Hemingway’s Home in Cuba

For weeks since returning from our trip to Cuba I have been agonizing over how to do justice to the Ernest Hemingway experience. This cold Sunday morning as I mindlessly began to paint an abstract composition while listening to the music of the Buena Vista Social Club, one art began to feed the other. I begin to write about Hemingway in my mind as I painted. Ten minutes in I drop the brush and move to my computer, where the calling was loudest.

I had been stuck, because I knew that there was no way I could ever do justice to the man. I like to think of myself as a (somewhat puny) writer, having published three books of my humble thoughts. I know something of the torturous endeavor of letting the words bleed out in a steady stream all the while wondering if anyone on earth will care. Hemingway is one of my idols; he was the master of the short, declarative sentence and the raw brutality of the honest word. He was the “no frills” genius. For that reason and many others his words have remained relevant; his prominence has not faded, his presence in Cuba is still palpable. You hear his name everywhere.

Oddly enough, the following quote from John Donne which provided the title for Hemingway’s war novel For Whom The Bell Tolls is eerily relevant in today’s volatile political climate. Hemingway decided to include it on the page that precedes Chapter One of that war novel.

“No man is an Island, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thin owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.    

John Donne 1572-1631 English poet and cleric of the Church of England.

Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1899. While volunteering in the infantry during WWI he was wounded and sent home. By 1921 he was living in Paris and became one of the expat community of writers there, including Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others who would become prominent writers of that time and all time. In the 1930’s Hemingway settled in Cuba and the mutual love affair with that island nation began, but he still traveled extensively to Spain, Italy and Africa. His reports on the Spanish Civil War led to his highly acclaimed war novel For Whom The Bell Tolls (1939). His novel The Old Man And The Sea, probably his most popular work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1953, and in 1954 Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his powerful mastery of the art of narration.

He wrote seven books while living in Cuba including The Old Man And The Sea, A Moveable Feast and Islands In The Stream. He was the only American with permission to conduct patrols off the coast of Cuba, hunting German submarines in his fishing boat with a machine gun and hand grenades. Hemingway met Fidel Castro at his own fishing tournament ( The Ernest Hemingway International Billfishing Tournament which is still ongoing, in its 65th year) and there are photographs everywhere in Cuba of Castro and Hemingway at that event. One of Hemingway’s favorite “watering holes”, La Floridita, is still a wild and crazy, thriving bar and restaurant which I heartily recommend that you visit in Havana when you go to Cuba – and you must go to Cuba. There is a life-sized bronze bust of Hemingway there, planted forever in his favorite spot in the corner of the bar so he can watch who comes through the door, and you can have your picture taken with him. Sort of. Next best thing. Yes I did.

His tropical home in Cuba, the Finca Vigia, (Lookout Farm) is a magical place with lush grounds and far vistas – he was often photographed there with prominent friends and film stars partying down the path at the pool, and his boat “Pilar” is there also. The rooms are fascinating, frozen in time; we were only permitted to look through the windows to his interior world. It is now a national treasure, which we visited and where my photographs were taken. In his bathroom, on the wall next to the toilet and the scales, are periodic scribblings made by Hemingway, recording his weight over a long time. All of his personal belongings and collections including one of his many typewriters are there. His main typewriter is located in an adjacent white stucco “writing” tower which his wife had constructed for him but which he really did not like to use for writing. From the looks of it, he spent more time using the gigantic telescope there. All of his honored belongings are still exactly where he left them; never knowing that his hasty departure was going to be permanent. Because as much as the Cuban people loved and admired Ernest Hemingway and claimed him as one of their own, during the 1959 Revolution in Cuba Hemingway was forced by the powers that be (Castro) to leave the country. This exit, this deportation, was a source of profound sadness for him, and shortly after he returned to his home in Idaho (1960) he took his own life.

There is also a modest room that he called his own in Hotel Ambos Mundos in Havana where he stayed while in the city, complete with his own desk and another typewriter, with nice views of the water and the old castle fortress from the balcony. It is certainly worthy of your time if you cannot make it to his country home. It is open most days – the door will be locked, but be sure to knock – someone is always inside watching over things.

There might be more about Ernest Hemingway – one little blog is hardly going to do it.

Jo Ann Brown-Scott, author and artist

http://www.thecreativeepiphany.com

http://www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

FACEBOOK under the name jo ann rossiter brown-scott

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Mailing Christmas Gifts…a true story

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The line at the post office today, Saturday morning, was moderate – only about 15 people when I got there, at 9 am when it opened, but rapidly growing out the door as we stood waiting for our turns.

Among the various people in line was a woman on oxygen, a pleasant looking elderly gentleman in front of me with rosy cheeks and white hair (who actually looked a lot like Santa Claus), several women carrying lots of boxes to send, a huge tall man carrying one tiny little package and a lady who was already talking to anyone who would respond to her, making remarks about her career in the Marine core which was followed by an account of her many years working for the United States Post Office and then a current third career as a substitute teacher for kindergartners. She had to tell everyone about the kindergartners now days; how precocious they are and how advanced in their knowledge of the world they are. How cute, but how rambunctious and challenging they are.

The elderly gentleman in front of me chimed in and said that her job at the post office must have been quite difficult at Christmas time, and so then she told a few funny stories from back in the day when everything was simpler and easier during the holidays. She went on to say that now everything is computerized, but somehow things are more complicated than ever and they still get screwed up.

“I remember Lindberg’s flight,” the gentleman said, sort of placing his age on the timeline of life.

“Well he was a Nazi, you know,” she said.

The gentleman ignored that remark and said, “And I don’t even own a computer. I refuse. I do not want to learn about computers.”

“Well some day soon a computer will be installed in every home and it will be automatic that you have a computer and that you must learn to use one,” the lady ex-Marine/kindergarten teacher said to him….smiling.

“Oh I doubt very much that I will live that long,” the elderly gentleman answered.

Another person from behind us in the line chimed in, “Oh yes you will! You are lookin” pretty fit!”

That got a faint smile out of the gentleman.

Soon the entire line was in a group conversation; everyone contributing, laughing and talking to each other. It was a lovely thing to be a part of.

When the elderly gentleman got up to the counter for his turn, he put down in front of the postal clerk an assortment of mailed items – mailed by him – that had all been returned back to him by the USPS for some unknown reason. The postal clerk was aghast! How could that happen? He said that everything was in order on the computer, all addresses correct, all postage charges exactly as they should be so the problem was not postage due, and he could not understand why everything had been returned! The elderly gentleman said he was quite concerned because one of the packages was going to his daughter and it was very important – it contained his Will. How could he be sure it would get there the second time?

The clerk re-stamped everything, re-mailed it all again, assured the gentleman that all was perfectly correct, and as the elderly gentleman left everyone in line shook his hand and wished him a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and MANY MORE.

 

 

 

 

And so….this is how it happens….the fire is re-lit

?????????? The Year Long Canvas BEFORE…..and AFTER (see below)

In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest, where no one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art. – Rumi

I woke up this morning newly-brave.

Born again into risk taking and artistic experimentation.

After about a month of YLC in-action I am ready to make my next big move on the YEAR LONG CANVAS, unapologetically and without a dot of hesitation. Something has kicked in and recharged me, and if I had to guess what that was, I think I would say that it had to be a perfect storm of things.  My glorious weekend in the mountains, a poem I received from a wise blogging friend who lives in Israel and is enduring the agony of that conflict, a Harley ride in the Sunday rain, the full belly laughter that I experienced on the phone with a friend, grown children who still love me – all of which are life affirming and reinforce for me the constant wonder and gratitude for the days and nights I am living. I am filled to the brim with life, wanting to value every day.

To be so fortunate is a miracle to me. I agonize for my friend in Israel. I feel deeply for friends and family who are suffering. The flip side of that is my determination to live my own life to its best potential, as a thank-you prayer to the universe. A joyful offering. I too have suffered, been miserable, lost people I loved, been disappointed and hurt by people who are still alive. I don’t live in a bubble. But I am not one who can hold on to pain and keep wringing it out of my days and nights when I am given a chance to let it go. And I have let it all go. It is just good Karma to remind myself of that every once in a while and have a little celebration.

Today I will do some things to the YLC with a “what the hell” attitude – geez I can always paint another painting – who do I think l I am, giving such weighty importance to a mere canvas? What is the worst that can happen? I very seldom ruin a canvas….

I am tired of avoiding it.

Today I welcome it and will confront it with a smile and a song. I knew I would be back. Told you so.

If you do not like what you see, or you are bored with this entire project, leave now. Or hang in here and  see what happens. You can refresh your mind about what I am doing on the YLC in my Archives if need be. I can assure you that whatever brushstrokes are done today will be made from a stance of positivity, as a prayer of thanks.  Nothing done in the name of my art will be angry. Strong vibrant color is a sign of joy and healthy strength, powerful compositions are confident and life-affirming. Thick paint and high texture indicate the need to feel things deeply and experience passion.

Abstract art is perfect for prayers to the universe; the art Buddha smiles.

YLCJU14 and AFTER, copyright July 2014 Jo Ann Brown-Scott – not yet titled

Let the beauty we have be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. – Rumi

photo 1 (2)   photo 2 (2)

Yeah yeah yeah – the Year Long Canvas is  still sitting there staring at me. I am stalled out with her. I am becalmed like a sailboat at sea, but enjoying where I am. I am living in the NOW.

I am currently painting other stuff that allows me to arrive at completion, because I am a task driven person and I like a feeling of accomplishment. I have not abandoned the YLC Project, but I seem to be on summer vaca from her. I’m spending time with people I enjoy, painting just for the fun of it, tending to my sunburn, going to concerts and hiking in the woods, in the rain, wearing my sparkling tiara that I was urged to make mine at a mountain garage sale on Sunday. Of course that’s silly. Would you deny me the pleasure of being silly? You better not….because I am hangin’ exclusively with people who make me happy these days  – the ones who contribute positive vibes to my life – the ones who prop me up and make me laugh and leave me with a warm glow. You all know who you are.

The Year Long Canvas needs my attention, I guess, but she is a great looking painting just the way she is. I don’t have it in me right now to alter her. I am SURE I have learned whatever lessons she was supposed to teach me already….pretty sure.

So if you are one of the ones who keeps ragging on me about making some more changes to her, just for the sake of change, you need a really strong argument to convince me that I need to do something. Especially now. Maybe later in the summer when my back is against the wall and I know I am going to have to come up with some answers to questions from my esteemed instructor Homare Ikeda – maybe then I will panic and make some kind of change to her. But right now I am following the advice of that same esteemed instructor who commanded all of us students to HAVE FUN and ENJOY THE SUMMER and PLAY!. That’s what I want to do – that’s what I’m talkin’ about. I am going to do THAT.

photo 3 (3) Relax – YLC is just fine. Alive and well and living here, with other canvases…..the ones who are finished. She is in good company.

Jo Ann Brown-Scott – to see additional art, visit the links below:

http://www.epiphanysfriends.com

http://joannbrownscottart.artspan.com/large-multi-view/single/2357019-0-/.html%5B/embed%5D

 

 

Art at the Speed of Life

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Mixed Media Collage titled Life Weavings by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2014

It occurs to me that the Year Long Canvas of which I have been writing in my recent posts is humming along at the speed of life – one day at a time – with some days more attentively dedicated to it than others. What else can a painting ask for? I mean really, I have worked on many canvases for months, on and off, off and on, and at the end the best I can do is to call it DONE, with many unrealized possibilities for its final form still floating around in my brain. In my sleep. In my waking hours too. But I had reached my limit of endurance for working on it and so it stays where it is for all eternity…I have a long way to go before I make that decision on the Year Long Canvas.

All you can do in life is to take each day, doing the best you can, 24/7, under the circumstances of the situation you have to work with. That is the best scenario you can hope for with any of your endeavors. You cannot be expected to perform based on information you do not yet have….you have only the NOW’s worth of information to go on.

It you look back at any kind of big thing or event or occasion or circumstance in your entire life, (and this usually happens when you can’t sleep at about 3 am) and you begin to second-guess the way you handled it, questioning the decisions you made at the time, and believing that you might have done better in hindsight, try to remember all the extra-curricular stuff that was going on in your life at the time. Chances are you had a lot going on – a lot to deal with – many shades of gray to be considered. All of that factored in to the way you handled things at the time. There was more going on than just the activity in the center ring at your circus of life. You were juggling and trying to keep a lot of balls in the air.

So go easy on yourself. I am certainly trying to do that myself. Seems to me that our lives are all like paintings, and we have a lifetime to paint them with endless possibilities for the composition. We make choices based upon what we know at any given time.Then we make more alterations, more changes, more adjustments and we paint some more, eliminating the negativity and giving prominence to the positive. We brighten the color, then we tone it back down. We try new things or we revert to an old idea and make it new again. This is art at the speed of life and life at the speed of art. I think it’s all the same thing.

Creativity – Surprisingly Human…

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mixed media painting by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2013

Thought allied fearlessly to purpose becomes creative force. He who knows this is ready to become something higher and stronger than a bundle of wavering thoughts and fluctuating sensations. He who does this has become the conscious and intelligent wielder of his mental powers. (James Allen)

Many articles are written about creativity. It seems rather a newish thing, that after centuries of witnessing its manifestations but not bothering to stop and figure out what the internal dynamics of it are, we now seem to have the time to pick it apart and examine it more closely. Everybody wonders how it happens – what facilitates it, who gets it, how do we nurture it, does it peak and then decline with age, how it can be enhanced and how to increase its potential.

First of all, everybody gets their fair share because it awarded free at birth – absolutely no one is born without it. The degree to which it shows up depends upon which gene tendencies you begin to massage – because certain aspects of creativity can lay dormant if not discovered, acknowledged, encouraged, stroked and cared for. When I taught mixed media painting to adults, people came to my class who had been CEO’s of corporations, high earners and achievers, outstanding in their fields which of course requires enormous vision and creatiity. But they had waited until their retirement years to tentatively tap the latent but strong desire they had kept hidden to someday learn to paint. They had been extremely creative in other areas of their lives to the point where no one had a single clue they secretly wanted to paint. The desire had been put on the shelf or choked out entirely for years, so  that ambition of a different caliber could take the lead at the exclusion of all else.

The creativity was bound to come out sooner or later…or was it? We hear all the time about people who discover they can sing, dance, write, paint and numerous other creative activities well into their adult lives, and I say what a shame that they waited so long. I wish more people would live the wondrous, colorful world of creativity all along the journey and not confine it to the last couple chapters of the book of life. Think of it! Life is all about the journey…living in Technicolor is of great importance.

We must not be too ambitious. We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint box. And, for this, Audacity is the only ticket. (Winston Churchill)

There is no secret formula for being highly creative. The habits of the most gifted creative people vary enormously – they are observed and envied, scrutinized and examined by people who want more of what they see. The trick to being creative and using the potential that is already there inside you is to dig deep and know yourself. Define what you desire, ask yourself if it is true and appropriate to who you authentically are (because not every one of us has exactly what it takes to be a Steven Spielberg) and what you are unconsciously drawn to, and give it some oxygen. Bring it out to the light of day. It does not have to crowd out everything else, to the extent that you drop whatever else you were doing and give it your complete 100% ALL  (although that has worked for many people) but it does mean that you must give it a fighting chance to be heard, seen and nurtured. You have to be willing to bring it out of hiding and show it to the world, unapologetically, unselfconsciously, and even proudly, as you sharpen your skills and learn. You cannot be timid – you must be strong – gutsy –  not easily discouraged – able to listen to criticism –  and you must have confidence and trust yourself even on the days when you are less convinced that what you are offering to the world is worthy of attention. Creative people make mistakes, get embarrassed, sometimes make fools of themselves all the damn time – even the best of them. But they keep going. They have tenacity. They are resilient.

But you knew all that, right?

A heartfelt sense of aspiring cuts through negativity about yourself; it cuts through the heavy trips you lay on yourself. (Pema Chodron)

The Creative Epiphany – HAPPY NEW YEAR, WORLD!

    HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE USA!

Photo courtesy of santabanta.com

Here we are – the year had to end somewhere and today is the day. Are you ready for a NEW ONE? Up to the challenges ahead of us?

We will all be in it together, cringing at the ridiculous, saddened by the tragic, laughing at the humor of life, being disgusted by the actions of some, proud of others, and taking in the joy when something actually goes right. Those of us who are champions of humanitarianism and innocent with eternal optimism want to end world hunger, save the whales, cure cancer, clean up the planet, end terrorism once and for all, bring about peace, educate all children, and care for the homeless and those who are suffering as we love one another. That is a tall order, but we continue to do whatever we can. And that is driven by eternal HOPE.

I have no resolutions for the NEW YEAR other than to continue what I have been doing – laugh more, be grateful for every day, practice random acts of kindness, tell the people that you love how you feel about them and if there is any good that can be done, then by all means do it.

My thanks go out to all of you for caring enough to follow this humble blog, allowing me to spout off about whatever spontaneous observations cross my mind. What an honor and a privilege that is. I am fortunate to live in a country where speaking out is encouraged – and I wish the same for you. I know who you are – those of you who do not enjoy that same freedom of speech. I agonize for your loss of freedom. I wish for you a better condition.

The best to all of you! Let’s hope the New Year brings about positive change for all.

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mixed media painting by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2013