Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Arched Book: Getting Hung

Sometime last summer I was asked and eagerly agreed to participate in a collage show at eyedrum, a mixed-use art space in ghetto central...not far from me. It's a rambunctious spot: chain link fence, parking lot clotted with pot holes, perennial political shifts from visual art gallery to music venue, film viewing station. Energetic, hip, young. Everything I'm not, so I'm very glad to be there.

And I am there! Astonishing effort, egged on by show curator Mandie Mitchell, who I knew when she was a punk undergrad at Atlanta College of Art. Last week was a bear. I've got a new freelance gig grading papers for an online writing program. Last week was my first week of grading actual papers, setting them to the rubric and creating templated comments and a time management system that would get them done in the required 72 hours. OMFG. I cancelled everything I could, except the mammogram and the collage project.

The trick for me was to deliver a piece that was a book, because that's what I do, that could hang on a wall. (Anything sitting on a pedestal would likely be stolen.) Fortunately, I've been taking a book arts class at the Atlanta Printmakers Studio from book artist, Rory Golden. He'd created or adapted a structure that would allow him to ship a book in the smallest container but hang in the largest space. The solution to this is an accordion structure.

Rory calls his book an 'arched' book because it literally arches over the space where it hangs.
It collapses into an object the size of its pages.
In my case, I worked on pages folded to 7 by 7 inches. Each page is folded and loops are threaded into the spines of each page.
Then, send a tape through the loops. One tape is as wide as the loops and fits pretty snuggly. This tape is folded between the pages. Then another, much longer, ribbon (or two) is sent over the tape. This is much looser and longer.

These ribbons run from one point/wall to the other and serve as the 'clothes' line, or track for the pages.

A point of felicity at eyedrum came when we hung the structure in a corner and shadows appeared.

This piece, called "Miss Pearl Fooled Me" is not finished.
Pages are made with mulberry paper, a new surface for me and wonderful!
More on that later.
Gotta go prep for a telephone interview. Still job hunting.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dangerous Book - Episode 19

I returned to Phoebe immediately armed with a bottle of water which I urged on her and which she took, thanking me for showing some sense. Wannabe heroines spend more time wondering how they'd behave in emergencies. Real girl scouts learn the basics of first aid: how to take a pulse, administer CPR, where to put the cold compress. My mother, when I once had the pleasure of nursing her, called me Cratchett and said if she ever wanted to die before her time, she'd move in with me. Like she'd ever get the chance.

In the surprisingly short time we had to wait Phoebe and I did not talk. I thought we should and complimented her on the plantings in her plot: bulbs—daffodils just passing out as the iris emerged. The plot is bordered by white stones of assorted sizes that might have been culled from the marble and granite pieces of broken graves, and perennial shrubs: two gardenias, a native azalea and four peonies in early budding stage. Dozens of bulbs.

In a plot close by Veronica’s family rested in a space rendered both cheap and cheerful by two folding lawn chairs (one pointing in this direction) and a plastic bunny she'd placed there at Easter. "I wonder why," I said. "Is there a baby's grave?"

“No." said Phoebe. “She just buys whatever strikes her and plants it anywhere. She'd always been a little…" did she say cheap? It's what I thought I heard. I don't think Phoebe thinks much of Veronica. But they're attuned to each other. They depend on each other. Like family.

I was proud of Juniper. She snuggled down into the wedge of Phoebe's arm and rested. It was, if you looked at them, as if Phoebe was her guardian. Yet I could see that Juniper provided the warm comfort, while Phoebe provided the shade. My dog is so simple in her selfishness she is a joy to be with. And Phoebe used her to calm herself. She stroked Juniper's fur endlessly as we waited for the ambulance.

“Whose grave is this?” I asked.

“Mine,” she said. Wistfully, I thought. We sat in silence, until the light caught on the bracelet I’ve been wearing, the one with the charm of the baby’s head. She asked to see it and try it on.

“Is this the bracelet you found in your garden?” she asked.

I’d had the chain cleaned and added some charms of my own that I’d collected or been given over the years: a high school graduation charm from an aunt who didn’t realize charm bracelets were out of style. A little mushroom I’d worn as a pendant during the psychotropic years.

This baby’s head with the now legible March 10, 1960 I cherished as a gift, dispensed by the gods as a symbol. The date was a mildly significant to me; I wouldn’t have remembered it, specifically but I certainly remembered the weeks after the pregnancy test and a warm day in March when I allowed myself to walk among the hobbity houses off East Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead and feel desire without envy. Little houses with round doors that basked in the sun like sleeping safe children. When I re-read the journal I kept then, a fragmentary thing that illustrated the state of my mind, I saw it was on March 10 when I took that little stroll, admitted my desires and ran from them.

When I look at the flat gold charm I see the baby’s head and associate the gold wafer thinness of the charm itself with currency, but when I rub it I remember that street so tightly it’s as if I can smell the honey suckle and must be brought back to earth with some acidic reminder about cliches.

Phoebe fondles the charm also and I wonder what incantations she’s pulling out of it. Her strength doesn’t seem sufficient to the act and so she brings it to her lips. “It’s real gold,” I said, afraid she was going to bite into it. This stops her and she grins. A grin from an old woman is a wicked thing. So little meat. So much bone. “I know,” she whispered and handed the bracelet back to me.

“I have my own plot,” I said, changing the subject.

“In New York?”


“Comforting, isn't it?” She spoke in what I now realize was an ironic tone. She was after all, stretched across her own grave. But I missed it then

“I won’t be here forever. Someday I’ll go home.”

And then I don’t know what happened, but I started to cry. The sweet thing was that she was silent and returned my dog to me. No matter how indifferent I seem towards Juniper, whenever I’m feeling bad, she will come to me.

“You wanted it after all, didn’t you?”

“I don’t know what I wanted.”

“In a way,” said Phoebe. “That’s worse.

“Look,” she said, raising herself up, as if she was not in pain after all. “Look. You’re going to have to figure out a way to get on with it.”

She drew a melodramatic breath and seemed to emphasize her point by jabbing at the daffodil leaves. She had not been able to braid all of them. “Fix these, please,” she ordered. I complied and, as if rewarding me, she continued.

“These events…these crimes we make against ourselves…it’s not them, you have to worry about, but the punishment of letting them fester so that takes up your life. What was your sin? You’ve got one or you wouldn’t be so confused. Figure it out. Figure out how to forgive yourself and do it.”

The sound of the ambulance’s siren, which I’d been hearing as an effect against the intensity of her words suddenly turned real and hot. 911 had arrived.

I promised to drive over later with Mrs. Moth, but when I got back to Monnish Court, Mrs. M. was not home. Veronica was and promised she would go over, which she did and was still there later when I finally delivered Mrs. M. and, by the way, met that doctor Veronica has been dating.

The diagnosis could have been worse: Phoebe's ankle was not just twisted but had fractured. This was bad enough in someone my age, but frightening for a frail stalk of a woman in her seventies.

P.S. Returned to Evergreen later for Phoebe’s basket. Note stone with inscription Robert Dowling. Interesting feature: He died on his birthday. Also, instead of simple dates his stone had been carved with a star before April 12, 1928 and a cross before April 12, 1960. How do you die at 32 on your birthday? I wondered. Find out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dangerous Book - Episode 18

Sat., April 20 evening

I went out this morning with a sketchpad and Juniper. We fetched up at Evergreen where I let her off the leash and discovered, while drawing, that drawing is seeing. You can't do one without the other.

See the three maps? The first turns out to be only an impression of Evergreen's layout.

My memory of it in conflict with what I really saw as I began to draw. I started with a rectangle and some crosses to mark off the roads, paths and footways. I started large, thinking the paved entry road divided the cemetery in half. But in fact, this road, which begins on 11th St., cuts along the first third.

Then there is a row of rose bushes, which begins on the left of the entry road and finishes on the right. I thought it marked the center of the whole cemetery, but it's nowhere near the center. It's not the center of the cemetery or anything; it's just a row of rose bushes that runs horizontally from the Snowes, across the entry drive and past the Ebinger's crypt to the Martin's raised bed where it ends. It's practically random. Or is it?

I found myself erasing and re-drawing until the paper gave out and then I drew again this time a combination of what I still thought I was seeing and what I actually did see. What an argument! Gave this one up quickly and in disgust. (This is precisely when most adults and middle school children give up drawing---at the intersection of stubborn persistence and surrender. The frustration has nothing to do with a talent for drawing. It has to do with a talent for willingness. If we persist past frustration, we move into the ultimately more rewarding frustrations of hand-eye coordination. We begin to draw what we see and train our hands to follow. It is willingness more than talent that makes a good draughtsman. And what of talent? I think of it as love. The talented one is the artist, the one who loves, who gets there faster, who has more fun, is more playful. The talented one coordinates beyond eye and hand and into soul. But I was just trying to get a bead on the cemetery. I was trying to fix the place in my mind and on my pad.

Finally I stood on the highest plot drew the bones of the third map. See how the row of roses has shifted into its rightful place. This morning it was the horizontal of a cross. Tonight it is a line no bigger than a dash. While I was learning all this, Juniper had made her own discoveries.

In doing this, I spotted Phoebe. After completing the third and most accurate map, I'd gone to investigate the plot where I first saw Veronica and Peter and found Phoebe lying in a neighboring plot. Like Veronica, she had been working. Tending the expired daffodils.

Unlike Veronica, who had been clipping the last of the blooms, Phoebe had been kneeling in front of a head stone braiding dozens of daffodil leaves, rolling them into balls, which she then tucked and knotted into something resembling a chignon.

When I saw her from the nearby path she seemed to be crawling on the plot. She was not; she was writhing. She had lost balance and fallen against the stone, landing back on the ground.

Poor Phoebe was at that level of pain where you pass out when it gets bad and wake back up when it gets worse. She'd twisted or broken her ankle stumbling over the stones that border the gravesite (a family sized plot with two stones.) Of course I panicked for two seconds, actually turning away and then back again hoping like hell I'd been imagining things. No luck. Juniper is more sensible. She ran up to Phoebe and brought her to with a few good licks to the face. Dropping to my knees beside them, I pulled Juniper away then stared at Phoebe as a very young child might. She opened her eyes and rolled them in my direction.

"Get help." She mouthed the words. I hesitated. Looking towards the apartment complex and back again. Truly, paralyzed with ignorance. "Leave the dog," she mouthed. I released Juniper and stood. Energy returned with a force that sent me flying over the chain link fence to the side alley that runs between Monnish Court and Evergreen.

From my apartment I phoned 911 and gave directions.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

3 Day Walk - 5 Day Recovery

Top Ten Things I Learned the Second Year

1. First year was beginner's luck: Great weather, over-training, wide-eyed innocence, no blisters
2. There's no way of knowing how the events of the preceding year will effect one's ability to experience the 3Day. This year we started in Sand Key in Clearwater Beach and crossed the Clearwater Bridge, passing the Oaks, where the Knuckle lived. Had this route been on last year's walk, she would have been out on the sidewalk with her buddies. This year, she was not.
3. I will never look at someone's scowls or bad temper without asking first, "Could she/he be in pain?" Pain is a great filter and it changes everything. To rise above pain and smile is a mark of great strength, humor and understanding.
4. I don't have those qualities.
5. Yet.
6. Pain makes you paranoid, slows you down and tricks you into thinking it's a reflection of your quality, popularity and intelligence.
7. Pain makes you lonely and retards compassion. It deafens you to applause.
8. No matter how slowly you must walk, there is someone behind you. To reduce your speed to theirs is to hurt yourself further. We must all walk at our own speed.
9. I will love it better next year.
10. Just because it hurt doesn't mean it wasn't a victory.

So, not as magical as year one. Well, what is?
Blisters do heal.
It didn't rain.
The temps weren't always in the 90s.
With just 1,400 walkers (far less than 2008), we raised $4 million.