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December 2015

Renew

“…In all creation
Nothing endures, all is in endless flux,
Each wandering shape a pilgrim passing by.
And time itself glides on in ceaseless flow,
A rolling stream–and streams can never stay,
Nor lightfoot hours. As wave is driven by wave
And each, pursued, pursues the wave ahead,
So time flies on and follows, flies and follows.
Always, for ever new. What was before
Is left behind; what never was is now;
And every passing moment is renewed.”

― Ovidius, Metamorphoses (Ch. XV)

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Sacred Stories

Spending this Christmas charting ancient courses through Egypt and Italy I am touched by the ancient rites of giving. Hands gesture giving, holding symbols of incense, perfume, flowers, and keys for the Gods. Peoples sacrificed their bodies and their lives through labor, toiling to build temples and tombs in Upper Egypt that outlasted their collective beliefs. Michelangelo went blind twice from the pigment dust that fell into his eyes as he painted the Sistine chapel.

Continue reading “Sacred Stories”

Look Up

In Upper Egypt, the remains of temples past are both confounding and astounding. Rubble fragments strewn across beds of sand make for intricate housekeeping at hem of each ancient structure. Tales gods and goddesses like Osiris and Isis and the kings, Ptolomy to Ramses to Tut, all stimulate rusty brain cells.  The multiple layers of framed doorways climb inwards towards temple sanctuaries in each nucleus, while giant columns render one minute along central aisles.

In this desert life, my eyes have become keenly sensitive to color. The slightest touch of color fires up my need for a world beyond hues of beige, khaki, ocher, buff and putty. I have written about a tendency to look down toward my feet for coloration; in the temples, looking upwards reveals natural dyes stained upon ceilings where wind, rain nor sun has dampened their saturation. Nothing has excited me more than to find that the remaining shells of the temples seen today were not intended to blend into the sands; rather they have been rinsed bare, with delicate signs left for those who trace the walls with careful eyes.

Little Earth

 

08highWhen I moved to South Africa, the introduction was not just to the politics, the landscape, and the culture of the country. I developed a heightened awareness of water and mining politics, rock formations, indigenous trees and animals, strands of Bantu languages, post-colonial economic distress and corruption, and rich folklore, many aspects which are part and parcel of the  broader region of southern Africa. Now situated in the Middle East, it is impossible to turn off my antenna which receives signals of music, language, tradition, art, and culture scattered across this area. I could easily immerse myself in the politics of the region, but I don’t know if I would ever then be able to extract myself from the confusion. Instead, my tuning fork is directed at the arts.

If you haven’t already tuned into this artist, please listen to (my new favorite source of music) the NPR Tiny Desk Concert performance by Rahim AlHaj, an Iraqi musician, who produces rich messages from his oud. Some songs from his most recent album “Little Earth” are featured in this beautiful performance. Continue reading “Little Earth”

Look Down

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As the days have melted into weeks, four months of ground in Cairo have accumulated beneath my toes, the dirt etching its way into my feet. A tendency to look towards the ground began when I gave my students a summer project back in June. From the lovely “How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum ” by Kiki Smith, I asked my students to follow a prompt – Exploration #5 to be exact: “Start a collection based on the first  found object you see on your walk, whatever that is. You decide what the connection between the objects is.” Continue reading “Look Down”

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