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BIRTHING THE MOLDS…

GRB Bells recently participated in our VIVA [Vashon Island Visual Arts] Spring Tour the first two weekends of May. [Our Holiday Tour is the first two full weekends of December.]
As part of the studio’s presentation I demonstrate wax injection, one part of the process of the bells’ manufacture which I am capable, within the constraints of time, to demonstrate simply. I am thus encouraged to explain here the process of making the mold into which the wax is injected.
Here are the castings made from my original wax carvings for several designs plus their clappers. I call these the “masters” & I securely archive them in order to be able to remake any of the rubber molds which might break or wear out. They are also the best form of copyright, since the molding process will shrink the design slightly & all bells made from them will be smaller.
You see them sitting upside down on their “sprues”, which are the rods which were the channels through which the molten metal entered the temporary plaster mold to make the casting. A bell has at least two pieces — and the clappers must be made separately, of course.
This group includes The SEAHORSE Bell with its unusually complex, three-piece clapper on the left. [The two bells on the right are the SUFI SURF & the CLOUD PALACE Bells]
This is the raw silicone rubber, which is soft & resembles a dense putty. It comes in strips protected with peel-able plastic on both sides. I cut it to size with scissors & pack it around the master in an aluminum mold frame, with the sprue touching its interior side. At this stage I must begin to think “inside-out” as I work to fill the negative space around the bell with the positive rubber.
When the mold is filled I label it with a thin aluminum or brass tag into which I emboss its name with a stylus. The mold press has two electrically heated platens between which the mold is sandwiched. A heavy screw with a large handle tightens to press it all tight.
Under that pressure its heat of 350 degrees
vulcanizes the rubber in about an hour.
The result is a solid block of harder rubber completely enclosing the master, squeezing a slight excess, which insures that all the details of the master have been captured. It shrinks a bit as it cools, freeing itself from the sides of the mold’s interior.
I trim the excess with scissors & peel out the tag,
leaving the name permanently as part of the mold.
Next comes the difficult part! I use a scalpel to very carefully cut the block apart to free the master, while also making “keys” to secure the fit when the mold is put back together.
It is fascinatingly puzzling to dance between thinking positively about the negative! It requires bringing the cuts from the bottom of the sprue ever closer to the still invisible master, prying the dense rubber apart with the help of a hook mounted to my desk. It is important to land the cut at the best place on the design to make the mold function well, both to promote the escape of air pushed ahead of the molten wax & for ease of removing the cooled wax.
The mold stretches & wants to snap closed. I must use brute strength of one hand while keeping the other facile enough to aim the blade cutting delicately into narrow-sighted space dancing between positive & negative space…
These photos show the process arrested by being held open with toothpicks… Each piercing in the design must be cut cleanly so as to efficiently re-close, recreating that detail in wax.
I cut down from around the skirt of the bell to create a core which is pulled from the interior of the master, with another tricky part involving the clapper loop which clings, being filled with rubber in the top of the bell’s interior, difficult to reach with the blade. Even with a collection of tricks over years of experience, I often still struggle with this part of the process!
Below you can see that core sitting-up in the center, atop the left & right half of the mold, which shows the positive wax which was injected into it.
Outside are the halves of the second mold containing the 3 clapper parts.
The wax injector is a heated pot filled with wax under about 5 pounds of air pressure.
Near-liquid molten wax is injected into the sprue of the mold when pressed against its nozzle, thus engaging the pressure sensitive valve behind it.

 Here is a video of an actual injection:

The result is a wax replication ready to be cast into metal to make the bell I will sell.

 

CROATIA-VENICE-AMSTERDAM… PART FOUR: SPLIT…

The first morning in Split I was awakened early by several long peals of bells… I counted 100, then a bit later dozens more all around 6 or 7am! Those were soon followed by the brushing sound of a miniature street-cleaner…  soft humming whine of electric golf-cart-sized trucks… small enough to negotiate the narrow stone streets we walk, often brushing shoulders with other tourists. Squeals of their brakes… delivering goods or luggage or hauling trash? The ancient inner city of Diocletian’s palace begins to rouse from one more diurnal slumber out of several millennia worth. Then an annoyingly loud basso human voice [Russian?] obviously loving to hear his own theatrical importance resounding & echoing between stone walls & pavement.

Bells, & a classy chandelier from the gilded ceiling made me happy!
 
Our boutique hotel is tucked above a 19th century theater fronting a square just off the central agora, the heart of the ancient summer palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. There is delightful further wealth at these links:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Split,_Croatia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diocletian%27s_Palace

The small lobby was enlarged by a mural-sized image of the street below…

My journal observed:

Yesterday we did several of the museums inside the walls of the late Roman pleasure palace of Diocletian which has subsequently been built & rebuilt into several evolution of medieval cities… outer fortifications & ramparts rising in times needing protection, then razed for more peaceful periods of expansion… always a center for trade, education & now enjoying revival as destination
for tourists like us.

Sporting palm trees & the beaches of which we probably won’t avail ourselves, being more interested in other culture, one appreciates how northern Europeans arrive for a sunny holiday with nightlife… a bit of which we did discover in a small adventure last night inside the bustle & throb of its heartbeat, walking the canyons deflecting crooning cafe singers, courtyards of jazz & disco, coming into soundscapes as corners were rounded then receding as quickly as entering another alleyway. We discovered a warren of venues, mostly under awnings sheltering outdoor tables served by small restaurants barely more than tiny kitchens hidden inside the nook of a thick wall… often down, or up! shadowy nearly invisible steps.

The bar we were seeking has the rare reputation of being gay friendly, if mixed… fine with us!

It turned out to be a long wide passageway gently-stepped &  furnished with an eclectic collection of cushions, stools, benches & small tables served by a waiter from a bar sending a fine collection of the last fifty years of music with which we have long danced. I enjoyed hearing forgotten memories from my twenties as we people-watched what was a parade rich for mostly inventive stories we share between ourselves…

The man sitting across the way from us was a bohemian author of
an intensely seamy novel on his phone which we might read in several years… 
not searching Grindr! 

The handsome Frenchmen with female companions… 
one sitting with his ass on a cushion thrust so far 
into the middle of the stone step supporting it 
that everyone passing had to try not to touch him… 
were secretly lovers…  
in spite of their female companions… 
not married couples.
The scene was quite unlike what we think of as a gay bar in the States!  As we prepared to leave we explored deeper up that passage & into a warren of spaces ever more exotic, filled with who we might have been looking for earlier in the evening, but seemingly only now getting started in their own nights’ bacchanal. Our choice was to return to our fine hotel not so far by foot… or perhaps ages away in the richness of this old district.

This city began as the late Roman emperor Diocletian’s summer palace in 300 AD or so. Centuries later it has become a museum chronicling its strategic situation along the Venetian trade routes, Further fortified walls were added, then torn down in peaceful times…  medieval houses were built into nooks & crannies of the various ruins. The emperor’s tomb became the small cathedral with its bell tower added, the town buildings rose, tumbled & were remodeled or rebuilt over the centuries until it became iconic enough to be declared a UNESCO Heritage site. 

Our hotel has been newly remodeled inside what we could observe had within the recent memory of one of the youthful staff housed a cinema, probably earlier a more proper theater, although she did not know about that. Seemingly the history which draws the tourist trade is not so important to the population who grew-up here, who now choose to stay here. Stephen regularly asked to discover that most in Split are happily native… unlike in Dubrovnik, where they come to work with the intention to go back to their villages.
We began at the formal gate into the palace on the land side…
guarded by theatrical centurions
 The city’s museum explained & displayed visions of the original palace.
 The original footprint… & it’s elevation retains,
even as many centuries’ opportunistic renovations
in-built the grand spaces inside these walls 
into delightful warrens of intimate streets.
Many treasures reward explorers.

The vestibule of the emperor’s apartment was a resonant “whispertorium”. 
Designed to audibly alert the paranoid resident of any intruders.
It has become quite a perfect venue for the acapella groups called Klapa
Climbing up, we discovered the opening of the oculus above the vestibule.
I now wonder how those voices sound up here.
  
In the deep foundations far below at water level these steps show the wear of rough traffic as provisions were off-loaded from the ships in the harbor.
 I might have wished for the support of something like this whimsical hand-rail
which was found in another museum
 Support, even in these stones standing for millennia, takes many forms…
 While some walls need bracing…
 Roman vaulting seems strong…
 The history of here is long. This embroidered fashion reminds that 
cosmopolitan currency was important in this city’s history. 
[zoom-in if you’re into fibre!]
 I was captivated by this stately sink…
Curiously high-up in the roof of the museum… 
Puzzling before i grokked that any kitchen fire 
would better happen atop the stone substructure.
Meaning thus that having any water meant a lot of trudging work.
Now, however, we lunched at one of the many restaurants along the pedestrian friendly waterfront.
Yes, more octopus, although, since telling friends who are more conscious about those animal’s high intelligence than I have been, i am rethinking my gustatory appreciation.
To know ones self is a gift… to become comfortable with that must be one’s art.
Venice & the Biennialle are just a short flight ahead in the next posting…

RE-ENTRY & A PASSAGE…

After an absence nearing a year it seems obvious I cannot just slip back into what I’ve been ignoring… with sadness & to my disappointment. the year is being its own kind of animal… giving a bit of a wild ride!

Winter poured our total annual average of rainfall by April. Inside grey moods, weeding would only make mud wallows. Slip & sigh…

A significant mud-slide immediately to the south of us honed our awareness of our fabulous fragility…

We found some respite in our annual visit to help Mother-in-Love Helen travel to or from her condo on the gulf coast of Florida, Long Boat Key, near Sarasota.

This year we brought her back home to Minnesota. Needing ever more help… after 98 years of vibrant life… she is gradually gracefully slowing down.

The always momentous month of May brings our Vashon Island Art Studio Tour for the first two weekends. ‘Twas the usual scramble to prep both studio & garden for show-time. Mother Nature reliably saves me with her generosity!

So… the year is being good.. It certainly is being very rich… & mostly happy.

Traditionally we visit my mother during May. She lives comfortably in her own apartment, part of our youngest brother’s home in Fort Morgan, Colorado. Much of my family lives along the I-25 corridor, from Rye to Loveland/Longmont.

My Bro-Jon, who lives in Kansas City impulsively flew to join us for a fine bit of family time. We also have other deep friends whom we love to visit in both Boulder & Denver.

We drove a triangle which included time with Brother David, Love-Sis Michelle plus Niece Lisa & her family. A rare feast.

We returned to a summer which brought another record-breaking period… months without any rainfall!

We were planning & prepping to set-up GRB Bells’ canopied booth for the Island’s Strawberry Festival… one of the few out-of-studio shows I do. But, only a few days before that event, it became evident that we were needed in MN. We flew to help Helen by spelling sister Alice & Bro-in-Love John, who because they live close to her, have taken the yeoman’s share of her daily care.

I stayed a month. Learning & loving ever more to care for Helen. She & I developed & honed more deeply useful communication inside our decades of a familial lovingly unique relationship.

We chose each other for this journey.

She blessed our long-laid plans to travel in September & October… even as such “plans” necessarily became more truly improvisations as I replaced our friend Orlando with whom Stephen had planned to travel for the first leg… but who had to cancel because of undeniable back difficulties.

Originally I planned join Stephen in Venice… after their tour of the Dalmatian Coast, Croatia. With only days to change tickets… with a stretch & a splurge … I danced into taking Orlando’s place. We had a wonderful time together.

Now I am working to edit the 1700 photos I made & & stitching & quilting them together with amplifying the few snatches of journal I managed to write along the way into what will become several posts about the trip…

Only days upon our return we repacked to fly to be with Helen again… relieving Sis-Alice & Bro-in-Love John, who have been such reliable… constant & essential caretakers. Now they were scheduled for a week of babysitting their grandchildren…

Helen’s strength had faded to the point it taxed the two people required to help her move inside the the ever smaller radius of her world. We were concerned about safety for us all & she agreed it was time for her to move to the hospice only blocks away from her condo. This small facility takes wonderful care for the whole family. We were gifted richer time to spend together with her as she lived the last few days of her long life.

Stephen & I were with her in the quiet moments of her passing… Stephen sweetly singing hymns to her. They had such an intensely close relationship. I was honored to be where I wanted… holding them both in that beauty.

HELEN FITCH SILHA

Love is reflected in love

— Mary Baker Eddy

Helen Fitch Silha passed away peacefully October 21 
of natural causes, surrounded by loving family.
Helen was born May 21, 1919 in Manhattan, Kansas, the third child of James Burgess Fitch and Alice Rakestraw Fitch. She had an older brother, Dr. William Fitch, 
and an older sister, Marjorie Fitch Shaffer.
Her father later became head of the dairy division of Kansas State University in Manhattan. In 1935, Mr. Fitch came to the University of Minnesota as head of the dairy division there and Helen finished high school at Marshall High in Minneapolis.
A lifelong learner, Helen attended Principia College in Elsah, Illinois for two years, then returned to the University of Minnesota where she received her degree in education in 1941. She taught social studies and English in Tracy, Minnesota schools. She also worked in the Student Activities Bureau at the University of Minnesota.
Helen married Air Force Corporal Otto A. Silha at the Fitch home on September 4, 1942. Their long marriage was enriched by Otto’s media career as publisher and CEO of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune / Cowles Media Company. Together they founded the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law, which conducts research and presents lectures. Otto died in 1999. 

I have long respected & loved my Mother-in-Love.

INDONESIA QNE – BALI…

We love escaping     the overwrought holidays 
 with their traditional obligations
[usually involving some gleeful threat of snow…]
Whenever we can free ourselves.
Thank you, my Sweetman, 
for your irritating wisdom 
about planning!
After our last trip four years ago, 
we hungered for a more tropical solstice.
We flew to visit our friends Joel & Nirgrantha. 
They host guests at Villa Vagra
in the village of Sebali, near Ubud, 
an artistic center on Bali, 
only one of the many islands collected as
the country of Indonesia 
in the the south seas.

After nearly 30 hours of door-to-door travel we arrived in Bali just before the solstice… Mostly escaping the frenetic holiday energy, although Christmas is a commercial event with decor widely seen even in Buddhist & Muslim countries.

A 13 hour flight from Seattle, left for Taipei just after midnight Saturday/Sunday, crossed the International Date Line to arrive early Monday. We flew EVA Elite so we enjoyed slightly more spacious seats plus, quite nice service & good food.

Meals on the flight to Taipei consisted by our choice of multiple bowls of mostly Chinese foods, avoid the western load of gluten: pasta & bread]. I especially enjoyed breakfast of “congee”… as written on the menu, but verbalized as “porridge”… a soft rice, more liquid than not, with additions including a packet of fluffy flavoring powder delightfully, aptly called “fish floss”. I want more!

I remembered being introduced decades ago, to a similar breakfast a friend from Singapore called “jook”. I realized too late that the pickled salad was intended to be added, as Tinnee had taught me in those Sedona days. I prefer savory breakfasts.

Memory…

Another 5 hour flight brought us to Denpasar, Bali where our friend Joel met & drove us… while rain threatened… an hour more to their Villa Vajra near Ubud…  putting us, for this visit, in the larger guest villa, which is usually rented out, but tourist times are tough on Bali and much of Indonesia, due in part to overbuilding.

Joel had arranged to have a masseur ready to welcome us with wonderful body-work before a simple dinner. What a delightful treat to have the wrinkles of traveling deliciously ironed out! During my massage there came as well the welcome of a first delightful thunderstorm!

This was the view from the massage table on our bedroom’s covered deck looking down into the living/dining pavilion… two stories of open space with drop-down weather shades.

We had indeed leapt ahead of time by flying over the International Date Line… so we went directly to bed, quite ready to sleep into our jet-lag.

I began a journal on the plane which continued to evolve fulsomely throughout this entire travel. I have a rather checkered history with such travel journals, which often find themselves neglected in all the movement. This one informs this text.

Remember that I am rather a hermit meditating in a fast lane. I’ve become comfortable choosing to miss some excursions to enjoy instead rare qualities hovering ’round the solitude essential to savor  dancing so lively in time & place. Travel has many complexions…

Waking from deep sleep accompanied by intense frog-song, we joined Joel &  their sweetly aging dogs, Abelard & Heloise for their regular walk along the nearby ridge familiar from our last visit four years ago…

The grass growing along the ancient stones is what becomes the traditional material for thatched roofs, which are becoming more rare due to their shorter life span than iron-wood shingles, which, while more expensive last years longer.

A treat was to see a small, low growing, version of Passion Flower…
At the trail head is this demon’s mouth doorway, 
carved from the wood of a tree root system…

Back home for a gorgeous breakfast with Nirgrantha in their delightfully efficient villa. A lovely plate of fruit: banana, kiwi & the incredible, richly flavored mango & papaya which are in high season.

A lovely wild native orchid blooms in front of their sofa:

On the wall of their courtyard garden is a zig-zagging black pepper vine, which I identified in answer to Nirgrantha’s quiz, having seen them in India.

But the rich exuberance of plant life in the tropics is exemplified by simple moss on a lovely pot…

I might wish to attend the sale of his textile collection which Nirgrantha intends, such as this jacket on their bedroom wall.

Or… this sarong patterned guaranteed to make any movement an undulation… I doubt I could afford such treasures as he has collected in his years here.

Joel suggested lunch at a vegetarian/vegan restaurant he’d recently discovered, accessible only along a rough road followed by a bit of a walk, which made it impossible for Nirgrantha to join us.

He is confined to the interior their walled villa’s two roofed sections… living & sleeping… with a garden & pool between. Such architectural incorporation of the tropical bio-system becomes lovely logic.

Moksa is another open pavilion set well above & overlooking its garden planted in the river-bed’s fertility. I was entranced by the graceful swirls creating beds shaped with puzzle-nobs of paths interlocking soil. All bordered with a staccato of coconut husks, sensibly allowing the middle of them to be easily accessed… delighting this gardener!

The plates were deliciously inventive… served in / on pottery made by the partner of the owner who runs the front-end. I got to meet the other partner, who is the chef, to compliment him on the raw squash “spaghetti” I had so enjoyed sauced with a turmeric dressing… which I finished with a spoon!

We ought to have visited the potter’s studio/store, but we had too little time… Joel wanting to get back to check on Nirgrantha. We did stop to change money, each rather instantly becoming millionaires several times over, in the local Rupia, for a $200.00 investment!

Both of us napped more deeply than intended… waking in the jungle twilight just before dinner. Grilled Mahi-Mahi & poppingly-delicious small potatoes roasted with rosemary… plus the Brussels sprouts which we’d brought from home at their request, being impossible to get in the tropics. A holiday feast!

Another deep sleep, with curious dreams, brought me to waking just before dawn, to watch the fireflies blinking like morning stars above the mosquito netting of our bed. I got-up to enjoy the coming of the light on this solstice morning.

Solstice still is important here, almost at the equator… just enough below to make some noticeable difference, according to Joel, as the longest day of the year.

Leaves from their Bodi tree… genetically a true scion of the Buddha’s… hold deep truth.

We decided not to follow our original plan to go into Ubud for lunch & to shop. It seemed it would be too crowded. Instead Joel suggested lunch at a new eco/farm restaurant higher up the road where he’d celebrated his recent birthday. The half-hour drive took us through an area frequented by tourists, so there were numerous open shopping places for all sorts of schlock around a once picturesque rice terraces… now looking too shoddy for that traffic to even want to photograph… illustrating what he explained as the rapid deterioration of local culture.

At Basanta we were met as we parked by a guy with walkie-talkie bringing a young woman who turned out to be our guide [& later our server]  through the rather newly developing gardens, showing us the two strains of coffee [Arabica & Robusta] which they sell as “Luwac”… which I will explain later to those not too faint for adventure. We ate in one of several typically open thatched pavilions overlooking a lush valley.

Joel & I had interesting avocado smoothies laced with chocolate, pretty, but I might prefer a spicier addition rather than such heavy sweetness. They were too much like dessert! Stephen’s drink was made with beets… a lovely color. We were put-off by the plastic straws, after having a more beautifully organic version made from stems of papaya… a clue to how clueless we ultimately found much of this operation.

One starter was deep fried spinach… a variety with large densely textured leaves. I’m curious what was the batter’s binder, making an equally sturdy crispness… eggs, perhaps. The other was a timbal made of fruit & veggies enclosed with long thin petals of sliced cucumbers, another technique I wish to try at home. Main courses were a fruit & vegetable “pate” contained in a collar of banana leaf stitched with a pick of bamboo, a similarly wrapped bundle of batter fried potatoes, perched horizontally atop, floating in an orange sauce. We shared a second preparation of red rice served with a basket of various sauces, small salads & bits of flavorful preparations & sambals, all contained in a tight composition of more stitched banana leaf vessels.

While all was fine in its elaboration, the meal did not seem so well tended as the lunch the day before. The entire experience seemed contrived toward the notion of the curious coffee, which involves collecting the beans after being processed through the digestive systems of civets [a weasel like animal] which supposedly works some wonder worthy of exorbitant price. We did not like the idea, seeing the rather cruelly caged animals & samples of the the end of the process. Such curious excess of obvious & overt-marketing seemed another example of what “eco” & “organic” are not really about. The gammon music was boringly repetitive & the rackety walkie-talkies the entire staff carried at full volume were distracting & disturbingly insensitive.

We would not recommend it over Moksa… or indeed at all!
No matter, 
by the time we arrived home all was again refreshed 
Ganesha…

INDONESIA TWO – JAVA – PRAMBANAN

One important part of this travel to SE Asia was to visit two ancient archaeologic temple sites near Jogjakarta,…on the island just west of Bali… we flew to Java on Christmas Day. Java is predominantly Muslim, while Bali is mix of Hindu & Animist.

Borobudur is Buddhist. Prambanan is Hindu. Both were built in the 9th century. Each is unique to the style of religious, philosophic or artistic  manner… particularly in silhouette… yet with notable resonances in detail suggesting notions toward friendly co-existence at that time, in this place…

Our cab driver from the airport offered us a two day package including both sites… plus, as it turned-out, several more adventure-not-predicament stories!

We accepted… he delivered us shortly at Prambanan.
Remember, this was Christmas Day [look at the left side of this photograph]…
… at a Hindu Temple complex…
 …in a Muslim country…
 We were antique or at least aging moderns in free-fall…

In the orientation pavilion there was this handsomely stylized model of the 
basic architectural form…
 Another model shows the scope of the entire site, a series of terraced courtyards enclosing the three main towers, 
Devoted to Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu.
In all there were some 200 smaller temple structures surrounding the central towers, presently still seen as piles of unsorted stones awaiting restoration.
This ninth century Hindu temple complex is a Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site which has been only partially restored after several huge long ago earthquakes tumbled its un-mortared stone towers. 
Particularly on a day dancing under lively lovely clouds these make a sharply jagged silhouette with the tallest being some 47 meters 
[approximately 140 feet] in height. 

All the surfaces are elaborately carved with borders & decoration. 
An impressively huge effort, both in the original building & in the reconstructions during the last century by a series of international archaeologic efforts.
 Steep high steps lead up through several levels of narrow terraces 
around which one can circumambulate to view the distant landscape between sculptural elements or 
look down 
to  carved stone panels
 telling stories from the Ramayana… 
an ancient Hindu holy history.
 Near the top were deep dark chambers housing large sculpted images
 We took our turns at the crowded doorways to allow others to enjoy their arrival inside the heart of these structures. My eyes needed time to adjust, coming in from the bright sunlight, also I enjoyed sharing some intimate moments.

Because of the universal end-of-year holidays the sites we have come to visit are quite crowded… mostly local tourists, rather than western ones… many families & student groups… assuredly almost none celebrating the holiday we were there to avoid, yet all knowing the nearly universal aspects of the commercial Christmas Mythology.

Universality…

We, being the rare westerners, attracted attention… numerous shy smiles from young students… encouraged & emboldened by our own easily responsive smiles… demonstrated they were eager to practice their English.

They inevitably began by asking where we are from.Upon hearing “USA” they got even more excited & wanted to have us pose with them for selfies… or… grouping around us, one trading places in turn with another, to join the merriment of spontaneously friendly photographic moments.

We must accept we are millionaire stars of some variety…

I think of the old notion that photographs could “steal” souls… which might then suggest that part of our souls are captured in faraway albums doing this kind of cross-cultural work!

Nearly everyone, older as well as young, has a cell phone & were making frequent shots just as I was doing with my Nikon.

While we all were collecting soul from the ancient art, we were collected as well in the present opportunity enjoying how humans naturally communicate.

Happily we were also captured by a group of young men to pose in their shots… Stephen handing his phone to the one shooting saved that moment’s soul-energy for ourselves!

Some groups were wearing identifying tee shirts or hats, but also many dressed beautifully in lovely, fashionable color-coordinated head scarves, Stephen caught some of them in a candid moment…

Echoing the interesting contrast of graceful curves gentling the very steep steps.
Some details were happily almost whimsical!
I found these illustrations of the several restorations quite interesting, showing various modes of reconstruction techniques:

The site is quite impressive, complex in it’s original construction & even more so in its reconstruction & restoration. It will long remain to be a huge puzzle!

Our driver asked if we were interested to stop at a batik shop, which indeed we were… wanting more shirts in this complicated craft of wax-resist dying for which Indonesia is famous. It turned out to be the same place Joel & Nirgrantha had suggested we visit!

We spent a happy hour with two helpful women wearing matching headscarves… the uniform of the store… finding gorgeous additions to our own wardrobes of shirts… these being very well made of high quality work in both the lovely dying & fine tailoring… we also bought a few for gifts. It is easy to spend our millions!
 
At last, after hours from our early start, long drive to the short flight, tour of the temple, we arrived our hotel, where we were happily gifted our room earlier than usual… we were ready for a nap!

INDONESIA – THREE – JAVA TWO: THE PHOENIX & BOROBADUR

At last, after many hours from our early start with the long drive to the short flight, tour of the temple & a shopping excursion for batik shirts, we arrived at our hotel, where we were happily gifted our room early.
The Hotel Phoenix was built in 1918 as the home of a spice trader & is now a registered historic building. It was purchased in 1930s by a Dutch gentleman who urned it into a pensioner’s hotel named The Splendid. After the Japanese occupation [1943-45] it became the Chinese Consulate. It was, by hearsay, supposed to have become the  residence of the first president of the Republic Of Indonesia, Sukarno. 
In 1993 it was remodeled & added onto in handsomely matching manner to become 144 rooms, all with cast-iron railings on their sweet balconies. Ours overlooked the original courtyard where we enjoyed the elaborate breakfast buffet, 
 
We relished the restored antiquity of the Phoenix, with delightful stained-glass clearstory windows & a graceful glass doors etched with ginkgo leaves in Art Nouveau style. 

The first morning we got up to meet our driver at 4:00 in order to be at the Borobudur temple site in time for sunrise at its pinnacle… each with our “breakfast-in-a-box” offered by the hotel. I’d requested mine to be gluten-free, of course. I discovered only later it must have been packed by the janitor! A tiny tough, sour apple with a matching orange, a better banana & three dried-out slices of rice bread… no butter, nor any of the nice cream cheese which Stephen got with his pastry… & no napkin nor even a plastic knife to cut the fruit into pieces my dentures could handle… nothing to punch into the peel-proof safety-seal on the bottle of juice… “Gluten-free” seemed to imply I’m a monkey!
But… for the two following mornings, the breakfast buffet below our balcony more than made-up for that lapse. European offerings of pastries, cheese boards, smoothies & omelettes… or the Asian offerings including a traditional Javanese breakfast, presented by a woman s, seated on a low dais to serve spicy rice dishes & exotic juices… or fine rich chicken soup ladled over rice porridge, made even more savory with choices of garnishes like dry fried onions, toasted soy nuts & sweet soy sauce. Javanese food is generally sweeter than my usual taste, but delightfully spicy as well. Always there were wonderful selections of tropical fruit!

A handsome young waiter kept us well “kopied”… this is a land known for its coffee [kopi], including the familiar Java & Sumatra.

A European fountain, original to the house, spouted water from the mouths of four curly-horned Pan heads, held up by a bevy of naiads, into a sweet small pool where the original swimming pool had been, now making space for small dining tables on the surrounding terrace. All is a well tended throw-back to a colonial century ago. Just fine for us!
Because we have been so busy moving about, much slowed by the extremely heavy holiday traffic, we enjoyed lovely late afternoon naps, waking to take refreshing showers & have a cocktail in the quiet bar &  before our dinner outings. We’ve mostly enjoyed simple local food as our choice. The city has numerous universities & colleges, so is full of student energy.

BOROBUDUR…

We agreed to be picked-up early by our driver for our intention to watch the sunrise from the second site we planned to visit… the Buddhist temple complex called Borobudur.

It has become well advertised as a place to watch sunrise on a special ticket, so we became part of another crowd of tourists, this time more international, Being given a flashlight to facilitate the trek to the top of its broad pyramid in the dark we joined the pilgrimage to the base of the looming low pyramid… a very different silhouette or profile than the steep angles of Prambanan.

I have long nurtured a reputation for being lazy in the morning…
However, I have rather often been caught getting up in the “middle of the night” on this trip,
either because of jet-lag or for these adventures.
I’m happy for them!
This actually was the main attraction to us for this excursion to Java… I had studied it in college art history classes, remembering it’s distinctive bell-shaped stupas, 
but having little notion of it’s enormity. 
Equally ancient as Pramanan, the site we visited yesterday, Borbudur has also been involved with the same vicissitudes of earthquake disruption & volcanic intrusion over centuries. Long forgotten under cover of volcanic ash grown over with jungle until the 17th century Dutch discovered remnants of carved stone under what looked like just another hill.

Several centuries of various excavations revealed much more… numerous Buddha heads being broken-off & sold as souvenirs in Europe. Eventually it too became a World Heritage site & has been much restored by the efforts of UNESCO. It may be the largest Buddhist temple in the world.

Winded a bit by the hasty climb we joined more than 100 others from all over, Indonesians, Japanese, Australian, European & North Americans. We share the same planet circling the star we had come to watch bringing a new day… may it be peaceful! 
The sound-track in this expectant moment was dominated by the clicking of camera shutters over the voices murmuring in many languages… taking photos seems to have become the dominant universal language. Actually, here it was nearly impossible to take a shot without including someone else making their own photo! The ubiquitous selfie sticks would unexpectedly pop up into the composition I had framed for its momentary illusion of a lack of humanity… “ruining” my hope for something more pristine. 
As I studied in the increasing light, it became obvious this was a giant antique form of lego blocks: nearly identically carved stones locked together by tenons fitting into sockets so well that they could be re-assembled. Stones having varying patinas from the numerous places they had fallen-out of the original exposure, Variously oxidized or sun-bleached yet becoming a new version of that original in a patchwork of subtly differing colors. After a bit of initial disappointment, being slightly annoyed that there was no pristine coloration, 
I gradually became impressed by an ancient technical design skill 
I had not expected.

Thus the all-ness forever practices being perfectly unstable. They might once again & yet again become tossed & reconstructed in future seismic events.
A new appreciation for me!
Each stupa sheltered a meditating Buddha facing facing every direction…
Unfortunately many of those sculptures, particularly their heads, 
were long ago carted-off as souvenirs. 
Some stupas now contain headless Buddhas, others, nothing at all! 
Fitting, perhaps, to the formlessness 
which that practice seeks.
Nonetheless quite sad artistically & archaeologically,
Still… here is spirit.
Several have been left open to demonstrate.
This one faces the still regularly destructive volcano.
 Now it is very popular prize for photographers… increased, perhaps, by a group of Japanese folk.
 Devotion of some seemed obviously staged for the camera’s lens…
 
My Coup d’Grace was making a photo
of Stephen, making a photo of a woman, making yet another photo… 
of the Japanese woman we’d been noticing 
posing in various prayerful attitudes for quite some time… 
in deep devotion to ego it might seem.

 I love the story… catching my version of their versions
in a triptych of photography.

I became fascinated by the grotesques at the tops of stair rails… 
never quite knowing whether their tongues were lapping us in welcome. 
Or spitting us out as intruders…
It became a lovely experience enjoying holiness of people in place… 
 We enjoyed, as well, our own moments
 playing poseurs!
At ground level, in daylight, we could better realize 
what supported our experiences above in dawn’s light.
Even at short distance, one can realistically imagine how 
a couple of earthquakes,  
plus a heathy volcano spewing ash 
could create a jungled hill 
hiding history for centuries
 I first heard “No Scratching” in the exercised voice of a woman 
climbing up the those steep steps onto the level where I stood puzzled
scratching my bald head…
until I began to notice the numerous signs admonishing against graffiti!
Of course, it became a gentle joke 
 
 The lower terraces present wide corridors with reliefs telling stories…
interestingly similar to the Hindu site.
 We enjoyed our own moment of playing poseurs as well!
I still puzzle the bell shapes called stupas, accepting them as probably not actually referencing bells so much as airy enclosures in which the Buddha sculptures meditate in some perpetually stony resonance… still, my bell maker can imagine an eternal resonance impossible in any physical other than some sense of holiness. I am happy to ponder all that in the eternal moment which this place brings as a gift from deep past…

I still puzzle the bell shapes called stupas, accepting them as probably not actually referencing bells so much as airy enclosures in which the Buddha sculptures meditate in some perpetually stony resonance… still, my bell maker can imagine an eternal resonance impossible in any physical other than some sense of holiness. I am happy to ponder all that in the eternal moment which this place brings as a gift from deep past…

Looking down we celebrated having seen this before the crowds arrived.
As the gates opened to the throngs without early tickets,
we began to move down, exploring side terraces with friezes telling stories resonating with those at Prambanan. 
It is suggested that these two religions existed in some kind of easy communication during time in this place. 

 In daylight we could see what supported our experience in dawn’s light above.
At short distance one can see how a couple of earthquakes, 
plus a heathy volcano spewing ash, could easily construct a jungled hill
Continuing down the wide walkway to the exit we met arriving groups of school girls, who, emboldened by our returning their smiles of curiosity… would chorus almost in unison “Hello, mister!”… once adding “we love you”!

So was the feeling of admiration & respect for our answering their “where do you come from?” questions with “USA”… “Ahhh… Ooo-S-A… very big country!” then often mentioning the presidential personalities… loving Obama, of course, yet often mentioning the “new president” with several attitudes… sometimes questing our opinion of him. Usually we would all agree to a wait & see attitude. They study about us, yet we know so little about them…

Returning our flashlights got us a coffee & snack before meeting our driver to eat those boxed breakfasts the hotel had packed for us…