Monday, October 24, 2011

The Transition

There are fallen Aspen leaves in my driveway and over the lawn, in the garden and all over the streets in town.  Trees seem on fire with yellows, rust and red gloriously back-lit by the sun.  I drive on some streets that seem like tunnels of radiant colors and I sing to myself a few internal songs.  It is Fall in Colorado and the air is cool and fresh while nights are cold.

My husband and I went on Old Stage Coach road, up in the mountains, west of the city.  It is as the name says, a very old, unpaved and very narrow way with tunnels, blind curves and nothing, not even occasional guard rails to keep you from tumbling in the void that is often on both sides.  But the views ... the views make all the effort of taking that drive worth it.  Aspens line the many mountain sides and present a huge, astonishing warm palette of immense beauty.

It is this time of the year again, when we have to let go of the exuberance of summer and contemplate the changes that come with Fall.  It is a precursor to Winter and as such it is the exciting in-between time of the year that comes with a magnificent splash of colors and lets us know that it is time to settle down within and think and reevaluate the year.  Nature presents us with the transition, the entrance to this state of awareness and whether we sense it or not, life is coming with its packet of changes.

For me, transitions are the beginning of retreating into myself and finding simple joys that I had forgotten in the rush, work and pressure of summer.  Like waking up before my husband at dawn and walking quietly to the living room where with open windows I can see the sunrise and greet the day; a form of silent meditation about what might happen and also a form of salutation to the budding sun.

I can knit with the fabulous selection of yarns that I have collected through the years and see patterns of color develop while my thoughts are silent and the day unfolds.  I can write in my gratitude journal and mention things that are so basic and real to me.  I am grateful for taking a breath at a time and being alive.  I can send love to my family and friends and imagine a security circle around each one of them.  I can dream of the next piece of jewelry I will create and imagine the curves and the stones plus the shades offered to me in my studio.  Most of all, my priorities become more obvious as I let go of the non essential and embrace the most important.  I also like the joys of reading a real paper book that I can hold in my hand and let the the words evolve into a story with a character leading a life so unlike mine.  It is great to dream a bit!

It is my time to reevaluate. Life has so much to spread in front of me but choosing one thing is of utmost importance.  It is good to have a single main goal and go in its direction. 

I can think about all the persons that I have met and loved and that have gone out of my life for many reasons, especially the ones that I will never see again because they have died.  I can think of the finality of death and the strangeness of life.  The way we come on the planet, learn and live each day with awareness or not and create a trail of questions that life answers if we are lucky.  We can also add our name to the long list of beings that have come before and left a legacy to admire and try to emulate.

My loved ones march in front of me in my mind's road.  I love to follow this stretch of my days and look at the beings alive before me that stand in their own glory and grace and by so doing are so deserving of my attention and love. I can put aside the people which are indifferent to my life and do my best to enhance the life of all the other ones that walk with me and present challenges and growth to my days, or let me embrace the example that they present.

All of this comes with this slow approach of Winter that serves to focus us on what we had tuned into in the Fall.  In a way, regroup our year and set the tone for what in the next year will happen, surprise us, challenge us -- or simply, delight us.

Life is such a journey and it helps to discover more of ourselves with each passing season as we meet the day and continue our life fully aware and conscious.  I believe that humans were not meant to live with passivity but make happen what is close to our hearts, and Fall is the time to get in touch with our wants and what brings a smile to our face.

Copyright 2011 Micheline Brierre

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Living in Different Places

"You have to be invited to a baptism or go to a funeral to really feel you belong."
Words of my first husband when we lived in countries other than ours.  And of course, he was right. Living in a foreign country is getting to know different cultures, different food and maybe different languages and clothing but also the same people with the same emotions as ours.  Once we get passed our veneers and the outer look of a new place, we are met with the same humans: our great family of Earthlings.

Going to live in Mexico City for the first time I was dazzled by the culture. The beauty of multiple handmade things that sold in stores of "Artesanias" and the many villages with an astounding array and specialty of food, great dances, special hand-embroidered dresses and twists of the language caught me totally wide-eyed and receptive to it all.  I loved the songs, the romance of the mariachis at midnight on plaza Garibaldi, the markets, the flower vendors everywhere even at night and the restaurants filled with huge tables where three generations of people got together united by the need to visit and eat together as a family.  A real treat that made me remember with nostalgia my own family, hours and hours away in my Caribbean island.  I also loved the fields at the foot of the volcano where we picnicked with flowers all around us while the smoke in our our grill smelled of fresh tortillas and new found food.

I was in awe at all of what the country offered that seemed so different, and delighted me so much. The play of vibrant colors, the accents, the play of words used everyday and the music had me marveling each morning.  As I got to know the friendly people, I felt a great empathy, as they corrected my budding Spanish and laughed at my mistakes as I translated too literally from the French,  I carried a dictionary everywhere.  But more importantly, later, I felt like I belonged when we were invited to share family dinners or asked to weddings and when friends took me to their favorite markets and later taught me how to cook their specialty food.

Sometimes my husband would drive us to some villages around the country whose specialty was one item only; like the one that produced so many guitars and where so many open little factories lined the main street.  I delighted in the lavish sensual curves of the wood, the shine induced by the rubbing of assiduous hands and when I heard people sing and play the instruments, it was as if their souls opened up to cry their love or sorrow. It brought me close to the silent pain in my heart that life sometimes creates and about the nostalgia that resonated within me through the cords of their guitars. I was entranced.

Living in Peru was an exercise in endurance because of the frequent earthquakes and the fluctuation of food and restrictions of the use of our cars. It was the time of the generals and things weren't easy. A recent agrarian reform made all food scarce and our German pilot friends brought us steaks from outside the country. But there was the discovery of strong woman: worldly and open-hearted that I learned to love and the resurgence of my own voice as a person and an artist. My children were bigger and I could lead a group of creative people with their art, show it and sell it.

I thrived, I felt like I was back to my roots. I learned to make jewelry with Mary Traver in the Miraflores center. I learned to conquer metal and silver and also let it speak its voice and met many life time friends friends like Therese or Guillermina dear to me forever.  Between carrying the duty of a welcoming hostess present at parties and fiestas that we gave, I learned to embrace the family of people that I met and that nurtured my soul.  Making an international phone call was a true adventure.  You screamed, they did not hear you, they screamed and you still did not understand.  My ex husband used to say " If I scream some more I will not need a phone!"

After a particular strong earthquake in the middle of the night, my mother who was visiting helped me carry the children fast asleep as usual to the middle of our garden while the maid yelled "Salvase Senora" save yourself! but she ventured all the way inside the house, courage on her side and we retreated running into the darkness of the garden. When it was over, we made tea for and illusion of strength, or so we hoped.  My mother, silent until then, finally told me in French "Micheline what are you doing in this hole?" My husband was away on a trip so all of us woman returned to our bedrooms, but I never slept. I thought of her comment but realized it was indeed a very interesting hole and mostly-- a beautiful one. I was far away from my country, but in many ways, I was home.

The high country was my favorite with the smell of the Spanish Broom filling the valley with their scent and the yellow flower floating on the air on their slender stem. Huancayo was one village that pulled on my heart, a village with a huge market that I would walk and explore with the children and that my husband would photograph beautifully.  I would sit and sketch, attracting a group of kids marveling at what I considered mere traces of my pencil. The handmade things varied incredibly and never ceased to fascinate and tempt me. I went from the unique pottery or silver filigree jewelry (light as a dream) to an incredible family of multicolored potatoes so incredibly varied and fun.  I made many friends that later died or got dementia or simply disappeared later from my life but live forever in my memory.

Eating out was a delightful adventure and a surprise, like when my husband ordered oysters and they started to move when he put lemon on it ... I guess freshness was of utmost importance as was the huge size of all the sea food and vegetables there.

I was peacefully at home when my husband walked in one day to tell me "Pack your bag we are going to Bogota Colombia."  I was in mourning. My friends came to tell me how sorry they were.  I was going to live in Bogota, a dreadful, dangerous place and they were so sorry for me.  I had just moved to a new house and our things were still in boxes.  The high Jasmin climber was transplanted by our much loved gardener and was starting to reach the balcony of this new house smelling delicious on the wind.  Moving? I was distressed but packed I did and was on a plane with the family, sad  and fast as I could pack.

But what a surprise! Bogota was a large handsome city, women held important roles in the government, artists became my friends; and even though we had a Wakenhut guard in front of the house, I started to love the food, the gold museum, the haunting song on the guitar and the particulars of this land where people spoke a most beautiful Spanish and received us late at night for dinner.  Pretty soon I was exhibiting my work, having my paintings praised, participating in the art field and having a blast. The butcher was my friend and sent us his best cuts of meat by a delivery boy on bicycle. We had a baby deer for a few months that our friends found on their Finca and that ate the whole garden but was my joy and pride until much bigger when we gave him back to our friends to release to nature.

I had a studio and worked with the Inner Peace Movement, traveled, had lectures in my home and did many counselings.

I learned a lot. I realized that each country carries its own flavor and look but that it was up to me to belong.  They were born there, it was their land and they were used to its idiosyncrasies, its joy and its music, its language and charm.  It was up to me to make myself at home and get others to respect my presence. Up to me to keep a wondrous eye and show an open heart. To try all the food, to dance the rythm of the day, to be the person who would be invited to funerals and celebrate the baptism of the new baby.
People all over have the same aspirations as mine and seem different only at first sight.  Once having shared a cup of tea or or the drink of the land, people are astonishingly the same and that make us a huge Earthling family; a set of souls sharing the same thoughts, the same worries the same hopes and the same sadness or joy as ours. The Spanish spoken there was very different from my native French but it brought a new language to me that still delights my ears and that I miss.

Living in other countries and in South America has made me more receptive and more open, more accepting, more flexible and understanding, more myself. It brought me a beautiful memory of so much that lives in my heart and sometimes creeps into my dreams. The eternal gift given by many lands.

Copyright 2011 Micheline Brierre

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Faces of Work

My life of late has been immersed in work. I work most of the time but recently it has been at a furious pace to keep up with the outdoors juried fairs for artists and mostly to maintain my inventory  at a decent level.  We did five shows in a row, one every weekend and that meant waking up very early each day and going to sleep quite late at night.  It meant traveling to those shows or never leaving my studio but for an occasional break. 

It made me think about how "Work" take its place into our lives.  After all, once we are out of school and in many cases before, we are working at one job or the other.  And that is for a long life until we retire and many of us, artists included, never retire completely since our art is an expression of who we are and how we see the world.

Artists are different and the art scene is full of graying hair people who need to express the feeling they experienced all through their life.  Art is the result of a filter that we all possess and that seeps through our emotions and finally yields what we have seen or felt or heard in the form of our art.
Go to an art show and each artist has a different vision and their unique way of seeing the world.  Walking an art show is like peeking into someone else's consciousness.  Quite a feat.

But work could be just as creative and take another form of expression.  It could be the doctor who makes sure our health is good and actively fights every threat to our state of being.  It could be the fireman, the nurse, the teacher, the chef, the engineer or the truck driver to cite a few.  I think there is a difference between work that is a calling, an urge to do it no matter what; and the work that is just  boring; a simple routine that we do just to earn a living.

Working when our soul is not there is a difficult task.  We often look at the passing of time and cannot wait for the weekend to come and give us a sort of relief through other occupations.  That form of work leaves us frustrated and sad.  We go home at night and try to forget the day and its activities. There is nothing to nurture our soul.

Work as a calling is different.  It pursues us once we leave the job, gets in our dreams and incubates thoughts and ideas during the night.  That work is rejuvenating, it brings our mind to the current problem to solve with a form of eagerness and fulfillment.  So why are more people not doing it?

Sometimes infancy presents a very small vision and people, once grown, go to work as a convenient and easy road to provide for life instead of searching their soul for that thing that makes them tick. Sometimes life is tight and the circumstances do not permit people to choose.  Sometimes one does not know what would the pleasing thing be and how to make it a daily opportunity. Such people are like butterflies and jump from one thing to the other never feeling satisfied.  Circumstances do vary an awful lot. But often work is no more than a burden.

One thing that I know as an artist is that no matter what you do, there is a part of it that is always work.  It requires discipline and sometimes the tedium of doing what you have to do.  But when our work is also our life passion, despite all, we thrive with what we do and each day brings us the joy and the wisdom of creating something new.  Not only us artists but what all people do in their own field.  Creativity is not jut a privilege of artists.

Whether work is a pleasure or a bore we all have to work and earn a living unless presented with a rich background and our monthly expenses are covered.  So let us bring our body and soul to work as my friend does who works for the government in helping poor immigrants solve their problems and so find a way to give back to the community -- a real service.

There is also the artist's form of work changing as we change and evolving as we do and that we can do for a lifetime and and never find tiring or boring.  I believe we were born to do it and I guess a calling is just that.

Copyrighted 2011 Micheline Brierre


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Memories on Mother's Day

My children were born when I was very young in Mexico city at a Spanish hospital. My Spanish was not very good then. The nuns, also our nurses, spoke a clipped Spanish from Spain, so quickly I could not understand them and my husband daily translated what they had to say.

It was a wonderful hospital.  My room had a great view on the flowery garden and for lunch I was served Paella which is a chicken base, saffron, chorizo and rice dish with many more things added and it was delicious. Gourmet food in the hospital! Quite rare. I walked at the end of the corridor to see my son and my husband was happy to smoke a proud cigar. When they brought me the baby, he was always wrapped like a sausage with only his head showing.  So I unwrapped him marveling at this minute pink body moving in my arms. This was the time women stayed a few days in a hospital and it gave me time to get used to the feeling of being a mother.

Nevertheless when the day arrived for me to go home, I was feeling so anguished and scared wondering if I was up to the task of caring for this little baby. My mother had applied for a visa to Mexico that was slow in coming so I gave birth without her.

Coming home was a strange mix of joy and worry but the baby and I bonded quickly and I would sit in silence in front of him with wonder in my heart.

We had a good maid then.  But she told me as soon as I came home that she had found a job who would bring her to the USA.  How could I not let her go? It left me with the task of caring for the baby and his many diapers and cooking and taking care of the apartment and the laundry plus all else. At that time we had cloth diapers and no diaper service.

My husband prepared the bottles for the baby in the morning and it was a great help.  But one afternoon he came in the door and I burst into tears.  I did not expect to do so but the tasks of living were catching up with me.  We had a good friend who brought me a maid to help.  I was elated.  My husband and I went shopping and his camera films - films were only used at the time - disappeared.  We went on a search and it yielded nothing. No film in all the empty bags from the grocery store. But I found them the next day -- in the freezer...The maid did not know better and to her the freezer was a safe place to put the films.  She did not last very long.

The next maid was much better and my mother arrived in Mexico.  Help was available. It saved me a lot of work.

This little baby is now a grown men with a wife that I love and a family of two boys living in Maine.
Sometimes I remember him, wild kid on the roof of my house or swimming in the canals of Miami and I remember all his many stages of growth plus all the ones my wonderful daughter went through and I marvel at the force of life reproducing itself through us - mothers.

All over the world mothers carry their babies, give birth and raise them as best as they can.  The dedication, the patience, the loving, the pain and worry and also the rewards are enormous. Babies come with so many lessons for us parents to learn.  They act as our teachers when most of our education is done.

I remember at night looking at my kids sleeping and thinking their presence was such a gift.  A marvelous fact of life and a new addition to the world population.  And the world population is growing everyday. In so many countries the birth rate is high and the question is: How can we cope with and feed so many people?
In my case I only reproduce us -- the parents.  But the future is something to consider as we face those little bodies with so much love.

When my children became teenagers they had a very good friend from Nicaragua who used to come and visit all the time. Even after my kids were gone he kept coming just to see and talk to me.  One day I realized he was my other son.  Not born of my body but a spiritual son whose family I love as well.

I wonder why mother's day is not also fathers day and childrens day as well.  The bond are obvious and celebrating them at different times puzzle me.  So I did survive raising my children, learned a lot and loved being a mother and I would never give up what I experienced as a parent.  I can face myself in the mirror and say: I did the best I could and I know many mothers around the world will be thinking the same.

Copyright 2011 Micheline Brierre   


Monday, April 25, 2011

The Changes

Our planet has become much smaller than we ever thought.  The news travels at tremendous speed and our economic life on Earth is interrelated.  Ideas float from one country to another and long is gone the time of isolation.  Are we better for it?

It means enormous changes in the way we think and our ability to stay within the compound of our personal consciousness.  We are now multinational beings involved one day with the news of Japan and the other, news of Yemen.  In between, we stuff the news from Egypt, from Libya, from Africa or Haiti and we add to that the news from our speck of earth plus many more places or countries that may interest us.  Plus there is the economic crisis, unemployment, budget deficit, tax cuts, weather damage and death in the southern it not a lot?

What has all of this done to our psyche?
My grandson told me the other day that he was most concerned by the news of the nuclear leaks in Japan.  He is 8 years old.  He told me that they discuss it in class.  I think that all the involvement with so many happenings on different countries opens our minds very early to the fact that Earth as we know it has become so very small in terms of communication and interconnection.  As a consequence, there is more to think about, more to worry about, and more to stay on our minds and keep us awake at night.  The information is crammed in to us through TV, videos, CD's written articles by reporters all over the world, social medias and text messages.  It is unavoidable.

Because of this, it seems that now, more than ever, this Earth is undergoing tremendous changes and not all for the better.  There is the problem of climate change, the scarcity and rising price of oil, the possibility of water shortages, the climbing cost of food to cite only a few.  We are facing huge problems and as we see it, there is no solution at hand now.

Of course at the same time, so many groups, institutions or individuals are creating wonders and propose a different vision, therefore a different consciousness in the people they touch.  On one part some destroy while many others build what they can.  I, by nature, tend to be on the side of hope but I often feel invaded by all of what I read or hear.  Especially when I am unable to do anything about it.  It is not simple or easy and even harder to escape.  Our life is more accelerated and there is much more to do in one day.

We have e-mails, text messages, phones, TV, CD's videos, many electronic gadgets to facilitate reading or writing, a whole assortment of high tech things that have an effect on us human beings. Are we relating to each other as best as we could?  Do we take time to pause?  Does it make us more anxious?

Little children take anti-anxiety medicine and the other day, I talked to a friend who takes 2 drugs to stay calm and serene, or at least try to.  Drugs and pills are so prevalent and can mask our behavior in many ways.  Scientists are finding little by little the effect on us of all this relatively new technology. They are divided and so are we.  I find that more people are having a hard time coping with all the delivery of high tech gadgets and long for a more relaxing yesterday.  Only, this can be true for the ones who remember yesterday.  But the children?     

Do we live on a more violent planet?  I wonder sometimes reading all of what the earth has been through. The history of our past is loaded with conflicts, wars, many challenges and epidemics and terrible things to face.  We have evolved, but we are still the same human beings that lived off the land and raised our kids the best we could or hoped for a better shelter or a more lavish life.  Our aspirations are no different from country to country.  The basic human being has not changed that much over so many years.  But changed it has, with the discovery of so many ways to make things happen and to change our lives.  Horrible things like mass killings, suicide bombers, drone killings, latent terrorism, wars, unrest, inflation and unemployment has become a way of life.  That is not pretty or even desirable in any way.

If my grandmother was alive now, she would have a hard time to integrate herself to all we play or are involved with everyday as if nothing.  Even now, I write snail mail to my mother in law who does not use a fancy phone or the internet and to her sister for the same reasons.  When my grandkids are here, they play video games and relish their Facebook accounts.  Of course they also play on their bike or skateboard.  My childhood was spent reading, painting and perched up in trees!  The kids behave like kids to a certain extent.  Compared to the way I grew up, there is a huge difference.  But each generation faces the same changes.

So here I am with many questions and just a few answers.  What do you think?  Where are we going as a specie? What is happening to this Earth?  What is on your mind?  What about violence?  What concerns you?  What keeps you awake at night?  Are we better off today?

Please leave your answers.  Consider this blog as a forum for your thoughts and our common feelings as humans.  As the planet evolves, there is a price to pay and as we express our worries and our appreciation as well, things become clearer.  Let me hear about you.  You can leave a comment, become a follower of this blog and we can touch a reality that we can create commonly as humans.  I will be waiting.

Some links to read that illustrate my text:

 Copyright 2011 Micheline Brierre

Saturday, April 2, 2011

In Anticipation of Spring

I was going to write about the marvels of Spring and to my surprise this morning, I woke up to a thin layer of snow and temperatures well below the fifties as we had been getting used to for the last few weeks. In Colorado we get our snow in the Spring and it is hard to know when to cover up and when to let a little skin show.  Days vary so much.  But Spring is in the air, not just on our minds.  The little Forsythia I planted a few years ago between my neighbor and us is showing many leaves or petals and the trees in front of our house are greening.

I, like many people tired of winter, am giddy over the coming Spring and we all relish the warmer temperatures that bring us closer to this beautiful time of the year.  I never appreciated before the difference between the cold days of winter and the rest of the year.  I lived in Miami years ago when a rare cold spell would strike sometimes, but the trees and plants forever showed a lush look with bushes full of blooms, rapid growth and exotic colors.  A very exuberant environment that clashes with our semi arid climate here and the plants that manage to grow in it.

This is a fantastic time for street performers.  I was in Boulder yesterday with my husband.  We had gone to Greeley to see the "Riverdance" show which was just fantastic.  We admired the Celtic dancers that enticed everybody to get up and move wildly with their elaborate step patterns that contrast with their rather stiff upper body.  We both loved it and the haunting music still rings in my ears.  Boulder was not too far, so we slept in a hotel there to go to Pearl street the next day.  It was full of people and street performers who bring their talents and their ability to gather a crowd on this pedestrian mall.

As we strolled down the street looking for our favorite art galleries we came across a man with a great sense of humor and acrobatic abilities who was perched high on a unicycle talking to the crowds and doing his tricks.  In his hands he had a few lit batons that he juggled along with a sword.  He got a little boy to be a part of the show. And as high as he was, managed to catch his hat with his raised foot while still up in the air.  People happily gathered around him and most everybody was happy to drop a few dollars in his hat when he was finished.

A bit further down was a lovely girl with a violin that played beautifully some classical music themes, full of longing and memory. The sounds she created were so beautiful it made me think of my mother who was so fond of the violin and would cry sometimes when it played.

We visited a few more blocks and found a man against a huge boulder preparing to play the didgeridoo.  He had nailed to the instrument a few rasps and had one more in his pocket.  Then with his eyes closed he proceeded to touch lightly his heart chakra and retreat obviously into his creative and higher self.  Then he began to play.  The sounds were amazing as he blew in his didgeridoo and struck his rasps with a stick both on the one he had attached to his instrument plus the one in his pocket.  The result was very soothing and quite deeply haunting and most unexpected.  I liked it a lot.  My husband photographed him.

After a full day, we started the ride home. We had spent the whole time outdoors and observed the tulips coming out of the grounds, the early daffodils, the budding trees and their reflections in nearby windows.  So many people traversed the mall laughing and taking pictures, eating ice cream, thriving on a balmy weather to let us know that even though it snowed today, Spring is coming around here after all.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

We Live on a Trembling Earth

We live on a trembling earth.  The new earthquake in Japan with its horrific tsunami, the unimaginable loss of life and the nightmare of a possible nuclear meltdown remind us, after the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, that nature runs us in a big way.  Earth is very old, it has gone through its cycles and repeats again what it has done in the past.  Mankind is a new phenomena on the planet and even though we have become the top dogs here, we are no match for the land when it shows its moods, its might and power.

The awful destruction in Japan reminds me of how vulnerable and insignificant creatures we are after all.  Even if we construct the incredibly tall buildings like in Dubai, and set huge bridges across the water like the Kobe-Awagi bridge in Japan, carve long tunnels like the Delaware Aqueduct in New York, set rails across countries, all our tectonic plates have to do is shake a bit and we are at risk of losing it all.

In 1974 I lived in Lima, Peru, when a very bad earthquake took me by total surprise early in the morning as I was bathing my young daughter while my son rode his bicycle outside in the front of the house.  The noise started slowly at first and intensified to an indescribable roar; a sound I will never forget.  I hurriedly took my daughter to the middle of the garden where the terrified maid had already taken refuge and handed her my daughter.  I went back inside the house while the earth was shaking and books and things were falling down all around me; the earth, normally always under my feet, was failing my every step, undulating wildly.  I found my neighbors all in a circle hugging each other on the moving street and my son, on his bike. He ran toward me and said innocently "Mom, is there something wrong?"  I grabbed him frantically, ran again inside the house and rejoined the maid and my daughter.  It was still shaking and the walls of our living room were parting in the middle like a big mouth opening and closing.  Our cat was trying frantically to climb over the tall wall covered with ivy.  I thought the shaking would never end.  My husband came home horrified, took his cameras and went through the devastated city numb under a cloud of dust and debris that hovered for days. Lima was a sad sight.

The aftershocks were so many one could not find a Valium anywhere in town.  It lasted over a month with some tremors strong enough to scare the daylight out of you.  I went to bed every night with my car and house keys and my purse next to my bed in case I had to wake up the kids and quickly escape the place at night.  It was a sheer nightmare.  This was "only" an earthquake of 7.2 on the Richter scale compared to Japan's recent 9.1.  But it killed 304 people and devastated over 4000 buildings.  I had been in earthquakes before in Mexico where the maid had jumped in my arms after my mother, who was visiting was telling me the advantages of having an older maid who would be the responsible one.  We both had a good laugh over it afterward.  Because of my familiarity with many earthquakes and their aftermath in many countries, including Colombia, I identify enormously with all the human beings that suffer through them and their inevitable aftershocks and huge destruction.

I found out that the earth shakes all the time.  Most days and everywhere.  Many of its movements are felt and many are barely noticed.  But once a big one happens, the whole community of countries is alert since we have become this global village with the speed of our instant communications and instant messages plus the world-wide presence of the internet.

So we are not safe ever.  Safety is an imaginary feeling, the calming thought that we are okay, but it is just a dream.  I think of the importance of living life doing what we love and loving all the people that touch us and inspire us to be more than we are.  I think of all our family of friends and blood and the need to share our love and our feelings.  The need to say what we think and express who we are.  The need to be honest with ourselves and honor our integrity.

After all, we are just creatures moving on big tectonic plates fighting odds against the planet with the possibility of seeing our creations destroyed.  It may happen and it may not.  We can only hope for the better.  It takes a lot of courage and a sort of huge arrogance to do what we as humans do.  But earth will survive.  It has been a part of the galaxy for eons of time.  Our beautiful Milky Way that we observe in total awe at night.

We may go on and survive as a species and we may not.  Time will tell.

See the links:

Copyright 2011 Micheline Brierre
Edited by Barry Kaplan

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

When a Cat Comes To Visit

The cat looks at us from his high perch on top of the kitchen cabinet.  Big round eyes glowing with discovery stare at me.  The tail flicks in the air. This is Miso, my daughter's big cat.  He is spending time with us so she can be on vacation.  He entered our quiet life and brought with him the old concerns about his safety that we used to expend upon our children long time ago. My husband, Barry, created for him soft landing spots on our sofa in the living room so he could jump from his high perch unharmed -- but he never looked at it and lands carefully by its side.

Miso the Cat
Miso jumping to his perch

Then Barry created a step on our bookcase leading to the high spot by adding my thickest books to its top but the cat ignores it and just jumps amazingly where he wants to go.  It is a big distance from the shelf top to the perch but he does it as he would take a stroll in the garden.  Daringly and elegantly.

In other words, we have become like new parents while he does of course what he wants; prideful creature that cats are.  He also showed us incredible catlike affection, turning his tummy up for us to pet him, sitting on Barry's lap while he would tell me "Answer the phone, I cannot move!"  I would look at his face in total bliss and laugh watching his hands stroke the cat's fur.

Miso allowing Barry to pet him
The pets in our life pack with them a whole lot of joy and activate new concerns, keep us entertained, bring us the happiness that our unpredictable life sucks out of us at times.  I remember a friend in Florida who photographed pets, told me that they were our kids especially after our children were gone and had started their adult lives.  I had proof of that with so many people around me loving the furry, feathery or fuzzy creatures we have as pets.

I sometimes look at Miso with wonder thinking how another specie has come to be our friend and adopt us as foster parents although our pets run our lives in many delightful ways.  I peek in the mystery of Miso's green eyes and wonder often about his allegiances, his choices, his ancestors past as an older predator and his familiarity with us, his human friends now.  It is itself a great mystery and a marvelous step in our development.  I know the scientists have their theory but I retain the mysterious approach of the cat to my life as a compelling tale of friendship and attachment. 

It is a proven fact that pets are important to our well being and keep us alert, alive, involved.  They are our companions, often our lifeline, as many handicapped people can attest.

We have had many cats.  Mimi was one of our favorites. We went with him through the destruction and the horrors of Hurricane Andrew and traveled with him from Miami to Colorado when we took my small Honda and explored the state.  I remember the big orange tabby that he was, looking out of the little car, waiting every day to eat until we reached a motel at night even though we had provided him with his cat litter and food bowl to no avail.  We would stop at dusk at a motel that would not always welcome pets. We would sneak him in at night and hope for the best only to find him at the window in the morning innocently looking out giving his presence away.

The day he died, he came to my studio already so bony and sad and I petted him till he retired in the adjacent guest room to die silently.  I discovered him later and wrapped him in my best shawl to grieve alone until my husband came home.

In our case now, we cannot keep a cat when show season starts as we are often gone for several weeks at a time.  We tried with Coz, a brown tabby, but once when we returned from a trip, my friend the cat sitter had left me many notes telling me that she never saw the cat who hid under the bed every day when she came to change his cat litter and check on his food and drink.  The cat would miss us horribly and we would miss him as well.  After a while he became almost neurotic and we gave him to a good family with children where he thrived.

But we miss all our furry ones and I envision the day when a cat will delight us again.  Not just for a few weeks as it is now, but every day as I want it to be.  I like cats since they stand for what they want and not what I want; their sense of self and undeniable regal attitude, their great dignity and purr and their quiet affection.  They would climb on me if I was sick and lay on my stomach purring.  They were great healers concentrating at making me well in the silence of the night.

Of course people like all kinds of creatures that add to their life in some manner.  Our pets are our companions that speak in their own way and tell us tales of love and loyalties.  For many that is enough, but for me, their mystery enhances my life and adds a taste of the wild even though they are tame, and make me a constant care giver.

Mystery of Miso

Copyright 2011 Micheline Brierre
Edited by Barry Kaplan

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Self Image

I have made a huge decision.  For me it is huge.  I have decided to let my hair go natural which is most likely... all white.  I have decided this because I have lost a lot of hair and it is a way to avoid all the chemicals of hair color.  It should be simple, but for me, it is a big change.  When I talked to my grandchildren about it, they told me "We cannot imagine you with white hair."  I told them "Neither can I."

Since I was a kid my hair has been dark brown. This is the image of me that countless mirrors in many parts of the world have reflected to me.  Over the years, I started to grow gray hair that came relatively early in my mid thirties.  I guess it was a family thing since I remember my mother and grandmother both with beautiful white hair.  But my grays had an easy fix.  A colorant, and my hair was like it always was before. Dark brown. That went on for a long time.

My "raccoon" self

Over the years, my hair would get thinner until I looked at myself in the mirror one day and thought "I need to put a stop to this."  The result is big white roots and the look of a real life raccoon.  I know, I could have my hair color stripped at the beauty salon but it means more chemicals and that was not acceptable to me.  So I keep it short, cut the dark tips and hope for the best.

Women have been coloring their hair for a long time.  Since Egyptian times there was evidence that they used hair colorant like Henna.  In old Egypt, women spent a great deal of time on elaborate coiffures and wigs;  over the years people wore their hair powdered, gray, propped, curled, long, tied, frizzy or wavy, treated; now we let hair fall mostly unnaturally with the help of many salon experts, products and many colors and additions to choose from.

Here in Colorado many men and women let theirs go gray naturally and the impact is lesser than going  suddenly white like mine.  I can imagine other people looking at me and wondering "What happened?" which brings me to the idea of self image.  I will have to get used to this new woman who will look back at me from the mirror and smile as if I should have known her all my life.  But no, she is new to me and will be new to many others.

How is the image we have of ourselves?  I have had skinny friends who see themselves as fat.  And fat ones who seem to think that they have a slim body.  We create an imaginary self not necessarily anchored in reality who says "hello" to others and walks the streets with us like our own double.

Many women do not like to have their photo taken.  The image they see on paper or on computers does not reflect the idea they have of themselves.  Faced with having to see an image they do not like, they stay far from the lens.

Celebrities like movie stars have a look that is often man-made and the image we see of them in films or on TV is not the one they have once the make up person is gone.  But we like their double and their image stays in our memory.  I have a tendency to imagine friends as they looked to me the last time I saw them, which is pretty far out and wrong.  Many I have not seen for a long time.  I imagine a full grown woman I knew as the lovely child she once was, and never got to rid my self of that image since we only e-mail now.  The same goes for many others that I knew in the past.
"How," I wonder "do they see themselves?"

I once was on the plaza of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico and saw a very old lady with jazzy boots and pink leggings, a belt with a riot of rhinestones and a top covered by a glorious design accented with gold and silver.  Her face was made up outrageously with blond hair cascading in curls over her shoulders.  Like a tragic-comic icon, the image stayed with me and I can see that she never accepted her age; her self image was that of a fantastic youth whose looks then beckoned others.

How do you see yourself?  Young, thin, fat, not so fat, hair unchanged even after years of living?  Good even if it is not how others see you?   Bad even if you look fine to your friends?

Do not worry.  Most people are too busy to care truly.  They see us through lenses of friendship or love (bless them) or through distracted lenses while they are busy thinking of something else.  We live at such a hurried pace, forever ahead of ourselves, or focused on children, TV, the phone or the computer; the next meeting, the next presentation, the visit in front of the boss, or what to shop for and cook for the family; we hardly remember the looks of others no matter the care they put into  their self image.  Yet the world seems to demand and market a great look.  Each company battles the other for our infatuation and loyalty.

After all, we dress and use makeup primarily for us.  Or so it should be.  Our length of hair, our haircut or its color should be of no great importance in a world that supposedly would keep its priorities on hearts and feelings, thoughts, discoveries, wisdom and its results.  But as long as our looks matter as greatly as they do in our world, we will keep on getting implants, operations, Botox injections, body enlargements or reductions, hair coloring and clothes to stay ahead of what is only -- a game; and at that, a game perpetuated by big business.

Now, I better go back and get used to that woman who is calling me in the mirror.  After all, she is the real me now.

Copyright 2011 Micheline Brierre
Edited by Barry Kaplan

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Our Choices

When I was very little, I knew I would be an artist.  I spent hours drawing and painting, I took classes with other famous artists, I believed I could do it. I had my first exhibit when I was sixteen. I am still an artist after so many years doing one of the things I know how to do well: art.

So these were my choices and every day I feel entranced with the joy of creating, of harboring new ideas, of dreaming about my art and never failing to visualize or to imagine -- a way to fill my consciousness and a gift I share with so many.

Life, I learned, is about making choices.  Some of our choices are conscious and some are not.  Some are made for us by others and we go along or we rebel.  Some choices are insinuated to us and we are in for the ride. Some choices we feel we have to do, whether by tradition or to please someone dear.  All of our choices have multiple consequences.  Not all are good and not are all bad.

First, it separates us.  Choosing a career, a job, a partner, a friend, or a lover is a great separator.  It dictates a course and no other.  It is like choosing a certain path and ignoring the other road.  A door opens and we walk through it while many possible others close along the way.  If I were an architect I would live my life with others in this field and envision new styles for homes or buildings, talk to contractors, investors or entrepreneurs and in no way would I live the life of a singer or an actor. The separation is obvious then.

Doing my art is great but as a consequence I work every day all by myself in my studio facing my beads, my pen or my colors. I have to travel to show my work, I work hard some times late into the night, but so many do.  No co worker. No one to talk to occasionally but my husband when I take a break.  My good friends are mostly artists, my husband is a photographer.  Walk into my house and the amount of original art, mine and from others, the yellow and purple walls, the red door, says right away that this is the house of an artist. I made a choice. These are some of the consequences.

We are aware of our path in life by the way it shapes our lives; restricts it or enhances it. Choosing and making decisions is the essence of living.

If we go to buy a shirt, so many are offered in multiple stores that choosing one becomes an exercise in decision.  I will take this one and no other.  But sometimes, we cannot choose.  We wander down the store and walk out with our hands empty.  No choice is a choice as well.  We spend all day making decisions about everything. Thankfully, our tastes and habits dictate many of our choices so they are made automatically. Sometimes.

Coffee in the morning or tea.  Eggs or toast.  Shower as we wake up or at night?  Pink lipstick or red one. Lunch out or at home. Afternoon at work or afternoon in front of the computer?  What to cook?  Do I choose to paint or to watch the latest movie?  Do I kiss him or not?  Do I discipline my kids or not?  So many choices.  Every day and all day.  How do we know which choice is the best?

I have taken the habit to listen to my intuition for everything.  It works.  Most of the time.  My husband's training was in engineering.  His mind functions in a radically different way.  He asks me how long do I cook this.  I tell him "Usually I know it is ready by the way it smells around the house."  It leaves him completely frustrated.  But my nose is as good as his timer.
I get a feeling to go shopping and lo and behold the pants I wanted are on sale.  He relies on the sales adds.  We approach life in a different way.  But who is to say that my way is THE way?

We all make choices according to our character and the consequences vary enormously. If I choose to paint my sky yellow on a new canvas, it is fine with me, but to the viewer it could be outrageous.  It gets to be complicated.  Our choices have different effects on others.  They could like them or hate them.  Most of our friends are people who support our choices and are themselves part of our path.
But once in a while, we meet someone so different, someone who walks a whole other way than ours and takes us to investigate their domain.  How fun to discover someone elses different choices and consider how, if we would have chosen them, our life would have unfolded? 
Sometimes we even move to someone elses territory and adopt the choices that they inspired us to make. 

Many people find that they have to make mid-life changes of careers to fit their personality better. They have evolved and need a new choice.  I know a man who used to be a great executive with a large company who now is a father-house- husband while his wife is a new teacher.  Another friend of mine used to be an artist and is now a physician assistant. Another switch and another choice.

If tomorrow you are conscious of all the choices you have to make, you can be more effective in making them, or you can simply smell the room and you will know when the chicken is ready ... that is my way.  Let your intuition guide your choices and have a good meal.  Or set your timer -- for many, it works just as well.

Copyright 2011 Micheline Brierre
Edited by Bary Kaplan

Monday, January 17, 2011

Love, our foundation

The stores have just barely finished selling Christmas stuff and already they are showing things in various shades of pink and mostly heart shapes, to remind us all that Valentine's day is coming.  So whether we recognize it or not, love is in the air and that makes me think of love's many meanings and the ways it insinuates itself in our lives.

Are we talking about the love we fell into not to ever come out again, or the love we fell into happy to emerge later on -- bruised and sore?  Are we talking of this deep connection we feel with others of either sex that bring them close to our hearts and precious to our lives?  Are we talking about the great, sudden infatuation that grabs us and invades our beings and dreams for awhile?  Are we talking about this life-lasting feeling, deep and sound, that bonds us to our mate and lives though hard and better times?  Well, the reasons are infinite, just as much as the feelings of what we all have experienced and stashed in a deep place of our memory.

Is is pink? Is is heart shaped?  These are the colors and forms a material society has placed on something indescribable and so vivid and true that we cannot think of life without the ones we really love.

In my case, my love takes on so many forms and colors, all part of me, like a magical rainbow over my head in the sky of my life.

I love my whole family and so many added family members, friends, things, my house, my art, my life, people I adopt here and there, old pets, and more remotely, the whole planet of people and our life on this earth.

How could I not love what is a part of me and responds to my whims and fuels my thoughts and actions?  What gives me life and inspiration everyday and propels me to grow and become a better me?  Or, so I hope.

Love is a weird feeling.  It invades our thoughts and minds in great secrecy at times and infiltrates itself to many parts of our beings and one day we are taken over, like by terrorists, and we succumb to our fate with a happy heart.  Sometimes it is a very confrontational issue.  It hits us over the head and we fall in its grabs with surprise and glee.

I remember when my grandchild was born ten years ago.  I was in the room as he appeared to this earth and I looked at his red, swollen face and loved him instantly.  I remember in Mexico totally in awe as I looked at my child, loving its very being and wondering how my husband and I could have created such wonder.

It took some days for love to brew as my actual hubby and I walked on the boardwalk in Miami, his first kiss left me breathless.  A love still lasting.  Add to that, countless beings that elicited love in its many shades and I know for sure that life is about loving and nothing could match love's fascination and intricacies.  And we must remember that our love of people in the past does not necessarily die, but goes to a quieter place.

We do not love because of fate or accidents, we love because we are essentially in need of love.  It makes us stronger and nobler -- real samurais of our passions.  Love, real love, is not a weak feeling; it fuels a huge desire for us to be the strong defender of our hearts and many have died because they have loved.

I guess I will look at all the hearts in the store with more empathy.  Gaudy, silly things as they are, they remind me of how empty my life would be without all of the ones I love.  Valentine's day is no more than a reminder; and our feelings of loving are kept safe in the vault of our consciousness, because we would not be here on earth, unless love (hopefully) had something to do with it.

Copyright 2011 Micheline Brierre
Edited by Barry Kaplan