Monday, August 22, 2011

Journey's End

Fire Island. calm

It seems as if we always end the summer on Fire Island. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but it has become a family ritual since Kate was small. Once we stayed in a room above a Chinese restaurant on Ocean Beach. Now we stay with friends.

There are a mated pair of swans at Fair Harbor and we see them every year. Sometimes they have cygnets. Other times they do not. This year they didn't. A few years ago Larry and I went out for a weekend alone (someone lent us their house) and we saw that the female swan had been left alone with the cygnets and she seemed to be searching for her mate. Every day we went down to the dock to see if he had returned and every day she was alone. On our last day just hours before we were to leave we went down one last time. We knew we'd be disappointed and saddened by what we saw and we were. We sat, sipping our coffee on the dock, seeing the female swimming alone. Then suddenly she made a noise. A loud, flapping noise. We looked up and in the distance we saw a swan, swimming towards the dock, and the female raced across the surface of the water to greet him. It was truly a greeting, as any human who loved someone would.

This year the couple had no babies with them this year. But then neither did Larry and I. Still we hung out at the dock as we always do. It is nice to have rituals. For holidays, for the major events in our lives, and for the end of summer too.

One ritual that's come to mean a lot. As my ferry, Voyager, was pulling away, children leaped from the dock. It's a superstition. If the children jump from the dock, you'll be back next year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I feel I am getting closer...

to this not resembling a bowl of fruit.

Fruit bowl - Gloria's kitchen. Umbria

As my husband pointed out to me last night, this still looks like a bowl of fruit. (See yesterday's blog post). But I don't care. I like it and it reminds of that gorgeous bowl that Gloria had in the center of her kitchen table in her country house in Umbria and I like to be reminded of such things.

Monday, August 8, 2011

On Art and Memory - Rilke and Joan Mitchell

I am reading the new biography of Joan Mitchell, a painter I worship for many reasons. I love her work. It just speaks to me over and over again. Then there is the Chicago connection and the fact that she was the first wife of my cousin, the legendary Barney Rosset. But mainly I love the work. I love the way she strips everything down. The way she recalls the yellow satin curtains of her childhood and the lake (Lake Michigan, of course) and the steel blue sky and trees and a piano and it all becomes in its own way part of everything Joan does. With color. As she said to someone once, "It all comes out of the tube."

Today I've decided I'm going to paint. I'm going to take this image of the bowl of fruit from Gloria's house in Umbria and try and break it down. Not do what is expected. Which is to make a beautiful watercolor of this beautiful bowl. A bowl I can't quite get out of my head because it represents summer and Italy and a kind of balance with the world.

But I am also going to try and take what Joan took from poets such as Rilke who was one of her favorites, I am learning, and one of mine. We both love the same quote and I will quote it here on memories:

"You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memoires themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them."

This is how a great lake become a splotch of blue. How a childhood loss becomes a ringing bell. We must experience, grieve, forget, and then remember, but in this way memory like fossil fuels is experience transformed.

Somehow this thought brings me to perhaps one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. At the Savage Beauty show at the MET which alas closed yesterday. The tiny hologram of Kate Moss in white - a ghost image that rises and falls and disappears, so tiny you can hold it on your hand. What was Alexander McQueen, that mad genius, thinking of when he created this tiny whiteness of a woman. His own mother whose death seems to have precipitated his own?

This image could only have emerged from some very deep place which is perhaps that place where all art begins.

So I am going to try and paint this bowl of fruit. But I am not going to try and paint it as a bowl of fruit.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Enchanted June

Enchanted June

Just a few images of our week in Umbria. Ten graduate students and me and Gloria, our wonderful hostess. Hope to do it again next year. Every year. It was beautiful. Vineyards, olive trees, Todi on the hill, a full eclipse of the moon. Who could ask for more?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.” - Wendell Berry