R.H. Blyth was a fascinating guy.


An Englishman who went to Japan before the war and never left, Blyth was largely responsible for introducing us to haiku.



Zen in English Literature is his masterpiece. It’s an enlightening introduction to Zen for us Westerners.

Want to find Zen another way?

Make some art with a friend.





Recently I went to Karen Rossi’s studio.  She’s a blizzard of joy. Her studio is so infectiously upbeat, it’s shanti for the soul.


This is one pizzazzical playground!


Dear Friend Sue and I come to make a glass mosaic. And what a perfect storm of pleasures we find.  Uncluttered by the usual busyness of the mind, the state of No-Mind takes over as we examine shards of glass and rifle through bits of stone and broken dishes.  I think what begins to appear on our tiles is a reflection of muse-inspired minds running free.



Some people take the sun and make a yellow spot out of it ; An artist takes a yellow spot and makes the sun out of it.

 Pablo Picasso

See Sue channel the peerless Pablo.  Nirvanic. IMG_0870


The project is pure spiritual tonic.  We’re captivated, immersed in the moment, thanks to our enlightened Zen master, Karen Rossi.



People are like stained glass windows: they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light within.   -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, psychiatrist and author


Art is so liberating, popping up into the random mix we call life, reminding us to take it easy.

We’re all stuck in this together, in this mind-maulingly intense time. What to do?

Be kind. Share. Relax a little, make something that makes your heart leapfrog. You know, like a preschool scribble on the fridge.

Thanks, Karen Rossi, for taking us to Heaven in your little rowboat.   :clap: :clap:

Toni 7/18/16

The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.*

We writers are a curious bunch. Curious about the world. Curious about other people. Curious to hear their stories.

A sense of curiosity is nature’s original school of education.

~Smiley Blanton*



Right this minute, I’m curious about African artist Raina Mazwiembiri and her Seedpod Birds.


Her talent is making birds and the seeds they dine on become one.



Mazwiembiri gives the seed pods twisted wire feet, adds putty beaks, and paints the quirky creatures in resplendent colors and patterns.


I just had to know her story.  Seems that Raina’s husband, George, started making seedpod birds to earn extra money.  A few years later, Raina joined him and together they sold their birds at local craft shops and markets. When her husband moved on to other things, Raina took over and now works with two of her daughters.


The seedpods come from the Ulumbu Tree, the star chestnut (Sterculia rogersii). Raina and her daughters travel seven hours to the Bulawayo area to pick them and then travel back home. The trip typically takes three days. (I’ll be googling that, I bet there’s a lot more to it.)


I’ve never heard a boring story or met a boring person. When police question neighbors after a crime occurs, often the reply is he’s always been quiet, comes and goes at the same time every day, hardly see the guy. Sounds like he was a boring person but clearly there is something to discover, a story to uncover.


I’m loving the Owen Canfield holiday stories.  He’s a local man-about-town who writes short pieces about a bike hike or a falling tree, Velveeta cheese or potato pancakes. Trivial items, maybe, but not trivial topics. Everything has meaning, doesn’t it?


Every Christmas I reread the stories, poems, and essays in Norman Rockwell’s Christmas Book. (It was new in 1977. It’s still new to me every year. Aren’t I lucky?)


It’s one plum pudding of a book. 200 pages of literary love.  Ogden Nash, Laura Ingalls Wilder, O. Henry, Charles Dickens, Taylor Caldwell, Louisa May Alcott, Langston Hughes,Christopher Morely, Robert Frost,W.H.Auden, Booth Tarkington, Mark Twain, John Milton, William Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, and of course, Clement Clark Moore ~to name a few~ release small miracles on every page illustrated by Norman Rockwell.



The book even includes Fannie Farmer’s Menu from 1896 with recipes.

Roast goose with potato stuffing? Consider this:  you need to singe, remove pinfeathers, wash and scrub with hot soapsuds, draw, wash, stuff, and truss before it hits the oven and maybe comes out looking like this.



Rockwell’s Christmas book is happiness for a crystal-cold night. Serve with a hearty Cab and a couple of crooners.

*Curious about Smiley Blanton?  Me, too.

Toni 12/14/15

*Header quote by Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist


l_443295_931d357dAfter un millione years of marriage, I no longer think in terms of what’s yours and what’s mine. It’s ours, the whole honey pot.

But I do have something that was created especially for me.


Paolo Salvatore Abbate (1884-1973) was an internationally renowned sculptor born in Villa Rosa, Sicily and educated in Rome. He studied sculpture with Domenico Trentacoste, the director of the art academy in Florence. Abbate was also a teacher and an author. But, as a kid, I knew him as our friend ~ Paolo-who-has-goats.


Dad and I visited Abbate at his barn and small house across town. He made the barn into a sculpture studio and cut a large window up high to let in natural light.


Like a true Italian, he covered the exterior with stucco and added a fanlight above the door. He built a fieldstone fireplace for heat and dug two wells ~ one for himself and one for his goats. I can still see him, framed by the iron arches and pulleys above the well, filling water buckets, talking art with my Dad.


We never got to see Abbate’s studio in NYC, a busy gathering place for the likes of Enrico Caruso and friends, whom he sculpted.


Whether in the city or our small town, Abbate gave generously of his time ~ as president of the International Fine Arts League, a member of the National Sculptor’s Council, the Artists Council, the Connecticut Artists and Writers Society, and as a founding member of the Torrington UNICO Club, an Italian-American service organization.


The Paolo S. Abbate collection (1884-1973) was donated to the Immigration History Reseach Center at University of Minnesota. A microfilmed collection of his papers is in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art in Washington, DC. It includes biographical material, letters to and from George Grey Barnard, writings and speeches on art, sketches, scrapbooks with pictures of his sculpture, newspaper clippings and exhibition price lists.


Locally, his work can be seen in Newburgh, NY, the Torrington, CT Cemetery, Brown University in Providence, RI, the National Arts Club in NYC, the Silas Bronson Library, the Mattatauck Museum in Waterbury, CT, and in my house.

This thing of beauty is ours.


Toni 1/15/15