American Art – Part I of V: Brian Davis
Here is how one writer describes the artistry of Brian Davis (born 1946): “The artist Brian Davis has the profound depth, the beauty of soul, and the unique composure of a man who truly understands the creation of a piece of art. Although magnificent flowers and landscapes are the main choice for his compositions, Brian Davis says, ‘The actual job of making an arresting piece of art has nothing to do with what the thing is.’”
Musings in Winter: Annie Dillard
“An acre of poppies and a forest of spruce boggle no one’s mind. Even ten square miles of wheat gladdens the hearts of most . . . No, in the plant world, and especially among the flowering plants, fecundity is not an assault on human values. Plants are not our competitors; they are our prey and our nesting materials. We are no more distressed at their proliferation than an owl is at a population explosion among field mice . . . but in the animal world things are different, and human feelings are different . . . Fecundity is anathema only in the animal. ‘Acres and acres of rats’ has a suitably chilling ring to it that is decidedly lacking if I say, instead, ‘acres and acres of tulips.’”
From the Music Archives: Don Wilson
Born 10 February 1937 – Don Wilson, an American rock guitarist and member of The Ventures.
Musings in Winter: Mary Oliver
A Poem for Today
By Robert Duncan
And a tenth part of Okeanos is given to dark night
a tithe of the pure water under earth
so that the clear fountains pour from rock face,
tears stream from the caverns and clefts,
down-running, carving woundrous ways in basalt resistance,
cutting deep as they go into layers of time-layerd
Gaia where She sleeps—
the cold water, the black rushing gleam, the
moving down-rush, wash, gush out over
bed-rock, toiling the boulders in flood,
purling in deeps, broad flashing in falls—
And a tenth part of bright clear Okeanos
his circulations— mists, rains, sheets, sheathes—
lies in poisonous depths, the black water.
Styx this carver of caverns beneath us is.
Styx this black water, this down-pouring.
The well is deep. From its stillness
the words our voices speak echo.
Resonance follows resonance.
Waves of this sounding come up to us.
We draw the black water, pure and cold.
The light of day is not as bright
as this crystal flowing.
Three thousand years we have recited its virtue
out of Hesiod.
Is it twenty-five thousand
since the ice withdrew from the lands and we
came forth from the realm of caverns where
the river beneath the earth we knew
we go back to.
Styx pouring down in the spring from its glacial remove,
from the black ice.
Fifty million years—from the beginning of what we are—
we knew the depth of this well to be.
Fifty million years deep —but our knowing deepens
this still water
we thirst for in dreams we dread.
Musings in Winter: Kristen Iversen
“The body is an organ of memory, holding traces of all our experiences. The land, too, carries the burden of all its changes. To truly see and understand a landscape is to see its depth as well as its smooth surfaces, its beauty and its scars.”
Musings in Winter: Albert Einstein
By Amy Lowell
You are beautiful and faded
Like an old opera tune
Played upon a harpsichord;
Or like the sun-flooded silks
Of an eighteenth-century boudoir.
In your eyes
Smoulder the fallen roses of out-lived minutes,
And the perfume of your soul
Is vague and suffusing,
With the pungence of sealed spice-jars.
Your half-tones delight me,
And I grow mad with gazing
At your blent colours.
Musings in Winter: Mehmet Murat Ildan
Some quotes from the work of Alexander Pushkin:
“I have outlasted all desire,
My dreams and I have grown apart;
My grief alone is left entire,
The gleamings of an empty heart.
The storms of ruthless dispensation
Have struck my flowery garland numb,
I live in lonely desolation
And wonder when my end will come.
Thus on a naked tree-limb, blasted
By tardy winter’s whistling chill,
A single leaf which has outlasted
Its season will be trembling still.”
“Two fixed ideas can no more exist together in the moral world than two bodies can occupy one and the same place in the physical world.”
“He filled a shelf with a small army of books and read and read; but none of it made sense. .. They were all subject to various cramping limitations: those of the past were outdated, and those of the present were obsessed with the past.”
“And these days I’ve come to prefer the more steady Bordeaux. I am no longer up to champagne from Ay: it’s like a mistress: sparkling, flighty, vivacious, wayward – and not to be trusted. But Bordeaux is like a friend who in time of trouble and misfortune stands by us always, anywhere, ready to give us help, or just to share our quiet leisure. So raise your glasses – to our friend Bordeaux!”
“Want of courage is the last thing to be pardoned by young men, who usually look upon bravery as the chief of all human virtues, and the excuse for every possible fault.”
Musings in Winter: Mark Nepo
A Third Poem for Today
By Colette Bryce
Over time, you picture them
after dark, in searches
focusing on streets and houses
close above the churches
on narrow wands of light.
And find so much depends upon
the way you choose
to look at them:
high in the night
their minor flares confused
among the stars, there
Or from way back
over the map
from where they might resemble
American Art – Part II of V: Susan Clinard
In the words of one critic, “Susan first touched clay at the age of 19 when she took a sculpture class in college. She can recall the immediate sensory connection she made with the material; the smell, its texture and shadows. Her love for art did not begin there; she remembers always drawing and making “things” as a child and throughout her youth. To this day, Susan will argue that her formal training as an art student was only part of what made her a creative spirit. Living a life immersed in the diverse people and environments around her is what gave her the insight, ideas, and the inspiration she now possesses.
Susan received her degree in Sculpture and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Michigan in 1995. After college she moved to Chicago to live with her sister Wendy Clinard, a professional dancer/choreographer/painter. Her strong bond with her sister helped her grow immensely as a visual artist. Their mutual respect and admiration of one another’s work has led to several collaborations.
Another important influence during this period was Susan’s experience working as a caseworker for foster children in Chicago. Working on the front lines in the community, schools, hospitals, and justice systems allowed her to see humanity in a way nothing else before it had. She began sculpting the things she saw, people she knew; as if keeping a journal. She was moved by the stories of inequality, fear, compassion, and courage. At this time Susan realized that sculpture was the unquestionable voice that would allow her to be true to herself while giving back to her community.”
Musings in Winter: Priscilla Stuckey
“If mind belongs to humans alone, then stones, trees, and streams become mere objects of human tinkering. We can plunder the earth’s resources with impunity, treating creeks and mountaintops in Kentucky or rivers in India or forests in northwest America as if they existed only for economic development. Systems of land and river become inert chunks of lifeless mud or mechanical runs of H2O rather than the living, breathing bodies upon which we and all other creatures depend for our very lives.
Not to mention what ‘nature as machine’ has done to our emotional and spiritual well-being. When we regard nature as churning its way forward mindlessly through time, we turn our backs on mystery, shunning the complexity as well as the delights of relationship. We isolate ourselves from the rest of the creatures with whom we share this world. We imagine ourselves the apex of creation — a lonely spot indeed. Human minds become the measure of creation and human thoughts become the only ones that count. The result is a concept of mind shorn of its wild connections, in which feelings become irrelevant, daydreams are mere distractions, and nighttime dreams — if we attend to them at all — are but the cast-offs of yesterday’s overactive brain. Mind is cut off from matter, untouched by exingencies of mud or leaf, shaped by whispers or gales of wind, as if we were not, like rocks, made of soil.
And then we wonder at our sadness and depression, not realizing that our own view of reality has sunk us into an unbearable solipsism, an agony of separateness — from loved ones, from other creatures, from rich but unruly emotions, in short, from our ability to connect, through senses and feeling and imagination, with the world that is our home.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
“Are These My People?”
By Carl Mayfield
Sitting around the kitchen table,
legs crossed, listening to look-alike foreheads
remember how the tornado
forgot to kill them:
Yes we are going to the cellar again
so wipe that look off your face
and I don’t want no heathen backtalk
Musings in Winter: William Stafford
“Now has come, an easy time. I let it
roll. There is a lake somewhere
so blue and far nobody owns it.
A wind comes by and a willow listens
I hear all this, every summer. I laugh
and cry for every turn of the world,
its terribly cold, innocent spin.
That lake stays blue and free; it goes
on and on.
And I know where it is.”
Born 10 February 1936 – Olwyn Bowey, a British painter.
Nobel Laureate: Boris Pasternak
“When a great moment knocks on the door of your life, it is often no louder than the beating of your heart, and it is very easy to miss it.” –
Boris Pasternak, Russian poet, novelist, translator, author of “Dr. Zhivago, and recipient of the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature “for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition,” who was born 10 February 1890.
“February, Take Ink and Weep”
February. Take ink and weep,
write February as you’re sobbing,
while black Spring burns deep
through the slush and throbbing.
Take a cab. For a clutch of copecks,
through bell-towers’ and wheel noise,
go where the rain-storm’s din breaks,
greater than crying or ink employs.
Where rooks in thousands falling,
like charred pears from the skies,
drop down into puddles, bringing
cold grief to the depths of eyes.
Musings in Winter: Haruki Murakami
“I sat on a somewhat higher sand dune and watched the eastern sky. Dawn in Mongolia was an amazing thing. In one instant, the horizon became a faint line suspended in the darkness, and then the line was drawn upward, higher and higher. It was as if a giant hand had stretched down from the sky and slowly lifted the curtain of night from the face of the earth. It was a magnificent sight, far greater in scale, […] than anything that I, with my limited human faculties, could comprehend. As I sat and watched, the feeling overtook me that my very life was slowly dwindling into nothingness. There was no trace here of anything as insignificant as human undertakings. This same event had been occurring hundreds of millions – hundreds of billions – of times, from an age long before there had been anything resembling life on earth.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
American Muse: John Crowe Ransom
Beautifully Janet slept
Till it was deeply morning. She woke then
And thought about her dainty-feathered hen,
To see how it had kept.
One kiss she gave her mother,
Only a small one gave she to her daddy
Who would have kissed each curl of his shining baby;
No kiss at all for her brother.
“Old Chucky, Old Chucky!” she cried,
Running across the world upon the grass
To Chucky’s house, and listening. But alas,
Her Chucky had died.
It was a transmogrifying bee
Came droning down on Chucky’s old bald head
And sat and put the poison. It scarcely bled,
But how exceedingly
And purply did the knot
Swell with the venom and communicate
Its rigour! Now the poor comb stood up straight
But Chucky did not.
So there was Janet
Kneeling on the wet grass, crying her brown hen
(Translated far beyond the daughters of men)
To rise and walk upon it.
And weeping fast as she had breath
Janet implored us, “Wake her from her sleep!”
And would not be instructed in how deep
Was the forgetful kingdom of death.
Musings in Winter: Paul Bogard
“When I lie back and close my eyes, this farthest lip of beach right next to the end of the ocean feels like being up close to an enormous breathing being, the bass drum surf thump reverberating through the sand. Living out here with no lights, alone, you would indeed become sensitive to seasons, rhythms, weather, sounds- right up next to the sea, right up under the sky, like lying close to a lover’s skin to hear blood and breath and heartbeat.”
American Art – Part III of V: Paul G. Oxborough
In the words of one writer, “Paul Oxborough was born in Minnesota, USA in 1965. He began his studies at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design before entering a four-year apprenticeship at the Atelier Lessuer; a rigorous program that adheres to a stringent French academic tradition.
The range of Oxborough’s subject matter seems unlimited and varies from intimate interiors illuminated by flickering candles to laconic landscapes drenched in the noonday sun to a child’s face touched by the first rays of morning light.”
“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.” – Alex Haley, American writer, author of “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” and co-author of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” who died 10 February 1992.
Some quotes from the work of Alex Haley:
“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage- to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness. ”
“Racism is taught in our society… it is not automatic. It is learned behavior toward persons with dissimilar physical characteristics.”
“The main thing you got to remember is that everything in the world is a hustle.”
“Find the Good and Praise it.”
“‘Is this how you repay my goodness–with badness?’ cried the boy. ‘Of course,’ said the crocodile out of the corner of his mouth. ‘That is the way of the world.’”
“I certainly wasn’t seeking any degree, the way a college confers a status symbol upon its students. My homemade education gave me, with every additional book that I read, a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness and blindness that was afflicting the black race in America. Not long ago, an English writer telephoned me, asking questions. One was, ‘What’s your alma mater?’ I told him, ‘Books.’”
“So Dad has joined the others up there. I feel that they do watch and guide, and I also feel that they join me in the hope that this story of our people can help alleviate the legacies of the fact that preponderantly the histories have been written by the winners.”
Musings in Winter: Rabindranath Tagore
“The birds looked upon me as nothing but a man, quite a trifling creature without wings—and they would have nothing to do with me. Were it not so I would build a small cabin for myself among their crowd of nests and pass my days counting the sea waves.”
From the Movie Archives: Jim Varney
“Know what I mean, Vern?” – Jim Varney, American actor, comedian, musician, writer, and voice actor best known for his role as Ernest P. Worrell, who died 10 February 2000.
Musings in Winter: Alan Watts
A Sixth Poem for Today
By Alexis Orgera
He came home to us one afternoon,
came sopping wet and blue-lipped,
hugged the dog so hard
we couldn’t pry them apart.
This is what my brother told us:
“When you die a port-wine stain lodges
behind your right eye like a migraine.
Your fingers are electric, lungs exploding stars.
And on the way down I saw Uncle Max floating by.”
Then my brother was quiet for an age
while we teetered on the living room couch
hoping he’d been given some special truth,
something to change us. When he spoke again,
my brother’s eyes were buffed canaries.
“So when your body washes up,
it’s on a beach with no shoreline.
Everyone’s naked, saying, ‘Look how familiar this place is.’”
But my brother swore it resembled nothing.
He said, “Everyone just sits around with their eyes closed,
cross-legged, and they bask in grayness
while pieces of their bodies fall off•
First small parts. Toenails and earlobes.
Then hands and feet until all that’s left is nubs
jabbing the sand. And there’s music playing
high up on a black cliff of sky.
It’s not like our music, “he said,
“but as if the whole world is a crying woman
who can’t get out of whatever fix she’s in.”
Then my brother fell asleep, arms around the dog.
And there we were, wondering while he slept
if my brother was a ghost or a superhero
or if he’s merely stumbled into some dumb luck
that would dote on him the rest of his life.
Musings in Winter: Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Here is how one critic describes the artistry of Welsh painter Michael de Bono: “Michael de Bono is a self-taught painter living and working in Cardiff. He was born in Caerphilly spending his early years among the hills and dales of Llambradach. This harmonious environment fostered an appreciation of the gentle vitality of nature over the frenetic dislocation of the industrialised cityscape. His interest in the elegance and primacy of nature manifests within his beautifully rendered figurative subjects, the intimacy of which invites us to reflect freely upon their narrative context.”
”Poetry is a search for ways of communication; it must be conducted with openness, flexibility, and a constant readiness to listen.” – Fleur Adcock, New Zealand poet and editor, who was born 10 February 1934.
The young are walking on the riverbank
arms around each other’s waist and shoulders,
pretending to be looking at the waterlilies
and what might be a nest of some kind, over
there, which two who are clamped together
mouth to mouth have forgotten about.
The others, making courteous detours
around them, talk, stop talking, kiss.
They can see no one older than themselves.
It’s their river. They’ve got all day.
Seeing’s not everything. At this very
moment the middle-aged are kissing
in the backs of taxis, on the way
to airports and stations. Their mouths and tongues
are soft and powerful and as moist as ever.
Their hands are not inside each other’s clothes
(because of the driver) but locked so tightly
together that it hurts: it may leave marks
on their not of course youthful skin, which they won’t
notice. They too may have futures.
A Seventh Poem for Today
By Michelle Boisseau
A child started to cough and didn’t last
the night. Lightning razed the barn.
The gate rotted and livestock trampled
the mustard greens. In the hallways
of rooming houses they waited their turn
for the bathtub. May I put on a light?
Pass the potatoes, please.
When our great-grandparents, the merchants,
posed at their dry-goods counters
in darned stockings and remarkable mustaches,
it hadn’t been invented yet. Sure, the sisters
in the kitchen laughed till they cried,
their raw hands clutching at each other,
when the rooster perched on the parlor window
to accompany Aunt Florence in a hymn,
but their smiles floated in the moment,
mild lightning bugs, not lightning
we would learn to aim with camera,
lipstick, and dentistry. In Collier’s
a tidal wave of hair, coy tilt of the head
and there it was, the Great American Smile
with a Coca-Cola. Before long the President
was walking softly, carrying a big smile.
When you’re smiling, let your smile
be your umbrella, chorus lines of teeth relayed
at the Picture Show, the mascot, a cheery mouse
who sang in a tin can. Around classrooms
teachers hung big grins of construction paper:
Dare to Dream. Reach for the Stars.
Roll out the big plans for this town. Big trucks,
big backhoes forging piles of yellow clay
with snappy signage. Our greatness,
began the Senator, our greatness. He
pushed up his sleeves at a stack of pancakes
and launched a grin like a rocket ship
and jets blinked across the sky. Rain fell.
Snow covered the roads and wind worked the fields
where once in a while a farmhouse crouched,
creaking and sighing, thin windows whistling
as someone looked out, provident and hardy.
Musings in Winter: Stephen Markley
American Art – Part IV of V: Don Dahlke
An Eighth Poem for Today
By Li-Young Lee
The birds don’t alter space.
They reveal it. The sky
never fills with any
leftover flying. They leave
nothing to trace. It is our own
in chill air. Be glad.
They equal their due
moment never begging,
and enter ours
without parting day. See
how three birds in a winter tree
make the tree barer.
Two fly away, and new rooms
open in December.
Give up what you guessed
about a whirring heart, the little
beaks and claws, their constant hunger.
We’re the nervous ones.
If even one of our violent number
could be gentle
long enough that one of them
found it safe inside
our finally untroubled and untroubling gaze,
who wouldn’t hear
what singing completes us?
Musings in Winter: Mary Butts
“All night the earth and the heavens followed their usual arrangements. Stars passed: an immense tide hung over them. A silent sea raced back with the sun, its wave turn-over small, delicate and comfortless. The most glorious of all stars hung above the sun’s threshold and went out. An hour later the sun governed the earth again, mist-chasing, flower-opening, bird-rousing, ghost-driving, spirit-shepherding back out the various gates of sleep.”
A Ninth Poem for Today
By Ted Kooser
He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.
A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall
papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves
covered with oilcloth, and they had a child,
says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.
Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves
and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.
It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.
Something went wrong, says the empty house
in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields
say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.
And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard
like branches after a storm-a rubber cow,
a rusty tractor with a broken plow,
a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.
American Art – Part V of V: Elizabeth Allen-Cannon