Friday, January 31, 2014

Sonnet #19: In fog, despair

The fog glides in to wrap the trees in shrouds;
the tips of all their branches disappear,
and those we still can see are wreathed in clouds
like smokers, lonely in a bar, nursing their beer.

This weather's not for lovers: it's too grim.
Just those alone, forsaken and forlorn
find comfort here, where foghorns sing their hymns
of loss and warning, of longing for a home.

So wise they were, the ones who designed this park,
this curving walk that leads us to the sea:
they must have known despair has a similar arc --
first down, then briefly up, and then, quite solemnly

it leads us to that edge where we must decide 
to rejoin the living, or follow those who've died...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sonnet #18: Hunter/Gatherer

We humans have two drives: to know, or love.
One gathers knowledge -- a passive receptivity --
while the other hunts with passion, dreaming of
procuring that for which they've a proclivity.

The hunter's motivation? Dissatisfaction,
a hunger, or a longing for love denied.
The knower's quest has far less need for action,
that search is much more simply satisfied.

The hunter's propelled forward by ambition;
the gatherer, storing up that which has passed,
provides the base and fuels the ammunition
for search and discovery; for old ways to be surpassed.

Each type may fail to understand the other,
but the world needs both -- the gatherer and the lover.

Just a note: I first read about this concept -- that humans have a drive either to know or to love -- in Evelyn Underhill's treatise on mysticism.  It is her contention that the drive to love, and the passion that accompanies it, is what moves creation forward -- and I like that, because in my family I am the driven one, and some of that drive comes from a hunger for what I didn't get as a child.  But though my husband's primary drive is to gather knowledge, which is essentially a more passive role (which I do occasionally find frustrating, driven creature that I am) it seemed important to understand that we need both kinds of people. So that's the origin of this poem.  Sadly, the image that worked best reverses the roles to the more traditional pattern, but I can live with that.  Hope you can, too!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sonnet #17: Humor comes in threes

The mystics claim there are three ways of being,
but of course, each mystic's three are not the same,
so I'd hoped that I might clarify by seeing
what this painting has to say; it's a sort of game.

It could mean living in the future, past, or present,
or perhaps to reconcile, affirm, or deny.
Aggressive (left), depressed, or just unpleasant;
to stride, or maybe sit, or even fly.

It could be faithful, lost, or just agnostic
Might be genders -- male, or female, or some  mix.
Parent, child or just adult (to be diagnostic);
just throw it against the wall and see what sticks.
The truth is: interpretations will always vary
depending on who looks: Tom, Dick or Harry.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sonnet # 16: Better together

We artists go to studios to paint --
partly because it can make a dreadful mess --
but also to create without restraint:
when we're alone, there's no one to impress.

So how can I explain this curious fact:
that two of my favorite pieces were painted in public?
Does artistry become a kind of act?
Does playing the role of a painter somehow double it?

I think of myself as terribly private person,
and tend to resent interruptions when I write.
I'm reluctant to even consider that my introversion
is turned inside out when I paint, because it seems trite

to assume that together we're better than we are alone,
but it seems it's a possible truth that I'll now have to own...  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sonnet #15: So quickly gone

Some years ago I passed this scene and paused
to photograph it, and the result I got
was fabulous, but now that picture's lost:
I've a scan, but it really doesn't match the shot.

And so, each year, I pass this way again,
turn right and cross the bridge, hoping to capture
a replacement for the lost, but something Zen
interferes, and nothing I shoot has quite that rapture.

Sometimes the mountains hide behind fog, or rain.
Other years, like this one, the sky's too blue,
so bright the trees just fade into the terrain.
I know -- I'm being picky, but it's true:

Like snowflakes, each view's unique, and ever changing:
look NOW, for nature's always rearranging.

Sonnet #14: The Big Picture

While driving to the mountains, I saw a farm,
a tree, a fence, a silo and some fog
and stopped to let my camera work its charm;
to capture this sweet photo for my blog.

But here's what I find it hard to understand:
why wasn't this the scene that filled my lens?
Could it have been the place I chose to stand?
What can I possibly say in my own defense?

I've lots of pix of just the tree and the peak.
I've photos of the horses and the shed.
There are barn shots, too, each in their way unique.
But no one shot of the whole scene here outspread.

Thank Photoshop for enabling this compilation,
but I blame myself for inferior visualization.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Not a sonnet: Goose view

Oh, to be a goose, and gaze
upon the water as we graze;
to know that as we sit and chew
we'll almost always have a view
that humans pay a fortune for --
and if it should become a bore,
we'll simply spread our wings and fly away:
some new horizon's out there, every day!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sonnet # 13: 4 A NUB, SWAK

Don’t be afraid: I know these are changing times;
And handwritten letters are now a dying art.
But here are some helpful text messaging rhymes:
The shortcuts you need, like how to make a heart.

We’ll start first with the obvious phonetics:
C U L8R means “see you later”; that’s quite easy.
Next come the typical apologetics:
JK, IMHO, and OIC.

Some letters offer laughter, shock and empathy --
LOL, LMAO and WTF --
while others express our heartfelt thoughts of sympathy:

BTW: that heart’s a less-than and a 3

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sonnet #12: Endings and beginnings

Today's the day we denude the Christmas tree.
I sigh to see the last of the colored lights.
We cradle each decoration wistfully,
then pack them all away with soft goodnights.

Each ornament has its own way of reminding
us of Christmases in the past; they were so blest.
Life's different now: our daughters have been finding
new lives of their own far from our nest.

So I'm grateful for this morning's brilliant dawn --
the sunrise with its pink and purple blaze --
though the colors of this Christmas have moved on
new colors, like love, will come to bless new days.

Each moment holds a gift, and though it grieves us
when that gift's gone, we trust love never leaves us.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Sonnet #11: Transitioning to wonder

When our efforts meet with chaos and confusion
we might suspect we're doing something wrong.
But that may well not be the right conclusion:
Sometimes disorder's right where we belong.

Perfection doesn't have as much to teach us --
it never takes us past our comfort zones.
Sometimes important lessons can only reach us
when we've been forced to wrestle with unknowns.

At first, this painting, for example, I just hated:
I must have lost my talent, I assumed.
But now, I see the harsh lines I created
provide structure in which new shapes and colors bloomed. 

The process of transition can be depressing,
but the resulting transformation might well prove to be a blessing.

Sonnet # 10: Different lifestyles

Two birds upon a soggy log were floating,
one standing on two legs and the other on one
and the one-legged bird was rather loudly gloating
because his single perch was far more fun.

That bird found great delight in seeking balance
and actually would have preferred a rougher sea.
His greatest source of joy was physical challenge:
a rough and ready winter's bird was he.

The other bird ignored him and just drifted:
the gentle seas her guided meditation,
as through thoughts of her life and days she sifted
listening for some heartfelt revelation.

Which style is better, or safer, I can't say,
because if waves come, each can fly away!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sonnet #9: Art good for the soul

These pretty flights of fancy make us smile:
knotted balloons, or crochet-blanketed trees.
For this we'll drive a hundred extra miles
to see the art that brightens communities --

The wood carvings in Hope, British Columbia;
the moose sculptures in Burlington, Vermont;
the pottery faces we found in Italy's Umbria --
we read, mark and digest as is our wont

and notice that the neighborhoods which thrive
are those that value things like art, and laughter --
traits hard to find, that make us come alive,
set us apart, and warm our hearts hereafter.

Investing in art may never make us wealthy,
but there's a really good chance it keeps us healthy.

Sonnet #8: Boat People

I watch the waves rush toward the pebbled shore
and think of pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock,
of refugees and others who deplore
their native circumstances, and embark

in makeshift boats to cross uncharted waters
in search of lives less troubled, or more free;
risk drowning with their spouses, sons, and daughters
hoping they'll safely land in a new country,

knowing, as they leave, with every breath
that what they leave behind may well be life,
that vehicles of hope can prove ships of death,
and the only world they'll find is the afterlife.

I hate to think of the pain that drives them to it,
but deeply admire the courage they have to do it.

(Sonnet interruptus)

What sort of person,
you might ask,
crochets a rock
and leaves it on a bench
beside an entrance to a park?

And look how long
it must have been sitting there,
to be so dirty,
some strings worn through,
and still so very present.

I want to be that person --
generous to a fault,
releasing art into the world
with no thought where it falls.

I also want to be that rock --
solid, bringing beauty,
even if a little worn --
a sign that somewhere, Someone cared enough
to take the time to make me,
and in that making,
cared about you, too.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sonnet #7: Why bring a camera?

On looking out at dawn, I'm thrilled to find
clouds gamboling like sheep across the sky
I picture their tails wagging in my mind
and capture them on film before they fly.

The shapes of clouds, like colors of the dawn,
and youth, and beauty, summer, spring, and fall,
briefly delight, then all too quickly gone,
sweet memories; like shadows on a wall.

While winter's cold sinks in, its icy bite
relentless, keeping us beside the fire
delaying sunrise while it hastens night,
its endless darkness dampening all desire.

Spring will come again, just like the dawn.
But those sheep-like clouds? Like snowflakes -- forever gone.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sonnet # 6: On passing by a farm

The simple rural life seems so appealing:
there's a sameness and a structure to the day --
the rituals and routines must be so healing,
letting out the sheep and bringing in the hay...

There's no rush to completion, just a rhythm,
a time and place for each appointed task,
attunement to the seasons is a given,
the future not that different from the past.

I imagine there's a feeling of affection --
for the animals, the hillside and the heather,
a deeply rooted sense of connection
with the earth, with the air, and with the weather.

We gaze upon the farm, and then drive on
the vision lingers, softens, and then it's -- gone.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Sonnet #5: Living Love

All the world's a stage -- or so they say,
as if we're each performing every minute --
but I'd interpret this another way:
each act has opportunity within it,

a chance to change our normal way of being
in the world, or better yet, a chance to share
the love that flows through us, thus guaranteeing
that it might make a difference somewhere;

might bring some hope to those who are despairing,
might bring some peace to those who are distressed,
might make someone resolve to be more caring,
might bring comfort or joy to those depressed.

We each are seen, though we might not always know it.
So, since we know we're loved - let our lives show it!


Sonnet #4: She's in disgrace

She's in disgrace. Her fortune, in men's eyes,
lies in her lovely form and perfect face:
so pleasing they appear, but they're just lies --
through surgery all true features were replaced.

 Who's more a fool? The woman who believes
her native shape and smile are not fantastic,
and proceeds to change them all till she achieves
some false ideal whose aspect's wholly plastic?

Or those who, though they have no claim to handsome,
seek out perfection, then shout disappointment
when they realize the woman's paid a ransom
for scars that she must nightly smear with ointment?

When will we learn to love the looks we're given,
set vanity aside and savor living?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sonnet #3: Nothing like the East

The weather here is nothing like the East:
We're fogged and damp when they face snow and cold,
we're cool and sunny while they melt in heat
and so it's clear: this is where we'll grow old.

It's not that climate change does not affect us --
we're dryer this year than we've ever been;
we wonder if new viruses will infect us,
and anticipate higher tides with much chagrin.

But overall the absence of tornadoes
and hurricanes outweighs the threat of quakes,
our growing season's long -- great for tomatoes!
And there are no thunderstorms, no lightning breaks.

I write this, not to brag, but to explain:
Like Wolfe, we'll not be coming home again.

Sonnet #2: Shall I Compare?

Shall I compare creation to a quest --
the artist's need for canvas, paint and brush
to the explorer's tools: tent, boots and all the rest
of the gear he needs to slice through ice or brush

in order to reveal some sacred truth
or to discover treasures, wealth sublime,
or fountains offering hope of eternal youth;
the empty page to mountains yet to climb?

Do not both occupations seek to find
and bridge the gap between known and unknown?
Do not both heroes struggle with a mind
That questions every choice, and feels alone?

It's time we set our differences aside:
Our shared goal to unite, not to divide.

A Year of Sonnets: #1

Lately I've been reading about the work of photographer Minor White, a man who was, like me, a contemplative; who believed as I do that photography is more about what the world our cameras see has to teach us than about the workings of the camera itself.

And I've discovered that -- again like me -- he was an English major in college.  Apparently he set himself the task of writing 100 sonnets, either just prior to or immediately following graduation.  And because sonnets have always been a joy for me to write -- we used to kill time on the ferry inventing them with our kids -- I thought that might be a fun task to undertake.

I can't guarantee I'll write one every day, but I think over the next year I will attempt to write a hundred sonnets, each inspired by a photo and another famous sonnet.  So today I will begin with one of my favorites:  Shakespeare's "That time of year thou mayst in me behold."

That time of year you might observe in me --
November, gray and dreary, touched with frost --
the sun's light slanting low across the sea
on boats now docked, no longer on waves tossed.

Landlubbers now, we rarely drift from home,
and find our entertainments closer by,
rejoicing in the garden with its gnome,
the cat, the dog, the birds circling the sky,

And with our world grown smaller, I can see
how much there is to learn from simple sights:
the lace-edged glory of a tiny weed,
the dawn, the twinkling spark of Christmas lights...

As eyes grow dim, things seen become more dear:
visions to cherish as the end draws near.