POLAND and ESTONIA have been on our tour schedule for many years. Not only have we met some wonderful people there, a peacefulness abounds in these countries in North Eastern Europe. We go in the summertime, so the weather is perfect, as the days and nights are moderate. The air is fresh and clean, and the pre-industrial world charm is still permeating the olde towns of Szczecin, in western Poland, and Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. We love them both, as well as our good friends we work with there.
There are some memorable architectural elements that we most often see in these places. This Town Hall in Olde Szczecin is now converted to a historical museum and a restaurant in the cellar. We went there for a meal, and I really appreciated the intricate and colorful brickwork on this building.
I can put myself in the craftsman’s shoes, and feel the hands that would have molded and put together such things. A special green glaze on the bricks, already intricately shaped to form the window and door frames, shows an artistic sensibility to put beauty over expediency. In the 1500’s this would have been high tech.
What is an ART LOOK anyway? What are we looking at here in the moment? We are definitely in present time. Thank goodness for iPhone technology that makes for fantastic pictures that only a couple decades ago would have been arduous to obtain. Now at our disposal are images of profound clarity and beauty. Also, I love to take pictures. As a boy I used to look at the “wordless workshop” diagrams in my father’s Popular Mechanics magazines that had no words, only pictures, to show how to make simple home projects. Something back that far made me gravitate toward the visual.
There is an intricacy of pattern and design that lends itself to capturing our attention. We do not take for granted facades like these. We want to stare at them and enjoy their order and elements, their symmetry and color, their beauty and balance. Someone put these works of architecture together. A name is not attached to them so readily, like a painting, or a drawing, or a sculpture. Usually a group of craftsmen are responsible for their execution. Nevertheless, they are composed in some generator of genius that in the moment is new, captivating and uplifting for not only us, 500 years after their making, but for the very beings who formed these structural things. What would it have felt like to step back and admire one’s handiwork—this kind of handiwork? It must have been immensely satisfying and delightful.
I painted this Jesus of Szczecin when we were working in Poland. It is one of my best. There is a serenity in it that transcends others I have done. The simplicity of it keeps the image very fresh, and accessible. It is much like the Polish people. They are straight forward, not complicated, and generally very clear and kind. That is the type of mood I wanted to capture. I think I did. Below, a wonderful meal out with Krzysztof and Aga at our favorite restaurant in Szczecin. They are our best friends in Poland. They are straight forward, not complicated, and generally very clear and kind—just like I mentioned.
ON TO ESTONIA
The Baltic States are Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. We have worked in the first two. There truly is a peacefulness in these countries on the Baltic Sea that permeates into the people. I love Estonia in particular. Especially Olde Town Tallinn. This is Pille Tali and Sondra at the edge of the Olde Town, near the flower market. We have known this lady for over ten years now. She has been one of our best students, and an excellent yogini and breathwork facilitator. She has also organized all of our Liberation Breathing and Loving Relationships Trainings in Estonia all these years as well.
Mind you, in the Baltic states it can even be cool in the summer. I so love the cool weather there in July or August; jacket weather, I call it. The atmosphere is so clear and crisp. I feel very uplifted amidst this medieval city. Pille takes good care of us. She puts flowers in our bedroom, and a picture of Babaji. It’s like an Altar, and she knows we like to have an Altar in every room. But our holy relationship with her is the real Altar to God.
THE RUSSIAN INFLUENCE
Estonia is right next to Russia, and the influence there is noticeable. Before the Soviet times, the Russian Orthodox church had its influence, as well as Lutheranism. On top of the highest hill in Olde Town Tallinn is a Russian Orthodox church. I purchased this small Icon there. It’s about 6 inches by 5 inches— quite small, but it has a very powerful presence of peacefulness, as you can see. And the innocence of Christ’s gaze is remarkable. One can feel the Power of His tranquility and Inner Peace in this tiny Icon.
This is the church itself. Setting aside beliefs, political struggles, ideological differences, there is a glory to this structure. The onion-top domes and the round cylindrical design elements form a building that appears very organic and thrusting upward. Add to the locale, on top of a high hill, and one gets a very lofty feeling around and inside of this beautiful example of Russian architecture, with a clearly Estonian joyousness.
I was in the swing of Icon Painting as a result of being around these very Holy things. So I painted a Mary of Estonia while I was in this momentum. An Icon is a very simplified version of a face. Generalized, there is no need to capture some mood or nuance of specified emotion. In fact, its purpose is to transcend the emotional ups and downs of everyday life and arrive at a stillness, a silence from within. This is the purpose of an Icon—to communicate a holiness that is almost beyond physical concerns, for the purpose of depicting spiritual concerns.
A BLUE & BLACK INTENSITY
The Blue of Estonia’s sky is inspiring. I am always in disbelief that a sky can appear so pure. It is reflected again in the colors of the Estonian flag: white, blue and black. Against that backdrop of blue, buildings seem intensely alive. Especially the ones in Olde Town, with their steep eaves and spires pointing heavenward. There are mystical moments I have had in this country, in this city, and they have not been wishful thinking, but rather actual encounters with an inner Joy. It is easy for me to make contact with these elevated states of being in Estonia.
Sondra and I meander around in the historic city. We usually go to Estonia for two weeks, spending one week with Pille and one week in the Olde Town. It is a place we have been many times, so it almost feels like home. Most Estonians speak English, so we are very comfortable in their culture, so far from the USA. The Olde Town has vignettes of delight, like this medieval black door with gold floral motifs.
Blue, Black and White. One seems to make contact with these three colors in Estonia. And it is not only because of the Estonian flag:
Estonian culture is closely intertwined with nature, making the landscape an instinctive source of inspiration for the nation’s flag – blue for the clear skies, Baltic sea, and freshwater lakes, black for the fertile soil and dark, thick forests and white for winter snow and the summery white nights. Blue and white also embody the spirit of loyalty and enlightenment used by the Estonian people to overcome the darkness of hardship. This unique combination of colors makes the Estonian flag easily recognizable throughout the world.From: VisitEstonia.Com
On this note I will leave you with this painting of the Divine Mother I did in Estonia years ago, on one of my first trips. You get the picture of my Love for Estonia.
May you all get there one day,