31. October 2009 · Comments Off on The Samoan Tatau, 2000 Years of Unbroken Tradition in the South Pacific Island of Samoa · Categories: Arts And Entertainment · Tags: , ,

My first experience of the traditional Samoan Tatau (tuh-tah-uw)was in 1990 at a Volleyball tournament in Melbourne Australia. I saw a young man enter the stadium and remove his track pants to reveal what I thought at the time to be an intricately patterned pair of bike pants. I pointed the bike pants out to my Samoan husband noting the beautiful tribal design thinking they would be something he would like and it was then that I first found out about the pe’a (pay-ah), a traditional tattoo that covers 65% of the body from waist to below the knee, and yes, everything in between.

I actually did not believe my husband when he told me about the tatau, and would not be satisfied until I had seen this tattoo close up, so he took me over to meet the young man who let me have a look at his beautiful Samoan Tatau and I have been mesmerised by them ever since.

The art of adorning the body with the traditional tattoo, called tatau, has been practised in Samoa on both men and women for over 2000 years, and I am glad to say I am not the only westerner who mistakenly took them for garments.

When Europeans first discovered the Samoan islands in the early 1800’s a ships sailor wrote of the people there in this way: “They talk politely and behave very courteously, in no way barbaric or gruesome. They don’t paint themselves, as the natives on the other islands do, but on the lower part of the body they are wearing cleverly woven, silk trousers.”

If you are ever fortunate enough to see one of these beautiful tatau with your own eyes you will understand why from a distance they can be mistaken for clothing as the intricate patterns cover such large areas of skin it is difficult to believe at first that a person could undergo such physical trauma.

The tools used in traditional tatau are the Au (comb) which is made from a short piece of bamboo or light wood and a piece of turtle shell bound at right angles at one end. Attached to this is the comb made from bone or boars teeth, though today the combs are sometimes fashioned out of metal. The second stick is like a small mallet which is used to endlessly tap tap tap the ink soaked Au into the surface of the skin. The ink is made from the soot of burnt candlenut shells mixed into a smooth paste with coconut oil. This ancient form of ink is still used today.

Even the somewhat simple tatau designs can take many hours to complete, 7 to 12 hours for an arm or leg. The pe’a however can take many days and weeks, with the tapping beginning at dawn and continuing till dusk if the subject can bear it. The ritual begins again the next day unless inflammation requires a day or two to heal before resuming. Overall, the entire pe’a can take up to 3 months to complete and up to a year to completely heal.
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23. October 2009 · Comments Off on Surprised by Beauty · Categories: Arts And Entertainment · Tags: , ,

“Love of beauty and the desire to create it is a primal instinct of man.” Eleanor McMillan Brown

This weekend brought me the privilege of chaperoning forty
musicians to the Catskill Mountains of New York for a youth
orchestra retreat. Designed as a scenic get-away in which to
ardently rehearse for an upcoming concert, it proved an
exhausting-but delightful-escape with teens.

Considering that I made the preliminary arrangements, and
actually booked the accommodations at the retreat center, I
thought I had a fairly good idea of what to expect. When the
retreat director described our cabins as “rustic,” I envisioned
cute and cozy. Campy. Kind of with a Ralph Lauren meets L.L. Bean thing going on.

She greatly oversold them. I had better luck in third-world
countries. While the kids rehearsed late that first night, I
searched for the cabins in the middle of absolutely nowhere-pitch dark-with a couple of flashlights, a poor-to-scale hand-drawn map, and two very tired orchestra moms as my only guides. We found these tarp-roofed, no-mattress-bunks-with-little-heat-and-bad-lighting-and-did-I-mention-no-locks-on-any-doors near midnight after a long three and a half hour drive and a very bad camp retreat dinner. We moms thought it would be a good idea to locate the cabins and get things “settled in.” Mortified when we finally found them by the thought that these cabins were really “ours,” we let out a half-hour litany of moans and groans, only to decide to make the best of the situation by trying to cozy them up. That literally meant
turning on the singular light and cranking up the space heater
per each cabin.

Then came the rain. It started as a sprinkle and turned into a
constant stream, silently but surely soaking the hundred-plus
suitcases, sleeping-bags and pillows that had been dumped onto
the ground (no, dirt) by the camp help. So at nearly midnight, in the cold downpour of the rain, we schlepped forty kids’ stuff
into one of the cabins. It was pitch black, excepting the two
puny flashlights and those five measly light bulbs.

Suffice it to say that the first night was character-building.
I had eight twelve-year-old girls in my cabin. Giggly, wanting
to chat well past “lights out,” but with the cutest tank-top-pajama-bottoms combos I’ve ever seen, (and more make-up than one could imagine for a weekend retreat in the middle of friggin’nowhere) I had the distinct impression that it could be an interesting two days.

And then came Saturday. And Mozart. Grieg and Bizet. Rehearsal
after concentrated rehearsal brought teenager to his instrument
and magic out of chaos. For somewhere beneath all of the acne
cream and the eyeliner came focus and discipline and the desire
to master music of magnificent proportion.

After all-day rehearsals, as well as sectional rehearsals with
master teachers brought in from New York City, the group came
together and practiced one last time, late Saturday night after
dinner. As they were tuning, I walked around the room making sure everyone was comfortable and ready for one last practice session. I walked up to my fifteen-year-old son and twelve-year-old daughter and whispered in their ears, “Create Beauty.” Fueled with little sleep and bad camp food, neither were amused. But then the conductor raised his baton, the cute high school senior lifted her flute, and thus began the genius of The Magic Flute. And then the oboist, a highschooler I had never met before, with a bandana covering her hair and too-many earrings covering her left ear, came in, followed by the clarinetist, to create extraordinary beauty. And I just sat there, with tears rolling down my cheeks, an uncontrollable reaction to witnessing magnificence.

It caught me quite off-guard that these kids-dirty from too much
of the retreat experience and too little of the available hot
water and soap, and sleep-deprived from too much sleeping-bag
chatter-could produce something so glorious.

Sometimes kids surprise us. Sometimes, after we want to wring
their necks for their appallingly irresponsible behavior (losing
their backpacks, forgetting their music, leaving their dirty
dishes for us to clear), they sit down and do the most astounding thing. They pick up and instrument and play something
extraordinary. Or they write an essay and it changes our
worldview. Or they perform ballet with perfect timing. And we
scratch our heads and think, “Could this possibly be my kid?!?”

Because just when you’re ready to throw in the towel, throw
your hands up in quiet desperation, and pound your fists on the
table in a round of madness, your kids will do something that
will convince you that they are filled with brilliance. That
they possess a hidden gift or an indescribable magic or a
hilarious gift of humor or a quick mind or a strong shoulder or
a gentle spirit.

And you are so thrilled to have had some small part of the

16. October 2009 · Comments Off on Connecticut Realtor Ct Real Estate Groton, Waterford New London Ct · Categories: Real Estate · Tags: , ,

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06. October 2009 · Comments Off on Miracle Ice Cream Meets the Milkman – An Ode to Adrienne Rich · Categories: Arts And Entertainment · Tags: , ,

Entering the private world of a master poet
is indeed a gift from God.

In her lonely room …

Nuance, alliteration,
heroism, mettle, valor
and heart;

Colon’s, comma’s, apostrophe’s, periods
exclamation points, question marks
and words.

Red ink is on the ribbon plate

A small blister on her thumb.

During the twentieth century one of the most influential poets is no doubt, Adrienne Rich. As a writer of considerable breath and scope, Rich became a recognized poet at the tender age of twenty-two.

In her last year of college, her first collection of poetry, A Change of World was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. Rich was selected by none other than W.H. Auden, the eminent poet who is often considered one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

Over the years Rich became noted for the exploration of topics related to gender roles and human sexuality. In 1976, Rich published Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. This controversial collection of poetry which was hailed by some critics and harshly criticized by others was a declaration of her lesbian identity. A subsequent publication, Dream of a Common Language contained explicit references of sexual desire.

In addition to her poetry, Rich’s work was combined with a spirited interest in the social and political issues of her day. She became actively involved in protesting the American War in Vietnam. And she was also a significant figure in the woman’s liberation movement.

Rich was a contributing member of the Boston Woman’s Fund, the National Writer’s Union, Sisterhood in Support of Sister’s in South Africa and the New Jewish Agenda.