American Art – Part I of IV: Darren Almond
In the words of one writer, “There’s a different energy breathing through the images than you get in ordinary photographic printing. These have a different depth to them. They feel more sculptural, more like objects.”
A Poem for Today
“[love is more thicker than forget},”
By E. E. Cummings
love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail
it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea
love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive
it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky
“If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” – James Madison, American statesman, political theorist, and fourth President of the United States, who was born 16 March 1751.
Some quotes from the work of James Madison:
“The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted to a certain degree.”
“It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”
“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
“The circulation of confidence is better than the circulation of money.”
“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”
“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.”
“Philosophy is common sense with big words.”
“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both.”
“In Republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority.”
“Wherever there is interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done.”
“Let me recommend the best medicine in the world: a long journey, at a mild season, through a pleasant country, in easy stages.”
Musings in Winter: Joseph Campbell
American Political Wisdom – Part II of III: Thomas E. Dewey
“The law is bigger than money—but only if the law works hard enough.” – Thomas E. Dewey, Governor of New York (1943 – 1954) and Republican candidate for President (1944, 1948), who died 16 March 1971.
In the words of one critic, Lithuanian painter Mihail Aleksandrov (born 1949) “ is one of the most successful artists to have left the former Soviet Union. He works primarily in oil, tempera and watercolor.
His paintings pulsate with a vibrant spiritual energy, (and his) disdain for trendy art has taken him to the past for inspiration. He believes that art cannot be created out of a vacuum, but instead is the progression of a long heritage. Ancient icons, the Renaissance concept of art and beauty and the Russian Avante Garde movement influence his work. He merges geometric forms and the human body into symbolic configurations of squares, circles and triangles.”
Musings in Winter: Henry David Thoreau
A Second Poem for Today
“The Cranes, Texas January”
By Mark Sanders
I call my wife outdoors to have her listen,
to turn her ears upward, beyond the cloud-veiled
sky where the moon dances thin light,
to tell her, “Don’t hear the cars on the freeway—
it’s not the truck-rumble. It is and is not
the sirens.” She stands there, on deck
a rocking boat, wanting to please the captain
who would have her hear the inaudible.
Her eyes, so blue the day sky is envious,
fix blackly on me, her mouth poised on question
like a stone. But, she hears, after all.
January on the Gulf,
warm wind washing over us,
we stand chilled in the winter of those voices.
Musings in Winter: Terry Pratchett
“The single most exciting thing you encounter in government is competence, because it’s so rare.” – Daniel Moynihan, four-time United States Senator from New York, who was born 16 March 1927.
“Have you ever seen a child sitting on its mother’s knee listening to fairy stories? As long as the child is told of cruel giants and of the terrible suffering of beautiful princesses, it holds its head up and its eyes open; but if the mother begins to speak of happiness and sunshine, the little one closes its eyes and falls asleep with its head against her breast . . . I am a child like that, too. Others may like stories of flowers and sunshine; but I choose the dark nights and sad destinies.” – Selma Lagerlof, Swedish writer, author of “The Wonderful Adventures of Nils,” and the recipient of the 1909 Nobel Prize in Literature (the first woman to win a Nobel Prize) “in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings,” who died 16 March 1940.
Two quotes from the work of Selma Lagerlof:
“I see the green earth covered with the works of man or with the ruins of men’s work. The pyramids weigh down the earth, the tower of Babel has pierced the sky, the lovely temples and the gray castles have fallen into ruins. But of all those things which hands have built, what hasn’t fallen nor ever will fall? Dear friends, throw away the trowel and mortarboard! Throw your masons’ aprons over your heads and lie down to build dreams! What are temples of stone and clay to the soul? Learn to build eternal mansions of dreams and visions!”
“We are the poem’s ancient band of twelve that proceeds through the ages. There were twelve of us, when we ruled the world on the cloud-covered top of Olympus, and twelve when we lived as birds in Ygdrasil’s green crown. Wherever poetry went forth, there we followed. Did we not sit, twelve men strong, at King Arthur’s round table, and did twelve paladins not go in Charles the Twelfth’s great army? On of us has been Thor, another Jupiter, as any man should be able to see in us yet today. The divine splendor can be sensed under the rags, the lion’s mane under the donkey hide. Time has treated us badly, but when we are there, the smithy becomes Mount Olympus and the cavalier’s wing a Valhalla.”
Musings in Winter: James Hillman
“All humanity inspires me. Every passer-by is my unconscious sitter; and as strange as it may seem, I really draw folk as I see them. Surely it is not my fault that they fall into certain lines and angles.” – Aubrey Beardsley, English illustrator, author, a leading figure in the Aesthetic Movement, and a major contributor to the development of Art Nouveau and poster styles, who died 16 March 1898.
By Terri Kirby Erickson
Draped in towels,
my grandmother sits in a hard-backed
chair, a white bowl
of soapy water on the floor.
She lifts her frail arm, then rests it,
gratefully, in her daughter’s palm.
Gliding a wet
“You happen to be talking to an agnostic. You know what an agnostic is? A cowardly atheist.” – Studs Terkel, American author, historian, actor, broadcaster, and recipient of the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction (for “The Good War”), who was born 16 March 1912.
Some quotes from the work of Studs Terkel:
“ When you become part of something, in some way you count. It could be a march; it could be a rally, even a brief one. You’re part of something, and you suddenly realize you count. To count is very important.”
“I want people to talk to one another no matter what their difference of opinion might be.”
“I want, of course, peace, grace, and beauty. How do you do that? You work for it.”
“That’s what we’re missing. We’re missing argument. We’re missing debate. We’re missing colloquy. We’re missing all sorts of things. Instead, we’re accepting.”
“I hope that memory is valued – that we do not lose memory.”
“I want to praise activists through the years. I praise those of the past as well, to have them honored.”
“I’ve always felt, in all my books, that there’s a deep decency in the American people and a native intelligence – providing they have the facts, providing they have the information.”
“I hope for peace and sanity – it’s the same thing.”
“People are ready to say, ‘Yes, we are ready for single-payer health insurance.’ We are the only industrialized country in the world that does not have national health insurance. We are the richest in wealth and the poorest in health of all the industrial nations.”
“We are the most powerful nation in the world, but we’re not the only nation in the world. We are not the only people in the world. We are an important people, the wealthiest, the most powerful and, to a great extent, generous. But we are part of the world.”
Musings in Winter: Jill Davis
“They are imbeciles who call my work abstract. That which they call abstract is the most realistic, because what is real is not the exterior but the idea, the essence of things.” – Constantin Brancusi, Romanian sculptor, who died 16 March 1957.
A Fourth Poem for Today
“Sledding in Wichita”
By Casey Pycior
As cars pass, laboring through the slush,
a boy, bundled against the stiff wind
in his snow suit, gloves, and scarf,
leans on his upright toboggan,
waiting his turn atop
the snow-packed overpass—
the highest point in town.
First one car exits, and then another,
each creeping down the icy ramp.
The brown grass pokes through
the two grooves carved in the short hill.
As the second car fishtails to a stop at the bottom,
brake lights glowing on the dirty snow,
the boy’s turn comes.
His trip to the bottom is swift—
only a second or two—
and he bails out just before the curb.
It’s not much, but it’s sledding in Wichita.
From the American History Archives: “Freedom’s Journal”
“We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.” – The headline written by editors Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm on the front page of “Freedom’s Journal,” founded by Peter Williams, Jr., the first newspaper in the United States owned and operated by African-Americans, which began publication on 16 March 1827.
Musings in Winter: Evan Esar
“The epithets of imbeciles have never bothered me.” – Rosa Bonheur, French landscape artist widely considered to have been the most famous female painter in the nineteenth century, who was born 16 March 1822.
Musings in Winter: Thea Euryphaessa
“Our destiny is aligned with our heart’s innermost longing, a longing embedded within our soul before birth. This longing is a unique pattern or configuration reminiscent of the constellations in the night sky. When we express (press out) our unique configuration, it shines through us with an otherworldly luminosity, manifesting abundance in our lives and the lives of others. Our sole task is to yoke our inner destiny, thread it through our lives and weave it into the world. All else is just shadows and dust.”
From the American Old West: Judge Roy Bean
“I know the law… I am it’s greatest transgressor.” – Phantly Roy Bean, Jr., American poet, saloon-keeper and Justice of the Peace in Val Verde County, Texas, who died 16 March 1903, waxing poetic.
Judge Roy Bean famously called himself “The Law West of the Pecos.” In the words of one historian, “According to legend, Judge Roy Bean held court in his saloon along the Rio Grande in a desolate stretch of the Chihuahuan Desert of southwest Texas. After his death, Western films and books cast him as a hanging judge, though he is known to have sentenced only two men to hang, one of whom escaped.”
Some quotes from Judge Roy Bean:
“Hang ’em first, try ’em later.”
“You have been tried by twelve good men and true, not of your peers but as high above you as heaven is of hell, and they have said you are guilty.”
“Time will pass and seasons will come and go.”
“And Fall, with her yeller harvest moon and the hills growin’ brown and golden under a sinkin’ sun.”
“And finally Winter, with its bitin’, whinin’ wind, and all the land will be mantled with snow.”
Below – Roy Bean in 1903; Roy Bean posing with bicyclists in Langtry, Texas. He is the man with the beard standing just to the left of center in the photograph; Judge Roy Bean holding court in 1900 at “The Jersey Lilly” in Langtry, Texas, trying a horse thief. Bean is in the center of the photograph, sitting on a barrel and holding open his law book. The thief is sitting on a horse underneath the “Ice Beer” sign, with his hands behind his back.
American Art – Part II of IV: Teresa Elliott
According to one writer, “Teresa Elliott has lived in her native Texas for most of her life, and remembers a childhood ‘soulful connection’ to animals that continues to this day. Entering a pasture full of longhorns has never been a stretch for Teresa. As a child, her grandfather’s farm in Texas offered her the opportunity to observe cattle chewing their cuds while time slowed to a natural rhythm. ‘It became a place and time to know my subject in their entirety.’ Details were etched in her memory: the texture of their dusty fur, the glistening noses and large massive forms. All these memories were reawakened as an adult when she turned her attention to the Texas Longhorn. The horns of the beast were a beautiful new shape full of exquisite new details to relish in. Also, the abstract study of animal bodies as landscape and this connection to something limitless keeps the process forever interesting.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
“A Little Shiver”
By Barton Sutter
After the news, the forecaster crowed
With excitement about his bad tidings:
Eighteen inches of snow! Take cover!
A little shiver ran through the community.
Children abandoned their homework.
Who cared about the hypotenuse now?
The snowplow driver laid out his long johns.
The old couple, who’d barked at each other
At supper, smiled shyly, turned off the TV,
And climbed the stairs to their queen-size bed
Heaped high with blankets and quilts.
And the aging husky they failed to hear
Scratch the back door, turned around twice
In the yard, settled herself in the snow,
And covered her nose with her tail.
“I profess my Faith. For me, the existence of all this complexity and awareness and intent and beauty, and my ability to apprehend it, serves as the ultimate meaning and the ultimate value. The continuation of life reaches around, grabs its own tail, and forms a sacred circle that requires no further justification, no Creator, no super-ordinate meaning of meaning, no purpose other than that the continuation continue until the sun collapses or the final meteor collides. I confess a credo of continuation. And in so doing, I confess as well a credo of human continuation.” – Ursula Goodenough, American evolutionary scholar, cell biologist, professor, and author of “The Sacred Depths of Nature,” who was born 16 March 1943, describing religious naturalism.
Ursula Goodenough teaches what scholars call the “Epic of Evolution,” which is a mythic narrative aimed at reconciling religious and scientific views of cosmic evolution. According to “Taylor’s Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature,” the Epic is “the 14 billion year narrative of cosmic, planetary, life, and cultural evolution—told in sacred ways. Not only does it bridge mainstream science and a diversity of religious traditions; if skillfully told, it makes the science story memorable and deeply meaningful, while enriching one’s religious faith or secular outlook.” In Goodenough’s words, “The Epic is a fantastic myth that happens to be true of the material Universe . . . We do have something of a story here, a true story, that we can work with religiously should we elect to do so. The Epic of Evolution is such a story, beautifully suited to anchor our search for planetary consensus, telling us of our nature, our place, our context. Moreover, responses to this story — what we are calling religious naturalism — can yield deep and abiding spiritual experiences. And then, after that, we need other stories as well, human-centered stories, a mythos that embodies our ideals and our passions. This mythos comes to us, often in experiences called revelation, from the sages and the artists of past and present times.”
Some quotes from the work of Ursula Goodenough:
“The Big Bang, the formation of stars and planets, the origin and evolution of life on this planet, the advent of human consciousness and the resultant evolution of cultures — this is the story, the one story, that has the potential to unite us, because it happens to be true.”
“Life from nonlife, like wine from water, has long been considered a miracle wrought by gods or God. Now it is seen to be the near-inevitable consequence of our thermal and chemical circumstances.”
“The religious naturalist is provisioned with tales of natural emergence that are, to my mind, far more magical than traditional miracles. Emergence is inherent in everything that is alive, allowing our yearning for supernatural miracles to be subsumed by our joy in the countless miracles that surround us.”
“I have come to understand that the self, my self, is inherently sacred. By virtue of its own improbability, its own miracle, its own emergence … And so I lift up my head, and I bear my own witness, with affection and tenderness and respect. And in so doing, I sanctify myself with my own grace.”
“We are embedded in the great evolutionary story of planet Earth, the spare, elegant process of mutation and selection and bricolage. And this means that we are anything but alone.”
“We nurture our children selflessly. But we also recognize them as our most tangible sources of renewal — for a child, the world is always new. Renewal has been a religious theme throughout the ages …”
“All of us see in children — our own and all children — the hope and promise of what we humans can become. As the forbears of our children we are called to transmit to them a joyous and sustainable vision of their future — meaning that we are each called to develop such a vision.”
“For me, and probably for all of us, the concept of a personal, interested god can be appealing, often deeply so. In times of sorrow or despair, I often wonder what it would be like to be able to pray to God or Allah or Jehovah or Mary and believe that I was heard, believe that my petition might be answered. When I sing the hymns of faith in Jesus’ love, I am drawn to their intimacy, their allure, their poetry. But in the end, such faith is simply not available to me. I can’t do it. I lack the resources to render my capacity for love and my need to be loved to supernatural Beings. And so I have no choice but to pour these capacities and needs into earthly relationships, fragile and mortal and difficult as they often are.”
“Sex without death gets you single-celled algae and fungi; sex with a mortal soma gets you the rest of the eukaryotic creatures. Death is the price paid to have trees, and clams and birds and grasshoppers, and death is the price paid to have human consciousness, to be aware of all that shimmering awareness and all that love.”
“I like mindful people. Fear prevents mindfulness, and then greed marches in because you are fearful, so you feel like you have to shore everything up.”
“Perhaps we should all settle down and think about what’s good in the world and what we want to do here. If we find this planet and its history and its story to be sacred, let’s preserve and nourish it, and then we can go home at night and say whatever prayers we choose.”
Musings in Winter: Neil Gaiman
Here is part of the Artist Statement of Belarusian painter Ludmila Mikhailovna Kalmaeva (born 1946): “I work intuitively, without a plan. I cover the surface of the canvas with rhythmical color blotches… This rough product helps me immerse myself in the unconscious… Looking at the canvas, I begin to see random images. I help them to transpire… Then I am carried away into a world of fantasy, forgetting where I am and what I am! But the vague shocks from the subconscious finally stop.”
A Sixth Poem for Today
By Ted Kooser
Cards in each mailbox,
angel, manger, star and lamb,
as the rural carrier,
driving the snowy roads,
hears from her bundles
the plaintive bleating of sheep,
the shuffle of sandals,
the clopping of camels.
At stop after stop,
she opens the little tin door
and places deep in the shadows
the shepherds and wise men,
the donkeys lank and weary,
the cow who chews and muses.
And from her Styrofoam cup,
white as a star and perched
on the dashboard, leading her
ever into the distance,
there is a hint of hazelnut,
and then a touch of myrrh.
A Seventh Poem for Today
“Koi Pond, Oakland Museum”
By Susan Kolodny
Our shadows bring them from the shadows:
a yolk-yellow one with a navy pattern
like a Japanese woodblock print of fish scales.
A fat 18-karat one splashed with gaudy purple
and a patch of gray. One with a gold head,
a body skim-milk-white, trailing ventral fins
like half-folded fans of lace.
A poppy-red, faintly disheveled one,
and one, compact, all indigo in faint green water.
They wear comical whiskers and gather beneath us
as we lean on the cement railing
in indecisive late-December light,
and because we do not feed them, they pass,
then they loop and circle back. Loop and circle. Loop.
“Look,” you say, “beneath them.” Beneath them,
like a subplot or a motive, is a school
of uniformly dark ones, smaller, unadorned,
perhaps another species, living in the shadow
of the gold, purple, yellow, indigo, and white,
seeking the mired roots and dusky grasses,
unliveried, the quieter beneath the quiet.
Musings in Winter: Mary Oliver
American Art – Part III of IV: Mamma Andersson
Artist Statement: “To make a concentrated feeling for something, you have to reduce it to the few small things that can tell a story. Then you can make your own history.”
An Eighth Poem for Today
“The Softest Word”
By Andrew Jones
Back from the Territory – Art: The work of Alaska artist Jean Ferrier
In the words of one writer, “Jean Ferrier began her professional artistic career in Seattle in 1975 and is an artist, woodcarver, and calligrapher with 30 years of studio experience. She specializes in small, carved animal masks, painted panels, and calligraphic books and paintings. Jean has taught Northwest Coast Indian formline design through the years.
Jean’s handmade books are part of Lemieux Library at Seattle University and Allen Library of the University of Washington’s permanent collection. They were the Northwest Bookfest Prize winner of 2001.
Jean migrated to the Northwest from New York City, where she was educated in Medicine and Psychiatry. She obtained her artistic education informally through her exposure to Northwest Coast Indian Art.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
A Ninth Poem for Today
“Up Against It”
By Eamon Grennan
It’s the way they cannot understand the window
they buzz and buzz against, the bees that take
a wrong turn at my door and end up thus
in a drift at first of almost idle curiosity,
cruising the room until they find themselves
smack up against it and they cannot fathom how
the air has hardened and the world they know
with their eyes keeps out of reach as, stuck there
with all they want just in front of them, they must
fling their bodies against the one unalterable law
of things—this fact of glass—and can only go on
making the sound that tethers their electric
fury to what’s impossible, feeling the sting in it.
Musings in Winter: H. Jackson Brown Jr.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
American Art – Part IV of IV: Kurt Solmssen
In the words of critic Ken Johnson, “Using wide, generously loaded brushes and rich, bright colors, this artist, based in Washington State, creates appealing traditionalist weddings of painterly materialism and radiant illusionism.”