Horizon at Sandy Point

Monday, October 26, 2015

A little horsehair pot ... and the message on a turtle

My potter friend had warned me that the pots made by the native people in Arizona would be far too expensive to buy.  I still kept an eye out - you never know when you might be lucky.

We were leaving the Grand Canyon Park passing alongside another minor canyon of the Little Colorado river. Travelling on the plateau, the gorge looked just as deep - perhaps not so wide - deep and craggy. Then I saw a site that looked familiar - a little market. There were not many vendors in the line of small shacks but their products caught my eye:  dreamcatchers, jewelry, and pots.
Horsehair pottery

Horsehair leaves marks like some archaic writing
The artist's name is scratched into the bottom: Stan Sheppard Jr, Dine-Navajo

The first thing that caught my eye was the little pot, maybe three inches high. white clay with a random crazy pattern in black. Horsehair pottery, I was told. The clay is hand milled, a fine white clay that is rolled and coiled and smoothed by hand; fired and then polished not glazed. Hair from the mane and tail of a horse is embedded before firing. The hair burns away leaving black scratches that look like scribbles of some archaic writing. Sometimes sugar is used to create spots. Inside my pot looks like a star-filled sky - in reverse.

Sugar grains scattered on the bottom create the marks inside the pot.

I had already put my hand on the pot when the turtle caught my eye. I know the legend of Turtle Island - the continent of America - sitting on the back of Turtle Mother (Earth). And what is that resting on? Another larger turtle. The analogy is elegantly simple, seductive and so expressive. We are all riding the backs of turtles - and turtles upon turtles across the Milky Way.

Ever since she did her first study of turtles in Tobago, or even before, my daughter collects turtles. So this one was for her. The basic turtle shape looks like a mould. I've seen the basic shape in a green colour. This one was the same white as the horsehair pot, but the patterns etched on the back were mesmerising. Who could read the age old message? A message of aspiration, hope, concentric circles upwardly mobile. Wow, I thought, someone etched and coloured this in the ways that were handed down through generations.

The meanings of the patterns are explained

More explanations: what the turtle means; what the colours mean

The patterns are echoes of the Grand Canyon - all the layers and colours descending. Or is it that they are ascending? Precisely level, layers rising upon layers, rising to the mesa and the open sky. Turtles are soaring through the night sky. And the message on this single turtle is the same: not grinding down to the ground, but instead rising through ordered levels, to an area of openness and clarity.

Message on a turtle: feathers for flight; mountains and valleys; the staircase of life

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fresh in Santa Monica, Los Angeles

California - and Los Angeles in particular - has been in the forefront of fresh markets in the USA. The idea of producers selling directly to consumers from farms in the area, preserving quality - produce picked the same day - and reconnecting families with growers has since spread around that country and to communities concerned with healthy food.

You would think that on a weekend in Santa Monica, some market would be easy to find. In fact, we missed the one on the 3rd Street Promenade in favour of another that was further away on Virginia Street. And we never made it to Santa Monica Main Street Farmers Market because we chose to walk the long way along the coast, then turned back.

Here are some photos that tell the story of our market experience this October weekend in Santa Monica. In the Virginia Street Market, we got the best goat cheese, roasted peppers, flaky pastries, and local wheat pasta.

The Virginia Street Market in a park with school and library
Fresh peppers included hots such as jalapenos and cayennes

Favourite feature: the gas-flame blaster which roasted peppers. You could choose mild with bell peppers; medium bells with jalapenos; or hot, jalapenos and cayennes
Fresh berries

My favourite fresh berries were these guavas; the small ones were 10 for $2

Ginger root!

Carrots with their green tops!

Sweet potatoes
More greens!

Reds: sweetest baby Romas!

Purple melongene

Bok choys
Wheat harvested and milled in California valleys

And flowers!  

In the supermarkets too, seasonal displays herald fall, pumpkin season, Halloween, and the dying year!

Here's what we saw on our way to the Main Street market that we never reached:

Rasta bus on Ocean Avenue

Refreshing wall garden!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

More than an ajoupa in Arizona

Wish gifts for newlyweds in 1990!

 Twenty-five years ago, they came to Trinidad as newlyweds. They were given gifts of ceramic art pieces from the Ajoupa Pottery. The gifts were wish symbols: for the house that they would make into a home; perhaps not a coconut truck, but viable modes of transportation; and a boat for the oceans that they would always live near or sail upon. Taken altogether, they were a hope for a full life, full of adventure, full of surprise, full and fulfilled.

Twenty-five years later, in Arizona, we are welcomed into the home of the couple who came to Trinidad in 1990, after the coup. The wishes have come true many times over.

Happy anniversary, Kris and Nathalie! 

A home in Arizona in the town of Carefree

Loving family

There's a boat for the lake
Good times!
Hopes upon which the sun never sets ...

And a return to Trinidad every year or so!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Home for Antiquities

J Paul Getty is said to have started collecting pieces of ancient art at his home in Pacific Palisades from 1954. The Lansdowne Herakles which was a Roman sculpture in the style of Greece was one of his favourites. As he added to his collection, he commissioned a museum to be built on the land adjacent to his home.

The Getty Villa

Children in the peristyle

Designed by Robert E. Langdon and Ernest C Wilson Jr, the Getty Villa was opened in 1974 to accommodate the growing collection. It was never visited by Getty himself who died in 1976. The design of the villa was inspired by the Villa of the Papyri - an archaeological site in Herculaneum.

Heraklion (Herculaneum) on the west coast of Italy lies in the shadow of Vesuvius. It is thought to have been founded by the Greeks in the 6th century BC. It came under Roman rule in 89 BC. When Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, the town was buried under 20 metres of volcanic ash. It was barely disturbed again until the 1700s when excavations and mines found artifacts. Today, as much of 75 percent of Herculaneum may still be buried. Ercolano and Portici are the present-day Italian towns built on the site.

In 1993, Boston architects Rudolpho Machado and Jorge Silvetti were invited to renovate the museum. It was closed in 1997 and re-opened in 2006. The architectural plan was devised to simulate an archaeological dig. The amphitheatre has seen performances of Greek plays. Formal gardens and tree plantings on the slopes that surround the villa or descend to the sea are of flora that thrive in Greece or Italy.

Herakles welcomes you to the home of one of the largest collection of antiquities in America

Descending in the "dig"


The stage for Greek drama

The Getty Villa now houses over 44,000 pieces of art from Greece, Rome and Etruria, dating from 6500 BC to 400 AD. It houses the campus of the UÇLA/ Getty Masters programme in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation. It is visited daily (except Tuesday) by scores of school children.

The Lansdowne Herakles: start of Getty's early collection

Aphrodite and Dolphin

Riding a wineskin

Hermes and fan

Touch this marble: the only sculpture that the public is invited to touch

Stone and concrete frame this water garden

Papyrus and pond lilies

The Grape Arbor

The peristyle

Through every window

Walkway between parking and the entrance to the site

Temple of Venus

In the herb garden