Rio Grande and North Clear Creek Falls with HIGH Water

My friend and neighbor, Karen, and I took off today and headed north of Creede to see North Clear Creek Falls with high water. Karen had never been there and, according to old timers, the water hasn’t been this high in a lot of their lifetimes. I’ve been feeling (in the midst of puppy training) that I should GET OUT THERE but when you have to train a puppy, you have to train a puppy.

The drive up was amazing — the river has been flooding, mostly in flatter areas. We saw a place where it had apparently taken out a railroad track. Lots of fields were flooded and others were filled with wild iris. In the field near our hospital, where a large herd of bison live, we got to see bison in their winter coats standing and grazing in a meadow of blue and white flowers. We should have stopped to take pictures, but didn’t. We had a bit of a time crunch because Teddy was neutered today and I had to pick him up at 3. It’s a 78 mile drive to get up to the falls and we took off at 10.

All along the road — which winds along the Rio Grande — we were stunned by the high water. Karen, who could look out the window, noticed places where decks of summer homes were under water. Bridges — car and narrow gauge railroad — were VERY close to the water. Anyone attempting to raft would lose their noggin and the top of their raft.

The Rio Grande

We got to the top of the road which is just twenty some miles from the place where Alferd Packer ate his friends one desperate winter. This is what we saw.

We were hit by the spray, admired the rainbow, and I kept thinking of this poem from Goethe’s Faust Part II

“Let the sun stay in my back, unseen!
The waterfall I now behold with growing
Delight as it roars down to the ravine.
From fall to fall a thousand streams are flowing.
A thousand more are plunging, effervescent,
And high up in the air the spray is glowing.
Out of this thunder rises, iridescent,
Enduring through all change the motley bow,
Now painted clearly, now evanescent,
Spreading a fragrant, cooling spray below.
The rainbow mirrors human love and strive:
In many-hued reflection we have life.”

Goethe, Faust II, trans. Walter Kauffman

What’s Art, Anyway?

Last week I had lunch with new friends here in Heaven. They are all artists. We talked about — or expressed ourselves — about what makes art. Some cried out against landscapes. Some cried out against something else. Some expressed the opinion that certain photographs and certain kinds of paintings were steps in the “progress” one makes to become a real artist. Some cried out against painting from photographs. One of them and I agreed that if an artist isn’t pushing themselves, it’s boring.

I came home inhibited. I paint landscapes. I paint other things, but I do paint landscapes and I thought they were art because they’re not easy for me. I also paint from photographs — I consider many of the photos I take to be sketches from which I’ll paint at some point. I don’t see why anyone should sit in a mosquito infested field with a sketch pad and go home and paint from it when they could just take a photo. I do other paintings, too, but painting landscapes and painting from photos improve my technique with the brush and with color.

The great thing of painting, for me, has been freedom, but now I feel less free. As I listened, I also thought, ” These guys have been to school and gotten advanced degrees in art. I didn’t do that.”

As far as getting along with my art teachers, I’m 2 for 2. My experience of “studying” art can be distilled into Stephen Crane’s poem.

“Think as I think,” said a man,
“Or you are abominably wicked; you are
a toad.”
And after I thought of it, I said, “I will, then, be a toad.”

My artistic heroes are the guys who painted day in and day out whatever someone told them to paint because they needed to earn a living. Those guys would have mastered the craft in ways most modern artists never need to. When I was wandering around in Verona, I went to the cathedral and went through the oldest part of the church. The cathedral was an architectural concretion. There were workmen restoring frescoes that were more than 1000 years old. A canvas tarp hung between the passageway and their work to help keep their work clean. I sat down outside the tarp and listened to them talk.

They weren’t talking about the meaning of art or if they were or were not artists. They were talking a bit about the materials they were using (native ochres, mostly), but for the most part they were planning their weekends.

I envied them their skills and training, but, as Goethe wrote, through our lives — especially in our youth — we look ahead down myriad pathways. We go a little way on one and then the other before we find the one that fits us best. He was in his late 30s when he turned away forever from the possibility of being an artist. He was in Italy when he made this determination about himself. He’d lost interest in writing. He was weighed down by Sorrows of Young Werther and the resultant fame and the numerous copy-cat suicides. He wanted to write something else. He wondered if he could. Some months in Italy, and he found his way back to unfinished projects — Tasso and Iphegenia among others. The drawings he’d imagined he would do as a record of his Italian journey became the job of a young German artist, Christoph Heinrich Kniep.

I have a beautiful little book of Goethe’s watercolor sketches of places in Italy and Switzerland, some of which I have seen in real life, too. My favorite is his sketch of the Rheinfall. I have seen the Reinfall several times and it makes me happy to be able to look at the vision Goethe had while he was there.

He wrote about it, too, in Faust II, and I recognized it right away in his words — it is also my very favorite passage in all that Goethe wrote — and it is a painting in its way.

The waterfall I now behold with growing
Delight as it roars down to the Ravine.
From fall to fall a thousand streams are flowing,
A thousand more are plunging, effervescent,
And high up in the air the spray is glowing.
Out of this thunder, rises, iridescent,
Enduring through all change the motley bow,
Now painted clearly, now evanescent,
Spreading a fragrant, cooling spray below.
The rainbow mirrors human love and strife;
Consider it and you will better know:
In many hued reflection we have life.

A landscape.

A photo of the Rheinfalls -- there is very often a rainbow.

A photo of the Rheinfalls — there is very often a rainbow.

Life’s Labyrinthine Chaos Course — Revisiting School in Verona

 

“No one knows what’s going to happen when they make a choice. And Goldilocks? Look what happened to her? BEARS.”

“Whoa.”

“Exactly. Sure, we remember the oatmeal and beds, but it was really BEARS. Whether that bed fit or not, she had to run away. Choices are a lot like that. Looks good and a few winks in, BEARS. Goethe was right.”

“As far as you’re concerned, Goethe was ALWAYS right. It’s so boringly predictable.”

“I know, I know, a little hero worship there, but you know what? I wouldn’t ever have READ Goethe if I hadn’t made a BAD choice. I probably would never have gone to Europe — and certainly not Zürich — would never have seen the little church at Gfenn that changed my life and awakened me. Good choices, bad choices, no one knows. A comfy bed is as likely to lead to BEARS and, well, what I did, might lead to LIFE.”

“So what did Goethe say?”

“It was a theme with him, the labyrinth we live in. The first time I encountered it in his work, though, was in the prologue to Faust. He wrote ‘Des Lebens labyrinthisch irren Lauf‘.”

“And that means…?”

“Life is a labyrinth of error. Life’s labyrinthine course of error. Something like that. But a labyrinth is a labyrinth because one moment we’re making a choice — this way or that — and in the next we’re reaping the consequences of that choice. We might be lost, we might not be lost, we might be lost and not know it, we might be fine and fear we’re lost. Maybe we enter the labyrinth looking for our friend or lover who’s gone on ahead. Maybe it’s a game. Maybe we just want out. But at some point, we enter that labyrinth. Choice? Biological inevitability? I don’t know that. I could CHOOSE to believe one or the other, but…”

“The labyrinth.”

“At that point, our parents chose. There we are, entering the labyrinth.”

“What’s that picture up there?”

“It’s Giardino Giusti in Verona. I took that picture. Goethe wrote about it in Italian Journey and I made the choice to go to Verona to study Italian because of Goethe. I figure if you find a competent guide through the labyrinth, you should take advantage of it.”

“You were following a dead guy?”

“Yes and no. I mean some 200 years have passed since then and I’m not Goethe, but I needed to choose a destination (turn a corner in the labyrinth) so I decided to go where he had gone. There are beautiful, old cypress trees in this garden (you can see one on the far right facing in the photo) and Goethe cut some of the branches to carry back to his apartment. He didn’t know that cypress branches were a symbol of mourning and was surprised that the people he met on his way expressed condolences. Lots of confusion in the labyrinth, that’s for sure. You just have to be fearless and humble at all times. Actually, something happened to me there that proved that.”

“What?”

“My schoolmates didn’t like me much. My Italian sounded good but wasn’t. It’s badly mixed with Spanish which I’ve spoken poorly most of my life. One of the schoolmates — an Austrian woman — actually began ‘shunning’ me because, I guess, she thought my Italian was contagious. It was OK with me. I had other things to do besides hang out with a random bunch of non-Italian speaking Europeans and Japanese. I did make a friend; a woman from Manchester with whom I really enjoyed hanging out, but generally, I was ostracized. Partly, too, I think because of the US invasion of Iraq for which I was personally responsible. Ha ha.”

“And then?”

“So the Austrian girl/woman knew I loved Goethe but she didn’t believe I had read Goethe. She — as do many Europeans — believed Americans are endemically fake. So we were on a school field-trip at the Giardino Giusti and walking through this labyrinth which was more difficult than it looked. I said, ‘Des Lebens labyrinthisch irren Lauf.’ She said, ‘What’s that?’ I said, ‘It’s a line from the prologue to Faust.’ ‘Well it’s wrong,’ she said. ‘I don’t think so,’ I said. ‘I think I’d know,’ she replied.”

“What happened then?”

“A couple days later she found me and apologized. We got to be friends after that. A characteristic of the labyrinth is that you don’t know what you’re looking at until you LOOK at it.”

“Like Goldilocks?”

“Maybe. I was always on the bears’ side in that story. After all, Goldilocks was trespassing.”

——————

Here’s a photo I wanted to share with yesterday’s prompt, but I couldn’t find it. It deals with surrealism. It’s me in Zürich in 2005 standing beside the Cafe Voltaire — the birthplace of DADA (father of surrealism). I’m pointing here at the Navel of the World.

Me pointing at the navel of the world

Birthplace of Dada, Cafe Voltaire, Zürich

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/daily-prompt-4/

Good or Evil? Des Lebens labyrinthisch irren Lauf

“I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.”

—Mephistopheles (In Faust I by Joann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Anyone who’s read my blog for any length of time knows I love Goethe. What I love about Goethe is not so much the great masterpieces (Faust for one) but the way he seems to have thought about things.

All his life he was fascinated by the Faust story, the scientist who sold his soul to Satan so he could have powers and experiences beyond those his life had given him. Faust (in my imagination) is the driest of icky dry academics and, in my imagination, at a certain point in his life, he realizes he’s missed out. All his studies of magic, philosophy, alchemy have not brought him knowledge. He realizes he doesn’t know anything and he’s missed the life of experience. He wants another chance, but within 20 years of his 4 score and 10, no longer young, he doesn’t know how he can do this.

Enter Mephistopheles, blackness, emptiness, the spirit of negation — in more simple and conventional language (for the time), Evil. In the traditional Faust legend, Faust dies at the end tormented by devils. Marlowe’s Faust asks for God’s forgiveness. Goethe’s Faust discovers the truth of life (the universe and everything?) and dies in God’s embrace. God (Goethe’s God) knows it is Faust’s nature to pursue the path he has pursued; he could have done nothing else. Gretchen, the woman whose life Faust ruined in Faust Part 1 waits at Heaven’s gate to console and teach him in Faust Part 2

While Goethe didn’t deviate completely from the legend, he added two important elements: humor and ambiguity. Mephistopheles enters Goethe’s Faust as a black poodle…

For Goethe, Mephistopheles doesn’t represent evil so much as that which has yet to be seen, the mysterious realm from which that which is known emerges (and is judged). The unseen and the seen realms exist side-by-side, and the unseen realm is unseen mostly because we do not look in that direction. Why? Social convention? Religion? Fear? All those things. Goethe’s Faust does look and the inevitable result is that Faust acts, and in his actions, a world is set in motion with all its consequences, tragedy, regrets — and its beauty.

Faust’s pact with Mephistopheles is not the first pact made in Goethe’s Faust. God makes a bargain with Mephistopheles first; a bet. He bets that the Mephistopheles will not succeed in drawing a good man into evil. For Mephistopheles, temptation is a cat and mouse game, and God gives him permission to play this game with Faust:

“…I grant that you may try to clasp him,
Withdraw this spirit from his primal source,
And lead him down, if you can grasp him,
Upon your own abysmal course–
And stand abashed when you have to attest:
A good man in his darkling aspiration
Remembers the right road throughout his quest.” (Faust Part 1, Trans. Walter Kaufman)

God knows that Faust is searching for something and that, in the end, Mephistopheles will be only a tool in Faust’s journey.

So, can bad lead to good? For Goethe there is no “bad,” and all things which exist come from the place where nothing exists. The lost and empty person Faust knows himself to be at the beginning of the story is, at the end, a wise and transcendent being.

“What occurred is dead and ended
Pain and joy have passed away;
You are healed–oh, apprehend it,
Trust the newborn light of day!” (Faust Part 2, Trans. Walter Kaufman)

Sorry I could not find a video with English subtitles, but I think the sense of Mephistopheles and Faust comes through anyway. It’s a masterpiece of a film, Karl Maria Brandauer in Mephisto. The film is based on Mephisto: Novel of a Career by Klaus Mann, Thomas Mann’s son. A play-within-a-play, the story is set in Nazi Germany. Brandauer plays an actor whose great role is Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust.

This is my response to Bumblpepuppies prompt on Blacklight Candelabra https://blacklightcandelabra.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/mephistopheles-and-the-road-to-heaven/

And, Faust definitely studied abroad, so: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/study-abroad/