The Panama Connection

“Cock your hat – angles are attitudes.” Frank Sinatra

My Hat 4I love hats. There’s something about having a hat on your head that proclaims to the world, I am here. For those of us who wear hats, there is a sense that we are wearing a work of art.

My dear friends, L and J, just returned from an adventure in Panama. Traveling into the verdant mountainous jungles, they came upon an artist known for his creative ability of transforming the leaves of the toquilla palm (Carludovica palmate) into what is known as the Panama hat.

Hills around LaPintata,Courtesy of L & J

Hills around LaPintata,Courtesy of L & J

So now, thanks to L and J, I am now wearing my “Panama” at a jaunty angle everywhere I go these days. This is a hat like no others. Even on the warmest days, with the sun directly on my head, I never feel hot. According to L and J, the positioning of the hat denotes the emotional state of the wearer.

The Panama hat plant a.k.a. toquilla palm is not a palm tree. And it grows in more places than Panama, from Central America to Bolivia. In fact the Panama hat is originally from Ecuador. Artisans were weaving the leaves into hats as early as the seventh century. When they were “discovered” by the Americans and Europeans, finished hats were shipped from Ecuador to the Isthmus of Panama before heading out to other parts of the world. And that is why we now know them as Panama hats.

On December 6, 2012, the art of weaving the traditional Ecuadorian toquilla hat was added to the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list. The more I read, the more I know how important it is to preserve this tradition. I wear this hat proudly.

Art, Gratitude & Living Well

At the céilidh!


Voltaire once said that, “God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”  This was my thought as I headed out to a céilidh, a traditional Gaelic social gathering, this past weekend.  What a party! I felt I was in Scotland with all the music of bagpipes, fiddles, harps, accordions and Gaelic choirs.

“Living well” is one of those nebulous concepts that is difficult to quantify, much less experience to the fullest extent.  It is something that we must define for ourselves before we can know the reality of the promise.  We know the possibility exists, but does it exist for us?

At our table, a man was celebrating his 87th birthday.   When asked if he would give his age, he replied:  “I don’t mind giving my age; I’m just glad that I made it this far.” And that is when it occurred to me that time was fundamental in fashioning a meaningful existence. Living well is giving worth to our time.  We live in a finite existence; no amount of effort will generate an extra hour.  Even second is an opportunity.

We owe gratitude to those who choose to follow an artist’s calling, many of whom have little assurance that their chosen vocation will generate a monetary reward.  The céilidh came into being because musicians and singers allocated years to their creative endeavours.  So it is with other artists, who define their “living well” by what they produce, whether a painting, a poem, a musical score.    Our lives are enriched, when we use our time to listen, to support and participate.  This too, is living well.

By the way, I’m thinking of taking up the harp….


Happy Birthday, Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Battle of Trafalgar

Happy Birthday, Joseph Mallord William Turner (April 23, 1775 – December 19, 1851)

A controversial artist during his time, J.M.W. Turner was ridiculed by his critics. Nevertheless, he became known as the person who championed landscape painting. He gave the world 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolours, and 30,000 paper works.

The critics have been silenced!

For more information check out the Tate Gallery in London.



World Art Day – April 15, 2014

The Lady


Today is World Art Day, a global celebration of the fine arts.  It is a reminder to be aware of the creative spirit that spans our world. So what does that actually mean?  How do we live, aware of the art that surrounds us?

Art is much more than a painting on a wall or a marble sculpture.  It is the thought behind the creative expression, the joy that shaped it into being.  It is the words brought to life with a poet’s hand, the ear that hears music before notes have been scribbled on a blank music sheet, the image held in a photographer’s soul the instant he or she captures a sunrise.

Here is my take on art.  It is being present in the ordinary moments.  It is recognizing that art is universal, within our reach, not simply for the privileged or recognized artists.  Art is simply gratitude for being alive.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language 
And next year’s words await another voice.”
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets


Quotations are ubiquitous.  Communities dedicated to quotations are thriving across social media channels.  Whether the subject matter relates to business, comedy, fashion or philosophy, there is always a suitable quote that adds an aura of legitimacy and authenticity to the discussion.  Winston Churchill, well-known for his candid wit, once said, “It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.”   My thought is that everyone should read a book of quotations for learning is a life-long quest.  You can always be “more” educated.

I love quotes for they connect me to others, past and present.   Over the years, they have influenced, motivated, and challenged me to see the world from someone else’s perspective.  They have been my invitation to enter a two-way dialogue that requires my involvement.  Only then can I fully integrate the knowledge exchange.  Only then can I add my voice to the conversation that continues to flow through the days, years, centuries.

We lead eventful lives.  In our busyness, it is easy to let others speak for us, thinking they have the superior voice. In doing so, we canonize our lives. May we have the courage to join the dialogue, to offer our thoughts along with others as we move forward in our time line.

Footfalls echo in the memory
down the passage we did not take
towards the door we never opened
into the rose garden. My words echo
thus, in your mind”
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

The Art of Integration