Open eyes

I found your writing.

You call yourself a writer but where are your words? Why are they hidden?

Writer is a big word in my book. You don’t just throw that around lightly.

When I was in college, learning about writing by real writers, they said you aren’t a writer until someone pays you for your words. That one stuck with me over the years.

I’ll admit, I worried about this writer business. What if you’re better? What if you are
a painfully bad writer? Where do we go from there?

Some writers dwell within the neatly spaced paragraphs of their published work and others just make a mess of their keyboards.  Do the good writers even know they’re good? Do bad writers realize they are bad? Is everyone really just a scared kid on the inside?

I think It’s like that with painters and piano players, too.

They all turn themselves inside out to show you their guts. Sometimes it too much to bear, all this beauty and blood.

I found your writing.

It scared me it was so good.


I’m twisted inside out.

I feel as if I’ve taken a secret lover. I can’t breathe. I know too much, too fast.  

I feel your pain, I said out loud.

But I don’t feel your pain.  I don’t know your pain. What I mean is: Your words made me feel my pain. That is the only pain I know. And I wanted to take that hurt child — was it me or you? — into my heart. Maybe that’s what they mean by compassion.

 Maybe I can trade jealousy for admiration. Maybe I can break the wild horses that run uncontrolled across my mind.

I want to take a picture of this moment so I can see myself with open eyes.

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Billion Dollar Babies


While strolling through a street fair in my town, I came upon this display in front of one of those eclectic shops that sells vintage toys and odd collectibles. Two nearly naked plastic baby dolls posed inside a toy convertible sedan, engaged in all forms of self-gratification and self-destruction. Yet, through the haze of smoke and blur of booze, their eyes still twinkled, their cheeks blushed rosy and their shame was nowhere to be found.

We all should be so lucky.

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Art in the woods


Sometimes a girl just needs a day to herself.

A day without yard work or house work or bill paying or  snot wiping or litter box scooping.

Some girls go to the spa.

Some go to the mall.

Some go to a movie with a friend.

What does this girl do? She hops in the car and drives to the opposite end of the state to traipse around in the bug-infested woods for an afternoon.

Not just any woods, though. This is a special forest I’ve visited for four summers.


Nestled in these woods, standing along the sandy shores of a shallow inland lake, is an arts camp. Along this shore and through its maze of forest trials are rustic cabins named after musical composers, writers and artists. Between these cabins and through the thick stands of pines and maples are open-air studios,  classrooms and theaters, and an arts colony. The whole area just oozes creativity.

If gas prices weren’t almost $3 a gallon, I’d drive out here just to visit. This time, I had a reason to spend $500 on gas in one day: Girl from the West is participating in a camp alumni concert series. Today is the first show; the second will be in July at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

 After depositing Girl to her designated rehearsal hall, I grab my camera and sunglasses and hit the trails. Through the birdsong in the canopy above and the crunch of gravel under my sandals, I hear the sweet notes of pianos being played, of voices hitting high notes and harmonizing. As I navigate the pathways, this music seeps between the branches and boughs, rises up from the ferns, floats on the breeze,  making the forest seem almost magical. 


Awash in all this natural beauty and talent, I feel a pang of envy for my Girl, who had the privilege of three summers at this camp and a tour of Western Europe last summer.

I wish to find my own arts colony, my own creative escape. I say good-bye to this hideaway and head home, thinking this visit will be my last.

It seems that at the end of every summer, Girl from the West tosses her blue camp uniform in disgust, declaring it “the last time I wear this — I swear.”

But somehow, when the next summer comes around, we find ourselves picking up the polo shirt and skirt and heading back to this little gem in the woods near the shores of Lake Michigan.

We have our reasons.

Culture – it's not just for yogurt


Henry Moore, Reclining Figure, Detroit Institute of Arts

My effort to add a dash of culture to our weekly schedule begins with a family trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Armed with a map of the galleries, I lead the pack through the crowded building. It was family Sunday at the museum: culture, with extra toppings.

Sometimes in my zeal to share my passions with my family, I lose sight of common sense. This proved to be one of those days. Consider the following events:

Girl from the East thinks the modern art sculptures are play structures and attempts to climb them. Other objects, while not posing as climbing equipment, tempt sticky little hands to touch them when signs nearby advise against acting on such impulses. 

In the main courtyard, a folk singer strums his guitar before a foot-stompin’, hand-clappin’ crowd. Something about folk singers seems to send husband and older daughter fleeing in the direction of the Dutch masters.  I take folk singers on a case-by-case basis. In this case, the guy was young and attractive. Based on this, I take a seat.

I’m not seated for long. Between the singing and guitar playing, I detect a high-pitched note. Back-up singers? An exotic far-Eastern instrument? No. It’s Girl from the East, who has erupted in tears for an inexplicable reason. 

More cultural, artsy stuff is avoided as no one wants to enter the craft room, an area otherwise known as the open glue bottle and scissors territory,  and unsteady hands wielding paint brushes zone.

We  avoid the Native American art gallery because it is “too spooky.” Ditto for most of the African art. This is due to the tribal masks and totem poles. Mostly, it’s because there aren’t any pictures of Dora or Diego on the walls. See, there’s Diego and there’s Diego. 


Detroit Industry, Diego Rivera


Go, Diego, Go!

Girl from the West is caught texting her way through the Renaissance period.  

There are a few things that capture everyone’s attention: the food court (which features reproductions of European architecture and, well, food), those aha! moments when a famous masterpiece is discovered on a wall,  and the freight elevator. We ride it twice. It’s that good.

The first rounds of  “Can we go?” “What’s for dinner?” and “How much more is there?” signal the end of my attempt to infuse culture into the family. At least I tried.

Suddenly, I recall the many Sunday outings of my childhood in which we landed at bird sanctuaries, ambled through Amish country, strolled through various museums and historic sites.  I remember my dad brimming with enthusiasm, exalting the virtues of this or that feature. I remember sighs and eye rolling and wishes for a trip to Dairy Queen or a Disney movie. 

Sorry, dad.

Day of art and beauty


Exterior sculpture behind DIA

After almost two months of non-stop snow and extreme cold, we had a respite. The temperatures warmed to an unbelievable 50 degrees on Sunday, which melted most of the snow.
When Mother Nature peels back her heavy blanket, she reveals many forgotten things:  the dull hues of a sleeping earth, Halloween candy wrappers, and the hope of spring.
These spring teases lure most of us outdoors like cats to catnip. We cannot resist the urge to feel sunshine on our faces and solid earth under our feet. After all, it could be 10 degrees and snowing tomorrow.

I left the house early and headed into the city center to visit some favorite places. I left my coat and gloves in the car. I walked an extra block because the sky broadcast a blinding blue, birds sang in their treetop roosts (a sound I haven’t heard in months) and my spirits hovered somewhere between birds and sky.

Following some quiet time I met a friend at the Detroit Institute of Arts, a place I have not visited in a few years. Its interior space has been reinvented to better display some new things as well as many of the old treasures.
As I strolled the galleries, looking at artifacts, an Egyptian mummy, works of the masters, modern art and photography, I had flashbacks to younger versions of me visiting this place. Each visit brings with it a new perspective and experience. As a child, the place seemed huge and overwhelming (and maybe a little boring) to me. As a college student, I enjoyed contemplating the works of art for hours, having pseudo-intellectual discussions with my classmates.
I’ve had dates there, family visits and meetups with friends. There’s always something new to discover, like finding a Georgia O’Keeffe painting I didn’t know was there:


Stables, 1932


And mirrors on strings cascading from a vaulted ceiling: