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Booklist: The Art Books

I am fascinated by the artistic process. I love to watch an artist at work. To see him ponder, create, evaluate, adapt. To be there as the work comes to life under his hands is like magic. Almost as exciting is to plunge inside the mind of an artist by reading his words. Or by reading stories about his life…interactions of artists and how they influence one another, etc….

A fairly generous section of my personal library is devoted to art and artists. Here are a few favorites:

Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky “Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another to cause vibrations in the soul.” Kandinsky’s vibrant, energetic works have always captivated me. His theories about colour, about the artistic process, and about the effect of both on the soul are equally compelling.

What is Art? by Leo Tolstoy “Art is not a pleasure, a solace, or an amusement ; art is a great matter. Art is an organ of human life, transmitting man’s reasonable perception into feeling.” Tolstoy has a tendency, from time to time, to meander and wag on. But golden nuggets like the above keep you digging through it because there is SO much wisdom here. Provocative, sometimes controversial, contemplative, rich.

Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle Cosmos from Chaos. Art as Incarnation. Art as a reminder of the glory and magic we knew as children. Lavish Grace. All from a great friend to artists... “In art we are once again able to do all the things we have forgotten; we are able to walk on water; we speak to the angels who call us; we move, unfettered, among the stars.”

The Annotated Mona Lisa by Carol Strickland This survey of the history of art introduces the reader to the major artistic eras as well as representative artists. Explanations are succinct and surprisingly thorough. If you are one of those folks who has always wanted a basic understanding of art, but does not know where to begin, begin here.

Michelangelo and the Popes Ceiling, The Judgement of Paris, and Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King Part history, part inside view of the artists at work. Learn about their idiosyncrasies. The maneuvering and jealousy. Extraordinary genius. All set against the culture of their time. King is a great storyteller. Good stuff.

Refractions by Makoto Fujimura “God desires to refract His perfect light via the broken, prismatic shards of our lives.” A talented avant garde painter, Fujimura is also an important voice with regard to the integration of faith and art. Stories largely drawn from post 9/11 New York illustrate how God relentlessly pulls beauty from ashes.

Beauty the Invisible Embrace by John O’Donohue “This is the spirit that beauty must ever induce, wonderment and a delicious trouble, longing and love and a trembling that is all delight…” Poet and priest O’Donohue explores the theme of beauty from a distinctly Celtic perspective. He looks at colour, music, nature, dance, death, and finally the beauty of God. Gorgeous contemplations delivered in sumptuous prose that threatens at any moment to flower into poetry.

Blue Arabesque by Patricia Hampl This is a beautifully woven tapestry of stories and contemplations regarding the “uninterrupted gaze” and of thoughts that bud and unfurl. Hamply tells us of Delacroix, Matisse and Picasso, carrying us with them into middle eastern harems, and to the light of the Cote d’Azure.

For Children:

Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series by Mike Venezia Each volume tells the story of an individual artist. There are hilarious cartoon illustrations that tell the story with great fun. There are also reproductions of  some of the artist’s works. Venezia  has a series of Musician/composer books, as well. My children loved these. As did I. Highly recommended.

Museum 123 and Museum ABC from the Metropolitan Museum of Art These beautiful volumes are a counting book and an alphabet illustrated with marvelous works of art. I am already using the counting book with Kenzie who is only 3 months old. Not sure she is getting the whole number thing, but she loves looking at the paintings.

OK, you know the rules. You have read, now share. Tell us all about art books you love.

*Painting at the top of the post by Wassily Kandinsky

Booklist: The Boy Books

Reluctant readers.


…unless you introduce them to books like these. Read them aloud. On the porch. In a treehouse. In a tent. With a flashlight. Snuggled together in bed. Make gifts of them to your boys; beautiful hardcover editions that they will treasure. Here are some family favs. I can hardly wait to hear yours.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George Young Sam Gribley runs away from home and lives for a year in the Catskill Mountains. He makes his home in a hollowed out tree, trains a falcon to hunt for him, sews a suit of deerskin clothes, and wrests a living from the land. What little boy does not want to live this life? We also loved the sequels, On the Far Side of the Mountain and Frightful’s Mountain. Incidentally, George wrote a great many engaging books from a naturalist perspective, including the Newberry winner, Julie of the Wolves. We have read most of them. Marvelous all.

Rascal by Sterling North I watched Joshua’s eyes grow wide as we read about young Sterling’s collection of wild animals, at the center of which was a baby raccoon. For a few days, he was Sterling. Rascal was his very own. And when there were tough decisions to be made, those were his too. Incidentally, we bought Jake a stuffed raccoon because he loved this book so much.

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman Poems about insects. Fascinating and fun. And all told in two voices. So you and your son can read in tandem. Voices weaving over and under, into and out of one another. It is an intimate and delightful experience to breathe a poem together. Try it!!

The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques This was the first group of books Jake asked for as a gift. He devoured them. When I began reading them aloud again with Joshua, Jake sat in. Because he loved them so. Set in a middle ages landscape, peopled by animals, this is a delight for boys becoming men.

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green Knights and armor, dragons, swords and daring deeds. So much that little boys love. And honor. You will have the opportunity to negotiate that with them. To imagine themselves in the place of these men. What would they do?  *I favor the Green edition because it is clean and uncluttered. We have read Mallory as well; beautiful but cumbersome.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Mole, Toad, Badger…boats, carriages, and motorcars. And questions about how we choose to live life. About fear and fury.

Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus by Rosemary Sutcliff (Homer)  Gods, heroes, monsters…all the fodder of little boy dreams. Epic stories…The Iliad and The Odyssey…made approachable by the art of Rosemary Sutcliff. Seek out the gorgeous hardcovers with illustrations by Alan Lee.  Marvelous! Sutcliff wrote wonderful historical fiction of her own, most of which is boy friendly.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater Joshua’s favorite book ever. Quirky and thoroughly delightful. Do NOT judge it by the new film. Two very different things. Mr. Popper dreams of adventure. But he is a man with responsibilities. No worries. Adventure is coming to him. Humorous and heart warming. A precious book.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien Joshua’s other favorite book ever. 🙂 “There is more to you than you know, Bilbo Baggins.” It is a message we all need to hear. We all need desperately to believe. That when push comes to shove and we are tested, there will be glory in us.

The Magician’s Nephew, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis We read and loved all the Chronicles of Narnia. But Joshua was very particular that these were the ones I should include. He would also have you know that seeing the movie does not equal reading the book. That liberties were taken, especially in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that were not to his liking. Magic, quiet heroism, and characters who bury themselves deeply in your heart.

Homer Price by Robert McClosky A world of simple pleasures, innocent boyhood fun. Rural, small town America of almost a hundred years ago now. Misadventures. Accidental heroics. And great good humor.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls A little boy works, and saves, and schemes to buy two coon hound pups. He faithfully trains them and gives them his whole heart. And they give their hearts to him. Love. Costly love. This is a difficult book with hard things. Read it aloud with your boy. Give him a chance to talk from the heart to you. Walk into the door this book will open. It’s alright to stop reading to cry. Ask me how I know….

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett Unlikely heroes. Whimsy and absurdity. And dragons. A great first chapter book.

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare 13 year old Matt helps his father build their homestead, then must stay and protect the claim….alone….while his father goes to fetch his mother and sisters. There will be unexpected complications and what is asked of him becomes more arduous than any of them could have imagined. He will build meaningful friendships with a native tribe, and they will exchange understanding and good will. He will also have to make hard decisions about keeping impossible promises.

Also consider Speare’s The Bronze Bow, a compelling story of anger, and grace, and Jesus.

Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfield A mystery. A comedy. And a memorable romp through Ancient Rome.


Your turn! Tell me about the books your boys love. Please!

Booklist: The LOST Books

So, here is the plan. For the next few Wednesdays…til such time as I run completely out of ideas….Wednesday will be booklist day here on the old blog. Posts about books are always among my most popular, and are sources of great reads for me personally. If you are a bibliophile, or a wanna-be bibliophile, or even if you don’t know how to spell bibliophile :), check back each week. You never know what you might find. And I NEED your input!

This weeks premise: You just bought a ticket on Oceanic flight 815. (For those of you who did not watch the television show LOST, your flight is going down. Sorry.) Let us assume that you know you will end up on a deserted island. (THEY asked you to believe things much more far-fetched than this.) You have room to pack ten books. Turns out you are the only reader on the plane. So these are the books you will read and re-read over and over for the next few years. What will they be?

This is not a list of your “favorite” books, necessarily. Some books are great for a single read, but do not bear repetition. Which books can you give yourself to again and again? I chose to include no more than one book by any particular author, but this is not necessary. Here’s my packing list (as always, in no particular order):

On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius Truth be told, if this were the only book I had, I would have plenty to contemplate. The introduction by C.S. Lewis could occupy the first year. Then perhaps, I would be ready for Athanasius. So much that is essential to all you and I believe about God, and most particularly about His Son, are articulated here….compellingly, artistically, completely. Profound and rich.

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton There have only been two or three books I have ever read that I immediately read again. This was one of those. So much to digest here. Truth conveyed in a compelling voice. One that gets inside and rattles around and won’t be quieted. One that will expand your mind and create new receptors of truth. So that you might see more completely. More deeply.

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God I can’t imagine a life without poetry. My original list had several poets. It broke my heart to remove some of them. I kind of wanted to cry. (And, hypothetically, if I were to include another it would be Thirst by Mary Oliver. :)) But Rilke is the voice that has most clearly spoken my heart’s cry. In words that I could not find, but so desperately needed. I have screamed his words. I have whispered them. I have prayed them. It is this collection in which I found him first. And it is this dog-eared, tear-stained volume that I return to again and again.

A Book of Hours: Thomas Merton compiled by Kathleen Deignan and John Giuliani I have read many volumes of Merton. He is kindred spirit. A fellow yearner after God. But one so far ahead of me on the path. I tentatively put my feet into his footprints…and hope that some day I will sprawl at the feet of God with such reckless abandon as did he. I select this particular volume because it is a potent distillation of his words. Any single paragraph gives me food for a day. I have copied prayers from here to my phone so that they are with me always.

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle I mourned her death as though we had known one another. Because in my heart there was a dream….that someday she and I would linger over tea and talk. About life. About art. About God. So approachable she seemed.  So honest. So real. It was folly, I know. But read the book and see if you don’t feel the same. Such lovely nourishment herein. Deep breaths of beauty. To fan the flame of creativity within me. To help me ardently pursue the sometimes elusive beauty around me. Madeleine L’Engle is a worthy guide.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky Thus far I have only read it twice. But I hope that, before the end of my life, I will have read it many times. Such deeply layered characters. No villain is beyond redemption. No hero is without weakness. And the stories that weave them all together, ahhhhh. So much to explore. Each time nuances emerge. So obvious one wonders how it was hidden before. As we bring to it our hurts, our longings, our loves, it gives to us something we were not ready for on the last reading.

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis Limiting myself to only one by Lewis was quite difficult. But in the end, I had only to consider how many times I had re-read each, and this was the obvious choice. Around half a dozen times thus far. And not nearly done. Some of the characters live SO close to my heart that I can not read without being drawn completely into the story. Pages blur and I am there. Answering the questions. Feeling the fear. The wonder. The…joy.

I will not lie to you. This book has caused me considerable pain. But pain of the best sort. The kind that wounds to heal. Destroys to bring life. Kills to resurrect. (If you should elect to give it a go, I encourage you to push past the first few chapters which might seem slow. Do not give up early. You can’t imagine what awaits you! Press on!!!!)

Beauty The Invisible Embrace by John O’Donohue It is my husband who has a confirmed Irish bloodline. Hello! MULLICAN!! But, when I read John O’Donohue, I feel I am reading a kindred soul. I have done three complete readings thus far, but have gone back and perused underlines and notes far more often than that. The way that he interlaces beauty, and nature, and spirit, and God together throbs deeply within me. His words are like a washing of sweet spring rain. Like the scent of lavender and roses. I read it as gift to myself. As a cleansing of the soul.

Candide by Voltaire Yes, he was ingenius. Yes, he was the poster-child of the Enlightenment. But, he was also one of the most brilliant satirists to ever live. I laugh myself silly all the way through the book. Sometimes I agree with what he is spouting, sometimes not. But always I am in awe of his artistry…his ability to tell an evocative and entertaining story in which is enmeshed all that he believes about the world. I would read it for fun. You don’t believe me? I double-dog dare you to try it.

Lilith by George MacDonald It would be fair to say that I read it the first time kicking and screaming. It had been recommended by my counselor. How’s that for vulnerability? Because I needed to learn how to die. And he knew Lilith could show me how. I knew lots of facts about my situation. But it was a story that would take me where I could not go by myself. I have read it since. And seen layers I did not see on my first visit. Like a complex and beautiful landscape through which I hurtled the first time in search of that death scene that would be life to me. I know there is more still to be found. I would bring Lilith. She has been been a true friend.

The Bible Not because it’s the Sunday School answer. Not because it’s the “right” answer. But because it’s the right answer. Comfort for those who mourn. Provocation for those who are self-satisfied. Correction for those who would do well, but are misguided. And I have been all. Stories without end. And poems. And prayers. The story of God. Of His Son. Of His people. Of the lost, the weary, the desperate, the courageous, the audacious, the confused, the rebellious, the restored, the healed, the ones who persist in hope. You. Me.

P.S. Yes, I realize most of my books have a faith connection. Coincidentally, so do I. Though I read books from many faith, or non-faith, perspectives, the ones I choose to live with, to roll around in, to let crawl all up inside me, tend to be those written by a questing heart, imperfect to be sure, but relentless in pursuing the things of God. No apologies.

Your turn. The LOST books. Go!!

More Gold Than Gold…

I know that it was myth that converted C.S. Lewis. I know that he was reluctant. Resistant in the extreme. He speaks to it in Surprised by Joy. But not like this.

I know that George MacDonald was a hero to him. So much so that he cast him as a dispenser of wisdom in The Great Divorce. In fact he said of him,

I have never concealed the fact that I regarded George MacDonald as my master; indeed, I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him.

I was not surprised that he had written the introduction to Phantastes. I was surprised that I was so distracted by it. That I couldn’t stop reading it. Over and over.

He treats of myth and its power of enchantment. Its ability to seep into the deepest, most essential parts of us. Truth, marvelously cloaked in phantasy.

For your edification, for your education, for your provocation,  I offer an appetizer…an enticement…a seduction.

Of myth in general…

It produces works which give us (at the first meeting) as much delight and (on prolonged acquaintance) as much wisdom and strength as the works of the greatest poets. It is in some ways more akin to music than to poetry or at least to most poetry. It goes beyond the expression of things we have already felt. It arouses in us sensations we have never had before, never anticipated having, as though we had broken out of our normal mode of consciousness and possessed joys not promised to our birth….

Of his first encounter with Phantastes

It must be 30 years ago that I bought, almost unwillingly…the Everyman edition of Phantastes. A few hours later I knew that I had crossed a great frontier….aware that if this new world was strange, it was also homely and humble; that if this was a dream, it was a dream in which one at least felt strangely vigilant; that the whole book had about it a sort of cool morning innocence, and also, quite unmistakably, a certain quality of Death, good Death. What it actually did to me was to convert, even to baptise (that was where the Death came in) my imagination. It did nothing to my intellect nor (at that time) to my conscience. Their turn came far later….

The quality that had enchanted me in his imaginative works turned out to be the quality of the real universe, the divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic reality in which we all live….I see there was no deception. The deception is all the other way round–in that prosaic moralism which confines goodness to the region of Law and Duty, which never lets us feel in our face the sweet air blowing from ‘the land of righteousness’, never reveals that elusive Form which if once seen must inevitably be desired with all but sensuous desire–the thing (in Sappho’s phrase) ‘more gold than gold.’

*P.S. I have read already two of MacDonald’s works. Lilith is one of the most pivotal books of my life. I have read it multiple times. Her story is my story in more ways than I can explain. She helped me to go places I couldn’t get to by myself. The Wise Woman is troubling and provocative and redemptive. And I can tell you that, 4 chapters in, Phantastes is truly captivating.

**All bolds in the post mine.

The Tree of Life

In everyday English, the word mystery implies a puzzle to be solved, a conundrum to be unraveled…In the east, on the other hand, a mystery is an area where the human mind cannot go, where the heart alone makes sense–not by knowing, but by being.  The Greek word mysterion leads you into a sense of “not knowing” or “not understanding” and leaves you there.  Having arrived, all you can do is gaze and wonder; there is nothing to solve.

~Archimandrite Meletios Webber in Bread and Water, Wine and Oil

The Tree of Life, a new film by Terrence Malick, is mysterion on steroids. It is a wrestling, a fascination, a dialogue with God….with truth…with meaning.

It is a film with vast open spaces. Open spaces in the story where the mind works furiously to interpret…to understand. Open spaces in the film itself…breathtaking images of volcanic eruptions, rushing water, cosmic clouds perfumed with dazzling light….and underneath these: silence. A guided contemplation of sorts. With only occasional whispers. Questions. The ones we speak against the night. Are you out there? Do you see me? Do you care? Where were you when….?

Jack (Sean Penn) asks God when it was that He began to speak to him… We see a baby all in white. Curtains billow in the breeze. Shafts of sunlight play on the wooden floor. And tiny, bare feet dance against the air. We look up through the branches of a great climbing tree with silvered leaves rustling in the wind. A butterfly. All the clean joy of a world brand new. A romance has begun.

This world of little boy joy is punctuated with dark, hard places. A brother dies. A father (Brad Pitt) is too often ruled by anger. In his misguided attempts at making his boys strong….and making himself a “great man”…he is sometimes harsh, brutal, unkind. Difficult to reconcile with the man who carries them on his shoulders…the man whose hands coax beautiful music from the keys of their piano and the church organ…the man who piously kneels before God and prays. Fear and love are inextricably linked in the minds of his sons. How do you learn to trust when you never quite feel safe?

Still, in and out of these places of pain are woven shivering grasses along the edge of a lake, ripple of water over stones, a heart throbbing the rhythm of life, hot red lava spilling over the edge of a crater as billows of gray and blue rise skyward, tiny sperm spirals seeking out an egg to begin life anew, water thundering over the edge of a precipice to pound against the pool below. Difficult to reconcile this grandeur with one who lets brothers die…who allows fathers to beat their children. Is it possible to hold onto wonder…always?

The Tree of Life is unlike any film I have ever seen. It is troubling and sacred. Difficult and glorious. An invitation to enter into mystery. To be saturated in it. I encourage you to plunge in.

The film is showing in limited release at present. If you live in Nashville you can catch it at the Belcourt Cinema. If not, click HERE to find a location near you.

Midnight in Paris

The film opens with a glorious montage of Paris scenes, 1920’s era Jazz playing underneath, and I know that I am being transported…lifted out of my common existence for a bit and carried far away. I just have no idea how far……

On this night I will party with Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald while Cole Porter belts out tunes on the parlor piano. I will listen with mouth agape to the profound ramblings of one Ernest Hemingway. I will arrive at the salon of Gertrude Stein just in time to hear her critique the work of a passionate young Spanish painter. Pablo Picasso. At every turn they are there waiting for me; the luminaries of 1920s Paris. It is a most marvelous adventure as I stumble upon Salvadore Dali….he is quite a character…T.S. Eliot…the exquisite Josephine Baker. I must be dreaming…

Gil is a writer. He came to Paris once when he was a young man. He can’t remember why he left. He is enchanted by the city. It nourishes something deep inside him. His fiance and her family, on the other hand, seem determined to be uncharmed by the city. Cynical and without imagination, they exploit  but refuse to understand. One quickly gets the sense that this is their approach to Gil as well.

One evening he takes a stroll to clear his head. As an ancient clock clangs the hour of midnight, a car pulls alongside him and whisks him away into the world he feels he was born for, Paris in the 1920s. The “perfect era”. It is his dream I have been walking in, not my own. Though for all the delight it brings me, it might as well have been.

He meets a girl, Adriana. She was mistress once to Modigliani, then Braque, and now Picasso. A haunting beauty (played mesmerizingly by Marion Cotillard), she captivates Gil. And she finds in him a safe place to confide that she too longs to have lived in a different time. La Belle Epoque of Paris; the 1890s. We will pay a little visit to this world as well, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec at the Moulin Rouge. She will decide to stay here. Gil will not.

In between the gorgeous cinematography and the continual delight of bumping into these remarkable personages, there are questions to ponder. Questions about fear. About dreams. About settling, taking the path of least resistance. About escape. And about, as Hemingway says, what is true.

Midnight in Paris is one of the most enjoyable films I have ever seen. My fellow theater goers and I laughed out loud in places. Gasped and sighed. Owen Wilson gives a most nuanced and winsome performance. And though I will not spoil the film by revealing how it all turns out in the end, I will tell you that there is a very satisfying last scene…on a bridge…with a girl…in the rain…

To ponder: If you could visit any past era, any location, where would you go? I would love to know.

Warhol Live

Pop art has descended upon Nashville. Opening today at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville is a remarkable exhibit illustrating the interplay of music, cinema, opera, dance, and pop culture in the works of Andy Warhol, a creator of icons who somewhere along the way became an icon himself.

This is a very accessible exhibit. If you lived in any part of the twentieth century you will find yourself here. Familiar faces. Images transformed by Warhol’s unique perspective. The soup cans are here. The portraits. And over 40 album covers, including the first interactive jacket (a 1967 recording by Velvet Underground) and probably his most famous: Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones. The covers are displayed in free standing clear walls so that you can see both sides.

Strolling through the gallery was a delight. Every turn of the corner takes you into another part of Warhol’s world. Each visitor will have his/her own personal favorites. These are mine.

Marth GrahamLetter to the World (The Kick)

I’ve always loved this photograph of Martha Graham. Such artistry of the body. So graceful and lovely. It was fun to see what Warhol did with it. He saturated himself with dance, opera, a great variety of art. The exhibit includes playbills and librettos that belonged to him.


Warhol’s studio was called the Silver Factory because he had Billy Name decorate it in silver using paint, foil and mirrors. One fairly large section of the exhibit is shown against silver walls. I enjoyed imagining him creating his work in this milieu.

Warhol embraced Richard Wagner’s theory of Gesamtkunstwerk, “total artwork”. Art that unites a variety of expression. Art that wraps itself around you. With that in mind, curators invite you to step inside two different Warhol creations. Definitely the highlight of the whole exhibit for me.

The first is from the set design of Rainforest, an avant garde work by dancer Merce Cunningham. You stand inside a room filled with floating silver pillows while Cunningham dances among the pillows on screen. I heard grown men and women giggling. I might have giggled myself.

The second is from Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a show Warhol developed around the music of Velvet Underground. Warhol was their producer, and they were regulars at the Silver Factory. The shows involved video shown against screens and against the performers themselves, dance, and lots of light play. In the exhibit you can walk all around inside this. Film is playing on two different screens. Music. Light filtered through colored slides creeps up the walls and across your face.  A constant strobe keeps everything feeling a little off kilter. The scene is constantly morphing, evolving, transforming.


Warhol is an important voice. Like his friend John Cage, he constantly blurred the lines between life and art, encouraging us to see the beautiful around us. Through his album covers and prints he satisfied his desire to put art into the hands of the masses. He had something else, too. Something we don’t always perceive. Curator Stephane Aquin calls it a tragic consciousness. You can see it especially in the later works, including the self portrait at the top of the post. He had lived life as fast and furiously as possible. He had created and played. But there was always something missing. Something that eluded him. It leaves one with important questions to ponder.

Warhol Live will be at the Frist until September 11th. I encourage you to pay a visit. Be informed that, though children will find this exhibit fascinating and delightful, some subject matter, primarily in the films, is adult in nature. You might wish to preview before bringing your small people.

Summer Morning

Summer Morning
Charles Simic

I love to stay in bed
All morning,
Covers thrown off, naked,
Eyes closed, listening.

Outside they are opening
Their primers
In the little school
Of the cornfield.

There’s a smell of damp hay,
Of horses, laziness,
Summer sky and eternal life.

I know all the dark places
Where the sun hasn’t reached yet,
Where the last cricket
Has just hushed; anthills
Where it sounds like it’s raining;
Slumbering spiders spinning wedding dresses.

I pass over the farmhouses
Where the little mouths open to suck,
Barnyards where a man, naked to the waist,
Washes his face and shoulders with a hose,
Where the dishes begin to rattle in the kitchen.

The good tree with its voice
Of a mountain stream
Knows my steps.
It, too, hushes.

I stop and listen:
Somewhere close by
A stone cracks a knuckle,
Another turns over in its sleep.

I hear a butterfly stirring
Inside a caterpillar.
I hear the dust talking
Of last night’s storm.

Farther ahead, someone
Even more silent
Passes over the grass
Without bending it.

And all of a sudden
In the midst of the quiet,
It seems possible
To live simply on this earth.

To Paint a Bird

First paint a cage
with an open door
then paint
something pretty
something simple
something beautiful
something useful
for the bird
then place the canvas against a tree
in a garden
in a wood
or in a forest
hide behind the tree
without speaking
without moving …
Sometimes the bird comes quickly
but he can just as well spend long years
before deciding
Don’t get discouraged
wait years if necessary
the swiftness or slowness of the coming
of the bird having no rapport
with the success of the picture
When the bird comes
if he comes
observe the most profound silence
wait till the bird enters the cage
and when he has entered
gently close the door with a brush
paint out all the bars one by one
taking care not to touch any of the feathers of the bird
Then paint the portrait of the tree
choosing the most beautiful of its branches
for the bird
paint also the green foliage and the wind’s freshness
the dust of the sun
and the noise of insects in the summer heat
and then wait for the bird to decide to sing
If the bird doesn’t sing
it’s a bad sign
a sign that the painting is bad
but if he sings it’s a good sign
a sign that you can sign
so then so gently you pull out
one of the feathers of the bird
and you write your name in a corner of the picture

~Jacques Prevert

I Haiku, Do You?

I was that kid in high school. The one who asked: How many pages? Double or single spaced? One inch margins? I liked knowing my boundaries. Because…inside the safety of those parameters, I could be wildly creative. I still like boundaries. They force me to be succinct. Not my strength. They compel me to choose potent, vibrant language. And even when I choose to flaunt the boundaries, it is purposeful…to achieve force or a desired discombobulation.

Haiku is an ancient Japanese form of poetry favored by Samurai. The original Renaissance men, these formidable warriors also painted, wrote poetry, and tended gardens. Japanese Haiku are usually about nature and adhere to a strict three-line form of 17 on, divided 5, 7, 5. The on has been roughly translated syllable in the English form, though it is more complex than that. English haiku take a great many more liberties, but you can usually expect three lines, with lines 1 and 3 shorter than line 2, and roughly equal to one another in syllables.

During a run last week I was framing a tweet in my head about what appeared to be the waning of the Cicada invasion in Franklin. I suddenly realized it seemed to be framing itself in approximately haiku form. So, I spent the next mile or so eliminating superfluous articles and strengthening vocabulary. It was so much fun that when the local fox crossed my path, I wrote one for her.

I invite you to play with me. Try your hand at haiku. Post yours in the comments, and I will add it to the post. To get you started, I offer here a famous haiku from the old Japanese master Basho. Also, the two mentioned above as well as one I composed on this morning’s run by the sea.

old pond…
a frog leaps in
water’s sound

roar decrescendos
cicada carnage litters
the invasion wanes

fur-clad femme fatale
tiptoes in black stilettos
foxy lady, she

sea of verdigris
white hot shimmers, frothy foam
neath cerulean sky

Your turn. Ready, set, GO!

Thanks, Patsy!

sun-speckled maple
anointed in dawns first light
full of ruffled song

From my cousin’s daughter, Emily (via Facebook)

storms roll into here
lightning strikes all around us
we are scared to death

snow covered mountains
mountains are taller than me
I sink below them


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