The Magic of the Written Word


…the visitor who now enters the Palazzo dei Conservatori at Borgo San Sepolcro finds the stupendous “Resurrection” almost as Piero della Francesca left it. …it stands there before us in entire and actual splendour, the greatest picture in the world.
—-Aldous Huxley, Along the Road, 1925

I had never heard of The Resurrection until a couple of weeks ago. But both The World’s Greatest Paintings and The Private Life of a Masterpiece: Renaissance Masterpieces included it in their discussions. Even though I enjoyed learning why it’s supposed to be such a great painting, it still doesn’t move me. But the story about how Huxley’s words saved the painting and the town during World War II is another matter.

As the British army was fighting its way up Italy, an artillery officer named Anthony Clarke was told to shell Sansepolcro to make it safe for the soldiers to enter. He gave the order, but then remembered Huxley’s description of Piero’s fresco. He ordered his men to stop.

As it turned out the shelling hadn’t been needed because the Germans had already left. So instead of the army court-martialing Clarke for disobeying an order, the townspeople honored him as a hero. The Via Anthony Clarke is still named after him.

This story reminds me of my excitement and wonder when I first learned to read — it seemed like magic. Huxley’s words about a painting averted a tragedy almost 20 years later. If that doesn’t show the magic of the written word, I don’t know what does.

After the war Clarke owned a rare book store in South Africa and wrote 50 scholarly catalogs in the course of his career. He was clearly the quintessential book lover. That, too, warms my heart. Where I was raised people didn’t think much of people who always had “their nose in a book.” Clarke proved that book lovers can be useful too.

What about you? Are you a book lover? Has your life ever been changed by something another person has written?

Thanks to Evan, tammy, bikehikebabe, Rummuser and Ursula for commenting on last week’s post.
Posted in Lifelong Learning | 14 Comments

New Strategy

This is what the road over the four-foot-diameter culvert looked like when Orlando and Ron finished Sunday afternoon:

And this is the picture Beate sent Monday morning:
It could be worse. The road is still passable. If we had infinite amounts of money we would try again this weekend. But as it is we have a new strategy: keeping our fingers crossed. (We’ll try again after the rainy season stops.)

Have you ever adopted “keeping your fingers crossed” as a strategy? How did it work out?

Thanks to Evan, Mike, tammy, Cathy, bikehikebabe, Rummuser and Ursula for commenting on last week’s post.
Posted in Life as a Shared Adventure | 9 Comments

The Power of Art


As I walked through the exhibition I suddenly saw, from perhaps 15 feet, a painting I had never seen and did not recognize. It was a large oil painting, perhaps six feet wide, but I was not thinking about those things. I was feeling, and I was feeling awful. I was feeling that I had been punched in the stomach, but the pain, the hurt, was psychological and emotional as well as physical. It was real. I knew it came from the painting, but I didn’t know why or how.
—William Kloss, The World’s Greatest Paintings

I’ve been watching The Great Courses’ The World’s Greatest Paintings, and Professor Kloss chose Hans Hofmann’s To J.F.K. – A Thousand Roots Did Die With Thee for his final masterpiece. Kloss says everyone’s list of favorite masterpieces will be different, but he had to include this picture on his because it moves him so much. Hofmann painted the picture in 1963, right after JFK’s assassination that November. Kloss first saw it in 1976, 13 years later. The artist had managed to pierce Kloss’s heart in spite of the distance in time and space.

Have works of art ever blown you away? For me it hasn’t been painting, except for a Renoir I saw at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. I think it was a full-size reproduction rather than an original, and I haven’t been able to find an image of it on the web, but I still remember the color and how alive it seemed. That was 21 years ago.

Sculpture moves me more. I still remember my feeling of awe when I saw Michelangelo’s statues in Rome and Florence over 50 years ago. Also Rodin, of course. And, not quite a world masterpiece, the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University. It was built shortly before we left in 1974, and we visited it again around 1998. I don’t remember the pieces in it, mainly the feeling of walking inside a sculpture, a sculpture with spectacular views. Remembering it still fills me with wonder.

What about you? What would be on your list?

Thanks to Evan, tammy, bikehikebabe, Rummuser and Ursula for commenting on last week’s post.
Posted in Lifelong Learning | 21 Comments

Just Listening vs Sharing

Does this video resonate with you at all? It made me laugh out loud — I assume because I’ve done my share of listening in my life. Sometimes it has helped people with problems, and sometimes it has simply encouraged them to play the victim and not do anything to change what’s bothering them.

The kind of listening I like best is the non-therapeutic kind, when we share our experiences. When something is bothering me it helps me to tell someone about it, but I don’t want either sympathy or advice. Expressing my feelings and connecting with someone, preferably someone who has experienced something similar, frees me to get curious and start looking at my options. (If no one is available I connect with myself by writing in my journal.) What helps the most is talking to someone who has experienced something similar to what I’m going through. Again, advice usually annoys me, but I appreciate information and company.

So I don’t really relate to either the guy or the gal in the video. What about you? What do you find helpful?

Thanks to Mike, Evan, Cathy, tammy, bikehikebabe, Rummuser and Dixie for commenting on last week’s post.
Posted in Life as a Shared Adventure | 22 Comments

Good Visit

Kaitlin, Torben, Sammy, and Montana came Monday evening. They’ve been staying up on the land, and we’ve been having a good time. Here are a few pictures:
They will leave tomorrow morning. In the meantime Happy Fourth of July to my fellow Americans, and I hope everyone else is having a good time too!

Thanks to Mike, Evan, Cathy, tammy, bikehikebabe, Rummuser and Beate for commenting on last week’s post.
Posted in Living Fully | 9 Comments

Two Years Later

Andy took the following pictures of our land going up in flames on June 26, 2011:
fire 1
fire 3
fire 2
Notice that there were a lot more trees then, and the trees were bigger than the ones we have now:




It’s pathetic when the grass and weeds are bigger than the trees, but we’ll have to see what happens. You can see why Andy was so excited about his present last week. He also started two redwood trees in the house, and he’s planted one of them. So far it looks happy:
Again, we’ll just have to see what happens. How has your life changed in the past two years?

Thanks to Mike, Evan, Cathy, tammy, bikehikebabe, Rummuser and Dixie for commenting on last week’s post.

Posted in Life as a Shared Adventure | 21 Comments


Andy was happy and excited when he came home Tuesday evening. He said, “Guess what Beate and Tim gave me! A tree!” They planted it for him that evening, and he’s hoping it will survive the transition from its old hothouse environment to the harsher conditions up on the land. As you can see he’s already tied the top to a pipe with a red rag — the stem isn’t strong enough to support the top cluster of branches without help. He’ll trim as little as possible to make it viable even when the wind blows.

The tag on the tree says it’s deer-resistant but not deer-proof. We’re not sure what that means, but we’re hoping for the best.

Do you ever get excited about gifts?

Thanks to Mike, Evan, Ursula, Cathy, tammy, bikehikebabe and Rummuser for commenting on last week’s post.

Posted in Life as a Shared Adventure, Patience | 13 Comments