Monday, August 30, 2010

The Culture Of Coffee: A Short History

The mythology and culture of coffee drinking as we know it began in the bazaars of Turkey and the front stoops of Yemen and quickly spread throughout the Middle East, into Europe via Vienna, and to the English colonies in the 1600s.

An Ethiopian goatherd is credited with the discovery of coffee's stimulant effects, thanks to an especially frisky goat that piqued his curiosity. Romantic and unverifiable, the story is befitting of a subject steeped in mythos. The truth is: coffee drinking had to start somewhere, and since all of civilization begins in Africa, it seems right that coffee drinking should have begun there, too.

The development of European coffeehouses as gathering places for people of all classes is credited with being the source of the French Enlightenment, as well as the French and American Revolutions. No longer drinking themselves into stupors from nonstop consumption of fermented grains and fruits, the only safe liquids to drink in those particular good old days, they needed something to do with their excess mental energies.

Not to be overlooked in this short treatise on coffee are the coffee-loving Italians, who gave us espresso and coffee houses in Greenwich Village and San Francisco's North Beach, which spawned the still-influential Beat Generation. This revolution in thought moved up the western flank of the U.S. to Portland and Seattle, seats of the Pacific Northwest's counterculture of the 60s.

Our contemporary reputation for great coffee and avid coffee drinkers is well known. Portland, as many may remember, had a thriving coffeehouse, folk music, and visual arts scene in the 50s and 60s. Too young for most of it, I recall longing to be part of it as an adolescent and have vivid recollections of its effects on American culture: folk music, Zen meditation, Jazz, obscure free-form poetry, Abstract Expressionism, and funky jug bands. (Does anyone remember The Holy Model Rounders?)

Today, aside from the staunchly independent purveyors of caffeine and culture that Portland is home to, we're stuck with the non-culture of a certain nameless coffee chain on nearly every corner. Pity.

An antidote to the numbing conformity that is served in every steaming paper cup, is Cloud Seven Cafe, a European-style coffeehouse located in Portland's Pearl District at 901 NW 10th on Jamison Square. They've invited Print Arts Northwest|PAN to show with them in September in a show titled Café Culture, featuring works of caffeinated themes from around the world.

Cafe Culture runs through the month of September, with an opening reception on First Thursday, 9|2, 6 - 9:00 pm.

Untiled etching by PAN member, Helen Trayle.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Platinum Prints | Columbia River Gorge

Die-hard Traditionalists Will Jeer ...

... at the very notion of calling these 'platinum prints', since the process of creating a platinum print in the darkroom takes hours. But I gotta say, they work ... on many levels. These have a quality that outshines most digital images and have the same, or better, depth that "real" platinum prints present to the viewer.

You tell me. What do you think?

Cliff Face, Columbia River Gorge
Multnomah Bridge Three
Multnomah Falls Bridge
Dog Mountain, Columbia River Gorge
Multnomah Falls Cliff Face
All images ©2010, Lora R Fisher

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sunset Hours, Columbia River Gorge, part 2

More Time Out, Thank You.

Multnomah Cascade 5
Multnomah Falls Bridge
Shade Tree
Multnomah Bridge Three
Multnomah Cascade
©2010, Lora R Fisher

Sunset Hours, Columbia River Gorge

Time-Out After A Day Of Endless City ...

Multnomah Falls Cliff Face
Dog Mountain, Columbia River Gorge
Cliff Face
Bottom Land, Columbia River Gorge
©2010, Lora R Fisher

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fire In The Sky Series

A brief and glorious sunset.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
August, 2010

Fire In The Sky 6
Fire In The Sky 4
Fire In The Sky 3
Fire In The Sky 2
Fire In The Sky 1

© Lora R Fisher, 2010

Homage To The Macro Lens

There are words that can be written, but I swear, these may be two of humanity's greatest accomplishments:

The Sweet Apple and The Macro Lens.

Ancient Rhythms: Hawthorne Street Fair

A delightful surprise last Saturday morning ...

Like This, Master Drummer, Kerfala Fana Bangoura (seated)
Daddy's A Drummer
Master Drummer, Kerfala Fana Bangoura
Drumming Hands, Hawthorne Street Fair
Ancient Rhythms, Hawthorne Street Fair

All images: ©2010 Lora R Fisher

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Homage To The Humble & Glorious Blackberry

... Watering & Grazing ...

Breakfast this morning was a handful of raspberries, a half-dozen cherry tomatoes, and one smallish cucumber, gathered from various spots in my garden while watering in preparation for the coming heat. Fresh fruits of the vine and the inevitable cup of coffee: the best breakfast I've had in a good long time.

Lately, I've taken to making enough coffee when I awaken to provide myself with a large, icy latte in the afternoon. Nice. I'm going to miss being so hot that I want to cool off with coffee. However, there is plenty of time to grieve the loss of summer heat when it's actually gone. Not wise to do so in the season where staying cool is a full-time commitment.

... Perfection & The Seeking Thereof ...

I had a recent conversation with a perfectionist friend who spent an hour getting the cut right on a fascia board for his summer deck project. It took him four tries, so he said. He was bemoaning (great word) the fact that the first three tries simply were not "good enough".

I can relate.

I have my own perfection-seeking patterns. Most creative people do. The trick is to make the drive for perfection work for us, rather than letting it run us into the ground.

I can always tell when I've slipped into the latter. I've tried many times to push through it and, without fail, end up making things worse in the process. It's better, I've learned, to recognize when I'm at the crossroads of Frustration and Exhaustion, and give up the struggle and go home, at least temporarily.

The wise woman knows when it's time to quit. Sadly, I'm not always wise. I am, however, learning to pay attention to that grinding tone of frustration that my spirit emits when faced with a temporary setback.

... Nuts & Bolts & Alchemy ...

A recent project with a definite striving for perfection is the five-gallon batch of hoped-for blackberry wine, just now beginning to ferment in my laundry room.

Now, I've made blackberry wine before, and with great success, actually. (It was so good that it deserves a second "so".) Heavenly, honey sweetened, richer than the finest Port, from the ripest hand-picked wild-grown blackberries Oregon has to offer. I have the scars to prove it.

I've had a hankering to repeat the process. And, since this is blackberry season, I've been thinking about it almost daily, to the point of having a vivid dream about it this past Sunday morning. With that, I decided that I could no longer resist and would again venture into the realm of home-brewing.

The very next afternoon I bought all new equipment and the necessary ingredients, including canned blackberries this time. Having lost my previous carboy and paraphernalia in a divorce some years before, this was an expense that was only twice as expensive as I had expected.

Nuts and bolts lead to the alchemy. Alchemy is where the fun happens: heating the water, letting it cool to 75°, pouring in the blackberry slurry, estimating how much blackberry honey is just the right amount to create a not-too-sweet wine, and adding the yeast 24 hours later.

This mix of ingredients, the "must", is already starting to smell winy, although I can tell that I may need to add blackberry concentrate at the end of the process to get it closer to that rich, deep, and sumptuous blackberries-in-summer quality that I'm working to attain. (The drive to perfection surfaces and resurfaces.)

... Blackberries & Bastards ...

No question: blackberries are most definitely weeds. Weeds with which I have a passionate love|hate relationship. Keeping them from encroaching from the field behind my garden and into my garden takes vigilance and easy access to tools all summer long ... sweet-tasting, willful bastards.

Blackberries, however, are unquestionably superb in any edible form, be it a pie, jam, ice-cream, wine, or in that extraordinary state when hands, lips, tongue, and teeth are stained deep purple from hot, falling-off-the-vine, so-ripe-they're-already-half-wine, fresh-picked, fragrant and heavenly berries. Wild Oregon Blackberries out-pace and exceed in flavor even the best hybridized, bloated, and "perfected" Marion Berry.

Dang! There's really no substitute for the original, is there?

I'm thinking that my seeking of perfection will once again deliver me hot, scratched, stained, and satisfied with a morning's picking. With that, I can start a second batch of blackberry wine ... .

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Soft & Cloudy Sunday Morning ...

... and feeling on the verge.

Of what, I'm not sure.
At the very least: a new friendship.

Here are some photos from a while ago.

Air Brushed
Cloud Drama 1
Soft Palette
Cloud Drama 6
Killing Me Softly

All images © 2009 Lora R Fisher

Thursday, August 5, 2010

God, and stuff ... .

First, let me say that I have the feeling that The Universe is not going to hold it against anyone for not going back to church.

The church is a human construct and is, at the very least, flawed because of it. My take on how things work: any system that humans devise is imperfect to one degree or another. If we sense that, and leave it behind because it no longer works for us, it's usually a sign that we've grown beyond its limitations.

As with many, I have a distaste for organized religion. My background is less than formal and much less structured than what many have experienced|endured. I have fond memories of Methodist Sunday School, with a very white Jesus smiling benevolently upon his flock. It was comforting, but I kept searching his face looking for the truth of him, and could not find it.

Sunday school proved to be far less satisfying than running wild in the forest behind our five acres in the country of Oregon searching for fairies and pretending to be Robinson Crusoe. (There was no such thing as a Robin Crusoe when I was coming up, so he was the best role model I could find. Sakagawea and Dale Evans were in there somewhere, too.)

I tried returning to church in high school, mostly because my best friends were members of the First Christian Church in Monmouth. Even did the immersion baptism ritual, was President of the youth group, and had moments of community that temporarily filled the gaping hole that was my family. I was, and am, however, most drawn to the mystical side of Christianity ... that deep inner knowing that, I believe, Jesus/Yeshua tried to impart to his followers.

I know that he was one with Spirit and a gifted prophet (and revolutionary because of it). He tried mightily to wake people up to the simple truth that God|Truth|Spirit is within each of us, but, like most prophets, his words for the most part, fell on deaf ears.

The one whom I believe recieved his teachings the most directly: The Divine Ms M. Yes ... Mary Magdalene. I've studied her story, and the myths surrounding her for a number of years and have come to a number of conclusions about her. There's much to share on this subject, but I'll wait to be invited.

If I were to give myself a title, it would be: Gnostic-Christian-NativeAmerican-Pagan-Buddhist, but I prefer Synthesist, as in one who embraces what is true in each, and leaves the b.s. behind.

In my mind, there is no greater example of how to live a good life than the one Jesus set for us. (Although the Dalai Lama is doing a fine job, too.) We can only fall short, but not give up. I give thanks every day for the beauty and blessings of this life.

There is a strong streak of the rebel Scot and Wild Woman in me. My dad's mother was a Stewart, the founding clan in Scotland. They were the first Celts to set foot on 'Pritanni' as far as anyone can tell, and intermarried with the indigenous Picts who were native to the region we now call the British Isles. I love this part of my heritage. I also have a Cherokee Great-Grandmother back there a ways. Fond of that, too.

The blood coursing through these veins, the brain encased in my cranium, and the moments of wild abandon of my childhood, along with my "immersion" in Christian fundamentals are all gifts that continue to enrich my life. Most of all, I am grateful for the beauty that surrounds me each day. That and the fact that my parents decided to move to Oregon when I was a wee toddler.

Thanks, Mom & Dad ... .

Monday, August 2, 2010

Images From A Day Trip ...

Time Of Day, Silver Falls, Oregon

Silver Cavern, Silver Falls, Oregon

Silver Veil, Silver Falls, Oregon

Silver Rainbow, Silver Falls, Oregon

Forest Light, Silver Falls, Oregon

All images copyright: Lora R Fisher, 2010

Time Out | Time In

Here's to giving oneself a break now and then.

I just did and it was delightful.

Synopsis of my week:
Slept in. Read Sarah Dunant's In The Company Of The Courtesan. Mixed pigments. Applied paint to canvas. Shot photos. Processed photos. Sat in the shade. Talked with my daughter. Watched July turn into August. Listened to birds singing. Watered the garden. Relished the changing light, warmth, and mellowness of this time of year. Made a new friend.

I kissed the dog, held the cat like a baby, and simply enjoyed life for five glorious day.

I came away from these past five days with three important lessons:

1) I will assert my creative self into each day by saving a portion of it just for me, for this is the way I find balance and peace.

2) I will carry my camera with me wherever I go, with spare batteries always on hand, for this is the way I avoid frustration.

3) I will continue to talk and laugh with strangers, for this is a path to joy.