The Healing Hawk

The big blizzard of 2016 has finally melted away into the pavements and parks of New York City. Yesterday’s rains made efficient work of washing away the last remnants. The January storm really was a doozy. One for the record books. I had two modeling jobs cancelled and, instead, got more upper body workout from one afternoon of snow shoveling than I get all year :P

But friends, I haven’t been feeling well lately, and I just wanted to let you know. I haven’t been blogging as frequently, or as joyfully, as I normally do. I apologize. You find yourself sliding helplessly into a hole, trying to process various forms of disillusionment, isolation, and frustration with both family and friends, and then the prospect of pulling yourself out of the hole feels like scaling a 500 foot wall … without a rope. At least I’ve managed to pull myself out of bed and get to my modeling jobs, where I’m trying my best to pose with some modicum of enthusiasm and vigor.

The “Snowpocalypse” did provide a magical moment of awe that is still bringing me a sense of peace and comfort when I recall the sight. The day after the storm (which is always a beautiful day, have you noticed?) I decided to take a walk around my neighborhood. It was bright, all brightness: bright white blanket of thick snow, bright clear blue sky, bright light reflecting everywhere. When a storm system passes away after doing its damage, it’s like everything opens up, stretches its limbs, and affirms its existence in the aftermath – we’re still here, we’re alive, we survived! – the trees, the houses, and of course the people, the people who can finally emerge after hunkering down indoors for  36 hours. Now it’s people shoveling snow, neighbors chatting and commiserating next to their buried cars, teenage boys zipping down the streets on snow buggies, groups of bundled up children toting sleds to the park. It was near that very park around the corner from my house that some wild movement at the top of a pine tree caught my eye. I looked up and it was a red-tailed hawk, knocking batches of snow off the branches as it landed down to perch. The sight of that handsome hawk made me so happy, and I stopped in my tracks to observe and enjoy him. He hung out for a minute or two surveying the area and then took off, spreading his impressive wings, revealing his markings, and flied away slowly, confidently, gliding over our park in northeastern Queens, like he was king of the kingdom.

It probably sounds corny and cliched, but experiences with nature, however brief, can truly do wonders for one’s state of mind. It has quite the restorative effect. Why do you think that is? Maybe because they are creatures completely removed from the worries and anxieties we humans deal with? I feel like that’s part of it. I envy animals and wildlife because they don’t give a damn about any of the shit we stress over. They function in harmony with nature’s patterns and rhythms and their innate God-given purposes. Their lives are all about survival and simplicity and existing in their “space”. No traces of discontent, no traces of inadequacy or complications, no personal standards that can’t be met or impossible quests for “fulfillment”. Two weeks later, I can still see, in the vividness of my memory, the form and physique of that hawk against the bright blue sky of that Sunday afternoon. I can still see those batches of fresh powdery snow tumbling down to the ground from that high pine tree branch when the hawk landed. And I can still see that same branch bounce up and down, like a diving board, the moment the hawk pushed off to take flight …

Goshawk Hunting by Bruno Liljefors:

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Wildlife sightings are always welcome here in Museworthy. If you’ve experienced any cool critters or special nature moments this winter season, please share in the comments :-)

Rough Beasts

Well hello there everyone. Happy New Year! My holiday break is almost over and I spent an inordinate bulk of it curled up in bed under the covers, wrestling with anxiety and insomnia. If that strikes you as a symptom of depressive behavior you’d be correct. Sure I could ascribe it to the “holiday blues” syndrome, which I’m told is a legitimate thing, or I could just be honest and acknowledge that I’m prone to this disorder, and have been for some time. So forgive me if I don’t offer a blog post bursting with good cheer, high hopes, and sanguine sentiments for the new year. However, you have my word that I’ll soon shake off this gloom and doom weepy dark cloud, or the “black dog” as Winston Churchill called it.

What’s interesting to me is how fear, anxiety, and disaffection have been potent catalysts for creative expression throughout history. While joyous, uplifting works of art are certainly among the greatest, most memorable of all time (Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” is a prime example), the ominous, and at times alarming, works of expression are compelling in a much different way. And just as memorable.

I’ve stated before on this blog that William Butler Yeats is one of my favorite poets. I’ve featured him here, here, and here and I’m going to feature him again right now. This very well-known Yeats poem is one that I find apropos with regard to the world right now. Here is The Second Coming”:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I came across an excellent essay in The Paris Review which describes The Second Coming as “the most thoroughly pillaged piece of literature in English”. It discusses the remarkable scope of references to the poem in pop culture and the arts, ranging from rock bands, comic books, artists and writers .. all of whom could not resist appropriating Yeats’s haunting and evocative turns of phrases. Who can blame them? The man was absolutely brilliant. Think about what he communicates with the imagery of  “the falcon cannot hear the falconer”. Here’s a paragraph from the Paris Review piece:

Yeats began writing the poem in January 1919, in the wake of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and political turmoil in his native Ireland. But the first stanza captures more than just political unrest and violence. Its anxiety concerns the social ills of modernity: the rupture of traditional family and societal structures; the loss of collective religious faith, and with it, the collective sense of purpose; the feeling that the old rules no longer apply and there’s nothing to replace them.

George Frederic Watts, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Rider on the Black Horse, 1878:

(c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Mom at 80

Eighty years ago today, a baby girl was born in upper Manhattan to two Armenian immigrants. It was their first child in their adopted country, and they named her Elaine. She is my Mommy :-)

You don’t get to 80 years of age without experiencing your share of triumphs and hardships, joys and travails, and forging rich meaningful relationships. Mom is beloved and adored by her family and friends, as she should be. It is rare to know a person of such warmth, kindness, generosity, and loyalty. And to have her as your mother is a blessing beyond words.

Since Mom’s birthday falls on a Monday this year, our Music Monday post is all hers. I chose a song that reflects Mom’s eternally hopeful spirit, her persistent wish for the happiness and well-being of her family, her friends, and her community. Mom doesn’t give up. Never has, and never will. And there’s no better person to sing this song than one of Mom’s idols, the one and only Elvis Presley. Though he is frozen in the minds of many as the hip-shaking rock-and-roller on the Ed Sullivan Show, many people forget what a truly expressive vocalist he was. He could bring the goosebumps with the best of them. A magnificently powerful performer. For you Mom … Happy birthday. Love you :-)

Tidings

Warm thanks to Museworthy readers who expressed concern about my ear troubles and shared their own conditions and treatment tips. You’ll be happy to know that I’m feeling a great deal better and am almost at 100%! But the doctor said that I won’t be completely in the clear until allergy season has passed. So I’ll just have to handle it day by day and try not to get hooked on saline nasal spray. Seriously, have you tried this stuff? It’s so good. All-natural and very refreshing.

I’m also still very much an art model, in case I gave the false impression I’m considering giving it up. I’m not! However, it is taking its toll and I’m not getting any younger. At Spring Studio the other day when I was straightening up after doing a ten minute pose with a deep backbend, I let out an audible “Ah ah ah ah .. ow.” A guy who had been drawing close to the platform heard me and grinned. “Tough one?” he said. I laughed and said, “Maybe I’m getting too old for this!”. A yoga class this weekend might be in order. Once upon a time I used to be good at these. I’ll get it back, hopefully!

Speaking of modeling, I had a thought about the next Museworthy Art Show while I was doing a long pose at the 92nd Street Y yesterday. In a sitting twist on a low stool the idea came to me. Let me know what you think. It’s Portraits and Pets! Share your opinions/questions in the comments!

Some charcoal sketches of me by Joan Stevens created Monday night at the National Art League in Queens. Thanks Joan :-)

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The Blogger is Here

Dear friends, I am so terribly sorry for my missing-in-action behavior with the blog lately. I don’t know what ‘s wrong with me these days :( I guess a confluence of worries, anxieties, writer’s block, laziness, missing someone, still keeping my fingers crossed about an opportunity I hope works out, and now an ear ailment that’s affecting my hearing. I had to model yesterday with this constant loud whooshing and whirring in my ear and it was not exactly pleasant. When my timer went off I couldn’t even hear it! Okay that’s enough. :orders self to stop complaining:

I’m doing my best to snap out of this funk. Well, actually I’m not doing my best but I’ll get on it! After I sit for a portrait pose tonight I have a few days off and I’ll try to get my shit together. Plus I have Jessie the cat to cheer me up, and she does a fine job of that, my little roly-poly angel :-)

Girl with Dove, 1914, Henri Lebasque:

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The Brooding Battle

Of all the personal items that were stolen from my house during the burglary last year, I’ve felt the loss of my camera most severely. A Nikon D5000 Digital SLR. Actually, let me correct that. The thief’s stealing of a silver bracelet that had great sentimental value for me (it was a gift my from my ex-boyfriend) was the most emotional loss. The police, by the way, never recovered it or any of my stuff. But the camera, which I loved, is something I miss even more than I thought I would. My other blog, The Salt Marsh, has suffered greatly because of this as it is highly dependent on nature photography. If I can’t take interesting pictures, I can’t post. So I’ve been a little bummed out about this, not to mention the other issues going on these days that never seem to improve no matter how much time passes; family strife, plus the financial strains of living in a pricey, impractical city. I could really use a vacation.

It seems like every year at this exact time – mid-spring with summer just around the corner – I get hit with impulses to make changes in my life and feel mildly tormented (is “mild” torment a thing? haha) about my future. I become consumed with contemplating the direction of my life, the interests I once wanted to pursue but never did, the relationships I wanted to preserve but was unable to, and the experiences I wanted to know but haven’t yet encountered. But surely, I still have time, don’t I? I refuse to think otherwise. And I refuse to fret 24 hrs a day when I am a living, healthy, fortunate individual who still, after 46 years, has options at her disposal.

Sketch of me by Fred Hatt created at Figureworks:

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I am keenly aware that I’m not alone in having these thoughts. Some of my friends are in the same boat and we commiserate often about our frustrations. I suspect it’s natural for those of us in the “mid-life” stage to reflect and reconsider our choices throughout the years, and be eternally grateful for some while regretting others. What can you do? This is life. It’s an old story.

If I sound like I’m being cagey, or withholding “news” of some kind, well that’s somewhat true. While there is no actual “news” I am trying to make it happen. But I don’t want to jinx it. And if it doesn’t happen then I’ll simply try again, and will certainly share any new developments here on Museworthy.

I apologize for the less-than-cheerful blog post! Just needed to vent a little. I’ll try to compensate for the kvetching with some pretty pictures of my early garden plantings and blooming flowers around my house. And if it’s true that the “little things” in life can lift one’s spirits, I”ll tell you that one of these guys is visiting my bird feeder almost every day and it’s pretty awesome. Cheers friends! I’ll see you soon :-)

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One Hundred Years of Genocide

“When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact. . . I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared to the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915”.
– Henry Morgenthau
U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, 1913-1916

Before Hitler’s concentrations camps, before the Cambodian “killing fields”, before Rwanda, there was the Syrian desert. The 20th century was barely 15 years old when it jumped out of the gate to establish itself as a dystopian chapter in world history. On this date in 1915, Armenian intellectuals, clerics, journalists, doctors, and community leaders in Constantinople  received knocks on their doors. On the direct order of Ottoman Interior Minister Talat Pasha, the Armenians were taken to holding centers for detention. And later, deportation. Thus began a barbaric campaign of murder, starvation, long marches, and ethnic cleansing: the Armenian genocide which claimed the lives of 1.5 million souls.

I have, for a long time, detested the now-trite admonition about “those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it”. I detest it not because it isn’t true, but because it goes – decade after decade after decade -unheeded. Of course we fail to remember history. And of course we repeat it. When the world stage is divided into malevolent thugs on one side, and craven deserters on the other side, it will inevitably be repeated.

A more apt assessment can be found in Hannah Arendt’s observation about “the banality of evil”. The deranged, defensive statements issued by the Turkish government to this very day, that the Armenians were slaughtered as some sort of “by-product” of the violence of World War I, exemplifies the lengths some will go to to rationalize, excuse, and quite literally defend atrocities – the intellectual equivalent of “shit happens” as an explanation for savagery.

Armenian genocide victims, photographed by Armin T. Wegner, a German soldier and medic who was an eyewitness to Ottoman crimes:

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During these past few weeks leading up to today’s Centennial, we’ve seen prominent world figures show us what they’re made of. Pope Francis righteously took a stand of truth and moral courage, provoking the unhinged ire of Turkish officials. I think I can speak for all Armenians when I say it was a thing of beauty. In stark contrast Barack Obama, the purported “leader” of the free world, engaged in a sad, embarrassing spectacle of capitulation to Turkey’s gag rule on the G-word, and sits in a corner like a scolded child while his extravagant campaign promises flush down the toilet in a death spiral.

Gutless American Presidents notwithstanding, Armenians have survived and flourished in their diaspora. My grandparents, great aunts and uncles made their way onto ships bound for Ellis Island in New York City, and never looked back. We are teachers, engineers, journalists, entertainers, laborers, writers, photographers, businessmen, musicians, and even artist’s models :-)

Say a prayer today for those 1.5 million who starved and suffered and died face down in the desert, the orphans who watched their mothers and fathers get slaughtered, and thrown into rivers to drown. Say a prayer that genocide will always be recognized for what it is.

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