Bean vs. Bullet

When I arrived at Houston’s answer to Chicago’s Bean, all I saw was a Bullet.

Houston’s Bean — or Bullet?

Ellen’s post and pictures last week lured me back to the road, this time to the Cullen Sculpture Garden.

Call it a silver siren song. Gleaming, mirrored surfaces screamed out. Release pent‐up creative energy. Retrieve roadtrip memories.

Three years ago, DH and I road‐tripped to Chicago. A swing by its Bean was vital. We were too old for Lollapalooza but never too cranky for playtime. 

Chicago’s Bean lures joy‐filled play.
Blondie holds up the Bean.

Remembering that long‐ago pose, Houston beckoned the same treatment. Same dress. Different hair.

Happy pose notwithstanding, I hated Houston’s Bullet. Immediately.

Can you see the rope‐like steel cable that wraps the granite base? It prevents human touch. Saving Windex money?

Look a little closer. See reflections of cracked eggshell below? Translation: metaphor for an ever‐expanding urban area with its multiple, diverse personalities. Truth?

In the shadows loom omnipresent building cranes. Prepping walls and floors of concrete. Another anniversary this month. Hurricane Harvey; Houston floods. We pour more concrete this storm season?

Step a pace or two to the left. Spy the first thing to love of this Bullet art. A concave side revealing…a ghost? A baby bear?

What do you see?

Lay down this baby and she’s a bed for cradling. Lush bedding mandatory. Not now, though. It’s August in Houston.

Can I sleep here in December? A Christmas present to myself? No. Guards say “no touch! Ever!”

Fine. Playtime calls.

First. Let’s play compare & contrast. Look at the pair of images below. Ask, as I did: when did local art go to the birds?

Sculpture “Bird” frames Bullet
Bean previews H‐town?

Ah, Monday philosophizing about art — be it beans, bullets, bears, or birds — beats writing on a novel.

To life! To distraction!

Imagination, Inspiration and Originality

Wednesdays are fun here in retirement land. It is one of the few days when I look forward to waking up and getting over to my friend’s house by 10:00 a.m. Why yes, I set an alarm clock to get somewhere by 10:00 a.m. That’s how I roll now. I can’t remember the last time I got anywhere by 8:00 a.m. Morning rush hour is a memory.

Now I get to my friend’s house and meet up with a group of women writers where we all practice and improve our craft. The size of the group fluctuates, but there is a dedicated core group of us. You can see a sampling of the group below:

Some of the group is a bit camera shy, so I am just showing a sampling of what we look like while we are reading our work and receiving feedback from each other.

After being inspired such talented friends, I went by the Glassell School of Art. The new building and campus is really nice and finally open for classes again.

I have heard this artwork just outside the main building referred to as the “Glassell Bean”. I am fascinated by this sculpture. It sees everything and it reflects everything around it.

The class I have signed up for is called “Women in Art”. We will study women artists from the 19th century through to the present. Some of my favorite artists will be included, such as; Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo, Judy Chicago and Camille Claudel. This is also the best kind of class to take, because there are no tests. Just a gathering of people who have a strong desire to learn and discuss.

The lobby of the Glassell is a wide open room with lots of light coming in from all directions.

There are stairs and hallways that go off in all directions. It makes me feel as if there is no limit to one’s creativity. In the past I have taken many classes at the Glassell in the areas of ceramics, photography, and design. I have loved them all. Now I am looking forward to this next phase of my art education.

I personally find that art and writing go together. If I am feeling creative in one area, it helps me feel creative in other endeavors. Sometimes when writing about a particular historical topic, I will develop some collage work to help me to visualize particular events, styles, etc. I have also used collage to help me develop characters for short stories.

Now it is time to get back to writing and creating.

Until next time…

What’s Your Woman?

Medial Woman screamed “Me!” in the morning.

Afternoon, I yelled back, “Me, Amazon! Next, Mother!”

I saved my loudest roar for “Hetaira” – there’s something about a woman focusing her life on a man that simply does not ring my chimes. Dare I ‘fess up that I heard my dark side shouting?

A weekend drive to Houston’s Jung Center — past a 4‐car freeway pileup (a high five for what lay ahead?) — brought an in‐depth study of these four aspects of the feminine psyche.

Which Archetype(s) are you? (Image copyright Suzan Cotellesse).

The workshop promised this RoadBroad an opportunity to expand her knowledge of female archetypes. My novel demands character exploration. I never anticipated a bonus: riches of personal learning and expansion.

Indulge me as I take an esoteric dive.

Archetypes are, in brief, an imprint all humans carry. In psychological theory, they’re original forms, or models, of people or ideas that others recognize universally.

In “Four Aspects of Woman,” workshop leader Suzan Cotellesse synthesized the groundbreaking work of psychoanalyst Toni Wolff who posited that, across a woman’s life, she dances with four archetypes in both her personal (individual) and non‐personal (collective) relationships. (Authors Mary Dian Molton and Lucy Anne Sikes later expanded on Wolff’s work in their book, Four Eternal Women).

Those four natures include Mother, the nurturer; Hetaira, the relater; Amazon, the striver; and Medial Woman, the wise woman. Suzan’s clear and wise teaching explained each of the four functions in detail.

Which fits you now? (Image copyright Suzan Cotellesse).

Immediately, I slotted my novel’s six primary female characters.

Then. Off came the blinders.

My turn. Personal truth.

Easy at first: Medial Woman. Intuitive. Spirit Seeker. Mysterious. Crone (rising because, at age 61, she’s not very old. Cough. Cough.).

Amended at day’s end: I’m actually a growing Amazon followed by a creating Mother supported by evolving Medial Woman with full‐on‐resistance mode at mention of Hetaira. There’s something about this broad who self‐selects as a man‐slave. Over‐reaction, of course. I’ll explore. Later. 

At workshop’s end, we collaged our learnings. I used a single piece of paper, collaging its two sides.

Amazon roars; Medial Woman meditates (Collage images copyrighted by their respective magazines).

Here’s Afternoon Me. Young again, she strides into the world as an independent Amazonian woman. Her white and black attire symbolize the clarity of her life mission and purpose.

Interesting that Amazon’s stride comes atop Medial Woman’s natural wisdom. The latter’s represented by images of clear water and shining sun, the foundations for a strong feminine force re‐entering the world.

To her left—as a guiding mantra—balances the red and black passion of woman and man evenly weighted with each other, moving upward toward a better future. I hope.

On the reverse appeared the supporting forms, Archetypes #2 and #4, if you will:

Mother creates, Hetaira relates (Collage images copyrighted by their respective magazines).

Mother anchors this side with her Gaia representation, stand‐ins for the gestating/birthing role of the creative feminine. She stands on what she brings to her role: ‘The Woman who Knows what Women Want.” Apt for an author of women’s fiction?

To her right stands Hetaira, daring any challenge. On anything. Closed‐off arms offer aloof confidence. Attractive. Fearsome. Yes, work to do, both of us.

Splitting the page, the four faces of the female archetypes reveal different looks. Each glance, shaded by artfully applied make‐up, reveals as it also hides. Can you see why each face was placed as it was?

Two days after the workshop, I look at these pages and ask—my god, where does this stuff come from?

Medial Woman wants to know.

For Amazon Mother.

∞∞∞∞∞

Suzan will offer this informative class again this fall at Houston’s Spectrum Center (www.SpectrumCenter_Houston.com). You can explore Suzan’s other work and teachings at her website (www.suzancotellesse.com).

Tunnels, Pathways and Chocolate!

It’s August! Isn’t that great! We are more than half‐way through summer. I know the temperatures are still in the upper 90’s but in many parts of the country it’s Harvest Season.

In the old country it is Lughnasadh. I am not sure exactly which old country that would be, but one of the ones that’s been around for a really long time. It is now that magical time of year when we are supposed to reap what we sow. I personally am trying to sow cooler weather.

Houston has had some rain this week. That meant that I went to some familiar hangouts to spend some time with friends. Yesterday I went back to the Museum of Fine Arts. I just love the light tunnel.

There is one dark path surrounded by soft lighting that changes color from time to time. As you can see, I took a picture of my friend. Handsome, isn’t he? I like this picture, because you cannot tell if the person you are looking at is coming towards you or going away from you. I guess all of us, from time to time, wander our way through life. Hopefully we know if we are coming or going, but maybe not. In the museum light tunnel you are lucky, because no matter which way you go, you will always end up surrounded by art.

While I was at the museum, I revisited the bamboo sculpture and walked through it. Literally, you can walk through this art sculpture. As you can see in the picture, it is made completely out of bamboo and there is a path that takes you from the top of the structure to the bottom. You basically go from one floor of the museum down to the next floor through the bamboo maze. I hold on tightly to the railings. I know this structure is solid and many people walk through it every day. Kids run through quite fearless. Now; however, I am old enough to worry about falling and breaking things so I hold on to the handrails.

Another place I visited this past weekend was my new favorite chocolate shop, Cacao and Cardamom. Not only do they have wonderful “sipping chocolate” as in the following picture, but they also have a wide assortment of chocolates. I always purchase a few to take home and then see how long I can make the individual pieces of chocolate last. I will let myself eat one piece of dark chocolate candy a day, because it is supposed to be good for my heart. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

If you are really feeling adventurous, then you can try some of the bigger creations at Cacao and Cardamom. Check out these shoes:

Yep, all of those shoes and the clutch purses they are standing on are pure chocolate. Of course they have men’s shoes as well, but they are not as colorful as the ladies shoes.

Must close now, so I can go off and have more adventures.

Until next week.….

Calling Starfish Quinoa

Remember last week’s photo?

Here’s an update:

Welcome to life in the suburbs where a single damaged tree merits the grass treatment. As in mow it down. Its two pesky neighbors must go, too.

While you’re at it, get creative. You know, like a writer. Leave behind a mutant starfish in all three tree places.

Zoom in on the first picture above to see the name on the brick block in the back center of this frame. It reads MATRIX. This word nerd thought immediately of Keanu Reeves and his Neo film trilogy. Taking it a step further (because it’s one of those weird info‐junkie practices of mine), I researched the word on‐line. Dictionary.com cites “matrix” as a biology term: “ground substance.” Chill bumps broke out — the exact new form of this old tree. So ground into the earth, I thought of cooked red quinoa. Can you see it?

Odd metaphors of wood and grains. Actually, there’s nothing odd or weird about my writer eyes. I call them Imagination. In the matrix, who knows what we’re really looking at anyway?

On a lighter note, a photo from a RoadBroad weekend:


No imagination necessary — that truck was pointing at me, but under tow away from me. Odd sensation to drive behind this. And a first in 45 years on the road.

Helpful Signs Along The Way

In Melanie’s latest post, she discussed her walking road trip through nature and her observation of trees. Today my road trip will be somewhat different.

I begin this journey by traveling through a concrete jungle that is under construction. Going around road construction is a full‐time hobby for anyone who lives in the Houston area. This little jaunt just happens to be along I‐10. I am on my way to visit the Swedish jungles of IKEA.

A friend and I made the journey together. He is an Engineer. If you have never traveled through IKEA with an Engineer, then you really don’t know what you are missing. I will explain as I go along.

To begin with, journeying through IKEA is like going through life with all kinds of assistance, hints, and signposts. From the moment you walk in the front door, you are immediately directed to go up. Go up, dear friend, into the spectacle that is Swedish furniture and housewares.

Then as soon as you reach the pinnacle of the escalator, you begin to see arrows directing you as to the path you are to take.

Where Dorothy and Toto followed the yellow brick road, the Engineer and I followed the white arrows painted on the concrete floor. Do I ever wonder on where I am going in life? I just have to take a trip to IKEA and am told what direction to take at all times.

Of course I am with an Engineer who can figure a lot of things out for himself. He can look at a map and tell where we should go next.

Since the Engineer has a Ph.D, he can even find his way between the Showroom and the Marketplace. He is very smart indeed! Then I noticed that if we followed the arrows on the floor, it will take us on the same pathway as shown on the master floor map and I almost feel as smart as an Engineer.

Actually we have decided to spend the morning at IKEA because I am rearranging my home. I have way more books than I have bookcases to hold them. Also, I have two closets that are completely disorganized. I am quite sure that if I just organize my closets, then the rest of my life will follow suit. Doesn’t that make sense? Also, since I have recently retired, I am motivated to purge my home of all the stuff I have retired from and no longer suits me. I hope I wind up with more room for lots more books and art supplies!

For the novice shoppers at IKEA, the store is great about providing the proper tools to find, measure and write down everything you need. When you travel with an Engineer he comes with his own high precision shopping tools as is demonstrated below:

Of course once all is said and done, it is important to keep a view on the big picture of your life. Again, IKEA helps with this.

From this perspective, you can see all of the tools that are there to help you and all the options you have for arranging and decorating your existence.

If any of this does not help you, then you can simply go home. Your cat will tell you to get back to work on your writing and stop goofing off.

Life can be so simple, if we will only let it.

Until next week.……

Why I Walk

Observation.

The word beckons, two months — nearly to the day — after a life‐changing encounter with Sherlock Holmes.

This time, nature delivers on my daily morning walk.

Whoa! How did this happen?

No storms last night.

Not even a teeny gust of wind.

Curiousity moved me forward. 

Inspection reveals this tree half‐died across a lengthy period of time. It consumed itself from the inside out, internal erosion concealed beneath solid exteriors.

Disease consumes perfection, beginning its continuing work on lower limbs.

Yet in this ultra close‐up, Life returns.

A ring of healthy bark embraces a circle of green. Star of hope amid a rotting halo. It’s a wink to onlookers who search for meaning in the world surrounding.

Truth hides what the outside never sees. Does that make a lie?

Parallels to the writing world—stories, projects, relationships, life itself—scream back at me. I smile.

Ah, today will be good.

When nature speaks, she roars.

What happens when we see, then listen.

Ellen offered a single word to these pictures: wabi‐sabi. It was a classic “aha!” moment. Wabi‐sabi centers on (quoting Wikipedia here) the Japanese aesthetic that art marries “asymmetry… austerity…and appreciation of …natural objects and processes.”

At her mention, I remember “duende.” It’s a Spanish term for a passionate experience relating to an experience of art or life.

I proclaim Tener Duende for wabi‐sabi! That’s my Tex‐Mex version of ‘to have duende’ for this entire discovery of one vital broken‐yet‐living tree.

Now I know why I walk. To see what to write.

It begins with Observation. Yes, with a capital “O.”

I end on this offering. Dear Deer marked my final photo from the day I observed the living/dying tree.

Can you spot the tribal trifecta?

Papa stands at first base with Mama guarding on second. Baby, new to the fam and our neighborhood since last winter, remains puzzled at third.

I stand at home plate, awed to silence.

The Road Trip Is Over, But The Journey Is Just Beginning!

I have been home for several weeks. I would say that my life has returned to normal, but it hasn’t. I am now really officially retired. I still have not determined what the new normal is going to be. This is a whole shift of consciousness for me, because I have either gone to school, worked, or both since I was about 15 years old.

The first thing I noticed when I returned from Colorado was that I slept.….a lot. I would sleep well at night. Get up in the morning, drink some coffee, watch some news, and then take a nap. I almost got worried that I was sleeping too much, but then I realized that I was feeling GREAT! Apparently I haven’t been this rested for approximately 50 years! I adopted a very mindful approach to my daily schedule and just observed. When I was hungry I ate, when I was tired I slept. How so very zen of me.

I have structured my daily life so I seldom have to set an alarm clock. At first I swung back and forth between waking up early in the morning and sleeping until 11 a.m. Some evenings I fell asleep early reading a book and other evenings I stayed up late watching whatever movie I found irresistible at the moment.

One day a week I get together with a friend for a day of culture or adventure or a movie or whatever strikes our fancy. The picture above is from the Big Bambu at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. It is a sculpture made out of bamboo that is literally big enough to walk through. It’s another variation of a road trip. If you have a chance to go and see this exhibit, I highly recommend it!

Also I continue to enjoy the local road trips to the Alley Theater in the evenings. Their most recent production of Holmes and Watson was great fun!

I was reminded of the Sherlock Holmes exhibit that Melanie and I both visited at the Museum of Natural Science. We learned to observe our surroundings and pay attention to details. Perfect reminders for a writer. Observe and take notes!

And yes, I am writing. I have been mindfully experimenting with writing schedules and think I have just about found what works best for me. Some days I focus on writing. Other days I focus on culture/adventure/movies. So far retirement into full‐time writer life is working for me.

I hope everyone who reads this is having a great summer! I will write again in about a week.

Stay cool!

Another Month, Another Repair

Thirty days ago, I left this blog to resume life off the road.

I’m back to announce we’re rebirthing RoadBroads in its new form. We’re on the lookout for guest bloggers. But first…

After last month’s 2700‐mile road trip, this morning brought my delayed post‐roadtrip car check. I mentioned an oil change as a good idea for starters. Oh, and don’t forget that gas problem in Boulder.

One receipt & two more to come…

From the sound of his voice (when you hear pregnant pauses from a man, you know he’s talking bad baby news), I sensed trouble. Either me or the bank account.

Oops! Brakes are wearing down.

Ditto those tire treads.

And if you need new tires, you need new struts and shocks.

Ditto that shock news.

Holy moly, RoadBroads! What’s a girl to do?

Yes, I’m considering a new car. This little Subaru is 7 years old with 63,000 miles. Not much as such autos go but we’re looking at $3613, max, in repairs (the mechanic swears). And this follows $1778 for a new air conditioning compressor before we left Houston for Colorado six weeks ago.

Yes, a plug for Consumer Reports. They’re a shopper’s best friend.

What RoadBroads don’t talk about with car trips is the vehicle itself. Silly little things like maintenance. Wear and tear. Cost. Ugh.

Now, DH and I are debating whether to replace my car. Much as I hate to saddle up with a monthly car payment. That’s another loud fat Ugh!

But it IS fun reading about these new cars. Can you believe some wheels run over $100,000? Who would pay that for something that depreciates rapidly during your very first ride?

I digress. Majorly.

It’s been a busy month in Lake Sugar Land with eye problems, honorable mentions, and the never‐ending litany of daily life distractions. The novel is now fully outlined, plus all 28 chapter openings and endings are written out. 50 pages, folks! Equivalent to a Novel PhD.

Oh, I owe you blog post guidelines. We’ll keep it simple. We’re looking for weekly guest posts from women RoadBroads. We require:

  1. 300–600 word posts on a road trip you’ve taken, planning to take, or want to take. The unique is most encouraged!
  2. Brief bio of yourself (2–3 sentences).
  3. Headshot (full color preferred).
  4. Pictures to accompany your blog post (pictures you’ve taken or photos with copyright approvals).
  5. Posts will be edited to maintain RoadBroad blog criteria.

Ellen and I will co‐review guest blog submissions for possible posting.

Also, we each will resume our own posts with a Slow Blog approach. For me, that’s once a week.

I have a novel to finish. December 16 is my deadline to complete the full first draft. Please hold me to that.

It’s good to be back.

Fighting Altitude with Attitude

The Rev. Pat Clark

NOTE: Today’s guest blog post comes from fellow writer, The Rev. Pat Clark. She’s had 10 days to review her 10‐day writing retreat in Boulder. 

A Presbyterian minister and spiritual director, Rev. Clark is currently writing a book about surviving stage 4 cancer through faith and kindergarten art.

We’re particularly grateful for Pat. Every week, she graciously hosts the Wednesday Writers in her home. Her brave struggle with cancer and her creative determination to fight back with art and words inspires us all. Thank you, dear friend! — Melanie & Ellen


Fighting Altitude with Attitude

It was no easy task to get to Boulder for Max’s writing retreat. First off there was a luggage factor – CPAP machine, computer, printer, art supplies, journals, a notebook with source material and another that had been green‐lined. That means decorated with a LOT of things I had to change for the next step in getting it published. Add to that clothes and toiletries. I felt triumphant that I made it on the airplane in one big bag with a backpack.

We were all excited to meet one another at the Dunshanbe Teahouse on opening night. We tried exotic foods, sat outside beside a rushing river and smelled the fragrance of a million roses that lined the path to the entrance. Oh, the anticipation of writing!

The climate was a wonderful gift for the seven of us from Texas, or so I thought. The problem came when I tried to walk very far. In only a few minutes I was huffing and puffing and having to stop on nearby benches sprinkled all over town.

Things worsened when I tried to sleep. I didn’t get much. Altitude! Those beautiful mountains have a downside. Finally I tried a tincture of CBD that helped me relax but not sleep. The retreat became a test of endurance more than a retreat. I can do this! became my mantra.

Ready for another small group session at the Boulder Bookstore.

Nonetheless I finished editing my book, wrote the final chapter, and launched a new endeavor to write about travel. There were amazing moments – insights during a Max Regan lecture, the beauty of peony bushes, the funkiness of Pearl Street with its flame throwers and musicians, the Hotel Boulderado, meals with other writers, solid help with my work, and the amazing writing that was shared in our salons every other night. I loved it!

I decided after the first day or two that I could lie around and whine about my sleep issues, or I could just do what I came to do–learn, write and have a good time. That is exactly what I did!

Things are rarely perfect in life, but I do have a choice in how to respond to them. Now that I am safely home in Houston, I am profoundly grateful for the writers’ retreat and everything I learned and experienced in Boulder.

I am also grateful for a good night’s sleep in my own bed.