A touch of the sublime

Ponderosa grove
These are images from the weekend which brought me warmth and hope:

The intense yellow of the male goldfinch at our bird feeder.

The bright yellow of a hundred Glacier Lilies blooming in our (F)friends’ front lane on Sunday morning.

Finding wild strawberries with their tiny crowns of white flowers.

Hearing the first hummingbird of spring doing his whistling dance in the sky.

Watching our friend with her granddaughter and being inspired by how much they adore each other.

Wondering over the container rows of frog eggs our science professor friend is keeping in his garage; he carefully making sure they get just enough light.

Tea in the evening in Missoula on their patio with friends of 25 years.

Finding the perfect rock for somewhere in the garden.

Witnessing and listening to my friend’s courageous fight with cancer.

Watching our son photographing other skateboarders at the skate park.

Kissing my husband under the evening sky, among the secret trees in Greenough Park.

Banjo and Viola, like peanut butter and jelly…


Here’s a little clip we did as a “mic check” one night, just to test a theory. It was done using a Sony stereo mic and a minidisc recorder in the living room, then uploaded into Sonar for eq, reverb, and such.

Anyway… oldtime music is so much fun to play. We’ve kind of accidentally hit on a neat combination of instruments: banjo and viola. The banjo/fiddle combo is the classic oldtime duo, and the viola’s dark voice is a nice twist on the tradition. I like it because it lets me use low pitched tunings on banjo. Here’s a bit of the old chestnut Soldier’s Joy played on the pair. Banjo’s in gCGCD tuning. Free music download:

Click here for Soldier’s Joy MP3

Turtles Rule

Calling all contemplatives to the log. We will commence our gathering in calm consideration of pondstuff beginning… now. Please note that all have a place on the log no matter what size, shape or color. During daylight hours all sun rays are equally distributed. If a contemplative slips off the log for a snack do not be dismayed if your spot, in the interim, is immediately occupied by another. There are many logs in the pond or you can catch good rays from the rocks. One special mention, please stick your neck out for the teen photographer on an outing with this pops. Turtles rule. (Photo by Alasdair taken at the National Bison Range, Moise Montana)

Turtles at the Bison Range

Quote of the week

A new form of journalism? Bill Moyers asks Jon Stewart about the Daily Show and his role in sifting through the web of political non-news which much of the media pumps out like so much fake mist from an on-stage fog machine.

Jon Stewart:   Because I don’t think politics is any longer about a conversation with the country. It’s about figuring out how to get to do what you want.”

“You know, one of the things that I do think government counts on is that people are busy. And it’s very difficult to mobilize a busy and relatively affluent country, unless it’s over really crucial– you know, foundational issues.”

Kayaking with orcas

Here is one way to spend a Saturday morning. I guess learning how to roll might be a good idea.  This is a great clip. It’s less than half a minute but what a long few seconds this must have been.


Go get a free CFL at Home Depot

I am passing along something noteworthy a chain store is trying out:  Home Depot is passing out free light bulbs.  Compact fluorescents to be exact or CFLs.  We have all heard that Australia is banning incandescent bulbs.  California is on its way to doing the same.  It is such a simple thing, really; no different than picking up trash or recycling your aluminum cans.  And you really don’t have to think about them again once you replace the bulbs as they don’t burn out very easily.  We’ve had some for years and they are still up there in the fixtures going on and off, night after night.  Home Depot has a pretty good website and the interesting thing is they are offering some organic products for lawn and garden care.  So, when you are out shopping for your yard and garden this weekend take a moment to see what they have online first.  It’s quite a varied selection.  You can even get organic potting soil for your flower pots.

On the same topic:  My friend over at Plain Foolish has an insightful post  where she mentions growing small gardens on balconies for those of you who are city dwellers.  Just a little window container of organic lettuce, basil, or try chives which stay good all year round, fresh for your salad when you come home in the evening. (Don’t be impatient with the basil, it takes a long time to germinate.) My Mom keeps a big pot of basil in her kitchen window which she uses on all during the winter.  It is delicious and it is home grown! One of my big concerns is that so few Americans make any effort to grow some of their own food.  Many don’t even know how.  I also worry about the effect which tons of lawn chemicals and pesticides are having on our bee population.  I just read yesterday that now Hawaii’s bees are dying too.  It is high time to take note. We go to fantastic lengths in manicuring and controlling weeds in our lawns and gardens.  There are alternatives to potentially toxic chemicals.  Check them out at your favorite garden store or at HD.

[tags]home depot,lawn and garden care,toxic pesticides,CFLs[/tags]

A spark or a buzz of inspiration

I often wonder about the function of inspiration within creativity. In a film we watched last evening: A Price Above Rubies, a fine jewelry artist keeps a unique piece he had made years before, left unfinished. He told his friend the ring was for his muse and he was waiting for the right woman to come along to wear it. When she appeared he would know exactly what kind of stone to place in the unfinished setting. Isn’t it so with the creative act? We know it when we see it. Sometimes we know it when we hear it, or touch it. And sometimes I wonder if we must not “fall in love” before we can begin to create. One’s inspiration and one’s best work often reflects something, or someone, you care about very deeply; something that you feel you know inside and out, or long for. The muse speaks to a passion which transcends the mundane.

I fall in love with songs, tunes, ideas even. They run through my head on different levels constantly, but sometimes if I put bow to string, strike a chord on the piano, or put pen to paper only then does that idea or song really make sense to me. I have to write it to know it, I have to sing it to hear it, but first I have to let it take me somewhere internally. I watch how that idea or song makes me feel. I wish I understood better how this experience is connected to the spirit; to God. How does the spirit work within the creative act? I believe Quaker practice has helped me incorporate the skill of centering or finding that quiet voice within, and transferring that practice into my creative life. Indeed, I feel they are same. There have been times when I felt as though I was burning with inspiration. After all, the Webster’s initial definition of inspiration suggests that one is divinely charged in their act. (Now if that ain’t a huge chunk to bite off when a person is trying to make a go of it! ) The intriguing notion however is that the spark must begin in the individual, infused with all their unique gifts and idiosyncrasies. Two people will look at the same landscape or hear the same song and their responses might evolve into day and night – branching into opposite directions. One might be prompted to create from the experience, the other may simply gather nothing. And more acutely, where one musician might be devastated by life circumstances, i.e., illness or deafness, Beethoven, out of his own tragedy found the inspiration to produce the Ninth Symphony, an enduring piece of musical composition.

And then there are the shallow periods where the spark is only that, a spark, and not a fire. Those little sparks are quite valuable however, because they occur far more frequently than the larger flames, but very often the sparks are also accompanied by self doubt. I fancy that this annoying emotion must be just like those flies which hang around the stream when I am fishing. I have my rod in hand, the bait is perfectly arranged on the hook, I have intuitively sensed that my fish is in that lovely, deep pool on the other side of the creek. Two massive rocks form a pool at the bottom of a small, crystalline waterfall and in its green depths I can see my trout. I cast, and all of a sudden this stupid, huge black deer fly starts going for me. Bzzz, bzzzz, wahoozzz I can’t shake it off. I’m contorting all over the place trying to avoid him. He’s infuriating. And the trout is nearly ready to bite, I can feel him swimming downstream following my bait… Bzzzz: I don’t have the chops, I don’t know enough, I’m not skilled enough, I’m not fluent enough… Bzzzz, bzzzzzz.

Still, I don’t loathe self doubt the way some creative types might. I don’t often let it swallow me for long days at a time. I do take it into account, I ponder its meaning, I swat at it but not too much. I am unlikely to be haunted by doubt and in essence I feel it is healthy. Maybe self-doubt is a necessary prerequisite which God gives us to keep our ego-mongering impulses out of the way while in pursuit of that vision. But most of the time it seems to only get in the way. If one can acknowledge those personal limitations, one’s own finite capabilities and still be inspired to create, to produce art, then one has gained something valuable in the process. You have jumped a chasm, you have made a leap of faith. You create in spite of it all. You are in the end sustained by that faith, by the song you hear in your head not by the buzzing white noise of self doubt. You realize it isn’t only about you or me. The gift might work and come through me but ultimately the gift emerges as a small expression of that which is far more than… just me.

reeds in the water

Both read the Bible day and night, but thou read black where I read white. William Blake

Where some have found their paradise, others just come to harm… Joni Mitchell from “Amelia”.

Where others see but the dawn coming over the hill,
I see the soul of God shouting for joy. William Blake

[tags]creativity,inspiration,silent Quaker,art,music[/tags]

Gliese 581, Libra delivers

When the news on the home planet gets just a little too heavy, it is always nice to have a place to go and dream.  Sometimes we just need that little bit of extra-solar light. If not escape then this news will surely deliver awe. You could nearly feel the astronomers wiggling with excitement the last few months. Finally, they were able to express their enthusiasm openly this last week with their paper on its way to getting published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.  Only 20 light years – that is just around the corner.  It is something like that line in True Stories with David Byrne:  “I personally believe I can see Fort Worth from here.”  Check out this new world on the block at AT.  Follow the link for an artist’s image of how that world might appear within its red dwarf system circling it every 13 days.

And, the article from The NY Times:  “The new planet was discovered by the wobble it causes in its home star’s motion as it orbits, the method by which most of the known exo-planets have been discovered. Dr. Udry’s team used an advanced spectrograph on a 141-inch diameter telescope at the European observatory in La Silla, Chile.”

Pray for the bees

I have been following this story for several weeks both here and in the UK online news. It concerns me greatly and I’ve been monitoring our own bee visitations in the yard as we have a lot of flowering plants right now. We are, as yet, not one of the states whose bees are being affected. I’m not sure what to think. Nearly one quarter of the 2.4 million bee colonies have been lost and that very quickly. There are thousands of speculative explanations from bee rapture to cell phones. So these researchers are going for the most obvious answer:”a virus, a fungus or a pesticide.” I only hope they pinpoint the problem soon so that we can act. It seems unlikely, but if I have to give up my cell phone, I will. However, right now it looks like the neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, might be the most likely culprit. This has already been banned by France in its agricultural pesticide use. Read the entire Times article here.

“About 60 researchers from North America sifted the possibilities at the meeting today. Some expressed concern about the speed at which adult bees are disappearing from their hives; some colonies have collapsed in as little as two days. Others noted that countries in Europe, as well as Guatemala and parts of Brazil, are also struggling for answers. “There are losses around the world that may or not be linked,” Dr. Pettis said. The investigation is now entering a critical phase. The researchers have collected samples in several states and have begun doing bee autopsies and genetic analysis.”