Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Intentions And Resolutions

This is the time of the year when our minds considers the infinite realms of resolutions and intentions.
It is great to sit down and envision a better self as well as a better world. Will we read more books? Listen to more diverse music? Exercise some more or exercise at all? Eat more wholesome food? Be kinder to our spouse? Lose some weight? so many possibilities.  Endless thoughts enter and exit our minds.  The year that looms ahead is full of promises, but stays like a book, closed to our vision. Inscrutable, a blank book filled with the lusciousness of the unknown and the invite of our best resolutions and intentions.

Some of them we keep alive and struggle to make happen.  But many are abandoned like field flowers on the wayside of our path. So many years become a repetition of the one past and our many resolutions and intentions live only in our minds and we feel remorse and guilt for all the forgotten possibilities we had planned for the future.

Along the years, I have learned not to make drastic changes. Maybe turn my thoughts a little bit one way and my vision a little bit the other way, open my feelings more, consider what I can do in my own mind. Like a fisherman, cast my bait and wait with not too much expectation but just the joy of the moment.  It could mean unexpected changes, but it could simply mean the continuation of a line of thoughts and inner doings that I extend to the next year.

Some things are here to stay.  Bills will come, we will pay our taxes, summer will happen and the earth will spring flowers on our door steps. Children will be born and some of us will die.
The planet will continue its revolutions around the sun and the cycle of the seasons will come again to fit our preferences.

In other words, life will go on as we know it.  So what will change with the new year? Maybe nothing, maybe a lot. An earthquake could happen anytime, a revolution, a war, a huge hike in our insurance, a fallout with our best friend or the pleasure of knowing someone new and discovering a new land. How much is due to our resolutions and intentions? maybe nothing, maybe a lot and maybe it is not due to our resolutions but to the ones of those in power and the simple movements of the earth. And also to the changes in the other people psyche, something that we have no power on.

Personally what do I want? more time to write, more time to create, more pen &and ink drawings, more time with my loved ones, maybe a neat trip to Europe or a trip around the states that I have not visited, more and more people to read this blog, and much more of my own inner life.  Being in touch with my own feelings, my guidance and the world surrounding me would be an added bonus.

I wonder how much of this will materialize...I know that work will intrude and take me away, that life will interfere one way or the other.  But maybe as everyone else, some of my desires will go ahead with the force of a running champion and show me that indeed, my dreams can happen.  It is good to let go and envision a life where my desires are met.

Everyone could be thinking the same things and all our desires merge in the collective unconscious to create a strange global soup that eventually is here to confront us.  It makes me laugh. Everyone has an intention, and many of our intentions collide!

But it is good to let go and imagine as John Lennon did, a better world, a better year when we thrive and blossom, when our intentions and resolutions line up with some fabulous world happening and we can smile knowing that the year ahead is what we all wanted.

Here are some ways to wrap the year nearly past and learn from all its happenings.

Ask yourself these questions, alone or with some trusted friends.

How was this year?  Get an overall view of the year.

What did I not like?

What did I learn?

What did I enjoy the most?

Happy regrouping!

Copyright Dec 2010, Micheline Brierre

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Time To Love

The kitten looked at us with wide innocent eyes wondering what all the fuss was about.  My Dad had brought us the Christmas tree  -- which in Haiti was not easy to find-- and we had set it up in the living room while waiting to bring the box or ornaments and decorate it.  It was an irresistible attraction to our kitten who jumped on it and climbed to the top investigating the side branches.  We were flabbergasted and at the same time laughing, as he cast a look of total surprise to us from the top of his perch.  Getting him down was a challenge in itself but that is another story. That was the beginning of the Christmas season for us and I still smile remembering.

How far it seems compared to my life now in Colorado with our dry weather ( so far) and fairly mild one that seems to some very unseasonal and to me -- wonderful.  I was born in an island of the Caribbean and the lack of snow is normal to me.

I still remember my first Christmas as a young and inexperienced bride in Mexico City having put the turkey in the oven and expecting it to be ready in a few hours. Well, we waited and I cried and checked on the bird in despair and it was not until late in the afternoon when the thing was finally cooked.  I could have looked in cook books but figured on my own that if I could cook a chicken, a turkey was not much different. Mistake!  In Haiti we had a cook who took care of such things but my ignorance paid off.  Now I can cook the bird and enjoy Christmas.

I am on a sort of a semi vacation. My studio calls me but I have many other things to do.  I recently joined a mostly fiber group to satisfy my craving for wool and threads ever since in Columbia I walked in the studio of one of my artist friend and Gallery owner at the time, Marlene Hoffman.  I was so thrilled by the variety of yarn tossed in baskets and waiting to be woven into her tapestries that it has became a life long love of mine.  The Fiber group recently put up a sale and show and more than twenty artist participated with unusual scarves with little windows made out of transparent fabric in the middle of felted material and others in a fantastic textured silk all ruffled, beckoning and so fulfilling to the eyes. Many handmade purses caught my eyes and I bought some little triangles sachets made of fabric, lined in interesting colors like a mini container and big enough to display an earrings to give to someone dear.  Jewelry hang from a copper tree and fantastic work from Karen Pierce and Marc Jenesel filled a corner with their fabulous shapes. Many other intricate towels were woven in complex designs and warm colors.  I loved being there.

This is the time for shows by artists of all kind and the stores are also beckoning us with the Christmas music piped in to set the stage plus all of their displays to grab our attention. I must say I love all the excitement of walking in the aisles of a store smiling at some women while others look rather harried and rushed. I look for a gift for a certain person that is my way of saying to them; I have loved you all year long, this is one of the ways I can show you.  Of course our love is so encompassing it would be a bit meager to equal it with a gift, but our giving is just a form of expression and as such, getting it is a real pleasure.

It was my husband birthday recently and some friends of ours Paul and Julie, had us over for dinner and at the end brought a good chocolate cake and a gift bag for him.  It was filled with so many interesting and wonderful things to please a man and I thought how hard it is for me to pick a gift for the guys.  They seem to love things that seem so foreign to me unlike all the goodies that a woman loves; like perfume, silly clothes, purses, jewelry, frilly scarves, fragrant soaps, creams, in short, what makes us women the prime shoppers all over.

This is to me a magical time of the year.  I just finished putting up the tree with my daughter's help and now it is all decorated and with so many ornaments, some very old that bring many memories.  It stands up in a corner of our living room and glows as I write.

I realize that Christmas time is loaded with sadness for many different reasons.  The loss of a dear one this time of the year, the feeling of being overwhelmed with shopping and and the stress of getting the right presents and the pressure of it.  Others celebrate Hanukkah and not Christmas but also have to buy presents. For many, Christmas is a religious Holiday, a time to remember that it was the birth of Christ. Which is great but this time of the year can indeed be difficult. I myself do enjoy the spirit that brings us together and the celebratory feeling inside myself that propels me daily to go out and bathe in the ambiance as also we say goodbye to the year passed.

So we have no cats to climb our tree but I have a whole guest room full of gifts and paper, scissors. tape, and cards to finish the presents and come to the glorious day with joy.
My cards with many addresses filled the living room table and music remind me that so many artist created symphonies and songs to delight us and to live forever. My husband found for me a bag of precious gifts I bought months ago and could not find anywhere. He tends to be my finder!  So I can wrap them now. I am almost ready to go to the post office and mail to loved ones that live far away the little things that will tell them; I love you much....To me, this is the time to show how we love and be loved back.  The gifts are all a good pretext.

This Christmas as so many others bring so many memories engraved in my heart and so many more to come and the joy is endless. Cheers!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

How Things Talk to Us

In my house there are things I love.  A little silver goblet that once belonged to my grandmother and that she took everyday with her to the bathroom to brush her teeth.  A large sterling silver plate hand hammered that reminds me of my life in Peru and my friend Isabelle.  Three orchids, waiting to bloom, these delicate but sturdy spray of flowers that last a few months; and many handmade objects by artists whose work I love.  Many paintings on the wall, and my books, my brushes and beads, cherished objects that delight me everyday and remind me that this is where I love to be -- this is my home.

Objects have the powerful effect of bringing with them all sorts of memories and enable us to go back in time and relive past moments that once meant a lot to us and maybe still do.  My collection of blue glass was mostly built in Lima, Peru when I once went visiting the studio of a woman artist whose work seemed to bring me back to the Caribbean sea with its vivid colors and shades. I put them in my window and enjoy the warmth of the early morning sun shining through all the blues of my youth.

Why do we enjoy things so much?  What appeal do they have on our psyche and our soul?
Some things have an affinity with us, they call to us and have a certain appeal that is irresistible.  It can last a lifetime or just some months.  It facilitates the exchange of money and feeds the pockets of so many who create such objects or make them in their studio or their factories.

I have some paintings by my friends Deb Komitor, Laura Reilley and Tracy Miller who delight me everyday. Some of my old oil paintings are a constant reminder of the passing of time and the beauty of the past as well as the anticipation of what could happen in the future.  What will these artist create next?  What will happen in their life to make them tackle a piece of clay or ceramic?  My husband and I have some dishes and bowls and cups by the local and much loved artists Tina and Ken Riesterer and every time I touch them, I can see both of their faces laughing or talking to me.  I go back to my time at the artist Co-op and there they are, sitting with me in the group.

Then there are old things that bring people back to us like a gift of the past.  I have a little bonnet hand crocheted by my grandmother that is so tiny it could fit over an orange.  Yet it was my hat when I was just a baby and it reminds me of my roots, my beginnings and the huge trajectory of my life with its turns and bumps and its uniqueness.  My parents are alive in little frames in my studio and look at me from the high shelf.  My poet uncle casts his sad eyes on me and I look back at him with gratefulness.

There is nothing like an album of photos to bring old memories back and faces we recall or have almost forgotten, brought to us by the magic of the camera and the old films now obsolete.  Many of my friends are gone but their photos tells me of their presence on the planet and their place in my heart.  The man who brought me a box of live butterflies is captured in black and white and looks at me from my studio.  My ring collection is a testimony of my travels and the presence of my two husbands ex and new who have given them to me and put me everyday with the choice of wearing one or the other.  And there is the large tapestry from Thailand that I have hanging in the back of my bed.  It is full of life and shines with gold and rust and I remember the trip my daughter and I took to Cambodia and Bangkok and my complete awe at the population's sense of exquisite beauty and incredible, unique craftsmanship.

But of course things can also bring us to materialism; the compulsion to buy and buy just to accumulate more things than we can live with.  Our country here is a good example of this as ahead of every season, the stores fill up with so much goods made in China or any other country.  The store's owners are good at merchandising and tempt us with their goods.  Such a variety of things, of clothes, of household items to entice us to spend our money while we accumulate more objects.  How do we resist?

Could we recycle some of our goods? Send them off to others who might need them?  I am in the process of getting rid of some of my books.  I realize that they have no place in my life anymore.  I have piles of them in my house ready to be given away and make room for the new.  Will I get rid of my cherished objects?  I do not know yet.  The connection is there but can fade away.  It will be time to let go.  I have had to let go of many things in my lifetime.  Having lived in many countries, some things could not be kept.  I hope they made some others happy.  With every move, I have given away some great amount of things and acquired some new ones.  Yet some of my cherished objects still are with me, stimulating memories, they linger and bring me some joy.

Like one of my large paintings that I painted when very young; a composite of the old country with its beauty and symbols it stands now in my living room symbolizing my roots; powerful and bold, an image of what I search for in life.

Some objects become a part of us. They make us recall, they make us revere, they make us admire, or they make us smile or be grateful.  No one can tell us to get rid of them; only a signal from inside that says "It is time now."  Yet there are some people who can live with just what they need everyday and want nothing else to take their attention away.  Monks or nuns, ascetics, or simply people that hold all their life within and need not the constant presence of things.  I am not such a person.  The things in my life are chosen because of a calling from my soul and will stay with me until it will be time to pass them away.  We take nothing with us when we die.  Our cherished things go and delight someone else or leave our heirs in complete indifference.  Life keeps unfolding while more things get acquired..

Indeed, we are of two worlds at the same time and the material is a part of us no matter how spiritual we are.

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre
Edited by Barry Kaplan

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Water

The rain filled our cistern that was under the basement in our house in Port-au-Prince Haiti. I was a very young girl (which was a long time ago) and always the cistern interested my brother, my sister and me.  We used to sneak out and open the cover unknown to the maids or our parents, to slide in, like in a dark cave and fall in the coolness that invaded our soul.  It was fed by rain water collected from our roof.  It should have given me an appreciation for the scarcity of water -- but that came later.  After all, we were surrounded with water since we lived on an island.

I remember going to the beach every time we could and relishing our outings along a coral reef.  We took a small motor boat way out off the shore to swim between long and luminous coral formations with so many diverse Caribbean fishes.  The attraction of the deep and the height of the coral formation seemed irresistible to us; it was like an underwater fortress full of life and unimaginable riches. The beauty, the shapes and colors it displayed overwhelmed me.

One time I got off the boat while my friends were getting in.  Alone and armed with my spear gun, I was safe.  I swam to a place all sunlit and looking like a pool; white sand, with the light falling on a slant and creating marvelous patterns, maybe twelve feet under me.  I was mesmerized.  Suddenly I knew I was being watched.  A barracuda, a huge one -- I remember it being huge -- was swimming creating neat circles around me.  My brother-in-law who was like a fish himself had told me many stories about Barracudas.  In the Caribbean they are the next most dangerous fish after sharks.  I froze, nearly dropping my gun that I trailed along my side instead of using it, and started to swim toward the boat knowing that I could not out swim a Barracuda but taking my chances anyway.  It was a simple reaction in my mad pursuit to safety.

My friends on the boat waved at me, smiling from a distance when I lifted up my head to get my bearings, until they noticed that my swimming was at a pace much too fast for being normal.  They put the boat in gear and I arrived to it out of breath, barely able to tell them that a Barracuda wanted me for his next lunch.

One of our friends puffed up his chest, macho that he was, and told me "I will bring you your Barracuda." Just moments later, he, too, was swimming at full speed toward the boat.  "My god a huge Barracuda," I never forgot!

Water was a pleasure and an adventure.  We loved swimming at the time.  With my sister's family, we went to a river on the outside of the city to spend a day of picnicking and fun.  We settled on its shore and found a green pool where my sister and I took off our bikini tops and talked and laughed a storm, once in awhile shooing our curious husbands away.  It is one of my best memories of this time, sitting in the water and watching our families downstream swimming and kicking water.

But I live now in Colorado where water is becoming scarce with the weather changes out West.  We live inland and rely totally on our lakes and rivers.  I live close to a lake created by a dam and it is already maybe 10 feet or more below its original level.  Its sandy borders lay dry and whitish and remind me every time I pass by that water is indeed the stuff of life.

When I do the dishes by hand, I turn off the water and first wash everything with only my sponge being soapy wet, then rinse them with a diminished flow of water.  My husband saves water while his shower warms up and captures it in bottles labeled "plants."  We do what we can.  I keep thinking of so many women or children who have to walk each day to the nearest source of water and bring it on their back to a simple, humble home.  Water that is not necessarily potable.  My water comes easily,safely in a faucet.  In so many parts of the world clean water is a luxury.  Many people are dying now is Haiti with its epidemic of cholera, a waterborne disease.  When I went to Cambodia, we gave money to build a pump and a well and we hope it got used for the community that was so poor.

Clean water is our safety and our life giver.  Water here comes from melting snows and ice that cover our mountains and feed the rivers.  There is talk here of bringing more water to our growing city from the Pueblo reservoir one hour south of town.

The Colorado river that springs from Rocky Mountain National Park to irrigate the Western states is the source of many concerns and competing demands.  The Colorado river feeds many towns in many states of the West where the water shortage is greatly alarming.

I like to think of my days spent at the beach where we spent time under a thatched beach umbrella waiting for the air to get hot to the skin in the afternoons; we would then close our eyes in ecstasy while cooling off in the nearby waters.  Sometimes little fish nibbled at our skin and that was such a treat.

Whether ocean water or river or lake waters; they all are our most precious commodity.  I think that water is also our big connection, our link.  I remember sitting on the beach thinking that on one more shore around the world, in the same ocean, someone is also sitting by the beach and thinking of our sense of connection, our common humanity just as I was.

Ships connect us and run these deep routes of the world as they have for centuries.  They run rivers as well as oceans and it makes with airplanes in the air, the global village our earth has become and will stay.  Water is our life blood.  After all, it makes us human; we are mostly water.

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre 
Editing by Barry Kaplan

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Sadness In Our Joy

A good friend of mine, younger than my daughter, has cancer and lives on the outside of Bogota,  Colombia.  She is struggling with the chemotherapy, lost her hair and eyebrows and and I would love to be there to give her a hug and encourage her along the way.  I met her when I lived in Bogota and have kept in touch with her ever since.  I have another friend who has had cancer and recently got re-operated on for the same reason as the first time.

I keep in touch with both of them by email and sometimes just thinking of what they go through is so very sad. It is what I call the sad part of my happiness and my joy.

Many things make us so sad.  We must live with them and let them go in the flow of our lives while we know that our happiness is always present like in a deep lake even if many pebbles create ripples through our consciousness.

Also, I have another friend whose eye is affected by a retina that got displaced and she primarily sees only through her good eye now even though the other eye is making progress.  I could go on and on. There is so much suffering out in the world and tuning into it sometimes is overwhelming.

Yet we go on living and guard our happiness like a squirrel guards its nuts before winter. We can be happy and sad at the same time even though it is hard to place the two together. 
My happiness is like my base in life.  It is the state in which my life has earned its place through much learning and much trust in my abilities, the struggles with myself and constant introspection. I came to a point of great peace that I trust to be a part of me at last. It encompasses many others whose life is an example of radiant beauty and a true inspiration.

My sadness comes in many ways. My husband's recent operation and his suffering, the news of the recent tsunami in Malaysia, the poor men in Chile that spent so long trapped underground, the cholera in Haiti, the many bombings in so many countries, the sickness in my friends, my sister's cat who got lost ... the list is endless.

Then there is my inability to make a difference, the sense of helplessness.  Yet I know that the world always has been with its problems, its disasters, its sickness and its riotous joy.

We live in a huge dichotomy, happy and peaceful yet constantly battered with the hurts that life brings us.  So I smile today and will feel like crying this afternoon but I live in great peace and my happiness is intact.  It is the basic state where I live even if yet on the surface so many things are affecting my joy.

I have come to believe that life is a place both of sorrow and peace, yet also joy and sadness.  It is a matter of accepting this fact that ultimately brings us solace and a smile on our face.  So today I place my joy in the sacred place of my heart next to my acceptance of the intrusion of pain and accept both, as part of my humanness.

It is the role of time to teach us the duality of life, the incredible dichotomy that makes us laugh or cry or deviate from the straight course we had imagined for our path to also encompass the sadness that we must embrace as a part of living.

There are things I cannot do.  My inability to act is a part of my suffering, yet those things make a better human out of me since they teach me empathy, they teach my feelings to enlarge and encompass a great bit of my consciousness.  I can feel grateful, I can feel for others, I can feel how life flows by me with its greatness and its pain; I can feel all of life's discovery and its losses. I am a real being and I can praise the fact that everyday I can learn and grow and be me.  I am always in a state of becoming.

I realize that if I did not feel pain, I would not be human; and if I was not human, I would also not be able to feel the joy; like the warm morning light upon my walls suddenly invading my house as a marvelous happening that lifts my happiness to a state of ecstasy.

Life indeed is a constant lesson and our sadness is wedded to our joy.

2010 Copyright Micheline Brierre
Edited by Barry Kaplan

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Dream Well Lived

It comes so naturally to most of us; we forget how eerie and strange is our ability to recall.  The memories we keep in our mind are ours alone and are like one-of-a-kind items in a smart boutique.  Our memories are not to be compared to anyone else's and stay in our mind like stalactites in the darkness of a cave; but flash a light on one of them, and it plays itself like a melody replayed on demand at an encore performance on the stage of our life.

There is something magical and so taken for granted in the huge store of events suspended in our lifetime. Often my sister tells me "Don't you remember?"  And I remember, but not exactly the same way she does. Sometimes an event that we both lived together is remembered differently.  Life and our personality has filtered what we stored.  Our memories are not only unique, they are made of all the things we have paid attention to or that caught our interest.  The rest is remembered, maybe, or left to the passing of time and is easily forgotten like doves flying away from us.  We recall what we loved and most often remember what we abhorred.

Remembering needs often a trigger.  Something like a song, a smell, a face of our past, a sight, a sensation deeply felt.  It soars then in our mind like a kite in the wind, lightly sometimes or with the power to overwhelm us.

I remember living in Lima, Peru and walking with my kids on the beach.  Lots of little pebbles made all sorts of clicking sounds as we walked.  The waves crashed on the beach. We came upon a little trickle of water running off from the hill above and small fish swam in the enticing little pool at its bottom.  It was so unexpected.  We found a cup and brought some of the fish home for our aquarium and settled them in.  I remember coming to the kitchen where we kept them the next day and seeing nothing in the aquarium but the newcomer fish who had eaten the domesticated ones. 

Then there are rite of passage memories, like kissing our first boyfriend, bathing in the ocean or having our first babies, smelling their scent and sniffing their skin or kissing our parents and the feeling of their no longer young skin, so soft it seems like butter.  Or getting married or divorced; those moments that come in full force and that haunt us for life.

Our ability to recall is sometimes fading, or disappear as we age.  Like Alzheimer's patients who look at their family and do not remember them.  The absolute horror of it.  It seems like a whole range of our life is lost when our memory goes.  Forgetting our loved ones is saying goodbye to so many days of our life when we were happy and laughed or were angry or hurt, inspired or lazy but fully conscious.  Our life goes in a dark hole of the mind and we are subject to live strictly in the present minute.

Our memories trace for us a path that we embrace as we grow and learn, become more of our true nature and face new moments to enrich ourselves.  We recall, to relive our trajectory, correct its course, to know who we are, who we have been, or who we want to become.  To sort through people we have met and save time for our best friends or the ones that make our soul soar.

It is not enough to remember; it is just as important to trace our future and cry over what is gone and smile at the days as they collect and create more moments to savor and bring up someday to our mind as a dream well lived.

2010 Copyright Micheline Brierre
Editing by Barry Kaplan

Friday, October 8, 2010

Happiness

How is your level of happiness?  What mood are you in when you wake up each day?

I have received an e-mail from my ex-husband about Happiness.  It touched a real sensitive aspect of me and I wrote him a long e-mail about the subject.  I wanted to express my thoughts and feelings about this important theme.

Happiness does not hit us on the head with a big bang.  Its subtleties reach us in gentle manners.  It just whispers softly in our ears and is brought with the wind as we wake up to greet the day.  And I do not think that happiness is only a choice.  That would be too easy.  I think that happiness grows on us like a song and installs itself with some struggle in our psyche.

I strongly believe that happiness is the best celebratory feeling I know.  It is filled with compassion and understanding and a sense of joy about one's self, one's actions, and life in general.  If you add to all this an eye and appreciation for natural beauty, an ability to be generous and give, and an appreciation of all the wonders of the world and the day, we have a real graceful bliss.  The courage to be happy is a great joy.

That of course does not mean we cannot be sad or grieve or encounter pain, it simply means that by choice, we place our focus on other things the best we can and enjoy our lives no matter what.  The sadness, when embraced and accepted, not pushed out of sight or covered up, flows down the river of our days and leaves us stronger.

I am always surprised at people who have so much and maybe because they have so much are blown away by the slightest event or painful episode in their life. They have not experienced the strength that facing life's problems will create inside of us.  We gain a real amount of confidence and resilience by showing our fighting spirit and putting order and joy in our lives especially when it is threatened.

In this country, many of us are now super spoiled with so many benefits, so many perks, so many gadgets, so many gifts and abundance that we consider all this a normal thing.  Yet a great part of the world lives without any of it.  When one of these perks is taken away, we often come close to collapse.

There are so many depressed people who have no reason, that I can see or know, to be depressed.

Doctors make a lot of money treating depression and sometimes have to end their treatment when their patient commits suicide;  like a dear friend of mine who jumped last year from a tall bridge.  Yet from all appearances, she and many others had everything they needed to be happy.  I often wonder what goes on in their mind and what created the depression.

This is one of the reasons some older people are precious to me.  They are part of another generation that has endured and appreciates the gifts of life.  I remember a dear friend in Peru, an American, telling me that during the great depression he had to go to school without shoes, even in winter.  That created in him an ability to face adversity and win.  I went through many of the atrocities of the dictator Duvalier in Haiti, yet life is to me now an everyday event fit to celebrate.

I think that choosing to be happy is an evidence of lack of self-pity and a wonderful habit that we can encourage and nurture until it becomes ingrained.  Our heart needs to soar and be present with our feelings and our relationship with others.  Happiness can be filled with sadness and tears can be of great joy.

There are so many little reasons to be happy we can catch them like a fisherman on the shore and then take our catch home -- inside of us.

Copyright Micheline Brierre 2010
With editing by Barry Kaplan

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Gadgets of Our Time -- part II

The comments I have received from my friends about "The Gadgets Of Our Time" were so convincing, so well thought of and so well written that I have decided to republish them and I hope you will enjoy what they had to say as much as I did.

Linda Ramsey said...
There is plenty to say about cyber-involvement these days. Or, should I say "lack of involvement" in real life? It is the rare person who can walk down the street without calling, answering, texting, listening to music, or twittering. How about those that are glued to facebook, emailing, Skyping, online porn, instant messaging, watching tv programs online, and "reading" kindle books? There is no question that these cyber connections result in obesity, inability to write a letter, lack of conversational communication, inability to write a story in longhand, lack of imagination, lack of outdoor play and exercise, and the like. Who needs a mouth anymore? All we need is cyber access and a pair of thumbs! HA! Do you recall the images of aliens with a small body, huge eyes and no mouth? Is this far off for us? It is enraging to see communication take this radical twist. We are developing a nation of solitary hermits who are quickly losing their innate skills! As long as there is an emotionally disconnected "voice" at the other end of an electronic device many are happy. But truly--how can they be happy? Did you know that there is no longer an emphasis on teaching students how to write longhand anymore? I forsee a huge amount of depression and related diseases affecting our modern times as a result. There is a huge need for humans to connect to others in an active manner. We need hugs, we need comforting, we need encouragement to bloom. How will this happen when our companions are "black boxes", with or without cords? Can you see yourself cozying up to a monitor and keyboard on a cold night? I don't think so. There is no subsitute for human companionship. In my world there is no worry that I will give up my "old fashioned" ways. I love to see the expression on a friend's face as I share good news. And know that a family member is holding my birthday card and letter in their hands. I will continue to use my cell phone at MY convenience and not allow that device to interrupt any time with family or friends. And driving will never be the place to phone or text when my mind is concentrating on the road. The computer is part of my professional life and a quick ability to email a friend--however, it will not steal away hours from my daily existence. TV will never fill in for a leisurely walk in the neighborhood or a favorite hiking trail. Our civilization must keep its eyes and ears open for new technology and new ways of doing--but not at the expense of our basic rights of life. All forms of communication have their place, and most new avenues are acceptable in moderation. Let's just stay AWARE.


James Doering said...
We have high definition TV and another push for 3d in new technologys yet the highest definition and best 3d is a walk in nature, getting outside and getting active.


Anonymous said...
Dear Micheline, I just read your blog on The Gadgets of our Time and I could not agree more with you that these "gadgets" (and I use one of them, a cell phone) are getting in the way of our person to person communication. I have also observed at times a family at a restaurant where the kids were all busy either texting (and what an absolute nuisance that has become) or playing with their playstations or whatever those things are called. I was taking the son of a friend (11 years) to Flagstaff recently, trying now and then to have a conversation, but was constantly silenced because he was in the middle of some game or other. I have often talked to Suzanne about this and I think it is a rather sad development in our society, that conversation has gone south. I know there will be and are families that still have their meals together without interruption, but I think they are in the minority. And I absolutely agree that obesity plays into this also, kids are too busy watching TV, playing with their gadgets, and not having any imagination left to start playing from scratch. Anyway, thanks for writing this. Love Brenda


Anonymous said...
Dear Micheline, I agree totally with what you said and also with the followers comments...we are in the era of "communications"(?) but nobody communicate with each other anymore. It is very sad and I can see already the results of that lack of communication all around me. There is more & more problems in schools, in workplaces and everywhere people are killing others and themselves, why do you think that is? Lack of communication and understanding of life in a society...and it will get worst as these youngsters get older, they will treat their family like trow away elctronics. But this has started long ago with the radio for example...I remember wanting to have a nice, peaceful time at the beach with a friend or my husband and beeing blasted by someone next to me with a radio full blast in my ear...forget listening to the waves or the seagulls and all the wildlife, we had to move very far for that music(?) not to hit us with that aweful noise. And there is nothing you can say about it because they don't have any respect for anybody but themselves...the lack of respect is all over. But the parents don't seem to care either, so where can we go to find peace & quiet and a nice conversation with friends or family?... I have a cellphone, but it's like my home phone, and I don't ever answer while driving, it's against the law here anyway, and I put it on silent when I'm with friends,that's what voice mail is for,isn't it? Thank you for your article, Love Micheline in LC

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Gadgets of our Time

I was at a restaurant and a family was sitting close to me.  Each one of its members was busy fidgeting with a cell phone.  Texting, or seeing something on the web or playing some game.  They were entranced by their phones until food was served.  Then there was silence as they ate.  Was it typical?

Wherever I go, people talk to their phone, very often in a loud voice, so I can hear everything they say.  So many loud voices!

I wait in line at the post office and despite the sign saying no cell phones, the phones ring and I end up next to a lady busy having a private conversation that all can hear.

Others seem like lunatics as they cross by you loudly talking to ... no one it seems, until you notice the phone -- on their ear.

Do you go walking sometimes?  MP3 players are attached to someone's ears and they are too busy listening to hear your steps.  My husband and I passed a very erratic driver and I looked through his window and he was not looking at the road but was busy texting and we all know of the dangers of texting while driving. An accident is harm to one self but also to others plus the damage to property.

Children play with X-Boxes and communicate this way with each other.  It is interesting.  The gadgets of our time have us hooked to their convenience and their appeal.

It could be a laptop or mini-laptop or some of these gadgets to read a downloaded book.  I wonder if there is a connection between the obesity in America and the fact that many of us stay inactive playing with our gadgets.

We are the generation that has no refuge for our thoughts.  Any time the phone can ring and reach you no matter where you are.  Driving?  Yes it will reach you.  Talking to friends?  The phone will ring.  On vacation?  The phone is at your waist or in your purse.  No matter what you are doing, the phone is the constant companion that will emit this ring tone (often loud) of your choice and you will feel compelled to answer or to text.  Most of the time.

I am of a generation when none of these things existed.  Lunch or dinner was an opportunity to talk and listen.  Families would exchange ideas and I remember lively conversations with my parents. Family events were so important because the whole tribe was around and talked and told old stories and new ones that made us laugh. We talked and we listened.  Children played with each other, got angry, fought and laughed -- outside.  There was not the danger of being abducted, being killed, or maimed.  Such things were rare.  We were safely outside playing-- with each other.

Has all of this gone with the wind?  I do not think so.  But the gadgets of our times have us prisoners of their convenience and they never seem to rest.  All day they are present, reminding us of work, of others, of cyber beings of other realities that never existed before.  We can embody a whole new identity in cyberspace.  Is that good?  Perhaps and perhaps not.  Those gadgets drag us to their realm whether we are in a car or at the office or at home.  Scientists are already looking into our addictions and telling us that it often stills our creativity.

Multitasking is another fallacy of our time since the brain only tackles one thing at a time.  Do we    go rapidly from one thing to the other?  Yes we do, and it looks like multitasking even though it is not.

I use no cell phone, no texting, and go in a car with my brain and my thoughts.  I can imagine, dream, recall,  anticipate, feel, grieve or rejoice at will.  I use the uninterrupted silence of my mind as a canvas where my ideas and creativity take place.

At home I get the phone when it rings and use my beloved e-mail, but besides taking my laptop on business trips, I feel free and guess what?  I also talk with friends if we are together at a dinner table.  Life is so full of events, of happenings; I feel full, much too full of news, full of facts to digest and things to delete.  That is enough for me.

But let the gadgets of our time beckon and who know?  I may not be able to resist.

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre
Editing by Barry Kaplan

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Talkers and Listeners

When I lived in Bogota, Colombia, I went to a cocktail party with my ex-husband and I was introduced to a man to whom I asked a few questions.  He talked and I listened.  I listened for maybe half an hour and then moved on.  He told my ex-husband that I was such a charming person.  I could not tell why, I had barely talked to him.  I then discovered the great power of listening.

Life is full of talkers and listeners.  People who start to tell you stories as soon as they have you on the phone and do not stop until you hang up. They are not terribly interested in you but inside of them they enjoy the fact that you are a valuable deposit for their words.  They tell you interesting stories at times and sorry ones at others.

Some of us have developed the art of listening.  It is like opening the vast territory of an empty space ready to be filled by others.  But there is always a part of us that steps inside the talker's story and silently agrees or disagrees.  A sort of inner balance that puts the talker in a place of evaluation.  I listen to you and I can criticize at will with a silent question or agree with an empathetic laugh.

Of course, the ideal would be a talker and good listener at the same time.  I have such friends and the exchange is so fair and fulfilling.  You feel that your words are going to a place of receptivity and you let yourself become like a sponge absorbing the others sentences.

My life is filled with people who are interested and people who are interesting.  I have quite a few friends out of state and we e-mail each other.  Their letters are about their life and what they do or are going through, but also with questions about me and what has happened in my latest days.

I have also in my life the people who are the ultimate talkers.  They are interesting but stop there.  They do not ask me about me or about my work, my latest trip, or what I think about such a subject.  For them I am the perfect receptacle.  The one who puts my head in one of my hands and tilts it in a nice way.  I listen.

I wonder where you fit in this aspect of living?  Who do you talk to?  Who listens to you with great patience and interest?

I think that our days are filled with the need for both telling and listening.  Sometimes we need to be heard like a too full cup that life has filled with sorrow.  At times it is nice to simply talk and tell the stories of the past or the last happening that made us laugh.

And we need others in our circle!  We need good friends to make our days livable and fun and to have a dear companion to tell of our latest adventures or sadness.

The song "Tell me more, tell me more," from the movie "Grease" keeps us from being isolated in our cave.  Being able to tell is opening ourselves to a catharsis, a much needed outflow that keeps us sane.  Just as listening sometimes fills our cup with the pleasure of truly hearing another soul.

So no matter where you stand on the issue, I hope that your friends are ready to talk or to listen.  Life has enough room for both.

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre
Editing by Barry Kaplan

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Trip to Primeval Earth

Did you ever take a trip to see between towns hours of some amazing landscapes looking so infinite and devoid of any appearances of man?  Just the primeval earth in its beauty and desolation, its inviting curves and its light and solitude. This is what our trip to Sheridan Wyoming looked like. It lies just south of the border from Montana almost at the end of the state.  A long journey from Colorado Springs but with great surprises as we reached the town itself.

One of our young family members, Jordan, was singing in a cute, intimate, packed theater. His voice was so great and his female counterpart also sang with a full voice and they both filled the theater with their songs. We enjoyed the performance, then went to Jordan's parent's house with Suzanne, a writer, and her husband Julio, a master creator of houses and apartments.  We also enjoyed their unforgettable, so much fun younger children, Antonio and Enrique.


We had to do a show there in Sheridan and all the canopies turned out to be beautifully set on a long grass field in front of the college, shaded in parts by old Blue Spruce pine trees.  Good artists and good entertainment but very few people and therefore less sales than we expected.  The real pleasure of our stay was being in the Quintana's huge home with the magnificent view from their windows over the golden grassy hills and the Big Horn mountains all bluish in the background with a running small brook of water in between.  Deer would come to drink and we were lucky to see a big owl that had perched on a tree nearby.


The constantly changing light from morning to night kept us mesmerized and constantly looking out when we weren't talking or playing with the kids.

The house itself is a fabulous creation of our host Julio, beautiful and vast and with every modern commodity and a huge panel of wires and pipes that I did not understand, but that made the house a fantastic, smart, computerized ten thousand square foot accomplishment for which Julio and Suzanna were proud.  The house is in the country but very close to town, and there is a room for everything, even a full size ballroom with 25 foot ceilings whose beauty fits the dancing family that they all are.

Julio created great meals rivaled by his wife's and we ate in the morning and afternoon on their deck facing the best view.  It was a great way to spend a few days and we were received like royalty in a special bedroom that at night shone with the light of so many stars as I had only seen once before in Monument Valley in Arizona. Wine tasting in late afternoon with all of them and Len, Suzanne's father, was a joyful experience.


On the trip back we took a side loop that reached Cheyenne at the end.  At a town called Torrington, we found a fantastic rock shop with a great variety of cabochons and I promptly bought some to include in my jewelry.  It was a lovely ride with rain some sun shining at times through the clouds; along with horses drinking at a brook that my husband photographed.


We came home exhausted but happy with the memories of time so well spent and with people we love.

Read Suzanna Quintana's Book and Blog, "Why my Kids Do Not Get Fat," a very entertaining, well written and well researched book about children current epidemic of obesity across the nation.

www.sheridanmomsforhealthykids.com/blog


Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre;
photos and editing by Barry Kaplan
(Click on pictures to make them bigger)








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Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Death of the Trees

My shows take me to many counties in Colorado and I was astonished to see the bare earth and denuded sites in so many parts of the state.  What is happening?

The pine beetle has been munching over the huge forest in Colorado and killing so many trees it makes me sad as if I was in mourning just to look at the landscape.  The devastation is immense.  Cities like Frisco, Keystone, Breckenridge or Winter Park, to cite just a few, are losing their pine trees so fast or already have lost so many that my heart contracts. Marvelous old creatures that used to grace the mountains and slopes are now dead and all brown under the sun leaving the earth bare. Imagine the wildlife loss of habitat and the unimaginable effect on our climate.  Southern Wyoming is also affected as the beetle is eating its way up the land.

There are over one and a half million trees lost to the beetle.  It prefers the Lodgepole pine trees that are now a part of so many of our forests and loves to feed on the hundred year old growth that had stood so many years.

It is estimated that by the year two thousand twelve, the beetle will have eaten its way through all of the Lodgepole pine trees in the state.  It is frightening.  One of the great beauties of our land is its green cover of pine trees and aspen and people come from all over the world to see them.

Apparently, the culprit is global warming that created a drought in the late nineties and early two thousand and made our summers become warmer along with our winters.  The beetle was able to climb to higher elevation so that we have these dead tree islands of brown battling the green in our forest and creating a huge fire danger.

When we travel, my husband does most of the driving while I stare fascinated by the land and its curves, its huge mountains and over all the glorious pine trees that cover a good part of our state.
Now, I stare at the desolation, the grand old trees now all dry and dead. But their remains, still reaching out to the sun, reminds me of their live presence years ago.

The spectacle is so overwhelming, it gets under my skin and invades my dreams at night.

I recently read that now the twig beetle is adding to our forest misery by also feeding on our trees.
I guess it is at times like this when I wish I had a magic wand and could eradicate those pests with a simple movement of my hands.  But I have only two empty hands feeling useless and desolate at the sight of the old trees now dead.

                                                   Healthy pine trees in Colorado


I mourn your passing, old giants of the forest, and keep in my memories your glorious beauty, the shelter you gave to so many animals and the way you have swayed gently in the wind to delight us.

For more information, see the link below:
http://csfs.colostate.edu/pages/mountain-pine-beetle.html

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre, Editing and photo by Barry Kaplan

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Magic Mermaid

The maid used to wait until nighttime to tell me stories of a beautiful creature with long hair bewitching the ones who found her under the light of the moon as she lay down languorously in her long tail down on the shore.  Her hair was infinite and she combed it carefully with a magical comb and sang amazing songs full of longing but capable of attracting to her the erring man who knew a girl was lost, helpless on the beach.

She talked about a mermaid, of course, and after listening to her tales I started to believe that I was also part of the deep ocean and part of the air.  A mermaid capable of living in both worlds at will.
This belief in the marvelous and the amazing, fueled my imagination and enchanted my childhood.
I believed in fairies, and often with my french girl friend Sylvie, we would tell Joel our little friend to watch out; we could turn her in a frog.  And we believed it.  We dressed in long gowns that belonged to Sylvie's aunt and she even made us up and, regal, we walked as Melusine or other faerie. The belief in the marvelous was anchored in our brain and never left me. 

After all, I lived in two worlds, the world of my imagination and the world that surrounded me everyday.  It is still true for me even after all these years.

It is easy for me to visualize anything and easy to imagine. After all, I have been a mermaid and life was the stuff of fairies.  They creep up on my drawings and my watercolors and in my living room where I have an Indonesian mermaid hanging from the ceiling and holding her comb, her magical tool.  Her presence was felt in many parts of the world.  After all, Ulysses barely escaped their chant.

I have another mermaid and she has a luscious and robust derriere.  I bought her in a flea market in Santa Fe.  When I met the artist who created her, he told me she had to have big muscles on her butt so she could swim all the way to the ocean from Santa Fe.  Indeed quite an endeavor!
I understood, completely, what could she be doing in the mountains if not seeking the ocean?

I understand that a big community of people believe in mermaids.  They buy my work and delight in the mermaids I paint.  Sometimes they order mermaid necklaces ... I recently sold one to a lady whose friend was getting married.

I see mermaids now as the ability to live in two different worlds.  When I go to work in my studio, I enter the world of the magical where most things are possible.  I can create, I forget the world of wars, of ruins, of terrible corruption and chaos, of deadly bombs killing so many innocent people.

I know that the world of everyday life is also a part of me and part of my life and present in all things. The task of living with grace and if we can muster it, some peace.
But I can dream...I can imagine... it saves me from oil spill and floods and news of the hardships of the world.


So if you hear a song on a beach in the middle of the night when the moon casts a warm glow on the planet, beware, a mermaid is seeking with her magic comb and you may just fall for her her song.
After all, the world of the magical is there for all of us.

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Difficulties of Doing Art Shows

There is a part of doing art shows that every artist who does them puts up with.  The hardship and difficulties of being in an outdoor show. There are many obstacles to cross and they are as big sometimes as the rewards you get. 

Some art shows are beautifully juried.  Lots of very good artists and it is a joy to walk among them and see all the huge diversity of the art and the creativity and fun of so many good creations.  It fills me with joy when I have time to escape my spot and see the other artist's work.  I can rejoice in the fact that so many people from so many walks of life have been busy in their studio and expressing themselves through their art. You may like it or not, but you have to admire the art.

Some shows are rather poorly juried or not juried but in name only.  They let in a lot of what we call "vendors."  A lot of people who buy a certain merchandise and resell it at these shows as if it was their own.  In the trade we call them "buy and sell" people and they rob the art shows of their quality and the pleasure of seeing something unusual and great. Most of the times, these people have poor displays and low prices.  They compete with you who have worked hard to create pieces that are filled with your integrity as well as with your talent. But often they send a great picture of some work to the jury and misrepresent the nature of what they sell.  They get a free ride and make us real artists look like nuts with our prices that reflect our efforts and our hard work.  What hurts us is the fact that the show organizers say plainly in the contract  "do not send images of thing that you did not make yourself!!!"  but there it is in the show.  An artist's constant frustration.


And there is also the weather.  It seems to get more violent with global warming.  You have to put weight on your canopy for outdoor shows and in my canopy there is eighty six pound at each corner plus forty pound sand bags on the openings of the canopy.  It makes you feel quite secure until the wind starts to push or sway the canopy like a paper toy in the wind.

I did a show this last weekend and when my husband and I walked in in the morning it looked like a bomb went off during the night. More then ten canopies were wrecked on the ground with what they sold scattered or broken across the lawn. There had been up to seventy mile per hour winds and a huge storm overnight.  So sad, plus so much work for all those affected.  Some of the artists salvaged their work but stood all day in the sun trying to sell what they saved. Our canopy still stood and nothing seem to be affected.  We were lucky, and prepared, from having been through once what they were suffering.

Many years ago as we were almost ready to pack the whole thing up at the end of the show and I went to get the van and while I was away, a sudden microburst of wind blew our canopy that my husband was in the process of taking down and took it across the park with weights attached like a huge octopus and dump it across the lawn breaking some of its legs.  Fortunately, it hurt no one since the crowds were gone and only a few artist were left and helped us pack the sad remnants of what was our canopy. We had to buy a new one. Sometimes the wind is a constant, wrecking your nerves and swaying the canopy all day as if you were boating on rough seas.

But there is something wonderful about the damages of the weather.  The incredible empathy and willingness to help of the artist community.  It is a sort of fellowship that has no name but that we all share because we, at one time, have been there having been the victim of the winds or storm.  We know what the damage of rain and wind or worse, tornadoes, can do to our creations.  We help each other. This is a silent knowing that helps us sleep better at night.

So doing outdoor shows can be a charm but also can be a trying experience.  I guess we do it to escape the galleries huge charge on our work, the appeal of the crowds and the buyers, the knowing that some thousands of people are exposed to your work and it becomes known in many parts of the country. And with a few exposures, you develop a following.  People look for you every year and buy your creations, compliment you on your work and encourage you.

Most artists lead a lonely life in their studio and face the material their tools and themselves, their intuition and ideas all day.  In my case, I love what I do and it makes me forget the ills of the world, its problems and its wars and corruption.

It makes me feels great to know I contribute to so many women's joy in wearing my work and for them and for the income it provides; I hit the road!

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Life on the Road; Our Show Tour in the Midwest.

We were dripping wet, our clothes looking like we had taken a dip in a pool.  But no such luck, we were on the grounds of Eden Seminary in Webster Groves, setting up our booth for the show the same day.  It was 2 o'clock in the afternoon in St Louis and also very hot and humid and my mind kept thinking of a shower or a dip in some Caribbean lagoon.  But we had to endure and go on. After on day the shape of my shoes were etched on my skin and I was badly sunburned.  What a relief when friends brought us ice cold malted milk shakes and we all visited.

We had  arrived in St Louis the same day after a delightful time and previous night at Randy's apartment (a close friend of Barry's in Kansas City) and had lunch with Ruth, Barry's mother, who had cooked her marvelous vegetable soup.  Seeing her was great and since we live quite a few miles apart it was a joy giving her a hug and visiting with her again after one year apart.

The show at Webster Groves went well but the heat was almost unbearable.
On the 9th of June, we went out for dinner courtesy of Ruth whose card and gift filled my soul as did the Indian goddess Lakshmi that my husband had brought for me from Colorado. We met with Barry's brother and wife and a dear friend of Ruth accompanied us.  We had a great time and since it was my birthday we had a good meal at a fanciful restaurant with interesting paintings on the walls.

All day, I thought a lot of all the family and friends left back at home in Colorado and other states.  I thank you for all my messages and good wishes on my recorder or my email.

Back at Ruth's house I was working like crazy to try to replenish my stock of jewelry and did an awful lot before leaving for the next show in Salina, Kansas.  I astonished myself.

It is quite amazing that this relatively small town puts on such a fantastic show, so well organized with fabulous art all over the park where it happens; and also 4 stages of live entertainment with a different group of musicians every hour. It is a major local event, and tons of people come from the surrounding communities. They have a booth for everything including lost children and many volunteers with water, tea or coffee all day long for the artist and a really good breakfast for all of us.  But again the intense heat and humidity pursued us.

I recognized many of our clients and enjoyed especially the lady who is a long time local reference librarian and had many interesting thoughts about many things. Very interesting, creative gal.  

After suffering two days in the heat, a strong shower Sunday morning cooled things off for the afternoon a little bit followed by sunshine, and we broke down our canopy with it being completely dry.  We were barely at our hotel, took the needed showers and cooled down and got ready to go out to eat when the sky opened up.  A storm of epic proportions with intense winds forced us to promptly retreat to our room where we ate a salad for dinner.  It was fortunate that at least it gave us time to close the show and get to our hotel before the storm. It would have been a horrible scene had the storm arrived an hour earlier while we were all packing up.  

Another great thing about the Salina show is that I also got a second place prize for my jewelry with money attached and it added to our income for the show.

On Monday we were on our way to Kansas City.  While cruising in the van, and I got to look at the road and terrain while Barry drove.  I was entranced by the patches of pink flowers on the sides of the road, the tall grasses undulating like waves under the breeze and the furrows seemingly moving in curving shapes just as lovely as the land and the gentle hills so green with watering holes for the cows punctuating the landscape and reflecting the sky. 

There in our suite, I mostly worked while Barry ran necessary errands and also got to see a few friends.   The show began Friday, and on Sunday morning the show started later at eleven so we had time to have breakfast with Bernice and Maurie, some of Ruth's oldest friends who insisted on cooking for us.  What a breakfast! three juices, eggs, sausages, bagels, biscuits, hash browns, coffee, delicious fruits, two different butters, and two different jellies and finally a delicious apple strudel!  Enough for a crowd.  Bernice also packed a great lunch bag that we ate at the show. It was wonderful!  

We also survived another brutal and humid heat and a violent storm that pushed our canopy (with 88 pounds of weights on each leg) six inches while on Barry's advice I had packed all the jewelry and we had closed up and abandoned the booth.  We went to the nearest restaurant "Bravo" for lunch while the storm raged outside. There I ate the most wonderful spaghetti with a bolognese sauce I ever tried. 
After the storm was over, one of our neighbor's canopy was ruined and he had to go home.  Ours was wet of course but it stood the rain and wind and we were so glad since we had a new canopy top, to find the interior really dry. I had to redisplay the jewelry of course while Barry reopened the canopy and the show went on.  We had the visit of many dear friends and of Nancy who was our greatest buyer!  She also brought us a bag full of goodies from Andre's, a gourmet place packed with beautiful napkins and little miniature knives. Delicious.

The day after we slept until we woke up.  Quite a delight instead of waking up early to the alarm clock.  We also packed, which took a while since we had a mini studio involved and we left to go see Marietta who is Ruth sister and lives in a nursing home.  She was having lunch and afterward we went with her to her room and chatted one hour and a half.  She is ninety years old, very upbeat, and remembers the whole family by name, talks as she was nineteen and is current about the news and the family life.  An amazing lady and an inspiration.

We left around two p.m. and hoped to make it to Colorado that evening since we have a show in Brekenridge this weekend; but a lightning storm developed on the way that Barry loved but that scared me totally.  On my right, the sky would light up totally white with so much lightning.  I was speechless making myself very little in my seat in the van.

Then the warnings came on the radio of severe thunderstorms ahead with possible tornadoes and we decided to stay at the nearest little town, Oakley.  We had one of the rare rooms left in the town late at night and slept well despite the fact that the room was not much but it was a refuge from the storm.

After what seemed like a long drive we finally returned home today with many memories and three good shows and a good tour.  Barry was a champion at driving and creating such fantastic and creative solutions to our life while away, and also being a funny, warm and dear companion to share this time with me.  I have to say it was quite an eventful tour but also very rewarding. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Sisterly Bond

I remember when she was born.  I came home one afternoon and she was there in my mothers bed, nursing.  I was allowed to hold her over a pillow and she rewarded me with the strangest little sounds.  She was my sister and I instantly loved her.

Little blond hair sprouted out of her head and she grew to be so friendly with my brother with whom she would always seem to get into some kind of mischief while I read my books.  She also made me the older sister, a title I was doomed to accept although I was not always successful in being the example my parents expected me to be.

She continued to grow and got much attention from all of us including my grandmother and my parents, in addition to a neighbor’s house where she spent many days of youthful bliss while we attended school.  She was fond of the cool shade of  their veranda, of the grapes hanging from their trellis and their current maid, soft and gentle.

She eventually adopted my friends as hers and accompanied us on outings to the beach or the mountains.  She was beautiful and married young.

After both of us found our husbands we really became good friends.  Back from South America I landed in Haiti with a leap in my heart remembering people I had not seen, along with places and cities where my memories were left untouched.  We spent long evenings talking late into the night bringing to life the things of our childhood. Back in South America such long talks stimulated memories of home and brought tears to my face with my throat constricted and dry.  They were things I longed for while I led my life in Peru or Bogotá.

We visited as sisters, but were also surrounded by our kids; and her husband would catch moray eels or else would talk to my husband while fixing some long rum punches. We talked as we soaked in the waves.  He  would also drive us to some hidden river where we met some long green snake that would scare the hell out of us and we would take refuge with bare tops in the green flow of the waters.

At times, we would both put on our makeup in the two vanities of her bedroom, each  under a different light and talk until our mouths went dry.  This house that both she and her husband designed created a U where the pool stood like an ancient blue lagoon graced with blooming hibiscus and Bougainvilleas with many hummingbirds turning around her head in the morning light to my total astonishment.

We grieved together when my parents died and when many of our loved ones disappeared.  We went through the pain of the years  growing up together under a dictatorship with its killings, its horrors and multiple crimes.  We also witnessed together the birth of our first grandchildren and shared the fun of a trip to Paris.

Now in Colorado, we meet to tell stories about life and we laugh together.  We remember the many memories of a land long ago left behind which will never be what it was before. The country of our childhood is gone.

Her strengths are in interpreting, in designing and growing great gardens, in people and stories and in writing like many others in  our family had done.  She balances my seriousness with her vitality and her laugh and her gift for people while I work alone in my studio!

But there is a reason why we are sisters; our family left us a legacy of pride, learning and the teaching of many principles and wisdom that we carry within us.   At times it seems a burden, but we honor  it the best we can.  She is my sister of beauty and knowledge and our common roots run deep.

2010 Copyright Micheline Brierre

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Friendship

I opened my door and she stood smiling in front of me.  I had the eerie feeling that I knew her from before -- I mean from another lifetime.  We became friends right away. Her blonde hair was curly then, permed like a little lamb, one of my favorite animals. 

We visited so often over a cup of tea and talked for hours.  I loved to go to her house because I had to cross a great deal of open fields and nurseries that refreshed my mind and soul.  She was the one who announced the change of seasons to me.  “There is a scent of Fall in the air,” she would say.  I though it was a great feat of perception for someone who lived in Miami where one barely senses the change of the seasons, unlike other parts of the country.

We traveled together. Went to Texas together, to Haiti together. We toured Florida for the Inner Peace movement and we went to be interviewed together to appear in radio shows.  Our friendship was complete then as it is still now.

When my mother died one evening after I traveled to Haiti, I was so awfully stricken, taking care of all there was to do after her death.  It was not until midnight that she called me from Miami and asked in a gentle voice “Did you remember to cry?”  Her words gave permission to let the tears flow and grieve as I should.

Back to Miami on a bench park in front of a lake, we talked about our most intimate thoughts; sex, life and about what we wanted out of living.  We walked out of there a bit elated; a weight was taken out of our chest.  We could breathe again.  Our life was difficult then, we both considered possible divorces and indeed, she accompanied me to see the judge to get the final word on a divorce that was sad after a long marriage and she got divorced as well.

Life separated us.  She went to live in Alaska and I moved to Colorado.  We both remarried.  Computers or phones linked us so we could communicate as before but with much more acquired wisdom and always the yearning to spend an afternoon over a cup of tea.

When I got sick, she came from California to be with me.
Her presence was a healing balm.  So many years of togetherness have joined our spirits and it seems like we are more sisters than just friends.  I have my real sister that I love but I will write about her later.

She was always one of these bright lights sent by the universe and I knew she loved me as I loved her.  She also adopted my sister as hers, my daughter as hers and she was always present, ready to add her input if I needed it.

Friendship is sometime ephemeral like the passing of a comet in the sky of our lives.  People seem to enter our days for a certain duration and once this time is passed they leave us to move to what they need at this moment of their lives.  Some rare ones are planted like a tree who stand firmly in our lives and accompany us through our joys and our sorrows and the little inconsequential things that makes us laugh.

For me a true friend is rather like a rare hot house bloom.  Someone to be nurtured and kept in my memory as a fine companion that life has provided to smooth and share the current of events and enchant our dreams.  

I call her my soul sister and there is a laugh in her eyes.





copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Power of Little Things

So many disasters happen every day in the world!  Besides the devastation in Haiti and the war in Afghanistan, the bombings in Iraq, the killing of the children in China, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the conflict in Thailand, and so many other atrocious news stories, we have many reasons to feel that we are a very fragile, a most vulnerable specie.  We, humans, are at the mercy of the next event and it makes us contemplate the little things that bring a light to our eyes and that can create an inward smile.

I had a friend who used to tell me “Don’t touch that plate, doing the dishes is my meditation!”  Now every day as I do the dishes I think of her and indeed the dishes have become my meditation also.  The water flows, the detergent is running down the sponge and my mind is far away, lost in bliss.

Some little things are more potent than strong discourses; like waking up and while still under the covers, warm from the night, I feel the joy of being alive and I imagine myself sending love to all I know and all I will meet.  This is a moment of pure bliss that transports me to visit my friends and family even though only through my senses.

I am never too busy to water the plants and as I do so, I marvel at each new leaf, the growth reaching for the ceiling and a miracle, the buds on one my orchids.  I anticipate the blooms and the beauty that it promises and the colored petals freshly arching toward me.

I love to take a break from my studio and watch the birds on the deck.  They come to eat, of course, but the collared doves just linger as a pair on the railing and even look straight at me and make me wonder.

Life is full of disasters and horrible crimes but it is also full of beauty for us to absorb and let travel slowly through our soul.
What about the simplicity of a smile from a total stranger at the super market; the minute power of such an innocent gesture so endearing and so life affirming?  It freshens my mood and resets my day very much for the better.

There is also the strength of the written word.  A simple and marvelous comment on my blog or an email filled with words that embrace each other and make the marvel of a sentence.  For me, a real delight.

As I look at my computer I find the news from a dear friend and I transport to their window with a photo of a tree, a flower, or a precious pet and best of all a new child in the family or a cherished grandkid.

And of course there is the presence of the one we love, the hand encircling ours, the pure pleasure of being together and laughing at the same funny thing.

The list could continue over miles of paper or a lot of memory on my laptop.  The truth is that each person has his or her own secret joy that is offered by very simple but potent things.  We are aware of those things or we aren’t.  For me, bringing my total focus on these little happenings is relief from death and disease, wars and world news.

So next time I do the dishes I will let my thought go to sleep and it will be once again my meditation. Think of what is the little things that makes you marvel at the world and laugh.   I’ll bet you have a long list already.

2010 Copyright Micheline Brierre 
    

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Preparing for an Art Show

 Everyday I have worked in my studio and now my signature is needed for most of my jewelry.  This is a job that Barry my husband does.  I do the signing on a special background and he places the signature on the suede on the back of the pieces.  Once it is done, we will start gearing up for a show this weekend in Wichita, Kansas.

It is organized by the Museum of Art and I hope their publicity will bring us lots of buyers and lots of sales.  We have never done this show before and we have never been to Wichita.  So we are going on a real adventure.  Discover Wichita and discover what makes the people there respond to my work or ignore it.

The life of an artist is rather solitary.  I work by myself all the time.  Almost.  I don’t need to mention my inner voice that leads me to new designs to new ways of creating a piece so as to keep my work always fresh, always new.  After all, the pieces are all  one-of-a-kind.  My customers expect it.  And I am so glad not to have to repeat myself.  It would be a bore.

Breaks are like a breath of fresh air.  I come up to listen to the birds, see the garden, see the light and the mountains, let my mind pause and reflect.  It is good to take a look at the world that constantly changes at every moment.  In the afternoons after three I listen to NPR on the radio and strangely it does not seem to affect my work when I make jewelry; but when I paint, I need the silence of the soul as each stroke leads me to the picture I want and see in my imagination.

As I listen to the news about the world, I shiver as I hear some and rejoice at others.  News is someone’s rendition of the facts; I take it all with a grain of sand.

Then there is all the jewelry to price and tag.  A job that I do alone knowing about what the gemstones are, the elements I bought at the last bead show, the amount of work on each piece and finally putting a price to what I have done.  It goes very fast.  I listen to my inner voice as a price comes to my ears as if I someone had placed it there for me to transfer to the paper. The wonderful intuition in action for which I feel blessed and that I trust completely.

Then I organize everything by colors.  It goes in a box, well cushioned, ready for the trip.  Then there is the project of loading everything in the van.

We use it just for traveling to shows and it is crammed with light racks suspended from the ceiling, bins of gift boxes, a collection of pens, little bags I use for earrings I sell, plus my cards, tissue paper, display material, extension cords, bins with table covers, photos of my jewelry enlarged for the walls, and of course the canopy and its covers.  Walls and roof.  And there is more.

We also need to pack our credit card machine, our calculators, my tools and of course the findings to change earrings to clasp or to post and to create a smile on the faces of our customers.

Did I forget anything? We need to pack our clothes for warm and cool weather, our meds or food supplements, our shoes and all the necessary paraphernalia to look good or decent.

And there is the house, watering the plants, securing the doors, the lights, holding the mail, the sprinkler system and at last sometimes let the neighbors know we are leaving.

Finally we review our show checklist to make sure we do not forget anything.
One time we forgot the roof to our canopy.  Another time the covers for the tables.  So we learned and have made a list to ensure we forget nothing.  Hopefully.

When we get in our van ready to leave, I get to anticipate the road ahead.  The beauty of the earth as we go along and I marvel at the curves of the land, blades of grass bending under the wind and birds flying off as we approach the arc of their flight.  When I drive, I focus on the road and my mind is free to imagine.  A trip to a show is for me a hard working vacation, a break from my studio and once at the show, the joy of meeting strangers, people who can become friends or remain clients.  I smile at them all and rejoice, no matter how early I have to start the day, it is a fantastic adventure, a new city, and the promise of a new experience with all that the word entails.

The tough work does not matter.

I still remember the field of sunflowers on the way back from Omaha displaying their petals as far as the eyes could see. The yellow on the bright sky crying for joy.

Traveling by road has its infinite beauty, a chance to visit the places of the earth that we know or the ones reserving their grace for our eyes. 

Our show will bring just that. Time to go!


Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Connection

There is something special in waking up at dawn and looking at the dark but blue sky and watch it slowly become a lighter shade until  it envelops me with the incredible presence of the atmosphere so rare, so far, in our known universe.

Our dreams still cling to our skin and the stars are still a part of the night. The stillness is palpable while on the street below, people drive following some unknown calling. The light of their car is a streak of light in the dark. This is a magical part of my time.  The in-between hours when it is no longer night and not yet day.

I like to come to my favorite oak chair and listen to myself;
kind of set the energy for what is to come even if it is only to   write a bit on my computer or listen to the birds as they awaken with the timid sounds they make at dawn.

I imagine things; I see decorated elephants that are leading me on a trail and beckon me to images of dunes partly lit in the desert as they open a world of fantasy that I enter quietly and where my imagination gets lost.

Soon, the day will start and the phone will ring or my husband will awaken and I will find my voice like a bipedal being that I am. Talking.  I wonder sometimes if it is really necessary; if our thoughts transmute and travel to others and we do not need to voice what our minds entertains.  Sometimes my daughter calls me just as I am about to pick up the phone and call her.  Our connection is so tight and I find myself realizing that indeed we are united and we let our spirits touch.  So often my husband’s mind is exactly focused on my own and we voice at the same time the same circuitry of our thoughts.

But when I go to my studio, the light change inside of me.  I see things differently as I pick up my needle or my brush.  My sense of acuity is intense and I listen to the voice that resides in me and tells me what to do.  The inner voice…the intuition, the creative self.
I know that I am not alone.  Countless people wake up early and stare like me at our sky above and wonder.  Our atmosphere is so rare and fragile.

It is like being connected to a long army of watchers that are all waiting in silence for the day to begin.  A sacred ritual, like a long line of thread that is present and goes around each person enchanting them and freeing their soul.

So, early today, I am next to you in my thoughts.  We do not have to say any word.  But deep inside of us the magic begins somewhere between night and light … we connect.

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Bright Instruments of Our Will

Since I was very young, people’s hands exerted an immense appeal on my imagination.  How many paintings have I done using my hands as models?  All the innumerable pen-and-ink drawings that I made of hands? I cannot count, but the number is great.  I incorporate little bronze hands in my jewelry and there are quite a few hands on the walls around my house: a collection from other artists who also revered hands.

It is not only a fascination but also an awareness of all the roles hands play in our lives.  Not only are they so very useful at the end of our arms, but they seem to symbolize the ability to create, to grab, to caress, to gesture, to feel, to touch, to heal and to manipulate.  The list is enormous.

As an artist, my hands are my main approach to life.  With my hands I paint, I draw, I make the necklaces that will grace someone’s neck, in a few words, I create.  All with my hands. I have seen some paintings made by artists who had no use of their hands and with a brush lodged perilously in their mouth, they paint.  Imagine…the huge effort, the pain, for what is so simple when we have our extremities.

I look at my hands weathered by years of living and now showing a few veins, skin a bit loose on the bones and yet, I am so thankful.  I get such an exuberant joy out of working with my hands.  A good deal of my soul is flowing from them to the piece I am doing.  And many people notice.  Sometimes I look at my fingers and they seem foreign to me, more like very competent tools, the infinite potential for a mute pleasure that seems to engulf me as I use them to render my moods.

Our hands play a momentous role in touching another’s skin, in running them around the curve of a lover’s back, in moving through a mop of hair.  Our hands ignite passion or tenderness, healing and discovery; our hands say our welcome and spell our goodbyes.  With our hands, we feel, and people move into our lives or are left aside and forgotten according to what the handshake tells us.

We give our hands in marriage; the blind touch our face to feel. I am thankful to live in America instead of being under a dictator who rules with an iron hand.   Of course, unfortunately, hands also do their share of hurt.  They can harass or terrorize, torture with utmost dexterity.  They can kill.  They destroy, they rob us of breath, of life, of our humanity;  but they also bury what had been alive and through a companion, shake us awake at times to witness the stars in the night or the rosy light of dawn as we face the new day.

With my hands, I can write on your walls the many words that unite us both.  Or draw my signature.   Or signal a common road where we will discover together.  Or clasp them in reverence like I learned to do in southeast Asia.

Lets us lay our hands in front of us now.  Let us look at them, let us give them thanks at last for being the expressive part of the body that we inhabit and which allow us do so much each day without too much effort … as if they were the bright instruments of our will.

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre