Author Archives: Irene
Dear Readers and Listeners–
Many of you have asked about my posts and have wondered what I’ve been up to these days–
The answer is I am happy, healthy and engaged in creative activity, and thinking of you more often than you know.
One of my principal projects is my memoir-in-progress, Family Landscape. I was proud to be invited to participate in Writers Read, an exciting venture in Manhattan wherein writers read short theme-based pieces for a live audience (a kissing cousin to The Art Garden) The pieces are taped and then posted online.
The most recent theme was Siblings, and if you click on the link below, you will hear me read a first slice from Family Landscape.
You will also hear other remarkable writers and their brief essays on Siblings, by turns humorous, heart-wrenching and haunting.
Will I post again regularly? Too soon to tell–maybe synchopatedly. Know that I do miss you, at my elbow, walking through the fields, through summer’s multiple intoxications, myriad as milkweed florets and their drunken pollinators who hum, chip and skitch above the distant whine of rubber meeting road. I miss you whispering which photograph to take, what is meaningful this week, what wants amplifying, magnifying.
A life of magnified meaning. Know I seek and find this, whether you hear from me or not. And I hope you are doing the same.
More Reading aloud:
Tomorrow night I am glad to be reading new poetry as part of the marvelous annual Calling All Poets marathon in Beacon, NY. I’m on around 8pm. It would be great to see you!
To listen to this post, please click here:Demitterre Diem
The other night I suffered a thigh cramp. A real howler–when muscles gang up on each other and each, in defense, grips all the harder.
Sucking deep breaths, can’t answer awakened, anxious husband. Bending, leaning, rotating. Coaxing, begging the leg, which snarls and defies like a mad dog.
Isn’t this over yet? Stop. Stop. And it won’t.
In spite of the eternity pain stages, it doesn’t last forever. Eventually our flailing finds alignment. Try good leg. Foot ankle thigh take weight. Shift to ailing limb. Acceptance! It is relieved by the weight, glad of normalcy and, in its sheepish canine way, apologizes for its lapse of muscular sanity.
I’d vigorously exercised these muscles earlier. Shouldn’t they be tired and want to sleep? Yet, as body will, they’d been mirroring my frame of mind.
For I’d been pumping my muscle of accomplishment just as vigorously. So much to do, to see, to create: Christmas cards, gifts, errands, visits with friends and family, making house sitter arrangements, having contractor meetings–all clamored to be done. (We’re having substantial renovations in the next several weeks and are traveling while the workers sling their power tools.)
Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) is the very motto of our age, and has inspired me plenty. But, our thighs remind, if we seize non-stop, we seize up.
So here’s my little corollary:
(Let Go The Day)
Returning to a daily taste of yoga helps me do same. As does looking at an retouched sky like the one above. After all, the vigorous and mighty sun does it every night. With style.
***Please Note: After more than two and a half-years of weekly posts, I’m taking my first real hiatus. I anticipate being back in the Wednesday saddle in late January, but will rely completely on my intuition for the timing. Have marvelous holidays!***
Publication News: People who are wondering how to buy a copy of the gloriously photographed “Connecting: Celebrating the People and Places of the Hudson Highlands” (which contains my essay on the arts) can click here. If you’re in the area, the book is also available at Boscobel’s Gift Store (Garrison), the Garrison Café (Garrison), Storm King Adventure Tours (Cornwall-on-Hudson), Hudson Highlands Nature Museum (Cornwall) Jones Farm (Cornwall) and at the Putnam History Museum (Cold Spring)
The Main Thing, quote by Auguste Rodin, artwork & all text © Irene O’Garden 2104
To listen to this post, please click here:The Main Thing
Thank you, Auguste Rodin.
The minute I read these words of his, I penciled them down and pinned them up.
When asked by the Garrison Art Center to donate a 5”x 5” artwork for a fundraiser, I relished the opportunity to create the piece above. Not only could I absorb the words into my bloodstream/thoughtstream and share them with others, I could further explore the medium of encaustic.
Pigmented beeswax is a jaw-droppingly versatile substance. After heating and melting it, you apply it to your ground (in this case, masonite, though wood, fabric, metal and glass can all be used.) This piece displays the many verbs encaustic welcomes: you can brush it, marble it, carve it, shave it, scrape it, gouge it, splatter it and collage with it (the lettering was actually done on paper, affixed and coated with clear beeswax.) Seems like the very stuff of life, which accommodates any verb we make of it.
After heating and fusing the final layers, you polish till it shines. If you’re not happy, scrape it off and start again. So forgiving. Like a soul evolving through lifetimes.
Once you’re satisfied, you don’t even have to frame it. Your final coat of beeswax protects it essentially forever. Like a soul recognizing an insight.
Encaustics from our first century are still radiant.
Part of me thinks when I’m all done with words, I’ll just play with this stuff—
For now, though, nothing moves me like words, or inspires my love and hope and trembling as they do. For now, I’ll live with them, sharing those I love with those I love.
To listen to this post, please click here:Gladdening Tasks
The sun is setting on the growing time of year and the time of inward turning arises. Yesterday John and I squeaked in the very last moments of winter preparation before today’s predicted snow. (At present the flakes are not flying, but sinking, soppy, thick and compactable, into perfect snowman-snowball snow.)
We set the ladder and changed the battery on the outdoor clock; safely housed the ceramic birdbath and wrenhouse; gathered split firewood, stacked and tarped it; pulled up, trimmed and scrubbed leeks and celery root. The gift of fresh roots, gently pungent on the dinner table—see how they throb with life, how glad they are to join us inside.
Today my heart swells with thanks for such simple physical tasks, some of them ancient as agriculture itself. The feeling is strong indeed—the whole heritage of humans husbanding the land and securing their homes upon it fills me to bursting with something deeper than nostalgia, broader than language.
As Thanksgiving descends on wide and fragrant wings, may you enjoy humble tasks, shared with one you love, tasks which gladden body and spirit, tasks which are not at a remove from life, but are life itself in a land of changing seasons.
Long talks with family, friends and colleagues; many classes full of eager and rambunctious third-grade poets—my purse of words is all but spent this week, and I have scarce enough to caption shadows.
And yet I have enough.
Join me for a short spontaneous woods-walk I took awhile back. My shadow spotted a single rock near the path, prompting hijinks of her own. Third-graders might approve.
Publication News: A brief reminder that the book signing/release party for Connecting: Celebrating the People and Places of the Hudson Highlands happens tomorrow, Thursday November 20, from 6-8 at Winter Hill in Garrison, NY. My essay on the arts appears within. Hope you can make it!
I remember so many people with special love on Veteran’s Day: my father Don, my father-in-law Len, my brother Dan, Uncle Johnny and the countless others who offered the gift of their service. Today I want to introduce you to Eleanor, mother of Scott (my most long-playing friend) and his beloved sister Andee. Over the years, I was privileged to spend time with the remarkable Eleanor, enjoying her joyful fashion sense, eating her beautifully prepared food and witnessing firsthand her powerful love. Her stunning military funeral inspired the following poem.
(It is cast in a form I created a few years back: the “fulcrum poem,” in which meaning twists on repeated phrases. Since the ear loves repetition but the eye does not, I have placed the fulcrums in superscript. These words should be read twice. If you like puzzles, read the poem. If you’d rather listen, please click here: Sergeant Eleanor
SERGEANT ELEANOR IS LAID TO REST
In Which a Bird Appears.
Sergeant Eleanor is laid to rest
in fields of blooming yellow mustard eggs
in silver buckets later at the salad bar thoughts
of army women in the service Sergeant
Eleanor was happy. Fought for freedom
and was happy giving and receiving orders
of nuns almost army women in the forties served
a god-shaped army in peacetime
couldn’t use this soldier on did
Sergeant Eleanor: husband, baby. Twice.
Third man no better. No matter.
A daughter. A son. Lives to guard, honor
Sergeant Eleanor, who fought for freedom
when divorce drew fierce artillery
of shame as well in purplehearted sacrifice
of factory work of loneliness like flaying
bayonets stripped from barrels by the honor guard
at her grave looks on the veterans; warring
Sergeant Eleanor wore costume jewelry,
turquoise and magenta, fought on vodka,
cigarettes, bedtime stories, in combat
with doctors, bankers, teachers.
For these kids. That clear? Motherhood:
a hundred thousand acts of bravery.
And a helluva lemon meringue.
Sergeant Eleanor made herself goddam heard.
Three shots shock like broken eggs’ shells fly
from soldiers’ rifles lay a soldier
in the grave salute flag folded wings
Sergeant Eleanor’s daughter and son
open the car at the crossroads of dust shrieks
from a rust-ringed feathered throat
Kildeer at the right front tire,
fatherless her dusty nest a gravel patch.
Two speckled eggs warm with life.
Publication News: I am pleased to announce that an essay of mine appears in the Connecting: Celebrating the People and Places of The Hudson Highlands, a glorious, freshly-published, coffee-table-worthy book of sumptuous photographs and essays. (I was asked to write about the arts here.) There is a celebration and book-signing at Winter Hill on Thursday, November 20, from 6:00-8:00 pm. I’d be so happy to see you there.
SpeedingLight, photo & all text ©Irene O’Garden, 2014
I get as speedy as anyone, but when I found this thought in an old notebook this week, it slowed me into a long morning of design.
Notwithstanding my recent post on retouching, I thought you might enjoy a little peek behind the curtain. Here’s the photograph on which it is based:
I snapped this picture of our malfunctioning water-treatment unit to email the technician.
We all have to deal with maintenance, chores, errands. But taking our time– with a scribbled thought, a homely image, or the dailiest of tasks– is what sweetens our time.
Have a sweet week.
Publication News: I’m happy to say that in honor of Thanksgiving, Untreed Reads, is offering 30% off the price of my Pushcart Prize-winning essay, Glad To Be Human when you buy it from their website. Some people make reading it aloud part of their festivities and it’s a welcome gift .
To listen to this post, please click here: Questionable Qualifications
Meet Dylan, the newest member of our household. (Rest assured, his quarters are far larger than they appear–this is merely the little cage in which he traveled home last night.)
He is the latest in the succession of canaries who’ve graced our lives–Whitman, Basho, Vincent and Oliver, all named for poets. (Since only male canaries sing, Vincent and Oliver commemorated Edna and Mary.) Day before yesterday was the hundredth birthday of a certain Welsh poet, who has kindly lent his name to our bright musical fellow. Dylan adjusted immediately to his new digs and began singing promptly this morning.
Such a voice is a great cheering sound especially as winter comes in. You can hear him in a 20-second file below, joined by a surprise chanteuse who longed to be recorded, too.
What I want to share, though, was how we came to get our first canary. Thirty years ago, we had a parakeet and peppy as the little squirt was, I remember saying to myself, “When this bird dies, I’m going to get a canary.”
I’d hear his sweet but squawky Damon Runyon voice and anticipate liquid song—until one day I listened to my own ridiculous voice. Why do I have to wait for him to die to get a canary? Who says you can’t have both at once? We became a two-cage household.
Since then, I try to listen for the scratchy, squawky qualifications I unthinkingly impose on life. Releasing silly limitations lets the heart sing.
To hear Dylan (and surprise guest) sing, please click here: Dylan’s First Morning