Countenance-2

Advertisements

Countenance

In 2005, PBS aired a series entitled, “American Masters” which showcased the work of legendary if not ground breaking artists. I enjoyed watching the series, but one program struck a chord: Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light.

One comment in particular stuck with me. Essentially, Avedon mentioned “the landscape of the human face.”  Lines, creases, smooth or rough, dark or light and every combination in between, a person’s countenance says a few things about an individual’s life journey and current life stage.

Face-to-Face

I suppose any season is good for “time travel.”  Case in point: The Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Throughout New England and other parts of the country, living museums provide a chance to feel what we could only imagine.

Such places serve to remind us of what we have. Or what we’ve lost.

On a particular Saturday evening, I was reminded of the power of conversation. The Shakers traditionally have family dinners, meaning you sit at a table–often a rather long one–and enjoy supper together.  This particular night came via the Food for Thought series, a HSV summer event whereby one sits and enjoys a gourmet farm-to-table dinner and conversation. From June thru August, an author is invited to dine, discuss and engage about a recent book that she/he has published.

Traveler, award winning writer, bestselling author, Mr. Simon Winchester.

The narratives can be compelling. Unsurprisingly, there’s the conversation of getting-to-know a bit more about a person, not the least being the author who’s about to recount a journey of research, writing, editing and more.

Like the author, the guests had their own experiences to share. Most were familiar [snippets of life’s journey from a father-mother-engineer-lawyer-financial manager-medical doctor, e.g.], and others were fascinating to hear and talk about. In attendance was a young student of epidemiology, and I should have talked with him beyond his academic CV [Princeton, then John Hopkins].  It would’ve been fascinating to hear more about the rise of diseases and other ailments that can quickly wreak havoc on populations around the world.

The beauty of talking face-to-face is that beyond the words you hear, you’re also emotionally involved. Expressions, gestures and tone each hint at nuances that can be missed when engrossed with email and text messages.

I enjoy the various digital communication platforms and they can be timely if not helpful. However, there’s still something to be said about connecting with people face-to-face. And that kind of connection can make such a difference in your comings and goings day in, day out.

 

Debut Novel

Carolyn Kay Brancato greeting her guests prior to her reading.

I was 15-minutes early to an advertising and marketing function taking place elsewhere, when just down the road a ways stood The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar . I love bookstores, especially these quaint shops containing new and pre-owned books. And here, it just so happened author, playwright and choreographer Carolyn Kay Brancato was on hand to talk about her first novel, “The Circus Pig and the Kaiser: A Novel Based on a Strange but True Event.”

When you walk into such functions wearing a suit, tie and smile, it’s easy to be taken as one of the guests. Perhaps acceptance was made easier because of the suit, even though I was the only person with one on. I wasn’t crashing the party per se; it was an open event. Besides, until I walked in, I just wanted to peruse the shelves to kill some time. Somehow being immersed in a bookstore accelerates the passage of time. Before I knew it, almost 20-minutes went by.

Ms. Brancato was attendant to familiar faces and a handful of new ones [like me]. She was a confident and comfortable raconteur equally adept in catching up with news of the comings and goings in The Berkshires. Friends and acquaintances arrived from near and far: Long Island, Boston, Hudson, NY, Manhattan in addition to other towns and hamlets here in the western most part of Massachusetts.

And of course there was a respectable spread of food, though what made it even more inviting was the “Lit Bar” which was part of the bookstore.  It was small and cozy, roughly the width of three folding chairs though it stretched from the front of the store to the very back it seemed.  Were it not for a standing room only crowd, I would’ve clicked a photo or two; besides I needed to make sure not to be late for the other event taking place.

Albeit short, I enjoyed the serendipity of stopping by. To listen to conversations about literature, books, life, travels and more, was refreshing. What this all means is I need to return with my better half to take a closer look at the books and to, of course, have a glass of wine with her…

However, I didn’t leave empty handed. I found a terrific book, “The Rain in Portugal” by Billy Collins. Yes, that is THE Billy Collins, a former U.S. Poet Laureate. It was his twelfth collection of poetry and judging from over a thousand reviews, it looks pretty inviting. Odd. It’s been decades since I picked up a book of poetry.

This is what happens when you walk into a really nice, cozy bookstore that has its own wine bar.

 

 

 

Ode to Imaginative Playing

Wherever and whenever possible, the grandsons engage body, mind and soul in imaginative play. And it’s good for them. We encourage such play and the possibilities that open up for their young selves.

If you watch them, listen to them, their imagination and enthusiasm bursts with a palpable vigor of discovery. We could learn a thing or two from such unbridled vigor.

An arm extended is a wing just as the rushing, whooshing sound from their mouth is that of fast-moving air giving lift to the aircraft. You can’t ignore their commentary for it further explains the depth of their imagination and understanding of how they play. “He’s way up in the sky…diving down then up again…he goes very far and very fast.”

I see in all their  imaginative play a power that exceeds that of any CPU. What they emotionally and physically feel, the how of what their mind’s eye offers, when they encounter a challenge [“He won’t share the glider!”]—or arrive at a compromise or solution—every bit of it adds to their development as communicators, problem-solvers, collaborators and empathetic beings.

Indeed seeing these two boys and all that they say and do remind me to nurture my own imagination.  At least not to ignore it. The why of such nurturing can liberate and acknowledge a sense of purpose and triumph.  Many of us are unlikely to realize our loftiest, most ambitious dreams and goals, but pause and think again.

Our imagination can fuel possibilities that can manifest into a journey that’s not only our own, but a story genuine to our sense of self .

Nothing but Blue Skies…

“Blue skies, smiling at me, nothing but blue skies, do I see.”  Irving Berlin

It just hit me. This color blue. It was electric, cheerful, optimistic, surreal and more. Not sure why, but it just was.

So, I took a  photo.

Ella Fitzgerald recorded a terrific rendition of this song. Perhaps we should cue it up and listen to it more often. The lyrics just might move you from a place you don’t like, to one that’s much more hospitable if just kinder.