Termites make didgeridoos but they can't play them.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What's a Decade to Me?

Here is a quilt I put away without finishing over ten years ago. For one reason and six hundred others it never came out again, but then it did. I pulled it out recently--to me recently means six months ago--and was plugging away at it. Even more recently, like two nights ago, a cat--the same one in this picture--puked on it. So, the upside is that now I know the brilliantly gold African fabrics I forgot to set/wash before using didn't run after all.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thinking of Spring and Memorials and Things

Soon. Well, maybe not that soon. The above is spiderwort from last June, so I guess you could say it's already come and gone. But the sun is confident now and leaning into us, a whole different god from high January, and, even in Minnesota, a brisk walk brings Spring sweat and the dream-taste of pre-pubescent pollen.

Also a year, or more, I can't even remember, late. This dresser I painted for Mary. I haven't yet been able to take a picture I like so I haven't bothered sharing. I finally decided I don't care and so here they are. The light is the problem. I should have dragged these outside before I put Mary's clothes into them and taken proper pictures then, eh. Oh well. These were a vanity and a nice tall dresser which belonged to her maternal grandmother who passed away this past year. No one wanted them but Mary and Mary wasn't so sure. Unfortunately, when they got into our house they began to emanate a particularly strong odor of old cigarette smoke. Long story short, several different attempts at cleaning and various existing insults of time had left them in such a condition that they were scheduled to be junked. Then, one day in Target's so called global bazaar Mary and I are walking and she indicates a certain painted piece and says, "Could you do that?" And so I did, or something like it. I really do like these a lot better in person than in these photos. There is a warmth to them, a richness which we really wanted, both for aesthetic reasons--I mean simple decorating reasons--but also because they represent a tangible link with her grandmother. Handling a drawer pull day after day that another's hand has handled day after day, one wants to honor that life and memory even if in such a prosaic way as in storing one's socks. The colors and graphic choices were meant to reflect Mary's interest in Indian decorative art as well as her grandmother's Swedish nature. Also, I couldn't help thinking of Mary's strong interest in tattoos and tattoo art in general. Finally, though it might sound kind of weird, for much of the painting process, which was more ritualistic and repetitive than intellectually creative, I found myself praying. It didn't seem like a bad idea at the time and so, one way or the other, I found myself considering these to be memorial celebrations.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Spring thoughts from last fall

Twelve days till the vernal equinox. I think. The light's coming back. It's been about a year since I quit smoking. Still several inches of snow on the ground but I dreamed last night of a flowering plum, an erupting column of small pink blossoms. Goldfinches this morning were still stripping seeds from last year's Agastache foeniculum, which always makes me glad I don't give-in to the pressure to "clean-up" everything in the fall. In any case, as always, I find myself moving very slowly. In thinking about latent heat and lingering summer sun versus the fleeting and reflected light of late winter despite the same day length, I remembered scratching out the following journal bits last fall. Since I last posted in September, it seemed appropriate to pick up there.


Here I am, a stick of incense, Tara, good stuff, bouncing between my lips. You do strange things after you quit smoking. I admit it’s been a while—6 months!--but I would still kill you and your sister’s chinchilla for a guilt free smoke.

This fall, the light is the thing. Shouldn’t be yet--it isn’t fall, but the low angles know. There is a way to worship light, with closed eyes and cold feet, stars bursting on retinas. With wet, shining black stones, bluegill farts and first cups of coffee, weathered, first-cut lumber and fish shadows. Long shadows of ash handles, wheelbarrows and the legs of a child, their slightly darker, gray silhouettes over gray gravel crunching, rolled sock tops and bowl cuts, there in the light it will be burned forever. The thin, long shadow of my brother, purposeful in jerky human gait along that pea gravel driveway. Watching the glow from behind the blood veil.

Being pushed by this low angle light, bent over and forced close to the earth. There's that sense of stretching out, of grinning, feeling the whole infinite spread of Earth. The sudden, tattered vent feathers of a chipping sparrow, filtering the sky. It is the fall light and the butterflies have gone. It is the time of tiny birds, the fast hot, searing hot hearts, the three toes and the goofy beats, it is time for them to move on. I love it, don’t get me wrong. It is the light of wheat-sheaf Jesus and assorted martyrs, of mothers and manna--heaven-based bake-sales raising money for new harp strings. This is the light from which her neck hairs were woven. The cave light. The light in the womb of no beginning. The pressed curls and nostalgic dew, suddenly rising heat revealed in the sun. But, this too is just the light of a disinterested sun. The light of a gaseous body so far away, it strikes us at a funny angle from time to time and masquerades as God. I do wonder sometimes what was our first God. What was the first concrete abstract worship we committed? Would it have been tipping our face to warmth or smelling the quick-green rush of Earth? Would it have been a full belly or blood-filled loins? I don't know, but I wonder a lot, when it was and what we were loving more than ourselves or if it was just ourselves we've been loving all along. Don't know.

I have a problem with the present, I know. I have a problem. I wonder sometimes if this nostalgic malaise, if this love of things I have known might prove fatal.

That’s the danger, I guess, the danger in knowing, the danger in loving. It might kill you. How will you move on, how can you? You leave behind mysterious pink organs unknown to science. You leave behind honeycombs woven of fish scales shining in dust and draped in daisy chains of cracked coffee cups. You are a blue tile sunrise alive with yellow powder, sweet jasmine powder and lime green polyester, and purple vinyl shoes, too tight, and there again, it was almost fatal. Here comes the earth and here comes the quake and, less distantly, here comes the hot smoke of incense in my eye.

The things I’m in love with are legion. My god, I can’t count the colors and the herbs and the wrinkled petals of crepe, the chevroned grasshopper legs and the soul-chaffed wood and the eucalyptus smoke and the lines that anchor your eyes. What am I supposed to do with the wet wool and the snail slime and the thrilling underside of a displaced alley brick? I even love that hair on your coat from the cat I’ve never met, and how couldn’t I love you for it, and I haven't even met you but I love the bend of your teeth in your sudden smile and bark of a laugh. That’s the steel, the stone, the silly girders. My world and its slightly unconventional building code, its everlasting bricks. All tumbled in a heap.


So much for random thoughts from last fall. I want to look forward to Spring, but this year it feels like waking up before you've had enough sleep and you know you're going to be too fucking tired to do anything well. Anyway, we'll see.