It’s been a long day

luci d'inverno

The blue river is grey at morning
and evening. There is twilight
at dawn and dusk. I lie in the dark
wondering if this quiet in me now
is a beginning or an end.

~ Jack Gilbert, “Waking at Night” (The Greensboro Review, Fall 2008)


Notes:

 

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week

 


Notes: (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

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

 

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week

I
slowly
withdraw
from
my
body.

~ Anna Kamienska, from A Nest of Quiet: A Notebook


Notes: Photo Manipulation by Laurent Rosset (Denmark) (via this isn’t happiness)

This … or That?

THIS…

Excerpts from A Starry Night Crowded With Selfies by Francis X. Clines (NY Times, 9/23/17):

“This is the scene in front of Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” at the Museum of Modern Art earlier this month.  The city’s summer tourist season is ending, but visitors still crowd four and five deep in neck-craning hubbubs, brandishing phones to take close-ups and grinning selfies and somehow partake of “Starry Night,” the van Gogh masterpiece at the Museum of Modern Art. The crowds were ceaseless all summer, as they are much of the year — bobbing, weaving, snapping away, denying quiet contemplation. They puzzle no less an art lover than Ann Temkin, the chief curator of painting and sculpture, who has watched the “crazy magnetism” of the painting and her beloved Vincent grow ever since cameras first appeared on phones. “It’s as if taking a photo of a work in a museum means ‘seeing’ it to a viewer, even though someone like me worries that taking the photo replaces seeing it in the slow and thoughtful way I would ideally wish,” Ms. Temkin ruefully concedes at the bustling museum. “And the problem with all the photo-takers is that they make it impossible for someone who wants to do that kind of looking to do so.” […]  As a curator, Ms. Temkin has decided nothing can be done about ravenous phone photographers in museums. “I used to be more judgmental about it, really disapprove,” she says. Lately she sees how audiences at public events watch a big video screen image rather than the actual person in the picture speaking live right there on stage. Something’s happening; she notices celebrity chefs preparing dishes for their photogenic possibilities. She suspects artists are inevitably crafting work with similar nods to the overwhelming social media culture, with all its likes and retweets. “It’s utterly impossible to wrap one’s mind around van Gogh, seeing this going on,” the curator notes affectionately. “Maybe God is good and will let him know he’s beloved,” she says. “But beyond that, he’s not allowed to look,” she advises, protecting Vincent from the madding crowd.

OR THAT…?

[Read more…]

Sunday Morning

Junipers in the forests outside Warsaw.
I didn’t know that junipers like sand.
They stand, huddled, like secret, silent figures in hoods.
They walk behind us. I turn to look.
They stop in their tracks, like monks.

~ Anna Kamienska, from A Nest of Quiet: A Notebook, trans. Clare Cavanagh from Poetry Magazine, May 1, 2012


Photo: Marek7 with Forest in Kampinos National Park in on the north-west outskirts of Warsaw

Oh, that is absolutely gorgeous, grass wind and pine wind.

Sometimes you trip into something, something that is so big, and so right (this Sunday morning), that you don’t want to soil it by sharing a few excerpts. (But I’m going to do it anyway, of course.) I urge you to listen to Krista Tippett’s entire 51 minute interview with Gordon Hempton where the conversation is sprinkled with Hempton’s nature recordings. Hempton is an acoustic ecologist, a collector of sound all over the world. You can find the entire transcript and audio recording here: “Silence and the Presence of Everything.” I’ve shared a few passages below:

________

“OK. So I get out of my car, all right? We’ll still hear the pinging of its engine. We’ll hear other cars and other visitors, and we’ll hear the “beep-beep” of our modern world as people are locking their cars and the rustling of our artificial fabrics against our bodies. Some people will be chattering away on cell phones. But then the sound of my backpack goes over my shoulders, and we head off down the trail. And no more than 100 yards along these tall, tree-lined, ferned path with moss drapes that add sound-deadening to the experience, we’ll hear the call-off twitter of a Winter Wren, this very high-pitched twittering sound that might be coming from 100 feet away…And then we’ll hear further away the sound of the Hoh River that drains the Rain Forest echoing off the far side of the valley…And if we were taking this hike in the fall, we would hear the bugling of the Roosevelt elk… Up close, it’s actually quite a guttural, adrenalin-filled assertion of what it means to be male and wild. But when you hear this experience from a couple of miles away, isn’t that amazing? When you’re in a quiet place, your listening horizon extends for miles in every direction. When you hear an elk call from miles away, it turns into a magic flute as the result of traveling through this place that has the same acoustics as a cathedral. […]

Yeah. Oh, grass wind. Oh, that is absolutely gorgeous, grass wind and pine wind. We can go back to the writing of John Muir, which he turned me on to the fact that the tone, the pitch, of the wind is a function of the length of the needle or the blade of grass. So the shorter the needle on the pine, the higher the pitch; the longer, the lower the pitch. There are all kinds of things like that, but the two folders where I collected, I have, oh, over 100 different recordings which are actually silent from places, and you cannot discern a sense of space, but you can discern a sense of tonal quality, that there is a fundamental frequency for each habitat. […]

But I found the sound that I enjoyed most was the sound of the silence in the volcano. The measurement of decibels actually goes into the minus point, but there still is a sense of presence, of where you are. Then once you get over the rim of the volcano, you begin to pick up what I call the mantra of the islands, and that’s the distant beating of that drum called the Pacific Ocean. […]

We’re about to enter into a giant driftwood log. It’s a Sitka spruce log, the same material that’s used in the crafting of violins, and it has a special property where that, when the wood fibers are excited by acoustic energy — in this case, it’s the sound of the ocean itself — that the fibers actually vibrate. And inside, we get to listen to nature’s largest violin. […] [Read more…]

A Journey Around My Room

In Lin Yutang’s view, you must possess the capacity to open yourself to seeing what’s in front of and around you all the time, not just when you are on a special trip. He gives us a sizable translation from a Chinese philosopher who expands on this, explaining that seeing the beauty and grace in the most majestic mountains means nothing if you can’t see beauty and grace in “a little patch of water, a village, a bridge, a tree, a hedge, or a dog….”

A travel book that takes this philosophy as far as it can go and then further is that remarkable little book: A Journey Around My Room. This is book was written in 1790 by a young French officer named Xavier de Maistre. […]

With nothing else to do, he wrote a guidebook to his room, visiting over the course of those weeks various bits of furniture, paintings, his bookshelf, letters he’d kept, and his own memory of a charming and slightly rakish life … De Maistre makes a case for traveling around his room as the truest kind of travel … “The pleasure you find in traveling around your room is safe from the restless jealousy of men; it is independent of the fickleness of fortune. After all, is there any person so unhappy, so abandoned, that he doesn’t have a little den into which he can withdraw and hide away from everyone? Nothing more elaborate is needed for the journey.”

Like all good travel writers, de Maistre begins his book by giving us the lay of the land and the route he intends to take:

My room is situated on the forty-fifth degree of latitude, according to the measurement of Father Beccaria; it stretches from east to west; it forms a long rectangle, thirty-six paces in circumference, if you hug the wall. My journey will, however, measure much more than this, as I will be crossing it frequently lengthwise, or else diagonally, without any rule or method. I will even follow a zigzag path, and I will trace out every possible geometrical trajectory if need be. I don’t like people who have their itineraries and ideas so clearly sorted out that they say, “Today I’ll make three visits, I’ll write four letters, and I’ll finish that book I started.” My soul is so open to every kind of idea, taste and sentiment; it so avidly receives everything that presents itself!…And why would it turn down the pleasures that are scattered along life’s difficult path? …

But when he wants to be awakened to what is going on in the world far from his window, and learn more about the human condition, there is another destination in his room that he can visit—his bookshelf, which is filled mostly with novels and a few books of poetry. These take him out of his room while allowing him to stay in it, and expand his experiences a thousandfold. He writes, “As if my own troubles weren’t enough, I also voluntarily share those of a thousand imaginary characters, and I feel them as vividly as my own.” …

After reading A Journey Around My Room, I vowed that I would take a trip to my room every few months, and these have been some of the happiest days I’ve spent. It’s an incredible luxury to be home and not sick, to wake up with no agenda other than to wander around the apartment all day. I can lie on the sofa and look at the light as it plays across a glass table. Or see the way it catches on a cracked ceramic vase. I can play with the shells I’ve brought back from the beach. I can admire our hearty little African violet. And I can visit my books, flipping through this one and then that to light on a passage.

This only works if I remain totally unplugged. The rules for such a day are simple—no electronics at all (except for music).

~ Will Schwalbe, from “A Journey Around My Room. Traveling.” In Books for a Living.


Notes:

Saturday Morning

110.
Persons who live in noise are like dust swept along by the wind.
On the other hand, those who love silence and solitude walk step by step…
they know how to break the vicious circles of noise,
like animal tamers who manage to calm roaring lions.

~ Cardinal Robert Sarah, from “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise” (April, 2017).


Notes:

  • Photo: Arno Rafael Minkkinen (via My Modern Met). “Using his own naked body, Finnish-born artist Arno Rafael Minkkinen interacts with the outdoors, providing us with curiously interesting photos that are both humorous and inspiring. These unmanipulated photos show us that you don’t always need Photoshop to create surprising, surreal-like images. All you need is a little imagination.”
  • Related Posts: Cardinal Robert Sarah

Lightly Child, Lightly.


Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning-
whatever it was I said

I would be doing-
I was standing
at the edge of the field –
I was hurrying

through my own soul,
opening its dark doors –
I was leaning out;
I was listening.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Mockingbirds” (The Atlantic, Febuary 1994)


Notes:

  • Photo: Patty Maher
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • 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.”

 

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