Birth II

“The greatest artist does not have any concept
Which a single piece of marble does not itself contain
Within its excess, though only
A hand that obeys the intellect can discover it.”
Michelangelo Buonarroti, I Sonetti Di Michelangelo: The 78 Sonnets of Michelangelo with Verse Translation

Birth II, by Arthur Williams, Dallas, Texas

Twice over the last decades (2013, and 2019) I have stopped at the Lover’s Lane Red Line DART station to photograph the sculpture there. It’s really cool looking, and hard to find – I imagine it was once more obvious, but the construction of the DART station and the expansion of Central Expressway cut it off. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a plaque or other sign and had no idea who the sculpture was done by or what its name was. It seems to have been neglected over the years, it is getting a bit ragged looking.

Finally, I dug out a book I bought used a long time ago and have found very useful: A Comprehensive Guide to Outdoor Sculpture In Texas by Carol Morris Little. The sculptures are listed by the name of their sculptors (which I did not know) so it took a bit of page-turning, but I found it.

From the book:

Arthur Williams
American, born 1942

Birth II 1983

Abstract, 7′ x 15′ x7′ 8″ ; welded and pressed steel

Location: 6688 North Central Expressway
Funding: Sullivan Corporation

Comments: Sculpture by Arthur Williams appears in public and private collections throughout the United States. In addition to large steel and cast-bronze sculptures, Williams carves alabaster, marble, and wood. This work and his monumental installation in Galveston are from his Birth series.

It’s cool to finally know something about this sculpture – will have to look for its twin the next time I’m in Galveston.

Birth II, Arthur Williams, Dallas, Texas

As For the Peasant So For the Pilot

“The machine which at first blush seems a means of isolating man from the great problems of nature, actually plunges him more deeply into them. As for the peasant so for the pilot, dawn and twilight become events of consequence. His essential problems are set him by the mountain, the sea, the wind. Alone before the vast tribunal of the tempestuous sky, the pilot defends his mails and debates on terms of equality with those three elemental divinities.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars

 

Galveston, Texas

syo-ro

“I take pride in using fountain pens. They represent craftsmanship and a love of writing. Biros, on the other hand, represent the throwaway culture of modern society, which exists on microwave ready-meals and instant coffee.”
Fennel Hudson, A Writer’s Year – Fennel’s Journal – No. 3

 

Pilot iroshizuku syo-ro ink (pine tree dew or gray turquoise)

People give me Amazon Gift Cards for Christmas and my birthday – which is a good thing because I can’t hope for anyone to understand my odd and ridiculous tastes. The final box I ordered for my birthday arrived – taking over a month, probably because it was shipped from Japan.

It was a bottle of Pilot brand iroshizuku ink, in the syo-ro color, which is described as pine tree dew or gray turquoise.

It’s a fairly expensive ink, but that’s the idea of a gift card anyway – buy something you really like, but would be too dear for you to buy for yourself.

I wanted a new go-to color of ink and pored over the iroshizuku color charts to try and find the one I like the best – a sisyphean task. I wanted a dark color with subtle shading.

You see, once you start writing with fountain pens, you realize the quality of the writing experience depends on three primary variables. Everybody talks about the pen – people pay big money for fine pens. But the paper you write on is equally important. Some pens do better with some papers. And finally there is the ink.

Not only the color, but the qualities of the ink. Some ink works better in some pens, and the relationship with the ink and the paper is very complex.

Now I had my ink after its long journey on a slow boat. I love the bottle. Its a heavy, curved piece of glass art, with a cool little well at the bottom, to help get the last drops out.

After a little thought, I cleaned out my favorite Parker “51” and loaded it up. The ink and pen go together perfectly. It is a sweet luxury.

Parker “51” loaded with iroshizuki syo-ro ink

A Gift You Can Make To Posterity

“The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil.”
George Orwell

Crape Myrtles (or Crepe Myrtles) are one of the few blessings during the toxic summer North Texas Heat. Those beautiful blossoms of a plethora of bright colors are the only thing that looks like it is alive during those months. Those trees (or shrubs) are everywhere in Dallas and everybody loves them. In addition to the blooms, they have these beautiful branches – sinuous and almost animal – like. I have photographed and blogged about them before.

So why the hell do people do this?:

Topped Crape Myrtle, Dallas, Texas

You see this all over the city in the winter months. People chop the tops off their Crape Myrtles. It ruins them. They grow back with a cloud of ugly little branches sprouting out from the cut ends.

Someone that knows much better than I, Neil Sperry, the guru of North Texas plants writes:

 

Please! Stop Topping Crape Myrtles

I love crape myrtles. No flowering shrub that we grow rewards us so completely, yet requires so little care and attention. Then why must this barbaric chopping persist?

THIS IS JUST NOT ACCEPTABLE!

I have spent an entire career in Texas horticulture trying to get people to STOP TOPPING CRAPE MYTLES! I’ve seen progress in DFW, where many of us have been preaching this gospel. But in the rest of Texas and across the South, and still even in the Metroplex where I live, people are doing it.

I’m going to ramp up my rant. My previous 45 years of trying to be polite haven’t gotten the job done. THIS IS INSANE. There is simply no call for what many of you now call “crape murder.”

I have listened to seemingly every excuse in the world for this barbarism, from “My plant is too tall for the space that I have for it” to “It makes my plant flower better.” It’s all just so much hooey, and I hope you’ll forgive me if my eyes glaze over and my smile seems frozen. I’m thinking about something else. I am no longer tuned in to you.

Whacking the plants back like this does not change their genetics. They’re still going to try to grow just as tall. Topping won’t stop that. All topping will do is leave the plants looking gnarled and ugly. If you have a crape myrtle that’s too big for its spot, either move it – or remove it entirely. Don’t put it and yourself through the misery of topping your crape myrtle each year.

 

I wonder why people do this and why it bothers me so much. I think the root cause behind both is the concept of Control. What more gratifying Control Of Nature act could there be than beheading your bushes? It must give some people a big rush to be able to cut back and restrict the growth of something so beautiful, innocent, and alive. And I have come, over my decades, to detest Control… especially blind, hurtful, and damaging Control.

So there it is, I drive home from work or ride my bicycle through the suburban streets and am presented with these decapitated shrubbery, these beheaded bushes, these topped trees. It isn’t fun. The winter is bad… maybe the worst… or maybe it isn’t – the spring is horrible as the maimed, damaged, and deformed remains send out their shoots, trying to get back to normal – though they never will. The scars of their maiming are there forever in their distorted forms.

So, you ask me, then how do I trim my Crape Myrtles? Just remove any excess or damaged branches as a whole. That enables them to keep their attractive shape…. Like this:

Properly Trimmed Crape Myrtle, Dallas, Texas