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 VÄ«na 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.