AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

16 December 2018

Startled.


WARBLER

This year we have two gorgeous
yellow warblers nesting in the honeysuckle bush.
The other day I stuck my head in the bush.
The nestlings weigh one-twentieth of an ounce,
about the size of a honeybee. We stared at
each other, startled by our existence.
In a month or so, when they reach the size
of bumblebees they’ll fly to Costa Rica without a map.

Jim Harrison

Important.


Most important:  After the cookies have cooled, they go into a brown paper bag for storage.

Thanks, Kurt.  Mom laughed with a tear in her eye and I'm sure Grandma would be proud.

Transmission.


In rural occupation, there is nothing mean and debasing. It leads a man forth among scenes of natural grandeur and beauty; it leaves him to the workings of his own mind, operated upon by the purest and most elevating of external influences. Such a man may be simple and rough, but he cannot be vulgar. The man of refinement, therefore, finds nothing revolting in an intercourse with the lower orders in rural life, as he does when he casually mingles with the lower orders of cities. He lays aside his distance and reserve, and is glad to waive the distinctions of rank, and to enter into the honest, heartfelt enjoyments of common life. Indeed, the very amusements of the country bring, men more and more together; and the sound hound and horn blend all feelings into harmony. I believe this is one great reason why the nobility and gentry are more popular among the inferior orders in England than they are in any other country; and why the latter have endured so many excessive pressures and extremities, without repining more generally at the unequal distribution of fortune and privilege.

To this mingling of cultivated and rustic society may also be attributed the rural feeling that runs through British literature; the frequent use of illustrations from rural life; those incomparable descriptions of Nature, that abound in the British poets—that have continued down from “The Flower and the Leaf,” of Chaucer, and have brought into our closets all the freshness and fragrance of the dewy landscape. The pastoral writers of other countries appear as if they had paid Nature an occasional visit, and become acquainted with her general charms; but the British poets have lived and revelled with her—they have wooed her in her most secret haunts—they have watched her minutest caprices. A spray could not tremble in the breeze—a leaf could not rustle to the ground—a diamond drop could not patter in the stream—a fragrance could not exhale from the humble violet, nor a daisy unfold its crimson tints to the morning, but it has been noticed by these impassioned and delicate observers, and wrought up into some beautiful morality.

The effect of this devotion of elegant minds to rural occupations has been wonderful on the face of the country. A great part of the island is rather level, and would be monotonous, were it not for the charms of culture; but it is studded and gemmed, as it were, with castles and palaces, and embroidered with parks and gardens. It does not abound in grand and sublime prospects, but rather in little home scenes of rural repose and sheltered quiet. Every antique farm-house and moss-grown cottage is a picture; and as the roads are continually winding, and the view is shut in by groves and hedges, the eye is delighted by a continual succession of small landscapes of captivating loveliness.

The great charm, however, of English scenery, is the moral feeling that seems to pervade it. It is associated in the mind with ideas of order, of quiet, of sober well-established principles, of hoary usage and reverend custom. Every thing seems to be the growth of ages of regular and peaceful existence. The old church of remote architecture, with its low, massive portal; its Gothic tower; its windows rich with tracery and painted glass, in scrupulous preservation; its stately monuments of warriors and worthies of the olden time, ancestors of the present lords of the soil; its tombstones, recording successive generations of sturdy yeomanry, whose progeny still plough the same fields, and kneel at the same altar;—the parsonage, a quaint irregular pile, partly antiquated, but repaired and altered in the tastes of various ages and occupants;—the stile and foot-path leading from the churchyard, across pleasant fields, and along shady hedgerows, according to an immemorial right of way;—the neighboring village, with its venerable cottages, its public green sheltered by trees, under which the forefathers of the present race have sported;—the antique family mansion, standing apart in some little rural domain, but looking down with a protecting air on the surrounding scene; all these common features of English landscape evince a calm and settled security, a hereditary transmission of homebred virtues and local attachments, that speak deeply and touchingly for the moral character of the nation.

Washington Irving, from "Rural Life in England" 

Trombetti, Diligam te Domine [a6]

Paul Leenhouts directs The Royal Wind Music ...

Happy birthday, Beethoven.

Mähler, Ludwig von Beethoven, 1815


To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.

Ludwig von Beethoven.

Friedrich Gulda performs the Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73, "Emperor," with the Vienna Philharmonic, under the direction of Horst Stein ...

Mind.


Thank you, Wrath of Gnon.

15 December 2018

Get.

Frank Sinatra, "Mistletoe and Holly"

Transcendent.

It must be the case, that when describing the our cultural inheritance, we're not just describing something that's gone.  We must be describing something of which we are still a part, and which has to change as we are changing, to accommodate us.

All this was said by Eliot, that the artist must be constantly trying to say that new thing that he came into the world to say.  But he can only say it if he adapts his style to the inheritance of the tradition, thereby transforming the tradition and transforming himself.  There is no formula for doing this, because the formula is precisely what destroy the creative act.  We have to assume that new things will come and they will come through us as they always did in the past, through fasting and prayer ... and an occasional glass of wine.

Apprehending the Transcendent, a discussion between Roger Scruton and Jordan Peterson ...

Eradicated.


Sitting Bull was killed on this day in 1890.

This conflict, which cost so many lives, is much to be regretted, yet the good resulting therefrom can scarcely be overestimated, as it has effectually eradicated all seeds of disaffection sown by the Messiah Craze among the Indians of this Agency, and has also demonstrated to the people of the country the fidelity and loyalty of the Indian police in maintaining law and order on the reservation . Everything is now quiet at this Agency, and good feeling prevails among the Indians, newspaper reports to the contrary notwithstanding.

James McLaughlin, His Account of the Death of Sitting Bull and of the Circumstances Attending It, Philadelphia, 1891

CONNECT

Useful.

Hyde, At the Edge of Dusk, 2009


A poet has been appointed ambassador. A playwright is elected president. Construction workers stand in line with office managers to buy a new novel. Adults seek moral guidance and intellectual challenge in stories about warrior monkeys, one-eyed giants, and crazy knights who fight windmills. Literacy is considered a beginning, not an end. Well, maybe in some other country, but not this one. In America the imagination is generally looked on as something that might be useful when the TV is out of order. Poetry and plays have no relation to practical politics. Novels are for students, housewives, and other people who don’t work. Fantasy is for children and primitive peoples. Literacy is so you can read the operating instructions. I think the imagination is the single most useful tool mankind possesses. It beats the opposable thumb.

Ursula K. LeGuin

Seize.


Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart long for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.

W.B. Yeats

Praetorius, "In Dulci Jubilo"

The King's College Choir, under the direction of Stephen "Good Ol' Cleobury" Cleobury, performs ...

Burst.


Perhaps it might be owing to the pleasing serenity that reigned in my own mind that I fancied I saw cheerfulness in every countenance throughout the journey. A stage-coach, however, carries animation always with it, and puts the world in motion as it whirls along. The horn, sounded at the entrance of the village, produces a general bustle. Some hasten forth to meet friends; some with bundles and bandboxes to secure places, and in the hurry of the moment can hardly take leave of the group that accompanies them. In the meantime the coachman has a world of small commissions to execute. Sometimes he delivers a hare or pheasant; sometimes jerks a small parcel or newspaper to the door of a public house; and sometimes, with knowing leer and words of sly import, hands to some half-blushing, half-laughing house-maid an odd-shaped billet-doux from some rustic admirer. As the coach rattles through the village every one runs to the window, and you have glances on every side of fresh country faces and blooming giggling girls. At the corners are assembled juntos of village idlers and wise men, who take their stations there for the important purpose of seeing company pass; but the sagest knot is generally at the blacksmith’s, to whom the passing of the coach is an event fruitful of much speculation. The smith, with the horse’s heel in his lap, pauses as the vehicle whirls by; the cyclops round the anvil suspend their ringing hammers and suffer the iron to grow cool; and the sooty spectre in brown paper cap laboring at the bellows leans on the handle for a moment, and permits the asthmatic engine to heave a long-drawn sigh, while he glares through the murky smoke and sulphurous gleams of the smithy.

Perhaps the impending holiday might have given a more than usual animation to the country, for it seemed to me as if everybody was in good looks and good spirits. Game, poultry, and other luxuries of the table were in brisk circulation in the villages; the grocers’, butchers’, and fruiterers’ shops were thronged with customers. The housewives were stirring briskly about, putting their dwellings in order, and the glossy branches of holly with their bright-red berries began to appear at the windows. The scene brought to mind an old writer’s account of Christmas preparation: “Now capons and hens, besides turkeys, geese, and ducks, with beef and mutton, must all die, for in twelve days a multitude of people will not be fed with a little. Now plums and spice, sugar and honey, square it among pies and broth. Now or never must music be in tune, for the youth must dance and sing to get them a heat, while the aged sit by the fire. The country maid leaves half her market, and must be sent again if she forgets a pack of cards on Christmas Eve. Great is the contention of holly and ivy whether master or dame wears the breeches. Dice and cards benefit the butler; and if the cook do not lack wit, he will sweetly lick his fingers.”

I was roused from this fit of luxurious meditation by a shout from my little travelling companions. They had been looking out of the coach-windows for the last few miles, recognizing every tree and cottage as they approached home, and now there was a general burst of joy. “There’s John! and there’s old Carlo! and there’s Bantam!” cried the happy little rogues, clapping their hands.

At the end of a lane there was an old sober-looking servant in livery waiting for them; he was accompanied by a superannuated pointer and by the redoubtable Bantam, a little old rat of a pony with a shaggy mane and long rusty tail, who stood dozing quietly by the roadside, little dreaming of the bustling times that awaited him.

I was pleased to see the fondness with which the little fellows leaped about the steady old footman and hugged the pointer, who wriggled his whole body for joy. But Bantam was the great object of interest; all wanted to mount at once, and it was with some difficulty that John arranged that they should ride by turns and the eldest should ride first.

Washington Irving, from "The Stagecoach"

12 December 2018

Happy birthday, Sinatra.


Frank Sinatra was born on this day in 1915.

"One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)"

11 December 2018

Jim Harrison: Between Dog and Wolf


I am now fifty-five and I've been doing this for fifty years -- a half a century of going into the woods and the thickets, since I was a little boy.

After I hurt my eye, I was blinded in my left eye, I think I retreated from the world to the world of thickets, so I started sleeping outside a lot when I was a little boy, usually with my dog.  I felt much happier sleeping out in the forest, especially in the summer.  Perhaps someday I will even die laying out by a fire under the stars, which is a much better way to live perhaps.

Georges Luneau's documentary on Jim Harrison is HERE.

Excellent.

An excellent album ...

Happy birthday, Solzhenitsyn.


Alexander Solzhenitsyn was born on this day in 1918.

It's an universal law-- intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Cultural Offering has more.

Now.


BARKING

The moon comes up.
The moon goes down.
This is to inform you
that I didn’t die young.
Age swept past me
but I caught up.
Spring has begun here and each day
brings new birds up from Mexico.
Yesterday I got a call from the outside
world but I said no in thunder.
I was a dog on a short chain
and now there’s no chain.

Jim Harrison

Excellent.

An excellent album ...

Happy birthday, Harrison.


Jim Harrison was born on this day in 1937.

The danger of civilization, of course, is that you will piss away your life on nonsense.

Jim Harrison

10 December 2018

Recover.

Thomas Merton's study at The Hermitage

We do not live merely to "do something" -- no matter what. Activity is just one of the normal expressions of life, and the life it expresses is all the more perfect when it sustains itself with an ordered economy of action. This order demands a wise alternation of activity and rest. We do not live more fully merely by doing more, seeing more, tasting more, and experiencing more than we ever have before. On the contrary, some of us need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do and see and taste and experience much less than usual.


Our being is not to be enriched merely by activity or experience as such. Everything depends on the *quality* of our acts and our experiences. A multitude of badly performed actions and of experiences only half lived exhausts and depletes our being. By doing things badly we make ourselves less real. This growing unreality cannot help but make us unhappy and fill us with a sense of guilt. But the purity of our conscience has a natural proportion with the depth of our being and the quality of our acts: and when our activity is habitually disordered, our malformed conscience can think of nothing better to tell us than to multiply the *quantity* of our acts, without perfecting their quality. And so we go from bad to worse, exhaust ourselves, empty our whole life of all content, and fall into despair.

There are times, then, when in order to keep ourselves in existence at all we simply have to sit back for a while and do nothing. And for a man who has let himself be drawn completely out of himself by his activity, nothing is more difficult than to sit still and rest, doing nothing at all. The very act of resting is the hardest and most courageous act he can perform: and often it is quite beyond his power.

We must first recover the possession of our own being before we can act wisely or taste any experience in its human reality.

Thomas Merton

Britten, A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28

Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford, performs ...

Happy birthday, Dickinson.


Emily Dickinson was born on this day in 1830.

One need not be a chamber to be haunted,
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
Material place.

Far safer, of a midnight meeting
External ghost,
Than an interior confronting
That whiter host.

Far safer through an Abbey gallop,
The stones achase,
Than, moonless, one’s own self encounter
In lonesome place.

Ourself, behind ourself concealed,
Should startle most;
Assassin, hid in our apartment,
Be horror’s least.

The prudent carries a revolver,
He bolts the door,
O’erlooking a superior spectre
More near.

Emily Dickinson

Thank you, Rachel.

Shild.


Wynter wakeneth al my care,
Nou this leves waxeth bare;
Ofte I sike ant mourne sare
When hit cometh in my thoht
Of this worldes joie, hou hit goth al to noht.

Nou hit is, and nou hit nys,
Al so hit ner nere, ywys;
That moni mon seith, soth hit ys:
Al goth bote Godes wille:
Alle we shule deye, thah us like ylle.

Al that gren me graueth grene,
Nou hit faleweth albydene:
Jesu, help that hit be sene
Ant shild us from helle!
For y not whider y shal, ne hou longe her duelle.

Anonymous

Corb Lund, "The Truth Comes Out"

You gotta look out for bear when you're fishing on Lee's creek
They'll come round the bend and they'll make your knees weak
There's grizzlies where there was no grizzly bears before

Well half-heard voices from the ghosts, from the graves
The grandfathers tell us at the mouths of the caves
Only old chiefs older than Jesus can save us now, if we're lucky

09 December 2018

Own.

Caddick, The Night, 1980


Every town our hometown,
Every man a kinsman.

Good and evil do not come
from others.
Pain and relief of pain
come of themselves.
Dying is nothing new.
We do not rejoice
that life is sweet
nor in anger
call it bitter.

Our lives, however dear,
follow their own course,
rafts drifting
in the rapids of a great river
sounding and dashing over the rocks
after a downpour
from skies slashed by lightnings–

we know this
from the vision
of men who see.

So,
we are not amazed by the great,
and we do not scorn the little.

Kaniyan Punkunran

Rouse.


MEN of the HIGH NORTH

Men of the High North, the wild sky is blazing;
   Islands of opal float on silver seas;
  Swift splendors kindle, barbaric, amazing;
   Pale ports of amber, golden argosies.
  Ringed all around us the proud peaks are glowing;
   Fierce chiefs in council, their wigwam the sky;
  Far, far below us the big Yukon flowing,
   Like threaded quicksilver, gleams to the eye. 

  Men of the High North, you who have known it;
   You in whose hearts its splendors have abode;
  Can you renounce it, can you disown it?
   Can you forget it, its glory and its goad?
  Where is the hardship, where is the pain of it?
   Lost in the limbo of things you've forgot;
  Only remain the guerdon and gain of it;
   Zest of the foray, and God, how you fought! 

  You who have made good, you foreign faring;
   You money magic to far lands has whirled;
  Can you forget those days of vast daring,
   There with your soul on the Top o' the World?
  Nights when no peril could keep you awake on
   Spruce boughs you spread for your couch in the snow;
  Taste all your feasts like the beans and the bacon
   Fried at the camp-fire at forty below? 

  Can you remember your huskies all going,
   Barking with joy and their brushes in air;
  You in your parka, glad-eyed and glowing,
   Monarch, your subjects the wolf and the bear?
  Monarch, your kingdom unravisht and gleaming;
   Mountains your throne, and a river your car;
  Crash of a bull moose to rouse you from dreaming;
   Forest your couch, and your candle a star. 

  You who this faint day the High North is luring
   Unto her vastness, taintlessly sweet;
  You who are steel-braced, straight-lipped, enduring,
   Dreadless in danger and dire in defeat:
  Honor the High North ever and ever,
   Whether she crown you, or whether she slay;
  Suffer her fury, cherish and love her--
   He who would rule he must learn to obey. 

  Men of the High North, fierce mountains love you;
   Proud rivers leap when you ride on their breast.
  See, the austere sky, pensive above you,
   Dons all her jewels to smile on your rest.
  Children of Freedom, scornful of frontiers,
   We who are weaklings honor your worth.
  Lords of the wilderness, Princes of Pioneers,
   Let's have a rouse that will ring round the earth.

Robert W. Service

Present.


NO ROOM in the INN

Into this world, this demented inn
in which there is absolutely no room for him at all,
Christ comes uninvited.

But because he cannot be at home in it,
because he is out of place in it,
and yet he must be in it,
His place is with the others for whom
there is no room.

His place is with those who do not belong,
who are rejected by power, because
they are regarded as weak,
those who are discredited,
who are denied status of persons,
who are tortured, bombed and exterminated.

With those for whom there is no room,
Christ is present in this world.

Thomas Merton

08 December 2018

Sting, "Soul Cake"

Are.


To escape from the world means that one's mind is not concerned with the opinions of the world.  If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it? 

Dogen

Remember.


HUMMINGBIRD

His goal in life was to be an echo
Riding alone, town after town, toll after toll
A fixed bayonet through the great southwest to forget her

She appears in his dreams
But in his car and in his arms
A dream can mean anything
A cheap sunset on a television set can upset her 
But he never could

Remember to remember me
Standing still in your past
Floating fast like a hummingbird

His goal in life was to be an echo
The type of sound that floats around and then back down
Like a feather
But in the deep chrome canyons of the loudest Manhattans
No one could hear him
Or anything

So he slept on a mountain
In a sleeping bag underneath the stars
He would lie awake and count them
And the gray fountain spray of the great Milky Way
Would never let him
Die alone

Remember to remember me
Standing still in your past
Floating fast like a hummingbird

Jeff Tweedy

Croo, "Coventry Carol"

The King's College Choir performs ...

Excellent.

Excellent albums ...

Grateful.


Of all the old festivals, however, that of Christmas awakens the strongest and most heartfelt associations. There is a tone of solemn and sacred feeling that blends with our conviviality and lifts the spirit to a state of hallowed and elevated enjoyment. The services of the Church about this season are extremely tender and inspiring. They dwell on the beautiful story of the origin of our faith and the pastoral scenes that accompanied its announcement. They gradually increase in fervor and pathos during the season of Advent, until they break forth in full jubilee on the morning that brought peace and good-will to men. I do not know a grander effect of music on the moral feelings than to hear the full choir and the pealing organ performing a Christmas anthem in a cathedral, and filling every part of the vast pile with triumphant harmony.

It is a beautiful arrangement, also, derived from days of yore, that this festival, which commemorates the announcement of the religion of peace and love, has been made the season for gathering together of family connections, and drawing closer again those bands of kindred hearts which the cares and pleasures and sorrows of the world are continually operating to cast loose; of calling back the children of a family who have launched forth in life and wandered widely asunder, once more to assemble about the paternal hearth, that rallying-place of the affections, there to grow young and loving again among the endearing mementos of childhood.

There is something in the very season of the year that gives a charm to the festivity of Christmas. At other times we derive a great portion of our pleasures from the mere beauties of Nature. Our feelings sally forth and dissipate themselves over the sunny landscape, and we “live abroad and everywhere.” The song of the bird, the murmur of the stream, the breathing fragrance of spring, the soft voluptuousness of summer, the golden pomp of autumn, earth with its mantle of refreshing green, and heaven with it deep delicious blue and its cloudy magnificence,—all fill us with mute but exquisite delight, and we revel in the luxury of mere sensation. But in the depth of winter, when Nature lies despoiled of every charm and wrapped in her shroud of sheeted snow, we turn for our gratifications to moral sources. The dreariness and desolation of the landscape, the short gloomy days and darksome nights, while they circumscribe our wanderings, shut in our feelings also from rambling abroad, and make us more keenly disposed for the pleasure of the social circle. Our thoughts are more concentrated; our friendly sympathies more aroused. We feel more sensibly the charm of each other’s society, and are brought more closely together by dependence on each other for enjoyment. Heart calleth unto heart, and we draw our pleasures from the deep wells of loving-kindness which lie in the quiet recesses of our bosoms, and which, when resorted to, furnish forth the pure element of domestic felicity.

The pitchy gloom without makes the heart dilate on entering the room filled with the glow and warmth of the evening fire. The ruddy blaze diffuses an artificial summer and sunshine through the room, and lights up each countenance in a kindlier welcome. Where does the honest face of hospitality expand into a broader and more cordial smile, where is the shy glance of love more sweetly eloquent, than by the winter fireside? and as the hollow blast of wintry wind rushes through the hall, claps the distant door, whistles about the casement, and rumbles down the chimney, what can be more grateful than that feeling of sober and sheltered security with which we look round upon the comfortable chamber and the scene of domestic hilarity?

Washington Irving, from "Old Christmas"

06 December 2018

Original.


Stumps and logs help me forget the world of achievement, disappointment, rewards, the illusion of being right, struggling to hold the world together, and help me shed many of the illusions that the very notion of “personality” is heir to; there is a frequent mistake here in equating personality with “ego,” which is a Freudian term and unfortunately rather Prussian. The point seems to be to rid yourself of vanities in order to understand your true character. In sitting, the host returns to the original mind while the guest dithers. Then the dithering stops.

For years I’ve had a quote by Deshimaru pinned above my desk: “You must concentrate upon and consecrate yourself wholly to each day, as though a fire were raging in your hair.” What a ruthless statement. But maybe not. Both you and a piece of wood burn up, and at the end of the day you have ashes which don’t return to wood. This is wonderfully obvious but can be forgotten for years at a time. Sometimes the statement wears out and I put it away for a while to rest, though it doesn’t take long for it to refresh itself ...


There is a particular problem for the artist, writer, poet who begins early to separate himself for vision and lucidity, also to get the work done, and then this separation can easily become distorted, a “fiction” in itself, a personality egg you drown within juices of your own making. Thus, the artist’s Zen can become the arhat’s Zen, harsh, dry, attenuated, remote, somewhat selfish. Frequently he would be better off at an American Legion barn dance or sitting in a country bar talking to farmers.


Jim Harrison, from his essay, "Sitting Around"

Jigsaw, "Sky High"

Devil, come OUT!

Marini, Passacalio

Jordi Savall performs with Hespèrion XXI ...

 

Excellent.

An excellent book ...

05 December 2018

Mozart, Requiem in D minor, K. 626

John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists ...

Return.

Chatham, Sunset on a Winter Evening, 1990


Walking at twilight owns the same eeriness of dawn.  The world belongs again to its former prime tenants. the creatures, and within the dimming light and crisp shadows, you return to your own creature life that is so easily and ordinarily discarded.  I have always loved best this time just before dark when the antennae stretch far and caressingly from the body.

Jim Harrison

Dance.

Evans, Bluestem Grassland, Chase County, Kansas, 31 October, 1979, 1979


I remember the swish of big blue stem rolling above my head, the shushbrush of Indian grass soft against my arms, the rattle of wild indigo in a dry September wind. Lived experience and ancestral memory blur in the hypnotic sway of grass. The ground rumbles with buffalo. Is this homesickness for what I left behind or for what has left me?

If you stand among in the Tallgrass prairie you can discern the different sounds of the collective swoosh. Stems clack together at the base, the waist-high leaves rub with grasshopper buzz and the seed heads are a soft hiss dissipating above my head. Goldfinches bounce their wavy flight pattern above the waves, the rise and fall of their voices mirror their path and the surge of moving grass. The sound of the prairie is like the inhale and exhale of the land itself. The boom of a prairie chicken, the lilt of a bobolink, the rasp of a Sandhill crane – these are voices you may never hear.

But they linger in our Potawatomi language. You can hear that same sibilance in the word for grass, Mishkos. Feel the grass in the delicious onomatopoeia of ishpashkosiwagaa – the place of high grass. This liquid language rippled through the southern Great Lakes where Potawatomi and other nations made their homes. You won’t hear that either. Unless concealed in the word for what is now called Chicago, chi gagua taking its name from the skunky smell of wild onions that grew in the wet lakeshore prairie.

My grandmother’s name was Shanode, Wind Coming Through. Wind is the dance partner of the prairie. And every grass species has a different move; the whole stem of Little Bluestem shimmies in the wind, Indian Grass arches and falls, while Big bluestem waggles at the top and vibrates at the bottom. Switchgrass pirouettes in the air. Prairie Dropseed leaps like a fountain. A ballet of wind and grass – a dance that you may never see.

CONNECT

Thank you, Rachel.

Beethoven, Septet in E-flat major, Op.20

Ensemble Connect performs the Adagio cantabile ...



It's sandwich time.

Intact.


From Jim Fergus' interview of Jim Harrison in Paris Review ...

INTERVIEWER

Does the metaphor of dance translate to play?

HARRISON

I used to have second thoughts about my sporting life until my wife pointed out to me that where I really get into trouble is when I lose my sense of play. In one of Rilke's poems, he talks about this overdeveloped sense of heaviness that an artist acquires. It's what I put under the heading of "lugubrious masochism." You walk around and you feel like you're literally so heavy that you might fall through the crust of the earth. For this reason I've always been a fan of Peter Matthiessen's, in a peculiar, spiritual sense. He and Gary Snyder are writers who seem to live outside the whole framework of literary reputation and ambition. When I've run into them they seemed to have an air of being content with what they were doing that other writers don't have. Reputation is volatile and a writer will despair if he thinks he is, at any given time, a consensus of what the media thinks he is, because if the media's not thinking about him at all then he disappears. Surely you need some encouragement as the years go by, but if you look too far outside yourself you're going to forget what the original dream was when you were nineteen.

INTERVIEWER

Can you really preserve that dream?

HARRISON

I think you can. You can preserve it by recreating the circumstances in which the dream was possible, which I can do at my cabin. If I couldn't recreate the dream, I would simply die. You asked about my eye injury; I'm sure that some of my need for isolation comes from that. I used to make a hole in the haymow of the barn to hide out in. Maybe my cabin is my haymow. I'm still writing from the haymow. 

INTERVIEWER

And what is that original dream?

HARRISON

Just of being an artist—in the old sense of the word. More a painterly notion of an artist, or a poet, than what we think of as a novelist. My first passion was to be a painter, but I was without talent.

INTERVIEWER

A question of maintaining a sense of purity?

HARRISON

Yes, the integrity of the total mission. It's a "calling" in religious terms. You feel called to be an artist, and the worst thing is the refusal of the call.

INTERVIEWER

It would seem that that almost childlike integrity is constantly assaulted in an artist's life, especially in this age. How can you maintain it?

HARRISON

That's why you keep yourself apart. The reason I have my cabin is that it's easier to suffocate now in this culture than it's ever been, in terms of sheer, continuous bombardment, and you're not supposed to suffocate if you're an artist.

INTERVIEWER

Isn't there a danger of being too separate, too isolated?

HARRISON

Absolutely. What is it that Rilke said? (And it's the truest thing I remember about being an artist.) I think he said, "It's only in the rat race of the arena that the heart learns to beat."

INTERVIEWER

So it's necessary to enter into that world and then be able to get out of it unscathed?

HARRISON

Intact. It's the Zen metaphor of the ox—the ten stages of the ox—to finally have no fences and to be able to return to the city. The whole point is not to need any strictures and to still maintain balance and grace, and if you can't the danger is a life-and-death thing.

INTERVIEWER

Metaphorically as an artist, or literally?

HARRISON

Both. There are lots of ways of being killed. One of the main ways a person is killed as an artist is when he becomes mechanistic and repeats himself. Then he's dead. It's killed him as a human being and as an artist.

INTERVIEWER

Isn't that something that all artists must eventually face, as there is a limit to one's experiences and capabilities?

HARRISON

There's a limit to one's resourcefulness, but how do you know the limit? You have to push out and not do anything you've ever done before. It comes to that. The notion of change in fiction is that a train has to stay on its tracks, and animals, even more than we, are creatures of specific habits, which is why, once you learn their habits, they are quite easy to hunt. But a man can stop his car, get out; he can dive in a lake and swim across, and then climb a tree. So don't tell me you can't change your fiction. Habit is what destroys art. I've always been struck by those Cheyenne who did everything backwards when they were bored. There's a longing, a craving to know more than we get to know, sort of a Faustian notion that you want a lot of interesting things to occur before you die; and it strikes you that rather than wait around for them to occur, you're going to have to arrange most of them.