Doug Westendorp – visual musings

My friend Doug Westendorp is having an art sale and book launch on Saturday, April 1st. He has compiled some of the drawings he’s done over the past few months into a coloring book. He’ll also have some of his other work available.

It’s hard to describe the dream-like images in the coloring book. An odd combination of adjectives comes to mind, such as whimsical, lonely, peaceful, and upsetting. If that doesn’t make any sense, it’s because these drawings are perhaps better contemplated than discussed. Each one is a meditation, asking more questions than it answers.

Here are some examples from this series of drawings — both uncolored and colored — by Doug.

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Doug has been making art for many years, as well as teaching visual arts at the college level. He’s also a writer and a poet. You might remember him from my previous post about his son, Aaron, and the documentary film I’m making about him.  Oh, and by the way, he’s also a musician, and some of his music will be in the film.

Artists, of course, work in different ways.  Doug tends to find a theme and latch on to it for a while, until he either exhausts his energy for it or is inspired to move to something else. Since getting to know Doug over the past few years, we’ve acquired pieces from a couple of his different periods of work.

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If you’re interested in owning something beautiful, made by a local artist (who also happens to be a great guy), here’s the info for Doug’s sale next weekend.  If you’re reading this after the April 1st show, here’s Doug’s website. He’ll be glad to meet you at his studio in Minneapolis if you’d like to see more of his work.

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This cut paper design from last year hangs in our dining room.

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Still life by Doug is in the eating area of the kitchen.

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Doug with granddaughter Ramona Rae and daughter Jill at a show of his work last summer.

The New Frontier Lutheran Radio Hour (you don’t have to be a Lutheran to enjoy it)

I want you to let know about something pretty great that one of my friends is doing.

Although I’m not a churchgoer, several times over the past few years Karen and I have gone to a Christmas Eve service at one place or another. This winter, we decided to check out Diamond Lake Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis. It’s a nice looking building overlooking a small lake, and we drive by it all the time.

After the service, we bumped into Graydon Royce, whom I’ve known for quite a few years, mostly as a golf companion, but you might recognize as a recently retired theater critic at the Minneapolis StarTribune. After chatting for a while about his festive holiday sweater and a few other things, he suggested that we come back in a few weeks, when he would be doing his monthly radio-style show during (actually in place of) the 11:00 service.New Frontier Radio Hour program (1) Knowing of his interests and experiences in all things theatrical, it shouldn’t have surprised me that he was doing something like this — but it did surprise a bit, given that he’s in the sixth year of it, and he hadn’t mentioned it to me before. Geeze, the stuff you DON’T talk about on the golf course . . .

We took Graydon up on his invitation, and were in the audience for The New Frontier Lutheran Radio Hour,  “broadcasting live from the Great Fellowship Hall of New Frontier Lutheran Church, on the shores of Emerald Lake, in historic Midtown, USA” (which, honestly, looked a lot like a large, multi-purpose room at Diamond Lake Lutheran, which coincidentally also sits on the shore of a lake in Minneapolis, USA).

The “broadcast” is actually a podcast of the monthly installments of the show.  Click here to listen to past episodes, going back to the first performance in September, 2011. While there are many other talented and hardworking people from the congregation involved, both on stage and off stage, the show is Graydon’s brainchild, and he is the host, writer, and executive producer.

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“Everett Erickson” interviews Rev. Jean Sidner and her husband, Art, during the January show.

New Frontier is part radio play (think Lake Wobegon, but with actors giving voices to the characters), part music (members of the congregation + guests), part interview (a different religion or spirituality guest each month), and part sermon-like monologue (by Everett Erickson -AKA Graydon).

Graydon and his troupe of volunteer performers manage to produce a professional quality show because they have a lot of talents and skills -plus the guts to get up on the stage and do it. They’re also helped by some financial support from Thrivent Financial.

The live performance each month is a kind of a big deal.  It’s clear that Diamond Lake Lutheran’s congregation is pretty supportive of it, and I have the feeling that many of the church’s members attend both the earlier service as well as New Frontier’s 11:00 show.

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Announcer Jim Lowry (aka Eric Ringham) introduces the February show, while a host of musicians and actors await their turns at the mics.

If you want to see the show live, here’s Diamond Lake Lutheran’s website.  You have 2 more chances to attend before they break for the summer months.  The next show is on April 23 and then May 14. Get there before 11:00. Of course, you can listen to the podcasts any time and make up the visual images in your mind as you close your eyes and sit in front of your grandma’s big old RCA radio.

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Now THIS is the way to listen to The New Frontier Lutheran Radio Hour!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Non-Blizzard of 2017 in Photos

On Wednesday, various weather predictions for Friday ranged from 9 to 24 inches of snow — plus high winds. Not only did we get zero snow on Friday, but at about 3:30, the sun peeked out for a couple of minutes. I’m tempted to say that the snow was knee-deep and post photos of buried cars. But I think I’ll go the other route and declare that the local weather forecast is fake news.

In other big news from last week, the President of the United States said some things that weren’t true.

That’s America these days — global warming and a (literally) unbelievable President.

Here’s a photo from each day last week — Week #8 of 2017.

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(2/19/17)  Ice fishing in shorts appears to be part of the new world order.  But I’ll take this over going swimming in a big parka any day.

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(2/20/17)  It was a rainy, yucky day.  It was starting to get dark and I didn’t have a photo yet,  so I decided to hop in the car and see what I could find. A block and a half from my house I realized that what I really needed to do was hop out and go for a walk — maybe splash in a few puddles with my mom.  It made a yucky day feel kind of happy.

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(2/21/17)  Here’s the highlight of my week (and the reason has nothing to do with the impossibility of hitting golf balls on a driving range in Minnesota in February).  Roger Buoen was out swinging his brand new irons 3 weeks after his final chemotherapy treatment. He’s been my life coach for a few years now (a volunteer position), but he’s taken it to a whole new level with this role-model, teach-by-example thing he’s doing now.  (Note: Please don’t show this photo to any law enforcement officers, however.  You’ll notice he’s hitting off the ground ahead of the mats, in blatant violation of the posted warnings.  But he just had to see how that new 8-iron felt off the turf.)

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(2/22/17) I just love this little old bridge over the creek near my house. (12th Avenue South)

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(2/23/17)  Surprise!!! Karen’s sister LeeAnn, and husband Tony, called us from Pepito’s Restaurant a couple of blocks away and invited us to lunch.  We had no idea they were here from their new home in Florida, but what a nice surprise.  They came back for nephew Chad McNiesh’s military service retirement party.

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(2/24/17)  Minnesota IFP DocuClub founder Melody Gilbert (standing, right) is back after living in Bulgaria for several years, and we’re all thrilled about it.  She’s an accomplished documentary filmmaker who takes the time to help those of us who are learning.  This group has come a long way since I started attending almost 11 years ago.  There are some top-notch filmmakers in the group now, including Jeremy Wilker (standing, left) who is shown doing a camera demonstration.  I’ve been an infrequent attendee of DocuClub over the past few years, but this meeting was great for me — I got some honest and helpful feedback on my project, saw wonderful works-in-progress by fellow video-makers, reconnected with some old friends, and remembered why I used to like coming so much. I’m already looking forward to next month’s meeting.

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(2/25/17)  If Roger’s return to the golf course on Tuesday wasn’t enough to be grateful for, Cindy’s invitation to dinner on Saturday was the icing on that cake.  It’s been a miserable winter for Roger and a very tough one for Cindy. It was great to see them laughing, and so nice of Cindy to cook a wonderful meal for us.

 

 

 

 

My first Photo-A-Day blunder of the year

Week 7 of 2017 was a great week to be outdoors in Minnesota. The weather was crazy-warm for this time of year, and I did get out and shoot photos every day (honest!). But when I went through my week of photos this weekend, my shots from Wednesday were missing!  I mistakenly erased a memory card before uploading all the pictures.  I kicked myself for a couple of minutes and then decided to get on with my life.

However, I am still going to post 7 photos – two of them from Thursday’s visit from the grandkids. So, everything is fine, and any illusions of perfection in my posting a shot from each day have been dropped.

(I really did shoot some photos on Wednesday, though — I swear.)

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(2/12/17)  Neva scores!!! We went to see good friend Neva Kueffer (celebrating with her stick in the air) play a game in her women’s league at the Augsburg College arena. She decided to give us a thrill by flipping one past a very tough goalkeeper. Female hockey has become a big thing in this part of the country, and these women are really good.

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(2/13/17) One of our neighbors a couple of blocks away has created a whimsical contraption in their front yard.  Covered by a cute canopy and surrounded by a colorful fence, this assemblage of little houses  has doors and windows that open and close, and lights that shine — all courtesy of solar panels (and some wind assistance).  It’s an amazing, beautiful little piece of yard art, carefully designed and constructed.  I’m mesmerized every time I walk by it.  One day I’ll knock on the door and ask to meet the person who dreamed this up.

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(2/14/17) Now this is what a principal’s office should look like — no intimidating big desk, just a little round table in the center and about six comfortable chairs arranged in a circle.  That set up tells a lot about my old friend Hernan Moncada’s management style. We taught together at Windom School in Minneapolis about 10 years ago (when he was just a kid).  Señor Moncada texted recently and invited me to stop in and have coffee at his school — Eagle Heights Spanish Immersion Elementary in Eden Prairie, MN. This smart, funny, energetic, young man runs a school with a population of 800 students! I’m proud to call him my friend. I hope the staff and families know how lucky they are.

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(2/16/17) We have a recurring role-playing game at our house that was started by Otto’s sister.  It’s called “Missed our flight and have to sleep at the airport”.   I kid you not.  I don’t think she’s ever had to do that in her 4.7 years of air travel, but Otto also loves to play it  — even when his sister is not around to make the public address announcements.

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(2/16/17)  She’s got style.  Miss Svea arrived wearing an elegant black dress (open in the back), grabbed the earmuffs from the wall hook, and made a bee-line to the front hall closet to find someone’s gloves. Earrings and pearls next time?

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(2/17/17) If you don’t understand the craziness of this picture, you’ve never spent a winter in Minnesota. Today’s high temp was 63, shattering the previous record of 55.  The average high for today is 29 degrees. We have virtually no snow on the ground . . . we’re biking . . . in shorts . . . in Minneapolis . . . on February 17.  

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(2/18/17)  One of the Twin Cities’ best kept secrets is the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, just east of the behemoth shopping center modestly named “The Mall of America” and just below the bluffs from a bunch of office buildings and a Hilton Hotel.  This refuge is part of a 70-mile stretch of land and river that is under the protection of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. You can leave the Big Mall or the MSP International Airport and in 5 minutes be walking in a huge, protected natural setting.  They have a great visitors center and hiking trails down to the water level. I’ve been here several times before with students, but a lot of Twin Cities residents aren’t even aware that it’s here and worth exploring.

 

 

 

More than just Survival

The second week of January is alway pretty quiet in this part of the country. Everyone is solidly back in the daily grind after the holiday season.Version 3

The bulk and the brunt of winter are still ahead, which can be a daunting thought.  A small percentage of  Minnesotans actually enjoy going outdoors in the bitter January air. We all like to brag about being hearty souls, but honestly, most of us merely survive the winter — relatively few embrace it.                                 .
If you venture out in single-digit “high” temps, you might see a runner on Minnehaha Parkway, a cross-country skier on Hiawatha Golf Course, and increasingly over the past few years, grown, intelligent-looking men and women riding bicycles with big fat tires on the snow and ice.

 

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These guys are riding ON the creek.

Seemingly every time I shovel the front sidewalk, the ever-chipper neighbor walking her dog with its little boots comes by and says something about what a nice day it is. Not to be argumentative, I find my self mumbling a semi-agreement. It works for a moment, long enough anyway to remember the bigger picture, that life really is pretty darn good right now.  One day, I even found myself thinking (for a split second), “I’m thankful I can still shovel snow”.

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One of us is better at the embracing- thing than the other.

Being retired brings other, more predictable, moments of gratefulness.  We had a mild snow storm earlier this week and a voice on the radio said the usual, “There have been hundreds of accidents on Twin Cities roads already this morning. If you don’t have to go anywhere today, stay home”.  I did, and I liked it a lot.

I’ve managed to keep my photo-a-day resolution going for two weeks.  According to a survey by a site called StatisticBrain.com, 68.4% of those who make a new year’s resolution keep it going for the first two weeks.  I thought that percentage would be lower, but I’ll take it.  I’m already ahead of 31.6% of the resolution-makers!

With my back still stinging from that self-pat, here is one photo from each day of week two. You’ll that see I did manage to get my butt outside a few times. And OK. . . .yes, it was a good thing.

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(1/8/17) We dropped in to see my friend Graydon Royce do his a radio show / podcast called “The New Frontier Lutheran Radio Hour” (More about this in the coming days.)

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(1/9/17) Svea

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(1/10/17) Karen doing all the work, as usual. (Hey, SOMEBODY has to take the picture.)

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(1/11/17) Catching some rays at Minnehaha Creek

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(1/12/17) 4:40 PM – Stained glass (made by Karen) holds onto the last sunlight of the day.

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(1/13/17) Walking on water . . . a stroll across Lake Nokomis at sundown.

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(1/14/17) The rocks in Minnehaha Creek somehow remember their summer colors.

A gift from Pastor Patrick

I haven’t written a blog post in nearly four years. I have reasons and excuses for the that, but the only audience that cares about them is me, so I’ll spare you. Today is the only day I can do anything about.

Over the past few months, I’d been thinking about trying to write again.  I considered starting a new blog or maybe changing the name of it. Then yesterday,  (New Years Eve) while scrolling mindlessly through my Facebook feed, a post by a man I’ve only met a few times, Pastor Patrick Cabello Hansel of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis caught my eye.  What I know of Patrick is that he is a humble, gentle, generous guy, with a deep spirit and a fire in his heart to make the world a better place. He’s an author,  a community leader, a social justice and human rights activist, an artist and promoter of the arts, and the co-pastor (along with his wife, Luisa) of a vibrant, multicultural, multilingual, urban congregation.

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Pastor Patrick Cabello Hansel – St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

But last night, it was his quiet, elegant poem that grabbed me, and reminded me why, about seven years ago, I named my blog “Trying to Pay Attention”.

I haven’t made many New Year’s resolutions in the past, but Patrick’s poem feels like a (big) nudge for me to restart something that I used to enjoy — and the timing of it makes it impossible for me to ignore.  I’m not going to make the mistake of setting arbitrary goals for posting things that I will undoubtedly either stress about or give up on, but I am going to give this blog thing another shot.

So here’s Pastor Patrick’s poem. In it, this line repeats, “I try to pay attention”.  I take it as a reminder for me to start trying harder — to pay attention to myself and to the world around me.

Thank you for this gift, Patrick.  Many of us are entering 2017 with feelings of dismay, apprehension and trepidation. Let’s hope the new year will be a happy one. We all know it’s going to be a memorable one. Let’s all light a candle each day . . . and try to pay attention.

My last poem written in 2016 (unless something pops into my head before midnight!)

– Pastor Patrick Cabello Hansel

On winter mornings
I light a candle
I carry my tea
To the old chair
I sit
I breathe
I try to pay attention
Sometimes I fall asleep
Sometimes the light flickers
And something raw and ugly
Arises from my soul
I try to pay attention
And hear its voice
I sit
I wonder
I breathe the loneliness
And glory we were born into
I await the rising
The first day
The last day
The day that is to come

The Easter Beagle strikes!

I hadn’t really paid much attention to Easter for a long time, until last year, when a cute basket from Lars and Evelyn Ramgren showed up on my doorstep. It had potatoes and and onion in it (which I gobbled up immediately) and it was very colorful and nice. I was glad to see that the tradition now included good, healthy food, because all we ever got when I was a kid was candy.

But today a very mysterious thing happened. I got a text message on my phone saying that the “Easter Beagle” had struck. Wow. I had no idea what that meant. I thought and thought about it, but couldn’t figure it out. So I cranked up my computing machine and goggled it up on one of the internets. Apparently there was a documentary film called “It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown” made a while back. I hadn’t seen the film, so I asked Peet (Emily and Kyle’s dog) who is an expert on canine flix. He said, “WOOF!” and went straight to the front window. He knew what was going on.

Peet eyes the Easter Beagle booty.

Imagine my delight at finding a basket full of not only root vegetables (which this year included radishes and a carrot in addition to the traditional potato and onion), but a Santa Claus Pez dispenser, some Halloween SourBats AND Valentine conversation hearts!

Last year, the Ramgren kids were very nice to me. They apparently took a year off this year, but a very thoughtful and generous beagle picked up the Easter torch and brightened the day of a lonely old man and his (daughter’s) dog.

Wait a minute . . . . I wonder if the basket is really for Peet? hmmmm . . . .