January 2017: Renewal

New year. New growth. New experiences.

There's a nostalgia that comes with wintertime. Growing up the Bay Area, winter was a slowing time. I remember wading through the fog and tread through grass fields to get to school. As the crystalized blades of grass crunched beneath my feet, I’d look back to admire the distance I had walked. Dense footprints followed behind, leaving a trail for the next traveler. I loved the crispness of the Nor Cal wintertimes.

Since I was young, the rains gave me bursts of energy and my restless feet would want to run outside and play. I remember my mother taking me shopping for my first childhood rain jacket. It was turquoise with some quilting on the upper chest and a hood that was hemmed with white fluff that encircled my face. I remember the sound it made when my arms would rub up against my body as I walked. As the neighbors took shelter inside their cozy homes, my friends and I would take advantage of the desolate streets and play under the old oaks as they shed their soggy leaves upon us. Since living in southern California, I’ve been bathing in this eternal sunshine that does not invite this same kind of winter. And how I’ve missed it. Recently, we’ve had a few weeks of healthy, reviving, pelting, abundant, flooding-the-plant-pots, muddying-the-oak-floors rain. My succulents, papaya saplings, and avocado youngster are gulping it all up as am I.

Since the showers occur so infrequently here (we had 80-degree days in the December), my feet become even more agitated when it rains, and I feel the need to douse my footsteps in these streets that are drenched with renewal. But last week, I experienced it differently.

From time to time, La Verne lets me study her sketchbook, and therein I find a plethora of inspiration, words of wisdom, and enough beauty and light to sprinkle upon the entire Heninger Community and beyond. As I strode in the rain, I kept a sliver of La Verne’s musings in mind and in heart. I ruminated on this proposal that she had jotted down into her sketchbook:

LaVerne quote.png

I did. And we do.

As I walked hand-in-hand with my Water Warrior through Downtown Santa Ana, I closed my eyes to feel the cold sting from tiniest droplets pelting my forehead. The slight pinch when they absorbed into my eyes. The prickly sensation of flecks upon my lips. For the first time, I felt the weight build upon my eyelashes as they collected raindrops. Surely, they had been thirsty for this cleansing. I marveled at the puddles, scattered across pavement like vibrating sheets of painted glass. They were the windows through which we could observe our silvery moon should the sky let us take a peek. I witnessed one million streetlights reflecting through the droplets before they collected in our hands.

I cherished this experience, and will take note of forthcoming encounters that fall from these violet clouds. Ms. La Verne, your words have shone upon us like a warm light. Even while the sky cries with us

I’ve drawn so much inspiration from La Verne’s sketchbook through the years. She and I have had numerous conversations about life. Some of our phone conversations last several hours, one of them even lasting six, because there is so much to share, to learn. We live only live two blocks from one another, but sometimes a quick check-in call becomes a lengthy therapy session/art talk/brainstorm/life examination. These exchanges heighten our energy. We discuss hardship and hope, strife and struggle, history and home, meditation and meaning, and the patience that we sustain under the clouds that sometimes storm heavily upon us. We’ve found shelter in one another’s words when these pelting raindrops have bruised us to the marrow. And while the clouds stirred a blanket around us, I discovered this powerful song that brought me great comfort.

rain 2.jpg

Make it Rain by Foy Vance

When the sins of my father weigh down in my soul                                                        And the pain of my mother will not let me go
Well I know there can come fire from the sky to refine the purest of kings
Even though I know this fire brings me pain, even so, Lord, just the same
Make it rain, make it rain, make it rain, make it rain
Make it rain, make it rain, make it rain, make it rain
Every seed needs the water for it grows out of the ground
It just keeps on getting hard, and the hunger more profound
And I know there can't come tears from the eye, for they may as well be in vain
Even though I know these tears will bring me pain, even so, Lord just same
Oh make it rain, make it rain, make it rain, make it rain
Make it rain, make it rain, make it rain, make it rain
Well the sea is filled with water, stops by the shore
Just like the riches of grandeur, never reach the port
Let the clouds fill with thunderous applause, and the lightning be the veins
Fill the sky with all that they can draw, when it's time to make a change
Make it rain, make it rain, make it rain, make it rain                                                      Make it rain, make it rain, make it rain, make it rain

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It is an indisputable truth that students bestow as much wisdom upon their instructors as their instructors can bestow upon them. Openness and perception are the patrons that will help us absorb these truths. 


                       To my teachers, past, present, and future, I thank you.                           I will continue building my relationship with Rain. She also has much to teach me. 


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      And the flow of water continued to bless us... One of the ways it flowed into our lives was through the rich watercolors that spilled from the hands of artist Joseph Hawa, an alumnus of the American School of Art in Chicago, Illinois. Joseph’s life’s work has been contained in his studio in the Santora Building of the Artist Village and in his apartment at Heninger Village that feels more like a gallery, studio, and art storage space with paintings and blank canvas stacked upon one another. He met us downstairs with his mahogany-stained portfolio, which for 20+ years has helped preserved the paintings that help tell his story. He brought a collection of prints to share with us—colorful works that were rendered in oil, pastel, acrylic, and watercolor tiled the table. We passed them around with enthusiasm, some of the students examining them more closely to try and figure out the methods and mediums he used. Then to our pleasant surprise, he generously gifted a print to each of us, complete with signature.

Joseph's trusty tools in producing his water color paintings include both a brush and a thumbnail. 

after sharing with us only a portion of his extensive collection of work, joseph generously gifts each of us with one of his prints. 

after sharing with us only a portion of his extensive collection of work, joseph generously gifts each of us with one of his prints. 

Joseph then launched into a watercolor demonstration. He described his process as he dipped and dripped the chroma upon the paper. He commanded red paint with brush in hand, like Moses summoning the flow of the Red Sea with his staff. We watched as diligent students in astonishment. After painting for a while, he lay down his brush and began using his fingernails to introduce subtle marks into the piece.

During the lesson, Joseph remind us, 

“The most important work of a painting is to capture light.”

And in closing, he encouraged,  

“Paint what you feel, not what you think you should. ”



To kick off the new year, we took some time to write letters to ourselves about what we hope for the year ahead, and how we will go about bringing our hopes into fruition. We decorated glass bottles in which to preserve these notes-to-self, and will open them up in 2018 to see if our aims were met. Perhaps so, perhaps not. Aspirations tend to evolve with time, and it will be interesting to see how we’ve changed, or how we’ve manage to cling on to our wishes and usher them into reality. And if we indeed haven’t loosed our grip on these ambitions, they will surely find their way to us. And even if not in one year’s time, they will arrive on their own time.


They always do.