From the Pacific Northwest – Part XLVII

The Hero of the Day: Punxsutawney Phil

A Poem for Today

“Lay Back the Darkness”
By Edward Hirsch

My father in the night shuffling from room to room
on an obscure mission through the hallway.

Help me, spirits, to penetrate his dream
and ease his restless passage.

Lay back the darkness for a salesman
who could charm everything but the shadows,

an immigrant who stands on the threshold
of a vast night

without his walker or his cane
and cannot remember what he meant to say,

though his right arm is raised, as if in prophecy,
while his left shakes uselessly in warning.

My father in the night shuffling from room to room
is no longer a father or a husband or a son,

but a boy standing on the edge of a forest
listening to the distant cry of wolves,

to wild dogs,
to primitive wingbeats shuddering in the treetops.

A Second Poem for Today

“To Her Body, Against Time”
By Robert Kelly

Long over, what’s on the tree
shivers. Sky hides behind
white-faced, giving flesh to branch,
a red leaf

or yellow far enough away,
what Broch called ‘‘the style
of old age,” simplified
of images,

lean in the perfection of the bough,
naked & half-undone. Clouds break,
rain against a hidden sun,
the form plain

A Third Poem for Today

“If You Get There Before I Do”
By Dick Allen

Air out the linens, unlatch the shutters on the eastern side,
and maybe find that deck of Bicycle cards
lost near the sofa. Or maybe walk around
and look out the back windows first.
I hear the view’s magnificent: old silent pines
leading down to the lakeside, layer upon layer
of magnificent light. Should you be hungry,
I’m sorry but there’s no Chinese takeout,
only a General Store. You passed it coming in,
but you probably didn’t notice its one weary gas pump
along with all those Esso cans from decades ago.
If you’re somewhat confused, think Vermont,
that state where people are folded into the mountains
like berries in batter. . . . What I’d like when I get there
is a few hundred years to sit around and concentrate
on one thing at a time. I’d start with radiators
and work my way up to Meister Eckhart,
or why do so few people turn their lives around, so many
take small steps into what they never do,
the first weeks, the first lessons,
until they choose something other,
beginning and beginning their lives,
so never knowing what it’s like to risk
last minute failure. . . .I’d save blue for last. Klein blue,
or the blue of Crater Lake on an early June morning.
That would take decades. . . .Don’t forget
to sway the fence gate back and forth a few times
just for its creaky sound. When you swing in the tire swing
make sure your socks are off. You’ve forgotten, I expect,
the feeling of feet brushing the tops of sunflowers:
In Vermont, I once met a ski bum on a summer break
who had followed the snows for seven years and planned
on at least seven more. We’re here for the enjoyment of it, he said,
to salaam into joy. . . .I expect you’ll find
Bibles scattered everywhere, or Talmuds, or Qur’ans,
as well as little snippets of gospel music, chants,
old Advent calendars with their paper doors still open.
You might pay them some heed. Don’t be alarmed
when what’s familiar starts fading, as gradually
you lose your bearings,
your body seems to turn opaque and then transparent,
until finally it’s invisible–what old age rehearses us for
and vacations in the limbo of the Middle West.
Take it easy, take it slow. When you think I’m on my way,
the long middle passage done,
fill the pantry with cereal, curry, and blue and white boxes of macaroni, place the
checkerboard set, or chess if you insist,
out on the flat-topped stump beneath the porch’s shadow,
pour some lemonade into the tallest glass you can find in the cupboard,
then drum your fingers, practice lifting your eyebrows,
until you tell them all–the skeptics, the bigots, blind neighbors,
those damn-with-faint-praise critics on their hobbyhorses–
that I’m allowed,
and if there’s a place for me that love has kept protected,
I’ll be coming, I’ll be coming too.

American Art – Part I of III: Manuel Garza

In the words of one writer, “One of the premier landscape artist of the Texas Hill Country working today, Manuel’s trademark Redbird (found in each painting), his exacting detail, down to the last flower or rock, make each spring or autumn landscape come alive with photographic realism.
Manuel is a self taught artist who has studied the works of Porforio Salinas and Robert Wood in the museums and galleries of Texas. His studio is filled with sketches and photos that result from the long hikes in the fields of bluebonnets in the spring, and from walks along the riverbanks in the fall as he looks for sightings of the Texas wildlife that appears so often in his paintings.”

Below – “Waiting/Snow Scene”; “Wolf”; “Longhorns in Wildflowers”; “Bluebonnet/Old Barn”; “Snow Rabbit”; “New Mexico Cottonwood.”

American Art – Part II of III: Jean-Claude Gaugy

In the words of one writer, “Born in 1944, young Gaugy heard his own call of independence and left his mountain village for Paris at age 14. There he survived by doing sketches in cafes and soon was invited by the owner of a lavish dining club to paint portraits of customers. During the day Gaugy pursued classical art studies at l’École des Beaux Arts, focusing on his great love of sculpture.
One night, renowned surrealist Salvador Dali entered the dining club and asked to see more of Gaugy’s art. Dali was so taken with what he saw that he arranged for a one-man exhibition of Gaugy’s paintings at the Gálerie de Seine in Paris. Soon Gaugy’s work was being shown in Brussels and Germany. The Soviet government purchased three of his large paintings at a group show at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, and the young artist was flown by consular jet to Moscow for museum installation of the works.
With a insatiable thirst for knowledge, Gaugy studied during the following years at a number of prestigious art schools in Paris, Rome, Germany and Moscow, as well as apprenticing in England with famed sculptor Henry Moore. In 1966 he immigrated to the United States, a move that led to the development of his trademark Linear Expressionist style.”

Below – “Passion De Natur”; “Un Couple Heureux”; “Bouquet D’Ete”; “Cascade Au Printemps”; “Recontre Dans Le Jardin”; “Apparition.”

American Art – Part III of III: James Shilaimon

In the words of one writer, “James Shilaimon is an embodiment of the self-taught artist who is continually searching for ways to express the artistic voice that has been with him his entire life. This inner voice has lead James to develop his artistry in several different mediums. Whether painting in oils or watercolor or sculpting in stone, James is always exploring ways to convey his stylized expression.
Growing up in Greece, the cradle of the Masters, you begin to understand this passion and some of the influence that has shaped as well as guided James and his creations. James is driven by a need to be honest with his creative voice and also to be recognized by his artistic peers for his artistry and his respect for those that came before him. James has spent a considerable amount of his artistic life pursuing commission work while developing his craft.”

Art for Winter – Part I of II: Milne Ramsey (American, 1847-1915)

Below – “Still Life with Copper Kettle and Herring”

Art for Winter – Part II of II; Henry Ward Ranger (American, 1858-1916)

Below – “Evening Sky”

Musings in Winter: Anneli Rufus

“Because loners are born everywhere, we end up living everywhere. We do not, have not, tended to single ourselves out as special, elite, requiring rarefied environments. Too often we have done the opposite; lived where we lived because our jobs were there, or families, or because we’d heard the schools were good there, or that we would love a place with changing seasons. Then, no matter what, we put our noses to the grindstone. We take living there as a fait accompli, a fact. Too often we are miserable somewhere without realizing why. We blame ourselves for not buckling down, settling in, fitting in. The problem is the place, but too often we do not see this, we will not allow ourselves to see this. It’s the same old thing: This is a friendly town, so what’s your problem?
…To the non-loner, or the self-reproaching loner, the fact of being a loner is not comparable to those other determinants. It is not a matter of life and death, we tell ourselves. It its not a matter of breathing or of execution by stoning. But home is the crucible of living…So how can living not be a matter of life and death?”

Musings in Winter: Neil Gaiman

“Few of us have seen the stars as folk saw them then – our cities and towns cast too much light into the night – but, from the village of Wall, the stars were laid out like worlds or like ideas, uncountable as the trees in a forest or the leaves on a tree.”

Musings in Winter: Ernest Hemingway

“The gypsies believe the bear to be a brother to man because he has the same body beneath his hide, because he drinks beer, because he enjoys music and because he likes to dance.”

Musings in Winter: Shannon A. Thompson

“I leaned out one last time and caught a snowflake on my tongue. They tasted so good, so pure and so divine, like nothing I had ever tasted from the sky. It was as if happiness spread through your body with the cold, but then disappeared and brought depression, all in less then two seconds. It was unbelievable, and yet, addicting.”

Musings in Winter: Theodore Roethke

“A wave of Time hangs motionless on this particular shore.
I notice a tree, arsenical grey in the light, or the slow
Wheel of the stars, the Great Bear glittering colder than snow,
And remember there was something else I was hoping for.”

Musings in Winter: Cormac McCarthy

“How does a man decide in what order to abandon his life?”

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