From the Pacific Northwest – Part XLVI

Musings in December: Laura Adams Armer

“He could tell by the way animals walked that they were keeping time to some kind of music. Maybe it was the song in their own hearts that they walked to.”

Elephants Walking in a Line in Kenya

Art for December – Part I of III: Aleksandra

Below – “Black and White Paris”

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A Poem for Today

“The Life of Man”
By Russell Edson

For breakfast a man must break an egg. Then not all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can do very much about it.
Past perfect the broken egg no longer breaks, a dead man no longer dies…
And as he spills the broken egg into a frying pan he murmurs, Ah, well, too bad about Humpty Dumpty…

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Art for December – Part II of III: Carole Arnston

Below – “Falling Gardens in Blue”

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Musings in December: Sarah Vowell

“That year, a middle-aged acquaintance asked me what my favorite book was and I said ‘On the Road.’ He smiled, said, ‘That was my favorite book at sixteen.’ At the time , I thought he was patronizing me, that it was going to be my favorite book forever and ever, amen. But he was right. As an adult, I’m more of a Gatsby girl-more tragic, more sad, just as interested in what America costs as what it has to offer.”

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Art for December – Part III of III: Pietro Adamo

Below – “Grace and Calm”

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A Second Poem for Today

“The Lighted Window”
By Sara Teasdale

He said:
“In the winter dusk
When the pavements were gleaming with rain,
I walked thru a dingy street
Hurried, harassed,
Thinking of all my problems that never are solved.
Suddenly out of the mist, a flaring gas-jet
Shone from a huddled shop.
I saw thru the bleary window
A mass of playthings:
False-faces hung on strings,
Valentines, paper and tinsel,
Tops of scarlet and green,
Candy, marbles, jacks—
A confusion of color
Pathetically gaudy and cheap.
All of my boyhood
Rushed back.
Once more these things were treasures
Wildly desired.
With covetous eyes I looked again at the marbles,
The precious agates, the pee-wees, the chinies—
Then I passed on.
In the winter dusk,
The pavements were gleaming with rain;
There in the lighted window
I left my boyhood.”

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Musings in December: Steve Almond

“Eventually, I headed to the bathroom, and I mention this only because I saw in that bathroom the most quintessentially American artifact I have ever encountered: a bright blue rubber mat resting in the bottom of the urinal emblazoned with the following legend:

Epply
World’s Cleanest Airport
Omaha, NE

God bless our relentless idiotic optimism.”

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American Art – Lynn Speaker

In the words of one writer, “Lynn Speaker is a mixed media artist who works with fire-based mediums and natural materials. Her drawings are remnants of place that rest between experience and memory.”

Below – “Paperwhites”; “Space”; “Seven.”

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Musings in December: Aefa Mulholland

“The website increases my excitement when I read, ‘Hark, the pies are calling!’ My excitement is short-lived, however. I read the page again and realize that it is ‘pipes’ that are calling, not ‘pies’ as I had hoped. I am disappointed. I personally react better to the call of pies.”

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A Third Poem for Today

“The Traveling Onion”
By Naomi Shihab Nye

“It is believed that the onion originally came from India. In Egypt it was an object of worship —why I haven’t been able to find out. From Egypt the onion entered Greece and on to Italy, thence into all of Europe.” — Better Living Cookbook

When I think how far the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in smooth agreement,
the way the knife enters onion
and onion falls apart on the chopping block,
a history revealed.
And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall
for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on texture of meat or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,
disappear.

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Musings in December: Frances Hodgson Burnett

“How it is that animals understand things I do not know, but it is certain that they do understand. Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words and everything in the world understands it. Perhaps there is a soul hidden in everything and it can always speak, without even making a sound, to another soul.”

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Russian Art – Nina Ryzhikova

Nina Ryzhikova is a graduate of the I. E. Repin Institute for Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture and a member of the Saint Petersburg Union of Artists.

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A Fourth Poem for Today

“Blue Plate”
By Jesse Lee Kercheval

After the porno theater became a revival house,
the neighborhood began to change.
The Blue Plate, a designer diner, opened,
all aluminum and curves. Inside,
the menu featured revived comfort foods–
meat loaf, mashed potatoes, a glass case full of pies.
Young families moved in, the drawn shades
of the elderly replaced by window boxes
and Big Wheels in the yards. Another revival.
Then a Mexican restaurant opened–
though not one run by Mexicans.
A pizza place whose specialty is a pie
made with Greek, not Italian, cheese
called The Feta-licious.

But what is real? In time, everyone
came to depend upon the diner. Packed
for breakfast, lunch, pie, and coffee.
If you need a good plumber,
go to the Blue Plate and ask for Carl
who’s there talking politics
with the other long-suffering followers of Trotsky.
If you want a sitter, ask the waitstaff,
Who has a younger sister?
If you’re invited to a potluck, stop
and buy a whole pie.

In the town where I grew up,
there was a diner too, Bev’s,
named after the cook and owner who,
my mother whispered the first time we went there,
was a Holocaust survivor.
When we went for breakfast or a hamburger,
Bev would wait on us, her tattoo shining
on her thick, damp wrist. She was not Jewish,
but Czech and Catholic. She kept an Infant of Prague
by the cash register and changed
his tiny satin outfits to match the seasons.
But she didn’t make pie and her mashed potatoes
came from the same box as my mother’s.
Bev’s food wasn’t good, only better than nothing.
Just like being a death camp survivor,
Bev told my mother, wasn’t a good thing to be,
only better than not being.

My mother is dead now. Bev too.

My mother wasn’t a good cook either, rarely made pies.
I can, but I like the ones at the Blue Plate
better. Dutch Apple, Three Berry, Lemon with Mile-
High Meringue. The trouble with meringue,
my mother said once, is that it weeps.

Amazing, I thought, sad pie.

kercheval

Musings in December: Glendon Swarthout

“And one by one, driven to exhaustion, trapped by fence and horses and bewilderment, under an immaculate sky the mythic creatures died. They died not in mercy, not in the majesty which was their due, but as the least of life, accursed of nature. They died in the dust of insult and the spittle of lead.
There was more here than profaned the eye or ear or nose or heart. There was more here than mere destruction. The American soul itself was involved, its anthropology.
We are born with buffalo blood upon our hands. In the prehistory of us all, the atavistic beasts appear. They graze the plains of our subconscious, they trample through our sleep, and in our dreams we cry out our damnation. We know what we have done, we violent people. We know that no species was created to exterminate another, and the sight of their remnant stirs in us the most profound lust, the most undying hatred, the most inexpiable guilt. A living buffalo mocks us. It has no place or purpose. It is a misbegotten child, a monster with which we cannot live and which we cannot live without. Therefore we slay, and slay again, for while a single buffalo remains, the sin of our fathers, and hence our own, is imperfect.”

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Canadian Art – Part I of II: Mark Berens

In the words of one writer, “Mark Berens paints with oils, just like his grandmother. He has a passion to paint natural surroundings, while capturing the depth and light and creating texture with dabs of paint.”

Below – “Passage Through Pines”; “Kilbear Park Red Pines”; “Haggart Bay Whitepine”; “Autumn River”; untitled; untitled.

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A Fifth Poem for Today 

By Joseph O. Legaspi
“The Red Sweater”

slides down into my body, soft
lambs wool, what everybody
in school is wearing, and for me
to have it my mother worked twenty
hours at the fast-food joint.
The sweater fits like a lover,
sleeves snug, thin on the waist.
As I run my fingers through the knit,
I see my mother over the hot oil in the fryers
dipping a strainer full of stringed potatoes.
In a twenty hour period my mother waits
on hundreds of customers: she pushes
each order under ninety seconds, slaps
the refried beans she mashed during prep time,
the lull before rush hours, onto steamed tortillas,
the room’s pressing heat melting her make-up.
Every clean strand of weave becomes a question.
How many burritos can one make in a continuous day?
How many pounds of onions, lettuce and tomatoes
pass through the slicer? How do her wrists
sustain the scraping, lifting and flipping
of meat patties?           And twenty
hours are merely links
in the chain of days startlingly similar,
that begin in the blue morning with my mother
putting on her polyester uniform, which,
even when it’s newly-washed, smells
of mashed beans and cooked ground beef.

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Musings in December: James Howard Kunstler

“If it happens that the human race doesn’t make it, then the fact that we were here once will not be altered, that once upon a time we peopled this astonishing blue planet, and wondered intelligently at everything about it and the other things who lived here with us on it, and that we celebrated the beauty of it in music and art, architecture, literature, and dance, and that there were times when we approached something godlike in our abilities and aspirations. We emerged out of depthless mystery, and back into mystery we returned, and in the end the mystery is all there is.”

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Canadian Art – Part II of II: Marie Claude Boucher

In the words of one writer, “Marie-Claude Boucher is a contemporary landscape artist with a twist of expressionism. She paints in a distinct style with spontaneous and confident brush strokes.”

Below – “C’est La Vie”; “Big Blue Sky”; “Bike Ride”; “Picket Fence”; “Fleurs De Julliet”; “Comingn Home.”

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