In Memory of My Mother

January 14, 2015

Today I am remembering my mother, Lisette Berglund Hyde, who died four years ago on the day before her 102nd birthday. She loved being outdoors, gardening and walking the dog; baking bread; setting a beautiful table; visiting art museums; listening to Vivaldi on public radio. Lisette was born in Bjuv, a small town in the southern tip of Sweden, so I am marking this occasion with a sunlit painting of a breakfast table outdoors by the Swedish artist Hanna Hirsch-Pauli.

Frukostdags (Breakfast Time) by Hanna Pauli

Frukostdags (Breakfast Time) by Hanna Hirsch-Pauli, Swedish, 1887, via Wikimedia Commons.

Commentary about this painting from the Swedish National Museum reads:

To this day, Hanna Hirsch-Pauli’s painting Breakfast – Time from 1887 is still able to trigger feelings of intense sensual pleasure from our visitors. “We truly feel invited; it is just like our very own breakfast ritual. The chairs are waiting for us and we can almost feel how the heavy teapot tilts as we lift it.” The table which is laid with beautiful objects gives associations to family life and domesticity. The image shows a corner of reality, where the bourgeois dining room has been removed to the garden.

This is an open-air painting suffused with light. The subject is dappled with reflections that give the objects a suggestive shimmer. It is a juste-milieu painting, being at once anchored in the classicist tradition with its linear perspective, but also inspired by the way the Impressionists depicted light with colour. Like many Swedish artists at the time, Hanna Hirsch-Pauli studied in Paris and exhibited at the Salon.

The use of light, the lively brushstrokes and the thickly applied paint outraged several Swedish critics at the time. They saw her technique as “slipshod” and one critic meant that the flecks of light on the table cloth were probably the result of the artist “wiping” her own brushes on it. In the late 1880s Breakfast – Time played a major role in Hanna Hirsch-Pauli’s breakthrough as an artist. Already an accomplished colourist, as we can see, she went on to develop those skills in her portrait painting. — Nationalmuseum Stockholm via Wikimedia Commons.

Thank you for reading this post,

Mary Ann

Related post: Remembering Gladys, Remembering Lisette: Three Years On

How Science Can Help You Stick to Your Goals

Editor’s note: Happify is a light-hearted but science-based online resource for games and activities to boost happiness. You might enjoy playing some of these educational games yourself, or trying them out with your dad, your grandmother, or someone else you love. Happify’s new infographic, shown below, bills itself as “17 science-backed secrets to achieving your goals.” Let me know what you think. — MAB

Here's How Science Can Help You Stick to Your Goals

The Little Knitters by Altert Anker

New Design for 2015

Today the Joyous Paradox blog is three years old. Around the globe, we’re on the cusp of a new year. I’ve changed to a new design that shows off the beautiful paintings which illustrate many of these posts. The little knitters in my logo painting by Albert Anker continue to keep watch at the top of the screen. I like them because they show how caring for others can begin at any age.

May the stork bring you and your family a Happy New Year!

The Saturday Evening Post, 12/28/1907

American artist Joseph Christian Leyendecker painted this image for the Saturday Evening Post issue of December 28, 1907. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Hyperbole and the Long Winter Walk

Once upon a time, in a small log house at the end of a long lane, there lived a dog named Hyperbole.

Whenever his friend Edward would come driving down the long lane to visit him, Hyperbole would bounce and bark and run around in circles. His ears would flap and his brown eyes would shine. His big black nose would shine, too, in that pixelated way dogs’ noses shine when they are moist with enthusiasm.

Now, on one particularly frosty winter day, a day close to Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, when snow had fallen on the little log house and melted in the ruts of the bumpy lane and frozen again, so the ice cracked and crunched under your boots when you walked up the lane to check for mail in the mailbox, on this particular winter day Edward came driving up the lane and crunched to a stop beside the log house.

“Oh boy, oh boy, bark, bark, bark!” said Hyperbole as he ran in circles and sniffed and snuffled and bounced around his friend Edward.

“Let’s go for a walk in the woods, Hype,” Edward said. “But first, I have a Secret Package to carry inside and put away for later.”

“Oh boy, oh boy, bark, bark, bark!” said Hyperbole. “Can we have the Secret Package now? Can we have it now?”

“Have you checked the mailbox yet today, Hyper?” asked Edward, who really wanted the Secret Package to be a surprise.

“Not yet, not yet, but I’ll go see,” said Hyperbole. He bounced and ran around in circles a few times, and then shambled down the long lane, sniffing and whuffling at the interesting repositories of smells along the way, such as old cattail stalks that other animals had peed on, and a muskrat’s tracks in old snow that had thawed before the muskrat walked across it and then frozen afterwards.

As soon as Hyperbole was out of sight, Edward carried the Secret Package into the kitchen, where he unpacked it hastily while keeping an ear cocked for Hyperbole returning. He put some of the items from the Secret Package in the refrigerator, and then, glancing over his shoulder to make sure nobody was looking, he put the rest of the items in the cupboard, high up on the top shelf.

“Whuff! I’m back, I’m back,” announced Hyperbole, just as Edward shut the cupboard door. Hyperbole’s voice was somewhat muffled by the mail he was holding in his jaws, but when he had dropped the mail on the table and Edward had wiped off the drool with the sleeve of his jacket, the dog’s voice rang clear as a bell again.

“Anything for me, for me?” asked Hyperbole.

They pawed through the mail looking for Christmas cards from Edward’s nieces, Jasmine and Dakota and Cheyanne, but there weren’t any Christmas cards yet, just L.L. Bean catalogs and fundraising letters and bills.

Finally, Hyperbole and Edward took a really long, long, walk
run
bark
bounce
circle
sniff
pee-on-a-tree
scrape-the-snow
walk
run
bark
bounce
through the woods.

Hyperbole and Edward walked all the way up one side of the mountain, past the pine trees and the hemlocks. They passed the old foundation stones where lilacs bloom in the spring. They passed the place where last time they saw bear tracks (extra-long sniffing here).

Then the two friends came back down the mountain, with a few detours after squirrels (Hyperbole), and a few pauses for drinks of cold, cold, well water from a BPA-free water bottle (Edward), and fur that was cold on the top and warm next to the skin (Hyperbole), and frosty cheeks and a red nose (Edward), and puffs of breath visible in the cold air (both of them), and stretched trapezius muscles in the shoulder (both), and joy in the heart (both, for sure).

Now, by the time the two friends got back home, Hyperbole had forgotten all about the surprise. Secret Package? What Secret Package? He trotted over to his water dish and gulped and guzzled the water until his thirst was slaked. Then he curled up in his dog bed next to the wood stove and tucked his nose under the plume of his tail and slept.

Perhaps Hyperbole dreamed, for every once in a while his muzzle quivered or his front paws twitched.

As he slept, I wonder if Hyperbole heard, dimly, the squawk of the squeaky hinge on the cupboard door, or the whump of the refrigerator door closing, or the hiss of water running in the sink.

Or perhaps he smelled, in his sleep, the deep and glorious smell of onions frying in an old and experienced cast iron skillet, and the brown smell of floured chunks of beef tossed into hot oil, where they sizzled, minute by minute by minute, the brownness crisping and crusting and deepening until, at just the right moment, Edward scraped under the browning beef chunks with a spatula and flipped them to brown on the other side.

But I will tell you that by the time Edward’s Surprise Beef Stew was finished cooking, Hyperbole did hear the clink of knives and forks on the table.

Hyperbole woke up with a start.

“Whuff?” he said. “Whuff?”

“Let’s eat!” said Edward.

“Oh boy, oh boy, beef stew! Bark, bark, bark!” said Hyperbole, for beef stew was his very favorite dinner in the whole wide world. And he bounced into his chair at the table and fell upon his portion like a ravenous wolf at the end of a very long winter day.

And when the two friends had polished off two huge bowls of stew each, they stacked their dishes in a sinkful of hot and soapy water. Hyperbole went out briefly in the cold to sniff around the woodpile and pee one last time, while Edward scrubbed the skillet and blotted it with a towel and wiped it with oil and set it on the stove to dry.

Then Edward shoved two more logs into the wood stove. He clinked the stove door shut and adjusted the draft so the fire burned brightly. The stove ticked softly in the peaceful, after-dinner silence. The two friends curled up together on the sofa and slept and slept and slept. And what they dreamed about, sleeping in that warm log house at the end of a long lane under the bright and icy stars, I will leave you to imagine for yourself.

The End

Hyperbole_Ornament_01_f7f7f7Background

With thanks to my son Edward for walks in all seasons; to Dorothy, for the hospitality of her log house in East Lempster, NH; and to the writers, illustrators, and publishers of all my favorite children’s books, especially The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, for their stories. — MAB

So Glad You Are Having a Baby: A Gallery of Family Portraits for Thanksgiving

“So glad you are having a baby,” I wrote to our daughter and son-in-law when I heard the news. Our granddaughter, the adorable Ava, is now six months old. We’ll see her at Christmas. In the meantime, I’m thinking warm thoughts about families for Thanksgiving. Here we go!

Family 01 So Glad You Are Having a Baby

Family 02 Aart Schouman

Family 03 Ehnle

Family 04 Glindoni

 

Family 06 Besnard

Family 07 Wodick

Family 08 Sharples

Family 09 Wyspianski

 

Image credits

So glad you are having a baby: Illustration by Catherine Frances Frere (d. 1921), in Old Deccan Days, a book of fairy tales of India by Mary Eliza Isabella Frere (1845–1911), via Wikimedia Commons.

Painters can tell us a lot about families: Self-portrait by Aart Schoumann, Dutch, 1730, via Wikimedia Commons.

Some families look solemn: Family Portrait by Adrianus Johannes Ehnle, Dutch, 1850, via Wikimedia Commons.

Some families look relaxed: Courtly House Music by Henry Gillard Glindoni, English, 1901, via Wikimedia Commons.

Some family portraits are delicate and pensive: Madeleine Lerolle and Her Daughter Yvonne by Paul-Albert Besnard, French, 1879-1880, via Wikimedia Commons.

Here everyone helps with the baby’s bath: Family Portrait by Edmund Wodick, German, 1855, via Wikimedia Commons.

Here we see the artist with her mother: Self-portrait of Rolinda Sharples with Her Mother Ellen Sharples, English, ca. 1820, via Wikimedia Commons.

So thank you, dear artists, for all your gifts: Motherhood by Stanislaw Wyspiański, Polish, 1905, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Caring: What I Think About the Funnel of Love

The Foundations of Well-Being, “a year of growing good in your brain and in your life,” begins with four video talks and experiential exercises about self-caring from neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

I think of Rick’s self-caring visualizations as a funnel of love. You pour kindness and love into yourself, your mind and heart, which steadies you. Then you can pour out kindness to others around you, as in my illustration below.

The Funnel of Love by Mary Ann Barton

“All beings deserve decency and care — including you.”

When you think about it, caring for yourself is a matter of ethics as well as utility. As Rick puts it in his video on Befriending Yourself,  “All beings deserve decency and care — including you.”

“You know,” he continues, “the Golden Rule is a two-way street. We should do unto ourselves what we would do unto others. And many people treat others much better than they treat themselves.”

When I was younger, I took pride in acknowledging my faults. Heaven forbid that someone would point out a flaw I hadn’t noticed in myself!

These days, while I still think it’s important for me to be clear-eyed about my failings, I also think it’s absolutely essential for me to practice treating myself with respect and kindness. I don’t ask myself to succeed all the time. Sometimes the old, draining self-criticisms come rushing back into my mind. But I do practice.

November’s weekly video on mindfulness debuts today, November 4, 2014, at 5 pm Pacific Time. For information on participating, see the Foundations of Well-Being program.

Meanwhile, you can see an excerpt from Rick Hanson’s interview on self-caring with psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Brach below.

PS: In writing about my experiences as a participant in the Foundations of Well-Being program, I am not receiving any financial compensation from Dr. Rick Hanson or the Foundations program. Feel free to reproduce and share my Funnel of Love poster with others, as long as you include the copyright statement.

 

Dear Readers, I’m Getting Back in Touch with You

October 20, 2014

Dear Readers,

Today I’m getting back in touch with you after more than a month away from the Joyous Paradox blog.

I’ve spent this time writing my book, which has grown into a series of four little books on finding rest and renewal as we care for others: Rest, More Rest, Renewal, and Repose.

The Rest Series by Mary Ann BartonThe Rest series will take the reader on a journey from the early, sometimes subtle moments when we first notice a loved one’s aging or illness, through the often wild and abrupt surprises of diagnosis, treatment, setback, and recovery, to some of life’s deeper moments of connection with the self and others, and, finally, to the profound experiences of loss and letting go.

What I aim to do in these books is to suggest that meaning can be found at any point along the journey.

Meanwhile, as I mentioned last month, I’m working on a series of blog posts about neuropsychologist Rick Hanson’s Foundations of Well-Being program. What a remarkable experience I’m having this month, watching Rick’s weekly videos on self-compassion, taking the associated quizzes, reading some of the additional resources, learning new vocabulary, and exchanging comments with other participants in the online forum. My favorite new words this month are hedonia, which refers to the happiness that comes from experiencing pleasure, and eudaimonia, which means the sense of well-being that comes from having meaning and purpose in one’s life.

You can still join the yearlong Foundations program at rickhanson.net. Why not watch it with someone you love?

Model Writing Postcards by Carl Larsson

Model Writing Postcards by Carl Larsson, 1906, via Wikimedia Commons.

All the best,
Mary Ann