Forms, Aligning

Image: 'Symmetries: passage2011 - logfiles / GÆG: Thomas Huber & Wolfgang Aichner'

[Image: from the “passage2011” project of artists Thomas Huber and Wolfgang Aichner, undertaken for the Venice Biennale in 2011. (Found on Flickr; used here under a Creative Commons license — thank you!) The two artists built a small wooden boat, “launched” it at Furtschaglboden in the Zillertal Alps — thence dragging it over the Alps to Venice, where they would make their way to the Canale Grande to launch the boat on the water there. The Flickr page’s description says: “After more than three weeks of tireless exertion, the artists reached Lago di Neves in South Tyrol, Italy. From there, they continued their journey via Bozen to Venice. A transport ship conveyed the red boat to the exhibition venue, the Luterana in the Scuola dell’ St. Angelo Custode. Following a christening ceremony, it was launched and proceeded to sink within a few minutes without ever reaching the Canal Grande.” The project’s home page is here; you can read more about it at the English-language Der Spiegel site.]

From whiskey river:

What is the meaning of life? That was all — a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.

(Virginia Woolf [source])

and:

Dear Friend
(excerpt)

Y.

I become each day more reckless,
too impatient for summer, the unbearable heat,
the calm that comes with it. There are no hills here,
not one, and I’m bored with the stillness

of the yellow field outside my window. And you,
who cannot keep still, who can never
look back, where will you go next?
How will I find you?

Can you feel the world pull
apart, the seams loosen?
What, tell me, will keep it whole,

if not you? if not me?
Send a postcard, picture, tell me
how you’ve been.

(Blas Falconer [source])

and (last four lines):

I once had a friend. He had been teaching a long time when I was just starting. He liked telling his students he’d seen them before. In another life, at another school, the same hairline, the same kid brother back home in eighth grade. In class, he gave them obituaries to read. And though we’re no longer close, here is consolation: I still believe in what he was up to: seeing if he could make them dizzy. Suggesting they write their way into or out of the disquieting facts he offered up. Offering the chance to find themselves breathless, to consider themselves a point on a circle falling and rising, falling/drawn up, as the wheel moved, moves, is moving relentlessly on. He wanted them to feel conveyor beneath their feet, when all along they’d assumed they were walking. To consider they might, somehow, for another, be a mark and a measure of vastness. A site.

As he was for me.

What do you see? What aligns? he’s still asking…

Of course, I could say I won’t write about my old friend. And, to be honest, I’d rather not, since I still feel regret and sadness about that loss. But things about him assert here as subject. The obituaries (you’ll see). The dizziness. His belief in the uneasy matter of chaos. It’s all here, important. All-of-a-piece. These lightest of strands, moments, memories unbury. Forms align in each others’ presence.

It’s the noticing that cracks us open, lets something in.
Shows we’re in use.
Uses us.
Right now. Right this minute.

(Lia Purpura [source])

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Layers of Often, of Seldom, of Never

'127/365,' by Tom Wachtel on Flickr

[Image: “127/365,” by Tom Wachtel. (Found on Flickr, used here under a Creative Commons license.) The caption provided by the photographer: “Yellow often shines in sparkling company. Red will almost never dance alone. Green is seldom seen behind the screen of might-have-been, pining softly for what words were meant to mean.” And yes: I found this image after coming up with the post’s title.]

From whiskey river:

Often times, a person will think they know you by piecing together tiny facts and arranging those pieces into a puzzle that makes sense to them. If we don’t know ourselves very well, we’ll mistakenly believe them, and drift toward where they tell us to swim, only to drown in our own confusion.

Here’s the truth: it’s important to take the necessary steps to find out who you are. Because you hold endless depths below the surface of a few facts and pieces and past decisions. You aren’t only the ripples others can see. You are made of oceans.

(Victoria Erickson [source])

and:

Often down here I have entered into a sanctuary; a nunnery; had a religious retreat; of great agony once; and always some terror; so afraid one is of loneliness; of seeing to the bottom of the vessel. That is one of the experiences I have had here in some Augusts; and got then to a consciousness of what I call “reality”: a thing I see before me: something abstract; but residing in the downs or sky; beside which nothing matters; in which I shall rest and continue to exist. Reality I call it. And I fancy sometimes this is the most necessary thing to me: that which I seek. But who knows—once one takes a pen and writes? How difficult not to go making “reality” this and that, whereas it is one thing. Now perhaps this is my gift: this perhaps is what distinguishes me from other people: I think it may be rare to have so acute a sense of something like that—but again, who knows? I would like to express it too.

(Virginia Woolf [source])

and:

All through our gliding journey, on this day as on so many others, a little song runs through my mind. I say a song because it passes musically, but it is really just words, a thought that is neither strange nor complex. In fact, how strange it would be not to think it—not to have such music inside one’s head and body, on such an afternoon. What does it mean, say the words, that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift that I should bring to the world? What is the life that I should live?

(Mary Oliver [source])

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Suspended Solutions

Photograph by Saul Leiter (1923-2013)

[Image: photograph by Saul Leiter. I know very little about this photo, although its title might be “Riding the Surface.” (Leiter didn’t title his photographs enigmatically, as a rule; this one might even be called “Bus.”) It was taken sometime in the 1960s, probably in New York City. Found widely around the Web, it seems — as best as I can tell — to have been among the photos in Leiter’s collection called Early Color (2006).]

From whiskey river (italicized lines):

Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, ‘We are All Writing God’s Poem’

Today, the sky’s the soft blue of a work shirt washed
a thousand times. The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step. On the interstate listening
to NPR, I heard a Hubble scientist
say, “The universe is not only stranger than we
think, it’s stranger than we can think.” I think
I’ve driven into spring, as the woods revive
with a loud shout, redbud trees, their gaudy
scarves flung over bark’s bare limbs. Barely doing
sixty, I pass a tractor trailer called Glory Bound,
and aren’t we just? Just yesterday,
I read Li Po: “There is no end of things
in the heart,” but it seems like things
are always ending — vacation or childhood,
relationships, stores going out of business,
like the one that sold jeans that really fit —
And where do we fit in? How can we get up
in the morning, knowing what we do? But we do,
put one foot after the other, open the window,
make coffee, watch the steam curl up
and disappear. At night, the scent of phlox curls
in the open window, while the sky turns red violet,
lavender, thistle, a box of spilled crayons.

(Barbara Crooker [source])

and:

I see the mountains in the sky; the great clouds; and the moon; I have a great and astonishing sense of something there, which is “it” — it is not exactly beauty that I mean… A sense of my own strangeness, walking on the earth is there too: of the infinite oddity of the human position; with the moon up there and those mountain clouds. Who am I, what am I, and so on: these questions are always floating about in me.

(Virginia Woolf [source])

and (italicized lines):

Saga

Everything that ever happened to me
is just hanging — crushed
and sparkling — in the air,
waiting to happen to you.
Everything that ever happened to me
happened to somebody else first.
I would give you an example
but they are all invisible.
Or off gallivanting around the globe.
Not here when I need them
now that I need them
if I ever did which I doubt.
Being particular has its problems.
In particular there is a rift through everything.
There is a rift running the length of Iceland
and so a rift runs through every family
and between families a feud.
It’s called a saga. Rifts and sagas
fill the air, and beautiful old women
sing of them, so the air is filled with
music and the smell of berries and apples
and shouting when a gun goes off
and crying in closed rooms.
Faces, who needs them?
Eating the blood of oranges
I in my alcove could use one.
Abbas and ammas!
come out of your huts, travel
halfway around the world,
inspect my secret bank account of joy!
My face is a jar of honey
you can look through,
you can see everything
is muted, so terribly muted,
who could ever speak of it,
sealed and held up for all?

(Mary Ruefle [source])

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Story Up My Sleeve #25: “The Duchess and the Jeweller,” by Virginia Woolf

Man's open hand holding pearl[Don’t know what this is? See the Story Up My Sleeve background page.]

“Good morning, Mr. Bacon,” said the Duchess. And she held out her hand which came through the slit of her white glove. And Oliver bent low as he shook it. And as their hands touched the link was forged between them once more. They were friends, yet enemies; he was master, she was mistress; each cheated the other, each needed the other, each feared the other, each felt this and knew this every time they touched hands thus in the little back room with the white light outside, and the tree with its six leaves, and the sound of the street in the distance and behind them the safes.

“And to-day, Duchess — what can I do for you to-day?” said Oliver, very softly.

The Duchess opened her heart, her private heart, gaped wide. And with a sigh but no words she took from her bag a long washleather pouch — it looked like a lean yellow ferret. And from a slit in the ferret’s belly she dropped pearls — ten pearls. They rolled from the slit in the ferret’s belly — one, two, three, four — like the eggs of some heavenly bird.

“All’s that’s left me, dear Mr. Bacon,” she moaned. Five, six, seven — down they rolled, down the slopes of the vast mountain sides that fell between her knees into one narrow valley — the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth. There they lay in the glow of the peach-blossom taffeta. Ten pearls.

“From the Appleby cincture,” she mourned. “The last… the last of them all.”

Oliver stretched out and took one of the pearls between finger and thumb. It was round, it was lustrous. But real was it, or false? Was she lying again? Did she dare?

She laid her plump padded finger across her lips. “If the Duke knew…” she whispered. “Dear Mr. Bacon, a bit of bad luck…”

[source]

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