Evolution or Illusion?

Posted by Kitara Julian On 8:36 AM 0 comments

My post of yesterday made me realize once again all objects made by humans came first from ideas. Eureka! So what, you say, such a simple and self-evident thing. But one we often overlook. Neither easy to grasp, nor “live up to”. A fact nevertheless. Let us look a bit more closely.

While sitting in this room, writing these posts, everything around was born from ideas. The building, our seventh-floor apartment in which I’m sitting, would not exist if someone hadn’t designed it. The bamboo table and chairs at which we eat our meals: someone planted, then harvested the bamboo, another had the idea to make a table.

The lamps, the many masks on the wall, two sculptures carved by Inuit, numerous woodcarvings from faraway places like Bali, Easter island, the Solomons, etc which adorn the window sills – all were once ideas in the creators’ minds. Same with the artwork on the walls (mine and other cultures).

Someone in Peru dyed and wove the textile that covers the couch. On the balcony we’d have no plants without the pots some potter made. Kitchen utencils, books, pens, brushes, pencils, the paper I write this on, all were once ideas.

Everything made by humans was born from ideas. In a sense, I could be sitting in my “birthday suit” or with a leaf cover on the grass here at the seashore, with the skies our roof.

No furniture, no pots and pans, no cutlery, no building, no seventh floor apartment, no bed, no clothes, no plants.

In such a reality, I can only write or paint in the air, on sand, in snow, or rocks and cave walls. No blog either, only smoke signals and Tam-tam drum messages!

All this material. What is all the fuss about?

But did the so-called ‘primitive’ cultures or first-peoples not already do this? Maybe we should try to become civilized primitives? But where to start? We’re in it too deep to return.

But then again, almost all the first-peoples are now extinct or hanging on for dear life, or have been ‘integrated’ into our fast-forward culture.

Now for me comes the biggest question of all: Who, What, Where did all that SPACE come from? That which gave birth to Galaxies, Universes, Planets, Stars and Life.

Rumour has it, everything came from the Big Bang. But the Big Bang had to come from Somewhere, and what is that somewhere, i.e. Where did all that Space come from? Signing off for now, Henri


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Journey Into a Lesser Known World

Posted by Kitara Julian On 11:19 AM 0 comments

Some years ago, when I travelled through Italy with the motivation of viewing the historic sites and art treasures, I spent a week in Florence. During my short stay I discovered a lesser-known museum. The Museum of Natural History and Zoology, on the Arno River, is a duplex of old houses. One, Museo Scientifico, houses the astronomical instruments of Galileo, including a large globe made from leather.

The other is “La Specola”, which is particularly proud of its collection of anatomic waxes, an art introduced in Florence by Ludovico Cigoli (1559-1613).
The wax collection, unique in the quantity and beauty of its pieces, was created in order to teach anatomy without having to directly observe a cadaver. All the body parts were on view, including embryos, etc. While chatting with the Curator, I asked him, “And where are the psychological parts?” (Ho-ho) He didn’t know what to say, and thought me to be some kind of weirdo.

Anyway, recently a small news item caught my attention that prompted me to recall La Specola”. Here is something to ponder: The average human body contains enough sulphur to kill all the fleas on an average-sized dog, enough carbon to make 900 pencils, enough potassium to fire a toy cannon, enough phosphorous to make 2,200 match heads, enough water to fill a 38 litre (10 gallon) container, and enough iron to make a 8 cm. (3 inch) nail.”

All this also made me think about a poem that I wrote in 1974 to accompany a 35mm colour & sound film made on my 100 mandala“Organiverse” series I painted in 1972 in Morocco and Madeira. The film was commissioned by the Ontario Arts Council and made by art-filmmaker, Julius Kohanyi, who amongst others, has also made a film on Rodin.

Here is the poem, accompanied by two mandalas from “Organiverse”, one in the original format, the other in “bioluminescence” imagery. (To view the "Organiverse" rotation set, go to vanBentum.org and click on "Organiverse Handset".)

While we work
The buds are born

While we walk
The fish swim

While we rush
The flowers unfold

While we laugh
The wounded cry

While we love
The elders die

While we sleep
The Earth spins,

And all this
Comes out of darkness

Henri van Bentum, 1974


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Part Three - Shipwreck, and a "Lucky Strike"

Posted by Kitara Julian On 8:50 PM 0 comments

At the bow more dolphins displayed acrobatic skills and frolicked. The seas changed from cobalt to ultramarine. At night we were treated to phosphorescent displays, like underwater fireflies. One morning after a particularly difficult watch (a 4 hour battle against strong currents), I went below for a rest, something I rarely do.

Suddenly, hours later, a loud voice woke me. “Henri! Get up! We’re in deep trouble! I opened my eyes to see a mate in dripping bright yellow Sou’wester.

I went above deck and was hit by a strong, hot wind. Skies were dark and a boiling, foaming sea was in view. The Sloop pitched and rolled. “Sirocco!” screamed the first mate.

All hands on deck were dumping pails of seawater which came splashing over the deck. Fore rig was gone, the mainsail torn. We could just barely make out the jagged and rocky coast of what must be Sicily.

This happened to be a Sunday. Sicilian fishermen do not go out to fish on Sundays. Our Captain somehow managed to spot a village, and the villagers had spotted us. We hoped and prayed they’d break the tradition of “Never on Sunday” and come out to rescue us.

Soon a fishing boat did appear and approached our sloop. They shouted to us, “Stupido! Ollandas! Sirocco! (They’d seen our Netherlands flag which somehow remained intact.)

The skies by now had turned azure again, wind and seas calmed down. Then they shouted out, “Americano cigarettes? Scottish Whiskey?”

Si, si”, hollered back our Captain. In fact we had cartons of Camel, Pall Mall, and Lucky Strike. Also six bottles of good old Scotch. That did it! Their fiery dark eyes lit up. Those were the magic words that led to an immediate and swift rescue.

We were towed to the breakwater. Mass was over, bells tolled, and everyone from the village came out to stare. I remember seeing masses of geraniums. But women all in black; men in dark suits, white shirts and black ties. Only the children had some colour in their attire. Our saviours carried their trophies (American cigarettes, and Scotch) home.

Later that same day, we were guests at an outdoor dinner. There must have been 40 people seated around a huge table, including our crew and our rescuers. A memorable dinner it was, under the starry Sicilian sky.

Was it a premonition that had made me roll up my canvasses in a thick plastic sheet? Whatever, but no seawater got through.

Bueno Esperanza” (Good Hope) would take some time to be repaired, so I opted to move on and make my way to Rome, then back to Canada via Amsterdam, Rotterdam and New York.

Along the way, I had time to digest our adventure at sea . And our rescue? Now that was a “Lucky Strike”.


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Part Two - from Mallorca to Greece

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:09 AM 0 comments

Our first port of call: Las Palmas, Mallorca, another of the Islas Baleares where we took on fresh water, fruit and other necessities. In Las Palmas I experienced my first (and only) bull fight.

Because I’m an early riser, the Captain gave me the early watch at the helm, 04h00 – 08h00.

The currents between the Balearic, Tyrrenean and Mediterranean Seas are strong, and required muscle to handle the rudder. For direction I navigated by the stars, and towards the light of the rising Sun, due East on the horizon.

We enjoyed beautiful clear night skies, while the days were sunny but always with enough breeze to fill our sails.

Next port of call: Cagliari in Sardinia. (Now famous for its Costa Esmeralda, or Emerald Coast.) Local fishermen at the dock were curious about us and when they realized the crew was of many different nationalities, one said “Ah! United Nations!”

In Cagliari I ate my best pizza ever. After a few days in which the Captain attended to some red tape and our ‘stores’, we set our compass in the direction of the Corinth Canal via Sicily, then on to our destination port of Pireaus, Greece.

Aboard “Buena Esperanza” our food was diverse and caringly presented. (A bit different from the meals I’d enjoyed at a harbour restaurant in Ibiza: 4 courses with wine for less than dollar! But . . . you can’t have everything.)

Atmosphere aboard was amicable while we were lucky with spring/summer-like weather.

One morning, a Swallow sought refuge on our deck, utterly exhausted. Tried to revive the bird, but it went “over the horizon” later that day. We gave the bird a dignified burial at sea.

The currents were much stronger now. We now had the company of dolphins, chasing Tuna and cavorting at our bow. Life aboard “Buena Esperanza”) seemed idyllic at that moment. Little did we know . . . (to be continued.)


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Shipwreck with a "Lucky Strike", Part One

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:47 AM 0 comments

With all your ocean-going travels, have you ever had a personal mishap at sea?”, someone from California has asked. Well, as a matter of fact, I’ve experienced two dramatic shipwrecks.The first took place in 1962 after I quit my job as a proof reader and layout person at Rous & Mann Creative Printers in Toronto. I decided to devote as much of my life as possible to painting. It was November 1961, winter on its way.

I took the last cargo ship (Norwegian freighter) of the season from Montreal to Rotterdam. (On our Atlantic crossing, Force 9 storm.) Made a short visit to family in Holland, then by train to Paris, on to Barcelona. I’d planned on touring Spain for the winter to paint. After journeying around the country, I arrived back in Barcelona.
There at a small waterfront hotel someone mentioned the island of Ibiza. Paradise. Always sunshine. Very reasonable to live. That’s all I wanted to hear!

In no time I was on the ferry taking me to this “Isla Blanca”. Remember this was 1961, long before Ibiza became the trendy destination it is now, with international airport. I rented a villa in the hills which overlooked the sea; eight rooms, all by myself, very inexpensive, about a 45-minute walk from town. It came with a “Burro” (donkey), which I had to look after. Back then, there were only three other houses on that hill. It truly was paradise.

Months passed, my work went well. I fitted in well with the people, the culture, the atmosphere. Then one morning, I noticed in the local bar an advertisement looking for crew to sail a 20m (60 ft.) Sloop to Greece. Wow! What an opportunity.

I applied to be a crew member and was hired. The one-mast Sloop, “Buena Esperanza”, with fore and aft rig, had previously been a fishing boat. A Spanish name, but built and registered in Holland. She was freshly-painted and readied for the journey to Greece to be converted to a race yacht.
We were an international crew: Captain = Argentina. First Mate = Denmark. Cook = Indonesia (the only woman). The hired deckhands, all based in Toronto were: Canadian, Japanese-Canadian, and Netherlander (yours truly).

Early one April dawn, I rolled up my canvasses in a thick sheet of plastic, tossed my bag into my bunk, and said ‘Adios” to Ibiza. Leaving my Burro, new friends, and blossoming lemon, orange and almond trees behind, we sailed off into a new adventure. Little did we know. . . (to be continued)


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travel-inspired Aphorisms

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:53 AM 0 comments

A friend asked if it would be possible to put some of my Aphorisms on the blog. Here are a few, inspired by my travels. You can find more Aphs on our website www.vanBentum.org. A la prochaine, Henri


African skies changed into hot pinks
When I clapped my hands
at Nakuru Lake

When the Leopard seal was spotted
The Emperors panicked.

I heard a future shriek of gazelle and zebra
While looking at the Leopard cub

Man stops me at the border
Asking for papers
Fish in the seas
Let me go through
Wise creatures

A shy bongo
Came out of the woods
To kill its rival

The Thorn-Tree’s thorns
Hurt the lion’s paw
But feed the giraffe

When we drink the brown liquid
Remember the green
Of unplucked leaves.

You have not seen green
Until you see the tea plantations
Of Darjeeling and Sri Lanka

Flying fish went East and West
While we sailed South

The ship proudly cut through the sea
Creating fluid marble in its wake

The Wildebeest was killed
Only to use its tail
For a flyswapper

While ancient dances transported us
to “Dreamland”
Boomerangs did their ‘fly about’.


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Schadenfreude or "Joy in Misfortune of Others"

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:25 AM 0 comments

For decades stand-up comics have mocked people with crooked or asymmetric faces. Much to the delight of their audiences, comedians today continue these ‘funny-bone’ performances. (The asymmetries could be caused by various kinds of accidents, or a stroke, Bell’s Palsy, or facial paralysis).
Remember Phantom of the Opera? In that case often the audience doesn’t make fun, but is scared. Then there is Quasimodo, the bell ringer in “Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo. (Brilliantly acted by Charles Laughton.) People mock and laugh at his plight and deformity; not only did he have a hump, but also a crooked or asymmetric face.
My interest in the “Why” we make fun or laugh at deformity goes back a long way. It comes from my own facial paralysis, caused by two malpractices during surgery.

In my boyhood in the Lowlands and Flanders the tradition of Court Jesters is kept alive through the Gilles de Binche Carnival and characters such as Tijl Uilenspiegel. In the Gilles de Binche parades, citizens in towns and villages don mediaeval costumes.

Recently, while contemplating in the garden at Pender Island, it became clear to me. This mocking and making fun at deformity has its origins long, long ago. It is imprinted in the psyche of the human family.

Very old Nepalese, African and First Nations, amongst other cultures, often depict the Shaman as having a crooked face. To scare the evil spirits. These beings were often revered. While in Pre-Columbian cultures, the hunchback was sacred. (Yours truly has one in alloy from the Andes).

The Court Jesters:

Court jesters had to amuse the King, Queen and court. The Fool, The Idiot, The Buffoon bring amusement, not merely by absurd tomfoolery, merry gossip or knavish tricks, but also by mocking in others their mental and other deficiencies.

Schadenfreude - Schaden = damage, harm; Freude = joy.

Here in Canada one of our Prime Ministers won an election in part because his rival made fun of his asymmetric face (caused by Bell’s Palsy) in a TV ad. It backfired. Proof that such mockery and tactics can go wrong when practiced with Schadenfreude.

Today, our delicate planet Earth, thanks to our malpractice, is deformed. We are the spoilers. Today many so-called people with power scoff and laugh at those who say our planet is very ill. This is global Schadenfreude at work on an unprecedented scale. Now that is something scary. (The Earth has "Aids, Ebola and cancer" all in one.) The planet desperately needs bon-practice.


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One More To Go

Posted by Kitara Julian On 6:42 AM 0 comments

When he was an infant
And had finished feeding from one breast
She said tenderly, here
One more to go

He grew and crawled
Until the moment came when he made
His first step
His mother said, good boy, now
One more to go

She fed him with a spoon
While he turned his head when the bowl was almost empty
She said, finish it little man, you must grow
One more to go

His family took him for a walk one nice day
He had his little arm in one sleeve of the jacket
Someone said
One more to go

He helped his father in the garden
Planting potatoes
At the end of the day he was told, good boy
One more to go

His schooldays arrived
He made something from brightly coloured paper
When he showed it with pride to his teacher
She said it is not finished yet
One more to go

When he kissed shyly his first girl
She said oh! How nice
One more to go

He was merry and bright and drank with his friends
He had already had a few but they said, come on old boy
One more to go

He married and settled down
The first-born arrived and he looked at his young son
And his happy wife, and she said let us have a girl
One more to go

He worked and worked, then holidays approached
When the last working day came he sighed with relief
And said, thank goodness
One more to go

They all had lots of fun playing near the sea
In the woods, and in the sun
All this too came soon to an end
One more to go

Again he worked and struggled
Had pains and joys
The road was not always smooth
The sea not always calm
But it helped when he said
Come on, don’t let it get you down
One more to go

His children grew, a boy and girl
The boy married and this left him only with his girl
One more to go

At one time he had some close friends
Some he neglected while others let him down, only
One more to go

And when the moment arrived
To overcome the final hurdle
It would be the very last time
He would hear or say
One more to go


Henri van Bentum, Toronto, 1971

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"Better Late than Never"

Posted by Kitara Julian On 2:08 PM 0 comments
No sooner did we reply to yesterday’s question from New Brunswick about nurturing athletic talent (“Ability, Energy, Opportunity”) in which we drew parallels with artists, than today’s newspaper says a fundraising campaign is underway for an Emily Carr statue. (We just wrote about Emily, see July 12 post.)

[There is such a vast and non-stop range of information coming our way from all directions nowadays, we wonder how people find time to glance at our humble blog posts. However it's in my nature to respond swiftly when possible to questions or issues. So this subject required a quick “Carpe Diem” reaction from yours truly.]

Organizers need $450,000 to pay for it. Well, well, well. Here is yet another icon who was mostly mocked and neglected while she was alive. Luckily Emily had some limited means, so there was some form of ‘Opportunity’, apart from her vision and determination. She was not only a great painter, but a fine writer who expressed her heart and soul.

When alive and breathing down our necks, the Carr’s, the van Gogh’s and so many others were ignored, mocked and called (at the mildest) “eccentric”. Still happening today.

The horses that deserve the oats don’t always get them.” This decades-overdue monument (if and when finished) will be placed at the corner of Belleville and Government Streets, adjacent to the Fairmont Empress Hotel here in her home place of Victoria. (In fact Emily lived just a few blocks from our abode in James Bay village.)

According to the newspaper, the statue will be 1.25 times life size, and she will be seated on a rock with a sketchpad on her lap. She will have her monkey "Woo" on her shoulder and her dog "Billie" at her side.

Now it definitely will no longer be “Emily who?” once the statue is placed there proudly. Do people ever question how come the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV) has so few works by Emily Carr? Yet she lived here most of her life. The fact is Vancouver Art Gallery across on the mainland of B.C. has many. But, in the late 1950’s the drawings, gouaches, watercolours and paintings were stored in the basement. The reason? They told me, “no space”.

I for one, if still breathing, definitely shall go to see the statue, but not the day of the unveiling with all the dignitaries. No, I’ll be there quietly, early one morning, and will say “Bravo, bravo, well done, Emily. Forgive them for being so unfortunately ignorant, full of mistrust, and of little faith while you were with us.” The statue will be ready June 2009. But, as the other saying goes, “Better late than . . . .” Signing off, from James Bay, Henri


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Ability, Energy, Opportunity

Posted by Kitara Julian On 8:29 AM 0 comments
An interesting question came our way from someone in New Brunswick. Very applicable to the nurturing of promising athletes with the current Olympic performances.

How do you, as a senior artist with all that experience behind you, see the nurturing process of someone and how can that potential be brought to fruition?”

We can only answer based on our own experience, which is, of course, not that of an athlete. However you could say both nurturing talent of an artist and an athlete is similar.

Some athletes compete with full heart, as amateurs. Others move on to become professionals. With athletics careers are short, while the artist (amateur or not) can spend a lifetime at their chosen discipline.

Body and mind are like a fruit tree. Nursed properly, these will blossom. All blossoms destined to bear fruit must be able to survive the ‘elements’.

Blossoms that fall prematurely, or those which aren’t pollinated, can’t bring forth fruit. When we look at the stages of how buds appear on a branch, right through to the unfolding of the blossom, and from this to fruit --- and compare this evolving with a promising athlete or artist, there are strong parallels.

What then happens to someone who is in a state of full potential but who cannot ‘ripen its nourishing fruit’?

A person in this state can feel like they’re unwanted or as if their wings are being clipped.

For any athlete or artist in order to reach full potential, three essentials are necessary: Ability, Energy and Opportunity. What good would it be, for example, to have Ability and Energy, but no Opportunity? Or to have Opportunity and Energy, but no Ability? And so on. All three are interdependent. Now, just try to explain this to those who are “providers” of opportunity (which often means financial support), such as government, or patrons, or the education system! (Yet, they expect five-star results.)

Ultimately whether financially supported or not, athletes or anyone in the arts are themselves the real patrons. And that’s a fact!

George Bernard Shaw said, “If you’re going to tell people the truth, make them laugh. Otherwise, you’re in deep trouble.”

Now here’s something to laugh about, courtesy Will Rogers, the “Roping Fool”: “Every time Congress makes a joke it’s a law. Every time Congress makes a law it’s a joke.”

Not much to laugh about, though, when great potential is nipped in the bud, unrecognized or not nurtured. Signing off, Henri

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Pender Island revisited

Posted by Kitara Julian On 7:46 AM 0 comments
Life on Pender Island presents a variety of new experiences each visit. We are here house & garden sitting, plus caring for a cat. The garden has vegetables and numerous flowerbeds on terraces, creating a colourful display.

One constant is to prevent the deer from entering the garden and eating all the flowers. A novelty this year is the deer have learned to jump the fence.

They don’t fancy Dahlias, Gladioli or Daffodils. But Roses, “yes”! Plus just about everything else. The routine is, when we spot any deer, Natasha calls the friendly neighbours to help us corral them back out through a gate.

Our own place in James Bay, Victoria is on the shores of Juan de Fuca Strait. So it’s a change to be surrounded by Arbutus and pine trees, even though they’re only forty years old. (Long ago the virgin forest was clearcut).

“You can take a boy out of the country, but not the country out of the boy”. Here on the island, you can enjoy the sight of sheep and cows grazing with a horse or two nearby. Now a vineyard has appeared, almost overnight.

Where we’re house-sitting there’s a large vegetable & flower garden, plus orchard. Apple, plum, pear and cherry trees.

We enjoy having the cat “Mosey” around. Cats are fascinating. Mosey’s getting on in years and has down pat all those classic cat poses. One is “the Sphinx”, front paws tucked under while staring mysteriously into that realm only cats know. (Having just reached 79 years, I can relate to this, but I can’t sit in that Sphinx position.)

It is peaceful and serene here, ideal for contemplation and meditation. Only sounds are the welcome songs of birds, or fluttering of wings.

I watched a Hummingbird flit from flower to flower, gone in a flash. Amazing to know these miniature exotic wonders on the wing need to have nourishment many times their weight each day, just to keep going. Soon they’ll be off to the sunny winter abodes.

Speaking of wonders, how about those Dragonflies? They go up, down, right, left and of course, hover over the main garden, presenting a free aeronautical display.

Yesterday we visited the Saturday market, mostly handicrafts and baked goodies. Only a few vegetable stands. One is run by a happy family of five, who operate Kentu Farm.

At dusk Natasha sees to it that the garden is not thirsty after a hot summer day. Yours truly does the cuisine, one of my other interests.

Although our stay is only eight days, and we rarely go out, (preferring to enjoy the serenity here), it’s interesting how much you can take in of Pender Island life during a short visit. Happy Trails! Henri

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Valerie and Ron Taylor

Posted by Kitara Julian On 8:08 AM 0 comments
Yesterday we mentioned we met Ron and Valerie Taylor on the first dive-snorkel expedition to the Galapagos Islands. We were honoured to be with such experienced divers. This was in 1989, and already these Australians had established a worldwide reputation as divers, deep-sea photographers. Their expertise has been called upon for such films as Jaws, and Orca.

You may know Valerie from the cover of National Geographic magazine, where she wore the suit made of chain-mail which Ron invented. “The Taylors are credited with being pioneers in several areas - the first people to film a great white shark without the protection of a cage and the first to film sharks by night. They are also credited with correcting the belief that sharks need to move forward to survive by obtaining footage of sharks sleeping on the sea-bed.” (Wikipedia). Other than the Jacques Cousteau expeditions, they were the first to observe sharks close-up from a submerged cage.

We learned a great deal from Ron and Valerie, including to beware of the lethal Blue-Ringed Octopus (see foto below), the StoneFish and Sea Snakes in Indonesia. Both warned us never to float (or wiggle arms and legs) on one of those air mattresses (or surfboard), because this attracts the shark. Although, Valerie told me, these prehistoric creatures don’t really like the taste of humans! Signing off, Henri

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An encounter with two "salties"

Posted by Kitara Julian On 10:10 AM 0 comments
We’re house and garden sitting and cat caring. This coincided yesterday with my 79th turn around the Sun. Received a pleasant surprise call from my nephew in Lelystad, Netherlands, but missed another from a fellow Circumnavigator in Athens.

We picnicked at Hope Bay on Pender Island. A sailboat was anchored. Australian, judging by its flag. We met the owners, a couple from Perth. They were sailing the Gulf Islands, then heading to Mexico for winter.
When real nomads meet, time doesn’t exist. We exchanged adventures. “Have you been to Tasmania and seen the “devil?” No. “Have you been to Easter Island, Rapa Nui?” Yes.
“Those Moai statues, staring into nowhere with big eyes, aren’t they something?” And Orongo, the bird cult and the Spring race to return with the first egg where the winner is ‘King’ for the year? And how they ignore sharks, fight each other, then cling to a steep Cliffside where the battle continues, with that egg on their head. All to be ‘King’ for twelve months?

We agreed Rapa Nui is a harbinger of what we’re doing today with the forests globally. They chopped down all the trees, and couldn’t get off the island. No wood to build their boats. Rebellion, wars, then famine followed.

I went on to share stories about sailing, diving and snorkelling. They were impressed I’d met renowned Australian divers, Ron and Valerie Taylor. (We were lucky to have had them as our guides on the first snorkel-dive trip to the Galapagos.)
The topic of lethal sea-creatures came up. Among which, the tiny Blue Ringed Octopus, and the Stonefish. In Indonesian waters I’ve snorkelled amongst deadly sea snakes.
And since we touched the topic of lethal creatures, I asked, “Have you been to the Komodo Dragon island?” They hadn’t. “Now that’s some prehistoric monster. It can run up to 30 km/hr. We witnessed it devour a goat in five minutes, from a safe distance, I might add.”

Duty called us back to the house. To keep the Deer at bay; they eat the flowers! But a pleasant and memorable birthday lunch indeed. Happy and safe sailing, mates! And don’t miss Komodo Island! Signing off, Henri

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Magellan or Zheng He?

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:07 PM 0 comments
In our August 8 post we mentioned the international Circumnavigators Club. I didn’t mention Michael Palin will be recipient of the Club’s esteemed Magellan Award in April 2009.

Speaking of Magellan, someone just asked, “You’ve been on the seven seas often, how do you respond to the claims that Zheng He, the fourteen-century mariner from China, circumnavigated before Magellan?”

Well I am no expert on maritime history, and there is a lot of material out there on this subject, but according to Gavin Menzies’s book “1421: The Year the Chinese Discovered the World”, the answer is “yes”. Six years ago I wrote an article on this topic for the Circumnavigators Club LOG. Menzies is a retired submarine commander in the British navy. He says Zheng He circumnavigated the world in colossal “treasure ships”. His claims are controversial but the book is worth reading.

The Chinese used the brilliant star, Canopus, to chart their course in the year 1421. It’s also claimed the Mappa Mundi (which were possibly made by the Chinese mariners and chartmakers) were used by Magellan and other navigators.

So, were the Chinese first? Were they also in the Americas? Gavin Menzies says they were there before Columbus.

During my travels in South America in the 1960’s I met a Peruvian archaeologist in Cuzco, en route to Machu Picchu. He wondered how Chinese coins he’d discovered had found their way up in the Peruvian Andes. You know, those square ones with the hole in the middle.

On another topic, but staying with the theme of navigation, when I was a young boy, my grandfather told me this rarely heard story. It is about a meeting between Queen Isabella of Spain and Columbus, and took place at the Alhambra in Granada. We know Columbus appeared before the King and Queen of Spain to plead for financial backing for his expedition to the Indies.

Isabella asked Columbus how he could be so sure land and riches were awaiting Spain in faraway places?

In response Columbus presented her with an egg. He asked the Queen to try placing the egg on the table, without it rolling over. The Queen dutifully tried a few times but to no avail. The egg of course simply rolled over. Then Columbus took the egg, and with a simple but firm gesture, made it stand perfectly upright.

Isabella was astonished. “How is that possible?” exclaimed the Queen. “Simple, Your Majesty”, replied Columbus. “It’s a hard boiled egg!”

I just learned the intrepid Gavin Menzies has published a new book, again creating more controversy: “1434: The Year a Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance”. I’m going to get it from the library. After all, as Charlie Chan used to say, “Human mind like parachute, works best when open!” Signing off, Henri

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Floating art class at Sea

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:22 AM 0 comments
What is the set-up for the art classes you give on ocean liners, isn’t it hard to paint in rough seas?” someone asked.

Back in 1974 in my pioneering days of Enrichment Programs of teaching and lecturing art at sea (I was the first-ever professional artist to do this), we had to cope with many novel situations. Natasha and I had to constantly improvise.

First, where to find a reliable and safe class space o/b the elegant Norwegian “ms Royal Viking Sky”? A lengthy voyage of 4 months, so we’d encounter all kinds of weather while circumnavigating the seven seas.

Next we negotiated with cruise director and consult officers to ensure nothing would interfere with onboard discipline.

We found a nice quiet spot, with good daylight. One drawback, no source of water. So Natasha had to take two buckets and walk down one deck to fetch the water. (Our students later dubbed her “Gunga Din”.)

Next problem, no tables. The only suitable ones were being used by the bridge players two decks below. These were not easily surrendered, but after some friendly persuasion, we got use of them for an hour (while at sea).

Thus after our first “around the world” experience, we knew what to do in just about any situation.

Our recent sailings were o/b the venerable QE2. Classses were held near the Theatre and Crystal Bar. For each class, crew set up five banquet tables. If seas were rough, Natasha taped the plastic water cups, to keep everything sturdy. (But often we’d have several absent students who themselves were feeling wobbly, on what the Captain reminded us was after all, just a “moving platform”.)

We always start off with an exploration of Colour. Maximum results with minimum use of materials using only the three primary colours: Red, Yellow and Blue.

At the end of voyage we’d host an exhibition of their work to share with all aboard, including the Captain, who would usually pass by to give his compliments. Most were impressed by quality of work the students created, many of whom had hardly ever painted before. All done under our baton on the “floating art class”. 'Ship Ahoy!', Henri

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Zihuatanejo and the upset butcher

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:55 AM 0 comments

August 5th post about stopping the Kinetic art show in Paris, 1966 reminded me of another event. It began in good ‘old Mexico in a sleepy village called Zihuatanejo, from a Nahuatl word meaning "place of women" because it was a matriarchal society.

In 1964 Zihuatanejo was unknown. We drove there by jeep from Acapulco through dense forest. The “garbage collectors” were pigs and the only reference to the modern world was a rusty Coca-Cola sign.

We rented a room in a house on Playa la Madera, owned by the lone schoolteacher and his wife. Zihuatanejo has a famous playa, Playa las Gatas. Legend has it that in pre-Columbian times, a Tarascan leader (see illustration) constructed the rock barrier (now also a reef), to provide a sheltered swimming area and harbour for the women and children.

At night Manta Rays would come into the bay to play, giving a magnificent phosphorescent display. Coconut palms grew almost to the shoreline; the beach was a very fine, white sand. Mostly I slept in a hammock tied between two coconut palm trees.

Another beach, Playa la Ropa, had a few houses plus one building that looked like a small factory with chimney. Intrigued by the idea of a “factory” in such a location, I strolled over to check it out. To my dismay I noticed a contained ‘sea-pool’ which had dozens of Green Sea Turtles. Each was tied by one leg on a string.

The owner, a German and his wife, were producing Turtle Sausages! He hired young Mexican boys to catch them and wages were $1 per turtle. For the youngsters, a fortune in those days.

Back at our room, my landlady did a lot of sewing and had some scissors. That night (the moon was only a ‘fingernail-clipping’), I quietly approached the sea-pool, and cut off the strings from the turtles’ legs. They all scurried back into the ocean, free! while I slept the sleep of the innocent in my hammock.

Early next morning I heard the German screaming, “What has happened to my Turtles! Who the (blank) has cut these strings? I’ll get them! I am ruined!” etc, etc. Because I speak German, I went over and quietly asked, “What’s all the commotion?” They never knew who the “culprit” was. Adios. Auf wiederhoren. Henri


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Sunny Madeira and the Wolf Spider Man

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:42 AM 0 comments

Many moons ago, or we should say summers ago (1972), we were living on an estate (Quinta) on beautiful Madeira. We hadn’t planned to go there; we were in Morocco. It was memorable but the Sahara winds brought too much sand and interfered with my painting. Since the technique was pointillism (dot by dot), all those little grains (more dots!) were interfering.

I remembered Portuguese Madeira was not too far off. We rented a cottage/studio at a Quinta up in the hills of Santo Antonio. (Our abode now is right at the seashore. Here there are no flies at all. And that is why I am sharing this story.) Off Madeira lie some islands: Porto Santo, and the barren Islas Desertas, home to the Wolf Spider.

Each morning I worked on “Organiverse”. One afternoon we met a long-bearded Austrian who looked like a monk from Mt. Athos. He told us about the wolf spiders of Islas Desertas, because, you see, he would go there and bring some of those hairy 8-legged critters back to his home.

He invited us for lunch one day and picked us up in his sportscar. He was the worst driver, completely reckless. We met his beautiful French wife and three lovely children. The spiders were kept in glass cases. With a long narrow stick he started to poke them. One stood up on its ‘hind legs’, fangs came out, showing angry glowing eyes. “You try it”, he told Natasha. No thanks”, said she. They’re angry enough as it is”. But with a grin he laughed and cackled away.

These spider cases were all kept in their bedroom. To keep Mrs on her toes.” However she told us if he lifts the lids of the cases, “I’m leaving”. I asked the children what they thought of the spiders. Not much, it turned out. Because every morning before school, and every afternoon, the children had to go out and catch flies for the wolf spiders! Each day, at least 100 of them.

A few years later we returned to Madeira, this time to house-sit the Quinta. We asked about our spider-collector (we called him “Spider-meyer”). He’d crashed his red sports car and died in flames. (Revenge of the wolf spiders?) His wife sold their home and left with the children back to France. Where we hope they’d never again have to catch flies! Bom dia! Henri


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Of far away stars - and Astronauts

Posted by Kitara Julian On 8:55 PM 0 comments
Once in awhile on the seawalk in front of our building we meet passengers from the visiting ships which dock nearby, Alaska bound. Holland America Line’s ‘ms Amsterdam’ was in the other day. She ‘lifts anchor’ at midnight.

One balmy and clear starry night, we met an older couple from Hawaii. They were passengers aboard the Amsterdam, which was all lit up like a fairy-tale vessel. We said “Hello”, they replied “Aloha”, and joined us for a chat on a bench. He was talking about the Mauna Kea Observatories on the Big Island. Sometimes the skies over Hawaii are so clear, you can ‘pluck the stars’. We mentioned that we know a real astronaut, Chris Hadfield, who was the first Canadian to operate Canadarm in orbit. That got their full attention. They asked us how we met him?

Our circumnavigations by ship in the early ‘70s led to membership in Circumnavigators Club, a unique gathering of individuals who have circumnavigated the globe. To be a member you must cross every meridian longitude in one direction.

With chapters all over the world, the Club has a positive feeling of fellowship. At any given time there can never be more than 1,000 members. Amongst others, there have been many illustrious “Circums” such as Houdini, Sir Edmund Hillary, Jacques Cousteau, Thor Hyderdahl, Buffalo Bill Cody, as well as a number of American astronauts. They certainly qualify, some orbit the Earth a couple of hundred times on one mission.

A few years ago we had the idea of inviting Chris Hadfield to Vancouver, where we lived, to give a presentation. We approached the international CircumClub president, Al Morasso, who agreed it would be a great idea. Part of the Canadian Space Agency’s policy is to have astronauts give public talks. We filled out the forms and were pleased to receive word that Chris would indeed come to Vancouver.

As head of the fledgling B.C. chapter of the Circumnavigators Club, I thought it would be good to give Chris some kind of momento. We asked a jewelry-maker and goldsmith friend of ours (Andrew Costen, of Costen Catbalue in Vancouver) if he would be interested in creating a special pin for Chris Hadfield, using a meteorite. Andy created a one-of-a-kind design.

Mr. (and Mrs.) Al Morasso, President of the Circumnavigators Club, flew in for the occasion. On November 1, 2003 we presented the pin to Chris, along with an Honorary Membership in the Circumnavigators Club. There was a great turnout at the Vancouver Planetarium. Chris Hadfield’s talk was electrifying. He was surprised and delighted with the custom-made meteorite pin. You can see a picture of it here.

So that’s how we met a real astronaut. The friendly Hawaiians had never heard of the Circumnavigators Club but said they’ll check out the website (CircumnavigatorsClub.org) since they’ve travelled a lot and thought they might qualify.

Already back in the 1960’s I was very curious about space (“where did all that Space come from, anyway?”). Several of my paintings evoke the cosmos. This could be the subject of another post. For today we share one of the Organiverse mandalas, mandala #7. Aloha! Happy star-gazing! Henri


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Answering a question from P.E.I.

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:43 AM 0 comments

At times the blog ‘writes itself’ when questions come our way. A friendly person from Prince Edward Island asks, “How come you changed so much from those earlier pictures on your website? I don’t understand. Our daughter is interested in art. She draws a bit and likes modern.
These posts are not meant to give art lessons as such, but if she’s serious, then the best advice is practice, practice and more practice. Nothing can surpass experience. Foundation is important. Art is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.
Also a good teacher would be beneficial. But keep in mind the old saying from the Orient,
"All instruction is but a finger pointing to the moon; and those whose gaze is fixed upon the pointer will never see beyond."
Returning to the PEI question about changing styles in my work, with the summer Olympics only one day away, some of my techniques could be compared to Track & Field.
The 100-metre dash are the free-flowing acrylics applied with water on canvas or paper. The Marathon is my “Organiverse” series, done in pointillism, (dot by dot), and requiring endurance, focus, lots of time, a steady hand and sharp eye.
Then there are the watercolours, “Spatial Rhythms”. Or what in China is called “Yet Fei Er Jeou” (“Everything done successfully, in place, with one stroke.” ) These also belong in the 100-metre dash category, except done in one day, not a few minutes. (Each stroke is a 100-metre ‘dash’.)
When it comes to change itself, does not everything change? From spring to winter, from small to big? The only permanence is impermanence”.

For the record, I never changed for the sake of change, my work evolved naturally over several years. In a sense, change is also growth.

Imagination and intuition also play an important role for any artist, not just technique or talent.
When someone asks me, “How long did it take you to do that painting?” My reply is, “Thirty to forty years.” That’s how long it may take to master some techniques, for example
the “Spatial Rhythms” watercolours.
However, I don’t want to discourage anyone from taking up the brush. Each one of us is unique and has something to give.
An artist evolves through practice, skill, experience, questioning and trusting the inner voice. This way you avoid becoming stale or static and change and growth, “evolution”, is visible in the work.
I hope this answers the question from PEI. From the Pacific here in Victoria, to the Atlantic. Happy Trails, Henri


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Stopping Kinetic Art Show, by IMP-ulse

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:20 AM 0 comments
In 1955 I was released from the TB sanatorium. Although cured, the doctors told me to look after myself. ‘No bars, no smoking, no gallivanting or bohemian life; moderate intake of spirits; a well-balanced diet, and lots of fruit and vegetables”.

However, during my three years of illness, I’d read and studied a great deal about the ‘French School’ and now I wanted to return to Paris and visit its famous streets where the great masters had roamed.

I had embarked unknowingly on what would be the start of a career in art. I spent three months in the Ville Lumiere and worked en plein air. (On yesterday’s post you can see “Montmartre” and today “Lapin Agile”, pastel, 1956.)

Lapin Agile is a legendary landmark in Montmartre, the place where artists and bohemians gathered, exchanged philosophies and views. Today it’s a “must” on the tourist track.

Ten years later in May, 1966 I found myself back in Paris, for my solo exhibition at Galerie Cazanave on rue de Boetie, just off Champs-Elysees. The exhibition was opened by Jules Leger, then Canada’s Ambassador to France and later Governor General of Canada.

That month I visited several museums including the Jeu de Paume and the Musee d’art moderne, which featured a Kinetic Art show. A couple of Alexander Calder’s mobiles swayed up high, while a few other works standing on the floor were also designed for perpetual movement.

But most of the other works only ‘moved’ because they were plugged in. Completely dependent on electric energy.

On some ‘imp-ulse’, I pulled the plugs! All those works came to an abrupt halt.

The guard came running over muttering something about calling the police and immediately put the plugs back in. It was some commotion, ‘en francais’, and theatrics.

(Of course it was not very sporty of me, to do this to my fellow artists.) Luckily I had an invitation with me to my own exhibition. The guard studied it carefully, and realized I was an artist (and from Canada). He mellowed a bit. Ha! Un blague, hein?” (“A joke, eh?”) However, he did go and check the newspaper to verify if the advertisement that I’d told him about for my show was in it. Thus confirmed, he smiled and said, “Ah, les bohemians, les artistes sont droles!” Ouff, I was lucky he didn’t call the police. Au revoir! Henri


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Beginnings

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:47 AM 0 comments

Someone asked, “Did you already have a vivid imagination when you were a youngster?” and “When did you start to paint?

Already as a young lad in the Lowlands, I observed the various cloud formations, imagining faces and creatures. Also I was intrigued by the spectrum-coloured patterns from gasoline oil in rain puddles. The designs “Father Frost” made on windowpanes boggled my imagination. (See my children’s story on our website.) And what about the patterns on cows?

But it was a lengthy illness that revealed the presence of ‘talent’. One November a neglected cold morphed into pneumonia, then pleurisy, soon developing into TB on both lungs and all five lobes. I was seriously ill.
This was 1952, in Holland, just before streptomycin. Surgery was not possible since both lungs were affected. I was taken to Zonnestraal Sanatorium (Zonnestraal means “Sunbeam”), located in an oak and pine forest. It was vital to have something to do, and also not to worry. (TB used to be called “consumption”.) Worry has the opposite effect for healing. We did handicrafts including covers for photo albums from X-rays of deceased patients.
TB is a strange illness. You feel “okey”, but you can’t get out of bed. Our individual rooms had no windows, but a deck. The nurse would wheel our beds outside for the fresh pine air.
I asked the nurse if she could put a string across the foot of my bed. We strung peanuts along it and soon I had feathered visitors just three feet away, delicately pecking the nuts and leaving some of the shells hanging on the string! Just imagine.

Rabbits, birds, clouds, trees --- all day long I’d quietly observe and notice. One day an artist from the nearby town suggested we should try painting. I was keen. And thus it began. This kept us from worrying and have something to do. Nowadays it’s “Art Therapy”. Then it was “be occupied or you’ll wither away”.
I made sketches and worked in chalk pastel. Oil pastels weren’t available yet, but interestingly upon my release from the Sanatorium 3 years later, oil pastels came onto the market. (See “Montmartre, Paris, 1956”) But chalk pastels make a mess in the bed. The nurses were not amused. This was different from the bird visits.
Then I switched to watercolours and oil. Turpentine and linseed-oil smells were not a bother since we had the deck. At first I copied works by van Gogh and Gauguin from postcards. Then I painted realistic still lifes, objects and subjects. (See “Room at Zonnestraal, 1953).
Much later, the doctor confided to my father I’d taken years off the illness because of my positive nature and the joy discovered in painting. So, to answer that question, this is how my career in art began. And that’s where today’s blog post ends. Happy trails! Henri


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We left you yesterday with Part One of the wedding ceremony, “I do”, Mexican-style. The bride was one of the daughters of Pedro, my amigo who owned La Cucaracha Bar in San Miguel de Allende.
Thus far, the groom hadn’t done much to contribute to the alegria but solemn occasion (after falling off his horse into the ‘cow souvenir’).
Following exchanges of rings and besos, the fiesta started in earnest. The hired musicians were a Mariachi group (by the way Mariachi comes from ‘mariage’, in the nineteenth century when Maximilian was Emperor of Mexico.)
By now all the rancheros, senoritas, and families of bride and groom mingled and danced. The groom, now in fresh attire, was still unsteady on his feet. From the kitchen came an endless parade of traditional Mexican dishes. Picture “Babette’s Feast” and “Con Agua y Chocolate” all in one and you get the picture.
One dish for me outshone the others, it was the classic Pollo Mole (chicken with spicy chocolate sauce), originally Mayan. Speaking of Mayan, to my great surprise Pedro then brought out a special bottle bearing a label “Xtabentum”, an ancient Mayan drink. [Pedro knew my name, but had never before mentioned nor shown me this delicious liqueur at his Cucaracha Bar.] I was fascinated to learn Xtabentum is made from special honey made by bees from nectar of the white Xtabentum flower (Rivea corymbosa, the morning glory family). These vines only grow in the Yucatan, and Xtabentum translated means “vines growing on stone”.
Whatever the connection with my name, to see it on a Mayan liqueur bottle was very intriguing.
Back to the wedding fiesta, Cervesa was flowing plus Tequila, rum, whiskey, and Kahlua. The dancing and atmosphere of the fiesta became merrier and merrier.
Next thing I knew, the rancheros had their rifles out and began target shooting empty cans and bottles. Curious as always, I walked over to watch. Suddenly, one of them, a bit unsteady on his feet, slowly turned around and began eyeing me as his next target!
Taking no chances, I speedily ran back to the kitchen and dove under that sturdy wooden table. Really, now I was the target?!? Indeed, I was the only Gringo, the only person with blue eyes.
Pedro had seen me running into the kitchen and came to my rescue. In a booming voice he shouted: “Henrique es mi amigo!” and fired salvos into the air with his pistol. Suddenly all was quiet. The coast was clear, so I crawled out from my hiding place. I re-joined the banquet festivities.
For me (a budding artist) this colourful experience was certainly gist for the mill, which all happened 45 years ago, in ‘good old Mexico’. Hasta luego, Henrique


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Yesterday we talked about a banquet in the Tuscan countryside. Now where did I experience another banquet ‘en plein air’? Ah yes! In Mexico. Let’s turn the clock back to 1963.

It all began in San Miguel de Allende. We rented a villa situated on a hill overlooking the historic town (declared a national monument in 1926 and now a World Heritage Site). There I painted mostly watercolours, on the patio. A few times a week I took a narrow path down to town, for art supplies and mail.

Near the Zocolo and La Parroquia, (Church of St. Michael the Archangel) was the “Cucaracha Bar”. Pedro the owner was a very large, heavily moustached fellow. He had mastered the art of getting “borracho” and then sober again by drinking pure Tequila.
Before heading back up the hill, I’d always stop for a Cuba Libre con limon. Pedro and I got to know one another well and exchanged languages. I learned Mexican, and he some English from me, all in his own ‘feliz’ manner.
One day, Pedro invited me to his daughter’s wedding. What an honour! I knew he owned a rancho. On the appointed day, early in the morning we drove off in his green truck. After about 30 kms we reached a kind of “moat”. He drove right through it, the truck submerged almost halfway in water.
When we came to the other side, I saw a rancho grande situated on a slight plateau like a castle. The moat was horseshoe-shaped with an opening at one end, which is how their cattle and horses entered the property.
The wedding preparations had begun on all fronts. Outside was a very long table covered with a white linen tablecloth and flowers. Remember the film “Con Agua y Chocolate”? Well, that’s the way the kitchen looked. Mama, who equalled Pedro in size and stamina, was busy with the preparations.
The ‘boda’ or wedding would occur in the private Chapel on the ranch. A well-known priest was invited to perform the ceremony and blessings.
The bride was beautifully decked out all in white, including elegant white cowboy boots. Rainbow-coloured ribbons were attached to her blue-black hair under a white sombrero.
The groom was also in white, from top to toe. Each rode a Pinto and prepared for a procession towards the Chapel. Everyone, (except the parents and priest who were already at the Chapel) including the rancheros, formed two lines through which the bride and groom proceeded. (Tradition called for the bride and groom to part ways, then unite again at the Chapel).

Halfway the groom fell off his horse. He was soused! Borracho. Since this was Rancho de Vacas (cattle ranch), he had the luck to fall right into some evidence left by the cattle. His spotless white attire was covered with spinach-green and brown coloured splatters. He tried to get back on his horse, but was too drunk.
Finally he made it to the chapel, but not before the rancheros dosed him with pails of water. Need we say what he looked like? And to top it all off, the bride, her fiery brown eyes blazing, rode over to the groom and smacked him hard on both cheeks. (Much to the amusement of her father, Pedro.)
I thought for sure the wedding would be off. But no. Although Mama, the bride and the groom’s parents (and the priest) were not amused, the groom had by now sobered up a bit and the ceremony would carry on. End of Part I. Next post we hope to share with you, the fiesta banquet surrounding the ‘boda’. Hasta luego! Henri


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Of missing Lamb and Legs in Tuscany

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:52 AM 0 comments

More tales from Tuscany (see earlier posts, July 27 and 31).

One of my duties for the owner (whose villa, a restored 13th century farmhouse, we were housesitting) was to keep track of the sheep and lambs. I counted them every night. One day, a lamb was missing. I counted again, but there were only eight lambs, not nine.
Maybe it had gotten lost? Next evening, again only eight. Next day I asked one of the sons (from the family who looked after the property while the owner was away), “Cos e successo? (“What happened?”).
Il lupo a mangiare”, was his reply. Lupo? A wolf? That was a surprise; his father, Signor, had told me when we arrived there were no wolves any longer in this region.

Anyway, to celebrate the success of keeping the Wild Boars at bay (see previous post) and to mark my 65 birthday Signora said she was going to arrange a Tuscan banquet up at our place, for family and amici.
Our farmhouse/villa still had the traditional Tuscan outdoor ovens, one for baking bread, the other for roasting.
On the day of festivities, aromas of roasting meat, herbs, spices and garlic filled the air. It was water-mouthing. Because of my passioni, gastranomiche y curiosita alimentari, I helped Signora with pelare, triturare e affetare i vari ingredienti.

When we sat down to dinner that night, Signor started to carve the beautiful roast – it was a lamb. They asked what piece I’d like, and so I requested a leg. La dona, Signora, replied, “Scuse, Enrico, no legs”.
A roast lamb without legs? That was strange. But I had another cut from the roast, and it was absolutely delicious. What a memorable banquet with famiglia and amici. Our feast was accompanied by their own vino di casa, including Grappa; the venerable Brunello (which put this region on the map); and vin santo, along with a surprise birthday cake for Enrico, covered with profiteroles.

The fairy-tale like glow of fireflies danced all ‘round us. There was singing, speeches and countless toasts: to the “Cuoco, Mama”, to “Papa”, to “Enrico”, to “Amici”, and, to “Brunello!” It was a balmy and magical August evening.
The mystery of the missing lamb was never solved. But, the mystery of the missing lamb legs? We quickly learned that for centuries the country people of this region have had to use all their ingenuity to survive. It was the custom of Signora to sell the lamb legs to a gourmet restaurant in the nearby town. Struggling economy, you know! Ciao, Henri


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