Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Faucet and Counting Blessings

Today I turned on the faucet to wash a dish. As the water poured of the faucet, my thoughts wandered to the Hammar family in Ethiopia's Omo region I photographed on a previous Myth Project trip. 

The older girl walks with her younger brothers about four miles round trip each day to get water. Each and every morning, they crunch through the parched landscape to water their cattle and fill containers for the family's daily needs. Four miles every day for water. 

All I had to do is turn on the faucet. Another blessing to count. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Which one do you like best

I wanted to put a different vineyard through the view holes of this cobwebbed antique car. Then I couldn't decide which one I liked best. Which one works best for you?







Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Woman with Grinding Stone causes Fall of Man

Suri woman grinding grain on stone in Tulgit, the Suri village in the Omo region of Ethiopia.
When I first heard this story, immediately I thought, “hey, wait, I know this narrative.” But this was a refreshing localized twist from one of Africa’s most remote tribes, the Suri (sometimes called Surma) in Ethiopia’s  Omo River region.

So the Suri account of the Woman with a Grinding Stone causing the Fall of Man, which elders often sing at gatherings, goes something like this:

Originally there were two people on earth, a man and woman. At the beginning, they had a direct connection to God with a rope that came down to earth. The man and woman could climb the rope at any time to be with God.  There was  only one rule: “do not to bring anything with you. Nothing. No possessions.” That was the system then, up and down between earth and God. 

One day the woman decided to bring her grinding stone on their visit to God. Hey, why not? She used it everyday to grind flour. When she started climbing with the stone under her arm, the rope crashed to earth.  First man and woman fell to the ground. Some say the rope was broken by the extra weight, others that God simply let it drop. Regardless, from then on the pair were stranded to live only on earth. They lost their direct connection to God.

My illustration of the Suri version of the Fall of Man.
I grew up with the Christian legend in Genesis chapter 2, where at first, Adam and Eve lived with God in paradise. When they break their only rule by eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, God expels them from Eden. Their direct connection to God is severed.

When asked how old the oral Suri story might be, the reply was always something like: “It is very old” or “Much more than a hundred years.” A hundred years in a culture with no writing is a long long time, perhaps the beginning of man time on earth.  Since DNA tells us that we as Modern Man walked out from the Omo region to populate the earth, I conjecture that this Suri story just might predate modern religions.  What if the Genesis story is just a localized version of the Suri story?

Suri-tribe woman with her child in the Omo region of Ethiopia, Africa.
 Look at the similarities? Whose fault was the Fall in both stories? Did the misdeeds of the first Suri man and woman or Adam and Eve, ruin it for all of the rest of us?  What about the idea of sin?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Growing Wine in Latvia

For quite some time, the Latvian vineyard Vīna kalns ('wine hill') held the Guinness World Record as the world's most northerly commercial vineyard (contenders must be open-air and capable of producing marketable grape wines). Located near the village of Sabile, the vineyards lie almost exactly on the 57th northern parallel. (For those who don’t know Latvia, it is roughly on the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska, as in freezing winters and cool, often rainy summers.)

When I was last in Latvia some 16-17 years ago, I had heard of vineyards near Sabile. But that was during film days, so thrifty me didn't take any photographs of the vines. This is the hill country around Sabile then.

But the crown as the world's most northerly vineyard was snatched from Latvia when the Lerkekasa vineyard near Gvarv, Norway was planted with Solaris grape vines in 2008, at the latitude of 59.3 degrees north.

Even though beaten by a mere 1.3 degrees latitude, Sabile grape growing has longevity over the Norwegian young vines. Apparently wine grown in the region was popular in the court of the Duchy of Courland (which lasted in various incarnations from 1561-1795), but records hint viniculture started long before then. No wonder Sabile’s coat of arms is a cluster of purple grapes (I couldn’t tell the varietal) on a bright yellow background.

Today tasting is possible at the annual summer wine festivals in both Sabile and Riga (the capitol of Latvia).

The most common cold-tolerant grape varieties used by Latvian winemakers include Melna Kaistule, Alpha, Gailuna Salda, Zilga (which I'm told has a somewhat unpleasant aroma), and Skujins-675, the later bred by ampelographer Kaspars Skujins, who creatively added the 675 to his name when christening the grape.

Latvian grape growing now has spread to the other side of the country, southern Latgale province, where vigneron Evalds Pupols experiments with several varieties, including Jubilejnaja Novgoroda, which reached 23 Brix during a couple of warm summers.

Perhaps with the help of climate change, if those levels of grape sugar can be reliably achieved, watch out France. In the meantime, I’m off to Costco to find a bottle of Zilga.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Paleolithic view from Alaska Flight 730

At 35,000 feet above the United States, I felt like a Paleolithic artist entering the dark caves of Lascaux to paint sacred scratchings on the rock walls.  But instead of a flaming torch and earthly pigments to create my images, I used modern cave painting tools: a Boeing 737-900 and a Nikon D800.
First snow just east of the Cascade Mountains, Washington.
Regardless of the tools, photographing from window seat 30A on Alaska flight 730, headed from Seattle to Houston, the view put me into a meditative perspective, like a deep dreamless Dream State.  Gliding beneath me was Mother Earth scratched and tattooed by man with temporary markings.
Crop circles just north of the mighty Columbia River, Washington.
From that window seat, I reflected on the Gospel of Thomas where Jesus responded to his disciples when they asked “When will the Kingdom come?”

“Jesus said: It will not come by expectation; they will not say: ‘See, here,’ or “See there.’ But the Kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth and men do not see it.”

That’s what I saw from Alaska Flight 730.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Need suggestions for cameras to be used by remote African kids

      As part of a Myth Project I wanted to get the kids' perspective on life and culture. I thought that best way might be to give the kids digital cameras to record everyday doings from their eye-level.
      I'm looking for suggestions for both cameras (probably would like to get at least 10) and other ideas anyone might have as to the best way to proceed.

These kids in the Ethiopian Konso tribe village of Busso gave me a hard time because I only spoke about 20 words of Konso. "But you are an adult," they kept saying. We all laughed at my ignorance. It's amazing how a laugh in a remote African village sounds exactly the same as a laugh in Sherwood, Oregon, USA.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Myth Project: We All Have 5 Fingers

My favorite African village, the Konso tribe community of Busso, at the edge of Ethiopia's Omo region.
When he understood that I was recording his tribal myths and archetypal dreams, this Hammer elder invited me into his cozy home. He said that I must be very smart to write down all the stories he told.
The Myth Project:
Beginning in 2000, I journeyed to the most remote tribes in Africa to interview the elders, chiefs, shamans, storytellers and witch doctors about their myths and archetypal dreams. I wanted to see what lessons their oral stories offered about the mysteries of life, about how to live on our tiny planet and about Man’s big questions—like what happens after we die, where did the first person come from and is there a god?

I conjectured that these oral stories and collective tribal dreams arise from the deepest wellspring of our (Man’s) being.  After all, DNA tells us that we as modern man, all walked out of Africa. So it makes sense that we took these stories with us stored somewhere deep in our beings.

When I started The Myth Project, my goal was simply to record the stories so that they would not become extinct. Tourists, seeking something, were flooding over the tribes, for ever changing their traditional ways of life. Anthropologists tell me I am the only person who has ever recorded the oral stories of all but one of the 13 tribes I visited.

During a half dozen intense trips I collected massive amounts of information and photographs. Then I set The Myth Project aside to gain perspective. During these last four or five years of Project hibernation, I kept thinking about the answer a Konso tribe (from Ethiopia’s Omo region) elder gave when I asked what advice he would offer to world leaders. In 2001, this elder didn’t have much of a global concept of countries and cultures. He knew about neighboring tribes.

Yet his advice to world leaders truly moved me: “All people in the world are created by God. We’re all the same, we all have five fingers,” he said holding up his hand, “even if we have different beliefs (religions).” 

That simple statement profoundly shifted my focus for The Myth Project. Now the questions that haunt me are more like: What can these myths teach us high-tech modern man? How can we use these stories as a springboard to realize that “We all have five fingers, even if we have different beliefs”?

In order to better understand tribal life, I usually camped in my tiny tent at the edge of the village or was invited to live in an elder's home. This is my humble home for four weeks at the edge of a Suri tribe village in Ethiopia's Omo Region.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Boldness has genius, even in Oregon wine

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

During a two-day interview for my Oregon the Taste of Wine book, Richard Sommer talked of his dream during the 1950s, to grow wine grapes in a place where others said “impossible.” He recalled UC Davis viticultural professors chuckling when he said he was starting a vineyard in Oregon. Too cold, too rainy, was the consensus. It hadn’t been done before.

But Richard had faith, enough faith to plant Oregon’s first modern-era vinifera grapes, including Pinot noir, in 1961. He actually had wine before the well-known Boys up North in the Willamette planted their first Pinot vines in the ground. And he had enough faith to begin a winery, Hillcrest, which is still in existence today.

Now, some 400 plus Oregon wineries later, we know Richard was right. But what gave Richard the chutzpa to take on the world?

Janis Miglavs, Vineyard Light Journal, Roseburg, Oregon

Monday, January 7, 2013

Denial doesn't work

Found in Gevrey-Chambertin, the largest appellation in Burgundy Cote de Nuits.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Have you buried one life?

Someone once told me that many people live two lives. The day-to-day life, and the unlived life within us, the one most of us bury, usually when we become adults. 
Lately I've been toiling in the day to day life. Sometimes I take a little chance. The take-a-chance life is the one I remember the most.
From my Journal, Hebei Province, China 2011
Warrior, Karo Tribe, Omo Region, Ethiopia.
Janis (on the right) with the chief of a small Himba Tribe near Epupa Falls, Namibia.
Drinking the local palm wine, vintage that morning. Bedik Tribe, Iwol Village, Senegal.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

When did the French kick Christ out of Romanée-Conti?

Many vineyards in Burgundy have crosses like this one at Romanée-Conti vineyard, most many years old.
When looking at my photographs of Romanée-Conti, probably the world's most famous vineyard, two things struck me. First, hords of visitors flocked to the vineyard as if they were on a pilgrimage.
This multi-lingual sign posted on the small stone wall surrounding the famous Romanée-Conti vineyard shows the obvious frustration the owners must have in keeping visitors out. Regardless, I saw common tourists  wandering amongst the vines, even picking a grape or two. Obviously they could not read French or English.
Then, looking down at the vineyard, I noticed that the neighboring village of Vosne-Romanée surrounded the church. Looking further at other villages, they too surrounded churches that were hundreds of years ago.

What are the churches in the center of modern cities?  I"m suspecting that today's churches revolve around money rather than spiritual matters. Are we living in a different era?
I"ve circled in red three churches in Vosne-Romanée and neighboring villages. The famous Romanée-Conti vineyard is in the foreground, circled in blue. A spray including sulphur makes the famous vineyard appear lighter than the surrounding vines. I think that the owners were worried about a rain that never came. That's a big worry when a bottle from a great vintage can cost thousands.  No word if the vineyard managers sought spiritual help or intervention.