That Which Stirs My Soul

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I had an experience last weekend that sent chills down my entire body for almost 48 hours straight….and then left me with a life-long memory of a spectacular cultural event that stirred my artistic soul like few others I have ever experienced. You see, I love Native Americans; I am fascinated and moved by everything to do with Indians. I have read many books, collected picture books, taken photos myself, purchased rugs and jewelry and baskets as evidenced in my home where it all combines quite well with my own contemporary abstract paintings and my African collection. I am a mix and match, ecclectic decorator.

My generous daughter booked us for the Native American Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque for the weekend, then an extra night in Santa Fe before we each flew out to our respective homes – she to Vancouver and I to Denver. I was thrilled, to put it mildly. I had been to several small pow wows through the years but nothing approaching this magnitude. Nothing with the pageantry of this.

During the opening ceremony, 2800 Indian men and women representing dozens of tribal nations in full dress filed into the arena to an almost deafening beating of drums and singing coming from several points on the arena floor. It was thunderous – it was chilling – it was visually stunning! The variety of regalia was magnificent! The fine artistry of it all was evident in the feathers, the fancy beaded garments and moccasins, the jewelry, the headdresses, the belts and accessories – all were fascinating and endless in their variations. My first photo above was the very beginning of just one row of Indians – they came from all corners of the arena, marching down the stairs between the seats to the floor below. I had never before seen such a huge gathering of tribes – Navajo, Cree, Seminole, Crow…the list went on and on. There were Indian names I had never heard. The energy was palpable; the history was right there before us and the language lives. I was told by a Navajo gentleman sitting next to me that the secret parts of tribal dances are never performed in public; they are kept only for private ceremonies in their own communities. But there was enough revealed in both song and dance to keep us enthralled for hours on end.

For the next two full days and evenings, then well into the wee hours of Sunday morning the dancing and the chanting and the drumming continued. There are many dances! The rain dance, the grizzly bear dance, the fancy dancers, the jingle dancers, the chicken dancers, the southern dancers, the summer dances and the grass dance – it goes on and on. The toddler dances, the under 5 dances,  the teenage girl and boy dances – then the young maiden dances and the Indian Princess dances followed by the bachelor dances. Prizes were awarded to the winners in all ages, from under five years to elders over seventy in all categories. Traditional gifts of thanks in the form of blankets, quilts, baskets and such are given to the extended family and supporters of the contest winners, as is the Indian custom. Winners are given gifts also, and cash prizes, and the great honor of being recognized by their peers.

I am filled with wonder and gratitude that I was given this experience. But then, if you knew my daughter you would not be surprised. She is extraordinarily insightful and generous; a believer in the priceless value of incomparable experiences, a world traveler, a fine travel photographer and a graphic artist. Her name is Kelly K. Heapy. Follow her blog at  http://www.compassandcamera.com and here on WordPress and you will certainly see her professional photographs of the Pow Wow event.You can also find her photography on Instagram and Twitter, as is mine which pales by comparison…..

Jo Ann Brown-Scott, artist and author

BOOKS – http://joannbrownscottauthor.com     http://www.acanaryfliesthecanyon.com

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My Big Island Favorites and “The Whistler”, 2015

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Photos taken on my recent month-long stay on the Big Island of Hawaii – my 4th annual trip in what has become a welcome rest from the Colorado snow, although I do love snow. As you probably know by now, in my paintings or my photos, I am all about pattern, texture and color…as you can see.

We painted plein air, we painted in studio, we took day trips both north to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Waimea and down south of the Captain Cook area to a black sand beach where we were told about one particular whale who has become a local favorite, and a legend I predict. This whale is a female (because they see her every year with her newest baby) whose blow-hole is damaged or deformed somewhat, so when she blows she whistles a loud haunting whistle that everyone on shore can here. Each year they look forward to the return of “The Whistler” and watch her playing just off shore of this black sand beach in the evening hours. I took the sunset pictures you see here at that very location. They also tell me that the whales breech here daily in February/March making loud smacking sounds when their tales hit the water – loud enough in the morning hours to wake you from a sound sleep. They are swimming north on their yearly migration, headed through the Maui Channel onward to Alaska, and this beach is a resting place to stop and play. We also saw whales in Kona harbor, purposely, I believe, putting on quite a show for everyone lined up on the pier one evening. Is it possible….can you imagine….that this human-being/whale connection is somehow bigger than we all imagine? They know that in certain areas of the planet we are appreciative and friendly, desperately wanting to know them better and wishing them no harm, while in other foreboding seas they might be cold bloodedly slaughtered.

All animals who migrate, including whales, sea turtles and sharks, migrate for just three simple reasons – mating and birthing, abundant feeding and a climate that is tolerable. Those three conditions rule their travels.

I do believe that the same three conditions rule the travels of human beings! Think about it.

The Creative Epiphany – People Who Need People

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Sculpture near the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore, river flowing below

Hope you are enjoying this series about Singapore and Thailand. I believe that this will be the final blog on my experiences there, but then again one never knows.  It struck me today, especially today, now that I have been home a week and have some perspective under my belt,  that the backbone, the heart, the soul of anyplace you go is of course the people and how they represent themselves in art, sculpture and real in-your-face life. What a person like me chooses to make permanent with a photo says so much. I, personally, look for moments that capture a variety of emotions that float my personal, uncomplicated and joyful little boat. I was on vacation – I chose to be easily entertained. I saw wonder everywhere.

In many of the places I visited, accompanied by my daughter, we were met with the friendly question – Where are you from? The curiosity was enormous and reciprocal. I wanted to ask many things of the people I encountered along the way but at the risk of being perceived as rude and pushy, I did not. You must remember that the Asian people are usually more reserved than the typical American. Someone asked me when I got home if I believe that the people where I traveled like Americans – if I had to guess, I would say that in a small group, almost as small as one on one, they generally do. They seem to get a kick out of us. But many people listen to CNN and BBC, Aljazeera  and other far more objective news reporting stations than we offer here in the USA, and so they are very much aware of our recent Congressional dysfunction and governmental foolishness because it is on display to the entire world. I never asked what they think of the USA because I didn’t want to hear what they had to say, really, and I was at risk for putting people in uncomfortable situations with little time for a totally thoughtful response. My choice was to enjoy the light-hearted and brief exchanges that came my way and call it a day.

But of course people fascinate me. Thus the following selection of pics that made me smile because of the universality of them, the sense of humor they display, and how flattered and happy most people are when you ask to take their picture. AHHH…that is nice. Now we are friends, they say with their eyes. We have made a personal connection and I will be with you forever, held in touch by the tiny thread of one photo in your forever collection. Thanks go both ways. The epiphany here is the human connection, and that without specific words exchanged, we know we are all souls together in this life.

antoinettes  guard   hindu  fishguy

newclothes1newskirt   bobby  monk

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school  Thaiguyone  Thaiguytwo  lunch

The Creative Epiphany – Seems like a Pattern Might be Forming

stairs  If you are a junkie for the sensuality of color, the allure of textures both worn and shiny new, and the perfectly fascinating personality of various patterns, then you must take a look here. I am an artist – I paint. I am especially passionate about color, texture and pattern which are always present to a certain degree in my artwork. I just returned from a trip to Singapore and Thailand – can you imagine my delight, observing such magnificent color, such tactile and time worn textures and such intensely busy pattern?  I was on such a happy/goofy level of sensory overload the entire time I was there that the culture shock of coming home was evident to me on so many levels…I flew through Seattle back into the states…and it was raining and gray….coming home…leaves gone from the trees…winter.

In this photo gallery I hope you will notice that this much color and pattern and texture brings a joyful response from your senses, a few audible WOW’s I hope – yes it is a lot to see all at once so take it in small doses if you’d like – but please do accept these pictures as a sign that the world can still present you with visual delights that make your heart race. Surprisingly the restaurant shophouse entry with white chairs, so uninhibited in color that you might suspect it of being Mexican, is actually located on Arab Street, where some of the most fun and friendly people greeted us. The ornate temple facades, reminiscent of icing on birthday cakes (no disrespect intended!)  are of course from the Grand Palace grounds in Bangkok where the three-dimensional tiny mosaic pieces are not much larger than your thumbnail. The gorgeous mural at the top of the stairs in the first photo is in the entry foyer of the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok.

Have a look – I hope I will detect a smile of pleasure on your face. If it makes you dizzy, enjoy the ride.

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photo 3 (3)   arab  urn  manone

mosaic  monks   flowers  mantwo

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The Creative Epiphany – Singapore’s Many Songs, Thailands Exotic Mystery

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I have been away, in case you hadn’t noticed, and don’t feel bad if you haven’t. I don’t expect you to follow my every step. It seems like I’ve been gone forever but it was about 10 days including 2-3 extra for de-jetlagging after a combination of flights equaling a 27 hour trip home…yes you read that correctly. Sitting straight up at full attention, unable to cross your legs or turn on your side just a bit is a miserable way to ride home for 27 hours. I was a heap of flesh and bone when I was finally poured through my door by a friend. But it was all worth the pain! Travel is like that – it rewards you in great abundance for your travel inconveniences.

I thank those of you who decided to subscribe to my blog in my absence and then wondered why nothing happened!

While in Singapore I stayed at a charming 5-star place, full of charm and character, where the accommodations were impeccable and the personal attention was top notch  – my daughter and her husband’s home. They moved to that most sparkling of cities in order to grab some career opportunities that were too good to pass up, and they love it there. Singapore has been a more than pleasant hub for them, affording them the opportunity to visit many other exotic nearby places…Viet Nam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Thailand and Cambodia to name a few. Singapore is an island – four or five days worth of sightseeing there and you still have time to move on to some nearby destination and soak up a second culture. We chose Thailand.

Singapore is like a beautiful, English speaking  lady – thoughtfully put together, extremely well groomed, polite, organized, elegant and dressed to the hilt. Her aroma is both sweet and spicy; she is well spoken and she sings many songs of life. Singapore is especially stunning at night, dazzling with bling the likes of which you have never seen, and yet she wears it tastefully. The cab driver announced immediately and unapologetically that Singapore thrives on good manners, efficiency, tidiness, order and calm. She hates disorderly conduct and chaos. Don’t plan to misbehave publicly in Singapore; do have somebody put aside bail money if you think you might. Sing will entertain you endlessly in gorgeous, jet-setty environs, but don’t be rude or crude – be nice.

Singapore is known for its spectacular cutting-edge, award winning architecture which contrasts starkly with the charming, ancient shophouses, mosques, temples and restaurants in those neighborhoods – walking miles a day as we did, becomes a constantly entertaining lesson in the juxtaposition of the old and the brand new. Be sure to see the gigantic infinity pool that spans and connects the very top of the three  structures that comprise the Marina Bay Sands resort hotel – the view from atop that surfboard-like pool is breathtaking and unique. The Super Trees – well you must see those – and the Marina Bay Mall is out of this world and dripping with designer names and jewelry. We visited the local shops and markets in Chinatown, Arab Street and Little India. The street food, the music, the people watching and the merchandise were all fascinating and entirely new to me.

We also spent two nights in Bangkok, Thailand, and if Singapore is an elegant lady, Bangkok is a loud, fun-loving, rowdy broad who loves a good party, or in our experience, a well-rounded “market party” just the way markets ought to be – lively, shocking at times and riddled with quirky characters. The Chatuchak Market will keep you entranced for an entire day. We bought some wonderful, inexpensive lightweight dresses to wear with flip-flops, we bought jewelry and gifts and  table linens – and then you must have a foot massage to stop the throbbing. Because you are going to want to go back again. You must try the sticky rice with sweet coconut milk and mango for a refreshing treat.

In Thailand the name Jim Thompson brings smiles of gratitude from the people and conversations about theories for how he might have disappeared and why. Jim Thompson was an American who had such an appreciation and love for the Thai culture that he devoted his energy and time to saving the silk industry from near extinction – he revitalized a dying art and built an empire of the finest silks in the world which has continued to thrive many years after his mysterious, clueless disappearance. The lovely home and gardens where he lived, located right in the center of Bangkok, are testament to his appreciation for art and the finer things in life. The silks and the silk products resulting from the weaving of the magical threads are derived – literally spun – from the cocoons of the lowly silkworms on the Mulberry trees in the Thailand countryside. We were fortunate to tour his home, see how the silk was spun, and yes spend our money on a selection of the many colorful products resulting – fabrics by the yard, purses, tote bags, travel bags, clothing, bed linens, men’s ties, pillows and more. Each item is more beautiful than the one before, and you want to know more about this tall, nice looking man who is responsible for it all. I immediately ordered a book when I arrived home to read more.

Traveling brings illumination and epiphany. Light bulbs turn on, understanding grows, people come to know each other and humankind expands its awareness in leaps and bounds. Individual faces are remembered – eyes meet eyes and connections are made. You must come home changed – you must. There is no other way. You understand the universality of emotions – what is funny to one is also funny to a person who lives halfway around the world. When a man such as Jim Thompson disappears off the face of the earth, everyone wonders how that could happen and the same possibilities run through hundreds of minds. Food is a common love of all people, as is music, dance, beautiful scenery, art, adventure – we are all one. How could we not be? The planet has grown small with technology, but what unites us all is the human bond. The sharing of times and places and stories all feeding the universal, collective soul of people everywhere.

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