Sunday, February 28, 2021

Golden Gate Turned Pink --- Days 312, 13 & 14

Walk: 1. Presidio Pickleball  2. TJ's then Movie Time (Zoom Discuss The Two of Us, watch Another                    Round)   3.Golden Gate Park Magnolias

Distance: 1. 2.3 miles, 90 minutes pickle  2. 2.5 miles then sit discuss & watch  3. 8 miles

So, it's been a pre-covid while since Ciwt spent time in Golden Gate Park's Botanical Garden.  And when she went today she found it had turned gorgeous shades of  pink

The pink world above her and petals at her feet was the annual bloom of more than 200 rare and historic magnolias and one of San Francisco's most breathtaking natural marvels.  The timing is weather dependent and Ciwt was a shade late for the peak, but even in this later stage there were dramatic splashes of velvety color and sweetly fragrant scents.

Magnolia campbellii
The Botanical Garden is home to the most significant magnolia collection outside China.  It began in 1939 when Eric Walther, the Garden Director planted the first magnolia and went on to introduce a wide variety of species and cultivars.  One of the most famous species he planted was a cup and saucer magnolia or Magnolia campbellii which, in 1940, was the first to bloom in the United States and attracted huge crowds of visitors who stood in long lines for the opportunity to see the large pink blossoms.  

80+ years later it is still standing, but Ciwt isn't sure whether she saw it or the numerous other campelliis now in the Garden, each with its own history.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

I See.... --- Days 9/310 & 311

Walk: 1. 2 annual checkups (all good!)  2. Japantown

Distance: 1. 4 miles   2. 2.5 miles, Yoga

Ciwt's check up and vaccine season has begun so she will be getting her exercise walking from medical venue to medical venue for a few weeks  --  and happy to be able to do it 😊.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Stay Still Please --- Days 9/308 & 309

Walk: 1. Monday Errands  2. Presidio Pickleball

Distance: 1. 4 miles  2.2.5 miles, 90 minutes (sweltering) pickle, small stretch

Jim Farrant (English), Sweet Peas and Daisies, undated (ca. 2010)

Ahh, the still life.  It has been a little while since Ciwt spent some time with one of the oldest art genres.  And quite a while since the San Francisco air was so fresh, the birdsong so loud, the sun so promising that Ciwt felt a touch of spring fever.

Still life was an art form long before it was officially deemed a 'genre' by the Dutch in the 16th century (who called it stilleven). And, although often associated with flowers, still lifes are any arrangement of inanimate objects like fruit, glassware and textiles, usually set on a table.   In western art history the earliest known still lifes were created by the Egyptians in the 15th century BCE with the most famous being at the Tomb of Menna whose walls are adorned with exceptionally detailed scenes of everyday life. 

Later, while the Greek and Roman craftsmen mostly reserved their still lifes for mosaics (or the mosaics were the most endurable), they also placed every day objects in their frescoes like this one from a 1st Century wall at Pompei.

Then in the Middle Ages you find still lifes used for religious purposes, often incorporated into bible scenes and illuminated manuscripts.  And then it was on to the Renaissance and astoundingly detailed paintings of everyday life.
Jan Brueghel the Elder, Flowers in a Wooden Vessel, 1606-1607

And the Dutch vanitas still lifes with their momento mori admonition: Don't forget, everything dies, including you.  So don't be too materialistic.  (Or something along those lines all symbolized by rotting fruit, molding bread, rats, clocks, and other deteriorating or dead objects in the canvases). 

Pieter Claelsz, Vanitas Still Life, 1625 

Pretty soon it was on to Impressionist and Post Impressionist art with multi million dollar paintings of Sunflowers.
Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers, 1889

And of course modern art which often challenges (or defeats) the viewer trying to discern the object.
Georges Braque, Still Life with Metronome, 1909

The wonder in this long history is that the still life continues to be such a fresh art form.  Each one different, each with its own individual energy. And, among the inanimate objects, a part of each animate artist left behind. 

Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), May Basket, undated (20th C), o/c

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Congratulations NASA! --- Day 307

Walk: Hood

Distance: 2 miles, small yoga

                                          Mars, 2021

Yes, Virginia, there really is rocket science.  Ciwt is one of a multitude who are over the moon about the U.S. landing on Mars.  Of course she couldn't possibly explain the mission, but NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CIT certainly can.  Here's directly from their website.  And congratulations, NASA!

This is the first high-resolution, color image to be sent back by the Hazard Cameras (Hazcams) on the underside of NASA's Perseverance Mars rover after its landing on Feb. 18, 2021.

A key objective for Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet's geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (the European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these cached samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers.

For more information about the mission, go to

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Down Mexico Way --- Day 9/306

Walk: Presidio Pickleball

Distance: 2.5 miles, 90 minute pickle

So a friend of Ciwt's has a place in Mexico and sent this wonderfully whimsical photo of a bamboo bicyle leanng against a wall in Holbox, Mexico.  Nice warm spin on a cold winter's day up north in the States.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Art, Fabric, The Same --- Day 9/305

Walk: No, Too stunned by Nomadland

Distance: n/a

After something like 100,000 years, mankind evolved from covering itself with animal pelts, furs, probably leaves to being able to produce textiles so easily and inexpensively that there could be 'fiber art.'  That is, textile-based objects that have no intended practical use. And, particularly since the 1960's the dedication, creativity and skills of fabric artists around the world have elevated the field to high art.  Take a look at wonderfully imaginative works by a few of them.

Joana Vasconselos, Crochet Dog

Gabriel Dawe, Rainbow Thread

Svetlana Lyalina, Tapestry Dress/Canvas

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Where's the Wedding? --- Day 9/303 & 4

Walk: 1. No, doing CIWT computer stuff  2. Hood

Distance: 1. n/a, Yoga  2. 2.8 miles, 1 hour pedal, Yoga

Hugo van der Goes ((Flemish, ca 1440-1482), The Virgin and Child with Saints,
Oil on wood panel, @43" x 49" panel

Ciwt has mentioned that she has much to learn about how art is actually made* so she was very interested to see the preparatory underdrawing Hugo van der Goes used to guide him while painting the altarpiece above in the mid 15th century.

She doesn't know what then guided an 18th century artist to strip away the Virgin and Child, add another panel and turn the painting into a scene of the wedding of Henry VII to Elizabeth of York.

The altered panel had been suspected as early as 1890 but denied at the time by the then owner.  So the altarpiece came down through the ages as a wedding painting.  This until 1983- 1984 when a restoration was carried out by David Bull. His work was done so meticulously that the underdrawing was kept intact - a feat considered a masterpiece in itself - and an amazing and extremely rare rediscovery of a work by a famous master was made. 

* See Days 9/268 and 9/270

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Fragments of Some Past --- Day 9/302

Walk: Presidio and Hood

Distance: 5 miles

Greek oil flask from about 550 B.C. supports the idea that spinning and weaving were primarily women’s work*.

Silly Ciwt is still  trying to get some grip on the history of textiles.  

Of all the art histories fabric (clothing, design, manufacture) is the least accessible, largely because of supply and fragility.  Much is known about ceramics because it is endurable (although usually not in its original, unbroken form).  Even ancient wood objects, while rare, have surprising longevity with one existing Spanish tool fragment assigned by scholars to a range of 55,000 - 13,000 BC..  

But not so fabric. What little ancient material has been found is in tatters and very fragile, needing to be stored in conditions that give scholars very limited access.  And those fabrics give no indication of their original shape and color, ownership (priviliged or lower class), relative quality at the time it was used or worn, manufacture.  There is a fine linen shirt preserved in the tomb of Tutankhamum and now at the V and A Museum that dates from around 1360, but such a survival is extremely rare. 

Much of the early history of fabric is told by art such as the Pompeiian wall paintings which show actual contemporary fashion as well as how fabrics were used as wall, floor and table coverings.  Every great once in a while early textiles have left impressions on corroded metal or clay.  And there are a variety of ancient economic accountings of fabric holdings or trade. Historians (including scientists) grope their way along. Imagine trying to reconstruct the civilization from this 3,000 year old fragment thought to be the first instance of chemical dying in history: 

Basically textile history is essentially obscure until the 1550's. By then more people were econically able to consume, there was (slightly) more leisure, more colonies, more trade routes and mediums of exchange, more artists, more consumers, more more mercantile organizations, more inventions.  Paintings were in demand and through them historians can get an actual look how life was being lived, dressed and furnished.

Jean Francois de Troy,  A Reading from Moliere, 1728

But even then most access is to the aristocratic and ecclesiactical classes who could afford fabrics luxurious enough to last and be saved.  

When demand for fabric really caught on and the economies of countries (such as wool in England), towns and cities were nearly solely based on it, some events read like thrillers.  Weavers were lured to ambitious areas, some  actually kidnapped; citizens were forbidden - often on penalty of death -to wear clothing of fabrics manufactured outside their realm.  Merchants from foreign countries were watched like spies, apprehended and jailed if they traded in forbidden fabrics or disallowed quantities.  Inventions were kept under lock and key.

From the 1550's it was on to the Industrial Revolution (1780-1880) and into the modern era culminating for now with the invention of  elastic, wrinkle resistant synthetics and rumors of 'smart fabrics' which will do things like light up, change colors, harness heat and sound.  All in all, fabric has come a long way, but, really, the four original all-natural fabrics -  linen, cotton, wool, silk - whatever their obscure histories will likely prove impossible to improve on.

* And economically exceedingly important.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Only God Can Make...A Safety Pin?!* --- Day 9/301

Walk: No, Rain 😀

Distance: n/a, Yoga

Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen, Corridor Pin Blue, 1999, stainless steel, aluminum and glazed acrylic enamel  (de Young Museum, San Francisco)

So, Ciwt was reading about outdoor sculpture gardens and some of their lovely, harmonious artistic offerings to nature.  Then she thought of our local de Young Museum's sculpture garden which is just off its cafeteria. You buy your food, take it by tray to a table along the greenery,  hear the birds chirp and look out to  view ... a huge safety pin.  

Not harmonious, but that was just fine and had been long before its creation in 1999 with its team of artists, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.  In 1961 Oldenburg wrote in his poem I Am For Art "I am for an art that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum."  And later in the poem 'I am for an art that you can hammer with, stitch with, sew with, paste with, file with. I am for an art that tells you the time of day, or where such and such a street is. I am for an art that helps old ladies across the street....."

By the time he wrote all this Oldenburg was studying art at Yale and totally fed up with the freeform wholly personal meditations on canvas of the Abstract Expressionists.  He was one of several artists in England and then primarily New York and California who felt that art was not something separate and exalted from real life and began to celebrate real life with their "Pop Art" as it came to be called.  They turned to everyday sources, the most famous of which are probably Andy Warhol's Campbell Soup Cans.  

Oldenburg, who later teamed with his wife, van Bruggen turned to sculpture and became known for his huge public works.  Among their creations are 

shuttlecocks in Kansas City  

a clothespin in Philadelphia,


and, one of Ciwt's personal favorites, a spoonbridge with cherry in Minneapolis .

Are they as impressive as a tree or just the green grass they sit in or as miraculous as the birds singing around them?  No, but in their ways, they do respect the environments they are set in. There's a grace to their forms and a quietness to their simple designs and minimal colors.  The joy and tongue-in-cheekiness is timelessly fresh.  And from Ciwt's experience giving art tours, they make people happy.

*A nod to Joyce Kilmer's poem, Trees, which ends with the line "But only God Can Make a Tree."

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Valentine Flowers --- Day 9/300

Walk: Presidio Pickleball

Distance: 2 miles, 1 hour Pickle, Yoga

So on Valentine's Day Ciwt's mind goes to flowers.

She's reported before that she would surely have tried to corner the market and wound up in debtors' prison during Holland's 17th century tulipmania.  Such is her supreme affection for that flower. 

But she doesn't remember telling you that one of the reasons she makes so many trips to Trader Joe's is for his Alstromerias.  When she gets home with a new bunch it's like Valentine's Day while she loses herself cutting and arranging the beautiful colors. herself cutting. Often she puts anywhere from three to nine stems in a vase, but sometimes just a single one will do.

Either way, the "Peruvian Lilies" are like delicate sunshine, lighting up her home and heart. - and lasting for weeks.

Oh, and they are often known as the "Flower of Friendship" so a perfect way to say Happy Valentines Day to her readers.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Great in the Trenches --- Day 9/299

Walk: T. Joe's, Laurel Village

Distance: 3 miles, small yoga

A little bit of necessary rain out here puts Ciwt in mind of that fashion icon, the trench coat.

You probably have one and look completely smashing in it.

Everyone does - man, woman, even child .  

Except  Ciwt.  When she puts one on she looks like she's wearing an over sized bathrobe. Bad enough, but then when the 'fashion' designers reimagine it, well......

Friday, February 12, 2021

Happy Shots --- Day 9/298

 Walk: Presidio Pickleball, Moscone Convention Center

Distance: 4.5 miles, 40 minutes pickle, small yoga

So the current buzz around San Francisco - or at least among Ciwt's age group citywide - is how the city's mass Covid 19 vaccine site is functioning.

Ciwt is guessing most people reacted like she did when it was first announced there would be one at our downtown Convention Center.  "Oh no, it will be a disaster.  Big crowds, long waits, confusion, maybe worse than the DMV."  Ciwt definitely was going to avoid that site at all costs.

But then she ran into a fellow pickleballer who gave the experience a glowing review.  He got an appointment for the next day, whisked right in, everything was beautifully organized, spacious, as safe as he could possibly want.  Hmm, so Ciwt doubtfully gave the online scheduling site a try. And, yup, next day appointment, whisked right through, beautifully organized, smiling, helpful attendants galore to point you to exactly where you needed to be, no time even to crack open the book Ciwt was sure she'd need during the long wait.  Basically just as described; Better actually.

And the extra nice thing is the wonderful workers who are manning the site are being lifted up by all the thank you's and compliments.  When Ciwt told 'her' nurse about all the good buzz around town, she said "That's what everybody's telling us!  Friends or neighbors or just strangers are encouraging others to "Just Go; it's great!"    

There's another mass vaccine site at the other end of the city.  A drive through at UCSF.  Again, Ciwt thought "Oh no," and again rave reviews from people who have driven over and quickly, efficiently gotten their shots and been scheduled for shot 2.  

So uplifting - and amazing - to have a positive pandemic experience.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Hmmmm --- Days 9/296 & 7

Walk: 1. Stern Grove Pickleball, Hair Appointment  2. Tj's

Distance: 1. 1.5 miles, small yoga   2. 2.5 miles, Yoga

Harder than writing for Ciwt is figuring out what to write about.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Golden Ladies --- Day 9/295

Walk: Hood

Distance: 2 miles, Yoga

Gerrit ter Borch (Dutch, 1617-1681), Woman Writing a Letter, 1655, oil on board, 15 3/8" x 13 7/8"

Johannes Vermeer, (Dutch, 1632-1675),  A Lady Writing a Letter, 1665, o/c, 18" x 15.7"


Late in 2017 Ciwt was on her way to the National Gallery in D.C. (or she had her airplane ticket) to see the two Ladies above as well as many more works by the Dutch Masters of Genre Painting.  Then there was a huge East Coast blizzard so she missed her opportunity to compare these Ladies and enter 'the conversation' about which painting is best, whether ter Borch was most original, whether Vermeer's Lady is more timeless.  And other matters Ciwt really can't get herself to care much about.

To her eye and sensibilities both paintings are absolutely gorgeous images that have rightfully stirred viewers' hearts for centuries and, hopefully, will continue to do so for centuries to come.  

Yes, before there was Vermeer, there was ter Borch. Talk about the embarrassment of riches that was the Dutch Golden Age (ca 1581-1672).  Of everything!: trade, science, military and culture which included some of the finest and most beloved artists who ever set up their easels.  The thriving shipping industry which created enormous wealth for the Dutch citizenry in turn stimulated a booming art market.  Scenes of the newly affluent life and leisure appealed most, and artists taught themselves as well as learned from their contemporaries the most effective ways to capture - and sell - that sumptuous tranquility.

Gerrit ter Borch was the first and most influential to turn his talents to genre scenes depicting elegant images of quiet domesticity that also conveyed the inner life of his subjects. This last was particularly inventive.  His subdued lighting was exquisite and his skill in reproducing textures of different materials, especially satin, was astounding.  He was also the first to paint well-to-do ladies lost in letters and contemplative thought. 

Because of ter Borch's innovations, the bustling community scenes favored by previous artists and buyers were almost instantly replaced. His artistic contemporaries took notice of course.  One of those was Johannes Vermeer of all people, and to Ciwt these two geniuses living at the same time in close proximity is what is utterly remarkable.  Along with the fact that there were several other active artists in Holland at the time who created works remarkably similar in style, subject matter, technique and quality.  Talk about a Golden Age.


Monday, February 8, 2021

Might As Well --- Day 9/294

Walk: No, No interest

Distance: n/a, Yoga

Little of interest to do or say. Yoga done. Might as well rest.  

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Ridiculously Great --- Day 9/293

Walk: Presidio Pickleball

Distance: 2.6 miles, 1 hour pickleball

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Age 43

What could Ciwt possibly say about the 43 year old man who is playing in his 10th Super Bowl today, this time in his first season with a brand new team?

Nothing of course. But leave it to the WSJ's Jason Gay to put a delightfully original spin on this phenonenon: 

Brady is the greatest quarterback to ever play football, and he wants to keep playing the game that he loves. If you play football long enough, the road eventually leads to the Raiders. 

And then, at age 80, Tom Brady joins the Knicks.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Winter and Spring Eye Test --- Day 292

Walk: Presidio Pickleball

Distance: 4.5 miles, 2 hours pickle

So if you look to the upper right of this photo, you will (maybe) find a wintering Palm Warbler* pecking at some budding spring cherry blossoms.  It's that time of year out here; part winter/part spring.  

Friday, February 5, 2021

Mini Contest --- Day 9/291

Walk: Presidio Pickleball

Distance: 2.5 miles, 90 minutes pickle

So most of Ciwt's days begin on line with the NYT Mini Crossword Puzzle.  When she finishes it, she texts her score to a friend back East who co-ordinates a daily Mini contest among players she's put together.  9 times out of 10 Ciwt loses to her friend's son.  Everybody does!  We refer to him as The Pro.

BUT yesterday morning Ciwt scored her all time low.  35 seconds! as you can see from the screen shot. No hitting the wrong keys and wasting time correcting or stopping to scratch her head over a clue.  It was far and away the winning time of the day.  

(Oh, The Pro happens to be on a Mini hiatus.  But surely Ciwt would have bested him.. ...)

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Considering Dessert --- Day 9/290

Walk: Errands

Distance: 5 miles, Yoga

So the pandemic seems to be having an effect on Ciwt's taste buds.  Never one for desserts (unless it is ice cream or pecan pie), she finds herself eying the local bakery shelves much more carefully these days.  And thinking of some lucious looking art.  Like these galettes Claude Monet has captured with golden perfection. 

Claude Monet, Les Galettes, 1882, 25.5" x 31.8", o/c

Most people know Monet was a painting genius as well as a master gardener, but they might not know that his third great obsession was food.  He was also an Anglophile who loved fast cars, tweeds, tea and certain English recipes from fine restaurants.  He brought those last back to Giverny where he worked with his private cook until the taste was exactly the same he remembered.  He also carried vegetable seeds home in his pockets from locales where they had tasted especially delicious and was the first to plant zucchini in Normandy - which until then grew none.

Monet in his yellow Giverny dining room with some of his extensive collection of Japanese prints on the walls

If she's feeling a bit too pensive for pretty galette, perhaps she will dim the lights, pour herself a glass of sherry and settle in with some grapes and cake.  Like the dessert Raphaelle Peale painted so exquisitely below.

Raphaelle Peale, Still Life with Cake, 1818, o/c, 10.7" x 15.2"  (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The first really distinguished still life specialist to emerge in this country, Peale struggled with lifelong melancholy.  Even his tightly grouped, spare, softly lit paintings are delicately permeated with it. Like his siblings (almost all of whom were named after famous artists or scientists), Raphaelle was trained as an artist by his artist/inventor/scientist/naturalist/and more father, Charles Willson Peale. By his early 30's he had begun suffering from the effects of arsenic and mercury poisoning brought on by working as a taxidermist in his father's museum.  In deterioriating health and frequently hospitalized after that, he died in his early 50's.  The paintings he left behind are exquisite.  Of all the many masterpieces in his exceptional collection,  the painting John D. Rockefeller, 3rd. kept close at his desk was Raphaelle Peale's Blackberries.

Blackberries, ca.1813, o/c,  7 1/4" x 10 1/4" (De Young Museum, San Francisco)

Or, Maybe one of these days Ciwt will decide to really dive in to those desserts she keeps walking by.  And maybe that day she'll be tempted to buy all the cakes because they will all look as sumptuous as Wayne Thiebaud's astonishing artistic odes to dessert.  Hopefully she'll remember they are as loaded with calories as Thiebaud's works are loaded with historic references to past techniques and artists like Morandi, Matisse (💗), Ingres (from yesterday's CIWT), Bonnard, Albers.  After 60 years of daily painting (he turned 100 this year) those artists and his own "American drive' have inspired him to keep exploring the perfect formal recipe for painting a dessert in a way that it has never been painted before.

Wayne Thiebaud, Cakes, 1963, o/c, 5' x 6'