art, writing, aikido and the universe


February 2014

New York City

This weekend I drove straight from work in suburban Maryland to New York City.  I spent most of my life in NY and it still feels like coming home when I spend time there.  And as usual, NY had many lessons in creativity and process.


(“New York, just like I pictured it….”, Stevie Wonder)

The first stop was my friends, Imrana and Wick.  They have a lovely house on Staten Island and by the time I got there, I was exhausted and hungry.  Imrana instantly brought out food and served me dinner.  Her cooking is an exquisite blend of nouvelle cuisine, health food style.  Much of the food comes from a food co-op or she grows herself.  I relaxed in that very familiar house and felt comforted.  Then we sat in the living room and I patted Luna,her elderly dog, while we talked.  I slept better than I have in weeks.

I woke up shortly after sunrise.  The house was quiet, the quiet of sleeping humans.  I showered and got myself some hot water, my favorite drink.  Then I wandered around the house smiling at the comfort I felt in familiar surroundings and marveling as always at Imrana’s and Wick’s artistry in creating a home.  Wick is a builder by trade (and a musician by choice) and he rebuilt much of the house.  Imrana sanded wood and painted the walls.  She sewed couch and chair covers, curtains, pillows and various other oddments, including cylindrical bolsters to quite effectively block the drafts coming in from the outside in the old house. The kitchen is lovely.  Just the right size to be cozy, but bit enough to have two people cooking and one other person (me) sitting on a stool.  Wick put in lovely wood cabinets, some with glass fronts, a stone counter top. There is a huge 6 burner gas stove.  The windows look out onto trees and an expanse of their neighbor’s lawn (It is, after all, in a city, so of course there are other houses relatively nearby.)IMG_2325 IMG_2330 IMG_2344

Gradually the household woke up.  We did yoga together and took the dog for a walk in lovely Snug Harbor.  When we came back Zara and William, daughter and beau, were awake and starting to forage for food in the kitchen.

I said my goodbyes and rode into “the city” as Manhattan is often called.  I then spent 4 glorious hours studying tantojujitsu with Salahuddin Muh’min Mohammed, a knowledgeable practioner from Philedelphia who was brought in by Eizan Ryu jujitsu, my old dojo. (both S.M.Mohammed and Eizan Ryu can be found on Facebook and YouTube) I saw friends.  I threw friends down boom.  They threw me down boom. I made new friends and we threw each other down boom. Life was very good.

By the end of the seminar, my son Jack had arrived and was watching the class.  We rode together to Briarwood, Queens to meet my older son, Ian.  Reunited, we walked to a local Indian restaurant.  Two musicians were playing, a tabla-ist and an organist (the small organs that are operated by playing the keys with one hand and moving the bellows with the other hand).  The music was lovely and I particularly love tabla with its complex rhythms.  We chatted and ate, as the waitress, with motherly intent, extorted my sons to eat more.  It was a delightful experience.  We plotted the overthrow of the current Democratic congresswoman.

Have I mentioned my son is running for Congress? (see Ian Hamilton for Congress, either his website, Facebook, or Twitter)

The next morning Jack and I strolled out for coffee and a brief, but satisfying skateboard lesson.  I do want to learn skateboard, particularly after seeing a great YouTube video of skateboard tricks on New York rooftops (kids, don’t try this at home).

Jack and I kissed goodbye as he went off to practice tai chi in Chinatown.  Ian woke up and we drank more coffee.  We strategized on mobilizing his neighbors and getting out votes.  We ate Jamaican meat patties and Egyptian pita sandwiches.  Ian taught me some salsa.

Finally, it was time to kiss Ian goodbye and head back south to Baltimore, husband and cat.  At a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, I met Heather Johnson on her Triumph Tiger motorcycle.  I admired her motorcycle since I rode motorcycles for about 14 years and was thinking of getting another one.  Heather was heading to Mexico and blogging too. Check out her blog – it’s lots of fun.  She’s a visual artist who works in whatever is handy, embroidery to photographs and lots in between.  The blog is “in search of the frightening and beautiful.”IMG_20140223_155111777_HDR

My New York trip seemed like a compressed lesson in the many forms of the muse, the many ways that creativity seeps, spurts, erupts in us.  From Imrana’s and Wick’s singular house to Muhammed’s exhortion to “be creative,” to find what feels best in martial arts.  From salsa and skateboard and tai chi to political solutions and machinations.  From the stately art deco Empire State Building to the adventure of a woman, a motorcycle and a road to Mexico. From here……………………………………………………………………………to there.



We sleep

Arranged in bed

From east to west

Door to window



And cat

A comma at the end of our bed.


Finally, got a few nights of good sleep and feel less scattered energy and ready to play at writing and other planned projects, like hemming my pants, which is necessary and oddly soothing.  Sewing always reminds me of my mother, who taught me to use the sewing machine at a young age, although she was afraid to teach me cooking because of the hot stove.  Sewing also reminds me of Nonne, my grandmother, who taught me how to sew buttons back on.  We sat at the card table in the dining room, right next to the window overlooking the onion-domed Eastern Orthodox Church.  I miss them both, although it almost seems silly since Nonne, born in 1890, would be 123 years old today.

Lately, I am thinking about the people I have lost.  A good friend just died.  She was only ten years older than me, young still.  Annemarie Kreybig Manning was a fabulous artist, a natural painter, whereas I only succeed at my craft through hard work.  Of course she worked hard too.  Annemarie was an inspiration, with her large canvases.  I still have a sketch she gave me of trees blown by wind.  I can hear the wind.


Snow.  It started late last night and continued ’til midday, piling up on streets, steps, trees, cars, and rooftops, bringing with it peaceful silence and a day of rest for many of us.  In the morning I shoveled all 14 feet of my sidewalk.  There is something nice about a narrow house on days like this!  Then I shoveled many of my neighbors’ sidewalks and steps since they also have about 14 feet and it just makes it too easy to do something nice for someone else.  Time to dig out the car.  Fortunately the snow was light and fluffy at this time and I was able to brush it off my car, all except the center of the top, since I am only 5 feet one inch and I couldn’t reach.  Neighbor John came by and offered to help me continue to dig out.  Then he noted that my car had a mohawk!  After he went on his way,  couldn’t resist making a face from the snow that I had piled up next to my car.  The face looks sort of like the father of my children without his glasses, when he was young and had a beard.  Okay, so a little more bug-eyed, but hey, we were sometimes like that.

Then I wandered back home and started making a snowman.  At least, I started with the idea of making a snowman.  Then it evolved into a snow-woman, an old snow woman with curly hair, long ears and a wide smile.  I was thinking of my wonderful grandmother, Nonne, and my mother who would be old now if she had lived, and my mother-in-law, Jane, down in Florida.  My heart ached.

Jamie from next door came out and happily, we had a snowball fight.  Haven’t done that since my kids were little.  She told me of a great idea she read about: Fill water ballons with water, add food coloring, and place outside.  Once they freeze, cut the ballon off and and you have colored balls of ice.  I hope to try it this winter, but right now I don’t have any food coloring in the house.  Time to get some anyway – Easter is on its way.  I might color eggs with my students.  It would be a nice treat when they walk in to see me.

Oh – I’m a speech-language pathologist by trade, which involves its own type of creativity and is lots of fun, at least when I’m in a well functioning school.  Thankfully, this school year has been the best in many years, to a great extent because I have marvelous principals.  Principals set the tone for their schools and a good one is worth his or her weight in gold.  I’m in two different middle schools and enjoying both of them.  For many years I worked in elementary schools but this has been a great change.  As one teacher put it, “Who needs T.V. when you have middle schoolers.”

After spending some time warming up inside, I wandered around the neighborhood with my friend, Barbara N.  We saw beautiful families and friends playing in the snow and some very artistic versions of snowmen.  One fellow, Brad, had potter’s tools that he was using to carve a face on his snowman.  He didn’t know what they really were, but somehow had them around.  He was also using a scraper that he had bought from the hardware store.  He also wasn’t quite sure what it was for, but bought it because he thought he might have a use for it one day.  When I asked if he was an artist he replied, “Oh no, it’s just something to do.  I got bored of watching T.V. indoors.”  In ‘real life’ he teaches business at Towson University.  Well, my friend, an artist is someone who does art ergo…

The muse goes where it wants.  It perches on our shoulders at the most unexpected times.  Sit awhile, have an unexpected lull in your life,ImageImageImageImage and it may snake its way between your legs like a cat or hit you over the head like a mugger.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

First steps

Hi.  Anyone out there?  I just started this new post, moving quickly from confirmed Luddite to TECHNOBARBIE.  And here we go….yo oh!

I hope to write here consistently at least once a week.  Posts will be an amalgamation of whatever is in my brain at the moment, but generally about the creative process. They will probably include photos, artwork by myself, family and friends, and quotes and references from whatever I’m reading at the moment. Having just broken through a 2 year artist’s block which I thought would never end, I am relieved to have an explosion of ideas.  What helped me break the block?  It was a combination of caring family and friends, a new job which I like and can feel good about, and a change in my outlook on life due to these.

Creativity for me has always been about the process of creating; the product, whether painting, pottery, story or song is almost an afterthought.  If it happens to be good or beautiful, so much the better.  And I get great satisfaction from looking back at the work I have done that I feel proud of.  Of course there is much that is not good and tossed in the garbage.  About 90%, I’d say.  Some of this doesn’t actually get thrown out because there is something I like in it that I want to use for further exploration later on.

Most importantly, I view creativity as a way of self-discovery and a way to ultimately transform myself and this world into what I wish it to be.IMG_2163

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