Attend To Beauty [on Two Artists Tuesday]

We are fans of ornamental grass. They line our walkway and populate the area along the fences. DogDog’s round-about sign is now nearly obscured, standing in the middle of tall grasses.

Some folks cut back their grass plants at the end of the season but we let ours stand through the winter. The reason has nothing to do with the health of the plant and everything to do with aesthetics. There are few things more beautiful than ornamental grasses aglow in the winter sun. I have been brought to tears watching the dance of the grasses, alight in pink and orange against the cold blue of a snowy afternoon. Magic beings swaying. [My grass-inspired-tears brought Kerri to consider that my heart just might not be made of cardboard (single ply) after all].

We attend to beauty, not because we are artists but the other way around: we can’t help but attend to beauty and that is what makes us artists. Yamaha paid Kerri a great compliment when she said of our home, “Everywhere I look I see something beautiful.”

Saturday, while raking the leaves, the air was crisp and birdsong, so unexpected, called to me to listen. As I stood listening to the birds, a breeze caught the grasses and they bristled, caught the wind and swayed. I dropped my rake and watched the performance, birds singing to the modern dance of grasses.

Our mail carrier broke my revelry with a greeting. She said, “I’d rather be doing my job than yours. I hate raking leaves!” I laughed. The color of the leaves, the sound, the fall smells. The performance. At that moment, I felt like the luckiest person alive.

“Oh, I don’t mind it,” I replied. “Actually, I’m enjoying it.”

“Well,” she said, “It’s a good thing then. I think I’ll stick to the mail.”

Yes. It’s a good thing. A very good thing, indeed.

read Kerri’s blog post about GRASSES

Return To Life

Tripper-dog-dog-dog listens to birds

Tripper-dog-dog-dog listens to birds

I’m writing this from the choir loft. It’s gorgeous outside and I wonder what I’m doing inside on such a beautiful morning. Kerri is playing the organ for an early morning service. I’ve decided – just this moment – that the organ is an instrument for the dark days of winter. It is heavy and fills your belly like good hearty stew. Birdsong is the music of spring.

Before coming here this morning I was hanging out in the back yard with Tripper-dog-dog-dog. We were watching birds. We were listening to their worship service. He is mystified by them. They are a relatively recent discovery for him. He cocks his head sideways as he stares at them as if to say, “What the heck!” Then he looks to me to see if I’m having the same revelation. I say, “Pretty incredible, huh!” He nods in agreement (no exaggeration. really. no really).

My conversation with the stained glass window continues. The three panels of the window are, of course, the nativity on the left, the crucifixion on the right, and the resurrection in the center panel. It is the largest image. The focal point. The return to life is the center and perhaps this is the meta-point of my window conversation. Many years ago in a class on ritual and life cycles, the instructor said that each one of us would die and be reborn 12 times in the course of our lives. These mini deaths and rebirths were preparation for the main event. Energy does not die, it changes form.

The window is a perfect cycle of the seasons. Throughout the winter the window and I have been talking about the return to life. We’ve talked about birth and rebirth. We’ve talked about pilgrimages. Every life is a pilgrimage. There are long stretches of walking, rich with discovery, sometimes with achy legs and exhaustion. There are days of rest. There are arrivals and departures. Sometimes the weather is fair and sometimes not. The bad weather days make better stories; protagonists need obstacles to move things forward. Flow rarely requires lengthy recounting. Sunrise and sunset are, of course, our daily birth and death cycle, a solar pilgrimage!

Birth and rebirth is the mirror image of death and resurrection and, of course, this is the season of things coming back to life. Both are progressions, movement through the cycle of life. This cycle, punctuated by my first Wisconsin winter, is especially pronounced for me. Three weeks ago we were knee deep in snow. I can see and feel the return of life, the warmth of the sun’s return.

One year ago I was wandering, in the exhaustion phase of my pilgrimage, dropping the old knapsack; it was too heavy to carry any longer. I enacted and presided over one of my mini deaths. This morning I breathed in the cool air and watched the worship of birds. Nests are being built and I am enjoying the sweetness of life’s return.

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