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Monday, June 17, 2013

Thoughts, Life -- Brief, Ephemeral


Bulletin board reader in bookcase window reflection

I’ll start today by transcribing a few lines written on Sunday afternoon:

Sunday, 16 June 2013:

Writing with pen on slightly porous paper of a yellow legal pad is a meditative practice. The letters are not preformed but flow from the pen guided by movements of my hand. This is the way I compose letters to friends.

‘Way’ is a friendly word, bucolic and summery, its sound and associations nothing like those attached to the word ‘method.’ The latter, analytical in tone, suggests procedure, perhaps scientific procedure in a laboratory, the former a rambling country path bordered by wildflowers, perhaps also a low stone wall and grazing cattle or sheep beyond. ‘Method’ constrains, ‘way’ invites.

My yellow paper and black pen invite discursive thoughts. They also invite lists. Or poems. – Or at least fragments and phrases that give hope of turning into poems.

The poet who was at the bookstore on Friday last held the small assembly enthralled. If I could go back in time, I would have a camera person and equipment there to capture the entire presentation and conversation. One attendee, himself an accomplished poet, took copious notes. Is there any chance, I wonder, that he would write up his notes for me? Because I can’t remember – what exactly did Mary Ann Samyn give as the reason she forbids her students rhyme in their work? I remember the sense but not the clear, succinct, one-sentence expression she used.

Novels and book-length nonfiction still reel me in on a regular basis, but something about June turns me oftener to poetry and short stories. These forms successfully realized –

Here the lines stop, the thought unfinished, the moment past.

When two poet friends came all the way from Eastport – we have no ferry across Grand Traverse Bay, so they had to drive south and through Traverse City and then back up along the shore to Northport – I was struck once again with the generosity of writers in supporting other writers and supporting bookstores. This was in addition to the generosity of guest poet Mary Ann Samyn in giving her time, attention, encouragement, and insights to a roomful of strangers. It is the greatest privilege of my bookseller life, meeting these lovely people. I only wish more bookstore friends, especially my writer friends, could have been with us.

Dog Ears Books is not the only Leelanau entity celebrating a 20-year anniversary in 2013. After a last round of thanks and good-byes on Waukazoo Street, David and I made our way up to the NCAC (Northport Community Arts Center) for the 20th anniversary concert of the Leelanau Children’s Choir and Leelanau Youth Ensemble. When director Margaret Bell first started this group, she had fewer than a dozen young singers – and only a single boy in the ensemble. I only took this one shot of the younger group onstage – I was there to enjoy and celebrate, not to document – but other numbers crowded the stage with all ages, in more fantastic costumes, and the singing was simply wonderful. “I enjoyed every minute,” David said afterward. What a gift to the community Margaret Bell has given all these years! She, being Margaret, gives all the credit to the students, their parents, their accompanist, the board, costumers, and everyone else who contributes to the success of the productions. And it’s true that many people play a part.

It was a long day, and then Mary Ann was gone, and the concert was over. Two events long awaited, slipped from future to brief, shining present to past.

Iris are blooming in gardens. In meadows it is the time of composite flowers – daisies, hawkweed, goat’s-beard and such. Baby birds are leaving the nests. Non-native but beautiful black locust is in bloom, right now, today, but only for a brief time.



Last night, as what I like to call “our intrepid Ulysses group” celebrated Bloomsday, orioles fluttered around the hummingbird feeder just outside the window. Near the end of our discussion of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, someone made the point that James Joyce, in choosing the name Dedalus for his protagonist and in addressing the mythic Dedalus at the end of the book, has chosen a new father for himself and announced his ambition to soar. We all know what happened in the myth -- Icarus flew too high, too near the sun, with his fabricated wings; the wax melted, and he fell to earth. 



The myth of Icarus is almost always taken as a metaphor for overweening ambition, but it struck me for the first time as I listened that -- well, perhaps I can make it an Aristotelian point. Many things for Aristotle, actions or even emotions, are not right or wrong except in context. And so perhaps Icarus was not wrong in being ambitious but wrong in what he wanted to achieve. And maybe what was wrong was his wanting to leave the earth. Our home, our only home, I thought as I watched the orioles. It is so lovely here!

Life is short, and we like to say that art is long. How long will be the life of the earth? No matter. We’re here now. We’re here now. We're here now.


5 comments:

fleda Brown said...

This is a beautiful entry, Barbara, and as always, gorgeous photos. Thanks for keeping on keeping on.
Fleda

P. J. Grath said...

I'll take the compliment, Fleda, and not mind being called Barbara. :)

Dawn said...

Sounds as though you've had a wonderful few days too. Isn't it wonderful when days unfold like this?

Kathy said...

Enjoyed reading this very much, Pamela. Your days sound magical. It's a gift when we can perceive them unfolding like this. Hope you are having a nice weekend! Ephemeral or otherwise.

P. J. Grath said...

“Weekend” is an abstract concept for us in summer, rather than anything we experience directly, but we seize opportunities where we can. An evening drive combined with business, breakfast together before another day of work, standing in the backyard to watch the "super moon" rise over the meadow, Most mornings I have a magical hour in the woods with Sarah, too. For a few moments sometimes, time seems to stand still. Then it rushes on -- .