2.07.2015

PAPAYA QUEEN


IN THE THRALL OF HANS HOFMANN


Unremittingly gray days (and not fifty shades either). I wandered over the to the Met for relief, and  came upon a roomful of paintings from the 1960s by Hans Hofmann.


The room was rather dingy, the presentation so unceremonious that I almost turned on my heel, thinking I'd gone into an exhibition in the process of being taken down. But the majesty of these canvases stopped and then held me a long time, soaking in the color, marveling at knife and brush textures, enthralled by each bold gesture. I had never really fallen into a Hoffman painting before, and I gave myself over to the experience.



Above, from Deep Within the Ravine, and below, from Renate's Nantucket. Of course I had to race home to read more about Hoffman, who was also well-regarded as an art critic. "The ability to simplify," he wrote about abstract art, "means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak."



After the death of his wife of nearly sixty years, Hoffman fell in love with Renate Schmitz. He was embarrassed by the fifty-year age difference between them, so they presented themselves publicly as "uncle" and "niece", until they married in 1965. Hoffman died shortly after, at the age of 85--having spent the previous year painting 45 canvases, ten of which he inscribed as "the Renate series." (Her life seems to have ended in a squalor of mental illness, sadly enough.)


Winter tends to be museum time for me; there is nothing better than to enter one of those great repositories of creative treasure with no intention other than to fall in love. And then do so. How often do give ourselves the time to let our busy lives fall away, and commune with what is necessary?


1.19.2015

THE WHITE HOUSE CALLS MOMS CLEAN AIR FORCE!

I am over the moon! Moms Clean Air Force was invited to sit in the First Lady’s box Tuesday evening as President Obama delivers the State of the Union. Surely this signals the president’s commitment to doing all he can--and more than any other president to date--to tackle the dangerous problem of climate pollution.

 Representing our 400,000 members--and I hope that includes many of you readers of Slow Love Life--Nicole Hernandez Hammer, who was born in Guatemala and moved to the US when she was four, is the mother of a seven year old son, and the Field Manager for the Florida chapter of Moms Clean Air Force. I first met Nicole when she popped her son and her husband in their car, and drove from Fort Lauderdale to Washington, DC to join me for a meeting between members of Moms Clean Air Force and EPA Administrator McCarthy. 

As I listened to Nicole talk passionately, urgently, about the porous limestone bedrock on which Miami is built, and how sewage and drainage systems are increasingly compromised as seawater rises through the ground—I thought: I want her working for Moms Clean Air Force. I want her to take her knowledge and her passion to the people of Florida, and urge them to act on climate change.   

That's exactly what has happened. Nicole  left academia to work for Moms Clean Air Force, and she has concentrated her work in the Latina community. She says, "The debate is settled, our climate is changing, our seas are rising. Now is the time for action. I worked to confirm that the climate is changing and now I am working on behalf of my son for action -- we need to fight climate change today.”

I could not be more proud of my fantastic colleagues. I could not be more thrilled to have created, and to be leading, an organization that is doing such important work: protecting those closest to our hearts. The love we all feel--for our families, and for this beautiful world into which we are born--will win the day. Love has to be stronger than pollution.

Thank you, all of you, for being on this journey with me. We have come far, in a short time. But we have a long road ahead. I know my work with Moms has taken me far from this blog, but then again, what I write about here is at the heart of our work on climate. I knew that the work would be demanding--no one said it would be easy--but I could never have predicted how deeply, and spiritually, rewarding it would be.

12.20.2014

ALL SHINY AND BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL AND MELTING


Perhaps because I was a crow in another life, I am drawn to glittery baubles wherever they appear--around women's necks, hanging from the ceiling of the Metropolitan Opera, whatever, I have to stare.  And we all know how New York does that magical thing: just when you think the days cannot get more dreary and sopping, a gift arrives--a burst of radiance lifts you up out of your boots.


The other evening I wheeled around the corner off Sixth Avenue onto 43rd Street, hurrying to dinner, when Poof! There appeared before me as if at the snap of a wand an ice show of epic proportions. I know, I know. You're thinking: ice sculptures, so very suburban wedding. (And so? what's wrong with that? But never mind.)


These were refined and marvelous, and anyway, like I said, a crow in another life. They sparkled. I couldn't resist. Gigantic snails, moths, dragonflies and toadstools were sprawled across the block.

The whole thing was so ridiculous and so enchanting: a woodland scene of ice, a veritable Alice moment of things larger than life, or perhaps I had suddenly shrunk--all this even though I had not yet reached the "Drink Me!" bourbon I was looking forward to ordering as soon as I sat down. Thoughts of a cool Old Fashioned vanished and I had to linger over this improbable scenario for a while.











I couldn't find any explanation as to why these batty sculptures were hanging out on Sixth Avenue, who had made them, or why they had been left there. They were sitting on what looked like a shallow pool, or basin. But I looked closer and realized that the bee's lines were softening. The ice had a gentle gleam to it, because it was melting.

The toadstools were dripping; the snail had tracks of tears; even a dragonfly looked as if it were about to lift off the bubbling surface of a pond.







Meantime I had had to remove my coat, I was so warm. And beginning to feel a bit panicky.

Here we are, mid-December, and we're manically swinging from balmy winter days in which it is best to go out in sweaters, and frigid days when the wind is blowing so hard you want to bury your head in a hood.





There in front of me the Guardian of the place appeared, from out of nowhere, bearing a wide window scraper. He was pushing the slush away from the sidewalk, trying to shore up the bases of the sculptures.


"Too warm for winter," he muttered, when I asked him how long the sculptures would be on display. "Too warm for ice."


Across the street--because it has to be this way, right? this being New York, a place of profound synchronicity and occasional good karma to make up for all the bad--a gigantic poster in a window caught my eye, a confusion of messages. When I took a closer look, I realized that I was seeing the night's lit buildings, and the ice sculptures, too, superimposed on a picture of a penguin sliding down an iceberg.

The International Center for Photography has a show of photographs by one of my heroes, Sebastia Salgado; these are from his recent book, Genesis. (I interviewed him for The New York Times. Go, before it closes on January 11. Go, and fall in love with the world all over again.)


And along the side of the ICP building is a photo show you can see from the street, pictures by James Balog of melting glaciers. Of course, because it has to be this way, right? Everything connects.

Our gorgeous feats of engineering--what miracles of ingenuity and imagination humankind has achieved--our beloved, gravity-defying world of skyscrapers, wreathed in glittering lights. Our affection for the creature world, such that we carve its portraits in ice so we can decorate our sidewalks--even while we crowd them from their homes, crowd them off the very planet.

Our art melts. Our world melts. The only question left is whether our hearts will melt swiftly enough to let a torrent of care and concern and love rush in to change our climate-changing ways.


12.19.2014

CLINGING TO A TREE

Does it get any more beautiful than this? What a brilliant surprise on such a grey day in the woods.


12.09.2014

THE END OF NORMAL

Rain streaming down windows on this soggy winter day. It strikes me, suddenly, as I think about what the weather's been like during a year that is shaping up to be the hottest in recorded history: Forget that talk about "the new normal". We are at the end of normal. Our warmer skies here in the East hold more moisture. All our weather systems are becoming unpredictable.

But not to sound depressed: I'm grateful to have a beautiful place to stay dry--and to be able to make the choice to go out and get soaked. A large part of our adaptation to the climate change we are in will be psychological: how do we keep our spirits buoyed? For me, the answer lies somewhere in finding beauty all around me, honoring it, and using it as the fuel that keeps me fighting to solve this problem.


12.05.2014

WINTER GARDEN BOOK REVIEW

Always one of my favorite assignments: round up the best and most interesting of the garden books of the season, and figure out how to knit them together. The New York Times Book Review publishes the piece in print this weekend but it is up online now, with, as always, wonderful illustrations.

I just got through with a book that didn't come across my desk when it was published, sadly, as I would have raved about it then. But it is never too late. Anyone interested in how our ideas of landscape, wilderness, and gardens evolved, and continue to change, should read Rambunctious Garden by Emma Marris.