The Swallow said,
He comes like me,
Longed for; unexpectedly.
The superficial eye
Will pass him by,
Said the Wren.
The best singer ever heard.
No one will take much notice,
Said the Blackbird.
The Owl said,
He is who, who is he
Who enters the heart as soft
As my soundless wings, as me.
-- U.A. Fanthorpe
Happy leap year birthday to my favorite songbirds, Robin and Anne-Carolyn!
Friday, February 29
The Swallow said,
Posted by rb at 2/29/2008
Thursday, February 28
The furniture appears to be dreaming; it seems endowed with a somnambulistic life, like vegetables or minerals. The cloth materials speak a silent language, like flowers, like skies, like setting suns.
-- Charles Baudelaire, from "The Double Room"
Translated by Michael Hamburger
Posted by rb at 2/28/2008
Saturday, February 23
(adaptation from Petrarch)
Whoever hears in these scattered rhymes the raw sighs
my heart devoured when I was younger, or sees the soul’s
tattered phrases hanging there unclaimed, don’t scold
this art written by my other self, filled with confusion, not lies,
and forgive even this varied style I use now, that flies
as darkly as the crow, that scans the secret life of the mole,
that covers itself in Hope’s blankets, that has always told
Love’s truth, that now asks for pardon before its words run dry.
I know how rumor grew like a moth from a cocoon,
how some of you laughed when Shame stood at my door
for years, how Regret tracked me with her silent screams—
but also, and how each tree bears some fruit, how the moon
and the stars, the wind, the whole earth are images whose doors
open other worlds, if they only endure like the half-life of dreams.
-- Richard Jackson
Posted by rb at 2/23/2008
Wednesday, February 20
EXT. WOODS - DAY
Chance happens on a tree with a cracked limb, hanging to the
ground. He stops, inspects the break, runs his fingers along
the split in the bark. He looks to the ground, notices that
an end of the limb has fallen on a seedling, bending it
double. Chance pulls the limb away, then kneels beside the
seedling. He removes an expensive pair of suede gloves, and,
with gentle fingers, brushes the dirt and snow away from the
seedling. Chance glances up to the remaining limbs of the
larger tree which could fall and threaten the emerging tree.
He unfolds his umbrella, places it over the seedling in a way
to give it protection, yet to still allow it to receive light
from the winter sun. Chance stands, puts his gloves back on
and continues his walk...
-- Jerzy Kosinski and Robert C. Jones Being There
Being There script (December 16, 1978 draft)
Posted by rb at 2/20/2008
Tuesday, February 19
Wherever a person stands in the garden of Ryoanji, there is always a stone that cannot be seen. It is like the sliver of absence found on the face of a man who has glimpsed in himself a thing until then unknown. Inside the silence, just before he begins to weep. Not because of the thing he has learned—monstrous or saintly, it was always within him—but for the amplitude he hadn't believed was there.
-- Jane Hirshfield, from After
Posted by rb at 2/19/2008
Saturday, February 16
Wandering off from the workshop he would walk to nearby gardens, sit and study the intricacies of foliage, examine the particularities of individual leaves. Squinting into the sun, Rodin noted each effect that light produced on the surface—a consequence of his position or that of the leaf? Or was nature only jesting with him, doubting his senses, his abilities as draftsman, as artist? In his mind he saw how structure remained consistent, how the veins of each leaf divided, tracing the whole form of the tree on a reduced scale. By bringing back this observed detail of the specific, and incorporating it into his work as ornamentalist, Rodin invented ideas of order concerning the decorative that transcended the familiar. So precise were his points of departure that each of his small creations in plaster could bear extravagance without looking distorted. As leaf subsided to leaf, joined together in long sequences, the well-worked details of vein and stem, flesh and form, came alive. As sculpted by Rodin, nature was infused with a brilliant character, granted it by a hand that was guided by the mind—his hand, and his alone. Any attempt at mimetic reproduction of detail was countered by an artistic will beginning to assert itself, however modest the context.
These insights into the intimate complexities of a single subject proved crucial to Rodin's thinking as an artist and would come to play a formative role in his conception of the human body, in how he understood the relationship between external, visible musculature and internal, determining structure. Yes, nature was the source of all fertile refinement in human thought about creation, about how man could overcome his situation and fashion from it a comprehensive equivalent that transcended emulation. Extensive artistic observation of nature served to privilege the mind above the wealth of detail recognizable in such wrested cadences as a flower's color, the lean contours of a leaf, or the rigid designs of foliage trained to support architecture. There must have been a fragrance that escaped from the sculpting of so rich a form.
-- Rainer Crone and David Moos, on the young Auguste Rodin's career as an ornamentalist, in Rodin: Eros and Creativity
Posted by rb at 2/16/2008
Friday, February 15
Taking only a minimum of gear, we started down the cliff at the far end of our camp, lowering ourselves down broken ledges by holding on to small saplings and to the roots of larger trees that projected from the mountainside. Below the cliff, we coursed through slanting thickets of bamboo and bracken and eventually emerged onto open rock...The falls thundered below us, still hidden from our view. We followed their sound and the column of mist that swirled against the dark walls of the gorge to the edge of a precipice and, from there, gazed down at last into the turbulent heart of the hidden waterfall.
The jade green flood of the Tsangpo funneled into a breach approximately fifty feet across and transformed into a sleek wave of what looked like polished air. Surging over the precipice and intersected by rays of sunlight, the river freed itself of all semblance of form and dissolved into incandescent foam as it crashed against an intermediary rock ledge seventy feet below and leapt forth again in arcs of light-filled spray. Filling the air with light and water, it resumed its descent until dissolving into a maelstrom of seething waves, fountaining up against the polished walls of the gorge.
"The falls!" Ken shouted in genuine rapture...Our voices drowned in the tempest at our feet. The air buzzed with ions. The falls were colossal, a massive curtain of foam and light hurtling between sheer granite walls. To gaze into the waters was to stare into the face of impermanence, waves and particles blurring by one after the other, beyond what the mind or eye could register. In ancient Greece, Heraclitus had proclaimed, "You can't step into the same river twice," and the prospect of measuring this mass of jetting water suddenly seemed absurd to me...
I rappelled another twenty feet down, buffeted by the spray of the falls, and entered a realm where there was little distinction between air and water. The wall was wet and smooth, flecked with glistening feldspar, but where the rope ended I reached a foot-wide shelf where I tied off the descending device and turned around into the face of the waterfall. The view was astounding: the mass of the Tsangpo transformed in the narrow breach into a great glittering curtain, dissolving into fractal jets and crashing into the cauldron below. Translucent spray exploded over my head and streamed down my spine. To immerse oneself in the "power, velocity, vastness, and madness [of water] affords one of the noblest lessons of nature," wrote Ruskin, the great eighteenth-century observer of natural processes. And I watched, mesmerized, breathing in the oxygen-rich waters and lost in the vast display...
-- Ian Baker The Heart of the World
Ian Baker: From Search and Rescue to Shangri-La
Posted by rb at 2/15/2008
Thursday, February 14
Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers
Plucked in the garden, all the summer through
And winter, and it seemed as if they grew
In this close room, nor missed the sun and showers.
So, in the like name of that love of ours,
Take back these thoughts which here unfolded too,
And which on warm and cold days I withdrew
From my heart's ground. Indeed, those beds and bowers
Be overgrown with bitter weeds and rue,
And wait thy weeding; yet here's eglantine,
Here's ivy!—take them, as I used to do
Thy flowers, and keep them where they shall not pine.
Instruct thine eyes to keep their colours true,
And tell thy soul, their roots are left in mine.
-- Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Posted by rb at 2/14/2008
Sunday, February 10
It is subjectivity that forcibly brings the extremes together in the moment, fills the dense polyphony with its tensions, breaks it apart with the unisono, and disengages itself, leaving the naked tone behind; that sets the mere phrase as a monument to what has been, marking a subjectivity turned to stone. The cesuras, the sudden discontinuities that more than anything else characterize the very late Beethoven, are those moments of breaking away; the work is silent at the instant when it is left behind, and turns its emptiness outward...Objective is the fractured landscape, subjective the light in which—alone—it glows into life. He does not bring about their harmonious synthesis. As the power of dissociation, he tears them apart in time, in order perhaps, to preserve them for the eternal. In the history of art, late works are the catastrophes.
-- Theodor W. Adorno, "Late Style in Beethoven" Essays on Music
Translated by Susan H. Gillespie
more Adorno at think denk
Posted by rb at 2/10/2008
Thursday, February 7
But, to be quite in sympathy with Pepys, we must return once more to the experience of children. I can remember to have written, in the fly-leaf of more than one book, the date and the place where I then was—if, for instance, I was ill in bed or sitting in a certain garden; these were jottings for my future self; if I should chance on such a note in after years, I thought it would cause me a particular thrill to recognize myself across the intervening distance. Indeed, I might come upon them now, and not be moved one tittle—which shows that I have comparatively failed in life, and grown older than Samuel Pepys. For in the Diary we can find more than one such note of perfect childish egotism; as when he explains that his candle is going out, "which makes me write thus slobberingly"; or as in this incredible particularity, "To my study, where I only wrote thus much of this day's passages to this,* and so out again"; or lastly, as here, with more of circumstance: "I staid up till the bellman came by with his bell under my window, as I was writing of this very line, and cried, 'Past one of the clock, and a cold, frosty, windy morning.' " Such passages are not to be misunderstood. The appeal to Samuel Pepys years hence is unmistakable. He desires that dear, though unknown, gentleman keenly to realize his predecessor; to remember why a passage was uncleanly written; to recall (let us fancy, with a sigh) the tones of the bellman, the chill of the early, windy morning, and the very line his own romantic self was scribing at the moment. The man, you will perceive, was making reminiscences—a sort of pleasure by ricochet, which comforts many in distress, and turns some others into sentimental libertines: and the whole book, if you will but look at it in that way, is seen to be a work of art to Pepys's own address.
Here, then, we have the key to that remarkable attitude preserved by him throughout his Diary, to that unflinching—I had almost said, that unintelligent—sincerity which makes it a miracle among human books. He was not unconscious of his errors—far from it; he was often startled into shame, often reformed, often made and broke his vows of change. But whether he did ill or well, he was still his own unequalled self; still that entrancing ego of whom alone he cared to write; and still sure of his own affectionate indulgence, when the parts should be changed, and the writer come to read what he had written. Whatever he did, or said, or thought, or suffered, it was still a trait of Pepys, a character of his career; and as, to himself, he was more interesting than Moses or than Alexander, so all should be faithfully set down. I have called his Diary a work of art. Now when the artist has found something, word or deed, exactly proper to a favorite character in play or novel, he will neither suppress nor diminish it, though the remark be silly or the act mean. The hesitation of Hamlet, the credulity of Othello, the baseness of Emma Bovary, or the irregularities of Mr. Swiveller, caused neither disappointment nor disgust to their creators. And so with Pepys and his adored protagonist: adored not blindly, but with trenchant insight and enduring, human toleration.
-- Robert Louis Stevenson "Samuel Pepys"
"Samuel Pepys" by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Diary of Samuel Pepys
Posted by rb at 2/07/2008
Wednesday, February 6
It was very quiet, not a leaf was stirring and it was dark; all the stars that could fill the river were there and they spilled over into the sky. The brain was completely still but very alive and watching, watching without a watcher, without a centre from which it was watching; nor was there any sensation. The otherness was there, deep within at a depth that was lost; it was action, wiping away everything without leaving a mark of what has been or what is. There was no space in which to have a border nor time in which thought could shape itself.
-- J. Krishnamurti Krishnamurti's Notebook 2 January 1962
Posted by rb at 2/06/2008
Tuesday, February 5
He meticulously catalogues his photographs according to the time of day, date and season. Any mutation or slight variation is recorded with the extreme care and attention of an expert. I asked him for some of his notes relating to his photographs. They read as follows: “File 0327. Asciano 14/05/07 h. 11.57: in diagonal a service path. In the foreground, grass cut for hay with an “island” of uncut grass. In the background, raising wheat”. It is, in fact, a beautiful art work set in diagonal, in a composition developed according to the tonality of the green, starting from a variegated light green as a base and from a succession of various shades of green, which then gradually intensify according to the zone matter and the soft surfaces of the plane areas.
So, it is Asciano but it is not Asciano. They are rather the remaining visible traces of trials through which that landscape has passed, immobilized as human memory, beyond all time.
-- Mirella Branca
Francesco Maria Testa's photographs
grazie vilaine fille
Posted by rb at 2/05/2008
Saturday, February 2
Friday, February 1
Over a dock railing, I watch the minnows, thousands, swirl
themselves, each a minuscule muscle, but also, without the
way to create current, making of their unison (turning, re-
entering and exiting their own unison in unison) making of themselves a
visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by
minutest fractions the water’s downdrafts and upswirls, the
dockside cycles of finally-arriving boat-wakes, there where
they hit deeper resistance, water that seems to burst into
itself (it has those layers), a real current though mostly
invisible sending into the visible (minnows) arrowing
motion that forces change—
this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by
each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself,
also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something
at sea. Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through
in the wind, I look in and say take this, this is
what I have saved, take this, hurry. And if I listen
now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only
something I did. I could not choose words. I am free to go.
I cannot of course come back. Not to this. Never.
It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.
-- Jorie Graham
Posted by rb at 2/01/2008