Wednesday, December 19, 2012

chimpanzee relief

at Chimp Haven

Today we got news that the NIH (National Institute of Health) will allow more than 100 chimpanzees to retire to a chimpanzee sanctuary: Hurrah.  We are slowly putting an end to using chimpanzees for our research.  You can read a news story and see a video about this move at  Chimpanzee Relief  .

In this season of glad tidings and great joy for a humble child who became a man-and-God, we can be humbled and can be glad that finally we are no longer harming animal-beings that are made by God in our own close image.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

sun movement

The first lines of a Tomas Transtromer poem:

The white sun is soaking through the smog.
The light drips, gropes its way down

The sun soaking through the smog!  (The rest of the poem is below.)
Yesterday I came across another sun-sky-movement passage, this time in a very early page of Wallace Stegner's novel, Crossing to Safety.  The narrator has just left his wife to sleep longer and stepped out for a walk in the woods surrounding a cottage they have traveled to the night before.  It is early morning, "keen air, gray light, gray lake below, gray sky through the hemlocks whose tops reach well above the porch."  He walks a bit down a dirt road alongside of a hill:

     Then I come out on the shoulder of the hill, and there is the whole sky, immense and full of light that has drowned the stars.

Wonderful, that "drowned."
Each of these two passage is contained in a fine bit of writing wherein the sun exchanges further with the writer (and us).  Here below is Transtromer's poem,  Looking Through the Ground and the rest of Stegner's paragraph, on page six of the Modern Library paperback edition of his book.  Enjoy!

Looking Through the Ground

The white sun is soaking through the smog.
The light drips, gropes its way down

to my deep-down eyes that are resting
deep under the city looking up

seeing the city from below: streets, foundations--
like aerial photos of a city in war

the wrong way around--a mole photo:
silent squares in somber colors.

The decisions are taken there.  No telling
bones of the dead from bones of the living.

The sunlight's volume is turned up,
it floods into flight cabins and peapods.

translated by Robin Fulton

     Then I come out on the shoulder of the hill, and there is the whole sky, immense and full of light that has drowned the stars.  Its edges are piled with hills.  Over Stannard Mountain the air is hot gold, and as I watch, the sun surges up over the crest and stares me down.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

the other half

female cardinal

The male cardinal is quite beautiful, bright red all over.  Flashy, you could say.

This female in our yard, with the light on her, showed an apple-like glow.  The female cardinal's red is a dull red, pale, not flashy; still, she can show beauty.

The other half  is an expression we use to refer to the less-noticed one in a partnership, sometimes the wife, sometimes the husband.  My other half or, sometimes,  My better half we would say with good humor.  I wonder if all languages have a similar reference.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Louise Fishman painting


Crisp.  Elemental.  Strong.  Physical.
Louise Fishman's paintings are like that.  Take a look at this link  and scroll down just a bit to the first interview under Women Artists' Profiles;  it is a look at Louise Fishman and her painitngs.  The website itself, theartsection,  is wonderful; I'm glad to have found it.

Monday, September 3, 2012


We see this kind of hummingbird, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, in our yards.  These birds are smaller than my thumb, and they buzz around.  David Sibley describes the buzz as "the blur and hum of their hovering wings."   (What a gift his books about birds are.)  Hummingbirds' hearts beat around 250 times per minute when they are at rest.  Flying, they beat 1,250 beats per minute:  how amazing someone can count a tiny, fierce heartbeat like that.

This small painting is watercolor and pastel and charcoal and graphite on paper.  How to suggest blur-and-hum in a picture?!

Friday, August 10, 2012


Bay is all about lake, sky, and land.  We are high here, looking down at the bay and, seemingly, across with the sky!  This is a quick color sketch, with some amount of detail and layering in the field.  The sky is quite close to the paper.  The field is partly dried, partly in flower.  The colors are slightly more violet, and the field flowers are different; still, there is some resemblance of our northern bay with the Mediterranean near Cap d' Ail or Nice.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

near Suttons Bay, August 1

near Petoskey, July 31

The same field flowers are in these views, seen a day apart.  One field has color in the field flowers; the other field's grasses and flowers are already quite dried out, seeds and seed heads much more predominant than flowers.  Suttons Bay is in a protected bay of Lake Michigan.  Petoskey is farther north and the bay there is more open to weather from the west over Lake Michigan.  Diane told me that Suttons Bay just didn't get much rain this summer; the rain has passed over and passed to the north often.

The top painting here is the same field as the field in the previous post, three weeks later.  I was leaving the hill and the small house and shed caught my eye, almost engulfed by the fields.  Of course the house is important here, centered; still, the fields provide its stage, its display.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

between developments

hill overlooking Suttons Bay

This small painting I did in the studio, from a watercolor sketch on site.  The site is a hill in northern Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula looking down toward a bay of Lake Michigan.

I sat in my car to do the watercolor.  There is a dirt two-track in view at the lower left.  This path comes up to a paved lane, where I'm parked.  This lane is part of the infrastructure for a whole new subdivision: paved lanes, cul-de-sacs, fire hydrants, power cables.  The big hill has been set up for houses; a big cherry farm was bull-dozed to make way for the development.  Behind me here, just up the hill further, there are 5 houses, almost finished but boarded up, windows broken.  One house is partially painted.  This development stopped, went bankrupt.

As long as I did not look behind me, the view was dazzling.

Monday, July 16, 2012

On the Lake III

On the lake.  With Nature, with and without people, in a boat.  This third variation of the theme is from the writer Edith Pearlman's story Self Reliance:

   She changed into her bathing suit and took a quick swim, waving to the Sisters Scrabble and the geezer.  Back in her house she put on jeans and a T-shirt, tossed the wet suit onto the crotch of a chokecherry tree.  What should a person take for a predinner paddle?  Binoculars, sun hat against insidious sidelong rays, towel, and the thermos she'd already filled with its careful cocktail.  Pharmacology had been a continuing interest.  "I'll swallow three pills a day and not a gobbet more," Aunt Shelley had declared.  "You choose them, rascal."
   Cornelia pushed off vigorously, then used a sweep stroke to turn the canoe and look at the slate roof and stone walls of her house.  Just a little granite place, she realized; not fantastical after all.  She had merely exchanged one austerity for another.  She thought of the tomatoes, and turned again and stroked, right side, left, right. . . Then, as if she were her own passenger, she opened a backrest and settled herself against it and slid the paddle under the seat.  She drank her concoction slowly, forestalling nausea.
   Sipping, not thinking, she drifted on a cobalt disk under an aquamarine dome.  Birches bent to honor her, tall pines guarded the birches.  She looked down the length of her body.  She had not worn rubber boat shoes, only sandals, and her ten toenails winked flamingo.

The story is in a marvelous collection, published in 2011,  Binocular Vision.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On the Lake II

Wang Wei is one of the major poets of the Tang dynasty (618-907), the period of greatest poetic flowering in China.  I thought of this poem when I read Stanley Kunitz's The Long Boat (see below), and I wondered if Stanley Kunitz was "seeing" Wang Wei's poem alongside his own while he worked.

Lake Yi

Blowing flutes cross to the distant shore.
At day's dusk I bid farewell to you.
On the lake with one turn of the head:
Mountain green rolls into white clouds.

This poem is translated by Pauline Yu, from a terrific book she wrote (1980), The Poetry of Wang Wei

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On the Lake

"In the Slop of His Cradle"

Elise Archer made this beautiful painting, which I reproduced from the cover of The Collected Poems, by Stanley Kunitz, her husband.  The painting's title is also the 17th line of a poem by Stanley Kunitz.  Here is the poem:


When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace!  Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if he didn't know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Dove, here, there

E.E. Cummings wrote this for Paul Rosenfeld.  M included it in a talk he gave Friday in San Francisco, and he dedicated the talk to David.  David Kent Hendrickson, whom we love(d) so.


the round
little man we
loved so isn’t


a gay of a
brave and
a true of a

who have

d i




Millie and Aaron also gave talks, wonderfully.  We all could see, more, how very lively is E.E. Cummings' poetry, how very not-dead is w(he)re.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Lake of the earth

The lake is a window into the earth.  
Ohmygosh: these words-become-image take my breath away.
Here is the entire poem from where these words come, The Half-Finished Heaven, by Tomas Transtromer, translated by Robin Fulton:


Despondency breaks off its course.
Anguish breaks off its course.
The vulture breaks off its flight.

The eager light streams out,
even the ghosts take a drink.

And our paintings see daylight,
our red beasts of the ice-age studios.

Everything begins to look around.
We walk in the sun in hundreds.

Each man is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless ground under us.

The water is shining among the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.

Lake Michigan, oil/gessoed board

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spring wild

We are having wild growth and color, every day anew.  You too?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter, faith

M sent me this poem by Edward Hirsch, who often writes with faith as a theme. I suppose faith is also a part of the life of poets; can you write poetry without faith?  M gets a "poem-a-day" each day of April (which is poetry month in the U.S.), and this poem appeared yesterday.  You can go to the poem-a-day site here:  poem-a-day    (you need to sign-up in the small box at the right of the link's page).

Green Figs 
I want to live like that little fig tree
    that sprouted up at the beach last spring
        and spread its leaves over the sandy rock.
All summer its stubborn green fruit
    (tiny flowers covered with a soft skin)
        ripened and grew in the bright salt spray.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good
    and Evil was a fig tree, or so it is said,
        but this wild figure was a wanton stray.
I need to live like that crooked tree—
    solitary, bittersweet, and utterly free—
        that knelt down in the hardest winds
but could not be blasted away.
    It kept its eye on the far horizon
        and brought honey out of the rock.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring, Easter 2012

crabapple tree at the church yard

I think of Easter, the day when loss becomes new life, as the start of spring.  Here is a poem by E.E. Cummings, spring!may--.  The poem reads a lot like a song, don't you think?

everywhere's here
(with a low high low
and the bird on the bough)
--we never we know
(so kiss me)shy sweet eagerly my
most dear

the new is the true
and to lose is to have
--we never we know--
(the earth and the sky
are one today)my very so gay
young love

we never we know
(with a high low high
in the may in the spring)
(forever is now)
and dance you suddenly blossoming tree
--i'll sing

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Robins again


Robins are members of the thrush family.  You can see thrush-like spots on young robins, their shapes are similar to thrush's.  Robins have a way of holding their head high that is distinctive; they may be trying to hear worms this way.  Our robins have been around for at least two weeks, which makes their spring return quite early this year.
This is a small painting, mostly pigment and glue-water, charcoal, and graphite.  Last year's returned robin, quite similar in pose, is posted on the 31st of March, two weeks later!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Here is a poem by Tomas Transtromer, entitled From March '79.  The translator is John F. Deane.

Tired of all who come with words, words but no language
I went to the snow-covered island.
The wild does not have words.
The unwritten pages spread themselves out in all directions!
I come across the marks of roe-deer's hooves in the snow.
Language but no words.

Today is our leap year day.  Tomorrow is March.  Yesterday was an election day in our state; therefore, we were getting many phone calls and many phone messages with machine voices asking us to vote for Mitt or for Rick.  Phone calls that were not phone calls, words that were not words, machine voices using our first names.  Today the telephone was quiet.  And I came across the poem here, above.
The drawing below is quite large.  This is a detail:  maybe a bit of wildness there.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Yesterday I told Sally about my day in the studio and she said, "Oh, I love your birds."  So I'll post them here for her and you:  two bluebirds: one is a sketch, and one more detailed and more plumped up from the cold and wind.  It is still winter after all.  Yet we have glimpses of spring, including a few returning bluebirds.
At  I have a previous pair of bluebirds: one sketchy and one plumped!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

charcoal in winter


Snowing by the tracks

sketch for "Snowing"

Charcoal is made from burning wood--charring it--until the wood is velvety soft-hard.  Juncos' heads and napes look charcoal-black.  And the branches they alight upon are charcoal, pre-fired!  So I tried this Junco drawing almost entirely with charcoal.  The winter snow sketch has charcoal under it, almost as a skeleton. (In the sketch you can see the skeletal structure.)  In my studio I have a large can of charcoal powder, but I do not use it much.  The charcoal sticks, though, I love to use.  Strong enough to be crayon-like and to evoke structures (of trees, of railroad yards and such); still, the sticks can stroke paper with that velvety sheen, slight shimmer.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Evening coming

Leonard Cohen just released a new album of songs, Old Ideas.  Joan Didion has a new book, released a few months ago:  Blue Nights.  The album and the book are about mortality, about life aware of death.  Cohen and Didion are, after all, now old.

Their voices are quite different.  Leonard Cohen sounds like gravel.  Almost disintegrating, his very low voice has just enough enunciation to form words and some tune.  Joan Didion's prose is remarkably clear, precise, and detached, like ice when ice is smooth, translucent, and illuminating all contained in it:  but not here.  Her voice has cracked.  Uncomfortable repetitions and occasional confused oldness is in the writing (and still, the book is masterful).

Art with oldness has distinction.  I keep hearing the voices of Leonard Cohen and Joan Didion when they are not in the room.  Here is the refrain of the first song on Old Ideas.  The song is entitled "Going Home."

Going home
Without my sorrow
Going home
Sometime tomorrow
Going home
To where it is better
than before
Going home
Without my burden
Going home
Behind the curtain
Going home
Without the costume
that I wore

Monday, January 2, 2012

fracking protest poem sort of

Here is an a-musing poem from the 16th century in Wales, a time and place where tree religion was losing out and where the English were cutting down the Welsh woods for charcoal-burning.  Robin Clidro is the poet, said to be a native of the Clwyd Valley, who wandered around South Wales until he was killed by a highwayman.

Marchand Wood

Odious and hard is the law
and painful to little squirrels.
They go the whole way to London
with their cry and their matron before them.
This red squirrel was splendid,
soft-bellied and able to read;
she conversed with the Council
and made a great matter of it.
When the Book was put under her hand
in the faith that this would shame her,
she spoke thus to the bailiff,
'Sir Bribem, you're a deep one!'
Then on her oath she said,
'All Rhuthyn's woods are ravaged;
my house and barn were taken
one dark night, and all my nuts.
The squirrels all are calling
for the trees; they fear the dog.
Up there remains of the hill wood
only grey ash of oak trees;
there's not a stump unstolen
nor a crow's nest left in our land.
The owls are always hooting
for trees; they send the children mad.
The poor owl catches cold,
left cold without her hollow trunk.
Woe to the goats, without trees or hazels,
and to the sow-keeper and piglets!
Pity an old red-bellied sow
on Sunday, in her search for an acorn.
The chair of the wild cats,
I know where that was burnt.
Goodbye hedgehog!  No cow-collar
nor pig-trough will come from here any more.
If a plucked goose is to be roasted,
it must be with bracken from Rhodwydd Gap.
No pot will come to bubbling,
no beer will boil without small twigs;
and if peat comes from the mountain
in the rain, it's cold and dear.
Colds will exhaust the housemaid,
with cold feet and a dripping nose.
There's no hollow trunk or branch,
nor a fence for the beating of an old thin snipe.
Yes, Angharad spoke the truth,
if we don't get coal it's goodbye to our land.'

The translation is by Gwyn Williams, and appears in his book WELSH POEMS Sixth Century to 1600.  Nearly every year I look to see and read this poem again, usually around the time of our first snowfalls.  M and I happen to have plenty of squirrels and big old oak trees in our yard; still, the bard's exchange of his voice into the voice of a matron red squirrel impresses me the most!  By the way, Gwyn Williams tells us that according to pre-Christian Greek travellers to Britain, the word bardd, still the Welsh word for a poet, was in use at the beginning of the first century B.C.