AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

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

29 February 2016

Beyond.


I love going out of my way, beyond what I know, and finding my way back a few extra miles, by another trail, with a compass that argues with the map…nights alone in motels in remote western towns where I know no one and no one I know knows where I am, nights with strange paintings and floral spreads and cable television that furnish a reprieve from my own biography, when in Benjamin’s terms, I have lost myself though I know where I am. Moments when I say to myself as feet or car clear a crest or round a bend, I have never seen this place before. Times when some architectural detail on vista that has escaped me these many years says to me that I never did know where I was, even when I was home.

Rebecca Solnit

28 February 2016

Truer.


I have often wondered if the majority of mankind ever pause to reflect upon the occasionally titanic significance of dreams, and of the obscure world to which they belong. Whilst the greater number of our nocturnal visions are perhaps no more than faint and fantastic reflections of our waking experiences—Freud to the contrary with his puerile symbolism—there are still a certain remainder whose immundane and ethereal character permit of no ordinary interpretation, and whose vaguely exciting and disquieting effect suggests possible minute glimpses into a sphere of mental existence no less important than physical life, yet separated from that life by an all but impassable barrier. From my experience I cannot doubt but that man, when lost to terrestrial consciousness, is indeed sojourning in another and uncorporeal life of far different nature from the life we know, and of which only the slightest and most indistinct memories linger after waking. From those blurred and fragmentary memories we may infer much, yet prove little. We may guess that in dreams life, matter, and vitality, as the earth knows such things, are not necessarily constant; and that time and space do not exist as our waking selves comprehend them. Sometimes I believe that this less material life is our truer life, and that our vain presence on the terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon.

H.P. Lovecraft

Neat.

Book.

Wonder.

There are not many persons who know what wonders are opened to them in the stories and visions of their youth; for when as children we learn and dream, we think but half-formed thoughts, and when as men we try to remember, we are dulled and prosaic with the poison of life. But some of us awake in the night with strange phantasms of enchanted hills and gardens, of fountains that sing in the sun, of golden cliffs overhanging murmuring seas, of plains that stretch down to sleeping cities of bronze and stone, and of shadowy companies of heroes that ride caparisoned white horses along the edges of thick forests; and then we know that we have looked back through the ivory gates into that world of wonder which was ours before we were wise and unhappy.

H.P. Lovecraft

Beethoven, Symphony No 6 in F, Op. 68, "Pastoral"

THROW OPEN THE WINDOWS!

Lenny leads the Boston Symphony ...

Semaphore.

Maggie & Mark O'Connor, "Appalachian Waltz"

Poetry.

Muybridge, Couple Dancing (contemporary gif), 1893


I am a student of life, and don't want to miss any experience. There's poetry in this sort of thing, you know -- or perhaps you don't know, but it's all the same.

H.P. Lovecraft

Collecting.


If you take a book with you on a journey," Mo had said when he put the first one in her box, "an odd thing happens: The book begins collecting your memories. And forever after you have only to open that book to be back where you first read it. It will all come into your mind with the very first words: the sights you saw in that place, what it smelled like, the ice cream you ate while you were reading it ... yes, books are like flypaper --memories cling to the printed page better than anything else.

Cornelia Funke, from Inkheart

Carrying.



As for sound, I live in one great bell of sound when doing a poem; and I like how the syllables do-si-do along. I am not after rhyme –- so limited, so mechanical. No, I want all the syllables to be in there like a school of fish, flashing, relating to other syllables in other words (even words not in this poem, of course), fluently carrying the reader by subliminal felicities all the way to the limber last line.

William Stafford

Visée, "Prélude et Allemande"

Jonas Nordberg, theorbo ...

Endless.


The ship went on with solemn face;
To meet the darkness on the deep,
The solemn ship went onward.
I bowed down weary in the place;
for parting tears and present sleep
Had weighed mine eyelids downward.

The new sight, the new wondrous sight!
The waters around me, turbulent,
The skies, impassive o’er me,
Calm in a moonless, sunless light,
As glorified by even the intent
Of holding the day glory!

Love me, sweet friends, this sabbath day.
The sea sings round me while ye roll afar
The hymn, unaltered,
And kneel, where once I knelt to pray,
And bless me deeper in your soul
Because your voice has faltered.

And though this sabbath comes to me
Without the stolèd minister,
And chanting congregation,
God’s Spirit shall give comfort.
He who brooded soft on waters drear,
Creator on creation.

He shall assist me to look higher,
He shall assist me to look higher,
Where keep the saints, with harp and song,
An endless endless sabbath morning,
An endless sabbath morning,
And on that sea commixed with fire,
On that sea commixed with fire,
Oft drop their eyelids raised too long
To the full Godhead’s burning.
The full Godhead’s burning.


Elizabeth Barrett Browning

27 February 2016

Talking Heads, "Mind"

Dance, when you're broken open. 
Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. 
Dance in the middle of the fighting. 
Dance in your blood. 
Dance when you're perfectly free.

Rumi

I gotta learn these moves ...

Ordinary.

Winkel, Shadow Leaves, 2015


Life changes in an instant.  

The ordinary instant.

Joan Didion

Diego Ortiz, La Folia

Jordi Savall & Hespèrion XXI perform Folia IV ...

Thought.


I took a trip on the train
And I thought about You,
I passed a shadowy lane
And I thought about You,

Two or three cars parked under the stars
A winding stream
Moon shining down on some little town
And with each beam, same old dream

At every stop that We made
Oh, I thought about You
But when I pulled down the shade
Then I really felt blue,


I peeked through the crack
And looked at the track
The one going back to You
And what did I do
I thought about You

Johnny Mercer

Unpossessed.


Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.

Italo Calvino

Cartouche.

Flying.

Conveyors.


Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.

Umberto Eco

Always.


He always smiles, even when contemplating nothing good.

Henryk Sienkiewicz

Noam Pickelny & Stuart Duncan, "Tallahassee"

Place.


In ancient and medieval thought place was often center stage; the ground and context for everything else.  Aristotle thought place should take precedence of all other things because place gives order to the world.  Casey tells us that Aristotle claimed that place "gives bountiful aegis -- active protective support -- to what locates."  But the universalist pretensions of first, monotheistic religion and then The Enlightenment conspired to represent place as parochial, as a prosaic footnote when compared to their grand but abstract visions of global oneness.  Most modern intellectuals and scientists have hardly any interest in place for they consider their theories to be applicable everywhere.  Place was demoted and displaced, a process that was helped on its way by the rise of its slightly pompous and suitably abstract geographical rival, the idea of "space."  Space sounds modern in a way place doesn't: it evokes mobility and the absence of restrictions; it promises empty landscapes filled with promise.  When confronted with the filled-in business and oddity of place the reaction of modern societies has been to straighten and rationalise, to prioritize connections and erase obstacles, to overcome place with space.

In his philosophical history The Fate of Place, Casey charts a growing "disdain for the genus loci: indifference to the specialness of place."  We all live with the results. Most of us can see them outside the window.  In a hyper-mobile world, a love of place can easily be cast as passe, even reactionary.  When human fulfillment is measured out in air miles and even geographers subscribe to the idea, as expressed by Professor William J. Mitchell of MIT, that "communities increasingly find their common ground in cyberspace rather than terra firma," wanting to think about place can seem a little perverse.  Yet placelessness is neither intellectually nor emotionally satisfying.  Sir Thomas Moore's Greek neologism "utopia" may translate as "no place" but a placeless world is a dystopian prospect.

Place is a protean and fundamental aspect of what it is to be human.  We are a place-making and place-loving species.  The renowned and evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson talks about the innate and biologically necessary human love of living things as "biophilia."  He suggests that biophilia both connects us together as a species and bonds us to the rest of nature.  I would argue that there is an unjustly ignored and equally important geographical equivalent: "topophilia," or love of place.  The word was coined by the Chinese-American geographer Yi-Fu Tuan about the same time as Wilson introduced biophilia and its pursuit is at the heart of this book.

There is another theme that threads its way throughout the places corralled here -- the need to escape.  This urge is more widespread today than at any point in the past: since fantastic vacation destinations and lifestyles are constantly dangled before us, it's no surprise so many feel dissatisfied with their daily routine.  The rise of placelessness, on top of sense that the whole planet is now minutely known and surveilled, has given this dissatisfaction a radical edge, creating an appetite to find places that are off the map and that are somehow secret or at least have the power to surprise us.  

When describing the village of Ishmael's native ally and friend, Queequeg, in Moby-Dick, Herman Melville wrote: "It is not down on any map; true places never are."  It's an odd thing to say but i think it makes immediate, instinctual sense.  It touches on a suspicion that lies just beneath the rational surface of civilization.  When the world has been fully codified and collated, when ambivalences and ambiguities have been so sponged away that we know exactly and objectively where everything is and what it is called, a sense of loss arises.  The claim to completeness causes us to mourn the possibility of exploration and muse endlessly on the hope of both novelty and escape.  It is within this context that the unnamed and discarded places -- both far away and those that we pass every day -- take on a romantic aura.  In a fully discovered world exploration does not stop; it just has to be reinvented.

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Disorienting.


Ceiling of Sheikh-Lotfollah’s mosque in Esfahan, Iran.

Capturing the intricately tiled ceilings of centuries old mosques, photographer Mehrdad Rasoulifard gives his followers both a history lesson and aesthetic treat. The ceilings are not only covered in rich patterns, but architecturally structured to appear like complex tessellations or honeycombs. The mosques are built to include spiraling series of domes and indents, causing the viewer to get lost in their disorienting beauty.

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Talking Heads, "This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)"

Happy birthday, Longfellow.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on this day in 1807.

The Song of Hiawatha

Should you ask me, whence these stories?
Whence these legends and traditions,
With the odors of the forest
With the dew and damp of meadows,
With the curling smoke of wigwams,
With the rushing of great rivers,
With their frequent repetitions,
And their wild reverberations
As of thunder in the mountains?
  I should answer, I should tell you,
"From the forests and the prairies,
From the great lakes of the Northland,
From the land of the Ojibways,
From the land of the Dacotahs,
From the mountains, moors, and fen-lands
Where the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
Feeds among the reeds and rushes.
I repeat them as I heard them
From the lips of Nawadaha,
The musician, the sweet singer."
  Should you ask where Nawadaha
Found these songs so wild and wayward,
Found these legends and traditions,
I should answer, I should tell you,
"In the bird's-nests of the forest,
In the lodges of the beaver,
In the hoof-prints of the bison,
In the eyry of the eagle!
  "All the wild-fowl sang them to him,
In the moorlands and the fen-lands,
In the melancholy marshes;
Chetowaik, the plover, sang them,
Mahng, the loon, the wild-goose, Wawa,
The blue heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
And the grouse, the Mushkodasa!"
  If still further you should ask me,
Saying, "Who was Nawadaha?
Tell us of this Nawadaha,"
I should answer your inquiries
Straightway in such words as follow.
  "In the vale of Tawasentha,
In the green and silent valley,
By the pleasant water-courses,
Dwelt the singer Nawadaha.
Round about the Indian village
Spread the meadows and the corn-fields,
And beyond them stood the forest,
Stood the groves of singing pine-trees,
Green in Summer, white in Winter,
Ever sighing, ever singing.
  "And the pleasant water-courses,
You could trace them through the valley,
By the rushing in the Spring-time,
By the alders in the Summer,
By the white fog in the Autumn,
By the black line in the Winter;
And beside them dwelt the singer,
In the vale of Tawasentha,
In the green and silent valley.
  "There he sang of Hiawatha,
Sang the Song of Hiawatha,
Sang his wondrous birth and being,
How he prayed and how be fasted,
How he lived, and toiled, and suffered,
That the tribes of men might prosper,
That he might advance his people!"
  Ye who love the haunts of Nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,
Love the shadow of the forest,
Love the wind among the branches,
And the rain-shower and the snow-storm,
And the rushing of great rivers
Through their palisades of pine-trees,
And the thunder in the mountains,
Whose innumerable echoes
Flap like eagles in their eyries;--
Listen to these wild traditions,
To this Song of Hiawatha!
  Ye who love a nation's legends,
Love the ballads of a people,
That like voices from afar off
Call to us to pause and listen,
Speak in tones so plain and childlike,
Scarcely can the ear distinguish
Whether they are sung or spoken;--
Listen to this Indian Legend,
To this Song of Hiawatha!
  Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple,
Who have faith in God and Nature,
Who believe that in all ages
Every human heart is human,
That in even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings
For the good they comprehend not,
That the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God's right hand in that darkness
And are lifted up and strengthened;--
Listen to this simple story,
To this Song of Hiawatha!
  Ye, who sometimes, in your rambles
Through the green lanes of the country,
Where the tangled barberry-bushes
Hang their tufts of crimson berries
Over stone walls gray with mosses,
Pause by some neglected graveyard,
For a while to muse, and ponder
On a half-effaced inscription,
Written with little skill of song-craft,
Homely phrases, but each letter
Full of hope and yet of heart-break,
Full of all the tender pathos
Of the Here and the Hereafter;--
Stay and read this rude inscription,
Read this Song of Hiawatha! 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Vetiver, "I Must Be In a Good Place Now"

Wild apple trees blooming all around
I must be in a good place now
Sunshine coming through
Rainbow colored sky
Paints pretty pictures in my mind

Oh what a good day to go fishing
And catch the sunset in the hills
Dream of my yesterdays and tomorrow
And hope that you'll be with me still

Saw a butterfly and I named it after you
Your name has such a pleasant sound
Love is all around and all I see is you

I must be in a good place now

Oh what a good day to go fishing
And catch the sunset in the hills
Dream of my yesterdays and tomorrow
And hope that you'll be with me still

Saw a butterfly and I named it after you
Your name has such a pleasant sound
Love is all around and all I see is you

I must be in a good place now

Paradise.


Your library is your paradise.

Erasmus

25 February 2016

Happy birthday, Renoir.


The work of art must seize upon you, wrap you up in itself, carry you away. It is the means by which the artist conveys his passion; it is the current which he puts forth which sweeps you along in his passion.

Pierre- August Renoir

Renoir, Onions, 1881



The Impressionists: Renoir ...

24 February 2016

Good.


Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.

John Ruskin

Paul Rodgers, "I Can't Stand the Rain"

Cartouche.

Again.


My Hero

Just as the hare is zipping across the finish line,
the tortoise has stopped once again
by the roadside,
this time to stick out his neck
and nibble a bit of sweet grass,
unlike the previous time
when he was distracted
by a bee humming in the heart of a wildflower.

Billy Collins

Happy birthday, Homer.

Homer, Breezing Up (A Fair Wind), 1876


Winslow Homer was born on this day in 1836.

The Sun will not rise or set without my notice and thanks. I thank the Lord for this opportunity for reflection.

Winslow Homer

Today.

1975.

Magnitude.

In a subsequent tour of observation I encountered another of these relics of a "foregone world" locked up in the heart of the city. I had been wandering for some time through dull monotonous streets, destitute of anything to strike the eye or excite the imagination, when I beheld before me a Gothic gateway of mouldering antiquity. It opened into a spacious quadrangle forming the courtyard of a stately Gothic pile, the portal of which stood invitingly open.


It was apparently a public edifice, and, as I was antiquity-hunting, I ventured in, though with dubious steps. Meeting no one either to oppose or rebuke my intrusion, I continued on until I found myself in a great hall with a lofty arched roof and oaken gallery, all of Gothic architecture. At one end of the hall was an enormous fireplace, with wooden settles on each side; at the other end was a raised platform, or dais, the seat of state, above which was the portrait of a man in antique garb with a long robe, a ruff, and a venerable gray beard.


The whole establishment had an air of monastic quiet and seclusion, and what gave it a mysterious charm was, that I had not met with a human being since I had passed the threshold.


Encouraged by this loneliness, I seated myself in a recess of a large bow window, which admitted a broad flood of yellow sunshine, checkered here and there by tints from panes of colored glass, while an open casement let in the soft summer air. Here, leaning my head on my hand and my arm on an old oaken table, I indulged in a sort of reverie about what might have been the ancient uses of this edifice. It had evidently been of monastic origin; perhaps one of those collegiate establishments built of yore for the promotion of learning, where the patient monk, in the ample solitude of the cloister, added page to page and volume to volume, emulating in the productions of his brain the magnitude of the pile he inhabited.

Washington Irving, "London Antiques," from The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon

23 February 2016

Errors.

Monet, Houses of Parliament, 1901


Monet Refuses the Operation 

Doctor, you say that there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and changes our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.


Lisel Mueller

Beyond.


Beyond the years the answer lies,
Beyond where brood the grieving skies   
And Night drops tears.
Where Faith rod-chastened smiles to rise   
And doff its fears,
And carping Sorrow pines and dies—   
Beyond the years. 

II 
Beyond the years the prayer for rest
Shall beat no more within the breast;  
The darkness clears,
And Morn perched on the mountain’s crest   
Her form uprears—
The day that is to come is best,
Beyond the years. 

III 
Beyond the years the soul shall find
That endless peace for which it pined,   
For light appears,
And to the eyes that still were blind   
With blood and tears,
Their sight shall come all unconfined   
Beyond the years.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Rush, "Closer to the Heart"

And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones to start
To mold a new reality
Closer to the Heart

The Blacksmith and the Artist
Reflect it in their art
Forge their creativity
Closer to the Heart

Philosophers and Ploughmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the Heart

You can be the Captain
I will draw the Chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the Heart

Unroll.

Philippoteaux, Examination of a Mummy, 1891


If you were looking to have a great night out on January 15, 1834, Thomas Pettigrew's sold-out event was definitely the place to be. The lucky Londoners who had managed to acquire a ticket for the Royal College of Surgeons that night, were looking forward to a rare sensation: before their eyes, Pettigrew was going to slowly unroll an authentic Egyptian mummy of the 21st dynasty -- for science!

Happy birthday, Pepys.

Hayls, Samuel Pepys, 1666


Samuel Pepys was born on this day in 1633.

Very merry at, before, and after dinner, and the more for that my dinner was great, and most neatly dressed by our own only maid. We had a fricassee of rabbits and chickens, a leg of mutton boiled, three carps in a dish, a great dish of a side of lamb, a dish of roasted pigeons, a dish of four lobsters, three tarts, a lamprey pie (a most rare pie), a dish of anchovies, good wine of several sorts, and all things mighty noble and to my great content.

Samuel Pepys, April 4, 1662

Pepys' complete diaries are here.

Simplicity.


Elegance is achieved when all that is superfluous has been discarded and the human being discovers simplicity and concentration: the simpler and more sober the posture, the more beautiful it will be.

Paulo Coelho

Pigeons.


Avro Lancaster Crewman with homing pigeons, carried in WWII Lancasters as a means of communications in the event of a crash, ditching or radio failure.

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