Friday, November 9, 2012

"N" for Nirvana and Nature

When I thought of words for an "N" post, "nature" and "Nirvana" were the two that popped into my noggin first.  I decided to explore  the notion of ecstasy (and leave the band for another round).  Jim, a recently discovered writer, photographer and thinker, does regular "Contemplative Monday" posts about ideas he has been exploring through The Pema Chödrön Foundation.  I went to Pema's site and liked the first quote that I saw: "If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it.  We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility.  That's the true practice of peace." There was a Nirvana-Wisdom Sutra video at Pema's site, but for some reason, it would not play.  I think I have found the same Sutra (below), and hope it will work for you.  In the meantime, I fell back on my standby, Wikipedia, for a definition of "Nirvana" and I quote: The word literally means "blown out" (as in a candle) and refers, in the Buddhist context, to the imperturbable stillness of mind after the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion have been finally extinguished.[1]  While there are aspects of Nirvana that I'm not ready for, and may never be ready for, I'm all for "blowing out" the fires of aversion and delusion and I would add materialism to those first two.  Perhaps it will be okay to continue to fan some fires of desire - the kind that never quite let me give up on world peace, and the kind that send me out with my camera, day after day, heart beating with joyful anticipation.  I do recommend Jim's "Contemplative Monday" posts and his other ones too.  He is looking for tranquility within himself as I believe we all are.  It is a heady thought to imagine all of us achieving that goal and taking the world one step closer to peace.  Click on the image below to listen to the Heart Sutra. I found it to be beautiful and hope you will too.  

There is a little burst of "I love where I live" in all of the photos to follow, and most of them have connections to nature, so I'll leave it to you to apply nature/Nirvana labels as you see fit.  I thought all the trees on my street had dropped their leaves, but woke up a few mornings ago to bright splotches of colour in front of my balcony.

That same day, the tiniest leaves in David Lam Park formed star clusters at our feet.

The next day was rainy for hours and since Black Jack detests both her coat and getting wet, we mostly played indoor games.  Then, just after sunset, the rain stopped and we both enjoyed a walk along the seawall.  "Time Top" by Jerry Pethick is near the bottom right of the photo.  Would you believe it was submerged in False Cree for two years to complete one element of its artistic process?  You can read about its connection to "nature" here.

Black Jack stopped just before the Cambie Bridge to check out one of her favourite spots.  I enjoyed the warm light over rippling water while she looked for the critters that she knew lurked just below the wall. 

There are some who complain about the high rises along the False Creek seawall, but they have given me hours of pleasure.  I love the way light reflects off their walls in daylight and drifts from their windows at night.  It is also fun to see the way the 18 mm setting of my smallest lens encourages them to tilt inwards.  In this photo, the blue of BC Place Stadium peeks between the buildings. Not shown very well, but part of my pleasure that evening, were the clouds in the background.  

The stadium's blue light framed the casino's shifting light patterns, found the water, and bounced off the walls of another high rise in the distance.

Bill had remarked a day or two earlier that the small lights on the sloping lines were attractive, and I thought the way they twinkled against the clouds added an exotic touch.

The flag poles just before the casino are near a spot where Black Jack once, more than a year ago, found the remains of someone's sandwich. She lives in hope of getting lucky twice so she's particularly happy to hang out there.  Normally, I avoid that spot, but  that evening, allowed her some surfing time while I admired the perspective of the poles and the light at the centre of two columns of darkness.
That was our turnaround spot.  As we headed home, blue light continued to bounce between the stadium and surrounding buildings..

and peeked under the Cambie Bridge.

The last stop was to gaze at the wooden floor of the Roundhouse Turntable Plaza.  

That structure is a failure in my eyes (and Bill's) as described in a post last May, but the lights that come from the floor.. 

bring great pleasure.  A few days ago, the canopy was taken down, ostensibly for the winter, but I can't help but wonder if others have noticed its poor functionality. 

On Monday, I had a dentist appointment.  Just a check up and cleaning, but not really something I was looking forward to, so the bike ride over the Cambie Bridge, my gentle hygienist, and a misty view over the city..

helped to improve my outlook.  

This view just before I reached home put the Nirvana icing on the cake :)

Later, the Daylight Saving time change could have made the afternoon gloomy, 
but the leaves and park bench at the corner of my street warmed the mood. 

In the park across the street, a row of golden trees lined up to peer over the bushes.  

My view of Black Jack was fuzzy as darkness fell but her enthusiasm was unmistakeable. 
We walked down by the water's edge, where benches and leaves again caught my eye.

They seemed like beautifully arranged pieces of art..  

and that led me to wonder about the art near those benches called Red Horizontal.

The artist, Gisele Amantea, includes these words in her statement: "In cooperation with area residents, photographs were taken of the interior spaces of the apartments, condominiums, lofts or seniors' housing."  I found it hard to resist the thought that the people should have tidied up a bit before allowing these photographs that include messy rooms, unmade beds, and piled up laundry.  As I thought that, I realized it's a bit unfair of me to see messy leaves as art but untidy rooms not so much.  In the end, it is the dramatic red that works for me, and as I played with camera angles and included a small arrangement of leaves, my appreciation for the thought process inspired by the art grew.
Here's how "Red Horizontal" looked from around the corner.

Moving on, I noticed this bike and thought (again) that the first word of my blog title is a bit neglected.

Some skateboarder buddies smiled when they saw me go for the "shot in the dark" and the small acknowledgement was fun.
The lights in the fountain by the Erickson Building were the next stop.
The colours changed every few seconds and, like the changing hues of the plaza floor,
held me entranced for some time. 
Purples and reds gradually shifted to..

orange tones that were even more mesmerizing when.. 
a dash of green entered the mix.

I tore myself away at last but stopped to admire the layers of leaves.. 

that continued up and over the steps.  
Black Jack is a wonderful photography partner.  She amuses herself while I snap away, and every once in a while, sits at attention to remind me that a treat is just about due.
You can see the blue leash indicating that she is behind me in this photo.  She wandered
up and down the steps, just content to explore the smells on each and every leaf.  She is Nature and Nirvana to me, rolled into one happy dog.
And speaking of Nature and Nirvana, this post would not be complete without at least one mention of Bill.  His nature is Nirvana for me.  Simple as that.  I took this picture of him on Wednesday when we walked around Burnaby Lake
Moving on to an "N" artist, I discovered Emil Nolde (1867-1956) in The Art Book, and am happy for the find because I really like his work in spite of learning some disturbing details about his life as described in this Wikipedia article.  That brings me to a point long pondered about the separation of artist (writer, painter, sculptor, musician) from personality.  I have always suspected that these two can't really be separated, but have had discussions with people who disagreed with me.  Nolde supported the Nazi Party and made negative comments about Jewish artists.  It is hard to equate that information with the tenderness in his work.  However, moving back to the first quote of this post, I know a peaceful response would be to "find the soft spot and stay with it" and if ever a painting could help me do that, it would be the one below. This painting wasn't in the book but found at this site.
This photo of Emil Nolde was found at the same site.  He doesn't look very happy.  Finding his way to art quite late in life, and turned down by the Munich Academy of Art, he decided to hire private teachers so that he could get the training he desired.  In spite of Nolde's support of the Nazi party, Hitler declared his art "degenerate" and banned it from all museums.  Fascinating story for sure, but I'll leave it for you to explore, should it catch your interest.
As The Art Book says, "Water splotches of colour seem to float across the page."  The emotion that comes out of those splotches is far-reaching and powerful.  Emil Nolde won't fade from my mind any time soon.

The musician I chose for this post is Thomas Newman.  Best known for his movie scores, he comes from a long line (father, brother, sister, two uncles and a cousin!) of family members in the same career.   It is incredible to me that since 1984, he has composed music for 76 movies and written many scores for television as well!

I listened to many of his soundtracks and have noticed that there is one common technique running through most (if not all) of them.  He loves to use a sustained tone (pedal point) with the melody moving over or under that haunting and seemingly unending pitch.  It works for me.  You can listen for it in this short excerpt from "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."
I found the video below fascinating.  Andrew Stanton, (the director of "Finding Nemo") Thomas Newman and others talk about the experience of working together to produce a sound track. 

The video below is the long version of "Marigold" and added by mistake, but perhaps some reader out there will be obsessed with that particular movie and appreciate a longer selection of its music.  I have just barely touched the surface of Thomas Newman's talent but realize that my findings have forever changed how I will listen to movies in the future.
I found the composer, Ninot Le Petit, (about 1500-1520) and almost skipped over him, although the fact that we can access the work of a musician from that long ago is something that I truly appreciate.  It was the performer in the following video who brought Le Petit to life for me.  He goes by the name Raznprince and you can find more of his videos here.  Holy Moly, does he have a huge vocal range!  No, there are not four singers in this performance!  Enjoy!  This concludes my "N" post.  A long one, but hopefully, you found something within it to trigger your imagination.  Thanks, as always, for taking time to stop by.


  1. the night shots are beautiful. love all the leaf color you get there.

  2. Hi Carole....I'm going to enjoy visiting hubby Jim just mentioned you and Black dog Sophie has her on POV blog, ....thanks for sharing your world and cheers.

  3. Guess I'm next...hi Carol, thanks for stopping by today.
    I always learn a few things from your posts...artists like Nolde and I loved the painting where the colour actually was floating across the canvas. And Thomas Newman and the technique he uses for movie was lovely and I could actually see/here what was happening.
    And of course the tour of Vancouver which was our home once a long time ago. It was a very special time for us and a life-changing one as well.

    I am happy you have found some solace in Pema Chodron's writings. I really can't and won't attempt to put into words how she has assisted me on my path to Nirvana. All I can say is that I am thankful to have found her....and she lives right here in Nova Scotia most of the time.
    Thanks for this and I LOVE those artistic photos of Vancouver and Black Jack, who incidentally reminds me of my childhood dog, Sam....a real scamp!! Have a great weekend Carol.

  4. Your fall city views are wonderful. Wishing you Nirvana.

  5. There's lots to see in the Greater Vancouver area. Your shots are splendid! I spent some time in Richmond this morning at Minoru Park photographing the chapel and the paths and fallen leaves around the park. Watch for them one day! :D

  6. I think I say this every time I visit, but you really are a brilliant photographer. You take not only photographs but make them works of art. Treats for Black Jack.

  7. Messy rooms, like messy leaves, have a ring of authenticity to them. And dunking an art fixture into the water for two years adds realism to the “Time Top”. Nolde’s work described as "water splotches of colour seem to float across the page" would also describe the colours in many of the photos you took along your walk downtown. These glimpses stir up a brand “new” appreciation of your world. :))