Saturday, March 31, 2012

You Must Change Your Life

Why do I want to build this museum, anyway? Well, I found a beautiful collection of Jorge Luis Borges' poems at the Bookmill the other day. One of those strange, perfect days where everything is in alignment, plunged in the sparkling waters of the world up to my eyeteeth, the kind of day where the sky is splendid and small possessions long longed-for appear as if by magic. (Later I found a perfume I bought once, years ago, and have not been able to find anywhere else since -- a spicy, intoxicating scent of vanilla and chai and cardamom, all the way at the back of a bottom shelf of discount beauty products, half-fallen down behind. This is how the universe speaks: in secretive, nuanced jokes.) Why do I want to build a museum of joy? Listen. When I opened the book and glanced down at the page, this was the poem. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Things in My Cabinet: The Janus of Joy

Have Faith in the Color Blue
(microcollage amulet, 2011)
It is a breezy morning alive with sunshine, and so of course I am thinking about joy. I say of course because the word joy, when I hold it in my heart, is full of light and lively sky, shaking watery aquamarine like a white-walled Mediterranean pool of cobalt tile and glass and then the russet and gold of the bed of a stream through the redwoods and then tumbling into nothing to do but dance bare feet deep in the grass, yes that's joy, the bright drench of the air when it's too full to stay its edges and just spills on over into everything.

And here is something that walks a fine line between joy and the numinous: an amulet I made for a friend of mine who love tiny things as much as I do. So, okay. I've spoken about the numinous before, and how important it is to me. But I've never really put it side by side, exactly, with my concept of joy. How does the numinous fit into my desire to build a museum about joy? To ignore it, after all, is to ignore a side of existence that is not exactly dark, perhaps, but one where joy is not the primary principle. Will I rule out anything that's not full of laughter and happiness and glee and risk a two-dimensional portrait of the things that swell our hearts, or is there room for a shadow side in the daydreams of someday's miraculous collections?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Gift of Gratitude: Happy Birthday to My Mother

Obligatory mildly embarrassing family photo, 2010.
Happy birthday to Jasmine Donahaye, writer, thinker, and also my mother. Because I am lucky enough to have parents whose writing I genuinely love, I would like to take today to celebrate her words.

My mother (like my partner, Kevin Devaney) hates being referred to or introduced as "a poet" - she would prefer writer, or maybe person. She writes excellent prose  (she's got a new book out!) and she's a professional editor (which has given me an unfair advantage in the writerly pursuit of proving ones worth through superior deployment of punctuation) but I would be lying if I didn't say that what I love best is her poetry. Thus, in recognition of her gifts and to express gratitude for her existence on this earth, I give you a heartfelt and genuine review of her two books of poems, Misappropriations and Self-Portrait as Ruth. Fulsome in my praise as I may be, I hope you will agree that my appreciation is not, in fact, misplaced or overblown: I am grateful to be the child of a writer I would one day like to emulate in clarity, thoughtfulness, and depth of longing.

Things in My Cabinet: A Box of Sky (Invocation for the New Year)

...Don't you know yet? Fling the emptiness out of your arms
into the spaces we breathe; perhaps the birds
will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, First Duino Elegy, trans. Stephen Mitchell

(Haven't you grasped it yet? Throw from your arms the nothing that lies between them
into the space that we breathe as an atmosphere --
to enable the birds, perhaps, in new zest of feeling
to hurl their flight through the expanded air.

trans. John Waterfield)

Admittedly, this is a post I left as a draft until it got a wee bit elderly, it being now late March instead of early January. But I still like what it says about the senses, and art, and flinging oneself open to the sky.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Art I Wish I'd Made Myself: A Fool For God & Magical Books

Webs New Inner Diction, 200
What is this stunningly beautiful thing you're looking at here? Why, it's an altered book sculpture by the artist Brian Dettmer, whose work is really so extravagantly and exquisitely extraordinary and gorgeous that I have to go and look at pictures of the things he makes in little quick dips over the course of several days because they're so beautiful it hurts me. If I'm going to have a Museum of Joy, this is going to be the kind of thing it's full of -- because I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't react to book sculptures like this one with a kind of deep, weird, yearning pang of rapture. I don't know what it is about books that does this to us. Maybe I'll understand once I've finished writing my novel...? (Insert jeering laughter here.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Things in My Cabinet: Musings on the Numinous

Schicksalsbuch - astrolabe
numinous things: astrolabe paper art...
"Numinous (pronounced /ˈnjuːmɨnəs/, from the Classical Latin numen) is an English adjective describing the power or presence of a divinity. The word was popularized in the early twentieth century by the German theologian Rudolf Otto in his influential book Das Heilige (1917; translated into English as The Idea of the Holy, 1923). According to Otto the numinous experience has two aspects: mysterium tremendum, which is the tendency to invoke fear and trembling; and mysterium fascinans, the tendency to attract, fascinate and compel. The numinous experience also has a personal quality to it, in that the person feels to be in communion with a Holy Other. The numinous experience can lead in different cases to belief in deities, the supernatural, the sacred, the holy, and the transcendent.

'Nostalgia for paradise' was a term also used by Mircea Eliade to help bring understanding to the numinous."


Monday, March 26, 2012

A Collection of Marvelous Museums

Note: This post originally appeared in January of 2011 on an outdated blog, now fairly defunct. The extreme excellence of these museums, however, is more relevant than ever. If the state of the world, and especially politics, is getting you either wholly worked up or down in the dumps, just remember that people are still building fantastical, phenomenal things for the sheer fabulous hell of it. It will help with the panicking. Trust me. Now, one day I will build a museum that is the delighted child of every collection of the marvelous, a gracious bow to the old cabinets of curiosity in how they strove to show the great harmony of being, a grand new dance of entrancing exhibition...but in the meantime, here is a selection of some other magical locations in which the dust of fascination sinks slowly through the dark...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Art I Wish I'd Made Myself: Entering the Memory of Michael C. McMillen

In pursuit of the magical museum, I write about other museums that have inspired, amazed, and astonished me. In this case, an exhibit from August 2011 at the wonderful Oakland Museum really pushed the boundaries of what I'd realized a museum installation could do - especially in a smaller collection. It's one thing for the Met to knock your socks off, but to see a local museum do it gave me this moment of "whoa! say, I could do that!" ...not without a hefty chunk of change, perhaps, but all of a sudden the idea of a mystical collection seemed that much more within my reach.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sustainability & Seduction: 5 Good Reasons to Build a Museum out of Mud

Erdhaus (Earth House) by architect Peter Vetsch
In thinking about eventually building a real, physical, tangible museum dedicated to the human experience of joy, I have thought a lot about the importance of the actual structure as a contributor to a sense of joyfulness. Almost everyone I know reacts with a kind of childlike wonder to hobbit homes, treehouses, mud castles, and cliff dwellings - buildings that seem almost organically alive in themselves or else linked strongly to a sense of a natural environment. The living world seems to play a large part in joyfulness in many different cultures, and so it seems right to me to explore natural building techniques in thinking of constructing the Museum.

In addition, the idea of being able to invite friends, family, and anyone who is interested to come and literally build a magical museum from the ground up seems like an extraordinary and wonderful way to begin. After all, one of the major attractions of natural building techniques is the fact that anyone can learn them!

Friday, March 23, 2012

On Building Kaleidoscopes

Somewhere in me lives a certainty that creativity is desperately, excruciatingly important to living the kind of life that swells you full of gladness for having had a chance to live it, but why does creativity matter, exactly? I've spent a lot of time considering this, with the help of many of my loved ones. From the Sagrada Familia  to poems about spring, here's a little on why the word 'kaleidoscopic' is a perfect one for understanding what creativity does and why it hits us in the heart.

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