Give the Kaleidoscope Its Due

'Quiet Nature | Game of light,' by Vasile Hurghis on Flickr

[Image: “Quiet Nature | Game of light,” by Vasile Hurghis. (Found on Flickr; used here under a Creative Commons license — thank you!) The scene is a Romanian landscape. I don’t know about you, but my own eyes resist seeing the tower on the right as what it is… especially when looking at anything else in the photo. I keep seeing it as a doorway to a world of colors which don’t exist in the foreground world. And honestly, I guess there’s no reason it can’t be that, is there — no reason it can’t be both that, and a simple rustic silo?]

From whiskey river (including the first paragraph, found elsewhere):

At 19, I read a sentence that re-terraformed my head: “The level of matter in the universe has been constant since the Big Bang.”

In all the aeons we have lost nothing, we have gained nothing — not a speck, not a grain, not a breath. The universe is simply a sealed, twisting kaleidoscope that has reordered itself a trillion trillion trillion times over.

Each baby, then, is a unique collision — a cocktail, a remix — of all that has come before: made from molecules of Napoleon and stardust and comets and whale tooth; colloidal mercury and Cleopatra’s breath: and with the same darkness that is between the stars between, and inside, our own atoms.

When you know this, you suddenly see the crowded top deck of the bus, in the rain, as a miracle: this collection of people is by way of a starburst constellation. Families are bright, irregular-shaped nebulae. Finding a person you love is like galaxies colliding. We are all peculiar, unrepeatable, perambulating micro-universes — we have never been before and we will never be again. Oh God, the sheer exuberant, unlikely face of our existences. The honour of being alive. They will never be able to make you again. Don’t you dare waste a second of it thinking something better will happen when it ends. Don’t you dare.

(Caitlin Moran [source: well, the quote is everywhere, dating back to at least 2014, but I don’t know the original])

and:

A Child is Something Else Again

A child is something else again. Wakes up
in the afternoon and in an instant he’s full of words,
in an instant he’s humming, in an instant warm,
instant light, instant darkness.

A child is Job. They’ve already placed their bets on him
but he doesn’t know it. He scratches his body
for pleasure. Nothing hurts yet.
They’re training him to be a polite Job,
to say “Thank you” when the Lord has given,
to say “You’re welcome” when the Lord has taken away.

A child is vengeance.
A child is a missile into the coming generations.
I launched him: I’m still trembling.

A child is something else again: on a rainy spring day
glimpsing the Garden of Eden through the fence,
kissing him in his sleep,
hearing footsteps in the wet pine needles.
A child delivers you from death.
Child, Garden, Rain, Fate.

(Yehuda Amichai, translated by Chana Bloch [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

The Dance of Foreground, Background, and All the Figures Between

'Broadway Boogie-Woogie,' by Piet Mondrian: oil on canvas (1943)

[Image: Broadway Boogie-Woogie (oil on canvas, 1943), by Piet Mondrian. For more details, see the note at the foot of this post.]

From whiskey river:

The art of living is based on rhythm — on give and take, ebb and flow, light and dark, life and death. By acceptance of all the aspects of life, good and bad, right and wrong, yours and mine, the static, defensive life, which is what most people are cursed with, is converted into a dance, “the dance of life”… The real function of the dance is — metamorphosis. One can dance to sorrow or to joy; one can even dance abstractly… But the point is that, by the mere act of dancing, the elements which compose it are transformed; the dance is an end in itself, just like life. The acceptance of the situation, any situation, brings about a flow, a rhythmic impulse towards self-expression. To relax is, of course, the first thing a dancer has to learn. It is also the first thing a patient has to learn when he confronts the analyst. It is the first thing any one has to learn in order to live. It is extremely difficult, because it means surrender, full surrender.

(Henry Miller [source])

and:

About Angels and About Trees

Where do angels
fly in the firmament,
and how many can dance
on the head of a pin?

Well, I don’t care
about that pin dance,
what I know is that
they rest, sometimes,
in the tops of the trees

and you can see them,
or almost see them,
or, anyway, think: what a
wonderful idea.

I have lost as you and
others have possibly lost a
beloved one,
and wonder, where are they now?

The trees, anyway, are
miraculous, full of
angels (ideas); even
empty they are a
good place to look, to put
the heart at rest — all those
leaves breathing the air, so

peaceful and diligent, and certainly
ready to be
the resting place of
strange, winged creatures
that we, in this world, have loved.

(Mary Oliver [source])

and:

Out of the dimming sky a speck appeared, then another, and another. It was the starlings going to roost. They gathered deep in the distance, flock sifting into flock, and strayed towards me, transparent and whirling, like smoke. They seemed to unravel as they flew, lengthening in curves, like a loosened skein. I didn’t move; they flew directly over my head for half an hour. The flight extended like a fluttering banner, an unfurled oriflamme, in either direction as far as I could see. Each individual bird bobbed and knitted up and down in the flight at apparent random, for no known reason except that that’s how starlings fly, yet all remained perfectly spaced. The flocks each tapered at either end from a rounded middle, like an eye. Over my head I heard a sound of beaten air, like a million shook rugs, a muffled whuff. Into the woods they sifted without shifting a twig, right through the crowns of trees, intricate and rushing, like wind.

After half an hour, the last of the stragglers had vanished into the trees. I stood with difficulty, bashed by the unexpectedness of this beauty, and my spread lungs roared. My eyes pricked from the effort of trying to trace a feathered dot’s passage through a weft of limbs. Could tiny birds be sifting through me right now, birds winging through the gaps between my cells, touching nothing, but quickening in my tissues, fleet?

(Annie Dillard [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

Reluctant Words

[Image found someplace or other on the Web, while searching on this post’s title. It suggests a battleground on which a writer went head-to-head with his words — with neither emerging the clear victor.]

From whiskey river:

I demanded a realm in which I should be both master and slave at the same time: the world of art is the only such realm. I entered it without any apparent talent, a thorough novice, incapable, awkward, tongue-tied, almost paralyzed by fear and apprehensiveness. I had to lay one brick on another, set millions of words to paper before writing one real, authentic word dragged up from my own guts. The facility of speech which I possessed was a handicap; I had all the vices of the educated man. I had to learn to think, feel and see in a totally new fashion, in an uneducated way, in my own way, which is the hardest thing in the world. I had to throw myself into the current, knowing that I would probably sink. The great majority of artists are throwing themselves in with life-preservers around their necks, and more often than not it is the life-preserver which sinks them.

(Henry Miller, “Reflections on Writing” [source])

and (italicized portion):

Spelling

My daughter plays on the floor
with plastic letters,
red, blue & hard yellow,
learning how to spell,
spelling,
how to make spells.

I wonder how many women
denied themselves daughters,
closed themselves in rooms,
drew the curtains
so they could mainline words.

A child is not a poem,
a poem is not a child.
there is no either/or.
However.

I return to the story
of the woman caught in the war
& in labour, her thighs tied
together by the enemy
so she could not give birth.

Ancestress: the burning witch,
her mouth covered by leather
to strangle words.

A word after a word
after a word is power.

At the point where language falls away
from the hot bones, at the point
where the rock breaks open and darkness
flows out of it like blood, at
the melting point of granite
when the bones know
they are hollow & the word
splits & doubles & speaks
the truth & the body
itself becomes a mouth.

This is a metaphor.

How do you learn to spell?
Blood, sky & the sun,
your own name first,
your first naming, your first name,
your first word.

(Margaret Atwood [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

It Calls Me On and On

[Image: audio-animatronic scene at the 1960s-era Disneyland “Carousel of Progress” display. See yesterland.com for more information and a larger version of this image.]

From whiskey river:

The Bones
(excerpt)

…Shells were to shut out the sea,
The bones of birds were built for floating
On air and water, and those of fish were devised
For their feeding depths, while a man’s bones were framed
For what? For knowing the sands are here,
And coming to hear them a long time; for giving
Shapes to the sprawled sea, weight to its winds,
And wrecks to plead for its sands. These things are not
Limitless: we know there is somewhere
An end to them, though every way you look
They extend farther than a man can see.

(W. S. Merwin [read the whole thing here])

and:

We clutter the earth with our inventions, never dreaming that possibly they are unnecessary — or disadvantageous. We devise astounding means of communication, but do we communicate with one another? We move our bodies to and fro at incredible speeds, but do we really leave the spot we started from? Mentally, morally, spiritually, we are fettered. What have we achieved in mowing down mountain ranges, harnessing the energy of mighty rivers, or moving whole populations about like chess pieces, if we ourselves remain the same restless, miserable, frustrated creatures we were before? To call such activity progress is utter delusion. We may succeed in altering the face of the earth until it is unrecognizable even to the Creator, but if we are unaffected wherein lies the meaning?

(Henry Miller [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

Seen Everything? Look Again.

[An “impossible triangle” sculpture in East Perth, Australia. For more information,
see the note at the bottom of this post.]

From whiskey river:

Welcome

if you believe nothing is always what’s left
after a while, as I did,
If you believe you have this collection
of ungiven gifts, as I do (right here
behind the silence and the averted eyes)
If you believe an afternoon can collapse
into strange privacies  —
how in your backyard, for example,
the shyness of flowers can be suddenly
overwhelming, and in the distance
the clear goddamn of thunder
personal, like a voice,
If you believe there’s no correct response
to death, as I do; that even in grief
(where I’ve sat making plans)
there are small corners of joy
If your body sometimes is a light switch
in a house of insomniacs
If you can feel yourself straining
to be yourself every waking minute
If, as I am, you are almost smiling…

(Stephen Dunn, from New and Selected Poems, 1974-1994 [source])

and:

Nothing can be given or taken away; nothing has been added or subtracted; nothing increased or diminished. We stand on the same shore before the same mighty ocean. The ocean of love. There it is — in perpetuum. As much in a broken blossom, the sound of a waterfall, the swoop of a carrion bird as in the thunderous artillery of the prophet. We move with eyes shut and ears stopped; we smash walls where doors are waiting to open to the touch; we grope for ladders, forgetting that we have wings; we pray as if God were deaf and blind, as if He were in a space. No wonder the angels in our midst are unrecognizable.

One day it will be pleasant to remember these things.

(Henry Miller, Nexus [source])

…and:

Seriousness

Driving the Garden State Parkway to New York, I pointed out two crows to a woman who believed crows always travel in threes. And later just one crow eating the carcass of a squirrel. “The others are nearby,” she said, “hidden in trees.” She was sure. Now and then she’d say “See!” and a clear dark trinity of crows would be standing on the grass. I told her she was wrong to under- or overestimate crows, and wondered out loud if three crows together made any evolutionary sense. I was almost getting serious now. Near Forked River, we saw five. “There’s three,” she said, “and two others with a friend in a tree.” I looked to see if she was smiling. She wasn’t. Or she was. “Men like you,” she said, “need it written down, notarized, and signed.”

(Stephen Dunn [source])

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

One Fine Day

[Video: time-lapse film of an entire year in a wooded area, over “One Fine Day,” by David Byrne and Brian Eno (lyrics in the note at the end of this post)]

From whiskey river:

The Storm

Now through the white orchard my little dog
romps, breaking the new snow
with wild feet.
Running here running there, excited,
hardly able to stop, he leaps, he spins
until the white snow is written upon
in large, exuberant letters,
a long sentence, expressing
the pleasures of the body in this world.

Oh, I could not have said it better
myself.

(Mary Oliver [source])

and:

Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes. Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such. Life is now, every moment, no matter if the world be full of death. Death triumphs only in the service of life.

(Henry Miller [source])
[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share