Monday, December 31, 2012

"... that moment of illumination ..."

Imagine if all the tumult of the body were to quiet down, along with our busy thoughts. Imagine if all things that are perishable grew still. And imagine if that moment were to go on and on, leaving behind all other sights and sounds but this one vision which ravishes and absorbs and fixes the beholder in joy, so that the rest of eternal life were like that moment of illumination which leaves us breathless.
 -- Saint Augustine

The original of the colorful painting below ("Sal Si Puedes") from 1993 by Alfredo Arreguin of Seattle, Washington, with its rendering of Cesar Chavez, the United Farmworker's Eagle, and the Virgin of Guadalupe among other images associated with Cesar Chavez, hangs on the wall of the waiting area of the place where I receive my medical care because I am do not qualify for affordable medical insurance.  I am moved to the core every time I see it.  I think of it often:

A few weeks ago I asked the young man working at the reception desk how he would translate "Sal Si Puedes."  He paused and then said, "Come out if you like."  Interesting that another translation is "Escape if you can." The image above only gives a very rough approximation of the power of this painting.  The painting is about 3 x 3-1/4 feet in size, and the colors are deep and rich and evocative and healing.

"I dreamed I saw St. Augustine"

Cesar Chavez, Coretta Scott King, Dorothy Day:

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Visions of Johanna meditation on a foggy morning a few days before 2013

Vincent van Gogh's sister-in-law, Johanna, with Vincent's nephew, Vincent.

"Vincent undertook to nurse a victim of a fire in the mine. The man was so badly burned and mutilated that the doctor had no hope for his recovery ... Van Gogh tended him forty days with loving care and saved the miner's life.  Vincent [said Gauguin] "believed in miracles," in maternal care.
(from The Eye of Spirit:  A Integral Vision for a World Gone Slightly Mad, by Ken Wilber)

"The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) -- Vincent van Gogh 

The view from my porch this morning:

Glimpses of the younger generation of kindred spirits to Bob Dylan:

"And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev'rything's been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads 
While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain"
(the last verse of "Visions of Johanna" -- Bob Dylan, 1966)

Paintings by Marc Chagall:

The Blue Fiddler

The Fiddler

From page 300 of Writings and Drawings of Bob Dylan, published in 1973:

Friday, December 28, 2012

Senegal Yellow / Cobalt Blue / Titanium White

After working through early rock and roll and then the Beatles, Tim Buckley, Laura Nyro and James Taylor, I started above painting (still in process) while listening to the "Songs of Leonard Cohen," released December 27, 1967.  I had forgotten how much darkness and bitterness and alienation there is in many of those songs.  My selective memory had embraced the tender moments and blocked out everything else.  I was 18 years old when that album was released.  My recollection is that Richard introduced the album to me, and that we listened to it in the months before he was drafted in spring of 1969. 

 Thank you, blog friends, for your continuing comments.  I hope to be more conversational soon.  My life is unusually full right now.

(Hmmmm .... the video of my painting in process appears to be uploaded, but when I publish there is a white space where the video should be)

(Update:  Now I can see the video)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Round Dance

It was on Christmas Day, when I got together early in the morning with a group of friends for breakfast, that I first heard about the Round Dance flash mobs from a man who grew up on a reservation in Montana.

Here's something from and something from Idle No More.

Monday, December 24, 2012

"Can the fishes see it's snowing?" / Little Drummer Boy

... Or I would go out, my bright new boots squeaking, into the white world, on to the seaward hill, to call on Jim and Dan and Jack and to pad through the still streets, leaving huge footprints on the hidden pavements.

"I bet people will think there's been hippos."
"What would you do if you saw a hippo coming down our street?"
"I'd go like this, bang! I'd throw him over the railings and roll him down the hill and then I'd tickle him under the ear and he'd wag his tail."
"What would you do if you saw two hippos?"

Iron-flanked and bellowing he-hippos clanked and battered through the scudding snow toward us as we passed Mr. Daniel's house.

"Let's post Mr. Daniel a snow-ball through his letter box."
"Let's write things in the snow."
"Let's write, 'Mr. Daniel looks like a spaniel' all over his lawn."
Or we walked on the white shore. "Can the fishes see it's snowing?"..."

... Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang "Cherry Ripe," and another uncle sang "Drake's Drum." It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird's Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

(from "A Child's Christmas in Wales")

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Everybody's Hurting

Work in progress / artists' studios / winter birds / wanting to work

When I looked out a little while ago this morning, I thought I saw a person with a brown corduroy jacket and yellow hat standing at the edge of Scudder Pond.  I thought I could see the figure moving.  When I got my binoculars out, I saw that what I had thought was a person's head was the few remaining bright yellow leaves on a small tree, and that the brown corduroy jacket was the tree's dark wet branches and trunk.  The blurred photo only gives a general idea of what I saw.  As I look out right now without binoculars, it stills looks to me as if a tall thin contemplative man is standing there on the trail.

The gouache and watercolor painting up at the top of this post is something I'm working on.  It's something about a dialogue at the ocean at night.  I think I like it better transformed by my computer into a black and white image.  I began working on it more than a week ago, while listening to music from my past, organized in chronological order beginning with music I heard when I was 10 years old or younger:

This week I visited the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham where I saw a traveling exhibit of California Impressionist paintings.  I was drawn to the landscapes of places familiar to me but much changed since they were painted so many years ago before California was so densely populated. The images below are of the California my Minnesota-born parents moved to in the late 1930s and early 1940s and that my father's father traveled through as a young man from Minnesota in the early 1900s. As far as I know, my grandfather only made that one visit to California and the West Coast, living the rest of his life in Minnesota, although he did visit relatives in Norway in his later years.

Arroyo Seco Bridge in 1912:

Arroyo Seco Bridge in recent time:

Today here in Whatcom County there is snow in the foothills to the east.  Here's the view from the porch this morning.  You can hear the Chickadees and Red-winged blackbirds singing:

"I definitely look for things to inspire me or to get me wanting to do work.  It doesn't come all that naturally.  The thing that's helped me the most has been figuring out when I could work best.  This thing about working best in the morning with nobody around, I figured out a long time ago.  If it weren't for that I probably wouldn't get half as much done."
(Dale Chihuly)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Drawing A Sun Where There Is None"

Thanks to Doonesbury for the inspiration today.

"The way that I work is by doing a lot of work.  And out of that come ideas, refinement, more work, more ideas."
(Dale Chihuly)

As it turns out, Dale Chihuly has suffered from from depression and bipolar disorder since his 40s. Didn't know that until just now as I did a little Googling about him.   I'd always assumed he had inexhaustible energy for his work and felt envious.

There is a long-standing pattern in my life of setting out to work again and again and finding myself physically or emotionally derailed.  A few days ago after I got out my paints, I developed a headache and an upset stomach.  I have not felt well since that day, and my sleep has been disturbed.  As Sabine wrote,  "It is what it is."

Here are some of my linoblocks from the 1970s and early 1980s, my first years in Bellingham and a time of emotional turmoil and grief and searching for direction as well as experiencing periods of creative energy:

The second to the last linoblock is "Drawing A Sun Where There Is None."
The rest are untitled.

I may need to paint or weave or play music whether I feel good or not, as I seem to be able to blog whether I feel good or not.

That is a sobering and freeing thought.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Into the Mystic / Painting Music / Weaving Music

"Of course music is spiritual.  It couldn't be anything else."
(Van Morrison)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Color key (getting ready to paint something) / Listening to old rock & roll / Looking to the east

Took inventory of my paint tubes and made a color key:

While working on the color key, I listened to a collection of old rock & roll songs.  It must have been when I was 7 years old that I first heard this:

When I went out on the porch, I saw this:
You can hear a Steller's Jay at the end of the clip.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

This November Light


Still in quiet mode.  Thank you for continuing to stop by.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Falling and Illumination

A few days ago, a friend and I took a long walk up steep Hillsdale Road to the gradual climb of Toad Lake Road and down to Toad Lake and then part way up Squalicum Mountain Road and back (check Google Maps if you would like to see just where this is in Bellingham, Washington).  As we were walking north along Toad Lake Road, my friend looked up and noticed a golden rain that appeared to be falling out of the deep blue sky.  I looked up and then down and saw a few tiny flat seed pods sticking to my fleece jacket.  We looked up and to the west side of the narrow road and to where there was a small stand of trees with a few leaves left on them.  The seeds were illuminated by the sun as they fell from the trees. The afternoon light and the timing were just right.  In all the years I have lived in Bellingham, I've never consciously seen this before.

When I got home I went to Google, certain that I could find out what kind of tree had released the shower of gold.  I entered words like "golden rain" and "trees" and "seed fall" but came up with nothing that seemed to refer to anything like what we had seen.  Then I went to Google Images and entered "tree seeds" and quickly discovered that the golden rain was most likely from alder trees.

I didn't have my camera with me, but I doubt a camera could have captured that experience.

As the days get shorter and darker, my spirits lift inexplicably, and playing the dulcimer is giving me unexpected added joy.  I'd like to be able to play like Robert Force but am happy just to be learning what I can:


Whenever I take a picture of myself taking a picture of myself, I think of Imogen Cunningham.

More about Imogen Cunningham.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lost and found / Veterans Day 2012

While looking for dulcimer tunes I found this poem, written by a veteran of World War II and recently set to music by his son.

May all veterans and their loved ones be safe and know they are loved.

Sunset on the Prairie

There's a sunset on the prairie and the sky in rainbow hue
Makes a symphony of color of crimson, gold and blue
There's a sunset on the prairie and its last flamboyant ray
Is like an elfin princess that takes your breath away

There's a sunset on the prairie and as the colors fade
They present a grander picture than the finest canvas made
As the sun sets on my foxhole I can see across the sea
To the prairies of Dakota from the shores of Sicily.

Across the sands of Northern Africa, we chased the Desert Fox
From Kasserine to El Guettar, who can say who's won or lost?
As we tally up the human cost, children beg for chocolate
In the dusty streets of old Sale, while soldiers bow their heads and pray
On both sides of the line

After Tunis fell, we crossed the sea and came ashore on Sicily
Patton and Montgomery in a race to get to Italy
In Troina beneath Etna's shade, all our tiny roles we played
Pawns were moved and plans were laid
The generals bet, the soldiers paid on both sides of the line

From Palermo all roads led to Rome, but it's such a longer journey home
'Cross the Arno, up the Apennines, to Southern France, the river Rhine
Rain or mud, shine or blow, the infantry all hunkered low
How we did it, I don't know
Pushing back the line one foot at a time.

Now the swallows still are flying above the flashing guns
While friend and foe lie dying beneath the setting sun
One more brilliant sunset, another place without a name
Blood red are the colors, it's going down in flames

© Robert McPeek 2010, SoundSpark Music, ASCAP

Friday, November 9, 2012

Light in November 2012

A message from Brother Toby of Starcross Community in Northern California:

The light shines in the darkness and there humanity becomes aware of it.

Meister Eckhart (c.1260-c.1327)

As I walk to the chapel for Vespers, the trees around me are mostly bare. Their colorful leaves lay on the ground. Without the leaves I can see the tree as it really is, with all its weaknesses and the simplicity of its beauty.
In human relations it is often hard to see beyond the leaves that conceal the person. We have just finished a national election unlike any I have experienced. These words were written before the election and you are reading them after it. Some will be relieved and others disappointed. For most, it is simply a difference of how worried we are about the future. And, the future of “what”? The overall well-being of the human family or our individual personal welfare? Or both?
It's my good fortune to be around many bright people born after May 4, 1970. They wonder why some of us old folks get so worked up. What is it we expected from life? Well, the big secret of counter-culture life in the 1960s was that most of us would have to admit that, down deep, we really did believe this was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. We used different words, and dressed differently from each other but we all thought we could change the world. There was a sort of extended tribal feeling.
There was nothing remarkable about students at Kent State University protesting against the Vietnam war. That was happening all over the country. On May 4th the Ohio National Guard killed four of them and wounded nine. We all felt it. In that 13 second burst of 67 rounds it became clear there would be no Age of Aquarius. For many of us restless ancients, the problem is we have trouble getting used to the fact that we cannot change the world with broad movements. And we rail against that!
Many younger friends of mine have accepted what Peter Benson said when he founded Amnesty International, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”  That is a healthy attitude and, in fact, it is ancient wisdom. Long ago a rabbi said to an impatient student, “God did not ask you to be Moses. God asked you to be YOU.”
As I walk along the path I realize that sometimes the pretty leaves keep me from seeing the tree — or being me. Here at Starcross you will not find the seeds of a spiritual revolution. Here there is only one small candle. The tiny flame must be protected. It can be blown out by ideology, whether that comes from obstructionists on the right or politically correct true-believers on the left — or from the rigidity of our twisted religious history.
As I stand looking out on the porch of our little chapel in the autumn twilight,  I can sense people beyond number carrying their little candles and protecting the flames from the storms around us. In those fragile lights, sisters and brothers, is the beauty of our age and the hope of our future.

Brother Toby

Friday, October 26, 2012

"The road leads to the sea."

Denise Levertov
b. October 24, 1923

This is the year the old ones,
the old great ones
leave us alone on the road.

The road leads to the sea.
We have the words in our pockets,
obscure directions. The old ones

have taken away the light of their presence,
we see it moving away over a hill
off to one side.

They are not dying,
they are withdrawn
into a painful privacy

learning to live without words.
E. P. "It looks like dying"--Williams: "I can't
describe to you what has been

happening to me"--
H. D. "unable to speak."
The darkness

twists itself in the wind, the stars
are small, the horizon
ringed with confused urban light-haze.

They have told us
the road leads to the sea,
and given

the language into our hands.
We hear
our footsteps each time a truck

has dazzled past us and gone
leaving us new silence.
One can't reach

the sea on this endless
road to the sea unless
one turns aside at the end, it seems,

the owl that silently glides above it
aslant, back and forth,

and away into deep woods.

But for us the road
unfurls itself, we count the
words in our pockets, we wonder

how it will be without them, we don't
stop walking, we know
there is far to go, sometimes

we think the night wind carries
a smell of the sea...

Thanks to wood s lot for this poem.

I've been playing my ukulele and, yesterday, was astonished to be able to tune my difficult-to-tune dulcimer.  Continuing to read my long-time favorite blogs but remaining for the most part in quiet mode, gathering energy for painting, drawing and weaving.

And winter walking.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday morning / Shelter from the tempest

The tempest in my mind / doth from my senses take all feeling.
(William Shakespeare -- words spoken by King Lear)

All, everything that I understand, I understand only because of love.
(Leo Tolstoy)

Tolstoy was right.
(Bob Dylan, from the liner notes from the album "Desire")

May your heart always be joyful.
(Bob Dylan, from "Forever Young")

Can't seem to come up with many words of my own recently, except to express a heartfelt thank you to those who continue to widen my horizons by posting on your blogs and who continue to stop by and comment here.  Thank you, too, to those who stop by silently.  

I can feel my creative energy rising as it did in the past during this time of year, but it's nonverbal right now.  Although my health is good, my physical and emotional energy, as always, have their limits.  I have a hard time accepting that, but acceptance is the key.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Janis Joplin said, "...letting yourself feel all those things that you have already on the inside of you but you're all the time trying to push them aside because they don't make for polite conversation or something ..."

Here is a delightful interview with Janis that I hadn't heard before.  What a shock it was to hear the news of her death on October 4, 1970.  What a shock today realize that was 42 years ago.  

... She once walked right at my side
I'm sure she walked by you ...

(from "In The Quiet Morning," music and lyrics by Mimi Farina)

Bellingham Bay with wind and waves a few days ago:

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Crow flying / Crow walking / Crow drawing

A few mornings ago, I went out on my porch to see an extraordinary sky around sunrise and noticed crows flying from the east to the west.  Enlarge photo to see them all.

I listened to all of the birds singing.

Later, down by Bellingham Bay, I watch a crow taking a walk.

Here's more about the the daily migration of crows and an image of a crow flying at sunrise, Black Crow Blues, and a crow drawing by am from April 2010:

and just found this -- crows or ravens in a tree at Big Sur this very moment:

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bellingham and someone who walks and dances and writes here

Pirate playground at Boulevard Park

Bow pose from Taylor Street Dock

Looking back to the north

More here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Foggy late September morning / Thinking about Bob Dylan and John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Foggy Bellingham morning 7:30 a.m., looking toward downtown Bellingham

Driving through town toward the South Bay Trail

Looking to the northwest from the turnout on Boulevard

Low tide at Padden Creek Lagoon (on foot now)

September colors alongside Padden Creek Lagoon

Entering the area of the Alaska Ferry Terminal

Ground near the skateboard shop

Train tracks leading to Canada

Looping back through Fairhaven

Message rock noticed tucked under larger rock -- photographed, and then replaced.

Approaching Taylor Street Dock

A black and white and grey moment

From the September 27 Rolling Stone interview with Bob Dylan:

"... When that narrator talks about walking this or that road, do you have pictures of those roads in your mind?

Yeah, but not in a specific kind of way.  You can feel it, without being able to see it.  It's an old-time thing:  the walking blues.

The walking could be what somebody witnesses.  It could be the road to death; it could be the road to illumination.

Sure, all those roads.  How many roads must a man walk down?  Not run down, drive down or crawl down? I've been raised on that.  The walking blues.  "Walking to New Orleans," "Cadillac Walk," "Hand Me Down My Walkin' Cane." It's the only way I know.  It comes natural."

The person who's walking in these songs, is he walking alone?

Sometimes, but then again, sometimes not. Sometimes you got to get into your own space for a while.  It never really dawns on me, though, whether I'm walking alone or not.  Seems like I'm always walking with somebody ...

From "The Final Days," by Yoko Ono, in the recently published special collector's edition of the Rolling Stone dedicated to John Lennon, who would have been 72 years old on October 9:

"... John liked being prompt.  John was English.  I was Japanese.  The result was both of us possessed extreme austerity and hilarity back to back ..."