The Love of Tasks Gone Past

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Like a fading piece of cloth
I am a failure

No longer do I cover tables filled with food and laughter
My seams are frayed my hems falling my strength no longer able
To hold the hot and cold

I wish for those first days
When just woven I could keep water
From seeping through
Repelled stains with the tightness of my weave
Dazzled the sunlight with my
Reflection

I grow old though pleased with my memories
The tasks I can no longer complete
Are balanced by the love of the tasks gone past

I offer no apology only
this plea:

When I am frayed and strained and drizzle at the end
Please someone cut a square and put me in a quilt
That I might keep some child warm

And some old person with no one else to talk to
Will hear my whispers

And cuddle
near
~Nikki Giovanni “Quilts”

 

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When I no longer have strength or the usefulness to perform my daily tasks,
piece me up and sew me into a greater whole along with pieces of others who are fading.
We are so much better together,
so much more colorful and bold,
becoming art and function in our fraying state.

Full of warmth and fun
covering all who are sick and sleep and love and cuddle,
and drift off to heaven as the last breath is breathed.

 

 

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~~click each quilt to enlarge and admire the handiwork~~

(thank you again to the quilters displaying their art at the NW Washington Fair in Lynden
(see previous years’ work here and here)

 

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You Must Change Your Life

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We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
~Rainer Maria Rilke “Archaic Torso of Apollo”

(these photos were taken at Meijer Sculpture Garden in Grand Rapids, Michigan last month of The American Horse modeled after da Vinci’s drawings of his unfulfilled plan to build a huge bronze horse as the bronze collected for the sculpture was instead used to build cannons to unsuccessfully defend Milan, Italy from French invaders)

Of the horse I will say nothing because I know the times. ~  da Vinci

 

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A work of art,
whether human-made or heaven-sent,
should call us to reflect
on our own creation,
what we bring to this existence.
It should awe us
to praise,
to grace,
to respond,
to change
who we are
and who we will become.

 

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The Obstruction of Light

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Shadow is the obstruction of light.
Shadows appear to me to be of supreme importance in perspective,
because without them
opaque and solid bodies will be ill defined;
that which is contained within their outlines and their boundaries themselves
will be ill-understood
unless they are shown against a background
of a different tone from themselves.

~Leonardo da Vinci

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Stable Harmony

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photo of snow storm in Tokyo by Nate Gibson

…the artist has merely to be more keenly aware than others
of the harmony of the world,
of the beauty and ugliness of the human contribution to it,
and to communicate this acutely to his fellow-men.
And in misfortune,
and even at the depths of existence –
in destitution, in prison, in sickness –
his sense of stable harmony never deserts him.

~Alexandr Solzhenitsyn in his Nobel Speech contemplating Dostoevsky’s statement “Beauty will save the World”

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The Tree of Lights

“[M]any newly sighted people speak well of the world, and teach us how dull is our own vision.  To one patient, a human hand, unrecognized, is “something bright and then holes.”  Shown a bunch of grapes, a boy calls out “It is dark, blue and shiny….It isn’t smooth, it has bumps and hollows.”  A little girl visits a garden.  “She is greatly astonished, and can scarcely be persuaded to answer, stands speechless in front of the tree, which she only names by taking hold of it, and then as “the tree with the lights in it.”

When the doctor took her bandages off and led her into the garden, the girl who was no longer blind saw “the tree with the lights in it.”  It was for this tree I searched through the peach orchards of summer, in the forests of fall and down winter and spring for years.  Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it.  I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame.  I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed.  It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance.  The lights of the fire abated, but I’m still spending the power.  Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared.  I was still ringing.  I had my whole life been a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.  I have since only rarely seen the tree with the lights in it.  The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment when the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.” Annie Dillard 1974, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Ever since reading about the “The Tree of Lights” in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in 1975, I’ve been keeping a look-out  for it. Like Dillard, I want to be “lifted and struck”, to resonate in a new awareness, no longer be blinded,  to see everything in a sharper focus.

It can happen unexpectedly.  The first time was in an art class in 1980.  My artistic ability was limited to stick figures so a doctor friend and I decided to take her art teacher husband’s evening “Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain” class.  Robert Fulghum was an unorthodox teacher—not just an artist, but a Unitarian pastor, a story teller, and a musician.  He was, in his entertaining and inimitable way,  able to teach us how to look at the world in terms of shadow and light, solid and air, space and density, patterns and plain.  He put a drawing of an old cowboy boot, hung upside down in front of the class, and asked us to draw it that way.  We were not to think “boot”, but to think of it as lines and shadow, empty space and full shape,  dark against light.

I drew what I “saw”, focusing on the small detail rather than my expectation of the “whole”.  At the end of class, Fulghum asked us to turn our drawing right side up, and as I turned the paper around, I was astonished that I had a distinctly recognizable cowboy boot, my first real drawing.  It stayed on my refrigerator for four years.  I was so proud that I had been taught a new way to “see”.

It was a much less dramatic moment than Dillard’s story of the girl whose cataract removal changed her perception of familiar objects to unfamiliar.  But I did feel that distinct sense of being “lifted and struck” like a bell.

Not long after, Fulghum wrote a little meditation on what he had learned in kindergarten for his church’s weekly Sunday bulletin.  That bulletin somehow found its way to the desk of Washington State Senator Dan Evans, who read it into the Congressional Record.  From there it was reprinted, passed around and eventually made it home in the school backpack of an editor’s son.  That mother, going over the school papers, sat down to read “All I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum and set out to track down the author.  He soon received a call from her, and the first thing she asked was “do you have anything else like this you’ve written?”   The answer was an emphatic “yes” from a pastor with years of sermons and church bulletins in his files.  His first book of collected essays was published a year later.   His life was never to be the same.

I keep looking for the “tree of lights” but it is elusive because I’m blinded most of the time.  Maybe, just maybe,  I’ll find it if I can only turn the world upside down…