Thursday, December 31, 2015

THE SEVENTH DAY of CHRISTMAS


Sea grass and sky. Point Brown Jetty, Ocean Shores, Washington. Late afternoon, 12/29/2015.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

THE SIXTH DAY of CHRISTMAS


Point Brown Jetty, Ocean Shores, Washington. Late afternoon.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

THE FIFTH DAY of CHRISTMAS


Giant Pacific octopus in the North Pacific Aquarium at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium's Zoo Lights.

Monday, December 28, 2015

THE FOURTH DAY of CHRISTMAS


Star-marked jellyfish "skin" in the North Pacific Aquarium at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium's Zoo Lights.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

THE THIRD DAY of CHRISTMAS


A bloom of moon jellies in the North Pacific Aquarium at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium's Zoo Lights.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

THE SECOND DAY of CHRISTMAS


Glass floats in the North Pacific Aquarium at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium's Zoo Lights.

Friday, December 25, 2015

AN AMERICAN CHRISTMAS


An icon of an American Christmas—a taco from the family "taco bar" dinner. It is ground beef, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, and salsa in a Doritos taco shell. The shell wasn't horrible, but it wasn't necessarily good, either. It conflicted a bit with some of the other flavors rather than complementing them.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

COTTONWOODS of CHRISTMAS


I've been thinking a lot lately about what my personal holy days and rituals entail.

One of those days is definitely the Longest Night, with its key ritual being a time to reflect upon the darkness.

Another of those days is Christmas Eve, with its key ritual being an afternoon walk in the "woods." This year, as in many prior, it was spent walking along Puyallup's Riverwalk Trail, listening to bird song—jays, juncos, chickadees, crows, thrushes, ducks—and watching the naked deciduous trees reach toward the gray heavens.

Monday, December 21, 2015

LONGEST NIGHT


Chestnut tree, Pacific Bonsai Museum, dusk, the night before the longest night.

---

"[W]hen you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you."

—from Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, page 5 of the hardcover Area X: The Southern Reach edition.

---

"They shall name it No Kingdom There,
   and all its princes shall be nothing.
Thorns shall grow over its strongholds,
   nettles and thistles in its fortresses.
It shall be the haunt of jackals,
   an abode for ostriches.
Wildcats shall meet with hyenas,
   goat-demons shall call to each other;
there too Lilith shall repose,
   and find a place to rest.
There shall the owl nest
   and lay and hatch and brood in its shadow;
there too the buzzards shall gather,
   each one with its mate."


—Isaiah 34:12-15, New Revised Standard Version.

---

"They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing. And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls. The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow: there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate."

—Isaiah 34:12-15, King James Version.

---

"Jackals preying, sleepless ravens,
vultures, viper on the prowl.

  Foreclosed, foresworn the human.
Law and order your vaunt?
No; chaos—
ghosts, demons, satyrs
coupling, encamping
the corridors of darkness."

—poetic paraphrase of Isaiah 34:11-15, page 90 of Isaiah: Spirit of Courage, Gift of Tears by Daniel Berrigan.

---

"Moreover, in the understanding of the great bard, nature becomes the revealer of nature. No creature is blind, he avers. No phenomenon is a dead end. Each leads beyond itself—even the ghosts and haunts that prowl our dreams and reveal to us or conceal from us that our moral darkness is hardly uninhabited."

—commentary on poetic paraphrase of Isaiah 34:11-15, page 91 of Isaiah: Spirit of Courage, Gift of Tears by Daniel Berrigan.

---

The angels love their ranks, their hierarchies, their beloved order. We humans, made just a bit lower than gods, seem to love our chaos, our tumult, our churning darkness.

---

And here I sit on the longest evening of the year, the winter solstice, having just marked the moment when the light starts to return, when the Day is parted from the Night.

---

The world is filled, as it has always been, with warfare and conflict, natural disasters, death and destruction. Yet there is a part that is set aside, pulled like pitch or taffy from the main body, to ferment and foment into something new. A tithe of difference.

---

And here I sit in the dark, dim light keeping the full darkness at bay, though barely. I try to remember the light. The good. The quiet. It is difficult.

---

I remind myself: try not to succumb to the darkness, the desolation, the despair. Walk a path bordered in luminaries. Place the metal dish upon the humus and loam. Place the glass shade upon the dish. Place a small candle in the shade. Pause in prayer. Light the candle.

---

Move along to the next lamp.

---

And the next.

---

And the next, with steady and sure footing.

---

Longest night 2007.

Longest night 2012.

Longest night 2013.

Longest night 2014 A.

Longest night 2014 B. 

---

(If there is anything that comes close to being a personal holy day for me, this day/night, winter solstice, is it.)


Sunday, December 20, 2015

BONSAI SOLSTICE


One of the trees viewed by flashlight at the Pacific Bonsai Museum's Bonsai Solstice.

---

The Pacific Bonsai Museum illuminated the edges of its paths in luminaries this evening and invited the public to visit with their flashlights. TWT, The Wife, and The Child headed into the dark, followed the paths, and were promptly deluged with rain that started once we at the outside exhibits. But this being the Pacific Northwest, we did what any native does, we continued on in the wet, cold, and dark as though it wasn't really raining.

It was fun running about in the rain with flashlights blazing, trying to read the exhibit placards. There was an indoor conservatory of tropical bonsai that provided a refuge from the rain, as well as a tent set up with outdoor heaters and hot beverages—coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.

There was something mystical and holy about shining light upon these miniature tree forms as we approach the longest night of the year, trying to make out their shapes and scientific classifications and general names in the dark.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

'TWAS a KARATE CHRISTMAS


TWT's plate of "ninjabread" cookies.

---

The Child's karate dojo held its annual Christmas party.

In addition to a potluck feast that could put many Lutheran churches to shame, there were games and entertainment and time to chat with one's table mates.

The Child and TWT spent time making "ninjabread" cookies. There were some obstacles along the way, such as the original gingerbread being too sticky for the cutters and the sugar cookie dough we made as a substitute spreading out quite a bit when baking. But we ended up with four plates of karate figures and mostly had fun making them.

Friday, December 18, 2015

POST DEFIANCE WINTER READING


Tonight was the Post Defiance Winter Reading, one of my favorite events of the Christmas holiday season.

This time, it was 35 people—friends, neighbors, strangers—with some connection to Tacoma's culture, art, and literary website Post Defiance, gathering in a private home filled with Christmas decorations and reading winter and/or holiday themed stories, poems, and essays to one another.

Three people read original work. The rest of the evening readings included (but were not limited to) the following works: "The Little Match Girl" by Hans Christian Andersen; "February" by Margaret Atwood; an excerpt from The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey; an excerpt from Sightlines: A Conversation with the Natural World by Kathleen Jamie; an excerpt from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame; "Storm Home" by Garrison Keillor; "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service; and much more.

I read "Tonrat the Watchmaker Bestows His Wishes on Her/Me" by dg nanouk okpik from her poetry collection Corpse Whale and children's picture book Polar Bear Night written by Lauren Thompson and illustrated by Stephen Savage.

In addition to time for readings, we ate and drank and conversed.

It was a magical night.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

ANGELS of LINCOLN

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

—from the First Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln, delivered on March 4, 1861.

Friday, December 11, 2015

ANNUNCIATION


Detail of "Annunciation" by Troy's Work Table. Carport chalking for Friday 11 December 2015.

---

It's the time of angels.

It's Advent so it's the time of Annunciation. Christian tradition says the angel Gabriel to Mary.

It's the end of the year and, at times, it feels like the end of the world, so it's a time of Apocalypse. Christian tradition would have the angel Michael appearing to battle the forces of darkness and evil.

The cherubim and seraphim of the Jewish prophets, who then make an encore in the Revelation to John of Patmos.

There is Walter Benjamin's angel of history. And his Christmas angel. Paul Klee's Angelus Novus. The angelic orders/hierarchies of Rilke. The "better angels of our nature" of Lincoln. Pop cultural references. Mystical appearances to the saints. "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings."

It's a time for angels.

"Be not afraid."

---

View more pictures of "Annunciation" HERE.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

ANGELS of BOWIE

"How many times does an angel fall?"

—from "" by David Bowie, as found on the album (Blackstar).

---

"Don't let me hear you say life's taking you nowhere, angel."

—from "Golden Years" by David Bowie, as found on the album Station to Station.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

ANGELS of BENJAMIN


Angelus Novus by Paul Klee. India ink, colored chalk, and brown wash on paper. 1920.

---

My wing is ready to fly
I would rather turn back
For had I stayed mortal time
I would have had little luck.
—Gerhard Scholem, “Angelic Greetings”

"There is a painting by Klee called Angelus Novus. An angel is depicted there who looks as though he were about to distance himself from something which he is staring at. His eyes are opened wide, his mouth stands open and his wings are outstretched. The Angel of History must look just so. His face is turned towards the past. Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet. He would like to pause for a moment so fair, to awaken the dead and to piece together what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise, it has caught itself up in his wings and is so strong that the Angel can no longer close them. The storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the rubble-heap before him grows sky-high. That which we call progress, is this storm."

—Thesis IX, On the Concept of History, by Walter Benjamin, translation by Dennis Redmond.

---

And then there is another angel...

---

"I turned from my window, heavy of heart as only a near and certain joy makes us, when I felt and alien presence in the room. It was nothing more than a stirring of the air, so that the words which formed themselves on my lips were like the creases suddenly thrown off a limp sail before a fresh breeze. 'Once more each year / the Christ child dwells / on Earth below / midst weal and woe'—with these words did the angel who had begun to take form in them evaporate. I did not stay any longer in the empty room."

—from "A Christmas Angel" by Walter Benjamin, as found in Berlin Childhood Circa 1900, translation by Carl Skoggard.


Friday, December 04, 2015

BEHOLD a PALE HORSE


"Behold a Pale Horse" by Troy's Work Table. Carport chalking for Friday 04 December 2015.

---

"And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."
—Revelation 6:8 (KJV)

Or as the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible translates it: "a pale green horse."

---

I had three paintings I was using as reference. I had reproductions of two in front of me and the other I was imagining as I remember it.

---

1. "A noble Danish horse in its splendid livery." Mixed media on paper. By Icelandic artist Sölvi Helgason.

There is no livery here. This horse runs free, treading over skulls and bones.

---

2. María Luisa Mounted on Marcial. Oil on canvas, 1799. By Spanish artist Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes.

Likewise, there is no rider here—neither María Luisa nor Death—and no saddle and no rein.

---

3. The Burning Stable. Oil on canvas. By German artist Adolf Schreyer.

This is the one I had to imagine. My horse captures nothing of the Schreyer painting. This painting of his is part of the permanent collection of the Frye Art Museum and the horses in the painting are trying to flee a fire in the barn, bursting forth from the stable and threatening to flee the canvas as they come at the viewer. But its one of the few paintings I can see without having to be in its presence. It is so visceral, so alive. (Although I always make an effort to view it for a few minutes if it is on display when I am at the Frye.)

---

For me, this feels of a piece with my other "death ritual" chalkings. Although the reference is Christian, I can imagine the pale green horse riding through the carnage of the Battle of the Nine Rivers—Revelation traded for Ragnorök.

---

View more photographs of "Behold a Pale Horse" HERE.