Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Ride Is Ready...Are You?

Everyone have your ticket? Strapped in and ready for another ride around the sun are you? Yes? Well, hurry please...there's so much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it. Just remember, you can't get out backwards; you've got to go forward to go back. Alright then, ready?

If you have any problems, dial information. Thank you for calling.

Remembering My Own Past

In the months following my high school graduation, my parents bought a VERY strange and VERY old place in Silver City, Nevada that we moved into and then proceeded to remodel. The requisite title search of the property revealed it had been there prior to 1850; the earliest owner of record being Hosea and Ethan Grosh, the two brothers who found the first silver of what would eventually become known as The Comstock Lode, giving rise to the wealth and boom that built Silver City, Gold Hill, and Virginia City. Yep, the Virginia City of Mark Twain legend...that one.

Rustic in the extreme, the original part of the house was built into a mine drift and had 2 foot thick adobe walls! A drift is the part of a mine that goes straight back into a mountain, as opposed to a shaft, which of course goes either straight down or at a steep angle. You know the mine the Seven Dwarves go Hi-Ho-ing off to each morning? That's a drift style mine. Our house also had a wooden addition of living room and two bedrooms on the front, but NO bathroom at all. Well there was an outhouse, but that's not really a bathroom, now is it? The bathroom was the first thing dad worked on, and it was built in the space that opened to the drift. My bedroom looked out on the hill behind the house, and when the snows arrived in Fall my window was covered until Spring thaw. We actually ended up using the old mine drift as a pantry and cold storage area...would've been a brilliant wine cellar! Of course we also had to wipe out a healthy population of rats who'd been living there for ages, too. Not much fun. Our place was at 5,200 feet, at the foot of a set of igneous rock outcroppings called "Devil's Gate." I learned to bake in that house, too. In an antique cast-iron coal stove at high altitude. That's right, I know how to tell the temperature of an oven by throwing a little flour in and observing the colour. If you can bake in those conditions, modern appliances are, well, a piece of cake!

Living in Silver City in the early 70s was about as remote as it gets. We had one of the very last hand-crank telephone systems in the country. We all shared one line and had to signal the operator to place a call and signal again when finished! The only way to get any radio reception in our mountainous canyon was by climbing to the top of a hill. Early mornings the Carson City station played old Swing music of the 40s, so I'd climb up there at daybreak and dance to the sounds of Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw. A wild young thing dancing atop a mountain in an equally wild place..what a vision I must have been! Evenings found me taking a different path on the mountain to a very different destination. Around the back side of the hill was a cave that overlooked the green valley of a single farm - built on the one creek that ran through the area. The cave was decorated in petroglyphs and pictographs left by some ancient tribe, and became my safe haven and escape from the madness of my parent's house. It was my habit to arrive there in late afternoon, then watch as the sun dipped slowly below the horizon. A red-tailed hawk and I became great friends during that time, arriving in the valley each afternoon about the same time, then me quietly watching him weave and lift and glide and soar in a lovely sunset ballet right at my eye level. I have very fond memories of those quiet moments.

Other strange things happened in Silver City, too.

There was the morning I deviated from my normal hike to the top of the hill for Swing music and instead chose the route through the more-populated part of town (a total of some 70 people lived in Silver City when I was there). As I walked past the last couple of houses and headed into a completely unpopulated and remote area, a weird, disembodied voice spoke in a rasp from a faceless house "Hello pretty girl..." I kept walking, every sense aware, not even turning to look back. I only got a few feet further when my survival instincts kicked in. I took a very quick turn and then a headlong dash through a yard and a down different hill to get myself back to the safety of my own house and my dysfunctional but not murderous parents. I never went up that road again.
And there's the summer spent learning all about adobe as my dad and I rebuilt two of the other three adobe cabins on the property, using the third for brick and making some bricks ourselves, then mortaring them into place and finally painting the structure with lime-based whitewash. After my experience with THAT nasty stuff, I had a very fresh appreciation of why Tom Sawyer tricked his friends into doing the job of painting Aunt Polly's picket fence.

Or I could tell you about the time the stranger came to the door, something that SELDOM occurred because we were WAY out in the mountains, and you had to park your car and walk across a bridge to get to our house, a distance of some 100 yards or so - not terrifically inviting all in all. We saw him coming, and my mother had me train dad's loaded 22 pistol, with the safety off, on the guy, with instructions to "shoot if he tries ANYthing." He didn't, but there were some hairy moments.

And of course there's my own private Androcles and the Lion-esque tale of the wolf who came to the door one morning for help with a porcupine quill in his paw! Or at least, he was the size, shape, and had the obvious intelligence of a wolf. I was known by the locals as someone they could take their hurt animals to for care, and I guess word had gotten out within the wild animal community, too. This beautiful fellow just showed up one morning, standing on his hind legs, front paw on the glass of the kitchen door, looking me dead in the eye as I rounded the corner. You'd think I'd have screamed at such a sight, but I didn't. Instead, I went to the door and opened it...the animal slowly backing away as I did, noticeably not putting weight on one paw. I asked him what he wanted of me; he held that paw up and whimpered slightly. I could see the tip of a quill sticking out between his pads, so I turned for a set of pliers and approached him carefully. And he lay down and put his paw out to me. I quickly pulled the quill out, and he growled sternly from the pain, but immediately dropped his head, gave my hand a single lick, and then turned and disappeared into the hills. I never saw him again.

And I haven't told you about helping move the bodies from the old cemetary to make room for roadwork, or learning to handle and use dynamite, nor have I begun to tell any tales of my time down exploring the old mines...the big square shaft room into which I had to repel - one slip and I was gone forever. After doing all that, I went to the Mackay in Reno to learn the history I'd seen, first hand, and only then did I realise just how incredibly dangerous what I had been doing was. Wild, crazy, young and immortal.

Oh, the stories I shall take to my grave! Yeah, it was a VERY wild place, and but for being a 20 year old without a single friend in the area, and living with two constantly difficult people, I loved it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Shadoe 1996-2008

Shadoe 1996 - December 29, 2008
Our oldest and perhaps sweetest cat, dear little Shadoe, died this evening, a very short while ago. She had been failing for awhile, most likely due to some cancerous growth, so we knew her days were numbered. Forewarned doesn't make the loss even the tiniest shred easier, though. Maybe a part of the pain is tears for the truth that each one of us will die, too.

Shadoe was a dear little friend, so-named because after following me home from a nearby culvert where she'd been dumped by some unthinking idiot, seldom did she ever let me out of her sight again. She became a little grey shadow. Known in her younger years as "Slash," never have I seen a cat as fast and lethal as her, and I have the scars to prove it, too. The windows were sometimes left open in the spring, and now and then a hapless bird would find its way in. I remember coming home one day to find the very tip of a wing and just the head of a little brown wren. Sitting in the sunny spot on the floor, carefully cleaning herself, was an extremely self-satisfied Shadoe.
Shadoe preferred sleeping on our shoulders, often while we worked at the computer, but she was especially fond of Peter's warmth and broad expanse.

Ron and Shadoe had a special connection, too, and his strangely delayed visit this year meant they spent her last good month together...usually sitting in a chair, his hand resting where she could press against it for some love. Obviously, the delay happened for a reason. As you can see, they were both perfectly happy with her sprawled across his comfie chest, too.

Shadoe's cremated remains will join our other friends, Tish, Buster, Raddish, and Ivy, and eventually I will join all who have gone before. Someday we will all meet up again at the Rainbow Bridge.

The One Second Happening

Alice's Church (not Restaurant...that's on down the road)

The U.S. Naval Observatory, keeper of the Pentagon's master clock, said it would add the extra second on Wednesday in coordination with the world's atomic clocks at 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC.

That corresponds to 6:59:59 p.m. EST (23:59:59 GMT), when an extra second will tick by -- the 24th to be added to UTC since 1972, when the practice began.

So a single extra second is being added to our New Year's Eve this year, and that has me thinking about what one might DO with such finite bounty. I mean, what could we do, COLLECTIVELY, that might actually make a difference? WELL...

I received the following suggestion via a Druid friend, and I think it's a GRAND idea:

“Idea: since the pentagon is stopping the clock to catch up to earths rotation, we get an entire extra second this New Years. How about we all use that second to call out, 'Peace!'?"

So here's the plan. On Wednesday, the 31st of December, at whatever local adjusted time corresponds to the official 23:59:59 GMT time of addition (3:59:59pm Pacific Daylight Savings time, for example), let's all just stop wherever we are and cry out to the Cosmos "PEACE!"

To end this on a note of good humour and hope, I'll let Arlo Guthrie speak his famous conclusion to Alice's Restaurant:

"And the only reason I'm singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar situation, or you may be in a similar situation, and if you're in a situation like that there's only one thing you can do and that's walk into the shrink wherever you are, just walk in and say "Shrink, you can get anything you want at Alice's restaurant," and walk out. You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them. And if three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in, singin' a bar of Alice's Restaurant, and walking out? They may think it's an organization. And can you, I mean, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in, singin' a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. And friends, they may think it's a movement."

That's right, folks, we ARE a movement. A movement for hope and peace and ALL that groovy jazz. So stop what you're doing Wednesday afternoon and give a big ol' shout out for PEACE! Now why not sing along with Arlo and me...

You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant

God Give Me Strength

Round, like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, never ending or beginning on an ever-spinning reel...Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own, down a hollow to a cavern where the sun has never shone, like a door that keeps revolving in a half-forgotten dream, like the ripples from a pebble someone tosses in a stream. - from Windmills of Your Mind

Today. Finally. Finally. Finally I heard from him. Was it the cry from my torn heart he heard? Or the vow to "wipe him from my memory...fracture the spell" that I wrote in stark letters last night as I sat in bed, weeping for the lost love, because I still missed him so much, because I had "lost the power to pretend that there could ever be a happy ending?" Those words are in quotes because they're from a Burt Bacharach song that played in my head all night long, God Give Me Strength. Here's the Kristen Vigard version from the exquisite jewel of a film, "Grace Of My Heart," starring Illeana Douglas

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Uplift - 1929's The Swan

This Walter Futter Novelty short shows how black & white photography can project a color of its own, as two white swans glide along a morning pond in the company of seventeen graceful swans all scored to the orchestral music of Camille Saint-Saens "The Swan" from Carnival of the Animals. This so reminds me of my dear goose friends, left behind in their bucolic setting on Brushy Creek.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Brother, Can You Spare a anthem for our times

As I sit here with a full belly and warm house, bemoaning my lack of funds, I cannot help but think about the people either about to be or already on the streets due to our failing economy. I worry that the weight of the terrible mess he's inheriting will crush Barrack, his underpinnings already ravaged by the tremendous tide of our expectations. When I think of the hunger and want and the desire most have to actively help themselves, I often find myself singing a song written in 1932 by the same fellow who penned the lyrics to "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," Yip Yarburg. Strikes me "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" could be an anthem for our current times, too. And so I offer a more modern take on that sad and wonderful song of the Great Depression, this time featuring Dr. John and Odetta over photos of the world right outside your door. Most of us aren't but a paycheck or two away from the streets...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Santa Baby

I heard this morning that one of my icons of cool courage, Eartha Kitt, died yesterday at age 89. Thanks to my mother's eclectic tastes in music, I knew about Ms. Kitt early on. During Christmas season in the 70s and 80s, I constantly called radio station request lines asking they play "Santa Baby," which it seemed no one had heard of by then. She was such a richly-textured performer, and I think it fitting she died on Christmas Day. What a gift to Heaven...or Hell...wherever she chooses to be will be better for her presence. From one broad to another, what a woman!

Santa Baby

C'est Si Bon

Cheer and Hope - Christmas is Over!

Kids, did Santa let you down? Are you suddenly strapped with cash and need to find something truly uplifting to spend it on? Do I have the product for YOU!

Found this over at the Really Important Stuff blog, and had to leverage it for my own dark designs. I found the individual, non-interlocking puzzle pieces at the end a tad ironic..and sad. I mean, YOU're great...YOU, not you as a part of society or working with others...just YOU! Don't you just KNOW the folks who put this together long for the salad days of the 90s again? *sigh*

If this isn't funny enough for you (and bleakly depressing at the same time), allow me to point you to the Fail Blog, always good for a laugh.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


I have ALMOST gotten through another Christmas Day, and thank the STARS it's over! Without family or friends, this is a day I would LOVE to avoid, but it is the Giant Holiday that consumes everything in its path, and its PATH is Cosmic Wide (Hey! I just heard ZZ Top singing! "We're naaaationnnnwide").

Thank goodness, those Krazy Kidz over at sent me a lovely bit of guidance for NEXT year. Do I have any volunteers?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Another Turning of the Great Cosmic Wheel

Tis the season for unconditional love, folks, even if, like me, your house is devoid of any sign of the Holidays and the only celebration this year is the joy of making it through another one. Still, music and food WILL be had here to celebrate another turning of the Great Wheel, so come ON and join me in singing with the exquisite Annie Lennox and sincerely soulful Rev. Al Green! Put a little love in your heart, y'all!

And since I have you in the mood, here's the best new Christmas song that's been delivered in just ages. Sung by Mariah Carey, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" was featured in a favourite movie, Love, Actually.

To close out my take on Christmas, it's music and meaning, I offer John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" May this song be prophetic and bring the world an end to the terrible divisiveness all around the globe. We are all connected, we are all one.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bailey the Unknown Reindeer

Snowed in, I was thinking about my dog of thirty years ago, Morticia Vampira Tombstone (yeah, I was a tad Goth at the time), aka Tish or "the Hoover", who as a puppy loved to run headfirst into snow drifts and then just run around under the snow. She'd suddenly pop up unexpectedly with a grin from ear to ear, then dive right back in for more fun. Only television stations owned video equipment back in 1971, so I have only my fond memories of sweet Tish, but luckily a man in Colorado has both the equipment and a dog who also enjoys a good romp in deep snow. So as a special holiday treat, here's Harry Connick, Jr. accompanying Bailey, The Unknown Reindeer as he shows you how to REALLY enjoy being snowed in! Happy Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Kill the Wabbit!

Just because I'm a little blue tonight, or maybe because it's Christmas and I'm doing my level best to ignore that fact, or maybe it's just cabin fever after all this snow and ice keeping me off my bike, but I felt like watching some classic cartoons this afternoon, and that, of course landed me on "What's Opera, Doc?" from 1957.

This brilliantly conceived and executed cartoon of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) and Tannhäuser, featuring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd was, in 1994, voted #1 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by 1000 members of the animation field. Enjoy...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ten Most Challenged Books of 2007

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

I'm always amazed by the fear people wield like a shield against the light of knowledge. Taken in a vacuum, a single piece of knowledge can certainly be harmful, but one of the beautiful truths of reading a book is you usually want to read another and another and another. And knowledge, my friends, is power. Power to choose hope instead of fear, love instead of hate, inclusion rather than exclusion. Every time I read a banned books list, I am roll-my-eyes amused by the omnipresence of Twain and Angelou. Nice to see Toni Morrison got bumped this year, though. READ. THINK. Question ANYone who wants to do your thinking and/or decision making FOR you.

The American Library Association received 420 challenges last year. A challenge is a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school asking that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.

1. “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-ethnic, sexism, homosexuality, anti-family, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
2. “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually explicit, offensive language, violence
3. “Olive’s Ocean” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually explicit and offensive language
4. “The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious viewpoint
5. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism
6. “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language
7. “TTYL” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group
8. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually explicit
9. “It’s Perfectly Normal” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex education, sexually explicit ***NOTE*** There was no Wikipedia entry for this book, so I have substituted the author's page as the link.
10. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group

Off the list this year are two books by author Toni Morrison, “The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved,” both previously challenged for sexual content and offensive language.

Source: The American Library Association

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cowzy tweet and sowzy tweet and liddle sharksy doisters.

More snow this morning and afternoon...3" flakes coming down like a lovely curtain atop the crunchy layer already in place. And so, after a lovely bowl of gruel with cocoa powder, cinnamon and brown sugar, I have retreated to my studio with tea, and my wonderful parabolic dish heater. Brady, youngest of my feline friends, sat and yowled outside my closed door, so I finally took pity on him. He's now curled up on my meditation pillow in front of the heater as the snow falls outside.

Listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong magically singing together on "Isn't It A Lovely Day" (to be cozy and warm), I thought I'd see if I could find a video of them singing that song. No luck with that, but I did happen upon my father's all-time favourite singer, Margaret Whiting, joined by Johnny Mercer (yes, THAT Johnny Mercer) on their marvelous hit "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

The wonderful and vastly underrated Johnny Mercer led me down a path that eventually found me watching 16 year old Ella Mae Morse sing"Cow Cow Boogie," a song my jazz-drummer mother used to sing to me when I was very little. And if this swinging tune doesn't flip your wig, try The House of Blue Lights, homie! This chick was SWINGING, all you cats and kitties!

Mom also taught me a bunch of terrific nonsense songs, such as Kay Kyser's Three Little Fishies (Itty Bitty Poo), Mairzy Doats, The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down, and Roll Or Bowl A Ball A Penny A Pitch. I used to go around singing those silly things and got the STRANGEST looks from my classmates. I've never cared much about what anyone thought of my musical choices, though. I just adore music of every kind. Well, except for reggae. Bet you thought I was going to say "rap," didn't you? Nope, there's a bunch of rap I really enjoy. More all the time, in fact. And to be fair, there are two reggae-ish songs I like (neither involves Bob Marley), but mostly I can't stand the treacly stuff.

And finally, a long-time favourite. Joni and Herbie each live a life in which re-examination plays a crucial part, as it does in mine. They re-examined and redefined and reimagined the already exquisite "River," creating a lovely blend of voice and piano that resonates with their years of life experience. Deservingly, Herbie Hancock won the 2008 Grammy for Best Album of the Year for River. I found a live version of Joni's from Albert Hall in London, 1970, and it's wonderful to hear, too, but having a plethora of life experience myself, I rather prefer the Hancock version now. Just lovely.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Symbiotic Relationship

The bench and bramble outside my studio window

It started snowing night before last, and child that I am, I was jumping up and down and grinning like an idiot and running around whooping like some ungainly wild bird. I HAD to go out and dance around in the yard, head back, arms outstretched while the snow fell into my open mouth. Yesterday I crunched around the back to take photos while the sun was out...reference shots for painting. I do SO want to get a good grasp of painting the shadows and light of a snowy vista. I made a single ATC last night...and I actually managed to get some of the look of snow I've had in my head.

Nothing like practicing on a small size...there's something SO much less intimidating about working small, even though a lot of people would find work on that scale MORE daunting than on a regular ol' canvas. Not me. I aDORE painting LARGE. For example, I have one canvas hanging in the stairwell that's 4 x 6 feet. Big abstract piece I did entirely by using my hands to paint. No brushes, hands and body know what to do without interference from some appendage! I was smack in the middle of painting my bedroom at the Texas house, JUST after buying it, and my excitement spilled over onto the canvas. I always saw it as a champagne explosion, but my dad didn't. Dad pronounced it "brilliant" and declared it was my "best work ever." Who am I to argue with someone so clearly discerning and intelligent? Ha! He loved it so much I gave it to him on the spot, and it hung over his bed until he died.

I love working large...and small. It's the medium, the middle of the road, the mediocre that puts me off. The way my inner eye works is either on the grand cosmic scale or on the macro level of extreme detail. Or as Peter is likely to share when asked about me, "Oh she sees every detail, both tremendous and tiny, but is seldom aware of the Mack Truck barreling down on her." And of course the irony of all this as reflected by my spiritual path is NOT lost on me - "Seek the Middle Way." Ah me.

Between having a friend staying here the month of November, and then traveling to Salem, Oregon and back the following week my creative energies really unraveled. I adore the train ride and find it actually boosts my inner energies; I always end up writing poetry while looking at the world going by. But I'm finding it so hard to get back to work again. Rather, I seem to prefer playing computer games, losing myself for hours in a match-three or hidden object game. Mindless fiddling while Rome burns around me.

Curiously enough, it's not so much the 2D art that calls to me as it is my long put-aside sculpting. As my sensibilities have changed since returning to my beloved north woods and wind-tossed sea - and oh, they have, they have! - I cannot help but wonder what kind of sculpted creatures will issue forth now that I am no longer pushed by dreams of aggressive deer and stealthy cougars, by wakeful worries that chewed on my body and mind. With my parents gone long enough now that the edges of the damage they did me all the days of their lives have softened, I find the corresponding tension I carried forever in my shoulders has dropped. I was once the angriest person a number of people had ever known..they told me so. I'm so far from that person now that I doubt they'd even recognise me any longer. When I hit menopause, I made a intentional decision (remember, intent is everything) to choose smiles over scowls, trust over fear, love over hate. And you know? It's really hard to hold onto all the pain (anger is merely pain turned into something one can express with a modicum of perceived - not real - control) when you're in that centered place. See, there's that Middle Way again. Ha! But really, about the only torture that still has any hold over me (aside from fears of certain economic inadequacies and wondering if I'll ever have a partner-in-love again) is that of my own regrettable behaviour. Fear of repeating my ancient ways keeps me in hiding and causes me to lay awake, staring at the ceiling in the dark as the Greek Chorus in my head chants its blame and shame refrain. Yep, I'm stuck on the Train of Blame and Shame, an old refrain, again and again (re)borne of pain. But a life without shame means I have to explain that the pain simply offered no gain, and the sad main refrain, without feeling slain, can be finally, entirely be flushed down the drain. Hmmm...seems as though there's one of my oddly dark humoured poems in there somewhere.

Part of the good news in my attitude and latitude change (help, I can't stop rhyming!) is that I no longer consider death a ready option, a friend I can turn to if life can no longer be tolerated. And the most curious part is that I have been able to put aside those thoughts beCAUSE I now have an easy method to accomplish my own demise. No longer do I have to grapple with thoughts of how to accomplish the end without gore or pain. That, tender reader, has been deliciously and delicately solved for me. I shan't share HOW, for I don't wish some well-meaning idiot to interfere, but suffice it to say that I am set should the real need arise. But ever since I realised I could, without pain or an iffy outcome, I no longer think about it at all! Curious, no? After so many decades of justifying suicide in perfectly lucid, rational, logical terms I tell you it gives me pause to think that perhaps "suicidal ideation" truly WAS the ultimate truth of my thoughts. But either way, I have now put that thought utterly aside (unless the world blows up and I'm left to suffer the ravages of fate, or some wasting disease takes hold, in which case I am OUTTA here). Of course, having a thorough understanding (via experience, mostly) of the Cosmos' sense of humour, I'm aware that now that I've moved on from offing myself, some outer thing is more likely to strike me down. You don't believe the Cosmos HAS a sense of humor? Take another look at the reproductive act between humans. Is there ANYthing more ridiculous than two humans getting it on? Rabbits and hamsters look less silly than we do! At least they're quick about it. Humans (she said, rolling her eyes) need fore and afterplay, among other things. *sigh* We are a ridiculous species, all in all.

Seagull skull in the snow

So I started with childlike wonder at freshly fallen snow and have ended with a wizzened crone's view of sex. I'm certain there's a symbiotic relationship or two in there somewhere...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Uplift: In praise of snow's shadows and light

Snow on Brushy Creek, Texas

It snowed last night! I'm not sure why the first snow of the season is so exciting but it always is. This morning the world is blanketed in white, changing everything in this artist's eyes. In a way, this is a response to a wish, for I've been working on painting snow scenes recently, trying to learn the change of light and colour that happens with snow.

I mean, you think of snow as white, right? Well just as with the "green" of trees, there are a myriad of colours lurking within that "white." Blues, purples, greys, yellows, reds...I see all those and more. Now to find a way to capture them with paint.

Honestly? I find little in art compares to the majesty in nature. Doesn't mean I won't keep trying to capture the way nature feels, mind. I'm just sayin'...

And so we get to the Sunday Uplift segment of our programming. Today I have combined the wonder of nature, snow, and art with a lovely short film created for the Shaker gallery of Greenwillow Farm depicting the Agano Snow Scene by Japanese woodcut master Hiroshige. For more information visit - video produced by

As a wee bonus, just in case anyone reading this has gotten cold with all the talk of snow, here's a fire to warm your virtual cockles...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fearless Frida

This one's for you, on sentences and all.

Before Pen and I became friends of the bosom (her dear phrase) I knew about Frida, of course, but then the marvelous movie came out and then I was redoing my cement floors (texture, stain, wax, repeat as needed), and Pen was up to her elbows and more, helping (artist and indefatigueable creative soul that she was at the time), and she loathed most of my music (Joni aside, of course), so she brought her own - Randy Travis and the soundtrack to Frida. *Deep breath* WELL. Randy Travis was every bit as out of the question as Whitesnake would have been if I'd had any, which I am happy and even a little proud to report I didn't, so we popped Frida in and the first strains of Lila Downs' magnificent voice singing "Benediction and Dream" swelled to fill the not-insubstantial cathedral-ceilinged room.

I was hooked, and hooked but good. Pen literally wore that cd out by playing it to DEATH over the next year, and it had to be replaced. Fortunately, her husband was wise enough to copy it after the second purchase, keeping the original in a safe and paint-free place for when it will invariably be needed again.

Frida was an enigmatic woman, and profoundly courageous in the face of so much terrible pain. I suppose the thing that most appeals about her to me is the intense fearlessness she displayed, painting her truth onto canvas for those with the soul to see.

Frida was married to Diego Rivera, another phenomenal Mexican artist held in high international regard. Here's a little love song over photos of them together:

The floor? Beyond most people's wildest dreams...textured, stained, and waxed.

The Saddest Song

Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings is, in my opinion, the most heartbreaking piece of music ever written. It has been used magnificently in a number of films to evoke a devastating mood, including Platoon, The Elephant Man, and Amelie among many others.

In 2004, Barber's masterpiece was voted the "saddest classical" work ever written by listeners of the BBC's Today program, ahead of "Dido's Lament" from Dido and Æneas by Henry Purcell, the "Adagietto" from Gustav Mahler's 5th symphony, "Metamorphosen" by Richard Strauss and "Gloomy Sunday" as sung by Billie Holiday.

Because of the overall arc of despair, then hope, sadness then acceptance in the piece, I find it the perfect auditory depiction of the human condition, and especially of our modern world with all its joy and madness and constant, pressing change we must embrace or perish. A music version of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' Five Stages of Grief; Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

Here, Leonard Slatkin Conducts the BBC Orchestra on September 15 2001 in honor of those who lost their lives a few days prior. Visuals from BBC's 'Last Night of the Proms' and ABC's 'Report from ground zero'.

National Public Radio's All Things Considered, had this to say: "In November 1938, conductor Arturo Toscanini led the NBC Symphony Orchestra in the premiere performance of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings." The concert was broadcast from New York to a radio audience of millions across America.

Celebrated for its fragile simplicity and emotion, the "Adagio" might have seemed an odd match for Toscanini, known for his power and drama as a conductor. But according to Mortimer Frank, author of Arturo Toscanini: The NBC Years, despite the director's force and intensity, he was capable of "wonderful delicacy and tenderness and gentleness."

The year 1938 was a time of tumult. America was still recovering from the Depression and Hitler's Germany was pushing the world towards war. Toscanini himself had only recently settled in America after fleeing fascist Italy. The importance of the broadcast performance during this time is noted by Joe Horowitz, author of Understanding Toscanini: "Toscanini's concerts in New York... once he was so closely identified with the opposition to Mussolini, the opposition to Hitler — these were the peak public performances in the history of classical music in America. I don't think any concerts before or since excited such an intense emotional response, and I don't think any concerts before or since evoked such an intense sense of moral mission."

The "Adagio for Strings" was written by American composer Samuel Barber when he was in his 20s. With a tense melodic line and taut harmonies, the composition is considered by many to be the most popular of all 20th-century orchestral works.

"You never are in any doubt about what this piece is about, says music historian Barbara Heyman. "There's a kind of sadness and poetry about it. It has a melodic gesture that reaches an arch, like a big sigh... and then exhales and fades off into nothingness."

Barber also wrote a chorale version for Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) that I find even more haunting than the string version because of the intricacies and complexities of the human voice. Here it is performed by The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge,UK, Directed by Richard Marlow.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Heart Sutra

Earlier today, in an attempt to help a friend on her path, I looked again to my center for answers. On the train home from Portland Friday last, I wrote a poem that seemed to apply to my purpose today:

Considering the past
As through a future filter
I see only impermanence.
As a tree is to a forest,
so is a building to the city;
my cell to my blood;
my blood to my body;
my smile to your laughter.
Wonder to possibility,
possibility to reality.
We're all one -
Connecting -
Inseparable -
Forever and never,
Permanent and transitory.

As I re-read what I'd written, it seemed clear to me that it was an attempt to express that which the Buddhist Heart Sutra expresses so eloquently. In searching for a concise and accessible form for my friend, I remembered how moved I always am by the scene in Little Buddha in which part of the Heart Sutra is recited. "Form is emptiness...emptiness is form."

"No hindrance of thoughts and therefore no fear..."