Watching from the Window: Revised

Parisian Interior by József Rippl-Rónai 1910
Photo by Monica McHenney

After a day at the easel, Rippl-Rónai relaxes with a view into the Parisian streets. He’s nearly fifty. He’s colored a blue tablecloth red. Seeing the world in patches of paint stiffened textures like corn on canvass. A new facture. Rough like the times. Fractured like a world before war.

Four years later, the Father of Modern Hungarian Art will be interned in a displaced person’s camp. Paris Interior, will be displayed in San Francisco, then lost in America until 1924. Conflict, pandemic flu. His art reflecting unrest, impatient crowds, and French Soldiers Marching. A tired, then hopeful, 1920 seems almost normal.

Watching from the Window

Painting József Rippl-Rónai 1910

Imagine the painter after a day at the easel in a room, now salon not studio. Le dejeuner cleared from the red tablecloth. He looks outside. A foreigner in Paris. Homesick for Hungary. Hopeful for himself, for his talent, and with good reason. He will become the Father of Modern Hungarian Art.

But not before he is tested. He will be interned in a displaced person’s camp as the Great War begins. Paris Interior, on exhibit in San Francisco, will be detained as enemy property, spoils. War, pandemic flu, it will be years before the world rights itself. Have faith.

If Those Three Words Were a Statue, We Could Take it Down.

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“Merciless Indian savage.” The Declaration of Independence contains these hateful words.

I did a double take when I saw the phrase emblazoned on a tee shirt in Southwest Alaska. The dark-haired girl wearing it was laughing with a friend. Her bright eyes and brilliant smile offered a refutation to the offensive words.

Contrast the clutch of fishermen on the ferry who bristled with antipathy as a Native man walked past. I stared at them, a witness. Spoke as an ally when the local clinic turned away a Native who needed emergency treatment. The founding fathers got those three words wrong.

California Winter

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It rained. And then froze. The rain a teaser. Maybe no drought this year. Maybe there’s snow piled into the mountains. Not that we’ll know. Since the electricity stopped working, we haven’t heard from anyone more than a buggy’s ride away.

Try explaining electricity to a five-year old. It always ends up with magic. The same way that putting seeds in the ground and getting peas seems like a miracle. We used to show our daughter how peas grow. How they need water. Used a plastic cup and a paper towel. None of those left. Good thing there’s still miracles.

Freecycle the Election

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Offer: Votes counted, recorded
 Wanted: Respect the process
 Wanted: Respect the poll workers
 Wanted: Respectful governance
 Offer: Divisive grandstanding
 Wanted: Cooperation, infrastructure fixes, progress on climate change, social justice, fair wages and workplace equity, election reform, Covid stimulus, policies informed by science
 Wanted: Problems solved
Offer: Solutions denied
 Taken: by “fake news”
 Offer: More of the same
 Wanted: Critical thinking
 Offer: Knee-jerk opposition  
 Taken: The path of least resistance
 Taken: in by divisive grandstanding
 Given: More of the same
 Offer: Both sides media
 Wanted: Fact based media
 Wanted: Fact based politics
 Wanted: Starting now: communicate, listen, empathize, come together. 

Degrees of Separation

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Bright peppers rojo peek from verdant plants rooted in la tierra. A pair walk past in awkward silence. ¿Cómo se dice? To describe the spicy fruit and the heat of the day, they point, fan tongues, and wipe sweaty brows in meaningful pantomime.

Limited vocabulary. Both. Hard to find a phrase that describes the immersive experience. Physical. Emotional. Mouth, eyes, throat. The searing, roasting, blistering of flesh. The fiery, pungent, sharp of taste. Sexy feelings, burning desire. As many varieties of heat as the colorful peppers picante growing in the garden where they stroll, close together, under bright sol caliente.

What Price Honesty

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Marleybones had loved Lambykins since second grade. Never married, never asked, she’d persevered through his other women and ego-filled outbursts.

Geminis are mercurial, he’d explained.

It all changed with a Tarot reading. The significator, an upside-down heart pierced by three swords, foretold sorrow. But the outside formation moved from karma through completion. Luck was with her. Her boss was like a father to her. Her new ad campaign had won awards. She’d met someone else, just friends, but someone who liked her. She ghosted Lambykins. When he called, she was firm. She was free. Aquarians are not afraid of change.

ScareCity

Photo by Peter Kessler

Applauding a soprano note, the musician’s circle welcomed Katie. A yellow school bus served as the troupe’s rolling home. The air burned her lungs, but it was better than staying at ScareCity with Affluenza three times her age.

“No mask?”

“State of the art filters there.” She pointed to the building edging the lot.

While the flutist gave her a brownie baked on charcoal, the viola player found a mask. They tuned up. When Katie sang, the timbre of her voice was untouched by the scourge of wildfire smoke. In the morning, she left with them to see the world.

How to Achieve Serenity in Downward Facing Dog

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Breathe in. Bend forward. Anchor the palms of your hands to the floor. Step back. Stretch. Hips high, breathe out. 

Do not imagine goat yoga. Thinking of hard hooves climbing up your legs and down your back will cause you to laugh. Sheep playing “London Bridge” under the arc of your belly will induce yawning, maybe sleep. You groan. Six o’clock is awfully early to be awake.

Pay attention. Vinyasa to your stomach. 

The cat will stretch over, her raspy tongue licking your face, asking to play. Roll over. Rub her tummy. She’ll settle warm and purring. Close your eyes.

Celebration

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A flash of snow arcs, flying straight to heaven. It floats at eye level, then drifts to ground. The curve of your butt segues left, then right. Love catches my throat.

“That’s how you do it, girl. Like taking a corner on a bike. It’s in the leaning.”

We reach the end of the course, your dark hair flying behind you. A bobbing pink pompom perches on the cap I knitted you last Christmas. Slowing in tandem, we find glasses, pop a cork, and toast an anniversary we never imagined would happen. The frosty air warms to our strong embrace.