Happy 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! This 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.
Dad only wore red socks, and this was his final Valentines Day card sent to me via email:Pocket 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)
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."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
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."The magic of the street is the mingling of the errand and the epiphany."
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
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.
When 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
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
.Mindful By Mary OliverEvery day
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It was what I was born for -
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over
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?
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.I wanted, I thought, only a little,
two teaspoons of silence--
one for sugar,
one for stirring the wetness.
I wanted a Cairo of silence,
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.
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
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. I 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)
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.The 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)
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.I'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 youhear the full song here