delithopia

Notes from the Waxhaws

Life is like…

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Written by Jim

May 7, 2016 at 11:42 am

In alignment

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Shortly before dawn this morning, I ventured out onto the front porch. The planets were in alignment. Mercury was too low in the sky…behind the trees…for me to see. But, plainly visible were Venus…Saturn…Mars, visibly tinged red…and finally, brilliant Jupiter. I heard something scurry through the frost-covered shrubs…and then saw it stop in the open. A rabbit…casting a moonshadow. 

Written by Jim

January 30, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Happy New Year 2016

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If you always do

what you’ve always done,

you’ll always get

what you’ve always gotten.

~ Henry Ford (among others)

Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.

~ Rumi

After a recent holiday visit, walking through the strange and wonderful land that is the city of New Orleans, where life and death seem daily to coexist together in close proximity, and where one never knows when an ill wind might blow in from the Gulf…I have one intention for the coming year…to live more deliberately…and with an increased measure of passion.

Happy New Year from the Carolinas!

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Audubon Park, New Orleans

Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church at Loyola University

Written by Jim

January 1, 2016 at 10:17 am

Merry Christmas 2015

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…from New Orleans, Louisiana.   St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, in the French Quarter

Written by Jim

December 24, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Watchtowers

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Come to the silver gardens of the South,
Where whisper hath her monarchy, and winds
Deftly devise live tapestries of shade,
In glades of stillness patterned,
And where the red-bird like a sanguine stain,
Brings Tragedy to Beauty.

~ from The Silver Gardens by Archer Milton Huntington

 

Two weeks ago…I had to get away. I easily forget how near the ocean is, so I packed a bag and drove to the coast…to spend the weekend on the Grand Strand of South Carolina. It’s the off season in Myrtle Beach, so the crowds have diminished and hotel rooms are plentiful…and reasonably priced. I needed to spend some time conversing with the sea…and I obtained an excellent vantage point…a room on the twelfth floor of the Bay View Resort, with a balcony overlooking the wide expanse of the Atlantic. I could breathe again as I sat in the chill November air…peering into emptiness from my watchtower. The gloaming soon turned to darkness.
Sunset

Then, rising early the next day, I was witness to a miracle. My watchtower had revolved through space…and through the night while I slept…to once again meet up with the sun…to begin a new conversation.

sunrise

After a while…after a long silence that helped clear my mind in preparation for the day, I made my way south along the coast about thirty minutes or so…to Atalaya…another watchtower. In fact, Atalaya means watchtower in Spanish. This castle on the coast was the winter home of Archer Huntington and his wife Anna Hyatt Huntington. It was designed by Archer himself, in a style reminiscent of Moorish architecture he had seen in Spain. Archer was a fabulously wealthy industrialist, and his wife Anna, a world-renowned sculptor (Oddly enough, I discovered that Anna’s last major work was a bronze statue of Andrew Jackson that is located in Andrew Jackson State Park, a few miles from where I live).

Atalaya

When I arrived at Atalaya, which is now part of Huntington Beach State Park, I checked in with the docent, who provided a map that would lead me on a self-guided tour of the structure. It’s really just an empty shell now, but while walking through the 30 or so rooms that encircle the inner courtyard, I could still sense the presence of the extraordinary couple who had lived there in solitude (along with their many servants), with only the wild Atlantic as their neighbor. When I finished my tour, I returned my map. The docent quizzed me…”Did you find the guest room?”, he asked. Hmmm…I thought hard…returning to each empty room in my mind. Then we both blurted out at the same time…”There is no guest room.” Archer and Anna valued their privacy, and while they often had guests during the day, they would pack them up and send them on their way by nightfall.

My next stop was just across the highway from Atalaya…Brookgreen Gardens, a botanical and sculpture garden designed by Archer and Anna. There is also a wildlife preserve on this expansive tract of land that lies between the Waccamaw River and the Atlantic Ocean.

Archer and Anna

I spent a few hours walking the many paths in this garden that was originally designed to showcase the work of Anna Hyatt Huntington. My favorite sculpture, however, was that of Laura Gardin Fraser…The Pegasus. It depicts Inspiration taking flight upon the wings of Pegasus. It lifted my spirits as I imagined it soaring into the perfectly blue Carolina sky.

Pegasus

Melancholia and the one percent solution

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I was driving home recently…listening to a piece of music called ‘Melancholia’…a somewhat new age adaptation of the familiar folk song Greensleeves…streaming into my car via a satellite hovering above in low earth orbit. While listening to this ageless tune, it occurred to me that this melody had originated in someone’s mind hundreds of years ago. Some melancholy moment of reflection upon an unrequited love, perhaps. How tenuous that slender and fragile thought in its beginnings that, nevertheless, survived and made a remarkable journey far into the future to touch my thoughts and spin me into a reverie. It made me think about how the past still exerts tangible power over us…whether or not we’re aware of it. We like to think that our thoughts are original…that they originate with who we are…or who we think we are.

This past week…my sense of self-identity was forever changed. A few weeks ago…on a whim…I sent in a sample of my DNA to be tested through the Ancestry DNA program of ancestry.com. By comparing and matching my DNA with countless other samples they were going to tell me where I came from. I wasn’t expecting any surprises…and it didn’t shock me when I received the results this week, revealing that I was 99% Eastern European (Polish, to be exact) in origin. In fact, the typical native of that region in Europe logged in at 82%…so it appeared I was even more native than the natives. What did take my breath away momentarily…was the remaining one percent. That one percent of my DNA was consistent with natives of Ireland. I already knew that at some point in the distant past, there had been migrations of Celtic peoples to areas throughout Europe, including southern Poland where my grandparents were from. So…this revelation that my bloodline…however small a part it might be…could be tied to those ancient Celtic peoples that roamed the continent, and stretched back in time to the Emerald Isle itself…was simply astonishing.

What makes us who we are? We like to think that we have the bigger hand in how our lives are shaped. But is this really true? The very thought that the actions of two people (among many, many others)…thousands of years ago in the neolithic period on an island at the edge of a vast sea…were instrumental in my even being here…is simply humbling.  Beside the physical connection…what other tenuous thoughts and feelings have filtered down through the ages to shape me into who I am? Do they account for the fact that the writings of John O’Donohue resonate in my soul? That I love the story of the Tuatha de Danann…a mythical Irish people who, when standing face-to-face with an invading army, turned sideways into the light and disappeared? Who knows. At the very least, it may offer some explanation for the rather illogical and somewhat magnetic attraction I have to the music of Enya…

Turn sideways into the light as they say
the old ones did and disappear
into the originality of it all.
Be impatient with easy explanations
and teach that part of the mind
that wants to know everything
not to begin questions it cannot answer.
~ David Whyte, Tobar Phadraic

 

Written by Jim

August 5, 2015 at 7:46 pm

wee folk

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Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.
~William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

I thought I heard a bit of a commotion during the night. Some garden fairies seem to have taken up residence during the cover of darkness…

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Hand in hand, with fairy grace,
Will we sing, and bless this place.
~William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I think that people who can’t believe in fairies aren’t worth knowing. ~Tori Amos

Written by Jim

July 12, 2015 at 7:33 am