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     Digging
by Seamus Haney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Photo credit: Giovanni Giovannetti

{Poem excerpted from Death of a Naturalist…]

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Wandering thru the gallery in Troy, looking at the quilting, sculptures, oil painting and photography. Seeing the list of classes on the wall from cooking to jewelry making. Passing the craft and supply stores that were open while a farmer’s market several blocks long was taking place…

I kept thinking about time.

How much time spent.

How much time was needed.

How much time was taken.

How much time had to be made.

Last night at a dinner, I complimented a woman, an accomplished oil painter, on her necklace. “Oh, it’s nothing, “she said, “the jewelry maker did in about ten minutes from a quick sketch I made there.”

I think that maybe she was just being coy. But why can’t something creative be done in ten minutes?  Why not? Why does it take hours, days, months to create something? Why is it so exhausting to think about how much time it takes?

We are a slave to time. We owe time. We need to give it time.

Last Sunday, there was a woman at the edge of the bay sitting on a bench overlooking the beach grass. She was pencil sketching in a book that she had in her lap. She never noticed me staring over her shoulder several feet away.

This week I thought about sketching in words. Short paragraph on chins, hair, colors, shapes. What I saw, what I see.

Just a small amount of time.

I’ve come to the realization that time is taking its toll, its payments. I don’t have the energy I once did, the ability to juggle that I did, the short time it takes to snap to it when getting something done. That I don’t have as many years as I once did. No way to get…to… it…later.

I need more time.

There is no secret. No books, lectures, seminars, groups, networking events, that provides some magical entry into sitting down to paint, to write, to photograph, to shape some clay in your hands. No special tools, no formulas, no algorithms, no brand names, or well knowns.

Just time.

The watchmaker of Switzerland, 1948
(aka What Makes It Tick)

Norman Rockwell, artist

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From Jeremiah Moss’, Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul:

The city has the power to rejigger you completely, body and mind, rearranging your neural pathways and setting your heart to a different beat. It speeds up your nervous system, making you sharper and more savvy—if you let it. I welcomed my own urbanization, loving the smells of my neighbors’ cooking and the crush of a subway crowd, savoring insider knowledge about important things, like how to order a bagel, how to hail a cab, and in which booth at Chumley’s did F. Scott Fitzgerald schtup Zelda on their wedding night. (If you take New York into your cells, you pick up Yiddish, too, sparking your sentences with schmuck and kvetch and plotz.)

The city made space for all varieties and combinations…I came to New York because I needed the city, and New York is for people who need cities, for those who cannot function outside of one. Open and permissive, insulating you with the sort of anonymity you can’t find in a small town or suburb, the city allows us to expand, experiment, and become our truest selves.


More excerpts here…his blog is here



 

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Belle portrait
  © Jeff Kopito

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Found You There – Sandra Dieckmann, artist
[click on image for more…]

Back story:

Book illustration commissioned by Paper Darts Publishing for Get In If You Want To Live, a book of short stories written by John Jodzio and illustrated by 19 illustrators from around the globe

Click on image for more info…

© Bill Israel

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