#18 winter solstice 2014

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Each day I stumble on an image that leaves me searching.

Some way to remember or triangulate the detail
of that bale of hay, that windrow drying,

Those six swans circling, the raft of ducks diving,
the lingering branch of dried red Thai peppers,

my scribbles or the gone but not departed
handwriting that endures.

I have to teach myself over and over
that I know how to take these ordinary sights

And reorganize them into more than the sum of their shadows
.


18 winter 14.jpgMindful By Mary Oliver

Every day

I see or hear

something

that more or less

kills me

with delight,

that leaves me

like a needle

in the haystack

of light.

It was what I was born for -

to look, to listen,

to lose myself

inside this soft world -

to instruct myself

over and over

in joy,
 and acclamation.

Nor am I talking

about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,


the very extravagant -

but of the ordinary,

the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.

Oh, good scholar,

I say to myself,

how can you help

but grow wise

with such teachings

as these -

the untrimmable light

of the world,

the ocean's shine,

the prayers that are made

out of grass?

#17 winter solstice 2014

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My mother ingrained in me the habit to turn my focus west. Our family often rushed to catch the moment of sunset at Mom's urgent and, if laggard, sometimes grumpy urging. Innately I thus know that a spoonful of silence directed west will ensure future happiness. But at this time of year, the surprise gift is that as hard as it is to rise early to a cold house, I get to see the sunrise colors. Silence and beauty have shifted to the east.

This morning each dark branch exhibited a single glistening drop of water. By twilight the morning's droplets were almost forgotten in the clear skies and orange hues as Warren and I drove home from choosing and cutting a Christmas tree with a great friend. Our friend and her husband had transformed the meadow on a mountain's hillside into a magnificent Christmas tree farm many years ago. As we were pulling the tree through the aisles of thousands, we were remembering the stance, the smile and the ineffable presence of her husband and our friend who had planted this particular tree. As we drove south at sunset, the back-lit horses grazing on the hilltops somehow marked the year's passing light and the many shifts of grief in our hearts were as natural as a horse's shift in weight from one leg to another.


17 winter 14.jpgI wanted, I thought, only a little,

two teaspoons of silence--

one for sugar,

one for stirring the wetness.

No.

I wanted a Cairo of silence,

a Kyoto.

In every hanging garden

mosses and waters.

The directions of silence:

north, west, south, past, future.

It comes through any window

one inch open,

like rain driven sideways.

Grief shifts,

as a grazing horse does,

one leg to the other.

But a horse sleeping

sleeps with all legs locked.

I wanted only a little  by Jane Hirshfield

#16 winter solstice 2014

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The dreary weather began its transformation as I chose a different road to drive home from yoga. I walked the dog in the gully instead of the path. Wearing boots, I could walk in the mud looking for images twisted among the vines. The day was so wet and grey the yellow of winter fields and the fog-obscured distant view blossomed. In the still pond only the close, dark trees were reflected, the distant views lost to mystery.

16 winter 14.jpgI am an image picker.

I like the ripe ones.

                                the ones at the ends of the listing limbs.

--Charles Wright, from 23, in Littlefoot (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007)

#15 winter solstice 2014

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I got home as the sun was setting and walked to the pond. I felt as if I had been cheated out of my allotment of daylight so I decided to light our mid-field brush pile in the still evening. As the fire ignited, the light opened our field as if it were a botanical dictionary page. The time by the fire extended my hour outside as the deepening twilight opened its vast vocabulary of dark hues to which I do not know how to assign language.

15 winter 14.jpgThe swallows and bats at their night work.

And I at mine. [...]

No voices of children, no alphabet in the wind:

Only this silence, the strict gospel of silence,

                                                                            to greet me,

Opened before me like a rare book.

I turn the first page

                               and then the next, but understand nothing.


The deepening twilight a vast vocabulary

I've never heard of.

I keep on turning, however:

                                                somewhere in here, I know, is my word.

Charles Wright, from "A Journal of the Year of the Ox," in Zone Journals (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1988)

#14 winter solstice 2014

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In the darkness of a post-dinner drive home my job is often to keep the driver entertained and awake. Usually I just ask odd questions which get Warren talking about epistemological concepts or someone's artwork. At some point he will pause and ask how did we get on this topic. My response is that you looked sleepy so I asked a question to get you going. Last night, although he was driving, it was my turn to talk as we followed headlights down the highway. I was struck by yesterday's 12/13/14 date and sorry I didn't write or use the date as part of my photograph. Warren said, "well you can always look backwards." (So it's buried in today's image.) I began to sing an old Goon Show song that for some reason my family sang on an annual trip to New Hampshire: "I'm walking backwards for Christmas...." Warren asked me a few questions, so we got to talking about my Christmas memories and before I knew it we were back home again.

14 winter 14.jpgI'm walking backwards for Christmas
Across the Irish sea
I'm walking backwards for Christmas
It's the only thing for me

I've tried walking sideways
And walking to the front
But people just look at me
And said it's a publicity stunt

I'm walking backwards for Christmas
To prove that I love you


hear the full song here

#13 winter solstice 2014

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I was afraid of people like Gertrude Stein.
I remember scuffing my feet for the sound of the leaves.
Like blue kindling, the black sticks can be arranged in vases
or light the studio fire.
I do see the moon over our bookshelves
and discover bird nests made of moss in my bowls.
Light can be bitter, but words help me see the darkness.
Photographing garden riches made visible in clay
glues time to my memories.

13 winter 14.jpgIn the Dark We Crush
By Julia Cohen

Crab apples for the sound of it. Light cannot

be bitter. The backyard licks us.
 
Blue like kindling, the fox we caught with

a shoebox. Your shirt is a constellation
 
in the tent of recovery. If you release the hand

you relax the animal. Bookshelves hold up
 
the moon. I sweep your fur into a feeling.

I put you into my memories on purpose.
 
Moss smuggles stars into your cheeks.

Inside your body's future, bravery turns to pulp.
 
The flashlight pendulum. Your face sounds like that

record player. Electric & spinning.
 
Let's grow old together. Don't be scared

of Gertrude Stein. Be brave.

#12 winter solstice 2014

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I try to vary my evening walk, but most days my dog prefers the same route. For years I have tried to train myself to see these habitual paths with the eye of a world traveler--a new, and exotic meander. We view the same pastures and I find as the sun drops low in the sky I am drawn to photograph a similar cow in silhouette. It's as if I have never seen that sky, that field, or that particular bovine stance.

12 winter 14.jpgTo the attentive eye,

each moment of the year

has its own beauty,

and in the same field,

it beholds,

every hour,

a picture which was never seen before,

and which shall never be seen again.

-- Ralph Waldon Emerson, from Nature: Addresses and Lectures (1849)

#11 winter solstice 2014

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I had a momentary transplacement today. While driving, I thinking so hard that when I looked up at the bleached corn against the raw winter sky it was like no place I had ever seen and the colors didn't spell out where I was.

11 winter 14.jpgNothing will tell you

where you are.

Each moment is a place

you've never been.
--Mark Strand, from Black Maps, Poetry (June 1970), published later in Darker (Atheneum, 1971)

#10 winter solstice 2014

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This morning's first thought as the ribbons of sunrise colored the sky was " it gets late so light!" 

10 winter 14.jpg
I'll tell you how the Sun rose -
A Ribbon at a time -
The steeples swam in Amethyst
The news, like Squirrels, ran -
The Hills untied their Bonnets -
The Bobolinks - begun -
Then I said softly to myself -
That must have been the Sun"!

--Emily Dickinson [from Fr204 I'll tell you how the Sun rose]

#9 winter solstice 2014

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Last winter when my siblings and I were in the midst of sorting through my parents' belongings in their New York City loft I took a break and went to the Drawing Center to see Emily Dickinson's envelope poems. In the exhibit there was a small selection of poems written on the backs of gently opened, asymmetrical envelopes. The handwriting was hard to read but I began to see her poems as visual objects sprawled across irregular scraps of sculpturally shaped paper. At the instant of seeing them I was also reading them for meaning and sound. There was a beautiful mix of serendipity in the available space and elements of the accidental exhibited by the organic spacing within these ephemeral paper slips. I returned to my job of sorting, knowing that my mother's illegible handwritten poems had a value I could not discern at that moment. Those moments of sorting followed by encounters with such visual poems has continued to contribute to how I look at text I cannot read. There are the calligraphy practice sheets that I brought home from Korea, the seed pods that remind me of brushstrokes, or even my own writing once I collage it backwards.

Thumbnail image for 09 winter 14.jpgWe talked with each other about each other
Though neither of us spoke --
We were listening to the seconds' Races
And the Hoofs of the Clock --
Pausing in Front of our Palsied Faces
Time compassion took --
Arks of Reprieve he offered to us --
Ararats -- we took --


--Emily Dickinson
and a visual of Emily's original written version:

emily-dickenson-original.png

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