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Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

Flight Of The Spirit - 20/52

Flight Of The Spirit – 20/52, BlackBerry 52, Wabasha, Minnesota, May 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Medium: original RAW file from April 2010 shot with a Canon Powershot G6, posterized and text added in Franklin Gothic Book font with Photoshop Elements. Jump-Off from Lotus: Spirit Bird.


The first time I stood under the boulder-sized bowl that is an eagle’s nest, I was 22 and living in Montana. Several years ago, friends in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota walked me to a nest on a lake near their home. After years of adapting to erratic human behavior, eagles can be happy urban dwellers.

In 2010, I visited the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota with the Midwest Writing Group. It would be the second time I had the pleasure. On my original visit, the Eagle Center was housed in a meager, cramped facility in the middle of Wabasha. These days rescued eagles Harriet, Angel, Columbia, Wasaka and Donald live in a beautiful 14,000 foot interpretative center overlooking the Mississippi River on 1000 feet of Wabasha shoreline.

When I saw that BlackBerry 52 Jump-Off from Lotus for Week 20 was Spirit Bird, I remembered all the eagles I had met and started searching my photo archives. Eagles are majestic and powerful with a wingspan of 80 to 90 inches, and in every manner spiritual sentient beings. The original photograph of the image above is a RAW file of a park bench outside the National Eagle Center. I pulled the photo into Photoshop Elements to alter it and add the text.

According to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, when the bald eagle was adopted as the national symbol of the United States in 1782, there were between 25,000 and 75,000 birds nesting in the lower 48 states. Illegal shooting, habitat destruction, lead poisoning, and the catastrophic effects of DDT contamination in their prey base reduced eagle numbers to 417 pairs by 1963. Legal protection began with the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and continued with the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 and the 1978 listing under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

The single-most important regulation affecting bald eagle recovery may have been the banning of DDT for most uses in the United States in 1972. Thanks to organizations that protect and rehabilitate eagles, there are now 4,450 occupied nesting territories, a ten-fold increase from the 1963 low. If you ever get the chance to drive to Wabasha, Minnesota don’t miss the opportunity to tour the National Eagle Center. If you are ever in Montana, it doesn’t require a long drive before you are out in the wilderness. Hike the trails, sit like the mountain.


Lotus and I will respond to each other’s BlackBerry Jump-Off photos with text, photography, poetry (however we are inspired) for the 52 weeks of 2011. You can read more at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration. If you are inspired to join us, send us a link to your images, poetry, or prose and we’ll add them to our posts.


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, June 6th, 2011

-related to posts: Baby Eagles At Summer Solstice, BlackBerry 365 Project — White Winter Squirrel, Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Searching For Stillness, icicle tumbleweed (haiga) — 2/52, The Mirado Black Warrior, Waning Moon (Haiga), Alter-Ego Mandala: Dreaming Of The Albatross (For Bukowski), EarthHealer — Mandala For The Tortoise, haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52

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I had thought by the time I did this Writing Practice, we would be well into the green of Spring and Winter would have died a slow death. It’s green. But on the second day of May it dropped to 30 degrees. Ice crystals fell from the sky and pinged the windshield. I am still bundled in fleece, pulling a high collar up around the scruff of my neck to keep warm. Nature is unpredictable. So is the nature of one’s death. It happens that on the week we are writing about death and dying on red Ravine, Osama bin Laden would meet his demise. I feel no joy in his death. It is a strange mix of emotions, more like confusion and relief.

I remember the writing workshop with Natalie in Taos, New Mexico right after September 11th. She thought about canceling it but decided it was important to go ahead. It was a large group, over 50 writers, a talking workshop. The first night we went around the room, introduced ourselves, and spoke briefly about what it was like for each of us on September 11th. Some lived in New York, some had lost loved ones. I was more removed from the immediate impact. But it changed our country forever. Oddly, I don’t want to write about it. Not now. I will leave it for those whose voices ring with more certainty about what it all means. I can’t put labels on it. The whole ten years and two wars mostly makes me sad.

The older I get and the closer to death, the more I think about it. I can’t predict its time, but I can dedicate my life to living while I am on God’s green Earth. I listened to an interview with Janis Ian before seeing her in concert at the Fitzgerald last week. She had gotten very sick, and thought she may die in middle age. She said her thoughts on death before her illness were that she would take the time she had left to write songs, to write the perfect poem set to music. But when the time actually came, when she thought her life would be cut short, all she wanted to do was sit on the porch with her partner and watch the birds. To be close to her loved ones. That’s all that mattered.

It reminds me that I’m not going to be on my deathbed thinking about how hard I worked at all the jobs I have had over the years. It’s not likely I’ll be thinking of co-workers, the people with whom I’ve spent a majority of my daylight hours. I am more likely to want to spend time with Liz, stay close to home, hang out with the cats. I am more likely to want to go visit my mother and close family, to spend the time with friends I know I can trust. Friends with which I can share my deepest fears about dying and death.

There are moments when death doesn’t scare me. Late nights, when I wake up at 3am and can’t sleep, I do feel the fear. I try to befriend my idea of Death. It changes like the seasons. I do believe that life goes on after death. I find some comfort in that. I don’t have to get it right the first time. There can be second chances. But life will never be like the one I have right now, in this one moment. This is my life. I want to make the most of it while I am here.


-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — DEATH & DYING

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May Day Self-Portrait: Searching For Spring – 16/52, BlackBerry 52 –
Week 16, Golden Valley, Minnesota, April 2011, photo © 2011 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Medium: original BlackBerry photo
from April 28, 2011, processed in Photoshop Elements.


Happy Beltane! Glastonbury is celebrating big time. As is Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin. In Minnesota, we woke up to gray and windy skies with a temperature of 33 degrees. But it’s not keeping us from honoring the coming of Spring. The Twin Cities annual In The Heart of the Beast May Day Parade will go on as scheduled in Powderhorn Park! I hope they don’t get blown off the lake.

The self-portrait is a response to Lotus for the BlackBerry 52 Collaboration (the Jump-Off is her self-portrait: Self-Portrait #2: Locker Room). I took the original photograph on April 28th, a warm, sunny day in the front yard. My glasses are actually red, but I reversed them out to the green of Spring. The white area is the reversed shadow of me taking the photograph; the inky background is the spruce in our front yard.

I hope you all enjoy your May Day, rain, bluster, or shine!

Lotus and I will continue to respond to each other’s BlackBerry Jump-Off photos with text, photography, poetry (however we are inspired) for the 52 weeks of 2011. You can read more at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration. If you are inspired to join us, send us a link to your images, poetry, or prose and we’ll add them to our posts.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, May 1st, 2011

-related to posts: The Yogi (Cover Page) — 14/52, Nesting & Resting, Pulling Out The Sun (By Day, By Night), BlackBerry 365 Project — White Winter Squirrel, Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Searching For Stillness, icicle tumbleweed (haiga) — 2/52, The Mirado Black Warrior, Waning Moon (Haiga), Alter-Ego Mandala: Dreaming Of The Albatross (For Bukowski), EarthHealer — Mandala For The Tortoise

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Web & Dew: The Space Between, BlackBerry Shots, July 2010, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Over 90 inches of snow have disappeared from our lawn in temperatures that reach the 50’s by day, drop down to freezing at night. Winter is dying a slow death. Seasons change, transitions in temperament and landscape. The snowmelt runs into rivers and streams, the salt leaves potholes. But soon, tiny shoots of emerald will erupt through the dank, dead, chestnut grass. Winter must die to usher in Spring.

There is power in recognizing impending death. I remember the year my mother told me that when her time came, she was ready to die. We were visiting the South, walking down the cemetery hill from my grandmother’s grave in Georgia. I burst out crying; she hugged me and held me close. I thought the tears inside would never stop. “Honey, don’t worry,” she said. “I’m ready.”

Frankenbelly 3's Birthday - 321/365 Last year, my brother nearly died, before receiving a liver transplant at the 11th hour. It’s an experience that pulled our family together, one we share with countless others. If a person who loses their spouse is a widow, what’s the name for a child who loses a parent? Or a parent who loses a child? There should be a formal naming. For children, it should not be the word “orphan.” That implies that you never held the person close, lived with or loved your parent. There should be another word.

I think of what it must be like to be the one left behind. When I saw writer Joyce Carol Oates in Minneapolis at Talk of the Stacks last week, I bought her new memoir, A Widow’s Story. Her husband Raymond died unexpectedly late one winter night in 2008; the next morning Joyce was supposed to have gone to the hospital, picked him up, and brought him home to recover. It’s the story of loss, grief, and pain; of giant gift baskets, grieving cats, and mounds of trash; of how no one really understood. Yet in the end, she realized that everyone understood. Because Death is a universal experience. It’s just that we don’t talk about it anymore or know how to incorporate it into our lives.

Porkys Since 1953 There is more to Death than the loss of loved ones. Sometimes whole cultures die, like the Anasazi who inhabited the Four Corners country of southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and northern Arizona from about A.D. 200 to A.D. 1300, and then disappeared. Cultural traditions die, too, like Porky’s Drive-In in St. Paul. It was owned by the same family since 1953, and closed its doors last Sunday, April 3rd, 2011. Animals die, and it is certain that we will probably outlive many of our beloved pets (our cat Chaco died a few years ago, June 25th, 2009).

Groups we are in community with have life spans, too. Circles of intimacy change and grow; sometimes we end up leaving people behind. Or they leave us. During one session of a year-long Intensive with Natalie Goldberg, one of the participants was killed in a car crash. The group was stunned. These were people we thought we would sit and write with for an entire year. It was not to be. I remember we chanted the Heart Sutra. I remember finding comfort in the ritual.

Cemetery Fog At Workmens Circle - 70/365 Ah, I feel a heaviness this Spring. But it’s a collective heaviness. Like something is shifting in the Universe. There’s too much going on in the world, too many catastrophes, too many unexpected deaths, too many aging and dying people, too many widows and widowers, for there not to be something going on at the Spiritual level. But that’s just my belief. I know there are people who say this occurred at every period in history. But there are certain paradigm shifts that happen and change the planet as a whole. We can either learn our lessons and get on board the train that moves forward. Or stay stuck in the past, not doing the work that’s required of us.

It’s the New Moon. New beginnings. There is value in what has come before, in the history we have with other people we were close to at one time. It’s good to honor and remember. All of that follows us, and I believe we transform it. All energy is creative energy. Even the energy of Death. It cycles back around into new life. Death can be a release of suffering. It also creates a giant abyss of loss. Maybe we’d be wise to befriend the Grim Reaper. Maybe it is others who are dying or have passed over who teach us the courage and strength to face our own death. Maybe the space between death and dying…is life.


_______________________


Transitions - Catch & Release Though many of our ancestors accepted and honored the process of Death through rituals, sitting, slowing down, it feels like our fast-paced modern world doesn’t know how to stop moving, how to have a conversation about death and dying, or where to put it in the flow of our day-to-day lives. It makes for a good Writing Topic, a good topic for discussion on red Ravine. Why can’t we talk face to face about death? Maybe it’s easier to write about it.

Take out a fast writing pen and notebook, or fire up your computer and write Death & Dying at the top of your page. Then 15 minutes, Go! Or do a Writing Practice on everything you know about any aspect of death and dying. Please feel free to share any insights in the comments below.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, April 5th, 2011. Parts of the piece were taken from several Writing Practices written last weekend, April 2nd & 3rd.

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC — 3 QUESTIONS, Reflection — Through The Looking Glass, Make Positive Effort For The Good, The Uses Of Sorrow — What Is It About Obituaries?, Reading The Obits, and a great interview with Joyce Carol Oates on MPR Midmorning with Kerri Miller – A Widow’s Story — The Story Of Joyce Carol Oates

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EarthHealer — Mandala For The Tortoise – 12/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 12, March 26th, 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Medium: Drawn by hand with a black Staedtler archival pigment ink Fineliner on Canson Mix Media XL Series 98lb drawing paper. 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. Photograph taken with a BlackBerry Tour.


EarthHealer is a tribute to Turtle and her grounding and healing place in the world-wide celebration of Earth Hour on March 26th (here’s my photograph from Earth Hour 2010). It is also my contribution to the collective healing energy of Earth Day coming up on April 22nd, 2011. The mandala was inspired by Hope Among The Rubble, the Week 12 BlackBerry 52 Jump-Off from Lotus, and Tortoise Highway from Seattle poet Teresa Williams. The Tortoise has long been a symbol of the Earth across many cultures, from Ancient times through current day. She is strongly related to the New Moon, the direction North, and the element Earth in Mandala For The 5th Element — The Role Of Ritual In Our Lives.

I researched the differences between turtles, tortoises, and terrapins and found a detailed article on the San Diego Zoo website: Reptiles: Turtle & Tortoise. All three are reptiles. However, turtles spend most of their lives in water and have webbed feet. Tortoises are land-dwellers with short, stumpy legs. Terrapins live on land and in water and are most often found in the brackish, swampy areas near rivers, lakes, and ponds. Some cultures use the words interchangeably. For the purposes of this piece, I consider the Turtle, the Tortoise, and the Terrapin keepers of the Earth, representative of:

  • Slowing Down: standing still, slow walking, staring out the window; nurturing ideas, holding creative seeds in the belly until the time is right to share them; all good things come in time
  • Home as Water & Earth: learning to connect to both, to be fluid, yet grounded. Turtles spend most of their lives in water; tortoises are land dwellers; terrapins live on land and in water.
  • Protecting with Turtle’s Shell: learning how to use protection; teaches good boundaries. Turtles and tortoises have hard, protective shells (part of their skeleton) that are made up of 59 to 61 bones covered by plates called scutes.
  • Motherly Compassion: the Mother Goddess, the cycle of give & take, empathy for others
  • Giving Back to the Earth: as she has given to us. Expressing gratitude for what we have.


Every day I am moved and energized by the comments, deep conversations, and collective energy of our contributors and readers from all over the world. I feel so much gratitude for community and those who give of themselves in service to help tip the world a little more upright on its positive axis. You give me hope. Deep bow.


Searching for Hope Among the Rubble ("Hope Among the Rubble")

Hope Among The Rubble by Lotus, 12/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 12, March 24th 2011, photo © 2011 by A~Lotus. All rights reserved. Medium: Word Cloud created on Wordle using 3 different articles. Text manipulated by adding HOPE. Final touch up in Adobe Photoshop CS2.


Earth Turtle (Detail)

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, March 27th, 2011. Read about ybonesy’s adventures with turtles over the years at In Praise Of Nature & Garage Sales and Novelty Pets.

-related to posts: Best Of BlackBerry 365 — First Quarter SlideShow, BlackBerry 365 Project — White Winter Squirrel, Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Searching For Stillness, icicle tumbleweed (haiga) — 2/52, The Mirado Black Warrior, Waning Moon (Haiga), The Void — January Mandalas, haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52, Alter-Ego Mandala: Dreaming Of The Albatross (For Bukowski), WRITING TOPIC — SLOW OR FAST?

Lotus and I will continue our call and response by posting a BlackBerry photo for the 52 weeks of 2011. Feel free to join us if you wish (learn about the project’s beginnings at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration).

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By Teresa Williams




In the darkness
of this winter morning
I think of those
tortoises
on Santa Cruz island,
walking
their invisible pace
up from the grassy plains
thousands of feet
to the high meadows
and forests,
their ritual escape
from the dry heat
below.

They have travelled
these well worn paths
each season,
for centuries and
this pilgrimage, imperceptibly
moves
slower than the speed
of any dawn
they may wait for.
When you pass them by
these ancient living stones
from the sea,
you can almost hear
Time
laughing at you
and your rush
to arrive
at the top of a hill.
Once there, however,
you will believe
again
in miracles,
when you see
those tortoises
resting
in small pools
of water.



And there is a sense
of deep satisfaction
watching
those giant beings
as they rest in water,
as if everyone
has found
exactly
what they were
looking for.

It is still dark
and winter here;
I do not find
a well worn path
in front of me
nor a place of return
where
each year
I can find
a second home
high above the sea.
No, from this place
only a tangle
of paths
where
these animals
called humans
are moving
in all directions
at once.
Concealed
in this frenzy
of movement
is thirst,
looking moving looking
for higher ground
for a quiet place
to relax
and drink in
something clear
and
true, an element
of coolness.

So, for the moment
while the darkness
lasts
and the thirst
intensifies,
I will crawl away
from the tangle,
go deeper
inside this haven
I have found
of hexagons and
slowness,
and here, I will wait
for a light
for a path
for the place this
shell of waiting
may take me.




_________________________




About Teresa: Teresa Williams is a psychotherapist, poet and translator in Seattle, Washington. She has been writing and trying to live poetry for as long as she can remember. Her love for travel and the Spanish language has called her into translation work. She is also an active member of Grupo Cervantes, a bilingual writer’s group and literary community in Seattle.

Teresa’s poetry has been featured at births, weddings, funerals and several talent shows held by the closest of friends. Her first piece on red Ravine, Sound Falling From One World Into Another, was published in August 2010 and featured the poems: Swans, Two Coyotes at Dawn, and Tarot. Her last piece, The Devil’s Bridge, speaks to the legends and mythology surrounding bridges throughout the British Isles, Scandinavia, and continental Europe.

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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

______________


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 Bob Chrisman


The idea of spring cleaning stayed with me through the night, but vanished this morning, when outside, sleet peppered the streets. My tax appointment required me to catch the bus to go downtown. I rushed around and all thoughts about the meaning of spring cleaning disappeared.

As I pulled the front door closed behind me. The sound of sleet hitting the grass and trees sounded like the dry, clacking bones of dancing skeletons. What an odd association. I played with that idea as I walked.

Monday, February 28, would have been my father’s 97th birthday (and the third anniversary of my mother’s death). Perhaps they returned as dancing skeletons to remind me.

My relationship with my father has troubled me for years. I’ve written about it and published the pieces on red Ravine. The troubled times between us and the difficult life he lived aren’t all I remember about him. Perhaps the idea of the skeleton came to me as a spring cleaning of sorts, a chance to pull out the good memories I hold of him and air them.

From my dad I received a curiosity about the world and the people who inhabit the planet. My father observed the goings on around him. He liked to see how people acted in different situations and could predict what they would do. He frustrated me with that ability when he would say, “I can read you like a book.” And he could too, which made me mad.

My father read voraciously: books, magazines, newspapers, whatever printed words he could find. When he attended family gatherings he would collect reading material and retire to a chair where he would spend the time reading.

His greatest pleasure came when he found a box of books for sale. He bought it, carried it home and searched for reading treasures. The contents of those boxes rarely disappointed him because he liked books about any subject. Really he just liked books in general. He passed on that love to me.

He instilled in me the importance of questioning everything, especially religion. We had the Bible in various editions, which the late 1950’s required in the fight against godless communism, but we also had The Book of Mormon and the Quran. Although a Presbyterian, he didn’t believe that one denomination, or Christianity itself, had an inside edge over other religions or spiritual practices.

He knew how to fix cars and kept our used cars in working order. We never owned a new car, only different ones. He bought odd cars like the brown, streamlined Hudson with the plush interior when the cars of the time favored extravagant fins over aerodynamic design.

He brought home a Simca, a tiny French car, and probably the only French car in the entire city. Unlike most American cars, the gearshift stuck up out of the floor rather than off the steering column. When the shaft broke off one afternoon, Dad welded a metal bar in place and would have driven the car forever had the giant hole in the rusted floor board on my mother’s side not allowed water from a giant puddle to gush up and soak my mother’s favorite pair of Sunday shoes.

The last car he purchased before his stroke was a Corvair, the Nader deathtrap. I learned to drive in that car.

He loved the outdoors and took us on long drives through the countryside to see how the land was doing. Despite my hatred of those drives and my frequently voiced wish for Indians to scalp us, I learned to love the landscape around me. Seemingly pointless drives in the countryside bring me peace nowadays.

He helped out the neighbors. The elderly man next door spent a lot of time at a bar. He sang and shouted as staggered up the sidewalk. He fell. My mother would say, “Len, go help him. He won’t make it up those stairs to his house without hurting himself.”

Although Dad left for work at 5:30 a.m. and the neighbor returned home well after midnight, my father pulled on his pants and went outside to help the man home. Frequently my father assisted the wife in putting her drunk husband to bed. He never judged the man and never complained about the loss of sleep.

My funniest memory of Dad involves a Sunday morning church service. As an elder, he introduced applicants who, as a part of the hiring process for ministers, preached a sermon. During the weeks prior to that Sunday, Dad had worked many long hours and not had much sleep. He introduced the minister and then sat down in one of the plush, red velvet cushioned chairs on the platform and promptly fell asleep. My father snored like an approaching tornado.

Aunt Annie, director of the adult choir, motioned for someone to wake him up. Despite a variety of hand signals, no one moved. My father snored his way through a rather lengthy sermon. When the guest minister finished, he waited for Dad to announce the final hymn, but my dad had died to the world.

My aunt asked the choir and congregation to stand and sing. Dad slept on. When the ministerial candidate realized that my father wouldn’t say any final words, the young man approached the podium. “I hope I’m not responsible for Mr. Chrisman’s sound sleep.” My father remained oblivious to the world and to the congregation’s laughter. The minister shrugged his shoulders and walked down the aisle alone to the main door to shake hands with members of the congregation. That incident became a church and a family legend.

As I write, sleet continues to fall. The skeletons dance outside my window. In my mind spring cleaning reveals fond memories of the man I called my father. Happy Birthday, Dad!




About Bob: Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his family. His last pieces for red Ravine were Exit The Telephone, Desecration Day, and Uncle Howard At The Cemetery.

Other pieces of Bob’s in which he writes with humor and compassion about his family members include: Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters and The Law Of Threes. He also published these pieces about the life and death of his mother: Hands and In Memoriam. And he produced a trilogy about his father: My Father’s Witness, Bearing Witness, and My Life With Dad. Spring Cleaning In The Attic Of My Mind was inspired by the birthday anniversary of Bob’s father and Writing Topic — Spring Cleaning.

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Waning Moon (Haiga)

Waning Moon (Haiga), 7/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 7, February 19th 2011, photo © 2011 by A~Lotus. All rights reserved. Medium: Digital collage created using MS PowerPoint 2007 & Adobe Photoshop CS2. Photo taken on Canon PowerShot A550.


Waning Moon (Haiga) by Lotus is a response to the BlackBerry 52 Jump-Off Skip Rocks Not Breakfast – 7/52. It is a beautiful testament to the Vietnamese New Year and relates to her piece Lunar New Year Postcard and the comments on Celebrating The Lunar New Year — Postcard From A Friend.

This week I am working on a response to the Jump-Off Never (Found Poem) 8/52 based on words and phrases from Charles Bukowski’s The Continual Condition:

Never (Found Poem)


Lotus and I will continue our call and response by posting a BlackBerry photo for the 52 weeks of 2011. Feel free to join us if you wish (learn about the project’s beginnings at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration). To read more about Lotus, visit her at alotus_poetry on Twitter (where she writes poetry every day in community with other Twitter poets), at Poetry By Lotus, and on her Flickr account.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, February 26th, 2011

-related to post: haiku 4 (one-a-day) meets renga 52, BlackBerry 365 Project — White Winter Squirrel

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Searching for Stillness

Searching For Stillness (Haiga Collage), 3/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 3, January 22nd 2011, photo © 2011 by A~Lotus. All rights reserved. Medium: Origami paper, stickers, Elegant Writer calligraphy markers, color pencils, Fiskars Paper Edgers scissors, color lithograph on card stock by Ota Saburo (cutout from a 2011 planner). Poem & origami cranes by A~Lotus. Photo taken on Canon PowerShot A550 camera.


Hard to believe, but we are already into the 4th week of January. A~Lotus created the beautiful haiga collage Searching For Stillness in response to the BlackBerry 52 Jump-Off for Week 3, The Mirado Black Warrior. You can read more about her process of creating the collage on her post #aros: 30th Stone; BB 52 Collaboration (and see the Jump-Off for Week 4).

We will continue our call and response by posting a BlackBerry photo for the 52 weeks of 2011. Feel free to join us if you wish (learn about the project’s beginnings at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration). To read more about Lotus, visit her at alotus_poetry on Twitter (where she writes poetry every day in community with other Twitter poets), at Poetry By Lotus, and on her Flickr account.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

-related to post: haiku 4 (one-a-day) meets renga 52

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Forgotten Winter Snows, BlackBerry Shots, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, April 2010, photo © 2010-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



New Beginnings, New Moon. It’s a good time to start projects and yearly practices. The tradition of haiku on red Ravine began in January 2008 with the piece haiku (one-a-day). It is a practice born from reading Clark Strand’s Seeds from a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey during a year-long Writing Intensive with Natalie Goldberg in Taos, New Mexico. The response from our readers was so great, that we continued the practice with haiku 2 (one-a-day), adding the poetic forms of tanka and renga, and creating a community haiku practice that would span two years.

Thanks to our faithful readers and haiku poets, January 2011 will jump-start our 4th year of haiku practice on red Ravine. haiku 4 (one-a-day) granted me the opportunity to do further research on the history of Japanese poetry and led me to the forms of gogyohko, haibun, and haiga. This year’s challenge is to continue to co-create and build on the poems of other haiku writers with tanka and renga, while exploring the additional forms of gogyohko, haibun, and haiga. [Note: For our new readers, I am reposting information on haiku, senryu, tanka, and renga. For the three new forms, scroll down to gogyohko. Makes the post lengthy, but worthy of a whole year of poetry!]

Along with haiku practice in 2011, I’m doing two collaborations with A~Lotus, one which we call Renga 52. (The other is a BlackBerry 52 practice which I will write about later.) In Renga 52, we are going to keep one renga going in the comments on this post for the entire 52 weeks of 2011. We will each add to Renga 52 at least once a week. You are welcome to participate. Simply jump into Renga 52 in the comment section anytime you wish. Here’s to health and prosperity in the coming year!



haiku & senryu (part one)


Haiku uses simple, direct language, words that evoke a season, and usually incorporates a cutting or pivot word, so that one half of a haiku seems to speak to the other. According to Patterns In Poetry, haiku is closely tied to the Japanese aesthetic of Yugen and the spirituality of Buddhism. It is written in a 17-syllable form (usually three lines of 5-7-5) that looks deceptively simple. Yet if you read the work of the masters like Basho, Buson, and Issa, wandering poets who lived during Japan’s Edo-period (1600-1868), it becomes clear that the practice of haiku can take years to master.

Senryu is similar to haiku but strays from seasonal or nature themes. According to Simply Haiku, senryu focuses on people and portrays characteristics of human beings and foibles, and the psychology of the human mind. Senryu can express human misfortunes or the hardships of humanity, and even when they depict living things or inanimate objects, human attributes are emphasized.

What both haiku and senryu have in common is that they derive from a form of Japanese court poetry called tanka.


Characteristics of haiku:

  • 17 syllables, 3 lines (with variations for language differences)
  • Simple, direct, non-metaphorical language
  • Captures a transitory insight or moment in time called satori or the aha moment
  • Contains a kigo, an image of nature that evokes a particular season
  • Contains a cutting or pivot word that turns the movement of the poem
  • Based on experience, speaks of the common, in the moment, just as it is



tanka (part two)


Tanka, the oldest Japanese poetry form, was often written to explore religious or courtly themes and had a structure of five lines with a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable structure. One person would contribute the first three lines (5-7-5) of the tanka, and a different author would complete the poem by composing a 7-7 section and adding a pivot point such as in this tanka from George Knox at Aha! Poetry:


in the check-out line
a worn face ahead of me
turns tentatively. . .
realities of desire
fade in final reckoning

-tanka by George Knox


Characteristics of tanka:

  • 31 syllables, 5 lines
  • Write the first section of a tanka (5-7-5), similar to a haiku.
  • Another person picks up the first 3 lines and writes a response (or continuation) by composing two lines of 7-7 syllables.
  • Can reflect nature or lean toward senryu
  • Emotional, contemplative, imaginative, reflective, written to be chanted



renga (part three)


Renga (linked elegance) is a form of linked poetry which evolved from tanka, the oldest Japanese poetry form. In renga’s 800 year history it has gone through many ideological changes. (And it was Basho who, after 500 years, snipped off the first three lines of renga to form haiku.)

In renga, one person would often contribute the first three lines (5-7-5) of the poetic chain and a different author would complete the chain by composing a 7-7 section. Then another author would build on the previous 7-7, with another 5-7-5 passage. This chaining of verses or renga, could sometimes add up to hundreds of linked tanka.

The first part of the poem, called hokku or “starting verse,” frequently sets the tone for the rest of the poem, and the authors of hokku often earned the respect and admiration of their fellow poets. By the 19th century, largely through the work of Masaoka Shiki, hokku began to be written and read as individual poems. From the word hokku derives our word haiku.


Characteristics of renga:

  • Write the first section of a tanka (5-7-5), similar to a haiku. Hand this poem to another person.
  • Second person writes a response (or continuation) by composing two lines of 7-7 syllables. Then the second person hands off the completed tanka to a third person.
  • Third person writes another 3 lines of (5-7-5), beginning a new tanka
  • Continue in this way until you run out of time or feel that the poem is complete.
  • Contains a bridge or pivot point that links to the emotional element
  • Don’t try to force the storyline. When writing a response to the previous poem, focus only on the last section of the tanka, not the whole poem.
  • Think of each stanza as a springboard from which you are going to jump. The important thing to watch is what happens between the links.



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gogyohka (part four)


Gogyohka is a relatively new form of Japanese short poetry founded and pioneered by Japanese poet Enta Kusakabe. In 1957, at the age of 19, Kusakabe developed the concept of Gogyohka in order to create a freer form of verse. According to his website, The Gogyohka Society, gogyohka is pronounced go-gee-yoh-kuh (the “g”s are hard as in “good”), and literally translated means “five line poem.”

Gogyohka is five lines of free verse on any subject matter. There is no set syllable pattern or requirement for the length of its lines, but they should be short and succinct  — governed by the duration of a single breath. The goal is to practice self-reflection and contemplation by distilling an idea, observation, feeling, memory, or experience into just a few words. I am new to the form, but here is an example by Rodlyn Douglas at The Gogyohka Society:


Have you loved enough
to know the taste
of blood on the tongue
of one who has been bitten
by betrayal?

-gogyohka by Rodlyn Douglas


Characteristics of gogyohka:

  • 5 lines of free verse
  • No set syllable pattern
  • Short & succinct lines, governed by the duration of a single breath
  • Captures an idea, memory, observation or feeling in a few compelling words



haibun (part five)


Contemporary haibun is a combination of prose and haiku poetry sometimes described as a narrative of epiphany. What makes the haibun electric is the contrast between the prose and the haiku. According to The Haiku Society of America, haibun is a terse, short prose poem in the haikai style, which may include light humor as well as more serious elements. A haibun usually ends with a haiku. Most haibun range from well under 100 words to 200 or 300. Longer haibun may contain haiku interspersed between sections of prose, but the connections may not be immediately obvious. The haiku may serve to deepen the tone, or take the work in a new direction.

Japanese haibun is thought to have developed from brief notes written to introduce individual haiku, but soon grew into a distinct genre. The word haibun can be applied to longer works, such as the memoirs, diaries, or travel writings of haiku poets. According to Contemporary Haibun Online, haibun is the Japanese name for 17th Century monk Basho Matsuo’s travel journals. Basho’s view of haibun was haikai no bunsho – “writing in the style of haiku.” His best-known works, The Narrow Road to the Deep North and The Hut of the Phantom Dwelling, were poetic prose, studded with haiku. Saga Nikki (Saga Diary) documents the day-to-day activities on a summer retreat with his disciples. Here is a contemporary example of a beautiful haibun from Contemporary Haibun:


By The Bay

Dusk turns the water into a fire opal.
The fragrance of fresh earth merges
in the air with white flowers.

Waves seem to whisper through the
western windows of the cabin my grand-
father built for my grandmother.

“Love poems” she once told me.

As I hold you in the dark, I recall her
wistful sighs on the porch, rocking to
the rhythm of the sea.

summer dawn –
I rinse the sand
from the sheets

-haibun by Hortensia Anderson


Characteristics of haibun:

  • Combines prose & haiku
  • Written with the brevity & conciseness of haiku
  • Dependent on images, syntax dominated by imagery
  • Combines light humor & serious elements
  • Ranges from less than 100, up to 300 words
  • Usually ends in a haiku



haiga (part six)


Haiga (Hai means comic and Ga means painting) is a style of Japanese painting based on the aesthetics of haikai, from which haiku poetry derives. Traditionally, haiga combined a haiku poem (written in calligraphy) with a simple painting and was based on simple, but profound, observations of the everyday world. In Haiga: Haiku, Calligraphy, & Painting, Poets.org describes traditional haiga as haiku’s more visual cousin. Some of the early masters were Morikawa Kyoroku, Sakaki Hyakusen, Takebe Socho, and Yosa Buson. Contemporary haiga often adds digital imagery to haiku poetry by the juxtaposition of a photograph to a poem. Or by overlaying the poem on to the image. As we have found on red Ravine, there is a natural inclination to combine haiku poetry forms and digital photography. At Daily Haiga, you can see examples of blended poetry and photography.


Characteristics of haiga:

  • Combines haiku & a simple painting, photograph, piece of art
  • Images restrained, minimal ink strokes, light colors
  • Free flowing with no unnecessary detail
  • Light, ironic, amusing, even when subject is serious
  • Unromantic, down to earth, humorous
  • Ordinary, day-to-day subjects and objects



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haiku practice


Feel free to drop a haiku into this space anytime, day or night. Or join the word play and collaborative effort of tanka and renga. I’m excited to explore the 5-line form of gogyohka, and have already started writing haibun in my Journal 365 practice this year. I thought it would be fun to continue to explore these ancient forms of Japanese poetry, and see where the journey takes us.

Also, it’s okay to experiment, break form, and move out of the traditional structures. English syllables translate differently than onji. And according to Richard MacDonald (from his essay What is Tanka?), Japanese poetry is syllabic by nature and not metrical or rhymed, because like the French language, the Japanese language lacks stress accents.

There are different schools of thought about how rigid one should be in counting syllables. From what I have read, it is a matter of personal taste whether to stay close to the Japanese model, or stray from it for personal reasons or aesthetics in order to incorporate Western heritage into poetic work. The most important thing is to relax and have fun with it!


Option 1 – haiku

  • Drop in a haiku or senryu, 17 syllables, 3 lines (with variations for language differences)

Option 2 – tanka

  • Grab another poet’s haiku, and write the 2 additional 7 syllable lines to create a tanka

Option 3 – renga

  • Grab a tanka created by 2 other poets, and, focusing on the last 2 lines, start the beginning of a new tanka (5-7-5) to be completed by the next poet

Option 4 – gogyohka

  • Write a gogyohka, 5 lines of free verse, governed by the length of a single breath, no set syllable patterns

Option 5 – haibun

  • Write a haibun, combining prose & haiku, less than 100 – 300 words, ends in haiku

Option 6 – haiga

  • Drop in a link to a haiga you created, blending or juxtaposing a haiku with painting, photo, or any form of visual art


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DEFINITIONS:


bridgeword, or words leading the reader from the nature image to the statement of emotion

cutting (kireji) Punctuation mark or word that divides a haiku into two parts. A cutting can be a hyphen, ellipses, colon or a word.

gogyohka5 lines of free verse on any subject matter, each line the length of one breath, no set syllable pattern

haibunterse, relatively short prose poem (100-300 words) in the haikai style, usually including both lightly humorous and more serious elements, ending with a haiku.

haigacombining a haiku poem (written in calligraphy) with a simple painting. Contemporary haiga combines digital imagery, photographs, other art forms with haiku.

haikaishort for haikai no renga, the popular style of Japanese linked verse originating in the 16 Century, as opposed to the earlier aristocratic renga. In both Japanese and English, the word haikai can also refer to all haiku-related literature.

hokkufirst part of a renga, hokku is a “starting verse” that frequently sets the tone for the rest of the poem. Authors of hokku earned the respect and admiration of their fellow poets. By the 19th century, largely through the work of Masaoka Shiki, hokku began to be written and read as individual poems. From the word hokku derives our word haiku.

kigoA seasonal reference in haiku. Usually a kigo has accumulated resonances and associations with earlier haiku and Japanese aesthetics about time.

onji Japanese syllables. The language differences between Japanese and English are vast and complex. Converting onji to syllables may not always be a one for one process.

pivot word A word in a haiku poem that changes, or turns the direction of the poem

rengaJapanese poetic form made up of linked tanka verse; the word renga means “linked elegance”

satori A moment of insight or reflection that emerges in a Haiku poem (usually around the cutting or pivot word)

tanka Japanese poetic form that is made up of 5 lines with a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable count. Haiku derives from tanka.

yugenJapanese term for beauty that suggests mystery, depth and a tinge of sadness


RESOURCES USED IN WRITING THIS PIECE:



-posted on red Ravine at the first New Moon, Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

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Fire & Ice

Fire & Ice, Winter Solstice Celebration, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2010, photos © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Sitting, staring out the window. The Hairy Woodpecker has found our suet feeder. This year we moved the deck feeders two feet South to protect them from the squirrels. The rodents can jump about 4 feet from the deck rail to the feeders if they put their minds to it. I love the woodpeckers and am happy they have found a safe place to feed for the Winter.

Last night we celebrated Winter Solstice. Holding On, Letting Go Letting go of what we want to leave in the Dark, making conscious choices about what to bring into the Light. I was quiet, more withdrawn than usual. Liz wore the Bear this year. I loved watching her dance down the path, calmly and playfully.

Ice Candle The night was cloudy, with a frigid West Wind blowing right into our faces. My fingers grew numb; I pulled them into my coat to keep warm. Homemade ice candles lit the path down to the fire ring. We didn’t hear the coyotes. Or the Great Horned Owl from last year. There were times when we stood by the fire in complete Silence. Other moments when drums and rattles were going full force. The drummer in me is happy at these rituals.

Morning finds me tired, sore, smelling like smoke from last year’s Yule tree. Solar Tree It’s 4 degrees as I type. A powerful Solstice is a day away. What makes it so potent is something that has not happened in 450 years — the combination of a Winter Solstice Blue Moon (the original meaning of a Blue Moon was Four Full Moons in one season) which coincides with a Total Lunar Eclipse.

According to NASA, an eclipse of the Moon can only take place at Full Moon, and only if the Moon passes through some portion of Earth’s Winter Solstice Fireshadow. Unlike a Solar Eclipse, it is safe to view with the naked eye. From a Shamanic perspective, the Total Lunar Eclipse collapses time and accelerates what’s already in motion. The rare Winter Solstice Full Moon Total Lunar Eclipse is a time that creates maximum synchronization of Solar and Lunar cycles, strengthening the power and intensity of the Sun and Moon together. When this happens the New Year brings increased understanding of a larger cycle of events at work in the world, and of lineage, the knowledge passed down from the Ancients.


Here are the times for Solstice & Eclipse events in Minnesota (CST):

Total Eclipse of the Moon — Tuesday, December 21st, 1:41am to 2:53am CST
Full Blue Moon in Gemini — Tuesday, December 21st, 2:13am CST
Winter Solstice 2010 — Tuesday, December 21st, at 5:38pm CST


Hours to view the reddish hues of the eclipsed December Moon vary, depending on where you live. In Europe and the eastern United States and Canada (time zones AST, Tiny Solstice MoonEST and CST), the entire eclipse occurs during the early morning hours of December 21, 2010. For the western United States and Canada (time zones MST and PST), the eclipse begins before midnight on the night of December 20, and ends sometime after midnight on the morning of December 21. In Alaska and Hawaii (time zones AKST and HST), most of the eclipse occurs on the night of December 20, but ends early on December 21.

You can find official times in your area at Mr. Eclipse and a detailed breakdown of the phases of this year’s Winter Solstice Total Lunar Eclipse. If you don’t feel like braving the elements, NASA is providing a live webcam at their site.


Another year is coming to a close. The frost on our windows tells me Winter is here to stay. We have had a cold December. One that finds pleasure in mimicking the sub-zero temps we usually see in January. And the snow! Almost three feet of it. Last weekend we were digging out. This weekend, back to the mundane chores of living. Chop wood, carry water. You can’t get away from it. Blue sky peeks over the oaks and ash. The woodpecker has flown from the feeder; a Lunar Eclipse is on the way.


2004 Lunar Eclipse Sequence, (c) 2004 Fred Espenak, courtesy Fred Espenak, Mr. Eclipse at http://www.mreclipse.com


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, December 20th, 2010 , partially based on a Sunday Writing Practice about Frost

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View from The Gatehouse,” Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos,
December 8, 2010, photo © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 





Sleepwalking I arrive
but silence awakens me
to our suffering










________________________________________________________________________________________________________


On this second full day of silence, something snaps. I thought I came here because: I had vacation time to kill, I wanted to give myself a gift, it had been a long time since I’d been to a silent retreat in Taos with Natalie Goldberg. Today I am reminded that this is not play. When I go into silence, pain emerges. I wake up.

A quick step out of silence to give you an update, QM. I am also reminded that I met you here, that our friendship was created in silence and through the humanity and compassion we find when we come here. I am grateful for you, for all the friends I have met through Taos, and for everything I have learned about myself through coming here.

I am not writing much since arriving. In fact, I have only thus far written in the zendo during collective Writing Practice. Outside of class, I have spent my free time in The Gatehouse, where I’m staying. I’ve read, slept, and worked on collages. After I publish this post, I might venture out for a walk. I crave the cold air in my lungs.

It is good to be here, to wake up to all of me. To be humbled again.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________




-Related to posts Sitting in Silence and haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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shadow auto 2

Moon Over Taos Mountain, Taos, New Mexico, January 2003, Tri-X black & white film print, photo © 2003-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


December marks a time of darkness and silent reflection leading up to the Winter Solstice. Most Decembers, Natalie holds a writing retreat around the time of December 1st through 8th. In Zen, this time is called Rohatsu Sesshin and marks the enlightenment of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. For those heading to Taos to write, it’s a time of community solitude, an opportunity to go within.

sherpa 2 auto

Slow Walking, Natalie Goldberg, Taos, New Mexico, January 2003, Tri-X B&W film print, photo © 2003-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

This week ybonesy and several other writing friends will be making the jouney to Taos to sit in silence. I find comfort in knowing they will be there under Taos Mountain. When they sit, they sit for all of us. The zendo casts a wide circle. Everything is connected. We can sit and write in solidarity.

There will be long nights under Mabel’s lights and slow walks into Taos. Some will walk the morada, visit the graves of Mabel and Frieda, soak up places that Georgia walked on her first visits to New Mexico. Notebooks will be filled with Writing Practices, later to be reread.

Whatever’s at the surface will fall away. What’s important is what is underneath.  Underbelly.


Sit, Walk, Write. With Gratitude to a long lineage of mentors and teachers. For all that has come before. And all that will be.


Note: ybonesy and I met in Taos at a Writing Retreat. We’ll be forever connected by that thread. And the practice that became red Ravine. We’ve written many pieces on our time spent in Taos. To learn more about Sit, Walk, Write or our experience of studying with Natalie Goldberg at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, check out the links in this post. Or click on any of the posts under Taos. With Gratitude to our readers, those at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Natalie, and all the writers and artists who keep showing up to brave the silence. We are all in this together.


–posted on red Ravine, Sunday, December 5th, 2010

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Gratitude Mandala

Gratitude Mandala, Dymo LabelWriter 1895, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, Prang Metallic Markers, Tul Permanent Markers, Black Sharpie, Crayola Colored Pencils, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Inspired by ybonesy’s journal post (This Thanksgiving Weekend, Make A Gratitude Journal), and with a little Holiday time on my hands, I took a different approach to my yearly Gratitude List. I still used the alphabet as a jumping off place. But instead of making a vertical list, I wound around the first page of Gratitude List, Journal Style the journal I’ll be using for my Journal Practice 2011. Then took the major categories of that list and incorporated them into a November mandala.

I always feel full and abundant after making a Gratitude List. The passing of time can be difficult, scary, life-threatening. But remembering what I am grateful for eases whatever pain I have felt. It tips the balance.

I want to move into the New Year giving thanks. Christening a new journal with a Gratitude list comes from a place of wholeness, leaving feelings of scarcity and lack in the dust!

Thanks for the inspiration, ybonesy. And I have so much gratitude for our red Ravine readers. I hope everyone is having a good Thanksgiving weekend.



At The Mandala's Center

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 28th, 2010

-related to posts: The ABC’s Of A Prosperous 2008 – Gratitude, Feelin’ Down For The Holidays? Make A Gratitude List, A Simple Gratitude List, Reflection — Through The Looking Glass, I Am Grateful For The Alphabet 😉, Coloring Mandalas, On Providence, Old Journals, & Thoreau

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Mr. Calavera

Mr. Calavera (calavera is the Spanish word for skeleton), pen and marker on graph paper, doodle © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




The Missus will be happy. I finally finished the drawing of her husband. He’s not an easy man—a hard-drinking, hard-living type who would have driven any good woman to die of love. But he’s also an old-fashioned guy, opens doors for women (probably too many doors and Lord knows where they lead) and his kids crawl all over him when he comes home late smelling of whiskey. He can ride a horse and slaughter a cow, grow a garden, hold his liquor. A man’s man. And a decent poker player, to boot.

And you know what? He’s just as devilish in the afterworld as he was in this one. But that’s OK, because over there life is easy. For the both of them. No guilt or sin or any of the baggage that keeps us running in circles in this world.

The Missus (aka Dying Love)Day of the Dead was celebrated last week on November 2nd. I hope my lovely couple—fashioned after my grandmother and grandfather, although if he really were Grandpa, he’d be wearing jeans and a cowboy hat, and a bolo tie if he had to dress up; everything else is the same, though—had a great time.

In this world they had a combustible marriage. Too many poker games, plus that damned redhead on Coco Street, and gambling away dinner for the next two weeks, which brought about a swing of the broom, or worse, when he came home late at night with his paycheck gone. But they were bigger-than-life-sized characters. I wouldn’t have wanted them to be any less explosive or colorful or real. I’m thinking of them this early November. Realizing how with each passing year I inch a little closer to taking their place in my family chain.

Happy Day of the Dead, all you living (for now) folk!



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Dark when I get up, dark when I drive home. Ghosts like this time of year. They can wander freely throughout the Universe, come and go, visit whoever they please. I haven’t seen any real ghosts in a long, long time. Yet I lay awake this morning from 4am to 6am, the time I got up to write this practice. I can’t help but think of Ada my grandmother when I think of ghosts. The way she came to see me in Minnesota after she died, made the trip all the way from Tennessee. I was a young woman the last time I saw her alive. She came to me in a ghost-like dream, told me she was alright, that she loved me, and said good-bye. It was the day after that I called Mom to see if she had died. I regretted not seeing her in person for so long; she let me know it was okay. I could feel at peace.

Leslea was more playful, the way she pulled at my toe and knocked the writing book off the shelf. It was around the time I was deeply immersed in my study with Natalie, debating whether to quit my day job for writing, haunted by the ghosts of what-if’s. Looking back, maybe I should have kept my day job. At least if I had wanted a secure financial future. But, then again, looking at the recession of the last few years, maybe it didn’t matter. I was happier leaving. And have made great strides in feeling secure as a writer, in setting up practices that sustain me, a community that holds me. That’s half the reason we started red Ravine.

I watch shows about the paranormal because they fascinate me. I’m fascinated because I’m curious about what happens after we die. I do believe that some souls are trapped between worlds. They wander and attach themselves to places where they lived in their physical lives. I also believe that most of us move on. To do different things in the next spiritual life. Maybe not all lives are spiritual. I happen to believe the work I do here now takes me to the next phase of whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing. This is all vague. Because it’s a Writing Practice and it’s the stream of my mind. It’s also vague because the afterlife is vague. No one really knows what happens after you die.

What if the afterlife is only what you believe it to be? That would make it different for each person. Some don’t believe in life after death at all. The physical death is the end. If I believed that, I would lose hope. That people can improve themselves and go on to something better. But back to Ghosts. I don’t summon them up, play the Ouija Board anymore. I don’t look for ghosts or ask them to appear. I don’t provoke or ask for signs. I might fall over if I saw a ghost of a person I didn’t know. Somehow, it doesn’t scare me to get visits from those I know who have passed to the other side. I count it as one of the many blessings of being in a body.

I want to be comfortable with my own death. But sometimes I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it a lot this year because my brother has been very sick. His liver has been failing for some time. I was prepared for the worst. Then, miraculously, the week after I got back from my last writing retreat on Lake Michigan, I got a text from him that they had a liver. He was on his way to Philadelphia. Last night we IM’d over Facebook as if nothing had happened. Except the miracle that is his life. He is energetic and full of energy. The 45 staples come out on Tuesday, the day I arrive. The story could have ended differently. In this case, the ghosts are Wonder, Joy, fragments of Disbelief in how a life could move so quickly from Death’s door.

Oh, and Death. I’m not so sure about the sickle and scythe thing. It’s too daunting. Maybe you should lighten up your wardrobe. It’s scary to the living. Or maybe you already have and we all don’t know how to change your ghost of an image. Whatever you are, I don’t want to be afraid. Shadow and Light, they all play in the same forest of autumn leaves.


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