Sofia’s accordion

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She is Sofia , one of the heavenly creatures , golden in the winds of early spring , 2014 . See Tavisha wandering from the village Gita like a hyacinth sprouting forth from gods sweet earth , her clothing still layered with pungent smells of life from the cow pastures she loves to walk … pastures green , pastures blue rolling into the sky , pastures leading the way into the Capitol city of Bulgaria . A Capitol where sun reflected roads of imported yellow brick lay above Roman ruins of the road that leads to Constantinople , some stones still exposed as her feet touch smoothly with reverence . Queen Sofia , the wise , wears a crown of garlands and the balconies that look over her bloom wild with flowers .

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Noise is loud and sharp on these boulevards announcing like bugles for a parade , the historic achievement of mans glory , poetic in the architecture of the Thracian , Greek , Roman , Ottoman and Bulgarian cultures … spellbinding in its creativity , as if God cradles humanities face in his almighty hands and whispers , ” you are my treasures “. Murals of fresco , gold candelabra , soaring buildings of color , minarets from Muslim mosques sing out the call to prayer . The palace guard with silver helmets , a single pheasant feather atop ,  change at the entrance to the Presidents residence and the ancient bells rejoice over a magnificent and enigmatic city .

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The intrigue of the antique market and it’s sellers quick eyes entices like chili pepper in hot chocolate , on the hill beneath the Venetian mosaic of the Cathedral . She discovers the crypt in the Russian church of St. Nikolay , the miracle worker , where she writes a wish and places it prayerfully with hundreds of others into the sarcophagus of St. Serafim . The men walking by are handsome with their collars turned up in European tailored suits and the women so very beautiful with a certain obscure thing about them . She watches the mandolin player and the old woman dressed in rags who sings opera with pride next to the public mineral springs of healing waters .

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If winter solitude is the audience chamber of God , then spring is its answering . Answers creep forth like vines with extravagant clarity as she takes the long way home to America . Like a wedding waltz she moves with Sofia . Children smile at her with innocent beauty like Prince Alexi wearing his sailor suit . Encounters are planned by the souls long before the bodies see each other. A poor beggar walks beside her crying out loud with circles and circles of sorrow . Sofia is compassionate . The rain Tavisha smells in the wind leaves her exultant to be alive . She reaches in her pocket for some spare coin and crumpled now she finds her New Years list  … Number 3 , ” learn to play an instrument  ” . The old mans eyes are aglow on her as she turns around running back to the antique stall …her accordion … to play the tears of Sofia .

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” The world is a great sculptors shop . We are the statues and there’s a rumor going around the shop that some of us are someday going to come to life “. … C.S. Lewis

post script :

I am asking … What does it feel like to be you , what is it really like ?

This is my last posting from Bulgaria .

Music of the Bee-keeper … or How I got here , What happened and Why

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Honey ( Madhu ) is one of the five elixirs of immortality ( Panchamrita )

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She wakes at 3:00 a.m. , again the dream of the flying carpet she sits upon , the woven patterns of Turkey , a map , changing in the wind with the new moon tide making joyful the fishermen below . She sees the swimming fish and on the shore , donkeys in the mist .

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She watches and here enters a thought that wanders thru the sky slow and deep and golden in the morning . The cosmos change color and there are no limits to anything . She holds a ticket on the night train to Bulgaria .

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She walks at 10:00 a.m. only thinking of the bee keeper . With wonder like a new tooth growing she lives here and now and she is saturated like melted butter . Will he be playing Pink Floyd or Procul Harem , Jimi Hendrix or Florence and the Machine again ? He is a ghost never seen and only known by the music drifting from the broken window . She thinks of him sometimes while she stirs thick honey  into her dead mothers teacup she has safely wrapped in white linen a year ago for this journey . A cup of delicacy and aristocracy so foreign to the earthy and primitive stone wall she sits upon to eat her simple breakfast .

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Like dark chocolate her addiction guides her towards his lane near the outskirts. . How can this be ! … this music ! … this day ! So strangely different from the others !  Beethoven s Third Symphony , this revolutionary symphony that once burst upon an un expecting  world in the summer of 1804 ! … and now the bee keepers music . Does he stand with Beethoven in the center of the music expressing his soul too ? Is the artist the hero ? Oh little soul gentle and drifting , guest and companion of her body , flying in the clouds and thru the window with a ticket on the magic carpet …

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Flying Carpet 1880 by Russian artist Viktor Mikhaylovich

personal note : We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place … we stay there even though we go away and there are things in us that we can find again only by going back … we travel to ourselves when we have covered a stretch of time … we go to that place again no matter how brief it may have been .

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Painting left on the wooden gate door in Gita , Bulgaria

I shall begin again when I reach America on April 1 , 2014 .

Love is a lucid roar

Whiter Shade of Pale

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British rock band , Procol Harum , released this mysteriously beautiful song in 1967 . It has been said that John Lennon was obsessed by it and many artists have re-recorded it including Percy Sledge , Joe Cocker , Annie Lennox , Eric Clapton , The Hollies and The Moody Blues . Some claim that the lyrics are derived from a 19th century ghost story and the melody from a Bach cantana . The lyrics below are from a rarely heard full version of the immortal “Whiter Shade of Pale”.

 

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We  skipped the light fandango

Turned cartwheels cross the floor

I was feeling kind of seasick

But the crowd called out for more

The room was humming harder

As the ceiling flew away

When we called out for another drink

And the waiter brought a tray .

 

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And so it was that later

As the miller told his tale

That her face , at first just ghostly ,

Turned a whiter shade of pale .

 

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She said , ” There is no reason

And the truth is plain to see “.

But I wandered thru my playing cards

And they would not let her be

One of sixteen vestal virgins

Who were leaving for the coast

And although my eyes were open wide

They might have just as well been closed .

 

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And so it was that later

As the miller told his tale

That her face , at first just ghostly ,

Turned a whiter shade of pale .

 

She said , ” I’m here on shore leave “.

Though we were miles at sea .

I pointed out this detail

And forced her to agree

Saying , ” You must be the mermaid

Who took King Neptune for a ride ” .

And she smiled at me so sweetly

That my anger straightway died .

 

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If music be the food of love

Than laughter is its queen

And likewise if behind is in front

Then dirt in truth is clean

My mouth by then like cardboard

Seemed to slip straight thru my head

So we crash-dived straightway quickly

And attacked the ocean bed .

 

And so it was that later

As the miller told his tale

That her face , at first just ghostly ,

Turned a whiter shade of pale .

 

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Taking a completely different direction than the one that has made me who I am , there is an uprooting into the deep powerful presence of life .  Like the snapping of a branch it transforms itself into music that I once again hear from the bee-keepers house that I’ve written of before . I stand like silent snow now listening to “Whiter Shade of Pale “. Who is he ? … I’ve never caught sight of him but the music is full volume and scratches like being played on an old record player . Perhaps that is his grandson who falls like a bird out of a tree and runs behind the gate . We share the same air as the melody drifts like the suspended step of the stork . A gold brocade shawl hangs over the doorway perhaps once worn during the reign of Catherine the Great by a village girl dancing to the music from the flute and accordion and goat skinned bagpipes … the ghost from a Whiter Shade of Pale ? It is all so strange like a blue valentine on a February day .  Is it a wish , a dream nostalgic to stand again at that time where life opens to us ? … feather like in its freedom and heavy in its uncertainty . White is the color of this day , white is the color of that cloud moving like beautiful notes , white is the color of a life revealed in a brand new light , a brand new melody …. the ghost of a world .

 

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Photo above of my grand daughter Jocelyn

other photos by Aela Labbe

sculpture by Christina Bothwell

 

Letters Home from Bulgaria …

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Finnish photographer : Kai Fagerstrom

I wait ( not knowing for what ) under blankets all day long and into the nights , like an abandoned house with broken windows and strange creatures roaming about . I am depressed . ( first time in my life )  Our Lady of Perpetual Tears stands over in the corner where my  unfinished paintings hang …” Live and die on this day , live and die “. I think of my dad . There was a huge and mighty earthquake near here in Chirpan the very day and year he was born . The day he died he gazed at the sky , ” Isn’t it beautiful ” ! He asked for water and I ponder now that this was the first word Helen Keller spoke …water .

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Aela Labbe photography

Struggling to climb from underneath feelings of loneliness , regret and fear ,I am in a cave underneath the dull sound of cars moving nonstop above on a city street … like the pale little vagrant soul of Emperor Hadrians tale who ” dwells below in pallid places stark and bare ” . Fables and myths of lore sink in my mind with no creative expression like a heavy anchor weighing down the colors of my paintbox and the sketch book remains blank .  I doubt my purpose and wonder why I am even here in this foreign land . What have I done… I don’t know what can come of it ? I don’t know why this has happened .

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Ellen Rogers photography

Back home my basement is under 5 inches of water with no flood insurance . I am a mess over it and stay motionless under a hooded cloak . I hear my name being called at the gate and don’t want to go out …. but it doesn’t stop, only becomes louder . There stands a mother , her daughter with toes sticking out from worn out shoes , and a baby . Like a plant that slumbers in the night , I can feel light luring here , but it is dim . And then … looking at their tired faces and shabby clothing , I know they have been sent here as a gift from heavens throne room . How foolish and filled with ego I am…thinking I won’t have enough money and feeling sorry for myself this whole week over a basement !  The teenage mothers face appears , a smile , a miracle smile that can bring the taste of honey to a stale and dry slice of wheat toast . How is it that we smile , what is it ? It is everything to me at that moment … it scares the depression away .

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That afternoon , finally feeling hungry , I walk to the weekly pazar in my village . Choosing fruits and vegetables  and ready to pay I realize my coin purse is not in my pocket . With a chorus of crescendo and worry on their faces everyone in line begins searching on the ground with me . Down the path a little girl comes running with a spark of bright color in her hands … My dropped little bag of money . Smiles , smiles from everyone , a language beyond any borders . My ego , let it go on it’s way now …love ….live and die on this day, live and die .

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Four months of not speaking or hearing English has brought about an evolution as in hearing other things now and speaking secret words to myself . ( I wonder if the loneliness from this began my fall into depression ) . Sigur Ros is one of the worlds shyest and least understood bands linked intimately to the glacial majesty, fire and ice of their homeland , Iceland . It is the most beautiful , emotional music I have ever found with Jonsi playing the guitar with a violin bow and singing with falsetto vocals . Many songs are sung in Icelandic  and many in a strange non literal language , a made-up language that focuses entirely on sounds of language with no grammar or meaning or even distinct words . The music is atmospheric reflecting their country .

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Bulgaria … The Sheepherder

Life

what a beautiful mess

a place

where music

comes from the mud .

a place

where sun collects bones ,

stark white .

a place

interrupted

by legends luring .

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Earth

sticks to his feet .

he won’t abandon .

the music singing

an ethereal voice

to the newborn lambs

one black

one white .

this place , this land .

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