October’s Synchronized Chaos: Field Notes


Welcome to October’s issue of the magazine! For many cultures, this month brings awareness of the cycles of life and death, of ancestors who have come before us. As we celebrate Celtic Samhain or Mexican/Latin American Dia de Los Muertos or Western Halloween, we reflect upon the journeys we take throughout life, the pattern of beginnings and endings, the process of venturing out and gathering information and life lessons and bringing them back to others.

In keeping with that spirit, October’s monthly theme, Field Notes, celebrates the information-collecting we engage in throughout life. Some of our contributors take literal, physical journeys, such as Matthew Felix Sun’s migration from China to the United States, and others, including Daniel Rekshan and Blanca Jones, abstract what they observe from meditation, prayer, dreamwork and other psychological travels into artwork and writing.

Some of our Field Notes focus in on specifics: Wayne Jiang’s “Restaurant Series” oil paintings examine condiments, table settings, and other small items in great detail. Known for his miniatures, Jiang draws viewers’ attention to the here-and-now of contemporary environments while at the same time creating scenes which seem timeless, suspended in space and time, beyond the changing moods of fashion or movements of people or other living creatures.

Jeremy Warach’s vignettes comprise a similar conceptual intent, through a different art form and with a lighter mood. He brings us fragments of stories which never existed, akin to scraps from a sailor or traveler’s diary which have drifted down to us through space and time. We are then invited to ‘connect the dots,’ to join the plot threads ourselves and thus complete his journey.

As an illustrator, Tim Davis designs work in collaboration and conversation with writers, highlighting and accentuating the main or unique aspects of their ideas. The intellectual interchange becomes an art form in itself, along with the craft of watercolor painting. Davis and his fellow San Francisco painter Karen Gray have explored possible intersections between art and science, providing pictorial interpretations of scientific philosophy and of various evolutionary theories.

Mixed media visual artist Charlotte Severin combines various types of paper in her watercolor scenes of Yosemite and her still-life work. She attempts to capture the lighting and mood of particular moments, and also celebrate and convey her unique vision of nature and the physical world.

In the same spirit, San Francisco Opera’s fall Il Tritico production derived its uniqueness and power from its particular moments – standout minor characters, details of setting and revealing turns of phrase. Verdi’s creation consists of a triptych of one-acts, completely unrelated but each examining and illuminating certain aspects of human nature through evoking richly specific times and places. The way the stories continue to resonate with viewers, with or without updated settings, demonstrates how these performed ‘field notes’ remain relevant.

Other contributors approach the concept of ‘field note’ observations through reflecting upon personal (or fictional narrative) biography. Cynthia Lamanna describes her memorable preschool teacher in extravagant detail, leaving readers with a verbal oil-painting portrait of Miss Nancy. Lamanna’s other piece, a fictional short romance, presents a main character who slowly learns what makes her happiest in life and remembers those lessons. Patsy Ledbetter shares a poem where a musician must lay down his beloved French horn, and speculates upon what his years of performing have taught him about the meaning of his music. Jaylan Salah’s latest poem “Reflections of a mad woman in a sane, sane world” conveys a hard-won sense of self-knowledge and pride in one’s chosen life and surroundings.

Lisa Demb’s colored pencil drawing Margaritaville reflects her own personal journey by celebrating the new happiness she has found through a friendship with a caregiver who understands her and has taken the time to improve her living situation. Her other work, a sample of her Happy Armageddon series, expresses an optimistic attitude through re-interpreting apocalyptic imagery as potentially interesting changes in the landscape rather than depictions of disaster.

Matthew Felix Sun also works with apocalyptic imagery, exploring the motif more traditionally by drawing upon fear, alienation, and the rise of stupefying entertainment and power-hungry political leaders…social conditions he identified just as easily in the Western world as in his native communist China. Several other contributors interviewed as part of October’s Synchronized Chaos also took ‘field notes’ on what they observed in terms of broader social and environmental conditions, including Global Exchange’s fair-trade produced chocolate media liaison, Adrienne Fitch-Frankel, short-story writer, classical musician and poet Patsy Ledbetter, and the Berkeley Ecology Center’s representatives, including Debra Berliner of the Climate Change Action Project.

Global Exchange describes more just and sustainable business models for producing certain crops, including cacao, coffee, and tea, while explaining current industry conditions, and the Ecology Center relates how they purposefully set out to learn from and stay responsive to the communities where they work, and how they have adapted to cultural shifts in the environmental movement. Patsy Ledbetter’s short story, “Sun Lo and the Sewer” addresses the global problem of prejudice and discrimination against social and religious minorities. Her piece relates how the scriptures of one’s faith, the ancient ‘field notes’ from others’ physical and spiritual journeys, can remind one of one’s values during difficult times.

Thank you again for reading this issue of Synchronized Chaos and for becoming part of our magazine’s family. We welcome you to our October issue, which brings together a diverse array of contributors.