Winter Solstice

It's solstice already. The dark, cold, quiet time. In moments I'm met with an extreme sense of well being. Like when I'm driving over a hill, heading west at sundown and get to see the layers of clouds exhibiting many shades of gray with pastel colors illuminating them from beneath as the sun tucks itself in beyond the horizon. Tonight I had such a moment of quiet in the car, looking at the play of colors in the clouds and imagined sitting down to work it out with my water colors. Another time is when I stoke the fire in the wood stove and the logs light up cheerfully with bright flames providing a flickering dance to look at and cozy warmth to sit in front of with Kazmir and play. I've been listening to classical music a lot lately, the local public radio station in the car and using my Spotify account to listen to all kinds of interesting instrumental and vocal music. Russian folk guitar and the singing of Anonymous Four, their Wolcum Yule album, has been played a lot these past days. This stuff fits my mood perfectly. I need quiet, reflective music,  nothing too cheery or upbeat, something soul soothing and beautiful. Perhaps its my solace in this time of constant care giving. Giving all I have to another being and living by my son's schedule. I need soothing. I also need soothing in this time of hard realities in the world.

In my head, I've been thinking and dreaming about things I want to do. Things I'd like to make time for in my life. It's that time of year too. Time to reflect and make plans for the year ahead. I feel like I may be ready to begin my "independent studies" again soon. I just need to organize myself and my things so that it is easy to work on what I want to work on when I have a brief window of time. I just don't have a lot of open ended time. I get an hour here and an hour there and then there is the evening hours which are often still punctuated by Kaz's stirrings and need to nurse as he settles down for the night. I'm not good at working with interruptions or with clutter around. I need clarity around me so that I can think clearly. So I'll just have to do my best in this new reality. I do not want to stop working on what I was working on before the baby arrived. I want to pursue my dreams and passions and also be an example for Kaz so he can grow up witnessing adults around him following their dreams. I got an interesting email today from a man who found my blog by looking for information for the village of his ancestors which happens to be the same village where my Hungarian ancestors lived. This email got me to look back at my blog and read the post he found. I also read other posts from my trip in the summer or 2011. Wow! What a trip. Was that really me? I'm in such a different place now but still I know all that experience lives inside me. There is a lot more desire and longing for connection, understanding and learning in these areas of interest...folk culture, eastern Europe, art making and family....  I think it's time to start making baby steps in that direction again and hopefully some momentum will build and I will be able to move forward on dreams that are important to me.

Speaking of the holidays and dreams I will spend Christmas in Krakow someday. I just saw this link, an article on CNN"s travel page about Krakow at Christmastime, made by someone on Facebook and it totally touches on my longing to get back to Krakow....Old town center, Christmas Market, mulled wine. Time to really start my Polish language tapes in earnest.

On another note, it has been an exciting couple of months in that I've had my art work up at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg MA for November and December. It's been a very successful show and have gotten nice feedback, sold a few prints and lots of cards and may have gotten a commission to make paper cuts for a lampshade. My cards have been selling well in the handful of places I have them. That feels good too and I look forward to spending more time organizing and working on my design business this winter into next year.

Finally I want to wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and close to 2012. I wish you all many blessings and much love in 2013! To take us out, a picture of Kaz similar to what I chose to use for our holiday card this year. He's the best part of 2012 for us! His arrival has been a source of great joy. xoxo

Heart Strings

 Above is a beautiful folk painting at the Ethnographic Museum in Krakow depicting The Sacred Heart of Mary.  It's decorated with paper flowers perhaps for a special day or holiday honoring Mary and to show the painting's owner's devotion. This was a common practice in peasant homes with their religious iconographic images and sculptures to honor, show their connection and devotion to their these images, spirituality and religion.
Today I am leaving Krakow. My bags are packed, I'm ready to go and my cousin will be here in about an hour to take me to have a "goodbye" coffee then to the bus station.

I feel my own personal connection with this image of Mary who's heart represents her interior world, her love to God, Jesus and all humanity. 

My personal resonance with this image comes from my heartfelt feelings of connection with how I have opened to this place, to my family, to Poland's history and culture. A real, experiential thread of connection and love have been established and I will carry this connection and the thread will stretch as I travel away from this place.  Something greater than myself has drawn me here. I'm listening to and acting on what my heart tells me to do. Seeds have been planted and a lot remains to be learned and discovered. How far and deep will the roots of my seed grow and spread?
My last days in Krakow were particularly interesting as so many activities and unexpected events were happening around the town square which I got to witness and be a part of. On Friday I spent a full day walking all around the town center and down to Kazimierz. I came upon a Wine and Cheese Festival where I tried a few Polish wines and decided to have a glass of a Polish white wine while I sat and people watched from the edge of the square. I ate a special mountain cheese that is heated directly on a grill. It was served with a garnish of berry preserves...very tasty. Later I tried the fried dough with a type of sour cream spread over it, topped with a layer of cheese. Wow! That was something. After eating all this good food there may be more coming home with me other then some souvenirs :-)! As I sipped my wine I got to see the DJ begin to work with light effects and stage smoke and do the DJ thing with head phones and bobbing head. It was an interesting scene.

Also that same night, the next square over was a WWI 1914 memorial/music event with a crowd of people gathered, singing along with changing choruses on stage and a uniformed MC. A military marching band came through and lead a number of songs. A Polish flag banner hung from the tower next to the stage in the main market square. A ran into Marcin, my Polish language teacher who said this happens every year. Identity and nationality were strongly being expressed during this event. I'm sorry I can't tell you more as I do not know anything else about this tradition.

Last night, my last night in Krakow was very memorable. It just so happened that it was the last day of a huge bike race event, the Tour de Pologne and the cyclists were coming right through the main market square! I had a date to meet my cousin and his family for dinner in the square and as fate would have it we had a lovely dinner right next to the lane where the cyclists and their entourages were coming through. I have to admit this was very thrilling to me. Each time a new batch of cyclists came through the sirens would wail and a helicopter would circle low overhead. Always it's thrilling for me to see people excel at their talents, passions and interests so seeing these fit athletes speed around the curve of cobblestone streets was really great.

I ended my evening with a cup of flower tea and Polish miod (honey) at one of my favorite cafes along the Planty, the green belt surrounding Krakow center. The sun was about down and all the candles were lit on doily adorned wooden tables. People were walking and biking about on the Planty and I sat watching them from my table on the edge of the cafe's huge art nouveau style porch and wrote in my journal for an hour. After dark I walked to the tram and took it back to my room where rest and dreams awaited.

Six Senses Friday: Krakow V

- blue skies and fluffy white's been awhile
- a beautiful and serene secret garden courtyard where I sat while the rain stayed away long enough for me to eat my soup and toasted sandwich.
- wax dripping from lit candles and creating abstract, organic sculpted pieces on the table holding the candelabra
- night visions, lighting, architecture... Krakow when the sun goes down
- a man levitating(!) ...I'm still trying to figure out how he does this feat!

- flute, two male voices singing in harmony, an acoustic guitar performing Ukrainian, Russian and Polish folk songs.
- bells chiming from a Baroque Church as the morning sun shines
- pigeons, crows and other city birds making a racket up in the trees on the Planty every evening as the sun descends
- rain pounding the buildings and pavement for this weeks late afternoon down pours
- a stadium where a soccer game is taking place, down the ways from my dorm, erupting in cheers

- a sweet pea bouquet at a flower stand in the city square
- incense burning in a church
- a cool, old, damp smell coming from the stone of a gothic cathedral in Kazimierz
- poppy seeds wrapped into a breakfast roll, reminding me of my grandmother and the bread she makes

- many a sample of fruit and herb infused vodka's and liquor's at a specialty shop
- quarters of fresh fig topping a salad
- honey beer in a cold ceramic mug
- chocolate covered ginger cookie

- silk of a hand painted scarf
- linen dresses in a shop
- hands of new friends in greeting
- my cousin Marta's long, blond hair 

- meditative as I kneel to pray at the Franciscan Church
- anxious as I try to use my time wisely and well my last days in Krakow
- like there are so many doors in Krakow I haven't walked through yet and that I will be back here someday
- reflecting on the themes of identity and authenticity
- a deep appreciation of soulful expression

Haunting and Thriving... Kazimierz

I am continually finding myself down in Kazimierz, a distinct neighborhood in Krakow. Of course it has to do with the fact that the Ethnographic Museum is located here but there is something else... A haunting and a vibrant quality resonates around and within this place, most likely because of it's rich and intense history.

This part of Krakow was founded by Kazimierz the Great in 1335 and was built with it's own wall, two distinct churches, town hall and plans for a university. Kazimierz became even more distinct and separate in it's feel when in the late 15th century the king moved Krakow's Jewish population here. It was a thriving center of Jewish culture for many, many years where there was relatively peaceful coexistence of the Jewish and Polish people. Synagogues, churches, Jewish cemeteries, historic buildings, narrow streets lined with buildings showing their age and character, cobblestone streets and squares mark this place with a solid character and feel. Please read about Kazimierz on Wikipedia if you are interested in it's history.

Kazimierz is haunting. Perhaps it's a haunted place? I sense people who are long gone and events that took place here. There is an echo of intense sadness vibrating from empty buildings, stone walls, rebuilt synagogues, narrow cobblestone streets. However, alongside and touching this haunting is vitality. There is a  quality of time moving on and people moving forward with fresh, healing energy. Does Kazimierz have a dualistic nature? These two qualities, hand in hand, are bound together in my sense of this place.

I also feel confusion, disgust and mourning about the years of terror during the Nazi occupation of Krakow for about 5 and 1/2 years between 1939 and 1945 when the Polish and the Jewish populations were brutally terrorized. I went to Oskar Schindler's Enamel Factory, which is now a permanent exhibition called "Krakow Under Nazi Occupation, 1939-1945", were I was overwhelmed with tons of information describing  the intense history of this time... where both horror and humanity were expressed.  Erased lives, families that were torn apart, hate, discrimination, murder, destruction... all this is palpable. So is the reality that some survived and risked their lives to aid in the survival of others.

A sense of this time infuses Kazimierz even today. What was once a thriving Jewish center is a fraction of what it was. Prior to WWII Krakow was home to thousands and thousands (60,000 -70,000) of active Jewish people. One feels the ghosts of this kind of cultural and religious presence. Now the Jewish population is small but thriving. Synagogues have been rebuilt, museums and educational materials share the intense stories, Jewish religious observations are taking place, cafes, shops and live music bring vitality, energy and awareness back. Perhaps healing is happening here? Time is moving on.

Many people live in Kazimierz now. It is home to a thriving and very cool cafe scene. Cafes serve coffee, tea, wine, beer and alcohol. Spaces, leading to another, filled with vases of colorful flowers, art work on the walls, dripping wax candles gracing every table, nook and cranny along the bars and walls, outdoor garden space to sit, talk and sip a drink. I could do a blog post just about these wonderful places and spaces. Art galleries line streets, studios, restaurants... colorful signs and atmosphere. Kazimierz has a bohemian feel which is infusing this place with fresh beauty and vitality.

The pictures shared with this post were taken over a few days... there are photographs of street scenes, a synagogue, buildings, a museum display celebrating American-Jewish music, spaces that were featured in Spielberg's movie, "Schindler's List", artistic spaces, places with history...

Six Senses Friday: Krakow IV

This past Wednesday I spent an hour or so at an open air market, Stary Kleparz, in Krakow where there is an abundance of fresh produce, cheese, sausages, meat, bread and baked goods, clothing and household items. When I'm in places like this I can't help but get out my camera and take photos of the cornucopia of abundance, beautiful color combinations and textures mingling in piles on tables and being presented in windows. I thought I'd share photos from the market with you as I post my weekly "Six Senses" update.
- I had the wonderful opportunity to meet more of my relatives in Korczyna last Sunday.
- a small bouquet of flowers adding color to my dorm room, picked from my relatives gardens...three zinnias and a rose
- ancient symbols and motifs found on very old architectural and archeological items ... and the thread of these symbols in Polish peasant art
- I walked around the Jan Matejko Fine Arts Academy on a quiet morning among the sculptures and sculptural casts and sensed the energy of artists who studied and created in that building.
- Polish being spoken all around me at the table in my cousin's home while Lukasz tries to keep up with the translating.
- an evening of live music played by  Kwartet Jorgi (a polish band with roots elements) a bag pipe like instrument, wooden flutes played along side a tenor sax, acoustic guitar and hand percussion... hearing dissonant harmonies and a lot of improvisational elements
- my 8 year old cousin, Marta, quietly humming Leonard Cohen's song, "Hallelujah" as we took in the view from atop Mt. Tarnica
- strong wind blowing, humming and resonating against and through a metal cross on the top of Mt. Tarnica
- fresh mountain air
- wildflowers in blossom as honey bees busy themselves with their work
- a warm kitchen filled with scents of delicious, cooking food
- the fruity and sweet bouquet of my cousin Roman's homemade wine
- a cigarette being smoked inside a cafe at night
- Cousin Roman's delicious homemade wine
- Cousin Paulina's fresh, delicious homemade doughnuts
- Warm beer with ginger and clove on a cool rainy night in Cafe Camelot
- Cousin Kinga's homemade kremówka papieska a cream cake/pastry which was apparently Pope John Paul the II's favorite Polish pastry
- strawberries on white rice with fresh sweet cream poured on top
- kissing cheeks and exchanging warm hugs with my growing family
- running my hand over tall grasses with full seed heads as I hike up Tarnica
- pen to paper as I begin to sketch designs found on Pisanka eggs at the Ethnographic Museum
- the petals of a freshly cut rose
- sadness at the sense of closing as my program at Jagiellonian University winds up... classes are ending and new friends and acquaintances are leaving
- very interested in the language of symbols
- tired of the cool, gray, rainy days
- tipsy after an evening of visiting and talking over lots beer and pizza at Cousin Paulina's and Lukasz's flat
- pleasantly overwhelmed by the generosity and warmth of my family here in Poland and also by my family and friends at home who have been so supportive and enthusiastic about me coming here to Poland this summer
- like I am learning so much about Poland, the culture, the country, society...  Poland is such a complex, beautiful and complicated place with such a rich and at times very painful history. I hope to do some more writing here on my blog to share with you my deeper sense of this place.

Six Senses Friday: Krakow III

* The images I am posting this week are reflective of a more contemporary Krakow. City streets, apartment buildings with balconies full of geraniums, surrounded by green walkways and parks, Communist era architecture, views of the river... Like I've been saying Krakow has many historic, beautiful and nostalgic sites while the contemporary world exist right along side.*

- a crane or stork landing in a field surrounded by warm, end of the day light
- a man on his tractor, mowing hay with a little boy on his lap, on a green, hilly field
- Stanislaw Wispianski's art work in the museum dedicated to resonates with me.
- lightening flashing through a steel gray sky
- a young couple on a bus ride, falling in love
- Polish film, "Man of Marble" (1977), by Andrzej Wajda, dealing with the complexity of Communist era Poland. "The director communicates two opposing truth's: First, that Stallinism was a disaster and second, that the people who believed in it- and whom it consequently crushed- were driven by an honest spirit of idealism."

- Alexander's album "Alexander" has become my musical soundtrack (obsession) this month. I listen to it almost every day. Thank you, Beth Marie and Digger!
- young adults in my dorm partying at the outdoor bar not far from my room's window
- a cheering crowd at a nearby stadium
- gentle, rhythmic rain falling 

- freshly cut lavender
- dark bitter, sweet chocolate
- the scent of perfume on people as I ride the trams
- smoked sheep and cows milk cheese I bought and ate from Zakopane, made in a beautiful, decorative mold 

- the best, thick hot chocolate I've ever had with fresh whipped cream.
- the cafeteria food is no longer interesting me
- Apple cake and tea at an authentic and original Art Nouveau cafe, Michlik's Pastry Shop, "Zielony Balonik"...(The Green Balloon)
- herbed vodka while sitting at a rooftop table along the Vistula River, watching the sun go down

- an ornamentaly carved wooden fence post outside a Zakopane building
- prickly grass against my bare legs as I sit in the sun, reading along the river
- picking up a handful of lavender after it was trimmed at a city park and rubbing it between my fingers to release it's sent
- velvety orange-blushed apricot skin before I eat the fruit

- inspired by the decorative wood work in Zakopane
- very supported by my family, professors, and the people I've met at the Ethnographic Museum. Everyone has been so gracious and helpful. I hope to give back to them and to others the way they have given to me...
- very curious
- thoughtful and reflective
- the stirring and push of change as my time in Poland saturates me with new experiences, information, artistic, cultural and social perspectives.

Six Senses Friday: Krakow II

Drive back to Krakow from Korczyna

- ...that summer feeling.
- sweat on my skin
- some familiarity now with this new city
- excitement about connecting with the ethnographic museum and spending time there
- my heart growing and expanding with good feelings as I make connections with family, people and this place

beautiful music

- an accordion player on a side street playing beautiful music down off of Wawel Hill
- air vibrating over my head as a pigeon takes off right in front of and over me
- church bells awaking me on Sunday morning after a good night's sleep in the parish house where my cousin, the priest, lives
- singing and chanting beginning early Sunday mass
- fellow students in my Polish language class trying to wrap their brains and tongues around this new and difficult language

Church bells at Cousin Karol's parish

- fresh laundry hanging on the line on my balcony to dry
- heated dish of kielbasa in the cafeteria
- fresh dill picked from my cousin's garden
- black currents steeping in hot water
- clean and refreshed after cool showers in the evening

great cafe where I ate a great salad

- many delicious, homemade meals prepared by my family and shared with me during my two days in Korczyna 
- compote, fresh black currant and cherry juice... fruit picked right from the tree..
- delicious salad with melon, asparagus, proscuitto, cheese, olives, lettuce, arugula and sun-dried tomatoes
- eating bread and feeling ok after mostly avoiding it back in the states

mineral water from an ancient spring at the Paulite Church "On the Rock"

- roots of trees as I walk up a path to visit rock formations near Korczyna
- rough limestone forming a beautiful, historic castle
- cool mineral water from an ancient pagan spring that is now a part of a beautiful Baroque Paulite Church in Kazimierz
- ripe sour cherries hanging from the branches of a tree

formal gardens at Pieskowa Skal/a Castle

A connection is made: Ethnographic Museum, Krakow

Last Thursday I wrote a letter to my art history professor requesting to make a connection with Krakow's Ethnographic Museum and stated in it what I wanted to research and learn there. She immediately got back to me the next day and said she was working on the connection. On Monday she asked me to meet with her there on Tuesday after class so that she could make a formal introduction for me with the curators of the museum! I feel so blessed to have all this go so smoothly. 

After speaking with a couple people we found someone who speaks English who was able to help make the introduction and connection with the director. I now have a letter in my hand which allows me access to the museum whenever it is open for visitors. I can sketch to my heart's content and take pictures (without a flash). My new connection, who is a specialist in customs and rites, gave me a quick tour of the permanent Polish collection and will connect me with other specialists once I become familiar with the collection and formulate specific questions. During the next couple afternoons I will be there so that can ask my questions and she can direct me before she leaves on summer holiday.  It's a beautiful museum and I look forward to becoming very familiar with the collection.

Here's a brief description of the exhibit: " The Ethnographic  Museum in Krakow houses the "Polish Folk Culture" permanent exhibition, which presents traditional building techniques, housing interiors, craft workshops, a gallery of folk dresses, exhibits illustrating family and annual ceremonies, as well as professional and amateur Polish folk art."

Six Senses Friday: Krakow

My first week's synopsis of sensory experiences...  a bit delayed as I try to get into the groove of my schedule and time spent with family...

- the arm of Cape Cod twinkling on the Atlantic right after take off
- a watermelon carved to look like a rose in a dessert shop in the town square
- wild, loose plants and gardens tucked away everywhere...along streets, in courtyards, on balconies
- limestone and brick building the city up in layers
- sun rise as we head east, four hours into my flight which took off at 8:20pm...a very short night indeed
- a break in the rain after arriving and laying my eyes on the beautiful sight of Market Square
- Romanesque and Gothic architecture showing it self in the structures and places we are visiting in Krakow

- jet engines as planes and people fly off
- soft sz, cz, s, z, rhythmically sounding in the Polish language all around me
- my newly met relatives Paulina, Renata and Mariusz laughing as they pet a friendly poodle in the park
- traffic of the city bustling outside my dormitory
- a single trumpet calling the time from the tower of the Church of Saint Mary in the Old Quarter in Krakow

- moments of nervousness as I figure out new routines and situations like navigating around on buses and trams
- very tired from the busyness of the program and from adjusting to being in a new place
- wet clothes clinging to my body as I walk during classes on a rainy day
- my heart welling with the love I am feeling for this place
- invigorated and stimulated by what I'm learning and experiencing

- a distinguishable sent as I step into the air at Munich Airport to board my plane to smelled like Europe
- rain, wet earth, snails and worms during the rains last week
- chicken being fried by my newly  met relative as she graciously cooked me lunch on Thursday
- foreign perfumes and detergents on clothes and people

- Sweet Cream and Pistachio Gelato
- cafeteria food, which is not too bad but definitely more processed than I usually eat
- lots of cabbage dishes, red, green, with bell pepper, warm, cold
- simple potatoes boiled, covered with butter and fresh dill
- golumpki, pierogi, potato pancakes

- blisters on my feet as a result of all the walking around town
- feel my feet hitting uneven sidewalks and coblestone
- wet, heavy clothes and book sack after a day spent out in the rain
- my hands around a cold glass of beer on a warm afternoon
- hands connecting in greeting as I meet more and more of my Polish relatives

Awake In My Dream, Krakow

I am here, Krakow. I've been anticipating you and dreaming about you. Wondering what, how, why, when? A relationship has begun and my thoughts and feelings well up in this place.  My heart has that feeling when one falls in love, interest builds, anticipation for the moments I'll share in your presence and the sensation I am becoming involved with this place and dusty parts of myself that want attention and stimulation. I am curious and want to explore through my senses this place that I will call home for a number of weeks this summer.

Do you like this contemporary sculpture, of a big and heavy female visage who appears to be in a dream as it rests in the center of the action in the town square (Rynek Gl/o'wny) which was designed in the 13th century? It's placement reminds me of how Krakow strikes me as a spiral or an onion. There are layers and layers to discover of the town itself along with myself in this town. 

For me the sculpture represents something that has become apparent relatively quickly during my first week here. Time mingles, layers and spirals in and out, around in this place. Evidence of habitation in the Paleolithic Era rest within Wawel Hill. The hill houses churches and palaces where within beautiful representations of Medieval, Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque and art nouveaux architecture, religious art and decoration reside.
My Art History class, which is called "Polish Art Past and Present" has been walking around this town looking at these places and how they came to be.  On Tuesday we walked to the top of Wawel Cathedral and looked out over the town beneath us.

A bell lives at the top there. It is called the Dream touch it and your dreams will come true. I wonder if it's really that easy, like in a fairytale, however it never hurts to reinforce one's dreams with a positive thought, wish or prayer.
I look forward to sharing more layers of Krakow with you as well as layers of myself that are revealed as I experience time in this place. Dzie,kuje,!