Why would a canary be flying along in a Colorado canyon?

book

How would you like to read a new novel, a love story in fact, by Jo Ann Brown-Scott about a woman artist?

You know how I like to talk about Karma, you must already know that I question randomness, you know I am passionate about art and I ask my imaginary friend the art Buddha for approval, you have heard me mention at least a time or two that creativity comes and goes but will stay with you forever if you feed her well…..and I am sure you know about love.

So reading this new novel will satisfy your craving for all of that and more. You need to read it. It is warm and funny, serious and profound, pertinent and relevant and it will introduce you to a new best friend – the heroine named Annie.

available on Amazon.com

http://www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

Google – http://www.joannbrownscottauthor.com

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Cambodia’s Angkor Wat…the moat, the mist and the mystery

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Today I am drunk from travel; jet lagged with brain fogginess. My appetite yells HUNGRY at all the wrong times and I am tired when I need to be awake. It required an entire 24 hours of travel to return home to the USA from time spent in Singapore and Siem Reap, Cambodia. I will be like this for a couple days.

My photos prove Angkor Wat was not a dream. I was indeed there, glistening with sweat from the unwavering heat, walking the powdery red dirt path up to the bridge that crosses the ancient moat surrounding Angkor Wat. Then, for several days,  experiencing a silent other-worldly shadow of a former civilization; a place where people lived and loved and laughed; a place where 40,000 elephants walked the same stone paths I walk as they built the city; a place crumbling from the insistent destruction of time and massive trees roots that meander along moving gargantuan blocks of stone as if they were legos. These were a people who appreciated the beauty of intricately carved stone – story-telling daily life in sculpture of meticulous detail – revealing subtle expressions on faces and costumes of fabric, folded and wrapped on dancing women, working elephants and animals, flowers, and gods and goddesses both evil and benevolent of spirit. Constant renovation is a given – it goes on and on  through the donations of other countries who care – as walls continue to collapse and the monsoons roar in hell bent on destruction.

One favorite of mine was a deep, dark stone room whose interior walls are covered in precisely spaced Ping-Pong ball sized holes; hinting that its walls were once embedded with giant gemstones so as to catch the sun’s rays from a tiny slice in the stone and light the darkness with multi-colored reflections.  Then another smaller stone room where we are told by our extraordinary guide, An Rachna of Cambodian Trails, that in spite of what might seem perfect conditions for acoustics, no human voice or music will echo there – but if you thump your chest over your heart seven times the deep heart-sound will indeed “echo” when you stop, seven times, reverberating in various intensities according to the stress level of your soul. And it worked. Angkor Wat is one discovery after another, each raising another group of questions in your mind – what happened here? Why did these intelligent people die? How could the site possibly have gone undiscovered for so long? It is an enigma wrapped in mystery…you almost feel that you know the people after two or three solid days of tracking their lives.

The contemporary people of Siem Reap will welcome you. They have melancholy eyes and joyful smiles. They are kind, helpful and eager to please. They spend time with you in conversations that go deeper than trivial inquiries about how you are today and where you are from – they hang onto your every word with a genuine curiosity about where exactly you are from in the USA and what it looks like there – how do you manage to get all the way up to your mountain home in the Colorado Rockies? What is snow like? They do not want you to leave without keeping the door open for your return. Cambodia is still, quite literally, maimed, mangled and war-torn from the days of the Khymer Rouge; land mines are a large concern, and the unspeakable atrocities toward the Cambodian people are evident everywhere you go. In rural communities fresh well water is becoming less rare thanks to donations from private individuals and countries, but still in short supply. A water well can be purchased for just about $100 and there are many organizations worldwide who will handle a donation for you – one well can supple several families who live near each other. The children are tiny, also in great need of better nutrition, and milk for babies and toddlers is scarce. We were able to spend hours of time driving the countryside, visiting and smiling with families and children, watching them cook lunch for the family along the winding dirt roadside.

This series about our trip to Cambodia in 2015 will continue…..probably for the remainder of my life. I would love to take you along.

Please visit http://www.cambodiantrails.com to learn about guides in Siem Reap.

The Anticipation of Travel

MalaysiaDusk   BangkokMoon

Malaysian Dusk  and  Bangkok Moon, mixed media by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2015

You know how I feel about creativity and stoking the fires to keep it smoldering – always awarding yourself with fresh experiences – feeding the creativity beast gourmet delights so that it will return to your work table and want to spend time with you. Travel is,  to me, one of the finest sources of creative stimulation. Travel is a luxury we can all afford if you define it as a departure from your normal routine that takes you out and away from your home headquarters. Therefore a trip down the block is travel, an excursion to a nearby city is travel, even a hike in the woods or watching a movie is a version of travel. You just need to get out of your own mind for awhile and experience new visual surroundings. I do all of that and more…..it is part of my job description as an artist and writer.

But this time I am headed to more distant horizons. I am traveling to the far regions of southeast Asia – Singapore in fact – for the second time, and my side trip during this trip will be to Siem Reap, Cambodia for three nights to visit Angkor Wat. I am traveling with a dear friend, also an artist, so I am going to experience double happiness. We will stay with my daughter and her husband who live in Singapore ( http://www.compassandcamera.com ) and therefore we will have a resident guide for every move we make, and we will be making some major moves.

I will love seeing Singapore again through my friend’s eyes – the spectacular cutting-edge architecture, the glitz and sparkle of the immaculate, well-mannered Singapore, along with its quaint and colorful shop houses in the older sections of Chinatown, Arab Street and Little India. Then on to the massive ruins of Angkor Wat , one of the ancient wonders of our world, now overgrown with gnarled tree roots and steeped in mystery. This is my favorite vacation contrast – the precious against the poor – the opulent compared to the common. It rounds everything out and gives you a conscientious balance. It jolts your senses and keeps you humble, seeing what has gone long before and what is happening now. You can’t have one without the other.

Creatively speaking, this makes for a rare and wonderful experience. The last time I traveled to Singapore I came home and painted a body of work based upon my  trip, capturing my visual, sensory, auditory and olfactory impressions of how it felt to be there. I was on such sensory overload that I could not sleep. Remembering the sights, smells, noise and food aromas of just the wild and wonderful Chatachak Market in Bangkok, for instance, fed my creativity for days on end.

Travel is the closest we can get, as human beings here in the 21st century, to time travel as it is explained by physicists and scientists  – living backwards or forward in time, almost in a parallel universe to our own and finding it remarkably exotic and foreign to your senses. Yet confined to this one planet. The big blue one. I highly recommend it for your enlightenment, your creativity and your fun.

The Force of Mutha Nature

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Well it’s been a wild Memorial weekend ride around the Denver area, and it’s only Sunday noon as I write this. This week, by some otherworldly twist of fate (twist being the operative word here) I found myself in two of the exact and most threatening locations where funnel clouds were spotted around the city, just days apart. How strange.

I never say that I don’t get out much – I do get out a lot – I am all over the place actually, driving and doing stuff from Boulder, 45 minutes to the north to Evergreen and Conifer in the mountains west of Denver and then twenty minutes south of the city where I live. Every north, south, east and west direction has been under the assault of Mutha Nature. We have had a session of turbulent skies bringing walls of rain so dark that you cannot see what is going on around you when you are driving in them, hail ranging from marble to almost softball size bringing severe damage, wind and flash floods all resulting in many insurance adjustments. I like weather drama but this is over the top. The 2 funnel clouds I found myself directly under – one while having lunch with a friend in the Cherry Creek area ( where the waiter asked us if we would like to go to the basement and we, for some crazy giggly reason, was it the Sangria? – declined) – and the other being an enormous, dense black storm cell wall of water I actually drove through as my cell phone was screaming an alarm to me to “TAKE COVER IMMEDIATLY! – never actually got their funnel acts together enough to do anything more than wave around in the sky in a serpentine  tail, trying to touch ground. I saw them on the news. If I had known what was over me I might not have been able to keep a grip on myself.

I have never driven through such a storm as I did in the second experience – I could not pull over, I could not stop, because cars would have hit me in that process since none of us could see the lines in the road or what was ahead. There were no possible shelters. I had no idea, when my excruciatingly loud cell phone alarm sounded whether I was driving further into the center of the storm action or if I was lucky enough to be driving out of it – the car radio told me next to nothing, thanks a lot. Luckily I was soon going to be driving west, up the canyon to Conifer,  so I knew that when that exit came, things would improve….but barely. Tornados just do not happen in steep canyons and mountain areas….I have been told. However the rain had created an actual river coming down the canyon highway, so deep I was afraid my engine would stall out since the car was making waves as I drove.

When I finally arrived in Conifer and we turned on TV the weather map showed the area I had driven through was the very middle of a gigantic storm cell containing funnel clouds, slowly moving north and east away as I turned west into the canyon. I had been directly under that phenomenon for about 8 miles. I was shaking. My friend, who had been a car or two ahead of me but out of sight,  poured me a vodka shot.  He seemed fine – I was not. It took us a while to laugh.

The outdoor decks, flagstone terrace and steps, ground and rocks on my friend’s property in Conifer were covered with what the hail damage had caused a couple days before – it looked like chopped broccoli but was actually shredded healthy green pine needles and branches and pine cones – the trees had been mauled. They looked pathetic. It was overwhelming to see such destruction – and that was just the yard. The house and other buildings will all need new roofs. A skylight is broken and leaking. The Ping-Pong sized hail pounded the place for a full half hour.

OK so does all of this adrenalin-fueled fear go away, after you realize you are still alive? No. I can still feel all of that experience sitting here as I type. Sun is out, sort of, but I am right back in it in my mind.

So what am I going to do with myself? Well of course I ‘m going to paint.

We shall see what that brings…..the YLC is talking to me again.

 

 

The Creative Epiphany – Distance

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Distance has  been a challenge for me most of my life. Physical, geographical distance; the distance between me and the people in my life that I care most about. I am part of the problem, because I have moved a lot since leaving Ohio to pursue my love of art at the University of Colorado and then due to my husband’s work – Air Force living led us on a meandering path from South Carolina to Montana to Colorado, with stops at various states in between for weeks of pre-Viet Nam jungle survival training in Mississippi, and much later, missile  training  at Vandenberg AFB in California. Followed, after Air Force life ended, by the solitary life of the traveling salesman’s wife.

But those days are long gone and the distancing continues. I might sound like a whiner now, maybe for just a little bit, but my intention is to present the facts as they are. When the children became adults, thanks to the ease of 21st century travel, their endless curiosity and their ability to successfully combine career and exploration, they both became moving targets. That’s the good news and the distance news.

I have had no choice but to get used to it. Nepal, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Canada, London, Singapore, Yemen, Guatemala, Kurdistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Panama, The Philippines, Bali, Bhutan, Antarctica, New Zealand, Poland, Turkey, Greece, Africa, Madagascar, and the list goes on. I’m sure I have forgotten some. Oh yes I am very proud! They say the best gift you can give your children is wings, and I was able to do that. This has really been something to watch unfold and I do at times live vicariously through their adventures. It has always positively influenced my art – the stories! the photos! the people they meet! the exotic gifts brought home for me! What a joy it has been to observe! But there are always a couple days here and there when I think, ok that’s enough now. Come home. Stay. Don’t move. Get over it.

But where IS home? Ah that is the catch. They have made homes everywhere to the point where home is not anywhere and yet it is everywhere. And of course I am moving my headquarters – yes me – “house and home” is moving again – a happy move from California back to Denver in mid-July. The saying goes, “Bloom where you are planted.” And I always do. The pieces of the re-location puzzle, looking backward, always make perfect sense in retrospect. An experience in one place affords you a stepping stone to your next move and the ways in which you will continue to be productive there. This time, based upon my three years of teaching adult art classes here in California (on top of literally a lifetime of painting) plus some particular life-long passions and affinities,  and having friends who share them, I see a magnificent possibility on my horizon based out of my new Denver headquarters. As I look back on things I realize that my art has always presented the path that has taken me where I wanted to go. It is my soul’s home place and my anchor. At this point my next adventure is  too far off to be specific about – but too close not to begin moving toward it. This will be my best move yet, and when the dust settles, you will be the first ( well maybe the second) to know what happens! I do believe that everything in my life has brought me to this….this position of strength.

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The painting is by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, titled Strength from her Soul Flags series.

 

The Creative Epiphany – Places I Remember, Simpler Times

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The Beatles’ song lyrics that always grab me go like this:

There are places I remember, all my life, though some have changed

Some forever, not for better, some have gone and some remain.

All these places had their moments, with lovers and friends, I can still recall

Some are dead and some are living, in my life I’ve loved them all.

As I sort and pack and sort some more (during this difficult week of bad news) in preparation for the move back to Colorado, I am finding boxes of photos and mementoes long forgotten of a simpler time. Look, here is Thunder, my mean little pony, appropriately named, jet black in  temperament as well as his horsehair. That pony threw me over his head every chance he got. I grew to hate the sight of him, but eventually we arrived at some level of tolerance for eachother. Still, I always believed he was a killer at heart.

I remember the tallest pine tree just off our flagstone terrace, a tree that overlooked the backyard hill of our big country house on Munger Road. In the summer the tree dripped with sap, and I climbed it barefoot. My feet were sticky until school started in the fall when I had to wear shoes again. Nearly every evening I would climb to the very top, a considerable height for a skinny young girl. My parents sat just below having cocktails as the sun went down. From my perch at the top of my world I could hear their conversations to perfection, no one aware I was there. I learned a lot about life and I owe it all to that tree.

Oh the hayloft in the barn. Early morning sun filtering through the cracks between the wall boards revealing the random dance of dust motes in the air. Watching my kittens run to me from across the hay strewn floor as I brought their daily saucer of milk, weaning them from their mama. That hayloft was a retreat from the world for me. I would spend hours there with the horses, the kittens and the roosters crowing in the chicken coop nearby. It was in that barn that I got my first kiss when a boy from my 6th grade class walked miles to visit me, sweetly and respectfully becoming my first boyfriend.

The attic under the high pitched roof of the main house, where we needed help to open the trap door at the top of the stairway, our entrance to another world. As the rain pounded and roared on the roof just above our heads, hours went by as we played “pretend” wearing props such as wide-brimmed hats with feathers on them and black capes and using old furniture for the walls of our forts.

Of course my playhouse out in the horse pasture, nestled under some trees, far enough from the house to feel isolated and adventurous, close enough to run home if a thunderstorm came….the neighbor’s cows often escaped their pasture, wandering onto our property through the same hole in the fence that never managed to stay secure. When the cows surrounded our playhouse we looked out the windows and pretended they were horses being ridden by Indian warriors, and we, the cowboys, staged an entire afternoon of wild west show-downs wearing the cowboy outfits and six-shooters in holsters that Nana and Grandpa had given us for Christmas. We won when the cows finally wandered away and the ranch house was secured.

Mr. Kress, our beloved caretaker and man of few words, in the winter months would knock twice at the back kitchen door every evening about 5:30, greet us, then come in to tromp down the basement stairs and shovel enough coal in the furnace to last until about 7am the next morning when he would come back and do it again. Many nights he was covered in snow accumulated in the walk from his house down the hill to our back door. In the summer months he spent his evenings mowing grass – acres of grass – sometimes until the sun was down. As soon as the front yard was done it was time to do the backyard again. Mr. Kress is a character lovingly remembered; when I was able I followed him everywhere, watching him and occasionally exchanging a few sentences.

These are just a few of the favorite places of my childhood – the ones that shaped me, enhanced my  imagination, fueled my creativity and made me the independent tomboy I was and still am. The tomboy grew up to be an adventurous young woman who decided to go west to college instead of staying in Ohio as my parents strongly wished. In that one decision, which was hard-fought and finally won through downright pleading as well as presenting relevant facts and information, my life changed forever. I knew instinctively that I needed the wide open spaces of the west. When I landed in Colorado to attend CU in Boulder, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. Next to the mountains and a mile high – with vistas worth painting at every glance.

Still my favorite places from childhood fill my thoughts in the wee hours when I can’t sleep. The common thread is the peace, comfort and freedom these humble but rare places brought to me then, and continue to bring now in their remembering. From all the memories that fall away over the years, the ones we keep are the ones we need the most. And in the words of Jeff Probst of Survivor fame, “The adventure you are ready for is the one you get.” And I am ready to go back to Colorado for the next chapter. It feels like home to me.