Working Poetry Month, another work in progress, responses welcome
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?
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.
as landscape begins
to change. Or that
is just eyes
to gritty air.
do the encircling,
shines or clears
ripples, swans’ feet.
Pass a wine-stained,
winding a tree,
a potion. Yes
and no. Leaves
not the pacing
of minds. Sit
on a stone
by water. Pick up
with its dark
Hear the greens
you. Pond wind
cold coming fire.
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.
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.
Small sidewalk trees on my busy street have it tough. There’s exhaust, the sides of buses, noise, windy storms that stampede up from the harbor, and the occasional drunk college student. I appreciate them and their stamina when I wait for the bus, when buds are appearing, or foliage is saturating a patch of my day. The bare winter branches have their own relationship to varying sky color and the streetlights and also inspire me.
The newest, a little ginkgo with fan-shaped leaves, became a favorite. The fans fluttered a snap-pea green that turned into lemon yellow in autumn. Its knobby branches with their rapier attitude enticed out the phone camera, and made me want to learn calligraphy and ink arts.
Alas. A recent storm’s gusts half-strangled me in my own scarf, and the next trip to the bus stop…alas. Only a thin stump left, looking gnawed. A yoga teacher used to remind us that every pose we do we also undo, that the force that creates also destroys, in its rolling loop. The wind catches words like “Stay” and “Mine” and whips them out of sight. But there was no such philosophy at the bus stop. Just damp eyes.
It is what it is. Being attached to a source of creative inspiration equals waiting for it to disappear, or knowing it will be there when you yourself are gone. Trees and I strive on.
Boston, like many cities, has malls, and in ours, “stuffed lobster” can be either a cuddly red toy or your dinner. Moving on…
It also has The Mall, in the old-fashioned sense of a shady promenade, with benches, statues, and a central path flanked by trees, running up the middle of An Avenue of Note. Those it was originally designed to delight lived in Gilded Age urban mansions and townhouses.
In winter, the two rows of trees are wrapped in white lights, an eye-feast whether you’re looking up into branches or down at block after block of bright shapes. In the late winter twilight, they glow with a windy softness, like a field of fireflies. In the black dark of a clear winter night, they are fierce.
People chose creatively where to drape, what to wrap. There’s a sense of people seeing each tree’s individuality, the result of species, weather, angles of light, and the large, slow patterns of the Universe’s Creativity.
They’ll be shut off soon for the season, and leaves will take over from the lights as a different multitude, and everything will change.
I look at shadows. Long ones, sharply vivid ones, shadows of ordinary things and unusual things, shadows I never saw before because I’ve never been to that location in that light. From shadows I get the same small charge of pleasure that I get from fireworks: I look expecting to see them, but still, how wonderful to see what is both real yet only made of light and eyes.
No idea why this is, that I have a passion for shadows. Some friends might suggest it’s because I used to love working backstage at the theater, and I’m just drawn to my natural habitat. Is it a chance to pay attention to the intriguing Buddhist ambiguity of the (non)self? I do love modernist photography, that’s for sure, and those Artists were gods of form and contrast.
As a poet and reader, I love me a liquid, sparkling, misty, on-fire metaphor. A shadow is a metaphor, equivalent to a Thing but made of something else. Paradoxically, that something else reveals more of the first Thing to us.
My favorite metaphor right now is Jane Hirshfield’s opening heart as boiling artichoke in the poem “My Species”. An “opening” heart is a metaphor itself, commonplace but fine.
I’ve been looking at a book by Teju Cole, Blind Spot, where he pairs photos with short prose pieces. A striking one (much of the Foreword also dwells beautifully on it) shows a white house behind a tall line of just-greening shrubs, and the sharp, spreading shadow of a still-bare tree that itself does not appear.
Cole writes, “Spring…it is not only the leaves that grow. Shadows grow also. Everything grows, both what receives the light, and what is cast by it.”
Some type of image reaching out from its place of origin, existing beyond the edges of its source, visible when its creator is not. Is that a metaphor for Creativity?? I hope so! I hope It and I will grow this spring. I love shadows.
Blind Spot by Teju Cole was published by Random House. The photos are by the blogger.
I’ve mentioned my grandmother before. She was an outdoorsy young person, even though she grew up poor on the Lower East Side. Dealing with life, I think she found her comfort in Nature. In the pictures I have of her as a young woman, she’s wearing a bathing suit with stockings, or hiking shorts and hat atop a mountain.
A story I consider central to my life is the one she often told of the friend who said to her dismissively, “You see one tree, you’ve seen them all.” And that, Gram would always finish, was the Saddest Thing she had ever heard anybody say. I have a passion the sight of trees, in all seasons. Because I’ve just never known otherwise; I’m fortunate in that way.
So this week I was listening to the On Being interview with artist Maira Kalman. She and host Krista Tippett had this exchange:
Ms. Tippett: Here’s another line of yours I love: “We see trees. What more do we need?”
Ms. Kalman: That’s really true….And so walking and looking at trees really is one of the glories of the world, and we say, “Rejoice,” when we see these things.
But a Buddhist teacher I once read explained that we don’t actually look at a tree. We look at ourselves looking at a tree. I bristled at that statement because, hell, I knew how to Look at Trees. But when I really got that he was right, experienced that as true, and my ego died one more death, I learned a lot.
I take many pictures of trees, even though they are surely still pictures of my own Looking: my sense of, and Need for, the world’s Creativity. That is OK. Trees are patient, and waiting, and I’m taking one human step at a time with the intention to see them.