Particles of Moments, Waves of Life

[Video: trailer for The Heart & The Sea, a 2012 feature by Australian filmmaker  Nathan Oldfield.
See the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river (italicized portion):

Through loyalty to the past, our mind refuses to realize that tomorrow’s joy is possible only if today’s makes way for it; that each wave owes the beauty of its line only to the withdrawal of the preceding one; that each flower owes it to itself to fade for the sake of its fruit; that the fruit, unless it falls and dies, cannot assure new blooms, so that spring itself rests on winter’s grief.

(André Gide [source])


Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation.

(André Gide [source])


Up Jumped Spring

for Nana

What’s most fantastical almost always goes
unrecorded and unsorted. Take spring.
Take today. Take dancing dreamlike; coffee
your night, creameries your dream factories.
Take walking as a dream, the dearest, sincerest
means of conveyance: a dance. Take leave
of the notion that this nation’s or any other’s earth
can still be the same earth our ancestors walked.
Chemistry strains to connect our hemispheres.
The right and left sidelines our brain forms
in the rain this new world braves – acid jazz.
The timeless taste her tongue leaves in your mouth,
stirred with unmeasured sugars, greens the day
the way sweet sunlight oxygenates, ignites
all nights, all daytimes, and you – this jumps.
Sheer voltage leaps, but nothing keeps or stays.
Sequence your afternoon as dance. Drink spring.
Holding her hard against you, picture the screenplay.
Take time to remember to get her spells together.
Up jumps the goddess gratified, and up jumped spring.

(Al Young [source])

Not from whiskey river:

Prayer in My Boot

For the wind no one expected

For the boy who does not know the answer

For the graceful handle I found in a field
attached to nothing
pray it is universally applicable

For our tracks which disappear
the moment we leave them

For the face peering through the cafe window
as we sip our soup

For cheerful American classrooms sparkling
with crisp colored alphabets
happy cat posters
the cage of the guinea pig
the dog with division flying out of his tail
and the classrooms of our cousins
on the other side of the earth
how solemn they are
how gray or green or plain
how there is nothing dangling
nothing striped or polka-dotted or cheery
no self-portraits or visions of cupids
and in these rooms the students raise their hands
and learn the stories of the world

For library books in alphabetical order
and family businesses that failed
and the house with the boarded windows
and the gap in the middle of a sentence
and the envelope we keep mailing ourselves

For every hopeful morning given and given
and every future rough edge
and every afternoon
turning over in its sleep

(Naomi Shihab Nye [source])


Among the books I have accumulated is a rare item with the title, Hawaiian Life, or Lazy Letters from Low Latitudes, by Charles Warren Stoddard, published in 1894. Stoddard was a Californian with a big literary reputation and he spent a lot of time in Hawaii and wrote several books about the Islands. He was a poet but this book I have is prose, the kind of prose that comes out of a poet, especially the kind of poet Stoddard was. I have read the book and I can’t remember finding, anywhere in it, a single valuable fact. Yet I did get some satisfaction out of it. Somewhere in its pages I came upon these words:

The skies wept copiously.

It took me back to the southern part of Florida and the hurricane of 1926. I was a green young local reporter, and into Sebring came a skilled hand from the Associated Press, sent all the way down from Atlanta, and he used our office to write his dispatches, and I’ve never forgotten the thrill that came to me when he started off his second-day story with the line:

The skies wept copiously.

That was the lead, the first paragraph. I looked at it and read it over to myself several times, and I thought, God, if I could only some day write like that!… no, I would never be able to produce such magnificent imagery. The skies wept copiously. The skies wept copiously. I walked around as if in a daze, repeating it, and now, thirty-two years later, I find that the sleazy bastard stole it from Charles Warren Stoddard, and for all I know Charles Warren Stoddard may have stolen it from… well, from old Noah himself.

(H. Allen Smith, Waikiki Beachnik)


Zen Living

Birdsongs that sound like the steady determined tapping
of a shoemaker’s hammer,
or of a sculptor making tiny ball-peen dents in a silver plate,
wake me this morning. Is it possible
the world itself can be happy?
The calico cat
stretches her long body out across the top of my computer monitor,
yawning, its little primitive head a cave of possibility.
And I’m ready again
to try and see accidents, the over and over patterns
of double-slit experiments a billionfold
repeated before me. If I had great patience,
I could try to count the poplar, birch and oak
leaves in their shifting welter outside my bedroom window
or the almost infinitesimal trails of thought that flash and flash
everywhere, as if decaying particles inside a bubble chamber,
windshield raindrops, lake ripples. However,
instead I go to fry some bacon, crack two eggs
into the cast-iron skillet that’s even older than this house,
and on the calendar (each month another oriental fan
where the climbing solitary is dwarfed… or on dark blue oceans
minuscular fishing boats bob beneath gigantic waves)
X out the days, including those I’ve forgotten.

(Dick Allen [source])


About the video: In October, the Liquid Salt blog interviewed filmmaker Nathan Oldfield about The Heart & The Sea. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s been three years since your last film (Seaworthy). How is this film different?

In some ways, this film grew out of the place where Seaworthy finished. Seaworthy was an emotional film to make in that the centerpiece of the movie was about losing our daughter, Willow. Some of that grief permeates the entirety of the film, at least for me, even though the second part of Seaworthy is really about new hope and a return to joy. The Heart & The Sea moves forward in that joy, that gratitude for life and living and friendships and family. I remember after we had the première of Seaworthy my good friend Tom Wegener and I were together having a deep talk about the film. He looked me right in the eye and he predicted, with his wonderfully infectious enthusiasm, “Nathan, your next film will be all about joy!” He was absolutely right.

The Heart & The Sea opened in New York this past weekend.

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  1. I love surfing movies. Have you ever seen Dana Brown’s Step Into Liquid, a full-length surfing documentary from about 10 years ago? Ravishing!

    I initially read the title of the film at the top of this week’s roundup as The Heart of the Sea, which (with an additional In at the start that I’d forgotten) was the title of a non-fiction bestseller (by another Nathaniel, as it happens – Philbrick) about a famous 19th century maritime disaster where a whaling ship sank after being apparently attacked by an enraged sperm whale – the central inspiration, obviously, for Moby Dick.

    • Actually, as a devoted non-swimming, non-sun-sand-and-beach drudge, I’ve never really “gotten” surfing movies. So I haven’t seen Step Into Liquid, but the trailer (like the one above) looks very nice!

      I think I knew about the Moby Dick inspiration but it takes a special kind of reader to connect it to a surfing film. :)

      (Off-topic: so, so good to see you still here every now and then. I have been an absolutely sh!tty correspondent — and comment respondent — for several months now, a fact which honestly gnaws at me even if I’m not in a position to do anything about it for some time more.)

  2. I manage to drop by fairly frequently, despite the worst efforts of the Chinese Internet censors. (They don’t block RAMH, but they interfere with so much else that they make everybody’s connection treacly slow.) I’m sorry I don’t always feel inspired to comment.

    I am more than somewhat exhausted at the moment – both mentally and physically – after finally upping sticks from Beijing after 10-and-a-half years, and landing a new, exciting, but dauntingly challenging job for later in the year.

    After the small matter of devising a curriculum for three different subjects, finalising procurement lists for the establishment of a new school, and teaching myself how to edit film and soundtrack with the latest digital software (and, maybe, finally getting my Chinese up to a proper conversational level, since the place I’m going is likely to be significantly less foreigner-friendly than Beijing)… why, then I might finally have some time for some leisurely blog browsing and commenting again. Sometime in July, I would estimate. Sigh.

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