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Discovering Joe Downing

Discovery is the spice of life when we encounter something or someone unexpected. In that discovery, we learn something new about ourselves or the world through the heart and soul of another as I did at the Downing Museum harbored in the Baker Arboretum in Bowling Green, KY.

“Joe Downing is one of only three Americans whose work is exhibited at the Louvre Museum, in Paris, France. “ Born in Horse Cave, Kentucky, Joe Downing grew up on a farm. His parents hoped he would become an optometrist. He graduated at the top of his high school class, then joined his peers to serve in Europe during WWII. He visited Paris at the end of the war, then returned home to finish college. But optometry would not be his path. Soon after graduation he returned to Paris and France where he remained for the rest of his life.

The Downing Museum holds most of the artist’s greatest works– a continuum that shows his evolution as a artist. When he first moved to Paris and worked as a secretary at a law firm to support his art, Joe could not afford expensive paints. He improvised with paper, crayons and staples–accessible to him at his job — to create mixed media art. That is how he began.

 

For most of his early years he lived and worked in Paris but at one point he and a fellow artist bought a house in Menerbes .  The ancient village in Provence gave him a great sense of peace he recalled to friends and family. The space with its adjoining garden created the inspiration for his major works of art. The Downing Museum is a part of the Baker Arboretum, managed by Western Kentucky University. It is a lovely place, fitting to house the works of a man whose eye for color, shape, line, and texture merged into works that give one peace when gazing upon them.

Painted on barn doors from French farmhouse, 200 + years old.

More Together

One of my new roommates has a saying whenever we needed a piece of furniture: “It will show up.”

At first it was annoying when we sat on two chairs with a round of glass-top (scavenged from the side of the road) and several cardboard boxes.

Living Room
Living Room

Since then, our third roommate arrived and we have completely decked out the house with thrift store finds such as my $10 desk, a $48 couch, $6 – $8 chairs, etc. One of us managed to negotiate a gorgeous long dining table for $40.

Tom at the table he found.
Tom at the table he found.

We call ourselves a “senior activist community”. Our oldest member, at 85, runs circles around us with his Tai Chi, biking, tennis, and musical practice on his recorder.

What I am learning is profound. First, together we have more for less: each of us pays $400 rent plus ~ $40 in utilities.  And, second, I am amazed at the really great “stuff” we can find at Thrift stores if willing to “wait until it shows up.”

Susan's $10 desk and chair given by a friend.
Susan’s $10 desk and chair given by a friend.

We are each adults with careers – yes, we are still working – and our own grown kids and families. So we live independently, coming together to throw a party, discuss ideas, and help each other achieve our goals. Recently we hosted a house warming with friends of each of us. The house was packed and we all had a wonderful time.

Together does bring more – more of the right kind of things that make life easier and richer.

$8 chair and beautiful Thai Art from the community.
$8 chair and beautiful Thai Art from the community.

New Gig and New House

Blenman Elm Neighborhood Home
Blenman Elm Neighborhood Home

A lot has happened since the last post on this site. First, I published my first novel (Threshold), and second, I’ve relocated to Tucson to promote it. The story takes place in Tucson primarily but it is relevant to Southwestern cities and to anyone concerned about climate change–or not.

Adobe Style Home with desert landsacping
Adobe Style Home with desert landsacping

In Tucson I am trying another new form of living: cohabiting a shared home to reduce costs and enjoy companionship. While this arrangement specifically helps me with a short term stay (6 mos.) to market my book, it is also a little experiment to see how this arrangement might work for me on a more regular basis back home.

Colors blend with sky and earth.
Colors blend with sky and earth.

First, the house will be shared by me and two friends, one I know and the other friend is new to me. We found a 3-bdrm house in an historic neighborhood of Mid-Town Tucson in walkable distance to the university, shops, post office, and library.

The house was built in 1947 by the man for whom the neighborhood is named Harold Blenman and is in the Blenman-Elm Neighborhood. The home is a brick style ranch with a xeroscaped lawn including beautiful desert plants and trees and a gazebo with picnic table and large brick barbeque. The neighbors homes are a variety of styles, also xeroscaped and in pastel colors and brick or adobe.

Pensacola Treasures

 

Performers at Palafox Market

Just ambling out of the Little House on Belmont Street this morning on a 64 degree day, sun shining and the Downtown Market bustling

First United Methodist Church
First United Methodist Church

…past the First United Methodist Church and Rectory… past diners on the sidewalk in front of Palanzo’s enjoying breakfast.

Christ Church in Pensacola
Christ Church in Pensacola

Crossed Palafox Street to the Christ Church and Abbey.

Pensacola’s Church Circle at the intersection of Palafox and Wright is impressive, including the Emanuel Lutheran down the block from Christ Church…I amble on a blue sky day under the undulating arms of old oaks …

…past the new Main Library to the Victorian B & B.

Pensacola Victorian Bed and Breakfast
Pensacola Victorian Bed and Breakfast

…deeper into the neighborhoods under the arms of palms and oaks.

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Talked with owners out grooming their lawns. There is so much pride.  One owner explained that his home is over 135 years old.

…on to Devilliers Street .

The Gathering Awareness and Book Center on Devilliers Street, Pensacola
The Gathering Awareness and Book Center on Devilliers Street, Pensacola

Stopped at the Gathering Place, a bookstore owned by Georgia Blackmon, life long resident and local historian and woman leader. We chatted about books, and the long tradition of the African American community. Belmont Devilliers holds one of Pensacola’s richest musical traditions, evidenced in the local art.

Belmont Devilliers Art
Belmont Devilliers Art
Belmont Devilliers Neighborhood Revitalization Art
Belmont Devilliers Neighborhood Revitalization Art

Walked under the oaks to two of the historic African American churches, both over 100 years old. We are deep in one of Pensacola’s cultural districts.

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St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church on Reus and La Rua in Pensacola
Talbot Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church at Reus and La Rua Street in Pensacola

After a wonderful morning strolling old Pensacola streets and neighborhoods I turn for home onto La Rua Street. I discover a brand new B & B, and the owner Michael Greene. See the next blog introducing this exquisite new venue on the hill overlooking Church Circle. Here’s a peek:

Queen Anne Inn on La Rua Street, Pensacola
Queen Anne Inn on La Rua Street, Pensacola
Dining Room at the new Queen Anne Inn on La Rua Street in Pensacola

 

After a long hiatus…

No, I have not died or been run over by a four wheel vehicle while on my two-wheeler. I’ve been thinking, plotting, and in the process, becoming a tiny space genius. Sorry, I am bragging a little here, but if you have a bunch of objects that need to go into an impossibly small space, I’m the Girl to Call.

Example One: Instant Office

Instant Office 001Starts with 1) moving my business laptop from the end of the bed to the desk so that I am looking outside to green;

 

Instant Office 0032) rolling the file drawer with a Samsung wireless laser printer on top to the “office”;

 

 

Instant Office 002 3) hooking up a portable Brother DSMobile600 scanner;  4) setting up music to play on a micro amplifier (Jam), and Presto! Instant Office is here.

 

Stay tuned for the next amazing solution to space issues: Seat at the Table.

 

Mom’s Day and Market

Market Photos 001Living downtown continues to enrich my life. Palafox Market was humming with music, art, and a proliferation of food and fresh products from local cottage and for profit businesses. Here is my fare for this morning. Strawberry Fig Preserves and fresh eggs, and (not in photo) dewberries from Mark and Katya Hainds farm; organically grown carrots, wax beans, and aquaponic lettuce each by different growers. Also not pictured is the Cuban pastry I ate!

Side MirrorI rode my bike down to Bikes Plus, right across from the market. They put a side mirror on my handlebars. We talked about biking accidents in Pensacola. Our population does not have a bike consciousness, i.e. looking out for bikers. Also folks like me need to be much more aware when riding! So it goes both ways.

Mom's Day 002Hope everyone has a great Mother’s Day Weekend. I am blessed by Tommy and Amy and the Furs in Nashville who sent a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, and my daughter Heather and Jay in Virginia Beach who sent me the blessing of Bueno Vista Club’s second album, Lost and Found, which I just love. Check it Out! I love #5, Black Chicken. My kids are still my one great treasure…

CactusThe garden is coming along. Heating up here, so watering everyday.  However, I think I will probably reap only a little fruit before July fries everything. I’ll nurse it along and chalk it up to my first try, then start seedlings to plant in August for a fantastic fall and winter garden. Hey! Did you know Florida has its own prickly pear? Mine is flowering.

Little House Rooms 009Still in love with my Little House on Belmont Street! It’s just the right size for one person. Might be a squeeze for two unless super compatible!