July 26, 2008

Seasons of Life

Death draws near to the season
as another cycle of the fruits
of the earth is passing.

Old age is upon the year . . .

Spring time is birth time,

the time of quickening –

summer is the time of growth,

of fullness –

autumn sees maturity,

ripeness, and passing –

and winter is death.

In the Mission’s valley
summer imperceptibly wanes.
The vanguards of autumn grow bolder
and Indian summer is upon the valley.

Hoarding the passing loveliness

of a season ending

and embracing the pleasant promises

of a season to come

is Indian summer.

The skies are the bluest
of the twelve months.
The early morns the fairest.
The perfumes of ripeness and harvest
are pleasant to smell.

The last days of a fruitful year
that is at the point to die,
are touched with a sweet sadness,
but they are lovely, lovely.

In the Mission’s valley
are those of venerable age
known as Granny,

or Aunt Bess,
or Uncle Tom,
or the old man,
or the old lady.

Their Indian summer is far spent.
Winter’s snow crowns their brows.
Growth is over, maturity finished,
ripeness has grown too mellow,
passing is at hand.

And yet these precious ones
are beautiful as never
in the springtime of life
or in the summer of life’s fullness.

Theirs the refined loveliness

of a season ending,

blessed with the holy promises

of the fuller life to come.

The last roses of summer

are the fairest –

the mellow smiles of God’s children
near long life’s end

are the sweetest.

George W. Jones
From the forthcoming book "Life's Journey".

Photos by Dan Hardison
Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee

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July 18, 2008

Then You'll Know What I know

Photographer Anne Wetzel has said she is frequently asked by people “how do I see what I see” and “how do I know what to look for?” Her answer is simple, “I just do”.

We all know that an artist sees the world around us in a slightly different way, something Leonardo da Vinci described as "knowing how" to see. But how do you teach or even explain this way of seeing to others? This is something all art instructors must try to convey to their students.

One can possess great technical skills to create art, but still fail to capture a scene or a thought. The artist must learn to go beyond the technical aspect of creating art and develop a “feel” for creating art. The same can be said for music. There is more to being a musician or singer than just playing the notes or singing the words – one must also know how to bring “feeling” to the music.

There are many things in life that we must learn to do, but being able to perform the technical aspect of the task does not guarantee that we will be good at it or even enjoy doing it. Many people enjoy fishing because they find it relaxing. However, if you have ever tried casting, you know that it is not a simple task. It is one that requires practice to develop a “feel” for it. And if you learned to drive a manual shift car, you know that it is more than just a matter of knowing how, but also developing a “feel” for shifting the gears.

So, what is this “feel” for doing something? It is the mental state at which a person no longer consciously thinks about a task, but merely does it. Moreover, is this not true about everything we do as we go about our daily lives? What often seems a difficult task can be accomplished with a bit of practice and patience – and developing a “feel” for it. Our lives today have become so hectic, are we losing our ability for concentration, for contemplation, for developing a “feel” for how things are done?

When Scottish singer/songwriter Dougie MacLean wrote of his experience trying to learn to use a scythe – the age-old tool with a long handle and a curved blade for cutting grass and grain by hand – he captured his father’s instructions with these words:

O this is not a thing to learn inside a day
Stand closely by me and I’ll try to show the way
You've got to hold it right
feel the distance to the ground
Move with a touch so light
until it's rhythm you have found
Then you’ll know what I know

— Dan Hardison

Photo by Dan Hardison
Airlie Gardens
Wilmington, North Carolina

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July 12, 2008

In Assisi

These are the airs wherein he stood
And spoke the unrecorded words
That brought them fearless from the wood,
The timid hare, the settling birds,

That gathered round him in the sun,
Upon his shoulder, at his feet,
In easy friendliness with one
Whose language was their own and sweet

With syllables to quiet fear
And win the wild heart to his own . . .
Let us be still and listen, here,
And learn if any word or tone

May linger in the folds of air
So to instruct the heart and tongue,
That going hence, we go to bear
Love's language as a song were sung.

David Morton
From his book "Angel of Earth and Sky".

Photo by Dan Hardison
St. James Parish
Wilmington, North Carolina

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July 5, 2008

Ghosts in the Mountains

Ghosts dwell in these mountains –
drifting from the valleys,
riding the ridges,
climbing the peaks.

Mysteriously appearing
they silently drift along
forever changing then
suddenly disappearing.

And when it seems these mountains
have made all about them clear
the ghosts return to shroud
the mountains in mystery again.

Some say it is just a mist,
a haze that covers these mountains.
But then . . .

Perhaps there is some great secret
that must be kept hidden –
something these mountains
do not want seen.

Yes . . .
ghosts dwell in these mountains.

— Dan Hardison

Photo by Dan Hardison
Balsam, North Carolina

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