Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘reading obituaries’

Insomnia, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2009, photo © 2009 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

every waking moment
fitful bursts of sleeplessness
posing as dreams

 
 
 
 
 
 

Couldn’t sleep last night; so many scattered thoughts rolling around in my head. They say you wake up at 3 a.m. for anxiety, 4 a.m. for depression. I must be feeling anxious. At a few minutes before 3 a.m. (Dead Time), I was wide awake. So wide awake, I even broke the 5-7-5 structure on the Sleeplessness senryu (not typical of my haiku).

I did keep the 17 syllables. After a few years of haiku, they must be hardwired into me. Sometimes I’ll dream about writing and counting haiku in my sleep. I once read about a Japanese poet, Shuson Kato (born Takeo Kato but referred to by his pen-name, Shuson), who counted syllables on his fingers while he lay unconscious a few weeks before his death.

 
Here is an excerpt from his 1993 obituary in the Independent — Shuson Kato, poet and scholar: born Tokyo 26 May 1905; died Tokyo 3 July 1993:

In April this year, he fell sick, but again recovered and started the arduous task of choosing the weekly poems for the Asahi. Alas, on 20 June he lost consciousness: the 11 July issue of the Asahi poetry page was his last. It was said that even while he lay unconscious he was moving his fingers in the typical syllable-counting fashion of every haiku poet, bending the fingers inwards towards the palm, then releasing them again one by one.

Shuson believed in the healing powers of poetry. Again from his obituary:

In 1957, Kadokawa Shoten issued a first collected edition of Shuson’s works. But the poet fell ill in 1960 and underwent chest operations, presumably for tuberculosis. Yet he continued writing haiku. As he said: ‘Without my haiku I am nothing. It is only haiku I live for, and only haiku that keep me alive.’

His faith in the healing power of poetry was such that he gradually recovered. It was in the Sixties that Shuson became identified in the popular mind as a poet who wrote in order to explore ‘how human beings should live’.

Powerful testament to the value of poetry, an art form whose readership is dropping. I find the ancient haiku poets inspiring. It is customary for haiku poets to compose a death haiku just before dying, an epitaph that lives on. Perhaps you’d like to leave your own haiku or senryu in the Comments to honor the recent July 3rd anniversary of Shuson’s death.

 

Blue (If I Knew Then, What I Know Now),
Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2009, photo ©
2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

_______________________________________________________

Epilogue: At 6 a.m. when Liz’s alarm was about to go off, I was heading to bed and a Version 2 of the Sleeplessness haiku popped into my head. I don’t know if Versions 1 and 2 are opposites, or complements like red/green or orange/blue.

 

every sleeping moment
fitful bursts of wakefulness
posing as dreams

 

Below are a few other Night Owl posts from over the years. I am most creative in the middle of the night or very early in the morning in that space between dark and light. I wonder if there are other Night Owls out there who write poetry in their sleep. Or if the Early Bird still catches the worm. 
 

 

-posted on red Ravine in the space between Tuesday morning, July 14th, 2009 and Monday night, July 13th

-related to these obituary posts on red Ravine: The Uses of Sorrow – What Is It About Obituaries?, Reading The Obits, Halloween Short List: (#2) Build Your Own Casket

Read Full Post »

Halloween Spider Exit, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Halloween Spider Exit, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Spider Walk, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Spider Walk, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Casket Arts Halloween, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Casket Arts Halloween, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



There was a Halloween Open Casket event at the Casket Arts Building last weekend. We spent several days hanging out in our studio, visiting with community artists and art lovers who stopped by to view and talk about art.

One couple had just moved into the building and we were talking about how the entire 3rd floor was once filled with women who sewed silk casket linings for the Northwestern Casket Company. And the polished maple we were standing on contained patches of thrown away boards from the casket builders downstairs.

That got me to thinking about caskets and, well, things just snowballed from there. Here’s my short list of fun things to do on Halloween.




1) Take A Casket Decorating Class


All things associated with death, including obituaries, caskets, and burials used to be an art form. People spent painstaking hours building and decorating caskets with the art of Rosemaling or Dalmalning. And there are people who still excel at this craft.

Rosemaling is Norwegian decorative painting. In an interview, Casket Painting Uplifted by Folk Art Tradition, Alegria talks about how she got started in casket painting. It’s spiritual work for her:


I do what I do because I have been given opportunities to experience dying, death and loss in the biggest ways, and I want to take what I’ve learned and experienced and help transform grief to glory.


If you head over to the Alternative Funeral Monitor News, you can read the whole interview with Alegria and see a photograph of a casket with Rosemaling.


Here’s an excerpt:


I paint Folk Art, primarily Rosemaling, a Norwegian folk art. I also use other forms, including Dalmalning, which is Swedish flower painting, and Baurnermalerai, a Bavarian folk art. In fact, every country has specific ethnic folk art forms, with designs and patterns that have been used for centuries.

Rosemaling actually comes from the early itinerant painters who traveled throughout Scandinavia. They stayed with families, became part of the family and decorated precious dowry trunks, beams, walls, ceilings and pews in the churches for the people. This art helped to bring light, color and joy into the long, dreary, dark winters.

The patterns and designs invoked spirits that the wood carvers had first carved on the Viking ships, such as acanthus vines, serpents and dragons. The shapes have meanings which they incorporated into the designs of this early work.

In addition, in the earliest burial customs, people were buried wrapped in a shroud. Later, when customs started to change and people harvested timber and used planks of wood to make caskets to bury people in, the custom began of adorning and decorating caskets. The ancient motifs and designs I paint with rise from the subconscious that now really is a form of tribal art.



2) Learn To Build Your Own Casket


The North House Folk School up on the Harbor of Lake Superior in Grand Marais, Minnesota is offering a Build Your Own Casket class. I don’t know about you, but this looks fascinating and fun to explore. What better way to prepare for that final resting place.

There are photographs and more at the link below. Just scroll down the Woodworking page to get to the casket building class.


Bury Yourself In Your Work – Build Your Own Casket
Instructor: Randy Schnobrich
Session Options: 12/5/2008 – 12/7/2008


None of us are getting out of this alive, so you might as well bury yourself in your work. Join a growing number of independent-minded people looking for a more meaningful alternative to today’s burial arrangements. This course covers a range of important details such as: proper sizing, joinery, handle construction, hardware and design options.

The finished casket need not wait for a final departure before being put to use. Above-ground applications include use as bookshelves, coffee tables, storage containers and entertainment centers.




3) Read Old Obituaries (1920’s – 1950’s) & Write Your Own


This one offers immediate satisfaction. We’ve talked about the obits many times on red Ravine. After reading today’s obits, I’m stunned by the richness and character of the old obituaries, how people used to take time to honor people in death by writing about their lives.

Mom uses obituaries in her research on the family tree and they often lead to uncovering buried skeletons. What a treat!  It makes me wonder if there used to be people in a community who excelled at writing obituaries, writers that the grief-stricken would turn to to write the obit of a lifetime.

Here’s a link to FR – FZ section of a few Wisconsin ancestral obituaries. And a little bit about the poetic character of Anton N. Freng in this short excerpt from his obituary:


Anton Nilson Freng was born in Brottom, Norway, on July 31, 1852, and died at his home in South Valley, town of Summer, on November 6, 1933, having lived 81 years, three months and six days. He learned the painting trade under Master Erick Alm. In 1873, the family immigrated to America, stopping at Chicago for a few weeks and then making their home in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

A.N. Freng was a man of action. He served on his school district board for many years, was an organizer and director of the Osseo Canning Company, and served for thirty years as director and agent for the Pigeon Mutual Fire Insurance Company. He was secretary of the South Valley church for the past 45 years.

Mr. Freng was the leader in his community. He was endowed with more than ordinary amount of common sense and courage. His neighbors depended upon his counsel. He was a man of sterling character. He had a kind and jovial disposition. He was loved and respected by all who knew him well. His oft repeated phrase, “Another of our old and venerable pioneers has gone to his well-earned rest” has again come true, and may we add that the greatest of them all has gone.

Coming from a foreign country at the age of 21, not knowing a world of English and having had but little schooling, he rose to heights and power unsurpassed by many who had much greater advantages. He was great because he had ability, because he was honest and sincere. He expended his energies in the right direction, for the betterment and advancement of his community and country. The world is better for his having lived.

      -Written by J. Reese Jones. THE WHITEHALL TIMES – NOVEMBER 15, 1933

 


Mr. Ghoul, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Pumpkin Man, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mr. Ghoul, & Pumpkin Man, Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





Any takers? There’s nothing boring about death and dying folks. And for an extra special treat, visit Heather’s blog, Anuvue Studio. She goes crazy every Halloween with all things wild and wonderful.



Happy Halloween. Happy Day Of The Dead. Happy Samhain.





     Casket Arts Glow, Halloween at the Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ghoulish Toast, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2006, photo © 2006-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.String Theory, Halloween at the Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Friday, October 31st, 2008

Read Full Post »

Dolorosa Reading the Obits

Dolorosa by herselfDolorosa by herselfDolorosa by herself

Reading The Obits, pen and ink on graph paper, doodle © 2007-2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





Inspired by this post:  The Uses Of Sorrow – What Is It About Obituaries?

Read Full Post »