This feeling of being stranded in my personal life has occasionally come upon me, and it is like the sailor in doldrums. What can one do but wait for the wind?
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Sunday, December 20, 2015
the civil war, 1991-1997, when millions were ruthlessly massacred. So I arrived in Cambodia after a sojourn in Thailand with trepidation, and have been pleasantly surprised. The people are gracious, more fluent in English, and smiling too. Cambodia is the country cousin to Thailand, without an ultra modern city like Bangkok.
My journey to Siem Reap from Bangkok went smooth enough, and when I arrived at my hotel after 10 in the evening, I found my room spacious and comfortable. The next morning complimentary breakfast satisfied my taste, especially with a cook in the room making custom omelets to order, and after walking around the neighborhood visiting a nearby grand temple and old town with bustling market full of foods, fabrics, and arts & crafts, my previous attitude melted away.
If there were any doubts of the value of being in Cambodia, they have been completely erased by Angkor Wat and the cheerful beauty of Cambodians. I had seen photos of the largest temple complex in the world and was not impressed by the drab colors and jungle scenery. I did not know that it is the most visited sacred site in the world, and if I did, that would have discouraged me further.
I set out this morning before dawn with Francesca, an Italian I met on the flight from Bangkok and became friends with, and Dara, our trusted and smiling tuktuk driver. Even before we got on the road to the temple, tuktuks with passengers were everywhere going in the same direction through the darkness. Fifteen minutes and we were pulling up to Angkor Wat and joining a throng of people walking toward the featureless dark temple. A crowd was already massed at a lake, unable to go further until opening time. As the sun rose the sky brightened behind the spiraling domes and slowly the temple features became visible in bluish tinges with a rosy sky above, embellished by fluffy clouds of purple. We were a bit in awe and simultaneously disappointed to be at the back of a crowd, unable to get the pictures we wanted. Surprisingly, a charming little girl arrived by our side in the half-light and took an order for coffee, then dutifully arrived back in minutes with tasty hot drinks. When we continued forward my impressions steadily rose at the base of the complex while I looked up at the massive scale of the carved rock and orderly beauty of the temple. As we strolled, it became apparent we were in no ordinary place. The crowds quickly thinned so we were actually quite alone. The place is so huge, people set out in all directions by foot and tuktuk. Our wandering excursion took seven hours and there is far more to see, but we were overwhelmed, hot, and growing tired. I bought a ticket that allows for two more visits.
At various times Dara would find us and drive us from temple to temple. Always, the beauty was great along with the dimensions, especially in grandness of design and the ubiquitous stone carvings adorning every facade and corner. Angkor Wat is more interesting for the fact that it began Hindu and later shifted to Buddhist, so the two influences are mingled. The jungle through the ages has entwined with structures, so that huge trees are often seen growing out of temples and snake-like roots wrap around carved block. Many stone faces appear, sphinx like and huge in improbable places high above, adorning towers. Often, monks in orange saffron robes are seen making an accent amid the monotone structures, and I loved taking their picture. Always a smile in return for a smile. And that is the way it has been in Cambodia so far.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
|The Lavender Umbrella, Chiang Mai, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 cm|
I have Thai friends here in Chiang Mai, the streets are no longer confusing, I like riding my motorcycle, the cost of living is low, the climate is great, I have had good apartments including now when I can go swimming at the pool every day, I have made paintings and captured wonderful photographs. There is much more to explore—yet I am leaving. Thailand visa requires a limit of thirty days. I can turn around and come back immediately and stay longer, but THE DREAM is carrying me around the world and I must arrive again in the United States.
Papua New Guinea has always held an attraction for me, ever since I saw photographs in National Geographic of fearsome men in makeup and bones through their noses. I am making my way there, and have found that one of the cheapest routes is through Bali, where I arrive Christmas night.
In dreams, one experience flows into the next, with grand eloquence and abundance of awe inspiring surprise. This is THE DREAM, and I know it has many dimensions. I will stay in touch with my Thai friends, think fondly of them and keep them in my heart as I do with everyone that I meet along the way. With some people, it is never good-bye, but rather, we will see each other again.
Sunday, December 06, 2015
Life cannot be held, only experienced. To try and hold it is when we realize it is but a dream. When we believe we are in possession of something, in fact, this is illusion too, for nothing can truly be possessed, everything is part of everything else and is continually transforming and subject to external forces beyond personality.
When I lost my eldest daughter at age nineteen, after watching her suffer for two years while receiving the most skilled treatments and care, is when I truly became detached from holding on to anything of this world. Nobody can hold on to their most precious possession—their mortal frame, and I saw how much she loved hers and tried to keep it.
Certainly since her passing, from her vantage point of pure spirit in divine love within illimitable space, she has guided me to experience the world fully without fear, knowing it is a dream unfolding.
The traveling I am doing is full of dream sequences, beginning this year in September, living in Venice, Italy. My apartment was above a little stone bridge that spanned a canal that gondolas passed beneath each day. Nearby was a campo over a thousand years old. I like to paint, take photographs and write each day. After six weeks in Venice, THE DREAM took me to Cinqueterra on the Mediterranean coast, with its five magical villages hugging the steep, rocky shore, almost falling into the sea. From there, Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance and high art, where my apartment sat steps away from Michelangelo’s marble sculpture masterpiece, David. Each day, the DREAM wind blew me through the fabled streets, until one day it took me to Rome—the eternal city where it is said all roads lead. I have been there many times before and it reawakened an awe of human ingenuity and achievement, with its vast architectural wonders from the time of empire. I heard through the ages the echo of horses hooves as they pulled gladiator carts, and listened to stringed instruments play in markets bustling with commerce just outside marbled churches filled with masterpieces of art. In Rome I relished a stunning art exhibition by a contemporary artist who filled me with inspiration to carry into my own work.
From Rome, into the sky again to land six hours later in New Delhi, India and then to arrive in Varanasi, one of the oldest living cities on earth. Cows roam the streets amid the crush of people, with bodies arriving every day from all parts of the globe to be burned on cremation pyres that are always blazing. The ashes thrown into the sacred Ganges River mean that salvation is assured for the believers. I floated on the Ganges in a boat to watch candles lit and placed in baskets to drift on the water, and experienced the thunder of explosions marking the Diwali Festival. THE DREAM introduced bacteria into my body and intestinal illness, as it happened before when I visited India. I continued painting, but spent more time with photography, taking some powerful images, especially with an American friend who modeled in flowing cloth on temple steps overlooking the Ganges.
Almost in a daze of altered perception, a train ride of twenty hours brought me to the heart of the continent, to Pushkar, the home of the only Brahma temple in India, where I arrived at the beginning of a famous once yearly festival. Thousands of camels were brought there to be traded and sold, with gorgeous horses, tents, festivities and excitement. THE DREAM introduced a young boy to my side one morning to take me to his family who live in tents on a hilltop. The man is a maker of folk instruments, and he and his wife sang and made music for me. We become friends, and THE DREAM brought money to them through one my friends on Facebook who took compassion on their difficult life of extreme poverty.
I am in other worlds, and far from the events of America and other places where news of violence and political intrigue comes to me in bits and pieces.
Now I am in northern Thailand, and do not see camels but plenty of monks in flowing saffron robes amid ornate Buddhist temples with soaring spires above intricate gabled roofs and dragons guarding the doors. My stomach ailments have mostly gone away, and each day is exploration, photography, and either painting or writing. THE DREAM has brought me together after seven years with Thai friends from the past. Our lives are woven in DREAM.
As THE DREAM continues unfolding, I wonder where it goes and where it leads. Soon it will lead to Cambodia but after that, I do not have a clear picture of what lays ahead. Perhaps the misty mountaintop needs time for the the wind to blow away the shrouding haze—and reveal itself entirely in glory.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
|Duomo, Florence, Italy|
|Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey|
It is fascinating to watch the transformation from churches in one land, to mosques in another, and temples elsewhere. In Italy, the epicenter of Christianity for centuries, there are tens of thousands of churches, some dating almost to the time of Christ. Step south across the Mediterranean Sea to Northern Africa and churches are replaced by mosques. Cairo, Egypt alone has over two thousand. Landing in India, temples and shrines are abundant for Hindu worshippers. The city of Varanasi has an estimated 23,000. Moving further east, to where I find myself now in Thailand, Buddhist temples are also called pagodas with an adjacent stupa. All these places have a religious order that acts to supervise and attend the holy grounds. All are created with great devotion and sometimes are awe inspiring in their artistry and beauty, shining like the crowning achievement for a community.
|Baha'i Temple, New Delhi, India|
|Buddhist Temple, Chiang Mai, Thailand|
|Hindu Temple, Varanasi, India|
Sunday, November 22, 2015
|Young Buddha disciples . . . Chiang Mai, Thailand|
This time, I was careful and while I waited I also made sure to check Thai visa requirements. I knew Thailand does not require US citizens to have visas on entry. But on one website, a British site, mention was made of the thirty day maximum stay requirement and I was surprised to see that a return ticket must be shown. A slight panic ensued, as I did not have one. Not recalling being checked on my previous visits, nonetheless I was uncomfortable at the prospect of being turned away at the airport. I called the airline and a lady in Thailand told me to check with the embassy! This, with only five hours to go.
In this day of instant possibilities via the internet . . . I began plotting. First, I took out my map of the world and looked to see where I might go in thirty days. I have been planning to possibly visit New Guinea, but in the end I chose somewhere nearer that I could get to from Bangkok for less than 100.00 dollars. In ½ hour, I found a deal and reserved my flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia, where I will be near the famous Angkor Wat temple, the largest religious monument in the world, originally constructed as a Hindu temple around the 12th century for the Khmer Empire, but now a Buddhist temple.
At last, with all my proper paperwork in hand, I arrived at the airport and caught the flight to Bangkok and Chiang Mai. And guess what? Nobody asked to see my ticket out of Thailand.
|Dragons, guarding a temple entrance. Chiang Mai, Thailand|
Saturday, November 14, 2015
|Cows roam freely and are everywhere in Varanasi, India. Photo at night.|
|Lighting candles in baskets with marigold blossoms to float in the Ganges River.|
I arrived in Pushkar, India today after the longest train ride of my life—22 hours. That in itself was a sort of lifetime experience. The train was full . . . so densely packed that it was four hours late on arrival, probably because it could not go fast. I was in a more costly air-conditioned sleeper car that squeezed six berths in each compartment and the coach had perhaps 12 such compartments. The only clean items were the sheets they gave. The bathrooms would make some people ill on sight. Imagine the second class coaches. Anyway, I am going native and roll with the punches. I made friends with a family sharing my compartment, and they helped me when I arrived at the station, staying by my side until I got a rickshaw to the bus station where I caught a bus that was similarly packed with people. Now I am in Pushkar and arrived just before an important festival, and this might be good luck.
|Herding camel, Pushkar, India|
Sunday, November 08, 2015
|View of the Ganges River from a Hindu Temple on its bank|
How different Varanasi India is from Venice, Cinqueterra, Florence, and Rome, Italy. No longer the neat cobbled passages and thoroughfares. No longer the testimony to grandeur in high art and architecture and civic pride. Varanasi is a cacophony of sights and sounds with seemingly no order. The dense population of 3 ½ million people that live on the bank of the Ganges River are too many for the resources that exist. Varanasicity.com: “Often referred to as Benares, Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world. These few lines by Mark Twain say it all: 'Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together' ". "Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth. Abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the origins of Varanasi are yet unknown. Ganges in Varanasi is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals."
The streets teem and if you are in a hurry or expect orderliness and sophistication, reality will dash these hopes in a hurry. Almost every inch of the roads and passages are with people or beasts. All the traffic is dodging other traffic, and even people must skirt around each other. Pedestrians much watch not to step in waste left by animals or trip on an upturned stone. Sometimes a strong stench is inhaled as the gutters often are sewers flowing to God knows where. Shops are everywhere, as are street vendors cooking tasty treats and offering the ubiquitous chai tea. I sometimes think to myself that the garbage and sewage are too close for comfort. Yet the people are lively and do not hesitate in living. To be in the street is also to be accosted by a rickshaw driver or someone who wants to show you something.
|Daily pre-dawn prayer offerings|
I have wondered what the lesson is and think that the holy spirit is so strong here, the devotion so great, that my agenda of picture taking was reprimanded. Perhaps some holy beings were offended in some way and asked that the pictures be cleared. Truly, I have been gracefully guided to surrender while in Varanasi.
|Smiling girl with the ever present holy cows.|
Sunday, November 01, 2015
|View of Vernazza, Cinqueterra, Italy|
India is on the horizon. Tomorrow, I leave Rome, Italy to fly through the night and arrive in New Delhi. Thus will end my six week sojourn in Italy. The journey began in Venice, continued on to the Cinqueterra region and its five villages hugging the steep cliffs at the Mediterranean Sea, and ended in the Eternal City—Rome.
|Rainbow over Venice, Italy|
Friends in Venice welcomed me, and I made new acquaintances. Delightful characters emerged all along the way, and I tasted some of the best food anywhere in the world. The art, from thousands of years ago to the present day has filled my senses and stirred my imagination. Experiences will dwell in my heart and storehouse of my mind for years to come, feeding my imagination and calling forth transformation in my perceptions and creative pursuits.
|Roman Forum, Rome|
I eagerly anticipate being awestruck.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
|Within the church of San Pietro, Corniglia, Italy|
The illness began in Venice and was so surprising because I have not been sick in 15 years; not even a cold. I had developed an attitude of impermeability to sickness. A friend I have been corresponding with in the USA, noticed I was not getting better, so wrote that I must see a doctor.
When I arrived in Vernazza, the apartment owners, a darling older couple, Giacomo and Maria Capellini, helped get me settled. Giacomo speaks English and when the discussion turned to a doctor, said that the clinic up the street was always open—including weekends. He walked with me and I was immediately seen by a physician who took tests and heard my descriptions, then pronounced I have bronchitis.
Now I am on antibiotics and should be much better in three days.
I have been having what I am calling “portal” experiences. These are surprising moments of occurrences that usher in such sublimity that some ancient remembrance of a pure state of bliss results. A few examples of the last few days: Being alone in a 500 year old church at night, long past the time when tourists were going to and fro. Walking up the steps into the dark cathedral and passing over the marble floor to sit at a pew next to a beatific sculpture of Jesus, arms outstretched with nail holes in the palms of his hands, looking down serenely. At his bare feet, candles still burning from earlier visitors. The silence so evocative, and on the wall nearby, a painting of the virgin mother, with the dove of heaven arriving to tell her of the heavenly life to grow inside of her.
Another time, just a couple days ago, in Monterosso, outside my room in the street, a man passed under the window, singing in such a marvelous and melodious voice. Then later, he came back, still singing. It awakened my higher sensibilities.
And of course, the church bells that ring, and sometimes their ringing takes on a melody.
So I finally wondered if my cough could possibly be a “portal” experience.
In some simple way, I think it could be. But I am more inclined to dwell on the sublime experiences that lead me to consider writing a book.
Sunday, October 18, 2015
I am on a train heading toward Corniglia, a little village in the region of Cinqueterra, a group of tiny towns that hug the steep cliffs of northeastern Italy and look out to the Mediterranean Sea. I just spent a month in Venice and it cast its spell as usual with plenty to sway the senses, and for an artist like me, inspire with subject matter worthy of my paintings and photography. Venice—the aristocratic and storied European city with deep history that is unique for its absence of cars or street traffic. To go anywhere requires walking or a boat ride, and this way everything is seen leisurely, not just a blur. In the end, I found myself particularly captivated by the ephemeral flickering and trembling reflections of the city that were cast upon the water in the canals. It is like an emblem of the dream that Venice represents.
A week ago a friend from America visited and we went to a concert together. She was ill, and I paid no heed since I have always had the attitude that I don't get sick under any circumstances. I got sick. For a week now, I have had a cough with upper respiratory discomfort. Last night I barely slept for all the coughing. I had to wake early to catch an early train. My alarm did not go off but I woke at the last minute and managed to get my considerable luggage to the train station on time. And here is the kick: I dozed off and at Florence missed getting off to switch trains for La Spezia, so had to travel all the way to Rome. I am now heading back north to Pisa, La Spezia and then Corniglia. All while sick and at more cost. I managed to notify the people who are expecting me.
Sunday, October 11, 2015
|Piazza San Marco on a Sunday—with empty tables because of slight flooding.|
To be free to wander is a ravishing pleasure that feeds my artist soul. And in Venice, to wander is extra pleasurable since there are no cars to threaten a person who is dreamy and in an altered state of consciousness. Altered states occur since it is a “floating world,” much like a dream. Accordions play, church bells ring, boats drift by on the labyrinth of canals and one cannot walk far without coming to one of 400 bridges that span the city.
|Reflections—Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy|
|Stevie, self-portrait in Venice|
I realize that when I am in the artistic zone, it is an altered state where I am not really seeing people as personalities and buildings as shops or homes. Rather I am responding to light and reflection, texture and space, intriguing positions of humans in interaction or alone within the environment.
Cristiana recognizes me as an artist and says that anyone who is to be in relationship with me must understand this is who I am. I agree totally.
|Venice . . . double exposure|
Sunday, October 04, 2015
|"Gondola, Moored Along the Grand Canal." Oil on board|
Last night I went to her place for dinner. She had invited me and had a friend of hers, and I brought my friend Cristiana who is good with English. Everyone was comfortable and we sat together and ate the delicious food. For two hours of conversation, I must say I could not understand most of it and a few times I became a bit tired. But mostly, I picked up what I could understand, shared our presence, and simply enjoyed the animation and intent. Throughout, we all had plenty of eye contact and felt at ease, and happy to be meeting.
At the end, everyone came to my flat to see my paintings and admire. I was given a big plate of leftovers, and my friendships have deepened.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
|Gondola traffic in a narrow canal.|
Now, living in Venice, Italy, the waking hours are even more remarkably like fantasy. A huge window is in my kitchen and the first thing in the morning, I look out upon a small bridge that crosses over a canal below, which is often traveled by gondolas, the way it has been for centuries. Further on is a 1000 yer old stone paved campo lined with little shops and honored with an ancient church that sounds wonderful bell chimes.
When I first arrived in Venice, I bought a vaporetto (water-bus) pass, but have hardly used it since I walk and explore. It is remarkable how little changed the city is from the last time I visited in 2008. Elegant instrumental groups continue holding court in the evenings at cafes on St. Marks Square, the Doges Palace gleams with gold mosaics, tourists from everywhere pour through the streets and empty starry-eyed onto the campos, and the air feels the same with a slightly pungent smell of sea and canals. One thing has changed and that is that many people are addicted to “selfies,” and walk around with smartphones attached to long rods taking videos of themselves as they go from place to place. They can't take their eyes off of themselves and I wonder how they see anything else!
|Tourists, completely tuned into cameras.|
Sunday, September 20, 2015
|"Saluto a Venezia" oil on linen, 16 x 12inches|
It is wonderful to hear church bells chiming and the sounds of children laughing and shouting gleefully, with an occasional scream as an exclamation point. These pronouncements of life waft in my open window each day as I live beside the square with its ancient church in Venice, Italy. The area is called Campo San Giacomo 'Dall Orio. The sestieri (neighborhood) is called Santa Croce, and is in one of the oldest parts of Venice—the church goes back to 1200 AD.
I have been here a week and the days seem to race by too quickly—I feel my time is limited and want to slow them. I wake up, make breakfast, begin painting or go for a walk, and photograph. I shop for food, or meet my friend Cristiana. Always something to do and in fact, I have projects on hold. All this, and sometimes I just stop to absorb and assimilate into “being Italian.”
My first painting is complete, and I have good photos; with more to come.
Sunday, September 13, 2015
My journey from Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA to Venice, Italy, started last night when my beloved daughter Sarah drove me to my hotel at the airport. Today I board three flights: to Dallas, Texas, on to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then to Venice. About 18 hours total travel time. Venice is 9 hours ahead of New Mexico, so if it is 1:00 in US it is 10:00 in Italy. My friend Terese has counseled me to do nothing for a few days when I arrive—just sink in to the newness. I know my tendency is to jump into the excitement of photography, writing and painting, but her words echo in my mind, and I will most likely listen to them.
Sunday, September 06, 2015
The time this happened before, I wrote some blogs in advance that are worthy of review:
Sunday, August 30, 2015
I will go back to beginnings, to being a boy once again . . . moments magical, since everything is new and never before seen. With no reference, spirit will weave magic into perception . . . because I am willing to die and be born again. Over and over until my last breath when the gates to eternity open and I step through.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
The Santa Fe Indian Market bills itself as the “largest and most prestigious intertribal fine art market in the world.“ Truly, it is a celebration of indigenous peoples of North America and their handiwork as they arrive each year in Santa Fe, New Mexico to sell their arts and crafts.
I am glad to be so close. I feel the warmth and excitement generated by the natives and a reciprocal response of non-native participants that buy the goods. I love the pride that the Indians have of their heritage and how they celebrate in dress, crafts, music and dance. It is quite awesome to see the tribes represented from coast to coast and Alaska too.