Yachats, beautiful gem of the Oregon Coast

From Cannon Beach, I headed south to Yachats, often referred to as the Gem of the Oregon Coast. The beaches got rockier and towns dotting the coastline smaller and more picturesque.  Depoe Bay, where grey whales come to graze along the shoreline, is a magnet for tourists. I caught a glimpse of a whale back nearby and two spouts offshore, which I heard was a mother and her calf.

In Yachats, I stayed at the Fireside Motel, up close and personal with the spectacular, rocky ocean views that make the Cape Perpetua area such a draw.

You can’t have too many transporting moments on a nature trip. But, it was at the Drift Inn, while enjoying a rare offering of Mediterranean mushroom crepes, that I experienced that special feeling of connection. Maybe it was the waitress with the blue hair, the murals keeping it weird, or Richard Sharpless on guitar, but I felt a gemutlichkeit as I listened to the music and watched people of all ages and kinds enjoying a communal meal. Nothing like a warm, golden glow and friendly people to make your visit memorable.

Another beautiful sunset greeted me on my way back to the hotel.

The next morning I was off and sauntering, in search of tide pools and sea creatures. The wind rippling the water created some fabulous painterly effects, an unexpected bonus.

All in all a wonderful, rejuvenating jaunt. When one experiences major life changes, it always helps to pause, recenter and find your compass. Between the ocean’s roar, the towering forests and the gorgeous beaches, I found mine in resonance with the beauty of the Oregon Coast. I’ll be heading back, sauntering north along Washington’s Pacific Coast trail  and looking forward to taking the train into Vancouver.

The Rock of Ages

I didn’t really remember the Pacific Ocean’s booming, rowdy surf and immeasurable depth.  It’s very different from my usual haunts in the Gulf of Mexico. The vast horizontal embracing the towering vertical of mighty spruce trees resonates through the coastland in a deeply grounding spiritual wave.

This is what I came for – to put my tap root into the earth – to remember that I am.  My reset begins in Forest Park, on the way to the Oregon coast.

The drive to Cannon Beach on Hwy 26 is an easy ride, rolling through sun-dappled forests, reminding me of biking through the woods as a kid in Germany.  The breeze is cool, the forest fragrant with earth and the sap of evergreens, and the sun beams through the trees painting my skin with warm and cool stripes. The joy of being a kid – the energy, the excitement of discovery and delight – kindled a light in my bones that flowed out into the woods in waves of gratitude and love.

My first view of the beach in Seaside reminded me to play.

When I got to Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock was just outside my balcony. It is a beacon to people from all times and traditions. The ancient ones abide.

The moon rising over Haystack rock
the waves caressing the shore
bring me back to Center
where I am

Meditation in Portland’s Japanese Garden

So much green, lush old growth forest and elegant, unobtrusive meditation paths in Portland’s Japanese Garden park.  The Bonsai Garden is exquisite, with trees ranging in age from 35 to 500 years.  Beautiful.

The Hidden World of the Maya @ the Witte Museum

I continue to be a fan of San Antonio’s art museums. The Witte has been on Broadway since 1926; I remember going there on field trips as a child and every few decades since. After hearing about the new  Mays Family Center exhibit  Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed I decided to see how much it had changed. I was impressed.

Many of the stations were interactive, fun for all ages. And in the fine tradition of Curly, the maitre d butler at Earl Able’s restaurant, the Witte has a robot who greets you with “Como etas.”

Entering the world of the Maya means opening your imagination to a remarkable culture that knew as much about the stars as it did the Earth and built pyramids and cities in the jungles of Mexico and Central America. Like Atlantis, it vanished mysteriously, leaving behind monumental cities, sign and numeric alphabets with sound and picture hieroglyphics and an ongoing farming tradition featuring corn, squash and beans called the three sisters. Mathematically and astronomically, they established epochal calendars without a telescope, based on centuries of recorded observations.  The model city and pyramid below are from the city of Caracol, thought to have had a population of around 150,000.

There were hundreds of villages and cities, trading, warring and forming alliances, with a peak population of more than 2 million.  Rulers were Gods, they gave their blood to ensure continuing prosperity while priests observed and recorded the movements of Venus, the moon, sun and stars using a 13 month calendar crafted over hundreds of years. Caves and other sacred portals to the underworld conveyed the God of Maize from death to rebirth in an ongoing cycle of resurrection, a theme common to cultures the world over.

Mayan folk paid taxes in woven textiles, an artisanal  tradition alive and well  today. They mined jade, used for making beautiful jewelry and as adornments embedded in teeth by dentists, whose practices flourished alongside other healers and surgeons.  Advanced mathematical, architectural and astronomical insights are preserved in the few remaining codices, rescued from destruction by conquistadores and Catholic priests, who considered them the devil’s handiwork. Like the Library of Alexandria, the loss is incalculable.

Some credit the Maya with inventing the game of basketball. While there are some similarities, the stakes were much higher for the warriors at their ball courts. Ball Court The ball was made of rubber, drained from trees and layered until it was an 8-10 pound missile. The players strapped on 20 pound stone waist guards and used their amazing core strength to keep the ball in play.  Losers were often sacrificed and winners were richly rewarded with the losers’ wealth.  The game changed over centuries of play, with some suggestion that it served as a ritual substitute for warfare.  Hero Twin myths point to the origin of the game as a transitional space between the underworld and the land above.  The court was a place to work out the disputes and manage competition that allowed for alliances and trade to flourish.

I highly recommend this great end of summer day trip for the whole family.  It will be interesting to see how the Witte integrates the programs at the Mays Center into exhibits that have kept Texans informed and entertained  for almost a century.

 

 

J. Charles Jones & the Soul of Charlotte

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Charlotta Janssen’s portrait of J. Charles Jones

Last week I had the great good fortune to meet the Hon. J. Charles Jones, a civil rights legend living in the Biddleville neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Bordered by historically black  Johnson C. Smith University, Biddleville struggles to keep its character while integrating young families seeking a perch close to downtown. My daughter and son-in-law are among them and were warmly welcomed by Mr. Jones on their first day in the neighborhood.  Charles lives across the street, tending to koi ponds, both indoor and in his gardens and was one of the first people in Charlotte to install a solar energy system, which provides most of his energy needs. C-Span interviewed him in 2011 about his contribution to the civil rights movement,  part of their Historic Charlotte series ( linked to the photo below).

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Click on photo for interview

When Mr. Jones welcomed me, he told me a little about his history with the movement, his marriage of 38 years and his love of the earth and of people.  His storytelling style is poetry in motion, conducting the conversation with orchestral flair.  My imagination was already piqued by his lush garden and the mysterious greenhouse structure than runs the length of his family home.  Charles’ openness, spiritual presence and charm are a powerful reminder that there are many humane beings in the world and that a heart to heart connection will always bring a tear to my eye.  He is a wonderful goodwill ambassador, helping to build Dr. King’s “beloved community,” with  love.   The Historic West End Partners, neighbors and the city of Charlotte are working together to mitigate some of the side effects of increasing property taxes and keep the character of this historically rich black neighborhood alive. Support of long-time residents is important to both old and new neighbors.

This week, Representative Charles Lewis, a Civil Rights icon, led the sit in to protest obstruction to gun control legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.freedom_11944cjonesprofile_med  The struggle for justice and equality is real, just as hard as it was in the 1960’s.  When someone who has faced the blindness and the hatred of prejudice holds out his hand in friendship, it is both humbling and hopeful.  The relentless media focus on hatred and violence undermines opportunities for trust and mutuality.  It seems, lately, that we have taken several steps backward: in women’s rights, voting rights, civil rights, LGBT and labor rights.  Perhaps there will come a time when we can move forward again, together.  Charles Jones and John Lewis make me believe that time is now.

A summer saunter around Charlotte, Cornelius and Davidson, NC

 

MFAH celebrates Art Deco with vintage rides

The  Sculpted in Steel: Art Deco Automobiles and Motorcycles, 1929–1940 exhibit at the Houston Museum of Fine Art shines with an extraordinary collection of elegant vehicles. As a Norman bel Geddes devotee, I was one of many ogling fans. The exhibit will be on display until May 30, 2016 and is a must see for classic car fans.

Sculpted in Steel showcases 14 cars and three motorcycles, alongside historical images and videos. The classic grace and modern luxury of Art Deco design dazzles in vehicles from the United States and around the world. The innovative, machine-inspired Art Deco style began in France in the early 20th century, but the movement was interrupted by World War I. The style reemerged across Europe after the war, and the 1920s to 1930s proved to be one of the most creative eras for international design in all mediums. Art Deco influenced everything from fashion and fine art to architecture and transportation.

Shamans of the Avant Garde – Miro and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown

woman_bird_star_AS03162Art is never more obscure than when it invokes the language of the unconscious. Thankfully, we have guides – shamans who venture into the unknown and return, inviting us to join them . Avant garde artist Joan Miro is a shaman of symbolic art.  I saw his “Experience of Seeing” exhibit at the McNay Museum in San Antonio and entered the realm of the body/mind in order to see it.  Joan Miro acknowledges:

It is difficult for me to talk about my painting, since it is always born in a state of hallucination, brought on by some jolt or another – whether objective or subjective-which I am not in the least responsible for.

Joan Miro - BirdArt critic Waldemar George described it in 1929 “as the painting of a physical vacuousness that easily balances out its interior magic, with ties to cosmic sentiment and the intuition of mystery seen in the ancestors, like those who painted the caves of Altimara, whom he specifically mentions on one hand and to “congruent paintings, brought to life by strange homunculi and fantastical plants on the other. In this defining moment there came to be an encounter between the escape from speres and the attraction to the abyss.”
Miro, Joan-Head in the NightJacques Dupin elaborated, “There remains a space where things and beings can abide and encounter one another through a series of exchanges and metamorphoses, and this passing site is none other than the earth: neither sheltered from the risk from below, or the beckoning from above.”

Arthur Brown knows something of above and below, exhorting us to hold a vision in our heart, to face our fears and join him in the formless depths of Zim Zam Zim.

Miro’s paintings and found object sculptures beckon us to see space as a psychological landscape – to respond without preconception to what comes our way, as children do.

I will make my work emerge naturally, like the song of a bird or the music of Mozart, with no apparent effort, but thought out at length and worked out from within . . everything becomes strange, shifting, clear and confused at the same time. Forms give birth to other forms, constantly changing into something else.

ShamanArthur Brown invites us with many of the same numinous symbols as Miro: the spirit bird of our imagination, woman, sex and the fire of fear, rage and ultimate annihilation.  An existential burlesque that finally asks, “Who the fuck am I?” in this montage from his Strange Brew show in Austin (without his full band).

As we traipse from day to dreams, through all the stages of our lives and our imagination, it’s a good idea to keep a healthy dose of humor amidst the drama. So why do we even enter into the shape shifting realm of the unconscious?

Quoting Miro, ” As Kant said, it is the irruption of the infinite into the finite. A pebble, which is a finite and immobile object, suggests not only movement to me but movement that has no end. In my paintings, this translates into the spar-like forms that leap out of the frame, as though from a volcano.

That volcano is the fire of creation  in the heart of Zim Zam Zim.

Sauntering the mountains of North Carolina on Halloween

I’ve heard many good things about Asheville, NC over the years and wanted to see for myself while I was visiting my daughter in Charlotte.  On the way, we stopped in picturesque Hendersonville for lunch.  I heard they dressed up for Halloween and that meant even the ubiquitous bears, sprinkled around the town square.

Asheville was only 30 minutes down the road, the “Austin” of NC, and indeed, they were keeping it weird.  There was music in the streets, the buildings were tattooed with murals and sometimes you couldn’t tell the costumes from daily wear.  As the hippy man pictured below said, “This is a day I blend in.”  I’ll cover some of the art in a blog post to follow that includes an exhibit from The Bechtler Museum in Charlotte.

I loved the Malaprops bookstore (open late even on Halloween) but the highlight of the evening  was a scrumptious supper at Cúrate  -tapas and small plates served in a vibrant modern aesthetic. Katie Button, the owner and executive chef has been a James Beard finalist several years running and the proof is in the well executed and temptation filled menu.  We were seated ringside, enjoying the camaraderie and the hubbub while the delicacies kept coming.  People were friendly, there was music, good food and lots of breweries to keep everyone happy.  I include a video postcard as my own small taste of the town.

Jamie Wyeth at SAMA

family-treeJamie Wyeth comes from a historied family of New England painters. Indeed, when his aunt, Henriette Wyeth married Peter Hurd in 1929 they carried this generational aptitude West, to Santa Fe, NM.

The son of Andrew Wyeth, Jamie enjoyed special access to the art scene of the 1970’s, forming life long friendships with Andy Warhol and Rudolph Nureyev, both subjects of his early work.

Known for his incredible work ethic and for following the dictates of his curiosity, Wyeth paints what he observes in his daily life.  With the passing of his father and other influential friends, his imagination has turned to dreamscapes, which include some of his major influences: John Singleton Copley, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Rockwell Kent, and Edward Hopper.   But his passion and his home will always be Monhegan Island, and the people and creatures he loves.  The Brandywine River Museum features NC and Andrew Wyeth’s studios and sends this remarkable 6 decade retrospective of Jamie’s work on a national tour, with their best regards.

Sauntering the Catskills

My daughter and her husband married in West Kill, New York and invited us to join them at the Spruceton Inn for a weekend in the Catskills. The wedding was beautiful, the innkeepers delightful and the setting, well . . . . .

I met new family members and saw something I had never seen before.

We took a walk on the waterfalls trail just down the road. I loved the little villages sprinkled along Hwy 87 and Hwy 32 (to and from Albany). Take maps – cell phone signals are scarce. Somehow, I didn’t mind.