Archive for May, 2010

In recent years I’ve acquired a substantial library of art books, and some DVDs, by contemporary watercolor artists—Barbara Nechis, Charles Reid, Jeanne Dobie, Karlyn Holman, etc.  For me a library of diversified artists—each with his or her individual approach—is far better than taking classes from only one person.  These teachers help me immeasureably, and I continually glean new insights and inspiration from them.

If there is one thing that most famous artists have in common, it may be painting Italy.  It seems that every great artist in the world has painted Italy.  I have studied more pictures of crooked streets, canals, ancient ruins, and laundry dangling from windows on picturesque old buildings than I can count! 

At one point I even tried painting an Italian street scene, from photos taken by our granddaughter, Nicole, who studied for a semester in Rome.  The result was nothing worth sharing.  It was a very amateurish attempt at capturing a scenario which I have never experienced first hand—a charming scene but one which has not personally moved me.

Pondering the fact that most accomplished artists seem to paint Italy (understandable in light of classical art history) I came up with a great and obvious DUH, which goes without saying when we pause to think:  we need to paint what we know!

Although I’m a lover of small towns, country, and wild places, I have always been fascinated by the architecture of Milwaukee—that quasi Old World city which has been a part of my life from birth (literally, as I was born in Milwaukee). 

The above rendering—amateurish, non-representational, and personalized—depicts a glimpse of Milwaukee’s south side, as recently viewed through the windows of a city building.  Milwaukee’s historic churches, built in the 19th century with hard-earned money and labor of devout Polish and Slavic immigrants, are a touch of the Old World.  Although I am not Polish or Serbian, these architectural monuments mean something to me.  They are awesome, and they are a part of the city I know:  not Venice, not Rome, not Florence—but Milwaukee!

I get the greatest joy out of painting what I know, and scenes that I’ve experienced and loved.  Here are a few more places I love:

Breckenridge, Colorado ↑

Garden of the gods—Manitou Springs, Colorado

Taos, New Mexico ↑

Joe fishing in our lake up north ↑

Marsh marigolds surrounding our driveway at our northern home in May ↑

We can do no better than to paint (or write or sing!) what we know!

©2010, Margaret L. Been

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We came home from the hospital on Wednesday, after a 1 night stay, and by-passes were not needed—just 1 more stent and some repair on past stents.  Much praise!!!

Joe is feeling great, and collecting worms for fishing.  He took a great-grandson fishing yesterday. 

We are walking, smelling the lilacs in the park, and rejoicing in the sunlight on our little patio.  Each day is a gift!

Margaret L. Been

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Tomorrow we make the 45 minute trip to St. Luke’s where we will spend a couple of days.  Joe is scheduled for a heart cath—and then whatever else needs doing:  perhaps more stents, or a scheduling of by-pass surgery.

St. Luke’s is a good place to be in these circumstances, as that hospital pioneered heart surgeries and procedures decades ago.  We have been hanging out there on occasion since 1987 when Joe had 7 by-passes.  At that time, Joe shared a room.  Since then, the hospital has expanded and built a huge area called the Patient’s Tower with 2 floors of private rooms for cardiac patients. 

Now when Joe goes for stents or whatever, I can stay with him in his private room.  A comfy roll-away bed is supplied, and I can gaze down through the spacious windows at Milwaukee.  Last summer when we were there, I sat on my roll-away and had a fantastic view of the fireworks on opening night of Milwaukee’s famous Summerfest.

Being able to be with Joe when he is hospitalized makes a tremendous difference in my comfort level.  I bring a book or two and a sketch book, but mostly I knit.  For me, knitting is a great tension reliever when it’s hard to focus on anything else—and it’s productive as well. 

Last winter when our daughter, Judy, had her cardiac arrest we rushed to the hospital without taking time to gather any supplies.  There in the ICU waiting room was a wicker basket with yarn, needles, and directions for a simple-to-knit prayer shawl.  Anyone who was waiting could pick up the project and continue where the last person had left off.

The prayer shawl—placed there by some church group—was a great comfort to our daughter-in-law, Cheri, and me as we waited for news of our loved one.  We took turns knitting a few rows, adding some favorite pattern stitches along the way.

What a blessing to have yarn and needles at hand during those tense hours!  The church ladies who placed the basket of knitting in the waiting room knew that. 

Knitting has been my constant companion for most of my life in joy and sorrow—on road trips, while visiting with friends and family, and in countless hospital waiting rooms.  I begin nearly every day with at least a few rows of knitting—and sometimes a few inches.

Tomorrow will be no exception.  As I pray through Joe’s procedures and stay with him in his hospital room, I will knit!

©2010, Margaret L. Been

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Each week, additional plants and garden art join this bit of Heaven outside our door.  Paddington was up early on Mother’s Day when this shot was taken, with the rising sun behind the photographer’s back.  You can barely see Paddington’s yellow hat on the bench, sandwiched between some Teddy bears. 

The next photo shows our foxgloves in all their glory.  They have been blooming since I planted them in mid April.

Whenever I gaze at the foxgloves (so elegant with their speckled lining) I think of the Foxy Gentleman seated among the foxgloves—and how he conned that simple minded soul, Jemima Puddleduck, into laying her eggs in his shed.  My friend, Beatrix Potter, is never more than a glance-at-my-garden away.

On the left, you can see another trellis—a Mother’s Day gift from Joe.  Beneath it I’ve planted 3 grapevines which (hopefully) will bear purple grapes.  So excited about buying grapevines, I didn’t pause to think of the location.  But as I planted, I thought “Oh-Oh!  Grapes!  Sunny California/Sunny Italy!  How will these vines enjoy facing northeast and getting only a few hours of sun each day?” 

Well, we’ll see about that.  If nothing happens in the next few weeks, I’ll simply stick some Virginia creeper beneath the trellis.  That spectacular shade-loving vine is indestructible.

Meanwhile, on the south side of our home, we have 2 large peony bushes ready to celebrate life with their stunning blooms.  Also on the south side are more perennials, waiting to be identified by my Master Gardener friends.

And right outside our garage door, cardinals are nesting in a flowering crab tree.  We are “cheer-cheer-cheered” in all our comings and goings.  The cardinals’ tree is also next to our south windows.  We are “open-window-rather-than-air-conditioning” folks, so come warm weather we’ll be “cheered” inside and out!

©2010, Margaret L. Been

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When I was very young, she showed me how to feed day-old orphaned kittens from a medicine dropper.  She taught me to walk quietly, watching for wildflowers and listening for birds.

Mother valued integrity over comfort, and never betrayed the confidences of her family members or friends.  She ignored pettiness, and refused to react to crass people skilled in the “art” of dispensing insults.

Her chin was high but not arrogant, chiseled but not cold.  Her pleasantly mild outward appearance caused unthinking observers to believe she was pliable and soft. 

But anyone with discernment realized that her keen, penetrating mind commanded a backbone of unflinching steel.  She despised gushy sentimentality, and reserved her displays of affection for people she loved.

Of Celtic descent, Mother loved most things Scottish:  the diligence, thrift, reserved attitude, and bagpipes–but not the whiskey.  She had no use for that. 

She was a classical musician.  Her piano refrains are emblazoned in my soul, where the magnificence of Mozart and poignancy of Chopin will endure forever.  I cherish my legacy of Mother’s antique poetry books.  I think of her as I gather armloads of lilacs and let their heady fragrance brush my face.

Although some of the people she loved didn’t know a finger bowl from a flower pot, Mother valued social graces and lovely deportment as marks of consideration for others.  She schooled me in walking with a book on my head (to improve my posture), chewing with my mouth closed, and setting dinner plates one inch from the edge of the table with the designs facing the person dining.  She taught me to use my forks from the outside in–salad, main course, dessert.  She tried to teach me not to talk too much, too often, or too fast.

Despite my love for running barefoot in summer, despite my scruffy knees scabbed over from numerous roller skating spills, despite the fact that I spent much of my girlhood climbing trees, Mother managed to infuse me with her passion for elegant frocks, dressy hats, and gloves.

Alzheimer’s notwithstanding, Mother’s last years reflected the poise of her lifetime.  Not given to ranting and shrieking as some older people do, she sat smiling serenely beside the nurses’ station day after day.  She was dearly loved at the nursing home where she was known as “Ruthie”.  It was my privilege to do her laundry, hold her hand, and sing for her, as she had done for me for so many years.

As her time of dying approached, our youngest daughter and I spent her last two days at her bedside singing spirituals that she loved:  “Where, Oh Where Are the Hebrew Children?”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, and “I’m Going Home on a Cloud”.

At the age of 93, Mother went to live with a King.  Someday I’ll join them for supper!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

NOTE:  My Mother’s Day tribute appeared on this weblog a year ago, and I am repeating it.  I can’t imagine a better mom than the one God gave me!  MLB

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Back in 1993, Joe and I went abroad for our first and probably last time.  We spent 17 days traveling back roads of England, Scotland, and Wales—in a rented car which Joe drove on the “wrong” side of the road.

We stayed at sheep farms and small town inns, and it was wonderful.  Touring the British countryside had long been my desire, and we were not disappointed.  Adventure and beauty greeted us around every bend, and we were not in the least bit tempted to venture into a city . . . .

. . . . except for on the last day.  Scheduled to fly back to the U.S. from Gatwick, which is 30 miles or so out of London, we spent our last night at a farm near Dorking.  We decided to ride the commuter train from that village into London, where we planned to transfer from Victoria Station to Paddington Station and (hopefully) buy a Paddington Bear to take home as a souvenir.

The train ride into London was fascinating, as the track ran through the back yards and alleys of old—I mean OLD!—neighborhoods.  From the windows, we saw one consistent sight in even the tiniest city yards:  carefully tended, interesting plots with funky “art” and a sweet little potting shed in the corner of most every garden.

How the Brits love their gardens!  I was totally captivated by the concept of a LITTLE garden.  At the time we lived on acreage, and I had very unruly gardens scattered hither and thither—plots which I couldn’t begin to manage.  The idea of a tiny garden right outside one’s door got planted then and there in my head, where it has remained dormant until just 2 weeks ago.

Now in our small condo, I’m enjoying a tiny garden plot alongside our patio—with about as much space as the gardens we saw where the train ran along the back yards of London.  Bleeding hearts, chives, tulips, and a couple of hardy rose bushes had already been planted here, and I am dividing and adding.  By the end of May, I hope to have an English garden packed with perennials spilling over each other in quest of the morning sunlight, and then relaxing side by side in the afternoon shade.

On clear days, I toss colorful fabric and a Southwestern Indian rug over patio chairs—and my Teddies go out to bask in the sun.  Sometimes Paddington Bear goes out too, although when this photo was taken he was “still sleeping” so I left him inside.

Incidently, there were no Paddington Bears at Paddington Station.  I got my Paddington Bear at K-Mart, in Waukesha, Wisconsin.  Go figure!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

NOTE:  I love to plant poems as well as perennials, and for decades I’ve been heartbroken over the current “state of the art” regarding what passes for poetry today.  Please check “Paintings and Poems” on this site, for a light representation of what I consider to be a contemporary travesty and tragedy!  🙂

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That winsome Cajun has done it again! 

I have never been a “sports fan”in terms of team sports, but do have a mild interest in some athletics involving individual discipline and performance.  Bump that up a big notch, and you’ll discover that I’m nutty about the horse races–not as a gambler, but rather as an avid appreciator. 

I assumed the interest was solely based on my love for horses.  Having grown up with horses, and ridden some (albeit it Western pleasure riding), horses are a natural for me.  And, they are animalsContrary to my considerable experience with people, I’ve never met an animal that I didn’t like!

I never paid a bit of attention to the jockeys—until Calvin began appearing on our TV screen.  His skill is incredible, and his personality is exuberant.  I get a huge bang out of the way Calvin doesn’t bother to hide his emotions.  His theatrics are entertaining to the max, and you have to love him!

I just GOOGLED the man, and am amazed at his track record.  No matter what one’s field of endeavor, when dedication and discipline are coupled with joy the watching world is inspired!  Calvin Borel exudes unabashed joy.  I think that’s the secret of his appeal!

NOTE:  A year ago, a commentor made a wise observation:  that Americans (and perhaps people everywhere) need upbeat “heroes” especially during troubled times.  Calvin Borel is to our contemporary scene what Shirley Temple and Rin Tin Tin were to Americans during the Great Depression.

© 2010, Margaret L. Been 

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

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