Friday, March 31, 2023



Friends have cleaned out the clutter from their home and put their house on the market. The house has been staged and looks inviting on the website; but for them, it has lost the feeling of home, and they find they can't be in the house for long. Their move reminded me of our move to Tokyo when we had six weeks to decide what to bring with us. We had to arrange for packing and shipping, find a school in Tokyo for our son, try to learn a little of the language, say good-bye to old friends, and a million other things we needed to do. If you ever were an ex-pat or moved frequently within the U.S., you know how the whole process goes. Because our move was a corporate one, we had a lot of help. We were told to pack for two shipments, one small one filled with necessities that would arrive when we did, and another filled with furniture and other possessions that we needed, which would appear at our door six weeks later.

When we arrived at Hiroo Towers, we discovered that the apartment complex we chose provided a completely furnished temporary apartment for the six weeks before our sea shipment was delivered. Not knowing about this wonderful set-up, we packed within our essentials shipment all the things we thought we would need: forks and knives, plates, toilet paper, sheets and towels, and just enough clothes to get by. Except for our clothes, most of these items were provided in the temporary apartment. This thoughtful planning by the Japanese owners became our first introduction to the Japanese way. What we really needed came six weeks later.

One early evening before we left home in the U.S., I walked out into our backyard to say goodbye to our house. I looked through the window to a room filled with golden light reflecting across bookshelves filled with books and blankets bundled in baskets by our chairs. The light brought back the memories which made this house a home. I remembered sitting on the kitchen floor with our son, a big piece of paper spread between us, as we used pencils and pens to draw our own versions of home and neighborhoods. I thought of the times when Bill and I moved out of each other's way in our "kitchen dance" as we made breakfast in the morning, or as we stopped to watch the birds at the bird feeder at sunrise, or when we had friends and family gathered around our dining room table or when the kids who tumbled about in our son's room, ran outside to the hill in our backyard and then came back into the kitchen looking for something to drink. Home: more than just a structure.

As we de-clutter our house and ponder what will come, we ask ourselves if should we stay where we are, move to a smaller place, travel, or seek different kinds of living spaces? I think of our move to Tokyo and the choices we made of what to bring with us and what we packed away and know whatever we do will probably be wrong for a while until we begin to invite people to share our table. 

Another version of what home means:

Watch Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, a whimsical stop-motion animated short, about a mollusk who lives in an Airbnb with his grandmother. The two of them build all kinds of Rube Goldberg-like contraptions, including a tennis ball that Marcel converted into a vehicle, to help navigate the human-sized house. The house was more livable because of their inventiveness, but what Marcel missed were the dozens of relatives who had accidentally been moved when the house owner moved away.

Watching the film reminded me that home isn't just the structure around us, but the memories, treasures, and most of all, the people who have populated that house through time.

Friday, March 24, 2023


Sometimes traveling can discombobulate me.  Recently I spent five days in Southern California for a calligraphy conference. While there, I rented a car, a dark grey Honda Civic, at the airport. Hondas are common in California. I got to the car, opened the door with the clicker on the key fob, inserted the key, turned on the car, drove out of the lot thinking that I had checked all the boxes for renting a car, and paused to look at the beauty of the rugged San Gabriel Mountains in the distance. I drove to Cal Poly Pomona and parked my car and went to sign in for my classes.

At the end of the day, as the sun went down, I drove to a local shopping center and parked the car. As I walked towards Target, another Honda Civic drove by me and turned to park near my rental. I went into Target, made some purchases, had a quick dinner at a local eatery, went back to where I thought I had parked, opened the trunk of the Honda, put my bags and purse in the trunk, closed the lid, tried to open the driver's door with the clicker on the key fob. Nothing happened. I tried to open the trunk. Again nothing happened. I looked at the key fob in confusion and discovered that the license plate number on the fob didn't match the license plate on the car. It was too dark for me to see inside the car to verify that the Honda was my rental. I thought, "Wrong car. Could I really have put my purse and purchases into someone else's trunk?"

 I decided that I must have parked in a different lane or maybe I had opened the other Honda that looked just like my rental. But no, the other Honda parked in the same row also had a different license plate from the key fob. I recently read that Honda Civics are top of the list of stolen cars which made me wonder if my car had been stolen. So, whose Honda was this that now contained my purse and bags?

"A Small Bottle of Perrier" by M. Slavin

I walked around the parking lot trying to get a car to respond to the clicker on the fob. No response. I waited and waited by the car that wouldn't open, thinking that someone was shopping and would return so I could get my stuff out of the trunk. No luck. 

When I called the rental car office numbers, all I heard was a recorded voice giving me their office hours, which were long past closing. Finally getting a little desperate and cold, I called the police. They responded but couldn't do anything with the car. One of the officers walked over to Target to see if the car owner could be identified. No luck in the store. As the officer came back, I remembered that I had a bottle of water in the cupholder of my rental. I asked the officer to shine his flashlight into the car. Tucked into the cup holder was a bottle of Perrier, which made it obvious: this was my rental car. The officer used the key, not the clicker, on the key fob to open the driver's door. I groaned with relief, took a deep breath, and shook my head. The officer tried very hard not to laugh. In the end, I didn't get hurt, my car wasn't stolen, and the police were helpful. All of this occurred just because of a dead battery in the key fob and two license plate numbers that didn't match. 

It's okay to have a good laugh at this story. I did when it was over.

My sage advice coming from this travel tale:  when you rent a car, check that the license plate number matches the one on the key fob and that the key fob has a new battery. Otherwise, dark clouds could ruin your day.

Friday, March 17, 2023



Sometimes we just need to have some fun. I'm taking a cue from one of my favorite cousins (they all are my favorite cousins) to be a little goofy in my life. 

Bill and I started inserting ourselves into trompe l'oeil murals around the Bay Area recently and are having fun with the results. We've also been surprised when we walk by this statue in Walnut Creek that almost seems alive. It fool us every time.

We've inserted ourselves into artwork from a show at the deYoung Museum. 

And draped our shadows over spaces.

What better way to enjoy Spring, the time of year to wake up, roll your eyes, stretch, and be a little goofy in the sunshine (that is, if you can find some sunshine.)

March 2023 marks my ninth year of writing Postcards in the Air every Friday. I want to give a big thank you to all of you who have consistently read my blog each week. Thank you!

Bill has been accepted in the Pacific Art League's photography exhibit which runs through March 28. You can see his photo as well as others by clicking this link or visit Palo Alto and see the exhibit in person:

Friday, March 10, 2023


Yesterday, we looked at each other and hollered at the rain:  "Enough already!" Even we rain-starved, California drought sufferers had reached our limit. We've had more than average rainfall, with 10 more feet of new snow in the Sierras (where most of our water comes from) after the latest set of storms. We know there are more storms to come before March is over and we head into flood season, and then dry season before our next, we stand with fingers crossed waiting for the wet season that starts in late November.

Today, we forgot our hollering because we walked out the door and discovered Spring is here. The deep cerulean blue sky, wispy clouds, and warm sun on our shoulders led us down the street for our first walk after a rainy week. In California, we have a burst of early Spring in February with the daffodils competing with the Winter poinsettias and primroses still in bloom. The daffodils lift their heads to be pummeled by the rains, but that doesn't stop them from rising each year.

My Winsor Newton travel paintbox

Today as we walked, we saw California Spring with everything in bloom all at once. Azaleas, camellias, flowering trees, and lavender have burst out in their splendor while the roses and dormant trees, still in their winter-dead look a week ago, have sprouted leaves curling open against the craggy bark of their branches.

Today as we walked, my thoughts went back to Japan and its more disciplined seasons: first camellias, then azaleas and rhododendrons, then flowering cherry trees, iris, hydrangeas, and finally chrysanthemums to welcome the fall season before the leaves change. Each flowering variety showcases itself with masses of color but makes way for another variety as the seasons change.

Spring reminds me that I can't resist writing another tribute to what I love about Spring. I love Spring season's fresh yellow-green. I love the reawakening of trees and shrubs. I love the birds scurrying around and swooping from one tree to the next. I love the blue skies and still chilly weather. I love the promise and hope that Spring offers. 

It is time for me to go for a walk and bring my traveling paintbox to paint a palette of Spring hues.

What do you do to celebrate this change of seasons?

Friday, March 3, 2023



Cup designed by Janet Takahashi

Walking by the classrooms at the Cal Poly Pomona Kellogg West Conference Center reminded me of my own teaching days but with a difference. Here I saw adults working quietly on calligraphy projects. When I taught middle school, my students boisterously moved around the room filling cups too full of paint, carelessly bumping into each other, or huddling around me as close as possible as we went over the methods we needed to practice for a project. Unlike the scribes at this recent conference who worked with focus and purpose, my students were not quietly working, but often bouncing around as only middle school students could.

For the first time since the pandemic, the Society for Calligraphy, based in the Los Angeles area, held its Letters: California Style conference. Each class of scribers was full of eager learners and the results displayed by the students on the third day made me awe-struck.

I arrived early at the center on Friday morning, checked in, picked up materials for the class I was taking, and wandered through the aisle of the pop-up Paper and Ink Arts store with a home base in Tennessee. As I walked by their tables, I once again proved there is always something to buy at an art store. I found some washi tape that had been cut into two-inch lengths and Japanese light-weight masking tape to attach drawings I had made to my new journal.

Page for the letter "P" made in Janet Takahashi's workshop

I came for Janet Takahashi's Letters of Whimsey and the Art of Finding Creativity workshop, a subject that I respond to with enthusiasm. During the class, we filled an unlined journal with letters from A to Z and then added words and ideas that emerged in response to the question, "What creative words begin with...?" Some words came quickly to mind: Brushes for B, Lines for L, but what about Z? Janet offered Zen moments, a good reminder, as she said, to Pause, Breathe, and Let Go. While we all worked hard,  those words were important and gave us a chance to play and have fun. That's really where creativity begins.

Pages drawn for letters "G" and "K"
during Janet Takahashi's class at Letters conference.

In three days, Janet gave us an explosion of art techniques and theories that previously took me many years to learn when I was in school. What she showed us was a good reminder and review of the work that goes into being an artist. We explored perspective and drawing techniques, dimension, shape and form, gradation, layering, and texture. We also got some good ideas to remind us how to be an artist.

Janet started the class with this thought, 

"Mistakes are lessons, not mistakes."

She also said, "Just get it out of your system. Edit it later."

Good advice for all of us.

Janet not only teaches but is in the process of creating an illustrated book based on this art journaling workshop. She plans to produce diagrams and illustrations about a multitude of topics. Look for it in the coming year on her website here:

Check out the Society for Calligraphy. The website shows photos of work done at the recent Letters conference:

Paper and Ink Arts online store:

March is full of celebrations: in just the first week, we can celebrate National Minnesota Day on March 1, World Book Day on March 2, National Anthem Day on March 3, and National Grammar Day on March Fourth. Oh, and my sister Linda's birthday is on March 2, which, since she is a voracious reader and grammar nerd, is an appropriate day for her.

Check out the other national days here: