Saturday, March 29, 2008
On last year's visit they taught us the cherry blossom song "Sakura, Sakura, Sakura" in Matsuyama. And when we visited the Yamagatas in Tokyo, Mr. Yamagate was so very, very thin,
These springtime blossoms are so fleeting, but spring does come around again almost before you know it. BUt as they are fading that isn't much consolation. Good night.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
I sent off my check for Greece today and I am very excited! And a little scared of airports where my language is not spoken.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The big news is that I have decided to go to Greece on the watercolor trip to the Greek Islands in June if openings are still available, which I think they are. My brother will come, too , and hopefully his wife can be excused from the last week of schoolteaching to come along. It will mean I have to do my exercise swim every day to build up my stamina, and take frequent walks in the next two months. I will also have to pack and plan very carefully, because I won't be able to lug much stuff and willhave to take paints and small paper. I am very excited, because I had given up and now I am back!!
Monday, March 17, 2008
In The Snoring Bird, the 2007 book I talked about previously, Bernd Heinrich gives this short quote from the Nuremberg Trials:
". . .Hermann Goering, Hitler's designated sucessor, said:
Why, of course the people don't want war . . . . That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a commmunist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of pariotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
The Nuremberg Trials of the major Nazi leaders were held in 1945 and 1946. I would like to believe that what HG said isn't true, but it almost sounds like a foolproof recipe.
Our young men are a precious treasure; they should not be squandered.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Today I am mourning the death of our mockingbird. For many years we always had a mockingbird, who often nested in our tall hedge. He used to sing very beautifully at night.
We have been rejoicing that one was here again; I saw him almost every day. But yesterday, his half-eaten corpse was lying in the road. The breast was eaten away. Perhaps a cat? I cannot say, but I am sad.
Samuel William Matthews family, circa 1904, Liberty, Idaho
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Today, I finished a book that I started quite some time ago; I have been saving it, because I enjoyed it so much that I didn't want it to end. I have written before about the scientist and nauralist Bernd Heinrich, whose writings I so much admire and cherish and return to. This book is called:
The Snoring Bird; my family's journey through a century of biology.
This book is not just one kind of book, such as a memoir, or a bildungsroman or an exploration of natural history. It deals, in a fascinating and full way with so many topics (using the lens of his family members and friends to examine and even to evaluate) such as the history of the twentieth century, World Wars I and II, relations between parents and children, blended families, material economies and survival in hard economic times, luck and pluck, trends in the scientific study of nature as manifest in the taxonomy and behavior of living things and much much more like the life of a runner and marathoner.
Chapters are headed with well-chosen epigraphs from literature old and new--originally written in many languages--as well as lyrics to popular songs. These often caused me to pause and ponder them before beginning the road the chapter. I understadn why so many people used to keep "commonplace books" and record small texts that had special meaning for them. This is a practice that I am sure has become increaingly rare. I was thinking the other day of a typed notebooks of my mother's and wondering if I had stored it with her papers, or if now it is gone.
The discussion of the deep meaning of home and home places, particularly those in Maine and in Poland made me think to head this post with the picture from my hisband's family.
Here is Heinrich's epigraph from Chapter 10:
The days of our future stand before us
like a row of little lighted candles--
golden, warm and lively candles,
The days gone by remain behind us,
a mournful line of burnt-out candles;
the nearest ones still smoking.
"CANDLES," Constantine P. Cavafy
I would promise to write more on this book, but my record of breaking such promises is to be found in many previous posts.
Good night . . .
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Chairs, I think, have personalities. A friend of mine gave me some old ones, painted yellow. I gave them to someone who wanted them, she got divorced and they lost another home. I had thought I'd haul one around and photograph it in different locations, the way one man does with a teddy bear and another with his dog. They are all over Europe, but I thought to limit myself to an hour's drive. I'm looking now for a fresh chair, one with personality and small enough to haul around and not-at-all expensive. We shall see.
Coming home last week, I saw a tree in a courtyard with one of those blue glass bottles that the water used to come in (from, was it Australia?) on the end of every limb. It was quite a good-sized tree, there must have been at least 60 bottles. So some people have even more ridiculous ideas than I do.
Today at dlc's studio, a cluster of pink-white and yellow species tulips was in full and glorious bloom. Tulips have done poorly for me here (they say they don't get enough winter chill) and I would love to have some of these, which are doing well in my friend's garden. Perhaps I can find bulbs on the internet?? And I found them at John Scheeper's web site, but cannot order them now, they will eb for fall planting.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Then there are tapes, videotapes, vinyl records, and books, books, books. If you make notebooks or scrapbooks, there are those also.
Here's my poem about it. It is slightly revised from the way it appeared in the Laurel Review fourteen or fifteen years ago. I was so proud that there was a poem by Walter Pavlich on the facing page!
Not Like The Red Paint Peoples' Burials
Cause of death unknown, and, like my father,
too natural to autopsy, a Brewer's blackbird
drops from phone wires above us,
she leaves no books, no photograph albums, no polyester raiment.
No mourners now assemble; although soon,
ants will string a line across the pavement.
How could we honor from this sidewalk
her flexed claw lifting upward
if she had fallen ten feet from us in the weeds,
or witness the regard of her still unclouded eye?
Not like the Red Paint Peoples' burials:
his face down, head to the west, auk beaks in whorls
over his body's red ochre covering. Not armed
with a bone dagger, patterned with aligned dots.
Nor ornamented like her young body
with a necklace of teeth—nor supplied
with a waterbird engraved on an ivory comb.
But dressed only in brown feathers,
cooling on cement, still so warm
the tiny lice in the neck feathers suspect no change.
June Hopper Hymas
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Right now a documentary is playing on TV, about Jewish America. Right now we have gotten to the Triangle Fire. It's terrible.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
This is a styrofoam print made from the top of a hamburger box. The rounded corners are on the molded box. The next time you see such a box, take a look! My mother had some little chairs like this in her patio, which I used to photograph. This chair always reminds me of her, and I have used its likeness in other art works.
The recent Paris Review features an interview with Nobelist Kenzaburo Oe, who was born the same year that I was. Listen to this: "The issue of nuclear arms was and is a fundamental question for me. Anti-nuclear activism, simply put, opposes all currently existing nuclear weaponry. On that point, it has not changed in the slightest--and neither have I as a participant in that movement. It is, in other words, a hopeless movement."
[Paris Review 183, p. 43]
In the interview he comes across as a sane and sensible and very thoughtful person, nourished by the best that has been thought and written.
For some of your novels, you've adopted an intellectual project—usually a poet whose work you read obsessively and integrate into the book. In Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age! it's Blake, in Somersault it's R. S. Thomas, and in An Echo of Heaven it's Kim Chi Ha. What purpose does this serve?
The ideas in my novels are fused with the ideas of the poets and philosophers I am reading at the time. This method has also enabled me to tell people about the writers I think are important.
When I was in my twenties, my mentor Kazuo Watanabe told me that because I was not going to be a teacher or a professor of literature, I would need to study by myself. I have two cycles: a five-year rotation, which centers on a specific writer or thinker; and a three-year rotation on a particular theme. I have been doing that since I was twenty-five. I have had more than a dozen of the three-year periods. When I am working on a single theme, I often spend from morning to evening reading. I read everything written by that writer and all of the scholarship on that writer's work.
If I am reading something in another language, say Eliot's Four Quartets, I spend the first three months reading a section such as "East Coker" over and over again in English until I have it memorized. Then I find a good translation in Japanese and memorize that. Then I go back and forth between the two—the original in English and the Japanese translation—until I feel I am in a spiral that consists of the English text, the Japanese text, and myself. From there Eliot emerges." [Paris Review 183, p.47]
This has to, and does, make me ashamed of my work on the this blog this week. If I once miss a day, it seems so easy to skip the next one and so it goes. I have given up trying to make the picture and the text have an obvious relation. Sometimes this makes for very interesting juxtaposions, and sometimes it just makes for head scratching. . .
This man, Kenzaburo Oe's, life and thought are truly inspiring. Check him out!