Tag Archives: history

Oldest Library in Europe?

Reblogging for all you book and library lovers: Never before seen images of the oldest Bodleian Library reading room. How I’d love to write there, surrounded by history!  Click through to the article for more images. 

Photograph by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 Built in 1487, Duke Humfrey’s Library is the oldest reading room in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. Duke Humfrey’s Library is named after Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester, a younger son of Henry IV of England. He was a connoisseur of literature…

via This Reading Room at the University of Oxford is One of the Oldest in Europe — TwistedSifter

Tidewater Retreat

On October 17-19 I was on retreat with my AWWG sisters in Mathews, VA. I had never visited this part of Virginia before and was smitten with the peace and big sky. This is a bit of my scribblings.

In the Tidewater we have our own weather.

Pattern: clouds march offshore, moving south along the coast. Clear inland. This is counterintuitive to our inland weather, usually West to East.

Broad soft curling rivers of salt marsh sweep and weave, flush and suck, swell and drain up and down the seaboard like lungs. The silt that creeps into corners, the poisons that filter down from our civilized behavior fan out and settle. 

But then: the sea fills to bursting, inhales a great wet breath up into the rivers. Back toward their source, breathing saline into small channels, seething between reeds tangled with plastic trash, dragging the scum with her when she falls back away toward the moon.

Like the trees, there’s an exchange. At first it’s not so obvious, but here is the swish and pulse of our body’s lymphatic health, breathing salt soup life, in and out of our pores.

She seems boundless, indefatigable, infinitely absorbent. We clever ones already test her limits, tinkering with the chemistry set of the globe. It looks like the calcium cities built over eons by coral will be bleached dead before we ever learn their language. And yet they gave us Florida.

Here the dawn comes: extraordinary color the camera won’t get. Greeny sky, violet pink clouds, slate blue waters, all very Maxfield Parrish: smooth fields of tonal color and flawless gradients. The clouds feel muscular, bubbling, and constrained along the beach like eager horses. Later in the day they will wander toward and lumber over us. In the Tidewater we have our own weather.

Scots and Independance

bannockburnWhat little authority I might have to weigh in on the wisdom or folly of Scottish Independence is debatable. But I did live in Scotland for a year in 1977-78. I went to the Festival, studied at University of Edinburgh, traveled the Highlands and islands in search of stone circles, and taught for a while in Shetland.

I drank with my colleagues and friends and heard many a tale of how, over many centuries, like other colonists, rebels and indigenous folk, the Scots suffered greatly at the hands of the English.

But I want to share a tiny moment that has as much or more bearing on today than the bloody swords of yesteryear.

6794779707_811d3266a4In 1977 I arrived my cheap London hotel near Kings Cross, a naive young midwestern student, too jet-lagged to be excited. The terrific bargain hotel proved to be thrice the cost as promised, and the lift was broken, so I lugged my heavy case up the stairs.

As I checked out the bath-down-the-hall, I saw a purple sticker on the toilet tank. I peeled it off and stuck in my journal, puzzled. I had never considered Scotland as separate from the UK before, and the recent construction of North Sea oil platforms had barely reached my embryonic consciousness.

Little did I know that I would find strong opinions and a very fierce, proud and distinct culture north of the Borders. That Shetlanders didn’t consider themselves Scots, much less British. That, for good or ill,  memory of ancient battles lives on in the blood. That although the United Kingdom appears united, the stories of Bannockburn, Culloden, the Clearances and other atrocities leave a mark, and, now that Scotland’s economy is strong, England may have some karma coming due.

Opening to the Universe, part 1

I owe you all a post or three from my recent travels in the Golden State. So here’s just one of the many highlights.

Josephine, my dear friend and east-to-west migrant got tickets for a planetarium show, and I thought, “Cool! I haven’t been to a Planetarium for decades!” I had no idea just how cool this would get.

The Kepler StoryThis show wasn’t JUST a planetarium show, it was The Kepler Story, written by Nina Wise and produced in incredible dome-surround audio-visual amazing magic at the California Academy of Sciences Planetarium. And if you are in or near the Bay Area, run don’t walk to get a ticket, it’s an awe-inducing experience.

The show consists of actor Norbert Weisser playing Kepler as he copes with the waves of change in his amazing life, against the backdrop of the universe, projected on the dome, plus an inspiring original score. It’s the first collaboration of planetarium in-the-round projection and live theater, and it’s intense, emotional and uplifting. The performance aspect is beautiful minimal stagecraft and a powerful solo performance, set against astonishing visuals that range from interiors of great architecture to Kepler’s mathematical imagination to the universe itself.

Nina Wise
Author & Director Nina Wise

Kepler’s personal story is fascinating and pivotal. He lived in the time of Galileo, defied the Roman church, a significant patron of math and science funding at the time and suffered the consequences. His mother was accused of witchcraft in retaliation for Kepler’s intellectual intransigence. He was working with the emerging yet still heretical idea of orbiting the sun, and his lasting legacy is the discovery that orbits are not circular but elliptical — a building block in the theories of gravity and relativity.

Kepler pursued his work with passion, intelligence and faith: not, perhaps the sort that his employers wished, but clearly a great faith in the beauty and harmony of the universe, as well as the god-given power of the human mind to comprehend it.

Coming Soon: Part 2: Opening the Gates of Awareness

All the Way

“Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

–Kurt Vonnegut

Monday  our writing group  held a discussion on “why we write,” someone offered this quote. Of course we laughed,but went on to share the ways writing has made our lives bearable and grown our souls  It was a powerful and moving conversation.

For years I’ve felt almost handicapped by being an artist. If I had a “real job” I could never give it my all, because my heart was in my creative work. In order to put my artist self first, If I don’t pursue my creative work, by soul shrivels. I’ve simplified my life,  lowered my material needs and expectations, in order to live the hours and days of my life as I choose: absorbing, reflecting, creating, sharing the wonder, beauty and terror of being alive.

alltheway_web_300x450_2The more committed I become more to living my artist life, the more old negative ideas slip away.  The quote made clear what is already happening: by honoring the Muse, by allowing the creativity to flow in and out, all my work is enhanced. Things I used to think were escapist, like watching television or reading, aren’t  ‘guilty pleasures,’ they’re sources of inspiration and understanding.

Last weekend I was in Boston for two days of mastermind meetings with one of my business teams. We shared challenges and  successes, and asked for solutions and support. I felt completely in my confident business self, not holding back, not afraid.

While I was there I learned that Bryan Cranston was on stage at Harvard’s American Reperatory Theater in a play called All the Way.

If I weren’t such a Breaking Bad fanatic  I never would have seen this amazing play. I I thought it was in NY. When I realized I was right there, I skipped lunch and got nearly the 17th of 20 standing room tickets. Bad knees or no, I was going to see Cranston on stage!

He plays Lyndon Johnson in his first year in the White House. Calling himself an accidental president, Johnson is challenged to carry on the bold civil rights mission of his predecessor, but also run for election. The play opens on the flight home from Dallas in November of 1963, and uses the countdown to Election Day 1964 to frame the turbulent drama of the times. Rev. Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, Hubert Humphrey, Stokely Carmichael, George Wallace, Robert McNamara make for a potent mix of characters.

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The challenge of moving forward while keeping the congress and the party together are remarkably pertinent today.

Of course, Cranston was incredible. I kept trying to see him behind the character, found him only in his animated face, and certain ways he throws up his hands. His LBJ was stubborn, foul-mouthed but funny, a Texan who both charmed and bullied his way toward his destiny. Having recently seen the very moving Lee Daniel’s The Butler, it was terrific to see the story from another angle.

It was thrilling to be there.

I’m just a painter of landscapes, a writer of little essays and stories, a marketing consultant. But the passions that flow through me are fueled by the media and art I consume, as well as the history I’ve lived through. My work with my art and blogging students makes me a better, wiser business woman. My fannish joy leads me to places I would never have discovered if I hadn’t been open to the stories, the colors, the people, the art.

Go into the arts. Seriously! You will have created your life.