Herman Maril, Africa, and Imagery

“The Essential Herman Maril” is the title of the art show currently featured at  Acme Fine Art in Boston.  The exhibit of works selected by Gallery owners James Bennette and David Cowan provides the viewer with an opportunity to become acquainted with some of the subject themes important in my father’s life. . His career spanned from the 1930s until his death in 1986. There is the boat, the sea, construction in the city, a garden with clothes line, looking out through a kitchen window, and one of my favorites–a black rotary wall  telephone .  My father painted what he knew and what he saw; selectively reducing and refining figures and shapes to depict on the paper or canvas what he felt to be important.

My dad, who divided his time between Maryland and Cape Cod, did some traveling and he sketched when he traveled. Writers put their notes in a journal.  Herman’s notes took the shapes of trees, coastlines, people, and buildings.  He visited the Southwest, California, Mexico, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, but he never made it to Africa although he had a modest collection of African Art that he prized. In addition  to several masks and  locks from a Chief’s hut, there was a sculpture fetish that was said to have been caked in mud  and  containing a lion’s ear when Herman purchased it.. He admired the simple carved shapes of these treasures, which he displayed in the front hallway and living room of our home at a time when such objects were not particularly fashionable.

As a child in the days when there were only three or four television stations, I’d watch wildlife nature shows with my dad,   mesmerized by the images on the black and white TV. Expansive plains, tall grasses waving in the wind and the close-up of a hungry lion in pursuit of dinner, chasing a fast moving gazelle had us on the edge of our chairs. It was a shared time, just me an my father, and during my recent visit to East Africa I thought of him often, wishing he was with me to see the expansive plains, baoba trees,  lions, zebras, gazelles, giraffes, and wildebeests in person.

When I told my brother David Maril  I was going to Africa, he sent me a photograph of the bird sculpture Dad had painted in the oil painting below, “Artist Contemplating African Bird” now in the collection of  Adirondack Community College, originally acquired by his close friend the poet William Bronk, known to our family as Bill.

Artistw:African Scu;pture

“Artist Contemplating African Bird” oil on canvas by Herman Maril, Collection of Adirondack Community College

David  was hoping I might be able to identify the origin of the sculpture, if I saw something similar.While I saw many large handsome birds during our travels on the Wami river and on our safari excursions overland by jeep inside Ngoronguru Crater and Masai Mara National Reserve, I saw no original pieces of bird sculpture during my visit. Walking in and out of all the tourist shops that line the narrow streets of the Stone Town portion of Zanzibar I mostly encountered the usual wood carvings I suspect are probably mass produced in China. My husband Peter and I found one quality merchant who was selling the older tribal pieces along with fine Middle Eastern jewelry and artifacts– but no bird sculptures.

Our favorite memories from the trip are those moments seeing the animals on the move in their natural environment. Watching hundreds of zebras, wildebeests, and gazelle making their way across the Serengeti Plain in search of fresh grass and sitting in a boat yards away from massive Hippos, hearing their deep sonorous groans as they submerge themselves underwater and reappear,  is an experience of a lifetime. It reminded  me that wildlife, and the variety of animals we grew up visiting at the zoo,  is not something we can take for granted.  It’s important we  try to preserve the earth  and protect our endangered species that include the Black Rhinoceros and Leopard, both of which I had the privilege to see, albeit from a far distance. (This is when field binoculars come in handy).

Nature and the images  we see, whether they are exotic animals  or the shape of flowers that bloom on the tree outside our window, can inspire the artist in all of us. You don’t have to travel half way around the world to see something worthy of inspiration, but some times taking a journey can give us perspective to appreciate what we have when we return home.

 

 

 

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Poetry on a Cape Cod Beach

Long Nook Beach in Truro
Long Nook Beach in Truro

Easter weekend on Cape Cod, walking on a windy beach, the sun shining in your face. It can’t get much better than this!

Patterns on the Beach

Shapes that look like fish bones

Pressed into the wet sand

The impressions of undulating waves

A thumbprint of the sea.

I walk along the ocean’s edge

at Long Nook Beach and try not to get my shoes wet.

It’s too cold to take them off.

The wind at the top of the cliffs is strong

Strong enough to lift a parasail glider and suspend him

High above the beach with the tall cliffs at his back.

We admire him and the view he must have

Looking down on the sand bars and rippling water below

Seeing from a distance

the water’s patterns in the sand.

Sand closeupselfie

 

Keeping Alive My Memories of Diane Fien Kelly

Diane BenchThis past weekend we celebrated Diane FIen Kelly’s birthday. She would have been turning 57. So her dear friend Jean Melton lit 57 candles and put them all around her house and threw a big party where we ate, and drank, told stories and jokes, and reconnected with old friends. It was the kind of party that Diane would have liked. I could almost hear her laughing.

Diane plaque

The following day was the dedication of a bench, purchased by our book club in Diane’s honor and memory, positioned on the trail by the USNA stadium trail by her home.  Diane loved to be outside walking on a trail, and her last year on earth she made of point of truly savoring every precious moments, moments that included her two children Brendan and Lauren and her dog Stuart, a rescue from Hurricane Katrina.

Book clubs come in all shapes and sizes, and with a variety of procedures and traditions for choosing books, organizing discussions, and providing food and libations.  While some years Diane was busy with her work, training teachers in the field of special education teaching deaf and blind children, when present at a book club gathering her enthusiasm for our selection (even if she didn’t read the entire book) and for the food being served was always heartfelt.  She was the one who kept asking us to keep a record of the food being served with our selections for a future cookbook. Diane’s big heart and positive approach to just about everything she did was inspiring. She was the kind of person who was always looking out for the “little guy” and the person who when faced with adversity always managed to see the situation in a positive way.

Diane kids

Last week we were asked by her college friends for suggestions of the books which were Diane’s favorites and while initially I thought of her puzzling over Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills , it was Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards which tells the story of the impact of a doctor’s decision to give away his infant daughter at birth because she has Downs Syndrome, that I remember being one of Diane’s favorite books. The doctor in the story assumes his wife will be satisfied raising the daughter’s healthy twin brother and thinking her daughter died at birth, but he’s wrong. Meanwhile his former nurse raises the baby girl as her own in another city and as the years pass memories are not forgotten. That’s all I’m going to say because I certainly do not want to spoil the plot for those who haven’t read the book.

So in closing, if you are walking along the trail around the USNA stadium and want to take a moment to stop and think about your day or listen to the birds and feel the breeze rustle through the trees (There are a few small ones nearby) have a seat. Read the plaque and think of Diane!

Thank you to Eileen Leahy and the Department of Recreation of Park for helping to organize the bench installation.

Diane

Procrastinating on a Cloudy Day in Annapolis

It’s a crab weekend coming up, with a number of all-you-can-eat crab feasts in the region including the big Rotary crab feast at the U.S. Naval Academy Stadium. But with all this warm soggy weather, I’m not thinking positively about sitting outside picking crabs. In fact, when it turns gray, folks tend to become a tad grumpy and want to stay inside where there’s some cool air conditioning.
It does, however, lend itself to reading and writing, which happen to be two of my favorite activities. Although I do keep procrastinating on completing some of my editing chores.
When there are things I don’t want to do, I alternate them with things that are more fun such a crafting a story on a new topic I’ve never written about and learning something new, as opposed to revisiting something that has been written about before and checking research that has been done by another writer.
It is the first week in August and we just completed our September Eastern Shore magazine and the Annapolis magazine follows close behind while we work on the final touches for October and complete November’s content. Part of my brain is wrapped around pumpkin carving, piles of raked leaves, and the plans that go into Thanksgiving feasts. It’s an interesting reality on a hot summer’s day.

A Very Special Golden Retriever

Thank you, everyone who has called, sent cards, stopped me on the street, and expressed their sadness and concern on hearing about Grace’s death. I still expect to see her standing in the front hallway when I put the key in the lock of the front door or hear the jingle of the tags clinking together that hung on her collar indicating she is coming down the stairs. My husband Peter told me this morning there is still her nose print on the glass back door and when I’m in the kitchen cooking and I look out into the backyard and I expect to see her standing in the patio waiting to get inside. Dogs are like that sometimes, always wanting to come in and when they are out and out when they are in—much like children, and Peter was always saying Grace was our last child. Now folks are asking when are we planning to get a new puppy? Are we going to get another golden? Are we going to get another dog?
At present, we are still grieving. In my family, my mother always emphasized the importance of spending time to mourn your losses. A psychiatric social worker, she counseled it is not wise to just rush out and get a replacement Every pet is special and should be remembered and mourned for several months. I don’t know if I can wait that long because I see so many dogs— big ones, small ones, puppies, middle-aged dogs— romping with their owners. Every time I take a walk, yes Peter and I are still walking morning and evening even if we don’t have a dog to walk, and we both point out and comment on the dogs we see. “Look a puppy!” We ooh and ah. This morning I saw a small puppy guide-dog-in-training with his trainer accompanied by a mature guide dog and a woman in a wheel chair. Wouldn’t that be a nice thing to do, to train a guide dog. A noble thing to do, although I’d probably be so sad to part with the puppy I had trained. And then there is the question of time, training a puppy takes a lot of time and I’m not home very much. When Grace was a puppy, our daughter Alex was in fourth grade and I did my writing and editing from home. I could take her out for several walks a day to get her housebroken and Alex was home mid afternoon to walk her again and play with her. So I’m still thinking….
(If you are wondering about the photograph above, it was taken at Quiet Waters Park. The first couple of years after Grace had her nine puppies, we’d meet for a reunion with those owners who could attend. Grace is the dog on her hind legs being held by Peter and her mate Augie is the Golden wearing a red bandana.)

Rainy Summer Morning in Annapolis

It started with raindrops gently kissing my face, early morning rain on a hot summer’s morning. It’s been so hot and sticky here in Maryland, the rain is a welcome relief and as I walked downtown with my husband Peter and dog Grace at 6:30 a.m. today, I thought how much I looked forward to summer rainy days as a child

It started with raindrops gently kissing my face, early morning rain on a hot summer’s morning. It’s been so hot and sticky here in Maryland, the rain is a welcome relief and as I walked downtown with my husband Peter and dog Grace at 6:30 a.m. today, I thought how much I looked forward to summer rainy days as a child because those were the days my mother and I went shopping/adventuring/exploring Up Cape. Our summer home in Provinctown at the tip of Cape Cod in Massachussets had only a radio and record player for entertainment (no CDs, videos, ipods) when it wasn’t a day to spend on the beach so we’d usually start thumbing through the weekly newspapers searching for notices of auctions and estate sales to visit. And if there weren’t any auctions or tag sales we’d go searching out stores and thift shops we’d never visited, hopefully with undiscovered bargains.
This week is “No Sales Tax on Clothing ” week to encourage back-tot-school shopping and as I was thinking of what I might need to buy in the way of clothes, the rain started coming down hard.
“Remember the time we were taking a walk in August when Alex was small,” Peter asks me, “and the rain came down so hard we took shelter at the hospital (when they were still located in Murray Hill).
“Yes,” I rejoin, “And a nurse who felt sorry for us brought out a towel to help us dry off, we were so dripping wet from the downpour?”
I’m starting to regret walking out of the house without a raincoat, hat, or umbrella. I did know the weather forecast was predicting morning rain. Still being damp deels good until I step into the air conditioned coffee shop.
On the walk home I see rivulets of soapy water rushing down the road and pavement and I think of all the pollution that is flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. It’s not advisable to go swimming in the Bay after its rains. All the fertilizer, ground water, and other unsavory items laying on impervious services all are washed into the stormdrains and out into the streams and tributaries.
“Some people will do anything to get a cup of coffee,” a man yells out to us as we pass the Court House on our way back home from downtown. By the this time, I’m starting to feel soaked. The water has collected in my shoes and is sloshing around. My hair, which I had not intended to wash this morning, is wet and clinging to the sides of my face. I start to pick up the pace and wonder how waterproof my watch really is and visualizing how good a hot shower is going to feel. A slash of lightening and crash of thunder causes Grace to whimper and I start to run the rest of the way home. It’s foolish to be out walking in a thunderstorm, I shide myself.
“Doesn’t it feel good to run in the rian?” Peter asks me when we are safely inside the house. “The rain keeps your body cool while you’re burning off energy.”
Yes, exhilerating.

Annapolis Summer Brings Downtown Changes

I’ve been out-of town for almost a month, visiting the other side of the world and although I enjoyed the adventures, it is great to be back home in Annapolis. (If I could just get my sleep cycle back to normal and catch up on those missing hours I would really feel good). Nevertheless I’ve resumed my regular schedule of walks downtown; morning and evening, and I look at the city with fresh eyes having been away.
I see a lot of vacant storefronts. Avoca Handweavers, which was cleaning out the last of their inventory in June, is now empty and appears to have been leased. The “Mystery Shop” ie the former Annapolis pawn shop that has remained in the decade of the 1950s, is in the process of being cleared out. There are no longer sunglasses and harmonicas and watchbands in the window..how sad. Market House still has very few vendors. But if I walk Up Town on West Street past Church Circle there are new signs of life. A photography studio has opened in the storefront vacated by Horse Boutique and the shop that was housing beauty products for Hudson and Fouquet has been remodeled into a handsome salon. I was recently invited for a visit and could not help but admire the lovely new wood floors and tiled floors that have been installed in the late 19th century stucco building along with the acoutrements for a high end salon. Hudson and Fouquet were the winners (tied with nearby Ruby’s Salon) for Best Women’s stylist in the What’s Up? Annapolis Best of contest . Judging by the many satisfied customers I observed, it is easy to see why. You can check out the list of all the What’s Up? winners at http://www.WhatsUpMag.com and look at some of the party pics too.