Sunday, September 5, 2010

What Is It I Am Seeing?

"The question is not what you look at, but what you see."
Henry David Thoreau

This is not a blog post as I used to write them Or perhaps it is.

Thank you everyone - for all the lovely comments I have received through this site. In general. And on this last posting - about summer. About afternoons. About time. About images. About blogging. About life.

And to you erin, for your asking about my whereabouts....

I am wondering myself.

I have thought about this blog. I have loved loved loved writing it. And loved loved loved the communication.  And visiting all of you in your special web homes.

But the blog itself changed me. (ehhhmmmm..... was that not the very idea of it?)

Blogging made me realize my love for photography. (You might have guessed, as I started filling this site with more and more images....) So I joined this photo site - just for the summer. Just to live that outdoor life. The 3-D life I urged for.

So. A photo blog. Just for the summer. Or so I thought.

It has taken me completely by surprise. How I love my camera (a new/old one. Not the compact - but a Single Lens Reflex). How I love looking at other peoples photos. How images are so important to me.

The photo blog does something to me. For me. A photo a day cannot NOT change you.

I go around with my eyes completely open all the time.

As for this blog, and all the lovely lovely people I have met here - please be patient with me.

Time. Time. Time. The eternal dilemma. A gift. And a frustration.

I need more of it. Don’t we all.....Or perhaps life is just as it should be.......

Right now, I need to be out there with my lens. I need to get back to my first love. Which was images. (I am an art historian after all :-)

And this is my quest at the moment - "The question is not what you look at, but what you see."

I need to know what it is I am seeing.

If you enjoy photography as well as poems, you are welcome to visit here.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Summer, Sun, Son, GrandSon, Swimming, Sailing, Strawberries, Screens.....and Time....

a three-dimensioned life;  
stay away from screens.

- Wendell Berry

Yes, I know. I repeat.
But how can I not with that sentence of gold?

How can I not, with the Nordic summer being so short, the sun so yellow, the grass so green, the sky so blue? How can I sit in front of screens with the sea sparkling as the iris of an eye and the wild strawberries insist, pick me, pick me and pearl me on a straw?

How can I be indoors with daylight lasting and lasting, with dusk igniting the smallest object enlarging it with colors that burn?

How can I live in two dimensions with my cute, cuddly, curios grandson crawling by my feet, laughing as he grabs a buttercup, the lid of a jam jar or my naked big toe? 

For in a blink it is over. The summer is gone. The strawberries are memory. And my grandson a grown up man............  

Quote from How to Be a Poet by Wendell Berry
Text and Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Monday, June 28, 2010

Angel Visits

Shun electric wire.  
Communicate slowly. Live  
a three-dimensioned life;  
stay away from screens.

- Wendell Berry

Last week I lived the poem, literally.
I stayed away from screens, 
and instead....

....walked barefoot in the grass with my grandson (As for the angel’s feet, please be patient, I’ll explain later.....)

....went sailing with my son and husband. (As for the angel, please be patient, I’ll explain.....)

.....made lots and lots of food, inviting family and friends for a birthday party (yes, mine :-) (As for the angel please.....well, you know....)

.....who in turn honored me with their presence. And presents ....:-) (As for the angel, need I say any more?)

I went to the exhibition opening of an artist friend, the Very Painter of Northern Norway. As you can see, a master of the sea.... (As for need to repeat....)

In the café I was served the cutest tea bag.
As for the angels, let me explain with a quote:

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone. 
~George Elliot

This week I looked for angels. I found them in the ordinary. And in the extraordinary.

Quote from How to Be a Poet by Wendell Berry
Text and Photos © Grete S. Kempton
Painting © Karl Erik Harr

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Accept What Comes

Accept what comes from silence.  
Make the best you can of it.

- Wendell Berry 

We moved in silence, my bicycle and I. We accepted what came.

He zigzagged the field with a football. Single handed he kept the game going by scoring as well as guarding the goal. I approached him as I would a deer grazing. Then -
“Did you watch the game between England and USA?
He nodded.
He nodded.
“Which team?” I said, “the US?”
He shook his head. “Wayne Rooney!”
“Me too,” I said. And nodded.

In the Castle grounds I walked among foreign voices. I wanted to be the traveller with new eyes. To see outside of the ordinary.

“Ghee, I can’t stand those cobbled stones!”
A lady with chunky thighs and tiny shoes wobbled through the courtyard.
“Me neither!” Her friend’s face was red and puffy.

“I told you it was this way!”
His voice was high, his body short. He wore a powder blue hat. It made him look just those millimeter taller. Even so, his wife still had to look down at him.

Then, as a dark force, a lanky man with a red scarf and a red umbrella. He rushed past, his overcoat dancing from side to side. I turned just in time to catch him leave into the light of the archway. 

I listened to the sounds of the city. I let the world enter me. The more I opened my eyes, the more the noise disappeared into the silence.

Quote from How to Be a Poet by Wendell Berry
Text and Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hungry for Silence

Make a place to sit down.  
Sit down. Be quiet. 
- Wendell Berry

I was hungry for silence. 

I longed to listen where there were no words.

I wanted poetry in a quiet language.  

I went to the Botanical Garden.

I waited for words contained
in rhythm, in composition, repetition,
contrast, form. That moved along lines. 

Eventually I found them.

Or they found me.

(And then, again, I am curious. For where do you go to find silence?)
(I have hit the edit button, for I need to correct the above question. My asking steers more in the direction of  - What is contained within silence? Why seek it out?)

Quote from How to Be a Poet by Wendell Berry
Text and Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What My Imagination Told Me

When it's over, I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.
- Mary Oliver

I was not present when my father died. Yet I had so wanted to be there.

I struggled in the weeks and months to follow. Not least because circumstances had denied me the opportunity to be there when he departed.

So the loss was double. 

In the midst of my mourning a friend appeared. She floated into my life as a message in a bottle. I didn’t know her from before. I don’t know her now. She was one of those brief acquaintances that comes. And then leaves again.

We talked about this, about the other. Then I told her about my dad. How I grieved not just his death, but also missing that last farewell.

“If you had the choice, how would you have liked it to be?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” I said.

“Just imagine what could have happened. And then tell me about it.”

“What could have happened?” I said, and wondered what my preferences had to do with it. My dad was gone. I had not seen him off. Facts were facts.

“ Just play around with it,” she said, “just make it up.”

Reluctantly I let images appear. Of how I had wanted it to be. If there was a choice, that is.  
“I’m sitting in a chair,” I said, “next to his bed. I lay my hand on his forehead.”

There was a pause.


I stretched my neck. Tried to sit more upright in the chair. Was this serious? Did she really want me to produce some make-belief story?

She spotted my bewilderment and tried to ease the situation. “You’re sitting in a chair,” she repeated. “You lay a hand on his forehead.”

“I’m not sure it was my hands,” I said. I could see a pair of hands, but I was confused as to who they belonged to. I looked down at my own fingers. As I spoke I felt the warmth of my dad’s skin against my palms. “Perhaps I’m holding his hand,” I said. “And then there is something else on his forehead.”

I tried to grasp what my imagination told me.

Gradually an image of a bird appeared.  A feathered creature perched on my dad’s forehead. A quiet little thing, patiently waiting. 

Then I could see the hands again, but were they my hands? No. They were not hands at all, they were wings. Then a pair of hands appeared, waving. My dad’s hands and the wings. The wings and his hands. The two images were one. The waving and the flapping, the flapping and the waving. I couldn’t discern which was which. But this I knew for sure. Here was my dad. Waving.

In the New York Times article “Write Till You Drop” Annie Dillard writes “You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.”

“Strange seizures beset us,” she says, “ Frank Conroy loves his yo-yo tricks, Emily Dickinson her slant of light; Richard Selzer loves the glistening peritoneum, Faulkner the muddy bottom of a little girl's drawers visible when she's up a pear tree.”

Whenever I read this article I learn something about my astonishment. I stop and go back. What appears to amaze me again and again invariably involves the imagination. The strength of it. The intensity. For better or worse I may add, for I have also knowledge of the latter. I have experienced that reality is relative. And that facts come in many forms.

My father’s departure is no longer a trauma. Whenever I think of this moment, I see the hands and the wings. As the bird lifts, there is the flapping. And the waving.

And I realize my imagination is sacred, for it has far more knowledge than I will ever have.

(And then, of course, I am curious. For what is your astonishment?)

Mary Oliver, When Death Comes, from New and Selected Poems (Beacon Press).

Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Choreographer of Life

“............The doctor said,
“There are things we can do which might give you time,
but we cannot cure you.” My father said,  
“Thank you.” And he sat, motionless, alone,  
with the dignity of a foreign leader.”

- Sharon Olds

When my father received the final message, this was what he had left to fight for - dignity.

I have shipped the oars, he said.

It was we who were not prepared to let him go.

Erin of “the tiny leaf” had me wondering. Do we own our bodies? Do we own our lives? Why are we so afraid of dying?

I have no answer but asking new questions. How can we not fear the unknown? It is only natural, like the naturalness of dying. Which is not natural at all. When my father died, I was angry. At life. At death. At him. At myself. But life is generous, it grants a multitude of perspectives. Little by little I grew into a new one like a dandelion forcing its way through tarmac.

Do we own our bodies, do we own our lives?

He will not leave till we give him the permission, I said. It was only hours before he died. He held on, held on, till the time had come. And we said, you may go now.

Or perhaps it wasn’t like that at all.

I was not present when my father left. Yet I had so wanted to be there.

As life, imagination is generous, It offered me a chance to go back.

There was a bird, there were wings flapping. They lifted off from my father´s head. As they did, the wings transformed into a pair of hands, waiving. The flapping and the waiving, the flapping and the waiving, I couldn’t see which was which. But as I bid farewell to a pair of wings, of hands waiving, I noticed the silence. The flapping of the wings. And the silence.

Do we own our bodies? Do we own our lives?

I have no idea. All I hear is a pair of wings flapping.
And then there is silence.

Sharon Olds, “His Stillness” from Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002. 

Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Visa Renewal

My 3-months visitor’s visa to the United Bloglands is up for renewal. According to the Bloglands Visa Renewal Form, I have to come up with a list of 10 good reasons why I want to extend my stay. 

Based on the following quote (sorry all, not a poem this time. According to my profile, the expression “carefully arranged language” should cover me here, if only just...) this is an attempt to start such a list.

“Children, I have come here like the rest of you, to hear what I have to say.”

- Sojourner Truth

Sitting down in front of the screen two days ago, my insides wobbled. To be quite honest, the call for an important decision took up far more brain space than a modest blog post.

Then Max, my loyal camera (nestled quietly next to me here on the desk), urged me to open the  Aperture program. So I did. I selected photos to illustrate Karin Boye’s poem Yes, Of Course It Hurts When Buds Are Breaking. I adjusted exposure, altered contrast, added green. I held the two in my palms, the photos and the poem, and trusted something to happen. Gradually the screen filled with letters and colors, sentences and images, with content I could understand.  

The action of my fingers on the keyboard, and my eyes on the screen gradually marked out a direction for the day - To let go, if only for a moment

As I pressed “View post” I hadn’t even noticed that my insides had stopped wobbling and my heart had returned to its normal pace.

So my # 1 reason for blogging (to be copied onto Visa Renewal Form) is this: 
I write and blog because my fingers and my eyes are so much wiser than my mind. I come here to view what I have to say.

Wherever this “here” is. And whoever the “I”.

Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Monday, May 31, 2010

If Only for a Moment

Yes, it is hard when drops are falling.
Trembling with fear, and heavy hanging,
cleaving to the twig, and swelling, sliding
- Karin Boye

I am inspired to let go. If only for a moment.

Throughout the last week I’ve had a dilemma.
My husband says, you don’t need to rush the decision.
My friend says, you don’t need to rush the decision.
Inside me, there is rush, rush, rush. A sense of urgency.
Sometimes even buying a liter of milk, can shoot adrenalin through my body.
And this was so much more than buying a liter of milk.

then, when no fear holds back any longer,
down in glitter go the twig's drops plunging,
- Karin Boye

I am inspired to let go. Of the rushing. To let those drops fall, dance, enjoy.
If only for a moment.

Karin Boye - Yes, Of Course It Hurts, from For the Tree’s Sake (1935)
Translation by David McDuff

Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Change vs. Growth

“Yes, of course it hurts when buds are breaking.
Why else would the springtime falter?” - Karin Boye

I have received a bagful of clothes from a good friend. She has gained weight somewhere - her heart, her hair, the toes on her left foot, I’m not quite sure. All I know is I am standing in front of the mirror trying on one chic garment after another. And I must admit it - I look pretty cool.

But is this me? I mean - Me? 

My friend looks stunning in these tops and dresses; the see-through and glitter, the low cut neckline revealing whatever is to be revealed. They suit her, they underline who she is.

But me? Well. I look into the mirror and I’m not quite sure I recognize the person in front of me. She is changed. There is still that same smile (or laugh in fact, for I cannot avoid it!), still the same hair. But she is different. 

Is this why I am reluctant to change in general? Because I am frightened I will not recognize my own self?

A whole library of books talk about change these days: “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body”, “Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life”, “When Everything Changes, Change Everything”. It seems to be the thing to be doing - to change.

Still, I, or we, tend hold on to the now, for at least we know what we’re dealing with. Better to swim in familiar waters than dive into the unknown future. Also, if I always need to change and be different, can I ever relax and be satisfied with who I am today?
Change is closely linked to the word growth. They both signify the hidden to be revealed - the unknown to come into being.
Yet, where change asks me to replace, growth offers me expansion. Where change tells me I need to do things differently, growth grants me the permission to be more of who I already am.
Which, of course, can also grant me a few challenges. 
“Yes, of course it hurts when buds are breaking,
hurts for that which grows
and that which bars.” - Karin Boye

Karin Boye - Yes, Of Course It Hurts, from For the Tree’s Sake (1935)
Translation by David McDuff

Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Monday, May 24, 2010

Buds Breaking

I am grateful for my teachers, they surround me. Heaven above. The earth below. The sun. The seasons. My loved ones. The passing minutes, months, years, all contained within the word experience

Then there is my camera.

It says, where you point my lens, is where I will focus.
It says, where you direct your eyes, is where your attention goes.

Like hunting for red. If you move around in the world looking for red, you will find it. (Go here to do a small experiment.) 

And there are poems

I live in the midst of Karin Boye’s words - Yes, Of Course It Hurts
She talks about spring, about buds. About how it hurts when buds are breaking. For -

Why else would the springtime falter?
Why would all our ardent longing
bind itself in frozen, bitter pallor?
After all, the bud was covered all the winter.
What new thing is it that bursts and wears?

I have walked some paths this spring, pointing my lens at buds bursting. Those outside of me. And those inside.

Karin Boye - Yes, Of Course It Hurts, from For the Tree’s Sake (1935)
Translation by David McDuff

Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Thursday, May 20, 2010


William Wordsworth has set the tone - it’s all about daffodils and clouds these days.
The succulent green and yellow sprouts originating from the earth.

The clouds from the sky.

Me somewhere in the middle. 

Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lonely as

Thrilled about spring, I sing :-) while walking these lines by William Wordsworth:

I wandered 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.

But then I wonder - lonely as When I gazed towards the sky this morning, the clouds did not seem lonely at all. They were more like holding hands, merging into one happy crowd.

Also, can clouds be lonely? There is, of course, that single, white dot alone on blue summer skies.
But lonely?

I suspect Wordsworth needed a cloud to underline the notion of a poet being the lonely, pensive chap. Also “cloud” fits snugly next to its brothers in rhyme. 

Lonely as a cloud. I saw a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils. It sounds lovely. Undeniably.

And then I wonder - how, exactly do I pick and chose among words and ideas to make my life rhythmic and melodious? Am I as careful with my sounds and metaphors as Mr William?

If life can be likened to a poem that is......

Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Friday, May 14, 2010

Spotting RED

So here’s the thing. A mental experiment.

 (If you have no idea what I am talking about, scroll down to the previous post, or press here.)

This experiment / experience will cost about 2 minutes of your life, but will add multitudes, believe me. (Please don’t charge if it doesn’t....). Also it is both harmless and non-toxic.

The aim is to illustrate my last posting: shadows are not just evidence of gloom. "Where there is much light, the shadow is deep,” said Goethe (quote kindly submitted by Marion). Which is also to say that where shadows are extra dark, sunlight is also extra strong. 

But to let the shadows come, and to focus on them, are two separate things. As similar, and as opposite as the North and the South Poles.

This experiment, by the way, demands some discipline on your side. When you see these words STOP READING, then do exactly that, stop reading. Do not peep further down the post till you have done the required.

Okay. So off you go into a room where there are lots of things and colors and mess, ideally a place where you don’t go very often - a shed, a loft, your husband’s or wife’s or dog’s secret hiding place, the garage. Anything will do, really. 

Then, with your keen eyes, spot anything and everything containing the color RED. Memorize these items, and then come back to the screen. STOP READING!

Are you reading these words without having hunted for the RED?

If so, go into the corner - or doghouse - and find a few red items. Memorize them. And come back.

So. How many things RED can you remember? Depending on your shed’s content, of course, I’m sure you can recollect at least 4 items. Or 7. Or even as much as 9 (or 10 if you’re a genius!): The red letters on the insect repellent, the red cork on the soda bottle, the red covered paperback, the red feeding bowl, the red plastic watering can.

Yes? How many?, you are a genius.......

Now then, WITHOUT going back to the place of red, tell me all the things you noticed which contained the color BLUE. Yes, blue. How many this time? 1? 2? None???

Well, you’re normal. Most people will have one or two things on their list, despite the blue being right next to the red: The blue spray can with red letters. The blue shelf with the red cork bottle. The blue paperback next to the red paperback. The blue can of dog food next to the red feeding get it.......

For this is the thing. You notice what you focus on. If I ask you to make notice of every single minute of rain next week, you will diligently spot every single drop that falls on your ground. The sun will just be that thing in the middle of the sky. You will forget to count the sunny minutes. Sunny hours. Sunny days.


So, what is the most prominent feature of this photo here?

Photos © Grete S. Kempton