Saturday, November 15, 2014


A Rorschach autumn by the water, taken during a walk last week.

Widewater on C&O Canal
Potomac, Maryland

(An old friend, who is in psychiatry, immediately asked, "So, what do you see???"  Of course, I've learned not to tell psychiatrist friends what I really think. One shouldn't bring up ailments with doctor friends either.)

I was taking a break from "heavy reading" in my nook last night and picked up one of Neil Gaiman's book/graphic novels, the kind that appeals to youth and adults simultaneously.  Gaiman weaves wonderful tales that seem to be suspended in time. This one is called, "The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains."

One paragraph struck me.

"I am old now, or at least, I am no longer young, and everything I see reminds me of something else I've seen, such that I see nothing for the first time... It is the curse of age, that all things are reflections of other things."

So, I paused and reflected.  It is true.  As time passes, the more we see the present mirror the past.  And I thought of how our identities are entwined in our memories - whether joyful events or incidents laced with pain.  We are what we remember to have done and experienced. Without the power to reflect, that inkblot view by the water is blurred by wind and waves.

Just a few days ago, I stumbled upon an article in Smithsonian Magazine on American Genius.  A duo of scientists had implanted a false memory in a mouse.  Whoa!  The science is certainly brilliant.  And there are many neurological applications for this type of breakthrough.  But some directions brought visions of "Total Recall" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" into view.  If we can't trust what we remember, can we know who we really are?  What then defines the "I" in Descartes' "I think, therefore I am"?  There are many who would support keeping painful recollections intact (rather than erasing them or making them falsely palatable) because there is value in what we learn through suffering.  Like many things, I sense this boils down to personal choice - just as some people opt for cosmetic surgery while others prefer to tell their story through the cumulative lines on their faces.

Autumn in the back woods, seen from our East Coast kitchen.
This is a new kind of view for us.

Memories are beautiful and necessary.  But the moment memories overtake active living, well, perhaps it's time to make new ones.  I admire artists - in any field - who break away from their successes in order to explore something different.  Beethoven, after criticism of his Wellington Symphony, charged back, "What I sh*t is better than anything you have ever thought." This was supported recently by two scholars. They put forward a novel view that Beethoven's creative development through the Wellington eventually led to some of the genius of the Ninth Symphony.

Change is rejuvenating, as our move from the West to the East Coast has been.  Last month's VelocityDC Dance Festival showcased the trajectory of dance from deep roots in classical ballet, modern dance, folk, Lindy hop, street dance and (human) percussion.  It was difficult to categorize what types of dance these energetic hybrids were.  Whatever they were, they were amazing!  Art forms would be dead if new creations weren't continually spawned from it.  Though one might love original stagings, we gain novel pleasure and enhanced insight from viewing a modern re-cast of a Shakespeare play or a Verdi opera.  Or take it further.  We've seen gifted writers fuse disparate genres into their own forms for which literary boxes haven't been constructed yet.

As I've participated in events in the DC metro area, I've noted an evolving engagement of young men & women in the cultural arts compared to what I remember from youth.  This milky (haired) canvas is now blended with espresso, russet and gold - perhaps a few blues, greens and purples too, but DC is still more conservative than London or New York.  Seasoned generations carry charm, grace and sprightliness.  And who else can we ply with questions about the past?  But the presence of the next generation adds the unexpected into the mix.  This constant swirl seems so vital in painting our future especially as our own color fades into milk.

So my musings end in colors of the past and colors of the future ... and as the paint swirls vanish, the Rorschach image I began with sharpens back into focus, saturated with autumn colors.

What do you see?


I hadn't intended to write an essay here.  In fact, this was meant to be a brief photo sharing that glorious fall day by the water with its glassy reflection.  But, just as Miss Bates could not be constrained to saying only three dull things to Emma, I have my difficulties keeping a page blank!  I hope you are all having a lovely autumn.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Double, double, toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

                                             - Witches' Chant from Macbeth, by William Shakespeare

Bubbling eye of newt and toe of frog
(aka squid ink pasta for dinner)

Halloween season has begun and we had one of our celebrations last weekend.  Witches and warlocks, creepy monks and TV characters I couldn't name padded about the house.  It was a blast.

And what was I?  Hard to say.  I can never seem to settle on something obvious. Thoughts of Edgar Allan Poe wrapped a raven around my neck.  The other parts somehow flew together after that ... dark velvet here, a black butterfly there, a soft Goth face.  Can I get by without a label?

The rest is easier to describe.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I had slowly been transforming our house into a Victorian manor of sorts.  In fact, there was a hint of Miss Havisham's decaying banquet in the table setting.

It was a great excuse to bring out tattered lace, generations old,

tarnished silver with a century of family stories to tell,

My husband's family silver

and a phantom bride (of sorts) to greet the guests.

My grandmother's lace blouse and my old tutu
reincarnated as a spectre

Even my husband was struck by inspiration.  A fresh ditch in the backyard - for a plumbing project - soon held half-buried body parts.  The more delicate ladies in the party (and some children) couldn't bear to look.  Of course, their husbands thought it was the best part of the party!

I must say, Halloween parties have got to be the most fun ever. When else can we stage outrageous things without offending many?  Perhaps it's the frustrated set designer in me, but there is something cathartic about creating a theatrical production in the course of everyday life.   Or maybe it's simply part of being alive.  After all, the greatest stager did say,

All the world's a stage, 
and all the men and women merely players.

How about you - do you have a burning need to create something, anything?

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