Creative Dance

CreativeEnergy

Living most of the year in Atlántida, Uruguay, I seldom see a McDonald’s except in the heat of summer when one opens for four months, in the center of our sleepy beach town, to serve the throngs of tourists who flock here from December through March. I’ve never stepped inside, but our son often hung out there with his friends when he lived here. He said he loved their fries (papas fritas). I suspect he also loved girl-watching from that strategic location.

Each time I walk past the now-shuttered building, I’m reminded of an exchange of vibrancy I experienced years ago while visiting my friend Michael in LA. Yes, it involved McDonald’s.

Michael was close friends with an artist who created original murals for the McDonald’s restaurant chain in the early 80s. Knowing I was also an artist, the friend invited me and Michael to visit his warehouse studio one afternoon. I remember walking into the immense space and being in awe of the feeling of vitality surrounding me. As I walked down the long aisles I saw dozens of apparently identical paintings. I noticed some were unfinished and the blank canvas spaces had tiny numbers written on them. I stopped to ask.

“Paint by number,” he said, smiling. “I design and paint the original and then other artists paint the copies by duplicating the design and colors I’ve used.”

“Wow!” I said, wondering exactly how that worked.

He showed us his latest design and then invited us to join him for tea time. As we sipped our tea, he and Michael talked about their involvement with an intense personal development program called Silva—a meditation program to help people visualize and tap into their greatest potential. I was looking forward to attending the Silva weekend workshop that Michael was teaching.

We talked about the process of being creative. The mural artist said that he knew as a child that he would become an artist.

“I did as well,” I said. “As a kid, I dreamed of being an artist, a writer, a singer, a song writer. I always dreamed of creating original things.”

“And now you are,” Michael said.

“Destiny,” Michael’s friend added.

We talked at great length about the ‘rushes of pure energy’ that go into creating works of art, literature, and music, and how artists pour their most intense vitality into an original piece.

“An original painting is the first telling of a story,” he said. “It’s filled with passion and zest.”

I remember getting goosebumps with those words, knowing it to be true from my own experience. “Total awareness,” I said. “Being aware of a deeper knowledge and knowing you’re on the verge of making something magical happen through a creative endeavor. I always had a need to express myself after discovering new information. My inner voice encouraged me to take the information, stir my imagination, and create something unique.”

“Being able to go with that flow of energy and follow one’s passion to action is glorious,” he said.

I agreed.

“Come with me.” He stood and motioned me to follow. “I’ll bet you can pick out my original paintings from a line-up.”

I followed him to a large group of identical-looking murals. I walked up and back down the aisle, in a relaxed meditative state. I stopped in front of one painting and felt sparks pulse up through my body. The colors vibrated with light. “This one,” I said. “It’s dancing.”

He smiled and nodded.

I followed him to another row of murals and again picked his original creation.

He beamed.

I did this a third time and looked around the warehouse filled with identical colorful paintings. On the surface they all looked the same–same size, same design, same colors. But the original had a natural flow of vibrant, focused energy–it danced with attitude and spontaneity creating something magically unique.

Helping Hand

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As early as I can remember, I’ve felt a presence of protection around me, someone assigned to assist and guide me during my journey on earth. A helping hand. My very own heavenly representative. Mine never appeared as a chubby cherub but she did have wings, a long flowing robe, and moved like a graceful dancer.

One time, she appeared as a playful dog scampering through the woods with me one late night in Germany. I had just missed the last tram home and decided to walk a short-cut through the woods to my apartment. The dog joined me as soon as I entered the forest path, licked my hand, and stayed by my side until I arrived at my apartment. I turned to pat her head and say thanks but she had disappeared into the night. I never saw her again, but I was aware of the protection she provided. It felt like the same energy I had known as a child with my all-knowing, winged spirit guide.

Shortly before my first art exhibit in Frankfurt, Germany, I received a telephone call from a woman who collected art. I asked her how she knew about my upcoming exhibit. She said she saw a poster plastered around a column in a local U-Bahn station and found herself drawn to it. She found my name and telephone number in the local telephone directory. She asked if she could view the paintings before the show’s opening night. I agreed and she came to my studio immediately to see my work. Exotic looking, she arrived in a beautiful pink Indian sari, I noticed she also had a red dot painted on her forehead. After viewing the paintings, she asked if she could purchase the one titled, “Helping Hand.” I, of course, was delighted and told her it was my guardian angel’s hand. She nodded and insisted on paying me before the opening. She agreed to send a check and promised to collect the piece after the exhibit was over. She smiled and said, “It’s good to have a ‘SOLD’ or ‘ON LOAN from a private collector’ sign on a work on opening night. Helps sell art.”

Knowing I was down to my last pfennigs, and wondering where the next money was coming from, I agreed. The entire time she visited me, she seemed familiar. As though I knew her from another place or time. Perhaps it was déjà vu.

That night, I dreamed of my guardian angel from childhood, the one with the long flowing robe, sort of sari-like. When I was little, she was much bigger and better at everything than me and always got me out of tight spots and often helped steer me to safety over an old swinging, rickety bridge. As a storm stirred overhead, dark shapes lurked in the raging river below. This time I realized that I was crossing the bridge alone. When I turned my head to look behind, I saw myself as a child and the guardian angel of my youth fading away. I heard a voice say, “You’re almost there. Follow the moonlight.”

Just as I reached the other side and landed firmly on solid ground, I watched the bridge collapse and crash into the river below. By heeding her advice, I had saved myself. I awoke the next morning feeling grateful to all who helped me in life. I had a long list of helpers.

A check arrived in my mailbox three days later, to pay for the painting, I was elated and invited a friend to lunch to celebrate.

My first art exhibit was a great success. By evening’s end, every painting had a red dot on it showing it was sold. My eyes searched the crowd for the red dot on the Indian woman’s forehead but she wasn’t there. A man collected the painting a month later, after the show closed.

Circles of Light

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Bookmark by Joy Hughes

This beautiful piece of ‘hand-tatted’ art arrived in the mail a few weeks ago. It came with a card stating “Life’s Special with friends,” from a Facebook friend who lives in New Zealand. We both belong to a wonderful Facebook group called “We Love Memoirs.” Sometime earlier in the year several of us from the group decided to join the “Pay it forward” movement and surprise someone with an act of kindness.

Joy Hughes had a tough year with health issues where brain and eye coordination became difficult, so I was surprised and thrilled to receive this gorgeous gift. Joy’s rendering of a crocheted bookmark showing light and bright yellow circles entwined together weave a flow of light around a satin ribbon edged by gold glitter. It’s brilliant. And lucky me, I still read ‘real’ books.

One simple act of kindness is a great way to help yourself and others heal, and lead happier, healthier lives. Try it. Pay it forward.

My Magic Mirror

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While living in Frankfurt, Germany in the late 70s-80s, this glass head was my magic mirror, reflecting the world around me. It was purchased in late 1971 before my first husband and I set sail on a cruise from Venice, Italy to our new home in Cyprus.

We hopped on a water taxi near St. Mark’s Square for a short ride to Murano, an island in the Venetian Lagoon where glass has been made for more than 700 years. We followed small groups of tourists in and out of several large factory showrooms where glassblowing demonstrations were short, but fascinating to watch. Ambling down a side street, we came across a smaller art gallery. We entered and looked around, eyeing the colorful art on display. Within a few moments, a salesman joined us and asked if he could be of assistance. Seeing our casual attire (we were dressed in jeans and sweatshirts), he directed us to the “affordable” section of the shop where glass goblets, clown statuettes, and other glass trinkets were displayed.

“We’re actually looking for something unique. One of a kind,” I said.

He looked at our casual attire again, tapping his chin.

“An original piece of art,” I said.

“We do have original works,” he said, “but they’re quite expensive.”

“How expensive?” I asked.

“Very,” he answered. “They’re one of a kind done by glass masters.”

“That’s what we’re looking for. Something unique for our new home in Cyprus.”

He hesitated, then motioned us to follow him.

As we entered a large, dark back room, we saw glass sculptures sitting in rows on deep wooden shelves. He excused himself then switched on lights.

“Oh my,”  I exclaimed, seeing the brilliance of glass on display flooded by light.

He nodded. “These are the finest works of glass art anywhere,” he announced, inviting us to look around.

“I love this one,” I said, walking toward a smokey black solid, glass head sitting atop a amber colored solid glass pedestal. “Is it for sale?”

“Yes,” he answered, lifting the heavy piece off the shelf and placing it carefully on a table near a window. He took a cloth from his pocket and wiped it clean.

“Wow!” I said, watching the African shaped glass head reflect its surroundings. Like a magic mirror the image changed each time I shifted my angle of view. “It’s exquisite!”

“It is, but quite expensive,” he said, knowing I really wanted it.

“How expensive?” I asked, eyebrows arched.

The salesman scribbled some figures on a a piece of paper and showed us the final figure.

I looked at my husband. He nodded.

“We’ll take it,” I said smiling.

“You will?” he asked, looking surprised.

“Yes. Definitely!”

“I’ll get it boxed for you,” he said leaving the display room.
While my husband signed numerous travellers checks to pay, I turned the head to reflect different angles and stroked the smooth surface of the glass.

The salesman returned a few moments later with a box and packing material. Before placing the head in the box, he showed us the artist’s signature on the bottom of the pedestal.
Siguoretto Pino, 8-8-71

Siguoretto PinoSignature
“Wow!” I sighed, rubbing my fingertips over the signature.
“Would you like to meet the artist?” he asked, smiling.

“The artist is here? Now?”

“Yes, he’s working on a new piece.”

“We’d love to,” I said.

“Follow me,” he said, inviting us into the hot furnace room. A smiling young man walked toward us.

“Venetian maestro, Siguoretto Pino,” the salesman proclaimed.

“Your work is beautiful! It will have a special place in our new home in Cyprus.” I said, beaming.

He bowed. “Grazie! Buon divertimento!

Waiting on a water taxi to take us back to Venice, I asked my husband to guess the age of the artist.

“He’s quite young,” he answered.

“Looks too young to be an Italian master glass artist,” I said.

Years later I learned that Siguoretto Pino was born in 1944 in a small town near Venice. In 1954, at age 10,  he began working in a chandelier factory.  In 1959 he apprenticed for the great master Alfredo Barbini and others, and in 1960, at age 16,  he became a master Italian glassblower. In 1978 he opened his own studio in Murano. Today, Venetian maestro Pino Signoretto is recognized as one of the preeminent glass sculptors in the world, universally recognized for his mastery in sculpting glass while hot.

Following the Cyprus War in 1974, the glass head was removed from our home by a neighbor for safekeeping (the same wonderful neighbor who looked after our cat Sam when we were evacuated from the island). The head was later packed and shipped to us by our Turkish friend, Sabri Tahir. Sabri (a main character in the book, Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durrell) became the new mayor of Kyrenia/Girne when the Turks captured northern Cyprus.

The glass head continues to brighten my life and home. I feel a surge of creative energy each time I look into its magic mirror–reflecting light and life around me.

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Kleftiko

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I love Mediterranean cuisine and when our weather here in Uruguay (Southern Hemisphere) changes from the hot days of summer into the cooler days of fall, into winter, I find myself wanting warm comfort food. The kind of dish that cooks slowly in the oven for hours (until the meat falls off the bone) with the sweet smell of rosemary, oregano, or wild marjoram wafting in the air, Mediterranean style.

When I lived in Cyprus in the early 70s, I had a wonderful cook book titled “A Cyprus Cook’s Calendar.” It was written by a British writer, Sue Lennane, for the British Forces Broadcasting Service in Cyprus in 1969.  A delightful month by month cook book, it provided recipes based on fruits and vegetables available and in season. I used it often and was sad to lose it, along with everything I owned, following the Cyprus War in July 1974.

Years later, while living in Frankfurt, Germany, a friend who was my neighbor in Cyprus, sent me a copy of the cook book (the original First Edition 1969). I was thrilled because it had so many of my best-loved Cypriot recipes in it.

One all-time favorite is a recipe for slow roasted lamb, called Tandir in Turkish and Kleftiko in Greek. Lamb Kleftiko, roughly translated, means stolen meat. Legends say that thieves would sneak onto a remote Greek hillside and steal a lamb or goat, and cook the meat for hours over coals in a hole sealed with mud to prevent steam escaping and alerting the shepherd who previously owned the animal.

In Cyprus, Kleftiko is cooked in a sealed earthenware pot with a narrow opening buried in the earth, with a fire under it, and left to cook very slowly for hours. Kleftiko pots are still sold in Cyprus. (See picture on the front cover of the cook book.) Since my Kleftiko pot was also left behind in Cyprus, I’ve reverted to using a large, deep casserole dish, covered with aluminum foil and a tight fitting lid.

Lamb Kleftiko (Serves 6)

Ingredients:

2 lb. lamb (a piece of leg or loin cut up)
salt and pepper
2 T.  olive oil
oregano or wild marjoram
juice of ½ lemon
2 tomatoes, diced
1 cup red or white wine
1 large onion (peeled and cut into quarters)
1 T. peeled and chopped garlic

Preparation:

Place the meat and olive oil in the Kleftiko pot or casserole dish. Add the onion and garlic. Sprinkle with oregano, salt, pepper,  lemon juice, and red or white wine. (A glass of wine is also recommended for the chef and any helpers.) Cover the top with aluminum foil and place the lid on top. Cook in a moderate oven, No 3, 325º, for 3 hours. Turn off oven and leave simmering for an extra hour.

Kleftiko is rustic, delicious, and finger-licking good. Serve over a bed of al dente pasta or rice. It’s extra delicious when served with eggplant ratatouille.

ENJOY!

Tranquilo is nice!

 

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“Wherever you go, there you are…” is a quote attributed to the teachings of Buddha. No matter how far away we go in hopes of finding greener grass, there’s no getting away from ourselves.

My husband and I moved to the mountains of central Mexico in 2006 and immediately got to work designing our dream home on an extra large lot in the small village of Tzurumútaro, Pátzcuaro. We lived in the small casita while our big house was being built. Our Mexican contractor decided our dream home should be even grander and built us a beautiful Mexican colonial mansion with illegally cut pine beams (which we learned about much later, that’s another story …), baldosa floor tiles, beautiful stone arches (noticeably lacking the keystone), three fireplaces finished with elaborate wood mantels, a circular staircase, new windows to accent exquisite views, and French doors opening to the closed courtyard on one side and the large garden with pond on the back side. It was beautiful and spacious. Perfect for indoor and outdoor living.

But after the sledge hammers stopped pounding from gutting old walls and the concrete mixer’s revolving drum stopped its noisy spin, we began to realized the noise wasn’t going to stop.

Trains rumbled through our village up to ten times a day and blew their horns repeatedly to caution pedestrians to move off the tracks. Since our property line was less than 70 meters from the track, the noise was unavoidable. In addition to the rumble of engines and screeching or axles, the incredibly loud train horn: LOOONG LOOONG SHORT LOOONG preceding the town’s two level crossings. One of which was, you guessed it, one block from us, or 15-20 seconds before the train arrived, which is exactly when a train is required to blow the signal. Opposite us, a couple houses down, periodically we’d hear frantic, very loud squealing of a pig. We never found out for sure what that was all about. I wore ear plugs to muffle that. And, every time someone died, the local religious rites included fireworks set off every twenty minutes to commemorate the life of the deceased. The fireworks, rockets that went up 100 meters then exploded with deafening concussions, continued until the body was taken away. In the meantime all dogs for miles around howled and barked for hours on end, making it difficult for me to sleep at night and to concentrate and write by day. A writer friend of ours, doing research for a book on the culture of Mexico, came to the conclusion that Mexicans were actually sleep deprived because of noise.

Mexicans do know how to celebrate and do it often. There are official holidays observed nationwide and numerous local festivities to honor religious events or public celebrations. In 2008, I counted forty-four holidays that were celebrated with rockets (cohetes), firecrackers, sparklers, rattles, drums, loud music, a parade, and lots of noise. Numerous times, in the middle of the night, I was jolted awake by aerial explosions. And after experiencing the war in Cyprus in 1974 where the bombs bursting in air were real bombs, I cringed at the cacophony of any nerve racking noise.

In 2009 my husband and I traveled from our small village in Mexico to a small country in South America which was getting good reviews, and seemed like it might be a quieter place — más tranquilo. Although we loved many things about Mexico (the customs, the traditions, the art, and the delicious food), the constant noise was wearing us down.

While vacationing in a small Uruguayan beach town, we often sighed and smiled at each other realizing we had found a quiet place. By day, we walked the beach and explored other small towns and villages nearby. All seemed tranquilo compared to our village life in Mexico. Each night we slumbered deeply, lulled to sleep by the soothing sound of waves lapping and swirling along the sandy seashore. By the end of our first stress-free week, we decided to move to Uruguay. My head tingled with excitement, knowing I would finally be able to finish an important project I had been working on for many years—my memoir.

We moved to Uruguay end of 2009. I felt a flood of creative energy wash over me as I walked barefoot along the sandy beach near our new home in Atlantida. I could hear myself think. Aah! Gentle waves tickled my toes and senses, and writing became a joy again. I finished my book, “The Lullaby Illusion,” in 2013. Happy to say in that same year, I only counted seven noisy holidays in Uruguay. Tranquilo is nice!

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Susan Joyce on Epicurious.com

Susan interviewed on Epicurious.com

Initially, the web site editor picked a photo of American barbeque to represent Uruguayan asado, which is almost sacrilege! (Quickly corrected when we pointed it out ;-)

Apparently Uruguayans and Argentinians get great amusement out of seeing North American ads for “flame-grilled” steaks. In Uruguay and Argentina, flames never touch the meat. The wood is burned on the side, and the coals raked underneath the meat, which cooks at surprisingly low heat for a not-surprising long time.

You can see an explanation in this video, from 0:45 to 2:45.

 

Uruguayan Asado, kid style

By Fedaro (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Fedaro (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Except for the green paint and floor, this could be our parillero. Well, that and the fact that it’s stocked with wood and actually being used. ;-) Two hours is an awful long time to cook a meal …

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… unless you’ve got plenty of beer, friends, time, …

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… and perhaps a Playstation and flat-screen TV ….