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?