Sunday Morning

DSCF1156 - geese

June 7, 2020. Daybreak. 5:14 a.m. 62° F.  Wind: 9 mph, Gusts: 27 mph. Weed Ave, Stamford, CT.

Paul Klee: “One eye sees, the other feels

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)

Sunday Morning

Got up on a cool morning. Leaned out a window. 
No cloud, no wind. Air that flowers held 
for awhile. Some dove somewhere…
these moments 
count for a lot–peace, you know.
Let the bucket of memory down into the well,
bring it up. Cool, cool minutes. No one 
stirring, no plans. Just being there.

This is what the whole thing is about.

— William Stafford, from “Just Thinking” in “Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford” 


Photo: Mine. 5:46 a.m. May 24, 2020. 50° F, feels like 46° F. Wind 12 mph, gusts up to 23 mph. Weed Ave/Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.

Sunday Morning

My cousin’s last day was spent out on his bike, a seventy-mile ride on a Saturday morning. He did the ride alone, and nobody had any contact with him after that. At some time in the next twenty-four hours he died, and his body was found by the police on Monday morning when his employer called them, worried because he hadn’t turned up for work. He always turned up for work.

I would wish for my last day to involve an act of freedom–a walk by the ocean, a long bike ride, something I love. I hope that the walk and the bike ride were suffused with joy, with pleasure, for my stepdad and my cousin. Neither knew it was their last time to do that thing. If they’d known, would they have enjoyed it more or less? Eventually, everything has to be done for the final time. There must be many things that, without our realising it, already fall into that category for all of us.

Final acts acquire holiness. My stepdad’s walk that day has. When we go to Ireland we almost always take the same route. We look out on the sea because it’s the last sea he saw. We write his name in the sand. We reflect, each of us inwardly, that one day we will never see this place again either. It’s a dull shock.

If finality makes something holy then every moment is holy, because every moment could be the last. That’s a thought we spend too cheaply. Live each day as if it’s your last, we think, and then we don’t. Everything is holy. It’s only when we die that the holiness is called up. But it was always holy, all along.

Samantha Harvey, The Shapeless Unease: A Year of Not Sleeping (Grove Press; May 12, 2020)


Photo: Mine. 5:23 a.m. A Holy Moment, on Sunday, a Holy Day. Cove Island Park Stamford, CT.

Sunday Morning (Feels like 21° F)

Q: How is the goodness of God manifested even in the clothing of birds and beasts?

A: Small birds, which are the most delicate, have more feathers than those that are hardier. Beasts that live in the icy regions have thicker, coarser coats than those that dwell in the tropical heat.

~ Jenny Offill, Weather: A Novel (Knopf, February 11, 2020)


Photo: European Starling by Ostdrossel

Sunday Morning


My mother’s need for order has nothing to do with the chaos of a life with too little space and too little money and almost no chance to make something beautiful of it all. The chance to create loveliness is always waiting just past the door of our matchbox rental. She never prepares for gardening—no special gloves, no rubber garden clogs, no stiff canvas apron with pockets for tools. No tools, most of the time. She steps out of the house—or the car, setting her bags down before she even makes it to the door—and puts her hands in the soil, tugging out the green things that don’t belong among the green things that do. Now another bare square of ground appears, and there is room for marigold seeds, the ones she saved when last year’s ruffled yellow blooms turned brown and dried to fragile likenesses of themselves. The light bill might be under the covers at the foot of her bed, the unsigned report card somewhere in the mess of papers on the mantel, but she can always put her hands on last year’s seeds. And later, in the summer, the very ground she walks on will be covered in gold.

~ Margaret Renkl, from “My Mother Pulls Weeds, Birmingham, 1978,” Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss


Photo: Cindy Garber Iverson

Sunday Morning

I want to be a monk because I think that would be a very good use of me, he continued. Does that sound strange? It sounds a bit arrogant, I suppose. I don’t mean to be arrogant. I want to be an implement. Something like a shovel with a beard. If I live with humility and intent, if I do what I do well and gracefully, that is good. Beyond that I cannot go. When I speak to children they will ask me things like, if I do enough good, and other people do good, then the good stacks up, right? and the good eventually beats the bad, right? and I cannot say this is so. I am not very interested in speculation about such things. I was never interested in theology. I think theology is an attempt to make sense of that to which sense does not apply. I cannot explain why I hope that what I do matters; all I can do is do what I do, either well or ill, patiently or not, gracefully or not. And I do find that doing things mindfully, patiently, easefully, makes the task far more interesting. I love to cut the grass here, for I sometimes come to a sort of understanding with the grass, and the hill, and the creatures in the grass, and with my legs and arms and back, a sort of silent conversation in which we all communicate easily and thoroughly. Do you have any idea of what I mean with all this?

~ Brian Doyle, from “Because It’s Hard” in “One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder” (Little, Brown and Company, December 3, 2019)


Notes:

That’s happiness.

“How can you be happy now?” the book seems to ask, and it has a point. The catastrophe of climate neglect, the toxic politics, the tangible sense of so many things worsening in your own lifetime, along with a sense of your obscure or outright complicity, all combined to make the idea of any possible happiness seem at best childish, at worse willfully blind…

When I came to write the new novel, I remembered a moment from our early days in Clare. We had left commuter Monday-to-Friday lives in New York to come to a rural farming community, seeking a simpler life that was truer to our natures, not yet knowing what exactly that was…

One of those first welcomers was Michael Dooley, a silver-haired farmer, turf cutter, man of the land of the old kind, who into his 80s, pedaled his big bicycle into the village.

Because Michael seemed to be working on the land all day every day, into the fall of darkness and beyond, and never complained, I once asked him if he ever took a holiday.

“A holiday?” He looked at me like the innocent I was.

“I mean, what do you do to be happy?”

The question was a novelty to him and he considered it from all sides before answering.

“When I want a holiday,” he said at last, “I go over the road as far as the meadow. I go in there, take off my jacket, and lay down on it. I watch the world turning for a bit, with me still in it.”

He smiled then, and held me in his blue Atlantic eyes, full of the ordinary wisdom of a well-lived life, a wisdom that saw the many failings of the world but our still breathing and dreaming in it, and with a conclusive nod that defeated all arguments said, “That’s happiness.”

~ Niall Williams, from “Is Anyone Happy Anymore? We’ve lost our ability to take comfort in small things.” Mr. Williams is the author, most recently, of the novel “This Is Happiness.” (The New York Times, Dec 21, 2019)


Notes:

Sunday Morning

When you’ve been raised inside a religion, it’s not a small thing to step outside it. Even if you no longer believe in it, you can feel its absence.

There’s a spirit-wound to a Sunday.

You can patch it, but it’s there, whether natural or invented not for me to say.

Niall Williams, “This Is Happiness” (Bloomsbury Publishing; December 3, 2019)


Photo: Kuehn Malvezzi of “House of One” (Berlin)

 

Sunday Morning

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle…
After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.

~ Wendell Berry, from “I Go Among Trees and Sit Still” in Sabbaths


Notes:

Poem: Thank you The Hammock Papers. Photo: “Sit a While” by Erik Witsoe (Poznan, Poland, Park Solacki)

%d bloggers like this: