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Monday, October 28, 2013

Another Not-So-Mysterious Mysterious Map

In January 1992, I participated in a Buddhist pilgrimage through northern India with twenty other sangha members of the monastery mentioned in the previous post.  It was a love/hate experience for our group. I fell in love with India, while some were not so enthralled.

     We flew from NY to Frankfurt to Lahore, where we were met with armed soldiers as we deplaned. Hmmm.  We had an overnight layover in this border Pakistani town, but first, we were forced to hand over our passports.  This was unsettling, but the airport officials were quite clear that there was no choice in the matter.  

     In the morning, we were to fly to New Delhi to begin the pilgrimage.  But, not before we had to suffer through some very thorough searches due to a bomb threat.  All the luggage for the entire plane was deposited on the airfield, and in turn, we each had to identify our bags and lug them to the plane.

     Finally, we lifted off towards New Delhi.  No sooner were we in our hotel room, when my roommate took off only to reappear stating that she wanted to exchange some money. She had found someone who would give us a really good exchange rate.  It was the black market.  Did I mind?  (Only afterwards, did I realize what a majorly dumb thing that was - it seemed so worldly, so exciting at the time.  I'm very glad to not be spending the rest of my life, lost and forgotten, within India's penal system.)

     While in Delhi, we visited the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort and other wondrous, historical sights in nearby Agra before traveling by train to Varanasi.  (Overnight train travel in India is a very unique experience - one not to be missed. It shows how good of a traveler one really is.)

     Varanasi, also known as Benares, is the spiritual capital of India.  Located on the banks of the Ganges, I found Varanasi to be the most vibrant of the places on our tour.  Its Old City is made up of narrow winding passage-ways in labyrinth-like formation crowded with stalls selling clothing, kitchenware, fruits and vegetables, shoe repair, mounds of powdered resins and incense, small glass jars of aromatic oils, and everywhere.... marigolds.  Sacred cows plod through the cramped quarters, and more than once, I found myself flattening against a wall, so as not to come into contact with the revered ones.

     Cymbals clashing; horns blaring; a body, swaddled in white cloth with a scattering of marigolds, atop a pallet as it's carried by bearers to the river's banks, where smoke rises from burning pyres; the cracking of bones and splitting of skulls as fires consume the dead. This is the burning ghats.

     Once, it took approximately 15 hours to travel just 120 miles between one place and another, but extraordinarily long delays are something to be expected - to accept - when one travels in India.

     Bodh Gaya reminded me of a place where Indiana Jones would feel comfortable. I could just imagine him having great adventures in this hallowed place, dashing amongst the throngs of monks, pilgrims, students, travelers and the curious, from everywhere on our planet, to pay homage to the Mahabodhi Temple, because it was here beneath a bodhi tree that Buddha decided to sit.... to contemplate..... until he understood.... and, became enlightened.  It was here that I participated in a jukai  ceremony and received my dharma name.  It is also here that I became rather ill.  Maybe from having tea in a Tibetan refugee's tent one evening.  One needs to be careful about the water and cleanliness of cups and dishes and utensils and......  well, everything.

     The last stop in India was Kushinagar, where it is said that Buddha died.  The food at the guesthouse where we stayed was superior (in my opinion) to all the other places we dined. It was later that I learned of the rats running and scurrying through the kitchen doing rat-like things.  (The food WAS really good, though.  The rats didn't change that for me.)

     Then, it was on to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.  Located in modern-day Nepal, Lumbini was in India when Buddha was born.  As borders shifted with political currents and neighboring skirmishes, Lumbini found itself in Nepal.  We stayed there for a couple of days/nights and had some down time before traveling by bus to Kathmandu.

     The road to Kathmandu twisted and turned through the spectacular Nepalese country-side, and the terraced fields were just breath-taking.  At one point, our bus route took us across a very rickety-looking bridge high over a deep ravine.  I remember feeling fearful. Evidently, I wasn't  the only one who had felt that way, because at the next bridge, we were told to get off the bus and walk across. The driver wanted to lighten the load of his bus as much as possible.  Once we regrouped on the other side, he inched his way across the bridge where we breathed a collective sigh upon his safety.

     Having graduated from high school in the same year as the summer of love, I had been dreaming of ambling through the crooked alley ways of Kathmandu for years.  (There's a connection there and if you don't get it, that's okay.) When Pico Iyer's Video Night in Kathmandu was published, reading that just added fuel to my longing.

     Kathmandu was intoxicating.  Kathmandu was exhilarating.  It did not disappoint. How to describe the sights, sounds and smells?  I can't. I'd be writing forever trying to capture the exact words to convey experiences that were mine alone. But, there was just so MUCH of everything.  It was also an opportunity for shedding any extra pounds.  Was it something I ate?  Or drank?  I'll never know - though I kept recalling that tent in Bodh Gaya. However, as I began pinning my waistbands to take up the slack, I made a mental-note that a colon cleanse would be a wise thing to do upon returning home.

     Visiting the Bodhanath Stupa (you know the one I mean - it's the large structure with the big Buddha eyes that graces every publication related to Nepal) and circumambulating in a clock-wise direction while setting the prayer wheels to spinning satisfied a life-long dream.

     On the day I sadly said farewell to Nepal, the air was crisp and clear.  As the plane climbed, and I pondered forlornly if I would ever return, my spirits lifted when the flight attendant tapped me on the shoulder pointing to look out the window.  For there, with the sun blazing on its steep snow-covered slopes, was Mount Everest. Truly a National Geographic moment.  I don't think I breathed as I gazed at the majestic beauty of one of the seven wonders of the world.  Only when it had faded from my view, did I take my eyes off that glorious mountain.

     Next stop was Karachi for an overnight layover, where I automatically handed over my passport.  No sense in arguing with people who held machine guns.

     In the morning, we flew to Paris for an all-to-brief layover before returning home.  At this point, there were but three of us traveling together, and upon landing immediately got reacquainted with flush toilets. We purchased fresh fruit, cheese, crackers and a small bottle of champagne and moaned with pleasure as we sank our teeth into something raw and crunchy after days of eating well-cooked vegetables and rice.

     This map was the centerfold for the journal I completed for The Sketchbook Project. What was to be a short post swelled into a larger one.  As I connected the small dots, memories began rising and demanding to fill the gaps on this not-so-mysterious mysterious map


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mysterious Maps

I love these words - Mysterious Maps. They conjure up fantasies of hidden treasure, lost civilizations, clandestine rendezvous..... I could go on, but there's really no reason to.  However, the maps I drew turned out to not be so very mysterious. However, I'm pleased to say that they have been viewed in Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; and just recently, Montreal, QC.

     But in general, I just love maps.  Paper maps, that is. I like having the whole picture before my eyes at a glance, rather than an electronic version which requires zooming in or out, using arrows to go east or west, etc.  In short, I am frustrated with web maps.  (Btw, I am not a fan of GPS. I do not use GPS. I like figuring out my own route.... it's how I learn about an area.)

     Early in the year, I think February, my friend Rebecca told me about the Sketchbook Project.  Upon visiting the website, I was instantly intrigued, choosing a tour and eagerly checking my mailbox for the arrival of the small sketchbook provided by the project.  I couldn't wait to get started.  The idea of my art journal traveling to different locales, and people, whom it's unlikely I will ever meet, actually wanting to see my drawings was very appealing.  A pet, a stroke, whatever you want to call it - quelled my ego. Shoving my sketchbook onto spouse and friends to look at and watching their eyes glaze over or go out-of-focus, doesn't do them, most of all - me - any good.

     It was a given that I would choose the Mysterious Maps tour.

     I decided to create maps of Journeys I Have Taken.
     (Title page, down.  15 maps to go.)

     At first, I was boggled with mediums.  Which to use?  Micron pens for sure. Watercolor? Pastels? Stencils? Collage? Color pencils? Markers?  My mind swung from branch to branch until exhaustion set in.

     Finally, I settled down and decided upon Microns, a few fiber-tipped pens, color pencils and watercolor.  Not only was the project simplified, but the supplies were easy to transport to my various spot studios at local cafes and coffeehouses.

     So, here is one of my not-so-mysterious mysterious maps.

Rinzai Zen Monastery in NY
     For several years, I participated in seven-day sesshins at this beautiful, remote monastery in New York.  I hope to return someday.

    This map is done primarily with Micron pens and color pencil - mostly a variety of grays.  The right panel represents the main floor of the monastery, and the square area is a dry stone meditative garden with a large rock strategically placed.  In my map, it looks more like a misshapen Hershey's kiss.

     So, if you're tired of pushing your art onto the loved ones in your life, you might look into the Sketchbook Project or start an art blog or do both. And reader beware, a couple more maps will be posted!




Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sweets for the....

I am not a sweet person.  No argument there.  But, before those of you who know me start bobbing your head in agreement, what I'm referring to is that I prefer salty treats over sugar - though salty caramels are the best of both - in my world.

     So, while Sweet Moses, a soda fountain and treat shop, on Detroit Ave. in the burgeoning area of Gordon Square Arts District was on my list of places to visit, it was easy for me to keep driving pass it, again and again and again.

     You see, while I was growing up, every drug store had a soda fountain. Plus, in my neighborhood, there was the Arundel, that did not offer drugs or sundries.  The Arundel was a hang-out.... like Arnold's on Happy Days.  But, whether it was a drug store, the Arundel or Arnold's, there were other items on the board besides sweet things.  Burgers, BLT's, grilled cheese sandwiches, fries and onion rings were staples, along with chocolate, cherry or vanilla Cokes.  When low on funds, I could always order a half-Coke.  Try and do that these days.  Just imagine the look you'd get from the counter person!

     Back to Sweet Moses.  I was driving around with a friend and in need of a restroom, and the closest consideration was Sweet Moses.  I didn't really want a sweet shop, but needing to prioritize, I didn't have much choice.

     Upon walking through the front door, I took a few steps and stopped and stared.  Ohhhhhh......

I was dazzled!  You should know, that this picture doesn't do justice to this delightful shop, but there wasn't any way that I could encompass the whole scene that was before me.  For one thing, there were customers everywhere!

     This pleased me immensely.  I had to wait for service?  No prob!  I was glad to see that the soda jerks were busy, busy.  (In this day of businesses failing, busy is a wonderful thing!)

    Oh gosh, what to order?  Then, on the board, under Limited-Time Offerings was written "mulled cider sorbet'.  Mid-October.  Shortened days. Falling leaves. Cider!

     As I savored each spoonful, I kept thinking about the variety of delectable items in the front case.  I felt the hook setting in.  This meant that once again, I was waiting.  No prob!

     Because it gave me a bit more time to gaze over the many offerings before settling upon

this decadently sweet, moist, chocolate covered with a white chocolate drizzle, brownie on a stick.

          Upon leaving, my friend suggested that we should return with our sketchbooks.  I agreed without hesitation.

     Once home, I brewed a cup of Numi's chocolate pu-erh tea, while my husband brewed a cup of Lapsang Souchong (which to my nose, smells much like fresh, hot tar), and we shared this awesome concoction of deliciousness.

     So, if you haven't yet made it to Sweet Moses, don't wait any longer.  Go! And, if you look around, you just might find me sitting in a booth with a pencil in one hand and a spoon in the other..... indulging in sweetness.




Monday, October 7, 2013

It's Transformer, uh Transformation Time

According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of transformation is 'a complete or major change in someone's or something's appearance, form, etc.'
     Hmmm.  Etc. = etcera = unspecified additional items.  Unspecified.  (I better stop now.)

     To get back on track, I find it interesting that during yet another personal transformation, that I have begun volunteering at Transformer Station located at 1460 W. 29th, just south of Detroit Ave.

     By 'personal transformation' I'm preferring to the awakening of my right brain.  It seems that I have become an artist.  At least, that's what others tell me.... that's how others see me.  (Hooray!  But to be honest, when I look in the mirror, I still see the studious 'me' that anguished over hours of required homework in a college-prep school.)

     Now, this artsy thing didn't just happen overnight.  It actually began in 1986 when I decided to study yoga from Juliana (awesome teacher, btw) in Rocky River.  I was in desperate need for answers; as well as balance in my life.

     Oh,  I had no problems with standing on one foot, as I had been dancing en pointe for several years.   Pirouette down the room.... no prob. Rather, it was my emotional and spiritual states that felt wonky.  I instinctively knew that yoga held the key.

     I was ever so conscientious, when I began practicing asanas to bring the ha side of my being with the tha side into a state of balance.  I knew that it would take time.  By time, I mean years.  And, I was fine with that.  But, just to speed things up a bit (you can relate, yes?), I began making fresh orange juice. That's right... orange juice.  With my left hand, I would squeeze the juice out of oranges in the attempt to jar anything that remotely resembled creativity that was lying dormant in the right hemisphere of my brain.

My 1st pen&ink (2010)

     Fast forward 27 years.  The transformation has happened. It is still happening.  And, I am involved with Transformer Station that has taken a fresh approach in Cleveland's transformation by bringing original contemporary art exhibitions and events to the west side of the Cuyahoga River.  

     Now of course, YOU too, are transforming..... so while you're at it, drop by Transformer Station.  I guarantee that you will have an unique experience. Hope to see you there!



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Seed for This Blog

The seed for this blog all began with a book project for Art Books Cleveland (of which I'm a member), an organization that is advancing the appreciation of book arts.

     Along with making a book for the 6th Annual ABECEDARIA exhibition , the theme for this year's additional project was to create a travel journal. Whether it was a real or imagined journey didn't matter, just so long as it was in book form... which in the world of book arts, can mean almost anything.

     So, I decided that my journal would be about my daily journeys within a week's time.  Sunday through Saturday.  Ante Meridiem and Post Meridiem. (The Latin is for you, Cyril! Have a good journey.... you'll be missed.)

     As you can see, this is the spread for Tuesday.  In the AM, a few of us do yoga on the front porch, weather permitting.  In the afternoon, my husband and I like to lunch at Gray Dog Diner, next to the Nicholson House on Detroit Ave.

     One Friday, my friend Calvin and I ventured to Pittsburgh for the day.  Our goal was to visit The Andy Warhol Museum.  Rather than driving and spending $$ on gasoline and tolls, we decided to ride the Greyhound bus, as a round trip ticket cost only $12.00. Good deal!

     While working on this project, I kept trying to come up with an appropriate title.  Titles do not come easily to me, and in fact, there were times that I'd wake up in the early AM mulling over a title even before I was fully conscious.

     Then, I thought of the book,  'Around the World in 80 Days'.  Ah ha.

     A bit of tweaking, and I had a title.  'Around My World in 7 Days'.

     And next, I had a blog.