Human Nature

Narcissus

NarcissusPhoto by Becky Jaffe

Drifters

DriftersPhoto by Becky Jaffe

 

the conundrum of the Common Lagoon Jelly

grace is our lineage-3

Photo by Becky Jaffe

Consider the conundrum of the Common Lagoon Jelly. Lacking both a brain and a mirror, it likely has no capacity to grasp or appreciate its innate and abundant grace. Does that sound like anyone you know?

Snakes and Ladders

snakes and ladders

Photo by Becky Jaffe

The moment I was old enough to play board games, I fell in love with Snakes and Ladders. O perfect balance of rewards and penalties! O seemingly random choices made by tumbling dice! Clambering up ladders, slithering down snakes, I spent some of the happiest days of my life. When, in my time of trial, my father challenged me to master the game of shatranj, I infuriated him by preferring to invite him, instead, to chance his fortune among the ladders and nibbling snakes.

All games have morals; and the game of Snakes and Ladders captures, as no other activity can hope to do, the eternal truth that for every ladder you climb, a snake is waiting just around the corner; and for every snake, a ladder will compensate. But it’s more than that; no mere carrot-and-stick affair; because implicit in the game is the unchanging twoness of things, the duality of up against down, good against evil; the solid rationality of ladders balances the occult sinuosities of the serpent; in the opposition of staircase and cobra we can see, metaphorically, all conceivable oppositions, Alpha against Omega, father against mother; here is the war of Mary and Musa, and the polarities of knees and nose… but I found, very early in my life, that the game lacked one crucial dimension, that of ambiguity – because as events are about to show, it is also possible to slither down a ladder and climb to triumph on the venom of a snake… Keeping things simple for the moment, however, I record that no sooner had my mother discovered the ladder to victory represented by her racecourse luck than she was reminded that the gutters of the country were still teeming with snakes.

Extract from the book Midnight’s children
By Salman Rushdie

– See more at: http://blogs.nlb.gov.sg/readandreap/young-people/midnights-children/#sthash.6vjcVLyN.dpuf

Extract from the book Midnight’s children
by Salman Rushdie

The moment I was old enough to play board games, I fell in love with Snakes and Ladders. O perfect balance of rewards and penalties! O seemingly random choices made by tumbling dice! Clambering up ladders, slithering down snakes, I spent some of the happiest days of my life. When, in my time of trial, my father challenged me to master the game of shatranj, I infuriated him by preferring to invite him, instead, to chance his fortune among the ladders and nibbling snakes.

All games have morals; and the game of Snakes and Ladders captures, as no other activity can hope to do, the eternal truth that for every ladder you climb, a snake is waiting just around the corner; and for every snake, a ladder will compensate. But it’s more than that; no mere carrot-and-stick affair; because implicit in the game is the unchanging twoness of things, the duality of up against down, good against evil; the solid rationality of ladders balances the occult sinuosities of the serpent; in the opposition of staircase and cobra we can see, metaphorically, all conceivable oppositions, Alpha against Omega, father against mother; here is the war of Mary and Musa, and the polarities of knees and nose… but I found, very early in my life, that the game lacked one crucial dimension, that of ambiguity – because as events are about to show, it is also possible to slither down a ladder and climb to triumph on the venom of a snake… Keeping things simple for the moment, however, I record that no sooner had my mother discovered the ladder to victory represented by her racecourse luck than she was reminded that the gutters of the country were still teeming with snakes.

At the Edge of the Ocean

boy and birds-2

Photo by Becky Jaffe

At the Edge of the Ocean by Mary Oliver

I have heard this music before

saith the body.

I have the right to remain silent

the right to remain silent

Photo by Becky Jaffe

rise, ebb, froth

voluptuous contentment

Photo by Becky Jaffe

The Poet Compares Human Nature To The Ocean From Which We Came

by Mary Oliver

The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth,
it can lie down like silk breathing
or toss havoc shoreward; it can give

gifts and withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth
like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can
sweet-talk entirely. As I can too,

and so, no doubt, can you, and you.

love and power

To Have and To Hold

To Have and to Hold by Becky Jaffe

Today I am remembering that it was not until 1967 that the last laws banning interracial marriage were overturned in a case aptly called Loving v. Virginia. Only 47 years ago, it was illegal in some states for people of different so-called races to love each other. I am grateful to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all of the civil rights activists who courageously fought for the vision that the power of love is greater than the love of power.

My photo on this theme, To Have and To Hold, will be included in an upcoming exhibit entitled Love at the Darkroom Gallery in Vermont.

Praise

Praise-3

Photo: Praise by Becky Jaffe

 

Just to be is a blessing.
Just to live is holy.

—  Abraham Joshua Heschel

Being Human

thinker combo

Photo: Thinking Blues by Becky Jaffe

 

BEING HUMAN
by Naima of Climbing Poetree

I wonder if the sun debates dawn
some mornings
not wanting to rise
out of bed
from under the down-feather horizon

If the sky grows tired
of being everywhere at once
adapting to the mood swings of the weather

If the clouds drift off
trying to hold themselves together
make deals with gravity
to loiter a little longer

I wonder if rain is scared
of falling
if it has trouble letting go

If snow flakes get sick
of being perfect all the time
each one trying to be one-of-a-kind

I wonder if stars wish
upon themselves before the die
if they need to teach their young to shine

I wonder if shadows long
to once feel the sun
if they get lost in the shuffle
not knowing where they’re from

I wonder if sunrise and sunset
respect each other
even though they’ve never met

If volcanoes get stressed
If storms have regrets
If compost believes in life after death

I wonder if breath ever thinks
about suicide
I wonder if the wind just wants to sit
still sometimes
and watch the world pass by

If smoke was born knowing how to rise
If rainbows get shy back stage
not sure if their colors match right

I wonder if lightning sets an alarm clock
to know when to crack
If rivers ever stop
and think of turning back

If streams meet the wrong sea
and their whole lives run off-track
I wonder if the snow wants to be black

If the soil thinks she’s too dark
If butterflies want to cover up their marks
If rocks are self-conscious of their weight
If mountains are insecure of their strength

I wonder if waves get discouraged
crawling up the sand
only to be pulled back again
to where they began

I wonder if land feels stepped upon
If sand feels insignificant
If trees need to question their lovers
to know where they stand

If branches waver in the crossroads
unsure of which way to grow
If the leaves understand they’re replaceable
and still dance when the wind blows

I wonder where the moon goes
when she is hiding
I want to find her there
and watch the ocean
spin from a distance
Listen to her
stir in her sleep

effort give way to existence

 

How to be a poet

7678478928_55ea4c0503

Photo: No Child Left Inside by Becky Jaffe

How To Be a Poet

By Wendell Berry

(to remind myself)

i
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
ii
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
iii
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

 

If you are a poetry teacher, Nature in Vision & Verse is a great resource for lesson planning. I am available for guest presentations in schools on nature photography and nature poetry. Please contact me if you would like me to present in your classroom.

Your very flesh shall be a great poem

beautifullypregnant

Photo: Momma’s Gotta Dance by Becky Jaffe

 

“This is what you shall do:
love the earth and sun and the animals,
despise riches, give alms to every one that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labour to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence towards the people,
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men,
go freely with powerful uneducated persons,
and with the young,and with the mothers of families,
read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life,
re-examine all you have been told at school, or church, or in any book,
dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
and your very flesh shall be a great poem,
and have the richest fluency, not only in its words,
but in the silent lines of its lips and face,
and between the lashes of your eyes,
and in every motion and joint of your body.”

Walt Whitman

 

Welcome to the world, Niko Renollet!

Dial up the Awesome

dialuptheawesome

“My modus operandi is dial up the awesome and break the knob off.” – The Mincing Mockingbird

It’s Pro-American to be Anti-Christmas

to have

To Have by Becky Jaffe

I couldn’t help myself. The Christmas music drove me to it. I wrote an anti-Christmas rant on behalf of Born-Again Pagans and curmudgeonly Evangelical Agnostics everywhere.  For a desultory diatribe, see It’s Pro-American to be Anti-Christmas.

Happy Christmahannukwanzaka!

Hip Hop’s Cambrian Explosion

Latyrx

Lateef the Truth Speaker of Latyrx by Becky Jaffe

I recently attended a Hip Hop concert at the Fillmore in San Francisco, and was somewhat surprised to find that I and the rest of the audience were abundantly white. At one point I joined a circle of friends-of-friends, who introduced themselves in turn as a “Hip Hop scholar,” a “Hip Hop critic,” and a “Hip Hop reviewer.”  When it was my turn to introduce myself, one of them asked me, “Do you write articles about Hip Hop?”  I too quickly replied “No!” inwardly cringing at the tendency among white people such as myself to intellectualize everything, even music, and to make it an identity to boot. I shuffled my feet as I reluctantly admitted, “Well, I did write one article on hip hop…”  Ok, three, which you can read at MathBabe‘s fabulous rant on all things quantitative:

Hip Hop’s Cambrian Explosion: Part I

Hip Hop’s Cambrian Explosion: Part II

Hip Hop’s Cambrian Explosion: Part III

Enjoy!

 

The Human Form at the Darkroom Gallery

ToHaveandtohold2

Photo: To Have and To Hold 1 by Becky Jaffe

The Human Form is on exhibit at the Darkroom Gallery in Vermont from January 25th through February 19th, 2012.

Thanksgiving IV

geese-moon

Photo: Thanksgiving IV by Becky Jaffe
Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
~ Mary Oliver ~
(Dream Work)