Monday, January 27, 2014

Pleistocene


Human artifacts poke out of the ice: a thermos of coffee, 

magazines, a woman's purse, shoes, a child's doll: 

intact after the plane crashed in icy blue mountains

circling the coast, an arm, a ringed finger, leg bones 

detached from their now cryptic bodies

buried deep in glacial ice

Who knows what lies untouched beneath our feet?


Under the soil deep as we know it and deeper still

undiscovered species and artifacts 

human junk, and treasures?

200,000 pounds of jewels in ornamental 

sachets undisturbed, in a glacier on Mt. Blanc

Rounding the coast of Greenland a whale ensconced in 

ancient blue ice stuns kayakers

Do fresh-water lakes exist far below oceans? 

Is there another Grand Canyon, 

carved by rivers snaking through red rock, below us?


Indeed, though small, we leave our 

imprints/impressions 

Otzi, the Iceman, Europe's oldest 

natural human mummy tells us this: 

I consumed two meals 

before my death, of herb bread, roots 

and fruits. And I am a man quite 

fond of his ibez meat



Though wandering a conifer forest when he died 

Otzi was discovered in glacial ice, unaware of

the next astonishing world that would

spin off its axis and wobble 

in unrestrained, delirious new light


Monday, January 20, 2014

Twin Sons of Different Mothers


No matter how you parse it, I live in a world of black and white a great deal of the time, during the winter season. When the sun doesn't shine, color has sailed on a ship so far out at sea you wonder if you'll ever see bloom and petal again. No trick of the camera, no photo editing. Grays and whites and blacks...even the trees aren't green when the sun doesn't shine...maybe that's precisely why they're called "black spruce."

I try not to let this get me down. When headed out for a hike, I only wonder how, how, how will it be possible to shoot something of variety, of interest, within such a narrow band of light and color? How can I view these woods differently; what perspective can I take to draw your interest, dear reader. I can use dim light and shadow; I can take advantage of reflection; turn a photograph into a lovely painting...albeit mono-chromatic.



Rather than complain, comparing the lack of colorful songbirds, for example (the woods is still and quiet) to other places I've lived and traveled, I simply have to look deeper, find that which is hidden, be open to receiving whatever presents itself. Enforce an attitude adjustment.

That's when I ran into these two fellas; and I thought...aha! Twin sons of a different mother. These two trees, side by side, looked like boys from the same family; underneath that WHITE birch bark, there was....drumroll.....COLOR. Lots of it.


Allow me to refer you to the "twin sons" reference. On the Twin Sons of Different Mothers album recorded in 1978, Tim Weisberg (flute) teams up with Dan Fogelberg (piano, percussion) in a great (mostly instrumental) album, that if it is possible to wear down vinyl, I mashed it into the ground. It played while I studied, cooked a meal, cleaned the house, washed my hair, talked on the phone, read the paper, studied some more...all without a break in concentration. Had I possessed a reel-to-reel, the tape would keep on rolling, night and day (it's so lovely to wake up to music playing).

So when I saw these two fellas, standing next to each other, a little different in their banding and bark, both from the same Mother Birch...well, Tim's and Dan's music filled my head; and that, paired with COLOR made my feet do a little dance, right there in the woods (no one's watching). The world really isn't all black and white, though that's what I see out my windows. Click your heels and repeat: The world really isn't all black and white. Look again.


With nose to tree trunk (no worries; I was alone in the woods, no one to watch me rubbing noses with birch bark), I perused some more. When I patiently looked a little harder, paid deeper attention to the subtle layers, I found a little green garden within a patch of bark that looked so cute I wouldn't mind moving in someday. GREEN! OMG!


Looking deeper still, I saw varying shades of  purple and mauve and orange under those elegant purls of creamy birch bark paper. Multi-colored brushstrokes, cross hatching, cracks in the bark, layers and swirls of subtle color...all this adds up to luscious TEXTURE. And the airy snowflakes, with perfectly formed ice grippers on their tiny feet, hanging onto the bark for dear life.

Stunning! I think this photo will be my next book cover.



After my excitement and joy wore off, I took this last photo, on my way out of the woods, a little sepia added to turn that black and white scene on its head a bit, soften it, render it a friend, not foe.

Drawing in the fragments of light and dark, black and white, texture and color...at the end of the day, there are no missing pieces; only beauty and wonder if we commit to a voracious attention, and allow what is hidden to be seen.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Annunciation



Time and time again, I've had a recurring dream. I am riding my bike toward a large, Victorian house on a pleasant, tree-lined street. I stop in front of the house, set my bike against a tree, and walk inside. There is a strong feeling I am looking for something, but I don't know what. I look around and see multiple doors, knowing there is something of great value to be found behind one of them. I open the first door; it is glass, and enter a nearly empty room, devoid of furniture or furnishings, and there I see hanging on the wall a huge wood-framed oval mirror. In front of the mirror, there is a long line of people quietly standing before it. I take a place at the end of the line.




The people in the room are not familiar to me, except one: Rachel Simeon, a woman friend, the pastor at a local Methodist church. (Though I was not a Methodist practitioner, I went to her church frequently to hear her speak. The sermons invigorated me; they were heartfelt and personal, and her words paved a steady comfortable path at a time when I was walking a rocky road in my life).

One at a time, a person stepped forward and stood before the mirror. What happens next was startling. A great white beam of light shone from the mirror and into the person's eyes; instantaneously, her face lit up with inexplicable joy. She turned and walked away as the next person stepped forward to face the mirror, as if to step forward for Communion. 

Was there a choice to make here? Can one choose to stand in the light of Oneness, God, the Eternal Flame (however you choose to name it)? Do we have the power to turn away from darkness, fill our lives with joy and light by the grace of our own will? Or must we only recognize the Light and simply allow it to shine within? 

When it was my turn, I tentatively stepped forward. What was most memorable was not that I looked into the light, embraced it as my own, and walked away as an enlightened, radiant and beatific human being.  No. What most stood out was the fact that in order to get in sync with the light, I had to change my vantage point. Just turn my head a mere 30 degrees so that my eyes would sync with the beam streaming from the middle of the mirror, and lock in place. Only then could I receive it.


The dream ends here: I'm still standing in front of the mirror and feel myself holding back from looking straight into the light. 

Maybe it was too bright and I felt incapable of holding its power. Or maybe I was afraid of its magnificence, afraid of how my mundane reality could be pierced by the light, and I could be shattered with a  Love so great I would be unable to contain it. 

I looked back at Rachel (she, herself, a guiding light) and looked back in the mirror. Then I woke up. I felt no failure. Instead the dream simply imparted a lesson, and that is, no matter what, no matter what...I can choose lightness or darkness.

Some months later, I came across the poem, Annunciation, by Marie Howe. I almost fell off my chair. It seemed to exactly parallel my dream experience. It was stunning how similar my event matched her interpretation of the Light.

Annunciation

Even if I don't see it again---
nor ever feel it I know it is---

and that if once it hailed me
it ever does---

And so it is myself I want to turn in that direction
not as towards a place,
but it was a tilting within myself,
as one turns a mirror to flash the light to where it isn't - I was
blinded like that---

and swam in what shone at me
only able to endure it by being no one and
so specifically myself, I thought

I'd die from being loved like that.




Monday, January 6, 2014

Snow City


Only 2 cents per acre

Seward's folly, "Wal-russia"

tent city at the mouth of Ship Creek, 1914

where Quonset huts were first homes, "a half tin can turned on its side"


a dreary episode of architectural interest (sic) and old gray tarps

(or brown or neon blue) stored everything (under the sun)

(when it shines)  (which was not often)

and everything spelling m-i-l-i-t-a-r-y, like massive

buildup and strategic location (yes, you can see Russia from here) was

pure Alaskan theatre


Anchorage, a company town

in the icy crook of Knik Arm, where you can

stroll downtown and have your shoes repaired

(does anyone even do that anymore?) while shopping

for baleen baskets and ivory, quite rare and valuable (sic) you know,


downtown, our town a rail construction port

Alaska Railroad and the wild heat of discovered gold sparkles

*BUILD* and they will come!


suburban expansion hotels and stores then

epic destruction by a 9.2 (we do all things big in the history of the world)

like the discovery of big oil    big ice      big land

our town, Anchor-town where you can run alongside

the fastest dogs on earth (and get smoked)


and to get your style on, your sexy glamorous

in your best swagger careen (your way around rusty old pickups)

to Allure Hair Design, a day spa


and on your way over, Look UP!

small planes come and go from the snow-gritty town, 24/7

above the "Anchorage bowl" snow city


cold       the down low      (and if you're lucky)

maybe a bear (or two)

ambling, outside the front door