March Offerings – Part XIV: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of V: Leslie Batty

Artist Statement: “My artwork explores ideas of feminine identity construction. Having grown up in a family of seamstresses and grade-school teachers, my mixed-media paintings on fabric and collaged paper, reference the age-old practice of dressmaking as well as historical narratives that depict women in a state of alteration. The work investigates and plays upon the ironies of how we invent ourselves within the context of history and culture.”

Below – “Culture of Simulation”; “At the Ball”; “I Think I Must Have Been Changed Several Times Since Then”; “Stewardess Ephemera 3”; “Mode of Reflexivity.”
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A Poem for Today

“Dawn Chorus,”
By Sasha Dugdale

March 29, 2010

Every morning since the time changed
I have woken to the dawn chorus
And even before it sounded, I dreamed of it
Loud, unbelievably loud, shameless, raucous

And once I rose and twitched the curtains apart
Expecting the birds to be pressing in fright
Against the pane like passengers
But the garden was empty and it was night

Not a slither of light at the horizon
Still the birds were bawling through the mists
Terrible, invisible
A million small evangelists

How they sing: as if each had pecked up a smoldering coal
Their throats singed and swollen with song
In dissonance as befits the dark world
Where only travelers and the sleepless belong
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Italian Art – Part I of II: Serena Fanara

Italian painter Serena Fanara (born 1974) is a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Palermo, Sicily.
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Musings in Winter: Isaac Asimov

“Isn’t it sad that you can tell people that the ozone layer is being depleted, the forests are being cut down, the deserts are advancing steadily, that the greenhouse effect will raise the sea level 200 feet, that overpopulation is choking us, that pollution is killing us, that nuclear war may destroy us – and they yawn and settle back for a comfortable nap. But tell them that the Martians are landing, and they scream and run.”
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“There are only two industries that refer to their customers as ‘users.'”- Edward Tufte, American statistician and professor emeritus of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale University, who was born 14 March 1942.

Edward Tufte is respected both for his writings on information design and for being a pioneer in the field of data visualization. Best of all – and in my opinion it is a ringing endorsement of his character and intelligence – he is deeply skeptical about presentations involving Microsoft PowerPoint.

Some quotes from the work of Edward Tufte:

“PowerPoint is like being trapped in the style of early Egyptian flatland cartoons rather than using the more effective tools of Renaissance visual representation.”
“Design cannot rescue failed content.”
“I hope that I am generous and tolerant, but certainly on the intellectual side I think that there are discoverable truths, and some things that are closer approximations to the truth than others.”
“I do believe that there are some universal cognitive tasks that are deep and profound – indeed, so deep and profound that it is worthwhile to understand them in order to design our displays in accord with those tasks.”
“What about confusing clutter? Information overload? Doesn’t data have to be ‘boiled down’ and ‘simplified’? These common questions miss the point, for the quantity of detail is an issue completely separate from the difficulty of reading. Clutter and confusion are failures of design, not attributes of information.”
“It is not how much empty space there is, but rather how it is used. It is not how much information there is, but rather how effectively it is arranged.”
“Allowing artist-illustrators to control the design and content of statistical graphics is almost like allowing typographers to control the content, style, and editing of prose.”
“Cosmetic decoration, which frequently distorts the data, will never salvage an underlying lack of content.”
“Graphical excellence is that which gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.”
“The leading edge in evidence presentation is in science; the leading edge in beauty is in high art.”
“I think it is important for software to avoiding imposing a cognitive style on workers and their work.”
“The commonality between science and art is in trying to see profoundly – to develop strategies of seeing and showing.”

Musings in Winter: George Carlin

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”
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A Second Poem for Today

“Recuerdo”
By Edna St. Vincent Millay

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

Below – Neapolitan School, 17th Century: “An Old Woman in a Yellow Shawl.”
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Musings in Winter: Edgar Allan Poe

“I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active – not more happy – nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago.”
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Italian Art – Part II of II: Salvatore Alessi

Here is the Artist Statement of Italian painter Salvatore Alessi (born 1974): “I am a figurative painter, and to create my paintings, I use photographs of reality that I transform and reinterpret. I have a painting technique faded and material at the same time that I alternately, in the same painting, to emphasize drama. My paintings tend to seem surreal, but it is not wanted by me! Obviously I instilled in my work what I see in the deep, for me, not surreal but real.”
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“Clothes are inevitable. They are nothing less than the furniture of the mind made visible.” – James Laver, English author, fashion expert, critic, historian, museum curator, and creator of Laver’s Law (“an attempt to compress the complex cycle of fashion change and the general attitude towards any certain style or period into a simple timeline”), who was born 14 March 1899.
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American Art – Part II of V: Andrew Ameral

American painter Andrew Ameral (born 1965) has studied at the Florence Academy of Art, where he eventually become the school’s Director of Anatomy and one of its principal drawing instructors.
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Musings in Winter: Chuck Palahniuk

“People are all over the world telling their one dramatic story and how their life has turned into getting over this one event. Now their lives are more about the past than their future.”
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A Third Poem for Today

“The Vacation”
By Wendell Berry

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.
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Honduran painter Maury Flores was born in Tegucigalpa in 1950.
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Musings in Winter: Ernest Hemingway

“They say the seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that in those who make jokes in life the seeds are covered with better soil and with a higher grade of manure.”
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“A woman that’s too soft and sweet is like tapioca pudding — fine for them as likes it.” – Osa Johnson, American explorer, filmmaker, naturalist, and author, who was born 14 March 1894.

Osa Johnson and her husband Martin made several documentary films about the wildlife and peoples of East and Central Africa, the South Pacific Islands, and North Borneo. Osa’s autobiography, “I Married Adventure,” was the best-selling non-fiction book of 1940.
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A Fourth Poem for Today

“Burning the Book”
By Ron Koertge

The anthology of love poems I bought
for a quarter is brittle, anyway, and comes
apart when I read it.

One at a time, I throw pages on the fire
and watch smoke make its way up
and out.

I’m almost to the index when I hear
a murmuring in the street. My neighbors
are watching it snow.

I put on my blue jacket and join them.
The children stand with their mouths
open.

I can see nouns—‘longing,’ ‘rapture,’ ‘bliss’—
land on every tongue, then disappear.
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Musings in Winter: Isaac Newton

“I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people.”
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Here is one critic describing the artistry of Belgian painter Nadine Lundahl: “What magic ingredient makes the simplest painting acquire the stature of an icon? What is it that gives an archetypal potency to a painted bottle or jug? Some artists have the ability to invest ordinary subjects with extraordinary meaning – and one is Nadine Lundahl.
Educated at the Royal Academy of Arts in Antwerp, Nadine concentrated more fully on her preferred subject matter by studying the techniques of the 17th century Flemish and Dutch still life painters. Developing her subjects on a relatively small scale, she uses traditional oil painting techniques, working wet in wet on specially prepared panels. Each painting is so complex that it is impossible for her to work on more than one at a time.”
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Musings in Winter: Joss Whedon

“You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you find out who they really are.”
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“No more cars in national parks. Let the people walk. Or ride horses, bicycles, mules, wild pigs–anything–but keep the automobiles and the motorcycles and all their motorized relatives out. We have agreed not to drive our automobiles into cathedrals, concert halls, art museums, legislative assemblies, private bedrooms and the other sanctums of our culture; we should treat our national parks with the same deference, for they, too, are holy places. An increasingly pagan and hedonistic people (thank God!), we are learning finally that the forests and mountains and desert canyons are holier than our churches. Therefore let us behave accordingly.” – From “Desert Solitaire,” by Edward Abbey, American essayist, environmentalist, anarchist, and author of “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” who died 14 March 1989.

Some quotes from “Desert Solitaire”:

“Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear-the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break… I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.”
“An economic system which can only expand or expire must be false to all that is human.”
“There’s another disadvantage to the use of the flashlight: like many other mechanical gadgets it tends to separate a man from the world around him. If I switch it on my eyes adapt to it and I can see only the small pool of light it makes in front of me; I am isolated. Leaving the flashlight in my pocket where it belongs, I remain a part of the environment I walk through and my vision though limited has no sharp or definite boundary.”
“Where all think alike there is little danger of innovation.”
“The fire. The odor of burning juniper is the sweetest fragrance on the face of the earth, in my honest judgment; I doubt if all the smoking censers of Dante’s paradise could equal it. One breath of juniper smoke, like the perfume of sagebrush after rain, evokes in magical catalysis, like certain music, the space and light and clarity and piercing strangeness of the American West. Long may it burn.”
“If industrial man continues to multiply his numbers and expand his operations he will succeed in his apparent intention, to seal himself off from the natural and isolate himself within a synthetic prison of his own making.”
“Paradise is not a garden of bliss and changeless perfection where the lions lie down like lambs (what would they eat?) and the angels and cherubim and seraphim rotate in endless idiotic circles, like clockwork, about an equally inane and ludicrous — however roseate — unmoved mover. That particular painted fantasy of a realm beyond time and space which Aristotle and the church fathers tried to palm off on us has met, in modern times, only neglect and indifference passing on into oblivion it so richly deserved, while the paradise of which I write and wish to praise is with us yet, the here and now, the actual, tangible, dogmatically real earth on which we stand.”
“Most of my wandering in the desert I’ve done alone. Not so much from choice as from necessity – I generally prefer to go into places where no one else wants to go. I find that in contemplating the natural world my pleasure is greater if there are not too many others contemplating it with me, at the same time.”
“Industrial tourism is a threat to the national parks. But the chief victims of the system are the motorized tourists. They are being robbed and robbing themselves. So long as they are unwilling to crawl out of their cars they will not discover the treasures of the national parks and will never escape the stress and turmoil of the urban-suburban complexes which they had hoped, presumably, to leave behind for a while.”
“It will be objected that a constantly increasing population makes resistance and conservation a hopeless battle. This is true. Unless a way is found to stabilize the nation’s population, the parks can not be saved. Or anything else worth a damn. Wilderness preservation, like a hundred other good causes, will be forgotten under the overwhelming pressure of a struggle for mere survival and sanity in a completely urbanized, completely industrialized, ever more crowded environment. For my own part I would rather take my chances in a thermonuclear war than live in such a world.”
“A crude meal, no doubt, but the best of all sauces is hunger.”
“Of all the featherless beasts, only man, chained by his self-imposed slavery to the clock, denies the elemental fire and proceeds as best he can about his business, suffering quietly, martyr to his madness. Much to learn.”
“We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope.”
“To all accusations of excessive development the administrators can reply, as they will if pressed hard enough, that they are giving the public what it wants, that their primary duty is to serve the public, not preserve the wilds. ‘Parks are for people’ is the public relations slogan, which decoded means that the parks are for people – in automobiles. Behind the slogan is the assumption that the majority of Americans, exactly like the managers of the tourist industry, expect and demand to see their national parks from the comfort, security and convenience of their automobiles.
Is this assumption correct? Perhaps. Does that justify the continued and increasing erosion of the parks? It does not.”
“Late in August the lure of the mountains becomes irresistible. Seared by the everlasting sunfire, I want to see running water again, embrace a pine tree, cut my initials in the bark of an aspen, get bit by a mosquito, see a mountain bluebird, find a big blue columbine, get lost in the firs, hike above timberline, sunbathe on snow and eat some ice, climb the rocks and stand in the wind at the top of the world on the peak of Tukuhnikivats.”
“I was accused of being against civilization, against science, against humanity. Naturally, I was flattered and at the same time surprised, hurt, a little shocked. He repeated the charge. But how, I replied, being myself a member of humanity (albeit involuntarily, without prior consultation), could I be against humanity without being against myself, whom I love – though not very much; how can I be against science, when I gratefully admire, as much as I can, Thales, Democritus, Aristarchus, Faustus, Paracelsus, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Darwin and Einstein; and finally, how could I be against civilization when all which I most willingly defend and venerate – including the love of wilderness – is comprehended by the term.”
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Musings in Winter: Loren Eiseley

“Once in a lifetime, if one is lucky, one so merges with sunlight and air and running water that whole eons, the eons that mountains and deserts know, might pass in a single afternoon without discomfort.”
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A Fifth Poem for Today

“The Sandhills”
By Linda Hogan

The language of cranes
we once were told
is the wind. The wind
is their method,
their current, the translated story
of life they write across the sky.
Millions of years
they have blown here
on ancestral longing,
their wings of wide arrival,
necks long, legs stretched out
above strands of earth
where they arrive
with the shine of water,
stories, interminable
language of exchanges
descended from the sky
and then they stand,
earth made only of crane
from bank to bank of the river
as far as you can see
the ancient story made new.
Sandhill cranes during their annual migration stop at The Nature Conservancy's Studnicka Tract on the Platte River in south central Nebraska during March of 2012.

American Art – Part III of V: Bo Bartlett

In the words of one writer, “Bo Bartlett is an American Realist painter with a modernist vision. His paintings are within the tradition of American Realism as defined by artists such as Thomas Eakins and Andrew Wyeth. Like these artists, Bartlett looks at America’s land and people to describe the beauty he finds in everyday life. His paintings celebrate the underlying epic nature of the commonplace and the personal significance of the extraordinary.”
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Musings in Winter: James Hillman

“Our dreams recover what the world forgets.”
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Ukrainian painter Kateryna Kosianenko (born 1978) is a graduate of both the T. Shevchenko State School of the Arts and the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture in Kiev.
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Musings in Winter: Joseph Campbell

“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”
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Nobel Laureate: Albert Einstein

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein, German-born theoretical physicist, developer of the general theory of relativity, and recipient of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect,” who was born 14 March 1879.

Some quotes from the work of Albert Einstein:

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
“The difference between genius and stupidity is: genius has its limits.”
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
“Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”
“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”
“When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”
“A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.”
“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”
“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
“I am a deeply religious nonbeliever – this is a somewhat new kind of religion.”
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
“Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.”
“A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.”
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”

Musings in Winter: Ursula Le Guin

“There’s a point, around the age of twenty, when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities.”
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In the words of one art critic, “Scottish Iain Faulkner’s paintings are concerned with the portrayal of strong and powerful images relying on visual impact as there is rarely any narrative. They are about capturing calm and contemplative moments, intimate exchanges, solitude, sometimes melancholy, heightened in their resonance by the use of chiaroscuro.”
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A Sixth Poem for Today

“Church Basement”
By Maureen Ash

The church knelt heavy
above us as we attended Sunday School,
circled by age group and hunkered
on little wood folding chairs
where we gave our nickels, said
our verses, heard the stories, sang
the solid, swinging songs.

It could have been God above
in the pews, His restless love sifting
with dust from the joists. We little
seeds swelled in the stone cellar, bursting
to grow toward the light.

Maybe it was that I liked how, upstairs, outside,
an avid sun stormed down, burning the sharp-
edged shadows back to their buildings, or
how the winter air knifed
after the dreamy basement.

Maybe the day we learned whatever
would have kept me believing
I was just watching light
poke from the high, small window
and tilt to the floor where I could make it
a gold strap on my shoe, wrap
my ankle, embrace
any part of me.
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In addition to being a sculptor, Swiss artist Doris Althaus (born 1970) is a ceramics instructor.
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A Seventh Poem for Today

“Playing to the River”
By Jeff Daniel

She stands by the riverbank,
notes from her bagpipes lapping
across to us as we wait

for the traffic light to change.
She does not know we hear—
she is playing to the river,

a song for the water, the flow
of an unknown melody to the rocky
bluffs beyond, for the mist

that was this morning, shroud
of past lives: fishermen
and riverboat gamblers, tugboat captains

and log raftsmen, pioneer and native
slipping through the eddies of time.
She plays for them all, both dirge

and surging hymn, for what has passed
and is passing as we slip
into the currents of traffic,
the changed light bearing us away.
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Musings in Winter: Plato

“Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
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American Art – Part IV of V: Robert Buelteman

In the words of one writer, “Robert Buelteman is not your average nature photographer. The California-based artist shocks flowers and plant life with thousands of electric volts, capturing an entrancing image of the energy streaming through them.
The photographer’s method has roots in Kirlian photography, a process from the 1930s that is also known as “electrography.” First Buelteman carves at his plant specimens with a scalpel until they are sheer and then places them atop a metal sheet in between Plexiglas, surrounded by liquid silicone. He then channels his inner mad-scientist and passes an electric current through the plant using a car battery. The electrons shoot from the metal and through the skeletons of the translucent plants and Buelteman catches them by painting with a fiber-optic cable. The cable captures the glowing strands of light pulsing through the plants, by emitting a beam of white light, about the size of a human hair. This image is then transferred onto film. The gas around the plants ionizes when the plant is shocked, spurring a mystical blue haze around the flowers.
The process takes up to 150 tries to get an image right. He also uses a protective frame of wood around his easel to ensure the flowers are the only things getting electrocuted. And did we mention the whole process is done in complete darkness? We had to talk to Buelteman himself to hear more.”

Below – “Salsify”; “Eryngium”; “Russian River Oak”; “Cannabis Sativa”; “Rubis ursinus.”
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Died 14 March 1933 – Balto, the Siberian Husky sled dog who, in the words of one historian, “led his team of the final leg of the 1925 serum run to Nome, in which diphtheria antitoxin was transported from Anchorage, Alaska, to Nenana, Alaska, by train and then to Nome by dog sled to combat an outbreak of the disease. The run is commemorated by the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.”

Below – Balto with his team; Balto with driver Gunnar Kaasen; statue of Balto in Central Park, New York City.
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An Eighth Poem for Today

“Fifty-Fifty”
By Patricia Clark

You can have the grackle whistling blackly
from the feeder as it tosses seed,

if I can have the red-tailed hawk perched
imperious as an eagle on the high branch.

You can have the brown shed, the field mice
hiding under the mower, the wasp’s nest on the door,

if I can have the house of the dead oak,
its hollowed center and feather-lined cave.

You can have the deck at midnight, the possum
vacuuming the yard in its white prowl,

if I can have the yard of wild dreaming, pesky
raccoons, and the roaming, occasional bear.

You can have the whole house, window to window,
roof to soffits to hardwood floors,

if I can have the screened porch at dawn,
the Milky Way, any comets in our yard.

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Musings in Winter: Henry David Thoreau

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
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Back from the Territory – Art: The work of Alaska artist Dot Bardarson

In the words of one writer, “Dot Bardarson is a fine artist from Seward, Alaska. Beginning her years in Alaska living aboard a cannery tender as a deck-hand, she always found time to paint. Since her cannery days, she has become an award winning artist and leader in the Alaskan Arts community, serving 6 years on the Alaska Council of the Arts.”

Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.

Below – “Chilkoot Bear”; “Columbine”; “Cosmic Airstreams”; “Just Browsing”; “Glacier Glow.”
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Musings in Winter: Mary Oliver

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
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American Art – Part V of V: Trina Chow

Trina Chow is a contemporary painter who lives and works in San Francisco.

Below – “Dolores and 22nd Street”; “Warming Hut”; “Pool #2”; “Chinatown Treasure Hunt”; “Taxi”; “Lavender Field”; “Market Street”; “Girl with the Pink Umbrella/Caltrain.”
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