Dreams, A Painting

“I’ve dreamed a lot. I’m tired now from dreaming but not tired of dreaming. No one tires of dreaming, because to dream is to forget, and forgetting does not weigh on us, it is a dreamless sleep throughout which we remain awake. In dreams I have achieved everything.”
– Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
Dream, Jennifer Allison

Two Women, A Painting

“There were always in me, two women at least, one woman desperate and bewildered, who felt she was drowning and another who would leap into a scene, as upon a stage, conceal her true emotions because they were weaknesses, helplessness, despair, and present to the world only a smile, an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest.”
― Anaïs Nin

I’ve spent the last several days working on a series of paintings using new mediums, techniques and colors. It’s been unseasonably warm and sunny the last week or so here in the Northwest. Not wanting to forgo painting, I’ve spent a great deal of time in front of the open window, trying to get the best of both worlds – the outdoors and indoors…
Jennifer Allison

Tim’s Vermeer, A Movie

“The progressive development of man is vitally dependent on invention.”
― Nikola Tesla

I’ve just come back from one of the most fascinating movies I’ve seen in awhile. I don’t ever give movie reviews here because this isn’t a movie review blog, but here goes.  I’m not a fan of huge cinema complexes so I rarely visit them. However, there’s an art-house type theater near me, housed in a 1920’s building that shows obscure and otherwise un-mainstream movies. Right up my alley…

The past few weeks they’ve been showing,  “Tim’s Vermeer” – A documentary about a famous painter, an inventor, a theory, and a five year project to prove his theory.

As an artist (who also happens to be in awe of the great Dutch painter Vermeer) I didn’t want Tim’s theory to become reality. There was a little bit of me that at first, wanted him and his invention to fail. I liked to believe that prodigies like Vermeer have existed in this world – That an artist can be so talented and such a genius, with paintings and subjects so realistic, they appear as if they can walk off of a canvas and converse with you.

And then Tim the inventor did it: He painted a replica so superbly comparative to Vermeer’s The Music Lesson that I found myself quietly gasping during the last forty minutes of so of the movie.

In the end, I didn’t feel like a jilted art lover though. In fact, unlike many art historians who’ve had issue with the movie and worry that Tim was out to make Vermeer a “fraud,” I now have even more respect for Vermeer, the progressive, the painter.  Thanks to Tim,  he remains a prodigy of progressive painting and techniques.

I wont give away his theory, but I’ll encourage you to view it for yourself.  It’s well worth the few hours.

Vermeer, The Music Lesson

Vermeer, The Music Lesson

Real, A Photograph of Italy

“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
– Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
Time, Jennifer Allison

Charcoal #14

Art is not alone in imparting charm and mystery to the most insignificant things; pain is endowed with the same power to bring them into intimate relation with ourselves.”
– Marcel Proust

I’ve spent so much time painting this last year that I’ve neglected to practice what I love best – the quick charcoal sketches.   I give myself only five minutes.  Out of all of the pieces I create, I always look most fondly at the quick charcoals.  I believe it’s due to my disdain for and general lack of detail.  Throughout the years, I’ve had to learn how to add detail to most anything I do.  The beauty of these quick charcoal sketches is that no detail is needed – there’s no time for it.  Essentially the quick sketch is “the big picture.”
sketch #14

Autumn, A Painting

self portrait

Autumn is my favorite time of the year.  Originally this painting was to be my representation of the Red-Light district in Frankfurt, Germany.   Although for some odd reason it morphed into a painting of fall, or autumn, with all of the reds, yellows and browns – which I happened to finish on the first day of Spring.  Odd..

I’ve had multiple conversations lately both here on One Street Shy and in private about Rainer Maria Rilke, who happens to be one of my favorite authors of all time.  Sometimes feelings are lost in translation so I have posted Rilkes thoughts on Autumn in both his mother-tongue and in English.  Seems fitting.

“Zu keinem anderen Zeitpunkt (als Herbst) bewegt sich die Erde lassen sich eingeatmet werden in einem Geruch, der Reife Erde; in der Geruch ist in keiner Weise eine Verschlechterung an den Geruch des Meeres, bitter wo grenzt es an Geschmack und vieles mehr süss wie Honig, wo sie das Gefühl haben, dass sie den ersten Tönen. Mit Tiefe in sich, Dunkelheit, etwas von der schweren fast.”

“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”  – Rainer Maria Rilke

Mirror, A Photograph

“We discover that we do not know our role; we look for a mirror; we want to remove our make-up and take off what is false and real. But somewhere a piece of disguise that we forgot still sticks to us. A trace of exaggeration remains in our eyebrows; we do not notice that the corners of our mouth are bent. And so we walk around, a mockery and a mere half: neither having achieved being nor actors.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke

Upon the Shore, A Photograph with Yeats

That crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,

Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling
She knew not where,

Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.

No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, ‘O sea-starved, hungry sea

― W.B. Yeats

The Shore Girl

Lost in Translation: From Seattle to Europe and Back Again…and Again…and Again


Charlotte: I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.

Bob: You’ll figure that out. The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.

A few days ago I watched the movie Lost in Translation again.  Only this time I understood it so much more-so than ten years ago.

I travel back and forth to Europe often. Sometimes for a week and other times for six weeks.  Not for business and not for family.  I go for inspiration and experiences. Eventually I’ll just plant myself there and not leave.  Seattle will become a place I come only to visit.

Each city around the world has an independent culture of it’s own.

What do I do?  I make friends.  I get to know the local businesses.  Sometimes I’m alone and other times visiting friends and loved ones.  I become comfortable with the languages and my ignorance to the languages; accustom to misunderstanding or not understanding entirely.   It’s almost as if I am partially blind and deaf; unable to read, write or hear everything around me.  I relish this feeling.  Maybe its the INFP (Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving) in me.  You see, introverts, I believe, travel well when alone.

Interestingly enough, it’s when I come home to the states, to Seattle, that I feel the most lost in translation.  After weeks of being only able to understand a portion of what is on the radio, the television, written all around me and spoken to me, I suddenly understand everything – the good the bad and anything in between, and I’m not so sure I like it.  Being blissfully unaware suites me just fine.

It’s these moments I feel the most like Charlotte – “I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.”

Where’s Bob when I need him anyway…

Will You Be Mine? My Global Search For Butterscotch Candy

“This is my country, that is your country; these are the conceptions of narrow souls – to the liberal minded the whole world is a family.”
― Virchand Gandhi

I grew up without grandparents.  Well, not exactly – I had one grandmother.  Unfortunately she didn’t like the idea of being a mother, let alone a grandmother.  Therefore she was unavailable.

I never much thought about it before; the whole no grandparent thing, until about eight years ago.  I met a woman named Doreen.  She was in her late seventies, British, strikingly beautiful and full of fire.  We sat on a non-profit board together and I got to know her well.  Sometimes she would be gone for a month or two – taking her grandchild to far off places like Africa and Thailand.

I once got a butterscotch life-savor from Katherine, my “grandmother” when she was staying with us a few weeks (until she got enough money for another apartment.)  My mother always helped her.  Us kids gave her her space.  She needed a lot of space.

Don’t get me wrong, I grew up happy with the butterscotch life-savor.  I had a very loving family life.  I didn’t need Africa or Asia.  Although after meeting and spending time with Doreen I concluded that I should like to have Doreen as MY grandmother.  She was so cool, so interesting, so devoted to her grandson who happened to live thousands of miles away.  I felt gipped all of a sudden.  It wasn’t fair.

And so began my search.

From that moment on, every place I visit I’m secretly looking for my grandparent.  When I meet them, I daydream about what it would be like to have grown up with them.  To have eaten their butterscotch candies.  To have been told all of the family stories and secrets while we ate homemade soup.

I’ve compiled a short list of perspective candidates from my last trip to Spain:

The sweet Lebanese man from Vancouver, BC sitting beside me on the flight to Seattle yesterday:  He wore a light grey suit.  Not enough men wear suits anymore.  His white hair was thick and combed neatly with a side part.  His face was calm; serene.  He didn’t watch movies or do anything but rest his eyes softly beside me.  He had a special diabetic meal so they served his meal first.  I hadn’t eaten much in days and when I looked to see what food he had been given he tried to hand me his utensils and asked if I would like to share.  I almost started crying.  The nice old Lebanese man who’d never met me was offering to share his food.  I declined and he asked “sure?” and then waited until my meal was served before he would begin to eat.  I worried about his diabetes.

He and I would meet on Saturday’s at the local Lebanese restaurant for lunch.  I would take his arm afterward and we would go for a nice walk – my Jidi and me.

The old woman with dyed brown hair and burgundy lipstick who helped me when I was lost in Eivissa:  She was a small woman, with a stern face.  She spoke no English.  I showed her my map and pointed to the hotel that I was staying at.  She pointed her crocked finger in the direction and then gently touched my arm and began her march with me.  She had been going the opposite way before I asked her.  Once in a while she would say something and then point.  I felt protected by her.  She stopped suddenly at an apartment building and another woman came out.  She was heavy, with a sweet face, a hunch in her back and a bad limp.  The old woman looked at me, said something sternly to her friend which made her look softly to me and smile and we were on our way – all three of us.  She left me only when I was safely in front of my hotel.  Her face soften again before she turned to march away.

She and I would cook together.  Me following her directions and her sternly telling me not to cook the potatoes so long.  Although a hard woman, I would see that my Abuela loved and protected me.

Mary Lou – The old woman who lived down the road from the finca I stayed at:  After being introduced to Mary Lou I was immediately in awe.  She was in her eighties, loved her garden, originally from France but had been living in Spain for thirty years.  She also spoke no English but invited us in her house to see the photo of her husband that hung over her bed.  He had died almost thirty years ago and she was still very much in love with him.  She never remarried.  Her eyes were as blue and bright as the sky.  I was captivated by her beauty and her sweet energy.  She would touch our arms to follow her to her windows, to her photos.  She was so obviously proud of all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  I longed to be in her photos too.

Mémé and I would sit for hours while having tea.  She would tell me stories of growing up in France, of meeting my grandfather, the man of her dreams.  I would take her to the nursery to buy more flowers and she would insist I stay longer.

Today I’ve been invited by a dear friend to visit her in Sicily.  I wonder how my Sicilian grandparents will be….

Blue, A Photo of Ibiza

“This unlikely story begins on a sea that was a blue dream, as colorful as blue-silk stockings, and beneath a sky as blue as the irises of children’s eyes. From the western half of the sky the sun was shining little golden disks at the sea–if you gazed intently enough you could see them skip from wave tip to wave tip until they joined a broad collar of golden coin that was collecting half a mile out and would eventually be a dazzling sunset.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

Some would think of the island of Ibiza’s color as White – like all of the white houses dotting the landscape.  I, however, think of the island color as blue.  Periwinkle blue to be exact.  If you take a closer look, and not just at the sea, you’ll see blue everywhere.


The Giant Woman of Ibiza

“The cost of oblivious daydreaming was always this moment of return, the realignment with what had been before and now seemed a little worse. ” 
- Ian McEwan

Yesterday I was a giant.

I thought maybe at first I’d be an amazon woman.   An amazon would make more sense for someone like me.  I am short and small but dream of being tall.  When I feel insecure next to tall woman I secretly call them amazons under my breath.  Only because I want to be like them.  Sometimes I am mean and childish.

However, yesterday an amazon was much too short.  Jennifer the giant sounded better on the tongue.

Early in the morning I sat on a rock at the edge of the beach and considered taking a walk into the sea.  My toes dangled near the water and I briefly wondered if the bottoms of my feet would be cut by the small jagged rocks hiding below.

Maybe I could walk to Majorca.

The Mediterranean changes all the time.  The colors move from dark blue to white to green so quickly that I sometimes close my eyes for two whole minutes just so I can open them to a new painting.  It’s like being in an abstract art museum and not having to move at all.  If you sit long enough, the paintings all come to you.

Certainly there must be invisible artists painting the sea.

Yesterday, unlike the last few weeks, the water was calm like glass.  I thought that maybe the invisible artists were taking a siesta or maybe out buying more sea brushes.

If I walked far enough I could meet the artists who painted such beautiful designs.  We would all sit and drink wine and eat pickles and they could tell me their secrets to painting the sea.  They would ask me to be their apprentice.

We would discuss very important things, the artists and I.

Maybe I would walk to Barcelona, I thought.  It would have only taken twenty minutes or so.  But the water might have gotten deep and I would be forced to swim.  Swimming in the deep water scares me.  I always wonder what’s underneath me.  Are there piranhas in the sea?  Would a million of them have eaten me in a big bloody mess?  I would have to fight them with my giant hands.  Would my blood then paint the sea too?  Would the invisible artists be happy to have a new red color to mix with the blues and greens?

I didn’t want to swim.  I wanted only to walk.  But the water would be cold on my skin and if I got to Majorca without being eaten by piranhas I would have giant wet clothes and have to find a shop with giant dry clothes.  Exhausting…

Instead of taking a walk to Barcelona, fighting piranhas or introducing myself to the invisible artists I simply sat on my rock in safety.

Yesterday I was a giant.

Today I’ve been asked by a famous travel magazine to travel to Rajasthan and write about the food, lodging and culture.  What a busy day…this daydreaming takes up so much of my time

Trapped, A Photograph of The Red Light

“What freedom men and women could have, were they not constantly tricked and trapped and enslaved and tortured by their sexuality! The only drawback in that freedom is that without it one would not be a human. One would be a monster.”
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Red Light Frankfurt

Oh Beauty Mine

I’ve heard the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” my entire life; however I rarely gave it much thought until the last few years or so.  Piero Ferrucci wrote a book entitled Beauty and The Soul which I would read, put down, contemplate for a while, then read some more.  In it he discussed the importance of beauty in everyday life, saying that without beauty we as human beings “cannot live full and satisfying lives.”  His thoughts on beauty resonated with me and I found myself considering the word “beauty” much differently than I had before.  Beauty has been, and will always be, paramount in my life.  My early interest in art, the human body and nature has given me much to see, feel and appreciate beauty in.  However, I never considered how very intimate one’s own ideas of beauty really are until Ferrucci pointed out the differences in how each one of us sees and respond to beauty.  Beauty is simply a feeling and completely without limits.

My intimacy with beauty is both aesthetic and cerebral.  I respond to cerebral beauty such as poetry and songs while at the same time a large portion of my thoughts on beauty relate to the physical.  Being the visual person that I am I see aesthetic beauty all around me on a daily basis and it too evokes strong feelings.  Beauty, to me, has been somewhat of a protective shield against the ugliness in the world for most of my life.   A part of me thinks that I have chosen to focus on beauty; beautiful poems, beautiful songs and beautiful art as to cocoon myself from that ugliness – to cope perhaps.  Beauty has served me well.  It is why when I feel emotionally beaten I read poetry or listen to music.  It’s not that the particular poem I might read or song I may hear will “pick-me-up” so to speak.  On the contrary; it may very well be a sad poem or song, however each word, be it sad, happy or otherwise, gives to me a feeling of beauty that I can carry – it’s the art itself that soothes me.

Beauty in Literature — A co-worker recently asked if I had read the book Fifty Shades of Grey.  I responded that I hadn’t read it.  She was surprised and after highly recommending it praised it as “a beautiful piece of work.”  In her eyes that particular book, like many women in the United States I suppose, constitutes “beautiful” literature.  I, however, having thumbed through it and read about it wouldn’t consider it “beautiful” and opted out of reading it.  But who am I to judge what a beautiful piece of literature is or is not?  Beauty really is extraordinary and non-conforming.  What is beautiful to her may not be to me.  It would be ugly of me to judge her ideas of beauty and especially beautiful literature.  I see literature as a gate.  We can enter and exit in our minds, visit far off places and even become someone else entirely with literature…of which I have done them all from time to time.

Beauty in the Mirror — I once knew a man who would stare in the mirror for hours, posing and pretending to have his picture snapped by the paparazzi.  He was taken by his own beauty and would frequently comment on how noble his nose or profile was….  Outward appearances of beauty were to him foremost as to how he viewed and reacted to those he met.  On the contrary, I would often look in the same mirror and see my too big of a mouth and too small of breasts and if the paparazzi were indeed behind his mirror I may have run out the door.  I’ve never considered myself ugly, I just prefer to keep personal beauty at a distance never letting it take over and consume me.  On the occasion that it does creep in a little too close I remind myself of its fickleness instead preferring to feel beautiful, rather than always have a beautiful shell.   In fact, there are days in which I feel utterly ugly and sour on the inside, even if my hair is “perfect” (it’s usually a knotty mess) and I may have on a pretty dress and sexy new pair of heels on my feet…. I still don’t feel beautiful at all.  While other days I may need to wash my hair, change my worn out jeans and remove the chipping paint off my toes – I feel beautiful.  Beauty is not something you can grab a hold of like perfect hair or pretty shoes.

Beauty in Art — The French painter Paul Gauguin once said, “I shut my eyes in order to see.”  Gauguin’s creations were beautiful and his closing of his eyes gave him the feelings needed to create and associate with his subjects.  Creation is art, period.  Personally, after I’ve drawn a piece, or written a poem or even planted a flower in my garden, I feel a sort of calmness afterward.  It’s as if my entire being has been soaked in a warm bath by her mother (that mother being beauty) and is now ready for a deep slumber.  I may not spend a lot of time in every room of an art museum and I definitely have my specific tastes and preferences in painters and photographers.  However, I appreciate the beauty in all works.  I also may not “get” some modern artists, but nonetheless they still create, which is entirely beautiful in and of itself.

Beauty in Love — I think perhaps this might be my key to beauty – love.  Often times beauty brings feelings of love.  When I look at my children I see beauty, I feel love.  Likewise, when I feel loved I tend to see more beauty in the world.  I won’t go so far as to be cliché and say that colors are brighter, etc., but there most certainly is an underlying sense of surrounding beauty when I feel love, be it romantic or platonic.  Vanda Scaravelli, a woman and yogi whose work and writings (Awakening the Spine) I admire and respect immensely, wrote this before she died – “There is no beauty without love and there is no love without beauty.  What is beauty?  Are love and beauty interconnected? Does beauty derive from love? Or does love derive from beauty?  You will discover the amazing transformation in a person when she is loved; she blossoms, becoming more beautiful each day. When we love what we are doing there is beauty in it and even the more insignificant work becomes attractive.  Love has no barriers, it is like a pool spring, pouring water endlessly. And it is perhaps this absence of limitation that gives wings to fly.”

From my personal experience, my own absence of limitations has given me much beauty, love and a significant amount of creativity: And yes, a full and satisfying life.

People, A Photograph of Life

“Out of the millions of people we live among, most of whom we habitually ignore and are ignored by in turn, there are always a few that hold hostage our capacity for happiness, whom we could recognize by their smell alone and whom we would rather die than be without.”
- Alain de Botton
People, Jennifer Allison

French Kiss Journal – The First Post of 2014

“A kiss, when all is told, what is it? An oath taken a little closer, a promise more exact. A wish that longs to be confirmed, a rosy circle drawn around the verb ‘to love’. A kiss is a secret which takes the lips for the ear, a moment of infinity humming like a bee, a communion tasting of flowers, a way of breathing in a little of the heart and tasting a little of the soul with the edge of the lips!”
- Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac 


A few days ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine about the kiss.  We started out talking about culture and cultural differences in general – specifically the French and American culture, as he is from France and although I was not born here in America, I am an American nonetheless.

You might be thinking that we were speaking of the famous “french kiss” or un baiser amoureux, although I assure you it was a different conversation altogether.  It was about the actual meaning of the kiss…and how the kiss can change.   How it, the kiss, morphs with love, hate, passion or indifference.

I had assumed, in my quite frankly, inexperience and ignorance with the French people that like most Europeans, as they seem to kiss each other all the time, they don’t believe it to be particularly intimate.  I stood corrected.  And this is where the conversation really began….

He told me that although the French do kiss frequently (much more so than us Americans,) and often people they have just met, it’s only a formality. However the kiss on the lips…has an entirely different meaning and it is not done with just anyone – only those they wish to be romantically involved with and should be taken seriously by the object of their affection.  I found this interesting as I had assumed the French to be carefree about sex and sexuality in general so what meaning should be given to a kiss on the lips?

After he and I finished our conversation I did my own research and found that he was spot on.  In fact, Salon.com posted a link by the Journal of Sex Research (http://www.salon.com/2003/06/20/french_3/) in which it was found that “the French have fewer partners overall than Americans, maintain more long-term committed relationships, are more likely to be monogamous (surprise!), and enjoy more frequent sex. (Sixty-nine percent of single Frenchmen and 85 percent of single Frenchwomen report fidelity to one single sexual partner, compared to 48 percent of American men and 66 percent of American women.) But one of the most striking differences was between older French- and American women. The study reports that after the age of 50, American women are 10 percent less likely than Frenchwomen to be living in a couple.”

“But they are so open about sexuality” I thought to myself….I digress – let’s get back to the subject of the kiss

I asked him if his kisses to his loved one had changed with his feelings for her – with time, with work, with life, with desire or lack there of.  He told me they most assuredly had.

I had never thought so much about the kiss specifically before.  I’m a very physical person and quite touchy-feely and kissing has always been important to me, but touch in general has always been important to me.  However, when I took out the touch in general and focused only on the kiss, I realized that for me, it really does change with my feelings for someone.

If I could have a journal that with only three words to describe every single kiss when in a relationship what would it look like?   If it filled journal after journal because the relationship lasted many years how would the descriptions change almost daily with just three words?  The first day, the first week, the first year and so on…

I considered it.  What would one of my relationships “look” like on paper with regards to the kiss only?

Kiss #1 – short, sweet, nervous
Kiss #2 – sweet, want more
Kiss #3 – open, romantic, nervous
Kiss #30 – sexual, loving, passionate
Kiss #1432 – hard lipped, rushed
Kiss #1433 – rushed, angry, absent
Kiss #2788 – passionate, long, luxurious
Kiss #4320 – friendly, loving, infrequent
Kiss #4321 – friendly, quick, trying
Kiss #4873 – left me empty

What would one of your journals look like?   Likely, even if someone has been married a very long time, the odds of them having only kissed their spouse are very slim, so jog your memories or look at the partner before you, and create a kiss journal… 

Shadows Deep, A Photograph of Books

WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
- W.B Yeats

Vintage Books, Tacoma WA

Vintage Books, Tacoma WA