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QUINTESSENCE

Stuck

The Matterhorn, Zermatt, Switzerland

Artists don't get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working.
~ Stephen DeStaebler

Blocks produce in the artist an attitude of pessimism and defeat. He loses that necessary touch of arrogance; the drive to produce new things fades; the mind is blunted.
~ Lawrence Hatterer

A creative block is the wall we erect to ward off the anxiety we suppose we'll experience if we sit down to work. A creative block is a fear about the future, a guess about the dangers dwelling in the dark computer and the locked studio. A block is a sudden, disheartening doubt about our right to create, about our ability, about our very being. And the cure? A melting surrender, a little love, a little self-love, a little optimism, and a series of baby steps toward the work.
~ Eric Maisel

January can feel like a month stacked in "fresh start" pressure: time to reboot, dive in, focus, bootstrap full-on motivation. And then the days stall out. Our ideas are not quite gelling. Or worse, lie prone in the ditch. Road kill. Nothing fresh here, folks. Move along. Inertia. Excuses. Diversion. Frustration.

David Bayles and Ted Orland wrote a small chapbook in 1993, "Art & Fear: Observations of The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking." A refreshingly honest, insightful exploration of the creative process, the workplace experience, and the potholes and bridges between. In the introduction the authors write, "Making art is a common and intimately human activity, filled with all the perils (and rewards) that accompany any worthwhile effort. The difficulties artmakers face are not remote and heroic, but universal and familiar... This book is about what it feels like to sit in your studio or classroom, at your wheel or keyboard, easel or camera, trying to do the work you need to do. It is about committing your future to your own hands, placing Free Will above predestination, choice above chance. It is about finding your own work."

What comes next stopped me in my tracks. The authors observe, "Those who continue to make art are those who have learned how to continue - or more precisely, have learned how not to quit."

Did you reread that? What a powerful statement in support of tenacity. Quitting, the authors argue, is different than stopping. Stopping happens all the time - an idea runs dry, an attempt is scrubbed at the point of diminishing returns. But quitting happens just once. Quitting marks the last thing the artist does. Baylee and Orland go on to identify pitfalls that lead to blocks and defeat. Stalemates. Obstacles. Potential failure points that cling like lint around two very specific moments: When artists convince themselves their next effort is already doomed to fail; and when artists lose sight of the destination for their work, the place their work belongs.

Making art can feel dangerous and revealing. It gives substance to sense of self as well as the corresponding fear that one is not up to the task, not real or good. That we have nothing to say. "Making art precipitates self-doubt," write Bayles and Orland. "Stirring deep waters between what you know you should be, and what you fear you might me." Doubt can be enough to stop the artist before he or she even begins, and often appears again and again throughout the cycle of making, and then releasing work to critical review in the world. The key, according to the authors, is to learn to challenge that fear every step of the creative process from initial vision to execution, imagination, struggles with materials, through uncertainty. To continue anyway.

Losing sense of place, losing confidence, can mark the precise moment a driving goal is achieved. Success frequently and easily transmutes into depression because the artist feels abruptly lost. Embracing a new project means leaving behind the comfort of the loose thread. Setting aside that unresolved creative idea or issue to move forward into the next piece. Beginning fresh.

Tolerance for uncertainty is a prerequisite for working in the arts, according to the authors of "Art & Fear." Creativity is not about control. Uncertainty arrives unannounced at critical junctures in the creative process. What did I start out to say? Were the materials right, the length of the piece? Is the way I've done this right? Tolstoy rewrote "War & Peace" by hand eight times. (Heh, this is a large book.) He was still revising galley proofs at press. Art happens between the artist and something else - a chunk of stone, a slant of light in a landscape, a subject, an idea or technique. Creativity is unpredictable. The working artist learns to respond authentically, challenge to challenge, each step of the way.

Which brings me back to creative blocks, those frustrating mental tar pits. Bayles and Orland identify endpoints - shifts in destination or goals - as creative tripping points. Ease the transitions between stages, drafts, critiques. If we take psychologist Eric Maisel's advice, we should address our fears and anxiety over our works in progress by initiating baby steps toward engagement. Write two lines a day, then two pages a day. Put one brush stroke of color dead center on the white canvas. Mar that empty perfection and free your fear.

Can the artist find a way through almost perpetual uncertainty? Yes.
Intention requires strange and uncomfortable openness. Receptiveness. Belief. Tenacity.
Do not quit.

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Open Window


DUST
by Dorianne Laux

Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
Now, I remember only the flavor -
not like food, sweet or sharp.
More like a fine powder, like dust.
And I wasn't elated or frightened,
but simply rapt, aware.
That's how it is sometimes -
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you're just too tired to open it.


This small poem is from a chapbook by Dorianne Laux titled, "What We Carry." The poems here remind me allegorically of the potent imagery from Tim O'Brien's short story collection, "The Things They Carried," stories exposing individual lives in a platoon of soldiers from their smallest possessions. Who we are, who we were before. . .ported forward into an uncertain future. Although not about war or anonymity, the poems in this slender volume are sharp, tight: transparent yet troubling. As though each poem, each moment or memory, has become an object in the poet's pocket.

I intended to begin 2016 on Quintessence with an upbeat poem: something about a clean slate, new possibilities. Instead, I found myself drawn to the flow of existence, of glimpses of truth from one moment to the next, My 2016 is also 2015 - as well as every accumulated year prior - just by another label. This idea that I am continuously silting new experiences, year to year. It will never be a "new" me, but a more layered me. More depth at the bottom. More debris and lost gold.

Someone spoke to me last night. . . Laux captures the experience of that rare awareness at the core of a chance conversation. In quiet, or sleep. We brush up against the profound. No words but a footprint. Laux tastes the truth, and it sits light, insubstantial; a micro imprint of muted history. Exhausted, vulnerable, she knows. She feels it, and lets it go. But she remembers the essence, and it settles within.

I look to this new year hoping the nuggets of truth discovered and absorbed along the way stay with me. That bright light and black wings find me. Praying the crack in the window widens, until finally and fully, I understand. To exist within the flow, and release what floats, absorb what lies still, sift the layers deep within. Is it not possible life will be ever more nuanced, meaningful, profound, if we honor the work and the fatigue of ordinary living? Open windows.

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Talisman

Patio table, Nice, France

The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful), the marble-topped tables, the smell of early morning, sweeping up and mopping, were all you needed. For luck you carried a horse chestnut and a rabbit's foot in your right pocket. The fur had been worn off the rabbit's foot long ago and the bones and the sinews were polished by wear. The claws scratched in the lining of your pocket and you knew your luck was still there.
- Ernest Hemingway, "A Moveable Feast"

Ordinarily I never read anything before I write in the morning to try and bite on the old nail with no help, no influence and no one giving you a wonderful example or sitting looking over your shoulder.
- to Berenson, 1952, "Selected Letters"

However am now going to write a swell novel - will not talk about it on acct. the greater ease talking about it than writing it and consequent danger of doing same.
- to F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1927, "Selected Letters"

I am more a fan of Hemingway on writing than Hemingway's collective works themselves. Which is saying something, as I admire his work very much. I find Hemingway's insights on the culling of inspiration, on ways to structure the discipline required to make worthy stories from slips of ideas, frequently hit the mark with me. I am often, as Hemingway puts it, facing "the blank paper, the pencil, and the obligation to invent truer things than things can be true." Dear friends, there is a vast Senegeti between the thought and the finished story.

Hemingway often spoke about pitfalls and insights in the writing process in his witty, frank letters to literary friends and editors. The "Selected Letters," and "Ernest Hemingway on Writing" (ed. Larry Phillips) span Hemingway on everything from writer's block to politics, indulgence and the dangers of success.

Sometimes, like today, when I am stumped for the right critical filter to evaluate a work I've finished and determine if it really is done, I turn to Hemingway's strong self-critical drive and let him be my guide. He once wrote Fitzgerald, "I think you should learn about writing from everybody who has ever written that has anything to teach you." They had been discussing Dostoevsky, and a line Hemingway later included in "A Moveable Feast" was to resonate from his own search to master the nuances of the perfect story. "How can a man write so badly," he wrote, "so unbelievably badly, and make you feel so deeply?"

There is more to effective writing than grammar or form. There is a spark, the cadence of empathy. The necessary, powerful word that conveys the whole of the thing. The rest, as Hemingway might say, is but plaster smacked up on the wall.

And finally, for me, there is Hemingway's unquestioned loyalty to story. Telling a tale in the way one might carve a facet from a rough stone, making it worth the read. A man of extraordinary passions and talents, there is no end to what Hemingway might have done in life besides inhabit cafes and rewrite drafts. But consider this, from "Green Hills of Africa,"

"Do you think your writing is worth doing - as an end in itself?"
"Oh yes."
"You are sure?"
"Very sure."
"That must be very pleasant."
"It is," I said. "It is the one altogether pleasant thing about it."

As I review my work and think about whether it satisfies me, and then if what I have written measures up to an imagined reader's expectations, I bear in mind what Hem said in a letter to Ivan Pushkin in 1935, ". . .writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done - so I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well."

A thousand ways this hits the old nail on the head.

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Certain Revelations

Kaniksu Fire (Tower Fire) Complex, Priest Lake, Northern Idaho

I HAVE DECIDED
By Mary Oliver

I have decided to find myself a home
in the mountains, somewhere high up
where one learns to live peacefully
in the cold and the silence. It’s said that
in such a place certain revelations may
be discovered. That what the spirit
reaches for may be eventually felt, if not
exactly understood. Slowly, no doubt. I’m
not talking about a vacations.

Of course at the same time I mean to
stay exactly where I am.

Are you following me?


It is an interesting twist, as my son says, to deliberately head out on vacation to a cabin situated in a Fire Evacuation Level 1 Zone. But, the cabin was waiting, the lake technically open, if socked in with fire smoke, and precious vacation time logged in the books (no mean feat for my husband who is in the medical profession – his specialty group books their vacations a year out). So yes - one eye on the sky, the other on the news - we headed north. Toward the fire zones, cautiously passing National Forest Service rangers posted at the many dirt access roads into the mountains. Headed up a highway that is both the only egress in to Priest Lake, and out.

The consequences of the alert level fire designation are many. No beach fires, cabin fires, charcoal grills, or outdoor equipment that might spark. The sandy beaches are quiet, dark, somnolent. The marinas under blankets of smoke that thicken and shift on the lake winds. The lake shore is mostly empty: fulltime residents hunkering in to keep cabins and trees watered down and prepare for the early end of the lake season. Tourists with more flexibility have canceled their plans. Residents of the two small towns that flank the upper and lower end of the long lake watch the weather and fire reports. Those in the northern meadows, already on a higher Evacuation Level 2, have loaded flatbed trailers with belongings and wait. Beyond their farms and ranches glow the lightning-sparked fires that have burned all summer, creeping down the shoulders of the mountains, heavy smoke rolling over the ridges, coating the grass and forests in dusty ash, sending the elderly and the infirm in search of better air.

A secondary impact from smoke is quiet. An extraordinary thick silence. The absence of boat traffic, the muffled sounds, forests empty of bird song and chipmunks. The hearth – a beach pit fire or cabin fireplace – is a gathering place, a melody of voices in the night. There are none. We’ve gone hiking each day, climbing to vantage points where we might survey the lengths of the lake and trace patterns of fire smoke that sink off the mountains and float across the water. Wildlife is on the move, the forests still. We’ve encountered one pair of great hunting owls in the pines nearest the shore, and a crow-sized northern red-crested woodpecker, determinedly drilling a tree. The wilderness is evacuating.

I am looking straight off the deck of the cabin at this moment and cannot see the shoreline across the bay. The pine and stone islands recede, shadows in The Gray that does not drift but thickens. There were no stars last night.

I have decided to find myself a home
in the mountains, somewhere high up
where one learns to live peacefully
in the cold and the silence.


I worry for the wilderness, the animal life, the safety of the rangers on duty and the firefighters here and at other fires near these Tower Complex fires. It would be a blessing if this time, fate was on our side. Our revelations are so simple this year – preservation.


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In A Given Day


WHAT ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO DO ANYWAY?
by Jack Ridl

Trying to know what to do is difficult
enough, let alone knowing what to do

anyway. I could take that at least two ways,
maybe more. For example, I could take a walk,

even a long walk and I would expect to walk
through the woods or a field or a park or downtown.

But what if i take a walk and instead just kept
the walk to myself, kept it here amid all the indecision

about where to take that walk? I might pop open a Coke,
kick off my hiking boots, put on a smoking jacket,

and pile up some Jane Austen and some Henry James,
just pile them up. And then maybe I'd talk with you

even though you are no longer here. It could be like that,
or maybe it is like that. And at night the sky would be full

of the same stars as the night before last. At least it seems that way.



Jack Ridl, midwesterner, poet and professor, dedicated this poem to John Bartlby. But what he means us to know at the end of our reading is expressed in the last three lines. A man misses his friend. And this sudden, shattering absence measures, for our poet, the width and depth of the gulf between the tenuous temporal and the fixed eternal. Our poet glances upward. Stars. In their infinite lives, so much longer than our own, they fill the night, evidence of continuum. Today like yesterday - is it not full? But he feels the difference, our poet. A light has dimmed and changed the sky.

Anyway.

Ridl's poem begins in the physical. In the body of the poet and what he will do with himself. The living, and the no longer living. Failed by the futility of action, unable to find release in the movement of his muscles and breath, the poet moves into the hypothetical, the wondering, the hungering, the intimate. Again he returns to what is physical as he seeks comfort in the presence of what still is. Stars. Stars that remain the same, yet that some, now, do not see. Is it still as it always is? "It could be like that,/or maybe it is like that."

We know absence. We know loss. Take a walk. Or not. Boots on, or not. Books...or not. Thinking about the thing and internalizing the thing that thought signifies. Where do we go with vastness? An endless night? How does the heart embrace space too big for words?

What are you supposed to do anyway?
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The Good Life

My children at the beach with our dog, Scooter

THE GOOD LIFE
by Mark Strand

You stand at the window.
There is a glass cloud in the shape of a heart.
There are the wind's sighs that are like caves in your speech.
You are the ghost in the tree outside.

The street is quiet.
The weather, like tomorrow, like your life,
is partially here, partially up in the air.
There is nothing you can do.

The good life gives no warning.
It weathers the climates of despair
and appears, on foot, unrecognized, offering nothing,
and you are there.


We stand in the tracks of tangled footpaths among dreams, ambitions, regrets, loss. At every vantage, we take in the long view. There is something about our hearts that needs the wideness of the unknown, the promise of discovery around the next bend. Mark Strand's line, "like tomorrow, like your life,/is partially here, partially up in the air," reminds us we exist in becoming - in shift between hard realties and bright imaginings. Partially here, partially up in the air.

In a week marked by deep suffering and wordless pain for our own communities and others around the world, of shocked disbelief, and moral agony, I find unexpected comfort in these lines of Strand's last stanza:

The good life gives no warning.
It weathers the climates of despair


The ability of life to rebound, for wounds to heal and the human journey to continue - mindful of events that have occurred - moves me. I don't know if someday the world will end on a high note or a whimper, but life continues to seek what is good. We must rise. The celebration of The Fourth of July blesses the founding anniversary of our nation, symbolized in part by family gatherings and communal celebrations. In the wake of all that has been tragic and awful, let us lift one another, step forward, and stand strong in community.

The following is from my very first post, July of 2010:

Welcome summer! Collect your flip flops, grab your beach bag and throw in a basket of great books to indulge in. These are the slow days of simmering heat and sun. The pastimes of childhood call. Riding barefoot on a bicycle, playing cards clothes-pinned to the spokes of the wheel, ratta-tatta-tat down the block for an ice cream. Hot afternoons at the city pool, sleepovers under the stars, lemonade stands in red Flyer wagons. The boom of thunder and the salted tar smell of cool rain as it hits a hot street. The vacation trip to the beach. Crammed in the family station wagon packed to the gills, counting state license plates...

Life is forever "partially up in the air." Choose faith. Choose joy. Choose optimism. Find time for yourself and those you love.

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Trying to Remember

Statue of The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen

THE ART OF DISAPPEARING
by Naomi Shihab Nye

When They Say Don't I Know You?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.

Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say We should get together
say Why?

It's not that you don't love them anymore.
You're trying to remember something
too important to forget.

Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven't seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don't start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.


This poem came to me via the wonderful tiny chapbook by Roger Housden, "Ten Poems to Last a Lifetime." (I have spoken of this collection before.) Housden has this to say: "I find the strong and sober stand of this poem a welcome inspiration. Yet I know there are those who feel otherwise. People have told me they feel it to be ungenerous and curmudgeonly in its attitude to others. On the other hand, I remember seeing Bill Moyers on PBS one evening, and him saying that ever since being called into the hospital for heart trouble, he has kept a copy of this poem by Naoimi Shihab Nye in his top pocket. For me, it's that kind of poem. A reminder poem, a shake-your-tree poem, a wake-up-and-live-your-own-life-before-it's-all-too-late poem."

Makes you pause, doesn't it? Housden calls a poem that speaks deeply a "message from a trusted friend," that is, "the persistent murmur in our own chest." He adds this observation by Keats - which I find the single greatest secret to cultivating poetry (or any art, for that matter) - "Poetry should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost as a Remembrance."

We plod through our promised-to's, the ought-to's, and endlessly defer personal must-do's. Last in priority are those experiences, projects, and commitments that call us to live deeply, exploring all the corners of our being. Pause for a moment and think about this: Do you remember the moment when you knew your life dream? When you crested from childhood into young adulthood and set your sights on the world's horizon? Do you recall the truth you felt in your bones that hot August afternoon, lying in the grass under the green willow branches, staring up and through an endless sky? Have you experienced a sudden shiver holding a newborn? Become aware of the life history in the still, veined hand of your grandmother as she held a tea cup and waited by the window?

Nye's poem is a call back home - live your life, know life, for life is finite.

I appreciate this poem's honest fierceness. Nye doesn't mince words. I need that. Her poem reminds me that a given day on earth is not about obligation. Being present for your own life is not the denial of relationship, responsibility or connection, but practicing purpose. Inhabiting the originality and truth that is yours alone. Answering the call. Whatever that "it" is that beats at the heart of every human spirit and reflected in these lines from THE ART OF DISAPPEARING I carry in my wallet.

You're trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bells at twilight.


So, I listen.


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Book Review: The Road to Character by David Brooks

I recently was on travel in the Mediterranean. The point of my trip was to research places in seven countries that border, or are island nations, of this "sea of destiny." Places which figure in the continuum of history as evidenced by patterns of ancient and modern conflict. The antiquities of Greek and Roman classic battle sites - for example Troy (now in modern day Turkey), or the battle between Octavian and the fleet of Cleopatra and Marc Antony in Prevezza - to the sprawling Mediterranean battlefields of World War II in North Africa, Italy, France and Sicily. War history is profoundly emblematic of the impact of leadership and character on events in human history.

I took with me on this journey David Brooks' new nonfiction book, "The Road to Character." I knew his study of human character would reference Eisenhower, Marshall, Augustine among others, and thought it might dovetail nicely with my travels. Brooks is a readable writer, his voice genial on the page. His book is structured around separating what he terms "eulogy character" from "resume character": that is, those qualities rooted deeply within one's nature and upbringing that make a deeply moral and resilient self, versus those qualities primarily developed as window-dressing and acquired for specific goals or situations to serve the ambitions of the ego. A diametric Brooks terms simply as Adam I versus Adam II.

Setting aside for the moment the framing of a discussion of character in religious context, or the mild sexism by today's standards of the choice of the term "Adam" (as in Adam and Eve, coined in the 1965 work by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik in "Lonely Man of Faith") as the framework for talking about the deepest aspects of humanity, the real problem for me is that Brooks is writing around a schematic of character he never quite defines and then bolsters with case biographies to substantiate arbitrary conclusions. This makes for a confusing read as the book moves back and forth through history discussing an odd range of men and women selected to exemplify some aspect of personal character development Brooks has deemed important to their ultimate role in events of historical importance.

Brooks organizes his chapters around ideas such as struggle, self-conquest, dignity, love, ordered love, the big me, etc., and case biographies are used to order his arguments about Adam I inner authenticity as opposed to Adam II egoism, and the development of meaningful character. The problem for me is that without Brooks defining "character" beyond its implicit religious or moral codes or otherwise hinged upon command leadership or charity, he's defaulted on something extremely hard to pin down. I found myself yearning for a solid discussion of human character not explicitly tied to historical achievement: a discussion of that slate of human traits that define and empower people to do the things they do. The very word "character" is value loaded. In Brooks' book it is used as a euphemism for admirable, and that which distinguishes someone from the greater masses.

I truly wanted to like "The Road to Character" but the narrative is uneven, and without what I would consider a meaningful metric of "character." In the end, Brooks' study is about grand personalities.

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Sacrament, Mystery, Light

copper pennies, cattle bones, pavers, wafers, black cloth
The Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin



Does a poem enlarge the world,
or only our idea of the world?

- from "Mathematics" by Jane Hirschfield

This image is of a 2013 art installation at The Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas. The installation occupied (at that time) an entire room of its own. A room within a room, in which the art, "How to Build a Cathedral," fills the entirety of the subdued space.

The light is dim, the atmosphere quiet. The visitor is permitted to step inside the installation, which is curtained on four sides by ceiling-to-floor black mesh curtains (filmy and weighty). Inside the mystery of the curtains, one may stand or walk the square perimeter of the installation on an interior border of plain gray pavers. The ceiling within the space is a mammoth "chandelier" of cow bones, suspended in uniform order from the ceiling, and lit from above. The white bones funnel downward to join a thin cord constructed of stacked Eucharist wafers, and downward still into a sculptural sea bed of shiny new pennies.

The space has the sacramental hush and reverence we associate with the interiors of cathedrals and the metaphoric elements with which we erect them: rock, bone and muscle, ritual, money, and death.

Sacrament, mystery, light.

The artist has constructed a place that, improbable as it would seem, is made profound from our intention to honor the sacred. A space for contemplation constructed of the elemental world. What is sacred is born of the ordinary.
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Palaces of Time

Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo, Norway

PEACHES
A mouthful of language to swallow:
stretches of beach, sweet clinches,
breaches in walls, pleached branches;
britches hauled over haunches;
hunched leeches, wrenched teachers.
What English can do: ransack
the warmth that chuckles beneath
fuzzed surfaces, sooth velvet
richness, plashy juices.
I beseech you, peach,
clench me into the sweetness
of your reaches.

-Peter Davison

A few years back I featured this poem, thinking about the ripeness of its imagery, the words and rhythms that play in sound and rhyme and alliteration. What a funny kind of tribute in poetry, to "break the rules" so to speak. To let loose with jubilant, mouthwatering WORDS.

This poem is a delight to read, to speak aloud, to chisel out slim tickles of visual context and meaning. Peaches, a humorous ode to the inside-out of adjectives. And then the poet's own elegant rebuttal. Choices of descriptions that are sensual, true, and robust. Do these words fail or surpass? Surely Davison amuses us with his riddle of the peach, asking "What is?" in syllables that roll around and off the tongue - of the peach, but not the peach. And then, finally, just the peach.

Aren't words grand? As worthy of love as the stories they tell?

I invite you to think about what speaks to you in rhyme or prose, in image or sound, maybe the majesty of nature, a raw and roughhewn power. Is there a particular landscape you cannot get enough of? A melody or instrumental that is a whole world to you when you listen? Give thought to your favorite pleasures and memories and why they remain important and significant to you. Many of them include the building blocks of language. Without words, the more subtle and puzzling elements of life might elude us. In word, music, and imagery, we play with the strange experience life is.

For me, more than the eloquent silences and harmonies of nature, the music lies in language. Stories are organic to life lived and imagined - made of peaches and fires and galaxies, horses pounding through dust over a distant plain. Somewhere, long ago, it was no longer enough to merely watch the prairie lightning, it must be painted on the rocks. Human experience has been described in song, stories of the people's exodus, added to the lore of the Great Hunt. Words...palaces of time.

Celebrate the landscapes you love. The music that lifts your heart. The friendships that gift ordinary life with love and loving. Open your favorite book and delve into starfish, stairways, deserts, balls of lava, poisoned cake, Cossacks and Caribbean nights, the myths of Rome, plots of Shakespeare, three geese crossing a midnight moon... Enjoy a mouthful of experience!

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