The Humility of Insomnia

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa 0 comments
When people complained to me that they couldn't sleep, I said, "So, read a book or bake bread." Until the last couple of years when I began to experience occasional sleepless nights myself, I never realized how useless you are without sleep. You're just too tired to concentrate, but when you lie down in your bed, energy goes through you like fire ants. Anyone have any cures that are non-pharmaceutical?

Today I went to see Laura Linney in Time Stands Still, a fascinating play about a couple who are war photographers and how sharing those experiences brings them closer together and tears them apart. It's also wrestles with the question: Is it moral for a photographer to be snapping shots of people who are being massacred, set on fire, dying, instead of putting down your camera and trying to help them. As soon as the show was over, members of the audience started complaining, "That was depressing," "That was a downer." Why didn't they go see Lend Me a Tenor or La Cages aux Folles? This happens each time I see a serious play. Next time I'm bringing post-theater earplugs.


Autumn Pathways

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Autumn has arrived in the UK, with the leaves on the trees beginning to turn yellow and brown. It’s harvest festival time again and, this year, our local church is supporting the “Pathways” charity, which runs a day centre for homeless people living in B&B who have to be out of their accommodation during the day. The charity was set up by Terry Waite, whose book, “Taken on Trust” I reviewed on my “Librarything” widget some time ago. Here’s a link to their website:

Unfortunately, Blogger has changed the way I can upload photos – they have to be in “Picasa”. They already are, as they go into it each time I upload a picture onto my blog, but it still won’t let me do it. I’ve put posted a plea for help on the Blog Catalog “Blogger” group, and am hoping someone will see it and know what to do. I am sure other people will have had this problem and hopefully one of them will have worked it out. So far I have tried:

1. Uploading new pictures into Picasa, and adding tags and comments to help my blog find them. It couldn’t.

2. When this didn’t work, I tried the URL option and put the Picasa page’s URL into the Blogger upload pictures box. It didn’t recognise it.

3. “Disabling backlinks” on my blogger settings. Still no luck.

4. linking my Picasa web albums with my Google profile, as well as trying to make my albums publicly visible on Picasa. Nope.

5. Clicking the Picasa’s “share on Blogger button” simply put the picture into a new blank post, which I didn’t want to do, I wanted it in my existing post, to illustrate it.

6. I’d planned to formally join “Picasa” this morning, giving them any necessary details in case that was what the problem was, but it seems to recognise that it’s me and not need me to join.

I’ll keep having new ideas to try, and will let you know what the answer is if I find it. After all an art blog isn’t much good without pictures, is it? Perhaps Blog Catalog readers will be able to help, although the last time I posted a query, one person suggested I try Wordpress instead, and another just put a link to his own blog “kiss my links, it’s the real deal” (and it wasn't about using "Blogger").  Eventually I sorted it out myself. Readers, do feel free to add a “comment” to tell me what to do if you know.

At art group this week, I have been working on a watery Welsh scene of a bay close to where we stayed in the summer, on the coastline of the Cardigan area. I decided to try it in pencil only this time. I wanted to show the picture, but guess what!

I’d also wanted to show one of my web gallery artist’s paintings of the church this week. Sue no longer has the original painting, but can produce A5 greetings cards to order for £1.50 each (hopefully coming soon). Instead, I am featuring a link to “Paperworx” who produce some highly original recycled cardboard furniture. I’d hoped to include photos of some of these but e-mailed the artist and never heard back, and in a picture free week, this seemed to be a good one to include.

Circumstances forced a change of plans to the visit to the art shop, but I hope to visit soon. This week, I will be doing painting of a different kind, as we begin to decorate our house. I will be starting on the kitchen ceiling today, and resisting the urge to do a “Michelangelo” on it.

Last of the Summer Whine

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Autumn has once again arrived in the UK. Tescos have had their Christmas chocolates on display for over a month now and, at the cricket club, the art group have had to move the exhibition stands and other equipment from the outdoor container to the umpire’s room ready for winter. It didn’t take so long this time, so we must be getting better organised as time goes on. We also had the use of a wheelbarrow, and I jokingly asked Karen if she wanted a ride. If she had accepted, at our ages we would almost have looked like a female version of something out of “Last of the Summer Wine”.

Because I had to help move the equipment, I knew I wouldn’t have long to spend on painting. This week, therefore, seemed a good opportunity to do something simple and try out a “dippy” pen I was given for last year’s birthday. Pen and ink is not the most forgiving of media. Once you’ve made a line with ink, you are more or less stuck with it, but on the plus side, it does dry quickly. It seems to lend itself well to depicting buildings, perhaps because it is so precise.

Rufty Tufty first go ...

The nib was rather thick, and perhaps that’s why the ink seemed to run out too quickly for my liking. Once I got bored of it, I changed to a roller ball-type pen I had with me. This worked well, and although I wasn’t particularly pleased with my rough first effort, a second go at home that evening proved much more satisfactory.
...and much slicker finished version

This week, I am hoping to take some of my work to a shop in a nearby town to see if they will accept it for display, so “give me covering fire”, as they used to say in the westerns.

The Rapture of Being a Noticer

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Went to see Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession, at the Roundabout Theater. I was blown away by the sets, the acting, especially Cherry Jones' rendition of Mrs. Warren. But during intermission while I was on line at the Ladies', I saw another show just as memorable. A tall, bony, older women with orthopedic sandals (I wear them, too), and a large, chisel-cut nose, was at the sink, looking in the mirror. She took the hairpins out of her white hair. It hair fell down to her mid-back. When she combed it, I could swear I saw tiny stars glinting in its sheen. As continued to comb her hair, her body swayed gracefully forward and back. She was unaware of me watching her private ritual, but I couldn't have looked away. She was a young woman again, perhaps imagining herself getting ready to see her fiance. Finally, she wound her hair back into a topknot, pinned it with the long bobby pins I hadn't seen since my grandmother died, and returned to her public self, an gaunt older woman with a chiseled face and an overly bright green jacket and orthopedic shoes.



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Tiger Rising, by Kate DiCamillo, (Candlewick Press) a children's book, is top-notch to read if you want to learn about layering, that is, having elements that weave through the story, giving it depth. See how she uses Blake's Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright to enhance the magic of this story about a boy who was whalloped by his father for crying at his mother's funeral, the grief that he kept in unopened suitcases of the mind, causing a rash so severe on his legs that the principal barred him from school. Read how this boy, with the help of a girl named Sistine, as in the Sistine Chapel, heals his heart through friendship and love.



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This week, I have been using a wooden figure to practice drawing people – I am not going to actually show you the pictures I produced, as I have two much better ones. These are Elizabeth’s – first “The Folly, Lake Garda”, and a Venice scene, Elizabeth’s most recent completed painting. She also painted something fairly similar for a neighbour earlier this year. Both paintings will be on sale for about £45 on the main gallery site (link above) within the coming week.

At our last meeting, we were expecting a visit from a man who we hoped would help our group financially. Our supermarket has a “community champion” whose role is to help community groups like ours, although they favour anything involving children or young people, and sadly none of us will see 40 again.  I had given him directions, told the others he was coming, and generally prepared as well as I could for the visit. We all had a discussion about what we needed while we waited for him to arrive, but hopes gradually faded as the time passed – he never quite arrived. Shame.  Maggie was also absent as she was unwell, and I had taken her a large bag of toys for her granddaughter (which my son had grown out of but were not in good enough nick to put on e-bay). “She’s got a Ninky Nonk but no Tombliboos” I said, to which Elizabeth responded with mock horror “I beg your pardon!” “You have to buy them separately”, I explained. Those names are just too risqué sounding to buy more than one at a time.

Meanwhile, Kevin was working on the second of a triple canvas featuring meerkats. The first had a single, upright kat facing in one direction, the second the other way, and the third will be facing forward flanked by two youngsters. I wondered if they are known as meerkittens, but apparently they are “pups”.

All for now


This recipe and the Ostriker poem was sent to me by my friend, Kim Ballerini, for Rosh Hashonnah. Enjoy with me:

Pot Roast Brisket for slow cooker

3-4 lb beef brisket
2-3 Tbs flour1
2 Tbs herbs de Provence4-
5 carrots cut into circles2 big onions sliced1
14 ounce can of beef broth or beef stock
1 cup luscious red wine (optional) but it is a great option2
2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves of sliced garlic
Salt and Pepper

Put flour, herbs, and salt and pepper in a large bowl or large Ziploc bag. Toss brisket in flour mixture and then place it in the slow cooker. If there is flour left over pour it over the meat. Layer the carrots and onions on the top. Add the beef broth and optional red wine and and cook on high for approximately 4 1/2 to 5 hours. Do not add potatoes--it just muddies it and I have no idea what those brussel sprouts were about—say no to such things. Let the ingredients be what they are. Serve the meat and sauce over "No Yolks" brand dumplings. They are in a clear bag and look like noodles but they call them dumplings. I don't know why. Serve the food and let the wine flow in deep red jewelled bliss. And all is well.

When I was an art major in college, the head of the department made it seem that there were a few annointed souls who would become artists and the rest of us could forget it. True, one of their choices did show at the Whitney Biennial and has a lot of success, but the rest of us found our way as well. I became a writer; a friend a caligrapher, someone else a sculptor who teaches at a fine university, etc. So if you're creative, never let anyone tell you that you won't find your way to express it in the world.

My friend, Cara, a psychotherapist, is taking up acting in her middle years. She's already landed a few things and here she is in a pilot for the Discovery Channel...hold your a therapist running a support group for people who believe they have been abducted by aliens.


Art In Unexpected Places # 2 Vicar Water

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Vicar Water sign showing the carved wooden face at the bottom
The week before last found me in the Nottinghamshire village of Clipstone at a place called “Vicar Water”. My better half wanted to visit “Clippo” again as it had been about 30 years since he’d been.

Looking down towards the golden hand sign
We arrived to find that a visitor centre had sprung up, plus a café and a large information sign in the car park (with a wooden sculpture incorporated into it). There are two large ponds on the site, with a stream running between them. It had been a quiet place when my BH last went there, but we could see a man with a remote control boat on the upper pond and other people walking around it. At the top end, sheep dozed under large, well established willow trees, none of which had been there three decades ago.
A rosehip flower

Clipstone headstocks - a suitable subject for a painting?
On top of a small hill between the pond and lake, we had a view of the unusual double headstocks from the coal mine that used to be there. There have been calls for them to be preserved, but demolition looks more likely because of the cost, and because there are already so many mining museums. In front of the headstocks you can see heather, which is usually seen in Scotland, but we are over 200 miles south of there. There were rosehip bushes – here is a “rose” and the berries are up to 2cm (1”) wide and flatter than they are long. Nearby were also some unusual black sheep and black reeds. Following a path down, led to the a lake, with a large golden hand sculpture at the far end. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find out anything about it so far.

Here is a link for Vicar Water:

Meanwhile at art group, I have been trying to decide on a suitable photo from Sue’s CD of the wildlife park trip. She herself has painted a Meerkat picture recently, and Kevin was completing one of them himself. I suggested we try them as a group project then we could “compare the meerkats” (stifle that groan). Karen was darkening the background on her small bird picture – possibly a greenfinch, and Madge had shelved her lions for the time being in favour of a waterfall. Elizabeth, our camel expert,  was complaining that her latest camel looked like a dinosaur (it didn't).

This week’s painting is a fantasy based on an icy seascape – just as a practice go. Some people like it when I try a looser style like this, while others prefer a more structured approach.

Our little one is at his grandparents’ for the weekend and we are getting reports that he is quite advanced in his drawing.  His nanna does voluntary work in a school, so she should know.

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