Showing posts with label devotion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label devotion. Show all posts

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Two Doves

We all knew it was a message of love coming from heaven above. A once in a lifetime display never to be seen again. It’s been nineteen years since it happened but is still mentioned and makes me think how SPIRIT can use all creation to communicate to humans. Moreover, beings in the next world can give us physical signs that write indelible language upon our souls.

Someone recently read my memoir of my daughter Naomi called, A Heart Traced In Sand, Reflections On A Daughter’s Struggle For Life, and he mentioned the event. The story concludes the book. It demonstrates how life is interwoven through many realms; visible and invisible.

Naomi died of cancer in 1999 at age nineteen after a heroic battle to stay in the world she loved. One year later a group of devoted friends gathered at our home to remember her life. A woman who had been Naomi’s teacher brought materials to make a cord that we all could hold. Small pouches holding sacred objects like rose petals and each person’s note to Naomi were tied to the cord. We all went outside to a lawn and garden then stood together in a circle holding the cord and our prayer bags. One by one we read our remembrance and prayer. The sky had been cloudy and now it rained lightly in a mist. This was unusual because we had been in a drought. A dazzling rainbow appeared beside us. When the last person had read, we all stood together in unity. Suddenly two doves appeared directly above our circle, hovered for a second then dove spiraling downward so closely that their wings almost touched. Down they flew with rapidly beating wings and in perfect precision flew upward again, only to spiral down in place and rise again. The beating wings and precision of their spirals was joyous. It was apparent they came to bring a message of love to us. Then they flew away. One young person burst out, exclaiming, “I hope she keeps sending us messages like that, letting us know everything is okay!”

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Lessons Of Love

Standing with Hagag and his family.
Front of Hagag's house
My Egyptian brother Hagag and I sat at the simple wood table in front of his humble home. The front door is always open to the flow of family life. Tea is served every time we sit together—either chai or hibiscus. I looked past the dirt road in front of his courtyard, past his tiny green crop of alfalfa, watching sailboats on the Nile River in the distance. After a while he studied my features as if to memorize them, and began crying. I was leaving. Seeing his tears, my eyes welled up.

The three weeks I spent in Luxor taught me lessons of love. Hagag and Abu'l Ezz and their families showed me such kindness and affection that I felt special. By American standards they are very poor—without goods or means. One a marginal farmer and the other with a motorboat taking people between the banks of the Nile River. Their homes are of earth, they live with animals, have the barest conveniences and share one toilet for the entire household. They do not have closets full of clothes or new gadgets. What they have is sincerity and goodness that reached deep into my soul. They know I am comfortable in their surroundings. I need nothing more than the love that lives within them and their families.
Drawing made by Iyah, 12, Hagag's 2nd daughter. It is me, and she included my camera bag
over my shoulder and cell phone in my pocket.

Hagag’s oldest son Mohammad is serving in the army because the family could not afford college. Now Amira, the oldest daughter is on the verge of graduating secondary school. I photographed his home to begin a funding campaign. When I asked Hagag about sleeping arrangements he pointed to the tiny room in front that held two divans with cushions. All four of his children sleep in a room about the size of an American walk-in closet. It has one window facing the front courtyard. The floor is earth. I thought of Amira, 17, sleeping with her sister and two brothers so close. “Amira sleeps on the earth, here,” he said, pulling out a straw mat and showing how it went over the ground.

I have watched Amira many times studying with her face in books, or helping prepare meals, or speaking a little English with me. She is thoughtful and with hope—not scarred from never knowing the comfort of a bed and room of her own. Rather, she is strong and can meet life’s tests. What will hurt her is diminished opportunities as she becomes an adult. Her talents must flourish.

My friends know I will be by their side as they have been by mine.
Nile River at dawn.

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illumine the whole world.”  -Baha’u’llah

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Meet The Sun

The little room with yellow walls barely contained me. From its tiny balcony on the second floor I looked out over a field to a city street that curved and ended on the shore of the Ganges River at Varanasi, India.

One year ago, each morning before dawn, I dressed, gathered my camera and hurried outdoors in the dark to witness the chanting and prayer rituals of young men and women gathered facing the river. Dressed in shimmering silk and flowing cotton fabrics, the fragrance of devotion emanated from their being. Their gleaming hearts shone in the dark as they reverently performed their ceremony.

The Gange River is so holy it is deemed to be a goddess. In the darkness, girls sang and intoned with sweet notes of sacred love as the young men, in synchronized movements waved urns of incense billowing fragrance, blew into conch shells and created arcs of light with flames of lit oils. I stood nearby and watched, becoming more exhilarated until the conclusion when the first glimmering of daylight shone above the river.

I am typically not a morning person and usually labor out of bed around 7:30 AM.
But during my time in Varanasi the daily ritual of joining the group of devotees by the Ganges, worshiping something ancient, ever-flowing, and holy before turning to meet the sun as it rose above the horizon . . . well, it was not a chore but rather a blessing.

I miss Varanasi.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Walk A New Path

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will. -George Bernard Shaw

The best art allows us to see with our own eyes, but brings us into revelation. Our vision and perception gains strength. A chord is touched inside of us so that we say, “Aha.”

When it goes public, a piece of art is owned by all, so to speak, and open to a myriad of interpretations. From that time forward it is objective and subjective both. The risk an artist takes is that he may value his work highly, but the public does not.

When a new movement in art comes along, it often is met with resistance and some ridicule. It asks the viewer to take a different path from the norm, and often, the viewer says, “You foolish artist, I know what good art is. You can't fool me! The tried and true is apparent to all, so why should I go down this suspicious path with you?” In modern times, this is what happened to the first impressionists, and much later, also the abstract expressionists. First ridicule and resistance, and then through persistence, passion and devotion, a warming occurred with people. In these cases, it took years along with the slow gaining of important allies in the art business, and then the public was swayed. Now there is adulation. Just look at Van Gogh's life.

The same happens in social movements such as women's suffrage, native people's rights, race equality etc. Also, the world's great religions were often met with fierce resistance when they first appeared.

I have started creating art that is a departure from my past. It just seems to be the time, and I have the passion and will to walk a new path. I have not lost anything, I can always go back. Recently, I have been constructing my paintings as much as painting them. They begin with an idea that is fed from my unconscious and I go from there. There are two now, with more coming. The finished peieces are in the public realm since people have seen them—mostly online. I am not showing them in a gallery at this time. Being public they are both objective and subjective now.

As an example of how this type of art can evoke a wide range of subjective responses, I will tell of the interpretations from different people as they viewed my last piece. The main parts are: two dolls—one standing and one falling, a niche where one doll stands and one has fallen from, a window, an open book turned to a chapter titled, “On Love”, and a hand seeming to come from thin air and holding the book open.

A close friend of mine was the first to see it complete, and as we discussed it she formulated a story that the two dolls were actually the same person. She is both standing and also toppled over and entering the realm of the book; falling into the story of love while the Hand of God holds the book open.

Another person said that at first glance it made her feel like someone is trying to hold onto LOVE.

Someone else wrote on Facebook: “People told me to be 'perfect'. Perfect like a doll... Then, some people gave me books leading to imperfect worlds... I took your hand so that I could grow into something I would never have imagined...”

Another Facebook friend wrote: “This is a dream world, and perhaps it has a touch of adobe wall of Santa Fe and old walls of places you've traveled. There is hope and life coming through the top window, so close yet set apart from the innocent girl, the fairy tale girl, with the perfect outfit, part of whom has lost control and fallen,(or perhaps some inner part of the dream has fallen) almost, perhaps it will be a surprise to her, into a book, which seems to be orderly - can't see the title. She doesn't know it but part of her falls into some type of order that this hand, old as the wall, ancient like the soul, has touched. The figure at the top might be mourning for loss, while the hand feels the order of that book, not reading it or holding it, but feeling it. It is a left hand of the intuitive, inner self. Some dream perhaps fallen yet into a book. The hatted doll is in a bit of a precarious position but so close to the window of hope. Perhaps she represents external fantasies (letting go. Just a few thoughts. She is hatted like the men you painted, but here is a feminine aspect, perhaps an inner child waiting to be helped down or through that window. the book is quite balanced...I mean the two pages, like yin and yang. Perhaps the hand knows in this book is the balance. If I want to trip on it, it could be a person, with the doll at the head, the doll and the hand the arms and the book the feet. The head then would have part in life and hope and part in image, possibly fantasy or a young female sense, the hands part letting go and part holding on to the feet holding to balance, truth. But I wouldn't want to project onto it...(ha, ha, smile).”

And now, I confess that my original conception was for the two dolls to represent a sort of fate for two different people. One who would stand firm in life, bearing witness to the window of life and the Book of Love held by the hand of destiny (or God), and the other who falls.

I like all the descriptions and they all work! Art is objective and subjective. That is the fun.

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web. -Pablo Picasso

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. -Albert Einstein

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. “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."

Street life
Just being here is giving me spiritual insights and transforming my consciousness. I know that I must let go of my agenda and surrender to the Divine. Even having a slight agenda is not permissible. I will give an example in a moment.

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

Now, my story about surrender:  Every morning I go before dawn to the banks of the Ganges, at the foot of Assi Ghat to be among worshipers and also to take photos in the supernal light and try and capture the poetry there. I begin at a pre-dawn ceremony of young men and women, set on a stage. The lads stand in a line, performing a prayer ritual that entails specific movements, swinging lamps, waving fans and blowing on conch shells. The young ladies stand aside, singing and chanting. Then I wander the river banks as the light changes and the sun rises over the horizon. It is a perfect time for picture taking. The other morning I sat near groups of colorfully clad women praying and making offerings, and sometimes stepping into the river to bathe. It is thought to bathe in the holy river is to wash away ones sins. I took photos as the sun rose over the opposite bank. I also took pictures of holy men while the sun rose. Alas, when I returned to the hotel, all the pictures I took from that morning were mysteriously missing, but photos from earlier remained. I had seen them all on my camera, but now, those from the morning were gone. Frustration came over me at the thought of losing some gorgeous photos. At last, I surrendered to the Divine and said, “Please accept my loss as a sacrifice to your holiness.”


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, June 26, 2011

Deep Into Love

“Go deep into love, and forget everything else”. This is the sentence that came to my mind when I could not sleep the other night. I got up and wrote it down, and since then, have come back to it often. I like the power in this simple string of words.
The love I speak of is profound affection; something akin to what Paulo Coelho (born August 24, 1947) describes as, "the love that consumes." Here are examples: The soldier on a battlefield goes deeply into love; for home, country and his comrades . . . and then faces imminent peril and death. Many examples have been seen when a soldier sacrifices his comfort and safety to ensure that his comrades survive. Recently, in Libya where a civil war is raging, the ruler Muammar Gaddafi, ordered some of his air force pilots to bomb their fellow citizens. But Gaddafi miscalculated the love of his soldiers, for the three pilots felt, “deep love” for the Libyan people, and they chose to forget their insane commander and ditched their planes in mid flight, ejecting to parachute safely to land. Deep love is greater, more compelling than the superficial, and can produce more significant results. Artists also find that they are in the deep stream of love while they are in the creative flow. Imagine Michelangelo, high above the floor of the Sistine Chapel, working painfully on his back on scaffolding for what must have seemed endless hours, day after day, accomplishing his masterpiece. He suffered from heat and cold, thirst and hunger, as well as body cramps and soreness that would make a normal person cry. At night he arrived home, bone tired, eyes blurry, and slept with his shoes and clothes on, only to get up the next morning to arrive back at work. His being in the flow of deep love consumed everything else, and after he finished his masterpiece it became one of the most revered artworks on earth—a place of pilgrimage by millions over the centuries.

If we do not live in deep love, we will feel something lacking and try and fill the hole. It might be drugs or alcohol, sex, money, or the pursuit of security in another form. In the end, only deep love will satisfy the core craving in a human soul. It is best to let the fire of love consume and purify everything else.

"In the garden of thy heart, plant naught but the rose of love."  Baha'u'llah  (12 November 1817 – 29 May 1892)