Saturday, December 28, 2013
If you have 39 minutes and 20 seconds and want to listen, this interview is well worth your time.
Excerpt from the interview with Sherman Alexie, a poet, short story writer, novelist and performer who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Eastern Washington State and who currently lives in Seattle:
Bill Moyers: So what do you mean by blasphemy?
(note: Sherman Alexie wrote a book called Blasphemy)
Sherman Alexie: I don't believe in your God. And "your" means the royal "your."
Bill Moyers: Do you believe in your God?
Sherman Alexie: No (laughs).
Bill Moyers: What do you believe in?
Sherman Alexie: Stories. Stories are my God.
* This blog post title is a quote from "Smoke Signals," a film by Sherman Alexie. There is a clip from "Smoke Signals" during the introduction.
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
"You undoubtedly know that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a progressive Christian and champion of civil rights and the social gospel. You may also know that he spoke out against the Vietnam War, harshly criticized U.S. foreign policy, and questioned the capitalist system that produced poverty. But do you know his theology?
Right up until Dr. King's assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had traveled to support striking sanitation workers, the civil right leader worked--not as a secular activist but as a Baptist minister--to awaken the conscience of a nation. What was the meaning of Jesus for Dr. King? Did he see Jesus as divine? How did he interpret the Bible?"
(from the Tikkun article ,"King's God: The Unknown Faith of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.," by Robert James "Be" Scofield)
Transcript for the speech above: A Christmas Sermon on Peace (1967)
Then I got to thinking about Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers' connection with the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr.:
And Bob Dylan and Santa Claus:
And the Sufi dancers at the end of this video that was released the same year by Bob Dylan:
And Nelson Mandela.
And Chief Seattle:
"Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors - the dreams of our old men, given them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; and the visions of our sachems, and is written in the hearts of our people."
And Rosa Parks:
"God has always given me the strength to say what is right ... I had the strength of God and my ancestors with me." (from The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks)
And I remember the words of an elderly Jewish woman who was a friend of mine, "I don't have to be a Christian in order to be moved by the life of Jesus."
I have no religious affiliation, and I am not Buddhist, atheist, agnostic. I am among those who can relate to what an elderly atheist friend of mine said in her last years -- that she didn't believe in a traditional God, but that she did experience, in her heart, Something that had brought peace to her in the last 14 years of her life.
"... And to see you're really only very small / And life flows on within you and without you..."
(George Harrison, from "Within You Without You")
"... the possibility that there might be something significant in the little things around them."
(from A Winter Walk, by Tolbert McCarroll)
"Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible."
(From Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers, by Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk)
Saturday, December 21, 2013
I stood out on my porch as the sun rose at 8:01 this
Winter Solstice morning. There was melting snow
on the ground below.
Later I checked some of my favorite webcams for
Winter Solstice Day images.
Ocean Beach (San Francisco):
Then I found this photo of Picasso painting with light:
One never knows what one is going to do. One starts a painting and then it becomes something quite else. It is remarkable how little the 'willing' of the artist intervenes.
Woman Turning Toward the Light (1985, chalk pastel drawing by am):
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
December 8 was the seventh anniversary of my blog. Some of you know the history of my blog. For those who don't, I'll tell that story again. Look here for my first posts in December 2006. My blog's first name was "Old Girl of the North Country." After being haunted by memories dating back to December 8, 1970, when my Richard returned from almost a year in Vietnam, it was suggested that I do something new on that day, something to give me another way of looking at December 8. I decided to create a blog where I could present a 40-year retrospective -- my art work up to 2006. My hope was that by looking carefully at my art work and sharing it, there would be insight and healing and that perhaps I would be inspired to paint again. I had no idea if anyone would ever read my blog.
In September 2001, Richard's mother had told me that Richard had written down the lyrics for "Girl of the North Country" and had written my name next to them. He was living with his parents during a time he was undergoing chemotherapy for what was thought to be terminal lung cancer. By 2006, Richard's cancer had been in remission for four years. For my own physical and emotional safety, I was not in touch with him but thought of myself as his Old Girl of the North Country.
Although blogging has brought unforeseen healing to me, including a change in the name of my blog, I have had an usually difficult time this December, with unexpected edginess and anger and grief surfacing. I hadn't been able to come up with a idea for a post after December 5 and the death of Nelson Mandela, until today when I saw the Doonesbury strip with Alex and Toggle and their twin babies.
Alex and Toggle are dear to my heart. Their life is unfolding in a way very unlike the way my life with Richard unfolded, and I am grateful to witness other possibilities for veterans and their loved ones than those Richard and I experienced:
During Richard's first nights home he had nightmares, and to his immense dismay and to my bewilderment he punched me in the eye in the midst of one of his nightmares, as I lay sleeping beside him. In 2008, Richard died in a VA hospital from complications related to Agent Orange exposure, tobacco abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism, and cancer. I was able to be with him in the ICU during the last days of his life.
Toggle met Alex about a year after Richard died. Toggle reminds me of what I loved about Richard.
Richard gave me a copy of "All Things Must Pass" for Christmas in 1970. This morning I had just happened to listen to "Wah-Wah" and was listening to the rest of the songs when I went to the Doonesbury website to see the comic strip for today.
"Is that ... harmony?"
I love the smile on Toggle's face.
Thank you for reading my blog. Thank you for your blogs. Blogging is a way of my life for me now. I haven't gotten back into painting, but I am beginning to do some weaving and am playing the autoharp, dulcimer and ukulele and am happy to be spending time taking care of babies in a volunteer position. I have plans to take classes and take care of babies as a job in the future. I wonder if Alex would hire me.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Here you can see where the creek becomes a waterfall.
Just beyond this is the WPA bridge.
Just a few minutes walking distance from my home I can enter Whatcom Falls Park by way of the trail that goes alongside Scudder Pond, which is what my porch looks out on. On a full day, I may just walk for about 10 minutes and then turn around. Other days I can walk for several hours on the forest trails and beyond to the acres of cemetery to the south of Whatcom Falls Park. On the day after Thanksgiving, I walked a loop that takes about hour, going down the west side of Whatcom Creek and circling back across the WPA bridge to the east side and heading north from there.
From pages 9 and 10 of A Winter Walk, by Tolbert McCarroll:
A nineteenth-century farmer referred to winter as "our season" because daily life was not dictated by when to plant or harvest.
It is in the cycles of the year that many of us find our spiritual paths -- not in the doctrines or dogmas of religious institutions.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
(People Are Eating Turkey)
Note: The diacritical mark is missing under the first '"a," and the "t" is an approximation of the Navajo letter in that spot.
When I looked outside in the early morning light, I was grateful to see a few stars and the crescent moon instead of the usual November cloud cover. My Thanksgiving tradition in recent years is to eat breakfast with and spend the early part of the day with my eccentric group of friends and to take a walk, usually by myself, in the afternoon. I'm not a vegetarian, but I rarely eat turkey on Thanksgiving. This year I bought some locally made bratwurst to eat today. It's not uncommon in Whatcom County for people to celebrate Thanksgiving with a salmon dinner.
Hope everyone has a peaceful day today, whether celebrating Thanksgiving or not.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Soon, one of the many kind and compassionate medical assistants who work in this clinic called my name and accompanied me to an examination room where she asked questions, listened to the story of my lingering cold, weighed me and then took my temperature and blood pressure. While she was entering information into a laptop on the counter, I suddenly became aware of the words "the lost horse" on the narrow spine of a book that was mixed in with a stack of magazines next to where I was sitting. Reaching up, I fished for the book and found it to be what I had guessed it might be -- a children's book:
What I hadn't counted on was that it was by Ed Young, a children's book writer I am familiar with for his book titled Voices of the Heart:
The medical assistant, having completed her duties, let me know that the nurse practitioner would be by shortly. She left the room, closing the door.
Already familiar with the Chinese folk tale which begins with the loss of a horse, I quickly read the story (take a look inside the book for a glimpse of the story, if you'd like) which does not contain the traditional Chinese moral that a loss may turn out to be a gain and a gain may turn out to be a loss. Instead, it shows a young man and his father continuing to be open and conscious of the changing nature of life.
A few minutes later, the nurse practitioner knocked on the door and came in to ask more questions and examine me. To my great relief, she didn't automatically prescribe antibiotics, and she said that chances were pretty good that my cold would go away on its own.
On my way home I stopped at the Community Food Co-op to buy some food and continued on home to take a look at Vania Heymann's video "Like a Rolling Stone" which I hadn't been able to access earlier that morning because of internet slowness. As with some of my many experiences with Bob Dylan's creative offerings over the years, my first impression was bewilderment. I felt annoyed and couldn't roll along with it at all, but then there was that decisive moment of shifting consciousness where I suddenly remembered "TV Talkin' Song," followed up on that thought, and then returned to play with the interactive video with its many "channels." My favorite channel so far is the one with rapper Danny Brown. I'd never heard of him before. Because I don't watch TV, I don't have a clue as to the identities of most of the people who lip-sync "Like A Rolling Stone." It turns out that channels will continue to be added, and it appears that a channel was added not long before the video was released. It contained recent devastating world news items in a surreal and unsettling way.
On the other hand, although I don't watch TV, I'm sitting in front of a computer screen for much longer periods of time than I ever sat in front of a television and for years I was paid to sit in front of a computer screen for a good part of my day. Can I really say that I am not attached to something even more compelling than TV ever was? Who am I fooling?
While playing with the channels on the video, a memory came to me from the early 1970s. I can recall walking from the outdoors into someone's living room and hearing Bob Dylan's voice coming from a record player and completely filling the smoke-filled air. There was a TV turned on for all to see, but the sound was turned off. Bob Dylan's music was the soundtrack for whatever was on TV, some of it inane, some of it devastating.
This morning I came across these anonymous words:
"You never let me forget that this is a life-or-death situation, but paradoxically, you showed me how to laugh and have fun."
Just now I remembered another lost horse story. Odd how creativity and illness are intertwined for me.
Time heals, after all -- although the clock that marks that kind of time has no hands.
(Suze Rotolo, from A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties)
Monday, November 18, 2013
Last night I was relieved to receive an email from my friend who flew to the Philippines on October 30th after the unexpected death of her father. She writes that she is doing well despite being exhausted and is taking time to regain her energy after her return to Bellingham. She just wants to sleep for now.
Early this morning, I finished re-reading Doris Lessing's Alfred and Emily, published in 2008 when she was in her late 80s, after she had received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Although Doris Lessing is referring to the post-war days of World War II with the words below, I imagine that my friend might relate to these words:
"No, we did not at once 'take it in'. This news was too horrifying to 'take in', just like that: we needed time."
(p. 268, Alfred and Emily)
"Now I would say we were like people recovering from an illness: we were numbed, stunned, because we hadn't really 'taken in' the years of war."
(p. 269, Alfred and Emily)
Sunday, November 17, 2013
The Golden Notebook (1962)
The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five (1980)
The Diary of a Good Neighbor (1984)
Alfred and Emily (2008)
“Words. Words. I play with words, hoping that some combination, even a chance combination, will say what I want.”
-- Doris Lessing
Saturday, November 16, 2013
After having followed a link at wood s lot to Paintings in Proust (Vol. 1, Swann's Way) and reading from Proust, it occurred to me that the rhythm of Marcel Proust's voice was reminding me of Bob Dylan's voice in his 2004 memoir titled Chronicles: Vol. 1.
By Googling "Bob Dylan" together with "Proust," I found this and this and then came upon this:
"The men who produce works of genius are not those who live in the most delicate atmosphere, whose conversation is the most brilliant or their culture the most extensive, but those who have had the power, ceasing suddenly to live only for themselves, to transform their personality into a sort of mirror, in such a way that their life, however mediocre it may be socially and even, in a sense, intellectually, is reflected by it, genius consisting in reflecting power and not in the intrinsic quality of the scene reflected."
(Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove)
"... I left town at dawn with Marcel and St. John ..."
(Bob Dylan lyrics from "Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)" from the album titled "Street Legal.")
Back in the beginning of 2003, I belonged to an informal group of people who met once a month to read and discuss poetry. For one month, Walt Whitman's poetry was chosen as a focus. Among other poetry by Walt Whitman, I read his Civil War poems. During those early months of 2003, a movie titled "Gods and Generals" was released. I would not likely have watched it if my Richard hadn't recommended it and had I not learned that the movie included a song written by Bob Dylan called "'Cross the Green Mountain." Not long after that when I found the lyrics of "'Cross the Green Mountain" via Google, I was startled to read:
A letter to mother
Gunshot wound to the breast
is what it did say
But he'll be better soon
He's in a hospital bed
But he'll never be better
He's already dead
That sounded to me a whole lot like one of Walt Whitman's Civil War poems that I had just read. Sure enough, it was:
Open the envelope quickly,
O this is not our son's writing, yet his name is sign'd,
O a strange hand writes for our dear son, O stricken
All swims before her yes, flashes with black, she catches the
main words only,
Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry
skirmish, taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.
Ah now the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities and
Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very faint,
By the jamb of a door leans.
Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter speaks
through her sobs,
The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay'd,)
See dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better.
Alas, poor boy, he will never be better, (no may-be needs to
be better, that brave and simple soul,)
While they stand at home at the door he is dead already,
Now I'm wondering if I noticed what I noticed before Bob Dylan's mockingbird tendencies began to arouse controversy in July of 2003.
"... Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,
Out of the mocking-bird's throat, the musical shuttle ..."
"... I celebrate myself, and what I assume, you shall assume,
for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you ..."
"... You are also asking me questions and I hear you,
I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself ..."
"...Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems ..."
(from "Song of Myself," by Walt Whitman)
Friday, November 15, 2013
Thursday, November 14, 2013
"You have an idea; it comes from somewhere, and it works. It always comes from deep down. You don't know why you do it; you don't know what makes it work; you don't even know until afterwards, maybe, what happened. It just sort of happened."
If asked, I tend to say that my eyes are blue, but today it occurred to me to try to photograph my eyes with my new camera using the Macro function. For some reason, the pupils came out blue-green. I would say that my eyes are more green than blue. The iris color is pretty much what I see when I look in the mirror. There is not much color distortion.
“you are right john cohen — quazimodo was right — mozart was right… I cannot say the word eye any more … when I speak this word eye, it is as if I am speaking of somebody’s eye that I faintly remember … there is no eye — there is only a series of mouths — long live the mouths — your rooftop — if you don’t already know — has been demolished … eye is plasma & you are right about that too — you are lucky — you don’t have to think about such things as eye & rooftops & quazimodo.”
(Bob Dylan quote from the 1960s)
Here's another Green Shining Like The Sun from 2009. I had the feeling that I was repeating myself ...
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Our hearts go out
A friend of mine emailed me before she flew to the Philippines on October 30th after the unexpected death of her father, and I have not heard from her since. I picture her safe with family and await word from her. I have not wanted to let the scope of this disaster in.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
"I've been around iron all my life ever since I was a kid. I was born and raised in iron ore country - where you could breathe it and smell it every day. And I've always worked with it in one form or another. Gates appeal to me because of the negative space they allow. They can be closed but at the same time they allow the seasons and breezes to enter and flow. They can shut you out or shut you in. And in some ways there is no difference." (Bob Dylan)
"Patience is also a form of action" (Auguste Rodin, sculptor, 1840-1917)
My photo of "Gates of Hell," by
Auguste Rodin, from September 1982
at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Monday, November 11, 2013
Saturday, November 9, 2013
Spending an afternoon in a gently lit room full of babies once a week is a revelation to me. There are no computers or cell phones in this room. The youngest babies don't yet crawl. The oldest is close to a year old and seems to be the tiniest of all. The babies say so much without speaking words. They are especially focused when they hear the sound of a little bell that hangs from the light fixture in the middle of the peaceful room. They laugh and they cry. They sleep. They play with the toys. They look deeply at everything. They look outside at the wind and rain and trees and grass and leaves and the fence and the cars up on the road, and sometimes they see children a little older than they are who can walk and play outside, bundled in hats and coats and boots. The older ones sometimes wave to the babies. The babies drink from bottles or baby cups and some of them eat solid food. They have their diapers changed. Some of them stand up. Some of them crawl. They all sit up straight the way babies do. They are curious. I'm impressed by the early childhood teachers. They are loving, attentive and knowledgeable about babies. I have a lot to learn from them. All of them sing beautifully while rocking the babies to sleep. The babies appear to feel safe and secure, and then they glow when their families arrive to take them home.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
You have to be very strong, ’cause you’ll start from zero
Over and over again…
( "The Summation")
Up there at the top of my post is a view from my porch looking to the southeast. When the clouds lift in fall and winter, the sky here is exquisitely blue -- a deeper blue than the spring and summer sky. The lower the humidity, the bluer the sky.
There's a bit of magic in everything
And then some loss to even things out
(Lyrics by Lou Reed from "The Summation")
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Monday, October 28, 2013
The little videos at the top of this post show the street next to where I live. Turning left, one goes down a steep hill which leads to downtown Bellingham. Turning right, one can keep driving east for about 50 miles until one arrives (as far as one can drive into this section of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest) at Artist's Point parking lot which is already closed this year due to snow:
(photo credit: Jeff Katzer)
This morning when I woke up in the dark at 5 o'clock, I could hear the wind. When I went out on the porch to look to the east, the sky was unusually clear. I could see the crescent moon and Orion. The temperature is in the 50s this afternoon, with sunshine, wind, and absolutely clear sky. The humidity is unusually low at 27%. Ideal weather conditions, as far as I am concerned. A good time for walking and everything else. This is the time of year when my flesh feels like a great poem!
One more thing:
Thursday, October 24, 2013
This view of Bellingham Bay and sky changes by the minute, but the water, shoreline of the Lummi Peninsula, and sky have been here for a long long time. Makes me think of a Mark Rothko painting:
This was a narrow motorbike trail on the way to Whatcom Falls when I first arrived in Bellingham in spring of 1974. Now it is part of the extensive trail system that runs through Whatcom Falls Park. Most of the trails are graveled. Otherwise, they would be muddy messes throughout our long rainy Pacific Northwest winters:
Through the trees you can see Derby Pond, created by damming Whatcom Creek:
The beauty of landscape architecture:
A moment of reflection:
Thank you for all the comments on my previous post. You've all given me much to consider about the changing nature of landscape -- for reasons both relating to human intervention and otherwise.
Having grown up in Northern California and having spent my time between age 17 and age 23 as often as possible on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, I walked along vast sections of shoreline that showed no evidence of human intervention and major evidence of the power of the ocean to change the contours of land. Since my last post, I have been highly conscious that so many of the places I walk in and around Bellingham are a mixture of the wild order of nature and of human orderliness. On the other hand, take a look at this map of Whatcom County (White Rock, Clearbrook, and Abbotsford are in British Columbia, 25 miles north of Bellingham):
There are parts of eastern Whatcom County that are truly wild and pathless, and the 1895 photo below of Lummi Island, which is west of Bellingham across Bellingham Bay, shows a Lummi Indian camp and a glimpse of the way the shorelines looked then. Not wild and pathless, but not meddled with to a great extent either.
Interesting to see that the shore appears to be covered with stones similar to ones on the newly engineered beaches. Now I am guessing that the landscape architects used photos like this for reference when they reconstructed the current beaches on Bellingham's shores. Looks as if I was wrong in my original perception that the engineered beaches are not in character with the historical landscape. I believe I owe an apology to the landscape architects for criticizing their work.
The self-portrait was taken in the mirror of the fairly new restroom near the children's playground which is near the red, orange and golden trees in the photo of the parking area in Whatcom Falls Park. Kind of looks like I might be in meditation hall or a chapel. I like the effect of the scratches on the mirror. That's my new camera!
Last week I started free Microsoft Word classes at the Goodwill Job Training and Education Center and will take a class in Excel in January and possibly a class in cashiering;
It's not easy to find a job in Bellingham at age 64 with my job background as a medical transcriptionist, but I am going to find a way to support myself for the rest of my life. If I can focus my energy on weaving, that can be a source of income as well.
Just yesterday I applied for health insurance, and it was affirmed that, because of the Affordable Care Act, I am eligible for free health insurance through the State of Washington until next October when I will qualify for Medicare and will have to pay for Part B and can chose to pay for Part C and Part D, if I wish. I've been without health insurance since the end of August of 2011 and am fortunate to be in good health.
Next week I begin volunteering to comfort babies in a childcare and learning center.
That's it for today. Need to get going so that I will arrive at the classroom early and be ready to go when the lessons start.
From wood s lot:
Sojourns in the Parallel World
b. October 24, 1923
We live our lives of human passions,
cruelties, dreams, concepts,
crimes and the exercise of virtue
in and beside a world devoid
of our preoccupations, free
from apprehension--though affected,
certainly, by our actions. A world
parallel to our own though overlapping.
We call it "Nature"; only reluctantly
admitting ourselves to be "Nature" too.
Whenever we lose track of our own obsessions,
our self-concerns, because we drift for a minute,
an hour even, of pure (almost pure)
response to that insouciant life:
cloud, bird, fox, the flow of light, the dancing
pilgrimage of water, vast stillness
of spellbound ephemerae on a lit windowpane,
animal voices, mineral hum, wind
conversing with rain, ocean with rock, stuttering
of fire to coal--then something tethered
in us, hobbled like a donkey on its patch
of gnawed grass and thistles, breaks free.
No one discovers
just where we've been, when we're caught up again
into our own sphere (where we must
return, indeed, to evolve our destinies)
--but we have changed, a little.