GreenasSky A gambol in the goodies by Sloan Nota

Mighty Lak’ a Rose


Francis Meilland rose

A Francis Meilland rose

It would be appropriate to levitate softly after sniffing a Francis Meilland hybrid tea rose.  No bold gestures for this subtle bloom please.  You get a hint in this photo of the elegant coloration — seemingly a very pale pink, but in close-up rich tones warm up its many curvaceous shadows.  Change your angle of view and the rose lushes-up other wombs and shoulders.  It reminds me of exhibits San Francisco’s Exploratorium used to have — some of the beauty of this rose is from the reflection of colors, optical perfume.

Prestidigitation.  A rose bred to send tones echoing among its surfaces and yet never be those tones.  It presents as a simplicity.   Yet here are: subtle and profound.

On this same day I stood still in the rose garden and favored my ears.  That trick where you toggle a background into the foreground.  Songbirds, many and busy, focused in the canopy of vines that roofed a gazebo.  Further south from where I live and rich in birdsongs I never hear at home.

The sun was perfectly enclosing as a cloak.


I’ve been struck recently by life’s everyday extremes. Yes, there’s laundry, but down in the foundry of myself are metaphors.  The ordinary cracks open and that infernal internal drone opens out into a feeling, an image.  A meaning that was never there before.

This is the payoff for owning a rife imagination.


On the same day that I wrote about the rose, commotion began across the street.  New owners of that house are having old paint ground off their shingles.

What gets to you are the rhythms — four men, four methods of attack.  So one grinder shrieks in one cadence, the next will start and stop at other intervals, and each will bear down in a pattern native to him core.  Short-short-short-looooong.  Looong-looong-loong-looong-realShort.  Exactly like hornets buzzing in a mob, the sound you hear is a summation of their many separate selves.


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Giant Asian Hornet            via abcnews

On the first day of sanding I willed it begone, but I woke next morning and recalled a news item about Giant Asian Hornets in China that had begun attacking humans.  42 have died.  A cloud of them swept into a schoolhouse — four dead, many badly wounded.

On the second day of sanding it ground into my pores.  The ear-splitting sounds across the street were hornets, malevolent and better armed than me.  When the workers paused for lunch, unknown clenched muscles relaxed in me.

This is the payoff for owning an active imagination, and emotions that throb in tune with it.


Which brings me to a final point.  About imagination and creativity and the package I was born with.  I suspect many of my readers were born with it too.  It’s a taskmaster with a hickory rod — and it’s the elixir that makes life worth living.   I’ve kept this quote from John Barth handy for years.  I share it with all who Art.

I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I write and I understand.


Categories art, Sloan Nota art | Leave a comment

Arctic Wonders

The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago

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Arctic Peoples display at The Field Museum

Imagine walking through a museum exhibition of the Americas’ preEuropean cultures, passing aisles of glass cases with Plains Indians garb and artifacts in well-lit rows, and turning a corner into this moody chamber.  The towering presence of carved cedar house poles from the arctic crowd above you. Power.  They retain a seriousness that fluorescents would dispel.  Shoulder-to-shoulder, closer than they’d stand in real life, they demand to be reckoned with.  They’re not Art, they’re Other.

And yet notably they’re art.  If you’ve ever tried carving a footlong chunk of wood you’ll appreciate the skill that liberated images from tree trunks many times human height.  Early arctic housing used big timbers to hold up roofs.  The formidable carvings above functioned as architectural necessity as well as spiritual presence.

I did an earlier blog post about wood as an artistic medium (here).  In it the estimable artist Ursula von Rydingsvard, who works in New York with Northwest cedar, praises cedar for its softness, “all the gentle marks get registered,” and for its warm rosy tone.  In a synchronicity moment, the MOOC I’m taking about global architecture makes much of the value of red ochre in first societies around the globe.  The professor thinks that redness connected living people to their ancestors and suggests that it possibly explains the use of reddish cedar in these house poles.  (This I’d want more evidence for.)

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There’s no doubting the power of belief that hewed this unflinching face.

The Arctic Peoples exhibit is rich, crammed — shamanistic masks, scrimshawed bones, a life-size model house with an alert dog perched on its snowy roof.  I was moved, enlightened, smitten.  Funny how you can know about a culture for years and store it in a cubbyhole in your brain — and then you’re given a door into its heart.  Which opens yours, and you’re forever richer.


The Field Museum has some marvelous exhibits.  Whenever I go I learn things.

  • •  The famous Tyrannosaurus Sue leans down avidly to gobble you up in the lobby.
  • •  There are window-sided labs where you can observe science being done (DNA, Fossil Prep, conservation laboratory)
  • •  Evolving Planet with enough specimens and information to quash the most fervent Intelligent Design fanatic.
  • •  Ancient Americas — the Latin American and Plains Indian sections haven’t had the funding and TLC that the Arctic Peoples has.


look further

Arctic First Peoples

  • Central Council, Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCHITA) here
  • First Peoples of Canada here
  • Native Tribes and Languages of the Arctic here
  • Arctic Centre here


Categories history | Leave a comment

Light in Chicago


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Chicago hotel interior, upper floor

Above is a detail of the historic building that houses my Chicago hotel.   I’ve spent an afternoon admiring historic artifacts, mostly painted, by the likes of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, David Hockney and William Turner.  These artifacts remain in use — the Chicago Art Institute displays them for your nurture.

Today’s blog focuses on a benevolent light that illuminates certain paintings by Tiepolo and the early light-hearted Goyas.  It may surprise you that this Tiepolo stopped me in my contemporary tracks.

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Armida Encounters the Sleeping Rinaldo, by Tiepolo         via Chicago Art Institute

The Art Institute’s sequence of four large paintings illustrating the ill-fated love of Armida and Rinaldo from Torquato Tasso’s epic poem Gerusalemme liberata once decorated a “cabinet of mirrors” in the Venetian palace of the distinguished Cornaro family. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo also provided smaller decorative panels and a ceiling painting for what must have been a sparkling, light-filled room. In this, the first narrative scene, the beautiful sorceress Armida sees the young knight Rinaldo asleep and, falling in love with him, decides to carry him away on her cloud-borne chariot. Her actions will distract Rinaldo from his quest of liberating Jerusalem, the chief subject of Tasso’s epic.

This is an impressive canvas, ca. 74 x 85 inches, and in it no light shines harsh.  Dreamy pastels, the unexpected floaty orange of the wafting drapery.  It’s lofted by what we’re sure is a warm caressing breeze.

A lady must note note that the warrior Rinaldo’s shirt seems to be painted directly on his admirable torso — so maybe he was asking for it when Armida abducted him.  As you follow Rinaldo’s adventures in the following pictures and captions you’ll see that he stays more modestly attired even while wooing the seductive Armida.

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Rinaldo and Armida in Her Garden, by Tiepolo   via artic

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Armida Abandoned by Rinaldo, by Tiepolo    via artic

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Rinaldo and the Magus of Ascalon, by Tiepolo    via artic


These Tiepolos hang in a room wonderfully lit and open to the museum interior. Radiance abounds. Which suits the ambiance Tiepolo painted. And is one of the magics that paint can confer across centuries, a sense of place that you can feel on your skin, the warmth, the softness.  Nature at her most generous.

Conferred to you with historical artifacts.

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Chicago Art Institute, Gallery 215


Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, Goya to most of us, became a master of the dark pits of humanity.  A firing squad, a witches sabbath.  Yet earlier in his life he painted this same radiant light that shone for Rinaldo.  You’ll find it in Goya paintings such as the following — where the light tells you All is well.

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The Parasol, by Francisco Goya     via backtoclassics

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The Grape Harvest (Autumn), by Francisco Goya     via thedishbypspr

And this last which is a brief walk away from the Tiepolos.  It was a glad surprise because I was feeling the strong Tiepolo/early-Goya resonance already.  The light on the boy’s face bounced from the sunlight on his ruff, the luscious browns rippling in his trouser leg.  Of course it sent me back again down the hall to the sunlit Rinaldos.

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Boy on a Ram, by Francisco Goya      via artic

May some of this beneficent light shine on you, my friends.


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Bottom of the mail chute, Chicago hotel interior, building lobby

Friendly hotel staff tell me that this mail chute was built in 1906.  Six years ago a time capsule of, well, six years ago was assembled and inserted here.  May delighted persons discover it long after word of it has been lost.  Historic artifact of of real people living in their real time.


Categories art | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Out of Sight, With Minds and Reasons All Their Own



Fallow Deer on Housing Estate, by Jamie Hall.  Winner of the 2013 British Wildlife Photography Award, Urban Wildlife sector.         via

This evocative photograph has been haunting me for days.  I see a stag, one or two other deer off to the left and possibly a fox on the right. A dog I assume would be pointed to bark away the deer. Meanwhile one window glows with electronic blue. Our media whisk us off to other lands and meanwhile we forget what early humans knew: other creatures surround us in the night.  Other minds and hungers, other senses and agendas.

You may recognize that I’m often struck by what goes on outside our ken, our awareness.  I’m boggled by the throbbing immensity that is a neighborhood behind its doors.  And by the busy universe wrapped in up its distances.   We can feel such emotions, we centers of reality.  Are we so unlike this squirrel evaluating the world beyond itself?

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From Once Upon a Home, National Geographic.  Photo by Kai Fagerström.     via


Here are other night views of swlf-directed wildlife in “our” environment.  The first four are by the Finnish Mikko Lagerstedt.   Via










These are by Kai Fagerström again, also a Finn, who photographed wildlife taking over an abandoned house.  You’ll find information on his book at the bottom.  Via keepsmiling.

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Not all of Fagerström’s are night-lit yet they they convey the strangeness of non-humans making their own sense of worlds human-built.

The unseen animals here are the photographers themselves.  They are a special breed, fascinated by the wildlife world and willing to be out in dead of night and in unsavory weather when the rest of us are toasting our toes at the fireplace or snoring in our beds.  Jamie Hall, Kai Fagerström and Mikko Lagerstedt went out carrying equipment and armed with optimism.  They stood vigils awaiting these random appearances.  Outside the circle of our campfires, other minds and hungers, other senses and agendas thrive.


look further:

Jamie Hall

  • National plaudits for Norfolk photographers at the British Wildlife Photography Awards, by Chris Hill, Rural Affairs Correspondent here.

Kai Fagerström

  • Fagerström on The Photo Society
  • His 2010 book The House in the Woods is unavailable in English as I look today.  It was on Amazon yesterday.  In what I think is Finnish it’s available as Viimeiset vieraat: elämää autiotaloissa here.

Mikko Lagerstedt

Urban wildlife

  • Topic on Wikipedia
  • Urban Wildlife Institute at Lincoln Park Zoo here.
  • There are a multitude of organizations in the US, Britain and around the world that help injured and orphaned wild animals.  Search Google for a breed or a locale.
Categories art, nature + science | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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