Pithiness

For Christmas, Robin gave me a copy of Barnes & Noble’s “Book of the Year.” It’s title is The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. It’s a slender volume, each page an illustration with a few words on it, or sometimes no words at all. It takes no time at all to read the entire book if you go at it as you would a novel. But I doubt that’s how the author intended it be used.

Taking in the pages slowly as you would a book of aphorisms would be a better way of approaching it, I think. To me it was all very reminiscent of the Winnie the Pooh books, where a cast of small characters say small things that can have large meanings.

I loved the illustrations, which were done by the author, as much as I did the text … perhaps more. They have a soul of their own, a tender and wistful one.

I’ve scanned in a couple of pages for you, just to illustrate what I mean. All in all it’s a lovely little book that I like very much, even though it strongly leans toward the Hallmark-y side of literature, which is not my usual territory.

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Here’s a cartoon by an old fave of mine, Dick Guindon. He was a student at the U of Minnesota when I was an undergrad, and drew for the student newspaper, the Minnesota Daily .

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I was thinking about the fascinating pictographs all over this fine country of ours that have been left by early Native Americans. There are some very well-known ones in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota, which are treasured by that state’s citizens, as they well should be.

Hegeman Lake, Boundary Waters, Minnesota

In numbers, though, they are dwarfed by the sheer abundance of the paintings and petroglyphs in this part of the country. One of our favorite local hikes, in Dominguez Canyon, contains hundreds of such drawings, inscribed on a handful of boulders. Perhaps it’s as simple as that there were so many flat rocks to write upon, and that shale and sandstone make better “paper” than granite.

Dominguez Canyon, Colorado

No matter. What has intrigued me is that we know so little about why they are there and what they say. Into this pool of thoughtful ignorance I will drop this small suggestion: perhaps some of them are the equivalent of blogs.

A man or woman feels the urge to record something. They find a large flat stone surface, have the tools at hand, and they write/paint their observations on life’s happenings. Or their imaginative take on them. Then they come back on other afternoons and add to the record, one piece at a time.

Grand Gallery, Horseshoe Canyon, Utah

Until someone comes up with the key to unlocking the true origins and meanings of these art forms, I am going with my own interpretation. (Just like I do with nearly everything else.) And if the truth does come out and conflicts with what I think, well, then I have some choices to make, don’t I?

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Robin is leading a book discussion group at her church dealing with the short stories of Flannery O’Connor. For myself, until just recently I really knew nothing about the woman or her writing but for the story “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” a twisted little tale that ends with a psychopath shooting an old woman completely dead because she was annoying.

I have been invited to attend the first discussion Thursday evening and I am planning on going, although I have advised her to keep her expectations low when it comes to my participation. After all, I am an old Minnesota boy of Norwegian/American heritage and we do not have a reputation for literary commentary. We are much more noted for shyness and being too modest to plop our opinions down in public.

One item that attracted me to this group (besides the fact that I have a thing for the teacher) was learning that at the age of 5, O’Connor had her first 15 minutes of national fame due to owning/training a chicken who walked backwards. Here is Flannery and the bird.

Now there’s someone I can learn from.

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Once every couple of years or so, I need to remind myself how great the music coming out of the Sahara can be, especially the guitar music.

So here is the band Tinariwen.

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6 thoughts on “Pithiness

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