Saturday, June 30, 2007
This larger shot gives you a glimpse of the cat stepping stone, which oldest son put there this year at the annual "placing of the creatures" in the garden. We have a lot of animals of stone, clay, iron, bronze, plastic, etc. The three characters in the post last week ("Unintended Consequences") are among their number. I placed those (except the cement turtles, placed by youngest son). The barely visible round stone to the right in this picture (under the brilliant blue delphinium Moomin Light planted this year - see her thoughts on last year's delphinium here) represents Optican. Optican is one of the planets in a system oldest son created many years ago, the Bibadil system, including Drayeen, Drayeen's moon Sni, Optican, Smooja, and Smooja's little moon Smali. We decided long ago to do lettered casts of the system (made in the bottoms of various size plastic flower pots) which are now placed in the yard in their correct relationships. According to oldest son (probably about ten years old at the time), Optican has no set surface (it's a swirling chaos) - you have to make a surface and reality on it by the power of your own magic - and only certain creatures in the system have that ability.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
I've gone with my daughter (who has been taking care of their cats) this week to give Sake some attention and meet the cats (Mango, in particular, is a slender funny ginger male, and I can get any of them purring with the right use of my hands). Today he was glad to see me, as usual. He comes up, leans against me, and wags his tail happily.
But when I pulled the leash off the nearby doorknob he jumped up and down like a puppy. His excitement made me so glad I was taking him out. It's such a strong simple pleasure to make a creature that happy.
It has been probably over 10 years since the last time I had a dog on a leash, and Sake is sweet but probably weighs around 100 pounds. The feel of him gently pulling one way or another was very familiar. He's part German Shepherd and part something else, Great Dane, maybe; we had shepherds when I was a kid, so I remember their size and pull. He got to check out and mark his own back yard, up the street and back, and then our back yard, which is pretty dog free and totally new to Saki.
The entire walk was overshadowed by the boom of approaching thunder, which seemed to make Sake just a bit nervous. After one round of the street and the back yards, he went right back to his house and up the steps. I'm not sure if he's just used to that much walk being the routine, or if he wanted to get inside before the rain.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Toad thought slowly about this story. It sounded familiar and he checked his careful store of hibernation information and realized that it was there in four or five different variations. The song was not always the same, and he was vaguely troubled by what it might mean to say, "always" connected with something that was not always the same. But then he slowly realized that chicken's stories had never actually disturbed anything more than the flight of midges that happened too near her always open beak, and he was content again.
For years toad and chicken were always placed together in the same spot on the shady terrace, down the long stairs. He liked her constant chatter. It made the world one long smooth predictable river of sound, and she never paused long enough for him to reply, so he was free to relax and drift along without effort.
This year they had been moved to the fountain. Rumor had it that someone had felt pity for toad. They believed someone else should share the burden of listening, so toad and chicken had been placed near Debbie, the hippo, so she could listen, too. Toad smiled slowly and sagely. He felt there was something funny about that notion, though he could not quite figure it out. Maybe this winter he would understand it during the long sleep.
Debbie joined in the chorus, "Jimmy crack corn and I don't care, Jimmy crack corn and I don't care, Jimmy crack corn and I don't care, my master's gone away..." holding the notes longer than chicken, which ruffled her feathers a bit, but she went on to the next verse. The river of sound was broader and deeper than last year, and toad dozed contentedly in the wash of words and the blending of the two voices. Warm blooded animals had so much restless energy it was hard to understand how they figured anything out at all.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
St Stephen the first Martyr (whose feast day I was born near) and my father (middle name)
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
Probably after watching a movie - I usually cry after chick flicks. I don't think I cried after Chances Are, the other night, but I might have done at the end of Night at the Museum (not a chick flick). When he gets the flashlight and the keys back.
DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
Yes indeed - mine was a conscious invention when I was in my teens, and I can alter it at will to make it take on different emotional tone or artsy flare. Any kind of making marks, even dragging a stick in the sand, is a joy.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?
Really good pastrami
DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
The same three as Moomin Light.
IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
I'd be bored with me. Too predictable (to me). And we'd share too many interests. What would we bring new to the other? And I already pay too much attention to what others think - imagine how much attention I'd pay to what my ALTER EGO thought?
DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
Only a little - and I DO use it with my eight year old and he is beginning to get it. Get 'em started young...
DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
No. I had mine out at age 18, and for several days after I had middle of the night runs to the hospital to stop the bleeding when the surgery opened again. I don't recommend it as a way to wake up.
WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries - but I haven't had the nerve to try a bowl in years, for fear they've changed them beyond recognition, as they did Apple Jacks.
DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
Always. And I always turn my shirt sleeves and socks right side out when I take them off, too. I don't care about others (unless I'm doing the laundry - a rare thing, thank goodness) but I couldn't walk away from them twisted up or still tied.
DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
No. But I've got enough to do what I face daily, so I'm OK with it.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
Are they male or female. And when I can't get it figured out I can't move on to the next thing...
RED OR PINK?
Orange. Seriously, I like both red and pink, but I LOVE them when they drift towards orange.
WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
That nasty little voice inside that discourages nearly every risk, every dare, every bold move.
WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
Moomin Light's father. I had some idea even before he passed away that he had become almost as important to me as my own father. I was quite certain of it after he moved on ahead of the rest of us. We'll catch up down the road and we'll all have so much to share...
Second place goes to my Nana R - who I think of when I garden. She would have loved our yards.
WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
Very faded jeans ("Can the leopard change his spots?" Mine would be faded denim) and no shoes at the moment, though never bare footed. I hate to feel things with the bottoms of my feet.
WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
Two grilled cheese sandwiches on whole wheat and two Clausen mini-dills. No room for dessert.
WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
The sound of my eldest drawing on the studio table behind me - a wonderful sound. And in my mental soundtrack a song by Evanescence ("Going Under").
IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
Vermillion, or Periwinkle, or Salmon, or the Blue Green in the Crayola boxes of the 1960s (I have one of my grandfather's boxes of 64 and the color gives me shivers), or... This question is a silly one to ask on this blog. Remember what happened to me when NC changed the color of the characters on their license plates? I'm still grinning down the highway. I am so wound up with so many colors I can hardly breathe sometimes when I think about it. I want to be them all. I will change myself to be them all. I call my species Chromophilovidior chameleonis.
I agree with Moomin Light on lavender... but also wild rose (the pink ones that grew down the road where I grew up in NY)... and the smell of Nana's house.
WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
Someone at work - and I talk to so many people there that I can't recall which. And I almost never talk on the phone at home. At home I'm like le terrible monsieur Degas, "It rings and you run to it like a servant." I hate the thing.
FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
Boxing and golf are my LEAST favorites, for very different reasons ("Ugh!" and "Yawn..."). I don't really have one I like to watch - I even watch the Olympics more from a desire to participate than a real desire to watch.
Less than 20% dark brown, more than 80% grey (started in earnest in my mid twenties) with relatively new silver showing over my sideburns.
DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
Can't - astigmatism.
Escargot? Tapioca? Langostinos in butter? Actually it was an open faced sandwich I ate only once at a French restaurant in Charleston (La Madelaine - it was on Church St just south of the Market) made with grouper, in a white wine cream sauce on one of their own homemade croissants, with pink grape halves. I had it over twenty years ago and it still haunts me.
SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
Happy endings. See "When you last cried" above.
LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
Chances Are with Robert Downey Jr., Cybill Shepherd, and Ryan O'Neal. Happy ending.
WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
SUMMER OR WINTER?
Long days and late sunlight - Summer. But it's autumn I adore.
HUGS OR KISSES?
Hugs - from ladies and a few men. Kisses - from my one and only.
Apple pie. Or is it Lemon Meringue? No, if I could have either one every day, apple pie would win over the long haul, for sure.
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
Book? Singular? Two graphic novels (I'm pleasantly trapped in a long series called Rurouni Kenshin, and the beautiful and dark Neotopia series). The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron - which I just keep working my way around and around. A huge book about Gauguin and Van Gogh (who painted together in a studio in Provence for nine weeks) - their colors and compositions thrill me. I See by My Outfit a strange journey by Peter Beagle. An anthology of the short stories of Avram Davidson (science fiction - sort of). The last two were gifts from Moomin Light...
WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
It's just a grey Dell mousepad... I never look at it. When I'm using a mouse I'm looking at the screen...
WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON T.V. LAST NIGHT?
No TV. See Moomin Light's meme.
The sound of Moomin Light singing when she doesn't know I can hear it. The sound of my children laughing.
ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?
Beatles. I have never liked the Stones.
WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
I stand at the exact half way point between technical and non-technical, and nearly all of my career roles have involved translating in both directions for people much farther from the border.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
NY - not The City - up The River.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Monday, June 18, 2007
My soundtrack has been full of The Weepies lately (their site seems to play the first three numbers from their latest album, starting with "Take It from Me," then changes to numbers that might be from their first release).
They are a folk duo. I found their most recent album, "Say I Am You,"on a trip to Barnes and Noble. I hadn't intended to buy anything, I just intended to pass a pleasant hour browsing and learning some new sounds and names, when I looked them up on a notion, was amazed that B&N carried this album, and then found myself walking to the counter with it in my hand.
I had heard "World Spins Madly on" on the Internet (third on the album if you are still listening to the link), and it would stay in my head for days. The strings, the harmonies, the infectious melancholy sound with rolling quiet guitar driving it... That's how I knew of The Weepies. Now I could hear that again plus more.
"Riga Girls" and "Painting by Chagall" are my current favorites.
"You're the moon, I'm the water.
You're Mars, calling up Neptune's daughter.
Sometimes rain that's needed falls.
We float like two lovers in a painting by Chagall.
All around is sky and blue town,
holding these flowers for a wedding gown."
(Polaroid of The Weepies compliments of the afteravedon photostream on Flickr - thanks for sharing.)
Sunday, June 17, 2007
He met his mother and sister at the door of their birthing room, because the baby and his wife were sleeping. The first nursing had been tiring for both of them, and now they were quietly napping side by side. He thought his little girl favored her mother, though his relatives saw mostly their side of the family. His mother and sister had commented on the baby's complexion being so like his, but he saw his wife in the tiny girl. The same red handle, the same lines of spade. Certainly the handle was a lot shorter than his wife's, but baby proportions are so much different, and during the teen years she would lengthen and get those same lovely lines that had attracted him.
Suddenly thinking of teenage boys looking at his daughter made his head swim. He felt as if he stood on the edge of a huge new garden, and the vastness took his breath away. How in the world could he ever manage to water all those plants, carry all that water not only for himself and for his wife, but for his daughter now, too? Fatherhood seemed like an impossible role to fill.
Then he realized that he would do it the same way he had always done - three gallons at a time. Maybe more trips to the hose, more hours on the job, and certainly more work at home, but it wasn't anything he couldn't manage. He said goodbye to his sister, and to his mother, and joined his wife and new baby for a nap.
(Fathers Day morning my dear wife and I returned from a walk and this arrangement was there, by the spigot, just waiting for this picture. Happy Fathers Day to all dads - mine, yours, you and me.)
When I see chickens (or ducks) I have a strong impulse to pick them up. I never actually get close enough to do this, and I know what I'd get if I actually tried, but the desire is powerful. Maybe I have a chicken thief in my pedigree somewhere.
The pattern of reds and whites on leghorns and other white breeds drives me crazy. I have drawn and painted their wattles, face, eyes, bills... It's a composition thing, again, that game I play all the time with shapes and forms I'm seeing.
A rooster appeared in one of my watercolors in the last year. This is "Singing the Catfish's Song" and he's the one singing, with the robin playing harmony. The rooster in the painting was inspired by the photo above.
Some of my favorite chickens are the ones with top knots. I have a photo clipping of a Polish Blue that makes me stop and stare every time I flip through. The colors and subtle feather patterns on these breeds, and the colors of their eggs, are amazing to me.
("Rooster by Firecracker Plant" photo from key lime pie (Anna Wiz)'s photostream on Flickr)
("Scream" photo from pbo31's photostream on Flickr)
("Marv you don't know, you don't know me, OK?..." photo from tedfoo's photostream on Flickr)
(Thank you all for sharing!)
Friday, June 15, 2007
I have long been a fan of the Peter Wimsey books, by Dorothy L. Sayers. Busman's Honeymoon is the last in the series, written in 1937, and it starts with about half a dozen letters from characters we know from earlier books. They are all describing the wedding between Lord Wimsey and Harriet Vane.
The book is about equal parts mystery and love story, switching back and forth between them, taking place primarily over the couple's honeymoon, in a house from her childhood where there is (surprise, surprise) a murder.
The mystery is quite up to the usual Sayers standard, complete with so many plausible suspects that your head will be spinning like the main characters'. Throw in a poetry quoting country police superintendant and Bunter's transition to the country and serving a lady as well as his gentleman, and you have several additional side stories of interest.
The love story, as it unfolds, however, is nothing like any other Wimsey story. It's also not like any other love story I've read. The thickening plot presents the newliweds with a series of complex situations, and the way they handle them speaks eloquently about British society in the 30's, Sayers' views on marriage, and a great deal about what love COULD be between two sensitive and intelligent people. A few passages left me pondering for hours.
I won't say more than that - but you must read this in an unabridged version if you want the entire story. I believe an abridged version would remove much of the dialogue that makes the love story so enlightening, and you also wouldn't want to miss all the details and dialogue of Bunter, Superintendant Kirk, Mrs. Ruttle, Mr. Puffet, and, of course, the Dowager Duchess. A delightful read from end to end.
Meeting You by Chance - for Laura
Walking busy garden paths, observing
beauty round me and the lovely fragrance
from blooms and passers, sparing word or glance,
while small birds flashed and musically took wing,
my heart was calm and paced a graceful dance.
Good fortune granted me this gilded spring,
this time alone to greet each lovely thing
my walk revealed by unexpected chance.
Then you appeared, unlooked for and unknowing,
and the garden had been colorless and gray.
Now with the glory of your presence glowing,
garden emerged from gloom to sunlit day.
The world I'd roamed and thought so bright and fair
was proved a faded sham til you were there.
Written June 15th, 2007, remembering an unexpected meeting in a garden several years ago.
Everyone needs a Teddy bear, and my dear wife got this one for me years ago. He was originally meant to travel with me during a dark time on my job, so he could be on my bed in whatever hotel I stayed, but I was afraid to lose him, and he guards my bedside table instead, and makes me smile. He is made from sock, I think, and stuffed with nylon hose, so he feels wonderful.
His full name is Grunewald, after Matthias Grunewald, a German artist who painted one of the most powerful passion and resurrection works of the Northern Renaissance, the Isenheim Alter. Make sure you also look at the Resurrection panel, which influenced many artists over centuries.
My bear pronounces his name as "Groonehvahldeh" and I shortened it to Walter. I have no idea why he is named after this painter - he just is. Unless it has something to do with the way God likes to mix up the serious with the ridiculous. It's one of His themes.
Walter has a nice deep growl, though only I can hear it.
Thanks to Olga's Gallery for links to photos of Grunewald's magnificent work.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Church of the Great Outdoors
Episcopal Schism? - Gifts of Finest Wheat
Recently I have commented on the blog of a friend who has become something of a pastor to me - her posts seem to be good for me - they get me thinking and praising. Here are two of my comments. Links below are to her posts.
"Children are too bold in their love to be unworthy or humble." I love that line.
That's why sometimes, when I'm the most confused or hurt about something, my prayer takes the form of just standing beside Him and reaching up with my little hand to put it in His. I don't see Him in these prayers, I just put my hand in and try to stand still. I have to do it over and over again, because I'm not good at standing still. But I don't think about whether God is grossed out about all the mud on my legs, the way my clothes haven't been changed and are full of grass stains, the way my little hand is wet and clammy, or the way the other hand's thumb is probably in my mouth. He doesn't care and I'm too busy just needing Him to give it much thought. That's the best I can do much of the time.
Or, to shift to my current metaphor, I'm just munching grass over here in my shaggy coat, rain or shine, trying to take it all in and not fret so much. He doesn't withhold the rain or the sunshine because I'm just a stupid cow or even if I'm a wicked cow. He's just good and I just love being here with Him. And once in a while I hear a voice like yours and it makes me look up and pause in my chewing. It definitely seems to be where I belong at the moment.
(about Isaiah's calling in the Book of Isaiah, where he sees the Lord in the temple, and the angel touches his lips with the burning coal... - for the full text see Isaiah 6, verses 1-8)
This story from Isaiah is possibly my favorite in all of scripture. It reaches me in every sense and is more compelling than nearly everything else. It's some kind of personal message, I think - as if the scriptures were some huge scroll unrolled before all of mankind and we all stand with our noses close to one section, and this is where I'm standing, where I was planted, like a tree.
And I can't help but wonder all sorts of things - hundreds of things - these are just the ones on top right now. (It's like a big jar of cinnamon and sugar I'm shaking up to mix for buttered toast, and different grains and swirls of rich red-brown come up on top with each shake and turn. Here is today's spice.)
1. Is this angel, the one with the tongs, Gabriel? How like God, somehow, to let a being finish a work, like an artist, allowed to see it through. Here annointing (such a strong and strange annointing!) this prophet who would speak the words Gabriel would later invoke when greeting the Virgin. This kind of spiritual mobius is so like God it gives me tingles.
2. What does it mean that the hem of God's robes FILLED the temple? I picture this somehow being about existence - how it's all God's robes. What an incredible garment!
3. And yet God can't be "in" the temple, really - or contained in some way. It's just one of many ways it's obvious that a human can't comprehend what is REALLY going on.
4. Seraphs, fire, coals, smoke... yow! Gorgeous! Scary!
5. Gabriel also tells Zacharias that he "stands before the Lord" - present tense? Always? Like right now while he's talking to Zacharias in what seems to be another place? Like in that vision of Isaiah's? Angels - not temporal or spacial like we are... Everywhere/All-now? Sometimes I think wisdom is the removal of our notions, learning to suspend what we think after we realize it can't be correct. Standing naked of ideas like a little child.
And that last gets to some of your much more difficult thoughts in this post - about stripping away our notions that come from the culture, the nation myth, the idea of rights, our concepts of gender and sexuality and duality and labels... we will never know a hundredth part of the incorrect notions we hold without question. But the act of mentally disrobing, taking off these wrong and harmful ideas, is a walk with grace. You are doing it more directly and fearlessly than many. Maybe this stripping is the only way, since Eden and our "knowledge of good and evil," that we can still walk with God in the cool of the evening. We hide in our notions - ashamed because we are naked. We can't help ourselves. He calls us out to walk with Him - we can do it in the Eucharist, and in countless other ways, but it's harder now than it was.
Some day I hope we can stand before God naked. Shamelessly, comfortably, joyfully human. Purged of our sin as if by a hot coal, to say, "Here I am Lord - send me!"
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
All these things hurt. I take great pleasure in these things (except the tattoos, haven't done that one yet, hmm), and my oldest understands it, too. There is a certain confirmation of life, manhood, strength, power in the experience of these things. They all make you say, "Ahh!" inside (and wasabi makes you need to blow your nose - something else I do hard enough to nearly hurt, and it feels good that way).
This is probably all wired down deep inside somewhere - a male animal thing. My daughter and my wife just shake their heads. My youngest, an eight year old boy, will understand in time, and I think he already gets it. It's like play-fighting with friends. It hurts and it gets the blood roaring in your ears. You know you are ferociously alive. It's not that we need comfirmation, but we like to turn up the volume and really hear it.
And as I've said elsewhere, I believe the handshake is what remains of men knocking each other down on meeting, to get a feel for each other. Other male mammals still knock each other down - we've advanced to squeezing each other's knuckles hard enough to hurt pleasantly, maybe slapping a few backs, and then getting on with other things. I look forward to this, I anticipate it when I walk towards a friend or someone I'm meeting. I make it a point to offer my hand and give a good grip...
(For the companion piece to the link above - here is "In the Company of Women.")
(And actually this pain thing isn't peculiar to men - see dear Moomin Light's post on wading in 40 degree temperatures. She always seems even more alive than usual with her feet bright red and painfully numb in some picturesque body of water. Part of it is the sisu of it (look it up - it became a regular part of my life when I married a Finn) and part of it is the fact that most people might find it crazy...)
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Friday, June 8, 2007
I recall a cartoon of him that showed him hidden by his necktie.
I have not been a regular reader of the N&O for a number of reasons - but I never failed to enjoy his column when I did read the paper. I have known a few men of his particular sweet, deeply insightful disposition, and they have inspired me, a native New Yorker, to acquire all I could of Southern manners and gentility. I have always imagined that Dennis Rogers wrote so well, in part, because he was the sort of man who carefully considered ALL of his words, weighing them for their accuracy, their honesty and for the effect they were likely to have on anyone who heard them. He had an awful lot of people to consider when writing his column... as you say, nearly everyone knows his work.
And this from your post (as well as the quality of that moving "epitaph") made me nod vigorously:
"Alexander Pope once said that an honest man is God’s noblest work. I think a compassionate man is nobler yet."
Amen. And how incredibly blessed are any of us who have a friend like that. I hope the two of you see each other often.
Maybe you could tackle a project together? If so, I hope you let us know on your blog, so we can savor the sweet anticipation.
Monday, June 4, 2007
I'll still see the artists who remain, but it feels like tearing something to leave. I didn't regret a minute of the time I spent on the Gallery - and I suspect it was better for me than I was for it. I learned a LOT.