Poetry, Prose, and Probity

Over the course of nearly a decade of consistent effort and tenure here at WordPress.com, I have dedicated much of that time to the exploration of our very human nature as it relates to our experiential awareness of existence as a sentient, self-aware, and yes, spiritually-imbued creatures. In the interest of promoting and encouraging those who visit here to engage in their own explorations, I have often presented my ideas based on three main conceptual premises, those being Poetry, Prose, and Probity. While I have alliterated the description of these efforts with the three “P’s,” it’s more than just an attempt to employ a literary contrivance. At the heart of most of the matters I’ve discussed and written about at length, there is a thread that connects all these efforts, which has been and continues to be an honest effort to illuminate the ideas contained within them, utilizing these three main components of expression.

While I also have enumerated them in a particular order for the title of this post, the order should not be taken as an order of importance necessarily, and certainly each of these methods of expression have their own unique contribution, and share an essential quality in the broad scope of my writing. As I intimated earlier this year, my emphasis in relating the results of nearly a lifetime of reflection on the accumulation of experiences and memories over many years, might be possible to be brought into sharper focus, in at least one way, by following through on my thought to review the objects and souvenirs accumulated over that time. Having spent so much time putting off this review due to other more urgent obligations, I kept telling myself that one day I would benefit from hanging on to the most important pieces, which I believed could play a significant role in assisting my ability to recall those moments and events.

The sheer volume of these items, many of which surround me in my writing space, is beyond any expectation I might have had along the way, and even just trying to organize a basic presentation of the most essential of them has proven to be an almost monumental task. In order to begin to examine this avalanche of archival ingredients, including documents, letters, images, and all manner of memorabilia, it seemed logical to review what has already appeared in my blog entries as a way of finding a starting point for presenting this material, and I found that most of the entries over the years had one of the three “P’s” at the core.

Poetry may be one of the least often utilized components in the archives here, and although there are a great many more available selections that I composed over that time, the use of my poetic creations in supporting my ideas has been limited in some ways, mostly because by doing so, it seems to me, the inclusion of a poem would be more effective when expressing my thoughts or supporting my ideas. For me, poetry is a deeply personal and unique aspect of expression, and should be reserved for occasions when including them will create a clear highlight to a particular blog post. Such choices are very subjective for me, and when I am considering using one to include in a posting, I usually go with “my gut.”

The images I created above to lead off this post, and the one below it of me delivering a recitation of an original poem written for a family wedding, give a fair idea of the kinds of items I have saved and the kinds of images that became important components in the accumulation of thousands more that tell the story of how I arrived at this time and place in my life. The photo of the medals on the left are particularly important, as they include several awarded to both my father and my son, along with a few given to me along the way. Our family has participated in the service of our country over generations, and both my father and my son served in combat theaters during their service years, earning much more than awards of medals. My own service during what was described as the “Cold War,” fortunately did NOT include time in combat, but did require a degree of sacrifice and deprivation under difficult circumstances.

So this is where the story begins. Generations of family members preceded me in nearly every aspect of life experience, in ways that not only laid a foundation for the unfolding of my own physical existence, but also in ways which would prepare me and influence me as the events of my life became my everyday reality. Somehow, I instinctively knew that the objects, documents, and images accumulated along the way, would be vital to my understanding in the years to come, and the tendency to be sentimental and emotional regarding these items served me well whenever I engaged in purposeful reflection or undertook the recording of important events.

From my earliest memories of family gatherings with grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and cousins, my parents seemed keenly aware of the importance of documenting the important moments with some of the most basically functional cameras available decades ago, that were often only adequate under specific conditions, and required additional light from a flash unit whenever the photos were taken indoors. It was of particular importance to my father, it seems, since he invested in this Kodak camera early on in our young lives:

Since I became the resident photographer in our family in later years, I inherited this camera and recall many times when my father would drag it out, most often when special occasions warranted, and only occasionally were we asked to pose on an ordinary day. The film this camera used was 120 Kodak film, which was a designation by Kodak which produced negatives about two and a half inches wide, but the lenses for such cameras weren’t especially sharp by today’s standards. Not long after we became accustomed to waiting a week or more to see the pictures taken in this way, one day my father brought home a Polaroid camera, and much to our amazement, the photos would appear in minutes after developing within the envelope produced by the film pack, and it also required a little tube of “fixer” to be applied once the development was sufficient:

Both of these cameras have noticeable “bellows,” accordion-like folds which allowed for both movement of the lens and for making the camera fold up neatly when stored. I remember the fascination I felt at the idea of making photographs from a very early age, and once I was able to afford my own equipment, the popular cameras were all in a 35mm format, but still utilizing film spools which had to be loaded manually into the back of the camera, and rewound once the roll was finished:

No longer were “bellows” a part of the equipment, and after years of practice and having accumulated a number of large format cameras and darkroom equipment, I became interested in doing photography full time, and for years during the 1980’s, I managed to find work as a freelancer, performing all sorts of assignments from portraits, weddings, special occasions, and even gained some publishing credentials in newspapers and magazines:

The photo of me on the right at the top of this blog post shows a recent image of my face digitally inserted into a previous image taken years ago, bringing me full circle into the work I often do today, repairing images with defects of some sort, or faces with eyes closed, or simply to take up a challenge to blend images together:

Photography continues to challenge me in a number of ways, not to mention the stacks of photo albums and archival items to preserve, but these and the thousands of other images in my collection all hold an essential place in the maelstrom of time, along with the evidence they provide for the probity of all that has occurred to me throughout these many years.

Echoes of the Moment

Echoes of the Moment

Before I was able to relinquish my tenuous grasp on consciousness,
After writing through the relentless sighing of night,
The irresistible call of the brightness of the spring morning sun,
Pulled my heart and mind to delay fitful sleep,
And instead to persist a while longer,
In order to enjoy a few moments of blissful, temperate,
And delightful contemplation of the season’s gifts.

Waves of sunlight, gentle breaths of wind, and the tranquil
Murmur of memories—echoes of the moment—
Invite the sun’s radiant beauty to streak across the void;
As it lands upon my skin, I relish its gentle but persistent touch,
Reaching my face like the hand of a dear friend,
With a warm and comfortable gesture which soothes my
Most troublesome aches with loving thoughts.

This day, the whispering breeze persuaded my hair
To swing away from my face and tickle my neck.
Birds click and coo pleasingly in the distance as I close my eyes;
Inside me, staring contentedly at the blazing red surface
Of closed eyelids, I enjoy the passing refrain of a distant train,
Competing with a buzzing lawn mower down the street,
As the echoes of the moment reverberate in my consciousness.

The cat wants to have my attention, but I’m not ready,
So she reluctantly falls asleep at my feet like she’s always been there.

© May 2019 by JJHIII24

Wisdom and Spirit of the Universe

“Wisdom and Spirit of the universe!
Thou Soul that art the eternity of thought,
That givest to forms and images a breath
And everlasting motion, not in vain
By day or star-light thus from my first dawn
Of childhood didst thou intertwine for me
The passions that build up our human soul;
Not with the mean and vulgar works of man,
But with high objects, with enduring things—
With life and nature—purifying thus
The elements of feeling and of thought,
And sanctifying, by such discipline,
Both pain and fear, until we recognize
A grandeur in the beatings of the heart.

—excerpt from, “The Prelude,” an autobiographical poem by William Wordsworth, begun in 1798, completed in 1805, and published in 1850 after his death.

Standing on the shoreline the other day, staring out across the churning waters of the Atlantic Ocean, early in the morning on the East Coast of the United States, I reflected at length on recent events in my life, as we all sometimes do, on the anniversary of my birth, only this time, I did so on the occasion of having accumulated sixty-five years, which, in my mind at least, was sufficient to justify such purposeful reflection.

The celebratory events of the day before, although thoroughly pleasing and fully occupying the waking hours of my day, were, by most standards, quite ordinary as these events generally go, but also, in every way, greatly appreciated and precisely what I needed to inspire me to attempt to convert that purposeful reflection into some form of heartfelt expression.

As the morning light begins to rise into fullness, the sun struggles to pierce the “chaos of clouds.” I start to wander along the edge of the tidal movement, creeping ever slowly away from the peak of high tide. I walk slowly, dividing my gaze between what lies at my feet and what transpires in the sky, waiting for the sun to break through. Several small sea creatures, once alive, lay motionless in the sand, their lives now abandoned at the water’s edge. I pause briefly to mourn, and to ponder the loss.

The rising and receding of the tide, a perfect metaphor for the cycle of life, demonstrates well how we are joined in perfect unison with the natural world. The dawn brings the beginning of a new day, just as every birth signals the beginning of a new life. The rhythm and currents of the ocean mirror the rhythmic nature of all life, and with only a small effort, we can draw parallels from our own lives that compare well with the circumstances we observe in a natural setting.

Even the movement of the air can evoke a strange feeling of sameness with our subjective experience of the moment. The wind is mostly brisk, while rising and falling in a kind of erratic rhythm, occasionally failing to push hard enough against me, forcing me to periodically adjust my gait. As my thoughts recede, I lift my sights to the sky:

All of my barriers have fallen.
My mind slips into reverie;
As I slowly traverse the nearly deserted beach,
Everything all around me is in motion;
The relentless lapping of the waves—
The steady rising and falling of the rhythmic wind.
The early morning sun struggles
To squeak past the chaos of clouds;
Its light diffused behind a patchwork of puffy grayness.

I stop to stare at what might become an opening
In this fabric in the sky; impatient, I close my eyes.
Inhaling deeply, I hold my breath—
Then release it slowly, almost reluctantly.
I yearn for even a small bit of stillness,
But I cannot quell the water, wind and sky;
The only possibility for stillness is within me.
As I pause and ponder, a sudden urgency
Overtakes my senses—you are unmistakably near.

In my mind’s eye, I come upon a clearing.
A soft, flowing, musical soundtrack plays in my head;
I drift slowly, steadily toward the center of it all,
When the memory of you appears, my inner world swells,
Just as it always did right before you opened to me.
As you turn, I see your face—you smile;
I am floating as I approach, extending my hand;
Instinctively reciprocal, you reach out for mine—
Contact.

If you would like to hear me recite these words you can follow this link:

Enjoy!

What Lives In Your Heart

What Lives in Your Heart, Is Always on Your Mind

I awoke this morning
From a dream about you.
I was repairing a section of wall
That had separated from the floor.
Now ungrounded, it wiggled uncooperatively.

You sat in front of me,
Chatting as I worked.
I turned my gaze to the pinpoints of light,
Reflecting like shiny crystals off the surfaces
Of each of your dark brown eyes.

In the background, I could hear
A faint chorus of a familiar song,
Which once played while you were near.
Even in my dream, the idea of being near you
Caused my spirit to rise above the pain.

In spite of how my heart ached,
I endured the moment gladly somehow.
I seemed to know that the pain would not last—
As if, at any moment, a joyous cloudburst
Might penetrate the roof and descend upon me.

Each dream world breath began and ended
With some memory of our time together,
Inspiring hope—feeding the pulse of life in my heart.
You abide within me at all times,
But it’s moments like these that make me come alive.

Your gentle breathing was all that was needed
To give voice to the expression on your face;
I whispered under my breath,
“What lives in your heart,
Is always on your mind.”

© May 1997 by JJHIII24

American Watercolor Exhibit

An extraordinary opportunity to travel to Center City Philadelphia this weekend made it possible to fulfill a longtime wish from my younger days to view in person some of the actual original works of Winslow Homer. As a much younger man, full of optimism and the creative spirit, I had thought to become an artist myself, and had taken many steps to achieve that aim throughout my educational journey. Art classes in grammar school, high school, and college only served to heighten my interest in the great works of art created out in the world, and one of my earliest experiences with admiration for other artists involved Mr. Homer, as his paintings were often used as illustrations for poetry books that I never seemed to be able to avoid reading.

The painting at the top of this page, entitled, “Diamond Shoal,” was created around 1905, and captured my imagination not simply as a work of art, but as an inspiration to imagine sailing in such a circumstance myself, as well as prompting what would become a lifelong interest in watercolor painting. Once it became an interest for me, I began attempting to create my own works, a few of which have illustrated my writings here. I never felt like my own skill approached any sort of level that might warrant attention from the art world, but the inspiration of the many works I encountered along the way never left me.

The image above, also by Winslow Homer, is a prime example of how such paintings not only appealed to me as a work of art, but also gave me an appreciation for the content of artwork that the masters unfailingly produced, which I rarely felt that I could embody in my own work. The painting is called, The Trysting Place,” from around 1875, and it depicts a young woman waiting at an appointed meeting place for what the artist described as “…a tardy lover.” You can almost feel the butterflies in her stomach in anticipation of his arrival, and perhaps even some anxiety that he might not show up at all. She is a lovely young woman, dressed in a deliberate choice by the artist as emblematic of the times, and she seems both vulnerable as she wonders what might be keeping her lover, and yet still also courageous to make the arrangement in the first place. Standing in front of these works, knowing that they are the original work of an artist I have long admired and who is world famous with good cause, was both uplifting and inspiring, even as a much older man today. There were hundreds of works by other artists as well and a few of them were especially notable for me as an enthusiastic patron of the exhibit.

This image was painted by one of the many women artists featured at the exhibit. “Bow Sprit,” from around 1916-1918, is a much more impressionistic rendering than some of the others which caught my eye, and I love how the impressions of the water and the sails and the circumstance are more than sufficient to give the viewer a sense of what the artist saw. I love the sparkling array of colors and the fluid movement suggested by her skilled hands. There were many renderings in the exhibit which had similar effects, but this one stood out for me.

At about the half-way point in the journey through these amazing images, there was a section of Winslow Homer works, paired with similar subjects and renderings by another master of watercolor, John Singer Sargent. Both artists were members of the American Watercolor Society in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, but had remarkably different approaches to their work, and the contrast was both illuminating and interesting to contemplate. Homer seemed most often to be more concerned with precision and including important details in his renderings, and Sargent was much more focused on the impressionistic aspects of his final works, but both achieved a very similar result which delights and inspires.

Included in this array of creativity were two images by Georgia O’Keefe, someone whose work I have always admired, but for which I had never had the opportunity to view in person. The image above was one of the two, both renderings described as “Evening Star,” and this one is “number two.” The description reported the works as “experimental in nature,” both created as an exploration of the medium and of the subject. There was a palpable feeling of connection to the artist for me at that moment, and as with many of the other works displayed, a sense of awe and satisfaction that is very difficult to articulate.

The exhibit is only available in Philadelphia, and only for a few short weeks from March 1st through May 14th. The quality and nature of these paintings are so exquisitely unique, that they are very rarely exhibited due to the harm that results from exposure to light, even the subtle indoor light of the museum. Several of the works had curtains in front of them so as to minimize the amount of exposure the paintings would receive, even during such a short period of time. Going to such lengths to preserve these works is an enormously important factor for future generations, and I walked away from the museum that afternoon enlivened and inspired in a way that is also unfortunately not as frequent as I would like.

Our connection to the artists and the works they produced in the past is a vital link to the very heart of our humanity, and while each of us may not be masters of our chosen creative arts, we each possess the same vital elements within us that connects us to each other and to those who came before us. We are the masters of our own creative spirits, and uniquely qualified to continue to connect to our spiritual and creative sensibilities as only we can.

Forever One – A Reverie

intimacy44

I can feel you. I know you are there. I want you to be there. I think that’s the reason it keeps happening. At some point, we both reflect on those moments, and it brings us somehow together. Your face said everything. Just for a moment, it all came rushing back to you–all those moments–they all passed through your mind’s eye. Your body posture changed immediately. You opened to me. I wanted to run right at you and hold you close, but the moment was gone and you–you were brought back to the temporal–you were brought back to the moment in time and space, but before you turned and remembered where you were temporally, I had you completely–I had you completely–and I wanted you completely. For just a few seconds, everything stopped, and that place that only we inhabit burst open. Your face softened. Your shoulders relaxed. It was relief–you were relieved–just for that moment. I played right along in the temporal. I allowed a suspension of my inclinations and yours. Twice during the conversation in time and space, we leaned into each other. Your face immediately softened. You were close enough to hear my heartbeat.

spirit born

After a few seconds you snapped out of it and returned to the space and time of the temporal world, and once more, I extended my hand. You came immediately in and again your face softened and you smiled. It was like you were looking right through me. It would have been a completely different experience had it been under different circumstances. I imagined how it might have gone, had we been alone. I would have pulled you in, surrounded you with my arms. My heart was flung open only for a few seconds, but if the circumstances were different, I would have opened up all the way.

I wouldn’t let you go. I’m so much taller, I always seem to be looking down at you, but your face, when it looks up to me, makes it feel like we’re the same height. Height becomes irrelevant. I know I would have put my hands on your face, and I believe your face would be grinning broadly. I would hesitate for just a second or two, and I would say, “I love you,” and I would kiss you deeply–passionately. I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. It wouldn’t have to be anymore. It would be alright. We’d be fine. I would look deeply in your eyes; I would sigh; I’d probably be giggling–a nervous laughter. I wouldn’t want you to be upset. I would want you to giggle too.

secret bench of knowledge

Even if it never happened again, I would know that moment and I would create a point of worship. I’d worship that moment–cling to it–always. So many times when you have been in my arms, and our faces have been very close, I have wanted to kiss you, but it was almost unnecessary because it seemed that your face registered my desire–you knew that I wanted to kiss you, and you smiled.

There must be a chance, even if its only once, to relive this imagining, to manifest it in the physical world, but even if it never happens it’s really already happened dozens of times, and each time you smiled, knowing. I don’t understand, but I accept–I accept you, just as you are. You see, the person to whom that face belongs–I love that person; the person who inhabits that body–I love that person; the soul that manifests as that person–I am one with that soul. We will never be apart–ever. We are forever one.

Reverie

woman matter and spirit

The air is bitter cold.

The distance between warmth and cold confusion is brief,

And only marginally tolerable;

The wind stings my cheeks

As I make my way to you.

I would face a thousand stings

To arrive at your door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The door swings wide.

As I step through the doorway, I see you.

You are busy, but not too busy to turn

As I say, “Alright. I’m taking over.”

When you see me, you smile broadly;

You say nothing at first.

You look away, trying to gather your wits;

 
woman planets

Or perhaps, you are gathering your thoughts.

“Here he is again–what should I say?”

“What will happen?”  “How do I look?” 

“What will he think?”

I stare briefly while returning a smile,

Then walk away to give you a moment to compose yourself.

I gather a few items off the shelf and pretend to shop.

 

 

 

My heart is racing; my mind is conjuring:

“What will I say?”  “What will she think?”

I approach the counter unseen; I hesitate briefly;

This is not the right time, so I step away.

I divert my attention momentarily.

I distract myself with another conversation,

All the while thinking of what to say.

 

I call to you aloud.  You respond by saying,

“Oh, I see how it is.”  It’s time to play.

I recover quickly by making excuses.

I pedal backwards; the transaction goes on as planned.

My mind is racing right along with my heart.

I approach you.  You turn and approach me.

The smile returns; the joy ascends.

 

 

far away looks magritte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drifting, sailing, floating, dreaming–now.

Now, you are there.  I hold you close.

I pull away just enough to see your face.

Luminous, brilliant, emotive–I bring your face closer.

I imagine falling headfirst into those eyes.

My mind swirls–I swoon for one fleeting, glorious moment.

As quickly as I conjure the feeling, it’s over.  I run away.

 

I drive quickly down the road, excitement flowing through me.

Although I am soon miles away, I am still standing near you.

You are still there with me.  Time and space are frozen in memory.

All I can do is slowly breathe in and slowly exhale.

Nothing moves. Nothing changes. I abide in the memory.

I can feel the moment, the spirit, and the light brightening.

Will I ever know if you felt it too?

 

© September 2016 by JJHII24