transports us to the years between 1937 and 1948 – from the onset of war, to an increasingly distressed French countryside, to the war’s aftermath, to Paris, to the rebuilding of hearts and souls and cultural treasures – and in the process, composes what amounts to a kind of lavish love letter both to art and to Provence. Known for her art-based novels (A Girl in Hyacinth Blue, The Passion of Artemisia, and The Forest Lover among my personal favorites), perhaps affection was her intent; if so, she succeeded.

With imagined conversations involving Pissarro, Cezanne and Chagall, and main character Lisette’s passion to “learn what makes a painting great”, with the tragedies of war and the luxurious, natural beauty of southeastern France, Lisette’s List paints a feast of color, tones and textures, lovingly framed by a well woven story that’s beautifully blended with a rich cast of characters. Added bonus: you might never look at a painting quite the same way.

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Friday Night Book Club: A Russian Feast

Some books read like a symphony. They start out innocently enough, a little tug here and there to capture your ear, then they rise and float as different instruments chime in – and before you know it you’re swept away by the melody, by thunderous twists and gentle pauses, cheerful refrains and deep undertones carrying heart and mind to unexpected places.

A Gentleman in Moscow is such a book. It’s also a book that reminds me why I find the written word so magical.

In telling the story of an aristocrat under house arrest in Moscow’s finest hotel during the 1920’s – 1950’s, a world within a world is brought to mesmerizing life – a world as surprisingly large as it was obviously small, as delightful as it was touching, while offering a glimpse of Russia during a broad span of massive change  – and Amor Towles masterfully ties it all together with a steady beat of delicious writing.

Like a fine wine (or perhaps a Vodka?), there were passages so yummy I had to pause now and then to savor the flavor. Like moments in a symphony that hold you briefly but luxuriously suspended in time and space, I would find I’d stopped to relish a particularly brilliant sentence. (But, don’t worry, you won’t pause for long, because you’re already anticipating the next movement.)

A Gentleman in Moscow had all the key elements right – irresistible characters inside a beautifully written, well-crafted tale. Well done, well done.

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Women Marching

Women are amazing. And millions of us joined together as one yesterday, in a triumphant display of sisterly solidarity, to protest… what exactly? I may ruffle some feathers here, but I’m missing something.

Here’s my just-one-person-in-a-sea-of-people perspective.

I’ve made my own way. I started my graphic design and illustration business when I was 27. I’ve raised my daughter as a single parent. Did being on my own make it harder? Absolutely! As a fairly private person, this is not a card I’ve often laid on the table, nor admitting that there have been times I’ve been on my knees wondering how it’d all work out. But going it alone didn’t stop me, nor did being a woman stop me. I didn’t feel I’d been gypped. It was my path. I went the distance. I’ve worked hard. I might do some things differently but I’d do it again. And maybe all that makes me a strong woman. It also had the side effect of strengthening my belief that we, as women, should support one another.

My daughter has said, “but Mom, not everyone is like you.” And that’s true – not everyone grew up free from the idea that a woman was somehow less than; not everyone grew up believing that she could be many things, that she wasn’t “just” anything. Not a homemaker or a wife or a mother or an astronaut or an artist or a teacher or a star Olympian. She could be and do whatever she wanted. No one said to me, “you can’t do that”.

All of this was a big deal in shaping my beliefs, and I do understand that not everyone had what I see as my good fortune. But it did allow me to see that girls – you – we – are amazing! And along the way of life I’ve met tons of truly wonderful women. Some have husbands and families, some do not, some work, some do not, some are on their own, some have support. And not all – perhaps not even most ­– had my kind of childhood. But a lot of us have reached the point where we realize we’re a pretty awesome species. We’re smart. We’re savvy. We’re compassionate. We’re creative, We’re nurturing. We’re strong. We’re survivors. We’re thrivers. We’re warriors. We’re angels. We all have different strengths and different weaknesses. We struggle mightily here and succeed wildly there. We are flawed and we are perfectly amazing.

We also appreciate those who paved the way before us. The voting revolution happened, the sexual revolution happened, women “broke the glass ceiling” in corporate America, women own businesses, we have freedom over our bodies. There are women world leaders. Women in the military. If anyone still isn’t getting equal pay for an equal job, demand it, fight for it. Nothing happens overnight, nor are things perfect, but history can attest to the enormous strides that have already put us in a position to do as we please. We’re a far cry from the Patriarchal societies that persecuted wise women and healers, or that relegated women to second class citizens with few rights and no voice. We’ve come a long way.

And so I loved the idea of yesterday’s unity. I’m just not sure what it was meant to achieve. Was this about “women’s rights”, “human rights”, or outrage about the election of someone you can’t stand? Was it about fear? Because the way I see it, we in America, in perhaps the entire first world, have it pretty good. What rights are we lacking? One glimpse at some less-fortunate countries shows us that women there have a much rougher go of things than our well-fed, well-clothed, freedom-to-protest selves could possibly imagine. They are the ones who know fear. They are the ones who need women’s rights issues taken by storm.

I’m looking for some sense here. Maybe, in the end, what the marching achieved was simply this: a wave of sisterhood. And that’s a good thing in and of itself.

I’m all for acknowledging concerns, giving them voice, lending a hand. Joining together for causes we believe in. Supporting one another. Stepping up, reaching out, knowing that the feminine is divine and strong and powerful. Claiming and embracing that goddess within ourselves and radiating our beautiful, fierce, gentle, wise spirit into the world. Continuing to share, teach, grow, and rise. Holding heads high. Believing you can.

But not complaining. Because, while our work is not done, we are already amazing.

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Love, Peace and Santa

Visions of sugarplums. Partridges in pear trees. Sleighbells. Snowmen. Bright red bows and brown paper packages. Reindeer on rooftops, stockings and candy canes, holly and nutcrackers. Angels singing. Hope. Goodwill. Peace. Love. Santa.

Yes, Santa Claus.

Granted, I’m not sure he wears a jolly red suit and drives eight flying reindeer over all the world on a single night. Nor am I convinced that he comes down chimneys. There are lots of questionable details. But is Santa merry? Is he generous? Kind? Loving? Do his eyes twinkle? Does he light up hearts on Christmas Eve? I say yes. And we sure could do with more light in this world.

Santa Claus – with a whole lot of helpers – shares much more than toys – he shares hope, and goodwill, and peace, and love.

Santa is goodness. Santa teaches the joy of giving. (And receiving, it’s true.) He’s ingenious. He’s magical. Knowing Santa is believing in something unbelievable! Something you can’t see. Something bigger than you. Something bright. Something miraculous. Santa Claus, you see, is a lot like faith.

So, yes, I do believe. And I tell you this – beyond the shopping, the wrapping and cooking and crowds; beyond the fuss, beyond frustrations or the too much or too little, lies magic. I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I feel it each and every year, some time during Christmas Eve – a glimmer? a glow? the settling of hoofs on rooftops? – that fills my spirit with an extra sparkle; a brightness. And I think it’s because this holiday season is really about the gift of light, and the gift of joy.

I wish you the gifts of light and joy. I hope you’ll be merry. I hope you’ll be glad. And I hope you eat all the cookies you want. (But do leave some for Santa…!)

……………….

As usual, I go a little crazy making holiday designs. Here are a few to get you in the spirit, just in case you’re not already there – some old, some new. Blessings – Pbirdie4-redhat1

falalala_cookie

merry-christmoose

choosejoy-redball

be-merry

christmas-peace_mms

grinch2016-7b

small_pencils-peppermint

small_pencils-xmascookie16

rudolph-antlers

3frenchhens_holly-sq

saxton-tree_pencil-sq

give-joy

peace_ornament

saxton_peaceonearth

peace-love-christmas-bluetea-sketchywithornaments1

 

 

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