Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | November 23, 2016

The Beginning of the Rainbow

My son Eli and I met up in Taiwan last week.  He was eager to visit The Rainbow Village while we were in Taichung.  Several reviews suggested it was too far off the beaten path to be worth the trip, but most people were highly enthusiastic.

img_5307

I did a little research; sometimes the story of a place or object can imbue it with meaning.  This story goes way back, and knowing the story made a difference to me.  Huang Yung-Fu was born in 1924.  During the Chinese Civil War he fought for Chiang Kai-shek, and in 1949, he followed their defeated leader to Taiwan.
img_5278

Hundreds of villages sprang up throughout Taiwan, providing temporary military housing for the veterans like Huang Yung-Fu and their families.  Some of the military villages had a thousand units or more. The temporary concrete houses became permanent homes for many. 

img_5274

They were small and drab and time took its toll on the buildings.  Cities grew up around them, and the property became more valuable than the dwellings.  Developers started buying up the land. Residents were offered compensation and relocation if they would agree to vacate.

img_5276

 Most veterans submitted, but Huang Yung-Fu resisted; he would not leave his home.

img_5290

The old veterans’ community was gradually reduced to only 11 residences.

img_5304

They wanted to tear down Huang Yung-Fu’s home too.  So he picked up a paintbrush and began to paint…

img_5282

…and paint…

img_5292

…and paint.

img_5283

Bit by bit, wall by wall, his colorful murals expanded to beautify all the remaining residences.  

img_5294

Local university students discovered Huang’s work and campaigned to save the village. What was left of the place became known as The Rainbow Village.  Authorities eventually agreed that it should be preserved, and it has since become a designated cultural area.

img_5298

Mr. Huang, referred to by many simply as Grandpa, is now 94 years old. At a little table you can purchase post cards, magnets, and other products based on his work, the proceeds of which must surely provide a good living.

img_5302

Grandpa was napping when we got there, but we’re told he often touches up his work, keeping it fresh and bright.

img_5305

I am in awe. With the help from local students, a fragile old man rescued his home from destruction and urban decay through his art. He transformed his home into a vibrant tourist hotspot that also provides a good living.

img_5299

Huang Yung-Fu has worked a kind of magic, real and powerful.  He has turned this…

img_5289

…into this.

img_5306

As surely as Huang Yung-Fu was going to lose his home, we are going to lose ours.  Imagine what would happen if writers and storytellers, visual and performing artists everywhere were to unleash their passion, channel their creative talents, and fearlessly use their superpowers to advocate action for environmental protection, humanitarian aid, civil rights and social justice.  Artist Favianna Rodriguez says, “Change the culture, change the world.” She quotes Abraham Lincoln, who said, “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.”   It has happened before.  Sinclair Lewis, Pete Seeger, Miriam Makeba, Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank, Diego Rivera, just for starters.  It can happen again.  And it’s now or never time.

All images and words ©2016 Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Magic.

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | November 15, 2016

Resistance is NOT Futile

 

All the stars and planets were aligned…Just after the election I had a birthday, which I share with my binary brother, Lewis.  In sixty years, we’ve never spent a birthday apart.  Like so many of us, he was shocked, saddened, crushed by the election results.  There was only one thing to do.  We played space age hooky, beamed him out of the office and transported ourselves to the Seattle Center.

Specifically, to the EMP, which is celebrating 50 years of Star Trek.

I hardly remember life before Star Trek. And talk about The Next Generation! My children absorbed Star Trek by osmosis in utero. As I ascended the stairs to the EMP tribute, the Star Trek theme song elicited a visceral response that only gets stronger as I get older.  I’ve lived long enough now to see many of these stories played out on my planet in real time.


The Star Trek universe was built upon a future where poverty was eliminated, equality and diversity went hand in hand, and the good of the many took precedence over the few.  Humans had learned to cooperate, and put an end to war.  All of Earth and the Federation of Planets collaborated on peaceful missions of exploration.  What a concept!  A bit rosy, but a vision worth striving for.

My brother and I arrived early and shared the floor with only a few others, including a very cute couple in Star Fleet uniforms.

We had shared a womb for nine months, and managed to both fit into a Borg Regeneration Chamber too.

Star Trek had action and adventure, but was also thoughtful and intelligent.  Writers could get away with astute critical social commentary, because it was all happening in another universe. Thinly veiled stories posed tough questions about civil rights, social disparity and racism in our own society.

Martin Luther King was marching for basic civil rights and a place at the lunch counter for African Americans when Classic Trek was filmed, featuring a black woman as fourth in command on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

It wasn’t long before a woman would captain the Federation Starship Voyager.

A black man was in command of the space station, Deep Space Nine.

Julian Bashir, whose Arabic name means “bringer of good news,” was the doctor on DS9.

In the original series Lt. Sulu was played by George Takei, who is gay.  Fifty years later, in the most recent Star Trek movie, writers gave Sulu a child and a husband, a powerful tribute to the actor who first brought Sulu to life. More importantly, it was an unwavering moral and political statement of inclusiveness that brought tears to my eyes.

For just a little while, it felt good to be in a place of Equal Opportunity bridges, and not walls.  Right now we are in the middle of our own episode, so scary it seems like science fiction, with the world we’ve worked so hard to build spinning out of control.  The incidence of hate crimes is rising dramatically.  Social security is threatened.  Fifty years of social progress is at risk as minorities, immigrants, women, LGBTQ, those with disabilities, and the poor are in danger of being disenfranchised.  The environment is on the brink of ruin beyond recovery because in this episode The Almighty Dollar is worshipped at all costs. In this story, we don’t have other worlds to relocate to after we’ve ruined this planet. Too many episodes begin with civilizations that have self-destructed, or are ruled by uncaring masters who live in the clouds in their own decadent paradise, while the workers they exploit to maintain their carefree lifestyle live in a harsh ugly world. You probably saw “Patterns of Force,” the episode pictured below; there are people old enough to have lived through that reality, and who recognize the signs in our country today.

patterns-of-force-star-trek-women-13190574-720-530

If we wait until the 24th century to be rescued, or for ‘enlightenment’ to kick in, we’re going to find ourselves back in the Dark Ages wondering what happened.  Anyone who has watched Star Trek knows how difficult it is to travel back in time to change the future.   Star Trek’s writers say,  “…start by picking a resolution…then plan each step so it drives the story toward the ending you want…”

Every episode needs conflict to give a story purpose and move the plot forward.  Star Trek writers created a terrifying foe called The Borg...”individuals who have been captured and assimilated…and transformed into mindless worker drones…What’s frightening about the Borg is not their violence…They are unhampered by empathy for other beings, believing their way is perfection…The Borg are, in essence, a virus that uses civilizations as its hosts.”

Can you see where our country is headed? We will NOT be assimilated. Our story must end with a world where people of every race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation live and work together, without fear of banishment, punishment or judgement simply for being who they are. This episode must end with respect, inclusivity, and compassion for all. We must do whatever it takes to make it so. The reason Star Trek has become such a lasting legacy is because it is hopeful and empowering and delivers a message we need to hear.  The captain’s chair is ready. Let’s take our tall ship, keep an eye on that star to steer her by, and go full speed ahead, warp factor 10. Whatever happens, please remember…Resistance is NOT futile.  It is the only way we ever have or ever will make any headway, and it will be a crucial message to the next generation.

©2016 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme.

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | November 6, 2016

The Many Degrees of Spooky

Something to think about this scary time of year, and I’m not talking about Halloween.

Writing Between the Lines

Okay, guys.  There are so many degrees of spooky.  There is silly spooky fun, much of it tasteless.

Well, actually this one tasted pretty darn good!

So did these guys, but you know what I mean.

In the real world, mildly spooky is a vicious ATM that eats your cash card five minutes after landing in a foreign land, and then being forced to use your rusty high school Spanish to try to get it back over the phone from a bank where no one speaks English.  To no avail.  The machine can smell your fear, and the voice on the other end of the line really doesn’t care.  But you know you’ll survive.

Or how about when your staircase remodel is taking far too long, and every night you build a barricade of chairs and boxes around the gaping opening, and you realize you’re telling your children, “Don’t fall…

View original post 339 more words

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | November 4, 2016

A Guid Crack

I’ve been out in the world again, this time with my friends Meg and Shirley, at the Scottish International Storytelling festival.

It happens each October in the ancient and storied city of Edinburgh.

The Storytelling Center is in a house built in 1490, the last residence of Protestant reformer John Knox.

The festival opened with Scottish stories, although this year’s focus was on South and Central America.

Two doors down from the center was our flat, with a splendid view.

What a treat to arrive at the height of the autumn color!

Every day we filled up our story banks. In Scotland a guid crack is lively conversation, the sharing of gossip, news, stories. Over lunch, Meg’s brother Jim told ghost stories, personal stories, and history fun facts.  The storytelling gene clearly runs strong in their family.

We picked up stories and histories from the castles, and a few from Holyrood Palace…

…where Mary, Queen of Scots, once lived (in the older wing).

We visited The National Portrait Gallery, The Edinburgh Museum, The Museum of Childhood, and the photography exhibit in the Parliament Building.  The People’s Story was a museum highlighting the changing conditions and the continuing pursuit of social justice for the people of Edinburgh, including women and the LGBTQ community.

I was intrigued by a painting hanging on the wall of The National Gallery.  It depicted the very room it was displayed in as it had appeared when painted over a century before.  Not much had changed.

We popped into Jenner’s, an elegant department store built in 1895, where they weren’t allowed to remodel, because it was a ‘listed’ historic building.  Meg grew up in a nearby village and would ride the train to town with her mother to shop, but they went to the C&A down the street. Meg remembers window shopping at Jenner’s as a college student.

Mostly we just did window shopping.

But you know…

…in Edinburgh even window shopping is quite special.

I’d heard of haggis as a delicacy unique to Scotland, but nobody ever said anything about macaroni pie.

I loved the Tartans.

And there’s nothing like a kilt to make a man look his best.

But even in Scotland accessories can make–or break–the outfit.

Everywhere we went, we were just steps away from natural beauty.

There were ancient churches and cathedrals around every corner.

Steep narrow passages called ‘closes’ spread like ribs from the spine formed by The Royal Mile.

Edinburgh looked like a city on tiptoe…

 

…with so many layers of mystery and history just waiting to be discovered.

Meg had to translate the words on this sign for me.  It says, “Long may your chimney smoke,” but it means, “May you always have fuel for your fire,” which is a cozy way of wishing someone a long and healthy life.

I never did discover the answer to the vital question most visitors wonder about when they come to Scotland, but are too polite to ask.  

Which is probably all for the best.

All words and images ©2016 Naomi Baltuck.

Click to visit Meg’s blog, Story Twigs the Imagination, and her post about our trip.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Transmogrify.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Hills.

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | September 9, 2016

All Things Are Connected

The chief of a certain village had many advisors.

If there was something he wanted done, he would order it done, and it would be done. “Is it a good thing?” the chief would ask. Whether it was a wise decision or no, his counselors always agreed.  Those who did not were beaten.  There was one counselor who never said ‘yes’ and never said ‘no.’  This counselor would consider the matter and reply, “All things are connected.”


The village was located at the edge of the marsh.  At night when the chief couldn’t sleep, he became aware of the noisy croaking of the frogs.  Once it came to his attention, he found himself listening for it each night.  The sound annoyed him so much he ordered all the frogs killed.


“Do you agree with my plan?” he asked.  His counselors all agreed, except for the one, who warned, “All things are connected.”  “Pah!” said the chief, and that night he sent his people to the marshes to kill frogs.

They killed frogs and they killed frogs until there were no frogs left to kill.

“Ah,” said the chief. “Now I shall be able to sleep.”
That night he slept very well, and for many nights thereafter.

But one night he heard another annoying sound.  “Zzzzzz…Zzzzz…Zzzzzzzzzzzz…”

He summoned his counselors.  “The mosquitoes are worse than the frogs!  Why didn’t you tell me they would rise in swarms and eat us alive without the frogs to eat them? Tonight I will send my people to kill all the mosquitoes!” So they killed mosquitoes and they killed mosquitoes. But as many they killed, there were many more left. The mosquitoes made life so miserable that everyone left their fields and homes to start new lives far away, until the village was deserted, except for the chief and his family.


All day long the chief sat alone in his hut, swatting mosquitoes and muttering, “All things are connected.” But it was too late for the frogs. Too late for the village. Too late for the chief. Finally he too moved away.

The wise understand that all things are connected…

By the ground we walk on…

By the air we breathe…

By the the water we drink…

By the rhythm of the heart.

All things are connected…

…and hang by a delicate thread.

We too are living on the edge, and must find the balance between give and take.

Can we learn the difference between just enough…

…and too much?

All…

…things…

…are…

…connected.

What kind of world do we want to leave our children?

The answer is in our hands.

All words and images copyright 2016 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Edge.

 

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | September 7, 2016

The Circus Is Always In Town…

…at Pat Peterson’s house.

And yours too, if you’re a friend.  In fact, after Pat’s last visit I found a mysterious note and a tiny solar-powered circus on my kitchen windowsill.

Finding ways to surprise and entertain is second nature to Pat.

It has always been that way.

And I suspect it always will.

Don’t let the bun and the bifocals fool you.

 

Pat meets every challenge head-on.

Life is never dull.  She says, “I’m the Crazy Cat Lady your mother warned you about.”

Pat spends hours–sometimes whole weekends–doing what she calls “peddling pussy” at pet adoption fairs, finding good homes for difficult-to-place kitties. If she can’t place them, she takes them in herself.  Which is why her fourteen roommates have afflictions like kitty diabetes, three legs, one eye, not to mention curious names like Bumpus, Baby June, Lucy and Ethel, Bingo, and Rodeo, just to name a few.

Pat is a storyteller extraordinaire. Years ago, before a performance, she came to chat with my daughter Bea, sitting in the front row with a little friend.  When she left to prepare for her show, Pat gave Bea a big box of lollipops. Bea’s friend asked, “Who was that?”  “That was Pat,” said Bea. “She’s…some kind of relative.” Bea didn’t know exactly how, but she knew Pat was family. Even now that my kids are grownup world travelers, Pat still sees them off on every trip with toys, homemade cookies…

…and other necessaries.

 

Whether sharing folk or literary tales, or her specialty, personal tales drawn from her own life, Pat is the best. For years I’ve been trying to get her to record her stories. She finally agreed to tell/record at a house concert that fell a couple days after her birthday and on the actual birthday of her husband Richard, a retired engineer.

When right brain and left brain collided 54 years ago, sparks went flying…

…and they have been ever since.

After retiring, Richard discovered Train Mountain, the equivalent of Disneyland for seasoned brainiacs. There he builds scale model trains and gets to be the fun kind of engineer. Pat and their son Sam have been sighted there riding the rails with him.


At the house concert Pat shared her signature stories, while storyteller and local Good Guy, John Wasko, recorded them.

I knew she’d close with “The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate” by Margaret Mahy.

So we went with a pirate theme.

We have our Seattle Storytelling Guild audiences trained.

They are not afraid to play dress up.

Festivities opened with a pirate ship pinata.  Someday, when you’re older, I’ll tell you why we filled it with quarters instead of candy.

The doll, created by a friend of Pat’s, is a Pat Peterson action figure wearing the dress from her exquisite and unforgettable personal story called…The Yellow Party Dress.

I think it’s safe to say it was a happy birthday for Pat and Richard, and a Happy Day for everyone else.

 

For our friend, our auntie, our storygodmother, our beloved Queen Mum of the SSG, may there be many more, with sugar on top!

Copyright 2016 NaomiBaltuck

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | August 12, 2016

The Fish Whisperer

The weather report predicted rain the whole time. We had only five days.  Last-minute tickets were double the price.

But we love Alaska

…we love my sister Constance…

…and we love to fish.

On his last trip Eli couldn’t drop a line without pulling out a fish.  After catching a thirty pound King, he was hooked.

 

Using frequent flyer miles and companion fares, we caught the tail end of the salmon season.

You can pack a lot into five days, especially in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

We set out each day by the crack of noon.

Wildlife was abundant, whether feathered…

 

 

…or finned.

And then there was the two-footed kind.

Con’s friend Barbara is famous for her gin and tonics, and now her recently remodeled garage is a neighborhood attraction that everyone calls the Garage Mahal.

At the Alaska State Museum my artist sister’s painting, belonging to its permanent collection, was on display.  She’d just had a show of paintings created during a residency in a historic lighthouse keeper’s house on an island off the rugged coast of Norway.

 

We were inspired to make art of our own.  At her studio Eli and Constance painted…

…and I sketched Thom, although I couldn’t get him to look up from his book.

The line at the art house cinema was tolerable.

Small town headlines were refreshing.

And the fish were biting!

 

Some for grilling…

…and some for smoking.

 

The Fish Whisperer…

 

…strikes again!

 

We’ll be back. 

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Fun.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Sport.

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | July 29, 2016

The Icing on the Cake

A visit from a friend…

A ride on the ferry…

A road trip across the Olympic Peninsula…

…to Olympic National Park.

Wildflowers…

…and more wildflowers.

Wildlife…

…and more wildlife.

To top off these incredible views…

…we experienced a spot of weather, with thunder clouds rolling in.

In a matter of moments…

…we had a completely different view.

Just as dramatic.

Just as beautiful.

And just a little bit dangerous.

It was the icing on the cake.

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

The Weekly Travel Theme: Weather.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Cherry on Top.

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | July 11, 2016

You Just Never Know

Once upon a time, there was a swamp that was home to many creatures, including…

… frogs. 

Two frogs decided to see the world.  They went hop-hop, hop-hop, hop-hop down the road in search of adventure.

They came to a big farm, and croaked out a cheery greeting to the dairy cows.

Then they went inside the big barn to explore.

There were so many new and exciting things to see in there!

But as they jumped about, they accidentally landed in a big pitcher of cream.

They tried to climb out, but the sides were too steep and slippery, and they slid back into the cream. Even frogs don’t like to die: they tried everything they could think of to escape.  When that didn’t work, they tried everything they couldn’t think of.

“It’s no use!” said the first frog. “We’re doomed!” And he sank down into the cream and disappeared.

But that second little frog…she kept swimming about with all her tiny frog might, just to keep from drowning.  The cream began to block her eyes and nose. Just when she thought she couldn’t swim another stroke, she felt something strange beneath her feet.  She was standing on a big lump…of butter!  With the brave paddling of her own tiny frog legs, she had churned that cream into butter. She leapt out of the bowl and went hop-hop, hop-hop, hop-hop down the road, in search of another adventure.

All words and images Copyright Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Indoors.

Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | July 3, 2016

Happiness Runs…

She’s baaaaack!  My Scottish-born friend Meg Philp

…who lives Down Under

…made a quick trip Up Over last week.

After presenting at a conference and performing in Victoria, Meg came to Seattle for a quick visit.  She’s always up for anything.  Meg has a storytelling blog, and was glad to see what she could learn during a photo walk in the Edmonds Marsh, with Diana Scheel of Cat in the Moon Photography.

At the waterfront we posed for a group portrait.

Diana left to collect first prize in a photo contest in Shoreline (Yay, Diana!) while Meg and I snapped shots…

…near…

…and far.

 

On previous trips, we’d been proper tourists.  This time we enjoyed simple pleasures near home.

We picked ripe raspberries for breakfast each morning, and the occasional blueberry.

We went out to play with our friends….

…and had a picnic of fish ‘n’ chips while watching the sunset from Brackett’s Landing.

We walked around Green Lake…

…where we saw flora…

…fauna…

…and some big water toys.

We hosted an evening of storytelling, with a potluck and a “crack,” as Meg says–good talk and fun between friends.

Meg treated us to a set of stories that had us all laughing and left us wanting more.

Good thing there was an open mic. Patty Zeitlin kicked off with the story of The Watts Towers in LA, and the song she wrote about it, Castle in My City.  I felt honored that she chose to celebrate her 80th birthday with us that night!

My brother Lewis had the audience in stitches with “The Twilight Phone.” Lenore Jackson told a funny and touching personal story, drawing a parallel between her Texas childhood and Sleeping Beauty’s briar patch.  When I told my story of childhood in Detroit, a guest recognized the street names and we discovered that she’d lived only blocks away.  She and I attended the same elementary school on the other side of the country!   What are the chances?

Meg and I also taught each other some new songs: it’s what we do.

We sang a camp song based on a Donovan song, a lovely round that goes like this:

Happiness runs in a circular motion…

Life is like a little boat upon the sea…

Everyone is a part of everything anyway…

You can be a part if you let yourself be.

We had a five day run of happiness, and before we knew it, it was time for Meg to pack for the trip home.

We had a parting glass…

 

…and went to the train station.

Instead of a caboose, the last car of the train was a locomotive, identical to the one in front that pulled the train forward, except that this one faced backwards, which makes return trips much easier.  I took it as a good sign.

Safe travels, Meg!

All words and images ©2016 Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of the Weekly Travel Theme: Harmony.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Opposites.

Older Posts »

Categories