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.

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