Archives for category: art

At the farmer’s market in Michigan, I picked up four perfect candy onions. (I mean, who can resist that name?) This recipe produces insanely delicious sweet, slightly crispy onions that would complement a million things, but I end up just eating them as they are. And of course they are good for you…. onions have anti-inflammatory benefits and protect your body in all sorts of ways, we all know about olive oil, and even maple syrup provides the antioxidant benefits of manganese and zinc.  Note: there is a slight bit of technique involved here, but your patience and attentiveness will be highly rewarded!

4 medium candy, sweet, or Vidalia onions

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 good dashes salt

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Peel outermost layers of onions; trim off stem and root ends; cut in halves, then into thin slices. In large saute pan, warm olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion slices and stir with spatula to coat with oil. Spread the slices evenly in the pan and allow to cook for ten minutes or so. Sprinkle with salt, give it a stir. You may need to adjust the heat to prevent onions from burning or drying out. Feel free to add a bit more oil as well to avoid this. Stir frequently as all slices become softened.

Continue cooking the onions for up to an hour. Keep an eye on them, stirring only when the onions begin to brown but before they begin to burn; this is what helps caramelize them. After 25 minutes or so, you might want to lower the heat and stir and scrape the browned bits more often. Add the maple syrup for flavor and to encourage the caramelizing process. Watch, stir, and scrape until the onions are very soft and nicely browned. Splash with balsamic vinegar, stir well. Let rest for a few minutes and serve.

Serves 4-6 as a topping or side.

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I’m psyched! I just signed up for a writer’s workshop run by some of Chicago’s top writers. So now I know what I’m doing the next two Saturdays.

And that’s really good, because lately life has been full of personal challenges and difficult work.

We all face tough times — too much of something for weeks then too little of something else for much longer. And it’s easy to get “stuck in your head”; rarely coming up for air to notice the truly good things in life or to notice how we are taking care of ourselves.

But by giving yourself some structure in your daily and weekly routine, like exercising regularly or attending a class, you create a reality base for yourself (yes, you do have a life outside these problems!) It clears your mind, helps you focus, and allows you to say adieu to much of that built up stress.

On the next level, by scheduling personal events that are intriguing by your definition, you create a meaningful and tangible near future. Give yourself something to look forward to, and you can manage today.

For me it’s the summer workshop, a trip up north, an Atoms for Peace concert in the fall, and more. I’ve got a few great events planned, and in between these events, I hope to create many moments of peace, spontaneity and balance.

April is National Poetry Month… designated so in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets.

(I once sent in a poem to Poetry magazine, based here in Chicago, which they promptly but very politely… rejected. But it was like job hunting; I appreciated that they took my work seriously enough to email a personalized rejection!)

National Poetry Month is an effort to recognize and promote poetry as an accessible art form for everyone. Too many people, I think, see poetry as an avant-garde art form, like free form jazz or abstract painting or spoken word performance. Conversely, some might view poetry as an archaic medium, in line with opera, classical music, and Shakespeare – created long ago and certainly not modern.

As someone who tends toward minimalism, I love poetry’s spare piecing together of carefully chosen words. Although there are epic poems that are page turners in themselves, my favorites tend to be poems that explore simple topics and evoke powerful imagery.

As an example, I turn to a work by Ted Kooser, contemporary poet and U.S. Poet Laureate (2004-2006) who is known for his clear and honest verse.

Tattoo

What once was meant to be a statement—
a dripping dagger held in the fist
of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise
on a bony old shoulder, the spot
where vanity once punched him hard
and the ache lingered on. He looks like
someone you had to reckon with,
strong as a stallion, fast and ornery,
but on this chilly morning, as he walks
between the tables at a yard sale
with the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt
rolled up to show us who he was,
he is only another old man, picking up
broken tools and putting them back,
his heart gone soft and blue with stories.

from Delights & Shadows, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA 2004

Does this poem not create a story in your mind? Reading it is like watching a scene in a movie, only your imagination does the job of envisioning the man at the yard sale. The moment is familiar and real. And the poem is written from an observational point of view, as if you were sitting behind the sale table just noticing this person and perhaps wondering a bit about his past.

I also lean toward poetry about nature and stillness, but you can find poetry about every topic and walk of life imaginable.

And the practical part about reading poetry? It only a few minutes to read a poem! You can carry a slim volume in your bag to read when waiting in line or in your parked car.

And I feel the best way to end the day is with a mug of herbal tea and a poem, giving me something to focus and reflect upon as I drift off to sleep…

Poetry is ancient; poetry is as modern as today. Check out the Poetry section of your local library or book shop and you are sure to find a title that you can relate to and a poem that stirs in you.

Focus is magic. To pull yourself, for a few minutes or a few hours, away from distraction and find focus is sheer luxury. Good hard work, but nonetheless a luxury of the mind.

I once took a drawing class, working in pencil and graphite. That’s it. A subject, white paper, and an instrument in your hand. To face this for two hours takes a bit of skill… not in actual drawing, but in decompressing, in clearing your mind, until all you are thinking about is the width of a line, the depth of a shade. A fabulous way to foster an active and focused yet meditative mind.

Not surprisingly, practicing yoga promotes this as well, bringing the body into play. The bend of an arm, the angle of a hip, a slight deepening of a fold. The learning is infinite.

Heaven!

I love this word byte from Thom Yorke: “Just being looser in your thinking allows you to avoid fixed ideas.” … Yorke has come to discover that the best things that happen musically “are often when you’re super-unsure and kind of flailing around. You just work at it and wait.”

source: http://www.guardian.co.uk The Observer, Saturday 23 February 2013 15.00 EST

He may brood in the spotlight, but Yorke is an unpretentious and honest artist. And doesn’t his observation apply to all creative work? Aren’t we all super-unsure (to say the least!)? Nice to be reminded that all of us, even those who are considered super creative powers-of-the-universe, start from basically the same mind space as we approach new work.

People tend to think of the artist as someone a little different from the rest of us; someone who sees things in a way that we cannot. True, those who create exceptional art often possess a rare ability to express what they see in their mind’s eye. However, I believe that everything we do is art.

The Oxford dictionary defines art as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination”.

Creativity is not limited to the visual or musical arts. Designing a website, starting a business, working on a project of any kind, choosing your wardrobe, caring for your family, decorating your home, planning an evening or a trip. These are all forms of expression. You started with nothing and created something.

Every action we take… how we go about each day… how we live our lives… is almost entirely by our design. If you choose to live with intention and grace, you are living an artful life.

I don’t use drugs, my dreams are frightening enough. – M. C. Escher

The dreams I remember upon waking feel like a strange little gift presented by the subconscious. Even if I have a horrific dream, at least it is something interesting to tumble around in the back of my head the next day (or sometimes for the rest of my life).

We forget most of our dreams, of course, shortly after our feet hit the floor. Some of the best stories and songs ever written appeared first as dreams, and those dreamers had the good sense and well worn skills to immediately record a few notes before the brainwaves settled back down.

My first memorable childhood nightmare was a harrowing adaptation of the Norwegian fairy tale “Three Billy Goats Gruff”, with my parents and brother as the three goats clip clopping across the bridge. I watched in horror as an ugly troll emerged from under the bridge, pulling them down and and eating them alive, one by one.  I slept the rest of that night in my parents’ bed.

Perhaps we’ve all had the classics.  Falling perilously and waking up just before hitting bottom was a repeat throughout my childhood. It was coolest when it involved a waterfall, but I usually fell from a mountain or foreboding cliff. I’m glad I outgrew this set of dreams and thankfully never hit rock bottom.

Another childhood classic (I say hopefully) is walking to school naked or taking off my coat at school and realizing I had forgotten to get dressed. Social anxiety, not prepared for my third grade quiz? This one I looked up online, and the questionable source suggests an inflated sense of self. OK then, perhaps I was a confident eight year old.

Somewhere in adulthood I started having “vision dreams”. There is no memorable plot or story line to a vision dream; you simply awaken with a wildly vivid picture in your mind. In my favorite I’m up on a mountain looking down at a tropical bay and boats and fireworks and thousands of stars in the sky.  Years later I found an illustration that doesn’t depict it, but the colors and mood are exactly like that in my dream.  I definitely dream in color.

I haven’t taken out books from the library to study dreams or anything like that. I can usually piece together the two or three elements from recent events that curdle into mind blips that then surface as dreams.

But I was inspired to write this post because today I had my favorite kind of dream… in which a close, beloved deceased relative or friend pops in, for a few lifelike moments, to say hello. While I was taking a 20 minute power nap, my father appeared. It was just for a second;  only a quick look at his combed hair and his glasses and his bright blue eyes, wearing his favorite tan jacket over a tall wiry frame, smiling and stepping up a curb to approach me as I stood somewhere outside.

So thank you, dream, for giving me back my Dad, just for a moment. That’ll keep me going for a while.