Thursday, June 30, 2005

What's in a name

Many thanks to "Sir Randal Scott" of the Festival of Cultures for emailing me back with the name of the Hoop Dancer seen in my earlier posts. Dennis Lee Rogers is a Navajo artist and cultural educator who travels around the world sharing his culture. His art forms include Navajo Sandpainting, the Hoop Dance, and Northern Traditional Dances. He also speaks about Navajo Silversmithing, reservation life, tribal issues, Indian laws & legislation, and Indian gaming.

According to "The Dancing Ground," his Navajo name, which was given to him by his grandmother when he was 5 years old, is Ashkilasaah, meaning the light-complexioned boy, on account of his relatively fair skin. Although, I still think the name "Smiling Eyes" suits him well.

At our event, he shared with us his fantastic Navajo hoop dancing and various Navajo traditions. He speaks with respectful tones about his people but was approachable and animated with the children. I found his demonstration quite fascinating, as is evident by this, the third post on the same topic! I thought about why I found him so interesting and I came to the conclusion that he was, in fact, the first Native American I've ever met and had the privilege of learning from. I'm 39 and that was my first encounter. I'm relatively sure I don't live in a cave. I've lived abroad, travelled around Europe and much of the east coast of the US, but I've never been to the mid-west/west. The only Native Americans near here are usually employed at gaming casinos like Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in CT, where I've only been twice. And even then, it wasn't like everyone who worked there was Native American nor did they were their culture on their sleeves.

The fact that he devotes his time to sharing, and thereby preserving, the culture of his people is noteworthy and certainly worth this third post. Most Native America traditions, beliefs and customs are learned by word of mouth, the older teaching the younger. By sharing and teaching others about his people and their history, he is breathing new life into their culture. I'm not sure that those participating in his educational events will incorporate Navajo customs into their daily lives.

But maybe, thanks to Dennis' demonstration, they'll remember the day they all danced together to the Navajo drum beats in the Circle Dance and smiled, holding hands with strangers. And for a few moments anyway, they were happy to be together and alive and appreciating the day and simple things like the earth, eagles and butterflies, and that is something worthwhile. My son still likes to imitate Dennis' "eagle" as he flies around the living room with his arms outstretched. Hopefully our upcoming trip to a local raptor center will fill him with even more knowledge and love of eagles and nature.

There are four working farms within five miles of my home, still more trees than people and an abundance of farm markets and country stores. Even though I live in the country, I still feel like many people here have lost their connection with the land and nature. I remember going for a walk one day on a country road and man in a car pulled over to ask if I was okay. I told him I was just walking, he said, "Why? Did your car break down?" People get in their cars to get to the other end of the supermarket parking lot here. It's a pity. You miss so much when you're flying by at 55mph.

I have a friend who is very in touch with this. She lives in Australia but misses her native New Zealand. She feels that "in New Zealand, the land is so vital to the people, it seems to pervade the senses…" That, in this day and age, there is still "a people" who are connected like that, is hopeful. Perhaps we haven't lost all hope with regard to caring for our planet. That the inspiration should come from a very tiny country on the other side of the globe, makes it even more hopeful to me somehow.

Read more about Dennis in this wonderful article about his trip to England for a cultural event there.
From "
The Dancing Ground:

"...he told us that to dance in a circle was a very special thing, and that the place we stood on would always be for us the Dancing Ground. Whenever we returned, we should visit it and say to ourselves, "This is the Dancing Ground."

He then gave a magnificent demonstration of the dances which had earned him honours in dance competitions across America. These included traditional dances, which enact stories from Navajo culture, and a series of very acrobatic dances with a set of multi-coloured hoops. Everyone enjoyed the demonstration immensely, and felt imbued with the spirit of the Dancing Ground. Finally, he invited us to join with him in a circle dance and a serpent dance, so that we could enter into the spirit of the Native American dance."

More about Navajo culture & dances:

Teaching Virtues

Deer Dance of the Navajos

Conflict Between Two Worlds

Living in the Navajo Past

Related Posts: "Black & White" & "Festival of Cultures"

Monday, June 27, 2005

Summertime, summertime

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I ended up being half an hour late for my friend's birthday party Saturday `because the sunset was just too magnificent to miss. I drove past my favorite farm where the farmer had just rolled the hay into giant bails. I knew they wouldn't be there for long, so I turned around and came back. The sun was a giant fiery ball over the field. Gorgeous site. I imagine that's what the mid-westerners see just about every day out there. Figured I best take the time to see it while I could. That farm is destined to become a golf course. Was worth missing a few beers at the party.

Where I live, folks don't oft walk anywhere on main roads. We're too far from anything except our neighbors and then, most people just drive. The new wave of folks moving in think walking is what you do on a treadmill at the gym. ;-) So when you see someone pulled over, it usually means their car broke down. My little pull off with my camera and tripod had traffic slowed to a snail's pace around the big 1/2 mile turn around the farm (at far right in photo). And when people realized I was just taking a picture of the sunset, some of them started honking. It seemed like nice honking...none pulled over to enjoy it with me though. That would've been awesome. Tons of cars just pulled over for the sunset. Maybe next time. = )

One guy shouted, "Oh, man! That's gonna be a great shot!!" I wish it had turned out better. I had the old camera with me and I had trouble fooling the auto-light meter with the dark field and bright sun. Here's a not too terrible shot of it.

(click to enlarge)

Friday, June 24, 2005

PhotoFriday Challenge: orange

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The Gates, Central Park, NYC

My slideshow of The Gates is here.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day

"Dad, can't we stop and ask for directions??"
"No,'s this way, I'm sure of it...
Hey, I recognize that tree over there!
We're close, I can just FEEL it!"

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Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Photo Friday Challenge: sport

My son on deck...

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Around the garden this week

I was reading a photo site recently and a guy said, "flower shots are so boring..." They are?! These are not the words of a gardener. I love taking shots of the garden as it progresses along. You put so much into it, you kind of want a record of what came from all that effort! It seems the big spring dig paid off so far. The deer *knock on milorganite* have kept away except for a few hostas on the outer borders. I can spare those. Now the garden is really starting to come around. I love all the new colors this year. Lots of purples and yellows. Ok, one misplaced white/orange iris, but I bought it on a $1 end-of-year stand because it looked so needy. Kind of clashes with the pink rhododendron behind it, but I had no idea they would bloom simultaneously. There's always next year.

This year, though, I'm enjoying the flowers.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Black & white

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Just for fun, I threw this photo into PhotoShop and made it black & white. I adjusted the levels a bit and I like this finished product. For awhile, I did not know his name. I was too shy to ask him after he kindly allowed me to photograph him. I called him "Smiling Eyes." I even tried to find a language translator, so I could say it in Navajo...only found a Cherokee one..."u-tse-tsi di-ka-ta"

But he wrote back to say that his name is Dennis Rogers and said that his tribal name is "Ashkilasaah" meaning "Light skinned Boy." Read his comments below and welcome, Dennis!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Festival of Cultures

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Dennis Rogers, Navajo Hoop Dancer

Didn't get picked to be a chaperone for my son's field trip today, so I decided I'd just crash anyway! The "Festival of Cultures" by Green Meadows Productions is designed specifically with children in mind. All of the shows engage the students in their songs and dances and challenge their knowledge of the cultural information being presented to them.

It was quite an entertaining show, even for the adults. And with the near 90 degree heat today, I think I might have lost a few pounds during the Native American dance everyone joined in. Clearly, the leader of the dance is an aerobics instructor in his spare time. Great fun though.

Here's a few shots from today's show.

(The picture above: This was a wonderful Navajo "hoop dancer" in the Native American show. The hoops represent the circle of life. As he danced, he would interlock the hoops, working them around his body while dancing to the rhythmic drumming, forming different creatures and life entities with them. The earth, sunflower, a ladybug, butterfly and my favorite, the eagle. It was an amazing presentation. I found him, and his hoops, in the shade between shows. People were wilting in the heat and he seemed unfazed. I was struck by his face, the eternal calm and peace he seemed to have, just smiling there in the shade. Maybe he was enjoying the children running around. Or maybe he was pleased with his dance. I don't know what he was thinking, but he had a great smile.

When I asked to take his picture, he put the rings around his neck and shoulders and rested his hands in them. His hands were also striking in their strength and unity with the hoops. I wish I spent some time with him asking questions but I had to catch up with my son's group, that... and...I got shy all of a sudden! lol...

(I liked the pic so much, I tried it in black & to enlarge)

The Aztec Indian dancer with full headdress. A very funny guy (and great dancer) who tried to convince us that his people invented the Mocha-Latte-Frappucino! = ) Here he is in a more serious moment...
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(click to enlarge each photo)
(or view more photos in the slideshow)

Related posts: "What's In A Name" & "Black & White"

Monday, June 06, 2005

Demitasse Cafe

On my WorldPhotoDay outing, I happened upon Demitasse Cafe on a part of lower Main Street in Poughkeepsie. It has a beautiful interior of rich wood, stamped-tin ceilings, books, attractively displayed collections of antique tea cups and, of course, a well-appointed coffee bar. Adjacent to the Albert Shahinian Fine Art Gallery, the Demitasse Cafe also plays host to local artists, displaying their art on the restaurant's walls. Out the back of the narrow restaurant there is an open-air patio cafe with umbrella'd tables and a huge, hand-painted mural. I haven't eaten there yet, but I made plans with a friend to give it a try. An ice tea on that back patio seems particularly inviting right about now, in today's 85degree heat.

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At a Sidewalk Cafe

An ordinary morning―
awakening to nothing but daylight
prodding through the eggshell-tinted blinds
and the warm quilts to be tossed back
in which sleepers all over the city
groan, burying themselves deeper
into the sheets of oblivion.

Downstairs, the sidewalk café beckons
with the daily choices to be made: trays
of napoleons, parfait glasses filled
with strawberry cream, and the two-sided list
of coffees that patrons pour over
in their passion: the golden warmth of hazelnut,
the richness of Colombian,
the full-bodied Java―
even that everyday flirtation with espresso
and its bittersweet aftertaste,
an attraction so innocuous it seems,
that I wonder what quirks of fate
endear us to our choices in the end―
however invariable the consequences.

-Joanne Monte

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Fairy's Tale

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One of the 187 shots I took on the WorldPhotoDay outing.

Here's a great shot of another statue from "As the Clever Crow Flies" blog. I love how the statue retains her beauty, even faceless.

This Sycamore, oft musical with bees,--
Such tents the Patriarchs loved! O long unharmed
May all its aged boughs o'er-canopy
The small round basin, which this jutting stone
Keeps pure from falling leaves! Long may the Spring,
Quietly as a sleeping infant's breath,
Send up cold waters to the traveller
With soft and even pulse! Nor ever cease
Yon tiny cone of sand its soundless dance,
Which at the bottom, like a Fairy's Page,
As merry and no taller, dances still,
Nor wrinkles the smooth surface of the Fount.
Here twilight is and coolness: here is moss,
A soft seat, and a deep and ample shade.
Thou may'st toil far and find no second tree.
Drink, Pilgrim, here! Here rest! and if thy heart
Be innocent, here too shalt thou refresh
Thy spirit, listening to some gentle sound,
Or passing gale or hum of murmuring bees!

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Friday, June 03, 2005

PhotoFriday challenge: rare

"Did you get my good side?"

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Peacock, Bronx Zoo, NY

I swear this lovely bird posed for my photo! He's quite the showoff. Wouldn't draw up his feathers for us, though...we weren't his type...obviously.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

World Photo Day

I'm really enjoying seeing all the photos on the WPD site. I put mine up there and then did a search for other "bridge" photos...sure enough there was a few. One particularly gorgeous shot of a couple sitting along a river in Portugal. Really lovely shot.

Another shot of a bridge, which is so compelling and sad, but such an amazing capture is here.

Though I'm not particularly fond of my photo, I wanted to share a typical day here (or near here). Here's the shot I chose and the ones that were in the running. None really fabulous, but it was fun getting out there for three hours and capturing what I saw. Took photos in five towns and drove about 50 miles. Here's the slideshow of my shots. Now I'm going to sit back and enjoy the world's

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