My thoughts on Billy Graham’s ad, by way of Hieronymus Bosch.
Happy Birthday to Julio Cortazar, who would have been 98 today. To celebrate, here’s a couple of shots I took of his grave in Montparnasse several years ago.
There’s also a nice post on the Massachusetts Review Facebook page, which I recommend you “like.”
— Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (via poeticsofdeath)
For here we see a designer for whom Surrealism, the fantastic and the ludic are never far away … and for whom the letterform is just one vital element (or set of elements) and not necessarily always the most important, in a field of communicative resources that includes every kind of made, found or photographic pictorial device.
An appreciation of the work of influential French book designer Pierre Faucheux.
(Source: Design Observer)
Wassily Kandinsky filmed by Hans Curlis in 1926, while Kandinsky was teaching at the Bauhaus.
Buckminster Fuller in his Black Mountain College studio.
Creative genius at work!
A week hasn’t gone by over the last eight years that I haven’t thought about the dreaded day when my grandmother Ruth Evelyn Farr Presnell would finally pass away. And now, roughly 24 hours since I first heard the news, I find that all of that forethought and reflection hasn’t made this day any easier. It may be the worst day of my life.
I am consoled to know that her suffering is at end. It had a been a decade of horrific decline due to dementia, likely caused by a leaking silicon breast implant she received after a bout with breast cancer many years ago, and her final days saw her shrink away to a small, distant, bed-ridden old soul, abandoned to the dim interior of a sad little southern nursing home. I suppose there was a part of me that felt as long as she was here with us, even in this rough form that robbed her of dignity, she would protect us from harm, guide us through the rough passage, bandage our wounds, fortify us, kiss our foreheads, and remind us, as she did nearly everyday, to “be ye kind one to another.” She was my talisman against suffering, against pain, she was, in its purest essence, love.
I haven’t enough hours to peel back the layers of my love for her, for she seems central to my earliest memories, and like a red thread in one of her needleworks, her spirit and influence is stitched throughout every meaningful moment of my life. I was lucky to count many wonderful souls among my family members, and all of them, my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, contributed immensely to the pleasures of my childhood, but Granny Ruth was different than all of the others, for she was my play mate, my mentor, my protector, my shelter; she was my best friend.
As a youngster, I spent most of my days by her side. When I was shipped off to first grade, I was miserable until I could see her again, waiting on the corner to greet me on my walk home from school. Together, we built forts from sofa cushions, took nature walks through the pasture where she and her siblings once picked cotton, journeyed to Wilson’s Five and Dime, where she showered me with toys and candy, dined with her brothers and sisters for breakfast at the Country Ham House, and watched the fireflies and the cars flitter by from Aunt Sarah’s porch swing on those humid, eternal nights of summer.
But it was her house that I liked best, a place of simple delights, from the vast archive of her photo albums, to the closets crammed with odd, old treasures from the past, where each element transported you to some sublime land, to another place in time. She was a most gracious guide, and she loved nothing more than to tell me stories of her childhood, how they had worked in the fields, pulling cotton from a sharp, mean husk, filling sacks strapped across their backs, how they fetched buckets of water from the spring in the creek, and, once work was done, they played roll to the bat until nightfall, and when they climbed into bed, she detailed the order in which each brother and sister bid one another goodnight. Often, when I would wander those same fields, I imagined her skipping along, singing a tune, her sister Charles and baby sis Betty by her side. Her stories transformed the landscape, for my eyes didn’t see it as it was, weedy and overgrown, but as she described it, the green kingdom of her youth, the “homeplace,” as she liked to say, which to her meant more than the house and the 100 acres accompanying it, rather it was a symbol of promise, of love, of pride, of family, of bonds stronger than all else.
I was spoiled by her tremendous generosity, and chief among her riches were her stories and her songs. She would hoist me in her lap, cradle me in her arms, and sing, “you get a line, and I’ll get a pole, we’ll go down to the crawdad hole, honey, babe, mine,” or, my favorite, the “Old Rugged Cross,” a song which despite my atheism still possesses a monumental power to console. She was full of song. On Sundays, after preparing a feast fit for gentry, dressing the table in embroidered tablecloths, and seeing that everything was steaming in her finest porcelain bowls, she’d sit down at the piano in the living room, crack the gilded pages of the Southern Baptist Hymnal, and play her favorite song, Aaron Copeland’s revision of Charles Ives’ The River. In my mind, that song perfectly distilled her spirit, for she loved her mother, father, brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren with unmatched intensity and devotion, and she dreamed of the day when, like those pilgrims at the river, they would all be together again, singing, laughing, delighting in one another’s company, as if they had never fallen from the sweet cottony eden of youth.
She used to say that I inherited my interest in writing from her family, and as an arrogant, idiotic youth, I insisted that I was self-made, when in fact it was really my lovely Granny Ruth who had taught me how to tell a story. And my love of music, didn’t it spring from those piano chords ringing through that little house, and those songs wrapped in her sweet, loving voice?
The miscellany of her graciousness is infinite. She used to visit my elementary school each year to tell stories of the “olden days,” when she too studied in the small one room building now converted for kindergarten. She never cursed, or said a bad word about anyone, except once scolding a man for cutting grass on Sunday—a cardinal sin in her book. Whenever conversations grew unpleasant, she hummed a tune to drown out negative talk she did not approve of. She would fall asleep on long car rides, and when we’d kid her, she would say, “I’m just resting my eyes.” A day did not pass that she didn’t quote one of her several mantras of kindness, be it the old quaker verse, “Any good that I can do, or any kindness that I can show,” or the virtues of the golden rule to do unto others as you’d have done to you.
These cliches would have been little more than empty lip service if not for the simple fact that she fully embodied them. Kindness emanated from deep within her, and motivated her every action. Wherever she went, she brought an abundance of kindness with her, sharing it with everyone she encountered, no matter their position in life, or their disposition. She helped without being asked, loved without condition, believed only in the good in people, and lived as though all people were nothing more than beacons of that good, shining to guide those safely to shore, where we all shall gather.
I am devastated to have lost her, but I am most saddened to know that I won’t be able to share her with any children I may have, or any friends that I may encounter, and I am saddened that my wife never had the chance to know her as I knew her. I am sad to think that the whole world will not have known her. She remains the measure for me, and when I am down I think of her, and when I am happy I want to share it with her, and when I am in doubt, worried, or scared, she is the person I want at my side, to make sense of the confusion, and bring comfort from harm; whatever small good that is in me springs from her teaching, her instruction, and from her example. Every day I think I must try to be a better person, I must try to act as she would want me to act, I must try to be the person she believed I could be. I owe her this, and so much more.
I left home as we all must, and when I returned, she had nearly vanished. On my infrequent visits to the nursing home, I would sit by her side, hoping against all odds that she would emerge from the black evil of dementia and share one wonderful memory with me, that we would be reunited, and at last I could tell her again, with the great significance that comes from age and reflection, just how much I truly loved her, to be there for her as she had been for me. My wish was never granted, and at the end of each occasion, when it was time for me to say goodbye, I would fall to pieces, never sure if this would be the last time with her. But once, a year or so ago, as I began to cry while kissing her forehead, she said, as she had so many times before, “It will be alright.”
Because she would never lie, I must believe her. It will be alright, and though I’m not one much for the afterlife, I hope that she is now there by the river with Danny, Archie, Ray, Sarah, Charles, Betty, lovely, lovely Lucy, and everyone else that has left us. It is a beautiful, beautiful river, indeed.
D.H. Presnell, Jr.
June 13, 2012