Monthly Archives: July 2012

keeping it local

As I write, Elizabeth and I have been home for two days and the suitcases are, mostly, unpacked and the laundry, mostly, is done. Whew! I remember the days of family vacations and coming home with 7 suitcases of clothes to be washed, groceries to be bought, souvenirs to sort, and five small kids to see about. This was nothing like that – only myself and one little girl, ahhh. A bit poignant but, physically much easier.

 Anyway, my thoughts are all rattling around in some incoherent pattern right now – this trip was colossal and, for me, profound.To reference my mom, travel is the best education of all. I think I have made discoveries about things that have bewildered me in the past and I know I have grown from it. I have come back as a broader thinker and with a bigger heart, and that’s always desirable. I have seen so many aspects of society on this trip – from the working poor in New York City to the “old money” in New England and all in between and along the peripheral.

a cafe
Things are very different in the Northeast than here in the South. Some of the things, I have to admit, I prefer and other situations perhaps not so much. I prefer the resistance to corporations there. Many of the people in New England towns revere their heritage and therefore continue to support their communities; they do not give their dollars to the chains, they buy services and goods from their neighbors – it is a beautiful thing to see. The local diners and cafes are crowded; they are places where you know the owners and the food, for the most part, is not trucked in from yet another corporation, it’s grown by a neighbor or purchased from a local business. It just feels right.

just someone’s house along the sidewalk of Concord
part of Thoreau’s heirloom garden at The Old Manse
 As we traveled further north into Vermont, this phenomenon became even more apparent, these guys are serious about keeping it local. Elizabeth and I never saw a bill board splattered with propaganda, golden arches, Wally Worlds or anything “big box”. Instead we ate at Helen’s Place in Concord MA and met Helen and sat amongst the locals and absorbed their culture and understood the value of “heritage” a bit more. We bought our books at the local bookstore and shopped for (locally grown) produce at a Main Street market – it’s what everyone did and was able to do because of the choices they have made. I was so fascinated with their efforts to keep it local and so stunned with the extreme and somewhat exclusive presence of corporate as I drove home – hundreds of billboards telling me what to do while taking my money out of my community.

flowers in Woodstock, Vermont
just someone’s garden
a revolution
 As an observer, I have drawn a bit of a conclusion as to why this works “up there”. First, they seem to be committed to preserving their heritage and secondly, they don’t seem as driven to consume. They do not tear down old structures and build bigger ones, they reuse what history has left and redo with character and craftsmanship and creativity. I did not see signs with “land for sale” littering the towns .Actually, one of the locals in Concord told us of the efforts made by the state of Massachusetts to reforest. This was told to us as we were touring the Old Manse and looking out the window towards the old bridge where the shot was fired that began the American Revolution – it was explained to us that then, the landscape was clear and you could see into town, but since the reforesting, trees have grown and altered the landscape. What a wonderful thing to do – paths through the woods to walk and run on and green spaces to enjoy and share with your community (a community of both humans and small animals) right in the middle of town.  

Enough of this free flow of words. I don’t want to sound negative towards other places in the country but I did want to express how in awe I was of communities sticking by one another and supporting each other. Keeping it local is nothing but a win. I am as guilty as you, I have tags that do not say “Made in the USA” but this trip has raised my awareness level and proved to me that communities do not have to succumb to the big box stores and national chains – they can keep their money in house. I would be fooling myself to think I could immediately be 100% on board with “local” but I do know I can do better, one shop at a time.

Strawberry Fields Central Park NYC

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a journey

Today is day 10 of Elizabeth and I’s road trip, a trip to look at colleges for Elizabeth and to look at life for me. We began in south Louisiana and are now at the pinnacle, Woodstock, Vermont. I never imagined I would get here. This trip is surreal for me – New York City, Boston, New Haven, Cambridge, Salem, Concord, and now Woodstock, Vermont. Most of today was spent in Concord, MA amongst the transcendentalists – Emerson, Thoreau, and their little tag along, Louisa Mae. Just this morning, I stood in Louisa Mae Alcott’s bedroom and saw the desk her father made for her where she wrote Little Women and just after that I was at The Manse and saw the garden that Henry David Thoreau planted for his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sophia Hawthorne’s 1843 window etching – “Man’s accidents are God’s purposes”.

 Yesterday Elizabeth and I walked around Walden Pond and through the woods at Walden where Thoreau went to “live deliberately”. I am having a bit of trouble absorbing all of this; that’s why I am writing. The list continues with Boston and Paul Revere’s midnight ride and Salem and its witches, New Haven and Yale, Cambridge and Harvard and NYC and its everything. The history here in New England is seemingly infinite!

 We have met some extraordinary people along the way. Someone I will always remember was a young mother on the NYC subway late one night. Elizabeth and I were a bit lost and she showed us the way, and as we rode the N train, she shared her story with us. It was a story that, had someone written, it would have been a bit too extreme to believe but it was real and it was her life. It was very dark and I suppose depressing but she was not either; she was doing what she had to do to move forward – against all odds. I was and am still humbled by this young woman.

 Another person we met and actually got to know was the concierge at the apartment we rented, Michael. He is a native New Yorker and he was one of the warmest, if not the warmest, people we have met on our trip – someone beautiful.

While I hope to remember all of the enchanting places we have been so fortunate to see, it is the people that are the most incredible, and it is the people that I feel most affected by.

 Anyway, tomorrow we will begin our trek towards home and we will take with us beautiful memories of the states we have seen and more importantly, the people we have met along the way. Elizabeth and I will forever be affected by this trip we took, this mother/daughter journey of adventure and exploration that we will both hold in our hearts hopefully, always. I am not able to express the gratitude I feel for this huge experience I am having with my daughter. As I said earlier, I am so humbled by it all. I hope to write more when I finally get home; I hope to go beneath.





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Miriam Beard

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Today is day 10 of Elizabeth and I’s road trip. We began in south Louisiana and are now at the pinnacle, Woodstock, Vermont. I never imagined I would get here. This trip is surreal for me – New York City, Boston, New Haven, Cambridge, Salem, Concord, and now Woodstock, Vermont. Most of today was spent in Concord, MA amongst the transcendentalists – Emerson, Thoreau, and their little tag along, Louisa Mae. Just this morning, I stood in Louisa Mae Alcott’s bedroom and saw the desk her father made for her where she wrote Little Women and just after that I was at The Manse and the garden that Henry David Thoreau planted for his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sophia Hawthorne’s 1843 window etching – “Man’s accidents are God’s purposes”.

 Yesterday Elizabeth and I walked around Walden Pond and through the woods at Walden where Thoreau went to “live deliberately”. I am having a bit of trouble absorbing all of this; that’s why I am writing. The list continues with Boston and Paul Revere’s midnight ride and Salem and its witches, New Haven and Yale, Cambridge and Harvard and NYC and its everything. The history here in New England is seemingly infinite!

 We have met some extraordinary people along the way. Someone I will always remember was a young mother on the NYC subway late one night. Elizabeth and I were a bit lost and she showed us the way, and as we rode the N train, she shared her story with us. It was a story that, had someone written, it would have been a bit too extreme to believe but it was real and it was her life. It was very dark and I suppose depressing but she was not either; she was doing what she had to do to move forward – against all odds. I was and am still humbled by this young woman.

 Another person we met and actually got to know was the concierge at the apartment we rented, Michael. He is a native New Yorker and he was one of the warmest, if not the warmest, people we have met on our trip – someone beautiful.

While I hope to remember all of the enchanting places we have been so fortunate to see, it is the people that were the most incredible, and it is the people that I feel most affected by.

 Anyway, tomorrow we will begin our trek towards home and we will take with us beautiful memories of the states we have seen and more importantly, the people we have met along the way. Elizabeth and I will forever be affected by this trip we took, this mother/daughter journey of adventure and exploration that we will both hold in our hearts hopefully, always. I am not able to express the gratitude I feel for this huge experience I am having with my daughter. As I said earlier, I am so humbled by it all. I hope to write more when I finally get home; I hope to go beneath.

grabbing the brass ring

This is something to think about. There is a part of me that thinks, no, you must insist on happiness; it is an internal illusive feature that you must be constantly aware of and “put” yourself there. And then…being a huge and eternal fan of Thoreau, I agree with this quote and think of happiness as the byproduct of a good and productive life – no need to focus on it, it will manifest when you are doing something good and worthwhile. Wow – I am confused.

Or maybe both things are truisms – you live a productive, good life and continually remind yourself of your happiness, acknowledge the good feelings you have when you focus on others – you are spending your time here in service and therefore you are happy???

It is a universal response – “I just want to be happy” or if you are a parent, you say, “I just want my child to be happy”. OK, but define it.

I do know that external “things” only cause a temporary little rush of sorts, something I can’t even think of as pure happiness – new cars, clothes, “stuff”. I can see things around this house that I wanted so badly years ago, things I thought would make me happy and there they sit offering me no solace at all now, some of them actually cause me unhappiness; their “positive” effect is so fleeting and shallow.

And then the next level to achieve happiness, one that lasts a bit longer and goes underneath the surface, is the self-satisfaction of accomplishing, of reaching a goal that may have seemed “impossible”. That feeling of completion does, I think, make you happy for a good bit of time, it actually defines you. It does something else too, it makes you want to continually set the bar higher for yourself – I can do it! And “it” feels good. Like a child riding a bike without dad holding him up – we feel so good when we can function on our own, when we can push ourselves to do things that are challenging – that’s a big rush. That’s becoming the best person you can be.

And then the third and “deepest” level is reached when you have helped someone else – when you have not focused on yourself, when you have not chased the butterfly, but instead busied yourself, distracted yourself, with helping another, that’s the level that takes you there – that’s my humble opinion.

Buddha: “Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.”

Just something to think about on this Friday the 13th because we all just want to
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conflicts

I am so fickle when it comes to this blog – some days, like this day, I want to release it. But then, I don’t because there are the other days when I need it. It is a space for me to say what I don’t say, to say what I don’t paint, to say what I can’t dismiss. That sounds a bit egotistical, any form of artistic expression could “seem” that way (and some of it is – the “some” being the ones who do things for attention and are propelled solely by monetary gain- but mostly art is something inside that needs to find a space outside and it is, actually, the opposite of ego – it’s spiritual and humble. Anyway, on this day in the middle of the week in the middle of summer I am asking myself questions, questions about my art. These questions could apply to any internal struggle, but for me, it’s about art. I am thinking that writing is stealing time I should be painting. The canvases, boards, and ideas are stacked in my studio – neglected and threatening. I know that these blog entries seem somewhat trite and simple but they aren’t for me – they rattle around in my head and take up time and space and when they finally do materialize in the form of “sketches” I then reread and question how honest I have been and push myself to reveal more – it gets complicated and it is a drain sometimes instead of the Zen like place I intended it to be – a place where only positive words appeared and optimism proliferated. Well, that kind of went by the wayside, as they say, and life nudged me into writing crusty words like these. As in literature, there always exists external and internal conflicts to keep things interesting and this blog has found its way on the firing range of my life – in the middle of a skirmish.As I said, I am not driven by ego nor do I have an external motive – I just have always done art and it is something I must do – I know you can identify with this – this “thing” inside that you must do. For some, it may be travel or sorting and organizing or it may be cooking or devoting yourself to a cause, but “it” is there in all of us and it can create a struggle because the “noise” or should I say, the “music”, never stops.

 In the meantime, and in an attempt to go back to the beginning, I am posting a picture that I took this morning that symbolizes the exact reason I wrote the first word on May 4 of 2008. I looked out of my window and amongst the tropical sized weeds and the endless rains , I saw beauty and that is why , 4 years ago, I came to this computer and recorded those feelings  – this blog kept me in a nearly constant state of appreciation of the little things that are, indeed, the beautiful things.

“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all”
Laura Ingalls Wilder

What if…

 I’m rereading Joseph Campbell’s Power of the Myth. It’s casual reading; the book sits on the generous window sill in my studio next to a fat leather chair we brought back from the twin’s apartment in Colorado. I sit there now and then during the day and read a few pages usually with coffee. I find something to think about, to ponder, and then I move on. It’s a luxury of summer – my life here at home consists of stations and I move through them each day – this for me is heaven.

I can easily, like you, get caught up in my world and focus on my immediate surroundings, but then I “hear” or see things and I am jolted out of it and flung into a realm that is bigger and certainly more intense than my little world on Vida Shaw Road.

To inject negativity into this pretty little portrait of summer, I am noticing the climate change in a colossal way. Here, at my house, a place I have lived 27 years, the figs are over before they were even ready last year, same with the concord grapes and the pear trees will be finished long before July ends. It is usually nearly August when my chickens have their pear fest under the pear trees – that’s when they enjoy all of the pears that have over ripened and fallen off and are laced with “protein” (bugs) ;this year they are celebrating in late June, an entire month earlier. I have no authority to get into this whole issue of climate change and global warming but I am certain things are not as they were. Of course, nothing that is alive ever stays the same; change is part of the universe – it has to occur. I suppose I just mention this to encourage all of us to be mindful of our habits that do harm. The little things really do, cumulatively, make a difference. All of those stores require destroying land which in turn destroys the homes of hundreds of animals and then those huge stores must be filled up with “stuff” that is mostly made of plastics that have to be shipped or trucked in from faraway places – many times, China – and then when we have enough of it it has to be trucked or shipped to some land fill and we can buy more “stuff”.

 I’m sure most of you have seen the vintage video, “The Story of Stuff”, but like Joseph Campbell’s Power of the Myth, it’s worth a “reread”. Ok, I’m done. {Perhaps you can find something on this beautiful summer day that you can recycle or reuse instead of buying and perhaps this action can become a habit and we can all take better care of our planet. Small footprints are so wonderful; I strive to leave one).

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