Saturday, July 4, 2015

Man’s Inhumanity to Man – When Power Corrupts

"With these Hands -- Wonder" Oil on acrylic underpainting
It's the 4th of July; Independence Day, and I'm going to repeat a blog in memory of the veterans and troops throughout the years who have fought for our freedom. My inspiration came from reading “Unbroken; a World War II Story of Survival,” by Laura Hillenbrand. In that blog, I mentioned that it was hard for me to read more than a few chapters a day. 

The material is so raw, so cruel and emotional that I had to quit reading in order to regain my composure. I’m not a crier; people who know me know that I don’t cry easily, especially in front of others. But I will tell you this. While reading this book, my eyes filled with tears and my heart experienced the agony of shared empathy.

As POWs, these men tried to retain their dignity as human beings under cruel and inhumane circumstances. Struggling to maintain scraps of freedom their defiance kept them going. Their bodies would be starved and beaten. They would be forced into submission, but their souls, their attitudes and minds would soar above on silent prayers of hope and endurance.

Their struggles reminded me of this passage from the Book of Job in the Bible: “I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it. My conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.” (Job 27:6 NIV)

Educators always refer to the Jewish Holocaust under Hitler as the worst example in history of human degradation and deprivation. And well they should. But its relevance has been broadcast on the wings of a political agenda labeled “Anti-Semitism.” Yet the fact that thousands and millions of Soldiers suffered under the tyrannical hands of the Japanese in the brutal POW camps is little known. Why? Because the power of the elite has deemed America an “Imperialist” country and these facts do not suit their political agenda.

(first great granddaughter)
I went to Wickipedia hoping to find some historical and accurate information. To my surprise their main focus was on the Japanese Internment Camps in the US and Japanese POWs where the prisoners were treated humanely compared to the treatment of US prisoners in Japanese camps. This is how history has been manipulated for political purposes.

Most of the US and Allied POWs in Japan died from starvation. They became slave labor and worked long hours on rice or seaweed broth having neither protein nor vegetables. They suffered preventable diseases such as beriberi and scurvy. These valiant men helped each other, protected each other; and when they could, shared what little food they had in order to keep their buddies alive. 

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers,” Karl Barth a theologian of the 20th century once said. Those who survived were sometimes hourly on their knees.

These prisoners were beaten daily, beaten for pleasure, and if they were officers or men of stature beaten extensively. They were coverless and barefoot in winter; their bodies covered only with shreds of cloth that were once the clothing they wore when captured. International law regarding Prisoners of War was ignored. The Red Cross dropped food supplies in the camps, but the Japanese guards horded them for themselves or sold them on the black market.

Sadly, their suffering and torture in the POW camps was overshadowed by the “bomb” that finally made Japan stand still. How do you stop a tyrant? How do you bring down the planes raining bombs on your own soil and stop an aggressive enemy intent on conquering the world? How do you stop a bully with an arsenal who is out to cleanse the world of unwanted races, ethnicities, or religions? How do you stop a mad man, a dictator from implementing his hatred?

During the course of the war, Japanese civilians also suffered as their country began to collapse at war’s end. A quote from the book states: “Near the end of the war, the civilians (not the guards or hierarchy) were in shocking conditions. The limbs of the adults were grotesquely swollen from beriberi; a condition the POWs knew well. Their children were emaciated…But Japan was a long way from giving up.”

The Japanese considered “surrender” shameful, and they were prepared to fight to the end at all costs. They had also decided that no prisoners would be released to their allied forces. They intended to kill every last one. Hundreds of POWs were shot and dumped in the nearby jungles. There were few options open to the POWs for escape or rescue.

There’s another side to the story. What enemy would warn their adversary of an upcoming attack? American B29s “showered leaflets over 35 Japanese cities warning civilians of coming bombings and urging them to warn others and to evacuate. “But the Japanese authorities punished those who had leaflets or who gave them to their neighbors and tried to warn them. Two of the cities warned and mentioned in the leaflets were Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Today, my blog is long. This war, this book has deeply affected me. I am incensed by “man’s inhumanity to man.” Sadly, those who served our country, who suffered and endured, were forgotten to satisfy a contemporary ideology intent on promoting equality, diversity and inclusion. It has taken America several decades to honor those who served in the World War II arena. There are very few of them who still remain.

To add insult to injury, those surviving American heroes were insulted once again when the “mock government shut-down” denied them passage into the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. that was built specifically to honor them. 

I am ashamed of our leaders in Washington. I am outraged at how they toy with our lives and tinker with the greatest thing we have going for us: our Constitution. May God bless America. She needs it now more than ever!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Faces of Humanity -- the Richness of Spirit

(This photograph will be the basis for my next painting)
I have an obsession with faces. They tell so much about a person, and yet so little. Worry lines may soon turn into laugh lines when the heart is merry. Eyes glisten in the presence of a loved one or a good friend. Tears may signify joy or sadness; the face reflects the nuance and the feelings that others seek to interpret.

As we age, faces become more like maps to the past. How we have lived, what we have experienced is often reflected in the way we hold our mouth or in the downcast look in our eyes. Creases may symbolize chronic illness and pain or a hardworking existence in the great outdoors.
"A Joyful Heart" 9x12 pastel on Bristol; Matted and ready to frame (11x14).
As poets have said for hundreds of years “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” We like to think that we can see into someone else’s life through their eyes, but we’re only guessing. Ted Bundy, a serial killer, had very seductive eyes; but I doubt his victims saw into his soul. If they had, they would have fled in terror.

Still, eyes can tell us about emotion. My next portrait is of a young Indian mother and her two children (1st photo) as they observe something with reverential eyes. Are they worshipping? Do they see someone they revere or are they only hoping for something better to come into their lives?

Their faces captured my attention and I needed to paint them. This is an actual photograph taken by some friends in India. I see longing in the eyes of this family, and at the same time awe. Perhaps you’ll see and feel something altogether different; but if I paint them with my interpretation, perhaps you’ll see them the way that I do.

This is the delight of the creative life. An artist has a deep felt need to express what he or she sees and feels. Sometimes it is a negative message to convey an opinion or make a statement. At other times it is a heartfelt desire to share a joyful picture representing the goodness and the common bond of humanity.
(I have applied the drawing to a 24x18 white canvas)
Faces are like sculpture. Their form and definition, their shapes and lines are beautiful unto themselves. I enjoy painting people of color. The richness of skin tones and the variant shades are remarkable and a challenge to capture. Facial features are bolder, more pronounced, and they fit together perfectly, beautifully into a whole.

I’ve had some difficulty seeing lately so this new painting will be a challenge. I have mono-vision lenses that make it difficult to see depth; one eye is for close-ups and the other for distance. Luckily, when I hold a drawing or a painting up to the mirror, my flaws are usually revealed to me.

(Work in Progress: First layers of acrylic paint on the figures. I will change and altar what doesn't look right.)
I’m disheartened by the recent outburst of hate and racism in this country. While I see beauty in diversity many others focus on differences and see danger. Yet one God made us all and loves us equally. In that light, how then can we not reach out to others in friendship and tolerance?
"With these hands -- Hope" 16x20 canvas; oil on acrylic background.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Who will stand when the time comes? To the brave go the glory!

What happens when societies crumble, when civilized peoples turn into depravity and violence? In the absence of experience or history to guide them, do  people tend to devolve into unschooled savages?

The author of Lord of the Flies, William Goldberg, seems to think so as do many anthropologists and historians. But it doesn’t take a doctorate or a Ph.D. to come to this conclusion. The average person through his or her own experience and education would probably agree.

I recall a science fiction show many years ago about how modern society had been obliterated through their own excesses. The few who remained had no books or knowledge to chart their course. Information was being withheld. There was no recorded history to make comparisons or to avoid calamity. There was a void of ideas, thinking, and motivation.

The wisdom of the ages had been destroyed. There was no compass of thought or inspirational examples. No past record to shed light on the passage of time and the future ahead. Only one person remained who held the key to rebuilding civilization. Why? Because he remembered; a flicker of light in the darkness set a chain of events moving that powered and re-invigorated the hunger for freedom that exists within each human being.

Now we have Isis that is ravaging brick by brick, stone by stone, the ancient antiquities of Iraq, Mosul and the entire Middle East. Ancient history, holy to many, is being crumbled, desecrated and soon-to-be-forgotten by the ages.

Biblical history is being wiped off the map and replaced with savage violence and destruction. Hatred-wielding thugs are seeking power and carving up the Middle East into bite-sized gulps, devouring the past and filling their bellies with blood and gore. The antiquities of history that gave this region some semblance of stability are being erased.

War mongers are single-minded when it comes to their ravenous power-grabbing intent. Their goal is anything but preserving history. Their enemy is tradition and rational thinking. They seek to change and eliminate the cherished, the courageous, the stalwart and strong that will not bend their knee without a fight.

Those who are unwilling to comply are crushed beneath a mindless authoritarianism. The valiant few struggle to protect the weak. They try to salvage and preserve the treasures of their civilization at all costs for the benefit of future generations where they will be designated heroes and heroines. But they are few and far between.

What about us? Who will arise to save our sinking society – our world? I doubt that they will be politicians who value votes and power far above culture and dignity. Where are the men and women who sense danger and see the signs of its progressing onslaught? Will they be people of faith, doctors, mathematicians, scientists, philosophers or artists? Will they stand up when others stand down?

When our ship of sale is sinking, will we have the courage to stand up and be counted? 

Watch as Isis destroys precious artwork, sculpture and the antiquity of the ages that go back to Biblical and historical times.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

As Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home!”

(Daughter, Pam, took a surprise photo of us at Northwest Trek. I love the tenderness between us as we chat.)
In spite of the love and the joy of being with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, it’s good to get back to our comfortable ruts and the familiar nest we call home.

Our last big event was a trip through the grandeur of the National Park system designated as Mount Rainier. We drove from wildflower meadows and quaint historical towns into the inclining and winding roadways that led upward.

The snow was long gone; earlier than most years. When we reached the top, the base of Rainier was snow-free and covered with green grass and more wildflowers such as scarlet paintbrush, blue columbine, pink Canterbury bells, and white Queen Ann’s lace.
(Mount Rainier peeking through the trees as we wound up the roadway leading to the top.)
We enjoyed a quick lunch in the Visitor Center, and then traipsed over to the refurbished lodge to check out the furnishings, the gift shop and the spectacular views from a huge wrap-around porch.

Because of my fall earlier, and the miles already walked at the Northwest Trek animal preserve, we decided not to climb the trails to the base of the snow-covered Rainier. The park on all sides of the mountain was covered with hiking trails and bike trails. If you’re an avid hiker as I once was, you’ll love exploring the flora and fauna that covers the hillsides.

(Getting closer!)
(Here we are at the base of the mountain. Normally in June, the green grass is covered in snow.)
(Inside the Lodge at Mount Rainier)
On the way back, we stopped at an iconic restaurant that has served up homemade fare since the 1940s. We enjoyed a quality home-cooked meal, but declined the tempting old-fashioned pies. A small antique gift shop provided eye-candy instead. On this trip I had hoped to purchase some “finds” to sell in my Etsy Shop, but the sizes and prices deterred this plan. Flying instead of driving has its benefits, but leaves you with very little space for extras.

Back to Minnesota for two nights and one day gave us just enough time to see a few people before flying homeward. Upon arrival, a blast of hot humid air reminded us of the summer ahead.

(Great Grandpa with Marcus, his first great grandchild.)
During our vacation, we rarely caught the news and felt relaxed and detached. It was with shock and sadness that we learned about the massacre shooting in the South Carolina church.

What have we become as a society? Have we descended so far that we resemble animals and simply react from our baser instincts? The higher calling is to love others, even our enemies, which the members of that church demonstrated so plainly. May God bless them in their hour of need. May God have mercy on the soul of the perpetrator of evil. If drugs are responsible for his depravity, may others recognize the dangers in following this path. 

If evil can destroy, then only love can heal this nation. Not selfish love that seeks only to enrich and satisfy self, but an unselfish desire to do good to others and to bring only positive actions into the world. If we're going to leave a mark behind us, let it be one that will benefit mankind!

Monday, June 15, 2015

R and R Time is Food for the Soul in a Busy World

(Outside Paulsbo, WA)
We made it to SeaTac Airport in beautiful Seattle, Washington on Thursday, June 11. The mid 70 temps brought a smile to our faces and a car waiting for us at the airport brought us the second. Our driver was originally an immigrant from (sounded like Malovia -- near Russia) and spoke excellent English. We shared stories and experiences as he drove us to my daughter’s house. Along the way, we enjoyed the many flowers and trees that were in bloom, many I couldn’t identify.

We got off to a great start except for some concern that one of the grandchildren was having some day-long dental work and her pulse rate had plunged to 20. The next day they had to call 911 and apply CPR. She was in the ICU for three days. The diagnosis was pericardia. She had fluid in the cardium sac around the heart. Apparently some damage was done while doing CPR. Pretty scary ordeal!

The first day I was here adjusting to our new “digs,” I took a bad fall. The living room at my daughter’s house is sunken. The wood of the hallway blended in with the wood on the living room floor, and I failed to remember the step; fell hard flat on my face. I was lucky that I only got a fat lip and a bruised elbow out of it.
(Me and my Fat Lip)
The next day we drove to a small Norwegian village called Paulsbo. Nestled within the tall cedar and fir trees were small shops, art galleries, and bakeries. We browsed, made a few purchases, and then headed to lunch for some tasty fish and chips and poached salmon sandwiches. Yum!

People naturally stared at my odd looking mouth. When they did, I said “Yeah, he beats me.” They’d look shocked and then laugh which gave me an opportunity to tell what really happened.

Met some wonderful artist volunteers from two co-op galleries and shared business cards. I purchased some cool earrings from one of them. We also browsed in a Scandinavian gift shop and I bought a plaque to give to my husband on Father’s Day. The message says: “You can always tell a Norwegian, but you can’t tell them much!” Perfect!

We visited my great granddaughter, Kayla in the ICU that evening. Here is what we learned. Pericardial Effusion is an abnormal amount of fluid between the heart and the pericardium, which is the sac surrounding the heart. Pericardial effusions are associated with many different medical conditions. Most pericardial effusions are not harmful, but large pericardial effusions can cause problems by impairing heart function.

The pericardium is a tough, layered sac that wraps around the heart. When the heart beats, it slides easily within the sac. Normally, only 2 to 3 tablespoons of clear-yellow pericardial fluid are present between two layers, which lubricate the heart's movements within the sac.

In pericardial effusions, significantly larger amounts of pericardial fluid accumulate. Small pericardial effusions may contain 100 milliliters of fluid. Very large pericardial effusions may involve more than two liters of fluid.

Viral infections are one of the main causes of pericarditis and pericardial effusions. She may also have picked up a viral infection during the long hours of dental procedures she had to undergo.

After three days in ICU wearing a cap with sensors underneath, they decided it was a “heart” event and not an epileptic seizure. Between my fall and Kayla’s scrape with death, we all breathed a sigh of relief with the outcomes.

Yesterday we went to Northwest Trek, a nature preserve where one of my grandsons, Christopher, works. His major was in Zoology and he is working here during the summer. He plans to go to Indonesia to join his step-brother, Bryce, to study and work with a Thailand zoo on the Snow Leopard, an endangered cat species.
(Here is where Chris weighs the small animals and keeps them out of their cages while he cleans them)

Chris coaxes a badger from his hole to hand feed him.
Bryce traveled to Bogota, Columbia to research the coffee beans in that area and make connections. He will also work in Thailand with some coffee growers and network before going back to Washington to run his own coffee shop. He is hoping to create his own distinctive blend.

We will be traveling back to MN on Wednesday of this week, and then homeward bound to Fort Myers where I have some gastric procedures of my own to go through. It has been a wonderful vacation. We have enjoyed the cooler temperatures and the love of family. The great Northwest is one of my favorite places to visit. Audios amigos and I’ll write again when I get back home.
Chris talking to the audience, and feeding the beavers.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Home is Where the Heart is and the Twins Baseball Team!

(Son-in-law's beautiful backyard)
I told you I was heading for Northern climes, and here we are in Minnesota waiting for my husband’s first Great Grandson’s birth. 

The temperature’s are in the 80s with blue skies. Thrilled and delighted to be here. As a result, there’s not much going on in my art life except some incredible photos and “would be” paintings. I hope you enjoy!

Here is Katie with her soon-to-be-born son.

This is "Clarke" an Australian Collie with Katie.

I took some photos while I played with Clarke until the others returned. He's an absolute doll!
"I'll be really good if you give me a taste."

"Oh, come on -- I'm begging here!"

"See how patient I am?"

Tomorrow night we're going to a Twins game and so looking forward to it! There's nothing like an outdoor baseball game in the new stadium!

See the weather isn't too shabby in Minnesota, especially in June. 

On Thursday, we're heading out for Seattle to see my oldest daughter and her family whom I haven't seen in 6-7 years. So many new kiddies to hug.

Here are some additional photos of "potential" paintings. Although I must do a painting of Clarke (above) who captured my heart.
My next blog will be written from Seattle with some brand new scenes. Stay tuned!
(Another scene from son-in-law's backyard)
"Begonia's in a planter"