Friday, December 30, 2005

Thursday, December 29, 2005

teapot no. 7

teapot no. 7

Jesse always tries to lick my paints and rub her face in them. She must like the minerals in the paints. She also licks photographs, probably for the chemicals adhered to the paper. I will have to find another copy of The Color Kittens, my favorite book when I was 3 or 4.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

teapots no. 5 & 6 plus other stuff

Teapot no. 5. I drank 玄米茶 (genmaicha) in this teapot today.

Teapot no. 6.
I used a yellow #2 pencil and drew on the inside cover of a cookbook I was looking at. These are Yixing teapots out of which I was enjoying Pu-erh tea.

These are some of my dishes stacked up after eating; painted with (Windsor Newton) Payne's grey. I wonder who Payne was to get a paint color named after him or her.

I cat sat for my Siamese cat friends Zari & Jewel. They are brother and sister and this is their living room.

This is Zari posing for me.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Teapots no. 3 & 4

Here are teapots no. 3 and no. 4. I didn't like no. 3 when I was doing it--the perspective seemed off. Even so, I had decided to draw/paint 100 teapots and to include each one regardless of my judgments. Presumably, my ability to translate what I see to paper will improve as I go. I changed my mind about no. 3, though--now I like it.

I may not post all my teapots here on turtlevision. You can view them all as a (growing) set on my art site.

Friday, December 23, 2005

One hundred teapots

I started a teapot project yesterday. For the New Year I am painting or drawing one hundred teapots. I got the idea from my friend, Kathy, who is painting one hundred trees. A friend of hers will paint one hundred waves. Since I drink loose tea out of a teapot everyday, this will be a fun project for me. My favorite teas (camellia sinensis) are genmaicha, hojicha, sencha, kukicha, matcha iri genmaicha, Chinese green and white teas (snow bud, mulan, yin zhen 'silver needle'), ti kuan yin, puerh, lapsang souchong, darjeeling, jasmine, and a variety of oolong teas. I like some herbal teas, too, like mint, chamomile, comfrey, and rooibos, as well as Japanese mugicha (roasted barley tea) and the beautiful yellow Korean corn tea, but my favorites are from the camellia sinensis plant: green and white teas, semi-fermented (oolongs), and aged puer.

Here are teapot paintings no. 1 and no. 2. Ninety-eight more to go!
Here's the growing set of 100.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Alternative to bandaids

Yesterday I spent all day on a copper roof helping to install solar panels in the Carmel Valley with a small work crew. One of my workmates cut his finger on the aluminum rails used to hold the solar panels. No one had a bandaid and Alex's finger was, I offered what I had--a 'light day' menstrual pad! It's for blood, it's absorbent, AND it worked!

Alex wraps the bandage around his cut finger.

Anthony helps Alex bandage his finger.

This beautiful bark is that of a Manzanita tree, in Carmel Valley.

Christmas culture?

I sat down to write the following piece to express how I feel during this time of year—Christmas time in America—and this is what came out.

* * * * * *

First, for the things I like about the Christmas season: I enjoy looking at all the colored lights on houses and trees. I enjoy eating Christmas meals with friends, and making Christmas cookies. I’ve also had a lot of fun decorating friends’ Christmas trees and participating in various regional Christmas celebrations (in Boston; Aix-en-Provence; Paris; Santa Fe; Flagstaff; Athens, Georgia; and Monterey).

Now, for a piece of my holiday history and some thoughts on Christmas:

I don’t have the custom of celebrating Christmas because I am from a Jewish family, not a Christian one. We didn’t celebrate Christmas at all. I grew up in an all-Jewish neighborhood in suburban North Shore Chicago where I lived 'til I was 18.

There was only one non-Jewish family in my neighborhood and they had the only decorated house and Christmas tree around. The mother was from Poland and the kids went to Catholic school. Everyone else went to public school, temple school, and synagogue services. In my school district we got off for the Jewish holidays as well as for the popular Christian ones. We didn’t make Christmas art and Easter bunny art in school like they do in places without a sizeable Jewish population—it was definitely not PC in the North Shore—and that was before the term PC was used!

We celebrated Hanukah, a Jewish holiday which often falls around the time of Christmas. I still enjoy lighting the candles of the hanukkiah. A hanukkiah is a menorah (candle holder) used during the eight days of Hanukah. I like singing Hanukah songs, playing dreidel (a game in which you spin a clay top), and I like making and eating latkes (potato pancakes). However, for Jews, Hanukah is really a minor holiday. The fact that the first day of Hanukah often falls at the time of Christmas has led some people to think of it as the Jewish counterpart to Christmas. But, it is not that; Hanukah is not the Jewish Christmas.

Despite growing up in a Jewish neighborhood, going to Temple, celebrating the Jewish holidays with family, and having many Jewish friends, as an American from a suburban-urban area, I was influenced by all the Christmas commercialism and television shows. Every year we watched our favorite Christmas specials on tv. A few of my favorites were: Frosty the Snowman; Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer; the Grinch; Kris Kringle; the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby specials; and “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Most of these shows portrayed Christmas as an event that takes place in the Northern hemisphere among Caucasians during a snowy winter.

The larger culture celebrated Christmas with Santa Claus, lit trees and houses, decorations, and gift giving galore. Naturally, being Jewish, we didn't participate in the popular Christmas culture, yet how could you not see it? Christmas is everywhere. It begins soon after Thanksgiving—on television and in the stores-- and even in school. Today, some US public schools/teachers have gotten a little more PC. They are teaching children that other celebrations exist besides the stereotypical white Christian ones. In large cities you will find multicultural classrooms composed of kids from many countries and cultures: Chinese, Vietnamese, Hmong, Japanese, American Indian tribes, African-American, India, Africa, Middle East, etc. Some parents rightfully complain when their child comes home with art projects and other school artifacts that represent only the white American Christmas culture, and which excludes their own.

When you are a child and everywhere bombarded with Christmas culture and Christmas consumerism, you are affected. To a Jewish child in a predominantly non-Jewish Christmas culture, not having a tree at home and not getting to decorate it can feel like deprivation. However, now I feel lucky! Though it took me many years to understand it this way, not celebrating Christmas is not a deficit. I have no ingrained cultural habit that propels me to participate in the rampant materialism of Christmas. I don’t have to go rushing out to buy Christmas gifts and cards for everyone I know. I don't have to make a list and check it twice (oh--that's Santa's job).

In reality, Jewish parents (and other non-Christmas celebrating families of other faiths and cultures) find themselves having to explain to their kids why they don’t get Christmas gifts, why there is no tree, and why Santa and his elves do not visit their houses when all around them Christmas is supported and glorified. It is important that we nurture and highlight our different cultural celebrations without seeing them as lacking what the majority culture has.

* * * *

At 16, I started learning on my own about Jesus and Christianity. I wanted to know what the fuss was all about. And, I wanted to know why the name Jesus was never uttered in temple or at home. At night, I would read a copy of the King James version of the bible that we had in the house. I read by candlelight after everyone was sleep. I liked the teachings of Jesus; they resonated with me. Jesus was a rabbi, a great teacher.

Christmas spirit is about Christ's teachings of love and peace; it is a day that celebrates a being who was born to show his light—just as we are born to show ours. The celebration of Christmas in the darkest part of the year coincides with the coming light of the Solstice. We look forward to the light of lengthening days; we need to know there is light coming our way. That light—kristos--manifested as Christ.
It feels so good to share our light with others at Christmas/Solstice because it is our nature to offer what is needed and enjoyed: a gift, a smile, a story, listening ears, laughter. It is natural to share our light and love with all beings. At Christmas time our culture does support this sharing.

Our culture also supports war: the war on drugs, the war on terrorism, the war on....just about anything. A true Christ-mas culture would not wage war on others; it would offer shelter and forgiveness and material help to those in need. It would not sentence prisoners to death. A Christ-mas culture would teach its children to love all cultures, religions, and languages of the world. It would listen to those who are hurting and angry and allow them to speak. It would not spend half of our tax dollars on war; it would instead invest our tax dollars in peace.

Christmas in America is all tangled up with our consumer culture.
Giving gifts is fun. I like the surprise and delight in gifting and receiving. Yet the true spirit of Christmas--Love, peace, caring (charity), and forgiveness—can be easily forgotten at this time of year. And, we are still waging war in Iraq. We could be giving food, shelter, clothing, and education to those in need, not waging the wars that create these needs. We could be spending gazillions on education and the arts within our own country rather than on war in another country.

Could we respect that not everyone wants the same type of education, political process, or material assistance as in the US?

These are a few of my thoughts during this Christmas season in America.

And a song to celebrate Solstice:

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sketch Crawl!

On Friday, I did my first half-day Sketch Crawl with friend, Shirley, here in Monterey. The idea for the sketch crawl comes from What we did was walk around Monterey with our watercolors and paper sketching for 5 hours. We took turns picking the sketch stops and deciding on the time limit for each drawing.
We each did a warm-up sketch and three designated sketches along our route.

The day started at my vihara (dwelling place). I gathered my watercolor set and picnic items while Shirley picked her banjo. Then I read a poem from a little book of Ming Dynasty era poems (Pilgrim of the Clouds: Poems and Essays from Ming China by Yuan Hung-tao, translated by Jonathan Chaves). We packed only the necessities for our day: chocolate chip cookies, crackers, carrots, hummus, hats, gloves, scarves, jackets, and a pad to sit on. We were out the door at 1pm.

Our first stop was on Alvarado Street across from The Golden State Theatre with its ornate golden yellow façade. That was my pick. We sat on the edges of large terra cotta flower pots and set up our stuff. Our time limit was 20 minutes for this first sketch. As timekeeper, I called out the time every so often. At 19 minutes, I suggested a new rule: we could petition for more time if we needed it. Fortunately, the timekeeper agreed. So, we got two and a half more minutes.

Shirley picked our next stop, the stairs of the Osio Theatre looking down and across to Alvarado Street. This stop was partly chosen for the wide strips of sunlight that we could sit in. When we finished our sketch, we unwrapped our picnic right there on the steps in the warm sunshine.

Stop #3 was going to be at the cactus gardens behind Portola Plaza, but there wasn't enough sun to sit in, so we sat along the white benched wall looking onto the plaza and the fountain. By this time, we allowed a few minutes to set up our sketch tools instead of including it within the time-limit. We finished with a little Ming Dynasty era poem. Much in need of a hot drink and a restroom, we headed off to Morgan's for tea and coffee. Seated by the fire, we put some final touches on our sketch crawl sketches before calling it a day. We walked back up the hill to my place as the yellow moon was rising through the pines and oak trees.

Here are my sketch crawl sketches and a couple of photos of Shirley.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

pre-laptop days

Last night I was sketching while watching Seven Years in Tibet on my iBook at the same time. Suddenly, I got the idea to snap a digital photo of a scene on the screen. Coincidentally, the scene I captured was of the young Kundun (His Holiness the Dalai Lama) looking closely at his beautiful music box as it played Debussy's Moonlight. Later, I saw that my digital experiment showed Kundun--framed by my iBook--and as absorbed in his music box as we are today in our laptops.

Here is the photo and my sketch:

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A corn story

Here's a little translation exercise/story I wrote while in my Hopi language class in the Spring of 2000. Click on the illustration to see a larger view.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Contest #2

I made a big pot of Gypsy Soup last night for dinner. Kathy made a salad to go with it, and we ate buttered toast. Gypsy Soup is one of my favorite cold weather soups from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook. The ingredients are first sauteéd together in olive oil: peeled and cooked sweet potato (and/or other orange vegetables like squash and carrot), chopped yellow onions, green pepper, tomatoes without skins, chopped celery and garlic, garbanzo beans, sea salt, bay leaves, basil, paprika, turmeric, a dash each of cinnamon and cayenne, and water.

* * * * * * *

After eating, we watched a documentary on the life of American historian, Howard Zinn, called You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train. While i watched, I ate some juicy, red pomegranate kernels. Is that what they're called? Are they seeds? Fruits? They look like corn kernels to me, only shinier, juicier, and translucent. The photos below show today's soup lunch (Gypsy Soup) with some apple and more pomegranate kernels for dessert. Gypsy Soup tastes even better the next day and the next.

So, here's the question:

What does a pomegranate and Gypsy Soup have in common?
[Contest #1 was this]

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Matzoh: it's not just for Passover

It happened a long time ago, in an arid land of sand and Pharoahs.
There was a tribe of people who spoke Hebrew. We call them the Hebrews; I don't know what they called themselves. Perhaps their name for themselves was something like, the People, for many tribal peoples consider themselves to be 'the People' or 'the Ones'.

This is not a story composed from precise history. Rather, it has been pieced together from stories and lessons I have heard from childhood and into my life now.
A few years ago, at a gathering with a story-telling rabbi in Tucson, I was treated to a new version of the story of matzoh. What is matzoh? Matzoh is the unleavened bread that the Hebrews ate while they fled to the Promised Land. What is the Promised Land? Read on.

This arid land of the Pharoahs was a place we currently know as Egypt. The Hebrews, we are told, were forced into hard physical labor for many many years, persecuted continually, and made to flee from place to place, only to flee again. It was not fun. And, in the Land of the Pharoahs, the mean Pharoahs shackled the People and made them slaves.

One day, an elder of the tribe named Moses declared it was time to leave. They had to leave immediately, he told them, NOW! There would be no time to prepare in their usual way, no time to let the bread rise before baking it, and, in fact, they would have to wander a while--God knows how long or where to.

So, the People heeded Moses' decision, for they respected his wisdom and guidance. Plus, he was a holy man. We all know what happened next. The Red Sea parted for them. Why? Because they trusted Moses' words and they believed they were embarking on a trip to the Promised Land. They knew it was time to unshackle themselves; it was time to flee. They walked, wandered, and ate matzoh, that unleavened bread we relegate to the seder ritual, once a year at Passover.

People are skeptical about miracles these days--miracles are not "scientific," we say; we want proof. We believe miracles happen to other people, not to us, and we believe that scriptural stories are mere myths. These myths, however, are meant to be lived by each of us. It was for good reason that Joseph Campbell titled one of his books as Myths to Live by; there are universal myths that we humans live out, each in our particular way.

The ritual of eating matzoh during Passover is one thing; bringing the essence of the ritual into one's life is another. This matzoh story is about the latter.
Rituals, words of wisdom we read and hear, and sacred teachings are all meant to be experienced.

The meaning/moral of this story?

There may not be time to allow the dough to rise for bread.
If life requires you to walk into the wilderness now, walk now.
Even with crackers instead of bread.
Trust that the seas will part.
Life is full of little miracles--right here--in the wilderness.
The Holy man and woman is alive inside of us. Heed his/her voice.
If you do, you might wander for forty years in the desert, but you will be living your myth, and, you will have a matzoh story (or two or three) to hand down to your People.
And, the teachings will have daily life application.

In the matzoh story of the Jews (the Hebrews), the big, bad Pharoahs actually helped get the People moving. Thus, sometimes what (or who) we label as 'bad' (our persecutors) turns out to be 'good' for us and vice versa.

When it is time to leave a situation or to make a change because you are being 'persecuted', do it now. Take your matzoh with you. Matzoh (the present moment) will sustain you; the Red Sea will really part.
And, don't forget to thank your persecutors.

* * * * * * *

A ship in harbor is safe,
but that is not what ships are built for.

[John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic, 1928]

Saturday, December 03, 2005

朝ご飯 Breakfast

Here's my version of kayu. Kayu is a Japanese/Chinese rice porridge usually made with leftover rice. This kayu is made with Korean pressed barley, cubed tofu, carrots, ito wakame, green onion, shiitake mushrooms, miso paste, soy sauce, and sesame oil. I eat it wrapped in kim, Korean nori-like seaweed. This morning I drank Yin zhen cha, Silver needle white tea, with my breakfast. Yum!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Drawing is funner; cooking is funnest

This simple digital camera is one reason I haven't been posting as many drawings or writing as much as I had previously. It's been fun to create photographic compositions, considering such things as angle, shadows, and light. However, I find drawing funner. Yes, funner.

This morning I ate the above huge, American-style breakfast, which I made at home. It was very filling in a different way than is my usual Japanese-style hot cereal with tofu, vegetables, and tea. After our morning meditation group, my friend Saeko came over. I made us a Japanese lunch of soba noodles with a side dish of sauteéd tofu, green pepper, green onion, shoyu, and fresh ginger and a dish of eda mame. The soba was in a miso broth with wakame seaweed and green onion. After lunch, we drank genmaicha (brown rice tea) outside in the warm afternoon sun. 美味しい!