Saturday, August 30, 2008

Glad Glastonbury Galavanting

Here I am.   I sit in the heart of Glastonbury.  Michael Jackson plays on the radio-- the English tabloid beside me blares that it is his 50th birthday.  Around me people swirl and mingle on the busy coblestone streets.  The steeple of imposing cathedral looms over the brick and limestone house and stores.  An uncanny mixture of ancient and the modern, the spiritual and the materialistic intersect here at Glastonbury's central square.

Aside from Michael Jackson, it has a quintessential English feel.

Glastonbury is famous for its grand music festival, but it is also known throughout England as a mystical capital.   World energy lines, the remnants of ancient temples and churches, the resting and the place of legendary King Authur are here. Pilgrims, travelers, and the magically inclined have been drawn to this place for centuries.  Today is no exception.  Indeed, here I am-- camp at a field called the Isle of Avalon!  This area is where King Authur, Lancelot and Merlin held court, and where to those with eyes to see, the mists of avalon part to reveal magical kingdoms.  

It is fitting that I am here.  Not that I am seeing any magical kingdoms, but, my work with the Oneness Mandala is blossoming and coming together here with inexorable elegance.  The mandala project has a deep spiritual focus.  I am drawing much inspiration from the land around me as I work out the ideas, principles and logistics of the project's grand scheme.  Everything from crop circles, stone circles, cathedrals, ruins, abbeys, and lush forests are putting me in place to be deeply and profoundly guided and inspired.

I am meeting with John Kirby, the country coordinator for Humanitys Team here in England.  John aptly choose this as our meeting place.  John lives and breaths his spirituality. He is not only inspiring to be with, but a non-stop hoot!   

Our gallavants through Glastonbury are filled with non-stop laughter.  The Englishman and the Canadian.  The slight linguistic and cultural differences are material for non-stop comedy.  From the pub to the grocery store isles, we're laughing at each others strange foibles and fancies!  

And laughter.... is good!


Friday, August 29, 2008

Cycling through England

 Cycling down the road that morning, I came across a family playing cricket in the middle of a harvested wheat field. 

 I passed by, then stopped.  

I've always wanted to know how to play cricket!  I backed up, got off my bike and walked into the field to introduce myself.  

One thing led to another and the five of us were playing an impromtu match of cricket.  There we were, surrounded by bales of hay and the Whiltshire countryside.  They showed me the general gist of the game and we had a blast batting and running around the field.  A note to fellow Northamericans... its really hard to get over your habit of not dropping the bat after you hit the ball!  In cricket you must hold on to it.   It ain't no baseball!   Isaac, a eight year old with a cunning arm, managed to bowl out (that means pitch)  us all with surprising ease.

After the wonderful game, I set off again.  

Yet more adventures were to befall me that day!  In fact they deserve a new entry of their own...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Trumpets & Marmite

Last night, near dusk, it began to rain and quite quickly I began to look for my campsite.  On principle I try to ask around before camping in a field or under a tree.  Not that anyone really minds out here, I don't think, but its a nice gesture and a nice way to meet people.

Boy did I get more than I bargained for!

At last I came to a house that seemed to have a comfortable looking field behind it and a light on in the window.  When I knocked it seemed that the house was on fire!  Smoke was pouring through the kitchen.  My knock was opportune in several ways.

First, my visit let the lady of the house know that the plastic plates that she had put in her oven to warm for dinner were burning!   One thing led to another, and I was kindly shown a nice pad of field to put my tent up.  The father then returned and invited me in for chinese take out.  Again, quite opportunely, they had just ordered and had gotten more than they could eat.  

An amazing evening followed as we talked about life in Britain and Canada.  The family was were a treasure trove not only of touring advice in Britain, but in ancient artifacts.  The husband had a hobby of metal detecting around the fields of their 500 year house.  He had amassed an astounding collection of bronze age, roman and medival objects.  He took out his special box and showed me a fascinating array or coins, clips, and rings-- some of which have been looked at by the British Museum!  It was pretty darn cool to think that some of these were 500 to 2000 years old.

Their son William was a Wii expert-- the new wireless computer game console.  He insisted we have a go.  He demonstrated his skills beating one match after another at virtual Tennis and Bolwing.  I am proud to say, that I was a least able to beat him at one game!  All those years of playing real tennis have paid off-- I beat a 10 year at a video game!

Before I left, the father presented me with a silver Medival coin with the visage of Edward the 1st on it!  The coin dates back to 1272-1307.  Wow!  Before I left in the morning, I was invited in for coffee at their neighbours, and then breakfast at the first family's.  What a wonderfully kind neighbourhood!  I was treated to the English delicacy of Trumpets and marmite.  

And all I had been looking for was a flat field to pitch my tent!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Evensong in England

Here I am.  In England.

After a slightly tumultous arrival in the town of Salisbury-- where I quickly had to locate a bike store and then get my bank card working-- I am now smoothly sailing.  Its beautiful.  There's nothing like a brand new bike and an open country road.  Surely if Milton and Shakespear had had the chance to ride a new hybrid bicylcle, they would have waxed about it with the same as enthusiasm as they did roses and blue sky.

Perhaps it is the fact that it is a new bike.  My last few bikes have required some sustained mechanical work on my part.  This is one, I have been able to ride in one shot, after equiping it with my gear.   No fine tuning, no tightening this or that.   It represents the culmination of a month or two of reducing and refining my storage setup and gradually upgrading my equipment.

In Washington I gave my bike away.  In New York I gave my bike away.  And now, I find myself with a yet better bike.  Letting things go seems to be a great way to steadily evolve one's traveling equipment!   Maybe there's a metaphor for life in there somewhere.

My first day in England, wandering around Salisbury, led me to this beautiful, 750 year old Cathedral.  I happened to speak to a lady there, and she invited me to stay for the evening choir service.  Evensong it is called.  

Wow.  A dozen adults and a dozen teenagers, led by surely a professional choir master, enchanted the centuries old space with angelically subtle song.  Listening in the spectacularly acoustic space, seeped with the spiritual, there was a moment when the younger singers held a note for several seconds.  The note resounded with a paradox of purity of tone and yet the layers of different voices all reverberating in sync.  I can't do any better describing it.  

I remember a friend of mine once asked me how to define "Sublime".  There you go Tanya:  Evensong, 7 Pm, Salisbury Cathedral, England.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I Fear

A year or so ago back in Smithers, I recall thinking smugly to myself, "You know, I don't really fear anything." 

Proudly, I went through a list of everyday fears that I did not have:   I am not frightened by snakes, fire, dark forests, heights, bugs, spiders, you name it!  At the time, things were pretty comfortable.  I had a house, community and a routine.  The days were pretty consistent.  I had no fears.

How naive, arrogant and utterly foolish I was! 

 I am not quite sure how I ever thought this of myself.  Surely, it had something to do with being comfortable.  I was well cushioned and surround by routines, habits and things that I knew.   I had insulated myself from the very things I feared.

Lately I have been overwhelmed by the realizations of my fears. 

 In act of anti-smugness let me throw them out there:  I fear big cities, I fear doing yoga on a beach where people can see, I fear playing my flute in public, I fear asking for help from strangers,  I fear my patterns, I fear models,  I fear admitting need,  I fear running out of money, I fear letting down the people that host me, I fear international customs, I fear foreign currencies, I fear leaving a city for the next one... heck I even fear jumping into the somewhat cold ocean on a summer day.... I fear!!!

Well, there you go, I am a fear ridden wreck!  To add to it... these days I can see with disconcerting lucidity how my fears manifest themselves in my daily life and affect people around me.

But, I am coming to a positive conclusion: perhaps my realizations are a good thing-- a good sign that  I am facing the fears.  The act of facing them is making me more conscious of them.  Courage is building.  That would be the difference between then and now.  Each day feels like I am staring down something new.   My journey is taking me from one tumultous fear encounter to the next.

There is some comfort in the lack of comfort:  My days are proving to be exponentially more interesting and full of live than those days of comfort.  Just for the heck of it let me describe the last 24 hours.

Today I jumped into the cold ocean, talked to a beautiful waitress,  let go of my bike and gave it to a stranger, and now I am headed into the heart of NYC.

Tonight I leave for London.  For some reason this one I find exponentially daunting.  I am now leaving North America and a land that at least I somewhat know and have contacts in.  As I spoke of earlier, my journey is taking me further and further into the unknown.  The UK customs agents will be unwittingly serving two countries when he greets me:  England, and the vast universe of 
the unknown.

Here I go!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunset over the Soul

Another new painting from my Simple Series.
Paintings are available for purchase by the way. The other one (below) is now sold however. Drop me a line.

Interestingly enough, today this very scene, with me in it, manifested. I found myself watching the sunset from a beautiful Long Island beach. When I made the connection, I couldn't help but laugh.


Golden light,
Trees rising up,
Branches swirl,
Birds pitter and patter,
Tid bits of blue peer down,
Holes in a green roof.
The wind caresses.
The leafs flutter.

I breath, steady.
A butterly, weaves.
Unsteadily, gracefully.
I am.
I am who I am becoming.

I got lost in the forest today.  You would think that there wouldn't be enough forest on Long Island to get lost in.  But, I managed to do it.  This came to me sitting under a tree peering up at the green leaves.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Blue Sky Day

This painting was also completed this past week, working from Brooklyn. I am calling this 'The Simple Series'.

The paintings explore a style of simplifying the scene to its bare minimum. The attempt is to make a peaceful and highly intriguing picture in which every element speaks vividly. Strangely enough, because they are so simple, they are much more subjective. The paintings are easy to stare at for long periods of time!


I completed this painting a day or two ago. 

 It has a simple title: "Amie"  The title can be read two ways.   'Amie' is friend in French.  'Amie' also happens to be the first name of my friend who I have been visiting in New York City.  

Her first request on my arrival was for me to do her portrait.  I don't normally do portraits. Come to think of it, I have only done two or three paintings of someone in which I have striven for a likeness.  But, how could I turn her down?  

As some of my recent posts have alluded to, I have been shown a fantastic time in New York by my friend who is intimate with some of the mind-blowlingly funky and fabulous restraunts, bars and locations in the city.  Then there were the numerous late night conversations where we tried to spin out meaning of life and relationships.  A portrait is the least I could offer in return!

Now, Amie, sophisticated aesthete that she is, wasn't looking so much for a painting of herself, as the experience of being painted!  She was in for more than she bargained for with my admittedly unexpected approach.  The painting applies my style of "essensial distillation".  Basically, simplification through a gradual process I distill my subject into its fundamental elements and essence.   In the case of my landscapes-- into a carefully chosen pallette of four or five colours.  In her case, careful chosen lines and layout.  The painting came about through a week and half process of sketching and resketching her in restraunts and cafes and kitchens.  

If my description of the process sounds a tad apologetic... well it is!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The UN Building

Here I sit in front of the UN building, in downtown Manhatan. This will be but a short blog post as my battery is about to die. However, it is worth recording. I am in a moment that I have sought and manifested.

Ironically, I forgot complete about my goal of visiting the UN. Visiting the UN's international headquarters was in fact one of the main reasons I directed my journey to NYC. I have this vision of the grand mandala of 10,000 peace portraits being unfurled from a building in front of the UN headquarters. What a powerful statement to the world that would be. My goal was to come here and scout out potential buildings.

Is it that easy to become unfocused? I can't beleive I forgot about this! I happened to be in Manhattan today for a meeting. A chance sign on my way back, jogged my memory. And, here I am.

Thank goodness the universe has a way of reminding us of our deeper purpose and direction.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

So many loosers

I watched a little bit of the Olympics today.  Its easy to get swept up in all the hype and epic stories, match-ups and glorious new world records.  The coke and credit card ads between each race give everything a nice shinny gloss.

Something has been bothering me for a while about professional sports, with the Olympics everywhere, my doubts have resurfaced.  It has to do with the fundamental premise of the games:  competition.

If anything the Olympics are the pinnacle of the competitive ethic that permeates our society right to the foundations.  So much so, that its very difficult to talk about competition objectively.  The idea of competition being good, is one of those fundamental assumptions, like God is good, that we just take for granted.  

But is competition good?  Sure Micheal Phelps is having a blast winning some medals.  But each time he wins, there are losers.  Lots of them!  For his moment of glory there is the anguish of defeat for many others.  Sure, everyone strives really hard to win and a certain type of human excellence is achieved-- but at what cost?  So many leave unfulfilled.  Nationalism becomes fierce.  World borders and antagonisms seem more distinct than ever before.

The very act of striving for an objective in the future, pulls one out of the moment.  You are focused on winning a race, not on the act of running or swimming.  Many would argue that this distracted state is spiritually unhealthy.  The goal of "winning" being "better than" is all about pulling out of the moment.

The social parallel to this I see in the streets of New York.  You have the high-fluting well dressed people zooming around keeping up their winning life-style, while homeless people who have failed to fit in and keep up, are discarded on the side lines, forgotten.  

I feel that I am not doing a very good job of articulating my feeling on this.  Part of it is discerning if there is a viable alternative to competition.  I am going to do some reading and post some more thoughts on this.  Comments are welcome!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sunset out a Brooklyn Window

The view out my friend Amie's window.   The last rays of sun glisten off the Empire States building and New York Cityscape.  

Post it Note Mandala

A little fun creation on my friend's wall.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Art: Focus

My blog has been mainly account of travel over the last little while.  This is not to say that I have not been creating art.  On the contrary, I have been doing quite a bit the last little while.  I need to just throw some of these creations up here.

I am going to start with a painting that I did back in Connellsville, Pensilvania.  I had been having my dinner at a dinner in a small post-industrial town.  Bob, was doing dishes in the back.  I suppose it was rather obvious that I was passing through.  He kindly came by and started chatting with me.  He recommended the fish.  He also invited me to set my tent up on his lawn.

There happened to be an art store near his place.  The next morning, his son and I got painting together.  The poor kid had never used a brush before!  I wish I had taken a photo of his creations.  They were amazing examples of simplistic abstraction-- in the spirit of Yves Gaucher and Wyland.

Egotistically, all I have is a photo of my own painting.  Shoot.  Next time, I will remember that my creation isn't necessarily the one I want to remember!

Bob and his son.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Museum of Modern Art

Yesterday, at long last, I visited the MoMA.  It was my first visit.    Visiting the National Museum in Washington, last week, I had been impressed by their collection.  I stand impressed yet again.

A epic three panel Monet spanned a 30 ft. room.  More Picasso's than you could count filled another.  Paul Klee, Wyland, Miro, and a series of Pollock's, and countless other top names were scattered about on five glorious floors.  On the top floor-- an entire show of Salvador Dali's work.

It won't be easy to forget the experience.  Already in a little doodle this morning te influence is apparent.  Wishing to draw a small bug, I easily choose an ant, in the spirit of one of Dali's favorite motifs.  The impressions seep into my mind like the fragrance of a subtle perfume opened in a room.

A grand, cubist painting by Picasso stood out.  Perhaps it wasn't so much the painting, as the brush strokes.  As a final touch to a colourfull depiction ('Young Woman before a Mirror') Picasso added an array of defining black lines.

Despite the importance of these lines, despite their addition at the very end, despite them being black, it was clear they had all been done in quick, deft and fantastically confident motions.

As an artist, one cliff that one must steadily climb is that of self-acceptance.  I don't mean self acceptance as a general state but rather a moment to moment process of being content with one's creations.  As one paints each brush stroke is statement of self.  In a way, what one feels about each brush stroke is a mirror of what one feels about oneself.

Everyone at every moment is creating.  In a way, all our moments are equally creative at a metaphysical level.  The creations of artist stand out only because they are overt and declaritive.  A brush stroke makes life's continuum of creativity suddenly visual.  But is that stroke done right?  Is it slightly off?  Does it need to be corrected, tweaked, erased?  The answer to these questions comes from one's state of self acceptance.  

Ironically, whether ones erases or continues or tweaks, is an equally creative motion.  One is always creating.  Even in destruction.  It struck me that Picasso, at least in making that painting, was immensily comfortable with the creative flow passing through him.   His strokes were pure acceptance.  It is a state to aspire to.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sacred Mirrors

From the highways of Northern BC to the streets of New York City

Cruising down the lonely highways of Northern British Columbia, iPod in ear, bike in high gear, art was on my mind.  Quite unlike the streets here in New York, the roads were long and lonely-- it was a great time to listen to an art lecture on my iPod.

Before leaving, my roomate Greg shared 4 hours of an mp3 interview with artist Alex Grey and philosopher Ken Wilber.   If you haven't heared of Alex Grey, well... now you have.  I would bet you will probably hear more of him from this point on.   He is doing important work.

Alex's work concerns detailed metaphysical representations of the energy systems that envelope the human body and flow between us in our interactions.  Its pretty unique and profound stuff.

As Ken Wilber points out, his art is a resounding statement of coherence and meaning in the face of contemporary art that has a tendency to be so abstract that you need a an art degree to understand it.  Alex's art is immediately accessible on first glance-- and yet deeply challenging.  The type of challenging that can raise consciounesses.

This resonates with me and my artistic direction.  It struck me that at some point I should contact Alex Grey and tell him about my World Oneness Mandala Project.  Surrounded by those vast mountains, the Skeena snaking through the land, and the wide open sky, I put the thought out there into the universe.

Last night, without even really trying, I met Alex Grey.  Greg had made me promise to visit his gallery in NYC.  A friend and I decided on a whim to pass by.  It just so happened that Alex was leading a meditation and art creation session that night.   One thing led to another, and I was able to share my World Manadla Project with him.  He offered to participate and contribute. 

 I am feeling deeply grateful.

The journey continues.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Senate SUV Ratio

While walking through DC the other day, tourists from all over the world were snapping photos of all the landmarks scattered about.  Something else caught my eye however.

Surrounding the capital building we're parking lots for senate staff.  Guarded by shot gun toting capital police, they were full of very nice cars.  What struck me however, was how many of them were not cars.  Rather SUVs and Suburbans.  It had to be a good 60 to 70%.  No Smart Cars or Prius's or Hybrids were in sight.

Automobiles.  From the very beginning they've been symbols their owner's place in society, and I would argue, an extension of their world view.  It struck me as a very telling statement of the mind space of the senators, their staff, and the administration that now inhabits the US Senate-- and its parking lots.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Whispers from the Corridors of Power

Last night, I arrived just outside of Washington D.C.  It is the end of one segment of my journey and the beginning of another.  It is here that I ditch my Pittsburgh acquired bike and teleport into the city.  From Brunswick, Maryland, I will commute in with the regulars to the centre of the US capitol.

On the train into D.C. this morning I was surrounded by a sea of regulars-- those who live in the small towns of Harper's Ferry or Brunswick and commute in to their DC jobs.  Many are of course government workers.  It was fascinating to partake in this mundane requisite moment of so many indigenous carreers.  

I was writing a poem about my bicycle (which I had poetically exchanged for a superb dinner the night with a local restraurant owner), when the conversation of two passengers caught my attention.

Well dressed in suit and tie, but in rather conservative cloth, and adorned with US senate security badges their conversation concerned legislation going through the senate that day.It seemed to concern financial help for the big and flailing mortgage companies.  Pen already in hand, I was able to write down snipets of their concern.

"... we're talking about establishing drawdowns for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac...."

"... I really wonder if the Fed is capitalized enough to handle it..."

"... the implicit backing makes no sense..."

"... I think there is a heck of alot of manipulation going on... "

"... they're just pawns in a big game really ..."

Whispers in the corridors of power.  What does it all mean exactly?  Who are the pawns?  Who is manipulating?  What is being manipulated exactly?  These were but whispers in the corridors of power-- eclipsed at times but trains whistle and passing traffic.  Whispers of changing times.