Call me Ishmael.

photograph by Mark Jefferson Paraan via Unsplash

Because no man can ever feel his own identity aright except his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper element of our essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey part.

— Melville, Moby Dick

Electric Light Orchestra – “Last Train To London”

Who is it that can tell me who I am?

Photograph by Bruce Mars via Pexels

KING LEAR:
Doth any here know me? This is not Lear.
Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?
Either his notion weakens, his discernings
Are lethargied—Ha! Waking? ’Tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am?

FOOL:
Lear’s shadow.

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – Elton John

Straight Ahead

Photograph by Easton Oliver via Unsplash

His railings and outbursts expressed not the conviction of failure but the passion for success. They touched off his disappointment, his injured self-esteem, his wounded pride, without ultimately concealing his determination to persevere — his finally unshakeable will to achieve. The strain of remonstrative self-pity and pessimism in Conrad was an overlay to the iron in him.

—Leo Gurko, “Joseph Conrad: Giant in Exile”

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

—Emerson, Self Reliance
 

Aerosmith – “Make It” (2007)

Barter

cf. LIFE, 1968 and Vincent van Gogh, “Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat” (1887)

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

—Sara Teasdale, Barter (excerpt)
 

“Crazy Crazy Nights” by Kiss

Saving Grace

Dick Swanson, “Artist On Bank Of The Schuylkill River” (1973)

I think that if I can get into the habit of writing a little about what happens, or rather doesn’t happen, I may lose a little of the sense of loneliness and desolation which abides with me. My circumstances allowing of nothing but the ejaculation of one-syllabled reflections, a written monologue by that most interesting being, myself, may have its yet to be discovered consolations. I shall at least have it all my own way and it may bring relief as an outlet to that geyser of emotions, sensations, speculations and reflections…so here goes, my first Journal!

—Diary of Alice James, May 31, 1889

“Everything Else” – Jennifer Damiano

I’m out here in the meadow

TV Commercial

All stood amazed, until an old woman, tottering out from among the crowd, put her hand to her brow, and peering under it in his face for a moment, exclaimed, “Sure enough! it is Rip Van Winkle—it is himself! Welcome home again, old neighbor—Why, where have you been these twenty long years?”

—Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle

“Meadows” – Joe Walsh

Loomings

LSE Library, “Student in the library, 1981”

CHAPTER 1. Loomings.

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul…then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

—Herman Melville, Moby Dick
 

“Keep Your Head Up” by Ben Howard

A Turning Point

cf. Photograph by The Creative Exchange via Unsplash

One sound is saying, ‘You are not worth tuppence,
But neither is anybody. Watch it! Be severe.’
The other says, ‘Go with it! Give and swerve.
You are everything you feel beside the river.’

—Seamus Heaney, Casting and Gathering (excerpt)

Part One: Life

cf. Library Company of Philadelphia, “Frankford Creek and Vicinity, Winter” (ca. late 19th century) and
photograph by Peter Gonzalez via Unsplash

Ashes denote that fire was;
Respect the grayest pile
For the departed creature’s sake
That hovered there awhile.

Fire exists the first in light,
And then consolidates,—
Only the chemist can disclose
Into what carbonates.

Emily Dickinson

“At The College Art Gallery, October, 1981”

cf. Home Movie (1947)

at the college art gallery, october, 1981

the ultrablue sunset sky
radiated around the white church spire
I walked into the art gallery
because I was a romantic
fair creature of an hour
was looking at chippendale furniture
but I shall never look upon thee more
my footfalls echoed around decorative arts
down the passage which I did not take
another door was opening
into another rose-garden
this fire is now my quarry
vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore

—J.S.

But when I face the light somehow it all seems right

Southworth & Hawes, “Classroom in the Emerson School…” (detail) (ca. 1850)

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

—Keats, Ode to a Nightingale (excerpt)

But when I face the light
Somehow it all seems right…

“Nay, if I mistake not, unity itself divided by zero equals infinity.”

Jack Corn, “The Cool Morning Air Condenses a Boy’s Breath as He Walks Along a Coal Car on His Way to School…” (1974)

“Nay, if I mistake not, unity itself divided by zero equals infinity.”

—Thomas Carlyle
 

“Flaming Youth” by Kiss

“Follow the path your genius traces like the galaxy of heaven for you to walk in.”

Photograph by Skitterphoto via Pixabay

“…follow the path your genius traces like the galaxy of heaven for you to walk in.”

—Emerson, Greatness
 

“Highway Star” by Deep Purple

Distant roads are calling me

John Collier, “Young man boarding train for New York state…” (1942)

Lovers, forget your love,
And list to the love of these,
She a window flower,
And he a winter breeze.

When the frosty window veil
Was melted down at noon,
And the cagèd yellow bird
Hung over her in tune,

He marked her through the pane,
He could not help but mark,
And only passed her by,
To come again at dark.

He was a winter wind,
Concerned with ice and snow,
Dead weeds and unmated birds,
And little of love could know.

But he sighed upon the sill,
He gave the sash a shake,
As witness all within
Who lay that night awake.

Perchance he half prevailed
To win her for the flight
From the firelit looking-glass
And warm stove-window light.

But the flower leaned aside
And thought of naught to say,
And morning found the breeze
A hundred miles away.

—Robert Frost, Wind and Window Flower

“The other was an earthenware pot, coarse and common, but which had preserved all its water, and its flowers remained fresh and crimson…”

Esther Bubley, “…talking with some friends near her locker…” (1943)

Sometimes, in the evening, she heard a voice, concealed beneath the wind screen of the bell tower, singing a sad, strange song, as though to lull her to sleep. The lines were unrhymed, such as a deaf person can make.

“Look not at the face, young girl, look at the heart.
The heart of a handsome young man is often deformed.
There are hearts in which love does not keep.
Young girl, the pine is not beautiful; it is not beautiful like the poplar, but it keeps its foliage in winter…”

One morning, on awaking, she saw on her window two vases filled with flowers. One was a very beautiful and very brilliant but cracked vase of glass. It had allowed the water with which it had been filled to escape, and the flowers which it contained were withered. The other was an earthenware pot, coarse and common, but which had preserved all its water, and its flowers remained fresh and crimson…

—Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

“I dwell in a lonely house I know…”

John Dillwyn Llewelyn, The Upper Fall (1853–56)

I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow…

–Robert Frost, Ghost House
 

“But the most important thing that you can take advantage of in the world of music is to see yourself.”

Carol M. Highsmith, “Playing for $1 in a hat…” (2011)

“But the most important thing that you can take advantage of in the world of music is to see yourself. I eventually got to the point where music meant to me self-exploration more than anything else…and I encourage everyone here to be brave in that respect, to be fearless in that respect…that album ‘A Wizard, A True Star’ which was such an abomination to everyone at the time it came out eventually became the signature moment in my career…”

Todd Rundgren – Berklee Commencement Address 2017 – YouTube

Can you hear me, the sound of my voice?
I am here to tell you I have made my choice…

 

“Just One Victory” by Todd Rundgren

ENG 101

David De Vries, “Room 103, small classroom…” (2001)

ENG 101

I heard his raspy old voice talking

about a poem about a spider

and he even looked like Frost

but I was looking

out the door out the window

at the ultrablue sky

and wondered

about designs

–J.S.

Corner Of The Sky

Coronet Instructional Film
 

“I too am sometimes sad and lonely, especially when I walk around a church or parsonage.
Let’s not give in, but try to be patient and gentle. And do not mind being eccentric…”

–Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, March 16, 1877

“For him, however, it meant freedom finally won, and by now his heart no longer fluttered at the thought.”

Tom Hubbard, August Brings the “D’aug Days” to Fountain Square… (1973)

And that was the end of the attempt by the flatlands to reclaim Hans Castorp. The young man admitted quite openly to himself that such total failure, which he had seen coming, was of decisive importance for his relationship to the people down there. For the flatlands it meant a final shrug, the abandonment of any claim; for him, however, it meant freedom finally won, and by now his heart no longer fluttered at the thought.

–Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain