Friday, May 29, 2015

Working on Moleskine Exchange

I still have Mike's Mole.  I have painted an envelope for it and am including 2 of my first-ever woodblock prints as "pocket items."  Sorry these are kind of crappy cell phone pix--may later post scans.   Also, I will have to send my own Mole back to Mike to finish up.

Click images to view larger.  Also, note that my gmail account is all full and I cannot send or receive messages!  :(

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Trying not to try and Writing

Trees at Night, Edsel Ford, by Mary Taitt
click image to view larger.

            At the suggestion of my therapist, I am reading a book called Trying Not to Try, by Edward Slingerland.  I was just thinking about how it applies writing.  Early in the book, there is a story about a butcher who carves up an ox with a flash of knives. In a very short time, he reduced this huge living animal into a pile of choice cuts for the emperor.  (Sorry if you are a vegetarian!).  The he tells about being in the "zone" or what he calls wu-wei (ooo-way) and how he got there.  When he first apprenticed to be a butcher, an ox was a huge animal and cutting it up was difficult and challenging.  But the more he learned and the more he practiced, the easier it got, until he could almost do it in his sleep.
            It is like the sculptor who looks for the tree or piece of wood that already had the sculpture inside it, say of a bird or a maiden and all he has to do is remove all that is not the bird or maiden. 
            It happens like that.
            It happens like that for me, when I am writing, sometimes.  Sometimes I craft poem, word-by-word, sound by sound, image by image. Sometimes it flows out of me as if written by the hand of God, or the Goddess. 
            This poetry mooc (massive open online course) has reminded me of that, because my life has been so full and so busy, between my mother-in law's health issues and my own health issues, and the novel group and novel writing and the Japanese woodblock printing course I am taking etc.  ((terns making a raucous buzzing alarm call) that I have yet to have time to work in my preferred method, which is to start at least  week or more early, write a poem with care, revisit it daily, and craft and polish it.  Instead, I keep finding myself with an hour or two or even less to write and post my course poems which are Thursday nights at midnight (11:59 PM) and the assignments aren't given until Monday afternoon (but Tuesdays, I have another class etc.). 
            Anyway, the thing is, I am still able to write a poem, and often a poem that pleases me.  I feel like the butcher cutting up the ox or the sculptor finding the bird, maiden (or poem) already taking wing inside the wood (or the words).  

            Marvin Bell says, "A poem listens to itself as it goes."  That seems, somehow, related to being in "the zone," or wu-wei.  Because, by listening to itself, and responding to what it hears, it creates itself by having an internal dialogue, all without “effort” from the poet.  I can see where the idea of divine inspiration comes from. 

            Don't get me wrong.  I am not saying that any poem I write is a masterpiece, far from it.  What I am saying instead is that I am living the creative life, a life that offers joy, understanding and insights.  Peace and a measure of contentment and satisfaction.
            And it wu-wei applies to writing stories and novels, too.  Or making art, or cooking, or playing the clarinet.  Or making love.

Written at Pier Park.  

The class is available here:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Devil's Garden Poetry Assignment

"All Dick's Grass"
Click image to view larger

Canyon Cataracts

Moqui Marbles, Coyote Gulch, the Grand Staircase, petrified wood; Marlon Brando
loved Escalante, and you loved me. Red-rock Cave, Golden Cathedral, Slot Canyon,
Wild Cat Gulch; dream images fade in sunrise. Toadstool Trail, Hoodoos, Rimrocks,
Natural Bridge, The Woman’s Dance; over time, our hearts grow blind.  Bryce Canyon,
Indian petroglyphs, Devil’s Garden; we fail to see, with true delight, even the most
exquisite scenery; we fail to see each other. Under the falls, spray; eyes almost opaque.

Mary Stebbins Taitt
20150423-1023-2nd, Thursday, April 23, 2015, 1st
Iowa Poetry mooc assignment 2/2, define the line, then write a poem following that definition of line.  My definition, the breath.

(NOTE:  This poem is NOT directed toward Keith!)

Sunday, April 05, 2015


Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy Passover, Happy Eostar
oil pastels and acrylic paints
click image to view larger.

Monday, March 23, 2015

My traveling Mole has returned!!! YAY!

I've got my Moleskine back and I want to thank you all for your lovely art.  So fun looking through this.  When I finish the blank pages, of which there aren't many, we'll hopefully post a video.

I still have Mike's Mole, I'm nearly done with it, just painting the envelope and a couple small touch-ups.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Block Print Card

Dining Out
A Block print card for Mike by Mary
I worked on this for three weeks--Duh, couldn't get it right.  I wanted to make Mike a block print because I like his highly graphic work and I wanted to give him something that honored that. I would do it over, because it isn't quite right, but I think it's time to finish up and send this on home.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Kiki travels to Heaven and Back and Brings Home startling old news (A nonfiction fairy tale)

  • One day, Kiki Suarez is visited by a great shaman woman named Eloise. Eloise lies down and falls asleep on the floor in Kiki's gallery, under her favorite painting by Kiki.
    This makes Kiki very tired, and she too falls asleep beside Eloise on the floor.
    Kiki dreams that she and Eloise are traveling together through vast underground caverns where they meet Crow. Crow seems huge, or they have shrunk. Kiki, who is going blind, discovers that she can see everything perfectly. On ne voit being qu'aec les yeux, Eloise whispers to Kiki. L'essentiels est invisible pour les yeux.
  • Kiki already knew this, but she sometimes forgot, even though she was very wise for a living person. One sees well, only with the heart. The essentials are invisible to the eyes. (Anotine St. Exupery.)
  • Crow flies through a hole in the earth, into the sky and up to Heaven, with tiny Eloise and Kiki and her back. Kiki and Eloise climb down and look around.
    "Kiki," said Eloise, "I want you to meet one of my favorite people." They walk into an art gallery and there is Kiki Suarez, looking just like herself. For Earthly Kiki, it was absolutely like looking into a mirror. Only Heavenly Kiki was the most beautiful woman earthly Kiki has every seen. Two Eloises are there too, and Kiki's husband and children and daughter-in-law and friends.
    Kiki worries that her family and friends had all died in some catastrophe.
  • "No, said Eloise, "We live in two places at once. Actually in many places, but know that you live here, and that you are truly perfect and truly beautiful, just as you are."
    "Oh," said Kiki, "I say say that to people, even to myself, but I guess I didn't fully deeply totally believe it." She looked at her heavenly self again with the deepening vision of her heart, and saw, yes, that heavenly self was truly, incredibly, deeply beautiful. But there was still a seed of doubt. Was her earthly self as beautiful? She knew she was full of faults, too.
  • "I know what you're thinking," said Eloise, "but let me tell you, Heavenly Kiki and earthly Kiki are one and the same. They are identical, because they are a single being, perfect imperfection."
    "Of course," said Kiki. "I already knew that. But now I can see it is true." She looked deep into Heavenly Kiki heart and saw that she was just the same and she was, and yet, perfect and lovely.
    "Now," Kiki said, "I really see!"
  • And then she woke up on the floor of the art gallery, feeling a little stiff and bruised from sleeping on the floor. A radiant smile spread over her face as she remembered the dream. "Mais les yeux sont aveugles. Il faut chercher avec le cœur."
    Eloise had awakened, and Kiki leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you, Eloise," she said, "Thank you!"
    For what?" asked Eloise, looking puzzled. (And then, she turned to the audience, you and me, and winked.)
  • Forgive super-quick story and art. Sometimes, with sprouts, I just can't help myself!
    "Mais les yeux sont aveugles. Il faut chercher avec le cœur." = But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart... Antoine St. Exupery.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Flying Machine by Leonardo DiVinci
on oil pastel painting
Click this and/or any image to view larger
Alyssa the Witch and her Flying Machines

            Rumors spread over the land of Maerddth of a beautiful young witch named Alyssa who appears in town, choses a young man, makes love to him, and then, if he pleases her, gives him a flying machine.  The flying machines are incredible works of art.  Each is different in appearance and flight pattern.  The key to the flying machine, and instructions on how to locate and operate it are sent to each young man who qualifies about three months after the liaison.
            Some young men destroyed their flying machines in fiery crashes, but miraculously, none of them were killed.  Each somehow flew free and landed safely and walked away with barely a scratch. It was this astounding safety record that made the people of Maerddth call Alyssa a witch.  Everyone knew that Maerddth had had flying machines before, but the ability to make them had somehow been lost during the tribulations and hard times.  People wondered whether Alyssa stumbled on the technique in the massive archives in the old languages, which were forgotten by all but the most erudite scholars, or whether she had somehow reinvented not only the wheel, but also the secret of flight.  No one thought she had magicked the machines into existence until several of her young men survived crashes that should have turned them into roast meat.
            The men that Alyssa chose were all thin, ectomorphs, they used to call them in one of the old languages.  I know the term, because my job as a scribe requires me to learn some of the old languages.  And because I am an ectomorph, thin as a rail.  I’m guessing Alyssa chooses thin men because her flying machines are delicate and small and wouldn’t lift an endomorph.  Or, maybe, I hope, she just likes ectomorphs.  I’ve heard some women do.  Not many, but a few.
I want a flying machine.  But more than that, I want Alyssa.  I want to marry her.
            The truth is, I am painfully thin.  Most girls don’t see me.  They look past me as if I were a tree or a rock.  A sapling, or very thin rock.  But, I have had a lover, a girl named Sadie. I was too shy to ask a girl for her favors, but Sadie asked me.  I met her deep in the Archives.  She was beautiful.  She had long red hair and green eyes.  She was slender, but at the same time, soft and full.  I had no idea what to do, but she took me deep into the stacks and showed me.  She was gentle and sweet.  I fell in love with her, but after sex, I fell asleep and when I woke up, she was gone.
            After that, I began to read in the old languages on my own time.  I stayed after work and read about love, about sex, about how to please a woman.  About how to make her happy.  And I read about flying machines.  What they looked like, how they worked.  And I dreamed.  During quiet times at work, I fantasied about flying, and about making love to Alyssa the Witch. 
            Meanwhile, about every three months or so, a young man disappears into the forest and returns in a flying machine.  One of the devices is red and yellow, painfully bright to look at, and flies by twirling in such a way that Alfonso, the owner of the machine, becomes desperately dizzy.  The machine ejects him and he flies out on a rope and is pulled behind the erratically spinning machine in a terrifying arc toward the ground.  Somehow, he manages to pull himself back along the tether to the machine, take control of it at the last possible second and land safely.  When I see this plunge toward Maerddth, I reconsider my overwhelming desire for Alyssa.  One false move, and Alfonso is dead.

Alfonso and his Flying Machine
by me, Mary Stebbins Taitt

            Not all the machines are like that.  As I said, each is different.  One dark-haired young man has a device with rotary blades.  I think in the old languages, it was a called a “helicopter,” only this one is smaller than the ones in the old pictures appear to be.  Another young man, one with red hair like Sadie’s, only a little more orange, received a flying machine with wings like great cloth sails.  They are nearly transparent, pale green.
            At night, I dream about Alyssa.  I imagine she looks like Sadie, the redhead I met in the stacks at the archives.  I remember Sadie’s breasts, how soft they were, and full and round. Sadie and Alyssa merge, and I make love to them, to her, over and over.
In my dreams, I am a great lover.  Alyssa she loves my leanness and finds me appealing and kind and gentle and sweet.  I am kind, gentle and sweet, or can be.  I would be, with her.  In my dreams, I know just how to please her and make her happy.  But when I wake up, I can’t remember the secret—the one thing that will make me different from other young men, the one thing that will make her choose me and stay with me.
            Today, something happened that made me reconsider my dreams of marrying Alyssa the witch.  Sadie reappeared in the stacks at the archives.  She asked me shyly if I would like to make love to her.  Her red hair was longer than last time I saw her, and she seemed a little rounder than before, not fat, just a little rounder. 
            I made love to her in one of the cul de sacs deep in the stacks of The Archives, remembering my dreams, remembering all things I read about pleasing women.  When I was deep into loving her, it occurred to me that it was Sadie I loved.  All the time I’d been fantasizing about Alyssa, the person I’d been visualizing was Sadie.  Amazed, I blurted out, “Sadie, I love you.  Will you marry me?”
            She whispered back, “Birch, let me think about it.  I promise you an answer.  I will not forget you or your sweetness.”  She lay in my arms among the stacks until I fell asleep, and when I awoke, she was gone.
            It’s been six weeks, and I haven’t heard back from her.  I despair.
            Today at work in the archives, a boy brought me an envelope made of parchment and sealed with sealing wax into which a pine cone had been pressed to leave the imprint of its scales.  I wondered who was writing me, and then I remembered Sadie.  It had been more than three months since I asked her to marry me, and I had given up hope of receiving an answer.  Silence, I thought, was an obvious enough answer.  But maybe, just maybe, she’d finally written me.
            I tore open the envelope, and opened the sheet inside.  On one side was a finely detailed drawing of a bicycle with wings. And under that, a single word, yes, with lines and stars radiating out of it.  On the other side was a map with a symbol I recognized from the archives, a big red X which meant treasure. 
Flying Machine Bike for Birch
by Mary Stebbins Taitt
           I was confused.  The map was signed Alyssa.  I decided to investigate after work.  I packed my supper in a bag and hiked up the creek that led into the mountains. The map said to look for a deer trail that started near a big boulder that was shaped like a bear.  I found that rock readily and then looked for a rock shaped like a duck and took another trail.  That led to a clearing and there was the flying machine.  A bicycle with wings.  But no instructions.
            As I stood there examining the winged bike, trying to determine how to work it, something hit me in the back and knocked me to the ground.  I rolled over and looked and it was Sadie, laughing gaily.  She had jumped onto my shoulders from the branch of an over-hanging tree.
            “Sadie?” I asked.
            “Yes!” she said, “and yes!  And yes I will.”
            “Are you Alyssa?” I asked, still confused.
            “Sarah Alyssa Averill, at your service,” she said, kissing me.  “Also known as Sadie, your future wife, and mother of your future children and grandmother of your future grandchildren.  You may live with me, here in the mountains, and fly to work.”
            “Okay,” I said, “sounds good,” and I kissed her.
            “Let’s get a start on our first kid,” she said, when the kiss finally ended.  I happily agreed and got to work.  Or, got to play, to love, to joy.

Kiss, on oil pastels

Mary Stebbins Taitt
For Keith Taitt and Robert Verney
From a dream this morning, Sunday, February 22, 2015