Posts Tagged ‘Four Quartets’

Evening at the Parisian Café

January 19, 2016


At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

But neither arrest nor movement.  And do not call it fixity,

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.

And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.

T. S. Eliot, “Four Quartets

Today I finished reading one of the most satisfying books in a long time: Bernard Jacobson’s Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant. The text is comprised of 120 pages of fine print, and I do not like reading fine print, but this was a genuine feast, begun Saturday and finished today (Tuesday). I simply could not put it down. I have been a devoted student of Motherwell’s life and work since the late 1980’s, and have chafed that there were no biographies written on him. Last year marked the centennial of his birth, so this book has come out, and another is coming out the first week in March, which I have already ordered pre-publication, compliments of Amazon.

I share almost nothing in common with Motherwell’s style of painting and collaging, but I absolutely love his writing, and he wrote prodigiously. The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell remains one of my favorite art texts of all time. I love his lifestyle which combined reading, writing, publishing, editing, teaching and making art across multiple genres. He was a contemplative, quiet man, and I have felt an affinity with his solitary side during my own hours of work and study. Nearly every day when my job is done, I retreat to my home and studio-my sanctuary. Tonight, as temperatures drop outside, I am enjoying this fireplace and re-reading all the notes I took in my journal from the reading of this excellent book. I posted the drawing of the tree above in a brief blog earlier this evening. I went to La Madeleine Cafe on the north side of Arlington to meet some kindred spirits, and got there a half hour early. So I took out my sketchbook, and with a cup of coffee at an outside table, did this 5 x 7″ drawing with great pleasure and gladness of heart. For years I have stared at winter trees, and questioned myself why I was not studying them with a pencil. Last November I got in the groove of this, and don’t want to get out, I enjoy the practice and discovery so much.

Once my friends arrived, we repaired ourselves indoors to the warmth of the cafe and excellent, spirited conversation. It has taken me decades to find such rich camaraderie and verbal exchange among artistic spirits. The French Impressionists had their Café Guerbois. Picasso and friends had their Les Deux Magots. The Ash Can School had 806 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. The Abstract Expressionists had the Cedar Bar in Greenwich Village. I myself have ached for an art cafe where I could show up once a week or so and just talk with other creative people, and finally I found a married couple who possess this overflowing zest for art, ideas, music, literature and film. Their enthusiasm is contagious and I could listen to their ideas all night. How marvelous to have this space on Tuesday evenings for sharing a table, cups of coffee, and an abundance of dreams. Thanks Z and Elaine. You are truly the best! I’m still buzzing with the things we talked about this evening.

Now back at home, I’m enriched in front of the fire with memories, a journal, good books and a glad heart.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.




At the Still Point of the Turning World

January 17, 2015

At the still point of the turning world.  Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is.

T. S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”

From the moment I awoke this Saturday morning, I saw my bedroom bathed in bright sunlight, and my blood was stirred by these sentiments gleaned last evening from T. S. Eliot.  Words for the Sublime will apparently never exhaust our vocabulary–God, Religion, Art, Spirituality,Truth, Enlightenment.  But since I’ve been meditating on Eliot’s “Four Quartets” I’ve been jolted by his hints of “those rare moments when eternity intersects the temporal continuum, while treating also the relations between those moments and the flux of time.”  And now, reading this poem that calls these sublime, transcendent moments “the dance”–what a word to describe the primal ecstasy I’ve known my entire life and have read with pleasure from the writings of Emerson, Thoreau and the British Romantic poets.

In Friday’s philosophy class, while contrasting Plato’s eternal with Aristotle’s movement, we pushed our research backward into the Presocratic fragments, and I chose to take my Heraclitus texts home with me to translate and to read essays on his work from Eliot and Heidegger.  For years I’ve played with the notion of flux in Heraclitus and the explanation that nothing in life remains constant, but recently I’ve been reading critical works pointing out his obsession to know the underlying unity beneath the flux.  As I spent hours yesterday and today translating ancient Greek texts discussing the source as well as the destiny of life, I found myself returning to T. S. Eliot repeatedly to read his comments that follow a number of Presocratic utterances–the end is already in the beginning.  At my current age, this resonates with me more than ever before.  I think that many of us during these senior years are puzzling out just exactly what our sense of purpose has been in this life, and how early we intuited that purpose.  As we take our retrospective looks at our personal odysseys, we tend to extract meanings to the things we’ve done and are now doing.  And I believe there is much reward in thinking over these things.

I apologize if these comments are scattered.  I’m still puzzlling it all out, and plan to continue in this endeavor.  So far, this is turning out to be one of my better holiday weekends on record, and I’m thankful for the time and space to read, reflect and write on these things.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.