You can never escape the bonds of family history, no matter how far you travel. And the skeleton of a house can carry in its bones the marrow of all that came before.

Andrew Wyeth,

Later he told me he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden. Faraway windows, opaque and unreadable. Ruts in the spiky grass made by an invisible vehicle, leading nowhere. Dishwater sky.

People think the painting is a portrait, but it isn’t. Not really. He wasn’t even in the field; he conjured it from a room in the house, an entirely different angle. He removed rocks and trees and outbuildings. The scale of the barn is wrong. And I am not that frail young thing, but a middle-aged spinster. It’s not my body, really, and maybe not even my head.

He did get one thing right: Sometimes a sanctuary, sometimes a prison, that house on the hill has always been my home. I’ve spent my life yearning toward it, wanting to escape it, paralyzed by its hold on me. (There are many ways to be crippled, I’ve learned over the years, many forms of paralysis.) My ancestors fled to Maine from Salem, but like anyone who tries to run away from the past, they brought it with them. Something inexorable seeds itself in the place of your origin. You can never escape the bonds of family history, no matter how far you travel. And the skeleton of a house can carry in its bones the marrow of all that came before.

Who are you, Christina Olson? he asked me once.

Nobody had ever asked me that. I had to think about it for a while.

~ Christina Baker Kline, from Prologue of “A Piece of the World: A Novel


Art: Christina’s World is a 1948 painting by American painter Andrew Wyeth, and one of the best-known American paintings of the middle 20th century. The woman in the painting is Anna Christina Olson (3 May 1893 – 27 January 1968). She is likely to have suffered from Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease, a genetic polyneuropathy. Wyeth was inspired to create the painting when he saw her crawling across a field while he was watching from a window in the house. Wyeth had a summer home in the area and was on friendly terms with Olson, using her and her younger brother as the subjects of paintings from 1940 to 1968. Although Olson was the inspiration and subject of the painting, she was not the primary model—Wyeth’s wife Betsy posed as the torso of the painting.[4] Olson was 55 at the time Wyeth created the work. (Source: Wiki)

MLK

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…Almost 50 years after his death, we remember MLK as the transcendent figure who helped lift the South out of Jim Crow. We also remember him as almost preternaturally calm in the face of great pressure and danger. […] He was a young man, still in his 30s—foisted onto the national stage with actors many years or decades his senior, suspect in the eyes of both younger and older civil rights leaders—and the burdens of leadership took their toll on him. […]

Since the age of 26, King had lived a mercilessly public life. He spent as much time, if not more, in airports and hotel rooms as he did at home with his wife and children. He faced relentless pressure to raise money, mediate internecine disagreements within the movement, speak before local civil rights groups and act as the national spokesman and government liaison for the black freedom movement. It was not the life that he chose. Rather, it was the life that chose him.

On his birthday, Americans celebrate King’s accomplishments and commemorate his martyrdom. It bears remembering, too, that he struggled with the role he played. And that he willingly surrendered life’s comforts—small and large—to give himself wholly to a country that didn’t, in his brief time here, fully appreciate him.

~ Joshua Zeitz, excerpts from The MLK History Forgot


Cover Source: The New Yorker by Kadir Nelson, a Los Angeles-based artist who painted this week’s The New Yorker cover, a tribute to the civil-rights leader. “My image is a celebration of Dr. King and his vision. What happened to his dream of racial and economic equality, and what is the impact of non-violent resistance over half a century later? It’s a conversation between the past, the present, and the future.”

It’s been a long day

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Once I witnessed a windstorm so severe two 100-year-old trees were uprooted on the spot. The next day, walking among the wreckage, I found the friable nests of birds, completely intact and unharmed on the ground. That the featherweight survive the massive, that this reversal of fortune takes place among us — that is what haunts me. I don’t know what it means.

~ Mary Ruefle, Remarks on Letters from Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures


Notes:

It’s been a long day

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There is joy to be found in the most minuscule of choices, in the pockets of slowness concealed inside each ordinary day: ten minutes in the morning in which to write down our dreams, five minutes in the late afternoon in which to stand by a window and watch the changing colors of the sunset, another pause before bed for a brief moment of prayer. Such things do not demand an inordinate commitment. From outside, our lives may look much as they have always done. We alone will recognize the small, rejuvenating pleasures, the invisible sustenance: the difference between skimming a text and taking the time to read it slowly and in depth; between emailing our friend, and making time to sit with her and talk; between rushing through our days, and honoring “the space between,” allowing space to muse and brood and wonder and exult, to bask in our accomplishments.

~ Christian McEwen, World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down.


Notes:

Evening Steam

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Katherine-Bradford-swimmers-to-manhattan


Notes:

Branded

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I’ve been thinking about purely private obsession, the grip of the wholly inexplicable. The claiming desire, some fascination –sometimes kink, sometimes compulsion– that puts down roots in your young skull and stakes a permanent camp. Some ceaselessly hectoring curiosity that won’t leave you alone, and ultimately defines you and how you’ll spend (or waste) your time and what you’ll want from your life. […]

“But in the end you become a hostage to who you are, to what you want, what fascinates you, what breaks you down, what holds you under; the sense you feel compelled to build, the truth you try so helplessly to construct, the who you ultimately and helplessly are. […]

– Brad Zellar, Branded


Notes:

 

head up in the bright morning air

swan

But earlier this week on a wooded path,
I thought the swans afloat on the reservoir
were the true geniuses,
the ones who had figured out how to fly,
how to be both beautiful and brutal,
and how to mate for life.

Twenty-four geniuses in all,
for I numbered them as Yeats had done,
deployed upon the calm, crystalline surface—

forty-eight if we count their white reflections,
or an even fifty if you want to throw in me
and the dog running up ahead,

who were at least smart enough to be out
that morning—she sniffing the ground,
me with my head up in the bright morning air.

– Billy Collins, Genius from Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems


Notes:

 

He blows on the painting as if imbuing it with life

russell-chatham-painting-hayfieldsapril-the-seasons-russell-chatham

In his studio, I get to watch him scrape down and then sand lightly a painting he’s been waiting to finish: sitting with it for days, the way a good writer will sit with an ending, even when he or she is certain. Waiting to be sure—waiting for the delightful vapors, the adrenaline fumes, of completion to wear off—and then waiting a little longer.

The painting—maybe 6 inches by 9 inches— has taken him a month.

“No one spends a month on a small painting like this anymore,” he says. Later he’ll take it to an auction in Great Falls, like a rancher with a prize bull, but carrying it onto the plane like a magazine under his arm.

The blade is rasping, the paint is falling to the bottom of the easel, rasp, rasp, rasp. He blows on the painting as if imbuing it with life, shakes it, puffs on it again, then sands it lightly, holds it out at arm’s length, and is satisfied. And it is beautiful.

~ Rick Bass, on Russell Chatham, 74, who he describes as the greatest living landscape painter in America.


Notes:

  • Thank you Rob Firchau at The Hammock Papers for pointing me to his work and the article.
  • Paintings shown above by Russell Chatham: The Seasons, April and Chatham Hayfields, 1995

Running. Running Hot.

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Mile 0: Lori.

Lori slings out the bait: “It’s time for a run! Lace up those PF Flyers and get out there, man! The world (OK *I*) needs another running post!”  This challenge comes from a writer, no, a professional Writer. I do wonder, did she send the text from the Stop & Shop counter while flipping through The Enquirer?

She’s a blogger acquaintance.  We’ve never met. A lover of Dogs. A writer. A reader. A traveler. An Ivy Leaguer, stealthily unadvertised – someone who you would underestimate  – the kindness overpowering.  Would I recognize her if she walked by me in Grand Central Station? Is she tall or short?  Why does she follow along? Rubbernecking syndrome?

She baits me, I jump.
Could I be that simple?
Am I that shallow? Or is it “Callow?”

I can feel the weight of her eyes, her mind on these words – this sentence separator, whatever you call it – a Big Dash, a Double Wide Dash, A Long Dash.  But she’ll know. She’ll whisper, “It’s an x Dave.

Pavlov’s hand is stretched, reaching. I stand in her shadow.

It’s ‘Callow.’ (Should it be a double quotation mark?  A single? Should it be inside or outside the period?  The fullness of her weight, too much.)

I walk out the door.
I run. [Read more…]

Saturday Morning: Standing in front of another new year

aborginal-bush-medicine-Gloria-Petyarre

[…]
Ocean, alive.
Earth, alive.
Sky, alive.
Air, alive.
Love, alive.
and here I was standing in front of another new year,
very much, alive.
And for the first time ever,
I could actually sense it,
in each one of my bones there was a whispering,
‘it’s going to be a good one,
dear.’

~ Sarah NorradA Poem to the New Year


Credits:

  • Sarah Norrad was born a Wild Woman in the rural and rugged forests of the Nimpkish Valley, on Vancouver Island, BC, a place where the mountains, forests and rivers speak louder than the People. She uses her body to teach Yoga, her mind to study Social Work, her soul to offer Community Counseling and her heart to write as a columnist for elephant journal.” Find her bio here: Elephant Journal
  • Poem Source: Thank you Make Believe Boutique.
  • Art: Gloria Petyarre “Bush Medicine” via Aboriginal Art World.  Petyarre is one of Australia’s foremost indigenous painters.
  • Don’t miss this painting in Blue.

 

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