Quote for Today: Hope Jahren

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After scientists broke open the coat of a lotus seed (Nelumbo nucifera) and coddled the embryo into growth, they kept the empty husk. When they radiocarbon-dated this discarded outer shell, they discovered that their seedling had been waiting for them within a peat bog in China for no less than two thousand years. This tiny seed had stubbornly kept up the hope of its own future while entire human civilizations rose and fell. And then one day this little plant’s yearning finally burst forth within a laboratory.
Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

Image: Inside a Lotus Flower © Katja Schulz with CCLicense

What’s All This Then: Synkroniciti’s First Open Mic Exceeds Expectations

Last Sunday, synkroniciti held its first public event, an Open Mic featuring works that explored beginnings. What an inspiring experience!

Some of the goodies to be shared.

Some of the goodies to be shared.

As the afternoon darkened into an intense storm, listeners and performers made their way to my home. Although the weather kept some from making it, we had plenty of art to share and a circle of twelve open minds and hearts that made the soiree a true joy. Our number was actually thirteen if you count Lisa Sasabuki, our cat, who was intent on being a proper hostess. I am so proud to report such an auspicious beginning!

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We began by mingling over snacks and drinks, waiting for those out in the storm to arrive. It was soon apparent that we had attracted a circle of free thinking folks who are interested in experiencing things that aren’t served up on television or packaged for us by popular culture. Our conversation grew into a discussion of art, aesthetics and creativity. Then time came to see what we had to share.

As the storm outside subsided, Ofelia Adame began the evening with a meditation on the elements, invoking earth, wind, fire, and air to bless our journey together. This dovetailed very nicely into the presentation of my first painting, Germination. This piece is about the need for fire to germinate seeds and the cycle of chaos and order inherent in the creative process. It was wonderful to explain the picture and then receive impressions from the group. As we were more interested in finding meaning than critiquing execution, the environment was electric with revelation and positivity. I will never forget the moment in which several people pointed out that the burning tree trunk in the center of Germination can also be interpreted as a phoenix, which encapsulates the meaning of the entire work. Somehow I was not fully conscious of it.

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Laura Bourdo seized upon the theme of chaos as central to her contribution, The Seagull’s Call, excerpted from a novel that is, as of yet, nameless. This was a stunning and heartbreaking read depicting a family struggling with mental illness. Full of moments of bright humor and crushing realization, it could have moved stone. The psychological depth of the writing was further enhanced by the naturalness and sincerity of Laura’s recitation, which bristled with intention and belied an excellent sense of pace and structure. She’s an artist of many dimensions, as you can see at her website, which focuses on her visual art.

America McDaniel shared an illustration of Rapunzel gazing longingly from her tower window, waiting for life to begin. This lovely pencil sketch is complex, juxtaposing romantic longing, revealed in her wistful glance and luxurious hair, with determination, revealed in the strong set of her arm as she leans toward the window. It is this arm with which America began drawing. It remains the anchor of the piece, showing the determination and capability that make Rapunzel different from other fairy tale girls. While they are rescued by male prowess or supernatural intervention, she designs her own escape.

Ofelia returned with a poem entitled Anticipation, which explores the feelings and thoughts a performer experiences on opening night. The fear of the unknown, the knowledge that nothing is completely as we have envisioned it and the clicking into place of practiced elements to make something new and transformative are key parts of any creative process, including life itself. We could all find threads in Ofelia’s big hearted and exuberant poem that applied to our own experience.

Speaking of big hearted and exuberant, that brings us to a dramatic reading by Jane and David Lowy from Jane’s Victorian period novel, Wobbly Barstool, inspired by the work of Charles Dickens. The novel chronicles the adventures of Wobbly, a young fellow trying to better himself in order to attract the attentions of Prunella, a socialite a little older and classier than himself. This reading was the end of a chapter entitled Wobbly Falls into an Awareness of the Drawbacks of Itinerant Employment. It is a hilarious recounting of the near seduction of Wobbly by an older, unhappily married woman who promises the gullible young man experience. It features an angry husband and an ill treated goat, both of which David made completely unforgettable. Jane supplied each of us with a signed copy of the novel, which I can’t wait to read and write about here on the blog! Please check out Jane’s websiteIMG_6207

In closing, I read Clouda poem about the fear and excitement of realizing a new idea, here symbolized by a cloud. Even as the cloud seems about to fizzle, it finds an open field in someone else and, miracle of miracles, it thickens and produces rain. This returned us rather neatly to our stormy world. No one was in a hurry to leave, which confirmed the night a success in my mind. I couldn’t have hoped for a better first experience.

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A big thank you to Laura, America, Ofelia, Jane and David; to Robert and Trudi for not only being great listeners, but for bringing in top notch performing talent; to my brother-in-law, Eric, for being a part of our circle and for encouraging my niece, America, to present with such poise and talent; to Orion for being such an engaging and well spoken listener; to Ofelia and Charles for their help in organizing and  putting together food; and most of all, to Neil who busted his tail helping get the house ready and still had the energy to be a part of everything. The experience was akin to finding my own tribe and I am so grateful.

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Our next Open Mic adventure will happen in November. Any creative person is welcome to come and share their process and their creations at our Open Mics. We do ask that the material be the original work of the artist. If you live or work near Houston, Texas and would like to be a part of one of these adventures, either as a performer/creator or listener, please contact us.

Fiery Beginnings: Germination by Katherine McDaniel

Some trees require fire to germinate their seeds and begin their life. Is there a metaphor here for human creativity?

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

For much of the last century, Americans sought to prevent forest fires, unaware that the seeds of many forest trees require fire to germinate. The result is that, in most places, the great trees have not reproduced, but the forest floor has filled in with smaller plants and scrub, as well as the skeletons of old trees as they grow old and fall. In protecting the forest ecosystem from adversity, we were creating a weak forest. In addition to being old and sickly, these forests burn uncontrollably when they do catch fire, because fire takes out the undergrowth first, using the the dry wood of dead trees as kindling.

This picture, Germination, is my first canvas. The photo is a decent representation, although I don’t have the technology to capture the texture and shading properly. It’s a different experience using brushes and colored paints rather than pencil, but it was fun to explore. I paint the same way I draw, automatically, just following what my hand does with my eye. I chose the colors I would use, prepped the canvas and started with nothing in my head. Experimenting with brushes was fascinating, and the process of blending colors was eye opening and wonderful, allowing tone and shading. The paint used here is acrylic and the canvas was something I found in a closet from a project that didn’t turn out. From small beginnings come new things.

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Germination,  © Katherine McDaniel, synkronciti, 2014

One of things that impressed me about painting was that, often I would get an edge or a combination that pleased me, only to have that element deleted as I added another color. In the end I was pleased with the piece overall, and I realized that those tiny touches that I had so exulted in were actually holding back the entire painting. I know have done this in life–been so pleased with the way that I sang or performed some detail that I missed the wholeness of what I was doing. Have you ever felt that?

After I paint I try to decipher what I have made. If you look at the left side of Germination, you will see order, featuring seedpods and flowers, while the right is chaotic, featuring fire. There is a shape angling out from the three ovoid seedpods that reminds me of a woman wearing a skirt, with a large seed pod on that skirt. Hugging her body are the roots of a tree, which lies between the ordered and disordered zones of the painting. The tree is burning, holding back a spectacular firestorm from the seedpods. In the right hand corner is something that looks like an animal made of flame. The skirt and the seedpod have caught fire from the head or the tail of this beast, but the conflagration quietly peters out into a gentle hue as it reaches the flowers on the left side of the picture.

To me, this picture speaks of the unity of human beings with nature and the necessity of fire and death. Sometimes we want happiness so desperately that we insulate ourselves and our children from the pain of being human. Remind yourself and those you love that it is okay to be unhappy, to hurt, to experience death. When we hold it all together for others, we invite the wildfire to consume us and take those around us too.

It is the fiery chaos that makes the ordered life possible, and the ordered life that gives the fiery chaos meaning. Beginnings do not just happen. Space has to be cleared and heat applied for new life to begin.

What do you see? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

kat