The Barcelona of Gaudí

Sagrada Familia Ceiling

Casa Milà – on the roof. Built between 1905 and 1910 by Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) in Barcelona.

One of Many Spectacular Roof Sculptures – Casa Milà

We stayed three nights in Barcelona in 2011. This museum was a highlight. The works of the wonderful Gaudí in Barcelona alone were many and marvelous.

We asked about his famous and ongoing project, the Sagrada Familia church, at our hostel and learned that so many of Barna’s locals haven’t seen the interior in its latest, magnificent form. Benedict XVI “invested” it in 2010, so we were once again blessed with excellent timing in choosing when to visit places. After close to a month in Spain, Portugal and Morocco I thought we were “churched out.” The interior of this place made my jaw drop. The light, the inspiration from nature, the vision and the incredible beauty speak to all – “believers and non-believers” – to anyone with eyes and a heart. Gaudí spent the last 47 years of his life involved in this enormous project. Others have carried it on – faithful to his concepts, drawings, philosophy and vision.

One of 18 planned towers  of Sagrada Familia Church

One other place built by the Master is Parc Güell built to be a northern suburb of Barna and financed by his great patron, Eusebi Güell. It was impossible to get a private moment to snap its colourful, ceramic dragon or lizard.

Dragon near Parc Güell Entrance

Gaudí’s masterpieces are all over Spain. There are several more important Gaudí places in Barna. We could have done nothing else in our three days and still have come away amazed and happy.

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Tonglen with Tai Chi?

On the wall at Xi’an – “Monster Trip” – 2008

I have been combining Tonglen breathing as described by Pema Chögrön with Tai Chi (24 form) and with my strength exercises.

Tonglen is a simple process of breathing in dark things like pain and suffering (yours, that of those close to you, that of friends, strangers and, ultimately, that of all sentient beings), assuming this suffering, and breathing out healing and peace.

Physical Exercise: My personal trainer at the local gym after my heart attack(s) in February 2000 showed me how to breathe in prior to performing an exercise and breathe out while you are performing the strenuous part. This is safer for the heart. So, for example, I breathed in while I descended in a squat and breathed out while ascending. I breathed in before pulling on a rowing machine and breathed out while pulling. Now I breathe in slowly while resting between sets of an exercise and breathe out slowly during the entire action.

My morning program now consists of:

  • Treadmill walking for 30 minutes while listening to CBC podcasts on (mostly) philosophy or literature (simply walking on a treadmill is so incredibly boring otherwise for me)
  • Squats and dumbell exercises combined with tonglen breathing in my own home while listening to restful, oriental music
  • One performance of tai chi 24 method combined with tonglen breathing meditation while listening to restful, oriental music

Tai chi is supposed to be done while breathing in the chi (energy) and pushing it back out.  I had thought of the chi as positive energy, so it seems counter-intuitive to be breathing in “hot, dark and heavy,” (i.e. suffering), and breathing out “cool, white and light,” (i.e. healing and peace). Somehow, for me, this works really well to give me a feeling of peaceful healing.

As for the strength  exercises, at first it seemed weird to be breathing out peace and healing while one is doing the strenuous part of a physical exercise, but then I thought:

Bringing about peace and healing in the world, beginning with yourself, is hard work.

It makes sense to me now.

Footprints

Footprints

Quite often, while walking in “Our Woods,” I get a little frustrated at seeing such a large number of geese on the two small, human-made lakes (converted from three human-made quarry holes) in the housing development near our bigger than needed two-storey house.  Often I have to focus on the path to avoid collecting goose poop on my hiking shoes. I might grumble, “What pests they are!” under my breath.

The other day I thought a little more deeply about it and realized who the real pests are on this planet.

Really, who are we humans to look down on other species as “pests.” I should know better. I get mailings from Greenpeace. We smarty-pants bipeds are pretty serious pests. In fact, the word pests is a euphemism when used to define Homo sapiens.

I get regular confirmation of our thoughtless pestiness on my regular walks through “Our Woods.” The above photo was taken today from the bridge across the brook that flows through the woods: a large, retired jack-o-lantern that someone thought would look cool smashed onto the stones. I have witnessed many much dumber examples, the dumbest being reported in this earlier post from May 2012.

Today’s comparatively minor incident reminded me of my goose poop reflection of a few days ago. The 20-odd straggler-gagglers that remain, but for our thoughtlessness, might have honked south with their friends weeks ago. Kind-hearted, not-too-deep humans like to feed them bread – probably not even whole-wheat or twelve-grain…  I saw someone feeding the Mallards and Canada Geese by the shore only today, and my mind immediately thought of… well… Peking Duck. I wiped the dripping saliva from my jaw.

‘Nuff said. Here are a few more photos taken recently:

“Passionate Caring” or My Favorite Photographer

Autumn's Graces (copyright 2006) with permission
Autumn’s Graces (copyright 2006) with permission

My eldest (of three) daughter introduced me to Freeman Patterson’s work back in the 1990’s. She gave me his early book, Photographing The World Around You, A Visual Design Workshop, published in 1994. It is full of my pink highlighting because of the wonderful, simple way this great ~170 page book describes how to compose a photo. He is, for me, the consummate artist and teacher. I use ideas gleaned from this book and another, entitled Photography And The Art Of Seeing, in my humble work. I have nowhere near a true devotion to this art (photography being only one of my interests) but respect those, like Patterson, who do possess such commitment and insight.

Since a majority of the people whom I’ve met in the wordpress community have an interest in photography, I thought I would bring him to your attention.

Patterson, from Shampers Bluff, New Brunswick, not only loves his art; he does good with it and because of it. He has won nineteen major awards over his illustrious career including, in 1985, the Order of Canada (C.M.).

He is a generous philanthropist with a sensitive caring about, and a deep commitment to, Mother Earth. He is responsible for preserving from development  a beautiful part of Africa that he loves to photograph: Namaqualand. From his website’s Art Statement I’ve taken the following:

…no amount of technical knowledge and competence is, of itself, sufficient to make a craftperson into an artist. That requires caring — passionate caring about ultimate things. For me there is a close connection between art and religion in the sense that both are concerned about questions of meaning — if not about the meaning of existence generally, then certainly about the meaning of one’s individual life and how a person relates to his or her total community/environment.

His work is absolutely beautiful and unique. He works only in film. He is 75 this year. He gives amazing workshops. Check him out.

How Many Berries?

Berries Original

This is the same photo taken this morning in slight fog simply cropped and uncropped. Think I like the uncropped version best. I limited myself to 5:4 ratio in portrait orientation for the crop. Other details:

  • Sony NEX-5N camera
  • Foc. Length 54 mm
  • Aperture Priority f 5.6 (maximum allowable on Sony’s E 18-55mm lens
  • Exposure correction -0.3 EV
  • Polarizing filter – forgot it was on there, hence not adjusted. I was rushed…
  • Manual focus using MF assist
  • Camera selected 1/100th s and ISO 640.

Let me know what you think about the crops or anything else, other than… I know… the rushing, please.

Berries Crop 1
Berries Crop 2

Ronda the Beautiful

Bernese and owner
Bernese and owner – both beautiful…

On April 9, 2011 we set out from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, not on Rick Steves’ list, but one of my favorite towns in Spain. Our destination was the historic cliffside town, Ronda, famed for its style, its bullring (“the largest and most interesting in Spain”), its gorge and its women. The above photo, taken in Ronda, is of a foreign woman from Northern Europe, judging by her accent. I didn’t get her name, but it was very likely not Ronda or even Rhonda. I stopped her mainly to take a photo of her dog, a beautiful Bernese, explaining that our friends in Kitchener are Bernese owners and go nuts over any of these big, lovely mountain dogs. I think she believed me… I’m not sure Anita did, but the rest of our day went marvelously.

Ronda’s most famous matador was Pedro Romero Martinez, who was the first bullfighter to develop it as an art form. His statue is in Ronda’s Alameda del Tajo park.

Every year since 1954, fourteen Ronda ladies are chosen to be the official representatives of the city.

No. Not Pedro. This statue honours Las Damas Goyescas, a Ronda tradition since 1954. Every year 14 Ronda women are chosen to represent the city officially at all important functions. Many of them, like the one represented in this statue opposite Pedro’s, are gorgeous.

We stayed one night at the Hotel Reina Victoria, Ernest Hemingway’s favorite place in Ronda. They gave us a corner suite with a balcony overlooking the deep valley. We bought local fare and dined on our balcony.

On the way to Ronda we stopped at Zahara, a “radiant” hillside town of unparalleled beauty, marred only by two of the smallest WC’s in the world. The first two gallery photos are of Zahara, which is on Spain’s Ruta de los Almorávides y Almohades, named after the two strict sects of Islam who came as mercenaries from North Africa and stayed. Their presence began the decline of Andalusía’s golden age, when its Islamic civilization, based in Córdova, was the most enlightened in all of Europe. Why this name choice for the tourist route? Beats me.

Thanksgiving Song

Magnificent ceiling of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia Church designed by Antoni Gaudí

I have just posted one of my songs in movie format to YouTube.

It is a thanksgiving song called Thank You, Lord.

The link is also in my My Songs page.

While, personally, my religious beliefs have changed greatly, I believe that the longing that is at the root of this music is a part of a universal and genuine human condition.

Hope you like it. Please let me know.

OK, I’m A Geek

SONY NEX-5N, 210 mm, 1/400s, f 6.3, ISO 800, MF assist

Bought a new SONY NEX-5N camera a month or two ago. Spent a couple of weeks testing it and decided to keep it. Having some regard for the planet (and my bank balance) I do not upgrade electronics just because something better has just come out, and I spent some time agonizing over the things the NEX-5N  wouldn’t do that my old Konica-Minolta Maxxum 5D digital SLR would.

The answer, after a time-consuming comparison: not much. Continue reading “OK, I’m A Geek”