Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Genuine Silence

It took a long time this year for spring to arrive in northern New England. But, finally, it is here. The leaves are mostly out, the forsythia is in bloom, and a few hummingbirds have zipped by me while out in the garden.

When spring arrives, we head north to our cabin in the woods. Our cabin is near the end of a six-mile long dirt road, so we have to be absolutely certain that the mud has dried up before we start the trip. We’ve gotten stuck in the mud before, about half-way in, and had to walk the rest of way to get an ATV to go back to pull out the truck. You only do that once and the lesson is learned—wait until the end of mud season.

This year, we had no such trouble. We arrived at our cabin on May 23 for a long weekend. The weather was gorgeous and the pesky black flies, generally out thick on Memorial Day weekend, were still nowhere to be found.

So, on the morning of May 24, I stepped out the front door of our cabin to walk down to see the lake and I was immediately reminded of one of the most wonderful things about the woods up north. Silence.

C. B. Cote, Silence.

No traffic. No machinery. No voices. Nothing.

Silence—genuine silence—is hard to find. It’s not easy to get away from the sounds of society. But when you find it, it’s like experiencing cool water on a blistering hot day. Silence is refreshing, soothing, joyful. It feels unbelievably wonderful as it washes over you. Like water, silence flows over your body, following every curve and seeping into every pore. It surrounds you like a soft blanket.

Contrary to what we might be led to believe, silence is not nothing. Silence is not a lack of something . . . a lack of sound. Silence is something all to itself. Genuine silence can be felt. It is thick and full and rich. It is fresh and pure. Silence is life-giving.

“In some places, silence can be an emptiness that is paradoxically, full. You do not occupy this silence; it occupies you.”
Mark C. Taylor, Recovering Place

Christine Cote
Shanti Arts

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Away by the Pond

I want to go soon and live away by the pond, where I shall hear only the wind whispering among the reeds. It will be success if I shall have left myself behind. But my friends ask what I will do when I get there. Will it not be employment enough to watch the progress of the season?

~ Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, May 04, 2014

The Trouble With Thurber

Shanti Arts recently released Nothing But Trouble by the renowned master of the short story Bob Thurber. My first encounter with Thurber was when he submitted a short essay for Stone Voices titled “The Cheap and Gaudy Heart.” We published the piece in the summer of 2012

Oddly, rather mysteriously, some of us are more malleable than others. Implanted with some essential and ancient aptitude that we can take no credit for. I was fortunate, almost clever, not quite bright, but able to adjust. Like Siddhartha, I was able to fast, and think, and wait. I survived by my wits, gritting my teeth, taking my beatings, clutching my belly against hunger, determined to outlast one suffering event after another, constantly observing, studying every sting, every soreness. I learned as I burned. And I grew, and I adjusted (or maladjusted) but I endured.

As I learned more about Thurber from reading about him on Goodreads and various blogs, I was compelled to read his “dysfunctional novel,” Paperboy. It was a good decision on my part. The book grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I read the book in one day; it’s short, so that’s not saying much, but I simply could not put the book down. When I would look up off the page for a moment, I just stared ahead, feeling numb and shaken, as if I’d been slapped in the face. Dark, gritty, raw, wrenching. I never knew there were people and situations like those I met in Paperboy. But now I know.

Thurber describes himself as an old (not true because he and I were born the same year), self-taught writer who grew up dirt poor in Rhode Island. He worked at writing every day for twenty years before submitting his work for publication. He went on to publish three hundred short fictions and collect more than forty awards and citations, including The Barry Hannah Fiction Prize, the Meridian Editors' Prize, and the Marjory Bartlett Sanger Award.

His stories are rough and tough, sometimes disturbing. Still, they’re hard to put aside. Something about his straightforward, succinct, and, dare I say, sincere writing style keeps you tethered to his work. I think it’s because his writing is true—not in the sense of being autobiographical—but in the sense that they germinate and grow from that place in him that remembers his difficult beginnings. His background is the breeding ground for his stories. So they are true, coming forth from his experiences, his difficulties, and, as he says, his ability to endure.

I’ve thought about this quite a lot—how traumatic and difficult experiences impact and shape our lives and our creative endeavors. Thurber works through his difficult life experiences by writing and churning out stories. Others paint or make photographs or act on stage or write poems. As a photographer, I am often asked for an artist statement, just as I ask for one from the artists whose work I feature on our website or in our publications. For the first several years of my work with photography, I rewrote my statement dozens of times. Then, one day it hit me. For me, it’s quite simple. I make photographs because it makes everything right. It helps me to make sense of the world. I think that’s what art is all about—making sense of what is happening to us and around us and in us. When an artist does this successfully, the work is true, not in the sense of being autobiographical, but in the sense of touching upon Truth, with a capital T.  

Thurber, with a capital T, is a successful writer. His work uncovers some difficult parts of humanity, but, in his own wonderful way, his work makes sense of the world. Maybe it’s because buried deep within his dark and difficult tales, there is hope. And hope is what makes everything right.

Nothing But Trouble

Stories by Bob Thurber
Images by Vincent Louis Carrella

$22.95  |  ISBN: 978-0-9885897-6-6 

available at www.shantiarts.com
most online booksellers, 
and many fine bookstores

Christine Cote
May 4, 2014