Archive for the Life and Lifestyles Category

Merry Christmas to All and to All A Goodnight…The Final Smoke Ring.

Posted in Arabian bakhour, bahkhoor, bakhoor, Christian incense, Cold War, desert bakhoor incense, Desert culture, Ethiopia, Incense, Life and Lifestyles, Orthodox Christianity, Orthodox Clergy and Information, perfume, Perfume Reviews, religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2009 by blackincense

BPI and more specifically, Columbina, would like to wish all of her many friends, both in the world, and those who are not of it, a very Merry Christmas.  This blog has been closed for a while, but I wanted to end it on a positive note, at the close of this season.  It’s been a joyous ride, and I continue to blog about many other interests, life experiences, and art over at Tales From the Golden Ghetto.

But all good things must come to an end, and Smoke Rings has finally “dissipated”.

I am truly grateful to the following people who taught me how to blog, how to be a better writer, and frankly, how to be a better person.  Many of them are shy, and therefore, I will only use links to their blogs to name them. As I’ve said before, this isn’t some annoying, self absorbed “good-bye” or anything.  (First, I’d like to thank God for this award….LOL)

But I want to say to these lovely people:  All of you made 2009 bearable, and a wonderful journey of learning from mistakes, learning from suffering and learning about myself.  All of you helped to give me my greatest gift for Christmas:  my identity.  Through exploring so many subjects, topics and discussions with you, I finally came “home” in my heart and found out who I really am.  I will always be grateful to you and my hands will always find a way to help you, my lips a way to pray for you, my heart a way to love you, my head a way to bless you, my feet a way to direct you.

Kyrie Eleison, a voice of truth and beauty in the wilds of Montreal — a true sister on the Way.

Juvenaly, “Misha” Martinka of Theophany Designs – my beloved webmaster and friend, Mesa, Arizona

Uncle Clem – the distinguished, dignified, and truly humble Professor of Theology in Asheville, NC

Breaking Babylon — the son I never had.

The Desert Seeker —fellow TCK/global nomad, and truly humble teacher of many things arcane and Orthodox.

Sergius-Bob –wherever he may be, may he be blessed and know he always has a home.

Orthodox Monk — we’ve never met, but someday, God willing.  You helped me to learn how to quit being a victim, stand up for myself, for others and for the Faith, when necessary.  I’ll still be “stalking” you in cyber space, learning from your excellent example.

Justinian:  you defended me when I needed it, and you encouraged me when I was truly despairing.  You also taught me to stop using fragmented sentences and to be more precise!  LOL

Iconblogographer — Matthew Garrett:  inspiration, and gentleness.  As well as battling cosmic evil as Batman, you are da man.

I close this blog permanently, and with great gratitude to all of you and these words from Tolkien’s , “The Hobbit”, the ultimate TCK poem.

Roads Go Ever On — (c) JRR Tolkien

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains of the moon.
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

(C) Ted Naismith

Leaving the Shire by Artist (c) Ted Naismith


Hibernating Until the Recession Is Over

Posted in Arabian bakhour, bahkhoor, bakhoor, Christian incense, desert bakhoor incense, Ethiopia, Incense, Life and Lifestyles, Orthodox Christianity, perfume, Perfume Reviews, religion on November 19, 2009 by blackincense

It’s been awhile since I wrote here, in any meaningful way about my work in perfume and incense, and I’m beginning to wonder if this blog has served the professional purpose.  I think it has and I will leave it up, but I unless there is something pressing to say about BPI or incense in general, I’ll probably be over at my personal blog (  This isn’t “goodbye” or anything desperate, annoying and self-pitying or anything like that.


I am just winding down in this area of my work.  The economy has forced serious cutbacks in experiments, and testing, so until it improves, I can’t really do much innovative stuff.  I’m just a single artisan after all, not a full blown factory. So while the reecession plods on, (I don’t believe a word of what Wall Street says — maybe those fat cats are living it up, but down here,  on the River, where I live with my low income tenants, thinigs are ever the same!) I have gone back to other mediums, namely painting and I’m enjoying the break it is giving me.    People really have no idea how physically demanding incense making is.  At least, not until I actually recruit them to help me in the workshop.  😉

As always, I welcome true friendship with no agenda — I have none, and expect none.

God bless you!


Wonder what I will paint today?

Gone to Valaam. Be Back Later. Snacks in the Fridge. Clean up your own mess.

Posted in Life and Lifestyles, Orthodox Christianity, religion with tags , , on November 8, 2009 by blackincense

The Sweet Smell of the Absence of Desperation

Posted in Life and Lifestyles with tags , , , on October 25, 2009 by blackincense

It’s been 10 months since I came to the River to live and to work.   When I came here, the entire property smelled like crack and cockroaches.  This morning I stepped out the side door of the office and it seems that The Smell, is entirely gone.  Fall is here, and the scent of maple leaves and oak moss float across the parking lot.  Trailing that, is the warm scent of Indian curry, embracing chili powder and jalapenos, and freshly baked noon bread.  Someone is making cinnamon buns too, this morning!

Maybe if I hang around outside apartment 45, and look slightly sad,  Najat will give me some noon bread.  She’ll probably throw in a cupful of fresh dates, just sent to her from her mother in Morroco because she can’t stand to see anyone sad.   I will never forget the day she came across a homeless man in the park, and came home to her husband and told him in very loud Arabic, “Get out there, you lazy ungrateful so and so,  and give that man some FOOD!”  So much for Muslim women being weak.

And then, if I’m lucky, Ariceli will give me some enchiladas.  She’s making them for her little “back of the truck” lunch business.  After her husband left, she decided that God had dealt her a kindness hand, and so now she sells her scrumptious tacos, enchiladas and churros out of the truck that he left behind.

And if that fails, I can always go around the corner to  Danny’s place and get some home-made tiramisu.  Danny is in vocational re-hab and I think he’s really going to make it as a chef! Yesterday, he threw a party over at Boyd (our small annex) and he brought out every kind of fattening, cholesterol inducing, heart attack you can imagine.  If it’s bad for you, he’s making it and it’s in some exotic shape or artistic form.  (Can you imagine making a “lace” fan out of white chocolate???? What????)

We still have our problems at this community, but I can say that we have definitly turned the corner.  In spite of all these successes though, I feel a real sense of sadness and loss, because I have had to let go of innocence (whatever might have remained of it), a basic trust in the “goodness” of people, and a lifelong naive outlook that has always been something of a trademark.

But I have also learned this very valuable lesson:  If you keep your flour, cornmeal, and other “dry goods” in the freezer, you probably won’t have a problem with cockroaches.

Riverview 004

My favorite spot to sit by the river and think.

The Scent of Homelessness

Posted in Life and Lifestyles with tags , , , , , on September 1, 2009 by blackincense

I stumbled upon a very inspiring love story this morning, that has made international news.  A young woman, homeless and living in her trailer (sound familiar????) began a blog and people began reading it.  She has been blogging from her trailer and her voice is being heard around the world.  She has even met the love of her life, anothe ryoung homeless man from Scotland.

In reading the original article, I read some of the comments on a related discussion board.  Unbelievable.  I won’t repeat them here, but many people responded with cynicsm, and plain hatred.  Judgements about this young woman being homeless, but able to “afford a laptop”, or goodness, a “cell phone.”

Here is the original article:

Bri’s blog :

Matt’s blog:

The fact is tha t we all want the homeless to stink.  We want them to be dirty, and to smell so badly so we will know when they are around.  We want them to fit our ideas of what “homeless” means.  After I read the article, and visited the homepage of this young woman, and also the blog of her new boyfriend, I was humbled by my own daily ingratitude.

As one who was homeless for over a year, I have forgotten how blessed I am in my current situation.  The present is always very narrow, and I have difficulty looking bakward with gratitude, and forward with humility.

In this current economic crisis, we don’t want homeless people to have cell phones, to have lap tops, or even to have baths.  We want them to be “them” so that we can continue to be our elitist selves, the selves we were before this global meltdown.

In another  post, I had written about my own memories of what being homeless and full of despair, smelled like.   After reading Bri and Matt’s stories, it all comes flooding back.

Living in my trailer — cedar, broken in half, pouring coconut and olive oil, over the splintered wood.  Back to the workshop.   Being homeless isn’t the worst thing in the world to be.  In fact, it was the best thing that ever happend to me.

Being homeless taught me to value people, not things.

Being homeless taught me to try to overlook imperfections in  other people, but to be harder on myself.

Being homeless taught me to adapt and to be flexible.

I learned how to sell things — I didn’t eat if i didn’t!

I learned how to talk to people – instead of “at” them.

I learned to see people, no matter how big or important they are, as just another insecure sot, who needs my compassion.

I learned how to defend myself – self defense is not a sin, and it often prevents people from hurting others.

Being homeless taught me to stand up for people weaker than myself.  I’m not a big person – I’m very small.  But even the smallest person can face down an evil giant and win.  I know because I have done it.   (Christian people who say violence never solved anything have forgotten their Bible:  David and Goliath —anybody??? anyone???)

I am humbled by my many blessings.  I am no longer homeless.  Yes, my job is nightmare.  But I am BLESSED.

Forgive me, Lord, for my ungrateful attitude and selfishness.  Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.

Holy Guardian Angel, when I forget, when I get prideful, please remind me.

The original "home" of BPI...

The original “home” of BPI…no water, no toilet, no heat, no TV, no computer, no kitchen, no food.