Friday, December 16, 2011

Winter Solstice On the Horizon

Haiku My Heart
December 16, 2011

Haiku My Heart is the creation of my friend Rebecca who pens the recuerda mi corazon blog. Stop over there to see more haiku on Fridays and find out how to participate.

A cold Winter sun peeks through the clouds

Solstice Approaches
Light up the night with fire
Spend time with spirits
I know, it’s almost a week away, but I feel it and I’m getting ready. Next Thursday, December 22nd at 5:30 AM universal time is the Winter Solstice. In the hemisphere where I live, it is the day of the least amount of daylight. After that date, the daylight portion of time starts getting longer. It’s a harbinger of Spring.
I mentioned to my Grandson just yesterday that since he will not be required to attend school on Friday the 23rd, that we certainly can have a fire and tend it all night. We’ve done this before.
I would like to light a fire every full moon, or at least for every Solstice and Equinox. I don’t always get to it. But we did do the Winter Solstice fire a few years ago. We were living at the Cabinette on the Great Lake Superior. The fire pit was right out our front window. I banked the fire and we went inside to watch it as even though it gave off tremendous heat, the cold Winter wind off the lake drove through our bones and forced us into our shelter.
DJ fell asleep on the sofa. I did too. I woke up in the early dawn of light and stoked the still glowing embers back to life, and when DJ woke up, with a little nudging from me, he saw it was morning and that the fire had lasted all night.
We recognized the idea that nature rules the world. We understood how small and insignificant we are in the large scheme of things. We also shared pride that we were the only ones to pay tribute to the universe all night by lighting the way for spirit guides and helpers to find their way in those long hours of darkness.
Come, sit by the fire with us. I’ll feel fortunate to be able to attempt this at least one more time and I can think of no one that I would rather share this experience with than my friends that sent their thoughts and prayers in my direction recently.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe Day 12

A Virgin a Day
December 12, 2011

Today is December 12, 2011. This is the day of celebration for Our Lady of Guadalupe and the last day of our exercise, A Virgin a Day. Some have called it Mornings with Mary. In fact, many monikers have been thrust upon this idea of posting and writing about The Blessed Virgin Mary every day since the start of December so we could culminate today, on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness to the Americas.

One of the beautiful works located inside the main chapel at the Shrine.

More entries can be seen by following this link to Rebecca’s blog, recuerda mi corazon. I wish to say a resounding Thank You to Rebecca for hosting this project. It has been fun, entertaining, educational and has allowed new friendships and connections to flourish here in Bloglandia. It has promoted Peace and understanding, acceptance and turned us on to learning about people in lands all around the globe.
The church
The copper dome of the church lit up

Not far from my home in Northwestern Wisconsin along the Mississippi River sits the city of LaCrosse. And not far from LaCrosse on US Highway 61 sits a shrine built to honor and present Our Lady of Guadalupe to the people.

Beautiful examples of the stained glass windows in the votive chapel

There are many such shrines throughout the USA and the world to honor the religious icons. This one is no exception. I don’t so much seek these places out to visit them, but when I happen to be on that path and I discover them, I tend to stop and have a look.
The votive chapel
Candles, to light as a devotional, in the votive chapel, high on a hill on the grounds
I have been to a Sihk Temple. I have been to a Baptist church service in the deep South. I have been to a Catholic Monastery. I have been to a Buddhist Peace Pagoda. I have been on Native American Sacred Grounds. I’ve been to a pot farm and I even have been to a strip club. You may not see a connection, but the idea is that I am not hesitant to stop and learn about parts of the vast and varied cultures of our world.
Stock photo of the gift shop located in the main building

This visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is best told in pictures. I didn't get back to photograph all that I wanted to, but the link in this paragraph will explain in some detail all the activities that are offered there to pilgrims and visitors alike. I have posted the photos with captions and leave you to the beauty of the artwork. 

One of the many outdoor statues of Our Lady

The idea at work here is that Our Lady, The Blessed Virgin Mother,
appeared in the form of a young woman, Guadalupe, and visited this man, Juan Diego, in 1531 AD, somewhere in the desert near the hill named Tepeyac in Mexico, and showed herself to him with a message for the people.
The bottom line of the message brought down from Tepeyac Hill by Juan Diego, who was later named a Saint by the Catholics, is that we need to live with each other in Peace.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mary's Odds and Ends Day 11

A Virgin a Day
December 11, 2011

Day 11 of the twelve days of A Virgin a Day has been a beautiful experience featuring The Blessed Virgin Mary in stories, art and photos. It was created and hosted by my friend Rebecca. You can see more by visiting her blog, recuerda mi corazon.

Tomorrow marks the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Traditionally, on these days, parishioners attend mass and prepare a large and special meal. In the case of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the parish where I grew up, the predominately Italian congregation held a celebration on the streets surrounding the church, complete with a carnival, fund raising booths ran by all of the social organizations within the church, ethnic Italian food booths and a special mass schedule.

Through participationn in this exercise over the past eleven days, I have seen that there is certainly no shortage of material in many forms that features Our Lady. Some folks have mentioned the music. Most famous is probably the Beatles "Lady Madonna" or the title song from the album "Let It Be". I have many albums from many genres and remembered this Reggae tune by Ras Michael. The name of the song is "Marriage in Canaan". If you click on the title of this post, it may play for you. If that doesn't work, there is a YouTube, but it is 8 minutes long so I decided not to load it. Look it up and listen to the rub-a-dub about Jesus and his Mother in a completely honoring way.
The beautifully ornate Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Statue

I also came across a couple of photos from the 1950’s of the procession that takes place through the neighborhood streets of Melrose Park, a suburb of Chicago, where a very large statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is carried through the hot asphalt streets by dedicated parishioners. Melrose Park was also home to  The Sacred Heart Seminary which hosted a shrine. I found an old photo of people in prayer at that site, and it was labeled Our Lady of Fatima.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel being carried through the streets during the procession
The Fatima Shrine at Sacred Heart Seminary, Melrose Park, IL

While searching through the really old family photos that I have, I came across two that I thought were very appropriate to honor my mother, womanhood, motherhood and peace. The first is my mom holding my brother Frank in her arms with my sister Marie standing at her feet with her teddy bear. My brother was born in 1943, so this photo has to be from around that time.
My mother with my brother and sister, circa 1943

This second photo, is my Grandmother, Mary Masi Spada with my mom and her Grandchildren. Must be from around the same era. The Mary influence is evident in their names and the fact that both these women, along with my sister when she grew up, all raised families that held together through the years. I believe it is photographs like these that exemplify what the Virgin Mary is to our lives.
My Paternal Grandmother with my mom, also circa 1943

In my own collection, bits and pieces of Our Lady of Guadalupe began to come into our home. As I explained in a previous post, Day 5 I believe, there is plenty of kitsch out there. I have my share with this Guadalupe pot holder and a beautiful, but very simply made wooden cross that came from Italy. I’m still searching diligently for that gear shift knob.,
Guadalupe hot pad
Italian made Guadalupe wooden cross

While browsing the shops and galleries during last years visit to Prescott, AZ, I came across this fantastic rendering of Mary as a Los Dias Icon. I would be remiss had I not included it somewhere in this series honoring Mary.

Besides the objects and gadgets, I purchased this beautiful Mary work of art from Daisy Coba at the annual auction of art that benefits the Oaxaca Street Children, another demonstration of the giving spirit spearheaded by our own Rebecca. Check out the link to the auction and stay informed. There are always many very talented artists donating pieces to raise money for this worthy cause.
Daisy Coba's Mary

So, today is a show-and-tell of a few of the objects you would see in my home. Tomorrow, we will visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe near LaCrosse, Wisconsin, not too awfully far from my home, and celebrate this Patroness of the Americas in words and photos. I believe we’ll have a special dinner here from the Spadoville kitchen as well. Feel free to stop in. We will eat around 6 PM.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Virgin in My Sister's Back Yard Day 10

A Virgin a Day
December 10, 2011

A Virgin a Day has been going on since December first. It will end on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe which is Monday, December twelfth. To see more submissions, please visit Rebecca's recuerda mi corazon blog. You wll be delighted.

I did an article on my blog about my sister’s back yard not that long ago. In fact, I wrote it for Haiku My Heart, another of Rebecca's wonderful creations. I’ll give you a link to that article and just post pictures of Mary on this A Virgin a Day post today.

We were all brought up Catholic and under my mother’s influence. There was no way we could ever escape the idea that Mary was a powerful force in our lives. And although I don’t have anything to do with organized religion of any kind, as you’ve seen throughout this twelve days of Virgins and the twelve days of last year, Mary is in my life in many different ways.

So it is with my sister and her home and yard. I took these photos while visiting her last Summer. We were siting around talking. I had my camera in my shirt pocket and just walked over to the lilac bush and started snapping off shots. The photos above are from that session. 
These two phots below are from inside the spare bedroom where my sister has set up a small altar on an old breakfront cabinet. These two are just a small sample from the collection of The Blessed Virgin my mother kept throughout her life.

Just two days left after today for A Virgin a Day. Hope you enjoyed my contribution for Day 10.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rosa Mystica Day 9

A Virgin a Day, Haiku My Heart
December 9, 2011

I am sharing A Virgin a Day with Haiku My Heart. Both of these memes were  created by my friend 
Rebecca who pens the recuerda mi corazon blog. From December 1st through December 12th, we celebrate Mary with our images, thoughts and stories. December 12th is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It has been a great exercise in drawing people together and sharing, making conections and new friends. Please have a look by clicking on the highlighted link in this paragraph.

Mary in glory

Sunlight makes her image glow

Great Peace and beauty

San Luis, Colorado is a small quaint town on Colorado highway 159, a little West of Walsenburg, which is located along I-25 South of Denver, and a little South of US Highway 160. It’s on the road that will eventually pass through Taos if you keep on heading South into New Mexico.
We were passing through and saw this monstrous building on a hill. It had a pair of turrets and was laced with gold. Our conversation had Mrs. Spadoman and I wondering what it was. Certainly some sort of religious palace. The design had us convinced it was not anything Catholic.
Stations of the Cross Shrine San Luis, CO

Then, as we got closer to the town and saw the informational signs, it turns out to be the epitome of Catholic as it was the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross. Had we noticed the crosses atop the towers, we would have had no doubt. We just missed seeing this small detail.
This monument was high on a hill with no visible road to get to it. We spotted a small sign and a walking path. If you wanted to visit this place, it was a hike up a hill at nearly 8000 feet above sea level. 

I was already exhibiting signs of breath shortness and fatigue so I passed on this one. I had no idea that these were the signs that signaled the prelude to my recent heart attack and heart related problems. We did opt to visit the beautiful church in town that sat directly across the road from the Cafe Rosa Mystica Coffee House.
The name of the church was unusual as I have never heard one quite like this before. Most Precious Blood Catholic Church. There was parking close by and we wandered over and found the doors unlocked and the church ready for visitors.

A small church as they go. After all, it was a small town. But very beautiful with a large carved wooden altar that seemed to extend across the entire width of the building. This altar was completely covered with statues with Jesus on the cross as a centerpiece. 

The walls were laden with stained glass images of The Blessed Virgin Mary and included Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, St. Rose of Lima and St. Therese, the Little Flower.

I’ve included photographs of the stained glass and also a few of the altar. The outside of the church had a traditional profile, and although this place is located in the Southwestern United States and the name of the town was in Spanish, the design seemed to look more Midwestern than the Mexican adobe style.

We then had to stop in for a cup of coffee. Mrs. S is addicted you know. Gotta have her caffeine fix. Not that she didn’t already have a few jolts of high test java that we made at the motel when we left Taos.
The Rosa Mystica was a unique place. The owner/operator was just pulling turnovers out of an oven, and the aroma mixed with the cinnamon rolls that were cooling on the counter under our noses.
We ordered coffee and wandered around the shop as she had displays and gift items here and there for sale. This is the place where we saw the Our Lady of Guadalupe door hanging for the first time. We knew we had to have one when we realized they existed.

The Rosa Mystica also had a small table set with a statue of Our Lady and candles to light. This was a mainstay in the church where both of us grew up. It was common to my mother’s vernacular to say, “I’ll light a candle for (so-and-so).” to someone that told you about a sick family member or a family that needed prayers.
These are not regularly in churches any longer that I’ve noticed. With my mother in mind, I asked the proprietor about lighting a candle and she told me to go ahead and help myself. I asked about paying for it, as we always made a donation at church in the old days, but she said, “No, there’s no charge.”
We ended up buying half the stock of cinnamon rolls and turnovers, a chore which we would have done anyway, just based on how good they looked and smelled.
That’s our visit to San Luis, Colorado. If you make the trip, let me know. And enjoy one of those turnovers, they wereb divine.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Minnesota Mary Day 8

A Virgin a Day
December 8, 2011

Today is December 8th. The Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is December 12th. From the first to the twelfth we are posting in a series entitled A Virgin a Day. Visit the link to Rebecca’s recuerda mi corazon blog to see more submissions. This exercise is not especially religious, but it is certainly very fascinating with the wide variety of thoughts, ideas and creations that have been shown so far.

It wasn’t that long ago it was Summer, and as I sit here listening to the furnace do its work and cycle through its paces on a cold December morning, I’m recalling an escapade through the Mississippi River valley as it winds through the bluffs that separate Wisconsin from Minnesota.
From the Northern reaches, where the mighty river flows out of Wisconsin at the foot of Lake St. Croix and becomes the border of states from there to the Gulf of Mexico, a paradise begins. A paradise for sightseers, hikers, bikers and tourists. Art galleries, quaint diners, coffee shops, the rocky and forested bluffs and the River, complete with Lake Pepin, a large expanse of water teeming with waterfowl and barges carrying commerce North to South.
It was through this part of the world a motorcycle ride with friends ensued that rendezvoused at Viroqua, WI. Just South of LaCrosse, not too awfully far from the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine. In Viroqua, the predetermined place to meet was an eating establishment named The Driftless Cafe. The entire area is known as Driftless Wisconsin.

The name comes from the fact that the region from the Eastern Dakotas all the way to the Great Lakes and as far South as Central Illinois was covered with glaciers millions of years ago. When the glaciers receded and melted away to create the 10,000 lakes Minnesota is known for as its license plate moniker, it left rocks and debris and dotted the landscape with water. Lakes teeming with fish, streams still flowing to the Mississippi. This debris field was called glacial drift by the scientists.
The area around Viroqua was unscathed from the huge behemoth ice packs and therefore, the topography is “driftless”. Some resourceful people turned the natural event phenomena into a regional name. The Driftless Cafe is one such place.

The food is great. Organic offerings, for the vegan and the carnivore and all in between. Eclectic in its music and wine selection and striking as far as the featured artists of the area that showcase their works on the walls.
This is where I first saw and discovered the art of Mary Solberg. She is from Winona, MN, not far North on the Mississippi River. I can’t help but stare at her artwork. Many of her pieces have sort of a sacred theme, or at least seem so with the round golden aura behind their heads. Some purists may think of it as blasphemous as the idea of the Virgin Mother is holding a martini. I like to wonder if it is shaken and not stirred and find it no more or less mysterious as Our Lady surfing or depicted as a Los Dias skeleton.

This is where I found this artist and her work and I present it today as another variation of the image of Mary with the photos from her website.

This short two minute YouTube video shows her at work and gives more insight into her thoughts and ideas. The artist explains the religious nature of some of her work.

Out of the ordinary? For sure. I even wonder if this kind of treatment stands up to Folk Art Guadalupes. It can’t be as preposterous as the bathtub aura that surrounds Mary in the barn yards of the Midwest, or maybe it does. Personally, I find Mary Solberg’s art, for the sake of art, fantastic, stunning and strikingly beautiful. I enjoyed dining amidst her creations at the Driftless Cafe. So much so, that in the Fall, Mrs. Spadoman and I traveled back there to try the vittles for a second time and see her work again.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Corn Mother

A Virgin a Day
December 10, 2010

Day 7

This is a repost from 2010. I originally posted this on a Friday and included some haiku for Haiku My Heart. There is a story here that I share along with this Virgin Mary.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

A Virgin a Day is the title of this Meme Project. It is a tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe. To participate, see Rebecca’s recuerdo mi corazon blog. There, you will get more definition and instructions as well as see other’s submissions. 

I have always had a fascination with the image and statues I’ve seen of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I never knew why I liked this art form so much, but after my Mother went on her final journey home last February, I realized it was her influence and her faith that has kept me interested, and somewhat knowledgeable, about Our Lady. I can't tell you when I realized how much I appreciate the art side of it.

If you care to, you may look at this as religious, or you may see it as art for the sake of art. I make no assertions about anything to anyone as far as my own faith or religion with these posts. I simply dedicate my involvement with this Virgin Business to my Loving Mother, Carmelina Rosa Caruso Spado. Just to be talking about the Blessed Virgin Mary would make her proud of me.

Cristina Perez' Corn Mother

I’ve mentioned before, mostly on the blog comments of the fabulous artists sites that I am so fortunate to have been introduced to, that I have a hard time understanding the creative process, I don’t do poetry very well and I admire all that can deliver such beauty in photos, paintings, objects and words.
That being said, the fact that I don’t get out much to art shows or openings might be one of the reasons why my grasp of art may be a bit lacking. But I know what I like. I just can’t tell you why I like it, or dislike it, if that’s the case.
This particular subject, Our Lady of Guadalupe, I like. And that assessment is “in general.” I have only learned recently that these types of paintings and color treatments that I find when visiting the Southwestern USA, where Guadalupe is so prominent, is considered Folk Art, or at least a form of Folk Art.
Back pedal to around 2004. I was living in St. Paul in those days and hanging out at the J&S Bean Factory Coffee House. My good friend, Steve, owns the place. I’d show up there just about every morning. Most of the time, the usual characters came in, conversations ensued, and time was spent whiling away many hours each morning.
A positive about this daily event was that I got to meet a lot of people. I’d be talking to someone and someone else would walk in and the person I was talking to knew this other person and I was introduced and low and behold we had something or someone in common. Next thing you know, we’re all talking and making connections and it wasn’t very unusual that I didn’t know someone else, someone that wasn’t seated at the table, that the person I was just introduced to, knew as well. If not a person, then a place, or a job I’ve held, as I am well traveled from years of road trips throughout the USA and have held my share of jobs.
In this one case, I met a guy named Tom. Tom, in his own right, is a very unique character and is an artist. His medium is bronze casting and he is from the very old school of seeking benefactors, or what he calls in the vernacular, patrons of the arts. Patrons that would give him money to research, plan and produce an exquisite art piece that they could have for their own collection.
Disclaimer: So far, this story has nothing what-so-ever to do with The Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s just how I came about going to the art show that produced the Corn Mother print that will.
In any event, Tom and I became friends quickly and we met many mornings and talked about everything in particular and nothing in general, or is that the other way around, I never could get that right either.
Tom, being an artist, knew many other artists. He told me about an art show coming up in an old Northeast Minneapolis building that had been turned into artists lofts called The California Building.
A photo of Tom's most famous work, Moonbell. It sits in the entry of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Building 

Incidentally, one of the connections Tom and I made in the weeks leading up to the announcement about the upcoming art show was the fact that someone I worked with years before, had a loft there. A fellow named Aldo Moroni. Aldo and I worked in the motion picture industry together, that’s where I met him. He has a studio in the California Building and if I went to this particular art event that Tom was inviting me to, I’d get to see Aldo and his then not yet famous Babylon Project, which, is quite interesting as well as very beautiful.
Back to my story. While attending this art event, I wandered through the floors of lofts and stopped here and there to look at what might be offered. In a small uncluttered room were a few paintings and prints. One of these was the one I am presenting here as my offering for A Virgin a Day.
When I saw it, I immediately said, “Corn Mother”. The artist, a woman named Cristina Perez, heard me and told me, “Yes, the name of this print is The Corn Mother.”
I had to have it. I liked it. The colors, the image. I’d seen that image before. I knew it was Our lady. She resembled Our lady of Guadalupe, but with a corn cob as an aura. Back in those days I had already started my once and twice yearly treks to New Mexico and was falling in love with the Folk Art of this particular image.
I made a purchase of art, while attending an art show in a building where artists plied their trade. That had to be the start of it. Now, many years later, I will go to Cristina’s site and write to her and tell her how I am posting this story about her art piece and that since I looked up her name and found the modern day site for her work, I see she is quite talented and there are other pieces I might be interested in purchasing. I see she has a great portfolio of Los Dios de Los Muertos, or Days of the Dead folk art, with my Corn Mother amongst the offerings! I will be paying her site a few visits.
Incidently, while perusing Cristina’s website, I came across this fabulous painting entitled Mayan Mother from her collection. Just seems fitting as every Mother emulates the Blessed Virgin Mother, and this Mayan Mother is no exception.
Mayan Mother
Brown Mayan Mother

Not different from our own

Reflecting Mary

(I thought I'd add haiku for this print since today is Friday and Rebecca's Haiku My Heart Friday, another great Meme idea, is usually presented today)

So, that’s my story. That’s my submission for Day 10. The Corn Mother print and how it came into being in my life. Our Lady working in mysterious ways? Maybe so. I’m making a new connection with an artist I met only once, and I’m inspired to call Tom Attridge and see how he’s doing. Maybe I’ll pay him a visit and we’ll sit around his kitchen nook and hold the guitar a little.

Authors Note:  I haven't seen Tom but once in the past year. I have been to Christina's site, but last time I checked, it was in flux. I will search for her and try to get a hold of more of her fine work. I also am including an E-mail she sent me last year when I asked for her permission to use her Corn Mother image:

Hi Joe,
What a nice surprise to wake up to yesterday! I am glad you enjoyed that image, and I am glad you were able to use it to inspire your own art too.
I have no problem with you using the image, thank you for the mention and website link!
I love your Haiku. What a great project too.

I having been working on a story and more art related to Guadalupe and you have inspired me to keep going.
Isn't it great how things work that way?



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