AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

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

30 March 2014

Closely.

Bateman, Reeds, undated


Cold Spring

The last few gray sheets of snow are gone,
winter’s scraps and leavings lowered
to a common level. A sudden jolt
of weather pushed us outside, and now
this larger world once again belongs to us.
I stand at the edge of it, beside the house,
listening to the stream we haven’t heard
since fall, and I imagine one day thinking
back to this hour and blaming myself
for my worries, my foolishness, today’s choices
having become the accomplished
facts of change, accepted
or forgotten. The woods are a mangle
of lines, yet delicate, yet precise,
when I take the time to look closely.
If I’m not happy it must be my own fault.
At the edge of the lawn my wife
bends down to uncover a flower, then another.
The first splurge of crocuses.
And for a moment the sweep and shudder
of the wind seems indistinguishable
from the steady furl of water
just beyond her.


Lawrence Raab

Happy birthday, van Gogh.



Vincent van Gogh was born on this date in 1853.

I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.  In a sense I'm glad that I've never learned how to paint.  If you work diligently, without saying to yourself beforehand, "I want to make this or that," if you work as though you were making a pair of shoes, without artistic preoccupation, you will not always find you do well. But the days you least expect it, you will find a subject which holds its own with the work of those who have gone before.  He studies a single blade of grass. But this blade of grass leads him to draw every plant and then the seasons, the wide aspects of the countryside, then animals, then the human figure. So he passes his life, and finds life too short to do the whole.  It is better to be high-spirited even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent.

Vincent van Gogh

29 March 2014

Such.

Rude, Mercury Fastening His Heel-Wings (detail), 1834


I am no pilot. Yet, wert thou as far
As that vast shore washed with the farthest sea,
I would adventure for such merchandise.

Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2

28 March 2014

Miracle.


People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Dirt.


In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.

Margaret Atwood

Other.


If life becomes an important ingredient in the development of the cosmos, it unseats humans as the all-important observers of our universe. It suggests that many other eyes watched the skies before our sun was even lit.

CONNECT

Honest.

Measured.


Baseball is a game of inches, and those inches will be measured in a brand new way.

CONNECT

Fully.

Hall, Across the Madison Valley, undated


To be in touch with wilderness is to have stepped past the proud cattle of the field and wandered far from the twinkles of the Inn's fire. To have sensed something sublime in the life/death/life movement of the seasons, to know that contained in you is the knowledge to pull the sword from the stone and to live well in fierce woods in deep winter.

Wilderness is a form of sophistication, because it carries within it true knowledge of our place in the world. It doesn't exclude civilization but prowls through it, knowing when to attend to the needs of the committee and when to drink from a moonlit lake. It will wear a suit and tie when it has to, but refuses to trim its talons or whiskers. Its sensing nature is not afraid of emotion: the old stories are full of grief forests and triumphant returns, banquets and bridges of thorns. Myth tells us that the full gamut of feeling is to be experienced.

Wilderness is the capacity to go into joy, sorrow, and anger fully and stay there for as long as needed, regardless of what anyone else thinks.


Martin Shaw

Essence.

van Gogh, Gauguin's Chair with Books and Candle, 1888


The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.

George Orwell

Purify.

Inchbold, A Study, in March, 1855


In this world
People from all walks of life
Go to the shallows of a stream
And perform ablutions
To purify their minds.


Rengetsu

Different.


I’d never seen anything like it before, but it fitted to me exactly. It’s something that’s in the air, it’s different. The sky is different, the wind is different.

Georgia O'Keeffe

Blast.


Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Into.


For anyone who loves intensely lives not in himself but in the object of his love, and the further he can move out of himself into his love, the happier he is.  And so when the whole man will be outside himself, and happy for no reason except that he is so outside himself, he will enjoy some of the ineffable share in the supreme good which draws everything into itself.

Erasmus

Entering.


Simplicity is not an objective in art, but one achieves simplicity despite one’s self by entering into the real sense of things.

Constantin Brancusi

Magic.


I tried to give up the way of poetry and stop writing verses.  But each time I did so, a poetic sentiment would tug at my heart and something would flicker in my mind.  Such is the magic spell of the life of poetry.

Basho 

Buddhist teachings and the poetry of Basho train us to search for the essence, the very being, of even the smallest, most common things.  One of the goals of poetry is to penetrate this essence, to grab hold of it in words and pass it on to the reader, so purely that the writer as author disappears.  Only by stepping aside, by relinquishing the importance of being the author, can one capture and transmit the essence -- the very is-ness -- of a thing. 

Jane Reichhold, from BASHO, The Complete Haiku

26 March 2014

Neil Young, "Four Strong Winds"

Pretty nice backing band ...

Blackberry Smoke, "Tumbling Dice"

The Sheepdogs, "Laid Back"



Thanks, Pops.

Happy birthday, Campbell.


Joseph Campbell was born on this date in 1904.

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.  Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.

Joseph Campbell

Unforeseen.


Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back -- concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

William Hutchison Murray

Happy birthday, Frost.


Robert Frost was born on this date in 1878.

More than once I should have lost my soul to radicalism if it had been the originality it was mistaken for by its young converts. Originality and initiative are what I ask for my country. For myself the originality need be no more than the freshness of a poem run in the way I have described: from delight to wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being. Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it. Read it a hundred times: it will forever keep its freshness as a petal keeps its fragrance. It can never lose its sense of a meaning that once unfolded by surprise as it went.

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25 March 2014

Waiting.


Sitting on the bench, and waiting ... that's what comes to mind on Opening Day. There is nothing like it. The stadium surrounds you and all you can see and hear is how you feel: sweaty, panicked, nauseous and light-headed.

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Affrighted.

Turner, Study of Sky, 1818


Hence Burgundy, Claret, and Port,
Away with old Hock and madeira,
Too earthly ye are for my sport;
There's a beverage brighter and clearer.
Instead of a piriful rummer,
My wine overbrims a whole summer;
My bowl is the sky,
And I drink at my eye,
Till I feel in the brain
A Delphian pain -
Then follow, my Caius! then follow:
On the green of the hill
We will drink our fill
Of golden sunshine,
Till our brains intertwine
With the glory and grace of Apollo!
God of the Meridian,
And of the East and West,
To thee my soul is flown,
And my body is earthward press'd. -
It is an awful mission,
A terrible division;
And leaves a gulph austere
To be fill'd with worldly fear.
Aye, when the soul is fled
To high above our head,
Affrighted do we gaze
After its airy maze,
As doth a mother wild,
When her young infant child
Is in an eagle's claws -
And is not this the cause
Of madness? - God of Song,
Thou bearest me along
Through sights I scarce can bear:
O let me, let me share
With the hot lyre and thee,
The staid Philosophy.
Temper my lonely hours,
And let me see thy bowers
More unalarm'd! 

John Keats

24 March 2014

Mozart, Symphony No. 41 in C Major, "Jupiter," K. 551

Nikolaus Harnoncourt gettin' work done with the Vienna Philharmonic, performing the Andante cantibale …

Happy birthday, Morris.


William Morris was born on this date in 1834.

Drawing Near The Light

Lo, when we wade the tangled wood,

In haste and hurry to be there,

Nought seem its leaves and blossoms good,

For all that they be fashioned fair.



But looking up, at last we see

The glimmer of the open light,

From o’er the place where we would be:

Then grow the very brambles bright.



So now, amidst our day of strife,

With many a matter glad we play,

When once we see the light of life

Gleam through the tangle of to-day. 

William Morris

17 March 2014

Happy birthday, Oudry.

Oudry, Still Life with Pheasant, 1763


Jean Baptiste Oudry was born on this date in 1686.

15 March 2014

60,000,000.

Muybridge, Animal Locomotion, 1887


According to naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton, North America at the time of Columbus was home to sixty million bison, thirty to forty million pronghorns, ten million elk, ten million mule deer, and as many as two million mountain sheep. Sixty million bison!  The imagination shrinks from imagining it.  Bison can run for hours at thirty miles an hour and use their massive horned skulls like battering rams.  Mature animals weigh up to a ton. Sixty million of them would have been more than sixty billion pounds of grouchy, fast-moving mammal pounding the plains.

Charles C. Mann, from 1491: New Revelations of The Americas Before Columbus

Questions.


That’s what books do … they ask questions …

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14 March 2014

Happy birthday, Telemann.

Georg Philipp Telemann was born on this date in 1681.

Tom Black performs a Telemann Passacaglia as a horn duet ...

13 March 2014

You.

Strandbeests.

Artist Theo Jansen has created several 3D printed models of his famous walking sculptures called Strandbeests. 



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Sublime.


“The beautiful is linked with the revolting, the sublime with the commonplace, and the solemn with the ludicrous.” But the beauty truly is incredible, and I’ve never met a sailor who didn’t have a sense of the sublime.

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08 March 2014

Anywhere.

Needles and pins, Needles and pins,
Sew me a sail to catch me the wind.
Sew me a sail strong as the gale,
Carpenter, bring out your hammers and nails.
Hammers and nails, hammers and nails,
Build me a boat to go chasing the whales.
Chasing the whales, sailing the blue
Find me a captain and sign me a crew.
Captain and crew, captain and crew,
Take me, oh take me to anywhere new.


Shel Silverstein

04 March 2014

Blue.


With the Great Lakes reaching record ice cover, there will be plenty of opportunity to look for blue ice along shoreline as the ice breaks up and piles up with wind shifts this Spring.

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Happy birthday, Vivaldi.

Antonio Vivaldi was born on this date in 1678.

Il Giardino Armonico performs the Cello Concerto in F Major, RV 410, Christophe Coin, cello ...

Legend.

Homer, Trappers Resting, 1874


The poet who embarks on the creation of a poem (as I know by experience) begins with the aimless sensation of a hunter about to embark on a night hunt through the remotest of forests.  Unaccountable dread stirs in his heart.  To reassure himself – and it is well that he do so – he drinks a glass of clear water and inscribes black flourishes with his pen point.  I say black because -- I say this in the strictest confidence – I never use colored inks.  Then the poet is off on the chase. Delicate breezes chill the lenses of his eyes.  The moon, curved like a horn of soft metal, calls in the silence of the topmost branches.  White stages appear in the clearing between the tree trunks. Absolute night withdraws in a curtain of whispers.  Water flickers in the reeds, quiet and deep … It is time to depart.  It is the moment of risk for the poet.  He must take out his map of the terrain which he will move and remain calm in the presence of the thousand splendors and the thousand hideous masks of the splendid that pass before his eyes.  He must stop up his ears like Ulysses before the Sirens and discharge all his arrows at living metaphors, avoiding all that is florid and false in their wake. The moment is hazardous if the poet at this point surrenders; should he do so, the poem would never emerge.  The poet must press on to the hunt, single-minded and serene, in virtual camouflage.  He must stand firm in the presence of illusions and keep wary lookout for the quivering flesh of reality that accords with the shadowy map of the poem that he carries.  At times, he will cry out loudly in the poem’s solitude, to rout the evil spirits – facile ones who would betray us to popular adulation without order or beauty or aesthetic understanding … It was Paul Valéry, the great French poet, who held that the state of inspiration is not the most advantageous one for the writing of poetry.  As I believe in heaven-sent inspiration, I believe that Valéry is on the right track.  The inspired state is a state of self-withdrawl, and not of creative dynamism.  Conceptual vision must be calmed before it can be clarified.  I cannot believe that any great artist works in a fever.  Even mystics return to their tasks when the ineffable dove of the Holy Ghost departs from their cells and is lost in the clouds.  One returns from the inspired state as one returns from a foreign country.  The poem is the legend of the journey. Inspiration finishes the image, but not the investiture. To clothe it, it is necessary to weigh the quality and sonority of each word, coolly, and without dangerous afflatus.

Federico García Lorca, from Jim Harrison's "A Natural History of Some Poems"

Thank You, Poetessa.

03 March 2014

Doors.

Vermeer, The Geographer, (detail), 1669


In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.

William Blake

Sting, "The Last Ship"

Open.


A poet must be a professor of the five senses and must open doors among them.

Federico García Lorca


Thank You, Poetessa.

Reflect.

van Gogh, Wheat Field with Cypresses (detail), 1889


... on the other hand, I reflect, where should we be if we constantly set our sights too low?

CONNECT

02 March 2014

Beckon.

Twachtman, Snow Scene, 1882


 ... A Spirit seemed
To stand beside him—clothed in no bright robes
Of shadowy silver or enshrining light,
Borrowed from aught the visible world affords
Of grace, or majesty, or mystery;—
But, undulating woods, and silent well,
And leaping rivulet, and evening gloom
Now deepening the dark shades, for speech assuming,
Held commune with him, as if he and it
Were all that was,—only... when his regard
Was raised by intense pensiveness,... two eyes,
Two starry eyes, hung in the gloom of thought,
And seemed with their serene and azure smiles
To beckon him.


Percy Bysshe Shelley, from "The Spirit of Solitude"

01 March 2014

Hoping.

Happy birthday, Chopin.

It is thought that Frédéric Chopin was born on this date in 1810.

Daniel Barenboim, in recital ...

Privacy.

Parrish, Secret Drawer, 1900


But one other thing the room possessed, peculiar to itself; a certain sense of privacy—a power of making the intruder feel that he was intruding—perhaps even a faculty of hinting that some one might have been sitting on those chairs, writing at the bureau, or fingering the china, just a second before one entered. No such violent word as 'haunted' could possibly apply to this pleasant old-fashioned chamber, which indeed we all rather liked; but there was no doubt it was reserved and stand-offish, keeping itself to itself.

Kenneth Grahame, "The Secret Drawer"