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


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.