Sunday, May 30, 2010

the deeper we go

Yesterday a friend wrote to me about a place called Gobekli Tepe, an extraordinary archeological site in the southeast of Turkey that is considered to be the oldest temple complex ever found. Maybe you've heard about it but the story was new to me. Carbon dating of artifacts found there have proven it to be 13,000 years old and Dr. Klaus Schmidt, the German archeologist in charge of the excavations has said the region is most likely the place described as the Garden of Eden. Turkey is just a part of an area long known as the Fertile Crescent but what is now mostly barren desert was once ecologically very rich. There were dozens of mammal species, green meadows and woods. The climate was wetter and lusher, but still warm and the herds of game were enormous.

The sophistication of the stone carving indicates to me that the people who built the place already had a long history of complex stone work that included realistic renditions of animals and human forms. We already know that the earliest human art on the planet began to appear in sacred caves more than 40,000 years ago so what, I wonder, were we doing during the intervening 27,000 years still unaccounted for. According to geologists and shown in the inundation maps presented by Graham Hancock in his book 'Underworld' there could be a strong case made that humanity was almost obliterated several times by ocean level rises in the aftermath of heavy glaciation. At the end of the Ice Age, over a 10,000 year period between 17,000 and 7,000 years ago - just before the accepted beginning of civilization - 17,000,000 square miles of what may have been the most habitable lands on earth were flooded as the ice caps melted. To have an idea of how much land that would have been you only have to imagine an area much larger than China and Europe combined.

What has this to do with southeastern Turkey you may wonder? Beside the Fertile Crescent, the Persian Gulf was dry land until about 12,000 years ago with a vast river running through it formed by the combined streams of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The gulf itself wasn't fully flooded until about 8,000 years ago. It's very likely there were higher cultures that included small cities and trading ports for ships long before any currently accepted by formal archeology and I see Gobekli Tepe as another example of a much deeper history than what we've been taught. There would have been many small bands of people who were still foragers and it seems likely someone showed these Neolithic hunters and gatherers how to carve stone and how to align their temples with the north pole. The people who did so may well have been among the survivors of a lost maritime culture.

An interesting thing about Gobekli Tepe is that it appears to have been a temple without a town which puts art and religion squarely at the start of our journey to modern culture. In this place where hunter-gatherers met to build a complex religious community Schmidt has found carved and polished circles of stone, with terrazzo flooring and double benches. All the circles feature massive T-shaped pillars, many with beautiful carvings of totemic animals, made in a time when people still used flint tools. His summation is that it was the urge to worship that brought mankind together in the very first urban conglomerations. The need to build and maintain this temple, he says, drove the builders to seek stable food sources, like grains and animals that could be domesticated, and then to settle down to guard their new way of life.

These hunters who had learned some horticulture in their wanderings by planting fruit trees and edible grains in small patches discovered they couldn't feed the many who congregated for celebrations at Gobelki Tepe. So they began cultivating the grasses on the hills and domesticating animals. When people first started to farm their skeletons changed, growing smaller as their bodies adapted to a diet with less protein. By 8000 BC the landscape itself had changed partly because of the farming practices as well as the massive climate changes at the end of the Ice Age. Forests had been chopped down and topsoil leached away making what had been a garden of natural productivity into fields of hardship. For some unknown reason it was then that people went back to Gobelki Tepe and filled in the entire site with soil. That's why it has only recently been rediscovered in its original state.

The generally understood view of our history has been that shepherds and farmers appeared first from our Neolithic ancestral stock and then went on to create pottery, villages, towns, cities, specialized labor, kings, writing, art, and somewhere along the way to building the first airplane, developed religion. Now it would appear our need for spiritual expression in company with others of our species began the whole process that continues to lead us toward a mysterious future.

I wonder what we'll discover next.

∞ ☆ ∞

Monday, May 24, 2010

fresh out of the steamer..

It's kind of weird to name a silk scarf 'chaos' but that's what I called this one as I worked on it this past weekend. The times are chaotic both inside and outside. We're planning to leave the west coast of the US for the east coast of Canada one of these days but we don't know when. I hate not being in control while making major plans but maybe the idea of control is just a fantasy anyway.

I have a collection of mixed dyes that I'm not going to pack so I decided to start using them on some of the scarf silks. There's endless fascination in the complex and delicate symmetry that arise from the relationship of chaos and order and our world would be a drab place if we created things simply for utility. The wild beauty all around us can only be appreciated when we learn to let go.

Tomorrow I'll start another piece with no idea of how it will look when it's done.

Friday, May 21, 2010

street art

Do you ever feel in need of a really really good long laugh? Not a grin, not a giggle or guffaw but a flat out stomach crunching, tear spilling bout of rolling in the aisles laughter? Me too. Where's Lucy and my nine year old self to enjoy her? Lucy and Ethel working in the candy factory on youtube only rate a snicker now. Where's Monty Python and my 25 year old self to enjoy them? The Dead Parrot sketch is still there to be seen but instead of convulsing in merriment like the first time I watched it, now I chuckle.

George Carlin could inspire howls of mirth but he's been dead a while now and what he had to say about living in this society is more true with each passing day. It's not so funny anymore when those who should have been ridiculed off the world stage are still here and more in control than ever. I'm still angry every time I read a word about the ecologic disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. I continue to be enraged that our government is owned by the banking industry. I'm depressed about the health care act and even more so about unemployment and the fact that in a police state the only jobs many young people can get are with the police and the military.

In general people are trapped by circumstance but it's good to know about those who still have the initiative to step over the line. A friend's post about Banksy, the mysterious graffiti artist who travels the world (with a posse one assumes) tagging public spaces with guerilla art that makes random viewers stop and think, got me wandering the nets. I remembered a few years ago that he smuggled his own artwork into four major galleries and museums in New York and wanted to find the article.

Instead, and remarkably enough, it turns out there's a new movie by and about Banksy and other street artists called 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' that tells the incredible true story of how an eccentric French shop keeper turned documentary maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner with spectacular results. As Banksy describes it, it's basically the story of how one man set out to film the un-filmable.. and failed.The trailer made me laugh enough that I'm looking forward to seeing the whole thing. Check it out:

The sad thing is that these guys get arrested if they're caught.
It's a strange world.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

pictures of perfection

There I was digging deep inside the old photograph suitcase when I found a quick snapshot taken of the first mandala I painted about 5 years ago. It was a hurried photograph because the painting had taken longer than I expected to complete and had to be mailed the next day. Finished, it was about 14 inches square and larger still once it was packed inside a folio and wrapped to look like a giant birthday card - which is what it was. I wish I could remember the verse written around the outer edge as I'm sure it was something profound and lovely. Nevertheless, I'm glad I found the picture since it came and went so fast I'd almost forgotten what it looked like.

What I was looking for was a wedding picture of numb and I. The Canadian government wants photographs of us together over the course of time with wedding pictures being particular favorites. Isn't it sweet that they're so sentimental? The problem is that unlike most people we never did have any - well, just one taken outside the Providence City Courthouse. In other circumstances it might have been nice to have a 'real' wedding but at that point I was spending time traveling back and forth to Toronto arranging finally to become a Canadian citizen after having lived there most of my life. Meanwhile the US government would only send out my permanent resident documents once we were officially married. We only had 90 days so it simply wasn't possible to plan or pay for a celebratory event.

I haven't found the wedding picture but did find a letter of congratulation typed by the Mayor of Providence, Buddy Cianci. He went on to disgrace his office numerous times but the most outrageous one was the news story about the night he went to the home of his wife's lover and after ordering his police escort hold the guy down, Buddy beat him with a burning log from the fireplace. The man recovered but the mayor's marriage didn't survive the event. I bet he and his wife had great wedding pictures though. Maybe I'll do a web search and photoshop our faces into them. I bet the Canadian government would shed a tear or two on seeing those.
✄ ☺☺

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

losing the thread

Last weekend after spending three days working on a pair of black (I just can't seem to get away from that inky shade) pants for the new salwar kameez project - cutting, marking, sewing 16 pleats, matching marks and cutouts, adding pockets - I discovered I'd made 2 left sides. They were very nicely made left sides but I was too tired to even think of ordering more fabric to make 2 right sides and absolutely too fed up to attempt a repair. I'll try it again but there was nothing to do but throw them away and read a book instead.

Earlier this week I considered sending a story to a blogger who's collecting snippets people have written about their experiences. It seemed like a cool idea and since very few people have read any of the Adventure's Ink posts I thought perhaps I'd submit one for her to share so went back to read them. It turned out the ones I'd written only work well in the context of having been illustrated and she wasn't looking for pictures. Oh well, at least I had another book to read.

I feel aggravated, annoyed and depressed every time I read anything about the oil companies, the major banks, the escalating wars and the propaganda fed through the major media about how all our troubles are the fault of some other people. Today I saw that drone aircraft will be patrolling the border with Mexico. They aren't going to be equipped with Hellfire missiles.. yet. Feeling helpless to change anything and not being in a position to do much of anything I went in search of some good news and found this. It's good to know ordinary people can make a difference. Maybe one day I'll find a way to put my small talents to good use. It seems the only freedom we really have is to be kind to each other.

Tomorrow is another work day but meanwhile, I have another book.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

unmistaken child

may all

be blessed with peace always;

all creatures weak or strong,

all creatures great and small;

creatures unseen or seen

dwelling afar or near,

born or awaiting birth,

may all be blessed with peace!

. . . as with her own life

a mother shields from hurting her own,

her only child,

let all-embracing thoughts

for all that lives be thine,

an all-embracing love

for all the universe.

from the Nipata Sutra

Happy Mother’s Day

Thursday, May 6, 2010

wave hello

Like everybody else over the past week I've been watching news and reading reports about the disastrous leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. It seems to me the whole idea of drilling in sea beds is the worst solution to our energy problems the resource exploiters have come up with yet and they really have devised and implemented some rotten ones. I probably don't have to give you any for instances to make the point.

Anyway, it seems to me while they're down there trying to divert the gusher into their silly looking but hopefully not ineffective containment device we'd all be better off if they were considering using the ocean waves themselves to generate power rather than having powerful waves drive oil into areas that are ecologically vulnerable. Covering more than 70% of the Earth's surface, the ocean is the world's largest untapped, renewable energy resource. From what I've read I've been able to understand that experts believe 0.2% of the ocean's untapped energy could power the entire world. What a deal that would be.

Human beings have been practicing ocean power technologies for many years (hundreds or perhaps thousands if we take sailing into account) and understand the principles of hydrodynamics as well as mechanical and electrical engineering. Ocean energy is an abundant, predictable and renewable resource, guaranteed to deliver high output pretty much forever. It's also non-polluting and doesn't contribute to global warming.

Three quarters of the world's electricity needs are met by burning fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas, methods that generate vast quantities of greenhouse gasses. Hydropower is fine but damming rivers has nasty side effects for people and ecosystems. Wind power and solar are fine alternatives but so far haven't provided a significant dent in current energy needs and there are problems too with land use.

Portugal was participating in a project designed to provide a significant percentage of their electricity from wave power using Pelamis generators. Unfortunately, the economic downturn left them without funds to revise and extend the system but I enjoyed seeing this video of it in action.

I rather like the Anaconda. . an entertaining way to ride the waves to say the least. Besides, it's time for something more productive than huge oil spills and all the rest. We really can do better as a species.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

old tricks - new project

Digging around in my sewing supplies this morning I came up with this sample of my oldest piece of embroidery work, circa 1972. I drew a bird I hoped would look something like an eagle on a piece cut from an old pair of jeans and, using single strands of embroidery thread, began to fill in the outlines. It's not perfect but it's sweet in its own way and I only mention it because embroidery may well be part of my new project to make an Indian inspired outfit or two.

These things take time but I now have several yards of fabric spread out in front of me ready to be cut and sewn into a salwar (baggy pants with narrow legs). The real ones from India turn out to have huge openings at the top that must be tied with a cord - and no pockets! I'm fairly slim but no woman wants to tie a great mass of extra yardage around her middle. Western designers discovered darts, pleats, inset pockets and zippers a long time ago so I searched and found a pattern I can use. Yes, I'll be lengthening the legs. Yes, I'm using a pattern. Once I used to be able to lay out material and just start cutting but it's been too long. Now I have to cheat by using patterns at least to get the measurements right. When you're sewing there's nothing worse than putting in a sleeve only to find it isn't wide enough to get your hand through, never mind a whole arm. It's all pinned and ready to go but I'm sitting here typing because I'm nervous about cutting. It seems so final.

I needed something straightforward to use as a base pattern for the kameez dress and I found this one after another fairly long search. As you can see there are a lot of possibilities for modifying this design to my hearts content. Piecing will be easy and so will shortening or turning one into a long jacket with buttons down the front or from the shoulder. Embroidery and beading may take a bit longer.

I'll probably cut up a couple of the big silk scarves I've made to use as lining and accents on the kameez - particularly a jacket I have in mind - but I don't want to make something all of silk because it's too light and I'd feel silly walking around Halifax (or anywhere else) in a pair of silk pj's. Instead, I've decided to use rayon. Did you know it's also a natural fiber? It's very soft and dense and drapes beautifully.

Well, even if I get bored with the whole idea I'm now committed to making at least one. If it works out okay you'll see the results in time. Maybe by then I'll be building a stick figure model to hang it on. You don't expect me to see me wearing it, do you?