December Offerings – Part XX: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of IV: Victor Bauer

Artist Statement: “My name is Victor Bauer and currently I live and work in New York. My work can be found in corporate and private collections in the US, Europe and Canada. I consider myself a self-taught artist. Painting comes as natural as walking to me. My father was a painter, and I grew up playing in his studio, drawing experimenting with colors.
My earlier works were mostly abstracts and during these years I developed my own style and technique using mostly just a palette knife. My fascination with the human figure for its timeless sensitivity is reflected in my latest works. In my paintings I try not only just to replicate a scene, but to create the mood and feelings. Sometime when I feel it, I incorporate abstract fragments in a composition. I start with a drawing. When I’m satisfied with the composition, I begin to apply paint in bold strokes with a palette knife. My knife strokes are deliberate, strong and well placed. The goal is to be precise and minimal to create work that is striking and yet simple. The painting becomes almost 3D sculpting. I take away what is not important but concentrate on proportions and light.”
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Musings in December: Martin Keough

“When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: if you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.”

Below – Restore Humanity at work in Kenya.
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“Though man a thinking being is defined,
Few use the grand prerogative of mind.
How few think justly of the thinking few!
How many never think, who think they do!” – Ann Taylor, English poet and literary critic, who died on 20 December 1866.

“The Star”

TWINKLE, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are !
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Then the trav’ller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often thro’ my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.

‘Tis your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the trav’ller in the dark :
Tho’ I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

Below – The Evening Star.
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Musings in December: Henry David Thoreau

“When I consider that the nobler animals have been exterminated here – the cougar, the panther, lynx, wolverine, wolf, bear, moose, dear, the beaver, the turkey and so forth and so forth, I cannot but feel as if I lived in a tamed and, as it were, emasculated country… Is it not a maimed and imperfect nature I am conversing with? As if I were to study a tribe of Indians that had lost all its warriors…I take infinite pains to know all the phenomena of the spring, for instance, thinking that I have here the entire poem, and then, to my chagrin, I hear that it is but an imperfect copy that I possess and have read, that my ancestors have torn out many of the first leaves and grandest passages, and mutilated it in many places. I should not like to think that some demigod had come before me and picked out some of the best of the stars. I wish to know an entire heaven and an entire earth.”
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Artist Miguel Freitas grew up in Lisbon, Portugal and moved to Toronto in 1983. Here is how one critic describes his artistry: “His use of vibrant colors is what often strikes people first. The paintings convincingly depict the naïve impressions and memories left in your mind years after visiting a place. His unique style and execution bring to mind images of great frescoes on old crumbling wall.”
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A Poem for Today

“Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep,”
By Mary Frye

Do not stand at my grave and forever weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and forever cry.
I am not there. I did not die.
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Musings in December: Richard Louv

“An environment-based education movement–at all levels of education–will help students realize that school isn’t supposed to be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world.”
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From the Music Archives – Part I of III: Bobby Colomby

Born 20 December 1944 – Bobby Colomby, an American drummer and an original member of Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Musings in December: Margaret Wise Brown

“nights and days came and passed
and summer and winter
and the sun and the wind
and the rain.
and it was good to be a little island
a part of the world
and a world of its own
all surrounded by the bright blue sea.”
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Greek painter Tasos Chonias was born in Athens in 1974.
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A Second Poem for Today

“Appeal to the Grammarians,”
By Paul Violi

We, the naturally hopeful,
Need a simple sign
For the myriad ways we’re capsized.
We who love precise language
Need a finer way to convey
Disappointment and perplexity.
For speechlessness and all its inflections,
For up-ended expectations,
For every time we’re ambushed
By trivial or stupefying irony,
For pure incredulity, we need
The inverted exclamation point.
For the dropped smile, the limp handshake,
For whoever has just unwrapped a dumb gift
Or taken the first sip of a flat beer,
Or felt love or pond ice
Give way underfoot, we deserve it.
We need it for the air pocket, the scratch shot,
The child whose ball doesn’t bounce back,
The flat tire at journey’s outset,
The odyssey that ends up in Weehawken.
But mainly because I need it – here and now
As I sit outside the Caffe Reggio
Staring at my espresso and cannoli
After this middle-aged couple
Came strolling by and he suddenly
Veered and sneezed all over my table
And she said to him, “See, that’s why
I don’t like to eat outside.”
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From the Music Archives – Part II of III: Peter, Paul, and Mary

20 December 1969 – Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” reaches number one on American popular music charts.

Musings in December: Rachel Carson

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full or wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years…the alienation from the sources of our strength.”
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Frank Creton (born 1941) is a Surinamese artist who studied painting in the Netherlands.

Below – “Midnight Serenade”; “Playful Dogs”; “Coronie No. 7”; “Basketball Players”; “Old Creole”; “Self-Portrait.”
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A Third Poem for Today

“Diving,”
By Andrew Motion

The moment I tire
of difficult sand-grains
and giddy pebbles,
I roll with the punch
of a shrivelling wave
and am cosmonaut
out past the fringe
of a basalt ledge
in a moony sea-hall
spun beyond blue.
Faint but definite
heat of the universe
flutters my skin;
quick fish apply
as something to love,
what with their heads
of gong-dented gold;
plankton I push
an easy way through
would be dust or dew
in the world behind
if that mattered at all,
which is no longer true,
with its faces and cries.
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“I dislike organized games, swimming pools, fashionable resorts, night clubs, music in restaurants, and political manifestoes; I enjoy driving from coast to coast, good food and drink, a few friends, dogs, the theatre, long walks, music, and free conversation.” – James Hilton, English writer and author of “Lost Horizon” and “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” who died on 20 December 1954.

Some quotes from the work of James Hilton:

“if we have not found the heaven within, we have not found the heaven without.”
“Have you ever been going somewhere with a crowd and you’re certain it’s the wrong road and you tell them, but they won’t listen, so you just have to plod along in what you know is the wrong direction till somebody more important gets the same idea?”
“If I could put it into a very few words, dear sir, I should say that our prevalent belief is in moderation. We inculcate the virtue of avoiding excesses of all kinds—even including, if you will pardon the paradox, excess of virtue itself.”
“Is there not too much tension in the world at present, and might it not be better if more people were slackers?”
“What a host of little incidents, all deep-buried in the past — problems that had once been urgent, arguments that had once been keen, anecdotes that were funny only because one remembered the fun. Did any emotion really matter when the last trace of it had vanished from human memory; and if that were so, what a crowd of emotions clung to him as to their last home before annihilation? He must be kind to them, must treasure them in his mind before their long sleep.”
“There’s only one thing more important… and that is, after you’ve done what you set out to do, to feel that it’s been worth doing.”
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Musings in December: Margaret Wise Brown

“I like dogs
Big dogs
Little dogs
Fat dogs
Doggy dogs
Old dogs
Puppy dogs
I like dogs
A dog that is barking over the hill
A dog that is dreaming very still
A dog that is running wherever he will
I like dogs.”
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From the Music Archives – Part III of III: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Musings in December: Wendell Berry

“I believe until fairly recently our destructions of nature were more or less unwitting — the by-products, so to speak, of our ignorance or weakness or depravity. It is our present principled and elaborately rationalized rape and plunder of the natural world that is a new thing under the sun.”
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Spanish figurative painter Concepcion Ventoso was born in Granada in 1961.

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A Fourth Poem for Today

“The Sun,”
By Mary Oliver

Have you ever seen
anything
in your life
more wonderful
than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon
and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone–
and how it slides again
out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower
streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance–
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love–
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you
as you stand there,
empty-handed–
or have you too
turned from this world–
or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?
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“What you have become is the price you paid to get what you used to want.” – Mignon McLaughlin, American journalist and author of “The Neurotic’s Notebook,” who died 20 December 1983.

Some quotes from the work of Mignon McLaughlin:

“Society honors its living conformists and its dead troublemakers.”
“Anything you lose automatically doubles in value.”
“Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers.”
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”
“It’s the most unhappy people who most fear change.”
“A sense of humor is a major defense against minor troubles.”
“For the happiest life, days should be rigorously planned, nights left open to chance.”
“Learning too soon our limitations, we never learn our powers.”
“It is important to our friends to believe that we are unreservedly frank with them, and important to friendship that we are not.”
“The head never rules the heart, but just becomes its partner in crime.”
“We all become great explorers during our first few days in a new city, or a new love affair.”
“If you made a list of reasons why any couple got married, and another list of the reasons for their divorce, you’d have a hell of a lot of overlapping.”
“Even cowards can endure hardship; only the brave can endure suspense.”
“There is always some specific moment when we become aware that our youth is gone; but, years after, we know it was much later.”
“No one really listens to anyone else, and if you try it for a while you’ll see why.”
“We’d all like a reputation for generosity, and we’d all like to buy it cheap.”
“Our strength is often composed of the weakness that we’re damned if we’re going to show.”
“There are so many things that we wish we had done yesterday, so few that we feel like doing today.”
“The proud man can learn humility, but he will be proud of it.”
“If you are brave too often, people will come to expect it of you.”
“Most of us become parents long before we have stopped being children.”
“It took man thousands of years to put words down on paper, and his lawyers still wish he wouldn’t.”
“It’s innocence when it charms us, ignorance when it doesn’t.”
“No matter how brilliantly an idea is stated, we will not really be moved unless we have already half thought of it ourselves.”
“There are a handful of people whom money won’t spoil, and we all count ourselves among them.”
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Musings in December: John Muir

“A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm,
waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like
worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their
songs never cease.”
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Turkish painter Nihal Martli (born 1982) graduated from the Department of Fine Arts of Hacettepe University.
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From the American History Archives – Part I of II: The Bell Witch

Died 20 December 1820 – John Bell, a central figure in the Bell Witch ghost story of southern American folklore. From “History of Tennessee,” by the Goodspeed Brothers: “A remarkable occurrence, which attracted wide-spread interest, was connected with the family of John Bell, who settled near what is now Adams Station about 1804. So great was the excitement that people came from hundreds of miles around to witness the manifestations of what was popularly known as the ‘Bell Witch.’ This witch was supposed to be some spiritual being having the voice and attributes of a woman. It was invisible to the eye, yet it would hold conversation and even shake hands with certain individuals. The feats it performed were wonderful and seemingly designed to annoy the family. It would take the sugar from the bowls, spill the milk, take the quilts from the beds, slap and pinch the children, and then laugh at the discomfort of its victims. At first it was supposed to be a good spirit, but its subsequent acts, together with the curses with which it supplemented its remarks, proved the contrary.”

Below – An artist’s etching of the Bell home, originally published in 1894; an artist’s drawing of Betsy, Bell’s youngest daughter, who allegedly suffered violent encounters with the evil spirit.
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A Fifth Poem for Today

“‘Nature’ is what we see –,“
By Emily Dickinson

“Nature” is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse— the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
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Here is the Artist Statement of Australian painter Erika Gofton: ”I am celebrating the sensitivity and beauty of the female figure. I wish to present an intimate look at womanhood and to create works depicting beauty, grace and harmony. I am captivated by the female form and intrigued with the subtlety between the sensual and the sexual, the unique motifs and iconography associated with femininity.
Texture, fabric and drapery play an integral role in my work. The natural beauty of the body and the echo of form beneath the natural folds of the drapery suggests a quiet and captivating sexuality. The evocative suggestion of flesh showing through lace is enchanting.
Lacework, embroidery, patternmaking and fabric designs, uniquely female experiences and motifs, are also prominent in my work and symbolise characteristically female practices. The strong design and composition of these elements also aim to reflect shapes and forms in the figure and the chosen dresses, offering a work built on layers of pattern and form. By hand stitching on the canvas in some works aims to give another layer of significance to the painted layers beneath but also employs the practice I am celebrating.”
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A Sixth Poem for Today

“I am one,”
By Matsuo Basho

I am one
Who eats his breakfast,
Gazing at the morning glories.
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From the American History Archives – Part II of II: The Louisiana Territory

In the words of one historian, “On December 20, 1803, William Claiborne, former governor of the Mississippi Territory, and James Wilkinson, Commanding General of the United States Army, met with French representative Pierre Laussat in the Sala Capitular (capitol room) at the Cabildo in New Orleans. There they signed the document transferring the Louisiana Territory and ceremoniously passed the keys of the city from French hands to American hands.”

Below – Mike Wimmer: “Ceremonial Transfer of the Louisiana Purchase in New Orleans” (1803).
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American Art – Part II of IV: David Gray

In the words of one writer, “David Gray acquired a strong foundational education in art while obtaining his BFA from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. His art education has continued with independent and occasional formal studies in pictorial expression and oil painting. The resulting work reveals a personal and contemporary expression of beauty and order which pays homage to the Classical Tradition in its craftsmanship. David’s works are included in many discriminating private art collections throughout the United States and abroad.”
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A Seventh Poem for Today

“Odysseus,”
By W.S. Merwin

Always the setting forth was the same,
Same sea, same dangers waiting for him
As though he had got nowhere but older.
Behind him on the receding shore
The identical reproaches, and somewhere
Out before him, the unravelling patience
He was wedded to. There were the islands
Each with its woman and twining welcome
To be navigated, and one to call “home.”
The knowledge of all that he betrayed
Grew till it was the same whether he stayed
Or went. Therefore he went. And what wonder
If sometimes he could not remember
Which was the one who wished on his departure
Perils that he could never sail through,
And which, improbable, remote, and true,
Was the one he kept sailing home to?

Below – Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein: “Odysseus and Penelope” (1802).
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Musings in December: Annie Dillard

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them.”
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“The older I get, the more I’m conscious of ways very small things can make a change in the world. Tiny little things, but the world is made up of tiny matters, isn’t it?” – Sandra Cisneros, American writer and author of “The House on Mango Street,” who was born on 20 December 1954.

Some quotes from the work of Sandra Cisneros:

“I spent my thirties living out of boxes and moving every six months to a year. It was my cloud period: I just wandered like a cloud for ten years, following the food supply. I was a hunter, gatherer, an academic migrant.”
“I wanted to write something in a voice that was unique to who I was. And I wanted something that was accessible to the person who works at Dunkin Donuts or who drives a bus, someone who comes home with their feet hurting like my father, someone who’s busy and has too many children, like my mother.”
“Well, I’m Buddhist, Ray, and so part of my Buddhism has allowed me to look a little more deeply at people and the events in my life that created me. And I think a lot of that Buddhism comes out in the world view in this novel.”
“All of my work is influenced by fairy tales, and I hope my work shows Hans Christian Anderson’s influence.”
“I think people should read fairy tales, because we’re hungry for a mythology that will speak to our fears.”
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An Eighth Poem for Today

“Drink your tea,”
By Thich Nhat Hahn

Drink your tea slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves
– slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future;
Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.

Below – The Chinese Buddhist sage Lu Yu, the “Tea God.”
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American Art – Part III of IV: David Michael Bowers

In the words of one writer, “David Michael Bowers born 1956 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and graduated from art school in Pittsburgh in 1979. He began working as a staff artist at various studios in Pittsburgh. Two years later, David began teaching at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh where he lectured for ten years. This job was perfect for Bowers at the time due to the short hours in the classroom. These short workdays enabled a lot of free time to perfect his painting technique before he entered the illustration field.”
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Musings in December: Neil Peart

“I can worship Nature, and that fulfills my need for miracles and beauty. Art gives a spiritual depth to existence — I can find worlds bigger and deeper than my own in music, paintings, and books. And from my friends and family I receive the highest benediction, emotional contact, and personal affirmation. I can bow before the works of Man, from buildings to babies, and that fulfills my need for wonder. I can believe in the sanctity of Life, and that becomes the Revealed Word, to live my life as I believe it should be, not as I’m told to by self-appointed guides.”
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A Ninth Poem for Today

“Days,”
By Billy Collins

Each one is a gift, no doubt,
mysteriously placed in your waking hand
or set upon your forehead
moments before you open your eyes.
Today begins cold and bright,
the ground heavy with snow
and the thick masonry of ice,
the sun glinting off the turrets of clouds.
Through the calm eye of the window
everything is in its place
but so precariously
this day might be resting somehow
on the one before it,
all the days of the past stacked high
like the impossible tower of dishes
entertainers used to build on stage.
No wonder you find yourself
perched on the top of a tall ladder
hoping to add one more.
Just another Wednesday
you whisper,
then holding your breath,
place this cup on yesterday’s saucer
without the slightest clink.
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Musings in December: Josephine Hart

“There is an eternal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.”
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Nobel Laureate: John Steinbeck

“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.” – John Steinbeck, American writer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize (for “The Grapes of Wrath”), and recipient of the 1962 Nobel Prize for Literature for his “realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and keen social perception,” who died 20 December 1968.

Some quotes from the work of John Steinbeck:

“I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.”
“All great and precious things are lonely.”
“And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.”
“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”
“All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.”
“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.”
“I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.”
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
“I guess there are never enough books.”
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Musings in December: Diane Ackerman

“Who would deduce the dragonfly from the larva, the iris from the bud, the lawyer from the infant? …We are all shape-shifters and magical reinventors. Life is really a plural noun, a caravan of selves.”
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A Tenth Poem for Today

“Just Walking Around,”
By John Ashbery

What name do I have for you?
Certainly there is not name for you
In the sense that the stars have names
That somehow fit them. Just walking around,
An object of curiosity to some,
But you are too preoccupied
By the secret smudge in the back of your soul
To say much and wander around,
Smiling to yourself and others.
It gets to be kind of lonely
But at the same time off-putting.
Counterproductive, as you realize once again
That the longest way is the most efficient way,
The one that looped among islands, and
You always seemed to be traveling in a circle.
And now that the end is near
The segments of the trip swing open like an orange.
There is light in there and mystery and food.
Come see it.
Come not for me but it.
But if I am still there, grant that we may see each other.
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Musings in December: James Hillman

“Our dreams recover what the world forgets.”

Below – Louise Green: “Spirit Ponies.”
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American Art – Part IV of IV: Hollis Dunlap

In the words of one critic, “Born in northeastern Vermont in 1977, Hollis Dunlap is a painter living on the east coast of Connecticut in the USA. He paints modern paintings with a strong influence of old masters from Caravaggio to Vermeer. The color choices, brushwork, and compositions reflect the influences of various painters, from representational to more abstract in terms of composition and varying applications of paint.”
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