Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Art of Mary Blair

Yesterday I joined the family on a trip to the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco's Presidio. I was hopeful that accompanying a band of full-fledged Disney afficianados would only increase the enjoyment factor, and I was pleasantly surprised. The museum offers fascinating information about the Disney family's history and lifestyle, alongside details of Walt's career and the technical aspects of animation and movie production. It is a delicious example of great storytelling.
view from the galleries

Each month the museum changes its special exhibits. This month focuses on the movie Mary Poppins. April will be Alice in Wonderland, including the work of illustrator, Mary Blair. Some of her pieces are included in the permanent collection, and the gift shop features her work, too.

Her work is familiar. She designed It's a Small World and contributed to Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Cinderella to name a few. She was also the first woman to be named a Disney Legend in 1991. Seeing these prints brought such feelings of nostalgia and...well..adoration. After doing some interweb research, I found out that many Mary Blair fans exist. And with good reason! Take a look below. It's hard not to feel a certain kind of 1970's happiness, I think.

I've collected a few more on my Pinterest board, too, if you're interested. I bought cards of the colorful city above, a sweet jungle carousel, and three Alice cards that must be her work, too, even though they only credit Disney. The first two come from "The Colors of Mary Blair" exhibit from the Museum of Contempary Art in Tokyo. I love the card size format. I always have grand visions of framing and hanging them somewhere (though it rarely actually happens--grand dreams! They will start on my Inspiration Board.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I often find myself intoxicated by nature...

As a walked a solitary trail in Edgewood County Park a couple of weeks ago, I found myself reflecting on Howard Gardner’s addition of the Naturalist Intelligence to his theory of multiple intelligences. Just as some people are energetically fed by social interactions, it is clear to me that some of us in particular come alive in the presence of natural beauty.

Let me describe two instances for you.

Behind our cottage-like house we have a spacious backyard where two navel orange trees grow at the edge of a large picnic lawn. I gave myself an internet crash course on oranges when it appeared that our trees were overly abundant and ready to be harvested. A specific technique for determining ripeness was not readily available, but I appreciated the description of one small-scale farmer, “When the orange feels like a tennis ball—firm with a little give—then the orange is ready to be picked.” A big storm system was on the way, and I decided to harvest as many oranges as I could to share with our family and friends. Slowly at first, I tested each orange, looking for a slight squish with a heavy dense feel. I moved around the tree, discovering many more pockets of orange goodness. With each release of the stem I felt a glow from this gift of future nourishment inside its round package. After a good half hour of picking, I suddenly realized that I could sense which oranges were ripe even before I touched them. Where did this knowledge come from?

Similarly…back to my hike. I had yearned for years to find the trailhead for this path I saw winding across an open grassy hillside on my drive up the peninsula. The particular day was breezy and the trails were sparsely visited. Treasuring the time on my own, spotting deer from afar, and catching birds in the lens of my camera, I discovered that my sure-footedness returned about two-thirds of the way through my adventure. I felt my inner jackrabbit padding across the hillside, and I smiled as I easily leaped over muddy patches.

Reconnection. The smell of those oranges and the groundedness of my body along those trails brought the experience of mindful presence and peace to my otherwise busy life. Without any other stresses to occupy my mind, my breathing slowed and my face softened. What better gift to give ourselves than that?

My personal and professional work has recently led me to examine the research on the benefits of mindfulness practices more deeply, and their findings are irrefutable. One minute of breathing, a walk in the neighborhood or nearby park, a cup of tea…taking time to do one thing at a time goes miles for our health and well being. What small moment will you give yourself today?

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I like them.
Ask me why.
Because they hold their heads up high.
Because their necks stretch to the sky.
Because they're quiet, calm, and shy.
Because they run so fast they fly.
Because their eyes are velvet brown.
Because their coats are spotted tan.
Because they eat the tops of trees.
Because their legs have knobby knees.
Because. That's why.
I like giraffes.

-Mary Ann Hoberman (from Eric Carle's, Animals Animals)

One of our daily classroom jobs is called the Poem Picker. This child picks a poem from one of our many poetry books to be read during our Closing Circle. Last week, one of the children chose this one, and I giggled to myself at the synchronicity. Giraffes and Eric Carle? The perfection was scrumptious.