art imitates life

Painter Hildy Bernstein is an existentialist and a shamanic seeker. In her relentless artwork she probes her own unconscious as well as the unseen world of mythic archetypes. She waits, all her skills ready like the sword of a trained fighter, until that elusive something (meaning, perhaps) begins to materialize. And then she makes her move.

Hildy.imageWhat she captures—retrieves from her solitary vision quest—is ours to decipher. She makes no claims as to what the faces, and haunted moments of somebody’s history, might mean. But she brings it to us to savor. To contemplate. And to find within the work some new aspect of our own lives. Some of it is confrontational, even difficult to consider. All of it is authentic.

For more about the work of Hildy Bernstein see my June 2016 profile of her. The work of this fearless artist will be on exhibit starting Saturday, September 24th at the wild and gala Anne & Mark’s Art Party in San Jose, through October 1.

behind the Big Screen


I’m a fool for Big Screen movies. No hand-held device, no TV, no laptop will ever be able to deliver that tangible, chewable breathtaking immersion in another reality that movies seen in a theater can do.

Before you think “oh how yesterday,” consider the obvious. Movies in a darkened theater force your full attention onto that screen and into the action, into the lives, fortunes, and dangers of characters who come to life — larger-than-life! — for two hours.

The darkness places us in a magical space, a space without distraction (yes Millenials, it’s possible). Hence everything we see is intensified. The visual impact of huge figures, explosions, long, burning kisses, it not only a feast for the eyes, but an orgy for our bodies. Film is a physical experience, delivering through our bodies the sense that we have actually been somewhere new, different, exotic that looking at a photograph or even watching a play simply cannot emulate.


So why is that an image of Matt Damon at the top of this post? Because I have been thinking about Jason Bourne for a few weeks now. The fifth installment of Robert Ludlum’s anguished, buffed, amnesia-driven CIA operative continues to pack a wallop. (Full disclosure: I have no problem watching buffed men fighting other buffed men. On the screen, that is. My mother enjoyed watching men at construction sites. She drove very slowly by road crews pointing out the areas of interest. She claimed to have been fascinated with heavy machinery. . .  so I grew up having her point out men on rooftops, usually without shirts, sweating in the hot sun over righteous labor. The apple doesn’t fall very far, etc. etc.)


At any rate, while the latest Bourne installment lacks the incendiary opening chases that have distinguished some of the others, notably The Bourne Ultimatum, it does offer a voyeuristic glimpse of Matt Damon’s enduring abdominal aesthetic before careening through a cascade of surveillance pornography that is, I’ll admit, very much to my taste. Continue readingbehind the Big Screen

ode to a frozen Charlotte

What is this? I asked the saleswoman at the store in Berkeley.  I held in my hand a tiny white figure of a little girl made of porcelain, with one arm missing. That’s a “frozen Charlotte” she smiled. There was a cautionary tale behind this figurine: it told of a girl who froze to death because—on a cold winter’s night— she refused to cover up her party dress with a coat.

The little dolls were a penny a piece in the late Victorian era—little girls in Europe and America loved them. And the bowl filled with gleaming white Charlottes had called to me. I brought one home.charlotte

The name comes from a poem written by poet, Seba Smith, who was inspired by a real-life story. A vain young woman, who refused to wrap herself in a warm coat on a winter’s night, froze to death riding to a New Year’s Eve ball in an open sleigh.

O, daughter dear,” her mother cried,“This blanket ’round you fold; It is a dreadful night tonight, You’ll catch your death of cold.
O, nay! O, nay!” young Charlotte cried, And she laughed like a gypsy queen; To ride in blankets muffled up, I never would be seen.

The tiny penny dolls were churned out between 1850 and 1920, made of hollow porcelain that could float in a child’s bath as a toy. The dolls, ranging from one inch up to 8 inches in height, were inexpensive and plentiful. Today they seem macabre and yet somehow innocent. Continue readingode to a frozen Charlotte

dreaming of paper and pen

In a digital landscape — would she have survived?

It is a challenge answering email, responding to texts, posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads. With so many hours of so many fingers tapping away at that wireless keyboard, it really make a writer long for something tangible. A pen perhaps? The feel of paper under your hands? You bet!

It is a bit of a seance, your fingers feeling for something deep within the paper, locked inside—or beyond. Hoping that the fingers can channel the exact right word, or phrase for some subtle distinction or nuance of feeling. The pen acts as agent, lifting the ideas up through various invisible layers of fictional being, into full-fledged existence.

How the pen moves—quickly? elegantly? slowly?—makes all the difference, like a fisherman using specific lures to capture different species of fish. How I write can help to manifest what I write.
. . . (to be continued)

what would Virginia Woolf do?: Part Two


Virginia Woolf used to complain when she ran out of ink, or if she needed a new nib for her pen. Definitely old school. But those of us who write for a living, or out of passion, we each have rituals that not only define our process but which define the outcome as well.


While I was reading Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary I found myself marking passages (in pencil) in the margins. That became too obscure, so I reached for a pad of orange post-its and began sticking them onto the pages with passages that inspired me, or that shed light on her concerns as a writer. As I read, I always have a small pad of paper nearby— and I make notes of phrases or words that catch my fancy.

This is probably the residue of long years of Continue readingwhat would Virginia Woolf do?: Part Two

crystal palace


My grand-mother collected S&H Green Stamps and Meissen milkmaids. My mother collects wasps’ nests. I have managed to acquire an unlikely group of spheres: an ornament embedded with mirrors from an import store, two quartz globes from a gem show, a huge lead crystal orb large enough to support an embroidered fez. Smaller spheres surround these large ones: an alabaster sphere from a trip to Tuscany, a glass marble that belonged to my mother in her marble-shooting childhood, a lead fishing weight, a dried datura gourd, perfectly preserved, that came home with me from a trip to the Mojave. These rhyming shapes make a soothing meditation for the eyes and have staked out their territory in my dining room for over a decade.
Inside the Flame

unlikely textures


The roughness of the world is as sweet as its silkiness. Sweeter even because of all it asks of us. The beauty of something like my repurposed backyard cactus takes more work to find. But it’s there. This summer I am rewarded for my care by the sudden starburst of flowers, unlikely coral-hued beauties that suddenly appear along each spikey finger. And I dare not touch. Just look and imagine its secret life.

what would Virginia Woolf do? Part One


I’m inspecting the inside of the oven door. Yes, it really does need some attention from a single edge razor blade. You see I plan to set my fat-encrusted oven on “Self Cleaning,” a process that will require the dedication of four hours during which the house will smell not good. But before that four hour immolation of hardened bits of caramel, chicken grease, and demerara sugar occurs, I must get in there and really scrub off the most egregious masses of baked-on ooze. If I don’t, when the self-cleaning process is in motion those highly combustible bits of sugar and fat might catch fire and turn the kitchen, my antique rugs, my sweetie’s paintings, our computers, and the odd floor lamp into blackened ruin.

Hence I’m in there inspecting the inside of the oven door in preparation for the oven-cleaning event.

If you know that a writer is busy pre-cleaning the oven, on her knees, working it over with a single-edge razor blade, then you also know that the writer in question is avoiding some looming deadline. Continue readingwhat would Virginia Woolf do? Part One

random shrines


“Perhaps because I had no roots to hold me tight to one path or one place, I was free to explore. In the process I have filled each event in my life with as much color, movement, and awareness as it could hold.
The quest for home has provided me with incredible joys, silly fun, and adventure as well as many awkward moments and occasional terrors. Along the way my attitude of curiosity helped to open doors, metaphorical as well as literal, which would otherwise have remained shut.”


[from, Inside the Flame, Parallax Press, 2016]

identity portals


“Many of us have trouble parting with old clothes, toys, or games from childhood, papers from college, single gloves that have long since lost their mates, and empty perfume bottles still heady with scent. We keep them because they still transmit an aura of pleasure, or importance. Our eyes love to look at them. They haven’t faded into generic oblivion. We refuse to part with them because they keep us whole. They are our history, kept close at hand, available to open up and touch once more. Continue readingidentity portals