pocket poems for Valentines Day

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2015-valentines-800px.jpgHappy Valentines 2015!  cw & wf

I found a letter my daughter wrote home when she was in college. It thanked Warren and I for teaching her that Valentines Day was about love in general, love for all our family and friends not just love as in a couple. She was feeling sad and left out of couple-hood that day and wished she was home in our family circle of love.

Holiday cards have been like pocket poems in my family. Both my mother and father sent postcards with humorous or heartfelt images for Christmas, Valentines Day, St Patrick's Day and Easter. They were mostly visual but sometimes included a poem and now I look back at them and find little gifts of loneliness as well as smiles and sighs.
 
My father was always ready with his camera to document all of our blunders and absurdities. When I was cleaning in the studio I moved a portfolio of his images from a huge folder to a print drawer and was reminded of his vision and humor as he made us pose holding up brooms and signs. He sent out these funny holiday cards as a way to focus and show his work and share his vision. As I run into his acquaintances, old friends and distant family they all tell me how much they loved and miss his cards. I miss his cards and did not get it together to send out an Xmas card for 2014.  So the above card is for a Happy Valentines Day in 2015!


MPW-valentines.jpgThis card is a monotype by my mother. Mom died ten years ago and I am not sure what year this is from. Several years after my mother died my father dated a woman for about a year. After she broke up with him Dad made the following valentine which broke my heart, but maybe made him feel better.

 
Vday 2010.jpg
Dad only wore red socks, and this was his final Valentines Day card sent to me via email:


Val 2012 2.jpgPocket poem
If this comes creased and creased again and soiled

as if I'd opened it a thousand times

to see if what I'd written here was right,

it's all because I looked too long for you

to put it in your pocket. Midnight says

the little gifts of loneliness come wrapped

by nervous fingers. What I wanted this

to say was that I want to be so close

that when you find it, it is warm from me.

--Ted Kooser, "Pocket Poem" Valentines: Poems
 (University of Nebraska Press, 2008)

#21 winter solstice 2014

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Warren, I and the dog pushed to get out the door before the sunset. We walked fast to stay warm and get to our turn-around point so we could walk home while there was still some light. On the return we noted native Virginian persimmons high on spindly trees backlit by a deep orange sky. The shortness of daylight and length of the indigo night have become both compass and map for how I find my work. The earth's axis is tilted at its furthest point away from the sun today. I love the image that tomorrow the earth begins to tilt back towards the sun. Image becomes impetus for the stories I remember, the pots I make and my architecture for composing photos.

Thumbnail image for 21 winter 14.jpg

"Stories are compasses and architecture, we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice."
― Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby



# 20 winter solstice 2014

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As an artist my father took Christmas seriously. His holiday cards were an important component of his communication and self expression. After Thanksgiving he would always take his camera with him on his New York City errands. He would make sure to stop in at Rockefeller Center. He tried to capture as many Santas on the street as he could. For him, a big score was catching a large group of Santas getting on the subway or in some other amusing mixed visual message or stance. With his delight in computer graphics, it was impossible to predict how the photographed street Santas would be distilled and transformed.

I have been decorating my tree with his handmade paper ornaments. I am missing Dad's love of the imperfect handmade object. I found a tiny red Santa hat in my box of ornaments and put it on one of his plaster figurative sculptures that line the bookshelf top next to our dining room table. These sculptures are 18 inches tall with skinny legs and pin heads. Warren and I have moved the hat from one figure to another wondering if Dad would have thought that was an appropriate confluence of Christmas and art.


20 winter 14.jpg"The magic of the street is the mingling of the errand and the epiphany."
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking


19 winter solstice 2014

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My studio has turned into Santa's workshop. I am in the process of making gifts. When I am in this mode of repetitive handwork--drawing with wax, gluing, and dyeing--I listen to interviews with artists, writers, and musicians. I like having two concentrations simultaneously. One focus is on the work with my hands and the other is an involvement with my mind and imagination. I find I can be more patient in this mode and I can pay extended close visual attention, while my mind is busy with the architecture of ideas.

19  winter 14.jpgWhen you're making something, you don't know what it is for a really long time. So, you have to kind of cultivate the space around you, where you can trust the thing that you can't name. And, if you feel a little bit insecure, or somebody questions you, or you need to know what it is, then what happens is you give that thing that you're trying to listen to away, and so how do you kind of cultivate a space that allows you to dwell in that -- not knowing, really. That is actually really smart. And can become really articulate. But, you know, like the thread has to come out, and it comes out at its own pace.
 

--Anne Hamilton from an interview with Krista Tippet

#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.

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