DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: A breath of respite with Raymond Carver

THIS PAST MONTH has been rough on the heart. Reading my newspaper and, OK, my Facebook feed, I feel pain around my chest.

But hold on. I’m here to talk about something else, something that promises not only relief but expansion of mind and heart.

I tripped over it in unlikely Port Angeles places: Ocean View Cemetery, the city council chambers and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, though I’m not Lutheran.

This thing is art, in all its glorious forms.

For every rotten crime you see, there are artists busy unleashing beauty.

What’s your art of choice? Is it rock ’n’ roll? Rhythm and blues? A splashy abstract painting or a love poem? It’s out there, if you’re open to it.

May 25 was Raymond Carver Day in Port Angeles: the late writer’s birthday, celebrated with a reading beside his grave at Ocean View.

I got there just in time to hear these words from Carver’s poem “The Painter and the Fish”:

He walked on until he reached the jetty

with its rotten pilings. Rain fell

harder now. It hissed as it struck

the water. Lightning came and went.

Lightning broke across the sky

like memory, like revelation. Just

when he was at the point of despair,

a fish came up out of the dark

water under the jetty and then fell back

and then rose again in a flash

to stand on its tail and shake itself!

Wow, I thought. Perfection.

Schoolteacher Tim Roos read this poem, and later Tess Gallagher, Carver’s widow, read a couple more. Here is a woman who lost her beloved husband after only 10 years together. Carver died after experiencing, with Gallagher in Port Angeles, a creative rebirth. Cancer took him when he was just 50.

Yet as I watch Gallagher, I see she carries no burden of bitterness. When she talks about Ray, her eyes sparkle.

In 2013, marking his 75th birthday, Gallagher and Peninsula College put together a whole Raymond Carver Festival, replete with movie screenings, readings and a dance performance titled “Even So …” Carver’s stories inspired the choreography.

Just before the curtain rose, Gallagher spoke.

There is so much sadness in the world, she said.

“But then — we have dance.”

Exactly.

On a Friday night earlier in the month, I was feeling tired but had to work, taking photographs at the Port Angeles Chamber Orchestra concert at Holy Trinity Lutheran.

There I was, seeking the right position, angle, F-stop and shutter speed, without blocking the patrons’ view of the musicians as they took their bows.

At intermission I considered going home. Instead, I paused outside in the empty lobby. As the orchestra began to play Schubert’s Fifth Symphony, I closed my eyes. The music — violins, violas, cellos and brethren — swelled, and I felt my heart follow.

On the last Saturday in May, the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts took over several Port Angeles venues including the Chamber Stage, aka the city council chambers.

Divinity Roxx, a rapper and musician who toured with Beyonce, was one of many artists who appeared there.

She talked about auditioning in New York City and touring the world, but also about her inner journey, from under-confident bassist to the soulstress author of the album titled “ImPossible.” Then local musician Bob Lawrence-Markarian asked her how she keeps her love of music alive amid the music business.

Smiling, Roxx painted a quick, simple picture.

She listens to music at home — for fun, not practice. One day she put on some Prince. Had to get up, dive in and dance.

“Where did this energy come from?” Roxx asked her funky self.

She knew, of course.

One good song can “change your whole day,” she said.

“It can turn you all the way around.”

_________

Diane Urbani de la Paz is a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor who lives in Port Angeles.

Her column appears here the first Wednesday every month. Her next column will be July 5.

Reach her at [email protected]

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