Thanksgiving…across time

Whether you’re a long-returning friend or here for the first time, we predict you’ll be grateful, too, for what Virginia Bodner left behind–memories, influence, & makings shared, including examples of the last encountered here for the first time. There was always more there than met the eye, as much of a blessing as that was. (And the ear, a lovely, quiet voice, tuned by early years with piano, later with dulcimer & autoharp.)

No one could argue that either her looks or sounds were the source of her impact, influence or effects on the world around her. These were natural expressions, vehicles of the person, forms integral to the offering or exchange. Her artistic & poetic makings are often of the same cloth, natural expressions of what the experience has to share.

In the words of the old Hebrew thanksgiving song, Dayenu, “it would have been enough,” in this case to give thanks–for the pleasure, for the insight, for the experience. Yet there is something more in her artistic example, in both the practice & the product–though product itself was primarily part of the craft, which was part of caring attention, part of the person. In many cases, the making itself was secondary to the meditation, the experience.

Something else again is sometimes involved in the poetry, however. For one thing, she had all the tools of language, insight, and feeling required for that unlimited art. Though she studied natural sciences & teaching, she’d loved & practiced ‘language arts’ from an early age, including the oral–playing Anne Frank in high school, enjoying e. e. cummings in Cambridge. She discovered Tagore & Basho in college–& again in India & Japan soon after. And countless poets, poems, & blessings world-wide & local since.

Newcomers may want to check the earliest post for orientation to the site, very much still a work in progress. Those especially interested in her writing may find the most examples so far on the Pen-Play page, but some also in Our Little Wetlands (prose article), Friends (two poems at the top), & the Poetic Discovery post below (two tours de force up at end soon).

~~~~   the pot is fired
~~~~~~with wood & dung
~~~~naked we enter the flames

~~~~~emerge clothed
~~~~in smoke & whispers

  

Poetic Discovery:

Those who knew the person will recognize the spirit, personality, character, and qualities of attention found in the poet being discovered here. Even those closest to her, who’d known the poet all along, lacked sense of the full scope, rich range & artistic achievement of makings she left behind.

Even she may not have known, living one making at a time, simply part of living, not of a literary or artistic ‘program.’ It becomes clear she respected & even loved the craft of whatever she did, especially the writing, but it was the substance & essence that drew her–sincerity, in some old Chinese texts, meaning without pretense; not the concept, but the practice of wholeness, attentive to what is (worlds within, around, connected).

Her visual artwork, especially later, was a kind of meditation, in this case a way of getting in touch, discovering, realizing, & expressing in outer color, movement & form what was primarily inner reality–visual, emotional, & dynamic. The variety is often startling–even more so in the writing just being discovered, one folder, notebook, page, pile at a time.

Only a small sampling or her writing has made it up on-site so far, most being transcribed (&/or, in the case of finely penned or brushed pages, scanned) into off-line files for organizing (in time; by type; for whom; on what; within musical & thematic sequences). A few who knew her well were familiar with her Basho-like gifts–gems of attention, sometimes called ‘haiku moments,’ a long practice, mostly in the background.

Fewer knew her deep love of music & dance, and of how both could play together in poetry. No one knew how many musical meditations, letters in poetry, or artistic tours de force she had completed, and then set aside in a drawer while going on with life. Like the natural world, the arts were part of living, nourishment received & experience shared. That was, of course, also part of her teaching–the art she practiced also as profession.             

As a teacher of the ‘gifted,’ Virginia believed strongly that each & every child–as well as many, if not most, adults–, had been endowed with creative gifts, notable among them being the urge & capacity for discovery. Is it a song this little jumping spider is singing? She knew that looking closely was never a matter of the eyes only, or even primarily. Qualities of attention informed her science & poetry alike, while also expressing itself in ethical example, friendship & conservation–her network of relations.

People are accustomed to associating the sciences with discovery–those made in the past prelude to those all the more exciting on the verge of (& in the process of) just being made. Poetry, like sitting & walking in nature, or sharing with a friend, may begin with just paying attention, out of which discoveries happen as if by themselves. Poetry was one of Virginia’s vehicles for paying attention, making discoveries, and sharing with friends.

Now it’s we who get to make discoveries, including the excitement of finding a major poetic voice fully worth wider attention in its own right, for its own value to those who may appreciate such. Reinforced by the growing body of work, that discovery takes place in particulars–line, perception, craft, concept & experience of each part & whole.

Forever young

Forever ageless now, being all ages, though a younger face comes to view most, as if lit from within, enveloping the heart.  Ages fall away as easily with cottonwood & willow leaves. 

If you’re arriving for the first time, happy browsing in any direction–whether scrolling down or skipping around the pages. Ditto if you’re coming back to continue a chapter &/or see what’s new.

Newest additions from Virginia herself cross time-zones & personal eras–going up more or less as found, mostly on the Pen-Play Art-Play pages, as well as at the top of the Friends page, where her ‘letter-poems’ to friends have been slowly going up. Even her rough scratch-books (e.g., the green memobook just up near the top of the Pen-play page) hold a variety of treasures, including gems like: …
                         cast               released
                              the net itself
                                   singing

Cards & notes from friends cross time zones, too, some deeply personal, lasting connections (e.g., from Jan, Marlane, Cathy…). Those who knew her well are of a theme–which all may recognize. Our connections with Virginia don’t just continue–but continue to evolve & deepen, as she keeps on adding not just her own “2-cents worth” in found words, but a poetic legacy worth wider attention.

Emily Dickinson’s writing was found well organized, in keeping with her literary ambitions. Virginia Bodner’s teaching materials are that well organized, reflecting her professional engagement, but her personal writings are scattered about in memo books, notebooks, sketchbooks, drawers, boxes, cookie tins, scrap-paper piles…, letters to loved ones &, here & there, publications she herself never actively sought.

A reviewer of the poet Ramanujan’s work said recently he felt like he was reading over the writer’s shoulder. In our case, we see & feel through her eyes, with a dual sense of recognition & new discovery. As with her visual artwork &, earlier, spontaneous dance, she plays, explores, feels, considers, reflects, & intentionally shares, often at the same time.

Play may tend to predominate in bits & pieces, but even there, gems jump out, moments lit from within. One night might find in the same notebook, a page crafted for a particular person, complete in all but mailing; a meditation inspired by specific music; an experiment with form; a jewel-like embroidery of moments. Looking over her shoulder, we come not just face to face, but also heart to heart.

A long-questionable line in “Moon Shadows,” a family poem from the mid-1980’s, “as long as any of us are here, we’re all here,” has never seemed more true–or more false, as her quiet voice retains its strong impact in our lives & psyches. How can we feel & miss at the same time? Absence & presence both intense. “Don’t be sad,” she said one night recently. “I’m here. I love you.” How like her….

Hello, friends!

Welcome to Celebrating Virginia Bodner! Most of you will probably know many reasons to do so, yet few, if any, will know all. Even those who’ve loved & admired her–along with her makings & effects in this world–have realized all the more about her spirit & gifts as she passed from it–in one sense. As an inspiring force, her presence doesn’t just remain, but grows.

We invite you to participate. Share whatever thoughts, photos, experiences that remembering Virginia/ Ginny/ Gin/ Nature Girl/ Mrs. B./ Mom/ friend (however you think of or call her) suggests, either through the comment box below (moderated to skim out spam) or via bodlibrary2017@gmail.com.

Pages are up for the work of her brush, pen and friends–especially things recently shared or discovered. We hope to continue adding Virginia’s:
~~~Poetry (snap-verse, weathergrams, haiku–& beyond…)
~~~Artworks (see Alice’s Gallery for now…)
~~~Nature thoughts & writings (Mud-Puddle Marsh, etc.)
~~~Biography (a most amazing life…, with many surprises)
~~~On-going Initiatives (outdoor classroom/ Wetlands, etc.)
~~~Dear Friends (co-conspirators, i.e., YOU, us, etc.)

On return visits, you may find not just more offerings from others who have known, been inspired, and loved Virginia, but new offerings from her just going up–as fresh now as when they were first experienced, penned, drawn, &/or photographed. You’re certain to find plenty of surprises among them, as in her biography. When returning, you may want to check for more recent additions to the seemingly bottomless page by scrolling down to check for new sections from the bottom up, as well as from top down.

She did more than appreciate variety & diversity, loving the world in its unique particulars. Her love for individuals & arts, once experienced, made for lifelong relations. Not to put a halo on her once blonde head, just being honest about it–the joy & beauty she found from girlhood on in nature (as participant, student & teacher), she also found in the arts (as participant, recipient, do-er, helper) and in persons.

In both nature & art, she shared what she loved with others for the values found there. If her relationships showed integrity, sincerity, honesty, good will; attentiveness, intuition, & genuine feeling, she also had a few lacks: lack of self-consciousness, self-promotion, hidden agendas & personal ambition, for example. (Again, this simply describes what those who knew her well will recognize.)

When it came to teaching, Virginia held nothing back, sharing wonders & treasures with children, teachers she mentored & worked with, and parents (whose perspectives & caring she identified with, as she also did with students). “Thank you for being there for us,” more than one group wrote in a parting note. She was there for them, which is why many parents were grateful, too. She gave and exchanged without reserve, including evening hours at home & weekends at the cabin devoted to reflection & planning.

As in how she engaged in collaborative arts like drama, dance, music-making, & linked-poetry, she neither held back, nor over-pushed, but delivered when asked. Given the impact of her “Anne Frank” performance in high school, as well abilities with piano, plus her enjoyment of painting & poetry, she could easily have gone professional in almost any of the arts, yet she majored in biology, and chose teaching as her main practice.

She never lost touch with the arts, however, whether encouraging her students or practicing them herself “on the side,” as recreation. What she didn’t do was try to push her own creations forward to a wider audience or to make something more out of them (like career or reputation) beyond the primary making. Little, if any, or her drama, dance & music survive, except in some memories, but in her retirement years, the visual work flowed, with more examples up shortly for your enjoyment. Most have never been seen or exhibited before. They were made the way she might make up a song or dance to express the occasion.

If she’d been a jazz musician, she’d have enjoyed joining in for the joy of the music & the playing together, with no thoughts towards producing a record or booking a performance. It was the doing, the playing & sharing that had primary value. Not that she objected to wider sharing or tangible productions that might bring value to others; these just weren’t part of her ordinary agenda or personal repertoire. She left such things to others.

The same applied to her poetry, impressive expressions & expressive impressions at the same time. Not that sought to impress anyone. The only way a verse of hers could be named a “Grand Prize Winner” (described as “best haiku of the year in English”) was by having been sent off by her husband. Though she never sent any writing off for publication herself, others close to her did, including a few linked-poetry co-consirators.

Her short poems of the moment often resonate as if in a quantum state–at once expressive impression & impressive expression. Hers were like that, the impression of a moment registered with feelings intact, often scribbled on scraps of paper or in notebooks tucked away, some just now turning up. Among these are not just the haiku-like, but also the more personally voiced, thoughtful, and/or dream-based.

There are a few examples where she played a more active role in drafting, selecting & tweaking material for publication, even if someone else did the actual sending. These were in response to direct requests, e.g., the article she co-wrote for Orion Afield, and the entries submitted to her college class’ anniversary reports (the last just published in May 2019, an especially noteworthy weaving of prose, verse & autobiographical reflection). These will go up as clickable Pdf.’s, as soon as possible.

She was never fond of deadlines, or of having to finish, though willing to help others faced with such dilemmas–offering responses to someone else’s “almost last drafts,” for example.

Alas, we didn’t have her help in drafting the notice for the local paper, a challenge that required serious efforts from all three named “survivors.”  Any way it’s sliced, diced, chopped & blended, it far from does the person justice. It’s also an unsatisfying format which the newspaper then mucked about with to conform its own template–even moving parts about.  

Given the venue, it was aimed primarily for Virginia’s local friends and former students. Each item deserves expansion, e.g., her web of friends and extended family. We hope no one will mind having been grouped together instead of individually identified. As for the life at the center, hers was far too amazing & full of interesting surprises to fit in any conventional format.   

CLICK TO OPEN:   Virginia-Bodner-Obituary (for/from Optic) 

Besides mucking about with the text & paragraphing, the newspaper also squeezed text into unreadably narrow columns, extending the “column inches.” Of course we were amateurs at the form. In retrospect, it might have been more useful to keep it extremely short, with hardly any biographical material, to direct readers to this website all the more clearly. “Live & learn.”  

Gus questioned the “happiest years” statement included, by the way, suggesting we should add an “among,” since other years could also qualify, e.g., some in her childhood. Yes, that was so, as well as her times as student, young explorer, bride, mother, etc. She never really ran out of happiest years, though coping with three decades of Parkinson’s side effects (like tremor & balance issues) took a toll.

When things got tough, however, that made bright spots all the happier–as in the active adventures of her last years with loved ones. If she couldn’t climb Hermit’s Peak with her kids any more the way she had at 50, well a more modest walk or time at the gym could still make her and her companions happy. Not the happiest of a lifetime with so many exilarating peaks, perhaps, unless you factor these into the embedded memory.

High spots may be shared on site by & for her wider circle of friends, left in the COMMENTS box, below, or sent via email at bodlibrary2017@gmail.com, for adding to the “Friends” page. (See menu.)