Tuesday, August 30, 2011


(Prayer Bead, Flanders, 1500, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto)

This is a prayer bead.

Prayer beads have traditionally been used to help religious worshippers meditate on spiritual matters.

Specifically, this is a Christian prayer bead.

It was created around the year 1520.

Which places it smack dab in the middle of the Renaissance.

Or toward the end of the Renaissance......

depending on which art historian one chooses to believe.

It is said to have been carved in Flanders - the Duchy of Brabant.

That means that its origin is Northern Dutch.

The sculptor created this miracle of art from boxwood.

The bead comes complete with the ability to open and close.

It possesses both a hinge and a latch to allow those movements to happen.

Now for the mind-blowing part:

The prayer bead is 6.4 cm in diameter.

For all of us metric-phobes out there (and that includes me) that means that this bead is two and one half inches in diameter.

If you study both halves of the bead closely you will find that this genius sculptor has carved two Biblical stories into his bead.

The upper half depicts "The Queen of Sheba Visiting King Solomon."

The lower portion contains his carving of "The Adoration of the Magi."

Now I'm going to ask you to do something.

Grab a magnifying glass.

Next, plant your magnifying glass directly over one half of the bead.

Finally, remember that this masterpiece was sculpted in a two and one half inch space.

Actually.....less than that.

If you count the space allotted to the outer rims.

And the circles next to the rims containing the Latin inscriptions.

Is your mouth open?

Is it in gaping form?

Pardon my arrogance but if it isn't it should be.

I stood in front of this minuscule beauty at the Art Gallery of Ontario just weeks ago.

It was lying on a rich velvet fabric.

The color of the fabric was burgundy.

Soft lighting streamed down gently upon it.

Very "Renaissancy," indeed.

The very minute my eyes landed on this piece, I automatically opened my mouth.

More correctly, I stood with my mouth gaping as I viewed its incredible artistry.

Soon my mind wandered to the Renaissance sculptor who possessed the artful knowledge, the refined skill and the long-suffering patience to create this magnificent bead.

Perhaps the sculptor created the prayer bead for his or her own personal devotions.

I'd like to think that anyway.

After studying the bead for several minutes, I decided to move along before any tale-tell tears fell from my adoring eyes.

And that, dear readers, is what art brings to my life.

What does it bring to yours?

Monday, August 8, 2011


(Changing Horses, Sir Alfred J. Munnings, 1920, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburg)

Four short weeks after our return from Canada, Bob and I hit the road again.

This time we head to Ohio to help Matt and Tara with their new house.

On the morning of our departure I wonder whether the Bobster has decided to invite Tess Tudhope to tag along.

That's like asking if the Eiffel tower is located in Paris, France.

Still, a girl can hope.

So when I walk out to the driveway to board the Malibu, I decide to see if Tess is clinging tightly to the windshield.

Hallelujah - she isn't there!

My heart races with joy as I open the passenger side door.

Suddenly, my eyes fall on Tess who is lying in the middle of the console waiting to be perched on the windshield.

I scream at Bob, "She's in there!"

"Of course, she's in there," Bob states emphatically, "She did a good job navigating us in Canada so she's going with us again."

I plop myself into the passenger seat and glare at Tess as Bob mounts the smarmy little vixen on the windshield.

"Here we go again," I say to myself dejectedly.

Then I decide to sulk.

I know perfectly well that sulking is an emotional artform best practiced by three year olds.

But at this particular moment, I don't care.

So I go ahead and start sulking.

Does Bob notice that I'm sulking?


Does Bob care that I'm sulking?

Get serious.

But so what?

Sulking is making me feel justified, superior and proud.

In other words, it's been worth every second I've put into it.

We drive.

And then we drive a lot more.

Bob is pleased with Tess's piloting performance.

He says stuff like this:

"Tess is working hard today."

(Tess is a petite pile of plastic parts. Among other things. She doesn't "work.")

"Tess is reliable."

(So are death and taxes. What's your point?)

"Tess adapts quickly if we decide to suddenly re-route her."

(Hey, I'm adaptable. I've survived living with you for 40 years!)

The Bobster and I arrive at our destination in record time.

Which is a good thing because we've got a ton of work to do.

We paint rooms, hang curtains and anchor pictures to the walls.

On the first night, we eat yummy barbecue with all the scrumptious sides.

The next night we cram our gullets with delicious delivery pizza.

We eat until the food is seeping from our eyeballs.

We hug the kids.

And kiss the grand-babies.

Then we hightail it out of there.

Tess manages to interrupt me just under 60 million times on the drive home.

'What IS it about this woman?" I ask Bob imploringly.

"She ALWAYS knows the exact second I am going to start speaking and she NEVER misses an opportunity to one-up me!"

Bob looks at me and says:

"Tess is a smart girl."

I am furious.

"No, she's not! She's a babbling idiot and I hate her disgusting digital guts!" I rant at him.

Bob the Annoyer decides this is the perfect time to laugh at me.

I decide it's the perfect time to tie him to a medieval torture rack and crank up the setting to "excruciating pain."

Before either one of us knows it, we've reached the outskirts of our home town.

Just in time for rush hour traffic.

Tess Tudhope comes alive.


Bob plunges his index finger into the middle of Tess's "torso."

I'm guessing that is a "yes."

Tess is in her element.

She's spewing directions left and right.

Bob follows every one of them.

Eventually, Tess says:


Bob says: "Nope. Not gonna do it."

For once, I'm stunned into total silence.

I've never once heard this man use the word "nope."

It's just not part of his tightly wound vocabulary.

And "not GONNA do it"?

I've never heard him use the loosey-goosey term "gonna" either.

"What do you mean - you're not gonna do it?" I ask incredulously.

"Exactly that," Bob explains, "Tess wants me to travel through the heaviest part of rush hour traffic because it's the shortest route. There's no way I'm going to do that."

"Could the honeymoon between Bob and Tess finally be over?" I cautiously ask myself.

For the next five minutes, Bob ignores each one of Tess Tudhope's definitive directions.

Instead, he steers the Malibu onto streets not recognized by the indomitable Miss Tess.

I can't believe what I'm seeing - let alone - hearing.

Tess is being dissed by the Bobster!

He's finally seeing that one trick pony for who she really is.

And it's about time.

Bob and I are rock solid.

A whole lot of heavy duty stuff has gone down in our 40 years of marital "bliss."

We've seen most everything.

And we've done most everything.


He knows it.

I know it.

So it's time for you, Tess Tudhope, to wake up and smell the hot chocolate.

Unstick your boxy little behind from my windshield and slink away, sister!

Because you, my sweet, are soooooooo gone.

Besides, I've got a few tricks up my own sleeve.

Girl, don't even ask!

Just take your pony and run.

Monday, August 1, 2011


(Leon Joseph Voirin, La Terresa du Cafe du Glacier, Place Stanislas a Nancy, 1882, Artrenewal.com)

I'm gonna be honest.

There wasn't a whole lot of excitement in the air when the Bobster and I finally did reach Canada.

It was pretty much a yawn fest.

I don't know why, but I was expecting a big line-up of cars waiting to enter this massive country.

There were at least a million people waiting to get into Switzerland when we were there with Gretch and Seth a few moons ago.

Maybe it had something to do with that.

But it was just us and two other vehicles who pulled up to the toll-like booths at the Canadian border.

The officer said "Hello" as he quickly scanned our passport photos and then our faces.

"How long will you be visiting Canada?" he asked pleasantly.

"Seven or eight days," Bob replied.

"Will you be visiting family while you're here?" the officer continued.

"No," Bob answered, "we'll be visiting all of your art museums."

I shot Bob a nasty look that said: "Was that really necessary?"

The Bobster didn't flinch an inch.

Seconds later, the officer handed Bob our passports and said, "Have an enjoyable time while you're here."

He pushed a button in his booth and the guard rail began to rise as he waved us through..

Just like that - we became instant - if temporary - Canadians.


I've always heard that the heart of Quebec City is just like Paris.

It is!!!

As we drive into the oldest part of the city, Basse-Ville, I am thrilled with every sight I see.

The sunlit street cafes, busy with late lunch patrons, line the Grand Allee for blocks and blocks.

We pass the Assemblee Nationale, home to the city's provincial parliament, which conducts its debates almost entirely in French.

Quebec's governing body meets behind the ornate 19th century facade of the grandiose Hotel du Parliament.

This gorgeous building looks as if it's just been transplanted from somewhere in the middle of Paris.


But there's one little glitch in my grand obsession with Quebec.

Tess Tudhope is along for the ride.

Need I say more?

Honestly, I've been so busy reminding myself that I'm NOT in Paris, I've managed to forget about Tess for at least a good 30 minutes.

But just like clock work, Tess pipes up from her windshield haunt.


"What did she say?" I ask Bob.

"She said to turn right onto the Avenue Bourlamaque," he tells me.

"Oh, no, she didn't!" I hastily add.

"She said to turn right onto the Avenue Booollamicck," I quickly retort.

"You know what?" I ask Bob.

"While we were sleeping like babies last night, Tess Tudhope must have been out bar hopping 'cause it sure sounds like she's tipsy to me!"

Bob can't help himself.

He's about as close to a laugh as he ever gets.

"Well, la-de-da," I crow to Bob, "I've finally found a chink in Miss Tess's suit of armour.

Happy with my discovery, I lean back against the passenger headrest and say, "Tipsy Tess isn't so perfect after all!"

Bob keeps his eyes glued to the Avenue George VI which is taking us to the National Museum of Fine Arts.

Tess manages to pronounce "Avenue George VI" correctly.

This does not make me happy.

I begin to study the Quebec City map with the persistence of a dog in heat.

Suddenly, Tess says:


"A-ha!!!" I shout at Bob, "this girl can NOT hold her liquor!"

"The street we're on is called "Rue Sainte-Vallier - not Rue Sainte-Wwaalliaaa."

Bob throws me a quick glance and says, "Maybe she just needs to brush up on her French."

"Maybe she needs to get sober and stop slurring every other word in the French language," I sweetly correct him.

"OK," he replies, "you may have a point."

"Oh, I definitely have a point," I say to myself.

As the day wears on, Tess manages to botch the French pronunciation of  nearly every city street in Quebec.

Not that I'm gloating, you understand.

That's just not my style.