AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

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

22 April 2014

15 April 2014

Bach, Cello Suite No. 1 (BWV 1007)

Pablo Casals performs ...

Happy birthday, Leonardo.

Leonardo, Self-portrait, 1510


Leonardo da Vinci was born on this date in 1452.

The water you touch in a river is the last of that which has passed, and the first of that which is coming. Thus it is with time present.  Life, if well spent, is long.

Leonardo da Vinci

Gentler.


Unlike booze, good wine resonates so broadly it draws in the world that surrounds us. The effects of it are slow enough so that you can check yourself, an absolutely vital talent if you drink. As a Zen dictum says, you must find yourself where you already are and the effects of booze make this unlikely. Good wine increases the best aspects of camaraderie and sweetens the tongue for conversation. It softens the world's sharp edges in contrast to the blunting power of booze. In short, you don't become dumb at a blinding pace, and your mood swings from gentle to gentler.

Jim Harrison

14 April 2014

09 April 2014

Spirit.


Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

07 April 2014

Happy birthday, Wordsworth.

Pickersgill, William Wordsworth, 1873


William Wordsworth was born on this date in 1770.

Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798


Five years have past; five summers, with the length

Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
'Mid groves and copses. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
With some uncertain notice, as might seem
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some Hermit's cave, where by his fire
The Hermit sits alone.

                                              These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,—
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

                                                        If this
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft—
In darkness and amid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart—
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro' the woods,
         How often has my spirit turned to thee!

   And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope,
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led: more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days
And their glad animal movements all gone by)
To me was all in all.—I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, not any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompense. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue.—And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

                                            Nor perchance,
If I were not thus taught, should I the more
Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
For thou art with me here upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain-winds be free
To blow against thee: and, in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance—
If I should be where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence—wilt thou then forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love—oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!

William Wordsworth

04 April 2014

Quality.


William Stafford's achievement is extraordinary. He wrote more than 20,000 poems, of which more than 4,000 have been published, in more than 80 books and 2,000 periodicals. But it is the quality of his work that distinguishes him.

The poet Katrina Porteous, who also writes daily, visits to Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, where for decades Stafford taught, wrote and developed his ideas. There she meets his son, Kim, who takes her to places that were important to him. She visits the huge William Stafford Archive, hears recordings of his readings, meets people who knew him, and students and poets he continues to influence.

CONNECT

Swim.


The resources in language and the adventures in writing are available to us—I don’t want to echo Wordsworth on this—in the language we use everyday, though it is not necessarily that of ordinary people in whatever circle we inhabit. We may not be with ordinary people (I’d like to be with extraordinary people, myself), but it would be the language they use not when they are writing but when they are talking, when they are saying things like, Pass the butter. Bonuses in language are not literary bonuses; they are available to everyone who flourishes the language every day with people who are their peers in communication. It would be a mistake to try to heighten or lower my place in the language that comes to me. Instead, I try to accept whatever fluency and fluidity is possible at my level of understanding with my kind of people. To do it artificially, to try to hype myself into being a better writer by doggedly reading better literature, is also a mistake. I learn to use the language by the pleasures it gives me when I am able to swim in it or maneuver in it or interchange in it with the people around me.

William Stafford

CONNECT

01 April 2014

Simply Red, "The Air That I Breathe"

Resumes.

Shishkin, Dark Forest, 1890


In actual thickets there is ideally a stump to sit on and enough brambles so that you may frame the surrounding landscape in the apertures formed by branches. If you sit there long enough the natural world that surrounds you resumes its activities, either forgetting that you are there or accepting the idea that you are harmless because you are behaving harmlessly. Best of all you can see out and no one else can see in.

Jim Harrison

Hierarchy.


For scholars, monks, and heredity-minded royal families, trees served as a handy way to divvy information into groups and sub-groups. Lima figures, "They had the concept of hierarchy in their minds and used the tree as a symbol for mapping because it was convenient. Over time, it became ingrained in our minds so that now when we talk about the root of a problem or describe genetics as a branch of science, we're really going back to this Medieval era when people started using diagrams to convey complex new knowledge."