My Brother Ross Rossiter

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With life as short as a half-taken breath, don’t plant anything but Love. – Rumi

At this very moment in time I am at home with an  unimaginably agonizing afternoon ahead of me. My dear brother Ross, my baby brother who is now in his fifties, is in ICU on life support after an epic and heroic two year battle with a monster Sarcoma that took over his abdomen and gradually attempted to kill him. He is a fighter, a strong and determined adversary for cancer, and yet after many months of suffering and a successful surgery that filled us with hope he is now on life support. Deadly side effects have been the final determination of his ultimate failing. The decision is to end that support for him this evening.

How do you spend an afternoon like this?

My other brother and sister and I did not grow up with Ross in our lives…he was born to my father’s second wife and we knew Ross only as an adorable baby boy who fleetingly came and went for a window of time in our lives. Then when Ross’s mother and my father were divorced we lost track of Ross and nobody ever acknowledged that we three had lost the fourth – it was overlooked and sadly neglected, during a ridiculously stupid set of circumstances when no one realized he was still our brother. I always felt the loss – all three of us did. No one made any attempts to hold us all together; almost as if they really did not want to.

I don’t remember the year it happened, exactly, but it was probably mid-1995 or so. I was at work sitting at my marketing job desk with internet access and it was a slow day on the computer. I decided to find him if I could. It took just three phone calls and I had his number. So easy. He was emotionally stunned when I called and told him who I was – he said he had always missed us and wanted to have us in his life but had no idea how to find us. He had been about two years old when I had last seen him. WOW! What followed was a reunion of epic proportions that involved Ross flying to Denver to see me and my brother and then another set of circumstances that took Ross and I on a road trip to Scottsdale so that he could meet his long lost other sister. (Ross had a third sister from his mom’s first marriage.) When all this happened it had been a lifetime since I had last seen baby Ross. He was all grown up with three children and a lovely wife, living on the east coast of Florida in the Ft. Lauderdale area.

After that life-changing phone call Ross sent my sister Vicki and I each a dozen roses that said – “For all the birthdays I have missed. Love you, mean it. Ross”

I admire Ross on all fronts. He is a wonderful, adoring husband and father and the most loyal of friends. He is a fine man, one of the best to walk this earth. Of his many noble attributes and his exemplary character traits I choose here and now to celebrate his…..crazy sense of humor…..Ha!

Ross is one of the funniest people I ever met in my life. The Rossiter clan – well – we are story tellers and we have always had enough stories to last a lifetime because we all seem to attract experiences that are outrageous and scary but hysterical in retrospect. It’s that sad/funny thing. You know – the stories where something goes terribly wrong and you are in tears and then the ending turns out to be that sort of spurting, silent-laughing-cannot-make-a-sound-laughing-so-hard-sooo-funny it hurts laughing.  We all have this character trait. Every single one of us. Our dad, the common tree from which all we nuts have fallen, was a funny accident waiting to happen, all the damn time. He flew off of galloping horses and broke bones right before my eyes as I rode alongside him on my pony, he fell out of trees hitting limbs on the way down fracturing his back as he landed in a rocky dry creek bed, he was bounced out of careening horse-drawn buggies, he tripped over logs and rocks with the perfect body-roll or face plant of a circus clown and eventually he fell right out of my mother’s life. Looking back and recalling some of his more hellacious accidents for which I was present, which now flow through my memory in slow motion involving danger and blood, well, they still seem like slapstick comedy. Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello type stuff. Dad could tell all of his stories to perfection, recounting one after another after another on the back terrace over a BBQ fire around dusk and into the wee hours.

Ross however took this humor in a slightly different direction, although he was definitely the showman that his father was. Ross loved a good costume party. He liked pulling jokes on people. All of that combined nicely with being a trained chef and wine connoisseur. That man could COOK. He can cook lamb chops to perfection, like an angel. He works for Strauss Foods (grass fed lamb, mostly) and he often did food demos at big food shows around the midwest and the south. He would keep a running commentary going as he seared the meat and artfully presented it for tasting, entertaining the crowds with funny quips and stories. A true Rock Star Chef, a good-looking, charismatic show biz performer whose kitchen help sets everything up for him and he breezes in at the last minute and commands his stage, wows and fascinates the crowd for an hour or so and then leaves. He was a different kind of performer – he was Mr Fabulous Foodie/Stand Up Comedian with a wicked sense of humor that was seldom censored who would serve you delicious food.

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself. That is how I hold your voice. – Rumi

I loved it whenever he called me, because I knew that I was going to hear some brilliant and memorable stuff about something or another that was happening to him, and then he would always want to hear what crazy stuff was happening to me. Ask me what is happening to me and you will get a narration complete with sound effects and details and song as if I am the color commentator at a sporting event of some kind. We talked well together. I felt that he truly “got me” and I certainly got him. I spent some of my most hilarious “moments in time” on Planet Earth with my brother Ross. We had a long and winding 24 hour caper together one time when I just flat ran away from a guy I had been seeing for several years, leaving Denver in the darkness of early morning, to move to Arizona where our sister Vicki and her husband Tom lived, awaiting my arrival with a soft place for me to land. Since Ross had just flown into Denver for Part One of our long awaited reunion with my other brother Fred and me, Ross offered to drive the truck for me, full of all my furniture and most cherished possessions, while I led the way in my red Acura to Arizona. Sounded like a great plan to me, a very generous offer, plus Ross wanted to meet his sister Vicki again and use it as an opportunity to see the scenery of the southwest.

Our couple nights in Denver before we left was spent with Fred and his wife Susan mostly in the kitchen watching Ross cook as we all told, and compared, stories of our illustrious family. Ross had arrived lugging a large cooler of all varieties of exotic meats packed in dry ice. As I recall we tasted alligator, lamb, beef, pork and it was all beautifully prepared by our personal chef. We bonded in the stories of our lives and our laughter and our tears. Nothing was sacred – we covered it all. We were all well aware that it was inexcusable to have been apart all the years since Ross was so young. We had been given little information about each other that might have led us to any kind of reunion.

We left under cover of darkness the next morning with a 14+ hour trip ahead of us. Directly south to Albuquerque, hang a right and take it straight into Scottsdale. If you see anything weird, swerve to avoid it. I had made the drive dozens of times. So we set out with me in the lead, but we switched off sometimes so that my new baby brother could be ahead. OH! I forget to mention one detail. Ross had only one good eye – his other eye had been shot out by a kid with a pop gun when he was two years old or less. The other three of us were informed when that accident happened and we could not believe it and were extremely upset by it. Ross grew up with a beautiful convincing glass eye and no one would ever have know if he had chosen not to tell them.

We had no cell phones of course so we had to resort to hand signals out the window or flashing headlights to communicate with each other. That was how we rolled as we leap-frogged our way south and west. By the time we were in New Mexico my snack jar of M&M’s (what was I thinking?) were melted in to a colorful gooey blob of fondue chocolate. Ross was sunburned and and unshaven, hair stiff and spiked straight up from the strong dusty wind coming in the truck window. Ross was a riot – screaming and pointing for me to notice certain bluffs and rock formations – wanting to stop at every roadside stand that displayed coyotes baying at the moon, rubber snakes and lizards for the kids, silver jewelry for Pam and strings of bright red chili peppers. I would see him in my rearview mirror gesturing wildly at me and mouthing “pull over!” “pull over!” “pull over!” as we barreled along at 85 miles per hour. Sometimes I could and sometimes I could not…and if I could not he would go rogue on me and pull over anyway, swerving impulsively off road in this big tilting truck, at the  last possible minute into some Indian souvenir stand so I had to make a fast u-turn and head back to him. We laughed so hard at each other. When we stopped at some greasy dump for lunch we talked frankly and long, and I told him my life history with men in a not-so-brief salty and sarcastic nutshell. He told me that he thought the guy – the reason for my escape from Denver – was crazy to let me get away and did not deserve me. I agreed. And I was so gone. A little sad, but funny.

I asked him at one stop how his one good eye was doing, cause both of mine were tired and crusted with red dirt dust, with still a long stretch to go.

“Need a siesta?” I asked.

“Hell no. I’m great! I love this shit! I may only have one eye honey but it’s a muthah fuckah of an eye! It never gets tired! I do better than most two-eyed people do!” And so we continued racing along like bats out of hell.

We arrived in Scottsdale well after dark, not even resembling our former selves. We were red-faced, wind-whipped and sweaty, beat from the incessant heat, stiff and sore but Vicki and Tom revived us and my daughter Kelly was there too. Of course we partied most of the night away as Ross became acquainted with his sister again. That 14-16 hour roadtrip was a great crash course in knowing Ross.

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Fast forward to one particular day about a year and a half ago when Ross was in the hospital on one of his 3-day mega doses of chemo, passing time there as it dripped into his system. He called me. We would talk about many things, cabbages and kings, as the walrus said. There was nothing we would shy away from discussing if the mood took us. His illness gave him a burning need, an urgency to discuss life, death, religion, sex, our kids, art, food, jokes, our mom and dad, spirituality and of course the event of dying.

He told me that he would be so fucking bored, with the drip drip dripping and he was supposed to get some exercise every day so he would walk down the hallway, dragging his medical paraphernalia along with him, to the sunny waiting room that looked down on a highway. He would then proceed to press his entire body, nose to ankles, arms widespread and legs apart, a tangle of tubes hanging off of him, against the huge window looking down on the speeding traffic and mouth the words, “HELP ME!” He did it frequently, daily I do believe, and no one ever acknowledged him by honking or altering their direction in even one small waiver from their lane. He thought that was sad. He also thought it was extremely funny. Sad/funny….

And so now we are here. There is nothing to do with a day like this, waiting for the end. It is the most profoundly sad experience I have ever had.

Jo Ann Brown-Scott, Artist and Author

In my second book titled THE CREATIVE EPIPHANY, published in 2008, Ross and I wrote Chapter 14 together titled “Harleys and Old Lace” which touched upon the experience of all of us finding each other again.

http://www.thecreativeepiphany.com, www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. – Rumi

 

 

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What Bear Problem?

  

First photo courtesy of artltdmag.com –  Second photo courtesy of democraticunderground.com

Denver does not have a bear problem – oh well we have the occasional lost cub hiding in a suburban tree or perhaps a “repeat offender garbage raider” who loves going through the yummy garbage placed for pick-up on rural roads, but other than that, we are good. Oh, except for that one time at the weekend retreat in Conifer, just 20 minutes up the canyon from Littleton suburbs west of Denver, when a medium-sized rascal stood on his hind feet and placed his muddy front feet on the kitchen door so that he could look through the window in the door to see if he had found the correct room where the fridge is located, (because the smarter bears have figured out which room in the house has that tall box full of delectable gourmet delights)…that was before he tried to break in through a living room window by slapping those same muddy paws repeatedly on the glass…. But he wasn’t being nasty. Just hungry. Everyone in the foothills and larger mountains west of Denver has bear stories, and usually they know their bears…and have perhaps named them…because mama bears come back every year and bring their cubs. Generations of cubs.

Tahoe people have the best bear stories; those bears are quite sophisticated about the layout of mountain homes and whether or not anyone lives in certain ones  year-round or just in certain months. They know that a car in the driveway might mean the seasonal arrival of the family who brings the groceries. After all, there is no use breaking into a home unless the fridge has been well stocked. They also know which yards have apple or plum trees and they teach their cubs the map of that vital information.

And now you also have a bear story – this whimsical 40′ sculpture by Lawrence Argent was installed at 14th and California in downtown Denver in 2005. The Big Blue Bear, as everyone in Denver affectionately calls him, is pressing his nose to the glass in order to peer into the third floor interior of the Denver Convention Center, and the title of the popular sculpture is “I See What You Mean.” For more photos and information go to Google or Bing and ask for images…of the Big Blue Bear. He has quite a fan club.

 

   Photo courtesy of forum.xcitefun.net

Summer 2016

The photos above are my own – the first one is the vista taken from Mt. Lindo (the mountain with the enormous lighted cross) looking east toward the distant Denver skyline, with highway #285 winding its way west toward Conifer – a weekend journey for me, up that canyon to the place in the pines that I love best. (referenced in my new novel, A CANARY FLIES THE CANYON – AMAZON & KINDLE).

The second view is Evergreen lake, the third is the meadow across from Meyers Ranch in Conifer near where we hike, and the last is our little doe making herself at home in the sheltered spot surrounded by rocks just outside the studio window.

Summer 2016, from the ridiculously funny to the sublime and everything in between, is about half over and has already been logged as one of my personal best. I find my peace in the mountains. And yes, my blogs have been few this summer, but that does not mean I am uncommunicative. I am incubating new ideas. I am on fire to write another book (I have no control over this urge to write – it is an animal that needs constant feeding) but so far I am just making notes. I am also painting, which is quite similar to writing…requiring color, pattern and texture in the composition…focal point, sub-plots and sub-areas,  interesting detail and dialogue. The process for each creative endeavor uses much the same principles, and of course you must also open yourself up and bleed it all out. You have to be unselfconscious in your desire to share.

We are attending summer concerts, art festivals and galleries, having friends visit us, painting both in the studio and plein air, checking out the Little Bear Saloon to make sure it still rocks (it does), the Lavender Festival and exploring back roads on the Harley. We have had a Colorado, stay-at-home kind of summer, but we have big plans for Fall. Every breath I take I am reminded that these are my Halcyon years, now in the final chapter of my life. I cannot ask for more than this, nor would I want to. My extended world is not perfect – people I love dearly are battling cancer, friends have painful family issues to deal with and the world here and abroad seems to have lost its fucking mind. Chaos and unpredictability rule the day. But somehow I have found a degree of peace, relieved of most of the stress…and removed…to a place both mental and geographic…that I love. I recommend that you do the same. Cheer Up! Do what you can with what you have got, and make yourself some happy.

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Have You Found Your Place?

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Not to get all philosophical or anything heavy like that, but I would like to ask you one simple question.

Have you found your place? A place that fits you as securely and tightly and perfectly as that small round stone in the larger lava rock pictured above.

Not necessarily your place in life….you might call it your place in the universe; a place where you can go to feel whole. The place that feeds your soul, yes, with healthy soul food. The place that feeds your imagination, your sense of wonder, your artistic visions, your comfort, your need for adventure, your peaceful spiritual wanderings and your core beliefs about wanting what the good life here on Planet Earth has to offer.

If you have discovered the place or places that can do this for you then you are indeed fortunate to be blessed with a sanctuary. A priceless place of renewal and safety where you can go for spiritual reward. Hopefully you can visit it often – and maybe it is a place in your own backyard….I hope it is close enough so that you can be there as often as you might like. Perhaps you have a selection of places; a handful would be awesome.

Here are mine:

  • The Big Sur coastline of California, ending with a visit to NEPENTHE, perched at the top of the world, where you know. You just know things… For new awakenings.
  • The Big Island of Hawaii, on a selection of beaches along the Kona coast of my Specific Ocean. The vastness of it all. The sanctuary of the waves.
  • The Rocky Mountains, and a particular weekend retreat of renewal and refuge from the hectic life, located in the Conifer-Evergreen woods and canyons, elevation about 8300 ft. for the height and breadth and depth of it all.
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral in London for the enormous sense of time and faith it offers. Dust particles dancing in the sunlight, high up; having been there for centuries.
  • Santa Croce in Rome, housing the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and other remarkable men, for respect of those who knew so much about life.
  • Angkor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia for its sense of wonder and mystery. How could it have been undiscovered for so long? What was life there like?
  • The Buddha Tooth Temple in Singapore because it is one of the most fascinating peaceful places I have ever been.

I love to talk to people who have found their places. They are usually people anchored in knowing. They see things differently; more deeply. They are not necessarily religious, but they are wise in the ways of the universe. They know their way around and they know how to find serenity when they need it.

I hope you are one of those who knows.

New Novel – http://www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

Google Chrome – http://joannbrownscottauthor.com

Art – http://joann-brown-scott.fineartamerica.com

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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

The Wonders of the World

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Photos taken are from the Denver area and Conifer, Colorado

Here we are in late December about to celebrate Christmas and fortunate to be living in the United States of America at a particularly daunting time in history. The world around us churns with random chaos and mayhem, and yet, for the most part, we are able to enjoy our holidays in comfort and joy. This year, as always, my family is all over the world map visiting exotic places where both work and play summon them. Their passports are getting full; one had to be replaced with a new one this year. We are a close family that keeps in almost daily touch with each other, but we are seldom together as a group during the holidays. Christmas is a difficult occasion for me, the older I get, but I am so very thankful that we all live lives rich in unique experiences that includes acquaintances and friends from all over the globe.

Many of our favorite blogs involve travel, and travel in these precarious times is both a luxury and a risk, whether or not you are going out of the country. My family and I  have learned volumes from our travels. My two grown children in particular have been shining examples – respectful and constantly fascinated travelers/ambassadors for the United States of America wherever they go, and they go to some especially unusual places – Yemen, Madagascar, the Arctic Circle, Myanmar and Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Gabon, Irag, Kurdistan, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Viet nam and the list goes on. You would have to know them and hear their stories to realize that they make friends of every person they encounter, and my family does indeed know that for sure, having heard their tales ranging from the hair-raising to the miraculous for many years now. They have gone to places where Americans might not be welcomed, maintaining their dignity and  compassion, knowing that government does not always represent people. They have made lasting friends in all walks of life and with people quite eager to meet Americans and ask questions of them despite the official tone of the location.

My son happened to be in Poland on business when 9/11 occurred, and received the warmest comfort and the most profound sympathy and understanding during his stay there, as his home country was brought to its knees. People are people everywhere.

Christmas always leaves me sentimental and missing my nearest and dearest, but what our family has gained by being away far outweighs my temporary sadness. I am partly responsible for all this distance, instilling in my children a sense of adventure and discovery from the time they could walk. The wonders of their traveling lives are instantly revealed to me via Instagram and text messages until I can see them again, and I find myself wondering how people ever endured such distance without the constant  ability to be in touch. We are so fortunate.

I wish all of you around the world a loving and meaningful holiday season in a safe place with the ones you love the most!

The Fourth of July Weekend and Summer Art

  

first photo courtesy of winridge.srgliving.com – second photo courtesy of artsnfood.BlogSpot.com – third from visitfortmeyers.wordpress.com

Summer in the Denver area is plentiful with outdoor opportunities for art, wine and food appreciation.  Friday we spent all afternoon walking the route of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in the premiere gallery district of the Denver area. I had not attended in many years due to the fact that I was living in California, but now I am back where I belong and happy to have had the opportunity to be leisurely wandering around at the festival checking out the art and craft of fine artisans from all over the country. The competition at this event is always fierce and the art is nationally diverse – ceramics, photography, woodworking, mixed media, watercolor, oils, acrylics, textiles, pastels, jewelry, baskets, metalwork, glass and even more. It took about 3-4 hours to make our way around, not even stopping to inspect each and every booth, and with an hour or so lunch break. It was hot, of course, as you would expect on July 4th, but everyone was well prepared. Even I did not get all hot pink and crisp as I might have – I was wearing a wide brimmed hat and layers of SPF15.

My companion and I are both artists – experienced life-long artists, who have had deep experiences with many galleries and selling situations. We have empathy for what is required of an artist to pay for a booth, fill it with art that has been carefully packed and transported from far away places, SMILE, answer questions and talk to people all day long while roasting in the heat and also attempt to make sales so that you can do better than just breaking even. Many of the people we spoke to said that sales were slow, but of course it was only the first day. Some booth owners were sitting in chairs out behind their booths rather than standing up inside where they could meet & greet the visitors….not such a great idea, expecting customers to come and search for you behind your booth….

Several things struck us as we made the rounds. Generally speaking, the art was highly commercial – much more polished and expensive than you would find at the art fairs in the mountain communities such as Evergreen. The people who do these major festivals make a  profession of it because they have to in order to sell. They make more money in summer events and seasonal bazaars than if they tried to sell in galleries, and so the product has become rather slick and in some cases a bit trite. But that is what happens down through the years – the game keeps getting more competitive and the art has to become geared to the mass-market tastes of the people who attend the shows.

Another thing we noticed, in a big way, was the relative absence of any quality abstract art. There were feeble attempts at abstraction, but the few examples we found were soul-less and poorly done. How does this happen in such a prestigious venue and why? Of course the jury committee decides who makes the cut – and if the powers that be have no appreciation of abstract art, and/or that kind of art has no audience and just does not sell…..well than we have a sort of sad situation. If you don’t even show abstracted images how will you build an educated following? People have to see it to learn and understand it. I would rather see a bit more abstract art in the show and less furniture inlayed with thousands of bottle caps. I would rather see an abstracted landscape here and there in the show than 55 ways to paint a red barn. But that’s just me. Well hell YES it is just me! I have a right to expect a bit more intellectual stimulation from a summer art fair that has such a fine reputation and gathers such huge numbers of attendees.

Nevertheless we had a great time – the food trucks were like an art show all their own – and deciding what to eat was a 25 minute long walking and smelling crash course in gourmet food truck cuisine. So much to choose from and so many wonderful aromas – I settled on Greek. Of course the “people watching” is often better than the art – it IS THE BEST FORM OF ART, actually. I kept thinking I was seeing people I knew – from years ago when I lived here – in disguise – as older people than I remember them to be. Me included in that same type of disguise.

From there we went to a traditional dinner menu of  BBQ chicken, potato salad, etc. from my own kitchen followed by fireworks and ooo’s and aahhh’s. Then the familiar tingling feeling we get when we remember why we are celebrating and what we have to lose if we do not stay aware and alert. The older I get, disguise or not, I can barely hold back the tears that come when we celebrate the Fourth of July and I realize once again how amazed and blessed I am to have been born in a country where I am free. If I had but one wish, it would be that everyone everywhere, no matter what the circumstances and location of their births, could experience a life of free choices. It is precisely what makes a life worth living.