The artist does not and cannot transmit a phenomenon in its entirety. The common time with four beats already conveys a certain intermittence: ‘1 – 2 – 3- 4.’ This intermittence is real and it allows us to show a single property common to a set of objects that we behold, and which is beyond their recognizable quality. Art always divides objects and offers a part instead of a whole, a feature of the whole, and no matter how detailed it is, it is still a dashed line representing a line. Art always separates the similar and unites the different. it is stepped (gradational) and can be montaged. But art is not a train connecting cars full of phrases. Connections highlight the ruptures. We isolate separate features in order to transmit the whole. If we develop a certain segment in great detail, then that segment replaces the whole, transmitting not so much its condition but the meaning of its condition. We divide narratives into separate chapters or paragraphs; we emphasize the distinction of separate lines through rhythm and rhyme. At the same time, we ‘repeat’ and reinforce the previous word with the help of rhyme, as it were, forcing the reader to reread the preceding line.”
Viktor Shklovsky, from Bowstring: On the Dissimilarity of the Similar
That last post was influenced deeply, no, haunted-by-the-ghost-of John Muir, whose biography I started to read while in a cabin without running water or electricity. Accounts of this man’s absolute dedication to being outside have been intoxicating. Below are quotes from The Sierra Club‘s website; Muir co-founded the club:
Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.
Fresh beauty opens one’s eyes wherever it is really seen, but the very abundance and completeness of the common beauty that besets our steps prevents its being absorbed and appreciated. It is a good thing, therefore, to make short excursions now and then to the bottom of the sea among dulse and coral, or up among the clouds on mountain-tops, or in balloons, or even to creep like worms into dark holes and caverns underground, not only to learn something of what is going on in those out-of-the-way places, but to see better what the sun sees on our return to common everyday beauty.
If my soul could get away from this so-called prison, be granted all the list of attributes generally bestowed on spirits, my first ramble on spirit-wings would not be among the volcanoes of the moon. Nor should I follow the sunbeams to their sources in the sun. I should hover about the beauty of our own good star. I should not go moping among the tombs, not around the artificial desolation of men. I should study Nature’s laws in all their crossings and unions; I should follow magnetic streams to their source and follow the shores of our magnetic oceans. I should go among the rays of the aurora, and follow them to their beginnings, and study their dealings and communions with other powers and expressions of matter. And I should go to the very center of our globe and read the whole splendid page from the beginning. But my first journeys would be into the inner substance of flowers, and among the folds and mazes of Yosemite’s falls. How grand to move about in the very tissue of falling columns, and in the very birthplace of their heavenly harmonies, looking outward as from windows of ever-varying transparency and staining!
I will consider the lilies; I will consider the ferns. I will consider the fragrant ragged edged weeds that bloom with delicate purple stars. I will consider the wild ginger root that brightens the mind and cleans the teeth. I will consider the earthy-tasting richness of the stinging nettle, once it has been blanched in boiling water. I will consider the dizzy cabbage moth wheeling in ecstasy over swaying blossoms. I will consider the plantain weed with its parallel veins: chewed into a poultice, it siphons away bee sting. And I have proven this. And consider it. I will consider long grasses and spongy mosses, layers of generations of trees both standing and fallen, falling water, trickling water, misting, foggy, frozen, shimmering, ebbing and flowing water, always rising and always falling. I will consider the ruffling layers of stony oyster shells and the curving worms that shelter beneath them at low tide. I will consider the scuttling claws and waving tentacles, the slimy and bony mounds of trembling life washed by the sea in its heaving rhythm. And I will be rich and will not be poor, though the city would deem me so. I will be rich and eat dandelion greens. I will be rich and bathe in gold, when that gold is post-rain sun.
Gardens are a constant metaphor in my mind, and, lately, in my drawings. The funny thing is that I’m a really rotten gardener. I covet the endlessly thoughtful arrangements that house-owners keep up here on Crown Hill above Ballard in Seattle. I take long walks and drink it in. And then I come back to my rental and see things like this:
It looks lush, yes– green stuff grows everywhere in the spring in the Northwest. But it is all a tangle. An unkempt, unkept mini-wilderness that makes me want to shield my face from the surrounding upstanding-citizens-of-the-yard. Arguably, my drawn or painted gardens also reflect the untidy version of growth. Many wouldn’t even see them as gardens. But maybe this is the year. The year for trimming and choosing, even in this rented space. Maybe I’ll learn some more about what I’m thinking if I get my hands into the soil.