My Fascination With the Images of Cuba

Havana Courtyard by Michael Tutton from flickr creative commons

Havana Courtyard by Michael Tutton from flickr creative commons

Mostly the impressions I had of Cuba that flickered around on the edges of my radar, weren’t very positive. Poverty and politics and the military, cigars but not much of beauty. A few months ago I was looking at photos on Pinterest, something that is very effective when I’m on hold trying to straighten out some annoying first world problem that must be dealt with.

There were some photos of Cuba taken by Michael Eastman that I loved. I looked at his website, read his bio and kept thinking about the inspiring images. I purchased his coffee table book, Havana, as a holiday gift for myself and it’s a good fix for me to look through it still.

There are some inspiring photos on flickr as well, like the one above by Michael Tutton.

In the Havana book, Eastman mentioned noticing the buildings and backgrounds of Cuba in the film, Buena Vista Social Club, so I rented that and the beauty in it was striking.

Then I recalled enjoying some of the episodes of Covert Affairs that were filmed on other locations, one of which was Cuba in an episode called Loving the Alien.

While I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland and New Zealand and a few other places, I’ve now added Havana to my list but for now I enjoy seeing the images.


There’s a new moon today, which I believe is a great time to begin things and make plans for the next four weeks. This time I have things planned already so I began watching the first season of Downton Abbey.

The story is taking place in England in 1914 and involves the Aristocracy and the serving class in a grand country home. Once I began watching it there was no way I could walk away from it. This DVD just came out so it will be awhile before I get to see the next one.

It was a good way to keep my mind off the week ahead. Two of my least favorite things are happening this week. I’ll be meeting with my tax accountant and I also have a dentist appointment.


The three basil seedlings are still alive. They don’t get enough sun and are spindly so I keep turning them. I plucked a leaf off one that seemed to be weighing it down. I ate the leaf and didn’t get much of a taste.

I’ve watched episodes three and four of Edwardian Farm. (It’s awkward the way I watch them on YouTube.) Alex has learned to repair and make hedgerows. The tool he used was shown being forged. Ruth cleaned and disinfected the privy for use. The walls inside were painted with something white which helped disinfect as well as make it easier to see in the dark. Two floppy-eared sows were brought to put in the pig sty next to the privy to assist in composting. They were painted with a waxy substance to protect their skin. Rooting around, they seemed happy and oblivious to whatever was going on outside of what was in front of their noses.

Peter began a trout hatchery. About 1500 eggs were harvested from one trout and she was released back into the stream. It seemed quite a laborious project, making pitch to coat the wooden hatchery and cutting down trees and sawing the lumber for it.

A tractor was borrowed to plow the field. It is the oldest working tractor in the world. Only 500 were made because they were extremely expensive.

Ruth also prepared toilet paper out of newspaper. She has a surprise secret project going–picking sloe from the hedgerow, mixing it with sugar and gin and at Christmas will have sloe gin to share. That was unusual because temperance was being pushed during the time period.

And if you’re still reading this far–on a personal note, I had a consultation with an expert today who recognized that I’m doing very well with the hand I’ve been dealt. I know this to be true and also that it isn’t apparent to the world. I was told that I’m the “gutsiest person” she’s ever met. True. I know it down to my toes.

Bridget Jones

Yesterday evening I watched Bridget Jones Diary for the first time in quite awhile. It’s quite enjoyable for me and makes me laugh.

Since I’d seen it last, I’ve watched quite a few British movies and television and now recognized many of the other actors in the film. And I love Colin Firth.

It was the British character actors that greatly improved my self-image because they are lovely and look like real people. People who like food too.

The King’s Speech On A Saturday Afternoon

It rained a lot all Friday night and it stayed misty all day Saturday. The air was fresher and there was a dampness everywhere. It was the first hint of spring eventually returning.
I went to see the King’s Speech at my favorite independent art house theater. It’s one where you can order drinks and good food and eat at small tables indoors or out, or take your food into the viewing rooms.
Colin Firth is one of my favorites–I thought he was great in A Single Man last year, although I didn’t care for the ending of the film at that time.
The King’s Speech is visually beautiful. The surprising thing is that it consistently held my attention, a rare thing for me. Even with films I really like, I usually find myself drifting away momentarily. Another surprise is the humor in in it. It drew deeper laughter from me and the rest of the audience often. Colin Firth was amazing in portraying the struggle, frustration and pain the character experienced and yet it wasn’t too awful. Or too bloody awful. The persistence and endurance the displayed was inspiring and touching. There was nothing that bothered me about having watched it.
Yesterday was one of those respite kind of days.

Learning From My Three Favorite Novels

the ones on the shelf instead of the floor

the ones on the shelf instead of stacked on the floor

The novel writing book I’m reading by Donald Maass asked for the reader to pick their three favorite novels and intuit or look for why they’re favorites. I chose “Silent In The Grave” by Deanna Raybourn, “The Year Of Pleasures” by Elizabeth Berg” and “A Walk In The Woods” by Bill Bryson.
The character in the Raybourn book is very likable and honest with herself. It’s the descriptive quality of her relationship with people and things around her that I enjoy. She’s wealthy and the story takes place in Victorian times. Many Victorian novels seem bleak to me and while this one isn’t fluffy or frivolous, it is lighter. I love the sense of place and descriptions of clothes, furniture, homes and gloriously, food. It felt good to read of Lady Julia Grey’s relationship with some of her servants, which could be humorous but not in an over-the-top way.
The Berg book (which darn it, I loaned out and will have to obtain a new copy for myself) is about a favorite theme of mine–a mature woman whose old life is gone and the steps she takes to find her way into a new one. It’s what I liked about the film “Under The Tuscan Sun”, a favorite of mine. The book isn’t about drama and angst and suffering. It is subtle and the descriptions of the place and things and the interior journey all blend well together in a way that’s soothing and sensual to me.
Bryson’s book is the funniest book I’ve ever read and I laugh out loud until I have tears. Even though he’s a guy I can relate to the process of setting an incredibly unrealistic goal, forging ahead without proper conditioning and preparation and then the ensuing inner conflict of realizing he’s in way over his head. Again, there is a lot of description of the Appalachian Trail and his relationship to it.
As I read a little further in Haass’s Writing The Breakout Novel, he mentions how 19th century novels treated the landscape as a character in the story. Of course! The outdoors and nature are very alive to me. Setting and landscape can feel more important to me than the action part of the story, although I resent being jerked around and manipulated by the action part and for personal reasons I don’t tolerate tragedy and unfortunate endings well. (I avoid Oprah’s book selections.)
I love the Britflick series Midsomer Murders and it isn’t for the story. It’s for the amazingly gorgeous settings and the relationships.
Relationships between people and things and surroundings are interesting to me as well as relationships between people. In at least one of my posts here, I’ve mentioned that I like stuff. When meeting new people as potential friends, not only do I notice how they treat others but also the way the relate to their cars, electronics, clothes and the environment among other things.
I’ve also mentioned I like the show “Burn Notice” and it certainly isn’t for the story, blowing things up, etc. It’s for the character’s integrity and their relationships to each other. I would never read books about those stories, I think, because it’s a visual thing and the actors do a great job. Although I can appreciate the written descriptions in Robert B. Parker’s novels.
Since I tend to over-analyze and think things to death (oh, you’ve noticed?) I usually stay away from books making intellectual points (although I love the novel Ishmael) and go for more sensual stories.
I avoid books about illness and suffering with the exception of Stephen White’s books. He has a character with MS and he does an awesome job of portraying her as a complex, whole, interesting person who is so much more than her illness.
Now there, I’ve learned a little something about myself and what I look for in a book. And one thing I know for sure–as I’m learning to write, this is the approach that will more likely bringing me an enjoyable experience. I’m well aware that the craft part, very little of which I remember from high school (nope, didn’t take any courses in college on that) and grammar and such–well, I have a lot to learn and refresh there. It isn’t the place to begin for me. So much of my introduction to various things in life have been more of a turn-off and discouragement instead of an inspiration. I’m going to approach it from a direction that might work a lot better for me.

Entertaining My Subconscious

Several times I’ve run across information about the subconscious not being able to tell the difference between seeing violence in life and seeing it in a film. The images one sees are said to be imprinted on your subconscious forever. I tend to believe that but like so many other things in life we have to make choices. We’re here to live life not practice as much avoidance as we can.
I barely watched television from 1970 to 2005. I was doing other things. All those shows that are part of people’s history like Friends and Seinfeld and Cheers and Lost—don’t know much about them. That added to my weirdness factor in the eyes of my peers and co-workers back in the day. Fashion trends, slang and cultural references–I had few clues.
Then when my life changed drastically and I had more time on my hands and not much energy to do things, I began watching television shows. Mostly through Netflix which helped me survive a bleak winter. Now I much prefer watching marathons or a whole season at a time instead of waiting for an episode of something.
It was quite a shock when began watching television again. My goodness, it had changed. As an empath who picks up things as though they were my own energy when they certainly are not, I was careful about what I exposed myself to at first.
One thing that fascinated me in the beginning was how sophisticated some of the writing was, as though the viewer had some degree of intelligence. Not everything obvious had to be laboriously pointed out. I said some writing. Of course there are many lame, stupid shows.
And it wasn’t as though I’d never seen any television during those years. It would be on in the background at someone’s house but I never could get drawn into it. The noise bothered me.
There was a writer I liked who was on Oprah one time and a friend invited me over to watch the show. I was disappointed and horrified at the pacing of it and how Oprah would interrupt and not let the guy talk. Everything seemed so on-the-surface and, of course, that must be normal. No one is going to watch an in-depth, intimate conversation about ideas. Except for me and maybe a few other weird people I’ve never met. It made me want to jump out of my skin. And that’s almost nothing compared to The View.
When I was ill and lonely a few years ago and missed humanity (in theory), I subscribed to Netflix shows and later watched television on the internet with the caution of knowing the images would be in my subconscious forever. (Although I believe everything can eventually be healed.)
And I ended up deliberately choosing shows that could be considered gross or violent or graphic like Burn Notice and Bones over shows where smart-ass, snarky, hip people stabbed each other in the back, displayed rudeness, lack of compassion and made fun of each other’s big butts and weak chins. Seriously. I would rather watch Fiona and Sam blow up a building that watch some office worker make a cutting, harsh remark to a co-worker.
Even though some of those shows can be graphic, I like the dialogue and the relationships–people caring about each other and having each other’s backs. Yes, I know it’s not real but if I’m going to be having something in my subconscious as though it were real, I don’t want it to be stupid, mean, everyday people. Anyway, it’s boring to watch and cheap. I’d rather see compassionate, friendly people (like me).
Except now that I’m having this adrenaline thing going on, I need to avoid that kind of suspense and excitement in my viewing.
I enjoy the character, Dr. House, but as someone who has had health issues that show is traumatizing. Half of it I spend cringing and closing my eyes. Don’t tell anyone but I can’t stand to watch someone put eyedrops in. I have to look away when someone is applying mascara too.
And yet there are people walking around with the sensitivity of a post and I guess I wouldn’t trade who I am for that.

Looking Forward To

Very recently I learned of three films in the works with my favorite actor and a book by one of my favorite authors. I like what I like.
This is what I’m writing about today because my brain isn’t working. Every morning I write morning pages and this morning I repeatedly wrote the opposite of what I meant. My nervous system is fried right now. Don’t worry at all–this has been going on for years before I began writing this little blog and I’ve done all the inner work and know about attitude and whatever.
This blog isn’t meant to be mainly about my health issues and other quite significant challenges. I’ve looked around a bit and there are blogs like that available here and quite frankly, while I’m a very compassionate person I can’t stand to read them.
I’m mentioning this because I am using my super powers to do what I can and if it doesn’t seem at all what you care for, kindly move on. This blog is meant to be part of my solution.
Here, I’ll put it in a handy literary quote: “And to deal plainly, I fear I am not in my perfect mind.”–William Shakespeare.
The actor is Richard Armitage. I’m not much of a celebrity watcher, but I really, really like him. I think maybe I’ll write about him from time to time.
On July 22 of this year, Captain America: The First Avenger opens. This is the kind of film I would never, ever watch if Richard Armitage were not in it. He plays a bad guy–Heinz Kruger. Other actors in the film that I’ve heard of are Samuel L. Jackson, Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones.
The other two films are The Hobbit Parts one and two. Richard plays the dwarf, Thorin Oakenshield, which is a bit perplexing to me because he is quite tall. The films will be released in December 2012 and December 2013 respectively. Which is quite awhile to wait.
Another film I’ve been anticipating is Dark Shadows with Johnny Depp playing the role of Barnabas Collins. I fear I may not like it, but must see it. I’m a fan of the 1960’s gothic soap, Dark Shadows and own the entire series on DVD. Yes, I’m aware of all the criticisms about many aspects of the show. I enjoy it anyway and am smiling right now.
The book I’m looking forward to is The Dark Inquiry by Deanna Raybourn and is available June 21. It’s her fourth in the Lady Julia Grey series. Victorian England again. Not only do I enjoy the books, I like reading her blog. She’s delightful.
Creating things is not a stroll in the park. I appreciate the folks who make my life more enjoyable and uplifted by their creations, be it art, books, films or music.


We all know that what’s on television does not resemble real life. I don’t own a television but occasionally I’ll get drawn into shows on Hulu. Last night I watched two episodes of Castle, which I’d never seen before.
After reading blogs by writers here lately and about the hard work it involves and such, I took note that one of the main characters is a writer of crime novels. And apparently very, very successful.
The set that is his “home” is very rich and modern looking. Castle never seemed overwhelmed and angst-ridden by writer’s blocks and dilemmas. He wrote a novel over the summer and is going to go on a book tour. Then he saved an old historic bar called The Old Haunt by buying it. With cash.
Anyway, I guess people who are that wealthy have housekeepers and assistants to help take care of their stuff. Taking on new objects is not just about the upfront cost, there’s the time, energy, space and upkeep involved. Lately it seems that most things aren’t worth it to me.
Ideally, I prefer to have quality, artisan-made stuff with an element of good stewardship on my part. Then there are environmental factors regarding all the stuff consumers collect.
When I left home at seventeen and went to college I barely had anything. It was the same for my friends. Most student apartments were furnished and it was really easy to move every six months. Sure there were things I wanted but I don’t recall feeling deprived.
Three and a half years ago I went into major redecorating mode after years of not much change although I moved quite often. It was fun and I did a great job. I’m glad I did it in the little window of opportunity I had because now I am certainly not in the mood to do the research and make those kinds of decisions.
In some ways it almost seems “incorrect” to be too enthused about acquiring stuff when so many people are having a rough time that aren’t used to it. At least for me it is, I’m rather tolerant of other people being where they’re at on their journey (as long as I don’t have to listen to them too much).
Anyway, watching Castle was diverting and not bad story-telling but I doubt if that’s the typical lifestyle of a writer.

Victorian Farm

There’s a lovely view outside my window. It’s very foggy again and the downtown Christmas lighting is wispy looking. There was rarely any  fog during the first four winters that I’ve lived here.

It cleared up this afternoon and the sun shone weakly for awhile. The temperature was in the mid 40’s and I walked to Winco to get some snacks and eggnog. I got more wasabi almonds and jalapeno jelly.

Today I didn’t notice I hadn’t had coffee until about four in the afternoon. It’s been recommended that I quit using caffeine for awhile but it’s been my hold-out. So many other  things I’ve given up, even coffee for six months about fifteen years ago. I never felt normal and functional during that time.

What I did today was drink several cups of hot tea and I simply forgot about the coffee. I’ll experiment with that, drinking just enough coffee to avoid headaches.

Yesterday I learned of a fascinating British documentary/reality show called Victorian Farm. Three historians live for a year as the farmers of England did around 1885. They have assistance from other historians and locals but it is very laborious work. I’ve watched them sow wheat, make apple cider and construct a pig sty.

The woman made chutney and preserved other foods and sealed the crocks with pig bladders. It was recommended on laundry day that the farm wife rise at 2:00 a.m. instead of 6:00.

I’ve watched about seven of the thirty-six segments on YouTube. I looked for dvd’s on Amazon and it isn’t available  for U.S. region players.

I’m learning to blog by doing and am not quite ready to do links yet, although I looked at some instructions for inserting them. The videos can be found on YouTube as “Victorian Farm” and the segments are from  four to ten minutes in length.  There’s also a book available on Amazon that can ship in one to four months.

I live very modestly but those folks in 1885 might think I live like royalty. They worked from sun-up to sun-down, seven days a week. The two men and one woman wear clothes of the period as do the consultants and other experts brought in.