Always Violets


The day starts out hopeful, but it doesn’t take long.  Pretty soon, the camera system breaks, and no one knows why.  Once we can make images, the software exports them to a black hole of its own choosing.  We have to launch a search and rescue mission for what little work we’ve done.  Cheerfully, an assistant wheels over a third cart full of work for me to complete today, even though I already have 2 carts, labelled “1 of 2,” and “2 of 2.”  I ask out loud, “Why would I wonder if there was a third cart?” and bless this thoughtful person who has saved me from a very bad mistake.  It takes a lot of effort to squeeze a completed capture out of the infrastructure.

This picture was a pretty lazy gesture.  It’s only ribbon violets, balanced on a hanger draped with lace, all from my grandmother’s belongings.  I didn’t try very hard, and I don’t really know if any magic happened.  That’s for you to decide.  All the struggle came in the days when I wasn’t making anything.  That’s really work.  Remembering those days makes me want to sit down and have a cup of coffee.  The rest of what I do is  just how I keep myself from remembering.


Sunflower Shoes


By the time I found the sunflower field, it was not only late in the day, but late in their life cycle.  Stems once as stiff and tall as bamboo saplings curved earthwards, weighted by their precious cargo of seeds forming in the wake of the labor of bees and other pollinators.  Shriveled petals shivered in the breeze and sun, like feathers ready to float away.  The more I tried to look the sunflowers in their soft brown eyes, the more my own eye grew silent.  I wanted simply to stroll along, shoulder to shoulder with these friends. letting them be as they were, absorbing the afternoon warmth.  I walked the full length of the field, reaching a small grove of oaks, and turned to look behind me.

From where I stood, their lemony radiance was a total surprise.    I had never imagined what I might find behind the sunflowers, facing towards their homing compass.   I could see what the sunflowers saw, and together we seemed to be wanting the same thing:  to let ourselves be drawn into something warm, to be filled with the mysterious power of light, and to become the Self we are already waiting to find.

Sunflower To-Do


To Do list for Sunflowers:
Nod in a friendly way to all passers-by
Employ countless bumblebees
Shelter Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Meadowlark, Vesper Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Sedge Wren, Orchard Oriole and Henslow’s Sparrow
Turn toward the light

Countless Hellos


Like all illusions of infinity – halls of mirrors and oceans come to mind – the more you walk toward an endlessness of sunflowers, the further their vastness slips from your grasp.  All you can do is wait.  They will come to you.

A Spot of Creative & Tea


I guess I am always looking backwards, or inwards, which explains why my pictures look the way they do.  I like recesses, and shadows, and how the closer you look at something, the less certainty there is around the edges.  So, on a day when creating something seems too painful,  sometimes I trick myself by saying, “Just use the camera for 10 or 15 minutes.”

It helps to have a miniature Blue Willow tea set under those circumstances.  Not everyone is so lucky.



In honor of my sister, Pamela Berkman-Saky, for her efforts to coax a novel from the month of August, these are the heaviest hitters I can currently muster for Intercession with her Muse.  That’s Dante on the left, Diana on the right, and the Bard of Avon, center.  This is a pretty good crew to have looking over your shoulder.  I learned from Wikipedia that Dante’s contribution to the literary language called “Italian” is as pivotal as Chaucer’s was to English.  Diana is not only the goddess of the hunt, the moon and birth –  things any artist needs in her metaphoric quiver – but a twin.  Oaks are her sacred tree.  It so happens that her festival is tomorrow, August 13th.

Mull over the synchronicity here in your imaginations for a little while, and get back to me with your insights…Go, Pammy!

Hurts? So, Good….


A useful piece of information is finally sinking in to my cranium, and I do not like it one little bit.  “Brenna,”  I have begun to say to myself, “This is probably going to hurt a little.”  I said it to myself last night as I got ready to disassemble an old computer for the scrap heap, a task I have been avoiding since at least 2009.  I said it to myself this morning when I noticed how unpleasant it was going to be to fold the sheets up, once I got out of them, which transition I also was scheming to avoid as long as possible.*

The source of the pain is a gear in my noggin that spins frantically when I try mightily to do the right thing.  How many years – YEARS, people –  did I stare at that dust encrusted Dell, knowing I just needed to pry from its clutches a few precious images of my doggies, and some bookkeeping records in case of IRS?  Sunrise, sunset, and all the while I was simply avoiding a painful thought – “How the hell am I going to scrub the hard drive?”

Facing the painful fear of hard-drive destruction, and sitting through the tears of disappointment and regret that have plagued me this week are not really that different.  In some ways, the perfectionism is exactly the same.  I don’t want to feel failure.  I don’t want to feel disappointment.  But the truth is, some feelings I can handle, some feelings are overwhelming for me, and the only possible passage between those two states is a bridge of time and self-forgiveness.  Perversely, telling myself, “This is going to hurt,” lessens my worry about how much these feelings are going to hurt in the future.  It’s an honest perspective that focusses my attention in the here and now, and I need that immediate sanity more than I need hope.

And the punchline to the story?  Ding Dong, the Dell is Dead! Carried away by two tattooed hunks from a local charity which contracts with an eCycler (hard drive shredding included) for a percentage of the profits.  They came to my door.  They picked up the computer.  They did it for free.  How great is that?

Well, it did hurt a little.

*I do like loading the dishwasher.  I mean, if ever there was a perfectly painless task, an incentive that needed no sugar coating of any kind, it is the promise of warm, squeaky dishes that you did not have to wash yourself.  Pure, f**king heaven, if you ask me..

Rosey Thoughtfuls


While there is no denying that the general usefulness or necessity of today’s picture is debatable, its usefulness and necessity to me is not in question.  And while I know that digital imaging has somehow spoiled much of the beauty of the photographic process for many thoughtful and talented artists, I am so deeply, almost inexpressibly grateful for its becoming available to mere mortals like myself, because I know that there is no everlovin’ way I would be making pictures – this picture or any others – if film was still the only word.  So I thank you for your forgiveness, and send you some squidgey roses taking form from the nothing, the Great Nothing, which is always ready to Bloom.

Rosey Thoughtfuls


On my birthday this year, friend Amy and I went to our diner, where the upholstered backs of clam shell shaped booths re-cast us into the Birth of Venus, with the obvious advantage that we can still order Greek Salad from our regal surroundings  (no onions on Amy’s, please).  In honor of the day, we had a serious talk about my hopes for the upcoming year, and I told Amy that all that really mattered to me was to keep making pictures I loved for my blog.  “You know, Brenna, have you ever thought of showing your pictures at an art fair?  Because I love it – it feels so great to have people come by who want to look at art and talk about it.”

I think I set my fork down in mid bite.  At least,  I hope I did, because Amy’s comment had stopped my mind so thoroughly, I surely would have stabbed myself in the lip if I kept trying to aim lettuce at my mouth.   “Amy, you know, it never occurred to me to show at an art fair just for the fun of having people see my pictures.  I only ever think of it as a way to sell something, and you know, that’s just too depressing.”

“Brenna, its really fun.  You should do it!”  Amy said, and right then, she invited me to share her exhibition space at the Riverwest Art Association Walk in October.   Maybe it was the muted pink of our circa 1990 surroundings, but I swear a rosy glow began seeping into some awfully tenacious shadows, ignited that day by my friend’s heartfelt gift of encouragement.

So here we go, folks.  Little by little, I am getting ready with new images and old – picking sternly from among the self-indulgently crowded field of “darlings,” trying my hand at cutting mats and scrounging frames, facing the scariest dragon of all, ordering prints.  I surely will appreciate your feedback, if you notice one or two pictures you really like.  If this blog is evidence of anything, it is how often my judgement is impaired where my own work is concerned.

Wish me luck!  (I hope I don’t screw this up….)

The Little Heroine


She thinks she thoughts in butterflies
that floated on the breeze
Where weightless words their clamor sound
she sinks the deeper on her knees.
                              Sometimes, I just take the dictation, folks.

So, yesterday I spotted the unmistakable contour of greyhound ribs as I approached the coffee shop.  Sorja (or something like that), was sitting on the long covered porch outside the cafe, with her friend, the black lapdog Slick (this name I am sure of), and two humans whose names I never did ask.  And when I say sitting, of course, I mean she was standing with her nose at exactly the height of the table top, looking hopeful with large, dark eyes.   Slick, being about 10% Sorja’s size, was nestled majestically on his human’s lap, looking serene.  I gathered the details of Sorja’s life while scratching her white velvety haunches – a breeder, from Dubuque, finally adopted at age nine.   Her life had not involved any table top surfing, of that I am sure.  Not wanting to be too much of a greyhound stalker, after a brief mention of my own retired racers, I left Sorja in peace and went inside to get my coffee.

As I waited for my 3 espresso shots (and yes, I let them give me the fourth for free),  a little tide of loss and joy surged through me.  I thought of Sorja waiting so expectantly for Something Good to Happen for Dogs.  I know just how this feels – I experience it myself, an emotional undercurrent so deep I have to close my eyes and focus on it more or less everyday. (I call this lovingkindness meditation, though Sorja might call it A Nap.)  I looked around the cafe for something that could make Sorja’s dream come true.  Not quiche, not a peanut butter sandwich.  In the cooler, below well ordered rows of colorful cans and bottles of organic bubbling sugar water, I spotted Something Good for Dogs.  String cheese would do nicely.

“Can Sorja have string cheese?”  I asked her Mom.  “Oh, yes!” she said.  Sorja had her wide, dark eyes already fixed alertly on my hands.   She had felt the connection of expectation engage between us, like the moments before the gates crack open and all the world is just this chance to Catch The Bunny.  The promising crinkle of plastic peeling apart held her attention.  Here was Something Good for Dogs.   With flat, polite teeth, she took a pea sized nibble from between my fingers and looked back up at me, as I gave Slick a little treat, too.   I laid the remaining cheese in front of her Mom. “You can give her the rest,” I said.  (No one appreciates a stranger who makes their dog sick from too many treats).  Sorja moved her head towards the cheese, drawn magnetically to the hope of the next nibble., completely ignoring me as I said goodbye and left.

The obvious truth, that Sorja had not stopped expecting that something good might happen, no matter how long the wait, stirred up a painful loss – that I have come to the edge of my willingness to help where I see things have gone beyond me.   Sorja the Greyhound gave me a few moments of certainty that I knew how to make some creature happy, knew how to be good enough.   All it took, for both of us, was a little cheese.