Friday, March 25, 2016

Week in Seven Words #284

Eyeing an assignment sidelong - a tough one, and I wish I could put it off. But if I do that, it will expand in my mind like a tentacled beast, throttling other thoughts.

Sneakers squeak on the indoor basketball court. Athletic giants peer down at the players from a mural that runs along the upper part of the wall.

In a coffee shop where the light doesn't reach every corner, we're huddled over tea and plates of pastries. The window is smudged with dirt and rain.

The sign says, "Do not smoke on this bench or near this bench." Maybe it will be replaced soon by a sign that clarifies what 'near' means - three feet? Five feet? Ten? We can't leave these things to chance. People need to be told exactly what to do. Make sure a security camera is pointing at the bench too, just in case.

"I've seen it all," he says. But no, he hasn't. He just feels like he has. And for the time being he lacks the energy to risk any new experiences. He's retreated, hurt, and the world looks inhospitable to him. But comforting, because he's made it smaller than it is. He can pretend to see into its far corners. Nothing will surprise him.

The fountain erupts in a shower of light, like a watery fireworks show.

She's arranged the flowers to look like butterflies, circling and landing.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

12 Beautiful Music Videos

Carnival (Natalie Merchant)
Wandering around taking photos of a city. I love the exploration, the mood of taking things in and questioning and leaving questions unanswered.

Everybody Hurts (R.E.M.)
I like the words flashing over the people in the traffic jam, revealing their thoughts. Their separation from each other and their shared plight.

I Am Not a Robot (Marina and the Diamonds)
Simple, direct, beautiful with a few different looks, including astronomical body paint.

I'm Going Slightly Mad (Queen)
I like so much of Queen's music - and some of their other videos - but this one is my favorite video. Comic, tragic and creative. (I also love the lyric "one wave short of a shipwreck" to describe descending madness.)

Kind and Generous (Natalie Merchant)
Peaceful, magical carnival atmosphere, with people hanging out together in whatever costumes they choose.

Lately (Charlie Winston)
More disturbing and intense than beautiful, but kind of beautiful too. In an eerie way.

Level Up (Vienna Teng)
Hopefulness, inspiration, starting over. Beautiful breakdancing.

Nobody's Fault But Mine (Abigail Washburn)
This was filmed live, with the musician wandering from room to room in an abandoned building, the acoustics changing. It's an amazing performance.

Papaoutai (Stromae)
The video shows a boy trying to connect to a father who's mentally or physically absent. Comedic and heart-breaking.

Poison Tree (The Milk Carton Kids)
A security guard roaming a mall with his imagination and memories. The images in the video somehow soften the bleakness of the lyrics.

The Sensual World (Kate Bush)
Dancing, deep colors, the feeling of love and old legends. Kate Bush is like a beautiful sprite.

Tightrope (Janelle MonĂ¡e)
I love the idea of an asylum for people practicing music, dance and magic. The dance moves are awesome, and I like this song so much.

Week in Seven Words #283

She walks ahead of the rest of us, and I understand the mood she's in - restless, unwilling to talk, needing to feel like she's floating free.

Between the chainlink fence and the water is a zone of discarded objects: a pink Disney princess balloon, a bike wheel, green bottles and a soccer ball.

Volcanic colors of sunset over small gray buildings.

An email I expected arrives. Even though I sensed that something like it was coming, it's no less disappointing.

Skyscrapers like silver blades cutting into the night.

Half an hour gets sucked away on a TV show where people make petty, poorly thought out decisions and end their night drunk and brawling.

We walk past the yachts in the marina and marvel at their features, like the hot tubs and lounge chairs. "Which one is yours?" she asks, grinning. I tell her that mine isn't a yacht. It's a leaky rowboat. The amenities include a bucket to bail out water.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Week in Seven Words #282

She pushes a stroller heaped with picture books. There's a child in there too, somewhere.

At some point, he started to sound like a 1950s TV dad. Though in some ways he has matured, his thoughts have also hardened and narrowed.

I leave the room in anger. Outside, a few things calm me: The air, the trees and the soft afternoon light. The self-possession I feel, when I finally realize that the greatest part of my anger comes from things I'm insecure about or afraid of in myself.

The music surrounds us, forms a roof over our head with the clouds and stars beyond it.

I'm told she was a quiet, self-conscious child who sometimes had problems at school. Her own stories of her childhood are different - that she was confident, tough, never afraid.

The cough that latched onto my windpipe for weeks is finally relaxing its grip.

The bottom half of the beech tree is a mess of scars and initials. Farther up, the trunk smooths out, rising past all the parts that are defaced.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Country of the Pointed Firs: Jewett's Exquisite Book

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett is intense in its depictions of people sharing their lives while also living apart and alone. An author spends a summer in a remote coastal village in Maine, at the end of the 19th century. She meets people who show her parts of their life and the depths of their character. And at the end, she has to leave. It's only a season, full of weight and breadth but also coming quickly to an end.

The book, which I read for the Classics Club Challenge, isn't plot-heavy. It's a collection of meetings, conversations, meditations on nature (human and the natural world), all beautifully written. The people who inhabit the village become extraordinary because of the attention the author gives them. Here's one look at Mrs. Todd, whose house the author stays in for the summer:
It is not often given in a noisy world to come to the places of great grief and silence. An absolute, archaic grief possessed this countrywoman; she seemed like a renewal of some historic soul, with her sorrows and the remoteness of a daily life busied with rustic simplicities and the scents of primeval herbs.

And here is an old man she meets:
There was a patient look on the old man's face, as if the world were a great mistake and he had nobody with whom to speak his own language or find companionship.

The book weaves together beauty and joy with misery and loss. These feelings are inseparable. As the author looks out on nature, she observes the decay and death along with the promise and loveliness:

The tide was setting in, and plenty of small fish were coming with it, unconscious of the silver flashing of the great birds overhead and the quickness of their fierce beaks. The sea was full of life and spirit…

It was not the first time that I was full of wonder at the waste of human ability in this world, as a botanist wonders at the wastefulness of nature, the thousand seeds that die, the unused provision of every sort.

The author grows pretty close to some of the villagers, and the villagers feel fairly close to each other, or at least committed to each other; at the same time, they're separated in private griefs and memories they rarely speak about. They've enlarged their lives by finding a place in an extended family or community, or by gaining an intimate knowledge of nature, whether the woods or the sea. But they're still alone, each distinct and separate in character.

I'm tempted to share many more excerpts from this book, because it's so beautifully written. The author takes a season and tries to give it permanence in text. Even when there's the bittersweet feeling of knowing it all passes, that all these people have died, something of them and the world they live in are still around.

In the life of each of us… there is a place remote and islanded, and given to endless regret or secret happiness; we are each the uncompanioned hermit and recluse of an hour or a day; we understand our fellows of the cell to whatever age of history they may belong.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Week in Seven Words #281

A dragonfly, a branch and a monarch butterfly, suspended against the blue-white sky in a mosaic.

The dip has been sitting out for hours. The chips and crackers have been pawed into crumbs. The guests have had too much wine to notice.

She painted the sunflower drooping against a faded wall. The sunflower looks like it's losing color the way people lose blood.

She twirls in a dress made of soda cans and playing cards. Silver streamers run through her hair.

At the coffee shop, the outdoor seating is a bench encrusted in cigarette butts.

Walls of sloppy, spiraling graffiti become, just one block down, a series of murals: blue faces, owls, the moon's surface.

Depending on the light, the leaves on the tree look like paper sometimes, and other times like moths about to break into flight.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Week in Seven Words #280

Rain spatters the window. The backyard looks like green liquid, a parsley shake.

The candies are a brightly colored glue of sugar and preservatives.

He doesn't like the cake, but he eats it, because it's cake.

A spider threads its web across the mouth of a stone lion.

His aquarium is a blue tub. The fish are plastic toys, and bob as if they're dead. He pokes at them to make them look lively. They lurch and sway in the water.

Throughout the game of Clue he glances at his phone, gets up to eat, and forgets what he asked the other players. He still wins. He's like a fictional private eye who looks unprofessional and gets dismissed as an idiot, only to solve the murder way ahead of the police.

A plot of dirt bakes in the sun. Nothing, not even a weed, grows in it.