Archive for September, 2010

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is old-fashioned.

Fall has whispered sweet nothings to maple trees here in Northern California, blushing the tips of leaves red, orange and gold. In this country, it is the season when thoughts turn strongly toward the traditional, the old-fashioned: Halloween costumes, pumpkin pie, turkey dinner with all the trimmings, and, later, the exchange of gifts. There is much to be said in favor of traditional things. They can be a great source of comfort and connection… a feeling of participation in meaningful, often ancient, rituals. But like all things on this planet of polarities, even tradition has its shadow. And because tradition is, well, Tradition with a capital ‘T,’ that darker side is often overlooked… and frequently even exploited.

The dark side of tradition can take the shape of impersonal expectations and rules. It shows up as justification for “winning at all costs.” It often insists that “one size fits all.” At its darkest, tradition assumes the form of such old-fashioned practices as war, revenge, “business as usual,” skeletons kept in closets, and beliefs like “it’s a bunny-eat-bunny-world.” These and many other old-fashioned ‘traditions’ frequently lead to loss of limb, loss of life, and wounds to the spirit that heal exceedingly slowly… sometimes never.

Perhaps some traditions are ripe for a bit of human-centered change?

“Old Woman” (pen & ink, watercolor, colored pencil)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is acrobat.

I seem to have been born with a lot of checks in the Control column. More, really, than I like to admit. Surrender does not come easily. But sensing the importance, I have wrestled with ‘control tendencies’ for most of my adult life. If this actually were a wrestling match, most days I would be pinned in the first thirty seconds…

Letting go to the ebb and flow of Life, to some greater plan and power, to some far-wiser intelligence is indeed wonderful to contemplate… I imagine it to feel so, well, safe. But in reality, the experience (to this beginner, at least) feels so much more like the acrobat who must let go of one hold, one swing, even before she can grasp the next one. In a word: scary.

And yet, the whole question of Surrender comes down, once again, to that Big Question, that Albert Einstein quote that I’ve mentioned before… do I believe that the Universe is hostile… or friendly? (Will the next swing be there when I let go of this one?)

The challenge looks like this…

“When you have come to the edge of all the light you have, and step into the darkness of the unknown, believe that one of the two will happen to you: either you’ll find something solid to stand on… or you’ll be taught how to fly.”   Richard Bach

Where is that acrobat in me? It’s on the Parts List, so I know it must be here somewhere… ?

“The Acrobat” (pen and ink, watercolor, pencil)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is proverb.

The term may be a little old-fashioned, but everyone has encountered the proverb. That annoying saying your family repeats whenever something goes wrong is a sort of proverb. The Aesop’s Fables you’ve read to your children contain proverbs in abundance. They’re found, too, in the New Age literature that somebody, somewhere is making a lot of money from. And, yes, they are those Biblical phrases you had to memorize when you were twelve. Proverbs are also our favorite quotes, and the gentle reminders about Life that we give ourselves. Proverbs are the Cliff Notes of wisdom.

My current favorite: “If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.” (Cowboy Wisdom)

“The Messenger” (casein, wax on clayboard)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is dessert.

Ah… dessert! The pleasures and temptations of this sweet treat are legendary. Lovers are wooed, diets foiled, holidays and birthdays are celebrated and memories made permanent all under the influence of dessert. How could we live without it?

Do you have a weakness for pumpkin pie, cheesecake, banana splits or Tiramisu? Holidays have their traditional treats, and whole countries insist on their favorites. In the single category of ‘chocolate,’ there are so many roads to pleasure!

I, myself, am a purist: chocolate chip/walnut cookies (no milk), french vanilla ice cream (no topping), cherry pie or devil’s food cake (no a la mode), dark chocolate–straight! My mother would live on chocolate if no one interfered… perhaps it is genetic?? Even people who swear that they are “not a dessert person,” will have their dessert-like behaviors: the after-dinner drink, smoke, television program, movie or book. It’s really all about the ‘treat’ quality of this thing called dessert… and the definition of dessert will be always be open to interpretation.

My own favorite ‘dessert behaviors’ (in any delicious order) are:

  1. Dessert for breakfast. (See my favorite quote at the bottom of this post.)
  2. Eating dessert alone. (So I can savor without interruption.)
  3. Dessert while reading, preferably as in #2. (Head and stomach both get happy.)
  4. Dessert after a huge, traditional meal like Thanksgiving… when I can savor the sweetness because hunger is not a factor–I’m already stuffed.
  5. Dessert to celebrate success.
  6. Dessert as the perfectly brewed cup of twig tea or decaf latte.
  7. Dessert as all the mangoes, papayas, blueberries, strawberries or cherries I can eat.
  8. Dessert as pizza!

Everyone knows that desserts are not exactly healthy. (Unless you are thinking of the Soul Food category.) But the memories and temptations of dessert persist… perhaps simply because dessert is linked to some of life’s sweetest moments?

In the fuzzy, but inevitable future, I suspect I will have to celebrate the publication of my first children’s book with a huge piece of chocolate cake—and I won’t even be sorry later…

Here is a collection of delightful dessert quotes. My favorite is by Ernestine Ulmer:  “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.”

“Temptation” (etching)   Inspired by Albrecht Durer‘s “Adam and Eve”

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