Jan 18 2012

#263 Less is More (18)

From a stranger in Long Island, New York

Enjoy a few facts about that alluring and mysterious call of the wolf: the howl.

Wolves howl to contact separated members of their group, to rally the group before hunting, or to warn rival wolf packs to keep away. Lone wolves will howl to attract mates or just because they are alone. Each wolf howls for only about five seconds, but howls can seem much longer when the entire pack joins in.

Biologists have found that wolves will respond to humans imitating their howls. The International Wolf Center in Minnesota even sponsors “howl nights” on which people can howl in the wilderness and hope for an answering howl.

Wolf howls may be audible to the human ear up to ten miles away in good weather conditions.

While howling, wolves change pitch to achieve harmonic as well as discordant effects.

Since lone wolves have no established territory, they rarely howl.

Nov 15 2011

#199 “Praiseworthy”

From a stranger in Brooklyn, New York

It always hurts my heart a little bit whenever I encounter a piece of artwork that the artist seems to feel the need to apologize for. Just the fact that an individual has taken pen to paper and created something unique and original should be enough to illicit praise and admiration from all of us. Producing art is always an action that is risky, and simply because we live in a society that says to us that “anything but the best is worthless” doesn’t make that statement true.

I quite admire this wolf. I think it’s interesting and unique and that it has a certain flare which is fun, optimistic, and hopeful. Yes. I like it. I like it alot, and I certainly do not think it “sucks.”

So to you, stranger in Brooklyn, I encourage you to take to heart the words below once said by John Steinbeck, and I urge you to keep your head up and be proud of everything you do. It’s so easy to live life in the shadows without taking risks, but you have stepped out into the sunshine, and the results of your labors are truly magnificent.

“Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unmitigated praise,
I say forget the bastard.”

~ John Steinbeck

Sep 22 2011

#145 “Outside the Box”

From “Colombo-Sia” in Brooklyn, New York

I love creative thinkers, and I believe Michael Colombo is just such a man. Take a quick glance at his website (here), and I’m sure you’ll agree. When you do click on the link, you’ll notice a tag line in the upper left that states that the site is “a chronicle of ideas and projects from a designer and thinker in repurposing obsolete technology and discarded materials.” This, in essence, is exactly what Michael does. Need to build a unique loft bed? You got it. Craving a fruit-powered sound machine? Done. What about instructions on how to make a candle from scrap wax? You’d better believe it. In a world so full of people who mindlessly travel throughout their daily lives in a haze of boredom and negativity, it’s comforting to know that there are still individuals with a keen eye for creation and a desire to milk the most out of each day, to suck the marrow out of life and live it to the fullest.

After a quick glance at Colombo’s wolf, I believe it represents everything about this man that the creations on his website suggest. The picture is bright and optimistic. It has a sense of nostalgia that could easily be associated with the 1980s, but it is also fresh and vibrant. It is hectic and almost “scatterbrained” but it also seems to display conscious thought and a sense of completion. It is original and wild yet accessible. And above all, it is genuinely interesting.

Thanks, Michael. Lives like yours make the rest of ours a little more interesting. Keep up the good work.


Aug 11 2011

#103 “Memento”

From Sam in the Bronx, New York

In a spare room of the upstairs portion of my parents’ house, tucked back in a corner, rests a dusty chest made of cedar wood. The years since I have opened that box have been many. In fact, I cannot even remember the last time I stepped foot into that room, but the contents of the chest are not lost on me. Without much effort or mental searching at all, I can rattle off a few of the current or previous contents. Actually, it gives me great pleasure to do so. In my mind’s eye I see an Indian drum made from a Quaker Oats cylinder and a construction paper headdress from preschool, a variety of baby teeth, a clay impression of my handprint from when I was 6, the white bonnet that the nuns at the hospital gave to my mother when I was born and which was later sewn into my wife’s wedding dress as her “something old,” various Valentine and Christmas cards made for my parents, elementary school report cards, countless photo albums, precious Golden Books, and the list goes on and on.

Mementos. Keepsakes. Little treasures. Whatever we call them. We all have things that are precious to us because they transport us to a time of innocence or remind us of a particularly special person or magical place.

In the note that Sam included with his wolf illustration, he stated that he had drawn this wolf in 7th grade and held onto it until now, several years later. I can’t help but think that this small picture drawn by the hand of this talented young man meant a great deal to him. Surely it must have if he protected and cared for it this whole time. And now, because of this generous heart and willing spirit, he has passed it along to me.

Sam, I can’t thank you enough. Someday, on the sad occasion of my parents’ passing, my weathered hands will probably unload that cedar chest from the back of my car as I prepare to place it in the spare room of my own house. I’ll no doubt fight back tears as I relive its contents, savoring every homemade craft and snapshot. And then, as I rearrange its contents and place them carefully back inside, I’ll add a few new items of my own to that sacred box, and without a doubt, this illustration will be one of them.

Jun 17 2011

#48 “Echoes”

From a stranger in Utica, New York.

The act of calling out over a cliff or precipice and hearing our own eery and exciting echo is something that I think we all can identify with. We’ve all done it, whether it we were sitting in an empty bathroom or standing on the edge of the grand canyon. We’ve all called out to hear our voice come back to us, to hear it resonate and permeate our environment.

It is believed that wolves perch themselves upon promontories and howl in order to communicate over great distances. But why do we as people call or shout out from cliff tops when we have the opportunity? Is it a narcissistic act designs to simply allow us to hear our own voice? Or is there something deeper that we are subconsciously trying to achieve?

I’m not really sure what the answer to this question is, but examining the illustration above and considering this concept brings to mind one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost called “The Most of It.” In the poem, a boy calls out from a cliffside, seeking some sort of response from the universe. As the boy cries out, the speaker says that the only response he receives is the sound and image of a great buck that comes splashing through the water below and then climbs upon the bank, pouring water from its coat. The buck then crashes through the undergrowth. At the end of the poem, the reader is left wondering what to make of this scene. Was the appearance of the buck the result of a conscious decision on the part of the universe to let the boy know that he was not alone? Or was this perhaps a random event that could only reinforce the boy’s fears that he is a stranger in this primeval world?

Take a look at the poem and decide for yourself.

“The Most of It” by Robert Frost

He thought he kept the universe alone;
For all the voice in answer he could wake
Was but the mocking echo of his own
From some tree–hidden cliff across the lake.
Some morning from the boulder–broken beach
He would cry out on life, that what it wants
Is not its own love back in copy speech,
But counter–love, original response.
And nothing ever came of what he cried
Unless it was the embodiment that crashed
In the cliff’s talus on the other side,
And then in the far distant water splashed,
But after a time allowed for it to swim,
Instead of proving human when it neared
And someone else additional to him,
As a great buck it powerfully appeared,
Pushing the crumpled water up ahead,
And landed pouring like a waterfall,
And stumbled through the rocks with horny tread,
And forced the underbrush—and that was all.