from The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden by Stanley Kunitz

“The Layers”

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look

before I can gather strength

to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling

toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing

from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels

wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe

out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind

the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go

wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road

precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

“Live in the layers,

not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.

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This speech never fails to send shivers down my spine. This is Charlie Chaplin at his greatest. The premise of The Great Dictator (1940) is that the dictator of Tomainia (aka Germany) named Hynkel (aka Hitler) has a doppleganger in the form of a good-hearted Jewish barber. When the barber is mistaken for Hynkel, and Hynkel accidentally arrested by his own men, the barber must stand in for the dictator and in this speech reverses all atrocious policies and gives the country back to the people.

When all I see is a country run by greed, I have to try to remain optimistic that good men will prevail, and know that my part in the struggle is to not give into the hate, the greed, but live my life “free and beautiful” as Charlie asks us to, and hope others do the same.

Right now I work part time on an organic farm.  I’ve been working there since April, and I feel like I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg with what I have to learn!  I felt like being a little creative with my reflection about my experience at the farm so far, so I made a playlist.  Below are some songs that remind me of people, places, plants and events at ECO City Farms.  To stream the playlist just click the link at the bottom!

Frank Sinatra — “The Coffee Song” :  Do you think Frank Sinatra is criticizing monocultures in this song? Probably not.  Either way, starting an early harvest is much easier with some coffee in your system!

Ali Farka Toure– “Savane” :  Harlequin Beetles. They are possibly the most exotic looking bug I’ve seen in Maryland, and one of the worst pests we deal with at the farm!  This song reminds me of them– slow, meandering over the crops in a sinister way, taunting the farmer who’s ready to harvest the lettuce!

Big Dirty Brass Band — “Old School” : This song is for our other prevalent unwelcome guests: the groundhogs.  I can imagine chasing a groundhog to this song in a very Scooby Doo-esque fashion! Don’t worry, all groundhogs we catch we release somewhere else far from the farm.

Louis Armstrong- “Jazz Lips” :  Have you ever seen ducks in the rain?  It’s the epitome of happiness.  Here’s a song for happy ducks!

Two Man Gentleman Band- “Fancy Beer”:  Sometimes, you just really want a beer after farming.  Sometimes you don’t want just any beer, you want a fancy beer.

Andrew Bird- “Railroad Bill” : This song is for the farmer’s market! I think I hear a rendition of this song at the music tent every week.

Real Estate- “Green Aisles” : We deal with a lot of these around the farm.

Do Make Say Think — “Soul and Onward” : Natural farming helps feed and heal bodies, but also souls.

 

Listen to the whole playlist through 8tracks! Enjoy!

http://8tracks.com/goldintheair/eco-city-mix

I am a lucky girl. Truly. I was born a female and identify with that sex. Even when I saw boy scouts doing more things I would like to do with their troop than my girl scout troop ever did, I never felt like it was a limit of my sex.  Somehow, I felt even then as a young girl that the differences were based merely on portrayals of what girls and boys should do and be, vs. the limitless possibilities of everyone. Good parenting, I suspect. I am proud to be a woman, to know so many strong women in my life, and am interested in all the good and bad intricacies accorded to our gender and role in society.

I came to these thoughts leafing through a photography book I found at the place I am currently housesitting called, The Family of Woman from 1979.  The series also had books titled The Family of Man and The Family of Children, which I would love to see. I’m sure they’d be just as powerful as this compilation of photos.

Below I’ve picked out some of my favorites:

Marc and Evelyn Bernheim, Ivory Coast

Marc and Evelyn Bernheim, Ivory Coast

Wendy MacNeil, USA

Wendy MacNeil, USA

Henning Christoph, West Germany

Henning Christoph, West Germany

German Press, U S S R

German Press, U S S R

Andre Kertesz, France

Andre Kertesz, France

Dominique Darbois, Tahiti, The Family of Women

Dominique Darbois, Tahiti

Bill Binzen, USA, The Family of Women

Bill Binzen, USA

There is no savor

more sweet, more salt

Than to be glad to be

what, woman.

and who, myself

I am

-Denise Levertov

There is a time in every blog’s lifespan where it’s name must be explained.  Just like my mother told me I was named after my great-grandmother, just like my boyfriend (Holden) was told he was named after an influential soap opera character and NOT The Catcher in the Rye, origins are important.

Soft and steady are two words I hold on to dearly.  When depression hit me (and that’s the best way I can describe the feeling….you can be fine your whole life until one day you suddenly feel like you can’t go on) a few years ago, I was at a loss at how to handle myself.  I can characterize it best as an overwhelming existential inertia….why would you do anything if nothing matters to you? That means making a sandwich, watching tv, going on the internet, brushing your teeth….it’s all out of the question.

My best friend helped me through so many of those truly dark days.  She’d sit and talk, or not talk with me, and it was one conversation in particular that really helped me round the corner.  I was specifically troubled that day about school work (why would I get a degree? So I can get a job? And then eventually die?) getting ready for a party I felt like I needed to go to (Why would I have friends? Why would they care for me? And won’t they and I eventually die?), and why I was even in DC in the first place (So many places in the world to not be happy in!).  [And yes, please feel free to laugh! I laugh about it myself, my morbid propensity to relate everything to nothingness back then– it’s the only way I can look back on it with some sort of happiness!] She had heard variations on this theme so many times before, and I think she said this next part partly out of frustration (a well-deserved frustration!).  She told me not to worry about it. That I was right- that it didn’t really matter right now.  What mattered, she said, was taking the next little step in your day– the routine–making sure you have all your other bases covered.  Take a shower, make your bed, eat breakfast, go grocery shopping, dress presentably.  Those were important. The rest would come later and by happenstance, they didn’t matter, not now.

So thus came soft and steady.  The phrase I repeated to myself then and I tell myself now every so often when I have a relapse period is, “Keep going softly, keep going steady, because steady will keep you alive.”

Depression, I am told, doesn’t ever truly go away.  You just learn how to deal with it better and better. Depression is a “condition”, but it is a condition of the mind, and anything you can do to upset or roadblock the path your mind likes to spiral down feels nothing short of a miracle sometimes.

These are life-saving words to me: soft and steady.

In NYC, I made my way over to Flushing Meadows Park in Queens originally to see the Unisphere, which was super impressive just by itself.  But what really caught my eye was this rusty futuristic type tower with this large pavilion next to it.  Apparently these had also been in the World Fair that the Unisphere was built for, but have never been rehabilitated.  These large structures stand out as some alternate past-future, so out of place in our own reality.

IMG_9764

IMG_9768

IMG_9765

I had an hour and a half to catch my bus back to DC, and although it would be cutting it impossibly close, my friend convinced me to go to McSorley’s with him before I left.  His dad is Irish, and so going to McSorley’s has always been a tradition for his family.  My friend likes to tell us the story on the way over: how women weren’t allowed in for the longest time, and how when they were, they built  a compound in the corner where the women could drink.  The space could fit about 5 women who I imagine would find it hard to stand in the two feet of bar space allotted them!

Our kind are fully welcome at McSorley’s now, as long as you know the magic word to order: light or dark! Those are your beer options at McSorley’s.

Behind the counter, I noticed a poetry book for sale- The McSorley Poems: Volume II, Light or Dark.  I thought, “Why not?” and put ten dollars down on the bar to buy one.  Turns out the poems are all written by the same bartender who had just handed us our beer. Most of the poems are tongue-in-cheek, but some are written with a more serious overtone.  So, without furthur ado, here is Geoffrey Bartholomew’s “The Painter”.

 

There are painters

who sit here staring

at the tides of light

absorbing mutations

trying to figure out

how to capture this

chiaroscuro stuff

in whites and grays

in dark seas and black days

the crosshatching sun

 

You might as well remember

last century’s shadows

to stare into your intimacy

eyes into eyes

the ravage of love

spent in a fire of lies

imagining what was once

lost again and again

in the dark and the light

there are painters

who try to paint this

This video explains the artist’s dilemma of isolation from the world and yet their desire to interpret the outside society in their art. The solitude of the studio is ultimately a necessary part of art, one that it is difficult for me to control my emotions about. Solitude is inherently constructive, while loneliness is destructive.

Found originally from Smithsonian Magazine online at
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/video/Artist-Profile-Haidee-Becker.html

So here’s my first post showing you guys my art (?!).  All works in progress, constructive criticism appreciated!

 

Working Title: Greenscape

I started this a while ago but this is the first time I've photographed it, so I'm sorry you can't see the process here! In later posts you will.

I started this a while ago but this is the first time I’ve photographed it, so I’m sorry you can’t see the process here! In later posts you will.

Working Title: Conifers and Factory

Started with just a background and no idea what to put on it....this was actually a painting I hated and decided to smear the colors together and destroy.

Started with just a background and no idea what to put on it….this was actually a painting I hated and decided to smear the colors together and destroy.

added some trees!

added some trees!

and a factory

and a factory

with smoke....and now I'm stuck. Something needs to happen in the bottom right area, I'm just not sure what yet.

with smoke….and now I’m stuck. Something needs to happen in the bottom right area, I’m just not sure what yet.

Working Title: Grayscape

Just a gray background...I think I'd like to continue the factory theme with this one though.

Just a gray background…I think I’d like to continue the factory theme with this one though.

 

 

Mother nature is a pretty inspirational lady.  Here a few shots I’ve taken over the last year that focus on patterns found in our great outdoors.

Snowbank Lake. Boundary Waters Wilderness Area, Summer 2012

Snowbank Lake. Boundary Waters Wilderness Area, Summer 2012

Near Gatlinburg, TN. Great Smokey Mountains Nat'l Park. Winter 2012

Near Gatlinburg, TN. Great Smokey Mountains Nat’l Park. Winter 2012

Ivy in the Maryville College Woods. Maryville, TN. Spring 2013

Ivy in the Maryville College Woods. Maryville, TN. Spring 2013

My mom's cherry tree. Maryville, TN. Spring 2013

My mom’s cherry tree. Maryville, TN. Spring 2013

Venus Fly Traps. National Botanical Gardens. Washington DC. Summer 2013

Venus Fly Traps. National Botanical Gardens. Washington DC. Summer 2013

Cacti! National Botanical Gardens. Summer 2013

Cacti! National Botanical Gardens. Summer 2013

Fern leaf. National Botanical Gardens. Summer 2013

Fern leaf. National Botanical Gardens. Summer 2013