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Posts Tagged ‘experience’

The Science of Art

In Art, Life in Society on February 15, 2014 at 6:47 pm

By Stephanie Martin

E pluribus Unum: words we’ve all heard or read somewhere before. “Out of many, one.” The de facto motto of our nation until, “In God We Trust” was adopted, the phrase is on much of the money we all carry around in our wallets, purses, or pockets. Although physically present everywhere, it appears in conversation only when discussing the cultural, racial, or social diversity of America. However, it seems to me the phrase has an older application, older than our nation, older than its own language, Latin.

Lately, I have been thinking about this phrase because I have been thinking about the idea of “one” and the idea of “many.” And here’s why. In less than one year, I will graduate with a degree in biochemistry and will, subsequently, stumble into a world in which I am not sure I want to practice biochemistry. In fact, I am not sure I know what I want to practice. If you had asked me last semester, or even at the beginning of last month, I would have told you that I was going to apply to film school and get a graduate degree in English. Last August, I would have told you that I was going to apply to grad school for chemistry or biochemistry. My senior year of high school, I would have told you that I might be a zookeeper or doctor. My freshman year, you might have heard me say I wanted to be a cowgirl. You get my drift. I have been living in an identity crisis for as long as I can remember. Although I could blame my identity crisis on being the middle child, I suspect it has something more to do with the dichotomy of my brain. My left brain wants me to be a scientist. My right brain wants me to be a writer.

full mannequin

So what do you do when you are studying science and suddenly want to be an artist? Don’t ask me! I’ve been trying to figure it out for at least a year and made about as much progress as a snail on salt. It’s a slow and painful process, trying to figure out what to do with your life. You may choose one thing and find, three years into a degree, that you may not want to do that at all. Hypothetically, you may then choose something else, and focus on that for a while until, in theory, you visit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with your family and realize that you love science it’s your life and you could never give it up! There goes six months’ worth of plans down the drain!

Nevertheless, my love of art, literature, and writing has not dimmed. My interests this past year have felt like an oscillation from science to art to science to art again with everything in between. I ask myself audibly, “Why can’t you just pick one?!”

In a recent conversation with a friend, the subject of “art” arose. As soon as she said that word, my brain naturally connected that idea to all of the things I associated with art: painting, sculpture, film, theatre, poetry, literature, music, etc. Somewhere in the middle of the train of thought I realized that she had said, “art, as a way of life.” A beautiful idea I thought. Beauty in every part of life. I like it. It was then that something clicked. I was wrong. Art isn’t just one thing. It’s not something you can categorize. It’s not confined to that list that went through my head. Ironically, neither is science. Science seems to be systematic and fact-oriented, but it’s not just that. It’s a way of thinking and viewing the world. It’s more. That’s when it hit me. I don’t have to choose one thing to do with my life. I don’t have to do just science, or just art. I can do both. I can choose more than one. I can choose many, because life is more. It is more than one occupation or one hobby or one friend or one place. Life is more than one. But that is the beauty of life. Because from these many things, comes one life. E pluribus Unum.



Getting It

In Art, Life in Society, Poetry on April 9, 2012 at 7:30 pm

To be content, I must create.

A work of art, of literature, of science;

Something unique, something my own.

And to be happy, truly happy,

My creation must be recognized,

Acclaimed, and enduring.

Street Art in Oslo, Norway by Alice Pasquini

How sad, his wife replied,

That evoking a smile, teaching a lesson,

Watching a sunset, relieving a burden

Provide you with neither contentment

Nor happiness.

You don’t get it, he shouted.

Thank goodness, she sighed.


By Robert Deluty

[Motherhood: Journey Into Love, An Anthology of Poetry, edited by Edwina Peterson Cross, published by Mothers At Home, Inc. (c) 1997]

Real Love

In Nature, Poetry on March 17, 2012 at 2:12 am

Love is the color of the world’s tallest peaks

nothing stands taller.


Loves sounds like water,

like churning rivers or trickling streams.


Love tastes sweet

like soothing herbal tea

that fills you with warmth.


Love smells like the clean air of Alaska,

without any flaws.


Love is the shape of the never ending stars

always shining bright


Love is love

nothing else


By Daniel Rogers

Photo by Blake Strasser

… the earth is full of the unfailing love of God. (Psalm 33.5)

“Man is the only animal who causes pain to others with no other object than wanting to do so.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

Mind Trap

In Poetry on January 4, 2012 at 11:25 am

Photo by Hannah Amodeo

In the midst of the dark room

In the corners of my mind,

I resurrect doom and gloom

Fear the light will leave me blind.





But when I step into the shine

Bare my heart and soul and thought,

I find the healing I had missed

Wish this feeling could be bought.


Oh, to store away such needs

A cancer simply feeds,

Instead to share yourself

May put cancer on the shelf.


Lift the veil!  Seek the sun!

Forward into life, let’s run!

Don’t get trapped into your mind,

Love is there for all to find.

Photo by Hannah Amodeo


Georganne Conway

(c) 2003

… God is light; in God there is no darkness at all.

(1 John 1.5 – NIV)

… God is love, and whoever abides in love in abides in God, and God abides in him.

(1 John 4.16 – ESV)

Landscape Sculptor

In Art, Nature on December 1, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Still Photo of Rivers & Tides documentary taken by Margot Harrington (

Andy Goldsworthy loves to play outside.  The landscape sculptor can be found tossing armfuls of snow or dust into the air for the wind to take away.  Or flinging iron-rich mud balls into a river and watching the resulting red, underwater explosion.  He uses sticks to create spider-web-type structures.  He builds with rocks and leaves.  Always keeping an eye on the surroundings encircling his creations.  Aware of what’s underneath.  He also works with clay, sand, ice and snow.  Almost always out of doors.

~ HR

Go Outside

In Nature on November 5, 2011 at 11:16 am

Photo by Doug Stutler

By Bekah McNeel

I don’t know when I decided that I hated nature, and I don’t know what it was that pushed me over the edge. But I do remember thinking, “Everything out here is trying to kill me.” I was in college and I was wearing flip-flops in the West Texas desert at Big Bend National Park. Far from the wooded canyons and creeks of my Hill Country childhood–though even there cactus and cedar splinters abound–I had decided that nature was for ascetics.

So, naturally, I married an ascetic. A desert monk of sorts. A man who loves to be outside. And now we spend time outside. We run, we swim in creeks, we hike, we camp. I have discovered the state and national parks services. Maybe it’s my love for him, but more likely its that he is my very own “interpretive center.” South Texas wilderness needs an interpretive center. (For those who avoid the outdoors: an interpretive center is where they tell you what you are looking at and why it’s important and why you have to love it.)

For our first anniversary, we decided to take a trip to Yosemite. If I were to write a book called “How to Love Nature,” chapter one would be a guide to planning a trip to Yosemite. Surrounded by waterfalls, rainbows, cliffs, and sequoias I thought, “This is how people become naturalists.” Legend has it that John Muir actually cried out for joy when he discovered Yosemite Valley. He would devote his life to its preservation, founding the Sierra Club and battling against the reservoir that created the lake at Hetch Hetchy in the park’s NW corner. He explored every accessible inch of the place, even when accessing it meant that he had to build his own trail. We hiked some of those trails 130 years later. I get the obsession.

It’s a strange life change for me to sympathize with that obsession. Growing up, the Sierra Club was in a league with Planned Parenthood and Chairman Mao’s one child policy. Enemies of the faith. I didn’t know anything about it, but somehow it was synonymous with earth-worshipping paganism. Being somewhat at war with nature myself, I didn’t give it much thought. How bad would the world really be without mosquitoes and cacti?

Answer: terrible. For two reasons,

1) Mosquitoes and cacti are going to outlive us all. So if it gets to the point that they are dying off, well, the earth probably resembles Mars.

2) We need it all! When we eradicate the pests, we start messing with systems far outside our plans. Systems that include the Giant Sequoias, whales, cattle, and us! We cannot pick and choose our favorite bits of Creation. We need to work within the system, because we’re part of it. Do you eat meat or vegetables? Then you’re part of the system. Breathe oxygen? Part of the system.

Now, I’ve heard enough apocalyptic eco-scenarios to scare me into reusable shopping bags. What about conservation based on love rather than fear? If I love nature, then acting on its behalf becomes what I want to do. No longer is the Sierra Club my enemy. Now I’m glad for it to work and work hard. Not just so that we can survive, but so that we can enjoy surviving.

I work in a church office, where we are all about the head and the heart. I share a tiny office with two seminary students who drill each other in Hebrew vocabulary all day. It should not be surprising that I was having a hard time grasping the concept of “Fear God.” God was something that we scribbled on the whiteboard. He fit inside the bindings on the shelf of theology books. But when I peered into a violent whirlpool at the top of Nevada Falls, slippery granite beneath my feet, I was terrified by the same majestic cascade that had delighted me only a few hours earlier from a safe distance. I thought, “This is awe. This is fear.” That’s the closest I have come to understanding the fear of God. My heart was paralyzed but exhilarated. Free but trembling. There was something in the world that was beyond my control and comprehension, but here I was close enough to touch it. Close enough to see how beautiful it really was, but to be swept away if I ignored its power.

Photo by Doug Stutler

My husband the Nature Monk says that people need to spend time encountering things that make them feel small. Cliff faces, desert expanses, ocean horizons. We need a reminder that truth is less, “man is the measure of all things” and more, “what is man, O Lord, that you are mindful of him?” Less Enlightenment and more Psalms.

But treks through nature are not all grand perspective-taking. In an age of information barrage, where we have boundless productivity with minimal discomfort, there is something so right about going outside. About using all five senses to navigate. Out on a particularly grueling hike or trail run, a person must become consumed by their surroundings and how they are interacting with them. Each step down a slippery mountain pass in the rain quieted my mind because if I let one piece of my nerves be distracted from the vital task of searching for a foothold I would be in big trouble, and probably with an injury to show for it. That kind of singular focus resets the brain. It quiets the crowd of alerts, notifications, special offers, and expiration dates. I think its good for our brains to spend a few hours in survival mode. How can I do this unless I go outside? I’m not talking about a peaceful walk in the woods either. Yes, that’s where it starts. Walking without a cell phone. Nature is great for contemplation, a la Walden Pond.

What I’m talking about here though, is the wilderness. The wild. A place where environment and body collide and tasks are no longer options set against a backdrop of entertainment and luxuries. Where work is not a villain keeping us from relaxing. Being outside in this way demands that I turn off the noise and do the one thing that there is to do in this moment: take the right step or fail perilously.

It would be very Presbyterian of me to now say, “You can do this anywhere.” To talk about how your backyard can be your own little wilderness. Well, unless you live on the edge of the woods, desert, beach, or tundra, it probably cannot. You probably are going to need to work a little harder to love nature. Not everyone gets to take a week and explore Yosemite, Yellowstone, or Glacier National Park for a course in Loving the Great Outdoors 101. Many of us will have to settle for a prickly, buggy, humid whatever-state park. But my challenge is to find that piece of the world that helps you understand why people want to save it.

Photo by Hannah Amodeo

Spouse Deployed Art

In Art on October 26, 2011 at 7:21 pm

"I Will Not Fall Apart Today" By Hartley King

"A Nightmare Strikes" By Hartley King

"Disconnected #1" By Hartley King

In her series of paintings, Hartley King, an Abilene, Texas artist, uses the visual metaphor of an empty metal folding chair to represent her aloneness during her husband’s deployments. She vividly renders her experiences and feelings during those times. Check out the entire collection here.

Gardening & Beauty

In Humor on October 23, 2011 at 11:48 am

Photo by Kent Bartlett

By Kristine Goodfellow

Let me start by admitting something.  I may be in need of a gardening intervention.  You see, last year we moved from Pennsylvania to Texas at the very end of Spring, so I didn’t get to plant any flowers before I left.

By the time we got to West Texas, settled into our house and had time to think about the landscaping outside, all the plants at the nurseries, Lowes and Wal-Mart were pretty much slim-pickin’s.  Besides, it was so hot I didn’t want to leave the sweet air-conditioning of my new home to tend to any half-dead desert plants.  I bought a couple of hanging flower baskets and called it a summer.

So, that means last year I didn’t get to garden.  And by gardening, I mean watering colorful flowers in decorative pots.  I don’t actually want to get dirty or have to kneel down and weed anything, but I want to see pretty things in my yard so…

This year, I got a $100 gift certificate for a local nursery and couldn’t wait to spend it.  I went a little crazy.  By the time the whole thing was over, said and done, I think I ended up with over $250.00 worth of flowers.  Ooops.

My front and back porches look very festive and delightful.  I’m very excited about that.  Now, if I don’t kill any of them, I’ll be happy.  I’m great with houseplants, but sometimes I have a little difficulty with the outdoor variety.  There are bugs out there!  Every year I say I’m going to conquer my fear and maintain my own garden, but some malevolent spider, slimy worm or wicked beetle scares me back into my house where I then spend the rest of the summer admiring the flowers and waving to Chewy the Yard Guy as he tends them.  This year, I will do the maintenance myself!  I will!  I am an optimist.  Optimism and the fact that Chewy lives in Pennsylvania has me determined to make this work.

Feeling very guilty about spending sooo much money on my flower obsession, I cancelled my hair appointment today.

“I’ll color my own hair and save $75.00,” I thought.

Yeah…that’ll ease that old spending guilt.

Using my fuzzy math, I figured if I did my own hair…I was halfway to coming out even on my over-expenditure at the nursery.

So, late this morning, I set my box of hair color down on my vanity in my master bathroom feeling oh so grown-up and responsible.

How hard could this be?

Reading the instructions carefully, I began to save money.  HA!

Feeling like a chemist in a lab, I set to mixing and shaking.  The box even came with rubber gloves!  I was feeling pretty damn professional.  After very carefully following the directions, I applied the mixture to my hair.

“This is not so hard,” I thought.

Suddenly, I felt a cold, wet trickle running from my temple, down my ear and continuing down my neck.

Aaah!  Don’t panic!  Not a problem.  I grabbed a towel.  The closest towel.  My strictly-for-decoration gold-fringed hand towel.

UghShould not have done that.

Well, I figured, it’s ruined, so I may as well continue to use it.  Next drip I felt was down my neck in the back.  Quick as a flash, I grabbed my newly-stained towel to sop up the mess.

Whoops!  Wrong towel.  Towel number two—ruined.

Realizing my mistake, I tossed the towel onto to the counter and knocked the whole bottle of liquid hair dye onto the vanity.  The bottle dropped to the floor, splashed against the wood cabinet and dumped out onto the gold bathmat before I managed to stop the worsening destruction.

Crap!  Who knew tile could stain?  Who knew marble countertops could stain?  Who knew black dye on gold mats could look like someone had been murdered on my bathroom floor?

At this point, I forgot about my hair—I could only contemplate what chemical neutralizes hair dye and removes it from wood and tile.

Not wanting my hubby to see the bathroom devastation I’ve created, I rolled up the towels in the bathmat and hid them in the garage (to throw out later–on Trash Day) feeling like the world’s most inept criminal.

I realized the marble countertop was still stained and I wasn’t sure what might take care of that, but I came up with a genius solution to the floor.

Throw the other bathmat over the floor stain…

Perhaps, no one will ever know—until we move out, that is.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t genius.

After I got everything under control and had adequately hidden my misdeeds, I piled up my hair on my head and set the timer for 40 minutes.

Now keep in mind, I’m still feeling guilty over the tropical jungle I have blooming on my porches. I mean it’s TEXAS–where the previous day’s temperature had reached 97-deegrees…and it’s ONLY APRIL!

What was I thinking?

I suddenly comprehended my costly little paradise would require more care than I probably know how to give.  However, I am now resolved.  I must not let them die!  Think of all that money!

While I’m waiting for the last few minutes of required hair-cooking time, I decided to water the guilt-inducing plants on my back patio since they look a little wilted from yesterday’s heat.


My backyard backs up to a golf course and walking trail—a fairly busy walking/jogging trail.

I stuck my head out on the porch and looked around.  No one was using the trail and I didn’t see any golfers.

Yes!  I have time to water my flowers and come back in to rinse the black goo off my head.

I very stealthily made it to the water spigot, keeping my eyes out for joggers and listening for golf carts.  I turned on the hose and hurried to the back porch and began watering.  Everything was going as planned until I saw a black drop fall near my feet.  Then another.




“Oh, crap!”

I looked at my reflection in the window.  I had black streaks across my cheeks and a black smear across my forehead.  There’s even a black smudge over my lip from where I’d obviously rubbed my nose which made me look like I had half a Hitler mustache!

Behind me a neighbor’s dog barked making me jump.  I looked down the path and noticed someone is walking their dog and coming towards my house.

It’s okay.  I still have time to rush inside.  I dropped the hose, and turned the handle of the French doors.

Bam!  I plow face first into it.

“What the…?”  There is now a black smudge on the white paint where my forehead hit the frame.

Panicked, I tried the handle again.

“OMG! No!”

*Bark! Bark!*

The dog walker is now closer!  I tried the handle again.  No doubt about it.  It’s locked.  Someone must’ve locked the doorknob lock last night!

I rushed to the side of the house, out the gate and tried the side entrance to the garage.  Locked!  I ran to the front, horrified that someone might see me in my Tinkerbell pajama bottoms and t-shirt sans bra!

Front door?  Locked!

It’s official.  I am locked out!  And humiliated.  And it’s starting to get hot!  I wiped away the dripping black gunk with my hands and noticed my fingers were black.

Well….there goes the manicure I got a couple of days previous–totally ruined!

As I rounded the corner to hide in my backyard again, I happened to notice my cleaning lady was two doors down at my husband’s boss’s house.  The way I saw it…I had no choice at that point.  Maria has a key!

I thought of sticking my head under the garden hose before walking casually down the street so as not to cause any undue attention.  No, I better not, I thought, it might just make the mess worse and turn my entire face blackNo, better just rush over, explain the situation and rush back.

I scurried down the street—two doors down, but it felt like a mile.  Luckily, no one was out (which is highly unusual for this active neighborhood.)

This could work.

Maria’s car was in the driveway.  I know she’s there!

I rang the doorbell.

No answer.

I knocked— leaving a black knuckle mark on the white painted door of the boss’s pristine, beautiful home.

Crap!  I used my shirt to wipe it off.  Well, there goes that t-shirt anyway.  Sorry, Tinkerbell.

I waited, shifting my weight back and forth and peeking behind me to see if anyone is outside.  It is officially HOT and I have to use the bathroom now.

Still no answer.  What the heck?

Giving up, I decided to see if by some miracle my across-the-street-neighbor is home (even though I know she works Tuesdays and Thursdays).

It’s worth a shot.

Just as I crossed the street, I saw Maria step out of the house to get something from her car.

“Maria!” I yelled running back.

She did a Hollywood-worthy double-take.  “Mrs. Goodfellow?”

“Uh…yeah.  I’m locked out.  Do you have my key with you?”

“Yes,” she says looking at me with wide, confused eyes.  I’m sure she can’t fathom why I’m walking around outside looking like a squid secreted ink on my head, sporting half a mustache and wearing my pajamas near noontime.  (She already thinks I’m a little flighty being that I’m always forgetting what day she’s supposed to come or forgetting to leave a check when she does.  Or accidentally giving her my Pennsylvania phone number or forgetting to sign my check or….)

“I was watering and I….” I stammer.

“Is that water?” she asks.  I’m sure she’s wondering if something has been lost in translation from English to Spanish.

“No, no…I was dying my hair and watering my plants and…”

“At the same time?”

“No, no…um…yes, but…do you have my key?  Can I have my key?”  A car was coming up the street.  I was getting desperate.

“Yes,” she says.  “You want me to open it for you?”

I think she realized the complexities of a lock were probably beyond my capacity at that point.

Eventually, I got into my house.

However, by then my entire skull and part of my face was dyed a nice shade of Midnight Black.

So, I did what any 21-century person would do.  I got online to find out how to remove hair dye from skin.  I love the internet.  Just when you think you are the only person who would have black streaks dyed into your face, you find out there are many, many others out there who have done the same thing.

So, I pulled out my Nail Polish Remover and got to scrubbing.

It sort of worked…except…it turns out I’m allergic to it.  My skin went from black to gray with tinges of bright red!

I decided the red was better than the gray or light black, so I rubbed until it was all (or most of it was) removed.

To top it all off, I looked down and my brand new bling-y flip-flops are decorated with a black splotch across the top—oh!  And there goes the spa pedicure, too.

So, saving $75.00 doing my own hair, I managed to ruin a new manicure, a new pair of flip-flops,  a bathmat, two decorative hand towels and a fresh pedicure.  I’ll still wear my Tinkerbell pj’s so that’s a draw.

And none of that even comes close to the amount of mortification I endured and several moments of extreme stress, which probably gave me gray hair…that is…gray hair underneath all that Midnight Black dye.  On top of all that…the Hibiscus I bought…isn’t looking real good today.  I might have to make one more trip to the nursery…but then I swear I’m done.


As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.  Psalm 103:15, 16

Queen to Play: Review

In Movies on October 22, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Photo by Kent Bartlett

Ah, the rare movie that explores life on many levels and still manages to be magnificently entertaining.  In Queen to Play, a hotel housekeeper is attracted to and ultimately changed by the game of chess.  The sub-plot is about engaging in the game of life.  Entering into truly living.  Also involved is the concept of people being so much more than what they do.  I found a lot of meaning in the French word of the title: “Joueuse.”  Actually translated I think it means just “player,” as in a soccer player, for example.  Like children in a sandbox, enjoying the little things – the feel of the sand; what it does when you pour it over the wheel; the pleasure of exploring and happiness in simple things like fresh air and who you’re with.  Then there’s also the satisfaction of accomplishment, and finding out what you’re good at and intensely enjoy.  Which is a process the character discovers as she learns the game.  The film also gets some into what we as people do with what power we each have.  How we use or misuse it. There is a part where the main character is told that the queen is the most powerful piece in chess, and she smiles in a delighted, “you mean I’m important?” way that stirs the heart and touches on what we all universally want and feel. The pure concept of play, that it means thorough enjoyment and commitment to what you’re doing, was one that I found to be inherent and magnificent in this film. Join the game.  Have fun.  HR

Frozen River: Review

In Movies on May 23, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Photo by Doug Stutler

There are beautiful, harsh landscapes in this film.  Both internal and external. The struggles and beauty of the Northern environment (a Mohawk reservation on the border between New York State and Quebec) mirror the characters’ emotional and literal journeys.  Two single moms are the main characters, and upon first glance the two couldn’t be more different.  One’s Caucasian and works in a dollar store; one’s Native American and works border-smuggling people.  When they’re thrown together, a lot of inherent tension because of their different backgrounds.  How these disparities are explored and overcome is part of the beauty of this film.  The concept of tribal justice is gently and powerfully portrayed at a crucial point in the story.  I’d heard of the term before, but vaguely thought it meant a vigilante-type system; delivered with anger and unwarranted violence. Turns out it’s instead a simple system of reparation involving tribal members hearing both sides of an issue and applying corrective action on a case-by-case basis.  Enjoy great acting and a riveting plot with this movie.  HR

Photo by Hannah Amodeo