American Art – Part I of III: Shaun Berke
Musings in Winter: Annie Dillard
“A kind of northing is what I wish to accomplish, a single-minded trek towards that place where any shutter left open to the zenith at night will record the wheeling of all the sky’s stars as a pattern of perfect, concentric circles. I seek a reduction, a shedding, a sloughing off.
At the seashore you often see a shell, or fragment of a shell, that sharp sands and surf have thinned to a wisp. There is no way you can tell what kind of shell it had been, what creature it had housed; it could have been a whelk or a scallop, a cowrie, limpet, or conch. The animal is long since dissolved, and its blood spread and thinned in the general sea. All you hold in your hand is a cool shred of shell, an inch long, pared so thin that it passes a faint pink light. It is an essence, a smooth condensation of the air, a curve. I long for the North where unimpeded winds would hone me to such a pure slip of bone. But I’ll not go northing this year. I’ll stalk that floating pole and frigid air by waiting here. I wait on bridges; I wait, struck, on forest paths and meadow’s fringes, hilltops and banksides, day in and day out, and I receive a southing as a gift. The North washes down the mountains like a waterfall, like a tidal wave, and pours across the valley; it comes to me. It sweetens the persimmons and numbs the last of the crickets and hornets; it fans the flames of the forest maples, bows the meadow’s seeded grasses and pokes it chilling fingers under the leaf litter, thrusting the springtails and the earthworms deeper into the earth. The sun heaves to the south by day, and at night wild Orion emerges looming like the Specter over Dead Man Mountain. Something is already here, and more is coming.”
“The United States have adventured upon a great and noble experiment, which is believed to have been hazarded in the absence of all previous precedent—that of total separation of Church and State. No religious establishment by law exists among us. The conscience is left free from all restraint and each is permitted to worship his Maker after his own judgement. The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an established Hierarchy, nor is the fallible judgement of man set up as the sure and infallible creed of faith. The Mahommedan, if he will to come among us would have the privilege guaranteed to him by the constitution to worship according to the Koran; and the East Indian might erect a shrine to Brahma if it so pleased him. Such is the spirit of toleration inculcated by our political Institutions…. The Hebrew persecuted and down trodden in other regions takes up his abode among us with none to make him afraid…. and the Aegis of the Government is over him to defend and protect him. Such is the great experiment which we have tried, and such are the happy fruits which have resulted from it; our system of free government would be imperfect without it.” – John Tyler, tenth President of the United States (1841-1845), who died 18 January 1862.
Musings in Winter: T. S. Eliot
“I don’t know much about gods, but I think the river is a strong, brown god.”
The Great Escape – Quotes from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”: Part I of IV
“It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened- Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to make so many.”
A Poem for Today
By Claudia Emerson
It nuzzles oblivion, confuses
itself with mud. A creature
of familiar taste, it ambushes
from its nest of ooze the pond’s
brighter fish, clears its palate
with their eggs, lumbers fat
and stagnant into winter, lulled
into dreams of light sinking until
Musings in Winter: Bill Plotkin
“Nature, too, supports our personal blossoming (if we have any quiet exposure to her) through her spontaneities, through her beauty, power, and mirroring, through her dazzling variety of species and habitats, and by way of the wind, Moon, Sun, stars, and galaxies.”
Here is one writer describing the background of Czech-Slovakian artist Bozena Augustinova (1939-2005): “She was Painter, illustrator and graphic designer but mainly she was creator of highly non-woven tapestries. She is responsible for a technique of needling wool fleece which allows her to paint with a textile fiber.”
Musings in Winter: Theodor Storm
“Back in those days there was still an unbroken stretch of heath that lay on the route of our excursions, all that was left of a heath that once had extended almost up to the town on the one side and almost to the little village on the other. Here the honeybees and white-gray bumblebees hummed over the fragrant blossoms of heather, and the beautiful gold-green beetles ran among the plants; here in the sweet clouds of the erica and the resinous bushes hovered butterflies that could be found nowhere else on this earth.”
From the Music Archives: The Beatles
18 January 1964 – The Beatles first appear on American popular music charts with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (at number 35).
Here is one critic describing the work of Iris van Dongen (born 1975): “By no means does the work of Iris van Dongen steer clear of gloomy romanticism. In recent years she has been producing drawings several meters in height, these having a certain inescapable quality due to their size alone. Though Van Dongen’s work comes about mainly in an intuitive manner, the theme ‘human tormented by demons’ seems to keep cropping up. For that reason it often has a melancholic or malicious undertone.
The women depicted have a far-away look, because Van Dongen sees them as something abstract, as though they are figures from mythology.”
Musings in Winter: Suzy Kassem
“Animals have hearts and minds too. They are capable of love, hatred, jealousy, revenge, hunger, fear, joy, and caring for their own and others. We look at animals as if they are inferior because they are savage and not civilized, but in truth, we are the ones who are not being civil by drawing a thick line between us and them — us and nature. A wild animal’s life is very straightforward. They spend their time searching and gathering food, mating, building homes, and meditating and playing with their loved ones. They enjoy the simplicity of life without any of our technological gadgetry, materialism, mass consumption, wastefulness, superficiality, mindless wars, excessive greed and hatred. While we get excited by the vibrations coming from our TV sets, headphones and car stereos, they get stimulated by the vibrations of nature. So, just because animals may lack the sophisticated minds to create the technology we do or make brick homes and highways like us, does not mean their connections to the etheric world isn’t more sophisticated than anything we could ever imagine. That means they are more spiritual, reflective, cosmic, and tuned into alternate universes beyond what our eyes can see. So in other words, animals are more advanced than us. They have the simple beauty we lack and the spiritual contentment we may never achieve.”
A Second Poem for Today
By Katrina Roberts
At one friend’s home whole arsenals of guns
litter the lawn—bright plastic shapes my sons
pick their ways between to take proffered
popsicles. Later, on evening news, words
like “ambush,” “strike,” and “friendly fire”
punctuate glowing clips of wreckage in far
fields where other mother’s children kneel to
aim and pray. And though it’s clichéd, truth
be told, I wish one could keep her boys
from growing old and going off to die. Toys
need not rush us there. Instinct? No harm?
An urge to hoist whatever’s there, hard-
Musings in Winter: Marty Rubin
American Comedic Genius – Part I of II: Oliver Hardy
“The world is full of Laurel and Hardys. I saw them all the time as a boy at my mother’s hotel. There’s always the dumb, dumb guy, who never has anything bad happen to him, and the smart guy who’s even dumber than the dumb guy, only he doesn’t know it.” – Oliver Hardy, American actor famous as one half of the Laurel and Hardy comedy team, who was born 18 January 1892.
Below – “The Music Box,” which won the first Academy Award for Live Action Short Film (Comedy) in 1932.
Musings in Winter: Leigh Bardugo
“She tilted her head back, breathing deeply. It was a stone gray day, the sea a bleak slate broken up by whitecaps, the sky pleated with thick ripples of cloud. A hard wind filled the sails, carrying the little boat over the waves.
‘It feels good to be this kind of cold,’ she murmured.
‘Wind in your hair, sea spray on your skin. The cold of the living.’”
Here is the Artist Statement of Japanese ceramicist Masayo Odahashi: “I often find many matters of interest in daily life and collect them in my mind. They are various – for example, colors, forms, something old, and experiences or memories that we all share but don’t show up so clearly. I pick some of them up and compose, and finally create a form.
To create works means self-understanding for me.
I also see my creations as a way to share my worldview and they are a way to communicate without and beyond the words.”
Musings in Winter: Edvard Munch
“Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye… it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.”
Below – Edvard Munch: “Two Women on the Shore”
A Third Poem for Today
By Dorianne Laux
Sometimes, when we’re on a long drive,
and we’ve talked enough and listened
to enough music and stopped twice,
once to eat, once to see the view,
we fall into this rhythm of silence.
It swings back and forth between us
like a rope over a lake.
Maybe it’s what we don’t say
that saves us.
Musings in Winter: Bill Plotkin
“Soul has been demoted to a new-age spiritual fantasy or a missionary’s booty, and nature has been treated, at best, as a postcard or a vacation backdrop or, more commonly, as a hardware store or refuse heap. Too many of us lack intimacy with the natural world and with our souls, and consequently we are doing untold damage to both.”
American Comedic Genius – Part II of II: Curly Howard
“Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk!” – Jerome “Curly” Howard, American actor and member of The Three Stooges, who died 18 January 1952.
The Great Escape – Quotes from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”: Part II of IV
“Pretty soon it darkened up, and begun to thunder and lighten; so the birds was right about it. Directly it begun to rain, and it rained like all fury, too, and I never see the wind blow so. It was one of these regular summer storms. It would get so dark that it looked all blue-black outside, and lovely; and the rain would thrash along by so thick that the trees off a little ways looked dim and spider-webby; and here would come a blast of wind that would bend the trees down and turn up the pale underside of the leaves; and then a perfect ripper of a gust would follow along and set the branches to tossing their arms as if they was just wild; and next, when it was just about the bluest and blackest—FST! it was as bright as glory, and you’d have a little glimpse of tree-tops a-plunging about away off yonder in the storm, hundreds of yards further than you could see before; dark as sin again in a second, and now you’d hear the thunder let go with an awful crash, and then go rumbling, grumbling, tumbling, down the sky towards the under side of the world, like rolling empty barrels down stairs—where it’s long stairs and they bounce a good deal, you know.”
Musings in Winter: Lucy Maud Montgomery
“I hear the Wind Woman running with soft, soft footsteps over the hill. I shall always think of the wind as a personality. She is a shrew when she blows from the north — a lonely seeker when she blows from the east — a laughing girl when she comes from the west — and tonight from the south a little grey fairy.”
Musings in Winter: Robin Wall Kimmerer
“A bay is a noun only if water is dead. When bay is a noun, it is defined by humans, trapped between its shores and contained by the word. But the verb wiikwegamaa—to be a bay—releases the water from bondage and lets it live. ‘To be a bay’ holds the wonder that, for this moment, the living water has decided to shelter itself between these shores, conversing with cedar roots and a flock of baby mergansers. Because it could do otherwise—become a stream or an ocean or a waterfall, and there are verbs for that, too. To be a hill, to be a sandy beach, to be a Saturday, all are possible verbs in a world where everything is alive. Water, land, and even a day, the language a mirror for seeing the animacy of the world, the life that pulses through all things, through pines and nuthatches and mushrooms. This is the language I hear in the woods; this is the language that lets us speak of what wells up all around us.[…]
This is the grammar of animacy.”
From the Movie Archives: Takeshi Kitano
“Humor is like violence. They both come to you unexpectedly, and the more unpredictable they both are, the better it gets.” – Takeshi Kitano, Japanese film director, actor, singer, comedian, film editor, author, poet, painter, and video game designer, who was born 18 January 1947.
I recommend the following movies to anyone unacquainted with the work of Takeshi Kitano (He is the director of and principal actor in all of them.): “Sonatine,” “Hana-bi” (“Fireworks”), “Kikujiro,” and “Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman.”
Musings in Winter: Chief Seattle
“The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth.
All things are connected like the blood that unites one family.
Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
The earth is sacred and men and animals are but one part of it.
Treat the earth with respect so that it lasts for centuries to come and is a place of wonder and beauty for our children.”
Musings in Winter: Dianne Harman
“The Old Ones say you can feel your spirit during a Vision Quest.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
‘In the early contact period, New England Indian wampum consisted of small tubular-shaped shells drilled and strung as beads.’ — Alfred A. Cave
The breaking of clouds begins with seizure.
A man grabs another, reasons ransom.
A murder averted in the thing’s scheme.
A cape’s shell transformed, more than one supposed.
What stands behind this? Enemy or friend?
(Yes, they can be both. Don’t you think I know?)
List: Dutch. Indian. Pequot. Puritan.
List: Then. War. Event. Now. History. List.
The shell buys glories of iron and pelt.
Wampum is dismissed. Joke. Sneer. Currency
of the disappeared whose children live still.
List: Blessing. Curse. Wife. Slave. Savior. Savage.
The shells make their noise. The robbed graves cradle.
He who brings food to the starving gets cooked.
Musings in Winter: Chief Luther Standing Bear
“Kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky, and water was a real and active principle. In the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that kept us safe among them… The animals had rights – the right of man’s protection, the right to live, the right to multiply, the right to freedom, and the right to man’s indebtedness. This concept of life and its relations filled us with the joy and mystery of living; it gave us reverence for all life; it made a place for all things in the scheme of existence with equal importance to all.”
Some quotes from the work of Bruce Chatwin:
“To lose a passport was the least of one’s worries. To lose a notebook was a catastrophe.”
“As a general rule of biology, migratory species are less ‘aggressive’ than sedentary ones.
There is one obvious reason why this should be so. The migration itself, like the pilgrimage, is the hard journey: a ‘leveller’ on which the ‘fit’ survive and stragglers fall by the wayside.
The journey thus pre-empts the need for hierarchies and shows of dominance. The ‘dictators’ of the animal kingdom are those who live in an ambience of plenty. The anarchists, as always, are the ‘gentlemen of the road.’”
“I haven’t got any special religion this morning. My God is the God of Walkers. If you walk hard enough, you probably don’t need any other god.”
“I climbed a path and from the top looked up-stream towards Chile. I could see the river, glinting and sliding through the bone-white cliffs with strips of emerald cultivation either side. Away from the cliffs was the desert. There was no sound but the wind, whirring through thorns and whistling through dead grass, and no other sign of life but a hawk, and a black beetle easing over white stones.”
“Because they knew each other’s thoughts, they even quarrelled without speaking.”
“Man’s real home is not a house, but the Road, and that life itself is a journey to be walked on foot.”
“Sluggish and sedentary peoples, such as the Ancient Egyptians– with their concept of an afterlife journey through the Field of Reeds– project on to the next world the journeys they failed to make in this one.”
“I pictured a low timber house with a shingled roof, caulked against storms, with blazing log fires inside and the walls lined with all the best books, somewhere to live when the rest of the world blew up.”
“Sometimes, I overheard my aunts discussing these blighted destinies; and Aunt Ruth would hug me, as if to forestall my following in their footsteps. Yet, from the way she lingered over such words as ‘Xanadu’ or ‘Samarkand’ or the ‘wine-dark sea,’ I think she also felt the trouble of the ‘wanderer in her soul.’”
“We shall not lie on our backs at the Red Castle and watch the vultures wheeling over the valley where they killed the grandson of Genghiz. We will not read Babur’s memoirs in his garden at Istalif and see the blind man smelling his way around the rose bushes. Or sit in the Peace of Islam with the beggars of Gazar Gagh. We will not stand on the Buddha’s head at Bamiyan, upright in his niche like a whale in a dry-dock. We will not sleep in the nomad tent, or scale the Minaret of Jam. And we shall lose the tastes – the hot, coarse, bitter bread; the green tea flavoured with cardamoms; the grapes we cooled in the snow-melt; and the nuts and dried mulberries we munched for altitude sickness. Nor shall we get back the smell of the beanfields, the sweet, resinous smell of deodar wood burning, or the whiff of a snow leopard at 14,000 feet.”
“If this were so; if the desert were ‘home’; if our instincts were forged in the desert; to survive the rigours of the desert – then it is easier to understand why greener pastures pall on us; why possessions exhaust us, and why Pascal’s imaginary man found his comfortable lodgings a prison.”
“Richard Lee calculated that a Bushman child will be carried a distance of 4,900 miles before he begins to walk on his own. Since, during this rhythmic phase, he will be forever naming the contents of his territory, it is impossible he will not become a poet.”
“I never liked Jules Verne, believing that the real was always more fantastic than the fantastical.”
“When people start talking of man’s inhumanity to man it means they haven’t actually walked far enough.”
“Anything was better than to be loved for one’s things.”
“Gradually the idea for a book began to take shape. It was to be a wildly ambitious and intolerant work, a kind of ‘Anatomy of Restlessness’ that would enlarge on Pascal’s dictum about the man sitting quietly in a room. The argument, roughly, was as follows: that in becoming human, man had acquired, together with his straight legs and striding walk, a migratory ‘drive’ or instinct to walk long distances through the seasons; that this ‘drive’ was inseparable from his central nervous system; and, that, when warped in conditions of settlement, it found outlets in violence, greed, status-seeking or a mania for the new. This would explain why mobile societies such as the gypsies were egalitarian, thing-free and resistant to change; also why, to re-establish the harmony of the First State, all the great teachers – Buddha, Lao-tse, St Francis – had set the perpetual pilgrimage at the heart of their message and told their disciples, literally, to follow The Way.”
The Great Escape – Quotes from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”: Part III of IV
“The sun was up so high when I waked, that I judged it was after eight o’clock. I laid there in the grass and the cool shade, thinking about things and feeling rested and ruther comfortable and satisfied. I could see the sun out at one or two holes, but mostly it was big trees all about, and gloomy in there amongst them. There was freckled places on the ground where the light sifted down through the leaves, and the freckled places swapped about a little, showing there was a little breeze up there. A couple of squirrels set on a limb and jabbered at me very friendly.”
In the words of one writer, “Basudeb Pal Majumder, born in Kolkata in the year 1970, is a 1st Class Bachelor in Visual Arts (fine arts) from Government College of Art & Craft, Kolkata. Since his childhood he has an extreme urge for innovations and a strong inclination towards the art world which gradually transformed into his passion for drawings & paintings.
Basudeb, as a part of his work and also for his wildlife photography, spends a lot of time in remote places, tribal villages & forests just to get in touch with another world. He has always been inspired by the sensuous beauty of life & living entities which provoke the visual philosophy of his canvases with images that are juxtaposed to the web of enigma illustrated by fragments of memory, visual humors & impressions of subconscious mind. ‘Living in a busy metro city, I always play a game of hiding in the inexplicable; find myself in the unknown, lost in canvas,’ says Basudeb.”
Musings in Winter: Susannah Scott
From the American History Archives: White Sands National Monument
A Fifth Poem for Today
By David Baker
Where do you suppose
they’ve gone the bees now
that you don’t see them
among flowers low
sparks in the clover
even at nightfall
are they fanning have
they gone another
place blued with pollen
stuck to their bristles
waiting beyond us
‘spring dwindle’ is what
we call it collapsing
“high levels in pneu-
matic corn exhaust”
loss of habitat
disease’ in the way
of our kind so to speak
what do you think
they would call it
language older than
our ears were they
saying it all along
Musings in Winter: N. Scott Momaday
American Art – Part II of III: Mara Light
Here is how one critic describes the artistry of painter Mara Light (born 1970):“The central theme of her original artwork is the expression of the figure with a focus on the female form using light to reveal the mood she wants to convey. Over the past several years, Mara has developed a body of work that is both deeply moving and evocative of the emotional qualities and beauty of each subject. Within this genre, Mara is constantly evolving and dedicated to creating paintings that remain fresh and speak to the viewer on many levels.”
A Sixth Poem for Today
“Light’s Interrupted Amplitude,”
By Jay Wright
All summer connotations fill this light,
a symmetry of different scales—the site
of fibrous silence, the velvet lace
of iris, alders the moon can ignite.
One feels the amplitude of grief, the pace
of oscillating stars, power in place
where time has crossed and left a breathy stain.
A body needs the weight and thrust of grace.
I want to parse the logic, spin and domain,
the structure mourning will allow, the grain
of certainty in two estates, the dance
of perfect order, flowing toward its plane.
That bird you see has caught a proper stance,
unfaithful to its measure, a pert mischance
of divination on the move, the trace
of sacred darkness true to light’s advance.
Musings in Winter: Sherman Alexie
“Coyote, who is the creator of all of us, was sitting on his cloud the day after he created Indians. Now, he liked the Indians, liked what they were doing. This is good, he kept saying to himself. But he was bored. He thought and thought about what he should make next in the world. But he couldn’t think of anything so he decided to clip his toenails. … He looked around and around his cloud for somewhere to throw away his clippings. But he couldn’t find anywhere and he got mad. He started jumping up and down because he was so mad. Then he accidentally dropped his toenail clippings over the side of the cloud and they fell to the earth. They clippings burrowed into teh ground like seeds and grew up to be white man. Coyote, he looked down at his newest creation and said, ‘Oh, shit.’”
The Great Escape – Quotes from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”: Part IV of IV
Musings in Winter: Black Elk
“The Holy Land is everywhere”
American Art – Part III of III: Andrew Young
Artist statement: “We are lost in our self-indulgent primal behavior, forgoing the morals and values our parents have instilled in us. In these images we reflect on our own experiences of these dark visceral moments and places. Our juvenility is found when we disregard our age and act on impulses, often finding ourselves demonstrating irreverent, self-gratifying exploits.
Spontaneous in some parts and carefully designed in others; my explorative compositions are the backbone to the figurative rendering. The result is sporadic abstraction paired with hyper-realism. My technical focus is to illuminate subjects with areas of saturated clarity, while obscuring them with textures of the known and discovered. The work blends the authentic with the abstract in order to form a relationship between the figure and the intangible — between order and chaos.”