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Art and Travel

People who have experienced little sickness or injury in their lives should be expected to over-react to some bad luck. The other night I felt dizzy and nauseous, and am still not sure what it was about. The next day I felt better by the hour, but was still unnerved by being sick for a change.

During the afternoon siesta I grabbed the mp3 music player and punched in some of Bernard Herrmann's soundtrack music. It was so medicinal to have something for the mind to focus on, besides discomfort. Some music must be hoarded and rationed, lest repetition destroy its power. It was strange how this familiar piece of music had a different and more powerful effect on this particular day.

It was the soundtrack of Herrmann's The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. The theme of the movie and the music is loss and disappointment, unfulfilled longing, and mortality. Perhaps a night of illness intensified the latter.

A gentle rain fell on the trailer's roof, but of course the roof made it sound crisper and louder. The tempo of the rain varied, softly tempo rubato. It danced around Herrmann's symphonic music, some times a bit too slow, and at other times too fast, too soft or loud. But then it finally joined it, and became a piano concerto.

Was this mental combination, half luck after all, a type of art? It was embarrassing to even consider it so. It seems like such a pretentious term. But must art be some great thing, restricted to a few inspired geniuses, and watched in monumental buildings, with granite and marble foyers and stairs?

A few days earlier I had camped on the other side of the mountains, in Silverton. Five years earlier, on the other side of my experiment at residency, a fly fisherman in Silverton had gotten me interested in reading A Stream Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean (p. 43).

"Ten or fifteen feet before the fly lights, you can tell whether a cast like this is going to be perfect, and, if necessary, still make slight corrections. The cast is so soft and slow that it can be followed like an ash settling from a fireplace chimney. One of life's quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful, even if it is only floating ash."

Or consider Home Waters, by Joseph Monninger, p. 46:
"I cast to the tail of the pool, not far from where a log lay submerged beneath a white sheen of running water. In the instant the cricket landed, the white sheen seemed to gather its molecules and become a trout. The shape appeared not from the bottom or from the darkness near the log, but came, as a thought, to take the fly. I lifted the tip of my fly rod and suddenly the fish swirled and became separate from the water, and I saw it as an animal, a creature, and I led it to me."
Little mountain towns like Ouray are full of artists. It doesn't matter whether art is just the bourgeois version of tee-shirts or coffee mug souvenirs to the customer-tourists. There is still an enormous amount of talent involved in the industry here.

But to many of us, it does no good. It just doesn't affect us. But at the very least I want to take advantage of time, place, and experience, so I started rereading Tolstoy's What is Art?, especially Chapter 5. (Google books.) Allowing travel to influence what we want to read is no small art.


Anonymous said…
Hope you get to feeling better. Scamp