Poem: Why I Took the Picture

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Why I Took the Picture

I do not know why I like this picture.
It is simple. A rowboat on the canals of Amsterdam.
It is small. Not a noble thing, prosaic even,
on of hundreds along the brick-lined canals.
Its paint is faded and peeling.
There will be no great journeys in this boat,
just simple comings and goings,
a trip to the store perhaps, or to a job downstream.

As I snapped the photograph,
no one else gave the small craft a second glance.
It was one of hundreds, perhaps more they pass every day.
In a city traversed by bridges and boats
it is part of the background, no more,
and yet something made me stop and look at this one boat
more than the dozens tied up next to it,
made me raise my camera, frame a shot and capture it
to remember.

I have learned not to question the things I love,
their beauty, their draw;
not to question their song that draws me
like a child or a lover.
There is magic in that kind of love,
unexamined, unquestioned and I will not sully it
with too much self-examination.
Save that for the hard work of repairing the world’s damage.

I prefer to be a child. To believe in magic where there is beauty,
to believe in a God who wants my delight and yours
and litters our world with unexpected beauty,
to accept my proclivity to see beauty in the worn and broken,
in the small, to allow myself the luxury of delight
where others pass by.

And so I snapped the picture.
I stood a while and watched the wavelets of the canal
dance with the light,
bringing the moment with me, and with it, the small smile
of remembering.

Poem: Outdated

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Outdated

Courage is not your strong point.
You plod.
You struggle.
You apply the veneer with the best of them.

You fight fear,
armed with little more than a smile
and an outdated faith,
fully out of fashion, and yet
surprisingly effective.

About this poem. 

This began as an essay. Then became a long rambling poem, a Miltonesque monolog on faith. Then I began to whittle and whittle, to chip away and clip off a word here, a line there.

This is all that was left.

That’s the way life works, I think. Whittle away the crap and eventually, you get to the good stuff. The reminder, the lesson, is probably better than the poem.

Tom

Poem: What I Know

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What I Know

This is what I know.
That I can break.
That I am not as strong as I would like to believe
and confronted with enough anger, enough abandonment,
enough lies and theivery of the things I love,
and I will collapse like brick in a fire.

This is what I know.
That I can rise.
That the reclamation always takes longer than the destruction,
but in the end, the broken parts, once repaired
are stronger than the seams untested by fire.

This is what I know.
The broken parts hurt.
The pain changes with time, but never evaporates.
The broken parts show their scars.
It is inevitable and honest to wear those scars,
not proudly, but without shame,
content to be
what I am.

This is what I know.
Lessons of a broken life.
There are things in life far beyond me.
God. Love. Children. The minds of cats.
That a glaring lack of perfection
is better for love than all the facades in the universe.
That worthiness is mine to decide, and no one else’s.
That God whispers.
That haters are already half dead.
That love heals. Always.
That none of this is hard,
but all is choice.

This is what I know.

Poem: Strange Zen

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Strange Zen

The sun bears hot on the back of your neck
and your naked toes burrow into the sand
seeking cooler places, closer to the water level inches below.

In the distance, water tides upward, consuming shoreline,
tossing rocks and shells and stray driftwood landward.

There is no storm this day. The air is still
and you can predict just how far the water will rise
before ebbing deep back into the ocean.

You know
you are safe.

You know you are safe so your mind can wander,
savoring shadows and sun, basking in memories
of love and spirit and soft flesh in the night,
wallowing in recollections gentle and harsh,
your failings, your fallings, and the times you have soared
like some vast bird of prey, wafting high on the wind.

The tide rises slowly. You barely notice.
Your geography matters less than your safety,
less than your freedom from fear
that allows you to probe each scar without pain,
without worry that you will tear them open and bleed.

It is a strange zen, this safe place.
A new thing. Magic, you think.
or perhaps biblical grace come to life.
Either way,
you have struggled to trust it, to meet its magic
with something more than hope,
to believe it.
Trust it.
Live in it, a bird freed from its cage
singing, but always looking back
to its wirey prison.

Artist’s Date: Mass MoCA, Space and Yearnings

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Saturday, the woman I love and I went down to North Adams to visit Mass MoCA. 

I go there a few times a year because the exhibits change constantly. It’s never the same collection twice and I find myself constantly inspired. Recently they just added a huge addition, opening up one of the old factory buildings and transforming it in thousands of square feet of exhibition space.

I will be honest. There was not a lot of the current exhibition that sang to me.  There was some good work. Some odd work. Come curious work. But very little that sang to my soul and inspired me. What really sang to me though, was the space itself.

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It began when we entered one of the first rooms. There were three little multimedia works on the wall. They did little for me, but as I stepped away, I saw them in a different light. There were three chairs set out for the devout to look at them at length, and the juxtaposition of the chairs and art, the spacing, space itself, struck me.

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In the next room, one of the huge galleries, there was this installation called “In Bed (how will we sleep when the planet is melting?) by Sarah Braman. The piece itself was for me kinda “meh”, but as I walked around it, and saw it in space, it took on a life of its own.

And so it was the rest of the afternoon, particularly as we came to the new space.

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Space.

I have been missing space. A decade ago I had a huge old farm house, about 4,000 square feet. There were five acres and outbuildings. There was space for anything I might buy or anything I might want to do. All that space was, I have come to realize, and incredible luxury.

Since my divorce, that house had to be sold. I lived in a couple of tiny apartments with a whole lot of furniture crammed in, and finally landed here in Vermont, where I have a nice house, what has been a perfect house for me and the kids the past several years. There’s plenty of room, plenty of light, but not much wall space. It is house on a smaller scale. It’s on two-tenths of an acre of land, which is nice when you travel like I do. Not much to take care of. But also not much to do things with. No sculpture gardens here. No workshops. No storage for strange and odd things that I might pick up. (because I do.)

I have to be economical with my space.

In the last year or two, I have been half-looking for a big space. A barn or large garage, or perhaps a section of an abandoned factory to move my studio into. I don’t know if it is a natural progression of my art, or some inner part of my spirit that feels the need to do bigger things again, create bigger art, impactful things, but I yearn for more space. Nothing fancy. Just space and light. Or even space without light (Lights can be bought, after all.).

And that’s what my artist’s date did. It brought that yearning back. Is that inspiration? In a way I suppose. But inspiration or not, it’s a reminder of what lies underneath this mild, economical facade I carry with me, and that has value. Without yearning. Without dreams, I am nothing. I am dead.

I learned that a long time ago. The hard way.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

 

Recovering Your Creative Life – a free class

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Last week I mentioned that I was going to be offering a free version of My “Reclaiming Your Creative Life” class free, on-line, in exchange for a little feedback on how well the webinar platform I am using works.

If you are interested in taking part, it will be on July 5th, at 7 PM. If you can’t make the live presentation, you can sign up anyway, and get a recording of the program to view at your convenience.

Interested? The details are here.

Tom