Walking with Thoreau

Years ago, Lydia Jackson and I were pen pals and enjoyed sharing secrets.  She confided that she’d met Ralph Waldo Emerson at a social gathering held after one of his lectures and, BOOM, immediately got stars in her eyes. A short time later, she had a dream about him which, considering her infatuation, was pretty normal. But I was blown away when she told me he’d written asking her hand in marriage.

Henry David Thoreau

Immediately after the wedding, Emerson changed Lydia’s name to Lidian, a name he found more exotic.  She, in turn, didn’t call him Waldo like everyone else.  Instead, she called him Mr. Emerson. That, to me, was already a warning. Even though, insisted Lidian, there was much mutual respect between the two, there was little tenderness.  Not only did Mr. Emerson still grieve over his first wife, Ellen, he also took long walks in the woods with the activist, Margaret Fuller, claiming they were simply trying to transcend the empirical.

Henry David Thoreau

At the time, Henry David Thoreau lived with the couple.  In exchange for room and board, he did all the manual labor on their property. So it was no surprise to me when Lydia and Thoreau became close. Just as it came as no surprise to me that Mr. Emerson and Thoreau began arguing–there were too many roosters crowing in the same house. Emerson gave Thoreau a small plot of land and told his handyman to go build a cabin and move out. In 1845, Thoreau went to live at Walden Pond. Here he began writing about the transcendental experience of living surrounded by nature. Every day he would take long walks then write about them in his diary. Thoreau truly loved being surrounded by trees because it made him feel better. It’s what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku aka forest bathing.

Henry David Thoreau

Wood emits an essential oil, phytocide, that naturally restores and rejuvenates us.  Not only does it lower heart rate and blood pressure, it also lowers the concentration of cortisol (stress), and improves the immune system function.

We are a part of nature.  So being surrounded by nature is like going home.  Nature can live without us but we can’t live without nature.

Henry David Thoreau

 

drawing

(from The Diary of Luz Corazzini, Cynthia Korzekwa © )

Related:  The Ingenious Pencils of Henry David Thoreau + Margaret Fuller, American’s first true feminist + When a Poet Tragically Dies: The story of Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson + “Humanity is divided into Men, Women, and Margaret Fuller” – Edgar Allan Poe

Bibliography: The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861

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My Friend Agatha

she looked at her thighs then took a train

My thickened thighs made me frown and since frowns cause wrinkles,  I decided to check into the Old Swan at Harrogate. My friend Mona told me that their hydrotherapy could easily blast away fat and even more.  It was a cold evening in December of 1926 when I arrived. The train trip from London had been fatiguing so I was glad when the bellboy quickly helped me to my room.  After a good night’s sleep, I got up the next morning ready to explore the hotel facilities.  Exploration accomplished, I made my way back towards my room. Or at least I thought so.  But when I opened the door to the room I thought was mine, I saw a woman in her mid-thirties sitting at the desk writing. She looked at me with such a fearful expression that I quickly said “Sorry” and left the room. You can imagine my embarrassment when, later, I went down for breakfast and found that we’d been assigned the same dining table. Immediately I started apologizing, excessively so embarrassed that I was. But she gently said to me, Please, what’s done is done.

at the Swan they exercized in the pool

While waiting for our breakfast to arrive, we stumbled at conversation. There was something somewhat sad and mysterious about this woman who said her name was Teresa Neele. For the next few days, we shared meals together and often saw one another while exercising in the pool but without making any overtures of camaraderie. That’s why it came as a surprise when one evening I answered the knock on my door and found Teresa looking at me her eyes full of tears. Of course I invited her in and offered her tea (thanks to the cozy, the pot was still warm). She shook her head no, sat down, said “there’s nothing like love for getting you down” then started to cry.  If tears were a form of hydrotherapy, she would have been cured of any ails right on the spot.

Teresa said her heart was broken and she needed to talk. I knew from experience that a good talk helps the emotions more than any drug can so I made myself available. She burst like a badly built dam and told me the most incredible story. Her husband had dumped her for another woman and the trauma was so great she often felt she was losing contact with reality. So much so she didn’t even really understand how she’d arrived at the Swan.  And, are you ready for this, her name wasn’t Teresa Neele but Agatha Christie! I squinted my eyes to scrutinize her. Slowly I began making out the features of the woman who’d been front page news for several days now. Yes, it was her, the author of my favorite novels. The missing writer who many feared had met foul play.

the newspapers suggested disguises for Agatha

Sometimes we are embarrassed about the revelations we’ve made in a time of despair. Maybe that’s why the next morning at breakfast Agatha seemed awkward as if she wanted to avoid me.  But I let her know that I understood and that her secret was safe with me.  Pity that Bob Tappin didn’t feel the same.  He was the hotel’s banjo player and had recognized Agatha one night wearing a lovely Georgette frock dancing the Charleston.  He notified the police who notified the husband who showed up only because he wanted to take Agatha home and stop the sensationalism.

she danced the Charleston in a georgette frock

A few days later I, too, left the Swan and normal life went back on the rails. Every so often I’d see Agatha’s name in the newspapers as her books sold with great success. It must have been early in 1929 when Agatha wrote and invited me to her home in Chelsea for the weekend.

After tea and cucumber sandwiches, Agatha told me she had a new man in her life.  His name was Leonard and he was an archaeologist. You know, she said laughingly, an archaeologist is the best kind of husband to have because the older a woman gets, the more her husband is interested in her.

they went from thunderclaps to a fireplace

The next morning after breakfast we took a long walk around the neighborhood (Cresswell Place is so lovely).  But at the sound of thunderclaps, we rushed back to the house and eagerly sat down in front of the fireplace for a long talk.

Agatha was one of my favorite authors (and Miss Marple my favorite psychologist) thus I was really curious about her writing habits. She said she didn’t any particular work routine but when ideas came into her head, she would pick up any one of the many notebooks she had lying around, and jot them down.

Much had been written about what had made her so successful. One theory was that, by keeping things simple via the use of plain language, short sentences, and much dialogue, she made it easier for the reader to follow the plot. Even experimenting neurolinguists had their say and said Agatha owed much of her success to repetition. If the author repeats words at least three times in a paragraph, the reader becomes more easily convinced.

“Dash it all!” said Agatha. “My success doesn’t come from all these techniques they say I use. My success comes from the story. And the story comes from my imagination.”

Agatha Chrisite and The Girls

One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life, Agatha continued, is to have a happy childhood that permits you to develop your imagination. Her childhood had been rather unconventional as she had no formal education and her older siblings were away at boarding school. So, not having playmates,  she made up imaginary friends. When playing with The Girls, as she called them, Agatha talked for herself and for them as well. This is probably where she learned to become so good at dialogue.

 A child’s world is far more exciting than that of an adult because the imagination has yet to be dulled by reality. A child can put on momma’s heels and become an adult.  Or ride on a broomstick that becomes a horse. Or hold a bottle to a doll that becomes a baby.

she put on  heels, he rode a broomstick

Imagination was Agatha’s best friend and frequently appeared unexpectedly. Often, she said, a plot would come to her at such odd moments such as when she was walking down the street or examining a hat in a shop or even while washing dishes.

plots unexpectedly arrived

Later, alone in my room I reflected on my day spent with Agatha. Because my memory was like snow upon the desert, I wanted to write in my diary the lessons I’d learned:

  1. Make friends with your imagination. Your imagination will not only keep you company but will continually supply you with options and solutions.
  2. Learn from Miss Marple and observe, observe, observe. Then, like Miss Marple in her chintzy St. Margaret Mead drawing room, use these observations to discover something new about others about yourself.
  3. Listen for the facts. Like Hercule Poirot sitting in his armchair (hopefully with an antimacassar!), you can find solutions without going anywhere if you have the right information.
  4. Read aloud as often as possible. Agatha, like many young children, was often read to. Reading to children increases their vocabulary, develops attention span, helps pronunciation, and imprints the value of books. But reading aloud is good for adults, too. It helps our memory because we create not only visual but auditory links to our brain as well. Sounding out a word is a physical process because you must use your lungs, your diaphragm, and related mouth muscles forcing mind and body to collaborate.

Was silent reading an anomaly in the classical world?  Scholars disagree.  Marshall McLuhan says that in antiquity and the Middle Ages, readying was necessarily aloud.  Other scholars disagree.  But have you ever seen a small child reading to himself who doesn’t move his lips? And Hugh told me that many throat cancer patients have difficulties reading after surgery as if words can only be expressed with the voice.

And what about poetry? What is the need for meter and rhyme if poems are not meant to be read aloud?

As for myself, I plan on taking the word off the page and into my lungs by reading my diary aloud the first Sunday of the month…will I sound the same to myself aloud and I do in silence?

drawing

(from The Diary of Luz Corazzini, Cynthia Korzekwa © )

Related: Agatha’s Disappearance + guided walk of Agatha’s London  (see, too, her house at 22 Cresswell Place in Chelsea   and 48 Swan Court where Agatha Christie lived with second husband, Max Mallowan)

Bibliography:
Christie, Agatha. An Autobiography. William Morrow Paperbacks. New York City. 2012.
Maida, Patricia and Spornick, Nicholas. Murder She Wrote: A Study of Agatha Christie’s Detective Fiction. Popular Press 1. 1982

 

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Edith Holden (1871-1920)

Edith Holden (1871-1920)

Born in the waxing Victorian era, biophile Edith Holden was an artist and teacher who liked getting on her bike and riding around the countryside to observe nature, the flora and fauna of the British countryside, and the changing season.  She transcribed these observation into drawings and descriptions in a journal she called “Nature Notes”.

Edith came from an unconventional family.  Her parents were Unitarians with a strong interest in Spiritualism and regularly held séances in their home.

Edith Holden (1871-1920)

William Morris’ Arts & Crafts movements influenced her greatly. Edith married the sculptor Ernest Smith and left the countryside.  But she continue her nature outings.  One March morning, she went to collect some nature near the banks of the River Thames.  While trying to break-off a bough of chestnuts buds with her umbrella, she slipped and fell into the river. The current was too strong and fast for Edith. She drowned at the age of 49.

Edith Holden (1871-1920)

Sixty- four years later, the journal was discovered in a dining room cupboard and published as The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.

Snowflake

Diary excerpts:

December 9 “We woke up to a storm of whirling snowflakes this morning.”

Edith Holden (1871-1920)

December 28. Skating has commenced in the fens.

Edith Holden (1871-1920)

March 10. When I got to the bottom of the lane, I set my bicycle against a bank and pic-niced on a fence.

Jan.2,3: Sharp frost and a thick fog in the early morning. The fog cleared off about 9:30 and the sun shone brightly. Went for a country walk. Every twig on every tree and bush was outlined in silver tracery against the sky; some of the dead grasses and seed vessels growing by the roadside , were especially beautiful, every detail sparkling with frost crystals in the sunlight…

Edith Holden (1871-1920)

March 20: Went to the daffodil  field again; the buds are just breaking into yellow. Found two thrush’s nests, both in holly bushes; one nest was empty, the bird was sitting on the other. She looked at me with such brave, bright eyes, I could not disturb her, much as I would have like a peep at her speckled blue eggs…

April 29: Saw a lovely little Hedge-sparrow’s nest in a Gorse bush with four eggs in it. The Gorse was in full bloom and made a glowing contrast with the blue eggs in the mossy nest.

drawing

(from The Diary of Luz Corazzini, Cynthia Korzekwa © )

 

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A Wreath of Oranges

orange wreath

Orange wreath at Recuerda mi Corazon

Why not make a wreath for the holidays? Tutorial HERE

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When love leaves without you

This morning I had the radio on full blast. Bruce was singing “ nobody knows honey where love goes but when it goes it’s gone gone “.  Sofia no doubt would have agreed.

the radio was a philosopher

Sofia Tolstoy (1844-1919) was just a babe in the woods when she met Leo Tolstoj.  He was ambitious, she was romanitic.  When they married Sofia was only 19 years old, Tolstoj 34.  Right after the honeymoon,  Tolstoj gave his bride his sexually explicit diary to read.  Not only was she overwhelmed, but Sofia’s dreams were so shattered that it was impossible to glue them together again.

For about 57 years, Sofia, too, kept a diary.  She was a gifted writer and effortlessly created portraits of  Tolstoj and their entourage.  From the diaries we learn that it was Sofia who was responsible for creating a Happy Home for her husband and their numerous children.  Not only did she organize home and finances, she also copied Tolstoj’s manuscripts over and over again as well as oversee their publication.

she lived in his shadow

Sofia’s diaries show just how much her life was dominated by her husband and how she felt stressed out by his demands. His lack of appreciation made her feel lonely and used.  On more than one occasion, she flung herself into the family pond hoping to die and free herself from delusion and depression.

maybe the pond was a solution

Fame went to Tolstoj’s head. He gave up writing to become a guru attracting a variety of followers.  Some were in good faith, others were simply schemers the most ferocious being Vladimir Chertkov.  Chertkov competed with Sofia for Tolstoj’s affection and consideration.  She truly loved her husband whereas Chertkov wanted to appropriate his guru’s genius for himself.  Chertkov successfully alientated husband and wife and  organized Tolstoj’s departure from the beloved family home he’d shared with his wife of almost 50 years. But the boys’ odyssey was brief ending up in a tiny railway station 80 miles away from home. Tolstoj became gravely ill and when Sofia learned of her husband’s whereabouts, she rushed to be near him.  But his followers prohibited her from visiting her dying husband.

she watched his death from the window

Love is not always fair.

 

drawing

(from The Diary of Luz Corazzini, Cynthia Korzekwa © )

 

Related : Sophia Tolstoy, Not the Woman You Thought She Was + Una vera Karenina dietro ‘Guerra e pace’ + The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy review + James Meek: rereading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
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Why not write the unthinkable?

A Capricorn like me, Lynda Barry grew up in a racially mixed neighborhood in Seattle. She herself was a blend of Irish, Norwegian and Filipino. Unfortunately, diversity only created conflict. Looking for distractions from her unhappy family life, Lynda started drawing cartoons, inspired by the idealized The Family Circus, a syndicated comic strip consisting of a single captioned panel set inside a circle.

some families live in circles, come in squares

Lynda finally escaped her yucky ducky home life when she enrolled in college. Here, at Evergreen State, she met two people who were to have a major influence on her life: her painting teacher, Marilyn Frasca, and fellow student, Matt Groening, who would later become famous for The Simpsons. When Groening became editor of the college newspaper, he published Lynda’s outlandish cartoons often based on her own childhood. Lynda not only found a way to smooth the edges of her abrasive childhood by transforming it into comic relief, she also initiated a cartooning career. Her comic strip, Ernie Pook’s Comeek, (1979-2008) brought her recognition and several invitations to the Late Night Show with David Letterman.

one ate the donuts, the other ate the holes

Today Lynda is not only an award winning author, she also teaches. Her highly popular workshop, “Writing the Unthinkable”, focuses on memory and mind excavations using the diary as format. The method underlines the relationship between the brain and the hand, between the written and the visual.

The diary, says Lynda, is not about recording what you’ve done in the past 24 hours. What goes in the diary is all you notice once you get off the hamster wheel and become aware of the present like a Be Here Now experience inviting you to become aware of the world around you. Her Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor is basically the lesson plan book for her workshop.

it was time to get off the hamster wheel

One popular workshop assignment is taken from Ivan Brunett’s cartooning book: draw a cat, a car, a castle first in three minutes, then in one minute then in 15 seconds then in 5 seconds. This exercise reminds me of Matisse’s swans. Matisse often spent the day sitting in a boat drawing swans. He drew their every detail only to later carve them down into contour lines. Going from Baroque to Minimalism, Matisse was a master at turning excess into essence.

he turned excess into essence

Lynda stresses the importance of the image.  She sites  V. S. Ramachandran’s Phantoms in the Brain experiment. A patient who’d lost his hand had the feeling that the hand was still there clenched in a fist.  It caused him much  pain but he didn’t know how to release the tension.  So Ramachandran built a box with two holes on the same side and a mirror dividing the box in half.  When the patient put his hands, real and phantom, into the box, the real hand was reflected in the mirror. When he clenched then unclenched his real hand while looking in the mirror, the phantom hand unclenched, too. The reflection of the real was able to liberate the ghost.

reflection liberated the phantom

For those who complain they have no time to write every day, Lynda suggests the Six Minute Diary: in just six minutes, reflect on your day then write a list of what happened, what you saw, what you heard and then an image related to these observations. Because drawing is a form of observation.

when you see the world, the world sees you

 Wittgenstein said that the aim of his philosophy was to show the fly  how to get out of the bottle. Just as the role of the diary is to open ourselves up and experience another level of awareness.

Wittgenstein's Fly

 

drawing

(from The Diary of Luz Corazzini, Cynthia Korzekwa ©)

 

Related:  LYNDA BARRY BRINGS THE COMEDY on ‘LETTERMAN’ + Lynda Barry: The answer is in the picture + Six Minute Diary + Lynda Barry youtube chanell + The Nearsighted Monkey tumblr blog + Lynda Barry Bio + Lynda Jean Barry + Lynda Barry’s Illustrated Field Guide to Keeping a Visual Diary and Cultivating a Capacity for Creative Observation + Drawing as Observation, Jan Altmann
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Volver the Cat and Emoticons

Volver is our cat.  We talk to him all the time and he understands us.  When he is scratching the furniture and we say NO, he stops scratching.  When it’s time to eat, we say PAPPA* and he comes running. When he snuggles next to us and we say WE LOVE YOU, he purrs.    (*pap)

PAPPA makes him run

Once upon a time, humans were like Volver. They didn’t need to know the meaning of words in order to communicate.

More complex than verbal communication, non-verbal communication is somewhat telepathic and uses body language, eye contact, and, above all, empathy. Once upon a time we used much more non-verbal communication but when demographics drastically changed, standardized communication was needed. Words replaced sensation. And, instead of integrating one form of communication with the other, the verbal mode of thinking completely took over.

they exchanged vibrations

Not too long ago, I was feeling a bit stressed and went to a wine bar near my studio to mellow out.  The place was packed. I looked around for an empty table and, not finding one, decided to leave.  A man sitting near the door made a gesture with his hand indicating the empty chair next to him.  It was an obvious invitation to sit down. The man, old but not elderly, had a pleasant face and seemed perfectly harmless. So I accepted his offer.

she drank wine with a stranger

He told me his name was Leonard and that he’d given up being a surgeon to write books.  A storyteller, his books sometimes put scholars on the spin cycle. His theories regarding the written word, for example, had created a lot of polemics.

According to Leonard, the invention of writing rewired the human brain. It created a society dominated by left-brain mentality typical of men.  That is, the abstract substituted the actual.  As a result, the holistic and iconic feminine right-brain  was put into limbo. The word was preferred to the image. Goddesses were substituted with a patriarchal monotheism that totally obliterated the female principle. Thanks to the written word, said Leonard, the misogynist manipulators had stigmatized the role of women in society.

they obliterated goddesses

Recently I decided to use homemade emoticons/emoji  for Facebook commentary for two reasons.  For one, I don’t like being transformed into part of a social engineering algorithm (as posted about HERE). Secondly,  the written word has a rigidity to it that the image doesn’t have. And, if you use any kind of social media, you need to protect your bio-rhythms from people out there desperate to externalize their anger and frustration.

Instead of word ping pong, why not use some emoticons/emoji of your own?  Not interpreted in the same way as words, images can intrude upon verbal thinking which will  frustrate troll-like thinkers. I mean, how can you fight with an emoticon?

Meaning and words are not necessarily synonymous.

drawing

(from The Diary of Luz Corazzini, Cynthia Korzekwa ©)

Related:  The Alphabet Versus the Goddess + timeline + The Alphabet vs. The Goddess Lecture by Dr. Leonard Shlain VIDEO + and, for art lovers and historians, ART AND PHYSICS is a must read! + Empathy and Ecofeminism + Alphabet vs. Goddess TIMELINE + Emoji as a language

 

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