Tuesday, February 28

One dream, moving between us ...

Tim and I often tell our dreams to each other; sometimes it helps to understand a dream (I don't mean interpret the dream) to reflect on it with him because he knows me so well. He is also very aware of his own dreams, and has a rich dream life. But we both go through dream-droughts, when it seems we are not dreaming, or not remembering our dreams as well. I haven't had a dry spell in a long time. Anyway, the following poem fits us -- and our dream-telling, so perfectly, that I felt compelled to illustrate the way it makes me feel, the way it fits around our dreams and stories and emotional lives. It's a poem byMoniza Alvi, born in 1954 in Pakistan. She grew up in England and I think she lives there now.


I envied my wife her nightly visions.
She'd lay each one proudly on the bed

like a plump, iridescent fish,
and ask me to identify it.

Some nights I'd even manage to trap
my own by concentrating hard,

submerging the net into blue-black waters.
I'd place my catch on the rippling sheet.

So we'd have our own two fish, almost
indecent, nuzzling each other's mouths,

soul-fish, awkward in our hands,
hungry, as if our lives were a host

of crumbs to gulp in greedily.
They'd beat their tails very fast

until we could only see the one dream
moving between us, or feel stirring

one enormous fish, with our own lives
grieving, joyful, growing in its belly.

-- by Moniza Alvi

Sunday, February 26

Mystery of the Forest

Why is it so important to keep some mystery about us? Some mystery surrounding life itself and the beginnings of the universe and the reasons and purpose of each solitary element of nature?

I admire Albert Einstein not only for his incredible mind, and the creative advancement he contributed to science and art, but also for the openess he had about his religious beliefs in the context of his scientific pursuits and the scientific community of his peers.

I could say that this is very close to what I personally believe about life. The only thing I would change about the following excerpt taken from one of Einstein's essays, is that for me ... the words, "religious" and "religiosity" would be "spiritual" and "spirituality" only because there is so often a connotation of narrowness applied to religion in our world today. When I think of religion, I often think about the atrocities we humans have committed against nature and each other in the name of various world religions. For me, spirituality is a more open, inclusive descriptor of the connections I feel with all of life, including the tiniest grain of sand, a beetle drunk on a flower's nectar or any person on earth no matter what their lot in life, or their creed. may be.

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery -- even if mixed with fear -- that engendered (spirituality) religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply (spiritual)religious man... I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with a knowledge,a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence -- as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature."

Albert Einstein (signature)

-- Albert Einstein

Friday, February 24

We don't have a dish drain

We don't have a dish drain, originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

I just use some layered towels and colorful fabrics to soak up the water from the clean dishes. I change the cloth frequently.

We like to support local artists as much as we can, and one way we can afford that is to use dishes, plates, bowls and cups made by local ceramics artists. Like George McCauley, Sarah Jaegar and Richard Swanson.

If you click on the photo, there are scads of "notes" about the many elements in this pic. If you're interested. It's part of a set, kindof a tour of our house, inside and outside. I put the album together from mostly photos I took today, but added a few from the summer so you can see the garden.

Photo Friday: Masculine

Portrait: Tracy, originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

I like the grittiness and grain here ... to me it fits with the frayed jeans, unshaven face, his working-man's hands, the hoody, the angle of the shot. . .

This is Tracy. Here are a few more shots I took during their coffee break at my husband's (Tim's) shop that same day.

Thursday, February 23

Poetry Thursday

"You don't have to prove anything," my mother said. "Just be ready for what God sends." -- William Stafford, poet (from his last poem, written the day he died in 1993 - entire poem is included after the Rumi quote, below)

Stay Here at the Flame's Core

originally uploaded by MontanaRaven

Liz, who has the wonderful blog, Be Present Be Here, has suggested that we share a favorite poem on Thursdays. I'm up for that, so here are excerpts from two of my favorite poets, the mystic Rumi, and the poet/author William Stafford.

Thinking gives off smoke,
to prove the existence of fire.
A mystic sits inside the burning.
There are wonderful shapes in
rising smoke that imagination loves
to watch.
But it's a mistake
to leave the fire
for that filmy sight.
Stay here at the flame's core.

-- Rumi

and the entire Stafford poem:

"Are you Mr.William Stafford?" "Yes, but...."

Well, it was yesterday.
Sunlight used to follow my hand.
And that's when the strange siren-like sound flooded
over the horizon and rushed through the streets of our town.
That's when sunlight came from behind
a rock and began to follow my hand.

"It's for the best," my mother said —"Nothing can
ever be wrong for anyone truly good."
So later the sun settled back and the sound
faded and was gone. All along the streets every
house waited, white, blue, gray: trees
were still trying to arch as far as they could.

You can't tell when strange things with meaning
will happen. I'm [still] here writing it down
just the way it was. "You don't have to
prove anything," my mother said. "Just be ready
for what God sends." I listened and put my hand
out in the sun again. It was all easy.

Well, it was yesterday. And the sun came,
It came.

-- William Stafford

Time for the March Calendar

Cottonwood Grove, the Protectors photo by Maureen Shaughnessy

Hi friends, here is my monthly offering to readers of my blog, this calendar which you are welcome to download, print, use however you want to. Click on the photo for a larger version. It looks best printed out at 8"x10" size on heavy weight matte photo paper, but any paper will do. I'm always curious if anyone is actually using these calendars, so if you do, please leave me a comment. (that's optional as always, though). And for sure ... enjoy it!

Here are the rest of the photos I took that same day, out at a ranch near Helena, where we live.

Tuesday, February 21

Dreaming & Listening to the Color of my Mind

I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind. -- quoted from Emily Bronte

Friday, February 17

Photo Friday: Baby Face

Baby Face, originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

Tuesday, February 14

We send our love to family and friends

Happy Valentine's Day, originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

A special wish for all our family and friends: may we have peace in a loving world ... and stay warm by the fires in our hearts, not just on this Valentine's Day, but everyday.
Love from Montana, Maureen and Tim

Monday, February 13

Ask me. What the river says, that is what I say

Thinking about the poet William Stafford lately, partly because I was reminded to find and re-read the books of his poetry on our bookshleves. Reminded by Liz when she quoted one of his poems on her blog, Be Present Be Here.
I remember when he died in 1993. I was saddened by the world's loss - of an inspiring teacher and poet. I wish I had known him personally. I met him (once) when he guest taught a creative writing class. I have a few of his books and would love to own more. William Stafford is among my favorite 3 or 4 poets -- the ones I turn to when I am feeling lost, when I need a hand, when I want to feel connected and be reminded that I am always connected because I am part of the world.

Will write more about Stafford and share more of his poetry on my blog as I have time. I the meantime, here is a Stafford poem to accompany my photo of the frozen Boulder River.

Ask Me
by William Stafford

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.


Toasting the New Grad

For Photo Friday: Blur

Title: Toasting the New Grad at Mi Casita

Saturday, February 11

Ephemeral Flight

Ephemeral Flight, originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

Night Vision

Night Vision, originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

Just as in sleep you have to dream
the exact dream to round out your life,
so we have to live that dream into stories
and hold them close at you, close at the
edge we share, to be right.

-- William Stafford 1948 - 1993

Friday, February 10

Geometric Collage in Photoshop

Triptych: Reflections, originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

Something I'm working on, just thought I'd share it with my blog readers. I hope you enjoy this colorful collage in the middle of winter. I certainly need the color! Please let me know what you think. Below is a detail of the triptych.

Wednesday, February 8

A Treat for my Blog Readers

Best Egg Salad Ever, originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

Best Egg Salad Ever, a recipe I invented because we like having this for lunch but wanted to find a healthier substitute for the mayonnaise in traditional egg salad.

If you click on the photo above, it takes you to my flickr page where the photo has notes detailing how to make the recipe. I'll post the written recipe here, later this week when I get time to write it down. Right now it's in my head where 99% of my recipes reside.

I used extra virgin olive oil, a little fresh lemon juice and some dijon mustard to moisten the chopped egg instead of mayo. Also I add lots of crunchy ingredients like celery, tart apples, carrots, green onions and sometimes toasted pecans. Lemon zest give it zing. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 7

Art from Nature: Inspiration & Links

Lotte Glob is a Danish ceramics artist living and working in Scotland. Her work is intimately inspired by forms she finds in nature, especially around the Ultimate Rock Garden, as she calls her Scotland studio and home. I'd love to live and work in a place like this someday:

Glob has a beautiful online portfolio exhibiting her ceramic sculptures, books, fountains, tiles and bowls. These are incredibly beautiful pieces -- if you are at all attracted to artwork based on natural colors, shapes and textures, check out her portfolio. This is one of her pieces, ceramic floating stones, photographed in place on the shore. She often places her sculptures in nature to take photos of them before delivering them to the buyers.
Here's another, a comissioned fountain. Shown are some of the glaze shapes up close.

I like Glob's ceramic "books" -- Books of the Land, Earth Air, Fire and Water elements shaped into the pages and covers of book forms. Here is a detail of one of Glob's books.

Nature is the source of most of my own artistic and creative inspiration and it's right outside our house. In Helena, it literally takes just a couple of minutes to get from "town" out into a more natural environment. But even right in town, all I have to do is get down on my hands and knees with my eyes, my camera, my sketchbook, my sense of wonder... to find something inspiring and worth using in my artwork.

Speaking of finding inspiration in nature, last weeks Painter's Keys Letter from artist Robert Genn, was all about being inspired, influenced, shaped as artists by ... Nature and natural forms. Here is what he writes in his weekly letter:

"Here are a few non-rigid thoughts for those who might be thinking about nature in their art:
Gradations attract, enfold and please.
Curves are more sensual than straights.
The obvious is enchanted by the hidden.
Protrusions are contrasted with indentions.
Patterns fascinate, involve and deceive.
Repetitions are to forms what beats are to music.
Symmetry mirrors and honours the human body.
Whorls and vortexes tempt and seduce.
Colour, pure or muted, is its own magic.
Strong contrasts provide drama and excitement.
Soft edges invite touch and caress.
Disappearing acts create mystery and intrigue.
Camouflage has both honour and mirth.
Bracts and branches are a principle of life.
Articulation rattles the bones.
Spikes and spines provide discomfort and unease.
Radiation echoes a sun god and the hand of man.
Water brings both tranquility and turbulence.
Squares and triangles give strength and stability.

The list goes on. Nature's designs range from high schlock to understated good taste. They present us with an ever-changing march of variety and magnificence. "Nature," says biologist Hans Meinhardt, "has been allowed to play." Artists may take courage from this cue." ---- Robert Genn, from the Painter's Keys.

Another artist -- a photographer, Karl Blossfeldt made a large body of work in the 1920s and 30s, photographing natural plant forms. A recent project over at the Utata artists' group was the "Utata Pays Homage to the Masters" exhibit. Some Utata photographers chose to honor Blossfeldt with their own beautiful plant-forms photos. Here's one by a Utatan and Flickr photog, Brenda Anderson, titled Koru:

Here's a link to one of Blossfeldt's black and white photos ... of a fern fiddlehead similar to Brenda's above. Karl Blossfeldt has several books out, some published by Dover, all are wonderful collections of botanical diversity and most can be found online as used books.

Aqua-Nine Flower
by Ernst Haeckel

Ernst Haeckel was a 19th century zoologist who supported Darwin's theory of evolution. He was also an amazing artist. I've used his book, originally published in 1899, as inspiration for years and years: Art Forms in Nature, or "Kunst Formen der Natur" (the original title). His illustrations are stunning -- they were drawn and painted by Haeckel from life yet many of the creatures look as if they were from another planet! It's weird that both Haeckel and Blossfeldt have books with the same titles, though Haeckel concentrates on animal forms and Blossfeldt focues on plant forms ... both books are excellent source of the many beautiful patterns, textures and forms found in nature. Both books can usually be found used online. Definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, February 5

Teasing out the story of a dream

One's dreams are a bottomless source of creativity and energy if you know how to listen to them, if you know how to befriend your dreaming self.

Help us to be ever faithful gardeners of the spirit, who know that without darkness nothing comes to birth, and without light nothing flowers. -- May Sarton, poet

Dream of Healing originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

In darkness I get to know my dreams. Each one my intimate friend. As if I were there, sitting across the fire, watching my friend, sharing a glass of red wine, laughing, arguing, crying and falling in love. As if I were prepared to spend the night there, getting to know her. Exchanging stories, catching up, teasing out the real dream, the real me. I live the dream's imagery when I listen to it deeply, I imagine the dream into the future for that way I know I am learning from each message. That way I know I am on the journey with the dream.

Dreams are full of possibility -- though at times, the possibilities seem impossible. Dreams have the potential to point us in the direction of very real experience if we are willing to listen. the very real experience of healing, creativity, of knowing what brought us to where we are. And where we will go from here.

Saturday, February 4

This is for Kathryn

Maybe ... just maybe I can entice Kat to comment on my blog one of these days. Remember when I took this photo, Kat? It was just after you got off of work at the Shack. This one captures how beautiful you really are -- your great smile.

Friday, February 3

Go Red for Women

Wear Red for Heart Health, originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.
Copyright Maureen Shaughnessy

I am participating in National Wear Red Day today by wearing red and blogging about this important health information. Heart disease is the number one killer of women and women have very different symptoms of heart disease than men do. So it's important to educate ourselves about heart health, the symptoms and signs of heart disease and to get appropriate medical care. I went for my annual mammogram this morning and was given the little red dress pin in the above photos. If it hadn't been for that little gift I might not have known about the promotion today. So, I thought I'd promote Wear Red Day a bit, on my blog and flickr page.

Tim and I had dinner out tonight.
I wore red lipstick.
Anybody who knows me
knows that's unusual for me.

It's that time of year

Went for my annual mammogram this morning. Whew! -- that is one uncomfortable medical test. but worth having for sure. I can put up with a few minutes of super-squished boobs if it saves my life by detecting an early cancer. I love this drawing by Deborah Donelson -- she has a great sense of humor without being trite.

Deborah Donelson at Flecktenstein Gallery

Singing Mush in the Early Morning Glow

Getting ready for the big sporting event of the year: Montana's Race to the Sky. The official start is back in it's traditional place, just outside of Helena at Rimini. The 350 mile long race is the most mountainous race in North America, so is very challenging for the dog teams and mushers. It's also the longest sled trail in the lower 48 states. These dogs, shown here in the early morning golden sunlight, were waiting for their vet checks. They are all really friendly huskies, some with a little malamute in their blood. These two were singing ... all the dogs were extremely vocal, with a seemingly huge vocabulary. It was fun to shot the series. You can see the slideshow of the set I made or just click on the photo to see the set on flickr.

Thursday, February 2

The Daily Ink

Wowza! -- Utata received special mention on Eye on the Web today. That's good ink about the Utata members and about our latest project which I lovelovelove.

I just submitted some photos -- I didn't do much in the grander scheme of the site ... people like Catherine, Greg, Ross, Chris, Irina are the ones who work (seems to me super long) hours putting the projects together into a gorgeous, well-functioning website/center-for-artistic types. Utata is my favorite webplace ever.

Anyway, if you're interested in reading what Catherine wrote about the press Utata is getting, it's here on The Daily Ink.

Here's what the "Eye on the Web" radio show had to say about Utata:

Behold the beautiful. That's exactly what you can do at Utata.org. This online salon was created by a group of photographers, writers and like-minded people who share a compelling interest in the arts, and Utata continues to evolve as they investigate the intricacies of artistic beauty. The site's sophisticated and clean design is evidence of their impeccable taste. The articles and photography then take the exercise to the next level, with dramatically beautiful photos and fascinating copy. Among other varied subjects, you can learn about life in Masterton, New Zealand, or ruminate on the joys of a good nap. You'll find many perspectives here as you poke about in the Archives, the Articles, the Columns and the Projects, or you can learn more about the artists themselves. One thing is certain, though: wherever you go in Utata, it will be beautiful.

Eye on the Web - it's an "international radio show featuring the fun and fanciful world of the Web, sponsored by sculptor Kevin Caron."

Groundhog Day

A part of a day in the life of Maureen and Tim in Helena, Montana. I think our winter will be short. Today the sky was cloudy. Sunrise was spectacular -- just a crack in the clouds that let beams of gold light through and I was there at the perfect moment. In my pajamas. (more on that below...) I could not find a groundhog, but I'm sure if one was up and about today she wouldn't have seen her shadow!

To see any of the individual photos enlarged, click on these links:
1. Belltower window,
2. Just outside our back door ... 7:15 am on Groundhog Day,
3. Crack of dawn ... amazed I was up!,
4. A dawning reflection on cathedral windows.

Over at the blog I do with my family, we are posting photos of whatever they see and do on Groundhog Day -- today -- to share with the rest of the fam. I went to sleep last night thinkig how I was going to get up at the crack of dawn to shoot some gorgeous sunrise photos for the family project. Now, mind I am not a morning person. I used to be, but these days, I'm doin good to get out of bed by 8:30 am, so planning to shoot the sunrise was ambitious to say the least.

So, I'm out in the backyard still in my pjs thinking I'd just shoot the sunrise. But it was so beautiful, I ended up walking a few blocks to the cathedral and waiting for the sun to hit the stone and windows there. If I was seen by anyone, I hope I wasn't recognized. Later I had my coffee at Ray's (in my day clothes, ahem!) Still later, I accompanied Tim to deliver the table he just finished. Then we had lunch together at the Real Food deli. Of course, I had to photograph his lunch. "Put the camera down and eat, Maureen..." I guess Tim didn't like me pointing the camera at him while he had his mouth full.

Click on any of these links to see the individual photos or the entire set:
1. Dawn: the 'hood wakes up, 2. Java at Ray's,
3. Looking back on it now ..., 4. Lunch at the deli