this delicate painting will endure

On the shelf in my studio in Bloomsbury are four postcards of paintings that I love: The Blue Rigi, Sunrise by J.M.W. Turner; Stonehenge, a watercolour by John Constable; Self-Portrait by Rembrandt, dated 1658; and The Convalescent by Gwen John.

Just one look at this reproduction of Gwen John’s painting and my breathing becomes easier. The whole composition is a symphony in grey. She must have mixed the colours on her palette first—Payne’s Grey, Prussian Blue, Naples Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Brown Ochre, Rose Madder, Flake White—then all the other colours would be dipped in this combination so that every form is united in grey: the dark blue of the girl’s dress, the thrush-egg blue of the cushion behind her back and the tablecloth, the rose pink of the cup and saucer echoing the delicate pink of her fingernails and lips, the teapot like a shiny chestnut. The wall behind her is flecked with mustard-coloured dots placed randomly and precisely, as marks in nature always are, like the speckles on an egg. The painting is as fragile and robust as an egg—the structure of the composition holds everything in place; this delicate painting will endure.

Gwen John instructs the model to loosen her hair and part it in the middle. She wants the model to resemble her. Before Gwen starts the painting, she positions herself in the wicker chair and tells her model that she must sit in exactly the same pose. Gwen lowers her eyes and holds a small piece of paper in her hands. She is completely still, and her stillness pervades the space around her. The room becomes silent. The model now copies Gwen; she looks down at her hands, and she doesn’t look up until she has heard that Gwen approves.

—  Celia Paul, Letters to Gwen John (New York Review of Books, April 26, 2022)

Walking. Could it be this moment…Could it be…?

55° F.

Soft breeze, a kiss on the cheek. Clouds heavy, but quiet.

Here we are (again), on our daybreak walk at Cove Island Park.  722 consecutive (almost) days. Like in a row.

We’re semi-functioning on 4 hours sleep, maxI can’t sleep.  Near-Dead Man Walking.

I’m at the highest point on the Island, overlooking the expanse of the Sound.

And there it was.

Lori’s Large word: ethereal…So delicate. So light. Lightly Child, Lightly.

“…a light that could be a feeling…”

And the beat of those wings, thrumming inside of me.

“…a sound could be a color”

I’m frozen, eyes locked on the wings…Get the damn camera up Man, get it up!

“…and that heaven could be…this moment…”

Now!

You’re going to remember this…


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Cove Island Park, 5:42 a.m. May 12, 2022. More photos from this morning here.
  • Quote: “I hadn’t known that a light could be a feeling and a sound could be a color and a kiss could be both a question and an answer. And that heaven could be the ocean or a person or this moment or something else entirely.” —  Megan MirandaFracture. (Walker Childrens; January 17, 2012) 

Saturday Morning

I love going on walks by myself. No pressure to keep up conversation. And there is something about movement that helps me think. To charge an idea with the body’s inertia. To carry a feeling through the distance and watch it grow.

—  Ocean Vuong, The Weight of Our Living: On Hope, Fire Escapes, and Visible Desperation (therumpus.net, August 24, 2014)


Photo: Daybreak. 5:49 a.m., April 30, 2022. 41° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. More photos from this morning here.

At 63, regret has been a propellant

American culture is saturated with advice on managing regret — which generally amounts to pretending we don’t experience it… The message is clear: Regret is self-defeating, backward-looking, a negative feeling to avoid at all costs.

But for Mariko Yugeta, regret has been a propellant. At 63, the Japanese athlete has quietly become the fastest woman in her age group ever to finish a marathon. She’s a sexagenarian who is beating the times she chased as a promising amateur athlete in her 20s.

After putting her athletic goals aside for decades to raise children and pursue a full-time career, in 2019 she became the first woman over 60 to run a marathon in under three hours. In January 2021, at age 62, she ran her fastest marathon ever, in 2:52:13 — meaning the world records she’s now breaking are the ones she set.

As Yugeta reclaims the dreams she once abandoned, she says her athletic breakthrough is “fueled by regret.”

“I don’t think the feeling of regret is a negative emotion,” Yugeta told me. “What’s negative are thoughts like, ‘I can’t run fast anymore’ or ‘I’m too old to do this,’ and I think that it’s an entirely positive way to live, to use any regrets you might have as motivation to achieve a goal.”

Yugeta didn’t ever stop wanting to win, she explained. “I’ve always wanted to be No. 1,” she told me. “That’s what’s gotten me out the door on rainy and windy days.”

I’d never heard of someone with a comeback story quite like Yugeta’s, which strikes me as a case study in how regret doesn’t have to drag us down. Used the right way, it can inspire us.

“It’s a waste of time to think about days gone by,” she said. “What’s important is the here and now, and the future. How can you improve yourself in the days to come?”

(Read on…)

— Lindsay Crouse, from “A 63-Year-Old Runner Changed the Way I Think About Regret” in NY Times,

Walking. With a Trifecta.

718 days. Almost consecutive. Like in a row.  Morning walk @ Cove Island Park @ Daybreak.

Ritual is all we have. It’s what keeps us from the abyss.”  It’s Jillian Horton’s thought from “We Are All Perfectly Fine,” and there’s zero doubt that she wrote it thinking of me.

Perfectly Fine? Definitely not.

I round the turn into the parking lot. It’s empty. I mean Empty. Not a single parked car. Not a single soul lurking around.

My park. My time. Mine.

I walk.

45° F with 10 mph winds blowing from the NW, keeping this Spring’s Here thing real.

Inhale.

Blossoms.

“…as if a rose were flung into the room, all hue and scent” (Szymborska).

And then, came the Trifecta.

(The first being here, alive, standing in this spot, at this moment.)

The second, Luna peaks out from behind the clouds.  And drops her beam down on Long Island Sound.

And the third, at this exact moment, turning up randomly on my iTunes playlist of 3000+ odd tunes —  My Anthem. Van Morrison, So Quiet in Here.

Where we can be what we want to be
Oh this must be what paradise is like
This must be what paradise is like
Baby it’s so quiet in here, so peaceful in here
So quiet in here, so peaceful in here
So quiet in here, so peaceful in here
So quiet in here, you can hear, it’s so quiet

I raise my camera, focus on the train of her gown, and take the shot.

I’m going to remember this.


Notes:

  • DK Photo. Moonlight @ Daybreak. 5:15 am, April 23, 2022. 45° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.  More photos from this morning here.

Walking. When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.

I’m thumbing through Instagram yesterday, and be damned if that photo doesn’t come across my feed.  Location? Cove Island Park!

711 days. 711 almost consecutive daybreak walks at Cove Island Park.  Like in a row. And not one, not one, single Eagle sighting.

And if that’s not bad enough, George, 50% of my Swan duo, is posing behind the Baby Eagle, as if to say, wake up idiot. WTH.

I send the photographer (Pituco1501) a note: “Wow. Great shot. I was there this morning and thought I saw an eagle, but then said nah, can’t be.”

I had punched out a text to Susan & Eric seconds after what I thought was an eagle: “Swear I saw an Eagle, but missed the shot!”

Eric replies: “B.S. Dad. It was a pigeon.”

Nice. And this coming from my offspring.

Instagram Photographer replies:  “Thank you so much!!! I know it’s hard to see them. Be patient sooner or later you will!! 🦅🦅”

Nice touch with the Eagle emojis. If I can’t see them live, maybe I can roll around in emojis.

Be patient. Sooner or later you will. 🦅🦅

711 days, and counting.

My God, like when?


Notes:

TGIF: I see the bad moon a-rising


Notes:

  • Post Title: “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
  • DK Photo: Moon. Waxing Gibbous Phase (93%). 52° F. 4:00 a.m. April 15, 2022.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

All of us are a little untethered right now, which means a lot of projecting our own fears and anxieties onto other people. Sometimes, if we get really quiet—quiet enough to hear ourselves—we realize we know.

Emmanuel AchoIllogical: Saying Yes to a Life Without Limits (Flatiron Books: An Oprah Book, March 22, 2022)


Photo credit: Alessandro Gentile

And then, there was One.


My Swans @ Daybreak. 6:37 am, April 9, 2022. 47° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.More photos from this morning here.

Walking. With a sound we do not hear that lifts the birds off the water.

I know it’s them. It has to be them. They’re back. The geese that I followed last year.  The Female that nested on the dock. The Male the hovered nearby offering ongoing protection.

I scan through old posts to find that it’s been almost one year to the day, April 11, 2021: “Nest. Where you make it.”

I pull into the park, my eyes hungrily seek them again. It’s been a week now since I’ve spotted them. There’s no nest on the platform. But they swim, quietly, alone, together.  Waiting, I would guess, for the Moment.

Their Moment. Bigger than the madness in Ukraine. Or the toxicity of Washington. Or the gang shootings in Sacramento.

And it’s Ilya Kaminsky from “That Map of Bone and Opened Valves” that seemed to capture how I felt as I stared down at them:

It’s the air.
Something in the air wants us too much.
The earth is still…
On the fourth day I touch the walls,
feel the pulse of the house and I
stare up wordless and do not know why I am alive…
a sound we do not hear
lifts the birds off the water.


Notes:

Walking. And licking the wounds.

697 days, almost consecutive. Like in a row. This daybreak walk at Cove Island Park.

38° F, feels like 30° F, flashes Dark Sky app. Sorry, but that’s crap. Winds gusting up to 35 mph.

Just look at those clouds overhead in the photo. Even they’re huddled together trying to stay warm.

I’m standing in the exact same spot as my last post. That pure and clean moment. That soul lifting moment, lifting me, elevating me up and over my pesky, 1st world problems.

And here we are, a week later, and I’m feeling nothing. Nothing spiritual. Nothing soul lifting.

Jill Horton’s words are pumping into my earbuds on Audible from her title “We are All Perfectly Fine.” No, we’re not perfectly fine Jill. “What’s that like? It’s like bullshit…it’s like violence to my soul.

So the picture must be crystalizing for you this morning. We’re cold, we’re in a pissy mood, and not really sure why. Why not turn this bus around, suspend this walk, go back home, roll under the covers and sleep it off? Whatever the hell ‘this’ is. But I know that I excel at wallowing in it.

I keep walking.

I pull the hoody (‘hoody’ Dale, not ‘hoodie’, or some other French Canadian separatist derivation) over my head to cut some of this wind. And I pick up the pace to warm these bones.

I walk the breakwall, taking care to avoid the slime, to avoid a headlong tumble, to add to the morning woes.

I hear a scurrying in the stones.

I hit pause on Audible, yank my ear buds out and stop.

[Read more…]

T.G.I.F: a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched

The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening.  It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.

– Henry David Thoreau, Walden


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 6:52 am, April 1, 2022. 54° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.  More photos from this morning here.
  • Quote from Steve Layman

it was my calling, the way a bird is drawn to the song of its own kind

I could get into med school.

Couldn’t I?

I could. I would. I did. But there was a complicating factor. Right after a thick acceptance letter arrived from Mac, another envelope came. This one had a postmark from the U.K. I was being offered a full scholarship to go to Oxford for a PhD in English.

The medical school acceptance letter was printed by a computer; the package from Oxford included a personal invitation on crinkly yellow paper to drink sherry with tutors. I could picture my new Oxford life: I’d have a bike with a basket, and spend hours at the Bodleian. The real white cliffs of Dover. Weekends in Paris. Wool sweaters from the highlands, and a hearth and a stone fireplace older than anyone I had ever met. Bookshelves full of Yeats and Tennyson, and a room of my own, like Virginia Woolf’s. A place where the words could pour out of my heart and onto the page, and maybe someday those pages would find their way onto other shelves, maybe even the Bodleian itself.

But lying awake on those tortured, miserable nights, working it all out as if it were a formula with an elusive right answer, the “Go” or “Stay” columns were really “tutors with sherry” versus my sister in her wheelchair, bent over at a forty-five-degree angle, holding her head in her hands and asking if I could please take her to the summer fair. Those tutors wanted to know my interests within postmodernism. My sister had a more basic question for me: When are you coming home? …

I didn’t need to study English at Oxford to learn the power of words. I’d already had my most important teacher. It was that doctor, yelling at my parents, There’s no brain left. He taught me that people with power have a duty to speak with care, because they have been entrusted with something fragile they have no right to break. He helped me understand that medicine itself was a very specific kind of power, one I would never, ever abuse, because I knew it was sacred. And anyway, I wasn’t drawn to power. I was drawn to medicine because it was my calling, the way a bird is drawn to the song of its own kind.

That was the only contest Wendy won in her whole life. She drew me home. Not out of pity, but out of love and its attendant duty, and a sense there might be things in life that would matter more to me in twenty years than whether I had a PhD from Oxford or had seen the Bodleian. So one day that summer, I was able to look Wendy in the eye and tell her something she would forget a few minutes later: because of her, I was going to be a doctor. And in a few years, I’d be coming home.

Jillian Horton, We Are All Perfectly Fine: A Memoir of Love, Medicine and Healing (HarperCollins Publishers, February 23, 2021)


Notes:

  • Highly Recommended. And if you can listen to it on Audible, narration is absolutely the best.
  • Book Review: cecescott.com

I’ve run away but I find the moon everywhere I go

I’ve been getting text messages from the moon. A note flashes on my phone, asking if the moon can track my location, and I consent.

I have moved to a new city but the moon is following me around. It texts to tell me when it will be out. Through the windows, there is just a parallelogram of sky at the top of the courtyard, only a small space to catch the passing moon on certain clear nights…

The app uses my location to tell me the moon’s phase, direction, distance at all times. Right now, the moon is 384,012 miles away from my hand, which is holding my phone close to my heart, as I sit at the table in the narrow kitchen of this flat with tall windows in an old-style apartment block, stinging nettles by the front door. I’m just home from work, vibrating with tiredness. The moon is waxing gibbous and is 25.2 degrees above the horizon, almost due east. It rose just after midday and will set around 3 a.m…

The internet is hectic and I go to the moon to relax, opening new browser tabs for the moon’s Wikipedia page and Google Maps of its surface. I follow new lunar developments from NASA. I learn that the moon was probably once part of the earth, sheared off by an asteroid. B, who moved from Scotland to Tasmania, tells me that there is a different moon in the southern hemisphere: it waxes and wanes in the opposite direction. I learn that the moon is slowing down the earth’s rotation. The moon is holding on to us…

I’ve run away but I find the moon everywhere I go…

The lunar cycles are almost all I have in my diary for the year. My future is blank but I know what the moon will be doing…

People in this town can’t commit to anything, but the moon is always orbiting and the months pass relentlessly. I don’t speak the language but I know ‘der Mond’. My attachment to the moon grew during the years I’ve been lonely and so did the moon’s attachment to me. The moon, I tell B, is my boyfriend.

Amy Liptrot, from her Prologue titled “February Hunger Moon” in The Instant (Canongate Books, March 3, 2022)


Notes:

  • Waning Crescent Moon (25%). DK @ Cove Island Park, 37° F. 5:33 a.m. Sunday, March 27, 2022. More Photos from this morning here.
  • Book Review of “The Instant” in The Guardian

Saturday Morning. Why I Wake Early.

Everyday
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
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?

—  Mary Oliver, from “Mindful” in Why I Wake Early.


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ 6:03 a.m. this morning. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. 47F. More photos from this morning here.
  • Mary Oliver via Alive on All Channels

Walking. On a spot with billions of years left to run.

689 days, almost consecutive. Almost in a row. This daybreak walk at Cove Island Park.

I pause for a moment, looking up at those clouds, their reflection on that water, standing in this silence —  a sacred moment, on sacred ground, could it possibly be a religious experience? For a non-church goer? For one wobbling on a fence?

You’ve stood in this same exact spot over 100x in the past 2 years.

What is that you feel?

“Phenomenal, to be such a small, weak, short-lived being on a planet with billions of years left to run.” Richard Powers, The Overstory.

 


DK Photo on Weed Ave, Stamford, CT. 5:54 a.m. March 25, 2022. More photos from this morning here.

Without spring who knows what would happen. A lot of nothing, I suppose.


Notes:

  • Grace (and George) building their nest. (Grace being named by my good friend LouAnn.)
  • My Swan(s) @ Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. 6:57 a.m. yesterday morning. 42° F.  Other photos from yesterday morning here.  Backstories on swans here.
  • Post Title: Mary Oliver, from “Late Spring,” Felicity: Poems  (via Alive on All Channels)

I’m going to remember this.

It all started with Thursday’s post, Lightly Child, Lightly. Where Cole Arthur Riley writes: “Have you ever stood in the presence of a tree and listened to the wind pass through its leaves? The roots and body stand defiant and unmoved. But listen. The branches stretch out their tongues and whisper shhhhh. Trees make symphonies without their trunks ever moving, almost as if the stillness of their centers amplifies their sound.” 

This post triggered a number of comments.

Beth, a school teacher, teaches me what that sound is: “I so love it too and there is a word for it: psithurism. These sounds of wind in the trees and the rustling of leaves have enchanted so many people over time that they invented a word to describe them: psithurism. Like many words that begin with “ps,” the “p” at the beginning of psithurism is silent, and the word is pronounced sith-err-iz-um.

Lori, follows by sharing: “I, too, am mesmerized by this sound (and now know what to call it…thank you, Beth!) This passage brought to mind Suzanne Simard’s book, ‘Finding the Mother Tree.’ So much happening below the surface

Mimi then shares: “The symphony of sound from the trees, sounds that change with the type of leaf that is singing – another gift from Mother Nature. The differences can be subtle, and demand your attention if you’re fortunate enough to stop and listen. Beth taught us both something today – never heard of the word, and I love the way it sounds – its pronunciation is perfect for its definition!”

Caitlin, here next door in NY State, furthers my education.  “My favorite sound — wind through pine trees — happy memories of Northern Ontario summer camp…The verb for the sound is soughing.”  I had to google it. A Verb: soughing (of the wind in trees, the sea, etc.) make a moaning, whistling, or rushing sound. ‘the soughing of the wind in the canopy of branches’.

Kevin, in Concord, CA, “likes sitting under an overhang and listening to rain (and wind) hitting the various leaves in my back garden. We also have a hammock for sitting between trees and watching the leaves rustle in the wind.”

Doug’s favorite soothing sound “is the sound of water in a stream burbling over rocks” and he wonders “if there is a specific word for that sound, too.”

Anneli has “stood under black cottonwoods in Montana and made a little video of the leaves whispering very loudly as the wind passed through the trees. A memorable experience.

Dale, once again, dropping 10-letter words requiring me to wear a dictionary on my hip to decipher: “I often stand amongst the trees and love the sound. Psithurism from marcescent leaves, particularly. Those leaves, usually oak, that remain on the trees in the winter have a particular sound.”

And for me, I’m with all of you.  Wind through the trees, branches, leaves. Listening to rain. Sitting in hammocks. Stream burbling over rocks.

And yet, there’s one other sound of notable mention. [Read more…]

Sunday Morning

My spirituality has always been given to contemplation, even before anyone articulated for me exactly what “the contemplative” was. I was not raised in an overtly religious home; my spiritual formation now comes to me in memories—not creeds or doctrine, but the air we breathed, stories, myth, and a kind of attentiveness. From a young age, my siblings and I were allowed to travel deep into our interior worlds to become aware of ourselves, our loves, our beliefs. And still, my father demanded an unflinching awareness of our exterior worlds. Where is home from here? What was the waitress’s name? Where do we look when we’re walking? If a single phrase could be considered the mantra of our family, it would be Pay attention.

—  Cole Arthur Riley, This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us (Convergent Books, February 22, 2022)

 

Saturday Morning


Grace, having breakfast. (Grace being named by good friend LouAnn.)

My Swan(s) @ Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. 7:00 a.m. this morning. 47° F.  Other photos from this morning here.  Backstories on swans here.

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