Welcome to The Sea Pearl, a collection of curiosities, essays, and guiding principles that inspire my life and everything in it.

If you are interested in art subjects, please check out Art Chowder magazine, a Northwest regional publication which my husband, Melville Holmes, writes for. I copy edit his stuff and sometimes contribute to his pieces. Issue 29 is out and we are on page 34 of this one with an article on Élizabeth Vigée Le Brun, a French artist who escaped the Revolution and ended up for some years in Russia where she became friends with Catherine the Great.

Ivan Kramskoi, Christ in the Desert, 1872

While I’m on Russian topics lately, here is a perfect excuse to include one of my favorite Russian paintings of the 19th Century. As Western artists were rethinking “Art,” Russian (and Eastern European) artists were keeping the old art forms alive and adding fresh perspectives to traditional topics in representational art. Ivan Kramskoi’s most famous painting of Christ in the Desert is a good example of what I mean.

Ivan Kramskoi, Rusalki, 1871

The first time I saw Kramskoi’s Rusalki, though, my jaw dropped, for I dearly love ethereal tales. The rusalki are sometimes thought to be the equivalent of mermaids, but they have an ancient association in Slavic lore with fertility. By the 19th Century, though, they had become identified with the unquiet spirits of young women who had met a watery death, often through suicide, and usually in association with an unhappy marriage or a lover who jilted them. His night painting is beautifully lit.


We had an emergency on the Kenya front some weeks back, too. Our young friend, Bravin, got something called “the jiggers,” which is when sand fleas burrow into the feet, causing infection and eventually gangrene if left untreated. …

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