“The morning sunlight, in the spring, bounces off the sconces on the pendulum lights [in my kitchen] and creates a star-like pattern on the ceiling. It’s a signal that spring has arrived.” — Robin, Breezes at Dawn Blog [Brackets Paul’s].
Anyone wishing to find his or her own true voice — but who is uncertain what that means — would do well to study Robin’s posts on her blog, Breezes at Dawn.
Of course, it is nearly impossible today to express a wholly new idea, especially outside the sciences. Those who do now and then manage to come up with something even approaching a wholly new idea tend to be keen observers, rather than creative alone.
Robin is quite obviously a keen observer (see above quote), but — offhand — I can’t recall her expressing any more original ideas than the rest of us. What makes her voice her own are not the ideas she expresses, but the virtually unique and special way in which she expresses them.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paul’s thoughts on the notion that artists feel things more deeply than other folks.
THE CRITICS ROAR: “Sunstone’s ‘Artists’ post puts me in mind of 1975 when the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco lingered on his death bed for weeks before having the proper decency to exit the world and take his damnable evil with him. ‘Artists’ is by most common measures a short blog post, but Sunstone nevertheless manages to make it a long one. You soon find yourself praying for it to end. Praying hard for it to end.” — Gus “Gunning Gus” Johnson, The Blog Critic’s Column, “Leper’s Gulch Gazette”, Leper’s Gulch, Colorado, USA.
I read a post yesterday on Bojana’s blog that got me thinking about the future of humanity. That’s a topic that is more or less always in the back of my mind, but which I seldom write about.
I seldom write about it largely because it’s such a complex topic that I’m not sure what can be said about it that might someday more or less pan out as true. Bojana’s approach to the topic was a pretty sound one — she mulled over her observations of her toddler and his friends as they were playing together. The future, of course, begins with how we raise our kids.
Note to Readers from Paul Sunstone: This is a re-post from a now defunct blog of mine that will soon be deleted. It was originally posted in December of 2011. I think it still might be of general interest to people, so I’m re-posting it here to save it.
Henry Miller was seventy-one years old when the teenage Twinka Thiebaud met him. Of course, Miller had not only long been famous as one of the Century’s greatest novelists: He had also long been famous as one of the Century’s greatest pornographers and dirty old men.
The labels of “pornographer” and “dirty old man” came courtesy of the American press, which had (inevitably) discovered itself scandalized by the raw sex scenes in Miller’s novels (Naturally, we Americans are not actually happy about raw sex scenes unless we feel scandalized by them — and the more scandalized, the happier).
Miller’s novels had been at first banned in the US, which caused them to be smuggled into the country as contraband. The bans were eventually overturned in an historic 1964 Supreme Court decision. Yet, though the Court ruled Miller’s books “literature”, that did not stop the press from casting Miller as a lecherous old man. And Thiebaud was quite aware of Miller’s nasty reputation the day she met him.
Thiebaud describes herself on that day as an “seventeen year-old virgin” swamped by “intense anxiety” at the prospect of meeting the “salacious beast” Henry Miller. The very last thing she expected to find was a charming old grandfatherly man who showed no signs of wanting to seduce her, and who instead took simple delight in her company. But that is exactly what she found.
A few years after their first meeting Thiebaud moved into Miller’s home as his cook and housekeeper. She describes her rapport with Miller (pp. 17):
Henry was one of the most open people I have ever known. I knew what was going on in his head as well as his heart nearly all the time. He did not keep many secrets and, like me, his emotions were written all over his face.
I get the impression that when Thiebaud walks into a room, the first things she notices are the people. After that, she notices the art on the wall, then the furnishings, and then the diamond sparking on the table.
Moreover, I could be wrong about this, but I get the impression her interest in people often dominates and restrains her natural human inclination to judge people. That is, she simply takes folks as they are without trying to change them because she is so gawd awful interested in them.
If any of that is true, then it seems significant to me because Thiebaud has written a book. A book that demands and requires its author to be a keen observer of people. And namely, a keen observer of Henry Miller. As well as of herself.
Miller had a gift of gab and loved to entertain his household and his guests over supper. At some point, Thiebaud took to keeping a journal in which she would write down her recollection of the evening’s conversation before bed. What Doncha Know ? About Henry Miller is the product of that effort.
The book mostly focuses on Miller’s recollections of, and reflections on, the people and events in his life. But it does touch a little bit on Twinka herself. An especially revealing passage about Twinka concerns her relationship with Warren Beatty — whom she met through Miller.
Of course, when such things occur — when a woman discovers there is a long line of other women beyond the door to her lover’s bedroom — the moment is a delicate one. Anything can happen. It is common enough for the woman to denounce her lover as a jerk.
Twinka reveals herself to possess thoughts and feelings that are just as graceful as her pose in the photo with Imogen. She broke off her sexual relationship with Beatty, but did not discard her appreciation for him as a superb lover (pp.34):
He was always graceful, mannered, relaxed and confident, never mussed or awkward and never out of line. Even though I was one of many, when we were together, Warren knew exactly how to make me feel absolutely extraordinary. Now that’s a great gift!
For that and many other reasons, the passages in this book that deal with Twinka herself are just as engaging as the passages that deal with Henry Miller.
Apparently, Miller himself was not a great lover of women in Warren Beatty’s sense. For one thing, most of Miller’s loves were never consummated. And it seems he did not always leave his lovers much better off for having known him. But Miller knew several great truths about love, and he practiced them.
For one thing, Miller knew sex was not a necessary ingredient in great loves — the kind of loves that inspire, affirm, and renew us. To love and to be loved in that way is to be reborn. And I suspect that such loves are especially valuable to artists and other creatives, for they seem to be associated with great bursts of creativity.
That was one kind of love Miller had experience and insight into. Another, and perhaps for Miller, a more important kind of love, was the one-sided affair — the love that longs, yearns for an impossible to obtain lover.
Unrequited love is also associated with great bursts of creativity. But it is a darker creativity, born more from the suffering and angst associated with thwarted desire than from the love itself.
Miller (pp. 169): “Love is the most important theme in my life because it has provided me with almost all my creative fuel. I could’ve written volumes on the subject of unrequited love.”
Miller again (pp.170): “I was in love with many women, but I haven’t really written about love with a capital L. I wrote about sex!”
And later on (ibid): “I’ll sacrifice everything, anything — money, jobs, wives, children — all for love! And always for the love of an unattainable woman, an elusive woman.”
From those and various other things said in Twinka’s book, I get the impression Miller was more at home with a one-sided love than with a mutual love, although he experienced both in his life. But regardless of what kind of love he was at home with, Twinka’s book makes it clear love was, in Miller’s eyes, a — or even the — motivating factor behind his writing.
As I was reading her book, I hoped for more details of her relationship with Miller. There wasn’t quite the dept of description I wanted, and too few anecdotes, so I was a bit disappointed. But that’s probably just me.
Twinka’s book is fun. In it, Miller tells a charming/sad/funny/revealing story about the revolutionary, Emma Goldman, that I thought taken alone was probably worth a third of the book’s $15 price. There are several other precious little stories like that one, too. Overall, the book is a quick, easy read, and you will probably not drink yourself to death out of regret if you read it.
By the way, I have emailed Twinka a few questions, and I will be posting her answers soon.
Readers interested in the famous Imogen and Twinka photo by Judy Dater can find a post on it here. The comments section contains a response to the post by Twinka.
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I think this week’s image could be from a dream — perhaps of the Earth Mother known to mythology. That effect might very well be intentional. Some of Sink’s other works are clearly influenced by mythology. But whatever the case, I believe the composition is superb.
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About a forty minute drive from where I live in Colorado is a relatively small patch of land that for years has been called the “Paint Mines”. I don’t know what the land was called before it was called the Paint Mines, but Native American artifacts dating as far back as 9,000 years have been found near the site, and so the land must have had other names once. Likely, hundreds of names.
In some sense, the land is most noticeable for its colorful clays capped by soft sandstones. Native Americans used the clays to make ceremonial paints and pottery. Until a couple generations ago, European Settlers mined the same clays to make bricks and paint pigments. Those economic uses of the land have been important to both Natives and Settlers in identifying and defining the Paint Mines. But perhaps other things define the land, too. Things just as important in their own ways as the uses to which we have at times put it.
I’ve noticed during my visits to the Paint Mines that there the wind and sky dominate the land as much as do the clays. The Paint Mines are located on the High Plains and, as you might expect, the sky is huge and the wind is nearly relentless. But what you might not expect, if you have never been on the Plains before, is how astonishingly quiet the land is.
I have sometimes thought the wind stole the sounds you would hear anywhere else. But I really don’t know why the Plains are so quiet. The quiet, however, is often great enough to drive your thoughts back on themselves so that they seem amplified.
I once startled a friend of mine — an native of Colorado — when I suggested that standing on the High Plains gave me an overwhelming feeling of being in a masculine landscape, while being up among the mountains gave me quite another feeling — one of femininity. She looked at me taken aback, and then protested the mountains seemed very masculine to her.
We weren’t arguing, of course. We were just sharing our differing emotions. And she understood where I was coming from as soon as I explained it to her. The closer you are to a mountain, the more it seems to enclose you. To be in some valleys between mountains is doubly enclosing. I’ve found the experience at times to feel protective, even womb-like, and secretive. But the open Plains are another story.
When I have stood out on the High Plains beneath a huge sky, I have felt naked to the constant wind, openly revealed by the land and the vast horizon — even stripped of all the secrets of my self. Although the Paint Mines are gullies or miniature canyons carved down below the level of the surrounding Plains, they have always given me that same sense of masculine openness that seems at times to be as much a part of the Plains as the yellow grasses. So, for me, the Paint Mines are defined as much by their relationship to the Plains as by their clays and sandstones.
But would you feel the same sense of masculinity as I have? Of course, I don’t know, and neither do you, unless you’ve been to the Mines. These Mines have had hundreds of names, have been identified and defined in so many ways — perhaps in the end, each of us is responsible to define them for ourselves.
The clays and sandstones were laid down over 55 million years ago.
Some of the formations are surreal. The land here is very soft and fragile. It erodes quickly.
In places, the colors are so intense, the clay itself seems to be bleeding.
All the photos in this post were recently taken by my friend Don. Don’s religion is nature. He prefers the smell of leather to most other religions, and a good hike better than the rest.
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