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February 2015
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March 2015

Among the pines

Pines 1

I'm working on a long post for tomorrow, but in the meantime, this:

''To me, literature is a calling, even a kind of salvation. It connects me with an enterprise that is over two thousand years old. What do we have from the past? Art and thought. That's what lasts. That's what continues to feed people and give them an idea of something better: a better state of one's feelings, or simply the idea of a silence in one's self that allows one to think or to feel. Which to me is the same thing.''

Susan Sontag  (New York Times interview, 1992)

Pines 2

''Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom -- poets, visionaries -- realists of a larger reality.''

- Ursula K. Le Guin (National Book Award acceptance speech, Nov. 2014)

Pines 3


Signs of spring

Flowers for the patio

Flowers in the courtyard.

Primrose fairy

Primroses in the garden.

Frog pond

Tadpoles in the frog pond.

Pony

Ponies in the field.

Wild daffodils emerging in the woods

Wild daffodils emerging in the woods.

Tilly on the bench in the studio garden

Tilly in the sunshine on the studio bench...

Notebooks

...and words filling up my notebooks again.

The long winter is over. The sap is rising, and it's time, once more, for creativity to flow.

Primroses

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."  - Anaïs Nin (The Diaries)

Tilly and the snowdrops


Tunes for a Sunday Morning

Tap shoes

This week's tunes are going up a day early in honor of my music-loving, tap-dancing husband's birthday: foot-taping tunes from France, Germany, England, Greece, and America. ♥

Above, the fabulous French electro-swing band Caravan Palace perform "Rock It For Me" live at Le Trianon in Paris.

Below, "St. James Ballroom" by Alice Francis and her band. Francis comes from Timisoara, Romania and now lives in Cologne, Germany.

Above, "When I Get Low, I Get High," the old Chick Webb/Ella Fitzgerald standard, performed by The Speakeasy Three, a vocal trio from Brighton, England. They are backed up here by The Swing Ninjas, also from Brighton.

Below, Cissie Redgwick, from Yorkshire, England, updates the classic "Gimme That Swing."

Let's add zombies and magic to the mix:

Above, "Black Swamp Village" by The Speakeasies Swing Band from Thessaloniki,  Greece.

Below, "Tightrope" by the American soul/rhythm and blues singer Janelle Monáe. She was born in Kansas City, studied in New York and Philadelphia, and now lives in Atlanta. 

Oh heck, one more:

"Valentine" by Electric Swing Circus, an adorable young electro-swing/breakbeat/house/dubstep/circus arts band, from Birmingham, England.

I hope this kicks off your week with a smile. If you'd like a little more, try "Bright Lights Late Nights" by the Speakeasy Swing Band (Greece),  "That Man" by the great swing and jazz singer Caro Emerald (The Netherlands), and "Suzy" by Caravan Palace (France).


The stories that take root

Hillside 1

This seems to have become Jeanette Winterson Week on Myth & Moor. (For various reasons, her incisive essays have been much on my mind lately.) So let's end the week with a misty moorland hillside and a passage taken from "Testimony Against Gertrude Stein":

"We mostly understand ourselves through an endless series of stories told to ourselves by ourselves and others. The so-called facts of our individual words  are highly colored and arbitrary, facts that fit whatever fiction we have chosen to believe in. It is necessary to have a story, an alibi that gets us through the day, but what happens when the story becomes scripture? When we can no longer recognize anything outside our own reality?

Hillside 2

Hillside 2

"We have to be careful not to live in a state of constant self-censorship, where whatever conflicts with our world view is dismissed or diluted until it ceases to be a bother. Struggling against the limitations we place on our minds is our own imaginative capacity, a recognition of an inner life often at odds with the internal figurings we spend so much energy supporting.

Hillside 4

"When we let ourselves respond to poetry, to music, to pictures, we are clearing out a space where new stories can root, in effect we are clearing a space for new stories about ourselves."

Hillside 5

Hillside 6

The passage just quoted nails, for me, precisely why we need art in our lives and not just the familiar, repetitive stories of mass entertainment, enjoyable as they may be. Entertainment amuses, distracts, and consoles us, and that has its use and it has its value, but it's not the same use or value of art. Art enlarges us. Transforms us. Heals what is broken inside us. Deepens our understanding of ourselves, each other, and the world around us.

Hillisde 7

"Art is central to all our lives, not just the better-off and educated, " Winterson once said in an interview. "I know that from my own story, and from the evidence of every child ever born -- they all want to hear and to tell stories, to sing, to make music, to act out little dramas, to paint pictures, to make sculptures. This is born in and we breed it out. And then, when we have bred it out, we say that art is elitist, and at the same time we either fetishize art -- the high prices, the jargon, the inaccessibility -- or we ignore it. The truth is, artist or not, we are all born on the creative continuum, and that is a heritage and a birthright of all of our lives."

Hillside 8

Hillside 9

Art Objects by Jeanette Winterson


Life, art, and surrender

Woodland boundary 1

If I had to chose a single quote to encapsulate my view of life and art, this line from Jeanette Winterson's 1995 essay "Art Objects" would be a strong contender:

"I had better come clean now and say that I do not believe that art (all art) and beauty are ever separate, nor do I believe that either art or beauty are optional in a sane society."

Yes. That's it exactly.

Woodland boundary 2

"That puts me on the side of what Harold Bloom calls 'the ecstasy of the privileged moment,' " Winterson continues. "Art, all art, as insight, as transformation, as joy. Unlike Harold Bloom, I really believe that human beings can be taught to love what they do not love already and that the privileged moment exists for all of us, if we let it. Letting art is the paradox of active surrender. I have to work for art if I want art to work on me."

Woodland boundary 3

Later in this luminous essay she writes: "We know that the universe is infinite, expanding and strangely complete, that it lacks nothing we need, but in spite of that knowledge, the tragic paradigm of human life is lack, loss, finality, a primitive doomsaying that has not been repealed by technology or medical science. The arts stand in the way of this doomsaying. Art objects. The nouns become an active force not a collector's item. Art objects.

"The cave wall paintings at Lascaux, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the huge truth of a Picasso, the quieter truth of Vanessa Bell, are part of the art that objects to the lie against life, against the spirit, that is pointless and mean. The message colored through time is not lack, but abundance. Not silence but many voices. Art, all art, is the communication cord that cannot be snapped by indifference or disaster. Against the daily death it does not die."

Woodland boundary 4

Woodland boundary 5

"Naked I came into the world, but brush strokes cover me, language raises me, music rhythms me. Art is my rod and my staff, my resting place and shield, and not mine only, for art leaves nobody out. Even those from whom art has been stolen away by tyranny, by poverty, begin to make it again. If the arts did not exist, at every moment, someone would begin to create them, in song, out of dust and mud, and although the artifacts might be destroyed, the energy that creates them is not destroyed. If, in the comfortable West, we have chosen to treat such energies with scepticism and contempt, then so much the worse for us.

Woodland boundary 6

Woodland boundary 7

"Art is not a little bit of evolution that late-twentieth-century city dwellers can safely do without. Strictly, art does not belong to our evolutionary pattern at all. It has no biological necessity. Time taken up with it was time lost to hunting, gathering, mating, exploring, building, surviving, thriving. Odd then, that when routine physical threats to ourselves and our kind are no longer a reality, we say we have no time for art.

Woodland boundary 8

"If we say that art, all art is no longer relevant to our lives, then we might at least risk the question 'What has happened to our lives?' "

Woodland boundary 9