Friday, December 19, 2014

The Reading Man remembers readings past

Dylan Thomas
As it was wont to do, Mr. Apotienne's mind had again run off with him.  Kidnapped, he thought, Robert Lewis Stephenson, spirited away  He wasn't aware of the abduction while it was in progress, only noticed after the fact, reacting like a chloroform victim just regaining his senses.  All it took was thinking about the fairy lights, how they would not-quite illuminate the dance site.  Summer fairy lights led him to memories of Christmas lights.  He weighed the image of tonight's warm, firefly-like glow against reflections on rain-puddled asphalt.
Photo by Hanna Gordon-Smith.
He had nearly lost heart for Dylan Thomas during his years of membership in one Unitarian Universalist Church.  Each summer before his sabbatical - and don't think there wasn't grumbling about a contract which gave an annual sabbatical - the minister, in costume, gave a reading from Ralph Waldo Emerson.  On Christmas eve, when he could have read them Dickens or the newspaper editor's essay which affirmed, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," or, perhaps, the Bible,  he read to them from "A Child's Christmas in Wales."  Eventually Mr. Apotienne stopped attending. 

Robert arrived at the church near the end of the previous minister's tenure, stayed based on a spirit of compassion and good works that he modeled.  And he continued when Dr. Harmon retired, determined to give the new man a chance. But as each Christmas began to shine on the horizon, Robert's spirits started to sink.  He wished for just a bit more of the absent fragrant greens, "God bless us every one," singing of the carols he'd learned in grade school and less of what came on him like frostbite, an extinguishing of his cheerful flame.  He nearly grew to loathe Thomas and the story.  He developed an aversion. 

His nostalgia was for Perry Como,  department store Santas, decorations from the five-and-dime and a mug of cocoa consumed at a formica-topped kitchen table.  Of course one couldn't blame Dylan Thomas for an emotionless, husk-dry recitation of a work that in the hands of another would be stirring, visually rich and could speak, child to child across the years.  Those nights when he wished for a semi-adult version of visions of sugarplums, even the strands of white lights woven through the parking lot oak tree seemed like part of  a Russian landscape seen from the night train to St. Petersburg.

Then Robert shook himself, or was it a shiver, and focused on where he was - now - and what awaited. He'd allowed himself a respite from thoughts about THE DANCE.  He identified with Jason Robard's speech as Ben Bradlee on the front lawn in his bathrobe in ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, telling Woodward and Bernstein that, "...there's nothing riding on this except, uh, the first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press and maybe the future of the country."  No wonder he needed to wander off for a while.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Word of the Week - 41

Word of the Week:  WOBBLE

From 1940 until 1966, Pasadena was home of the Winter Garden, a vast-seeming, free-standing ice rink that briefly served as location for a live weekly music-and-ice-skating tv show called Frosty Frolics.  That was around 1951.  I think it must have run a bit longer than the one year, for I remember it, and Your Hit Parade, as family viewing.  Frosty Frolics was likely the inspiration, however wrong-minded, for my one attempt at ice skating.  Weak ankles, my neighbor and friend Susie Miller declared.  That I went on, not too far into the future,  to dance en pointe never quite erased the sense of failure brought on by ankles that wobbled.  My very first time, yet my inability to achieve instant perfection kept me from trying again, even wanting to try again.  I also never learned to ride a bicycle.
I am grateful to have survived childhood without any bullying that I can remember.  I was capable of creating that sense of insufficiency unaided through harsh and unreasonable comparisons.  Susie and I were sidewalk roller skating pals and I did not wobble on four wheels.  I was solid and not accident prone.  I was also timid about activities that seemed - and sometimes were - dangerous and felt myself shrink in stature as others plunged into new adventures.  Unknown at that time was my future assignment as a contemplative.  The things I couldn't do well mattered more than talents I couldn't name or understand.  Had it not been for ballet, for dancing in general, for hopscotch, jump robe and being moderately okay at baseball, I would have been an elementary school dud.  Dodge ball was scary and playground equipment (probably now against the law) like the rings, and bars (the dreaded "skin the cat," in which I hated being upside down), and such gave me the heebie-jeebies.

There is, I swear, something about emotions that accompany the onset of Christmas that bring up memories, welcome or not.  For the moment I trust that these thoughts of, if not humiliation, then certainly not triumph have come to be acknowledged and released.  They've been taking up shelf space for far too long.  I still wobble, only now I wobble better.  I have become the definition of wobbling.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Covering buttons with image transfers

Some of my fabric covered buttons created with iron-on photo transfers.

Seeing the hand-embroidered buttons shared yesterday on FB by curator extraordinaire, Folt Bolt, reminded me that I used to dabble in buttonry.
A wealth of glorious embroidered buttons, not done by me.
The photo transfer samples shown at the top of the page were included in Lynne Perrella's rich volume, "Artists' Journals and Sketchbooks."  Following are the directions I gave.

Fabric-transfer-covered buttons

For this project you'll need forms for covered buttons in assorted sizes.  If you haven't covered buttons before, be sure to follow the instructions on the packages.  You can get starter packs, which contain the pattern size and the mold into which you press the fabric and button blank.  You'll need plain cotton fabric, such as muslin, and photos of faces.

1. Plan the look of your buttons by selecting images of faces and sizing them to fit.  Include enough of the image to fill the entire button, plus the margin that gets turned under to construct the covered button.  Make color copies of these images.

2. Cut out and paste these copies onto a master sheet of paper, allowing sufficient space between images for the diameter of the temple you'll use for each one.

3. Copy the master sheet of paper onto iron-on fabric transfer stock.  (In the old days, I had them copied at Kinko's.)

4. From the fabric transfer stock, cut each button-cover-to-be to size using the template from the kit, centering the face in the middle.  You can copy the paper template onto clear plastic or acetate to make placement easier.

5. To transfer, set a dry iron on the cotton setting, place the transfer stock image side down over your fabric, and iron with a blank sheet of paper or bit of fabric covering the transfer paper, moving the iron in a circular motion for about 20 seconds.  You can test an edge of the transfer to see that it has worked.

6. Peel the transfer stock away from the fabric to reveal your clear image.

7. Follow the directions provided in the button covering kit, cut the fabric to size, press in mold and, voila.   You can use images in addition to photos, such as your own illustrations.  Be mindful of copyright.

Lynne's book has a two-page spread about image transfers, text and samples of each technique.

In the years since Quarry published "Artists' Journals and Sketchbooks," there have been many fine volumes produced on the practice of journal-keeping.  Because of the vast diversity of styles and techniques shared, I think Lynne's book is timeless.  It presents the work of 40 artists and, in browsing through it this morning, I remembered how many projects I've yet to try.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Word of the Week - 40

All art today is the work of Australian Cate Edwards.  The link shows her work much larger than it can be displayed here.
Word of the Week:  TONIC

The art of Cate Edwards revives me, it puts back together parts that have gone asunder.  In her color, lines, shapes, patterns, figures, faces and wordless stories I regroup and find the world as I wish it to be.  There are precarious rides, curious submergings and what appears to be considerable wild abandon, in the best, most life-affirming sense.

In the world away from images that support my soul, I find these to be dark and troubling times.  It may be that times are always dark and troubling.  What I know is my energy and a version of sanity are better served by stepping back from public debate.  I choose not to express outrage through social media.  I prefer to bring light of a sort.  As a friend wisely wrote a day or so ago, art will not save us but it may cushion the fall.  Art gives us everything it has, whether we create it or observe.  Ghandi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."  Right now, this is the way I can practice such advice.
I would love to be one of Cate Edwards' humans, to inhabit a flowered bowl, pose with my swimsuit-clad sisters near a pool or the sea, commune with other Earth creatures, continually surprised by the circumstance in which we find ourselves.  Her work proves to me the connection between eyes and heart for as I scan her leaves and flowers, ornaments, marks and groupings, I have a physiological response, a quickened pulse, accompanied by a sense of longing.  I want this to be our world.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Back to basics

They say there are things you never forget how to do no matter how long it's been.  I was beginning to wonder if I'd lost my drawing mojo, untapped for more than a year - or so it seemed - after nearly two decades of designing rubber stamps.  It had been that long since I'd drawn.  It was a fumbling, discouraging start for I stepped away from what had always worked best.  Instead of starting out with the Micron Pigma .005 and just going for it, I tried sketching in pencil.  I am a chronic over-sketcher and my heart began to sink.  Then I tried working with the pen on too-textured paper and color pencil and the results, in a word, stank.  High anxiety.  I found a different pad, a good heft to the paper but not too much texture on the back side.  Pulled out pencils in colors that had never been used - Albrecht Durer from Faber Castell in light cadmium red, among others - pure heaven.

It may be that I, or most of us humans, are chronic amnesiacs and need to return again and again as though for the first time to what grips us most passionately.  We need to fall in love anew, afresh, with what nourishes us at our very core.  Winter sun on the sharpened point of an Albrecht Durer light cobalt turquoise was as pleasing as cafe au lait sipped above a clear Mediterranean inlet.  I am not hard to please.

No matter what or who has been left too long on the shelf or in the rain, return.  Resume.  You will find your path.  What you need will be there.  A self-proclaimed fool in countless survivable ways, I truly believe it is never too late for anything that really matters.  Trust in mysterious ways.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Word of the Week - 39

Painting by Spanish artist, Dino Valls.

Even before Thanksgiving the fidgeting part of my brain started making trouble.  It decided the only thing that would feel like the Christmas it thought it needed was to have it be 1958 again.  I could be 13, my 8-year-old sister and I could ride the bus downtown to shop at the dime stores, then have cokes and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch at Woolworth's counter.  Even though I'd be past the age of actually, actually believing in Santa, I would still be years away from being able to sleep through the night on Christmas eve.
Not the Pasadena Woolworth's, this was downtown L.A., "longest lunch counter in the world."
It is the same fidgeting subdivision that started a feud with Christmas after my son was terribly ill in the hospital for most of December eight years ago.  The lights, the music on the radio, the sight of shoppers or diners through restaurant windows as I drove home to our empty apartment all those nights became intolerable.  I didn't want to be reminded of a fear so deep.  Christmas became the fall guy.  Which, as I was cluelessly unaware, made his first, second, etc., Christmas less than festive for my son who only wanted to celebrate as normally, joyfully, as possible after his ordeal.  He was thrilled to be here in fine fettle as each new December rolled around.  I wanted to sleep from October until April. 
Painting by Amanda Blake.
Time, meditation and coming to my senses have helped lift that soggy blanket from my shoulders.  While my energy and health, our fortunes, are not as they once were, our capacity for gladness seems robust.  Since love is one of my year-round antidotes for sinking spells, along with beauty and music, I am aware of an even stronger urge to fling it far and wide, a continually thrown bride's bouquet, as the year closes.

We all become confused at times, forgetting that nothing is ever really as much about what we receive as what we give.  Seeing familiar and difficult dates cycle back to us on the calendar does not mean they will batter us anew.   That I am not 13 is no impediment to glimpsing, sensing the magic I've always connected to these days when night falls early and the nostalgic glow of Christmas lights (I could never decide which was my favorite color) keeps warm the dreams in our child hearts.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Revised update - Shapes of the past

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A theory

My relationship with time is a one-sided affair. It has no awareness of me and I think about it constantly. Perhaps time infatuation is an identified disorder. It is really a matter of where we look for meaning. I find meaning in time.

Last Sunday's Los Angeles Times Book Review section offered, on the same page, an interview with historian Sean Wilentz on his new book, Bob Dylan in America, and a review of The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, here.

The page featured a quote from Wilentz about Dylan, "He had this sensibility that the past wasn't the past, that the past was the present." He further said of Dylan's early days in New York, "He was living in this world where Edgar Allan Poe was living around the corner...a phantasmagoria of American history." Times reporter Charles Taylor referred to Dylan's CD of holiday music, Christmas in the Heart, as Dylan's love letter to the holiday music that was part of the American popular music he grew up hearing.
A time slip.
When Dylan returned to the Newport Folk Festival in 2002, where his electric debut elicited boos and jeers in 1965, Wilentz said, "There were ghosts all over the place. You could feel them." Wilentz told how he sensed the ghosts take form, many of the pivotal musicians from the American tradition, "...they were all kind of assuming shape again."

My interpretation of this information is that others, including a respected historian who teaches at Princeton, find that the past lives in and through us. We bring it forth in our thoughts, in works we create. It is not a dead thing, immobile in some unreachable long-ago, but alive, its influences at work on us through memories, either individually or collectively.

In his review, Michael Moorcock said that the Hawking-Mlodinow book suggests that physics and metaphysics are growing closer. Robert Oppenheimer is said to have proposed that physics and poetry were indistinguishable.

Moorcock described, "In an environment that includes black holes, super black holes, dark matter, dark energy, string theory, M-theory, alternate pasts and alternate futures, we can no longer assume there is one universe or even a set of universes with a single group of natural laws applicable to everything from the domain of atoms to that of astronomy.

"Models of the universe are changing radically. We now live in a world in which many physicists have come to believe there are not merely three dimensions (plus time) but 10 or possibly 11.

"Even laws we have taken for granted, like those relating to the speed of light, might be at odds in different realms of a near-infinite set of universes."

Those review excerpts and the remainder of the article suggest to me that anything is possible.

What I believe is that, if we pay attention and look inward frequently, we learn to identify our truths. They don't need educated, scientific validation to be true for us, but it does take some of the lunatic self-labeling away to have credible sources appear to think along similar lines. What I feel, what I experience, is the fluid quality of time (yes, I HAVE mentioned this before) but also the real yet intangible way that what has gone before is not gone.


RachelVB said...
I've never understood why some people think ghost don't exists ... many live even within ourselves do they not?
Something about this post is eerie to me, unknown. It can be hard to face your truths, even when you know they are there in whatever dimension they hover in. Truths and ghosts. I wonder if they reside in the same places?
Marylinn Kelly said...
Rachel - My thinking has always been that more ghosts live within than without, though sometimes we may project them to the point of sitting down, having a conversation.

Eerie and unknown...I subscribe to the "It's all a mystery" theory and, if there are no answers, it makes my not having any feel less defective. And maybe I draw a line between reality and truths...reality can give you a rash, while truths are more like a balm.

Likely, it all resides in the same places.
RachelVB said...
Yes, truths are more soothing. They are usually discovered after a burn. Reality seems to be the burn itself.
Radish King said...
Marylinn, ah yes, right down my alley. The Tearful Dishwasher posted on this on my blog this morning. Einstein said time wasn't linear and I have no reason not to believe him. I think of my passage through this life as passage through a series of portals wormholes if you will. Present and parallel universes coinciding and sometimes one can enter the right portal that takes us to a parallel universe. Perhaps this is where Rachel's ghosts come from.

And déjà vu and presque vu and jamais vu and any number of fascinations of the human mind.

Perhaps artists and madmen and well trained to enter and pass through these portals and observe though they don't always know it.

Marylinn Kelly said...
Rachel - Eww, image, the cockroach in the whipped cream. (and not whipped topping)

Rebecca - Being here and there at the same time...I wonder if I volunteered for this or was I screened and recruited, unbeknownst. It is good to have an assignment for which one is suited. Happily, they didn't tell us not to talk about it.
RachelVB said...
I like the idea of being summoned in the womb. It does feel very much like a purpose. I, too, love being suited for the assignment. I wonder if this is how other people feel when they've found their passions in life?

very eew. Cockroaches give me the heebie-jeebies. But not sure why. They survive most assassination attempts and should be given a little credit at least.

I'm not sure where my ghosts come from. Sometimes they feel too deep to even be mine. As a little girl I used to imagine I was Judy Garland in a past life - you wanna talk about ghosts?! =)
Marylinn Kelly said...
Rachel - I believe we end up carrying things that don't belong to us. Maybe they come from other incarnations, maybe they were foisted upon us growing up..."here, take this" and in time we forget that it isn't ours. I think shame is a good example...plenty of this to go around.

Being suited for the assignment is essential. What a wretched First Lady I would make, what a sub-par bookkeeper (I have proof), what an impatient sixth-grade teacher. How glad I am not to have been called for any of those gigs.
grrl + dog said...
I smirk to read these kinds of things.

What indidginous folk have known and lived for thousands of yers is news to us.

Us - somewhere along the line we lost our spirit.No wonder our Australian aborginies are perplexed by us.
Robert the Skeptic said...
Though I have not read Hawking's book yet, I have some familiarity with the concepts. We have waded into an ocean of knowledge literally unknown to previous generations. And though it is all very exciting, much is still unknown.

Yes, this information increases possibilities, but what is most likely "probable" to be reality?
Marylinn Kelly said...
Denise - For me, life is mystery - and that's the good part. The Hawking book, for example, takes another step we even know what, other than things are much, much bigger than we thought and much less predictable, with current information. All of which goes in support of, I believe, living a life of the spirit, for being open, period. For being open.

Robert - I have Hawking's book in hand and am going to start reading it this afternoon. Skimming through, it looks as though we may have some revisions to make in our thinking on such matters. At least we can consider revisions. And as to what may be probable, I think your question mark says it for us. I am a great fan of possibility.