“Human nature is like water. It takes the shape of its container.” ~ Wallace Stevens

Charles Burchfield The Mysterious Bird 1917
“The Mysterious Bird” (1917)
by Charles Burchfield

                   

Two for Tuesday: Imperfect Memories

Edward Hopper Blackhead, Monhegan, Maine c1918
“Blackhead, Monhegan, Maine” (c1918)
by Edward Hopper

Of Bright & Blue Birds & The Gala Sun

Some things, niño, some things are like this,
That instantly and in themselves are gay
And you and I are such things, O most miserable…

For a moment they are gay and are a part
Of an element, the exactest element for us,
In which we pronounce joy like a word of our own.

It is there, being imperfect, and with these things
And erudite in happiness, with nothing learned,
That we are joyously ourselves and we think

Without the labor of thought, in that element,
And we feel, in a way apart, for a moment, as if
There was a bright scienza outside of ourselves,

A gaiety that is being, not merely knowing,
The will to be and to be total in belief,
Provoking a laughter, an agreement, by surprise.

~ Wallace Stevens

                   

Max Beckmann Beach Landscape 1904
“Beach Landscape” (1904)
by Max Beckmann

Liar

What brings me alive
is less than simplicity,
is a company of soldiers in shiny blue jackets
boiling chickens in the shade
by the Erasmus Gate, is the fact that my grandfather
died begging for mercy
in a hotel in Atlanta, and that my grandmother, in 1910,
mourned because her breasts
were small.

I know four men
who paddled the length of the Mississippi
in a dugout they hacked
and burned out of a beech tree. When anyone mentioned rivers
they would look at each other
and their eyes would soften with the memory
of mists and sand bars,
of the grave black brows of river barges.

I come from a country as large as Brazil,
but all I remember
are the wet silver webs
of golden jungle spiders
netted in the cane.

I wake up thinking of my brother,
who, on a July morning in 1954,
killed a boy without meaning to.
And I can tell you that this isn’t true,
that my brother didn’t,
as he swept back a four iron
on the lawn of our house in Sea Island,
crack the temple of a boy we had only met
the night before. I can say Yes
I am lying again,
about the boy, about Sea Island,
but as you get up to fix another drink
I will tell you a story
about sleeping in a hay barn in Turkey
and of waking in the night, as, one by one,
the farm hands stood out of the rank straw
to greet us.
I want you to know
that my life is a ritual lie
and that I deserve to be loved
anyway. I want you to smile
when I tell of the purple hyacinths
caught in the gears of the raised bridge
over the Chickopee River, I want you to pretend
you were there.

My sister’s hips were two ax handles wide,
she wept that no one would love her,
my sister, who waded among yellow poppies
and wondered if she were really alive—I want you to wish
you had married her,
I want you to say Please, why did she leave me,
Get her back, O my God,
how can I live without her. I’m not even amazed
that I want you to say this. Listen,
I came downstairs this morning
and somebody had filled the house with flowers.

~ Charlie Smith

                   

Music by Ryan Star, “Losing Your Memory”

“Sometimes I get up early and even my soul is wet.” ~ Pablo Neruda, from “Here I Love You”

Eugene Fredrik Jansson Vinternatt over Kajen Winter Night on the Quai 1901 oil on canvas
“Vinternatt over Kajen (Winter Night on the Quai)” (1901, oil on canvas)
by Eugène Fredrik Jansson

                   

“Mind you, sometimes the angels smoke, hiding it with their sleeves, and when the archangel comes, they throw the cigarettes away: that’s when you get shooting stars.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov, letter to his wife

Tuesday afternoon. Cold and rainy, 39 degrees.

Well, I slept a bit better last night but still awoke with a migraine. I wonder if the Botox will ever kick in, or if my body will continue to do what it will regardless of treatment.

It’s a beastly day outside, the kind of day that causes the dogs to peer out the door and then turn around, choosing instead to wait and wait and wait. I have so many thoughts bouncing around in my head about so many different things that I thought I might just do a random thoughts post today. So here we go . . .

  • I have realized that my ideas about art have changed significantly from how I used to feel decades ago.
  • Thinking about art always makes me think about Mari, who loved art. When she was still with her husband Buddy, her house was filled with original works of art. I was so jealous.
  • I used to love only the Impressionists with their milky colors all blurring together, Monet in particular.

    Edvard Munch Thawing Snow 1919
    “Thawing Snow” (1919, oil on canvas)
    by Edvard Munch
  • Then I was really into the pre-Raphaelites, especially John William Waterhouse.
  • Lately though, I find that I am much more drawn to the Realists (and all of the associated offshoots) who worked right around the late 19th century into the first part of the 20th century.
  • I like the clearer depictions of landscapes, the richer, more defined colors.
  • I am particularly drawn to Emil Nolde, Leon Spilliaert, Edvard Munch, and Edward Hopper.
  • I have never understood or particularly cared for Andy Warhol.
  • Regardless of movement or school, however, I find that I am almost exclusively drawn to landscapes, or in the case of Hopper, his lonely people.

“You never realise where you are going until you get there,
where nothing is planned, nothing is known,
and you’re drawn back into the heart’s old orbits,
tiny as a grain, massive as a moon.” ~ Pat Boran, from “Moon Street”

A few personal things:

  • I haven’t read a book in almost three months; I go through these phases in which I simply cannot read, cannot concentrate, but this has turned into a long dry spell.

    John Fabian Carlson Brooding Silence
    “Brooding Silence” (nd, oil on canvas)
    by John Fabian Carlson
  • Even though I’m not reading it doesn’t keep me from wanting more books, adding books to my wish list, obsessing over new releases or old titles that I haven’t read yet.
  • Even as a teenager I used to wish that I could work for a publishing company, but I never did a damned thing about it.
  • I have this publishing degree that is pretty much wasted.
  • I used to dream of moving to New York and working for a big publishing house. I never even tried to make this a reality.
  • I also used to dream of moving to New York and trying to find work as an actor. Never did that either.
  • So little action for such big dreams, and now I wonder if I’m too old to have dreams.

“Sometimes at night I would sleep open-eyed underneath a sky dripping with stars. I was alive then.” ~ Albert Camus

Family news:

  • Corey and I talked for almost an hour and a half last night. He has so much to tell me about his new job. I hear an excitement in his voice that I haven’t heard in a while. I’m so relieved.
  • Sometimes I think that Corey only works as a merchant marine to support our family, but I really think that he likes being on the water, and he’s very good at what he does.

    Zinaida Serebriakova Winter Landscape period Neskuchnoye 1910
    “Winter Landscape. Nekuchnoye” (1910)
    by Zinaida Serebriakova
  • When we first got married, his big dream was to own his own landscaping company, and he worked at it for over a year. I was actually surprised when he told me that he realized that he really didn’t like it.
  • Olivia’s new word is no . . .
  • The Christmas tree still has no ornaments on it, and I haven’t addressed any cards yet. This is the most unprepared I have been for the holidays in a very long time.
  • Eamonn called Corey yesterday morning to tell him the phones were off. We were both stupefied by eldest son’s complete lack of context, as in Corey might be a bit busy, you know, with the new job thing. Amazing.
  • I did do some online shopping yesterday, but I don’t even feel like leaving the house to finish the shopping.

“Look up . . . and see them.
The teaching stars,
beyond worship
and commonplace tongues.” ~ Dorothy Dunnett

On time marching inexorably on:

  • Mari and I have gotten lax in our writing project. I started it when I got side-tracked while working on the bathroom. I’m hoping that we can get our rhythm back and really get back to it by the beginning of the year.
  • Speaking of beginning of the year, I have a milestone birthday coming up—not going to say which one, so don’t even ask—and I’m kind of in shock. I mean, how does this happen?
  • Of course I know how it happens, duh, the whole space time continuum, earth rotating around the sun and all of that, but still . . .

    Tom Thomson Frost-Laden Cedars, Big Cauchon Lake 1916 oil on canvas
    “Frost-Laden Cedars, Big Cauchon Lake” (1916, oil on canvas)
    by Tom Thomson
  • I still don’t feel my age. I’ve never felt my age. When I was young, I felt older, and when I got older, I felt younger.
  • I think that I’m doing this whole age thing wrong, but I can’t figure out how to do it right.
  • Still don’t know what I’m going to be when I grow up, which used to be funny, but I realize that it’s kind of lost its charm at this point.
  • Am I going to live the rest of my days not knowing what in the hell I’m doing, where in the hell I’m going, when in the hell I’m finally going to figure something out? Anything?
  • At this point, really, I’d settle for anything.
  • Speaking of time and things, I find that a lot of people fear the future. I don’t fear the future for being the future or for what it may bring. I just fear being unprepared for life.
  • For me, time that has passed is far weightier than time to come.
  • Days gone by contain so many pieces of our selves, of other people, of the world. The past is heavy just from all that it bears and how it is continually resurrected.

“We were approaching winter like an object which cannot be put between words. Behavior became simpler since we had dislocated our memories . . . Though the clouds could be uttered in a variety of tones, the stars formed constellations analyzed completely. You cried for the moon, which had started to wane in agreement with constant and variable.” ~ Rosmarie Waldrop, from Curves to the Apples

Things I still want to do, see, experience:

  • My wish for our next big vacation: Ireland, England, France. I know, almost prohibitive.
  • The northern lights, Aurora Borealis, a comet—I ache to be somewhere without light pollution, to stand on a hill and drink in the complex beauty of the night sky.
  • A Canon Rebel camera so that I can get back into photography (I guess this belongs more on a want to have list)

    Petr Nilus Snowy Landscape
    “Snowy Landscape” (1928, oil on canvas)
    by Petr Nilus
  • The west coast—Oregon, Washington, Northern California. Absolutely no desire to be anywhere near LA
  • A long weekend to New York to go to nothing but museums
  • Speaking of museums, still, always will want to go to the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. Also the Art Institute of Chicago and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
  • An extended train trip across Europe. I have never traveled any distance on a train, only inner city. I understand that it can be quite cramped, but what I would like to do is go to a country, get off and see things, and then travel to another country.
  • Alaska.
  • A train trip in the northwest of the US and Canada.
  • A home that sits on a cliff near the sea, just like in the movies.

Enough of that. Today’s image theme is . . . cold, as in I am.

More later. Peace.

Music by Thriving Ivory, “Angels on the Moon”

                   

A Good Sky

I show you a good sky.
It could hold a fleet of geese
above a kite, sipping in a breeze,
or foliate the wind
with leaves of cherry wood
and hedge.

It will blanket your sleep
with mirrors of stars
in the soft undressing of night.

It will love you, soley,
through the Venus dawn,
rubbing your eyes awake
a moment before the day’s
light hangs its spars.

I show you a good sky.
It will rain its reflection
on your one troubled eye,
the one that blinks
each time a hawk rants by.

I am no one’s romantic.
No. I am the sky’s shadow-wish
writing this only
to breathe its light.

I show you a falling sun,
passing like a lover,
to be near you, allowing
no star, no bulb on a corner lamp
to possess you as you are.

Look. Here I am, the sky’s moon
down. I will shave
a horizon out of peaks
like none your memory
has ever carved.

I show you a good sky.
Its broad blue ribbon will wrap
its mind around your eyes’ imagination
and tease you into smiles—
Now, be patient,
let your grieving rest awhile.

~ James Ragan

“No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.” ~ Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper Rooms by the Sea 1951 oil on canvas
“Rooms by the Sea” (1951, oil on canvas)
by Edward Hopper

                   

Feels like a Hopper day.

Whenever I see an image by artist Edward Hopper, I am reminded of two things: Mari and the museum, which had one of my favorite Hopper paintings on display (“New York Pavements”). The people in Hopper’s paintings always seem to be alone, even when with someone else, which appeals to my love of solitude.

For more information about the artist, click here. Wikipaintings has a nice collection of work by Hopper.

Here are some of my favorites:

My Edward Hopper Eye, My Claude Monet

I walk the streets at night
shutting first one eye, then the other.

The left eye is Hopper, its lens
too clear for comfort, the hard lines
of a town you’re stuck in, always
August, noon or midnight.

The right eye haloes each street lamp.
Threads of light dissolve each tree into
the next in Paris, spring,
dusk.

In Monet’s garden of well-tended horizons
I sleep three nights, then someone delivers
a newspaper. In the damp green air
events rub off on my hands.

In every storm
one eye watches bare light
shock the land, split a tree;
the other sees each gutter
alive with wings and the rain rinsing.

And so the eyes argue:
one strips, one clothes. One cauterizes,
one salves. And I
walk on.

~ Veronica Patterson

                   

Music by Helios, “Halving the Compass”