Summer Solstice

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The June solstice has been associated with many ancient summer traditions and continues to be celebrated in modern society. It is also known as the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere and the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. The June solstice occurs on June 20, 21 or 22 in the Gregorian calendar, which is currently used in many western countries.

The June Solstice and Ancient Traditions

In ancient times, the date of the June solstice was an important source to help people manage their calendars and organize when to plant and harvest crops. This time of year was also a traditional month for weddings. Some societies invested much effort to establish the length of the year.

Stonehenge was built around 3100 BCE. Some people believe that it was built to help establish when the summer solstice occurred. Interestingly, the sun rises at a particular point on the horizon as viewed from the centre of the stone circle on day of the June solstice. At that point the builders may have started counting the days of the year. Many other megalith structures in Europe may have been built for similar purposes, although reasons are still uncertain.

In ancient China, the summer solstice was observed by a ceremony to celebrate the Earth, femininity, and the “yin” forces. It complemented the winter solstice that celebrated the heavens, masculinity and “yang” forces. According to Chinese tradition, the shortest shadow is found on the day of summer solstice.

In many countries in Europe, Midsummer festivals or celebrations were held around the time of the June solstice. In ancient Gaul, the Midsummer celebration was called Feast of Epona, named after a mare goddess who personified fertility and protected horses. In ancient Germanic, Slav and Celtic tribes, many pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires. After Christianity spread in Europe and other parts of the world, many pagan customs were incorporated into the Christian religion. In many parts of Scandinavia, the Midsummer celebration continued but was observed around the time of St John’s Day, on June 24, to honor St John the Baptist instead of the pagan gods.

In North America, many Native American tribes held ritual dances to honor the sun. The Sioux were known to hold one of the most spectacular rituals. Usually performed during the June solstice, preparations for the dance included cutting and raising a tree that would be considered a visible connection between the heavens and Earth, and setting up teepees in a circle to represent the cosmos. Participants abstained from food and drink during the dance itself. Their bodies were decorated in the symbolic colors of red (sunset), blue (sky), yellow (lightning), white (light), and black (night).

The June Solstice’s Influence in Modern Times
There are many solstice observances held by New Age and Neopagan groups throughout the world. Thousands of people, including modern-day druids and pagans, usually gather at Stonehenge for this occasion.

In some parts of the United States, events that focus on the theme of the summer solstice are held. These events include: local festivals featuring art or music; environmental awareness activities that focus on using natural sunlight as a source of energy; and family gatherings.

In northern European countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, the Midsummer Festival is one of the most festive summer celebrations. Celebrations occur when the summer days are at their longest – and in the north it is the time of the midnight sun. Midsummer festivals generally celebrate the summer and the fertility of the Earth. In Sweden and many parts of Finland people dance around maypoles. Bonfires are lit and homes are decorated with flower garlands, greenery, and tree branches.

I found this on Wikipedia- I have a fascination with all things Midsummer. Just now while I was walking through my studio, I came across this small encaustic I’d created and immediately named it Summer Solstice.

And, poof!…blog post!

 

Sunday Blues

imageJust the right shade of blue for a Sunday afternoon…another no-rules encaustic on 12×12 cradled panel.

No Rules, Just Art

20140607-220557-79557228.jpgI went into the studio and made this. I didn’t plan anything. I used the colors already on the palette; the choices based on which ones became liquid first. And I just kept at it until it was done. I like that plan.
“Faded Flowers” 12×12 encaustic on cradled panel

Lost…and Found

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As I’m sitting here typing this post I can smell these panels.

Encaustic is such an organic art form – in more ways than one.

First, there’s the beeswax – the very heart and soul of the process.  Wax in its solid form has a really nice fragrance, but you cannot imagine how wonderfully pleasing it smells in its liquid form.  And since the wax must remain liquid (and warm) in order to paint with it – you’re enveloped in this heady aroma during the entire painting process.

And it lingers even after that!

Not only is the medium itself organic but this weekend I took a class taught by Elizabeth Schowachert on a process she calls Organic Fusion.

And how appropriate …because it felt as though it was the culmination of several  recent artistic explorations fused together on to my panels.  It wasn’t just THIS newly learned technique but also bits and pieces of techniques and processes I’d been exploring for the last few months.  And not just with encaustics but with acrylics and with my digital composits as well.

And even though the class wasn’t as long as I would have liked, the new technique allowed me the freedom to lose myself in it and not focus so much on the process itself.

And I think that was the best part of all.

Flash Flood

flash flood

9 Rules for a Simpler Day (by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits)

Our days fill up so fast, and are so rushed and filled with distractions, that they seem to be bursting.
It’s a huge source of stress for most people, and stress is perhaps the most important factor determining whether we’re healthy or sick.
So how can we simplify our days? It’s not incredibly hard, but I’ve found it’s best done in steps.
These are the steps I followed, though of course calling them “rules” means we should test them and break them as needed. No rules should be followed blindly. I’ve found these to work really well, though.

9 Rules for a Simpler Day
These are the rules I suggest:

Know What’s Important. The simple version of simplifying is “Identify what’s important, and eliminate the rest.” So take time to identify the most important things in your life (4-5 things), and then see what activities, tasks, projects, meeting and commitments fit in with that list. Also take time each day to identify 1-3 Most Important Tasks (MITs), at the beginning of your day. Or the night before, for the next day.
Visualize Your Perfect Day. This is not so much because this “perfect day” will come true, as it is to understand what a simple day means to you. It’s different for each person — for me, it might mean some meditation and writing and spending time with my wife and kids. For others, it’s yoga and painting and a hot bath. For others, it’s time to focus on the important work, but still get other things done later in the day. Take a minute to visualize what it means to you.
Say No to Extra Commitments. Now that you’ve identified what’s important, along with the “perfect day”, you need to start saying “No” to things that aren’t on your important list, and that are standing in the way of the perfect day. The biggest thing you can say No to is a commitment — membership on a committee, involvement in a project, coaching or participating in a team, going to an event, being a partner in a business, etc. List and evaluate your commitments (professional, civic and personal), and say No to at least one. It just takes a call or email.
Limit Tasks. Each morning, list your 1-3 most important tasks. List other tasks you’d like to do. Say no to some of them. See if you can limit your list to 5-7 tasks per day (not counting little things, which you’ll batch). Limiting your tasks helps you focus, and acknowledges you’re not going to get everything done in one day.
Carve Out Un-distraction Time. When are you going to do your most important work? Schedule it with a block of time (1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, whatever works for you). Make this your most sacred appointment. Become incommunicado. Close the Internet, all notifications, hold all calls. Just do the most important task, then the next one if you have time.
Slow Down. We rush through our days, almost in a single frenetic anxiety-filled non-stop movement. Instead, slow down. Life won’t collapse if you aren’t rushing from task to task, email to email. You can pause, take a moment to reflect, smile, enjoy the current task before moving on.
Mindfully Single-task. Stop multi-tasking. One task at a time, with full focus on that task. Practice mindfulness as you do the task — it’s a form of meditation. Watch your thoughts wander to what you need to do later, but then return to the task at hand. Your day will be much simpler, and much more enjoyable, when you practice being present with your current task.
Batch Smaller Tasks, Then Let go. Email, paperwork, little things at the bottom of your task list (create a “small tasks” section at the bottom), minor phone calls, etc. … these shouldn’t get in the way of your important tasks. But they still need to be done sometime (unless you can let them go, which is best whenever possible). If you need to do them, batch them and do them in one go. It’s best to do these later in the day, when your energy is lower and you’ve done the important tasks for the day. Don’t let the small tasks get in the way of the big ones. When you’ve done a batch of small tasks (including processing email), let them go, and get out. You don’t want to do this all day, or even half a day.
Create Space Between. We cram our tasks and meetings together, and leave no spaces between them. The space between things is just as important as the things themselves. Leave a little space between meetings, even tasks. Take a break to stretch, walk around, get a glass of water, perhaps do some simple breathing meditation for a minute or two. Enjoy the space.

The attached image “Flash Flood” (Encaustic, 8×8 on cradled panel) – inspired by the weather reports over the weekend.

I have a couple more too…tomorrow.

The Abyss

What’s it like at the bottom of the ocean?

Depending on which ocean, and where – the depth varies from 27,144 to 35,800 feet.  Considering that Mount Everest is 29,028 feet…that’s quite a dive.

The abyss is characterized by intense cold, 0.6 C to 3.5 C (water freezes at 0 C), no light, and lots of pressure.  At these great depths, the pressure can equal about 8 tons per square inch and at that pressure, because of the liquid nature of water, is exerted in all directions.

One would think that nothing could live in this extremely hostile environment. But research has proven this to be untrue. Creatures with names such as the whip tail gulper eel, sea cucumber, grenadier or rattail fish, a host of marine isopods, and the glass sponge, Eupleetella asperfillum, live down there.

And at the bottom of these depths…ooze! Not like the kind you associate with the bottom of a muddy pond, or saltwater marsh, but a grayish, yellowish, tarnish ooze with a butter-like consistency; slippery and very cold.

Ooze is composed of particles of sediments, the dead bodies of microscopic plankton which, year after year, eon and eon, has fallen to the bottom – a biological history of the life in the ocean. 

Maybe that’s why I feel such a kinship with the ocean.  I think a lot of us do.

It holds such mystery and beauty.

“Abyss” is a recent Encaustic piece I created this weekend.

The above information was taken from The Rhode Island Sea Grant Fact Sheet – a paper by Prentice K. Stout.

Satellite

Satellite – Dave Matthews

Satellite in my eyes
Like a diamond in the sky
How I wonder.
Satellite strung from the moon
And the world your balloon
Peeping tom for the mother station
Winter’s cold spring erases
And the calm away by the storm is chasing
Everything good needs replacing
Look up, look down all around, hey satellite

Satellite, headlines read
Someone’s secrets you’ve seen
Eyes and ears have been
Satellite dish in my yard
Tell me more, tell me more
Who’s the king of your satellite castle?

Winter’s cold spring erases
And the calm away by the storm is chasing
Everything good needs replacing
Look up, look down all around, hey satellite
Rest high above the clouds no restrictions
Television we bounce ’round the world
And while I spend these hours
Five senses reeling,
I laugh about the weatherman’s satellite eyes.

Satellite in my eyes
Like a diamond in the sky
How i wonder.
Satellite strung from the moon
And the world your balloon
Peeping tom for the mother station

Winter’s cold spring erases
And the calm away by the storm is chasing
Everything good needs replacing
Look up, look down all around, hey satellite

Rest high above the clouds no restrictions
Television you bounce from the world
And while I spend these hours
Five senses reeling
I laugh about this world in my satellite eyes.

*Encaustic piece entitled: “Satellite“.