Sunday Morning

I take hope in every politician’s or economist’s statement that Americans aren’t buying enough; in every student’s reference to “sustainability” or “mindfulness”—terms that weren’t in my college vocabulary… I take hope from the growing number of solitaries and the growing interest in meditation, contemplation, centering prayer. I have faith in the capacity of truth, if brought to light and given time, to win its cause, the capacity of love to win its cause. I place little hope in conventional politics, so invested are mainstream political parties in endless, unsustainable growth, or in conventional religion, with its interest in perpetuating its power. Instead I find hope in love, for one another, for our earth. Those of us invested in love can choose, must choose noncooperation. I buy less; I consume less; I take myself off the grid in the face of efforts to force me to remain on it; I dedicate myself to friendship as my organizing, bedrock relationship; I study and talk about how to become, in fact, a society of friends.

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


Portrait: Source

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

Saturday Morning

“The multiplication of our society’s demons has been accompanied by a ratcheting up of the sources and volume of its background noise. The chatter and diversions of our lives (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, texts . . .) serve to keep the demons at bay, even as we are creating demons faster than we can create noise to drown them out: environmental devastation, global warming, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, uncontrolled population growth, unlimited consumption held up by international media and most of our leaders as the glittering purpose of life. The appropriate response is not more noise. The appropriate response is more silence. To choose to be alone is to bait the trap, to create a space the demons cannot resist entering. And that’s the good news; the demons that enter can be named, written about, and tamed through the miracle of the healing word, the miracle of art, the miracle of silence.”

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


Photo: DK: 5:31 am. Daybreak. June 4, 2020. 64° F. Cloud Cover: 44%. Wind: 6 mph. Weed Ave & Cove Island Park Beach, Stamford, CT.  

 

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)

Saturday Morning

5:02 a.m. I’m out the door. 65° F.  Hass: “Still. Not a breath of wind.

Morning routine since May 5th sans running. 5 mile round trip walk to Cove Island Park. New thing, this walking thing. Camera forces me pause, to stop. Apple Watch flashes “Finished Your Workout?” And offers up two options, “End Workout” & “Pause.” I stare at the both options. Even looking at “Pause” makes me uncomfortable.

I look for my Canada Geese and their two offspring. They never disappoint. Fluffy youngsters, hungry, pecking away at the grass. Mother hisses. Hey, I’m Canadian too, cut me some slack!

I look for my Swans, mates, sleeping with their necks tucked back under their wings, floating on their water bed on high tide.

I look for my trio of mallards, two females and the polygamist. Skittish.

I look for my Loon, solo, always solo, fishing. She dives deep. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44…and she’s back up on top. I catch myself inhaling, a deep breath for you girl.

I look for my Egrets. Pure white, as snow.  Heart sinks a wee bit in their absence.

I tune into Fenton Johnson‘s new book on tape At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life and I’m swept away by the narration: “If the journey through our interior landscape is so critical to our characters, let us become more informed and responsible travelers. Let us start by turning off our phones and spending more time alone…with the red semaphore atop the cell tower blinking on, off, on, off, presence, absence, presence, absence. I bask in this lovely stream of words…thinking: This is why one becomes a monk: to cultivate in every moment presence to the beauty of the world…The spirit works with what she has at hand.

I tuck my earbuds away and walk.

It’s daybreak. Sunrise paints the sky, and the still water below her.

And yes, “soon enough, I was quiet too.”


Inspired by: “In all the mountains, / Stillness; / In the treetops / Not a breath of wind. / The birds are silent in the woods. / Just wait: soon enough / You will be quiet too.— Robert Hass, “After Goethe,” Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005.
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