American Art – Part I of VI: Sheary Clough Suiter
Artist Statement: “Exploration of new places inspires me. I’m fascinated with the way connecting with one’s environment informs an artists’ choice of shapes, colors, and content.”
A Poem for Today
“Elegy for the Living,”
By Kathryn Simmonds
We wash up side by side
to find each other
in the speakable world,
and, lulled into sense,
inhabit our landscape;
of that chair draped
with your shirt;
my glass of water
seeded overnight with air.
After this bed
there’ll be another,
so we’ll roll
and keep rolling
until one of us
will roll alone and try to roll
the other back — a trick
no one’s yet pulled off —
and it’ll be
as if I dreamed you, dear,
as if I dreamed this bed,
our touching limbs,
this room, the tree outside alive
with new wet light.
Not now. Not yet.
From the Music Archives – Part I of VI: Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka
Died 15 February 1857 – Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka, a Russian composer often regarded as the father of Russian classical music.
Glinka’s Overture to “Russlan and Ludmilla” is a musical delight.
Musings in Winter: G.K. Chesterton
A Second Poem for Today
“(to crave what the light does crave)”
By Kevin Goodan
to crave what the light does crave
to shelter, to flee
to gain desire of every splayed leaf
to calm cattle, to heat the mare
to coax dead flies back from slumber
to turn the gaze of each opened bud
to ripe the fruit to rot the fruit
and drive down under the earth
to lord gentle dust
to lend a glancing grace to llamas
to gather dampness from fields
and divide birds
and divide the ewes from slaughter
and raise the corn and bend the wheat
and drive tractors to ruin
burnish the fox, brother the hawk
shed the snake, bloom the weed
and drive all wind diurnal
to blanch the fire and clot the cloud
to husk, to harvest,
sheave and chaff
to choose the bird
and voice the bird
to sing us, veery, into darkness
From the Music Archives – Part II of VI: Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin
Died 15 February 1887 (Old Style) – Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin, a Russian composer, doctor, and chemist who was dedicated to producing a specifically Russian kind of art music.
Borodin’s “In the Steppes of Central Asia” is a hauntingly beautiful composition – and one of my favorite pieces of classical music.
Musings in Winter: E.B. White
“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
A Third Poem for Today
By Willa Schneberg
Mostly when I’m vacuuming the carpet
in Mr. Besdine’s office
I don’t worry, just do the work
and know I’ll be sleeping in my own bed
when all the desks in all them offices
will have people sitting around them.
Sometimes I don’t hear the vacuum cleaner
and I’m quiet like when I play
Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow
in the Mission Baptist Church.
There are other times I imagine fixing biscuits
unrolling my cloth from the coffee can,
flour still on it from the last time,
smoothing it out on the counter,
cloth white, flour white.
My mother’s biscuit cutter
made from an old Pet Milk can,
not a tack of rust on it,
presses in easy as a body to a hammock.
Some like biscuits and gravy,
I myself fancy biscuits with my homemade
muscadine jelly that comes from the
muscadine grape that grows wild.
American Art – Part II of VI: George Hamilton
Artist Statement: “I prefer to show the whimsical side of life, with imaginative use of color and design. The bulk of my work consists of elegant, whimsy ladies, cats, and still life paintings.”
Musings in Winter: Michelle Held
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Andrew Hudgins
Some people as they die grow fierce, afraid.
They see a bright light, offer frantic prayers,
and try to climb them, like Jacob’s ladder, up
to heaven. Others, never wavering,
inhabit heaven years before they die,
so certain of their grace they can describe,
down to the gingerbread around the eaves,
the cottage God has saved for them. For hours
they’ll talk of how the willow will not weep,
the flowering Judas not betray. They’ll talk
of how they’ll finally learn to play the flute
and speak good French.
Still others know they’ll rot
and their flesh turn to earth, which will become
live oaks, spreading their leaves in August light.
The green cathedral glow that shines through them
will light grandchildren playing hide-and-seek
inside the grove. My next-door neighbor says
he’s glad the buzzards will at last give wings
to those of us who’ve envied swifts as they
swoop, twist, and race through tight mosquito runs.
And some—my brother’s one—anticipate
the grave as if it were a chair pulled up
before a fire on winter nights. His ghost,
he thinks, will slouch into the velvet cushion,
a bourbon and branch water in its hand.
I’ve even met a man who says the soul
will come back in another skin—the way
a renter moves from house to house. Myself,
I’d like to come back as my father’s hound.
Or something fast: a deer, a rust-red fox.
For so long I have thought of us as nails
God drives into the oak floor of this world,
it’s hard to comprehend the hammer turned
to claw me out. I’m joking, mostly. I love
the possibilities—not one or two
but all of them. So if I had to choose,
pick only one and let the others go,
my death would be less strange, less rich, less like
a dizzying swig of fine rotgut. I roll
the busthead, slow, across my tongue and taste
the copper coils, the mockingbird that died
from fumes and plunged, wings spread, into the mash.
And underneath it all, just barely there,
I find the scorched-nut hint of corn that grew
in fields I walked, flourished beneath a sun
that warmed my skin, swaying in a changing wind
that tousled, stung, caressed, and toppled me.
From the Music Archives – Part III of VI: Duke Ellington
15 February 1941 – Duke Ellington records “Take the A Train.”
Musings in Winter: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here is how one critic describes the artistry of Christina Ramos: “Christina Ramos’s paintings express her love of people and the world around her. Her use of vibrant color and realistic technique, have made her an award-winning artist. A native Californian, Christina uses acrylics in her unique candid portraits. She is the fourth generation in a family of artists and musicians.
Christina’s portraits range from romantic, to humorous and include serious subject matter as well. Her paintings of people affected by the AIDS crises and poverty are used to help raise awareness and funding for these important issues.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Sarah Anne Loudin Thomas
When the trail gave us up,
he was there—just sitting
in a pickup that carried
stories in dents and dings,
scrapes and scratches telling
of good times gone not so.
Propping the door open
he leaned into the vee
of windshield and door.
“You seen a man and a dog
up there in the pasture?”
No, but never mind, it was just
an opening for other words
to slip through—words like
family and woods and used-to-be.
And so we stood
and we talked.
no bandying about of names, just
kinship like the air between us.
The afternoon breeze whispered,
“This is how the world was meant to be.
This is how we were meant to be in it.”
From the Music Archives – Part IV of VI: Mick Avory
Born 15 February 1944 – Mick Avory, an English musician best known as the drummer for the British rock band The Kinks.
Musings in Winter: Banana Yoshimoto
“As people we narrowly get by with our lives each day, energy from our soft, delicate actions appearing like cherry blossoms, only once, and once for a short while. Eventually petals fall to the ground.”
American Art – Part IV of VI: Bill Brauer
Here is how one critic describes the artistry of painter Bill Brauer: “Working with the female form, Bill Brauer’s paintings are about metamorphoses, where shapes and colors subtly fuse, creating a sensual atmosphere upon the canvas. Within these transformations is an exploration of women’s relationships, with each other, with men, and with themselves. The forms push and pull, intimating questions about women and hinting toward the tensions that can exist between beauty, image and society. Tension and metamorphoses are expressed in a dream-like vision of modulating color and shadowed figures. Brauer at times seems hypnotized by his own muse, yet is able to represent the beauty, power and mystery of the female body and mind. Often based upon mythological themes, Brauer’s scenes have an exotic and sensual magnetism. Sinuous lines, serpentine forms, sensual color and rhythms combine to create a dynamic energy.”
Musings in Winter: Terry Pratchett
A Sixth Poem for Today
By Joseph Millar
All morning in the February light
he has been mending cable,
splicing the pairs of wires together
according to their colors,
white-blue to white-blue
violet-slate to violet-slate,
in the warehouse attic by the river.
When he is finished
the messages will flow along the line:
thank you for the gift,
please come to the baptism,
the bill is now past due:
voices that flicker and gleam back and forth
across the tracer-colored wires.
We live so much of our lives
without telling anyone,
going out before dawn,
working all day by ourselves,
shaking our heads in silence
at the news on the radio.
He thinks of the many signals
flying in the air around him
the syllables fluttering,
saying please love me,
from continent to continent
over the curve of the earth.
From the American History Archives: Airmail
15 February 1926 – Contract airmail service begins in the United States. In the words of one historian, “The first two commercial Contract Air Mail (CAM) routes to begin operation in the United States were CAM-6 between Detroit (Dearborn) and Cleveland and CAM-7 between Detroit (Dearborn) and Chicago which were simultaneously inaugurated on February 15, 1926. The contractor for both routes was the Ford Motor Company, operating as Ford Air Transport, using a fleet of six Ford built Stout 2-AT aircraft. Lawrence G. Fritz, later the Vice President for Operations for TWA, was the pilot of the first flight to take off with mail from Ford Airport at Dearborn, on the CAM-6 eastbound leg to Cleveland.”
Musings in Winter: Chad Sugg
15 February 1964 – The Beatles’ “Meet the Beatles!” album reaches number one on American popular music charts and remains there for eleven weeks.
Musings in Winter: Anne Frank
Died 15 February 1965 – Nat King Cole, an American singer and musician widely acclaimed for his baritone voice.
A Seventh Poem for Today
“The Patience of Ordinary Things”
By Pat Schneider
It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?
Musings in Winter: Jonathan Safran Foer
Musings in Winter: Anatoli Boukreev
An Eighth Poem for Today
“Stars in Her Pocket”
By Ken Nye
Millions lie before her.
She overlooks most, but here is one
that warrants inspection.
Something in the smooth roundness of the glistening wet stone
catches her eye,
like a shooting star.
Stooping, she plucks it from the foaming sand,
holds it in her hand,
rolls it over,
examines its veins
and blended colors.
But it lacks something.
She discards it
and begins again to scan the stars before her,
washed every few seconds
by an infinite number of swirling eddies,
one after the other, as she searches for the perfect stone.
Here is one of unusual…………What?
What is it about this stone
that gets her attention?
What is it
that refuels the possibility of selection?
A color that echoes a chord in her memory?
A design in the miracle mix of magma and malachite?
An elevation of the thrill of discovery,
the wonder of the limitless galaxy of miniature globes,
fresh and pure,
perennially washed and waiting for her?
She will do this all afternoon
and end up with a pocket
pulling the side of her shorts into a sag.
Returning to the blanket, she will disgorge the stars
onto a terry cloth towel and sit and gaze at them,
as one contemplates the heavens
on a crisp, moonless night in deep winter.
Chalice of mysteries,
each stone an untold story of creation,
flawless beauty even in its abundance.
Nobel Laureate: Richard P. Feynman
“Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough. Work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best. Don’t think about what you want to be, but what you want to do. Keep up some kind of a minimum with other things so that society doesn’t stop you from doing anything at all.” – Richard P. Feynman, American theoretical physicist, science writer, and co-recipient of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics, who died 15 February 1988.
Some quotes from the work of Richard P. Feynman:
“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.”
“Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.”
“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”
“I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”
“I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say, ‘Look how beautiful it is,’ and I’ll agree. Then he says, ‘I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,’ and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is, I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
“The highest forms of understanding we can achieve are laughter and human compassion.”
“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell.”
“Physics isn’t the most important thing. Love is.”
“A poet once said, ‘The whole universe is in a glass of wine.’ We will probably never know in what sense he meant it, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look at a glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe. There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid which evaporates depending on the wind and weather, the reflection in the glass; and our imagination adds atoms. The glass is a distillation of the earth’s rocks, and in its composition we see the secrets of the universe’s age, and the evolution of stars. What strange array of chemicals are in the wine? How did they come to be? There are the ferments, the enzymes, the substrates, and the products. There in wine is found the great generalization; all life is fermentation. Nobody can discover the chemistry of wine without discovering, as did Louis Pasteur, the cause of much disease. How vivid is the claret, pressing its existence into the consciousness that watches it! If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts — physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on — remember that nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for. Let it give us one more final pleasure; drink it and forget it all!”
“We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress.”
“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”
“You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing — that’s what counts.”
“There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.”
“I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong. If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives. We will not become enthusiastic for the fact, the knowledge, the absolute truth of the day, but remain always uncertain. In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar.”
“We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.”
“Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars – mere globs of gas atoms. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination – stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one – million – year – old light. A vast pattern – of which I am a part… What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?”
“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”
“It doesn’t seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil – which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.”
Musings in Winter: Kate Chopin
American Art – Part V of VI: Alfred Currier
Artist Statement: “My work takes on two basic faces. The first and oldest is my plein air oil painting. It is simply a response to nature and its environs with all its complexities. For me it is a time of great enjoyment probably equal to a fly fisherman in peak season or sailing on a broad reach with waters of glass. The most challenging part of plein air painting is the weather, but for a seasoned painter, you learn to adjust and cope. This would be my most comfortable if safest work.”
Musings in Winter: Elizabeth Bishop
“–Suddenly the bus driver
stops with a jolt,
turns off his lights.
A moose has come out of
the impenetrable wood
and stands there, looms, rather,
in the middle of the road.
It approaches; it sniffs at
the bus’s hot hood.
high as a church,
homely as a house
(or, safe as houses).
A man’s voice assures us
‘Perfectly harmless. . . .’
Some of the passengers
exclaim in whispers,
‘Sure are big creatures.’
‘It’s awful plain.’
‘Look! It’s a she!’
Taking her time,
she looks the bus over,
Why, why do we feel
(we all feel) this sweet
sensation of joy?
says our quiet driver,
rolling his r’s.
‘Look at that, would you.’
Then he shifts gears.
For a moment longer,
A Ninth Poem for Today
“Your Family’s Farm, Empty”
By Nick Lantz
“Buildings can’t want.”—Donald Rumsfeld
Neither does the ax regret each tree it has bitten,
though it leans against the shed
like a drunk locked out of his own house.
The tractor doesn’t moon
over the physique of its youth.
The dry birdbath makes no plans
for the future.
What can the barn recall of the day
you climbed the ladder into its loft and found
a pair of buzzard chicks
skulking among the hay bales?
Your grandfather shot them with a pistol
and kicked them out of the haymow for you
to carry to the ditch beyond the field.
Does the barn remember those shots
exploding inside it like a burst neuron?
The weight of those bodies thudding to earth?
Can the field remember your feet crossing it, the air
heavy with crickets?
Does the ditch remember the bones the coyotes
gnawed and scattered?
You stand here, where the walnut tree was felled,
one foot on the smooth disc of the stump.
The grass makes no demands on your soul.
The cow paths are as forgetful as the rain.
Back from the Territory – Part I of II: Art
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Musings in Winter: Brian Andreas
Back from the Territory – Part II of II: Susan Butcher
In the words of one historian, “Susan Howlet Butcher (December 26, 1954 – August 5, 2006) was an American dog musher, noteworthy as the second woman to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1986, the second four-time winner in 1990, and the first to win four out of five sequential years. She is commemorated in Alaska by the Susan Butcher Day.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
American Art – Part VI of VI: Tyler Marchus
In the words of one writer, “Tyler Marchus was born in 1977 and has been a lifelong Portland, Oregon resident, living presently in Beaverton with his wife, Sara. As a self-taught artist, he started his career working with local companies doing illustrations and storyboards. Some of the local companies Tyler has worked with include Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Argyle Winery, Oregon Lottery, and Intel. Painting has always been part of Tyler’s life beginning with his loving to draw as a child, but in 2006 he rediscovered his real passion for the craft and began painting his first major collection which he exhibited at the Attic Gallery in 2008.”