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Cleopatra’s Needle (Thursday Doors)

O Ra
show us the sun–
open the cloud cover,
awaken each new day
with harmony
with light

It wasn’t difficult to find the path to Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park, although one of the websites I visited noted that the location was chosen not only for its bedrock and elevation, but for its isolation. The top photo shows the obelisk reflection from my original post, but taken from the vantage point of the Needle. And above is the stairway up from the path.

An obelisk had four sides, matching the four cardinal directions, and I photographed it from each one. As you can see, the one day last week of blue skies alternated between cloud cover and clarity. It was quite windy.

This obelisk is one of a pair (the other is in London) made of red granite originally erected in Heliopolis in 1475BC, moved to Alexandra by the Romans in 12BC, and toppled during the reign of Augustus.

It was gifted to the US by the Egyptian government in 1877 for some political purpose–different sources gave different reasons. The transport, by steamship, was paid for by William Henry Vanderbilt, and it took 112 days, a team of 32 horses, and the temporary alteration of the landscape, to move it from the ship to the park.

Obelisks were originally associated with the Benu bird, the Egyptian predecessor of the Phoenix, and the Sun God Ra, representing life, resurrection, and light. They were embellished with hieroglyphics–dedications to Ra and tributes to Pharaohs and their military victories.

Interestingly, they were also used as sundials to tell time.

Here’s a view looking past the obelisk to the museum in the back ground.

The obelisk has been symbolically adopted by Freemasons–in fact the Grand Master of the New York State Masons, Jesse B Anthony, laid the cornerstone in 188l, accompanied by 9000 Masons who marched with him up Fifth Avenue to the park.

And because this is Thursday doors, and Cleopatra’s Needle does not contain a door, here’s one from the Temple of Dendur, inside the Metropolitan Museum. But that requires a whole other post.

Wikipedia has an extensive entry detailing the obelisk’s history.

And you can always find a wide variety of doors here at Thursday Doors, hosted by Dan Antion.

Year of the Rabbit

time to
slow down—focus
on healing, connections–
become the current, flow
deep into e
motion

This year is supposed to be a calm respite after the 2022 Tiger Year. A year when our seeds will bear their karmic fruit.

Red is always an auspicious color for Chinese New Year, and Rabbit is associated with the moon. But it’s also the Year of the Water Rabbit, highlighting emotions, instincts, and flexibility

I drew a number of rabbits with brush and ink on rice paper, and then copied and collaged them with flowers, putting some on moon backgrounds. The other ones will show up from time to time.

The Year of the Rabbit is supposed to be lucky. One website I visited said that “Life will get better soon.” Fingers crossed.

Happy Lunar New Year!

Ring 1FE (Thursday Doors)

sign in the window
says Ring 1FE—tempting,
full of promises

the lure of crystal
balls, lines written across palms–
your past, your future

yield to the lions,
passing through their golden fire–
stripped of illusion

gingerly we climb
with hope and fear, hand in hand–
seeking Lady Luck

The first thing that attracted me to this building was the brickwork, but the gold painted lions were hard to miss. As I crossed the street to get a closer look, the window on the right also drew my attention.

Hands in the window? Crystal balls, too, and other mysterious devices. Ring 1FE the sign said. For some reason this made me think of Joni Mitchell’s song “Roses Blue” on her Clouds album. Combined with the lions the invitation seemed both fated and ominous. I could see young Joni walking down this street in Chelsea and shivering a bit at the door behind which her friend Rose resided.

I continued on my way.

I’ve written a senryu chain for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday, and you can always find a wide variety of doors here at Thursday Doors, hosted by Dan Antion.

More Met and Central Park (Thursday Doors)

suddenly
visible, exposed
by fallen
leaves—branches
opening new horizons,
hidden reflections

The glass doors-and-windows at the back of the Met showed me something last week that I knew was there but did not expect to see reflected back at me. I turned around and there it was–the Obelisk, Cleopatra’s Needle.

This is an actual Egyptian Obelisk from the Temple of the Sun. It was gifted to the United States by Egypt in commemoration of the opening of the Suez Canal in the late 1800s. Why and how it ended up in Central Park behind the museum requires further investigation. I also need to get closer on another visit for more detailed photos.

The fallen leaves make for beautiful patterns, both in the tree shapes and their reflections.

It was a very foggy day. In the photo below, taken on my way to the Museum, you can’t even see that there are buildings beyond the trees.

On the way back, several hours later, the fog had lifted somewhat–bottoms of buildings were now visible–but I was also surprised to see hundreds of geese spread across the empty ball fields. I saw more tufted titmice too.

I have enough photos from the Met now for quite a few more Thursday Door posts. So they will keep showing up every once in awhile. And yes, I did take a photo of the completely decorated tree.

You can always find more doors here at Thursday Doors, hosted by Dan Antion.

Curlew (Draw a Bird Day)

the small is mirrored
in the large, and what appears,
surprises—the same,

but filtered by air,
particles of refracted
light, pixelated

into fragments, in
to a gridlike layer of
illusion—the eyes

are fooled at first, but
the voice, immediately
recognizable,

permeates, revealing the
inside of the Other Side

I recently finished Ali Smith’s “Companion Piece”, a book in which the curlew has a large role. “It’s flesh, everyone knows, is pure and clean because this bird is known to eat nothing but air and is also known to be a bird that comes as a gift from God to befriend the pilgrims and it exists, the story goes, to weld the heaven to the earth.”

“The stories say it is a bird that likes books and even brings them in its beak to saints if the saints have dropped their holy books in water and they need retrieving or if the saints are short of something to say to people then this bird will be the messenger that brings them books full of things God would like them to say.”

The curlew is strongly associated with the Seven Whistlers, birdlike night creatures whose eerie call is said to bring on death and disaster. But it is also seen in a more positive light as an intimate part of its landscape–moors, bogs, and river valleys, the windswept winter coastline.

Between the streams and the red clouds, hearing curlews,
Hearing the horizons endure.

–Ted Hughes

Five of the eight species of curlews are endangered, with two–the Eskimo Curlew, and the Slender-Billed Curlew–most likely already extinct. A migratory bird, they are found throughout the world. Their vocalizations are filled with complex harmonics and pitch variations.

Through throats where many rivers meet, the curlews cry,
Under the conceiving moon, on the high chalk hill

–Dylan Thomas

Sometimes my research on the bird I choose to draw yields little information, but the curlew is so well-represented in poetry, music, nature writing, and folklore, that I could not begin to touch on even a small piece of it in one post.

If you want to find out more, here are a few good places to start:

https://www.curlewsoundsproject.org/curlewsinculture

Winged (Thursday Doors)

I was not lost;
feathers pivoted me–
a serial habit—(I see
guardians and I pause)–
a fresh encounter, winged, recrossed
my feet–doorway the cause–
where angels watched

I think this is meant to be an angel, although it’s a dour one. The wings were what first caught my eye, and then I noticed the birds framing the window above. There’s another winged being in the triangle above the window.

As is often the case, from a distance the building is unremarkable. But now when I pass by every building I’m looking closely to see how it’s embellished.

Because it’s a garden floor entrance, the wings were at eye level. I backed up and checked it out.

The other window has faces for its flowers and a fierce bird or dragon with multiple wings in the triangle above.

My poem is a star sevlin, for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday which has as its prompt this week synonyms for the words new and experience. I’ve also included three podcast names for Merril’s dVerse Poetics, although I’m not totally sure adding and ed to pivot counts.

January 2023

night sky
wide with starry
moonrise, floating inside
cloud-waves that pulse, primal,
elemental,
unknown

Happy New Year!

Christmas Tree (Thursday Doors on Friday)

surroundings reflect
all of our many seasons–
circle and return

When I went to the Metropolitan Museum a few weeks ago, I discovered a treat–they were in the midst of decorating the holiday tree. This was during early member’s hour, before the museum was open to the public.

I even got a view of the work room…now I know what’s behind that door when I pass it again.

The tree is in a large cathedral-like room filled with medieval Christian art. Here’s one, appropriate to the season, that caught my attention.

I’m always interested in the many different depictions of Mary and have done quite a few drawings from sculptures in various museums. I’m especially attracted to the ones with expressive hands.

I hope to get back to see the tree completely decorated and unveiled. I also took photos of the fountains and as much of the front facade of the museum as was possible with traffic, contstruction, and the width of the street–but that’s for another post.

You can always find more doors here at Thursday Doors, hosted by Dan Antion.

Tufted Titmouse (Draw a Bird Day)

not a sparrow, this
small bird—crested forager,
grey dusted with red

When I walk through Central Park I always see lots of sparrows on the ground, along with starlings, pigeons, grackles, robins in spring and summer, and the occasional blue jay, cardinal, or mockingbird. But the small birds always seem to be sparrows. Last week a flash of red caused me to look closer–a tufted titmouse! It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one, although I often hear them.

The tufted titmouse, a relative of the chickadee, is a common species in the eastern United States, although their range has been steadily moving northward, due to both rising temperatures and the presence of bird feeders. They do not migrate, so bird feeders have allowed them to live in colder climates. They prefer evergreen-deciduous woodlands with a dense canopy and many tree species.

In the summer they eat insects primarily, adding seeds, nuts, and berries to their winter diet. Holding the seeds with their feet, they open them with their beaks. They often cache food in bark as well.

The tufted titmouse does not excavate their own nesting cavities, looking instead for natural holes, or abandoned nest holes. They will also use nest boxes or pipes. They line their nests with hair, and have been observed plucking hairs from many kinds of living animals, including dogs. That is something I would like to see!

accommodations (Thursday Doors on Friday)

surprised and
uncertain, I felt
a vague un
ease at how
the context had seemingly
rearranged itself–

adjacent
buildings were now on
opposite
sides of the
street—no recollection of
this terrain remained

lodged in my
memory—had I
crossed over
into a
parallel world where nothing
retained the same shape?

or was it
just my synapses?–
the past re
placed—as if
recognition had been lost,
refilled with yearning

I took the subway down to Chelsea this week for the first time since 2019–I used to go often to see specific shows or just walk around the galleries, The show I wanted to see was Joan Mitchell’s late paintings at Zwimmer Gallery. But first, of course, was the walk from the subway on Seventh Avenue west towards the river.

I lived briefly in Chelsea in the mid-70s. I knew the street, but did not remember the exact address, although I narrowed it down to the two possible tenements (walk-ups with railroad apartments) above. But I was completely surprised by the door and window guardians, not only on both of these buildings, but on many other ones on this block. I had never noticed them! Neither when I lived there, or since, in my many visits to the neighborhood.

It’s true I was young, and my life was chaotic–but when has my life not been chaotic? And my memory is known to be bad–but still.

Just another example how looking at doors has made me more aware of my surroundings. That would never happen now!

And I couldn’t help thinking back to those years and wondering how easily I could have chosen differently, and who and where I would be now if I had.

I was really drawn to this painting by Joan Mitchell which I had never seen before. Sea and sky.

And as with my recent post on kblog mentioning the difference between the two Nick Caves, I know people confuse Joan Mitchell, the painter, with Joni Mitchell, the musician. The painting above is by Joan; the song below which goes so well with it (and the season) is Joni.

And look for more doors here at Thursday Doors, hosted by Dan Antion