The last weeks have been filled with travel. Three weeks ago I was in Piangipane, recording songs. From there to London a quick day, and then the long flight to Seattle, a train to Portland where I had only a handful of days before taking a train to Dunsmuir – a lovely small town in the north of California. And from there a ride from friend to Redding to get my van and drive immediately about 1000 kilometers to Boise Idaho. And the next day on to Salmon and then to Butte, where I am now.
Tomorrow I will go to Yellowstone National Park to shoot a landscape film, something I wanted to do a few years ago, but did not. This, I think, is my last chance to do so. It will be from “artist’s point” and based on a famous 19th century American painting by Thomas Moran. He did many versions, capturing the varying light and atmospheres. I will stay the whole day, a single shot. Weatherman says it will be cold….
Yellowstone Falls, by Thomas Moran
In the next months I will try again to make a final essay film on America, which I began in 2012, but then abandoned. You can read about it here: https://americanplainsongs.wordpress.com/
I am already full of doubts – a confusion about America, a question whether at my age my body will tolerate the hardships of this travel, and other things which I write of in the blog I have pointed you to.
I will try to write to you as this journey unfolds. It is in a way a difficult voyage I am on – to say goodbye to friends, most of whom I do not expect to ever see again, and to say good bye to this country, which, however much I have disagreed with it over my life-time, remains my “home” and is the culture from which I have emerged. I do not intend to return again. So this is a trip of another kind, weighted with a meaning far beyond simple traveling.
Site of the Battle of Big Hole
As I travel I will be passing not only through a landscape, but also a history of which I am a part. It is not a nice history, but one stained with America’s deep sins – as in the image above, the landscape where yet another tribe of the continent’s original inhabitants were attacked and destroyed, in this instance the Nez Perce tribe.
Or where I am now, Butte, a mining town where the minerals are ripped from the earth, in this case it is mostly copper, but also other metals, in a process which leaves the area toxic and poisons those who live here. Those who made their fortunes all left, and left behind the vast mess they made for others to either clean up, or simply accept. This is my country.
I will in the coming months write to you a letter, probably in a few parts, that is more difficult – about the world which has been given to you, the planet which our species has radically altered and has made perhaps untenable for us, and many other species. It is not easy to write of such things to a young daughter, a person whose life is fresh and new. But it is a letter which I feel I owe you.
Amo-te, Clarinha !
Just a short note as I am tired from the last weeks of travel from Ragusa to Matera, then to Bologna and nearby Ravenna where I spent 5 days recording songs – 21 of them – with my friend Christian Ravaglioli. He is a wonderful musician and has a good at-home recording studio. My songs and guitar, his mixing wizardry. And then to London one day, and on to Seattle and immediately another 3 hours on a train to Portland. My 74 year old body feels it!
I go shortly to California to get my van and begin this last long trip through America. To show things and perhaps to shoot a final essay on my country. I am not sure I will do so or not.
Meantime I wanted to let you know of a film showing now at the festival there in Lisboa. It showed last night, but will show one more time at the Culturgest, at 4 pm, on Monday. It is by a young, 25 years old, Welsh filmmaker, done with an i-Phone, and is truly beautiful and a stunning work. It is titled Sleep Has Her House, and I think it would be good for you (and your friends) to see it. Here is one review, and here is an interview. When I can find the time I hope to write something about it. Really try to go see it. And be patient – it is slow but it works.
I will try to write again in a few weeks when I am settled down for a bit at a friend’s house in Washington State.
Teu pai, jon
[Note: time went fast, readying to leave took up all the time and this is late.]
We are almost all packed up to go, things boxed, the last minute rush of things to do before moving. At first to Matera a week, then to Piangipane, near Ravenna, to record some songs, and then via London on to the USA. Marcella goes to Belfast to try to set us up to live there. I go on the road to screen films and shoot a final essay-film on America.
[The earlier ones were Speaking Directly, 1972, and then Plain Talk & Common Sense (uncommon senses), 1987.]
Writing now from little Piangipane, near Ravenna. Here to record 19 or 20 songs. And then on to the USA after a brief stop in London. No time now really to write, so I send along some pictures. I had meant to write a letter, something a bit serious, and maybe in the next days I can find the time. But for now I send this.
Amo-te, Clarinha !
In the last month we spent 2 weeks in Berlin, taking care of a friend’s apartment while he and his wife went for a few weeks to the Baltic. It was mostly lovely, not hot, rained a bit, but nice enough to get in a lot of bicycling around the city. A good time, visiting old friends, making some new ones.
Theo & Judith
Theo Eshetu and Judith – she’s an actress, and Theo I have known since ’94, since meeting him in Rome. He has a big video installation piece up at the current Dokumenta in Kassel. All the reviews of Dokumenta cite his work as one of the best things in it.
Thomas Schulz, an artist I’ve known since ’79 or so. Way back then he was working on a sound-piece based on the English Channel “Chunnel” which was being constructed then. Powerful stuff. We had a nice long light lunch in his studio, cheese and wine and lots of talk. Fun.
Selfie on bikes.
Erika & Ulrich Gregor
Erika and Ulrich Gregor. They are retired now but used to run the Berlinale Forum, where I was a frequent guest until 1993. And they long ago started the Arsenal Kino. I’ve known them since 1977 or so. Had a nice lunch at the old Paris Bar and heard lots of interesting stories from them.
Bernd Cailloux, a writer friend. He was in a film for me way back in 1984, something I never finished, but think perhaps to return to Berlin to use the old work (it was almost finished but I had no money to wrap it up) as a kind of time-capsule and put it in the context of a new frame of present Berlin. We shall see about that! He had a lot of stories to tell as we nursed some beers – 3 hours and more of things to tell. Little wonder he is a writer!
Carmen Tartarotti, a film-video maker I have known since 81 or so. I shot a film for her in Frankfurt back then, and see her now and then since. She gave us a copy of a lovely film she recently made, Non possiamo sognare un cielo limpido. She shot in her home region of Alto Adige (Tirol), a documentary very quietly done about two very old nuns living in a convent there. She is thinking of doing a film in Istanbul and perhaps Marcella will help her.
Marcella, Francesco and John
Marcella and two new friends for us, Francesco Campitelli and John E Woods – they’re partners. Francesco is the brother of Lela, a friend we have in Matera, and teaches at a school for difficult kids in Berlin, and John is a highly regarded translator of books, German to English.
We’ll be in Ragusa another month, and then I go to the USA, for a long journey to see friends, perhaps to shoot at last a final essay film about America, and to probably say good-bye to the USA. And make some money. Marcella, for the moment will go to Belfast, where her sister Chicca lives, though perhaps she’ll join me later on the trip. I expect to be back in Europe next May, and if things work out well for Marcella, we’d be in Belfast.
More or less the coming trip – over 6 months.
Summer in Berlin.
By that time you will have had your 21st birthday. I have not seen you since you were a bit older than four years of age. We both know why. If, in the next month, you decide you’d like to see me before I go to the US, you need only contact me – here, or on my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/jon.jost.9), or however you wish, and I’d get a ticket and fly to Lisboa. Otherwise it will be another year before I have a chance to see you there in Portugal. I am not getting any younger, as is normal. In the last year a handful of friends or people I have known have died: Peter Hutton, Dan Cornell, Sam Shepard – they were all younger than me. (See this for more.) As I have written before, it is important for you and your life for you to see and know me a little before it is too late. You need only let me know and I will come.
I hope you have had a wonderful summer, where ever you have been. And I hope might hear from you before I leave for America.
Teu pai, jon
Across the Rummelsburg See, where we stayed in Berlin – view from the terrace.
Amo-te, Clarinha !!
Ragusa Superiore, on the upper left is where we live
The last month and a half have been busy with guests – at first Jane from New York, and then our friends Hyun-suk and Seong-hee, from Korea, and then Marcella’s sister Chicca and her companion Peter, from Belfast in Northern Ireland. We went around to Palermo, Catania, and other places nearby Ragusa. Now a little break of a few weeks, and we go to Berlin for two weeks, and finally back. But only for 6 weeks, and then we leave, still not quite sure for where. I send these now, and later I try to find time to write.
I suppose you are at the beach, or have been or will be. I hope it is lovely there and your summer is being everything you would wish.
Teu pai, jon
Church detail, PalermoStreet scene, poor immigrant part of PalermoDinner out along the harbor in Palermo, with Hyun-suk, Seong-hee, Marcella and Simon CrosbieWall, PalermoDetail of facade in Catania
Peter Murray, Chicca’s companion
Granite cafe con pannaFascist era factory facade, Catania
Peter and Chicca (Marcella’s sister) at beach near SiracusaAt fishmarket, Catania
Roof tiles from campanile of the Modica DuomoWall of Frederick’s castle in Catania
Hyun-suk and Seong-hee, in Ragusa
Man in the cloth store on Corso Italia, telling how he is closing down because there is no business
Wall in Catania
Sunset in Randello
Amo-te, Clarinha !
In the last weeks our friend Jane came to visit from New York, and we took her around a little in the area. She and Marcella went to Matera a while ago, and I am here, doing things with photos and painting, and just thinking. Marcella returns tomorrow.
At the flea market in Modica.
From a presepe in Modica, it made me think of Bresson’s Au Hazard, Balthazar
Ibla at night, from near where we live in Ragusa SuperioreFestival of S. Giorgio, patron saint of Ibla
The Duomo of ModicaDry stone fencing of the regionCountry side near Marina di Ragusa – reminds a bit of Alentejo, but olive instead of cork trees
Ceiling of storage room in masseria, scarred with the signs of work and life.
Soon it will be summer solstice, the longest day of the year up here in the northern hemisphere. I’d guess for some of the summer you are in Cabanas, enjoying the beach. With Tiago I imagine. I hope it is wonderful, the water warm, the days long and lazy.
I leave here the URL and password for a film, Nas correntes de luz da Ria Formosa, shot down there, long ago. Your voice as a small child occasionally can be heard. It, like Cabanas, is slow and languid. I will leave it available for a few weeks and then change the password. I hope you can see and enjoy. https://vimeo.com/93397774
Password: CORRENTES VIM
Amo-te, Clarinha !
Teu pai, jon
PS: The Vila do Conde festival did not invite the little film I made. So no visit to Portugal, at least for now. Here is the URL for that film, in case you’d like to see it:
Mountains as Mountains – https://vimeo.com/210105853
Chiesa Collegiata, Catania
The last week was spent going to Catania to pick up our friend Jane at the airport, and staying in the city a few days, and then to Siracusa (which I first went to with your mother, perhaps in 1996 or so). Catania is a busy and vivid city, very different from the first times I saw it – earliest in 1978. As is Siracusa, which was quite run down when there in ’96. Now, with many of its Baroque buildings restored, it is over-run with tourists and, quite honestly, not so nice.
We’re now back in Ragusa, to show Jane around the area before she and Marcella drive to Matera, and Jane moves along to Rome. I’ll stay here and paint, work on the film, and do photography. And hopefully do a final choice and lay out for a book of what are perhaps poems.
Spring is fully arrived, and I would imagine as well in Lisboa. I hope you are fully enjoying it. As I mentioned before, there’s a chance of an invitation to Vila do Conde, and if it happens we’ll surely go and visit Lisboa as well. I let you know as soon as I hear.
Teu pai, jon
Chiesa S. Nicolas
Door of Fascist Building on Piazza Bellini
Ex-Chiesa di Cavalieri Di Malta
Amo-te, Clarinha !