The gossamer thread of "now"

(What follows could rightfully be called a "hodgepodge." Warning has been given.)

[Sargent's Street in Venice]

But she’s no more aware of her beauty than a child,” said Mr Bankes, replacing the receiver and crossing the room to see what progress the workmen were making with an hotel which they were building at the back of his house. And he thought of Mrs Ramsay as he looked at that stir among the unfinished walls. For always, he thought, there was something incongruous to be worked into the harmony of her face. She clapped a deer-stalker’s hat on her head; she ran across the lawn in galoshes to snatch a child from mischief. So that if it was her beauty merely that one thought of, one must remember the quivering thing, the living thing (they were carrying bricks up a little plank as he watched them), and work it into the picture; or if one thought of her simply as a woman, one must endow her with some freak of idiosyncrasy—she did not like admiration—or suppose some latent desire to doff her royalty of form as if her beauty bored her and all that men say of beauty, and she wanted only to be like other people, insignificant. He did not know. He did not know. He must go to his work.

~To the Lighthouse

I was speaking with someone the other day about my impressions of the currently running Whitney Biennial, he had asked me what I thought, and though there was much that had made me think and wonder and feel very encouraged, the first and most intense impression of the large and a bit overwhelming exhibit was the art by Jennie Smith.

I was positively entranced by her little creatures and delicate colors, whisked away by them to some world where Charlotte and her web coexisted happily alongside Gorey-like stories and a Virginia Woolf penseroso breeze.

I realized that her images recalled a nexus of impressions that represented my most fancifully ideal springtime season: kite-worthy breezes, smells that taste like colors, innocent urges to run or wander or plunge. It's as if my nostalgia, rooted in a childhood of make-believe, Nature, and imaginative worlds, forgets that it's nostalgia and becomes, for a time, anticipation. The surge of past experience is felt as present and cannot help but influence that present.

This is where Charlotte's Web becomes a big ol' metaphor.

The Web is so wonderful because it is the network of threads tying the glories of a childhood-as-remembered to a life-as-active. My childhood isn't the web, but the web is my memory of all that has occured; a delicate and easily tangled thing of utter beauty. All along the length of my web can be found experiences: thoughts, conversations, emotions, encounters with books and works of art. (I've always played with the idea of my autobiography being found in the history of the texts that I was drawn to and lived through...life as the integration of a particular fiction with personal reality).

If I were to pluck the current thread of my life, these are some of the vibrations you would hear:

Dorothea Brooke and Isabel Archer
Sargent's Street in Venice
Woolf's To the Lighthouse
Scrolls of wrought iron
Edward Gorey's illustrations (dark for spring, but there you have it)
Bruegel's Fall of Icarus (which merits its own post in the near future)
Creative construction vs. the concept of ruins
and perserverance.
Borges' Labyrinths and Calvino's Invisible Cities

Who can accurately trace out enough of what is certain so that they can discern what remains as potential? A.N. Whitehead (the philosopher responsible for much of what I am reading nowadays) writes that it is in the empty space, the space between reality and activity, that we find the shadowy and unfathomable depths of novelty. Creativity darts through those recesses and brings to the surface originality. Our experience, taken at its grandest scale, continues to grow, deepen, proliferate.

"True" art, if we must make a distinction, is novelty at its greatest. In the labyrinthine world of reality and possibility, art, in any of its forms, lights a new path of sensing, experiencing, or understanding.