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Gratitude List 2019, iPhone Shots, November 30th, 2019, photo © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

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Circles 3 PaperCamera2014-12-24-16-26-07

Listen In Circles, Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2014, photos © 2014 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I am reading a book of essays that Gail gave me on the different ways that artists make a living. Their studios, how they obtain money, do they have day jobs. It’s good to read because it reminds me of all the ways that artists and writers make their art and writing work with the rest of their lives. It’s humbling. And it teaches me not to give up. I’ve been experimenting with doing nothing really, nothing but practice. I keep up my haiku practice. I do some writing practice but not every day. I do no specific art, no photography, no writing. I want to see how it makes me feel inside to give these things up. It’s a long break, a hiatus from identifying as an artist. It’s good to take a break sometimes. What I am noticing is that it relieves a lot of pressure. Pressure to be something else, to be doing something else besides living day to day. It does relieve pressure. But it hasn’t brought me peace. I look to another day, a small room of my own. Maybe that’s dreaming an unrealistic dream. I don’t know. All I have is this moment. This one moment. In this moment, I end a writing practice and move on.

-from a Writing Practice with No Topic, November 30th, 2014


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When I feel lost, I go back to what I know. Back to my practices. Back to Beginner’s Mind. I am rereading Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender. She writes and sketches her journey with the begging bowl. The image of the bowl became the image of the book. The empty bowl, waiting to be filled.


Stories move in circles. They don’t go in straight lines. So it helps if you listen in circles. There are stories inside stories and stories between stories, and finding your way through them is as easy and as hard as finding your way home. And part of the finding is the getting lost. And when you’re lost, you start to look around and to listen.

-quote by Deena Metzger from Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, January 2nd, 2015

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Sundog Halo, iPhone Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2013, photo © 2013 by Liz Anne Schultz. All rights reserved.




Sundog halo
in a dark world—

her crystal face, silent, skewed.

Deviant rays of red and blue,
diamond dust takes many hues.







There were two days last week when sundogs appeared on our drive to work, adding a little magic to the sub-zero skies. Sundogs, parhelia, are formed by plate crystals high in the cirrus clouds. Though all crystals refract light from the sun’s rays, we only see those that tilt their light toward our eyes 22° or more from the sun and at the same altitude (a 22° circular halo).

When plate crystals drift down with their large hexagonal faces almost horizontal, rays that become sundogs enter a side face and leave through another, inclined 60° to the first. The refractions deviate the rays by 22° or more, depending on their angle when they enter the crystal, making them visible to us. Red is deviated least, giving the sundog a red inner edge.

sundog - Vädersoltavlan_cropped

Vädersolstavlan, a 17th century painting of Stockholm depicting a halo display event in 1535. Cleaned in 1998. Public Domain.

 

 

Sundogs are visible all over the world, any time of year, regardless of the ground temperature. In cold climates, the plates can reside at ground level as diamond dust. The oldest known account of a sundog is “Sun Dog Painting” (Vädersolstavlan) depicting Stockholm in 1535 when the skyscape was filled with white circles and arcs crossing the horizon. The original oil on panel painting, traditionally attributed to Urban Målare, is lost, and virtually nothing is known about it. A copy from 1636 by Jacob Heinrich Elbfas is held in Storkyrkan in Stockholm, and believed to be an accurate copy.





-posted on red Ravine, Monday, December 9th, 2013

-related to post WRITING TOPIC — CIRCLES, haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52



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Wheel Of Life, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008-2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


ONE: Gates Of Death, Stage 10 of The Great Round, begins the natural process of ending the Great Round cycle in preparation for a new beginning. Experiences that open this stage often come in losses or obstructions that challenge us to question who we are. The first mandala, Wheel Of Life, brings us face to face with the relentless passage of time. The Wheel of Life turns on, sometimes up, sometimes down, urging us to let go.

Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, Rainbow Magic pens that erase and change color, Reeves Water Colour Pencils




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Celtic Cross, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008-2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


TWO: In Stage 10, we are being separated from that which is no longer needed. Celtic crosses made of tall, silent, enduring stone dot the landscape of Scotland. They stand against the sky, washed by the winds and rains of countless seasons, reminders that even though things change, there is a part of us that lives on.

Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Reeves Water Colour Pencils




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Lotus, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008-2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


THREE: In mandala three, based on the Kali Yantra of Hinduism, destruction opens the way for creation. The eight-petaled lotus represents the goddess Kali in her nurturing maternal aspect. The inner circle, traditionally colored black, reveals her also as a Destroyer, the dark womb that absorbs all into non-being. The central triangle, ultimate symbol of divine feminine creative energy, holds the spark of new life.

Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Reeves Water Colour Pencils




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Gateway, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008-2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


FOUR: Stage 10, Gates of Death, opens the last segue leading to the completion of a Great Round cycle, and urges us to walk through the gate into the unknown. It is time to let go of the way things have been and clear the way for a new beginning.

Medium: Reeves Water Colour Pencils, Crayola markers




October Mandalas — Stage 10 – Gates Of Death


The last few months I have been feeling empty, like I am nearing the end of a creative cycle. I have been wanting to shed the old, to wrap up lingering projects and push them out into the world, so that I can open to something new. It’s disconcerting to not know where you are going—a good time to revisit old practices. Yesterday, I spent most of the day in silence and opened the book on mandalas. When I revisited Stage 10, Gates of Death, I knew it was time to sit with the lessons it had to teach.

The mandalas are from the 10th month of a year-long mandala practice that began with the post Coloring Mandalas and followed the twelve passages of Joan Kellogg’s Archetypal Stages of the Great Round. I spent that year taking the Great Round to completion. But there was something I had yet to understand—-it would take until 2013 for events of my life to catch up to the last cycles of the Great Round. Some of the signs of Stage 10 – Gates of Death are:

  • losses or obstructions that challenge us, causing us to question who we are
  • things that once seemed important, seem empty & meaningless
  • bittersweet parting with what was; painful rending from what can no longer be
  • desire to let go of life the way it was, with no sense of what is to come
  • sense of deflation when the connection between Ego & Self grows more distant
  • aware of cycles of decay in nature and the eventual approach of death


Adding to the sense of disorientation I’ve been feeling, I lost a writing friend in July. And in November, I found out my blood father died on October 31st, ending any chance he might have to read the letter I wrote. Death. Decay. Loss. Rebirth. I still believe that anything we take on as a practice takes us where we need to go. It is the time it takes to get there that remains a mystery.



Archetypal Stages Of The Great Round on red Ravine:


Crystallization — September Mandalas
Functioning Ego – August Mandalas (Goethe & Color)
Squaring The Circle – July Mandalas (Chakras & Color)
Dragon Fight — June Mandalas
Target — May Mandalas
Beginnings — April Mandalas
Labyrinth – March Mandalas
Bliss – February Mandalas
The Void – January Mandalas
Coloring Mandalas


-posted on red Ravine, Thanksgiving weekend, Saturday, November 30th, 2013




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It’s hard not to make assumptions. I make general assumptions about the way I think people should live every day. I expect honesty, forthrightness, that people are generally good. I expect people to honor their word, and want to believe they are telling the truth. These are all assumptions. Then I start thinking about values, how assumptions are made according to the values we hold. People assume that everyone is straight. At least 10% of the population is not, probably much more. When I think about it, I can’t really afford to make assumptions — if I don’t want people to make assumptions about me.

Finding the courage to communicate clearly — that takes some doing. It’s easy to chatter through the day, talk, talk, talk. People love to talk. But what about when it really comes down to it. To life and death situations, to a need to get one’s affairs in order, to ask for help, to talk about what’s hard, to deal with the things we don’t really want to face. I might dash off into my head, get brooding or quiet. That’s the way I process. Tapping away at words. Words are meaningless without the ability to communicate clearly. I am lost on this Topic.

Maybe Don’t Make Assumptions is connected to Be Impeccable With Your Word. On the assumption end, you are focusing on the other person, on believing that their world doesn’t revolve around you. Let that go. On the impeccable end, you are trying to make sure you can live up to your word, to the agreements you make with other people. Sometimes they are small, like following through on emptying the trash or changing the cat litter, washing the dishes. Sometimes they are big, like legal contracts, paying the mortgage or your rent, or showing up to work on time. What does it take to be there for your family, your friends?

I have not been focused this week. My thoughts scatter when I try to make sense of life events that just don’t make any sense. Who was it that said things would make sense? They don’t. Sometimes I wonder if the things I fear the most have to do with death, abandonment, being left behind. I don’t feel like I have my own affairs in order. Not yet. And there is still so much I want to do. But I don’t have control over how long I will live. Or how long those close to me will survive.

I can’t assume I will live a long life. And neither can you. That leaves this moment. And whatever’s happened in the past. To come to terms with the past, I study history. At the global, local, and family level. To make sense of the present, I write. I take photos. I mull things over. I try to be true to my word. I am not always successful. The agreements, for me, are more what I learned in Writing Practice. To make positive effort for the good. To continue under all circumstances. To not be tossed away. These are spiritual agreements, like the Four Agreements, like the Golden Rule. They are words to live by, impossible to follow, necessary for survival, tools that make relationships sing.

The people I respect the most stick their necks out for others, take risks, show gratitude, learn to live with the criticism of imperfection. Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martin Luther King, Sitting Bull. This practice is all in the abstract. I cannot name names or even explain what I really mean. My eyelids are heavy. I said I would post this Writing Practice. I am sticking to my word. Perhaps my heart really isn’t into the writing. The rain washed away my sadness. But not my worry.  I dreamed of a freshwater lake the size of the Moon, concentric rings forming a circle that wraps around. Unbroken.


-Related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC — THE FOUR AGREEMENTS

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Gothic Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

ONE: Crystallization, Stage 9 of The Great Round, creates the opening in which seeds planted in earlier stages bloom into full flowers. The first mandala alludes to the rose windows in Gothic cathedrals, designs that continually pull the gaze back to the center.  

Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Rainbow Magic pens that erase and change color

 
 
 
 

Rule Of 8’s, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

TWO: The underlying structure of this Stage 9 mandala is based on the number 8 which imparts order to the complex design (when you begin this mandala, give yourself plenty of time for the details). Derived from a Turkish design, it communicates the Islamic belief that all is held within the One, or Allah. 

Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Reeves Water Colour Pencils

 
 
 
 

Sri Yantra, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

THREE: In this mandala based on the Sri Yantra, a sacred Hindu design used for meditation, the single downward-pointing triangle in the center is a symbol of divine feminine energy, the source of all creation. Expanding outward from the center, upward-and-downward-pointing triangles signify all male and female creatures coming into being. Lotus petals enclose the field of emanation; lines that represent the 4 directions, the 4 elements, and other ordering principles border the whole. 

Medium: Crayola markers, Portfolio Brand Water-Soluble Oil Pastels, and Reeves Water Colour Pencils

 
 
 
 

Rule Of 6’s, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

FOUR: The overall pattern of this mandala is based on a Hindu design signifying creation. Based on the number 6, the interplay of lines brings one circle after another dancing into view.   

Medium: Colored exclusively with Rainbow Magic pens that erase and change color, experimenting with color subtraction and complements

 
 
 
 

September Mandalas — Stage 9 -Crystallization
 
 
When you reach Stage 9 of The Great Round, it is time to pause and take a moment to stop and smell the roses. The Crystallization of Stage 9 is a time of fulfillment, satisfaction, and completion. It is opened by the adult experience of finishing a project or fulfilling an important commitment (such as raising a family) which creates a natural pause to experience delight and joy in what you have accomplished.

These mandalas are from the 9th month of a year-long mandala practice that began with the post Coloring Mandalas. Early in 2008, I made the decision to follow the twelve passages of Joan Kellogg’s The Great Round. According to Susanne F. Fincher, the healing benefits of The Great Round: Stage 9 – Crystallization are:
 
 

  • a slowing of creative activity followed by a sense of balance and relaxed enjoyment
  • completing tasks and finding deep satisfaction in what you have accomplished
  • scattered puzzle pieces come together in harmony; seeds planted come to full bloom
  • seeing through appearances to grasp fundamental structures of reality
  • reviewing each facet of what you have created, you survey your labor of love, and conclude “this is good”

 
 

In later cycles, Crystallization is a time when you achieve mastery of a spiritual practice. It’s a sweet time, a moment of joy. I think that’s why many of the mandalas in Suzanne F. Fincher’s Coloring Mandalas 2 are based on the Crystallization phase. I was going to do another elaborate essay about color systems at the end of this post. But it’s been over a year since I posted Stage 8, Functioning Ego — August Mandalas (Goethe & Color) (my apologies). So I decided the most important thing I could do for our readers is to complete the publishing of the entire Great Round I completed in 2008.

I’ve learned a lot from the practice of mandalas. It’s moved out into my photography practice. I’ve continued on to Coloring Mandalas 2 and hope to start posting them in 2010. Anything we take on as a practice — writing, haiku, photography, doodling — takes us where we need to go. Whether we decide to take a practice to the next level, or abandon it altogether because it has run its course, the structure, repetition, and dedication prove to be excellent teachers. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to color a few mandalas while Liz watches the Vikings game!

 

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 15th, 2009

-related to posts: The Void – January Mandalas, Dragon Fight – June Mandalas, Winding Down – July 4th Mandalas, and WRITING TOPIC – CIRCLES

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The Black Watch Tartan & Targe, St. Simons Island, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Black Watch Tartan & Targe, Fort Frederica, St. Simons Island, Georgia, July 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






brand new lease on life
back in the memoir saddle
where do I begin?


ancestors calling
haunting photos of Georgia —
let’s start with the Scots


family line(age),
saturated memories;
everything passed down.






Georgia’s Scottish Highlanders: Memoir Calls Again


Life circumstances have bestowed upon me the gift of time. I called Mom last weekend and we began talking ancestry again (one of our favorite topics). I’m not sure if I’ll be visiting Georgia this summer, but the seed has been planted. I’ve renewed the research catalogue we use for the family tree. And have begun going back through the photographs taken over the last two summers in Georgia and South Carolina.

History excites me; I love the ghosts of the past. Especially if they are connected to the history of our family. Mom has (almost) traced our ancestry back to the Scottish Highlanders in Darien, Georgia (Irish side of family, perhaps Scots-Irish). When we were at John Wesley’s place (English clergyman and founder of Methodism) on St. Simons Island, we read several accounts in old ledgers that led us to believe a member of our family was a Scottish Highlander. The search goes on for that one definitive piece of recorded evidence to back it up.

The Highlanders were known for their battle skills and the British recruited them to help settle the Colonies. Scottish troops serving in the British Army were sent to Georgia in 1736 to set up a new outpost. Under the leadership of General James Oglethorpe, these men established the settlement of Darien and a sawmill along the Altamaha River.

Mom, Liz, and I visited the buzzing wildness of Fort King George last summer. We braved the dripping humidity to walk through one of the ancient cemeteries at the edge of Darien, and the perimeter of a tabby building, now a historic site, that was one of the first black churches in the area (at the time many people in Darien were against slavery). It’s a sleepy, quiet river town. And boy, was it hot there last July!


Scottish Highlander Targe, St. Simons Island, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Scottish Highlander Targe, St. Simons Island, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Scottish Highlander Targe, St. Simons Island, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Warrior Shield: History of the Targe


We had driven to Darien after our stay on beautiful St. Simons Island and a visit to Fort Frederica. St. Simons played a pivotal role in the struggle for empire between the competing colonial interests of England and Spain. Georgia’s fate was decided in 1742 when Spanish and British forces clashed on the Island. Fort Frederica’s troops defeated the Spanish, ensuring Georgia’s future as a British colony. Today, the archeological remnants of Frederica are protected by the National Park Service.

While Liz was out taking video of a British reenactment at Fort Frederica (complete with musket fire), Mom and I, sweat-covered and tired, slipped into the historical area where it was cool and checked out the books and exhibits. I was immediately drawn to the glass case with what looked like a life-sized mandala shield that turned out to be a targe.

One of our ancestors may have worn The Black Watch Tartan (plaid fabric) authorized for use by the Scottish troops serving in the British Army. Or maybe they carried a targe. I did find a link to the history of the targe written by a man who is still constructing them by hand — John Stewart, The Targeman. According to his site, the targe dates back to the 16th Century and was once the Scottish Highlander’s first line of defense. I was fascinated by the details in these excerpts:


Construction —
Targes are round shields between 18″ and 21″ (45–55 cm) in diameter with an inside formed from two very thin layers of flat wooden boards, the grain of each layer at right angles to the other. Targes were fixed together with small wooden pegs, forming plywood. The front was covered with a tough cowhide that was fixed to the wood with many brass, or in some cases, silver, nails. Sometimes brass plates were also fixed to the face for strength and decoration.

Some targes had center bosses of brass, and a few of these could accept a long steel spike which screwed into a small “puddle” of lead which was fixed to the wood, under the boss. When not in use, the spike could be unscrewed and placed in a sheath on the back of the targe.


Materials —
Most targes had their back covered with cow and goat, and 80% of original targes still show straw, crude wool and other stuffing material beneath their ruined skins. Some targes, usually those actually used in battle, had their backs covered in a piece of red cloth taken from the uniform of a government soldier (a “Redcoat”) that the owner had killed in battle.


Design —
The face of a targe was often decorated with embossed Celtic style patterns. Typically two general patterns were used – concentric circles, or a centre boss with subsidiary bosses around this. An exception is the targe in Perth Museum in Scotland which is of a star design (see photo at his site). Although some targe designs appear to have been more popular than others, there is very little to indicate that there ever were “clan” designs.


The targe reminds me of a protective mandala — a warrior shield. Yet I had to wonder how much protection it actually provided in times of war. The Targeman answered that question, too. He mentioned that after the disastrous defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the carrying of the targe would have been banned, and many may have been destroyed or put to other uses.


Scottish Highlander Targe, St. Simons Island, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Scottish Highlander Targe, St. Simons Island, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Scottish Highlander Targe, St. Simons Island, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Epilogue


It gave me an eerie feeling knowing I was walking the same ground my ancestors had centuries before. It’s not that all of this historical detail will make it into a memoir — it’s terra firma, a place to stand. The composting of past experience lays the ground for the person I have become. What if an ancestor’s Black Watch Tartan and Targe, in some strange way, blazed the way for the mandala practice last year? And the circle archetype must hold both war and peace.



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-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, March 5th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), Coloring Mandalas, W. H. Murray – Providence Moves Too

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