Thursday, May 12, 2005

for your amusement

Martha of Naive Knitting sponsored a studio confidante project. I have no physical "confidante" that I keep near my desk, but as I thought about it, I realized that the word I would have chosen would be muse.

"Muse" is one of my favorite words. Most of the info below is adapted from a wikipedia article and from related word searches at Your Dictionary.

In Greek mythology there are three original muses: one for song (or voice), one for practice, and one for memory.

Later these ended up being nine Muses - nine daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus: three for different types of poetry, one for music, one for dancing, one for comedy and one for tragedy, and (curiously to me) one for history and one for astronomy. I would never have associated history or astronomy with art per se, and it surprises me there's no Muse for sculpture or painting.

But that's beside the point. A Muse is someone that an artist or storyteller invokes at the beginning of his or her work - either as a guiding spirit or a source of inspiration.

The current verb to muse means to be absorbed in one's thoughts, to be meditative, to consider or say something thoughtfully.

The word "muse" comes to us from Greek [mousa] through Latin [musa] through Old French [muser] into Middle English. The Old French [muser] means to stare stupidly. (I am sure that when I am writing poetry I stare stupidly. That's probably one of the many reasons I lock myself in my room by myself when I write poetry.)

Now comes the fun part.

To amuse someone is, literally, to give them a muse. To get them to stare stupidly... to absorb them, to occupy their attention. This is what a television set does. It amuses someone. It actually becomes a muse for them. Those who watch television stare stupidly. (I would like a better muse, please!)

A museum is a shrine of the Muses. A temple for worshiping the muses and collecting those sacred objects that have scientific, historical, or artistic value - the things the Muses value.

Music is the art of the Muses. It's "that thing the Muses do."

As a Christian, I believe that my Muse is the Holy Spirit. When I write poetry (in particular...other arts to a lesser extent) I often ask God to give me the right words. When I don't know what it is I'm trying to write, I will sometimes ask, "OK, God, do you have something in mind for this?" I have the sense of God looking over my shoulder as I write and whispering words in my ear occasionally.

It's a comforting feeling. Not one of judgment or his will somehow overriding mine or cancelling me out, but rather a companionable sense of having a mentor. Like the ancient Greek poets, I want my words to be the words of my Muse. I ascribe (I think rightly) any inspiration I get to my Muse, and I feel like I could not possibly write (or draw, or create) anything without the aid of my Muse.

Speaking of muses, I have one growing in my garden. Thalia, the muse of comedy. My Narcissus 'Thalia' has finally bloomed. It seems too beautiful a flower to be named after a comedic muse. (That bothered me, I like names to be fitting... but then I saw that the Greek goddess Thalia was also the muse of pastoral poetry, and her name came from the verb "Thalleo", which means "to bloom." There, that's better.)

My narcissus 'bulbicodum conspicuus' is also just starting to bloom. (photos to come.) So are the first wildflowers: wild violets, and marsh marigolds:

And my first bouquet was brought to me by my four-year-old daughter.

I am, of course, amused by my bouquet of dandelions, and by my beautiful daughter.


Anonymous Martha said...

I loved reading that Kelly! Beautifully written and amusing in the best sense. I am so happy you called me over to your site!

5/13/2005 10:37 AM  

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