A Noisy Solstice

solstice and hands

“Gimme the vice grips.  Pliers ain’t gonna work for this.”

“I need the three-eighths bit, the hammer and a Phillips.”

“We can frame this thing on the ground, then screw it in place.”

“It’s five and seven sixteenths, like I said.  I measured twice.”


The day of the Solstice dawned windless and clear.  The moon, even through its partly lidded eye, cast a bright square through the skylight before making its sleepy way west in the paling sky. Tiny Mercury winked out a little before 6 am. It was a calm and quiet start to the third season of the year.

The old roof comes down!

The old roof comes down!

That peaceful beginning is hard to recall right now.  As I write, generators (two of them) buzz and growl ferociously on and off. Compressors spit angrily, releasing their pent-up tension. Nail guns slap rhythmic rim shots that echo off the face of the houses across the street; a syncopated beat from the slight delay of their bounced-back sound waves. On the lawn, the portable DeWalt rips through plywood like an angry seamstress tearing out the hem of a poorly sewn dress, while inside a battery-powered jig saw chatters through sheetrock, opening up space for a new furnace duct.  It is Grand Central Station inside and out the day I get a new roof and air conditioning the same day!

Despite the noise and mounting detritus, there’s something comforting about being in the presence of skilled workmen, doing well what they know how to do.  I’m feeling taken care of by these strangers who scramble over and through the house, calling back and forth in their ritualized language, improving and customizing my world with their specialized tools.

Measure twice, cut once.

Measure twice, cut once.

I spent 30 years of my life as a craftsperson myself and appreciate deeply the hand-made thing.  Whether it’s a cup that sits cleanly in the palm, a teapot spout that doesn’t drip, or a roof that shelters securely from the storm, there is great satisfaction in living with things that serve well their intended purpose.DSC00938

When the dust clears, the equipment is packed away in the workmens’ vans and the house is quiet again, I will be left with a new soffit to paint and a small pile of sawdust to add to the compost. There will be the odd roofing nail to fish out of the garden next spring, I’m sure.  But I’ll also be the beneficiary of a little thrill each time I push the button to turn the air conditioning on, pull up to the house with the warm autumn tones of its new sheltering crown.


Ekphrastic Celebration

balloonsMilestones should be celebrated.  Graduations  – ‘tis the season, Solstice – coming up, and birthdays.  For art lovers in Cleveland there’s a big one of those happening right now. Our illustrious Art Museum is 100 years old this month.

I don’t normally use this blog to promote things, but since I get to be a teeny, tiny part of this great celebration, I am taking a liberty. And my part has a lot to do with the ‘paying attention’ focus of this blog. During the Museum’s Summer Solstice weekend coming up (June 25 and 26), the good folks there have invited local artists of all disciplines to come and showcase their work for the public – inside and outside the Museum.

I will be there Saturday as both a local poet/artist and representing Literary Cleveland, a new organization dedicated to “serving writers and readers through a collaborative network of services that inform, advance and elevate the literary arts for the benefit of all in Northeast Ohio” according to the mission statement.

My task will be to compose ekphrastic poems, inspired by favorite works of art in the Museum. If ‘ekphrastic poetry’ is not a familiar term, I will tell you that ekphrasis is from the Greek.  It is a form of rhetoric that attempts to bring the experience of an object to a listener or reader through highly detailed descriptive writing.  Ekphrastic poetry is as old as Homer’s description of the shield of Achilles in The Iliad.  It has become an established poetic undertaking, with poets responding in verse to their experience of a work of art (usually) in another medium and most often a work of visual art.

For this event I will be paying close attention to some of my favorite works in the Museum and to my own experience of them.  I’ll try to translate my experience into poems which I hope will honor the artwork and resonate successfully as creative efforts of their own.

So, I will be at the Museum, in a tent somewhere around the lovely Wade Lagoon, Saturday, June 25 from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, working on my poems.  So far I’ve chosen two pieces to write about; a painting, Gray and Gold, 1942  by John Rogers Cox (American, 1950 -1990) and an ancient, ‘flame style’ Japanese cooking pot from the Middle Jomon period – about 3,000 BC.  Here’s the images.  Gray and Gold

CMA Jomon Pot

If they turn out well, I’ll post the poems after they are done.  Come visit if you can.  It’s free.


solstice 2015

11:48 PM tonight, if I have calculated the local time correctly from the Universal Standard time, the year turns.  Winter Solstice.  What new can be said? Somehow this moment in the year’s unstoppable tipping forward carries far greater weight than its opposite. Perhaps the closeness to Christmas and the calendar new year, with all their layered rituals makes this so.

Still, I believe there remains a shared seed of primitive apprehension active in us at this time. No matter how civilized and world-wise, no matter how well we understand the orbits and the angles of tilt, the scientific reality that creates the moment, the cold and darkness work on us.

So, light the candles, the fire, the tree—and hunker down tonight.  Tomorrow brings a fresh new chance to get it right.

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