Friday, March 26, 2021


Sheltering in place: what has been a benefit for you? How do you feel about re-entering the world, walking on busy streets, or being in large groups of people? Or have you had to do those things all through the pandemic because your work is essential? 

As an introvert, I've found tranquility and focus during shelter-in-place. But I am puzzled by my anxiety about reopening. I feel the tension between losing my quiet existence at home versus working to regain the social skills that have faltered since shelter-in-place. Once again, as I think about what to write, I have seen the same question I am asking being raised by other writers and other commentators. This time the question is how do we deal with returning and opening up?

Springtime, good weather, and bright skies make it hard to stay home. As I take my walk under the flowering trees that carpet the streets with pink and white, I am reminded of Japan and how the Japanese tea ceremony can quiet the spirit. I remember the Japanese concept of impermanence called mo-no no a-wa-re, exemplified by the fleeting beauty of cherry blossoms. Maybe we can take lessons from far away to adjust our mindset and make our transition easier.

As Sen-no-rikyu, the first tea master, said,

"Tea is but this:

First, you make the water boil,

Then you infuse the tea,

Then you drink it properly,

That is all you need to know."

The Japanese tea ceremony includes some of the elements of ancient Japanese philosophy: harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. Each word said slowly and by itself is important. A meditation in itself.

The tea ceremony evolved from simple tea at home and is often performed in a separate teahouse centered in a serene garden. The guests are encouraged to use the placement of steppingstones in the garden to meander their way to the teahouse. Visitors remove their shoes, slip on indoor slippers, and then pass through a low door -- all to remind them that they are entering from the outside world to an inner one. The guests are expected to admire the flower arrangement in the room, the calligraphy on scrolls on a low bench or wall, and the kettle where the water is brewed. They kneel on tatami mats that cover the floor and share a bowl of thick macha made from green tea powder whisked with a bamboo chasen. They admire the bowl as they drink, then turn the bowl to present it to another person. A sweet cake is offered to offset the macha flavor. From the first step in the garden to the end, the tea ceremony is a way to slow down and notice the environment around them. When the ceremony is over, the guests rise quietly, bow, and leave through the garden.

While in Japan I belonged to CWAJ, a women's organization that provided scholarships to Japanese and foreign students. When the students gave their oral presentations, they first participated in a simple tea ceremony in the gathering room. The tea ceremony gave them time to calm their anxieties and collect their thoughts before they faced a group of women examiners. Many companies in Japan still set aside tea rooms for the same purpose. 

With the mass shootings this week and the continuing political stalemates in Congress, we could follow the Japanese example and learn to quiet our thoughts before we act. 

Anyone for a cup of tea?

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese tea ceremony:

Cherry blossom viewing in Japan is as popular as viewing autumn leaves in the U.S. Usually, the parks in large cities are filled with crowds having cherry blossom viewing parties. Because of the pandemic, the parties are banned, but people can still walk through the parks to see the flowers.

Friday, March 19, 2021


Blow Blow Winter Wind Constant as the Northern Star (from Shakespeare) Mixed Media by M. Slavin

Apples scattered through the trees, 

As if someone threw them up to the sky like confetti

They landed where the branches caught them.

I am leafing through my writing journal looking for phrases I can use in my artwork. I am no poet, but I like to find snippets of my writing that generate the same intense feeling or sense of wonder of good poetry, ones that reach deep into my soul or cause me to skip a beat to consider the meaning. I like to include them in mixed media pieces. I like how one word can create waves of thought.

ABCDarian by Martha Slavin

I like to read poetry but I can't read an entire book of poems all at once. I need time to savor each poem. I have a stack of poetry books, but  I may never get to read every one. 

People need to leave a mark 

initials on a table, 

empty plastic bags caught in a tree,

like leaves rustling 

I think of my high school teacher who handed each of us a copy of Sound and Sense by Lawrence Perrine, which introduced me to the why of poetry. The book, last published in 2018, gave thousands of students a foundation in poetry. It's a good book.

In the middle of the night,

My hips screamed for change

Writing poetry, like everything, takes practice to develop the skill to know when to stop, when and what to leave out, and to understand the visual experience of reading a poem. I'm still working on all of those.  Writing down these phrases from my journal help me see ideas that resonate. In my hunt for good phrases to combine into writing, I go back to William Shakespeare. What better wordsmith can you find?

A Pair of Star-Crossed Lovers (Shakespeare)  Mixed Media by M. Slavin

Friday, March 12, 2021


More than three beautiful women. 

First, all you have to do is look in the mirror just to remind yourself that all of us are beautiful on the inside. It shines through. You may have a talent for bringing people together, you may have writing or artistic skills, you may be a talented cook, you may know how to listen. In all those things, you are beautiful. There are many women to celebrate and today I want to look at some we've missed.

Christi Belcourt and other native women artists

 Women artists often moved under museums' radar, but in the last two years, an exhibit celebrating the work of Indigenous women artists traveled the country. The Minnesota Institute of Art displayed the work of these artists, and, lucky for us, we can still see the exhibit, which went online during the pandemic. Hearts of our People: Native Women Artists not only highlights the work of these artists but offers videos that explore the motivations of the artists as they continue their family traditions or use those traditions as foundations for their art. As one interesting book, Manidoominens, says, "beadwork after 10,000 years." One of the artists is Christi Belcourt, who paints large acrylic paintings that look like beadwork and also leads community-based projects such as "Walking with Our Sisters," a visual commemoration of murdered and missing indigenous women.

Photos courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art

In one of the galleries, showing the work of Christi Belcourt

Della Wells

Another American artist, Della Wells constructs collage from scraps of magazines and other papers, which she uses to tell stories revolving around her personal experiences. Y. York, a playwright, wrote a play, "Don't Tell Me I Can't Fly," about Ms. Wells, which debuted in 2011. The title tells a lot about Ms. Wells' perseverance.

"Come" by Della Wells, courtesy of Main St. Gallery, Clayton, GA

Toko Shinoda

At the beginning of this week, the New York Times ran a full-page obituary about Toko Shinoda, a female artist from Japan. She was 107 when she died and looked as elegant as she did when I met her briefly in Tokyo. Her name is not well-known here, but she rated that full-page piece because she was considered one of the masters of contemporary art in Japan.

When we lived in Japan between 1998 and 2001, I belonged to a group called CWAJ, which each year held a print show of artists working and living in Japan. All the works (over 200) were for sale, and it was a good way to buy silkscreens, wood block prints, and other printmaking work. Each year Toko Shinoda placed one of her lithographs for sale. Her work is based on the calligraphy she learned as a child combined with the influences of the Abstract Expressionists in New York City who she knew when she lived there. At the CWAJ show she came across as kind and humble. Her prints often show the contrast between strength and delicacy. The Empress would come early to make a selection and she would always pick one of Shinoda's prints.

Photos courtesy of Seizan Gallery

See Christi Belcourt's work at:

Watch the short video, Walking With our Sisters, which commemorates the lives of murdered and missing indigenous women.

See a small portion of Shinoda's work here:

See work by Della Wells, a collage artist:

An online tour of Hearts of Our People exhibit:

Interested in supporting Indigenous artists, check out the gift shop at AICO (American Indian Community Housing Organization):

Poster & Cover for Take A Stand by Votan for NSRGNTS &
AICHO & Honor the Earth
"Ganawenjiige Onigam", Caring for Duluth in the Objibwe language

Friday, March 5, 2021


We are almost out of Meyer lemons. We've had a bumper crop this year. Luckily the local food bank will take the ones we haven't squeezed into juice, sliced for iced tea, added to pasta with parmesan, garlic, and butter, or stuffed inside the cavity of chickens. Abundance.

I use my clippers to take down the last bagful of lemons. Sometimes I have to cut a branch in order to reach inside the tree for a lemon hanging in the center. I try not to get caught by one of the sharp inch-long thorns that protect the citrus. Bittersweet, just like roses.

Once inside our house, the smell of fresh lemons lingers. But soon the refrigerator and all the cool places inside our house are filled with lemons. I give away bags to neighbors and friends, cut the lemons in half, juice them, and pour the juice into ice cube trays. I zest the skin and freeze batches. I clean wooden cutting boards with salt and half a lemon and drop the rinds down the garbage disposal. I scour the internet and my recipe books for recipes that use lemons in savory dishes. Desserts with lemons fill both the internet and cookbooks. But few recipes use large quantities of lemons, especially in savory dishes. Abundance.

I've found a few good recipes:

Meyer Lemon Brisket with Pomegranate Gremolata (from Martha Stewart)

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 3-1/2 to 4 lb. first cut brisket

Coarse salt and ground pepper

3 Meyer Lemons

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

For the Gremolata:

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup chopped chives

2 tsp. finely grated Meyer lemon zest

2 garlic cloves, minced

Sea Salt

For the brisket: Mash the minced garlic and a pinch of salt until a paste forms. Season brisket with 1 Tbsp of salt and ground pepper and rub with salt paste. (Save remaining paste.) Transfer to a baking dish. Refrigerate, covered, for two hours.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Finely zest and juice 2 lemons. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear brisket until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Pour lemon juice over brisket and add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the meat (2-3 cups). Raise heat to high and bring to a boil.

Braise brisket, covered in an oven for 1 hour 15 minutes. Flip brisket, add remaining garlic paste and continue braising until brisket is easily shredded with a fork, about 1 hour. Stir in reserved zest. Braise, uncovered, for 10 minutes more. Remove brisket and bring sauce to a boil until desired consistency.

Make the gremolata: Toss together pomegranate seeds, parsley, chives, lemon zest, and garlic. Season with sea salt.

Slice brisket. Serve with pan juices and gremolata along with Lemon-Rosemary Melting Potatoes

Lemon-Rosemary Melting Potatoes (from Eating Well)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, and sliced 1-inch thick

2 Tbsp butter, melted

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 Tbsp sliced garlic

Toss potatoes, butter, oil, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer in a 9 by 13 metal baking pan. (Don't use a glass pan. It may shatter.) Roast, turning once until browned, about 30 minutes.

Carefully add broth, lemon juice, and garlic to the pan. Continue roasting until most of the liquid is absorbed and the potatoes are very tender, 10 to 12 minutes more. Garnish with additional rosemary.

When I use a recipe, I usually make so many additions or changes that the recipe becomes my own. These two from Martha Stewart and Eating Well are just perfect the way they are. When you add a dark green vegetable to your plate, you will have a good meal and enough left over for sandwiches the next day.

If you are searching for more lemon recipes, go to Heritage Cook. Jane Evans Bonacci, a cookbook author and recipe developer, offers many recipes with lemons. Her recipes include gluten-free options. If you like chocolate, be sure to check out her Chocolate Mondays. Subscribe to her blog here:


I am thrilled to have two of my paintings in online exhibits. One of my watercolors has been accepted in the California Watercolor Association's Member Show online through March 31. Take a look at some wonderful watercolors. 

EVIE by Martha Slavin

Another online exhibit includes my acrylic painting, TIME INTERRUPTED. Check it out here: