Thursday, January 31, 2008

Continuing to get clarity

Do we ever stop figuring out what we want in life? I always thought by age 60 I would have it all figured out and would be contentedly knitting hats for my grandchildren, writing little stories for fun, and happily in love forever. Turns out I have nothing figured out yet. But I did knit some hats last year.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Painting Class - Week 2

The first week was about materials, conservation, blending, and making a basic shape. The second week we dove right in and started copying a photo of our choice, learning to create and match colors. I'm the only landscape in the group. I signed us up for this class mostly for Brittany who shows such promise as an artist. But I admit to a long-standing secret desire to put some paint on a canvas. So this is the first layer of my very first painting ever. I'm pleased so far. More detail to be added. It occurs to me to document my progress.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Kite Runner

Author: Khaled Hosseini
Rating: ****

There are two reasons to love this book: A beautifully-told, heart-rending fictional story, and the true background story of the history of Afghanistan from the 1970's to the present day.

Spoilers Ahead:

The story begins in the 1970's with Amir and his friend, Hassan, adolescent boys in Afghanistan. Amir lives a privileged life while Hassan and his father are servants in Amir's household. Their world changes first through a terrible, traumatic incident, and then the Russion invasion of Afghanistan and ensuing decades of war and devastation.

Amir and his father emigrate to the U.S. and lose contact with Hassam. In America, life is very different: Amir's father, a former wealthy businessman, supports the two of them by hard days spent working at a gas station.

The story tells so well the impact of traditions and religion on modern Afghans. Their lives are further complicated and even traumatized by the lifetime secrets eventually revealed.

The book reflects life's reality in the gamut from beauty to horror, and I was pleased the author didn't attempt to tie up all the loose ends perfectly in the end. We are left not knowing some outcomes -- just as it should be, just as it is in life.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pianos and other indulgences

As we were talking the other evening about managing to “get by”, my friend gently needled me about getting by while owning a grand piano and living in a house four times too large for my needs. Well, he’s right about the house, but I take issue with the piano. Yes, I do have my old piano, but that old piano is worn out and is no longer a fine instrument with lovely tone. And I could have paid more for the grand--much more--for a Steinway or a Fazioli. A piano has both intrinsic and aesthetic value. It produces something lovely – almost alive. It provides me with enjoyment, comfort, escape, relief from stress, and company when I can’t sleep at night. And all pianos are not created equal. Yes, it is a grand and thus cost somewhat more than many (not all) uprights. But I have all my life loved pianos, and desired to have one that produced the loveliest sound I could afford. And now I have a modest version of that and I don’t apologize for it. It is my one and only luxurious indulgence. Well, I won’t mention what I paid for my guitar.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Snowshoeing and a white ermine sighting

Celia and I went snowshoeing at Alta today. What fun!

Both beginners at this, we weren't sure what to expect. We need not have worried. As the man said to me at the sporting goods store, the difference between a beginner and an expert snowshoer is - 5 minutes.

Heading out with the third group of the day, we found the trail nicely packed and easy walking. Along the way our guides gave us lectures on trees, watershed, snow. and animals. And right on cue just as they were talking about and showing pictures of the little white ermine, one scampered across our path and up the mountainside.

After our little tromp in the snow, Celia and I stopped for a lovely lunch at the bottom of the canyon. We chatted away the time, examined the fish art on the walls, and finally realized the day was spent and we really should go home. And we did. I would judge this to be just about as perfect a day as they come!

Friday, January 4, 2008

On Growing Old, the Red Hat Ladies, and Totally Missing the Point

I think I was one of the first women in America who discovered the now well-known and well-worn poem “Warning”, by Jenny Joseph: “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me” (the full poem is found below). Years ago I reviewed the book by the same name for my book club.

Now the Red Hat ladies’ clubs all over the country have co-opted the ideas from the poem, and are wearing admittedly darling red hats and having luncheons – and totally missing the point. First, the poem is about individuality and breaking the rules – not about getting together with all your chums, dressing alike, and doing conventional things. Second, and maybe more important, it’s about being an individual BEFORE you grow old. Thus, the last line that states (emphasis is mine), “But maybe I ought to practice a little now? So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised when suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.” And indeed, the title itself, "Warning", gives us a clue.

It’s about being an individual at any age.

by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year 2008

I don't normally pass along those email forwards of which we receive one million more or less every week. However, this one from my sister expressed my feelings exactly at this point in time. It will be my mantra for 2008:

Today's Message of the Day is:

Life is short,

Break the rules,

Forgive quickly,

Kiss slowly,

Love truly,

Laugh uncontrollably,

And never regret anything that made you smile.