Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Gift

For years I have been dazzled by skies at sunset. I study the time in the evening when the sun is disappearing and daylight fades.

Afterward, stars begin lighting up the heavens. On a clear night far from city lights the vault of the celestial sphere can take ones breath away. Have you seen the milky away in all its splendor? And then witness shooting stars?

But sunsets are the phenomenon I get the most pleasure from above the horizon. Here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA the elevation is 7200 feet (2200 meters) above sea level. The conditions are such that many evenings provide dazzling sunset spectacles. And each one is different than those before or after.

Recently I went to a friend's home and after dinner we walked. As the afternoon reached toward evening, we climbed a hill and sat waiting for the sunset show to begin. There were sufficient clouds to dazzle the western sky with colorful refractions and shifting forms. We could not take our eyes from the unfolding drama. I snapped some pictures as I often do during these events.

A few days later I made a painting to celebrate and commemorate the gift that The Creator gave that evening.

Amalia Sunset, oil on board, 10 x 10 inches
Click for more Steven Boone art.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Something Special

It is alarming that people don’t read books much anymore—especially young people. “A number of recent studies have demonstrated that fiction — particularly literary fiction — seems to boost the quality of empathy in the people who read it, their ability to see the world from another person's eyes. And good works of literature, particularly novels, can grant you direct access to another person's mind — whether it be the mind of the author, or of one of their imagined characters — in a way that few other works of art can.
So if we're reading less literature, it stands to reason that we may be becoming a less empathetic country as a result (research tends to bear this out). If changing reading habits are indeed making us less able to see things from other people's points of view, that could have drastic consequences across the board." See this great article from the Washington Post: The Long, Steady Decline of Literary Reading

I remember in first grade, learning how to read. We practiced making vowel and consonant sounds, and read from a primer about children; Dick and Jane and their dog Spot.

Later, when my grandmother, (my father’s mother) visited, I would sit on her lap in a big comfortable armchair and read aloud my favorite book, Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. She lovingly and patiently helped me pronounce and understand words as I spoke them.

In high school I read avidly. My favorite class was called World Literature. We read masterworks, and I particularly recall Franz Kafka’s, The Metamorphosis. It is about one man’s dreary existence turning into madness. (One day, Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman, wakes up to find himself transformed into a giant insect . . . )

Before finishing secondary school I had read many novels, including great Russian masterpieces War and Peace, and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, as well as the American collection of poems Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman and more.

In adult life I have particularly enjoyed biographies, holy books, and treatise on psychology.

Shakespeare’s plays have had a profound effect on me.

I hope the libraries across our land stay vital in the face of video gaming and social media . . .
There is something special about going at one’s own pace with good literature in hand.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

One Teardrop

Last night as I was meditating before bed, something unusual happened.

I am in Denver, Colorado for an art show. My hotel is quite comfortable and a block away from the festival grounds. Sitting on a couch in a dark room, I had been quieting my mind but had been thinking of various situations present in my life. One in particular has occupied my thoughts—the extreme conditions of an Egyptian family I am friends with. (See: Inshallah)

Strangely, as I sat still and upright, a teardrop formed in my right eye. Slowly my eye brimmed and the drop flowed down my cheek. I wondered where it came from.


Retracing my thoughts, I realized I had remembered Amira, the oldest daughter of Hagag. I had worked hard to collect some money for her college, which is an impossible dream for any of the five children. Amira, eighteen, is a pure soul, shy yet intelligent and strong.

The family has many pressing needs. It has been decided to use any money to help her mother with urgent eye surgery. The first installment of funds has been delivered. The family will be relieved that Edleah will have her eyesight protected. But I know too that Amira sleeps on the hard earth at the feet of her brothers and sister every night.

The tear that fell down my face was her tear, the one she would never show her family.






Sunday, May 20, 2018

Inshallah


“Inshallah.” This is what Amira said the last time I spoke with her and asked if she wanted to go to college. Her father, my friend Hagag, had handed her the telephone. I sensed that she deeply would like to go on with higher education, but is also aware of her family’s needs. They share a difficult life in Luxor, Egypt with deep bonds of love.

Inshallah means “God willing” or “if God wills it.” It is an Arabic language expression. When I am in Egypt I hear it used frequently, and also, alhamd lilah which means “thanks be to God.”

With the help of a GoFundMe campaign, I have raised money for Amira to go to college. Perhaps it was simpleminded of me to offer to help in this way without consulting in depth with Hagag. The family has so many pressing needs. The oldest son had to go into the army after graduation since no money existed for college. He is out now, after serving two years. There are four other children. Amira, the oldest daughter, is about to take college qualifying exams.


Iyah, the youngest daughter, Edleah and Amira
Hagag has a spinal disk problem and needs surgery. He is almost disabled and has trouble doing work on his tiny plot of land along the Nile River. Edleah, the mother, has eye problems. Add to this that the refrigerator is broken and they have no money to fix it or buy a new one. The entire family lives on about two dollars a day—yet if you were to arrive at their home they would welcome you to sit and serve you tea with the utmost kindness.
The last several times I have spoken with Hagag about money and college for Amira, he has sounded unhappy. “Edleah needs eye surgery. The doctor said it is very important.”

I have a new friend, Hazem, who is Egyptian and speaks fluent English. He has a daughter attending college in the USA. We have not met personally, but were introduced through someone I know in Santa Fe. I needed someone who speaks Arabic to talk more in depth with Hagag. Hazem has now personally met Hagag and the family. He reports that Hagag insists that the most pressing emergency is saving the mother’s eyesight.



Edleah and the youngest child, Bilal   (December 2017)




Look how much clearer Bilal's eyes are . . .

I have prayed about what to do. The surgery is a little more expensive than the year of college. But I also learned that college is not as expensive as thought. Public institutions are quite cheap. It is the room and board that adds up—but that can be alleviated by sharing.

At this point, it is me saying inshallah . . .


Sunday, May 13, 2018

It Is Your Birthday!

I was fifteen, playing basketball after school on a springtime afternoon with friends at our local playground. Suddenly, my distraught mother showed up on the other side of the tall chain link fence. “Steven, Steven! It is your birthday! We forgot!” Indeed, even I had not noticed.

Today is my birthday. I am 66. At this age, I am sometimes amazed I am on earth and not somewhere else. There have been a few close calls with death, yet I escaped.

I had a dream once about leaving the planet for other realms. It was not long after my young daughter Naomi departed this life. I had sometimes taken to sleeping in her bed where she died. One night I dreamt this: I was outdoors on a wooded hillside. I looked down below to a small village. Suddenly I was there—standing on a street amidst a festival. People were walking about and I found myself holding hands with a little girl. Then she was gone. I saw a moving carousel and hopped on as it circled in place. The landscape swept by. As I stood rotating, a doorway appeared in front of me. I realized that I could get off the merry-go-round and into another world if I threw myself forward. The opportunity would not come again so I made the choice to jump. Immediately, as I hurled forward, I heard a voice in my left ear: “First you must do something more if you wish to pass beyond the door!” That same moment, I bolted upright in bed and struck my head against the rough plaster wall. I woke, bleeding from a gash on my forehead.

And so I stay active and alive on this merry-go-round earth revolving each day while it travels around the sun.


Sunday, May 06, 2018

Sunday Times


Both my parents were avid consumers of information. My mother, a speed reader, read five library books a week for decades. When she was too frail to go to the library, her neighbor would take a sack of books to return and then deliver fresh ones to her. She read everything from physics to history to pulp fiction. Her mind was an encyclopedia. She did not need to leave the charms of her home, with its big trees and garden, to see the outer world. Books brought her adventures.


My father was engaged all his adult life with social matters and remaking America into a fairer and more just society. No wonder then that every day three newspapers arrived at my parents home in Santa Barbara, California: The New York times, the Santa Barbara News-Press, and the Los Angeles Times. When he passed away, his obituary and an article appeared in the same papers. (See my blog, I Always Loved Him)

I inherited some of my parents intellectualism. I am an artist, a designer, photographer, business owner, writer and world traveller. When I am at home I have a weekly ritual of going on Sunday morning to a well known local coffee bar and newsstand, called The Downtown Subscription. I buy a pastry, cup of coffee and the New York Times. Then I sit by myself and enjoy the ambience of art exhibits on the walls, music, and conversation all around. The Sunday paper is thick and full of timely and interesting content. I take it home and read it thoroughly, taking a week to finish—in time for another.

Eleven years ago I wrote a similar piece about going for the Sunday paper: (See- Sunday Times and Dried Leaves)

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Trove Of Art

I packed over twenty five paintings and took along a portfolio of hand made prints to make the one day drive from Santa Fe to Oklahoma City. The Arts Council here sponsors a six day event with a trove of art and artists, music, and food. The hours manning my booth are long and sometimes the people become a blur, but I am thanked often for showing up to share my art.

Two of the first buyers came back the next day to add to their Boone collection . . .


This is the last day and when the show ends at 6 PM, I must pack my art back into the van and begin driving home.

I have made enough sales that the time has been worthwhile. Also, I brought along my field easel and art supplies and made a few paintings. One of these I sold while it was still wet.


The photos included here are of some collectors who bought my work at the show.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Kindness Towards The Outside World

Have you ever heard of the phrase, random act of kindness? According to Wikipedia, the free online dictionary, it describes "a non-premeditated, inconsistent action designed to offer kindness towards the outside world.

Almost exactly eleven years ago, I was on the receiving end of such kindness and it is as fresh today as it was when it occurred. That is the nature of such deeds; to remain always young, vibrant, and with everlasting fragrance.  

I was visiting a friend in Rutigliano, a village in the Puglia region of southern Italy. I wrote about the episode, and here it is again: 

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11, 2007

Sometimes while I am outdoors painting, my activity arouses people’s curiosity. In the old quarter of Rutigliano, in a neighborhood of stone streets so small cars cannot enter, I set up my easel and painted. A dozen or so curious people at various times arrived at my side to look. Youngsters especially were unafraid to approach. An old, slow moving, toothless fellow came along and took a pleasurable interest. He spoke but I could not understand, so I said in Italian, “I am an American artist, and can speak a little Italian, but not very well.” Turning to go, he halted and speaking in Italian, asked if I wanted a cigarette. After he was gone, I returned to my painting, and a few moments later he re-appeared and asked if I would like it if he brought some coffee. I said, “yes,” then he disappeared around the corner and five minutes later brought me espresso. For his random act of kindness, I thanked him profusely. He vanished again and I painted in earnest because the sun was moving across the afternoon sky causing the light and shadows to rapidly change so that my subject looked different with each passing moment. Twenty minutes later the fellow came again and strolled up, holding a plastic bag in his wrinkled hand. He opened and held it out, and I saw a pair of used, but nice, Italian leather shoes. Momentarily confused, I wondered what he was doing. The shoes looked about my size, and he pointed to my feet and then put the bag in my hand. Looking up into my face with a smile, he said something. I leaned over and kissed his whiskered cheek, then he shuffled away.

The original from 2007: Random Acts Of Kindness

Sunday, April 08, 2018

True Wisdom

The greatest thing you can do to cultivate true wisdom is to practice the consciousness of the world as a dream.  -Paramahansa Yogananda

In 2008 while I was traveling for one year around the world, life became THE DREAM. It was a subtle shift in my consciousness. As I relaxed into my new role of adventurer and observer, I realized how fluid life is—and how obstinately hard my consciousness had become with years of built up mental formulations. I determined to let go and be in flux. I shook off notions of nationality, race, wealth—all the usual prejudices that are obstacles to oneness. The more I let go, the more I realized the world is phenomenal, fluid—and ever shifting sands.

If the sound of waves outside my door kept me from falling asleep, I laughed at how accustomed I had become to silence at bedtime. If I found myself in a crowd of strangers in Africa, and I was the only white person, I delighted how the kaleidoscope of human colors before my eyes shifted radically to ebony. Deep in the blackness I went "clubbing" with new acquaintances in Nairobi; dancing all night. Some people must have thought they were dreaming to see me, just as I knew I was in THE DREAM experiencing the night, the African milieu, music and being lost in it.

In Rome, I missed a long distance flight because I was confused by the 24 hour clock. My plane was scheduled to leave at 01:30. I arrived just after noon, and at the ticket counter was told the flight had left 12 hours earlier at 1:30 AM. I was shocked and breathless for a few moments, but realized how THE DREAM had unfolded with a major surprise. I became observer and even laughed at how I stumbled and hurt myself.

During youth, occasionally my young mind would wander into zones that made me question “reality.” Then youthful angst would set in, and fear of being mentally ill would arrive. After all, aren’t we supposed to be on firm footing in the world, knowing from where we come and where we are going?

When, in the spring of 1997, I found myself in a cancer clinic with my oldest daughter, Naomi, who was seventeen, the surroundings seemed foreign, nightmarish. We did not belong there and I was confused. After waiting, a doctor came to us and announced with considerable concern that Naomi had a very large tumor in her hip and it was malignant. The cancer most likely had spread to her lungs and maybe brain. I sensed being in a dream. Reality had shifted so radically that I clearly perceived we were in an unreal world because in essence, we were okay, safe, protected in SPIRIT; even eternal. But death was all over us. What was real?
Six years previous to that episode, while on a family vacation in Oregon, I had a powerful dream that shook me to the core. When I woke I was devastated. The vision was full of mesmerizing and beautiful imagery, spiritual throughout, but I woke with a start when an arrow, sent by a spirit being, pierced the heart of a child next to me. The imagery and symbolism had been profoundly spiritual up to that point. What had happened?
The day at the cancer clinic, standing next to my child when the doctor gave his report I felt an arrow pierce my heart. How are the worlds bound together? What is “reality”? (For more about Naomi and I on our spiritual journey, see my award -winning book A Heart Traced In Sand)


After my extensive traveling I retained a sense of THE DREAM but it tapered off. Perhaps I needed flux. I needed uncertainty, mystery, enough constant change to keep me off balance. I began missing it enough that I have tried to cultivate the sense permanently.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

With Fresh Eyes


Often it happens that after I have spent hours in an art museum, when I come out onto the street, I see life differently—as if everything before my eyes is a painting. This effect lasts intensely for a few minutes and then wears off. But for those first moments, I am in an entrancing altered consciousness and seeing with new eyes.



(The above two images are an example. The image on the right is by famed French expressionist Jean Dubuffet. His work is in museums around the globe. The image to the left is a photo I took on a street in Granada, Spain.)


Viewing abstract non-objective art is so abstrusely personal it can seem to be anything in ones mind’s eye. Later, with an opened imagination out on the street, cracks in the pavement or ripped posters or the blur of traffic becomes art; because that is the way we have been thinking and experiencing visually. It has happened to me many times.

The image on the left below is torn poster paper I spotted on a street in Amsterdam, Holland. The image on the right is a large painting by the famous American abstract expressionist painter, Franz Kline.


Sometimes photography and art are closely related. A giant of twentieth century photography, Man Ray is on the left, (below). Henri Matisse's work, is on the right. He also worked in Paris at the same time, but is known for his drawings and paintings.


I love art! It expands my vision and creates new ways for me to see the world—with fresh eyes.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Unraveling Mysteries

After almost 600 posts spanning a decade, occasionally I find myself without a topic to write about. I could go to my poems or myriad journal entries from years past. But with a vast archive of photos, occasionally I select a couple and let them speak. After all, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

I was searching through my photo files the other day and found these two from Paris that I pulled out to take a closer a look.


This is me, doing my "street photography". I am looking into the picture window of an art gallery. On view is a bold, colorful painting of a building with tower and windows. Reflected over the art is the street where I stand. Cars, and stone facades of residences are set at an oblique angle to the building in the painting. My reflection seems to melt into the scene. Appropriate! When I am in "the zone", doing my street photos, I disappear into my surroundings.



I think I was at Musée d'Orsay when I took this "picture within a picture". 
It works on various levels. First is the masterpiece of art; a painting in classic style, skillfully depicting an unfolding drama of momentous proportions. A mother and her child are succumbing to cold in a frozen landscape. Franciscan brothers have come to their aid and are trying to resuscitate them—just as an avalanche strikes close behind. In front of the painting, a couple hold one another and look. The artwork has moved them to intimacy as they share in unraveling its mysteries.