It’s been a dithering kind of day, thorough cloud cover for blocking out live rays, no precipitation, no wind, and I seem to be fitting right in to the general paradigm. If Harry were only here we could be sharing a meeting of The Whither Are We Drifting Society. I seem to have some trouble slipping inside an idea and examining it closely. Maybe I don’t even want to answer that old chestnut, What Is Art, except that it was a question broached by a student of architecture with a post on mitcolab. radio who insisted that he defined himself (rather defensively) as an Artist, he didn’t care what anybody said, and I, all aquiver with ancient longings of my own, set out to answer him, only to learn that for some questions there are no walls.
It would have been great moment for a walk, had I the capability of carrying out something so well-defined. That pleasure denied me I leaned back in my chair for a little nap and dreamed of walking (day-dreamed?) instead. I found myself walking the streets of Florence and Rome, Paris and London and Stockholm. Oh they were certainly home to the greatest art, which is architecture. Ask anybody, ask Ruskin or any of the other critics we used to read in the long ago when the professors were still products of 19th century romanticism and they would have told us what Art was, and it wasn’t Bauhaus, it was Michelangelo. And was it really?
So I continued to wander in my mind in my chair and continued to walk down Chestnut Street as I used to do in the old days.It isn’t long before I come upon a small house with a front stoop where some neighbors were sitting. There to greet passersby were the Seven Dwarves nicely arranged in a group setting near some bushes. Further on a bed of iris bloomed along the front walk. They were just your old-fashioned purple iris, and judging by the house they led to may have been the same age, and commonplace as they were, also beautiful. It was the same story down the block with more dwarves, jockeys, a deer, rhododendrons or rhodies as they are sometimes called by aficionados.
The people who bought our house on Richmond put up the figure of a cowboy at the side of the house, just emerging from the old spireas bush that had been there for seventy-five years. It seemed very disrespectful to the pretty garden I had been developing there for fifty years. I even felt a little angry. But then there I was, nodding in my chair in the third trimester of my life and I felt so dumb. Because wasn’t it true that everyone hoped her life, or his, was filled with beauty, was a cornucopia of beautiful objects that stood in such a wonderful contrast with the ugliness that afflicts our years also. We use what we have and we have only what we see. And what we see changes with the years we spend on the planet. Yesterday’s dwarves become Buddha’s tiny statue on the wall, becomes the bird bath. It changes as it grows. The iris become the hyssop and Calendula nodding at each other as summer comes to an end and I find myself smiling at the picture in my head of an old man I saw on Chestnut Street carving a bear’s head out of a tree trunk in his front yard. He confronted beauty in person and the act made him happy.
He knew what Art was.