These clouds, shaking down big fat drops of rain
like prayers fallen back to earth
Globes of water splatting on my windshield, sliding luxuriously down
to wipers then flung back to the torrent
My prayers for the gasping trees, for the withered flowers and straw
that used to be grass, have been answered
Thanks be to that which I cannot see, into whom I empty my heart,
who brings the hummingbirds to drink nectar in my backyard
given new life by the cloudburst that broke the endless summer heat
After walking the many acres of shops, restaurants, whistling, tweeting and ringing bells at Caesar’s Palace, I sought refuge at the Bellagio. The 110 degrees on the strip touched my skin for an hour at 7:30 in the morning and never again until I fled to the airport. For a naturalist, this was not my usual saunter. I had to call on subterranean memories of disco nights, bring out my Evelyn Champagne King buried four decades deep. It took me three days to orient myself to the twists and turns of the Roman holiday mall, convincing peasants like me that we are living large – like Caesar, probably Augustus not Julius. While I didn’t follow my impulse to sneak into the Wedding chapels and take some photos, I would expect something along these lines. The Bellagio was more modulated than the Palace, but the atrium pictures shown below rival the kitsch of Caesars, family style. For a tourist once removed (I was attending a Sociology conference) from the many dubious pleasures of Sin City, I did find a taste of something savory here and there (Palm, Joe’s Stone Crab and Steakhouse, Payard Pastiserei and Yellowtail). Cocktails, while expensive, were a delicious and medicinal balm for my irradiated senses. I include snapshots of the Bellagio and Caesar’s in colorful tribute to my Vegas mall walk about.
Well Vegas, for the record, let me just say Danke Schoen. It’s been surreal.
The Community Renaissance Market at 6800 West Gate Boulevard and William Cannon is filled with pleasant surprises. Located in an abandoned Albertson’s, co-visionaries, Ruth Glendinning and Susan Buhrman describe their concept:
Community Renaissance Market houses a variety of locally-owned microbusinesses with products ranging from antiques, organic dog treats and fair trade jewelry, to locally-grown food and art. Open the the public Wed – Sun, this microbusiness incubator & community hub is a multi-cultural, accessible, fun experience for all members of the community. Community Renaissance Market is a “slow tech” development focused on Sustainable Local Organic Work organizations and businesses, reflecting the vision and values of the local community.
Some of the shops are shown in the photo gallery below.
Sporting a new Sunday Farmer’s Market and two cafes in addition to the sweet shops, you will never go hungry when shopping or enjoying community events like the Healthy, Wealthy and Wise Metaphysical Fair, Arts and Music Weekend, Natural Family Fun and the Makers and Bakers Bazaar. More sauntering to come as I watch the evolution of this very interesting community business model.
I walked a letter over to the Office of Graduate Studies in the Main Building at UT Austin on Friday and noticed the wonderful afternoon light on the grand staircase. Fortunately, I had my camera in my office so I returned and shot the photos shown below. Noticing the beauty in small, everyday places is to cultivate a sauntering eye. I highly recommend it as a remedy for ennui and as a springboard for loving appreciation.
Thanks to my cousin Steve Porter, Bill and I were ushered off Madison’s beaten path to both musical and edible treats. After landing in the lake city, Bill and I made our way to the University of Wisconsin Rathskeller -a classic beer hall- sehr Deutsch. Cruising down State street, catering to the university crowd with bookstores and sidewalk cafes, we stopped for refreshments at Hsusus, a small Mediterranean cafe. Steve mentioned that it used to be a Dunkin Donuts before some students rolled a big wooden spool through the front window. A young violinist entertained passersby with classical tunes, the crowd: a mix of seasoned hippies and students of every stripe. Casual, unpretentious, it was easy to feel at home in Madison, which shares an alternative outlook with Austin, though with fewer tattoos. Moving on to Talula, a restaurant/music venue, we enjoyed crab puffs, fresh pasta and handmade pizza, layered with farm fresh vegetables. Drinks were delightful, the bartender/owner was friendly and the band brought a down home, honky tonk ambiance, complemented by works of local artists, shown below.
Earlier in the day when we were driving into the city, Bill and I caught a few minutes of a radio talk-show featuring a host who was taking Q & A about health care reform. Oddly, he was liberal, something I didn’t think existed on radio talk shows. Talking with Steve about what was happening in Wisconsin, I was reminded of the rich labor movement tradition underlying the establishment of things we take for granted and are now challenged: overtime, sick leave, vacation time, social security and health benefits. We’ll see what the future holds. Clubs in Wisconsin and probably most of the Great Lakes areas can be found in places once inhabited by supper clubs. These outliers are are now in light industrial areas (one was across from the Oscar Mayer wiener plant) on a grid known only to the locals. I was happy to have part-time drummer, Steve as our guide. Great roadhouse blues, mysterious back roads, and good company made for a great adventure in Madison, Austin’s sister city.
There’s no place like home
In Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, we embark on a journey of life/death/faith/macro and micro cosmos. With stunning visuals enhanced by lush musical scoring, this strange trip into our mysterious universe is worth more than one viewing. In questioning faith, setting the tone in the beginning of the film by offering two paths – grace, the path of love and nature, the path of desire –we hear the mother and the son’s prayers asking God: “Who are we to you? Who is this mystery in whom we live and move and have our being? Why should we be good if evil is a part of God?” In the beginning and in the end, in the ocean, in the fields and at home, love is the bridge. Scene transitions from one perspective to the next often show water falling, rolling in waves, lapping ashore, cuing emotional and physical sensibilities. If you can imagine a cross between Koyaanisqatsi and To Kill a Mockingbird, filmed ala Stanley Kubrick (what do you think your’e doing Dave?) then you start to get the flavor of this ambitious, soulful (some say pretentious) film.
I invoke the specter of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” another classic summer film that keeps the camera focused on the feelings and expressions of Scout and Jem, although Mr. O’Brien was certainly no Atticus Finch. The feeling of summer, the intimate view of the family – kids in the fields, in bed with the curtains blowing, playing in the water – was brought home by the camera’s proximity to the skin and expression of the characters. All the children were exceptional, particularly Jack and his middle brother, R.L. Jack’s struggle, as he grapples with his family legacy of grace (mother) and nature (father) is a poignant coming of age story, still playing out in middle age as he remembers his gifted brother, who died at 19 and is still dearly missed by his family. In reading about Terrence Malick’s brother’s suicide, this bit of autobiographical backdrop to Jack’s struggle with faith in the film becomes very moving. Rather than the moral dilemma of To Kill a Mockingbird, The Tree of Life poses an existential question. It does so with elegance, with excess and with much tenderness. The phenomenal cosmic and natural portrayals of a universe of stars, suns, microbes, planets and our biosphere opens the mind to the unfathomable truth of who we are as humans among a vast array of beings, some much greater and others lesser, or are they?
As I watched “Tree of Life“ I considered weaving my impressions into a poem based on meditative imagery during the yoga posture of Savasana and
Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Fifth Agreement, which suggests a blueprint for moving beyond the world we have been conditioned to create (hell) into a world of authenticity (heaven). Shedding the skin made of lies we’ve been told and pass along until Judgment Day, when we render our last judgment and move fully into acceptance of ourselves and others – fully into life. This take on Judgment: giving up our inner Judge/Victim dialogue is much preferred to the “Hell hath no fury like God scorned” more commonly served up for popular consumption.
The Five Agreements:
1. Be impeccable with your word – what you say is what you will create
2. Don’t take anything personally – everyone’s life movie is different
3. Don’t make assumptions – spinning lies does no good
4. Always do your best – create heaven, not hell
5. Be skeptical, but learn to listen – use doubt as a tool and wait for the truth to reveal itself
I recommend both The Tree of Life and The Fifth Agreement. Despite our cultural and economic depression we have the capacity to create and honor a world that expresses the power of love.
Into the spiral shell
I ascend, the sound of ocean
waves lapping through my blood
The sea within
ebbing and swelling
With my breath
Still, serene, floating on the water
Into the horizon, nerves flickering
Like lightening bugs in a soft field
Of energy flowing through my body
This refuge, the hub
Suspended above and below
One and all
Heading down to Ladybird Lake a little earlier, it was still surprisingly pleasant at 10:30. We were ready for a cool down and brunch by noon. Dottie and I checked out the Whip In Friday evening at 8:00, but it was too crowded so we left. Intrigued by the insightful selection of commodities and cuisine at this convenience store (and so much more) we returned for lunch on Saturday. Some background: Whip In boasted a substantial selection of specialty beer and wines since its inception. There was a humidor at the front and a knowledgeable wine steward manning the till in years past. These days, his son has carved out a unique cafe and beer bar with bands and a patio that should be most inhabitable in Fall and Spring. Stepping into the store is like entering a scene from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. The menu is healthy, a delightful blend of MexIndian. I had grilled egg nan with cilantro chutney that was very satisfying, a pleasant break in the endless parade of breakfast tacos. Local and organic foods are part of the appeal (shout out to Aurora); the Vital Farms eggs are nutritious and delicious. I must try the Mumbai migas plate soon and I’ve heard that the queso chutney is also out of this world. Funky, yes. Better than a food trailer? Yep. An unexpected treat? Most definitely; there is likely to be a happy hour update very soon.
Austin is known for its love of tattoos. In exploring the murals and street art around town I find that, like its people, Austin is full of tattoos – ambient art suited for sauntering. The gallery below shows murals around UT, some moving a little north on Guadalupe and two interior murals at Fonda San Miguel.