Archive | Wright Morris

Paros and Emerson…

My trip back to Greece was uneventful although the security in the large airport from which I departed the USA was tighter than usual.  As a wise man reminded me, “These are the signs of the times we live in.”  So true.  And yesterday we all said goodbye to another wise man, Gore Vidal–writer, critic and general thorn in the side of anyone he felt needed a sharp poke as a reminder of their mortality and insignificance.  I have a feeling that he and Marcus Aurelius would have been good friends, cynics both–grumblers concerning the state of the world–and brighter stars in what can often be a dull firmament.

It was a pleasure and a relief to arrive back in Greece even though I have had to leave dear friends and family behind.  Such is my current path.  PAGE Literary and Art Journal is going to print and the files have been sent to the printers.  The only remaining task is to choose the paper stock for the cover and interior pages.  This is a hands-on job so I will not be taking care of that responsibility.  It is a very pretty publication, with relevant articles, both new and republished, and interesting work from the artists in that microcosm of the Northeast.  With that behind me I have returned to Paros and I am happy to be back.  My visit to the USA was so short it feels surreal to walk down the narrow streets of this port town, now more crowded with tourists, feel the heat of the Greek sun and hear the ancient familiar music of the Greek language.  It is as if I had never left, yet I have the jetlag to prove it.  I have work to do here before I leave for Italy in a few weeks so I will be busy and I am looking forward to that.  For me idle hands are the devil’s playground.  In short, I need to have work to do and some structure to my life, a schedule of some kind.  People to see, places to go, things to do.  Then I can rest.

Today’s (2 August) reading from ‘ A Year with Emerson’  is appropriate since I am back here and in contact with my teachers, mentors and those who would guide me.  When he was thirty years old Ralph wrote a letter to his Aunt Mary and gave a description of his ideal teacher. He wrote, “God’s greatest gift is a teacher & when will he send me one, full of truth & boundless benevolence & heroic sentiments.  I can describe the man, & have done so already in prose and verse.  I know the idea well, but where is its real blood warm counterpart…I may as well set down what our stern experience replies with the tongue of all its days. Son of man, it saith, all giving & receiving is reciprocal; you entertain angels unawares, but they cannot impart more or higher things than you are in a state to receive.  But every step of your progress affects the intercourse you hold with all others; elevates its tone, deepens its meaning, sanctifies its spirit, and when time & suffering & selfdenial [sic] shall have transformed and glorified this spotted self, you shall find your fellows also transformed & their faces shall shine upon you with the light of wisdom & the beauty of holiness.”

“You entertain angels unawares…”  How lovely.  We are only ready to receive that which we are ready to understand.  In a way he is reminding me to remain open to the ideas around me, to not shut myself off from the “sunlight of the spirit” and to look keenly into the eyes of those who know.  I must admit that I cannot say much else after that.  That’s alright.   I think Emerson, Vidal and Old Aurelius would agree.  As a parting shot I would like to introduce a circular idea I have been mulling for the past few months: learn, practice, teach.

JDCM

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Emerson, PAGE Journal and grilling…

As I write this missive a storm rumbles its way just south of us throwing off heat as it drops the barometric pressure on someone else’s small town leaving us, well, humid to beat to band and hot.  Too hot to hang about outside and too hot to pick blueberries, which I was hoping to do today.  No dice.  Instead I went to the air-conditioned gymnasium (a Greek word, btw…),  walked my  4.5 miles, burned off almost 800 calories and came home.  I showered off the sweat and began to sweat again.  So be it.

I have been noodling around with Ralph Waldo Emerson lately.  I purchased  a book at Oblong Books in Millerton by Richard Grossman titled ‘A Year With Emerson’ and I have been enjoying the quotes he has chosen.  In some cases he adds a small editorial note to give the quote a sense of context and I find this book to be a fine addition to my other daily readings.  Today was about Emerson’s love of ‘strolling’ and getting lost in nature.  He wrote,

“I deliberately shut up my books in a cloudy July noon, put on my old clothes and old hat and slink away to the whortleberry bushes and slip with the greatest satisfaction into a little cowpath where I am sure I can defy observation.  This point gained, I solace myself for hours picking blueberries and other trash of the woods, far from fame, behind the birch-trees.  I remember them in winter, I expect them in spring.  I do not know a creature that I think has the same humor, or would think it respectable.”

Emerson’s love for the peripatetic, or the thoughtful walk, reminds me that when I am on the treadmill, defying the heat and humidity on this sultry July day, I must look a bit crazy to the gods.  So be it.  I ponder empty thoughts, count the miles ticking away and check my pulse once in a while.  I am thinking of Greece today, having had a nice email from a friend in Scotland who will be there in August for a holiday.  I am returning there in less than two weeks and  I am looking forward to the heat of that place, albeit without much of the humidity.  But today, unlike Ralph, I picked no blueberries.

I have updated the website of ‘PAGE Literary and Arts Journal’ and it looks pretty good.  It is simpler and easier to navigate and some of the new changes clarify our submission policies and history.  I have been given marks of approval from the other editors so that makes me happy as well.  I hope we go to print soon!

Cooking outdoors has been a common dinner event here in Ancramdale as of late.  If we are going to use heat for cooking we might as well leave it outside.  The pictures tell the story. Damn, it is hot. My fingers are sticking to the keyboard…

JDCM

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Showtime…

We hung the student show today at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts, here on Paros.  It is a very pretty show with a wide assortment of photography, painting, printmaking and drawing.  The vocal ensemble had their first concert last night in Naoussa and will have two more this weekend.  Overall I have a had an excellent time here this arm and am looking forward to being back here in about three months.  My photography has improved and I have also gained a little more patience with the younger students.  While I am no smarter than they are, I have experienced more of the world so I am perhaps a little wiser. Perhaps.

In the past few days I have thought a lot about what I will be doing next year while I am here.  Yes, my own photography certainly, but also the work with the director and painting in the spring.  On top of that I feel that it is time to begin work on my own book, probably in the format pioneered by Wright Morris and Andre Kertesz, the photo-text.  In this format the images on the page do not have to directly correspond to the text but by the end of the reading they have made sense as an accompaniment to the reading.  I have many other ideas but I will not share them lest I talk myself dry of the concept.

I have begun packing my stuff and will begin putting it in storage tomorrow.  I have to conduct the inventory of the darkroom supplies and print some last few pieces.  After that I head to Athens on Monday and back to New York Thursday.   Christmas, New Years, my birthday and then back here.  Time flies indeed.

JDCM

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