poem by Elizabeth Bishop, photos via Flickr Creative Commons
I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!
There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.
sonnet by Elizabeth Bishop
I believe I understand what Elizabeth is describing with her words. Early in my teen years, I discovered that music was a calming force for me. Not that I always felt or feel calm when I play, but that the act of playing (of creating music) brings me to a calmer state of being.
Is it because my mind stops turning inward or spinning in worried circles? I focus on the notes and the feel of the keys, the pattern of the chords and melodies — and there is only music. Is it the physicality of the hand/eye coordination or the wavelengths of sound going through my eardrums into my brain that does it? Or is it the “Zen”ness of the playing, the feeling of letting myself slip away until I only see and hear and feel the music?
There is healing, of rest, of flow (hence the imagery of water), of stillness, of floating. Quiet Breath.
I don’t know why it works this way for me, but it truly does.
These are but a few of the many reasons why I will always be in need of music.
I am a fan of both painters. I love the movement, the color, the subjects they chose, and their individual voices.
Knowing of their connection makes me feel that I know them both a little bit better.
Little Girl in a Blue Armchair is full of Degas’ influence. First of all, he brought the girl to Cassatt — she was the child of his friends. In a pretty dress, she sits slumped in a chair, hand behind her head and legs spread apart. She looks bored, exhausted and not at all dainty or proper. Other big blue chairs and a sofa are in the room — “like bumper cars,” Jones says. A window in the corner may show Degas’ direct influence.
I took a quilting class in this wonderful space today!
This afternoon I took a quilt class in the gorgeous lobby of the Milwaukee Art Museum. The group was divided into four sections: improvisational quilting (inspired by Gee’s Bend style quiltmaking); hand applique (inspired by the floral quilt); hand quilting (inspired by the star quilt); and crazy quilting stitches (inspired by the crazy quilt in the exhibit). The groups rotated through each of the four areas spending about 45 min. or so at each station.
I had fun meeting fellow fiber enthusiasts, and it was especially wonderful to spend time being creative in that amazing space. The teachers were excellent and I picked up several good tips and ideas.
image by TTQ cc; Uncommon Folk exhibit at MaM
As I was driving home north along the shore of Lake Michigan, I stopped to take a few photos. The ice has finally begun to break up, so there is some open water peeking through here and there. The shards of ice that are strewn about and piled up in various configurations created a decidedly other-worldly scene. Is there an ice planet? This is what I would expect it to look like.
Stark shadows on snow. Branches cast graphic shapes: Nature’s modern art
Fragile bunny tracks Trail the length of my sidewalk. Snow too deep for hops?
Anything better than a roomful of girl teens laughing and talking?
(Answer: No! life is good)
Late afternoon sun — Long winter shadows on snow — Golden light shimmers
Ebony sketches As ink on pastel batiks — Twigs, branches, sky glow.
(I wrote this thinking about tree branches silhouetted against the sunset, but this stained glass window captures the look, color, texture, and the feeling so I’m going with the “non-literal” illustration this time.)
Girls’ choir spins pure tones Words of comfort, peace and grace: No tears in heaven.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death
or sorrow or crying or pain.
All these things are gone forever.
(New Living Translation)
I got a call on Sunday from the Artistic Director of the Milwaukee Children’s Choirs. Suddenly, they were in need of a replacement (permanent!) pianist. Thanks to a friend and fellow accompanist, I was recommended and asked to play.
I went to the first rehearsal this evening. The group of young 3rd to 5th grade girls meets once a week in an absolutely fabulous downtown Youth Arts center.
The room was filled with red t-shirts, snazzy boots and wiggly, smiling girls. When they sang it was angelic and the room was transformed into a huge gothic cathedral!
The first song they sang with piano accompaniment was a setting of Rev. 21:4. My heart lurched when I opened the music. Tears sprang into my eyes as I quickly scanned the piece. This verse was one that I held onto two years on this very day — the day my Dad died — the day he fell asleep on the couch in Indiana and woke up in heaven!
He had been sick for so long and had been so miserable. It was a great comfort to me to read these words and to keep them in my mind and heart that week — through the funeral planning, all the visitation hours, through the sorrow, laughter and tears.
So as I sat there in that room with all the that young vibrant musical energy, I was filled with gratitude and joy.
God brought me through. I believe I was sitting in the exact place I was meant to be at that moment.
Thanks be to God!
We went to the Milwaukee Museum of Art this afternoon for a brief but very enjoyable visit. We saw the new Uncommon Folk exhibit.
As we were leaving, I looked back at the beautiful museum building. The evening sun was being reflected on the lovely wings. I tried to capture a quick photograph, but as always, light is nearly impossible to reproduce.
We drove north along the frozen shore of Lake Michigan. The sky was an Impressionist’s dream of pale violets, pinks, blues, peaches, and tinted white. The frozen ice reflected the pink light most of all. Here and there bare black branches of trees cast stark silhouettes against the pastel beauty. A few chunks of ice sparkled on the icy surface, like gems strewn about. There was no opportunity to stop safely for a photo, so the image will stay in my mind and as clumsily conveyed in my words here and haiku above.
I want to share some of my very favorite websites and pages with you!
1. That Tree:This project started in the area of my old hometown! Mark Hirsch took a photograph of an old oak tree every day for a year and posted the photos on his Facebook page. The beauty and artistry (and his perseverance) attracted a wider and wider audience as the year progressed. The project is now internationally famous. He has published a beautiful book and has done many national interviews. He continues to post photos of That Tree frequently, but not every day now.
(Note: I am actually IN the book! I was one of the people who gathered in the field on that cold, snowy day last March to celebrate the final day of the year of photographs. We are all in the book with That Tree.)
2. Historical Pics: This site has off-beat photographs of historic events, people, and random things galore. For instance:
3. Holstee: “Holstee exists to encourage mindful living. We hope to change the way people look at life by designing unique products and sharing meaningful experiences.” This is the blurb from their website. The company is cooler than this blurb sounds. They have some great free inspirational downloads.
4. Brain Pickings: This site has a continual stream of quirky, artistic, off-the-beaten-path, intelligent, and inspiring articles and illustrations. One of my recent favorites is a list of New Year’s resolutions from people like Woody Guthrie and Marilyn Monroe! Read it here. Take some time to browse their archives, though, if you can. Enjoy!
5. Do you know about Humans of New York? This link takes you to the Facebook page, where a photo is posted every day with a short quote or conversation. I find it incredibly moving. I got the book as a Christmas gift and just love it!
6.Colossal:The tag line says “art and visual culture.” Their blurb says this: Each week you’ll find 15-25 posts on photography, design, animation, painting, installation art, architecture, drawing, and street art. Colossal is also a great place to learn about the intersection of art and science as well as the beauty of the natural world. There are frequently posts about things far out in left field, but generally Colossal is a reminder that in this digital age there are still countless people making incredible work with their bare hands.
You’ll see things like this:
GORGEOUS and so beautiful!
7. Another site I can spend quite a while browsing in is: Laughing Squid.Their website “about” blurb: Based in New York City, Laughing Squid is a blog featuring compelling art, culture & technology as well as a cloud-based web hosting company with a focus on WordPress hosting. For more info see our FAQ and Wikipedia.
Here are a few very memorable examples of the odd-ball kind of things you’ll find at Laughing Squid.
8. Letters of Note: This site publishes letters written by various famous and not-so-famous people. It is intriguing, amazing, engaging, humorous, and full of information.
“In our age of email and texts, letter-writing seems set for extinction. But millions have been flocking to a website to pore over the correspondence collected by blogger Sean Usher.”
Click here for a wonderful example of historic correspondence Letters of Note highlights. (This links to a series of letters between Ford Motor Company and poet Marianne Moore as they discuss various car names). Here is a link to the Letters of Note “best of 2013” list. This one is from a Dallas hospital administrator in 1963. Letters of Note recently published a book as well.
9.Noisetrade:This site has gobs of free music. Tag line: Free music from thousands of artists who would like to meet you. You can sample, listen online and request a download code. If you like what you hear, you have several opportunities to leave tips for the artists. I have found this a great avenue for discovering new music to get me out of my listening ruts. There is a limit to the number of downloads per day (something like 8 or 10? not very limiting really).
10. Word Porn: I love obscure and interesting words. This site has many that I never heard of or even imagined existed!
I’d love to hear about some of YOUR favorite places to browse around on the web. Please share!
Silence is a booming emptiness –
stillness’ sheer weight and presence imposes and expands —
squeezing thoughts as words clang and clamor to be free
Words circle –
unwilling to coalesce
to relay heart depths, currents, soul swells
Words evade – bobbing in choppy waves
How can I convey?
music surrounds me,
reaches in with tendrils and slivers and shivers
‘til – finally home again – a single tear emerges
Do they know?
music’s magic melds and heals…
Joy enfolds sorrow –
both continue to exist –
but the golden glow fills edges, surrounds, gently embraces
and eventually peacefully subdues
the shiny, hard grey remnant
Dregs of dread drop as ashes swept away by shimmering moments of utter beauty.
New shoots emerge, freshly green
(They/it/we) are not
What was done, shared, said, created is not void –
And remembering – still holding it heart close –
our fingers brush this edge of eternity.
I wrote this poem in the wee hours this morning. On Sunday afternoon, I got to hear the two choirs I used to accompany (for the last 6 or 7 years!) sing their fall concert. I admit I had been dreading this first time just a little bit — hesitant to hear them sing without me. I thought I would be swept back into the sadness and sorrow I felt when I said goodbye. I worried for no reason, though. Instead of sorrow — I was swept away by the sheer JOY of watching them sing and of listening to the soul stirring music they were making.
I shed one small tear near the very end, when the men’s choir started to sing “Bring Him Home” from Les Miz.
I felt a wave of healing and of gratitude for all that I had shared and experienced with these groups, with these people, in that very place (and in many others). As I walked away from the hall, the words of a song we had performed ran through my head “Though much is taken, much abides.” (quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson)
I am left with the certainty that what we had and created still exists and that it WILL endure in my heart (and hopefully in theirs as well!).
Javier Pérez aka cintascotch, is an artist and illustrator from Guayaquil, Ecuador. A few times a week, Pérez shares a new doodle with his 20,000 Instagram followers. Each doodle incorporates everyday objects like paper clips, coins and scissors. The doodles transform the objects into something completely new and different.
It’s a fun and creative way to look at an object, even seemingly mundane ones, and reimagine them as something else. To see more playful diversions, be sure to check out Javier’s work at the links below.