Category Archives: Martha Slavin

August 10 – Painting, No Judgement

by Martha Slavin

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A good friend and I sit in the shade of her backyard, which blooms with flowers, fruit, and her mosaics on the fences. Color is everywhere: the clay fish in the simple bubbling fountain, the shards of glass pushed between the stepping-stones of the paths that wander through her yard, the bright red apples and deep purple plums hanging in the trees, and the ceramic frogs and lizards near her hammock. My friend, a painter, is most at home in Monet’s garden in Giverny in France, and she brought the flood of color of that garden to her backyard.

Her two dogs push toys at us, waiting for a foot to kick the toy far enough for them to scamper after. When we don’t respond, they explore the garden. Piper, a Jack Russell terrier, brings back a green apple with teeth marks on it. She hopes this offering will interest us.

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We set out watercolors and paper on the table and pursue “Painting, No Judgment,” as my friend calls it. We relax into our efforts. She quickly splashes reds and magentas on her page while I lightly wash my paper with the soft colors of succulents.

When we’ve had enough, we get up, stretch, and walk around the table. I say, “I started to put too much dark….”

She calls, “Shush, no judgment,” and whispers, “Oh” and “Ahh,” as she walks around the table (though that is a judgment too).

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“Shall we start writing now?” I ask, feeling free of any negative thoughts and open to what follows “Painting, No Judgment.”

Martha Slavin is an artist and writer. Her blog, Postcards in the Air, can be found each Friday at www.marthaslavin.blogspot.com She also writes poetry, memoir pieces, and essays. She creates handmade books, works in mixed media, watercolor, and does letterpress. She lives with her husband and two cats in California.

February 10 – Challenge: Capture Shades of Grey

by Martha Slavin

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How many shades of grey can you find in this picture? Do you feel surrounded by grey in the winter?

We’ve had our share of grey days this month–lots of rain–but also fog and grey skies. Looking out at the dark grey clouds, grey landscape, grey roads, I began to feel greyness in my soul. It all seemed to be just one shade: fog.

My challenge to myself: paint the beauty in shades of grey. I started taking photos of every wintry shade of grey I could find. Back in my workroom, I painted a palette of greys using a foundation mix of an ultramarine blue, quinacridone red, and hansa yellow. I changed the ratio in each box and added other colors from the pencil list below. I also tried painting with black tourmaline, hematite, and neutral tint in the hope that I wouldn’t just have flat grey. The minerals in the watercolors separated as they dried so the colors became more appealing.

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I found multiple shades of grey. Maybe I could create a beautiful grey painting after all!

I was lucky that we visited Pt. Reyes over the weekend. I found grey everywhere I looked: boat docks, bridge girders, water.

I found blue greys in the bumper of a truck:

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I found yellow grey by a boat dock:

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and reddish grey in the morning clouds:

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and realized the depth in shades of grey. Now I’m on a grey painting binge. Here’s the first Grey Horizon:

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My challenge to you:

take photos of the grey skies around you right now. Send me your results. You can post them to my Google +Collections page at https://plus.google.com/collection/k9LjEB or Instagram at #postcardsintheair, or email them to me at marthaslavin@gmail.com.

I’d love to see what you find. And maybe by looking grey in the ‘eye’, you will find the beauty in grey days too.

Martha Slavin is an artist and writer. Her blog, Postcards in the Air, can be found each Friday at www.marthaslavin.blogspot.com She also writes poetry, memoir pieces, and essays. She creates handmade books, works in mixed media, watercolor, and does letterpress. She lives with her husband and two cats in California. This post was originally published on Martha’s blog.

August 12 – Quiet in the Storm of Life

by Martha Slavin

park-1319135773TYsHave you had a chance to step outside today and take a deep breath of air? What about a walk in a park where you can be among the trees and grasses?

Today at Osage Park, I walk by a white-haired man reading to his son. His son is not young either, but he sits in a wheelchair with a baseball cap on, with his head slumped against his chest. I wonder about the man. How had he found the reserve in himself to sit quietly with his son and read to him long after his son’s childhood?

We expect our children to grow, leave our homes, and make their way in the world. As with a few of my friend’s children, sometimes that doesn’t happen. Instead, intense parenting, including bathing, dressing, and feeding, continues for a lifetime with help during the school years, but after that, little respite. I watch my friends as they struggle with daily life and find joy in small things. They find resources outside their homes to help their grown children and to give themselves the needed breathing room from the strains of daily parenting care.

A lifelong caregiver could easily be filled with resentment and discontent. Yet I have seen my friends open a space within themselves that gives them the chance to have an accepting and grateful life. Not that they don’t rail against the sky or ask themselves time and time again, “Why me?”

As I walk by the man and his son, I think that the quiet moments allow them to embrace the life they have in a way they never envisioned for themselves. Seeing them together I can see the beauty and grace in the life they have absorbed. Those quiet times carry with them a sense of peace that I was able to share for just a few seconds on my walk around the park.

Martha Slavin is an artist and writer. Her blog, Postcards in the Air, can be found each Friday at www.marthaslavin.blogspot.com She also writes poetry, memoir pieces, and essays. She creates handmade books, works in mixed media, watercolor, and does letterpress. She lives with her husband and two cats in California.

March 2 – Scarcity and Abundance

by Martha Slavin

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The citrusy smell of Meyer lemons fills the kitchen as I slice one after another of our crop of Meyer lemons. As with any fruit/citrus-bearing trees, our Meyer lemon trees produce all at once. How do I make use of such abundance?

I think once again about having a little of something and too much of something and how quickly I stop prizing an abundance. I savor a small quantity of something to make it last. Once I have a lot of something, it no longer seems precious enough to glean every last drop.

This is the week to do something with them before their skins start to go soft. I’ve already given two bags to our house cleaners. I’ve taken a couple of bags to the Urban Farmers (a local organization who will take excess produce), I’ve sliced them for water at Craft Day, squeezed them for a morning drink of water with lemon juice, and stuffed them into whole chickens. I used to make limoncello with the remainder.

We first tasted limoncello, a lemon-infused liqueur, while we were living in Tokyo and frequented an Italian restaurant around the corner from our apartment. As a parting gift at the end of our dinner, the staff would present us with a shot glass of this mellow liqueur.

Limoncello is easy to make, uses lots of lemons, and is good as a gift. I stopped making it though, after the year when I waited too long and the lemons grew soft and dried out sitting on the counter. The limoncello had no flavor. I knew that it was time to let go of making limoncello because what once had been fun had become a chore.

Here’s my recipe for limoncello. Just be sure to use fresh, juicy lemons:

Peel 20 fresh lemons with a vegetable peeler. Use the peeler or a sharp knife to remove the white pith on the inside. Soak peels in 100-proof vodka for about a week at room temperature. Test the peels. If they crack apart, the batch is ready. If they are still flexible, put them back for more soaking. When ready, add three cups of sugar and three cups of water. Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Let cool. Have ready coffee filters and clean glass jars. Strain the mixture through the filters into the jars. Seal, and chill for about a month. Then sample!

I’ve looked for other recipes for lemons, but most of them require only a little juice or a little zest or they are desserts, not enough to support the bags of lemons I have left. Maybe this year I will try limoncello one more time.

Do you have good uses or good recipes for Meyer lemons?

Martha Slavin is an artist and writer. She writes poetry, memoir pieces, and essays. She creates handmade books, works in mixed media, watercolor, and does letterpress. She lives with her husband and two cats in California.

November 2 – Was I Wrong to Yell?

by Martha Slavin

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 “Be kind, be kind, be kind, be kind.”
~ Henry James

I am the last person to yell at anyone but I found myself rolling down the window of my car today and yelling at a young mom to get off her phone and pay attention. She turned around and yelled back that it was none of my business what she was doing.

Actually it was my business.

The road I was driving on was sectioned off for oiling. The lanes for both directions of traffic were very narrow. The young mom was walking along the edge of the road with her two young children while she was talking on her phone. Her daughter kept looking back apprehensively to see if cars were coming their way. At the stop sign, a large pickup truck began to turn the corner, almost getting stuck because the turn was so narrow. The mom and her kids decided at that point to walk in the middle of the road beside my car and the truck. I just couldn’t believe what she was doing and rolled down my window, and yelled, “Get off the phone!”

The truck managed the corner and drove away. The young mom, still bristling from our exchange, looked at me and yelled back. I waved for her to go ahead and she stepped out in front of my car to walk across to the other side of the street. I had no idea what she would do next. She decided to walk along the side of the lane where traffic cones squeezed the road space instead of crossing to the sidewalk on the other side. Once again, I had no idea what she might do so I slowed down and followed her at a safe distance. My husband urged me to go around her even though the lane was narrow. My anger was up though, and I decided not to take the chance, passing her only when she arrived at a safe island in the middle of the road.

Was I wrong to yell?  Yes and no.

No, because sometimes when we make poor decisions we need to be accountable to the ‘village’ around us.

And yes, I was wrong to yell. Yelling doesn’t solve the problem (other than to release some spot of anger inside me). I could more effectively have helped the young mom in a moment when she was confused and frustrated. The angry part of me won out today, and the part of me which is usually filled with empathy had disappeared. It makes me think how quickly we can react in a way that we don’t expect of ourselves.

Martha Slavin is an artist and writer. She does book arts, mixed media, watercolors, poetry, and memoir pieces. She is working to produce chapbooks that feature both her art and writings. She lives with her husband and 2 cats in California