An Artist’s Life – Part II

SUNSET

Art emanates from the body’s experience in the physical world; art arises from spiritual forces that animate the world we perceive. Art enhances and extends our perception of the life experience.

Art is a record of values, what is valued, of memory, of dreaming. Art is organic, from the great experiment set in motion by the greatest Artist of all, who creates without judgement – setting form free upon the world to live, interact and transform with time, ultimately to return to the body of the universe herself.

We need art to see, to perhaps understand, and to remember the beauty of being alive on a magical planet spinning among stars, to be drawn together in our mutual experience as one body of living creatures on Earth.

Art reminds us that We Are One–mysterious, full of gratitude for the rising sun, cool moon, and final rest in the substance from which we once arrived – fresh, receptive, and excited to be alive!

*In celebration of my dear friend, Boyd Christensen, artist and fellow sojourner, and to all artists among us who remind us how we once arrived, full of joy and wonder.

An Artist’s Life: Part 1

IMG_20150518_185202Boyd Christensen, my dear friend, passed away yesterday. He was friend, buddy, and my artist mentor. A quiet man, his art focused on design in nature.

As an artist creates, his or her ideas and medium of expression evolve. One can see this in the body of Boyd’s work and the materials through which he chose to create.

He was a problem-solver, good at design, good with his hands which he applied to construction. He and Betty, brought their unique abilities to every home they owned–each a masterwork of thoughtful, organic design.

Boyd taught me what an artist’s life is about, not through words, but through his daily actions which I observed over the 30 years we knew each other. He was always thinking about his art, and I noticed that he saw shadow, light, negative space and motion/form in all things. His mind was clear.

He worked in his studio almost daily but he also kept up a playful active life which I believe refueled the artist impulse. He liked to “work in his woods” and to ski, mostly cross country–sometimes in what he described as a heat wave (above zero in Duluth). I was a desert dweller and later a Floridian whom he like to tease about being a wimp when it comes to a Minnesota wintertime.

Their current home in Duluth, MN is a beautiful place set on a hill overlooking Lake Superior. There were thick copses of trees which Boyd set about clearing to improve the view. A man who cared deeply about nature, in fact found the inspiration for his art from nature, he kept each tree for his art.

The popple tree (big-toothed aspen) provided an easy medium for his sculpture. Under the gray or green-yellow bark, the pith is white and smooth, looking at times almost like bone or ivory. Boyd carefully cut each tree, saving the trunks, major limbs, and all the smaller branches, cataloging them so that he could juxtapose these in a sculpture, a set of relationships that reformed the essence of the tree into a new expression. He stayed at his new form of art for many years and finally amassed what he named The Folded Forest. Here is one example:

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Will This Year’s Advent Season Be an Advent of Change?

cropped-veterans-day-2013-067.jpgToday the final draft of the Paris Climate Agreement (COP 21) was released. While the breakthrough for undeveloped (i.e. more at risk) nations was a 1.5 degree Centigrade limit on global temperature, the current plan would result in a 2.7 degree Centigrade increase by 2050. That would devastate many low lying areas of the world due to sea level rise.

This means that the participating countries will all have to increase their commitments to reduce green house gases over the intervening years until the next summit in 202o. And the differential goals require countries who are or have been the biggest polluters (China and U.S. respectively) to make the biggest commitments.

Right now major negotiations are taking place. These negotiations will spell out the future of humanity on earth, the fates of our children, and all life on earth in its present state. Just writing that sentence is profound.

While no one can guess the future, I at least hold some hope that such a convention as the Paris talks has moved the world closer to accepting climate change as a real threat. Yet, in my own country I despair that is not true. At least one political party is in denial while the other wrangles to get anything substantive accomplished to mitigate changes.

In my own state of Florida it is much more bleak: Governor Scott banned his environmental protection agencies from using the words climate change or global warming. Like a child, he foolishly believes if you can’t say it, it will not be true.

History will show the absolute insanity of many of our current political leaders. And, sadly, there are many more in the wings

Here is the evidence.  Locally, Pensacola has moved from 8b to 9a in Plant Hardiness Zones over the last decade (an average low temperature increase of 10 degrees F). On today, December 12, 2015 it will be 75 degrees Fahrenheit with lows still in the 60s. Of course, we all love it … until you reflect on what it portends.

 

Pensacola Says Yes to a Climate Change Task Force

cropped-244.jpgLast night the City Council passed a resolution to establish a Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Task Force.

This has been over a year in the making. Introduced by Councilwoman Sherri Myers, and spearheaded by 350 Pensacola, the resolution was unanimously adopted as council members observe the impacts of a changing climate on our land and waters.

This is a huge victory for Pensacola. Experts agree that cities are the centers of climate change mitigation, having the most control over how their city handles its emissions, energy efficiency, and citizen participation in reducing its emissions footprint while innovating to improve quality of life. These strategies include green building, slowing traffic, improving public transportation, walking and biking lanes, and supporting local business. Making sure we protect water quality, build environments that reduce heat, embellish the natural environment, and enable all citizens to participate will be the concerns of this task force.

All these initiatives create jobs, save money, and set up the city to receive funding from foundations, state and federal agencies that are pouring more money into climate mitigation programs.

Challenges are: 1) the Mayor has not shown interest in the Task Force; 2) the State of Florida lacks leadership from the Governor and legislature to enact the policies and support to truly help cities make the energy and infrastructure changes that are necessary to become truly climate adapted. Citizen participation is crucial to bring leaders and experts to the task.  Check the City Council site to get to meetings and to contact council members to express your ideas. Write Mayor Aston Hayward to express your desire that he become an active participant with the Task Force.

 

The Next Renaissance: Coming Soon?

200px-Albert_Schweitzer,_Etching_by_Arthur_William_HeintzelmanThis post continues a focus on Albert Schweitzer’s life and his philosophy. I consider his life important to review again because he was grappling with the very issues we still struggle to understand today: what is the ethical basis for living?

Consider the following premise by Albert Schweitzer, one found after a lifetime of study and thought.

Civilization as we know it today is incomplete. It has brought us material progress but without being joined with the positive embrace of life itself. By realizing that we are each a life that wills to live, among every other person, plant or animal that also wills to live, we affirm all life as having value. This positive affirmation of life – the ethical basis for living – when combined with the will toward material progress – Schweitzer contended will lead on to the next human cultural Renaissance–a civilization that has learned how to live in peace.

Schweitzer’s autobiography, Out of My Life and Thought, is an excellent way to learn more about the evolution of his understanding, and eventual arrival at the principle of Respect for Life. Reading it again helped me see more clearly the task of Americans as we get ready to elect the next President, and as we are in consultation with all nations in Paris for the protection of all life on Earth.

Other Resources to Explore:

Nobel Prize Biography – Also includes a comprehensive bibliography

Unedited and Restored Film – this is a priceless film with many interviews with him in Germany and in Africa at his clinic. Listen to Schweitzer play a Bach organ piece in the church in his hometown. I ordered a copy for my children as a legacy gift that provides a compass for humanity no matter the age in which they may live.

Food Security in a Changing Climate

Children in FieldUSDA had released a report on global food security during climate change. Included are production of food, how its stored, processed, and distributed. The first way that climate change will impact our food supply is during production. Changes in temperature, precipitation, and pests will affect productivity and availability and price of food. This is our greatest vulnerability and its happening already right under our noses but are we paying attention?

CCFS_Executive_Summary.

Songs of Ourselves Released Today

Songs of OurselvesToday Songs of Ourselves, an anthology of 24 writers’ experiences growing up in America, was listed on Amazon.com. It is a multi-layered anthology of many experiences in the spirit of Walt Whitman.

Songs of Ourselves is important among new books at a time when defining who is an American, and what that experience may be, has been challenged and redefined through an ever-narrowing lens. This book is a wide lens on the American Odyssey.  Published by Blue Heron Book Works, it is well worth the read.