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Mr. Stripeypants wraps his feline body, a curled half moon in front of the space heater. Liz is still sleeping. Out on the deck, the bear chimes I purchased in Ely last July ripple with the wind. The sky is dark. It’s 50 degrees. Later in the day, the wind will pick up, the air will drop into the twenties. November darkness refuels my passion for the Arts. It’s a chance to reflect, to take stock of my life. Not the long term dreams and goals I harnessed as a twenty-year-old. But the smiling clerk in the grocery line at Byerly’s, lunch alone at Como Park, the smile in my lover’s eyes — minutes that end up creating years. I am grateful for each moment.

I used to dread change. I thought it meant the loss of loved ones, the fleeing of love, abandonment. Now I welcome what is fresh and new, the unplanned. Change means I don’t have to cling to what I have lost. Change means I don’t have to stay stuck where I am — emotionally, spiritually, physically. Change means I am willing to face the future. Change means I don’t have to like something or someone to accept them, or forgive. Change means the body breaks down, the mind remains stubborn, the heart swells with appreciation. Change. I am grateful for change.

Thank you to family, friends, readers, teachers, patrons of the Arts. Because of you, my life feels rich and full. Happy Thanksgiving.



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Gratitude Writing Practice 2012


A is for altitude, the steady climb before the peregrine’s dive. B, let me not be brittle, but open to the opportunities life has to offer. C is for centered, concrete, creative, cushion. D, that last cool drink of water from a mountain stream. E, grateful for all the Elizabeths in my life. F will always be for family and friendships, for those who have stuck with me, even when I hit my bottom. G, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. So much to be thankful for. H reminds me not to hurry. Slow down. Watch for the edges. Hypocrisy, emerald hedges, the hollow bone. I, irresistible words. Letters, dots, dashes, the incurable love affair with language. J is for justice, judges, journey work. The realization that I can’t control what is just and fair. Acceptance of the slow turn of arbitration. Solomon. Did he have it right? K is for the keys to the passage, low island reef at high tide. Keystone, quoin, foundation, groundwork. L for the lionhearted, those with courage, grace under pressure, the fearless who inspire me. M, morgue, decay, melodrama, the things we leave behind. Laurie Anderson reminded me, it is in times of death that we experience the most intense feelings of love. Anyway, N is for nesting, nudging noxious thoughts away, purging what is not useful to living a full-hearted life. O, owing a debt of gratitude to those who serve humanity. Out-of-the-way places where I can be my true self, unmasked, unafraid of a face-to-face with my own shortcomings. P is for play, paper, Mr. StripeyPants, Kiev, parables forming nuggets of truth. Q, there are Questions, there can never be too many questions. Quandaries, crossroads, quagmires, quests. A call to action. R, rest, solitude, unconnected, unavailable, alone. Remember, reverberate, don’t be too rigid. S, steady, slow, steadfast. Grant me the serenity. Sugar, shug. T, the topple of empires built on shifting sands. Trounced by the tough and true-hearted. U is for unburden, unbroken, unbound. Underdog, under the weather, underestimated. V, vivacious, high-spirited, don’t play your cards so close to the vest. W, the winsome and wise do not dismiss what is wistful and wintry. A windfall comes your way. X is for seeing through the xenophobic, just in the nick of time. Y, yearning for solitude, receiving a yen, unwilling to be the yes woman, corralling the yowling, howling courage of my youth. Z, life is a zigzag of faithful moments laced with bad decisions, and wretched zaniness. A short walk through zoological gardens of wonder, a long conversation. Listen. Listen.


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-related to posts: Gratitude Mandala — Giving Thanks, This Thanksgiving Weekend, Make A Gratitude Journal, A Simple Gratitude List, gratitude haiku (orange), The ABC’s Of A Prosperous 2008 – Gratitude, Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List

-posted on red Ravine, Thanksgiving Day, November 22nd, 2012

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missing Ely's sky - 23/365

Missing Ely’s Sky – 23/365, Archive 365, Droid Shots, Ely, Minnesota, photo © 2012 by Liz Schultz. All rights reserved.


Rooster, Cloud

Taos, New Mexico, photo © 2007-2012 QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Clouds are connectors. We see cloud formations as recognizable, weather predicting puffs of air. Clouds are classified using a Latin Linnean system based on a book written by a London pharmacist, Quaker, and amateur meteorologist named Luke Howard. In 1803, he wrote The Modifications of Clouds naming the various cloud structures he had studied.

Written In The Clouds - 169/365

New Hope, Minnesota, photo © 2010-2012 QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The terms used by Howard were readily accepted by the meteorological community and detailed in The International Cloud Atlas, published by the World Meteorological Organization in 1896. They are still used across the world today.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) extended Luke Howard’s classifications into 10 main groups of clouds, called genera. These are divided into three levels – cloud low (CL), cloud medium (CM) and cloud high (CH) – according to the part of the atmosphere in which they are usually found. Types of clouds can be categorized by height and are divided up by the following names:

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Cloud level (ft) Cloud type
High clouds – (CH) Base usually 20,000 ft or above
Medium clouds – (CM) Base usually between 6,500 and 20,000 ft
Low clouds – (CL) Base usually below 6,500 ft

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The names of clouds are based on their height as well as their appearance. Common cloud names are derived from Latin:

  • Stratus— means layer and refers to the group of clouds that form in big sheets covering the entire sky. Stratus clouds are made of liquid water and are called fog or mists when close to the Earth. The blend of altostratus can cause ice build up on the wings of aircraft.
  • Cumulus—in Latin cumulus means heap. These are fair-weather clouds that we might say look like cotton candy or castles.
  • Alto—means middle and refers to clouds that are in the middle layer of our atmosphere.
  • Cirrus—means curl in Latin. These clouds are high up and look like wisps of hair. Cirrus are the highest of all clouds and are made up almost entirely of ice crystals.
  • Nimbus—comes from the Latin word for rain. Whenever there is precipitation, there are nimbus clouds.

Shadow LeavesDusk On The Mississippi - 226/365

Shadow Leaves, Dusk On The Mississippi, photos © 2007-
2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

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What do you think of when you say the word cloud? Do you see the Universe, fog hanging on the mountains, the sky over the prairie? How many types of clouds can you name. Or maybe cloud to you is not that literal. Is your iced tea cloudy; are there clouds in your coffee? Is there a cloud over your day or your mood? Does your past cloud your vision of the future?


Get out your fast writing pens and write the Topic Cloud at the top of your spiral notebook (or start tapping away on your computer or Smartphone).

You can write a haiku, tanka, or gogyohka practice and post it in the comments.

Or you may be surprised at what you discover when you follow the rules of Writing Practice —- Cloud, 10 minutes, Go!


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Resources:

Cloud Spotting Guide — UK Met Office

Cloud Types for Observers — Reading the Sky — UK Met Office

Cloud Atlas

Common Cloud Names, Shapes, & Altitudes – Georgia Tech

Cotton CloudinessTop Of The Cedar Avenue Bridge - 207/365

Cotton Cloudiness, Top Of The Cedar Avenue Bridge, photo ©
2008-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

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Liz Shoots the April Moon

Liz Shoots The April Moon, Minneapolis at night, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 2012, photo © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s hard to get back into the practice of writing for red Ravine after two months away. Where have I been? The business of life. And love. Art and passion. Mr. Stripeypants was sick for a time, a bug he contracted during surgery. He’s fine now. I was sick for three weeks, then it was time for Art-A-Whirl. Liz and I spent hours in Casket Arts Studio 318, talking art and writing and authors. Explaining panoramas on brushed metal and the latest installment in the Writers Hands Series. After Art-A-Whirl, I am so energized by the people that stop by that I want to spend every waking moment in my studio.

My mother went to Georgia without me this year. I missed traveling with her; she continues to research the family tree. I take it up, too, in my spare time. I will never lose my passion for history — the people, places, and things that lived before us. While I was away, the seasons changed. Quickly and without apology. What would normally be Spring has bloomed as Summer. We lost a few limbs on the two cedars in an ice storm. An arborist is coming to give the oaks and cedars a trim on Monday.

Where have I been? I went to see Anne Lamott at a bookstore. And Leslie Marmon Silko at the downtown library. I photographed the clouds with my Droid. I stood on a bridge and shot the Moon with Liz. We are working on a business together. It’s slow and steady, like the Turtle I am. I am working on the project plan. Liz digs into business details. We will meet with a designer soon to begin work on our website. More to come.

I can say I missed you. I did. When I come back to this place, it is like coming home. I have a guest piece coming up soon. And a new Writing Topic. While I was away, red Ravine turned five. Five years and a million hits. I didn’t know when I started writing and posting my art here that years would fly by. That I would be exposed for the gaps in my practice. One year, I took a photograph every single day. Another, I wrote Writing Practices all day long. One year, there was a haiku a day. In 2012, I take time to breathe. And expand within my own absence. I have not lost my gratitude for you. There is no way to explain where the time goes. I always come back to the things Natalie taught me. Continue. Continue. Continue. Get up. Jump back in.



-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, May 31st, 2012

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heart 2011-09-17 16.58.51 trim color

Healing Heart Mandala, created on gray, rainy day while listening to Mandala Healing: Using Sacred Symbols for Spiritual & Emotional Healing by Judith Cornell, Golden Valley, Minnesota, September 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




THE SECRET OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER

Once you turn the light around,
everything in the world is turned around.
The light rays are concentrated upward into the eyes;
this is the great key of the human body.
You should reflect on this.
If you do not sit quietly each day,
this light flows and whirls,
stopping who knows where.
If you can sit quietly for a while,
all time-ten thousand ages,
a thousand lifetimes---is penetrated from this.
All phenomena revert to stillness.
Truly inconceivable is this sublime truth.


—from The Secret of the Golden Flower: The Classic Chinese Book of Life, translated by Thomas Cleary, HarperSanFrancisco, 1991, p.19


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HEALING INTENTIONS


   acceptance                   appreciation                   authenticity
   awakening                   balance                            beauty
   beginner's mind          creative play                  clarity 
   compassion                  connectedness               devotion 
   egolessness                  emotional healing          faith
   fearlessness                 forgiveness                     freedom to be 
   grace                             gratitude                         harmony
   healing laughter          honoring diversity         illumination 
   inspired creativity      integrity                          joy 
   kindness                       life as a celebration       listening with the heart
   living in the present   mental healing               miracles
   non-judgment             oneness                           opening the heart to love 
   patience                       peace                               perseverance
   practice of truth         radiating love                 soul illumination 
   spiritual healing          surrender                       transformation
   trusting intuition        unity                                wholeness 
   wisdom                        wonder




Healing Heart Mandala (Detail)-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

-related to posts: Labyrinth Mandala At The Aquarius Full Moon, Ears Still To The Lonely Wind — Mandala For Rabbit, Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Shadow Of A Dragonfly, Dragonfly Wings — It Is Written In The Wind, Dragon Fight — June Mandalas, EarthHealer — Mandala For The Tortoise, ode to a crab (haiku & mandala), Eye Of The Dragon Tattoo

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2011-08-22 18.02.04

MN State Fair Button, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2011, all photos © 2009-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The Minnesota State Fair kicked off last week and for the first time since 2007, I am writing my annual State Fair piece after attending the Fair. That means I can speak from the voice of experience (that, and the fact that I spent 11 solid hours tootling around the fairgrounds last Saturday). 2011-08-27 13.50.14This year there are over 80 foods on-a-stick; I recommend the Teriyaki Chicken on-a-stick from Chan’s, a new vendor for 2011. Liz and I shared the combo and topped it off with The Original Minneapple Pie smothered in cinnamon ice cream.

Of course, the Minnesota State Fair is about more than food, or the debut of Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks On-A-Stick, so our State Fair posts are always chock-full of history. Last year we covered F. Scott Fitzgerald’s A Night At The Fair, Ye Old Mill, and artist Debra Frasier’s debut of the Alphabet Forest at Baldwin Park. Debra is back again this year and you can read more about her work at her official website. Or check out red Ravine dressed in her State Fair alphabet (yes, that’s me standing a letter behind).

In 2011, the Minnesota State Fair celebrates its 100th Fine Arts Exhibition (over 2300 pieces were submitted in 2010). In the past, I’ve written about the history of Princess Kay of the Milky Way and the Butter Queens (2011 marks the 40th year sculptor Linda Christensen has carved their likenesses out of butter); Minnesota State Fair poster artists; mascots Fairborne and Fairchild; and the 2011-08-27 14.24.13 autotradition of Tom Thumb Donuts. To change it up this year, I’m going to focus on the integration of the Smartphone and digital technology into the State Fair’s 150-year-old traditions. When the past meets the present, you get a gleaming new Minnesota State Fair Smartphone App and the Minnesota State Fair History Tour on your mobile!



Minnesota State Fair Smartphone App & Mobile Web Site


I was thrilled to download the new Minnesota State Fair Smartphone app on my Droid this year (also available for iPhone) a week before I attended the Fair 2011-08-27 15.57.58. All the information I needed was right at my fingertips. The Food Finder is organized alphabetically (or you can search by food item). When you click on a vendor, all details of that vendor are listed, including a Show Map feature that pins their exact location on the2011-08-27 14.14.49 auto fairgrounds. Other tabs include Merch Search, Fun Finder, and a colorful digital map. We used the app constantly during our 11 hour visit. Oh, and if you don’t want to download the app, you can visit the Minnesota State Fair Mobile Website with Google Maps integration. I’m grateful to Liz for pointing me to the new app. If you have a Smartphone, I encourage you to go paperless!



Minnesota State Fair History Walk & Cell Phone Tour


Liz and I had a blast listening  to sounds of the Minnesota State Fair’s past on the new 13-stop cell phone tour. By calling (877) 411-4123, you can hear recorded history narratives from your cell phone (or any land line), or use your Smartphone to locate QR codes, and brush up on State Fair trivia while you shuttle to the Fair’s 2011-08-27 15.11.44 autogate. We downloaded a bar code scanner app on our Droids, scanned the QR code (Quick Response code for Smartphones) at each information board, and Whoosh!, we were jetted right to the history page for that stop. (If you press the Like button at the bottom, a link is also added to your Facebook page so family and friends can follow your tour!).

The Minnesota State Fair History Walk & Cell Phone Tour offers a fun 2011-08-27 14.57.03 and engaging way to learn about State Fair history and explore all corners of the grounds. When you complete the self-guided tour, you receive a prize (I won’t say what it is!) at the J.V. Bailey House or (before 8pm) at the Minnesota Historical Society’s booth on the first floor of the Grandstand. Tour brochures are available at information booths and the 13 tour stops. The tour is presented by the Minnesota State Fair Foundation and the Minnesota Historical Society.



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Spaghetti & Meatball Dinner On-A-Stick, Fried Fruit On-A-Stick, Macaroni & Cheese On-A-Stick, Bull Bites, Deep Fried Tater Tots On-A-Stick, Grilled Shrimp On-A-Stick, Vintage Kids & Fair Food!, Leprechaun Legs, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2008, all photos © 2008-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



MN State Fair – Foods On-A-Stick


Our Minnesota State Fair post wouldn’t be complete without the annual foods on-a-stick list. Here’s the 2011-08-27 17.43.36lineup for 2011 (the Sweet Corn Ice Cream really hits the spot). If you are looking for the location of specific foods at the Fair, here’s a link to their FoodFinder with a map of the Fair (0r use the Smartphone app I wrote about above!). The Minnesota State Fair runs through Monday, September 5th. 2011-08-27 17.49.10 autoAnd if you happen to eat just a little too much, feel free to visit the brand new 5,500 square foot restroom with 51 sinks and 75 shiny white toilets where many of the 22,000 rolls of toilet paper are used up at the Minnesota State Fair. Above all else, ENJOY!

  1. Alligator Sausage on-a-stick
  2. Baby Potatoes on-a-stick
  3. Bacon (Fried) on-a-stick
  4. Bananas (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  5. Beef Kabobs on-a-stick
  6. Bologna (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  7. Bomb Pops on-a-stick
  8. Breakfast Lollipop
  9. Butterscotch Cake on-a-stick
  10. Candy Apples on-a-stick
  11. Candy Bars (deep fried) on-a-stick
  12. Caramel Apples on-a-stick
  13. Caramel Apple Puppies on-a-stick
  14. Catfish on-a-stick
  15. Cheese on-a-stick
  16. Cheesecake (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  17. Chicken on-a-stick
  18. Chicken Teriyaki on-a-stick
  19. Chicken Bites on-a-stick
  20. Coffee (frozen) on-a-stick
  21. Corndogs on-a-stick
  22. Cotton Candy on-a-stick
  23. Custard on-a-stick
  24. Espresso (frozen) on-a-stick
  25. Fruit (fresh) on-a-stick
  26. Fruit (fried) on-a-stick
  27. Fry Dog on-a-stick
  28. Fudge Puppies on-a-stick
  29. Gyro on-a-stick
  30. Hot Dago on-a-stick
  31. Hot Dish on-a-stick
  32. Hot Dogs (wrap) on-a-stick
  33. Jerk Chicken on-a-stick
  34. Key Lime Pie Dipped in Chocolate (frozen) on-a-stick
  35. Kufta Kabob on-a-stick
  36. Lamb (leg of) on-a-stick
  37. Macaroni & Cheese on-a-stick
  38. Marshmallows (Chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  39. Mashed Potatoes (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  40. Meatballs (porcupine wild rice & ground pork) on-a-stick
  41. Meatballs (Greek) on-a-stick
  42. Meatballs (Scotch) on-a-stick
  43. Meat Kabobs on-a-stick
  44. Northwoods Salad on-a-stick
  45. Nut Roll (chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  46. Pickles on-a-stick
  47. Pizza on-a-stick
  48. Pizza Kabob on-a-stick
  49. Poncho Dogs on-a-stick
  50. Pork Chops on-a-stick
  51. Pretzel Dog on-a-stick
  52. Pronto Pups on-a-stick
  53. Sausage on-a-stick
  54. Sausage and Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers on-a-stick
  55. Scotch Eggs on-a-stick
  56. Shrimp on-a-stick
  57. Shrimp (grilled) on-a-stick
  58. S’mores on-a-stick
  59. S’mores (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  60. Spaghetti & Meatballs on-a-stick
  61. Spudsters on-a-stick
  62. Steak on-a-stick
  63. Taffy Pops on-a-stick
  64. Tater Tots (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  65. Texas Steak Dinner on-a-stick
  66. Texas Tater Dog on-a-stick
  67. Tornado Potato on-a-stick
  68. Turkey Tenderloin (bacon-wrapped) on-a-stick
  69. Turtle Puppies on-a-stick
  70. Vegie Fries on-a-stick
  71. Vegetable Kabobs on-a-stick
  72. Waffle (Belgian) on-a-stick
  73. Walleye on-a-stick
  74. Wild Rice Corndog on-a-stick
  75. Wonder Bar (chocolate-dipped ice cream) on-a-stick


Total Number of Foods-On-A-Stick: 75*


New Minnesota State Fair Foods In 2011
(including *6 new foods on-a-stick not on list above)


• Breakfast Lollipop (sausage patty dipped in corn muffin batter, deep fried and served on-a-stick with a side of maple syrup)
@Axel’s, located on the southeast outside corner of the Food Building
• Carnitas Asian Fusion Taco (pork carnitas served on a flour or spinach pepper, and topped with Asian sauces)
@San Felipe Tacos, located in the Food Building
• Chocolate Covered Jalapeno Peppers on-a-stick (a hot and spicy confection)
@Andre’s Watermelon, located on Underwood Street next to Ye Old Mill
• Coushari Rice with Lentils (rice and lentils with Holy Land sauce, served with a side of pasta or fried onions)
@Holy Land Deli, located inside the International Bazaar, southeast corner
• Crab Fritters (crab meat, Caribbean herbs and spices with veggies all rolled and deep-fried into a fritter, served with a side of southwest dripping sauce)
@Ollie’s Crab Fritters, located on the corner of Underwood Street and Murphy Avenue
• Deep-Fried Cookie Dough (fresh cookie dough coated with a sweet batter, deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar)
@Sonny’s Spiral Spuds, located in the Food Building
• Dirt Dessert (Oreo cookies, vanilla pudding, whipped cream, cream cheese and gummy worms)
@Spaghetti Eddie’s, located on Cooper Street and Dan Patch Avenue
• Fresh Fruit Wrap (sliced fresh fruit wrapped in a soft tortilla shell with a sweet and creamy cheese spread)
@Fried Fruit, located in Carousel Park east of Grandstand Ramp
• Grilled Yankee Apple Pie & Chocolate Sandwich (Minnesota grown apples sauteed with spices and topped with chocolate, grilled in Brioche bread)
@Moe & Joe’s, located on Judson Ave. by the CHS Miracle of Birth Center
• Jamaican Jerk Fries (french fries dusted with Harry’s own Jamaican Jerk seasoning)
@Harry Singh’s Caribbean Restaurant, located in the Food Building
• Mexican Horchata Beverage (cold drink made of rice, almonds, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar)
@El Sol Mexican Food, located on the southwest outside corner of the Food Building
• Minneapple Pie (homemade deep-fried apple pie served hot with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream)
@The Original Minneapple Pie, at the corner of Judson Avenue & Underwood Street, north of the Dairy Building
• Northwoods Salad on-a-stick (a caprese salad-mozzarella cheese and grape tomatoes on-a-stick with dressing and served over a bed of Minnesota wild rice)
@Giggle’s Campfire Grill, located on Cooper Street and Lee Avenue in The North Woods
• Pizza Kabob on-a-stick (three individually flavored Green Mill Pizza rolls served on-a-stick)
@Green Mill, located near the Baldwin Park Stage
• Pretzel Dog on-a-stick (a hot dog baked in pretzel dough, served on-a-stick)
@Der Pretzel Haus, located on Liggett Street, in front of the Horse Barn
• Sweet Corn Ice Cream (cream-based ice cream with blended sweet corn kernels, served in a waffle cone with a choice of wild blueberries or caramel bacon topping)
@Blue Moon Dine In Theater, located at the corner of Chambers Street and Carnes Avenue
• Teriyaki Chicken on-a-stick (served with fried rice, egg rolls, and spring rolls)
@Chan’s Concessions, located on Judson Avenue near the Dairy Building
• White Razzie Puppies on-a-stick (Belgian waffle with white chocolate baked inside, then dipped in dark chocolate and drizzled with raspberry sauce)
@Granny’s Kitchen Fudge Puppies, located on the outside west wall of the Food Building


State Fair photos on Flickr.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

-related to posts: double Ferris wheel haiku, MN State Fair On-A-Stick (Happy B’Day MN!), On-The-Go List Of Must-Haves (MN State Fair), Nightshot – Carousel, MN State Fair On-A-Stick II – Video & Stats, food on-a-stick haiku

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Mandala For The 5th Element - 10/52

Mandala For The 5th Element – 10/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 10, March 13th,
2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Medium: Drawn by hand with a black Fine Line DecoColor Opaque Paint Marker on Canson Mix Media XL Series 98lb drawing paper. Collaged & colored with Faber Castell 6 PITT Artist Brush Pens, DecoColor Glossy Oil Base Paint Markers, Portfolio Water Soluble Oil Pastels, Caran D’Ache NeoColor II Water Soluble Wax Crayons, Sharpie Medium Point Oil-Based Opaque Paint Markers, Lineco Archival PVA Adhesive, yellow felt letters, metal fastener, archival card stock paper. Photo taken in streaming sunlight on a BlackBerry Tour.


At 6:20 CST on March 20th, 12 hours and 9 minutes of light welcomed Spring to the Midwest. Seasonal rituals are important to our spiritual health. Honoring cyclical changes in the seasons is one way to stay grounded. We delved into daily and superstitious rituals in one of the first Writing Topics on red Ravine. Animals engage in rituals to feed themselves and hibernate, to define and defend their territories; humans do, too. Rituals comfort me in times of loss and uncertainty — walking a labyrinth, creating a mandala, or celebrating the Spring Equinox.

My first response to Cityscape: Behind The Gray in the BlackBerry 52 collaboration with Lotus, was that it captured a late winter mood. The second time I viewed the photo was March 11th, after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Everything changed. I saw Every City, Every Town in her photograph — a skyline, a parking lot of white cars, minutes away from being tossed on the sea like toys. I felt helpless, sad for the collective suffering, for the families living through the devastation.

It was about that time that I learned about terma in Tibetan Buddhism — physical objects, texts, or ritual implements that are buried in the ground (Earth), hidden in a rock or crystal, secreted in an herb or tree, hidden in a lake (Water), or up in the sky (Air), elements that contain sacred teachings, accessible to all when we need them (Essence). Mandala For The 5th Element followed; the center is the symbol for Essence, also symbol for the Sun.

One night at the studio, while collaborating on Obsoletion Blues, an art project for Strange Attractors, I ran across an old article I had copied years ago at MCAD — The Art of Ritual. I read it, remembered the Akashic Records (akasha is a Sanskrit word meaning sky, space, or aether) — source of mystical knowledge, the collective unconscious, the history of the Cosmos. Perfectly in sync, readers began commenting on the same subjects in our daily haiku post. From annie:

I first came across termas when I read Thinley Norbu’s book ‘Magic Dance’. He describes, poetically, exotic tales of the ‘five wisdom dakinis’ (earth, air, fire, water and space/ether). These five dakinis manifest the feminine wisdom energy, bringing strength, power and transformation to our lives. They are known collectively as ‘Sky Dancers’ who dance in limitless space and are the writers of the termas, which they conceal until the time is right for them to be found. Their form of writing is ‘subtle and mysterious’ and the being who finds the terma must call on the five wisdom dakinis to help them interpret it (they also reside in the mind). I like the similarities of the elemental archetypes of Buddhism and Celtic Paganism. It brings it closer to home.



The Five Elements

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FIRE — SOUTH

Summer, Youth, Midday, Full Moon, Intuition

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Flames, Red, Point, Combustion, Energy, Passion, Desire, Inspiration, Beginning, Energy, Individual

OBJECTS:
fire, flame, candles, lamps, fireplaces, torches, matches, sparklers, fireworks, triangular shapes
Foods: hot-spiced foods, cayenne, salsa, Tabasco, curry, hot foods & drinks
Clothing: light and warm
Scents: sharp, tangy smells like cinnamon, odors from a fire

ACTIONS:
darting, rapid movements
lighting a fire or candle, burning or sacrificing

COLORS:
reds, oranges, yellows
bright, direct light, steady like the noon sun, or a flickering fire, or candle-light

SOUNDS:
arpeggios, staccato rhythms
the crackling of a fire, violins and other high-pitched strings, soprano instruments
inflaming speeches, stating an intention, invocations, appeals to the Spirit


______________


AIR (WIND) — EAST

Spring, Infancy, Dawn, Crescent Moon, Thinking

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Bell, Incense, Blue, Line, Gas, Mind, Communication, Study, Planning, Merging, Creation, Mental, Relationships

OBJECTS:
air, wind, round shapes, feathers, fans, incense, pinwheels, books, pens
Foods: light desserts, puff pastry, champagne, sparkling drinks
Clothing: light and free-fitting
Scents: clear and delicate scents

ACTIONS:
quick, light motions
lifting up or offering up
speaking or reading

COLORS:
sky blue, blues, whites
bright but indirect light, increasing in intensity, electric lighting
the morning sun

SOUNDS:
sound itself
clear, high-pitched tones; rapid, precise, light rhythms
the rushing wind, rustling sounds
wind chimes, flutes and woodwinds, rattles, bells or drums
speech and laughter, words that direct thoughts, appeals to reason and logic


______________


WATER — WEST

Autumn, Middle Age, Evening, Waning Moon, Feeling

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Cup, Silver, Plane, Liquid, Feeling Emotion, Integration, Process, Cycle, Deepening, Feeling, Family

OBJECTS: water, cups, liquid containers, crescent shapes, seashells, starfish, fish, dolphins
Foods: libations, clear broths
Clothing: smooth, flowing textures of materials such as silk
Scents: rain, sea air, water lilies

ACTIONS:
fluid, graceful, rhythmic motions
actions that denote giving and receiving aspects of water: pouring, drinking, washing
dancing, swaying

COLORS:
blues, blue-greens, silvers
filtered, indirect light, gently changing
twilight

SOUNDS:
melodious, flowing
rhythmic chanting, rushing water, waves, rain
vibraphone, harp, rhythm section, alto pitch
poetry or singing, speech that appeals to the emotions


______________


EARTH — NORTH

Winter, Old Age, Night, New Moon, Sensation

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Disc, Cube, Earth Tones, Solid, Body, Affection, Application, Product, Ending, Manifestation, Action, Group

OBJECTS: solid, sturdy objects of cubes, globes, squares, stones, metals, crystals, wood
Foods: breads, grains, meat, fruits, mushrooms
Clothing: coats, capes, rough mottled textures such as wool
Scents: heavy, musky odors, the smell of earth, forest floor, baking bread

ACTIONS:
stillness, slow, steady deliberate motions
lying, sitting, squatting
digging, planting harvesting
eating, ingestion, digestion
moving to each of the four quadrants of the circle

COLORS:
earth tones: browns, blacks, russets, olive greens, yellows
darkness or dim, steady light
nighttime

SOUNDS:
silence, the pause between sounds
low, deep tones; slow steady rhythms
bass instruments, drum, fiddle, oboe, tuba
speech that refers to body, the world, actions


______________


ESSENCE  — ALL AS ONE

Everything Is Connected, The Ethers, Life Force, Energy That Permeates All of Nature, Wholeness, Unity of Self, the World

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Circles, Mandalas, Altars, the Sun, Labyrinths, Centers, Balancing Points, the Bindu (point of origin and return)

OBJECTS: central altar, candle, lantern, lamp, cauldron, the ritual circle

ACTIONS:
standing in the center of a circle or labyrinth
holding hands in a circle, prayer chains
recognizing life force energy — prana, chi, ether, Akasha, Spirit, God, Tao (to name only a few)

COLORS:
brightness, light itself, the speed of light

SOUNDS:
sounds of pitch higher than human hearing
solitary clear soprano note, a choir’s single voice, monks chanting
instruments with a lingering echo, Tibetan bells
in speech, giving thanks for what has been received from Spirit through invocation


______________


I posted excerpts from that old MCAD library book (The Art Of Ritual) containing lists of objects, foods, actions, smells, and sounds to remind me to engage all of the senses, and in turn, each of the 5 Elements. Keep in mind that directional correlations and colors may vary from culture to culture, depending on what books you reference.

What rituals help you to heal or feel connected to the world at large? How do you integrate human suffering and pain into day-to-day life. What symbols help you to heal and grow, to come to terms with death and loss, to create balance in your life. For me, art and writing open doors to other worlds


The essence of ritual is that something done in the physical realm is related to the higher worlds. This may be a simple gesture of the hand or an elaborate ceremony. It can be working consciously in everyday life, so that quite mundane actions become full of meaning, or a carefully designed ritual acted out for a specific occasion…Ritual is the mode of formalizing action and giving it not only meaning, but creating a contact with other worlds.

—Halevi, School of Kabbalah

Mandala For The 5th Element (Detail)


-posted on red Ravine Monday, March 21st, 2011

-related to posts: Functioning Ego — August Mandalas (Goethe & Color), Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain

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By Judith Ford


My grandmother, who was Dutch, did an incredible job of spring cleaning, every March, every year she was alive. No object and no surface was spared a scrubbing. Rugs were taken out and beaten within an inch of their threaded lives; walls were washed with a hard brown scrub brush. Curtains taken down and washed. Every closet emptied, every sheet and towel bleached and washed. Everything dried outdoors on a clothesline. In March, Wisconsin is still cold so things froze out there, pillowcases transformed into wrinkled boards. Socks turned into twisted sculptures. She washed every dish and pot and spoon. Then when it was all done and everything set back in its proper place, she’d cover the sofa and chairs and lampshades in the living room with plastic covers. She’d lay a plastic path from doorway to living room couch and into the dining room. When I was around 11, I asked her, finally, who she was keeping everything so clean for and when would she remove the ugly plastic. (I didn’t say the word, ugly, I’m sure). “The plastic keeps everything ready for company,” she replied. “But, “I protested, “Aren’t I company?” I had never once seen her living room without plastic. “You,” she explained, “are family. Not company.” She didn’t need to add that I, being a rather messy child, was one of the reasons she protected her furniture.


My mother didn’t do spring cleaning. She did like to open up all the windows on the first day the temperature rose over 50–to air everything out. I always loved that, coming home from school for lunch and finding the windows all wide open, the house looking like a toothless, eyeless caricature of itself, the air sweet and chilly. My mother hated being a housewife and did not cotton to cooking or cleaning. She did the minimums and stuck to the 50’s schedule that most of her friends observed: Monday clean and do laundry; Tuesday iron; Wednesday, volunteer work; Thursday, groceries; Friday, light cleaning (a lick and a promise, is what she called it); Saturday was the night my dad cooked burgers and Sundays we went to my grandparent’s house for dinner. My mother did what she felt she must but mostly without joy and often with many sighs. She did seem to enjoy ironing (which I so don’t get) and would sing while she ironed, in a voice like Ella Fitzgerald. Singing over the ironing and walking in the mountains – those are the times I remember my mother at her happiest. Not cleaning. Never spring cleaning.


Well, it’s sort of spring now and I am sort of spring cleaning. I’ve been putting hours in every week to clean my attic. It has to be done. We’re selling the house and moving to the country.

I’ve lived in this house for 28 years, married husband #2 after living alone here with my daughter for 5 years, moved that husband and his daughter in, had another baby, raised these kids until each one grew their feathers and flew off. Also raised a cockatiel, a parrot, four dogs and numerous gerbils and hamsters in this house. Can you imagine the debris? My attic had become a combination museum, closet (huge closet), and file cabinet. Treasures and cast-offs that have trickled down to me from three generations and two family lines. The leftover objects include outgrown clothes, games, books, and life directions. My very first poem, written at age 10. A couple of Jessie’s baby teeth, nestled inside the newborn bracelet she wore in the nursery: “Baby girl, Marks-Szedziewski, 2-19-78.” An envelope containing a curling wisp of very blond baby hair, Nic’s first haircut, 1988, a battered and faded pink pair of tiny toe shoes (mine, from 1955, I think; although they might be my aunt Jeanne’s). A hair curling iron (great-grandmother Nettie’s, late 1800’s). Aunt Jeanne’s bracelets from the 30’s. So glad I didn’t throw those away. Hundreds of notes from Jessie and from Nic: I Love You, Mommy. Mommy don’t tell anyone but I love you best. Thank you for being my mommy, You are the best Mommy, Next time you go on a trip, take me too. Mommy, I hate camp. Come and get me out of here, please!please!please! Nic’s version of Jingle Bells, written at age 4 with a few backwards letters, words scrawled across the page, Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle all the way, Oh What Fun on Al’s True Ride, On the One on Holken Slay. Jessie’s school trophies, soccer and swimming, her camp and sports t-shirts, Nic’s academic medals for top scores in the state on the ACT and SAT at age 9 and 10, his IQ testing done at Northwestern U when he was 5.

The way I wept when the tester called me and told me the test results.

I wish I had known more back then how to feed his ravenous brain, his wonderful mind. So much I wish I could do over for him.


I will be 63 in a month. The past is truly the past. There are no do-overs and no time left for holding on. Time, instead, for letting go. For boxing up, and throwing away, for going to UPS to send Jessie her soccer and swim team t-shirts, to send Nic his Pokemon card collection. Handing the keepsakes over to my grown-up kids, handing over to them the job of remembering.

In the process of this sorting and cleaning, I’ve had to remind myself again and again to let go not only of the objects but the feelings. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve longed to have my children back in my arms, on my lap, longed for one more night of reading in bed with Jessie at age 7, one more night of long conversation at bedtime with Nic when he was 10. One more chance to see each of them for one hour during each year of their growing-up – one more chance to drink in the sight of them, their wispy hair, freckled faces, braces and missing teeth, to listen to their piping little voices more intently, memorize each one of them even more completely.

I had expected that cleaning out all this old stuff would help me clear the decks for this next chapter of my life, and yes, I guess that’s happening. I had anticipated reminiscing. I hadn’t anticipated the wave upon wave of memories to be so visceral, so wrenching, so expanding and swooping and full of love. I am not only clearing the decks; I am also rejuvenating both myself and the attic. Am going through some kind of death and resurrection here. Turning myself inside out and right side out again. Right side out and I must admit, a little trembly.

Spring cleaning is a piece of cake compared to this.




About Judith: Judith Ford is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was red Ravine’s very first guest writer, with the piece 25 Reasons I Write. Judith’s other pieces on red Ravine include lang•widge, Mystery E.R., I Write Because, and PRACTICE – Door – 20min. Spring Cleaning is based on a 15 minute Writing Practice on WRITING TOPIC — SPRING CLEANING.

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