Friday, August 01, 2014

Queen Anne's Lace

We took the dog out for a soft ice cream, and had one ourselves while we were at it. The Queen Anne's Lace is at its most beautiful now; this one is growing by our mailbox. It was a beautiful evening with soft rosy light.


Hope is with you when you believe
The earth is not a dream but living flesh,
That sight, touch and hearing do not lie,
That all things you have ever seen here
Are like a garden looked at from a gate.

You cannot enter. But you're sure it's there.
Could we but look more clearly and wisely
We might discover somewhere in the garden
A strange new flower and an unnamed star.

Some people say we should not trust our eyes.
That there is nothing, just a seeming,
These are the ones that have no hope.
They think that the moment we turn away,
The world, behind our backs, ceases to exist,
As if snatched up by the hands of thieves.

Czeslaw Milosz, 
from The World in Collected Poems (1931-2001) page 49.
This group of poems is simple and very appealing. It reminded me of the power of memory. The August project began today. I did set up outside and then paint for 30 minutes. I hope to add another 30 (I have a round timer shaped like a ladybug) minutes each day in August for memory poems modeled on these. His poems were written in 1943 in dark times in Poland, during the war. I am sure it made these early memories more powerful.

And we watched the setting sun across the highway as we ate our ice cream. Good night!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Two Blues

I have been thinking today about using this photo of Lake Superior last fall as the inspiration for a watercolor. Maybe use removable tape to keep the horizon so straight. And be sure to reserve the whites of the surf with a little preplanning. The soft-edged whites of the clouds should be easier to manage. The water is definitely a greeny-blue, like Thalo Blue Green Shade, and the sky looks like Ultramarine with a touch of red. The foreground and the darks should go in last and I might even use a Pitt pen for some of the twigginess of that tree. And things should be a little simplified. I might even try to do some different versions. I am planning to start my daily art project tomorrow. Today I definitely established that it is too windy to paint on the deck now. Maybe later in the summer when the weather changes and the air is still. (When it will probably be too hot. Given the state of the world today, I am glad to have only such minor problems right now.

I spent a lot more time with the Milosz Collected Poems (1931-2001) today. There is a whole section of early poems, The World, descriptions of childhood surroundings written in the middle of World War II, that are just about perfect--I plan to use many of them here, and to try some descriptions of my home in Scotia, New York from 1940-1950, if I can recall it in such concrete and useful detail.


Still one more year of preparation.
Tomorrow at the latest I'll start working on a great book
In which my century will appear as it really was.
The sun will rise over the righteous and the wicked,
Springs and autumns will unerringly return,
In a wet thicket a thrush will build his nest lined with clay
And foxes will learn their foxy natures,

And that will be the subject, with addenda. Thus: armies
Running across frozen plains, shouting a curse
In a many-voiced chorus; the cannon of a tank
Growing immense at the corner of a street; the ride at dusk,
Into a camp with watchtowers and barbed wire.

No, it won't happen tomorrow. In five or ten years
I still think too much about the mothers
And ask what is man born of woman.
He curls himself up and protects his head
While he is kicked by heavy boots; on fire and running,
He burns with bright flame; a bulldozer sweeps him into a clay pit.
Her child. Embracing a teddy bear. Conceived in ecstasy.

I haven't learned yet to speak as I should, calmly.

Czeslaw Milosz, Collected Poems; 1931-2001, page 429.
This poem is from his book Unattainable Earth, 1986.

Admire the motion of this poem. It contains much of the Twentieth Century in its single page. What a poet!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hold on while I find my camera!

Although he does have a couple of spikes (see them on his shadow?) this buck is still very small, as most of the deer here seem to be. I couldn't find the camera, so caught him with the iPad. He is the first deer I've seen this year and was already moving away as if he sensed me there, behind the window. Then far out in the bracken, I saw two little big-eared heads looking at me. So it was a three-deer morning.

Because the only customer I've had for the sunflower seeds has been a goldfinch, who keeps pushing them off the feeder in search of something more delectable, I got thistle seed today, and a new thistle-seed feeder--one of those with the insanely-fake yellow flowers made of plastic. But this afternoon, the goldfinch still was pushing sunflower seeds from the other feeder. In the woods, happily, there is always tomorrow, at least for two or three more months.

I have found more lovely poems today. It is nice to find some books with so many excellent things to choose from. For tonight, though, this short one from the Milosz book. It has been a somewhat tiring day.


The grass between the tombs is intensely green.
From steep slopes a view onto the bay,
Onto islands and cities below. The sunset
Grows garish, slowly fades. At dusk
Light prancing creatures. A doe and a fawn
Are here, as every evening, to eat flowers
Which people brought for their beloved dead.

Czeslaw Milosz, from 
New and Collected Poems (1931-2001) Ecco, 2001, page 526.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Light Leak

The days of loading cameras with film are mostly long gone.Although a few people (like the Brownie Camera Guy I follow on Twitter) are hanging in there. And sometimes (like tonight) when I feel a little blahhh, I can pretend I have just ruined most of a whole roll of film by using an app like Camerabag. Here is one result, looking at the aspens from my upstairs porch just today.

Big poetry news is that I have fallen in love with the many-faceted poetry of James Galvin, and through that, discovered two anthologies of farm poems: American and worldwide in translation. Galvin wrote the forward for one of them. I found some extraordinary poems today! Here is one of them from Galvin's collected poetry.


Evergreens have reasons
For stopping when they do,
At timberline or the clean edge
Of sage or prairie grass.
There are quantities of wind
They know they cannot cross.

They come down from the tundra
On waves of ridges and stop,
Staring out over open country,
Like pilgrims on the shore
Of an unexpected ocean.
The sky is still the sky, they know;
It won't understand ordinary language.

Meet my mother, twice removed,
Who could tell the time from stars.
She said everything is its own reward,
Grief, poverty, the last word.
Evening was her favorite time
And she walked along the shore of trees,
Carrying herself as if afraid
She might give herself away.
She called this being quiet.

Just inside the treeline, out of the wind,
Father built a handrail along the path.
She'd stand there like a sailor's wife
And stare at the high places as dark came on.
She said mountains may be islands
But the sky is still the sky.
She'd wait for the ranch lights
On the prairie to come out
Like a fallen constellation
She said waiting is its own reward,
The lights are only reasons.

James Galvin

from Resurrection Update: Collected Poems, 1975-1997
Copper Canyon Press, 1997, pages 71-72.

Lately I haven't been  fan of an initial capital letter on each line of a free-verse poem like this, regardless of where the sentences begin. But this poem ha made me change my mind. Look at the poetry of James Galvin; this is excellent and varied stuff!

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Baler

Summer. More of the beautiful hayfields in front 
of the majestic blue-violet of the mountains on our trip. 
This photo was taken from the car-in-motion.

Here is another of the hay poems I have been collecting. I think I only have one more left, though.

The Baler

You tourist composed upon that fence
to watch the quaint farmer at his quaint task
come closer, bring your camera here
or fasten your telescopic lens
if you're too indolent; all I ask
is that when you go home you take
a close-up among your color slides
of vacationland, to show we pay the price
for hay, this actual panic: no politic fear
but tumbling wild waves down the windrows, tides
of crickets, grasshoppers, meadow mice,
and half-feathered sparrows, whipped by a bleeding snake.

Hayden Carruth (1926-2008).
from Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991 (1992).

Sunday, July 27, 2014

House (Neruda)

The iPhone app that I used for this is called ToonPaint. When one takes a picture it renders things in this manner sort of like a faded color drawing. I think one might be able to manipulate the result but I usually like it the way it comes out. We are still neatening up this place in the Michigan woodlands, but also playing with our electronics now that we got the Invaluable Internet up and running. Usually S has the dachshund on his lap, but she decided to nap on the couch during this photo opp.

Here's a little more Neruda for tonight, and many other nights.


Perhaps this is the house in which I lived
when neither I, nor earth, existed,
when everything was moon, or stone, or shadow,
with the still light unborn.
This stone could then have been
my house, my windows, or my eyes.
This granite rose recalls
Something that lived in me, or I in it,
a cave, a universe of dreams inside the skull:
cup or castle, boat or birth.
I touch the rock's tenacious thrust,
its bulwark pounded in the brine
and I know that flaws of mine subsisted here,
wrinkled substances that surfaced
from the depths of my soul,
and stone I was, stone shall be, and for this
caress this stone which has not died for me:
it's what I was, and shall be---the tranquillity
of struggle stretched beyond the brink of time.

from Pablo Neruda; selected poems,a bilingual edition, edited by Nathaniel Tarn, HM, 1990, page 411

Notice the useful repetition of the word "stone" which is la piedra in Spanish. Also other words like granite and rock as well as castle and pounded carry forth this theme. Even the moon is rocky!

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Now, all along the edge of the meadow, a beautiful stand of timothy reminds me how my father taught me the word for this useful forage grass. So tonight, another hay poem. (I have found quite a few!)

At the Back of the North Wind

All summer's warmth was stored there in the hay;
Below, the troughs of water froze: the boy
Climbed nightly up the rungs behind the stalls
And planted deep between the clothes he heard
The kind wind bluster, but the last he knew
Was sharp and filled his head, the smell of hay.
Here wrapped within the cobbled mews he woke.
Passing from summer, climbing down through winter
He broke into an air that kept no season:
Denying change, for it was always there.
It nipped the memory numb, scalding away
The castle of winter and the smell of hay.

The ostlers knew, but did not tell him more
Than hay is what we turn to. Other smells,
Horses, leather, manure, fresh sweat, and sweet
Mortality, he found them on the North.
That was her sister, East, that shrilled all day
And swept the mews dead clean from wisps of hay.

Thom Gunn (1929-2004).
from The Sense of Movement, Faber & Faber, 1968.