Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Snowy Ending of Year

Drifts of snowy breezes blow past the window as a lone bird bird clings to the feeder, it's encampment for the moment from the bluster of winter that surrounds it.
The crackle of the burning wood in the fireplace that warms our own encampment, on this last day of the year, is a calming beckoning call of a future full of hope and possibilities. Warmed by our love and hopes, we smile as the cold swirl of winter kicks up it's heels within our glances but beyond our comforts, posing as a reminder of the storms that we have all survived this year. Just as a breeze blows IN the snow, it blows out the challenges we endure from time to time, to bring greater awareness of ourselves and others. Stronger, as a result, we move on more prepared for the next breeze that blows our way. Let us all be ready for 2009, knowing greater preparedness is the goal and result.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Christmas Spirit Arrives

We seemed to have slowly limped into the Christmas spirit this year. Though this typically happens to me, this one has had an added layer of drag from the low economic expectations for the country, however, I am lifted by the political possibilities the Obama presidency holds.
So, once the decorations finally came out of storage and went up around the house, the mood shifted from one of stilted indifference to one of willing embrace. Of course, it took until Christmas Eve for it to happen, but the inner cheer is still there, though for a lessened period of time.

Jump starting us into the spirit of the season was a wonderful weekend in New York, at the rambling brownstone of the vivacious entrepreneur and beauty, Peggy Dillard, and her esteemed husband, famed artist Lloyd Toone. Their personal spirits raised our own senses of growing possibilities, which were heightened even more at the smashing Christmas party thrown by producer, Brenda Dillon and her raconteur husband, Bill Cavette. Filled with delightful guests, we spanned the world of amusement with them all.

We will have Christmas dinner today with our dear friends, Carol LaBrie and Uli Rose, which are more like family than friends. A dining adventure prepared by these connoisseurs of life makes it a delectable experience each and every day. This is a rare holiday opportunity to spend with them, since we are generally away, in Brazil, at this time of year. The snowy lead up to today had been enchanting, however, that has given way to snow patches and a sun shiny day. I am preparing macaroni and cheese for the occasion, my favorite holiday dish, which I am known for and make only a few times a year.

The Hudson Valley is an enchanting location at any time of the year with Christmas having a special appeal. The buildings are sprinked with decorations and frosted with snowflakes, emphasizing their architectural splendor, while the landscapes are etched in a wintry beauty that holiday cards are made of. With this setting and time of year, we are very happy to give thanks for the things in life we can enjoy, things that are there as a benefit without any effort on our part, as a gift from God. We hope your holiday presents you with joy as a present and happiness as a gift.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Crystalline Crisis

The clear bright sky, reflected on every tree limb, like facets on a diamond, does not begin to tell the story of damage and destruction this beautiful phenomenon has wrought on the countryside. Even with the benefit of a generator - acquired without my full compliance at the time - the sudden inconveniences are oft-putting. I can hardly complain of the upset in my life, while many of my neighbors have been tossed into the darkness and the cold, without the benefit of preparations for it. Even those of us who have survived in relative ease have dealt with downed trees, closed businesses and a sense of being cut off from the rest of the world. Neighbors have joined forces to check on one another and provide needed information on how to survive the ice storm.

My first experience of the ice storm happened late Thursday night, returning from the city, when I veered, late at night, onto the very dark now crystallized Taconic Parkway. The harrowing drive began with the unsettling vision of tree limbs grasping low at my car as I drove by. Like a nightmarish fantasy, the formerly leafy canopy now stretched down with crystalline fingers and scraped the top and sides of the car. Unlike the usual concern of deer wandering onto the roadway intermittently, the felled branches and trees were at every turn. At times, I drove under them as they lashed at the car, while at other times I would have to drive onto and around muddy embankments, where occasionally less successful vehicles languished. By the time the fog rolled in, my nerves had been thoroughly shattered, and, with this new obstacle impeding my passage, my prayers ramped up to a constant chant for safe arrival. When I did get home I was astonished to see many of our trees doubled over in what appeared like fetal positions, frozen to the ground like ice sculptures.

As I said, we are surviving it all with relative ease, though without having a working stove, this has taught me to stockpile more than cold cereal and peanut butter in the future. I have also learned that the temperature gauge on the main floor needs to be included in the generator's operational list. Right now, the house is sandwiched in warmth from the top floor and the basement, with a chilly 59 degrees on the first floor. Of course, I am not complaining, however, because of our circumstance, it is the best of options, in that we can stay in our home with the kitties. On a positive side, adversity on any level, provides opportunity for insights and new functionality that would not be there otherwise.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A similarity in opposites

The dulled palette of rust and browns that frame the steel blue waters of the Hudson River, on this sunny wintry morning in December, stands as a stark contrast from the brilliant shades of greens, accented with reds and yellows, that border the turquoise waters of Salvador’s Espirito dos Santos Bay. An even more striking contrast is in the layers of black clothing I am now wrapped in, to withstand the cooler climate of the Hudson Valley, versus the bright turquoise or blue-violet that floated lightly around my suntanned body in the summer’s heat of Brazil. Though these visual and physical contrasts are evident in everyway, my sense of being at peace in either is consistently the same. Snatched from one or the other, my equilibrium remains balanced, because of an abiding appreciation that, what is, IS.

To rail against one is to not fully appreciate the other. In many ways this contrast in the lifestyles, whether laying on the beaches of the Salvador Bay or chugging along the train route on the Hudson River, represents a view of a singular life. Life here allows for the luxury of detachment there, just as, my exposure there provides a more encompassing perspective here. Simple things like, an inarticulation of portuguese there, forges a stronger grasp of my native tongue here. A natural sense of community there, causes me to reach out to friends and family here. Relaxing there makes me want to work here.

Living on the outskirts of our small hamlet of Claverack, we are blessed with a slower pace than the city - one that reflects the rhythms of the seasons and the movements of nature’s creatures - in a way that many can only imagine. Yet, our excursion to Imbassai, a coastal community, under two hours north of Salvador, showed us a pace of life that I could have only imagined.

To begin with, there are no public conveyances, except for an “autobus” that delivers you, to and from the city. There are no paved roads, only the lushness of rich red dirt that squeezes between your toes - if, of course, you decide not to wear the ubiquitous “sandales”. People walk everywhere, to the market, the restaurants, schools and pharmacy, the beach and to visit one another. “Motos”, which are small motorbikes commandeered by young males, act as the other option for transport, when one does not own a car or drives a truck of some sort. These guys will transport you about for the rough equivalent of a dollar, with an added benefit of their charms.

While there we dined at a beach oasis, of cobbled together shacks, called “barracas” (bah’ hock’ kas) - they provided a respite amid the enormous, expansive and empty beaches - where we settled under bamboo umbrellas and wood hewn tables. We watched local fishermen, from our beach chairs, catch our meal of red snapper, called “vermelho”. Fried to perfection, and served with rice and beans along with a scrumptious tomato salad, the “sabores” or flavors still ricochet across my tongue.

Our friend Carson introduced us to this world that time forgot - by way of his own getaway there – where neighbors or “vizinhos” all know one another. “Hail fellow, well met” was the response to all, whether walking, working or riding a horse. Here is where locked doors would be considered an affront and where time is multiplied.

Yes, the potential of such a world exist for us in the Hudson Valley, however, we would need slow down the pace a bit here, too. This afternoon we will attend Winter Walk, the annual kick-off to the celebration of the holiday season in Hudson. Hot chocolate, chili and roasted chestnuts will warm the air and allow us to walk the main street, without traffic, to meet one another in the spirit of the season.

A friend informed me of a published article about emerging artists in the holiday issue of Uptown Magazine which includes my artwork. The editor-in-chief, Keija Minor, a longtime friend, told me of the feature while visiting an opening of my work at the Cousen Rose Gallery, on Martha’s Vineyard this summer. The magazine caters to many people, just like you, so pick it up, if it is not already sitting on your coffee table.