From the Pacific Northwest – Part LV

Musings in December: Bill Bryson

“They talk about big skies in the western United States, and they may indeed have them, but you have never seen such lofty clouds, such towering anvils, as in Iowa in July.”

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Art for December – Part I of IV: Michael Cook

Below – “Broken Dreams #7” (inkjet print)

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A Poem for Today

“Failing and Flying”
By Jack Gilbert”

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

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Art for December – Part II of IV: Kristina Lauren Havens

Below – “Girl in an Italian Cafe”

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A Second Poem for Today

“Belt 7”
By Joshua Mehigan

They stepped down into cool continual wind  
that smelled like wet rocks but caressed their faces.
The pit was dark. But even when the eye
adjusted there was nothing there to see.
All day the white hat stayed above somewhere.
There was no better place to spend July.
There was no happier thing that they could be.
They propped their shovels on the black earth wall 
and squatted on the curved necks, gingerly.

Then, leaning back, their heads below the strands
of bulbs like tarnished Christmas decorations, 
they plotted Friday night, or dogged each other,
or rested their bare heads on their bare hands;
played twenty questions, shared their blackjack systems,
or walked down deeper to relieve their bladders;
stamped chevrons in the dirt beneath their heels;
or weighed retirement and related matters;
or, hour after hour, cursed their job.

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Swedish Art – Krassimir Kolev

Artist Statement: “I am born in Bulgaria. but now I live in Uppsala, Sweden with my wife Lena and our daughter Matilda.My paintings are realistic with a hyper-realistic touch. They are often emotional and expressive. The figures in my paintings express more presence than action.”

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Musings in December: Jacqueline Patricks

“Civilization is held together by duct tape and spit, and I’m worried about the duct tape.”

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A Third Poem for Today

“Men as Friends”
By Robin Becker

I have a few which is news to me
Tom drops by in the mornings with his travel
mug my mother would call it a coffee klatch

we review our terrible histories with fathers
and talk about the father he’s become and how much
it will cost to replace gutters the ice brought down

and then there’s soft-spoken Harvey
with whom I enjoy long pauses in conversation about how
they raised the Nelson town hall and put a foundation
     underneath

during which we both look at Mt. Monadnock and then down
at the ground and then back at each other silence precipitating
the pretty weather we share before he goes inside for lunch

when I had to pack up my office Tom boxed
and loaded books into my car I didn’t think he’d want
to but his idea of friendship includes carrying heavy things

at the dog park the retired Marine with the schnauzer
asked ‘do you have a husband’  I replied ‘I don’t care for men
in that way’ as a Marine James mostly played cards

on a supply ship now he mostly hunts and fishes
climbs his orchard ladder for my Cortlands
and in trout season leaves, in my fridge, two rainbows

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Musings in December: Alexis de Tocqueville

“Nothing conceivable is so petty, so insipid, so crowded with paltry interests, in one word, so anti-poetic, as the life of a man in the United States.”

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Art for December – Part III of IV: Kiko Saito

Below – “Alaskan”

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Musings in December: Kirby Howell

“I opened the door of my mother’s stand-alone wardrobe and let the smell of her wash over me. I loved having this one unspoiled part of her left just for me. I leaned forward, slipped my face in between the hanging silks and chiffons. Her scent was warm and possessive. If my idea of home had a smell, this would be it.”

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A Fourth Poem for Today

“A Walk through the Cemetery”
By Gary Soto

In memory of David Ruenzel, 1954–2014

I searched for twenty minutes
For my murdered friend’s grave,
A small, white marker,
# 356 it reads. He is not
This number, or any number,
And he is not earth,
But a memory
Of how he and I hiked
Through this Oakland cemetery—
What, six months before
He was shot? We stopped
At the Fred Korematsu stone,
Righteous man, stubborn
Behind bars for refusing
The Japanese-American internment in 1942—
Jail for him, in suit and tie, god dammit.
We righted flowers at his grave,
Bright with toy-like American flags,
And shaded our eyes to follow
The flight of the hawks above.
We left and walked up a slope
And visited a part of the cemetery
Where the Chinese are buried,
A division of races, a preference?
 
Now I’m at his grave marker—
The stone for him has yet to arrive.
His widow lives a mile up
In the Oakland Hills.
Here is truth: she has a telescope
Trained on his grave.
She pours coffee—she looks.
She does the vacuuming—she looks.
She comes home hugging bags
Of groceries—she looks.
Perhaps she is getting up
From the piano, an eye wincing
Behind the telescope.
If so, she would see me
Looking at marker #366—
This plot is available,
Purchasable, ready
For a down payment.
But the first installment
I must pay with my life.
What then? His widow
Will still keep the telescope
Trained on his grave,
Now and then swiveling
It to #366, his friend.
The buzzing bees would languidly
Pass the honey between us.

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Art for December – Part IV of IV: Greta Van Campen

Below – “Summer Near Van Horn”

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Musings in December: Bryant McGill

“America is the world’s top war-master; the most sophisticated killer-culture in history.”

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Canadian Art – Joro Petkov

In the words of one writer, “Petkov is constantly experimenting with color and form; this has allowed him to create an expressive, yet somewhat abstract form to his landscapes. The abstract element in his work is a way of getting away from reality and of expressing his artistic sensibilities. His career is flourishing and his work is represented in galleries throughout Canada and the USA.”

Below – untitled; untitled; untitled; untitled; untitled; untitled.

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Musings in December: Stephen King

“On either side of them the essence of honky tonk beach resort had now enclosed them: gas stations, fried clam stands, Dairy Treets, motels painted in feverish pastel colors, mini golf.
Larry was drawn two painful ways by these things. Part of him clamored at their sad and blatant ugliness and at the ugliness of the minds that had turned this section of a magnificent, savage coastline into one long highway amusement park for families in station wagons. But there was a more subtle, deeper part of him that whispered of the people who had filled these places and this road during other summers. Ladies in sunhats and shorts too tight for their large behinds. College boys in red and black striped rugby shirts. Girls in beach shifts and thong sandals. Small screaming children with ice cream spread over their faces. They were American people, and there was a kind of dirty, compelling romance about them whenever they were in groups never mind if the group was in an Aspen ski lodge or performing their prosaic/ arcane rites of summer along Route 1 in Maine.”

Tourists crowd Palma de Mallorca's Arenal beach on the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca

A Fifth Poem for Today

By Mark Doty
“Little George”

                                   barks at whatever’s
not the world as he prefers to know it:
trash sacks, hand trucks, black hats, canes
and hoods, shovels, someone smoking a joint
beneath the Haitian Evangelicals’ overhang,
anyone—how dare they—walking a dog.
George barks, the tense white comma
of himself arced in alarm.
                                                   At home he floats
in the creaturely domestic: curled in the warm
triangle behind a sleeper’s knees,
wiggling on his back on the sofa, all jelly
and sighs, requesting/receiving a belly rub.
No worries. But outside the apartment’s
metal door, the unmanageable day assumes
its blurred and infinite disguises.
                                                                 Best to bark.
No matter that he’s slightly larger
than a toaster; he proceeds as if he rules
a rectangle two blocks deep, bounded west
and east by Seventh Avenue and Union Square.
Whatever’s there is there by his consent,
and subject to the rebuke of his refusal
—though when he asserts his will
he trembles. If only he were not solely
responsible for raising outcry
at any premonition of trouble
on West 16th Street, or if, right out
on the pavement, he might lay down
the clanking armor of his bluster.

Some evening when he’s climbed the stairs
after our late walk, and rounds
the landing’s turn and turns his way
toward his steady sleep, I wish he might
be visited by a dream of the world as kind,
how any looming unknown might turn out
to hold—the April-green of an unsullied
tennis ball? Dear one, surely the future
can’t be entirely out to get us?
And if it is, barking won’t help much.
But no such luck, not yet.
He takes umbrage, this morning,
at a stone image serene in a neighbor’s garden,
and stiffens and fixes and sounds
his wild alarm: ‘Damn you,
Buddha, get out of here, go away!’

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Musings in December: James Michael Rice

“You think you’re prepared. You think you’ve done everything you’re supposed to, study hard, work hard, keep yourself out of trouble, and then—whoosh! Something arrives out of the blue that you never saw coming. Something you never even imagined. Something that’ll knock your little world off its axis. Something that’ll either change your life for the better, or end it forever. Chaos.”

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American Art – Part I of II: Henry Hensche (1899-1992)

In the words of one writer, “Henry Hensche was born in Germany in 1899, but came to America with his family when he was ten years old, later settling in Chicago. He began his studies at the Art Institute of Chicago and also attended the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League in New York, but the most profound influence on the direction of his art were the summer classes taken with Charles Hawthorne beginning in 1919. Established twenty years earlier, Hawthorne’s Cape Cod School of Art drew artists from all over the United States to the dunes and fishing villages of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where the master’s plein air demonstrations inspired students to define form and mass not with careful line drawing but rather through tones of color placed next to one another. Whether painting a figure, still life or landscape, his philosophy held true: ‘Remember no amount of good drawing will pull you out if your colors are not true. Get them true and you will be surprised how little else you will need.’”
 
Below – “Provincetown Dock”; “Provincetown Street Scene”; “Still Life”; “Sunlight Study”; untitled; “Bather with Flowers.”

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Musings in December: Elinor Goulding Smith

“I have never heard anyone say, ‘Oh, ick! A horse!’”

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American Art – Part II of II: Bob Graham

Artist Statement: “I visited New Orleans twice in the late seventies. I did not feel at first that I could bear to leave my portrait business in Atlanta. Things were going very well for me. But the pressures of parenthood were a lot for a single parent, and I came once more to the Big Easy.”

Below – “Sunset Fais Do Do Zydeco”; “Marie Laveau Blue Moon”; “French Quarter Flute”; “Bandwagon”; “Bluesy Sax Man”; “Cat House.”

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