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After the draw down

Shipley Swamp Looking toward Nabnasset Lake, across the beaver pool

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Aurora and I saw Sunny Killoran with her group Sunny and Her Joy Boys at the Ecotarium in Worcester last Friday evening. The group was founded by Duke Robillard, a guitarist who I had not heard of before but I’m glad I know about him now. He apparently has a wide following and is the soul of the group (or so it seemed to me). The band was wonderful and Duke’s playing is great. The sound of the Joy Boys is like that of D’jango Reinhardt, the Gypsy Guitarist of the thirties.  Paul Kolesikow played rhythm  guitar and Jesse Williams was on standup bass so the group swung continuously in the same mode as D’jango’s group did. Billy Novick played alto sax and clarinet. Billy has a sweet sound and harmonized well with Sunny’s brilliant vocals — his solos made us want to hear more. What a fine group — all that was missing was  Stéphane Grappelli’s violin!

 Sunny really sang the blues! She sang some Billy Holiday numbers and channeled Billy beautifully. Her voice is gorgeous and well trained, and/but she sings with lots of feeling; her phrasing is exquisite. Light when the song is light and deeper, more emotional when the song and lyrics call for it. I loved all the songs she sang but “You’re my Trill” and ‘Travelin’ All alone” are favorites. The band swung in a relaxed yet vibrant way, as if the entire affair was effortless. What a treat to hear those great songs performed so well. We are looking forward to another evening of Sunny’s music very soon.

We bought the debut CD of Sunny and Her Joy Boys and have played it a lot already. Go to their web page for details.

 http://www.myspace.com/dukerobillardpresentssunnyandherjoyboys

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Winter cold seduces. If you fall on the ice you go down in cold onto cold. The texture of everything is cold. I walked down to the lake yesterday. Put things on my boots to prevent falling. Took camera. Heavy coat, scarf, gloves.

No dog, though.

Lad died last September. Seems like a hole in my life now. I haven’t written about him because it is hard to do. He was my friend and companion for 15 years. Especially  on walks. 

In the cold Lad would sometimes complain because of ice in between his toes. Too cold. We’d go back early. In the last couple of years he didn’t want to walk very far, but he always wanted to walk. Even if he would turn around in ten minutes he was excited at the start. 

Lad was 15 years and 3 months old when he died. He never gave us any problems and wasn’t very sick until the weekend before the monday when he dies at home in his bed. Just had trouble breathing for a while and then passed away. 

Now I walk without my dog. Thing is when we got him it was for Maria but also to help me get out for exercise more often. For most of his life he did a good job helping me and loving Maria. He was gentle and smart. Sensitive and aware of what his humans were up to. He wanted to understand and usually it seemed he did.

He hated to be put in the kennel. So when we got the Colby Pet Service to come and take care of him in our home, he seemed to know immediately that this time when we left him it would be different. He didn’t try to come with us in the car that first time, but just waited for Dave to come and take care of him. Dave had visited once to meet him and see our home. So when we left instead of complaining and trying to come with us he just sat in the chair that was his and waited. When Dave got there he said later that it was almost as if Lad expected him. I’m certain that he knew what was up and did expect Dave to come around to see him.

Here is one of my favorite photos of Lad. He is scruffy because we are out in conservation land and he has gotten into some mud, but I love the inquisitive look as if to say — so, are you coming? Where we going next?

 

Are you coming?

Are you coming?

Lad and I had different interests in the woods. He couldn’t see the landscape, I couldn’t smell the forest floor as he did. But together we covered it all pretty well. Of course if there was a coyote or turkey nearby he would notice way before me. 

Now when I go into the woods I feel as if I’m half a person. Getting another dog may be what we do later, Now its too soon and we need the extra space so to speak. We still may change houses in the next couple of years (but it seems unlikely in this market) and getting a new dog integrated and up and running will take time and energy. So for now — no dog.

But I don’t know if I can stand it.


A boardwalk through the marshes on Plum island.

Marsh Loop, Plum Island

Sorry I haven’t written a new blog entry for a while. Last time I was in a bad mood over the long winter, now I’ve been busy with Spring.

So what’s going on? Well, I formally left the Baha’i faith fifty years almost to the day I declared my belief at fifteen in 1958. I also joined a cooperative art gallery in Newburyport and sold three prints during my first weekend there. Website: http://bridgegallerynewburyport.com/

Maria, my youngest daughter is graduating from college and preparing to start graduate school this fall. We attended her thesis presentation and she was as her professor said, ‘perfect.’ Aurora and I are enjoying our membership in First Parish Church United in Westford. Lad is going to turn 15 next month, he has the wise old dog look as if he is seeing into the world of mystery and spirit.

My grown daughters are living their lives and I hope are happy. Aida is settling in to a new job while also doing well with painting and consulting. Robin and I had a great visit in March and she seemed so relaxed and happy — I hope she continues to be that way. I haven’t heard from my eldest free spirit, Dawn for a while — I hope she is well and happy. (Sent Robin and Dawn Mom’s day cards — they each have done wonderful work in raising their kids — many thanks to them and the universe for that!)

My Grandchildren are growing up — Jack has a new job, Eddy is teaching Freshman English and doing well in graduate school, Shaylyn is thinking of going to college on the East Coast — yeah!! — and Elliot is growing up and enjoying his new school (how I miss them all!) Shay paid us a visit in April and it was such a treat. She is so delightful to be with and I think she had a good time as well. Visited RISD and some art schools in Boston. I hope she picks one next year.

Meanwhile politics, local and national, marches on in its surrealistic way. Extremists abound. Mean spirits continue to rule and the rest of us rue the day. Yet our problems are not petty nor mean. They are the result of our success as a species. Its pretty clear that what is needed is for us to grow up and quickly. It is human nature itself that is challenged and needs to evolve — with great rapidity – if that’s possible.

While I feel very good — liberated — about the Baha’i decision, I think it a shame the Baha’i faith hasn’t had greater impact. Some of what the Bahia’s teach is good medicine. But its such a stew of mixed and contradictory beliefs and behaviors that in good conscience I can’t call myself a Baha’i. Greater impact would stir some of the questions that need asking now — I don’t hold hope that Baha’i has all the answers but questions? Yes it offers many.

I saw Karen Armstrong speak at a TED conference recently. She was receiving an award and gave a wonderful talk. From the TED website: (Armstrong) “talks about how the Abrahamic religions — Islam, Judaism, Christianity — have been diverted from the moral purpose they share to foster compassion. But Armstrong has seen a yearning to change this fact. People want to be religious, she says; we should act to help make religion a force for harmony. She asks the TED community to help her build a Charter for Compassion — to help restore the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine.”

The thoughts from this talk that have stayed with me include the conclusion that religion is not primarily about beliefs; rather its about behavior. I suppose the beliefs are a means of encouraging certain behaviors. Another lasting thought is that the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) all have the virtue of Compassion at their core — embodied in  the Golden Rule. Simple. Makes me wonder why the religions have gotten so complex. (Maybe its because as Karen says, “the Golden Rule is difficult.”

Here is a link to the talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/234

For me the problem with religion is that most of ’em claim to offer the infallible word of God. If you need to know what to do and you are religious you can look it up in the holy book. Of course this breaks down at times (often) and then the believers need to come up with logic that explains away the contradictions, logical fallacies, and misinformation. I think that only if we keep things simple — the golden rule, the four noble truths, “Love one another as I have loved you” — there is hope.

Most faiths act as if they had the only or ultimate truth. Baha’i says — all religious are true but ours is truer because its the latest revelation from God. Seems simple — but its a dangerous and divisive attitude. The concept that God progressively reveals more truth over time to meet the needs of each age seems simple too. But its simplicity precludes the problem solving and truth finding that we need to do in our lives as we follow our own unique path.

This is what drew me to the church we recently joined. It is affiliated with Unitarian/Universalist and through them with the teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I get much wisdom and pleasure from his writings. His advice is to listen to one’s inner voice, to intuition. He advises us to not seek the truth in books but in our own ‘genius’ — that is the spirit within. A kind of contradiction because I am seeking wisdom in books of his. At least Emerson doesn’t claim to be the voice of God!

The UU approach implies that truth can be found in many places, sacred and secular. I think this is good advice. Also the rejection of the belief that certain historic figures were unique and were incarnations or direct voices of God is good. As Emerson taught, the same source of truth that Christ had we may have as well. Christ set an example of how to find that source and we would do well to emulate it. But to worship him as God or nearly God or God’s only son is rejected. I agree. And I also reject the infallibility of Baha’ullah and the others in Baha’i who claim it because no one born of flesh was ever infallible. Worth following? Possibly. Infallible? Not possible.

I hope to write in this blog more often. I’ll get back to being more specific and reporting events that might interest others — like apparently skunk cabbage — one of my readers (or I guess searchers/googlers) most favored subjects strangely enough.

Meanwhile enjoy the springtime and let me know your thoughts if you want.


Corn Field in Snow

Corn Field in the Prospect Hill Conservation Land, first week in December 2007

I raise my pelvis to God
so that it may know the truth of how
flowers smash through the long winter.
(Anne Sexton (1928-1974), U.S. poet. “The Fierceness of Female.”)

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Over and over, year after year, the flowers need to smash through. This spring it might be a little more difficult. We have had and are still having an old-fashioned New England winter. It snowed last night on March 28th, a week into spring, and then turned to rain. I went out to take photos to record the event before the precipitation stopped. But now low and behold, it’s snowing again, coming down pretty good.
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Cider Mill In snow
The Trail to Cider Mill Conservation Land on March 28th, 2008
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Of course before we had spring and winter snow we had fall snow in early December. Anyone thinking of moving south?
Along the Trail 12-4-08
Boulders Along the Trail – First Week of December, 2007

Burges Pond Fall 2007This is my best Canon G9 image yet. I’m very pleased with it.Shot in jpeg still it responded well to post processing in PS CS II. I’m working on my Westford Regional Art Event entries and of course next years Westford Conservation Trust calendar.The photo was taken in Westford’s East Boston Camps conservation area. The pond is Burges Pond, a lovely one in the middle of the 300 acre conservation land. Its clear and clean and very natural despite use by boys and girls camps for about 40 years.Please let me know if you like this one. I really do.


Leaves and Branches

(Nature, like politics can be very complex and confusing. Photo above taken in Westford conservation land)

Last night we watched the republican debate on CNN. It was worse than useless, Depressing and a waste of time.

The front runners McCain and Romney had at each other, partly because the questions set them up. The two others sounded a bit better but had trouble getting a word in edge wise.

CNN should be asshamed of itself for asking the wrong questions. McCain and Romney should be ashamed for falling into the trap set by CNN.

We will probably watch again tonight as the Democrats go at each other.  But we don’t expect anything better.


Hawk with Dinner

I saw this magnificent hawk in my backyard the other day. It had just killed a gray squirrel and was eating it. (You can just see it under the hawk) From my upstairs window I got some shots. It left after a short while only to return again. Seemed to be listening for me but not sure I was there. Of course in my excitement I forgot the importance of shutter speed — I had it set too low as well as ISO. But the photos are okish and I will do better next time — damn it!

Hawk Flying With Dinner

This one shows the hawk leaving the first time, squirrel in tow. It did return — so I guess it didn’t mind posing for photos!

Of course its been almost a week and I still have not seen another squirrel in the back yard. No hawks either!


Great Frame Up

Sadly, the frame shop (in Westford Massachusetts where I live) on route 110 in the plaza that includes Boston Market and Burger King closed shop. The sign in the picture above refers to the shop next door. The Great Frame up is closed and empty.

Gary, the owner of the business, was a great friend to arts in town. He worked with us to frame our work at the lowest possible cost. For artists who were repeat customers he used left over molding and scrap matte board to keep the price down when he could, yet the result was always excellent.

The Great Frame Up was caught by a landlord who wanted a higher rent and 10 year lease once the lease was up at the end of 2007. Its a pity to see another locally owned and operated (albeit a franchise) business close up. I think it bodes ill for a town that is fast becoming a rest stop on route 495.

Not too many years ago there where antique shops and other local businesses in colonial houses along route 110. They added local texture to our shopping options and were more interesting than the chains that replaced them imo.

I’d love to see an independent book store, an art gallery and a neighborhood Italian restaurant, for starters.

Any ideas re: how to attract or create such businesses? I think the town needs to buck the trend toward homogeneous culture before it looses any more of its character.

What do you think?


“Night Walk” Photograph copyright Frank Winters a Canon G9 image

Night Walk

Luke 17:20, 21:

“And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, the kingdom cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here, or lo there! for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

In the Baha’i writings the thirteenth Hidden Word says:

“O Son of Spirit!

I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his journal:

“The highest revelation is that God is in every man.”

And in his essay Nature he recounts a transcendental experience:

“Standing on the bare ground,–my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,–all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God”

I believe that these passages refer to the same truth. That God is within each of us and that by turning within we may find God.

The quote from Baha’ullah is particularly interesting. Taken as a whole it seems to recount humankind’s evolution and self invention through Nature and the acquisition of knowledge. Nature is the clay of love. The essence of knowledge refers to the source of mankind’s mental growth and spiritual evolution as well as the process of discovery through science and intuition.

The Lord’s prayer says “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…” Baha’is believe this refers to the time when Baha’ullah came to fulfill the prophecy. Many Christians believe this refers to a future time when Christ will return in the glory of the father and bring about the kingdom of God on earth.

But the kingdom of God is within you says Jesus. Baha’ullah says find Me within you. Emerson says he and all of us are the part and parcel of God.

That’s enough for me. The good news is that the kingdom can come for us in the here and now as can eternity, just as our daily bread comes. However, the kingdom is in the future for most of us because we have not achieved what Buddha called nirvana. But his views will wait for another time!

I am pleased to have reached this conclusion after thinking about these and other passages for months if not years. While I am open to finding a different meaning to them I find this understanding clear and helpful. Meditation will now be easier, I think.

A primary difficulty for me in accepting the Baha’i faith as the basis for belief is in the concept of the Covenant which says that God will send messengers every thousand years or so and humankind will accept and follow them. Baha’i believe that no direct contact with God is possible. All knowledge from God must come through a Manifestation, they believe — because that’s what Baha’ullah taught even though he also wrote the thirteenth Hidden Word.

Many Baha’is over the years have told me that they respect or are fond of Emerson yet he taught just the opposite from this fundamental (and somewhat fundamentalist) Baha’i belief. I think this is because Baha’i beliefs are inconsistent internally. Look at them or interpret them one way and they are aligned, for example, with Emerson. Take another look and they are not. But I imagine this is true of organized religion generally. (Of course I am not nearly knowledgeable enough to know if this is true.)

I’m interested in knowing what others think about this. What did Jesus mean? Are the passages above saying the same or similar things, or not? Do you feel that the Kingdom of God could possible be within you?

Use of photos

Photos on this blog are copyright protected. Therefore, if you wish to use photos please make a donation in an amount of your choice. My PayPal email address is fwinters@verizon.net.

Prints are available at Fine Art America

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Thanks.

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