Tag Archives: art

Vanitas

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Gysbrechts_Still_life_with_a_skull.jpg

Vanitas/Still Life with a Skull, one of several by Franciscus Gysbrechts, mid-to-late 1600’s.
Image from Wikimedia Commons: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Gysbrechts_Still_life_with_a_skull.jpg

I haven’t many of my own words, right now, which is why I haven’t been posting. What few words I do have are being channeled into fiction and a few friends and loved ones who are facing trouble and pain.

Three friends of a close friend of mine, all from the same family, were killed in a wreck. Serious illness and death have touched several people I love. There is death, illness, strain, pain, separation, abuse, stress, and frustration close at hand, and horrible violence, famine, illness, war and death not far distant.

In other words, everything is normal for the world.


It is easy to think, in relatively peaceful and prosperous countries, that we are safe, and in many ways, we are. It’s also easy to feel ashamed of that peace and safety, knowing so many do not have it. I keep asking myself what that shame means. Is it helpful or harmful, a tool or an attack? It shouldn’t mean that I want what little peace and prosperity there is, in the world, to vanish (or should it?) but that I do not want such things to be so isolated, so rare. Perhaps, so long as it makes me want to use what I have to help, then it is good, but if it paralyzes me with shame, it is evil.

But there is something to be learned about both peace and prosperity, for those who are in it: It is, in the end, no real protection. Pain and death will find us. If we delude ourselves into thinking otherwise, or in distracting ourselves until we forget, then we are in for a shock.

Different faiths have different perspectives on how this reality should be faced. In my own, Christianity, there are many different angles from which it is approached. There is no single answer, though some folks pretend that there is. There are no pat sayings that cover all angles, though some people like to pretend there are. There is, instead, a mosaic, with space between the tesserae.


Be careful what you say to pain. I have to remind myself of this. It’s too easy to forget, we are so desperate to say something, to help somehow, that we do damage. Better to be silent. After all, in silence the Spirit may have a chance to speak without all of our clutter. My mind is very cluttered… and I am certainly not silent, here. But then, what is this blog if not a place for me to vent? Maybe venting, here, will keep me from saying stupid things to someone anon.


The painting, above, is a vanitas, a reminder of mortality and of the ephemeral nature of earthly wealth, power, pleasure and wisdom. In this particular painting, the skull is wreathed in dried grass, a symbol of the brevity of life, and the hope of resurrection, as the grass dies every year, but returns every Spring. It is the only thing in the painting that is treated so. I think C. S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory points out one reason why.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

Growing up, especially while studying history and biology, I got a very different impression of the world. What is the life of a human, so brief and fragile, to the life of a nation, or the world, or the universe?

This is no answer to the question of pain and death, or at least, it is not a complete answer. But it does shift the perspective. If I believe that human’s are, in essence, immortal, then how I treat them becomes much more serious. The responsibility is immense. When we turn our backs on human suffering, we are turning our backs on the suffering of an eternal someone. In Weight of Glory, Lewis catches at a possible risk. A turnabout.

It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.

How this post rambles! I’m not sure there is a point, or at least not a clear or singular one. I keep coming back to the vanitas. Almost all is vanity, born from dust and to dust returning, but if there is something eternal in that dust, which I believe, then the one thing that is not vanity is the immortal. The pain in my fellows, the suffering, may be finite, but I do not think it is trivial.


While I Ruminate

There are several posts brewing in my brain. A couple focus on my experiences writing and my opinions on writing theory, one on my current theological study, my thoughts on the recent Tolkien Fanfiction film, and perhaps one on recent personal experiences.

None of them are ready for perusal, and so I plan to share a few random things and then bore you with my plant-nerd ravings. It is winter, here, and the coldest we have had in some time. In short, it is the time when gardeners dream.

But for those who are indifferent to plants, I will leave that until the end and offer you a few new links in my sidebar.

The humorous: From the makers of that Wolverine Music Video I posted, I give you Glove and Boots! If you need something light and silly, filled with puppets, and made for nerds (especially those spawned in the 80’s, like me), then you will want to spend some time watching.

Art: In the last post, I also linked a post about Joel Cooper’s Origami masks, but I failed to link his blog. It is filled with astounding!

For Writers: I’ve had the link to this rabbit-hole on my sidebar for a while, but one of my upcoming posts will focus on the subject of tropes and cliches, so it is worth pointing out. This is a very useful post for writers, storytellers, and story-lovers everywhere, but I warn you, it is highly addictive. Another useful link for writers and curious minds, a blog by someone in my own profession of Government Information Librarianship, is the Writer’s Guide to Government Information.

For Linguaphiles:  My fellow word geeks, I offer a link to the Online Etymology Dictionary and the Phrase Finder, which has more than just phrases.

For history and story-telling geeks, like me, there is a website (one among many) with collections of American folklore and stories. It is further broken down into sub-categories, and yes, it includes all of America, not just the United States of.

Do you like critters? What about photography? At work, I keep my desktop cycling through beautiful images, and I get a lot of them here, at the National Wildlife Foundation. A bit of plant nerdiness… If you like animals and want to help them survive the constant changes in our landscapes, consider turning your yard into a certified wildlife habitat. If that is too much for you to bite off, then you can still do little things, like keeping a clean bird-bath, adding some native plants (which do a better job of supporting wildlife than exotics) to your garden, or building a brush pile, which supplies both food and shelter for many.

Plant and story nerd combine: This is a book on the Folklore of Plants.  Fascinating stuff, at least to me.

Now I start talking about plants and gardening.

My interest in gardening (late to develop, even though my mother is a brilliant gardener) was born out of my fascination with my local ecology and the native plants it rests on. Thus my current obsession with the cooperative blogs Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens and Beautiful Wildlife Garden is no surprise.

This is what has me daydreaming.

You may or may not know that, apart from roofs and pavement, a lawn is one of the most barren areas created in our developments. It’s close-woven, often exotic, and is shorn to where it offers little food and no shelter to anything.

Basically, more lawn = fewer animals, arthropods, and birds. It’s a sad equation.

I’m not saying we should eliminate all lawns and cropped fields. I like playing on a lawn as much as the next girl, and my dog does, too. However, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t use much of my lawn, and that unused part could easily be turned into something prettier and more useful to critters.

So, this summer, I am going to start the process of eliminating my front lawn.

In order to prevent my neighbors from having a conniption, I have to keep things under some control. I am going to build a path and be very mindful of what I plant where. Both for beauty and wildlife-value, I need a succession of blooms. I want some things that look nice in winter, too. It’s easier on birds and bugs if I don’t cut down my plants for the winter, so things that look particularly messy are probably not the best choices.

I want mostly native plants, because my birds and beasts and bugs are adapted to them, but I have my favorite non-natives as well. Daffodils, cultivated iris, crocus, a peony and even a non-native morning-glory (there are native varieties).

I want to attract birds of various kinds, including hummingbirds (which, by the way, eat insects), and cedar waxwings. Also, I want to provide not only adult food, but larval food for various butterflies, moths and bees. I’m the sort of person who also loves spiders, snakes, lizards and other creepy-crawlies, so the more the better.

To this end, I have some things already planted. A southern wax myrtle, black-eyed susans, butterfly weed, false indigogoldenrod, Mistflower, and native honeysuckle among others.

My list of plants to acquire is long. I want more kinds of milkweed, for butterflies, yarrow, and most of all, yaupon hollies.

Hopefully, in a few years, I will have many more critters to see and enjoy in my yard, the good, the bad and the ugly. Then, I will turn my furious attention to my back yard, where I hope to install a small pond and a bat-box.

One more thing. If what I am talking about is all Greek to you, maybe this post will give you a little idea: Vivian’s Meadow.

I will now stop tormenting you with my musings. I hope you found something interesting in this post. Peace be yours!


New Blood

And as promised, I will now post some pictures of my more recent masks. These range from around 7 years old, to a few weeks. Most of my work lately has been in clay, but I am contemplating some more mixed-media creations, especially a new shell-mask a friend has commissioned me to make for her house.

Bandit1

I wanted something with horns. The picture is a little tilted. I may try to correct that when I have time.

I wanted something with horns. The picture is a little tilted. I may try to correct that when I have time.

My newest shell mask. The starfish is a metal broach.

My newest shell mask. The starfish is a metal broach.

One of my favorite of my newest masks. I may have to keep her. Clay, glass and copper leaf.

One of my favorite of my newest masks. I may have to keep her. Clay, glass and copper leaf.

I had square glass beads.

I had square glass beads.

The second shell mask I ever made, intended to be more masculine than the first one.

The second shell mask I ever made, intended to be more masculine than the first one.

this one is wearable, and I once scared some trick-or-treaters with it. The one who didn't run got the most candy.

this one is wearable, and I once scared some trick-or-treaters with it. The one who didn’t run got the most candy.

Papier mâché, grass, persimmon caps, moss and glass.

Papier mâché, grass, persimmon caps, moss and glass.

One of my mother's favorites, though I have never quite been satisfied with it.

One of my mother’s favorites, though I have never quite been satisfied with it.

This one is a memorial to a tree of mine that had to be cut down.

This one is a memorial to a tree of mine that had to be cut down.

An early mask, though obviously not one of the original set.

An early mask, though obviously not one of the original set.

My parents brought me home a horseshoe crab shell. It makes a fragile but impressive mask.

My parents brought me home a horseshoe crab shell. It makes a fragile but impressive mask.

Lattice clay work, nail-polish and Siberian Iris leaves.

Lattice clay work, nail-polish and Siberian Iris leaves.

This present for a friend was a long time in coming. Sometimes it takes me a while to find a mask that I think will really please someone.

This present for a friend was a long time in coming. Sometimes it takes me a while to find a mask that I think will really please someone.

Ah, blue oni. I made this one out of clay, all for the fangs.

Ah, blue oni. I made this one out of clay, all for the fangs.

One of my more creepy creations, made from papier mâché, lily leaves, gold paper and a lion pendant.

One of my more creepy creations, made from papier mâché, lily leaves, gold paper and a lion pendant.

Created to celebrate the wedding of a friend.

Created to celebrate the wedding of a friend.


The Old Guard

Well, I know it took longer than I expected, but I am back now!

Two days ago, I experienced the craziest day of my life. For one thing, I went into surgery to remove what remained of my cancer. That would have been a big day by itself.

However, I woke up after my surgery to learn that I had become an aunt. I won’t go into great detail, but my sister-in-law had to have an emergency c-section. She and baby are fine, though the latter will be in intensive care for a while.  Wonderful, bizarre, crazy day.

And now, I promised you all masks when I returned to this blog. I will keep my promise with two whole posts. Here I will give you the rest (some are in my first mask post) of the original set of fourteen I made in college. In the next post, I will display my more recent creations.

Enjoy!

The first mask I ever made. It was so fun, I couldn't stop.

The first mask I ever made. It was so fun, I couldn’t stop.

The second mask I ever made, and the most time-consuming.

The second mask I ever made, and the most time-consuming.

I was never quite satisfied with this one, but it is interesting.

I was never quite satisfied with this one, but it is interesting.

My father's favorite of the original set.

My father’s favorite of the original set.

A detail shot of my father's favorite.

A detail shot of my father’s favorite.

Pine bark and needles. My poor sister-in-law got poison ivy while helping me collect the bark.

Pine bark and needles. My poor sister-in-law got poison ivy while helping me collect the bark.

This one was made by taking an impression of cherry-tree bark.

This one was made by taking an impression of cherry-tree bark.

A detail shot of the cherry tree mask.

A detail shot of the cherry tree mask.

The Muri Kai

The Muri Kai

The skull-mask above comes with a story. I made it as a release for anger, and as a statement. Shortly before creating the Muri Kai, I learned that cosmetics companies had been (and presumably still are) going into impoverished places all over the world and convincing people to buy their products. Forget having enough money for shoes, you need lipstick!

This one is made from pinecones, grass, pollen, lily-leaves and maple-tree whirlygigs.

This one is made from pine cones, grass, pollen, lily-leaves and maple-tree whirlygigs.

My brother's favorite, made from terracotta.

My brother’s favorite, made from terracotta.

My favorite of the bunch.

My favorite of the bunch.

A detail shot of my favorite catching the light.

A detail shot of my favorite catching the light.

Last but not least, the bur oak mask, made from an impression of oak bark and newly fallen leaves.

Last but not least, the bur oak mask, made from an impression of oak bark and newly fallen leaves.

And there you have the old guard. Tomorrow, I hope, I will post pictures of my more recent creations.

Glad to be back! I look forward to catching up on your blogs!


Decade

I am not good at record-keeping. That statement will make family and friends laugh because it is a huge understatement. Because of this, I am not sure what year the following image was taken. I know I was in college, and it was before my senior year, which means I was between 20 and 23. I will make a wild guess and say 21.

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

I loathe pictures of myself. For every one that looks like me, there are fifty in which I look like someone else or like a marshmallow with hair. No one in my immediate family is photogenic, though my father is better than the rest of us. The only reason this picture exists is because a professor required it. I was taking a basic photography class, and in his wisdom our prof required us to have at least one self-portrait per roll of film.

Yes. Film. That camera in my hands? That’s my baby. I haven’t used it in too long, something I intend to remedy, but it gives me a feeling of control I have never felt from using a digital camera. The image was taken with silver film, developed and printed by me.

So, why am I posting this? I turned 31 in February, marking around a decade since this picture was taken. This got me to thinking about the passage of time and what that means, and made me want to take another picture of myself now. And so I did. This time I used my father’s digital Nikon. I dressed, as closely as I could, in the same way. Here is the image in black and white, for comparison, and in color as it was originally.

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

The shirt in the first picture has gone through a metamorphosis. It is now part of a quilted prayer-rug a good friend made for me.

The moonstone necklace around my neck now has a crack from side to side. Why? It was run over by a car on a gravel road in the Smoky Mountains.

The coat. Ah, the coat. That is my magic coat. It belonged to my father, and he gave it to me when I was in high-school. It is never too warm, but always warm enough, even when I was in Salzburg, Austria, on a snowy New Years Eve and someone poured vodka all over me. All that has changed about it, since the first picture, is that my cat, Geoffrey, managed to bite all the way through one sleeve. It’s thick leather, too, which makes me wonder about the strength of Geoffrey’s jaw.

The ring on my finger in the first image, though identical to the one in the other two, is not the same ring. The one I currently have is, if I am counting right, number 3. The first one was lost whilst gardening, and has never been found. The second one split, my active hands being tough on silver. The third, though scratched, is in good shape.

And then, of course, there is me. The creases between my eyes are deeper, but I had that long before I turned 21. The eyebrows drawn together in thought is an expression everyone who has met me will recognize. We even have pictures of baby-me with that expression.

I had glasses at 21, too, but I must have been experimenting with contacts when I took the first image. Contacts and I don’t get along. The rings, evident in all the pictures, have left a good callous on my hand. I worry, with the surgery ahead of me, that I will no longer be allowed to wear the ring on my right.

There is silver in my hair now! Just a few strands, so far. I like them.

I am a happier person now, than I was then. Depression has been my shadow for a long, long time, but it used to jerk me around a lot more. Time has softened that cycle, at least for now. I’ve grown and changed in thoughts, in faith, in experience. I still have respect for that 21-year-old who was me. She had come a long way from the 11-year-old me. Though I have changed a lot, she and I still have the same foundation, and pretty much the same orientation in the world. The biggest difference is what I have learned about myself and about the world that she did not know.

Most of all, I am struck by the complete strangeness and unpredictability of life. I mean, shirt-to-prayer-rug? Necklace run over by a car? And finding myself fighting cancer is far from the strangest thing that has happened between then and now.

My strongest feeling as I look at these images and think about the time in between?

It’s not nostalgia, or regret, or triumph. It’s simply awe. Awe that I have been alive for ten years since that time, and that so much has happened and not happened.


Khazâd Part III: Creation

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Ever since I was a child the three dimensions, our perception of them, and our ability to change things within them have fascinated me. Texture, shape, matter, color, shadow, highlight, space, distance! And that is only where the realm of the physical touches two of our five senses.

Stop. Right now.

Wipe your mind of all that you take for granted and try to understand how bizarre and wondrous the material world really is. Consider the possibility that nothing has to be, yet here it is. Think about the space between you and the nearest object and try to feel how strange your perception of that space, and that object would be if your senses had only been awakened this moment.

If you haven’t tried this before, it may be hard at first. We’ve been swimming in the physical from our earliest memories. We are so used to this that anything else would seem strange and exciting to us, but we are capable of realizing how awe-inspiring this world is.

Think about the things you see every day. Your bed, a blanket, a cup of water, a tree with texture so meticulously detailed that it stretches from a forest to the atoms of its inmost ring. Your own body, even with its flaws, so knit together that you live and move, with cells constantly dying and being reborn. How shadows change a surface, and light can make things glow.

Photo by Jubilare. Often it is the simple things that awe.

Photo by Jubilare. Often it is the simple things that awe.

If you think about this too long and too deeply, it can overwhelm you.

It’s best to find a balance where you neither take the physical for granted, nor allow yourself to be overcome by the incomprehensible vastness and detail of it all. I think it is good for us to pause and run our hand over a desk, or breathe in winter air, taking time to feel, taste, smell. So many gifts are wasted on us when we don’t pay attention.

You may be wondering what this has to do with J. R. R. Tolkien’s Dwarves.

I think (and yes, I may be projecting) that the Dwarves, in general, share my instinctual wonder of the world. Tolkien’s words suggest a people who, while rugged and shielded in other regards, are hyper-sensitive when it comes to the properties and beauties of the inanimate part of Arda. Even though they lack my passion for trees and plants, they appreciate them enough to use them as common themes in their works.

From the outside, fascination with the material can look a lot like materialism. Now, some Dwarves from Tolkien’s writing are avaricious and materialistic. There is no denying that. After all, love of matter can become materialism if taken too far. But I believe there is a pure and healthy love of the physical that is not possessive, or hedonistic, or materialistic, and I believe that love is an underlying theme in the character of the Khazâd.

My theory is supported by one of the Dwarves’ most well-known traits.  It is a short step from loving creation, to wishing to create. I find myself compelled, through my awe of matter, to shape small pieces of my world. This is why I identify so strongly with the Dwarven love of craftsmanship.

In the Silmarillion it is clear Aulë and Melkor have a great measure of Eru’s creative spirit.  In Melkor’s case, that spirit becomes grasping and possessive, but Aulë remains free and generous. Even in his clandestine making of the Dwarves his actions stem from a desire to share the wonders of Arda, his knowledge, and joy in existence.

Whether the creative nature of the Dwarves comes from Aulë or from the spirits bestowed on them by Eru, there is no doubt that they posses it. Throughout Tolkien’s work we see the intense and sensitive appreciation for beauty in the Dwarves. None of the other industrial or quasi-industrial races have this eye for beauty or the smoldering desire to carefully enhance it.

Ultimately, the Dwarves are lovers of nature and that love manifests in their works. Many of their number even abandon all other pursuits, devoting themselves to their craft with monk-like singleness of mind.  They are industrious, both from a practical standpoint and from a creative one. It boggles my mind that this focused creativity is sometimes perceived as prosaic and even dull. But then I suppose the makers of illuminated manuscripts of ages past are sometimes seen in a similar light by modern society. Have we lost some of our ability to appreciate that kind of focus?

In my recent delving into Tolkien’s work, I kept a record of the objects and places shaped by the Dwarves. I have chosen a few to mention. Some you may know. Some might surprise you.

Angrist: the knife Beren used to cut a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown

Narsil: Sword of the Númenórean kings, broken in cutting the One Ring from Sauron’s hand,  later to become Andúril

Menegroth:  a cooperative effort of Dwarves and Elves

The pillars of Meneroth were hewn in the likeness of the beeches of Oromë, stock, bough and leaf, and they were lit with lanterns of gold. The nightingales sang there as in the gardens of Lórien; and there were fountains of silver, and basins of marble, and floors of many-coloured stones. Carven figures of beasts and birds there ran upon the walls, or climbed upon the pillars, or peered among the branches entwined with many flowers. – Quenta Silmarilion, Chapter 10

Nauglamír:

It was a carcanet of gold, and set therin were gems uncounted from Valinor; but it had a power within it so that it rested lightly on its wearer as a strand of flax, and whatsoever neck it clasped it sat always with grace and loveliness.  – Quenta Silmarilion, Chapter 13

Dale:

You should see  the waterways of Dale, Frodo, and the fountains, and the pools! You should see the stone-paved roads of many colours! And the halls and cavernous streets under the earth with arches carved like trees; and the terraces and towers upon the Mountain’s sides!  -Many Meetings, The Fellowship of the Ring

And that is just a smattering. Pay attention as you read and you will find more. I would love to step into these stories, if only briefly, to see and perhaps touch some of the marvels Tolkien imagined.

Last, and perhaps most telling of the hearts and minds of the Khazâd, I mention their own idea of what lies in store for them.  According to the Silmarillion, they believe that when Arda is remade they will work side by side with Aulë in the reshaping of the world. Imagine the beauty and wonder, care, imagination, focus, and labor involved in such a feat. I am glad Tolkien included such a beautiful legend in his tales of Middle Earth.

We are near the end of my ramblings on this subject. I will have worn it, and myself out, I think, but hopefully I will have achieved my goal. One post left.

For the rest of the series, look here:
Of the Free Peoples of Arda
Contrariwise
Khazâd Part I: Aulë
Khazâd Part II: The Deep Places of the World
Khazâd Part IV: The Road Goes On

Photo by Jubilare. Water showing how to carve a rock.

Photo by Jubilare. Water showing how to carve a rock.


Ottawa

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

This is my catch-all post for the rest of our time in Ottawa. I will jump around quite a bit.

And no, Germany hasn’t annexed Canada. Our trip happened to coincide with a visit from Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The above horses and Shelob’s fascinatingly deformed little sister below are outside of the National Gallery of Canada.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

My friend and I pre-ordered tickets to view the Vincent van Gogh exhibit there, which was beautiful. The paintings were mostly landscapes and nature-studies, and as usual I had to clasp my fingers behind my back.  Vincent’s painting style makes me want to touch it the surface, but I also don’t want to get arrested, so…

There are, naturally, no pictures of the inside of the museum. We also saw a contemporary Inuit art exhibit including a beautifully hand-carved set of antlers.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

We visited the R.C.M.P. musical ride center, and got to see some of the horses! This is probably more exciting for me than for you.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

I apologize for the wretched quality of the following pictures. As I have said before, I need to figure out my camera’s settings. All of my training was with film cameras. Digital cameras intimidate me.

Anyway, this is the hostel where we stayed in Ottawa. It is an old jail. We took a tour to learn about the jail’s history. It is home to the last functioning (though long-since disused) gallows in Canada. The cells, in their original state are just long and wide enough for someone to stand or lay down. The conditions must have been horrible, and the experience for me was both sobering and fascinating.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

We were in “cell 5” on the 2nd from the ground floor. Walls between the two neighboring cells have been mostly removed, so we were in three-times the space of the original prisoners.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

And we go from jails to cats. I told you I would jump around. So, there is a cat sanctuary beside Parliament. I have no idea why. The kitty below was very friendly. The kitty above didn’t think much of us, though. We do tend to look suspicious and we had no tuna.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

And finally, the below picture represents a tradition my friend had from her previous sojourns into Canada. She counts her trips to Tim Hortons. I must say that I like this chain. Their coffee is reasonably priced and better tasting than Starbucks, they have decent tea (Starbucks, your tea is HORRIBLE, just fyi) and fantastic donuts. On the whole, it is probably better for me if we don’t get a Tim Hortons in my home town. I already have to resist the Donut Den.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

One more post and I will be finished inflicting my travels on you.


Packing lightly?

Book Meme 2012

Week 10: Books that I would bring if the world was going to be destroyed by aliens/cylons and we had to restart civilization as we know it. (ie: the basis of human knowledge and thought and civilization.)

Oh my.

The only way I can psych myself into answering this question is by assuming that everyone is going to bring books, and that what I am able to bring will only be the tip of the iceberg. Logically, I know that books are not a top priority for everyone packing for the apocalypse, but I this is speculative, so I can dream. Let us assume that everyone will bring the books they consider most fundamental to society. That takes a little pressure off. That said, I am still a librarian. This question is HARD!

I will categorize the books I take.  Some of these categories are dependent on the type of apocalypse we are facing. The cylon/alien world destruction assumes the loss of Earth (or the 12 colonies), but this is not the only way society might collapse. Thus my first category of books is dependent on their still being a world, but not a civilization.

.

Survival:

Obviously one cannot rebuild society if one is dead. Therefore my primary concern with these books is surviving. If we are all on a handful of jump-capable space ships I might still have a hard time leaving these behind, but they would not be necessary, to my mind, for the rebirth of civilization.

Camping and Woodcraft by Horace Kephart
There is a reason that this book is still available and still read by campers 106 years after its original publication. If I had to survive in the wild and on the move, this would be my manual of choice.

The Forager’s Harvest: a Guide to Identifying, Harvesting and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer
This is the best guide to wild foods I have found, and I thank my mother for giving it to me one Christmas!

I would also include a medical manual of some kind, but looking in my collection, I have none, and I am going to limit myself to my own collection because A: it is simpler and B: if I am going to stuff books in a backpack I need to actually have the books.

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General Knowledge:

Science Textbook:
I have to cheat a little for this one because my old textbooks, if we still have them, are in my parent’s attic. Also, they are quite heavy. I would have to look through them and decide which would be best, and I have not done so. But a science textbook would be high on my list of priorities. Even if I could just preserve the basic principles of scientific theory I would be glad. Observation, investigation and logical reasoning are, I believe, fundamental to the growth of society and I would not want to be without them.

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Religion:

The Holy Bible:
As one might expect, the sacred text of my faith would be the first book packed. Which copy is difficult to choose. If size was not an issue, my first choice would be my 4-in-one comparative copy, but it is very large. My small New International Version is my favorite sword, lightweight and easy to handle, but then again my old, ragged study NIV has served me very well. For the sake of argument, I will go with the smallest.

Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis
I am, by nature, a skeptic. I prod things, test them, reason them through, and I am leery of trusting too much. From what I can tell, Lewis was much the same kind of person. If I am to help rebuild civilization, I must start from what I know, and this book tends to speak to people such as me.

Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesteton
This is a relatively new discovery for me, but my copy is compact, and enlightening.  I think I would pack it. I have some issues with Chesterton, and with Lewis as well, but where Mere Christianity appeals to my logical mind, Orthodoxy appeals to my abstract mind. The two together cover a lot of thought-territory.

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Mythology:

More than anything, human communities thrive on stories. Our myths help us to understand concepts that are otherwise difficult to express. They are, I believe, the nearest words can come to soul-to-soul communication. I cannot conceive the rebuilding of society without stories, and it would be best to carry some along to remind us how important they are. I will list the myths I would carry with me in order of importance. The most important are those supposedly designed for children because, in truth, they are the ones designed for everyone and often their essence is more fundamental than the complexities created for adults.

The Princess and the Goblin and the Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald
Thankfully, I have a copy of this with the two books in one small paperback. These stories are true fairy-tales, filled with magic, danger, courage, friendship and beauty. Much of what I am I owe to these stories, and if I were to assist in reviving civilization, I would be reading them to children and adults alike.

The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
These tales represent the heart of folklore in western civilization, both good and bad, and I would not be without them. I would have to take the stories one by one to talk about why, but the variety of stories contained herein offer a wealth of fodder for communication.

Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis
Anyone who knows me well could have predicted this choice. I consider this a powerful myth dealing with the nature and the state of humanity. It is not a children’s story, but adults need stories as well, and I could not bear to allow this one to pass away.

Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Oh Tolkien… why oh why? This author might break my backpack. Of all mythologies I have encountered, his is the one I would most desire to take with me. The problem is that I want to take it all, and that may prove the end of my backpack. My three thick paperbacks might be the lightest way to carry this book, but even so it is probably pushing the limit, but I could not bear to be without it, at least until I collapse under the weight. The themes of this book are the reason it comes before its companions. The relationships and struggles contained therein speak to their own value and their rightful place in the mythologies of Earth.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
My second Tolkien is chosen for its accessibility and the joy contained in its pages. This is another book born for all ages, which makes it versatile.

The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
And this is the hard mythology behind the mythology. Stories that are indicative of people’s struggles and the flow of the world can be found within this book for those who have the patience to read, and I assume that people struggling to remake themselves would find a need for and an interest in the tales of this kind. I know I would.

The Languages of Tolkien’s Middle Earth by Ruth S. Noel
This one is small for all that it adds to the reading of the above three.

The Classic 100, edited by William Harmon
I cannot forget poetry. By this time my backpack is bursting and there is no room for food, but to lose all of this art… I cannot leave it! I will wedge this one in an outside pocket, a remnant of an art that may yet be revived. For the rest, I must trust my memory, as best I can.

That is 16 books if I include LOTR as three volumes. Heaven knows how many pounds!

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Books I would love to take, but can’t:

Gardner’s Art Through the Ages
This is a textbook on art history. I would love to drag it everywhere with me, but sadly it is also massive. I carried it for three semesters in college, and I can attest to its ability to slow a person down. Unless someone invents a Bag of Holding or an Undetectable Extension Charm, I am out of luck.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
I have this in a reasonably small form. I may get a lot of flack for not including it in my theoretical backpack, but this is why: while I have been fairly fluent in Shakespearean English from a young age, I know that the language is a barrier for many people. If I am intent on rebuilding civilization, I need that which is most accessible, else the chances are it will not survive past my life. Perhaps I am wrong, but would I risk it for valuable backpack slots? Alas, I would not.

There are hundreds of others. Such a wrench! May I never have to make this choice for real!

That… that is it! I did it! I made it all the way through a meme on time! …it will probably be a long time before I try this again, but I feel accomplished!

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


Need

It has been nearly a year since I created a mask.   I only realized this recently when the hunger to do so came on me suddenly.  There has been too much going on in life for me to stop and look around for the faces hidden about me.  My dusty supplies, and my clay which has mold on it (yuck!) make my hands itch to create.

I have taken steps.  My clay class begins this coming Monday.  By this time, for me, the class serves more as studio time than a normal class.  It makes me take a couple of hours in the evening to work, and it lets me join with other people to fill and fire the kilns.  I want to do other work as well, though.  The hardest question is, what do first? There are a few masks waiting to be finished, and they have my attention, but after that?

There are a myriad of shells in wait. Then again, I have done four shell masks already.

I have a few boxes of found-objects, from bones to keys. These things produce surprising results, and I have a mess of ideas.  I look over my work to date, and there are some things I want to try again.  There are things I think I could do better, or just differently.  I have never worked with leather or wood, and both are things I would like to try.

Deciding seems impossible, I may just have to flip a coin, or ten coins, or twenty… but the point is, it’s time to see faces again.

Then comes the harder question of what to do with these masks once I make them. Oy…


All About the Tuning

How does this make you feel? :)

Time for rambling on an extended metaphor.

George MacDonald once wrote: “If there be music in my reader, I would gladly wake it.”

He has stirred my soul to music many times, yet I know, for some, he only strikes a discord. Does this mean they have no music in them?

I think not. It is all about the tuning.

I came to this metaphor while driving one night and I have been turning it over in my mind ever since. The existence of the phrase “strike a chord” tells me that I’m only now catching on to a very old idea. I wonder if the thought occurred to the first human ever to play an instrument.

Literature, music, art, and people are often associated with melody and discord in the soul, but I think every experience plays on us. Places, smells, colors, and noises in nature and the world around us create “sound” in this way.

Unlike instruments, however, humans are not passive in this process. It is here that the metaphor breaks down, though not completely.

It would be senseless to argue that I can only react a certain way to something because of my predisposition. I don’t simply mean changing my mind, as that can be subconscious, a change in circumstances which changes my tuning (and my tuning changes ceaselessly).  I am speaking of awareness of my reactions. The music or discord retains its instinctual nature, but it does not have to rule me.

Why does the scent of reindeer lichen stir my soul to depths of joy? Why does the sight of corrugated steel make me a little ill? The reasons, or even understanding that there are reasons, give me power to explore my own feelings and avoid being judgmental when the feelings of others contradict my own. This also allows me to hold an opinion that is not based on my feelings. This kind of understanding seems to be missing from many political arenas and social conversations. I am not a relativist, but I do believe that attempting to understand the “other” point of view is vital for civilized discourse.

How this ties into storytelling:

What resonates with people in a story has an instinctual quality. The persistence of cliches, archetypes and tropes is a symptom of this. Tropes would not exist if they did not play certain chords on a segment of people and this makes them handy tools in storytelling, but tools that require careful use. But that is a post for another time. :)

Details, description, and theme are also powerful influences on a reader. My personal philosophy of writing, at present, demands that I balance effect on the audience with my own preferences, while the integrity of the story itself trumps both. I have very little control over  what chords I strike in an individual, as authors I read have little control over my reactions to their work. That is something that every writer should accept for the sake of sanity. No matter how good a job we do in writing, some people are not going to like what we create.

In speaking with the inspiring blogger BeKindRewrite, I realized that the musical metaphor has some bearing on my reaction to beloved books turned into films. I have discovered that the key, for me, is tone. One cannot expect a film and a book to strike exactly the same chords in a person. However, differing details between the works may be acceptable if the tone of the film is similar to that of the book.

Examples:

“Lord of the Rings” trilogy: Peter Jackson’s film interpretation of the story differs from the books in many respects. He changes characters, plot devices, and lines, sometimes to good effect and sometime to bad. So why do I like the films as an interpretation of the novels? I resonate in much the same way when I read one of Tolkien’s sweeping scenes and when Jackson pans in on Meadowseld with the strings-heavy Rohan theme playing. The same is true of the new “Tintin” movie, the “Princess Bride,” and the 1995 film “Persuasion.”

Then there are the films that strike a very different chord in me from the books on which they are based. It does not follow that they are bad films or that I dislike them (though some I dislike very much). Examples of this include the new “Sherlock Holmes” films, the 2005 “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” the 2005 “Pride and Prejudice,” and horror of horrors, the 1978 “Watership Down.”

I have rambled all over the place with this idea, and could ramble still more, but I think I should draw to a close. I have come to a two-fold conclusion in this exploration:

1. An awareness of the music and discord within us all can make me more tolerant of the opinions of others. I may still have views regarding the quality of an artistic work, but I can easily accept and respect the fact that what makes music in one person, may make dissonance in another without the need to devalue the opinion of one.

2. To anyone who transfers a work from one art form into another: Heed the tone. If you can get that right, you are more than halfway to your goal.


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