The Goose Feather Sequence

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spiraling down from
This fall sunset sky of geese
A lone tail feather

Dreaming here in my garden,
I sit watching a feather spin.
Warm light bathes the soft sweet moss
in welcome to this winsome sprite.
Bounding fast lest it escape her,
the clumsy cat misses it!

Held in her mouth like
A dagger, or a rose,
The goose feather trophy
Must smell strongly
Of potential prey
To my hungry cat –
She wants her dinner.

No need for any plucking
With feathers flying about,
Her poultry comes in cans
Extracted by turning
A gear and applying
A blade to cut the
Lid round ‘till it snaps.

I’ve been told, geese are the
Perfect prey for humans, when
That dire time comes with all
The secret factories abandoned
And we must revert to honesty
About the brutal sacrifice
Of those we prefer as food.

Music of the Spheres and Your Brain

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Could it be that our brains are singing meaning along with the universe?

Because I am taking a course on meditation and the brain, I have been thinking about how miraculous our continually changing human brains really are. I try to remind myself that even though we have names for parts of the complex brain, that does not mean we understand all that is going on.

For example, articles make broad claims about the benefits of singing, and my experience would agree. But studies also make clear that a better understanding of specific aspects might lead to useful practical applications. I began to wonder about whether the rhythms and compositions I intuitively frame in my close-up photos make use of skills enhanced by neuronal connections formed during many years of singing. My ability to detect and relate to subtle nuances in tone of voice certainly grew over that time.

Recently while meditating, I had the feeling that the fact that everything is constantly changing is not just an annoyance. It seemed a fundamental building block of reality and, in fact, worthy of awe. I had the odd thought that when our sun consumes our planet, that transience will still be vitally “alive.” I found that oddly reassuring.

Toward the end of this talk on the brain, Keith Kendrick mentions that the time series of activity in the brain carries meaning, not just the structure or individual signals. This resonated with the musical quality that physicists seem to find at all scales including the probability waves at the heart of quantum theory.

Of all the problematic human undertakings, we can be proud of the music we make using our miraculous brains and bodies. As this article on modern physics and music describes: “Music resonates, it pulses, it leaps into our psyches. It offers a safe space for scientists and musicians alike to work through the paradoxes of modern physics.”

A Personal Garden Refuge

It takes many years to really get to know a garden so that you are in each other’s bones. I encouraged the moss that already liked to grow here. I added stepping stones and a tea hut. I watched for the new maple leaves, and took their portraits in the fall. Children jumped on the stepping stones. Raccoons drank from the water basin. The garden and I bless each other with mutual nurturance even as we continually change. Peace gathered and peace extended.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Noticing Stones

It is the rare child who does not like stones. Some of us never stop picking them up. It is not just the stones but the process – the adventures involved in finding them and the friendships.

These examples lined up above my monitor speak of the natural world with resonances appreciated by the Asian scholar.

Viewing stones on shelf

A close looks provides access to amazing details and dreams:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Freedom of Speech in the Age of the Internet

Salt Marsh, ME

Given our love for communicating with each other and our creative and technical talents, the development of the internet may have been inevitable for our species. However, powerful tools can be used for many purposes.

A New York Times article discusses the role social media played in riots in Sri Lanka. Karsten Muller and Carlo Schwarz conducted research on the relationship between social media and hate crime – “To establish causality, we exploit exogenous variation in major internet and Facebook outages, which fully undo the correlation between social media and hate crime.” (p. 1).

Leaders of several high-tech firms have begun to remove online content that is deemed harmful. That has resulted in questions about who should be doing the monitoring and what standards should apply given the sensitive boundary between free speech on the one hand and controlling the harm speech can do on the other.

Humans in general are subject to harmful mind-tendencies that influence our behavior. And there will always be those who are congenitally incapable of caring about what happens to others.

We need to pay attention and learn how to protect ourselves from ourselves even as we collaborate to make use of our many talents in solving the complex problems we face.

The internet may be just the incentive we need to actively work at building in a level of global culture that supports human thriving while protecting us from our worst tendencies. In essence, that amounts to moving to the next evolutionary stage for our species.

On the Same Wavelength

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now Shah Hadjebi is focusing on his painting, a talent that runs in his family. Some of Shah’s watercolor images have been transferred to clothing and pillows like the one I treasure shown above. Shah and I would meet at an Indian restaurant with only a few tables. We usually had the place to ourselves. We inspired each other to sense and share in multiple dimensions as we discussed ideas for a press kit for his new “Departure” jazz album.

Connecting with clients to help them promote their creative passions is always enlarging as well as a source of great joy. Every once in a while, magic happens:

I first reached out to Shah Hadjebi for feedback on a sentence I planned to use in an article for a concert series I support. Here is what I wrote about his music: “This is the type of music you want to share with a close friend while traveling on the open road on a spectacular, star-spangled night.” To my surprise, Shah asked me if I would like to do PR for his group even though we had never met.

He explained that musicians would come and go as his group evolved. But they were all pros who could join in his vision and perform with minimal rehearsal. Their diverse backgrounds including African American, Persian, Malaysian, and Japanese added depth to the sound.

A benefit of taking Shah up on his offer was hanging out with the group at selected rehearsals where I got to talk to them during breaks. I also attended the concerts at places like the Hard Rock Café, and Johnny D’s.

When I did research for the new album’s press kit, I discovered that Persian blue is actually a family of colors associated with lapis lazuli. These colors are found in the glorious tiles used in middle eastern palaces and mosques. The Persian indigo variation is derived from the plant used for dying cloth for centuries in many cultures ranging from wax resist masterpieces in Japan to ubiquitous “blue jeans.” The lighter medium Persian Blue with its greater admixture of green suggests ocean and lake water.

The group’s logo shows hands holding up the famous NASA photo of our planet taken from space. I wrote, “Shah’s music speaks of sunrises, and departures; both the good life and our profound human struggles. Shah loves natural beauty, and the rich cultural diversity to be found in our one world. Both the logo and his music convey his warmth toward every single one of us who hold this precious small planet in our hands.”

When I had trouble reaching him, I decided to listen to an advance recording Shah had given me. These words just seemed to flow:

“The first cut, ‘Departure,’ is a drifting dream with a sense of ocean tides and deep undercurrents. The main theme first presented by the sax is haunting and draws you in before ocean waters wash ashore. Here one also finds the ebb and flow of sensed connection between two lovers who are not touching but read each other very well.

With ‘It’s all good’ you are looking in the door at a party with interesting guests who do not take themselves too seriously. There are conversations, comings and goings, laughter, ice clinking in glasses. A bit later, a talented couple starts dancing with others clapping in time. The couple continues to dance while a loud conversation starts up in another part of the room and things get looser and wilder. If you do not believe all this is happening, just listen to the music and come up with your own version.

When angels cry’ is thoughtful and mellow with vocals and various instruments telling the main story, followed by elaborations and comments. There is regret that is all the more poignant since the pure feeling is becoming diluted with time.

Dude where’s my boat?’ is a curious title. The composer has spent some time simply messing about in boats. In the fashion of jazz titles, you can go anywhere or everywhere. Did he really misplace his boat? Did it depart without him? Or was this one of those frustrating dreams, in which you find yourself lost? There are some rich Persian motifs in this one and a bit of metal rock sound.

Sunrise‘ (Sunrise music video) is richly evocative of a time of day beloved by this morning person composer who often does his best creative work in the early morning hours before others are up and about. The music presents a sky transforming with remarkable colors in real-time. It ends with well-being: a great cup of coffee in hand and anticipating a day rich in promise ahead.

The last three songs are different. For one thing, they reflect Shah’s experience writing and performing rock. For another, they reflect his multi-cultural sensitivity to the darker side of human nature.

Questions are asked about those who misuse power as well as those who fail to struggle against injustice and adapt. Whether taken at a national, village, or family level, as well as within each of us, these are familiar themes. The last song uses understatement to convey the horror of truly knowing and loving peace, and also living with the awful silences of war.

There is certainly a clear plea here. Of all the many meanings of ‘Departure,’ let’s hope that human compassion gradually wins out over our historical fear and insanity. Then we can see the sunsets, sense the sexual tension, enjoy the parties and even, occasionally, miss the boat.”

I sent Shah the draft telling him it was only a start. However, he told me not to change a thing; that both he and his family liked it just the way it was.

An Invitation to Tea

A heightened awareness of what is going on around the tea hut is part of tea. There may be rain drops falling on the roof, rustling leaves, bird song, falling dusk with the crickets starting up, or a cold, bright winter day.

It was chilly that afternoon in February though record high temperatures had kept the snow away. Sun was streaming in through the naked branches of overhead trees and the evergreens seemed to be drinking it in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Modern houses block us off from nature. The tea hut does create an interior meditative world, but it is not cut off in the same way and in that sense brings us back to our roots.

Shadows on tatami 021812

Within the hut, natural light creates a restful mood as do the tatami mats and simple space. The kettle/hibachi waits on the host mat with steam just beginning to rise. I also directed a small space heater toward where guests would sit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The light (and therefore the mood), varies by time of day, weather conditions and with the seasons. It also changes constantly during the course of a practice. It was particularly bright and mysterious that afternoon.

Tea provides a place to slow down enough to appreciate ordinary things that are not so ordinary. Being awake in the moment also allows for a deep rapport between host and guests.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I stage the utensils in a corner of my one-room hut. A talented friend cut the clam-shell shelf to my specifications, using a board that once served as a desk. The basket holds a blanket that was useful on this occasion.

Although blueberries are not appropriate for a winter ceremony, I knew that my friend is particularly fond of them, so I made an exception.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the beginning of the ceremony, guests come up to look more closely at the scroll and flowers. A guest might look down from above to see this view of the flowers that seem to be bursting with promise of the energy of spring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The scroll I selected suggests the coming season as did the crocus that decided to bloom in a protected area of my front yard that day. I was told that this calligraphy is of a type that might have been made for sale by a monk at a Buddhist Temple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My friend is holding the delicate water scoop. Later the kettle lid will be placed on the rest. Notice the contrasting weights and textures among the various utensils. I was taught that I should lift bamboo utensils as if they were the heavy ones.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dense steam rises as the kettle water gets quite hot. The heat is especially welcome on a chilly winter afternoon. A modern summer ice tea variation uses a glass tea bowl.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I am using a cloth with a pattern and holding it out before starting to fold it. This is a centering and respectful gesture. The tea container is positioned so it may be easily lifted for purification. The cloth will be refolded before the tea scoop is gently wiped as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After mixing the tea into the water, the whisk, made from a single piece of bamboo, looks like this. Tea scoops come in many variations in size, and shape. There are also scoops made out of other materials such as ceramic.

While the whisk is often admired for its design, the bamboo tea scoop has understated elegance. After using one for a while, it becomes clear just how perfectly this small utensil fulfills its function.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You can see a lovely demonstration together with an explanation in this brief video.