Showing posts with label memory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label memory. Show all posts

Sunday, November 24, 2019

A Heartbeat

Hawaii is about 2,300 miles at a distance now but just a heartbeat away in our mind and heart. This is what experiences do when they enter our psyche. They abolish time and space and become immortal, i.e. they live forever in the vault of memory. Now I am very happy to have the last three weeks immortalized within. 

As Seals & Crofts sang in their song, “We may never pass this way again.”

My earthly existence has not been all roses. But I know that when I fully experience life unfiltered, even when it feels unbearable, it is better.
We are writing the book of our lives as we go along.

When we landed in Los Angeles friends took us in. We toured around together and visited the famous Laurel Canyon—of movie, artist and musician fame. Then lunch on Sunset Blvd, and an afternoon at the Getty Museum.

Now we are in Santa Barbara. My two brothers live here. The town has many memories for me. I lived here at one time, and my parents had a home in Santa Barbara for thirty years. My daughter spent some of the last months of her life here—with me beside her.

Today after a family breakfast we went lawn bowling, then I took Amy to see the home my parents lived in. It is close to the Old Mission, so we visited, then walked to the rose garden across the way. Remarkable that roses are blooming. The most fragrant we decided upon was called Peace. 

Meanwhile back in Santa Fe it is snowing. We will be there tomorrow. 

I have to learn to live with shoes on my feet again. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hey Fat Man!

From my perch atop the wood fence behind my tenement apartment in Chicago, Illinois, if I spied the delivery man driving through the alley I gave him a shout out: Hey fat man! The big negro would smile, wave through the open window and respond with a cry, Hey skinny boy!  It became a game for both of us. I was four years old.

My father was finishing his studies for a master degree in criminology at the University of Chicago. On the side, he worked two jobs to support his young family. We were poor, but I did not know it. My mother stayed at home, minding me and two younger brothers.

I had a tricycle that I rode on the pavement behind the apartment. One day a woman was hanging wash on a line and I accidentally bumped my bike into her pail of clean clothes. Oh my, did she lash out scolding me. It was the first instance of human rage I ever experienced. I began crying loudly. My mother came outside, gathered me safely in her arms and apologized to the neighbor. I remember mother was embarrassed—another new feeling to me. Thus the beginning of learning about differentiation.

I played at a nursery school in the afternoons. It was a big place in Hyde Park for the children of poor families. We had guided play, meals, nap time on cots, and recess where we ran outdoors on a concrete playground that had a stagecoach in the corner. My first playmate was Darnell. He was black and I am white but neither of us knew. We did not know how to differentiate. I can still remember the love between us and pure joy of innocent comradeship. We were soulmates!

Our building was heated in the winter by a furnace in the basement that burned coal. During the cold months, a huge mound of black rock was piled out back. The building janitor was responsible for keeping coal in the furnace. He became friends of ours and one night my father took me to see him shoveling coal into the furnace. In the darkened room, the fiery furnace sounded with roaring flames. The iron doors opened. I stood at my father's side, reaching to hold his hand. The fire was at my eye level just feet away. I felt the warmth and saw the dancing light—like magic. Then the doors shut with a clang and we went upstairs. I could feel the love of my father and the janitor. They too witnessed the simple beauty of the moment; made special through my first experience of it.

I always slept with my brother Wade. One Sunday morning when I woke up, he was not beside me. I went to my parents and asked where he was. He could not be found. We looked all over. My mother was so frantic she looked under the living room couch although it only had an inch of space. In despair, the janitor was called upstairs to help us. I went in the darkened closet near my bed. Lifting up a pile of dirty laundry on the floor, there was Wade—fast asleep. Everyone gave out a cry of relief and some laughter followed. 

I will never forget my mother getting down on her knees and looking under the couch.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Red Leaves

Deep within the vault of my memories, full now with six decades of life, is an episode of rapturous wonder, thrill, and happy connectedness. Veiled and buried with so many other memories, once in a while it comes to mind, as it did the other day.

Late summer is now shifting into the autumn season, and the colors have been summoning me to paint outdoors. Temperatures begin cool and become balmy. One day I drove about an hour out of the city to one of my favorite places; the Rio Grande Gorge. Following the twisty, softly flowing river through volcanic rock canyons, I found a scenic area by a bend. I climbed out to scout for a scene to paint, and took my camera. Amidst tall reeds at the river edge, the only sounds were the gurgling of water and paddling of ducks congregated on a log by the other side. Among the green shrubs and brilliant yellow blooms, I spotted some crimson leaves—a sure sign of the autumn. It was the red foliage that jarred loose the buried memory, so pleasant and nostalgic.

When I was but six or seven years old, beginning school in La Grange, Illinois, (a suburb of Chicago) the class went on a field trip at the beginning of Autumn. We drove out into the country to a nature preserve. The weather was perfect—blue skies and the lingering warmth of summer coming from the earth. Colors of nature were already changing. Several teachers watched over the group of children from various classes. A sense of happiness and love pervaded the day. Something thrilled me and touched my soul with wonder—to be out of the confines of a classroom, yet with adults who took pleasure along side of me and the other children. The sky seemed so blue, like I had never seen before, perhaps because the colors of the trees and fields were burnished so brilliantly orange, red and yellow. To walk in the grass almost up to my waist and hear it swish, while smelling the aromas of plants and fertile, moist earth . . .
I came upon an oak leaf that had fallen onto the path at my feet. It's red color surprised me and I became aware how color could arouse my senses. I still remember that leaf.

Later the class went among tall reeds and cattails by a pond. It was there that I saw a snake slither by, gliding in the water, wriggling rapidly while holding its head up. I thrilled at the sight and also the slight danger of something foreign, mysterious, and alive arriving out of the deep dark water.
The visit was over after a few hours and we went back to school. I do not remember the school as clearly as the sights and sounds of that day in nature.

At the Rio Grande, as I relished the nostalgia of that memory, I stopped to gaze at the red leaves, while listening to the river flow and feeling the sun warm on my skin. Hiking back to unpack gear and make a painting, I trampled among sage bushes. They released an indelible pungent aroma that had a medicinal effect on my senses and mind. 

The painting flowed through me the same way as the memory.

Rio Grande Gorgeous, oil on linen, 14 x 18 inches

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Circle

Street photo, Madrid, spain
The longer I live, the more often experiences come that make a circle in my life. For instance, I happened to be on YouTube the other day, and arrived at a video of Jim Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) and The Doors. Somebody had commented that Morrison had taken inspiration from the poet Arthur Rimbaud (French, 20 October 1854 – 10 November 1891). I have always liked Rimbaud, who remarkably made his work before the age of 21 and then quit writing. I did a Google search and found a movie about him called “Total Eclipse” a 1995 film directed by Agnieszka Holland and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. I watched the whole film, and this brought me to my memories from twenty years ago, when I read a biography of Rimbaud. So, a circle was created from my interest in The Doors, the influence upon Jim Morrison of the French poet, back to my original reading of poems by Rimbaud and his biography, and then the closure of watching the movie depicting Rimbaud's meteoric rise and tragic end.

In the film, Rimbaud says to his fellow poet Paul Verlaine, “I understood that I was to experience everything in my body—it was no longer enough for me to be one person. I decided to be everyone . . . I decided to be a genius . . . I decided to originate the future.”

Street photo, Florence, Italy

I relate to the notion of finding oneself by losing oneself and becoming “everyone”. This is something that happens when I go into the “zone” and lose my self in the streets of the world photographing people. The photos become my poems.

In the blue summer evenings, I will go along the paths,
And walk over the short grass, as I am pricked by the wheat:
Daydreaming I will feel the coolness on my feet.
I will let the wind bathe my bare head.
I will not speak, I will have no thoughts:
But infinite love will mount in my soul;
And I will go far, far off, like a gypsy,
Through the country side-joyous as if I were with a woman.
-A. Rimbaud

Street photo, Barcelona, Spain
To see more photos: Artistic Photography by Steven Boone

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Whole Picture

Self-Portrait, Berlin 2008. Oil on linen, 24x18 inches.
Lately, I have spent time meditating on my life. It is amazing that our minds hold so much information . . . and we are only able to access bits of it through memory. Why do some episodes stand out more clearly than others? I am depending on long-term memory when I look back at the beginning of my life. The complexity is unfathomable. I imagine that every smell, touch, sound or even ray of light is encoded in my brain, yet I only access a fraction. Before I learned language, I was gathering information from my mother and father and surroundings. Has this formed me into who I am? Of course, my unique biology, what I am genetically, influences the way in which I perceive. I am of a sensitive nature, and learn especially through sensory experience.
So far, I have gone through my memories from birth to the beginning of college. I am trying to see who I am by looking at the movie of my life . . . and watching myself from the beginning. I don't want to censor anything either . . . but see the whole picture as it has emerged. I am an artist, and as I see the artwork that has been created thus far, I can take my brush in hand, and then more confidently paint the future as it is meant to be.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Candle Burning At Both Ends

Heidi Of The Mountains took off to Mexico for a week with a few girlfriends, and now it is my turn. 

San Francisco is just a few hours away by air and it holds special significance as being where I spent the last months of my oldest daughter's life with her. After Naomi's death in 1999, I would go back every spring and find the same places that now hold her footprint and summon my memory. I stay in the same hotel—The Seal Rock Inn, by Sutro Park, and it feels like home. Golden Gate Park is nearby, and I know it like the back of my hand. Each morning I go to a coffee house that is a local landmark, along Ocean Beach. I may stop and watch the surfers in wet suits, some of them kite surfing. 
Sutro Park, looking down to Ocean Beach

The Thinker, at Legion Of Honor Museum

Windmill in the Golden Gate Park

As usual, I will go across the Golden Gate Bridge, driving north to Sausalito and then over to the redwood forests. I like to go to Muir Beach, where Naomi and I visited, and I set up my easel and make a painting on the hillside by the coast, where I can look out over wildflowers to the little cove and see the Pacific Ocean waves frothing white as they churn toward the shore.

I always go to art museums, and check out the current exhibitions. And there is a sushi restaurant I always return to, and the Japanese chef is at the bar . . . it is a family business . . . and I notice how everything is the same; the wooden tables, the view to the street, the sushi bar with it's delicacies in view, and the same guy, aging little by little, year by year, but cordial and smiling as ever.

The hills along the Pacific Ocean near Muir Beach
When Naomi was with me, we were like candles burning at both ends. Each day we sought magic and healing, and though she was dying, I could see how she relished the moments she had left. For me, always next to her, every moment had a special poignancy, so when I go back, now, years later, the poignancy comes from touching familiar places that summon all my feeling from memories.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Life Away From The Familiar

The coast of Sicily

 Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy

 “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac

The experiences of life away from the familiar that comes from distant travel are not for everyone, but for me, the exciting effects of combining known elements with unknown ones is essential. I need to travel, to experience the freedom of motion that carries the possibility of expanded consciousness. Written upon the tablet of my memory are indelible streams of life that have come from living like the wind carving through space and time without inhibition, even circling the globe. I feel the fire of this passion that burned so bright and joyously unencumbered for the entire year of 2008, and is still alive with burning embers of that lovely flame—ready to leap into intensity again at the slightest opportunity. 
Masai youth, herding cattle . . . Tanzania

Camel at the Great Pyramids, Egypt
The feeling to explore new life is coming these days like an imperative. The flames that died down now long to spring forth once again. It almost hurts me to be settled. The strange apparition of a whirling dervish must challenge most peoples consciousness. Who could possibly care to live without being the occupant of a home? For most, home is where the heart is, but I also observe it is where stuff accumulates and that stuff requires guardianship. I don't care to be watching over stuff. To do so requires maintenance and expenditure. Let loose I say.

Material possessions do not hold more for me than a soft breeze and warm sunlight upon my skin, a bird song in my ears, the sight of new terrain to explore, and the incredible luxury of time, with the only requirement being that of awe and wonder.
At Ipsos, on the island of Corfu, Greece

Halong Bay, Vietnam
Come, Come, Whoever You Are
Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter.
 Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow

 a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Storehouse Of My Mind

The storehouse of my mind is bursting and begs to be released. The most fluid, direct, and succinct way to accomplish this is by writing. Writing from memory is typically in the form of memoir. For a good memoir, there needs to be vivid recall, and studies have shown that our memories are more profound when they are accompanied by emotion. In other words, a boring life does not make for a good memoir. My life has been far from boring—especially the year that I gave up home, car, typical security, and traveled solo around the globe . . . feet firmly on the ground. I have begun writing chapters from that year; and chosen to write in the third person.

Here is a sample, taken from a chapter on Belize:

They ambled casually together, past the run-down shops, enjoying one another enough that each day when they happened to meet, they grew friendlier. The black man, Hugh, had buttery cocoa skin and wore his hair in dreadlocks. He wore old jeans, a tank top, and flip-flops on his feet. Outside a cafe one afternoon, the traveler asked Hugh if he would have his picture taken. Hugh posed bashfully, eyes twinkling and lips tightly shut. The traveler had to put down his camera and smile himself before Hugh at last grinned. Then the best picture was taken, with Hugh smiling broadly and showing a gaping hole in his top row of teeth—so that his tongue pushed through the gap.
One afternoon, Hugh took the traveler to his house. They walked out of town, about a half mile along the beach, past some respectable private homes until they reached a curve, and then, looking past a little fresh water stream emptying into the sea, Hugh pointed toward an area where it appeared a jungle had marched to the shoreline. "My place is back there," he said. They walked on and soon could spot a ramshackle hut. “My girlfriend Susie is home . . . we been together awhile . . . she is good!” He said, winking at me with his toothless smile. As we neared the hut, I noticed how primitive it was. “I built it myself” he said, “out of stuff I found.” The traveler peered into the windows lacking glass or even screens and imagined what might happen during a storm. “What about when it rains?” he asked. Hugh grinned and replied right away, “My girlfriend and I fight over the dry spots.”
We came to the front steps and Suzie stepped outside, smiling broadly.
She was plump and homely and had dreadlocks like Hugh. They went inside. There was nothing there but a few kitchen utensils and dilapidated sticks of furniture. They went out back and Hugh showed his primitive operation for collecting juice from harvested Nomi fruit, which he marketed. The traveler suggested photographing Suzie. She perked up to the idea, put down her glass of rum and changed into a hand knit dress in Rastafarian colors, barely covering her torso and ended just above her knees.
For some reason, Hugh decided to leave. He gave a knowing smile, and said he needed to go to the store and get something. Inside with Suzie, she flopped down on a chair, leaned backward with her eyes half open and spread her legs. The episode seemed odd, and he got her to stand up and pose on the front porch for photos. In a reverie, she acted sexy and posed like a model. The air was perfect and the sky clear.
Hugh did not come back before the Traveler left. That afternoon, he burned a cd with the pictures of Suzie. The next day he went back to Hugh’s but the place was empty. Looking around at the shack one last time, he placed the cd on the kitchen table and left.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Perplexed At War

There are events that happen in life that have a way of embedding themselves so deeply and suddenly into the psyche that they seemingly cause time to stand still. The news is such that when it is delivered, a person stops as if frozen, then takes account of his surroundings, as if checking to see if life will pick up and start again.

On November 22, 1963, I was playing with my best friend at his house when the maid entered his bedroom and announced in a sad and incredulous voice that President John F. Kennedy had been shot to death. That was 48 years ago, and I still remember the moment like it was yesterday. Our happy play stopped and all three of us shared a bewildered silence, not particularly knowing how to carry on.

On September 11, 2001, I was in my home when a repairman came to work, and when he entered the house, announced that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York City. I turned on the television and the news was unfolding, with pictures of the airliners hitting the towers, played again and again. It seemed unreal, and also unreal that life could continue normally.
Today is the tenth anniversary of the attack on America that killed 3000 innocent people.

The event will never be forgotten . . . and yet life continues as it has since the beginning; toward an uncertain future.

I have traveled around the world and seen our beautiful planet in its glorious diversity and splendor. It is such pleasure to be friends with strangers and overcome outward differences. The human heart has a deep yearning toward unity. This is why I am constantly perplexed at war.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


The place of your birth will always have special meaning as your entrance spot into this world. Furthermore, the elements that formed your body in that place, infused their memories in your bones. The life of your mother, and her perceptions and experiences during pregnancy arrived with you in gestation—what she ate, drank, perceived, and thought.
I was born in Chicago, Illinois. My family moved when I was nine and I grew up in Washington, DC before finally settling as an adult in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Sarah, my youngest daughter, was born in Santa Fe and after high school chose Columbia College in Chicago to pursue her study of dance. Interestingly, she returned to my birthplace. Sarah has lived in the “windy city” for almost five years and this past weekend, graduated with a Bachelor of Art degree.

Whenever I return to Chicago, I am aware of a distinct sensation. It is as if a familiar vibration comes from the earth, entering my feet and quickly awakening all my senses with an echo of personal closeness. It is as if this intimacy sounds through the pavement and brick, sounds through steel, and ripples in the wind. I feel it in the air pressure, and smell it. All the sensations speak to my core and tell me I have arrived home again.

View my artistic photography of Chicago