American Art – Part I of IV: Wanda Westberg
In the words of one writer, “Wanda Westberg, a Berkeley artist, has established a reputation as one of the Bay Area’s fine traditional plein-air landscape painters. Growing up in the Midwest with its unpredictable weather and changeable seasons, she is content to paint outdoors, continuing in the tradition of the early California impressionists. Bringing her oil paints and canvas out where the fresh air carries the sounds and scents of a rural scene, the clouds shift in color and shape, and the hills are still scattered with native oaks, she captures the fleeting moods of color and light of familiar northern California. Point Reyes, China Camp, Marin Headlands, Tilden Park and Briones Valley are all favorite places where she paints ‘alla prima’ the quickly changing scenes she sees before her.”
Born 10 March 1841 – Ina Donna Coolbrith, American poet, writer, librarian, the first California Poet Laureate, and the first poet laureate of any state.
Ina Donna Coolbrith was part of the San Francisco Bay Area literary community. She was acquainted with Bret Harte and Joaquin Miller (whom she helped attain global fame as the “Poet of the Sierras”), and her poetry received positive reviews from Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, and Alfred Lord Tennyson.
Through rifts of cloud the moon’s soft silver slips;
A little rain has fallen with the night,
Which from the emerald under-sky still drips
Where the magnolias open, broad and white.
Musings in Winter: Virginia Woolf
A Poem for Today
By Ron Padgett
the way you think it is
going to be.
Take this little flower
from me, and let it go
into the way you think of it.
And so it grows
and is the face
of Daisy the cow speaking,
she my young grandma
growing and wearing
a pink slip and who fell
from the sky that was
clear blue and pure
all over the place
you called home
as it moved out
from under you
in the slow
rotation of the sphere
you call a star,
a flower, a mind.
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman, African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War, who died 10 March 1913.
Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman escaped to freedom in Philadelphia and soon thereafter helped establish the Underground Railroad. Tubman also assisted John Brown in recruiting men for his raid on Harper’s Ferry, and in the post-war era she campaigned on behalf of women’s suffrage.
Some quotes from Harriet Tubman:
“I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.”
“If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more.”
“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”
“I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.”
“I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything. The sun came up like gold through the trees, and I felt like I was in heaven.”
“Quakers almost as good as colored. They call themselves friends and you can trust them every time.”
“I grew up like a neglected weed – ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it.”
Musings in Winter: Jack Kerouac
“If it is true that cowardice is the most grave vice, then the dog, at least, is not guilty of it.” – Mikhail Bulgakov, Russian writer, playwright, and author of the satirical novel “The Master and Margarita,” who died 10 March 1940.
Some quotes from the work of Mikhail Bulgakov:
“But would you kindly ponder this question: What would your good do if evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared? After all, shadows are cast by things and people. Here is the shadow of my sword. But shadows also come from trees and living beings. Do you want to strip the earth of all trees and living things just because of your fantasy of enjoying naked light? You’re stupid.”
“Kindness. The only possible method when dealing with a living creature. You’ll get nowhere with an animal if you use terror, no matter what its level of development may be. That I have maintained, do maintain and always will maintain. People who think you can use terror are quite wrong. No, no, terror is useless, whatever its colour – white, red or even brown! Terror completely paralyses the nervous system.”
“And at midnight there came an apparition in hell. A handsome dark-eyed man with a dagger-like beard, in a tailcoat, stepped onto the veranda and cast a regal glance over his domain. They used to say, the mystics used to say, that there was a time when the handsome man wore not a tailcoat but a wide leather belt with pistol butts sticking out from it, and his raven hair was tied with scarlet silk, and under his command a brig sailed the Caribbean under a black death flag with a skull and crossbones.
But no, no! The seductive mystics are lying, there are no Caribbean Seas in the world, no desperate freebooters to sail them, no corvette chases after them, no cannon smoke drifts across the waves. There is nothing, and there was nothing! There is that sickly linden over there, there is the cast-iron fence, and the boulevard beyond it…And the ice is melting in the bowl, and at the next table you see someone’s bloodshot, bovine eyes, and you’re afraid, afraid…Oh, gods, my gods, poison, bring me poison!”
“Everything passes away – suffering, pain, blood, hunger, pestilence. The sword will pass away too, but the stars will remain when the shadows of our presence and our deeds have vanished from the Earth. There is no man who does not know that. Why, then, will we not turn our eyes toward the stars? Why?”
Musings in Winter: John Grogan
“In a dog’s life, some plaster would fall, some cushions would open, some rugs would shred. Like any relationship, this one had its costs. They were costs we came to accept and balance against the joy and amusement and protection and companionship he gave us.”
A Second Poem for Today
By Richard Levine
Each night, in a space he’d make
between waking and purpose,
my grandfather donned his one
suit, in our still dark house, and drove
through Brooklyn’s deserted streets
following trolley tracks to the bakery.
There he’d change into white
linen work clothes and cap,
and in the absence of women,
his hands were both loving, well
into dawn and throughout the day—
kneading, rolling out, shaping
each astonishing moment
of yeasty predictability
in that windowless world lit
by slightly swaying naked bulbs,
where the shadows staggered, woozy
with the aromatic warmth of the work.
Musings in Winter: Banana Yoshimoto
“When was it I realized that, on this truly dark and solitary path we all walk, the only way we can light is our own? Although I was raised with love, I was always lonely.
Someday, without fail, everyone will disappear, scattered into the blackness of time.”
10 March 1831 – King Louis-Philippe establishes the French Foreign Legion, and here is one of the Legion’s finest moments:
Musings in Winter: Lin Yutang
A Third Poem for Today
“The Night of the Snowfall”
By Mo H. Saidi
Snow falls gently in the Hill Country
covering the meadows and the valleys.
The sluggish streaks of smoke climb quietly
from the roofs but fail to reach the lazy clouds.
On Alamo Plaza in the heart of the night
and under the flood of lights, the flakes float
like frozen moths and glow like fireflies.
They drop on the blades of dormant grass.
Though he is undeniably a pop-culture hero, Chuck Norris is nearly always wrong in his social, intellectual, and political views. To cite three examples of his foolish opinions, he is anti-gay, anti-evolution, and pro-Mike Huckabee.
Some “facts” about Chuck Norris:
“The Great Wall of China was originally created to keep Chuck Norris out. It failed miserably.”
“Chuck Norris’ tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried. Ever.”
“Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.”
“If you can see Chuck Norris, he can see you. If you can’t see Chuck Norris, you may be only seconds away from death.”
“Chuck Norris does not hunt because the word hunting implies the probability of failure. Chuck Norris goes killing.”
“In fine print on the last page of the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ it notes that all world records are held by Chuck Norris, and those listed in the book are simply the closest anyone else has ever gotten.”
“Chuck Norris once roundhouse kicked someone so hard that his foot broke the speed of light, went back in time, and killed Amelia Earhart while she was flying over the Pacific Ocean.”
“Chuck Norris sold his soul to the devil for his rugged good looks and unparalleled martial arts ability. Shortly after the transaction was finalized, Chuck roundhouse-kicked the devil in the face and took his soul back. The devil, who appreciates irony, couldn’t stay mad and admitted he should have seen it coming. They now play poker every second Wednesday of the month.”
“There is no theory of evolution, just a list of creatures Chuck Norris allows to live.”
“Chuck Norris has two speeds: Walk and Kill.”
“Contrary to popular belief, America is not a democracy, it is a Chucktatorship.”
Musings in Winter: Dorothy Thompson
From the Music Archives: E. Power Biggs
Died 10 March 1977 – E. Power Biggs, British-born American concert organist and recording artist. Few organists have played the music of Johann Sebastian Bach as brilliantly as E. Power Biggs.
American Art – Part II of IV: Bob Clyatt
Here is how one critic describes the artistry of sculptor Bob Clyatt : “(He) grew up roaming the countryside of Northern California, ending up studying art at UC Berkeley in the 70s. Absorbing the zeitgeist of that time and place created a desire for fusion in Bob’s work – ancient and contemporary, organic and technological. Using clay as his central medium connects Bob to the
oldest art-making traditions, and he uses a range of vehicles such as assemblage and the introduction of modern materials and gesture to bring about a fusion in the work and give it contemporary voice. Bob spent 8 years in formal study of sculpture, primarily at the Art Students League, and shows his work widely in New York. He lives and has his studio in Rye, NY.”
Musings in Winter: Philip K. Dick
“To live is to be haunted.”
“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” – Zelda Fitzgerald, American writer, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and author of “Save Me The Waltz,” who died 10 March 1948.
Writer Ring Lardner once uncharitably described F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, the “golden couple” of the 1920s, thusly: “Mr. Fitzgerald is a novelist and Mrs. Fitzgerald is a novelty.” Their relationship was, to put it mildly, tempestuous, and Zelda was a decidedly troubled individual, albeit a talented one.
The watercolor above is a self-portrait done by Zelda Fitzgerald sometime in the early 1940s.
Some quotes from the work of Zelda Fitzgerald:
“We grew up founding our dreams on the infinite promise of American advertising. I still believe that one can learn to play the piano by mail and that mud will give you a perfect complexion.”
“By the time a person has achieved years adequate for choosing a direction, the die is cast and the moment has long since passed which determined the future.”
“I don’t want to live. I want to love first, and live incidentally.”
“It is the loose ends with which men hang themselves.”
“Youth doesn’t need friends – it only needs crowds.”
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Mary M. Brown
The plastic army men are always green.
They’re caught in awkward poses,
one arm outstretched as if to fire,
legs parted and forever stuck on a swiggle
of support, as rigid and green as the boots.
This one has impressions of pockets,
a belt, a collar, a grip on tiny binoculars
intended to enlarge, no doubt, some
In back, attached to the belt is a canteen
or a grenade (it’s hard to tell). The helmet
is pulled down low, so as to hide the eyes.
If I point the arm, the gun, toward me,
I see that this soldier is very thin.
Musings in Winter: The Fourteenth Dalai Lama
10 March 1876 – Alexander Graham Bell utters the first words ever spoken on a telephone, when he made a call to his assistant Thomas Watson: “Mr. Watson–come here–I want to see you.”
From the American History Archives – Part II of II: A History of Violence – Sam Steele
10 March 1893 – New Mexico State University cancels its first graduation when authorities discover that the only person scheduled to graduate, Sam Steele, was robbed and killed the night before.
Musings in Winter: Gertrude Stein
Here is how one writer describes painter Claude Jammet: “(She) was born of French parents in Zimbabwe. She grew up and was educated in Kenya, India and Japan and moved to South Africa at the age of 19.”
Here is art dealer and friend Trent Read describing Jammet: “I have never met anyone who treads more lightly on the world, who consumes less resources and who, although gregarious at times, is essentially solitary and lives a fined down life shorn of inessentials. She does not drive a car and she still writes letters and, what is more, with a pen!
I am writing this brief essay in the Karoo – the harsh, beautiful and ancient dry heart of Southern Africa which is where, I believe, Jammet is most at home – walking for hours in the fierce heat or bitter cold amongst the fossils and succulents with her fragile beauty hiding a steel core of toughness – a paradox which is reflected so often in her work.”
Musings in Winter: Mary Oliver
“I wanted the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,
whoever I was, I was
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Debra Nystrom
Dream of Mom’s red parka gone—
someone stole it right out of the closet
of the burned-down house—what
good could it do anybody else, broken
zipper that always got caught,
she’d jimmy it loose, just part
of putting it on—and she was so tiny,
the arms too short even for me,
too-tiny gloves in the pockets, thumbs
stubby, practically useless to anyone
but her—they deserve it if they shove in
a hand, find the tissue she used and then
left there who knows which cold day,
what she needed it for, or why.
American Art – Part III of IV: Hsin-Yao Tseng
In the words of one writer, “Hsin-Yao Tseng was born in Taipei Taiwan in 1986. He was born to be an artist. At the age of ten, he began painting in watercolors, as well as other mediums. This activity at such an early age was self-inspired and self-taught. It gave Hsin-Yao insights into the foundation he would need to excel in producing work to the standards he expected.
The subjects he chooses to explore include landscapes, the figure and still-life using bright color and expressive brush-strokes. The word “explore” is chosen purposely to describe Hsin-Yao’s artistic drive and evolution as a fine artist. He will experiment with techinque using his medium to accentuate the intrinsic perosality of his subjects and themes. An urban scene will be expressed in a more organic, edgey manner causing him to use his medium in a bit more aggressive and spontaneous fashion, while a still-life might require a more gentle and cautious hand.”
A Sixth Poem for Today
“Winter Sunrise Outside a Café”
By Joseph Hutchinson
Near Butte, Montana
A crazed sizzle of blazing bees
in the word EAT. Beyond it,
thousands of stars have faded
like deserted flowers in the thin
light washing up in the distance,
flooding the snowy mountains
bluff by bluff. Moments later,
the sign blinks, winks dark,
and a white-aproned cook—
surfacing in the murky sheen
of the window—leans awhile
like a cut lily . . . staring out
Musings in Winter: Roald Dahl
“Life is more fun if you play games.”
Back from the Territory – Art: The work of Alaska artist Donald Gregory (Heedei)
In the words of one writer, “Donald Gregory is a Tlingit from Southeast Alaska. He is of the Raven Moiety and the Deisheetaan clan.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Musings in Winter: Jack Gilbert
“Waking At Night”
A Seventh Poem for Today
“A Garden’s End”
By Gabriel Welsch
Forsythia, scaled and bud-bangled,
I pruned to a thatch of leaves
for the curb, by the squirrel-gnawed
corn, silk strewn, kernels tooth carved
and husks shorn over the ground
pocked with paw prints.
The borers mashed the squash vine,
the drought tugged the roots of sage,
catmint languished by the sidewalk,
tools grew flowers of rust.
That winter we left our hope
beneath the snow, loved through the last
of the onions, watched the late leeks freeze
to crystal, bent like sedges, their shadows
on the snow. That winter we left
our hope beneath the snow.
Musings in Winter: Katsura Hoshino
American Art – Part IV of IV: F. Michael Wood
Artist Statement: “All subjects intrigue and inspire me, from the majestic to the commonplace: high mountain scenes to pebbles in a stream, animals and people, sea and sky, and everything in between. I am forever determined to comprehend and describe the confluent energy patterns of nature which work to bind seemingly disparate elements into one homogeneous whole. Nature is the master artist, and I merely an apprentice.”