three o clock

three o’ clock

 

 

a clean root system

for ease of transport

 

conversation

 

only short range

 

 

a longing–

for nectar of one

thousand years’ sleep

and dream

 

*

 

I walk from here

to the edge of indifference,

all the talk—diverged

to an abstract

 

to the sound—is–

the sound of small creatures

within the thicket

 

or–

 

harmonic

flexing of the wind

 

*

 

collided—

thought pulls at underlying meaning

 

 

now stacked and labelled

 

*

 

pre-reflective traveler

in the onset of winter afternoon

stands at a gradient

 

 

as the gender assigned to an hour

 

 

now in between where identity,

irrelevant

 

decisions draw on for hours

 

*

 

the fabric

beneath

the fabric

 

 

stone

within the stone

 

 

is where

 

 

to move

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solve for x

solve for x

 

in the aftereffect,

too much noise—

the trucks came and emptied

all our variables

 

since, reassigned

 

a lack of concurrency

is now the main line

 

*

 

it’s the bystanders

with questions to answer,

lacking warrant to enter the site

 

you decided not to—

frequency of story—

line broken by intermittent

interjection

 

but it was a decision?

among all possible decisions

the sky seemed bigger than it is,

at least as conjured

 

pull it down tight,

to limit the options

 

*

 

as drawn from a photograph,

lines lock depth

 

to know tricks

at the lock, to know

atmosphere, to know

by hand the image

rejected by the object

 

a confession, ok,

continues, regardless

 

for someone else to unravel—it’s not

the size, it’s the overwhelming

number

are we inside

the number?

 

please speak your name

 

the pause

is that which–

we are inside

the number

The Same Object, From Many Viewpoints

Creativity challenge: try writing about the same object in at least 13 different ways.

(Wallace Stevens’ poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” is below for inspiration.)

-OR-draw 50 drawings in four hours . . . staying with the same object for as many drawings as possible.

In Experimental Drawing by Robert Kaupelis (1980), one exercise provided is to draw 50 drawings in four hours. He suggests several variations, but remarks that some of his students chose 50 different topics while others tended to draw the same object multiple times, using different media, different styles, different angles.
I have attempted this exercise but keep getting distracted after about ten drawings. . . I do plan to finish this exercise, hopefully this weekend.
Think of how challenging it will be to stick with the same object for more than ten drawings! What I have learned from attempting this exercise, is that even after a few drawings, my style loosens up, I take greater risks, think of unusual solutions prompted by the medium I am using. I drew objects such as stacked pots, a pile of bricks, close up views of tree bark.
I think it would be fun to do the drawings first, and then the writing.
There is a reason why artists work in series, or revisit the same topic throughout a lifetime of work (think of Cezanne’s still lifes, Degas’ dancers, to name some examples that come to mind easily).
Enjoy the Stevens poem. Find other examples–and think about your topics! If you are snowed in, what about looking out the window for inspiration? Or at a fire in the fireplace? Or if you live someplace with sunny skies, wander outside to find your topic in nature, or along the city streets where you live. One thing is certain, you will never look at your surroundings in the same way after completing either or both of these exercises.
Happy drawing, happy writing! Happy Thanksgiving!
 *

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

I
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.
II
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.
III
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
IV
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.
V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
VI
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.
VII
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?
VIII
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.
IX
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.
X
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.
XI
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.
XII
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.
XIII
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.
Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. Copyright 1954 by Wallace Stevens. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Creativity and Courage

How many times do you hear someone say, “I wish I was creative” or “I can only draw stick figures”?

I admire people who go against the inner voices that tell them “you can’t” and who try anyway; I had the opportunity to overcome some of those voices.

In spring 2015, I felt burdened physically and emotionally by a grueling work schedule, personnel “challenges” that made day to day work difficult, with no end in sight to the relentless avalanche of paperwork. I felt a sense of sadness that perhaps in giving up teaching for an administrative position I have given up my true career. (While teachers are in demand in New Mexico, the pay is low and conditions are not great; I would have to spend time and money to get licensed in the state, etc., etc.) When in an emotionally dark time, it is so easy to see the “can’ts”, isn’t it?

I made a decision to sign up for painting classes that started in June [2015], as a “light” to keep me going. I am not one of those people who says “I can’t draw”, however, painting remained an absolute mystery. I had painted, but my paintings always seemed cartoonish, and I could not fathom how to start when faced with a blank canvas.

After the very first class, I was struck by the uniqueness of each person’s work. As our first exercise, all eight of us painted the same philodendron, “Phil”, and you could see some of us were more expressive, loose in our brushstrokes. Others were more precise, more detail-focused. Even though we used the same color palette, our personalities showed through our color mixes. No two paintings of Phil contained exactly the same green, although green is merely a mix of blue and yellow. Some of my classmates claimed they could not draw, yet every painting was beautiful!

When you start to feel like a cog in a machine, or stuck in a routine that starts to feel meaningless, remember this. Cherish the uniqueness of how you see the world, and enjoy the unique qualities in others’ perspectives. In our uniqueness is our strength; skills can be learned, it just takes time.

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My first ever painting . . . Phil!

“Each of us is a unique strand in the intricate web of life and here to make a contribution.”
― Deepak Chopra

This post was originally posted on my previous blog, in October, 2015.

A Not-So-Ordinary Walk in the Woods

To what degree do we view the world with mental patterns that may hinder our awareness of the world around us?

I am reading The Genius of Birds (Jennifer Ackerman) and listening to an audiobook of The Hidden Life of Trees (Peter Wohlleben). Increasingly I am interested in epistemology–the study of the nature of knowledge, and in particular, the nature of truth and belief.

As I read,  I am struck by the fact that most of us go through our days with a surface understanding of the natural processes happening around us.The writers of these texts ask us, quite frankly, to evolve.

I generally had viewed birds as pretty oddities. I found it difficult to relate to these creatures with their quick, robotic movements; such a sharp divide between Mammalia and Aves.

But I have started to think that I have been limited in my observations–limited by deeply ingrained beliefs. For example, I did not recognize the cognitive abilities of some of the plainest looking birds, who have the ability to hide up to 30,000 seeds and remember where they are several months later. I had never thought about their social abilities–“They deceive and manipulate. They eavesdrop. They give gifts. They kiss to console one another. They blackmail their parents. They alert one another to danger. They summon witnesses to the death of a peer. They may even grieve.” There are birds who give a certain number of calls to indicate the size of a predator.

In “my neck of the woods” (a small farming village located along the Rio Grande), there are acequias (an irrigation system that is over 200 years old) lined with cottonwood trees. A wonderful place to stroll, walk, ride. Yesterday, as I was running there, I passed closer to a flock of Sandhill Cranes gathered in an apple orchard. The birds became agitated, trumpeting loudly. I wondered whether they were communicating to one another about the level of threat that I posed . . . I wondered about them and their relationships.

Perhaps that’s the beauty of opening the mind to new information–wondering; a richness of awareness.

Some insights from Ackerman’s book:

–Birds’ “intelligence” (which involves memory, problem solving, social skills, and other cognitive abilities) seems directly related to the complexity of tasks they must complete in order to survive. Even the same type of bird living farther north or in mountain (snowy) altitudes develop greater cognitive abilities than others who live in places where inventiveness or memory is less necessary.

–When large flocks of birds seemingly read each others’ minds and maneuver quickly as a unified group, really each individual bird is reacting to the several birds directly around it. No mind reading involved. Why I find this interesting is it isn’t telepathy (as I had thought), but it does involve the bird integrating direct experiences into its memory. Just like when we learn a skill so well, we can do it in our sleep.

Slow down a minute and let’s also think about the “intelligence” of trees, which looks a little different than the cognitive abilities of birds and mammals, because, well, trees don’t have brains. Or in a way, do they?

Here are some insights from Wohlleben’s book on trees that relate to our consideration of intelligence (the bolding and italics are mine):

In conjunction with his colleagues, Frantisek Baluska from the Institute of Cellular and Molecular Botany at the University of Bonn is of the opinion that brain-like structures can be found at root tips. In addition to signaling pathways, there are also numerous systems and molecules similar to those found in animals. When a root feels its way forward in the ground, it is aware of stimuli. The researchers measured electrical signals that led to changes in behavior after they were processed in a “transition zone.” If the root encounters toxic substances, impenetrable stones, or saturated soil, it analyzes the situation and transmits the necessary adjustments to the growing tip. The root tip changes direction as a result of this communication and steers the growing root around the critical areas.

Right now, the majority of plant researchers are skeptical about whether such behavior points to a repository for intelligence, the faculty of memory, and emotions. Among other things, they get worked up about carrying over findings in similar situations with animals and, at the end of the day, about how this threatens to blur the boundary between plants and animals. And so what? What would be so awful about that? The distinction between plant and animal is, after all, arbitrary and depends on the way an organism feeds itself: the former photosynthesizes and the latter eats other living beings. Finally, the only other big difference is in the amount of time it takes to process information and translate it into action. Does that mean that beings that live life in the slow lane are automatically worth less than ones on the fast track? Sometimes I suspect we would pay more attention to trees and other vegetation if we could establish beyond a doubt just how similar they are in many ways to animals.
Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World

Wohlleben presents the fact that in well established old growth forests, trees communicate through a network of roots, fibers, mosses, fungi. They adjust water intake to support weaker trees; older trees deprive saplings of light, monitoring the slow growth of the others. At first thought this seems stingy, but in reality ensures the strength of the young ones. The slower a tree grows, the stronger the tree. He says that you do NOT see the same level of communication and social development in a planted forest. Trees seem to need much more time to develop their quiet strength, to develop an ecosystem that ensures resilience.

I encourage you to explore a seemingly mundane topic, something you encounter in your daily life, in a way that inspires you to “see with new eyes”, outgrow rigid mental patterns. One of the joys in life!

 

far from home

far from home

 

as a post script, cancellation

of all the words that were beneath us, holding

us

 

in the absorbed refrain or diameter,

feels her feet walk

a circle around the open lot

 

it’s the super moon

provokes unresolved thoughts—

imperceptible chords, myco-

rrhizae

 

answer by walking through dividing lines—

 

a fence no longer functions

to remind her who she is not

 

“across the de-mystified

teleologic field, a disruption”

 

“she responded to the boundary’s in/flected whisper

born from homespun daydream”

 

continuity to come undone–

gesture that involves an Other

 

a vowel opening leads to diminution

of a wire

 

—the grammar

of the gatherer—artifacted

thought lines—twigs and stones,

small bones

 

cause a fall–

outside the perimeter

 

as there is a principle

nested in the body

becomes windblown,

a force directs her

farther afield

 

 

 

distance precedes us

distance precedes us

 

the space between feather

threads where the distance

is too far—your hand

passes over your face

this time

 

within the privet

wings thunder and recede

branches in the mouth

of the afternoon

 

we bend to pour our

selves into holes

left behind by thought

 

unlabeled undersides,

the thicket crowns above—

distraction

of what we think we know

 

and all the chattering voices

and car sounds in the distance

the call of a train, it all depends

on how you see yourself

 

infinite, unnamed potentials,

or pregnant stillness

that comes before the quake

 

 

surrogate

surrogate

 

the photograph shows

irregular glow of lights

on the freeway below

 

but telegraph your lights,

since the wires

can be read

out of context

 

just below, is here

where there is only

ever now

 

man

or beast, split

the double secret

is that I said

I am, to act, con

duit

 

radiance is the artifact

of a former innocent state

 

insects, rodents,

birds have long under

stood–you have to hide

in order to live

 

it’s only

when reaching in

to the spiraled nest

you know how many

want to take your place—

when disrupted, nascent

hives are the epidemic

that is the new norm