Sunday, April 29, 2012

We Have Each Other

To arrive at the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico is like landing on another planet. No paved roads, no trees or shrubs—only barren, rocky land for miles. What is attractive is the pristine space, carved by rock forms shaped by time, wind, gravity and the elements.

Heidi Of The Mountains and I take one day a week to relax and spend time together away from pressing cares. We usually choose an adventure to share, although one day, we did nothing but sleep, read, and do some gardening. We chose to visit Bisti, and arrived at the Badlands in the dark, after driving 3 ½ hours from Santa Fe. The last two miles were dirt road, with no light. I parked at the end of the road and we got out to walk with our puppy, Chamo. The air was warm and noiseless. We tried to stay on the road while walking beneath a half full moon. We could only barely make out the forms of the rocky hills nearby. Heidi said, “As long as we have each other, we don’t need anything else.”

Later that night, the temperatures dropped and I argued with Heidi who did not want me to put the dog, who is getting hefty in size, outside. We were crammed into the back of my van, sleeping on a foam pad. The dog went out, but soon was scratching to get back in. Once inside again, he fell asleep with his head on my chest and started dreaming, then twitching in his sleep. Eventually, I settled him next to Heidi who does not mind him lying next to her. We all slept together until I woke at dawn and saw a rosy sky outside. The air was cold, but I arose to go out for a walk and photograph. Chamo came with me and we explored the stunning landscape. Despite my frozen hands, I took some nice pictures.

I had walked around mesmerized by the scenery and light, still sleepy—and got lost. Chamo did not understand my entreaties to “find Heidi.” We found the road, but I began walking in the wrong direction until I decided to turn around. At last, we arrived back to the van, and Heidi was waiting, concerned we had been gone so long.

When the three of us set out walking together into the badlands, we felt free and happy to be in such unusual and intriguing surroundings. Nobody else was around, and Heidi modeled nude among the rocks, under the big sky.

I had intended to paint in the afternoon, but after lounging in the van for a nap, the sky grew cloudy and a wind picked up force. We began driving back to Santa Fe. Along the way, we occasionally noticed derelict homes dotting the landscape. Heidi said, “How can people live out here?” I reminded her what she had said earlier, that we had each other, and so could be anywhere. She said, “I could not live here.” Then I smiled and kept my mouth shut.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spring Fragrance

“Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring?” ― Neltje Blanchan

It is impossible to stay indoors during the springtime, unless one is an invalid, and even then, windows can be opened to let in the fresh air. I remember when I was a teenager, to sit in a classroom was an arduous task in spring. The air, laden with blossom scents, the balmy temperatures, and all the earth heaving a sigh of relief and joy—it made me want to jump out of my seat and escape the indoors.
This has not changed in the decades of my life. Even as sap stirs within the plants, and the life force within tiny seeds forces green shoots to break their shells and grow toward the sun, so too, a lively energy is awakened within me.

Sometimes, I just walk around the old neighborhood in the vicinity of my art gallery, and notice the changing surroundings. Today, as I bent over to smell lilac blossoms, I thought how fleeting the pleasure. The scent of lilacs is at the top of my list of olfactory experiences, along with jasmine, honeysuckle, rose, salt-water breezes, oranges, and a few others. The experience of smelling lilacs is something like watching a spectacular sunset—it puts one in awe, and also, it summons a slight feeling of regret of life’s impermanence.

“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Sunday, April 15, 2012

An Incredible Story

I heard an incredible story recently. At the health club I attend, I had just finished swimming and went to soak in the hot tub. I got in, and a woman looked intently at me and said, “Are you Steven Boone? I lived near you some years ago . . . and have read your book, A Heart Traced In Sand. My name is Cassie”  I did not recognize her, but nodded hello and we began talking about my former neighborhood. Soon the subject came to loss and death. She said she had lost her husband, mother and father, all within a short time span. We talked about soul life, and then she began recounting her story. It is as follows:
Her mother died in October, and some six months later, in March, Cassie traveled from New Mexico to Pennsylvania for a memorial gathering in the community where her mother had lived. At the neighborhood park where the memorial was to happen the next day, by chance, she met a man who had known her mother. They said hello and chatted, and then the man asked after her mother. Cassie replied that her mother was dead. The man acted surprised and then asked when the mother had died. Cassie said, “Last October.” At this, the man turned pale, and suddenly walked away.

The next day, the same man was at the memorial, and Cassie followed him to pursue their conversation. He said, “Well, just a month ago, in the evening, I saw your mother outside of our house and went to talk with her. After I came back inside, my wife went out to talk with her. We both spoke with her, and she seemed fine.”

Since the conversation, Cassie has stayed in touch with the man, and he confides that the event has radically reshaped his thinking.

This is another reason I call this life, THE DREAM.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

The Creative Self

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
Pablo Picasso

While the art of children lacks technical sophistication, it more than makes up for that in exuberance, and unrestrained expression. My two daughters always had art materials nearby while they grew up. They both attended a Waldorf School that encouraged artistic expression and honored the creative self as much as the analytical. Over the years, they both produced reams of drawings and paintings, and delighted my eyes. Most of the art is gone, but I have kept some. Two of my favorites are the subject of this blog. Both were done at the age of about eight years. Both are clear and profound enough that I use them occasionally for meditating.

Watercolor on paper, by Sarah Boone
The first is a watercolor by my daughter Sarah. A beautiful, full sun glows over a serene landscape, while a warm sky embraces the earth. The earth is full of life, and trees grow on the rolling hills. Within the earth is a cobalt blue cavern; strong, cool and comforting. Within this cavern is a white room of purity, with one side warm and the other cool. A lone woman sits in contemplation on the cool side. She is in a red dress, and her hair is the color of the sun above her that she cannot see. Maybe she does not need to see it with her outer eyes, for this picture is of an inner world of bliss and harmony.

Colored pencil on paper, by Naomi Boone

My oldest daughter, Naomi, (b. Jan. 11, 1980 - July 5, 1999), using colored pencil on paper, did the second image.
We are standing in a garden, in a magical realm of light and joy. Flowers bloom all around, and fresh green grass is under our feet. In this paradise, someone has built a gate to the outer world. A trellis arches over this passage, and amid a myriad flowers a red bow has been woven throughout, seeming to tie a knot of happiness at the top. Looking at the placid scene beyond the garden, we see a bright and radiant sun, softened by fluffy white clouds drifting past. On a gentle hillside, a horse is resting in the grass, basking in the sun. Someone has tied a red ribbon around his neck, much like the red ribbon on the trellis. A breeze blows over the hills and the ribbon flutters, but the horse is calm. Everything is serene . . . nothing is lacking.

From just these two pictures, a book can unfold. And this is the power of imagination.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

I Wish I Had Not Seen That

Yin-Yang, Mixed-media on canvas, 20 x 30 inches
“I wish I had not seen that!” Heidi Of The Mountains was in our gallery when she overheard a man speaking to his wife. He must have wandered into the last room and looked into an obscure corner where my mixed-media piece called Yin-Yang is hanging on a wall.

Heidi reacted with surprise, even though she calls the piece “controversial,” and hangs it out of the way where many people visiting the gallery do not see it. Too bad, because it is beautiful. I made the image from a photograph I shot in my studio. Two young people modeled for me—a black man and white woman. They were roommates, and not romantically involved. To my surprise, they were perfectly at ease while I had them pose naked and sometimes intertwined. My studio was draped in black cloth and under my skylight, they danced, twisted, turned and played creatively while I snapped a few hundred pictures. Sometimes I had them flinging cloth around, or wearing masks. In the end, I made a number of very good pictures. They each were paid and signed releases granting me permission to use the pictures I took, and make them public.

With Yin-Yang, I manipulated the image in Photoshop, printed it on canvas, applied a coat of art medium to seal it and saturate the colors, and finally, painted on it, then after it dried, framed it. For some, it is their favorite piece of art in my gallery. One artist friend of mine told me, “They are both so very beautiful, expressing such an easy joy. I love this piece.”
Art galleries and museums are exciting places to visit, partly because we are free to experience what is taboo in general society. We see intimate expressions of humanness, and voyage with artists through their conscious and unconscious experiences. We can see all the colors of life, and it’s light as well as shadow.