Monday, February 8, 2010

"...And Oft When On My Couch I Lie..."

I have been working on some "uplifting" cards, trading cards to give to a cancer center in Illinois.  I like to make paintings and collages of flowers. Yes, they are pansies, not daffodils, but pansies have a special connection for me, because of memories of being a 5 year old and planting pansies with my mother. I think I also had a library book, at that time, that talked about the "faces" of pansies. I'll paint some daffodils soon.

My friend, Lisa, asked me to make some cards to help lift the spirits of her patients.  I have long thought that one of the artist's duties is to bring beauty back to those who do not have time to wander "lonely as a cloud" to have a chance encounter with natural beauty.  I'm also remembering that I came across a passage, at some point in my life, while studying Asian art history, that talked about the artist's duty to bring the fruits of artistic endeavor to those whose attention needs to be on day to day business.  Wish I could find that quote, which I have very loosely paraphrased here. But back to Wordsworth.

He talked about remembering the "bliss" related to his memory of the visual impact of the daffodils, which he saw in his mind's eye without consciously calling them to mind--"when vacant or in pensive mood".  It made me think of what gets called to mind for me and others who live in the modern world: the most current superbowl commercial? An image from the news? Scenes from a slasher movie? Something you have been meaning to buy online? Manga? Porn? Rarely "daffodils", I'm guessing. 

I'm wonderfing if we should be complacent about this.  Might we be responsible for feeding our eyes (minds, hearts, souls) with beauty so these images can uplift us and even heal us? If our brains are full of bad news and images of suffering are we responsible for seeking out images and news of hope and peace?  Sounds goofy, perhaps, but I would like to propose that we need to feed ourself with beauty in order to offset the impact of visual junk--just like we need to consciously eat whole foods to offset the junk we eat.

"Daffodils" (1804)

I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).