Me, I Emu

Always Sharking by Maria L. Berg 2023

dVerse Poets Pub

For today’s Poetics prompt, Sarah invites us to verb animals and use those verbs or verb phrases—like “horsing around” or “pigging out” or our own inventions like “eagle over” or “ant the whole hill”—in our poem.

This Animal Kingdom

He is always sharking—
dead-eyed stare, open mouth
full of sharpness
always moving—prowling
for the next morsel to come too close

Me, I emu
Unable to fly, I
present a feathery girth
over questionably designed legs
with a deadly kick primed
if he gets too close.

In the rare moments he’s not sharking,
he squirrels—all his pouches
full of nuts and seeds
(mostly mine and the morsels’ he sharks)—
but he squirrels lazily: I’ll find his burrow

When I don’t emu, I hornbill
I spread my striking wingspan, and
my caw, generated in my bulbous head,
carries elation under the thick canopy, then
using my curved, sharp beak I crack
the nuts from his hollow.

Me, I Emu by Maria L. Berg 2023

Today’s images

Inspired by today’s poetics prompt, I thought it would be fun to use some animal filters with my new light-wrapped forms in the mirrorworld, to see if I could make them verb. I really enjoyed searching through my filters and picking out all the different animals I’ve created filters of over the years. The shark and the emu filters pictured above, I created to use with the fireworks last Fourth of July.

How Gravity Affects Composition

Horizontal Weight by Maria L. Berg 2023

In my last abstractions post, I talked about The Power of the Center: A Study of Composition in the Visual Arts by Rudolf Arnheim, and the ideas of centric and eccentric composition. Arnheim goes on to talk about how forces like gravity can effect composition which I found interesting.

Arnheim says, “Walking downhill, dropping, or falling is experienced kinesthetically as acceding to one’s own weight. One is being pushed downward by a force situated in the center of one’s own body. . . .The dominant pull of gravity makes the space we live in asymmetrical. . . .Human beings experience the dynamic asymmetry, or anisotropy, of space by means of two senses, kinesthesis and vision. The physical effect of gravity is perceived as tension in the muscles, tendons, and joints of the body. Visually, the world is pervaded by a similar downward pull, whose influence on the dynamic character of the things we see may be illustrated by the difference between what goes on visually in horizontal and vertical surfaces.”

He continues to state that the horizontal orientation is centric composition, since all points have the same relation to the ground, but because of our physical interactions with gravity, vertical orientation is strengthened by a gravitational vector and is thus interacting with an outside center and an eccentric composition. He states that since we must put effort into upward movement, but not into downward movement, we perceive an element in the upper part of the vertical image as having more weight than an element in the lower part. Thus the element in the upper part should be smaller to counterbalance an element below.

Today’s images

I liked the new compositions I was making with the wrapped ring in the mirrorworld, but wanted to see if a smaller ring that actually fit inside the frame of the mirror would have better results. While looking for materials to make the form, I noticed some old wire hat stands I had and decided to try wrapping them with lights. I had three, so I stacked two of them, and wrapped them with colored lights, and left one as is and wrapped it with white lights. This idea has so much potential because they stand freely and I can move them around in relation to each other.

Inspired by Arnheim’s discussion of horizontal and vertical weight, I made a clear plastic filter and drew a symmetrical cross in black sharpie, and I cut out a paper filter with a symmetrical cross in the middle of a circle. The plastic filter creates texture, and I can layer the two filters and move the paper one over the plastic one to cross the crosses at different angles. These images show the paper filter.

What do you think? Do you feel a gravitational pull in the vertical image, but not the horizontal?

Vertical Weight by Maria L. Berg 2023

dVerse Poets Pub

For today’s Poetics prompt, Lillian provided some portraits by Thorvald Hellesen (1888 – 1937) as inspiration. I chose “Portrait of Eivind Eckbo” painted in 1914 for today’s poem.

The Man in Motion

He is a whirl of spring air
spinning, spinning always turning
but with one eye holding my stare
like a ballerina in an eternal pirouette
one leg steady—in the shadow under there
under his billowing cloak rising
and falling, a dangerous snare—
the other continuing the momentum
pointing in, pointing out, so beware

He is fluttering soft petals on a fragrant breeze
whirling, whirling, but that eye on me stares
the head almost appears to have a plan to stay
still as the body turns, but then all hair
it snaps around and is back and then it does it again—SNAP!
the head has come around, never losing that stare

And the spinning never stops
as with each turn he becomes more aware
that he’s a pastel shimmer in motion
more breezy, more one with the spring air
and forgets he has a leg on the ground
in the shadows under that cloak that has flown off somewhere.

She Says Peculiarity is Orange

Peculiarity in Sympathy by Maria L. Berg 2023

For those readers who are wondering where my Reading Novels Like a Novelist (RNLN) post is, those posts are on hold for now. I’m still reading and taking notes on a novel a week, I’m just not into spending the time writing about them right now. We’re having some early summer weather here in the South Sound, and I have flower beds to find, and ants to battle, lawns to mow, and a garden to plant, and the weird thing is; my back gets sore, and I get tired. What’s that about? This crazy excitement for working outside will hopefully last through next week and then I’ll probably get back to talking about noveling (and revising my novel, of course).

Today’s Images

I finally found some new pool noodles, so my floating studio has a new façade! I made a new tiny brad filter with a moving triangle on a triangle inspired by a diagram of Jean Victor Poncelet’s treatise on the projective properties of figures in Visual Thinking by Rudolf Arnheim.

While I was setting up my floating studio, a ginormous fish swam under it, and then came back to see what I was doing (sorry I didn’t take its picture, I was kind of stunned, and my camera was still on the porch). I think it might be a bass and live under the dock. I hope it comes to visit again, but not when I’m swimming.

It’s Open Link Night at dVerse Poets Pub which means there’s no poetry prompt, so head over and link up one of your poems and enjoy reading poetry by poets from all over the world!

For today’s poem, I’m continuing to focus on contradictory abstract nouns. I’ve collected and printed out an extensive list of abstract nouns ( I’m hoping to eventually have a definitive list of all of the abstract nouns in the English language to put in my three dimensional chart of where they fit on the continua of fear, control, and bias). At the moment, the words are on strips of paper in a cup. I selected peculiarity and sympathy to think about today.

Sympathy in Peculiarity by Maria L. Berg 2023

She says peculiarity is orange

like this Fanta orange? zesting fizzy, bright and sweet?
she ponders, head tilted, then smiles and shakes her head

like a construction cone (worn as a hat), or safety vest (over an evening gown)?
she laughs, then frowns, then smiles, her orange lips stretching almost to her orange hair
staring into me, waiting silently

the orange peculiar to oranges?

she knows orange is my favorite color
I’m in my orange flightsuit, drinking an orange soda, under an orange tree in an orange plastic chair

I would say that orange is sympathetic
in an agreed juicy taste and spherical shape
sharing an understanding of orangeness

but do they feel sorrow—as they fall from the tree—in the falling;
do they feel peculiar in their oneness;
do they feel compassion for the others still clinging, and afraid?

she knows orange is my favorite color

Dialectic Composition: Centricity and Eccentricity

Centricity by Maria L. Berg 2023

While contemplating the next steps in my study of contradictory abstract nouns, I started reading The Power of the Center: A Study of Composition in the Visual Arts by Rudolf Arnheim, and realized that focusing on composition, both in my images and in my poetry is a logical next step.

Arnheim proposes that there are two compositional systems: the centric and the eccentric. The centric is the self-centered attitude. The eccentric is the recognition that one’s own center is not the only center, and stands for any action directed toward an outer center, and is in turn affected by the outer center.

Arnheim states, “The tension between the two antagonistic tendencies trying to achieve equilibrium is the very spice of human experience, and any artistic statement failing to meet the challenge will strike us as insufficient. Neither total self-centeredness nor total surrender to outer powers can make for an acceptable image of human motivation.”

So Arnheim has set up a dialectic of composition: The centric system gives rise to the eccentric system which is in conflict with it, and the two create tension while trying to come to equilibrium. As he talked more about centric and eccentric systems they seemed to correlate with my ideas of inner and outer control.

Though I’m just beginning to read the book and think about centric and eccentric composition, I was inspired to try something new in the mirrorworld to change my compositions. In December of 2021, I tried making “wreaths of light” by wrapping lights around a metal ring. Today, I wrapped the metal ring in lights and put it in the mirrorworld. I tied it to a bar overhead so it would stand up. I’ve always draped the string-lights between the mirrors, so this changes many aspects of the compositions. The most interesting change is that the wires between the lights are no longer part of the composition.

Eccentricity by Maria L. Berg 2023

dVerse Poets Pub

For today’s Poetics prompt, Mish introduced us to the surrealist images of Erik Johansson and asks us to write a poem inspired by one of a selection of his works. For today’s focus, I was most drawn to “Drifting Away.”

Watching the Others Drifting Along

That explains a lot, really—
It’s the waves (in the dip between the crests)
that lull us into believing the fluffy clouds are harmless
the crows cawing as they chase past the steeple carry no omen
the open barn doors only invite the cattle home
not to slaughter, not to ruin
It’s so easy to forget the bottle will soon be tossed
the upheaval will arrive

Outside the glass, the eccentric, the other center
pushes and pulls, cycles and swirls, always

But in that lull, when the sun hits just right
the water splashed and dripping could be
a refreshing rain, not the evidence
that I am only in a bigger bottle.

Reviewing April and Contemplating May

My Positive Bias on Fear and Control by Maria L. Berg 2023

Thank you to every reader who came by, read about contradictory abstract nouns, looked at my art, and read my poems. I appreciate the time you gave my work, and the nice comments and fun interactions. To finish out the month long project, I printed out the rest of the images, and put all of the months images in my three-dimensional graph I created yesterday.

My Negative Bias on Fear and Control by Maria L. Berg 2023

Contradictory Abstract Nouns

I really enjoyed how the A to Z Challenge inspired me to look at pairs of abstract nouns that I wouldn’t usually look at together, and wouldn’t usually see as contradictory. It helped me delve deeper into my idea that every abstract noun can be either positive or negative depending on personal perceptual bias.

Creating a three-dimensional graph of all of the abstract nouns that I looked at this month made me think that the Big Five Abstractions may not be: Truth, Beauty, Wisdom, Love, and Happiness, but others that represent each of my four quadrants and the center.

My graph also showed me that I have a positive bias overall, and the fight response to fear includes abstract nouns of equally inner and outer control, where the flight response is mostly inner control.

To explore the definitions of abstract nouns, I collected many texts on philosophy and psychology. I was excited to start exploring the works of William S. Sadler, M.D., the Discourses of stoic philosopher Epictetus, and the texts on human behavior by Adler. Along with the philosophy texts of Kant and Hegel, I have a lot of interesting reading ahead of me.

The Images

In creating this month’s images, I tried new techniques and combined some old ones in new ways. The most successful new techniques this month were controlled blur (using stickers to cover certain bulbs on the string lights), the “blinds” filter (strips of paper on o-rings on a piece of wire, so that they move due to gravity), Morse Code designs (adding the dots and lines of Morse Code to put words in the images), glue vispo (the different thicknesses of glue making the Morse Code look like language), and xylography filters with my wood puzzle piece designs.

I’m very excited that the sun came out before the month was over and I got to play with my floating studio again after the long winter. I created a second cage for my reflection balls, and like the results. I’m really looking forward to all the new possibilities.

Though my three-dimensional graph using my images isn’t a beautiful work of art in itself, the way mages cluster due to my constraints provides interesting insights through my color choices, shapes, textures, and compositions within each quadrant. I have a lot to look at and think about.

The Poems

Though I was feeling somewhat uninspired at the beginning of the month, my little brush with death about mid-month (toppling off the couch and hitting my head on the bookshelf while trying to take emotional furniture photographs) seemed to be just the fuel this poet needed. The prompt to write joke-form poems, was fitting for the possibly tragic hilarity of my situation.

I enjoyed stumbling upon The Nonce Scavenger Hunt while reading other poets, and trying some new forms. As usual, I enjoyed how the different prompts worked with my A to Z challenge topic to push me to write on the topic in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.

So What’s Next?

I’m looking forward to getting back to my Tuesday and Thursday posting schedule, and returning more of my focus to my novel. I tried to continue my Reading Novels Like a Novelist (RNLN) posts during April, but I only got one posted, so I have some catching up to do.

I plan to spend time reviewing all of the work I’ve done in the last year on abstract nouns, and reflect on where my study is taking me. Though I find great joy in daily creative innovation, I worry that constant creation without refining my focus won’t produce the final images and poems I’m hoping will express and communicate to the viewer/reader the dialectic of every abstract noun.

As I review what I’ve done so far and think about next steps, I want to look at every abstract noun (in English) and put it on my three-dimensional graph, and choose my new Big Five Abstractions from my four quadrants and the center. Then, by looking at the graph, I want to explore my biases and where they come from, and what might change them to their opposite, to see the entire continuum.

Poetry Month Challenges Day 30: Zeal and Zealousness

Zealousness in Zeal by Maria L. Berg 2023

Zeal & Zealousness

Finding the contradictory nature in today’s abstract nouns was an interesting and challenging exercise. Many would say that zeal and zealousness have the same meaning, however, zeal is a feeling and zealousness is being full of or characterized by that feeling.

I thought writer Harvey Ardman’s answer to the question of how zeal and zealousness differ came closest to what I was thinking when he wrote on

“Zeal” means having a lot of energy or enthusiasm for a cause or a task.

“Zealousness” has the same meaning, but with an additional connotation of obsession.

Harvey Ardman

I thought it was interesting that last year I wrote about zealousness as something positive and motivational, but this year because I was looking at zeal and zealousness as contradictory, zealousness took on a negative meaning to me.

This got me thinking about a third continuum of abstract nouns which is bias. During my studies of contradictory abstract nouns, I’ve come to the conclusion that contradictory abstract nouns are the same noun defined along a continuum of perceptual bias. So for today’s graph of all of the contradictory abstract nouns I explored this month, I added a third dimension, of positive or negative bias. Here’s my three-dimensional mapping of the contradictory abstract nouns along the axes of fear, control, and bias:

Three Dimensions of Abstract Nouns by Maria L. Berg 2023
Positive Bias by Maria L. Berg 2023

Today’s Images

To find the zeal in zealousness and zealousness in zeal, I played with the same painting with a flashlight technique I used last year. I set up the tri-pod in the mirrorworld, and used a Kandinsky-inspired sharpie drawing on clear plastic filter. Using the timer, and trying different shutter speeds, I zealously attempted to write a Z and an M. My zeal waned when I got hungry.

Zeal in Zealousness by Maria L. Berg 2023

The Prompts


Today’s prompt is to to “write a palinode – a poem in which you retract a view or sentiment expressed in an earlier poem. For example, you might pick a poem you drafted earlier in the month and write a poem that contradicts or troubles it. This could be an interesting way to start working on a series of related poems. Alternatively, you could play around with the idea of a palinode by writing a poem in which the speaker says something like “I take it back” or otherwise abandons a prior position within the single poem.”

Poem A Day

Today’s prompt is to write a surprise poem.

The Poem

Defining Zealousness

Last year zealousness was positive.
It was active and diligent,
hard to discern from zeal.
But today it’s a negative trait:
it’s too much, excessive, obsessive;
it’s pushy, single-minded and won’t listen;
it is so devoted and convicted that it
is a one way street to aggression and violence.

Last year zealousness was passionate
and full of intense emotion,
but this year that emotion has changed:
from pleasure to addiction;
from motivation to necessity
at all cost; from love to hate.
And that zealousness leaves
a hole, a hunger, a vicious
circular definition like a spinning
magnet attracted and repulsed,
and attracted an repulsed
until the string breaks.

Last year zealousness was enthusiasm,
a feeling of excitement for what’s to come.
But today it’s contradictory, line-crossed
to the fanatic, past the point of discovery
and surprise, to the point of know it all
and everyone else is wrong, and nothing
will be the same, and something must be done
because no one is listening and they all
must see because zealousness is now
all consuming, and the zeal is waning
from hunger.

Poetry Month Challenges Day 29: Yearning and Yield

Yield in Yearning by Maria L. Berg 2023

Yearning and Yield

I still absolutely love the image I made for yearning last year. Much of my current yearning—strong, persistent craving or desire accompanied by tenderness or sadness for something unattainable or distant—to create thought-provoking images that express the contradictory nature of life, began last year during the A to Z challenge with my study of abstract nouns.

Yield can have a concrete meaning: the quantity or amount yielded. A quantity of goods can be counted, touched, measured, but yield has many other meanings: to give up, as to superior power; to give up or surrender (oneself); to give as due or required; to cause; give rise to. With the opposite meanings of “to give up” and “give rise to” also makes yield a janus word.

In The Mind at Mischief, Sadler uses yield in defining security:

Security is the emotion we feel when we yield to our inherent gregarious instinct. Man is naturally a herd animal. He feels safer when he is one of a crowd of his own fellows. This emotion of security is the well-spring of the impulse of self-preservation, and when indulged, yields that feeling of safety which we experience as the result of companionship with those of our kind.

William S. Sadler, M.D.

Notice that the feeling of safety is a yield of the emotion of security. In this way yield is an abstract noun. Yield is contradictory to yearning in that a yield is something in hand, a result, where yearning is something distant, wanting something that may be unattainable.

Today’s Images

For today’s images I created a second reflection ball cage, something I have been yearning to do, but thought I needed more pool noodles. Instead I used an old one that had curved into a U and joined it with a couple broken pieces to close the cage. Then I used my wonder and wisdom transparencies behind my cut-shape filters. What a yield. It really feels like painting with light.

Yearning in Yield by Maria L. Berg 2023

The Prompts


Today’s prompt is to write a two-part poem that focuses on a food or type of meal. At some point in the poem, describe the food or meal as if it were a specific kind of person. Give the food/meal at least one line of spoken dialogue.

Poem A Day

Today’s prompt is to write a sight poem.

The Poem

Yearning for Next Year’s Yield

I. I toil, yearning
to live off the harvest.
I turn the compost, and
dig as deep as I can,
loosening the soil
for the roots of
future plants.
Every year my hopes
soar, certain that
this year will be different:
that I’ve put in more
effort than the year before;
that this variety will
be heartier than the last;
that the birds and insects
and weather will work with
me not against me this year
I yearn for spirals of pole beans
reaching up to tall bright-yellow
sunflowers, bowing their big heads
over plump orange pumpkins, growing
big enough to carve scary monster
faces set to glow on long, dark,
chilly autumn nights, or mashed
into a vibrant pie filling to celebrate
a day of thanks for a bountiful harvest.

II. And the sprouts pop through
green against the dark earth,
a bountiful yield in every row
and I patiently wait for them
to grow, to flower, to fruit
but the sun beats down, and
the leaves are nibbled,
weeds encroach and choke
and they refuse to grow
as if to say,
We would rather die than
nourish you. There is nothing
you can do to make us happy.

But with a creator’s love,
I dress the small, damaged leaves
of the surviving, kale, lettuce, and chard
and savor every bite
of my luxurious yield
while imagining what I
will do differently next year.

Poetry Month Challenges Day 28: Xanadu and Xylography

Xanadu Satellites in Xylography by Maria L. Berg 2023

Xanadu & Xylography

Last year I had a lot of fun with Xanadu, the mythical paradise from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan, and the muse’s roller-rink in the Olivia Newton John movie. I made a rollerskate filter and attempted a shape poem in the shape of a rollerskater. Today and tomorrow, with this wonderful faux-summer weather and my family coming out to enjoy it, this is my Xanadu, right here where I am. My “stately pleasure-dome” with an ice-cold lake and an awe-inspiring view of Mt. Rainier. I’m so glad I mowed yesterday. So how could xylography be a contradiction to an imagined paradise like Xanadu?

How is xylography even an abstract noun? Xylography is the art of making woodcuts or wood engravings; the art, craft, or process of printing from wooden blocks. You may say, I know what a wood block is: I can touch it, I can see it, I can smell it. Yes, it’s a bit of a stretch to say that xylography is an abstract noun (like Xanadu), but right there in the definition it says it is an art. And what is art? There we have the abstract nature of xylography.

Xylography has a permanence. The image carved into the wood, the relief image left on the surface, can be painted or inked and printed again and again. Xanadu is impermanent, a fantasy, always changing.

Today’s Images

To find the xylography in Xanadu and the Xanadu in Xylography, I found some laser-cut wooden puzzle pieces I designed when we were just starting Artifact Puzzles, and tested one of my puzzles on a thinner wood.

Xylography in Xanadu or Moonman by Maria L. Berg 2023

The Prompts


Today’s prompt is to write an index poem.

Poem A Day

Today’s prompt is a title prompt “You Are (blank).”

The Poem

You Are Xylography of Xanadu

Aggression and apathy, 1
Like a woodblock carving of my dream destination

Beauty and barbarism, 3
slathered in every sparkling color and pressed to every surface

Calm and chaos, 4
everywhere I look, you are art, you are craft, you are the first

Desire and disdain, 5
you endure, changing with each replication, creating

Expression and ego, 6
wonder and surprise with wear and tear

Fear and faithfulness, 7
every chip and ding a new depth, an interpretation

Gossip and graciousness, 8
of time, I remember when I carved you

Honor and helplessness, 10
a simple quarter note on a staff

Idiosyncrasy and integrity, 11
the curved blade slipped and somehow turned

Joy and Justice, 12
like a serpent burying its fang deep into my index

Kindness and knowledge, 13
finger, and the blood, and the pulsing pain

Luck and loss, 14
they are all in that wood block to be printed

Misery and mercy, 15
again and again, in every color not only red

Need and nonsense, 17
my only print was all indigo on brown paper

Opportunity and opportunism, 18
thick and textured like paper towels from school

Pleasure and patience, 19
bathroom dispensers, I’ve never understood carving

Quality and quirk, 20
wood without fear, xylography is not

Reality and romance, 21
the art for me, though lovely

Sadness and satisfaction, 22
perhaps my Xanadu is a land

Thrill and tiredness, 24
where I never carved my finger

Urge and use, 25
and carve you in every relief

Value and vanity, 26
to illustrate every fantasy

Wonder and wisdom, 27
in an ever-changing, ever-growing

Xanadu and xylography, 28
book of life, we share in the calm

Yearning and yield, 29
moments between

Zeal and zealousness, 30

Poetry Month Challenges Day 27: Wonder and Wisdom

Wonder in Wisdom by Maria L. Berg 2023

Wonder & Wisdom says wonder is “a state of mind excited by the perception of novelty or of something strange or not well understood. Both plato and aristotle speak of wonder as the point of origin for philosophy. In the Theaetetus, Socrates is recorded as saying, “Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.” The word philosophy means the love of wisdom, so one would think that wonder is the beginning of wisdom, so how can they be contradictory?

Wisdom is knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight. Wonder is something strange and surprising that causes one to be amazed, doubt, or ponder; a cause of surprise, astonishment, or admiration. The contradiction of wisdom and wonder is that wisdom is knowledge of what is true and right and wonder includes doubt. Wisdom is the removal of doubt.

Today’s Images

I had a strip of transparency paper left over from the transparencies I printed yesterday, and I thought it would be wise not to waste it. I wondered what it would look like if I drew on the printable transparency paper with sharpies, so I drew designs similar to previous filters I made inspired by Kandinsky and Mondrian, and added the morse code dots and lines for “wisdom” or “wonder” then took pictures of my floating studio. Then I put one of my earlier Kandinsky-inspired plastic filters under a brush shape cut filter. I’m really enjoying how the sharpie-drawn colors are interacting with the pool noodles.

Wisdom in Wonder by Maria L. Berg 2023

The Prompts


Today’s prompt is a title prompt “The (animal or plant) of (abstract noun).” The poem should contain at least one simile that plays on double meanings or otherwise doesn’t quite make “sense,” and describe things or beings from very different times or places as co-existing in the same space.

Poem A Day

Today’s prompt is to write an anapodoton poem. “An anapodoton is an unfinished phrase that a person can fill in the blanks, phrases like “When in Rome,” “If life gives you lemons,” “Speak of the devil,” and “Where there is a will.” For many (if not all) of these, you probably filled in the second half of the phrase, because you know it so well.”

dVerse Poets Pub

At dVerse it’s Open Link Night.

The Poem

The Wise Woman of Wonder

The wise woman builds her house
and watches the sand castles fall
every block of thought interlocks
as she gazes over the beachcombers

Early to bed, and early to rise
she respects that wisdom takes time
stealthy when she finally decides
to observe the others rushing

The wisdom of a fool
is caged in constant wonder
as she flits from the mother tree
to test how high her heights

The wise woman builds her house
solid and steep like the overlook
she tries so hard to avoid when socked
in a thick fog of information overload

Poetry Month Challenges Day 26: Value and Vanity

Value in Vanity by Maria L. Berg 2023

I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinions of himself than on the opinions of others.

Marcus Aurelius

Value & Vanity

I found the contradiction of value and vanity in the definition of vanity itself: excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.; lack of real value; hollowness; worthlessness. Vanity is a lack of value, but what is value? When I talked about value last year, I talked about both relative worth which is value in outer control and its meaning as aspects of art and music. Then in August, I discovered Calvino’s Memos and his values of literature (Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, Multiplicity, and Consistency), with value meaning: something (as a principal or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable, which would be value in inner control. So does intrinsic value exist, or is it always relative worth? This is a question that intrigues me.

In The Mind at Mischief, Sadler sorts vanity and pride by gender:

5. Vanity—Vanity grows out of the primary emotions of elation and sex, plus those secondary feelings we commonly include in the term pride. We are vain because we enjoy the emotions of elation associated with the instinct of self-assertion, and vanity is peculiarly associated with the sex-instinct in the female. In fact, in a way we might say that vanity is peculiar to the human female, tho men may share this emotion to a lesser degree. Vanity also sometimes takes on the nature of self-directed pity, sympathy, and love; and when thus exercised it may become a source of much sorrow before we awaken to discover how much unhappiness can be generated by self-pity and overmuch introspection. The simple vanity of the average woman is certainly harmless and altogether wholesome as a promoter of happiness.

6. Pride—Pride is built upon the primary instinct foundation of elation and hoarding, plus the psychic state of egotism. We are proud of and enjoy the elation associated with self-assertion. We are proud of our ability to accumulate, to hoard, and are conscious of the poise and power that come with possession. This element of pride is more distinctly a male emotion as contrasted with the vanity of the female. It has more to do with the masculine egotism, self-confidence, courage, and chivalry that go with the male consciousness of superior physical power and endurance. We must not confuse the impulse of pride with normal and legitimate self-confidence—a sort of self-regarding sentiment. Again, we must not overlook the fact that pride of a certain sort may add much to the satisfaction of living; while if our ego becomes too highly exalted, we may find ourselves entangled in an unfortunate maze of psychic difficulties and social rebuffs that will effectively destroy our peace of mind and undermine our happiness.

William S. Sadler, M.D.

Though I disagree, and find the generalized gender ideas dated (the text is from 1929), I still find the ideas of vanity and pride interesting. Here’s a woman’s point of view on the difference between vanity and pride:

Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.

Jane Austen

Today’s Images

When I first wrote about Calvino’s values, I had just come up with the idea to sew fabric sleeves for my pool-noodle floating studio. Today, the lake is up, the sun is out, and I pulled out the fabric-covered pool noodles and floating reflection balls. To find the vanity in value and the value in vanity, I looked past the vanity of appearance and thought about the vanity of qualities, abilities, and achievements. I selected images from this month’s posts to make printed transparencies to bring pattern and color to my floating studio. I ended my photo shoot by trying a Kandinsky-inspired sharpie on clear plastic filter. I am so excited to try all the filters I made over the winter, with the floating studio. I had so much fun today (except for the splinter in my big toe).

Vanity in Value by Maria L. Berg 2023

The Prompts


Today’s prompt is to “write a portrait poem that focuses on or plays with the meaning of the subject’s name. This could be a self-portrait, a portrait of a family member or close friend, or even a portrait of a famous or historical person.”

Poem A Day

Today’s prompt is to write a response poem.

I tried the Melinda’s Whimsy form for the Nonce Scavenger Hunt.

The Poem

When Levi Follows

We join in harmony
an awkward family
twitchy like a bunny
a sudden itch then he’s gone

We buzz like honey bees
and vibrate harmony
bare feet and bony knees
in his softness I’m undone

With one bulged eye he sees
something in me that sings
Together, harmony,
we curl and calm in our song