Friday, August 31, 2018

Her Song.

Dear Great Beyond,

I have been thinking of Aretha Franklin, lying in state, like the royalty she is, and it really makes me glad to have known her.  Here is her song for the day.

One more sexy, flawless song, and a paean.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Closer Walk.

Dear All,

I thought this film was charming- so I give it to you with the hope that it will please you.  I found it while I was looking to find my favorite version of Closer Walk With Thee.  It might be this one.

Or this one.

Or, this.



On second thought, why not sing it yourself and accompany yourself on guitar?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

It is of my intention.

Dear Intentions,

Once, I made such a case, a scene really, against water taps in refrigerators (I want water in my sink, not my fridge) that the man who plumbed and built our house started to feel bad about having water in his fridge.  Despite this feelings, he plumbed our coolerator alcove for water anyway; and behind our very modest Maytag (it isn't stainless, or large, but small and white and 18 years old) in the dust and obscurity, is an eight foot coil of glowing copper tubing waiting for the 'next owner' whom we presume won't have any sense whatsoever and will want, at the touch of a button, cold filtered water to pour forth from their major appliances.

The point, here, is that I hadn't intended to make the builder feel bad about his entitled, first world, luxuried way of life, and so similarly here, I don't intend to ruin your blithe and harmless enjoyment of Paganini and Haydn.  It's a warning, really; if you treasure your feelings about composers Haydn and Pags, maybe just turn the page now, discontinue reading, and pour yourself a nice tall glass of cold water from a spigot in your fridge.

If, though, your appreciation of music can stand some criticism or dissenting opinion, read on.

Many years ago now I gave a painter I knew some music on a cassette tape.  Music that is good for painting:  Henryk Górecki's Symphony No. 3 (of Sorrowful Songs).  My painter acquaintance responded with Pags and Hay, saying that the music I had given her was entirely too melancholy.  The tape she gave me was suitable for weddings and inattentive listening.  What is often scornfully referred to as 'background music.'  It was safe and melodious; easy-listening as 'classical music' goes.

As for my own conception of music, I often wonder if any music except the lament is worth making the noise of.  Still, if your daily activities do not require the solemnity of melancholy music, then good for bloody you; but the undertaking and creation of a world of depth, space and understanding from nothing; a world with its own light, its own cosmology, requires music with a bit more gravitas.  In other words, if you are making a painting, you will want some serious, insightful, mournful, and exquisitely beautiful music like the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.  May it serve you well; I've been using it for years. 

I wonder if the refrigerator of the future might play Paganini on demand?

Friday, August 17, 2018

the letter of the heart

Dear Tea Taoists,

In my quest to explain beauty and encourage people to make things, I often point to wabi-sabi.  Permit me to point you there, too.  It's a lovely concept of aesthetics, celebrating the effects of time on objects.  This short film presents a nice definition and history of wabi-sabi.  When you learn about it, you will have the feeling that you have always suspected these truths.

I remember encountering the term in an article in the Utne Reader.  The concept was familiar to me from studying Non-Western Art History, which is an exciting branch of art history that ignores some of the tenets Western Art History drags along through the pages and the ages; for example, the idea that progress, clarity of vision, and ever growing finesse in execution is the highest goal.  I know, ugh.  It's the equivalent of praising little girls only for keeping their rooms clean.  Double ugh.

If you peek into Non-Western Art History, you find wabi-sabi, shaman, the Dreamtime, ancestor worship, blood sacrifice, human skull adornment, fertility symbols, and latent power lying all about the place, relatively unused and under appreciated.  It's a great place to visit. 

Send me a postcard when you get there.

Monday, August 13, 2018

push plate

Dear  Inked, 
This is an impression of the push plate from the door of the women's restroom entrance where I work.  An artist I know was printing some unconventional things: steel drawings and little silver pendants.  I started to look at the flat, ink-able surfaces around me differently.  May our eyes always be open to looking in another way.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Great Wars and Outing Pa

Dear Sad Goodbyes,

I have been informed that my mind and body are the field on which the broader culture wars continue to rage.  I am not sure I approve of this tenancy.  I have suspected it, of course, but it still stings.  Setting this injury aside, for now, I give you this review of a book on Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

What the author is, or was, or even who the author of these books is, might be less important than what the readers did or do with the stories, but the Little House books have been sitting in a stack in my studio, awaiting a tough decision:  continue to treasure their pale yellow spines, and sweet Garth Williams cover illustrations, or let them go like mist.

It pained me, 8 years ago, when I was reading these formerly beloved volumes aloud to my son and husband.  These books were formative, like the many Marguerite Henry books on the
Chincoteague ponies, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Madeline L'Engle books.  I found, in the second or third book, that Pa was actually a complete menace to his family.   A tyrant, really.  I couldn't even go on reading them- the family would laboriously scrape out a little hollow of safety, comfort, or stability, and he'd pack it in to move.  I could find no way to excuse or explain this man's actions to males I cared about.  If my job as a mother is to help to form my son's relationship to women, Pa seemed like a very bad influence, all of a sudden. 

I realized I had categorized Pa as a kind of natural phenomenon, a force of nature, an Act of God in the insurance sense- he struck randomly and fiercely, like fires and blizzards.  But strike he did, and that is why, after this final consideration, confession, and tearful acceptance, I am saying goodbye to the books, because I don't want crazy Pa in my life anymore.  I am sorry that Laura and all the beautiful prairie, woods, plains, and mountains will have to go too, but Pa just isn't good enough for me and my people.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Ruling Passions.

Dear Enthusiasts,

Things are in disrepair.  They usually are, but the first problem to tackle is the decision of what to fix and what to give up on.  It's clear from reading other pages here, and even from the words I used to write the previous sentence, that I am always sorry to have to give up on things.  I love repaired things; damaged things, even. 

The old rocking chair on the porch has a split cane seat woven in a complex pattern.  The stuff must be soaked, and then woven, and the oak of the armrests and the rockers is worn out of shape, and there are checks and splinters aplenty.  Repairing the seat and back will only be a temporary stay against utter uselessness as a chair.

Still, I thought we might try a webbing seat instead of the split cane, and so I consulted the Ashley Book of Knots.  With any luck, you have a copy already, because it is a really wonderful book, with beautiful illustrations and fascinating names and purposes for the many knots and plaits.

Whenever I look up a knot in this book, I also read the inside back flap of the crumbling dust jacket.  I look at this flap because it's where I begin straightening the paper tatters when I open or close the book.  I always look at dashing Clifford W. Ashley, and I read this sentence: 

     Clifford W. Ashley had two ruling passions all his life:  marine painting and knot tying.

I know you will love this sentence as I do, and so perhaps you will want to stop reading here now, and go forth into the future with your unique relationship to this arrangement of words.  I don't really think you need me to tell you how I feel about these words, after all.  If you did, though, wonder, after considering what they say to you first, I could tell you that I like to imagine my picture there, on the flap, and to think of what my life under two ruling passions might read like, to consider what the 620 pages would be filled with.  I never get too far imagining this before I find that two passions isn't anything like enough passions.  But then I allow as how these are not just any two passions, these, are the Sovereign Passions, and so maybe I really ought to be able to select two to be my Queen and King and to serve under them happily?