Saturday, March 22, 2014

THE SWERVE, The EMPRESS & Nature is a Temple

The Roses of Heliogabalus - Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1888 "suffocation by erotically charged flowers"

First, goddess, the birds of the air, pierced to the heart with your powerful shafts, signal your entry.  Next wild creatures and cattle bound over rich pastures and swim rushing rivers:  so surely are they all captivated by your charm, and eagerly follow your lead.  Then you inject seductive love into the heart of every creature that lives in the seas and mountains and river torrents and bird-haunted thickets, implanting in it the passionate urge to reproduce its kind.   Lucretius' two-thousand-year old poem "On the Nature of Things" (De rerum natura) from The Swerve - How the World Became Modern, Stephen Greenblatt

Jacquie's Jardin - Le Marquisat - Gardes-le-Pontoroux

With the long awaited arrival of the Blessed Vernal Equinox, all that "maussade" is forgotten now, as I am swept up into spring's sweet cherried breath: A cultivated cherry was brought from Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus (nickname likely to have been LuLu) from northeastern Anatolia, modern day Turkey, in 72 BC. The English word, cherry; French, cerise; and Spanish cereza, all come from the classical Greek through the Latin cerasum; the ancient Roman place name Cerasus, today a city in northern Turkey, Giresum, from which the cherry was first exported to Europe. 

The French paysage (countryside) is strutting her stuff, painted in brushstrokes of vivid rose & jaune, cherry blossoms, daffodils & forsythia.   Spring's siren song is happening all over the northern hemisphere and her power is irresistible! 

Oh, that girl on the half-shell Joan Baez sang about in "Diamonds & Rust"comes to mind...
A tile from La nascita di Venere, Birth of Venus - Sandro Botticelli
As does the Frankie Avalon hit, "Venus", (written by Francesco Contadini/Christiano Norbedo, Italian songwriters & producers, still producing songs in 2003) to which I used to cha cha endlessly, when 45's were spinning at sock-hops.  "Venus, if you will, please send a little girl for me to thrill. A girl who wants my kisses and my arms. A girl with all the charms of you."

Ahhh, those Italians, they know something about love! 

A Welshman sneaks in too: "Goddess on the mountain top burning like a silver flame.  The summit of beauty and love and Venus was her name. She's got it, yeah baby, she's got it. Well, I'm your Venus, I'm your fire, At your desire.  Her weapons were her crystal eyes.  Black as the dark night she was.  Got what no one else had.  Wa!"* 
More Botticelli Tiles
                                                               Wa, INDEED!
Here is Canadian author Margaret Atwood's darker, poetic twist on the half shell lady. An excerpt from "Siren Song":  

This is the one song everyone 
would like to learn:  the song
that is irresistable:

the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see beached skulls...

...I will tell the secret to you,
only to you.
Come closer.  This song
is a cry for help:  Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique

at last.  Alas
it is a boring song
but it works every time. 

I took a lot of  disappointing photos of the sculptures/statues in the Istanbul Archeological Museum.  Maybe it was the lighting, but the marble was so cold and impenetrable.  I could not find Aphrodite's "secret life."  Botticelli has a vibrant bead on her. 

When Kevin was in architectural school, in part, he put himself through school by apprenticing to a New Orleans architect named Merlin McCullough (not to worry, Merlin, aptly named, has long since departed after burning his candle at both ends!)  Kev copied the great masters for Monsieur Merlin, who turned around and sold them at outrageous prices to his well-heeled, southern, social climbing clients.  Kevin got a pittance, but he loved painting them and entering into the zeitgeist of the artists' brushstrokes.  He told me he was drawn to Rembrandt's lush, dark palette with its golden earthtones - the chiaroscuro style - strong lights and heavy shadows. The density of color built up by small brushstrokes.  It's one of the reasons he likes the look of Kevin Spacey's "House of Cards", the sombre, yet rich interiors.  The entire two seasons take place in a series of shadowed rooms.  With Vermeer, K liked the intimacy, the small details of an ordinary person's life; a pearl earring.

I asked him about Botticelli and he said, "painting in that style was to enter into the world of mythology and universality, regal-religious themes, e.g., 'The Coronation of the Virgin...' And he also said that I have a "Botticelli belly".  Wa!

Daffodils - Marthon

Back in northern California, early spring, my poet friend Kathy & I would head out to our secret daffodil emporium to gather armloads of wild daffys. They weren't a "gimme," footing was treacherous, clambering on steep ridges, rope swing over water hazard; a cinch for Kathy, who parachuted out of planes and did some bungie jumping, but I would be quaking & quacking like Daffy Duck.  In the blazing yellow fields Kathy would recite Wordsworth's Daffodils poem:

"I wandered lonely as a cloud
that floats on high o'er vales and hills
when all at once I saw a crowd,
a host of golden daffodils;
beside the lake, beneath the trees,
fluttering and dancing in the breeze...

For oft, when on my couch I lie
in vacant or in pensive mood, 
they flash upon that inward eye,
which is the bliss of solitude; 
and then my heart with pleasure fills, 
and dances with the daffodils."

This is sort of how it looked, but you can't see the obstacle course we conquered to get there:

Daffodil Meadow - Valley of the Moon - Ann Horn

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes."            -  Marcel Proust

Being with Kathy helps me to see things with fresh eyes. With innocence and wisdom she lets herself be found by the world. She pays attention - an alive state that readies one for revelation.  We  reveled in "Hanami," the Japanese traditional custom of "flower viewing" coupled with the appreciation of the transience of flowers...and all things.  And when you are with people like Kathy, you forget yourself; there is a timeless quality to all that you share.  Very "Zen", as the French say.

Venus - Istanbul Archeological Museum

Cat delights in Hanami of "Sakura"(Cherry Blossom) - Ellen Kaufman

Sakura "Graffiti" - Hanami

A bare tree painted on a wall at the Arahama public beach in Japan's Ogatsu district that suddenly "sprouted" cherry blossoms as people started leaving their pink and red painted palm prints as a message of hope for the people in the area ravaged by the 2011 Tsunami.  The wall was built by a 50 year old plasterer from Gifu Prefecture along with other local volunteers.  The wall was named "Ogatsu kibo no campus" or Ogatsu wish campus.  The residents and visitors started leaving pictures and messages and their thoughts on the wall becoming one collective expression of sadness and hope amidst the disaster that befell them. Many of the residents moved away after the disaster, but one who stayed, 78 year old local Ikuyo Takahashi, wants to sit beneath the cherry tree and "wait for everyone who left to come back."

I think The Empress is in "the house," generating new life. She's the symbol of hope and new beginnings. The thought of one, the fertility of two, results in the creativity of the three.  The Empress's sign is VENUS. 

A bridge to somewhere - maybe Spring?

Kathy is the embodiment of "The Empress".  And I think of The Empress as the embodiment of Spring; Demeter, the Earth Mother.  Mythically, Venus and Demeter are seen as the same archetype -  the symbol of humankind's ability to extend love and receive love.  I am blessed to have many Empresses in my life, Dawn, Ruffles, Kim, Liisa, Dale, Jacquie, Jodie, Christine, to name just a few. 

Tarot card from the Visconti-Sforza 15th c. deck, the oldest known in existence. I am holding the Empress card in my hand from the I Tarocchi del Visconti deck No. 516, faithfully reproduced by Osvaldo Meneghello in his shop in Milan, Italy.  Thanks to another Empress who also knows all about Hanami and Sakura, Arnell Ando, our Italy Tarot tour leader (, I was able to obtain this gorgeous deck in its handmade box when we visited Osvaldo's shop.


Arnell also gifted me with the most wonderful book by Stewart S. Warren, "Pointing to my Heart"** - poetry journey through the Visconti-Sforza Tarot - a collection of 22 poems provided side by side with corresponding color images of the Triumphs from the historic deck.  I love the first line of Arnell's introduction:  "It is a special breed of creative individuals that are drawn to the mystical realms of the Tarot."  Or maybe we are just out of our minds, but what a splendid madness!

One of my favorite poems from Warren's book is The Empress:


Here's the woman you've been 
looking for, her fruitful breath 
forming the gown of the world.

Both suffering and peace
bloom from her crown,
the evening and morning star.

                                    You can deny the babies,
                                     break their feet, but love moves
                                     from planet to planet, star to star,
                                                                       heart to heart to heart. 

In this ravishing spring cycle, trust your instinct to leave some space for the unexpected. 

Nature is a temple in which
columns sometimes emit
confused words.
Man approaches it through
forests of symbols,
which observe him with 
familiar glances.

Charles Baudelaire

*Tom Jones "Venus"
    -lyrics by Robert van Leeuwen

**You can find this book on

Reminder:  I will be at the Marche Zen in Brossac on 23rd, using both Carrie Paris's Lenormand Revolution deck and my Thoth deck. Maybe I'll be reading the cherry blossoms as well! 

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