Thursday, December 31, 2015

Frosty Morning and Flowering Maple (Abutilon) / The Last Day Of 2015

At 5:45 this morning when I went out on my porch, the temperature had dropped to almost 20 degrees, and the sky was clear.  High and to the south, I could see the moon and Jupiter.  The Big Dipper was overhead.  Venus was just above the hills.  

"January Stars":

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Nameless Day / December 22 / Love Itself / Holy Places

 From The Wisdom of Trees, by Jane Gifford:

One day remains completely unaccounted for in the Celtic Calendar, December 22nd, known as the "Nameless Day."  This is the extra day that features in so many folk tales where the story takes place over a year and a day.  On this day, when the King of the Waning Year was dead and the New King of the Waxing Year not yet born, it was the custom to fast to appease the goddess in her darkest aspect so that she would permit the sun to return to the world and the cycle of the year to recommence.  This darkest of days has neither tree nor name and is sacred to Morrigan, goddess of death and destruction.  Her name means Great Queen in Irish.  She appears in Arthurian legend as Morgan le Faye, sister of King Arthur: "le Faye" means "the Fate." This dark queen took the form of a raven and was feared and respected by everyone.

                                    "Love Itself"

The light came through the window,
Straight from the sun above,
And so inside my little room
There plunged the rays of Love.

In streams of light I clearly saw
The dust you seldom see,
Out of which the Nameless makes
A Name for one like me.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

Then I came back from where I’d been.
My room, it looked the same –
But there was nothing left between
The Nameless and the Name.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love itself,
Love Itself was gone.
Love Itself was gone.

From "Holy Places," the December 22nd chapter of A Winter Walk, by Tolbert McCarroll:

... A child's intuitive sense of the sacred often helps us understand spiritual fundamentals.  When my daughter, Holly, was almost seven, a fatally ill infant came into her life.  We all knew the child would die, but it was a shock when it happened.  Holly received the news one morning as she was setting out to school. She told me that we would need to do something before she could go to school. "We have to go to a place where people pray," she announced.  I walked her to a nearby Catholic church where a Mass was in process and asked if this would do.  "No," she said, "we have to wait 'til the priest leaves." In the after-service silence of that space, Holly somehow came to terms with the death.  I think she also said good-bye.  After a while, Holly told me, "We can light a candle and leave now." We did ...

Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter Solstice / Nisse / Tomte / Blue Herons

In December, when I was 11 or 12 years old, in the very early 1960s, my family flew from San Francisco back to Minnesota, which is where both of my parents were born and where all my aunts and uncles and cousins on my father's side lived in Minneapolis.  My mother had no living relatives in Minnesota, but we visited with her best friend from childhood who lived in St. Paul and with some elderly people, living near Hastings, who had been friends of her parents.  The elderly people lived on a farm and had an old Victrola in their icy cold attic.

Before Christmas, my father brought my sisters and me to a German department store he remembered from his childhood.  We were each asked to choose a toy.  I was drawn to a little man with a white beard, a tall pointed pale blue hat, and a yellow tunic over a plaid tunic.  He is over 50 years old now.

A few days ago, I moved him from the place he had been on my bedside bookshelf for years to a spot next to a book about trees on the top of the bookshelf.  Coincidentally, soon after that, a book I was reading happened to mention"tomte," and I realized that he could be some kind of "tomte," except that his hat is blue.

Looking through Google images of "nisse" and "tomte," I didn't find any that were like him, but I was delighted to find a photo of a "nisse" with a cat who looks a little bit like my Oboe.

There has been a heavy cloud cover all day today for winter solstice. Snow is not predicted in the lowlands, but from my porch I can see snow at higher elevations.

A few days ago, I noticed two large birds high in the sky, flying north.  Or are they flying south? Although the photo is blurry, I think they are Blue Herons.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

John Trudell's Vision and Wishes

It must have been in 1983 or 1984 that I first heard John Trudell's strong clear voice while waiting for a Bob Dylan concert to begin and during the intermission of that concert in Vancouver, British Columbia, and soon after I bought a copy of the tape he had made with Jesse Ed Davis:

Along with:

On December 8, 2015, I learned that John Trudell had died.

December 10, 2015 -- Open letter from the family of John Trudell:

“We know all the people who love John want to know about plans and how to pay their respects. John left clear instructions for his passage and for what he wanted to happen after he crossed over. He did not want a funeral or any kind of single gathering. He also did not want his family to write a standard style obituary or ‘toot his horn.’ He didn’t want to tell people how to remember him.
“His wishes are for people to celebrate life and love, pray and remember him in their own ways in their own communities.

Friday, December 11, 2015

December Sunrise / Starcross Wreath / Reflections / The Lady of Guadalupe

Many years ago, I learned about Starcross Monastic Community because it is not far from where my parents lived from 1974 to 1994 on the Northern California coast, and my mother was a volunteer there as part of her search for a sense of community during the last years of her life.  She was born in 1916 in Hastings, Minnesota, and died unexpectedly of a heart attack in Gualala, California, on December 3, 1994.  She used to send to each of my sisters and me a wreath made at Starcross Monastic Community.  The wreath would arrive during the first days of December.  After she died, I continued to order a wreath to hang outside my front door.  Because the wreath continues to look fresh, my tradition is to enjoy it there until Valentine's Day.

Because I am not affiliated with any particular religion or spiritual tradition, I appreciate this statement by the members of Starcross Monastic Community, quoted in part:

"At present we feel more authentic standing outside the institutional structure of any particular denomination ... Increasingly we reach out in response to others walking a spiritual path in the challenging circumstances of life and society. We feel there is a divine spark and creativity in every individual which requires respect and support."

From today's email newsletter from Starcross Monastic Community in Sonoma County, Northern California, here is a reflection by Brother Toby:

And the bird's song, and the people's song, and the song of life, will all become one.  (Hopi chant)


And then the angels sang “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to all white Anglo-Saxon males” …. We have a problem.

A new word has appeared in our vocabulary “microaggressions” — it means something like low-grade insensitivity against minorities. University presidents are resigning, football teams are refusing to play, because of microaggression. And most important, students and others are hurt.

When Katiana sat down in class next to a white student he got up and moved to the other side of the room. Katiana simply sees herself as American. The other student saw her as non-white.
What in heaven's name is this all about! Didn’t we go through all this decades ago? 1954 — Brown v. Board of Education. 1957 — Little Rock Central High School, Rosa Park on the bus, Lunch Counters. Freedom Riders. 1963 — Medgar Evers murdered, 4 little girls murdered in a Birmingham church, 200,000 people marching on Washington. 1968 — Martin Luther King murdered. Did we not live through that and as a nation come out better?
Well, the trouble is that neither Katiana or the white student were born back then in those times of what some might call “macroaggressions” (I hate made-up terms!)
We are talking about racism in 2015. Where does it come from? The older I get the more I believe that these fundamental attitudes about how we see the world around us come from early childhood.  Bear with me for something personal.
1931. I was born in southern Mississippi. One Saturday morning,  when I was about 9-years old, I had a dental appointment. The dentist had his office off the balcony of the local movie house. My instructions were to wait for my uncle to pick me up when I was finished. He assumed I would go downstairs and wait. But when I came out from the dentist the movie had started. It was, as I recall, a Hopalong Cassidy film. I sat down to watch. I was not aware that I was the only white kid in the crowded balcony until several ushers came running up in a panic to get me out of there. I wanted to see the movie and I became quite immovable. There was some support from the kids sitting around me. Finally my uncle arrived. He was a well-known town leader and quieted down the ushers and convinced me to leave. When we got in the car he said, “There are some things you ought to know about.”  I imagine when most adults in our town said that they meant the child ought to know more about the differences among people. My uncle had something else in mind. The next Monday he took me across the rail-road tracks to a school for black children. We went inside. It was dark. There were no electric lights. There was no floor, just pounded down dirt. There were no books. It was not a happy place. After awhile we left.  My uncle was a practical man —  what we used to call a Southern moderate. He didn't think he could change the world he lived in, but he might change how one kid looked at that world. When we got to the car he simply said to me, “Don't forget what you saw in there.”  I haven’t.
I know an American journalist working abroad who says that the most embarrassingly predictable response Americans have to any world catastrophe is that we immediately turn it into “it's all about us.”  Brutal massacres in Paris by the same people forcing millions to flee Syria for their lives? Our response is to stop taking in Syrian refugees. Not that we were doing much of that to begin with. My friend says she feels like our nation basically wants to be a well cared for gated community with just enough “other” people to take care of the lawns.
On July 4, 1776 we adopted a declaration  saying among other things that we were all “created equal.”  Apparently we weren’t meant to take “All”  too seriously.
I live in a state whose population is 39% Latino and 38% white. This coming Sunday a good portion of those 39% will be celebrating the feast of The Lady of Guadalupe. The lady appeared to a young indigenous man in 1531. There were a number of miracles and the whole story had to be fitted within the Spanish colonial religious structure. But recently there are suggestions that the apparition contained coded messages for the oppressed people of Mexico. Her blue-green mantle was described as the color Aztecs once reserved for the divine couple Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl; her belt is interpreted as a sign of pregnancy; and a cross-shaped image symbolizing the cosmos and called nahui-ollin is said to be inscribed beneath the image's sash. Is this just academic daydreaming? I don't know.

But I do know that the day remembering The Lady of Guadalupe is an important spiritual moment to many of my neighbors. And in some small way I want to show my respect. We put out a picture of The Lady. I suppose the sociologists would label that “microrespect.”  But what the heck — it's a beginning.

Brother Toby

Thursday, December 10, 2015


Martin Luther King, Jr.:

All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are who you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.

(Quoted by Coretta Scott King in the foreword to Strength to Love, 1963)

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Check out Matthew's YouTube channel.  I subscribed recently.  The power of music.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Clear and Cold and Windy

At around 1:10, somebody appears at the right side of the screen, walking out of the woods.

Revisiting "Rivers and Roads," by The Head and the Heart:

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Snowman Under The Ocean

When my youngest sister was 4 years old, she won a prize from the San Francisco Chronicle for her delightful drawing which she titled, "Snowman Under The Ocean." When we were growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Redwood City, California, there was an ongoing contest where children from all around the San Francisco Bay Area would send drawings to the newspaper, and a winning drawing would be chosen and featured on the comics page of the newspaper. The newspaper kept my sister's winning drawing but sent my sister the metal plate they used to print her drawing in a place of honor on the same page as the daily comics.

With a little Google research, I discovered that the children's art contest was a long-standing tradition with the Chronicle.  An artist named Vivian Goddard, who lived to 101 years old, won a prize for her art work as a 4 year old in 1908!

My sister and I are working on a reconciliation after a 12-year estrangement, and I am grateful to her for having given me permission to post her drawing here on my blog.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Something I could do forever

Nooksack Tribal Member Nathaniel Smith (am's note: He spoke briefly in the video documenting the renaming of Indian Street to Billy Frank Jr Street) recently traveled to the 2015 International Elders & Youth Council. The Council constitutes the continuation of an ancient practice of joint council among the most respected leaders of Indian nations, and is an Indian-only gathering. Its purpose is to nurture a grassroots renewal of traditional values and worldviews among Indian peoples, to ensure the continuity of Native wisdom, and to bring that wisdom to bear on important issues facing all peoples of the earth. 

Nathaniel's report of his experience at the Council is below.
The message I carry I cannot call mine; for the message I carry is for the people...

This is my report from the 2015 Elder & Youth circle, which was held in the heart of Ho-Chunk Territories. For any one who isn't familiar with the circle, it can be described as the east coast journey. The circle advocates choose one destination for the Tribes, Nations, Villages to gather the medicine men\women, healers, leaders, story tellers, or just any one who showed concern for their people.

It is a beautiful place for our oral tradition, so sacred that we don't allow cameras or cell phones to be present in these confessions to our great grandfather Fire! I have witnessed many powerful speakers introducing themselves in their own language describing how they are connected to the land; then translated into english.

I would like to raise my hands to my brother Eddy Pablo Jr. for he is the one to credit for my curiousity of the circle, to help me describe healing in my own words. We traveled with an elder of the name John Bagley was 72 years old but the spirit of a child still who has a soft genuine stare, with a sincere smoke house voice to carry our message to the circle. The message we brought to the circle was a heavy on to carry, we touched on gearing our message toward the youth for suicide.

Under the creator we are all his CHILDREN, as the creators children he has made us all powerful; sometimes we need to be reminded of this, and forever keep reminding our children. That the children are the most important and abundant resource we poses.

In saying that our great grandmother Earth has granted the women the ability to create life, we need to honor and respect how important our women mean to the future, for our children are our future. DON'T EVER FORGET TO EXPRESS YOUR CHILD THAT YOU LOVE THEM, those words can go a long way when said sincerely. 

There is no obstacle that I cannot overcome to save my people; for I will forever be a slave to the needs of the children. I love you all, to all my people.

Nathaniel James Smith

(Note from am:  A young Nooksack woman with children committed suicide a few weeks before the council that Nathaniel Smith attended.  

During a time nearly 30 years ago when I was without hope for the future, I heard a young woman from the Lummi Nation (not far from where the Nooksack people live) speak up quietly, with hope, in a similar fashion in a small informal group of mostly non-native women of all ages who had been affected by alcoholism in relatives and friends. I knew I wasn't physically or emotionally healthy, and I could see that she was healthy in a way that transcended all my previous conceptions of health.  She gave me hope that I still carry.  

She taught me that if finding the courage to speak up in a small quiet voice is all we can do, it is enough.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mandala #15: Art and other odd jobs / The Soldier and The Soldier's Return / Paris

The Soldier

O they say that the war's nearly won,
And declare there's a change in the wind;
And my feet stumble on and the year's come and gone,
And they say that the war's nearly won.

O when shall I see you, my love?
You turn like a far star alone;
O when shall I rest with your head on my breast
And be free and at peace and at home?

Still they declare that the war's nearly won,
And declare there's a change in the wind;
And the years stumble on and a thousand years gone,
And they say that the war's nearly won.

(Jean Ritchie, 1971)

Monday, November 16, 2015

"... That's what I believe in."

I don’t believe in magic. I believe in the sun and the stars, the water, the tides, the floods, the owls, the hawks flying, the river running, the wind talking. They’re measurements. They tell us how healthy things are. How healthy we are. Because we and they are the same. That’s what I believe in. 

(Billy Frank, Jr.)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Speaking Without Words

Calendar Series: 52nd Month / Speaking Without Words About Holy Contradictions (painted by am in 1989)

Calligraphy by Thích Nhất Hạnh (Plum Village, France)

November 15:  Addendum

"Just as many machines reset themselves to their original settings after a power outage, human beings reset themselves to something altruistic, communitarian, resourceful and imaginative after a disaster, we revert to something we already know how to do. The possibility of paradise is already within us as a default setting."
 - Rebecca Solnit

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Cutting Edge: 1965-1966 / Fifty Years Ago / Shouting The Word "Now"

Recommendation:  The Best Of The Cutting Edge

Disc 1 -- Track 2:


You will search, babe
At any cost
But how long, babe
Can you search for what’s not lost?
Everybody will help you
Some people are very kind
But if I can save you any time
Come on, give it to me
I’ll keep it with mine
I can’t help it
If you might think I’m odd
If I say I’m not loving you for what you are
But for what you’re not
Everybody will help you
Discover what you set out to find
But if I can save you any time
Come on, give it to me
I’ll keep it with mine
The train leaves
At half past ten
But it’ll be back tomorrow
Same time again
The conductor he’s weary
He’s still stuck on the line
But if I can save you any time
Come on, give it to me
I’ll keep it with mine

Hannah Ryggen / Tapestry

Mennesket i veven - en film om Hannah Ryggen from Skofteland Film on Vimeo.

Hannah Ryggen

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

馬 Horse

Early this morning I finished "Mandala #14:  Horse."

As I was finishing it, I remembered the horse I drew when I was 5 years old:

Sunday, November 8, 2015

".... I want our hearts to be open. I mean it." (from The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison)

He said, "I am in your life to destroy the little trust you have in men."

A few years before saying that, he gave me a carved painted wooden fish napkin holder as a gift.  He also gave me a rusted tool associated with a Model-A Ford (1927-1931).  He had found the tool in the detached garage of his family's home which had been built in the late 1800s or early 1900s.  I collected rusted tools at the time, inspired by R who also collected rusted old tools and made mobiles out of them.  At one time, I had an old rusted cultivator on my porch.  Before that unhappy man abruptly walked out of my life several months later (and yet reappeared at odd times for several unsettling years), I made these two paintings, thinking about him as well as the Vietnam veteran I loved who later died of complications of alcoholism, and vaguely of my father who was a painful source of bewilderment to me, at first unconsciously and then consciously.

Those two paintings are from my Calendar Series from the late 1980s:

44th Month:  Imaginary Brother With Fish With Open Heart.
46th Month:  Land Fish With Open Hearts Confronting Stranded Tool

Early this morning, I finished reading a series of essays on empathy that has given me everything good writing can give.  Much gratitude to Sabine for drawing my attention to The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison.  It goes hand in hand with The Man Who Loved Dogs, by Leonardo Padura and All The Light We Cannot See and Why We Took The Car.  Not easy reading.  With each book, there was a moment where I thought that I could not continue reading, and I stopped.  And then thought twice.  Toni Morrison's Beloved falls in that category of books.  I couldn't bear to read it until I could.

I am here today to say that the man who perceived himself as a powerful destroyer failed.  When I heard his words, I thought, "You are no longer in my life."  Since he disappeared with his closed heart, I have met many men with open hearts.  They are like brothers to me.  I trust them.  I want all our hearts to be open, including the man who gave me the carved fish and the rusted tool and the cryptic message that freed me.  I mean it.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Seascape: Storm and Stillness / Gathered From Coincidence

Now that I am self-employed as a medical transcription editor, early Sunday morning between about 5 a.m. and 9:30 is the only time during the week where I have truly unstructured time.  Unlike every other day, nothing is planned during that quiet time.  I just wake up and ask myself what would be a good way to savor that time.  I've been frequently surprised when the answer comes.  It is fertile time.

Last week I spent the entire time reading The Man Who Loved Dogs and a few days ago was able to finish that nearly 600-page book just before it was due back at the public library.  Fearing that I wouldn't finish it on time, I had renewed it, and after finishing it, I wanted to start reading it over again, despite the fact that reading it was mostly a painful experience.  Yesterday after entering the first pages of the book again with more insight than I had the first time, I realized that I wasn't up to living again through the experience of that harrowing fictionalized story of the lives of Leon Trotsky, Ramon Mercader (Trotsky's assassin who was sent by Joseph Stalin), and Iván Cárdenas (the fictional man Ramon Mercader entrusts with his life story).  It's a book I keep talking about with friends because it sheds light and talks about the mystery of compassion.

Leonardo Padura's book has been translated from Spanish to English. Leonardo Padura is Cuban, born in 1955 in Havana, two years after Joseph Stalin died.  Although the translation, according to book reviews, is supposed to be a good one, I found myself wishing that I could read Spanish because the translation seemed clunky to me.  Still, the disturbing story comes through.

The Man Who Loved Dogs filled in so many gaps in my understanding of history because it is based on extensive historical research.  By the time I was 5 years old in 1955, I had heard of Stalin but had no context for him except vague fear.  Could I have heard of his death on television?  I don't remember my parents talking about world events, but I do remember that I knew about Hitler from the same early age, probably through television or talking with other children.  I connected both Stalin and Hitler with what I would come to know as the word terror. 

Picasso said that art is a lie that tells the truth.  As a result of reading The Man Who Loved Dogs, I looked around for more information about Sylvia Ageloff, a young Jewish American woman who was cruelly used by Ramon Mercader and who seemed oddly one-dimensional in The Man Who Loved Dogs, and I found a very different picture of her from that painted by Leonardo Padura.  For fictional purposes, she was part of a Leonardo Padura's elaborate lie that nevertheless that has brought me much light as well as an unsettled feeling that may well lead to more light.

Coincidentally, the book begins as Hurricane Ivan was threatening Cuba in September of 2004.  As I was reading the book, Mexico was experiencing the threat of Hurricane Patricia, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded.

I hesitate to recommend this book, and yet it has had a profound effect on me, and I find myself thinking about it often and now wanting to write about it.

Anyway, what got me started on this blog post was a painting by Monet, titled "Seascape: Storm," that I saw clearly for the first time this morning in a stack of four open engagement calendars dating back to 1984, which is when I left an unhappy marriage and moved to this place where I look out on Scudder Pond.  Over the years, I have jotted down bird, animal, sky, and weather notes, and noted days that I want to remember in these engagement calendars.  When the days are filled with notes, I purchase a new calendar.  It's occurring to me that 2016 would be a good year to start a new one.  I've been so busy with being self-employed that, since sometime in September, I had only turned the pages of the engagement calendar which sits on the top of the pile and has the most current notes in it. This morning I flipped the pages of the three other calendars forward to today and was struck by the peculiarly familiar image of a boat on a stormy sea on the page of November 1, 1984, and was startled to realize that the boat looked very much like the boat in R's painting from the early 1980s.  Odd that I had never noticed that boat in the 31 years I have gone through the pages of that engagement calendar.  I have had R's painting since October of 1982, which was the year I stood with my parents at the top of one of the towers that fell on September 11, 2001.  We had gone to see an exhibit of sculptures by Rodin, but the exhibit turned out to be closed that day.

I went to look at R's painting, which is on the wall near my front door. Sure does looks as if R may have used Monet's stormy painting as a starting point for his painting which was done during that brief period of his life that was peaceful, during the time he was in college, taking art classes. Even if he didn't use that painting as an inspiration, it certainly is the same type of boat. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Love Minus Zero / No Limit (To Creativity) / It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry

"Typists," gouache on paper, by Jacob Lawrence.

From ad:

IBM Watson
thinks with us
to outthink the
limits of creativity.

Working hard at medical transcription editing, creating a new mandala with the Chinese character for "horse" at the center, reconciling with my youngest sister after 12 years of estrangement, taking walks, spending time with friends, reading The Man Who Loved Dogs at the suggestion of an old friend who recently retired from lawyering and says she now has plenty of time for reading, continuing with my yoga practice, sleeping and dreaming.

"Don't the sun look good goin' down over the sea?"
(Bob Dylan, lyrics from "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry")

Monday, October 5, 2015

Mandala #13 -- For Sabine

Begun before I became self-employed in August, completed on October 3, 2015.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

"Woman With Her Hands Full"

Many of you have seen this pastel, gouache, and watercolor image several times since 2006 when my blog was called "Old Girl of the North Country."  Today I am remembering again that I painted it around the time I began working as a medical transcriptionist in 1984. Now, more than thirty years later, it is on my wall where I can see it if I look up from my laptop as I work as a self-employed medical transcription editor.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Summer of the Red Sun and Another Totem Journey From Lummi Nation in Whatcom County / 2015

Although yesterday morning brought exquisitely clear skies, the sun rose red this morning due to ongoing massive wildfires east of the Cascade Mountains. Somewhere I read that our current air quality in Whatcom County is much like that which has become typical in Beijing.

Totem Pole Journey 2015


"A Native American tribe is taking a 22-foot totem pole from Canada through the Pacific Northwest to Montana in opposition of proposed coal export terminals ..."

"... The projects would export millions of tons of coal annually to Asia. The tribes say the terminals would disrupt treaty-protected fishing rights, contaminate air and water, and harm sacred sites ..."

"... The totem pole was created by the House of Tears Carvers at the Lummi Nation. It took four months for a team to create it, said the tribe's master carver Jewell James.

Traditionally, totem poles use powerful symbols to depict visions, pass on tribal mythology or mark important tribal or family events, Jewell said. They're used at ceremonies, to honor the deceased, or to record stories.

But over the past years, the tribe has put them to a novel use; tribal members have taken the totem poles off the reservation to areas struck by disaster or facing a crisis, as symbols of strength and wisdom, Jewell said.

The Lummi have delivered totem poles to New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., after the 911 terrorist attacks. Last year, the tribe took a totem pole to Sioux territory in Northern Alberta to oppose tar sand mining, and the previous year to Vancouver to protest a proposed oil pipeline.

The symbols carved into the current totem are to encourage wise decisions that protect the environment, Jewell said. They include a medicine wheel, which symbolizes the transfer of traditional knowledge to tribal members; a flying eagle, which stands for spiritual knowledge; and a turtle representing the earth ..."

Monday, August 10, 2015

Art That I Can Hear

From the Friends of Silence newsletter for July and August of 2015:

Art is both love and friendship, and understanding; the desire to give. It is not charity, which is the giving of things, it is more than kindness, which is the giving of self. It is both the taking and giving of beauty, the turning out to the light of the inner folds of awareness of the spirit.
~ Ansel Adams in a letter to Cedric Wright, 1937, as quoted in ART AS A WAY OF LIFE, ed. by Roderick MacIver

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

That Lucky Old Sunrise With Crows Flying West From Their Rookery At Lake Whatcom

"If you look deeply into Crow's eye, you will have found the gateway to the supernatural. Crow knows the unknowable mysteries of creation and is the keeper of all sacred law."

"Since Crow is the keeper of sacred law, Crow can bend the laws of the physical universe and 'shape shift.'"

"Crow is an omen of change. Crow lives in the void and has no sense of time. The Ancient Chiefs tell us that Crow sees simultaneously the three fates -- past, present and future. Crow merges light and darkness, seeing both inner and outer reality.

"Crow medicine signifies a firsthand knowledge of a higher order of right and wrong than that indicated by the laws created in human culture. With Crow medicine, you speak in a powerful voice when addressing issues that for you seem out of harmony, out of balance, out of whack, or unjust."

(from Medicine Cards: The Discovery Of Power Through The Ways Of Animals, by Jamie Sams and David Carson, 1988)

"... An' I have no sense of time..." (from "Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again," by Bob Dylan, 1966)

In the 1976 version below, he doesn't sing that verse:

From "That Lucky Old Sun" (music by Beasley Smith and words by Haven Gillespie), sung by Bob Dylan in concert on July 11, 2015, in San Sebastian, Spain:

"... Send down that cloud with a silver linin'
Lift me to Paradise
Show me that river
Take me across
And wash all my troubles away
Like that lucky old sun
Give me nothing to do
But roll around heaven all day

Good Lord above, can't you see I'm pinin'
Tears all in my eyes?
Send down that cloud with a silver linin'
Lift me to Paradise
Show me that river
Take me across
And wash all my troubles away
Like that lucky old sun
Give me nothing to do
But roll around heaven all day

Sunday, July 19, 2015

"How Raven Accidentally Wiped Out The Dinosaurs"

Take a look at the work of Alison Bremner who is Tlingit. Be sure to read the descriptions of each of her pieces. One of her drums won first prize in the Bellingham National Art Exhibition & Awards. Scroll down to see "Potlatch Ban."

After visiting the Whatcom Museum, I headed over to the hospital gift shop to find an animal toy to give as a gift to a baby who is due to be born any day now. I found just the right gift for the baby

and then found myself laughing out loud with a Tyranosaurus Rex which now sits at my work table in my music chair when I am not sitting there. One of the people in the gift shop referred to it as a crocodile, but it is clearly a Tyranosaurus Rex.

The light was unusually welcoming when I  entered my tiny living room early this morning and discovered Alison Bremner's webpage and smiled to see the Tyranosaurus Rex looking up at my Bob Dylan songbook.

"... I catch dinosaurs ..." (Bob Dylan, 1963, lyrics from "I Shall Be Free" on "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan")

"Cat Lady," by Alison Bremner:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

This Tree Is Alive

The Way In

Above is a living tree in Whatcom Falls Park. It's on the trail where I walk frequently. The sign appeared this week. The bark was stripped from the tree about a year ago.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Odd duck with her ducklings, revisited

Haven't been doing much walking in the past month. The first time I saw this mother duck with her ducklings was on May 23. Was delighted to see her and her ducklings again yesterday at the Derby Pond in Whatcom Falls Park.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Some things I learned on the 4th of July 2015

This morning when I got together with a group of friends, there was some talk about celebrating the 4th of July and freedom. A man who is a member of the Lummi Nation quietly said that he had been giving considerable thought this year as to what the 4th of July means to him as a Native American, and his conclusion was "nothing," except that it is an occasion to honor tribal veterans. He said this in a matter of fact way that startled all of us awake. He is a kind man with a keen sense of humor, and his life is devoted to helping others. I'm grateful for his honesty. His words gave me much to think about.

It's been a long long time since I read the Declaration of Independence. He inspired me to find a reading of it on YouTube by a diverse group of readers. Watch for Graham Greene, a First Nations actor who was chosen to read, with some irony, about "merciless Indian savages" at 6:25:

"... He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions..."

Here's Morgan Freeman's introduction to the above reading of the Declaration of Independence.  It was featured on the Doonesbury website today and was part of the inspiration for my blog post today:

From the article from "Indian Country":

As Americans everywhere celebrate the 4th of July, I think about how many American Indians are taking their yearly vacations back to their reservations and home communities. All across Indian country, tribes hold modern celebrations -- including powwows, rodeos, and homecomings -- that coincide with the United States' Independence Day celebrations.

As for me, I'll be with my two daughters, and we'll watch a huge fireworks display!

-- Dennis Zotigh (Kiowa/San Juan Pueblo/Santee Dakota Indian) is a writer and cultural specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Friday, July 3, 2015

"Give us all the courage and the grace"

Sparkle on the ocean
Eagle at the top of a tree

The phrasing of the first two lines of "This Place," written by Joni Mitchell in 2007, has sounded hauntingly familiar to me for the last few days when I have listened to it while driving in my car. This afternoon I suddenly realized that it has echoes of the first two lines of "Spirit on the Water," written by Bob Dylan in 2006:

Spirit on the water
Darkness on the face of the deep

Here is the last verse for "This Place":

Spirit of the water
Give us all the courage and the grace
To make genius of this tragedy unfolding
The genius to save this place.