Thursday, June 30, 2011

July 'River of Stones'

Lots of people are joining, about to toss pebbles of poetry --- haiku-like moments of noticing, meditating, writing --- into the river. You should too:
Why you should join the river: Because having a notebook, or a blog, and a vow to write one small stone in it each day can help you keep a sense of wonder about the world. Deciding to take part in the July challenge, to notice something each day and write about it, sets in motion that willingness to reach out - that willingness to really look and listen to the world - and to stand in awe.
On the black river,
a pair of great-crested grebe nod
towards the ceremonies of spring.

Kate Noakes

Kaspalita Thompson and Fiona Robyn, beautiful, newly-wedded couple, are the inspirations behind River of Stones.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Documentary: "Call of Life: Facing Mass Extinction"

Watching this, while of course I already knew, but the summer heat, the late hour, half in the dreamtime, I understood at a deeper level. While a pessimistic part of me does not believe that we can change the path of destiny that we are creating for ourselves as the world-force we are, as a species, the speakers in this video offer hope at the end. Already the facts and issues raised in this video has brought into focus a deep anxiety, a life-threatening worry, something indefinable, troubling and thus Call of Life is a life-changing video for me. I urge you to watch it.

And, though we are not world leaders, nor run vast multi-nationals, we are the grassroots. Dance, drum, meditate daily on mass extinction...on unimaginable numbers of species dying out, life force, soul fleeing an uninhabitable world...

And march when there are marches, and sign petitions, and write letters, emails, and post in all the places you can.

Synopsis of the documentary:

Call of Life: Facing the Mass Extinction
Director: Monte Thompson | Producer: Chera Van Burg
Genre: Documentary | Produced In: 2010 | Story Teller's Country: United States
Tags: Ecology, Environment, Global, Globalization, Spiritual Awareness

Synopsis: If current trends continue, scientists warn that within a few decades at least HALF of all plant and animal species on Earth will disappear forever. “Call of Life: Facing the Mass Extinction” is the first feature documentary to investigate the growing threat to Earth’s life support systems from this unprecedented loss of biodiversity. Through interviews with leading scientists, psychologists, historians, and others, the film explores the causes, the scope, and the potential effects of the mass extinction, but also looks beyond the immediate causes of the crisis to consider how our cultural and economic systems, along with deep-seated psychological and behavioral patterns, have allowed and continue to reinforce the situation, and even determine our response to it. “Call of Life” tells the story of a crisis not only in nature, but also in human nature, a crisis more threatening than anything human beings have ever faced before.

From my blogroll:

Mass Extinction Math

So if the previous mass extinction 55 million years ago took two thousand years as a result of 2 gigatons per year of carbon being released:

Does that mean that this one, given 30 gigatons per year, will take fifteen times faster, namely about 130 years?

Does anyone know how the math of mass extinction works?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Silver-Tint Photo

...the mask was exactly what she was searching for, exactly
what she needed: a face threaded over her face,
a light threaded over her light.

You speak, and the mask begins to speak,
and the listening takes fire.

Dale Favier

                  Slipping away, between

(click photos for larger size)

Dale's Mask slightly paraphrased, a change of pronoun

Friday, June 24, 2011

Stone #50: Is Rosette's

After the rain, roses everywhere, their thorn-bitten thick lips, petals falling like tricks, lipstick red pistils around their bushes.

(a wee note to myself, if you ever want to see them, just email me for the key)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Breathtaking Poetry Theory

In a book review, Ali Alizadeh reviews Maria Takolander and Claire Potter | Cordite Poetry Review, I found this paragraph:
Badiou’s strategy for a philosophical investigation of the arts – and of avant-garde poetry in particular – relies on a belief that art is one of the key conditions for the emergence of universal truths. Accordingly, a poetry capable of hosting such an exigent possibility must negate both the mimetic impulse (to represent/express emotions, images, experiences, etc.) as well as the lyrical demands of conventional prosody such as form and sound, the unity and cohesion of an authorial voice, poetic subject matter, etc. As Elie During has recently written in Alain Badiou: Key Concepts (Acumen, 2010), “Badiou’s underlying poetics is at once anti-mimetic and anti-lyrical. Hermeneutics and aesthetics are thereby rejected in the same stroke.”

It's been awhile since I read any breathtaking poetry theory, so this hit a good spot. I'm in the middle of Deleuze and Guattari's, Thousand Plateaus, a text that surely by anyone's standards becomes poetry at times, and is full of breathtaking poetry theory (though incidentally, or by inference, or by who it inspires), at least it keeps sending my imagination into its outer limits, even on second and third reads, which may take me into the Fall at the rate I'm going, but Badiou is on the list for next.

Cryptic Messages to Self

Cryptic messages to self. Do you do this? It's so easy with a cell phone to send memos back to yourself for later. I sent this message to myself by iPhone at the end of January, so it must mean something. But what? Clearly I was using the app, Dragon Speaking, which sometimes is a bit strange, and didn't correct the writing. Was I meditating? Did I just wake up from a dream?

Who knows. Seems to be instructions of some kind for recording a speaking, perhaps...

Now I know was thinking over in between the molecules recess voice and then become waves and then let it pass through and then let themselves to be become part of the speaking a care in the sound of the passes through the M waves like wave as you like service that glass that means of angels

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Untitled(2) by Eduardo Cuadrado

direct link: Untitled(2) by Eduardo Cuadrado

Eduardo, I am moved beyond comprehension by your Untitled (2). Your sculptures? Realist, the realism of poverty. Yes, I know this world. A beaten world; people who are usually ignored in the busy city. The shadows. The shadows who you have given solid form to in metal and other materials appear everywhere, as sculptures. Magnified. They are worthy of focus. They have their stories. People stop and look for a moment. It is strange. They are the poor, lost, downtrodden, forgotten; it is as if they call to their gods in the moments of silent suffering you have represented. They ask the existential questions. Why? Why me? How did this happen? How do I rise from this place of despair? I am in tears. I want to protect all of these beautiful people from the harsh life they have been cast into by circumstance, drug abuse, violence, or a soft incessant falling away of belief in the status quo until there is only raw existence left.

This is a great video. You disabled comments, so I started writing a response here...

Besides the stark, troubling opening shot, a video of an installation on the street with a doorway, the figures are all male. They wear suits or trench coats: perhaps they are white collar workers who have fallen through the cracks in culture. Some of them are installed where they might have worked before getting laid off or fired for whatever reason; or perhaps it was bankruptcy. The men in Cuadrado's film, his sculptures, have intellects, you can see that. They are conscious of their predicament. They are worn down by life. But they have not blown their minds out with drugs or alcohol; they are fully aware of where they are. In their faces of despair, desperation, futility, humiliation, sorry we see a deep grief.

That grief burns in my soul; whether it does in all viewers, all of those who witness these works, I don't know.

Solstice Photos

Two Druids on Salisbury Plain at Stonehenge at Summer Solstice. I love this photo! They are wild; their outfits quite something.

A silly photo from yesterday's re-take of dance footage in High Park - taking a water break. My daughter, unseen, sits in a Director's Chair, reading.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wishing you a beautiful Summer Solstice

direct YouTube link: "Green Goddess" Masque

Wishing you a lovely day as spring turns into summer! Midsummer Night's Eve, or Summer Solstice is a magical time!

For those of you who might like to read a longer post on the process behind making this video poem: "Green Goddess" Masque.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Terre Verte

Pale green stretch lace, shimmer of embroidery, like Japanese watercolours catching the spring sun through pale green trees.

A Wedding Stone for Fiona and Kaspa's nuptials today.

Note: Besides 'Green Earth,' Terre Verte is a painter's paint colour.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Treats on Bloor Street

Since I may return to High Park to dance before the camera again, with the track of the video, Tangled Garden, on a speaker - the movement would embody the words of the poems in my own idiosyncratic way, I decided to go to Fabric Land for some notions, patterns, fabric.

On the way, on Bloor Street in Toronto, I passed some young, gorgeously dressed people, men in grey business trousers and white shirts and a woman in a small tight red dress giving out boxes from cartons on the street.

Naturally, I joined the line. The man behind me wore a purple T-shirt and cool mirrored purple sunglasses - I laughed that he looked appropriate for 'Mink Mile.' Never mind, he didn't understand either. Though I asked people in front and behind me, no-one knew what we were lining up for.

It was so Beckett. So Godot. I loved it.

"Perhaps a glass," a woman said.

I had to show my ID (haha) to the gorgeous lady in the tight, short, red dress, and she stamped the top of my hand with red ink.

Then I received a packaged bottle of Stella Artois beer in its own bag, which I'm enjoying now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In the Hands of the Garden Gods

One of the poems I'll be reciting in the video poem I am still working on, "Tangled Garden." I wrote In the Hands of the Garden Gods when I was 27 years old, and it fits beautifully. I guess I've been working with the themes of a Tangled Garden most of my life. It will be the poem in the middle, after A Floral Opera, and before, Tangled Garden. The video poem is 21 minutes long, and I have been working on it for quite awhile. As many hours, days, go into it I see it emerge slowly, slowly.

You'll have to email me for the password.

Encrypted poem:

Still from my video poem, Tangled Garden, which I'm currently working on.
(click on image for larger size)

A draft form of the video is up at YouTube (update Thurs June 16th).

direct link: Garden Gods

This video is not finished. It has no title or credits and is 'Unlisted' at YouTube. The final version will be much higher resolution. I've posted it for critique purposes only.

It is a clip from a long video poem, Tangled Garden, that is 22 minutes. The footage is mostly all like this cut. There are three poems: 'A Floral Opera,' which I recently wrote; 'In the Hands of the Garden Gods,' which I wrote when I was 27; and 'Tangled Garden,' which I wrote in 2006. This clip is the 'Garden Gods' one. It's still quite raw. I am seeking feedback, critique.

From my perspective - the dance in the background needs to be re-done. I need to get my costume and myself back to High Park for another round, perhaps without my daughter. Though can I go and dance alone? I'm hesitating. There are very few people I'd feel comfortable with doing this. If I manage it, it'll be like the one here, only perhaps a little better (I hope).

The voiceover poem was done one night, reading straight from the journal I wrote the poem in so many years ago. It probably needs to be re-done too. I'm not sure about the saturation of the voice and whether it distorts. The reading itself, though, is just about right in emotional tone, so I'm not sure I should do another.

Since this is an 'art' video I am not worrying about catering to any kind of popular taste. Um, I guess I move to my own drumbeat, or something like that.

What I am looking for are responses, and ideas that I may incorporate into the final version.


Music, 'First Night (Lilith's Seduction)' from Catherine Corelli's album, 'Seraphic Tears':

Another update:

I realized it's better full screen, also 720p. Tonight I walked by the house where I rented a small bachelor's back when I had the dream that became this poem. And as the dream itself comes back, I realize that the way I've done the footage of the Garden God (or goddess) is incredibly close to the dream I had so many years ago. That was a wow moment, on the street corner tonight.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Green Goddess" Masque

direct YouTube link: "Green Goddess" Masque
"Chthonic goddess of the greening earth. Wrinkled, like tree bark, painted, an exotic glade. Process, the recycling of Nature, life emerging from death. An organic art. The mask's fronds as if growing out of the forest floor in the Spring. Papier-mache, mulch: paper, or leaves. The face as landscape; the face carrying the landscape with it. Flower colours framing her face; the iridescence of insects, sheen of dragonfly. Feathery wings, plumed serpent, vestiges of living vines. A vision of a Nature spirit, Summer Solstice, a Midsummer Night's Dream. Shaman of the forest. Tutelary guide in the rainforest. Jungle of the imagination. Then the Surreality of the sky-blue mask on the greening gold fields of her face: I offer you a masked mask."

After the papier-mâché green goddess masque was finished, I wrote some of the thoughts I had while making it. That became the prose poem.

Last Spring I had wanted to make a dancing video with the mask and the prose poem, but it didn't happen until a few days ago. The footage is from a 4 min clip of the only usable footage from a shoot in High Park in Toronto with my daughter not actually on camera, but affecting things.

A blog post from 2009 with photos documenting the process of making the masque, along with the writing:

This video is part of my multi-media work, 'Green Fire':

The background birds and forest track is a mix I made mostly from


In a class once, where the professor had taken us through a very dense reading of a movie, someone asked, 'Did the director think of all that when they made the movie?' While we would like our work, poems, photographs, artwork, videos, to stand on their own, sometimes we also like to discuss some of the thoughts we had while composing them.

I would ask that you please not consider this personal essay as an explanation of the videopoem, though. The response and thoughts of the viewer can and should differ from my own - the artist is never responsible for the meaning of a work, only the viewer, reader, audience has that privilege.

A good poem, for me, is always a repository of a body of knowledge. A poem is a condensation of part of our history, be that political, social, personal, or intellectual. A poem carries a body of knowledge with it, and this knowledge can be unlocked by the reader/viewer who cares to delve into the background of the poem's images.

All I'm doing here is talking a little of my thought process while making the masque and composing the videopoem. Some of the knowledge I have gathered and woven into this piece. Your responses to the final product, the videopoem, will, of course, be different.

Here are some of my meandering notes:

My masque wears the landscape of the green goddess. I sought to create a figure representing the processes of life, death, recycling/rebirth in the performance - through the costume with its mask, the movement, and the prose poem. I hoped to achieve a videopoem that was ethereal, earthy, surreal and entertaining.

In the process of making the masque, planning a videopoem, sewing a costume, and the 30 hours of editing the footage into the video you see here, many thoughts crossed my mind. I'll briefly touch on a few themes: a resonance with the Green Man motif, Minerva's owl, a little on subjectivities or notions of the self, that this is also a Solstice celebration, and about my discomfort with producing 'creative movement/dance' videos at my age.

My "Green Goddess" masque reminds me of the Green Man: a drawing or sculpture "of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit." The Green Man is usually an architectural ornament on churches, buildings or gates in parks, and so on. The article in Wikipedia continues, "The Green Man motif has many variations. Found in many cultures around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities....Primarily it is interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or "renaissance," representing the cycle of growth each spring." The 'Green Goddess' masque has leaf-like fronds in her headdress and the colours of the wilds on her painted face. My prose poem refers to many of the same vegetative processes of nature. The dance is meant to be of a nature spirit. She is like a counterpoint to the Green Man. They are fertility figures, emblems of the fecundity of Nature.

I included the sound of an owl hooting; though the video was shot in daytime, I created darker clips in the editing to create a motion of light and dark throughout the video. Always in the jungle there is danger (I lived in an African jungle in Zambia as a child so know this), and the owl carries that haunting in its birdcall. The owl is also sacred to the Ancient Roman goddess, Minerva: "She was the virgin goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, magic, and the inventor of music. She is often depicted with her sacred creature, an owl, which symbolizes her ties to wisdom." All of which is appropriate to this videopoem.

Being a 21st century woman, concepts of subjectivities, construction of the self, the ego, in the midst of the natural abundances of the earth, the way as individuals we are part of the larger processes of life and death is important. Hence the masque. Who are we?

During the days it took to make the papier-mâché mask, I thought about how our masks enable us to be who we are. Our performative aspects reveal us to ourselves and others. We construct ourselves through our masques, and reveal ourselves more fully to each other when we are disguised. Yes, I know it is a bit of a double take, and the opposite approach to the Buddhistic peeling of layers of the self to arrive at essence. Yet, like the Buddhist practitioner sits in the semi-lotus pose of the Buddha meditating, and thus takes on the pose (or mask) of the Buddha to achieve selflessness, the masque also removes individual personality and reveals the archetypal nature of our essence.

Masqued or un-masqued, wearing a mask to represent the deity, to represent the spirit being called, or peeling away layers, perhaps we arrive at the same realization of 'selfless self.'

A forest doppelgänger appeared in the footage, in the imprint of a large woman of leaves, a reflection of the dancer, and I have no idea how that happened, and was not able to produce it in other sections, but I really grokked it. That vegetative figure has resonances with resurrection motifs, perhaps even the horror genre of movies when plants take on human form and come to life. A bit humorous, yes. Yet it is as if the masqued shamanic dancing called the spirit forth. A large figure emerges like a forest angel, the manifested double of the woman dancing a medicine dance, a potent force of the power of nature, a little dangerous if not directed properly by the shaman to become the energy of a spirit of healing. The appearance of a doppelgänger has made me very happy with this little video.

It is nearly Solstice, and a celebration of the sun at its zenith in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere here in Canada. I edited the video to culminate in a moment of solar worship, an adoration of the light of life, perhaps the figure becomes a solar priestess for a moment (for she has long since stopped being me), along with the overall representations of the fertility, decay and recycling of greening Nature.

The video is delicately layered and looks best on HD. Different parts of it play in differing speeds of slow motion. The video itself is composed like a compressed poem of images, and is one of my best video poems, I feel. It is, of course, not without humour.

If I'd had this technology 20 years ago! It is hard to produce 'dance videos' at my age, especially in a culture that focuses on youthful beauty, and while there are two more planned (since musicians have sent me music for specific performance pieces), I may not be able to do these types of "creative movement/dance" videos much longer. If I get those last two done, this year will have seen 5 dance videos, wow. A long-time dream, to do this, to create poetry dance videos.

The woman in the "Green Goddess" masque, therefore, wishes you the courage to realize your dreams.

Joining July's Festival of the Trees with this video poem on the shaman of the forest.

Little update: I also took this video poem with me last Sunday, along with some photos of the making of the masque, to a Digital Storytelling workshop (I can't find a direct link, but it's at NFB Mediatheque) with my independent film group at NFB (National Film Board), and was surprised at the positive comments from other participants and NFB staff that I received. Unfortunately, the computer I was working on there froze, so I don't have the piece I produced to show you - though I will link to the video slideshows produced by our group when they become available.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Stills from "Green Goddess" Masque Videopoem

Last Spring I had wanted to make a video with the mask and the prose poem, but it didn't happen. The video poem is from a 4 min clip of the only usable footage from a shoot in High Park in Toronto yesterday with my daughter sorta on camera, well at a distance from the tripod, but she was affecting things.

It's not too long, 2:37min, and moves quite quickly, and, perhaps it's because I'm a little light-headed after the 18hr stint editing this video, but I find it quite funny, and so it's ok if the photos make you laugh a little too.

(Currently it's uploading to YouTube and Vimeo, but you never know exactly when things will appear. By tomorrow, I expect.)

No, she's not in it. People remain adamant about not appearing in my videos, and so I apologize, it's just me.

A 59 year old woman prancing in the woods? Oh, yes, you bet. Only one jogger about my age jogged by twice, and a fellow on a bike came rather close when I was changing out of my white strapless bra into my black lace one, and if he'd had any untoward thoughts he didn't reveal them (or I'd have smacked him wearing the masque - yes I would.)

Afterwards, on the hot, humid afternoon, we went to the subway and I realized it was rush-hour, when dogs aren't allowed on public transit. So my daughter took the gear underground to the train and my dog and I walked home about 5km, which was fine, except that though I was wearing flat black leather thongs they are not my my old brown hiking sandals and so have a few blisters.

All in the name of art! (Or craziness, sometimes it's hard to distinquish.)

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Costume for Tangled Garden

Composing a simple costume, sewed some lace,
put on the green goddess masque, for a little video
of dance to layer into my long video poem, Tangled Garden.

This test iPhone photo shows the woman  in something pinned
and strapless. I will likely layer over a white bodysuit for the little
bit a movement I may add here and there to the video.

(with thanks to Bent Lorentzen for the suggestion to add dance
to the video)

I quite like the photo I created this evening, though.

C'mon, the woman is texting.... who? Isn't this just such
a 'now' photo? The mirrored self snapped by cell phone.
Something ... I like about this little composition. A surreality.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Vision Trees

direct link: Vision Trees

A time-lapse art video. I thought to paint some trees of significance to me for the Festival of the Trees which I hosted on my blog June 1st, and so hooked up the camera and recorded. The footage is sped up 1200%!

'One of the most beautiful pieces of art on earth is the bird's nest. Your video reminded me of a bird building her nest,' William, a Pastor who blogs, wrote. The sped-up video, ink, pen, paint, fingers, constructing the nest, the voiceover story, a nesting story - yes, I see it, and love the description.

The voiceover relates a tree story. The magnetism of certain trees. A story of my vision trees. About finding home through those trees. The voiceover is perhaps a bit loose - I begin by reading a piece and then just start talking - but I wanted something colloquial, expressing the extraordinary in the ordinary, a vision in a rambly monologue. It's a real story. I hope the way I've layered it into the video works for you.

This painting is my first landscape, maybe ever. I'm a figurative artist normally. But these trees are special.

The music is by dear Pierre-Marie Coedes, 'City night hubbub (instrumental)' from his album, "Lapses of Time." Pierre-Marie's music is a complex, sensitive interweaving of instruments and rhythms, and while eminently listenable, reveals riches on closer listening. Do check out his oeuvre at Jamendo.

A little on process. I began by photographing the trees, and sketched from them. Then I spent hours setting up my desk in my room, the video camera eventually tied to a monopod to a basket on top of a shelf. I had to run out to purchase a USB extension chord since the 10yo USB hub I was using took like hours to upload a half hour clip. Because set-up took so long, I mostly painted at night, hence the dark colouring on the skin tones, though I did white balance the footage in the video editing so the colours in the painting are good.

With the camera recording, I inked the trees in with some different coloured India and permanent acrylic inks with a dip pen, a couple of different greens in the sap/olive green range and some chocolate brown sepia. Even the sky is scratched in with a dip pen, using some gorgeous luminescent blues. Then I brushed an acrylic matt medium over the paper as a base  - a 300lb rag watercolour paper does not really need this base, but I like to give it that extra care before flooding it with water and oil paint. Yes, I paint with my fingers (all is now revealed!), but usually use a palette knife to score in 'negative space' lines in the paint. Due to the looming deadline for the Festival of the Trees, and wanting to get my submission ready, I scored the paper with my fingernails! It was wild. With hours of footage uploaded to my computer, I created a timeline and sped it up to about 13 minutes, and created a video file from this that I then further edited down to 8 minutes, added a title, credits, music, and a voiceover story. My mistake, I think, was to delete all 160GB of original footage before actually finishing the final version - even though I had a separately saved video file, Final Cut works by referencing. Whatever the cause, I had extreme technical difficulties saving a 1920 x 1080 HD video file converted for uploading to YouTube. Anyway, three days later I managed a 720HD version, that, at 3.5GB took YouTube 12 hours to upload, and am now only 4 days late for my own carnival!

A tree whose energy is perhaps conveyed by this image, with whom I feel a strong magnetic pull each time I pass. This tree played a part in my coming to live on the street you see here, I am sure.

Do you have a vision tree? Is there a tree, a tree who calls to you? Whose rhythms speak to you deeply. Whose energy resonates with yours. Is there a tree who has inspired you in your life, your spirituality, art, relationships, body? Remember this tree, the vision of this tree, whenever it was, or go there now, rest against the bark, listen to the wisdom.

My set-up for videotaping painting - how I shot the footage for the time-lapse art video. Camera -that little rectangular lit screen- is attached to a monopod that is tied with string to a desktop easel that is tied to a basket full of books. After noticing it in the photo, I did put a board under that lurching end and it was fine. The area is lit with two clamp-lamps with daylight bulbs. Not something I'd want to repeat too often, but after hours of trying this and that, with lots of adjustments, it seemed quite stable, and, more importantly, worked.

Vision Trees, 2011, 74cm x 56cm, 29" x 22", India inks, acrylic inks, oils, 300lb Arches watercolour paper.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Wedding Small Stones

The Festival of the Trees -60 took over my blog on June 1st, and what a fine festival! Luckily, it's not too late to post this call to participate in a wedding on the River of Stones by adding your own small stone to the celebrations.

Kaspa and Fiona are both on a mission to help the world connect with the world through writing. They are also getting married on Saturday the 18th of June.

For their fantasy wedding present, they are asking people across the world to write them a ‘small stone’ and send it using this form. You can also post the stone on your blog, or facebook or on twitter using the #aros hashtag.

A small stone is a short piece of observational writing – simply pay attention to something properly and then write it down. Find out more about small stones here.

This is their request, in their words:

If you’re willing to help, we’d love you to do two things:

1) Re-post this blog on your own blog any time before June the 18th and give your readers a chance to hear about what we’re doing. You can simply copy and paste the text, or you can find the html here.

2) Write us a small stone on our wedding day whilst we’re saying our vows and eating cake, post it on your blog, and send it to us.

You can find out more about our project at our website, Wedding Small Stones, and you can also read our blog at A River of Stones.

We also have a July challenge coming soon, when we’ll be challenging you to notice one thing every day during July and write it down.

Thank you for listening, and we hope we’ll be returning from our honeymoon to an inbox crammed with small stones, including yours.

Kaspa and Fiona

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Festival of the Trees - 60

Not that we are trying to project our consciousness everywhere, but there is an affinity. Trees speak to us. You might call this the genii loci, or indwelling spirit, or devi, or just the hum of the bark. Roots dig deep and branches reach like arms to the sun. Trees are natural worshippers. Look at them, brazen ringed wood and leaves breathing the planet clean.

There is no wedding like a tree in flower. Bouquets were born from the wishes of trees.

This month I had asked us to record an engagement with a tree or trees, preferably in video, but any form. To talk to the trees and bring back what transpired. This communing I knew would reflect us back to ourselves as we projected our way of seeing things onto the arborescent consciousness, and so that self-consciousness was part of it, seeing how we shape what we see. I also knew that what I was asking was a type of vision quest. For you to seek out the tree of your dream consciousness, the tree that is singing to you, or to tell us about a vision that involved communion with a tree. All this assumes a deep connection to trees, to an ancient archetypal forest wisdom that we are likely born with.

Bob, from Thunder Valley Drums writes: I just stumbled across your wonderful project and was particularly drawn to the "sound" portion of your call for entries. I make drums from lightning-struck trees, and in my tradition, this allows a tree to live again. Here is a link to a video I just put up a few days ago about it. Making a Lightning-Struck Drum.

The video is dramatically edited with an opening clip of lightning and a falling tree, and potent, the storm, the cutting of the fire struck tree, the drummer drumming the drum drumming thunder...

I so enjoyed your idea of creating a piece about our relationship with trees .... Stirling Davenport, whose blog is Dreaming Out Loud, writes, I actually made a few videos today on my walk. But this one was my favorite .... 

The simple clarity of this video is disarming. The structure of the video is almost like a poem itself. First, we are shown a view of the tree, this tree might be very old, Stirling surmises; then she stands with her back against the tree, feels its sap, as Native Americans suggest, you can feel its life, and go high in the branches to its treetop, and you can see from the tree's point of view; and then the poet, the woman, rests against the tree, who nests her, as she holds the camera towards herself for us to see the feelings passing across her face, and says, this tree has been here a long time ... before there were houses, and, as she listens, that the rain is coming. There is a sense of the extraordinary in the ordinary in this video, and an intimacy that we don't often see.

Jason Crane, of Poetry, Politics and Jazz. But mostly poetry, sent a link to a series of photographs he is compiling called, Buddha in the Modern World, and do take a look at them - they, too, are disarmingly wonderful. Here is an appropriate image for this month's Festival of the Trees, the Buddha in Central Park in New York City.

Dave Bonta, one of the founders of The Festival of Trees, sent a link to an animated video he had found describing the process of the strangler fig, and in an email thread said: Fun fact I learned at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew [in England]: the bo tree, under which the Buddha is said to have attained enlightment, is a species of strangler fig.
While I don't think quite the Bodhisattva bo tree, we can see how strangler figs can overtake forests in CreatureCast - Strangler Fig, narrated by Matt Ogburn, with artwork and editing by Sophia Tintori, and an original score by Amil Byleckie. Casey Dunn writes: the strangler fig first avoids having to sprout in the dark understory of the rainforest by growing in the tops of the trees closer to the sun, and then avoids getting too dehydrated up there by dropping roots to the forest floor. Finally it grows back up to the top of the tree, surrounding and strangling the host tree on the way, taking advantage of the tree's structural integrity to support its own hollow body.

Dick Jones, of The Patteran Pages, sent a perfect poem about a nature deity, a figure from whose face leaves sprout, including vines from the nostrils, mouth, vegetation that is often in flower. The Green Man, a sculptural or relief figure that adorns gates or buildings.



Trees are so certain, implacable,
even when fallen, each one
a manifesto proposing stillness

around a slow heart. Philosophers
out of the earth, they breathe
into the secret sky.

Where they reach with ease
and grace and find, I reach
to the sinew’s length then dream.

To be straight and unencumbered,
carrying the shifting cargo high,
neither offering nor withholding;

to lodge song and let it go;
to save in green and spend in gold;
to dance a frieze against the skyline;

to observe impassive like Hydra
from a thousand faces, each one
bearded, lidded, rimmed in leaves.

Suzi Smith, who blogs at Spirit Whispers, has composed her first video slideshow with a series of very beautiful photographs, among them pale green seed wings, and a voiceover that, as she wrote in an email, I winged it with the words. Goddess-Particle is the first recording of my voice since i was a kid, on the first slideshow i've made... and open to the public... with no edits, mainly cos i haven't worked out how yet!, and, while her voice is a little muffled, there is a sense of awakening, of speaking after a long time of silence. The whole video poem reminded me of first love.

Turning again to an ordinary videotaping of an extraordinary tree, the visceral sense of tree bark, climbing a gnarled live oak, close up, so real I can feel it under my fingers, smell the earth and wood. Rebecca, of Rebecca in the Woods takes us up the tree as if we were insects in three short videos (well under a minute), accompanied by a Carolina Wren. She writes: spiders, skinks, treefrogs… little things that can’t step back and admire the whole tree but experience its labyrinthine branches close up. Really close up. How about if I took some video clips of how a spider or skink sees things?

Speaking of oaks, and following the insect theme, here is a recipe for 'Spring Oak Leaf Wine,' where, we are told, by Jasmine, of Nature Whispers, to Wash the leaves in cold water removing all woody stalks, damaged leaves, caterpillars and other hedgerow stow aways (I found several green caterpillars and a black and red caterpillar of the White Ermine Moth).

The wine looks quite magical, and I'd love to try it midsummer night's eve, or Solstice eve, for I'm sure it would offer special arborescent visions.

Tree-Pot Teapots: David D. Gilbaugh writes that he listens to the sounds of the earth. Wind, breezes blowing grass and leaves, falling rock, water falls, thunder and lightning, falling rain; any sound the earth makes that I can hear. They are authentic sounds that can be felt kinesthetically and experienced as they take place in my presence in real time. These are my favorite sounds, the sounds of earth and life expressing itself. And that the act of creating a work of art... always involves relationship to something or between at least two things. At least one of those things always me. His sculptures are knotted, whorled pieces that, even if sculpted out of different materials, like paperclay, carry the imprint and energy of wisened trees, Gandalf trees, grandfather trees. Whether he's made a teapot (let me tell you, these are the receptacles for that oak wine on Solstice), or a lamp or a surreal imaginist sculpture, the magic of trees is everywhere. Because his images at Flickr are copyrighted, I can't copy an image of one of his pieces to show you, but do click on this link and delight yourself with rich imaginings as you view these unique pieces.

A.Decker, of A.Decker Art, writes: of Vision Trees, which immediately brought this gnarled old catalpa, still standing in Mom's front yard, to mind. I was Tarzan in this tree; I was an ape in this tree; a dinosaur; a dinosaur hunter. Sometimes I just climbed up as high as I could, just to be away... Yup, I spent a lot of my childhood, forming my imagination up in those limbs and leaves, so if I have a "Vision Tree" that has to be it.

What memories this wonderful drawing of the old catalpa has.

Another tree that evokes powerful childhood memories is the mango tree Beej writes of in his blog, The Green Ogre. Beej has titled his submission to FOTT, Assassins in the Garden: For 20 years the mango tree that my father planted had stood its ground. It took less than 20 hours to bring it down. And all of us were complicit assassins. Like his father, I, too, am an excessive mango lover -my memories rising from eating mangos off trees as a child in Africa. A sweet mango is heaven itself. The story Beej tells in a photo-essay is a painful one. The mango tree, from stunted beginnings, grew to give copious fruit, but a tree plunges roots, seeking out water veins. A crack in the wall of the sump demonstrated that our tree was rather thirsty. Roots were also wedged in the foundation of the house, threatening its durability. After years of painful procrastination, my father made a decision: The tree would have to go.

The photographs chart the death of the beloved mango tree, and the essay covers its breadth through the years to the last, sad day. Because they are copyrighted, I can't include an image here, but do go and read and look and ponder on the relationships we have with our trees.

Gregory Vincent St Thomasino, of E-ratio, sends a very sad link, a photo he en-scripted, The Anti-Christ is not a person, the Anti-Christ is an action.  He says, click on the sentence and it'll take you to the story. If you click on the photo you'll see the aftermath (but beware, it's upsetting). A tree that has been the focus of collective vision for two millennia.

A Holy Tree has been cast down by vandals,  the NPR article continues: Last week, vandals sawed the limbs off the Glastonbury Holy Thorn Tree, reducing it to a stump. The tree is thought by some to have ties to the earliest days of Christianity, and each year local children cut sprigs from it to garnish the Queen's Christmas dining table.

Legend has it that the thorn tree sprouted from the staff of St. Joseph of Arimathea after he arrived in England from the Middle East 2,000 years ago. Experts says this type of thorn tree usually lives for just 100 years, but Glastonbury residents have kept the line going by periodically taking clippings to plant new trees.

All is not lost, according to Tony Kirkham of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. He says of the tree: It will obviously be deformed but it will put grafts out next spring. The Holy Thorn Tree could recover in about 10 years.

The demise of trees, for whatever reason, is always a sad affair. And, yet, don't we all get cut down at some point in our lives, and then after we grieve, a small recovery begins, like little shoots...

Let's turn to an animated video of a tree who inspires us to be joyful. Michaela, of Ove Pictures, writes, we have recently made a small animated music video with the trees and we hope that it will be suitable also for your Festival of the Trees. Free To Be Me is simply delightful - happy, easy, inspiring, and the animation is superb...

Diego Stocco, 'a sound designer and composer,' who 'loves to create new sound experiences in unusual ways,' on Vimeo, writes, of his unique tree music, Music From A Bonsai: I always liked bonsai trees, and I was curious to try the approach I used for "Music from a Tree" on a smaller scale, so I bought a bonsai and recorded this little experimental piece.

To determine the key I used the lowest note I could play and recorded the rest around it.
Besides playing the leaves, I used bows of different sizes, a piano hammer and a paint brush.
As far as microphones I used my Røde NT6, a customized stethoscope and tiny MEAS piezo transducers.

I played all the sounds and rhythms only with the bonsai, I didn't use any synthesizer or samplers to create or modify the sounds. I hope you'll like it.

Hugh, of Rock Paper Lizard, takes us on a tour of the arboretum known as "The Crescent" in the heart of Vancouver, on the West Side, a bulls-eye among the old-money mansions of Shaughnessy,. The Crescent is a circular roadway, or a circle, in the centre of which is planted with many old and unusual trees

Silvia Hoefnagels, of Windy Willow, takes us through a musing on which trees to talk to as our theme this month is arboreal conversations. Her post is called, 'Tree Confabulation.' She writes, The first tree that came to mind was my willow, as it is always in motion, with that lovely gentle rustle of leaves. I love to stand inside its flowing branches and look out into the world beyond. There is a peacefulness in its embrace. Silvia also considers beeches, sunburst honey locusts, but decides to go out and chat with my willow this morning, but when I got outside, I had a different kind of confabulation. ;)

I simply love the wordless dance of this video, the bodily teaching of the willow, and its correlation to how to bend and sway in our emotions, in our openness to our lives. Something comforting, like a lullabye, about willows, at least when you talk to them (as I did) or are inspired to a poetry of motion, as Silvia is, and she lets her camera record this moment of communing....

Ingrid Nelson's photographs of trees in water are beautiful: 'Pavement Trees': Last summer I started shooting concrete and parking lots and dividing lines, fading paint and patterns. Alongside my compulsive inclination to take a photo of every tree branch I see, this contrast to the natural world was a break from the norm. With all the rain this winter, my eye was drawn into the glistening cement and of course...puddles. I am fascinated how my two worlds seem to magically intersect and become one dimensional galaxies both in reflection and in print. It's almost like tree trapping ... yet transient as we know that summer is just around the corner and these accidental worlds will exist no more.

Kathryn Esplin, who blogs on Gather, writes: Here is a pdf link not written by me, but about some famous trees in our area, that were ancient - between 400 and 900 years old, the famous Waverly Oaks, 23 white oaks that grew here until they were finally destroyed by ice and storms prior to 1920. Few huge and ancient tree stands existed in the US even in the 19th C. The giant sequoia trees are 2,000 years old and during the Mesozoic era circa 250 million years ago to 65 milion years ago, mega Flora like the Giant Sequoia redwoods of N. California were populous over the earth; today, these redwoods are upwards of 375 feet high.

And from Nora, a link called 'Make a Forest': ‘Make A Forest’ aims to raise awareness on environmentally sustainable forest management by creating a link between nature and culture. Imagine a cultural forest as diverse as a real forest, what will it look like? Cultural organizations and educational institutions around the world are invited alongside local artists, architects and designers to help create this virtual forest. It will take shape in 2011, the year declared by the United Nations as the Year of Forests. The platform will become the meeting place of all activities. Looks exciting!

And, lastly, my offering, 'Vision Trees.' For this Festival I thought to do a painting of some trees of significance to me and to make a video of the process, so hooked up my camera and set to work. The footage is sped up 1200% to create a time-lapse painting video. Afterwards I added voice: The voiceover relates a tree story. The magnetism of certain trees. A story of my vision trees. About finding home through those trees. The voiceover is perhaps a bit loose - I begin by reading a piece and then just start talking - but I wanted something colloquial, expressing the extraordinary in the ordinary, a vision in a rambly monologue. It's a real story. I hope the way I've layered it into the video works for you.

This painting is my first landscape, maybe ever. I'm a figurative artist normally. But these trees are special.

Vision Trees, 2011, 74cm x 56cm, 29" x 22", India and permanent acrylic inks, oil paints, 300lb Arches watercolour paper.

'One of the most beautiful pieces of art on earth is the bird's nest. Your video reminded me of a bird building her nest,' a Pastor who blogs wrote. I hadn't seen that. The sped-up video, ink, pen, paint, fingers, constructing the nest, the voiceover story, a nesting story - yes, I see it.

Nesting in our trees, perhaps we all nest in our trees.

Inspired by Dick Jones' The Green Man, a hint of what's to come next month, so start working on your submissions.

The next edition of the Festival of the Trees will be hosted at Via Negativa, and you can send submissions to Dave Bonta at (bontasaurus) at (yahoo [dot] com). The theme is open -- but since it's the 5th anniversary, Dave is especially interested in new discoveries about trees and forests, both scientific discoveries and those of a more personal kind.

from Macbeth (written around 1604-1608) by William Shakespeare, Act 5, Scene 5, pg 2:


           Thou comest to use
Thy tongue; thy story quickly.

           Gracious my lord,
I should report that which I say I saw,
But know not how to do ’t.

           Well, say, sir.

           As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
I looked toward Birnam, and anon methought
The wood began to move.

           Liar and slave!

           Let me endure your wrath, if ’t be not so.
Within this three mile may you see it coming;
I say, a moving grove.

Archeology of Water

This began with an image of memory scrawled in a notebook in April 2019 that I knew I would work with, either in a poem, or perhaps video. ...