Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

A radiant sun, in cloudless blue, shimmers across the crystalline snow
that now lays claim to the land.
It enervates and elevates the mood of all living things, despite the bitter cold.
Here in the deep woods we have been experiencing winter for a few weeks now
despite today’s official start.
The Eastern seaboard of the U.S. had record breaking snows over the weekend. Washington, DC was all but closed down.
But here in the wilds of New England we just bring in more wood and stoke the
fire that is crackling in the woodstove.
All are very mindful of the turning of the season, as darkness now falls by 4 pm.
Both man and beast will easily align in rhythm with this longest night… and drift into peaceful slumbers.
All night revels and bonfires of old will be postponed by the general populace,
in lieu of holidays to come.
But it is indeed a special gift for such a Solstice day as this…
The sun will make a glorious exit before the darkness falls.
And the wheel of the year will turn and again we have come full circle.
Most of us will happily release the economic challenges faced this year and embrace the festivals of light, love and good cheer that lead us into the new one.
May all of us fare better in the New Year, including this remarkable planet that is our home.
Wishing you and yours a luminous journey!
HAPPY WINTER SOLSTICE and best wishes for all the pleasures of the season.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Peabody-Essex Museum's Rare Bird of Fashion

The Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts continues to amaze, inspire and transform.

From it’s atmospheric and modern architecture that houses treasure from the days of tall ships to cutting edge contemporary art from India, and a centuries old Chinese house rebuilt inside the museum, there is much to explore here. For those not lucky enough to make the drive, the PEM's award winning website allows a delicious peak into the wonders housed here.

As a longtime dealer and lover of ethnographic textiles, costume and adornment, I was delighted to see that the inspiring show Rara Avis from the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute has taken wing and arrived in New England as Iris Apfel, Rare Bird of Fashion.

Iris Apfel is a free thinking, boldly creative, individualist that adores ethnic adornment and costume, haute couture and quirky tag sale finds and combines them in a distinctive way that you may not personally embrace but cannot ignore! Nor can you help gleefully smiling…Lady GaGa eat your heart out…

In the early 1950s Apfel and husband Carl began a business called Old World Weavers.They specialized in weaving exact reproductions of antique-period fabric and found a ready audience for upscale interior décor, including extensive work for the White House, Metropolitan Museum and others.

In her late 80’s, she is being embraced for the original fashion icon that she became by simply being herself and for the influence she has had in the professional worlds of fashion and interior décor.

When asked several years ago “Which outfits have you put together that truly reflect your style?” Iris Apfel easily recited a few eclectic ensembles…
”A cowhide apron worn with a black satin jumpsuit. Antique Georgian jewelry mixed with flea market bangles and beads.. A canvas dance skirt from a Southwest pueblo edged in tinkling tin bells worn with different couture jackets. A silver-fox coat belted with a beaded African wall hanging, and red woolen boots with embroidered trim from Etro.”

As the exhibit opened at PEM she was posed with the question, “How does fashion give you courage?”
Iris Apfel, now 88 and vibrant as ever, replied,
“Dress gives you the opportunity to express yourself: who you are, who you think you are or who you want to be. So, take advantage of it. I hope that Rare Bird of Fashion will encourage you to be a bit creative, a bit daring and have more than a bit of fun.”

This sense of joyful exuberance and rakish good humor is infectious and if you can’t make it in to the show right away, go to the museum website and click on the interactive paperdolls that permit the latent fashionista in you to dress the mannequins! What fun.

Also worth the trip is Trash Menagerie.

Whimsical and fantastic animal sculptures formed of thrown away packaging are the focus here.Wonderful interactive videos on the website for this as well! Don’t miss Joshua Harris’inflatable trash bag bears and other animals brought to life by NYC subway trains swishing by underneath them !

All of this can not help but put a creative spin on your day!

A gentle reminder to lighten up and let your inner child come out and play!
Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Autumn Comes to New England

Yesterday it was official, summer has departed and the calling card of cool nights coupled with the overhead honking of Southbound geese has been duly acknowledged but the wood frogs still chatter in the trees at dusk. The chorus of crickets and cicadas serenade the nights despite early frost warnings.We can keep the windows open a while longer and hear the wildlife settling in all around us.

Here in the hills of New England we have been trying to ignore the fiery color building on the hillsides for weeks, first yellow birch and beech and later bursts of flame-orange maples scattered here and there. But there is no denying the calendar… the Autumnal Equinox has come and gone… ready or not.

Recently warm days contrast with the mounds of colorful pumpkins, and ornamental gourds sitting shoulder to shoulder with pots of purple asters and mums of russet red and bright yellow along every rural highway. The last Monarch butterflies visit somewhat diminished gardens and humans are amazed to see darkness descend before 7:30. A lone female hummingbird sips what nectar can be found in late blooming blossoms. And a pile of split wood waits to be neatly stacked until the first fires are lit.

The transition from exterior to interior, extroversion to introspection has subtly begun as our inner landscape reflects the outer. A bittersweet acquiescence to the passage of time mingles with the anticipation of the glorious pageantry of color to come. No one puts on a more dramatic display of Fall color than New England. Some days are so clear and crisp and the foliage so intense against cerulean blue skies it seems unreal; like an over the top, highly saturated “Technicolor” movie of the mid-fifties. It is my favorite season and one of the attractions that pulled me from the steamy South to these northern hills.

Early morning transitions are particularly magical in this area. On the road to Maine recently as the sun was rising, mists were lifting from the waters of a nearby pond. Two young deer gracefully crossed the road after sampling the cool water; a pair of crows silhouetted on a bare branch and shrouded in fog cawed loudly as I stopped my car to take it all in.

The intimate scene I just described takes place everyday, but most of us are so intent on getting to where we need to be, we do not notice them. Try to take the time to witness the changes taking place where you are today, savor the timeless beauty of the ever-changing season, and remember that you are an integral part of it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Viva Cirque du Soleil !

As many devoted fans are aware Cirque du Soleil began in 1984 as a group of 20 street performers in Montreal. Their dedication to incredible showmanship, athleticism, and the theatre of fantasy has created a major Quebec-based organization that consistently provides high-quality artistic entertainment. The company has more than 4,000 employees from over 40 different countries, including 1,000 artists.They have 19 shows touring the world simultaneously in 2009.

Opening night at the Mullins Center in Amherst was Sept. 16th and offered the beautifully scored Alegria. This was first toured in 1994 and the CD won numerous World Beat music awards in 1995 for the passionate background music gorgeously performed live in performance by two superb female vocalists and topnotch musicians.

Alegria is Spanish for a sense of joy,delight and exuberance for life, which is what this hardworking troupe of 50 or so, decidedly delivered.Such enchantment this small cirque can weave through ingenious staging,otherworldly music, fantastic costumes and the supreme artistry and athletic ability of the gravity-defying performers as they tumble, contort, and fly through the air!

The entranced audience collectively gasps, sighs, and giggles as these consummate athletes disguise their rigorous training with liquidity of movement and graceful form that seems as natural as breathing.

For two hours we vicariously soar,somersault, and twirl to the driving rhythms of the hypnotic music and feast on the visual banquet so artfully placed before us.

As the finale ends and the house lights come up, we blink ourselves back into reality and slowly shuffle out into the brisk night air, feeling younger at heart, overlooking normally stiff joints and relishing the fantasy that for a short while we too were airborne on the flying trapeze…

For a delicious glimpse of this show click here and watch the video trailer

and go to www.cirquedusoleil to see when a troupe may be visiting near you!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Coming Soon, Abstraction, The Whitney’s O’Keeffe Exhibition

The final days of August slowly saunter into September.
Despite lingering humidity and sultry temperatures we know too well
that change is in the air, classrooms will soon fill again, and schedules intensify.
Autumn is my favorite season anyway but this September offers a special treat,
a visual harvest of rarely seen early work by Georgia O’Keeffe at the Whitney Museum in New York!
As much as I enjoyed the Dove/O’Keeffe show at the Clark this summer, I yearned for more of the radical, intellectual work from 1918-1922.

I am delighted to learn that the Whitney Museum of American Art will feature over 130 early paintings, drawings, and watercolors as well as sculptures in Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction opening September 17th and closing January 17th.
Adding to the excitement will be Alfred Stieglitz’s photographic portraits of her and the fully illustrated catalogue contains excerpts from the recently unsealed correspondence between this exceptional couple.

The curatorial team is top-notch: Barbara Haskell of the Whitney, Barbara Buhler Lynes of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Emily Fisher Landau of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center and other noted scholars.
This exhibit insures that Georgia O’Keeffe is finally going to be seen as the creative force she was outside of the representational work the critics and public more easily embraced.

I can’t help but feel Georgia’s enduring spirit will wryly smile and say”At Last!”
For more information go to

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Annual Santa Fe Indian Market and Tribal Art Shows Begin

Santa Fe, New Mexico is a delightful experience in any season, but for nine days in August it becomes a Mecca for lovers of art, artifacts and textiles made by traditional peoples of the Americas and the world.
The 88th annual Santa Fe Indian Market fills the historic plaza with the best contemporary Native artisans on August 22 and 23 this year. The setting, the people, the dazzling array of high quality art and just the euphoria of good feelings that circulate the grounds as artists casually interface with the admiring public is unlike anywhere else.

Always a highlight on Sunday (8/23) is the Native American Clothing Contest.
Tribal members from many nations wear their best regalia and traditional designs and vie for the coveted prizes. For pictures and more info on this unique event go to

Kicking off the celebration in the newly constructed Santa Fe Community Convention Center on the corner of Grant and Marcy St.are two not to miss events. These are the Whitehawk Antique Shows which run from the Preview Gala of the Antique Ethnographic Art Show on Friday, Aug. 14 until Aug. 19 which brings the beloved Antique Indian Art Show to a close. Savvy collectors and lovers of museum quality art have beaten a path to these shows for 30 years, as dealers from around the world gather to show exceptional objects and celebrate Tribal Art.For more times and details on these events go to

For those of you not in the Santa Fe area or readers that aren’t familiar with the terminology, but are curious about what “Tribal Art” implies, I invite you to click here on my site for a sampling of tribal adornment, textiles and objects that I have enthusiastically packed full of information to encourage you to look carefully but joyfully!Be forewarned that the deeper you go into learning about the cultures and artisans that created this powerful work, the deeper your appreciation and desire to learn more!

It quite easily becomes a lifelong obsession…ergo that inescapable feeling that will have Santa Fe abuzz in coming days!

Monday, August 3, 2009

MASS MoCA's Art Carnival for the Mind

MASS MoCA is the largest center for contemporary arts in the United States.
Located in North Adams, Massachusetts this sprawling 13 acre campus of multistory 19thC. brick factory buildings is a leading-edge exhibition space of art that is currently being made in size, dimensions and techniques that defy the confinement of traditional museum gallery space.
The ten year old institution is “dedicated to the creation and presentation of provocative visual and performing arts pieces, and works that blur conventional distinctions between artistic disciplines.”
MASS MoCA also actively functions as “a laboratory for the contemporary arts, fostering experimentation by artists, encouraging collaborations among institutions, and allowing visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process.”
This progressive, pro-active mission statement can not prepare the visitor for the transformational experience of being confronted by the gargantuan spaces of football length galleries, Matrix-chic industrial design and art that stops you dead in your tracks but curious to learn more.
One must commit to the intellectual participation of viewing works that are more about a concept and the process of creating an expression of that idea than simply admiring form, line and texture. It is rigorous and demanding work but unavoidably expansive.
The current exhibitions lead the visitor through rabbitholes of self-deprecating humor: “This is Killing Me” which is a group show exploring the many facets of psychodrama involved in being an artist to apocalyptic despair “These Days: Elegies for Modern Times” to Sol Lewitt’s full spectrum “Wall Drawings” that fill many galleries and explore his color theories around meticulous inkwashes and lines of grey,red,yellow,and blue.
In the lighter hearted show Sean Landers “Le’Go My Ego”(2007) is a large text based canvas covered with free- hand painted flow- charts of influences/ ideas peppered with self-sabotage. It is a hilarious exercise in grappling with an artistic temperament that is not sure about anything but “has a lot of hope for something”. I kept hearing David Sedaris’s voice reading the thought fragments as I followed the arrows around the canvas. Joe Zane’s hilarious group of works on ambition and failure offers “I wished I was a Giant” (2006), a glass vitrine lined with meticulously reproduced art magazines, Artforum etc.with him on the cover or opened to articles on his contributions to seminal art historical texts. Lampooning this quest for fame and favorable reviews the vitrine is coated with thick brown dust where mindless graffiti has been scrawled by a public that could care less.
So much to enjoy in this show and to confront in the Elegies.
In Elegies, large format videos create walls of screens and a huge cyclorama features Pawel Wojtasik’s “Below Sea Level”. It surrounds the viewers and immerses them in a dizzying 360 panorama of New Orleans after Katrina with an amazingly liquid soundscape that mourns and celebrates the vibrancy of this special city at the same time.
Sam Taylor-Wood’s “Prelude in Air”(2005) features a powerfully built cellist passionately playing a beautifully poignant Bach prelude. We hear the lovely music and see his muscles creating it… but there is no cello….
There is so much to see and experience at this art carnival for the mind…go to to learn more and plan to spend the day!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence, A Must See Exhibition

If you find yourself in the verdant hills of the Berkshires or along the sinuous Mohawk Trail in western Massachusetts this summer, chances are the many cultural delights on offer will lead you to Williamstown.
Williamstown is an idyllic New England village of manicured lawns and crisp white architecture dominated by the lovely campus of Williams College, founded in 1793.
The Clark Institute, a short drive from the center of town, has mounted an important exhibition called Circles of Influence that features the visual conversation of two kindred spirits, Arthur Dove and Georgia O’Keefe. These rarely seen works will be on view from June 7th – September 7th, 2009.
In the early 1910’s Dove and O’Keefe began simultaneously experimenting in capturing emotional, and musical vibration in charcoal and watercolor on paper, as well as the visual vibration created by light and form. In essence they were exploring a new way of seeing and ultimately became the progenitors of Modern Art in America.
O’Keefe first learned of Dove’s work in 1914 when she was a young art student.
She was introduced to him four years later by his lifetime friend and mentor and her future husband, Alfred Stieglitz. The creative empathy exchanged between these two artists was instantaneous and lifelong. To learn more about this visit
For me the strongest and most groundbreaking images were the small works on paper from 1915-1919. Dove’s "#4 Creek", (1919) which he drew mid-stream as the water rushed toward the dark forest ahead, is a masterpiece and shares true affinity with O’Keefe’s "No. 15 Special" (1916/17) a charcoal drawing of a dry canyon in Texas, that uses similar forms to describe an arid landscape. Their polarity and affinity clearly in evidence here.
As the art viewing public became more aware of Freud’s ideas around sexuality and sexual expression, Dove and O’Keefe found their imagery cast in roles of gender and blatantly sexualized. Neither artist agreed or felt comfortable with this speculation.Personal perceptions of Nature and natural forms were the impetus for their designs, and rendering them in new and abstract ways was the shared goal.
If you are unaware of the incredible shift these two created in art visualization look for their earliest work. Too bad more of O’Keefe’s “Specials” were not included. These remarkable charcoal drawings are published in Georgia O’Keefe, Some Memories of Drawings, University of New Mexico Press, 1974. They are worth seeking out, as too often only the bones, flowers and mesas are brought to mind when her name is mentioned.
While at the Clark take the time to follow the nature trails on the expansive grounds.Two of them lead up to the elegant new Stone Hill Center with galleries of exceptional contemporary Asian ceramics and traditional Japanese art called, Through the Seasons (through Oct.18th) and stunning vistas of the Taconic Range and the Green Mountains.
Wishing you happy trails wherever the summer takes you….

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer Artful Explorations

Summer is on our doorsteps with gardening,mowing and all the attendant diversions of this much loved time of the year. It has taken great discipline to get back into the studio to produce new work but somehow I have managed to have a children's book underway (inspired by the lushness of growing things) and to create new works on paper for a recent exhibition.
Luckily since the Chinese presentation last December, fascination with the visual impact of the eye as symbol, continues to inspire and challenge.
Instead of using it to represent cultural viewpoints, as we attempted in Eye to Eye, I have been exploring eye symbols that exist in Eastern and Western popular iconography to represent philosophical ideas.
In this case, the ideas of Materialism vs. Spiritualism in our current day.
As financial entities continue to topple and the West is slowly weaned from the opiate of compulsive consumerism, other parts of the world are experiencing a surge of materialistic opportunities to“ buy their dreams”.
At the same time, religions compete with all the shiny new products for the attention of the populace.
Individuals that are more in tune with spiritual pursuits try to find a balance between the two in this topsy-turvy world we all share. The spiritual adage to "be in the world but not of it" has never been more difficult.
For this conceptual exercise I selected the “All-Seeing Eye of God” from the Great Seal of the United States that embellishes the American one dollar bill to represent Materialism…that “Almighty Dollar” that expresses, albeit tongue in cheek, the will to do anything to amass large quantities of it.
And other “all-seeing eyes” are from the East… painted ones that embellish the crests of Swayambunath Stupa and Bodnath Stupa in Kathmandu,Nepal to represent the idea of Spiritualism.
I am working here in mixed media with water soluble printing ink on printmaking paper to create these images. As contemporary cultures worldwide are in such a state of flux, East and West is used just to denote the source of the imagery, not to attribute the exclusive label of spiritualism and materialism to Eastern or Western points of view.
I hope you enjoy considering the philosophic overlays as they wrestle for your attention. Two recent works from this series are posted on the sidebar to the right.
If you haven't been to our blog Eye to Eye in awhile please stop by as we are always adding pictures and updates to it. There's a link on sidebar to the right. We are delighted to have visitors from all over the world.
Whereever you may be here's wishing you many pleasant diversions as the Summer Solstice approaches!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Playing for Change: Music of Hope for Our Times

If you have yet to discover the amazing videos of musicians from around the world, singing songs of hope and inspiration from legends of Rock n Roll, R and B, Reggae and Folk traditions of the world…check this out on YouTube. and get ready to be deeply moved and inspired by the power of music and the creative arts to transform the world.
As Mark Johnson explains on their new website
“Playing for Change is a multimedia movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music. The idea for this project arose from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. No matter whether people come from different geographic, political, economic, spiritual or ideological backgrounds, music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race. And with this truth firmly fixed in our minds, we set out to share it with the world.”
"We built a mobile recording studio, equipped with all the same equipment used in the best studios, and traveled to wherever the music took us. As technology changed, our power demands were downsized from golf cart batteries to car batteries, and finally to laptops. Similarly, the quality with which we were able to film and document the project was gradually upgraded from a variety of formats-- each the best we could attain at the time—finally to full HD.”On YouTube and the website you can view the amazing videos produced and the singers whose heartfelt renditions inspire us all to do better personally and to be better world citizens. In this time of flux and change and economic downturn this is a much needed breath of fresh air and hope.
The good vibes continue as a Foundation was created to build music and art schools in communities needing inspiration and hope through monies raised at benefit concerts.
So do check it out, spread the message of Playing for Change and support their efforts to “connect the world through music!”.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Renewing the Cycles, Beginning Again

After many days of raw and cool weather, the sun has graced us once again.

The stray snowflakes that taunted us less than a week ago have been replaced by 90 degrees. It is hard to get a handle on where we are in the natural scheme of things as we scratch our heads and wonder, “Where is Spring?!” The wildlife seemingly just takes it in stride and follow their inner workings...

Only recently the warblers have been joined by Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and the greening woods echo with new birdsong each day. Early this morning I heard the dulcet tones that I eagerly await all winter to hear. A male Wood Thrush is practicing the first notes of the season. In a few days the full repertoire will performed and at early morning and early evening until late August I will be aurally transported to heaven by his recital…

The peepers keep up a steady chorus throughout the evenings now and the owls enter in from time to time with unexpected vocalizations from a nearby branch that can literally startle me awake. I laugh at the absurd and exotic calls loudly proclaimed and listen for the response from deeper in the woods.

How wonderful it is to have windows open again and to hear the stirrings of life all around. This is the reward for living in a rural area and surviving the challenges of winter in New England…. a deeply satisfying one that is worth the price in my book (though whining does occur in those last few weeks…)

The hummingbirds are yet to arrive, though last night, a raccoon helped himself to the nectar I have had waiting and tipped over the birdbath to boot.
I suspect he is the same little guy who curled up on my doormat to escape the slushy snow and sticky mud weeks ago to nap in full sun.

The uniquely eerie squeals of black bear cubs scampering after their mother were heard on the evening of April 12th, the exact date that I have recorded for the last few years.
It is comforting to note some familiar patterns in these topsy-turvy times.
Usually by the end of May I manage to get photos of these shy creatures as they check out the birdfeeders in the noonday sun. Only a few visits and they will silently disappear back into the woods.

This year even skeptical friends admitted that the enormous impressions deep in the boggy backyard could only have been made by a moose. Now that would be a sight I’d love to see…

It is hard to believe that a full turn of the year has come to pass since I started this little blog last April. The blackflies are popping faster than the daffodils at this point and who knows what the weeks ahead will delight us with.
Thanks to each of you for stopping by from time to time to see what’s happening here in the hills and here's wishing you happy sightings of the wondrous things in your own backyard!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Guggenheim Show a Feast for Eye and Mind

It seems many museums are exploring the influences of East-West dialogue this year, an idea birthed in part by the travels of Marco Polo and still topical today with the enthusiasm for late 20th and early 21st C. Asian contemporary art.

“The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989”is a veritable visual circus that delights the eye and engages the mind. It creatively and most successfully illustrates how the arts, philosophy and literature of Asia, much appreciated by intellectual circles in the West in the 19th and 20th C.,inspired American artists to see and experience their world in a new way.

Upon entering the rotunda and taking in Frank Lloyd Wright’s ascending ramp that spirals up six levels you are greeted by two large cubes of ice around which eight microphones peer down like inquisitive mechanical birds. This is Paul Kos’s installation “Sound of Ice Melting” (1970) created to inspire the visitor to become a deep listener, slowing the mind to become aware of the ambient environment.

Before this can be effectively achieved, dulcet tones of bronze Tibetan cymbals ring out. Tethered by a leather cord attached to a “bell carriage”draped in flowing white silk,the ethereal vehicle gracefully descends around the inner rotunda spiral. All visitors gather along the edge to cheer it on as its random, pristine chime calls us again to clarify our minds and pay attention.

This is a remarkable site-specific piece that artist Ann Hamilton created for the show using book weights of thousands of cut-up books that are reassembled in bundles to create weights that ascend and descend with a pulley system. The title of the work is called “human carriage” (2009) and it represents the power of the transmission of ideas through books.
Books were the vehicles that relayed the Eastern ideas to creative thinkers and spiritual seekers in America for the most part.

There is a short video on the Guggenheim website in which the artist explains her concept in creating this piece, as well as a wonderful introduction and virtual tour to the exhibition by Alexandra Munroe, senior Curator of Asian Art.

From iconic work by 19th C. artists such as James McNeil Whistler, Mary Cassatt, and early 20th C. O’Keefe, Dove, Stieglitz and their circle, to mid 20th C Mark Toby, Morris Graves, Franz Kline... The list just goes on and on, as over 100 artists are represented by exceptional works.

Even the Beats are visually represented, the title actually references William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s recombined cut-up manuscript called “The Third Mind”. Jack Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, and others have unexpected drawings and paintings included. This chronological order culminates on the top floor which is devoted to experimental video and minimalist works from the 1980s.

This stimulating show ends on April 19th. If you find yourself in New York City before then, run don’t walk to the Guggenheim Museum. An excellent audio guide is free with the admission of $18.00 and greatly adds to the experience.
If not, at least treat yourself to a taste of the experience by taking the virtual tour on the website !

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Signs and Symbols of Seasonal Change

Here in the wooded hills of New England, signs of Spring are arriving daily.
Sunny skies have condensed the snow pack and metal sap buckets festoon the gnarled old maple trees.
New fangled plastic tubing in aqua blue and electric purple race through the gray and white woods like a Christo installation and deliver gallons of freely flowing sap into aluminum tubs. Sugar houses have had vats continuously boiling for sometime now, producing glorious amber colored syrup, the nectar of the Yankee gods…
Our dirt road is as thick and sticky as brownie batter and if you aren’t mindful you can find yourself swerving into a quagmire or losing a boot, as it is literally sucked off your foot on your way to the mailbox. Mud season is indeed upon us.
A huge V formation of jubilantly honking geese passed overhead this morning winging their way North. This is the sign I await at every winter’s end.
Mother Nature could still throw us a curveball, as many snowstorms have manifested in late March but we all hope she retreats as a lamb. The roaring lion and sleet and wind escorted her in a most dramatic entrance.
Another change of season is at our door and the geese call us out of our dormant state to once again embrace the adventure of living…
A winter weary chorus of all living creatures answers a resounding yes…
Can you hear us?
Happy Spring to you wherever you may be!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Conde Nast Traveler/Flights of Fancy on a Snowbound Day

I recently unearthed the December 2008 issue of Conde Nast Traveler from underneath a stack of books that I had begun reading and abandoned tomake the trip to China. I had gotten the subscription in lieu of losing domestic air miles but had not actually looked at the magazine in many years previous to that.
This issue is really a gem. And I must say most of the articles are very well-written and well-intentioned. It was the perfect panacea after yet another snowy afternoon/evening. A brief respite from the last weeks of winter.
This issue features an article on ecotravel called “On Native Ground”, in which ethno-botanist/anthropologist Wade Davis contributes a wonderful essay on the importance of multi-culturalism in the world. He has the soul of a poet, the knowledge of a scientist and is passionate about this subject, having studied with traditional shaman around the world as well as graduating from Harvard. He was also National Geographic’s Explorer in Residence.
In his essay he offers …”in the same way that biologists are concerned with a loss of biodiversity, so too in the realm of culture, we are seeing a collapse of diversity that is truly astonishing”… “a great indicator of this is language loss. A language is not just a grammar and vocabulary. It is a flash of the human spirit, the soul of a culture, the old growth forest of the mind”. He coined the very appropriate word “ethnosphere” to allude to the web of life that human cultures contribute as the world of nature is the biosphere.
I have heard him give this speech at a symposium in Toronto and it still gives me goose bumps in print. So too are the cultural artistic expressions of traditional tribal peoples and all people the “flashes of human spirit” for that matter. He is truly preaching to the choir when it comes to me. We both were at the Peabody Museum at Harvard in the 80s when he was researching zombies in Haiti which later became an international best-seller, “The Serpent and the Rainbow”. How lucky we all are that he embraced cultural anthropology as well as ethnobotany, later on.
Back in the 1990’s my partner and I traveled in Burma attempting to document what was left of traditional costume of tribal groups collectively known to outsiders as the Chin people. Most of these groups had been greatly marginalized by the government and the dominant culture. This unfortunately has transpired in most of the world. But with the growth of ecotourism many of these peoples have been given a more positive profile due to economics. Of course opportunity for exploitation is rife in some countries. But if developed responsibly, the outcome could be beneficial, especially when the money goes back to the people hosting the tourists. There are several articles discussing this in a thoughtful manner in this issue.
For a real treat and armchair adventure visit and select the talk: Wade Davis: Cultures at the Far Edge of the World. This 22 minute video features lots of Wade’s amazing field photographs and will having you happily singing in the “choir of cultural diversity” by the end!
Happy traveling!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Winter Doldrums –Winter Songs

Snow is still piled high in sculpted mounds from shovel and plow,edges softened by Artic blasts and scurrying squirrels.The sugary surface is artfully patterned with the comings and goings of scavenging birds. Dangerously daggling icicles, hang like crystal from the roofline, beautiful and deadly in the full moon’s light. Ice dams dominate all northern exposures, snow tires blowout in icy slush, and the wood bin constantly needs filling…a long-suffering whine is necessary and unavoidable.
I think it is safe to say the Winter Doldrums have paid a visit and even the incredible reflection of moonlight on the sparkling ground below fails to enchant for more than a moment. But what a difference a day can make in New England…

Today’s warm temperatures have created music from the drips, and splashes of water liberated from the cold’s icy grip. The chickadees are frolicking in the birdbath and call others to join them from the trees. Phoebes and Barred Owls echo encouragement throughout the woods. Bluejays squawk and preen as the queenly rhododendron relaxes her usually tightly furled leaves. All living things exhale a sigh of relief. Out back I spotted the first tiny buds on the white lilac…

Life is sweet again with anticipation, as I make it back to the house through knee-deep drifts. The cats bask on the front steps like a summer’s day, fresh oat grass growing green and bright in a sunny spot to be enjoyed by them later. Winter has given us a much needed respite.Euphoria will be short lived however as 32 degrees is predicted for tomorrow.

But no matter, the signs have been seen and the longer days are on our side …
The ancient Pagan festival of Imbolc usually held around February 2, marked a time for cleansing and purification. It was an occasion for clearing away the dross and dormancy of Winter and preparing for the arrival of Spring and the freshness of
new life. These eternal changes are arriving daily and the doldrums will be surely be shown the door soon.

Hang in there all my fellow inhabitants of the Northern climes, the wheel is turning … Spring is on the way… one day at a time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Brand New World

Pale gold illuminates a tangle of bare trees as the morning sun climbs the hill.
Deep in snow, they stand silhouetted in the frigid air. The light shifts ever so slightly to copper, as a pair of crows shatter the stillness with their noisy arrival.

Even this far from the marbled halls of Washington,DC there is something in the air,a palpable feeling of a new beginning, of hope, despite the cold realities of the season and the times. This morning’s sun has risen on a brand new world.

Yesterday’s inauguration of Barack Obama was the catalyst for this transformation.

In ancient Rome when the “augurs", groups of priests and officials,
met to interpret omens about favorable or unfavorable days to come,
things were pretty much black and white, good or bad.

As the newly inducted President of the United States stood on Capitol Hill
and looked out over a sea of humanity, whose ancestors represented all the
peoples of the world,he spoke the truth, the cold, hard facts.
The omens were not good.Things must change and be rebuilt.Sacrifices must be made.

But simmering in the crowd of 1.9 million people and the hearts and minds of millions more watching on televisions, computers and listening on the radio was a potent elixir that the augurs of old were helpless to harness… the hope and will of the collective consciousness.

As this eloquent, honorable man said so straight forwardly,”Sixty years ago my father could not have been served in a restaurant in Washington and yet I stand before you today.” And in this reminded us that the will and hope of the people put him there.

A shift in consciousness has taken place and as Barack Obama is quick to remind us,
this is not about him. This is about us as individuals and the choices we choose to make.

We Americans feel a pride and joy this morning that has been long in coming. We are choosing a new way to “be” in this world. A new way that will enable America to live up to her incredible promise and inspire the world by example not military force.

It is a brand new day and all things are possible… How will you choose to be…
Exciting isn't it!