Archive for August, 2013

the city

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

If babies, all kinds, need us. Kittens, less of a burden NEEEED us. Books, handbags go clattering to the floor like armor, hands freed for hand to heart clasping and covered mouth gaping and gasping.  Worldly goods are hastily gathered up later, to clear space for the battle of the most fit mother, all signaled by comments that suggest the cooing ritual is over.

Timing is everything, you feel it. I knew if I wagged my position I’d lost her. Better to overstate and retract later than regret the moment forever. This was full on crazy baby battle. My coworker Steve, let’s call him Steve, of course anticipated the crazy babyness. You could catch it in one swift look of a knowing eye. His normal cool a tad more serious to hide his secret elation… his eyes and lips drawn a little tight to hide any quiver or smirking. Ahhhh what pure joy it must have been for him standing at that moment of mayham with the introduction of one pitiful starved pair of eyes trembling at a cold cruel world! There is no finer show than the one you pull from your own pocket, I know.

I swivel around in my chair as other hopeful mothers pass by… Kitten proudly displayed in lap – don’t pet her she’s mine the subtext of placement and relaxed happy smiles. Later she makes her way behind my laptop. Like a science fiction cyborg mother, I want her to have everything, and maybe more. I’m the ‘top banana’. At least for the day. The first to swoop down wings and talens extended to grasp what was already swaddled and extended… Yet wait, before I get carried away, this is hardly about ME, or the kitten for that matter… who was later in life sadly moved to the big apple not to be seen or heard of again. If anything this is a story about Steve. Wait, who’s Steve?

That six foot tall man who held the kitten out to me grinning! If we all inhabit a version of The Office, then Steve was just that combination of coworker and friend, that resides somehow in a corner of the heart usually reserved for family, or extended family. Er well, I mean you see these people every day, AND you didn’t choose them. When do you first begin to feel those chords being played, the ones that feel strangely familiar? For me that first moment when that public life morphed in a surreal way… was with Steve and my real mother.

I wasn’t there, for the meeting that is, how wrong is that, I only heard about it later. So the story goes that Steve’s wife’s sister was several months pregnant but still dating, not living with the father, and yet wanting a family for her child. They weren’t able to imagine giving the baby up to someone in the city with deep pockets and lots of degrees, yet not a stitch of family near them. So Steve stepped in, “shouldn’t they raise the expected baby”… Someone in another division at work had gone to my mother for counseling an adoption and thus Steve was ushered into the elite – or at least the expensive world – of adoption. Expensive when you stop to consider how little it takes sometimes for that first moment of baby to happen.

So here’s Steve adding another child to his already big family list. Commuting in to the city an hour each way so that he could live with his wife and kids in the country. This guy, Steve, is also the one to bring in real bear meat for lunch, and tempt us with novelties of our own country, stuff he caught with his hands! There was really nothing like him for the rest of us peeps. He was a story teller, a prankster, a hard worker, a loyal husband, a devoted father. In short he was a well rounded person, without listening to indie-rock. I sat kitty corner him in the office and when I wasn’t busy with work I sometimes secretly hoped he’d swing the door wide and invite me hunting like one of the guys. A sort of tet-a-tet (french right?) for never getting to go with my family, those that flaunted their Birds Unlimited memberships or some such thing. But bear hunting wasn’t in the cards.

The kitten was in the cards and I seemed to be warming to the suggestion. Who needs to surf pet adoption sites or make links to hello-kitty blogs when you’ve got the real thing prancing and purring and needing your sweater. Okay, honestly now that we are off the hyped up tread mill of the introduction my absolute fondest memory was just walking to work every day for an hour both ways. For I had this little kitten tucked into my jacket. In the morning the sun would be rising – I could feel her little heart beating – and when I looked down she was looking up at me. It’s been years now that I can’t call her my own. The boyfriend and the kitten gone yet this is what I want to remember.


- some new fiction

signs and the soul

Friday, August 16th, 2013

You only have to listen to Hamlet’s poem “To be or not to be” by Lawrence Olivier to occupy the feelings of a man caught in one of life’s riddles. A riddle like a lymric should be spoken out loud, expressed, or lost forever inside. Yet lately when I hear Hamlet’s words my mind actually wanders to an encaustic painting I did some years ago. Perhaps you have a connection that comes to mind yourself. My own piece started to assemble it’s self after my daily shower. Hair would gather around the rim of the drain of my claw foot tub. I’d then pat each clean rounded form dry and add it to a collection. And they collected, the days, the months, the years. It was a ritual, a talisman, and also a promise that some day they would be of use and I would know what to do with them.

It takes time for thoughts and experiences to make sense. It is necessary to be patient with ourselves if we feel truly stuck. For some reason I was unable to do art at the time… This was a first step. All this hair that I wanted to manage to do something with, to not just disappear into nothing and go nowhere found its voice in a wax painting. A piece about waiting. Waiting beyond what seemed reasonable or sane. And that is perhaps why we need metaphors that help with the practice of waiting, to come to terms with it. To define ourselves in contrast to the world we are waiting for, something that has a drum beat of its own and yet we long for.

The souls metaphors abound, the knot is a good starting point. Like brushing a messy nest out of ones hair, or carefully unwinding necklaces that have somehow gotten thrown into a jumble. These drawings are also then about recognizing a project and beginning the painstaking process of sorting. It can be meditative, a practice as elemental as woolgathering. Like Celtic knots unfurling ecstatically, songs and stories are told, and the important work of connecting is awakened.

The Scottish author and artist Scott Kilgour thought about this kind of work a good deal and called it interlace or knotwork. Here these continuous line drawings were meant to describe a melody when super imposed upon the strings of a musical instrument. With each knot a chord was played, transforming the place where the song was sung. This pre-medieval interlace looks kindly on the humble knot as song and transformation story. In the lineage of art the continuous line drawing is also the first optical illusion of a third dimension on a two dimensional surface. Notice how the line weaves in front and behind itself creating the experience of fore and back ground. It wasn’t until 1420 that Brunelleschi would create the law of perspective we are so familiar with in painting and photography. His was one of several epic transitions that seperated the east from west.

Another came just before this during the Iconoclast controversy in 726 when literal depictions of people were banned in Constantinople. While in Rome the Iconophiles pushed further to celebrate specific powerful individuals. Slowly ornament and mosaic disappeared throughout Europe and by the 15th century artists like Brunelleschi were focused on the figure in space. Yet this was only the beginning! Braque and Picasso revisited the great divide with cubism. Here again perspectives shifted towards new forms; orphism, surrealism, futurism. The percussive sounds of the telegraph, telephone, train, and automobile setting the tempo for reinventing our own rythms.