Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Stuck in the middle

Coming home from Austin TX I had a 3 1/2 hour layover in Atlanta. Post-Christmas Day 2009 that seems like not such a big deal. Restaurant opportunities in airports have improved greatly since 9/11, and we expect that in the future, as we arrive 4 hours in advance of flights, we’ll have time for 10 course French dining. But to return to my layover, as I finally settled down at the gate, the expanse of windows on the opposite wall gave onto the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen. The entire sky glowed red-orange, and silhouetted in the foreground, prehistoric shapes moved, the blackened tails of Delta’s jetliners.

On the Atlanta-Portland leg of my journey, travelers were reading books. Not Kindles, but bonafide tree-derived books. As a portable means of entertainment, books still have cachet. You can hold them, you can write in them, you can loan them to friends. They are so much more portable than the stone tablets that were once in vogue. As someone who has been plagued by eyestrain since college, I have avoided small electronic screens, and yet, the fun of Bakugan and manga lead me to believe that VOOKS may be the now big thing. If you’re not familiar with VOOKS you can learn more by clicking on VOOKS. Download them for your iPhone or the web, get fit in 90 seconds, cook Japanese and reinvent beauty, in multisensory experiences that work in the same way dreams do, leading you from one strange landscape to another.

Back to that strange landscape out the airport window – among all the waiting travellers, there was only one (besides me) who paid any attention to the sunset at all, and even the fact that he went to the window and photographed it was not enough to cause the people around him to look up.

Monday, December 07, 2009

To Plant a Tree

To plant a tree in rocky soil, every day dig the hole a little wider, a little deeper. For a small person with just a spade and a limited amount of time to spend each day, there’s no way to do it all at once. What kind of tree should it be? A big branchy tree like an oak or an elm, a tree for the ages. The metaphors for art and life are obvious.

Come inside, look at the books and magazines on the table and floor, and write down the titles of those on the tops of the piles. The Wild Braid, The Lightning Field, L’Homme nu, The Language Instinct, Modern Painters, Bulgaria, Art on Paper, Manzoni (with an image of himself thumbing his nose at the world), The Immense Journey, The Doctrine of Recognition. Pretty representative: a naked human standing in a field of lightning rods trying to communicate with other humans, hopeful but with an attitude.

Now pull out one of these books, Stanley Kunitz’s The Wild Braid and open it to a random quote. “I associate the garden with the whole experience of being alive, and so, there is nothing in the range of human experience that is separate from what the garden can signify in its eagerness and its insistence, and in its driving energy to live – to grow, to bear fruit.”

Oak tree courtesy of the website it's nature.