Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Agamospermy--- virgin births in the realm of botany

most flowers require pollination so that fertilization can occur, so that seeds can form... Dandelion ovaries can set seed without pollen. Is this a miracle? However, knowing (please let me give plants all kinds of cognizant abilities) that diversity arises from sex, the dandelion only does this with 99% of its flowers. One percent of the flowers will not create seed without pollen.
The rule in biology is to never say "all" or "none"... too many exceptions to the rule.
Maybe it should be that way in our own lives. All this thinking I have been doing about eternal life led to a cassette leaping out at me. See I had found a box of old cassettes in my studio closet and I transfered them to a new location. And there was Bruce Cockburn's Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws. Mosaic Woman, who grew up in Cockburn's native land... Canada, introduced me to this music. He is a man of faith and doubts and I give him some of the credit for bringing me back to a life that includes worship.
So there I was walking down Broad Street in Lansdale searching for cumin humming and doing a bit of wondering where the lions are... and I am thinking about how my life has unfolded, and I am feeling ecstatic. Never say never. If you made it this far with me... Happy New Years.

Sun's up, uh huh, looks okay
The world survives into another day
And I'm thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren't half as frightening as they were before
But I'm thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
Walls windows trees, waves coming through
You be in me and I'll be in you
Together in eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
Up among the firs where it smells so sweet
Or down in the valley where the river used to be
I got my mind on eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
And I'm wondering where the lions are...
I'm wondering where the lions are...
Huge orange flying boat rises off a lake
Thousand-year-old petroglyphs doing a double take
Pointing a finger at eternity
I'm sitting in the middle of this ecstasy
Young men marching, helmets shining in the sun,
Polished as precise like the brain behind the gun
(Should be!) they got me thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
And I'm wondering where the lions are...
I'm wondering where the lions are...
Freighters on the nod on the surface of the bay
One of these days we're going to sail away,
going to sail into eternity
some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
And I'm wondering where the lions are...
I'm wondering where the lions are...
----------- BRUCE COCKBURN

Monday, December 29, 2008

eating out in Lansdale--- The Oasis

Settling down in Lansdale, PA... who would have thought! After living in college towns in MA, OR, and IL... I end up in a small working class town. But I think things have turned out well and so here is another promo for my new home town (of 12 years). This blog post may just be about the restaurant I have eaten at the most during my whole life. and why not... tasty. inexpensive. healthy. exotic.
First off it took us over a year to find this place, which we likely drove by as we went to eat falafel in a restaurant that did not last long in Harleysville. It is on the first floor of a four square house at 821 West main street between Charles Cleaners and Lansdale Pizza. I went with camera in hand last week and splurged a bit so I could have lots of photos.

Mosaic Woman and I are water drinkers 90% of the time we eat out, but his ice tea is amazing. Fresh fruit and mint! When I say he, I mean the owner, who greets you, waits on you, cooks for you, and cleans up for you after you pay him. Go on a weeknight and he may be the only worker. Go for 8 years and he becomes part of your life.

Soup... Mosaic Woman starts the majority of her meals with this one. Fasoulada is heavy on garlic and one of the few soups I have come across with pinto beans. Two types of lentil soups are frequently ordered by myself.

Sandwiches... I have worked my way through the entire list but here is my highly favored one. Chicken Shawarma! He also makes versions with eggplant and one with london broil.

Now do yourself a favor, when he asks if you want sweets, say, "Yes" at least once. The man will bring a tray of middle eastern pastries and plop it down on your table and walk away. He knows what is missing when he comes back for it later. I ordered some Turkish coffee and walked over to the home of the deserts and chose a piece of nammoura (cake like pastry dipped in honey syrrup).
And finally let me add... this is a great place for vegetarians like Mosaic Woman.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

immortality... is like a bright light in a dark room?

Immortal genes have withstood the test of time. Mathematically they should not exist. Mutations occur more often than we think. In fact it is estimated that each of us on average have 175 mutations among the 7 billion letter code our DNA carries. We are all mutants in one way or another.
so it goes like this... There are more than 500 genes that all life have in common. From the bacteria living in our digestive tract to the carrots we eat, to us, to whatever pet you ever owned. A mutation that shows a very very very slim benefit will survive (except for random events). These immortal genes remain even though mutations should have changed us completely from bacteria. For much more on this read The Making of The Fittest by Sean B. Carroll.
The last time the adult group met at Holy Trinity we spoke of the "church" but ended with eternal life. Humans so want to be immortal.
I like a simile Joe Paprocki makes about purgatory in his book, A Well Built Faith, even if I don't know if I believe in purgatory. Being met by God's cleansing love is like a bright light being turned on after we have adjusted to the dark. Paprocki claims it is painful and that is why Catholics pray for those in such a place. I can sense this. Can you imagine leaving this world to another? Being met with a forgiveness we can only imagine? Who knows it may be a gentle slide, but it could be quite a rough transition.
I was cleaning out my studio today and ventured back into a deep thin closet. In the dark, I grabbed a large frame and then brought it out to the light. I can't say that it is a highly favored photo and it may be why I never wear bright red these days. But lately I look at this ghost of myself and ask, "did you know what was going to hit you." He didn't. He may have thought it was hip to wear a red jacket and a bow tie, or he may have thought it was the worst thing he would ever go through. A mutation would change his life. Some mutated genes are not meant to be immortal. Without doctors I would have died.

Today I walked a few steps over to Mosaic Woman's studio and said, "I think I will hang this up."
She said, "Go for it."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

something new for Christmas Eve but will this become tradition

I have a friend who needed a change from a tradition she loves. So she travelled far from home for Christmas. She is clear on why she needed to take a new road. What happened to me? Could it just be life.
Did it start last June when I asked a friend to water the garden or when it was difficult to take her out for dinner for her kindness, or when I suggested I give strudel making lessons over break?
Plan strudel for Christmas Eve day and your life will change. For one thing the annual shrimp and garlic pizza I make, gets moved to little Christmas Eve.
The last strudel is in not even in the oven when it becomes very clear that the gift was in the teaching, not in the feeding. She leaves with a handful of strudel and a dough to make new traditions at home. She leaves me with a lot of strudel.
Did it start when another friend accepted a new job while the housing market collapsed?
Two years ago they would be gone to where the new job is located. But last Tuesday I was reintroducing my body to yoga at their house. "I will give you strudel for lessons and dried lavender."
4pm you are napping when the phone rings. "Will you really bring us strudel?" I will.
6:30pm I go to church carrying a large tray of strudel. I find a friend and say, "I want this eaten, maybe I will be back at 11 pm."
11pm You are at the yoga friend's house laughing. This seems to be where you are meant to be.
Did it start with how hectic life becomes when you add craft fairs to the advent season?
I turned into a pumpkin for it is Christmas Day when we arrive home. I see the church is still lit up, and head inside my house. We had decided to give presents on Epiphany because we did not want to go shopping with the masses. I joke that I can't try to get a present before morning this year. Mosaic Woman surprises me by giving me the only one she has bought. It is a new drum to replace the one she accidently broke this year.
We fall exhausted into bed. I wonder if any of this will become a new tradition?
Merry Christmas.... may it be filled with Joy, as my Christmas Eve was.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

exit onto 209 could have been a mistake, but who knows

So we made it up the Deer Head Inn. It went quite well on the way up. I can't say I heard of Sweet Sue Terry before, but why not have two straight trips north to the Deer Head to see female sax players (Last time we saw Virginia Mayhew). But I did take note of the piano player, Peggy Stern, by whom we own a CD.
And this time I remembered my camera to catch a shot of a cool stained glass panel which always catches my eye. The inn is located in the town of Delaware Water Gap, which is much much smaller than the geological wonder by the same name which is just south on 611, the road we would have taken if not for the storm on Friday and the storm on Sunday. The jazz was great. The food was wonderful. The sleep went well. We woke up to light snow and packed up and headed down stairs to get some coffee and food in us before we headed south.
I took out my camera while the food was being brought into the dining area... It almost makes me want to do realistic stained glass of geological wonders. 

three more thoughts..
This is Mosaic Woman just looking dang hip as I roamed about taking photos of the Inn before we headed south. I opted to take 209 to 33 to 309 instead of taking 80 into the Poconos to get to the turnpike. So maybe PENN DOT decided that it hadn't snowed on 209. Hmmm. well we made it to 33 and got behind a wall of plows to eventually take the risky walk up our icy stairs.

I may not have bought a CD, but Sweet Sue wrote a tune inspired by the Parable of the Vineyard. Solo sax is cool, check it out.
and finally, reading Jim's thoughts this morning I wrote this...
your post made me think of this... chatting with the pianist at the jazz concert, she was clearly done with Christmas. 4 gigs demanding it in one day had drained the joy. She thought I would be grateful to not have to listen to any more. I said I wouldn't mind hearing one. The set began with a sax solo ... a medley of Christmas tunes. Then the piano player and band joined in for "one" tune, if we sang along. Four tunes later we were still singing along. She had, I thought, had enough and dove immediately into Take Five by Dave Brubeck, which she then morphed into yet another carol. Then it had passed and the jazz set list took over.
OK, enough already.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Barenaked Ladies hanging out with Sarah McLachlan

Oh so much to blog about, but what I most want to share with the world is this...


God rest ye ...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

emptiness--- fears and exposures and responses, OCD

I have been pondering this post for a few days now, but it was reading this meditation on Mary that tied a few things together.

In my life I have gotten to know quite a bit about those who suffer with OCD. The rituals that get our attention are ways to cope with fears that the person cannot release from their brain (and heart and soul). I am contaminated... I must wash my hands again. I ran over someone... I must circle the block 5 times. I must make the right decision... I will ponder and research it endlessly. I don't know if the door is locked, I will circle the car 20 times. They desire absolute certainty in a world not designed for it.

My mind is much more akin to the anti-obsessed end of the spectrum, and the students with ADD following their names. However...

winter weather can creep into my brain and while my brain will flutter away from the thought it will come back and back and back. I want certainty that I will be safe, that I will not get stuck, that I will be able to park, that that that that...

One of the best treatments for OCD is the old prescription for fears..."get back on the horse."

It is called exposure and response prevention therapy... here is link to a book by an expert in the field , Jonathon Grayson

contamination--- touch a garbage dumpster and eat without washing. locked doors---- leave them unlocked on purpose. decisions--- flip a coin and admit to your self that it may have been the best or worst decision that you have ever made and move on. Feel the fear and anxiety and see that you can survive. No guarantees, remember this is not about certainty.

So Tuesday night I drove out into a winter weather advisory to do some yoga with a friend. Last night I drove out onto roads that only needed a degree or two drop to become black ice to attend the school's holiday party, and today is a big test. Facing your fears does not mean you won't get an infection, make a wrong decision, or get stuck in a snow bank in the Poconos, but it means you will have emptied yourself. And even though you feel the ritual is a treasure that protects you, releasing it from your life is realising it is not magic and is a release that can lead to greater joy, peace, and hope.

So there is the connection to the meditation. emptiness.

I won't drive out into a northeaster, but I may just be listening to jazz tonight instead of feeling I protected myself by staying home.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

uncertain blendings --- bee purple, eternal life

My Biology students continue to read Anatomy of a Rose by Sharman Apt Russell. In the chapter on color she speaks of bee purple, something we can only believe in.

Pet peeve--- purple is not violet. As humans we can see a small range of colors, or a large range depending if you focus on wavelengths that we can't see or those that we do see. They range from red to violet. If you make a circle of that range and bring the edges together, you get purple...the blending of red light with violet light.

Bees see UV light. If you twist their range into a circle and blend... bee purple is created. Color only found in our imagination The fact that flowers look so amazing to us, is amazing. They could care less what we think. They want to catch the eye of a pollinator which sees true flower colors.

I am driving to work thinking about bee purple and wonder what would happen if we blend opposite ends of our thinking. What if we blended fear and joy? Purple visions of eternal life float through my brain. Fear of death. Joy of Resurrection. The Thrill of Hope.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Gratitude 6--- mass production and 133%

We needed a new printer and a trip to buy one showed us the world had changed. Machines that printed, and did many other things were relatively cheap and one has become a valuable ... "tools of the trade."

I went into a bit of a crafting fury as the recent shows approached. I had a relatively new design which I liked but thought it would be cool to have it larger, in fact 133% would work just fine so ...


Both sold to friends of mine at the Belsnickel show.

Having sold my last heart I broke down and made four new hearts, while at the same time I came up with what I am calling a star flower...

orange star flower

So finding God in all things from erasures to my imagination to glass grinders. I am glad I can do my own form of mass production so much easier using our multi-tasking Canon MP470. Last Thursday though when I felt some peace from the craft show frenzy. I liked that stillness and have slowly been working on a series of three star flowers that have all 6 colors of the rainbow and the color that emerges when the two extremes of our vision are blended... more on that color on another post.

see more at our ETSY shop

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Amy Hempel introduces me to Mrs. Carlin

The other night Mosaic Woman and I were invited by a friend for dinner. We were fed well. As we were given a tour, we passed a small table on which a book had been placed. We were told it was a book about China and a few depressing facts came our way.

I said, "I try not to read depressing books."

I used to read many a book about life on this planet, but grew tired of the opening chapters which could have been entitled, "I have to convince these readers that the planet is in terrible terrible shape."

I know it is. But I am also skeptical of claims of it ending. Those claims have been around for a long long time.

So I decided to read a short story by Amy Hempel before bed that night... "At The Gates of The Animal Kingdom" in which I am introduced to a character named, Mrs. Carlin.

Mrs. Carlin is haunted by voices (from the evening news) telling disturbing stories of how humans treat pets and wild animals.

Suddenly I am 25 years old and I am walking up a hill to my house in Ware, MA. I have just heard about the Exon Valdez Oil Spill. Something inside of me is dying.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

introducing Mosaic Woman

Mosaic Woman has re-entered the world of blogging. It has not been an easy journey, but the desire to have a a website with her name on which she can eventually sell mosaics got her moving again. Those of you who have been journeying with me here in the land of Stratoz are on a first name basis with her, well some of you are known as a twist of your blog name around here...

She is going to be writing about her experience with art, other and her own, and maybe even me at some point in time. So check out Mosaic Woman's website and feel free to say howdy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gratitude 5--- the smell of baking bread

Scents build loyalty. Bees return to favored flowers just as we return to favored foods. They look good, but more importantly...they smell good.

Returning to the kitchen seemed like the wrong thing to do. Two craft shows in two weeks had consumed me and even though I had spent a bunch of time on Sunday prepping, the idea of stopping for ingredients seemed daunting. The idea of not baking bread after finally setting up kitchen time at school, seemed daunting. The man of two minds.

The middle road. Cut back--- make the whole wheat sage rolls, skip on the lemon thyme tea bread. I pull into the grocery store parking lot. I hit the school with ingredients and checked the e-mails that had arrived since I had left on Thursday, too many caused sighs. Read the notes from the sub. Organize my notes for biology and geology. I felt like a wreck. I like to ease into the day. I did not want to be this rushed. Baking was a mistake, clearly.

But OH MY, the smell of the bread baking. Was I a honey bee that dances to indicate to others a favored flower location, or a bumble bee that releases pheromones mixed with the scent of the favored flower to inspire a feeding frenzy? I handed warm bread to students.

Spirits rise and fall. The volatile chemicals produced by flowers enter the air and in unpolluted air will be caught by a moth antenna 1200 meters away. Zig Zag, till like any hungry critter, a beeline to the food. Add ozone to the air and the smog will destroy those chemicals after only 200 meters. Busyness destroys my ability to receive spirits of joy and peace. A cleaned kitchen, a final batch of rolls in the oven, a sharing of bread with students.

My hope is that my students will make beelines to good bread for the rest of their lives.

And here are some flowers that smell great and are just waiting for winter to be gone to brighten my nose and spirits...

morning after deluge 7-- pink rose opening

Monday, December 8, 2008

Gratitude 4

Gratitude goes to what I was told when I said I wasn't...

"ready to state beliefs."

The conversation was between me and the man who guided me back into a life of faith when I was in my mid 30's. The conversation was about becoming a member of the church he ministered. I said ... "I won't lie and say I believe in this or that..."

He said, "All you have to say is that you will join us by taking a journey." Sometimes I think it would have been easier to lie and skip the journey. Not as fulfilling, just easier.

A week ago I met some folk who think I am the leader of our adult group at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church here in Lansdale. I throw something out then sit back and listen. They are on a journey too.

So with 15 minutes to go I threw out, "Lets talk about death, fear, resurrection..." Then sat back.

As I was reading Joe Paprocki's A well Built Faith to prepare, I was taken by how my heart seemed ready to try to fill it with the belief that death was conquered by the cross. It seemed so much a core of what it means to be a Christian, yet here I was filled with a desire to finally believe in my mid 40's. So I offered it up to God with much joy.

Also what lingers from that Monday night is a pain in my heart. The dagger was not meant to hit me, but the comment struck hard. The comment may or may not be true about our life after death. The sadness it created was true. I will offer that up to God too.

The journey continues. Creation unfolds and we step into it.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

brought to you by the number 21

ever since reading about the 21 attributes of Wisdom, it has become my favored number.

I use it to pick out things.

today it led to this... 21st Christmas Song on I-Tunes.

and this photo...

last before the batteries died... "A Peacock's Tale" by Terry J. Grusendorf

Friday, December 5, 2008

to meet the customers... craft shows

In a recent comment my buddy Jim pondered about better ways to sell our craft than going to craft fairs. There probably are, however, here we go again...

a few interactions from the Der Belsnickel show stand out (besides the visits from friends) and may explain why we are headed back to another one at the Pen Ryn School ...

1. A large man in a trench coat stands mesmerized by Mosaic Woman's wedding cross. Eventually I introduce myself and with no great difficulty speak of the talents of the woman who created the piece. Like many others at the show he praises our art, lingers as the glass and light bounce about in his brain, then walks away empty handed. Mosaic Woman relieves me at the booth, and I tell her about the man in the trench coat. I return to find him and his wife searching their bodies for enough money to own...

Wedding Cross mosaic

2. A young woman still in high school is grabbed by a mosaic picture frame, mom is across the way.... "Mom, Mom, Mom, MOTHER!" The mosaic is eventually purchased. With much joy and joking around between us.

3. A young man practically runs back into our booth, grabs

and says.... "I ditched my wife. Quick, I want to give this to her for Christmas."


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gratitude 3

I am blessed... color vision, glass, macro photography and the love of a good woman, who asked me to document her mosaics...

mosaic macro 6

mosaic macro 5

mosaic macro 3

mosaic macro 4

mosaic macro 2


Monday, December 1, 2008

Pen Ryn craft show approaches, my back gets stretched if not rested

My back feels a bit better this morning and that is a good thing. On Friday we do it all over again at Pen Ryn School's Craft Show...

Friday December 5th 6 - 9 pm
Saturday December 6th 9 am - 3 pm

Why is that anything sounds possible when you sign up for events that are months away. Why is it that they seem impossible as they creep closer? Then you don't skip out of 99.9%, so they take place... so why think they are impossible? I know, I know.

Here are two of our pieces that caught a lot of attention, but came back home.

my green vine....

and this mandala by Mosaic Woman...


They are ready for more compliments and they seek a good home outside of our storage bins. For now they also reside at our on-line shop.

as for my back...

A communal changing of the altar was taking place when I showed up to my church on Sunday. I chat with a friend watching from afar, then chat with the rector from up close. It seems there are enough bodies on any one high altar, but I linger long enough to be asked to bring out an advent wreath. sounds easy. But that brass part that it sits upon did add some weight.

Crouched over in my studio cutting, grinding, foiling, and soldering stained glass...

I deserve to be in lots of pain, but it is less than yesterday. I did stretch quite a bit.