Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Song of Birds



Where I live now, we back onto a little urban forest.  I wake to the song of birds here just as we did at Innermost House.  In our back yard we meet a wide variety of guests I remember from our years in the East, a land of songbirds.

We hear mockingbirds and cardinals, catbirds and robins, fish crows and blue jays, rock doves and mourning doves and woodpeckers, chickadees and titmice, warblers and waxwings, nuthatches and wrens and bluebirds, flickers and thrashers, juncos and finches and sparrows.  Overhead we see hawks and harriers and vultures, swifts and swallows and martins, ducks and geese.

For all their sounds and songs, the birds embody silence.  They have no words. Perhaps that is why we here on this page feel such a connection with birds. The simple half of the Innermost Life is silence.


I made my way to this life by saying no to the world.  I just would not have it, and I suppose I would have nothing now were it not for my husband.  He has the art of giving substance to nothingness, and that is how we built Innermost House.


Dewey you mentioned caves.  When we first came to the land I wanted to live in a cave.  By that stage in our long journey we had eliminated everything else. We actually went so far as to make inquiries into the possibility.  There were no naturally occurring caves on the property, so it would have had to be excavated.  In the end we chose against it for practical reasons.


And Pam you asked about earth-bermed houses, which we also considered for the way in which they merge with the land.  But as it happened there was no tradition of such structures in our region, and to me tradition is a kind of second nature for preserving peace with the landscape.  


Thinking of caves calls to mind those haunting animal images painted on cave walls in prehistoric times.  There is a great silence about those images in darkness, a stillness of mind I think we can hardly penetrate in a world so full of inventions.


Were it not for my husband's artistic gifts we would probably have had no art at all on our walls at home.  I love the beauty of nature and craft, but nearly all art I had ever known made too much "noise" for me to wish to live with it.  So in our past houses we mostly confined ourselves to very small and sober hangings, things like engravings or ink drawings on plain white paper.


But when we lived in Los Angeles my husband often took us to the Los Angeles County Museum to visit their really wonderful Japanese Pavilion.  Inside it is a very quiet place, lowly lit through shoji glass in the walls.  The screens and scroll paintings there were my first real introduction to my husband's love of classical far east Asian art.  I loved them too for their beautiful feeling of transience and unsubstantiality.


Michael became acquainted with the director of the museum.  On one of our visits he had just returned from Japan with some scrolls, and he offered us the chance to choose one if we wanted it.  I never wanted to own anything so I was prepared to say no thank you.  


But when I walked into the empty room where he had them displayed my eye fell on one and I immediately loved it.  It was of a standing heron painted in ink wash by a Buddhist monk of the 18th century.  A heron!
Pam and Leah, Julie, Al and Dewey, you do make me wonder about totems!  It became the first of our scroll paintings with which we would later illuminate the bookcase alcove at Innermost House.

For all my love of emptiness, I find a special peace in these beautiful paintings. We go days and weeks without displaying one, but then when we do they introduce something into our home that does not compromise our silence.  It is almost a kind of intensified emptiness.  


We were saying the other day how the intensity of our talking life only seems to intensify the intervening silences.  It is somehow the same with these pictures. The room is even quieter with one displayed, the emptiness even emptier.  It is as if the silence becomes audible, the emptiness substantial.  Does that make any sense to anyone?

It is like the art in those ancient caves.  There in a darkness where no daylight penetrates, a lamp is kindled and of a sudden those painted images appear. They do not speak.  They have no words.  A thousand human generations stand between their artists and ourselves.  Their silence is like the song of birds. 

28 comments:

  1. Diana, I totally get what you meant when you wrote: "It is as if the silence becomes audible, the emptiness substantial. Does that make any sense to anyone?" It's the Presence in and surrounding the object that has its own unique vibration of subtle sound...

    You also wrote: "all art I had ever known made too much "noise" for me to wish to live with it." I'm curious: Is sculpture too noisy for you also? I love sculpture for its three-dimensionality which allows me to integrate the sculpture into the space surrounding it and thus feel the balance between the two. I also love carved wooden items that are very smooth to the touch with undulating curves that I can stroke (and which almost feels like baby skin).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Hi Pam. I know you were addressing Diane with the question about sculpture but I wanted to share me experience with you if I may..
      I have read that three dimensional sculptures tend to require energy from the room and its inhabitants requiring the people to 'feed' them energy. Apparently the ideal places for statues are museums and gardens where they 'feed' on the energy of many people visiting or on the energy from nature.

      Because statures are life-like, they add a powerful presence to the room that I enjoy when I am visiting the museums or outdoor gardens but find too intrusive in my personal living space. They require me to look at them all the time! Have you ever noticed that?

      I believe you mentioned that you have a spacious bungalow; perhaps you are able to 'visit' the statues in certain rooms and leave them by being in other rooms so perhaps you have a comfortable relationship with your sculptures.

      This is all conjecture, so feel free to tell me if my musings are off-base. :)

      Delete
    3. Leah, I never thought of sculpture that way but it makes perfect sense. In our small home, even little knick-knacky figurines seem to bother me. That's a great explanation for it. Thanks.

      Delete
    4. Hi Pam. We put some stair-rails in our cabin that we just branches that we picked up and, over time, they've become very smooth and nice from us rubbing our hands on them. They are so wonderful to touch and have taken on a slight glossiness. When people come in the house, they usually go over and touch them too. I'm trying to get the same effect on the pine stairs; that shiny look from being rubbed and washed a lot over many years...

      Delete
    5. Leah, I have the same experience as you, but I wonder if art is actually giving or taking energy. I love colorful and powerful art and I love sculptures but I have the idea that they do not take energy from a room or from people, but give energy. It's a very special energy that flows from the artist into the art and from the art into the public. This energy can be too much, too "noisy" and it can penetrate the inner self so deeply that it could disturb one's peace. For me a museum or an exhibition is the place to experience this art, it would be too intrusive in my personal living space, I don't even want photographs or my own art in my room, but elsewhere in the house it's okay, so I can take a glance now and then. We don't have anything hanging on the walls, they are just painted with a soft white color, I always liked it that way. People never understood this, my husband was the first who did. The walls give me a sense of infinity and security at the same time. Perhaps we will choose for a modest tapestry one day, who knows ..

      Delete
  2. Hello Diana,

    I have been enjoying reading your words here and today I finally want to say hello and Thankyou. I found you here online when I really needed someone who could enlighten me on subjects such and conversation and silence, or seeing the beauty in the simplest of surroundings and creatures.
    I moved 2 years ago to another country (from the U.S.)as a newlywed even (at 43 years old!) I took a huge leap of faith. To make a long story short, I am adjusting to a life without American TV and media which highly influenced my want for "things". Although scary at first, I am learning to embrance the beauty in silence. Discovering a love for simplicity. Listening and discovering sounds, places and things I have never seen or even heard before. Like the birds and their distinctive noises that differentiate them so.
    Anyways, I just wanted to say how much I enjoy what you have to share and Thankyou so much for being here. I look forward to reading your words which seem to create such beautiful pictures. :)

    Marianne

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome, Marianne! Are you able to curb your want for things even with access to a computer? Computers nowadays are almost as efficient propaganda tools for consumerism as old-fashioned TV's, and laptops also have the convenience of being portable! May I ask what country you moved to?

      Delete
    2. All advertising is blocked on my computer on every browser! I don't have to look at any of it and the advertisers can't track me and advertise to me on the basis of the sites I've visited.

      Delete
    3. How did you set that up, Julie? What a great idea!

      Delete
    4. Wow, thank you all for such a warm welcome!
      Pam, I now live in what is known as lower Bavaria in Germany. It is very small & quiet, a big adjustment from living in a major midwestern City!
      Curbing my want for material things is a huge work in progress but seems to be getting easier with every day (especially when you factor in 19 percent sales tax!).
      In regards to my computer, the U.S. blocks alot of media for other Countries to view which makes it easier for me. On the other hand, the advertising that does come up is in German (which I am still learning)so most of it doesnt catch my eye yet. I would love to know Julie how you set up your browser to block the advertising too.
      All in all, I have set time limits for myself online and what I do online. For me emails and facebook are the biggest way for me to stay connected with my family. Although recently, I have been enjoying writing letters. It is more satisfying for me to write with pen and paper, then to type an email. Most of my activities online I do with my husband, (except read this blog some mornings) which eliminates excess "surfing" for me.

      I am very pleased to meet all of you as well, oh & DB - So long. ;)

      Marianne

      Delete
    5. Leah, your stair railings sound like a sensuous delight! I wish you could show us pictures of your home. It sounds so charming...

      Delete
    6. Hi Marianne, nice to meet you. We are neighbours, I live in the tiny country next to yours: The Netherlands. I would like to hear your story how you went from America to Europe. Perhaps you can put a post on facebook?
      Bri

      Delete
    7. Oops! JULIE is the one who has the great railings! My mind thought one thing and I typed another!

      Delete
    8. Hi Bri, nice to meet you too, neighbour. I have a sister that lives in the Netherlands and was just up there a few months ago to visit.
      I lived in Belgium for 4 years & went back to the U.S. my junior year of HighSchool. We have many European ties. My husband and I have sort of a travel/life journal online (my familys request & which I am in the proccess of revamping), It does have some of my story there. Your welcome to read it.
      Marianne

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. I'm pleased to meet you too Marianne

      Delete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I do realize it was technically "so long, Marianne" but I keep arguing that this blog needs some humor. All of you wonderful ladies are so serious!:
    ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Um, D.B. I actually keep myself in check a lot. Humor is good! But, then maybe I am not as funny as I think sometimes?????? But thanks for calling us ladies, that was nice :)

      Delete
  6. Leah, that was a very interesting observation you made about sculpture and energy fields. I love sculpture in my environment for the very reason that you tend not to! To me, sculpture is alive--I can feel the energy of the sculptor's passion animate the piece--and because of this aliveness, having sculpture in a room in which I spend a lot of time is like having built-in company! You are right--my eye IS drawn to sculpture I love, almost because I'm compelled to try and figure out what makes it feel so alive to me. But for me, this is not an energy drain on my system, but rather it recharges me with the energy it exudes and makes me feel connected to the act of creation. There is one life-sized piece of sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC that brought tears to my eyes and absolutely mesmerized me when I saw it in person. I spent a long time just sitting in front of it and staring at it because it contained so much emotion and felt so real. It was a great centering object for my concentration in that I also had to keep my awareness in soft focus so that I could feel the entirety of the piece on all different levels simultaneously. I have a couple of favorite statues in my living room, bedroom and basement family room that speak to me, and I consider them dear companions and honored guests in my home!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marianne, you said: "I am learning to embrance the beauty in silence. Discovering a love for simplicity. Listening and discovering sounds, places and things I have never seen or even heard before. Like the birds and their distinctive noises that differentiate them so." This mirrors the "substantial emptiness" that Diana has referred to. I wonder if we are not addressing the question of scale here. Pam has a very spacious and un-cluttered home. I can see where the larger sculptures and other works of art would be at home in such a space and have plenty of breathing room, whereas I live in a smallish home. Here I enjoy the very pure, vivid colors of Henri Matisse. Like Bri, I really don't enjoy even having much in the way of family photographs on display as they tend to be too distracting. Whether the art and photos are taking energy away from me or giving it to me, there can easily be just too much going on. They drown out the birds and the sounds of the water a bit. Now I am looking into living in a space the size of Innermost House and I can see myself wanting to pare back yet more on these things in the interest of Beautiful Necessity. I'm in the "This, Not That" phase of my life.

      Now, to remove all advertising from my browser, I have installed AdBlock Plus for Google. It is available on other browsers, but has more options with Google. All ads are gone immediately. An icon will appear on your address bar. With this you have the option of omitting other elements, say on your facebook page. I have blocked out the entire right side of the page with all of that ticker business going on. In addition, you will have the option of activating "Facebook Privacy List". This effectively blocks facebook from tracking you all over the web and then advertising to you based upon everywhere you've gone. Wait until you see how clean and uncluttered your page looks!

      One more easy thing. Install Do Not Track Plus. This one keeps your computer from being tracked by anyone on any website you visit! No cookies can be installed on your computer to track your activity. In the two weeks that I've had it installed, it has blocked about 4400 tracking cookies for me. My computer runs so much faster without all of this activity going on that I was unaware of before. An icon will appear in the top right corner of your browser for this one and keep you apprised of its activity. *Delete your browsing history often.

      As you can see, I allow no more shenanigans on my computer than I am inclined to allow in my home or in my world at large--Only what is beautifully necessary for my own purposes.

      Delete
    2. ...I've gone and hogged the page again...

      Delete
    3. That's such great info, Julie. Thanks! And, I think you've hit the nail on the head regarding scale in a home dictating the amount of artwork that feels appropriate and non-claustrophobic. If I lived in a smaller home, I know that what I added for artistic beauty would be a lot more limited. As for my home, it's a very modest, 3 bedroom, 1100 square foot brick ranch with a basement. The rooms are not very large, but I'm very conscientious about keeping my home neatly picked up to maximize the feeling of the space that I DO have. I, too, have minimal pictures of my family in the house--just four 11x14 photos in matching frames and matting on one hall leading to the bathroom of my two daughters' wedding pictures, my own wedding picture and a picture of my two grandchildren. In many ways, although my home has the things I love surrounding me, it still feels somehow impersonal at the same time. I like it that way; I don't feel 'sucked into' the energy of the home, like I could never leave it, but rather feel comfortable, grounded and happy there without feeling too attached to it. My home is inside me, so no matter where I live I know that I will always feel at home. Then, it's just a matter of expressing personal taste and organization and essential necessity. I don't know if this will work, but here is a link to a slideshow of my home (you may need to cut and paste): https://picasaweb.google.com/109898763320674262149/PamSHouseAllRooms?authkey=Gv1sRgCNrp-pqFve-x1QE#
      The living room setup has a couple of different furniture placements in the shots, but I wanted to find pictures that showed the stuff on the walls too, and I'm missing photos of one of the bedrooms.

      Delete
    4. Thank you, Julie, for the ad blocking information - I will give it a try. Pam, your home looks simply adorned and inviting. I enjoyed seeing your art. You certainly can get a lot of snow! Did you say your were upstate NY? I have returned to Ontario and must admit that I am not looking forward to the winter. Learning to be at peace with an Ontario winter will be my challenge and lesson this year.. it will likely involve some skating and snow-shoeing, and a lot of indoor meditation! :)

      Delete
    5. Take heart, Leah! The forecasters are predicting a mild winter for the Northeast and you are so close to Buffalo that the forecast probably holds true for your region as well. Stock up on hot chocolate and some good books, though, just in case Mother Nature has some 2012 surprises in store for her unsuspecting children!

      Delete
  7. A few weeks ago, I was given a Sweenie pup. So now I get to go out at, say, 4 a.m. which is unheard of for me. But I have heard/not heard so many new things! The brightness of the stars, oh My! The cayotes in the near distance, the smell of crisp air, the leaves doing their thing... I wasn't raised in the country and have not really taken the time for thisbefore. And, I don't like getting up at 4 a.m., but it does have it's compensations.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.