Friday, December 29, 2006

Deep and Silent Snow

Deep and silent snow covers everything. It fell all last night and most of today. Many offices and businesses closed due to the weather. I like it! It is beautiful how the extreme conditions cause life to slow almost to a standstill. Driving is risky, and about as fast as walking. I took pictures from my truck.
I am working on myself this way: to accept what comes to me and always be content. Happiness is within, no matter what life looks like outside. My dear Naomi said, "Show up and be lovingly present, no matter what it looks like out there or inside yourself. Always speak the truth of your heart."
To learn more of Naomi's life, read my book, A Heart Traced in Sand

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blessings To You

This Christmas has been simpler, less cluttered and more peaceful. I made a charitable contribution that replaced most of my usual gift giving to family. On the 25th, I arrived at my old home around noon and exchanged presents with Jean and Sarah. It was unhurried and thoughtful. Later, we visited the neighbors for a celebratory gathering, then went for a walk in the snow covered fields as the sun set. Christmas dinner followed with just the three of us in good humor. I left around 8:30 PM. A nice day.
The painting I have been working on is done, and I’ve already received compliments. The colors are vivid, and it is a strong contrast: the setting sun in the fiery sky, above cold, snow covered forested plains.
For you who might read this, I pray for your well being and happiness. May your coming days be light filled and wonderful. Blessings to you.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Snow

The snow is piling up, and I feel joyful. The driving is hazardous and slow, as snow keeps falling and visibility is bad. But it is so good! I had fun driving around, taking pictures through my front windshield while the defroster melted and dripped the snow on the pane.
In my studio, I am painting a big sunset, 52” x 66”. It is exciting to work with colors that are intense and fiery, especially when it is cold and gray outdoors.
Here is a picture I took from my truck, late in the day. It gives me ideas for a painting.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Prisoner or King

The computer world swallowed me whole this week. My photography and digital images have taken several big steps forward, especially online. 
It seems there is a strong consensus among close friends and acquaintances that when I go to Europe in March, I might as well stay three months. So this is what I am planning. I have contacts in Paris, London, Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam and Venice. Certainly, I will begin in Sicily for a month. I am tempted to be a vagabond, blown by capricious winds, at least for part of the time.
On a personal level, I am further exploring the power, beauty and grace that live within, and letting go of expectations for happiness outside. I feel a fullness that is self-sufficient. The ever-present joy in my heart is always close. I can be equally happy a prisoner or king.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Human Form in Movement

It's that time of year, and as in the past the home will be decorated with fresh cut sprigs from mountain trees. Jean and I will trudge into the snow covered hills and clip branches to spruce up the house with holiday cheer. Maybe there will be enough left over to put some up around my house.
Lately, I have been listening to audio books while driving or in my studio. Currently I am enjoying a fine reading of Madame Bovary first published in 1856 by the French author Gustave Flaubert. It seems it caused a scandal then.

Recent days have been spent working my digital images. It is really fascinating to layer photos together and work with light. My current subject is the human form in movement. Steven Boone digital work can be seen now on Flickr

Saturday, December 09, 2006

True Spirit

This year, instead of hours spent shopping, a charitable donation will be made in the name of my relations. Christmas is way overdone . . . and much of the true spirit has been lost. People camp out in the cold in front of retail stores to be the first ones in the door. If you look at the life of Jesus, his offerings were not material ones. Furthermore, he did not need or want gifts, except those of the Spirit.
I like my little house except that it is cold and I can’t get warm. Occasionally, I get a feeling of being punished living alone. I am aware of being circumscribed, like a prisoner. The funny thing is, I can feel like a prisoner even when I am in a group, and at times felt that way at home with Jean. Maybe it is my curse. I never feel that way while I am doing my creative work. Perhaps my soul is an adventurer and loves to be on it's own, seeking new terrain and discovery.
Once a week I go to a drawing group that hires a model to pose. The artists sit in a semi-circle while the model stands on a short platform, unveils and poses in various postures for three hours. It is delicious studying the human form and drawing it on paper. In this group, there is relaxed, free association, with intellectual, humorous, and sometimes bawdy conversation. Most drawing groups are very serious, with no talking.
After two great months of painting sales, I hit bottom in November. Too bad, because I have made some of my strongest work ever lately and I can’t show it.
Steven Boone

Monday, December 04, 2006

Being Fully Grounded

I have been experiencing joyful moments of being fully grounded. It is enough just to be alive within my own body, accepting my past, at ease with my present and eager for the future.
Today, marvelous, fun moments came in a steady stream. Especially when Sergi and Macarena, two Spaniards who are in Santa Fe came to my studio to do a photo shoot with me. I had set up a black backdrop beforehand and also collected some props. My concept was to have their moving bodies blurring together with streaming transparent cloth, all lit from the skylight above. At first they were wrapped in cloth, then naked and twirling around. Finally, we walked to a costume shop just a block away, and got costumes. Sergi pranced about in a huge rabbit’s head as Macarena danced in a white dress, streaming transparent cloth through the air. Three hours flew by in fluid, continuous moments full of laughter and fun.

Click to see more Steven Boone artistic photography

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Howl with the Dogs

My preferred method of exercise is swimming, which I try and accomplish 3 - 4 times weekly. Usually, I don't get in the "trance" state that a friend of mine aims for when he is swimming. I am not such a good swimmer, and I am aware of my efforts in the water. Furthermore, I am thinking as I swim. For some reason today as I swam, I remembered an episode from my youth. I was about fourteen years old, and it was a balmy summer evening in my Washington DC neighborhood. There was an empty lot I liked to go to, and this night, I decided to climb a tree. After I climbed way up to the top branches, a dog belonging to a neighbor I knew, Mr. Sedgewick, bounded over and began barking up the tree. He barked relentlessly and soon Mr. Sedgewick came out to see what all the ruckus was about, shining a flashlight up the tree while the dog barked. I was embarassed, so stayed still. This went on for some time . . . until Mr. Sedgwick decided he had had enough, retrieved his dog and marched home. I waited and then timidly climbed back down and crept away. Looking back, the whole situation is humorous.
Why did I remember that passage of my life today? Do I find myself happy on some lonely treetop under the moon, with the wind blowing, but with dogs barking and being examined by a nosy conscience aiming it's flashlight at me? I can be happier without as much self-criticism. Just climb to the treetop and howl with the dogs.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Since Our Separation

I notice that since our separation, whenever I am with Jean, our moments are pleasant, cordial and caring. I love her and pray for her each day, but do not want to move back into the house. If I try and argue with myself out of guilt and duty, resistance ensues—with anxiety. I realize I must wait for more clarity.
Sarah came home from college in Chicago for Thanksgiving. We all cooked together and shared a lovely candlelit meal. Later, we went to a movie, and two days later, celebrated Sarah’s twentieth birthday with another beautiful meal, cake with candles, and a few gifts. Jean and I drove her to the airport on Sunday to send her back to school.
After I dropped Jean off at home, it was a bit difficult leaving, but that is our arrangement now. I don’t know if it will change. I am beginning to make plans to live in Sicily this spring. I often find myself thinking “God bless Jean, and have mercy on my soul.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Driving Gypsy

Wow! I made it home after driving nine hours straight, from Phoenix, Arizona. It felt good returning to Santa Fe, but included a tinge of remorse at ending my gypsy lifestyle.
I can see why California is the seventh biggest world economical entity. It is big, dynamic, rich in resources, and bustling with growth. When I came to Los Angeles, ten lane freeways stretched for miles in every direction, and they were crowded with traffic. A brown haze of smog hung over the city and my eyes stung.
I spent the night in Palm Springs, where Adagio Gallery shows my paintings. The next day, after painting in the desert, I drove to Phoenix where Heritage Gallery exhibits my art. I stayed with my long time friend John Dugas, who took me to a cowboy dance hall after dinner. I can hang out almost anywhere and be happy.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bohemians in the Woods

Big Sur is located approximately 150 miles south of San Francisco and 300 miles north of Los Angeles. It refers to a 90-mile stretch of rugged and awesomely beautiful coastline where there is a dramatic meeting of land and sea.
My artist friend Ken and I meet at Fernwood, a rustic enclave situated along a stream among the redwood trees. We rent a tent built on a platform in the woods. There is no electricity but it has beds with mattress. In the afternoon we paint together, at a roadside outcropping with a view of the spectacular coastline. The light is pristine, temperature balmy, and there is barely any wind. Soon after that sublime outing, rain falls through the night and all the next day, thwarting our plans for art making. Nonetheless, we are happy bohemians, together in the forest, walking in the mist, talking, philosophizing, laughing, and hanging out at the lodge with an odd array of characters that look to be remnants of hippies from long ago.
Two days later, leaving Big Sur, I drive through miles of twisting coastal roadway, hearing the surf but not able to see the ocean because of dense fog. I stop in San Luis Obispo where Ken lives, and we paint together by Morro Bay. Arriving in Santa Barbara around nightfall, it seems my parent’s house has not changed a bit in the two years since I last visited. It is good sitting with them for dinner at the familiar table, with my mother’s old fashion cooking to fill my belly.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Dancing Wind

The moments in San Francisco seemed to swirl like a dancing wind and be gone too quickly. My dying daughter Naomi and I spent the last three months of her earthly existence in the city before she passed away in 1999. Each year since then, I have returned, staying in the same hotel, traveling the familiar boulevards, strolling in hallowed Golden Gate Park, and driving across the Golden Gate Bridge to visit the Redwood trees and Muir Beach. The Japanese Tea Garden, with its shrines, ponds, bridges and shaded paths through Zen gardens, always brings out the poet in me. While I was browsing in the gift shop, a beautiful, smiling young woman, dressed in a silk Kimono came in, joked and laughed with a young man behind the register and then left. I wrote:

You appear, blushing like spring—
Dressed in a silk kimono
Butterfly laughter, light in my heart,
You leave too quickly.

Now, my house feels empty
Wind blows rain in the window
A bird flies past
Overhead, a rainbow appears.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Leaving Las Vegas

Leaving Las Vegas, I enjoy driving west across the desert with the window part way down and the dry air blowing in my face. By the time I am approaching Bakersfield, California, evening is near. On the hillsides are hundreds of windmills churning electricity with the sun setting behind them. From Bakersfield, the morning drive is bleary with haze. I drive up the central valley of California, which is mile after mile of orchards, vineyards and cropland. At one point I pass an orange grove, lemon grove and nectarine orchard all in succession with their unique fragrance.
Driving across the Oakland Bay Bridge, the dramatic San Francisco skyline is straight ahead, and with fragrant bay air streaming in the window, I give a rebel yell, being once again in the city I love.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Arriving in Fantasyland

I have begun a long drive westward to San Francisco, California. Stopping in Las Vegas, I am amazed to find a fantasyland of theme resorts, with names like Excalibur, Tropicana, New York New York, Monte Carlo, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas, Treasure Island and Circus Circus. These are buildings meant to draw crowds, and they are packed with fun-seeking people. New York New York has replicated the skyscrapers, and Paris Las Vegas has the Eiffel Tower. The Las Vegas strip teems with people, including poor Mexicans who are hired to pass out cards with pictures of naked call-girls. The sidewalks are littered with trashy cards that have been tossed. This is a city that thrives on hotels, booze, entertainment and gambling.

Cirque Du Soleil has several different acts playing in Vegas. I went to see “O” at Bellagio. I was surprised that my ticket cost 250.00, but it is an elaborate production in a state-of-the-art theater. The set is built around a deep pool of water (1.5 million gallons) that sometimes vanishes. The performers are actors and acrobats in almost constant motion—in the water, on stage and in the air. The music is live. Pure theater.

Monday, October 30, 2006

One Hundred Men

For the last four days I have lived with a close-knit group of one hundred men in a spectacular, Spartan setting without women. The theme of the men's wellness conference is “Soul Searching.” Activities from dawn into the night include: simple meditations and QiQong, group rituals, sweat lodges, African dance, guided soul searching with discussions, mask making, singing, a grief ceremony, writing workshops, rugged mountain hikes, gift giving and a talking circle. Really amazing what is accomplished in a short time. The outcome of our soul searching is both individually and collectively rewarding.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Diving Into the Unconscious

Saturday, October 22,
My wife Jean went to Chicago to visit our daughter Sarah, and although we have been separated almost two months, I stayed at our house a few days, taking care of the dog, cat, plants, doing some yard work, and sorting through some of my belongings that remain at home. I love the house and surroundings that I put so much of my life into, yet, at bedtime I felt too anxious to sleep. My heart is torn by opposing wishes.
Tonight I saw a movie called The Science of Sleep. It was both funny in a slap-dash way, and also thought provoking. The protagonist could not differentiate between his dreaming and waking. This blurring made life incredibly vivid, and also got him in trouble. The film showed that our unconscious world has no boundaries, while our “real” waking life is subject to many rules that often are in conflict with our inner desires. Personally, I try to allow as much room as possible for the rich workings of the unconscious, which in many ways is closer to Spirit. It was not always like this. In my early adulthood, my unconscious terrified me, and I tried all day long to keep myself together by isolating it. The suffering was almost unbearable, and in fact I spent a few days in a mental hospital. Now, I am much happier diving into the unconscious, comfortasble with it's darkness as well as light.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Life is not fair

Monday, October 16,
My father called today from his home in Santa Barbara, California and immediately I sensed something was wrong. Someone close to both of us had tried to commit suicide by slitting her wrists. I do not know all the facts, and what comes out of my family is sometimes dramatic and fantastical. Nonetheless, the news overwhelmed me and caused weeping.
What is it about the world that it is so beautiful and painful both?
Naomi, during her forced march through the “valley of the shadow of death,” had so many occasions to complain bitterly, yet only said, “Life is not fair.” She regarded negativity in the same way as the cancer in her body, and retaliated with affirmations. One affirmation she wrote that I am particularly fond of is: “Show up and be lovingly present, no matter what it looks like out there or inside yourself. Always speak the truth of your heart.”

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Glow

Thursday, October 12,
A dear man died. Only a week ago this friend stood before me at a Baha’i meeting, smiling, kidding around with a twinkle in his eye. He had problems with his lungs, and mentioned with trepidation some medical tests that were being done, and yet he seemed to glow. Come to think of it, I know that “glow” of someone near death. My precious Naomi glowed from head to foot before she died at the age of nineteen. Sometimes I could see it, and I always felt it.
So, when I learned that Jimmy died I prayed alone at home for the progress of his soul. As I prayed, I felt him near, and as sometimes happens, his etheric presence formed a picture in my mind. His identity remained, but more powerful, at peace and happy . . . even joyful. So I said hello, and asked him to convey my love to Naomi, abiding in the same realm above.
Today, I made a painting from a photograph I took recently. The painting looks much better. In the photo, the golden trees seem static, in the painting they sparkle and dance. The sky in the photo is a bit washed out, and in the painting, fluffy white clouds drift across the deep blue space of sky. Even the shadows falling across the path are richer and deeper in paint. I am glad that I can take pictures wherever I go, and then use them for thumbnail sketches in making finished paintings.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Calling

Sunday, October 7
I went to a lecture by a world-renowned doctor and activist, Dr. Paul Farmer, who co-founded the organization Partners in Health. Under his inspired guidance and through his dedication and vision, entire communities of poor and sick people in third world countries have been raised to new life and given hope for better futures.
As Dr. Farmer spoke eloquently of the necessity to help the weak, and how cooperation does wonders, he gave a visual presentation that included pictures of poor, emaciated, sick people and what they looked like after being given food and medicine, nursed back to health.
Afterwards, I felt inspired, and also guilty at my own introspection. My work is in art—a solo activity that does not involve others. But as I reflect further, I realize that each of us has a calling, and everyone in their place is important: the mother raising and educating the child, the farmer growing food, laborers, the scientist developing new medicines, pilots who fly airplanes, the writers and yes, artists too. All essential for the balance of the world.

Innocent Trust

Thursday, October 5
During the last counseling session with my long time psychologist we explored my past, and delved into my earliest parental memories, in order to find possible sources of grief and anguish in my life. I shared what seemed to be innocent enough recollections, but he noticed that most had some subtle element of loss. For instance, when I was about four years old, my mother was sitting at the kitchen table chatting with a friend while I played a few feet away. Scribbling with crayons on paper, I would take them to her and she pretended to read musical notes, and then sing them. It felt wonderful and fascinating to me, and I was enthralled with this new game, but she eventually tired of my exuberance and demands. So, finally she told me that my notes did not mean anything. I was crushed, and have remembered all these years, though I don’t bear a grudge or anything. Nonetheless, I am more aware of how I learned that distances can exist and thwart seemingly strong emotional bonds.

Higher elevations

Tuesday, October 3, 2006
Yesterday, Jean and I drove to higher elevations in the mountains, and then hiked under a clear sky. The well-worn trail took us over terrain covered with brilliant aspens, interspersed with a smattering of conifers. Further up, whole stands of aspens had already lost their leaves, probable because of a recent early snowfall.
We reached a secluded meadow and rested beside a gurgling brook, a place we have been to many times and never tire of, sitting in silence, absorbing the lovely charm of our surroundings. Eventually, our conversation turned to our relationship and we both affirmed our bond of friendship. The space we are creating between us is healthy, and seems necessary to untangle ourselves, and feel the unique, separate and holy breath of primal being again. Minds unclouded by attachment, we can see each other more clearly and analyze our relationship.

Autumn days

Sunday, October 1, 2006
These autumn days are gorgeous. Nature everywhere proclaims, “Look at me, look at me!” The air too, has been perfect, with days starting cool and brisk, then steadily warming to balmy temperatures. Thanks to a wetter than usual summer, flowering plants are everywhere, especially in complimentary colors of yellows and purples. Wild grasses are turning to russet tones and in the mountains whole slopes of aspen trees are shimmering their golden leaves. The landscape painters are in heaven.
I have been seeing Jean—yesterday I worked at the house, stayed for dinner, and then we went to a movie. When we parted around 10:00 PM, we hugged and kissed good-bye. Later that evening, she sent me an E-mail expressing her happiness and affection. I replied likewise. Tomorrow, we will hike in the Aspen covered mountains.
I like being with Jean, and also feel awkward, realizing we are separated. In the old days, we would hold hands and kiss. Now I am uncertain of our future, and for the time being have an invisible boundary not to cross. This quandary has for the most part upset my life, and I find myself struggling to be independent, but also guided to the highest good.

What a day!

Friday, September 29. 2006

What a day! I woke up with the familiar feelings I have had upon waking for weeks: an aching heart, a confused sense of my purpose and destiny, as well as chronic pain in my shoulders. (A month ago my wife of 21 years told me she wanted a separation, so I moved out of the home we built together and now live alone.) Forcing myself out of bed, I went to the toilet and got dressed in some old clothes to go out painting as I planned. My first stop was a local restaurant for coffee, eggs, fried potatoes, and sausage while I read the newspaper. The drive out of town took about an hour. I drove the entire distance in silence, thinking about my relationships, pondering my dilemmas, contemplating who I am and what I might do with my life. Pulling off the highway onto a dirt road, the next nine miles wound around and over rolling hills, sometimes along a river and often with stunning 360° views of the broad plains, mountain ranges and cliff faces. I stopped frequently to get out and take pictures.
It is always a challenge getting just the right spot to paint. I settled at an area down a tiny rutted road that ended by the river in a grove of scrub oak. The view looked up the river, past golden autumn fields and tree dotted hills to a rocky mountain range in the not so far distance. Not a cloud in the sky, and the air warm. No soul anywhere to be seen, just as I wanted—only the sound of the river, soft breezes rustling the leaves, and an occasional bird warble. The sun felt hot, so I put on a safari hat and changed into a light shirt, then began setting up my easel, canvas and paints. Suddenly, as I turned from getting something out of the back of my van, a man on a bicycle appeared and pulled up in front of me, grinning from ear to ear. “Steve!” he said, looking straight into my eyes.
My God, it’s Joseph, an artist friend of mine from Santa Fe. He had seen my van drive by the place he was camping out. After exchanging incredulous exclamations at the serendipitous happenstance of meeting in the wilderness amidst such incredible solitude and beauty, we promised to see each other later, after I had finished painting.
Although I had brought my I-Pod to listen to music while I painted, once I began putting the colors down in silence, a rhythm established that just flowed along and before long, three hours had passed and I was finished. These days, silence suits me. Washing paint off my hands in the cool river, I paused, thanking God for allowing me to consciously experience His beautiful world.
On the way out, I found Joseph and we shared our paintings with each other. By the time I got home it was 5:30, but I had enough energy to hurriedly get things in the house and set off to the Friday afternoon art openings at local galleries. The air was still balmy and light. As usual, I bumped into friends and fellow artists. My gallery, Adieb Khadoure Fine Art was hosting an opening for the magical-symbolist, and abstract artist, Robert Anderson, who came from his home in Phoenix. Hanging out with crowds of art lovers and collectors is entertaining, especially as I am an artist and, soon people were talking with me about my paintings hanging on the walls. Something funny happened that Robert, his wife and I had a good laugh about. As I was passing through the room where my paintings are exhibited, a lady was staring at a self-portrait I had made, and commenting under her breath to her friend in a somewhat mock horrific tone that the face looked like someone she had seen in the paper recently. “You know that guy . . .”, but before she finished, I looked at her and asked, “Who?” She stammered, wondering who I was and maybe surprised that I looked like the portrait. She would not finish, but I guessed that she was referring to one of the common criminals who appear regularly in print for some horrible thing they have done. Anyway, later, as we stood looking at the rather serious portrait I had painted, I joked that I could have painted myself holding a placard across my chest with jail-cell numerals emblazoned on it. Laughing felt good—especially laughing at how serious I can be about myself.
See more of my artwork on my website