Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Writing on the Wall

It's fun to study books on character expression and emotion. It's even more fun trying to come up with varied ways of describing what your character feels.

The other morning, reading a chapter in the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, I noticed a verse that was interesting for writers who struggle to find the right description of an emotion. The author wanted to paint a picture of the king's status.

Back story:
Belshazzar and his revelers drink from the vessels of the temple—A hand writes upon the wall, telling of Belshazzar’s downfall—Daniel interprets the words and reproves the king for pride and idolatry—That night Babylon is conquered.

The disembodied fingers wrote these words:

מנא, מנא, תקל, ופרסין
Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

In verse 6 we hear how Belshazzar, the king of Babel, reacted to seeing the hand write on the wall.

 Then the king’s acountenance was changed, and his thoughtsbtroubled him, so that cthe joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.

I like the Norwegian translation of this verse. It is even more colorful. It says, "Then the King changed color, and his thoughts troubled him; his joints became weak, and his knees smote against each other."

In other words, his face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.

Based on this scripture in the Bible about Daniel, and how the handwriting on the wall predicted the end of the kingdom of Babylon, the expression today means that something bad will happen. It is an idiom for "imminent doom or misfortune".

Showing character emotions in writing can be done in many ways.  Here are four points to focus on:

1. Body language - make he character raise his eyebrow, tap his foot, wring his hands
2. Show, don't tell - "He was happy" can be a bubbly voice, whistling, a smile, joyful tears, etc.
3. Dialogue - Precise conversation, questions, and answers to show happiness, fear, etc.
4. Interaction with other characters, the surroundings, how the protagonist sees the worlds around him.

I painted the oil painting of Daniel in the Lion's Den 29 years ago as a young mother living in Okinawa, Japan. On the second floor of our house I had an office to work in and kept my toddlers at a distance with a gate in the doorway. I remember I spent a long time trying to decide the scene, Daniel's age and the emotions of the painting. It's a painting I still have on my living room wall, no matter how many offers I have had to sell it.

The other painting today is Rembrandt's wonderful rendition, "Belzasar's Feast".

Monday, November 25, 2013

Me, a Suffragette?

This year we celebrate 100 years since the right for women to vote was introduced in Norway. Was it a man or a woman who first had the idea that maybe it was a good thing for women to vote also?
What do you think the debate was - would it be fortunate and helpful for the future if women  made decisions or would it mess up society as a whole?

I am thinking - when they voted for women's votes, only men participated. There must have been thousands of women who did their best to influence men to make a wise choice. Did they stand in the doorway, lipstick glowing, a freshly baked cake in their hands, encouraging their man to do the right thing? Did they flatter them? Did they hold their arm up in front of them, threatening with a rolling pin? Did they seriously discuss pros and cons with their husbands, brothers and fathers?

I am certain many were anxiously engaged in the cause. Some probably thought it was impossible and did not have the courage or strength to fight for it.

Votes for women became a reality even though when and how varied greatly in different countries.
It was normal that only married women could vote. In some places even that privilege was withdrawn.

Walt Disney made many movies with high morals depicting problems and challenges. Sister Suffragette is a joyful song from the musical Mary Poppins. The lyrics tells us the feministic battle in the beginning of the 20th century, where soldiers in bloomers fight for the right to vote for every woman in England. Mentor and prime example was Emmeline Pankhurst, a woman I admire. 

The song ends on this note, "Our daughters' daughters will adore us, and they'll sing in grateful chorus, well done, Sister Suffragette!"

Switzerland was late applying this right for their women. They did not acquire female voting until 1971. Lichtenstein was even later, 13 year after Switzerland. Unfortunately, there are still places on earth where women have no rights because of political or religious beliefs.

Discussing genealogy with others, I have often heard, "You have found so many names." I joke and reply that it's because I have so many ancestors. Everybody does! Actually, quite a few of them are women! Problem is, that even though we all know how families are made and how they grow in number, these women are often difficult to find in the records. Far back, mostly names of the male population are entered into records.

I am old-fashioned enough that I believe women existed then like now. It is difficult, if not impossible, to form a line of descendants without women, and without female intuition or tricks. Women were part of society and history, even if they were not always documented as such.     

Below are six generations of women in my family. Each one has a place, from Anna Magdalena who was born  in 1856, to little Sienna, my granddaughter, who has a better start and more rights than many of her maternal ancestors.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How Old Am I?

Our munchkins are two and a half, three and a half, almost six months, and so on. Their ages have been counted in days, weeks, and months since they were born.

I am . . . and there I pause.

How old am I? I forget.

I have never been very occupied with what age I am. I have been completely satisfied to be exactly the age I am. Should I line up my friends, you would see I tend to think the same thing about them. Friends on my list could have been my children, could have been my parents. Does not matter to me. They are my friends and I love them and enjoy spending time with them.

Since I don't spend much time thinking about age, time and again I simply forget how old I am. It can be embarrassing. One time I was interviewed by a newspaper about one of my art exhibitions in Oslo. The reporter asked my age. I could not remember and in my head frantically started counting decades from my birth year, trying to seem half-way intelligent, not dimwitted. She was young, probably in her twenties. She appeared to remember her own age perfectly well.

I laughed at my shortcoming. She did not.

I don't understand when people complain every birthday that they are a year older. Isn't it a great thing to be alive and take part in all the excitement yet another year? The alternative is a shorter life on earth. I don't think they see that as a better solution.

I must admit that my body seems to know that I am getting older even though my heart is oblivious to the thought altogether. A young heart will feel younger. It's as simple as that.

I have an "older" friend who has to mention almost every time she opens her mouth, that she is an old lady. I wish she would skip it now and then.

The love of my life is a year and a half older than me. That I remember. He s sooo much older than me.
He can still outrun the teenagers on the soccer field and has a boyish charm. Love that about him.

My art today is an oil painting - a place that can be enjoyed no matter the age.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Circle of Life in Our Families

The Circle of Life.

Elton Johns beautiful melody with lyrics by Tim Rice is a song that moves us.

We all experience this circle in our lives. Some members of the family finish their time on earth, others arrive as innocent infants with a life ahead of them.

This past week my 91 year old father-in-law quietly passed away. It was his time to go. A long life is over--at least, here on earth.

His expertise and talents were greatly developed during that time, relationships formed, endless stories told.

He was a storyteller, a man with much humor and entertaining tales up his sleeves.
I am grateful now for all the hours I spent next to him, notebook and pen on my lap, writing down all his words when he was in one of his telling moods.

People leave a legacy, a mark on the world. Every person is unique in their own way.

I am grateful today that I believe that families can be together forever, that we can see each other again.
And I am grateful for the time I had with Alf.

Today I have chosen a water color called "Family" and a photo of my parents-in-law.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Can Admiration be Dangerous?

I believe that a good portion of admiration is healthy for relationships, both close and long-distance ones.
Just think of how we look up to others because they are great sportsmen, amazing dancers, and inspirational orators. Those are usually people we don't know personally, people we will probably never meet in person. Still, they inspire us, entertain, and make us dream of what it would be like if only . . .

But what about looking up to someone you have a tight, personal relationship with? Can a dash of admiration be a good thing or is it boxed up only for TV-personalities?

Admiration for my husband and his talents is uplifting to me. I am never in competition with him. We are too different to ever have to compete one with another. Therefore, I can be in awe of his abilities and talents. He can do many things well that I can only dream of. And I am fine with that.

But is there danger in dwelling on admiration for our fellow beings--the people we meet, hear about, and associate with? Admiration can turn into envy, greed and even resentment if we go down the wrong path. The possible outcome is ending up disliking someone because they excel in one way or another.

A covetable attitude is definitely not an admirable trait.

It may sound like a cliché, but I believe love is the key. If we love someone enough, we will not want to hurt them in any way. We will want that person to be happy and rejoice with them when they progress. Admiration will become a stepping stone to positive thinking instead of a festering lump of bitterness.

I may go a little overboard in my admiration for others. I even admire Hector, the Wheaten Terrier, for being so patient and dedicated.

 One online dictionary says that admire means to look at someone or something with enjoyment.
Sounds like a good thing to me.

Today's art is an oil painting I painted in 1983. I am certain the Pharisees were secretly in awe of the young boy who knew the Scriptures so well.