Intermission for change
Delaying this week’s post. Journals to be continued.
The earth is having a fever
No Power, No Master
Rain. Blue-grey-violet light filling the room. It’s late, 10:45 am. Waking to dreams of the one I’d loved the most until finally many years later I didn’t – not that same way, pointing at a studio apartment for rent in the paper. A large hexagon shaped space with beige floors in the photo, possibly carpet but nice, facing the street through bay windows. I wanted to live there instead of him, could I – but hadn’t I already? The thought makes me feel a bit sick. Something bad happened there? Can’t remember. Many years ago, yesterday. Being alone, wine, my computer, music, emails and IM, that’s it. Scribbling in my journal in red and purple ink in bed, at my green desk covered in scraps of paper, notes, purple orchids and pots, flipping through thousands of photographs taken traveling and academic papers, lost in a foreign history of my own. Plants, tall stacks of drafts, paintings beautiful amidst abstract misery and desperation. Had I really lived there? Or just imagined it? The memory makes me ill. Did I just make it up, the feeling? The place?
Now staring into asphalt and a partly cloudy sky, intermittent city trees, standing in the street, waiting. Forever. Where is my friend? We’re going to eat some sort of special bread from the bakery, a sweet bread or something? As the sun falls hours later she finally shows, separating from a group of people I don’t recognize, surprised when I bring it up as if she’d never really intended to go.
Another fuzzy event I can’t recall, another one putting me off for some unidentifiable reason too. So out of character for her, I don’t understand. There was no one to be with.
Sitting outside on the sidewalk uncertain of what to do now. Nobody around. The air is fresh and bright. There must have been a porch there, or some stairs, then a book appears in my hand. I open its nearly eight by ten cover and skim. 50 or so pages, with illustrations. Joy. It was about joy. This was written by a friend, a pianist, he’d given this to me. No longer conscious of the street, completely absorbed in its lyrical writing and sparse, minimalistic line drawings lightly watercolored until an elation grows and spreads too immensely to look down any longer, too much to process any more information mentally. I close it to feel its weight in my hands instead and look up lifting up into the air like years before, planes floating off a runway above shapes shrinking and tightening viewed through tiny windows. So happy. Magical. Then I’m here. Rain. Blue-grey light filling the room. It’s late, 10:45 am. Curtains. Oakland in the window. My room. No one’s around.
Were all of those people trades for someone I really want to be with today? Not sure I care what it means but it resonates for a few minutes.
Shaking off these dreams I get up to go out to the cafe. The significance doesn’t feel so important, but I’m pretty sure I know why I’m remembering them so readily. Vacation – no work for two weeks. Whenever there’s more space, when more time is sensed and freedom and days ahead open, the volume of dreams I remember increases and changes: popcorn strings of memories like momentary portals into a higher consciousness about these experiences, mixed with creative currents more otherworldly and imaginative, like being inside of a hidden universe that rarely reveals, suppressed by routine realities. Routines both necessary and destructive. I used to take them too seriously. And now I just don’t believe that I have to anymore. Everything in my spirit won’t even let me anymore; it’s over. My own way of seeing and being wakes up and takes priority and the space just has to be made for it, or it’s like I’ll just die.
This is the thing that may not make sense from the outside but it’s been said before many times over that a certain type of artist – perhaps so-called “real” artists – create because they have to. We have to. Maybe this is not true of all artists but in my own experience the choice has been to create, or to suffer a progressive downward spiral into an internal hell, self-imprisoned. I’m fine to coast for a while but finally these become my two options and for others who are like me I wouldn’t doubt them to feel just as lost and miserable without creating. Not that creating functions as a universal remedy for bad feelings – that would be silly. For me though feeling bad and not creating would be an even worse if not dangerous condition than feeling bad and creating. I didn’t desire this aspect of an artist’s life to be true of myself and I thought the idea sounded corny and overdramatic when I read about it in Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet,” at nineteen. Coincidentally it was the only idea from the book I never forgot: write if you must write, if your need for writing is as though your life depended upon it. I was too young then to understand these words more comprehensively, but cross the age of 30 when the focus of your generation suddenly becomes status and success and power and out of nowhere you feel like a complete loser. Your dreams of being an artist or writer become even more naive and irresponsible and idealistic than when you were nineteen. They’re beyond merely objectionable now, if not borderline reprehensible in a way they weren’t before. Those benign impractical fantasies of young adulthood suddenly become things you could actually harm yourself with.
Was it Henry Miller who pointed out something like anyone can be an artist — until the age of 35? This is not the same thing as declaring an intention to go into teaching or law or nursing or politics or business. Creative ambitions might be treated as a curiosity or a bit of fun at best, but taken less and less seriously as time progresses. It’s especially challenging for those choosing to abandon their former career path, to pursue art no longer as a hobby but as a primary occupation. Are you published? No. Do you have a professional website? No. Business card? No. Portfolio? Not in any organized fashion, not yet. Not yet. Not yet. Not yet the unsatisfactory answer to every question. Some start early, going ahead despite the odds to establish a position for themselves in the creative arts, publicly – others like me punish themselves for years first instead. Just for inevitably being who you are despite every attempt to be something else, yet not quite understanding why you just can’t fit in to the occupations or places you’ve wandered into for safety and security. By the time you finally come out of it to recognize what the trouble really is and you’ve already spent your money on degrees in other fields for other careers, who will indulge your grandiose aspirations now at this point? But if you find that this is something you have to do – and you know this to be true of yourself because of the consequences you’ve experienced in avoiding this truth for your entire life, then the choice is clear. Whether or not you’re any good at what you create at this point, whether or not you have everything you need for success in place, it ceases to matter. You’ve worked your way to the top in places you didn’t even want to be, simply by showing up and working hard. If you have to start at the bottom all over again, it will be worth it. And how long will it take, exactly, to get to somewhere in the middle, if you even dare to imagine you could? This ceases to matter also. You’re tired of pretending, of lying. You don’t think about the people who would criticize you as much anymore, or the what ifs, or the opportunities you’ve turned down or run away from in the past. You think about what you need to do to make it happen.
I don’t feel sorry for myself or for those in my shoes. I feel for those who are like me but still unable to create for whatever reason. I know these people are out there so when somebody says they’re an artist, I tend to believe them no matter their current occupation or lifestyle or hobbies.
Two weeks of taking pictures and assembling them, drawing, writing, cups of tea and coffee, sleeping, planning, going to the gym, seeing friends. I pour cream into my coffee as I only do in cafes – anywhere else, it’s black. It’s noisy in here, there’s nowhere to sit comfortably. Each conversation this morning is too loud and too much as I move from table to table seeking a place where I can think. Think and write. I’ve been desperately needing solace from these crowds. Yet appreciate an unexpected sense of relief in this scene too, full of friends telling stories rather than singles with their devices. I settle in near the speakers, faint music, not overbearing mainstream sounds like they often play but sounds with real feeling, though not especially edgy. I realize I’ve forgotten to put in earrings this morning, which I’ve been wearing since I was three months old. It feels oddly troubling.
My mind and body are glowing, not in a physical sense. Something else. I remember all the other times like this. I remember the soft sunshine and the libraries and the roses in the window and the moped and the kissing and the airports and the poems scribbled out for fun with no concern for editing and the smells of cattle in foreign places and the miles and miles of road and ancient redwoods and the river. I remember the intense dreams. Stories of living life as art.
You’re free today. You have two weeks. Sit down. It’s been a while since I’ve written, instead relishing the easy relief from words I enjoy so much in working with images. Writing is so exposing, really so scary. It doesn’t matter. Text messages pop up, you ignore them for now.
Go write. I’m dying to write now. It doesn’t matter how it turns out, doesn’t matter if it’s good writing or bad, doesn’t matter if it’s real art.
Volunteers For A World With No Editor
This was taken from scraps. Cutouts produced incidentally while creating other black and white paper designs, extras tossed aside in the moment: the true first negative space of those projects, their waste, their remainder. Sifted through the pile of odd shapes belonging nowhere, randomly assorted without purpose. Four pieces chosen quickly, without thinking and no plan, without altering them further in any way, and within minutes assembled together and pasted up this leaning figure. Looks like a lot of things to me but speaks like an example.
Urging to make significant or even delicious more of those elements in us and in the world so easy to reject, to cast out, to trample on, or to simply pass by. Art and poetry are not luxuries but necessities for this reason. To allow the unattended or just what looks like refuse to be seen and voiced and appreciated rather than tossed a token now and again, hardly a crumb. The expendable, impractical, unnecessary – yours and mine too. With poetry especially we have a marginalized form expressing the marginalized in apt communion. To celebrate mystery, quiet amidst the noisy, or to place the unwanted or left behind because are we not all neglected or forgotten in some way and do we not all feel this. To serve the imperfect, the difficult, the unsavory or troublesome, even the scary at times. Our beauty does not exclude these flaws in a culture pretending to disown their existence.
What nobody would detect or consider without looking very, very, closely – art changing our minds about what’s beautiful and worthy, what we’re capable of discerning. Not just a world in which we consume choice fragments of one another relentlessly and treat ourselves so, but a hunger for the whole range and process of a more private experience admired, an intelligence beyond the conspicuous so that every day just a little bit, even just a little to be able to show up and not be afraid to look further. Since it’s the not looking – hiding – that’s more dangerous.
— And since culture’s infinitely richer than it could possibly be credited in any given moment — momentarily magnificent or bewildered or painfully plain. So are we.
Let These Words Be Unimportant
Let me whisper. Let me bring these words to you, let them turn yellow then purple like light diffusing through polluted air. In a sound of voice I long to hear and embrace floats near me. Connect these words in us through this space, not by chains of past offenses identity crises and grievances. Let them feel comforting and welcomed, not as wounds, feel like birds at dawn singing through cold air or a bell tower carillon drop notes over chaotic streets on the way home from work in the evening. Let these words mean nothing, let them be nothing, let them exist for no indisputable purpose or explicit reason, yet not be treated as meaningless. Let them not be crowded out with opinions, nor create such crowds. What makes such opinions more meaningful?
What if I have no history anymore. What if I claim nothing. These words have tongue in them, lips, lungs, I want for them to not be pushed to sting. Let me kiss with them. Let me exist with you as if there were nobody else before us, and nobody to jump down our throats after. I have slept with these words when hungry, when lonely, now let these words take company. Let these words be a place to land, not just a springboard to and from troubles, not as an opiate either but a place to be fearlessly awake together. Let these words be a world that’s not too smart for romance. Enough views crowd us one after another, it’s blinding. If we come from nowhere beyond this moment, if only by sound we could touch these screens delicate as paper, what if.
Your voice alone is wonderful to me. Carillon notes blending and separating over rivers inside send little messages barely heard, grow more resonant. I long to hear beauty instead of these arguments. Then these words will not chase you down, will not hunt you. For truly I long for you and for no opinion. I long to hear words exist less for the purpose of proofs, divisions, violence, information. Thus let their intelligence here stake no claim. Let these words be unimportant yet significant. Be available and abundant. Let them be valuable.
Scene, bedroom window, 2 am
Many Hours Later
About as elemental a “design plan” as it gets…
but enough to turn into these
and this more simplified idea to play with some more
yet like many sketches, that first cluster of lines still intrigues me on its own.
If You Lie To Yourself Let It Be to Good Purpose
I wake up to recognize my room, my bed, myself. The ceiling, the highboy with drawers still open, piles of stuff everywhere for lack of time and energy per high season at work. Nobody to judge me for this mess, I’ll let it wait for a day off. My body feels good moving and stretching from biking and lifting two days ago.
Something inside me wants to cry, terribly, but I don’t even feel like going there. I’d better get to the cafe early, not worry about how I look, what I’m wearing. Just get a cup of coffee. When I get there I’ll feel. I know I need to write. To put the feeling into action.
I lie in bed a bit longer not wanting to get up and face the day. I miss you, I miss you. Do I? I don’t know. I want you. Do I? I’m so lonely. I think about my brothers who seem to have each other. My other siblings too, who also share both their same parents.
I probably think of you almost every day, but don’t call because why would I do that to myself. When was the last time I saw my friends?
I think about my job and everything I’ve been putting into it, get a text message and lately it’s like I can’t do anything right there.
I want to get on the bike later but accept that my body’s maxed out today.
I get up and walk to the bathroom. In the mirror my eyes look tired from the six nights a week racing around work. Yet still bright from all the exercise and the sun during the days. I’m hungry, starving yet can’t imagine what I’d be willing to stomach this morning.
I could handle holding you in bed, I could even imagine sitting in your lap and kissing you, but then I might have to be somebody for you, somebody you want.
I think about my writing and how much I want it. I think about how afraid I am to do it. I think about the pictures I want to make this winter. The photographs and the mosaics and the painted collages. The clothes I want to learn to sew for myself sometime, done with feeling frustrated at my own shape instead of at average sizing.
I think about the seagulls I want to watch at the beach.
The languages I want to study.
Of all the things I’ve hoped for myself, I rarely think anymore about actually putting in effort to seek a partner. What I’ve got left in me to give, I don’t want anything to ruin it. Not another judgment, not another comparison, no disappointments.
I will no longer need to be anybody else’s dream. Nobody will need me to be larger than they feel in order for them to love me. Nobody will expect me to walk on their stage either. Nobody will fit me in or drop me at their convenience.
Today I will just be a random woman at the cafe drinking coffee. I am small and I like it. I want to want myself more than I want anybody else to, anyway. I lie to myself but this lie is like medicine.
It’s okay for me to have some tears under my sunglasses feeling lonely, missing you, and others who came and went. I choose it. I choose this.
It’s really been this way since childhood; I just never believed it was all that significant. I didn’t want to include it, didn’t even want to know. I didn’t have to. I was in my twenties and I got all the love I wanted. Love was desire.
All the love I believed I wanted. My mind wanders into its broken second language that I can write but barely speak which sometimes feels like a safer, more comforting place to be. Chaque nuit je rêve seule, chaque matin je me lève seule. Sans personne, je me sens presque comme une étrangère tous les jours.
Le désir, il vaux mieux l’éviter. Il m’a faite sentir si invisible.
I lie to myself but this lie is like medicine.
Freedom In Constraint
You have said something about them, you have tossed pennies into the fountain in far off fantasies in your mind after all they’ve done, you have gone to pick up your image in its water somewhere beyond sensible and wasted yourself incautiously dipping your hands into its greenish mud puddle feeling the mossy bottom and the stone underneath it, wasted yourself watching a kaleidoscope of colors swirl around your wrists, watching green diamonds and blue gems morph to purple and magenta on the water’s oily surface in the angles of sun around tanned arms and through reflective fingers, and you’ve fallen behind the others, picked up incomprehensible images from exotic pools to sink yourself into and create yourself from, not borrowed from your own origins as you should, not done what you’ve been called upon by those who brought you, instead you have pulled out a starfish inedible and invasive multicolored and textured and other vain nonfunctional fascinations.
You have picked flowers all day. Rearranged letters of the alphabet all day. A candle left burning in your room to follow the mazes of wax and the loops of smoke taking your attention, then the fan left on for a clearing. Trails of warm lemon juice cleansing negligence, you have sprayed perfume yet left no scent. It was you who did the leaving, you who did this to them, you whose body is too soft to resist the most simple attraction and mind not soft enough to yield controls, you who betrayed trust by telling stories, who let yourself be eaten by worms of curiosity, you who gulp foolishly not more than banal beauties and ugliness. To squander yourself insulting those who brought you, you who created universes invalid from real pennies and distorted realities from nebulous transparencies. You are the kind who survives on chocolates.
You hearing them rehearsing, how could you do this to us? How could you do this to you also. You have said something, you have seen something. Stuff that doesn’t matter, waste like this. Crap like this, let it go and the box flies open. Make your mistakes for they call them mistakes not choices. Let it all out of the trap, let the mystery of this trap triumph if you absolutely must play so rough but don’t ask us to look, don’t ask us to see, don’t ask us to hear, don’t ask us to act.
Heirlooms are survival too. You are too green for us, too blue, too purple, too much for us. You haven’t done enough, organized enough this territory, you will never catch up. You do this to us, do this to yourself, look. Listen. You’ll see, you’ll hear this. You do this. To us, to us.