Wednesday, September 12, 2012 A

Ah-h-h! Vacation! We'd originally hoped to go to Maryland. But then we had to buy a car as the old one grew unreliable. So we didn't want to go to all the expense of plane fare.

I didn't want to spend the week in Yuma, though. The last time I did that, after three days, a strange lethargy overcame me. I didn't like it at all. I'm not saying Yuma is boring. Well, maybe I am :)

We hadn't visited Tucson in over four years. So we thought, yeah, a few days in Tucson might do us some good. After work, we packed the car and started out. As we drove closer to 55mph, the trip too about five hours with potty breaks.

The hotel room is nice, quite a bit cheaper than the usual. (It is not yet tourist season in Tucson.) But it's still cooler than Yuma.

We found the local PBS station and relaxed to a Yanni concert. Back home, they are featuring a week long Wagner "Ring Cycle". While I love a good opera, I prefer Yanni to hours and hours and hours of Wagner.

Today, we hope to go to the Tucson Museum of Art. During the nearly ten years I lived in Tucson, (1986-1996), I never visited it! Time to rectify that!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 B
"Artful Explorations!"

We found the Tucson Museum of Art without too much trouble. There's a restaurant nearby, quite charming with lovely mosaic decoration. We each got the 'Frittata Francais', which was an omelet with caramelized onions, sundried tomatoes and goat cheese. Rosemary spiced potatoes accompanied it. Delicious!

There was a bit of time before the museum opened, so we walked the grounds and took photos:

Statue: Los Criticos, 1963
Heriberto Juares Castaneda, Mexican, b. 1932
Volcanic rock, Anonymous Gift, TMA 2011.29.1
Mosaic: Monet's Muse, 2010
Kathleen Spain

A docent explained the museum's exhibits and suggested I lock my camera and bag up. (No photos of anything inside the museum are allowed, anyway.) I did think to take my moleskine with me, though.

The first exhibits had a Western theme, and some of the pieces were done as recently as last year. I remember an appealing and very detailed painting of a woman making coffee. One of the docents was an older man who pointed out the display of Native American jewelry and a toolbox full of tools used to make it. He showed us his jewelry in a similar style, and said he's made it all himself, learning by doing. He had a good attitude towards life, aiming to get as much adventure as he could.

The second part of the Western exhibits was a series of photos of ranchers. They all seemed to have a strong-willed persona. I especially like the one of a dark haired man looking out the window of his cabin. He looked deep in thought.

Following the direction of his gaze led into the ancient Chinese art exhibit from the James Conley collection. Whoever Conley is, he has amassed a huge collection of extremely old to moderately old art, spanning 3500 years of history. The craftsmanship of the desks and drawers are sublime. I tried to sketch a couple of details from one piece. Not too accurate, but it's enough to jog my memory:

Detail from Mirror Stand
Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644
Huang-hua-ll wood

This detail is at the very top. It is supposed to be NINE flames....

I did better with my other sketch. I was very amused to find that, like the ancient Egyptians, the Yangshao culture of the Neo-lithic period also created a vessel with feet:

Vessel with feet
Neolithic Period, Yangshao Culture,
Machang Type, 3000-1500 B.C.E.
Earthenware, pigment

I don't know for how much longer this exhibit will be there. The signs at the museum may have been different than what the website says. I highly recommend it. I looked in the museum store, but it does not have an exhibition catalog.

From this exhibit, we went across the way to the part of the museum that is housed in old homes from the 1860's. There's a wide assortment of art on this side, ranging from Peruvian religious art to Mayan art to Western-themed Impressionism. I even spied a drawing by Mary Cassatt on loan from Linda Ronstadt!

We found ourselves surprisingly tired afterwards and sat on a bench, trying to decide what to do. I wanted some more of that good iced tea, and Julia thought they wouldn't like people to just get tea. "They ought to have a good salad," I ventured. And they did. The spinach salad with dried cherries, walnuts and feta chees was delicious. As I ate and digested, I slowly came back to life.

From there, we went to the University library. Its vastness was rather overwhelming and at first I had no clue how to find the Egyptology section. But I noticed a computer there for book search. I typed in "Egyptology" and a book edited by Richard Wilkinson, who teaches at this university, came right up. Julia noted its call letters, "DT 60 something", and we took that to the map. It was on the third floor. I found that book and a couple of others that looked intriguing. One was in German, concerning a 'Saamlung' museum in Munich, but its photos were lovely. I could at least make out who the piece was of and from what era. The other was a thick book, "PHARAON" in French. It also had lovely photos of pieces from a wide assortment of museums, including a couple of pieces I recognized from the Met.

I didn't find the book on Egyptian serpent mythology. Julia searched, too, using the computer, but no luck. If they have it, it must be checked out and therefore unavailable. I'm not too upset. We had a relaxing afternoon perusing books I'd not likely find anywhere else.

The book which the initial search turned up proved to have a few interesting articles, including one on ancient Egyptian literature. I particularly like what the authors had to say about Harper's songs:

"Another kind of poem from the lyric genre is the Harper's Song. There are only a few of these, and they form a strange interlude in the literature; for they seem to question the sacred Egyptian principle of eternal life, urging the hearer to carpe diem, 'seize the day':

"Grieve not your heart, whatever comes,
     let sweet music play before you;
Recall not the evil, loathsome to God,
     but have joy, joy, joy, and pleasure!

"The harper's song from Inherkhawy's tomb says just this:

"All who come into being as flesh,
     pass on...
Let your heart be drunk on the gift of Day
     until that day comes when you anchor."

"Ancient Egyptian Literature", John L. Foster and Ann L. Foster, in Egyptology Today, edited by Richard H. Wilkinson, (Cambridge University Press, 2008), pages 215-216)

Seize the day! That is really the best advice.

What will we do tomorrow? We will 'seize' it, as we have done so with the gift of this day.

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