Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Watercolor sky

June 2 Debi: Western Sky
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
This small landscape from last fall is to remind me how much I like to paint. I just filled a fountain pen with good ink. And got out my sketchbook. And, as so often, planned to sketch tomorrow, not tonight. There comes a time each evening when it seems too late to start stuff.
Today I drove out to Calero Reservoir and sat overlooking the water. A gull flew over, and at my feet as I got out of the car was a clam shell, half whole and half shattered. The gull wheeled above me. I brought the whole half-shell home and it's in the dishwasher now. I love shells! Gradually, over the past few years, am upstairs bathroom has become a haven for shells. I keep bits of broken clam and abalone shell and other ocean-smoothed treasures in a clear glass jar with a lid my mother left for me. I have shell-shaped, peach-colored soaps in a small compote of Fostoria glass in the pattern my sister-in-law had. She used the pieces as part of her banquet service for the catered banquets she held in the basement of the small town cafe she ran with her husband. The sad part of this memory thread (she died two years ago) is that the bathrooms for the cafe were also in the basement and gradually someone stole most of her crystal, a piece at a time. My younger sister gave me an abalone shell(I put sand dollars in it)--and other shells came from here and there. My granddaughters like to look at them. I bought towels for this bath in that pinkish color that sometimes touches the inside of a white shell.
A tremendous flock of red-wing blackbirds lifted and settled three times on the grass beside the road as I moved the car slowly forward out of the reservoir parking lot. Coming home I saw a Black-shouldered kite wheeling above a field. Tonight I am writing haiku.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Originally uploaded by jhhymas
This is from the first series of photos I took here at the old farmhouse at Eagle Beach, outside of Alanson, Michigan. (See yesterday.) The clouds drew me in. Tonight I met with my group of writers and we all read new work. It is very encouraging; I am just back from there. One of the things I shared was this from Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry (Donald Hall) (Clipping Loc. 1230-42) It definitely relates to Robert Bly's discussion that I excerpted below.

"As I was finishing the late poems of Exiles, something in me began to feel stifled, dumb, inarticulate. My grand language failed to express or reveal crucial areas of feeling. I flailed about looking for other ways to make a noise. I had admired Marianne Moore's syllabics—keeping a syllable count, avoiding metrical feet. Holding onto the count of syllables as to a guardrail, I wrote a poem called “Je Suis Une Table.” I thought is was a poem of wit exploiting a language error--tables can't talk-but it wasn't; it was an outcry, complaining of habitual limitation or inhibition. This poem began a journey. Eventually, I no longer demanded that my poems explain themselves before they got written; I learned to trust the impetus, to ride the wave. The wave was feeling, expressed largely in long vowels. I worked by accepting an image compelled by rhythm and sound—without requiring that it explain its purpose."

I read Hall's book on my Kindle, that's why it has a location, rather than a page number. Love that Kindle!

Raspberry tangle

Raspberry tangle
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
This is one from last summer that I like. I've been taking pictures there for several years. Every year, I am afraid this house will have fallen down when I get back to Michigan--but last year it was still there. The grays of the weathered wood are so beautiful. I like to think about the hard work the family that built it must have done to wrest a farm living from a place with such a short growing season. There is a berry tangle all around the house now, and a beautifully shaped apple tree out back. "Nothing else remains," as the poem says about Ozymandias, but here grass grows on the sandy soil.
All day long I have been playing with my Kindle. I have downloaded some more classic books that are available for free. And tried all sorts of tricks. Still there are so many books that are not available in electronic format, and it is worthless for art books, or other books that depend on illustrative matter. And navigating around in the books is cumbersome. There are many things to love about the Kindle, but books still rule!!!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Light, light, light . . .

Light, light, light . . .
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
I have been working more and more with the infrared photographs I have taken in December and January. All must have the color cast removed, unless I remember to set a custom white balance, which goes away when I turn off the camera. But the effect of the light, even the "bad" light of midday, which would not be the best for color photographs, is often nothing short of spectacular.
The Kindle Report: I have been using it a lot. One of the things I find interesting is that it supports me in reading several books at the same time, without producing untidy stacks of books all around the house. I still HAVE untidy stacks, they just aren't used in the same way. Right now I am about halfway through memoirs by Donald Hall and Azir Nafisi, plus my third book about using the Kindle, and two books on organization and life planning are almost finished. I am several pages into Ulysses, which I have always felt I should read, and which is not yet that appealing. But I shall perservere. I have started shorter things by Dickens and Fitzgerald that I had seen recommended. I am enjoying the new book by Junot Diaz, switching narrators frequently so far. Soon I will be ready to give a better progress report on this spectacular Christmas present. I LOVE being able to check the Web and to Twitter and email in the car. (Someone else should drive!) Good night.

Winter sunset

Winter sunset
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
I wish I had a picture of sunrise, the emblem of hope. But I am usually not up that early. In California I am positioned to get better sunsets, and in Michigan I get better sunrises. So this was one on December 11, 2008 and still during the Bush administration. Today's actions by our federal government folk have been very encouraging. And at this point in my life, I feel like I have been here before. In Hope City. Things are so complex and inter-related. Enough whining.
On the New Yorker that came today, Obama looks like George Washington. Remember when John Kennedy started that magazine called George? And GW was on the first cover. My mother was a charter subscriber, and felt very au courant about that. And today, Caroline is back in the news. Good night.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Saturday; kids throwing koi food

Poetic, no? There are few things moe lovely than the curves koi can assume. Sometimes the light shimmers on the water, and sometimes you can see through as if water were not there. It's all about light. I don't remember seeing fancy fish until after I was grown up.
Tonight, I looked for my childhood home on Google Earth. And there it was, Scotia, NY, with Collins Park and the lake, and the mighty Mohawk River.
Tomorrow is printmaking class. Good NIght.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rays of Sunlight

Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Well, I couldn't go, but I could watch for the entire day, and feel a part of it. Which means, of course that I wanted to take pictures, so this is a picture of my TV set. I think the C-SPAN photographer caught a gorgeous sun-ray here over the presidential vehicle. To me this caught the day in a symbolic way.
This all fills me with a sense of hope and terror. The problems are so big. We need to all get behind change on sound principles. This is the day I have been hoping for for more than a year.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

In the print room, teacher, student and steadying hand

I love the light in the print room! There are windows on two sides of the room and the midday light comes from all around and embraces the shapes of all my friends there. This is toward the end of a demonstration on Chine collee from last Thursday.
Tonight I watched the Obama train rallies from Philadelphia to Washington. And I am definitely planning to watch the Inauguration. Obama's protection men included a very pale guy with close-cropped pale-gray hair, what he had left of it. Since he was was tall, and moved elegantly with such a focused attention on the president-elect's immediate surroundings, and so very pale he reminded me of a great white ghost.
I guess my favorite part of the whole thing was the expressions on the faces of very young and quite old black people, some of whom were wiping away tears.
Had a wonderful long phone call from my brother, Dave, today. He has free weekend minutes and takes full advantage. This is my sibling who keeps track of the whole family's birthdays, anniversaries, addresses, email addresses, church rites. He even tracks ex-wives. . . It is very handy, since there are so many of us, and enables us all to keep in touch with people we might otherwise lose track of.

Papaya Juice

Papaya Juice
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Every Thursday we get vegetarian burritos to have lunch on the art center patio during an all day class. But this week we learned that the restaurant will close immediately. Thye always have a choice of three fruit juices, and this time it was papaya. Almost too pretty to drink. That's Laura, a fantastic artist, in the mirror and the shoulder of Alan, who teaches us and who is preparing his artist's website and will be done soon, so I can link you to it.
The weather seems like winter is completely over. It is beautful and flowers are budding and a new things are already in bloom.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Textures of wood and feathers

Or, The Emu's Inquiring Look

Today I went to the wonderful all-day printmaking class. The teacher showed us 15 large works from a recent exhibit, one at a time on an easel. So, of course, following the method of this blog, this emu grab shot has nothing to do with that. I have been thinking about facts as texture, as mentioned in the Kay Ryan quote in last night's post.
Whenever we take the dogs to this farm (to be kenneled so they won't give our son asthma when we visit him) i wish I had a whole afternoon to photograph these emu and the turkeys and sheep that also live here. But I have only a few moments each time--in whatever light there is. Someone as in love with the camera eye as I am always wants more time or a different light to photograph in.
I get what I can, and only discover how much I like some of it as I look at the groups of photos later, or crop them, or bring the shadows up. Infrared photos, like this one, have both an increased sharpness of detail (or facts) as well as a softness, particularly of the people.
I tend to work with things in cycles, like revisiting a poem again and again to tune it up, or refine it, or recropping a photo or changing it to monotone. I always have ideas while working with images, and often return to something, perhaps something that I haven't worked with much before,
Today in printmaking (this is printmaking with a press, not photo printing) class, I had ideas based on my photos, that were coming so fast I could hardly get them down in my spiral bound beauty. It has been an excellent day, except for the horrendous commute traffic I had to endure to get there. Good night.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Trolley tracks

Trolley tracks
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Here we have some urban infrastructure, early twentieth-century, as preserved at the History Park. Perhaps we should put in for some government bucks? And redevelop? Today the stock market slid some more. It always reminds me of my father's faith in his beloved GE stock. How the mighty have fallen! But I still have faith in GE stock, in the long run.
This is another of the infrared shots from last month, with the shadows boosted and the color warmed. I love this effect, but I am often too easily satisfied.
There is a better-than-average interview with the new Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan, in the new Paris Review, which mag, by the way is getting very handsome--soon it might be almost unrecognizable to those of us who loved the bad-paper rag of yesteryear. But I appreciate this new look and the color photo portfolios. (This one of SPLENDID photos of small-boat commercial fishing.) Also, this time they have facsimilies of Ezra Pound's typed letters and almost illegible scrawl. He really did have some sosrt of brain-worm, I think, and an almost limitless self-regard. "Interesting, provocative," as Granny Goose used to say about the flavor in the commercial for her (now defunct?) potato chips.
Here, for tonight, is one sentence only (p. 57) from the Kay Ryan interview. "I like the sound of facts, but I don't care about them as facts. I like them for texture. As for reality, I don't even have an interest in that word." THINK ABOUT THAT! BIFF! POW! BANG! Soon, I'll give you something else she said--that relates very strongly to the Bly poem below in the form he calls ramage.

Just Because

Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Someone found this summer idyll on Flickr today and liked it! Do you admire the beautiful lavender flowers of that troublesome alien Spotted Knapweed? I did until I found out what a problem they are. Horses won't eat them, and they crowd out the nutritious grasses and other plants. They also drop a chemical into the soil that prevents other plants from sprouting. So they gradually take over. Yet, when we came to Michigan and I first saw whole fields of the stuff in bloom, I was completely delighted.
This little building is on the Thoreson Farm which is preserved as part of the historic farm district of the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. Does anyone know what it might have been used for? Storage, chickens, a milkhouse? It doesn't remind me of any of those.

Monday, January 12, 2009

One of hundreds at the Bike Build 2008

I still want to post every day. The good news is that this afternoon I downloaded the beta version of Internet Explorer 8. This was my last-ditch something-to-try before I took my computer back to its original state. I had everything backed up, and was ready to roll. The IE 8 download was very fast, and the results in the following few hours have been almost spectacular. IE hasn't frozen since, or frozen my computer. I have clicked willy-nilly and at random, several times in succession and followed my fickle heart. For the past couple of weeks, I had been creeping on to do email, mostly and being very careful, because I had to reboot so many times after freezes. I know it is too soon to crow; right now I am VERY happy!
Here's something I've been wanting to report. Last month, I donated my beloved Toyota truck which I bought on my first grandson's birthday: December 27, 1986. It only had 180,500 miles on it and ran well, but it was time. Turning Wheels hopes to use it to move small amounts of bicycles around after one of their Bike Builds. The organization is called Turning Wheels for Kids. The story is told on their website. Susan's great idea of Christmas bikes for disadvantaged kids has grown in a few years to the Bike Build I attended, with my camera. Several hundred people came together in the big tent behind the San Jose Concention Center on December 13, 2008 for this annual event. Everything looked spectacular under the high ceiling and the bright lights! Many of the grant organizations came during the day to pick up their bikes. Some even brought a group of children with them. These kids got a riding lesson and a helmet fit (all bikes are given with helmets and a lock) and rode in a circle around a big clear space, lifting everyone's spirits. All this is done in cooperation with funding sponsors, all kinds of volunteers and local charitable groups who apply for bicycles for specific children, and distribute many of the bikes. So I know this is old news, but the idea goes on. I was heartened by this community event. It has the personal touch!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

This child loves broccoli

Originally uploaded by jhhymas
She eats a full adult size serving. Her mom gets those big bagfuls at Costco. I have been fighting with computers for three hours and only have the strength for this token post! Does anyone know if Google Desktop causes computer slowdown and strangulation?? If I ever get either of my computers working I can look it up!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Sumptuous heavens

P1280835 up
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Here is the poetry I've been promising!

Wanting Sumptuous Heavens
by Robert Bly

No one grumbles among the oyster clans,
And lobsters play their bone guitars all summer.
Only we, with our opposable thumbs, want
Heaven to be, and God to come, again.
There is no end to our grumbling; we want
comfortable earth and sumptuous Heaven.
But the heron standing on one leg in the bog
drinks his dark rum all day and is content.

—Robert Bly

from the New Yorker
reprinted in Best American Poetry 2008, p. 17

This is Bly's note about this poem in the back of the anthology:
‘Wanting Sumptuous Heavens’ is written in a form
called the ramage. This form requires eight lines of roughly ten syllables each. The poem is held together, so to speak, by certain particular sounds that are repeated in the course of the poem. In this case, the sound um, as in ‘grumbles’ and ‘summer’ appears in each of the couplets twice and sometimes more, so that even though the poem does not offer any end rhymes, it is built on a number of interior rhymes. “I like the delicious flavor of the small sounds reappearing like raisins in a muffin.”

This is definitely something that I am currently trying. I think it makes the poem a little (but not TOO) mysterious, and introduces fresh images that are very thought-provoking. And the whole poem would be worth it for only the heron's dark rum. Good night.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

San Jose's Light Tower

Originally uploaded by jhhymas
This tower was a civic project to light downtown San Jose from above. Due to the physics of light, it didn't work well, but it has been relocated to San Jose History Park with a lot of other outdated civic structures of interest. The light was so seeing people, also known as most of us, could see when the sun went down.

Here is a passage from Eavesdropping, a book by a poet and essayist who is blind, The new Georgia Review came today just after my three young granddaughters and their mother left from a two day visit. So I treated myself to a quick lie-on-the-couch to read an interview with Stephen Kuusisto, of whom I had not previously heard, He has been talking about experience, even travel, when you cannot see. Mostly we are looking, looking, looking.
But he is listening: "The music says we are still in love with our tentative thoughts; the heart's arousal is a kindness--nothing more. Outside, sleet strikes at the window, a crow calls from a neighbor's yard. This is the early hour when I can still hear. All feelings are first feelings: the world is not yet constructed. The poplars in fresh snow sway in the January wind."
Notice the movement from interior and subjective thought to description relying on audio input, not visual. It makes the reader snap awake. I haven't read the book yet, but I will.

Leonardo's big horse

Originally uploaded by jhhymas
This is a replica of the big bronze horse commissioned to honor the Duke of Milan, Francisco Sforza. Leonardo spent lots of time in drawing, study, engineering plans and calculation over some 16 years; he had gathered together a lot of bronze preparatory to casting. The leadership of Milan was overthrown by war and the bronze was taken to make cannons. So this great project--to cast a 24 foot tall horse in one piece--was never completed. The replica seen here is of fiberglass and stood in front of the Tech Museum in San Jose during the run of two exhibits from Italy on Leonardo and his times. This horse is made of fibreglass and is wearing a wreath in honor of the Christmas Season. He is really a spectacular beauty,

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Buster, the feral girl

Originally uploaded by jhhymas
This is Buster and this is my only photo of her. She went her entire life without being petted. When called, she did come in to our garage with Miss Bianca, her mother, to dine and sleep. I took the picture one day when I was experimenting with a roll of black-and-white film. I have always thought it was interesting not only because of her suspicious look, but also because it so clearly demonstrates how the figure can become the ground. You still know which is the white part of the cat, but you cannot really see the line where the whites divide. I had read about this in art books, but I think I really understood it only after I saw this picture. Now I think I am through with posting about cats for a while. Tomorrow, poetry, for sure.

Goodbye, Miss Bianca

One last picture of Miss Bianca, her story is below in several posts. Her eyes were truly this yellow. She was a small cat, but very smart and very courageous.
This picture is the worse for wear for having been made into a refigerator magnet years ago. My grandchildren like to get all the old pets off the fridge and play with them when they visit.
Today's weather in a haiku might be represented by the phrase "winter drizzle." The sky was that uniform very pale gray. Sometimes, I think January is the month when this part of California is the least beautiful. Good night.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

End of the Story

Miss Bianca-3
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
By now we always called her Miss B, instead of the full Miss Bianca. Our earless beauty lived for many years. She came in every night for a dish of dry cat food. . I never saw any evidence that she was a hunter. She liked us to stroke when we met her outdoors. W e got a better quality of cat food now that she was an eldercat. She took to sleeping on the hood of the car, and then found places atop boxes to hide and daytime-sleep in the garage. She slept and slept and slept and got thinner and thinner. Our vet said she had nothing treatable, “Old cats can sleep a lot,” she said. Miss B didn’t keep herself quite as cleanly white, but she still looked fine and her yellow eyes were gemlike. So things went on until the day she didn’t come in. For several days we looked and called, but we never saw her again. Our hope was that she hadn’t come to some sort of violent end by teeth of dog or tire of car. And gradually we stopped calling and went on. A couple of years later as S was trimming some ivy near the house, he found a little bit of white fur and curled up skeletal remnants. He came inside and got me. She had gone to sleep in a favored spot, under the dryer vent where she sometimes enjoyed the warm air. She was resting there still, dessicated and odorless, yet undisturbed. She is there yet, deeply quiet, and known, under the ivy.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Unfinished Business: the tale, continued, of Miss Bianca

Miss B-8 no autotone lvl
Originally uploaded by jhhymas
Unfinished Business: the tale, continued of Miss Bianca

The beginning of this tale is told in three recent posts. In this picture, see the blackness that is beginning to develop at the tips of Miss Bianca’s ears? This often happens to white cats, we are told, and is a type of slow-growing skin cancer caused by the sun. Since she was an outdoor cat in California that was probably inevitable, but we didn’t know anything in time to prevent it. The vet said nothing needed to be done for awhile and then we could have her ears removed. S came home with the news the estimate of the cost. $1100. It seemed like a lot to pay for an old free garage cat, but of course we had to do it. We waited until her ears got worse, and were just about to charge it when someone at work told me about a vet in East San Jose who had done her cat’s ears for $300. I got the name, an appointment was made and off S went with Miss Bianca. The deed was done. We could pick her up later. At first, they had told S it would cost almost $900. When he picked her up to leave, they recalculated and eliminated some expensive tests that could be dispensed with. I hadn’t figured in the part about Bev being cute, flirtacious and very competative. It wound up costing about $550. Having no ears gave her a sly look, like she had a devious and interesting personality. Several times people asked us what breed of cat she was. We should have faked some exotic name. I hope I can find a picture of her in that state; I am not sure I have one. There is only one more Miss B story, and I’ll tell it to you tomorrow. After which the New Year can fully commence. Happy New Year!