Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Celtic, Celtic--

Here's a peep at a division page for The Foliate Head from the Artlog of Clive Hicks-Jenkins; if you jump there, you may view Andrew Wakelin at work on the design for the book in the very room where I stayed when I traveled to Wales a year ago and enjoyed long wonderful days at Ty Isaf, reveling in Clive's beautifully-arranged world and all the festivities for his 60th birthday retrospective at Gregynog Gallery of The National Library of Wales. How the wind whistled up the stairs when the doors were flung open, all the way to Clive's studio at the top! If you take a look at Andrew, you'll see the enormous curtainless windows that woke me to the morning and green views of the garden and hills.

I'm looking forward to the promised view today. Everything Andrew and Clive touch in the way of books grows beautiful.

Last night I attended the Otschodela Council of Boy Scouts "Silver Beaver" award banquet in Oneonta--doesn't that sound strange?--as my husband is a scoutmaster and has been involved with scouting a long time. It turned out to be oddly touching. I always find events like annual dance recitals or crossing-over ceremonies or rural graduations to tug at the heartstrings because it is so lovely to live for a long time in one place and see children growing up and turning into young women and men. But this sort of ceremony, where you see aging men (silver at the crown, with tummies snug in Scouting regalia!) and a good number of women rewarded for many decades of work with children, can also have its moments of surprise and unexpected feeling.

More, the featured entertainment was Celtic and a great surprise: someone I knew as a young teen played a marvelous pipes concert. A few years ago, the Scotia-Glenville bagpipe band (of which Robby Schafsteck and his brother were then teen members) won third place in the Hazelhead Shield Novice Juvenile Pipe Band Championship at the world bagpipe championships in Glasgow--evidently the first time for the award to leave Scotland. Now he is a handsome young man with a proper kilt, bear-fur sporran, and hose-and-gillies!

19 comments:

  1. I remember those banquets from my years as a scoutmaster and commissioner. Now all my Scouts are grown with children of their own. It sounds like they're doing them with style and panache.

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  2. How exciting for you, this project with Clive, and it looks to be a work of art! I visited Clive's blog earlier and thought what a lovely room in a magical place. I'm curious, how did you meet? As a somewhat more recent reader of both your blog and Clive's, perhaps I missed a story....

    You've described beautifully the joys of living a long time in a smaller community.

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  3. Thanks to Clive for pointing out that I repeated myself in that post, dashed off this morning!

    Fr. Al,

    I certainly enjoyed that one!

    Marja-Leena,

    My memory is that I wrote a post about his art, and that he saw it and then read my blog (and I mean the whole thing) and then wrote me. For a while we were corresponding wildly, but we're both a bit swamped now. I always read his Artlog, though...

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  4. So, you met via blogs, as I kind of suspected! Wonderful medium, this, for meeting and making friends, and in your case also collaborating on art book projects. I think I may have started reading Clive when Dave Bonta wrote about him - another web of connections.

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  5. Yes, it is!

    And I'm not sure the order of things--feel pretty sure Dave and I met Clive independently but I already knew Dave. But I could be wrong. Then you kept popping up on blogs of people I find interesting... And here we go!

    Then Dave and Clive and I all met in Wales, and we met Clive's friends, and I also took Dave along to meet novelist friend Clare Dudman at Powys Castle.

    We ought to draw a web of all these connections! I'm planning on meeting Luisa Igloria soon. Oh, and I stopped and met Leslie Wheeler on a trip to North Carolina. Etc.

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  6. Drawing that web would get pretty complicated! Did you know that I met several bloggers in England three years ago, and have met a few visiting here in Vancouver, and we met Beth and Jonathan in Montreal?
    Hope we shall meet one day!

    PS loving, loving Camellia! Still night reading, slowly, as I seem too busy in the daytime.

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  7. Me too! Oh, I met Beth and Jonathan here! Yes, I can think of some other bloggers who I have met. It's so interesting...

    Glad you are liking the book. I am happy about that!

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  8. News break: have seen the hair-away-from-finished version of "The Foliate Head," and it is nothing less than splendiferous.

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  9. I recall exactly how the connection happened. Marly left a comment on a bloggers site. He'd been writing about angels in art, and she left a message saying 'Look at this artist's work. You might like these angels.' ... the artist being me. He replied a bit later that he'd looked but didn't think much of what he'd seen! Ha ha! So I tracked (stalked) Marly to her blog, was impressed by what I read and wrote to her expressing appreciation for her having recommended me, albeit the recommendation had fallen on deaf ears for that particular blogger! She later explained that he was a good guy, but could be curmudgeonly. Can't remember his name now.

    Marly replied with delight and enthusiasm to my first contact, and it's true that anyone thereafter eavesdropping our e-conversations, would have thought us both a little insane. I kept them all... there are hundreds... because we sort of fell upon and devoured each other. I knew immediately that here was absolutely the right sort. Truth is, I fell head-over-heels for Marly in those early days of our friendship, and the intensity has never diminished. We don't write to each other as much as we once did... neither of us would do any work if we'd continued at that pitch... but we do have a sort of psychic connection that often has us feeling the same way without even having approached the keyboard. In many ways, although hugely unalike each other, I feel we're connected the same way as twins can be. Psychic twins! There's a book... or at least a short story I should think... in that notion.

    There is something in the relationship that really takes it to another level. Marly has a fantastic capacity to get into my head. Over the years of e-mails, I probably told her many things that anyone else would have forgotten. Marly however, like those savant artists who can look at the most complex building and get it straight down on paper with no sketching or corrections, can take the material of all our conversations, and make a reality of it that is more real than any reality I know. Reading the draft of her chapter for the monograph, as I scrolled down I was brought up sharply at almost every idea. She conjured an illusory world... one I never speak about... that captured the creative process of preparing to paint in a way that I would never have imagined possible. Her evocation of me taking tea with my hero Cocteau in the garden here at Ty Isaf, was the most staggering act of imagination, for although I had never suggested to anyone that I have interior dialogues with the long-ago dead, Marly knew it. And moreover knew who, and where, and how, and then spun it into literary art. I pick up the book and read her chapter over and over. It comforts me to know that someone out there in the universe knows what it can be like in my head, and that they safely carry the knowledge.

    We are all many, many things, and not everyone sees all parts of what we are. But Marly walked into my world and feeling quite comfortable there, stayed to chat and pass the time of day. She's there still. Oh I know that she's in Cooperstown New York, and she knows that I'm in the Ystwyth Valley in West Wales, but we're always simultaneously somewhere else together, that other realm of gleaming sun and lime-coloured pollen star-falling from the trees, where we walk and talk and keep companionable silences, and that's a great comfort to me in a changing world, and I hope to her too.

    Making art for her books is my return of the ball in our ongoing game of tennis. Long may we play!

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  10. Oh, now I remember! You're right; it was another site that started it all... (And I am grateful to him for being a curmudgeon and helping to waken that initial curiosity.)

    That's a lovely account! What fine words to start and tune the day.

    I kept the letters, too. And very inspiring they were. Soul-mates are not so common on planet Earth...

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  11. And now I am off to the mundane (the morning mundance) of prodding the teen to finish a bit of homework and jump in the shower.

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  12. Andrew is finessing the wrap. I've had him move the back cover red/green man to the bottom right, much enlarged, and it's all looking fantastic. We've also gone in another direction with the title font, and we're laying red/black streakiness into it so that it looks cut from the same collage papers as the branch and leaves. It's really beginning to rock! (-;

    C x

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  13. Can't wait! It was already gorgeous...

    Excited... Mike thought it scrumptious, too. (Well, of course!)

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  14. What a beautiful tribute to Marly, who has that gift indeed to take in the essence of whatever or whomever she studies in a single glance, it seems.
    I look forward to seeing this book and reading it. I have, alas, finished reading the novel, and will have to read it again soon.

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  15. Hah! I wish, Robbi--

    Rereading is the best reading... That's the good part. Although first time around is the most surprising, of course.

    It is going to be astonishing!

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  16. Oh, what a marvelous story Clive has written, thanks to him. It should be a blog post on its own. I have always felt you have a certain magical quality in you that connects with people in a unique and deep way, perhaps especially with artists. (I just don't seem to have the right words.) You and Clive have in common a love for ancient and magical stories and spirits for one, being kindred spirits indeed. I am awed by you both. And this book!

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  17. What a beautiful thing to say!

    Thank you, Marja-Leena--

    That would, indeed, be a marvelous magic to have. And it is true that I never meet people I don't find interesting (that must be the novelist in me--even a Polonius will make a great character, taken rightly), although I can be especially fond of my "kindred," many of whom I do find among visual artists. Clive and I have some strange bonds and often find ourselves in an identical state of mind or having similar issues, and we have some shared passions.

    Hey, we can be awed by you, too! And like going to your land full of stone and petroglyphs and flowers and ancient shards and modern shards that look rubbed by time and much more!

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.