Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Smoke

The After-Smudge


Our Angel with Broken Wings (more about him here), who has become somewhat of a regular character in the glass factory — all six feet ten inches of him — performed a cedar smudge ceremony today in the studio, the site of last Friday's shattering. Cedar is considered a sacred medicine of protection, and is used to invite unwanted spirits or presences to leave.

And although I'd heard of cedar and sage smudge cleansings, this was my first time experiencing one, and was moved almost to tears by the quiet power summoned by our Angel-Man. The lingering, sweaty scent of human rage (which I could unquestionably detect) was replaced with the clean dry essence of burnt cedar. At one point, I laid my forehead down on the work table and closed my eyes. There is so much to assimilate.

A sense of peace was restored — all rather astonishing for this skeptical mystic, this non-theist animist. (Yowza. That was admittedly a mouthful.)

These days flow through their hours with flares of dramatic contrasts. The garbage can outside is filled with glass shards, while the Angel-Man daily brings Melinda tiny affectionate tokens, my favorite by far being a clam shell cupping a tiny pale-pink rose. Gentleness and tender gestures: yesterday he read to us from Thomas Moore's Care of the Soul, a healing balm while we painted. He'll leave us soon — it's time for him to care more deeply for his own wounded soul and body.

Who knows when/if he'll return with sprigs of valerian, or lavender, or to pluck a book from his bag, sit on the window seat, and read aloud.
-----------------------------------------------

Listen:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Where were you?

Can you see me there, waving, from the white speck in the bottom right quadrant of the photo? No? Is 900 million miles too far away?

From an article in Huffington Post:

"Good photographers go to great lengths to get the best pictures, but few have ventured farther than Cassini did on July 19, 2013. From 5:27 p.m. to 5:42 p.m. EDT on that date, the robotic spacecraft peered across almost 900 million miles of empty space to capture a series of awe-inspiring images of Earth."

Last Friday, at 2:27pm PDT, I was finishing a late lunch at the picnic table under the awning outside at work, so I was most likely not visible in the photo. I didn't know! If I'd known, I would have sat on the lawn, away from the umbrella. 

(Full story here.)

Silliness aside, when I first viewed this picture, I broke down and wept, completely undone by the, the — the what, exactly? Grandeur? Vastness? Our own utter insignificance in the universe? That we possess this stunning ability to love, and to feel love? That we even perceive something we call beauty? (Which is what, exactly?)

In all truth, in the thick of all this personal investigation in the World of Physics, I was completely undone by the mere notion of a photograph of us — every last one of us, if you will — having been taken by a satellite sent into space by humans, from a distance of 900 million miles, and then transmitted to us across that same distance. I cannot fathom this. I want to understand it scientifically and poetically, and the possibility of either of these seems infinitely and staggeringly daunting.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Berries, Big Dipper

I'm sticky with blackberry juices, which have run down my arms
to mix with the remnants of paint I missed in the washing-up
at the end of my workday. Sweaty. Frizz-headed.
Rumpled.

Every morning I brush my way past the spider webs
spun from iron-railing to rhododendron, from climbing rose
to dogwood. They used to make me scream
but now I know that I am the intruder, breaking through
and ripping out their silken nets.

A berry cobbler is in the oven, and I had to get testy
with my son to clean up the dishes, now sitting
for 24 hours. (The dishes, not the son.)
He grumbled, I went upstairs.
He starts a training program in a week and a half
which hopefully will lead to some employment.
It is my greatest sadness that this intelligent, talented
young man has not been able to thrive.
He's seeing yet another doctor, I'm half-heartedly
optimistic. Trying a new angle, drawing on findings
gleaned from the Human Genome Project.
We'll see.

I tell myself to Trust The Process
but sometimes — often! — the process
takes too damn long.

In the meantime, these summer nights, with a clarity
of air that goes on night after night, almost seems
too good to be true. I've never had a vegetable garden
grow so much in such a short time.
(Kale to feed the masses.)
Seems like I'll awaken some morning soon
to a grey drizzle, slosh and splash my way to work.

Each night before sleep, I stand on my upstairs balconey
and check in with the Big Dipper: constant,
spilling what, exactly,  from its star-cornered cup?



Sunday, July 21, 2013

Blue Season

Hydrangea stamen, suspended
by a solitary strand of spider's silk —


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Much Ado


I could hear cats hissing and spitting at each other out in the alley, so I switched on the porch lights and went charging after them with the only thing I could quickly find to cause a ruckus more dramatic than the one they were creating: a ten foot long bamboo pole. I whacked at the laurel, sending cats scattering. (I was thankful for the relative darkness.)

Warning! Crazy lady charging through the July night brandishing a long bamboo spear!

In my rush to break up the fight, I brushed up against the overgrown collard "trees" in my garden, and when I came back into the yard, the air smelled pungently and heavily of brassica, like someone had just overcooked a brimming cauldron of broccoli.

(I really must stop having these exciting Saturday evenings.)

I looked just like this (minus the water, plus it was dark):

Friday, July 19, 2013

La Bicyclette en Rose


We wanted to walk in the woods, but a bicycle race blocked the looping road that led to the path. The riders sped past us, forty or fifty of them in a pack, in neon spandex, no sound except the whooshing of their spinning wheels and the gust of wind in their wake. A handful of spectators cheered them on.

Farther on we saw that a small festival was taking place, with a beer garden and food booths near the finish line, and a giant screen was set up in the amphitheater where, post-race, footage from the Tour de France would be projected into the balmy July night.

Loudspeakers blared jangly noisy atonal music, and my companion, newly versed in the particulars of French bicycle racing, said,

"Wouldn't it be better if they were playing a nice little French tune, like this —?"

He began to hum La Vie En Rose.

I imagined how a shift in the music would change this  scene dramatically, in this park where old growth firs still grow and eagles nest. And if I'd had the capability, I was feeling mischievous enough to shift it up myself — flip a switch, hook up my iPod and play a Pandora French cafe music station.

Think anyone would've noticed?!

Crank up the volume, here's Edith Piaf to serenade the bike race —

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Before Sunset

I found a Stellar's jay feather smaller than my little finger tonight. It was stuck to a mint leaf in the garden.

Later, I took a walk in the woods (the air, only a 1/2 mile away, so different, so green) and almost tripped over two Pileated Woodpeckers, an adult and a baby, who were flushed out by my footsteps, and flew upwards into a Douglas fir, then walked up the bark, making nearly indiscernible sounds.

A little farther up the path I met a couple who were in search of the baby owls, but without luck. They walked with their heads tilted up, each with one ear cocked to the side, listening.

Six runners passed me, in the still and humid air.

I realized, having walked this inner-woods path for years, that I perceive the path musically, with a kind of classical melody, each twist around a fallen fir an arpeggio, my footsteps on the peaty earth: andante. I go uphill at a legato pace. During nesting season, the robins pipe a staccato alarm. And then there is the metronome of my heart, speeding up, slowing down. All of it: music. Moss music, fern music, maple music.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Effervescent Melancholy


Population, and the Relativity of Happiness

To be exquisitely, and contentedly alone, on a planet of  7 billion people, is to enter a state of grace.

To be devastatingly lonely and alone, on a planet of 7 billion people, is a failure of civilization, and a tragedy.

---

To view a real-time earth population counter click here. (This made my jaw drop.)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Alive, Alive

I took my breakfast out to the yard this morning to read the rest of last Sunday's NYTimes (a treat which I make last all week), and, although I didn't really want to launch right away into the article titled The Joy of Old Age (No Kidding), when I noticed that Oliver Sacks was the author, I thought that it would be much more than just bearable. And it was.

A few particularly memorable lines:

Eighty! I can hardly believe it. I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize it is almost over.

I am sorry to have wasted (and still waste) so much time; I am sorry to be as agonizingly shy at 80 as I was at 20....

I feel I should be trying to complete my life, whatever "completing a life" means.

At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age.

I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the facetious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.

As I read, sipped my coffee and took bites of the most perfect peach that I've had in years (with just a sprinkle of brown sugar), I heard a hummingbird making its funny, scratchy song, quite close to me. It took me a bit of a search to find it in the multitude of hazelnut leaves and the dappled morning light, but I did, finally, and it was a baby, whose wee head gleamed red in the right angle of light. (When newborn, they are about the size of a standard eraser at the tip of a pencil!) Its feathers fanned out in a ruffle above its tiny talons, and every now and then it stretched out its wings and then folded them back down. I was close enough to see its vibrational heartbeat. Probably not much more than a mere three weeks from hatching, not more than five weeks from conception to perching on the branch.

When I chirped back, it cocked its head in my direction, acknowledging my presence.

And I thought: I'm reading about the last years of a human life, while witnessing the first days, really, in this small bird's life. Yin and yang, birth and death, the spectrum of being alive all before me in a single moment on a summer morning.

I wondered if somewhere, someone/thing, in a size ratio equally as dramatic as the hummingbird to me, was observing me, noticing my taking-in and letting-out of breath. Noticing my nearly insignificant size, in the scheme of things. Who can know this?

The bones of cats long-dead are buried in the garden, just beneath the bird's perch, and my father's blue marble gravestone lies at the base of the apple tree. Collards have gone to seed, sending out their frail yellow lacework of petals across the yard. Not far away, pumpkins and cucumber vines measurably grow by the day.

The bird flew away, I drank the last drops of coffee, and  finished the article.

What came to mind was this:
My cup is empty, and yet, is still so full.

Thank you, Oliver Sacks.
And thank you, baby bird, for granting me this sweet perspective.


















For the full text of the Oliver Sacks article, click here.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Midnight Sun Palette

A friend who is traveling in Alaska texted me today a photo of the "daylight" horizon viewed from his ferry last night at nearly midnight.

I was up to my elbows in oil paints, 24 tiny sand-blasted vessels awaiting their multi-color treatment, and, well, if I didn't end up painting one of them those same midnight-sun colors! To be exact: Payne's grey, verditer blue, zinc white (hint of Prussian). And to think that these will be shipped tomorrow to a gallery in Maine, where a stranger will lay out cash for one of these pieces with no inkling of the inspiration from whence those particular colors came.

There's something particularly enchanting about that, I think. That this thread of inspiration originated in the Gulf of Alaska, in view of glaciers, traveled via the marvels of modern technology to a small house/studio in Seattle (the garden in lush bloom, the crocosmia luring hummingbirds, a Stellar's jay alight on the suet feeder), where the colors were squeezed from tubes onto a porous surface, smoothed & blended, fired, and then wrapped in blank newsprint, stuffed into recycled wine boxes, set out in larger cartons for our reliable UPS driver, then trucked cross-country 3,000 miles to a coastal town on another ocean. And I'll never see them on the gallery shelf!

I believe that some essence of spirit travels with these pieces, embedded in the layers of color — some fragment of the music I was listening to, the conversation that might have been taking place, even possibly a hint of the coffee cooling in my cup, with milk. A slant of afternoon light, caught in the angles of the prism hanging from the west window, distorting for just a glance all the colors into a rainbow's array —

I know, in fact, that all of this is true: that these colors entered into me through my eyes, then traveled out again through my hands.

And what spark, what flare of intuition will compel some kind stranger to see this glass and feel a shiver of cool northern breeze at her neck, breathe in barely a nuance of deep woods, lucent glacier, sense a trace of salt-spray on her cheeks? And know the trail leads back and back, past rutted road and ramshackle cabin, to some unnameable heart of intention, to an unseeable light impossibly blue and wrenched from a dream-haze night after unremitting night?

Yes.
Just this.
photo courtesy of Jed Myers



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Delving

Prussian blue skies at dusk, sinking into a burnt sienna horizon.

Dipping deeper and deeper into the seemingly unknowable world (if you can call it that!) of Quantum Physics and Quantum Mechanics. Nothing is as it seems, a notion which is at once unsettling and also outrageously thrilling.


An acquaintance stopped by work today, and when this science subject-of-the-day was casually mentioned, the friend said, "Oh, I'm currently reading The Dancing Wu Li Masters ."

WTF.
I'm reading this, and so is Melinda.
What are the odds, the probability, that a book published in 1979 would be the current choice of reading material for three artists who just happen to be in the same room?

Evidence, indeed, that other forces are at work.

Entanglement?
Synchronicity?

From a Wikipedia article on Synchronicity:

Even at Jung's presentation of his work on synchronicity in 1951 at an Eranos lecture, his ideas on synchronicity were evolving. Following discussions with both Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Pauli, Jung believed that there were parallels between synchronicity and aspects of relativity theory and quantum mechanics. Jung was transfixed by the idea that life was not a series of random events but rather an expression of a deeper order, which he and Pauli referred to as Unus mundus. This deeper order led to the insights that a person was both embedded in an orderly framework and was the focus of that orderly framework and that the realisation of this was more than just an intellectual exercise, but also having elements of a spiritual awakening. From the religious perspective, synchronicity shares similar characteristics of an "intervention of grace". Jung also believed that in a person's life, synchronicity served a role similar to that of dreams, with the purpose of shifting a person's egocentric conscious thinking to greater wholeness.

---

And finally, something (perhaps) to make you laugh:

Is that a cookie falling from your mouth? Or is it just a Fig Newton of my imagination?
        —She said, with gravity.
 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Moth

This exquisite creature has been fluttering about my upstairs since last night, and my attempts to catch-and-release have all failed.

I am in awe.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

With Liberty....

After celebrating the wonders of capitalism by working on Independence Day —
we are two weeks behind on orders and working like fiends
while re-orders stack up into the fall —
(and let me mention that the 9-5 day was not without
its marching about the work space
to the tune of Yankee! Doodle! Dandy!
 with impromptu hats a'head) —
I walked home and set to cooking an extremely casual holiday meal:
kale caesar (greens from the garden), burgers, potato chips
and chocolate cake with whipped cream.
One estimate of guests was seven potential arriv├ęs,
(all invited very last minute as in *this morning*)
and in the end, three showed up.
It was me and three men (two related)
and nary a complaint from the cook.
The sun was shining, the wine was flowing
and the conversation veered, as it often does in this particular group,
to The State of the Nation/World:
America, Egypt, Syria, Israel, Mali, Ecuador, China,
Obama, Snowden, Monsanto, GMO's,
the NSA, solar energy, corn, etc.
We are a lively group.
(The cake, made with whole wheat pastry flour, was weird.)
(The whipped cream, thankfully, was not.)

Once dessert was consumed, I stepped away from the table
and, snippers in hand, ventured into the snaggled snare
that is at the back of my garden:
grapes, collards, morning glory, lemon balm.
Entwined, entangled, aphid-infested, mildewed,
gone to seed, over-extended, an over-abundance of everything I don't want.

I pulled, yanked, uprooted, clipped, tore-at, broke,
sliced, ripped, severed, flung, tossed, cursed-at.
Aphids took up temporary residence in my hair
and all the while I listened to the three men debate
the future of life on the planet.

And I had to stop them in mid-sentence
and point out how much like their conversation
my chore-of-the-moment was:
a state of a contained universe (the earth)
where overpopulation (grapes, collards, morning glory, lemon balm)
threatened its very existence. Not enough air flow (pollution)
resulting in an explosion of aphids (viruses/disease/decay)
and mildew (crop-failure where the end result is mass starvation).
And would my coming in with the big weapons (clippers/muscle)
at the last minute, really do any good?

The three men looked at me as if they'd suddenly encountered a crazy lady.
(Which was not wholly untrue.)
Standing before them, I leaned over and thoroughly shook myself
in an attempt to dislodge bugs/leaves/seedpods, not unlike a dog after a bath.
And then they resumed talking.
It seemed my impact on them was, at best, minimal.

Sigh.

Now, an hour later and nearly dark, the sounds of our yearly war-re-enactments
are gathering steam, spark & flare.
The universe is humming with explosions
and the sky is beginning to light up with colors of $$$ burned.
Shortly I'll go out to my balcony and watch the show
from every corner of my horizon, knowing that I did what I could
to tame everything that's out of control
in this minimal fragment of what I call my own.