La Vida Dulce

The Instituto Art  Fair - a lively, colorful happening

The Instituto Art Fair – a lively, colorful happening

We’re far from novices anymore at doing art fairs both here in San Miguel and the states. They still take a lot of preparation and forethought in ramping up to the actual event, but we’ve become accustomed to the routine of applying and the inevitable check lists to make sure we have all the aspects of the events under control. There’s a heightened sense of anticipation going into them plus the usual anxiety, but it’s all familiar territory.

I had a different sense, though, in August as we set up our display panels the first day of the Instituto Art Fair. We were in the same spot as the July event so no worries about whether or not we were in the right place. I looked around as we pulled paintings out and began figuring out the best configuration for displaying them. Little by little other artisans began toting their work to their spaces and started the tedious process of getting all in place. The man with the handmade paper wall luminaries was back as our neighbor next to us in the corner along with his wife selling beaded jewelry and embroidered tapestries cattycornered across the aisle. Others, now familiar to us after so many Instituto art fairs, also began arriving – the short, energetic woman from Oaxaca with a single gray braid and crooked smile selling rugs, the two ever-serious young women selling Mexican trinkets, the German lady selling straw hats and Guatemalan scarves, the young man from Veracruz selling his handmade leather-bound notebooks.

The inner courtyard where the fair is held had a sleepy air about it, people quietly going about putting their displays and tables in order. Not a lot of chatter, just some street noise and birds making their morning twitterings as they flitted about looking for their first food of the day. As I made several trips back and forth from the car to fetch things for our set-up I felt the energy of my fellow artists and craftsmen. Less than two years ago I viewed all of these people as part of the exotica that I saw as San Miguel. But with several Instituto fairs under our belt, and becoming part of the routine, I suddenly felt a real connection to the artisan community. Moreover, I felt privileged to be offering my art alongside them.

While a good deal of what is offered by the artisans is produced for the tourist market, there is still real craft evident in much of it. Creativity is part of the fabric of Mexico in general, and so the hand-woven rugs, the beaded bracelets, the sweet, brightly colored paintings on small wooden panels all are reminders of the arts in everyday life here. Some of it is decidedly humble, but nonetheless it offers up the expressions of its people as a small celebration of their lives. Tourists are drawn to the color, the whimsy, the craftsmanship of the items perhaps not in small part because they are made locally by hand. Art of the people which touches us because it is just that, not high or lofty or cerebral. A celebration of the sweets of life.

Tuning the Immune

This pig and his friends are here for a reason

This pig and his friends are here for a reason.

Scientists have discovered that it pays to grow up in marginally unsanitary conditions in order to tune your immune system properly. Children in western countries who grow up coddled and sheltered from every pollen grain or cat hair are understandably hypersensitive to such minor irritants as adults. Somewhere in this observation about the source of our currently epidemic levels of allergic reaction is a hard fact: Those dirty little snot-nosed kids you always complained about are all healthy, happy, strapping adults now. Except, of course, for that bully in my grade school class. He’s in jail. His freedom was denied due to a minor legal quibble concerning a gang-related hit contract. Still free of allergies though no doubt.

Or, to put that life lesson in a slightly different way … as my apple pickin’ buddy out in Washington State used to say at the crack of dawn; "Time to get up and get amoungst ’em!".

It’s not just the immune system that needs to be taught how to discern minor irritants from the real deal. Getting out in that big old dirty world helps the mind differentiate whether other dangers are real or only perceived. When we prepared for our trip around the world last year some of our well meaning friends warned us about confessing our American citizenship to those we may meet. Turned out not to be a problem. We never dissembled on that fact and people always treated us with respect, like people everywhere should be treated; somewhere between friendly and indifferent. Never hostile. That’s only in the funny papers.

it's not just that they're cute

… it’s not just that they’re cute.

Now I know the statistics I read and you read in those same funny papers tell us that the general opinion of America is in the crapper. Due to many factors I suppose, one of which may be our current propensity to launch off and take care of military business wherever, whenever we so desire regardless of logic or other peoples opinions. So our American-ness may seem rude or dangerous to others due to some of these questionable decisions by our government. I just never saw that translate into personal animosity. Pity, maybe. And sometimes sympathy, like; "Yeah, I know … my President’s an idiot too…"

You see, pigs play in the mud.

You see, pigs play in the mud.

Speaking of which; rude is when a drunken guest belches in your face as he leaves the party. Dangerous is when he then demands his car keys so he can drive around the neighborhood. Right now the world sees us driving around out there with a full tank and a tall boy in the cup holder.

So perceptions of danger all relate to where we stand, and who’s looking dangerous. Many of our danger meters vibrated right off the dial a few years ago. But it’s important to re-calibrate them by testing them occasionally against the real world. Is the world a scary place? Yes, sometimes. Doesn’t mean we can’t approach it with subtlety and flexibility. Appropriate action (or reaction) depends on realigning our perception of danger to reality. Our danger meters busted years ago after the needle jammed all the way up there. Probably time to get it fixed and stop living our lives based on the same reading we get every day; "Life is Currently: EXTREMELY DANGEROUS!!!".

... and in the street...

… and in the street…

Maybe that’s one reason we did the trip around the world. Might even help explain what we’re doing down here in Mexico. Meter repair.

We face perceptions of danger every day. One of the most common for many people is their financial situation and we’re no different there. Not enough capital inflow to offset the drainage and the evaporation. A little like our reservoir out in Alcocer now that you mention it. That’s getting real low too these days. The lack of rain has caused the small lake to recede to a large puddle. But the rains will come. And we’ll keep making that art until it forms up into vast thunderheads that open up to bless the dry plains of financial desolation. It’s actually raining right now… real rain. Might be a sign but I don’t want to push it because I’ve already chased that image out and beat it with a stick. Just rain …okay?

... and their mother lets them.

… and their mother lets them.

Well then so what if we’re not yet making our fortunes with our art. We’re still far from broke. My immune system registers only a minor irritant. Nothing for my T-cells to get excited about. Good thing my mom let me play kick the can out in the alley as a kid. .


My day begins usually with my cat, Paintbrush, stepping on my feet and legs to wake me up for her morning ration of canned salmon cat food. I don’t have an alarm clock (or I do, if truth be known, but it doesn’t work. And that’s a whole other blog in itself.). The day begins more slowly than in my work-a-day world past. But there are many things that are missing in my life here in Mexico that I used to take for granted back in the States. Some of those absences have proved a blessing while others, well, I’ve just learned to work around them.

Still it’s amazing when I consider all those things that I used to have that I thought were indispensable and now find were mere conveniences. Such as. There is a TV in our house but it resides in mute fashion in our living room atop the credenza against the one wall without an electrical outlet. It was put there purposely to more conveniently use our electrical sources for our art work tables. We don’t watch TV since we refuse to pay for cable in order to get English-speaking channels. However, I must admit that we’ve belatedly connected the TV to our DVD player (liberated from our storage locker after one of our trips north this year) and strung an extension cord to bring it to life for the occasional DVDs. One must have some sort of enlightened entertainment, after all, if only to carry on up-to-date conversations on the latest releases.

There is no dishwasher in the house. Or at least no mechanical one. Both of us take turns doing the honors by hand after meals. I find it to be contemplative and not that time consuming. Go figure. In cool weather the hot water on my hands is a pleasure, making me feel warm inside.

Walking is a lot easier than trying to drive most places, traffic and the lack of parking spots being what they are in San Miguel. In the time it takes to maneuver through the circuitous routes of one ways streets through Centro in order to find that illusive parking spot, you may as well have walked from home, as your car is likely not to be much closer for the effort.

Voila! I made it! In a Mexican kitchen

Voila! I made it! In a Mexican kitchen

While we do have the use of a washer and a dryer (the latter considered a particular luxury in this land of sunshine) our kitchen is absent many a modern gizmo. There is no blender, food processor, or electric mixer. We slice and dice by hand, and such things as the hefty lime squeezer have been known to be pressed into service as a nutcracker when duty calls.

Which brings me to the lemons. Our gardener, Gabriel, gave us a dozen or more lemons the other week, given to him by a neighbor. Limes are the more common commodity here (we have two trees of different varieties), and so lemons are a real treat. But 12 lemons all at once require that you have some use in mind if you’re not to forfeit them before they shrivel and go bad. Lemonade came to mind, but just as rapidly, that was displaced by visions of lemon pie. Chiffon, to be exact. But having never made one of lemon chiffon I was soon researching wildly on Google for an appropriate recipe. And there I hit a roadblock. No matter the variation, all of the recipes seemed to require either meringue on top or beaten egg whites folded into the filling. I don’t have a mixer, as noted above, in my kitchen. What to do.

A vision, but not lemon

A vision, but not lemon

I do have a stylish black, rather modern-looking whisk, but I dismissed it off-hand as too time-consuming and likely to wear me out before stiff peaks appeared in my egg whites. Still, the idea of a pie would not abate and the lemons were sitting forlornly, if fragrantly, on my counter. What the heck, I decided to give it a go, as the Brits are wont to say, and set about making my lemon chiffon. I creamed the butter and sugar (with fork and knife), added the lemon juice and zest, milk, flour, and egg yolks, and then took up the bowl of whites as my challenge. As I stood with my deep plastic mixing bowl in hand, beating frantically away at the egg whites with my whisk, I suddenly had a long-forgotten memory of my mother doing virtually the same thing in our long-ago kitchen. Except that her whisk was wire, in a shape not unlike a snowshoe, flat like a spoon with loops of wire threaded across the frame. The whisk had belonged to her mother and was the proper tool for beating egg whites in a matter of minutes back in the day. I’d watched my mother work them from their slimy yellowish state to a froth with effortless, efficient strokes, and then magically into white, thick foam, and finally into stiff peaks. This could be done! I’d seen it! How could I have forgotten?

Dove of Peace, Lamb of God  - To Tom

Dove of Peace, Lamb of God – To Tom

Too many conveniences sometimes get in the way of some simple pleasures. We sometimes forget that we don’t need them to have what we want. Like a lemon pie. And doing without can actually give us time to remember many things too long forgotten.

And, yes, the pie (with stiff egg whites!) turned out fine.

Will the Nerve Survive

Where do I begin with all this? Of course this Katrina situation calls for somber appraisals and a good deal of finger wagging and shaking of the head. Believe me, I’ve tried chastising but I come off as someone firing from the hypocrite. I’ve tried the philosophical route but I keep seeing old Hegel back there with a megaphone shouting, “You’re taking on water!”

Where do we start when it seems like the whole world could basically use a good spanking. Me included. I’m no big fan of corporal punishment but maybe just this once it might be justified so that we’d all WAKE THE HELL UP! I don’t think we’d suffer any lasting emotional scars.

Yes, we’ve been naughty (some of us more than others of course). Some of us have skated on our responsibilities as citizens. And sure New Orleans is a Party Town. But that doesn’t mean Katrina was some big ham-fisted house-frau bringing a willow switch down across the Big Easy’s bare bottom. I mean she struck Biloxi too! Most of those folks only head for the riverboats on the weekends.

So that’s not it. I noticed even Pat Robertson kept his mouth shut this time.

Maybe it’s a wake up call then (the people down at the desk are usually pretty darn good about doing that). That’s a much less punitive image for me than that old proverbial lightening bolt from heaven. Too incomprehensibly arbitrary. More like that friendly little phone call from the hotel’s computer where you pick it up half asleep and know you got your wake up call just about the time you realize nobody’s there.

Let’s hope we’re all in the shower by now. I could’ve used five more minutes.

I heard it was “just one of those things” and indeed it was, if by that you mean, “I have absolutely no clue”. I really wish I knew why some of “those things” happened but if I did I’d probably have a whole lot of explaining to do to some very pissed off people. I’ll understand it a lot more when I watch the Hurricane Katrina special on the Nature Channel. They can break out the old “awesome power of Mother Nature!” and “nature’s fury” to help me capture the moment.

I prefer to think of it as “One of life’s little Category 5 mysteries.”

The whole inept response by the designated governmental agencies was painful to behold. But then they were caught off guard. Maybe our expectations were too high. You know its one thing to be screwed slowly over the course of a lifetime by faceless bureaucracy. Its another when the whole thing happens on a weekend.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to minimize the suffering. My attempts at humor here can be read strictly as survival mode after a very traumatizing experience. I’m only just now re-emerging from a dark bunker. While my eyes get adjusted to the light I’m acting kind of giddy with the thought of having survived. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you suffer (I think that’s right;). Anyway, I heard some really stupid things while I was down there. Come to think of it, there was a bit of an echo.

The Big “Q”

Up to Chicago, once around the world and back down to San Miguel de Allende, making a big “Q” on the globe. Which brings up another big “Q”. What was that all about? We briefly considered bagging the whole world travel plans in order to keep that money in more practical accounts but I ultimately lobbied hard to go ahead and hit the road and Stefanie saw things basically the same way. Very slender windows open on rare occasions and you just have to wedge yourself through them when you get a chance. I can’t remember a time in my adult life that I didn’t look forward to traveling around the world, so that tells you something right there. I guess it ultimately comes down to which thing we’d most regret; not having the money or not having the experience. Put that way, it’s a very simple equation. Money comes and goes… it will come again. Experiences like the ones we’ve just had don’t drop in your lap without some sacrifice, or trade-off. And rich experience can hang around for a lifetime once you provide for its arrival.

We made the barest of entries in this blog during our travels across the European side of the Mediterranean and on into Africa. That portion of the trip was probably the most densely packed and eventful, also the most hectic since we were moving from place to place every two or three days. Our access to good internet hook-ups was more difficult for some reason. Combine that with the fact that writing the weblogs began to move just outside of our circle of priority (arranging for things like lodging and train tickets took its place) and the result was, no new postings. That’s unfortunate because some of our best memories come from that segment.

Watching the flamingos stir up as our train cut through the last bit of the French coast on our way into Spain. Migrating up from Africa as we migrate down?

Getting stunned, stopped dead in our tracks upon entering the Grand Mosque in Cordoba, Spain, intoxicated as our eyes followed the rhythm of arches repeating into the distance in the dim light.

Staying in a little dive pension in Granada, Spain on a street under construction, torn up with jackhammers and front-end loaders. Our little landlady gave us a break on the price because nobody wanted to endure the noise. She brought us coffee and a pack of store-bought Danishes for breakfast. Spoke halting English to our halting Spanish but managed to communicate great hospitality, and we, our extensive gratitude.

Meeting two Moroccans on the train from Tangier to Fez. The younger one spoke English, told us about his job (a guide for desert tours) and his family, he even helped us find our eventual lodging place in Fez. The older gentleman spoke to us in French while the English-speaking man was out of the cabin. He gestured “eating” with fingers to his mouth and “sleeping” with folded hand under reclined head but we didn’t get it. I thought he wanted to help arrange lodging for us or something. I said, “No, merci, no, no.” When the younger man returned I asked him to translate for me because the man was obviously exhasperated. He listened to the man and then said, “Oh, its just our custom. He wants to know if you’ve eaten well and slept well in his country.” It was a matter of great pride for him that he present this gesture of hospitality, and we were very moved. I had the translator tell him, “We’ve traveled all around the world on this trip and the friendliest people are here in Morocco.” His eyes welled up, our eyes welled up. He pulled a dirham coin from his pocket and held it up, “If you come to my house you will not even spend this much.”

And on like that…
At this point, it would probably be appropriate to do some assessment of the world trip. Though its true that rich experience does not require travel (with the right mental approach it can be had in a Barco Lounger), it seems to me that travel more frequently pulls the lever that dispenses it. And if the goal is enrichment, with a psyche that demands not just novelty but alternate viewpoint, and if I’m willing to endure discomfort for the sake of living where the fresh and unexpected live, then traveling by the seat of my pants works for me. Stefanie and I are a good pair; I am somewhat dangerously curious and gravitate towards the unknown, she provides a sensible base and pulls me back when I need it. Together we find out what it takes to make plans on the fly, deciding what to do and where to go as needs be; to make it up as we go along.

And that is what I think we’ve learned. To begin to trust ourselves “improvising in the plan”, and to trust that the world will respond favorably if we do. As Stefanie says, “I learned that 99% of my fear about what might happen never does.” It seems that even the one percent of what eventually goes wrong is something you’d never guess and also not nearly as bad as you think. And we lie awake at night for….?

This journal of the transition from our corporate-job-life to the independent life in business for ourselves must now meet its true mission. We must begin to describe what happens when we (as the masthead says) “pack it in and take the leap.” We’ve spent nearly a year getting our feet wet; six months on an “art intensive”, three months traveling the world, several more weeks in transition through Chicago on either side of the world trip (the “swoosh” on the Q). We’ve been able to get a lot done in the process. We both created some solid chunks of art. We’ve collected experience and photography to inform our next creative phases. Now we begin to actually establish our lives here. Now we see what happens when.

The narrow streets of Fez, Morocco

The narrow streets of Fez, Morocco

The streets of Granada, Spain

The streets of Granada, Spain

Rythmically repeating arches Grand Mosque, Cordoba, Spain

Rythmically repeating arches Grand Mosque, Cordoba, Spain

Interior of?Ǭ† Grand Mosque in Cordoba, Spain

Interior of?Ǭ† Grand Mosque in Cordoba, Spain

Stefanie says goodbye to Ahmed, our waiter at the guesthouse in Fez

Stefanie says goodbye to Ahmed, our waiter at the guesthouse in Fez


The Elegant Conversation

A game of backgammon in Green Park, Athens

A game of backgammon in Green Park, Athens

Green Park in Athens was full of families pushing strollers and little knots of men playing backgammon. Or else performing a curious ritual that we would see again in Italy and Spain. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a kind of walking discussion. But I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t think it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s anything like what we do as we walk, which is most often idle chit chat or casual appraisals of what we see. These older men, in twos and threes usually, proceed very slowly, almost as if the stroll is mere pretense to the real purpose. I would watch many of these perambulations over many visits to the park. The men walk in rapt discussion, often accompanied by hand gestures, or else with hands firmly clasped behind the back. Suddenly they would pause as one man would try to drive home a point. Then they would both stand still and face each other. One man would gesture with a bit more animation, hold forth while his companion(s) would focus intently on him. After a period of about a minute or so there would be a brief exchange, maybe a shrug or two, a ?¢‚Ǩ?ìthis or that?¢‚Ǩ¬ù gesture by flipping over the hand, and then the walk would continue. And always, an inward focus on the subject at hand passes between them. The conversation was the focus, not the walking and the watching.

Conversation is the focus in Baeza, Spain

Conversation is the focus in Baeza, Spain

I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m struck by the character of these gentlemen. They seem to be engaged in a foil with the important thing. They parlay, rejoin, sally and engage each other with opinion. The exchange of views is the only priority. A good day is one that includes this event. A productive day, one that has the highest value is a day spent in conversation with a good friend.

I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m reminded of the ancient philosophers of Greece, as they walk today in their steps. Though their discussions may not always reach to those realms, they operate in the same spirit. The salient features are there; an intensely inward focus, the need to express one?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s views and to seek out a response to them. The desire for clarity.

The forum at the train station, Baeza, Spain

The forum at the train station, Baeza, Spain

Thoreau says that man is not meant to do everything but man is meant to do something. These older gentleman have passed from the doing which characterized their active lives into a ?¢‚Ǩ?ìdoing?¢‚Ǩ¬ù that expresses itself in simple, elegant conversation.

The Return

You can go ahead and laugh at the superstition behind the Wishing Tree. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll just stand off to the side, arms folded, with that ?¢‚Ǩ?ìI know better?¢‚Ǩ¬ù look on my face. By the time we arrived at the airport in Bali, my wayward bag was sitting there with a red ?¢‚Ǩ?ìrush?¢‚Ǩ¬ù tag on it, next to the luggage carousel. I just know that that orange, tied to a wish, hanging up in that tree in Hong Kong, had something to do with it. Now, the other wish about lording over the known universe is looking more in the bag for me.

It seems to take me at least a couple days to transit the mental space between here and there, in this case between Hong Kong and Bali. The typical adjustments of travel; changes in currency and climate, orientation to the new lay of the land, etc, take some focus to achieve. It usually takes me that long anyway to begin to feel a part of each new place. Inside that time frame I usually feel a little disjointed.

Since I was here once before, I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m also dealing with ?¢‚Ǩ?ìreturn visit syndrome?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. My first urge is to tell Stefanie, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìyou wouldn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t believe how nice it was here 15 years ago?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. Well shut your cake hole you big fat travel snob. OK, maybe Ubud (our home in Bali for the first week) was less crowded back then. On that basis maybe it was marginally nicer since less of my touristy types always equals better (forgetting for the moment that I am one of those tourists). But isn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t it curious how memory manages to sift out all those nasty little problematic negatives associated with distant experiences. For example, the last time I was in Bali I was also nearly broke and struggling to finesse a bank transfer to pay my lodging bill. Memory makes the grand positive out of the past. It can use that as a bludgeon then to pummel your appreciation for things during the return visit.

Our memories of first trips are unique. Eye opening. Revelatory. But I have to remind myself that they are also a fabricated assemblage of glowing details seen in the sweet gloss that comes from having a positive initial experience. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve sifted out all the negatives by now to create a nice little romance story. The return visit I experience now not only lacks that gloss of novelty, it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s also a much more vivid mixed bag of good and bad. So it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a false comparison. Of course that first trip to Bali kicks butt?¢‚Ǩ¬¶ because god, it sure was great back then.

Total illusion. The classic downfall of the travel snob. And the big reason I think that this is a problem is that it begins to interfere with my ability to appreciate the events as they occur and people I meet. If I decide that I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m having a bad time then guess what, it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s no picnic for the people I meet either. Each encounter during any given day has the potential to transform, for good or bad. And those moments are abundant. Sometimes I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m amazed at how small gestures or behaviors from others affect my mood, and my opinion of people and places. To think that my attitude towards others has the same effect?¢‚Ǩ¬¶

We were talking about these things over dinner and Stefanie gave a good illustration. While we were waiting for the plane to take us from Vancouver to Hong Kong she began to get a little anxious about what comes next. The flight attendant who took her ticket greeted her with such open warmth and measured calm that she instantly forgot her concerns and understood that all would be well. It transformed the moment for Stefanie and she was left not just impressed with that one Chinese woman but helped her believe that those she was yet to meet in Hong Kong would treat her the same.

Part of the problem of thinking, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìit was all so much better the last time I was here?¢‚Ǩ¬ù is that I may miss out on all that.

It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a complaint I hear all too often among frequent travelers. Don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t ever believe it when you hear that a place is not worth visiting anymore. If you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve never been there, go. It will probably be spectacularly worth it. Don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t use someone else?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s take on how someplace has changed for the worse as your guide. You?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve never been there before. Enjoy the first moments. Let second moments and return visits be what they are. Someone else?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s fiction (or your own) can lead you off the trail of a treasure.

A New Year in an Old World

Okay, New Year’s Resolution: no more heavy, philosophical bullcrap. Just the facts as I see ’em ma’am. Though that may not work out too well since I can’t seem to resist those meanderings, at least every now and then. Then maybe… okay REVISED New Year’s Resolution #1B: not so much heavy, philosophical bullcrap. Keep it light and tight. No one wants to spend ten minutes of their valuable allotment of discretionary time reading someone else’s brain noise.

morning sky

Morning sky over San Miguel

The problem here is the same as Popeye?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s and everybody else?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s: I am what I am. Just bear with me and I promise to mix it up.

One promise I made myself for the new year was to get this weblog up to speed. Thanks to some new software you can now try to toss me a line when I go out dog-paddling in the deep end. Post your comments and save me from drowning in simile.

Welcome to the New Year! The ?¢‚Ǩ?ìnew?¢‚Ǩ¬ù thing is very big in this world, so no wonder this holiday is popular. Western Culture keeps us hungry for it. Keeping on top of it is our lifestyle and you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢re some dotty old crank if you aren?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t right there.

The sharp point of ?¢‚Ǩ?ìthe new?¢‚Ǩ¬ù is always staring us down as artists. While making a fresh instance in art is vital, there?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s really nothing new under the sun, so finding a context and then developing a viewpoint seems to me more important. Or else you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll go around with a big, neon, self-conscious arrow pointing to your ?¢‚Ǩ?ìnew art?¢‚Ǩ¬ù; all shiny and new but trivial at last. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s like the ?¢‚Ǩ?ìNew Toy at Christmas?¢‚Ǩ¬ù phenomena. The toy that gets twenty minutes of attention Christmas morning and then passes onto a heap of mediocre plastic.

morning sky

Stefanie in the campo

At some point as we age the opposite value makes its stand: Old is amazing! I see it as the ultimate test of value: been around the block a few times, still kicking and looking good! (well maybe just the first two parts). We met many great people at our art fair this week but some of our favorites were well up there on the chronological scale. One lady told us she painted watercolors for ten years but gave it up because ?¢‚Ǩ?ìI decided I didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t know what the hell I was doing!?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. Another charming lady told us she decided not to buy land here thirty years ago. ?¢‚Ǩ?ìI could shoot myself. In fact I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m surprised I haven?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t!?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

morning sky

Sunset blaze on templo edifice

These old beauties tell me the wonderful part about the age I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m entering. Its time to have fun with my foibles and weakenings, let go of the pride that is death to humor and the unflinching opinions about what is real quality that make me a snob and get on with opening my senses to this big fat juicy life.

morning sky

Smiles at the art fair

Sure we love our new things; new house, new car, The New Christie Minstrals. But god forbid we Americans learn a new language. Talking to a lady from San Luis Potosi (who spoke multiple languages), I lamented the lack of foreign language study in the States as well as my own inability to master Spanish. She asked me if I knew what a person who spoke three languages was called ?¢‚Ǩ?ìtrilingual?¢‚Ǩ¬ù, Two?, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìbilingual?¢‚Ǩ¬ù One? ?¢‚Ǩ?ìgringo?¢‚Ǩ¬ù.

Happy New Year. May it bring you new ways to see growing older.