Rob Stewart’s REVOLUTION

I have a confession to make: I don’t watch environmental films.  After all, I know what they’re going to tell me, right? And I’m doing my best, right? Do I really want to listen to someone tell me how bad things are when I already know? But flattery will get you lots of places, and when I was offered the chance to screen and review Rob Stewart’s new film Revolution, I said yes.  (For the record, I didn’t have to promise the review would be good, and I don’t get any kick-backs based on click-throughs.)

Flamboyant Cuttlefish.  Production still courtesy of REVOLUTION. www.therevolutionmovie.com

Flamboyant Cuttlefish. Image courtesy of REVOLUTION. www.therevolutionmovie.com

What I’d been forgetting is that films don’t just tell, they show.  Revolution is, firstly, stunning.  It’s filled with shots of creatures that make you think, “Wait, that’s a real live living thing?  That’s so crazy and cool and gorgeous and just plain weird!”  In the narration of the film, Stewart says, after describing his first experience with a shark, “…sharks were like dragons or dinosaurs, but they were real.”  This film is filled with images that remind you of how fantastic and unlikely and breathtaking this world is.  Just for that, it’s worth watching.  Just for the sheer joy of remembering that we’re on the same planet as creatures like cuttlefish and baobab trees.

Of course, it isn’t all happiness and joy.  There are darker images:  Ruined coral reefs.  The Alberta tar sands.  Huge plastic bags full of dead seahorses, caught for consumption.  The impact of these images lies in the fact that they’re not shoved in your face the way Game of Thrones loves to spatter blood around.  Instead, they’re presented almost gently.  As in, huh, bags full of something brown.  And then you recognize that they’re seahorses, small ones, so there must be thousands in those bags.  And then you think of the way seahorses move, because you’ve been watching gorgeous images of sea creatures.  And perhaps, if you’re like me, you think of how seahorses have always been one of those animals that seem to be out of a fairy tale, one of the creatures in this world that really seems to argue for the reality of magic, or something even better.  And seeing them there, body after body piled into clear plastic bags, so obviously a commodity speaks for itself.

Production still courtesy of REVOLUTION. www.therevolutionmovie.com

Rob Stewart and young activists in Saipan. Image courtesy of REVOLUTION. www.therevolutionmovie.com

It’s this gentle, almost meditative quality that really drew me into the film.  Told almost conversationally, in the format of a memoir, Revolution follows Stewart’s own experiences: learning about animals as a kid, making the film Sharkwater, and realizing that it’s not just sharks that need saving, it’s the oceans, the forests, the atmosphere, and us.  While Stewart does call his audience to action, he’s not shoving an agenda at the viewer, and this film is refreshingly lacking in pontification.  Stewart acknowledges both the crushing frustration of watching politicians do nothing again and again – but also offers evidence that hope is merited, that people really do care enough to make changes.  He encourages personal action and personal responsibility, while acknowledging his own outsized debt to the environment incurred in the making of the film. Perhaps the best thing about this film is Stewart’s talent for sharing his own contagious affection for the creatures filmed, for the natural world as a whole, and for the young activists striving to make things right.

Sifaka. Image courtesy of REVOLUTION. www.therevolutionmovie.com

Sifaka. Image courtesy of REVOLUTION. www.therevolutionmovie.com

Conversations about the environment so often only happen among those who already agree with each other.  The liberals talk about how scary global warming is, while the conservatives, I imagine, talk about how crazy those conservationists are.  This is a film that I think might be able to cross those boundaries, because you just can’t help but be delighted by shots of leaping sifakas (a type of lemur)  and pygmy seahorses, because it’s a first-person narrative (“I did this” instead of “you should do this”), and because this is a story told in an openhearted way.  I know no one wants family fights over climate change, but this is a film that just might start a conversation instead.

I was ready, when I hit play, for the harrowing statistics, the overarching problems.  They’re problems that I already fight to contribute to as little as I can, that I already obsess over, that, frankly, I usually do my best to avoid hearing more about.  What I wasn’t ready for was Stewart’s modest way of presenting our generous and exuberant world – the world we’re fighting for.  As he asks, “What if we had a world to fight for instead of fighting against our problems?  What kind of world could we create if we designed it to be beautiful for us and all species?”  It’s worth finding out, and if you want to share with friends why we’re fighting for that world, or if you could use a refresher yourself, watch this:


All I Want for Christmas is This Cool Swag from Indie Artisans

Eek!  My last post was Halloween-themed and it’s almost Thanksgiving.  I’d better get a jumpstart on the next holiday with some gift giving suggestions for Christmas and Yule.  Here’s what I want for Christmas: Support these and other indie artisans so that we’ll be living in a world full of creative, talented people.  Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive:  If I listed all of the artisans and companies that I love, this page would never load – and some of my favorites (you know who you are) aren’t actively selling their work right now.  There are also tons of jawdroppingly talented handcrafters and artists that I haven’t even discovered yet.  Don’t hesitate to tell me about them in the comments!  And now, without further ado, I present to you:

A basket of goodies from Carioca Witch. (Photo used with permission.)

A basket of goodies from Carioca Witch. (Photo used with permission.)

Carioca Witch

Nydia Macedo, a Brazilian witch and the artist-owner behind Carioca Witch, says, “Creating and recreating goddesses and gods from several pantheons, as well as familiars and runes, is how I fulfill an important part of my spiritual path. Hand-embroidering and sewing them together is like bringing these adorable deities to life over and over again, honoring their power and reaffirming my spirituality. This is the reason why Carioca Witch exists – my love for my pagan path and the opportunity of seeing my art being sweetly spread in literally hundred houses around the world – from Canada to China.”  I’m constantly struck by how beautiful Nydia’s work is, and how each design is so evocative of the deity it represents.  When her creations arrive, they’re always even richer in color and workmanship than I imagined from the photos.  My long-term plan is to collect the gods and goddesses related to healing and plants and hang them around the edges of my herbal workshop, with a scarf or garland swagged between them.
Make it personal: By giving a god or goddess that is special to the recipient, or who might be particularly helpful to the recipient at this time.
If you just can’t decide: The Yule ornaments are absolutely stunning!
How to order:  Browse Carioca Witch’s Facebook page and then message Nydia for more info.  Custom creations take time to make – and to ship from Brazil – so order early and often ;-)

 

Advent calendar from Sweet Enemy Art. Used with permission.

Advent calendar from Sweet Enemy Art. Used with permission.

Sweet Enemy Art

Kristin Richland swears her artwork isn’t “whimsical,” and I understand why.  We often use the word “whimsical” to dismiss work that has a fantastical element, and you just can’t dismiss Kristin’s artwork:  Sometimes I look at one of her pieces and find it charming – and then am absolutely caught up in the depth and specificity of expression on this rat’s or that tiger’s face.  Sometimes I look and think, “oh, that’s cute,” and then realize that the image is actually complex and haunting, and sometimes even rather disturbing.  Kristin Richland’s brain contains some pretty cool worlds.
Make it Personal:  Peruse the offerings on Society 6 (prints and products) and Etsy (original), or get in touch with Kristin to ask about a piece you don’t see there.
If you just can’t decide:  Quick, get the advent calendar!  Or, for this time of year when we celebrate light in the dark days, get a print of “We Gathered One Night.”
How to order: Click the links above, and don’t forget to follow Sweet Enemy on Facebook and read the blog.

 

 

Small pitcher from Doolin Pottery. Teapot from Rooftop Pottery. Large mug from Please Touch Pottery. Spiral mug and shot glass from Dancing Pig. Bowl from Glen Cross Pottery.

Small pitcher from Doolin Pottery. Teapot from Rooftop Pottery. Large mug from Please Touch Pottery. Spiral mug and shot glass from Dancing Pig. Bowl from Glen Cross Pottery.

Your Local Potter

I first fell in love with pottery at Doolin Pottery, in County Claire which – sadly – is no longer there.  I’ve since branched out, and I’m a repeat customer at Dancing Pig‘s and Glen Cross’s Pennsic booths, and this year I added Please Touch Pottery to my favorites.  The tea pot I use for herbal teas is a gorgeous fairy-tale-like creation from Rooftop Pottery, right here in Vermont.  When elsewhere, pottery is my favorite souvenir, as it’s fully functional – not just a shelf-sitting knick knack.  On the other hand, it’s not merely functional: I find tea and hot chocolate taste so much better drunk from a handmade mug than a mass-produced one, and my life also feels richer and more textured when I use handmade cups and bowls.  Since I’ve collected mugs of various sizes, as well as water glasses and a few bowls, I’m currently on the lookout for plates, which I understand are surprisingly hard to make.  Some day I’d like my full collection of dishes and bowls and vessels to be handmade, all mis-matched from different makers and with different memories.
Make it personal:  Purchase a cup, goblet, or mug that’s just right for the giftee’s favorite beverage, and include ingredients for said beverage.
If you can’t decide:  You really can’t go wrong with a good mug.  How about this one?
How to order:  Visit your local farmer’s market, craft show, or craft store, or check out the links above.

 

Used with permission.

Used with permission.

Urban Moonshine

With Urban Moonshine, you give the gifts of yumminess and good health all in one.  These bitters and tonics are a delicious way to take your medicine, and they come in gorgeous packaging.  The people at Urban Moonshine are flippin’ brilliant, and they source crazy-vibrant herbs, many of which come from Zack Woods Herb Farm (another business I’m a huge fan of).  If you’re in on the trendiness of bitters in cocktails, you will absolutely love this company’s product.  If bitters sound like something you’d rather avoid, take heart:  They’re amazing for your health and, after a while, actually taste good.  For a start, try Urban Moonshine’s Maple Bitters, which has been called “bitters with training wheels.”
Make it personal:  Use the Urban Moonshine Holiday Gift Guide (click on image at right)  to suss out which bitters or tonics are best for your giftee.
If you just can’t decide:  Embrace the holiday spirit and give them Joy.
How to order:  Right here at the Urban Moonshine website.

 

 

Juniper Ridge incense.

Juniper Ridge incense.

Juniper Ridge Incense

This is the one company on this list that I’ve always bought via a ‘middleman,’ my local co-op, rather than direct from the source.  That being said, their product speaks for itself:  This is pretty much the only incense I burn.  The scents are amazing, not at all perfumy, thanks to their use of wildcrafted, minimally-processed plants to make this incense.  I always keep their sage on hand because I find sage a little heady while it’s burning but love the scent it leaves in the room.  The other varieties that I’ve tried (sweetgrass, pinon pine, and juniper, which might be my favorite), are so delicious that I can sit right near them, and it’s only after a while – or after leaving the room and returning – that I realize what a gorgeous scent is filling the space.
Make it personal: Choose a scent that has special meaning to the giftee (or, even better, make your own incense in that scent).
If you just can’t decide: You can’t go wrong with sweetgrass.
How to order: Right here at the Juniper Ridge website, or ask for it at your local co-op.

So, there are a few ideas to get you started, and hopefully to inspire you to look around your own region for awesome artists, artisans, handcrafters, and other concoctors of wonderful things.  If you have any suggestions for me, please don’t hesitate to post them in the comments!

PS:  I know some blog posts of this sort are paid advertising.  This one isn’t!  I’m just posting about these people and products because I like them :-)


Dandelions Take a Stand for Contraception?

Scandelous dandelion, virginal rose image from One More Soul, a website dedicated to “fostering God’s plan for love, chastity, marriage, and children.”

Scandelous dandelion, virginal rose image from One More Soul, a website reportedly dedicated to “fostering God’s plan for love, chastity, marriage, and children.”

This image, I have to admit, almost leaves me speechless.  My first thought was to note the amazing feats of illogic.  How, for example, does the use of contraception lead to single-parent homes?  Contraception – by definition – prevents you from becoming a parent in the first place.  And why is contraception the root of (dum dum DUM) “Sexual Chaos“?  I mean, in my experience contraception generally requires some ability to think ahead, and planning isn’t an activity I’d call chaotic.

But true to form, I’m more interested in the choice of flowers.  I’m not going to dis the chastity rose (although I’m not sure any sort of flower is especially chaste…plants in general are awfully good at getting it on), even though it’s not much like the wild Rosa rugosas that I love best.  But a dandelion?  What substances were these people taking that made them think that the roots of a dandelion – one of our most successfully prolific plants – made a good symbol for contraception?

I suspect the logic went something like: Dandelions=Weeds. Weeds=Bad.
Contraception=Bad.
Dandelions=Contraception.
Sigh.

Dandelions are adaptable.  Dandelions are scrappy and resilient.  Dandelions are crazy-good medicine.   Dandelions are generous:  We mow them down and pull them up and spray them dead, and no matter how often or how shortsightedly we reject them they keep coming back, stronger than ever.  Dandelions stand their ground.  They’re independent and sturdy, not to mention cheerful and cheering.

No matter how we vilify them, dandelions pop up in the ugly cracks and crevices and make those places more beautiful.  This graphic is bizarre and in some ways very ugly, and so maybe it’s only to be expected that a dandelion found its way into it.

I’m totally down with roses, and I’m totally down with loving families of all shapes and sizes and styles.  But when someone compares my choices to a dandelion (and yes, I do use contraceptives) I take that as high praise.  So my second thought when I saw this poster was, “I’m a dandelion!  Yay!”

On this glorious spring day, I’m raising a toast to the dandelion. Will you join me?


Dysart O’Dea Castle, Clare Archeology Centre

Watch Kristen flee the Vikings!
(A round tower used by monks to
escape from Viking raids.)

Dysart O’Dea Castle, part of the Clare Archeology Centre, may be a little ways off the beaten path, but it’s very much worth a visit.  While there are castles every which way in Ireland, most of them are closed to the public, since Americans seem so prone to suing people.  Dysart O’Dea Castle, however, is not only open to the public but contains a modest but fascinating museum of local artifacts, as well as a charming film of the history of the place.  The ground floor contains a small gift shop along with a gracious tea room.  When we visited last summer, we had tea and scones – in a castle!  As Americans, that’s quite out of the ordinary.  The tea service was very modestly priced, as was the entrance fee to the rest of the castle/museum.

Beautiful knotwork on a Celtic Cross
gravestone a short walk from the castle.

If that’s not enough, the grounds are packed with history.  The Dysert O’Dea Archeology Trail, despite being only about two miles long, “contains 25 original field monuments [dating] from 1000bc to 1850ad and include two Romanesque churches, the famous 12th century illuminated doorway and high cross of Dysert O’Dea, two 15th century tower houses, 1st millennium stone and earthen forts, holy wells, fulachta fiadh, proselytising schools, landlords houses, medieval roads and many more.”  We did a chunk of this walk, as you can see from the photographs.  The landscape was beautiful, and the monuments absolutely breathtaking.  I’d go back in a heartbeat, and I really can’t recommend this place highly enough for anyone who has any interest in history or architecture.  Check out Dysert O’Dea, and you’ll find history has flown from the textbook pages and is walking along with you.

Part of an archway in a Romanesque church a short walk from the castle.

Mother Nature’s Easel: Some Thoughts on Jonathan E. Russell’s Art

Mother Nature’s Wild West, by Jonathan Russell. Used with permission.

When I first started VaguelyBohemian.com, part of the impetus was that I know so many cool people – many of them with nontraditional careers or callings like acting, dancing, juggling, writing, and art.  Now that I’ve got a few blogs under my belt, and a website design that doesn’t make my head spin, I think it’s about time to start paying some virtual visits.

Mother Earth, by Jonathan Russell

Jon and I were already dating by the time I saw his artwork, so you can guess how relieved I was that I loved it.  His style reminds me of stained-glass windows, and I once had a dream about a room completely surrounded by stained-glass versions of Jon’s work.  I think it’s both the shapes Jon uses – which remind me of cut glass – and the gradients of color.  I have “Mother Earth” here at home, and, on those rare occasions when I’m up early, I love to watch this painting as the sun rises:  first just the white edges seem to glow, and slowly, the colors light up too.  It’s almost like watching the sunrise itself.

Waterfall, by Jonathan Russell

“Mother Earth” is part of a series Jon’s been playing with for a long time, where he incorporates the female form into a landscape.  I love the premise for these, and I also love the execution:  While the lines and colors of the paintings are dynamic, there’s also a certain simplicity:  Here are the lines of the body; here are the lines of the landscape.  They’re beautiful as they are, without added sentimentality or (I can personally vouch) without being idealized.

Jon’s Elements series is newer, dating from just the last couple of years.  Most of these pieces are quite abstract – a sort of on-canvas distillation of fire, or water, or ice – but they still contain those dynamic lines and glowing gradients.

Fire, by Jonathan Russell

Like his other work, they also have a wonderful ability to make me look more deeply at the natural world.  When I look away from some artwork, I wish things were different – that I had perfectly-flowing hair, for example.  When I look away from Jon’s work, I’m even more intrigued and impressed by the world that is:  I wonder what it is that makes fire fiery.  I peer at the landscape and try to see the shape of a person lying down in the hills.  I look at the trees and admire the tones and colors of the light coming through their leaves.  Jon’s art doesn’t just make my life richer by brightening up my walls: It also stimulates my imagination and my observations.

I hope you’ll check out Jon’s website and, if you’re so inclined, “like” his Facebook page.  You’ll be able to see more of his paintings and keep up on new developments.  Jon’s work is currently on exhibit at The Gallery at Phoenix Books here in Vermont, so if you’re in the area, you can even see his work in person!


Book Review: The Night Circus

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Imagine, if you will, a circus.  Or maybe a carnival, since you walk through it from act to act.  This carnival has the artistry of Cirque du Soleil, is completely in black and white, only opens at night, shows up unannounced – and some of the acts might be real magic.

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, has an interesting and compelling story with a satisfying ending, but the real reason I kept turning the page was that I wanted to spend just a few more sentences in the richly-textured world of this carnival.  This book has as strong a sense of place as any story I’ve read – and you won’t want to leave.

The Night Circus has been getting a lot of buzz, and is already a bestseller, so maybe it doesn’t really need more attention.  But this book is the most delightful novel for adults that I can think of, so I’m posting this anyway :)

Why’s it particularly boho?  Who hasn’t, at some point, at least daydreamed of running away to join a circus?  (Extra points if you or a friend has actually done this.)


Book Review: Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health

If you know me in person, you’ve already heard about this book :)

If you’re looking for an accessible, fun, compassionate, and well-balanced book on herbalism, this title is a great pick.  The bulk of this book is dedicated to specific herbal remedies for everyone in the family — children, men, women, and elders. There are tons of yummy herbal dishes and treats, a section on everyday ailments, and a chapter full of easy and indulgent herbal cosmetic treatments.  The A-to-Z guide of herbs in the back isn’t exhaustive, but it’s extensive and offers some unique information.

Rosemary Gladstar has been called the ‘godmother of American Herbalism’.  She founded the California School of Herbal Studies, the oldest running herb school in the U.S.  She is the founder and president of United Plant Savers. She has written numerous books, including the bestselling Herbal Healing for Women, and has written for or been featured in magazines like Body+Soul, Yoga Journal, and The Herb Companion.  Gladstar has been practicing herbalism for over 35 years, and is considered a pioneer in the field. She lives at Sage Mountain, near Barre, Vermont.

The square layout is nice as well.  The paper quality is lovely and sets off the gorgeous photography in this book.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in taking charge of their own well-being, whether you want to practice herbalism in-depth or just want a few pointers.


Wildflowers in the Bog (Doolin, Ireland)

As the foliage here in Vermont starts to take on a golden tint, I’m still remembering the lush midsummer wildflowers of Doolin.  Here are a few photos, taken while walking through the bogland above the village.

Dandelion and, I believe, wild thyme.  Dandelions seemed much less prevalent in Doolin than in my hometown.  Perhaps because they thrive on challenges, and the locals in Doolin don’t fight them the way we do in the States!

Nettle and dock together:  The irritant and the anecdote.  (Of course, nettle is itself an anecdote for a lot of ills!)

Honeysuckle mandalas.

This is a thistle.

Acts of Beauty, and Some Late-Night Giggling

Windelbahn. Turf Labyrinth Prussia. For a Pelicaning. Pic tak... on TwitpicYou remember how I resolved not to feel sorry for myself about not making it to Pennsic this year?  I’m doing a good job.  After a month of traveling, it’s great to be back home.  Still, I have whiled away a few minutes here and there looking for news of Pennsic.  This evening, I was surprised to come across a Twitter account by the guy I knew only as that-guy-who-draws-chalk-labyrinths-at-pennsic.

Labyrinth,PennsicPavement is ugly.  There isn’t a ton of it at Pennsic, but there’s enough that I welcome seeing it transformed from plain old blacktop into a labyrinth (or, sometimes, a sundial).  One Pennsic evening last year, I was tired and hungry, so we went to that-place-that-serves-hotdogs-really-late.  What should be in front of it but a giant labyrinth!  (Pictured here.)  Logan and I walked all the way to the center together, and then I ran all the way out.  It was fun and silly and grounding and a bit strange – to be dressed in garb, running through a labyrinth, late at night, in front of a hot dog stand.  Absolutely made the evening.  Many thanks, Labyrinth Guy!


Dear Yoga Journal,

Dear Yoga Journal,
Please don’t become yet another fashion magazine disguised as a health mag.  I was cool with your features on yoga wear, though I’m kind of attached to the comfy-yet-flattering sweats that I also wear to bed on extra-cold nights, and I don’t feel a need to be trendy while sticking my butt in the air and trying to keep my hands and feet from slipping in opposite directions.   

But I’m just bummed that you used up paper to tell me that that “This season’s tall boots and structured jackets take you from studio to street without missing a beat,” as you explained on page 32 of this month’s issue.  In fact, though I’m a very amateur yogi and have so far only learned about the yogic principle of aparigraha, or non-jealousy, from you, this fashion spread seems (with its slender, coifed models and fancy, flattering outfits) calculated to cultivate a feeling of jealousy (and thencely consumerism).  And a wise publication once told me that “Jealousy means that we desire to be what someone else is, or to have what someone else has. Rather than finding who we are, we look at someone else and say, ‘I want to be that.’ Aparigraha, in its essence, helps us discover our own selves so that we no longer feel the need to covet what someone else has, or be what someone else is.”

So I hope you’ll show me some yogis with style, and forget about the fashion models.
Yours in regular readership,
Rambler