Saturday, December 27, 2014

On Having Two Places To Call Home

This book came into my life some time ago. My "countries" are the California of my birth and the Washington State where I have lived since I was 24 years old.  They are two very distinct places. In 1973, I lived briefly in Massachusetts near Walden Pond but didn't feel any sense of being at home there.  Forty years have gone by very quickly in Washington State.  I haven't been able to travel to California since 2008, but I visit often in dreams and memories and blogs. When I look through this book, I feel close to Allen Say and his grandfather.

"The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other."
(Allen Say, from Grandfather's Journey)

I have loved and been loved by two places.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Listen to the Great Animal Orchestra

While reading "Forest & River News" from Trees Foundation yesterday, I learned about Bernie Krause and The Great Animal Orchestra.

Then I watched this.

Wow! Listen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Lives of Chairs and Families

When my mother's parents were newly married in the early 1900s in Boston, Massachusetts, they bought six Duncan Phyfe-style chairs with caned seats and a Duncan Phyfe-style dining table. It is possible that my grandfather bought the chairs second-hand and repaired and caned them. It is possible that he made them from a kit. They have odd quirks, including holes that are drilled at odd angles along with added nails and bolts and different kinds of wood for the stretchers. Not long after their marriage, our grandparents moved to Hastings, Minnesota, bringing the chairs and tables with them. My mother and her older brother grew up with those chairs and that table. As I understand, my grandfather re-caned the chairs whenever the caning broke down. After my grandmother died in the 1930s, the table and chairs were moved to Hermosa Beach in Southern California with my grandfather, my mother, my uncle, my aunt, and their daughter. After my grandfather died in 1945, the table and chairs went to my mother, and she brought them to her marriage to my father in 1948. The table and chairs were moved from Southern California to a small apartment in San Francisco, and then to an apartment in San Mateo, and from there to a house in Palo Alto, to a house in Taft, and to a house in Redwood City.

My sisters and I grew up with that table and those chairs, although we were taught to be very careful with the caned chairs, and our family rarely used the table except for holidays and special occasions. Of course, as small children, we stood on seats of the chairs and eventually the caning broke down, and the chairs went into the storage in the garage. In Redwood City, my parents bought a new dining table and new chairs with upholstered seats. I can remember the old dining table being used peripherally, at least until I went away to college in 1967. I remember seeing the chairs with their broken seats in the garage in storage. When my parents moved into an apartment again before moving permanently to their retirement home on the Mendocino Coast, I think that they must have sold the table or given the table away, but my mother kept the six old chairs.

When I was still in my 20s in my first years in Bellingham, my mother gave me two of the chairs. I took a class in furniture refinishing, and learned to do chair caning. I toyed with the idea of becoming a chair caner, but hurt my neck while working on the first chair that I was paid to cane and gave up on that idea.  That chair that I was paid to cane was an antique oak swivel office chair with a curved back and curved sides -- a complex caning job. I did a beautiful job of caning, but I didn't work quickly enough to make any money at that job. When I tried to work quickly, I hurt my neck.

After my mother died in 1994, the other four chairs came to me because my sisters didn't want them. Two were in very poor condition, and I put them in storage, but I had the other two re-caned by a professional caner along with my first two which also needed re-caning again. By that time I was working full-time and didn't have the time or energy for caning. 

Now, another 20 years later, I am having one chair caned at a time by an expert caner (take a look at her website) who just moved to Bellingham in the past few years. There hadn't been a caner north of Seattle for some time. The two chairs which were in such bad condition have been finished and repaired and re-caned now. Just this week, I picked up another finished caned chair and dropped off another for caning. After that, there is one chair left that needs caning. When I picked up the chair and dropped the other off, Stella showed me two chairs nearly identical to my set of chairs. However, those two chairs had had their legs sawed off so that they were about 6 inches shorter. They were clearly of the same design but had more caning holes and slightly different dimensions. They were like cousins to my chairs -- even down to the quirkiness of their construction!

I hope that either my nephew or one of my cousins on my mother's side of the family will take the chairs and use them when I am gone. One of them is for sitting on when I play my autoharp, ukulele and dulcimers. Two are at my dining table with my father's mother's chair with the needlepoint seat. One holds a knit afghan. One is in my bedroom. The last one that still needs caning is in my hall closet and may have to remain there with two stuffed bears and two bins of old books sitting on it. The chairs are dear to me because of their history in our family.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

A New Baby Boy On Bodhi Day 2014

Although I am not affiliated with any spiritual or religious tradition, I listen carefully to the teachings of all traditions and find wisdom in each one. Today is Bodhi Day in Buddhist tradition.

"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find anything that agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."
-- Siddhartha Gautama Buddha

In what I hope is in the spirit in which the Buddha teaches, these thoughts came to mind after reading the above quote because through a process of observation, analysis, and reason, I don't believe that observation, analysis, and reason are everything. There is much to be said for the wisdom and experiences of the heart:

"The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."
-- Blaise Pascal

"I asked him why he thought the whites were all mad.
'They say they think with their heads,' he replied.
'Why of course. What do you think with?' I asked him in surprise.
'We think here,' he said, indicating his heart."
(Carl Jung, during a visit to New Mexico, in conversation with Ochwiay Biano, a Pueblo Indian, quoted from Memories, Dreams, Reflections)

"I believe in the impossible, you know that I do."
-- Bob Dylan

"I don't believe in Buddha."
-- John Lennon (who died on December 8, 1980)

"Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible"
-- Thich Nhat Hanh (Zen Buddhist monk) from Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers

"Because suffering is impermanent, that is why we can transform it.
Because happiness is impermanent, that is why we have to nourish it."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, 10 June 2014

Today is the 8th birthday of my blog which began in December of 2006 as "Old Girl of the North Country," a vehicle for a 40-year retrospective of my art work. From that beginning, this blog became for me a path of healing from unresolved grief dating back to the last years of the war in Vietnam.

Although I do not post as much as I did that first year or read as many blogs as I once did, blogging has continued to play a huge part in keeping my creative spirit alive. I have immense gratitude to you whose blogs I visit regularly and am grateful to you for visiting my blog.

This past year has brought one dear baby after another into my life, along with a sense of a place of peace within me no matter what happens, and much has happened this year to challenge that peace.

A few weeks ago I began helping a younger friend and her husband who are in their early 40s and have recently adopted fraternal twin infant boys who were born to a meth-addicted single mother who had no prenatal care and simply appeared at a hospital in labor and, through an adoption agency, chose my friends to parent her twin boys. What a joy it is to be able to be part of a group of their friends who are spending mornings and afternoons helping this first-time mother and father by comforting, feeding, and talking to and playing with their baby boys. We are doing our best to take the place of the grandmothers and grandfathers and aunts and uncles who do not live nearby or who are no longer living.

Today on Bodhi Day at 10:38 a.m., a sweet baby boy was born in New York City and one of my oldest friends became a grandmother for the second time and emailed the above photo.

Welcome to L.L.S in his first few hours of his life!

It is only a little planet, but how beautiful it is.
-- Robinson Jeffers

Friday, November 28, 2014

Listen to this from "The New Basement Tapes"

Wow! Rhiannon Giddens singing! Lyrics from 1967 by Bob Dylan.

Have also been listening to the "The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 11." It's a treasure.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

True Names and the Door of Compassion

Please Call Me by My True Names

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow – Even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving. To be a bud on a Spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, to fear and to hope. The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that is alive.

I am a mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river. I am the bird that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am a frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond. And I am the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am a child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks. And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate. And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, and plenty of power in my hands. And I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to my people dying slowly in a force-labour camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth. My pain is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up and the door of my heart could be left open, the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh
This poem was written in 1978, during the time of helping the boat people 

(From this website)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

One Breath At A Time With Thich Nhat Hanh

Our own life has to be our message -- Thich Nhat Hanh

I am thankful for Thich Nhat Hanh.

The Mockingbird Society

What are you thankful for?

I learned about the Mockingbird Society through the Mockingbird Society inserts in the paper copy of Real Change that I buy weekly from the Real Change vendor who sells his papers near one of the doors of the Bellingham Community Food Co-op.

Today I'm thankful for these young people.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

An interview with Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my favorite writers. Reading The Wizard of Earthsea when I was 21 years old brought light into that dark time in my life. Most recently I read her novel, Lavinia.

The interview is here.

A Real Change vendor sells this newspaper near one of the doorways to our Community Co-op. Coincidentally, we have the same birthday, although he is much younger than I am.  He grew up in the same neighborhood in Minneapolis that my father did.

I first heard about Real Change in connection with Bob Dylan. As I understand, he donated the proceeds of "Christmas in the Heart" to Real Change.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day 2014

So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it and give it expressive meaning.
(Aaron Copland)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sunrise Before Wind and Rain and Darkness Totem: 6 November 2014

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with objects it loves. (Carl Gustav Jung)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Learn By Heart

According to the tenets of Ayurvedic medicine, memory's wellspring is in the heart. The more one loves, the better one remembers. Thus, we say "learn by heart."

(p. 16, The Essence of Yoga: Reflections on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, by Bernard Bouanchaud -- 1997)

I've been reading The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body which I heard about here. The music below was composed by Vissarion Shebalin, who lost much of his language function because of strokes, but retained the ability to compose music. I have been listening to this over and over again and find it deeply moving.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Beloved Person in Bird Costume Crossing the Night River

From the Calendar Series, "Beloved Person in Bird Costume Crossing the Night River" -- a gouache and watercolor painting from the 1980s by am.

Watch the river flow, here and here. Thank you to Candy for the inspiration for this post.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Bob Dylan The Welder and His Band / "Waiting For You"

              For the concert by Bob Dylan and His Band at the Paramount Theater in Seattle last night, I sat in Row Y Seat 4, very close to the beautiful ceiling of the Paramount Theater in Seattle:

As I was waiting for the concert to begin, a young man climbed down from Row Z and settled himself in the seat to my right.  He looked at me briefly and then stared straight ahead. He didn't say anything or clap until the intermission and then turned to me and asked if I liked the concert. I said, "Yes." I asked him if he was a Bob Dylan fan. He said, "Yes." I asked him if he had a favorite album. He didn't. I asked when he had first heard Bob Dylan. He said it was when he was in the 10th grade.  He said, "I grew up on Highway 61." I said that I did, too, thinking he was referring to the album "Highway 61 Revisited." Then I realized he meant that he grew up in Minnesota and had lived on Highway 61. I told him that I first started listening to Bob Dylan at the same age he had started listening. I told him I had seen Bob Dylan at the Paramount Theater in early 1980's and that I had first seen Bob Dylan in concert with The Band in Boston in 1974. He smiled tentatively. After the lights came on after the last song, I asked him if this was his first Bob Dylan concert. He said, "Yes." I told him he had chosen a good one. As he was walking down toward the exit, he turned and smiled and said, "Good to meet you. Have a good evening."

There is a feeling of fellowship among people who are drawn to the music of Bob Dylan. 

This was the set list for all three of the Seattle concerts, with the majority of the songs written since 1997:

Things Have Changed
She Belongs To Me
Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
Workingman's Blues #2

Happiness is just a state of mind
Anytime you want you can cross the state line

(Those lyrics are from "Waiting for You," by Bob Dylan, a song that I first heard during the credits for the movie "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood."  Apparently there is no official recording except in connection with that movie.)

Duquesne Whistle
Pay In Blood
Tangled Up In Blue
Love Sick
High Water (For Charley Patton)
Simple Twist of Fate
Early Roman Kings
Forgetful Heart
Spirit on the Water
Scarlet Town
Soon After Midnight
Long and Wasted Years

All Along the Watchtower
Blowin' In The Wind

Although I had gone to the concert with the thought that this might be Bob Dylan's last tour, I don't think that anymore. My sense was that his energy is better than ever. I didn't feel any sense of nostalgia at this concert. It was about right here, right now -- the present moment with its ups and down. This concert was so much better than the last one I saw in the late 1990's when there was a grinding weariness to the old songs, except when he sang "Girl From The North Country" as an encore. 

From what I saw last night, Bob Dylan is thriving at 73 years old, and that's how I hope to be when I'm 73. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Like a World Mandala

"Vi mot the gioi khong con bon min"

"The world without UXO," by Le Ho Huru Nghia - Che Lan Vien school

From PeaceTrees Vietnam:

Tran Thi Suong, a student at Gio Quang Secondary School in the Gio Linh district of Quang Tri province, wrote the following essay while attending PeaceTrees Vietnam's Mine Risk Education Summer Camp.

I remember a landmine accident in my village a few years ago. One afternoon, while working in a rice field, a farmer saw a small bomb. It was rusty and covered in soil. As he tried to use a hoe to throw it away it exploded. The farmer lost both of his arms. He went from being the bread winner in his family to being unable to work. The accident caused him and his family so many difficulties.

Although the war ended many years ago, its legacy is still present everywhere. In this peaceful time there are still many wives who have lost their husbands, children who have lost their fathers, and mothers who have lost their sons and daughters. There are many people who have been injured for life from landmine accidents.

To ensure safety for yourself and those around you, when you see landmines or UXO: 

  • Don't go near, hold, throw or play with them
  • Mark the dangerous area and tell an adult or the authorities   

Learn more about PeaceTrees Vietnam's work in mine risk education here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Coast Salish Day And Columbus Day Become One In Bellingham, Washington / Indigenous People's Day And Columbus Day Become One In Seattle, Washington

"Children from the Tulalip Tribes showing off their garments for a picture while taking in a view of downtown Seattle following a successful signing ceremony for Resolution No. 31538, honoring indigenous peoples by declaring the  second Monday in October "Indigenous People's Day," Monday, October 13, 2014, at Seattle City Hall. (SEATTLEPI.COM Jordan Stead-- AP Photo)"

See additional article in the Bellingham Herald:

"By a 6-0 vote, City Council officially recognized Coast Salish Day on the date federally recognized as Columbus Day at its regular Monday night meeting, Oct. 13."

Here is more information about the Coast Salish peoples.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Favorite Song Revisited / The Lonely Forest

This is my favorite song these days. I just came in from a walk in the lonely forest and will have to settle down and begin today's work on the retraining program that will give me another chance to find a job.

My eyes have been bothering me.  It's possible that I'm spending too much time looking at laptop screens.

This is my favorite quote for today:

Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.
(Henry David Thoreau, on November 11, 1854, referring to an 1849 dairyman's strike, during which there was suspicion of milk being watered down)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Birthday Totem Meditation: Roll On John / Watching the Wheels / Here and Now

I've always been struck by the fact that, in this song, John didn't say that he didn't believe in God.  What he did say was what he did believe in. He believed in himself. He believed in himself and Yoko. He believed in reality.

"All of us are apprenticed to the same teacher that the religious institutions originally worked with: reality."
(Gary Snyder)

I can't find any documentation for this, but my memory is that on the album where the song first appeared, John's song was titled "god" with a small "g."

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali begin with the word "atha" which could be translated either as referring to "God, the root of all things" (not in the Jewish or Christian or Muslim sense of the word, but in the Native American sense of a mystery at the root of all things) or which could be translated as "here and now."  My perception is that John was saying that he believed in "here and now."

Of interest to me is that, among many other spiritual traditions that John was curious about,  he looked into Hindu thought.  The song "Instant Karma" was a result of that.  "Karma" is a Sanskrit word meaning action, work or deed. Yep. There are consequences to our actions.

The concept of "wheel" or "turning" is contained in the word "chakra," a concept of Hindu thought that John was likely familiar with, although he chose not to align himself with any religious or spiritual tradition, which is also my choice and a choice that many of us make.

Born: October 9, 1940, Liverpool, United Kingdom

Happy Birthday, John!

You would have been 74 years old today. 

Thank you for singing about god/God so eloquently.

You were my favorite Beatle from the instant I first saw you singing on the Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964 when I was 14 years old. You are dear to so many of our hearts.

"You burn so bright. Roll on John."
(Bob Dylan)

Here and now.

Addendum:  See October 10 at whiskey river!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Remembering fearless dreams

When I was in my 30s, I had a recurring dream of running at top speed from the top of one building to another in an unknown large city, performing astounding acrobatic feats. Someone was chasing me, but I knew they could never catch me. I was fearless.  What a revelation to see my younger dreamself in these young men flying through the air with such grace and landing on their feet with no loss of momentum.

Many thanks to Doonesbury's Featured Videos for another splendid offering!

That gouache and watercolor painting I did in the late 1980s is "Beloved Person in Bird Costume Crossing the Night River." Here is another one from those years.

Something of that old fearlessness is coming back to me in my 66th year. It comes and goes.

"How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
(Bob Dylan)

Monday, October 6, 2014

For the child that cries when innocence dies

"Working with Intuition and Three Angels," gouache and watercolor, painted by am in 1992

Suddenly, inexplicably, I'm wondering if I still can get a ticket to see Bob Dylan at the Paramount in Seattle on Sunday, October 19.

Yep. There are still tickets left. I'll be sitting a little bit closer to where my seat was for the first Bob Dylan concert I saw at the Paramount Theater in the early 1980s -- up near the roof in the second to the last row.

Until just now, I had decided not to go to another Bob Dylan concert. A baffling process. Working with intuition and three angels. As my father used to say, "We'll see what we will see."

This is what I wanted to post before I began this post:

"The universe came into being with us together; with us, all things are one."

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Mandala #4 -- Working with situations that used to baffle us

This mandala took on a life of its own much more than the previous ones. No matter what I did, I couldn't make it work the way I wanted it to. After I made a decision to fill in some of the background with the shade of green called "hedgerow" (the green that had originally been only a thin border line), the pencil kept breaking off. In the far distant past, having a drawing feel like a failure could bring me to tears. Years later, I learned that when it seems as if a drawing or painting is "ruined," I can keep going with it, letting the "ruined" part lead the way.  Below is an example of that phenomenon. "Self-Portrait with Brothers of Mercy and Night Falling From The Sky" was painted in gouache and watercolor in 1990 during the First Gulf War:

As I was working on this one, I left the room for a few minutes.  When I returned, the wet paint in the sky had dripped down into the ocean and the wave. After a moment of shock, I went with what had happened and turned the drips into the bars of a cage or prison bars. The painting had a life of its own. This is the painting that my mother asked if she could buy. I offered to give it to her. She insisted on paying for it. When one of my father's brothers saw it on a visit from Minnesota, he said, "Your daughter is a philosopher." Unless I said something, it never occurred to anyone that it had not been my intention for there to be bars between the three people and the ocean, but when faced with that dripping paint, I made a decision to use it.

With Mandala #4, I felt that "hedgerow" had taken over the mandala and "ruined" it.  Although "hedgerow" looked fine when used sparingly, I didn't at all like seeing so much of it. Suddenly it occurred to me to play with the colors using iPhoto, including seeing what the mandala would look like in black and white. When I arranged the black and white version with a version I preferred to the original version, I found that I liked the way that the three of them looked together. "Hedgerow" no longer looked so awful to me.

Still, I like the third version best.

Oboe remains noncommittal:

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Remembering Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin and her music saved my life more than once.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Celebrating my 65th birthday today

Many years ago the thought came to me that we are all the same age -- all of us now and all of us who were ever born and all who will be born. We were just born at different times.

My first birthday:

Summer of 2014:

Working on mandala #4:

So happy just to be alive.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Late Afternoon Meditation After Looking Up On September 29, 2014

Don't be afraid to cry. It will free your mind of sorrowful thoughts.
(Don Taleyesva, Hopi)

Laughter is a necessity in life that does not cost much, and the Old Ones say that one of the greatest healing powers in our life is the ability to laugh.
(Larry P. Aitken, Chippewa)

Quotes from this book by Don L. Coyhis -- a gift from my friend, Kathy.