December 2013 Archives

#21 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments
Today marks the shortest day of the year. We can focus again on the gentle increase of daylight. Remember, when the light seems short and the chilly air gets you down: pour some hot water on your tea, let it steep for 5 minutes, and like the directions said on the box... dance with your loved one. It could be your dog, your cat, your partner, child, grandmother, or your toothbrush.
 _MG_9514.jpg"I light a few candles, so/the moon is no longer alone."
Mary Ruefle

#20 winter solstice

| No Comments
I think of my brothers and I like a school of fish. As kids we swam in the same water and played in the waves. Having older brothers I was always working with an intuition just out of reach. Having a younger brother there was someone to follow in my wake. We sparkled around the globe. I don't know when we transformed from shimmering minnows into hardened snapping turtles. We carry our particular memories of water and air. We look through a lens of honey and see varied versions of our saga. Each one of us carries a particular riff.


Saga By Mary Ruefle

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?

#19 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments

"I used to do terrible things in my sorrow, but now I just sit down and talk to it. When we're very young and we are in despair, we think we will always be in despair. And it takes many years to recognize that there are cycles and to be patient. When I was eighteen years old, I wasn't patient with myself, with my sorrow, with other people. But with the years we learn, in very sad and terrible ways, to be more patient with everything, including our sorrow."

Mary Ruefle, from an interview in Bomblog, "something alight, something obscured"

#18 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments
After dinner I called in my barking dog and was struck by the reflected moonlight on the pond. I am part of the pond I was born in. I have art making as part of my DNA. I am part of the pond of love my Mom and Dad created. They spawned four tree children and they left a trail of stuff behind them that threatens to break the roots of love between these children. Sometimes I think the ancient Chinese had it right by taking all their things into the next life. Good to be buried with everything because, who knows, in the after life you might need that old frying pan or the rusty tools, or the book you had not finished reading.

_MG_9495.jpgThere is a greater contrast between the moon and the night sky than there is between the sun and the daytime sky. And this contrast is more conducive to sorrow, which always separates or isolates itself, than it is to happiness, which always joins or blends.
--Mary Ruefle  from Madness, Rack and Honey

#17 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments

_MG_9478.jpg"I love the look, austere, immaculate,
Of landscapes drawn in pearly monotones.
There's something in my very blood that owns
Bare hills, cold silver on a sky of slate,
A thread of water, churned to milky spate
Streaming through slanted pastures fenced with stones.

I love those skies, thin blue or snowy gray,
Those fields sparse-planted, rendering meagre sheaves;
That spring, briefer than apple-blossom's breath,
Summer, so much too beautiful to stay,
Swift autumn, like a bonfire of leaves,
And sleepy winter, like the sleep of death."

-- Elinor Wylie, section IV of "Wild Peaches," from Selected Works of Elinor Wylie (Kent State University Press, 2005)

#16 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments
I met with my writing friends today. We talked and shared our words in patterns, the circles of our conversations grew concentrically. We wrote of truth, lying, risk taking and aging. Our pens could not hide the dark feelings, or ugly thoughts as the stories scrolled from our fingers like solid ground under our feet.

_MG_9499.jpg"The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it."
-- Margaret Atwood, from The Blind Assassin (McCelland & Stewart, 2000)

#15 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments

"The rest-note,


hinged between worlds,

that precedes change and allows it."
Jane Hirshfield, from "The Door," in The October Palace (HarperPerennial, 1994)

#15 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments
Today was a gray dream that moved from snow and black twigs outlined with immaculate preciseness, to something else that wasn't quite rain. A damp dusk walk revealed silence crunching.

_MG_9481.jpg"It's rather like snow: in the beginning,

immaculate, brilliant, the trees shocked

into a crystalline awareness of something

remarkable, like them, but not of them,

perfectly formed and yet formless.

You want to walk up and down in it,

this bleak, maizeless field of innocence

with its black twigs and blue leaves.

You want to feel the silence crunching

beneath your ... shoes, but soon ...

the trees no longer 
bear sunlight,
the sky has dragged down

its gray dream, and now it's no longer snow

but something else, not water or even

its dumb cousin, mud, but something used,

ordinary, dull. Then one morning at 4 a.m.

you go out seeking that one feeble remnant,

you are so lonely, and of course you find

its absence. An odd thing, to come upon

an absence, to come upon a death, to come upon

what is left when everything is gone."
B. H. Fairchild, from "The Death of a Small Town," in The Art of the Lathe (Alice James Books, 1998)

#13 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments
As we finished dinner tonight we heard a fox calling in the moonlit night air. The dog whined at the door and we let her out. To our ear she ran the opposite direction of the sound, perhaps she could smell something we could not see.

_MG_9465.jpg"I don't think there is anything balanced about artistic creation at all, I think it's a lopsided way of being, an obsessive and off-balance way of perceiving and being in the world; I mean most people when they see a baby fox playing with butterflies don't have to write a poem about it, especially a poem where the baby fox winds up dead on the side of the road with butterflies gamboling around its splayed intestines."
-- Mary Ruefle

#12 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments
My collection of bird nests knocked down by the ice and wind is formidable. My shoe laces are often untied. After my father died I sat out on a city stoop in the rain and lit cigarettes with a friend in honor of my Dad who smoked too much. It was hard for a vehement non-smoker to pretend, but it was a mysterious honor. I accept the topographical error in my childhood atlas and photograph sunsets not for enlargements, but to focus on an intimate imitation of my mother's habits.

Peccadillo by Mary Ruefle
I love you like pink tiles and white cigarettes

and the brown underfeathers of a fat hen

and I do not even know you, you are like my toes

which I have never seen because I was born in shoes

whose laces continually come undone

so I am forever stooped and while I am down

I gather for you all the porcupine quills

left by the rain, my collection is formidable

but not for sale, and when I am up

I make for you color enlargements of the day:

look at this cloud will you, until you arrive

I will not know if the rain fell beautifully

or dripped continually, I assume by now

my commitment to you is transparent

and that you accept the topographical error

in the depths of my atlas,

still there will be many mysteries between us,

you were not exactly here when my alarm clock was stolen

or my cat sold without my permission,

but those days are behind me,

after a life of expensive moments devoured by fogs

they mowed the fields into haystacks,

they covered the haystacks with white shrouds

and rolled them off to the side like stones

and brought in the trembling lights of a carnival

where it is my one desire

we will hang together upside down on the wheel

while the crowd gasps as you kiss me.

#11 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments
I went to Warrenton to hold my mother-in-law's hand and I danced to demonstrate what the aide described as "time to rock and roll" while they laughed. I stopped at Safeway where I held limp kale and sad looking spinach. I searched for paper-whites and amaryllis at the hardware store, but they were sold out. I held Prismacolor pencils, making loose loops in search of meaning and words but found silence. I scribbled to loosen my jaw and tight lips. I moved notebooks on my table to a box for clarity. My hands held soft dog ears for comfort. My hands embrace Warren's hands for reassurance.

_MG_9463.jpg"Some people say the best stories have no words....It is true that words drop away, and that the important things are left unsaid. The important things are learned in faces, in gestures, not in our locked tongues. The true things are too big or too small, or in any case always the wrong size to fit the template called language. I know that. But I know something else too....Turn down the daily noise and at first there is the relief of silence. And then, very quietly, as quiet
as light, meaning returns. Words are the part of silence that can be spoken." - Jeanette Winterson

#10 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments
I have been working on lists of my parents' belongings and what goes to whom. I look at photos and remember stories. I talk with and write my brothers to find answers and come to decisions. I wrote in my journal this morning. I made drawings in the early gray-snow light and walked the dog at sunset. Life is all these things plus cooking dinner, paying bills and doing the laundry. I write all these parts down and they seem so mundane and disparate that all I can think of is delete or erase.

I spoke with my college housemate last night about what we learned from our parents and siblings. Our lives are so much an appropriation of what came before, our gestures are versions of our parents. Our needs and desires, our questions and our stories, our days are constant rough drafts. One page at a time we write the book that remembers itself.

_MG_9450.jpg" is much, much more than is necessary, and much, much more than any of us can bear, so we erase it or it erases us, we ourselves are an erasure of everything we have forgotten or don't know or haven't experienced, and on our deathbed, even that limited and erased "whole" becomes further diminished, if you are lucky you will remember the one word water, all others having been erased; if you are lucky you will remember one place or one person, but no one will ever, ever read on their deathbed, the whole text, intact and in order.
First your life is erased, then you are erased. Don't tell me that erasure is beside the point, an artsy fragment of the healthy whole. If it is an appropriation, it is an appropriation of every life that has preceded your own, just as those in the future will appropriate yours; they will appropriate your very needs, your desires, your gestures, your questions, and your words.
Or so I believe. And I am glad. What is the alternative? A blank page.
I am all the book remembers of itself."
Mary Ruefle, "On Erasure"

#9 winter solstice 2013

| 1 Comment
I made these little bottles thinking about a friend in Maine who had lost her husband. I made them before my father had his heart attack. Before I knew how tears might hit the floor. They were made with love and respect for the place grief holds in our lives. I have heard of various traditions in the dry climates of Africa and Greece where water was prized above all else. Giving up the water of your own body was deeply prized. Crying tears for the dead was considered a sacrifice. People caught  tears in tiny pitchers or "tear jars" and the contents became holy water.

_MG_9460.jpg"For years the tears fell
without touching the ground.
On this night they hit the floor."
― Mary Ruefle

#8 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments

"On winter's margin,
see the small birds now
With half-forged memories
come flocking home
To gardens famous for their charity."

From On Winter's Margin by Mary Oliver

#7 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments
Too bad you can't smell the rosemary via the internet.

#6 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments

Thumbnail image for _MG_9452.jpg  "Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back. That's part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads--at least that's where I imagine it--there's a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in awhile, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases.."
--Haruki Murakami, from Kafka on the Shore (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005)

#5 winter solstice 2013

| 1 Comment
_MG_9456.jpgEven now, all possible feelings do not yet exist, there are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination. From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world. And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges and absorbs the impact." Nicole Krauss, "The History of Love"

#4 winter solstice 2013

| 1 Comment
My father was 88 when he passed away on July 4th. He lived a full life and was making photos and paper sculptures right up until his last days. Over the last five months I walk through his loft as if I am running both hands down the walls hoping that by touching the exposed bricks I can absorb the love and inspiration upon which his life was built. I have packed up all the pots left there that I made during my elementary, high school and college years as well as the other pots I gave my parents over the years to use. As I wrap each piece I remember what I hoped for when I made it and I am reminded of the specific ideas I revisit over and over again, trying to get closer to the heart of an aesthetic itch.

_MG_9418.jpg"The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. The most you can do is live inside that hope, running down its hallways, touching the walls on both sides." Barbara Kingsolver, from Animal Dreams

#3 winter solstice 2013

A few weeks ago a friend asked if I would do my solstice project this year and I said "yes, but be prepared, it might be kind of dark." The early sunset has hit me hard this year, the pots from the last firing are somber and my mood has been dark.

_MG_9423.jpg"Still, love is the impulse from which poetry springs. Even dark poems, Especially dark poems. To know the worst and write in spite of that, that must be love. To celebrate what's on the other side of the darkness. Truly great poetry always sprung from love-in-spite-of, like love for a deeply flawed person. And it it's true as [William Carlos] WIlliams wrote, that people die from lack of what is found in poems, then poetry must not be trivial, peripheral, ivory-towerism as it is often accused of being; then we have a responsibility to speak to and for others. Certainly that means acknowledging suffering. But it also means to heal, to bring delight and hope; It implies consolation. How to console without being false, shallow or sentimental. I find that the hardest challenge." --Lisel Mueller

#2 winter solstice 2013

| No Comments
Walking with the dog in the twilight I skirted the tears that often lurk in the white shadows. Warming my hands around a cup of evening tea, I find the momentum to wander through pages of art work from the dead, transforming them into apparitions of the future.

Mary Ruefle, excerpt from A Little White Shadow. Copyright © 2006 by Mary Ruefle

#1 winter solstice 2013

| 1 Comment
This is the first in a series of images leading up to the winter solstice which is the shortest day of the year.