July 28, 2005

Everybody I Know

In the fine print of today’s news, I happened across a number that had a strange familiarity. Mulling this current number of Americans killed in Iraq, it hit me with a sudden shock that this number - 1788 - corresponds precisely to the number of people I’ve been able to document knowing during the course of my entire lifetime.

So here’s a thought experiment for the heart: imagine a world absent of absolutely every friend, family member and acquaintance you’ve ever known. Everyone is integral to the whole. We might be a neighbor to one person, a co-worker to another, maybe a teacher, a parent or simply a peculiar curiosity. But no one is dismissible.

I am a collaboration - the sum total of my experience. Subtract my first grade teacher from the equation and I become someone else. Change the waiter who gave me a tip on where to camp on Mount Desert Island and my catalogue of peak experiences reads differently.

That is what is happening in Iraq - and elsewhere - millions of life equations are being recalibrated. The impact only appears diffuse.

The Thank You Project is my attempt to enumerate the inenumerable, to acknowledge with gratitude everyone who has made everything I know possible. The idea is to prompt reflection on the myriad defining connections that constitute a life. It’s quite a monolith to scroll, even for a so-called recluse.

Posted by mark at 04:44 PM

July 26, 2005

"pup pant"


graphite on paper
Posted by mark at 05:07 PM

July 22, 2005

All In All

Sunday evening, I was in a gang fight.

My date and I were walking East along Stanton, past Clinton at dusk, when a group of about ten guys came barreling riotously in our direction. Turns out they were in momentary flight from the verbal bombardments of their rivals further down the block.

They swirled around us as if we were stones amidst their surging rapids.

“Hey, there’s Sin-e bar. Maybe we should check it out,” said my companion.” “Oh, OK.”

So we strode into no-man’s land between rival factions. Deploying taunts and hollers, swarming combatants periodically flooded the intersection, engulfing our stationary presence as we mulled the bar’s prospects:

“Hey, there’s a pool table...”
     “And a guitar player.”
     “I don’t know, can we talk with the music?”

Coexisting, disparate, internally coherent realities.

While this scene bore the trappings of multiple invading hordes, there was no hoarding involved. In fact, when it came to the big topics of Time and Space, we were all most definately sharing.

Posted by mark at 03:55 PM

July 19, 2005

"custodian weave"


acrylic on magazine paper
Posted by mark at 11:06 PM

July 17, 2005



graphite on paper
Posted by mark at 11:11 PM

July 15, 2005

Catskill Series: Terroir

Whilst driving tomato stakes in my host’s garden during the upstate sojourn above, my efforts were frustrated frequently by implacable, defiant stones lacing the soil.

This afternoon episode was enough to trigger the thought: “Might this plot of earth be suitable for the cultivation of the vine? Could this slope possess that ideal melding of clay and schist, some aberrant pocket of kimmeridgian to send grapevines burrowing deep? They grow vines in the Finger Lakes, don’t they?”

Alas, absent some epoch-shaking geological and climactic transformation or, say, genetic engineering - the Catskills are unlikely to be challenging the world’s great wine producing regions any time soon.

That’s not to say that successful wine could not issue from these hills. After all, the historical allure of winemaking resides in coaxing forth the unique characteristics of a particular parcel of soil and sharing its expression via the vinified grape. That’s why sometimes a friend’s backyard wine can be disarmingly moving, it is the taste of the homestead and what a family - sometimes for generations - has used to toast triumphs and drink away indignities.

Winemaking is the articulation of the very ground we walk on - terroir. Or is it?

Mondovino, a new documentary by Jonathon Nossiter, delves deeply into the global reach of world winemaking to address that question. With no narration, the film allows the subjects to tell their own story and, in so doing, pours questions of what constitutes profitable experience right into our wine glass. It outlines the ancient clash of Man with Nature vs. Man over Nature in present terms.

Ultimately, Mondovino weaves the complex, global struggle of our time across a trellis of vines and into an insightfully sweeping opus.

Tantalizing that winemaking can reveal human nature in the same way that wine reveals terroir: At times, the film is like a 1982 vintage, Saint Julien, Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, I was recently afforded the astounding pleasure of tasting... downright profound.

Posted by mark at 11:41 PM

July 13, 2005

Catskill Series: In-Between

The lower right corner photo in today’s post depicts the country intersection of Hurd and West Shore roads as of last month. Thirty six years ago, this junction was the scene of the historic Woodstock concert.

Right now, earthmovers are reshaping Yasgur’s farm into a permanent performing arts center that will play summer host to the New York Philharmonic Symphony - from one long haired music to another.

Alternately urban-expat and pastoral, wild then downright citified, Sullivan County is balancing in-between country and city. It’s become a place where the ground beneath your feet is changing, often literally, right before your eyes.

Addressing this in-between as it pertains to one’s inner life and journey is the focus of a recent book, “The Places That Scare You - A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times,” by American Buddhist nun and writer, Pema Chodron:

“Anxiety, heartbreak and tenderness mark the in-between state. It’s the kind of place we usually want to avoid. The challenge is to stay in the middle rather than buy into struggle and complaint. The challenge is to let it soften us rather than make us more rigid and afraid. Becoming intimate with the queasy feeling of being in the middle of nowhere only makes our hearts more tender. When we are brave enough to stay in the middle, compassion arises spontaneously. By not knowing, not hoping to know, and not acting like we know what’s happening, we begin to access our inner strength.”

Or, as another famous American writer queried during one of our nation’s many transitions, “How does it feel/To be on your own/With no direction home/Like a complete unknown/Like a rolling stone?”

No worries if Buddhist practice is not your cup of tea. Nature delivers to us an unsolicited, tailor-made in-between moment everyday. This fertile hypnopompic state is the topic of poet Wanda Phipps’ newest book “Wake Up Calls - 66 Morning Poems.” Fresh to each morning, she chronicles a spirit emergent from dreaming, born into the unformed day and notes whatever gifts and perplexities arise from the in-between.

Whet your appetite on some of Wanda’s animated morning poems at Mind Honey. In addition to offering her performance schedule and selected works, the site is a good portal to poetry resources on the web.

Sensing the changes underfoot, registering ill-ease or waking to a new morning, we spend a lot of time in the middle - knowingly or otherwise. As Pema says, “This juicy spot is a fruitful place to be.”

Posted by mark at 11:13 PM

July 11, 2005

Catskill Series: Streams

A solitary, two week stay in the foothills of the Catskills yields visual input of a particular tone. One delight offered by Jeffersonville, New York, is that - should the spirit grow eager for the region’s tandem soundscape - there is always WJFF.

Some of its best features are the music programs curated by local residents including Dead Air: an educational odyssey of The Grateful Dead’s music and Folk Plus: a lively, first-person survey of contemporary and historic folk music treasures.

Easily one of the best radio stations in the country, WJFF is the only one that is hydropowered. Plus, the station streams online. I guess you could say the stream is stream powered.

Posted by mark at 03:35 PM

July 09, 2005



graphite on paper
Posted by mark at 11:13 PM

July 07, 2005

Process Post: "momentous applause"

I suppose you could suppose a “word drawing” is a one-off composition. Frequently, though, a series is required to discover a fulfillment of the vision.

Today’s post offers the lot of ‘em arranged chronologically, first to last.

One happy outcome: clicking through the series reads as an animation.

Which one finally made it into the gallery? You’re welcome to guess...or you can scroll for the answer.

- third drawing, upper right corner
Posted by mark at 09:27 PM

July 05, 2005



graphite on paper
Posted by mark at 11:08 PM

July 03, 2005



graphite on paper

Friend and travel humorist with a heart of gold, Kristian Ruggieri, has a new blog to chronicle her latest good will adventure. An accurately self-described traveler of less traveled roads, she has taken volunteer vacations for years, building houses with Habitat for Humanity. This time, she’s teaming up with The HOPE Project to build a school for the blind in Vietnam.

In the past, those of us fortunate enough to be on her email list have been welcome recipients of her moving and often uproarious missives. Now you, too, can get a glimpse of her no-fuss, good-spirited, matter-of-fact world citizen diplomacy.

Her latest adventure began only hours ago.

Posted by mark at 04:54 PM

July 01, 2005

June's Acrylic Palettes


Posted by mark at 02:18 AM