Welcome to
Transactions with Beauty.
Thanks for being here.
I hope that this is a space that inspires you to add something beautiful to the world. I truly believe that 
you are required to make something beautiful.

– Shawna



One Ought

One Ought

Let’s begin with a quotation:

One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

And this, really, in a nutshell, is why I blog. It puts me in the way of songs, poetry, pictures. I don’t claim to be an expert in any of these categories, least of all music, but I do know that when I seek out beautiful art, I feel better. When I’m writing and photographing and listening to music, all in one day, then I’m myself.

So let’s begin with pictures. If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you know I’m married to an artist who is currently painting floral still lifes. If you’d like to read more about the still life genre there is a lovely article here. And of course my Calm Things was written by me when our daughter was young, about living with still life. There’s a good video on the Norton Simon Museum site on still life here, where I enjoyed the phrase describing still life as a “barometer of wonder.”

shawna lemay still life

I think you will find poetry to be quite frequent on this blog, so I’ll leave you to peruse past posts. You might want to start with this on the transcendence of poetry. Why would you want to read poetry? Let’s revisit the lines by Joseph Campbell:

“How does the ordinary person come to the transcendent? For a start, I would say, study poetry. Learn how to read a poem. You need not have the experience to get the message, or at least some indication of the message. It may come gradually.”

still life Lemay

And now for some music. I really like what the Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson says about people not knowing how to listen to classical music these days:

“Everyone knows how to listen to music, just like we know how to drink water. You just listen and then you like it or you don’t. Sure, you still do meet people from your parents’ generation who think classical music is stuck up and snobby, but the real elitists are the ones paying £500 for a Stones ticket. Everything is contemporary music if it’s played today.”

Of his album, “Bach,” critics have said that it will “quench your thirst.”

glass of water

Well, all of this reminds me of Marina Abramovic demonstrating how to drink a glass of water.

But wait, there’s more. You didn’t think I was going to talk about music without mentioning Bruce Springsteen did you? But actually let’s backtrack to my first true musical love, Leonard Cohen. You might remember me talking about how after his death, which occurred right before the U.S. election, I listened to his album, You Want It Darker basically non-stop in my car for a year. Yes, I know that seems obsessive/excessive. But it was the only thing that made sense of the world for me. All I could think about was how the world had gotten darker in all sorts of ways. And then Leonard left, and I was heartbroken. I’d never cried over the death of a celebrity or star before, but I really lost it over Leonard. Which makes sense I guess. I’ve spent more time reading his poetry and listening to his music than I’ve spent with any of my family, besides Rob and Chloe.

Obviously, at some point I needed to stop singing “you want it darker” in my small car, and so I plugged in my Best of Springsteen, and got completely hooked, going back into his songbook and listening to it album by album. It made me happy, and continues to do so. I’m not letting it go. Anyway, I was delighted to hear Mr. LC’s joke in his really beautiful induction speech which refers to the famous Jon Landau line, “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” (You’ll hear it in the video below at just after the 4 minute mark).

So my latest obsession is the song “Racing in the Street.” Speaking of transcendence:

This is my favourite song to listen to in my little Fiat 500. Funny, I know. But seriously that ending. You’re somewhere else by then, and I don’t know where it is, but it’s a good gosh darned place. The last few minutes of the song/video: that’s a gift that goes straight to your aching soul.

You’ve probably heard the first release from the upcoming Springsteen album, Hello Sunshine. My response to this has been, you had me at hello. It’s an amazing song, and I can’t wait for the rest.

It’s going to balance out, You Want It Darker. It’s had me revisiting Robert Frost and his:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Compare to the Springsteen lyrics:

Had enough of heartbreak and pain
I had a little sweet spot for the rain
For the rain and skies of grey
Hello sunshine, won't you stay?

You know I always liked my walking shoes
But you can get a little too fond of the blues
You walk too far, you walk away
Hello sunshine, won't you stay?

You know I always loved a lonely town
Those empty streets, no one around
You fall in love with lonely, you end up that way
Hello sunshine, won't you stay?

You know I always liked that empty road
No place to be and miles to go
But miles to go is miles away
Hello sunshine, won't you stay?

And miles to go is miles away
Hello sunshine, won't you stay?
Hello sunshine, won't you stay?
Hello sunshine

The words love and lonely are so nice in the same line in that third last verse. I mention in my latest book how lonely and lovely are just one letter apart. Meanwhile, the song reminded me of my childhood love of Glen Campbell. I used to sing Rhinestone Cowboy to the horses, poor things. (I’ve never had the gift of song). And Rob had me download Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talkin’. And so one song leads to another in all these pleasurable ways. And the days are better for it, even if we are all going to hell in a hand basket.

We’re all just ordinary people looking for the transcendent, checking out the barometer of wonder, hoping the needle moves. We’re all just hoping for a little sunshine, baby.

Morandi, de Chirico, la Vita Silente, and the Way Things Happen

Morandi, de Chirico, la Vita Silente, and the Way Things Happen

Drawing Sentences

Drawing Sentences