Thursday, June 24, 2010

Clouds, air, summer poems and paintings

Summer is now officially here, the season of outdoor cooking, rose´ wine, sparkling sunsets, and slowing down. The other evening, Lori and enjoyed dinner with old friends at their Craftsman-era home. And we got an additional treat: they showed us five original paintings by Chiura Obata that have never been in a museum or a catalog.

The paintings were inherited from our friend's mother, who studied under Obata at the University of California, Berkeley. Each of these wonderful paintings had lightness and a feeling of motion.

Two were traditional Japanese brush paintings, and three had the more familiar Obata style that makes me feel like I am floating on a cloud. Obata (1885-1975) you may recall is famous for his airy renderings of Yosemite.

The painting at right is of El Capitan at Yosemite; the painting below is of the Topaz Mountains (and not one of our friend's paintings -- we will leave reproduction of their paintings to them).

Here is a poem for summer by Mary Oliver:

Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith
By Mary Oliver

Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun's brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can't hear

anything, I can't see anything -
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker -
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing -
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet -
all of it
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body
is sure to be there.

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