Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic”

Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book “Big Magic” is pure Gilbert. It’s crammed with her energy, sense of humor, courage and curiosity, and her desire for everyone to share in the only life she wants to live – a creative life.

Creative life has a broad and inclusive definition for Gilbert. She believes “the universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” “The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.” She says: “I believe that this good kind of arrogance – this simple entitlement to exist and therefore express yourself – is the only weapon with which to combat the nasty dialogue that may automatically arise within your head whenever you get an artistic impulse.”

And then there’s the subtitle: “Creative Living Beyond Fear.” For someone now so successful, she knows fears – “fear you are a one-hit wonder,” “fear your best work is behind you.”

She lists two pages of fears (for why one might want to, but not attempt to, live a more creative life). Everything from “you’re afraid you have no talent” to “you’re afraid somebody already did it better” or “you’re afraid everybody already did it better.”

Engaging Gilbert stories fill “Big Magic” – the tales from her timid, fearful childhood with a resourceful, loving mother. (Ultimately Gilbert realized that fear is boring, and she wanted an interesting life). In spite of talk about fairy dust, Gilbert is a magical thinker who works really hard with what she calls “stubborn gladness.”

Gilbert says authenticity “has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.” And she pleads with us to follow our curiosity, not the oft-counseled and uncertain “passion.”

She encourages you to get to it, if you haven’t yet. “It’s never too late.” And her book makes you want to do something – “…any motion whatsoever beats inertia, because inspiration will always be drawn to motion.” “The work doesn’t have to have a purpose and you don’t need an advanced degree.”

December is a great time to give a copy to your favorite person who isn’t hunting to uncover their buried jewels. And treat yourself to “Big Magic” – it’s full of treasures.

Pink Astronaut

The Broad

Tickets are free to The Broad (rhymes with road), the brand new contemporary art museum in downtown Los Angeles. Sweet Baby’s dad made reservations before we arrived on our recent trip.

Built by Eli and Edythe Broad to house their collection of postwar and contemporary art, it’s an appealing museum with a concerted effort by the staff to welcome visitors. Just two floors, the inaugural installation is arranged a little chronologically and a lot by artist (with early and late pieces from the same person).

The building itself is a Gaudi-like grotto on the inside, while a “veil” of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels and steel, penetrated by slits allowing daylight, floats over the entire structure. The corner of the veil lifts over the entrance. Loaning the collection is a big part of the museum’s mission, and the building celebrates the huge art-storage capacity sandwiched between its floors. The stairway, glass elevator, and escalator tunnel through this storage “vault,” so visitors glimpse art on giant steel racks.

The first floor installation of up-to-the-minute pieces features giant chromogenic prints by Thomas Struth, including three floor to ceiling photos of tourists staring up at “David” in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. A huge photo of the Ferguson riots is the latest acquisition.

I love the out-of-proportion everyday things that make you look anew: one of Jeff Koon’s puppy dogs, Robert Theirren’s huge stack of ceramic dinner plates near the entrance, and his Alice in Wonderland-like gigantic wooden table and chairs you can walk under (echoing Sweet Baby’s reality with the undersides of tables).

The Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s hour-long, nine-screen video piece entranced us. In a graceful old house musicians each perform the same piece of music but are filmed separately. We cold easily have stayed the whole hour in this thrilling room full of sound and image.

We didn’t have a reservation to stand in line to see ourselves reflected in Yoyoi Kusama’s experimental artwork “Infinity Mirrored Room: The Souls of Millions Light Years Away” – but next time!

Wheeling around in her stroller, Sweet Baby took it all in. Fellow visitors interested her most, children, babies, tall people and wide – beards and hats – every entertaining possibility. In the elevator going in, a fellow passenger greeted Sweet Baby. Her dad smiled and said, “It’s her first museum.” (I love to observe our sons respond to people who speak to their daughters when they are out and about.)

We ate lunch on the museum’s plaza – near an improbable grove of 100-year old olive trees – gnarled and twisted, full of story – how do you transplant a 100-year old tree?

Lunch outdoors in warmth, under an umbrella with a happy Sweet Baby (she tucked under her mom’s scarf and had a snack herself), shared experiences to talk about, feeling “recalled to life” (meds for weird pneumonia aboard and working) – moments to savor.

Sweet Baby at Broad Museum