Keeping Life in Proper Perspective

June 19, 2017


Please look at your child’s art work.

Nothing is as stupendous. I can touch my smart phone and be connected with a lot, yes, but it’s not as great as looking at my kindergartner’s art work.

When I look at her sunflower, I see the learning process:  how she chose the color, size, texture – how she drew the lines and cut with scissors and pasted with glue.

I can watch how the world came to be – starting with my own child’s learning process.

There’s no greater experience than seeing and understanding that perspective.

It has always been in the past and will always be in the future!


*All art work initiated by Jeffrey Phillips at Leap Academy, Camden, N.J.


An Elixir of Youth

May 19, 2017






So here I am still loving kids’ artwork twenty years after the Camden BOE made a ten minute documentary on my Art Aware program.

Dang! I am so old. It is fifty (!) years since the mid 60s, when I discovered my passion to teach elementary students to recognize their own innate creativity.  I was an ESL teacher in Japan after college. Whether it was painting pictures with words or with crayons in Tokyo, Honolulu or Camden, N.J.,  I felt I could get results.

When I stopped traveling the world, I had the luxury of staying in one place and of saving the proof of the results – the artwork –  in my Camden row house.

Thanks to the extensive renovations on the 4th and 5th floors of Collingswood Manor Continuing Care Retirement Community, I can share the artwork with residents.

The spirit of the work from K to 5th graders is invigorating.

I will never throw it away and will keep finding places to display this elixir of youth.

Corner Row House in Camden

May 15, 2017

It’s rare for me to just sit outside and do nothing.

I wonder if you can relate?

Today I’m sitting on an overturned five gallon plastic paint bucket. The sun is just right, the wind gentle, my dogs, cats and wild birds surround me as do 50′ evergreens and deciduous trees – some of which I planted, some of which were already here in this place I chose to live some 30 years ago.

A garden of Eden.

I feel an overwhelming gratitude for my life, past and present, and “for a dream not caught in self-centerness”* but rather in a dream taking each moment as it is with compassion and ecstasy.

I wonder if you can relate?

  • from a meditation by Pat George, Founder of Zen Center of Philadelphia


Camden & Philadelphia: Seats of Beauty

April 16, 2017


Beauty will save us – Monseigneur Michael Doyle’s mantra. I believe it and moved here because of it.

Walking my dogs this Easter morning in Liney Ditch Park – there because of Michael./ Taking kids to Philadelphia Orchestra concerts – possible because of AAUW (American Association of American Women./ Thirty years later, yesterday, Holy Thursday, going to Philadelphia Curtis Institute Graduate Concert, possible because of Sharon Vogel./ Sharon playing classical music in her elementary school classroom, possible because of #1 Sharp Public School./ Creative writing classes – learning what makes inspiring cinema – possible because of Rutgers University. / Walls plastered with kids’ artwork, next to reproductions of famous paintings, there because of Kroc Center./ Also on walls, Chinese and Japanese characters. After school students learning by osmosis, possible because of me and Hillary Jones.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote:  “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

Area residents emerse themselves in clean water pools, there because of the Salvation Army.

I’m lucky to live in a place of beauty, there because it will save all of us.

Murals of Children’s Artwork Are Inspiration

April 10, 2017


We have just finished a writing workshop led by published author, Anndee Hockman.

Under her direction, each and every one of us Camdenites wrote a “masterpiece” (my opinion) – which the Camden City Department of Senior Services will share with the public later.

This is the room at the Ferry Avenue library where we meet. We were surrounded by murals of children’s artwork that spurred us on.

Here’s a 2004 piece I wrote about a Japanese-American artist friend of mine relating to creativity:

What I want for Camden kids, (and all people really) is for them to realize that they’re their own beautiful persons (like each leaf on my Honey Locust tree) responding to what is. And one way for them to do that is to do art and keep doing it and doing it, the way Toshiko Takaezu does.


The Returned Bijin, Spider Solitaire, DDT

January 28, 2017



Written by Beebee, the cat

Peace has come to our household between canines and felines and the one human, who is sitting in her chair with a cup of tea playing an umpteenth thousandth game of Spider Solitaire on her Android. What is it about that game she finds so compelling? I think it’s because she never loses – and it takes her mind off DDT who, in her estimation, never wins.

The Great Dane 13-month old puppy is on the couch not chewing on something right now because he knows the Missy will say “no.” The 18-month old, recently returned calico, Bijin, is sleeping next to the 12-month old black male terror, who just woke up to yawn. There are two elder canines and felines upstairs choosing to keep a distance from the young upstarts downstairs.

When the Missy is home, everyone knows to quietly sleep or meditate until she initiates the action plan for the day – which hopefully will not include another Facebook tirade against the newly-installed POTUS.

Presidential and Kitty Kat Drama at My House

January 22, 2017


My lady read this morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer with delight.

It seems that the numbers in the D.C. Women’s March yesterday surpassed the numbers who attended DDT’s (disastrousdonaldtrump) Inauguration.

The good news is that DDT is apparently uniting the pro-democracy public- as no one else can – against the great dictator (HIMSELF)!

And on another note, a member of our family is missing:  Bijin, a stray My Lady adopted over a year ago.

Where is she? She was never happy being neutered and being cooped up with other members of this large family. She must have escaped when My Lady opened the door to put out the trash.

I miss her presence. She was a beauty. She was named “Bijin” which means “beauty” in Japanese.

(All of us, except me -Beebee-  are named after Japanese persons, places or things, so that My Lady can keep up with her pigeon-Japanese language skills 🙂 )

Art Symbolizes 35 Years of Life!

December 31, 2016


This little sculpture is 5″ high. It was a model for a large ceramic waterfall piece I wanted to make in 1986 but never got around to doing.

The flat stones I spontaneously added in December, 2016 for a gift for my friend and Japanese teacher, Yukako Fujita.

In 1981, artist Yukio Ozaki was commissioned by the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts to design the entrance way to Maui Memorial Medical Center. It consisted of 26 separate and uniquely carved mahogany wooden panels of the word for life: “ii-no-chi.”


I loved the idea of carving the word into clay – making something like prayer pebbles – to celebrate “Life.”

2012 World in a Grain of Sand

December 30, 2016


I can tell you it’s a curse as well as a blessing growing up in Manhattan.

One gets used to the whole world being condensed to one small island – all the world’s glories reduced to a grain of sand. One sees a painting at the Met, depicting a William Blake poem, believes it and develops a passion to look for the world in a grain of sand – to look for transformations of persons, places and things. The star at the opera house, the statue in the art museum become the norm.

The meat and potatoes – the ordinary life that produces sustenance for most of the world is an exception to the rule.

I’m sure this reasoning led me to travel to Tokyo after college as an English teacher and to stay for three years. The Japanese are masters at creating the world in a grain of sand. Japan is an island country, as is Manhattan – in and of itself.

I remember reading in translation “Kokoro” a book by classical Japanese writer Natsume Soseki about a Professor who, above all else, was determined not to lead an ordinary life. It resonated with me because I had no ordinary goal of dating, marrying, having a family. My goal actually was simple enough – though I wasn’t able to articulate it as such – it seems I just wanted to learn as much as possible about life, every moment of every day – an exhausting undertaking – totally unrealistic.

Now in my seventies, I seem to have achieved a fair measure of my goal – having a large house cluttered with things from places I have lived and people I have met.

Acquiring money has never been a goal so consequently, I don’t have any. But I do have treasures of inestimable wealth.

During my lifetime I hae collected people of inestimable wealth – to me anyway, personally: opera stars, artists –  not too many ordinary people – to me anyway – because I’ve not been taught the definition of “ordinary.”

Recently I have been given the extraordinary opportunity to volunteer at a day care center to supplement the efforts of three teachers in the infant/toddler room where twelve babies spend most of their waking hours. These are not ordinary babies. There’s that word again. Every one of them is extraordinary and my every moment of every day with them is spent watching, interacting, absorbing the personalities, the progressions of their lives ranging from three to sixteen months old.

I don’t have to do the ordinary tasks of cooking, changing diapers and all; the parents and teachers do that. So here I am again drawn to an extraordinary life of observing the world in a grain of sand – so precious.

This passion for life includes going to a continuing care retirement center (CCRC) every week visiting friends at the other end of life’s spectrum. There is still so much to learn. My ninety-nine year old Japanese-American friend there teaches me Japanese and together we watch old Toshiro Mifune/Akira Kurosawa samurai movies.

Today a gift arrived in the mail from Yukio Ozaki, a longtime Japanese potter friend in Hawaiii. It was a ceramic piece he had made.

Here’s a photograph which doesn’t do it justice but still perhaps you can get an idea of the sun, the moon, the earth and its galaxies in the brilliant blues, interspersed with vibrations of deep browns and blacks, shot through with white sky, a crackling, glassy shine moving to ocean rhythms, the islands of Manhattan and Japan, so extraordinary a bowl, representing the world in a grain of sand.

New Foster Child in House!

December 29, 2016


Well, it’s me again, writing on my Lady’s blog. I can’t take this new foster child! You understand that this is a metaphor, right?  You, the readers, only understand metaphors, so I’m trying to speak your language. This 6 month old male (that’s 3&1/2 in human years) is disrupting the household. He chases us all – even the canines are intimidated.

There are two more of my kind outside that my Lady wants to get fixed – so there will be no more babies – which is good. But this newcomer has had absolutely no parenting – so he has no control.

How can he survive in a home filled with disciplined beings and art?

Granted, my lineage is nothing to brag about, but this bastard child knows no bounds.

Stay tuned!kimg1015-1