Weekly Photo Challenged – ENVELOPED

tree roots

Enveloped in tree roots: a temple entrance at the mysterious 12th century Angkor Wat, photographed 2 weeks ago in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The 3 days we spent exploring these enigmatic ruins was the highlight of our trip. The tree roots are invasive to such a degree that huge blocks of stone are jostled around like Lego blocks; the tree is peculiar in the fact that it grows from the top down, gaining the moisture it needs from the rocks it crawls upon rather than the ground underneath.

copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott, 2015

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What an honor! Thank You So Much!

WP Family AwardJo Ann, Congratulations! For your likes, comments & encouragement I have awarded you with the WordPress Family Award!
See: http://jodythomae.com/2015/05/20/wordpress-family-award/
Thank you especially for your recent encouragement and I look forward to getting to know you better here on WordPress!
Blessings of ARTistry, CREATivity & BEaUty, Jody
God’s Creative Gift
http://www.jodythomae.com

The Buddha Tooth Relic Museum and Temple in Singapore’s Chinatown

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http://www.btrts.org.sg/english-home

photos taken in May, 2015 on my second trip to Singapore, copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott

It matters to me not what your personal religious beliefs and proclivities might me – there are places on earth made for the enjoyment of all people anywhere and any time. If you are unable to gain even some small satisfaction or comfort and appreciation from them, then read no further. But if you keep and open mind and heart, then read about this place that warms my soul.

The Buddha Tooth Relic Museum and Temple holds a special place in my heart, for reasons I may never fully understand. My second visit there happened this month and was more moving than the first.  Part of the reason is that I am a person who values deep connections with people, places and things. Familiarity is of great value to me; I build upon my visual memories, smells and tactile experiences by getting to know things better and better.

When a great Buddha dies he is cremated, leaving bone and teeth remnants (and perhaps other remains) that are considered sacred and holy. But even during his lifetime, fragments of hair, for instance, are bestowed upon people who deserve to have that remembrance of a great Buddha with the possibility that it could make a difference when needed the most. Thus there are various temples around the world which house Buddha fragments of some type or another. This relatively humble 4 story temple in Singapore’s Chinatown houses a tooth fragment, displayed in a two meter tall, solid gold stupa which is a draw for many people. The temple is always crowded with visitors and there always seems to be some fascinating ceremony or mass reading going on which adds to its energy and colorful nature. Monks in saffron robes chant, incense burns and offerings of only the most fresh and perfectly beautiful fruit line the alter.

The roof garden pagoda on the top level affords a near silent respite from the action below – and you enter its enclosed peacefulness through a door that shelters a giant red prayer wheel, one of the most beautiful I have seen, and immediately you are invited to spin it as you walk around it murmuring your most fervent hopes, thanks and wishes to the universe. A red columned hallway surrounds the inside garden where gurgling water is the only sound, flowing amid lush, multi-colored foliage and flowers. This is a place of privacy and hope. A place to bring friends who you care the most about.

Buddhism, as you probably know, is not a true religion but a way of life that, among other things, places value on every living thing no matter how humble or even how grand. No matter what you believe personally, if you can embrace just that one thought, you must be on the right path. Wars could be a thing of the past….if only….we all believed that one thing.

Siem Reap, Cambodia – Textures of Angkor Wat

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If you get off on color, pattern and texture as do I in my mixed media collage artwork and my contemporary abstracts, well then Angkor Wat can offer you a plentiful selection of all three of those as well as inspiration for color ideas ranging from weathered reds to terra cottas, burnt siennas and other shades of orange – originally all the structures were painted. The very high relief of the sandstone sculpture is astounding and reflects the sophistication of each temple’s design preferences. Simple carvings remained lower to the ground, for easy access by the common people; carvings increased in complexity the higher they got on the temple wall with the simple fact that it took more educated people who lived in the upper chambers to read them. To complicate matters, speaking in terms of art history, the historically Hindu Angkor Wat includes an invasion of Buddhists who breezed onto the scene sometime around the 14th or 15th century and proceeded to conquer and destroy all Hindu references to the Hindu god Vishnu! Modifying (smashing) the faces, headdresses, leg positions and arm placement of seated figures and transforming them to Buddhist! It is an abomination – and a horrible attempt – clearly an obvious and disgusting falsification of important art, and Angkor Wat remains Buddhist to the present day. One can easily see with the naked eye the areas where these uncharacteristically violent Buddhist changes were made in the carvings.

Cambodia’s Angkor Wat…the moat, the mist and the mystery

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Today I am drunk from travel; jet lagged with brain fogginess. My appetite yells HUNGRY at all the wrong times and I am tired when I need to be awake. It required an entire 24 hours of travel to return home to the USA from time spent in Singapore and Siem Reap, Cambodia. I will be like this for a couple days.

My photos prove Angkor Wat was not a dream. I was indeed there, glistening with sweat from the unwavering heat, walking the powdery red dirt path up to the bridge that crosses the ancient moat surrounding Angkor Wat. Then, for several days,  experiencing a silent other-worldly shadow of a former civilization; a place where people lived and loved and laughed; a place where 40,000 elephants walked the same stone paths I walk as they built the city; a place crumbling from the insistent destruction of time and massive trees roots that meander along moving gargantuan blocks of stone as if they were legos. These were a people who appreciated the beauty of intricately carved stone – story-telling daily life in sculpture of meticulous detail – revealing subtle expressions on faces and costumes of fabric, folded and wrapped on dancing women, working elephants and animals, flowers, and gods and goddesses both evil and benevolent of spirit. Constant renovation is a given – it goes on and on  through the donations of other countries who care – as walls continue to collapse and the monsoons roar in hell bent on destruction.

One favorite of mine was a deep, dark stone room whose interior walls are covered in precisely spaced Ping-Pong ball sized holes; hinting that its walls were once embedded with giant gemstones so as to catch the sun’s rays from a tiny slice in the stone and light the darkness with multi-colored reflections.  Then another smaller stone room where we are told by our extraordinary guide, An Rachna of Cambodian Trails, that in spite of what might seem perfect conditions for acoustics, no human voice or music will echo there – but if you thump your chest over your heart seven times the deep heart-sound will indeed “echo” when you stop, seven times, reverberating in various intensities according to the stress level of your soul. And it worked. Angkor Wat is one discovery after another, each raising another group of questions in your mind – what happened here? Why did these intelligent people die? How could the site possibly have gone undiscovered for so long? It is an enigma wrapped in mystery…you almost feel that you know the people after two or three solid days of tracking their lives.

The contemporary people of Siem Reap will welcome you. They have melancholy eyes and joyful smiles. They are kind, helpful and eager to please. They spend time with you in conversations that go deeper than trivial inquiries about how you are today and where you are from – they hang onto your every word with a genuine curiosity about where exactly you are from in the USA and what it looks like there – how do you manage to get all the way up to your mountain home in the Colorado Rockies? What is snow like? They do not want you to leave without keeping the door open for your return. Cambodia is still, quite literally, maimed, mangled and war-torn from the days of the Khymer Rouge; land mines are a large concern, and the unspeakable atrocities toward the Cambodian people are evident everywhere you go. In rural communities fresh well water is becoming less rare thanks to donations from private individuals and countries, but still in short supply. A water well can be purchased for just about $100 and there are many organizations worldwide who will handle a donation for you – one well can supple several families who live near each other. The children are tiny, also in great need of better nutrition, and milk for babies and toddlers is scarce. We were able to spend hours of time driving the countryside, visiting and smiling with families and children, watching them cook lunch for the family along the winding dirt roadside.

This series about our trip to Cambodia in 2015 will continue…..probably for the remainder of my life. I would love to take you along.

Please visit http://www.cambodiantrails.com to learn about guides in Siem Reap.