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Saturday, 8 August 2009




1946 suddenly
to remember how it
was to walk into the
kitchen of one's now
dead ancestors and see the
brown gold or porous
sepia light falling

ground reels under
that fleeting sense

of how the world will
feel in this place long
time from now, when
remembered by no one


Herbstwald in Deutschland
: photo by Martin Heiss, 2004

Brown: image by Trojan, 2008


Anonymous said...

The cycle of life was invented by nature and history was invented by man. I usually stop to think about the daily life of my grandparents, for example. It is harder of course to think about their parents, whom I've never met. But anyway, my imagination is stirred by those thoughts and I enjoy them very much.

I have never stopped to think about the future generations remembering or not remembering me. Maybe because I will be ancestor to no one. But I certainly do not care much about it.

I loved your lines, Tom. They are charged with feeling, as always.


Elmo St. Rose said...

through a glass darkly

put on raiment

for the exodus

TC said...

I'm sure everyone's had this feeling: I'm here now in this place in this moment; I will never be here in this place in this moment again. And even now it is beginning to be forgotten...

It sometimes seems the older we get the more we grow into or become our parents. And their parents, even if we never knew them. Or perhaps it's just their ghosts coming back and inhabiting (haunting?) us, via the dna.

I often yearn for a general forgetfulness, but there is something hollow in this longing.

Then I remember that for the past 25 years I've been putting off cleaning out the garage.

Mariana Soffer said...

Beautifull post tom.
I think that marvelous image from the autum, with the incredible colors the tree leafs turn to, can never be forgoten completelly if you have looked at it for real at least one time

Take care my friends

TC said...


Estoy segurisimo que tienes toda la razon.

human being said...

remembered by no one'

sometimes i feel when we are remembered, we are re-membered...

(i added a new verb to the English language!)

Zephirine said...

All of this matters more if you believe that time goes in straight lines. Sometimes I try to get my very non-scientific brain to think of time going in loops or swirls so that we might, without knowing it, pass very very close to, say, our great-great-great-great-grandfather ploughing his field. But we might have an inkling, a hint of something just out of vision but meaningful. And he might feel 'a goose walking over his grave' or 'an angel passing'...

That is a beautiful Herbstwald, Herbst being anyway a much better word than Autumn in my view.

TC said...


I like "re-membered", which brings to mind another imagined word, "undismemberment" -- thus to re-member or un-dismember would be to put the broken parts back together miraculously, heal and make whole (in our new unremembered language).


Well it was posited by Blanqui at the time of the Paris Commune and I believe (?) latterly theorized also if not confirmed (well, a theorist can never confirm, that might spoil everything) by the latest advances in hyper-celestial-physics... that there are (Blanqui) or may be (the theorists) infinitely repeatable and repeating parallel universes.

I know. How... what would be the word? Consoling? Infinitely saddening?

But poor Blanqui. The physicists are well paid to have the advanced theory, but to have the mere wild speculation could not even get him out of prison.

In fact it would be surprising had prison not induced or at least influenced the speculation a bit.

About Herbstwald, spot on. With these two posts I abandoned my (probably silly anyway) practise of translating attribution texts into English, because here the Germanic look of things was as it were also saturated through the credits--and it felt like no other kind of woods. (The main point was to deflect the natural-for-Americans reaction of "Oh, New England in the Fall".)

TC said...


Speaking of Herbstwald and my Teutonic Default Setting...

I should perhaps admit the ghost behind the arras of the image-search was that crackpot Lorelei Oswald Spengler.

(You know I like to stick with strictly unimpeachable sources.)

Anyway, and I don't know that you or anyone should wish to experience a glissade into this particular brain crevasse, in constructing these two posts the line I could not dispel from my head was Spengler's "brown is the historical color".

The Decline of the West has to be THE most historically degraded of all the mouldering, foxed, faded, mildewed volumes remaining on our mossy dry-rotting shelves.

However the spongy old pages still sprout Spengler's strange eloquence on the subject of the chromaticism of Western painting climaxing in the "historical brown" of Rembrandt.

To keep my mind off the incursions of bot marketers, I went and looked it up.

"This brown does not repudiate its descent from the infinitesimal greens of Leonardo's, Schongauer's and Grunewald's backgrounds, but it possesses a mightier power over things than they, and it carried the battle of Space over Matter to a decisive close...

"The Magian gold-ground had only dreamed of a mystic power that controlled at will could thrust aside the laws governing corporeal existence in the world-cavern. But the browns of these [Rembrandt's] pictures opened a prospect into the infinity of pure forms."

Dixit the Oz.

Zephirine said...

Erm, but aren't the browns in 'old master' paintings to quite a large extent the product of paints and varnishes weathering over time? Do we know that Rembrandt didn't actually paint with quite bright colors? Well, no, maybe not Rembrandt.

I discovered recently an article about Mondrian, who it appears would have no truck with brown or any colour other than the primary 3.
Winifred Nicholson remembered: He was just and honest and Dutch and stern, friendly to those who were people of progress, harsh to those who were not, surrealists, Fascists, reactionaries, people who tolerated green, purple, or orange.

I'm with him on purple and orange, but green!. She goes on to tell of him on a train ride apparently admiring the green view outside the window, but in fact it was the symmetry of the passing telegraph poles that appealed. No Herbstwalds for Piet, obviously.

Zephirine said...

Here's the article:

TC said...


Your useful point here is well taken. I suppose the muddying-up of memories over time tend to make brown the historical colour in a sense Spengler did not intend. The past is for better or worse a chiaroscuro place.

As to Rembrandt, here is Max Doerner, from his classic work on the Techniques of the Old Masters:

"....Rembrandt created his magnificent color harmonies out of the 'friendly' colors of yellow ocher to brown and brown-red by merely balancing transparent, glazed tones with the dull effects of the same tones mixed with white, and conceived them all in a sense as variations of the one dominant tone."

Mondrian's strict use of hygienic whites in company only with basic separated primaries seems related to a particular modern mind-set of scientistic certainty. Can we still embrace this mind-set? What are its human correlatives?

The gathering of reminiscences of Mondrian is fascinating in this regard. These passages in particular struck me:

(Winifred Nicholson)

He was just and honest and Dutch and stern, friendly to those who were people of progress, harsh to those who were not, surrealists, Fascists, reactionaries, people who tolerated green, purple, or orange all impure. 'You are the first person who has ever painted Yellow', I said to him once, 'pure lemon yellow like the sun.' He denied it, but next time I saw him, he took up the remark. 'I have thought about it,' he said, 'and it is so, but it is merely because Cadmium yellow pigment has been invented.'


Mondrian the other side of the carriage was gazing wrapt on to the Somme country as we sped past it on our way to Calais. It was September 21,1938. The grass was lush and green, the poplars were green and soft. The sky was evening yellow, sunlight, a green peace lay over the marshy lands. 'How beautiful, how peaceful it is', I thought, 'and you see Mondrian does not hate green, or the country, his eyes are full of its marvel.' 'Isn't it wonderful', he murmured. 'Yes, isn't it', I said.

'Look', he continued, 'how they pass, they pass, they pass, cutting the horizon here, and here, and here.' My hand moved as if to touch them, as they passed by out of the window of the flying train, and I realized that what delighted him were the telegraph poles - the verticals that cut the horizontal of the horizon. The fundamental of his art of space, its perception, its comprehension. No superficial pleasure of lush flowering green countryside, no light of a materially visible sunlight. The enlightenment of the harmony of opposites...


(Naum Gabo)

I have never met such a lonesome and unhappy man, even though he liked jazz and dancing; a man so concentrating on himself, very calm, not a man of words. He was intrinsically warm, but outwardly cold, but he was not a man with whom you could have personal relationships. I don't know whether he had close friends.