Window Shrines of peace and love

So fellow travelers, one of my favorite photo “threads” running through the Bedlam Creative Group page is the window sill galleries. Jon Katz started the series a while back, honestly I don’t remember when but they struck an immediate chord.  Soon all sorts of wonderful gallery photos began showing up.

There is something spiritual about these personal spaces.  The symbolism in each is both global and intimate at the same time.  The comments posted always speak to the interconnection between us, how a flower evokes a certain memory or a figurine shares a common collector.

Growing up, window sills were to be kept clear for quick and easy cleaning.  Even single objects were seen as dust collectors.  As soon as I had my own space, I began creating window sill galleries. My college dorm room window didn’t have a window sill but I hung a little polka dot plant (botanical name hypoestes phyllostachya) in a pot from the curtain rods and stuck a plastic sun catcher on the window with a suction cup hook.

My first apartment had only one small window,  but it had strong wide window sill which I filled with small plants, some of my  favorite Japanese tea cups and a ceramic statute of Mickey and Minnie  Mouse shyly holding hands, a garage sale find that sadly didn’t survive the nomadic years of my 20’s.  My first house, which I am proud to say I managed to purchase as a single working woman, had lots of windows, but again, not many window sills although the kitchen did provide ample window space for small potted herbs. I rectified the problem by installing small shelves sitting on brackets under key locations. One of these I eventually relinquished to my cat who loved to perch among the plants looking out at the tiny back yard.  I relocated the plants,  velcroed some soft felt padding to the shelf and MomKat had her own little window sanctuary.

The house my husband and I have lived in for nearly 28 years does have wonderful window sills.  We bought the house soon after we were married ( as the realization that having only one bathroom was a serious detriment to martial bliss ) and have lived here ever since.  Almost every window has its own theme, a tradition both my daughters picked up.  When we had new windows installed I neglected to ensure the interior sills would remain wide enough.  I found other things to place in the new but narrower spaces.  Life is all about adapting to change.

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Currently my favorite window gallery is this one in my kitchen.  Yes there is a signature Mickey piece, one of my favorite Japanese sake cups and a bottle from our favorite hot sauce all framed by my favorite vase ( a mothers day gift)  and a new lucky bamboo plant.

I had not really thought of these visual arrays as “shrines” until Jon began posting his. As more people shared their window sill galleries and the stories behind them I began to realize how deeply spiritual these were. They speak of an Inner Faith without speaking to specific religions.   One of my favorites, includes a quote from the DaLaiLama.  It is a hallmark of the respect and openness within our group that not one person felt a need to instill their personal beliefs over the post ( and I know there are many who are quite traditional in their practice of faith. ) Every gallery is so unique and yet so many common themes run through this thread. It’s a glimpse into the harmonic convergence that really does exist in our world if we look for it.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

At the gate

So fellow travelers,  yesterday, Thursday June 26 at 1:35pm EDT  I stepped out of our high school’s backdoor and into the official beginning of my long awaited summer break.  I arrived home to find a slightly alarming post from our Bedlam Farm Creative Group mentor Jon Katz which read

“Not the end of the world. I’m not ready to leave the world yet, looks like some heart issues, lots of tests, it’s an exciting medical week, get it all done at once. I’m in the hospital. My doc freaked out a bit over the EKG. How exciting. Much to write about. My new friend Tara is taking blood and loving it. Nurse Ratched is on her IPhone giving instructions. My favorite email is from someone who asked if Simon is ok. She is worried about him.”

There is the signature humor which we love so much and of course a reference to our Group Guru, the beloved donkey Simon. Just a few days earlier an amusing thread evolved around Jon’s donkey kissing blog post .  Truth be known, Simon is as big a draw at the Open House as Jon and Red.  Red doesn’t mind as long as he gets to herd sheep,  Jon I think might be  just a tad jealous.

With a massive file of photos to sort through, half a dozen partially written poems and a growing page of notes generated by the experience of the weekend  I was anxious to begin the process of  writing.  Facing several days of year end assignments at work and a backlog of pond and garden neglect at home, I lacked the time needed to focus.  Somehow proctoring a four hour Latin exam kills the creative juices.  I tried to write  in the evenings, but found myself falling asleep at my computer cursed by the 5:30am wakeup routine. “Friday,”  I promised ,” after morning coffee and meditation by the pond, will be Bedlam posting day.”

Needless to say, Jon’s news on Thursday created an immediate response among the “Farmies”  as we have come to call ourselves.  Threads of support and offers of help ( including a renegade plot to bring Simon up for a visit.  Hey they have therapy dogs,  why not therapy donkeys right?) popped up immediately. In the true spirit of our mentor the comments were positive, encouraging, compassionate and funny.  Jon wrote last night how uplifting the support was for him and Maria.

M a r i a ….  Maria Wulf,  talented artist,  the earth mother of Bedlam Farm,  Jon’s spirited wife and the “Nurse Ratched” mentioned in Jon’s comments quoted above.  When I woke this morning  Maria was first  the thought to come into focus.

So as I filtered through my notes and photos considering what to write, where to begin, ever mindful of a fellow member’s advice to “keep bringing our good stuff here,”  and the group page began to scroll heartfelt posts like John Greenwood’s get well card post   I kept thinking about Maria.  She is Jon’s rock and those of us fortunate enough to see them together ( oh the click of cameras when the Royal Couple of Bedlam Farm stood alongside one another, like a paparazzi serenade)  felt the  blessing of their love.  It is real and gritty like the farm,  as intense as Red’s focus on the sheep, even somewhat daunting like Freida.  Jon often says Maria has opened his heart  (in fact his surgeons have said his heart is strong, his valves need some repair work) Just watching her with the animals it is clear how deeply she feels what cannot be spoken.

That’s the thing about being a strong woman.  The Bedlam Creative Group is full of them and we gravitate to one another.  We know to be a rock, you need a strong foundation, the support team that lets you cry when you need to, rant if  you have to, that bakes you some off the diet chart cookies and sees to it you eat them.  So while Maria stands by Jon in his new “opportunity to be well,”  there will be many Farmies (women and men)  waiting alongside her at the gate .

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

The persistence of pencils

So fellow travelers,  lots of photos and posts on the b.b.c. pages about this past weekend’s Open House at Bedlam Farm.  One caught my eye. Indeed,  I saw the pencil can Jon Katz refers to. It was at that moment sitting by a tree.

It stopped me in my tracks.

I lowered my camera,

because it made me  realize

two days earlier I really had said goodbye to one of my favorite students.

She left behind a pencil can of her own.

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The persistence of pencils  

 

Five years of  colorful memories

Catch phrases

Disney quotes

Words written in margins

Hidden feelings revealed

and pencils

so many, many pencils.

 

 

The Best Pickles in the World

So fellow travelers,  this is a picture of a jar of  the Best Pickles In The World.

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I can say this with certainty without having opened them because,  like life , these pickles are more about the journey than the end result*.

I acquired these miraculous pickles from my Roomate For Life, Kate Rantilla  during this weekend’s Open House at  Bedlam Farm, hosted by author Jon Katz and his wife, artist Maria Wulf.  Kate and I first met last September when we bunked together at the home of Tim and  Cathy Hoff  on our way to my first Open House at Bedlam Farm.  We hit it off like bread and butter (which incidentally is the variety of pickles she gave me)  so it was no surprise to hear from her shortly after Jon announced the dates for this years Open House Events.  Did I want to room with her again, this time at CTK Retreat center in Greenwich where several fellow members of the Bedlam Farm Creative Group would also be staying? Absolutely.

As plans began to unfold for the weekend, it was clear as excited as we all were to be visiting Bedlam Farm again, this year’s Open House weekend would be more about connecting with our fellow Bedlam Group members.  Jeff Anderson and his wife Laura  opened their home once again to us for a pre-event cookout.   Jon offered the Group a special time  for members to visit the farm to sketch and take photos and offered to join us in the mornings at the Round House Cafe breakfasts which grew out of a Facebook thread Kate and I started to gather ideas for meet-ups. Several group members, myself included went to Rupert UMC to hear Tom Atkins sermon as he led worship Sunday Morning.

At any given moment, in many locations on and off Bedlam Farm connections were being made between group members many of us meeting face to face for the first time.  First meetings that felt more like “cousins catching up at a family reunion,”  as one member described it.  We are old friends who’ve just met I kept saying.  We had so much to share and celebrate, like the publication of Jennifer Bowman‘s ebook  Finding the Trailhead.  Jon spoke several times to the public gathered at the Open House about what creating the  Bedlam Creative Group has meant to him, to us and in a broader sense to the world of social media.

From the first to final hugs I am still processing the impact of it all.  I know this much: if my first Bedlam Farm Open House was a starting point  for my creative spirit, then this weekend’s experience was a definitive turning point.  Over the next few weeks, I will be posting photos and writing about the layers of awakening I sense are evolving.  For now I know I have come home with a whole new family of creative cousins….oh yes and The Best Pickles in the World.

Walk gently on the path and may adventure find you ready my friends.

*Editors Note: In no way is this meant to imply the end result of Kate Rantilla’s pickling is not worth the journey.  Indeed we had her pickles at Jeff’s cookout and they are delish. I would travel anywhere with her to obtain more.

 

One

So fellow travelers,  sometimes one sign is all you need.

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There is only one

but it is beyond perfect

faith now visible

 

 

 

 

City in the Mist

So fellow travelers, as the weekend of the Bedlam Farm Open House draws closer I find myself waking in the early hours of morning with random anxious thoughts about not making the trip.  It’s rooted in past experiences ( as all anxiety is)  which I wrote about last year ( https://dhrahalski86.com/2013/09/08/all-good-things-vol-1/ )   The poem appeared out of the haze of an all too early awakening.

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City in the Mist

 

It appears

it seems on a whim

the faintest of outlines

on a distant shore

visible

yet unattainable

with no way to make passage

all boats sank long ago.

 

 

Unlike the poem, I have  faith I will reach my destination.

Photo note:  The image was taken on the shore on Onondaga Lake . I did some editing to bring out the city outline, trying to keep it just on the threshold of visible.

 

 

 

Getting from better to best.

“Do the best you can until you know better,  Then when you know better, do better.”  Maya Angelou

So fellow travelers,  since her passing last week Maya has been quoted a lot in posts and blogs I follow.  Reminding myself most people are doing the best they can is how I get through the challenges of working in special education at our small town high school, as well as volunteering for a dog rescue shelter. Reading the quote above reminded me to give myself the same latitude.

Since being accepted into the Bedlam Blog Collective I have been feeling the pressure of self imposed expectations to produce better writing and post more frequently. It’s created a bit of a block as nothing I have written lately gels as I wish.  I always have posts in edit mode because ideas come to me almost everyday. I do not currently have the blessing of time every day to write or work on my photography projects.  I am also the parent of a marching band musician and spring parade season is in full swing;  if you are or ever have been a band parent, you get it;  if  you haven’t there’s no way I can explain. These are not excuses,  they are the parameters of my life right now.  Maya has kindly reminded me I do the best I can.

So I grab opportunities when I am able and one such chance presented itself last week. While my daughter was at an audio engineering class in a hipster downtown area known as “Armory Square” I brought my camera to work on a few photography assignments.  I am simultaneously trying to learn new shooting techniques with a new DSLR camera and a variety of lenses.  Here are some of the result of my efforts.

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The River Dragon is a sculpture located by a creek which runs through downtown. It is currently surrounded by decidedly unphotogenic protective fencing.  So I made the best of the circumstances….

here is the “fill the frame” assignment image

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and here is an image for the assignment called  “shooting into the sun”   the tip of the dragon’s tail  which also looks like a torch.

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Walking around, the rooftop of the MOST caught my eye.  It’s an interactive Museum of Science and Technology housed in the former armory building (hence the name “Armory Square).

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After I submitted the image to the workshop page, our instructor Jeff Anderson described it as “compression or foreshortening, where objects at different distances are flattened against each other.”  At the time all I knew was the image intrigued me.  I had to switch lenses to capture the effect I was seeing. I am always excited to understand more about why some images have impact.

Another image for “shooting into sunlight”

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They are the rooftops residents of the Red House studio and art space where my daughter takes lessons.

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My writing may be on haitus,  but my creative eye is picking up speed.  Just reminding myself I am doing the best I can and as I learn, I can and will do better. Being in this creative collection is like “a Key to an unknown door” as poet and fellow BBC blogger Tom Atkins wrote about here   http://quarryhouse.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/poem-unexpected-art/

 

Photo note:  with the exception of some cropping and additional of  text for photographer credit, the shots are all SOOC

Walk with hope on the trails my friends and may adventure find you ready.