Monday, October 31, 2011

Our Friend, Death

Madonna of the Sacred Bones, by Laurie Lipton
via Phantasmaphile

"My parents were atheists. We had no ceremony, no goodbyes, no "closure". My father instructed the hospital to cremate my mother and dispose of her ashes. She was gone, disappeared, zapped out of existence. I was left with Nothing... literally and metaphysically. Friends & family treated my mother's death like an embarrassment. They awkwardly murmured Hallmark platitudes before slinking uneasily away. Death is as forbidden a topic in modern society as sex was in Victorian England. 

When I visited Mexico in order to see The Day Of The Dead festival some years later, I couldn't help feeling envious of their approach to mortality. Families gathered on graves and picnicked, whole villages turned up with food for households in mourning. Death was treated as normal, even silly. Candied skulls grinned in their hundreds and skeletons danced in a fair-ground atmosphere. I decided to rebel against my heritage and create drawings inspired by the mood and atmosphere of the Mexicans. I decided to get in-touch with my bare bones. My culture runs from death, screaming. We worship youth, beauty and the illusion that we have all the time in the world. We frantically face-lift and botox, and throw pills, creams and money at death. We fool ourselves into thinking that death only happens to other people & only losers die. Skulls always look like they're laughing. Maybe the joke is on us?"
    —Laurie Lipton

Amen. Let's take the opportunity today to see death in a new way.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I Wanted It Thus

I wanted it thus, by yours truly

Here's a little drawing I did last year around this time. I think it suits the Halloween season. With all the imagery of death and living dead, I think it's a good time to ponder the "eternal return" . . . can you affirm that you would relive this moment exactly as it is?

"For all joy wants itself, therefore it also wants heart's agony! O happiness! O pain! Oh break, heart! You Higher Men, learn this, learn that joy wants eternity, 
joy wants the eternity of all things, wants deep, deep, deep eternity!"
    —Thus Spoke Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fancy Dance

Powwow season is winding down, and news sources like Indian Country Today Media Network have fantastic videos of the dancing that went on all over the continent. It's absolutely breathtaking.

Here's a video I found of the women's fancy shawl dance. The fancy dance is a relatively new dance that started when other religious dances were outlawed in the early part of the twentieth century. Despite its sad origins, I can't help feeling joyful whenever I watch these dancers. They seem to fly over the ground, and yet they are also so connected with the ground and the beat of the drum. 

May we all find ways to dance in the face of adversity.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Inner Work, Body Work

Saint Margaret and the Dragon
via Orbs of Zenith

"One who has conquered the mind, senses and passions, thought and reason, is a king." . . . or queen . . . "He or she has Inner Light."
    —Light on Yoga, by B. K. S. Iyengar

I'm not sure how I feel about the word "conquered" . . . I might choose a word like "befriended," but anyway I think this is a good reminder of the process of integration. More to come on this!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Song of the Day: My Sweet Lord

I've had this song in my head for a while now, thanks to Cup of Jo

I love George Harrison. When my mom asked me which Beatle I thought was most handsome, I chose him without much hesitation. (And of course she was shocked I didn't say Paul.) I swear some people just look like they have a lot going on inside them, you know?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Humans in the World

I just discovered the gorgeous art of Juan Gatti through Phantasmaphile, a favorite website of mine, and wow! What amazing work.

His art captures a feeling I've been having lately, of being no less a part of the growth and decay I see around me. Now that cool weather is finally coming to these parts, I find dead butterflies and moths sometimes on my morning walk. The cold was just too much for them, I guess. There's something fantastical about finding such a beautiful creature, waiting to be discovered. And there's also something heartbreaking about thinking how many little creatures must perish each cold night in the fall.

by Juan Gatti via Michele Filomeno

by Juan Gatti via Michele Filomeno

Click through to see more of his work—each piece is brilliant.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Woman Warrior

Elouise Cobell, via Le Monde

This post is to honor a remarkable woman. Elouise Cobell died last week at the age of 65. She was born on the Blackfeet reservation in 1945 and was one remarkable lady. She successfully sued the US government for mismanaging hundreds of thousands of American Indian trusts. In recognition for her work, she was given the rare honor of receiving an eagle feather—the mark of a warrior—by her people. What an inspiration!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sacred Space: Right Here

In my part of the world, rolling hills and big sky are reminders of spaciousness (in the loveliest of senses) and possibility. Just driving through the country yesterday was a pilgrimage for me. 

Western Oklahoma Sky, by Nancy Park
via Bold Brush painting competition

What parts of your environment do you find inspiring?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Food for the Soul: Harvest Soup

Polka Dot Pumpkins via ShopTalk
originally via Better Homes and Gardens

One of my favorite things about fall is that all sorts of lovely winter squashes come into season.

The beauty of winter squash is, you really don't need to do a lot to make a tasty dish. They take a while to roast, but they already have lovely, complex flavors.

Here's my favorite squash soup recipe:
  1. Quarter two granny smith apples and divide two squash into eight pieces each. (Use butternut for a sweet soup or acorn squash for a more nutty soup.) Roast until soft.
  2. Puree.
  3. Combine with stock (I like turkey stock), nutmeg, and cinnamon, and give the flavors a chance to meld together.
  4. My favorite part: serve with toasted nuts, dried cranberries or cherries, and diced apples. Yum!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Time Traveling

Silvers Welch Road View, by Oldoinyo
via Selah, Selah

Four years ago, I made a fantastic decision, which has sent ripples of joy through my life ever since. 

I've recently discovered that this decisions could be called karmic . . . a kind of perfume that continues in the body and mind beyond a single moment. 

This may be a simple concept for some of you readers, but for me, this view of karma reawakened my sense of responsibility to create my life. 

May we all be blessed with joyful, creative moments.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Be Part of Something Old

Autumn Leaves, by Sandra Dieckmann

"Young friend, be part of something old.
Be home here in the great world, . . .
where forest wants to be your house, . . .
where wee birds carry your wishes far
and sunlight reaches for your hand. . . . "
    —excerpt from "Naknuwisha," by Kim Stafford 

What a lovely reminder (post-birthday, for me) that our age is also tied to the much older, ever changing earth. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Joy of Pies

Join me in celebrating my birthday with a slice of pie today!

Have you seen the movie Waitress? If you have then you may understand why pies have become symbol of joy and fairy tale endings for me. If you haven't seen it, you should definitely check it out! (And if you get the DVD, you can get pie recipes, too!!)

Keri Russell and Andy Griffith, via the New York Times

Part of what made the movie so lovely was that Jenna (Kerri Russel's character) expressed herself through her pies. There was the "falling in love chocolate mousse pie" and the "naughty pumpkin pie," for example.

"I can't have no affair because it's wrong and Earl would kill me pie"
vanilla custard with banana . . . hold the banana
via Girl in the Afternoon

Coming up to the big 3-0, I'm looking back over the year with some pride and joy for how my life has grown: I've worked on my personal myth project, I've gotten a new job that I'm really excited about, and I've started this blog. I've also had another fairy tale year with my husband. Life is good.

If I made a pie, it would be the "a dream is a wish your heart makes" pie, and it would probably involve a raspberry and strawberry filling topped with honey-flavored meringue.

What about you? What would your pie be?

via Delicious Magazine UK

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Bragging Wall

I spotted this wall of awards and honors over at Color Me Katie

Katie with her "I got caught being good award"
both pictures via Color Me Katie

Isn't it a fantastic idea?

It reminds me of a running joke I have with my mother-in-law. You know how some people have their email signatures set to display all of their titles and credentials? We like to sign off our emails with things like "mother of the year," "expert book reader," and "elliptical president." You've got to take pride in your accomplishments, right?

What awards would you give yourself?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Personal Myth: Creation

As you may have noticed, I'm working on a personal myth project. The idea is to write and draw a sort of true-fiction that reflects how I engage with the world. This may sound super new-agey, but consider a great book like Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino or even the great Star Wars. I really respect artists who take universal questions and engage with them in their own way.

Anyway, my project started with a series of four mandala-style drawings and an illuminated text to go with each. I've been calling the four themes "creation," "animals," "humans," and "heart." 

In "creation," I try to think about what the creation of the world means to me. I was inspired a bit by the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and my husband's explanation of scientific theories. 

Creation, by the Dancing Alchemist

Creation, by the Dancing Alchemist

If you had to re-tell the story of creation, how would you tell it? 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Old News, Funny News

I'm always the last to hear about everything, so this is probably super old news by now. But in case you've missed it: 

How to rock a v-neck

Go ahead, laugh until you snort and have a good weekend.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Recipe for Transforming Bitterness

Bitterness is a very dangerous sentiment. It can build up quickly until your heart is a pickled, shriveled little thing. It's something I truly fear, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover this recipe for transforming bitterness in one of my latest reads.

Excerpt from Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta, by Joris Hoefnagel
via rbs of Zenith

Transforming Bitterness

  • bitterness
  • pessimistic outlook
  • frozen anger

  1. Settle into your life and the moment. Breathe.
  2. Taste the raw ingredients and accept the onslaught of yuck.
  3. Combine your life with the lives of others, dogs, flowers, bugs, and moon. It helps to do this with a curious frame of mind.
  4. From this creative life energy, open your life to eternal possibility.
  5. Your heart should now be a little more springy, like a cake.

Excerpt from Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta, by Joris Hoefnagel
via nends

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Song of the Day: In Praise of Tears

I went to a great concert at a local college last week, with all music by Franz Lizst. He arranged some beautiful music for the piano. (If you've ever watched Tom & Jerry, you've probably heard one of his arrangements.) One of the most beautiful pieces of the evening was Lizst's arrangement of a Schubert song. 

This recording is of Schubert's original voice and piano arrangement, but with just the first two stanzas. It's all I could find.

What I love about the song is the wistful, high piano notes, which seem to evoke tears pretty well. I also love  the message, because while it partakes of some senses-versus-soul dualism, it's true that tears can be magically unifying. Recognizing our tender disappointments connects us with every other living thing.

And, perhaps most of all, I love the general Romantic, slightly overwrought tone of the piece. Was this the eighteenth-century version of Bright Eyes?

Laue Lüfte,
Alle Lenz- und Jugendlust,
Frischer Lippen
Küsse nippen,
Sanft gewiegt an zarter Brust;
Dann der Trauben
Nektar rauben,
Reihentanz und Spiel und Scherz:
Was die Sinnen
Nur gewinnen:
Ach, erfüllt es je das Herz?

Wenn die feuchten
Augen leuchten
Von der Wehmut lindem Tau,
Dann entsiegelt,
Drin gespiegelt,
Sich dem Blick die Himmels-Au.
Wie erquicklich
Löscht es jede wilde Glut;
Wie vom Regen 
Blumen pflegen,
Hebet sich der matte Mut.

Nicht mit süßen
Zwang Prometheus unsern Leim.
Nein, mit Tränen;
Drum im Sehnen
Und im Schmerz sind wir daheim.
Bitter schwellen
Diese Quellen
Für den erdumfangnen Sinn,
Doch sie drängen 
Aus den Engen
In das Meer der Liebe hin.

Ew'ges Sehnen
Floß in Tränen,
Und umgab die starre Welt,
Die in Armen
Sein Erbarmen
Immerdar umflutend hält.
Soll dein Wesen
Denn genesen,
Von dem Erdenstaube los,
Mußt im Weinen
Dich vereinen
Jener Wasser heil'gem Schooß.
Brisk winds,
Scent of flowers,
All Spring and youthful joy,
Fresh lips
Stolen kisses, 
softly pressed on tender breast;
Then the grape's
nectar stolen,
Round dances and games and jokes:
Whatever the senses
can achieve:
Ah, does it ever fulfil the heart?

When the moist
eyes shine
from the dew of melancholy limes,
then unsealed,
therein mirrored,
the sight of Heaven's meadow.
Then suddenly
in the twinkling of an eye
every wild gleam is extinguished;
as from the rain
flowers are nurtured,
dull spirits are raised.

Not with sweet
floods of water
did Prometheus mix our lime.
No, with tears;
Thereby in longing
and in pain have we come home.
A bitter threshold
these springs
for the birth of our earthly senses,
as they pressed
out of the narrows
into the sea of life.

Eternal yearnings
float in tears
and surround the stark world,
In their arms
it's salvation
they evermore uphold.
Shall your nature
then be purged
free from the dross of Earth,
You must in weeping
unite yourself
with yonder water's holy shoots.

Lyrics via the Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Little Prayer

A Bright Night, by Wharton Escherick
via Heads in the Heavens, originally via Moderne Gallery

"Oh, God, make small
 The old star-eaten blanket of the sky,
That I may fold it round me and in comfort lie."
    —excerpt from "The Embankment," by T. E. Hulme

via Book Oasis

Monday, October 10, 2011

Masks and Body Paint

The month of October and the coming Halloween holiday has me thinking about the many masks we wear in our daily interactions. How many are socially conditioned? How many of them are helpful?

And I also think about how I'm relating to other people and the masks they wear. Am I seeing them as clearly and lovingly as I can?

What if these masks were as beautiful and real as the painted faces of Surma children? Not knowing anything about Surma traditions except what I can find here and there, I am left to appreciate the beauty of their decoration and the mystery of the world that makes such beauty possible. 

(Video via Ox Herding. I believe the pictures are from Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa, by Hans Silvester.)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sacred Space: Cabezon/Tsenajin

Cabezon/Tsenajin, taken by me

Cabezon Peak, as it is usually called by New Mexicans these days, is featured in the mythologies and cultures of the people native to the region. You can see it as you drive on highway 550, and you can hike it if you choose.

The Navahos call the peak "Tsenajin." For them, it is the head of the Big Giant Ye'iitsoh, who was killed by the twins Child Born of Water and Monster Slayer. When the giant died, his blood became the black rocks around Mount Taylor. This mountain marks the eastern boundary of the Navaho world.

Thanks to the twins, many people were saved from being eaten by the giant, and they were able to do this by the help of a variety of important figures, including their father, the Sun. The Sun was also father of the giant, making the twins and the giant brothers. 

What I love about this story is that even the "evil" character is intimately related to the heroes. I appreciate world views that accept evil as a part of the world, rather than as a wholly Other force. 

What I love about the place is that it is so physically connected to the story. (I can't think of any place that has such historical/cultural/religious significance. Except maybe for Jerusalem. But that is very far away and not part of my daily experience.) How would your life change if you had stories for the most beautiful, mysterious features of your world? What places would you choose to mythologize?

See the excellent full epic Dine Bahane for the story, or visit Voyage to Another Universe, Day 7 for a summary. You can also see a interdisciplinary master's project on the area here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Admiring: Ladies Who Love to Dance

I visited my Nanna at her retirement community last week so that I could hear some of the classic tunes of her generation as played by the local piano sensation. (I totally recommend bonding with family through song. There's nothing like seeing your grandmother get teary eyed at "I'll Being Seeing You" to give you a picture into her world.)

One of the best parts of the afternoon was seeing one of Nanna's friends dancing to the tunes. She'd dance in line as she waited for her cocktail shrimp. She'd dance in her chair. And then when a gent asked her to dance, she got up and moved her feet with such quickness you'd think she was a young woman. She even did the Charleston bees-knees step. She was a star. It didn't hurt that she was wearing glasses like Bono, either.

This is who I want to be when I get older—someone who'll take any opportunity to enjoy life that's given to her.

Billy Wells and Janet Richter doing the Charleston, Life Magazine, 1952
via Letters for George

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Golden October Days

The Joy of a Fallen Leaf, by Arthur Rackham
via If We Live That Long

"I'm so glad to live in a world where there are Octobers."
    —Anne, in Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery

I rediscovered this quotation from Anne of Green Gables via Mon Cabinet de Curiosities, via Book Oasis.

Being a red-head and imaginative little girl, Anne was my hero growing up. I loved how she was continually trying to add romance and magic to her world, always with comedic results. (Green hair and raspberry cordial, anyone?) As the books progressed, she learned to love what was quotidian and simple, without losing her talent for seeing the world through poetry and beauty.

It's about balance, isn't it: taking joy in each falling golden leaf, without getting swept away? 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Food for the Soul: Fried Eggs over Lentils

This dish, for me, is the ultimate comfort food. Eggs? Check. Bacon? Check. Mushy, flavorful base? Check. (Wait, don't overcook the lentils! But they're still nice and soft when you cook them well.)

Eat this and imagine you're in a French cafe. 

Hotel La Perla Dining Room, ironically in Italy, not France

Fried Eggs over Warm Lentil Salad with Lardons

Gourmet, October 2000

3/4 cup lentils (preferably French green lentils)
6 oz thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips
2 leeks (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, or to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 large eggs
1 cup baby spinach

1.      Cover lentils with cold water by 2 inches in a saucepan, then simmer, uncovered, until just tender, about 20 minutes.
2.      While lentils are simmering, cook bacon in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp, then transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, leaving fat in skillet. Add leeks, celery, and carrot to skillet and cook, stirring, until just tender. Add vinegar and boil until most of liquid is evaporated. Remove skillet from heat and stir in tarragon, half of bacon, and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm, covered, reserving skillet.
3.      Drain lentils well in a large sieve. Stir into vegetable mixture and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm, covered.
4.      Wipe skillet with paper towels, then add oil and heat over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Fry eggs in batches until whites are just set but yolks are still runny and season with salt and pepper.
5.      Divide lentil salad among 4 plates. Top with spinach, eggs, and remaining bacon.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hope Is a Thing That Floats Like a Balloon

Let's face it, life is about flux and change, and it takes serious hope to see an overarching narrative to discontinuous events. Everyday I can't say for certain what the next day will look like.

Even when things feel pretty steady, it takes a certain amount of bravery to be present in the moment and to accept that the moment will soon be gone.

That's where the balloons come in. Balloons are great cheery symbols of hope. I knew someone who described her partner as her "mylar balloon." We all need someone to be our cheerleader and our messenger of hope, but even more, we need to adopt that encouraging voice within ourselves.  

Boy with Balloons, by Kamala Kannan, via National Geographic

It also helps to remember that whatever situation we're in is a human condition shared by more people than we could ever imagine. Accepting where we are and what we're feeling is what feeds our compassion and what makes life beautiful.

Hot Air Balloon, by Bruce Dale, via National Geographic

Monday, October 3, 2011

Freedom or Gold

"Have you ever seen anything more beautiful? Come on, man, look around us. Do you realize what we've got? We can work when we want, sleep where we will, eat from the Lord's bounty. . . . We're free. The two freest men in the whole world."
    —Alexander McKeag, a character in the Centennial miniseries

Richard Chamberlain as Alexander McKeag (captured by me)

We just finished watching the Centennial miniseries (which I also posted about here). My favorite episodes were the first three because they dealt with the exciting, strange, and heartbreaking encounter between Europeans and Native Americans, and the environment of North America. If you enjoy historical dramas on cable, such as Deadwood or John Adams, I think you'd enjoy Centennial.

The point of this post isn't to review the series, though; it's to share the best moment in the series. It's when two trappers argue about what's worth striving for: freedom or gold. Go to 3:48 in the video, and watch at least to 5:23. I think it's a dialogue that every one has at one point or another.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sacred Space: Spirit Nests

Let's fly away to these little nests, and watch the sun rise. (Originally discovered via Unstitched.)

Via Treebones Resort

What makes these spaces sacred for me is that they're homey and welcoming, besides being beautiful. They can be used for gatherings as well as for more meditative purposes. But no matter how they're used, they're set apart from the usual Western style shelter. Circular and constructed out of raw branches, the nests reorient visitors to the world, hopefully in a way that is more harmonious with the world and more filled with wonder at how humans fit into the beautiful world.

Ten-person spirit nest


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