Friday, September 15, 2017

"also, that you have enough"

I went to an extraordinary exhibit at LACMA this afternoon with a few close friends.

Did you know that Chagall designed costumes for operas and ballets?

Honestly, this was one of the most extraordinary art exhibits I've ever seen -- just a few rooms of drawings, paintings and sketches and probably around twenty costumes, but each one practically gave me a case of Stendhal Syndrome. Do you know about Stendhal Syndrome? I saw someone fall down as if dead right by Michelangelo's David in the Accademia in Florence back in the last century. It's a thing, really. Look it up or click on the link I just gave you. Granted, I was feeling strung out when I decided to run over to the museum and join my friends. It's just everything lately -- and I'm doing weird stuff since I turned 54, like losing things and leaving my debit card at the post office. Like my mother always said, "I'm glad my head is connected to my neck, because otherwise it would have spun off." Chagall's joy and wonder in music and color and fabric and beauty and whimsy leaped out of every piece and just filled me with joy again.

And then there's the natural world. I'm reading an extraordinary book about landscape and words. The first chapter is called The Word-Hoard. Don't you love that? The book is called Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane. It, like Chagall's costumes and drawings, is joyous. Here are the first two sentences:

This is a book about the power of language - strong style, single words - to shape our sense of place. It is a field guide to literature I love, and it is a word-hoard of the astonishing lexis for landscape that exists in the comprision of islands, rivers, strands, fells, lochs, cities, towns, corries, hedgerows, fields and edgelands uneasily known as Britain and Ireland.

I don't know how many of ya'll out there are lovers of word-hoards, but get thee to this book if you are at all simpatico.

Check out that bamboo that lines the pathways to part of LACMA! That's natural!

Here's a close-up:

Is that not wild?

Why am I asking rhetorical questions?

The universe is abundant.

Here's a poem:

What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade

Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,

how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark.

After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s

voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—

something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted

Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,

and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.

The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.

And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation
look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,

and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person

add up to something.

Brad Aaron Modlin
(lifted from an OnBeing newsletter)

P.S. If I disappear from these parts, it's because I stole the dress that The Queen of the Night wore in The Magic Flute that's in that first photo. I'm going to get married in it and retire somewhere south of the Disunited States. Don't tell anyone.


  1. Beautiful post! Beautiful pictures.
    And that poem- don't we all feel that way? As if everyone else has the knowledge we so plainly lack? At least I do.
    If you do decide to disappear, let us know where you've gone.

  2. I love that poem.

    I turn 55 next week and I can't remember shit. However I can remember some things, odd things, numbers for one, tattoos, questions I've asked patients in the past, maybe not the question itself but the answer the patient gave me.

    As I sit here writing I can see out the window into the backyard. The sun is shining through the trees and the pine siskins are fluttering through the foliage, filling themselves with sunflower seeds from the bird feeder, making sure that the pecking order is maintained.

    I wish I had had Mrs. Nelson as my teacher in any grade:)

  3. Thank you for those sumptuous pictures of Chagall's creations, and thank you, too, for that poem. I shared it with my daughter.

  4. Stendhal's Syndrome is fascinating. I got angry when I read that some people need antidepressants for it. A prescription for antidepressants seems the answer for all that ails us. I can say that because I am on antidepressants.


    That poem. I am learning to be my own Mrs. Nelson but I think it's too late.

  5. I love that poem. I enjoyed the photos and post as well. But that poem...... wow!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your Chagall experience at LACMA. His work has moved me ever since my mother brought home books of Chagall paintings from our public library when I was a teenager. Did not know about these splendid costumes. The universe is abundant!

    Love waits forever, for one and for all. (Bob Dylan, lyrics from "Beyond the Horizon")

  7. Chagall was really versatile. Thanks for such a lovely post.

    Greetings from London.

  8. I love that robe in the fifth photo. That could be worn on the red carpet at the Oscars! Amazing work, all of it -- even the bamboo.

  9. All of this was completely wonderful. Thank, I needed this. And BTW, I'm joining you wherever you end up. Lord.

  10. I loved that poem; so much there to ponder and re-ponder. And if only there really were teachers around like that Mrs Nelson...

  11. what an extraordinary exhibit at LACMA. I didn't know this about Chagall, but it doesn't surprise me somehow. His work is so filled with playfulness, abundance and dreamscapes. I'll take you up on that book recommendation; it sounds fascinating.



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