Guest Blog Post: My Dog is a Zen Master by Pamela Wight

When my dear doggie grins, I do too!
When my dear doggie grins, she reminds me to smile along!

Is there a useful lesson that an animal has imparted to you? My pets have shared so much wisdom with me, like this and this and this!

Fellow novelist/blogger Pamela Wight has published two romantic suspense books, “The Right Wrong Man,” and “Twin Desires,” as well as an illustrated children’s book, “Birds of Paradise.” She also teaches creative writing. Here she describes how her dog lovingly teaches by example…

roughwighting

I arrive home at lunchtime with a 30-minute break from work.  I am hassled and frazzled and tired.  I dump some leftovers in a saucepan while washing the breakfast dishes, starting a load of laundry, and cleaning up the newspapers scattered on the dining room table.

That’s when I see the patch of sunlight, and the yogi.

He can’t cross his legs as human meditators do, but instead sits like a Sphinx, front legs straight ahead, beautiful gold and white furry chest held straight and proud.  His neck rises a bit as he faces me and holds my green eyes into his chocolate brown ones. The expression is wise and all-knowing, and I can hear his thoughts immediately:

Why don’t you calm down, for heaven’s sake? 

The sun is basking his body in heat and light, and his mouth opens to pant.  But actually he is trying to say something to me…

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Guest Blog Post: The Happiest Animal in the World by katrinature

My favorite blogs are written by honest individuals who broaden how I look at life. In photos as well as words, blogger Katrina of katrinature shares her experiences of travel, nature, and wildlife. Have you ever heard of a quokka?…

Katrina and her new friend smile.
Katrina and her new friend smile.

“The Happiest Animal in the World” by Katrina of katrinature

It is well-known that animals can bring people happiness. Whether this is being greeted by your pet when you come home, an exciting day trip to the zoo, relaxing in a cat cafe or even participating in goat yoga! For me, I’m happiest when I encounter animals in the wild. The thrill of spotting a hornbill flying overhead, searching for sleeping koalas in gum trees or swimming with whale sharks: this is what motivates me to travel! So imagine my excitement when my travels led me to meet the happiest animal in the world…the quokka!

Katrina’s travel buddy, Rachel, enjoys a selfie with a quokka.
Katrina’s travel buddy, Rachel, enjoys a selfie with a quokka.

Quokkas have often been referred to as the happiest animals on earth because they literally look like they are smiling. They are also very inquisitive so getting close to these happy little creatures is easy if you know where to go. Quokkas can be found in scattered populations along the very south corner of Western Australia and on several of the islands. By far the most popular place to see them is Rottnest Island, off the coast of Perth.

A quokka's smile is infectious.
A quokka’s smile is infectious.

Rottnest Island was named by Dutch explorers, meaning “rat’s nest” since they believed the quokkas were some sort of giant rat. They are in fact marsupials, which means if you visit you may be lucky like I was and see a mother with a joey! They are also far cuter than rats.

Quokkas look happy all over.
Quokkas look happy all over.
I 100% recommend visiting Rottnest Island if you are in WA. Ferries run daily from Fremantle and it is well worth your money as these cute, smiley marsupials are hopping around all over the island. You literally can’t miss them!
DO NOT feed them as despite being friendly they have been known to bite, and they also prefer foraging for berries and grazing anyway.
DO take a selfie!
What’s the happiest anyone or anything you know?

Guest Blog Post: Who are you calling stupid? by Jean-Paul

I admit it. I’m a terrible friend to you. I’m sharing the following sample of London-based blogger Jean-Paul so that you’ll be snared like I am. Experience the same one-two-punch love-hate I have with his site. #1) I love that he’s so talented!!! (though I am jealous!), and #2) I hate that every time I visit, I can’t resist spending way more time there than I plan for — even his friends who comment are clever!! Read on, my forewarned friend…

Photo by blogger Jean-Paul of “myhusband&i: two guys making out & trying to make it”

“Who are you calling stupid?” by Jean-Paul

When it comes to math, I’ll admit I’m a complete dummy. At school, I understood a lot, but arithmetic? It was all mental to me. My husband, on the other hand, has a brain like a push button calculator.

“You’re not stupid,” said Guido after dinner last night, “you just need some math practice with imagination. I have an idea,” he said, “sit back right this second and imagine yourself in a farmyard.”

As you can see, we really do need to get out more.

This was worrying. I had a sneaking feeling I was going to be asked to talk algebra to a chicken. I’ve only ever visited a farm once in my entire life, and I seem to recall a pungent odour. It was strong enough to make me squeeze my nostrils all day long.

“Okay,” I said involuntarily pinching my nose, “what’s next?”

There was a pause.

“What are you doing?” Guido asked, eyebrow raised.

“I just think it’s important that I embrace this part of the exercise before we move on to any complex multiplications or differential equations. Though I’ll admit, I’m becoming anxious about whether I should go put on rubber boots?”

Take it from me, this was a totally bona fide concern. If you’ve ever walked around a farmyard, then you’ll know there are some big brown stinky things you really don’t want to stand in. Did I mention the flies?

“Don’t worry about that. This is the cleanest farm ever.”

This was reassuring, but I held onto my nostrils just in case of an unexpected whiff of ammonia. I couldn’t see any flies though.  Which was even more re-assuring on account of my limited one arm swatting abilities.

“Now imagine there are 13 animal heads and 40 legs in front of you,” said Guido.

One moment I’m in a loft apartment eating a perfectly adequate mid-week lasagna and the next I’ve suddenly been put out to pasture herding a bunch of unidentifiable livestock. As you can tell, I like to take my visualisation pretty seriously. Which is more than I can say about the math. I mean, where was the straw?

“Now tell me,” said Guido, “how many sheep and how many ducks can you count?”

I closed my eyes. I could actually see the sheep just standing there staring at me. They seemed pretty friendly with only the occasional baa. The ducks, on the other hand, were all over the place quack quack quacking and waving their wings about. Anyone would think they’d just been told the hunting season had started.

There was another short pause.

“Well?” asked Guido.

“Hang on,” I said, “I’ve counted the sheep, but the ducks are proving problematic. Have you got any stale bread I could feed them?”

It was, I think, at that point, Guido began to understand the challenges my teachers had all those years ago.

“Hmm, I think we’ll leave this lesson for now,” said Guido wisely pouring me a glass of wine.

Back from the country, safely at our kitchen table, I let go of my nose. In the end, I couldn’t teach Guido that much about the sheep but what I did tell him was if something walks like a duck and talks like a duck then it’s usually a duck. And there’s nothing stupid about that.

Guest Blog Post: Master of Light, Joaquín Sorolla by Katheryne Gatehouse

Thanks to Facebook, I met Katheryne Gatehouse, who is passionate about fine art and nature. She first guest blog posted on HBT about bees. Here she tells us about a favorite painter…

Platinum print of impressionist artist Joaquín Sorolla by pioneering American photographer Gertrude Käsebier
Platinum print of impressionist artist Joaquín Sorolla by pioneering American photographer Gertrude Käsebier.

Guest Blog Post: Master of Light, Joaquín Sorolla by Katheryne Gatehouse…

When you think of the greatest Impressionist painters, you might think that because the movement was founded in Paris, all the best were French, right? If that’s the case, you’ll have missed one of the forgotten giants, Spain’s Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863–1923). It was Claude Monet who named him, “The Master of Light.” Growing up in the harsh bright sunlight of Valencia, he mastered the play of light on buildings, on gardens, on flesh, and on the sea. No other artist depicts shadows and dappled sunlight better!

Sewing the Sail, by Sorolla.

I first came across Sorolla as part of a large exhibition on impressionist gardens. Many of the paintings were charming or beautiful, yet entering the gallery from a cool misty grey London day outdoors, and then standing in front of a luminous Sorolla painting, I felt as if I was on holiday. Some weeks later, I visited Giverny, where I was delighted to find an exhibition of his works. It was love at first sight. I have been besotted with him ever since!

Fisherwomen On the Beach, 1903, by Sorolla.

As a young man, he studied in Paris and won a 4-year term to study painting in Rome.  He returned to Valencia in 1888 to marry Clotilde Garcia del Castillo, whom he met in 1879 while working in her father’s studio. She is the subject of many of his portraits, including one in the style of Diego Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus lying naked on silk sheets and is as sensual as his painting of Clotilde lying next to their newborn daughter is tender. All of the Clotilde portraits clearly show his undying love and admiration for her.  Later still, he painted her in a traditional black Spanish dress, looking every inch the supermodel with an impossibly tiny waist, though a photograph of this sitting shows that it was indeed a true likeness.  The couple went on to have 3 children Joaquin, Mary, & Elena who feature in many of his works, including  “My family” also in the style of  Velasquez’s Las Meninas.  Despite his talent and recognition above all he was a devoted husband and family man.

Photo of Sorolla painting “Clotilde in a Black Dress”, 1905.

Although he was based in Madrid, each year he returned to Valencia. There he painted glorious beach scenes of children playing in the water and running along the shoreline, as well as proud working class people that included fishermen and women.

Running Along the Beach by Sorolla.

An exceptional portraitist, his repertoire includes Spain’s King Alphonso XIII, artist/designer Louis Comfort Tiffany, and U.S. 27th President William Howard Taft. Social themes were important to Sorolla. “Another Marguerite” (1892), which depicts a woman who was arrested for murdering her young child, was awarded the gold medal at the National Exhibition in Madrid. “Sad Inheritance” (1899) portrays children with polio bathing in the sea while supervised by a monk. The title refers to how the youngsters were innocent victims of hereditary syphilis.

Sad Inheritance by Sorolla.

Despite great acclaim elsewhere in Europe, a 1908 London exhibition was not a great success. However, it led to important introductions. A wealthy American friend of the arts, Archer Milton Huntington, made Sorolla a member of the Hispanic Society of America. In addition, he invited Sorolla to exhibit, with great success (195 of 365 paintings being sold) and subsequently commissioned Sorolla for a series of monumental paintings to be installed in their building in Manhattan. The murals total 227’ wide by about 14′ high. “Visions of Spain” depicts regions of the Iberian peninsula. All but one was painted en plein air with life-sized figures, some in traditional regional dress.

Child Eating Watermelon by Sorolla.

In 1920, Sorolla was painting a portrait of Mrs. Ramon Perez de Ayala when he suffered a major stroke that left him paralyzed. He died three years later and is buried in the Cementeri de Valencia. The last house he and Clotilde shared in Madrid is now the Museo Sorolla. It is a must-see for all fans of impressionist art. If you are visiting London, there is currently an excellent collection of sixty Sorolla paintings at The National Gallery until 7th July 2019.

My Wife and Daughters in the Garden, 1910, by Sorolla.

What do you think of impressionism?

Old/New, Out/In: North Carolina Museum of Art by da-AL

North Carolina is far more than pine trees and the ‘pottery capital of the world.’ Noteworthy art fills the North Carolina Museum of Art’s two buildings — as well as its outdoors.

Khashayar with Awilda and Irma, 2014, by Jaume Plensa.
Intriguing from all angles, Khashayar with Awilda and Irma, 2014, by Jaume Plensa.

Over the single week that my husband and I visited a dear friend in North Carolina, we gravitated back to the fascinating museum. There was so much to see that we went back one, two, three, four days (plus we had fun here) and now…

Madonna and Child Sheltering Supplicants under her Cloak, 1470, by Peter Koellin.
Madonna and Child Sheltering Supplicants under her Cloak, 1470, by Peter Koellin.

 

Tippy Toes, 2007, by Alison Saar.
Tippy Toes, 2007, by Alison Saar.

 

Portrait of Madame X Dressed for the Matinée, 1877-1878, by Mary Stevenson Cassatt.
Portrait of Madame X Dressed for the Matinée, 1877-1878, by Mary Stevenson Cassatt.

 

Portrait of a Lady, circa 1610, British School.
Portrait of a Lady, circa 1610, British School.

 

The Kiss, modeled 1881-1882, cast at a later date, by Auguste Rodin.
The Kiss, modeled 1881-1882, cast at a later date, by Auguste Rodin.

When is the last time you took the time to admire a great work of art?…

 

Cutting Edge Art in North Carolina by da-AL

Here I am, looking into a porthole (one of several) into Infinity Room by Yayoi Kusama, at North Carolina Museum of Art.
Here I am, looking into one of several portholes of the Infinity Room by Yayoi Kusama, at North Carolina Museum of Art.

On the outside, the North Carolina Museum of Art doesn’t seem that huge. What makes it extraordinary is that everything in it is remarkable. So much so that I visited once and then twice and then thrice and four times (plus we had a great time here) I went somewhere else before returning, because — wait! — there was more to see, more calling me back…

Bride, 2010, by Beth Lipman.
Bride, 2010, by Beth Lipman. Here’s her site.

 

Spiral Woman 1984, by Louise Bourgeois. Here's her site.
Spiral Woman 1984, by Louise Bourgeois.

 

The North Carolina Museum of Art has an Infinity Room by Yayoi Kusama! Here’s a view into a porthole…

 

The Bad Promise, 2008, by Trenton Doyle Hancock.
The Bad Promise, 2008, by Trenton Doyle Hancock.

 

Wondrous Birds, 1892, by Hans Thoma.
Wondrous Birds, 1892, by Hans Thoma.

Do you enjoy modern art?…

Chinese Lantern Festival Videos, North Carolina by da-AL

da-AL in front of lighted Chinese astrology banner
Pigs are great!

What’s a Chinese Lantern Festival? It took visiting a good friend in North Carolina for me to discover. Theories vary about its origins, but always it’s tied to the Chinese New Year. This one was an eye-popping expanse of light sculptures beautiful enough to make all ages brave the cold outdoors …

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… And there were even performances! …

Here’s about Georgia O’Keeffe in North Carolina. Also, here’s about the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Women-Powered Art, and its Outspoken and Ancient Art and its Cutting Edge Art.

Have you attended a light festival?…

Outspoken and Ancient Art in North Carolina by da-AL

Brash and outspoken, traditional and gorgeous, if you love great art, North Carolina is happiness. This and this post, as well as this one and this one, introduced how much I love the North Carolina Museum of Art. (This one tells of NC’s amazing Chinese Lantern Festival.)That was in only one of their two buildings…

A second one houses a collection that dates as far back as Egyptian mummies…

Ancient art at North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh
Ancient Egyptian art at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh

 

Ancient art at North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh
Woman in the middle ancient Roman art at North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh

… and as recent as works by the artists commissioned to paint official portraits of former U.S. President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama…

Judith and Holofernes, 2012, by Kehinde Wiley
Judith and Holofernes, 2012, by Kehinde Wiley. Here’s his website.

 

Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance), 2013, by Amy Sherald
Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance), 2013, by Amy Sherald. Here’s her site.

 

Semi-Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery, 2005 by Karen LaMonte
Semi-Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery, 2005 by Karen LaMonte. Here’s her site.

 

A 2012 version of sculptor/dancer/performance artist Nick Cave's Soundsuits -- they disguise and protect wearers from bigotry, violence, hate...
A 2012 version of sculptor/dancer/performance artist Nick Cave’s Soundsuits — they disguise and protect wearers from bigotry, violence, hate… Here’s his site.

What’s your favorite art museum?…

Georgia O’Keeffe in North Carolina by da-AL

What a great time my husband and I had visiting our dear friend David Hunt in North Carolina. He’s posted on Happiness Between Tails here and here. We hadn’t seen him in way too long — all the more reason that my recent discovery of the touching PBS series, “We’ll Meet Again,” gets me blubbering.

What did we expect of North Carolina? Who knows, but it wasn’t an abundance of terrific art museums!

Horse’s Skull with Pink Rose, 1931 by Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Horse’s Skull with Pink Rose, 1931 by Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)

Let’s start with the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh. We loved it so much that we visited it three times! No, was it four? If it wasn’t, it should’ve been! ( ! ! These ! ! aren’t ! ! understatements ! ! )

Lucky for us (and how lovely it was to be among crowds of NC fine art lovers!) we caught a tribute to U.S. art goddess Georgia O’Keefe, a.k.a. Mother of American Modernism before it ended.

Georgia O'keeffe sketchbook
Georgia O’Keeffe sketchbook

 

White Birch -- Lake George, 1925-26, by Georgia O'Keeffe
White Birch — Lake George, 1925-26, by Georgia O’Keeffe

 

Feather and Brown Leaf, 1935, by Georgia O'Keeffe
Feather and Brown Leaf, 1935, by Georgia O’Keeffe

Alongside her art, there were O’Keeffe-inspired works by contemporary artists. Here’s a sampling.

And here’s another wing and more of the museum. And here’s a post on NC’s Chinese Lantern Festival. Plus, more great NC Museum of Art’s collection here.

Where’s your favorite place to see great art?

Guest Blog Post: “Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t” by Caz

My inner cynic can loom monstrous enough to be laughable. When it skulks, it can be harder to address. Caz, who lives in England, understands that emotions are part of being human. Without being syrupy, without promoting denial, she offers practical help. Her Invisibly Me site deals with living with invisible chronic pain, including living with an ileostomy (not to be confused with a colostomy). Here’s a sample of her best advice…

Graphic: Focus On What You Can Do. Not What You Can't.

Photo of blogger Caz of InvisiblyMe.com
Caz made her first website when she was 13!

I wrote this with chronic illness in mind, but it also applies to other spheres of life, from living arrangements to your financial situation. 

Focussing on what you can’t do. It can become a vicious cycle, leaving us exhausted and disheartened before we even begin. It can happen for various reasons. Looking at how things used to be in the past, such as before chronic illness took hold. It may be from social pressures concerning what we ‘should’ be doing at this point in our lives. It may be from comparing your life to how you thought it would look, or comparing your situation to that of your peers.

For whatever reason, it’s good to work on acknowledging and accepting the situation and what you can’t necessarily change right now. Then, redefine what’s important to you, not what you feel you ‘should’ value or want. Write your own rules. Find new paths to explore and get creative to find ways to get there. Maybe you can’t do certain things, but there will always be options and alternatives. There are always small changes you can make and actions to take to improve your situation or live your best life. You may just have to look a little harder to find them.

It’s also about readjusting expectations and making them more realistic and manageable. Take note of the things you can be grateful for that often get lost in the midst of pain and illness, or stress and worry. It’s about looking at the things you’re good at and the positives you can eek out of your situation and experiences. You’ve become stronger and more resilient. Perhaps you’ve met new people in person or online, such as through blogging or support groups. Maybe you’re more compassionate, empathic, have found a new skill or have become more appreciative of the small joys in life.

When we focus on the negatives, the limitations or the things we can’t change, we give up our power. By honing in on those things you can’t do or have, or the ways in which you feel constrained, it limits your perspective and experiences even more so.

By focusing on the can’t-dos, you’re reducing yourself & your life. You are more than just the things you can’t do. 

Empower yourself by looking at what you can do, no matter how small. Look at the things you can change, the tasks you can accomplish, the things you can choose to do. 

Instead of ‘I can’t do…’, change it to ‘but I can do…’.

You’re doing the best you can, with the cards you’ve been dealt and the situation you find yourself in. A little jiggle of perspective can make a big difference. Don’t close yourself off from possibilities. Instead, think outside the box and take back some control over your life. You may just find that you’re capable of more than you imagined.

– Caz

Visit Caz at her blog and her facebook page and her Instagram.

Blogger Caz of InvisiblyMe.comInvisiblyMe.com logo graphic

How do you deal with invisible pain?…