My friend Liz and I are picking olives in Tijola at a good friend’s. Sunshine, lots of exercise and log fires in the cold evenings although its hot enough to eat lunch outside. Various photos from today. So grateful for some colour and light in winter.
I was sitting and painting just now, and randomly remembered the first time I went to Phoenix, Arizona. I hadn’t been in America long and was working for a start-up magazine, as a P.A. I was staying at a friend of a friend’s house, with a woman with whom I got on really well. She was a nurse called Pat. She lived in a place you never find in England or Europe. It was more like a holiday-let, with swimming pools, laundromats, community centres and little walkways between cactus gardens, and apartments with small ‘yards’ which were more like terraces or patios with little walls surrounding, and all was on ground level. No one walked anywhere, ever. Even to go to the grocer’s shop (the market as they called it,) two minutes away, people would jump in their 4 by 4s and go ’round the corner for a pint (or quart) of milk.. I would walk. I was the only one walking, as I was in L.A. when I lived there..
One day, (I was only there briefly,) Pat announced to me that we had been invited to a ‘naked party’ with her doctor and nurse friends. A naked party. I remember the name of the doctor.. It was sort of a secret. I was a little nervous, but took it all in my stride. My life was often strange back then, as I allowed the weirdness and welcomed it..
We turned up, were offered drinks, (margaritas) and everyone casually disrobed. (I don’t remember how.. maybe they slipped into a bath robe, which slowly came off. I think I was handed a bath robe (towelling) and put it on, and later slipped it off. Perhaps as the margaritas took effect, the bath robes slowly fell off. I cannot remember clearly. However I remember it being fun and pretty harmless. People played volley ball. Naked men in sun-visors, peering into bushes (of the plant variety) for lost balls (of the volley-variety..) It was surreal. Naked bottoms tilting towards the sun in search of balls lost to bushes.. I also remember mild flirtations. We were all in the jaccuzzi. Me and a load of doctors and nurses.. I was a fair bit younger than they were. I was only about twenty five or six and the others were around thirty five, forty and fifty. I did keep my undies on. I was the only one who did though. It was nice, sunny, warm and strange. As I later recounted this to my American friend Elizabeth, she found it so funny, because she thought as an outsider, not an American, that I must have thought this was the sort of thing Americans did all the time, which did cross my mind..I had no idea really, but they don’t. It was the early nineties. America was really quite conservative. And in my five years in California thereafter, I never was invited to another naked party. And you could get fined for being topless on the beach.
I also recall another aspect of conservatism of the time, in California. It was against the law in Beverly Hills ( and possibly still is, unlike in Europe) to drink beer at a sidewalk cafe. My friends and I asked for a beer outside. The (French) waiter said he would see what he could do, and he brought our beer out to us in a huge white teapot, with three cups. What a genius idea.
I loved Phoenix though. It was like being on the moon, compared to the UK. I think the naked party was in Scottsdale; the posh bit of Phoenix. I loved how, as you were driving, that you would drive around a mountain which was just ‘there’ like a huge red pyramid in the middle of a vast flat city with huge pinky-blue skies..
I had a job for a week painting a mural at a doctor’s house (one that I had met at the naked party.) I was painting the mural by his swimming pool. It was hot. So very very hot. Maybe 110 degrees fahrenheit. I would paint, get too hot, then jump in the pool to cool off.. would dry off while painting, then jump back in the pool.. It was so bright, the light. I remember coming in from outside, my eyes so unaccustomed to being indoors, walked into my guest bedroom and walked straight into the edge of the coffee table. I still have the scar on my shin. A few days later, people were driving around with bumper stickers declaring they had survived the 110 degree heatwave.
It feels like we are emerging from the longest winter I can ever remember. Being mercurial by nature, I wonder how I have survived. I am very affected by barometric pressure and lack of sunlight. I tried one of those SAD lamps and they made no difference whatsoever. However I realised they are very good for painting in low light, which is how I now use mine. I have kept sane by walking religiously for 40 minutes each day. I am so lucky to have a beautiful green space with a cliff path overlooking the sea to walk along daily, but the rain this winter rendered the path so muddy it was virtually impassable, so I donned my wellies and hiking poles and waded through every day; through wind, snow, rain, sludge and mud, slipping and sliding and sometimes shouting out of sheer frustration. I refused to join a gym with that path on my doorstep. I feel like walking re-formats my mind and body. I can feel the endorphins kick in after 20 minutes and I return home happy.
I also decided, alongside my sporadic teaching jobs, that I would paint sun and warmth, if the sun wouldn’t come out. So I wanted to channel a bit of Mexico and a bit of Spain, (although according to friends, Spain has been through a couple of months of unusual cold and rain, so I didn’t make my default getaway there.) So here are my latest paintings: ‘Frida and the Tree of Life’ and ‘Red Planets and Hills.’
In my Etsy shop:
All paintings on this blog are my copyright. Copyright Alice Mason 2018.
It is true I am full of dreams. Sometimes I notice that I am scared to realise them, and then I think of the Mary Oliver quote from The Summer Day: ‘Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ It seems everyone is or needs a life coach these days. Perhaps people feel they need a life coach because really they need to just look at themselves as recognise that they only have one life and yet are full of unfulfilled dreams and schemes. I know I am, but I don’t need a life coach. When I was younger I felt fearless almost. Sometimes I feel that I need to recapture that fearlessness. Other days I know that I will always be richer for the experiences that took away my fearlessness for a while. I am a multitude of emotions; conflicting and co-existing simultaneously. That’s creativity and I don’t mind. I will always remember the Georgia O’Keeffe quote that went something like this: ‘I’ve always been absolutely terrified every single moment of my life, and I’ve never let it stop me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.’ Such power in just a few words. Talk about ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway. ‘ ~ Susan Jeffers ~ another great quote from a woman.
Feel it all, accept it, move with it, be with it, love it even, and never let it, whatever it is, stop you from reaching.
‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?’
From The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Painting by me.
New painting, still ongoing, but wanted to capture it at this stage. All paintings on this blog are copyright Alice Mason.
I love walking and it’s probably the most important activity in my life, apart from painting. Even during the worst weather I chuck myself out of the door and force myself up that hill and along the cliff path. Snow is beautiful, it can’t be denied, and walking in it can feel like I have entered a parallel universe. But when it’s accompanied by Siberian ice-wind it’s a different matter. Getting a teenage boy to go for a long walk in the snow is no mean feat, but bribery works.