The labyrinth in summer

Have you ever wished for a plain old dirt path labyrinth?

Me neither.

But that’s what I’ve got:

It’s never been this bad.  And I have a group coming to visit on Saturday, a Mindful Walk.  I’ve warned their leader that it’s not all green and pretty, and there’s not enough time to plant seed and have it come up—even if it did come up, I wouldn’t want mindful pilgrims trampling it.  So maybe next week, after I get back from my jaunt up to the new burn site.

Ugh.

Labyrinth update

Ugh.

This past spring I replanted the grass in the labyrinth — again — so that it would look reasonably beautiful for the spring equinox.  That was a mixture called “contractor’s seed,” and it was a blend of winter rye grass and fescue.  Guaranteed, etc.

The winter rye sprouts quickly and is lovely, but it is a short-term seasonal solution.  After a few months, it dies.  No worries, because then the fescue sprouts and establishes itself, right?

Not so much.

Even worse, I was gifted a bag of seed from a grass specialist, which three weeks ago I planted in a test patch visible in the above photo.  This seed is zoysia, and I have misgivings.  Yes, it provides a lush, thick carpet of grass, but it will also devour anything in its path.  Our front yard is zoysia, and before we installed my parking place there was a brick walkway which I had to laboriously uncover at least once a year from the zoysia’s encroachment.

Still, this seed was professionally advised, so I thought what the hey?  Plant a test patch, see if it’s actually going to come up in the shade, and then I can decide from there.

Behold:

The two paths on the left have been seeded with zoysia and watered every day.  The path on the right is untouched.  There is no difference, Kenneth.

Right now, of course, the entire labyrinth is essentially mud, between last week’s rain and the daily watering.  I’ve turned the daily watering off for a while to see if that will allow anything to come up for air.

Maybe I’ll just kill all the grass and go with plain dirt.

Ugh.

Up the Danube, Day 4

When last we left our Viking River Cruise up the Danube, we had left Vienna and sailed to Krems.

I forgot to mention that the day before, on Mother’s Day, the captain gave roses to all the ladies on the ship:

Here’s a photo of our ship, the Viking Tor, docked in Krems.

The red arrow?  That’s our stateroom.  We laughed when we woke up to find ourselves behind the dock.

And of course, as soon as we stepped off the ship we were on Hofvonsteinian soil.  (I will admit to an embarrassing geographical ignorance: I assumed that the Danube was the boundary between Austria and Slovakia/Czech Republic, but of course it’s not.  It’s over in the mountains somewhere.)

The morning’s trip was to Göttweig Abbey.  I have no longshots of it because I was on the wrong side of the bus.  Here’s one I stole from Wikipedia:

It’s pretty spectacular.  It’s a Benedictine Abbey founded 900 years ago.  Today, they produce wine and a host of apricot products including wine, sparkling wine, and liqueur, which we probably bought.  Also jams and bath salts and other stuff.

First though I had deal with this:

Some in my party became extremely amused by this sign, even though it clearly just says “Bus Lane.”  Some people.

This was in the small garden/orchard at the front.  It is in fact a bee hotel, and I knew what it was because my friend Richard was making a whole bunch of them out of bamboo as an art project for the Euphoria burn.  This one is more elaborate, but the concept is the same.

We began following our tour guide toward the abbey gate, and as we walked I looked over and saw circles of cobble stones, and lo!

It’s rather new, only a couple of years old. It’s a little smaller than mine, but it’s the same seven-circuit pattern.  The center is a rose bush.

The view from the abbey is all-encompassing, and they own almost everything you see.

They have a winery, but mostly they grow apricots.  Lots and lots of apricots.

Inside the gate, you are met with several large and beautiful buildings, most from the 18th century.

On the left is the Imperial Apartments, built because the Emperor (or in this case Empress Maria Theresia) had the right to stay there, which she did only once.  If you look closely at the windows on the far left façade…

…you’ll notice they’re painted on.  That’s one way to save money, both in construction and in taxes.  For reasons unknown, many taxes were based on the number of windows you had.  (In Paris, a similar tax on the number of floors in your home led to the Mansard roof, which claimed to be an attic, not a floor.  Everyone politely looked the other way, kind of like the whole idea of the Hapsburg Austria-Hungarian Empire.)

Inside, it’s about as lavish as you might expect an Imperial Apartment to be.  The staircase, for example:

The stairs are extremely shallow and difficult for us 21st century types to navigate.  They are presumably easier if you’re wearing high heels and restrictive clothing, such as corsets and paniers.

The ceiling of the staircase:

A masterpiece of trompe-l’oeil, it is actually only about fourteen inches deep.  The decorations overall are seriously Classical pagan, which is a measure of the power the liberal Maria Theresia and her son Joseph II (“Too many notes, Herr Mozart, too many notes!”) had over the church within their domains.  Another measure is the church itself, which I noted to the tour guide had an impressive dome in a contemporary etching.  Ah, she said, they were not funded for the dome and it was never built.

A lovely chambre in the apartments:

The floor is marquetry, all wood.

The church is a simple, noble baroque structure…

…until you get inside.

…where it is no longer simple.  Actually, as these things go, it is fairly restrained.

The altarpiece is typical:

All in all, the abbey (of which I have tons of photos) was one of our favorite places on the trip.  It had a serene atmosphere, secluded as it was on its mountaintop.  It is a Benedictine abbey, which means that the brothers must all earn their keep, which they do by supervising the apricot orchards and their products; working/leasing the vineyards; and managing the forests.

We exited through the gift shop, buying plenty of apricot products: jams, chutney, apricot sugar (for cocktails!), and a bottle of their apricot liqueur, which I will also use in cocktails.  (More than a few from Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails call for it.)

Back on board, we set sail up through the Wachau Valley, which Soren narrated for us as we went.  It was chock full of fun things like abbeys and ruined castles:

This one held Richard the Lion-Hearted captive until he was ransomed by his jongleur.  (The way it was said made it sound like his vassal lords didn’t give a rat’s ass that their liege was being held by the Austrians.)

The scenery both fore and aft was lovely, and you can see the weather was glorious.  I ended up napping on the sun deck, awaking as we approached a lock to find this school looming over me:

On we sailed, through the sunset and night, towards Passau.

—————

Addendum:

It was pointed out to me that I omitted one of the sights in the Wachau Valley: Willendorf, where archaeologists discovered the Venus of Willendorf.  The site is now marked with a little monument:

The morning after

Yesterday, as you will recall, was the spring equinox, which I celebrated not with my usual fête but with twelve solid hours of contemplation.

I may have to do this every year.  It was amazing.

First, of course, the weather was gorgeous: clear, balmy-to-warm, and just enough breeze to ring the windchimes.  Perfect.  I opened the gate as the courthouse chimed noon.

I took a fresh waste book and began writing during the day; whenever I found myself with “nothing” to do, I wrote.  I mused, I recorded, I complained, I transcribed bits from “Leaves of Grass.”

I read, both Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” and Bill Plotkin’s Soulcraft.

I wrote letters.  Well, half of one letter.

And of course I walked the labyrinth.  No specific topics or problems, just quiet, balanced walks.  Every now and then the morbid part of my mind will escape its restraints, and I will find myself grieving over some putative future time when we have sold the house and are moving, either into a smaller house or some kind of protective custody, and I have to take that “last walk” on my beautiful labyrinth.  But last night, as I was exiting the labyrinth and those thoughts began to bubble up, I said, out loud, “That may be, but this is not that walk.  This is not the consciously last time I walk this labyrinth.”  I think that will be my mantra of gratitude every time I walk.

A little after 7:00 pm, I got up to light the fire, and was astonished to see:

Yes, that’s the westpoint bowl, but look at it: it’s bathed in light, a perfect rectangle.

It’s a reflection of the setting sun on the back windows of the basement, and on the equinox, apparently, we get this stupendously woo-tastic effect.

So, future generations, after the Current Administration throws us all into Mr. Burns: a post-electric play territory, remember that you have a marker for when the sun is making its shift to summer.[1]

Over the course of the day and night, we had a handful of visitors. No huge rush. No conflicting woo-needs.

Finally, after everyone else had left and/or gone to bed, I was alone again.  I walked the labyrinth more than a couple of times, dreamed at the fire, and was in general in a state of gratitude for the day and for the space and for the people.

As midnight chimed, I extinguished the fire and closed the gate.

—————

[1] This is assuming of course that the house is not burned to the ground.

Balance

Today is the Spring Equinox, the day when the sun shares its light with us for exactly half the 24 hours of the day.  From here on out, the sun will rise earlier and set later, giving us more and more — and warmer and warmer —daylight.

Earlier peoples paid a lot more attention to these things than we do, out of necessity.  We are a pattern-making species, and once our brains kicked in, it probably didn’t take long for us to notice the lengthening and shortening of days and the fact that the sun rose and set further and further north or south every day.  I know I would want to create some sort of system to mark those turning points.  Maybe stone pillars in the ground.  Something like that.

Anyway, I like to mark the solstices and the equinoxes with observances in the labyrinth because what’s the point of having an alien landing strip in your back yard if you’re not going to go all hippie-woo in it?

Given that I am an Existential Mystic, I reserve the solstices for actually meaningful observations.  The winter solstice is the Annual Meeting of the Lichtenbergian Society; it is the one of the two high holy days of Lichtenbergianism.[1]  The summer solstice is whatever I choose to make it, but is generally a fire pit kind of night of reflection.

The equinoxes, on the other hand, I don’t mind having a party: friends, spouses, cocktails, funky music on the sound system, laughter, conversation, good times.  If someone wants to walk the labyrinth or ring a bell or two, great; otherwise, let’s chill.

Today, though, I am doing something I’ve never done before: I am holding the labyrinth open for meditation from noon until midnight.  No party, no bar, no loud music.  No loud conversation.  Just me and my kilt and the fire.  I’ll read, I’ll write.  I’ll clean, I’ll tidy.  I’ll walk.  I’ll have my phone, but otherwise I’m offline.

Ceremonies?  Rituals?  Nothing specific, just whatever comes to mind.

What am I looking for?  I don’t know that I’m looking for anything, but I’ll be paying attention to the quiet, to the music, to the space, to gratitude, to balance.

If you’re reading this, and you would like a period of quiet reflection, the gate will be open at noon.  Bring whatever woo you like.

(If you’re in the mood for a party, check back with me in September for the fall equinox.)

—————

[1] The other is July 1, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s birthday.

Light blogging

I have other duties today, like prepping the labyrinth for a wedding this afternoon.  I’m performing the ceremony for an old friend and his long-time lady love, and either it’s been raining or we’ve been otherwise occupied.  So today, I have to do all the mowing and trimming and fixing up.

I actually have a checklist for “prepping the labyrinth” on my phone’s to-do app.  It has no date assigned to it; I just duplicate it and give the duplicate a date.  And that date is today.

So maybe a leisurely blogpost tonight, around the fire, after a simple ritual.

Oh, and also I have to create an invoice for the Moscow Charter School, in Moscow, ID, which is performing as much of William Blake’s Inn as they can manage in May.  So there’s that.

Lost and found

Back in 2010, my Lovely First Wife and I found ourselves in Seattle, where we were staying with inlaws-to-be and attending the Winter Olympics across the way in Vancouver. While there I purchased a little charm, as in charm bracelet/pendant thingie, an old typewriter key: MARGIN RELEASE.

I blogged about it here.

tl;dr: on old typewriters, margins were set by physical metal “tabs,” and if the word you were typing at the end of the line were only going to go past the margin by one or two letters, you could press this key and it would allow you past that boundary.

I bought it to be a talisman on the new Utilikilt I purchased there in Seattle at the flagship store, and I wore it on a little chain attached to a belt loop, along with a little clay talisman of the Man-in-the-Maze design that I got in Jerome, AZ.  The effect was trés woo.

Alas, it has vanished.  I’m thinking that it was last week when I was vacuuming/mulching all the leaves from the labyrinth for an evening out there.  If so, then I might still come across it somewhere.

However, it just as easily could have vanished at any point in the last four or five months.  If it fell off at Alchemy, then I know it’s gone—although I have repeatedly stumbled across items there that I thought were gone forever. Still, I’ve ordered a new one from Etsy, all the way from Australia.  That’s the one in the picture, actually.  I’m prepared to face the margins again.  If the old one shows up, I can gift the new one.

In preparing to write this post, I did a quick search for the original post and realized with something of a shock that it was written at about this time in 2010—seven years ago.  This was before getting and losing the directorship of GHP; before retiring; before becoming ordained by the Universal Life Church so I could perform wedding ceremonies; before I even thought seriously about attending Burning Man or indeed knowing that there was a regional burn here in GA; before formulating the Nine Precepts of Lichtenbergianism and beginning my crusade for world domination.

I have pushed past a lot of margins since then.

The Labyrinth ::sigh::

I was all prepared to rant about that idiot Gregg Phillips, who has been the source of the fable that “3 million illegals voted”[1] in the last election.  I was going to advise Chris Cuomo and other denizens of cable news to confront him, call him a charlatan—A CHARLATAN, SIRRAH— and eject him from the studio.

But I’ve decided to blog about my labyrinth instead.  I’m going to eschew the righteous bitterness of our time and instead radiate hope and light.[2]

Last night, I and several people I like had the chance to sit by the fire in the labyrinth, and we took it.  Since the new iPhone is supposed to be able to take better low-light photos, I put it to work.

This is my favorite place in the worlds.

Isn’t this beautiful?

The new corner (above) is shaping up very nicely.  I have a new stone slab that will be a bench there; stay tuned for updates.

The bowl at the west point.

Either your daily reminder of your mortality or your daily swig of vodka.  It’s all about choices, innit?

My friend Dionysus was in fine fettle last night, broken arm and all.

There, don’t you feel better?  I do.

—————

[1] And yet, somehow, failed to swing the election to Hillary Clinton, for whom they all voted.

[2] Shut up, I am too.

Meditation

Every fair from fair sometime declines.

This is my favorite sentence of all time. It is from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, and for me it encapsulates the bitter truth of life: entropy rules over all. Nothing gold can stay.[1]

Every fair from fair sometime declines.

The phrase kept coming to me as I worked to prepare the labyrinth for the Tour of Homes. Because of the nature of the Tour—everything is supposed to be pretty—I was reseeding the labyrinth with a “contractor’s blend” of grass, i.e., a mixture of regular fescue seed and winter rye, which grows quickly and provides you with a vividly green carpet at any time of the year.

Rye is extremely temporary. It grows and, after a month or two, dies. That’s fine. I only needed the labyrinth to look “pretty” for Dec 3. After that, nature could resume its cycle.

Because normally I do not try to maintain a green labyrinth through the winter months. It is pretty, but part of having this meditative space is learning to see the beauty in all phases of its life. Bare branches, brown ferns, dead grass—all are part of the way life goes. It is best if you can love that.

 

Yes, the tired old metaphors of our human lives winding down apply. Shakespeare as usual says it best, this time in Sonnet 73:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold…

Part of our sadness about the entropy of our lives is our consciousness that while nature’s course will cycle back around—the leaves will grow again, the ferns will push up through the humus, the grass will sprout as green as before—with us the decline is permanent. We don’t get to be young again. We won’t, as the sun shifts back to the north, find ourselves regaining our muscle tone or youthful skin or mental acuity.

This of course is our ego’s perception. It is not reality. The leaf falls from the tree, but the tree is still alive. So it is with us. “We” may die, but the universe is still alive. Thinking that somehow our ego will continue to exist after our death is essentially planting rye grass: shoring up a false hope that will not, can not last.

Every fair from fair sometime declines: words to live by.

—————

[1] This is why, in my setting of Sonnet 18 for men’s chorus and two cellos, that line is the musical climax.

The GLRP, 11/22/16

Have a look at this:

This was a thing we picked up in Virginia when cleaning out the family homestead.  Besides the loop on the right, the end on the left is flattened.  We have no idea what it is/was; if I had to guess, I’d say it was a spring kind of thing from some large machine, perhaps a train.  Comments are welcome.

Whatever its original use, I decided it would be a lovely thing from which to hang a light, and so today’s task in the Great Labyrinth Reclamation Project was installing it over the new nook in the southwest corner.

Simple project, actually: 1) saw off some copper tubing I had around; 2) screw it to one of the uprights on the fence with brackets.

3) Stick the flat end in the pipe.

Now it can swing out to any position you need.

Serving suggestion.  Clearly I want to find something cooler and larger.  For the time being I can use one of my solar lights.

Technically-speaking-wise, I don’t suppose I needed the copper tubing.  I could have just used brackets small enough to contain the iron thing.  But I like the effect, and the tubing keeps the end of the iron thing from digging into the fence itself.