Esteemed wonder: The Moon

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Scarcely is there a person who is not awed by the moon; and unlike many of the celestial treasures, it shows different phases of itself throughout the month and then starts all over again.  If we had to select a gender; many think of it as a male…the man in the moon, although I imagine some may find the feminine side to this lunar beauty.

Even the ocean are “moved” by the moon…well that is more literally than figuratively as we recollect that the “motion of the seas” are caused by the gravitational forces of its lunar overseer. (Quite a wily fellow isn’t he; and without us looking, too!)

And how we all must agree that the moon is a romantic; flooding beams of light over the earth in the darkest time of the day…night. It permits us to stare upon its continence without finding us rude. I suppose it is use to such gestures for its wonderment invites us to gaze. Even the animals find the moon intriguing; the wolf bays, owls are more chatty, while all the while humans become more nostalgic.

It is not hard to see why all the arts have paid homage to the moon in all the forms that we humans can muster.  A mere sampling back in time journeys us to Paul Delvaux, Belgian artist’s 1939 painting Phases of the Moon; Spanish artist Joan Miró’s  lithograph (1952) Dog Barking at the Moon, Antonin  Dvorak’s Famous Czech Opera  Rusalka  in 1901, which included  Song To The Moon , while in 1964  the airwaves played Frank Sinatra’s version of Fly Me to the Moon. Then there is the literary fiction The First Man on the Moon by H.G. Wells (1901), and the classic French film Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902) written and directed by Georges Méliès both.  Miro moon litthograph

Adding to the moon’s allure, on August 21st, 2017, it will conduct its own celestial event;  a solar eclipse in which it will pass between the sun and Earth and blocks all or part of the sun for up to about three hours, from beginning to end, as viewed from a given location.  For this eclipse, the longest period when the moon completely blocks the sun from any given location along the path will be about two minutes and 40 seconds. A spectacular show.

And so, today’s post will pay homage to the moon; I present a poem dedicated to this Esteemed wonder by yours truly, simply titled…”the moon”…

The Moon

It appears nobly without proclamation nor edict

and rests valiantly against the backdrop of an ebony sky;

a perfectly round head of silver shimmering brilliantly 

surrounded by a crowd of stars that

wildly glint in the wind like crooning peasants.

The hours pass and blackness turns to dusk 

and as sharply as a guillotine slices

it bows and silently kisses the night away …

                                                     Nanette Avery

 

 

First image: drawing by NL Avery @https://audiothoughtbubbles.wordpress.com/

Second image: Joan Miró’s  lithograph (1952) Dog Barking at the Moon

Political cartoons and freedom to express

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Political cartoons have been around since 16th century Italy, satirizing their political personalities by caricatures of often unflattering likenesses. The addressing of political issues and events have since persevered and continues to be a niche through which visual rhetoric takes on observer’s voice, visual tokens of attitude, and persuasion. For the recipients, the interpretation of the cartoons is often a process necessitating a broad knowledge of past and current events, awareness with the cartoon’s genre and cultural symbols, and analytical thinking about real-world events and situations. Well- aware of its ability to influence, the cartoonist has the ability to impact a country’s brand or a person’s reputation; all the while, one may not assume that the encounter will produce the same reaction. For some it is baneful, for others it is poignant.  In a world of deep pluralism, the right to voice ones’ freedom of expression has sometimes been viewed as less than a mirror of our times and more as a hand- grenade.  join or die

And so, today’s post will take the jesters’ approach to politics and bring to you what is touted as the first American political cartoon, Join, or Die. First published in an issue of Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754, it was his warning to the British colonies in America “join or die” urging them to unite against the French and the Native people. Toward the head of the snake, “NE” represents New England, followed by “NY” (New York), “NJ” (New Jersey), “P” (Pennsylvania), “M” (Maryland), “V” (Virginia), “NC” (North Carolina) and “SC” (South Carolina).  Although there were four “New England” colonies, Franklin grouped them into one category to stress the need for colonial unity. At the time, the colonists were hotly debated the expansions ion westward into and past the Appalachian Mountains and fighting the French and their Indian allies.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a renaissance man of vision. Having had the foresight to use the power of images to create political conversation among the population, Franklin, through his “Join, or Die” cartoon, secured a strong opinion in a subtle, persuasive, and ingenious way.

First image: Masthead and part of front page of The Massachusetts Spy, or, Thomas’s Boston Journal showing a female figure of Liberty in upper left and rattlesnake labeled “Join or Die” symbolizing the 13 colonies, challenging a griffin, across the top created by Paul Revere on July 7, 1774.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and quietude

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Perhaps we need a requiem for a quiet moment for I fear that moments of quietude are on the endangered list; right behind solitude. To find quiet is like trying to find a spot at a picnic without ants. We are in a time where there is a constant flow of attention and noise. Close your eyes and take a moment. Listen. It matters not if you are alone in a room for regardless of how hard you may try there is some underlying noise. The hum of the refrigerator or the off and on of the gas heater. Go outside; there is a chronic bombardment of noises echoing from cars, planes, construction, and lawn mowers.  Even among the spender offered by far-off parks, a helicopter circles the canyons and waterfalls. A bulwark of noises all too great for Mother Nature’s whispers.

And so, we must believe that there are places where stillness exists and nature is given back her power to speak… I hope. Ralph Waldo Emerson 2jpg

Today’s post brings back the esteemed thinker and expert on tranquility; Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1870), who said “Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us.” The central figure in his literary and philosophical group, now known as the American Transcendentalists, he was a preacher, philosopher, and poet, as well as being considered having the finest spirit and ideals of his age. Emerson was a bold thinker having penned essays and gave lecture that offer models of clarity, style, and thought, which guaranteed him a formidable presence in 19th century American life. He offered his views on the harmonies of man and nature, intellectual and spiritual independence, self-reliance, and Utopian friendship. He was a committed Abolitionist, a champion of the Native Americans, and a crusader for peace and social justice.

I now invite you to contemplate a stanza from his poem titled Walden, snipped from his book Society and Solitude (1875).

In cities high the careful crowds

Of woe-worn mortals darkling go,

But in these sunny solitudes

My quiet roses blow.

William Cobbett and observations

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The mind is truly amazing and one of its unique abilities is the way it filters extraneous information allowing us to function uninterrupted unlike an overloaded circuit breaker that abruptly shuts down. And although we are constantly bombarded both internally and externally, our minds ability to sort allows us to carry on. However, as we sort we are also apt to miss certain things which do not always take a prominent position of importance. Traveling in a vehicle requires us to look forward, as when we are the driver of car in contrast to times we don’t look around at all but rather stay to ourselves, such as riding in a subway. Here wondering eyes that happen upon another may be considered nosy or even rude.

There are specific moments however when observing one’s surroundings is initiated with a more than a casual interest; when something is new, when we are lost, or when we reminisce; otherwise many are quite content simply getting to and fro from one destination to another without taking additional time out for the sights. For example our observations become enhanced if we are in a location that we have never ventured, such as on a vacation. We are more relaxed, allowing our minds to examine the new, the different, and the picturesque. Our senses are heightened; we permit curiosity to take over and our adventurous spirit to be released.

When we are lost our observational skills resemble those of Sherlock Holmes. We look for clues, familiar sights, locations, people that may lead us back on to the correct path. The physical beauty of our surroundings are irrelevant and no matter how much the sun may be shining upon the landscape, our observational mission is primarily directed to uncovering where we have gone astray.

Then there are those of us who return to places and locations after so many years away; here we find that our observations are directed into comparison mode. We endeavor to find a street, a house, even a tree that once existed and when it is not there we try to make sense out of the new thing in its place. We rummage through our mind comparing our yesterday with today.

How quickly does the day go by. How often have we arrived at a destination and the very act of traveling was like a dream since we are so preoccupied with matters at hand or matters that are weighing on our mind we don’t even remember the act of getting from one place to another. How curious is it that one can go through a season and not remember seeing the buds awakening on the winter trees, or the migration of robins returning, or even the full moon against the black sky even when it was directly over head.

Perhaps all this filtering is like censorship and we have managed to censor what may be the most remarkable part of our days. Perhaps we need to turn off our “auto pilot” just so we don’t miss the show.

William Cobbett by John Raphael Smith Today’s blog returns the esteemed thinker: William Cobbett (1763-1835) English born political reformer, writer, and editor. Although he is not widely read today, he is not a man to be dismissed. His outspoken editorials and mouthpiece for the general population during England’s Industrial Revolution, one finds him dodging prison and “escaping” to the United States for a period of time. His ability to connect to people may have originated from his innate and keen ability to observe. From 1821 to 1836 Cobbett traveled on horseback through rural England whereby he documented his observations of daily life and surroundings.

From his book titled Rural Rides I bring you a sampling of his work. Though it is but a brief passage, it is written with rich details whereby we too have become an observer. I present to you, Mr. Cobbett…

“This, to my fancy, is a very nice country. It is continual hill and dell. Now and then a chain of hills higher than the rest, and these are downs, or woods. To stand upon any of the hills and look around you, you almost think you see the ups and downs of sea in a heavy swell (as the sailors call it) after what they call a gale of wind. The undulations are endless, and the great variety in the height, breadth, length, and form of the little hills, has a very delightful effect.—The soil, which, to look on it, appears to be more than half flint stones, is very good in quality, and, in general, better on the tops of the lesser hills than in the valleys. It has great tenacity; does not wash away like sand, or light loam. It is a stiff, tenacious loam, mixed with flint stones. Bears Saint-foin well, and all sorts of grass, which make the fields on the hills as green as meadows, even at this season; and the grass does not burn up in summer.—In a country so full of hills one would expect endless runs of water and springs. There are none: absolutely none. No water-furrow is ever made in the land. No ditches round the fields. And, even in the deep valleys, such as that in which this village is situated, though it winds round for ten or fifteen miles, there is no run of water even now. ..”

Second image: National Portrait Gallery (London) William Cobbett by John Raphael Smith ,chalk, engraved 1812

Rupert Brooke and the night

sunset compressed No matter how familiar we are with a particular location or place, no matter how often we may have frequented or visited; when the sun goes down and the sky grows dark, a change appears. Go outside when the moon is up and suddenly one can hear curious sounds that were muted by day. There is a stillness in the air that is pushed along by the breeze, and as it travels through the open spaces of the canopies it flicks the leaves ricocheting back the most eerie noises. Insects call, night birds hoot, and any rustle by a woodland creature in a familiar bush or scrub becomes an uninvited intruder sending shivers down our backs.

But if this place you are familiar with is not a countryside, but rather the busy streets of a city; the hustle and bustle of day, which is accompanied by a constant flow of activity, the chronic din of the upward and downward pulley of elevators, and the zipping to and fro of traffic; the arrival of darkness ascends like the rise of the curtains at an evening performance. The city’s glow takes on a theatrical appearance of stage lights and a new vigor illuminates what was once quite ordinary. A frenetic passion overtakes blanched city blocks and as though a resurgence of a Renaissance of sorts has been resurrected, neon signs splash color every which way, music oozes out into the streets with the swing of an open door, and expectations soar.

At night we view things differently, and we often wear a persona that can be an extension or even a new conception of ourselves. For no matter how familiar, how recognizable, how comfortable we were by day… night stares back at us and smiles; it diffuses a blanket of darkness often hiding our clarity or removing our inhibitions…

rupert brooke 2 Today I bring back to you our esteemed thinker: Rupert Brooke; English poet and author, best known for his poetry of World War I. Allegedly learning to love poetry from reading Browning at an early age, he belonged to the Georgian Poets, a term describing a romantic and sentimental style … a description of a group of authors writing between the Victorian and Modern era.

So take a moment from your day for a tidbit out of the young Mr. Brooke. From his essay “Letters from America” here are his lovely words about his observations of New York City.

“… Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night. There comes an hour of evening when lower Broadway, the business end of the town, is deserted. And if, having felt yourself immersed in men and the frenzy of cities all day, you stand out in the street in this sudden hush, you will hear, like a strange questioning voice from another world, the melancholy boom of a foghorn, and realise that not half a mile away are the waters of the sea, and some great liner making its slow way out to the Atlantic. After that, the lights come out up-town, and the New York of theatres and vaudevilles and restaurants begins to roar and flare. The merciless lights throw a mask of unradiant glare on the human beings in the streets, making each face hard, set, wolfish, terribly blue. The chorus of voices becomes shriller.

The buildings tower away into obscurity, looking strangely theatrical, because lit from below. And beyond them soars the purple roof of the night. A stranger of another race, loitering here, might cast his eyes up, in a vague wonder what powers, kind or maleficent, controlled or observed this whirlpool. He would find only this unresponsive canopy of black, unpierced even, if the seeker stood near a centre of lights, by any star. But while he looks, away up in the sky, out of the gulfs of night, spring two vast fiery tooth-brushes, erect, leaning towards each other, and hanging on to the bristles of them a little Devil, little but gigantic, who kicks and wriggles and glares. After a few moments the Devil, baffled by the firmness of the bristles, stops, hangs still, rolls his eyes, moon-large, and, in a fury of disappointment, goes out, leaving only the night, blacker and a little bewildered, and the unconscious throngs of ant-like human beings…”

* Night photograph:overlooking Biscayne Bay and Miami, Florida.