Posts Tagged With: culture

My Annual Pause, 2017: Tuscany Part II

When I left you in Part I, I was leaving Florence to venture farther into Tuscany and sequester for a ten-day intensive to study with artist Serena Barton. I landed just outside Contignano, one of those tiny hilltop villages sprinkled throughout the region, as part of the group of eight. La Montalla, which held our rooms, common area, dining room, kitchen and studio, is actually a renovated 16th century farmhouse, the kind where family and farm animals cohabited under one roof. Not so today, of course. I could just imagine what it must have been like back then, where the family lodged and the cows, pigs and what have you bedded down.

Owners Giuseppe and Paola welcomed us as though we were family, and collaborated beautifully with Lisa Statkus who put fine detail to our time in Tuscany. We lacked for nothing. Lisa and Serena put their heads together and gauged when we all needed a pause from our artwork in order to soak up the richness that is Tuscany. I’m sharing just a few photos to give at least a sense of my experience.

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Fountain of the World in Siena’s main square.

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The stunning 14th century cathedral in Orvieto, Umbria Region.

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Lucious figs from one of the plentiful outdoor fruit and vegetable stands.

I can’t say enough about the cuisine and freshness of the food. Plus, I ate more pasta than I probably have in twenty years…with no ill effects whatsoever. At home I avoid it. I can only guess that my lack of symptoms is due to the wheat being GMO-free, local and organic. One day the baker came out of retirement to make (way too much) pizza from scratch in the old brick oven that is something like three hundred years old. It was extraordinary. Needless to say, leftover pizza was an option for breakfast, too.

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Martino making our pizza from scratch start to finish.

Resident cats Ernesto and Blackie visited us in the studio, curled up in some of our rooms and were otherwise consistently on hand. That made it feel like home even more so.

 

 

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Blackie sunning himself.

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Ernesto at dawn the day I left.

I’m guessing this sampling would whet your appetite for a trip of your own. I did want to mention one particular place in case you get to Montepulciano. It’s a little hole in the wall along Via Ricci. Libreria Magnanet holds floor to ceiling treasures. Antique books and stacks of pages that are possible to purchase. I could have stayed there all day poking around, and the (surprisingly) young-ish man behind the desk would have happily accommodated it. He looked the part of the bibliophile who perhaps had been there as long as the books. As it was, I found three gems in the piles that I decided I must have. He wrote out the authentication certificate in longhand, which was only proper, noting the line drawings of Psyche, Venus and Jupiter dated to 1834. More than likely I’ll incorporate them into some artwork.

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Gleaned from my treasure hunt at Libreria Magnanet.

I suppose this is actually a three-part article. To read about my pilgrimage studying oil and cold wax, which includes more examples of what I created, hop on over to my art blog to read A Tuscany September. An art intensive with Serena Barton is more than learning about art…

 

Thus ends my Annual Pause for 2017. I came away inspired, renewed…and further convinced there’s absolutely no doubt that such time set aside like this, just for myself, is of utmost importance.

 

Categories: cultural interests, Healthy Living, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

My Annual Pause, 2017: Tuscany Part I

Florence-3-lowThe white-haired server smiled at me in recognition after raising his eyebrows. He probably didn’t see visitors return much. But I was back at Trattoria Cribari on Piazza Santo Spirito, a little more than a hole in the wall, because I learned that not all bruschetta and gelato are created equal. Plus, it was around the corner from the airbnb place I’d rented–perfect for my needs–and they didn’t mind how long I stayed tucked just inside the open doorway watching the human world go by outside. Something of an education, a pastime I’d forgotten I enjoy.

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Florence-7-lowI love the work I do, a destiny of sorts that fell into my lap over time. I find there’s reciprocal value in it. I can’t imagine I’ll ever turn away. But. And. It requires a lot of energy. Sometimes a pause is required. Rather than leaving The Pause to chance, I made a commitment that I’d set aside time–and make it special–on an annual basis. A time when I had no responsibilities to anyone but myself. A time to rejuvenate. To experience something new or revisit something beloved. To read. To walk. To write. To learn. To create. To meditate. To talk to strangers or be silent with my own musings. To do things I love. In the past I’ve taken the mini-pause, sporadically–a camping trip here, a short road trip there as I could squeeze it in. Oh, I do all those things in my daily life I listed above–but not without interruption.

In 2015 I made the first declaration by walking the Camino de Santiago, which turned out to be quite the odyssey. I’m still integrating. My Pause in 2016 was equally memorable but in a different way. I studied with master beadists Nancy Josephson and Jan Huling, who show regularly in museums and galleries in the US and Europe. I had no way of knowing when I was drawn to Puerto Vallarta for this express purpose, that I’d be catapulted into a whole new territory of artwork. One that still won’t leave me alone.

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Florence-6-lowThis year it’s Italy. This is my last night in Florence. I’ve wandered the streets, churches, museums and gardens for four days. I’ve appreciated the architecture, sense of history, the locals, the visitors. The bustle is sometimes a bit much for me, and being on top of my neighbors… I’m not used to it, living out in the boonies in solitude as I do much of the time. But the live piano music coming through a window as I walked down the street and the saxophone just next door have stirred something in me.

I’m taking all this with me as I travel farther into Tuscany where, over 10 days, I’ll be studying with an oil and cold wax artist. An old art form, I’ve worked with this medium for a few years and greatly appreciate its multi-layered depth and versatility. I want to go deeper.

Categories: cultural interests, Healthy Living, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Book Review: Serpent Box

Since finishing Serpent Box, a novel by Vincent Louis Carrella, a few hours ago I’ve not wanted to let it go. I’ve been letting the words and content wash through me trying to find a place for it to settle. I even went out and walked the land. Still it is yet to ground.

Serpent BoxThe novel takes place in the backcountry of Appalachia, in hidden pockets, during a time in the last century when the Ku Klux Klan held no fear for what they did. There’s a Tree of Life and Death, entrance to the Underworld, signs, visions, spirits and The Holy Ghost. There are plenty of Heroes, female and male. The central one being a Holiness Child following his daddy’s footsteps, a traveling preacher of a charismatic fundamentalist sect whose practices involve handling deadly snakes and drinking poison in praise of Jesus.

Serpent Box reads like a mythological story. It speaks of those things people carry deeply and hold true⏤no matter what⏤and a darker nature of humanity. It’s a Hero’s Journey of a different sort. And all the archetypal characters, forces and phases of the journey are present. Carrella uses words and visual imagery hypnotically. He leads the reader in…bit by bit…until suddenly you may find yourself entranced⏤as I was⏤equally as mesmerized by the content of the novel as were the characters caught up in the path they were drawn to follow.

I didn’t fully realize the book’s subject matter before being pulled from page to page. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered hearing of Pentecostal sects who handle snakes regularly in their worship. Although, the drinking of lye and strychnine was new to me. But I knew little. I would urge you not to do research prior to reading Serpent Box. Save that for later so it doesn’t get in the way of the story or some insight into the culture and its beliefs.

As far as I can tell, this debut novel published in 2009 is the only book Vincent Louis Carrella has authored. He says, “The book, which took me seven years to write, was inspired by a single photograph of a young boy holding a snake in a box. That photo changed my life, and serves as a reminder to me, not just on the power of photography and story-telling, but fragility and meaning of the human body.”

I’d vote he writes more novels.  In the meantime follow his blog where each post uses a photo as entry for  “essays, stories and poems that deal with nature of vision and human perception, the mystery and power of memory and the intersection of spirit with the realm of the physical world.”

Serpent Box is available in print and ebook via Amazon and elsewhere.

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Film Review – Agafia’s Taiga Life

Agafia’s Taiga Life

A Documentary by Vice Media

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Agafia Lykov. Photo credit: Siberian Times.

In 1936 Karp Lykov took his family and fled into the Siberian wilderness to avoid Stalin and persecution because of their religion. Called the Old Believers, they belonged to a sect of Russian Orthodox fundamentalists. Over the years they retreated deeper and deeper into the Taiga, a forested region in the heart of Siberia, where temperatures are extreme and civilization is non-existent.

Agafia was born into that life in 1943. Agafia saw no one but family for 40 years. And then no one at all for 25 years until a geologist moved a short distance away. All that time, she’d been a woman alone, living off the land.

Journalists from Vice Media visited Agafia to shoot a documentary about her life for their Far Out series. She relates what it’s like to live in the company of her animals, her faith, occasional encounters with bears and rocket debris, a way of life that gets much more difficult as she ages. Her story is an example of pockets in the world where people are living in solitude by circumstance and often by choice.

Watch it online for free. Length: 36 minutes.

To read about another in this series and watch the documentary, see Faustino’s Patagonian Retreat.

Categories: cultural interests, Film, Solitude | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Music Review: Mayan Ancestral Music by Xavier Quijas Yxayotl

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Kenosis Spirit Keepers was privileged to sponsor Xavier Quijas Yxayotl in September 2013 for our Spirit Keepers Series held in Phoenix. Xavier is a composer, ritual musician, artist, healer and more. A gentle man of Huichol/Azteca lineage, I’m not sure I’ve met such a multi-talented person who practices his many arts with such humility.

His music carried me beyond this world to another realm entirely. Those nights I slept more soundly than I had in months. Every unique sound—raindrops, wind, birds—are made through instruments he made with his own hands, not environmental recordings. I was able to witness the vast array of clay flutes, whistles and other percussion instruments that comprised his compositions, all adorned with symbolic art.

He first learned to play the flute through his Huichol grandfather as a child, and shortly after began to make his own instruments. But there’s more. In the 1970s, he was called to resurrect ancestral ceremonial instruments destroyed and outlawed during colonial times. Many people are making such instruments now. But back then? No one. How does someone do so when no one else has—and all but a little documentation was obliterated?

I said to Xavier, “Did the calling and ways to make the instruments come to you in dreams and visions?” He confirmed what I sensed. Such things often occur in Indigenous traditions whether to ritual musicians, weavers, midwives, healers, those who hold prayers in varying ways. He also told me, “When I am playing my music, I can often feel my ancestors there standing next to me.”

Xavier has been nominated several times for the Native American Music Award, played at the Nobel Peace Ceremony in Rome, featured on PBS and countless other accolades. For the movie Apocalypto, Mel Gibson contacted him to make the historic instruments used in the movie. Due to union rules, Xavier couldn’t appear in the movie, but he taught the actor-musicians how to play the instruments he made.

We are fortunate that Xavier has a number of CDs available, aside from from Mayan Ancestral Music. You can go to CD Baby to play sample tracks and purchase. Also available on iTunes.

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Our next Spirit Keepers Series program will feature Laura Alonzo de Franklin, curandera (healer/spiritual guide) of Mexhica/Aztec lineage. Mark you calendar for September 26-27, 2014 and join us in Phoenix. Check back for more information soon.

 

 

 

Categories: cultural interests, Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Music Review | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview with Becca Begnaud, Cajun Traiteur

In October 2012, I was visiting friends in Lafayette, Louisiana—Cajun Country—and fell in love with the area. My time there was made that much more interesting by meeting Becca Begnaud who is a traiteur, a Cajun prayer healer. I was invited to interview her for The Lifepath Dialogues during a program of hers. To me, the outcome was fascinating. We cover a lot of ground. Listen to Becca as she talks about what it means to be a traiteur, Cajun culture and challenges on the path as a healer. It’s worth 38 minutes of your time.

Interview on You Tube.

Interview on You Tube.

I will be returning to Lafayette shortly. Becca will be sponsoring my work for her Healing Arts Collective. You can find the details of the November 15 talk Timeless Pathways for Today’s Spirit Keepers and November 16 workshop Asking the Answer in this downloadable flyer. I’ll also be giving a talk in Baton Rouge on November 14 at The Red Shoes, a center for personal and spiritual growth. I’m very much looking forward to returning to this area, rich in so many ways.

Categories: cultural interests, Gratitude, Healing, Interview, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Hopi Spirits Come to Life: Home Dance at Moenkopi

In July 2009 I was invited by Harold and Char Joseph to Home Dance, the first one in the Hopi village of Moenkopi in 50 years—a very historic event. It’s during this July dance ritual that the Katsina spirits are ushered back to the San Francisco Peaks, the mountain range north of Flagstaff, Arizona, where they live until their return to Hopi in February of each year.*

A friend and I arrived at Moenkopi village outside Tuba City just before dawn. Harold was already leaving home. Moenkopi being Char’s home village, Harold acted as a helper. Normally Harold would have been at Second Mesa’s Shungopavi, already a long time in the kiva, a subterranean chamber reserved for religious rituals, engaged in ceremony in his home village. But this time being quite special he was lending a hand the way relatives do.

The previous night we’d ventured down to the plaza with other family members, carrying chairs, staking out a place in one of several rows already formed. The dirt plaza was long and narrow, enclosed by the original stone homes dating back to the 1870s. I felt like I’d stepped back to another era.

Going Home Shungopavi

Going Home Shungopavi
Oil on canvas
depicting Home Dance.
©2011 Carla Woody

That early morning we sat at the edge of the village with others who had gathered, high on the bluff overlooking the lush cornfields below, a sharp contrast to the red rock cliffs surrounding them. I only discovered later that we actually perched on a kiva. An elder came and asked everyone to move. He slid the wood covering over to reveal its secret and climbed down.

We waited, slightly chilled by the light wind. Glancing around me, some of the people were in special dress, the women in beautiful shawls, and a few young girls wore the traditional hairstyle with fluted buns over each ear. There was a low buzz of conversation and greetings. Everyone waited patiently for the sunlight to hit the cornfields below. A number of pick-up trucks were parked to the side of the fields. In my mind, I converted them to horses because a sound was on the breeze that led me into another time and dimension.

At first it was faint but then it grew, rising up as though from the bowels of the earth. A chant that rose and fell, coming from an area of trees near the field. Those around me went quiet in anticipation, eyes glued, fingers pointing. And finally when the light hit the field just so, Katsinam emerged from the copse forming a single line as they began the slow walk up to the village, carrying cornstalks. It seemed like the line had no end. Finally, all Katsinam came into full view from the woods. They numbered 130, give or take.

As we shifted to our seats at the far end of the plaza, Katsinam poured in one-by-one, forming an ellipsis, continuing the chant, making the small repetitive movements that created the dance, virtually right in front of us. The sound of bells and rattles, strapped to each knee, accompanied each step and joined the drone of their voices. Even though sun now heated the air, I got chicken skin.

They gave cornstalks, a symbol of prosperity, to those watching and gifts of fruit and piki, a paper-thin rolled tortilla made from blue corn. The dancing continued. Then it was time for the first round to end. And the Kachinam left the plaza to be sequestered again. They performed at great sacrifice, foregoing food and water in the blistering sun until much later in the day.

But it was now time for the rest of the village to eat. We returned to the Joseph home and feasted on hominy stew and drank strong coffee. When the phone rang, I’d hear them tell the person on the other end, “Come eat!” One of the family members told me, “This is the Hopi way!” Indeed it was. As people poured through the door, they were directed to grab a plate and ladle a good helping.

The Katsinam were to dance eight times that day. Between dances families and friends gathered at homes, many from out of town it being such a special time. Each time food was shared. We were encouraged to nap in the heat of the day—which I did, in a room full of people that felt like family to me even though it was my first time meeting some of them.

How was it that this was the first Home Dance in Moenkopi in 50 years? Many Hopi people have fallen away from the traditions, and the necessary initiations aren’t occurring to support the ceremonies. Shungopavi is the only village that keeps the complete cycle of religious ceremonies unbroken, the elders staunch.

A strong older woman instigated the 2009 Home Dance. Her son was marrying. She wanted to show off the wedding robes of her son’s bride as part of the ritual. Other brides would be able to do the same. Through her commitment the village re-engaged, others coming from elsewhere to support the ceremony, accounting for the large number of Katsinam, a profound example of what determination can do—and for good cause. Traditions take us back to where we began. For my part, an appreciative outsider greatly stirred by the experience, I hope the Home Dance continues in Moenkopi. At this writing, it’s recurred once. That was in 2011.

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*A Katsina is a spirit being of the Pueblo Tribes, an invisible natural force that can be called upon to bestow protection and wellbeing for the village. Katsinam is the plural form. In the Hopi tradition there are approximately 400 different Katsinam, each one different and having a separate purpose. For days prior to religious dances, initiated males enter the kiva and undertake long rituals. When they emerge from the kiva to dance, they are no longer who they were when they entered. Instead, they are the embodiment of these powerful spirit beings, dancing in human form, on the earth.
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I will sponsor Spiritual Travel to Hopi: Sacred Guardians of the World during March 6-9, 2014. This is a rare chance to experience Hopi Spirit Keepers in their homes, hear the ancient stories, visit sacred sites, learn about medicine ways and attend the Night Dances, all that weaves the very identity of the Hopi people as guardians of the world. Only recently is it now possible to be invited to such an experience. It’s only through relationships I’ve developed over a number of years that this program has been born. Join us for this adventure of the spirit! Early registration discount ends November 6. A portion of tuition is tax-deductible to support Kenosis Spirit Keepers’ projects preserving Native traditions.
Categories: cultural interests, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

The Last Report on the Miracles

In The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, Louise Erdrich has written a book that transports the reader not only to another time, but also to a field where all could dwell with increased respect and understanding.

Agnes is the main character, an inventive person of strong character who found a way to deal with living in a time when women had few choices—the early 1900s. Timing, opportunity and a desire to leave her old situation behind allowed her to step into the identity of Father Damien Modeste, a priest who was expected shortly at a remote Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota called Little No Horse. The narrative takes us over nearly a century of what it was like to have a foot planted in both worldsa woman living as a manministering in one culture yet not intruding with another, developing roots and living with a sporadic fear of one day being found out. Would everything Father Damien built in his beloved community, all trust and love given to him, be discarded if Agnes was discovered?

The telling of this chronicle comes about through the investigation of one Sister Leopolda who is up for sainthood. When the church’s emissary comes to interview Father Damien, we have the opportunity to witness a life well lived, intricately woven and deeply connected to community. Not the life of Sister Leopolda but that of Father Damien.

Equally important is the telling of the Obijwe traditions, the sometimes funny and bizarre antics of medicine man Nanapush and the difficulties often endured. Peppered throughout are enormous gems of wisdom. A couple of examples are shown here.

…even careful plans cannot accommodate or foresee all the tricks of creation…

…We see the seasons pass, the moons fatten and go dark, infants grow to old men, but this is not time. We see the water strike against the shore and with each wave we say a moment has passed, but this is not time. Inside, we feel our strength go from a baby’s weakness to a youth’s strength to a man’s endurance to the weakness of a baby again, but this is not time, either, nor are your whiteman’s clocks and bells, nor the sun rising and the sun going down. These things are not time… (Nanapush)

It’s also punctuated with Father Damien’s frequent, unanswered notes to the Pope such as this one.

Pope!

Perhaps we are no more than spores on the breath of God, perhaps our life is just one exhalation. One breath. If God pauses just a moment to ruminate before taking in a new breath, we see. In that calm cessation, we see. All I’ve ever wanted to do is see.

Don’t bother with a reply.

Modeste

The characters in this novel are so rich and their stories so resonant, there’s a part of me that secretly hopes the writings are based on fact. They have an underlying inherent truth. Life is indeed layers of complexity, with all its attendant emotions. Here it’s delivered to us through Agnes and Father Damien, their voices intermingled. This book is much more than entertainment, and it’s one of my all-time favorites.

Available on Amazon and retail bookstores.

Categories: Book Review, cultural interests, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning to Love Globally

In the spring of 2010 some local artists and students began a mural project at Miller Valley Elementary School depicting some of the actual students at work and play. This empowering slogan ran across the walls at the major intersection where the school is located: “Learning to Love, Loving to Learn.” It was part of a public mural project that was started around town years before to depict history, enhance beauty, relay affirming messages, and engage the public.

The portrait of a Hispanic boy featured prominently in the artwork. A City Council member objected and became quite vocal via his radio show, inciting racism. The artists and students endured drive-by insults and demonstrations, both pro and con. Giving into pressure, the principal told the artists to lighten the boy’s complexion, then retracted that direction. The town known as “Everybody’s Hometown” ended up on national news and talk shows showing that it was anything but that.

The wife of a Native person we’d sponsored for our Spirit Keepers Series contacted me from Washington saying, “Tell me it’s not so.” I was absolutely incensed and ashamed that such a thing would happen here—or anywhere for that matter.

Here’s what I note about the backlash: When the pendulum is ready to swing dramatically, resistance becomes even stronger to hold things back. This is true whether it happens within the psyche of an individual or globally. The important thing is: to acknowledge the resistance, the clashing factions, indeed document it; and move forward anyway. The intensity wouldn’t have happened unless progress was being made.

But integration and healing must take place. Such things can’t slip by or remain simmering beneath the surface. This certainly goes for us as individuals—and the wider world we inhabit.

Jacob Devaney of Culture Collective intends to produce a film of the mural controversy. Here’s what Jacob said to me: “One aspect that relates to work you’re doing is the idea of ‘listening is healing, or being heard is healing.’ When a community is able to feel heard and able to define itself through its own stories instead of having the outside world define them, it is healing. It is true in many indigenous cultures as well, we need to be able to listen to each other and feel heard. That’s how healing works. It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about having your voice counted. That’s what public art does; and that’s what this film seeks to accomplish.”

This will be a film that helps heal a community—but also the larger world. Culture Collective is now raising the funds needed. I invite you to support inclusiveness. To learn more visit Up Against the Wall Film—Public Art Indicted.

Categories: Arts, Compassionate Communication, Healing, Personal Growth | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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