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#21 decembrance 2017

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I often feel as if I am chanting encouragement to myself as I accomplish my outdoor chores and unfurl new ideas in the studio. The new work feels as if roots in darkness are growing in unknown directions. I accomplished my winter rituals today, putting up our tree and lights, then walking the dog before sunset and lighting a bonfire to extend my outdoor hours. I huddled close to the fire as the temperature dropped, the light faded and icy stars leaned in with a moon sliver for company.

21 decembrance 2017.jpgWinter Solstice Chant
By Annie Finch
Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,
now you are uncurled and cover our eyes
with the edge of winter sky
leaning over us in icy stars.
Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,
come with your seasons, your fullness, your end.

# 20 decembrance 2017

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Tonight driving home through traffic towards the Blueridge Mountains my heart lifted at the sight of the new moon. I have come to love the waxing crescent as a sign of hope. I have learned to carry both sorrow and have faith in change like the phases of the moon. On my drive I listened to a new to me band called Ranky Tanky. The song Watch That Star caught my imagination. Part of the lyrics go, "If the star run down on the western hills, you ought to watch that star. See how it runs." I drove west, watching the star, the moon, the sky, and cataloging the different shades of darkness in the landscape as a means of coping with the season.

20 decembrance 2017.jpgNew Moon - Ted Kooser

How much it must bear on its back,
a great ball of blue shadow,
yet somehow it shines, keeps up
an appearance. For hours tonight,
I walked beneath it, learning.
I want to be better at carrying sorrow.
If my face is a mask, formed over
the shadows that fill me,
may I smile on the world like the moon. 

#18 decembrance 2017

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In the afternoon my studio gets dark way too fast. In the summer time I blame it on the trees that we have let grow up to close to the building, but in the winter the fault can only fall on the short days. Warren and I have been working on our 2018 calendar. I have been looking back through our photographs aiming to balance the spare aesthetic I feel in December with the memory of the lush summer. I look back to navigate future images, contemplating how to carry light forward, reminding me to stare more closely at material and its potential for expression.

18-decembrance-2017-small.jpg"You row forward looking back, and telling this history is part of helping people navigate toward the future. We need a litany, a rosary, a sutra, a mantra, a war chant for our victories. The past is set in daylight, and it can become a torch we can carry into the night that is the future.

--Rebecca Solnit - from Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities

#17 decembrance 2017

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This morning, walking before breakfast, I put one foot in front of the other studying leaf littler and seed pods. Something on the horizon caught my eye and I looked up to see a bald eagle soar above the trees in front of me, then over my head, back down our driveway past the house and finally towards the stream that feeds the pond. The soaring eagle lacked confines and lifted both my gaze and mood. My idiosyncratic path through the morning light was both our well trodden driveway and grass but also a metaphor for looking up and moving beyond merely putting one foot in front of the other.

17 decembrance 2017.jpgThis history of walking is an amateur history, just as walking is an amateur act. To use a walking metaphor, it trespasses through everybody else's field -- through anatomy, anthropology, architecture, gardening, geography, political and cultural history, literature, sexuality, religious studies -- and doesn't stop in any of them on its long route. For if a field of expertise can be imagined as a real field -- a nice rectangular confine carefully tilled and yielding a specific crop -- then the subject of walking resembles walking itself in its lack of confines. And though the history of walking is, as part of all these fields and everyone's experience, virtually infinite, this history of walking I am writing can only be partial, an idiosyncratic path traced through them by one walker, with much doubling back and looking around... The history of walking is everyone's history, and any written version can only hope to indicate some of the more well-trodden paths in the author's vicinity -- which is to say, the paths I trace are not the only paths.

--Wanderlust: A History of Walking, by Rebecca Solnit

#16 decembrance 2017

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After a lovely dinner talking pots, memories and looking to the future the candles burned low.  There were few pauses because there was so much interchange between friends, food and pots.

16 decembrace 2017.jpgJeanette Winterson writes of the relationship between light and conversation:

I have noticed that when all the lights are on, people tend to talk about what they are doing--their outer lives. Sitting round in candlelight or firelight, people start to talk about how they are feeling--their inner lives. They speak subjectively, they argue less. There are longer pauses.

#15 decembrance 2017

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My friend Mikio who owns and runs the restaurant Omen Azen for whom we make pots published a book called Talk To A Stone. It is a beautiful object about Mikio's father, Yoji and his calligraphy. The book was designed by Stefan Sagmeister, an extremely well-known graphic designer. The driving design theme of the book was to print the calligraphy on translucent paper  which was then folded with reversed text printed on the opposite side of the sheet so that when folded the now readable text showed through the paper as if through a thin veil. For Mikio creating Talk To A Stone exhibited the Buddhist virtues of patience and perseverance. His restaurant is also a reflection of his commitment and approach. There are a few stones in a glass case as you enter the space. We gave him a few more last week as a reminder of long friendship, our joint trips to Maine, our fathers' love of making art and telling stories, and our daughter's future journeys. All are reflected through a veil of love and light.

15 decembrance 2017.jpg
Go inside a stone
That would be my way.

Let somebody else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger's tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.

From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river,
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
And listen.

I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed.
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill--
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star charts
On the inner walls.

--From Selected Early Poems by Charles Simic. Copyright © 1999,

Charles Simic

#14 decembrance 2017

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After my father died I ended up with the boxes that hold my mother's archives of poems. When I am working on an new series of plates I often have a look in one of the boxes. I sift through the folders of handwritten and typed and xeroxed pages and am always touched by how vibrant her poems are. When she was alive the poems seems too obvious, but now in retrospect I see how she captured the atmosphere and her thoughts--the nuances of her Greenwich Village walks, her Maine boat rides, her fears for her children, or her love of tulips and mint. I am glad to mine these collections of words to find that she captured so much as I embed them in my plates. Printed backwards they further emphasize my inherited illegible handwriting.

14 decembrance 2017.jpg"The poetry of the earth is never dead."
-  John Keats

#13 decembrance 2017

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13 decembrance 2017.jpgWhy Are Your Poems So Dark?

Isn't the moon dark too,

most of the time?

And doesn't the white page

seem unfinished

without the dark stain

of alphabets?

When God demanded light,

he didn't banish darkness.

Instead he invented

ebony and crows

and that small mole

on your left cheekbone.

Or did you mean to ask

"Why are you sad so often?"

Ask the moon.

Ask what it has witnessed.

--Linda Pastan, from Poetry (August 2001)

#12 decembrance 2017

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I opted to watch the sunset from an upstairs window rather than do my dog walk in the windy cold dusk. Afterwards I headed to the studio to retrieve a few things, walking in the dark without a light. Walking without a light allows my eyes adjust to the subtle differences between tree and sky, my feet feel for the difference between gravel and grass, and my memory searches for the fabric of specifics and generalizations.
After my dad died we had a lovely, emotion-filled dinner at Omen Azen in NYC. One of the things we did was to spread white chrysanthemum petals on the dark table in his memory. Last week our emotions sang in a different direction at Omen when we had a dinner to celebrate our daughter Zoë and her new husband Mike. This time we spread beach rose petals that I had gathered each day on my island summer walks, meditations on the daily nature of love.
12 decembrance 2017.jpgTo Know the Dark
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without light,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

--Wendell Berry

#11 decembrance 2017

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Over the weekend we had various students stop by, mainly women all in the early stages of ceramic experiments and clay education. They asked about how we physically make things as well as the conceptual pursuits. While working towards my decembrance series I have been imagining a series of panels that looked as if I found them on the street. But to create them I had to layer pages of paintings, add more paint and sand back down through the surfaces chasing an image glimpsed on the periphery of my imagination. I could not make my panels without the pots or the intent of making photographs.  All of this attention and inattention is part of finding my way through this dark point in the year.

11 decembrance 2017.jpgThe painter Willem de Kooning famously called himself a slipping glimpser, slipping into the glimpse--slipping toward the image--that he would then arrest in paint. I spend much of my time trying to write poems about what I can single out from my own slipping, which is difficult because when you're slipping you tend to keep your eyes trained on your feet to keep from crashing; it's hard to lift your eyes so that the world can be attended to. Easy to forget, the world is still occurring outside the drama of the self, and the poem of the self is going to be limited unless the world can enter in.

--Lucia Perillo, from "The Glimpse," in I've Heard the Vultures Singing: Field Notes on Poetry, Illness, and Nature (Trinity University Press, 2007)


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