Upstream

Upstream, Mary Oliver, Penguin 2016

Getting back to this book blog after a period of general life business.

I finished Mary Oliver’s collection of essays a few weeks ago. I am new to her writing and wish I’d discovered it earlier. I could have benefitted from the wisdom in these beautiful essays on art, creativity, nature and memory many times during my life. This is one of those books you burden with sticky notes and underlining. Oliver’s unsentimental observations about animals, foxes, birds, spiders and turtles are enthralling and occasionally shocking, but it is her reflections on creativity that really spoke to me.

The clock! The twelve-figured moon skull, that white spider belly.”

Of Power and Time

No one has yet made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not. Still, there are indications. Among crowds, in drawing rooms, among easements and comforts and pleasures, it is seldom seen. It likes the out-of-doors. It likes the concentrating mind. It likes solitude. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker. It isn’t that it would disparage comforts, or the set routines of the world, but that its concern is directed to another place. It’s concern is the edge, and the making of a form out of the formlessness that is beyond the edge.

Of Power and Time

The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.

Of Power and Time

Anterior Aspect

Grey’s Anatomy, Descriptive and Applied, 29th edition, 1946, with marginalia

Unfortunately he was struck down by an attack of confluent smallpox, which he contracted while looking after a nephew who was suffering from that disease, and died at the early age of thirty-four.

From a brief biography of Henry Grey

Is any artist’s library complete without a copy of Grey’s? I’ve plundered mine countless times for inspiration and reference and always enjoyed coming across the traces of past owners, their notes and highlights. Until today however, I never noticed this line about Grey’s death. It was all the more powerful given the pandemic we are currently living through, and particularly poignant that he lost his life while helping someone else.

My photo for today was inspired by the work of Rosamond Purcell.

Inklings

The last drops of the thundershower had hardly ceased falling when the Pedestrian stuffed his map into his pocket, settled his pack more comfortably on his tired shoulders, and stepped out from the shelter of a large chestnut tree into the middle of the road.

Out of the Silent Planet, C.S. Lewis

On a certain day in June, 19—, a young man was making his way on foot northward from the great City to a town or place called Edgewood, that he had been told of but never visited. His name was Smoky Barnable, and he was going to Edgewood to get married; the fact that he walked and didn’t ride was one of the conditions placed on his coming there at all.

Little, Big, John Crowley

I began this post to comment on my love of the Bard Books/ Avon imprint. These books, once ubiquitous, are now are seen most frequently in used book shops. Charles Williams made me think of C. S. Lewis, of course, and the opening paragraph of Out of the Silent Planet made me think of the opening of Little, Big, and this is how works of literature speak together through us. It’s also why I will never thin out my library. There is no greater joy than following a trail of breadcrumbs through your collection of books.

For fun, here is a piece of art I did back in 2003, inspired by John Crowley’s Little, Big.

Lilac from Little, Big, by John Crowley

Excerpt from Lint

This is an excerpt from Lint, a short story in my forthcoming collection Magpie’s Ladder.

“A pale giant sat in the middle of a small boat, nine fingers whitening on the gunwale. His nickname was Crane, given for his slender limbs and long neck. Crane feared any expanse of water, and had a prickling acquaintance with finned fish anaphylaxis. The lake was a fogged mirror with silvering marred by innumerable darting pumpkinseeds. He hummed “Jelly Roll Blues” to calm himself. The vintage outboard motor, which looked like some kind of reeking steampunk beetle, seemed about to rattle the boat to pieces. Crane only loosened his grip when the island, for so long a scribble on the horizon, began to fill his field of vision. The pilot, a desiccated man who’d offered Crane a bump of meth off the back of a freckled hand before setting out, let the boat drift toward the shore. They said goodbye, in a haze of pale gasoline exhaust.”