Saturday, March 31, 2012

still-sound 55. Salt

This is a porcelain bowl I made, decorated with copper on the rim.  I think I'll use it as a salt bowl.  I used it once already, dissolving salt into water and soaking a crystal in the solution to cleanse it.  I heard that you're supposed to do this with crystals.

From now on though I will pour a little mound of salt in the center and keep the bowl on the table when I eat.  Yesterday I got a little wooden spoon from Tortoise General Store on Abbot Kinney in Venice.  A friend told me that I would love this shop, and it's true.  I love it.  When I got home I placed the spoon in the salt bowl and it fit perfectly.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

still-sound 54. TM

I found this on a walk this week.  It must have fallen
from a tree and cracked open.  I like the heart inside.

I watched a program on Oprah's channel this week about an entire town in Iowa dedicated to Transcendental Meditation.  There are two domed buildings where residents of the town convene twice a day to silently meditate.  There is a school where all the students, even the little ones, meditate.  Oprah mentions that the crime rate is virtually nonexistent.  The people who move here subscribe to all religions - their dedication to Vedic meditation is what they all have in common.  TM is not a religion, it's a practice.  A quiet focusing of the mind.  I like to think of meditation as a method leading us closer to the Source - the elimination of all imaginary boundaries that separate us from each other and the rest of the universe to realize that everything is interconnected and interdependent.

I am exhilarated by this town's existence.  Although there are countless religious people in America, our culture is by and large spiritually starved.  I'm troubled by the me vs them attitude that pervades every aspect of American life.  I feel that the compassion organ in our country has been surgically removed.  Fifty million people without healthcare anyone?  Too bad...  Stripping the planet of resources to satisfy a grotesque compulsion to acquire possessions (for the sake of acquiring) at the grave expense of future generations and the earth itself?

There's an area of this town in Iowa where 800-1000 young men from India live and meditate all day.  Their intention is to will world peace.  Imagine that - a focused commitment to the improvement of the collective rather than the self.  Times 800+.  It seems like a human power-plant, located in the very center of the country, generating energy fields of love.  Oprah loved this.  So did I.  I feel that if Allen Ginsberg were alive, he'd love it too.

I think deep-meditators create fields of synchronicity.  A couple of years ago I spent some time researching crop circles in Wiltshire, England.  I wanted to approach the phenomenon as an art historian, contextualizing the ornate field patterns in the tradition of land art.  That the artists behind these works remain anonymous presents a refreshing alternative to the celebrity-artist and fetishized authorship.  Where as most celebrated land art can be viewed as the control of nature executed by a man-with-a-plan, the crop circles seem to just appear as (a decidedly witty) part of nature.  There is no name behind the piece and no exchange of money (this to me is the most radical aspect of the crop-circles-as-art approach).  Art without money?  What?

I read an intelligently written article about crop circles online.  I jotted down the author's name, hoping to meet her one day and have a chat.  A two-sentence biography at the end of the article revealed that the author taught Vedic Meditation in Los Angeles.  The next day a man walked into the perfume store where I work, hoping to find some nice fragrances that wouldn't interfere with his students' concentration.  He happened to be a teacher of Vedic Meditation.  I mentioned the crop circle article.  He knew the author very well.  He was her teacher.  He gave me her email address and encouraged me to contact her.  When I did, she did not seem surprised by the coincidence.  "Deep meditators like Will attract synchronicities like that" she explained.*


Can you even imagine this town in Iowa?  I'm sure it's not some idyllic shangri-la.  Nothing is.  They're not even doing anything that remarkable - they simply sit in silence twice a day, quieting the mind, perhaps fostering a sense of compassion.  Yet, it seems so foreign, radical and ultimately essential.

*The author turned out to be Amely Greeven, a brilliant writer and remarkable person.  I highly recommend her essays and book. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

still-sound 53. Sugar snap peas & Ina Garten

I noticed my friend Laura snacking on raw sugar snap peas the other day.  I pinched one from her and liked it.  I would have never thought to eat them as a snack - I'm more of a cookie person as much as I like the idea of being a raw vegetable snacker.  This week I bought some organic sugar snap peas from Trader Joe's and have been happily eating them.  I put a handful in a stoneware bowl I made with a shino glaze.  If Ina Garten came over to my house I would have a bowl like this sitting on a counter and offer her some.

I had such a funny dream last night.  I dreamt that Ina Garten was my neighbor.  She came by with a shopping cart full of perfumes and said that I should keep them because she "never uses them".  There were three enormous display bottles of Annick Goutal perfumes, like the kind you would see in a department store.  I recognized two of them but not the third - I was excited by the prospect of sniffing the discontinued scent.  I also found an old Diptyque room spray in a bottle that looked very 1980s, not at all like the modern bottle.  I thought to myself, "she really doesn't use this stuff." 

I found a roll of tape in the shopping cart.  It had printed instructions on the back of the box.  It was a scented tape made by Prada that was meant to be wrapped around your suitcase when you travel.  There was an illustration of a suitcase (maybe Prada) wrapped in the the designer perfumed tape, in a criss-cross pattern.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

still-sound 52. The Rite of Spring

Today is the Vernal Equinox.  The sun is at its zenith over the equator.  I had read that on this day, a raw egg will stand up without toppling over.  I tried it and it's true.  For pagans, today is Ostara, the celebration of spring's renewal.  Ostara is the name of a goddess.  I like that an egg, the symbol of feminine-derived new life will do unusal, fancy things today.

The Rite of Spring performed by the Bolshoi Ballet. Photography by Vasily Maiseenok

When I was a teenager I became a little obsessed with Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.  The piece begins with a solo bassoon meandering along a simple path. Eventually dissonance and complex rhythms take over and the piece becomes violent and seemingly anarchic like a springtime storm.  The audience was so shocked at the debut in Paris, 1913 that a riot ensued within the theater.  99 years later it's funny to a imagine such a reaction to a ballet and piece of music.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

still-sound 51. What I saw...

on a walk earlier this week.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

still-sound 50. Fortune Teller

As above so below.  I've been drawn to these words for quite some time - they've become something of a mantra for me.  They're associated with Hermeticism and the Western esoteric tradition.  To understand the microcosm is to understand the macrocosm and vice versa -- a fractral approach to understanding existence.  I considered having these words tattooed on my arm but instead chose drawings associated with alchemy.

A few weeks ago I had an electrifying conversation with a new friend, Brittany.  The more we talked, the more it became apparent that we had many similar interests.  We decided to continue our chat over beers at Mohawk Bend.  The main topics that filled the air over our pizza included clairvoyance, Japan, out-of-body experience and dogs. She described a particularly insightful meeting she had with a gifted medium named Chassidy.  I'd been interested in finding a clairvoyant for quite a while but felt that a certain amount of synchronicity would be required. It seemed almost pointless to pursue. When Brittany mentioned that she had her meeting at the House of Intuition, only a block away from where we were sitting, supping pints, I took my cue almost immediately and scheduled an appointment for a reading.

I didn't anticipate being so nervous walking up the stairs leading to the house.  A woman who genuinely smiled with her entire face led me to a dark room and misted the air with the scent of palo santo.  I meditated alone for several minutes, the led lights on the cd player softly reflecting colored spots on the wall.  The woman with the smile reentered and ushered me into an inner room where Chassidy sat at a table waiting for me.  I sat down and she asked me to tell her my full name and birth date.  She looked down into her lap for thirty seconds, her fingers gently curving around the crystals sitting in the palms of her hands.  She started to relay the messages that entered her head.

She talked about my ancestors.  She described the dynamics I currently had with those closest to me.  She talked about my father and my eyes filled.  We both spoke quietly.  We had matching smiles, the kind you have when you cry.  

She talked about my fascination with magic and alchemy not only in this life but in past ones as well.  I laughed and told her how the arm under my thick sweatshirt was covered with alchemical symbols.  Chassidy desribed my life in detailed archetypal imagery.  Her messages sounded familiar and in several instances uncanny.  After thirty minutes the woman with the smile knocked on the door which signalled that the reading was drawing to a close.  The clairvoyant and I thanked each other and smiled for the last time before I left.

When I got home I looked up the significance of the Magician tarot card.  I read its Wikipedia entry.  This is something it said:   He embodies the lesson of "as above, so below", the lesson that mastery in one realm may bring mastery in another.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

still-sound 49. Birthday Pug

Eight years ago today a she-pug bore a litter of pups in Epsom, Surrey.  Several weeks later Rob and I took one of the pups home and named her Rosie.  She was a charmer from the start, climbing up my chest to lick my chin on our very first meeting.  She did the same to Rob.  This dog likes to lick - it's her thing.  She also likes to sunbathe, eat cheese and sit on my lap.

Happy birthday my trusty, monkey-face girl!  You have a morsel of cheese coming your way.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

still-sound 48. Swingers

There's a collection of matches in my junk drawer.  I can't resist pocketing a nice matchbook if it's offered.  It's my childish desire to have souvenirs.

I found the Swan matches at the flat in London as I cleaned around the fireplace.  This was the last time I was  there, in fact  I was cleaning to make the place presentable for the next inhabitants.  I don't remember having ever bought the matches.  I like them because they remind me of London.

I like the Swingers Diner on Beverly Boulevard because it reminds me of LA.  Whenever I would visit Los Angeles as a tourist from London I would eat there.  I still like to eat there.  The female servers wear thigh high boots and look as though they are auditioning for a remake of Faster Pussycat Kill Kill.  They have Betty Page haircuts and their arms are covered in tattoos.  There seem to be different people working each time I visit, but they mostly all have the same look.  There is a bowl by the front door full of Swingers matches.  Along the top it reads "Ass, cash or grass - nobody eats for free!"  I like the bravado in this statement.  I wonder what they would think if I offered to pay for my tuna melt and fries with one of the non-cash payment options.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

still-sound 47. Shakuhachi

I found a very old recording of shakuhachi music.  Hissy, scratchy white noise provides the background to the breathy flute playing.  This music sounds natural to me.  It was never meant to be notated on a scale so the rhythm and tones are unstructured and spontaneous.

There is one track I like best.  It's a duet and to me, resembles two birds talking.  The voices respond to each other and together tell a story.  They swoop, dip and dart, slowly and purposefully.

In one episode of At Home With Venetia in Kyoto, Venetia visits with her friend Uwe.  He's originally from Germany and plays the shakuhachi flute.  He describes the instrument's sound as earthy.  The two of them chat with each other like the birds in my favorite duet.

I wrote down the name of this song on a card I bought from Smythson many years ago in London in a January sale.  The card came in a pack of five with matching envelopes.  I didn't know back then that I would have a bee just like the one on the card eventually tattooed on my arm.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

still-sound 46. Air

I had the day off from work today so I took an extra long walk with Rosie in the morning.  The air seemed especially clear.  So much so that everything looked brighter, every color more saturated and vivid.  It reminded me of when I was a kid and skipped school for whatever reason.  Everything, including the light looked different.  Brighter.  I suppose the midday light was brighter compared to the dusky glow that lit my return home from school in the afternoon.  I never noticed the brightness on the weekends though, only days when I was supposed to be in school.

When I returned home from my walk with Rosie I lit a stick of Hyofu incense by Yamada Matsu and meditated.  Rebecca, a doctor I know from San Francisco bought this incense for her husband since he likes ethereal scents.  I was intrigued.  I found very little online about this incense.  What few descriptions I did manage to scramble up mentioned its delicacy and nuance.  After several burnings of Hyofu I've decided to describe it as the scent of air.  Maybe the air around a small body of water.  A stream or a pond, certainly not an ocean.

Hyofu incense by Yamada Matsu

In French "avoir l'air de...." means to resemble something.  It literally means "has the air of"  as though one's presence actually changes the surrounding air.  I suppose it does.

Air de Paris, Marcel Duchamp, 1919, Archives Centre Pompidou

There's a commercial I keep seeing on tv.  It's for an air freshener.  It shows a man wandering through a field of blue flowers.  He's dressed like a field scientist and carries around a glass jar so that he can fill the vessel with a fragrant air specimen and bring it back to the lab for observation.  I presume a team of scientists opens the jar and is instantly transported to the field of flowers.  They then reproduce their scent impressions in aromachemicals and pthalates for Glade.*

*Since writing this post I've seen the commercial again.  It's for Airwick, not Glade.  Not only does the field scientist obtain a scent specimen in the field of blue flowers, he also takes one against a sunset background.  Presumably the air smells like sunset.