January 28th, 2010

space - the grasshopper

Good Morning!!


I was riveted by our president's speech on the State of the Union. I felt he addressed the issues and was very clear with Congress, the military and the Supreme Court.  I have listened to no commentary, just turned it off when it ended and let it percolate.  For me, by the end, there was a hush through that vast room that had me thinking maybe everyone there was remembering why they went into public service and service it is and was meant to be.  They are beholden to someone, to us.

I am not for nuclear power, though I know Stewart Brand, who I admire, can make an argument for it.  I am also opposed to off-shore oil drilling.  Between my junior and senior year of high school, I attended a summer program at UCSB.  The beaches were covered with tar.  That is something I won't forget.  That was 1966.     I believe we can figure out how to use wind, water, and solar power to capacity, and I don't expect to have everything my way.

I am happy to hear there is a deadline to bring our troops home.  I think he gave the lecture this country deserves and I am pleased.

And as he said, now there is work to do.   Individuals have been tightening their belts.  Now, the country will too.  

The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor has a wonderful comment on and explanation of serendipity today.   May we each enjoy a day filled with serendipity.

It was on this day in 1754 that the word "serendipity" was first coined. It's defined by Merriam-Webster as "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for." It was recently listed by a U.K. translation company as one of the English language's 10 most difficult words to translate. Other words to make their list include plenipotentiary, gobbledegook, poppycock, whimsy, spam, and kitsch.

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snow and ashes - small

The Cave Painters!


I just finished reading The Cave Painters by Gregory Curtis,  a book I highly recommend.  He manages to re-create the excitement of the discoveries of the cave paintings that were created from 32,000 years ago to 18,000 years ago.  There is a consistency to these paintings that suggests a stability we have not been able to create.  It is impossible perhaps to predict what the lives of these people were like and yet he suggests that, "To last so long that culture must have been deeply satisfying - emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and practically.  It must have engendered and supported a social system that reliably produced and distributed material needs like food, clothing, and shelter. It must have fostered and protected the basic human relations - friend to friend, man to woman, parent to child - or the society would not have been cohesive enough to survive."  

These were a healthy people, a creative people, who created beauty we respond to today.  We have not surpassed them artistically.

He continues: "The qualities that define classicism - dignity, strength, grace, ease, confidence, and clarity - are also the principal qualities of the cave paintings. Above all, the essence of classical art is that it aspires to imitate nature by creating images of nature's ideal forms. In the Paleolithic era the ideal forms were not the Discus Thrower or the David. They were horses, bison, mammoths, and the other species that obsessed the early artists, all created as ideals. The horses and bison are perfect horses and bison, never old or sick or dying, and the detailed knowledge of the anatomy of the animals is repeated in the Greek's understanding of human anatomy."

The book allows us to imagine what it would be like to go down into the earth and follow the natural contours of the walls and roofs of caves and paint.  We may never agree on their purpose, but it appears that those who first see these paintings are speechless,  one defining principle of our knowing what we meet is art.  
alan - winter bird

Grief -


In the New Yorker this week, Meghan O'Rourke writes about Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and her work with the stages of grief.   She concludes that Kubler-Ross might have better prepared her family for her own death and that the celebratory funeral she planned may not have been the most soothing balm for her survivors.  She suggests this poem by Emily Dickinson, a poem where "the speaker's curiosity about other people's grief is a way of conveying how heavy her own is."

I Measure Every Grief I Meet

- Emily Dickinson

I wonder if It weighs like Mine - 
Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long -
Or did it just begin - 
I could not tell the Date of Mine - 
It feels so old a pain - 

I wonder if it hurts to live - 
And if They have to try -
And whether - could They choose
  between - 
It would not be - to die.