If I held out an arm, eventually one would land on it and petal me into stillness

It was high summer and there were hundreds of butterflies in there. I had stood and watched them gather, like living jewels, around a table of fruits, amazed at the way the tiny croziers of their tongues would uncurl and drink from the nectar of the oranges. The air was thick with them, spiraling as though played by little flurries of wind. If I held out an arm, eventually one would land on it and petal me into stillness. I loved to see how they mimicked the forms of the world on their wings – an ocellus, or the pattern of snake-print, all their gorgeous subterfuge. I had always wanted to be decorated like that, to hold out an arm and to have all the beauty of the world land on it, and make me beautiful, too.

—  Seán Hewitt, All Down Darkness Wide: A Memoir (Penguin Publishing, July 12, 2022)


Photo: DK – Monarch Butterfly. July 31, 2022. Backyard.

A well-cultivated mind comes to recognize the good, the true and the beautiful

I learned calligraphy in the seventh grade when my classmate’s mother taught the basics during an afternoon art class. In my case, it was pearls before swine. I was hardly an apt pupil. Art was where I parked myself between recess and after-school soccer. But even in my grubby pre-adolescence, her elegant pen strokes struck me as beautiful…

I’ve never employed my chirographic skill apart from that homework assignment. I do, however, remember the lesson vividly for three reasons.

First, it taught me there is beauty in this world. Some things are pleasing when seen; calligraphy is such a thing. It is beautiful to behold and drew me out of my pubescent self.

Second, beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but many see beauty in the same things. Some objects are man-made and others are natural, but attraction to beautiful things is nearly universal. This speaks to an ineffable longing written on our hearts.

Third, we each have the capacity to create beauty through the choices we make and things we do. Not all we do will be beautiful, but it all has the potential to be. The gift of freedom behind all these choices, made and to be made, is itself beautiful.

I’m glad I was dialed into middle-school art class that day so long ago. An impromptu calligraphy lesson taught me a lot about beauty in this world and the one to come.

— Mike Kerrigan, from My First Lesson in Beauty (wsj, July 30, 2022). Kerrigan is an attorney in Charlotte, NC


Notes:

  • Post and Post Title inspiration: From a response to this article by Jim Reardon: I enjoyed Mike Kerrigan’s “My First Lesson in Beauty” (op-ed, July 30). Mine came when I encountered Shakespeare in ninth grade. Never had I imagined language could be so powerful and, yes, beautiful. I share Mr. Kerrigan’s skepticism that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A well-cultivated mind comes to recognize the good, the true and the beautiful, whether in art, nature, science or noble acts.
  • Photo by Diana Schroder-Bode via unsplash

Monday Morning

The plan is obvious. Earth will become more and more beautiful until I can’t stand it. Then I will vanish.

—  D. Nurkse, from his poem ‘A Clearing on Ruth Island’, published in Sangam House, March 2022


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Cove Island Park @ Daybreak. 5:03 am. 59° F. May 30, 2022.  See more photos from today’s glorious morning here.
  • Poem Source: indeskidgepoetry
  • And a final thought…the biggest thought fluttering around (more like cutting) —  today being Memorial Day, a day we remember and honor those who sacrificed everything for our freedoms – – those Patriots who vanished before they were able to see another moment of our Earth’s beauty.  I am grateful for them and honor them today. And perhaps there is a bigger, grander plan, for the wars, for the children slaughtered at elementary schools, for the incomprehensible racist killings at our neighborhood grocery stores – – because I can’t see any plan that includes killing fields in schools and grocery stores.  Thomas Friedman: “But with every passing day, every mass shooting, every racist dog whistle, every defund-the-police initiative, every nation-sundering Supreme Court ruling, every speaker run off a campus, every bogus claim of election fraud, I wonder if he can bring us back together. I wonder if it’s too late. I fear that we’re going to break something very valuable very soon. And once we break it, it will be gone — and we may never be able to get it back…We are staring into that abyss right now.”

Unselfing

Beauty, (Iris) Murdoch argues, gave us an opportunity for an “unselfing.” She writes:

I am looking out my window in an anxious and resentful state of mind, oblivious of my surroundings, brooding perhaps on some damage done to my prestige. Then suddenly I observe a hovering kestrel. In a moment everything is altered. The brooding self with its hurt vanity has disappeared. There is nothing now but kestrel. And when I return to thinking of the other matter it seems less important.

Chloé Cooper Jones, Easy Beauty: A Memoir (Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster, April 5, 2022)


Notes:

  • Kestrel. Cardinal. Same. Shot taken of Red Cardinal overhead this morning @ 8 am in backyard.
  • Photos from Daybreak walk this morning here.

You ask me am I crazy for playing the cello in a war zone

One night, I dreamed that I was meeting my friend, a poet named Mariana, in Sarajevo, the city of love. I woke up confused. Sarajevo, a symbol of love? Wasn’t Sarajevo the site of one of the bloodiest civil wars of the late twentieth century? Then I remembered. Vedran Smailović. The cellist of Sarajevo…

You ask me am I crazy for playing the cello in a war zone, he says. Why don’t you ask THEM if they’re crazy for shelling Sarajevo?

His gesture reverberates throughout the city, over the airwaves. Soon, it’ll find expression in a novel, a film. But before that, during the darkest days of the siege, Smailović will inspire other musicians to take to the streets with their own instruments. They don’t play martial music, to rouse the troops against the snipers, or pop tunes, to lift the people’s spirits. They play the Albinoni. The destroyers attack with guns and bombs, and the musicians respond with the most bittersweet music they know.

We’re not combatants, call the violinists; we’re not victims, either, add the violas. We’re just humans, sing the cellos, just humans: flawed and beautiful and aching for love.

Susan Cain, “Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole” (Crown, April 5, 2022)


Image: Manny Becerra via Unsplash

Lightly Child, Lightly

He felt at peace only in the hour before dawn, when the darkness seemed to give way slowly to a mist, and it was at this hour that he would wake and sit by his window.

—  Peter Ackroyd, from Hawksmoor (Hamish Hamilton, May 25, 2010)


Notes:

  • Quote: Thank you The Hammock Papers
  • Photo: DK  @ Daybreak. 6:35 a.m. Sunday, August 25, 2021. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

wasn’t just matter, but that it was actually alive…

Ms. Tippett:  I know that “landscape” is a really pivotal word for you that you use, not just in describing the natural world, but an important word in talking about how human beings know themselves and move through the world. I haven’t been to precisely the place you’re from, but I think the west coast of Scotland, the west coast of Ireland, it is this completely unusual, this wild, raw, bleak beauty. But talk to me about how you have come to understand landscape as something that forms each of us.

Mr. O’Donohue: Well, I think it makes a huge difference, when you wake in the morning and come out of your house, whether you believe you are walking into dead geographical location, which is used to get to a destination, or whether you are emerging out into a landscape that is just as much, if not more, alive as you, but in a totally different form, and if you go towards it with an open heart and a real, watchful reverence, that you will be absolutely amazed at what it will reveal to you.

And I think that that was one of the recognitions of the Celtic imagination — that landscape wasn’t just matter, but that it was actually alive. What amazes me about landscape — landscape recalls you into a mindful mode of stillness, solitude, and silence, where you can truly receive time.

—  John O’Donohue, “The Inner Landscape of Beauty” in On Being Krista Tippett (August 31, 2017)


Notes:

Lightly Child, Lightly


What then are we to do
with all those moments
when the eye stops
the heart

That gesture there, that glint
of beauty going by

And the thought, Who will remember it
if I don’t?

That daub of heaven
on a half-lowered eye-
lid

—  Vasiliki Katsarou, “A Dab of Blue Paint” in Memento Tsunami (Ragged Sky Press, January 1, 2011)


Notes:

  • Photo: DK – Moon @ Daybreak. 6:30 a.m. Sunday, November 21, 2021. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Walking. With Franzen.

6:45 a.m. – ish this morning. I’m walking Cove Island Beach. I reach the breakwall, and pause. It’s hard not to look out into this and not feel Small. The gentle breeze off the ocean. The lapping of the waves on the shoreline. The cloud formations. The warmth in early October. The thin strip of sunlight on the horizon.

Mark Oliver EverettSometimes that beauty is too much for me to handle. Do you know that feeling? When something is just too beautiful? When someone says something or writes something or plays something that moves you to the point of tears, maybe even changes you. 

And this beauty, the landscape in front, and the words from Audible being pumped into my head from Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Crossroads, made me feel exactly that: Just too beautiful. [Read more…]

Sunday Morning


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 7:33 to 7:55 am, March 21, 2021. 35° F. Calf Pasture Beach, Norwalk, CTNotes:
  • Inspired by:
    • As we grow old, the beauty steals inward.” (Ralph Waldon Emerson, 1803-1882)
    • We live only to discover beauty. All else is a form of waiting.” (Kahlil Gibran, 1883 – 1931)

 

Walking. With Toko-pa.

283 days. Consecutive. Cove Island Park morning walk.

14° F, feels like 5° F temp. What fresh hell is this? (Dorothy Parker)

I’m near the end of my loop.  Boots swish through the crusty snow. I’m making my way to Cove Island Point.

And there it was.

It pierced through my tuk…

and through the hoodie pulled over my tuk…

and somehow she pierced through the noise cancelling earbuds that were pumping Taylor Swift’s EvermoreAnd I was catching my breath / Barefoot in the wildest winter.

I snap a picture, that one above. And pause to watch.

The rustling of this single, dry leaf, clinging to the branch by its ever-so-thin stem, and shivering. How delicate. How fragile. How barefoot in the wildest winter.

The north wind gusts, she shudders, and I shudder along with her.

Toko-pa Turner: What is wild in us are the ways in which we meet something freshly and not by habit. Wild is to be full-body alive in response to the conversation life is having with us; the caress of the wind which cools your skin after the sun has penetrated it with warmth. The shadow cast by a soaring bird above. The unmediated glance, surprised by beauty.

The unmediated glance surprised by beauty.

And for that moment…full-body alive.


Notes:

Sunday Morning

Life is so full of unpredictable beauty and strange surprises. Sometimes that beauty is too much for me to handle. Do you know that feeling? When something is just too beautiful? When someone says something or writes something or plays something that moves you to the point of tears, maybe even changes you.

—  Mark Oliver Everett, Things The Grandchildren Should Know


Notes:

  • Photos: Daybreak. 5:39 & 5:48 am. July 26, 2020. 75° F. Humidity 90%. Wind: 9 mph. Gusts: 16 mph. Cloud Cover: 62%. Weed Ave & Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT
  • Quote: Thank you Vale of Soul Making

Lightly Child, Lightly.

Do you want to see the most beautiful thing I’ve ever filmed? It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing, and there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. And this bag was just, dancing with me, like a little kid beggin’ me to play with it – for fifteen minutes. And that’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know that there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video’s a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember – I need to remember. Sometimes, there’s so much beauty in the world – I feel like I can’t take it, like my heart is just going to cave in.

— Wes Bentley [Ricky Fitts] American Beauty (1999) Written by Alan Ball. Directed by Sam Mendes.


Notes:

  • Quote via Vale of Soul Making.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

when she looked in the mirror in the morning, she liked what she saw

Eudora Welty’s biographer, reports that Katherine Anne Porter said to Welty, “You will never know what it means to be a beautiful woman.” The comment reveals more about Porter’s conception of beauty than Welty’s appearance, though one hopes it earned Porter a few centuries in some lower level of Purgatory. And yet plenty of plain people partner and/ or marry. What’s going on here is something more profound than mere mien. Even in early photographs, Welty is radiant with her unabashed horse-toothed smile—somehow she found in her youth the self-possession to embrace it as her signature feature. In meeting her I felt overwhelmingly that, when she looked in the mirror in the morning, she liked what she saw, because what she saw she had consciously created. She was her own spouse.

— Fenton JohnsonAt the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life (W. W. Norton & Company, March 10, 2020)


Notes:

  • Inspired by: “I have been sick and I found out then, only then, how lonely I am. Is it too late? My heart puts up a struggle inside me, and you may have heard it, protesting against emptiness … It should be full, he would rush on to tell her, thinking of his heart now as a deep lake, it should be holding love like other hearts. It should be flooded with love… . Come and stand in my heart, whoever you are, and a whole river would cover your feet and rise higher and take your knees in whirlpools, and draw you down to itself, your whole body, your heart too.” — Eudora Welty, from “Death of a Traveling Salesman” in The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Feb 1, 1982)
  • Portrait of Eudora Welty, Nov 15, 1970, from the Paris Review via hottytoddy.com

Sunday Morning

Wassily Kandinsky wrote that “Cézanne made a living thing out of a teacup, or rather in a teacup he realized the existence of something alive. He raised still life to such a point that it ceased to be inanimate. He painted these things as he painted human beings, because he was endowed with the gift of divining the inner life in everything. . . . A man, a tree, an apple, all were used by Cézanne in the creation of something that is called a ‘picture,’ and which is a piece of true inward and artistic harmony.” The artist or writer does not impose harmony on reality but—with sufficient reverence and diligence and selflessness and solitude—uncovers the harmony that is always there but that we conceal from ourselves out of a preference for material comfort and fear of the consequences a full and unreserved embrace of harmony requires.

This faith in the underlying harmony roots itself in a love of and appreciation for nature, because nature, no matter how extreme the human abuse heaped on her, embodies a quiet, continual knitting and healing of life, ever dependent on death to make herself anew. “Art is a harmony parallel to nature,” Cézanne wrote—not identical with but parallel to nature. Art of any kind, undertaken with attention and focus and as part of a commitment to discipline, is an effort at reenactment of the original creative gesture—the precipitation of the universe at the moment of its creation. That, I believe, is why we sing, paint, dance, sculpt, write; that is why any one of us sets out to create something from nothing, and why the creative impulse is essentially religious or, if you prefer, spiritual. We seek to recreate the original creative gesture, whatever or whoever set it in motion—the bringing into being of what is. We seek the center of beauty.”

 — Fenton Johnson, At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life (W. W. Norton & Company, March 10, 2020)


Notes: Paul Cezanne’s “Fruit and Jug on a Table (1890-1894)

Lightly Child, Lightly

Bring down your colors

Break open your box of song

Beauty lifts us up

~ Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics


Notes:

  • Quote: Thank you Make Believe Boutique. Photo: Anka Zhuraleva with Summer Now in Saint-Petersburg.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Saturday Morning

Beauty brings us to a halt: it imposes, if only for a flash, the cessation of activity. (On the lawn in front of the library, seeing a runner in red shorts complete the last flailing strides of a sprint before pitching forward, his fingers caressing soft dirt: I let my book fall.) Indolence and aesthetic experience both involve feelings of unbidden influence, involuntariness or absence of will. But where the experience of beauty is often significant and always pleasurable, idleness is more equivocal in its effects and character. Essentially contentless, idleness obtains its phenomenological shape from the objects around us—the pliancy of a chair, the gloss of an advertisement—and the thoughts and desires within us.

O’Connor, to his credit, resists conflating idleness with aesthetic bliss, or animal repose, or other unambiguously positive varieties of passivity. Yet experience without content has little to recommend it. Without some consciously chosen value that organizes how we do nothing, we may find that our idle time makes us less free rather than more.

~ Charlie Tyson, from “Idleness” in The Point (September 5, 2019)


Source: Quote – Thank you The Hammock Papers. Photo: via see more.

Lightly Child, Lightly

Strangely, all of life’s problems, dilemmas, and difficulties are now resolved not by negativity, attack, criticism, force, or logical resolution, but always by falling into a larger “brightness” — by falling into the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Richard Rohr, Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

 


Notes:

  • Quote: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels.  Photo: fabrizio massetti with The sunlight in Dongchuan
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

It’s been a long day

Or was Mill concerned that, in a perfect world, with nothing more to strive for, we might simply grow bored? As the 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once upliftingly put it, “life swings back and forth like a pendulum between pain and boredom.” When we are not consumed by the desire to achieve something (food, shelter, companionship, wealth, career, status, social reform, etc.), we are tortured by boredom…

The answer, he discovered through reading Wordsworth, is to take refuge in a capacity to be moved by beauty — a capacity to take joy in the quiet contemplation of delicate thoughts, sights, sounds, and feelings, not just titanic struggles…

I hope, and suspect, that Mill is right about this: that we all have the ability to find some durable joy in quietude, normalcy and contemplation. In our personal lives, and in our political lives too, it would be nice if we could escape Schopenhauer’s pendulum:

to simply enjoy where we are, at times; to find some peace in the cessation of motion…

~ Adam Etinson, from Is a Life Without Struggle Worth Living? (NY Times, October 2, 2017)


Notes: Photo: via bea’titudeRelated Posts: It’s been a long day

 

Is that all it is, just beauty?

“This is how the world is, this is how humans are,” he says. “Everything that exists must disappear. Now, our art is something that basically cannot be owned, cannot be purchased, cannot be kept. It is ephemeral, and therefore it is free — and it is beautiful.”

Is that all it is, just beauty? Christo furrows his brow, as if not understanding the question. No, nothing more. What should it be? Then he smiles indulgently and says with a shrug: “Now it is there. Soon it will be gone.” And that’s all.

~ Arno Frank, Christo’s Colossal Project in Germany in Spiegel Online. (March 14, 2013)

American artist Christo’s work, titled “Big Air Package,” was meant to be the largest inflatable object of all time. Its volume would rival the ill-fated Hindenburg blimp, still the largest airship ever created. The inflatable package, 94 meters high and 54 meters wide, of “Big Air Package” is made up of 20,350 square meters of specially made milky-white, translucent material the artist calls “ETex Christo.” A specialty firm in the northern city of Lübeck spent 2,800 hours completing 12.5 kilometers (7.8 miles) of stitching. The 600 panels of fabric are to be held together by ropes and Velcro, which are meant to allow the 5.3-metric-ton formation to hold as much air as possible.

But all that is just numbers. And numbers can’t describe the experience of stepping through the airtight revolving doors and climbing the stairs — or better put, floating up them as if you were in the interior of a surreal rain cloud. Those who want to step into this transcendental space must make their way to Oberhausen. It’s the kind of pull toward the heavens that people in the Middle Ages must have felt when they first entered a gothic cathedral and looked up.

Notes:

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