Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Night on the River

Allen and I spent last night in the boat on the Maumee River. We started at Rossford in the late afternoon and then putted up to Toledo. After my Ohio River Journey last year I have a new appreciation for all rivers. The BGSU Monitor recently did a piece about me. If you're interested, you can find it here. In the article I talk a little bit about the river and what it means to me.

I took a few photos. On the top is a photo of graffiti. I've always been intrigued by graffiti. I like thinking of the psychological underpinnings of these markings. Last year on the Ohio, Allen and I took the tour of the West Virginia State Penn., and my favorite part was looking at the graffiti on the cell walls. Graffiti is a way of establishing one's existence and perhaps one's mortality. In a sense, it's not so different from what I do when I write poems or stories. Graffiti can sometimes be quite beautiful. Every time I pass the "East Side" graffiti, I enjoy looking at the zany lettering. It seems so "sixties." It's true that graffiti often gets a bad name because of gangs and because it sometimes defaces truly beautiful things. However, I think the impulse to create it is here to stay, and I wouldn't want it to be everywhere prohibited.

The afternoon was beautiful with temperatures in the low eighties and low humidity. We spent a cool night, covering ourselves with our sleeping bags. In the second photo, you see our Boston Terrier, Buddha, riding on Allen's lap. I love taking photos of this dog. He is so sweet and well-behaved. Behind Buddha is Toledo. I took a Toledo sunset photo that turned out quite well and I almost posted it, but then it seemed too predictable, a sunset. I could picture people glancing at it and saying, "Oh, a sunset." Sunset photos are so prevalent that our ability to appreciate them has definitely become diminished.

We awoke this morning to light rain--this rain wasn't predicted until afternoon and we'd planned to be back home before it ever started. But there's no predicting the weather. We waited a while, watched a huge grain-laden boat pass, and watched as thin filaments of lightening streaked across the sky. Finally, fearing wind and stronger rain, we got underway. We'd planned to walk up to Big Boy's in town for a hearty breakfast, but we didn't get to, and we were too wet to stop on the way home. Now, after a long, hot bath while reading some poems by Hayden Carruth, I'm dressed and ready for that breakfast. We are practically on our way out the door now. As far as writing goes, I've been working on an older story and I think it is mostly finished. After being away from it for a good while, I realized I was trying to accomplish too much in a single story, and I streamlined it. I went through it a couple of times on the computer and then printed a hard copy. Then I hand-edited that. Next, I made the changes on the computer. Sometime later today I hope to make another hard copy for editing. I'm still not making the rounds as usual on the Internet. It seems to pull me out of my writing zone.

The next days are supposed to be rainy, but it will be cool and comfy. Nice writing weather, I think!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Unknown Bird

Painting by Chagall
In my previous entry, I revealed what I look for in a muse: courage, strength, and kindness. I want to be courageous and strong, and kind. I seek others who display these characteristics, for they give me strength. A poem by Edward Thomas called "The Unknown Bird" speaks to me of what it is like to hear the muse. Thomas writes:

Three lovely notes he whistled, too soft to be heard
If others sang; but others never sang
In the great beech-wood all that May and June.
No one saw him: I alone could hear him
Though many listened. ...

Oftenest when I heard him I was alone,
Nor could I ever make another hear.
La-la-la! he called, seeming far off--
as if the bird or I were in a dream.
Yet that he travelled through the trees and some-
Neared me, was plain, though somehow distant still
He sounded. ...

Listening to the muse is a deeply mysterious process, not unlike prayer. I see now the muse is the way inward, the part of the self that respects art. The muse doesn't judge. It only loves.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Beauty Slays Me

I am just checking in briefly to say that I am okay and enjoying my break from blogging. My new computer arrived three days ago and I've been busy getting it set up and getting to know my way around the new digs. The new computer with its speed and great memory capacity gives me a sense of freedom, and I've been running with that.

However, all is not perfect. I had fooled myself into thinking I was going to be able to run with my book as soon as all responsibilities were over at work, but that hasn't been the case. What I have ended up doing is reading a lot of poetry and going through my notes to shape poems of my own which I hope, in turn, will point me toward a narrative. I was so pleased with the poems I wrote that I sent two to little magazines for consideration.

Enough of that, though. I want to write something about beauty.

On the night of May 8th, after I'd done my last blog entry for a while, I watched the film Harold and Maude again. I've seen this film many times and at different points in my life. Harold and Maude is about an unlikely romance. If you've never seen Harold and Maude, then you should, and that's all I'll say about that.

Watching Harold and Maude on May 8, I noticed what Maude says about beauty, and I was struck suddenly by how easy it is lose our ability to recognize beauty. It is so easy to become blunted.

In Harold and Maude, Maude watches seagulls with Harold. Watching the gulls, Maude tells Harold of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish soldier wrongfully incarcerated on Devil's Island who as a child felt amazement when he first encountered what he thought were the most fantastical birds. Later, Maude says, Dreyfus realized the birds he'd thought were so magical were "only seagulls."

I remember as a child seeing what I thought were the most fantastical flowers. They were orange and tropical and nearly as tall as I was. I told my mother I thought the flowers were pretty (she loved flowers) and she said they were only daylilies, a very common flower which she thought of as nothing more than a weed. I remember the feeling of disappointment that shot through my chest, a feeling that I was being torn apart. Through the years, I've noticed that feeling and have come to associate with it the encroachment of banality, which I want to fight.

This is the challenge of life: to keep one's initial wonderment and ability to see the beauty around us.

I think this was part of my reason for extricating myself from the Internet for a time. I'm not finished with my quest yet to rediscover wonderment and beauty.

Don't you just long to be slain by beauty?

I'll close with a poem about beauty written by Chaucer. Let's say I am reading it tonight and thinking of the "You" in the poem as a muse. What do you look for in a muse? If my muse is a person, I look for one who is courageous, strong, and kind. And one who can slay me with his or her beauty, one who can help me to see beauty, wherever it resides:

Rondel of Merciless Beauty

Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly;
Their beauty shakes me who was once serene;
Straight through my heart the wound is quick and keen.

Only your word will heal the injury
To my hurt heart, while yet the wound is clean -
Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly;
Their beauty shakes me who was once serene.

Upon my word, I tell you faithfully
Through life and after death you are my queen;
For with my death the whole truth shall be seen.
Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly;
Their beauty shakes me who was once serene;
Straight through my heart the wound is quick and keen.

Geoffrey Chaucer



About Me

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Northwest Ohio, United States
"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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Fave Painting: Eden

Fave Painting:  Eden

Fave Painting: The Three Ages of Man and Death

Fave Painting:  The Three Ages of Man and Death
by Albrecht Dürer

From the First Chapter

The Secret of Hurricanes : That article in the Waterville Scout said it was Shake- spearean, all that fatalism that guides the Kennedys' lives. The likelihood of untimely death. Recently, another one died in his prime, John-John in an airplane. Not long before that, Bobby's boy. While playing football at high speeds on snow skis. Those Kennedys take some crazy chances. I prefer my own easy ways. Which isn't to say my life hasn't been Shake-spearean. By the time I was sixteen, my life was like the darkened stage at the end of Hamlet or Macbeth. All littered with corpses and treachery.

My Original Artwork: Triptych

My Original Artwork:  Triptych



Little Deer

Little Deer



Looking Forward, Looking Back

Looking Forward, Looking Back