AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

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

21 January 2019

Doing.

Unbarred.


Begin again where frosts and tests were hard.
Find yourself or founder. Here, imagine
A spirit moves, John Harvard walks the yard,
The books stand open and the gates unbarred.

Seamus Heanet

RUSH, "Closer to the Heart"

Fair.


I gazed upon the cloudless moon
And loved her all the night,
Till morning came and radiant noon,
And I forgot her light.

No, not forgot eternally
Beneath its mighty glare:
But could the day seem dark to me
Because the night was fair?

Emily Brontë

20 January 2019

Alone.

Rise.

Sound.


Winter solitude –
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.

Basho

Imagination.


Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.

Oscar Wilde

Dog.

Hall, Sleeping Dog, 1866

Peter Rowan, "Before All the Streets Were Paved"

Remove.

Chapman, Mescalero Apache Camp in Winter, New Mexico, 1923


Now winter nights enlarge
This number of their hours;
And clouds their storms discharge
Upon the airy towers.
Let now the chimneys blaze
And cups o’erflow with wine,
Let well-tuned words amaze
With harmony divine.
Now yellow waxen lights 
Shall wait on honey love
While youthful revels, masques, and courtly sights 
Sleep’s leaden spells remove.

Thomas Campion

19 January 2019

Keeps.

Mackintosh, Larkspur, 1914


The temple bell stops
But the sound keeps coming
Out of the flowers

Basho

Buzzcocks, "Harmony in My Head"

Dog.

Haydn, Sonata in G major, Hob.XVI:40

Viviane Chassot performs the Presto ...



It's sandwich time.

There.


CHILDE HAROLD'S PILGRIMAGE

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
   There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
   There is society where none intrudes,
   By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
   I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
   From these our interviews, in which I steal
   From all I may be, or have been before,
   To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

   Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean--roll!
   Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
   Man marks the earth with ruin--his control
   Stops with the shore;--upon the watery plain
   The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
   A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
   When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
   He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.

   His steps are not upon thy paths,--thy fields
   Are not a spoil for him,--thou dost arise
   And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
   For earth’s destruction thou dost all despise,
   Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
   And send’st him, shivering in thy playful spray
   And howling, to his gods, where haply lies
   His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to earth: —there let him lay.

Lord Byron

Technique.


Technique is the proof of your seriousness.

Wallace Stevens

Think.

Happy birthday, Cézanne.

Cézanne, Arbres et Maisons au Bord de l'Eau, 1893


Paul Cézanne was born on this day in 1839.

Surely, a single bunch of carrots painted naively, just as we personally see it, is worth all the endless banalities of the Schools, all those dreary pictures concocted out of tobacco juice according to time-honored formulas?

The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution. 

Paul Cézanne

Will.


Thank you, KA-CHING!

Excellent.

An excellent album ...

18 January 2019

Home.


Imagination! lifting up itself 
Before the eye and progress of my Song
Like an unfather'd vapour; here that Power,
In all the might of its endowments, came
Athwart me; I was lost as in a cloud,
Halted without a struggle to break through, 
And now recovering to my Soul I say
I recognize thy glory; in such strength
Of usurpation, in such visitings
Of awful promise, when the light of sense
Goes out in flashes that have shewn to us 
The invisible world, doth Greatness make abode,
There harbours whether we be young or old.
Our destiny, our nature, and our home 
Is with infinitude, and only there. 

Oh! when I have hung
Above the raven's nest, by knots of grass,
And half-inch fissures in the slippery rock
But ill sustain'd, and almost, as it seem'd,
Suspended by the blast which blew amain,
Shouldering the naked crag; Oh! at that time
While on the perilous ridge I hung alone,
With what strange utterance did the loud dry wind
Blow through my ears! the sky seem'd not a sky
Of earth, and with what motion mov'd the clouds! 

William Wordsworth, from "Prelude"

Eagles, "Good Day in Hell"

WOO-HOO! HAPPY FRIDAY!

Dog.

Mary Oliver, Rest In Peace.

Agar, Mary Oliver Sitting at a Table in Her Home, Pembroke Lodge, Richmond, 1939


Mary Oliver has passed.

Dog.

Excellent.

Excellent albums ...

Happy birthday, Milne.


A.A. Milne was born on this day in 1882.

It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like, "What about lunch?"

A.A. Milne

17 January 2019

Aerosmith, "Seasons of Wither"

Unwearied.


When, to the attractions of the busy world,
Preferring studious leisure, I had chosen
A habitation in this peaceful Vale,
Sharp season followed of continual storm
In deepest winter; and, from week to week, 
Pathway, and lane, and public road, were clogged
With frequent showers of snow. Upon a hill
At a short distance from my cottage, stands
A stately Fir-grove, whither I was wont
To hasten, for I found, beneath the roof 
Of that perennial shade, a cloistral place
Of refuge, with an unincumbered floor.
Here, in safe covert, on the shallow snow,
And, sometimes, on a speck of visible earth,
The redbreast near me hopped; nor was I loth
To sympathise with vulgar coppice birds
That, for protection from the nipping blast,
Hither repaired.—A single beech-tree grew
Within this grove of firs! and, on the fork
Of that one beech, appeared a thrush's nest;
A last year's nest, conspicuously built
At such small elevation from the ground
As gave sure sign that they, who in that house
Of nature and of love had made their home
Amid the fir-trees, all the summer long 
Dwelt in a tranquil spot. And oftentimes,
A few sheep, stragglers from some mountain-flock,
Would watch my motions with suspicious stare,
From the remotest outskirts of the grove,—
Some nook where they had made their final stand,
Huddling together from two fears—the fear 
Of me and of the storm. Full many an hour
Here did I lose. But in this grove the trees
Had been so thickly planted, and had thriven
In such perplexed and intricate array; 
That vainly did I seek, beneath their stems
A length of open space, where to and fro
My feet might move without concern or care;
And, baffled thus, though earth from day to day
Was fettered, and the air by storm disturbed, 
I ceased the shelter to frequent,—and prized,
Less than I wished to prize, that calm recess.

The snows dissolved, and genial Spring returned
To clothe the fields with verdure. Other haunts
Meanwhile were mine; till, one bright April day,
By chance retiring from the glare of noon 
To this forsaken covert, there I found
A hoary pathway traced between the trees,
And winding on with such an easy line
Along a natural opening, that I stood 
Much wondering how I could have sought in vain
For what was now so obvious. To abide,
For an allotted interval of ease,
Under my cottage-roof, had gladly come
From the wild sea a cherished Visitant; 
And with the sight of this same path—begun,
Begun and ended, in the shady grove,
Pleasant conviction flashed upon my mind
That, to this opportune recess allured,
He had surveyed it with a finer eye, 
A heart more wakeful; and had worn the track
By pacing here, unwearied and alone,
In that habitual restlessness of foot
That haunts the Sailor measuring o'er and o'er
His short domain upon the vessel's deck, 
While she pursues her course through the dreary sea.
When thou hadst quitted Esthwaite's pleasant shore,
And taken thy first leave of those green hills
And rocks that were the play-ground of thy youth,
Year followed year, my Brother! and we two, 
Conversing not, knew little in what mould
Each other's mind was fashioned; and at length
When once again we met in Grasmere Vale,
Between us there was little other bond
Than common feelings of fraternal love. 
But thou, a School-boy, to the sea hadst carried
Undying recollections; Nature there
Was with thee; she, who loved us both, she still
Was with thee; and even so didst thou become
A silent Poet; from the solitude 
Of the vast sea didst bring a watchful heart
Still couchant, an inevitable ear,
And an eye practised like a blind man's touch.
—Back to the joyless Ocean thou art gone;
Nor from this vestige of thy musing hours 
Could I withhold thy honoured name,—and now
I love the fir-grove with a perfect love.
Thither do I withdraw when cloudless suns
Shine hot, or wind blows troublesome and strong;
And there I sit at evening, when the steep 
Of Silver-how, and Grasmere's peaceful lake,
And one green island, gleam between the stems
Of the dark firs, a visionary scene!
And, while I gaze upon the spectacle
Of clouded splendour, on this dream-like sight 
Of solemn loveliness, I think on thee,
My Brother, and on all which thou hast lost.
Nor seldom, if I rightly guess, while Thou,
Muttering the verses which I muttered first
Among the mountains, through the midnight watch
Art pacing thoughtfully the vessel's deck 
In some far region, here, while o'er my head,
At every impulse of the moving breeze,
The fir-grove murmurs with a sea-like sound,
Alone I tread this path;—for aught I know, 
Timing my steps to thine; and, with a store
Of undistinguishable sympathies,
Mingling most earnest wishes for the day
When we, and others whom we love, shall meet
A second time, in Grasmere's happy Vale.

William Wordsworth

Yes.


It’s important to live life with the experience, and therefore the knowledge, of its mystery and of your own mystery. This gives life a new radiance, a new harmony, a new splendor. Thinking in mythological terms helps to put you in accord with the inevitables of this vale of tears. You learn to recognize the positive values in what appear to be the negative moments and aspects of your life. The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.

Joseph Campbell

Everything.


A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements, clumsy hands. If for a hundred and a hundred years everyone had been able freely to handle our codices, the majority of them would no longer exist. So the librarian protects them not only against mankind but also against nature, and devotes his life to this war with the forces of oblivion, the enemy of truth.

Umberto Eco

Thank you, Kurt.

16 January 2019

Around.


A man’s admiration for absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him.

Alexis De Tocqueville

Delusive.


Men little think how immorally they act in rashly meddling with what they do not understand. Their delusive good intention is no sort of excuse for their presumption. They who truly mean well must be fearful of acting ill.

Edmund Burke

15 January 2019

All.


The workers went along with the Nazis, the Church stood by and watched, the middle classes were too cowardly to do anything, and so were the leading intellectuals. We allowed the unions to be abolished, the various religious denominations to be suppressed, there was no freedom of speech in the press or on the radio. Finally we let ourselves be driven into war. We were content for Germany to do without democratic representation and put up with pseudo-representation by people with no real say in anything. Ideals can’t be betrayed with impunity, and now we must all take the consequences.

Władysław Szpilman, from The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw

Bath.


Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons, and you will find that it is to the soul what the water bath is to the body.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Joe Jackson, "Look Sharp"

Flitting.


ONE and ONE MAKE ONE

Flitting between them,
for hours now,
the spotted towhee can't decide
which of the two birds
in the two
glass panels,
in each of the two
French doors,
he's more in love with.

Dan Gerber

Pursuing.

Borromini, Idealized Oratorio dei Filippini façade, Rome, 1600


The PSALM of LIFE

What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers, 
   Life is but an empty dream! 
For the soul is dead that slumbers, 
   And things are not what they seem. 

Life is real! Life is earnest! 
   And the grave is not its goal; 
Dust thou art, to dust returnest, 
   Was not spoken of the soul. 

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, 
   Is our destined end or way; 
But to act, that each to-morrow 
   Find us farther than to-day. 

Art is long, and Time is fleeting, 
   And our hearts, though stout and brave, 
Still, like muffled drums, are beating 
   Funeral marches to the grave. 

In the world’s broad field of battle, 
   In the bivouac of Life, 
Be not like dumb, driven cattle! 
   Be a hero in the strife! 

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant! 
   Let the dead Past bury its dead! 
Act,— act in the living Present! 
   Heart within, and God o’erhead! 

Lives of great men all remind us 
   We can make our lives sublime, 
And, departing, leave behind us 
   Footprints on the sands of time; 

Footprints, that perhaps another, 
   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main, 
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, 
   Seeing, shall take heart again. 

Let us, then, be up and doing, 
   With a heart for any fate; 
Still achieving, still pursuing, 
   Learn to labor and to wait.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Chopin, Waltz No. 2 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 64

Vladimir Horowitz performs ...

Paradise.


I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.

Jorge Luis Borges

Happy birthday, King.


Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on this day in 1929.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.  Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

CONNECT

14 January 2019

Nice.

Nice try, Monday.

Outside.

Craig Childs on the importance of playing outside.

[T]his place that does not smell of us ... the doors are all over the place. Go out there.

Sum.


There is divine beauty in learning.  To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth. Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps. The books I have read were composed by generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and disciples. I am the sum total of their experiences, their quests. And so are you.

Elie Wiesel

Excellent.

An excellent album ...

13 January 2019

Just.


One of my amusements is to try to find and follow black bears, which have always been a dharma gate for me, aside from being bears.  Black bears aren’t remotely as dangerous as grizzlies, but it is best to be in a state of total attention because, frankly, the bear is.  We want to fully inhabit the earth while we are here and not lose our lives to endless rehearsals and illusions.  Perhaps my sitting is more like that of an addled bird, but the bear is always out there, not calling to me, just a bear.

Jim Harrison

Advice.

Winter advice from Geddy Lee ...



The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself. 

Oscar Wilde

Telemann, Fantasia No. 8 in E minor

Marika Lombardi performs ...

Lovely.


So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, 
Go throw your TV set away, 
And in its place you can install, 
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.

Roald Dahl

Imagination.

Fantin-LaTour, White Lillies, 1877


I know that this world is a world of imagination and vision.  I see everything I paint in this world, but everybody does not see alike. To the eyes of a miser a guinea is far more beautiful than the sun, and a bag worn with the use of money has more beautiful proportions than a vine filled with grapes. The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and by these I shall not regulate my proportions; and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.  As a man is, so he sees. As the eye is formed, such are its powers. 

William Blake

12 January 2019

Happy birthday, Sargent.

Sargent, Villa Torlonia Fountain, 1907


John Singer Sargent was born on this day in 1856.

Cultivate an ever continuous power of observation. Wherever you are, be always ready to make slight notes of postures, groups and incidents. Store up in the mind, a continuous stream of observations from which to make selections later. Above all, see the sunlight and everything that is to be seen.

John Singer Sargent

Gordon Lightfoot, "Lazy Mornin'"

Another lazy mornin', I took time to make town 'n stock a pint or two
The most delicious brew
Keepin' up with the Joneses, I hope no one telephones us
I'd take a place in the country, but for now the old back yard
Looks to me like fifty acres of the roundest ground in town

Another lazy mornin', come supper time I'm gonna light my barbecue ...

Change.

Wyeth, North Light, 1984


DUST of SNOW

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Robert Frost

Peter Rowan, "Across the Rolling Hills"

Happy birthday, London.


Jack London was born on this day in 1876.

He worked slowly and carefully, keenly aware of his danger. Gradually, as the flame grew stronger, he increased the size of the twigs with which he fed it. He squatted in the snow, pulling the twigs out from their entanglement in the brush and feeding directly to the flame. He knew there must be no failure. When it is seventy-five below zero, a man must not fail in his first attempt to build a fire -- that is, if his feet are wet. If his feet are dry, and he fails, he can run along the trail for half a mile and restore his circulation. But the circulation of wet and freezing feet cannot be restored by running when it is seventy-five below. No matter how fast he runs, the wet feet will freeze the harder.

All this the man knew. The old-timer on Sulphur Creek had told him about it the previous fall, and now he was appreciating the advice. Already all sensation had gone out of his feet. To build the fire he had been forced to remove his mittens, and the fingers had quickly gone numb. His pace of four miles an hour had kept his heart pumping blood to the surface of his body and to all the extremities. But the instant he stopped, the action of the pump eased down. The cold of space smote the unprotected tip of the planet, and he, being on that unprotected tip, received the full force of the blow. The blood of his body recoiled before it. The blood was alive, like the dog, and like the dog it wanted to hide away and cover itself up from the fearful cold. So long as he walked four miles an hour, he pumped that blood, willy-nilly, to the surface; but now it ebbed away and sank down into the recesses of his body. The extremities were the first to feel its absence. His wet feet froze the faster, and his exposed fingers numbed the faster, though they had not yet begun to freeze. Nose and cheeks were already freezing, while the skin of all his body chilled as it lost its blood.

But he was safe. Toes and nose and cheeks would be only touched by the frost, for the fire was beginning to burn with strength. He was feeding it with twigs the size of his finger. In another minute he would be able to feed it with branches the size of his wrist, and then he could remove his wet foot-gear, and, while it dried, he could keep his naked feet warm by the fire, rubbing them at first, of course, with snow. The fire was a success. He was safe. He remembered the advice of the old-timer on Sulphur Creek, and smiled. The old-timer had been very serious in laying down the law that no man must travel alone in the Klondike after fifty below. Well, here he was; he had had the accident; he was alone; and he had saved himself. Those old-timers were rather womanish, some of them, he thought. All a man had to do was to keep his head, and he was all right. Any man who was a man could travel alone. But it was surprising, the rapidity with which his cheeks and nose were freezing. And he had not thought his fingers could go lifeless in so short a time. Lifeless they were, for he could scarcely make them move together to grip a twig, and they seemed remote from his body and from him. When he touched a twig, he had to look and see whether or not he had hold of it. The wires were pretty well down between him and his finger-ends.

All of which counted for little. There was the fire, snapping and crackling and promising life with every dancing flame. He started to untie his moccasins. They were coated with ice; the thick German socks were like sheaths of iron halfway to the knees; and the moccasin strings were like rods of steel all twisted and knotted as by some conflagration. For a moment he tugged with his numb fingers, then, realizing the folly of it, he drew his sheath-knife.

But before he could cut the strings, it happened. 

Jack London, from "To Build a Fire"

10 January 2019

Cocteau Twins, "The Spangle Maker"

Sniff 'n' The Tears, "Driver's Seat"

All skate. All skate.

Suddenly.


In the Harry Potter books, there's this place called the Room of Requirement. The way it works is you walk three times in front of this certain patch of wall at Hogwarts, thinking, like, I really need a coffee. And then suddenly in that room a coffee shop will appear. Or, I need a place to make my magic potion in secret, and then a room with all the ingredients for your magic potion will appear.  

Libraries are like that. But in real life. That's what they do. 


Thank You, Jessica.

Unfolding.


Discipline must come through liberty. Here is a great principle which is difficult for the followers of common-school methods to understand. How shall one obtain discipline in a class of free children? Certainly in our system, we have a concept of discipline very different from that commonly accepted. If discipline is founded upon liberty, the discipline itself must necessarily be active. We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined.

We call an individual disciplined when he is master of himself, and can, therefore, regulate his own conduct when it shall be necessary to follow some rule of life. Such a concept of active discipline is not easy to comprehend or to apply. But certainly it contains a great educational principle, very different from the old-time absolute and undiscussed coercion to immobility.

A special technique is necessary to the teacher who is to lead the child along such a path of discipline, if she is to make it possible for him to continue in this way all his life, advancing indefinitely toward perfect self-mastery. Since the child now learns to move rather than to sit still, he prepares himself not for the school, but for life; for he becomes able, through habit and through practice, to perform easily and correctly the simple acts of social or community life. The discipline to which the child habituates himself here is, in its character, not limited to the school environment but extends to society.

The liberty of the child should have as its limit the collective interest; as its form, what we universally consider good breeding. We must, therefore, check in the child whatever offends or annoys others, or whatever tends toward rough or ill-bred acts. But all the rest,–every manifestation having a useful scope,–whatever it be, and under whatever form it expresses itself, must not only be permitted, but must be observed by the teacher. Here lies the essential point; from her scientific preparation, the teacher must bring not only the capacity, but the desire, to observe natural phenomena. In our system, she must become a passive, much more than an active, influence, and her passivity shall be composed of anxious scientific curiosity, and of absolute respect for the phenomenon which she wishes to observe. The teacher must understand and feel her position of observer: the activity must lie in the phenomenon.

Such principles assuredly have a place in schools for little children who are exhibiting the first psychic manifestations of their lives. We cannot know the consequences of suffocating a spontaneous action at the time when the child is just beginning to be active: perhaps we suffocate life itself. Humanity shows itself in all its intellectual splendour during this tender age as the sun shows itself at the dawn, and the flower in the first unfolding of the petals; and we must respect religiously, reverently, these first indications of individuality. If any educational act is to be efficacious, it will be only that which tends to help toward the complete unfolding of this life. To be thus helpful it is necessary rigorously to avoid the arrest of spontaneous movements and the imposition of arbitrary tasks. It is of course understood, that here we do not speak of useless or dangerous acts, for these must be suppressed, destroyed.

Maria Montessori

CONNECT

Thank you, Casey.