Wednesday, November 27, 2019

2019 In Review

Writing about our year is always harder than I expected. In the beginning, I can't think of a single sentence that is interesting, or even coherent. We have a blessed life in Carmel Valley. It is somewhat monotonous, as I've written before, but it's the monotony of abundance. A desirable monotony.

Max is in the 10th Grade now. His school work is challenging as always. He also volunteers at our local library, helping young children with arts and crafts. 

Misa took a part time job at a retail store last year. She did well but gave it up this month to be at home more. She continues to study dance and jazz piano, and people on my conference calls occasionally enjoy her diligent practice. 


We had some family business in Japan this summer, and we enjoyed revisiting Misa's home town of Tokyo. I can't say enough good things about this city. It's clean and quiet, and everyone pitches in to make it run efficiently. The Japanese have a lot of urban issues figured out. Everything is under control here. 

Max and Misa plot our route in the train network. I'm the lucky one who doesn't need to know anything. I follow along, like a three-year-old. 

The eternal picture
I spent this year painting water (on my study) and sky (on the big canvases). I have already painted the water and the sky several times, big and small. They came out wrong. I needed to start over. 

 This sky isn't terrible, but it's not right yet. I decided to scrape it off, along with the previous skies underneath it, down to the pinkish ground I started with, long ago. I didn't have this scraping ability a few years ago; I acquired it along the way. 

You might think it's depressing to take a giant step backward like this, but I like it. It's like going back in time. 

One of my favorite musical performers, Johnny Mathis gave a concert here this year. I saw him 19 years ago, when he performed with the San Francisco Symphony. Johnny is 84 years old now, but his voice is still clear and strong. 

Johnny early in his career, 1957.

Notes from failed drawing expeditions in Shinjuku

Misa and I washed laundry at a tiny shop a few blocks from the hotel. We took breakfast at a McDonald’s. Misa returned to the clothes and I tried to draw a young man next to me. The drawing was stiff, inaccurate, but the work lifted me nonetheless. Later the three of us went to the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art, where the art was less “modern,” more traditional. Many works on paper and silk revealed that Asian mastery of drawing I’ve reached for but never touched, these last 40 years. Precision and fluidity simultaneously; how can they do it? 

Misa and Max took another subway excursion while I napped. After dinner, Max charged on ahead of us to the hotel. I decided to linger out in the delicious night breeze, while Misa bathed. 

I went to a coffee shop and tried to draw again, this time a plump, doll-like young woman who was chattering away to her boyfriend. Once again, the drawing was not cooperating; it was a failure all the way. I worked for about 40 minutes then gave up. As I walked out of the shop, running feet followed me. Both male and female asked to see the drawing and took a photo with their phone. They only had a few words of English and I had fewer Japanese, but we had a nice short conversation anyway. They smiled warmly and took my hand. This is what my attempts at art did for me. They gave me a way of being at home in the world, which I sorely needed. 

Please comment or email about your year. All the best for you in 2020.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

2018 In Review

Everything you do, be it great or small, is but one-eighth of the problem, whereas to keep one’s state of mind undisturbed even if thereby one should fail to accomplish the task, is the other seven eighths. 

—St. Abba Dorotheus (sixth century), quoted in E. Kadloubovsky and G. E. H. Palmer, Early Fathers from Philokalia




Facebook depresses me because everyone's life looks better than mine. I don't want to contribute to that problem by presenting a choreographed product here. You don't want to read about my heroic struggle to clear the drain in the dishwasher, but that's the kind of excitement that fills my days. At any hour of any day, you're likely to find all three of us working. That's mostly what we do. It's not a bad life, I have no complaints about it. I only mention this to avoid misleading by omission.

Max took his first training flight in an airplane on his birthday. He liked airplanes from birth. At preschool, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, "A airplane! Wiff ten engines!"

He studied photography at his high school, and made this ad. I like the composition, but Max only says, "Yeah, I calculated you could land a plane on this street, given the right conditions."

Misa continued to make and sell jewelry, handbags and scarves at her store, LoveMisaStyle

Work continues on my Eternal Picture. Right now I'm working out some problem areas off the main canvas. We'll see how far I get in 2019.

A Buddhist shrine enclosure hangs on the wall in my office. Elaborate rules dictate what to place inside and how this sacred space is cared for. Naturally, I ignore every one of the rules and do what I want with it.

Today I placed photographs of women who taught me important lessons. The photographs were taken over a period of one hundred years. When I stepped back and looked at them, I noticed every head was slightly tilted in the same way, and each girl beamed the same delicate smile. 

Each face connects to the others, to this Earth, to the passing of time, and to me. There it is, the horizontal arc, the wider pattern we swim in. Like the curve of our planet's surface, the arc is always there, but we catch a glimpse only a few times in life. 

Music this year comes from a Canadian singer, Ken Lavigne, who deserves more attention.

SoCal decorations, courtesy of Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

2017 In Review


"Months passed, months of extreme caution, dull and silent."
         —Louis-Ferdinand CĂ©line, Journey to the End of the Night

Hello again,

In 2008, when we lived near Ocean Beach in San Francisco, I made a short YouTube video with typical scenes from our days together. In 2017 I made a new movie about our current life in Carmel Valley, San Diego. Some things have changed dramatically; others not so much.

Here's the original, wherein you can see a smaller boy and younger parents:

In 2017 we broke up our routine by spending two weeks in San Francisco in summer, through the generosity of friends. 

Max rode across the Golden Gate Bridge for lunch in Sausalito.

I got to walk the Lincoln Park Trail, where I'd climbed and painted many days in the last century.

Max visited the San Francisco Zoo, near our old house, and rode the puffer train again. His cousin Daniel Duke joined us.

We drove through California, which is always interesting for me, no matter which route we take. I came here from Texas thirty years ago, and never get tired of just looking around.

Music to share this year:

Please comment or email. Let us know about your year. Until next time, enjoy every minute. This exquisite light won't last.