Light Rafts for Flagging Spirits | Vol 14

A grab-bag of celestial and terrestrial awesomeness in this week's dispatch— from space portals and urban owl spotting to the sounds of the Harlem Renaissance, a unique online retreat, and more...

1. ReflectionVOID(s): Space portals above volcano, desert | CA, HI

Independent filmmaker Lance Page (BBC’s Planet Earth, National Geographic, etc.) created his latest short ReflectionVOID1.5 from footage shot over a dozen days and three moon phases 9,000 feet above Mauna Loa (one of the world’s most active volcanoes) on the big Island of Hawaii during the summer of 2020. Using a series of large and small mirrored panels (aka “portals”) to reflect the heavenly firmament as seen from the volcano, and paired with ambient music from the Los Angeles group howardAmb, Page aptly describes the film as “5.5 minutes of cinematic hypnosis, an abstract astral journey through space and time.” Turn off your phone, turn down the lights, and drift away….

The Mauna Loa film is Page’s second ReflectionVOID project. His first was created in 2017 in California’s Joshua Tree desert and paired with music from the artist Lorn.

In the VOID, scattered portals reflect star patterns against deep black skies. The stars sing to us, but the relentless nature of the high desert reminds us of our mortality. The razor sharp cactus blades and the cold jagged rock formations threaten our fragile bodies. The portals allow us a deeper perspective, they show us the Universe as we reach into our souls for cosmic significance. As we sink deeper into the unknown, we’re met with a tall human-like figure, a mysterious desert dweller with a purpose and a message.

There’s even a “making of” short film for the Joshua Tree project (and another underway for Mauna Loa) that is fascinating in and of itself …

2. Medicine Stories: Online Retreat w/ David Wilcox & Gareth Higgins TOMORROW (Jan. 30) | Zoom

Since 2016, one of the very best things I’ve done for myself each year is attend Medicine Storiesa two-day retreat in January with my friends Gareth Higgins (the Irish storyteller, author, writer, activist, original convener of the Wild Goose and Music and Meaning festivals) and singer-songwriter David Wilcox held at a private residence in Santa Monica. This year, the in-person retreat has had to move online, but that’s the good news because ANYONE can attend from ANYWHERE. It’s tomorrow, Saturday January 30, and it starts at 10 a.m. PST….

This year instead of two days it’s two-and-a-half hours (and instead of a few hundred dollars, the price of entry is just $25—or if you can’t afford that, there’s a sliding scale to what you can afford). And as of Friday night, there are still a few tickets left.

You are invited to renew and be inspired... We'll listen to music and story, exploring how the stories we tell shape our lives. Whatever you're leaning into in 2021, Medicine Stories is an invitation to pause, regather, and reimagine a better story together.

Gareth and David are known as eloquent and humane guides to healing your own story and transforming the complexity of our lives into a gift to ourselves and the world. New sounds, deep stories, laughter, and some rich conversation will form the heart of this soulful experience. 

We're inviting folks to pay only what you can afford to participate - and if you can share more, it will help us make the event accessible to folks who might not be able to afford it.

If you know me personally, I’ve probably invited you to the in-person Medicine Stories in California or elsewhere at least once or twice before. A few of you have joined me for what is always a transformational, life-giving couple of days.

I’m so happy that Gareth and David are able to invite many more of you to join this year and I hope that you do.

I’ll be there. See you in the Zoom where it happens…

HERE IS THE LINK to buy a ticket to Medicine Stories.

3. Listen to and tour Cildo Meireles’ Babel at the Tate Gallery | London

On cold, winter days such as this (yes, even in Laguna Beach), I yearn for the opportunity to wander lazily through my favorite museum. While that’s not possible for most of us at the moment, many clever museums and galleries are doing the next best thing by creating multimedia experiences online that do their best to put you in the gallery or exhibit. London’s Tate is one such institution, and while perusing their digital offerings earlier this week, I happened upon the video below of Cildo Meireles installation Babel. Have a look.

Meireles, the Brazilian installation artist and sculptor, described his Babel as a “tower of incomprehension” that was inspired by the biblical story from Hebrew scriptures.

The Tate’s description says:

Babel 2001 is a large-scale sculptural installation that takes the form of a circular tower made from hundreds of second-hand analogue radios that the artist has stacked in layers. The radios are tuned to a multitude of different stations and are adjusted to the minimum volume at which they are audible. Nevertheless, they compete with each other and create a cacophony of low, continuous sound, resulting in inaccessible information, voices or music….

The room in which the tower is installed is bathed in an indigo blue light that, together with the sound, gives the whole structure an eerie effect and adds to the sense of phenomenological and perceptual confusion. The radios are all of different dates, the lower layers nearest the floor being composed of older radios, larger in scale and closer in kind to pieces of furniture, while the upper layers are assembled from more recent, mass-produced and smaller radios. This arrangement emphasises the sense of perspectival foreshortening and thus the impression of the tower’s height, which, like its biblical counterpart, might continue into the heavens.

While the installation is 20 years old now—and the story that inspired it, ancient—to my sensibilities its prescient intent and message have never felt more powerfully au courant than they do just now.

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4. Rare snowy owl sightings enthrall Gothamists | New York City

Perhaps a harbinger of a different kind, a snowy owl has been making appearances in Manhattan’s Central Park—perhaps the first time the species native to the Arctic has been spotted in New York City in more than a century—to the delight of ardent birders and casual curious passersby alike.

5. Harlem Sings: Tribute to the Poets of the Harlem Renaissance | (MONDAY Feb. 1) Zoom

At 7 p.m. (CST) Monday, Illinois State University is hosting an virtual evening of music from the Harlem Renaissance, starring mezzo-soprano Patrice Eaton and pianist Kyle Walker.

Admission is free and there will be a live discussion and Q&A with university students following the performances.

Learn more HERE.

6. Fifty-seven more things to do in lockdown when you’re (still) bored

In response to an article in The Guardian about boredom as we approach the (OY VEY) one-year anniversary of COVID lockdowns across the globe, Catherine Brady
Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK wrote a letter to the newspaper with 57 activities to help combat ennui and keep us going for the (even longer than we thought) haul.

From jigsaw puzzles and teaching yourself how to crochet or to play bridge to making your own terraria, reading a classic author (such as Charles Dickens or George Eliot), or signing up to be in the virtual audience of your favorite TV show, Brady’s list is stellar and in/aspirational. Here are just a few:

44. Sing along with others online. Try First session free.

45. Murder Mystery party on Zoom. Great fun. See

46. Hold a pyjama and jewellery Zoom party.

47. Start your own family tree. The Ancestral File booklet is a great tool. Available from Invicta Books.

48. Learn to play bridge. Bridge for Complete Beginners by Paul Mendelson is a good place to start.

And HERE’s the link to buy that $5 Bernie Sanders doll crochet pattern.

7. ICYMI: This week on the Artist Care & Feeding Podcast | Everywhere

A conversation with author and librettist Leah Lax about her incredible artistic and spiritual journey from joining the Hasidic community at 16, marrying at 18, bearing seven children, leaving the orthodox community after 30 years, coming out as queer in midlife, writing an astonishing memoir—Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home—and penning the libretto for a celebrated opera and oratorio, and most recently, for the large-scale classical Mass in Exile, with composer Mark Buller.

Leah is honestly one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. Listen in.

And….a follow up to last week’s dispatch about Derek DelGuadio’s brilliant In & Of Itself with requisite ***SPOILER ALERTS ***

(Don’t listen unless you’ve seen the film. Here’s the link on HULU. Really. I mean it.)

Special guest Kelley Weber—the award-winning actor, playwright, writer, theater educator, and spiritual companion—joined Kaitlyn, Mark, and me for a passionate discussion of the film adaptation of DelGuadio’s one-man show. It’s a game changer.

And HERE’s the link to the full episode—”COVID Clowning”— with Kelley that aired on ACAF Season 1.

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