Thursday, April 30, 2009

Taos Pueblo - Photo Essay







Copyright © Kathy Stanley
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Taos Pueblo Photos by Kathy Stanley

Elk Rock Meditation - a poem


Focus just on bees
And salamanders
Giant Sequoias and
Madrone trees
Barks peeling shaves
Of coppery curls

Mind noise falls away
At winter-blooming viburnums
Orange hedges of witch-hazel
Giant pink and white blossoms
Magnificent Magnolias

Stuff out there doesn’t matter
Inside a grove of Spanish Fir,
Oregon Oak, Cypress, Maple
And Atlas Cedar

Stillness descends
Beside cascading pools
Frogs and dozens of koi
A lone duck custodian
On moss covered rocks

Out to The Point
A narrow cliffside walk
Above a glistening river
A luminous mountain
Shimmering in the distance

Focus
A hawk soars
Above Elk Rock Island.
Copyright© Kathy Stanley
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Three Temples Along the Nile

Aswan.
We left our hotel at 4 a.m. to make our way by bus and boat to the Temple of Philae. The full moon was haloed by a thin cloud cover and a hush came over our group as the boat approached the island. This magnificent temple, dedicated to the goddess Isis has held an iconic stature since it was built in the Ptolemaic times. The courtyard leading to the temple complex is flanked by a colonnade of columns and a separate small temple sits away from the main building on the edge of the site. The revival of the interest in the old goddess religions in the twentieth century and emergence of a new female spirituality movement has caused this and other goddess temples to be undergoing a renaissance of sorts. Isis, in the old Egyptian religion, was the Queen of Heaven, mother to all, worshipped along with her brother Osiris and her son Horus as a sort of divine trinity. Philae was the epicenter of the cult of Isis.
The Temple of Philae was originally located on an island that became flooded after the building of the Aswan High Dam. We were told by our Egyptologist guide that this temple and ten others including the famous Abu Simbel in the south, were dismantled, relocated and reassembled after the building of the Aswan High Dam. Between 1972 to 1980, the Philae temple was dismantled into 11,000 pieces and reassembled on another island where it sits today. It was a remarkable feat of engineering and without knowing the history, one would never know from observation that it had been entirely reconstructed.
Edfu
Our Nile cruise ship docked at the town of Edfu in the evening. At 9 p.m. we gathered at the dock to meet our transportation to the next temple site on our journey. Imagine our surprise to be greeted by several horse drawn carriages that looked like they had galloped out from 18th century London to gather us. Two to a carriage, we climbed in and were whisked away through dusty streets up to the gates of the Temple of Edfu. Dedicated to the falcon god Horus, this incredible temple site is in pristine condition except for some smoke damage in the interior.
The lights around the temple illuminated the exceptional relief carvings of the king and the gods etched along the outside wall. To see the temples lit at night was a definite highlight of our visit. The overwhelming majesty of these monuments and temples evokes an enchanting high drama that seems to come alive at night.
Entering the Edfu temple gates we were treated to an overview of the significance of this temple by the general manager of the site. A statue of Horus the falcon, stands as a guardian to the entrance to the great courtyard.
We wondered through the many rooms until we came to the inner sanctuary. Sitting on the floor, we were absorbed by the presence of it until finally we had to leave around midnight.

Abydos

Abydos is about ninety miles north of Luxor and at the time of our trip, there were few tourists traveling there. We were escorted there by a convoy of military escorts because Abydos is close to the area where Egypt has suffered from Islamic insurgencies at work. After the terrible tragedy that took place at Queen Hatshepsut’s temple on the West Bank in 1997, where tourists were killed by terrorists, the Egyptian government has spared no expense in protecting its valuable monuments and sites that provide the country with its needed income from tourism. At each site that we traveled to, there were armed guards on foot, on camel, and in jeeps. I had never seen as many automatic machine guns as I did in Egypt but at least you know they are protecting you as much as possible. For this reason, Abydos had become an out of the way destination for tourists and most of the tour companies had abandoned traveling there.

The drive from Luxor took us through fields of sugar cane and date palms and past low granite hills. The Temple of Abydos was the seat of worship of the god Osiris and this was one of the most interesting and mysterious sites that we visited. The reliefs in the interior of the temple are exceptional. There is a strange building that is called the Oseirion that is located behind the main temple site. The Oseirion was built in Old Kingdom times whilst the main Abydos Temple was built by Seti I in the New Kingdom. The Oseirion is said to be the burial place of Osiris.
A fascinating mystery in the Abydos temple were some unusual reliefs on one of the interior walls. The unmistakable images of a helicopter and what looks to be like a blimp aircraft or a submarine are there carved amidst the images of Osiris and the gods. There is no explanation about what these images meant to the people of the New Kingdom times who built this temple. The Egyptologist who was with us could only point them out to us but he said there was no deciphering this. But for us, in the 20th and 21st century, these images have clear meaning. It is quite the mystery.

Egypt holds a special place in my heart and I long to return to re-visit the majestic temples and monuments. It is a destination that is so rich in art, history, architecture, culture and religion. The preservation of the ancient monuments makes the whole country a world heritage site, worthy to all humanity to come, see and experience. There is no other place that has evoked in me such wonder and a sense of the grandness of life and appreciation for history. Copyright© Kathy Stanley
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n.b. Edfu photos at night taken by Eric Novikoff. Philae Temple and Pyramid pictures by Kathy Stanley, Abydos pictures stock.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sedona: Gift of the Canyons

There is a place past the city limits of Sedona, in canyon-country Arizona, where giant purple and rust colored bluffs stand like monumental sculptures touching the sky. I like to take the drive early in the morning beyond Dry Creek Road, where the view of the majestic red rocks opens up revealing the land of the ancient Sinagua, the Yavapai and the Apache. Remnants of their cliff dwellings remain camouflaged against canyon walls. The drive twists and turns deep into Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness and as the car slows down, the peace of the canyons pulls me in. A hawk soars overhead and I offer a silent prayer to the ancestor spirits, Kachinas, and the deer and coyote, asking for permission to enter their sacred homeland.

At the entrance to Boynton Canyon a sandy path leads through a scraggly forest of sycamore and cypress trees. Prickly pear cactus and yucca plants dot the red hillside beside the trail. The morning air is crisp with a lingering mist that prevents the sun from penetrating into the canyon. The trail begins to climb and the tall spire of rock called Kachina Woman presides like a sentinel up ahead. Two cypress trees form a gate as the trail narrows. A quail rustles through a nearby arroyo and I begin the climb up the Vista Trail. Red rock cairns are placed to define the path which moves along the side of the bluff leading up to the plateau between the Kachina Woman and a rocky knoll. Reaching the crescent, the sun comes out and I rest with my back at the base of the red rock spire.


The view from the plateau is like no place else. To the south lies wide open country dotted with red bluffs that pop up out of the earth. The pristine wilderness of Long Canyon stretches out for miles to the east broken only by the saddle-like sag of hill called Dead Man’s Pass. Below in the valley to the west, Enchantment Resort with its pueblo like structures tries to blend in with the rocky cliffs. Little golf carts scurry through the luxury development sprawled within the canyon floor. Three small old twisted Juniper trees grace the summit of the bluff. Nothing has changed since I was last here. I sit down on the plateau and wonder about the power of this place that has pulled me here time and again for the past ten years. Once I came here with six other women when we rebelled and left a conference escaping to this place. We sat in a circle and shared our stories and the wind crept up on us that morning blessing us with the fresh canyon air.

Another time I came here by myself one Christmas and ran into friends I had not seen in five years. Together the three of us hiked the entire four miles into the canyon, marveling at the changes in the landscape along the way. From the red rock path that hugged the side of the cliff, we descended into the valley onto a sandy trail through a cypress forest. Before long we were climbing again and now passing through a pinyon pine forest before reaching the small box canyon that marks the end of the trail and the heart of Boynton Canyon. I was grateful that I had company, knowing that I would not have done this hike alone and may have missed the experience of walking the whole trail.

I also came here once with a woman shaman and she guided me on a meditation to the beat of her drum. Afterwards we sat and she gave me guidance on driving to the Grand Canyon, setting the stage for my solo journey to that mother-of-all canyon sights. I remember that I left Sedona at dawn the morning after, ascending the switchbacks through Oak Creek Canyon as the smell of ponderosa pines filled the car. It was cold with flurries in Flagstaff and the snow covered San Francisco Peaks towered in the distance. North of Flagstaff, the drive went through a forest of aspens that shimmered in the morning sunlight. A family of deer softly grazed amidst a white dusting on the ground.

At last I arrived at the Rim. No one else was there. At the first look out point I gasped at the craggy, gigantic, mile deep, massive opening in the earth that went on for miles in every direction. I felt struck speechless and thoughtless from the staggering sight. A deep silence radiated from the depths of the earth. From a map at the look out point I found the giant rocks with names like Venus Temple, Zoroaster Temple and Buddha Temple. Two billion years of earth history unveiled within the canyon walls. I felt like a small child, in a young species, who knows little of the mysteries that envelop this earth. I walked and walked that day all along the rim, speaking to no-one except a raven who called me back when I was beginning to leave.

Finally, my pilgrimage ended, the Grand Canyon released me and I descended back into Sedona at dusk. I remember I lay in bed that night, feeling like the whole canyon was absorbed into my body, or maybe I was absorbed and had dissolved into the body of the canyon.

The sound of a hummingbird buzzing by startles me and brings me back to the present. I look up and see that the sun is now casting shadows on the cliffs of Boynton Canyon. Two hikers are ascending the trail towards the plateau and I get up to look at the view one more time. Far in the distance the sun is illuminating the massive outcrop called Bell Rock and I am glad that the gift of another day of red rock magic is ahead. Copyright© Kathy Stanley
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n.b. Sedona panoramic photo - stock. All other pictures in this post by Kathy Stanley.

Egyptian Funeral - a poem



He used to say
If I get to the other side
I’ll send you back a sign

I went to Egypt
As my father lay dying
At home in Jamaica
Getting the news
Waiting for a train to Aswan

A man with a large black dog
Stood waiting by the tracks
Anubis, ready to escort
The soul of the deceased
Through the underworld

I had been drawn there-
Some invisible thread that tied
My father and me together
He loved Egypt and Hapi
River God of the Nile

In Aswan at Elephantine
Enchanting island in the Nile
Site of ruins of temple upon temple
We read Awakening Osiris
The Egyptian Book of the Dead

A Preponderance of Starry Beings
The gods have heard my name
Osiris. I am a man by the river, gazing up.


One final offering into the Nile
Two golden hoopoes and herons
Farmers with oxen
A felucca sailboat sailed by
Flying the Jamaican Flag

His spirit then followed me
From temple to temple on our journey
Together we paid homage to Isis at Philae
Horus at Edfu and Hathor at Denderah
Sekhmet blessed us at Karnak in Luxor
This is such nourishing peace.
Copyright© Kathy Stanley

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Egypt photos by Kathy Stanley

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Journey with Bob: Cockpit Country, Jamaica


Open your eyes and look within

Long day into black night
Winding narrow mountain roads
We traversed the spine of the island
Two hundred and eighty five miles

We’re going to walk through the roads of creation

On the back seat of the van
I stretched out in exhaustion
Sleep finding me at last until
I’m up in the air, rolling over

Trod through great tribulation




Are you satisfied, with the life you’re living?

A crowd gathers from the rum shops
Lining the road in a rural village
A sign says: Twenty miles to
Barbecue Bottom

Wipe away transgression

You want a beer, baby?
A man offers, touching my shoulder
Where are we? I ask
Him smiling widely
Welcome, you’ve arrived, this is
The Land of Look Behind

Set the captives free
Copyright © Kathy Stanley
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Dear Jamaica - a Poem


Today I saw a woman
Barely covered in black rags
Shoes of cardboard and newspaper
Wrapped with rope around her feet
A bony hand outstretched
She was on King Street, begging a shilling
The old colonial currency
Forty years gone

I drove by the outskirts of Trench Town
Rae Town and Tivoli
Garrisons of the poor
Shackled with zinc and plywood and guns

I am left

Grieving the beautiful island shores who grew us-
Waking to the Doctor Bird
Sipping Blue Mountain Coffee on the verandah
Heat of the mid morning sun
Baking the dew from the crab grass

Grieving the coconut man
Pushing his wooden cart down the street
Sweet coconut water that quenches our thirst-
And Bertha who walked miles from the hills
A basket of fruit on her head
Knocking at the bougainvillea lined gates in town
Julie mangos..papaya..breadfruit

Grieving a long drive up to Cinchona Gardens
Cool Blue Mountain air, smell of pine cones
Clearing our senses, melting away the heat of the day-
Sunday at the beach out at Lime Cay
Fish and Bammy and a Red Stripe Beer please

Jamaica, where are you going?
Have you forgotten your motto-
Out of Many, One People
Have you forgotten your son
Bob Marley-
One Love, One Heart,
Let’s get together and feel alright


Have you forgotten your peaceful country folk
Who live simply and close to the land
Asking for little more
Than a yam to cook for dinner tonight
Have you forgotten the fisherman
At Treasure Beach, risking his life
Fishing the Pedro Banks in hurricane season
So his family can eat another day
Have you forgotten the higgler
Selling guineps at Papine
So her daughter can wear shoes to school

Dear Jamaica:
I am holding vigil
For that day
When the Dons and the Adams
Have laid down the guns
When the streets of Kingston
Are no longer running
Rivers of blood.
Copyright© Kathy Stanley
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Blue Mountain photo by Kathy Stanley