MISSING SUNLIGHT

When it’s this gloomy all day, –when there is no sense that there has ever been a sun, –ever will be a sun, I miss places where the sun was guaranteed:  Provence      Hawaii

Turns out that memories of the American West for me are also light-filled.  My own images from early trips there did not involve electronic cameras.  However, at the Princeton University Art Museum just now, there is a splendid array of The Moderns from the Phillips (Gallery, of Washington, D.C.)  My favorite museum in the capital, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips’ own home, — this haven proves a gateway to the paintings of Bonnard.  No one, –not even Matisse–, equaled this artist, who had lived one hill over from me in my life in Cannes.  Especially, no one seemingly has even attempted light in mimosa, such as he so magnificently evoked in canvas after canvas.

To my delight, amongst European moderns, such as Picasso and Braque, there is a high proportion of American art.  Even a Georgia O’Keeffe I do not know — with a torn red leaf asserting its power despite having been altered…  One of my all-time favorite of our artists is ‘our Turner’, Thomas Moran.  His views in Yellowstone National Park involve all the senses, so that we can nearly hear his waterfalls.

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The West was never easy for me — whether sightseeing or skiing.  Coming from the storied East, where most mountains and rivers involved our War of Independence, and even the tragedy mis-named Civil War – I often felt as dwarfed as the figures in this scene of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Moran dared another favorite site, Venice.  I remember light there, also, dazzling, more than doubled by all those wrinkling canals.  Especially the Easter morning when I stood alone in St. Mark’s Square, in absolute silence, even to the pigeons.  I hadn’t realized that all the bells of Venice had been silenced on Good Friday, when we’d arrived.  At the moment of dawn, all the bells began their clamor.  The birds rose as one, swirled like sandpipers, in grey clouds, imitating the DNA spiral.  Church bells and wings and the light of a Venice dawn…

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Master of Venice, indeed.  But Moran was most at home in the American West.

And I learned, anew, that one place where one can count on light is inside any art museum, no matter what is going on outdoors in any season.
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Thomas Moran Country

This man can find light even in the most formidable mountain passes.

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Moran’s Dawn at Sea — favorite experience, whether crossing on the France, the Mary, or the QEII.

 

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VETERANS’ DAY — A QUESTION OF FORGIVENESS

Hawaiian Lei of Double Orchids

Hawaiian Lei of Double Orchids

In the 1990’s, I was asked to read my poems on Hawaii to a friend’s class at Chaminade University.  Little did I know that her classroom was on Pearl Harbor.  I had been a child when that horrific bombing took place.  It was December.  I had a newborn little sister, soon to be part of our family Christmas that year.  It was the Christmas that never came, –our beloved America having been attacked, the world at war, so many wars.

U.S.S. Arizona Burning, Pearl Harbor, 1941

U.S.S. Arizona Burning, Pearl Harbor, 1941

We were all taught, as the South Pacific song insists, to hate.  Especially to hate Hitler, Mussolini (“was a meanie”) and all the “Japs.”

When you’re that little yourself, those teachings go deep.

No way could I have imagined taking steps onto Pearl Harbor, let alone to read poems (some of which were anti-military, as in “when are we going stop bombing Kahoolawe?”), to soldiers, –to men and women in uniform, at that sacred site.

Hawaiian soldiers taught me, in that room, in that class, “We don’t bomb Kahoolawe any more.  Each weekend, I lead a detail, removing materiel from the island….  When we are finished, we will have a healing ceremony.”

So my poem, with its longing to wrap the stafed, yes wounded, exposed red flesh/soil of that beleaguered island in white gauze, to comfort her, brought a happy ending.

The next morning, my friend (Bernadette Thibodeau, a year older, with whom I’d grown up in Michigan) and I returned to Pearl to make our own ritual visit to the Arizona, still beneath the waves, still holding its dead since 1941.

The black and white films of the bombing did not work that day.

We filed out of the theatre into searing sunlight, joining a long and silent line of mostly Japanese men.

They were all wearing leis.

Hawaiian Lei of Green Leaves

Hawaiian Lei of Green Leaves

No one spoke.

We walked onto the memorial above the doomed ship.

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

The Japanese moved, one-by-one, to various parts of that structure.

Each one, alone, observed a time of silence.

Then each one removed his lei and softly tossed it onto the waters.

Hawaiian Plumeria Lei

Hawaiian Plumeria Lei

The leis mixed with rainbows from still-leaking oil.

My healing with regard to that country, whom we so wounded, commenced as those leis began to fall.

Diver Touches Drowned U.S.S. Arizona

Diver Touches Drowned U.S.S. Arizona