Wednesday, December 31, 2008

year's end

I was going to post my favorite story drawings from the past year in a bit of a retrospective but this is much nicer by far. May I wish for us all the hopes in this poem by Rabidrath Tagore:

    Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
    Where knowledge is free
    Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
    By narrow domestic walls
    Where words come out from the depth of truth
    Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
    Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
    Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
    Where the mind is led forward by thee
    Into ever-widening thought and action
    Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Friday, December 26, 2008

if I could paint I'd..


Then the nightingale sang.

"That's it," said the little kitchen girl. "Listen, listen! And yonder he sits." She pointed to a little gray bird high up in the branches.

"Is it possible?" cried the Lord-in Waiting. "Well, I never would have thought he looked like that, so unassuming. But he has probably turned pale at seeing so many important people around him."

"Little nightingale," the kitchen girl called to him, "our gracious Emperor wants to hear you sing."

"With the greatest of pleasure," answered the nightingale, and burst into song.

"Very similar to the sound of glass bells," said the Lord-in-Waiting. "Just see his little throat, how busily it throbs. I'm astounded that we have never heard him before. I'm sure he'll be a great success at court."

"Shall I sing to the Emperor again?" asked the nightingale, for he thought that the Emperor was present.

"My good little nightingale," said the Lord-in-Waiting, "I have the honor to command your presence at a court function this evening, where you'll delight His Majesty the Emperor with your charming song."

"My song sounds best in the woods," said the nightingale, but he went with them willingly when he heard it was the Emperor's wish.

***

The story quoted here is The Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen and the painting is my favorite of all the illustrations done by Edmund Dulac.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

marooned in real time


We're stuck for the time being after a dusting of snow here in Portland led to more and more snow. On Friday afternoon we tried to take our little Geo Tracker shopping and even with me sitting in the back seat holding a fruitcake there wasn't enough weight to convince our little Fuchsia to take us up the steep ice covered driveway. Oh well, old habits die hard and, having spent so many other years in rough winter climates, my habit of storing up extra food means we won't go hungry. Now freezing rain is working on adding extra ice to the inches of snow that fell yesterday so I'm hoping the power doesn't fail.

This is a picture of me and my Dad taken during our first winter in Canada in the early 50's. None of us had learned to skate yet but he and my mother ventured out onto the ice so they'd be there to catch me when I fell down - an inevitable first consequence of having blades on the bottom of your shoes. I always miss my parents most particularly at Christmas but I've been thinking lately of how much things have changed in general since that faraway time.

There were no superhighways, suburbs, shopping malls or agribusinesses. People lived either in the city or the country with not much in between but a few small towns. It wasn't much different here in the US and nowadays Canada has all the same stuff as we have with the major exception being national health care. I know it will sound incredibly antiquated and perhaps even unbelievable but our first house was small and tightly built with a coal stove that provided heat. We did have a gas stove, running water and a gas water heater but there was also a well with a hand pump only a few feet from the back door. When it snowed dozens of neighbors went out with shovels to clear the cars and the private road that led to the houses. The cars were mechanically simple enough that people could repair most glitches on their own. Televisions were a rarity so radio and newspapers provided news and a softer version of entertainment.

I think the biggest difference is that there was a general sense of community. Needs were simpler and people were willing to share what they had whether it was help with building a new room, care of a sick person, an extra place at the dinner table or whatever was needed. There were always parties and get togethers with lots of laughter, stories about even older days and talk about politics and work.

Will we be able to recreate a simpler lifestyle again if we must? Next time we can drive the miles from here to the market I plan on buying a snow shovel I can lend to the first strong young neighbor I meet. Meanwhile, I remember my Dad and the woman holding the camera in that sweet time.. my Mother.

Happy Christmas everyone with much love. I wish you Peace and a slice of warm apple pie to greet you when you return home.

Friday, December 19, 2008

doesn't take much

Good morning. It's been a 'weather' week here which means we've had some snow and more is in the forecast. What would be normal or hardly noticeable in places where I spent most of my life shuts down Portland.

Yesterday when I came home for lunch the woods behind our place had been transformed by another brief squall that morning. The sun was shining and our usually moss covered winter glade took on a magical sparkle.

I'll leave to your imagination pictures of uncleared roads, stuck buses and people slipping and sliding on icy sidewalks. This moment was worth the inconvenience of living so close to my work that I never have snow as an excuse to stay home.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

unicorn dreams


It was only yesterday, or seems
like only yesterday when we could
touch and turn and they came
perfectly real into our fictions.
But they moved on with the courtly sun
grazing peacefully beyond the story
horns lowering and lifting and
lowering.

I know this is scarcely credible now
as we cabin ourselves in cold
and the motions of panic
and our cells destroy each other
performing music and extinction
and the great dreams pass on
to the common good.

Phyllis Webb (1980)

Friday, December 12, 2008

what's it all for?



If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.


from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
by William Blake













for Seraphine

Monday, December 8, 2008

i could have been sleeping

Oh, my beloved Arkham where the cloisters of olde Miskatonic U. rang with a chorus of slobbering screams of those newly made monsters who used to be my friends and classmates. August, is that you wearing the bloody beak of gore and is that really Abdul Alhazred, the Mad Arab himself standing next to our dear chancellor? Isn't he the very one who wrote the Book that cannot be named?

(The Necronomicon? You can't be shown one! The libraries never will loan one! But if it's so rare and guarded with care, why does every nut case seem to own one?)

I struggled to hold onto the last vestiges of my sanity as well as my precious bodily fluids. I didn't want anything running down my leg that might attract the attention of the tentacled ones overrunning my alma mater. I had to find a way to get to Innsmouth for help. Why do I suddenly feel like singing?

Pardon me boy,
Is this the Lair of Great Cthulhu?
In the city of slime,
Where it is night all the time..

Running this way and that finding every path to freedom blocked I suddenly heard a great whooshing sound. As dark shapes filled the sky and flame lit breath shriveled the monstrous ghouls who'd crept close to me in the gloom, I was plucked from my frozen stance and swept up to the back of a giant worm whose rider was my little sister, Kate.

I hadn't seen her for years but now wasn't the time for mentioning that she appeared to have made some strange friends in my absence and where on earth were we going? A giant bubble of light surrounded us as we flew high up into the starry sky. I must have dozed because once I opened my eyes the one thing I did know was that we were nowhere near New England anymore and another song came welling up from deep inside:

Cthulhu, you're breaking my mind.
My sanity's vanishing daily!
Oh, Cthulhu, I'm down on my knees
I'm begging you, please --- go away,
Go away!

We'd arrived in an alien world where a huge pool of dragon spawn was surrounded by a two dimensional landscape of primary colors. Had I been partaking of the illicit pharmacopeia in my sister's open saddlebag and who exactly was this strange beast who'd carried me to this unknown land?

His name was Randal, the trickster who contaminated me with the wicked Splotchy virus, on whom I will get my just revenge.

*note: Just so there's no mistake about my abilities to be spontaneously funny the songs came from an obscure place.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

what's really real?


Not being able to think of a better title at the time I called this one 'Everything Merges'.

I have i-photo and a sample program of photoshop elements that allow me to make sure the photos I post are decent facsimiles of the originals. Not for the first time I've noticed the paintings look different depending on what computer monitor I happen to be staring at. We have two at home - my old favorite G4 powerbook with its 17" soft screen and the new mac book. The G4 loses 20% of its power on its way from the shelf to the couch so has a second plug-in over here. The paintings look fine on it, washed out on the book and fairly blah on the new Dell pc in my office. What gives?

If you have a thing, a three dimensional object with mass, then you can usually rely upon it looking pretty much the same whenever you happen to regard it, depending of course on the way it's lit or how much dirt and grime have either accumulated or been removed, it's still the same thing. It would be fitting to say you'd be disturbed to discover your favorite chair had decided to become a table sometime during the night or that your toaster had determined to change itself into a puppy (although the children might be delighted). Things change on the screen and we hardly notice unless it affects our way of getting on in the world we mutually inhabit.

At work we got the new ms vista operating system last summer and since my work requires a seemingly endless cascade of excel spreadsheets I find myself getting very nervous about the permanence and reliability of the information I'm seeing. Why is it that if I open one to search for some information and then want to close the document I invariably get a message asking if I want to save my changes? I didn't make any damn changes unless you want to count the quantum physics definition of changing things by merely looking at them. Worse still is the worry I may have changed something by accident and that the document is no longer correct. What if my bank is using the same software?

A friend is planning to buy her two children a wii for Christmas so they can pretend to bowl, play baseball and tennis. I couldn't help but ask wouldn't it be better to take them bowling but she explained it's too expensive now. We've entered a world where it's cheaper to play virtual games than real ones and I can't help but wonder if a generation will grow up thinking they know all about bowling, baseball, football and golf by proxy.

I rather like physical things. I prefer people to machines and hate that every time I make a phone call nowadays I run into machine generated voices and have to play button pushing games that take half an hour to maneuver when a person could have given me the information required in two minutes. How is this more efficient?

Anyway, I'm glad to know that when I open my portfolio again I won't be finding this instead of the image above but at least now I do know what it would have looked like if I dropped it in the bathtub. I may have wondered.. or maybe not.


If you happen to think this is an improvement please let me know.

Friday, December 5, 2008

stopping by woods

This is one of the very big watercolors that didn't translate to Kodachrome well enough to be retrieved for future electronic viewing but I thought I'd post it anyway.

Dust of Snow

The way a Crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Robert Frost





For DCup because she reminded me of it at a moment when I needed reminding and I wish I could conjure snowflake blessings for her and her family so they wouldn't lose their home.