Reality Interlude #3

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Awakening after my first evening on the “Empire Builder”, I am grateful to my green vintage coat , that used as a blanket , kept me warm in the chill of the night train . A train immense in its pounding power and gentle in its rhythmic rocking , the wheels touching fast the metal track sounding like a lullaby from outer-space , the velvet sky embracing the swift movement of the mighty train beneath it . I remember something … Sleeping , I had a dream , a dream of a train wreck with the luggage thrown all over and name tags I could clearly read , floating in the air with clothes flying about like the spirits of ghosts . And I saw my old friend too . I saw her young and on a beach holding a framed in glass photo of her and her now dead  lover when they were young , young and very beautiful . She begins running away from me on the waters edge , her long , auburn in the sun , hair flowing down past her narrow waist …

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The train is now somewhere in North Dakota passing thru Fargo last night where the plane was bound for when Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly died in a crash , known as ” the day the music died “. We passed on thru Devils Lake , a remnant of a glacial sea the Indians called  ” Evil Spirit Lake “, believing the loose rocks were the result of a mammoth struggle between thunderbirds and water monsters . And on thru Minot , known as the ” Magic City ” because it grew overnight , like magic , the moment the Great Northern Railroad announced it’s route and too , where Al Capone used the town as a central hub for his liquor smuggling . Gazing sleepily with stardust still in my eyes making my sight blurry , I watch a rose colored dawn appear out my window as we pass by Fort Buford , the sad place where Chief Sitting Bull surrendered after the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1881 and I hear a melodious note of a crying violin .

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The breakfast car is just opening , it’s 6:30 . The waiter seats me at a crisp clean table with three others who are already looking at the menu . We introduce ourselves … this is a very polite car … where the passengers seem on their best behavior . Let me introduce you to George , Cathy and Matthew , the following is what they revealed to me :  George and Cathy have been married 45 years . George is Greek , retired and a sportsman who really wants his 14 year old grand-daughter , Isabella , to become a TV weather woman because she’s a wiz at math and could make a lot of money in this profession . But instead she already is a trained , professional ice skater who won’t listen to his good advice ! Cathy , as small and short as her husband is tall , wears no make-up and is naturally pretty . We talk about creative personalities and her career as a ballroom dancer . They tell me I would love Boston . And now as the food is served , silent Matthew comes alive . He is a rather plump , unassuming man in his 40’s with wonderful eyes that look directly at you with kindness . Living in a condo in downtown Philadelphia , he walks to work , owns no car and is traveling to Seattle just for the enjoyment of it . He asks us only one question , ” How are your pancakes “? and when Cathy says , ” delicious  “, Matthew exclaims ,” Ditto”! ( obviously a foodie ).

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The train of insomnia comes to a stop again in the middle of the North Dakota plain because of the right of way of the freight trains . As the four of us admire the beauty of a sparrow , outside the window , sitting on a tall blade , a sparrow out of the nest for the first time looking for a cricket in the tall grass , we say our goodbyes . Returning to my seat , still sleepy from the nights dreamland crossing , a message appears on my phone ….. “she died last night “.

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All photos taken on the train

 

 

 

Reality Interlude #2

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Chicago : Adams street just outside Union Station .

Leaving Union Station , I take the escalator up and out to Canal Street . I had forgotten the hypnotizing allure , like the whistle heard in the distance of an oncoming train , of the big city streets . Large tourists boats beneath the street bridge , glide like noisy swans , on the wide river , glimmering in the sun and on the sidewalk corner an old man with a saxophone performs for a few coins to be tossed into his open instrument case of torn burgundy velvet . His music is sweet , his face weathered , his shirt torn ragged . As I walk east towards Lake Michigan down Adams street , noticing crowds of beautiful people and admiring the breathtaking architecture of tall buildings , my now highlighted pink and purple hair blowing north , south , east and west , gives me freedom in my step with flip-flops bouncing down the sidewalk . I smile at the uniformed employees chatting together in the wind in front of hotel lobbies I wish I could stay in . I would love to live in lots of different hotel rooms for a year !

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Suddenly a man , a very handsome man , a tall man appears walking in step with me . Why is he walking with ME ? Being quick in my observations , I notice his fine navy linen suit , tailored a size too small like the European men in Sofia and his laced tan leather shoes shine to am almost burnt orange sheen . He has a face slightly boyish in its angles , terribly handsome like Brad Pitts in ” Meet Joe Black ” and his long thick white blond hair brushed casually straight back off his forehead , was nearly too much for me ! Seriously !

” You look as colorful as the city , like an exotic bird ”

” It’s windy up there so I landed down here ” . Can’t believe I say this !… as he laughs . ” It’s an amazing place for sure “.

” Where do you come from , some other country “?

” Um , no , Michigan “.

” But what is it you do “?

” Um , I’m an artist , um , what about you “?

” A writer , I live here , a film writer . Your hair and your coat ( bright green vintage ) … pause … they are provocative … I’m sorry , I knew I shouldn’t have said it that way … It’s the way you walk wearing it so large on you … and your blond pink hair too . Where are you going and would you please have a coffee with me “?

” Um … Thankyou , but ” … almost feeling sick to my stomach , I stop walking ,

” Jack , my names Jack , look here’s my card , what’s your name sunshine ?

” Meg , but I have to catch a train in less than an hour “.

” Are you coming back thru this way ? Look , look here on my card , my phone number , will you please call me . I just had my 50th birthday and I’ve become more brave , I know I’m just a stranger to you but I would really like to talk more with you again . You are like a peacock , so bright . ( now I think he’s really funny ! )

” I’m going back now , back to the station “. as I turn around and ignore responding to his plea .

” Wait , don’t go … let me at least help you cross this busy street “.

Once on the other sidewalk corner , I look straight in his brown eyes and simply say , ” bye “.

” Don’t be in a hurry “, spoken under his breath as if it were a secret thought I couldn’t hear .

” Are you flirting with me still , a much older woman “?

” Yes , I’m attracted  to you “.

” Um , lucky me ” … I surprise myself flirting back and flashing my eyes at him like a camera shutter , sending mixed messages .. “Bye”.

He stands still , putting his beautiful hands in both pockets , his dear smile lost in the Chicago crowd .

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Narrator ( getting confused as to which story he’s in ) : ” Walking away , meg hears another conversation between two young women “.

” Did you hear that ! ! ! … I swear I heard that baby blue samsonite suitcase that woman is carrying say something !

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Personal note : Encounter on Adams Street dedicated to you , Robbie … umm … you know what I mean !

!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reality Interlude

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St. Joseph , Michigan : Amtrak Station

 

Travel Attire :

clean underwear .

white cotton t-shirt .

silk tunic .

blue jeans

vintage green velvet oversized coat .

$2.50 pair of flip-flops .

 

Suitcase check list :

oval framed photo of grandmother , Lily De Korne .

book : ” Treasure Island ”

food : water , apple , cheese and hard role

sketchbook , paper , pen and pencil

toothbrush

party dress ( for dancing )

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Vintage full skirt

Mexican blouse

Nightgown – white

Mens blue and white stripped pajamas ( oversized )

Hand-knit sweater

Ballet flats

Norwex face lotion

Silver-city pink lipstick

Vanilla lotion

Red leather journal of important information

Passport and debit-card

Pillow

One heart filled with joy and gratitude , in love with love for all who share this earth ( animals and nature included )

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Union Station : Chicago

 

 

The Suitcase

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A suitcase found itself standing around the corner from the open gate . ” It’s perfect here “, Baby Blue Samsonite thinks , watching the flower of life bloom a sunrise amber like the eternal flame still burning at Arlington for President Kennedy .

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A girl appears on the scene , appears floating like a bird with head bowed , a girl who sits down in silence , a silence killing her with its loneliness making everything ordinary too beautiful to bear . She hears water dripping from the rusty sprinkler head , dripping methodically like the even rows of tombstones stretching into the horizon … Listen now , listen to the dripping sound .

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Baby Blue opening around the corner

around the corner of the earth

of the sea

of a tree .

Around the corner of my heart

from the pasture

from the orchard

around the corner of the sun .

Baby Blue , infant blue ,

stars across her chest

around the corner

from my house .

A new word , a strange quest ,

a grain of sand

embedded in an open wound

to become a life

around the corner

from the sailing ship .

Baby Blue

around the corner

around the corner of the earth ,

Baby Blue .

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This girl , on her way to someplace , she knows not where , watches for hours this samsonite suitcase with its name tag , Joyce .

” Why are you left here , are you forgotten “?

” Open me please “, the suitcase whispers .

The girl hears the dripping sound . A gust of wind like the sound of a trumpet , blows the suitcase down and twin caterpillars crawl to open the latches , one on each side . The lonely girl looks inside  ..the scent of roses. Oh look , look and see … A frock of fascination , a frock of gratitude , a yellow frock of joy , a petticoat of wind , cloud and sea waves . A frock embroidered with music notes and one with names around a sash . .. and look , look an envelope faintly written on with ink … It says , ” OPEN , repack suitcase and leave for someone around the corner of your life “.

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Return to America

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First photo on arrival … walk with Casey in Ypsilanti

 

She was gone a long time , a long five months and on that last night in that haunting country , that medieval country , that thundering earth of a country , she has a dream and sees a new vision .

 

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Her journal is already packed away like a wrapped deli sandwich to be opened when she arrives home but now her trusted instinct causes her to search her suitcase and find it , to find and add another condiment of a new and fresh taste . She quickly sketches with an inch long pencil , more life in it now at the end of its existence than when it was brand new . She draws the dream , remembers the scene  and remembers too the similarity of the dream and reality . She had stopped at this place two summers ago having passed it hundreds of times knowing it from childhood . She remembers her curiosity , a curiosity like an appetizer for the whole picture . This place , this amazing place laying under the dark April moon of pure potential … a studio or cabin or home of some simple sort with an open loft , an oversized paned window and a long broken stoned path way to the front door . It stands on a hill above the intersection of three roads , one leading east to Traverse City , one to the back roads thru Thompsonville  and one rolling north thru the thickly wooded country of Michigan where she comes from leaving Glen Arbor . It stands alone with no neighbors , remembered as a Native American or Mexican trading post . Now it is abandoned , abandoned like the flowered teacup traveling with her from the complete set arranged on the china cupboard of her rented out house .

 

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Weeds and bushes overgrow on all sides of the structure and the wood is weathered from sun , rain and windstorms and a door loose on its hinge like a broken butterfly wing sighs in the breeze . Ever since her mother and father died this abandonment reveals itself to her on all the pathways of earth like the whole of the moon , bright in its luminosity , inescapable from its theme . She had asked about this place that lays under tall shadows but no one knows much other than it was once for sale and the owner lives a few miles away .

 

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And now the dream and another clue hold hands . Clues she trusts , clues she never fails to be astonished by , clues everywhere , clues that rise like exotic incense , clues inhaled . She stays in London the following night , sleeping under the eternal essence of love from someone else who had too , once been there . He appears again on the following night when she finally arrives back to America , when she sleeps at their sons house . The clue comes forth in the missing painting on the wall that she stares at like a person with a sparkling halo manifested . This painting , his signature , the date and place , London 1970 ….! It is he sending the dream , 44 years from the multiverse . She takes a photo and in it his shadow appears and a wavering scent of vanilla replaces the cow pastures musk of the country left behind . Behold , a new fresh scent and she smiles , smiles and looks at her journal drawing with excitement , quiet excitement like the velvet feel of a catipillar crawling on the warmth of her neck in early spring . She is his muse and he is hers . Déjà vie finds itself in their sons bedroom , so like his dad’s with arrangements of odd and beautiful found objects , cut outs , drawings , photographs and paintings . And in the painting called “Dreamscapes from London ” … she dwells .

 

 

“Once you have flown you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward for there you have been , there you long to return ”

Leonardo Da Vinci Image

 

An OPEN sign painted bright says , Studio Poet , cafe of possibilities …

always coffee , chai and chocolate

imports

vintage wear … and sometimes other things

artist residence

 

postscript : into her drawing she adds a garden , a donkey , and an accordion . She calls the real estate agent for an appointment to put her house up for sale in May !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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The Swan from Orcas Island

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The Swan … By Mary Oliver

Did you too see it , drifting ,

all night , on the black river ?

Did you see it in the

morning , rising into the

silvery air ?

An armful of white blossoms ,

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Bill Ecklund photography

A perfect commotion of silk

and linen as it leaned into

the bondage of its wings ; a

snowbank , a bank of lilies ,

Biting the air with its black beak ?

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Did you hear it , fluting and

whistling – a shrill dark

music – like the rain pelting

the trees – like a waterfall

Knifing down the black ledges ?

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And did you see it , finally ,

just under the clouds – A

white cross streaming across

the sky , its feet – like black

leaves , it’s wings – like the

stretching light of the river ?

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Photos of Florence Welch from her Facebook Timeline photos

And did you feel it , in your

heart , how it pertained to

everything ? And have you

too finally figured out what

beauty is for ?

And have you changed your

life ?

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Lara Zankoul photography

In honor of two spiritual teachers … for their inspirations when I lived in Eastsound …their examples of divine love like the soaring wings of the swan singing to me even now in the “stretching light” crossing the Black Sea of Bulgaria . I am grateful .

Dick Staub : founder and director at The Kindlings ( C.S.Lewis ) , pastor at the community church and author .

Aaravindha Himadra : teacher of spiritual awakening and truth-knowledge ( Sambodha ) and author of “Immortal Self ”

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Katerina Plotnikova Photography

” The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands , but in seeing with new eyes “.    Marcel Proust