Monday, December 28, 2009

Art mirrors art

I have to be the first to say this: The new Sherlock Holmes movie is based on the TV show House. It least, the characters are. Go see the movie, you House fans, and note all the similarities. The characters of Holmes in the movie and House in the series are identical. They are both cynical, unshaven slobs with a wisecrack for any occasion. And Watson is Wilson, House's sobersided friend. Holmes spends half the movie trying to torpedo Watson's romance with Mary (And haven't we seen that in House).
Here's what I suggest. Go to the movie, compare what you see, and then say you saw it here first.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I remember where I was standing when I got the idea for this poem. It was west of Logan, at a park on the banks of the Little Bear River. A summer night.

Nolo Me Tangere (touch me not)

We stand, close but not quite touching,
She with her back to me, watching
The darkness climb the mountain.
Arms crossed, curve of back, hips just so,
Head slightly to one side.

She is
Soft as twilight
Calm as the river
Lovely as the sunset
Distant as the mountains

What if I should put my hand, palm out, near her back,
Just where the spine flows into hips?

Would lightning fly from my fingertips?
Would small arcs of fire dance about her back
Driving away the shadow that steals up the mountain?

Would she turn, give a slow smile,
Blank and compassionate, then
Turn back to the mountain?

Oh Lord, why so many nerve endings in our hands,
If not to touch?
Why the slow clip and mend of evolution
If not to bond person to person
With a stroke to a cheek,
Or a hand in a hand?

Or to touch a shoulder,
Look, point, there is a hawk.

I drop my hands to my sides.


One of my favorite places in the world. The Bonneville Salt Flats is about as far from anything as you can get. The black line in the picture is about nine miles long. It's a guide for the cars that race at the salt flats, sometimes attaining speeds of 450 miles an hour. The mountain on the horizon is 13 miles away.

Sarah on the Mountain

I love this picture. This is my daughter Sarah on her wedding day. She's standing at the top of a mountain that's the highest point in Benton County, Oregon. In the background, in the distance, you can see the fields of the Willamette Valley.


You just can't beat a sunset for sheer overwhelming beauty.


Perhaps no structure in the world is as storied and mysterious as Stonehenge. It's not really that large, but it is an imposing structure nonetheless. I wanted to capture the sense of mystery that surrounds it, so after I took the picture, I polarized it and added the "wind" feature. I wanted to give the sense of the dark secrets that Stonehenge holds, and also that it was gradually being eroded.


What is it about lighthouses? We are fascinated by them, and we preserve them, though they have no use anymore as instruments of navigation. Maybe it's the old hymn, "Let the lower lights keep burning; send a message o'er the wave; some poor drowning, struggling seaman; you may rescue, you may save."

This lighthouse is on the Oregon coast, toward the north. It was a Sunday, and there was nobody there but me and the gulls.


In the central part of Utah is a canyon that's been called the "longest art gallery in the world." It's Nine Mile Canyon, and it's much more than nine miles long. If you go, take a truck or a car you don't care much about, 'cause it's dirt road.

It's a canyon full of Anasazi and Fremont petroglyphs. They're right there, by the road, where you can see them from your car or hike twenty or thirty yards up to them.

They are mysterious, eerie, beautiful, and fragile. So, if you go, step lightly. Here are some photos of the petroglyphs.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Review Time

I'm currently in the middle of a book entitled, "Or Perish in the Attempt." The title kind of gives the flavor of the work. It's a history of the medical aspects of the Lewis and Clark expedition, what health problems they encountered, what medicines they had, what happened to the people. The title of the book is kind of a breathless gasp of admiration for the men, which I share, but it's a little melodramatic for me.
I mean, I'm enjoying the book tremendously, because of all the things I'm learning, but it is a clumsy, uneven book. The author will stop in the middle of the narrative to give a lecture on the history of malaria. Sometimes the tone is ponderous, sometimes it's flippant, and there doesn't seem to be any reason why the author chooses the particular tone he uses.
Still and all, I'm learning a lot about the discovery expedition, which reinforces my belief that the Lewis and Clark expedition was America's greatest adventure to date.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Poetry time

Here's a poem that springs out of my aloneness after my children had moved away.

Nothing lasts

The big empty house is full
Of little ghosts that left penciled
Height marks on the kitchen door frame
And hand prints on the walls.

In the upstairs bathroom a small specter
Stands in front of the sink, on tiptoe,
Trying out nail polish. The small mouth is pursed
The eyes intent, the little hands unsteady,
Dropping a small comment on the countertop.
There it stays, hard and pink.

I scrub around it when I clean, being careful
Not to touch it, not to disturb such a wonderful
Artifact of a previous existence,
But time is wearing it away.
Soon it will be gone.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Birds, for the

What is it about birds that fascinates us so? Possibly the idea of flight, of soaring and skimming -- things that we can't do.
But I also like to see birds moving across the water. This pelican looks so solemn, with his long nose and stately mien, cruising across the marshes. I remember the old ditty:
A very queer bird is the pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belly can.
And I don't see how in the hell he can.
But it doesn't fit, does it. This bird is beautiful when it swims, and when it flies, oh my it's lovely. Taken west of Logan, June 09.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunset over nothing

You can't miss with a sunset, and a picture of the Bonneville salt flats is always impressive, so how about them both. That empty space in the front of the picture is salt. Caked, hard, flat, and huge. The line near the midline of the picture is six miles away.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Homage to a beautiful child

In this series of blog entries, I want to celebrate beauty and truth as I see it. Generally, I'll be showing my own stuff, because no one else will, usually with a commentary. I want to start, though, with someone else's work.

My daughter Malynda is about to kick her art career off in, of all places, Istanbul, Turkey. I'd like to wish her all the best.

Let me share with you something she did for my niece. My niece, Terry Gifford, has started a foundation that, among other things, gives microloans to women in Bolivia. Here foundation is called SWAN (Serving women across nations), and you can find it at Malynda was to do the logo for the foundation. Her first efforts were not blocky enough for a logo, but are so heartbreakingly beautiful that I appropriated them. I used one as the basis for the name of a sailboat, and sometimes I just look at the others. Here is one of the two versions of the swan that she did. It's a simple line drawing, but it is a nearly perfect depiction of love and protection.