Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Where are the Birds?

It's been three long weeks since we hung the bird feeders.

People told us to expect it to take a few days, or a week, before birds would arrive.

A week went by.

A second week went by.

There was no sign of a bird. In fact there was no sign of a squirrel or a chipmunk either.

How could this be, when we live right next to a peaceful wetland, a beautiful meadow.

After two weeks, we moved the feeder -- with four bird houses, each one chock full of black oil sunflower seed and suet -- into the trees at the side of the yard.

A week went by. No birds.

We called friends and told them what was happening. Everyone said, "Wow how weird that is!"

Before we moved in, the builder had warned us that he had seen a bobcat with two cubs during the summer (so be careful with our puppy.)

I wasn't keen on the bobcat. But I started to wonder what was wrong when there were no squirrels or chipmunks or rabbits or deer or turkeys (we had a family of 25 turkeys at our rental house in Lenox.)

Except for a red-tailed hawk, there wasn't a single sighting of anything moving in the wetland.

Had we so disrupted the landscape building the house that animals were boycotting our land?

Finally, about 10 a.m. this morning, there was an explosion of birds:

A nuthatch.

Two goldfinches.

A blue jay.


Oh, and at least one squirrel.

It's just taken a little bit longer than we expected for the forest creatures to arrive.

Mother Nature has her ways. I have to learn to be patient and accept them.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Can We March Once a Month?

I wish.

Monthly would make perfect sense to women.

One of my very favorite signs, in Boston. 😎

OK, so maybe we can't rally once a month.

But we can translate the miraculous energy of this astonishing worldwide march into sustained resistance and political activism.

March on!

Friday, January 20, 2017

 Paintings and Prose by Artist Jeff Blum

"Anger Management"

This was my first true abstract painting.  I had just gotten very upsetting news.  My wife Ellen and I talked about it, but I was still steaming.  As it happened, I had my easel up and paint out. 

Meanwhile, I had recently been to the National Gallery of Art.  On the way to see paintings by Wayne Thiebaud, we passed through a room that featured mainly Jackson Pollock's work. 

So I just started painting, laying the pinkish-purple, whatever paint there was there, on the canvas – without a plan. I alternated between the blandness of the background and the boldness of the stripes (which some see as prison bars, though I don’t.)  Hard, angular strokes contrasted with rounded shapes and lines.

Since my anger had to do with action I didn’t understand by a loved one, I put in a question mark, then more, in odd directions.  Since I’m Jewish, I started inserting Hebrew letters that, together, follow a discussion with myself. 

Stepping back, I saw that, as I often do, I’d used a palette without adequate contrast.  So I started layering in the brighter colors.

I finished the painting in one session, about an hour and a half. At that point, I followed the advice I recalled from my teachers: “Know when to stop.”

"Cobb’s Barn, South Truro, inspired by Edward Hopper, 1931"

I started painting the summer after I retired from a 37-year career.  Nothing had been farther from my interests or expectations than painting.  My mother, then 92, didn’t really believe in “being taken care of" by her children, but I wanted to spend more time with her.  So I asked her to teach me how to paint, a hobby of hers as a young woman. She took up painting again more than 50 years later, in her 80’s. 

That summer of 2013, we started painting together while on vacation in Truro, on Cape Cod.  Our house there is not far from Edward Hopper’s, the place where he painted some beautiful land-and-seascapes.  

So he’s been an inspiration.

After being too intimidated to try watercolor – it seemed so unforgiving as a medium – I took a class. That led to multiple watercolors – the teacher suggested that you keep four or five going simultaneously, so you can work on one while another dries. 

I found a book of Hopper's work and decided to practice my new watercolor interest by working from it.  The first choice was a painting of a barn that is less than a mile from our house, if it still stands.  

Amazingly, it’s one that hangs in the Oval Office of former President Obama!  

I also took a class on “abstract representation,” from teacher Megan Hinton, a painter I admire greatly. She pushed us not to be so damn stuck on trying to reproduce what we saw; instead she encouraged us to try to  capture the spirit of a scene, to experiment with it. 

So there I was, trying to work from Hopper’s barn but not be bound by it.  I love his pale sky – at sunrise? -- in the original, contrasted with the dark barn.  But I also like the energy of my sky, even though it’s not really a color the sky gets to be (this is partly a result of not being patient enough at mixing colors and skillful enough to capture the way a sky fades from one color to the other; I'm working on that).  It too, I think, contrasts with the dark barn well.

In the gently rising and falling hill, grass, etc. I wonder about the very modest changes within the brown grass of the hillside and the blocky, bright-and-dark greens of the meadow or lawn. 

The curving red of the dirt in front of the barn seems unnatural to me.  But maybe it’s a reasonable way to capture the abstract quality of that part of the painting. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Why Michelle Obama Has to Run for President!

This morning started out, news-wise, as just one more downer, thanks of course to The Dump. All this business of his freaking dossier. A swamp, promising to get only swampier.

But then, over oatmeal, the world opened up.

Now I'm on my second cup of coffee and just for a few minutes, I am feeling there might be hope after all.

Take a look at the story in the Huff Post.

And then please text and email and call all your friends and ask them to get on board.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

How I Found an Oasis Within the Chaos!

Hello. I am writing to you from East Boxland, MA where I have just moved with my dear husband. We came here voluntarily which at this point is a little insane and hard to believe.

Here is a view of my study:

See what I mean?

I knew this moving thing (it's not Boxland -- but rather a small town a few miles west of Great Barrington) would be challenging. Some of my very good friends told me moving would be hell on earth. But still I wasn't prepared for this. I wasn't prepared to hear what my sister said the other day either: that this disorganization could go on for weeks.

Please say it isn't so!

We arrived here with something like 150 boxes. Insane, I know.

I suppose this is what happens when you move from an 11-room, three-story old farmhouse to a five-room modern dwelling. We have more than enough closets but they are already filled and still there are boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes, both here in my study and in the basement.

Don't get me wrong. I am deeply grateful for this beautiful house. Sometimes my husband and I look out to the meadow and we can't believe we are really here.

And clearly people move all the time. So it gets better.

One thing that concerns me, however, is that almost two years after my sister moved into her new home, she still has a huge number of boxes in the basement that she's never opened.

This is our basement:

I hope, no, I pray that we can see it empty some day soon!

Meanwhile, my friend Kellie asked me yesterday if I was writing. I told her that I've been away from this blog for almost two weeks, because of the move. I told her I felt like I  couldn't write until I was "settled."

Ha! That could be a long long time.

Kellie reminded me how healing writing is. So in the middle of the night I started writing this post.

I am sitting at my mother's oak desk in my study.
I inherited this beautiful piece of furniture after my dear Mom died in 2015. I also inherited one of the many stained glass lamps my mom made during her lifetime.

I've carved out a sanctuary. I vow: this tiny space will remain cleared of everything except the laptop and the lamp.

So now, I can write again. Even if "my room of one's own" is a disaster, there is this  oasis within total chaos.