Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Craft: Witch and Otherwise

Jenna has set us the word Craft today. I like the word, it feels artsy and imaginative in my mind. When I close my eyes, I see craft preceded by the word witch, in a way it is rarely, if ever preceded in life. I see beautiful women, with darkly painted eyes and lond skirts cutting herbs to dry and cure. They look like my own idealized image of myself - when I'm being especially charitable. They wear amulets and medals, they watch the sky and understand what they're seeing.

I see, idealized again, the various potters I've know at the wheel, especially my friend with the fantastic handles. I see her shaping them again and again. I remember all the work I have yet to do with my own pots before can place them beside hers. I see the small green booties knited brightly by Matka, who knits many things, and is dissatisfied by them. I see my husband with his hammer and saw, his grid paper and his sketch pad.

Craft is a word that crunches in my mind when I think of it. It has substance, and it offers so many images. I like the word and the way it feels. "..he crafted it out of the raw earth." Like God, but with something to work from.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"You can never be overdressed or overeducated."

     ~ Oscar Wilde

I asked a priest, before my first tattoo, whether to get one would be an appropriate thing to do. My priest reminded me that the body is a temple and encouraged me only to tattoo art that reflected the sacredness of the body. I've always attempted to follow his advice. Recently, as I'm in the process of designing my newest, and most public tattoo, I've heard a good deal of negativity about them: they indicate an immoral lifestyle, they indicate self-loathing, or lack of education. Women seem to get the brunt of the negative press. According to one radio host, tattoos on "the female" advertise a lack of faith, promiscuity, and and attempt to be unfeminine. I'm a little disturbed by the generalizations more than the negativity. I'm sure there are people who are tattooed for these reasons, is possible. I've never met such people, but I haven't met everyone, perhaps these sad people are out there. 

I can really only speak for myself. I love my tattoos, I love making the temple of my body as opulent as any cathedral. I love designing art that follows the lines of my body, that brings to light my passions, that creates a sense of the overall person I'm becoming, just as clothing, jewelry, make-up, and other additions do, only more permanently. Thanks to my art, I am unable to hide my faith, my passions, my attachments. I'm unable to become a chameleon, I'm forced to walk through that world as myself. Like the move to the land, my tattoos insist I live intensely, and fully. It is a lovely way to live, and an added benefit to the enjoyment of decking myself out in all the beauty I can hold.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A word I never liked

"I don't play accurately--any one can play accurately--but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
   ~Oscar Wilde

I don't really like the word talent. In her post, Jenna, uses a scene from Little Women to illustrate the word, which works well to explain part of my reaction to the word. Talent isn't genius, it isn't even brilliance. Talent is a certain level of skill, lacking either the desire, sensitivity, or some secret understanding to make it brilliant. Talent is generally disappointing. I often feel that "talented" is just another way to classify without any meaning behind it. Saying "she's talented" generally just means she tries hard enough to do well, but without any special aptitude, or else doesn't try at all and has enough natural ability to carry through her indifference. Either is disappointing.

Talent is a word I don't generally use, it's not that I would prevent the 'merely talented' from continuing to pursue their activities, it's just that there are other words, words I like better to describe them. Words that may describe the situation better: Louisa May Alcott is a sweet writer; I am an enthusiastic potter. Using the word talent seems to leave behind description, and thoughtlessly place the subject on some upper level of  mediocrity - far below brilliance, but not bad enough to be unskilled. It's a place to get lost in - too easy to go through life saying "I'm a talented artist" and never attempting more.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"I was just a little girl
when your hand brushed by my hand
and I will be an old woman
happy to have spent my whole life with one man."
     ~Lori Mckenna

I'm looking forward to the weekend. We have no plans. Last weekend we spent our time resting; refreshing our lives together. There is something wonderfully refreshing about time alone with my husband, it is as nice, though different, as time alone. Rilke writes that love "protects the solitude" of the other, and my husband does that well. He is a soothing, quiet presence in these weekend retreats - doing his work, helping with mine, watching the sky darken together with coffee and a clove, napping with Petka and Luba while I enjoy my little gardens. My whole soul feels brighter around him.

I'm grateful for my good fortune in finding a man who understands and appreciates the life I strive for. Who encourages my pursuit of beauty in life, and puts up with my impracticality, forgetfulness, and distractions - the times when real life is forgotten because of an absorbtion in some writer, idea, or activity. Last weekend, splitting firewood while I washed diapers, reading Bulfinches' stories aloud while the moon rose, he reminded me again of the peaceful joy I live.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The artist of my imagination

"Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?"
   ~ W.C. Williams

 In her opening post to this weeks discussion, Jenna gives a interesting and very revealing discription of growing up in pursuit of art, giving us an impression of a family that encouraged creative growth in all its members. It's a happy and attractive impression.

Mr. Pond in his post on beauty last week, gave another image of the artistic life "Clenched shoulders and strained eyes and running headache and stacks and heaps and piles of books and laundry and dishes." And I have to admit I like this image as much as the image of a earnest young girl, curled up with her mother's guitar in a room full of light and lovely paintings. They are both images of art. The first is the image I associate with cafes and students, with the 'intellectual artist' attempting her dissertation. I remember my time living with an actress friend, working 12 hour days at a farm and spending nights absorbed in living, pursuing, and discussing art. I associate it with coffee and vodka, with cloves and with take-out chinese in tiny paper cartons. And I associate it with my current life, as family demands both distract and inspire me.

Jenna's images make me think of Liturgy, of the rich art that comes from the happy soul. It reminds me of nights in college with good tea, guitars, and my good friend's hand-thrown mugs, with handles that still put mine to shame. It makes me think of my bedroom in high-school - bright green and soaked with incense - where I read all through the night. I feel the pile of smooth silk yarn as matka makes my wedding veil, and I smell my husband making coffee on Saturday morning, setting it out on a try with poached eggs and thin slices of avocado - the art of living well.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I've been listening to a lot of music recently:

This is a fantastic video, the album is amazing. Perfect with hot hazy days, dark rainy days, and any night.

I've also been working in designing my new "celebrating Yarrow" tattoo. This is the general idea:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Today is my birthday. I'm 28. In celebration I thought I'd look back on the year, and look forward to see what my newest year of life might have in store:

The Best of 27:
   1. Yarrow, obviously, who is watching me with reserved judgement. I'm still not completely convinced she's not a changeling. But I'm incredibly grateful for her appearance in my life
   2. Exploring and improving our land with my amazing husband. He gives me so much joy.
The Worst of 27:
   ..I don't really have worsts. Thanks to an awful memory, they quickly go into oblivion..I do remember being uncomfortable when the stove broke in winter. Oh, and not throwing all year, that was pretty upsetting.
Hoping for in 28:
   1. A kitchen, front yard with an herb garden, and goats.
   2. I'm going to be greedy and hope for another baby.
   3. An off-the-grid kiln of my own.

Overall, life is good. May everyone else's be as lovely!

Piekno Zbawi Swiat

"Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time."

     ~Albert Camus

Jenna gave our discussion an excellent start on Monday in her post on her impressions of Beauty:

     I've spent a fair portion of the past twenty-four hours thinking about what to say. I've thought of it
    while listening to Beethoven's Piano Trio #2 with the sun streaming golden through the sheer
    drapes. I've thought about it at Mass, going through the reading of Scripture and the recitation of
    creed and the prayers of the Eucharist. I've thought about it while reading Dante's Paradiso aloud,
    with Lou, by candlelight.

I loved it. I loved feeling the connection, the similarities in our images of beauty. I imagined Jenna's home as a great, glowing place of art and loveliness. And it started my mind sifting through images for those that stand out to me in their beauty.  Moments of beauty make me hungry, I want to have them all in me and around me, I want to spread them all over the world. I can never be satisfied in the pursuit, that is why I'm forever rearranging my home, tattooing my body, and wandering my land in silk and linen - damaging my clothes in the process. I would rather catch my silk skirt on blackberry thorns than damage the activity by doing it in yoga pants.  For the most part, I try to live what many people consider a life of impractical priorities. And I love my life. When I picture beauty, I see hot coffee in hand-made mugs, my husbands hands on the guitar, I smell incense and cloves, or fresh rain and tall grass, I walk the aisles of my favorite church and gaze at icons while the cantors sings. I stand in my woods and watch the full moon rise. Like Jenna, my beauty is never stagnate, it lives and grows and is shared, and no matter how much there is, I'm always reaching for more.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Words, words, words

"I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works."

    ~Oscar Wilde

This week, Jenna was good enough to respond to my questions with kindness and clarity. I was thrilled. There is so much in her response I want to discuss, but I'm attempting not to get hung up on the details. I've realized, especially in this time full of family visitors, that when I respond to people, I have a tendency to try to explain all the minutia - circling around and around until, long after I've begun, the point is acutally reached. So I'm trying to lay off the small things and focus on the broader ideas behind her answers. Mr. Pond will have to forgive me for leaving his post behind at the moment. I want to address the idea that being and non-being are the same, but I really don't have any idea how to incorporate that into my response. I wonder if we can divide up some of this issues again to allow for fuller discussion, I think we might be at that place again, though "being and non-being" might be a little outside our theme.

I'm begining to understand our differences. It seems that when I write: "This book is entertainment, that book is art." Jenna has been reading " This book is merely entertainment - it has no power to effect the lives of its readers. It is banal, unimportant."  But there are high and low forms of entertainment, and some are both Art and entertainment. High forms are not only capable of producing a respose, they insist on and pull forth from the audience a response. I would put in this catagory some t.v. - like the Firefly series, many of Bruce Springsteen's songs (some of which can cross over into "Art".), and other creative works that aren't art, and aren't trying to be art, but still influence the lives and thoughts of their audience in an active way. Low entertainment: bad sitcoms, reality tv, professional wrestling, and bad romance novels do fit with Jenna's understanding, and I can understand why, with that interpretation she would reject the idea that a book she found meaningful, like Little Women would be called "entertainment" - it would be like she finds "Jersey Shore" meaningful. Which is not at all my intent.

In response to my question on substance, Jenna writes:

I suspect here that we're defining outward and substance differently. When I say outward, I mean the prose, the surface beauty that makes Hemingway an objectively better writer than Alcott. When I say substance, I'm referring to the vision coming through the text, the outlook on life and death and what it means to be human. Substantially, I put Alcott higher than Hemingway. Alcott infuses faith and hope and charity into her work, letting them walk with the reader through every curve of life and up to the deathbed. Hemingway was a brilliant man who lived a tragic life; he brushes up against Alcott's virtues only by accident, if at all.

We are actually defining outward and substance the same. Substantially, Hemingway is superior despite his failiure to live well, because his writing is continually in pursuit of those virtues. In Hemingway we see man in all his flaws, stumbling toward redemption. Alcott preaches her virtues, they are displayed well, but predictably. Hemingway - probably in part because of his tragic life - portrays them as they often appear in reality, half hidden behind the flaws of fallen man. I can see why you prefer Alcott, but its Hemingway's substantial superiority - the depth and richness within the writing, as well as the ability to express himself well and beautifully that make him an artist. He isn't so much brushing against them accidentally, but discovering in art what he fails to find in life. This might seem like minutia but what applies to Hemingway applies to all artists, both with and without tragic lives. The substance is as important as how the substance is presented, beauty is never "only skin deep"- it always goes deeper.

Regarding critical acclaim. I do understand Jenna's frustration with the response of critics.

"Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism; they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstanding." (Rainer Maria Rilke).

Critics tend to misunderstand, misread, or misrepresent in response to their own interests or desires for the work. There are trends in criticism that dismiss quality work due to prejudices, but equally problematic is the dismissal of acclaimed works out of a sense that the Literary elite are only interested in despair and post-modern rejection of joy. Being driven only by the feelings that a work produces is flawed way choosing reading, like any choice based only on feeling, it stagnates the reader and damages the reader's ability to grow through what is read. I'm not accusing Jenna of using reading to produce an emotional high, but her pursuit of "moving, encouraging, pleasant" books could lead to avoiding "otherwise beneficial" books that are not so moving or pleasant. I'm not arguing here for darkness and despair, which I know Jenna doesn't need or want, but books of substance that don't seem so pleasant at first.

But Jenna, I know is continually pursuing goodness and beauty in all its forms. She longs to be uplifted, and strengthened, as we all do. I'm thrilled to share and discuss with her - to learn from her and (hopefully) encourage her as we both attempt beauty in our lives and work.

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Now it seems the truest words I ever heard from you
Were said at kitchen tables we have known
'Cause somehow in that warm room with coffee on the stove
Our hearts were really most at home."
   ~Kate Wolf

One of my greatest pleasures is a weekend morning with my husband: waking late with sunshine from the dome on the bed; a french-press of fresh coffee with lovely cups; fruit; and time to spend together while he plays his guitar or we talk about all manner of things.  When I picture these times, I am always wearing my painted silk kimono, earrings, and last-night's eyeliner (the smudginess of day-old make-up is a favorite 'look' of mine), the house is always clean-but-disorganized, with abandoned wine-glasses scattered artfully, and incense buring beneath the icons. Reality is generally somewhat different, with the addition of a sneaky dog, dust, and sometimes a desperate seach for food to go with the morning's coffee, but the experience is as lovely, and better still for being a real, rich moment in life, one that I can rest in when the busy days distract me from the simple joys of living.