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For one brief shining day the sun was out, the temps were in the low 40s and everyone came out of their winter caves to inhale the glory yesterday. The laser beam of the sun was so acid bright that it was difficult for my eyes to adjust to the glare. ART + SUN = FUN! Unfortunately it’s raining today, and I’m hunkered down in front of the fireplace (ok so it’s gas).  Retrace our  fun-in-the-sun day with me…

I  manipulated this photo to make the brown remnants of last summer’s plants green!  Truly though, the snow was melting and we did see new green sprouts.

Chicago’s Millennium Park is featuring contemporary sculptures from China. This one by Chen Wenling was entitled “Valiant Struggle No.11.” The pig motif is one of his signature images. He turns this local symbol of wealth (the pig) into an icon of contemporary Chinese society: fantastic, ironic, satiric and comical. Holding on to the dangling pig are a man and woman.

From Millennium Park we took the walkway to the sensational Modern Wing of the Art Institute.

One of the rooms featured wallpaper with repetitive images of a black man hanging from a tree and a white man sleeping.  Cat litter bags are lined up against the wall, and the unfilled wedding gown stood in the middle of the room. The next picture offers the artist’s explanation.

This struck me because I was just speaking with a dear friend about the plight of gay marriage in our country.


It was fun to see people out walking dogs, pushing baby carriages and enjoying, hopefully, one of the last weekends of ice skating.

We grabbed a cup of coffee and walked over to the Gehry band shell. It wasn’t too hard to imagine spreading a blanket on a warm summer night to listen to the music.

Looking UP…the patterns of surrounding buildings.

Looking DOWN, it was fun to see the art in a worn sidewalk.

We stoppd to pick up a falafel to eat in a sunny spot by the river.

The falafel shop had this funny, strange shelf of figurines.

Fun in the sun. A hopeful sign that summer is on its way!

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Lurie Garden, Millennium Park, snapped on the way home from Jazzfest.

Lurie Garden, Millennium Park, snapped on the way home from Jazzfest.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.

Helen Hunt Jackson, September, 1830-1885

The cusp of summer and autumn has its satisfactions.

Sweet, smiling memories of summer evenings spent outdoors at a concert or by a campfire, a walk in the damp coolness of a woods on a blistering day, heat bugs buzzing in the trees and crickets on the railroad track. Picnics, swings, the clang of horseshoes against the stake. Windows open, fresh air, full moon, sweaty napes and fireworks.

Here are some postcards from the cusp:

Since 1990, Redmoon Theatre has created a performance style that is equal parts pageantry, gadgetry, acrobatics, and ephemera. Last night we picnicked in Lincoln Park along Lake Michigan and enjoyed Redmoon’s spectacle concert, Last of My Species, an evening created by Redmoon artists in collaboration with Norway’s cutting edge underground musician, Laarna Cortaan. Redmoon’s brand of silliness was a fresh breeze, and Cortaan a figment of their imagination.

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Though far from Chicago, Victoria, British Columbia, is a wonderful place to visit my daughter and her family. The weather can be iffy, but it was truly perfect while we were there last week. An antique boat show in the scenic harbor made for a sweet interlude in family activities for handsome hunk and me.
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I recommend swinging to make you laugh and feel young again. Whether you push little ones or pump high yourself, it can even be a fun workout. There’s very little that can compare with playing with your daughter and her 2.5 children at the park, except maybe looking for ants on the driveway, squeezing poster paint into little trays with your grandson, swishing little ones around in the sea or looking for snails in the garden.

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September. School buses, gardens untended, new books, football games, season tickets and celebrations. Back to real life? Where summer doesn’t interfere with daily routines and order rules.

Right now, I’m savoring one foot in and one foot out.

Encaustic Painting, 24"x24"

Encaustic Painting, 24"x24"

Whan the sunne shynth make hey.
[1546 J. Heywood Dialogue of Proverbs i. iii. A4]

I’m in full commiseration mode with farmers who prefer to go swimming, write a story or finish a woodworking project in the barn instead of heading out to the pasture to make hay on a sunny day.

My consulting gig ended last Friday and though we can use the income, I was craving the time back in my studio. Not to be. They have another job they want me for that will last through the end of September. I smiled and said, “certainly,” but inside I was deeply despondent. It’s a fast-paced agency environment, and longish days that tend to sap me of energy. It’s difficult to then come home and spend time in the studio painting. My morning boot camp that gets my blood flowing three times a week will probably have to fall by the wayside too. If possible, I am going to try carve out time here and there if the project allows and not work full days.

Sunday started off with gnashing of teeth. Trust me, no one can be pissier during a computer problem than me. It took almost two hours to fix it, including an online chat with tech support. Enter handsome hunk. To dispel the bad energy that had descended on our abode, he dragged me out of the condo to see the Human Rhythm Project at Millennium Park. I’ve always wanted to be a dancer. On the way we couldn’t resist the fun of shadow-voguing.

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I mentioned in an earlier post that I belong to the Encaustic Art group on Facebook and they are having a “Summer Art Challenge.” I entered three of my pieces. I think they have about 233 pieces posted now and the people in the group are voting. Each of my pieces has received votes: this is a real mental boost and makes me feel happy that other artists see value in my work. I just finished up another two encaustics. The one at the top of the post is one you haven’t seen yet.

Now, it’s Monday. The sun is shining. Time to make hay.

That Was The Week That Was. Do you remember that from the 60s? I think it was a British TV show. Anyway, last week was quite the week. Non-stop Michael Jackson, Palin and so on. I kept the TV time to a minimum to avoid all the craziness and any time the “P” name gets mentioned my blood pressure sky-rockets. It seems to me that whatever Michael Jackson was in addition to being a talented entertainer, he was a troubled and sad man who became an oddity. With all the press coverage elsewhere, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan seem to have fallen off the radar screen. Seems the press isn’t so great on multi-tasking.

I’m upbeat about what I accomplished last week, but I also had disappointing news. A recruiter told me that a client had decided to interview two other people he had put forth for a position and not me. When I asked why, he said they each had a smidgen (and that is his word) more experience in a few areas than I had. Immediately I felt that the world was conspiring against me. Oh, woe is me! But in the same thought it struck me that perhaps the world is conspiring FOR me, and something better lies ahead. How’s that for Pollyanna thinking? Oh, and that reminds me that there’s a new study out that maybe negative thinking isn’t all that bad, especially when you need to lie and be self-delusional to be positive about some things.

Even though I’m currently not employed, I still look forward to weekends, and this one was filled with favorite summer activities. Friday evening was a beautiful night for a picnic and concert in the park. On Saturday, we went to an outdoor farmers market for the first time this season. There were only about 1/3 of the normal vendors from past years participating on this beautiful day in a prime location. I wonder, is it the economy or the fact that the city has added so many farmers markets and that the vendors are stretched too thin? Generally the market is a photographer’s dream: colorful flowers, babies, dogs, people, fruits and vegetables and white tents. DSCF1851But this time it seemed a little sad and paltry. Since we usually over buy and can’t eat all the fresh produce before it goes bad, my husband has taken to calling the vegetable bin in the fridge, the rotter. So my mission was limited to finding fresh basil. I find the smell of basil to be indescribably heavenly. We grabbed four bunches, and later ate basil leaves on French bread with cheese and tomatoes, and I made the rest into pesto.

After lunch we headed over to the pool on the athletic club rooftop, a mecca for people watching. Are all females under 35-years old beautiful these days? Or is it just the perspective of my age when I marvel over their unlined skin, undimpled thighs and lithe bodies? More power to them, I say. The only thing that I find EXTREMELY annoying is the cell phone talk. We once sunned near a gal who talked non-stop about the ins and outs (and I use those words deliberately) of her dating life at loud volume for an hour. Unfortunately I see a lot of this everywhere. Why do people think other people need to listen to them talk? Vanity? Stupidity? Entitlement? Obviously this is a pet peeve. I say, text instead of talk!

A lot of people, many of my friends included, think that Navy Pier is a cheesy tourist trap. Taken in small doses, it actually is a fun and low-budget outing for us. From our place, we walked the nearly two miles through the city to the Pier. It was a hot night with a tinge of breeze. Holding hands, walking through the city’s vibrant nightlife areas, somehow makes us feel very close and happy to be alive. Once on the Pier, we headed for the Beer Garden where there was a DSCF1867live band and, once again, prime people watching: families, couples of all ages, bachelorette parties and the chatter of foreign languages. The piece de resistance for me on Navy Pier is the fireworks choreographed to music. When I die, I want to be sent up in fireworks. I once thought this was an original idea, but going out with a boom actually is a business now.

Today we went for our Sunday run along the lake—my legs felt like lead, and took a stroll through the perennial gardens and water lily pond in Lincoln Park where we encountered turtles sunning and a cormarant waiting to pounce on unsuspecting fish. We both agreed that the lake and parks are what make this city so livable for us.

One more thing, do you know this poem by Shel Silverstein?
I will not play tug o’ war.
I’d rather play hug o’ war.
Where everyone hugs instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles and rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses, and everyone grins,
and everyone cuddles, and everyone wins.Where the Sidewalk Ends

I read Silverstein’s book of poetry, Where the Sidewalk Ends, to my children when they were small. Tomorrow night, there’s a “SHELebration” at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion that I’m hoping to see. When I heard about this, I remembered the poem and how it always made us smile to read it with real tickles and cuddles thrown in. I hope it makes you smile too as you start the new week.

It’s difficult to leave Chicago in the summer, there’s just too much going on. I love walking over to the Spirit of Music Garden tucked in Grant Park for the SummerDance events. People of all ages and from all walks of life come to dance, listen to that evening’s band and people watch. Neither handsome-hunk husband nor I are very good dancers. We just move to the music, have fun and laugh a lot (at ourselves!). Last Friday, it was a cool evening, but people still came out to dance to an impressive bluesy swing band. The large wooden dance floor is surrounded by lush gardens where you can buy a glass of wine or beer at a little stand and find a table or put down a blanket. Sometimes there is the exotic smell of cigar smoke wafting in the sultry evening air, chattering in foreign languages, summery dresses and the beat of the samba that make me feel as if I’m in a foreign country on a dreamy summer night.

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Early Saturday morning, we visited the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago that opened recently. Designed by Renzo Piano, it’s a majestic but austere home for some of my favorite modern paintings, including a large Roberto Matta that is now featured in a prime location. Since the new wing is located across the street from the colorful Lurie Garden in Millennium Park, we also wandered over there to see what was in bloom.

View from Lurie Garden of the new Modern Wing:

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View from Modern Wing gallery of Millennium Park’s Lurie Garden and Pritzker Pavilion designed by Frank Gehry:

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Photo courtesy of Philimonjaro

Photo courtesy of Philimonjaro

Creativity oozes out of Chicago’s pores, and wonderfully it isn’t all mainstream but sometimes is more inventive and surprising in an off-off-Broadway fashion. Saturday night, we went with close friends to see ArcheDream for Humankind, a Philadelphia based multi-disciplinary mask theatre that performed at the Burning Man festival in 2008. Catalyst Collective, a group of seriously fun and talented local artists/promoters, sponsored the event in a raw space a few miles from downtown. It was an impressive and inspiring production that is touring the U.S. this summer.

Photo courtesy of Philimonjaro

Photo courtesy of Philimonjaro

Colorful masks worn in the performance:

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And, after a run along the sparkling lake this morning, we lounged in the park and read the NYT. Finally to top off the weekend, we headed out this evening to catch the tail end of Blues Fest in Grant Park with rhythm and blues headliner Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.

Once again, Chicago has kicked off the summer in grand style, bring it on!