dreams, magic, nature

Ocean Skyscrapers, Wedding Shells, and Angelwings

Last week, I had a particularly strange dream. The image of the monstrous seashell building is still tumbling around on the ocean floor of my brain.

I know it was fueled in part by my neighbor. She was preparing to attend a beach wedding over the weekend and as I watered the garden at dusk, she called out over the fence to ask my opinion on the best dress of three. A mini fashion show ensued as she popped in and out the front door in short order, doing a quick pirouette each time. I suggested the comfortable stretchy number with the peacock feather pattern over the short cocktail dress or the thing with the trailing wrap skirt and bodice that would require stitching and extra boob support to make it work. Why make an outfit more complicated when you need to be comfortable near the ocean—because . . . sand, saltwater, and wind.

Later, she awaited her frantic friend whose son was getting married to arrive last minute to help prepare wedding favors—seashell ornaments. Piles of them. All of which needed a dab of hot glue, ribbons, and hole-punched tags with the bride and groom’s names attached. It would be a late night of of production for her and as it happens, for me as I slept.

Turris_babylonia_shell
Babylon turrid

In the dream, I rowed a small boat out into a wide canvas of ocean. There, I saw a large metal spike rising from a soft ripple of water and bubbles. I slipped into the water to swim towards it and grasped it with one hand, my legs floating behind in a gentle current. I touched the top of it, and found it sharp and tapered as a needle point blade.

junonia
Scaphella junonia

Then I looked down into the ocean below and felt a strange wave of fear and nausea as I discovered what I was holding was a spire attached to an enormous building that went down for miles. It was shaped like a turrid shell, more specifically, Turris babylonia: the Babylon turrid or Tower Turrid.  I could see endless windows spiraling into oblivion, casting golden whorls of light out of the black-green hulk of bone-metal. The windows were an inverted negative of the pattern on the elusive Scaphella junonia: the junonia shell, or Juno’s volute.

I battled two opposing instincts—swim down to see if there was more to the cityscape; or get back in my little red boat and find the nearest land. Somehow, my sense of the building was based on a faint memory from a previous dream. It did not feel like a livable, underwater Utopia, but a submerged and dark-tinged Atlantis. This seashell skyscraper was merely a glittering prison tower.

The morning after the wedding and my dream, I asked Terri how everything turned out.

“Oh, we were up ’til one in the morning,” she said stiffly, “but they turned out nice. Hold on, I’ll show you.” She ran back into the house to retrieve a sample.

She dangled a few shells on silver and gold ribbon between two fingers, one of them a Babylonia. The dream swam up and flooded me with remembrance.

shelfshells
some of my shell collection

Later, I read that people who attend beach weddings often receive seashell favors, bought in bulk from a craft store, just as these were. Sometimes, brides want that extra stagecraft to their ocean side ceremony and purchase cheap bags of foreign shells to scatter along the beach or create aisle runners. They often get left behind, run out with the tide, and wash back in to the minor annoyance of pros or the sheer delight of amateur shellers (yes, a name for people who collect seashells) depending on their knowledge of where the shells originated. But most people who buy them have the innocent intention of spreading them on local beaches so their children and grandchildren can go hunting and find a rare treasure—albeit, not a local creature that has fled its conical home. Shellers call these castaway orphans and refugees “Wedding Shells.” Still others want to rid themselves of their old beach comber collection with similar meaningful ceremonies that return them to the sea, even if it’s not the same water.

I look at some of my own collection on my nature altar, recalling the sandy coastlines and aquamarine water I dove in to collect them—even who I was with when I found them. California. Florida. Oregon. British Virgin Islands. Once, I opened a box on a dresser at an estate sale to find a small clutch of shells, which promptly went home with me. I wondered, where had they gone to find all these? What memories were attached to all these nature objects? Were any of my prizes wedding shells? Certainly not the brain coral or the banded tulip shell, not the dried urchin or the sand dollar—I found those in their native spaces.

Holey-StonesAnd what of all those holey stones aka Faerie Stones, Hag Stones, or Witch’s Amulets I have a knack for finding? Or for them finding me. It is said that they offer protection by placing them on a nail near doorways. Faerie stones provide a window into other worlds as you gaze through the naturally made hole eroded by time and water, or clam-like shelled creatures called piddocks, known by the sweeter name, angelwings.

angelwingPiddock shells are divided into 2 or 3 sections, one of them with a pointed beak that contains a set of ridges or “teeth,” much like a grinding plate for spices. They slowly drill their elliptical shells into rocks, creating tubular burrows, rhythmically contracting the muscles attached to their wings, siphoning water and holding it in to create an expansive pressure, and extending a fleshy foot that grips the stone surface of their home to rotate the shell. As they grow, they enlarge their hole, carving out space to live in and protect themselves. They remain in their stonehouse hidey-hole their entire lives—5 to 10 years. Because of their foot and their siphon hose, they can never quite fully retract into their shell halves and close their wings. They are a mouth with teeth on the outside and feet on the inside!  Those muscles fusing the wings together become weak, and the rest of the shell fragile, making it rare to find angelwings on the shore with both halves still intact.

But perhaps what I should be doing with the stones with holes in them drilled by nature to see through time with, is what the mystics did—thread them with a black cord and put them near the bed to ward off nightmares. Especially nightmares of buildings in the shape of a cutting shell rising above the water’s edge.

interviews, music, Vortex Music Magazine, writing

A Conversation of Collaboration: Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop Burn ‘Love Letters’ Together | Vortex Music Magazine

As the duo return to Portland to perform their love songs at a sold-out show on June 3 at the Aladdin Theater, Vortex chats with Jesca Hoop about the co-creation of an album of duets with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam.

Some love letters we keep to remind us we are loved. Others, we burn to forget that we were broken by another. But the inspiration behind Love Letter for Fire, a collaborative album between Sam Beam of Iron & Wine and singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop was not to remember or to forget—it was to reinvent. In this case, a 13-track album full of love song duets.

Like most loving endeavors, it began simply and in earnest—Beam and Hoop were fans of each other’s music. Beam had always wanted to make a record like this one with a female partner as an homage to the classic duets he grew up hearing on the radio. He went through Hoop’s catalogue on iTunes and was struck by the album Kismet. Meanwhile, Hoop was finishing her fourth record at the time and had never co-written. Hoop admitted familiarity with Beam’s music “because it had cleaned my house many times,” she remarks. So after a proper amount of mutual admiration, Beam decided he wanted to get to know Hoop better and invited her on tour, and the album was subsequently written throughout 2014.

READ the rest at the Source: A Conversation of Collaboration: Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop Burn ‘Love Letters’ Together | Vortex Music Magazine

feminism, interviews, music, politics, Vortex Music Magazine, writing

Indigo Girls: Song, Spirituality and Social Justice | Vortex Music Magazine

In their 30-plus years as a band, Indigo Girls have increasingly turned their attention to social causes.

Indigo Girls have been in the music scene since the ’80s, experimenting with their sound, enduring worldwide touring, and outlasting many of their female acoustic-based folk rock contemporaries. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers boast a long-lasting girlhood friendship, 16 albums, more than 35 years of writing, arranging, recording and performing together as a duo, and a Grammy for their self-titled album, which contains their signature song, “Closer to Fine,” featuring earnest lyrics and finely woven vocal harmonies delivered with equal parts fire and grace—a distinctive quality that longtime fans have come to cherish.

Separately, they’ve released solo albums and embarked on successful personal projects—Ray founded a record company and a nonprofit organization that promotes independent musicians, while Saliers scored a film, opened a restaurant and cowrote a book with her father. But their accomplishments have expanded because of the music they make together—and beyond it—into the realm of political activism. Indigo Girls’ commitment to social justice issues, humanitarian concerns and environmental causes can be heard in their musical themes and seen as personal action. Together with Winona LaDuke, Ray and Saliers founded the nonprofit Honor the Earth to raise awareness and financial support for indigenous environmental justice.

READ the rest at the Source: Indigo Girls: Song, Spirituality and Social Justice | Vortex Music Magazine

family, interviews, music, nature, Vortex Music Magazine, writing

Laura Gibson: Rebuilding an Empire | Vortex Music Magazine

Laura Gibson: Photo by Shervin Lainez

The singer-songwriter stepped away from music to pursue an M.F.A. in fiction and returned with her most personal sonic document.

“I’ve taken to exploring the land around me, finding lakes hidden in the pine trees, getting lost, learning to feel comfortable not knowing where I’m going,” wrote Laura Gibson from an A-frame cabin in the mountains of central Oregon during the winter of 2013. Equipped with snowshoes and solitude, Gibson was focusing on her fourth album while also taking time out to teach songwriting to middle and high school kids in Sisters, Ore. Those thematic echoes of teaching, pine trees, solitude, being lost, and searching for a dark lake would reverberate on her new album, Empire Builder.

Gibson didn’t initially think of herself as a writer. “I had great science teachers and math teachers but I didn’t know what words could do,” she explains. “It wasn’t until I started writing songs that I grew myself into a writer. It was only a few years ago I started to believe that I might be able to write something outside of music.”

With that belief, she boarded a train headed east on the famous Empire Builder Amtrak route. She left behind her boyfriend, family, friends and her Portland music community to teach undergraduate writing and pursue an M.F.A. in creative writing at Hunter College in New York City.

READ the rest at the Source: Laura Gibson: Rebuilding an Empire | Vortex Music Magazine

interviews, music, nature, Vortex Music Magazine, writing

Gold Cities and Nature Escapes: A Conversation with The Brothers Comatose | Vortex Music Magazine

The Brothers Comatose: Alex (left) and Ben (right) Morrison. Photo by Jessie McCall

Ahead of their performance at Revolution Hall on March 12, Vortex spoke with brothers Alex and Ben Morrison by phone, covering topics from the rapid evolution of their home base, San Francisco, to wilderness exploration.

The Brothers Comatose are nothing like what their name implies. Actual brothers Ben and Alex Morrison on guitar, banjo and lead vocals deliver energetic bluegrass-folk shows with a backing ensemble—described by Ben as “a Southwestern-tinged, rowdy string band”—that includes Gio Benedetti on upright bass, Philip Brezina on fiddle and Ryan Avellone on mandolin. As for the “comatose,” while playing the banjo, Alex gets so deep into the music that his eyes roll back in his head—hence the origin of their name.

City Painted Gold is their newly released third album, written in and about San Francisco and crowdfunded through Kickstarter with a hilarious video of them trying and failing at musical styles before finding their sound. Fine musicianship and playful humor are hallmarks of their performances, but when you get right down to it, the brothers and their string band are as friendly and fun-loving as they come and always deliver a raucous hoedown dance party.

READ the rest: Gold Cities and Nature Escapes: A Conversation with The Brothers Comatose | Vortex Music Magazine

family, friends, home, nature, poetry, technology, weather

go outside and listen

“I’m sad,” I tell her, looking for analog
in a world of constant digital connection.
“I know,” she said, “you used to write
great letters, too, and you know a lot of people,
but you just need your roots.”

“Go outside and listen,” my mother advises.

Outside, I see all the life looking for hands,
all the living things that need me back,
and I understand what they want
flowers for vases, tomato vines withering
but weighted with so much pendulous red.
It’s all thirsty, even the sunflowers nod and
hang their heads.

The fires are burning still, more now every day
acres of smoke closer still than farther away.

It’s hard to see, so I listen.

Windchimes in a dusty breeze, paper crisp rose edges
and black spotted leaves. A dog barks, children scream
playing near dark, screeching brakes, and the Jade District
festival thick with voices and music, pounding echoes,
firework sparks.

War drums sound, apocalypse theater,
Taiko, large and loud. I reach for shears,
and go to ground.

I pull the small dandelion fluff of lettuce tops
into a silver kitchen bowl, swirl until the seeds release
the temple drums continue, the clouds go grey
the rusty gate opening screech call of a Scrub Jay
pecking black seeds from under the yellow bonnet,
the neighborhood, haunted.

The early dusk, a yellow-green cyclone sky,
wildfires make for softbox sunsets in the summertime,
the dried up lake beds reveal ancient forests,
the grass has all died, save for the clover.
We may need them when this is all over.

“Go outside and listen,” she said.
I don’t see any people,
but I hear them all.

love, music, nature, relationships, Vortex Music Magazine, writing

Moorea Masa: ‘Oh Mother’ [Video Premiere] | Vortex Music Magazine

With her eponymous EP due out May 27, Moorea Masa will celebrate its release on May 31 at Mississippi Studios. Until then, enjoy the video for the title track. Photos by Jason Quigley

Moorea Masa has been in her studio space at the Falcon Art Community in North Portland for just over a month and she’s been spending a lot of time there lately—meeting fellow artists, assembling musicians for her upcoming EP release of Oh Mother on Sunday, May 31 at Mississippi Studios, and putting the wraps on a very beautiful, very personal, very Oregon video for the title track. All of this is to honor the passing of a dear friend’s mother, and motherly figure to Masa, Marcia Jean Barrentine.

READ the rest at the Source: Moorea Masa: ‘Oh Mother’ [Video Premiere] | Vortex Music Magazine

dreams, love, magic

Dragon Dreaming

This morning I woke from a dream where a dragon was terrorizing the city I lived in. It would cling to the parapet walls of churches, breathing fire down on the street and smashing buildings as it went. No one could figure out where the dragon lived and it would appear suddenly in random places. While on a date with a strange man at a theatre play, I discovered that HE was in fact the dragon, able to shiftshape. Somehow, his eyes and the graceful, reptilian slink in his step gave him away.

I was given a gladius from the community, a smallish sword, and instructed to murder him while he was human, which I couldn’t do because—he was teaching me things, and of course, I loved him.

I woke as he was perched at the top of a tree, leering down at me in dragon form, as I sheathed my sword, and thought to myself, “we should leave this place, we are not welcome here.”

education, music, nature, Vortex Music Magazine, writing

Moorea Masa: A Woman Is An Island | Vortex Music Magazine

From backing Ural Thomas and The Decemberists, the soul-folk singer strikes out on her own for the first time with a new EP of time-honored material. Photos by Tor Clausen

It’s a windy night as I climb the porch to a pale yellow house, the color of first daffodils in spring—a spring that’s come early to Portland. Moorea Masa greets me warmly and invites me into her kitchen for tea as she finishes cooking a meal for herself. A smallish cat named Hafiz, a nod to the Sufi mystic and poet, paces around, mewling for the food dish to be filled. In between bites and the wayward, headbutting affections of Hafiz, Masa tells me tales of her family, her musical travels, her new soul-folk EP, Oh Mother, and how a soul singer comes to be named after a beautiful, heart-shaped island in French Polynesia called Mo’ore’a, which means “yellow lizard” in Tahitian.

Masa’s Italian father and German-born mother both worked on a cruise ship in their youth. “My grandmother asked them, ‘Well, what was your favorite island?’” It was the one they met on—the island of Mo’ore’a—that became the name they gave their child.

READ the rest at the Source: Moorea Masa: A Woman Is An Island | Vortex Music Magazine

drinking, family, magic

What’s in a name?

I like idea of the power in a name. Special words ascribed to objects and people of significance. A name that’s handed down, borrowed, or given as an homage or blessing—a name that becomes familiar or famous. A name that implies layers of meaning and strata. A name that opens doors and breaks barriers. A name that when called or written, works like an incantation on the forces of the universe. Rockstars. Magicians. Dignitaries. Gangsters. Kings and Queens. Spiritual Leaders. Deities.

No offense to the multitude of Bob Smith(s) out there, (Robert Smith of The Cure, notwithstanding) but wouldn’t you rather be named something like, say, Robert Gerald Mondavi? His is one example of a name with power and his legacy was in the game of naming things—specifically, wine.

Mondavi “aggressively promoted labeling wines varietally rather than generically.” He believed we should know the true nature of something. Instead of us saying, “Oh, I like Franzia, Gallo, Paul Masson, or Carlo Rossi, (cheap, brand name jug wines from California) or “I like ‘Burgundy’ or ‘Chablis,’ (terms that were meant to conjure the French regions and corresponding varietals they were supposed to taste like), Mondavi wanted us to challenge the assumed knowledge of regionally grown varietals and clearly identify the grape right there on the label. This is now the standard for the way we label New World wines.

In a pinnacle move to merge the Old World and the New into one grand opus, Mondavi went to the Big Island of Hawaii and met with Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild to found the joint venture, Opus One. Their intention and idea was one they kicked around since the early 1970s—to create a single Bordeaux style blend based upon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The Baron’s name gave the Napa wine region a respectable air, and it quickly became the most expensive Californian wine during its time.

But the stars didn’t always align . . .

When Robert Mondavi Winery went from a private family named estate into a publicly traded corporation (a move that Mondavi stated regret over), The Robert Mondavi Corporation ballooned into a behemoth that owned several wineries at home in North America and partnered with prestigious wineries abroad. A succession of unfortunate events came on the heels of the Y2K panic—the economy tanked, 9/11 happened a year later in 2001, and wine sales were way down. In a hostile takeover bid of more than $1 billion, Mondavi scrapped the whole sordid plan and sold off his luxury brands to Constellation Brands, the hydra beast of beer, wine and spirits who gnashed at and absorbed his legacy.

Mondavi left his own board as ambassador and partnered back in with the family. With his youngest son Tim  and daughter Marcia, they created a single wine from a single estate at the highest level. The family partnership Continuum Estate is still run by Robert’s son, daughter, and grandchildren Carissa, Chiara, Carlo, and Dante Mondavi (how about THOSE names?!). Thus in the continuum of things, he tried to get back to to the original idea of good food, good wine, and good family to share it with. His name was on the label of many philanthropic ventures—he donated millions to his alma mater to create an institute dedicated to the food and wine sciences as well as the performing arts. In the end, he was back to where he started and among those closest to him who shared his name and his passions. He died peacefully at home at the age of 94.

Having a background of wine knowledge myself and having drunk (and been drunk) on a wide array of wine, I know that even a name doesn’t guarantee standards, flavor profile, consistency, anything really. Terroir is just as crucial in plant genetics as it is in humans. We are built, or damaged by our biology (geology), geography, and the climate of the place and people we interact with. The way we express ourselves and the way we grow is dependent on all of that plus the weather. We are also subject to those pesky, but necessary insects and undesirable diseases. Although some diseases, as in the case of Botrytis infection known as “noble rot” in full-ripened grapes make for a kinder boon. The wine made from grapes picked at a perfect point during the moldy infestation can produce a fine and concentrated sweet wine said to have an aroma of honeysuckle and a bitter finish on the palate. We as humans, can choose to be either sweet or bitter from our miseries.

But isn’t it nice to think, we can remake and reinvent ourselves or even return to ourselves? Or just reNAME ourselves, like most young people who flirt with the idea of running away or changing their name—we want to have our names roll of the tongue, thick as honey, golden and royal. Penetrable as common knowledge. As rich and well-established as old vines grapes. We start out and continue searching for our own power and control over our lives and destinies. We break and change and reconfigure. We try to escape who we are, where we come from. Sometimes to come back and sometime to never look back. Women take a name, add a name, hyphenate a name, or leave name behind when they join forces in love and marriage or business. We set out “make a name for ourselves” like it’s a rise to fame, or a numbers game, and perhaps, we discover our true nature along the way come to peace with a name that suits us well.

Now, getting briefly back to wine . . . of course, you must be a certain percentage of a varietal (with an allowance for some mixing) to be considered “authentic,” and claim your name, so I got to thinking about what kind of math goes into being 100% Andrea Janda and the numbers in my name.

So—here’s a fun little witchy exercise in frequency and numerology on the power of my name from nameanalyzer.net

A (4x) • N (2x) • D (2x) • R (1x) • E (1x) • J (1x)

Influence of the letters in Andrea Janda name:

Numbers and Tarot cards are behind each letter of Andrea Janda name. A brief description, explanation of the meaning of each letter:

Letter Number Tarot card Intensity Short description of meaning
A 1 Magician Creative, Inventive, Intuitive
D 4 Emperor Determined, Persistant, Idealist
E 5 Hierophant Wise, Crafty, Daring, Inventive
J 10 Wheel of Fortune Optimist, Opportunist, Enterpreneur
N 14 Temperance Healer, Wise, Survivor, Crafty
R 18 Moon Patient, Determined, Strong
HEARTS DESIRE NUMBER Andrea: 1+5+1=7. Reduced: 7 .
Janda: 1+1=2. Reduced: 2 .Hearts desire number for Andrea Janda name (calculated from vowels) is Nine.The hearts desire number represents your innermost desires and longings. This number closes the gap between how you feel people see you and the way they see you. It also relates to the subjective, inner aspects of your life, and improve relationships.
Life Expression number (DESTINY NUMBER) Andrea: 1+5+4+9+5+1=25. Reduced: 7.
Janda: 1+1+5+4+1=12. Reduced: 3.Destiny number for Andrea Janda name (calculated from all characters) is One. Also known as Name Number. It relates to your vibration in this world; how you express yourself in the many outer experiences of your life, birth given talents to be developed, and tasks you must achieve in this life.