"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mental Beauty

Clematis at the Backdoor ~ Similar to Passion Flower*

According to Kate Greenaway's Language of Flowers,
 this flower symbolizes Mental Beauty
[other sources say, Artifice, Ingenuity]

Wreath by Kate Greenaway

"If you trust in Nature, in what is simple in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge. . . .

"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."
from Letter Four: 16 July 1903
by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926)

I also like this alternate translation from Stephen Mitchell:

"Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
you will gradually, without even noticing it,
live your way into the answer."

As I wrote a few years back, my inclination to blog is fueled by "those moments when Life offers its own theme to a strand of apparently accidental events, and everything hangs together for a moment in such an uncanny way that you'd swear it was all planned out somehow!" The latest thrilling trail of irresistible coincidence that I just had to follow concerns the above quotation by Rilke.

I guess the first link in the conversation was my recent post on cursive writing and the meaning of life (scroll down or click) -- more on that later.

The next day, my insightful neighbor, author Patricia Henley posted the first line of the Rilke passage on facebook: "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves . . . ." I loved it, liked it, shared it, and googled it to learn more about the source, context, etc. I discovered that it was part of beautiful excerpt from Rilke's well loved (but new to me) book of writing advice Letters to a Young Poet (to read online). I stored the longer quotation in my saved file of future blog - post material.

The following day, concerning the Fortnightly post, "Cursive," my friend Meg wrote: "Love this entry, Kitti! But I still root for the art of cursive, practicing it in moments of musing -- not expecting any answers, knowing that any flourish is a momentary enjoyment, a ruse that distracts from the clutter of daily life."

I wrote back to Meg right away to tell her that her comment reminded me of my newfound Rilke quotation, sending her the opening line that Patricia had shared with me.

Meg replied: "That quote is part of a larger passage that Rich and I had read at our wedding. Another part of it: 'And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.' "

What a beautiful and unique reading for a wedding -- and congratulations to Meg and Rich for their vision and passion! At that point, I had to let Meg know that she had so inspired me that I would surely be posting the longer version on my blog very soon, along with her comments.

Shortly after that my brilliant literary friend Kathleen O'Gorman wrote to share another link in the chain: "Kitti, Apropos of the Rilke quote (which I adore), if you haven't read Carole Maso's novel, AVA, I recommend it with the greatest of enthusiasm. It incorporates that quote and many others in a breathtakingly beautiful evocation of the texture of a life."

Well, who could resist such a heartfelt recommendation; and it was true that I had been casting about for something rich to read. So I sent straight to amazon and ordered Rilke's Letters and Maso's AVA. I look forward to reporting my impressions very soon on Kitti's Book List (see also "Last Fruits"). The ingenious web of connection and coincidence has once again taken of a vibrant life of it's own.

Now some may call that Artifice, but I call it Mental Beauty.

*E - card from jacquielawson.com
~ click on picture below to enlarge
for reading more about the Passion Flower ~

Next Fortnightly Post
Friday, September 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Girl at Writing Table
by Kate Greenaway (1846 - 1901)
English children's book illustrator

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


D'Nealian Script, a cursive alphabet — lower case and upper case.

"I've always believed that there was a certain age
after which I would be all well and I'd stop feeling
as if I'd been abandoned here on earth with no explanation.
When I was little, the magic number was 6 --
the first - graders had maturity, secret information
(like gnostics), and lunch boxes. Then 13, 18, 21 . . ."

~ Anne Lamott ~
from Grace Eventually (p 243)

When I read these words a few years ago, I identified at once with Lamott's first - grade faith that all would be well and her misconception that the bigger kids had all the answers. Her gradual deflation expresses precisely the dismay that I felt back in grade school when I learned the truth about cursive writing -- that it was a sham, a trick, a false lead. My first real disillusion, way worse than finding out about Santa Claus!

I shared my cursive writing story recently with epigrammatist, writer and artist Michael Lipsey when he posted a similar sentiment on facebook:

"The biggest misconceptions of youth are that
somehow things will fall into place as you get older,
that there will be answers to the larger questions,
that you will attain maturity, and certainties,
and self-confidence. Perhaps this is true
if you have a talent for self-deception.
But eventually you figure out
that there won’t be any of these things --
that you will just have to muddle through
as best you can until the end."

[Previous thoughts from Michael Lipsey on my blog:
"A Little Crazier" ~ "Parallax" ~ "First Friday"
And future thoughts: "My Times" & "Winnow the Dreams"]

The words of Lamott and Lipsey brought to mind something that my wise eldest brother wrote to me back in 2002, following an introspective late summer conversation beside the pool:

Dave wrote: "In 1996, I truly thought that going back to school would be a turning point. I guess it was one more door that I thought had a magic chalice or a secret code word behind it. As a kid growing up I was always convinced that sooner or later I would turn a corner and all the concealed things of the adult and/or bigger world would be revealed. First I thought it was puberty but that just brought the usual frustrations and problems. Then I was convinced that it was being a teenager but that also was more frustration. Somehow I just knew that when I turned 16, Dad would take me aside and clear everything up.

"I was also sure that the Marine Corps [1965] would be a lease on a whole new life which, in a way, it was but not in the way I anticipated. When I was in Chicago and turning 21, I knew intellectually that it meant nothing but still had a secret hope that there was a missing block of knowledge that I would be privy too. After that I quit looking for magic doors but still held the inner kid hope that something would turn up. Hell I even joined the Masons when I was 42. There are no magical turning points. No epiphanies. No blinding lights. Just the slow process of living and doing and trying to make the pieces connect as you roll along [emphasis added].

"I have finally come to the conclusion that it isn't what you do but where your head is at when you do it. That's why old men can fish where there are no fish, talk when there are no listeners and write when there are no readers. They don't require the other side of the equation to feel complete, albeit a bit melancholy at times."
~ from Dave the Brummbaer

[Previous posts from Dave Carriker on my blog:
"Up & Down" ~ "It's Magic" ~ "Porsche"]

My brother's description of waiting for the big moment when all would be revealed to him by Dad or God or the Marine Corps or whomever reminded me of that disappointing day that I have never forgotten when I came home from grade school, having made the big leap from printing to cursive writing. I had been looking forward to this milestone for a long time (or so it seemed in my short life), starting back in first grade when I could only print, anticipating the secret joy of cursive writing to be learned in second grade.

I was kind of like giddy Gilderoy Lockhart (former Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher) who childishly brags when offering autographed copies of his photographs: "I can do joined - up writing now, you know!" (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, p 509).

The long summer between first and second grade came to an end, and I received my cursive writing workbook and soon mastered the task of joining the letters. Somehow, though, it was not quite as exciting as I had expected. In fact, after the big build - up, it did not really seem that much different than printing after all. Maybe the real fun was yet to come, in a more advanced step that would follow the mere connection of letter to letter.

So I asked my older sister Peg: "How long before we start connecting the words?" Imagine my dismay when she informed me that this would not be happening! Of course, the difficulty of deciphering "joined - up" words had never even crossed my mind. As far as I was concerned, that was just another one of those as-yet-to-be-revealed skills. I can still remember the "you-funny-little-kid" expression on Peg's face as she prepared me for the big let down: "You don't ever connect the words; those gaps are always there! What? This was it? No answers to the larger questions? I had arrived . . . already? Was I ever astonished!

It was supposed to be like those tender lines from Neil Young's beautiful song, "Philadelphia: City of Brotherly Love":

"And when I see the light
I know I'll be all right.
I've got my friends in the world,
I had my friends
When we were boys and girls
And the secrets came unfurled."

But no. There was no unfurling.

This was no doubt my first inkling that the Platonic vision of complete perfection might never become available to me here on earth. I guess we have to wait until the afterlife to see all the words connected. For the time being, we write through a glass darkly, filled with gaps, searching for connections.
Leonardo da Vinci's Mysterious Mirror Writing

Next Fortnightly Post
Tuesday, August 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading