Monday, March 30, 2015

Word of the Week - 56

 Wislawa Szymborska

Word of the Week:  POSSIBILITIES

Here, giving the broadest possible definition for this week's word, is the poem by Polish poet and translator Wislawa Szymborska (July 2, 1923–February 1, 2012). In 1996, Szymborska was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.” Upon announcing the prize, the Nobel commission noted her reputation as “the Mozart of poetry” but aptly added that there is also “something of the fury of Beethoven in her creative work.”

"To me, she is nothing short of Bach, that great cosmologist of the human spirit."  (this quote from Maria Popova, creator of BRAIN PICKINGS where writer and musician Amanda Palmer may be heard reading POSSIBILITIES.)

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Sing-a-long with First Aid Kit

The soundtrack for 1968 doesn't have an equal that comes easily to mind.  I, whose adventures seem to have been always inadvertent rather than intentional, spent a part of that iconic year in Washington, D.C., a volunteer typist for what they called then "the New Left" and, additionally, employed by the Washington Post.  I did find and sign on for the underground press gig.  Adventure would describe it.  I wish, though, that I could claim a fearless nature and pioneering spirit, both growing stronger with age.  Alas, it is not so.  I did not go off to search for America but find, especially as sung by the sisters of First Aid kit, the song brings me to tears.  Whether it is the tsunami of memories from that year, my roommate and I driving to find the rural crossing where we watched the train carrying Bobby Kennedy's body back to D.C. or the National Guard camped at the end of Church Street after Dr. King's assassination, or the immediate wondering, so many decades later, if today's 22 or 23-year-olds feel the song as I and my contemporaries still do.

"America" is from Simon and Garfunkle's album, BOOKENDS.  Even though we listened to the same music in each others' apartments or funky row house co-op, everyone with a record player owned the same albums.  My life was too transient for that, yet radio was what we thought radio would always be, nothing but our favorite music.  Otis Redding, "Scarborough Fair," Dylan and more Dylan and the Doors.  I think I've officially become part of a dwindling generation that knows its own ghost-filled past better than it knows the present.  There is a place for us in those long-ago rooms.  It is not nostalgia but another reality.  First Aid Kit sings it as though they'd been there, too.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Word of the Week - 55

"I once sent a dozen of my friends a telegram saying 'flee at once - all is discovered.' They all left town immediately."
--Mark Twain
also attributed to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Note sent by Ty Cobb.

Word of the Week: MISSIVE

I'm sticking with the pre-computer definition of missive as a frequently handwritten note or bit of communication, not an email or text.  As wildly passionate as I am about typewriters, I suppose it is my own narrow thinking that seeks penmanship.  We can leave the debate open on that.  Dictionaries differ on the content of a missive - some say lengthy , others say brief, urgent - and remain, shall we say, flexible about the handwritten requirement.

Picture the cardboard rectangle that arrives with a bouquet of flowers or a tiny folded card with room for just a few meaningful words.  These are mementos to be saved, perhaps even glued into a baby book.


On the occasion of her birthday this past week, an artist friend shared a handwritten note from her father, telling her of his feelings on the day she was born.  Reading it made me wish, as do many things, that I'd saved every loving, cheering missive I'd ever received.  To have not just the good wishes or sincere feelings of those we've loved but their distinctive handwriting as well, what a treasure.

Asking myself why, with such a fondness for pens and papers, I send so few pieces of real snail mail, I have only one answer.  Inertia.  I am a reasonable email correspondent or sender of Facebook messages.  A letter IS a letter.  Electronics do not render it invalid or inferior.  Still.

As proof that I am not the only one presently concerned with missives and their importance in our lives, here are some projects and/or products that are able defense witnesses.

At Letters of Note editor Shaun Usher is at work on Volume II of collected correspondence.   Among the "most fascinating" letters on the blog is this, excerpted, from John Steinbeck to his eldest son:

"If you love someone—there is no possible harm in saying so—only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another—but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.



And at Letters In The Mail, you can subscribe to receive two letters a month from authors.  Read more at the link.  A plus, "Think of it as the letters you used to get from your creative friends, before this whole internet/email thing. Most of the letters will include return addresses (at the author’s discretion) in case you want to write the author back." 

Headline: "Letters In The Mail" Turns Your Favorite Author Into Your Pen Pal.

Now go to the Post Office or and find colorful postage to speed your missives on their way.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Previously, in Billington's Cove - A recap

In preparation for what I hope will be the continuation of goings-on in Billington's Cove, here is a previous episode (or two) to refresh all our memories.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Mooning about in the Billington's Cove sunshine

Gloria's sandwiches, borrowed from here.
Robert was thinking, "lucky day" as he watched his workmates head out to string the fairy lights for the dance.  They had actually drawn straws, a commodity the hardware store could produce, to see who had ladder duty that day.  The Reading Man was willing for any task that needed doing and was also grateful to be more earthbound.

If he'd been working in the field, so to speak, he could have swung by Gloria's for lunch.  Any of the voices he heard that morning included conversation about sandwiches for workers.  Someone mentioned feta and sun dried tomatoes on ciabata.  Maybe they could bring him back a few.  (Fisherman's pants! his mind half shouted at him, but the vision of an ample lunch refused to shrink.)

The other half of his mind had begun to fill with music, all of it decades out of date, all of which he had danced to, sometimes with enthusiasm, sometimes with a detachment he hoped seemed cool.  Shuffled in among best loved oldies were the few songs he'd overheard Gloria singing in her kitchen.  Folk songs in a sweet voice that made him think of a mandolin and girls with long, straight hair who had, once upon a time, laughed, it seemed, from the soles of their not-quite-clean feet, only knew how to cook spaghetti and didn't complain.  He remembered they had each grown dreamy from the smell of his porch-dried chambray shirt and shampooed hair.

Good thing they hadn't assigned him power tools today, Robert thought.  Saws, drills and their ilk in combination with ladders.  He had sidestepped into his time machine, the state of suspended disbelief discovered in childhood where now became any time he wished, either with clear memory or soaring imagination.  He knew from experience it would be a jolting re-entry to find himself back behind the cash register, his youthful wonder boy self disguised as a man of increasing years.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thoughts of the summer dance transfix Billington's Cove inhabitants - part 2

Bite-size grilled cheese sandwiches.

Cake bites.
The bite-size buffet worked before, Gloria knew, but not a serve-yourself free-for-all.  There would need to be servers,  sharp-eyed servers, and a way for guests to feel abundance and not lack as they carried their treat-filled plates to a table beneath the strings of fairy lights.  She talked to all the other restaurant owners and volunteer chefs in town, a menu was set, commitments made, watches synchronized.  She scanned the tearoom to see which of her most reliable helpers was already present, which would need to be called.  After a quick inventory of supplies on hand, she started the first batch of cookies.

She was of two minds about how she wished she could spend the day.  What a luxury to be a girl again, all dreamy and a'swirl in tulle and silk, trying on gowns, party dresses, nearly hypnotized by anticipation and her youthful image in the dressing table mirror.  Truth was, she was as enamored of preparing her treats as she had once been of, as she called it, sashaying about, fussing with her hair, writing some boy's name over and over in a notebook, wishing for things she couldn't actually name but felt she would recognize  when they arrived.

Work was a tonic, a cure-all, even when no actual ailment was present.  She was not moonstruck, not adolescent and definitely not confused.  No, she amended.  She WAS moonstruck and with good reason.  It was rare in what she knew of the world to be so aware of another's essential self as she was of Robert's, without having been told.  Gloria believed we possess aspects that never lie to us, that simply receive what is true and allow it to flow freely, a stream returned to life with the first snow melt.  Though this was a new experience, she could trust it.  She wondered if she ought to rethink trusting the townsfolk not to serve themselves too generously at a buffet.  The answer to that was not yet clear.


Space and time

For the times we feel idle, when it seems that we give no evidence of forward momentum, I think how greatly we undervalue the fact that we are passengers, astronauts by loose definition, who each year travel around the sun. A year's journey of 583 million miles at roughly 67,062 miles per hour is but a pinch of the 225,000 to 250,000 year voyage our solar system makes around the Milky Way galaxy.  Idle?  Hardly.  I bless gravity, not always my best friend, for without it all our energy would go into just holding on.  Instead we have so many other options, too often forgetting that the not-simple act of being needs to rank high on the list.

We fret and wonder, have we wasted our gifts, resources, time, love on the way to this moment?  It seems to me that life is a cumulative business, no parts can be discarded as lost or misspent for they all contribute, minute by minute, to who and what we are today, adding themselves to who and what we will be tomorrow.  It is all experience, opportunity for learning, making adjustments, altering and evolving.  Energy is not intended to be frittered on regret.  The knots into which we can tie ourselves over the mistakes, the seemingly grievous errors of our pasts, hobble us.  I believe each moment is the chance for a new beginning, one of the reasons why New Year's resolutions have never held much appeal.  Time and space, the next moment, the entire solar system, what an adventure.  I hope we are all gentle and patient with ourselves today, our dance cards are very full.
Vintage dance card.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Word of the Week - 54

Walt Whitman

Word of the Week:  CONTAIN

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

The word "contain" takes me in so many directions.  At first I thought of the likelihood that others who fancy pens and notebooks, as I do, are also drawn to things that hold other things.  If we have pencils, we need a pencil box.  If we have color pencils, we need an array of easy-to-access storage in which to sort them into color families, types, manufacturers.  There is pleasure, for some of us, in winnowing them into smaller and smaller categories, like biological classifications: class, order, genus, species, and variety.
A version of my back-to-school favorite giant pencil.
Then I thought, "I can't contain myself," to describe a state of such heightened excitement that we start to overflow our banks.  Containing one's self or the attempt to do so may fall into the category of overrated actions.  I have probably mentioned before my aunt's comment when asked about a comedy film she'd just seen.  "It was so funny I could hardly keep from laughing."  Decorum.  I'm not so sure.

Among us pen types, I suspect that old luggage is a favorite, right up there with cigar boxes.  It is the odd but not uncommon heart which rejoices at a stack of vintage suitcases.  And where else to keep real treasures but a cigar box.  Literature supports this truth.
Jem Finch's cigar box from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. (Thank you, Bobby Rivers TV.)
I like hard copies of things, an address book full of crossed-out, rewritten entries, scrap paper notes, torn envelopes, held closed with a rubber band.  Because my father kept files of things like clippings, correspondence, carbons of his stories, I am lured by file folders and file cabinets.  I grew to adulthood working in offices, filing.  The emphatic sound of a metal file draw sliding shut will never be mistaken for anything else.
From Staples.
Containers' delight.
I have tried, without success, even consulting my poetry angel, to find the source of a poem I think I remember from a high school or junior college class in the 60s about how bag people go looking for bags, box people go looking for boxes.  Having fallen short of that goal, here is a bit more Whitman, wiser than many men.  I think this is so lovely.  Contained by time.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Happy Birthday, James Taylor

Thinking of 1970, release date for "Sweet Baby James."  Time flies.
His bio says James Taylor was born March 12, 1948.  That means when I listened to this album at 25 he was a youthful 22.  And had created this.

I am thankful that music and poetry do not require us to explain why we are touched.  The phrase "galvanic skin response" is as close as I come in words to saying how I am moved by the ineffable.  Some things simply are.

"Hard Times Come Again No More" included on this CD.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Change Is Gonna Come

We are just now watching the final five episodes of TREME.  Knowing they were there,  that they existed whole and fresh and unconsumed, was a $20 bill stuffed deep in the pocked of a seldom-worn raincoat.  When John Boutte (accent above the "e") stepped slowly into his goosebumps version of "A Change Is Gonna Come," it felt like being home.  I missed these so-human characters and their stories.  I promised myself to be unswervingly diligent about making what music I make.  The thought "making music and cooking" appeared as an image of my hand, writing the words in my planner.  Not the "To Do" list, the "Must Be" list.  Part of my not-entirely vague manifesto states that there can only be one thing at the top of a list.  That is generally true, yet here I am with making music, cooking, writing and drawing and other heart-driven choices side by side like piano keys, claiming my time, elbowing each other across the first line in the notebook.

Boutte's voice has more than hints of Sam Cooke.  When he starts to sing in the episode, I start to sing.

We each find solace where we can.  With loss consuming so much of life, I see it as miraculous that we do anything other than grieve.  There is music, there is tomorrow, there is hope.  Perhaps all joyful pursuits, all that dazzles and transfixes us,  living versions of Dr. Seuss showing us how impossibly happy the Whos are at Christmas, are whistling in the dark.  The only sensible option is to keep whistling.

From Wendell Berry, this:

Envelope antics

I used the 12 x 12 circle grid stencil from The Crafters Workshop, the wide tip of a Tria pen, topped with Micron Pigma .005 pen lines, then color pencil, and suddenly there were silly cats on an envelope.  Fun is where we find it.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Word of the Week - 53

At the link, you can magnify to see the art in greater detail.  By Sonia Dalaunay.
Word of the Week: POCHOIR

The word is from the French and means, in brief, " a stencil process for making colored prints or adding color to a printed key illustration."  The illustration above is from an auction of "A Suite of 40 Pochoirs by Sonia Delaunay-Terk."  It is a word I don't believe I'd seen before.  Additional - extensive - background from Smithsonian Libraries may be found here.  All the links in this post have something to tell about Delaunay's history as an artist, most find ways of connecting her to the 21st century.  With the information offered, you are free to learn as much or as little as you like about Sonia Delaunay, her work and a life as colorful as her art.

My discovery of pochoir is the result of looking further into the work of Sonia Delaunay.
Sonia Delaunay textile, fashion designs.
Fashion sketches.
Sonia Delaunay costumes for a 1920 play.
An artist book, created using the pochoir method for Delaunay's richly-hued watercolor designs.
An excerpt from the review of a MoMA exhibit which included the book art above:

La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France, a collaborative book project by Sonia Delaunay and Blaise Cendrars (the pen name for Frédéric Louis Sauser, which literally implies burning ashes and is meant to invoke the rebirth of a phoenix) is included in the exhibition and is a dramatic re-envisioning of the book. It consists of four sheets glued together in a grid, with Sonia Delaunay’s signature vivid geometric watercolor painting, created by the pochoir method (painting through a stencil).  (the article, linked under the photo, is worth reading)
Eiffel Tower, oil painting.
Daulanay's Cubist bathing suits.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

I've been walking in my sleep

Let's pretend we welcome Daylight Saving Time.  While we're at it, we could pretend it is still the latter half of the 20th century in which we were, those of us of a certain age, young and watched The Monkees.  Their "Daydream Believer" has never lost relevance for me, likely never will.

I was elbowed yesterday by a Facebook post about the importance of dreams and how we can begin to unravel their wisdom by starting to write down as much as we remember upon waking each morning.  Don't try to make sense of them, the article cautioned, almost promising that as we become more consistent with recording them, our recall will widen and the messages they convey will be less obscure.  Decades ago I kept a dream journal until the book intended for the purpose was filled.  I was more practiced in the art of remembering and imagine I can become that way again.

Dreams and their waking counterparts, daydreams, tell us stories about ourselves.  That the telling may be in code is not intended to keep us from their secrets.  We are meant to understand and inhabit the stories, their value all the greater for the work they ask of us.  Dream on, my sisters and brothers.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Word of the Week - 52

The first year milestone for WotW on the blog, so I'm giving myself the nod for consistency.  Hey.  Now, on to important matters.
Beloved felted creatures from Celestine and the Hare.
Word of the Week:  NARRATIVE

noun, 1. a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious.
In the land of narrative, I have a new hero.  Her name is Karin, artist/proprietor at Celestine and the Hare.  She not only creates the most heartful, soulful felted creatures in her shed in Wales, she narrates (and shows in photos and videos) the goings-on in her world.  It is a place of humor, magic and fantasy which, given a choice, I would prefer to inhabit.  We have the option of residence in both worlds, for reality does at times demand our presence, by keeping up with daily reports from the shed and environs via Karin's Facebook page.

Even though it was a scant few months ago that I first discovered the wonders of those who "Live Norty" and "Swear Like a Panda," I don't remember exactly how I first encountered this delightful realm.  It was not long before Christmas, that much I know.  My sister and I laughed often over the carryings-on of, in particular, the norty (translate: naughty) weasels who are choklit-obsessed and exceedingly norty where choklit is concerned, and others such as Mary and Emily bear.  Here is a  sample post:

Original text from Celestine and the Hare, Feb. 26, 2015:

"Ooops I posted the wrong photo in my relief! Trying again
"Oh Little Panda we were SO worried about you. Why didn't you tell someone where you were going? We didn't dare tell anyone that we didn't know where you were as they would have all been so worried too"
"I told Baby Weasus to tell you..."
"But she's only a baby and such a scatter brain and she forgot and we were so worried and we had posters made and Jackie looking there and us looking here and we were so worried. You were gone such a long time! Where were you?"
"Well, you see I got a story out of Emily's library called the Elves and the Shoemaker and I did love it and I saw that Jackie was really really busy trying to do lots of colouring in for her book and write a new book too and she works ever so ever so hard and well I thought I was getting quite good at colouring in as I've been practising lots and lots and she said you need 10000 hours to get ok at something and I"ve not done it that long yet but I thought I could help a little bit here and there with the bits in the corners and sorting the paints out and changing the water and I make nice hot choklit so I thought I'd stay a little bit longer and help her just a little bit with the bits that no one would notice like the elves did with the shoes. So I told baby weasus to tell you I was staying a bit longer and would come home soon. But then I didn't realise how far it was from her house to here cos I was having a nap in the car so I got on my spacehopper and bounced home on it but it was night time by the time I got here and the shed was locked and everyone was asleep so I went into the car instead and snuggled down under the blanket on the floor of the car for the night but then in the morning she got up and drove me to the car doctors before I could get up and say and then they kept the car for aaaages cos of a light that what going on but it was ok cos the nice mechanic gave me some of his sandwiches and they have this machine where you can make hot choklit so I did that and there are loads of biscuits there in funny little packets of two which is odd cos why would anyone want only 2 biscuits so I ate all of them and then snuggled down for the night and in the morning the nice man put me in the cup holder after he had cleaned up the car and all the biscuit crumbs so she would see me when she came to get the car and here I am. And there's my space hopper too eh baby weasus?"
"oh oh Emily I remember!! Panda said he was staying a bit long er and it was a sekrit and not to worry!""
If Facebook will cooperate, follow the Celestine posts back to the beginning of December to become familiar with all the references, for example Baby Weasus is a small weasel from a highly innovative re-enactment of the Nativity story.  Each post charms me, as do the videos and photos, and I hope you will have a similar response.
The telling and inhabiting of our stories can influence the direction of our lives.  We can bring the magic of which we are made to ordinary matters, transforming our thoughts, our circumstances, our futures.  Because Karin so clearly exemplifies how we are enriched, entertained, softened, ensorcelled and brightened by the telling of extraordinary events, "true or fiction," I wanted to introduce her to any not yet familiar with her wide definition of art.
"What art offers is space — a certain breathing room for the spirit." ~John Updike
My own Norty Weasel, Gareth, greeted with choklit when he arrived as a birthday gift from my sister and brother-in-law.