Today I feel like this daffodil. This is not a productive way to meet the sun or talk to the muse or as Elizabeth Gilbert in her Ted talk, ‘Nurturing Creativity’, reveals, the disembodied genius known in Ancient Greece as the ‘divine attendant’ and in Ancient Rome as ‘genius’ a magical divine entity. The genius at a distance concept allows the artist a protection from ‘project despair, anguish’. Gilbert shares wonderful anecdotes: from the poet Ruth Stone, where out on a walk Ruth can feel a poem barrelling through the landscape to her and Tom Waits driving in his car when a fragment of a melody comes to him and he looks to the sky and says “Can’t you see I’m driving?”. There is no barrelling for me today but yesterday I felt it, yesterday I saw it in the teal flash of the ducks wing, yesterday words flowed. Perhaps that magical thing has left me to rest today asking me ‘to be mindful’ – to observe and smell the violets, the daphne and really see the little ducklings that have made the western hillside at Montsalvat home.
Miller knew how to see. Miller can sketch a bird with a simplicity and yet with rare appreciation of the form of ‘bird’. Sometimes Miller’s eye consumes him, when on a walk with a friend a scene takes his eye he begins sketching forgetting his companion. He says in the letter, 16/12/22, he is reminded of the expression ‘don’t take your girl fishing’.
Miller’s sense of gentle humour is also evident in the army training photographs he arranged for my grandmother, Mera. There is one of a group of soldiers peering over something; the caption is “Soldiers looking at scorpion found in GCM’s bed”.
Then there are his asides; after a philosophical discussion to Lew in a long letter, 28/5/35, discussing the Abstract, the concrete and likenesses and unlikenesses he says, “For instance spots on a trout to harmonise or contrast with circles or square on the table cloth on which I, being a bachelor, choose to lay the fish.”
Today is a day to look at the spots on the trout on Miller’s kitchen table.
Tomorrow I’ll listen for the thunder of the ‘thing’ barrelling through the landscape to me and hope beyond hope I am ready with pen in hand to write it all down.