My Birthday in Paris – Part One

 

Photos by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, late November 2017  – The Christmas tree is directly in front of Notre Dame. The weather was quite cold, rainy and it snowed one night, but it made the scenery look like fine etches in dark contrast .

Please read my previous blog titled Simple Things That Stir My Soul in order to have the foundation and perspective for this new blog. Paris is by no means a simple thing….you need to read the back story to understand how it happened that I spent my birthday there. Paris is monumentally impressive and a life-changing experience. The people could not have been more kind, cooperative, polite, funny and charming. Parisiennes  are quite eager to be of help and often eager to know who you are, exactly where you are from and anxious to have brief conversations with you if possible. Tres magnifique!

I ate onion soup almost every day for lunch, with a variety of cheeses and salads, in some little cafe or another but of all the places where my traveling companion extraordinaire and I decided to stop,  this photo was taken at the Frenchiest of French cafes serving the very Frenchiest French onion soup I ever ate in my life. One just cannot have enough onion soup, sinfully sweet flaky whip creamy pastry, fat puffy croissants and creme brulee to die for while in Paris. AND if it is also the assignment from your daughter then you must do it. After all, she is the bottom line reason I was there in the first place! (again, refer to previous blog)

My friend Susie Angeline, who also writes a WordPress blog titled The Sunday Traveler and is posting some of the exact same views that I am in her blog (we each see the same things a teensy bit differently ) and I put in a week’s worth of epic, happily exhausting days. We packed a lot in those 7 days – we jam-packed them with major monuments, art museums, cathedrals, elegant shops, a 2 hour day tour of the Latin Quarter, restaurants, and dozens upon dozens of smaller priceless discoveries that warmed our hearts and fed the voracious  appetites of our phone cameras and our digital cameras. When you go to Paris you must take both kinds of cameras – phone camera for ease and spontaneity and digital for clarity when photographing stained glass, rainy shots and distance. Yes it does become a juggling act since a new photo opportunity crops up about every 5 feet.

We hit the ground running about 10:30 am or so from the hotel (after checking in immediately from the airport) and ignored our jet lag to race off on foot to the Eiffel since it is the ultimate icon of Paris and we did not want to be inside a cab as the scenes blurred past us. We approached it from the back side (excuse my French) and found the neighborhood around it to be charming and exceedingly photogenic. We wanted to rent a flat there. We already started planning…we wanted to chuck our lives in the USA and live in Paris for a while. She would become a writer and travel photographer, I would paint and write my fourth book. We would dress the way French women dress. We knew we could do it. We discussed it over pastries, in lieu of birthday cake since it was the actual day of my birth when we landed in Paris. Too large a birthday to mention any numbers here. Don’t even guess please. Just leave it alone. I had 2 huge pastries and a hot chocolate with whipped cream. Combined with jet lag.

I was stunned to finally be in Paris – I thought my chances of getting there anytime soon would be like …… pigs flying. I remained in a constant state of awe for all the next 7 days, 24/7, to such a degree that I had to repeatedly pinch myself. Paris is a state of mind, I learned. Much more than a mere city. It is now in my DNA and I must go back.

Please stay tuned for Part Two of My Birthday in Paris!

Please visit these two extraordinary Blog sites for beautiful, enlightening travel posts by my daughter Kelly K. Heapy at CompassandCamera.wordpress.com  and my traveling companion Angeline Susie Munoz at TheSundayTraveler.wordpress.com

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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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Blogging Taught Me This

children  My photo taken in the countryside outside Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2015

I am coming up on a personal milestone in my blogging career of the past several years – soon I will reach 10,000 views which is a nice round number to achieve. I am excited about it, but compared to many others I could name whose blogs I follow and read religiously, that is a very small number. In my humble career as a blogger I have however, learned a great deal about people, travel, the art of writing, life, photography and the wonders of the world. Several meaningful discoveries have been made through my writing and reading of blogs.

  1. If you are able to find a way to travel, domestically or internationally, you owe it to a life well lived to do that at every opportunity. I am of the opinion that people who venture out of their own comfort zones and soak up the knowledge they gain along the way are the everyday prophets of the world. I don’t care if you simply walk across town, ride a bike, trek around Mt. Everest or trek to a national park,  journey on a train, or a bus or a boat or a plane or climb a fourteener in Colorado – just leave your everyday environment behind for a while. Even for just an afternoon! What you will learn far outweighs any perceived inconvenience in getting there. Then be sure you write and talk about it. Share your experiences. Impart some knowledge. Bring the world together.
  2. What will you learn? You will learn how to get outside your own importance. You will begin to know and appreciate other lifestyles; other people’s struggles and joys, other scenery, other people’s ways of making a living and how they spend their leisure time if they have any. How they raise their children, how they worship, what they eat, where they live, what they wear and what they sleep on at night. You might read all that in a book, of course but unless you smell it, hear it, touch it, breathe it in and see it with your own eyes  you will not truly know anything for sure about what other people are up against. Whether it is our Louisiana flooding or even if – even if it is a mere 10 miles away from where you live.
  3. As a result of traveling, you will get better at tolerance, kindness, understanding, generosity, love and even forgiveness. You will be a better person, I guarantee. Why? Because it is hard to ignore a barefoot, raggedy clothed, dusty little child, painfully underfed, without toys, living in a dirt-floored hovel that the monsoons are likely to flatten and flood in 2 months. You will think of him and his family, from a world away, when you hear on the news that there is flooding in Cambodia and hundreds of people have had their rice fields swept away. You will care very deeply.
  4. All of those experiences will make a better person of you and your children and friends. You will have a deeper and wider frame of reference upon which to base your beliefs and opinions about what needs to be done in the world. And you will use that platform for change, in whatever way you can. You will have personal stories to tell that will influence others and inspire them to travel and provide good works wherever they go. If you travel you have a fine opportunity to be a positive ambassador for the USA. We need more of those.
  5. Finally, for now, but certainly not lastly, if you are a creative person artistically,  musically, if you write or you photograph or you simply keep a humble travel journal – whatever expression stirs your soul – it will become far more profound in meaning if you travel. It cannot help but get better. You will employ travel and use it all as food and fuel for your heart and mind. You will find yourself saying poetic things you never thought you would utter, writing about other worlds, seeing everything with new eyes and loving the diversity of the planet as never before, because you had no basis upon which to know what you had been missing. Your mind will open up and you will become wiser for with every travel experience.

“The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things…” Lewis Carroll

bookphoto

Yes it is almost time. Imagine my anticipation. I am about to birth a new baby novel after nearly a decade of purple-faced, teeth-clenching labor. My god it is difficult to put a book together. Have you ever tried it? I should have just stuck an ice pick up my nose; it would have been less painful. On some days it was pure agony. Ten minutes of tending the same damn paragraph seem like hours of torture. You call yourself nasty names. You eat junk food, you do not sleep well. You second guess, third guess and sixteenth guess every single scene, every conversation, every insight. And pretty much no one cares until it is really done. You get no sympathy.

If you are also an artist, as I am, sometimes you attempt to work on a painting for a brief intermission as you are mulling over the words that will come next, and writing is a lot like painting so it seems so logical that it would be a great idea to create  both book and art side by side…thriving in a parallel universe. Both require a distinct voice, a unique vocabulary of expression and gesture, a selection of color, pattern and texture to flesh out the composition or the plot. And the sub-plots. Writing can be a lot of fun, on the good days. Painting can also be quite enjoyable when you are in the flow. But I have discovered through the years that one of those pursuits is capable of blocking out the sun for the other one. They compete for my attention and they dilute what I am doing into less powerful work if I try to excel in both at once.

What was the delay, you ask? Ten years? That’s crazy. What takes so long about writing a book? Well, I had a fabulous story but no ending. Then stuff happened that inspired and informed the book idea and everything fell together in one big loud, undeniable way as sometimes (but not often enough) stuff does. They say that we need to write about what we know and what we are most comfortable with in order to be authentic and genuinely entertaining. Obviously an author would not, in her right mind, take on the task of writing a book about some wild-ass thing or another that she knows nothing about, because faking it always shows. So unless an author has endless piles of money to pay a fleet of research assistants…

I am my own research assistant. Therefore this book is a novel about a contemporary woman artist.

It is now finished.

Soon I will be able to refer you to the book’s website, as a tasty hors d’oeuvre, and then the actual book – we are in “cover design” mode right now. Soon it will be listed with Amazon.com, so no matter where in the world you happen to be you will be able to get your hands on it. It will also be available on Kindle. I’ll let you know when all that happens.

MANY thanks to all of you for following this blog and feeding my artistic and literary soul – I have sharpened my skills within this blog using all of you as my audience and yes, my guinea pigs, but always with great respect for you and  the enhancement of the “some-day” book; this blog and my two previous books have taught me to work smarter not harder, to pull up the best words faster when I need them, to say things sharper and more clearly with fewer words, and to be consistently using my skills. I am going to have a huge celebration when this book is released – you all will hear it from wherever you are, one way or another, through this blog, Amazon, the new book website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I hope you can all come….I really would like you to come.

Stay tuned for the first excerpt!

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Fine Art America – http://joann-brown-scott.fineartamerica.com

The After Party Before the Next Party

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Well it’s all over now until it is New Years Eve…the aftermath of a lovely Christmas is to me a sigh of relief that all went well, a clean kitchen (finally) and a few days of delightfully normal food to stabilize, everyone safely home from their holiday travels and a ticket in my hand for Hawaii in February. Here in Denver it is currently 7 degrees with light snow falling, and we are losing ground – soon we will have no degrees left unless they are minus. Tomorrow night we are told to expect 15-20 below zero. I have enclosed a cell phone shot looking out of my upstairs studio window. Please excuse the quality but in this case it almost enhances the image….a sugar plum, sparkling blue and white 4 pm scene, when the snow is dry and powdery as stardust. You would almost think that everything is right with the world on a peaceful day like this.

As I sit in my studio, especially in this type of weather, writing my book and taking intermissions from it to paint, I feel fortunate to have both of those pursuits to choose from. It is a luxury to have the time, the warm and cozy space, the inspiration, dinner on the stove and a lot of friends and family who care enough to check in with me once in a while. I feel wealthy in these conditions with those blessings.

My New Year’s wish for all of you is much the same. As the Christmases pile up into nearly a full lifetime, the urgency of time settles in, and I hope you are as inspired as I am to make every moment count. Even if all you are doing is sitting quietly looking out the window at nothing in particular, if you are thankful and cognizant of your blessings, it counts as quality time in my book. In 2015 I plan to use my days wisely, spending them on worthy pursuits, great friends and family, and thankfulness.

Happy New Year!

Jo

On Writing…

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This is not the Year Long Canvas but it is by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, copyright 2012

Well ok, yes I have been doing some writing elsewhere, being unfaithful to my blog, seeking gratification with a more exciting venue and actually honest enough to admit that I love it and it completes me. I still love you blog, but this other exotic creature has got me by the scruff of my neck and it is choking the life out of me for more. More writing. Because it knows I am addicted.

I am writing a book, my third book, but the first two were just for practice, it seems to me now. This one is a novel and it is so much more fun that it surpasses doing either book and this blog, too, sorry to say. I am a woman possessed and I can’t stay away from the computer, which calls to me, coos to me, hoots and yells at me all hours of the day and night to write more. Ideas come to me in dozens, I have to carry a pocket tablet everywhere lest I lose some valuable tidbit. Because I do lose stuff – really great stuff – it just falls out of my mind sometimes in the time it tales to pour myself a glass of ice water, sometimes walking ten feet into the next room, or out to the car. I have the attention span of a gnat but it is because the ideas I have are coming at me like balls out of a batting machine and I can’t keep up. I guess it’s good problem to have, but it’s exhausting and I am all bruised up.

I have written so many computer pages in the last 3 months that it is pretty ridiculous. No one sits down and writes for 12 hours without batting an eye, 5 days a week. I don’t think it’s normal. I think I might have a problem.

You know how I love to paint – but I have forgotten what painting is, almost, except today I did some work on the year long canvas just because I felt so sorry for it. And it looks really good – I’ll send the latest and greatest changes soon. They only took me 20 minutes and now I can’t wait to write again.

I self-published my first 2 books with Amazon’s self-publishing division called CreateSpace and it was a very pleasant experience – I got listed automatically on Amazon, bought some marketing materials, used some other services from their menu of choices and it got done quite efficiently. I would recommend it to anyone.

This time I would like to approach agents or publishers and give that a chance, so I am hoping that if any of you have a connection, maybe you would let me know, because I do believe in 6 degrees of separation and the magic of networking. I was going to keep this a big secret but then I wondered what the point of that was. What would that accomplish? Certainly not a publishing deal. So please help me out if you can. I would provide a brief summary to anyone who might want to help me providing I can trust that whole thing.

Sorry I had to break this news to you that hard way – on the internet – rather than a personal note to everyone or even better, in person. But I have trouble tracking you down, all over the globe. Doesn’t mean I don’t love you, though. I still really, really love you, and I am going to break it off with the novel once I get her published. She seems a little fickle to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Yourself Vulnerable

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Against the Sun copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott 2014

“All day I think about it then at night I say it. Where did I come from and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there.

This poetry. I never know what I am going to say. I don’t plan it. When I’m outside the saying of it, I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.”  – Rumi

Art is very similar to writing, and one of my favorite quotes about writing which I cannot remember verbatim, says something to the effect that, “Writing is easy – all you do is open a vein and let it pour out.”

The same could be said of painting. You just have to be more than willing to let it all come out, opening yourself to that uncomfortable feeling of being vulnerable. Really really vulnerable. Hit me with your best shot, you think to yourself, and I will somehow absorb that blow and learn from it and move forward. It’ll sting like hell but that hurt is what keeps me alive and persevering.

Artists, writers and all creative people are the brave ones. The ones who spill their blood & guts onto canvas or paper and wait for the reviews. Some refuse to hear the reviews; others use them like salt in an open wound and they learn from them, if they choose to take them seriously…..and we all know that often the harshest review comes from the least qualified person to deliver it. If you are an artist who has ever had a show of your own, and you are wandering around listening, anonymously, to people’s conversations about your art before they have actually discovered who you are – well that is fabulous. The raw, the uncensored, the blunt, the stunningly honest observations are breathtakingly valuable. But you have to be strong.

I believe that artists and writers who cannot make themselves vulnerable are seldom going to break the barrier to attracting a following that lasts through the years of a career. Sustaining a selling career for an entire lifetime is not impossible, but for most of us, if you fall away from your own authenticity and lose your soul somewhere along the way, I think your sales will suffer and then your next step is near obscurity. Your fifteen minutes of fame are over; throughout the chapters of your life it is difficult to be a consistent success. In the literary world of books, which I do know something about, many authors have a blockbuster hit that might even reach the New York Times bestseller list for weeks only to find that they had only one fine book in them. They (the literary “big guys”) say that almost everyone has one book in them, since we all have a compelling story of some kind – but can we tell it? Can we spin the tale to make it marketable? That is the question. Think back to just one example – “EAT, PRAY LOVE” by Elizabeth Gilbert. She told a hell of a good story about herself and made millions. She spilled all of her guts and had nothing much left. We all know of many other authors who never managed to be inspired enough to succeed with a second or third or fourth attempt.

It all boils down to sincerity. Open up, be vulnerable. Tell your story or paint it – but bleed it all out. Then see what happens.