Becoming a Grandmother in the Year of the Roadrunner

I learned a lot about roadrunners in 2019. Last spring, out for a saunter, I heard a pure, sorrowful keening. It had a deeper resonance than a mourning dove and tugged at my heart. After awhile I found the source – a lonely roadrunner standing on top of a budding wisteria arbor, crooning to its mate. It was something I had never seen, which is always worth noting.

My second encounter was when I was swimming and a roadrunner hopped up on a pool chair and started making a sharp, clacking sound, like castanets. You can hear it in this video of a roadrunner I took at the Wildflower Center in November.

Roadrunner symbolism focuses on their speed and agility, their communicativeness and ability to ward off evil. Expect things to change quickly if roadrunners make their presence felt. I’ve always thought there was something magical about these little dinosaurs. And this has been another year of big changes, with more on the horizon.

My granddaughter, Cosima was born in May of 2019. I felt a strong connection to her even in my daughter’s womb. There is much roadrunner energy in this little dynamo and a lot of joy. We both love to laugh and play, which she recognized right away. Meeting a little soul mate is always spiritually and emotionally rewarding and I’m grateful she is welcomed into a loving family.

Cosi’s expressions are as complex as her young, old soul. Babies are much deeper than most give them credit for and I like old lady, librarian Cosi as much as the little giggler speed crawling across my living room. She is already yipping up a storm, so I’m really looking forward to what she has to say when she learns to talk.

Grandmothers are staunch allies and protectors. I’m hoping wisdom is part of the package, too. When we love, we want to be the best versions of ourselves. This new decade gives us all a new opportunity to create a world fit for the children we love. Let’s go!

Victorian Radicals @ SAMA

Victorian Radicals: From the PreRaphaelites to the Arts and Crafts Movement at the San Antonio Museum of Art brings the art of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, William Holman Hunt, John Millais and other artists and artisans of mid-19th Century England together in a stunning exhibit, showing through January 5th. The lush romanticism, idealization of nature and return to medieval mythic themes and legends grounded the bohemian and early avant guard members of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood (preferring Medieval and Renaissance art before Raphael), whose members represent some of the most well-known works in the exhibit. The brotherhood challenged the constraints of the formal art academy with vivid colors, flair for detail and a bold vision to bring beauty into the minds and homes of Victorian citizens, faced with the harsh and often ugly reality of the industrial revolution. Many adopted the egalitarian principals of socialism and encouraged women and working class artists, poets and writers to join their nascent aesthetic movement. They were inspired by the poetry of Shelly and Keats and encouraged Oscar Wilde, August Swinburne and emerging Decadent and Art Nouveau artists and writers to join in their Bohemian rhapsody.

Works below by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Sydney Harold Meteyard, William Holman Hunt, Samuel Colman and John Brett

Wistful, idealized landscapes, beautiful male and female archetypes and love of myths and classic literature fed their romantic fantasies. The first image below, by Florence Jane Camm, is a beautifully detailed scene in stained glass depicting Beatrice turning away from Dante (from his autobiographical work, La Vita Nueva, 1295). The second portrait of Bacchus, by Simeon Solomon was painted during his residency in Rome, openly embracing pansexual Hellenistic legacies popular in the 19th Century. Rossetti’s Proserpine features his muse, Jane Morris as the Greco- Roman Goddess of the Underworld. These Medieval and mythic themes with the lush romanticism of the Pre-Raphaelites remain an enduring influence in Fantasy fiction, easy to see in the works of Le Guin, Tolkien and Lewis Carroll.

“I made a new religion of poetic tradition, of a fardel of stories, and of personages, and of emotions, inseparable from their first expression, passed on from generation to generation by poets and painters. I wished for a world where I could discover this tradition perpetually, and not in pictures and poems only, but in tiles round the chimney piece and in the hangings that kept out the draft.”  William Butler Yeats

The Arts and Crafts movement in England heralded a return to handcraft, emphasizing quality materials and the relationship between an artist and their work. The opaline glass goblet and copper tea service were produced by WH&B Richardson and William Arthur Smith Benson, both members of the Arts and Handicrafts Guild. William Morris & Company carried the banner of the Pre-Raphaelites, heeding Yeats’ call to bring art into the home with meticulous interior designs and beautiful objects to be used in daily life. Art Nouveau and American handicrafts movements were inspired to continue the tradition of artisanship as manufacturing and industry became the dominant aesthetic.

More on the American Arts and Crafts Movement

Time revealed in a Taihu Rock

The San Antonio Museum of Art welcomed a stunning new 6.5 ton installation, a gift from Chinese sister city, Wuxi. Taihu limestone rocks are formed over millennia by water, wind, heat and cold. Scholars meditated on the twisted, porous forms as early as the 6th Century, where they remain a presiding presence in gardens today. Its placement by the Riverwalk highlights the connection of San Antonians to Nature and strengthens their bond to the city of Wuxi.

I was fascinated by the labyrinthian convolutions in the limestone, worn and grooved over thousands of years. It immediately struck me as a three dimensional embodiment of time. In one object, we can see the movement of eons and imagine the lives thousands of people who reflected on the Taihu. I’m looking forward to having a chance to mediate with fewer distractions the next time I see it.

SAMA’s Elegant Pursuits: the Arts of China’s Educated Elites 1400 – 1900 is offered in conjunction with the installation of the Taihu rock, reflecting the creative aesthetic of artists and literati, who often collected archeological objects and mediated on their deep connection to Nature.

SAMA has several great exhibits up through the end of the year, including Victorian Radicals: from the Pre-Raphaelites to the Craft Movement, which I’ll be seeing soon. On a very different note, I can’t resist ending this post with a splash of dazzling, Chihuly color, new to SAMA. 

Harvesting Gratitude

Autumn in Central Texas can be fickle, flirting with summer and unexpectedly plunging into Winter. But there is no escaping the beauty of Fall. (open for full effect)

October blows into Austin in fire and waves.

Monarchs float through Central Texas, sipping on nectar with many bees and butterflies enjoying their own harvest.

The Austin Pow Wow is always something to look forward to in early November, though I preferred the South location to the Expo Center.

Autumn is here and I am grateful. We share an amazing, beautiful world with all the creatures of the earth. No better time to take good care of our home and one another.

Fortlandia 2019 – reflections in a sauntering eye

The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center extends last year’s inspired run of fort submissions for another season, much to the delight of many children freewheeling through the Arbor trails. It’s fun for children of all ages, as you can see in the gallery below, with all new forts to explore.

This is a small sample of the 13 uniquely designed forts, so enjoy a hands (and feet) on visit while the fall weather beckons. The exhibit will be up through January 26, 2020.

Icons of Style – HMFA

Fashion expresses an era’s Zeitgeist in a very personal and universal language. While this exhibit could have been entitled 100 years of Vogue, iconic images keep the imagination contextualizing the culture of the times, weaving together influences from advertising, art, music, literature and science.

Women were emancipated from their corsets and yards of hair in the 1920’s with the advent of flappers, who listened to jazz and broke as many feminine stereotypes as they could. Natural, almost boyish body types vied with more bodacious curvy styles over the next decades. Androgyny and gender fluidity are on the rise in the 21st Century, but have always been an important element of culture and style in every era. Psychology suggests there are both masculine and feminine elements in each of us. Sometimes they blend.

I was struck by repeating stylistic themes over 20, 30 and 40 year periods, as well as our evolving gender freedom of expression. Akwafina’s portrait was the last image in the show. Today’s It girl, she uses a sliding scale of feminine to masculine traits, depending on her character and audience. Transgender creatives are becoming increasingly influential in mainstream culture, prioritizing and refining what it means to be human. It’s really about time.

Honoring Akwasi Evans, remembering old Austin

Akwasi Evans was an East Austin activist, publisher, warrior of the beloved community and an original voice for KAZI’s Breakfast Club. He launched a community newspaper, NOKOA, in 1987 to shine a light on progressive political action in Central Texas. Known for speaking truth to power, he advocated for people of color in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods of East Austin. I attended his tribute yesterday and found a heartwarming vestige of Austin’s Beloved Community at Kenny Dorham’s Back Yard, a venue for DiverseArts productions. While the condos are creeping, music is flowing and food trucks are circling this small fortress of cool on East 11th.

For those of us who remember Austin in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s, seeing an alley or a field that hasn’t been destroyed or a venue that has stood the test of time brings a rush of nostalgia. Yearning for the freedom of youth, good old days of cheap rents and eats is a way of life. Those were the daze my friends, we thought they’d never end. Glad to see a little left.