The Nature Of Genius – Werner Herzog & Ernst Reijseger

Once again I have opened up the archival Vault of Uselessness in this blog to give another look at some of the things I like most. As is the case in any blog, the selfish interest of the author is thematic – and, in this case, plain fun. I watched this movie again the other night just for giggles and it amazed me for a second time. The carcasses of ancient animals which had become glazed with stalagmite juice, basically “Quartzified” into stone, reminded again me of the sheer scope of this discovery.

Human art dating from over 20,000 – 30,000 years ago and just as subtle and beautiful as if it been accomplished by talented modern hands, displayed gallery-like on the walls of ancient caves, is only one of the fascinating wonders which Werner Herzog takes us through. His mix of music throughout the film is another glory of novelty. The best browsing of this post would be to begin the music video below and then read the text. Try that.

Reading Henry Miller some years ago, I never forgot his delighted discovery and his fascination with the term “Chthonic” – as if it had appeared to him as a magical key to describing ineffable events. This film and even its sounds are completely “Chthonic” and of a piece. It reminds me of nothing – they both stand on their own.

chthon·ic
ˈTHänik/
adjective
  1. concerning, belonging to, or inhabiting the underworld.
    “a chthonic deity”

To the archives, then……….(pictures enlarge by clicking).

For further investigation, here is the delightful Wiki entry for these incredible caves:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chauvet_Cave

OK, this is a stretch for a simple landscaping blog. Just know this: I know that and let me say my piece. 😉  It’s never stopped me before, has it? This one deals with the Earth, having said that, and that’s my own area. Dirt rocks and so do rocks.

I recently went to the movies, chucked on my 3D glasses and watched one of the most stunning movie events I have ever seen. The film is called “The Cave Of Forgotten Dreams” and I cannot possibly recommend it high enough. It was directed by Werner Herzog and deals with an inside look at the astonishing Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, where artists as long ago as 32,000 years plied their art of cave-paintings, using the walls of this gorgeous, previously-hidden cave as their canvas and using the folds and 3 dimensional aspect of the terrain itself to provide depth, apparent motion and breathtaking artistic ability.

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The extremely cautious French Government goes overboard in scrupulous preservation paranoia, and the film mentions this. Protecting the inside treasure is testified to when references to them shutting the cave off to visitors for a few months was felt necessary owing to “The breath of visitors is causing a mold to adhere to the walls.” This is a look inside – a rare moment in time and one which may or may not ever be replicated.

The cave simply reveals life at that time in a manner which nothing else possibly could. The genius is inside the art itself, of course, but the creative genius of Werner Herzog amplifies it, juxtaposing all this with modern perceptions of an era, seen from the best anthropological, psychological and paleantological minds of our generation.

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Borrowing this piece of breathless excitement emitted by  a movie review in the New York Times:

“The cave was discovered in December 1994 by three French cavers, Jean-Marie Chauvet, Éliette Brunel Deschamps and Christian Hillaire. Following an air current coming from the cliff, they dug and crawled their way into the cave, which had been sealed tight for some 20,000 years. After finally making their way to an enormous chamber, Ms. Deschamps held up her lamp and, seeing an image of a mammoth, cried out, “They were here,” a glorious moment of discovery that closed the distance between our lost human past and our present.”

How cool is that?

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The movie possesses so much depth and range of emotion and the hidden tension of discovery, that it nearly stands alone as an experience of brotherliness linking ourselves with our incredibly ancient past. I have to suspect this is an instant classic, no matter how uneven it might seem at its start. The punch is delivered as we advance, revealing all the incredible wonders this cave has to offer. Bear skulls, complete vertebrae of gigantic land animals, pictures of the rhinos, the Ibex, horses, lions, bison adorn these walls in graduated impact as the camera gets released later to fully explore.

Anyway – I guess you can tell I enjoyed the film!  😉

And here is where we return to the premise of this post. That Herzog has created a masterpiece I have little doubt. When you feel literally blessed and extremely fortunate to view a film, then these emotions tell us something very important: either we are nuts, or else this guy put together a magnificent piece of pure genius. I naturally choose the latter. As I said, the uneven beginning to the film requires a bit of patience. There is information coming in rather placid and somewhat pedantic ways, although there are indeed gorgeous pictures of the paintings and the access to them at the same time. The geological wonders alone are fantastic and impossible. Calcite galore, stalactites and stalagmites adorn the view – some literally impacting the paintings as well as such things as footprints of a bear as well as that of a child. The protective measures taken by the French is also droned on about at length – but – and here’s the thing:

It all makes sense and comes together incredibly effectively as we witness what a treasure this is. The drama of this discovery is served well by Herzog and the ineffable music streaming from the cello of the master cellist, Ernst Reijseger, which takes on an increasing urgency and even pathos as we discover this enormously ancient past of all of ours. The musical work of Reijseger is of a quality I have rarely seen before – it is clearly evocative and it seems utterly spontaneous as it impacts us concurrently with the images we behold and the verbalized statements from the long list of exceptional people. It courses through the film in a sensuous, even mysteriously sinewy way – somehow absolutely perfectly emotive and even responsible as we peer into who we once were. It is somehow totally fitting that we should answer the very height of their art with some of our own.

There is humanity here and a respect for our past. I mean a deep respect for our past. Oddities galore – it appears Neanderthal man was around as well as our own Homo Sapiens species evolved in the same neighborhood. Entire skeletons of the animals of the day appear, close up and personal.

I’m including aspect of Herzog and Reijseger’s traveling “Cine-Concert” which is entitled “Requiem For A Dying Planet” which toured to rave reviews globally. The reason I include this apparently non-related and somewhat disjointed piece is merely to illustrate the level of artistic genius this group operates at. Obviously, their goals are as high in terms of the stewardship of our planet – a message it would seem we could use ample measure of. I give you the “Requiem”:

Portland’s Chinese Garden – Part 2

This is an installation perspective on Portland, Oregon’s Chinese Garden which last saw the light of day 8 years ago. I’ve edited and added a few things for this iteration, but the substance remains relatively unchanged.

We pick things up at the “chain design” section, as we prepared to lift and lower the months worth of acquired plants and trees into their positions, some of which were simply gigantic.

So John had the chain designed for our needs – we needed something that could handle the weight without snapping, obviously, while shuttling these massive hand-dug trees with gigantic root balls into their eventual homes. But we also needed something we could uncouple quickly, especially difficult considering the expanse involved: many of the root balls were up to eight feet across! Anyway, this was accomplished well.  It turns out, we had learned, during a first hand tutorial at the surprisingly massive chain factory down the street of the wonders of the famous “Quick Coupler”. I pointed this small element out merely to indicate the unique problems besetting an enterprise like this. Imagine an entire city block and the numbers alone of mature trees needed to complete the look. Imagine as well a stationary crane grabbing these big suckers and then delivering them to the “holes”.  The word is, the crane nearly toppled handling this huge Magnolia for a really far spot.

When we got there and actually commenced the work, it was early in the process. The project was basically a great open massive hole in the ground with pockets of formed concrete piers and foundations for things such as the buildings as well as support structures for bridges and walkways.  Irrigating this mess was intense.  We spent nearly a week just coring holes through all the foundations walls with a diamond drill to poke pipe through and deliver water throughout the entirety. Fortunately, the service was to be completely drip irrigation so the pipes required tended to be in the 2 inch range. We complete a complete enclosed circle, which was always the goal, and then fed off that to supply the valves and the nearly above ground piping. I hasten to add, we also had the unenviable and often nearly fruitless task of running the electrical wiring for these remote vales to tie into a central control clock. Why “nearly fruitless”?  Because of the insane amount of construction yet to perform before the soil we supplied and introduced could supply the padding and insulation fro construction wear and tear. Those nasty things like boots of the workers, shovels and machinery is why, any of which could expose the copper wire by cutting through the plastic sheath and render it useless and an absolute bear to locate and fix – a common lament in irrigation circles.  Indeed, it turned out we did lose a couple of wires by having them cut somewhere.

The most fascinating part of the project for me was when the Chinese workers showed up. There was supposedly 150 involved, but I think that included a substantial corps of engineers and architects as well. The workers were fun and very easy to get along with.  The fact that I smoked cigarettes turned me into a popular figure, lol. I swear, I believe they all smoked. Very James Bondish of them!  But they were all easy to get along with, talented as heck, focused and extremely hard-working.  It was a pure pleasure working next to them.

So many elements of this Garden were brought from China, it’s mind-blowing.  Indeed, the bridges themselves were made of granite, hand-crafted back in China, many by the same guys who installed them here. Needless to say, the awesome rocks featured here were all delivered straight from China as well, including those composing the entire water feature and small mountain.

 

 

Portland’s Chinese Garden – Part 1

It’s been a while – 2008 – since I began this series on Portland’s Chinese Garden. In the meantime, as is the case with any garden, much has occurred. A very few plants failed, a few were relocated, some overly ripe stuff was replaced based purely on taste. For a notable period, a leak was found in the water feature part of the garden, chased down and then repaired – a relatively constant plague or at least a danger, for almost any water feature, anywhere.

Generally, however, little has changed overall. Eventually, the huge Weeping Willow will become problematic with its invasive root systems and the softer wood becoming perhaps snow – or ice – laden during some Winter storm and affecting its shape. But all in all, it has matured very gracefully into a focal point destination inside a gorgeous city.

I have revised some of these older posts, tinkering around with pictures and script, but altogether I am very happy with these posts. I hope they give as much pleasure as I got from writing them and from helping construct this masterpiece. This series deals with some of the tales of its emergence out of the city block-wide big hole where it began.

The Portland Chinese Garden was a combined effort between a company from Portland, Oregon’s sister city, the incredible Sou Zhou, and, well basically, the Mayor of Portland. It was at various points a hot political potato with mounting criticisms from all the usual political-type sources (which usually means an opposing party, naturally) in an era of average or worse resources, following the ‘Dot Com” bust which negatively impacted Portland having long since gone “all in” on high tech. However, Portland was even then showing the strength of a reasonably well-planned expansion, complete with very innovative and successful local corporations, such as Intel, Nike and a million smart subsidiary businesses to Microsoft just up the road in Seattle.

We spent an interesting meeting in the Mayor’s office once, proposing an idea that she accepted with joy and hopefulness – naming various trees and baubles for the largest donors. For a price, of course. 😉  Well, it worked. But my favorite interactions were always with the Chinese who also worked hard ion this lovely project. Constant smiles, elaborate bows and exclamations, tons of laughter and the joy of sharing and cooperation made it entirely special to me.

I’m going to recirculate an entire series of Chinese Garden construction factoids and tales from its construction, which I was integral to. It was easily the neatest gig I was ever a part of and I was fairly high up in the work and liaison stream, then working for Teufel’s Nurseries, a $40 million a year business in early 1996.

Enjoy a ride through some of the highlights of this project.

Oh – by the way – Portlanders are inordinately proud of this Garden. It gets heavy traffic 12 months a year.

(You can enlarge each picture by clicking – sometimes twice.)

Set solidly right in the very depths of downtown Portland, Oregon, the Chinese Garden is serene and mind-boggling at the same time. The fact that the locals understand it is basically placed smack in the middle of the Chinese District, it has a congruity in the city itself. Leaving the Garden, you can go shop at stores specializing in Chinese items or eat at any number of bordering restaurants.

But of course, that is not the entire story, and especially as it relates to this blog. That the Garden is a gorgeous feast for the eyes and senses is pretty much a no brainer. I will address that pictorially. How it relates here is my own small involvement with it and it may take a post or two to finish.

At the time, I was living in Portland and working for Teufel’s Landscaping, a very large and successful nursery and landscaping firm who counted their clients among those they have worked for or supplied for over 100 years. Among their clients were the Nike and Microsoft Campuses, golf courses, Intel’s booming Portland base and countless others. In residential landscaping, I have myself worked for some notable people. When the mayor of Portland decided she wanted this Garden in conjunction with Portland’s sister city, they tried and eventually found the approximately $12 million it took to make it work. I salute Vera Katz here and now for her wonderful addition to the city and her bulldog-like tenacity in seeing it come to pass. You da gal, Vera.

Well, Teufel’s got a contract to do a number of things under the project. Once again, my good friend John Stone was instrumental in all this and was my supervisor. John’s rather bizarre mandate was to provide the local landscaping expertise dealing with irrigating the grounds, locating all of the plant materials, installing the soils and planting the plants for a project no one wanted to look “brand new”. Naturally, what this meant was that fully mature plants were to be supplied which matched the specifications and artistic needs supplied by the Chinese portion of the engineering and landscape architect class who basically designed it. It implied some stuff you just couldn’t make up, it was so far fetched. For one example, I accompanied John in an expedition down to a plant who specialized in fabricating chains. Why? Because as we found and excavated the trees, we began seeing some intimidating issues with their weight. The root balls on some of these behemoths were in the tens of tons. We already knew we would be using a 180 ton crane for placement – at the time the largest vehicle made for street travel.

Passages – A Marriage I Was Actually Involved In

Make no mistake, this post – more than perhaps any I have ever posted in this blog – is strictly personal. But it is also highly celebratory – another avenue to express my hopes and deepest love for a newly-embarked mission of Love into their very own and undoubtedly unique family and on into Infinity as a new constellation made up of so-willing participants……..Hey – my family expanded last weekend.

The metaphor of Mark Twain’s where he mentioned “I spent the coldest Winter of my life one summer in San Francisco” has always seemed the best-abbreviated single statement about a complex situation in my personal reading history. Well, I think I might have my own answer to that, after this last week:

“I had the most meaningful experience of my life celebrating someone else’s marriage last weekend”. 😉

In this case, of course, I am referring to giving away my very own daughter, Alena, to her very agreeable choice of a man who I actually both like and admire. I spent an entire visit to San Diego in an emotional oven which I would not have traded for anything in this entire known world.

This picture pretty much says it all……………

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After 19 full months of my life’s very first medical challenges including literally learning to walk – twice! – the timing of the wedding of Alena and Greg fit so perfectly into the “What I most need now” category, it had to be designed by a physical and spiritual therapist.

My most recent road to here has been winding and full of stops and starts, punctuated unfortunately mostly by “stops”. To say ‘I had a bad experience’ is an understatement of rare dimension. As I mentioned in my Father of the Bride Speech at the reception, I first met my daughter’s husband over Skype on my computer at home. Stuck as they are all the way out in San Diego, 2,500 miles from Dad, it was the only method of actually seeing people while completely unable to walk 100 feet without a cane. Make that 10 feet, actually. That’s how bad it was.

I remember that call as if it were yesterday……. Alena and I had planned it and it finally unfolded as I sat here in my social media cockpit, completely reluctant and nervous about putting my face on the screen. I weighted about 130 pounds at the time (“Like I had taken a taxi straight from Auschwitz”, is how I framed in in my speech, lol)  but what we were celebrating at my end was the relative fixing which had finally occurred following a mistake in a surgical procedure for me. It had cost me – plenty.

(I may as well confess also that it was the lowest ebb of my entire life…………bar none)

So I answer her call and I see them and I punch up the camera on my computer linking us and I get this monster smile out of them both as my mug appeared to them. It was the first time I had met Greg, although I had had conversations about him with Alena. She was pretty in love, lol. Hey – works for me!! 😉

The long and short is how impressed I was with Greg. We dominated the conversation as Alena could tell I was pushing and prodding, lol, in my predictable protective fashion. We were able to laugh as a crowd and I couldn’t help but notice his jokes were completely as lame and dreadful as my own. We have a winner!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh Lord, still my thrice-beating heart!!

“Dayem, Cletus, I dunno but something in me says I shore hope she keeps this feller!!” 😉

We laughed and cajoled our way through this initial conversation – and later ones as well, but hardly as refreshing or as noteworthy as my first meeting with Greg – which went for at least an hour of leisurely pace and relaxed exchanges. Note too, this was long before he popped the Big Question. (And which question, it very much bears noting, he called me privately later to seek my approval…………a moment I will treasure forever and ever……….(LOL, as I also said in my little speech – “The truth is, you had me at the ringtone!”, lol)

At the time, I was just enjoying my daughter’s boyfriend and delighted to see he embodied many of the values I also admire, such as hard work, a tendency to sacrifice and a way human urge to help others as a fireman, EMT and now Safety Supervisor for the largest electrical contractor in America, Par Electric. That he was a nut very much like me was just a bonus and probably predictable, for all you deep personality scientists out there. 😉

Here is Greg now, sporting his marrying socks and a pose for the Ages:

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And this is what he thinks of my daughter:

(That would be me fiddling with my cam on the right and hooting a little with the rest of us, lol.)
13061921_10208069113378312_960597819837344805_nThe bottom line in all this is the remarkable restorative power of Alena and Greg’s so obvious love for one another and its effects on me and my strictly personal health. It was a shot in the arm like a tsunami of enforced Loving. I have been suffused with love – just drunk as hell on it – and I don’t plan on forgetting it in all of the time remaining in my days of abusing the Earth.

The social ritual of marriage is such a cleansing, hopeful and refreshing moment. We welcome each into the wider world as they form a small nucleus of their own bright new planet. Our hopes cling to them now going forward as they inhale all of our best angels on a daily basis. We have, as a group who are so willing to love them until the end of time, ushered them most supportively into their next phase as adults – the phase of forming their own family as free adults. As a rite of passage, marriage is easily the very most hopeful. The delicacy of life and love could not have a more splendid send-off than what occurred on that magical weekend in San Diego. It was muscular.

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There are moments in life which build a prior momentum of their own and which we recognize only when they unfold before our doubting eyes. These moments are the Treasury of our existences. Their preciousness has no competition – they are galaxies which extend our souls into those of others – in delirious Joy! – as we experience the common human mutuality of all of our collective emotions, hopes and fears – in this case, invested in the fallible and starkly hopeful persons who we try to influence in the very best of ways. This precious couple embody everything that matters in this world of ours. Our Idealism is never more clear than when we participate in the rite of marriage. This was never made more clear than 6 days ago. I was stunned by its impact and I still am.

Back to the theme of selfish entertainment……… 😉  Did it make me healthier?

Ha ha, that one is easy. How about this?:  “I never felt better in my life!!” 😉

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(You can tell, lol) 😉

So it has gone from this…………….

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To this:

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And now this old fart is crying again, lol. 😉

Y’all know I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world. Absolutely nothing. It may well have been the very best day of my entire life. Already and gratefully rich in friends, I am now richer in family. How does it get better?