Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Poetry"





Here are some photos of the paintings I chose for my exhibit, which should be hung today. I gave little postcards announcing it to all my neighbors, and even to the girl who cuts my hair and my local bartender! Now I feel a bit nervous about my little attempt at self-promotion. Too pushy?
I don't think my neighbors have any idea what I'm doing in here. :-)

It's the last day of National Poetry Month. I've enjoyed selecting some of my favorite poems to include here--it satisfies the frustrated English teacher in me to assign you reading.

"Poetry"
Marianne Moore

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
unintelligible,
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
under
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician--
nor is it valid
to discriminate against 'business documents and

school-books'; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
'literalists of
the imagination'--above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, 'imaginary gardens with real toads in them', shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.


Not Waving but Drowning
by Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.



"My Father's Love :Letters"

(11x14 sheet)

Irises perplex me. But I have a couple in bloom now, and since they're blue-violet, I can't resist them.
Only time to do a little preliminary figuring out of how they're put together today, since today's the day I have to bring my paintings to library for my exhibit!

Two poems about fathers, or maybe about their children, that I had to get in before the end of the month:
My Father's Love Letters
Yusef Komunyakaa

On Fridays he'd open a can of Jax
After coming home from the mill,
& ask me to write a letter to my mother
Who sent postcards of desert flowers
Taller than men. He would beg,
Promising to never beat her
Again. Somehow I was happy
She had gone, & sometimes wanted
To slip in a reminder, how Mary Lou
Williams' "Polka Dots & Moonbeams"
Never made the swelling go down.
His carpenter's apron always bulged
With old nails, a claw hammer
Looped at his side & extension cords
Coiled around his feet.
Words rolled from under the pressure
Of my ballpoint: Love,
Baby, Honey, Please.
We sat in the quiet brutality
Of voltage meters & pipe threaders,
Lost between sentences . . .
The gleam of a five-pound wedge
On the concrete floor
Pulled a sunset
Through the doorway of his toolshed.
I wondered if she laughed
& held them over a gas burner.
My father could only sign
His name, but he'd look at blueprints
& say how many bricks
Formed each wall. This man,
Who stole roses & hyacinth
For his yard, would stand there
With eyes closed & fists balled,
Laboring over a simple word, almost
Redeemed by what he tried to say.


The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

^


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Monday, April 27, 2009

The Daffodils




Sunday night we took Peter's father out for dinner and when we dropped him off I picked some of Peter's mother's daffodils in the dark, most of which were already all papery and dried up.
I remembered that when she was home summer before last, dying of breast cancer, all the daffodils were in bloom--they bloomed through the spring and into summer. I hadn't thought at the time how unusual to have daffodils in August.

(11x15 sheet)


Only a few more days of National Poetry Month and I have too many poems queued up ready to go!
The Daffodils
by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"my garden--like the beach"

(9x12 sheet)

A subject somewhat new to me, but, with summer coming, I expect to gather many reference photos. This is from a photo taken by my Monday painting teacher, Marie Natale.
I couldn't decide whether of not to put water in ... Maybe on the next one, i'll just leave it out.


My Garden -- like the Beach
by Emily Dickinson

My Garden -- like the Beach --
Denotes there be -- a Sea --
That's Summer --
Such as These -- the Pearls
She fetches -- such as Me
Smilla taking an interest in my new palette


... and in the redwing blackbirds at the feeder.


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Saturday, April 25, 2009

"the force that through the green fuse drives the flower"

(11x15 sheet)
Four small goes at this month's Virtual Sketch Date image.
My successive-wash attempt (bottom left) failed! It's a good technique; my execution's at fault. Mainly I should have taken more care to make the washes smooth.




The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

by
Dylan Thomas

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.
The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.
The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman's lime.
The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.
And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.
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Friday, April 24, 2009

"I become lost ..."

The Cezanne and Beyond exhibit was really wonderful. People told me I'd be more interested in the "and Beyond" part of the exhibit than I thought I would--I wanted to see Cezannes--and they were right.
There were several stellar Charles Demuth paintings there, including one of my favorites, of pears and an overturned bowl, and one I wasn't familiar with, of an orange tree branch, with fruit and flowers, that was heartbreakingingly beautiful. When I browsed the catalogue for the show, I went right to that Demuth, and, disappointingly, the color was off. (I bought a copy anyway.)
The Ellsworth Kelly and Mondrian pieces stood out for me too. In one Mondrian he took the blue-green ginger jar from Still Life with Apples and painted it alone amid a soft grid of his characteristic feathery lines. I like this approach: isolating one defining element.
Instrumental to seeing these paintings as a continuum was the way the show was hung, which was brilliant: each wall made the connections sing. One wall had a Cezanne still life with that chest of drawers he often used and a Jasper Johns canvas: two drawers with actual knobs, all painted with the short brushstrokes one associates with Cezanne, and in the gray-blue Cezanne used in his background.
There was a grouping of large, freestanding flat metal sculptures called "Bathers" by Picasso in the center of the floor. My friend Sue noted that at one point the guard was situated just so, and looked as though he might be a part of the group. It would've made a great photo!
The only dissapointment was that the Sansom Street Oyster House, to which we always decamp after an art exhibit, was closed for--wholly unnecessary and no doubt disastrous--renovations!
(11x15 sheet)

Some tries at this month's Virtual Sketch Date, in progress.
I was inspired by Jeanette at Illustrated Life to crop the reference photo, focusing tightly in on the rhododendron bud.
In the bottom left one I'm trying a technique I learned in my first watercolor class, at Cooper Union (my dad's alma mater): apply successive washes, allowing each to dry thoroughly, yellow through blue, floating the color everywhere that color appears, disregarding edges and objects. For example here the first wash covered everything but the violet buds; the second was, of quinacridone pink, covered everything but the leaves (although it occurs to me I should go in there and overglaze a couple of the leaves with the q pink).
what happens, ideally!, is you get some nice glowing glazes, but also some interesting edges where the glazes overlap, or don't!

Results due tomorrow.


I gather chrysanthemums at the eastern hedgerow
And silently gaze at the southern mountains.
The mountain air is beautiful in the sunset,
And the birds flocking together return home.
Among all these things is a real meaning,
Yet when I try to express it, I become lost in "no words."
--T'ao Ch'ien (fourth century)
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

"her body is not so white as"

(8x5 Moleskine cahiers)
Cezanne, Bathers, 1874-5

I'm going to see Cezanne and Beyond in Philadelphia today, so for today's post I wanted to sketch a copy of one of Cezanne's paintings. I surprised myself with my choice.
Usually I gravitate toward the still lifes and the simple landscapes, house with a house, a tree, a road. And I love the watercolor and his pencil drawings. Other than the paintings of Mme. Cezanne, I don't look at the figures much.
This sketch is far from accurate colorwise (I started with pencil, then moved to color pencil, which I'm not much good with)--I haven't got any of the subtleties in there, but I think you can still see how appealing the color is!

What really amazed me as I drew this--and I never noticed before (this could be a onetime occurrence but that seems unlikely?) was that Cezanne used what one of my painting teachers calls, with a shake of her head, "tangents"--places where
points or edges of things meet (another "no-no").

Here, for example, where, the reclining figure on the bottom left's hair is also the edge of the ground where it meets the grass. (This is really much more visible in the original; my drawing doesn't follow the line exactly.)


Or here, where the dark-haired standing figure's arm abuts the shrub on the far bank.


When I was copying this painting, if I followed the lines freely, rather than drawing the object, it was like a contour drawing, with lines from one flowing easily into the next object.
I'll have to do more copies!



"Queen Anne's Lace"
William Carlos Williams

Her body is not so white as
anemone petals nor so smooth--nor
so remote a thing. It is a field
of the wild carrot taking
the field by force; the grass
does not raise above it.
Here is no question of whiteness,
white as it can be, with a purple mole
at the center of each flower.
Each flower is a hand's span
of her whiteness. Wherever
his hand has lain there is
a tiny purple blemish. Each part
is a blossom under his touch
to which the fibres of her being
stem one by one, each to its end,
until the whole field is a
white desire, empty, a single stem,
a cluster, flower by flower,
a pious wish to whiteness gone over--
or nothing.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Visitor!

A couple of sparrows have taken up residence in the birdhouse Peter hung for me right outside my loft window. That's alittle piece of driftwood I screwed on for a perch ... If you enlarge the picture, you can see the sparrow's face better; he looks mighty pleased.
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"Earth Verse"

(detail)

A detail from a 15 x 22 drawing I made four or five years ago that I've just begun to paint.
I held on to it all that time because I like the drawing so much, but could never start painting it for fear of "ruining" it
Of course I don't have the dogwood branch anymore, so I'm having to invent as I go, which is not what I usually do: the tape in my head tells me I can only paint something I'm looking at.

The best poem I could find for Earth Day, or maybe for any day:

"Earth Verse"
Gary Snyder

Wide enough to keep you looking
Open enough to keep you moving
Dry enough to keep you honest
Prickly enough to make you tough
Green enough to go on living
Old enough to give you dreams


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"praise in summer"

(6x9)

The other half of the page; the same bay in the USVI from a different angle.


"Praise in Summer"
Richard Wilbur

Obscurely yet most surely called to praise,
As sometimes summer calls us all, I said
The hills are heavens full of branching ways
Where star-nosed moles fly overhead the dead;
I said the trees are mines in air, I said
See how the sparrow burrows in the sky!
And then I wondered why this mad instead
Perverts our praise to uncreation, why
Such savor's in this wrenching things awry.
Does sense so stale that it must needs derange
The world to know it? To a praiseful eye
Should it not be enough of fresh and strange
That trees grow green, and moles can course in clay,
And sparrows sweep the ceiling of our day?
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Monday, April 20, 2009

" I thought of questions that have no reply ..."



(6x9)

Somewhere in the USVI ...
I wanted to give the rocks a try; with their geometric volume, they shouldn't be hard to paint--light side, dark side. But I wanted to be more "painterly" about it.

Here it is nearly the end of the month and I haven't included a poem by a poet from whom I could select an outstanding poem, or two or three!, for every day of the month, Robert Frost. Here's one of many favorites, a tuft of couplets:


The Tuft of Flowers by Robert Frost
I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the leveled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been -- alone,

'As all must be,' I said within my heart,
'Whether they work together or apart.'

But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a bewildered butterfly,

Seeking with memories grown dim o'er night
Some resting flower of yesterday's delight.

And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flower lay withering on the ground.

And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.

I thought of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;

But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,

Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him.
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,

And feel a spirit kindred to my own;
So that henceforth I worked no more alone;

But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,
And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.

'Men work together,' I told him from the heart,
'Whether they work together or apart.'



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Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Spring and Fall"

(5x7)

Another little study (also on hot press, as was yesterday's): I was trying to concentrate on showing the shapes, rather than the details within them, to delineate the scene. I see the perspective of the path is off: if you're doing shapes, get them right!

I see I've done it again, what every art teacher I've ever had says is a no-no: divided the page exactly in half. I do it all the time, without realizing it.Well, perhaps it's just an outgrowth of some aspect of my being: balance, not dynamism; calm, not tension.

Today I'm going to fill my two new palettes: I'm doing a four-day workshop in Rehobeth, DE, with Ken Hosmer, and should start getting my kit together.
Actually what I should do is stay home and work, but my friend Shelby, exuberant plein air painter and generous host, is letting me stay at her house, so how can I pass it up?
I'm thinking of devoting one of Thumbox palettes (I bought two, of course) to "my" palette, colors I would normally choose, and the other to Jim Kosvanec's "essential" palette, which is not what I would choose--for one, he has four greens (out of fourteen colors!) and no purples or violet: no cobalt violet--a color I've come to feel I can't do without. (His "optional" colors, for an expanded palette of 21 colors, does included cobalt violet and ultramarine violet.) Might be a total disaster; might be a great shake-up!


Here's one of the first poems I memorized (the others were Shelley's "Ozymandias" and Keats's "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer"). I wish I had the time, and the brain cells, to memorize poems again--what a worthwhile thing to do!
Hopkins's poems are just a pleasure to say, to pronounce the words, a characteristic shared, I think, by the poems of Wallace Stevens.

Spring and Fall: To a young child


by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"of mere being"

(5x7)

What a day--75 and sunny. I did more today during daylight hours than I have since last summer: dug up plants that didn't survive the winter (bah!), went to the farm market, planted a new lilac and a magnolia sapling; moved some lilies to protect them from the boy who mows (over everything); washed the car, rode my bike, walked the dog; picked out some paintings for my show in May; made a pork roast and caesar salad.
And by 8 p.m. when I sat down to paint, I was feeling not up for a challenge. So I painted this small picture trying to just think of shapes and not to work on it too long: call it a color value study.
Now it's time to watch The Departed and have a beer!


One of my favorite Wallace Stevens poems, which I used to have memorized, when I had room in my head for poems (oh, to have those days back). I love how his poems (for me anyway; perhaps I'm being obstuse) like the bird in the poem sing but somehow evade your grasp: this poem is like a key to Stevens's poems. And the last two stanzas make me cry.

"Of Mere Being"
Wallace Stevens

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

"on the beach at night"

(5x7)

During my little breaks from working today I was playing around with all my little pan sets of watercolors; "all" is not an exaggeration because I can't resist ingenious little kits and have several, including my most recent acquistion, a teeny Bijou box.
I had added a pan of Winsor & Newton cobalt violet to my Bijou, but have found it unusable: it stays so hard, and when I do manage to get a brushful, it's oily--too much binder not enough pigment? I found a halfpan of Schmincke cobalt violet, which works beautifully.
And that prompted me to get out my 24 full-pan set of Schmincke colors, which I bought (before they got so expensive! and) after seeing Laura's set on Laurelines.
I haven't used this set much because I've felt uncomfortable with the colors somehow ... the colors may all be warmer than what I customarily choose. I used the set to paint the boats above, a quick study, and found the color to be intense! (I have to learn how to make some mixes.) And the color becomes very wet and workable quickly, so you get a lot on the brush.
I'll have to use this set more.

From the constant companion of my high school years and still, always, a favorite, I've always a copy of Leaves of Grass nearby.

On The Beach At Night
Walt Whitman



ON the beach, at night,
Stands a child, with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.

Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower, sullen and fast, athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends, large and calm, the lord-star Jupiter;
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate brothers, the Pleiades. 10


From the beach, the child, holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower, victorious, soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.

Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears;
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky--shall devour the stars only in
apparition:
Jupiter shall emerge--be patient--watch again another night--the
Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal--all those stars, both silvery and golden, shall
shine out again, 20
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again--they
endure;
The vast immortal suns, and the long-enduring pensive moons, shall
again shine.


Then, dearest child, mournest thou only for Jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?

Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding, I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter, 30
Longer than sun, or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant brothers, the Pleiades.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Colors"

"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance ..."
Happy birthday, Henry James (b. April 15, 1843)


"Live all you can; it's a mistake not to. It doesn't so much matter what you do in particular so long as you have your life. If you haven't had that what have you had?
--from the Preface of
The Ambassadors

(11x15 Fabriano Hot Press)
I had a wonderfully relaxing and fun time with my friend Chris, who was visiting before starting a new, impressive, high power creative director job in NYC. She amazes me, always has.
There really is nothing like spending time with the friends you've had forever.

So, no painting for a few days and then, going back to it with anticipation, I feel I'm in one of those periodic slumps where it's all a struggle.
Part of it is, I think, that my so-called "studio" is in disarray, which always creeps up and, for me, is not conducive.
First step is to tidy the studio ... I have a beautiful easter lily that's in bloom now and I want to paint it soon; it's the type of subject that requires some thoughtful drawing, which requires some cleared-off space!
(11x15 Winsor & Newton CP)
A spur against frustration: small quick studies of Smilla and Itchy.

I bought a new palette for my Thumbox: filling a new palette is so regenerative!
This one has 14 wells. Colors I always include are aureolin, carmine, quinacridone pink, cobalt violet, cobalt blue, ultramarine, hooker's green, raw sienna, and burnt sienna. That's 9; I need a warm yellow and a warm red (probably cadmiums; though I'm open to totally rethinking yellow!), which will leave 3 wells to fill.
Any suggestions? Which colors can you not do without, which ones delight you?


Two poems from the "commonplace book" I kept for a few months in college, where I copied or pasted in poems, letters, and sayings, and the occasional (good) fortune-cookie fortune, a la "You will attend a party where strange customs prevail"!

"Colors"
Wallace Stevens


I
Pale orange, green and crimson, and
white, and gold and brown.

II
Lapis-lazuli and ornage, and opaque green,
faun color, black and gold.



"I Live My Life"
Rainer Maria Rilke

I live my life in growing orbits,
which move out over the things of the world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years.
And I still don't know if I am a falcon,
Or a storm, or a great song.
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Friday, April 10, 2009

a haiku:

(8x11)

Little eggplants.
And a little poem, a haiku:


People working fields,
from my deepest heart, I bow.
Now a little nap.

--Issa (1763-1827)
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Thursday, April 09, 2009

from hotel window, Fredricksburg VA


(8.5x11)

Cathy Gatland's post on Wednesday reminded me of these ballpoint-pen drawings I did from a hotel room in Fredricksburg, Va.

This is the kind of thing that happens to me regularly: I was driving to Asheville, NC, in my new car to see my brother and take a watercolor workshop, when, late Saturday afternoon, as I was driving on I95 my car started decelerating. Pedal to the metal, but she no go.
There were two lanes of merging traffic on my left, and two lanes of merging traffic on my right, and I thought for sure I'd be rear-ended before I could get over to the shoulder.
Then, miraculously, a police car appeared in the rearview mirror; he stayed behind me until I pulled over, beneath an overpass.
I waited in the car for a towtruck and was towed to the dealer, which was closing for the day and closed Sunday. (The police and the safety patrols who cruise that area were all so kind and solicitous; it was only later I realized that it may have been because those snipers were on the loose then, in that area.)
So I was stuck in Fredricksburg until at least Monday ... Turned out to be longer, but that's a tirade for another day.

I did finally make it to Asheville--in a rental car. Perhaps in a later post I'll tell you about how I drove the rental into a ditch in the Smokey Mountains and was extricated by three cars of (very nice and calm) men.

I guess I must've left my art supplies in the car, and all I had to draw on were these blank pages from a book of Irish myths I was proofreading and the pen from hotel room desk.


A friend is coming to visit for a long weekend, so I may not be posting for a few days.
A reminder to myself:

Just Keep Quiet and Nobody Will Notice

There is one thing that ought to be taught in all the colleges,
Which is that people ought to be taught not to go around always making apologies.
I don't mean the kind of apologies people make when they run over you or borrow five dollars or step on your feet,
Because I think that is sort of sweet;
No, I object to one kind of apology alone,
Which is when people spend their time and yours apologizing for everything they own.
You go to their house for a meal,
And they apologize because the anchovies aren't caviar or the partridge is veal;
They apologize privately for the crudeness of the other guests,
And they apologize publicly for their wife's housekeeping or their husband's jests;
If they give you a book by Dickens they apologize because it isn't by Scott,
And if they take you to the theater, they apologize for the acting and the dialogue and the plot;
They contain more milk of human kindness than the most capacious diary can,
But if you are from out of town they apologize for everything local and if you are a foreigner they apologize for everything American.
I dread these apologizers even as I am depicting them,
I shudder as I think of the hours that must be spend in contradicting them,
Because you are very rude if you let them emerge from an argument victorious,
And when they say something of theirs is awful, it is your duty to convince them politely that it is magnificent and glorious,
And what particularly bores me with them,
Is that half the time you have to politely contradict them when you rudely agree with them,
So I think there is one rule every host and hostess ought to keep with the comb and nail file and bicarbonate and aromatic spirits on a handy shelf,
Which is don't spoil the denouement by telling the guests everything is terrible, but let them have the thrill of finding it out for themselves.

Ogden Nash

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