Friday, March 8, 2019

Jimmy's car

  Well I'm back.... for now.  This year was one of reflection and other forms of creative writing took the place of my blog... mainly scribbling some poetry and I let the blog languish.  Since Google just recently started making noises about taking away their free services I was relieved to hear that the blogspot site was not one of them.  And thus I was inspired to use it or lose it.

This was the birthday week, so  I got to touch base with lots of people, some just on Facebook,  but social media is not all bad.  I get more laughs and grins on Facebook than in a typical day, even though I don't glance at it every day.   That doesn't say much for my social life, but I still see a big handful of friends here. 

This week I got more birthday greetings than I probably deserve, having been out of touch so long.    I got a birthday greeting from Jimmy and Rita in Carmel and so I thought to send them this poem that I started probably 40+ years ago and just finished last year.  

Jimmy’s car : Looking back

I borrowed a friend’s car                                           
good friend, brave to let me go                                
just learning the stick                                               
barely able to hold a hill                                           
and this his only vehicle                                          
old relic really but defining                                                 
the character of the man                                        
the owner:  young, beautiful 
Greek head of an old coin;                                    
ingenuous,  the “real deal”,                                           
are words that occur, but the                                    
car, the car should be long                                       
defunct in an auto graveyard 
somewhere complete with cur                                                                                                                      
for it was red now flaking oxide worn                
with time and miles                                                  
the seat now broken                                                
noises threaten, the body                                         
having no inside skin                                       
starting up a silent prayer                                     
as the dashboard panel’s out                      
sometimes out cruising                                           
the window drops down scary                              
the bang of it.                                                               

But the car yet lives                                               
embracing the tarmac                                            
innards purring,                                                        
a caressed cajoled                                                    
beloved beast                                                             
but take care while glancing down                                           
there’s a hole      
beneath your clutch                                       
not much, size of a gas cap                           
but a warning perhaps for                            
the irresistible draw
the bewitching grip                                        
of an asphalt river                                          
beneath your feet.

But when you finally make it                                
home intact
and didn’t even stall                
out on Carmel hill,
you will be able to count
this as one of the singular
rides of your life,
like the ferris wheel
Luna Park Milan or
the time in the future
when you will ride camelback
in India and you can salute
my good pal, Jimmy
who still lives in Carmel
with a house full of energetic,
smart grand kids
and a gorgeous German wife .

Mary M Payne


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

D.H. Lawrence on art theory

  I am still not able to get the advertising off of my art blog, so I am going to post some of my art here from time to time.   I may tackle that problem one day when my enthusiasm can be channeled in that direction.  I am open to suggestions. 

  For the moment, however,  I am baffled as to where to start and so many more appealing pastimes are taking my attention, like how to make a mask out of paper mâché. 

Detail from collage by Mary M Payne

Yes, that is part of my new assignment but before I tackle that, I thought I'd put up this quote from D.H. Lawrence sent by a friend of ours.   Thanks Charlie, I sympathize with Lawrence, 

 "Ours is an excessively conscious age.  We know so much, we feel so little.  I have lived enough around painters and around studios to have had all the theories – and how contradictory they are – rammed down my throat.  A man has to have a gizzard like an ostrich to digest all the brass tacks and wire nails of modern art theories. 

 Perhaps all the theories, the utterly indigestible theories, like nails in an ostrich’s gizzard, do indeed help to grind small and make digestible all the emotional and aesthetic pabulum that lies in an artist’s soul.  But they can serve no other purpose.  Not even corrective. 

 The modern theories of art make real pictures impossible.  You only get these expositions, critical ventures in paint, and fantastic negations.  And the bit of fantasy that may lie in the negation – as in a Dufy or a de Chirico – is just the bit that has escaped theory and perhaps saves the picture.  Theorise, theorise all you like – but when you start to paint, shut your theoretic eyes and go for it with instinct and intuition."

D.H. Lawrence:  Making Pictures in The Creative Process, edited by Brewster Ghiselin

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Dear M.

This letter is not momentous,  just a little finger reaching out to touch your shoulder over there in "crazy" land.  But for that matter everywhere now seems to be crazy land.  This weekend Monsieur read an article saying that a study of people's "sense of well being" shows that we all, world-wide, feel more uneasy than we did even a few years ago.  A few points on the scale was considered a huge difference to other years, apparently.  

I myself can attest to feelings of desperation that come from no real problems.  I was obsessed a few days ago about carpenter ants who seem to be dropping bits of sawdust onto my kitchen terrace every morning.  Of course I pictured, the house falling down around our bed one Sunday morning just as we are looked forward to K's special omelet or our first cup of coffee. Luckily the spraying we did yesterday seems to have discouraged them.

Also, I have been completely crazy about tearing down a flowering vine that grew to mythic proportions (more like a plant depicted in Jurassic Park)when I was away.    I have only so much energy for this garden and I have begun to feel a certain slavery to it.  So I have been sawing and gnawing at this cascading vine for about 3 weeks now and still haven't been able to completely tame it.  

And then there is the call to Social Security I have been trying to make since I got home.  Of course, they are not answering their phone, why should they?  It is enough to put up a lame website and disable the FAQ part of the site, to make themselves feel accountable.  There seems to be a secret pact that any monies that one wants to collect from Social Security belong to the people who work there and that if you were to draw money out ( that you put in) then each bureaucrat would suffer personally.

But all of these micro concerns are probably due to the fact that I have upped my portion of caffeine since I got back.....jealous no doubt that my siblings do not seem susceptible to going sparky when they drink more than one cup in the mornings.

Now I am down again to one cup in the morning and decaf for the rest of the day....or better yet, water....which for some reason has never been my beverage of choice.

I also came home to find that I have isolated myself over here and am hard pressed to just call someone up for a coffee or a meal out.  I think I did this to myself, but having had such great communications with my family and friends in America, I feel sometimes that it is a mistake.   

The people I had tried to contact seemed to be busy with their lives which I, in my immediate state of paranoia, have taken personally even though one could say that it was I who abandoned them.  

However even that has changed now that my art class has started again.  Monday I re-connected with  old pals and even found two new people who really want to talk to me, so I am starting to feel better now. 

How was your trip to Mexico?  Did you get more than a tourist would get from this trip? Was it a tour, or did you plan it yourself? What did you get that was personal only to you?  Did you have the urge to crow about it and if so, crow away.   I'm listening. 

 I think we all need to be away and apart to get back to who we are....especially if our own tribe at home defines us in a way we don't always recognize. I think I read something like this recently as a quote from Ann Morrow Lindbergh .....from her "gifts from the sea" book.

  I think I should pick that little gem up again.  I find that books I read when I was young have a different spin on them now that I am further along.  

Being further along, I am not sure I have improved in my way of thinking.  I am perhaps more serious and realistic about humans, but the way I look at things has changed somewhat. 

   I no longer dwell so much on "magical" thinking as a great denial technique. But "agnostic" is a word that leaves me cold. It means innocently enough "not knowing" but it takes on a colder tinge for me when people tell me they are agnostic.  The word has an arrogance about it.  Instead of saying I believe in nothing until it can be proved, I like to say that I believe in everything until you can prove it's not so. 

  I have been looking over a poem I found recently by Gerard Manley Hopkins.  I think the first stanza is basically saying that we are defined by what we do. Stones and bells ring when something strikes them: dragonflies and kingfishers glint as they go about their business

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies
draw flame; 
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells 
Stones ring;like each tucked string tells,each hung bell’s 
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out 
broad its name; 
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:         
Deals out that being indoors each one 
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells, 
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came. 
I say more: the just man justices; 
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is— 
Chríst— for Christ plays in ten thousand
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not
To the Father through the features of 
men's faces.

In other words, I think Hopkins is saying, do what you came to do, be who you are or "To thine own self be true."  
 Of course, we have all heard this.  Being true to one's inner self has been a cliche for a long time, maybe since Shakespeare (or whomever it was) said it.  But how do you know if you are really being you?  
Well, this poet from the 1800's tries to explain it.  It's about taking action, about sending your own true essence into existence.  Like thoughts are "things" and doing proves it. 
I have come to believe that being yourself in all that you do, well, that's when you know you're keeping it real and that's kind of what it takes to get forward. 
So just to tell myself one more time,  as soon as I finish this coffee and get dressed, I am walking out to buy cat food and to observe my essence today and see what it is that I manifest.   
And M, let me know what that is for you, would you?   Write me....even a snail mail if you want. 
Oh, and if there are some strange change of fonts, sizes and spacing in this post, ignore it.  It's google doing what it does. 
Love, mary

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Journal page......Repurposing

This is a page from my first art journal.... my gesso and sand polar bear gets used up in a collage.  That little square was an experiment from years ago that ended up in the scrap box. 
  That photo is a copy from Monsieur's family scrapbook.  
  The dots were printed with bubble wrap.   I found the pedicure aide in the 2 euro store and used it for a stamp?  And I see the print from the bottom of a flip flop sandal at the euro store as well.    I am  RE-PURPOSING et....   Je m'amuse. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Victoria and Abdul

 photo by

photo by

Monsieur and I  finally watched the film" Victoria and Abdul" which had been on my radar for a long time.  Since I posted about my visit to India in 1983,  I have found myself gravitating to all things Indian.  I am even in the mood for curry. 

Let me just say that this film is a treasure.  I know Judy Dench as one of the best actors of our time, but to see the magic pairing with Ali Fazal in this British drama directed by Steven Frears was breathtaking to watch.  It seems that we saw it here at home almost to the day a year after it was released in 15 September, 2017.  It has long been on our list.

The movie is loosely based on the real life relationship of Queen Victoria and an Indian Muslim named Abdul Karim as chronicled in Shrabani Basu's book: Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant, screenplay written by Lee Hall ( Billy Elliot).

It is quite an astonishing story based on the friendship in the later years of Queen Victoria's reign with Abdul Karim, who was simply a young Indian clerk chosen to participate in the queen's Golden Jubilee in 1897. He was brought over to present a coin to her.... ostensibly as he was good looking and tall, nothing more.  

 The queen's household, her son and the royal "inner circle" was shocked and dismayed however, to find that the queen was to form a devoted friendship with Karim which lasted 14 years, until  her death. 

  The true story has just recently come to light because Karim's family kept his diary which told his side of events, even though King Edward VII  who succeeded Victoria, had all other documents and letters destroyed and sent Karim packing immediately after Victoria's death. 

But what captivated me more than the story itself, was the incredible bond formed between these two brilliant actors who had just met for this role.  From what I can tell, Fazal is a "Bollywood" actor and this is his first English language film. 

  I have not seen such charisma displayed on screen for a very long time.    And Victoria ad Abdul is basically a love story, a very unusual one, but a love story nonetheless.   But with Judy Dench, it is anything but a sappy one.  Judy doesn't do "sappy" I am pleased to say.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Mary Oliver

"Creative work requires a loyalty as complete as the loyalty of water to the force of gravity.  A person trudging through the wilderness of creation who does not know this -who does not swallow this-is lost. 
He who does not crave that roofless place eternity should stay at home. Such a person is perfectly worthy, and useful, and even beautiful, but is not an artist. 

There is a notion that creative people are absentminded, reckless, heedless of social customs and obligations.  It is, hopefully, true. For they are in another world altogether.   It is a world where the third self is governor.  Neither is the purity of art the innocence of childhood, if there is such a thing.  One's life as a child, with all its emotional rages and ranges, is but grass for the winged horse--it must be chewed well in those savage teeth. 

The working concentrating artist is an adult who refuses interruption from himself, who remains absorbed and energized in and by the work-- who is thus responsible to the work."

Mary Oliver   Upstream: Selected Essays

"The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time."

I found this passage today and realize that for three hours every morning I have been doing "land art", making my garden into a sanctuary especially for me and hoping others enjoy what I have done.  It is physically demanding manual work but it is creative work as well or I wouldn't do it.  

 But the rest of the day, I am lost because I am no longer engaged in what I do best. It is hard to switch gears.  
 Like most of us, I am looking for that balance between the social self and the "other self".  

Monday, September 10, 2018


You may be one of the lucky ones to come across this Easter egg in the forest.  

Photo by mailhos, Cuisine de Jardin
But my Ovoli were brought to me last week from a big property in Tuscany.  A friend offered them in a soil stained napkin, a proper wrapping for this treasure.   

 Ovoli, Photo by MaryMPayne
If you haven't come across this mushroom you are in for a surprise as they are more dense and tastier than porcini, one of the most coveted of fungi.  

The oval will eventually open up to show the gills like a regular mushroom. 

Closed mushroom Ovoli, photo by MaryMPayne

We ate ours sautéd in olive oil with a little salt.