Monday, February 28, 2011

Irish/Celtic Music

Old Blind Dogs

You can find them on Pandora Radio

A look at the Sistene Chapel, don't miss it...

Check out this visit to the Sistine Chapel where you will see Michelangelo's work:

Here is what Komando had to say about it: 
Almost everyone has heard of the Sistine Chapel. It is located in Rome and has been in use since 1483. The chapel is where the College of Cardinals chooses new Popes.
However, it is most often associated with the legendary artist Michelangelo. He created the amazing ceiling frescos between 1508 and 1512. Other great artists, such as Raphael and Bernini, also contributed.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Coffee House Voyeurism

I pull into the parking lot off of Geist Road and steered my truck through the maze of snow piles that the plow truck has been so kind to have strategically placed throughout. I felt like I was taking a driving test, to see if I was capable of maneuvering around each one of them. I truly cannot believe that it would take much thought to make sure that the snow piles were not blocking parking spaces for customers? I wonder if they are sitting somewhere in the parking lot snickering at me in my dilemma of where in the hell am I going to park-syndrome. Don’t get me started; this topic is for another time.
 The coffee house is quiet this time of day; it’s around 3:30 pm. I see a few sets of potential people that I can advantageously place myself next to in order to perform the task of eaves dropping. It seems the hustle and bustle of the day has come and went. I can see that the dishes near the exit door are piling up in the tub, waiting to be taken to the back for washing. The Bulletin boards are crammed full of advertisements; cabins for rent, lost dogs and wanting a mate. I can hear someone making an espresso and loading the brick oven with more wood. I can still smell the bread and pizza’s that were cooked prior in the day. The strong smell of coffee lingering in the air, from haven been roasted and brewed, a thousand times over.  I walk right up to the counter and a young girl with piercings, tattoos and multi-colored hair, asked me what I would like to order. I debated, and finally decide on a cup of their house-blend, in a real cup, accompanied by a tantalizing dessert, THE FRUIT TART. I pay and quickly do a scan around the room for victims of my eavesdropping. I gather my accouterments and find a spot next to a pair of middle aged women that are deep in conversation and they look like they were not leaving anytime soon.  As I sit down I hear, “Lee Ann”, I get up to retrieve my deliciously hot cup of coffee.
I settle in next to a pair of ladies that I would presume to be in their middle 50’s to 6o years of age. They are sitting across from each other and talking in hushed voices, over coffee and cake. The lady with long gray hair, that she wears back in a barrette said to her friend, “Gravity always wins, eventually it will be on the floor and we have to decide rather to pick it up or leave it laying there,” her friend looked at her, smiled and patted her hand. The friend of the lady with the long gray hair was trying to console her and reassure her that her body would tone and tighten up as she continued with her workout routine and what was left over; then you invest in some good foundation wear. They eventually said their goodbyes, and promises of getting together soon, and left the coffee house.
When listening to other peoples conversations, we only get snippets of what they are saying, especially when you are in a public place and have all the ambient noises in the background. I can only imagine what the rest of the conservation was about with these ladies. Maybe they were talking about picking up someone’s clothes off the floor? It could have been a number of things, rather than talking about a person’s body. Overall, I can see how just taking pieces of a conversation can get so misconstrued.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Going Native

To be honest, I had to go back and read this piece of non-fiction, “Going Native”, by Francine Prose, a couple of times. I thought I was getting what she was trying to say the first time, but I decided the next morning that I must have missed an important message that she was trying to convey.
The author’s opening statement on this piece about the three fourth graders from a remote and poorest section of a rural school district in New York, was an interesting reflection on the common message that the author was trying to get across through-out the piece. The want -to-be syndrome of trying to be something that you’re not, rang clear with the situation of these boys. She stated that the boys wanted more than just a fashion statement and rap music, but the real feeling of being African American, rather than their fantasized ideas.
The author then went on through-out the essay to give examples of what going-native meant. I found it worthy of note about the mention of the Native American cartoon character that is depicted for the school logo and the football team. The topic of the Native American cartoon character was in the radio and news spot light not so long ago. The Redskin football team had suggested that they were thinking about changing their name so it would not offend American Indians. This was quite a topic of conversation around my house about the pros and cons of the possible change. My opinion about the change of name for the football team was embraced in our family. Our thoughts are that the name doesn’t degrade us, as being American Indian. We are who we are and a cartoon character does not define us as a person. The trinkets that are purchased at a flea markets, such as safety-pin beaded headdresses, that hang from the rear-view mirrors of cars or dream catchers that are made from manufactured, cookie stamped machines, do not define us, these are Material Things.
The catch phrase of Going-Native, we have all heard in conversation, either at home, on the television, the radio and movies. My impression on what Going-Native meant was letting loose, unattractive behavior, getting crazy. I’ve heard it used humorously, to go native means to take on some of the culture traits of the people around you.
I think what the author was trying to convey in this story, is that as a person we need to try to embrace who we are and what we are. Yes, we all take little snippets from our environment and weave them into our person. But we need to revel in the uniqueness of ourselves and try to not be assimilated into society, a cookie-cutter impression. Contribute to the society as a whole, but maintain the individualism that each of us has and pursue the purity and the simplicity of life.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sacred Circle

Sacred Circle
I can already hear the sounds of the drums, beating at a rhythmic pace. Several voices are chanting in a sing song language, that I do not understand. An unusual smell is wafting across the heart of the gathering, to where I am sitting. Sage is the herb that is being burnt, meant to cleanse and purify the Pow-wow grounds of any negative energy. My family will dance in the ceremonial circle, at least one time around, what we call, “The Sacred Circle”.
The Pow-wow is usually held the second week of July, behind the Carlson Center, in Fairbanks, Alaska. The tribal council named it, “Midnight Sun Inter-Tribal Pow-wow”. The meaning behind this name is that no matter what tribe you are from or what quantum of Indian blood you carry, you are welcome to attend the Pow-wow and partake in its entirety. All they ask is that everyone has to be sober and drug free.
The Pow-wow is roped off, so there is only one entry into the celebration. Inside this roped area, there is a huge umbrella canopy. Surrounding the core are store front tents, of all sizes and shapes. The vendors are selling hand-crafted items like, dream catchers, beaded hair pieces and earrings, original artwork on canvas, and drums. Other vendors are selling food items like, Indian Fry Bread, ice-cream and sodas.  The teepees are set up a few feet away from all the hustle and bustle. The teepees are decorated and adorned with tribal designs, representing the clan that is staying there.  Designs like the Eagle feathers are associated with honor. The hand symbolizes man, and his accomplishments. People are most familiar with the Kokopelli design; it symbolizes fertility, mainly male fertility, as well as they are protector of the seeds. The floor inside the main canopy is just grass and dirt, with bales of straw outlining the tent to shape a circle. Fold up chairs are set up, three or four rows deep, so people can rest and watch.
My family and I attend the Pow-wow on the last day, which is a Sunday. We arrive for the opening ceremony, where the Veterans carry the flags and perform the flag ceremony. The Veterans are recognized for their service to the United States. The men and women of the Armed Forces travel around the circle to the sound of the drum, shaking hands with everyone on the outer rim. The deep heartfelt pride that is being shared from the Veterans’ to the native people is tremendously moving. The emotions of thankfulness, humbleness and modesty are felt from all that are there witnessing this ceremony. The flag ceremony performed by the Veteran’s needs to be experienced by all people, to feel the comradery and togetherness, that the people are one.
The drums start to beat again and I can see the pollen vibrating on the skin of the drums. The singers start chanting about how the Water Spider captures the first fire. The Cherokee tale about the First Fire has been passed down from many generations. The Water Spider has black downy hair and red stripes on her body. She can run on top of water and she can dive to the bottom. She has no trouble in getting to the island to get fire for the people. She is little and she can spin thread to make a little bowl that she carries on her back. Every since then, the people have had fire. The Water Spider still has her little bowl on her back.  
The smoke from the sage burning is swirling around the drummers, as if trying to keep them entangled in the legend that they are singing. The leader calls out to the audience for all the women to dance and to dance with a wrap from their clan.
My oldest/youngest daughters and I are dancing in the sacred circle together for the first time. I am very moved by this experience having each of my daughters dance beside me. Each of us is wrapped in a long rectangle piece of brightly colored fabric that I had to fold in half, lengthwise, because it was so wide. On each of the ends, it has beautiful silky fringe, in a color that compliments the main fabric. The wraps are usually seen in vibrant colors such as, red, turquoise blue, azure, yellows and greens. Wearing this wrap while dancing represents that I am in full Indian dress for the dance. We moved our arms in time to the drumbeat and swung the wrap back and forth. As we stepped to the beat of the drums, we moved around the outer rim of the circle together. While we dance, I wanted to remember this feeling of being so proud of my girls and how much I love them. I wanted to slow that moment down, to savor each and every step that we took together. I will always have this snap shot of a memory with me forever.
I can smell the faint scent of sage again, not so strong this time. I can hear the soft sounds of footsteps and beads jingling, as some of the dancers walk towards me. Men, woman and children clad in their full native dress. The sage smell is getting stronger, the drums start their beat, the rattles start to shake, and the announcer says to the crowd, “Everyone in full native dress is welcome to dance the “Stomp Dance”.
Some of the native people there are wearing their full native dress, the attire is absolutely breathtaking. The men’s clothing, I have to say is the most elaborate of all. Most of the beadwork on these pieces of formal clothing is so intricate and small; it must take months to finish even a small section. A person can see the pride in how the native people wear their formal dress and represent their clan at the Pow-wow.
The most important part of the Pow-wow for our family is the Bald Eagle release. The Pow-wow does an eagle release every year. The Bird Treatment and Learning Center usually brings up a rehabilitated bird for the occasion. The Bald Eagle gets released usually mid afternoon, after prayers and songs from a special guest. The Bald Eagle flew very low this year and then across the river, to roost in a Spruce tree. I have heard the predictions by the Indian people about the eagle and which way it flies when released and what it means. I cannot remember now what was said about the direction that the eagle flies. But when an eagle drops a feather as it did this year, it is considered quite a gift. An elder says a blessing over the dropped feather and then it is given to the designated holder of such blessed gifts for the tribe.
I look forward to the Pow-wow every year; it holds a special meaning for me. Maybe attending the Pow-wow is what a person feels when they go to church on Sundays; they somehow feel closer to God. I’m not a religious person in that sense, but I have a strong spiritual need to go to the Pow-wow every year. I enjoy seeing friends that I haven’t heard from since last year and to catch up with them about their lives. To dance the “Sacred Circle”, with my family and feel that we have completed this journey together; so that we will have peace for the rest of the year. I know it sounds superstitious about having to dance the circle and maybe it is. But it makes me feel connected to the earth and all the people, united in a sense. When I leave the Pow-wow, the sacred circle, I have a sense of significance, and completeness. I am at peace. 
The Sacred Circle that we dance
It feels as if it will last
Time stands still if only for a moment
As if in a trance

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

“The Cost of Conflict: A personal Journey”
Speaker: Cheryl Hatch
I have never been to such an engaging lecture before. She started speaking right around 7:00 pm and it lasted to 9:00 pm. She presented a slide-show of her work throughout her career. Her career in photo journalism started around the time Ronald Reagan was the President of the United States, up until just a couple of years ago. She works mostly in black and white film and has been free lance for most of her career.
Now, she is teaching at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for one year. She stated that she was brought up here through the Snedden Foundation and likes it so much that she is going to try to stay on another year. She gave the audience an insight of the war that you don’t normally see or hear. Her pictures and stories were mainly about the women and children of the war and how the war decimates the countries.
She was a exceptionally motivating speaker and if I hadn’t already picked a major, I might consider journalism. She did say something about how the digital age has changed things, which I thought was right on point. She stated, “The difference between film and a digital camera is, a sniper and a machine gun”. Great lecture and I would go again.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Souls On Ice

Souls On Ice

When I first starting reading this short piece that Mark Doty wrote, I was a little puzzled as why he was writing about mackerels. Then I realized as I got much further into the piece, that this really was the proverbial tip of the ice berg.

I took pleasure in the way he broke down the pieces of his writing, so that the reader could identify with how and why he developed the poem the way that he did.  Even with him just starting out with expressive words to capture the way the mackerels looked, this showed his train of thought and the development of his piece of poetry. His use of descriptive, vivid words and metaphors were inspiring. I had not thought about the impact that a poem can have just by writing in tercets, which allows the pacing of a poem for the reader. The pauses and breaks in the poem allowed me as a reader to contemplate the deep meaning of each word and try to visualize in my mind’s eye words, such as prismatic abalone.

I too, would like to think that am unique, one of a kind, as Mark Doty eluded too. Every since I was young, it has been told to me that I was unique and no one else was quite like me. Now, that I think about this, could this have been said because I’m REALLY different. That has made me reflect about all those times when I was a child and I heard that same saying and or aphorism. Had it been said in a condescending way or in a genuine well meaning way? 

I think the majority of us would like to think that we are unique and that when we do leave this world, we would be missed in some sort of little way. But, life does go marching on, even when we lose a loved one, a friend, even a cherished pet. It seems he was trying to find some sense of being after losing his partner of many years. I remember that saying of, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?". Life does go on, with or without us. We are just a grain of sand, compared to the bigger picture of things.

The vocabulary that Mark Doty used in describing his journey of composing this poem was imaginary. Throughout this piece I found myself looking up several words that I had never heard or seen before. In this sense, I found myself learning new descriptive words that I will hopefully add to my vocabulary as a writer and somehow be able to work them into a piece of my own work.
The last stanza of the poem summed everything up in a tidy tercet. The word gleaming implies a shine, a shimmer, a flash, and or sparkle, something we are for a brief period, while being part of a whole in this universe. Carpe Diem…….

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Here are some pictures from the 
Museum of the North

Calypso the Noble Horse


Artist is Tamara Schmidt

Sculpture of a Horse made of Wood, Metal and Wire

Located at the Main Entrance of the Museum

Calypso was fashioned out of Alder wood, steel and wire, by Tamara Schmidt. When I read the short synopsis about the piece, it made me want more information about what the motivation was behind this sculpture. Was the name she chose for the piece from a horse that the artist once had? Why did the artist choose this form of media for the piece? Obviously, I will never know the answers to my many questions.

When I first saw this sculpture, I mean really looked at it in detail. I noticed the deliberate usage of wire and wood, that was shaped and curved in order to provoke movement. The movement of this sculpture is what draws and calls out to me. The movement of the lines in this piece, show an unyielding, powerful nobility, which has been captured in this life size piece of art. Its proud stance and wild looking appearance makes a person stop and take a closer look.

 When I looked even closer, I saw the detail and the caring way the wire and wood was bent in order to get just the right angle and effect. The different shades of the Alder wood seemed to be placed strategically to show highlights and shading, which gave it more dimension. Just like a painter would do with different shades of blue in order to achieve a more realistic, three dimension piece.

This sculpture is amazing, not only visually, but ecstatically. The emotions and memories that it can evoke from a person are wonderful, if you let it. It reminded me of my own horse that I had when I was a teenager. I use to take my horse for long runs on the beach and we would be gone for hours at a time. When I was riding, sometimes I felt as if I was flying and nothing in the world would be able to catch me. It made me feel like I had the world by the tail. I could forget about my worries; like dealing with my parents, trying to fit in at school, and making good grades. I could dream about being anything I wanted and it actually felt like I could reach out and grab it.

In addition, I felt sad and guilty when I saw this sculpture. My heart ached; I did not spend as much time as I should have with my horse as I got older and I was not there in the end for him. This heaviness of heart I will always feel. When I think of all the wonderful times we had together and yet in the end we had grown apart.

I looked around the museum and I did not see anymore sculptures and or art works by Tamara Schmidt. It would be treat to see more of her work, possibly in her own show.