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What should we fast from? Pay attention to? Plus details on Ojai Mardi Gras 2017

March 1, 2017



“Attention is the beginning of devotion,” writes poet Mary Oliver in Upstream, her 2016 essay collection.

And so today I ask you,

What are you devoted to?

Why do I ask? Because last night was Fat Tuesday, and today is Ash Wednesday.


King Cake is typically a cinnamon brioche bread that’s filled with fruit, cream cheese, chocolate and a small plastic baby that represents the infant Jesus. If you find the baby, next year you buy the cake! The year we got the Ojai Mardi Gras King Cake baby, we actually got a baby… and busy with that real baby we didn’t buy the King Cake the next year!

If you don’t know about Mardi Gras and King Cakes, then you may or may not know what this means. Basically a party known as Carnaval starts on Three Kings Day or Day of the Epiphany January 6 and continues until Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday which changes each year depending on when Easter is which in turn is based on the full moon. This year, Easter is Sunday April 16, and so Fat Tuesday is on the Tuesday 47 days previous: this year that day was yesterday, February 28.

What do the colors of Mardi Gras Mean?
Purple for justice, Green for faith, Gold for power

The final night of Carnival is Mardi Gras and it is a night well-known around the world as one of excess and revelry– and why? Because the following day, Ash Wednesday, people begin a period of Lent or fasting. Ash Wednesday is a day to reflect on what you might need to atone for during this period, what you will fast from, what sacrifice you will make to show allegiance to the sacrifices made by Christ when he gave his life on the cross and then was redeemed and returned to life on Easter Sunday.

NOTE: you don’t have to be a Christian to consider this question.

So today is Ash Wednesday, the day when we reflect on what we should atone for, what will we fast from, and in a way, that begs the question of what have we been paying attention to, what are we devoted to, what do we care for most?

No less than the Pope has suggested that we sacrifice to transform our relationship to the planet, particularly with regards to climate change and global warming. The Pope even argued that we must give up our “cold indifferent heart” for Lent:

“Our heart grows cold,” wrote Pope Francis in his 2015 Lenten message (with more quotes and linked to above). “As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off. Today,

this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference.

It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.”

Similarly, as Eskimo-Kalaallit Elder Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq says,

Only by Melting the Ice in the Heart of Man does Man have a Chance to Change and begin using his vast Knowledge Wisely.

I propose that for the next two months, during the Lenten period of March and April, instead of fasting from certain foods or drinks or or behaviors like alcohol or coffee or sugar or driving too fast and/or texting, we conduct an experiment with ourselves and our friends. In this experiment, choose one of the following:

  • Pay attention and devote yourself to people in real life and not online. Fast from indifference to the struggles of people and planet. Spend the first and final hour of each day OFF social media and screens. Journal in the morning. Read. Talk with family or housemates.  See how your sleep and your life changes. Take notes recording your challenges and changes.

“This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be, this is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen,” Joseph Campbell told Bill Moyer in an interview that became the book The Power of Myth.

  • Pay attention and devote yourself to planet by getting outside. Spend an hour each day or seven hours a week in the outdoors.

In Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv argues that we need to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature. Our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends on renewing our broken bond with the outdoors (3). If we do not spend any time in nature, why would we value it or seek to save the planet and the species that populate it?

  • Pay attention and devote yourself to reducing your plastic consumption. Keep a plastic diary. See what happens if you track your plastic consumption.

We humans thrive and survive these days by consuming long dead dinosaurs. Our cars, our homes, our clothes are all constructed using dead dinosaurs, and our food is packaged in them. But these dead dinosaurs are killing us and the planet.

I will be asking my college students to choose one or more of these tasks of the months of March and April and to report on it as part of the final exam. Perhaps this practice will lead to insights for a research paper or group project or even an epiphany about how we live our lives.

This practice of paying attention and devotion does NOT have to be all serious. You can still enjoy life and attend parties like the 27th Annual Mardi Gras in Ojai.



Hear Ye, Hear Ye, One and All.
Come and join Our Festive Ball.
An Invitation from the Queen
More fun than You have ever seen.
Saturday Night and Sunday too
The Ojai Mardi Gras Wake Up! Krewe,
will entertain and treat you right,
Come see the Creatures of the Night,
the Wizards & the Sages too,
You all will be our Noble crew!

Come dance with us!
Come one and all!
We’ll see you
at the Crystal Ball!



This year the Ojai Mardi Gras Wake Up! Krewe is hosting their 27th Annual Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball, this Saturday, March 4th from 7:30pm-1:00am, at the Ojai Art Center, 113 Montgomery Street in downtown Ojai. This year the King and Queen are my friends Micheal Levine and Kimberly Fouche-Levine and I have a VERY an important role in the coronation ceremony! This is the one party you do not want to miss!


I will be helping with the coronation ceremony for my dear friends Queen Kimberly and King Michael

The theme for this year’s Ojai Mardi Gras is “Through the Crystal Ball: Past, Present & Beyond.”

  • Come celebrate the brilliant light of discovery
    as we gaze into the future always keeping one eye on the mysteries of the past.
  • Like the alchemists of old we will search for life’s great metaphysical secrets.
  • Like the caterpillar we will fly as butterflies.
  • We will turn sand into gold and water into wine.


“Put on your dancing shoes because the Ojai Mardi Gras Band is hotter than ever, featuring band director Patricia Cardinali on guitar, percussion and those crazy vocals that can start a fire,” say organizers. “Be ready for a night of funk, soul, rock and Cajun dance music New Orleans style that is sure to keep you on your feet. The band also features Connie Early on vocals, from the band Aquarius, who can only be described as a force of nature, Ron Seba on slide guitar, rhythm guitar, and vocals straight from the swamps of the bayou. On lead guitar we have the powerful stylings of Maitland Ward. In the rhythm section we’ve got the smokin hot bass of Stan the man Taylor and keepin it all together Robert Rachelli beatin on the drums. Be prepared for a few All-Star guests as well that promise to be The Bomb!” $25 in advance; $30 at the door: Ojai Mardi Gras has donated over $50,000 to needy families over the years.

The “Art Fools”, a brilliant, dedicated and playful collective of artists, sculptors, painters and hangers, have spent the past few months creating imaginative sets, and delicious decorations that will transform the Ojai Art Center into magical mystical mayhem. The fabulous local art that will cover the walls will be on display in the gallery till the end of March curated by one of Ojai’s best artists, Iris Williams.

Join in the costume contest, the traditional bead throw and of course the Coronation of this year’s Royal Couple, Queen Kimberly Fouché-Levine and King Michael Levine. This year’s Coronation will include a World Premiere Theatrical Presentation that you won’t want to miss. Cajun snacks and a no-host bar will flow all night long and a crazy good time is guaranteed for all!

Tickets for the Mardi Gras are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Advance tickets available now using the PayPal button below, directly from most Krewe members, and at the following stores: Ojai Coffee Roasting Co, Studio Sauvageau, and Ojai Creates in Ojai; also at Cardinali Bros. Music in Meiners Oaks. More info: Mardi Gras Hotline: (805) 646-7843 or the Contact button on this website. The Ojai Mardi Gras Wake-Up! Krewe, Inc. is a California Public Benefit Non-Profit Organization. Proceeds from the Masquerade Ball and Fais-Do-Do go back to the community.


On Sunday, head back to the Art Center for the family friendly Fais-Do-Do $5.  The Cajun Fais-Do Do Dance party on Sunday features Crowfoot playing authentic Cajun dance music with Cajun dance lessons, and patio toys for children.

The Ojai Mardi Gras Art Show is on exhibit and for sale at the Art Center Gallery the entire month of March 2017.

BACKGROUND on OMG: Since 1990, Lyle Matthews, deceased Ojai Mardi Gras founder, New Orleans ex-pat, and artist extraordinaire, is honored each year by friends and Krewe members in this annual tribute to the Spirit of New Orleans Mardi Gras with a rollickin’ and rollin’ Masquerade Ball featuring the all-star “Ojai Mardi Gras Band,” annual guest musical and visual artists-in-theme. Our Dance parties feature a fabulous no-host bar and New Orleans food celebrating the up-side-down-foolery produced and presented by artistic, musical and dance-i-ful volunteers dedicated to “Bon Temps Rouler” (Let the Good Times Roll!). We are a community beneficent organization dedicated to creative expression, artistically and musically.

The Ojai Mardi Gras Wake-Up! Krewe’s mission is

1) to produce the Ojai Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball, an annual event that brings together many creative artists and musicians from Ojai and the surrounding area to benefit persons, families or organizations with a serious medical and/or financial need;
2) to bring an authentic version of the revelry, pageantry and flavor of New Orleans’ famous holiday to Ojai; and
3) to produce or co-produce other musical and artistic events throughout the year to promote and benefit the annual Masquerade Ball.

Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler! Let the Good Times Roll! See you there!!

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 2, 2017 9:19 am

    What a great idea – consciously disconnect from social media and the news (if only for an hour) and focus our attention on the people in front of us. Boy do we need this! Thanks for sharing.

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