May Offerings – Part IX: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of V: Francesca Fuchs

Painter Francesca Fuchs earned a B.A. Honors in Fine Art, Sculpture from Wimbledon School of Art, London.

Below – “Xmas Tree 2”; “Framed Painting, Asian Village”; “Framed Painting, Small Town”; “Woman in Kitchen”; “Framed Photo, Dental Office”; “Pink Flowerbush.”
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A Poem for Today

“Sonnet: On Being Cautioned Against Walking on an Headland Overlooking the Sea, Because It Was Frequented by a Lunatic”
By Charlotte Smith

Is there a solitary wretch who hies
To the tall cliff, with starting pace or slow,
And, measuring, views with wild and hollow eyes
Its distance from the waves that chide below;
Who, as the sea-born gale with frequent sighs
Chills his cold bed upon the mountain turf,
With hoarse, half-uttered lamentation, lies
Murmuring responses to the dashing surf?
In moody sadness, on the giddy brink,
I see him more with envy than with fear;
He has no nice felicities that shrink
From giant horrors; wildly wandering here,
He seems (uncursed with reason) not to know
The depth or the duration of his woe.

Note: In the words of one writer, “Charlotte Smith wrote ‘Elegiac Sonnets’ in 1783 while she was in debtor’s prison with her husband and children. William Wordsworth identified her as an important influence on the Romantic movement. She published several longer works that celebrated the individual while deploring social injustice and the British class system.”
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Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan

“They became upright and taught themselves the use of tools, domesticated other animals, plants and fire, and devised language. The ash of stellar alchemy was now emerging into consciousness. At an ever-accelerating pace, it invented writing, cities, art and science, and sent spaceships to the planets and the stars. These are some of the things that hydrogen atoms do, given fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution.”
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“Life is a series of collisions with the future; it is not the sum of what we have been, but what we yearn to be.” – Jose Ortega y Gasset, Spanish philosopher, essayist, and author of “The Revolt of the Masses,” who was born 9 May 1883.

Some quotes from the work of Jose Ortega y Gasset:

“Our firmest convictions are apt to be the most suspect; they mark our limitations and our bounds. Life is a petty thing unless it is moved by the indomitable urge to extend its boundaries.”
“Tell me what you pay attention to and I will tell you who you are.”
“The type of human being we prefer reveals the contours of our heart.”
“Living is a constant process of deciding what we are going to do.”
“Romantic poses aside, let us recognize that ‘falling in love’ is an inferior state of mind, a form of transitory imbecility.”
“Tragedy in the theater opens our eyes so that we can discover and appreciate the heroic in reality.”
“The characteristic note of our time is the dire truth that, the mediocre soul, the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be mediocre, has the gall to assert its right to mediocrity, and goes on to impose itself where it can.”
“The poet begins where the man ends. The man’s lot is to live his human life, the poet’s to invent what is nonexistent.”
“We fall in love when our imagination projects nonexistent perfection upon another person. One day, the fantasy evaporates and with it, love dies.”
“Every life is, more or less, a ruin among whose debris we have to discover what the person ought to have been.”
“Just because of its promise of unlimited possibilities, technology is an empty form like the most formalistic logic and is unable to determine the content of life. That is why our time, being the most intensely technical, is also the emptiest in all human history.”
“To be surprised, to wonder, is to begin to understand.”
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In the words of French painter Jean-Baptiste Valadie (born 1933), “The work of art is first and foremost the result of fantasy, dreams, irrationality and sensuality.”
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From the Music Archives – Part I of II: Dieterich Buxtehude

Died 9 May 1707 – Dieterich Buxtehude, a Danish-German organist and composer during the Baroque period.

A Second Poem for Today

“May”
By Karen Volkman

In May’s gaud gown and ruby reckoning
the old saw wind repeats a colder thing.

Says, you are the bluest body I ever seen.
Says, dance that skeletal startle the way I might.

Radius, ulna, a catalogue of flex.
What do you think you’re grabbing

with those gray hands? What do you think
you’re hunting, cat-mouth creeling

in the mouseless dawn? Pink as meat
in the butcher’s tender grip, white as

the opal of a thigh you smut the lie on.
In May’s red ruse and smattered ravishings

you one, you two, you three your cruder schemes,
you blanch black lurk and blood the pallid bone

and hum scald need where the body says ‘I am’
and the rose sighs ‘Touch me, I am dying’

in the pleatpetal purring of mouthweathered May.
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Greek painter Maria Filopoulou (born 1964) studied at the National University of Fine Arts in Paris.
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Fancies in Springtime: Neil deGrasse Tyson

“In 5-billion years the Sun will expand and engulf our orbit as the charred ember that was once Earth vaporizes. Have a nice day.”
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A Third Poem for Today

“My Son the Man”
By Sharon Olds

Suddenly his shoulders get a lot wider,
the way Houdini would expand his body
while people were putting him in chains. It seems
no time since I would help him to put on his sleeper,
guide his calves into the gold interior,
zip him up and toss him up and
catch his weight. I cannot imagine him
no longer a child, and I know I must get ready,
get over my fear of men now my son
is going to be one. This was not
what I had in mind when he pressed up through me like a
sealed trunk through the ice of the Hudson,
snapped the padlock, unsnaked the chains,
and appeared in my arms. Now he looks at me
the way Houdini studied a box
to learn the way out, then smiled and let himself be manacled.
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From the Music Archives – Part II of II: Billy Joel

Born 9 May 1949 – Billy Joel, an American pianist, singer-songwriter, and composer.

I apologize for the song choice, but my Border Collie Jack insisted on it.

American Art – Part II of V: Mark Rothko

9 May 2012 – Mark Rothko’s “Orange, Red, Yellow” becomes the most expensive modern art piece when it is sold at auction for $86, 882, 500.

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Fancies in Springtime: David Suzuki

“Trees for which there is no commercial value are referred to as ‘weeds’ that interfere with commercial harvesting. That’s what alders were called until a method to make high-grade paper from them was developed, but you’d never know that alders play an important ecological role. They are the first trees to grow after an opening is cleared in a forest, and they fix nitrogen from the air to fertilize the soil for the later-growing, longer-lived, bigger tree species.”
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A Fourth Poem for Today

“Ironing After Midnight”
By Marsha Truman Cooper

Your mother called it
“doing the pressing,”
and you know now
how right she was.
There is something urgent here.
Not even the hiss
under each button
or the yellow business
ground in at the neck
can make one instant
of this work seem unimportant.
You’ve been taught
to turn the pocket corners
and pick out the dark lint
that collects there.
You’re tempted to leave it,
but the old lessons
go deeper than habits.
Everyone else is asleep.
The odor of sweat rises
when you do
under the armpits,
the owner’s particular smell
you can never quite wash out.
You’ll stay up.
You’ll have your way,
the final stroke
and sharpness
down the long sleeves,
a truly permanent edge.
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“One can only really travel if one lets oneself go and takes what every place brings without trying to turn it into a healthy private pattern of one’s own, and I suppose that is the difference between travel and tourism.” – Dame Freya Madeline Stark, British explorer, travel writer, and author of more than two dozen books on her travels in the Middle East and Afghanistan, who died 9 May 1903.

I had the pleasure of meeting some of Dame Stark’s heirs while on a trek with students in Ladakh, India. Near the end of our journey through the Markha Valley, we camped in a field near a small tea hut just below a 17,000’ pass we were to cross the following day. I awoke the next morning to find that sometime during the night a British Women’s Walking Society had arrived in our campsite, and its plucky members were busily cataloguing flowers and birds in the thin light of dawn. These estimable ladies, most of whom were in their mid-fifties, had negotiated in darkness a testing climb that we were to find sufficiently challenging in daylight, when, after topping the pass, we descended along narrow, mud-slick pathways, stepped gingerly through treacherous boulder fields, and crossed a flood-swollen stream multiple times. Dame Stark would have been proud of these intrepid women.

A few quotes from the work of Dame Freya Madeline Stark:

“Few are the giants of the soul who actually feel that the human race is their family circle.”
“It is only the amateur [gardener] like myself who becomes obsessed and rejoices with a sadistic pleasure in weeds that are big and bad enough to pull, and at last, almost forgetting the flowers altogether, turns into a Reformer.”
“There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.”
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”
“Love of learning is a pleasant and universal bond, since it deals with what one is and not what one has.”
“The great and almost only comfort about being a woman is that one can always pretend to be more stupid than one is and no one is surprised.”
“The most ominous of fallacies – the belief that things can be kept static by inaction.”
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Fancies in Springtime: Neil deGrasse Tyson

“If each dead person became a ghost, there’d be more than 100-billion of them haunting us all. Creepy, but cool.”
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A Fifth Poem for Today

“Family Reunion”
By Catherine Bennett

My father scolded us all for refusing his liquor.
He kept buying tequila, and steak for the grill,
until finally we joined him, making margaritas,
cutting the fat off the bone.

When he saw how we drank, my sister
shredding the black labels into her glass
while his remaining grandchildren
dragged their thin bunk bed mattresses

first out to the lawn to play
then farther up the field to sleep next to her,
I think it was then he changed,
something in him died. He’s gentler now,

quiet, losing weight though every night
he eats the same ice cream he always ate
only now he’s not drinking,
he doesn’t fall asleep with the spoon in his hand,

he waits for my mother to come lie down with him.

Here is a brief commentary on this poem by U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser: “One in a series of elegies by New York City poet Catherine Barnett, this poem describes the first gathering after death has shaken a family to its core. The father tries to help his grown daughter forget for a moment that, a year earlier, her own two daughters were killed, that she is now alone. He’s heartsick, realizing that drinking can only momentarily ease her pain, a pain and love that takes hold of the entire family. The children who join her in the field are silent guardians.”
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British Art – Part I of II: Eric Rimmington

In the words of one critic, English painter Eric Rimmington (born 1926) is “both one of the country’s most distinguished exponents in the field of still life and one of the most particular and distinctive.”
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Fancies in Springtime: Robert M. Pirsig

“And from time to time you find your ‘county road’ takes you onto a two-rutter and then a single rutter and then into a pasture and stops, or else it takes you into some farmer’s backyard.”
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“We started off trying to set up a small anarchist community, but people wouldn’t obey the rules.” – Alan Bennett, English playwright, screenwriter, actor, author, and writer and performer in the satirical review “Beyond the Fringe,” who was born 9 May 1934.

Some quotes from Alan Bennett:

“I’m all in favour of free expression provided it’s kept rigidly under control.”
“Were we closer to the ground as children, or is the grass emptier now?”
“Children always assume the sexual lives of their parents come to a grinding halt at their conception.”
“Definition of a classic: a book everyone is assumed to have read and often thinks they have.”
“If you think squash is a competitive activity, try flower arranging.”
“I’ve never seen the point of the sea, except where it meets the land. The shore has a point. The sea has none.”
“Life is generally something that happens elsewhere.”
“Life is like a box of sardines and we are all looking for the key.”
“Those who have known the famous are publicly debriefed of their memories, knowing as their own dusk falls that they will only be remembered for remembering someone else.”
“Your whole life is on the other side of the glass. And there is nobody watching.”

A Sixth Poem for Today

“They Sit Together on the Porch”
By Wendell Berry

They sit together on the porch, the dark
Almost fallen, the house behind them dark.
Their supper done with, they have washed and dried
The dishes–only two plates now, two glasses,
Two knives, two forks, two spoons–small work for two.
She sits with her hands folded in her lap,
At rest. He smokes his pipe. They do not speak,
And when they speak at last it is to say
What each one knows the other knows. They have
One mind between them, now, that finally
For all its knowing will not exactly know
Which one goes first through the dark doorway, bidding
Goodnight, and which sits on a while alone.
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British Art – Part II of II: Saied Dai

Artist Statement: “Portraiture can be considered to be the most complex of the visual idioms, both structurally and psychologically and consequently the most fascinating, as one is dealing with humanity itself or in mirror reflection, ourselves. It is also a microcosm in which one can explore almost all the problems of drawing and painting.”
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Fancies in Springtime: David Suzuki

“The place where we spend most of our lives moulds our priorities and the way we perceive our surroundings. A human-engineered habitat of asphalt, concrete and glass reinforces our belief that we lie outside of and above nature, immune from uncertainty and the unexpected of the wild.”
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Pulitzer Prize- Part I of III: Charles Simic

“Insomnia is an all-night travel agency with posters advertising faraway places.” – Charles Simic, Serbian-American poet and recipient of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (for “The World Doesn’t End”), who was born 9 May 1938.

“Clouds Gathering”

It seemed the kind of life we wanted.

Wild strawberries and cream in the morning.

Sunlight in every room.

The two of us walking by the sea naked.

Some evenings, however, we found ourselves

Unsure of what comes next.

Like tragic actors in a theater on fire,

With birds circling over our heads,

The dark pines strangely still,

Each rock we stepped on bloodied by the sunset.

We were back on our terrace sipping wine.
Why always this hint of an unhappy ending?

Clouds of almost human appearance

Gathering on the horizon, but the rest lovely
With the air so mild and the sea untroubled.

The night suddenly upon us, a starless night.

You lighting a candle, carrying it naked

Into our bedroom and blowing it out quickly.

The dark pines and grasses strangely still.
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Dutch Art – Part I of II: Heinrich Campendonk

Died 9 May 1957 – Heinrich Campendonk, a German-born Dutch painter.

Below – “In the Forest”; “Cows in the Forest”; “Sitting Woman”; “Horse by the Lake”; “Bucolic Landscape’; “Harlequin and Columbine.”
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Pulitzer Prize – Part II Of III: Mona Van Duyn

“The world’s perverse, but it could be worse.” – Mona Van Duyn, American poet and recipient of the 1971 National Book Award (for “To See, To Take”) and the 1991 Pulitzer Prize (for “Near Changes”), who was born 9 May 1921.

“Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri”

The quake last night was nothing personal,
you told me this morning. I think one always wonders,
unless, of course, something is visible: tremors
that take us, private and willy-nilly, are usual.

But the earth said last night that what I feel,
you feel; what secretly moves you, moves me.
One small, sensuous catastrophe
makes inklings letters, spelled in a worldly tremble.

The earth, with others on it, turns in its course
as we turn toward each other, less than ourselves, gross,
mindless, more than we were. Pebbles, we swell
to planets, nearing the universal roll,
in our conceit even comprehending the sun,
whose bright ordeal leaves cool men woebegone.
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Dutch Art – Part II of II: Jeroen Sebastian Buitenman

Here is the Artist Statement of self-taught Dutch painter Jeroen Sebastian Buitenman (born 1973): “I search for the representation for feeling, love and religion. I strive for euphoria. It would be wonderful to be able to paint like the sounds of the violin. Surrealism lets you tell a tale in a synthetic way, to reach a mythological level of art in painting.”
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Pulitzer Prize – Part III of III: Jorie Graham

“This is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing is to be pure. What you get is to be changed.” – Jorie Graham, American poet and recipient of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (for “The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994”), who was born 9 May 1950.

“Act III, Sc. 2”

Look she said this is not the distance
we wanted to stay at—We wanted to get
close, very close. But what
is the way in again? And is it

too late? She could hear the actions
rushing past—but they are on
another track. And in the silence,
or whatever it is that follows,

there was still the buzzing: motes, spores,
aftereffects and whatnot recalled the morning after.
Then the thickness you can’t get past called waiting.

Then the you, whoever you are, peering down to see if it’s
done yet.
Then just the look on things being looked-at.
Then just the look of things being seen.
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American Art – Part III of V: Mary Scheier

Born 9 May 1908 – Mary Scheier, an American ceramist, and the wife and artistic partner of Edwin Scheier.
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Fancies in Springtime: Robert M. Pirsig

“The thing to do when working on a motorcycle, as in any other task, is to cultivate the peace of mind which does not separate one’s self from one’s surroundings. When that is done successfully then everything else follows naturally. Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material reflection for others to see of the serenity at the center of it all.”
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Died 9 May 1986 – Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer and, with Edmund Hillary, one of the first two individuals known to have reached the summit of Mount Everest (on 29 May 1953).

Below – Tenzing Norgay; Tenzing’s Resting Place near the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling, India.
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American Art – Part IV of V: William Hung

Here is one critic describing the artistry of China-born painter William Hung (born 1928): “(His) works display a profound knowledge of the traditions and techniques of both East and West. In harmony of composition and precision of execution, they reflect the restraint and refinement of the Chinese tradition. In the use of gauzy layers of color to build images from flakes of light, he recalls the 19th century French artists, while his subjects are often reminiscent of classical sources. Extraordinarily gifted and thoroughly schooled, he produces exquisitely sensitive, intellectually provocative, and delicately rendered portraits and nudes.”
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Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan

“We live in a vast and awesome universe in which, daily, suns are made and worlds destroyed, where humanity clings to an obscure clod of rock. The significance of our lives and our fragile realm derives from our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life’s meaning.”
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From the American Old West: Buffalo Bill Cody

1887 – Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show opens in London, giving Queen Victoria and her subjects their first look at “real” cowboys and Indians.

Below – Buffalo Bill in London.
'Buffalo Bill' Cody and his wild west show, late 19th century

Fancies in Springtime: Robert M. Pirsig

“A copy of Thoreau’s ‘Walden’…which Chris has never heard and which can be read a hundred times without exhaustion. I try always to pick a book far over his head and read it as a basis for questions and answers, rather than without interruption. I read a sentence or two, wait for him to come up with his usual barrage of questions, answer them, then read another sentence or two. Classics read well this way. They must be written this way. Sometimes we have spent a whole evening reading and talking and discovered we have only covered two or three pages. It’s a form of reading done a century ago…when Chautauquas were popular. Unless you’ve tried it you can’t imagine how pleasant it is to do it this way.”
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Back from the Territory – Art: Nathalie Parenteau (Part VII)

In the words of one writer, “When asked how her images take form, Northern artist Nathalie Parenteau promptly replies: ‘They take shape on their own. I just scratch the canvas with the paint brush and there they are.’ Or so it seems.”
Nathalie Parenteau lives and works in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.

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

Below – “Skijor”; “Sweetgrass Moon”; Waters Edge”; “Wind Rider”; “Winter Sky”; “Wolverine”; “Yellow Lynx”; “Young Wolf.”
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A Seventh Poem for Today

“August Morning”
By Albert Garcia

It’s ripe, the melon
by our sink. Yellow,
bee-bitten, soft, it perfumes
the house too sweetly.
At five I wake, the air
mournful in its quiet.
My wife’s eyes swim calmly
under their lids, her mouth and jaw
relaxed, different.
What is happening in the silence
of this house? Curtains
hang heavily from their rods.
Ficus leaves tremble
at my footsteps. Yet
the colors outside are perfect–
orange geranium, blue lobelia.
I wander from room to room
like a man in a museum:
wife, children, books, flowers,
melon. Such still air. Soon
the mid-morning breeze will float in
like tepid water, then hot.
How do I start this day,
I who am unsure
of how my life has happened
or how to proceed
amid this warm and steady sweetness?
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Fancies in Springtime: Carl Sagan

“Perhaps the records will never be intercepted. Perhaps no one in five billion years will ever come upon them. Five billion years is a long time. In five billion years, all human beings will have become extinct or evolved into other beings, none of our artifacts will have survived on Earth, the continents will have become unrecognizably altered or destroyed, and the evolution of the Sun will have burned the Earth to a crisp or reduced it to a whirl of atoms.
Far from home, untouched by these remote events, the Voyagers, bearing the memories of a world that is no more, will fly on.”
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American Art – Part V of V: Ted Kincaid

Painter Ted Kincaid lives and works in Dallas.

Below – “Thunderhead 9281”; “Niagra Falls Study (Church) 10”; “Small Harbor”; “Nautical Disaster”; “Nocturnal Landscape 811”; “Iceberg 42114”; “Niagra Falls Study (Church) 4.”
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