Creative Echoes

Photo by me!

One of my favorite things about being an 18th-century geek who works in an 18th-century building is the time there alone my job requires. I love to share King’s Chapel’s history with visitors, and to write about it, but doing my opening/closing tasks in a meditative state of mind is also wonderful. The building gets a chance to show me the small, quiet things about itself, its little pockets of Creativity.

Here are two examples sourced in the beautiful work that craftspeople did long ago.

The huge original beams that cross the crypt ceiling were trees that sprouted in the early 1600s, perhaps the 1500s. Those who shaped these beams straddled them and took steps backwards as they worked with their blades. The visible marks show a lovely wave pattern that still evokes their hands and bodies at work.

Many of the small panes in the fairly majestic windows are original to the building. Being hand-made glass, they have inconsistencies in texture that make each a piece of craft. At certain times of day in certain seasons, the light coming through onto the pew walls (beautiful pieces of woodworking in their own right) collects and displays the character of the panes in bright patches of pattern.

Photo by me!

Untitled Poem

Working Poetry Month, another work in progress, responses welcome

Untitled

The silence circles its fingertip
on the rim of a glass, and the tone
comes, strung ice-water tight.

The afternoon looks out the window.
An old chair offers the body
ease, and neither speaks.

Senses float, here and there
exclaiming their hunger like gulls
that slice across the view outside.

The willow’s winter straws cross
and twist. How can these knotted strings be
eternal, simple, yellow since

before and after your words? 
How can this tree not
know you, when it flows as you breathe?

Photo by me, Fens Victory Gardens, Boston, MA

Decorrrrrrrr

You know, I literally have five more days of Poetry and Decorating Month, so don’t rush me.

I have seen segments of the British Antiques Roadshow with a host, three similar objects, and an expert in those particular objects. The host and surrounding onlookers try to figure out which object has the highest monetary value. All the objects are aesthetic delights.

I told my friend Sandy (link to her blog post about my blog) that I would post during Decorating Month about the bone we pick with the Boston Globe Sunday magazine “home” features. The theme of our rants is simple: How to Decorate Big Space with Big Money is of little use to a lot of us.

Frankly, I love looking at “real estate porn”, and most simple/edgy/boho/unusual home design fascinates me. I am also a fan of Marni Elyse Katz, who writes these features now. She’s good!

My own object/decor jam is more thrift, gift, and foraging. People write about that, too. I have six books on the topic and counting, and they’re mostly second-hand. And I practice. My glass square that came from an old job when they closed contains a highly curated collection of park tree branches, pond driftwood, and a stick I grabbed out of a community garden compost area. I mean, this thing is curated. It’s an arrrrrrangement.

I have framed book covers, book pages, and postcards on the wall. The pleasing display above my desk contains a thrift-store glass cylinder of stones and shells in colorful layers, a birch log, two ocean stones, a framed collage I made from a beat-up book, and the fired clay figure I made in Sunday School crafts class, who vaguely resembles Buddha in a beret. This is how I roll, and a lot of interesting authors have encouraged my roll.

So let’s play the Roadshow game and decide what is my most valuable work of art in the photo. If the Ansel Adams were the real deal, then yeah. But it’s posterboard in a frame, and someone left it in the building when they moved out. So it cost me nothing, but it is full of value. First thing I hung in this apartment, it connects me to the tree outside, and my gaze often wanders into its deepness when my gaze needs to wander.

The one on the right is a print of King’s Chapel, the wonderful 18th-century historic site where I used to work and hope to work again. It’s likely from a re-issue the artist’s son did in the 1970s. I know this because artist Jas Murray did a lot of local scenes and still seems to be very popular. I found it in a charity shop, hanging there waiting for me, which I’m sure is what it was doing. It fills my heart up every day, like a lover’s portrait.

The piece on the left is by artist and parfumier John Biebel. The pensive woman carries a long-stemmed flower and has a lovely old home growing out of her head. It was gift to me from my friend John. I find it exquisite and inspiring, and it represents the generous kindness of a friend I love.

Cost winner? King’s Chapel at $6. Value winner? Nope. Each one is beautiful to me, makes me happy when I look at it, surrounds me with Creativity. The Creative finding of Creative things is decor my way.

Mixed Messages

The haloed little figure on one shoulder and the little horned figure on the other shoulder, each whispering, is an old trope. Today I feel as if I have various small voice boxes all over me, with all sorts of things to say. Some have birds’ wings, some breathe cigarette smoke, and some are stone. Mixed messages.

How can any decent person think about a blog today, this week, as if it’s important. Creativity, seriously?/How can any decent person not stand up to every type of violence, the empty noise, the knowledge their attention is a product for sale? THIS week, how can anyone not do some human, Creative thing in the face of all this scratching at our skin?

I should have rolled out, not just been awake, before dawn, and taken a walk before I got to my writing. I should heed my priorities because no one else will./I should be gentle and patient with this person who had chaotic, rough dreams and bad sleep, enjoy the quiet time, and not treat my “schedule” like the chariot that needs to pull the sun./I shouldn’t use the word “should” on myself at all, especially when it pushes “need to” out of the way. Why are the “shoulds” so much easier to articulate than the “need tos”? See above: violence, noise, attention as product.

I want to blog./I want to read./I want to look at the yellow leaves out the window sifting the sun, and I want to do all of them all day.

I want to understand the difference between a sense of purpose and a sense of responsibility./There’s no difference./There’s EVERY difference./Isn’t there?

Every poem can be analyzed, played with, followed forever. It’s never done: there will be no sign./Put your poem on your blog and get some more coffee and do the laundry.

 Dreams
  
 Another dream: late to teach, 
 streets stretch, destination
 retreating. My half-run feeds on
 panic never questioned.
 Spaghetti-like stations,
 unfair, shape-shifting
 routes of trains,
 unchallenged because
 the stamina demanded
 I deliver without
 a thought. Finally the door,
 students hanging around
 like a shop full of clocks,
 space used up in clatter,
 time disassembled.
 In some versions, also
 farm animals. Or snow. 
  
 Downstream of chaos, waking
 cramped. Some books rest near
 the weary lamp. Somewhere I read
 that eras ago, the unexhausted
 slept night’s first hours,
 then rose a little while, 
 to rustle embers, sit,
 turn pages, listen to
 the hidden river of the trees.
 Or to love, bodies safe
 from daylight’s flying shards,
 grind-spin of metal on stone.
 Or just to look at whatever
 indoor shapes cast shadows. 
  
 Who first found out that even sleep
 needs pausing, found out it would
 submit? Is there a foxed treatise,
 spell of the old words
 however desired? Or did they
 simply pull chairs closer around
 a remark at table on the moon
 that eased clearly through oak leaves,
 like a shell flown by tides, after
 invisible rain? Didn’t they
 discover what each had
 witnessed alone? Didn’t they
 nod and smile over the hill of rinds,
 the crags of bread, the sea of salty meat?
 Didn’t that moment of empty
 mouths, that pause, become so quiet that,
 before another wave of conversation,
 the candles stood amazed
 to burn that true air, that silence? 


The photo, by me, is of two pieces in the Kindness Rocks Project, seen on The Mall, Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA, on Easter weekend, 2020.

Crypt(ic) Creativity

Picture

Jack-o-lanterns and, um, dismemberment. Winged skulls on gravestones and scones on strings. My October Creativity has been much focused on writing spooky history fun facts and trivia questions for this virtual event.

As sorry as I am that the historic site’s candlelit crypt tours could not happen this year, the first trivia night was a real hoot. Hoot…owl…Halloween…RIGHT? It was so good, I was sorry you all missed it.

The second and final event is tonight. If you’re looking for a new Halloween activity please join us. Play to win, or just enjoy the fun facts and scary stuff in good company. You will be supporting one of the many non-profit cultural institutions knocked hard by this murder hornet of a year. And it’s a piece of Creativity I’m proud of!

http://www.kings-chapel.org/history-events.html

Hello, October

POND WALK
 

Pond blinks,
red-rimmed
under October
cloud-glare,
as landscape begins
to change. Or that
is just eyes
grown used
to gritty air.
 
But here,
freely, widely 
do the encircling,
while water
shines or clears
of sun-leaves,
ripples, swans’ feet.
 
Pass a wine-stained,
blood-stained,
love-stained vine
winding a tree,
a melancholy,
a potion. Yes
 
and no. Leaves
know only
their going,
not the pacing
of minds. Sit
on a stone
embedded
by water. Pick up
driftwood birch
with its dark
inscriptions, but
look elsewhere.
Hear the greens
crackle behind
you. Pond wind
fans bright,
cold coming fire.
 

Creative Nature: Shape and Color I

pink goesholly

Nuances of shape and color when the summer pinks fade are just as beautiful as the variations of  autumn colors arriving. Flow out, flow in. Nature offers changing Creative gifts, and we offer our attention in return.

Photos by Me.

With sincere thanks to the gardeners of Pond Street in Jamaica Plain, MA for the artistry of their abundant gardens and their wish that passersby have pleasure.

Steam Poem (You Heard Me, Punk)

Rain

You know how, when you’re on the first break from work you’ve had in years, and you relax some and refuse to call it unemployment, and you use your brain for nothing, and that’s good, and then you get several ideas for blog posts all at once, and you draft them all instead of finishing one, so you come off your break by ignoring them and posting a poem? Yeah, it’s like that.  Photo by me.

 

Steam

for PC and J O’D

 

The wise write the mind

can know the border

of thoughts, one to the next,

to the next, as eyes

can see when one drop

of water turns to steam.

 

My mind behaves precisely

like an empty urban corner.

Leaves scrapped to dust, and

stained empty paper cups

congeal and scatter, the wind

full of scratching.

 

Rain, whose freedom

the wise suggest

we should lean on,

I watch from home.

Under streetlights, seeding

a parking lot with more

tender shapes.

 

In the wall

over there, a pipe

becomes a vent

and then a slithering

line of steam, supple

ghost becoming dark

damp starlight on the street,

no longer even that.

As it happens,

branches reach toward

my window, close by

and clearly. How is it

the space they cross

evaporates unseen,

as if the distance

held anything at all?

 

 

 

Bird and Fish

Corms

After a six-day heat wave, any thoughts for an essay-like post are bobbing around my head like semi-cooked pasta. But the poetry is enough of a practice to have things to share.

I think these are two parents and their two fledgling cormorants at Jamaica Pond (Boston), and I’m always thankful to have them in my day. This poem was inspired by a beautiful online-gathering talk “at” the Greater Boston Zen Center.

 

Bird and Fish

for Julie

 

The cormorant intent, curved,

sharp, sewing surfaces:

diving that stitches the city

edges, the open spaces, my faithful

circling of water.

It sometimes arises with

a sliver of fish,

silver arc of gasp that cannot

live, but eaten, still shines

in the wide net of bird.

 

One day one dive,

one sudden reappearance, with

this, long body of a trout, caught

with unrealized skill, but now, what, so wildly

not to be swallowed. A fish unaware

it lived in water, too blinded now,

too bitten, too big not to pull

both of them under again. Cormorant

then bathes and flutters back

to quiet floating. Fish will be fish

below, being one of those

too much to enter

the gate of bird. Cormorant will eat

later, even later stand with wet wings

offered open to the air. Fish may

remember when water was something

that could be left behind, that would

release. But it may not.

Sticks and Stones: Stones

KC stone 1KC stone 2

When I took these photos, I was doing an exercise in Looking at the familiar objects in the historic site where I work. There was a quiet 30 minutes one day last winter, and I decided to pay closer attention to the sculptures and memorials on the walls. Not to the people they remembered, but to perfect stone ivy leaves or rich abstract designs. Each pointing to someone’s artistry, time, and focus.

That experience is a cliché you could read in a thousand blogs, right? So I’m not going to write about slowing down, being mindful, observing the present world, feeling appreciation, or any of that.

I’m also not going to offer this stone only as rarefied beauty in an historic church. I do find this work beautiful, and I miss being near it this spring.  My heart does find Creativity sacred.  But like much art, this art exists because of past financial privilege and white privilege, and sometimes that privilege existed because of the organized kidnapping and labor of enslaved people. It’s information the site shares with visitors as part of its History Program.

This is one of the longest periods the building has remained empty since 1754, and right now it might seem to have its own closed-off existence. But it doesn’t exist outside the world, and it holds a lot to Look At. Beautiful and otherwise, sometimes at the same time.

 

By the way, please visit King’s Chapel in Boston, with its fascinating, difficult history and remarkable building, at the History Program’s pandemic-expanded web site.  We’ve worked hard on it and hope you will explore. When the building is open again, please visit in person. We have a lot to share.