Friday, December 25, 2020

The Magi, a multigenerational family gathering, a little baby, a Sufi dancer / Leonard Cohen / Michael Blumenthal on the value of art


"Dylan said that, although he was born and raised Jewish, he never felt left out of Christmas during his childhood in Minnesota. Regarding the popularity of Christmas music, he said, "... it's so worldwide and everybody can relate to it in their own way."

Ever since "Christmas in the Heart" was released in 2009, this video has been part of my December experience which includes World AIDS Day, St. Nicholas Day, Bodhi Day, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa and, in some years, Ramadan, as well as numerous beginnings and endings in my life and the lives of those I love.

Reading Sabine's post today, "Be Kind," for some reason reminded me of "The Little Drummer Boy".  I had not watched and listened to it yet this year.  After watching and listening, it occurred to me once again that the family gathering with the children and the little baby and adults from several generations might well be an interfaith gathering.  In past years what had also caught my attention was the presence of the Magi at the beginning of the video and a single Sufi dancer at the end of the video. 

With a little Googling, I re-read the lyrics and see that Bob Dylan changed:

I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give our king

to:

I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give a king

*

I remembered what Leonard Cohen said in 1988:

"I'm very fond of Jesus Christ. He may be the most beautiful guy who ever walked the face of this earth. Any guy who said "Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the meek" has got to be a figure of unparalleled generosity and insight and madness.. . A man who declared himself to stand among the thieves, the prostitutes and the homeless. His position cannot be comprehended. It is an inhuman generosity. A generosity that would overthrow the world if it was embraced because nothing could weather that compassion. I'm not trying to alter the Jewish view of Jesus Christ. But to me, in spite of what I know about the history of legal Christianity, the figure of the man has touched me".

*
Thank you to Sabine for drawing my attention to Michael Blumenthal's poem, "Be Kind," which led me to his talk on the value of art. 




With love to blog friends, near and far. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Something I need to share with R today


"Grandson, I want to shake your hand.  That was pretty damn powerful what you just did."
(Elder speaking to Supaman)

This is where R and I met on December 14, 1966, when we were 17 years old.  None of the buildings you see were there then.  The only building there in 1966 was the old Miramar Hotel which burned down not long after I met R.


Supaman reminds me of you, R.  What I see in him is what I saw in you from the beginning.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Robinson Jeffers and Ocean Vuong / Mid-December views with local music

Robinson Jeffers walking near home on the California coast with his twin sons, Donnan and Garth



"... In the autumn of 1934, Jeffers received a letter from Sister Mary James Power — principal and teacher at a girls’ Catholic high school in Massachusetts. A lifelong lover of poetry, Power had endeavored to edit an anthology of prominent poets’ reflections on the spiritual dimensions of their art and their creative motive force. She invited Jeffers to contribute, asking about his “religious attitudes.” His response, originally published in Powers’s 1938 book Poets at Prayer and later included in The Wild God of the World:  An Anthology of Robinson Jeffersis one of the most beautiful and succinct articulations of a holistic, humanistic moral philosophy ever committed to words — some of the wisest words to live and think and feel by ..."

(to read the entire essay, click here)

"Response to Sister Mary James Power

Tor House, Carmel, California
October 1, 1934

Dear Sister Mary James:

Your letter should have been answered sooner, but there have been so many visitors and other events the past fortnight.

As to my "religious attitudes: -- you know it is a sort of tradition in this country not to talk about religion for fear of offending -- I am still a little subject to the tradition, and rather dislike stating my "attitudes" except in the course of a poem. -- However, they are simple. I believe that the universe is one being, all its parts are different expressions of the same energy, and they are all in communication with each other, influencing each other, therefore parts of one organic whole.  (This is physics, I believe, as well as religion.)  The parts change and pass, or die, people and races and rocks and stars; none of them seems to me important in itself, but only the whole.  This whole is in all parts so beautiful, and is felt by me to be so intensely in earnest, that I am compelled to love it, and to think of it as divine.  It seems to me that this whole alone is worthy of a deeper sort of love; and there is peace, freedom, I might say a kind of salvation, in turning one's affections outward toward this one God, rather than inward on one's self-- or on humanity, or on human imaginations and abstractions -- the world of the spirits.

I think that it is our privilege and felicity to love God for his beauty, without claiming or expecting love from him.  We are not important to him, but he to us.

I think that one may contribute (ever so slightly) to the beauty of things by making one's own life and surroundings  environment beautiful, so far as one's power reaches.  This includes moral beauty, one of the qualities of humanity, though it does {seems} not {to} appear elsewhere in the universe.  But I would have each person realize that his contribution is not important, its success not really a matter for exultance nor its failure for mourning; the beauty of things is sufficient without him.

(An office of tragic poetry is to show that there is beauty in pain and failure as much as in success and happiness.)

-- There is nothing here that has not been more feelingly expressed in my verses; but I thought that a plain question deserves a plain answer. -- Of course you are welcome to photostat this at pleasure.

Sincerely yours,
Robinson Jeffers."

*

As I read Robinson Jeffers' response, I thought of the quote that Sabine posted a few days ago:

"Do you remember the happiest day of your life? What about the saddest? Do you ever wonder if sadness and happiness can be combined, to make a deep purple feeling, not good, not bad, but remarkable simply because you didn't have to live on one side or the other?"

         Ocean Voung








*

Looking east in mid-December:



And if you have time, listen to this music from the county where I live  (population 229,247 in 2019).  Whatcom County took its name from a Nooksack word meaning "noisy waters."


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Remembering December 8, 2006 / Mandala #55: Bird and Moon Meditation


 










This blog's first post was on December 8, 2006, when I was 56 years old, unemployed and, to be honest, unemployable, living simply on what should have been my retirement resources, with all the free time in the world and able to do little or no art work.  I was not without friends or moments of peace, but each day was long and bleak due to what was then diagnosed as PTSD but has been diagnosed in recent years as a trauma-related disorder and complicated grief.  For years I had been receiving various types of counseling and, in between appointments, I made intermittent calls to a crisis line.  Although I was not suicidal, I was often in emotional distress.  It was on one of those calls to the crisis line in December 2006 that it was suggested to me that I do something entirely new and positive on December 8 (the day R returned from Vietnam in 1970) instead of re-living the trauma of that day yet another time.  

Inspired by a first cousin once-removed who at that time had a political blog, I had begun reading blogs and commenting on blogs for about a year using my first laptop, an iBook G4, purchased in 2005.  The first blogs I read and commented at had their roots in her extensive blog list.  

Taking the suggestion of the crisis line volunteer to heart, I made a decision to go to the Blogger website and set up a blog for the purpose of doing a retrospective of my art work up to 2006.  My intent was to revisit my lifetime of art work, one piece at a time, which meant revisiting my life while trying to keep my focus on living in the present in a healthier way.   

After a few days of posts,  I was delighted to receive my first comment. The blogs I read at that time all focused on a combination of nature photography, poetry, literature, and music.   

After more than 20 years of living alone because that was the only way I felt safe, I had a few months earlier brought home from a local shelter a cat that I named Oboe.  She was a year old and found it fascinating to watch me at my laptop from the kitchen counter.  Her fleece bed was on the desk off to the side of my laptop.












It has occurred to me while writing today that the series of events that led to my healing were buying that iBook G4, learning to use the iPhoto tools, reading and commenting on blogs,  adopting Oboe, and starting my own blog.   

By the time I finished my retrospective posts, I had begun doing a little bit of art work, had begun to share music from YouTube, and had began to share photos of the view from my porch and views from my long walks in Whatcom Falls Park, Lake Padden, and along Bellingham Bay.

From the day I started my blog, my life changed for the better, not without ups and downs but without that which had haunted me for so many years -- unattended sorrow.  Stephen Levine's book, published in 2005, may well have led the way to the day that I decided to begin blogging.











Up until December 7, Mandala #55 had been going extremely well and then suddenly it wasn't.  I had hoped to finish it on December 7 and stayed up late working on it but went to bed tired and discouraged because something about it just wasn't right.  I didn't sleep well and dreaded waking up to see it still unresolved.  It is a terribly unsettling feeling when I something I am working on is not going well.  Fortunately, in the morning it didn't look as bad as it had looked the night before and I was able to finish it and feel peace.  Although I'm not completely satisfied with the way it photographed, it looked beautiful on my wall where I photographed it in the December morning light.












And it looks good next to the last two mandalas.  I've drawn the circle for the 11th mandala.












December sunrise:












Thank you, blog friends, near and far.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Mandala #54


 











72 years ago my parents were married on December 4.  This photo was taken by me in 1978 when they were in their 60s and I was in my late 20s, during one of my visits to California.  My middle sister emailed this photo yesterday.  It brings back good memories of them.  


.


Monday, November 30, 2020

One day in 1971 or 1972, Justine asked if I would play the up-and-down record ... / And now, another time when balance and direction and George Harrison's musical genius are welcomed



"The album cover consists of a painting by American artist Bob Gill in which, as in Massot's film, two contrasting worlds are separated by a wall, with only a small gap allowing visual access between them."

The back cover of "Wonderwall Music" was created using a photo of the Berlin Wall:




 








When R and I began to live apart in May 1971, I rented a room in a house where four other people lived. R and I continued to spend time together on a regular basis until October 1971, when our separation became a permanent one.  The house was owned by a man who was a high school teacher (second from the left).  He had three children.  His older daughter is standing in front of him, his younger daughter is at his side, and his son (or was the boy his ex-wife's son whom he had adopted during the marriage?) is at the top of the photo.  Next to his son is the daughter of the woman in the middle of the photo.  The high school teacher had also rented out a room to a couple, the man on the far left and woman in the middle.  That couple and the man on the far right had met at San Jose State University and had grown up in Southern California.  The man on the far right, holding a kitten, is standing behind a dog that is barely visible.  He had a degree from San Jose State University in photography.  He was the one who set up the camera on a tripod to make this photo possible.  I'm standing next to him.  He slept outside in a tiny open air playhouse that had been built for the high school teacher's children and was only large enough for him to arrange a sleeping bag with cushion underneath, along with his few belongings.  This was Northern California, where the weather was such that a person could sleep comfortably outside during all seasons of the year.  Note the low brick wall behind all of us.




 









As part of the rental arrangement, I was to be a sort of nanny for the high school teacher's two pre-school girls on the afternoons that their mother brought them to stay at their father's house before he came home from work.  I am struggling to recall how the son fit into the picture that day.  He didn't live in the house.  Perhaps he was there because this group photo was taken to serve as a surprise birthday gift for a woman who also lived in the house.  Until just now, I had forgotten about her.  She was my age but in a relationship with a man who was in his 40s and lived somewhere else.  At the time I thought that was a little odd because at 21 years old, 40-year-old men were "old" and unattractive to me.  

During those months, I would often put "Wonderwall Music" on the turntable because I found it oddly comforting during that time of emotional anguish as I tried to find some balance and direction.  While listening to "Wonderwall Music" on the turntable downstairs, I would work at making macrame wall hangings in my room.  

One day, Justine, the older of the two little girls came to me and asked if I would play the "up-and-down" record for her.  I tried to guess which record she was referring to.  We looked through house's record collection until she identified my copy of "Wonderwall Music" as the up-and-down record.  Still baffled, I put it on the turntable for her to listen to.  She pointed to the way the record needle went up and down.  It turned out that my copy of "Wonderwall Music" had somehow become warped, although it was still perfectly playable.  Only a small child would be able to easily observe the needle going up and down!

It still delights me that Justine was so adept at describing exactly what she observed -- an up-and-down record -- and was as drawn to listen to "Wonderwall Music" as I was.  When I left California in 1974, I lost touch with all of the people in the photograph.  I do know, though, that the man on the far right went on to start a building crane business and was one of the first responders in the wake of the devastation in New York City on September 11, 2001.

I wonder where Justine is today.  She would be in her 50s now.  I wonder if she remembers "Wonderwall Music."  While writing this post, I've been listening to "Wonderwall Music," grateful to have found the entire album on YouTube.  I'll be listening to it later today as I work on Mandala #54, with immense gratitude to George Harrison.

Something occurred to me about the possibility of making a 2021 Mandala calendar available to those blog readers who are interested, assuming that I complete four more mandalas in the next few weeks.  Given the cost of having calendars printed in addition to shipping costs, I could simply attach 12 photos of the mandalas in an email to anyone interested.  The images could be sent via email to one's local print shop and made into a calendar.  What do you think?  I have Robin's email address.  Anyone else interested can email me:

ellamuir[at]msn[dot]com

Happy Birthday to Sabine, born on November 29, 1957, if I am not mistaken.  On one of my perpetual calendars, I had written "Sabine's Birthday 1957."

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Friday, November 27, 2020

Weltinnenraum / Synchronicity and more of one thing leading to another / With Blogger playing tricks with fonts and spacing and formatting




Recently, a friend mentioned that she had found an unusual book on the "free" table of the apartment complex where she lives.  The book turned out to be Grapefruit, Yoko Ono's square yellow book of instructions and drawings first published in 1964, before she met John Lennon.  I remembered looking at the book 50 years ago and expressed that I knew of the book and hoped she would enjoy reading it.  My friend has written poetry since childhood, and the book caught her attention because she saw Yoko's instructions as poems of a memorable nature.  She was born too late to experience the Beatles firsthand.  I'm not sure how much she knew about Yoko Ono when she picked up the book.

Last Sunday in a socially distanced masked visit with my friend, she brought it out and asked if I would like to borrow it.  (Given my growing awareness of the alarming surge in COVID-19 cases in our county since my visit with her, I have decided to refrain from any more socializing during the next few months.)

It may have been in a bookstore in Santa Cruz in 1970 that I eagerly looked through Grapefruit, Yoko Ono's small book of instructions and drawings, for the first and only other time.  The book had evolved from her 1964 limited edition version (500 copies), with an added introduction by John Lennon and new instructions including pieces such as "SKY EVENT for John Lennon," which ended with:


"Do not talk loud or make noise, as you may scare the sky"


and was followed by:


"SKY event II

(IMAGINARY SKY EVENT - refer to SKY EVENT for John LENNON)

Do the sky event in your mind

THEN go out into the street and take photos to document the event

If the sky event in your mind takes place in another city,

ask a friend in that city to take photos for you."


My recollection is that I was delighted by some of the instructions and disturbed, dismayed, even horrified by others.  I didn't buy the book and blocked out the instructions that upset me.  Reading the book in its entirety this week, I remembered some of the instructions as if I had read them yesterday, some even more delightful, some even more upsetting ("ON RAPE").  The following set of instructions intrigued me, but I had only a vague recollection of ever reading them before.  In 1970, of course, I didn't have Google Translate and would have puzzled over the German word, only able to guess what it might mean in the context of the instructions.

CARD PIECE I

Walk to the center of your Weltinnenraum.

Leave a card.


CARD PIECE II

Cut a hole in the center of your 

Weltinnenraum.

Exchange.


CARD PIECE III

Shuffle your Weltinnenraums.

Hand one to a person on the street.

Ask him to forget about it.


1964  spring

*

Google Translate:

Weltinnenraum:  Diesen Raum der Erfahrung, der sich in der Präsenz ereignet auch zwischen Mensch und Welt nennt der Dichter Rainer Maria Rilke Weltinnenraum

Weltinnenraum:  The poet Rainer Maria Rilke calls this space of experience, which also occurs in presence between man and world

*

The photo at the top of this post caught my attention because, coincidentally, I had made similar marks on one of my recently completed mandalas.  


The marks were based on a drawing in India ink that I made in 1967 or 1968 during my freshman year at UC Irvine.  I titled it "God."  The drawing was made on an 8-1/2 x 11-inch piece of paper and was a single line that went up and down in small varied increments across the center of most of the page, which I had placed horizontally.  I had not thought of the drawing for years but when it came to mind, I decided to incorporate the idea into the mandala I was working on this week.  A college acquaintance had expressed that she loved my "God" drawing, and so I gave it to her all those years ago. 

*

I've continued thinking about the concept of Weltinnenraum.  George Harrison's song, "Anyroad," came to mind early on:

I keep traveling around the bend
There was no beginning, there is no end
It wasn't born and never dies
There are no edges, there is no size

Oh yeah, you just don't win
It's so far out - the way out is in (am's italics)
Bow to God and call him Sir
But if you don't know where you're going
Any road will take you there




I'm almost finished working on Mandala #54.  Maybe I'll finish it today.  Maybe there will be a 2021 calendar with 12 mandalas after all.  These mandalas may well be Weltinnenraums. Thank you, Sabine and Robin and Ellen, for your encouraging comments.


























Rainer Maria Rilke

For some reason, in the context of "weltinnenraum" that poem came to mind.  During my early years of counseling for PTSD, a Gestalt counselor I worked with for several years quoted this to me, changing Rilke's "man" to "woman":


Winning does not tempt that woman. 
This is how she grows: by being defeated, decisively, 
by constantly greater beings.

*

If I understand the word correctly, I sense that COVID winter is opening up weltinnenraum.


"... One single space pervades all beings here:
an inner world-space. Silently, the birds
fly through us still. Oh, I who want to grow,
can gaze outside: a tree will rise inside me ..."

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Mandala #52 / Zhenni Li Cohen and Matthew Cohen / Female Downy Woodpecker










Just now I was able to finish Mandala #52 while listening to Zhenni Li Cohen and Matthew Cohen.   There is an interview with Zhenni and Matthew at 31:16, during the intermission.  I'm inspired by this young couple who are passionate about playing music and about each other.

For the first time ever, I have been able to show you a new mandala in its true colors!  Until today, I have not been satisfied with the way my camera registers the colors in my mandalas.  As an idle experiment, I photographed my most recently completed mandala in the natural light that is coming through my windows on this stormy coastal Pacific Northwest day.  Although the result was somewhat washed out, the colors were surprisingly accurate, and so I went into my MacBook Pro's photo editing function and found that I could bring the colors up to what I had always wished for!

Although I was not consciously making a Star of David, that is what appeared as I worked on the mandala in my usual intuitive manner that is something like jazz improvisation.  In  the center of the mandala I had drawn a small blue triangle and was simply working from the center outward, playing with the possibilities that occurred to me, when I realized I had made a rolling Star of David.  

As of today, I've completed six mandalas this year and have started working on Mandala #53.  Who knows?  I just may complete twelve in time to make a calendar for 2021.

*

Yesterday I looked up and became aware of a female Downy Woodpecker for the first time.  She stayed at the feeder long enough for me to find my camera and get numerous images of her through my window.  This was the best image.   The red-topped males are frequent visitors at my feeder.  The female has her own beauty.






Sunday, November 22, 2020

Revisiting November 22, 1963 / Murder Most Foul (with accompanying translation into Spanish) / Context


Despite the elation after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, a fear arose in me that he was in danger of being assassinated.  Something in the air felt too much like the 1950s (note: regarding link, expect deeply disturbing content and jarring commercial interruptions) and early 1960s.  What happened during his presidency and what has happened since his eight years as president ended has been most foul, an attempted assassination of democracy, of human rights, of human decency.  

Murders most foul throughout U.S. history in all contexts have come to light in the past four years.

"OK, what now? What should I be doing now? What should our country be doing now? What should I be striving to be now?"

"You have to believe you can change in order to bring it about. I can't engage in something when I think it's impossible for that thing to actually happen. So I think, philosophically, that gives me hope."

 -- Ibram X. Kendi

On November 22, 2020, the Bellingham Public Library has 62 holds on 22 copies of How To Be An Antiracist.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

"... The seeds remembered the land they came from ..." / Mandala #51: Something Happened / Listening / November Light / Surprise


 











I wish my old friend, Deven, were still alive and could hear her only nephew play the viola so beautifully.  He reminds me so much of her.





My chrysanthemum waited until this week to surprise me with two flowers.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

With immense gratitude to Joy Harjo

 








Joy Harjo, third-term U.S. Poet Laureate 



RUNNING

It’s closing time. Violence is my boyfriend
With a cross to bear
        Hoisted on by the church.
He wears it everywhere.
There are no female deities in the Trinity.
  I don’t know how I’m going to get out of here,
Said the flying fish to the tree.
            Last call.
We’ve had it with history, we who look for vision here
In the Indian and poetry bar, somewhere
To the left of Hell.
Now I have to find my way, when there’s a river to cross and no
Boat to get me there, when there appears to be no home at all.
               My father gone, chased
By the stepfather’s gun. Get out of here.
I’ve found my father at the bar, his ghost at least, some piece
Of him in this sorry place. The boyfriend’s convincing to a crowd.
Right now, he’s the spell of attraction. What tales he tells.
In the fog of thin hope, I wander this sad world
We’ve made with the enemy’s words.
The lights quiver,
       Like they do when the power’s dwindling to a dangling string.
It is time to go home. We are herded like stoned cattle, like children for the
 bombing drill—
        Out the door, into the dark street of this old Indian town
Where there are no Indians anymore.
I was afraid of the dark, because then I could see
              Everything. The truth with its eyes staring
Back at me. The mouth of the dark with its shiny moon teeth,
No words, just a hiss and a snap.
        I could hear my heart hurting
With my in-the-dark ears.
        I thought I could take it. Where was the party?
It’s been a century since we left home with the American soldiers at our backs.
The party had long started up in the parking lot.
       He flew through the dark, broke my stride with a punch.
I went down then came up.
         I thought I could take being a girl with her heart in her
Arms. I carried it for justice. For the rights of all Indians.
                    We all had that cross to bear.
Those Old Ones followed me, the quiet girl with the long dark hair,
     The daughter of a warrior who wouldn’t give up.
I wasn’t ready yet, to fling free the cross
     I ran and I ran through the 2 a.m. streets.

It was my way of breaking free. I was anything but history. I was the wind.