Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chairful of dollies

Chairful of dollies
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Dolls are an irresistable subject! I always wish afterwards, that I had stopped to talk to them and taken a few more shots from different angles. But in this case the auction flea market table was owned by a frowning man who wanted to charge for photographs! I saw him looking curiously at these dollies after I left, to see if they were useful, and if so, what for.
When you read the articles by great photographers, they always say they talk to people. That works with children, especially if you show them themselves on your tiny screen.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A lantern over the doorway in Athens

A lantern over the doorway
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
I've been all day reading a 1960 biography of Thomas Wolfe whose four huge novels I devoured during my Freshman year at the University of Arizona. My other enthusiasm that year was Maxwell Anderson's play, Winterset. All of which goes to show that I was about the age and emotional development of a college freshman. I still remember the enthusiasm with which I attacked those giant books and surfed along, borne on the tide of words, and in love with America, too, as he was.
I still remember the shock with which I met my introduction to the concept that language was inadequate to the expression of all human experience. Deep in my heart, I still really think that mastery of language will enable all thought and experience to be expressed. . . this is just the hopeful thought of a lifelong reader.
Tonight on my beloved Vox, they are playing Haydn's Creation, along the beauiful strains of which I have been carried back to the early 1980s when I sang with a junior college choir and got a great deal of really fine choral music incorporated into my body and my soul. So tonight I am filled with longings for the past and gladness that I have know what I have known.
And now my trip to Greece is becoming part of that unreachable past. But I (big smile) have my little book of ink sketches.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fixed pulley, the waste of time: found things

fixed pulley
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
THINGS I FOUND: This scan of schoolwork is one--it came to me this week inside a used book I had ordered online. It delights me! I particularly like the way the handwriting slants down and threatens to run off the edge of the sheet. And the way it tucks corrections or endings into lessening space. There is writing from the same assignment on the other side and on a shorter sheet of the same paper that was with it. If you cannot see the image clearly, a click on it will take you to the view in Flickr with a more readable display.

And here's the other one, a comment posted on the website of the painter Robert Genn, who offers a newsletter, The Painter's Keys and other encouragements to artists.:

"As I sit in one Back Yard location and read about your adventures around the globe, and hear the stories of world travels from fellow painters, I can only use my imagination to place me there. I wonder how much of that time getting there is wasted sleeping, watching an in-flight movie or talking weather with the person next to them. I've always kept time in the fore front of what I'm doing. Knowing we only have so many minutes, not to waste too many of them. I realized in my early 20's that I didn't like eating, sleeping or using the bathroom. All, to me, are a waste of time."
I didn't find a signature. And I know sleeping seems a waste of time and eating can be terribly repetitive, and frequent. But I guess I never thought about the time I've wasted going to the bathroom! Yet, in some ways I understand the snide or griping feeling that one gets when reading about the so-productive lives of people whom we admire very much, and who live lives of travel, servants and privilege. Today's example would be the book I just finished by Jill Ker Conway about her life as the very successful president of Smith College. A lot of this book was about fundraising and getting people together to produce good results for the college--not just about money, but about getting various vested interests to realize that the way they look at things might not be the only way, the correct way, the modern way, the useful way, etc. without making them your sworn enemies, so you cannot get anything done. The book is not only about that, but it does profile a person who sets (and accomplishes) thoughtful goals, as well as taking long walks or hikes and a daily swim, looks good, studies music and poetry, as well as maintaining many nourishing friendships, often friendships with the great and near-great. And serving on the boardS of corporationS!

The book was so interesting--I am not doing it justice, because my take-off point was the carpings of the Back Yard lady. (Just now I looked back and ascertain that I assumed the carper was a woman, (trapped in the Back Yard by a life of cooking and unpaid servitude?) but the sex is not identified in the post, and the discontented soul could just as easily be a man. That's a(nother?) bad blow for my feminist credentials . . . [Just went back, and above the place where I began to read the paragraph is titled and the author is identified; he is a fellow: Crucial time by Brad Greek, Mary Esther, FL, USA]
Back to the book A Woman's Education (the road from Coorain leads to the presidency of Smith College) it was one of those books during reading which I held a conversation with the author. I kept writing her a letter in my head, and that morphed into another letter to my former County Librarian boss, who has many of the qualities that distinguish Jill Conway, and which helped them both to be so productive. My boss has recently lost her husband to a lingering illness and I have been meaning to write to her, but not at essay-length! Jill Conway was born less than 11 months before I was, so I have traveled with her through the same world events and generational changes. My husband was an academic all his working life and is only four years older than she, so he too experienced so much of the rage, turmoil and change of academia in those times.

I have been interested in feminist issues since I was a child and, with my mother's backing, became the first sixth-grade female Crossing Guardnear my elementary school. But that is another story.

Monday, July 28, 2008

White Greek house with rounded edges

I'm finally scanning my sketchbook from Greece. These white houses on the Cyclades seemed to be made of either bricks or rock and cement concretions covered with plaster or stucco and whitewashed or painted white. We saw some being built and some being repaired. One thing I noticed right away is that all the edges or corners of these houses, which make villages on the island rocks and hills--villages that reminded me of stacked sugar cubes--are rounded. It is interesting to try o draw this, when we are used to the sharp edges on the buildings we are familiar with.
Someone told me that the rounded edges on these houses were supposed to stop the sea winds from whistling all the time. The wind does blow fairly consistently. And they said it doesn't work.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Do you suppose fish eyes are more curved than people eyes? Or cow eyes? Or the eyes of bears?? Something else to look up, Even so, that's what this type of wide angle lens is called: FISHEYE.

Of course, it is easy to crop off the telltale black corners, but I kind of get a kick out of the way they remind me of those black photo corners we used to stick photos into albums in the long-ago times of the 20th century . . .
I had already taken a lot of pictures at Sturgeon Bay with another camera, when this family appeared on the beach. Lately I have reviewed a great many painting and sketching books, which often recommend tiny figures in the watercolor landscape to give a sense of scale and make people happy because our eyes immediately go to people in pictures.
This reminded me of that. So as the family went down to the water, I took many pictures, because the arrangement of the figures kept changing.
I am thinking a great deal about watercolors right now, partly because of the trip to Greece with such good painters, and partly because of some new books I ordered from Amazon, but also because yesterday I signed up to trade art postcards (4in. x 6 in.) with seven strangers through the Yahoo ArtSwappers Group. So now I have to actually draw and paint seven images (I am thinking about Greek island villages) that I will not be too hideously embarrassed to send. Some of these people are quite talented; I haven't seen the work of all of them yet. It should be very interesting to see what they do. It should be interesting also, to see how much I procrastinate. Sorry about the recent lag in posts. I still plan to talk about Gu Cheng. When I do, I'll link back to his poem.
Sleep tight. It is 11:48 here, but my blog still thinks I am posting (I mistyped "poeting" which is kinda cute) on California time. And I couldn't figure out how to fix that and gave up. Good night.


Originally uploaded by jhhymas
I got this vase a couple of weeks ago at a thrift store called Challenge Mountain that promotes outdoor sport opportunities for the disabled. The day we drove to Sturgeon Bay we saw these sweet peas growing in the ditch by the side of Pleasantview Road. I don't know if they are garden escapees (which I suspect.) Quite often you see them in bloom along the roadsides here, but they usually are of a darker magenta color. I remember a gardening author named Thalassa Cruso used to say that her mother called magenta flowers "Garden of Eden color" because so often plants that reseed wind up eventually with magenta flowers, dropping the potential for the lovely whites and pale pinks, or velvety reds which have been so carefully selected by plant breeders, and reverting to this common hue.
I love the way the color of the flowers goes with the pinks in the vase. The flowers lasted for several days, which surprised me. I enjoyed having flowers in the house,

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The clouds are swan-white

The clouds are swan-white
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
I could post a swan photo every day for a month, but I plan to restrain myself. Some people don't bother, but I like a little restraint myself.
This morning at senior citizen's water exercise, the topic seemed to be recipes for the George Foreman grill. One woman does bacon in hers. Another marinates chicken in oil, balsalmic vinegar and tarragon before grilling. She also does mandoline-cut sliced raw potatoes. She never uses butter or grease, but has a butter-flavored spray. There were so many grilled sandwiches that I couldn't keep track.
A different topic develops every day--it is sort of interesting to see what will come up. Since the teacher is looking for a house to rent and/or buy, there has been a lot of real estate discussion. One day last week we heard a lot about nearby camping places at the various lakes and parks near here. We have only had one day of gruesome accident stories. I do notice a refreshing lack of health complaining. The pool is at the Crooked Lake Lodge and is VERY clean. Most of the people I've met (not everyone comes every day--today there were only four of us) have lived in MIchigan for many years, if not all their lives. So they have seen a lot of changes, as have we all.
Good night.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mother and Cygnet

Originally uploaded by jhhymas
These guys were quite willing to pursue our boat for corn chips. It's not a good idea to feed wildlife, but I have to say that someone else had surely been doing it before my grandsons started. Such eager consumption! Don't they look fine against the dark water??
I am trying to do too many things at once, and this blog is only a token of my confusion. Do I want poetry, haiku, photography, literary analysis or art?? Beats me.
But tomorrow is another day. Good thing.

Monday, July 21, 2008

All things have their dreams

Here is part number five of Gu Cheng's poem Poetry Lessons. Parts one through four are in the previous posts.

All things, material or alive, including people, have their dreams.

Each of these dreams is of its own world,

The desert dreams of the cloud’s dark shadow, flowers dream of the butterfly’s kiss; and dew dreams of the sea . . .

I too have a dream. Distant but distinct, it is not just of its own world, it is of a paradise beyond the world.

It is beautiful and pristine. When I opened the book of fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen, my young mind flooded with light.

I travel toward it, gradually becoming transparent, casting away the shadow behind me. There is only the road, the open road.

The value of my life is in this moving on.

I want to use the pure metal of my mind to forge a key to open the gates of this paradise for people to see. If possible, I will then have the good fortune to sink into the darkness.

Gu Cheng

When I first read this, I found the abrupt darkness at the end quite surprising. Darkness, hopelessness and depression always leave me feeling helpless. I've been putting off finishing posting this poem because I want to say something about Gu Cheng and I am still working out the train of thought in my mind.
This evening my grandsons took me out in the boat again and we fed swans, who turned out to like Fritos as much as any gull would. THAT was a little depressing. I think I got some nice pictures.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Nature cast in green, white and blue

Secret lagoon
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Continuing with part 4 of


Because of my deep needs, I often travel the far edges of society.

There in front of me are plants, clouds and the sea—nature cast in green, white and blue. The purity of these colors wipes away the dust of the everyday world, letting my mind recover its senses.

Is this something I am learning for the first time? No, it seems to be a recollection of an earlier time, as if before I was born I was one of them. I once was curved like the tusk
of a mammoth, once as innocent as a leaf, once as minute and happy as floating plankton, that free . . . .

I want to thank nature for letting me discover myself, discover the story of all things of the world, living and not. I want to thank it for giving me an endless supply of poems and songs.

This is why in the midst of the battle with reality, in the midst of the howl of the grinding machines, I can still say in a sweet quiet voice:

I’m yours.
----- Gu Cheng

I'll give you the last part tomorrow. Then I'll write about Gu Cheng a little and about this poem. Good nIght!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Still life with mussel shell

Part 3 of Gu Cheng's POETRY LESSONS (1980)

Between the outcropping of coral headlands, there was a small sandy beach.

There in the sand, over many years, the tide had left behind shells, forever beautiful and undisturbed.

But when I stopped, what drew my attention were not those brightly colored shells, but rather a very plain spiral shell, one that scuttled there alone through the shallows. When I grabbed hold of it, I then realized that there was a crab hiding inside, alive.

I want to thank that crab for teaching me about poetic language.

One spirited spoken phrase, unique in its construction, is far better than dozens of antiquated and elegant expressions.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Clatter of the surf

Originally uploaded by jhhymas

Tonight I am posting part 2 of Gu Cheng's poem, with one of my own haiku. Oddly enough, when all five parts of his poem are posted, it will read backwards down the page, because blogs ARE backwards really, with the newest post first. Last night, after posting, I read the material on Gu Cheng which was linked to the Wikipedia article. (Except for the web page in Chinese,) The hat, apparently, WAS made from a jean's leg. And, it seems to have been symbolically important to him, even protective. This was strong enough to be emotionally understood, even in simultaneous translation, the night I heard him. (See the previous two posts.)

Here is part 2 of the poem POETRY LESSONS (1980) by Gu Cheng.

I grew up on a stretch of barren, alkaline land.

The earth and sky there were of a perfect beauty, they formed a perfect sphere. There were no hills, no trees; not even the angular lines of a building to disturb the view.

When I walked along my imaginary road, there was only me between the earth and sky, me: along with a type of pale purple plant.

These plants grew tall in that salty soil, so slender and dense; they stood beneath the sky, under dark clouds and blazing sun, accepting all that befell them. No one knew that they were there, no butterflies, no bees, there were no startled sighs nor praises sung about them. Nonetheless, they grew, putting forth their small flowers, proudly holding their heads high . . . .

They taught me about springtime, poetry and poetry’s duty.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Dark Clouds over the Sea of Dreams

IMG_8962 squ
Originally uploaded by jhhymas

This is the first part of a five-part poem by Gu Cheng, Chinese poet, as translated by Joseph R. Allen. It is on pp. 179-180 of Sea of Dreams. [See previous post.] (I cannot make each part indented in this blog--I have indicated the indent by a soft return.)
I'll try to give the other parts of the poem in subsequent posts.


It was a raindrop that first introduced me to poetry.

On the way to my primary school there was a spire-like pine tree, but whenever I passed by it never spoke.

Then one day, after a rain shower, when the world was fresh and clean, that pine tree suddenly was all aglitter, with crystalline raindrops hanging from every needle; at that moment I completely lost touch with my own being. Inside each single drop I saw a raindrop floating; each drop was full of the clear blue sky; each drop held a new world for me . . . .

I knew then that a single small drop of rain was able to contain everything, and to distill everything within it. The world that sparkled within the raindrop was purer and more beautiful than the world within which we live our lives.

Thus, a poem is just that: a raindrop glittering on some tree of the imagination.

------Gu Cheng

It's just too much!

It's just too much!
Originally uploaded by jhhymas

Well, I have to put up the last one! Right now, I am looking for the picture I want to use with a poem from Gu Cheng. Many years ago when the "Misty Poets" were touring with Carolyn Kizer, I heard him read at San Jose State with Shu Ting and Bei Dao, and another Misty Poet whose name I can't pull up right now.
Gu Cheng was wearing a hat which looked like it might have been made from one of the starched and cut off legs of a pair of jeans. The part over his forehead was fringed by pulling away the indigo threads and revealing the white ones. I didn't really pay too much attention to it until a young person in the audience asked if he could ger one like it.

The moment of his answer was emotionally striking far beyond what this bald recital of it sounds like. Gu Cheng told him that he had made his hat, that he would not make one for the student and that the student should make his own. This struck me with force, I still cannot really explain why.

I mulled this over, and have never forgotten it. Last year I wrote this haiku based on that brief exchange I heard on a evening so long ago.

insect eggs on a leaf—
Gu Cheng said: I made my hat
you must make your own

I just got the book Sea of Dreams; the selected writings of Gu Cheng in the mail today. The image on the front cover is of Gu Cheng IN HIS HAT! If I get the poem up tonight this will be some kind of posting record for me . . .

Too very, very, very much!

Too very, very, very much!
Originally uploaded by jhhymas

I cannot resist this! The hand over the face ones come out particularly well. I'm in love with (Perhaps except for the name.) Use the cartoonizer function on your photos of people.

I have spent today looking at art blogs, reading art books and not doing art. But, hey! As Scarlett said, "I'll think about it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day."

This morning there was the usual five-crow ruckus on the lawn, Whenever I see a four-crow group, I always think of reading that the familes stay together after the youngsters fledge. So maybe this is a bigger family? Surely a noisy bunch!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Too very, very much

Too very, very much
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
I can't wait until tomorrow! Try out Upload one of your own photos and "cartoonize" it. It works on terrible photos, too, and ones that are a little blurry and you would never dare to show the subject. I can hardly tear myself away to go to bed! Try heads and hands--as here--or full sized figures. I think you'll like the results of this easy to use fun time-waster.

Woman of antiquity

Woman of antiquity
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
I have had fun all day computing with pictures. The most fun I have had in a long time, and I'll show you some fun stuff later.
This lady lived a long time ago. Her funerary statue was found on Delos. I am not too clear about these funerary monuments, but I think they date from Roman times. I doubt they were carved before death, but otherwise how would they resemble the dead? And was it important that thay did?
This lady became very dear to me when I visited the National Archealogical Museum in Athens on the last day of my trip to Greece. (I wish I had arranged to stay longer while I was there. You could spend a week in this museum and there are others!) I felt like I knew her. It was sort of a relief to find her there among the gods and goddesses. The statue is marble and the carving is very beautiful. She still has her nose and her arms and such lovely drapery. And she lived so long ago.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Goats under a tree

Goats under a tree
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Folegandros, Greece. The little brown building on the far right seems to be where the goats take shelter. While I was painting this a man in an orange shirt came to milk them. He will be in another sketch. This is one of the small watercolors I did in Greece. I need to work on the gradations to show the endless Aegean beyond. And you have to look quite hard to find the two white goats. This brings back that whole afternoon to me. There is just not enough time.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sun going down over Pickerel Lake

Originally uploaded by jhhymas
One of my most cherished childhood memories is of playing endlessly outdoors at high summertime AFTER supper in Scotia, New York. Here at the Tip of the Mitt, the sun doesn't go down--at this time of year--until almost ten o'clock.. A couple of nights ago, my daughter and my grandsons took me out in their boat after dinner. It reminded me of the time their father took me through Crooked Lake down the Crooked River all the way out onto huge Burt Lake. He was less than a year away from his early death from cancer then. He wanted to show off his home country to me.
The air was quite warm and the water quite smooth. There was a hint of soft breeze. We had a nice chat with the woman tending the lock that maintains the depth of the Lake; we had to be back through the lock by nine or pay a fine, By the time I took this shot, we had finished our ice creams from the Dockside Deli and made it back through the lock with ten minutes to spare.The sun went down slowly , falling through the clouds and into the trees. I took a gazillion pictures . . .