Saturday, December 29, 2007
Below is some of what Rebecca Purdom says about abstraction. It makes the most sense to me about the meaning of abstraction of anything I have ever read. Mostly people want pictures to be recognizable and if you try to explain to them about an arrangement of squares that you find very moving, they giggle. So this pleased me very much.
"We’re so good at judging, it comes so naturally, that it’s easy to see why looking at abstraction, which offers absolutely no clues whatsoever as to what to do next, can be such a challenge. But that challenge is, in fact, abstract paintings greatest gift. The kind of seeing it promotes is something we can all do; we just don’t get the opportunity to do it very often.
I’ll bet that every one of you has had the experience sometime in your life of looking at something so marvelous that, for just an instant, you’d forgotten yourself enough to not act. Fot just that instant you were not in charge; the experience itself somehow was. The pursuit of that kind of experience is what I think turns painters into abstract painters, and the awareness of it turns all of us into better audiences for abstraction in particular and for art in general."
Rebecca Purdum in the newest New England Review:Vol 28, no 4, 2007. p175-6
"For about a year I couldn’t use yellow. It seemed as if the smallest amount would take over and smother whatever I was working on. I knew I couldn’t go on avoiding it so I decided to paint with nothing but yellow. There were about four or five of those paintings. I called out what turned out to be the last one Pins and Needles, because even though it was all yellow, it wasn’t anymore. It was paint.
I think the experience of color is like being at the seashore, spending all your time watching the waves crash on the rocks. The feelings colors produce in us are like those pounding waves, never at reat, always crashing around. At some point, however, you look up from all that turmoil and you sense the depth of the ocean itself, and see the endless horizon marking the infinite sky above. That vast uneasy calm is the unchanging yet unspecific emotion that paint produces. Feelings change, colors change, but the emotion, the paint, is constant."
A new year is coming; the holidays are over. It is time to think about art!
I missed posting the last two days, on the first one, the satellite ISP failed and on the second electricity. Both were gone only a short time, but it was blog time. Rats!
We drove back on a highway we hadn't used before: through valley rice fields. We saw lots of white geese, egrest, hawks and blackbirds and quite a few ducks. It was lightly raining and the hawks were mostly hunched in roadside trees. Also a kingfisher on a wire. Yes!
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
The toyon berries were a nice as I have seen them--on large bushes and in great abundance at the lower elevations. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I am reading Father Fox's Pennyrhymes, for sure!
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
The Chinese pistache trees along the street have produced a splendid crop of red berries this year. Now that the leaves are gone, they show up beautifully. I have been watching for something great--like a flock of cedar waxwings, or the mixed feeding flocks I see every year in November and December; they are one of the delights of living in this climate. But so far, nothing. Often they come after rain, and there hasn't been much this year. We are al worried about the weather, and wonder about the Sierra snow pack and our water needs.
red pistache berries--
finch, woodpecker, yellow-rump
I have also seen in these flocks: flickers, robins, sapsuckers, and warblers too swift to identify. I love to show birds to my grandchildren.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
So here is one for this season.
Human, Avian, Vegetable, Blood
Today, three days before Christmas
I had planned to cut some berries
From the toyon bush in the yard.
For three years it has not done well.
This is the first year it produced
A decent crop. But this morning
A flock of thirty migrating
Robins appeared. And before noon
Every berry had been eaten.
This year we will buy our foliage
As usual. And the symbols
Of incarnate flesh we tended
All year will be flying, mingled
With pale hot bird blood, high over
The barren Mexican mountains.
by Kenneth Rexroth
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
We are often away now when the fruit comes on. As for fruit preservation, we got a little discouraged and few years back. We had frozen a lot of plums and cut up apples, in just the right amount for the pies S likes to bake. The garage cat knocked the freezer plug out of the socket and the resultant thawed and rotten mess was useless, smelly and hard to dispose of.
But each spring, even an old apple tree, uncared for, the kind that grows by the roadside and produces only wormy nubbins for fruit, gives us these gorgeous blossoms tinged with pink.
Overhead the moon is beam-ing
White as blossoms on the bough.
Noth-ing is heard but the song of a bird
Filling all the air with dreaming
Would my heart but still its beating
Only you can tell it how. Be-love-ed.
From your window give me gree-ting
I swear my eternal vow
Then I thought about my singing lessons. And it was just as my brother Robert had said, you seize the end of a piece of memory string and pull and more and more string pulls out; you wind up with a pile of string. That memory thread is part of the title of this blog. The name of my music teacher was Mrs. Newkirk, after a while I seemed to remember that her first name must have been Louise. Somewhere we used to have a newspaper clipping about her and her European music education, pupil of a pupil of a pupil of Liszt?
Mrs. Newkirk was a tiny buxom woman, who wore a great strand of knotted pearls, and the under part of whose upper arms hung down and wobbled frantically as she played. These flaccid arms were fascinating and horrible to me then; now I have similar ones.
She charged $1 per lesson. Many of us took piano lessons from her, but I took singing lessons. I remember going in to Schenectady from the Farm for the lessons, but I also have a very vivid memory of my mother taking lessons along with us when she was hugely pregnant with Marjory in 1949, the year before we moved to The Farm, and playing in a children’s recital in a dark blue dress with tiny white polka dots. The soft drape of the material, I think it was rayon, followed the pregnancy lump with too great an accuracy for my Junior High mind.
Many of the songs I learned were in a book called Art Songs, with a cover of pale yellow paper. I liked them, the predictable chords, the emphasized and romantic words; it never bothered me that they weren’t “popular” at the time. Then I remembered other songs I sang. There was nothing modern about my repertoire, which she must have settled on just after the Great War. I learned: Who is Sylvia, Florian’s Song (if there’s a shepherd in your valley, . .) and many others which I remembered last night and have lost again, although I think I still have the book in a box of music. I thought about getting up in the middle of the night to blog, but everything was so vivid, with more and more detail, that I just kept on thinking. When I married, Mrs. Newkirk sent three silver serving pieces with a very pretty sort of Art Nouveau swirl and a flower on the handles, There was a large silver spoon, a fork and a gravy ladle. I still have them in my silver chest. Perhaps I still have too many things, but tomorrow morning I am going to sing an art song in the shower.
Monday, December 17, 2007
A large yellow mulberry leaf just fell outside the kitchen window. In the darkness, it caught light as it passed through the light from the kitchen window; then it disappeared. A sort of leaf-meteor. Snug indoors, I am reminded of all that is outdoors. The last of the Mexicola avocadoes are falling from very high up on the tree. The one I picked up today was so deliciously ripe, that the bottom had flattened some upon impact. I can't believe how wintery it feels, when only a few moments ago it felt like Indian Summer.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Today, on XM Radio (I love XM Radio, but that's another post!) they played a Schubert Impromptu, the one that begins suddenly going down in pitch, like a waterfall. On the day of the memorial recital, the tiniest child, a girl of perhapa six years of age, with a waterfall of straight black hair held back from her face by a clip, marched up to the piano and attacked the waterfall of notes with a crisp professional competence. All the children played very competently, but she was spectacular, and so tiny. I have never forgotten that time, and that music, and I am always pleased to encounter that Schubert again. We named our annual haiku contest after Kiyoshi.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Whys do people make art? As with the making of poetry there seem to be a lot of makers and not enough takers. Yet the urge to try to pin something to the page, the paper or the canvas is a strong one. Very little of these making will survive, yet we choose archival materials and frame things under expensive glass.
Today a huge new Dick Blick catalog came in the mail. Such gorgeous, plummy smooth colors. Yesterday I read about a new kind of archival colored leads with a special holder. I looked them up on the internet and they cost $150 for a set of 18 colors. They had better be pretty special.
Only a few more shopping days until Christmas.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Today, the man who knows how to do everything finished up the bathroom, but found a couple more small things to fix and will come back on Monday. His surgery is a week from today and is very worrisome. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tonight we watched a documentary about Tony Kushner. While I wasn't thinking about him, Maurice Sendak has become almost as old as I am. When I first worked in a library, my boss, Joyce J, was so proud because she had voted FOR Where the Wild Things Are and ordered copies for the Arlington Branch Library (AB, are you still there? in your corner location?) when the head of children's services thought it was stupid and too scary. Then it won the Caldicott that year. Maurice was just a young fellow then, in the early 60's.
After that, there was a riot near the library and I saw mounted police pushing a small crowd back. The horses were those beautiful big chestnuts that police use. Huge. And the people moved back obediently. See how memory works?? And what use are these reminiscences? Good night.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Bathroom work almost done:
the workman kills the shower mold
Sleep tight, Santa comes soon. . .
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Saturday, December 08, 2007
I heard from a descendent of my great-grandfather Lemuel Hardison Redd today. (These people are not rare, because he had plural wives, in the 19th Century plural-wife times.) She had seen a picture of him I put up on Flickr. But when I answered her email, her provider msn.com bounced back my message. Kathy Graf, where are you???
Thursday, December 06, 2007
All around me people are getting terrible news about their cancers. Tonight I feel very lucky.
Luck is a white rose hanging over a brick path. Good night.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
Tonight I put together a swivel chair that we bought at Office Max. It had the base, four leather upholstered parts, a handful of screws, a central iron piece and a lift mechanism. All the screws had to be tightened with an Allen wrench that came with it. I hope it will be a good chair for Scott to sit in since he hurt his back and he is having trouble finding comfortable positions. We'll probably get a glass table to put the laptop on, too. Now we BOTH sit about in the evening and fiddle with laptops, looking up stuff on Wikipedia. It is great fun, and uses up all sorts of time that one might be doing something productive. . .
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Saturday, December 01, 2007
So even this low defintion item is very interesting to me. I scanned it on a visit to my mother's place. I like having these things on Flickr, so I can access them anywhere,
Here is an excellent poem by Thomas Hardy which first appeared in print at the tail end of the nineteenth century. It seems like a long time ago to my single life.
The Darkling Thrush
I leant upon a coppice gate When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
Friday, November 30, 2007
I have been thinking a lot about material possessions. For me a great deal of memory and old narratives inheres in the things I have. This photograph, for instance, came to me when my mother's younger sister moved to much smaller living space. She dismantled her photo albums, and sent the photos to where she thought they would be most appreciated or usefui. This came with a small envelope mosly filled with pictures of me before I was five or six. (Susan was born when I was almost four.) The envelope represented a slice of time from about 1935-1941. Since the photos were all loose, they were easy to scan, and I scanned them almost at once. In this way, they went to the head of the line in the scanning projects that I hope to do, which includes a childhood album with many of the same pictures, or pictures taken at the same time as well as the whole era of my children from about 1956-1985 or so. Most of this is on slides and represents new equipment needed, planning and a significant investment of time. We won't deal here with whether there is any need (or demand) for these digital archives--this project is almost totally motivated by my wishing to work with the resulting images and making them into little narratives of their own, or perhaps having them to use in collages and other art work.
The crease in the upper right reminds me that this picture was sent from Scotia, New York to family in Mesa, Arizona. The copy in my baby book has been protected and has no crease, so the crease is part of the history. There is also a note on the back of the picture in my mother's striking and individual handwriting about Susan's progress. (She was a premature child and had already been hospitalized for scarlet fever.) I remember that when I was taken to see her in the hospital, we could look at her through a window, because she was in isolation. Associated with this is a memory of a small pink toy pig in a wire cradle. It was about 3 inches long and was made of some sort of plaster or chalky material with a shiny pink coating that peeled off. Later I used the pig like sidewalk chalk to draw hopscotch games on the sidewalk of First Street.. It wasn't suitable for an infant, so I must have gotten it about that time, even though I seem to remember it was hers and I wanted it--but I have tried many times to remember more than this, because the pig is so strongly connected in my memory with that visit to the window of the isolation ward. But this is all I have been able to recall.
The striped chair was slipcovered by my mother, the stripes were a dark coral on a cream ground. The sofa she did was done in the same pattern in brown stripes. These stripes appear in many photographs of this time, particularly at Christmas, which took place in the living room. Mother was proud of the workmanship in these slipcovers, which featured a beautiful even piping, inserted in the seams, and fitted the furniture without a wrinkle.
So, this one small photo reminds me of my own childhood, my sister's illness, my Aunt Louise, my mother's sewing skills and my baby sister. The slipcovers are gone, but if I had a piece of the fabric, that, too, would be precious to me.
Which brings me to a central question: in this time when people are being bombed out or driven from their homes, or cannot find work there to sustain themselves; when floods, tornado or fire takes away everything a family possesses in a few moments, how silly am I to remember, and treasure, the feel of a small pink chalk pig in my hand and the way he wore down--first his head, then his trunk--until only the tail end was left.
In the last couple of years, I notice more and more that bits and tags of language and song, or even just single, discrete words pop into my head for no reason. I can, and do, chase down the rest of the song or poem, or the definition or origin of a word through my beloved Google.
These bits and sounds--my father singing Annie Laurie--will vanish when I do, or even before. What we remember, why we remember, the uses of memory, the gathering and organization of family relics, these things interest me. I just bought The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker, which I am hoping will deal with some of these issues. I haven’t started to read it yet. Good night.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
We saw the tail end of an Ovation show about Goya narrated by that neat art snob, Robert Hughes, tonight. We had seen the whole show before, but the detailed views of so many paintings make it one I could view many times over. Thinking about Goya--his deafness, his joy and renewal when he escaped from the Spanish court, his mighty etchings telling truths about war and the strong and terrifying dark paintings painted on the walls of one of his late residences--is really to think about art, the uses of art and the human spirit. Good night.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
This was made with my first digital camera and I have used versions of it in many different ways. I like the variety of shapes. I don't suppose you need to know that the blue shapes in the lower left corner are the end of a black lab who walked into the photo, but that's the truth. This dog is a very important member of my son's family and I am pleased that he is there.
Today we took our Wolfi to the vet to have his anal gland expressed. If you don't know about this doggy medical problem, be thankful and don't ask! We got some frozen yoghurt on the wayhome--served by a very slow girl who gave HUGE servings as if to compensate for her lack of speed.
Today I found a web site with lost of information on collage and any beautiful collages. Here is her list of artist's block tips, but the whole blog is very interesting. Her list of collage and art links looks like it might keep my interested for weeks. Check it out!
Monday, November 26, 2007
The first summer we were here we raised 200 chickens. We ordered male chicks and "caponized" them with a hormone pellet injected (with a small razor-sharp tool with a hollow tube for the cylindrical pellet) under the skin of the neck. I don't think this is done any more for obvious reasons. We discarded the necks, but I have wondered if that was good enough precaution. I cleaned every one of those chickens for the freeezer that summer--we skinned instead of plucking) Those chickens had the best succulence and flavor of any I have ever tasted.
There are eight million stories, even in the country. This has been one of them.
Friday, November 23, 2007
I am thankful for our environmental protection agencies, such as: The National Resources Defense Council; The Nature Conservancy and the many local and regional groups that are working desperately hard to try to preserve natural places, plants and animals, including us, from the many threats that face us all.
I am grateful for the help I have had from poetry and art teachers. I am extremely grateful for the love and understanding of my brother Robert and my friend Paul who encouraged me in my writing. I am thankful for all the people I have met in writing, haiku and art groups. They have made my life very rich.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I love flowers, photography and computers. I've got my eye on a camera modified to take infrared-type pictures, and my new printer is on the way via UPS. Also reading, painting and writing.
There are other things not to be thankful for in this world. But not today. Happy Thanksgiving.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tomorrow we get ready for a simplified T Day with just the two of us. It will be slightly festive, but simplified.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Here I am (far right) with all my brothers and sisters in 1953. Our fabled farmhouse (built 1840-1860) was without heat when we moved in and had one faucet (the sink drained into a milk can) and a few bare hanging lightbulbs. We used to bathe in a tub we filled with the hose running upstairs and then warmed with stove-heated kettles of hot water. I got to bathe first, thankfully, then Susan, then the boys in a group. Little Marjory got her own purer baby bath.
There were rotten potatoes in the cellar that had grown long sprouts. There were rats and mice. We called it The Farm. My parents bought me two $75-dollar horses, Sis and Cindy. They gave us $10 off on Sis, a roan, after we bought Cindy, a sturdy red-brown horse with a black mane and tail. Both horses were with foal.
This place is the basis for much of our family folklore. I lived here less than three years, then went away to college, marriage and the rest of my life. But my brothers spent some fine years here and we still love to think about the 140 acres and barns that went with the place. My sister (light dress, next to me) went back recently to visit, and sent me a photograph, which inspired this trip down Memory Lane.
My parents moved to Ohio from here in 1957 and I have never been back, nor attended a high school reunion. I have heard that the US government spruces that we planted have turned our pasture into a piney woods. I am afraid it would make me deeply sad to return.
Behind us, and downhill, is the Mohawk River and on the other side is the GE Research Lab where a lot of our friends worked in the 1940s and 1950s. It's a very different world now, I sewed the skirt (dark rose color) and blouse (sheer with tiny flowers) I am wearing and used the blouse pattern (it had three pretty tucks across the front) to make more blouses to take to college. I made lots of similar skirts without a pattern.
My adored youngest brother, Robert, (second from left) died almost ten years ago. I will always miss him. It doesn't seem so long ago that this picture was taken, but it has been more than fifty years. We were still absorbing, then, the knowledge of the atom bomb, and had never heard anything about a place called Viet Nam. We did not yet have a TV, although some people we knew did. And since we lived near Schenectady, there were good channels we didn't get to watch. America at midcentury in New York State. one family, dressed for church and lining up to have a picture taken.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
Marilyn throws away stuff all the time. I have to admit I was slightly inspired to throw away a garbage bag or two full. But I ordered another book from Amazon and waited for the spasm to pass. Tomorrow I have a get-together with friends all day. Maybe I can closet-weed next week.
This picture (which reminds me of a pueblo) is simplified from one I took in Wolverine, MI, juat after the goat-packing demonstration. See October 14, 2007 in this blog for more about goat-packing.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
This morning I was finishing the New Yorker that came yesterday instead of starting on my planned productive tasks of the day.
I had a strange experience reading this: for a fraction of a moment, when reading
“. . . why they are in Iraq:” I felt that we were NOT in Iraq, that the decision was still to be made. I felt a lifting, a bliss, surely my country wouldn’t go so wrong. It lasted less than a minute, I am sure, but it was a very powerful feeling and I certainly missed it when I had to relinquish it.
And now we have been in Iraq on murky excuses for years and no resolution in sight. I am grateful every day that my sons are too old, but two of my grandsons are 19 and 21 and thus just ripe if the draft were reinstated. I have the greatest love and pity for those psrents whose sons have died or been maimed in this conflict. I wish for the restoration of the moral footing of my country every day.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
When we got home I was surprised at many things I had forgotten, since most of the work was done just before we left at the end of the first week in May. The first time I went up the stairs, I was thrilled all over again. It's quite nice to be home but there is a lot of reshuffling, closet cleaning and rehanging of pictures to be done.
See here for another use of the Nik copper filter.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
This afternoon, on the way home, I traveled through high western lands in Idaho, Oregon and Nevada. I thought often of Jim, whose haiku name was Ouzel, that little water bird who harvests his meals at the bottom of flowing streams.
rabbitbrush seed clusters
their ghostly pallor
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
We will remember how he brought a basket of smooth stones for us to feel and hold and look at carefully. we will remember his yearly haibun which he read at our Holiday gathering. Most of all we will remember his understanding thoughfulness in conversation. Good night, Jim. Rest peacefully.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
This motel is very clean, but quite old--we are trying to figure out when it was built. S thinks maybe "before the War" (WWII). The bathroom is very tiny, with a very low toilet and an extremely low showerhead. I had to duck my head over to rinse off the shampoo!
Yesterday we listened to I Puritani all three discs. Recorded in 1972 with Sutherland and Pavarotti. I got the CD set used and it was still expensive. As we rode, I read about Bellini's life and early death. Just after the great success of this opera, he got a dysentery. He seemed to recover several times and was being cared for by friends at their estate outside Paris. They had some fear of cholera, and kept his friends away, by means of their officious gateman. On the day of the composer's death, a friend was turned away by this gateman earlier in the day. He came back later and the gateman was not there, so he went into the house and up to Bellini's bedroom, where his friend was in the bed. At first he thought Bellini was sleeping, then realized he was cold. This account left unanswered questions: Where was the gateman? Where were the hosts? Where? Why? A lonely death from the past. He was only 32 years old!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
It seems to me that the best part of America is being lost and we won't know that it is irretrievable until it is completely gone, leaving behind some videotapes that nobody has the equipment to play any more. The place you grew up and learned how to be a useful adult. The place you had to leave to find a good job and rarely go back to.
And now you have to lock your house and your car. You've lost track of the neighbors and schoolmates you knew all your life. No older guys are around who like to show kids like you were how to do things. A mechanic won't let you use his shop because of insurance restrictions. The dentist makes you give him your Visa card number before you get in the chair. Nobody knows your aunts and uncles. Or your grandmother. You've no place to grow anything and nothing to ride that doesn't use gasoline. And certainly no creek or woods for your kids to investigate, unless you are very lucky.
There are so many of these towns, Driving across the country is a way to see how many. Some names today: Oink Joint Road, Otter Tail River, Crow Wing County. And a town named Pillager. We are in Detroit Lakes in room 111 of a budget motel, yellow sections set in a grove of trees. So far, a train has gone by about every 15 minutes. Close and loud. I love it: another touch of the past.
Monday, October 29, 2007
This bridge is more beautiful than most works of art! If you visit the best birding locations around the Straits, you can also spy excellent views of the Bridge from all the points and bogs. Driving across, as we did today, it is clear that this is a no-pedestrian bridge--only sort of catwalks are there, not sidewalks as on the Golden Gate. Unlike the red-lead color of the GG, the ivory color of the suspension towers blends with, and is enhanced by, nature.
All along Highway 28, Highway 77 and Highway 2, the tamaracks (or larches) are turning yellow. Toward the end of the day, when there were hills and higher ground, there were some beautiful bright reddish ochre aspens. In the middle of the day, a large healthy-looking coyote crossed the road ahead of us. He was alert and focused, but not really in a hurry. He pricked up his signature ears and went through the roadside grass into the woods.
Brilliant sun all day, and room 231 at Days Inn in Hurley, WI, has wireless internet!!