Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Brevity and determination

The list seems long.  No matter.  One thing, day, step, story, note, stretch, line, idea, moment at a time.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Word of the Week - 21

Art, Primary Colors 2,  by Donna Corless.
Word of the Week:  MUSINGS

If you think color is not an enchantress, will not lure you away from wherever you are needed and seduce you into a reverie, a fugue state, then your infatuation is much more under control than mine.   For those of us whose color-centered musings are lengthy and frequent, we have what might be called a spokesman.  In his book, The Primary Colors: Three Essays, Alexander Theroux spins along every path that red, yellow or blue ever trod or dreamed of treading until we are nearly dizzy.  In the very best sense.

Of the book, Publishers Weekly said,  "Theroux's dazzling, free-form meditation explores the three primary colors through their myriad associations in art, history, music, poetry, fiction, movies, anthropology, linguistics, myth, religion, science, food, sports, and everyday life."

From the dust jacket we read, "There is poetry here; there is also song, fable, opinion, literary criticism, gossip, history, and fascinating fact - a fund of curiosa,  gleanings of a witty and penetrating mind."

To give you an example from Yellow with regard to complexions, Theroux writes, "It all put me in mind of creepy Mrs. Danvers in du Maurier's Rebecca and that one hideously arresting detail I've never forgotten: 'I could see how tightly the skin was stretched across her face, showing the cheek-bones.  There were little patches of yellow' - shudder - 'beneath her ears.'"  He tells us that detective Sam Spade and Rosemary's baby had yellow eyes.

As the possessor of facts on all matters, Theroux may be without equal.  How much of the information he shares as musings on these three colors came from his own memory, how much from research for the project we have no way of knowing.  And it doesn't matter in the least.  The way he hopscotches from one exploration to another keeps me sprinting after him, marveling at how limited my thoughts on such a favored subject have been.  In case I ever exhaust, which seems unlikely, all he can tell me about the primary colors, another volume, The Secondary Colors: Three Essays, awaits.

Meanwhile, consider this:  "No animal has blue fur."
Secondary colors, with thanks.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Word of the Week - 20

Flower print by Ben Giles.
Word of the Week:  EXTRAVAGANCE

To the better angels of my nature I give credit for tenacity, for the gradual softening of inclinations toward stinginess, fear of lack.  Mostly that, fear of there not being enough.  Their wise counsel, laid upon my heart, urges me more toward extravagance, not as a vice but a virtue.  While extravagance appears as a synonym for profusion,  words more suggestive of unhealthy excess are given as matches for extravagance.

We are meant, I am certain, to be extravagant, lavish, with our kindness.  Not the giving everyone in the audience a new car version of lavish, but the sort that we call upon to lift one another up, placing that before any imagined safety, any automatic smallness of our spirit.  We are here to be the gown with too many ruffles, the dessert buffet that never ends, the speakers and spreaders of love that one can sink into.  Deep love.

Deciding that we will not offer meager rations of anything within our power to give frees us from the gnawing suspicion that we may be jerks.  I swear those angels sidle up with quiet golf claps when I realize and admit to unworthy behavior, even if I'm the only one who knows the extent of its pettiness.  Largesse feels wonderful, no matter what the commodity. For a moment, we do without so another can have more.  It can make such a difference.  We find ourselves restored, replenished by practicing immoderation, by learning to be preposterous with our love, our compassion, our attending to needs of others rather than our own in ways small or large.

Fear,  its power to drag us out of the moment and into a bleak and uncertain future, is profusion's vampire.  It would see us shriveled, shrunken, tightly coiled and isolated.  We are urged, "Don't be delicate, be vast and brilliant."  Embrace extravagance, it suits you.
The infinite dessert buffet.   Extravagant?  No, just right.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

When Kasey Chambers met The Sopranos and other musical delights

As my son had never seen the first three seasons of The Sopranos, I'd only seen each episode once and the whole series was being shown free on his Amazon Prime, we're watching it most nights.

I'd forgotten what a choice job they did of matching music to circumstances.  At the end of Episode 8, Season 3, came what I discovered is "The Captain," by Kasey Chambers.

In the way one thing anywhere on the interwebs leads to another came her duet with Ashleigh Dallas on "I'll Fly Away,"

which, in turn, brought me to Ms. Dallas' version of "Across the Great Divide," and I won't deny it gives me chills, as does her violin on the previous song.  I am a fool for harmony and a fiddle.

Here is another version of the late Kate Wolf's "Across the Great Divide," by Nanci Griffith from her tribute album, "Other Voices, Other Rooms," this time with Emmylou Harris and guitarists from Kate Wolf's band.  Some days, all we need is a whole lot of music and maybe a cookie, of the thin, Meyer lemon sort, from Trader Joe's.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What holds us together, Part 2

“Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.”
Barry López

Bodie, California ghost town, photo credit, with thanks.
Places become events, absorbed as cellular memory, transmuted and brought forth as part of who we are. We may tell of them as stories or live them in ways disconnected from conscious thought.  Barry Lopez's ability to extract meaning from terrain reminded me that many of my childhood hours were spent in the company of siblings, father and mother, and uninhabited land.  I wondered if I could untangle the threads of decades to decode those experiences.  I wondered if there was a reason to do so.

In memory, our family automobile travel occupies a lot of time - days and hours over a number of years.  Through revisiting, it seems it was more the intensity of the experiences than the duration.  We learned, my siblings and I, what our parents may have already known or were discovering along with us - how to be solitary when not alone.  We spent hours in silence as we rode, the landscapes of our separate thoughts widening, further initiating us into the society of world-class escape artists whose only exit door was one that led within.

The Mojave Desert, photo credit here, with thanks.
Reading further Lopez as he extracts essences from trees and feathers, rocks and water and sky, it seems my assignment is not as I first thought.  It is not about the places but about me, and my siblings, in them and the indelible mark not of geography but circumstance.  No wonder I realized after a lengthy illness that I possessed a capacity for stillness, that my own company did not give me the twitching whim-whams but peace, calm.   Without knowing it, I'd begun so many years before to scout and map this interior as a true caver, following the downward slope of the floor, forgetting to chalk messages that would help lead me back out.

If it is true that our stories hold us together,  I suspect mine attached themselves to me on those deep and repeated wanderings.  It wasn't the desert itself that I saw, nor the fields, billboards or fog rolling out like a carpet above Big Sur's plunging cliffs.   It was shadow dancers, lantern slides come to life, vignettes in a camp fire, seeping through like cave damp with its stale air.

From those inner roads, we would always find our way back, loosening the imagination's spell by plunging our hands into the ice and water of a soda cooler on a country store's front porch or hearing the tires crunch on the farm's graveled driveway.  Yet after so many visits, parts of us chose to remain in those other realms, parts of us reside there still, feet in two worlds.
Eric Hines' photo, "Rolling Fog in Big Sur," with thanks.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sandy Mastroni's highly expressive faces

Sandy Mastroni's cavalcade of characters peers back at us from dolls, paintings, pillows, painted wooden cut outs. Their unique looks (as in, she gave me such a look!) dazzle on a Flickr site. One after the other they ask politely or hiss in a fashion best called sinister that we need to give them good homes. Fortunately that has already happened for most of them.
Cat doll by Sandy Mastroni.
Brother and sister, special request dolls, Sandy Mastroni.
"Rupert's First Birthday," by Sandy Mastroni.
Painted wooden cut-out by Sandy Mastroni.
On her blog Sandy writes, "My work is considered as Contemporary Folk Art or sometimes as outsider art. One of my paintings is in the permanent collection of The Hurn Museum of Contemporary Folk Art in Georgia. My paintings have appeared in Raw Vision magazine and Folk Art messenger magazine ."  From time to time on her posts she mentions working with a scroll saw.  I appreciate skills, especially with power tools which intimidate me.  I will not presume to put any labels on such imaginative, unique entities, other than to say I believe they would be quite at home with any of Ray Bradbury inventions, or Mr. Bradbury himself, no stranger to the non-ordinary.

Word of the Week - 19

Art by Joseph Mugnaini, illustrator of many Ray Bradbury stories.

Word of the Week: SUMMER

The wide, free days of childhood summers glow with their own light.  The sun rides higher in the sky, convincing us that sleeping in is a wasteful act, for who would choose to miss the hours of deep morning shadows, the long-absent joy of shorts?

Reading and summer remain forever paired, beginning with a weekly stack of picture books from the library, evolving to whatever we wished to sample from the family bookshelves.  It was the season in which I discovered Carson McCullers and for years re-read southern writers then, aligning myself with the heat from their fiction.  The temperature also matched tales from Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man."


It was a warm afternoon in early September when I first met the Illustrated Man. Walking along an asphalt road, I was on the final leg of a two weeks' walking tour of Wisconsin. Late in the afternoon I stopped, ate some pork, beans, and a doughnut, and was preparing to stretch out and read when the Illustrated Man walked over the hill and stood for a moment against the sky."

"...Though it was a hot late afternoon, he wore his wool shirt buttoned tight about his neck. His sleeves were rolled and buttoned down over his thick wrists. Perspiration was streaming from his face, yet he made no move to open his shirt."

"...The pictures were moving, each in its turn, each for a brief minute or two. There in the moonlight, with the tiny tinkling thoughts and the distant sea voices, it seemed, each little drama was enacted. Whether it took an hour or three hours for the dramas to finish, it would be hard to say. I only know that I lay fascinated and did not move while the stars wheeled in the sky."

I doubt if statistics support my belief that there exists a time of year in which imagination grows richer, sprouts, then broadcasts its seeds which take root and repeat the process.  Space and time, two Bradbury themes, describe summer as I knew it in childhood, as I know it now in retirement.  I give thanks for the luxury of a wandering mind, never lost but now able to poke along unexplored paths I had to pass up when real life held me more rigidly in its grip. 


Monday, July 7, 2014

Word of the Week - 18

Artist Juan Romero.
Word of the Week: CURATOR

Claiming the title curator feels scratchy and not-quite-appropriate.  Yet I could arrive at no other word to describe what I feel is my reason for staying with Facebook.  I believe, I know, that we mostly live adaptively.  We are in an on-going state of adjusting, which means we sift through layers of played-out soil to find what works for us.  Of necessity, we have become people who "make do." 

It is not the second-best choice the phrase implies.  In its quiet voice it hints at ways of amplification, of making what is small grow larger and more visible.  It is not settling for nor putting up with.  With the model of generous and innovative creatives before me, I was steered away from any raging and controversy and much of what I hear about as drawbacks of social media and shown it could be a medium for sharing visually the things of my dreams, my longings, my inspiration.
Balenciaga gown from 1961.
It may be the height of cheekiness to think that what delights me will delight another.  One can but try.  I feel that I write almost constantly about the value of beauty, wonder and joy as antidotes to vitality-depleting aspects of daily existence but I know in my cells, in my skin that it is the truth.  Whether the images are creations of nature or man, they are sources of awe, of awakening.  A poem or a felted creature possesses equal power to elevate the spirit, the mind, to speak with honest, emphatic optimism to any of our sagging parts.  The sight of a yellow gown, clearly the work of faerie magic, says we have not grown too old or too sad, that impossible things have always happened and they always will.
Sawdust stuffed elephant.
Giving credit where it is due: Beginning with Alice Vegrova and the art she shared by European illustrators whose work I would never have found, I began to watch for posts from Madame Susha, Skattie Cat, Elsa Mora, Folt Bolt and Musetouch Visual Arts Magazine.  Each of these is indeed a curator, sharing, I assume, what occupies the greatest real estate in their hearts.  Those who are artists themselves could not be more open about promoting artists they admire.  I continue to find posts from them all which I share.  Where once a 4x5 notepad or the ever-popular back of an envelope was nearly sufficient to record information I wanted to retain,  I now use a yellow legal pad to keep track of the names, links, resources and such, hoping I will be able to find my way back to them when needed.  And in talking of sources, I can't neglect Pinterest, which I fear at times sucks away all my hours and the will to do anything more than stare.  If you think serendipity is a myth, hang around Pinterest for a bit.  Sooner or later, your heart's desire - with an accurate link if you're very lucky - will appear.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

What holds us together - Barry Lopez, part 1

“real beauty is so deep you have to move into darkness to understand it.”
Barry López
The Raven, 2009, by Emmanuel Polanco.
“Remember on this one thing, said Badger. The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other's memories. This is how people care for themselves. ”
Barry López, Crow and Weasel  

“Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.”
Barry López 

from the show's final interview - Barry Lopez,  BILL MOYERS JOURNAL, April 30.2010
You need a long shelf to hold Barry Lopez's novels, essays, articles and short stories, the volumes of travel, photography, and language, vivid portraits of landscapes, emotions, and experience. Common to them all is one man's effort to go out into the world, to discover what is beyond and within us. One reviewer put it this way, Barry Lopez "Restores to us the name for what it is we want."

My introduction to the writings of Barry Lopez was from Claire Beynon.   My sense of what she discovered in his work was a way of "inhabiting," a word that comes to me often and speaks of being in and of ourselves and our lives, rather than napping on the surface so the bedspread doesn't get rumpled.  I am reading his DESERT NOTES.  I am reminded that in every moment we are students who hope the mystery will not prove to be that much bigger than we are.  Bigger, yes, but not by too much.

To be continued.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

No going back, only starting over, as many times as it takes

(There was a live version of this but I prefer the harmonies on the original.  Plus, I am so glad not to have been a rock star, now having to look at all those young photos of myself.)

Regret may be inescapable, still we don't have to let it hang around and make us twinge like a bad sunburn.  If we could have done it better, done it differently, we would have.  We can only use the skills we possess.

"If only" is a phrase that permits us to commit emotional violence upon ourselves.  As with much or all of this life, balance is a crucial element.  How to own our mistakes without having them become eternal hair shirts, siphoning joy out of every present moment, forever paying on a debt that never grows smaller.  My guess is this is only accomplished through forgiveness, no easy task, perhaps there is none harder.  Ebenezer Scrooge seemed capable of making up for lost time.  I'm not sure that is a choice always available to the rest of us.  We must simply start over where we are, let go as best we can of what can't be undone and grow very familiar with compassion toward human behavior, starting with our own.