A spring wind blowing
the smell of the ground
through the intersection of traffic,
the mind turns, seeks a new
simpler less weighted
by what has already been.
it’s enough to grieve me—
that old dream of going,
of becoming a better man
just by getting up and going
to a better place.
The mystery. The old
The iron trees in the park
suddenly remember forests
It becomes possible to think of going.
—a place where thought
can take its shape
as quietly in the mind
as water in a pitcher,
or a man can be
safely without thought
—see the day begin
and lean back,
a simple wakefulness filling
the spaces among the leaves.
~ Wendell Berry
Music by Morgan Taylor Reid, “Where Do I Even Start”
Toei-Zan Temple from “Twelve Scenes of the Eastern Capital” by Utagawa Hiroshige (no date)
In a world of one color
The sound of wind.” ~ Matsuo Basho
Thanks to those of you who have visited my Collecting Dust page and perused my verse. I had always thought that my first book would be a book of poetry, but as the years have passed, I have realized that while I can occasionally write an inspired verse, my creative non-fiction seems much stronger than my poetry, at least in my opinion. But then what do I know? I have written for years and years for myself and have never bothered to try to get anything published, with the exception of one essay. All of my other publications were on the professional side, which is great except that it wasn’t for me.
The poems that I have included on the Collecting Dust page are mostly ones that I have featured in earlier posts. I actually have lots more verse that is sitting in computer folders doing a whole lot of nothing.
With that in mind, I’ve decided that 2010 will be the year that I will try to find an agent. I say this with great casualness, as if finding an agent were akin to checking out the local grocery store and finding a good canteloupe. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth (yes further, as farther is reserved for physical distance). I realize that literary agents are a commodity, and that finding one to give you a bit of time is well nigh impossible, but I’ve made this my one writing goal for the year.
If at the end of this quest I am still empty-handed, then I shall have to regroup and rethink . . . well at least it sounds good for now. and if I am to be truthful, which I try to be on this blog, I really don’t know if I can muster the courage needed to try to find an agent.
Is all of this just more of my personal setting myself up for failure state of mind? Who knows. Certainly, not I.
Moving along . . .
“The first soft snow!
Enough to bend the leaves
Of the jonquil low.” ~ Matsuo Basho
Had a very strange dream last night about one of my cousins from Great Bridge. I was writing a paper for him on this computer that was shaped like a toy cash register. I was having a hard time figuring out how to work this computer as there was no apparent save button anywhere, and the keyboard fell off at inconvenient times. Very strange.
I remember something about race cars going on in the background, and the movie Hidalgo, with my LOTR idol, Viggo Mortensen, making an appearance. Bizarre in the extreme. Have absolutely no idea what any of that was about, especially Hidalgo.
So it’s February already, and not a peep from the guy from Vane Brothers Shipping. I am trying mightily hard not to devolve into full-blown panic mode as it would only rub off on Corey, who doesn’t need yet another thing over which to worry. But I mean, geez, February, the second month of 2010 (as if you were unaware of that fact), and still no call to duty, as it were.
Corey spent over an hour on the phone with his dad the other night, talking about this and that, mostly his dad’s lawn care business in Ohio. Corey started that business when he was just out of high school, and it’s still going strong. I do envy him his long conversations with his parents. That just wasn’t something that ever happened in my house. Even though my mother lives less than two miles from our house, the last time we had any kind of conversation over anything of substance was years and years ago when my marriage to my ex broke down irreparably.
I’m glad for Corey that he can get on the phone and talk forever to either one of his parents about just about anything. That’s enviable, especially coming from a home in which deep subjects were never pondered, politics was not a topic of discussion, and emotions were always kept in check unless someone was yelling. Don’t misunderstand: I did not come from an abusive home. Hardly. But I came from a home in which my parents were always pitched on some kind of battle ground, and I was forced into a forward position, like it or not.
I vividly remember one time when I was a teenager, and I was horribly depressed, weeping depressed, and my mother and I were out running errands. I picked up the book Holocaust to buy, and my mother made me put it back. Her reasoning was that I should read happy things to feel better. That was her treatment for my depression. Over the years I have come to realize that my mother was wholly incapable of dealing with things such as clinical depression as she was so much a child of her generation in which any kind of mental illness was a taboo, something people hid from the neighbors. So think happy thoughts was pretty much it as far as treatment.
Of course I did not know it then, but my father was suffering from his own personal demons while I was growing up, depression being one of them. I just used to think of him as being quiet, but it was a comfortable silence most of the time, until it wasn’t. It’s hardly surprising that my country-born mother and my Filipino father never seemed able to be there for one another. That they lasted for so many years probably has more to do with generational ideology than anything else.
Not really sure what made me go there. Just sort of popped into my head.
“The winter leeks
Have been washed white—
How cold it is!” ~ Matsuo Basho
It’s raining today, and I heard some forecaster calling for a rain/snow mix later in the week. Now that snow has come to the area, it will continue to pop into the forecast until March, undoubtedly.
I do seem to have acquired another cold as my head is full of fluff and pressure, and my throat has gunk. Delightful. What can I say? I just have a flair with description.
I decided that today would be a good day to feature some images by Utagawa Hiroshige (also known as Ando Hiroshige), a famous Japanese artist who produced over 1,000 prints in his lifetime (1797-1858). Hiroshige produced several well-known series (12 total), including “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo,” and “Famous Views of the Fifty-Three Stations,” which featured images on the theme of the Tōkaidō, the road running from Edo to Kyoto. Personally, I love the snow scenes, mostly because of the contradiction that I always feel when seeing snow on Japanese landscapes, which in my mind, should be covered with cherry blossoms.
Hiroshige, a near contemporary of Hokusai (another of my favorites), was a renowned ukiyo-e landscape artist of the late Edo period who produced woodblock prints in the oban format, which was the most common print size of approximately 15×10 inches; tate-e refers to the print being vertically-aligned (portrait), and yoko-e means horizontal alignment (landscape). Ukiyo-e translates as “pictures of the floating world,” and the term refers to the woodblock prints produced in this school. Hiroshige’s landscapes, which featured, snow, mountains, rain, and the moon, were popular with European Impressionists such as Monet, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.
The term japonisme arises from the 1870s, after the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867, which featured a Japanese stand that included art. The public became enamored with all things Japanese, and the Impressionists were particularly taken with the Japanese artists’ use of broad spaces of color. In particular, Horishige employed the use of perspective, primarily a Western technique, something heretofore not employed in the ukoyo-e prints, which were largely two-dimensional.
Van Gogh was so taken with Hiroshige’s work that he painted copies of two Hiroshige prints: “Plum Tree in Bloom” and “The Bridge in the Rain.” Van Gogh described his interest in Japanese painting in saying that “I envy the Japanese artists for the incredible neat clarity which all their works have. It is never boring and you never get the impression that they work in a hurry. It is as simple as breathing; they draw a figure with a couple of strokes with such an unfailing easiness as if it were as easy as buttoning one’s waist-coat.”
Hiroshige was a member of the Utagawa School, a famous group of 19th Century Japanese woodblock print artists. The school was one of the more successful schools, and many of the ukiyo-e prints that have survived are from the Utagawa School. Today, many of these prints can be found on greeting cards, fans, posters, even book illustrations.
Just thought I’d share more of the minutiae that rolls through my brain and makes an appearance on occasion.
“Once you have tasted the sky, you will forever look up.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci
I’ve written several posts on the subject of being thankful, including the Grace in Small Things series. Today, I thought that I would focus on things, events, and people that I have encountered in my life that have helped to shape me into the person I am.
Having the opportunity to see original masterpieces by Renoir, Monet, Glackens, Bernini, Van Gogh, Klimt, Morisot, Wyeth, Hopper, Sargent, Kadinsky, Pollock, Caravaggio, Tiffany, Manet, Leighton, Rembrant, Tissot, Matisse, Veronese, Rothko, as well as ancient Ethiopian art, tribal masks dating back to the 12th century, real Samurai armor and weapons, and photography by Brady, Stieglitz, Bourke-White, Mann, Strand.
Walking through a tropical rain forest in Africa and seeing shades of green that I never knew existed. Crossing a hanging rope bridge that was situated high in the air above a stream.
Sitting in the dark and listening to live performances by Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Seeing Nureyev and Margot Fontaine perform.
Hiding in the trunk of a car to get into a drive-in movie for free and then not watching the movie because it was too scary.
Going snorkeling in the Caribbean
Walking among the ruins of Tulum amid the huge iguanas and then eating fresh guacamole with cold Sol atop a small mountain.
Seeing the volcano in Baguio, Philippines
Riding up a mountain to get to Baguio in a bus very much like the ones you see in the movies, which was filled with villagers, chickens, a pig, old women, and my very American mother.
Reading some of the best literature ever written: all of Shakespeare, Michael Ondaatje, Marlow, and far too many others to mention.
Meeting some of my favorite poets and writers in person at literary festivals, including Chris Buckley, Mary Oliver, Tim O’Brien, Barry Lopez, Caroline Forché, Bruce Weigl, and many others
Working in a newsroom right at the crest of computers. Watching the paper be printed, smelling the ink.
Attending three wonderful universities: The George Washington, Virginia Tech, and Old Dominion.
Doing on-camera interviews for the museum, which sometimes meant being at the studio at 5 a.m, but still fun.
Performing for the Queen Mother in London in a Dances of Asia program.
Starring as Rizzo in Grease.
Participating in a drum-making ceremony with a drum master.
Working in a donut shop for a few months during high school and getting to bring home the leftovers.
Dancing on the runway at a go go bar for a story on the Norfolk nightlife.
Hanging out over the water in a trapeze while sailing on a catamaran in the Chesapeake Bay
Going cave tubing and not feeling the least bit claustrophobic
Hiking on the trails at Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway
Getting my four-cylinder Pontiac Sunbird up to 80 mph while driving home from Blacksburg one Sunday night
Attending grade school in London
Going to a military tattoo in Scotland and sitting in the outdoor stadium wrapped up in blankets because it was so cold.
Seeing huge statues in the mountains of Spain as we drove through the country.
Seeing live concerts by The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Sarah McLachlan, The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers, Sugarland, Norah Jones, and a bunch of other people I can’t remember.
Playing Chopin and Mozart on a grand piano at a recital in front of 100 people.
These are just a few of the highlights. I deliberately did not include anything personal about my children, husband, family, or friends as that is an entirely different list. But putting these things down in words makes me realize how very many opportunities I have had in my life to travel, to embrace other cultures, to see stunning natural and man-made beauty.
I have done things that I never thought that I would do, and I have seen in person things that I had only dreamt of.
I have not led a life of privilege, but I have been privileged to have had these experiences. There is nothing on this list that is earth-shattering, nor is there anything that changed humanity. But individually and collectively, these moments in time have changed me in ways seen and unseen. They have moved me to tears and made me cry with delight. Trite as it may sound, I have had a wonderful life.
More later. Peace.
Itzhak Perlman performing Massenet’s “Meditation from Thais,” a song that I performed in recital at Virginia Wesleyan College.