Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Harbinger of What's to Come

An Alien Scene: Icicles Melting off our Roof
CC Jean Stimmell:1/130/16

Looking out my window today, I see pussy willows already blossoming, mud in the driveway,  what-little-snow-we’ve-had-all-winter melting off my  roof.

Climate change, excruciatingly racheting up the tension – as was so masterfully done on medieval torture racks –  torments Mother Nature and our minds. Environmentalists call this the “long emergency" from which there is no escape. 

Glenn Albrecht, an Australian professor of environmental studies, has come up with a new diagnosis: “eco-anxiety.” Though we don’t yet find this term in the DSM-5, it perfectly describes what we are all feeling: ‘‘the generalized sense that the ecological foundations of existence are in the process of collapse.’’*

*Albrecht, G. (2012). Psychoterratic conditions in a scientific and technological world.
In P. H. Kahn, Jr., & P. H. Hasbach (Eds.), Ecopsychology: Science, totems, and
the technological species (pp. 241–264). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Blessings happen when our unconscious takes the lead

A Book I chanced upon at the Book & Bar book store 
If we step away from our mundane routines, the unremitting logic, stress, and anxiety of our every day lives, we provide an opening for our unconscious to manifest itself and take the lead. If it does, one might call it a waking dream. 

Such a blessing happened to me on New Year's Day while browsing in a bookstore: I have tried to capture the emotional feeling in the following poem:

Four Synchronicities and an Epiphany – 
at the Book and Bar

Synchronicity #1: Jane Kenyon

Browsing at The Book and Bar
I chanced upon a book,
The Best Day the Worst Day, 
written by Donald Hall
about his wife, the poet, 
Jane Kenyon.

She was/is special to me,
not just from serving together
as Editorial Board Contributors
for the Concord Monitor.
It was more than that, 
although we never met:
I felt a strong attraction:
my fantasy heartthrob.

Synchronicity #2: Cancer Treatment

I open the book at random
  to page 96 and read how
Jane was “walking and strong” until
enduring her last cancer treatment:

“When I brought her home a week later
she used a walker; she was broken
and never mended.”

Synchronicity #3: Vietnam

U.S. Napalming Vietnam village: 1972

Continuing with Hall’s quote:
“Weakness, bone pain, neuropathies, delirium, 
and daily vomiting were not results of her disease 
but of its treatment. I thought of the American major 
who [said]… after an assault on Ben Tre in Vietnam, 
‘We had to destroy the village 
in order to save it.’”  

“The analogy is false, because Jane's despoilers 
were not ironic majors but doctors trying to keep her alive. 
All the same, the village of Jane was razed again and again — 
bamboo huts burned down, markets napalmed, oxen 
machine-gunned, wells polluted with blood and offal.” 

Synchronicity #4: “The Sixties”

Here I am on the Mekong River
Vietnam: February 1967
Reading about Jane being razed,
while suffering my own cancer:
being irradiated on a cold slab,
like a specimen on a slide,
Agent Orange’s bad karma
from my tour in the Nam.

Meanwhile, as I take my first sip of  IPA,
Jerry Garcia’s iconic song begins to play:
Driving that train, high on cocaine,
Casey Jones you better watch your speed
trouble ahead, trouble behind”

Bombarded beyond belief, 
my defenses are breeched...

The Grateful Dead are gunpowder
Jane’s medical nightmare the trigger 
exploding flashbacks in my mind 
of the agony and ecstasy of the 60’s
and the sweet nostalgia 
for what could have been.

The Epiphany

My mind is blown away
doors of perception cleansed
 just tasting my salty tears 

Powers of such magnitude –
Suffering, Death, Resurrection–
bombarding me simultaneously
canceling each other out
creating absolute calm: 
I float on white light
 a smile on my face:


The End]

Friday, January 1, 2016

Tranquilized by trivia, yearning for those good ole pagan days

Looking out on Great Bay: 12/27/15
CC Jean Stimmell
What a wonderful solstice present!

Hiking along a pristine path
bordering Great Bay estuary
we came across evergreens
adorned with dried fruit
simple and natural
as if hung by pixies and elves
harkening back to pagan times
before the invisible hand
of rationality and “affluensia”
consumed our souls.

Ah yes, rationality and affluensia, the modern epidemic of denial: can see that basically our lives are, to a large extent, spent in avoiding confrontation with ourselves. And then you can begin to make sense of the enormous amount of our culture's daily activities, which attempt to distract us from ourselves, from deep reflection, from deep thinking, from existential confrontation. There's a wonderful phrase by the philosopher Kierkegaard, "tranquilization by the trivial." And I think our culture has mastered this better than any culture in history, simply because we have the wealth and means to do so. – Quote by Roy Walsh, psychiatry professor, in The Search For Meaning by Phillip L. Berman

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hands of Hope

Hands of Hope, sculpture by Sumner Winebaum
located in the courtyard of Temple Israel
CC Jean Stimmell: 12/12/15
Here's a photographic rendition of Sumner's magnificient sculpture,
 my tribute to the Solstice and the Return of the Light

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Alchemy transforming Earth and Stone

Alchemy: Roots transforming earth and stone
CC Jean Stimmell: behind our house, 12/18/15

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Haunted by Slave Burial Ground on the Solstice

Essay and photo published in the Concord Monitor, 12/26/15

Memorial for African Burying Ground, Portsmouth, NH
CC Jean Stimmell: 12/12/15
Spirits Rising at the African Burying Ground
Killing time while in Portsmouth last week, I wandered into the Memorial for the African Burying Ground, extending along Chestnut Street between State and Court.  Regrettably, I was a first-time visitor, despite knowing its history from reading the New Hampshire Gazette.

As early as 1705, documents referred to the memorial site as the “Negro Burying Ground.” It is unique in being the only known African Burying Ground of that era in all of New England. As Portsmouth grew, the burying ground was paved over and for the better part of 2OO years it was forgotten – purged from memory – until a backhoe unexpectedly hit coffin wood while doing sewer repair in 2003.

The Portsmouth City Council appointed a committee in 2004 charged with determining how best to honor those buried here, at least 200 discarded souls. The winning design selected by the committee reflects a joint effort between Savannah-based artist Jerome Meadows and landscape designer Robert Woodburn. Their restrained artistry retains the original character of the street and was obviously arranged to encourage deep reflection.

At the top of the site on the State Street side, two figures stand embedded in a slab of granite: one represents the first man brought from Africa; the other represents Mother Africa. On opposite sides of the granite wall, they reach for each other but can’t quite touch.

As you head downhill, one encounters various elements including a trail of pavers that run the length of the memorial engraved with text excerpted from a “Petition for Freedom,” submitted by 20 African men, who had been sold into slavery as children, to the NH state legislature.

Of course the petition was ignored. It is interesting to note that one of the petition signatories was Prince Whipple, whose “master” was Declaration of Independence signer, William Whipple.

Reflecting on what I am seeing on the way down, I feel my chest tightening from the weight of ever-increasing, white man guilt. Finally reaching the bottom, I encounter in the cold, slanting light of the setting, solstice sun, eight abstracted human figures, made of concrete and plated in brass, standing confined by the boundary fence.

Tears in my eyes I take photographs, one of which is displayed above, solarized to match my mood – along with the following verse which arose in my mind:

Spirits arise on the solstice,
slaves from the grave,
haunting us each year
with the same old refrain:

Why don’t black lives matter?


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dreaming of a return to tribalism

Tribal Four Image Dream Montage    CC Jean Stimmell
(credits below for 2 of the original images before being altered in Photoshop)
I had a dream last night of attempting to take the perfect photograph –in that magic hour before sunset – of sprawling factories radiating an unearthly glow like funeral pyres on the Ganges

As the evening mist mushrooms into bellowing smoke, it strikes me that these factories are not benignly lit but ablaze!

This gathering vortex brings home to me the absurdity of attempting to capture impermanence with a photograph

As further proof of this, an indigenous person appears, androgynous in appearance with silky black hair and aquiline nose, a shaman birthing a long-forestalled prophecy

After ages of abusing our mother earth, the pendulum of history has changed direction: These burning factories, iconic symbols of modernity, signal a shift back toward tribalism

• original photo of Domino Sugar factory, Inner Harbor, 
by Angela Pan: 
• original photo of indigenous American is of Amos, Two Bull, 
Sioux Indian portrait taken by Gertrude Kasebrer cc 1900