“The Secret of Happiness” – A Coda to My Last Post

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File:Trailing arbutus 2006.jpg

After my last post on “happy endings” for our novels or ourselves, I’ve been thinking a lot about what exactly constitutes happiness and where it is to be found. Is it a goal worth striving for? Or should our life journey have a more practical, or grander,  purpose?

Is it to become fulfilled, to live up to our potential? Or simply to be “good,” to live what most would agree to be “the good life”?

Maybe it’s to “do no harm,” or to leave this Earth better than we found it, or to alleviate suffering wherever we find it?

Perhaps our journey is to find God, to become enlightened, to fathom the mysteries of the universe?

Or simply be present, bearing witness to all we encounter, the good, the bad, the ugly, the pain and suffering, the laughter and joy?

Maybe it’s just to gaze up at the stars in awe, and wonder what it’s all about.

But where does happiness fit into all this? Can it be found at all?

In my novel I have a chapter called “The Secret of Happiness.” Two characters, a young wife and her husband, are arguing about it. She’s come to believe that the secret of happiness is simply to stop thinking. To give the mind a rest from all its encircling doubts and fears and uncertainties.

He has another idea. “There is no secret to happiness,” he tells her.  “It’s all out in the open. You just have to grab it on the fly.”

I like his answer, as well I might, being the author of it. And I know where it came from.

There’s an old Zen story about a frustrated student who accuses his master of keeping the secret of enlightenment from him. The master claims that’s not true at all. “Do you not pour my tea for me? Do I not drink it?”

Still the student thinks the master is being deliberately obtuse. Then one day when they are walking through the mountains steeped with the sweet scent of trailing arbutus underfoot, the master turns eagerly to the student and asks, “Do you smell it?”

When the student says he does, the  master replies, “You see, I haven’t been hiding anything at all.” It was always right there, ready to be crushed underfoot.

So could it be that happiness, like enlightenment, isn’t hidden at all, but must be grabbed on the fly? Not because it’s elusive or evasive or enigmatic. But because in our headlong rush toward whatever hopeful ending we imagine for ourselves, which is always in the future, just out of reach, we overlook the abundant pleasure of life lying at our feet. Sometimes these pleasures seem too lowly, too humble, too ordinary to even note, let alone grab onto. Yet the self-so-ness of this unobtrusive good would fill our lives with such sweet moments of happiness, of warmth and well-being, if only we would have the presence of mind to note it.

It comes even in the midst of all our troubles, our worries and resentments, pains and hungers. Not “in spite of,” as I put it in my last post. But right there in the midst of it, that unconditional goodness permeates life and is woven into the fabric of reality.

A happy ending for my novel, or my life, is beside the point. Allowing our lives and our life’s work to be to infused with these sweet, rare essences is enough.

Photo of trailing arbutus by Justin Russell, public domain.

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A Happy Ending for My Novel? For My Son?

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florence harrison

Florence Harrison, 1887 – 1937

One of the publishers we sent my novel to wants a rewrite of the ending. While their readers said they loved the first 2/3 of the novel (the novel is divided into 3 parts), they felt I tried a little too hard to tie up all the loose threads into what they called an “uber happy” ending for my characters.

I can’t say I’m surprised by this reaction. I too worried that I might have tied up the novel in too pretty a bow. Perhaps I should have left at least one or two threads dangling for the reader to play with. But I believed, despite that, the transformations of the characters, their coming to grips with their past, their fears, their demons, their very real struggles and eventual triumphs are what we all hope to find at the end of our stories, both the real and the imagined.

Happy does happen, after all.

But, of course, in reality, our stories and struggles do not end as they do in a novel. Our lives keep on going after that final page, whether it ends on a high note or a low. We all know that. So what’s the harm of ending the novel on an upbeat tick?

I wanted that for them, for these deeply flawed characters who I had come to love. Weren’t their flaws and failings, their addictions and anxieties, their grief and doubts and fears enough grit to ground the story? Couldn’t we soar a bit too, near the end?

Happy happens too, right?

But does it last?

Probably the most improbable part of my ending is the struggling son’s recovery from heroin addiction. Not an easy thing to do. The statistics are all against it. Few survive, and those who do never feel completely free. It’s always there, slippery beneath their feet, breathing hard down their necks, a giant question mark dangling on the horizon like a sharp, deadly hook.

Some parts of this novel are based loosely on my son’s struggle with heroin addiction. For all I tried, I never could completely wean him of his addiction. I could help him: Pull him off the street, put him into rehab, pick him up from jail, search for the medication and counseling he needed; call an ambulance when he overdosed.

Sometimes it worked. Woven through his battles with addiction are the times he won, the year, or two, or three he was free and happy and thriving. But it never lasted much more than that. Four, tops.

I always thought: If only he would listen to me, take my advice, do what I say; if I could lock him in a closet and keep him safe; if I could trade places with him, get into his skin and live his life for him, beat down the addiction once and for all and then give him his life back again, I would. But I couldn’t. I never could control him any more than he could control his addiction.

But I could control my characters. I could manage their recovery. I could give them a happy ending. It does happen, doesn’t it?

Rarely.

So I’m rewriting the end of my novel with that sharp, thorny question mark dangling in the air. As it always does, for each of us, whether we struggle with addiction or not.

Paradise burns to the ground. Mudslides swallow homes. Daughters lose babies. Sons relapse. Again, and again, and again.

But strangely, miraculously, hope never dies. Not completely. Homes are rebuilt. Lives turned around. Marriages mended.

Families come together at Thanksgiving and look across the table at each other with all their flaws and fears, their unhealed hurts and scars, and they love what they see. Through it all, despite it all, they just love.

That’s what my novel is all about. That “despite it all” kind of love, happy ending or not.

Seeing the Self in What We Love

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Marc Chagall, Les amoureux, 1916

I’ve become mesmerized by the quote below I found on The Beauty We Love. These first four lines, especially, move me.

A wife loves her husband not for his own sake, dear, but because the Self lives in him.

The husband loves his wife not for her own sake, dear, but because the Self lives in her.

Children are loved not for their own sake, but because the Self lives in them.

Everything is loved not for its own sake, but because the Self lives in it.

Reading these words, I feel the truth in them. When I look at and love my husband, my son, my daughter, what I’m seeing and loving is something, a Self, so much larger than what we each are alone. Something that resonates within me and within all the things I love. Something that is not an other, but what runs through and connects all others. It makes each loved one more dear to me, more rare, more real, than what mere personality or even individuality,  personal affection, or familial attachment alone would support.

The tenderness in the Chagall painting above captures that reflective love, that mirrored Self, so beautifully.

The rest of the quote lies before, which I also sense to be true, although more abstract.

This Self has to be realized.
Hear about this Self.

As a lump of salt thrown in water dissolves
and cannot be taken out again,
though wherever we taste, the water it is salty,
even so, beloved,
the separate self dissolves in the sea of pure consciousness,
infinite and immortal.

Separateness arises from identifying the Self with the body,
which is made up of the elements;
when this physical identification dissolves,
there can be no more separate self.

~ from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

The self dissolved into “a sea of pure consciousness” is a lovely, restful image. But it’s missing the intimacy and immediacy of those first four lines where that sea washes through the faces I love. That image is far more meaningful to me, and truer, I believe, to the intent those verses imply. That Self is not abstract. I feel it in my bones.

Pied Beauty, Poem & Paintings

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Wassily Kandinsky, Waterfall II, 1902. Saw an exhibition in Washington DC, he is one of my favorites!

Wassily Kandinsky, Waterfall II

Pied Beauty
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

What is it about “dappled” things that so dazzles us?

I ran across this poem, a favorite of mine, not long ago, and was reminded once again of how much nature inspires and excites us. Painters as well as poets have been praising that pied beauty through their artwork down the ages.

A few of my favorite paintings praising dappled things follows.
Vincent van Gogh, Wheat Field with Cypresses, 1889. Oil on canvas, 73 × 93.4 cm / 28¾ × 36¾ in Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. As reproduced in Art in Time.

Vincent Van Gogh

The Athenaeum - Study of Salmon (John Singer Sargent - )

John Singer Sargeant

Sargent

John Singer Sargeant

John Singer Sargeant

'John Singer Sargent Watercolors' Presents 93 Works From Painter's Lesser Known Medium (PHOTOS) | HuffPost

John Singer Sargeant

Gertrude Fiske (1878-1961) American Impressionist Painter ~ Blog of an Art Admirer

Gertrude Fiske

Anne Redpath OBE (1895–1967) was a Scottish artist whose vivid domestic still lifes are among her best-known works. Redpath's father was a tweed designer in the Scottish Borders. She saw a connection between his use of colour and her own.

Anne Redpath

Immersed  | oil on canvas | 54 x 36

Rick Stevens, Immersed

Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt

New Paintings, the Folding Hills of California

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I’ve long loved the way the rolling hills along the coast of California fold together and overlap, the sensuality of that “hot rise and cool dip.”  I’ve tried to capture a bit of that fascination in some of my poetry: Hot Hills in Summer Heat, and Playing with Light, loving the way the light falls upon those folds so that “the hills unwind, one at a time, to dance before us all.”

Lately I’ve been trying to capture some of that in a few paintings, some inspired by the work of other artists and some from my own photographs. I’m not wholly satisfied with any of them, but something of what I’m trying to capture comes through.

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This first is watercolor and oil pastel, and even a brush of soft chalk pastel in the sea and highlighting the closest hill. This was inspired by a Dale Laitinen painting of the coastline along Highway 1 near our home called.

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The one above and below were inspired by a local and much-loved artist Erin Hanson who works mostly in oil. My painting above is again oil pastel and watercolor on Arches cold press paper, which has much more texture than the smoother hot press Fabriano paper used in the other oil pastel paintings in this post. DSCN6472

This one was also inspired by Hanson which I painted some time ago in acrylic. I’ve only created three works in acrylic so far, but for some reason I feel intimidated by it. I’m not sure why.  The three I painted out came out well enough. Of course, none of these inspired by other artists come even close to the quality of the original works. But I learn so much each time I try.

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This one and the one below are from my own photographs taken of the hillsides on my walks around our neighborhood. They come closer to those “folding hills” I wrote about earlier, “the hot rise and cool dip” in my poems. Both are oil pastel and watercolor on hot press paper.

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In this last one I wanted to see what the hills would look like stripped down and closer. I’m not sure which version I like best. The mattings help a lot to set off the works. Someday I will learn to photograph my paintings better. That might help too (smile.)

Thank you for bearing with me as I try to learn this craft and share my efforts. It’s a fascinating pastime.

[Note: I created this post before the latest round of fires set these hills ablaze north and south of where we live. My heart goes out to all who have lost their lives and homes, and seen their communities destroyed, including the wildlife that inhabits these hills and forests.]

 

 

Steeling Myself for Tomorrow: The Day After the Election

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Exhibitions - Carmen Herrera - Art in America

Carmen Herrara, Art in America

Recently, in a morbid mood, I told my husband that if the Democrats do not win back the House I would slit my throat.

I know, YIKES!

Even I was shocked by that imagery. But I remember grasping for something dire enough to describe how I felt. How such an outcome would signal the end of something I dearly love. How another two years of Trump unchecked would usher in “the end times,” the end of the United States as I know and love it.

And yet, I felt much the same way when President Bush won a second term, and I know Republicans felt that way when Obama won again. We each survived our defeats to fight over our differences once again, as we have down through the ages and will continue well into the future.

Our nation survived a Civil War, a Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, Hitler’s Holocaust, Vietnam, Watergate, 9-11, and the financial crash of 08. We will survive Trump, whether we win back the House or not.

And things will get better, as they always have in our strife to create a more perfect union.

Slowly over time we abolished slavery, gave women and Blacks the right to vote, ended child labor and won a 40-hour work week, desegregated schools and drinking fountains, ended the constant flow of litter beside our roadways, turned the yellow-smog skies of LA blue again.

Martin Luther King once said: ” The arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.”

Even emphasizing the LONG, and the achingly SLOW BEND, another two, or even six, years under Trump unchecked will not break us.

Or so I reassure myself. And steel myself for tomorrow: The Day After the Election.

Will there be a great Sigh of Blue Relief? Or a great Cry of Blue Despair?

Either way, the slow, sure bend toward the promise our Nation stands for will continue.

 

This Moment Is Too Important to Sit Out

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Chilal on Twitter:

I’ve tried my best to steer clear of politics on this blog. I spent too many years in the trenches fighting for economic, social, and environmental justice. Too many years canvassing neighborhoods, making phone calls, getting out the vote. Too many years trying to find common ground between groups of people with diametrically opposed and often hostile viewpoints. It was exhausting and enervating work, as well at times, exhilarating and soul-satisfying.

As I retired from that work I tried to carve out another space for a different kind of soul-satisfying endeavor, and this blog is part of that effort. So I’ve tried to keep the two apart and will continue to do so, for the most part. But the times are such politically that I feel the need to use this space over the next few days to voice my conscience, as well as vote it, and to urge others to do so.

If you have been following this blog I know that we have more in common, more ideals and values that unite us than divide us, whatever our political persuasion, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. I’ve found over the years that what often divides good, well-meaning people is based more on gross misunderstandings, irrational fears, and entrenched distrust than on anything else. That’s a formidable wall to knock down or climb over. But we must do it.

Most everyone agrees that this is an election of our lifetime. That our vote now counts more than at any other time in our lives. President Obama on the campaign trail this week has spoken to that in a speech to the University of Illinois. His words are well worth noting, no matter which political party you belong to, because he’s speaking to all of us, urging us to see each other with new eyes, and to find the common ground we so desperately need, now more than ever.

Please vote, and vote Democrat, even if you aren’t one, to restore the check and balance and accountability we need in Congress to keep us safe and sane during these troubled times.

A few excerpts from Obama’s speech:

I’m here today because this is one of those pivotal moment when every one of us, as citizens of the United States, need to determine just who it is that we are, just what it is that we stand for. And as a fellow citizen, not as an ex-president but as a fellow citizen, I am here to deliver a simple message, and that is that you need to vote because our democracy depends on it. . . . 

[E]ven if you don’t agree with me or Democrats on policy, even if you believe in more libertarian economic theories, even if you are an evangelical and our position on certain social issues is a bridge too far, even if you think my assessment of immigration is mistaken and that Democrats aren’t serious enough about immigration enforcement, I’m here to tell you that you should still be concerned with our current course and should still want to see a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government. . . . .

[T]o move this country forward, to actually solve problems and make people’s lives better, we need a well-functioning government. We need our civic institutions to work. We need cooperation among people of different political persuasions. And to make that work, we have to restore our faith in democracy. You have to bring people together, not tear them apart. We need majorities in Congress and state legislatures who are serious about governing and want to bring about real change and improvements in people’s lives. And we won’t win people over by calling them names or dismissing entire chunks of the country as racist or sexist or homophobic

To make democracy work, we have to be able to get inside the reality of people who are different, have different experiences, come from different backgrounds. We have to engage them even when it is frustrating. We have to listen to them even when we don’t like what they have to say. We have to hope we can change their minds and we have to remain open to them changing ours.

And that doesn’t mean, by the way, abandoning our principles, or caving to bad policy in the interests of maintaining some phony version of civility—that seems to be, by the way, the definition of civility offered by too many congressional Republicans right now. We will be polite as long as we get 100 percent of what we want and you don’t call us on the various ways we are sticking it to people. 

Making democracy work means holding on to our principles, having clarity about our principles, and then having the confidence to get in the arena and have a serious debate. And it also means appreciating that progress does not happen all at once, but when you put your shoulder to the wheel, if you’re willing to fight for it, things do get better. And let me tell you something, particularly young people here, better is good. I used to have to tell my young staff this all the time in the White House, better is good. That’s the history of progress in this country—not perfect, better. The Civil Rights Act didn’t end racism, but it made things better. Social Security didn’t eliminate all poverty for seniors, but it made things better for millions of people.

I know there are white people who care deeply about black people being treated unfairly. I have talked to them, and loved them. And I know there are black people who care deeply about the struggles of white rural America. I’m one of them, and I have a track record to prove it. I know there are evangelicals who are deeply committed to doing something about climate change. I have seen them do the work. I know there are conservatives who think there’s nothing compassionate about separating immigrant children from their mothers. I know there are Republicans who believe that government should only perform a few minimal functions, but that one of those functions should be making sure that nearly 3,000 Americans don’t die in a hurricane and its aftermath.

Common ground is out there. I see it every day. In just how people interact and people treat each other. You see it on the ball field. You see it at work. You see it in places of worship. But to say that common ground exists doesn’t mean it will inevitably win out. History shows the power of fear. And the closer that we get to Election Day, the more those invested in the politics of fear and division will work, will do anything to hang on to their recent gains.

The antidote to a government controlled by a powerful few, a government that divides, is a government by the organized, energized, inclusive many. That’s what this moment’s about. That has to be the answer. You cannot sit back and wait for a savior. You cannot doubt, because you don’t feel sufficiently inspired by this or that particular candidate . . .  All we need are decent, honest, hardworking people who are accountable and who have America’s best interests at heart. And they’ll step up, and they’ll join our government, and they’ll make things better if they have support

We have been through much darker times than these, and somehow each generation of Americans carried us through to the other side. Not by sitting around and waiting for something to happen, not by leaving it to others to do something, but by leading that movement for change themselves. And if you do that, if you get involved, and you get engaged, and you knock on some doors, and you talk with your friends, and you argue with your family members, and you change some minds, and you vote, something powerful happens. Change happens. Hope happens. . . . . With each new step we take in the direction of fairness and justice and equality and opportunity, hope spreads. And that can be the legacy of your generation.

You can be the generation that, at a critical moment, stood up and reminded us just how precious this experiment in democracy really is, just how powerful it can be when we fight for it, when we believe in it. I believe in you. I believe you will help lead us in the right direction, and I will be right there with you every step of the way.

True Tales Growing Up in a Haunted House

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House on Haunted Hill large

Have you ever had any ghostly encounters?

Each year around this time, I like to reblog a series of tales about my encounters with the ghostly and unexplained, starting when I was a child, and later full grown with children of my own. The first is printed below with links to the others.

While ”intellectually” I don’t believe in ghosts, demons, and the like, I have experienced such. And I cannot deny that the phenomena which I and others–indeed, all known cultures and societies–have laid claim to, are “real.” The reality they seem to have is unexplained, often unverifiable, and usually fleeting and ephemeral. And yet they persist in haunting humanity.

I can neither explain, verify, nor dismiss the reality of the experiences that I relate here. I can only state that these things occurred as I remember them, or as others I trust related them to me. And most were witnessed by more than one person

Happy Halloween!

Our House on a Haunted Hill

When I was a kid “House on Haunted Hill” was my favorite spooky movie. I first saw it a few years after my own family had escaped, just barely, from a haunted house experience. While living there I was not aware of all the horrors that house contained, and only learned the full account when my mother felt I was old enough to learn the truth.

I was eight years old when my parents rented a home set on a hillside in an older, respectable neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska. The attic had been converted into two rooms, a tiny room overlooking the back yard and garage; and a huge room overlooking the front yard. This larger room had been recently renovated and then abruptly abandoned, it appeared. The high pitched ceiling and walls were covered in a richly varnished, knotty pine paneling. Finely crafted drawers and book cases had been built beneath the eaves. But the floor, made of rough, unvarnished planks of wood, had been left unfinished. And a large reddish-brown stain that looked like a puddle of blood had soaked into the wood.

Nancy_Drew_-_Ghost_of_Thornton_Hall_Cover_ArtThis was my bedroom and I loved it. Being an avid fan of Nancy Drew mysteries, the giant blood stain only added to the allure of the room–that and the trap door on the floor of the walk-in closet. While the door had been nailed shut, I could still probe the cracks with a ruler, detecting steps that led downward—to where, no one knew. My discovery sent chills of delight down my back.

In fact, I was thrilled to have the whole second story all to myself. Even though the second smaller room could have easily accommodated my little brother, my mother made him sleep down below in the tiny room at the bottom of the stairs. She claimed the small room upstairs was “too cold” and used it as a storage room instead. She filled it with unpacked boxes and unused furniture, forbidding me to play there—which, of course, made the room seem even more desirable.

I remember entering the room often to play by myself and looking out the dusty window toward the mysterious barn-like structure that faced the alley. The structure, which could easily have accommodated several cars, sat empty nearly the whole time we lived there, and my brother and I were forbidden to play here as well. It too was considered “too cold” for human habitation. The one time I did enter, my eyes were drawn upward to the high rafters where, through the rotting roof, splinters of light filled with ghostly dust motes fell to the floor. I did not enter again. When some teenage boys wanted to use the garage to rebuild a car, they moved out after a couple of nights, never to return—even though they had paid rent for a full month.

I thought it strange when my mother kept wanting to move me out of my lovely upstairs “apartment” to a room below and I refused to be moved. She kept asking if I was afraid up there all by myself, but I insisted I wasn’t. This was true. I knew what needed to be done to stay safe, although I never shared this with my mother. It was a ritual that I religiously followed. Every night after my mother heard my prayers and tucked me into bed, I would pull the covers tight over my head and stay there until I fell asleep. I knew somehow that no harm would come to me if I followed this ritual. And no harm ever did come to me.

I might well have been very afraid if I had heard what my parents heard at night as they slept in the room below mine.

Athenodorus_-_The_Greek_Stoic_Philosopher_Athenodorus_Rents_a_Haunted_HouseOften my mother was woken by the sound of heavy, dragging footsteps lumbering across room over her bed, and she would wake my father and make him go upstairs to investigate. At first he did so wearily, thinking she was imagining it. But once he woke early enough to hear it himself and went dashing up the stairs—but nothing was there and I was sound asleep in my bed.

We moved shortly thereafter. That’s when the neighbors told us about the horrible tragedy that had taken place in the house before we moved in. They hadn’t wanted to tell us earlier and scare us away. Apparently the previous owner of the house had murdered his wife in my bedroom and then hung himself afterwards from the rafters in the garage.

If some other tragic event took place in the small room next to mine upstairs—the coldest room in the house–we never learned. Whatever haunted that room did more than drag its feet across the floor or blow cold air down our spines. During our final days in that home, my mother, to her terror, found this out–with no one but my three-year-old brother at home to save her.

More about this in my next post.

You can read the full series of true ghost stories at the links below which were first posted in 2013

New Paintings, Trees and More Trees

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Three new paintings, part of my forest series, I suppose, but really just playing with styles and possibilities. All three were inspired by paintings from artists I admire. All using watercolor and oil pastel on hot pressed paper.

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The first two are both very dense, but the style quite distinct. My husband wasn’t too fond of these. He wants a place to let the eye in, or at least a place to rest away from all that color. The one above has a lighter, feathery feel. I enjoyed painting this and I felt quite light and feathery painting it.  It was done quickly. The one below has a heavier, slicker feel.

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It took more time. It feels more surreal, more fauvist (an orgy of color), and I think that’s what I was aiming for. I say “I think” because I’m drawn toward the fauvists, the unruly works of Derain, Matisse, Manguin, etc, during that early period, and I was painting more by feel than thought.

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This last didn’t turn out at all like I had planned. It was supposed to be more abstract, and the background filled with forest, not sky. But I think I was unconsciously influenced by my husband’s remarks about the first two, and so I let the sky in. A place to dip into and out of the scene.

I hope readers of this blog understand that I am just playing with paint, trying to learn a craft for my own enjoyment and amusement.

But as an art lover, I also see this past-time as art exploration. I’m teaching myself to see as an artist might, to explore what different mediums can do, to get a feel for different styles, different ways to compose a scene, to improvise on nature, to abstract from reality a sense of its feel or flavor.

But mostly I do this just to immerse myself in pure color, and to get lost in “no words.”

“Something in This Sleeping Earth” – Two by Whyte, One by Fiske

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Gertrude Fiske (1878-1961) American Impressionist Painter ~ Blog of an Art Admirer

Gertrude Fiske, American Impressionist

All My Body Calls

All my body calls
for something in this sleeping
earth
we call the spirit.

But how
from lifted arms
where stars run through fingers
and the night is like sand
do I breathe a fragrance of its wisdom
do I call its name
or listen to the drops
that trickle down to earth
and hear
life being given
not only through the moving hands of the forest
but through the hand that reaches in
the dark unmoving regions of the chest
and uncovers slowly
the enormous
indistinct
shape of the ocean.

by David Whyte

Fallen in Love

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

by David Whyte

What struck me in the poems and the painting is that “something in this sleeping earth” that we are only half-awake to, what Whyte calls “spirit.” I see that spirit clearly in the painting by Friske, the two women immersed in the forest, in that yellow-green light, in those parting branches, those “moving hands.”

And in the second poem, that sense that there’s nothing to wait for, it’s all out here in the open, “speaking out loud in the clear air,”  as solid and humble and astonishing as the ground beneath our bare feet.

In another poem, Whyte writes:

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

What are we waiting for? Especially in these trying times.

All times are trying. All lives are trying. We have to grasp, right here, right now, despite all that, what’s waiting half-hidden all around us this very moment.

Many thanks to The Beauty We Love where I found these poems, and to The Uncarved Blog who shared two wondrous poems by Stephen Levine and pointed me toward this site. It’s one of the things I love about blogging, finding these hidden treasures that speak so eloquently to things I feel and cannot say.