Sunday, February 19, 2017

Where The Heart Is

“Home is where the heart is.” 

Sometimes when I am traveling across the world, I find myself in an exotic place that so captivates me I begin thinking that it has my heart, and why not move to this enchanting place? It has happened several times in Venice, Italy. And in Paris, France, in Luxor, Egypt, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Srinagar in Kashmir, India. Now on my most recent sojourn, I fell for San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, and several locales in Ecuador. 

For the past week I have been staying along the coast of Ecuador. Life is peaceful, the ocean perfect, cost of living low. At The Hosteria Oceanic, in Puerto Lopez, for some reason, I have been the only guest! The staff like me because after all, it is a hotel and people should be here. The manager came yesterday to invite me to go with his family to Los Frailes, about twenty minutes drive. It is reputed to be the most beautiful beach in Ecuador. I had just had a big dose of sun the day before and was recovering so declined to be on a beach for hours, but was touched at his kind offer.

At Oceanic practically everything is to myself; swimming pool, dining area, wide expanse of pristine Pacific coast. I have daily room service, fresh linens, delicious breakfast . . . and at night I find I like eating dinner here too. The cabana is roomy and I have made it my impromptu studio. Just yesterday I was resting on the bed with the french doors open to a breeze. I had finished a painting and was gazing outside past a dangling hammock. I realized I had made a studio and could live like this for about half the cost back home.

For years I have not had an appetite for ownership. All I want is inner peace and freedom to be anywhere I want, but not permanently. When I was in San Miguel De Allende and found myself seriously thinking of moving there while continuing my art path, I stopped myself. 

“Home is where the heart is.” 
 My heart goes with me wherever I am.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Without A Map

“When the baby looks around him

It's such a sight to see

He shares a simple secret

With the wise man

He's a stranger in a strange land” -Leon Russell

Sometimes the best experiences happen for me when I am lost. 

The other day I set out walking in a new direction from my apartment in Cuenca, Ecuador. Usually I head toward the city center with its bustling streets, shops, cafes, grand cathedrals, and corner parks. This time I went in another direction. I went exploring—like Columbus when he set out to navigate the Atlantic Ocean without a map. He charted a course as he sailed.

Cemetery, San Miguel De Allende, Mexico

 The streets were mostly residential and rather unremarkable. Traffic whizzed by in each direction. I came to a corner and spotted a high wall that seemed to go an entire block. In the middle stood a tall gate. On either side were stalls selling flowers. I guessed it was cemetery. I like visiting graveyards in foreign lands. A few weeks ago I ambled about for more than hour in Nuestra Señora del Cementerio de Guadalupe in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico. It was divided between a large part for Mexican interments and a smaller closed area for mostly American ex-patriots. Now I had found a vast, much larger burial ground with three times as many graves. It is called, Cementerio Patrimonial De Cuenca. 
Tombs, Cuenca, Ecuador

  As in Mexico, most of the crypts are stacked in cells of concrete, in blocks perhaps fifteen feet high and hundreds of feet long. Sometimes there are two levels and stairs to reach the top. Each burial site is marked and decorated in front, often with a glass pane protecting the contents. It is by far neater and more orderly than the Mexican graveyard.

I am fascinated by what remains after a person dies, and how they are remembered with fondness. I lost my daughter when she was nineteen and had to find a spot to bury her. She lays at rest in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. A simple grave marker of marble is decorated with roses and bears her name, dates of birth and death, and the inscription Blessed By The Glory Of God. 
As I walked slowly and thoughtfully, sometimes I would stop to take a picture. Turning a corner, to my surprise often a vista of tombs would spread before me. And almost nobody was there but me and some attendants working the grounds. The air was perfect on my skin and blue sky with occasionally fluffy clouds overhead. I could almost hear myself think.

To my surprise, at one point I found a block of grave cells slightly smaller and noticed they were for the pequeños niños, little children. Stuffed toys were seen in many with endearing notes. Some didn't have date of birth, only death.

An old horse drawn hearse. Cuenca Cemetery.
In the afternoon, I set off in the familiar direction of downtown but angled onto a street I had not been. A long wall two stories high without windows had a small single entrance. A couple were coming out the door. They looked like tourists. I stopped and peeked past the threshold. It seemed the museum was full of religious objects. I was not sure I wanted to pay for entry. It was cloudy and about to rain. Perhaps because I was exploring and not in a rush, I entered. 

Staging of a nun, at work with textiles.

  Immediately I began relishing the place—formerly called Convent of the Immaculate Conception, begun in the year 1599. There are two stories surrounding an inner courtyard open to the sky above. The second floor has an open hall with railing that goes completely around the courtyard and you can look down upon it, with the trees, shrubs and flowers and tidy order of it all. The wood floors and stairs are smooth and polished from wear, as well as the stone floors on the ground level. I imagined all the feet that tread there, and the footsteps of the nuns and sisters. So much devotion had occurred in the spot that I felt blessed being there, as if absorbing spiritual vibrations where the closely knit devotees of Christ for hundreds of years dwelled their hours, years and sometimes, lives. I imagined their tight bound community and the rituals they obeyed in sisterhood. 

San Rafael and Tobias sculptures

The collections are made up of 64 paintings of religious themes and about 250 religious and costumed sculptures, as well as toys, furniture and handicrafts. What particularly struck me were incredible sculptures depicting saints. Made by mostly anonymous artisans, they all had great feeling and conveyed a master touch to bring out devotion in the viewer. A few were playful. Some figures were wood, others fired clay and painted to be lifelike. They might even have human hair and glass eyes.

By the time I left, I had gone slowly throughout the former convent, and taken many pictures. Fully satisfied, I made it home before the rain.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

In The Current

I am an artist and particularly notice patterns and textures of life. I can feel blessed and happy even in poor, chaotic environments that would make someone else frustrated and angry. My eyes delight in discolored and cracking walls with paint splatters and drips, graffiti, derelict doorways, shadows and stark light, crowded busses and trains—all hold fascination for me. 

The streets are alive with the activities of man and I jump in the current, taking my photos, making paintings and drawings and constantly being inspired.  

When I arrived in Quito, Ecuador from Mexico, I had to adjust to cloudy weather and very high elevation. Ecuador is home to some of the highest volcanoes and mountain peaks in the world. Quito, the capital, has an altitude of around 9,000 feet, (3,000m). My first experiences were gritty and I was a bit dismayed. But probably tired from travel and needing to adjust. As I dug deeper, more gems appeared from the rough. The historical center is captivating with centuries old architecture, massive basilicas and cobbled streets crammed with shops. I melded in and took street photos. 

A man at Catholic mass, listening to singing.
A great museum experience was Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Man), devoted to the work one artist: Oswaldo Guayasamin,  (July 6, 1919 – March 10, 1999). master painter and sculptor of Quechua and Mestizo heritage and Native of Quito. 

I did not paint while in Quito for I was in a hotel room and stayed five days. Now I am in Cuenca and will be in the south of Ecuador for about two weeks so will resume painting. Need to find an art supply store first!

See Steven Boone art

Sunday, January 29, 2017

No Hay Problema

Television has disappeared from my life entirely in Mexico and I don't miss it. Time is spent being creative—painting, shooting street photography and processing the pictures, studying Spanish, writing, doing inner practices that are transforming. 
If I want news, I go online and read the New York Times.

The local produce is great. For breakfast, eggs, bacon and toast with fresh coffee. Usually no lunch, maybe a pastry with coffee after nap, and dinner is whatever I pick up fresh during the day.
I went out for “desayuno”, breakfast, today for the first time in over two weeks. The little restaurant across the street beckoned me and I had huevos rancheros, toast and coffee. Then I came back to my apartment and did laundry in the kitchen sink. No hay problema. 

The weather has been sublime, and each day as I walk the city streets the air touches me with gentle warmth as slight breezes play. I love the light. Especially splashed across the brightly colored walls and cobbled walks and streets.

Today is Saturday. Yesterday I stopped painting since I leave on Monday for Ecuador and the panels need to dry, which takes a few days. I have more time to walk about. This morning I found arts & crafts fairs, street festivals, farmers markets with live musicians . . . so much going on and people in festive moods. I bought a hand made leather journal with blank pages to write my “notes to God”. I had the good fortune to purchase it from the man who made it. It is leather and embossed with stylized dancing figures. My current one began September 8, 2009. It is a little red leather bound book with strap. Just for inner talk with God. Other journals are for anything.

At the farmers market all sorts of fresh organic foods were being offered, along with native home made Mexican cuisine, hand made salsas, jams, breads, and such.

Back at the apartment, I got into a text conversation with Therese at my gallery. At that moment, a woman was considering purchasing a painting. We typed a couple texts about price and shipping, and then the woman bought the painting. Satisfying, especially since in Santa Fe it is the slowest tourist part of the year and the Boone Gallery is only open part time. Also because the painting was made during my stay in Venice, Italy, last year. This confirms for me that I am blessed to be able to go anywhere and paint the scenery. People enjoy this.
Venice painting

A nap, then out on the streets again—walking for miles. I have become familiar with and know major landmarks like Plaza Principal at the city heart where the big “Templo” stands. I try to walk places I have not been. This afternoon I found a marvelous old church, Templo de San Juan de Dios. The place was empty and I had it to myself. Light was pouring in from stained glass windows high above, casting soft glowing colors on the warm white walls. Jesus figures, created lovingly and given great feeling were there, along with Mary sculptures. The floors under the humble wooden pews are marble and decorative. I lingered, shot photos and felt holiness.

Later, on the street again, aroma from a shop selling rotisserie roasted chickens over wood fire stopped me. For about $2.50 I bought half a chicken, with roasted potatoes and green chile thrown in for good measure. I tied the bag to my belt and walked on. At Plaza Principal, great festivities were in swing. Mariachi musicians, balloon sellers, children playing, a clydesdale horse, and a donkey decorated with flowers. Flower garlands were popular with the females who put them on their heads with smiles and laughter. Muy bonita! 
Flower garlands, waiting to crown a head.

As I was heading home, a little girl was suddenly by my side. Her poor peasant family was at the curb. She pointed to my bag of chicken and sheepishly held out her hand. No hay problema. I gave her part of my supper. 

And that is the way of life down here in Mexico.

Link  to paintings by Steven Boone

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Travel Is Surprise

A great joy of travel is surprise. For instance when I decided I wanted to visit Egypt, it was not long after 911. Several of the terrorists who hijacked the jet planes and flew them into the world trade towers were Egyptian. There was some hysteria about flying in airplanes, let alone going to Egypt. Thoughts came to mind that as an obvious American I might be kidnapped, tortured etc. I decided to go anyway because it is practically the cradle of the world. Surprise! Great kindness and appreciation awaited. Strangers on bicycles would wave as they passed by on the street, shouting in English, “Welcome to Egypt.” Now, when people ask what is my favorite place of all the countries I have traveled, Egypt is with a couple others at the top. I still have friends in Luxor who are like family.

Father and son musicians, Guanajuato City, Mexico
"The Note" 16x12 inches, oil on board

I am at present in Mexico, a country that has had bad publicity up north. President elect Trump has promised to wall off the entire border. Names have been called. Some people, including a Mexican friend, advised not to visit for fear of harm.

In Guanajuato City and now San Miguel De Allende I have met with nothing but warmth, good will and welcome. The cities remind me of Spain, especially Granada where I have lived. People are earthy, and of practical nature. They seem genuinely interested in me, and want me to like their homeland.

In Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, I had the trust and surprise thing going, but several times as I wandered the streets, locals would grab my arm and tell me it was dangerous to walk about as I was. So far in Mexico, at least in the towns I have lived, I can step in THE DREAM safely.

Typical street, San Miguel De Allende, Mexico

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Heart Connected To Place

I am among Mexicans now. Each day I walk the cobbled streets and walkways of Guanajuato City where I am living. All manner of people greet me and I find if I make eye contact and smile even a little, a warm acknowledgement occurs with reciprocation.

The narrow passages wind about, and when I stop to buy meat at a carniceria (butcher shop), stop in a farmacia for personal incidentals, buy fruit or vegetables at a stand or pick up bread at a paneria, I get by with the little Spanish I know. If I don't understand the exact amount I owe, I reach in my pocket and pull out my change and they take the coins needed and wave me off with a smile.
Everything is cheaper than in the USA.

Tonight, Saturday, I wandered into the city centre (about a ten minute walk) and found street performers, happy crowds of families, all types of people, and roving groups of singers dressed in spectacular costumes with instruments entertaining groups of spectators, getting them to join in singing familiar songs.

I am quickly coming under the spell of this vibrant city. The quicker I assimilate into the culture, the happier I am. I don't like playing “tourist.”

Today I started a painting of a Mexican man leaning against a wall, wearing a broad brimmed hat, looking down at a paper in his hand. A flower pot with blooming plants is next to him and doorway behind. I have made my kitchen into an impromptu studio—it has a big table, is spacious with large windows lending plenty of light.

I am indulging my passion for street photography. Setting forth walking, sometimes for hours I disappear into the path ahead, rambling, only aware of light, texture, sound, the motions of people and the congruence of forms. It is easy to slip into THE DREAM. I am not aware of myself as separate; I am what I see as boundaries disappear. I enjoy taking my chances with odd pictures and look for poignant fleeting images that come and go quickly.

Sometimes I am surrounded by people with cameras, often smartphones attached to the end of sticks so they can take "selfies." I have no interest in this and I do not try and take great tourist pictures. There are photographers with much better equipment and more camera knowledge than I who will always do better. What I bring is my own way of seeing, and a heart connected to place.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Being in THE HEART

In the past I have been able to venture into foreign lands and get lost in the culture and landscape. I want to continue being a free spirit as I travel south in a few days to Mexico and then further to Ecuador. To be free means abandoning an identity that tethers me to a race, nationality, gender or any other limitation of circumstance. It means being in THE HEART, pulsing in rhythm with the beat of wherever I find myself. And I like finding myself in unexpected places. 

So many experiences come to mind. Some I call THE DREAM, because they take me into enchantment. For instance walking across Piazza del Popolo in Rome and having an epiphany of time and place as I stepped over cobblestones under the Egyptian obelisk of Ramesses II from Heliopolis. Or riding a camel at the foot of the pyramids in Giza, Egypt and nothing could tell me I was not a nomad of ancient days. Pressing flesh with Masai tribes people, we smiled together as I experienced their Africa. Living in a houseboat floating on a lake bestrewn with water lilies at the foot of the Himalaya Mountains in Kashmir, India, or getting lost in the great cities of the world, roaming the streets and taking photos in chance places with unexpected outcomes keeps me in THE DREAM.

When I leave the USA I hope to accept bewilderment and then discover life is wonderment when surrendered to SPIRIT.

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Two women came into my gallery recently, went straight to a new work and then stood in front of it talking. It was as if a conversation was occurring that included the artwork. In the picture, a loosely defined person is seen walking toward us in relaxed manner. He is dressed in a robe that could have been worn a thousand years ago. We cannot tell where he is for the details are blurred. He seems surrounded by light that illumines an otherwise dark scene. Golden rays seem to fall upon him from on high. Illumination surrounds his head.
“What does that remind you of?” asked one woman to her friend. “Yes, I know, “ answered the other. “Footsteps.”

 Just then another woman walked in, and was asked, “What does it remind you of?” “Footsteps,” she answered.

I talked with the ladies a while and explained that the piece is a photo I took in the Himalaya Mountain region of Kashmir. I was coming down from a trek late in the afternoon and as my car with driver passed this fellow, I turned around, leaned out the window and snapped his picture. It had been a remarkable day and this moment was part of it.
I sold a print of the original to one of the ladies and learned that “Footsteps” is a poem, formally called Footsteps In The Sand, without a known author. I read it years ago but had forgot. Here is this poignant verse:

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You'd walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."
He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you."

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Love Like A Shield

“Be safe,” “Safe travels”, “Take care”, were frequent Facebook comments when the post about my upcoming travel to Mexico, Ecuador and Bolivia arrived on the platform last weekend. I recently said the same thing to my daughter Sarah when she set out in a blizzard to go ski in Colorado. I wished her to take care so as not to come to harm. If I could I would envelope her with love like a shield.

I understand others concern behind the words, and am grateful for the sentiments. In part there is precautionary warning because life has many uncertanties. In fact, when I told my brother I was going to Mexico he said he recently cancelled his trip there with his Mexican girlfriend because it is alarmingly unsafe. A Mexican friend of mine, an undocumented worker who I have hired occasionally for years also warned me. When I said, “I am going to Mexico Sergio!” he looked into my eyes for a second and smiled, then looked down at the ground and said, “Don't go.”
Buddha boy at Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Christmas 2015

It reminds me of 2008 as I prepared to journey for a year around the world. I knew I wanted to visit Egypt. As the day approached to fly to the middle east, I had some dark thoughts because Islamic extremists from Egypt flew the planes into the world trade towers. I almost changed my plans but went anyway. Now when people ask what is my favorite place in the world, I often mention Egypt.

External threats are apparent on the news. But what of threats from the inside? Years ago I remember seeing a news article in the local paper about a woman and her sick daughter. A photo showed them together in their living room. The woman had a long syringe in her hand and forlorn look. She had to inject her daughter with medicine to relieve pain. I felt pity that these two lives had become so narrow and miserable. Little did I know that within a few years this scene would play out in my life. A serial killer lurked within my daughter's body. No one knows how long this beast stalked her, but it grew and made itself known, wreaking havoc. Within two years of our discovery of cancer, it killed Naomi. She did not have to set foot out of her house. The danger was within. (A Heart Traced In Sand).

I believe everyone carries malevolent germs and organisms that given an opportunity can cause death. Our body holds them in check. My cousin went to Cost Rica, picked up a germ and died of spinal meningitis within weeks of returning home. Early in life he had leukemia and almost died. Furthermore, our brains and nervous system are highly tuned. People can become unhinged, mentally “ill”. Quality of life is severely diminished from trauma. How many are on prescriptions?

I learned when Naomi fell ill that there is no safety in life. We assume there is, but there is not. So I will go on my work/adventure and realize that anything is possible. Even death. But my body knows that already. And I do not want to live without thrill and discovery. That is worse than death. During her time of ordeal, Naomi always looked to the positive, to beauty and light as powerful allies that would enable her to overcome.

I leave January 11. The US State department lists travel warnings everywhere in the world. (See International Travel). There are many places in Mexico with warnings, but the place I am going is without apparent peril. From there I go to Ecuador for a month. I had planned to go to Bolivia for a world-class carnival but could not get a place to stay. It is so popular that people make bookings a year in advance.
Another time maybe.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

With My Heart Clear

I have a one-way ticket out of the United States. I decided to leave on my daughter Naomi's birthday, January 11. She watches over me from the next world. When I journey, I go without fear and she extends my heart to wonder. With my heart clear, the world opens like a rose.

I have known I would be going south soon, especially to Ecuador and Bolivia. Ecuador is famous for being a destination country for American people seeking comfort, beauty and less expense in living. As for Bolivia—years ago someone told me about a carnival there, full of heart in the poorest country in South America, in a town called Oruro. (See web article) It is a much smaller version of carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where I went in 2010.

I take my work wherever I go; painting, photographing and writing, and doing some business on the internet.

Two Latin fellows came into my gallery recently and we got to talking, especially about travel. Both men were warm, but Oscar was especially exuberant. He told me about a city in Mexico, Guanajuato City, where artists live amid colorful buildings in the mountains.“I guarantee you would love it!” he exuded. Oscar left me his card and info before leaving, promising to help me if I wanted. It is near another Mexican town that is famous for art and artists: San Miguel De Allende, where I have friends living full time.

After looking it up on YouTube, I could see how I just might love it like Oscar promised. (See pictures) I will go and stay for awhile. After that I will visit San Miguel De Allende and then Ecuador and Bolivia.

I look forward to getting “lost.” Then, I will search for my true brothers and sisters, my mother and father, Naomi and those dearest to my heart. I will seek and find my true family and burst with love when I do.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Light In The Dark

Santa Fe Plaza, first night of Christmas lights
Last night I went to some art openings with Therese. There were four or five but we selected two photo exhibits. As we drove, she became excited at the Christmas lights around town. “I just love Christmas!” she said with a voice brimming with enthusiasm. I felt surprise.

We parked near a gallery, began walking arm-in-arm in the cold night air, and I volunteered a memory. “I was only four or five years old. Our family lived in a suburb of Chicago. I remember my mother bundling me up one cold night and taking me downtown on the train. It was only about a half-hour ride. We arrived among the tall buildings, and walked on the snowy sidewalks, holding hands. There were throngs of people and I sensed excitement and gaiety. We stopped in front of the big department store windows. They positively glowed with Christmas activity and carefully constructed holiday scenes; life sized Santa Clauses', elves that moved, realistic reindeer, indoor snow—with snow-dust that glistened and gleamed. Big train sets with moving trains. Colorful dolls all fancy and made up. Animals I had never seen; penguins and unicorns. Mother and I pressed our faces up to the glass and marveled. What I remember most was the light, creativity, cold night and loving warmth of my mother. It was special; just the two of us.”

The photo exhibit at Verve Gallery was remarkable. We found the subject matter to our liking. The photographer, Beth Moon, travels the world finding the oldest most wonderful trees with character and photographs them at night. She chooses specimens that are in places free of light pollution. Then carefully waits for conditions that allow for photos that show the trees with the backdrop of millions of stars.

Santa Fe Plaza, beginning of Christmas season
Everyone likes light in the dark; just like Christmas.