Saturday, December 17, 2016

They Are Really Having Fun

by Richard Brautigan
from his collection entitled Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork

They are really having fun,
          drinking glasses of wine
and talking about things
          that they like.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

One Portrait of One Woman

"One Portrait of One Woman" by Marsden Hartley,
Oil on Composition Board, 1916








Until a man has given up himself he has given up nothing.
                                           - Marsden Hartley

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Tyger

by William Blake
From his collection entitled SONGS OF INNOCENCE and OF EXPERIENCE

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies,
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what the shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when they heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thursday, November 17, 2016

79


"I keep beginning again. I keep taking a fresh notebook. And each time I hope it will lead to something, that it will be a constructive experiment, that I shall open some door. It never happens. I stop before I get to a door, any door. The same invisible obstacle that stops me. I ought at least to try and keep the same notebook, to get to the last page. That would mean that I have said almost everything."
From 99: The New Meaning by Walter Abish
Illustration by Muhammad-Ejleh

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Autumn Wind

"Autumn Breeze" by Sally Elford




     one by one
everyone has left . . .
     autumn wind

                        -Kobayashi Issa

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ghosts and Fashion

Danielle and The Devil by Janet Hill
by Elaine Equi


Although it no longer has a body
to cover out of a sense of decorum,

the ghost must still consider fashion--

must close its invisibility in something
if it is to "appear" in public.

Some traditional specters favor
the simple shroud--

a toga of ectoplasm
worn Isadora-Duncan-style
swirling around them.

While others opt for lightweight versions
of once familiar tee shirts and jeans.

                                                                         Perhaps being thought-forms,
                                                                         they can change their outfits instantly-

                                                                         or if they were loved ones,
                                                                         it is we who clothe them
                                                                         like dolls from memory.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Sufficiency

By Jonathan Aaron
From his collection entitled Corridor

Dozens of burning, fish-shaped clouds dove for the horizon, 
determined to make more of an already explosive sunset.

The sea gave the shore another hearty slap on the back.
Crickets started singing in the dry grass beyond the wide-open door.

The day's last excursion boat glided past the window, white as a gull.
We were about to sit down around the kitchen table

and serve ourselves from a hot bowl those little red potatoes
the whole island survived on during the war.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Three Faces

Three Faces in Lush Landscape by Minnie Evans, 1959, oil on canvas with collage
"I have never remembered sleeping without dreaming."
- Minnie Evans

Monday, September 12, 2016

1001 Days



I follow Annapurna Living, a site created by Carrie-Anne Moss, aka Trinity of The Matrix. She shared these lines, taken from a book entitled Transitions to a Heart-Centered World by Guru Rattana, on Instagram, and I was immediately struck by the power of this message.

1000 minutes = 16.7 hours
1000 days = 2.7 years

Mastery is within reach.

The question is: What habit do we break? What skill do we master?


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Broken and Restored

Broken and Restored Multiplication by Suzanne Duchamp,
1918-19, oil and silver paper on canvas
Collection of The Art Institute of Chicago 
"Broken and Restored Multiplication is filled with visual and verbal metaphors of disorder and breakage: at the center, a schematic Eiffel Tower is turned upside down; just below it, a modern cityscape is reflected in its mirror image. The phrases that run up and down along the surface of the picture further the idea of order upended: The mirror would shatter, the scaffolding would totter, the balloons would fly away, the stars would dim, etc. Such images and words seemed fitting for the artists who embraced Dada, a cultural movement that emerged in response to WWI." - The Art Institute of Chicago


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Out of the Rolling Ocean the Crowd

by Walt Whitman
In memory of Joseph Tribbiani Hartsock

Out of the rolling ocean the crowd came a drop gently to me,
Whispering, I love you, before long I die
I have travell'd a long way merely to look on you to touch you,
For I could not die till I once look'd on you,
For I fear'd I  might afterward lose you.

Now we have met, we have look'd, we are safe,
Return in peace to the ocean my love,
I too am part of that ocean, my love, we are not so much separated,
Behold the great rondure, the cohesion of all, how perfect!
But as for me, for you, the irresistible sea is to separate us,
As for an hour carrying us diverse, yet cannot carry us diverse forever;
Be not impatient - a little space - know you I salute the air, the ocean and the land,
Every day at sundown for your dear sake, my love.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Dog

In honor of National Dog Day ...

The Dog, Artist Unknown. Early 20th Century, Oil on Canvas
Part of the National Gallery of Art Collection

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Tornado, Part Three

What is eerie about spring storms in the Midwest is the calm that is left after they blow through: a soft rain and wet streets shimmering under the street lights; the sound of crickets; a gentle breeze that gently swings the blinds back and forth against the pane, its plastic tip-tap-tapping.

I vaguely remember my father getting home after the storm passed and walking down the basement steps, laughing. In fact, his arrival seemed to coincide with the exact moment the storm went away, as if he chased it away himself, when, in fact, it had calmed a good twenty or so minutes earlier, but we were still in limbo. I had never been so happy to see him. I truly felt as if a super hero had come to rescue us from an evil villain. My father has such an unshakeable confidence about him. As a child, I believed everything would be OK if he was around.

While the house was left intact, the emotional damage was devastating. In that two-hour span of time, I faced death and cowered in fear, my only refuge a green metal ironing board and some rope attached to nothing. I was not comforted by the idea of meeting my Creator or His Son or His Mother, for that matter. I questioned why we were only born to die and what the purpose was of being born at all if heaven was so great and our ultimate destiny. The internal fire of anger, guilt and confusion from these burning questions still smolders.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Tornado, Part Two

“We’re going to die. Tonight we're going to die. Get ready to meet Jesus. Tonight, you’re all going to meet Jesus,” my mother wailed, gripping the weather radio as we children cried in terror, tied together under that flimsy, avocado-green metal ironing board.

I was in sixth grade. I did not want to die, nor did I want to meet Jesus. I am not sure which I dreaded more – dying or meeting Jesus. 

Even though I was raised in a strict Roman Catholic household, I found Jesus very scary. 

He seemed mean and played favorites at the end of the world. I did not understand why I had to go through him to get to God. It seemed far more practical to go straight to the Source, and his Father - with his long white hair and beard, looking a lot like St. Nick in a bath robe - seemed the friendlier of the two.

As I write this, I am amazed at how when I first encountered Buddhist meditation in my thirties, it seemed like such a new concept. Prior to the discovery, I associated meditation with sitting frozen in a cross-legged position and trying to breathe naturally while seeming like you weren’t breathing at all. Meditation actually goes beyond merely focusing on the breath and involves retraining one's mind to pierce the illusory nature of our sense perceptions. Disciplined meditation leads to liberation from suffering: it leads to deep and unshakable peace and joy, even in the midst of chaos. 

Raised a Roman Catholic, I was quite trained to meditate on biblical teachings, but this training hardly brought me inner peace

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Tornado, Part One

By A.M., Spring 2006


Douglas Adams, in a collection of his short works entitled Salmon of a Doubt, shares one hilarious experience involving his trousers at school that he labeled mind-scarring. I wish I could say I only had one terrible, mind-scarring experience, and I wish it was about something as mundane as clothing. In fact, my entire childhood was a terrible, mind-scarring experience. I don’t even know where to start, but I must start somewhere, as the purpose of writing is to heal these scars once and for all.

I grew up in Kansas. Need I say anything more about the title of this vignette? In fact, need I even write anything more? And, no I never met Dorothy or Toto, though I nearly became Dorothy, and I am convinced this ordeal contributed to the profound mental confusion I experience as an adult. In fact, tornado is exactly what my mind looks like most of the time.

We moved to Kansas when I was seven. When you go to school in Kansas, you not only have fire drills, you have tornado drills, because it is tornado season roughly between March and September (even though they have been known to strike year-round) and because tornadoes can strike anywhere at any time of the day or night and have been known to hit a few schools. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Silent Buddha

by Larry Gates
From The Haiku Anthology





The silent Buddha
     holding in his lap
          a handful of shadows

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Me and the Moon

Me and the Moon by Arthur G. Dove, 1937, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Bed Bath

by Kat Comer
In memory of Gus Brauer, January 2008

8:00 am
Busy hands gather a harvest
of sheets and towels from the dryer. 
Carefully, we carry water
from room to room in plastic tubs,
remove light bulbs to dim the glare,
open blinds to the outside world
while, expressionless, you stare
into morning's feeble light
and see nothing of the sorrow
that weighs upon Joan,
bending her in pain as
her shattered knees slam
against the rails of your bed.

Gus, her body is wearing down.
Her sleep deprived nights are
taking their toll.
Understand, she cannot control
your leaving, your long drift
toward home.
Alone upon the shore
helpless, angry, and burdened
with guilt, she watches you
withdraw a little more each day,
tucked in a fetal curl or
prone in crucifixion on
soiled, urine soaked sheets.

The ritual of water soothes 
the broken flesh but not
the panicked heart.
The furtive kiss, the squeezed hand,
the sudden tears - 
each stroke of the razor
smoothes what is rough
along the neck, under the nose - 
visible surfaces easily within reach.
These are the tender mercies that
call us home to one another,
that alone can redeem the 
absence still to be endured.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Guennol Lioness


The Guennol Lioness is a 5000-year-old Mesopotamian limestone sculpture found near Baghdad, Iraq; it measures just over 3.25 inches tall. It depicts a muscular, anthropomorphic lioness-woman.

In 2007, this extraordinary piece sold for $57.2 million dollars at Sotheby's auction house. To learn more about The Guennol Lioness, check out this Sotheby's video.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Wheatfield with Crows

by Donald Fry

Wheat Field with Crows, Vincent van Gogh, 1890

Are they there to steal the yellowing wheat,
these crows? or to distract the traveler?
who needs to choose between two paths, his feet
left, right or straight, a choice triangular.

Civil warring in the sky, schizoid blues
commingle and compress two frightened clouds
earthwards with mur’drous, tuxedoed crows whose
cruel descent, undergrowth chaffed to wheat shrouds.

The path travelled far less in landscape view,
lost in perspective in the yellow wood
off-frame.  A gun’s report, easel falls, two
paths diverge then disappear.  Artist stood;

surveys the slow art of decaying wheat
Crows caw their mysteries, then, en masse retreat.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Monday, May 9, 2016

When Life Gets Messy

An interstellar nebula or pile of trash?
It's easy to be joyful when things are going our way - when our environment is clean and tidy: the lawn mowed, the dishes done, the floors spotless and the house painted and furnished just the way we want. When we're soaking in a sparkly clean tub with a new bar of organic soap, our green beauty products lined up neatly in the cabinet.

When the dirt is hidden. When the air smells fresh and fragrant. When the sun is shining and the sky is blue and the grass is green and the trash buried. When our life looks like a magazine cover. When, when, when.

We started major remodeling a few weeks ago, and we have weeks to go - months, even. It is a slow, messy process fraught with setbacks (and one of the reasons my posts have dropped off). But as I write this, I am thinking of our brothers and sisters up North - in Fort McMurray Alberta, Canada - who have lost everything in a major wildfire and for whom "mess" doesn't even begin to describe their current state. Or our siblings in the Southwest after the devastating floods. Or, well, anyone living through an upheaval - whether human-made (e.g. remodeling, rebuilding) or nature-made.

So, how do we maintain even a semblance of inner peace - let alone joy - when things don't go our way? When they get smelly, messy and turned upside down? And when that mess lasts for weeks. Maybe months. Years, even.

One way is to look up in the sky at night and meditate on the universe - in particular, its origins. To step back for just a few moments and understand where our "mess" really began.

The Milky Way Galaxy or a cigarette burn on upholstery?
"We take it for granted that there exists a periodic table with numerous elements (at last count, 118) from which we can construct the world around us. But when the universe began with a big bang, it started out with no elements at all.

Many of the elements that make up Earth and the people on it had to be created in the nuclear furnaces inside stars and were only released once the star reached the end of its life.

In fact, only light elements, like hydrogen and helium, were created at the start of the universe." Kelly Oakes,"On the Origin of Chemical Elements," Scientific American, August 2,2011

Look around you. Yes - right now - around wherever you are. What do you see? Label the objects: monitor, computer, cell phone, iPad, chair, desk, window, rug, coffee cup - whatever you see. Don't judge it - just label it.
  
Where did it come from? Hydrogen and helium - light elements. That's right: this entire planet and everything on it came from two gases and a bunch of collisions and other nonsense - a literal explosion of the universal ego mind that attempted to make form from formlessness.

On some level, every "physical" object is a manipulation of light particles - that's it. Constantly shifting empty gases with no more solidity on a quantum level than a hologram.

Folks, we are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams. We are the architects of this hologram, both individually and collectively. The problem is that we have forgotten this. We believe we are solid - as is everything around us. We believe that we can make our external environments perfect by external activity: harder work, better organization, more thorough cleaning, etc. We believe that when things go wrong, there is someone to blame - often someone else - politicians, Mother Nature and even Acts of God. We also believe that only when we attain perfection will we be happy. Until then ...

We spend our lives chasing a mirage.

Perfection can never be achieved on the level of form. Why? Because "form" is in a constant state of flux. Because the universe of form, which started with the Big Bang, has been swirling around like dust in a Dyson for eons - creating galaxies, solar systems, stars, planets, landscapes, life forms and iPhones - whatever we want to dream up. Because the material world is comprised of a never-ending process of creation and destruction, and there's no permanent peace or joy to be found in impermanent objects - in things that will eventually change, deteriorate, break or even "die."

On the left, the intergalactic embryo that would become
my family room remodeling project, which will become something else ...
So, where is the good news in all of this, you ask? Well, the good news is that we are not form beings. We are, to quote Sting, spirits in a material world. We've created a cosmic funhouse for thrills and spills and have forgotten that it's just that: an illusory, kaleidoscopic theme park where we take the ride of our life - literally - and repeatedly, if you buy into reincarnation.

The good news is that the mess will not last - it's not even real. It's not even a "mess," which is a judgment call, anyway. In fact, if we stopped judging what we perceive as being good or bad, beautiful or ugly or clean or messy, we would find instant relief. But it's not easy to do; I've been working on it for years and am still working on it moment by moment, especially during this remodeling debacle.

Next time you see a mess - be it spilled milk on the table or spilled crude oil in the Gulf - close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Imagine the Big Bang, and remind yourself that it's all okay - that what you are seeing is simply a continuation of that original cosmic clusterfuck. 





Sunday, April 17, 2016

Vigil

by Kat Comer

Rapt in stillness
Emily floats
In a pool of silence.
Its waters - calm & flecked with light - 
Are not disturbed
By the tumult of voices
Clamoring, unnoticed
From a distant shore.
Life's parade passes
Like a silent film unwinding
Before indifferent eyes.
Such fanfare holds no allure
Cannot compete
For her attention 
With the whisper of God
She waits for on the threshold
Between two worlds,
Her spirit poised
Her patience boundless
As the waters that sustain her.
Don't be fooled 
By the presence of her flesh
And the depth of our need.
Emily is elsewhere
Cradled in her Father's arms.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Peaceable Kingdom

Dream of a Peaceable Kingdom
Dream of a time without war
The ones we wish would hear us
Have heard it all before
               - Neil Peart

Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Miracle We Didn't See

by Donald Fry
More by Donald Fry can be found on his YouTube Channel

You could name them in your sleep - the Lupine,
Fuschia near the tree, Holly Hock in back,
Mimosa, Zinnias and at the Columbine,
we kissed, sealed this terest’rial zodiac.

I’m Adam in your garden – I mean ours!
I name the birds this clime will never see:
Albatross, Skylark, Nightingale – (air Tzars;)
Windhover mastering his odyssey.

Strategically these flowering vines had grown,
your labor had increased  the plants  and kids
(their laundry flapped, proof they were on their own.)
Then a hat was tapped where a rabbit hid!

My  frosted mug its evanescent suds,
your  Emily opened  to the “Hummingbird,”
our  table felt the whirl that stirred the buds,
wings, fuschia, wings lupine, all was now blurred!

The  miracle we didn’t see emerged
steady, stealthily but slow, a slug’s pace.
Compacted, composted, our soil  is merged

as is our souls, our blood, with garden's grace.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Music of Chance

"In the long run, however, the impression that lingered of that room was quite different from what Nashe had imagined it would be. In the weeks and months that followed, he often found himself thinking back to what he had seen there, and it stunned him to realize how many of the objects he could remember. They began to take on a luminous, almost transcendent quality for him, and whenever he stumbled across one of them in his mind, he would unearth an image so distinct that it seemed to glow like an apparition from another world. The telephone that had once sat on Woodrow Wilson's desk. A pearl earring worn by Sir Walter Raleigh. A pencil that had fallen from Enrico Fermi's pocket in 1942. General McClellan's field glasses. A half-smoked cigar filched from an ashtray in Winston Churchill's office. A sweatshirt worn by Babe Ruth in 1927. William Seward's Bible. The cane used by Nathaniel Hawthorne after he broke his leg as a boy. A pair of spectacles worn by Voltaire. It was all so random, so misconstrued, so utterly beside the point. Flower's museum was a graveyard of shadows, a demented shrine to the spirit of nothingness. If those objects continued to call out to him, Nashe decided, it was because they were impenetrable, because they refused to divulge anything about themselves. It had nothing to do with history, nothing to do with the men who once owned them. The fascination was simply for the objects as material things, and the way they had been wrenched out of any possible context, condemned by Flower to go on existing for no reason at all: devoid of purpose, alone in themselves now for the rest of time. It was the isolation that haunted Nashe, the image of irreducible separateness that burned down into his memory, and no matter how hard he struggled, he never managed to break free of it." [excerpt from the novel, The Music of Chance, by Paul Auster]

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

It's a Beautiful World

If I hadn't started painting, I would have raised chickens.
- Grandma Moses

It's a Beautiful World, Grandma Moses, 1948

Monday, March 7, 2016

Yes, You Can Sabbatical

Photo by Ali Rossi
sab bat i cal
noun
1. a period of time during which someone does not work at his or her regular job and is able to rest, travel, do research, etc.
2. of or relating to the Sabbath

Normally, we think of sabbaticals as time off of work, but perhaps we should expand it to include time away from any routine in which we have lost focus or joy.

I began blogging in earnest during a career sabbatical and somehow managed to turn an expression of creative interests into a chore.

In December, I started a 20-Day Meditation Challenge as an attempt to get out of this mental rut and take my blogging in a new direction. While the Challenge worked wonders for bringing inner peace and focus during the hectic holiday season, it also wiped out my desire to write about anything.

Interestingly, the "archaic" definition of sabbatical is "of or pertaining to" the Sabbath: a period of rest and worship that is observed Friday evening to Saturday evening in the Jewish tradition and Sunday in the Christian tradition and that - for many of us - has evolved into an extension of the work week as a catch-all day to accomplish everything we failed to complete Monday thru Saturday.