Friday, December 23, 2011



the emotion I feel for the people in my life,
both far away and near,
wells up
high and deep.
It is so great a thing,
no expression seems big enough
to hold it all.

No expression -
physical verbal animal vegetable or mineral -
has that power.
The word is inadequate to the task.

Overwhelming and joyous,
all this feeling threatens to burst out,
and splatter unruly sentiment
across the faces I hold dear.

It is you who does this to me.

Michelle Simone Lagueux, December 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Me Saying Hi!

I have a thing for postcards. My grandfather gave me a book of dog postcards when I was six, and I've been hooked ever since.

I like to collect them, send them, receive them, make them. I especially love black & white, and sepia vintage picture postcards, but really, I love them all! I think what I'm actually hooked on are the images. I could look at pictures all day long. They transport me out of my ordinary existence, and often inspire me.

As I've mentioned before, writing is not my favorite thing to do. Postcards are perfect for letting people know you're thinking of them without having to write very much. I mean, my life isn't all that interesting, so at least with a postcard there's something fun to look at, right?

David Shrigley is a British artist whose work is both profound and dementedly funny. I adore his art! I was inspired by Shrigley to create this set of six works as postcards to send to friends in England and Scotland.

The International Self-Portrait Series:

#1 Me Saying Hi!

#2 Bonjour!

#3 Brunhilde

#4 Shrine Miko

#5 Munro DNA

#6 (and last) Ciao!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Early Snow: Late October Drive to the Cog Railway

We were on a mission.

About six weeks ago, I met a group of sisters at our museum in Maine who are running a marathon in every state. As they visit the states they collect those flattened pennies with engraved images on them. They'd just run a marathon in NH, but had been unable to find the highly elusive penny smashing machine there. They were despondent. (Well, they were a little sad.) I told them I knew there was one at the Cog Railway at the base of Mount Washington. Their schedule was so tight before flying back to California, what with running marathons and all, they wouldn't be able to get there. So I volunteered to save the day!

In my mind, the Cog Railway was just a hop, skip and a jump from Jackson. No problem. We decided to go on Friday and make a morning of it!

Here's the thing: I need new tires. Being the practical sort, I don't usually put these kinds of things off. However, I figured it's almost time to have the snow tires put on, so I’ll just get the new all-weather tires in the spring. I almost called Bucky, our crack mechanic, to switch the tires before we left home. But hey! Who expects snow in October, right?

It snowed overnight Thursday and we got maybe an inch. That's the big lead-up, but nothing bad or even funny happened. I was just, umm, a bit nervous on the windy roads, and had to grab the Jesus! handle a couple of times as Bill rounded some hairy curves. And, by Gawd we gut us some smashed pennies for the ladies in CA!

Most of the pictures below were an experiment in shooting out the windows of a moving car. We didn't want to stop. Bald tires aren't too good when the roads are slick. Just sayin'.

Up Route 302 from Jackson, NH to the base of Mount Washington

Storm Clouds

Headin' on Down the Road


Rough Terrain

Heavy Clouds

From the Cog Railway Base looking Southwest.
Mount Washington is behind me.

Mount Washington

The Mount Washington Hotel

Other Presidential Peaks (Monroe & Pierce?)

Smashed Pennies on New Hampshire Atlas & Gazetteer

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


(Jackson, New Hampshire)

It’s nearing Halloween, and ghosts are everywhere.

Last year, our canine companion Iona-the-Deaf, died on Halloween night. We were here, on vacation, at our family’s place in the mountains of New Hampshire just as we are now. As I came in the door from brunch on Sunday, talking and laughing with our friends, I had a fleeting moment of seeing her big, hairy self at the top of the stairs to greet us.

Iona Apparition

I used to live here, in the Mount Washington Valley. I worked for a now defunct bookstore in North Conway. I loved this place, but my heart was still attached to people in Maine, so I never fully made it my home. I lasted barely a year before I moved back, at this very time of year, in November.
As I was driving from Jackson to North Conway yesterday, a Dan Fogelberg song came on. During that time of my life when I was going back and forth on these roads from here to Maine and Maine to here, I was listening to a lot of Fogelberg. In an instant, all the joy of sharing this new place with my beloved J, who still lived in Maine, and all the sorrow of losing him, flooded over me. I had to pull over because I couldn’t see through the tears. Even the song, “The Sand and the Foam” is about looking back on a younger self and time – with sadness and regret.

Dawn, like an angel, lights on the step
Muting the morning she heralds
Dew on the grass like the tears the night wept
Gone long before the day wears old

Time stills the singing a child holds so dear
And I'm just beginning to hear
Gone are the pathways the child followed home
Gone like the sand and the foam

Pressed in the pages of some aging text
Lies an old lily a-crumbling
Marking a moment of childish respects
Long since betrayed and forgotten

Ghosty Grey's Inn
Grey's Inn was one of those old seasonal hotels that had its heyday in the early 1900s. It was in the center of Jackson Village, and was pulled down sometime in the late '80s, I think. When I lived in this area, it was a tumbling down wreck, but still magnificent! The first time I remember seeing it, J and I were exploring towns in the valley. We were young adults, newly seeing places we'd visited as children; everything was exciting and our discovery. We rounded the turn to go up the road to Black Mountain, saw that great pile of former grandeur and yelled, "Hotel New Hampshire!" It was a book we both loved and had read together. Sharing this vision of Grey's Inn tied J to the town of Jackson in my heart forever - because just a few months later he would be dead.

The past is very important to me. I've studied it, learned from it, painted it. It informs who I am and what I will become, but I don't want to live in it. I have a lovely life, all things considered, and am truly grateful for that. Years of living and loving have layered memories one over another till, like an archaeological site, some treasures of everyday life lie hidden. I hadn't planned to start an excavation of my past on this visit. Like a lot of important finds, though, you just stumble upon them by accident.

I believe all love stories are ultimately ghost stories. The trick is to embrace the ghost when it jumps out at you - and then let it go.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words, and All That

A picture is worth a thousand words, and all that. I prefer visuals. I adore picture books, and images from movies will haunt me in ways that the written word will not. I am capable and even good at following written instructions, but show me once how to do a thing, and I've got it.

If you ask me a question, I can talk with you for ages. (And I'll be sketching images in the air with my hands the whole time.) However, with the exception of poetry, writing is not something I really enjoy. It's a necessary thing, but I don't get excited about writing up a thought and exploring where it will go the way I get excited about making an art idea come to life. I become nearly obsessive till I've seen an artistic idea through.

So with that preamble, I offer you more photographic self-portraits:

Fuzzy Thinking

Holding On

Buried Deep

I'm Not Drowning

Hot & Bothered

Looking For God in All the Wrong Places

Bit of an Imp


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sacre Coeur

It's a weird thing, getting older. I'm really not all that comfortable with it. Not having had children, I didn't have the natural progression into being looked to as The Adult. In my head I'm still in my 20s, but my body is changing in ways that don't make sense to my self-image. My parents are aging, and now I worry about them in the same way they must have been concerned for me when I was out sowing my wild oats. Instead of thinking about what else I might enjoy doing for a living, I'm wondering how I'll ever be able to retire. There are so many things I want to do, and I feel as if time is running out. I do not like this one little bit.

I had a dream the other night that left me feeling a deep gratitude for the relationship I have with my parents mixed with a profound sadness that our time together is finite. For days now, the words "Sacre Coeur" have been floating in and out of my thoughts.

Sacre Coeur, from the long steps leading up to it.

Sacre Coeur

Dad and I are on a mid level platform looking up the hill to Sacre Coeur in Paris. I’m explaining to him all about the levels of the city and trying to get him to see and feel the beauty of the city I love so much. We are making our way up the hill through neighborhoods of artists and regular Parisians toward the church. I am worried about the pain in Dad’s legs. I don’t want him to be in pain but I hope he can make the climb. He’s worried too about his knees, but seems to be doing just fine. We stop at a platform/overlook and look back on the lower part of Paris. I point out landmarks to him while we rest. I am anxious that we make it to the top so he can experience the magnificence of Sacre Coeur, but am also just so happy to be here with him. We are sharing our heritage. We both turn to look up at the church at the same time. I know we are getting closer because I can see only the top of the dome.

The view from Sacre Coeur looking across Paris.

Without even spending much time analyzing this dream, I am struck by the central image of Sacre Coeur, Sacred Heart. The church isn't one of my favorite places in Paris, it's not even in the top 25. I adore the neighborhood, though, which is still peopled with artists and writers. Because of this, it seems such an obvious, bash-over-the-head message to myself that I need to focus on what's really, really at the heart of the sacred for me. I need to focus on what's important, and not waste energy lamenting the signs of my own mortality.

What is most sacred to me? Love is.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I bought some horns, and it's brought out "The Devil in Me".

The Devil In Me I
The Devil In Me II

The Devil That You Know

Eye of the Devil


Negative Devil In Me

Angelic Devil

Devil Down Below

Devil's Lightening

I'm just beginning to think about why I am suddenly creating a series of self-portraits. It's never been anything I've been interested in doing up until now. At a time in my life when I feel about as unattractive as I ever have, it's an odd impulse.

When I Am An Old Woman I Shall BE Purple

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cheesy Dreams?

There appears to be a folk belief in the UK that eating cheese before bed causes vivid dreams and/or nightmares. I had never heard of this until a few friends casually posted about the cheese-dream connection on Facebook & Twitter.

I came upon this article on NPR about a study done by the British Cheese Board:

I have many questions on methodology and bias, but mostly I wonder where this belief stems from.

Insights, anyone?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Easter Blues

Once upon a time, I was a good, little Catholic girl. I can’t remember exactly when that was, but I’ve got pictures of myself in a purity-white, petticoated, puffed-sleeved First Communion number that would make you weep for the innocence of it. So I must believe it’s true.

Look! I'm luminous!

Growing up we celebrated Easter with the usual amount of reverence for hollow chocolate rabbits, new bonnets, and Jesus’s rising from the dead (possibly in that order for me). We’d have a big ham dinner at lunchtime. Whichever grandparents were available would be with us, maybe all four, I can’t really remember. Actually, I don’t remember a lot of specific Easters from childhood. It’s not like Christmas when you have great toys to hang your memories on. All the Easter eggs and bunnies are pretty much the same year to year, aren’t they?

Easter Bonnets, etc.
(Mary, Me, Kathy)

I do have vivid memories of the Easter I was 12 when I was allowed to jettison the lace ankle socks for my first pair of nylons, though! These were not your ordinary loathsome pantyhose, either! My first ever pair of nylons were thigh-high, hold ‘em up with a garter belt nylons! I felt so elegant and grown up, slipping my nyloned feet into patent leather pumps - with just the slightest heel. I checked myself out head-to-toe in the full length mirror and felt ready for my debut. Family were gathered at the bottom of the stairs waiting for me to come down. The feeling of sophistication lasted until about halfway down the stairs when I felt my gorgeous nylons pooling around my ankles like elephant skin. Freaking reality! It wins every time.

Despite my rocky relationship with Catholicism, in particular, and Christianity, in general, I have many fond memories of Easters spent with family. My brother, Barry, and I cooked up our trip to Europe together during the car ride to join our parents and grandparents for Easter dinner at the Ramada (pronounced in Franco accent as Rah-mah-dah’) in Lewiston. When Barry, Betsy and the fledglings, Sam & Curt were stationed out west, Bill & I visited for Easters in Tacoma and El Paso. And since we’ve had the place in the White Mountains, we’ve been gathering there for our spring fix of family togetherness with games, food, laughter, chocolate and the mucky egg hunt on the soggy Wentworth golf course.

I’ve been down sick with a nasty cold virus flu thing for days. We didn’t go to Jackson for Easter this year because of it. Today is the first day in about a week that I feel more human than Snot Monster. I hadn’t really thought too much about today being Easter until Bill went to do the week’s grocery shopping and came home in record time because the store was closed. Closed! Can you believe it?! What the Hell? This is America! (Easter dinner of nachos or whatever’s at the back of the freezer, I guess.)

Now, Easter, as a Christian feast, doesn’t have an emotional hold on me, so I was surprised to find myself feeling sad and depressed today. I’ve had a kind of substrata melancholia since I woke up. It never occurred to me that doing nothing for Easter would bother me at all. The only other time I remember feeling like this about Easter was when I was in Japan.

I was so terribly homesick on that Sunday, twenty years ago, at Tsubaki Shrine. It was the only time I felt that way during the entire stay. I just went back to the journal I kept while I was in Japan, and read what I had written back then, for the first time since I wrote it.

“I woke from a dream of putting on my special Easter dress to go to church. I am surprised by a heavy bout of homesickness. Sundays are strange for me here, anyway. They have no more significance than any other day of the week for the people here. For me, though, since childhood, Sundays have been ‘a day apart’. A day to go to church, be with family, read the paper, rest, do the Sunday crossword… I am made aware of how much Christianity is a part of my culture. Like a fish and water, it’s just a part of daily life, all around you. I guess I’m culturally Christian without actually being Christian. I’m used to being one of the few who pushes back against the Christian majority, and here I am, homesick for Easter eggs in a place that had a huge rooftop Christmas display of Christ-on-the-cross surrounded by the seven dwarves. Is this irony?”

Here’s the question that just come to me looking back from twenty years: How different would my experience have been if I had had access to social media when I was in Japan?

I believe that what I consider to have been the most important experiences I had while I was in Japan were a direct result of having little language. I was in the rare position of having my left brain subordinate to my right. I couldn’t read. I could speak but a few phases. I was navigating with my gut. My isolation and the opportunity for internal processing without much distraction made for a very unique and profound adventure. If I had been able to be in contact with the western world would I even have been as homesick? I'm wondering what might have been lost - or gained.

Anyway, back to the present day melancholy dame...Here’s my cure for what ails me: tons of popcorn and Life of Brian!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mary & Max

I began this blog four years ago, and then let it lie, neglected, because I didn't think I had anything worth saying - or reading. I'm still not sure I do. However, in the last few months, over and over I've been asked if I have a blog. Curious.

Driving the 30 minutes to and from work is some of my best thinking time - if I'm not listening to an audio book or singing loudly (and very badly) to a CD. The other day on my way to work, I thought of something so profound and magnificent I felt I had to share it, and I remembered this nascent blogling. Of course, as soon as I got to work and all the stresses of the day started piling up, my amazingly spectacular thought had fled. Still don't remember what it was, but maybe it'll come back to me in a dream. I'll let you know.


So here I am. Writing a blog. Why today? Well, I watched a movie this morning that knocked my socks off! I can't stop thinking about it. And I want you to not be able to stop thinking about it, too. It's called "Mary and Max".

Okay, I've got quite a few friends that are film experts (or "hexperts" as my Mémére Lagueux used to say). They practically devote their lives to writing interestingly and knowledgeably about movies! They know stuff about directors and genres and even musical scores, I bet. I just know what makes me say, "Wow!" or "Whoa!" or "Holy Shit" or laugh uncontrollably or cry a little bit or cry a lot.

"Mary and Max"(voiced by Toni Collette & Phillip Seymour Hoffman respectively) is claymation for adults. This is a bittersweet story of the friendship between pen pals in Australia and New York over a twenty year span. It's based on the real-life pen pal relationship of the filmmaker. We get to know Mary, in Oz and Max in NYC through their letters to each other, and a wry narrator (voiced by Dame Edna's Barry Humphries). They are both friendless and seen as "different". The correspondence, or lack thereof, becomes a catalyst for change for each of them in unexpected and heartbreaking ways.

The clay animation is superb! The use of this style of animation adds a lighter note to a story that might, if told in another way, have become merely depressing. It is nearly monochromatic, though. The few splashes of color are used so well! They serve to highlight the scenes in a way that words couldn't.

"Mary and Max" - It's funny, sweet, gritty, sad and ultimately about acceptance. Watch it, if you have a soft spot for such things.