Etchings in the Sand…

Thoughts and Photos from the Desert…

Monthly Archives: July 2007


Back in the ’60s, I expect we saw almost everything Ingmar Bergman produced. His film work seemed to me the finest, the most poignant, the darkest directing ever done. The melancholy of Sweden’s darkness was repeatedly caught up on Bergman’s isolated islands and his wondrous actors.

He disappeared from our personal radar screen for decades but within the last year we began renting his films and revisiting him. Again, it has been a dark joy.

Yesterday he died at 89. We are strangely saddened. Somehow it should be winter for him to die.

I offer a reprint of Esquire’s classic interview with Bergman as a final tribute to him. With great respect and appreciation.


The Goal of an Artist…

“The goal of an artist: to be free from violent joys and sorrows for which he had time enough during his past life. At breakfast not to think anything except that he will go to his workshop, where stretched canvases are ready. He works on a few of them simultaneously, intrigued by a surprise emerging out of the movements of the brush. He knows what he looks for, what he strives for. And that is the whole reality, a detail seen once but constantly escaping, its nameless essence not touched by anybody. Practically this means to re-create trees, landscapes, people, animals, but always with the hope that the brush will find a proper trail.”

Czeslaw Milosz

The Collected Poems 

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Oscar the Cat…

“El gato de la muerte.” The cat of death. He comes.

Oscar is a hospice cat. He has the unique ability to sense the impending death of hospice patients well before there is any obvious medical indication. Oscar senses something in a dying patient, jumps up on the bed and snuggles up to the patient. He has been with 25 patients thus far when they died. Folks scratch their heads in wonder.

This Providence, Rhode Island therapy cat has caused quite a stir in the media all across the country. No one can fully explain it, but the hospice staff has come to take it very seriously and believe in Oscar’s signals. They even call the family and tell them they had best head over to the hospice.

I like it.

For years I have been aware of the abilities of dogs and cats to sense certain things that humans simply don’t understand. More than that, should I ever end up in a hospice, (a great place to die, by the way)  I can think of few things more helpful in easing my way than a friendly, loving pooch or pussycat snuggled up to me.

Yes, indeed!

Skies above the Desert…

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Beauty and the Grotesque…

“In all good patterns, there is a reinforcing of beauty. A pattern is not merely exaggeration, but an enhancing of what is true…This is why a good pattern is frequently rather terrifying. Any pattern, if it is a good one has an element of the grotesque.”

– Soetsu Yanagi

The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty 


I’ve noticed that strong photographs, sermons and paintings generally have a strong backbone or dominant theme. The artist can creatively strip such a backbone down or build it up as the mood or object might suggest, but one cannot stray far from its essence; its point of strength. To do so would be to betray its basic integrity.

Thus there can be variations on a theme as long as the theme can carry the weight.