The Art of Work

Imagine a world without art and artists.

They help us see the world through different eyes.

And artisans infuse our everyday lives with beauty.

 

Works of art come in many disciplines.

 

And on many scales…

 …some more grand than others.

 

My artist sister Constance’s painting, “The Poet”, celebrates the literary art of poetry through her visual art.

But I have great appreciation for people who would never consider themselves artists, and yet they make an art of work.

Some apply exceptional creativity to their work, like this fellow who rigged a bicycle to power a sugar cane juicer, to crank out a little work of art one cup at a time.

Some turn an ordinary business into something with a very personal touch.

 

In Ireland,  I was moved by the gravestone of a man lovingly remembered for his gift of turning his work into an art.

Be it traditional…

 

…entrepreneurial…

…fleeting…

…or a treasured heirloom…

 

…art is all around us, and everyone is an artist in his or her own way, whether practicing with a paintbrush, chisel, camera, wooden spoon, plow, or scissors.

Art is in the eye of the beholder.

Also on the tongue…

…in the ear…

…the nose…

…the heart…

and the mind.

Whatever you do, wherever you go, party arty!

All images and words c2014Naomi Baltuck.

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

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

An Open Book

“Thou art alive still while thy book doth live, and we have wits to read and praise to give.”  –William Shakespeare–

Paris is a huge city, so crowded, so busy.

 

 Sometimes it’s difficult to see beyond the milling throngs.

   

But the city is an open book.

Its stories are there for all to read…

In a gesture.

Or a smile.

Or a sigh.

Life is happening all around.

So many faces…

…and each one…

…tells a story.

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of Thursday’s Special: Street Portraits.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life

Rather Than Curse the Darkness, Light a Tiki Torch!

We love to share the occasional Murder Mystery, D&D adventure, or Sci-fi party with friends, not to mention New Year’s Eve, Christmas Eve, Hanukkah and Lincoln’s Birthday.  But it was our first Valentine’s Day without the kids to help plan the party, and share in the fun.

Bea was away at school.

…Eli was visiting her in California…

 …and poor Thom was too sick to venture out of the bedroom.

Romance was out of the question, but that has never been the focus of our Valentine’s Day.  Thom and I find many days and ways to express our romantic feelings for each other.  Valentine’s Day has been a day to share with our wider circle of loved ones, and especially our kids.

I worried that instead of this

…the party would look like this.

Rather than curse the darkness, I lit a tiki torch…

…and celebrated Valentine’s Day with an Aloha Party!

 Aloha is difficult to define.  Literally it means ‘divine breath.’  But it can be used as a greeting, a salutation, a farewell.  It is also used  to express ‘love,’ ‘sympathy,’ ‘compassion.’  It’s as versatile as ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,’ but I like it so much more.

So I tossed the invitations up into the air, lit the tiki torches, set up a goody table, and here’s who the trade winds blew in.

Jim and Aarene came bearing papaya, pineapple, and delicious homemade plum wine.  They are horse lovers, storytellers, and co-hosts of Global Griot, a storytelling program on 90.7 FM KSER.  Aarene is the author of two very well received books, Endurance 101 and Sex in the Library.  Jim served in the navy as a submariner before becoming a professional Santa.  (Which explains the chapeau, and perhaps also why he’s drinking a Bosun’s Mate.)

The party was in full swing when Rick and Sue arrived with a huge Pineapple Upside Down Cake!  I was filling orders for drinks and couldn’t get to my camera, but here they are in their Hawaiian plumage at our 1950s New Year’s Eve party.  They are some of the most creative people I know.  Rick is the art director for WildTangent Studios, and an amazing artist/cartoonist (I own a copy of his book!).  Sue is a prizewinning baker and my exercise buddy, which is only fair, since I have to work off the wonderful treats she brings.  For our sci-fi party, it was an ice creamy concoction they called Ketrecel White, which was tasty but potent!   I can’t believe my good fortune in having so many friends who are unabashed geeks.

See that beautiful cake, just left of the pineapple?  It was delicious!

The best parties start in the kitchen.

Seattle storyteller Norm Brecke and Portland storyteller Anne Rutherford caught us up on their news.  Norm spent the week performing “The Lighter Side of Lincoln,” while Anne had just finished a run of a show called “Scenes From the Future” at The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works in Portland.

What a lovely mix of family, old friends, and new friends too.  My cousins Nancy and Ian…

…brought a carload of people, including my brother Lew…

…and their neighbors, Joanne and Ian, who I met while walking around Green Lake with Nancy and Sue each week.  Joanne seemed always to be walking around the lake one way, and we were always walking around the other way; somehow it seemed natural to just start walking in the same direction.  Joanne is an artist, a quilter, a jewelry maker; every time we talk I find another shared interest.  Her husband Ian has been everywhere, and I particularly loved hearing about his travels in The Galapagos.  It was their first visit to our home, but I hope it will not be the last.

Jim and Megan are storytellers too.  They arrived with their daughter Tara, who I was very pleased to meet (she loves games and is quick to catch on!).

Many of the stories Jim Douma tells are the ones he sings.  He is a folk musician and played for years with the Celtic band, Clay Pipes.  He gave me a copy of his new CD, Flying Blindwhich he made with the help of my friend Rob Moitoza, who also produced and engineered my CDs.

Jim wrote the music and words to this splendid heartwarming collection. His daughters Tara and Meredith sang with him, and Meredith designed this striking and beautiful CD jacket.  Jim and Megan have clearly nurtured and passed on their creativity to the next generation of their family!

I was glad to welcome Gene Gousie and Kathy McMullen.  I did my very first professional storytelling with Gene Gousie thirty years ago!  He came to our wedding with his baby daughter Brie in a snuggly and I swear, he hasn’t changed a bit since then!

The party spilled into the living and dining rooms.  People visited, played games, and once again our home was filled with music and singing.

I was painfully shy as a kid.  I always had a special friend or two, and my sister is and has always been my best friend.  But it has taken me years–decades–to build such a lovely circle of exceptionally kind, funny, creative, and pleasantly quirky friends.  What I love best about a circle is that there is always room for one more.  It gives me such satisfaction when two of my friends who don’t know each other ‘click’ and thus the circle grows.

On Valentine’s Night, the wind was blowing and the air was crisp, but the aloha spirit was alive and well, and kept the darkness at bay.

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‘Kākou’ is the word that represents the Hawaiian value of inclusiveness.  ‘Aloha kākou’ means ‘May there be love and kindness between us all.’

Aloha kākou, dear friends!  

All images and words copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck

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

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

The Flight of the Sparrow

Last summer I saw a baby Stellar Jay perched on my arbor, resting after trying out its wings. I looked away for an instant; when I looked back, it was gone.

It reminded me of something The Venerable Bede once said.  Bede was an Anglo-Saxon monk born in 672A.D.

In  The Ecclesiastical History of the English People he compares a person’s life to the flight of a sparrow.  Imagine sitting in a mead-hall at supper by the light of a blazing fire, while outside a winter storm rages.

A sparrow flies in one door of the hall, into the light, then darts out out another door, back into the cold dark night.  “So our lives appear for a short space,” said Bede, “but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant.”

People have many different thoughts, feelings, beliefs and explanations as to what or if anything comes before…

…or after the sparrow’s flight.

Sooner or later each of us will fly out into the night.

That seems to be the only thing everyone can agree upon.

I don’t need to know all the answers before I fly back out.

I am right here, right now, basking in the warm and beautiful light of life.

Whatever happens outside the mead-hall won’t change the way I live my life here and now.

I have work I am passionate about…

..family I love and good friends to play with.

I care about issues in the wider world…

…and in my own little sphere.

I hope I can make some small difference…as a writer, a storyteller, a parent, a friend…

…and to leave even just a little nightlight shining…

…when my flight is done. nullAll words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more images of The One Word Photo Challenge:Storm.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo challenge: Let There Be Light.

Click here for more interpretations of Nancy Merrill’s Photo a Week Challenge: Flight

A Few of My Favorite Things

Sixteen months ago, I wrote my first blog post.  Since then, I’ve met fascinating people, made many friends, and discovered a new form of storytelling.  I’m like the Tortoise, not the Hare–slow and steady. Finally, I get to post for the hundredth time!

Through this blog I share my passion for travel, photography, writing, storytelling, and that which I hold dearest, my family. But if not for you, this blog would not exist.  There is an Armenian folk saying…

Three apples fell from heaven.

One for the teller,

One for the listener,

And one for the one who took it to heart.

Thank you for being here, for reading, for caring enough to follow this blog, and for sharing your thoughts, your stories, your lives with me through your blogs.  To mark this milestone, here are a few of my favorite posts from the past sixteen months.

Sunday Post:  Doors

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward Movement

Oceans (and the Irish Coastline)

Sunrise in Gibraltar

Flowers (are like people)

One Village

Weekly Photo Challenge: Create

To Shorten the Road

Reflections (On Life and the Art of Aging)

Where Are We?  Where’s Walter?  And Where is That Fleeting Moment?

Editing Monet’s Garden

All words and images c2013 Naomi Baltuck

You Mean It’s NOT a River?

Some people say life is a river.  I think it’s more like a mountain.

 

It has its ups…

…and downs.

It can be glorious.

Mysterious.

Precarious.

Fraught with fire…

…and ice.

No one can climb it for you.

But, oh, what a trip.

As you find your way…

…the climb can be difficult.

But there will be beauty all around you.  In little things….

…or stretched out before you in all its grandeur.

Life is a delicate balance, a precious jewel, a piece of work.

May there be friends to share the journey.

Look before you leap.

Wear the proper footwear.

And remember, we don’t trip on mountains.  We trip on molehills.–Japanese proverb

All words and images Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Theme:Path.

Jack Shit: Just Say Yes

When my daughter Bea was a little girl, she found a seed in a seedless Satsuma, and planted it in a tiny pot on our kitchen windowsill.  She kept the soil moist and, to our delight, a tiny Satsuma tree sprouted.  We nearly lost hope when the little tree was infested with insects, but it hung on.  Through the years, we tried everything we could think of to bring it back to health. We washed it with dish soap to get rid of the bugs, and transplanted it to a bigger pot.  We tried covering the soil with plastic wrap, to keep the bugs away from the leaves.  In desperation, we trimmed it down to almost nothing, but it came back–and so did the bugs.  I half hoped it would die, just to be done with it.

Last summer I set it out on the deck, like a fish thrown back into the water, to sink or swim.  But the little tree liked the fresh air and sunshine, and grew greener and healthier than ever.  I brought it inside before the nights turned cold, and it’s back on the windowsill, perhaps gazing out at the yard and looking forward to warm summer nights.

We live our lives in hope.

Almost everything we do is an act of hope. Big ones and little ones.

Hope is writing this post, even when I couldn’t figure out the new Photobucket last night.  It’s trying a new flavor of yogurt.  It’s getting out of bed each morning.  It’s teaching your child to look both ways when crossing a street.  It’s writing the address of a friend with cancer into your address book—in ink.  Hope is page one of every new book you open.

It’s writing page one of a new manuscript before the last one has sold.  It’s everything from watering a plant to having a baby, from a blind date to getting married.  It’s why Jack planted his magic beans, against all odds and common sense.  Hope was the last most precious thing left to us, when Pandora opened up her box.  It’s more important than love, because as long as we have hope, love might yet grow.

A scientist studying nature vs. nurture put identical twins into separate rooms, one stocked with toys, candy, a real live pony.  The other he put into a room filled with manure.  When he went back to observe, the twin in the room of toys was sitting in the middle of it, crying.  “What’s wrong,” said the scientist.  The child replied, “I just know I’m going to break something and get in trouble.”  The scientist found the other child up to its ears in manure, laughing, leaping about, scooping up handfuls of the stuff and tossing it to one side.  “What are you doing?” asked the scientist.  The child answered, “With all this shit, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Who says Jack doesn’t know shit?  Bring on the magic beans!

With all the shit life throws at you, there’s got to be a pony in there somewhere.

All words and images c2013 Naomi Baltuck

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

Click for more interpretations of The Island Travelers Weekly Image of Life : The Blessings of Hope, and Jake’s Sunday Post: Hope.

The Thing About Doors

Is a door the way in or the way out?  It depends…are you coming or going?

We find many interesting doors in life.

Sometimes we know just what we need…

Other times the choice is not so clear…

Some doors are lovely…

Others scary…

Some are daunting…

It would be nice if we could sneak a peek…

Some doors are difficult to get to…

Still others can be hard to find…

Or best avoided…

But you never can tell which door…

…will open up onto a new friendship…

 

…or even lead to a loving family.

Which is why we must not be afraid to step out into the sunshine, or forget to invite someone in out of the cold.

Reach for the doorknob….

…..and see what you can find.

All words and images Copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of Thursday Doors.

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

Life Will Out

While traveling in Argentina, we visited La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.   Since 1822, nearly 5,000 mausoleums have been constructed  in the highest fashion of the times, from Baroque and Neo-Gothic to Art Deco and Art Nouveau.   La Recoleta is a city for the dead, with elegant marble tombs neatly laid out in blocks over fourteen acres.

Some are maintained, for love or pride. Others, like the poet Shelley’s statue of Ozymandias, have fallen into disrepair, covered with spider webs and graffiti, littered with broken glass and faded plastic flowers.  Feral cats stare warily from marble perches and skulk away sideways if approached.

We saw the grave of Eva Peron, and other statesmen, poets, generals, and presidents.

More interesting to me was the final resting place for a mother and her infant.  They were not famous, but clearly they were loved.  Did she and the child die in childbirth or were they swept away by an epidemic? In any case, a grieving husband and father was spared to erect this memorial. Was he able to pick up the pieces of his broken life to find happiness again?

Wherever we go, we find reminders of all the stories in this world that will never be told.  When I photographed this memorial, I could be certain of only two things.  Both mother and child were subject to an early and tragic demise.  And, as seen by the lush green fern sprouting from the dust collecting in the cracks in the stone, life goes on.

All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck

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

Editing Monet’s Garden

Last May, while traveling in France, my sister and I went to Giverny to visit Monet’s Garden.  The line to enter was horrendous, and once we got past the ticket booth, we became part of the swarm of tourists overrunning his house and garden.  We must have heard a dozen different languages spoken, people from all over the globe had come to see for themselves the inspiration for Monet’s most famous paintings.

It was eye candy, a stunning profusion of color!   But instead of the rare and exotic flora I expected, all the flowers were, well, your regular garden variety.  Irises, roses, tulips, pansies, alyssum, forget-me-nots…nothing I don’t grow in my own garden.  Yet they were artfully arranged by height, texture, and color to maximize the effect.  And after all, they were in Monet’s Garden.

I wanted to capture at least the illusion of solitude and serenity, and to photograph the garden as I thought it must have been back in Monet’s day.  I waited for lulls in tourist traffic to get my shots.  But while waiting, I watched hoards of humanity shuffling by, and I caught glimpses of peoples’ lives that I found as moving as anything I saw in those historic gardens. Mothers and children, old couples holding hands, a little boy with eyes only for the baby chicks, an awkward teenaged boy who had eyes only for the teenaged chicks, and a family with four generations of women all sharing a park bench.

While we writers strive to capture a mood or feeling or effect, we should also observe the stories happening all around us.

The first  is like a very pretty still life, or a posed portrait of Mother Nature.  The other is a vibrant, sometimes messy picture of the world, brimming with humanity, and all the joy and heartbreak that life and love have to offer.

There is beauty in it all.

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All images and words © NaomiBaltuck

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

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant