Morning Thoughts–Art & Story

+ July 18, 2018 Morning Thoughts

When we reach back into our earliest days, we are rewarded with picture, and context. Our memories are made of the stuff. There is the glory of sunlit reality, and an unfolding narrative to help capture it within our being. We ponder.

Our memories are made of story: picture, and narrative. That is how we understand, and the layering of stories is how we begin to think.

I watch my granddaughter watch her cartoons. The joy she gets from it is, in fact, the joy of learning.   Watching a cartoon or so alongside her, I get to see what she is being taught (in all its glorious and sometimes alarming detail, I might add!)

Wars are about story. Who gets to frame the narratives, and thus, control the outcomes?

We humans learn by picture (visual) and story (auditory). Here is where art comes in. Art is a blend of picture and story. It is a specific manipulation of visual cues (or in the case of music, auditory cues) that communicates idea or feeling. It attempts to encapsulate and form a memory. It uses the retrieval of memory—or layers of memory–as one of its tools.

Memories are deposited by means of picture and story. A feeling, for example, must have its accompanying picture and context to be stored, I think. Memory is also how we open the store of memories, our tools of life.  We remember. I am saying memory is made of art and story: picture and context. This is a broad definition of “art”, I’m aware. It is a framing of a moment in time, or a momentary idea, or a momentary feeling, that has been arranged, filtered, and tagged appropriately, so it can be retrieved. When it is also curated (more narrowly) into the form of a poem, a picture, a song, a dance, a novel, memory also becomes accessible not only to ourselves, but by others in our human family.

Like memory itself, the internet is both a storehouse and a doorway into the grand mystery of memory. The internet is a human tool, and also a creative work of human beings. It describes the human mystery, but itself is quite mundane and understandable. It is like an airplane resembling a flying insect, in respect to its ability to fly, only. The internet is a work of human ingenuity, but it is less than the totality of a single human being!

Remember that! The internet—the entirety of it—is, in truth, no bigger than the view from your back porch, and no less ephemeral. It is a hugely important tool, this sharing of human memories that is faster, more interactive, and in some ways grander than a library, a gallery, a concert. As this day passes into either nothingness or history, depending on human recording of it in some form, so the entire internet could vanish by an electronic pulse from without, or by a powerful dictator’s jealous whim.

I will create my art, and tell my stories. In some way I will add to the human memory what I see and value: how some portion of it looks to me–while I have time.



Blank Tiles

+ Monday, November 14, 2016

Six tiles on my kitchen counter, gessoed at bedtime, and ready to paint, this morning. Painter’s mind is as blank as the white surfaces, so I put on my writer’s hat. I wish I actually had a little hat to put on, and it was as simple as that. Mental constraints: I am trying to be efficient, and to enact an idea—not just “waste” the tiles, and the precious time. Second constraint: limited time. I have one totally free hour this morning, and that is all. I thought about a three tile set, using parts of a photograph isolated from one another, but held together by the elements which made them cohere in the photo: setting, time, subject matter? I thought about a set held together by a theme: birds, or Christmas ornaments, or color? I imagined the process of creating the set—all its steps—but right now I am not motivated, or at least, there is a mental obstacle to explore! A little stone in the road that wants my attention. Sigh!



The tile shown is one of a set of blank baby name tiles. Right now there are five of similar deliberately understated pastel designs, which were just five ideas I had on another such bright and new morning (now passed forever into the mists of my personal history and the history of the universe and God’s creation…)

Maybe on another bright day a little baby girl will awaken in her pastel and snuggly-tossled crib, and this tile will belong on her familiar morning wall, and her lovely name will be on it. She will hear sounds of her family stirring in adjacent rooms, while breakfast is being prepared in the kitchen. Her name might be Isabel, or Ann, or Naomi… I will never know her, but my morning will touch her morning in some fantasy story yet to be written. Hmmm… just a little mental stone in the road. Should I kick it aside, or pick it up and take it home?

“Peace Comes Dropping Slow”

There is the quiet of a Virginia wild place that neatly organizes a multitude of life forms and gives evidence of a Great Mind and a Heart. The sun of an October afternoon bathes leaves to yellow and orange, and some drift downward in slow spirals. Ripples expand silently, as they touch the river. The great river. The mighty Potomac. Boats arrive at odd points during the morning, disembark from trailers, and float.  Assisted by the energy of human hand or motor, they glide away on the green water which laps against the landing, grow smaller, then disappear in the distance, along the blue water highway. Ancient, hollowed trunks of sycamore trees grip the earth with gnarled roots and soar upward in a leaning prayer that reaches almost to the blue sky, and drop strange hard brain-like fruit the size of a yellow-green grapefruit. Dirt paths along the bank bring friends, family, couples for strolls, in gentleness and comraderie.  It is early afternoon in the middle of the work week, so there is leisure only for some. Squirrels, chipmunks, deer, bugs, cranes, egrets and chittering small birds make good companions. Beneath the water another kingdom reveals only its little minnows at the water’s rocky edge, but the river teems with life. The swooping of a large white bird to the water’s surface and its sudden rising gives a glint of silver in the beak.

Vignettes: 1) “Regina”

Rich mahogany hair has been carefully brushed and arranged. Three tight ringlets fall from a large blue satin ribbon, to frame the side of her beautiful , 12 year old face.  A lavender wisteria vine adorns a white trellis behind the large lawn chair on which Regina and her little sister Claire sit together, posing. Claire squints, because the sun is bright, but Mama wants her to turn this way, so that the photographer can get every detail. Regina ironed the white dresses this morning, after making them damp by flinging starch water all over them, and then wringing them out in little balls, and shaking them free.  For the last hour she has positioned herself on the chair so as not to cause rumples, but now she is tired, and hardly cares.  The girls are getting their portraits done this morning. It will be the boys’ turn, this afternoon, after a nice picnic lunch. Impish Claire is wiggling and making funny faces. She sits in front of Regina, who smiles in patience and total love. The photograph captures that beautiful, loving smile.  Little Claire is not squinting, but wide-eyed: transfixed by a swallowtail butterfly flitting above the photographer’s head. He does not know the butterfly is there, as he is bent over, intently peering into the lens. The whole camera, along with the man’s head, is covered by a large, dark cloth.

(That was many bright sunrays, ago, and many annual growths of the wisteria vine ago. That vine was replaced by a spreading pink rose bush, now of very ancient flowering, itself. Claire’s daughter, a mother of her own grown daughter, shows the picture to her little golden-haired granddaughter, and together they imagine that day.)351