Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bali: A Traveler's Folktale

Vacations and other travel opportunities can be the basis for some pretty interesting folktales. The traveler gets to share his or her feelings and thoughts about a special place that touched them in some memorable way.

For Bonnie Clark, owner of Lotus Healing Massage & Yoga the folklore motif of travel to an exotic place is a perfect fit. In this case the place is Bali.

Bonnie travels as a yoga teacher with Spirit Tours. The small group arrangement allows for personalized attention and that’s something Bonnie believes is important when it comes to visiting places that emanate spirituality.

Here is Bonnie’s folktale –story- about Bali:

I have always loved to travel. It's my kind of adventure to explore different types of people, customs, wildlife, botanical treasures, art and so forth. I have done quite a bit of travel and I found that Bali holds an additional
strong attraction. Its very structure seems to have been woven from an intertwining of art and spirituality. That makes a place like Bali perfect for learning more about the world and for our travelers to learn more about themselves.

When I did this trip in 2009, I felt like I was coming home to "Heaven on Earth". Bali exudes a fragrance of hospitality, beauty and grace and most of all......love. Jim Cramer, the Spirit Tour guide, having lived in Bali for ten years immersed in the culture (actually accepted into the temple dancing) and knowing the Balinese, allowed us access to the "real" Bali, including a visit to a family compound. This year’s trip includes a cooking class and a five day stay at the main art center.
There is beauty everywhere in Bali … in the lotus flowers, the rice
fields, the buildings, the clothing and especially in the genuine smiles given freely by the Balinese!

The word for artist doesn’t exist in Bali because everyone is an artist. Art and tourism are their two main sources of income. We saw wood carvings, mask making, batiks, weaving, painting, jewelry making, dancing, music and
more. Overall, there is an artistry in the way the Balinese live.

This artistry is represented in the Balinese spirituality and the way they express it. Each day starts with a beautiful ritual including fresh delicate flowers offered up to God. They do have some exquisite arrangements but the sweetness of the people surpasses even that.

Our luxurious accommodations, delicious food, great places to walk, swim and shop and the spa treatments were unbelievably inexpensive and very nice...like a bath after your massage with flower petals.

The morning Yoga that I led is very accessible for all levels and this year, just like before, we will walk to the yoga room through a garden filled with lotus flowers.

To learn more about the upcoming trip, Bonnie invites you to visit the travel page of her website.

Photos copyright Bonnie Clark, 2009.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mothers and Moonbeams

The moon has long been a mythical and folkloric symbol. Often considered feminine in nature, it represents light in the darkness and its cyclic flow of wax and wane for thousands and thousands of years has been connected to the course of seasonal events and activities around the world.

The lunar calendar of such long-established cultures as the Asian and Hebrew people, for example, has been a guiding force, a way to measure the days and years. In this way life has become linked to the phases of the moon which themselves are often the subject of artistic (poetic) expression.

The moon has also been a subject of deep study. The astronomical and astrological communities have all been watching and charting that celestial body for quite some time. Because its rotation synchronizes with that of Earth, questions about its existence and impact upon our planet have ranged from “can it sustain life as we know it?” to “how does it – or does it - influence the way people feel and think?” to “how does its gravitational pull actually work?”

The moon is the Earth’s only natural satellite. Whether it is being observed for social or scientific reasons, for natural or supra-natural content, it is without a doubt one of the most discussed heavenly bodies.

I was recently introduced to Journaling by the Moonlight: A Mother’s Path to Self-Discovery (Moonlight Muse Press) by Author Tina M. Games. This well-planned book provides women and men with an opportunity to have their own personal understanding of and relationship to the moon.

Games, a creativity and life purpose coach, calls upon her own personal moonlight journey as a mother to illuminate the conflicts that are inherent for women as they become mothers. Sleepless nights, crying babies, nurturing urgent infant needs, confused priorities, and more can result in anxiety, stress and depression. For some of us, the newness of motherhood as a role can collide with all else that we do and know ourselves to be.

This elegantly designed book is designed to dispel the shadows of conflict that arise. It is in simple terms, a road map that reaches between here and there – motherhood and me – earth and moon.

The 144 pages include thoughtful Moonlight Musings that provide insightful and contemplative questions that foster greater self-discovery. Here is one of my favorites: Take a step outside on a clear evening and take in the light of the moon. Sit with the energy for a few minutes, breathing deeply and exhaling slowly. Now close your eyes and imagine yourself gliding with the energy of the moonbeams. What does this feel like? What is coming to mind? Take some time to write about this here.

Journaling by the Moonlight: A Mother’s Path to Self-Discovery
is comforting. Pages of wisdom encourage creativity and clarification of life purpose. It would make for a wonderful gift to self or to new and expectant mothers who want to weather the upswells and downpours that come with such an important life transition.

For book details visit the author’s website.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Folk Music: the Accordion

One of the more common folk music instruments around today is the accordion. The accordionist plays this bellow-driven box shaped musical instrument, also known as a squeeze box, by compressing or expanding a bellows while pressing buttons on a keyboard.

Although the instrument is only a few centuries old, it belongs to a group of instruments originally known as harmonika, from the Greek harmonikos, meaning harmonic, musical.

Invented in the early 1800s in Europe (according to reports that suggest it was based upon the concept of a Chinese instrument) its’ ability to make a loud sound made it a popular instrument for dance music. Sometimes known as the ‘one man band’ instrument, it is associated with vaudeville-style folk music, polka, klezmer and Cajun music.

For fun, here are some links to accordions and accordionists that showcase its versatility:

Bulgarian Folk Accordion

French Accordion
Polish American Accordion
Scottish Accordion

Sunday, January 9, 2011

It's Folk Festival time!

Summer and fair weather days are not the only desirable times of the year for folk festivals to occur.

Around the world winter is one of the most action-packed festival seasons. Historically, winter was a dormant season. People ended final harvest preparations (preserving foods, repairing equipment,etc.) and turned their attentions inwards. Wet, dark days with fewer working hours encouraged that. In was under those conditions that folk established festivals that generated opportunities for them to spend their 'free time' socializing and connecting with others.

And what better way than to do it through festivals? They were - and still are- colorful, vibrant events in which people gather together for brief periods of time in order to share favorite folklore traditions. Dance, music, art and food remain high on that list.

Here are at least three festivals that are taking place in January. Check them out and if you plan to attend any or all of them, let us know. We'd love to post your report!

== Winter Folk Festival, Oregon
The Jan. 21-23 festival helps to bring folk music into our local schools and provides free Kid's Koncerts for local school children. It includes craft demonstrations, art and craft booths, food, jam sessions and workshops. Admission to the craft fair is free. Daily performances (included in festival daily admission) include top folk performers from across the US.

== Tamar Valley Folk Festival. 20th festival, Jan. 21-23, it consists of music sessions, concerts, themed concerts children's activities, poetry and dance. The concert venues are all under cover and set in beautiful surroundings of the Tamar River and historic town of George Town.

== Ann Arbor Folk Festival: Two dynamic and different nights of folk and roots music on Friday, January 28, and Saturday, January 29. Now in its 34th year, it features a blend of renowned and up-and-coming performers, featuring popular artists and new talent. All funds raised through the Festival benefit The Ark, Ann Arbor's non-profit home for folk, roots, and ethnic music.

Photo credit: The carnivalesque Gypsy cabaret band Rapskallion.