"I am not one who was born in the custody of wisdom. I am one who is fond of olden times and intense in quest of the sacred knowing of the ancients." Gustave Courbet

30 April 2010

Mystery of the instinctive

"What I am seeking is not the real and not the unreal but rather the unconscious, the mystery of the instinctive in the human race."
- Amadeo Modigliani

The spark.

"The closeness is where your character is revealed."
- Chatham

Chatham starts at 02:30 ...


“Singing has always seemed to me the most perfect means of expression. It is so spontaneous. And after singing, I think the violin. Since I cannot sing, I paint.”

29 April 2010

The first of the season ...

Sun tea is brewing!

Zuzu's recipe for green tea with mint will be enjoyed this evening with Dad's chicken on the grill.

Thanks, Little Bit!


When I was a kid, I lived across the road from "The Woods." This was where you'd find me nearly every day. Inside this wooded playground was a shadowy, pine needle-strewn floor with firmly worn sandy paths that led anywhere I wanted to go ... to the Boston Tea Party, Mackinac Island, fur trapping with French explorers, WWII Germany (I was a history freak), or just around the next sharp bend ...

I dreamed in those woods.

And although most of the time I was there with my friends, my memories, my dreams were singular. Smells, sounds, tastes (all the different kinds of mint), all had meaning. Clouds weren't clouds. Trees weren't trees. Shadows weren't shadows. My imagination was born in those pines. The clouds, trees, and shadows were a box of odds and ends, like I used to find on Dad's workbench, that could be assembled to be anything, and take me anywhere I needed to go.

Last night, for as long as I could stay awake, I began reading another Derrick Jensen book, A Language Older Than Words.

The first paragraph ...
There is a language older by far and deeper than words. It is the language of bodies, of body on body, wind on snow, rain on trees, wave on stone. It is the language of dream, gesture, symbol, memory. We have forgotten this language. We do not even remember that it exists.

I'm sure Jensen has a bigger idea in mind for me, I view things differently reading his work, but that paragraph took me back to the woods, where a great deal of who and what I am began.

For now, that's my point.

Where did it take you?

27 April 2010


Right now I'm fueled by this fire.
The walls are shakin' and I'm givin' the locals some culture.
Watch this ...

And then there's this (Woodwork on slide) ...

26 April 2010


Don't walk ... RUN!

Viktoria Mullova

I listened to Viktoria Mullova's Bach Sonatas & Partitas for Violin all night long. They were a great accompaniment to the rain and restful sleep.

Part 1

Part 2

I highly recommend this.

Her Vivaldi work is the best. My fifth grade students say it rocks.

Here's one she did with Il Giardino Armonico, in my opinion, the best contemporary early music ensemble in the world.

[Music] gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.
- Plato


25 April 2010


My dad is a thinker. He is very creative. Dad's an engineer. You need to figure something, a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g, out? Dad's the one to see.

My sis is a scientist. Ever since she was a little girl, I've watched her do amazing things with animals (animals have done amazing things to her, too).

Mom is an artist; a talented musician who can make anything from food to painting to quilts, graciously beautiful (I'm craving oatmeal cookies right now).

Drew is a energetic singer and a dancer who just feels and does.

My reader, Zuzu, prefers to observe, reflect, take it all in ... quietly ... and then let her imagination run.

In all we do, we are at our best when we are having fun.

Kids want to incorporate play into everything they do ... cooking, bath time, spelling homework. Make it a game and they'll not only enjoy it more, but the end result is usually more concerted, natural, real.

Adults approach situations differently.

We want to qualify. Judge. Label. Perfect.

Performers at their peak, the height of the natural ability describe "being in the zone" ... that magical state of being where the reins are laid on loosely and comfort, ease, and output are at their maximum. Ty Webb demonstrates ...

When I try to inspire fifth graders to use brainstorming as a preparation for their creative writing, I encourage them not to criticize their ideas. No "wrong" answers. We call it "loving the question," alluding to the Rilke quote. The students write whatever comes to mind, no matter how silly or unrelated they may feel the thought to be. During this activity I remind the kiddos that ordinary thinking results in ordinary ideas. Who knows where your mind will take you if you just allow yourself the patience and openness to listen to what it is saying?!

Most of the time, the students are reluctant to engage in the trust and freedom that brainstorming requires. Given the current academic climate and what passes for public "education," it's easy to understand how they can get creatively cramped.

But, we work on it regularly, because, after all, creative work is still work.

Eventually, the furrowed brows and blank stares ("Mr. Firchau, you ask us to do some weird stuff") warm to understanding brightness in the eyes and confident grins, and sometimes to an automatic part of everyday life! They have shown themselves the tangible benefits of loosening up and having fun ... and workin'.

We achieved a new perspective through the process of practice, patience, and perseverance.

Did I say process?

Not an event. A process.

Small steps.

Short bursts of inspiration keep us hungry. Hemingway always finished a day's writing at a point of inspiration where he felt excited and energized by the plot. He knew what would happen and what direction the story would go next.

Leonardo was a proponent of achieving a change in perspective and innovation through play. It is the playful approach to looking at the world and, as The Maestro put it, seeing something different that allows us to renew, evolve and even create new thinking ... growth. With playfulness, Leonardo was able to ask the absurd, wonder wildly, and rearrange the reality of being that eagerly asks, "What if...?".

This ain't "follow the leader."

This is falling.

This is failing.

And joyfully getting up and asking, "What next?!"

Time passes quickly and there is no time to waste.

Look back at your footprints for a second, but ...


Look around.


Be aware. Open.



With yourself.

On! On!

In the liner notes to his latest album, Jimmy Buffett says ...
There are few species here on earth that are comfortable going against the grain, but it seems that human beings like to keep moving forward. If you stop and think about it, bicycles are not made to peddle backwards; you don't surf up a wave and it is certainly easier to walk down a hill than trudge up one. We all tend to to be more excited about things that are in front of us (better known as the future than behind us (that would be the past). Maybe it is because when you do look back, you get some idea of the speed at which this planet and our individual lives are really traveling.

Melvin Konner, a noted anthropologist and neuroscientist, states in his new book, The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, Emotion, Mind, ...
The smartest mammals are the most playful, so these traits have apparently evolved together. Play combining as it does great energy expenditure and risk with apparent pointlessness, is a central paradox of evolutionary biology. It seems to have multiple functions—exercise, learning, sharpening skills—and the positive emotions it invokes may be an adaptation that encourages us to try new things and learn with more flexibility. In fact, it may be the primary means nature has found to develop our brains.

Read the rest here.

"I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing."
- Starbuck, Moby Dick

A professor gave me this the day I graduated.

Tarnished and disgraced, I lay down
A black sparrow come to me in a dream

He whispered: A. Enlightment B. Endarkenment (Hint: there is no C)
A. Enlightment B. Endarkenment (Hint: there is no C)
A. Enlightment B. Endarkenment (Hint: there is no C)
And heaven pours down rain and lightning bolts
And heaven pours down rain and lightning bolts

Swollen and embarrassed I rose up
A black sparrows perched on highline pole

He whispered: A. Enlightment B. Endarkenment (Hint: there is no C)
A. Enlightment B. Endarkenment (Hint: there is no C)
A. Enlightment B. Endarkenment (Hint: there is no C)
And heaven pours down rain and lightning bolts
And heaven pours down rain and lightning bolts

Trembling and a shaken I looked down
A black sparrow was tattooed on my hand

It whispered: A. Enlightment B. Endarkenment (Hint: there is no C)
A. Enlightment B. Endarkenment (Hint: there is no C)
A. Enlightment B. Endarkenment (Hint: there is no C)
And heaven pours down rain and lightning bolts
And heaven pours down rain and lightning bolts

- Ray Wylie Hubbard

"... it's the same to me."

Great steel an' fiddle licks ...

More poetry ...

A dance song for Zuzu and me ...

A good'n t' daynce an' sang to ...

Yeah buddy ...

Head in the clouds


About ten minutes ago, I returned, soaking wet from a sensational, sun- and rain-drenched hike.

What a beautiful day!

Living in the country means having space.

And quiet.

The right kind of noise.

Noise? Hmmm ... nope.


Birds. Streams. Cows. Roosters. Tires on gravel roads.

When I was taking these pictures I could hear thunder up there.

Had Zuzu heard it she would have grabbed my hand and asked knowingly, "Is that thunder?"

Space provides contemplation.

As I hiked today, I was aware of how green everything has become. How lush the grass is and how dense the trees hiding the abandoned Victorian across the street have become ... a stage for the firefly show that is most certainly coming!

I was mesmerized by the parade of clouds above me. Constantly evolving into new shapes, colors, shades. I hope you saw it.

So now, with a large mug of keemun and a handful of smoked almonds, I'm appreciating this place.

This day.

This time.

Wondering what I'm missing out there because I'm sitting in here ...

... drinking in the tea and its perfume ...

... listening the wind's sonata in the rain's tapping and the flag's flapping.

I remember last summer, an early June evening. 3 a.m. Awakened by a thunderstorm, I walked outside on the deck and stood on the picnic table ... feeling the wind on my skin as it changed direction, trying to feel individual raindrops as they hit my face, arms, and legs. Wondering what my "wind shadow" would look like if I could see it. Wondering how many raindrops landed on me in one second. Did they hit anything else on the way down or was I their "first stop?"

Look around today.

Everything is interesting. Everything.

Just look closer.

Hable por mismo

Head in the clouds

An early rise this morning (I couldn't sleep ...again) yielded nice rewards from above.

There were some low laying, though speedy, cirrus clouds scurrying by as the alto cumulus above seemed to stand, still, ...

... like a parent watching a playful child.

24 April 2010


... sounds, then a sentence, then just sound.
It's an odd place wherever I sit,
this fluid speech around me,
liquid vowels, purling,
consonantal patter ...
a word, then sounds.
- Kevin Oderman

Great photography at The Fresh Aspect.

22 April 2010

Ibrahim Ferrer, "Cienfuegos Tiene Su Guaguanco"

A song to learn and sing ...

Hoy siento gran emoción
Voy a cantarle a mi tierra
A esa famosa región
llamada perla sureña

Su mujer es un primor
radiante como una estrella,
y por su elegante andar
la admiran en Cuba entera

Cienfuegos, yo a ti te llevo
metido en mi corazón,
por eso con orgullo
te doy esta inspiración.

Ya tu lo ves, mi hermano
Cienfuegos tiene su guaguancó

Yo soy los Sitio' Asere
y me fui caminando hasta Cienfuegos
a escuchar este lindo guaguancó.

Cienfueguera nena linda
ay, que bueno, que bueno
tú tienes tu guaguancó.

Oye, Maceo sigue cantando
No te preocupes tanto tú eres mi invitado
y aquí en fin el que manda soy yo
Alma mía no te extrañes.
si me voy pa'ese rumbón.

Para Cienfuegos
me voy a guarachar, boncó.
Para Cienfuegos
me voy a guarachar, boncó.

Contemplated, not possessed.

Earlier I posted clips from the BBC's production of Scruton's essay, Why Beauty Matters.

Part three is particularly enlightening.

All art is absolutely useless.

Put usefulness first and you loose it.

Put beauty first and what you do will be useful forever.

It turns out that nothing is more useful than the useless.

We have more than just practical needs.

We are not just governed by animal appetites, like eating and sleeping.

We have spiritual and moral needs, too. If those needs go unsatisfied, so do we.

We all know what it is like, even in the everyday world, suddenly to be transported by the things we see. From the ordinary world of our appetites to the illuminated sphere of contemplation.

A flash of sunlight.

A remembered melody.

The face of someone loved.

These dawn on us in the most distracted moments and suddenly life is worthwhile. These are timeless moments in which we feel the presence of another and higher world. From the beginning of western civilization poets and philosophers have seen the experience of beauty as calling us to the divine.

Beauty is all around us. We need only the eyes to see it and he hearts to feel. Like as if something not of this world, but indeed of it.

No meaning.

Just being.


... beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may.
- Plato

The book is here.

20 April 2010


Little kids just need love.

They know what they're doing. They are bold adventurers.

They just need help testing the waters; a hand that's there "just in case I need a boost, Dad."

Their souls are dancing souls, so incredibly pure. So unencumbered.

I am so proud of them.

Old-time fiddle.

19 April 2010

Flung open.

“Receive every day as a resurrection from death, as a new enjoyment of life; meet every rising sun with such sentiments of God's goodness, as if you had seen it, and all things, new - created upon your account: and under the sense of so great a blessing.”
- William Law

Congratulations, Msabu!

18 April 2010

Imagine. Immerse. Create.

"The nature poets of our own time characteristically approach their subject with an openness of spirit and imagination, allowing the meaning and the movement of the poem to suggest themselves out of the facts. Their art has an implicit and essential humility, a reluctance to impose on things as they are, a willingness to relate to the world as student and servant, a wish to discover the natural form rather than to create new forms that would be exclusively human. To create is to involve oneself as fully, as consciously and imaginatively, as possible in the creation, to be immersed in the world."
--Wendell Berry, A Continuous Harmony

"The sense of play that a poet needs to make language an ally – often thought of as congenital insincerity by the public – provides the at least momentary pleasure of creation; the sense of having a foothold, if not full membership, in a guild as old as man. The child who carves a tombstone or rock out a bar of soap knows some of this pleasure." – Jim Harrison

16 April 2010


"I asked a French critic a couple of years ago why my books did so well in France. He said it was because in my work people both act and think. I got a kick out of that." - JIm Harrison

This book will never be far from me.

"I'm still the child with sand sticking to dew-wet feet ..."
-Another Old Mariachi

13 April 2010

Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson

"I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way." - The Old Sage of Monticello