Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Clouds, light, memory

Originally uploaded by jhhymas
The college class I took from him was called Oral Interpretation of Literature. I don't know if they would even offer such a class any more. It was a very interesting class and the preparation was not that difficult. I did well in it, since I enjoy speaking and love language. Once he complimented me on my "sincerity" which made me feel silly, because I had felt a little fakey. He used to sit in the rear, listening to our presentations with complete attention. It was impossible not to see that he was really quite beautiful. His hair was very dark, as were his eyes, his shoulders were very broad and his hips slender; his teeth were white and had sharp corners. When he lectured, tiny drops of spittle--propelled by his definitive plosives--sometimes struck a student in the front row.
I married that summer and didn't continue with school right away. Busy with two children, I changed my major to English, which did not require rehearsal time, as Drama had.
I thought of him last night and wished I had told him how much I enjoyed that class. By now, I thought he might be dead--1955 was a long time ago. But Lael J. Woodbury became a Dean and is still lecturing, recording spoken word records and so forth in Utah. Without Google, I never would have found out. Good night!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Redds on their Wedding day

Redds on their Wedding day
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
She was age 17. She was his first and, I think, only plural wife.They were the parents of my grandmother, Susan Elizabeth Redd Butler, who was born in 1880. I think of the 1880's as the magic generation because so many great artists and writers were born in the first half of that decade.
Take Antonio Porchia for instance, he was born in 1885 in Italy but moved with his mother to Argentina about 1900. Over his lifetime he wrote and published short epigrammatic poems of a particular distilled sensiblity in books he called Voces (Voices). About 250 of them were translated by W. S. Merwin into English and published by Big Table Press in a small book called Voices. They are really quite unlike anything else I know. Here is a small sample:
"I love you as you are, but do not tell me how that is."

"Everyone thinks that his things are not like all the things in the world. And that is why everyone keeps them."

"It is a long time now since I asked heaven for anything, and still my arms have not come down."

My writing group met tonight and had some fine discussions. I recommend you form a writing group if you can. It encourages and reminds one to write and revise.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

All the unliving I had loved were flying overhead

Originally uploaded by jhhymas

I entered another shelf of poetry books in Librarything today and reached the magic number of 3033. At least it seems magic. I think I am about half done. I've been putting some of the books into the storage locker, which means I might as well pass them on. But I want to enter them all first and see what I have. Working with my shelves today, I discovered some poets I had forgotten about. Miklos Radnoti is one I might mention. Here's a short sample in translation from the Hungarian:

Peace, Dread by Miklos Radnoti

I went out, closed the street door, and the clock struck ten,
on shining wheels the baker rustled by and hummed,
a plane droned in the sky, the sun shone, it struck ten,
I thought of my dead aunt and in a flash it seemed
all the unliving I had loved were flying overhead,
with hosts of silent dead the sky was darkened then
and suddenly across the wall a shadow fell.
Silence. The morning world stood still. The clock struck ten,
over the street peace floated: cold dread was its spell.

--translated by Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Frederick Turner

The stories of his life and death are riveting.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Oak Leaves on the trail

Oak Leaves on the trail
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
I'm still working on the ten-best lists. It is really fun! Here's a quote about the past, which fascinated Joseph Cornell. And which fascinates me, too, although now that I have experienced refrigeration, indoor plumbing, light for reading at night and antibiotics, I wouldn't really want to go back.

I like the word "hyacinthine"

To conjure, even for a moment, the wistfulness which is the past is like trying to gather the hyacinthine color of the distance. The past is only the present become invisible and mute; and because it is invisible and mute, its memoried glances and its murmurs are infinitely precious. We are tomorrow's past. Even now we slip away like those pictures painted on the moving dials of antique clocks: a ship, a cottage, sun and moon, a nosegay. The dial turns, the ship rides up and sinks again, the yellow painted sun has set, and we, that were the new thing, gather magic as we go.

Mary Webb, from the foreword to Precious Bane,
as quoted in the Joseph Cornell Album by Dore Ashton

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Studio window

Norton studio window
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Before the sun came up, I lay awake and thought about the Mica Hand of the Hopewell Culture. I decided I wanted to make a list of the Ten Perfect Made Things.
So these are the two that I thought of first, in the order I thought of them. I thought of Picasso's Boy Leading a Horse in between them, but after I looked it up, it was not the picture I thought I remembered, and has been cut. There will be a Picasso, I just don't know which one yet. Then I could see that even ten things, all with links, is too long for one post.

It soon became clear that I had to think some things through. What is included in made things? Sculpture naturally came up for my, but I thought of many more paintings.

Don’t photographs need a list of their own? I decide to move the linocut reduction print I own and the Adams photo to 10 best lists of their own in later posts. And I am still working on the rest of the list, although I am pretty sure that one of (all of?)Whistler's pastels of Venice will make the cut.

1.The Mica Hand of the Hopewell Culture.
2. Pupil (a pear wood and ceramic figure) by Elizabeth King that I saw at a museum in the 1990s.
So this is it for tonight. There are some other views of Pupil at the same site. It took my breath away when I saw it in the Hirshhorn Museum more than 10 years ago. I think it is part of the permanent collection there.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sepia oak structure

Originally uploaded by jhhymas
More from the birdwalk. I love the twiggy grace of these oaks.

Yesterday we went to services for an aunt who lived 100 years and 25 days. She was the youngest of eleven children and the only surviving member of her family. She only had one child, but 5 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Not bad, from a standing start!

When people die, I always wish I had asked them more about the past. I tried with my grandmother, born in 1880, but she didn't want to talk about how they did the washing when they lived in Mexico, and I found it hard to long maintain my interest in the lime and lavendar gloves and purses she had to match her Sunday outfits.

America! God shed his grace on thee . . .

Monday, January 21, 2008

The lake squared

The lake squared
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
On a lovely early moring birdwalk today. This was before I had any lunch, so I cannot tell you about that! ;-)

January morning
gulls bathe
at the lake's center

Friday, January 18, 2008

Island trees

Island trees
Originally uploaded by jhhymas

Bobby Fischer died today, which reminded me of my poem about the work I used to do; it was published (in an early draft with e few typos) on the web in a Library-focused and much lamented newsletter called Library Juice. Happily Library Juice is back as a blog: Rory, the Juice guy sometimes worked at my library, and asked me for the poem, which I had shared with him. Web publishing is an interesting and paperless subset of publishing. I'm not sure what my opinion on this subject is--I go back and forth, because I am so fond of paper and books.

Reference Questions

Paul comes back from the dead.
They buzz me out to the Circulation Desk;
"Are you happy?" he says,
and I cannot stop laughing
and I am in his arms, his arms, his living arms . . .
I hear my mother, behind me, saying,
"I knew she could be happy . . ."


She visits me at the Reference Desk,
the woman with sweetest perfume.
She wants a map of Africa, particularly
one that shows the rivers.
After she is gone, bearing her opened Atlas of the World
with Geographical Features, toward the Xerox machine,
taking the rivers, but not the perfume, not all of it,
I stand there by the atlas case in a flower-field--
all the flowers nodding, nodding, nodding,
still sway where she has just passed through them,
the woman with sweetest perfume--
while the water-sleeked hippopotami are frolicking, frolicking,
borne up and splashing, shining; water sheets off them as they rise,
making a joyful horrendous noise, under the African sun.


Can I read her some prices
over the phone? and if so
what does this year's Jeep cost,
fully loaded? the four-door, not the two.
When I ask her how many miles,
she tells me 27 thousand---
deduct $2,250,
I tell her--as she says, laughing,
how do you suppose they got
that many miles on it
in such a short time?


He is searching for Bobby Fischer,
even though
he can hardly see any more
(so he wants me to read it to him.)
He remembers about twenty years ago
Bobby was arrested in Los Angeles
he can't remember the reason
and he wants to read about that
(to have me read it to him, really)
but all the books on Bobby F. are utterly
about chess
and the last one, a little more promising,
has no index
in which I might have looked up
Los Angeles, police department, arrested,
if not twenty years ago.
So I skim through the big chess matches, game by game,
until I find him, Bobby Fischer, on the outskirts of Pasadena
wandering alone, talking to himself,
no money in his pockets.
They took him in as a vagrant
and held him for a while at the police station
until they found out he was
Bobby Fischer, whereupon,
shaking their heads—I can see it!—they let him go.
There is only one paragraph
and it doesn't tell much--how he
looked, what he wore, did he smell?--
but the reading of it satisfies, somehow,
it is sufficient; he nods, and smiles, and turns away.


She needs some information,
not very much, just an encyclopedia or something,
about the Bahamas, where are they?
And what time zone are they in?
In the World Almanac, indexed under time zones,
is a map of the world about four inches across,
with the time zones shown in parallel bands of pastel color.
Starting from Florida, you can just make out Cuba and so the Bahamas
would be just about there, four hours later than where we are standing_
looking at a tiny, imprecise map of the world.

[A gift to Brenda Hillman, who
thinks the library might be poetry.]
June Hopper Hymas

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Less is more, same song different verse

This place is called Wolverine. I thought it was funny the first time I heard it from the guy who was building a house for us at the edge of a meadow. He took off two weeks to help his brother with a cabin "over near Wolverine." That wasn't the last time he took off, and I am sure glad we had a place to live, because what he built for us was a year or two late, and we had to get a few things finished up ourselves at the end.
So, in a funny way, when I finally drove through, Wolverine belonged to me. It was a gorgeous sunny, late summer/early autumn day. It is like a zillion other small towns, trying to make it.
In the Mark Twain biography I am reading, many of these small places are booming, Just after the civil war, just beginning to build opera houses, and auditoriums for the Lyceum lecture circuit. The GPS coordinates are the same, but the economic motor of these small towns has moved elsewhere. Leaving behind brick buildings, small warehouses and houses with tiny garages.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Originally uploaded by jhhymas

Longing for the beautiful flowers of spring and early summer during the cold and gloomy short days.

suncast shadow
on pink petals
screech of a scrub jay

Just watched Simon Shama talking about Rembrant, about whom he knows as much as anybody. Gorgeous views and closeups of the paintings--I just wish we could have seen more. I keep saying I cannot waste any more of my remaining time watching television, and then I see something like this.

Today we began our Solving Print Problems Class, the printmaking class that goes wherever you want it to go. Endlessly fascinating, and a continual reminder of Cannot Draw and Usually Doesn't Even Try. I'm trying not to give up before starting, but as Scarlett said, "After all, tomorrow is another day."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Originally uploaded by jhhymas
More exhibits from the realm of superceded technology. My husband told me that, in the village where he grew up. he used to go and watch the blacksmith shoe horses. He remembers the intense fire and the fascination of watching the work. I never had the chance to see a blacksmith at work.
But I did have the chance to follow Gay Talese in A Writer's LIfe as he follows his curiosity wherever his fancy leads. It teminded me of nothing so much as of Winnie-the-Pooh ambling through the Hundred Acre Wood in search of honey. And since Talese is almost the same age as I am, we ambled through the American zeitgeist together, except I had a less high-profile amble and much less dining in restaurants.
Here's his take on it.
"I think most journalists are pretty lazy, number one. A little lazy and also they're spoon-fed information, such as the weapons of mass destruction back in have these people who create a package of news, develop it as a story line, a scenario, and they find, as Mailer once said about the press, that they're like a donkey. You have to feed the donkey. The donkey every day has to eat. So [special interests] throw information at this damn animal that eats everything. Tin cans, garbage." —Gay Talese (as quoted in Wikipedia)
More to come (although I have found it is folly to promise to finish something on a blog) on some of my recent biographical and autobiographical reading.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Meet you at the pump

Meet you at the pump
Originally uploaded by jhhymas

To the Markham House today to work on getting the data for the Poetry Center Library. This dry pump is there, at the History Park. It used to be useful, in the manner of many things in the history park. In the manner of many things . . .

I usually read one book at a time; or, sometimes I have an upstairs bed book and a downstairs sofa book. But lately, I have so many books—I started a couple before we went to Michigan and left them here—I got some good books for Christmas, etc. So here’s the list, which doesn’t include art books I am investigating, but which you read in a different way, an essay at a time while you look at a clutch of pictures, like the book on the Joseph Cornell exhibit. These all happen to be biographical or biographies, which I love.

A Writer’s Life by Gay Talese (finished a couple of days ago)
The Snoring Bird (about his father) by Bernd Heinrich
Picasso, the triumphant years 1917-1932 (Christmas present)
Mark Twain by Claire Tomalin
Remembering Anna Akhmatova by Anatoli Nayman (a gift, just begun)
Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama (finished last week, ate it in one bite!)

Mark Twain: just during and after the civil war. Berd Heinrich and Akhmatova, during and after both World Wars. Picasso, after World War. These correspondances and many others are very interesting to think about. These books span more than one hundred years, and yet many themes are the same. I thought I could write about this in one try, but it is going to take several. To be continued . . .

Past, present, future

Her work
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
What we make, with our hands, with our minds, with our cultural materials.
Tonight, (PBS again!) listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony, I was reminded of Lewis Thomas's famous essay. Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony. Simon Rattle, he of the funny name and the ethereal, pained conducting expressions, led the Berlin Philharmonic in this very long Symphony, which gets quieter and quieter at the end. The emotional depth of this music was supposed to have come from Mahler's sorrow at Alma Mahler's behavior. But once it made Thomas think of nuclear winter and it made it impossible for him to listen to the music in a pre-atomic bomb way.
In our poetry seminar, Robert Hass once said that any poem written after Hiroshima has the bomb in it, whether or not it was specifically referred to. So here we are, on the evening of the New Hampshire primary, with nuclear weapons, clearcutting, global warming, $100 a barrel oil, shooting of the wolves and drowning of the polar bears, and all the rest of it. Why do I still feel hopeful???? Go, Obama,

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Wash your hands

Wash your hands
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
This is what you should do before you have lunch! Someone whose blog is in Polish has been commenting on my blog, but, aside from the fact that this person likes haiku, I can't think how to comment back! Perhaps with a haiku:

goldfish swim in circles—
his stock certificates
have lost half their worth

Tonight on Book TV, the author of the splendid map book, Cartographia, took us thorugh the seven years that the research for the book took him and through the Library of Congress Map Collections. Later, looking at the Library website, I saw two paintings and this description: Two pendentive [Architecture. A triangular section of vaulting between the rim of a dome and each adjacent pair of the arches that support it.] paintings by Edward J. Holslag are displayed from the Librarian's Room (Librarian's Ceremonial Office) located in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. On the left, "Efficiunt clarum studio" (Study, the watchword of fame); on the right, "Dulce ante omnia musae" (The Muses, above all things, delightful).
This is so wonderfully true and so far from our age (or even from the age of Elvis!) that it pleased me very much. I was glad to learn the word for the little pieces of triangular real estate in a dome, I agree that studying is good, even if you don['t make it to fame (or maybe better if you do not) and I will definitely vote for the Muses who support both poetry and haiku, and I am sure would support photography, too, had it been invented in Ancient Greece. Good night.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Cool water

Cool water
Originally uploaded by jhhymas

The son I mentioned yesterday built this backyard waterfall for his wife. Their black labrador, being a water dog, likes it too. Perhaps a little too much. We are listening as Daniel Barenboim plays the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Israel Philharmonic on PBS. I love that theme the horn plays repeatedly in the Adagio movement. This is an exquisite performance, Great variation in volume and tempi, very beautiful. Just swell!
The New Year's hardly begun, and already I am behind in demonstrated achievements, but I did just finish putting together a rolling printer cart/file cabinet from Office Max by Sharper Image. I want to recommend that you think thrice before buying one. It took me hours of terrifying work. Dowels and glue, countless screws of four different kinds, cam locks, dreadful pressed wood which was difficult to screw. The cam screws were made of some kind of pot metal which failed after about four turns of the Phillips screwdriver and had to be competed with a wrench! Many of the pieces could have been easily shipped assembled. Absolutely nothing was put together except the guides were on the sides of the drawers, for which I suppose I should be VERY thankful.
I will quit now and pay attention to the concert which is very soft and beautiful at this moment just before the Allegro Non Troppo.
Now I'm back. The concert is over and at the end, an announcer told us that the first two movements of the Brahms were written out of Brahms' sadness over the death of his mentor, Robert Schumann. The work was felt at that time to be too dark, but I must say that now, it is just about right for me! The story of Brahms and his friendship with Clara and Robert Schumann is a beautiful one. The music of both of the Schumanns is among my most favored, as is that of Brahms. I like especially his German Requiem, along with this concerto.
Looking up something musical this evening I ran across the blog of Wendell Rider, who used to play so beautifully the horn solo in this concerto in concert with the late lamented San Jose Symphony. He has a blog, too, and is also a photographer. Good night!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Size of Needles

Size of Needles
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
My son loves old technology, and things made of metal, rather than plastic and circuitry. So do I. He rescued this fine old sewing machine at a garage sale, then used a burnishing tool to polish this plate mounted on it.. I used to sew all my clothes and those of my children. It saved a lot of money. The way things are now, it is cheaper to buy the clothes already made. But I felt like I owned, and valued more, clothes I made myself. I used the number eleven needle, right in the middle. I took a great deal of pride in being able to cut children's clothes out from leftover yardage, or slightly used clothing. I still have a lot of thread and yardage, and several small boxes of buttons that I will most probably never use. But I have given away the polyester yarn from mu unsuccessful 70's attempt to crochet an afghan. . .

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hewn stone steps

Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Look at the way these steps are fitted around the boulder at the bottom. Many handmade corners of Japan are like this. It is extrememly pleasing to notice them. Today for lunch (someone DID ask, but I think it was most certainly a joke) I had a delicious dead-ripe Bartlett pear. Then for dinner, I had a glass of plum wine with tempura and beef teriyaki with my dear friend dlc. It has been raining mildlu, dort of a foretaste for the predicted BIG storm in the next couple of days.
A thrilling victory for Obama in Iowa! I have been telling my friends he was good; many people discouraged me that America was not ready. I think we just might be!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

December Light

This was a lovely foggy day at San Jose History Park and perfect for infrared photography. I am learning what has to be done to make the pictures look the way I want them. I took the color cast out and increased the contrast in Piknik, a nifty online free photo-fixing program that anyone can use on the Web without installing it on her own computer.

I know you don't care what I had for lunch (not so into me, are you?) but coming downstairs to get a sandwich, I lost my focus (I was complaining to my husband downstairs about a phone call) and tumbled down half a flight of stairs. Fortunately, I didn't break anything, but I have huge bruises (the major one will darken my leg clear to my foot) and I know I will be stiff, stiff, stiff, in the morning. Oh, not THAT stiff, but very sore. Good night.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Trio 2

Trio 2
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Happy New Year. Lately, quite a few people have been reading this blog; And I am feeling more and more silly about it. After all, as she said in her book Nobody Cares What You had for Lunch!, they really don't.

Right now, we are listening to the New Year's Concert From Vienna and watching the pretty horses and the pretty dancers. Pretty music, too, but perhaps not what we need to heal the world. Who can say?

After I fell and broke my hip, had it replaced and retired, I had to walk around the block on crutches every day for several weeks. It was October and the leaves were turning. I came back every day with a few carefully selected leaves. Because I was walking so slowly, I could look very carefully and pick only the leaves that spoke to me. I had a big pocket in my smock and carried them home in that, because my hands were on the crutches. Sometimes I plucked them from low-hanging trees, but more often I balanced slowly on my crutch and, following the instructions for not bending certain joints yet (now I can't remember precisely what it was I wasn't supposed to do) I would snag the chosen leaf.

I had just gotten a new scanner, and I tried scanning the leaves before the life was completely gone out of them. Perhaps this was something about my retirement also, but that didn't occur to me at the time. The size of the leaves in relation to the bed of the scanner soon suggested using several leaves in each scan. Almost immediately, I began to think of each leaf as a person and of the composition as demonstrating their relationship. The stems help, of course, and the size and shapes of the leaves. I usually arranged leaves of the same kind of tree together, as here. Every autumn, for the last eight years, I think I will make some more when the leaves are on. Sometimes, I even pick up a few leaves. But I never have done such a series again, even though I have had lots other ideas to incorporate and even though the equipment has improved, I still love these leaf people; here are three of them.

I found this quotation today on Linda's Manymuses Flickr site and I want to share it here. She found it in 365 Tao: Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao, a book I have never read, nor heard of. But now, or course, we will all look it up.

"Ask yourself each day, "What remains unexpressed within me?" Whatever it is, bring it out. But be judicious. The rantings of mad people do not yield greater freedom. Use expression to find greater understanding and so find liberation from ignorance and circumstance. All that is good and unique in you should be brought out. If you do not do this, you will be stunted. Never hold back, thinking that you will wait for a better time. The good in you is like the water in a well: The more you draw from it, the more fresh water will seep in. If you do not draw from it, the water will only become stagnant. What is dark, perhaps even evil, inside you must be expressed in a proper way too. Lust, hatred, cruelty, and resentment -- these must all be carefully taken out of yourself, like finding a bomb and taking it to be detonated harmlessly.

Ask yourself each day, "What remains unexpressed within me?"
Unless you can express it, you will not clarify your inner nature."

The future is unrolling itself before us. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

That Sky

That Sky
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Hello New Year! Many things to be done at the History Park's Markham House and the poetry library. Infrared dreams coming true. Watching grandchildren thrive. Friends. Haiku. Writing and sending out poems. Good night. Here come 366 (an extra day!) days to get it done in!