Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Drive in the Country

Last Sunday we took a drive in the countryside, which for us is the northern "badia" (semi-arid, desert-like, but not officially desert). A friend had shown Dear Husband a reserve area about a 10 minute drive north of Mafraq; sheep are not allowed to graze there and so wildflowers abound in the spring, so he says. I think we were a little early as we only found some promising green sprouts here and there.

We continued past the reserve and came across a deserted a stone(mostly) and mud brick (some) village. This looked like a good place to get out and explore. Note of interest: some mud brick structures are still inhabited and as late as 1963 nearly all of Mafraq, now a city of 50,000, consisted of mud brick structures.

Artist Son was able to do some sketching

I, of course, went searching for signs of new flora life. All I found were some stinging nettles.

Pretty though they were, with their aubergine colored immature fruits, the hypodermic needle-like hairs on their leaves gave them away, and one slight accidental brush against a leaf in the process of photographing them confirmed my identification. Definitely, stinging nettles.

Roman Nettles
Urtica piluifera

Wildflower spotting: village about 10 kilometers northwest of Mafraq

While I search ground for signs of flora life, Dear Husband and Tatya's eyes searched for potter sherds. Dear Husband showed Tayta how to tell the difference between pottery that was fired in a hot vs a not-so-hot oven: the pottery fired at a lower temperature a core layer of pottery which is a different color than the terracotta exterior (shown above).

Tayta taking shelter from the strong wind

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sending Wooly Love

I wanted to sendd my love on Valentine's Day and with no opportunity to purchase a card in Mafraq, Jordan, making a card was my only option. Uninspired to create something from paper and about to give up the whole idea of a card, I thought of making something like a card from felted wool. I certainly had plenty of wool scraps to choose from--it would be so easy! And so it was.

A New Kind of Card with felted wool

I cut out the hearts freehand with my pinking shears. The stitching, with three strands of pink DMC embroidery floss, took a little longer than it should have because my hand is so unpracticed. And, my eyes are a lot worse than they were in my former embroidery days. I decided not to fuss much (working with felted wool is helping me with that) and did the letters freehand as well. All this took about an hour.

I think I've found my medium.

Edit: Oldest Daughter, the recipient of these hearts told me she's going to try to fasten them to the inside of her violin case as she heads out on grad school auditions. Now, she's never done that with a paper greeting card I've given her.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fine Art~ Michelangelo Caravaggio

Before we made our trip to London's National Gallery in December, Artist Son asked his art teacher for advice as to how he should approach a gallery trip. She advised him to pick a few pieces that he especially liked, study them, and try to sketch them.

Artist Son's imagination was captured by the beautiful realism of Michelangelo Caravaggio's work, and he spent more time gazing at his Supper at Emmaus (based on Luke 24) than he did any other painting in the gallery. He began a sketch, but it was hard to work on as there was a near constant stream of viewers moving before this famous painting.

Supper at Emmaus
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
The National Gallery

Does it remind you of another famous painting? DiVinci's The Last Supper perhaps? It did, me: Jesus in the center, eyes on him, breaking of bread, dramatic hand gestures. A striking difference, however, is the way in which Caravaggio's scene comes alive as he has so brilliantly captured the recognition of Christ. Here is another analysis of the painting that I enjoyed.

A short artist sketch on Caravaggio, by Artist Son
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio stands out in history as a revolutionary artist because of his uncompromising quest for truth. Caravaggio can be classified as a naturalist because he aims to present not an idealized or beautified picture of the world, but rather to depict the world as it really is. Caravaggio was not afraid of ugliness, but neither was he abrasive enough to praise it for its own sake. Instead, his intention was to faithfully copy nature , whether the viewer thought it ugly or beautiful.

Caravaggio’s works center around religious themes and events. The style with which he portrayed those holy events was without precedent and his contemporaries were often repulsed by their “unconventionality”. Yet, none of his critics’ remarks so much as moved him. He worked tirelessly to remove the barrier of time dividing the ancient events from the present and used every means he could to make the holy events come alive. He often used his friends and acquaintances, common lay-people as models. He rarely worked off sketches but preferred to work in an organic fashion – finding the shapes and forms with paint. Perhaps this method removed the stiffness or flatness of his figures and enhanced the impression of a believable three dimensional world. At any rate, this method allowed him to produce work after work in rapid succession, much quicker than many other artists. Also, instead of manipulating light to suffuse his scene with a pleasant glow as the classical painters did, he treated it with honesty, often fostering sharp contrast between light and shadow. All this he did to create dramatic representations that would arrest his viewers with their boldness and lifelike quality.

And a few more words on Caravaggio's realism, from Artist Son, lifted from a persuasive speech he gave against sentimentalism in art and using Caravaggio's painting, Doubting Thomas as an example:

Doubting Thomas
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
Sanssouci, Potsdam

Artists of the past can provide present day artists with examples of how this* is done. Caravaggio, a Catholic artist who lived a very dark and pained existence knew firsthand the potency of evil. His work shows that. In the painting above, the viewer is boldly confronted with a disturbing image: doubting Thomas having his finger thrust into the wound in Christ’s side. In fact, by the graphic portrayal of light, the huge proportions of the figures when compared to the frame, and the intensity and concentration in the moment, the viewer finds himself a part of the scene. We cringe when we look at Thomas’ finger sticking into Christ’s side. We feel the flesh. What’s more, we can’t ignore it because Christ is firmly clasping our wrist and leading our finger into his side. This is a painting that reveals the unveiled effects of sin.

*Thesis: Knowing that “sentimentalism resents evil instead of fighting it” (Douglas Wilson) the church should make an effort to encourage art that demonstrates evil as real and dangerous, and must be actively fought against, not ignored.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Devoted to the Word

If I had to pick the one thing about my Husband that I most appreciate and that has been the most important in our marriage and life of our family, it would be, without hesitation, his diligence in intentionally and regularly bringing our family together around God's Word, and by it, faithfully shepherding us and guiding us.

I know that it is this is not an easy role to fulfill for many parents, and indeed, we have not always made Dear Husband's job a joy and delight. I've spoken to a number of parents that have a desire to lead their children in regular times in God's Word, but they don't know quite where to begin or how to do it, so whenever I find a worthy devotional guide I am glad to recommend it.

Lord, Have Mercy: Discovering Jesus in the Days Before Easter, a Family Devotional Guide for Lent, by Amy Edwards

I recently downloaded this Lenten season/Easter devotional guide, now available as an e-book for only $2.99. Written by cyber-friend and fellow homeschooling mother, Amy Edwards, this book looks to be a wonderful resource for families with younger through middle-school aged children. Features that makes this devotional guide especially accessible for parents are numerous questions provided, some simpler comprehension questions, and some broader discussion questions AND thoughtfully written answers.

From the introduction:

My prayer is that this book of family devotions will help your family prepare for a glorious Easter and help you succeed in bringing your family together in the Word. Rather than observing Lent as a set of rules and regulations, let’s make it a time to fix our eyes on Jesus. Lent should be Christ-centered, not me-centered. What a wonderful opportunity Lent gives us to focus on Jesus and His earthly ministry and the meaning of the Gospel.

It isn’t easy to maintain a family devotional habit. Evening activities rush us, leaving little time to gather. Differences in the ages of our children make it difficult to keep everyone engaged in what we are reading. Inevitably, at least one of the kids tunes out. Worst of all, sometimes our kids complain about our attempts to have devotions. Devotions are a time devoted to worship, Scripture, and prayer. These things are not always entertaining, and some kids lose patience and complain of boredom. For parents who yearn for their kids to know and love God, this is crushing. May this devotional help you overcome these challenges.

Friday, February 03, 2012

February~Cyclamen persicum

February's Flowering Jordan bloom is one of my favorites: the graceful Cyclamen persicum.

Maybe it is the recent rains, the first signs of new wildflower life sprouting up around the country, mostly greens but I am recognizing the leaves of plants which will soon be blooming, or maybe it is the anticipation of the opening of Jordan's first Royal Botanical Gardens. Perhaps its a combination of all these things that have worked together to inspire me to dust off my Flowering Jordan blog, and begin again. This blog is dedicated to featuring the magnificent flora of Jordan as I have enjoyed it, and as I continue to enjoy and learn about it. (The Flowering Jordan link in my sidebar is now active again.)

Wildflower spotting: Wadi 'Is Sir