Sunday, September 27, 2015

pietra viva: living rock

pietra viva
isaiah 26:4

we circle, like swifts
scattered at first
calling for our own
then gather in ever widening
vortex before--initated
by one--we dive, spill
into the opening in the
cling to the sides and


ls 9.21.15

Saturday, September 19, 2015

portland timbre

where else but portland can you walk down the street with a marmalade and olive oil ice cream flavor named after the new orange light rail line?

and where else can you cross the street to find a group spontaneously singing only to find out they are your own local portland treble makers? (this is a photo of ian).

these guys are good!  i overheard them doing a sort of sidewalk audition for a local producer and a friend of theirs handed us a business card.

for more go to portland timbre

migration of the swift

added to my "list of things to do in portland" is the annual swift migration.  every year from september 1-30th since 1982 thousands of swifts make their way to chapman elementary school's chimney in nw portland to roost for the evening.

swifts, difficult to distinguish from swallows and bats, have unique tail "hooks" that enable them to roost vertically.  later in october they will start migrating south to mexico, guatemala and western honduras.

vaux swifts are named after william sansome vaux (1811-1882) an american mineralologist and friend of john kirk townsend, a noted orinthologist of the day.  townsend first described the vaux's swift for science and named it for his friend.  the scientific name is Chaetura vauxi.

and what an event!  people ate cheese and bread while children slid down the hill on cardboard, all anticipating the vortex of birds.  at first a few flitted by and then seemed to fly in large circles, gathering and gathering until they began to fly in a coordinated whorl.  the swifts circled until one finally took the lead down into the chimney.  they poured in to the cheers of all gathered.

an especially sweet fact about this event is that in 2001 the chapman school heating system was converted from oil to natural gas with a new chimney installed for the gas furnace which preserved the old chimney especially for the swifts.  the audobon society has been instrumental in educating chapman students and staff to better understand their avian neighbors who have chosen them as the largest swift roosting site in the nation.

pictures and progress

my brain loves connections.  especially the kind i could never come up with on my own!  i am compelled to tell you what i learned this week and, more importantly, how the sequence of events came together.

i was reading in "the rise:  creativity, the gift of failure and the search for mastery" by sarah lewis.  in the chapter about beauty, error and justice, she described frederick douglass and his efforts to abolish slavery.  along with abraham lincoln during civil war times, douglass sought justice.  rather than employ more violence, douglass believed in the power of an image to speak to people.  he elaborated on this idea in his 1863 speech "pictures and progress", saying that man is essentially the only picture-making creature and that artists, poets and reformers can use pictures to show what is in light of what ought to be, therefore inspiring people to bridge the gap between the two.  his examples were overcrowded slave ships and actual slaves, giving them names and faces.  lewis went on to talk about what happens to us when we are transfixed by such an image.

later in the evening, this very thing happened to me!  while online, i chanced to come across an image related to the work of photographer brian sokol entitled "the most important thing".  sokol has photographed modern-day refugees holding their most treasured item.  one woman's face imprinted on my mind and i sat tansfixed--as i had read about earlier in the day--by this image.

it is of 22 year-old dowla barik, a refugee from south sudan pictured with two of her six children.  her shoulder basket is her most important thing because it enabled her to carry all of her children in rotation when they became too tired to walk on their own. she carried them two at a time in such a way for ten days.
it reminded me of another poignantly symbolic image:  that of lady justice.  even though being forced to leave her home is unjust in the extreme, i see in dowla's posture and countenance a certain kind of strength and peace; happiness even at being able to save her children. the child to her right looks up at her adoringly, while the other gazes into the camera.

 i couldn't help but wonder what else the refugees behind the photos were thinking.  what if i had been born in dowla's place and she in mine?  what do you see in her face and how else might we use the power of pictures for common good?

Monday, September 14, 2015

literary arts

i just discovered oregon public broadcasting's literary arts archive project. i really enjoy listening to authors talk about their books and ideas, and the tickets are worth it, but when i can't otherwise afford to attend those events, this means i can listen to great authors speak for free!

"...the archive project features lectures by the world's most influential writers, artists and thinkers.  with over 250 original lectures by the most creative and articulate minds of our generation, these discussions offer special moments between world-famous authors and our local literary community."

three ways to listen:  1) tune in to opb radio wednesdays at 9:00 pm 2) listen online at 3) stream on iTunes by searching for "literary arts".

(if you listen to one and feel like commenting here on my blog, we could start an online literary discussion!)

tilikum crossing

portland has a new bridge!  tilikum crossing, a cable-stayed pedestrian and light rail bridge, opened saturday along with a new orange max line.  it's the first bridge in our city since 1973 at 180 feet tall and 1,720 feet long. 

the name tilikum is chinook for people, family or friend and honors the tribes who lived here as well as joining the west and east sides of the city in new ways. 

i went to the opening light show and the colors are timed to the river's temperature, speed and depth.

what an example of functional AND beautiful!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

autentica toscana and other galavanting episodes

and now i dare you to read this entry without drooling!  i took myself on a progressive italian evening and did as europeans do:  ate smaller quantities of high quality food slowly.  as much as i love to share experiences (and plan to return with friends!) it is also fun to dine alone because then focusing on the meal is your sole task.

i approached the door to burrasca just as the waiter was flipping the sign from chiuso (closed) to aperto (open).  i ordered a double espresso with milk at a corner table where i could watch the kitchen.  the gnocchi  was divine.  so heavenly in fact, that i took care with each of them as if they were the only one.  i cut them into quarters and twirled them in the sage butter like a holy ritual.  i took at least 20 minutes to eat seven of them in this fashion.

as i left, i found the chef (pictured here with my very meal) and told him, "this probably isn't my last meal on earth, but if it was, i would die a happy woman.  you know how to cook!"  at which he patted his heart and said, "ah, that means so much that you would say so!"

it was only fitting that i would drive a few blocks to another autentica toscana experience for dessert at pinolo gelateria whose owner is also italian.  pistachio, hazelnut and chocolate together in one place?  sigh.  yes, it's true.

it's fun to plan theme-based galavanting.  what do you most want to do and i'll plan it for you?!

beethoven meets baptiste

a musical duo i've just learned about brings fans of both beethoven and jay z together under one roof!

kevin sylvester and wil baptiste have performed together for over ten years.  in their act "black violin", the classically-trained violin and viola duo fuse elements of hip-hop and classical music along with rock, r & b, and bluegrass.

i dare you to watch the following video without dancing along!  black violin's "brandenburg" video

hey marseilles

i've found a great band i want to watch grow up:  hey marseilles.  a group of five guys from seattle, they interchange vocals, guitars, keyboard, viola and cello seemingly effortlessly and have a lot of fun in the process.

i heard them at mississippi studios and the opening band was a group from los angeles called wildling who also had some fun rhythms going on.  i would say as a crowd, we were a fairly clean-cut group of all ages, ranging from 20-somethings to retirees, which i found to be an interesting aspect of the event.

turns out the lead singer for hey marseilles is the cousin of a friend of mine, so that was a fun small-world connection too.

i think my favorite part of their music was the interchange of the strings.  i found myself mesmerized watching the cellist's fingers and identifying with the violist as he and his instrument danced together.

for more about them, see

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

black beauty

it's been fun to reread an old classic that i discovered as a girl:  black beauty by anna sewell. (most recently snatched from our school library in a book-less fit of desperation!)  i wish the back cover said more about the author.  it states only that she was, "...born in 1820 in norfolk, england.  black beauty:  the autobiography of a horse was published in 1877; sewell died in 1878.  *it was her only book."

*personally, i think it's great that a woman in the 1800's published a book at all; i know i for one would be happy to author even one novel.  given that she lived 58 years, i hope she enjoyed knowledge and celebration of publication in her 57th year.

that the novel is from the perspective of the horse is part of what makes it classic to me.  black beauty narrates all manner of thing i've wondered about horses, including what it was like for horses in wars, something i've always cared about, wishing more credence was given to them in that regard.

sewell obviously understood horses and that comes through in her writing.  reading it for a second time made me want to know more about her and her equestrian skills...i also wish she wrote a sequel!  if you could pick one book from your childhood to reread, which one would you choose?