Is it Art?

grafitti

Graffiti on Hoarding

Walking along Nelson (just past Homer Street) in downtown Vancouver, I noticed plywood hoarding covering a building. It was hot and I was slightly disorientated, but I could have sworn the hoarded building was a new glass and concrete structure.  Was it about to be demolished? Had squatters taken over the site? No, none of the above. I looked closer.

The building is the home of the Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery. It was boarded up because it was being used as an art installation..

Oh.

Graffiti covered the hoarding. I read the words, and decided that it was a ‘stream of consciousness’ rant about the world in general – Syrian civil war, technology, and random miscellaneous phrases. The words didn’t move me. So what was the point? Was the hoarding the art or were the words the art?

The last time I saw plywood on windows was during the Vancouver Stanley Cup riot (2011) – people had written messages to the city on the boards covering the smashed windows of the Hudson’s Bay department store.

The words on the plywood after the riot were sincere and heartfelt – these words seemed boring and calculated. Even the font style was uniform – written by the same hand.

grafitti2

It Looks, It looks Clear up Ahead??

But if it was an actual ‘graffiti covered hoarding’ on a building would it still be art?

Graffiti is scrubbed off most buildings, but if a curator says it is more than just ‘graffiti’ then it’s allowed to exist in the world. Not just an eyesore.

I was tempted to add a phrase to the ‘art.’ Would I have been defacing the ‘art’ or enhancing it?

I decided it was a graphically captivating display.

As a contrast to Vancouver’s clean, condo-city status, the messy graffiti made me stop and look and think. The graffiti was dull. But the overall effect caught my attention. It made me look, and I guess that’s what art is supposed to do.

So, do you think it’s art?

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Meditating on Being Organized

After writing this blog for 2 1/2 years, I have figured out what I’m trying to say as the ‘organized bohemian’. To be organized is to have a goal. To be bohemian is to enjoy the goal once it has been achieved.

Lately, I’ve been focusing on the next goal before I’ve had a chance to enjoy the accomplishment of the moment.

I have been slotting too many goals into my waking day where my ‘organized’ self is overriding my ‘bohemian’ self. I’m feeling ‘over-organized.’ An ailment that comes from running out of slots. I need to create more slots or let go of some goals.

Letting go is also a part of being organized. But letting go too much turns me into a blob not a ‘bohemian.’ Once again I am looking for the balancing point (‘sigh’). Trusting that I am organized enough to let go (without the fear of staying a blob forever) is a key concept of my philosophy as the ‘organized bohemian.’

Being Aware of Time

And to understand the value of time. To know that a few minutes of focused energy is worth a few hours of distracted energy. I now understand how much I can get done in one hour. In writing time, a focused hour is about five hundred words (which includes editing) or running an easy 10km.

painting_blog

Drunken Artichokes

I’m working on this painting, slowly. In order to get it done, I break it into sections. I need to focus on each section and allot a specific amount of time. The lettering needs to be refined. My next painting session will be before I make dinner for about one half hour. In that way, I don’t get overwhelmed with refining the whole painting. Even though I don’t have a definite deadline to complete it, I feel confident that by finishing small chunks, I will be done in another month.

More Organizing leads to less Stress

soba_jar

Soba Noodles

I’ve been telling people “you need to be organized” in order to lead a relaxed life.  And now I think I actually know what I’m talking about. It’s a combination of knowing where things are located, and making things accessible (where’s my paint brush?) Ingredients for a recipe (soba noodles) when you want to prepare a quick meal.

Not to be an Organized Robot

But sometimes being too organized makes me feel like a mechanical being that does without thinking. Getting too much done, makes me forget the doing. That’s when I rely on my bohemian side to remind me of the pleasure of the process!

 

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“The Bronx (is Up) and the Battery (is Down)”

“The Bronx is up and the Battery is down, New York, New York…it’s a hell of a town!”

(lyrics by Kander & Ebb).

I couldn’t resist. All I have to do is sing that one line and I always know which way is north (Bronx) and south (Battery Park). Yes, New York inspires writers of – songs, books, plays, films and now blogs.

After finally coming down from the high of running the Boston Marathon …I’m in a “New York state of mind” (can’t stop myself).

Train Trip from Boston

After a 4 ½ hour peaceful, scenic train ride –  through Massachusetts, Rhode Island (not an island!), Connecticut, and New Jersey (less scenic) – we arrived at Penn Station a few blocks from Times Square and the Carter Hotel (cheap and basic, with a good location).

Being in NY makes me…

feel as if I should be having clever thoughts – be taller, richer and more fashionable. I’ll go with the clever thoughts that will… change the world. Or at least fill a decent blog post.

empire_state

Looking up at the Empire State Building

I try to absorb the momentum that surrounds me, stare in awe at tall buildings, get jostled by the constant crowd of people, and get blinded by the yellow blur of taxis as they pass by without stopping, and…

Buy a pretzel – take a breath and head to the zoo.

The Bronx Zoo – founded in 1899.

We (my daughter & partner) took the Number 2 train north to Pelham Parkway through the Bronx. Once the train left the dark tunnel, we were met with bright sunshine and blocks of red brick apartment buildings.

Dragonfly on window at 149th Street Station

Dragonfly on window at 149th Street Station

A dragonfly stained glass window at 149th station decorated the platform area. An image of East 149th street in 1915 was superimposed on the glass. A subtle reminder of the past.

A ten minute walk from the subway station, the zoo was set in a forested area away from traffic and buildings.

bronx_gate

Ornate Gate at Bronx Zoo

The spaciousness of the setting felt like there was room to breath. Elegant buildings were from another century when fashionable people came for a day at the zoo. The exhibits ranged from a mechanical dinosaur safari to a butterfly-filled tropical forest. Worth the 40 minute subway ride.

Battery Park Ferry to Statue of Liberty

statue

Lady Liberty on the Hudson River

Of course we found ourselves in Battery Park and took the ferry over to the green lady. Sailing on the Hudson River away from the city, we gawked at the scope of the skyline. Once we landed on Liberty Island, we looked up at Lady Liberty who proudly prodded us to think about all the possibilities of life.

Nikola Tesla’s Room at the New Yorker Hotel

tesla

Tesla holding incandescent light bulb

After taking in the usual sights, I was eager to find Nikola Tesla’s hotel for a project I was researching. I didn’t know what to expect, but I needed to make the pilgrimage to the New Yorker hotel where he lived for 30 years. It was the inspiration I needed to continue writing my story.

Passing through the grand lobby of the New Yorker with an art deco vibe, we got on the elevator and pushed the button for the 33rd floor. A brown wooden bench, beige walls and cream-colored marble floors greeted us as we stepped off. It felt as if it was the original decor when Tesla lived there from (1913-43). Room 3327 was where he slept.  My timing was great since the cleaning staff had just prepared the room and allowed me to take a look. The room was approx. 10′ x 12′ ft with a bathroom attached. Out his window was a partial view of the Empire State building. Room 3328 was his office where he spent time thinking about electricity and the ways it could be used to create an easier life for people.

He was in NY at the beginning of the 20th century at a time when innovation and motivation was high. High as the towers that were being built. Now I can almost picture Tesla getting up every morning, getting dressed in his suit (which he always wore) and going next door to his office to work.

The second draft of “Tesla’s Neighbour” is percolating in my brain and New York motivated me to continue writing it.

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Half a Banana Helped Me Up ‘Heartbreak Hill’

I may have high-fived a hundred hands for the first 20 km of the Boston Marathon, which was probably not the smartest thing to do. But I couldn’t help it. Each hand was attached to a face that was happy to be in the sunshine and watching people push a limit of endurance that was insane. I passed crazy guys holding beer, cigarettes and pizza with a sign that read: “You know you want them” – I was tempted. “Boston Strong” and cheers of encouragement were coming at me and all the excitement made me forget what I needed to do.

But the up and down of never-ending hills was taking its toll. My feet and toes (once again I won’t be wearing sandals for months) were vibrating, and my body felt empty, void of fuel. I was bonking. I never knew what ‘bonking’ was until I felt that drained desperate moment of weakness.

I hadn’t brought enough fuel. My Power Gel chews were all gone and now I had to wait.  I hoped the Power Gel station was coming up soon. Early on along the route, families were handing out water, twizzlers, and gummie bears – I was feeling invincible so I didn’t bother taking anything. But now past the 30 km mark, my head was fogging and my will was waning. We were running through the town of Newton and I knew the ‘hill’ was coming up.

Then I saw him.

He was a man with a friendly face offering a partially peeled, half banana. I looked him in the eyes and he seemed to be telling me: “I know what you’re going through – take the banana, you’ll need it.” I think I said thanks, as I grabbed the banana like a ravenous monkey. The first bite made me see the universe in a new light. Its creamy richness was moist and easy to swallow. I was ready to keep going. I dropped a piece of peel on the road and worried that someone would “step on it and go for a ride.”

It was the most delicious banana I have ever eaten. I will always remember that man in Newton who handed the banana to me.

I took that hill with my head up and shoulders back (with small steps). I swore most of the way up. It was mean and messy, but I knew I had enough to carry me across the finish line.

And Iboston_badge did.

 

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Boston or Bust

Like a hitchhiker holding a sign, “Boston or Bust,” I’m focused on my destination. Twenty-two days to go until I’m standing in coral 6 of wave 3, at the start of the Boston Marathon. Training’s on schedule (after a slight hip glitch), but my stamina waffles from superhero: able to outrun a sub-3-hour marathoner, to an old lady: running gingerly hoping not to hurt myself.

Today’s run is solid. I finish a strong 32.5 kms. Drenched and stiff, I walk the last .5 km and make it home with enough energy to do another 10.2 kms.

I am at the point where my mind and body are syncing into a state of strength and invincibility, which is the best part of marathon training. But I had to go through the 3 stages of training.

The 3 Stages of Marathon Training

First Stage: full of excitement and possibility. Second Stage: distances longer but doable, and still feel cocky. Third Stage: I hate running and I swear I will never train for a marathon again (this is the 8th time I’ve said that).

The hate comes during the first long run of 29 kms that drains my body energy to the point that post-run my mind is fuzzy and when I sit on the couch, I feel as if I may never get up. But this strange activity of running (for a ridiculously long distance) is a life focusing experience. Time changes in the middle of a long run. If time could stop, I would say it’s when I know I’m moving but I seem to forget for how long – I only know that my legs are carrying me forward. That’s all that exists.

After today’s 32.5 km run, I get home, and make oatmeal topped with blueberries, cranberries and brown sugar. Suddenly desperate for nourishment, I shovel oatmeal into my mouth like a fiend. It tastes like the best food I have ever eaten.

Maybe that’s why I keep running – for the oatmeal.

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Running In a Fog, I found My Glutes

fog

It’s quiet.

I’m alone except for all that lurks in the fog.

A blue heron stands on a rock staring into the fog.

A murder of crows sits along the seawall waiting to pounce on the black mussels on the beach below.

For a moment, I feel sorry for myself (no crying allowed), but then I remember what I’m doing – training for the Boston Marathon. I shake my wrists, turn up Jack Johnson’s, “Shot Reverse Shot”, and keep moving.

A horn sounds.

The outline of a freighter makes its way under the Lions Gate Bridge. Its ghostly form sends out another moan to tell me that it exists. I stop for a moment and watch it float by… when through the fog comes doubt – about my ability, stamina, and perseverance. The nothingness surrounding me is making me think too much. A group of water droplets suspended in air won’t stop me.

Pain in the Hip

Now the day is clear, and I’m rejuvenated (after my fog pep talk) to tackle my 19 km training run. With an effortless cockiness, I pick up my pace, and feel as if I could run forever. Then I feel a pain in my left hip.

I barely finish at 18.34 km and try not to limp home. Upset and depressed, I search “outer hip pain” and find the iliac crest. “Ow.”

I go to my Runners’ World magazine and yoga book. Cause of pain: overuse of and weak gluteus maximus muscles. I look for every stretch and strength exercise I can find.

Obsessed with my glutes, I begin:

  • pigeon pose
  • tailor pose
  • hip hike
  • the clam
  • toy soldier
  • hip lift

I am getting my butt into shape.

Thinking About Glutes

After taking a few days off, I’m out for a short run and not only is the fog back, but there is black ice. Aaaah! I take small, mincing steps and go slowly. Since again, no one is around, I start reciting my mantra: “glutes, glutes, glutes.”

My new best friends, the glutes, are taking me to Boston.

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Jamaica: Bare Feet and Butterflies

Falling TableTilting tables on a field of crab grass dot the landscape. Orange and yellow butterflies flap around our ankles. A walking path lined with palms shades us from the blazing sun. Six buildings make up the condo complex with deteriorating roofs and rusting balcony railings.

Blog 2A blue staircase leads down to the half kilometre stretch of beach. Black sea grass frames the shoreline. But before reaching the beach, one must cross what used to be the main highway along the coast of the Jamaica. Today, the road is deserted, not a car in sight.

Fifteen minutes east of Montego Bay – home for the last three weeks.

Traveling to a new place means…

interesting people.

Hansel2We meet Hansel on the beach cleaning the sea grass and raking the sand. He offers us some bread fruit. He makes a fire and roasts the round hard shelled fruit until it is black. After peeling it, he gives it to the cook in the restaurant to fry it. We bite the golden brown crispy crust with the soft centre.

The next day he gives us a bread fruit. We try to grill it on the stove, but end up steaming it until soft and then frying it. Learning about bread fruit – preparing and eating – that’s what makes travel inspiring. It satisfies my need to learn new things about the world.

Traveling motivates me…

UrchinsI take an early morning run along the beach. Hard sand makes a perfect running surface. The Caribbean Sea swishes beside me – I look for sea urchin shells, and notice tiny white crabs skittering towards sand holes.

Blog 4What is it about being in a different setting? New people, new food, new thoughts. Looking at the world through a new light. A light that changes the colour of my skin.  A tropical hue of light that glues images onto my brain to be recalled on rainy, grey days in Vancouver. I see and feel the colours – the sky and sea seem bluer, the palm trees greener, the bougainvilleas pinker – colours make me smile.

And I see my bare feet for weeks. Bare feet equal a simple life. Maybe that’s what draws me to hot climates – the simplicity that takes over my way of thinking, of living. Walking barefoot through the grass, trying not to step on the friendly butterflies, I am connected to nature,

and

to the fact that I really should paint my toe nails.

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