Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris

I’m struggling with writing lately…it’s been so long since I’ve posted to my blog and yet so many amazing experiences have come and gone.  Something that is keeping me from the comfort of writing is that the past six months or so I have had a number of ‘floaters’ appear in my vision; first the left eye, then the right, and now the little squiggles have moved in my left.  It’s as though my brain is constantly having to edit out these obstructions to my vision and looking at a screen just makes it worse.  A symptom of aging, the eye specialists have assured me that, as yet, the retinas are not involved.  As a visual person, this has been disconcerting and I suppose I could write an entire piece about that, alone, but I’m here to write about Solitude.

I met Michael Harris at Wordfest.  The particular session I attended impacted me so much that I ended up purchasing books from each of the four authors and am happy to say that Christmas vacation was the perfect time to curl up and read them all, as well as others from my book shelf.  I had a very intense reading period through the holiday and I spent most of that time alone, eating a little too much chocolate.

I found the book, Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World, compelling.   If you troll the internet, you will see that reviews are either very positive OR are insistent that this is a book written for ‘old people’.  So mayhaps ONLY BOOMERS will like this book.  I disagree!  I think some very discerning and weary millennials are suffering the backlash of ‘real’ disconnection.

I am one of the ‘old people’ who, in retrospect, feel concern for the gradual erosion of our time alone, our sense of creativity and playfulness, our disassociation with ‘uncomfortable-ness’ and our loss of ‘written’ language’ and mark-making.  The past few years, I have become a part of a very odd little subset of humanity…people who watch birds…people who photograph birds…and in my encounters with them, I see a particular kind of desperation to connect with the innate need for genuine solitude and as a result, genuine connection.

Solitude (shortening the title for a matter of expediency) was a book that suited my constantly-inquiring mind and opened up some revelation about the current state of the human family inhabiting this earth.  From what I can see, in my very small sampling of that earth, the author is right on!  This was one of the most invigorating reads that I’ve enjoyed in a long time…well, since reading Kyo Maclear’s  Birds, Art Life and that wasn’t too long ago.

For the first many pages/chapters…I read, turning pages, while curled under a blanket on the red couch.  But it wasn’t long and I pulled out a highlighter.  My review will take the shape of the posting of some of the views that align with mine.  Here are some of my highlighted bits…please, don’t let these bits keep you from reading the entire book!

Do I get a thumbs up for this? (laughing, as I type)

Having driven the 401 so many times, all by myself, with Max, the chapter where Michael Harris explored our reliance on Google Maps and a GPS really spoke to me.  I’m ‘that lady’, out there, with paper maps and slipping in and out of small towns along the way.  I’ve been lost and I’ve gotten off the highway, using the wrong exit.  Those experiences created some initial panic at times but, in the end, I found my way.  I met new people.  I saw surprising things.

These past years, since retirement, I’ve been circling a pond…I’ve been exploring my city…I’ve been traveling Canada by road.  I’ve been traveling inward and seeing magnificent worlds.  It is a different sort of travel…not better or worse than international travel.  The only thing about my sort of travel is that people don’t ask about it.  There is no sort of admiration or public support for my kind of travel.  While one person may see a pyramid, I might be seeing this. The same wonder is to be had…the same awe.

Reading!!  When a person shares something on a social media site, how many people ‘really’ read it, from beginning to end?  I agree with the following insight.If you have not yet read Rebecca Solnit’s A History of Walking…please do.  She is another one of my favourite authors, currently.
Ah….the lost act of letter-writing!  While my Christmas cards have yet to be written, I do try to write letters with intent and it always feels wonderful to put things in the post box. I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandson and solitude.  It’s natural when you’re a Gramma for the first time.

I really treasure the ideas captured in this book.  I hope that my readers will enjoy it as much.

In the meantime, I will continue to nurture and enjoy my solitude.  It has left me, recently, being honest about not enjoying large group events where I must mingle.  It helps me admit my enjoyment of being alone and apart, as well as helps me understand why I enjoy small group visits so much.

 

Samsung Post

With a west-east migration in the works, I’m  giving this little compact device the opportunity to prove herself while I’m  still at home. I just went through and documented all of the Al Purdy poems that will be subjects for paintings in September. (Dang! I already wish I had a larger keyboard!) Anyway, there are still projects to organize, so this won’t be long. A test is all. Hmm mm now,seeing if I can attach a photograph? Something unrelated, I’m  guessing.

Alright. So it appears that I can’t up load  images taken on the device and stored in the album. I’m going to have to do something about that!

I really really like WordPress! In minutes, I was on live chat with a support person (I think they call them happiness engineers) and Jason explained how to download the WordPress  app from the Playstore. And so, I’m going to try to post a second photo, this one, from my tablet.  I’ve now got this sorted out and that’s one more accomplishment before getting on the road!

IMG_9629,

 

 

Four Artists Paint One Tree

Oh my goodness…University-friend, Robert Waldren, posted this Youtube video on Facebook this evening!!  I must confess that for the first ten years of my 30 year teaching career, I booked out the 16 mm. film, Four Artists Paint One Tree, from IMC.  If one of my readers is a student from that period, let me know if you remember it!  In the day, it was sometimes tricky dragging the equipment into the classroom, pulling down the screen, and successfully threading the movie in the projector.  More than once, I looked behind the cart and found meters of film poured out onto the floor.

4ArtistsPaint1TreeBelieve it or not, this was very innovative for the time.  It makes me laugh as I listen to the background soundtrack and musical choices.  After this viewing, I stressed the point of developing an individual style and even more particular to that, determining your favourite mark making tools and marks.  One of my art teachers had really made an impression with me regarding mark making some time before 1976.   This film was originally made in 1958: Walt Disney made observations of how Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle, Josh Meador and Walt Peregoy each painted one tree and background.  LOVE THIS!!  This was a huge walk down memory lane and I thank you, Robert Waldren!

It seems as though every artist has particular subjects that they draw and paint over and over again from their earliest explorations, discovering an approach to things…for me, it was a tree and an eye.  It is no wonder I was drawn to this movie.

What amazes me is that as I search, I learn how many people have written about this particular film.

Cursive handwriting…an art of the past?

I’ve always been in awe of illuminated manuscripts and beautiful script.

JesseTree Illuminated Manuscript

stone.tifI think that cursive handwriting is an aesthetic that will be sorely missed if it goes the way of the past.  A frustration, I’m sure, for anyone who lacked fine motor skills in life; keyboarding would have been a benefit to many.  However, there’s a particular kind of nostalgia that comes with the practice of handwriting/penmanship/cursive…both positive and negative. The discussion is a current one where education is concerned.  I just thought I’d reflect on my own practice of cursive as it relates to my schooling and life.

I learned to print first, but very soon after, learned cursive.  This is a note written in 1964.  I was in grade three. (the poem…dumb!)

Cell December29 cursive handwriting 006

 

In grades five and six, we were required to own an old-school fountain pen and had our own ink well stored in the top corner of our desk.  We were given lessons on how to maintain our pens, how to blot our writing as we went along and generally, how to form our letters in a very controlled manner.  I wrote many reports and stories using this tool and in looking through my little stack this afternoon, think there is something very beautiful about the predictable text.

 

??????????In University, I didn’t have access to a typewriter for the first couple of years and so I wrote out my papers in a sort of calligraphy.  I always felt slightly at a disadvantage to people who had more money.  I understand how students feel when they don’t have access to computers at home.

??????????When I boarded with Larry and Nina in the city,  I used Nina’s typewriter.  What a world of difference that made!  When I am a guest teacher with students in today’s schools, they always marvel at my stories about learning keyboarding on a typewriter…how they were used…changing ribbons…back spacing and making corrections.  These are stories of a not-so-distant past.

??????????At some point, my non-slanted cursive became slanted.  I don’t know what that’s about?  It felt like it was somehow aligned with the moment when I took my maiden name back.  At this point, text became a part of my art and even appeared on my walls.

P1050785Christmas Card 2Mueller Art Folder 012I think that cursive handwriting carries a great deal of our personality and when I receive cards or letters in the post, I immediately recognize and respond to the writing on the front of the envelope.  My heart still skips a beat when I encounter a note or something written inside the front cover of a book and the script is in my mother’s handwriting.

Cursive is beautiful.  I hope that it isn’t lost to us.

Mom's writing