meanings in music

“Children’s Concert” by Georgios Jakobides

I don’t want to sound too cosmic or anything… but I think that music is a spiritual experience. … Music is true. An octave is a mathematical reality. So is a 5th. So is a major 7th cord. And I have the feeling that these have emotional meanings to us, not only because we’re taught that a major 7th is warm and fuzzy and a diminished is sort of threatening and dark, but also because they actually do have these meanings. It’s almost like it’s a language that’s not a matter of our choosing. It’s a truth. The laws of physics apply to music, and music follows that. So it really lifts us out of this subjective, opinionated human position and drops us into the cosmic picture just like that.
~ James Taylor
(Performing Songwriter, May 2002)

book of events

“The Artist’s Mother in the Little Room” by Hans Thoma
“The Artist’s Mother in the Little Room” by Hans Thoma

One year ago today I started writing this blog. Changes…

…I use those little dots a lot…

I think it’s because, as the amazing Polish poet, Wislawa Szymborska observes:

Every beginning is always a sequel, after all,
and the book of events is always open halfway through.

Changes keep coming along, welcome or unwelcome, keeping us on our toes, and the Japanese scholar Kakuzō Okakura reminds his readers:

The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.

I feel like I’ve fumbled around this past year, but have finally accepted that this blog has been and is going to be a hodgepodge of anything and everything I think about, dream about, or experience, although the line between “reality” and dreams in my consciousness is often pretty fuzzy. For this blog, over the year I have tried out five WordPress themes, Coraline, Structure, Tarski, Treba, and this one, Elegant Grunge, as far as I can remember. It’s fun playing with the widgets! My favorite posts are the ones with pictures taken on my nature walks with Bernie, Beverly, Janet and Tim. Making friends with my readers, reading their comments here and reading and commenting on their blogs is the best part of being in the blogosphere!

On March 14, 2010 I started another blog, called “…select and collect all the words…,” which was at first to house my collection of quotes. Then I discovered all the art available in the public domain at Wikimedia Commons! So I spent hours pairing quotes with paintings, and wound up neglecting this blog. Finally on January 6, 2011, I posted my last quote there, and made the decision to merge the contents of that blog into this blog. It will take some time, but for now I think I’ll post quotes and paintings on the weekends. Of course, that may change, too.

On March 23, 2010 I started a family history blog for our relatives, close family and distant cousins, Rodgers Family History. (Actually we had a family history website since 2004. I created it on our own domain using Front Page 2000. But using WordPress has been a nice change, making presentation and navigation so much easier.) That “blog” has been neglected, too, but new cousins have found what is already up there and generously added to my database. Connecting with them has been so satisfying. I hope to get more of my data up there in the near future.

“Sailboats in Le Petit-Gennevilliers” by Claude Monet
“Sailboats in Le Petit-Gennevilliers” by Claude Monet

A slower and incomplete change has been The Change, a hormonal storm through which I am still trying to navigate. The seas around my little boat are pretty choppy, and I’m never sure if I’m making the waves or being tossed around by what others are leaving in their wakes as they sail, drift, or jet-ski through their own lives. And then there is an energy from the tides that doesn’t originate with people, but pulls from the universe through the moon. Steady and yar…

A year ago I was asking Stevie Nick’s questions:

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

I am still asking. And sometimes answering affirmatively. Some day I hope Carole King’s lyrics will be my most frequent answer…

My life has been a tapestry
Of rich and royal hue;
An everlasting vision
Of the ever-changing view;
A wondrous woven magic
In bits of blue and gold;
A tapestry to feel and see;
Impossible to hold.

Well, it just occurred to me that perhaps this blog isn’t a hodgepodge, but a tapestry! And with that thought, I’m off to embrace another year of writing about the “ever-changing view.”

lines on the sky

“Lines on the Sky” by Ane Lisbet Smedås

the whole world, wide
grazing land, the open spaces
wind across the land
and the sky, blue, high
~ Nils-Aslak Valkeapää

My friend Ane Lisbet lives in Norway and she took this amazing picture there on Saturday.

…project in the clouds those lovely unwritten stories
that curl and veer and change like mist-wreaths in the sun…
~ Harriet Beecher Stowe
(The Writings of Harriet Beecher Stowe)

This is turning into a winter for the record books. I can’t remember the last time the snow didn’t melt between snowstorms. Connecticut is usually pretty drab, brown and gray for most of the season, with an occasional snowstorm to punctuate the monotony. It usually rains at least as often as it snows. I’m grateful, though, for the current wonder of looking out the window each morning and seeing snow on the ground. My view isn’t as spectacular as Ane Lisbet’s, but it’s my own little wonderland.

Last night Nate & Shea picked us up in their snow-worthy Jeep and took us out to dinner at Olive Garden — they now have a gluten-free menu. For a Monday night, the place was packed! We had a window seat and I commented that inside it felt like Italy but looking outside and seeing mounds of plowed snow gave us a reality check. We had a wonderful time!

When we got home we were so cold we climbed under the blankets with our clothes on and snuggled until I warmed up and Tim fell asleep. We had hats, gloves and extra layers on, but just walking from the nice warm Jeep to our front door chilled us to the bone. Probably all our blood had gone to our stomachs to digest the meal.

This morning it was 18°F — a heat wave! Swept a couple of inches of new snow off of the car in the dark for Tim. He left before sunrise… Big storm due tomorrow night. Must get food shopping done soon…

We sleep, and at length awake to the still reality of a winter morning. The snow lies warm as cotton or down upon the window-sill; the broadened sash and frosted panes admit a dim and private light, which enhances the snug cheer within. The stillness of the morning is impressive… From the eaves and fences hang stalactites of snow, and in the yard stand stalagmites covering some concealed core. The trees and shrubs rear white arms to the sky on every side; and where were walls and fences we see fantastic forms stretching in the frolic gambols across the dusky landscape, as if nature had strewn her fresh designs over the fields by night as models for man’s art.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Excursions)

M. C. Escher: Impossible Reality

M. C. Escher − Drawing Hands, 1948 – Image via Wikipedia

Saturday Larisa, Dima, Tim & I were very excited to visit this special exhibition at the New Britain Museum of American Art. There were 130 works of the Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher on display, most, if not all of them, from the collection owned by the Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece. There is a photo gallery at the bottom of this web page that shows many of the works we got to examine yesterday.

The Herakleidon Museum’s collection consists of more than of 250 of Escher’s “most important and rare works as well as woodcuts, mezzotints, lithographs, photographs of the artist, sculptures and many of his personal items.” At the New Britain Museum of American Art we got to see “the extremely rare lithograph stone for the making of Flat Worms.”

According to the museum’s website: “Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) has earned worldwide acclaim as a master printmaker, draftsman, book illustrator, and muralist. Though never having studied extensively in mathematics, the mind-bending techniques and impossible realities depicted in M. C. Escher’s works prove him a brilliant mathematician. Much of Escher’s work is intuitive; without focusing on labels, Escher created what came to him instinctively.

I picked up this book in the gift shop which includes Escher’s comments on some of his works. Wish I could include some illustrations in this post, but every picture of his work is copyrighted! But here is a link to the Oldest Escher Collection on the Web.

My two favorites were “Hand with reflecting globe” and “G.A. Escher,” a drawing of his father at age 92, reading a paper with a magnifying glass. We also learned that Escher had a half-brother, Berend George Escher, a Dutch geologist, who influenced M. C.’s work with his knowledge of crystals. Tim had four favorites: “Metamorphose,” “Mosaic I,” “Moebius band II,” and, shown at the beginning of this post, “Drawing hands.”

The exhibit will be in New Britain, Connecticut, until November 14, and then will be traveling to the Akron Art Museum in Akron, Ohio. Not sure if that’s it, but it is definitely worth making an effort to see. I loved one of Escher’s quotes they had on display:

He who wonders discovers that this is in itself a wonder.
~ M. C. Escher

The Oldest Escher Collection on the Web

eternally terminal

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
wheelchair ramp built by my son and my brother-in-law ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Whenever I make the hour drive north to sit with my father, I use the time to listen to my iPod play list, set on shuffle. It’s kind of like drawing cards, I listen for messages in the string of songs it “selects” for the day. Since I have 1,328 songs on my “car” play list, there is always something “new” to contemplate. Or, if Dave Matthews’ The Best of What’s Around comes on (I have fourteen versions of it, including studio demos and live performances), I might hit the repeat button again and again to energize myself with the sentiments expressed for dealing with an often discouraging situation.

Yesterday I started connecting some dots… Last week I wrote about changing perceptions and mentioned the tetralogy by Sigrid Undset, The Master of Hestviken, a story about the lives of Ingunn and Olav, set in medieval Norway. I mentioned all the waiting the characters had to do. This week I started and finished the second book, The Snake Pit, and started the third, In the Wilderness.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
woodland garden ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

I’ve noticed that most of the blogs I like to read have a theme or a focus, like art, history, nature, photography, places, poetry, quotes, writing, etc. And at times I feel left out because I can’t seem to find a theme for my blog. Others seem to have more time to pursue their interests, careers and dreams. But at this point in time my energy is focused on waiting!

Last month, when writing about the volcano in Iceland I observed that years ago people used to respect the power of Mother Nature and they did their best to live in harmony with it. It seems like today we are determined to carry on with our plans with no regard whatsoever for the weather, the seasons, the climate, or natural disasters.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
dianthus ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Well. Isn’t dying a part of nature? Doesn’t it sometimes take a very long time to die? Am I doing my best to live in harmony with this reality? In The Master of Hestviken, when a character became incapacitated or gravely ill, his or her family would take turns “watching with” the one who was bedridden. Sitting by the bedside of a dying loved one was an honor and not considered a waste of time. Surely other pursuits were neglected and other plans put aside, but that was the way it was done. Even if a person lingered near death for years, like Ingunn did at the end of her life.

So I think this will be my focus, what I think about and what I observe around me as I “watch with” my father. Emotionally refreshed, I arrived at the house my parents built themselves when I was a preschooler, and went inside.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
captain’s bell ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

After greeting everyone, I went to use the bathroom. I couldn’t help noticing next to the toilet what appeared to be a plunger made out of a silver-toned metal. Huh?? Could not comprehend what I was looking at… So I picked it up to move it out of the way and it started ringing very loudly! It was a huge bell!! It struck me so funny – what on earth was a bell doing next to the toilet? The more I laughed the more it clanged and I heard my sister asking, “What is she doing?” and then my brother-in-law teasingly inquired, “Do you need some help in there?” Haven’t laughed so hard in ages!

Turns out it is Dad’s new bell to ring when he’s alone and needs someone. The little bell he had previously just wasn’t loud enough to wake anyone up and it was getting to be too hard for him to pick up and grasp. Beverly found this “Captain’s Bell” somewhere and now he’s back in business.

Now that I had arrived my brother-in-law took off for parts unknown and the grocery store. As he is the primary care-giver, a trip to do errands and go food shopping is a real break for him that he enjoys. My sister had been up much of the night with Dad, so she went upstairs to take a nap. And I brought Dad’s bell back to him and began “watching with” him. We talked for a little, he’d ask about the book I was reading and I’d tell him a bit about it and then he’d fall asleep. Twenty minutes later he’d wake and ask another question and then he’d fall asleep again.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

After a while, the cat, Bernie, started yowling to go outside. Dad suggested I take him for a walk in the woods, so I did, knowing that monstrous bell would wake my sister if he needed anything. Bernie and I had a splendid walk! I had hoped to encounter Harriet, a wild turkey hen who has been hanging around lately. I think we heard her, but I couldn’t see her.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
spruced up space to store canned foods ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Something else was new in the house. My parents had always used space between the studs in the wall of the stairway going down to the basement for storing canned goods. I did a double take as I walked past the opened basement door. My brother-in-law had dry walled and painted the stairway and added shelf paper under the cans! I thought of Kathy’s ‘playing with your food’ blog and snapped a picture of it.  🙂

In the evening we were all amused by the antics of two adorable baby red squirrels who couldn’t figure out how the adult red squirrels made the jump from the tree to the bird feeder. No good pictures – they’re fast little things!

The joke in our family is that Dad is eternally terminal. (Fear not, he finds this very amusing coming from a family with a delightfully dark sense of humor.) His “little” sister, who is 80, came to visit him from Maryland last week. She says he’s like a potted plant. Every time it seems to be almost dead it revives with a little watering and/or plant food. Maybe he’s a succulent. There’s no way of knowing when the end will come, but I feel a little more settled now about making the best of whatever time there is remaining, the best of what is now. “Watching with” Dad.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
potted succulents on stone wall built by my dad ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut