Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ursula Leguin on Painting and Silence

"Sierra Divide" by Edgar Payne (1917)
California Landscape Paintings
 at the Portland Art Museum

This big one is called "Mountain Silence",
but it's the one beyond it, "The Sierra
Divide", that hold silence
the way a grey stone bowl holds water.

Looking into the painting
I think how it is itself
silent.  Howe we move in silence
among these painted skies and mountains.

How the charity of a painting,
its gift I will carry out of the museum,
may be its silence,
full and quiet as a bowl of water,

that I can hold later in my soul's hands
and look into and see how light falls on granite.

Ursula K.  Leguin, 
from "Late in the Day" Collection (2014)

I love this poem by Leguin, and the painting by the American Impressionist Edgar Payne that inspired it.  I keep trying to write, to find words that can "add" to what the poet, or the painter, have to say, but that is foolish.  To be with the painting is to pass through a window into a moment, in the year of 1917, when the artist climbed a mountain with an easel on his back, or stood beneath the desert sun, to fill that "bowl of silence".

"Canyon de Chelly", Edgar Payne (1916)

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