Twenty-two years ago, for Christmas, I got this:

You can see it hasn’t been used. I’ve been doing little watercolor painting/drawings and last night I thought, “It’s time.”

Whether I’m actively making art or not, I think of art supplies as “real wealth.” That’s an idea I got from Alan Watts during an ethics class in college. He made the distinction between symbolic and real wealth. Real wealth is things you have and can use. They don’t lose value. Symbolic wealth (money), on the other hand, is tied to purchasing power and CAN lose value. Of the two, Watts insisted, REAL wealth is more important. It was his argument against debt and in favor of frugality and minimalism.

When I got my Christmas present from my Swiss family ($200 CHF) my friend and I walked down to Jelmoli, a beautiful department store then in Glattzentrum in Wallisellen, a suburb of Zürich, where they lived, and bought this set of pencils.

It was too precious and too beautiful to dip into. That’s kind of absurd because I’ve been using and re-stocking a 40 pencil set for nearly 30 years. It’s real pencils and no different from what I’ve been using, but all this time it’s represented magical potential.

Anyway, I’m going to start using them on the little consequenceless watercolors I’m doing.

Personal Gallery

Daily Prompt Wall to Wall What do you display on the walls of your home — photos, posters, artwork, nothing? How do you choose what to display? What mood are you trying to create?

“Dude, I had hoped for something better. I’m proofreading the Schneebelis and it’s tedious and I was hoping for something cool to write.”

“Sorry, Lamont. So what is on your walls, other than you climbing them?”

“This little painting of a Honeycrisp apple hangs in my kitchen.”


“I like that one, Lamont. I think you should paint more apples.”

“I’m down with that, Dude. Painting apples is really fun and not that easy. The painting below, which I’ve come to realize is not only a self portrait but was instructions to me from me telling me what to do with my life, hangs in the living room. It was in a juried show in San Diego; didn’t win, but that was cool anyway.”

“When did you paint that one, Lamont?”

“I think it was 2013.”


The World is Out There


“Giotto’s painting of the Angel Gabriel, The Annunciation, hangs in my bedroom because I love it and one always needs a guardian angel in their room at night. I also got to see this in Padua in the Scrovegni Chapel.”

giotto-di-bondone-the-angel-gabriel“Yeah, I like that one and it’s good in juxtaposition with the one over your bed.”

“I agree. Below is my favorite painting of all those I’ve done so far. It hangs over my bed. It is Danae. I don’t know if you can see the metallic gold paint in the photo. It’s based on a moment in Munich when I was so tired from flying and looking around that I crashed in my little hotel room before I’d even gotten completely ready for bed. ”


Danae in Munich


“There’s other stuff around here. Aren’t you going to write about it?”

“Dude, yeah. Give me a minute. There is a menu — in German and English — from a German ship, featuring Goethe’s picture, hangs on the wall by my door. It’s dated 1932, 100th anniversary of Goethe’s death. A small reproduction of a Monet hangs by a bookshelf. I like the picture, but the main reason it’s there is because it hung on the wall in the living room of dear friends. It connects me to them and to some good times we all spent together 20 years ago.”


“Did I know you then, Lamont?”

“Of course, Dude. You’ve always known me. Over my sofa is the family talisman, about which I’ve already written, a painting by Leroy Greene, the Montana artist my grandfather loved. All of us grandchildren inherited a painting. Otherwise, there are some paintings and an engraving done by friends, but as they are not my work, I don’t want to overstep my rights in putting them up here on my blog. I’m really looking forward to getting to a stopping point with the Schneebelis so I can paint, but that doesn’t seem like it will happen any time soon. As for what “effect” I’m trying to create? My walls are not crowded with artwork because I like space and light and I want my work — and the work of my friends — not to have to compete for attention.”

“What about the picture on top here?”

“Oh, a little watercolor of the trains in South Fork in a September snow. I did that soon after I moved here.”

“Do you like it? I see you haven’t framed it.”

“It’s OK. Lots of other people like it so when I get my act together to approach a gallery, I might submit it. We’ll see. Anyway, here’s a link to my online gallery.”

Mere, or?

Daily Prompt The Mirror Crack’d You wake up one morning to a world without mirrors. How does your life — from your everyday routines to your perception of yourself — change? (Thanks for suggesting this thought-provoking prompt, Chocolate Eyes!)

My life would not change at all if there were no mirrors. I might have the only female bedroom in America NOT belonging to a Quaker, Amish, Mennonite or Hutterite woman that does not have a mirror. I look in my bathroom mirror a couple times a day to see if I will scare small children if I venture out. That’s it.

It isn’t a new development. Years and years and years ago when I was a little kid in school I read a story about Quaker pilgrims and how little girls were raised without mirrors so they would grow up without vanity over something absolutely vain, external beauty. It was a story in our school reader in second grade, I think. clearly, it left an impression on me. My mom — having been raised by that backslid Mennonite, my grandmother — had to fight for her freedom to wear makeup.

As a young woman — girl, teenager — I was very interested in the way I looked and my bedroom mirror got a lot of attention. I think it’s normal. We — at that point in our lives — are driven by the biological imperative to mate, and it’s very important to us to be sure that we have what it takes to attract a mate. We worry about how we’re going to stack up against the competition. The thing is, we can never really know that. The members of the opposite sex (to whom we’re driven) are not all attracted to the same thing. Every pot has a lid, they say.

Back in the day (late 70s) I also had a good friend who was a fashion model. She was 5’9′ and very slender and pretty (of course). Not a famous fashion model, but, you know, one of those local fashion models. On weekends she often did runway work or modeled in a department store like the Denver Dry. One day we were walking out of our office to get on the elevator and I was bewailing the fact that no matter what, I am a short, stocky person, even when I’m thin. I have short legs and a large chest and so on and so forth. Of course, Kim Kardasshian has redeemed my body type, but that is a bit late for me. I never knew anyone ever thought a big butt was hot.  AnyWHO, Jan and I were walking through the bank, having deposited our paychecks, and I said, “I don’t know. I just wish I had long legs and all that, like you. I feel so ugly.”

“Martha,” she said. “Stop it. You’re far from ugly. Just look at it this way. People don’t get sick when they see you.”

I laughed so hard, and that’s been my test ever since. If it ever happens that people get sick at the sight of me,  or kids start screaming instead of reaching for me, I’ll worry. That’s my mirror.