Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mandala #12

(Mandala #12 completed just a few minutes ago by am. Started just before I had cataract surgery to my left eye on April 20, 2015)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Unusual Summer Clouds During Hot Weather / Broken Person and Broken Guitar / Joni Mitchell's Meditation on the Book of Job / More People Who Are Not Broken

"A mind filled with love can be likened to the sky with a variety of clouds moving through it -- some light and fluffy, others ominous and threatening. No matter the situation, this sky is not affected by the clouds. It is free."
(Sharon Salzberg)

This morning before 8 o'clock I was a few blocks from my home, driving west on my way to SeaMar Community Health Center, a low-income clinic on the north end of town, to turn in paperwork that will have to be filled out by my doctor regarding accommodations that I am requesting in regard to the part-time job that I hope to have soon. The offer letter for the job is problematic. I will not sign it unless I am guaranteed a consistent work schedule and a guarantee that I will not be asked to work on my days off. I have been unemployed on and off since 1998 due to symptoms of PTSD that will be triggered again if my sleep is disrupted by frequent schedule changes that involve working into the evenings and if I am unable to plan anything because of never knowing when I will have a day off or when my work shift will begin or end.

As I waited at the stop light and wondered whether I would be able to get the accommodations I was requesting, I vaguely noticed out of the corner of my eye a nondescript compact person of short stature who was wearing nondescript clothing and a generic knit hat with side flaps with braids hanging down and who was carrying possessions across the cross street to my left. As the light turned green, and I moved forward with the traffic, I was startled to see the person lift an acoustic guitar into the air and smash it hard several times onto the sidewalk, leaving the guitar in pieces. It was like something I might see in a dream. I was shaken, wondering what was going on the mind of that person who was destroying something that was likely dear to that person or someone close to that person. I wasn't sure if the person was a man or a woman. It wasn't Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. It was something else.

I became aware of Joni Mitchell singing from my car's CD player:

On my way home from SeaMar, I had some errands to do in downtown Bellingham, which is on the west side of town. As I drove down Holly Street, I saw someone who appeared to be the same person I had seen earlier and who must have taken the bus into town. He or she was settled on the sidewalk,  not far from the bus station, leaning against the side of a building with his or her possessions. After I dropped off my condo dues at the property management company, I was curious enough to drive back around the block to see if it really was the same person.  Maybe it wasn't the same person, but my gut feeling was that it was. I was still grieving that broken person and the broken guitar. If it was the same person, he or she appeared subdued, nondescript, showing no sign of the anger or grief that prompted destroying an acoustic guitar.

"Take heart and take care of your link with life ..."
(Buffy Sainte-Marie, lyrics from "Look At The Facts")


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Joni Mitchell / Healing / Resurrection

(Self-portrait by Joni Mitchell on CD cover for Turbulent Indigo from 1994)

From Joni Mitchell's liner notes for Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting To Be Danced, released November 17, 2014:

"This box set is rising like a phoenix from the ashes of two dead projects -- a ballet and a horrendously ill-conceived box set. They started it without me. They hired two incompetents to "do" me. It was to be a 2-disc set -- peppered with discarded and damaged work -- for the sake of something "new." They hired a burglar to enter my storage space (ironically called "A Safe Place"). He rummaged around and came back with the dregs. "Why are you doing this?" I asked the bosses. "That's the way it's done," was the reply. "Not to me," I said and I squelched it. A little while later, the bosses were fired, and just before the company went belly up, I got the bills -- for their mistake.

The ballet is a dream I hope to somehow resurrect. We'll see. Meanwhile, with these notes coming to an end, my work is done. I'm celebrating. I'm pouring myself a glass of wine. I'd like to drink a toast. If God is dead and love is dead, is talent the next fatality? Let's drink a toast to talent. Here's to you, talent -- may you be resurrected, too."

From "Love Puts On A New Face" (1998):

Love puts on a new face
Love puts on a new face
Love has many faces
Many, many faces."

And "My Best To You" (1998), the closing song for Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting To Be Danced:

"So here's to you
May your dreams come true
May old father time
Never be unkind
And through the years
Save your smiles and your tears
They're just souvenirs
They'll make music in your heart

Remember this
Each new day is a kiss
Sent from up above
With an angel's love
So here's to you
May your skies be blue
And your love blessed
That's my best to you

Remember this
Each new day is a kiss
Sent from up above
With an angel's love
So here's to you
May your skies be blue
And your love blessed
That's my best to you"

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Woman With Heart

In 2007, I bought Joni Mitchell's CD called "Shine." That was a bleak year for me, and the CD brought me some light and some perspective on darkness. It was released in September, just after R had a brainstem stroke which left him in a coma for two weeks at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto, California. I would have heard about "Shine" after returning home from a yoga teacher training intensive in Eastern Washington that convinced me that I did not want to become a yoga teacher. I did not yet know that R had the stroke and didn't learn of his stroke until the last day of the year when his sister sent me a Christmas card. It is occurring to me that I may have stopped listening to "Shine" after R died the following April.

Listen to Joni:

Holy Earth
How can we heal you?
We cover you like a blight...
Strange birds of appetite...
If I had a heart I'd cry

Today I pulled "Shine" down from my small hard-to-reach up-near-the-ceiling shelf of CDs that I have kept but do not listen to very often. The CDs are more or less in chronological order, beginning with some early rock 'n' roll and ending with a 3-disk set called "Autoharp Legacy" (scroll down). Although that CD is from 2002, my recent interest in the autoharp places it there in my sense of history.

A few months ago, I put all my Bob Dylan CDs in a box which is now in the small storage closet in my hallway. They have been easily accessible to me for as long as I have had them, but I have not had any desire to listen to them, except occasionally in my car. As a long-time listener of Bob Dylan, I also have another box filled with his music on tape, and a shelf containing all his vinyl albums previous to the years when music began to be put on tape. Although I am still stopped in my footsteps and find myself close to tears when I hear Bob Dylan's voice as I did in the Bellingham Community Co-op grocery store a few days ago, and am moved to the core as I have been since I was 13 years old, something told me to put his CDs away and be open to hearing another voice. It's been very quiet here for some time anyway. Beginning in spring, when I can open my windows, I listen to the sound of birds. If I want to hear music, I sit down with my autoharp, dulcimers, and ukulele. It has been silent during the time that I have been making the first eleven mandalas, which was last September after most of the birds were gone.

A few days ago while checking for updates on Joni Mitchell's health, I discovered that on November 17, 2014, she released a 4-disk collection of CDs titled "Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting To Be Danced." Because I am living on my dwindling savings, I went to our local public library's website to see if they had a copy. I've been listening to the library copy ever since. It's a work of art. Hers is the voice I want to listen to while I am drawing and when I weave on my inkle loom sometime in the future or when I just want to hear the voice of a complex creative woman with heart.

It appears that I may be employed for 20-28 hours a week as a medical transcriptionist and editor sometime soon, working from my home. This is the first June in years that I haven't suffered from situational depression, and I am hopeful that I will be able to keep working as a transcriptionist for the rest of my life. That job will provide me with a modest income that will allow me to continue buying food, paying my bills, buying paper and colored pencils for drawing, buying strings for my musical instruments, buying yarn for weaving and other necessities of life.

I don't take anything for granted anymore and am grateful to have found Joni Mitchell and her fierceness and gentleness and her music and her art work once again.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

We Shine

"Woman Turning Toward The Light" (gouache and watercolor and pastel on paper, by am, mid-1980s)

"Mandala #12" (colored pencil on paper, by am, work in progress -- June 23, 2015 -- started in mid-April, before cataract surgery -- I have new prescription glasses now and am grateful to have my drawing vision and energy back)


Oh let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on Wall Street and Vegas
Place your bets
Shine on the fishermen
With nothing in their nets
Shine on rising oceans and evaporating seas
Shine on our Frankenstein technologies
Shine on science
With its tunnel vision 
Shine on fertile farmland
Buried under subdivisions

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on the dazzling darkness
That restores us in deep sleep
Shine on what we throw away 
And what we keep

Shine on Reverend Pearson
Who threw away 
The vain old God
kept Dickens and Rembrandt and Beethoven
And fresh plowed sod
Shine on good earth, good air, good water
And a safe place 
For kids to play
Shine on bombs exploding
Half a mile away

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on world-wide traffic jams
Honking day and night
Shine on another asshole
Passing on the right!
Shine on the red light runners
Busy talking on their cell phones
Shine on the Catholic Church
And the prisons that it owns
Shine on all the Churches
They all love less and less
Shine on a hopeful girl 
In a dreamy dress

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on good humor
Shine on good will
Shine on lousy leadership
Licensed to kill
Shine on dying soldiers
In patriotic pain
Shine on mass destruction
In some God's name!
Shine on the pioneers
Those seekers of mental health
Craving simplicity
They traveled inward
Past themselves...
May all their little lights shine 

© Joni Mitchell 2007; Crazy Crow Music 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thursday, June 11, 2015


"The face is scarred and craggy like a strip-mined Appalachian mountainside. The eyes are dark and somber. So, too, are the old-fashioned suits and string ties that Johnny Cash wears onstage as homage to his longtime hero, rough-hewn, plain-speaking Andrew Jackson. Then there's the deep rumbling voice that would rather converse with God or the dogwoods than almost anybody else. When Cash does sit down to talk, there are long silences and faraway glances. "I'm a country boy, still," says the Arkansas farmer's son. "I'm a very shy and private man, but don't get me wrong. I can make it real good on a stage with 20,000 people out there. I like performing."
(from a 1986 article by Andrea Chambers)

He was suddenly being billed as the 'King of The Beatniks', and manufactured against his will, as some kind of public Guru for a movement that never existed. Jack was a private person, extremely shy, and dedicated to writing. When he drank, he became much more expansive, and this was the only part of his personality that became publicized.
(from a 1969 article by David Amram)

When I saw that interview with Jack Kerouac some years ago on YouTube, I had the oddest feeling that I was witnessing someone even shyer than I was. Shyness is excruciating.

A few days ago, I happened upon some film footage of Bob Dylan and Isaac Stern receiving the Polar Music Prize in 2000. Watching Bob Dylan's face, I was unable to find words to describe his shifting expressions, but I was reminded of the shyness of Jack Kerouac and Johnny Cash and searched for the images of those men that were coming to mind. 

In 1986, during the first few years after one of his last relapses on painkillers, Johnny Cash went out on a book tour for Man in White and made a stop at the independent bookstore in the small Northwest Washington town where I live. He was dressed in black and appeared quite uncomfortable, sitting hunched over at a small table in the middle of the crowded store as he signed copies of his book. There was a small line of people who had bought his book and wanted him to sign it. I didn't buy a copy of his book about Paul the Apostle (I regret that now and have just put the book on hold at our public library to make amends for my rudeness for not being open to what he had written), but I brought my copy of "Nashville Skyline," with its back cover featuring his poem about Bob Dylan, for him to sign. I'm not as shy as I used to be, but in those days I was quite shy and couldn't help but empathize with how extremely shy he appeared when he wasn't on stage. When I came to the front of the line, I handed him my album cover and asked if he could sign it for me. He slowly turned his head and looked up at me briefly. The curious expression on his face was something like that of Bob Dylan listening to the woman speaking about him at the Polar Music Prize ceremony. Without saying a word, Johnny Cash signed my album and handed it back to me without looking at me again.  I was moved to touch his shoulder and thank him. 

In the following year, I stopped drinking and began to recover from the eating disorder that had been part of my life since I was 10 years old and so painfully shy that I didn't know how I was going to make it through life. No wonder I didn't feel so alone after first hearing Bob Dylan when I was 14 years old, or felt an odd kinship while reading about Jack Kerouac in my late teens and, at 36 years old, witnessing Johnny Cash signing his book in a bookstore despite his shyness. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Knitting and Weaving in the Land of the Coast Salish

If you have 52 minutes, I recommend this fine film which was released in 2000 by the National Film Board of Canada. If you don't have 52 minutes, watch from about 40:15 to 44:28.  That footage was filmed on location at the Lummi Nation.

Bellingham is side-by-side with the Lummi Nation, home to 2,114 people of solely Native American heritage, many of whom are of Coast Salish heritage. A Lummi friend of mine, who teaches at Northwest Indian College, travels with family members to other Coast Salish reservations where they are vendors for events on weekends.  Her sisters knit Cowichan sweaters and other items.

Take a look at the woven cedar mortarboards that are worn by this year's graduates of the Lummi Nation School and look for the traditional cedar bark hats worn by family and friends who have come to celebrate the graduates.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Turning Point in Early June 2015

Yesterday I was out on my porch with my camera. Turning around, I noticed my reflection in the window. Interesting to discover when I downloaded the photo that through my silhouette I can see photos of mother's mother and father, my mother, my father's mother and father, and my father, as well as my two sisters, my only nephew's father, and my nephew and his girlfriend and their now 1-year-old son, Pablo. Over my heart is the light I draw and paint by at my work table. If you look closely, you will see the carved red cardinal who perches on the light. The book is The Songs of Bob Dylan: 1966-1975 on a wooden music holder.  In front of that is one of the caned chairs that my mother's parents bought when they were first married in Boston in the early 1900s.  What appear to be white polka dots on dark blue is the pattern on my couch. On the couch is a colorful pillow with Fair Isle patterns knitted by my Scottish / German mother years ago. Sweet to see that my old dulcimer, made in Santa Cruz, California, in the 1970s, appears to be out on the porch with me, along with everything else, including the red Salvia plant that I bought and put in a planter in my porch garden this past week and the lush cattail pond, nearby dark hills, and lovely grey sky.