Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ray of Sun

Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes,
and the grass grows by itself.

Sunlight has a way of breaking through just when you need it most, and Easter is no exception. Whether you celebrate this day with a religious tradition, look forward to a visit from the Easter Bunny, hide or hunt for colored eggs, gather together with loved ones for a special meal, most of us grasp onto some sort of HOPE:
  • of spring bursting through
  • count-down to graduations
  • summer vacations
  • longer days with more sun
  • some sort of after-life
  • or perhaps just a better one in the here and now
However you CELEBRATE
- and why -
may your day be filled with sun and your spirit soar.

I share with you these past writings - may you find them worthy of the day:

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.
 Emily Dickinson

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Eggs

Excitement built as I watched the bowls being set out - three, four, five - until there were at least six. Then water and a spoonful of vinegar were added to each, and finally the small aspirin-sized tablets, which slowly dissolved and bled out in the most brilliant colors of red, blue, yellow, orange, green and purple. mom brought out the carton of hard-boiled eggs and I set about creating masterpieces. The first six were easy - one of each color - but after that there were decisions to be made. How could I best combine more than one color on an egg? What should I draw or write with the colorless wax crayon that would repel the color on the egg's shell? How long I left the egg in determined how dark the color and experimentation was part of the fun. Sometimes the results were dazzling; usually not, but I always wished for more than the dozen I was allotted.

The hunts were another thing. Before I ever went to one, I remember hearing of them and I'm sure made known, as children are wont to do, that I really wanted to experience such a marvelous, challenging activity. One year, my oldest sister took me to the large public one held in a downtown city park. To me, "hunt" meant exactly that, and required a certain skill and tenacity to successfully find the hidden treasures. What disappointment I felt when we finally arrived to see the lawn littered with colored eggs and to find that the hunt was really a stampede and over in a matter of minutes. Being shy and unassertive put me at a definite disadvantage, and I decided that Easter egg hunts weren't all they were cracked up to be.

But in the home of my childhood, Easter morning was a sheer delight. There was a special basket filled with candy and a stuffed toy. And because Montana springs were always cold, and often snowy, there was a real hunt for the many small nests, skillfully hidden throughout the house with tiny candy eggs in each one. Months later, someone would likely find one or two of these nests that had escaped detection. I had no idea then why eggs appeared at Easter - I only knew I liked that they were a part of our tradition.

In many ancient cultures, eggs were a common symbol of new life and immortality; in Egypt, Greece, Italy, and Persia, they were dyed for spring festivals. In medieval times, Christians adapted the egg to their own religious devotions by giving up the eating of them during Lent, then giving beautifully decorated ones as gifts on Easter morning as a symbol of joy and celebration.

Today, in most countries eggs are stained with plain vegetable-dye colors. Syrian and Greek faithful present each other with crimson eggs in honor of the blood of Christ. Ukrainians create intricate designs with checkerboard and rhombi patterns, dots, wavy lines, and intersecting ribbons. Blessed by the priest at Easter, these artistically-rendered eggs become symbolic heirlooms. Austrian artists design striking patterns by fastening ferns and tiny plants around the eggs, leaving a white pattern after they are dyed.

Romans believed that "All life comes from an egg." Christians came to consider eggs to be "The seed of life" and so they are - even today - symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Were It Me - Served with Tea

"Kindness is in our power,
even when fondness is not."
Samuel Johnson

Completing the daily Decodaquote in our local paper, I was particularly moved by this quote. It struck home with me because I know, beyond a doubt, that those whom we are least fond of need our kindness most of all.

Born in England in 1709, Samuel Johnson knew poverty well. His family experienced financial difficulties during his childhood and he later was forced to leave college due to a lack of funds. Childhood illness, including smallpox and tuberculosis of the lymph nodes, left him clumsy, partially blind and deaf, and suffering involuntary convulsions. These disabilities led many to mistake him as ill-mannered and an “idiot”. He struggled to support himself in teaching and journalism, eventually being awarded Doctor of Laws degrees by Dublin and Oxford Universities. Never experiencing great wealth himself, he showed generosity and kindness to beggars, prostitutes, children and animals. He became one of the most influential contributors to modern language, with his Dictionary setting the standard for a century and becoming the basis for those that followed. He is remembered today for his now-famous utterances, largely thanks to his friend James Boswell who noted them in his biography of Johnson.

In the early ‘50s, my old, 2-story, stone elementary school housed one small class of handicapped students deep in the basement. One late afternoon, I brazenly related a tale to my mom about the “retards”. Her admonishment was swift - strict, but gentle. She informed me (in no uncertain terms) that no one could help having a disability and that God made us all. It was one of many talks we had regarding those less fortunate than myself and the message was always the same - be kind and helpful. When I complained about not liking someone who was different and that I did not want to be friends with them, Mom asked me to imagine what it would be like to be that person. She explained that I did not need to be their best buddy, only treat them with respect. Thus, the seeds of compassion were sown.

My dad’s good friend, Raleigh, had been severely disfigured by accident or disease. He’d undergone numerous surgeries and his face was horribly scarred; large patches of grafted skin were visible and his mouth was oddly-shaped, lips practically nonexistent. He was difficult to understand and watch eat, as food easily dribbled out. I had ample opportunity to notice both, as he often dropped by to visit Dad and share a cup of coffee. Invariably, Dad would invite him to stay for a meal and Raleigh, being a bachelor, never refused. I remember with shame having youthful irritation at this man, who delayed our meals and lingered to visit. My parents were ever kind to him, and today I remember with fondness how stories and jokes flowed during his visits. Over the years, I gained understanding.

There are always some people in my life that I’m not fond of - I still try to treat them with kindness.

The poor are shunned even by their neighbors...
He who despises his neighbor sins...
He who oppresses the poor
shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Proverbs 14:20,21 & 31

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Come Again Some Other Day

Although heading north of here one would never expect to have better weather, you would hope that fair, sunny days might be gaining some ground against the cool, cloudy, rainy ones which predominate the climate in this part of the world. We did hope - but it was not to be. On our way to Port Angeles it rained. On the ferry across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, through lovely Victoria, and on up the east coast of Vancouver Island - it rained. Heavy clouds, thick mist, and rain persisted and accompanied us throughout most of our meanderings during the week we were there.

Around the Parksville area, the view across the Strait of Georgia looking towards mainland British Columbia is breath-taking. When the tide is out, vast mudflats and sandy or cobbled beaches lead out to flat expanses of water extending to distant bluish hills. Behind those, towering mountains shimmer with snow and touch the sky. During rainy times, low clouds and mist obscure this view and you are left with your memories of it.

As we drove through this country, which we love so much, with its coveted scenery bundled up and hidden, I was left to deal with my feelings about weather. Of course we have no control whatsoever over it, and I suspect this is the source of some indignation on our part. Which of us would not like to be able to dictate what kind of weather we were to have on any given day? Rain when we need it, sun when we don't, just enough snow to play in at certain times of the year. No wind at all - oh, except for sailing, of course, or flying kites - but then we'd all have to agree on which weather for which days... and we all know where that would lead! So I grudgingly admit that it's probably for the best that we're not in charge of weather. "It's this rain!" I think. "I hate the rain..."

One day we awoke to sun, so ventured forth. Stopping to watch sea lions basking in the sun on log booms in Fanny Bay, I'm reminded that these creatures need the water - and all the rain that brings it. On Goose Spit, while picnicking in the car we watch huge white puffy clouds build up to the west. Heavy, dark clouds move in, dropping their loads on island mountains still white from winter. If not for this precipitation, those mountains would be dry, bare and brown. We arrive at the Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens to be greeted by wind and rain - no walk on this day.

The next day is sunny; hiking along the river with a number of falls in Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, we are immersed in the beauty of water - rushing, tumbling, roaring, slowly eroding the landscape and carrying its cargo to the sea.

I realize, yet again, that water is such a gift. In all of its various forms - ice, snow, hail, sleet, clouds, mist, vapor, or rain - it is a force to be reckoned with, a force that affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Water covers 70% of the Earth's surface and is vital for all known forms of life. It is a part of us, for up to 60% of the human body - about 83% of our blood - is water. It is a primal thing, deep within us, that calls out and strives to connect with water. The inner tides may be turbulent at times, but there is no question of doing without...

The roar of the ocean, rush of the river, gurgle of the stream, patter of rain - we are mesmerized and captivated by water. I respect it, value it, and need it. However, I do feel the same about the sun...

"When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you."
Isaiah 43:2

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ArtTrail #1 - Art Outside

In my humble opinion, the world would be a far poorer place were it not for artists and their work. For most of us, art is too often defined as something which must please us, which we understand and which we might choose to display in our homes. To my way of thinking this is a far too narrow view of art. Its greater purpose I believe (besides fulfilling a need of its creator(s)) is to stimulate our senses and emotions, cause us to perceive the world in new ways, and connect our perception of the art with other thoughts we might have. If we allow it to, art can deeply affect us to our very core, divulging parts of our world, and our very selves, that we have never seen before. Please join me on one such journey through Webster's Woods Art Park in Port Angeles, WA
First Impressions: Cute little guys. Kind of shaped at weird angles, though - don't look too comfortable to me.
Processing Further: Their soothing colors counteract the stress of their angles. If I stop trying to see them as "people" and simply observe their shapes, the curves and angles of their forms flow together beautifully and echo other shapes in the woods. I'm somehow comforted by their being here...
First Impressions: Oh wow, a huge ball of what - giant wood shavings? Some flat vines, no, rusty metal of some kind?

Processing Further: Band saw blades! In this timber-rich part of the world where would they all end up if not here? Better they should be reused in this way, carefully formed so that their colors and shapes fit in with the branches, roots and dried leaves of the forest. Oddly, they seem like they belong here, building up rather than tearing apart.

First Impressions: What's wrong with that tree?

Processing Further: Ah, just a covering that's formed along the lines of the trunk and bark. It glitters and shimmers as if the very life blood of the tree is shining forth for all to see. What a magnificent outward statement of a tree's inner vitality.

First Impressions: A giant spider web!
Processing Further: How intricately this is formed! Did the artist intently study spider webs or make it up as they went along? Oh, but there's an empty spot in the center in the shape of a perfect circle...reminds me of the child's game Cat's Cradle, where two people make shapes with string and pass them back and forth. Or perhaps a knight's hood of chain mail. One thought leads me to another... and again, it looks like it belongs here.

First Impressions: (Believe it or not, I nearly didn't see this one at first.) Whoa! Ancient dinosaur of some kind...
Processing Further: With the various open and closed patterns this blends right in with the patterns of the various tree trunks, branches, and leaves against the light sky. The lower part is reminiscent of rocks or logs lying on the ground; the upper part of leaning trees or leftover stumps...

First Impressions: All logs lead to...a tangled mess of __?
Processing Further: At first, the light-colored metal pieces appear as simply more saplings and branches in the tangled underbrush. Only as I study it do other shapes appear - an eye, perhaps, or legs braced, antennae reaching out, a swish of flukes or fins...something organic emerges from the green.

First Impressions: Strange infestation or cocoons?

Processing Further: Oddly enhancing this wonderful gnarled old tree, shapes lead the eyes upward into the branches and higher reaches where other shapes capture the imagination. The balls themselves are intriguing - found out later that they are crocheted plastic bags! Another great way to recycle, IF they are treated in some way so as not to break down into the environment.
(Artist info. at: http://www.depirro.com/)

First Impressions: A giant other-worldly plant - Oh NO, not more junk in the landscape!
Processing Further: On closer examination, each disk reflects the area around it, creating a collage or mosaic of visual delights. Shapes and colors are distorted and changed, causing one to see the world around it in a whole new way. Is this how insects see us?
Colors influence perceptions.
First Impressions: Speaking of color - crumpled metal around old posts?
Processing Further: Vivid color at that. Associations are so strong here... fellow beings... standing quietly...bundled against the weather. There is no fear, no reason to flee. We are all a part of the woods, only our raiment distinguishes us visually from "others". Best to come in peace - quietly!
First Impressions: We are not alone - here come the troops!
Processing Further: Friendly and joyful, bearing bright colors and outstretched arms these creations make me want to join hands with them and dance through the woods.

First Impressions: Less appealing, this one - towering, aloof, rigid.

Processing Further: Perhaps I need to get better acquainted; get closer, observe the finer details, see what it's made of. It certainly blends in - only a second look reveals it. Regal and majestic, I sense that loud and obvious are not the only admirable traits - there are advantages (and disadvantages) both ways.

First Impressions: Plain bare trees - a log slice with squiggles.

Processing Further: A face of some sort. On the left, the light-colored branch leaning against the large, dark tree leads the eye upward and then down along the trees to the center. Now I see other faces, many of them, looking back towards the large one. A conversation of some sort is taking place and I could be a part of it. Or am I excluded this time? The second light-colored branch on the right visually "hems in" the viewer and keeps the focus on the faces and their exchange.
"Excuse me - am I intruding?"

First Impressions: Hey! Those aren't branches - how did they do that?

Processing Further: What a lovely, rhythmic creation! The rust coloring is totally unobtrusive and blends in with the subtle shades of the surrounding woods. I am calmed by the effect and reminded of repetitions in the universe: orbits, flights, glides...so much stated without one word.
First Impressions: Yikes - that's out of place! Whoever heard of a metal plant? Ugly.
Processing Further: And, just who am I to say it's out of place? And is it really? I notice the repetition of shape, line, and texture. Its name is Albino - if I found it in my yard would I treat it differently, perhaps destroy it? Do all things need to fall in line and be like the others? Just because I don't know what it is, does not mean it has no purpose of being. Others might love it and find a use for it. It's growing on me slowly and I kind of like it!
First Impressions: Up, up, and AWAY...what is this supposed to be?

Processing Further: It doesn't need a reason other than to please the eye. I see the colors, bright and bold and echoing faintly off the distant mountains; notice the curves flowing gently from foreground and up into the trees; can almost feel the different textures of hard, smooth, soft, and rough. It makes my heart sing and I can hardly express why.
It just DOES and I just AM.
For more information on the
Port Angeles Fine Arts Center
and their
Art Outside: