Royal Beauty + Birgit’s True Elfins + Pod 23: Gruen’s Ageless Passion

María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba
María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba

Passion at Any Age by Lee Gale Gruen Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Writing #Aging #Acting Do you worry that you're too old to accomplish something you 're passionate about? Lee Gale Gruen started acting, publishing books, and blogging after she retired from a career as a probation officer. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 “Passion at Any Age,” by Lee Gale Gruen My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Lee Gale Gruen's website. Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. Lee Gale’s prior guest blog post at Happiness Between Tails. Lee Gale’s books are available at Amazon. Martha Graham, modern dance pioneer, bio at Wikipedia Epictetus, ancient Greek philosopher, bio at Wikipedia Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of Lee Gale Gruen. Covers of Lee Gale Gruen’s two books: “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement Years: Find Joy, Excitement, and Purpose After You Retire,” and “Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class” — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of  “Passion at Any Age: Writer/Actress Lee Gale Gruen” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

You know how it goes when you’re doing research, maybe for something you’re writing? Google one thing, and end up in a totally different place. In my case, since my novel-in-progress is called “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” it started with looking up the Spanish iconic painter, Francisco de Goya. Coming across his 1700’s portrait of a prior Duchess of Alba sent me clicking.

Goya’s image, called “The Black Duchess,” portrays a young woman in mostly frilly black portrays a young woman in a mostly frilly black outfit that’s punctuated with a red sash, as well as a gold blouse, shoes, and accessories…

"The Black Duchess" by Francisco de Goya.
“The Black Duchess” by Francisco de Goya

More clicking led to a modern-day Duchess of Alba. María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, the eighteenth Duchess of Alba, remains the most titled of aristocrats. Much was made of her socialite “joie de vivre” (here’s a video of her dancing flamenco at her last wedding) and how she married three times. Husbands two and three were “commoners” — gasp! — and the last one was twenty-five years her junior. When her kids fussed about her love interests, she told them that as divorcees, they ought to mind their own business….

Black and white photo, probably from the 1960s or so, of the Duchess dancing with a guitarist.
Ever a flamenco aficionada: María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba.

It’s no business of mine what others think of their looks, and if they care, I encourage people to do whatever allows them to love themselves more. The reason I’ve brought this present-time duchess to your attention is because I’d love for you to fill me in on anything you might know about her. Her in-your-face boldness is something I’d give anything to pull off. More to her credit, she didn’t seem to take herself too seriously and she had a great sense of humor. At that flamenco wedding, she handed out whimsical party favors that were little sculptures of her face, broad-lips, deep-set eyes, and whirl-wind hairstyle.

Seeing photographs from late in her life, though, compels me to wonder why men don’t change their appearances as frequently and dramatically as women do? Sure, one need look no further than our orange-haired embarrassment of a former U.S. president, but men still lag far behind women when it comes to the extensive remodeling that induces a double-take.

Maybe it has to do with how girls and women are culturally and commercially targeted nonstop about how they appear. There’s a cruel power play that never ends, no matter how old we get. It’s as insignificant as when a yoga classmate gives me lip for favoring a little make-up and heels, and as weighty as when an influential woman is marked as a crackpot because she doesn’t look Wall Street enough.

Today’s guest shows us how ugliness and cuteness can blend together, certainly when it comes to elfins!

Birgit hales from Germany and blogs from Denmark. At her Stella, oh, Stella site, there’s always something uplifting, educational, beautiful, and fun, including videos of her and her gentleman making music…

Before I turn you over to Birgit, here’s my first try at a new bread recipe that I mixed and baked in under two hours, thanks to Jenny Jones! Khashayar confirmed (since my long-term post-Covid probs limit my senses of taste and smell) that…

Love can mean pain… but this time it’s the French definition!

Photo of loaf of bread I baked.
Dinner was home-baked bread with fresh mild herbs, drizzles of extra virgin olive oil, and fancy cheeses.

A True Elfin Story by Birgit

That’s it, I cannot do anything else for now. I will have to continue in spring.

The beginning is done: the fireplace, the ladder, the tiled path, the area for gatherings … the rest will have to wait. A pile of firewood is also ready …

What I am talking about is, of course, the elfin dwelling place in the birch tree stump. I have marked the places for the entrance door and the windows, but it is getting too cold to accomplish artistic wood carvings.

Photo of blogger Birgit.
Blogger/author Birgit in one of her gardens, where she lived near the German border.

The following winter is comparatively mild, but grey, rainy, stormy, in short: not cosy at all! The spring bulbs are slowly coming our with their first green.

At the beginning of May, my husband enters the kitchen and says enthusiastically that the door, which I have carved into the birch stump looks incredibly real, the windows as well. I rush into the garden right away. It is true! Where I have marked the door last winter, is now an intricate carving looking like Yggdrasil, the world tree from the Nordic cosmology. Further up I can see two windows. They do not look real, no, they are real, with frames and panes and everything. This is not my handiwork! I have not hollowed the tree stump and put in windows and a door. I believe my husband is playing a joke on me. 

I take him to task, but he denies all knowledge of the matter. Very well then, I will let him have his fun!

The same night, around one o’clock in the morning, I take a last stroll in the garden, as I often do. There isn’t any wind for a change. I detect a light at the south end of the house. Has my husband lit the candles? 

On the birch stump I discover a little figure, swathed in bright light. It is dressed in green cloth from top to toe. Furthermore, one can clearly see four wings on its back. Am I going crazy? Is my imagination running wild? No, my husband must be playing a practical joke. Somehow he is projecting pictures. I go back into the house to tell him that he cannot fool me. I discover that he is already in bed and asleep. What am I to think?

I look out of the southern window. The little figure is still standing out there and is looking directly into my eyes. I go outside again and head towards the birch stump. The elfin, and such a one it is, is not moving an inch. 

This first night we only look at each other in silence. I do not remember, how long, but very long. During the following nights we start talking. The elfin understands me and speaks our language. Incredible! What did I expect?

Four elfins have moved into the tree stump, two couples. From my preparations they could see that they would be welcome here. They have embellished everything a lot. The door was too low, the gathering place too small, but then I did not know how tall an elfin was, did I?

It is wonderful to have the small creatures living in the garden. I could watch them for hours. But one day a devil is possessing me. I want to prove to other people that the elfins exist, that they are not purely spawn of my imagination. 

So I take my husband’s camera and secretly take some photos. Only one of them is really sharp. But … what is that? Those are not the creatures that I photographed! The figures on the photo look like brown Goldsmiths; still dressed in green, but looking more like insects and with ugly, wrinkly faces. One says that a camera does not lie. I don’t know what to believe. 

The next evening I confront the elfins with the photo that I have printed out. They are startled, and then sad, letting their shoulders sag. Slowly their appearance changes, until they resemble the creatures on the photo. But then they begin to whisper among each other, and I notice that their sadness turns into rage. They all look at me with very angry eyes. Can the small ones seriously harm me? I ask myself. 

“You know what?” I say. “I will burn the photo. Nobody will ever know anything about this.” I take a match and burn the photo on the spot. The faces are looking friendlier already. They come to me and tell me that the elfin faces I have seen so far are only projections, because they have only experienced rejection with their real appearance. People had thought that they were big insects and had tried to kill them. As they are magical creatures, they had thought up the deception with the projection. They had given themselves the cutest possible appearance, so that they would be generally accepted. “Although it does not really matter so much anymore. Hardly anybody can see us nowadays, not even the children”, I am told. I am glad that peace is restored and the elfins don’t bear a grudge. All four of them have already changed into their cute version again. I wish them good night and go back into the house.

Before I go to bed, I want to delete the electronic original of the photo. My finger hovers a long moment above the delete key. This photo is my only proof of what elfins really look like. But does it really matter? What do those, who do not believe in elfins, care whether they are cute or not? I press the key; the photo is deleted. I will take the secret with me into my grave.

Photo of Birgit's elfish abode under a tree in her garden, replete with small rocks to mark a path, and doll-sized pots, pans, and chairs.
You never know what you’ll find in Birgit’s garden — or at her blog!

Epilog…

Twenty years have gone by now. The elfins are very comfortable in our garden. The furry animals stay away from them. Their only irritation is the clumsy pheasant that upsets everything and often tears the pile of firewood apart. I wonder what he expects to find there?

They do not care so much anymore about their projected image. I don’t care. I have grown fond of them; they are my friends, no matter what they look like. My husband also started seeing them after a while. Sometimes they make themselves invisible and pull his beard to tease him. From one second to the other the “cute little creatures” become an “irritating gang of mosquitos”. When we are alone, to provoke me, he sometimes calls them my “tame goldsmiths”. But it is all in good humour; everybody respects each other.

When the elfins have children, they urge them quite soon to find their own dwelling, so that the birch stump is not over-populated. They are six now; one more couple has moved in. 

From under the roots of the birch stump they have dug a secret tunnel. Not even I was told where it surfaces. I do understand them!

How do you define beauty?

Vids: Let’s Dance + Do Better: S.D.Jones + Pod18: N.Socha Plays Blind

Photo of Shira Destinie Jones: Author, Educator,. Activist.
Shira Destinie Jones: Author/Educator/Activist

Making Music Blind During Covid by Noé Socha Happiness Between Tails

#COVID-19 #Musicians #Creativity #Disabilities Did Covid impact your creativity? Noé Socha, a musician, discusses how being blind makes navigating lockdowns especially difficult. Record your questions, thoughts, and/or experiences on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 “My Experience as a Blind Musician During Covid,” by Noehh Socha My question for you and outro HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Noé Socha's website. Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About Ernest Hemingway at Wikipedia. One of Noé’s many music videos at his YouTube Blind Selfie channel. In this one, Kenya appears as a backup dancer. Video for CBS New York News interview of Noé. Info on where Noé grew up in Carpi, Italy, and a video of the how the lovely place coped with an earthquake. Spotify, where he’s released albums and garnered top awards from the Berklee College of Music and Billboard Magazine. Breedlove, an Oregon guitar manufacturer that added him to their stellar lineup of signature artists. The oldest harmonica manufacturer, Seydel, a German company founded in 1847, invited him to collaborate; here Noé demonstrates one of their harmonica holders on his Facebook page. Video where Mastercard recognizes he’s “Something Priceless.” Access-A-Ride made it possible for him to not need to take public transportation. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of Noé playing music. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of “Making Music Blind During Covid by Noé Socha: with videos” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

This week I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel of writing my first novel (more about it H-E-R-E)! Yay!!!!

To celebrate, let’s get moving! Can you do this?

Sit in a chair, both your feet on the ground. Then lift your right foot a couple of inches off the floor and use it to make a clockwise circular motion. Meantime, with your right hand, write the numeral six.

Gotcha! It’s an unsolved mystery why that’s so hard to do.

Now for our dance party! As you might remember from my posts H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E, I grew up with flamenco (and classical music). For my father, the louder, the better. After all, that way those neighbors yelling and pounding our walls could enjoy it too, no?

José Planas Moreno, a priest in Málaga, Spain, tears up the church floor with his parishioners. The videographer’s site shows how the province celebrates everything with dance, be it blackberry roots, or plain ole’ regional dance. (A quickie swerve off-topic: what’s your opinion and experience regarding hyperlinks, meaning the sorts in this paragraph vs. the prior paragraph?) …

Carmen Amaya is known as the Queen of Flamenco for good reason! Head to toes, she’s music and dance incarnate…

With her extended family of Romany dancers and musicians, Carmen toured the world. Hollywood (including the Hollywood Bowl) fell in love with her. Here she casts her Fandango spell… 

Whew! Dunno about you, but I’m out of breath! It’s time to sit back and meet our guest blogger…

Ever wish you could make the world better a better place for anyone and everyone? Educator/community organizer Shira Destinie Jones blogs, at least for now, from San Diego and is doing just that. As part of her plan, she’s founded, Do Better, to stop child abuse and help those who care for kids.

Volunteers Needed: Shira needs feedback on the book she’s writing about how Do Better works, as well as the project itself. Find out more at h-e-r-e.

On her way to also becoming a historical fiction novelist, she’s already published an academic text, “Stayed on Freedom’s Call: Cooperation Between Jewish And African-American Communities In Washington, DC.”

Read on for a sample of her writing. When the following incident occurred, which she titles “Standing in the Gap,” she was completing PhD studies…

“Standing in The Gap” by Shira Destinie Jones

There it was again. I knew that sound.

“Oy, they’re having a fight down there!”

That was what Mona thought. I knew better. That was an old sound, from a lifetime ago. One I thought I’d finally escaped. I should have known better.

I looked out the window, counting five men holding smart phones up toward the screams. Then my feet moved of their own accord. It was only from hearing a muffled shout as the door slammed behind me that I knew I’d left the flat. The rain had just ended, and the pavement was still wet. My feet pulled me to the source of that sound. Not the shouting, not the screaming, but the one I remembered so deeply that it still hid under the table with my inner child. The sound of a head hitting a wall.

There it was again, but this time, I could see them. Both of them. The woman’s head sounded like a watermelon when she slammed against the wall, sliding down those slimy bricks to finish crumpled on the filthy paving stones. Her eyes were open wide, looking stunned and frightened, as a giant advanced on her from the ten or fifteen feet from where he’d launched her. My stomach churned as the pain of that impact coursed through my own body, as if I had been the one tossed like a sack of rice into that wall.

Looking at the giant, I wanted to flee, abandon this woman to her fate. But my feet had a will of their own, carrying me right into the one spot where I didn’t want to be: about 5 steps between each of them.

I realized that I’d carried an old umbrella with me out the door. At least those Kung Fu lessons had had one result: they kept me from rushing in where angels feared to tread entirely unarmed. Then again, my next thought was that this flimsy brolly was more like a liability against that big drunk guy. I took a second of comfort in hoping that as a foreign PhD student, at least the NHS would cover my hospital stay if I didn’t manage to duck fast enough.

“Move!”

I flinched as the sound wave from the giant’s lips struck me. It felt just like the impact of furniture breaking against the wall that night. When the giant stepped closer to me, my feet moved me back the same step, but my body refused to budge. That brolly, I now realized, was balanced in my left hand behind me, just like a short staff. My stomach had turned into a solid ball, no longer churning. As I saw him look at me, the giant’s eyes suddenly grew wider. If he hits me, it is going to hurt. But then why did he seem to be afraid of me?

“Move!”

“No.”

Who said that? Oh, wait, that was my voice. So why did the giant look confused?

“Thank you.”

I risked a glance backward. That sobbing voice had come from behind me, as the woman I was foolishly blocking wept, her tears mingling with the rain on the wall as she’d stared up at me.

Focusing on the giant as I’d learned to do in so many sparring classes, I drew a deep breath, preparing. But the giant stood frozen himself, staring at me with some odd drunken mixture of contempt and fear. Both were clearly written in his face, as well as the frustration of being denied another chance to strike the woman on the ground behind me. What was he waiting for?

“You prick.”

He was treating me like a man? He really must be drunk. Then I realized that I’d dropped into an automatic fighting stance. He wasn’t that drunk, then.

“Ok, but you should be ashamed of yourself.”

As those words tore themselves from my throat, I began to tremble so violently that I thought I’d begin crying like the woman at my back. The giant looked so confused that I could practically see the gears turning in his drink-addled mind. Then, a tall woman stepped between us, her back to me, placing a hand flat upon the center of the giant’s chest. I found myself letting out the breath I’d not known I was holding, and heard movement behind me.

I turned to see the two young bar girls helping the woman, finally, up off of the pavement, and taking her inside the pub. As I looked back at the giant, he had backed away, the tall woman’s arm guiding him to the curb.

I stood straight, now in tears myself from the relief, and from the shock. I was still four years old, still hiding under the table, while furniture still shattered, as my mother screamed in the other room. But this time, I had not stayed hidden under the table.

This time, I had come out to help.

Lost in these thoughts, I turned down the bar girl’s offer of a drink. As Mona came over, saying something I couldn’t hear, I wondered where she had been during all of this. Recalling her nights of coming home drunk, I realized that she had been standing there, 20 feet away, the entire time. Now I could see her in my mind’s eye, standing off to the side, just watching. As the five men and two bar girls had stood by and just watched.

All standing idly by while… And all but the young bar girls were bigger than me.

What’s a problem you think people need to know more about?

Vid: My Bull-Friend + Austin + Pod17: G. Constans’ Novels Into Movies 

Photo of da-AL and her new bull-friend on LBJ's ranch.
My new bull-friend and me horsing around.

From Novel to Big Screen: how Gabriel Constans turns books into movies! Happiness Between Tails

#Novels #Movies #Authors #Screenwriters Want to know what it’s like to complete a book and then see it made into a Hollywood production-type of film? I’d love to see the novel I’m working on “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” as a film. Here’s Gabriel Constans, who made his book into a film. Got questions, thoughts, and/or experiences to share about writing and publishing? Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Gabriel Constans on making his book into a movie 3:14 My question for you 6:00 HBT outro Links referred to in this episode: About my novel, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat.” Gabriel Constans’ blog. Gabriel’s post at his blog about his movie, The Last Conception. The trailer for it. Website for Buddha’s Wife. Robert D. Reed Publishers. One of Gabriel’s previous screenplays, Stellina Blue, that was made into a film. Photos available at the blog version of this show: Cover of “Buddha’s Wife” by Gabriel Constans. Photo of Gabriel Constans. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R_E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of “From Novel to Big Screen: how Gabriel Constans turns novels into movies!” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

Hurrah!!!! Spain now recognizes pets as legal family! My hope is that the U.S. will be next…

Every budding novelist (see about my books H-E-R-E) needs a bull-friend for fun between writing days. Mine lives among the herd at LBJ Ranch. Lyndon Baines Johnson served as the United States’ 36th President from 1963 to 1969 (Wiki’s info on him h-e-r-e).

LBJ’s ranch is in Johnson City, Texas, which includes his “Texas White House.” The 300-year old “Cabinet Oak” shades the front, and the view is of the Perdernales (which means “flint” in Spanish) River.

da-AL stands in front of LBJ's Texas White House.
LBJ’s Texas White House.

 

da-AL stands before Perdernales River, which runs near LBJ's Texas White House.
The Perdernales River runs near LBJ’s Texas White House.

Last I visited the United Kingdom (I’ve written a number of posts on that, including H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E), a taxi driver who immigrated from Brazil waxed dreamily of wanting to visit Texas, “To see cowboys.” Definitely he was immune to America’s Anglophilia. (Just today I came across vlogger Michael’s English lessons where he offers t-h-i-s one about real life in England.)

I envied the taxi driver his romantic, cartoon-eye-ed view of the U.S. that blinded him to our political horrors like what’s happening abortion rights-wise in Texas and elsewhere (posts on that H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E).

Austin is truly stunning. Though this visit was about family, we did plenty of sight-seeing. Downtown, there’s a great statue of Barbara Jordan, an African-American woman of many political firsts in Texas and nationally. (Wiki tells about her h-e-r-e.) An Austin Airport terminal is even named for her!

Khashayar and da-AL stand before statue of Barbara Jordan in Austin, Texas.
Khashayar and I were cheered to see Barbara Jordan’s proud statue in downtown Austin.

 

Photo of sign for Barbara Jordan terminal at Austin Airport.
Jordan even has her own terminal at Austin Airport!

On our way home from a sunset hike up Enchanted Rock, we passed through Fredericksburg, where a stand of trees twinkled.

The views at sunset are gorgeous at Enchanted Rock.
The views at sunset are gorgeous at Enchanted Rock.

 

A festive stand of trees at Fredericksburg, Texas.
A festive stand of trees at Fredericksburg, Texas.

 

Trees filled with tiny lights in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Trees kissed by stars in Fredericksburg, Texas.

 

Khashayar and da-AL in front of trees filled with lights.
Khashayar and I happened on these by chance.

It had been way too long since I’ve seen my dear extended family, all the longer due to the Covid pandemic (read about how Khashayar and I got it just before the vaccines came out H-E-R-E).

Thank goodness our dear K-D doggie provided the loving buffer to the crash landing returning home can feel like. (By the way, our Austin friends offer t-h-e-s-e instructions on their audiology site regarding keeping our furry friends’ ears healthy.)

Close up of K-D-doggy's sweet face.
Hopefully our little K-D-doggy was as happy to see us as we were to see her.

Do you think pets should be regarded as legal family, like they now are in Spain?

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?

Hope for Novelists and Other Writers by da-AL

Do you have an elevator speech? Book writers are told that they need an ‘elevator speech’ — a one-minute pitch for when they inadvertently meet their star-maker. It’s also useful for talking about one’s book with everyone else.

Theoretically, that is. My elevator speech rarely gets past the first floor.

Bunny rabbit outfitted person reads paper.
Ryan McGuire of Gratisography is a smart bunny.

But I love my books, which is why I keep at them. My two novels are in the final edit phase as I build an audience of followers (that means you, dear reader) who I hope will be interested in them when they’re self-published. They’re narrated by a 40-year-old woman, in the form of letters to a deceased grandmother.

“An epistolary novel: written in the form of a series of letters.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The Hope Part of this Post: This video reminds me of me pitching my book — and Maria Keogh Semple’s “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” did great!

Here’s part 2 of her pitching (this time to another very successful author), which is also shown comically yet realistically…

Semple’s book is so successful that Cate Blanchette is starring in a movie version of it!

What’s been people’s reaction when you tell them about your books?

Flamenco Fusion by da-AL

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” is the title of the first of my soon-to-be self-published novels. The ‘Sitting Cat’ part of the title refers to the geographical shape of Iran…

Map of Iran out lined in shape of a Sitting Cat.
Map of Iran outlined in the shape of a Sitting Cat.

I grew up with only classical music — and flamenco music and dance. My father, who left Barcelona in his mid-20s, wanted it that way. Since I left home at 18, it’s a gift to watch any type of dance I like and to listen to every kind of music that comes my way.

Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.
Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.

I still love classical — and flamenco! Especially fascinating to me is when flamenco is fused with the dance of Iran, where my husband was raised. Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam is an Iranian dancer now residing in France. Flamenco is as much about individuality as it is about technique — it accommodates all cultures, all forms of beauty.

If only politics were as intent on creating a climate of ‘we’ rather than an ‘us vs. them’!

The way Ghalam (click here for his Facebook page) fuses dance styles is respectful and hypnotic…

For more flamenco, check out Part 3: Marvelous Madrid — Flamenco

What fusion art do you enjoy?

Part 4: Do Marvelous Madrid, Spain, Cats Pray? VIDEO by da-AL

It's magical how Wifi stands and waves his paws!... It’s magical how WiFi stands and waves his paws!

The marvels of Spain, too numerous to count (after all, my soon-to-be self-published novel is called “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”) — were rendered all the more marvelous thanks to our kind hostess Henrietta Fielden (henriettafielden@gmail.com).

Her flat in Madrid is located within a theater building that’s over a hundred years old. Everything there is gorgeous, starting with the stairwell…

Madrid, Spain, stairwell skylight. Going up is lovely…
Madrid, Spain, stairwell. And so is going down…

…and ending with dear Henrietta herself! Starting each day at her table was a delight not merely because her breakfast spreads were feasts both eyes and tummy — she’s also fun and interesting to chat with, no matter how our sleepy bodies protested at waking early for more sighseeing …

Breakfast with hostess Henrietta Fielden and da-AL's husband.

…moreover, her little Wifi kitty could easily be a professional stand-er! According to Henrietta, he’s merited quite a few Japanese YouTube viewers since she hosted guests from there.

My husband and I are fortunate to have met WiFi’s equally handsome and charming brother. Alas, WiFi’s performance made me forget to photograph his brother who has since passed away, his life far too short.

When I uploaded this short video of WiFi to my YouTube channel, Henrietta contributed this enlightening note, “There’s my WiFi! To potential fans, I should let you know he lacks discrimination. He will do this to a bare wall sometimes, too. So perhaps it is a kind of praying…”

Both of them humored my taking many pictures of them to share with you…

Henrietta and Wifi cuddling.

In the end, it’s the kindness of the people I meet on a trip that most touch my heart.

Our trip included:

Barcelona, Spain

Huesca, Spain

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France

Espelette, France

French Basque Country: Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz, France

San Sebastián, Spain

Bilbao, Spain

León, Spain

Madrid — Part 1Part 2Part 3 — this  post (Part 4)

What magic have you experienced on a vacation?

Part 3: Marvelous Madrid, Spain — Flamenco by da-AL

Flamenco goddess Carmen Amaya. Flamenco goddess Carmen Amaya.

My father was from Spain, so even though I was born and mostly raised in the U.S., the music of my childhood was solely European classical and flamenco. That’s why my upcoming novel is named, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” and here flamenco my marvelous visit to Madrid merits a post of its own.

When it comes to flamenco, Seville gets all of the attention. Madrid’s Casa Patas, however, was amazing!!! My photos turned out awful — instead, here’s someone else’s video from another show. Each night features different performers. As terrific as these young girls are — the adult performers were even better!!!

How I wish young girls everywhere knew that beauty has little to do with popularity, wealth, youth, and plastic surgery. If only every single one of them was encouraged to artistically express unrestrained exuberance, anger, strength, fury, humor, and passion …

The beauty of flamenco is very different from that of Hollywood…

All-time flamenco goddess, Carmen Amaya

Flamenco star of today, Sara Baras…

Next, in Part 4, Madrid hostess par excellence Henrietta Fielden, her home, and her pets — all delightful enough to merit a separate post and a video!

Other posts about our memorable vacation:

Barcelona, Spain

Huesca, Spain

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France

Espelette, France

French Basque Country: Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz

San Sebastián, Spain

Bilbao, Spain

León, Spain

Madrid, Spain — Part 1Part 2 — this post (Part 3) — Part 4

Have you ever been enchanted by a country’s special dance?

Part 2: Marvelous Madrid, Spain — Parks, Prado, and Sofia by da-AL

Madrid is such a jam-packed marvel that it deserves more than one post. Spacious parks abound. Here I posed at one that displayed Don Quixote and his devoted Sancho Panza

da-AL stands beside statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza at park in Madrid Thank goodness these aren’t the kinds of horses that need to be swept up after.

We could have spent way more than just a day at the Prado Museum, regarded as among world’s finest art museums. Outside in front of it, a bronze statue of painter Diego Velázquez made by Aniceto Marinas in 1899 greets visitors…

da-AL with Velázquez Statue at entry to Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain.

Even the gardens surrounding the Prado are amazing — my eyes were too busy taking it all in for my brain to remind me to take photos. No worries, dear readers. This short video offers a sampling of the collection … 

We also visited the National Museum Art Centre Queen Sofia, which is best for housing Picasso’s Guernica painting

Picasso's Guernica Painting.

Such is my love of Spain and Flamenco (after all, my novel-in-progress is titled, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat) that here I include this endearing small pen and ink pen drawing, “Bailaora (Flamenco Dancer)” 1945 by Enrique Herreros that was also there…

“Bailaora (Flamenco Dancer)” 1945 by Enrique Herreros

Flamenco deserves its own post — visit soon to read Part 3: Marvelous Madrid, Spain.

Our trip’s itinerary in posts:

1. Beautiful Barcelona

2. Wonderful Huesca

3. Pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

4. Enchanting Espelette

5. Phenomenal French Basque Country

6. Delicious food and seaside dogs in San Sebastián

7. Breathtaking Bilbao

8. Lovely León

9. Marvelous Madrid — Part 1 — this post (Part 2) — Part 3Part 4

Are you planning a vacation?

Part 1: Marvelous Madrid, Spain — Graffiti and Royal Palace by da-AL

da-AL and her husband on the balcony of the Royal Palace of Madrid. The king of Spain and his family weren’t in when we visited, but we still enjoyed his nice house.

Our three-week Spain/France adventure ended with four nights in Madrid — a city that needs far more time than that to fully appreciate all of its marvelousness — museums, architecture, public art, food (including the world’s oldest restaurant), parks (among them centuries-old gardens), nightlife, and on and on. So much so that this part of our vacation is split into more than one post!

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” my novel-in-progress, is titled for my love of Spain and multi-culturalism. My husband and I arrived tired and late. Driving from León took longer than we planned, and rain made finding our accommodations extra troublesome.

The next morning we slept in, and then took a leisurely stroll that quickly revealed tons of political graffiti, much of it for gender equality, amid the big city hustle-bustle…

After a stop for lunch, we started to feel ourselves again, so we ventured further to where the king and his family stay when they’re in town.

da-AL's husband stands before the palace of the king of Spain.

The Royal Palace of Madrid was built in 1764. From floors to ceilings, it’s packed with non-stop gorgeous art…

Ceiling art at the Royal Palace of Madrid. Does the royal family find their ceiling art a pain in the neck?

Ceiling art at the Royal Palace of Madrid.

Check out Marvelous Madrid, Spain, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

In the meantime, if you’d like to know about the rest of our trip…

It started with a weekend in beautiful Barcelona …

where we rented a car and stopped in wonderful Huesca

Then crossed into France to pretty saint-jean-pied-de-port

and the next day spent an afternoon in enchanting Espelette

For several days in phenomenal French Basque Country, we enjoyed Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz …

Back in Spain, we enjoyed delicious food and seaside dogs in San Sebastián

followed by the breathtaking city of Bilbao

Before we got to Madrid, there was lovely León!

What’s the longest you’ve taken on a vacation?