Sunday, February 17, 2008

Of Mice, Dragons and Tree Fruit

Thank heavens for the celebrations of late winter to lift us out of the grayness -- Elizabeth Bunsen's Polar Festival, the Jewish holiday of Tu B'Shevat (also known as Jewish Arbor Day or the New Year of the Trees), Mardi Gras, Purim and Chinese New Year. All of these bright, lively, color saturated festivals fill my head with gorgeous images and inspiration. And all of that inspiration is, once again, late.

However, I didn't want Chinese New Year to go by without a shout out to Lea who pointed out during the Polar Festival that the friendly talking mice (of Cinderella fame) who found something for me to bring to the Ball were in town thanks to the entrance of the Year of the Rat. How perfect!

I have always loved Chinese New Year. In recent years I've taken the kids to New York City's Chinatown during the festivities, but there was a time that we used to celebrate the New Year with friends of Chinese descent. Such amazing food! Long, long noodles to be slurped without biting to bring long life, tangerines with the leaves still on (so pretty!) so your prosperity will grow, whole fish in the most savory sauce, and too many more dishes to name. Best of all, another fresh start. I feel fortunate to be able to celebrate the Chinese, Jewish and secular New Years. Each brings something different to renew the spirit.

Included here are two tributes. The dragon and the mouse were inspired by Lea's comment. I hope my Chinese friends forgive my Chinese writing. I tried to do it in stroke order as taught -- but it's pretty bad. However, the journal page will make a great departure point for a later painting. The smaller artwork was done during my cut-and-glue days during convalescence. I did a series of pages each based on a single color, of which the white pages I brought to the Boglandia Ball (below) are also a part.

The next illustration was inspired by Tu B'Shevat, sometimes known as Jewish Arbor Day but is actually more like the trees' birthday. The Torah gives strict instructions as to when the fruit of a tree may be picked. In order to know how old a tree is, it's "birthday" is said to be on the 15th of the month of Shevat of that particular year -- hence, Tu (15) B (of) Shevat.

Nowadays, it has become the custom to celebrate with a special meal in which the seven species of tree fruit mentioned in the Bible are eaten. I love the connection with early, nature-based festivals. More to celebrate and I say, let's invite everyone to the party. There will always be a seat at my table for you.

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