It seems like its been a long time since I posted a picture of my physical self.
This wasn't what I had planned for today, but more photos of my pre-Harvey trip to Texas just didn't seem appropriate at the moment. This photo is both atypical in that it is not exactly what I have been wearing all summer, and yet it is completely typical and clearly something I would put together and am comfortable wearing. Several key elements are present: jeans or chinos rolled to be either right at, or above, the ankle; flat shoes (either sneakers or sandals in summer); deliberately mussed hair. Maybe I've just given up on feeling I have to present myself as something I'm not and I can dress simply to please myself, expectations and rules be damned.
It was a bit cooler and a bit cloudy yesterday, with a promise of fall in the quality of the light. My pale blue chinos didn't feel right, so I ended up pulling out these lightweight tan jeans I hadn't worn since April. The jeans inspired the layers, which included a scarf I bought when I was 24 and had to rescue from the donation pile, and a pair of earrings I hadn't worn in a few years.
The earrings were one of my last gifts from George. I hadn't worn them much since the gold-filled wires bothered my ears. It is always a problem finding earrings that fit my style, but which have quality gold or platinum posts or wires I can actually wear. Surprisingly, although I have reset funky stones into rings or necklaces, it only occurred to me recently that I could have someone replace the wires. They had just come back from the jeweler. Perhaps it wasn't the jeans that inspired the outfit, but the earrings, I really wanted to wear the earrings, and the rest just fell in place in accordance with my mood.
That is who I'd like to be when I grow up, a creator of radical compassion. The idea actually came from one of those Facebook memes, perhaps the one titled "what's your solar eclipse identity? It is all frivoulous, and meaningless, and yet the idea resonates simply I yearn to see more compassion in the world. I don't think I could ever quite measure up, but its one hell of a goal to strive for. Perhaps I need to make a sign above my desk, embroider or needlepoint something, just to remind me, especially on those days I am tired or stressed, days I all too often need reminding of good goals.
This summer has been a summer of questioning for me, and I certainly don't have any answers. Perhaps that little internet meme resonates because it seems that I haven't really seen a lot of compassion, and that is exactly the kind of thing I fret about. And this sense of things falling apart, of a loss of compassion, of concern for each other, is not unique to me. It has been a year of hard questions in many ways for many of us. To some extent the upset revolves around change and the fear of the unknown. We live in a world that changes rapidly, that has changed rapidly even since I was a child, and I suspect many fears are rooted there, rooted before my memories even began. But the fear reproduces itself. As we see the world becoming more uncertain, we cling to our own "certainties" more tightly and the entire cycle perpetuates itself, growing in on itself.
But the thing is, we change all the time. The world changes, and yet it doesn't. Our bodies change daily, replacing old cells with new cells and if we didn't change we would die. Sometimes we hold on to things tightly, thinking there is security in that, but more likely by the time we grab hold of it, what we seek is already past, we have already lost it.
I was reading Manjit Kumar's book about Einstein and Bohr, Quantum and, although the science and the biographies were interesting, the part of the book that struck me most forcefully this particular summer came near the end when the author was writing about the fundamental disagreement between Einstein and Bohr, and the energy surrounding that disagreement. According to Kumar, this battle was perceived, at least by some, if not many, as the old guard struggling against the young guns, or the seemingly eternal war between comfortable truths as opposed to new insights. But, that idea was really missing the crux of the question, at least as Einstein apparently perceived it. (It is more than possible I misunderstand). Others felt that Einstein had grown settled and could not accept the new idea of quantum mechanics as opposed to classical physics. But I got the impression the author was telling us that the inverse was true, Einstein felt Bohr and his peers were still defining quantum mechanics in relation to classical physics, they still used classical physics as an underlying frame of reference. Einstein felt the question wasn't classical physics OR quantum mechanics at all, If my understanding is correct, he felt the entire frame of reference was wrong, that there had to be something else that no one understood (yet) (if ever) a frame of reference that would include both.
But don't we always do this? We make decisions and judgements, often on little information, on fleeting perceptions, and those are based on our own biases: our own history, what the world has taught each of us, and our own confidence that our perceptions are universal when they aren't. If we don't question, are we not trapped in an endless circle? If my understanding of what Einstein was saying is correct, what appears conservative could actually be radically liberal, and what appears progressive could be regressive. What appears safe and secure could be a trap, like the trap the rabbits find in Watership Down, when they learn they have been lured into what at first appeared to be a safe haven and later proved to be a trap. But the trick is, the rabbits knew something was off, they had that uncomfortable feeling of something being not quite right, but they were tired, and so wanted security, that they ignored all the signs.
I've started working my way through the Man Booker long list, not in a particularly organized fashion, just randomly with diversions, and my reading has served to fuel my generally wandering mind and occasionally clarify my thoughts. But of course reading always does that, and novels in particular, if they are good, teach us much about ourselves, and about compassion, that we cannot necessarily learn unless we can escape from our own brittle shells. But what I learn today may not be what I learn from the same book tomorrow, as reading, in some ways like life itself, is a relationship, constantly evolving (changing)(damn! there it is again).
But before I started this year's books, I read last year's winner, Paul Beatty's novel The Sellout. The truth is that I struggled with this novel initially. It is written from a point of view, from a knowledge of an aspect of culture with which I am both completely unfamiliar and fairly uncomfortable, and I found it quite difficult. This doesn't mean that the novel isn't brilliant, it is, and it is brilliantly satiric, which of course explains a lot. If satire doesn't make us squirm in our seats, almost make our skins crawl, it is not doing its job. The Sellout does all this, and at the same time it makes the reader dig deeply into his or her own assumptions about race and culture and society, about what is the good fight, and what is not. I came out of this novel rethinking much of what I had previously held to be true. I read the novel before I read Quantum, but I realized in retrospect that the same question was being raised. What if our entire frame of reference is wrong? Where do we go from here? And how do we take as many people with us as possible?
I just finished reading Fiona Mozley's Elmet, a beautifully written and haunting book. Mosley's prose is so finely wrought, so poetic, and the conceit of Elmet, of the world of the copse where our characters live, almost outside of time and space, with the haunting overlays of timelessness and the intrusions of time, is beautifully rendered. In fact it is so beautifully drawn that the purely unadulterated visceral shock of the violence feels unanticipated, even though it has, in fact, been clear from the very opening lines that it is coming. Thus the author captures the seductions of life, of the stories we tell ourselves, of the innocence of children, and there are children here, children who are both wise, in the uncanny ways children on the cusp of adulthood can be, and yet also innocent in a way that we can barely imagine as adults. The story itself is beautiful, and thoughtful, highlighting wisdom and innocence and blindness, the way we are often all blind, the way we often make judgements and assumptions without really knowing either ourselves or the world which we are judging, and in the same way we are also innocent in that we rarely know the truth, and that which we are judged for often has nothing, or very little, to do with the way we see ourselves.
Between The Sellout and Elmet, I read Emily Fridlund's History of Wolves. Both Mozley's and Fridlund's books are, on one level, coming of age novels, although in radically different places and with radically different outcomes, and yet there are common threads. Both narrators are looking back on an episode that changed their young lives, Both narrators exist on the fringes of their respective cultures, and although they are aware they are outsiders they are not yet mature enough to understand why they are outsiders. The insiders are often blind to their own motivations and guilt as well, as we all are, defining those who are different as "other" and then somehow being shocked when the other doesn't understand the rules and expectations that have been placed on them, even though no one has bothered to teach them those rules.
As for me, I don't really know what I think about these books yet, just as I don't know what I think about the general unrest that has plagued me. I think, in these novels, that people expect too much, and I think we do as well. I see expectations that are somehow disconnected from the realities portrayed. In both of these books, and in life as I have perceived it this summer, I see a world in which the discomfort is there, but is not addressed, because we would rather not address it. Actually it is more than that, more like a denial of reality, of difference, of expecting that everyone will know what we expect because we assume that the world is like us, and, because we assume our knowledge is common knowledge, we can absolve ourselves of responsibility and blame the other. But life isn't really like this. And responsibility is always shared.
In Fridlund's book a fifteen year girl who obviously lives a mostly solitary life, already on the fringes of her society, is expected to suddenly have the wisdom of a fully educated and integrated adult. She is expected to have seen and understood what the adults themselves did not see or understand, or perhaps did not want to see or understand. In Elmet, well in Elmet, there are multiple layers of misunderstanding, topmultiple levels of denial, Mozley manages to create a world that seems completely unlike our own while at the same time capturing a level of dysfunction and denial that is probably closer to our own lives than we would comfortably like to admit. In all four of these novels, the implications of both action and inaction ripple out in overlapping circles, becoming something beyond control, something far greater than was intended or imagined.
Do you see the link? Why compassion weighs so heavily on my mind? We need compassion. We need compassion for ourselves and for others. Because it seems to me that without compassion, the things we haven't done would damn us far more than the things we have done. And in that, at least, we are each and every one of us, alike.
top photo: War Mother by Charles Umlauf. Photo taken at the McNay Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas.
While I was in San Antonio I spent some time looking at an exhibit of nineteenth and early twentieth century French art glass at the McNay Art Musuem. The McNay is one of my favorite small museums, and I try to go by each time I am in town.
This time the glass captured my attention, probably because I had just seen an entirely different collection of glass, glass created using entirely different techniques, in Arkansas at the Chihuly exhibit. As I studied the small pieces and read the information posted, I thought about art and skill and fashion, how we hold ideas in our heads. Looking at these small pieces of glass, I was thinking that some of them can never be recreated, the technique has been lost. I'm certain we did not intend to lose that knowledge, those particular skills. There were wars, people died, so many things changed. We value different skills now, but sometimes we don't even know what we lost until we have lost it.
I remember back when I was in my early 20s, talking to artists in the Woodstock community of New York state. I remember being told that only mouth-blown glass was true art, that fused glass, glass formed in molds, was inferior, was not art. Did the first person who fused glass together and carved it think that? No. I suspect not.
Of course we know better now, know that art and beauty come in many forms, in many guises. Hopefully we know we are as apt to lose them as we are to hold on to them, and that those two desires, two results, are interrelated. Hopefully we know that we can hold to tightly and crush the life. We can hold too loosely and not realize that what we truly valued has been lost. Or do we?
Do you ever have days where you've been working steadily all day and yet, when the day is done, you still can't tell that you've accomplished anything? Yesterday was one of those days. Although I know that I did accomplish things, and take time out for a couple of walks and to see the eclipse, I still feel like I was treading water. Oh well, sometimes we struggle just to stay in place and other times we soar.....
Or perhaps I am just feeling that I am not living up to my intentions, not that I am a person who has ever had reasonable expectations for herself. I've been home a week now, and today is the first day that I feel that I am completely back to normal, whatever normal is. It is the first day I awoke at my normal time without an alarm, the first morning I focused easily rather than muddling about befogged.
Anyway, I missed Saturday's post, because I was up late Friday, into Saturday morning really, starting to unpack the sewing room and move some heavy furniture around so that a friend could come over and the loom could finally be assembled. I had thought that I would be more organized than I was, that I would have transition time, but that didn't really happen until Friday. It was late by the time that I realized that Saturday was the very next day. It appears I can no longer keep up the pace of my youth, or perhaps it is simply that I no longer care to do so.
The photo is taken from the doorway into the room. The heavy cabinets that form a work/cutting table were in the corner where the loom is now, but this arrangement works better. In fact, this is almost how I originally had it drawn out on paper, at least in terms of the cutting table, but on moving day it somehow turned out differently. I thought I could make it work, but I couldn't. And there I was, instead of being reasonable and planning in advance, moving furniture around at 1 in the morning. Obviously I still have to finish unpacking but now that the big weight, literal and figurative as well, has been taken care of, it all seems possible once again.
After the loom was assembled I realized I still had time to make it to the Market Square Farmer's Market. I had missed the previous three weeks due to travel plans and I really needed to go. I figured the vendors would be packing up, and they were, but there were still options. When George and I went to the Rhinebeck market every week, we would walk around, I would think about what I might cook, then we would take a second trip around buying what we wanted. I would go home, plan a list, and we would hit the grocery store for any ancillary supplies. It doesn't work out quite that way in my life now, for a plethora of reasons. A big one is that I am cooking for one most of the time, although I am looking forward to entertaining more.
Instead I tend to go to the market with a sort of matrix written out on paper. It includes things I have and need or want to use, current ideas that are floating around in my head, and so forth, but none of it is really prescribed. Once I get to the market things may change radically, or not at all, depending on what I see and what inspires me. This particular trip my choices were a refinement of the rough plan on paper. I don't actually know why the matrix above was so pork-centric, except perhaps I was hoping to stop at JEM farm, which has good pork, and probably also because last week's meals seemed to revolve around beef and chicken. I'm better at balance in the grand scheme than in a narrow frame of reference.
Going in with a plan works because I am less likely to get carried away by wanting to make everything I see, and then being overwhelmed after I get home and the week becomes busy. I can plan to cook, but I can also intentionally leave gaps for those days or times when I just want something simple, nourishing, and relatively effortless. I eat better, and am happier, when I cook, but cooking is much more fun when I am cooking for someone. I'm still working on balance.
I did not try to take a picture of the eclipse. I just sat out and enjoyed it. I didn't travel either, but that was mostly because I needed to stay home for a delivery. It was still wonderful. And I am fortunate because I remember the 1979 eclipse. This time I think I was more attuned to the minute changes in the fauna as we proceeded through the stages of the eclipse than I was at the tender age of 20, but that is probably because I simply am increasingly more attuned to those small details. I listened to the birds and the insects and watched a pair of bobwhites come out from hiding on the edge of the lawn. I love watching the birds in my new neighborhood, but Monday morning had been the first time I had see bobwhites. Just seeing them somehow makes me think of fall.
I didn't see the bobwhites this morning on our walk. But the sunrise was beautiful. Tikka and I were out early and got to watch it from its first early glimmers. Have a lovely day.
I thought I'd share a few pictures from the San Antonio Riverwalk.
We arrived later than I had hoped on Friday, and Tikka and I were both ready to get out of the car and stretch our legs. Dallas had been cooler than usual for early August, and the temperature when we hit San Antonio was a bit of a shock to our systems -- 99° at 7PM. I remember Texas heat from my childhood, but I am no longer used to it.
It didn't seem intolerable on the river walk, probably because we were out of the direct sun. Tikka was eager for a walk and we went two miles. I was surprised because she had not been eager to walk once the heat and humidity hit Knoxville, but maybe it was the humidity more than the heat.
After our walk, I took Tikka back to the hotel and went back out to dinner. We were staying on the river walk, a little over half a mile from the busiest part of the Riverwalk, where the majority of the restaurants and hotels were located, but I didn't walk quite that far back, dining at somewhat trendy, modern Mexican place, Acenar, where I enjoyed some lovely duck tacos and a perfectly balanced jalapeno cucumber margarita.
The next morning was cooler, and quite humid, and our walk was shorter. I don't know if Tikka was tired from the previous evenings walk in the heat, or if it is actually the humidity that she dislikes, more than the heat.
We walked the opposite direction in the morning, toward the Pearl District, and although we did not walk quite that far, or as far as the previous evening, we still managed a mile and a half or so. There were more social opportunities for Tikka in the morning as there were quite a few people walking their dogs, and I was happy with the location of our hotel, closer to residential areas, where there was a steady stream of walkers and runners.
We did not feel either crowded, or isolated, on our walks and we were in a good place. The last time I had stayed on the River in San Antonio, a couple of years earlier with my mom, we were in the heart of the shopping and restaurant district, where it was both crowded in the evening, but empty-feeling and almost abandoned in the early morning. This felt like a much more balanced place; whereas the streets above still seemed almost empty, there was a nice mix of old and young, runners and walkers, residents and visitors.
On a quiet block, in the quiet Montrose neighborhood of Houston, there sits a rather severe looking building shaped much like a Greek Cross, or is it an octagon superimposed on a Greek cross? It could be easily missed, and yet it is a space I treasure, a space of profound holiness.
This is the Rothko Chapel. Commissioned by Dominique deMenil and completed in the early 70s as a non-denominational chapel, open every day, open to all, it has become a center for interfaith dialogue. The interior consists of a quiet, some would say somber, modified octagon containing 14 paintings by Mark Rothko, paintings that are mostly black, or almost black, a blackness that I see as rich with depth and color and texture, rich with meaning.
I get that many people do not appreciate this place, and yet many do. The world is big enough for many understandings of what is holy. As I grow older I increasingly understand that every moment, every place and object holds its own share of that holiness, but we all too often are too preoccupied to see. And yet, for each of us there are places or spaces that are totems of holiness, places to which we yearn to return. For me, the Rothko Chapel is one such place. There are many who find peace in the reflecting pool, the Barnet Newman sculpture and the stand of bamboo, and there are those, like me, who find peace in the meditative silence and darkness of the chapel itself.
I discovered the Rothko Chapel the summer I turned twenty. At the time I had never experienced anything quite like it, and I was the only person, other than the docent, present in the space. I didn't know much about Mark Rothko then, but the paintings seemed to embody blackness, not as a slick of color on a canvas, but as an act of absorption, an act of containing all of experience and holding it in a holy reverence. I felt a profound sense of peace, a profound sense of contact not only with the divine, but with humanity, a link through all people and places and things through some divine thread.
When I was twenty, that sense of peace was something new and powerful for me and it was something I yearned for but which always seemed out of reach. The only way I knew to find it was to return to that one place. And I did return several times that summer, several times each summer I worked in Houston, each time I returned to Houston. I took George to the Rothko chapel before were married and we shared our experiences of profoundly layered depth and peace.
Although it had been many years since I had spent any time in Houston, I had not forgotten. When I planned my loop trip, beginning with Chihuly in Arkansas, I realized I could easily loop through Houston and end with Rothko. It had been an emotionally overwrought summer and I felt deeply in need of a quiet meditative space. I planned an afternoon, and I stopped in. The space was as meditative as I remembered, the paintings as rich with meaning. As I sat quietly, contemplating not so much the space, but the act of art, contemplating the colors of blackness, of darkened shades of color, I felt this attempt to reach out and into all that was and is and will be, all of human history and potential.
I also realized that I no longer need to seek out holy spaces to find that inner peace. It lives in me and with me and it always has, although I have not always been receptive to its presence. Even now I am not always receptive, and it was true that I had needed to distance myself from my daily routines in order to distance myself from my own emotional turmoil. But I had reconnected with that peace long before I arrived in Houston, and I will continue to carry it with me. Sitting in contemplation I recognized that I tend not to give myself enough space for gathering in and reflecting back. I tend to think of that time to fill personal needs as wasted time, but it is in fact not wasted, as it is that time that fuels all the rest, that times that keeps it all from spinning out of control.
I did not really sit at the reflecting pool on this visit, but I have. It was raining lightly. Perhaps I was feeling petulant at the wetness, although I do not melt. I watched a small child splashing a toy in the water, in the shadow of the obelisk, and I contemplated space and the way we interact with space, both the spaces we intentionally create, and the way our presence has shaped and formed even those places we label as "wild" or "natural". Our every thought, our every action simultaneously shapes and is shaped by the world. How then do we decide what is holy or sacred and what is not? How can we?
Photo of the Rothko Chapel from Wikipedia, here.
Photo of Dale Chihuly's Niijima Floats, from the Facebook page of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, here.
I suppose the tenor of vacation reading is influenced by the tenor of the vacation. At my mom's I tend to read mysteries or romances; partially because she often has a few lying around. This time it was because they were what happened to be on my kindle.
(Ruth Asawa at Crystal Bridges)
I'd never read any of Gunnar Staalesen's Varg Veum series, and I'm not quite certain what prompted me to read Where Roses Never Die, but I'll admit I enjoyed it immensely. Staalesen caught my attention with the opening sentence:
There are days in your life when you are barely present, and today was one of those."
Initially Veum seemed a bit of a cliché, the hard-boiled PI, lost in too much booze, but the character was well developed, thoughtful and engaging in his own gruff way. I love the way the plot circled back on itself like an ever-expanding web, tying seemingly disconnected and coincidental incidents into an oddly coherent plot, much the same way lies and secrets fold in on themselves and build tangled webs. The book proved to be more thoughtful, and thought provoking, than I anticipated, with a steady folding and unfolding of motivations, reactions and understandings, mostly on the part of our detective, but also on some of the other characters in the story and I will probably look up other books in the series. It is also an exploration of the way people can wrap themselves up in guilt, or grief or despair, isolating themselves from the world, but also from an understanding of the consequences of their own actions, that isolating effect being a prison of their own making, that both tortures and protects. Veum is an interesting narrator and detective in that he does not always successfully compartmentalize his investigation from his life and the unfolding web of his investigation slowly influences his own understanding of his own life and motivations. I like the way the ending reflected back on the beginning, bookending the tale, a tale that seems to begin in dissolution and ends with a promise of hope.
The choice was mine. The rest of my life was mine. All I had to do was choose."
Mom with her furry grandchildren: Tikka and Holly
Although I also had another, longer novel in progress, I was more inclined to dive into another short novel that made few demands. I was at my mom's and didn't really want to be drawn into a story from which I would resent extricating myself, so I started The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky, a book that had been on my kindle for a long time. It was a slow go at first, and I wondered what had attracted me to the novel in the first place. The prose is short and choppy, and often fairly flat of affect, but, as I was drawn more deeply into the story, I realized that the narrator is flat of affect, that she plays a passive role in her own life, letting life happen to her, not necessarily actively engaged in the act of living. She is hiding from the world, and to a great extent from herself. Through a series of circumstances, circumstances portrayed with a bit of magical realism, she begins to find herself, but only slowly. The novel definitely flirts with what is real and what is in the narrator's head, sometimes confusing the two, and often neither possibility is all that engaging. When the novel ends she is on the cusp of discovery, but has not yet walked through the door. There are moments when the language almost flirts with becoming more, but it hasn't yet transcended that choppiness. I think this is intentional on the part of the author, but I am not sure of her reasoning, am not sure if it serves a greater purpose, a comment not just on the flatness of Leah, our narrator, but of this entire world in which Leah lives. But then again, perhaps that transition out of short declarative, almost timeless and emotionless sentences is more indicative of my own yearnings than anything related to this story. I must admit that it is the language itself that has left me unsettled, more than the story, or are they intrinsically intertwined?
Chihuly in the forest
About this time I got a notice from the Knox County library that my number had come up on the waiting list for a currently popular crime novel, and so I downloaded it. That is one of the wonderful features of modern life, being able to carry a stack of books in a small device, being able to borrow a library book from one's local library anywhere in the world.
This was another book written in short, declarative sentences, but here the language made sense. The book was Michael Connelly's new novel, The Late Show and the matter-of fact, procedural language, fit the procedural nature of the story. This is a new series by Connelly, with a new police officer, Renee Ballard, who seems to me like an attempt to create a younger, female version of Harry Bosch. It was a decent procedural, and I was engaged enough in the story, but i have doubts as to whether Ballard will equal Bosch in maintaining my interest. But the book served its purpose, and as a mindless vacation read when I needed an escape from family, or as respite after a long day of driving through pouring rain, it was completely satisfying.
The big book that saw me through most of my trip was the second volume in George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, A Clash of Kings. I don't particularly have any problems with the genre, but I'm not sure that I ever would have read this if it weren't for the Game of Thrones series on TV. I've not watched Game of Thrones, not beyond an episode, but I am enjoying the book. The characters are complex and well drawn for the most part, there are some moments where I felt a few got short shrift in this second volume, and the plot is very politically sophisticated and astute. I probably like the slower pace of the books more than I would like the series, and I enjoy the ability to delve deeper into the thoughts and motivations of the characters that is offered through the pace of the book. The violence doesn't really bother me, at least not reading about it, although I do occasionally have to put the book aside, for various reasons. I'd be incredibly naïve to claim that there is anything in here that humans haven't done to each other in our not particularly pretty past (and probably not our present or future either), but I can't watch it on TV. I can read about unpleasant things, but I can't watch movies where people physically harm other people anymore. I'll probably continue reading the novels, but not quickly. The story is a part of our cultural lexicon, whether one likes it or not, the characters are strong and interesting, and Martin is a fairly astute observer of human behaviors and motivations. Although it is not of the caliber of lets say, Tolkein, and I've found no redeeming or uplifting messages or metaphors here, it is proving to be both an entertaining and often thought-provoking read.
And now comes the question of What Next? I'm currently reading a few non-fiction books, but am itching for another novel, perhaps one with a little more weight, something that will perhaps stretch me as a reader a little further. It has been years since I've tackled a Man Booker longlist, and I've already lost a month, so I doubt I will get them all read before the prize is announced, much less the shortlist, but the list seems like a good place to start.
What about you? Do you read novels? Have you tackled the longlist? Or do you prefer something that offers more of an easy escape? Do Tell.
Not many words today. Rather, I thought I'd share some photos from the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville Arkansas. Designed by Moshe Safdie, I found it interesting in its own right.
This was not my first trip to Bentonville, and yet I had come to a place in some ways completely different from the place I had seen before. That first Bentonville was a very small town, a town of less than 6,000, smaller even than my own hometown. There was no Crystal Bridges Museum, no Walmart, although there was Walton's 5 and 10, now the Walmart Visitor's Center. The town itself is worth exploring, with a lovely historic district, reminiscent of other old southern towns, but I don't remember it specifically and I did not take the time to explore. This may be my loss.
Ahh, things have changed, as they do.
I like the way the museum echoes the colors of the place. In some ways it is jarring and modern and opposed to my childhood memories. In others it is revealing of its environment, celebratory even.
The way it works with the landscape.
Notice how the screening both hides, but also reveals a subtle shading, a building of color upon color and a sense of place.
I didn't spend much time in the permanent collections. I could go back although I dont know if I ever will. As I mentioned previously, I reach my saturation point early with art, and need to step back. Even in a small museum, it can take me days to see and absorb. Notice the Chihuly chandeliers above. And the Sol LeWitt below.
The LeWitt faces the water, faces the view seen in the second photo above.
This last photo is looking out over the museum from the grounds, just before second part of the Chihuly exhibit, "in the Forest". I don't think the outside exhibit was my favorite, but perhaps I was already reaching my saturation point, perhaps I was too easily distracted by the museum itself. It was all certainly worth the detour.
I've been thinking about the pleasures of reading. In part this is simply because I have occasionally found myself curled up with a good book, the world receding from active thought. I don't have a boat or a pond or a lazy glade in which to read, but this painting by sergeant perfectly captures the mental escape provided by a good book. (photo taken at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art)
Which reminds me that I have been remiss in maintaining book lists, partly because keeping the list is not as fun as time spent reading, but also because I still struggle with the idea of even keeping a list, even though there is some aspect of my nature that can't relax into the next novel until I've caught up with my accounting. The fact is that keeping a list has proven useful, serving to remind me of when I read a book, perhaps even that I have read a book, at least before I get through it a second time wondering why it seems so familiar (see Rules of Civility).
Of course there are good reasons not to keep a list as well, especially when one does so in order to claim bragging rights. The point is never about what you've read, except inasmuch as what you have read, if you have read it well, becomes a part of who you are. I see already that the above statement is misleading as I've just said that what you read doesn't matter and in the same sentence stated that you become what you read. That may give me pause. There are many things I've read which I sincerely hope do not define me. Lucky this is not the case with the books I read in June.
Perhaps there is a purpose in writing a book post as well in that it forces me to think about the books I've read after the fact, when they are no longer forefront in my memory and my emotions are apt to be swayed. It also allows me to make a pretty collage. Well, at least the previous months' reading materials yielded pretty collages; June's collage is mostly brown. Did the colors of the book covers affect my thoughts on the reading? No, but it is interesting that my favorite book, Lincoln in the Bardo is blue.
Both of the two theology texts are required reading for EFM year 4. Since I will be taking EFM mentor training, and these book are on the schedule for the next cycle, I shall keep them. Of the two, Timothy Sedgewick's The Christian Moral Life is my favorite as it made me question my beliefs and think about the way I live my life in retrospect to the principles I profess to believe. My Neighbor's Faith is fairly light reading, and I did not find it either deeply theological or thought provoking, consisting as it did of brief personal stories. However, since one of the themes of year four, besides theology, is about deepening one's faith through interfaith dialogue, the book can be enlightening and perhaps even upsetting for those who do not have friends of different faiths or have not been inclined to engage others on matters of belief. Unfortunately I will have to buy a new copy of My Neighbor's Faith as Moisés peed on it as a very pointed protest at having been forced to move, and rather than dry it out and live with the urine-scented pages, I discarded the book. I know at least one person who does not believe that there is any valid reason for interfaith dialogue and who would applaud Moisés's actions. I however disagree.
As I look at this collage, it strikes me that three of the books, Lincoln in the Bardo, Mr. and Mrs. Doctor, and Unbroken, all deal, at least in part, with how people come to terms with change and stress and trauma in their lives, with grief and strength and fortitude, with creativity and passivity and their benefits and consequences. To some extent my reading of each was informed and influenced by my readings of the others. But only Lincoln in the Bardo remains on the list of books I will read again.
And David Foster Wallace? I'm glad I read the book; the essays were brilliant riffs, often entertaining, often far too personal, making them at times uncomfortable to read. It is not my favorite volume of his essays, yet my perspective on the author will never be the same.