On This Day: January 15, 2020/2022

jan 15, 2020 / 5.75 miles / 21 degrees

Found this bit of advice from Theodore Roethke:

Today there’s no time for the
mistakes of a long and slow
development: dazzle or die.

Dazzle or die. Love this. I’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on going slow, taking my time with things, but I also see value in relying on quick understandings. Trusting flashes. And, moving on, not dwelling, taking forever to figure something out. I want to do something with dazzling — connected to the glitter effect or shimmering, but also not over-thinking or hesitating too much or trying to get something just right.

My life, my work, is a mix of dazzles and slow burns.

jan 15, 2022 / 4.4 miles / 10 degrees, feels like 1

I posted the following poem because it was all about vision. I’m not sure how much of it I understood, or even how closely I read it then, but today (in 2024) I read it, and it makes so much sense, and it’s such a brilliant way to describe vision loss!

Ekphrasis as Eye Test/ Jane Zwart

If you wake to a Rothko where the windows
should be, to the dark wearing an indistinct belt
between uneven sashes of glass, one oxblood
shoe-polish, one midnight blue, the problem
is refraction. The light–what little outruns
the dark–has turned its ankle on the retina,
bouncing false on a trampoline inside your eye.

Of course some afflictions also disappear in the dark,
which swallows the man whole. At night a Reinhardt,
in day the fellow’s fifty-year-old face is a Rembrandt,
an oval of flesh glaucoma vignettes; blindness
likes to lick the outskirts of likeness first.

Other losses begin in the middle of the field:
redacting the kiss at a picture’s center–
wrapping lovers’ heads in pillow slips; hovering doves
at eye level anywhere hatted men stand.
They could be anyone, the strangers Magritte painted
almost as their mothers, maculas wasted, would see them.

But usually the picture dims proportionally, cataracts
stirring gray into haystacks and ground and dust-ruffle
sky. Maybe you will finally understand Monet, his play
in thirty acts, his slow lowering of the lights in Giverny.
At last there is nothing left to squint against.

It’s the second-to-last stanza that really speaks to me. Redacting the kiss — yes, that blind spot in the center! Wrapping lovers’ heads in pillow slips — gray, smudged ones, for me. It took me a minute to get the hovering doves where hatted men stand. I don’t remember ever seeing that, but I do see disembodied legs walking towards me — no heads, the torsos somehow blending into the landscape. And the featureless Magritte faces? Yes! I loved Magritte as a kid; now I’ll have to revisit his paintings.

I wondered about the Monet reference, so I looked it up and found a helpful article about his blindness from cataracts and how that affected his paintings, especially his use/understanding of color: How Monet’s artistic vision shove through ailing eyes

Now I’m thinking back to my dazzle or die discussion in the 2020 entry and how this poem didn’t dazzle me when I read it the first (or even second or third) time. It has taken four years to be dazzled. This makes me wonder about poetry that dazzles versus poetry that simmers (or shimmers?). I think I prefer the simmering kind, even as I see the value of both.