Wednesday, April 26, 2006

teapot no. 49

Drawn with a Conté pierre noire drawing pencil on Walgreen's sketch paper. Almost halfway there.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


(Vatican members clapping for condoms)

The Vatican is studying the effectiveness of condoms. No promises they say, they just want to study.... Maybe the study will eventually loosen the funds to find a cure. The cure is not abstinence.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

teapot no. 48

After a walk with Yuki on the coastal path around Lovers Point, we parked on the Asilomar side. There I enjoyed tea on the dash (which I watercolored above) and ate the noodle lunch I had packed. On another walk, in the tide pools at Asilomar, we saw a large duck (or maybe a goose?) walking around on the rocks. I followed him or her until I saw another goose sitting on a nest. I snapped these photos then backed away so as not to disturb them.

And I saw these flowers:

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Yes Poem

The Yes Poem

If the whole world said Yes
Think what could be if Yes
was on the tongue of every woman, child, and man

Yes to all our wishes, dreams, desires
“Yes, I’ll do it,” “Yes, you’re as wonderful as I am” and
“Yes, isn’t it positively yes?”

Yes to naps, passion, roses in winter, butterflies, kites with rainbow tails
stories we create as we stroll through the woods
Yes to clear skies
to fogged-in coastal mornings
We sit by the fire while the calm sea is out there

Yes to wrinkles
Yes to helping ourselves
Yes to the bag lady
to laughter
to juggler, poet, clown
Yes to the mumbling man, to musician
gardener, painter, cook

Yes to clean air, to breath
to up and down
In and out
love and hate
and everything in between the spaces of duality



~Nicole Raisin Stern
Paris, 1990

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

News Flash!

News Flash!, originally uploaded by tortuga del desierto.

My new specs are so spectacular we were photographed for the cover of The Spectacle.

* * * * *

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Yuki Story

Thirteen years ago, I met Yuki, a furry little fluff ball of only six weeks. He had sharp pointy white teeth, a very black nose, white eyelashes, black round-almond eyes, a curly tail, the fluffiest whitest, softest fur, and what's most incredible of all--he didn't yet know how to bark! No barking. Not even a peep. Nothing. From the beginning, Yuki only pooped outside; I never had to train him, he just trotted over to the door and waited for me to let him out.

I first saw Yuki on Easter Sunday, 1993. I was walking towards the Modern Languages building on the campus of the University of Arizona, on my way to visit a DJ friend who worked at the classical radio station, KUAT-FM. I was halfway across the mall when I spotted a white furry puppy nestled in the arms of a woman with a toddler in a stroller. I changed course and ran over to see the puppy. Within moments, the woman told me her aunt was the breeder, that they had seven more to give away, and would I like one. Would I like one?

I was going to have a little white furry dog. My first dog. I'd always wanted a dog, but knew I could never buy one (buying and selling beings does not sit well with me). The woman gave me her aunt's pager number, telling me she would return my call within ten minutes. She also asked if I'd prefer a male or a female dog. I didn't have a preference, but asked if there was a difference in behavior. The niece said that the females may be mellower. I decided on a female dog.

The next day I went to my job all excited to tell the residents and my colleagues about the new puppy I would soon have. I worked as an activities coordinator doing art and playing with adults with severe mental illness. I told them all about the cutest little fluff ball puppy I had ever seen and how I'd always wanted a dog. They were excited with me. So, I made the call on Monday morning, and left a message. I didn't get a call back within ten minutes or even in an hour. I tried again and again and again. Nothing. I called everyday, a zillion times a day for almost two full weeks. I wanted that dog.

One afternoon I was up on the roof helping Ray, the maintenance man, install a water pump on one of the swamp coolers. I was telling him how I'd been leaving messages on the breeder woman's pager, but getting no response. Suddenly, Ray's face lit up. Laughing, he said he knew what I'd been doing wrong and that he almost lost a potential job that way. We went inside to the phone, dialed the number and Ray then put in the number of our workplace. Sure enough, within ten minutes, breeder woman was on the phone! I didn't know the pager was a numeric pager, since I had never used one before. I had been leaving voice messages, probably pleadingly near the end (please, all I want is just one little white furry dog with a curly tail...), but the pager could only recognize numeric input. She had one puppy left, the "runt of the litter" she told me on the phone, "and not a female like you wanted." "I don't care, that's fine", I said. "A male puppy is fine."

And the rest is history. This little puppy bounded into my house, smelling fresh, so white and furry, and so-o cute. He was about 6 weeks old then. That night I lay awake thinking up names for my new puppy: Kyoto.... maybe, Nieve.... maybe, Yuki (snow) ..... hmmm. That was it! Yuki! I fell asleep with Yuki nipping at my toes with his sharp little needle teeth, with Yuki curled up at the bottom of my futon. For thirteen years, Yuki. Yuke-ster. My furry white fluff ball.

teapot no. 46

See the whole set here.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Birthday Pot

I used these two photos as the model for my teapot no. 45. Interestingly, the watercolor looks more like my mom, I think, than it does me.

If your parents are no longer living or you live far from them or you were adopted, all you have to do is look at your own body: look at your face or the palm of your hand, and you will surely see your parent is with you all the time.

This is teapot no. 45 of 100 teapots, in celebration of my 45th birthday on Sunday.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lust & Love Have a Coversation in the Park

Lust: "You have to be careful, don't just give yourself to anyone--that's my job."

Love: "I flow through all receptacles with equal grace and speed."

Lust: "I'd like to try it out sometime—it seems so soft and kind."

Love: "My grandma always told me, 'darling, take your time.'"

Lust: "Mmm-hmmm, what a body! So luscious and round, she makes me want to fly!"

Love: "Have a piece of this stuff, Lust, it'll cool you down. But, remember--pass it out freely to everyone."

Nicole Raisin Stern
Boston, 1990

* * * *

[Sixteen years later, I don't see things in quite the same dualistic way....]

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Coffee Sutra


I enter the cafe like it is a sacred temple gate in Japan. Entering gives sense of place, a transformation into a fresh new world.

Scent of coffee instead of incense. Cafe goers seated at tables, some reading the morning paper, others chatting, still others writing and gazing through windows open to the day. There are no bells here, no hands clasped together in prayer to Kwan Yin or Avalokitesvara, no blow from a wooden stick to wake you up. Cafe walls are not decorated with thousands of small white paper prayers twisted on pine boughs around which an altar of wafting incense, weathered bronze bell, stacked barrels of sake, fragrant mandarin oranges, and small gold bowls of uncooked rice are found.

Here, secular art adorns each wall. Opera, rap, rock, and jazz add to the pulse of coffee beans grinding, laughter, baby crying, steaming whirr of espresso machine, dish atop dish, metal spoon against china cup stirring. Strains of shakuhachi are not heard.

No orange koi in the pond. There is no pond. No lotus leaves floating gently upon dark water. No pine-green mossy shade. No gray robed monk raking gravel into circular patterns around great gray stones. No tatami coolness to step onto barefoot, leaving sandals behind on smooth wooden platform.

Here I write, sip coffee, sip tea, eat a salad, taste sweetness of chocolate morsels. Here I chat with friends who are my friends only inside these cafe walls. We inhale the creamy, earthy, warmth rising from our cups. Our memory is jarred upon seeing these words: Tipping is not a city in China. Clank of coin in glass jar is said to bring great merit. We give thanks for this: our spiritual home away from home.

Ninety-five cents is not a steep price to pay for a cup of small cherries hand-picked ripe from the bush then placed under the sun where they dry a matte green in tropical highland air. Roasted and ground, infused with boiling water, this magical blend becomes an elixir.

Behind the counter, coffee house priestess and priest serve my every need. I chant the sacred syllables: decaf latte, cappuccino with cocoa, iced mocha to go.

Steam, whirr, clank, slurp.... O, sutra for all seasons, may your bittersweet essence lead me to rhythmical creations of poetic splendor for the benefit of all sentient beings.


Nicole Raisin Stern
Tucson, 1995

* * * * * * *

Inspired by one of my artist friends (plein air artist and film maker, Laurie), this is another in a series of my art and photos paired with my poetry. As you can see from the poem, the price of a "cup of cherries" has increased quite a bit since 1995 when I wrote this piece. The photo is of the epic cafe scene in Tucson, Arizona; September 2005.

Monday, April 10, 2006



There are a lot of things that one can be atuned to
It's a matter of tuning
being tuned into
what matters to you

What matters to you?
Pops out at you
Is fire for you
Is breath for you
From inside of you

What do you do?
And is it right—to tune into what matters to you?

What do you tune into
When you're turned on?
What turns you on?
How do you know?

Here's a clue:
Is the tune you atune to
What you like and what likes you?
Who do you tune out and tune into?
Does starlight swirl out from inside of you
When you've tuned into the one that you turn to

And, is it fun?

Nicole Raisin Stern
Paris, 1990

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Rise and Fall of a Dream Called Love

A recognition sweetly full of madness
The poet’s heart knows joy as well as sadness

Dreamt I was a flower giving pleasure
To golden bees who sought my tasty treasure

I turned into a playful dolphin calling,
“In love why do we always talk of falling?”

I float, I fly, I leap, I run, it’s funny,
A bee transforms her nectar into honey

So, here I sit composing words to rhyme
The way I feel this moment, space, and time

Awakened on a coastal fog-filled island
Whose yellow desert valleys lulled me under
And blue-green skies spelled clarity with thunder

Birds were calling, “come, the storm’s approaching,
build your nest away from hunters’ poaching”

O, heed the call of distance, not of flame,
“Tis but a spinning, yearning maya game

However, if thirst should drive you further up that hill
Recall the ocean’s waters are not still

From fish to bird I flew across the sky
Far from my love and now I wonder why
Illusions are not made to fit the eye

The rise and fall of a dream called love

~Nicole Raisin Stern
Paris, 1991

Saturday, April 08, 2006

JU to you and you

The calligraphed piece below represents 100 characters for JU, longevity in Japanese/Chinese, and is a gift I made for a friend's 84th birthday present. The idea comes from Hakuin, the zen Buddhist monk-poet whose piece I looked at in a book. Each character looks different, each being composed of distinct strokes. However, they say the same thing: JU. I used Windsor Newton Payne's Grey watercolor on Arches cold-pressed paper. The envelope (bottom photo) is made out of construction paper and sewn with embroidery thread. The design is the Buddhist endless knot, which I cut out with my sharp utility blade atop a cutting mat.

Friday, April 07, 2006

China to Tibet

Sky blue jacket is quilted silk
worn by woman nyuren
She wears it
and black cloth slippers worn down at the heel
silk clouds on jacket
no storm
grey hair worn down

Above blue sky
Below cement sidewalk

Perserverance furthers one to cross the great waters

Sand water blood jade oil brush newspaper maggots rice ocean
seaweed fungus bamboo
monkey brains in bottle the color of forest where mushrooms grow
and salt rubs her flood worn thighs

In Zhong guo water flows
stones are mountains are crows
are rice fields
young tea
stars in sky
pink morning yellow afternoon sweet sweat

Weddings are red, gold, and black
there are mouths, a house, and rice
that's lucky

Red hat Yellow hat
big orange lama waits for ride on roadside
Old woman, hair shorn
tightly matted
wears woolen gown

Dust in sun, dog on roof
wooden chairs
a table
creases on our eyes

I am barking for food
curling up to sleep
searching for water

There's dried hard peaches
oily flat bread and yak butter tea
faces looking at me through hole in wall
window size no glass many eyes
some kind of meat I eat
seated on chair
spit bones to mud floor
hard-packed and greasy
heavy wooden door
many eyes watching me

My hair is long
braided down my back
hands are strong wielding chopsticks
and soupy bowl of meat
maybe it's sheep
tastes good
many bones

Khampa herdsman on road to Batang
leads a mule loaded with things
I touch his braid, red thread and turquoise 'round his head
Our language
a road, turquoise stone, my fingers on thread
whites of our eyes, leather pouch, mountains high above our heads

"Wo dao Lhasa"
"I'm going to Lhasa", I chant
no stove no hurry
look for water
socha, chang I taste

Liquid rivers say my name
hers I chant to the wind

~Nicole Raisin Stern
written in Boston, 1990
about my solo bicycle trip in China and Tibet, summer 1986.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Keeper of Stars

In a different galaxy
many light years away

there lives an old man
from the Milky Way.

He's the Keeper of Stars,
in charge of their glow,

he turns on their lights
and gives us a show.

Each night before dark,
he wakes each one,

saying, "it's your turn, now,"
as he waves to the sun.

Placing them carefully,
he makes a creation

of beautiful stars
we call constellations.

~Nicole Raisin Stern, 1977

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

teapot no. 44

Point Lobos

My friend, Saeko, and I walked all around Point Lobos, on the bluffs above the water and through wooded marshy areas. We saw seals, deer, many kinds of birds, a monarch butterfly, and inchworms. Point Lobos is my new favorite hiking area--the trails are easy and the views spectacular. One of the most wonderful things there was the birdsong: the joyful sound of birds singing. My other favorite hiking area is here all the time: it's the ordinary street, the beach, the desert, or the mountains, wherever I am. The big sky is everywhere, air to breathe is everywhere, there are so many wonderful things to delight in, to see, to touch, and to listen to, and the earth is under my feet wherever I go.

* * * * * *

This is the unicorn we saw:

Some of the trees looked orange:

Here's why:

"The surfaces of the trees closest to the direct salt spray are often covered with a bright orange growth. This is Trentepohlia aurea v. polycarpa, a green alga which is rich in beta carotene, giving it a bright orange color. nonparasitic and can be found growing on rocks and downed wood along the trail."

A wild iris seen along the trail:

Saeko saw many karasu. I saw karasu, too, but I thought of them first as crows, then karasu.