2018 April A to Z Blog Challenge

19 03 2018

For the seventh year, I will be participating in the April A to Z Blog Challenge (I encourage you to check it out, if you’ve never seen it). My overarching theme is A Good Life and this year’s focus is on Stretches: a daily post with a stretch to contribute towards a Good Life. Stretches are an extension or expansion of our current life, a way to explore new opportunities or make small changes to our perspective. Something that takes a little c-h-ourage (envision the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz). It may turn out to be fun or not, but you’re glad you tried it.

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Beth Lapin's A to Z Blog 2018

For the seventh year, I will be participating in the April A to Z Blog Challenge (I encourage you to check it out, if you’ve never seen it). My overarching theme is A Good Life and this year’s focus is on Stretches: a daily post with a stretch to contribute towards a Good Life. Stretches are an extension or expansion of our current life, a way to explore new opportunities or make small changes to our perspective.  Something that takes a little c-h-ourage (envision the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz). It may turn out to be fun or not, but you’re glad you tried it.

[In the spirit of providing daily commentary, I’m adding digraphs, those two letters that unite to consistently form a single sound, to my A to Z posts.]

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The Big Reveal! and Farm River State Park

13 03 2018

Cherry and I met last week to figure out our next adventure. After considering several options, we decided to go with: ta-da, ta-da—

CT DEEP’s 2018 Sky’s the Limit Hiking Challenge!!

Designed to promote hiking in Connecticut’s State Park and Forests, this year’s list includes fourteen “lesser known trails.”

So we started with Farm River State Park

Here are our mandatory shots for  verifying our visitation at this site:


Check out the great views and sundial in this small “pocket park.”


After the short hike, we went to Gutiz, a local Ecuadarian Restaurant. Excellent food and interesting atmosphere.


Hope you’ll keep up with us as we travel around CT to view these lesser known areas.

One Year

1 01 2018

January 2017, I started blogging regularly. Almost 50 posts during the year, plus 30 in April for the A to Z blogging challenge. Not bad. There were times when I felt I had something to say. Or something to share. Thanks to those of you who read. And commented. And followed.

January 2017, my daughter’s health stabilized, after five hospitalizations in 2016 for a life-threatening health issue. I am hopeful that she is the one out of three long-time survivors under her treatment regime (which twice almost did her in during 2016). We just celebrated one year of being hospital-free. I’m hoping 2018 will bring one year of clean scans.

January 2017, I started surrounding myself with people who were only healthy, supportive, caring, and nurturing. They are all around, easy to find, really.

A year can make a big difference!

Hiking for Friendly’s: Talcott Mt, Avon

29 10 2017

18 October 2017

Trap Rock along Trail:

Talcott Mt trail traprock

Interior of Tower:

Talcott Mt tower interior

View from the Top:

Talcott Mt view with shadow

View of the Tower:

Talcott Mt tower with foliage

Avon Friendly’s Exterior:

Talcott Mt Avon Friendlys exterior

Avon Friendly’s Sign of the Times:

Talcott Mt Avon Friendlys

Nakatani Gong Orchestra

1 07 2017

Gong program

Real Art Ways presented a performance of the Nakatani Gong Orchestra recently and it was a unique experience. Acoustic sound artist and percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani, originally from Japan, conducted and performed “improvised-experimental music, free jazz, and noise, while still retaining the sense of space and beauty found in traditional Japanese folk music” (according to his website). Frustrated by the limited sound produced by striking a gong with a mallet, Nakantani discovered that using a bow (similar to that used on a stringed instrument) along the gong edge could extend the sound. He developed a handmade bow, using a variety of woods as handles, to produce this sound.

Nakatani was also interested in expressing the Japanese concept of Ma, a term that can be used related to time or space. In art, it is sometimes regarded as negative space, that which is imagined between what is presented. In that way, it exists only when experienced by the viewer/listener. It is the space between the trees or the silence between the notes, for example.

gong director

The RAW program began with a solo piece by Nakatani. He used a traditional drum set, augmented by a large and eclectic collection of percussion instruments, including gongs, singing bowls, sticks, and other objects that could make noise when struck. Clashing cymbal plates onto drum head rims, Nakatani fervently worked his tools. He filled singing bowls with metallic objects and swirled them to make a cacophony of sound.  At one point, I could imagine trains coming into a station, their wheels screeching along the rails and rumbling along the tracks.  Nakatani, always in motion during the piece, used a double bow technique that made his playing resemble Aikido or dance-like movements. His forty-minute piece ended with quiet, tranquil resonance.

gong group

The second piece was performed by the Greater Hartford Nakatani Gong Orchestra, comprised of local community members. These dozen-plus musicians gathered the previous evening to learn the skill of bowing a gong, practiced again before the performance, and then shared their competence. With bows and mallets on gongs, the group followed a series of hand signals from Nakatani that were reminiscent of a mixture of American Sign Language and modern dance. Their sound ranged from haunting, eerie, and nerve-jarring to exciting, motivating, and energizing. It was impressive to see how skilled players could become in a relatively short time.

nina 06.25.17.jpg

The audience, too, was eclectic and representative of the greater Hartford neighborhoods and comprised family, friends, and Real Art Ways members, among others. A short personal aside: I attended this concert because a local friend was performing. The morning of the concert when I was still uncertain but hopeful I could attend, I received a phone call from a friend from Atlanta who was driving back there from Massachusetts. She wanted to spend some time at my house and I gave her my parameters: I would be away for the morning and wanted to leave at 6:30pm for a concert. “The Gong concert,” she said! I was astounded she knew about it, and, yes, she would be there. She’d been to the previous night’s rehearsal and intuitively knew I’d be there, before I did. One of her long-time friends was also playing in the orchestra. I love it when my worlds collide!

Gypsy Moth Tonglen

27 06 2017

27 June 2017

We are being eaten alive by gypsy moths in my area. Droppings all over the driveways and porches. Gathering clusters of leaf parcels clipped off and wasted. Trunks of trees lined with crawling caterpillars. Long black lines of final instars inching along leaves and stems of trees…oaks and maples, apples and beech, almost any green thing and every kind.

I look into the canopy and I see sky when I should see leaves. My heart aches for these trees, some in areas previously devastated by hemlock woolly adelgid, and now this. I know how important trees are for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide; we breathe in O2 and out CO2, while trees do the opposite and we form a complementary respiratory cycle. I can feel them struggling to get enough food and oxygen to survive.

UCONN Summer 2015 006.jpgAnd then I remember tonglen meditation. It’s a Buddhist practice of “give and take,” an opportunity to support those in pain. I stand under the trees, I inhale and take in all their pain, suffering, and difficulties that these gypsy moths cause. And I exhale my strongest wishes for the good health and continued sustenance of the trees. I do this multiple times until I have no more to give, or I feel I’ve done enough, or I run out of breath. I’ve asked groups of people on my hikes to do this. Twenty-plus of us standing under a group of gypsy moth-stricken trees, all breathing with them, supporting the trees that help us breathe.

I encourage you to do the same.

People are Creative; Art is Subjective

8 05 2017

NB Art Show generalAPRIL 30, 2017

My friend invited me to see her art piece in the Nor’easter exhibit at the New Britain Museum of American Art. I was happy to oblige and attended the award presentation this past Sunday afternoon. Museum Director Min Jung Kim, describing this 47th annual juried show that highlights emerging artists in all media, noted that more than a thousand artists entered and eighty-eight were chosen. What competition! I am impressed by those accepted.

Sarah Fritchey, writer and full-time curator/gallery director at Artspace New Haven, was the juror who reviewed and selected those to participate. Her approach focused on seven common themes among the artists she chose: consumerism, violence against minorities, expression of time/discipline, power/oppression, reflections of major art works, craft works, and modernity.

Both Kim and Fritchey invited prize winners to the podium to be acknowledged and receive their award. The room was filled with artists, their family, and friends and we filtered upstairs, after enjoying some refreshments. I was excited to see the results.

NB Art Show CarolMy friend’s piece, United We Stand, was in the first room of the exhibit. She explained that fiber art has only recently been accepted in this type of show. Curator Fritchey had specifically commented earlier that she encouraged quilting and ceramics (both previously considered more hobbies than art). I realized there was much more politics to this than I had ever imagined.

NB Art Show visitors

I roamed the gallery, taking in a wide array of art forms and eavesdropping on conversations with artists. It was sweet to watch connections and reactions on people’s faces as they examined the works. Here are two of my summary ideas from the afternoon.

People are Creative

The variety of art forms and the ways they were used astounded me: an old tool box, filled with cloth replicas of tools; a stunning orb of color on opaque acrylic glass; a nostalgic and poignant video; a collage of small photo scraps; digital renderings; clothing mixed with poetry; Braille letters; an old student desk; bricks and arrows, just to name a few.

 Art is Subjective

Juror Fritchey included United We Stand as a testament to craft work, but to me it’s about addressing oppression (support of the union). The juror also categorized the third prize winner, Shoe Scribe, as consumerism. But, as I heard the poem written on the soles of the shoes in the work read aloud by another viewer, it sounded so poignantly focused on loss and endings.

NB Art Show MedussaMy favorite piece (no offense to my friend) was Medusa, a collage of snippets shaped into a stunning tree (probably why I was drawn to the piece initially). Only when I looked at the label did I realize how it was produced.

Which brings me to note how subjective art (and poetry) can be. Artists have an intention (sometimes) and understanding of their piece. What we, the viewers, get from it may be something so very different. I hope there is enough space for us to maintain our views and interpretations without offending the creator and not losing what is being offered.

Just a PS: I found it an interesting piece of strategy that one must be a member of the New Britain Museum in order to enter this exhibit. A sure-fire way to increase membership!