Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I Want to Live Here Episode 44

And so, I scurried through a morning’s worth of chores: work orders, scrawled complaints about Christmas litter, etc., until 10:30, when I dashed out with a hurried goodbye to Judith.
I wore my herringbone gauchos with a black Danskin turtleneck and the bright yellow, Marks and Spencer sweater my sister, Caroline had sent for Christmas. Black boots and the Gucci shoulder bag that had been my birthday present , also from Caroline. She keeps me in brand names. Gunning the Fleetwood’s engine up Biscayne, I paused long enough to check out Stephen and Nan’s TH in case Stephen wanted to join me, but there was no sign of activity there. Tim, however, was working on the front door lock at Abigail’s. Tsk, tsk. Didn’t he know I had a master key?
Patterson’s is wide old mansion, white clapboards and gabled roofs with a porte-cochere that linked the main driveway with a circular parking lot around back. The gardens, front and back, bloomed with camellias. In summer, the magnolias would bloom. I saw traces of a rose garden and was pretty sure there would be daffodils in spring and all sorts of other growth whenever it was needed. It reeked of solidity and mold.
I walked in on a cloud of Shalimar-scented flight attendants in Eastern and Delta uniforms, feeling conspicuous but probably was invisible. A sober Kevin, looking trim in a three-piece suit, stood close enough to the open casket to make up a sort of receiving line. Abigail’s family, represented by Susan and her husband (presumably) stood next to him. An older couple with the same pale skin as Abigail’s sat nearby quietly greeting friends their own age. In fact, everyone seemed to be grouping themselves by age and/or relationship. I headed to the casket, greeting Kevin and Susan and was introduced to the husband.
“Thank you for helping Susan with Abigail’s things,” he said, his voice well-oiled with cliches. “It’s been a great relief knowing we didn’t have to rush through such a sad time.”
“My pleasure,” I stuttered. “Whatever I can do.”
“I’ll call you soon,” said Susan.
“So will I,” said Kevin. “And please come by after the service. We’re having a small reception at the house.”
“Your house?” I asked.
“Kevin’s been a dear,” said Susan. Then she thanked me for the flowers from Arborgate. I took credit for what must have been Judith’s gesture and stepped beyond them for a last look at my former tenant.
Abigail, dressed in her stewardess uniform after all, looked as I’d never seen her: elegant and professional. There was no sign of the contusion on her forehead. She was at peace.

Family visits

Usually, my sister and brother-in-common-law swing through Atlanta for a quick overnight en route to what, for last couple of years, has always been some kind of emergency, real or imagined, in Florida. Sometimes, my sister is so locked in to getting where she's going, she has a hard time slowing down and enjoying where she is. She comes by it honestly; 30 years in the airline industry, getting those planes to leave when they're supposed to, has turned impatience into a virtue. And, since she's the oldest and with a reputation for always being right, it's been hard to modify her behavior.

But her significant other is a Type B and I not only stop to smell the roses, but do a little mulching, so this year when they gave themselves two days to get from St. Louis to Dunedin, I crafted a day in the city as my Christmas present. The one thing we all need less of is stuff. What we need more of is time and memories.
To that end, we spent an evening in jammies with another airline friend for balance (and to give them a chance to recite their mysteriously coded yet hilarious accounts of cargo and people shipping, favorite aircraft over the years and tales of better days when air travel on legacy carriers was romantic.) The next day we got going early.
As you can see from the photo above, we visited the Georgia Aquarium. It's mere blocks from my condo, but I'd never been. Smaller than I expected but quite beautiful and peaceful (of course, we beat the school crowds).

Then lunch at Taqueria del Sol on Howell Mill---always worth the wait; and a drive through the detours that make up Midtown to arrive punctually at the High.

I love the High Museum of Art with the love reserved for eccentric, not-quite-right-in-the-head relatives and friends. I've been going there since 1976 when it occupied a corner of the Memorial Arts Center next door. But they do love to oversell themselves. The Terracotta Army exhibit has been so touted with timed entries and warnings of crowds but we were almost the only ones there!
If this exhibit comes to your town, go and see it. It's remarkable. Not so much for its artistic merit, which is remarkable, but for the palpable sense of human fingerprints that hangs about each statue. In this, it reminded me of the Gee's Bend exhibit, with its worn quilts all but smelling of the men and women who wore the clothes that became the rags that morphed into the bed coverings that lasted into art, gaining beauty and meaning in each step.
Of course, no trip to the High is complete without a peek at the Louvre's yard sale. We've been borrowing cups of sugar from our French friends since the early 1960s when a shopping trip for the fledgling museum was cut tragically short by a plane crash at Orly that killed almost everyone on board. That crash pretty much defined, stalled and memorialized the Atlanta museum scene for a generation. But I digress....

The current installment of stuff includes a single Vermeer, The Astronomer. Sitting before this painting, sketchbook in hand, was a meditation. It's all triangles! Look:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Want to Live Here Episode 43

After that rather surprising glimpse into my friends’ marriage, I said my goodbyes and left. Why I thought every married couple lived in a state of perpetual bliss, I don’t know. But I’m always surprised and uncomfortable when husbands and wives open the creases of their lives.
My own parents always seemed unhappy: screaming from Mom met with silence by Daddy. I thought her anger, loud and painful, was coarse and impolite, and his silence, illustrated by a face that always seemed to be turning away, was somehow noble. It wasn’t; he was simply disappearing without a fight and she, starved for a good one, was constantly provoking. I craved loving perfection in every couple I visited. (A search that continued for many years.)
I returned to my chilly and neglected townhouse, its woebegone Christmas decorations and the smell of impermanence. My dining room needed furniture and the weighty scent of dinners cooked and coats tossed on a chair. I needed to live here, fill the rooms with friends and the perfumes of living.
I took a glass from the drainboard, filled it with water and drank thirstily. Too much wine, I thought. Over the rim of the glass I saw Mr. Invalid's poinsettia drooping in its spot by the sliding glass door. I'd thought it would get the sun it needed there but I was wrong. Someday, I thought, pouring the remainder of my water into the base of the plant's foil-wrapped pot, I would learn how to care for something. I would start with this plant, the only other living thing here.

The next morning, December 27, I ran to the office. I hoped Judith would ignore last night’s visit to Abigail’s. If I could play dumb, I would. But she was having none of that.
“What were you thinking?” she asked, handing me a cup of coffee. I’d found her in the kitchen, sponging the counter. Tim had left his usual mess behind. “You have no business going into that apartment and no right letting Nancy and Stephen in behind you.”
“They wanted-“
“Please. You went there to snoop. Why, I don’t know and I don’t want to know. What I want is for you to settle down and do your job and mind your own business because I will not be responsible if Abigail’s sister finds out you’ve been going through her things.”
“I haven’t!”
“Then what were you doing in there last night?”
“Picking up Nancy’s key.”
“Where is it?”
“She’s bringing it over this morning. Before they leave.”
“It’s not here.”
“I guess they haven’t left yet.”
“They left, or rather, she left, at six this morning.”
“Stephen’s still here. He wants to stay the rest of the month and fly out in January.”
“Really?” This was news to me. “They must have decided that last night.”
“He’s not moving to Seattle.”
“He’s not?”
She shook her head in gentle disgust. “Nora. Wake up.”
I waited until she’d made herself comfortable in the office before asking for permission to attend Abigail’s funeral. She laughed. “You never give up, do you?”
“It’s respectful.”
“I’m sure that’s your feeling right now.”
“I’d kind of like to see it through somehow. Funerals provide closure.”
“Your attitude is very unprofessional. It’s flippant and adolescent.”
“But I can go?”
She lifted her shoulders, her eyebrows and her hands. “Do what you must,” she said.
And may the Lord have mercy on you, I thought.
I have brains, but I am not smart.

Road Trip: Saluda, N.C. and Random Arts

Last Friday, I got to join friends,
Serey and Mike for a weekend at their place near the Toe River in Yancey County, NC. But first, we had to stop in Saluda, just south of Asheville, so I could meet Jane and see shop and workroom that is RandomArts.

We were greeted by Jen who, when I told her I was part of the group that submitted journal pages to Jane's challenge, ushered me into the workroom where Jane and Meg Fowler were busy putting the pages together. All I wanted to do was sit down and work with them but as we had to keep moving, I shopped instead!

What a great store. It reminded me of those dreams I would sometimes have where I'd be shopping and find something, like a purse, and open it and find more stuff and more and more. Those dreams made me very happy. Being in Random Arts made me happy too.
Glad to meet you all and hope to come back in the Spring when Judy Wise teaches her workshop.

Jane wanted to know how I'd discovered Random Arts. Of course, blogging begets blogs. I'd been looking at Judy Wise's blog, wistfully scrolling down the list of her classes and wondering why all the good stuff was in the Northwest. Why, when there's so much art down South, is there no paper arts, journal arts groups in a community like the one I imagine was created in Portland. Then I saw that Judy was scheduled to teach in North Carolina, just one state away. And not, as I discovered on Friday, all that far.

mailbox on Main Street.....

Here's me, Meg, Jen and (seated) Jane
Lest I forget, I bought yet another copy of Danny Gregory's An Illustrated Life (a gift for Serey) and an enchanting book that picks up where The Artist's Way left off: Life Is a Verb.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Job Seeker

I wanted to post a new image before going out of town last week and grabbed this watercolor from the early 1990s when I was just beginning to paint and was at it daily and with a child's wonderful abandon. I still enjoy quick drawings of faces, creatures and humans, but do them in my sketchbooks now. This little painting wound up on the cover of a literary review for Georgia State University. It was very exciting. It seemed to me then that I had at last found something that I could do without much consciousness (read: self-consciousness) that would take me where I wanted to go: to the living world where people who manifested their dreams, executed their plans, made things happen lived. Painting little pictures would be the horse before my cart. It would be my vehicle. But this didn't happen. Even doing what you like takes effort.

Is consciousness the enemy of execution? The break in the links of turning process into product and then sustaining the two? Back in the little painting days, I found (was given) a generous framer who matted my work for free for a period of time and that enabled me to participate in some festivals. Because I didn't understand the images I made, I couldn't tell when something was 'good' or not and I didn't want to latch on to one type of image and work off variations of it. That was boring and possibly dishonest, though I might have learned why one composition 'worked' and others did not. Instead, I dashed out paintings quickly and what was good was accidental. What was bad was accidental too. The more thought I put into a painting, the muddier it got. In writing, thought is the enemy of the first draft, but the friend of subsequent passes until proofreading. Then it must go on to other things, while the work is processed, buffed and cleaned but left intact by gentle handmaidens with blue pens and questions that do not masquerade as knives but serve to bring forth what is there.

The"Job Seeker" was accidental but I can see now that it was attached to the very real, prevalent emotion of the temp, which I was: temping at Turner Sports, adjunct teaching at GSU, sporadic gigs with the State's Artists in the Schools programs. I was one or both of those hungry animals.

Now that job life is safer, I don't have that biting ferocity either to find editing work or make paintings that represent my fears or hungers. Now I'm not sure what my images can or should be. A look through my current journal shows body parts. Eyes peeking, shoulders shrugging, the head on one page, the body on the other. Pull yourself together!

That's a funny quip, though dismissive because it stops me from pursuing the idea that to be in parts is a telling thing, worth studying. (I'm trying not to say it's bad because I'm happy this week to practice living the idea that Everything Is As It Should Be).

And now it is time to get up and make the donuts. More as it happens.


Monday, December 1, 2008

A Little More Sharing - Song Lyrics


If you were the woman and I was the man
would I send you yellow roses
would I dare to kiss your hand?
In the morning would I caress you
as the wind caresses the sand,
if you were the woman and I was the man?

If I was the heart and you were the head
would you think me very foolish
if one day I decided to shed
these walls that surround me
just to see where these feelings led,
if I was the heart and you were the head?

If I was the woman and you were the man
would I laugh if you came to me
with your heart in your hand
and said, 'I offer you this freely
and will give you all that I can
because you are the woman
and I am the man?'

The song was composed by Michael Timmins and is from the album "Black-Eyed Man" by

Cowboy Junkies