In case you are wondering how my year is going and why I am offline…
2019 kind of blows!*
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*This is karma in action, I swore I wasn’t going to buy any more tea until I drank all I already have…but I just can’t kick the loose-leaf habit.**
**Fingers Crossed People. Otherwise, get used to the pithy new mode of blogging I can achieve typing with one finger on my cell phone. On the upside, I can now blog while on the toilet. So this is a case of the glass being half full, really.
This is one of the hardest questions to answer, not the least of which is because it is transliterated from Russian. It asks: “What is art?” I ventured forth one night to consider this while exploring that regional delight: the hometown art fair.
Yesterday, I took my son to the Art & Chocolate Walk in Grandville, MI. Families gathered to share tidbits and admire local amateur artists’ works alongside school children’s efforts. I will say now, I am no arbiter of art; I have not studied at the Sorbonne, nor could I tell you the effect Prussian blue had on the impressionists. What I can tell you is viewing art at the speed of sound is a blurry challenge. (My son is not known for his love of art–unless it is of the deconstructionist variant and it involves either indelible ink or an expensive piece of technology.)* Destructive self-expression aside, my son preferred gobbling the candy and cookies to exploring the meaning found in artistic media–regardless of what form it took.
Among the exhibits under flapping awnings and propped on rolling stages was the very popular human statue. Parents would lead their unsuspecting child up to the copper-hued sculpture, asking their opinion about the work, only to hear the children yelp, “It moved!” followed by a spate of giggles when the work of art waggled a brush at them before returning to a frozen stance. Is this art? I can’t say. What I will say is the kids liked it and the man did a great job. He was up there the entire time I visited the fair staying in character–except when he broke the third wall–to the delight of onlookers. That shows talent in my book.
The art exhibits were cleverly spaced throughout the local business establishments. The chamber of commerce committee that dreamed this up earned their pennies.
There is something odd, at first, about squeezing into a dress shop or past floor tile samples to view whichever school group or work was displayed, but plucky people managed it. After you grabbed your treat and had your card punched, you could wander through the stock to find the exhibits–it was surprisingly fun.
We zipped through one store where grandfather clocks competed with chiming glass-and-mirrored wall clocks which signaled the changing shifts of visitors to the small table of glue and paper efforts by the local elementary students.**
To some, this marketing of community businesses through parental pride might strike a mercenary note, yet I couldn’t help but admire the effort it took to put this on. Someone organized the local shops, the schools and teachers, the musicians and artists to contribute–time, money, energy and enthusiasm. Behind each cardboard easel you’ll see a deeper purpose–to nurture budding talents and to give pride of place for children who can go somewhere, point to a piece of work and say, “That one’s mine.” while the world looks on.
Everywhere I went, in the brief moments of admiration for some truly talented youngsters, I saw moms and dads escorting siblings and taking candid shots of performances and works by their children. Some children were shy about it, others wore smiles so wide it is hard to imagine a frame large enough to fit all those teeth.
Where does art comes from? What inspiration springs from the soul and dares to express itself in song, sound, or acrylic paints? When does it actually happen?
Was there a budding Renoir or Matisse among the earnest, dramatic and sometimes cute artwork? From what I could see, yes. I was astounded at what was produced–either as a collaborative effort or even a derivative style, it was still very much art to me. Perhaps it was the nascent, newly-birthed foal version of art, just finding its shaky legs and looking for its mother to lean on, but it was art.
All artists start somewhere at a place of beginning, staring at a blank canvas and wondering how they can speak to the world through a charcoal pencil. How does a child scribbling one day turn into a world-renowned artist? At one point, someone put a pencil or crayon in their hand and told them, “Draw me a pretty picture.” This, this is where art starts.
I wanted to include some of my favorites, so scroll below to see what I could see in the short amount of time my son allowed me.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*His first work is entitled “A Study in Red” because he squirted red food coloring all over the cream carpet in the living room. It never quite washed out. I hope the new home owners aren’t standing over the Rorschach-esque designs speculating whether a murder took place.
**If I confuse which grade of art was placed where, forgive me. By my fourth piece of dessert my concentration suffered from sugar overload.
There is a manic busyness to butterflies that reminds a person that life is short. On average, a butterfly lives about a month, which is practically a luxury when compared to the mayfly which lives as an adult for less than a day—time which is basically spent reproducing before giving up their tiny ghosts. There is a lesson in this, probably.*
Because the human life span promises an extravagance of time, we tend to play fast and loose with our possibilities. We waste time to a degree that that Mother Nature shakes her head and throws plagues and severe storms at us for the occasional wake-up call. I was reminded of this while photographing butterflies at Meijer Gardens this weekend.
Saturday, I shutterbugged my way through hordes of Vitamin-D deficient, pale mid-westerners who frolicked in the sun like they forgot what the glowing ball in the sky meant.** It was a good day to be out. Bright, warm. If I hadn’t had a raging headache, the day would have been perfect.
A babysitter sprinted after my son who was like a hound off his leash, allowing me the privilege of a leisurely inspection of the Japanese Gardens where incipient spring threatens pollen bombing if the warm weather continues.
In my haste to worship the sun god, I neglected my hat and sunscreen routine. After ensuring that I’d exposed myself long enough to accrue a good case of sunstroke, I scampered inside to jam myself between iPhone happy strangers all trying to immortalize terrorized butterflies in unwilling selfies in the arboretum.
April signifies the end of the Butterfly Exhibit—a seasonal tradition at the gardens guaranteeing huge crowds as winter slips its stranglehold on the state. It also signals the end of the butterflies’ tiny life spans. Maybe it was just me, but their ragged wings and spastic flapping seemed tragic even as I too tried to pin their image to a digital cork board. It’s a macabre pastime only ameliorated by the lack of chloroform and a ‘humane’ practice of letting the poor things live out their sexless lives, out of season, trapped in a giant glass prison. I quash my guilt in order to enjoy myself.
We’re walking back to the car when, suddenly, I realize something is blocking the vision in my right eye. There is a shadow pantomime something like a stick and a jellyfish sword fighting wherever I look. I’ve had similar incidents in the past, but nothing on this scale. I’m not the brightest girl in the world, but, taking the headache into consideration, it occurs to me something might be wrong.
I scurry home, upload my pictures (because, hey, priorities), and chat with a friend to ask her opinion. She agrees, it is probably a floater and it’s no big deal. Because I suffer a certain amount of paranoia married with an overactive imagination and access to the internet, I come up with a different conclusion: I’ve detached a retina and I could lose my vision altogether.*** I call my friend who is a doctor, she says, “It’s probably nothing, but at your age with your severe myopia it could be a detached retina. If you can, you should have it looked at.”
Fast forward to an emergency visit to an ophthalmologist’s office, and she confirms it: “It’s just a big floater. We’ll have you come back in three weeks to see how it’s doing.”
So, there you have it, butterflies are pernicious omens of ill will and doom, signifying the end of all things. Of course, that could just be the dancing jellyfish in my eye playing tricks on me.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Mayfly mantra: more sex, less effing around with laundry and shit.
**We had. I call it winter amnesia.
***This is aptly called free-floating anxiety. Also, part of me wants to call this a detached retinue–because all of the voices in my head have abandoned me to run around in a panic.
Sorry, I was sucked into the vacuum that is Spring Break with a hyperactive child who has an overdeveloped sense of curiosity and underdeveloped sense of self-preservation.
The brain trust is drained.
For your amusement, pictures I took with my Samsung phone at work today:
This entire post is in response to something at Writers of the Rain said about there not being an interesting picture of a stapler. I disagree! I now challenge everyone else to find or create their own interesting stapler photo.*
According to my microwave, half-an-inch of snow has fallen in the past hour. No, my oven doesn’t possess space-age technology allowing it to pop the Orville Redenbacher while simultaneously measuring the barometer looking for a warming trends. In fact, it’s not even capable of popping corn correctly. Which is why my microwave is sitting outside in the snow and my windows are open to the elements in hopes I won’t set off the very expensive, ear-piercingly loud fire alarms.*
The reason my microwave is melting a rectangle of water outside my door (that it will no doubt freeze in place overnight), is because I dared to dream. After a day of ‘getting stuff done’ and ‘being responsible’, I decided to take a break, sit down, and watch a movie with my son. Then Netflix froze up and I thought that, while it rebooted, I would make a snack…
Apparently Netflix decided I didn’t deserve to see the ending of “Home” and, while I was fiddling with that, the microwave set its phazers to ‘obliterate’ and my sweet-and-salty popcorn did a Vesuvius. Distracted by ‘the purple screen of death’, I hear my son shutting off the microwave—a favorite thing of his to do. I’m turning to yell at him when I realize billows of black smoke are pouring out through the side vents. Anticipating my curses, the child turns the microwave back on. Of course, I yelled at him anyway…
“No! It’s okay to turn it off when it’s on fire!”**
So, I’m sitting in my snow suit, waiting for the smoke to clear and hoping that, if I ever again get the bright idea to try and have a relaxing evening, I will just skip it and go to bed. Apparently the Gods of Irony have me on speed dial.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*My kitchen appliances really ought to come with built-in fire alarms and extinguishers. It would save time.
**One of these days I am going to write a book, Words I Never Thought Would Come Out of My Mouth. The first chapter will be entitled, “That’s Not Food”.
Please admire my new topic category: “Highly Flammable“. I see great things in my future with this one!
Instead of sitting to write my manifesto novel for Nanowrimo, I have been looking at old photos on my laptop. I’m calling it ‘organizing’ them, but what I am really doing is procrastinating wallowing in nostalgia. Some photos are incomprehensible. Why for example did I need to take a picture of my son’s gloves with his library book? Possibly for later identification when one or both got lost? The majority of the pictures, however, besides capturing the whimsical or inconsequential impulses of a shutter bug, seems to feed an insatiable need to record the best moments of life: the trips taken, the milestones celebrated and the triumphs achieved. The purpose of photographic evidence stems from a need to document a life well-lived. But what if it is an illusion? What then?
I have been that relative. You know the one. The person who carried a camera to all family events, insisting on posing people or worse, snapping natural pictures of people unawares with their mouths open shoving a too-big piece of cake into their pie cake-holes. We are a much-reviled breed of enthusiasts* With the advent of digital cameras and cell-phone pics, we are much harder to spot. In fact, we may now outnumber those irritating people who hate getting their picture taken. Take that you privacy freaks.
What is the source of our obsession? Why do people like me seek to pin the memory to paper? To alter and revise our lives to show only the best? Perhaps, because joy is fleeting, it needs to be recorded so that we know it is possible. That, if after enough time passes, we can believe that we were happy. We are the Kodachrome revisionists—there is no negative we cannot develop into a positive.
I have boxes of pictures that never see the light of day—and probably close to a million pictures stored on my computer of people and places that I have long forgotten except when I run across them. Much like an amateur archeologist discovering a lost civilization, I am forced to sift and wonder who these people are and why they were significant enough to retain forever housed in my limitless archives?
Following my father’s death, I revisited our mangled childhood photos that, as children, we were apparently inspired to embellish like budding, drunk Picassos. Laden with scratches and ball-point ink pen marks, these images inspire a never-before-awakened fastidiousness in me, compelling immediate photo-shopping. (There had to be a reason I stayed up until 5:00 a.m. manically scanning and airbrushing the evidence of our crimes.)** As if I could improve on life by erasing anything that suggests it was anything but perfect. This definitely falls in the category of a bit barmy, but with as few childhood photos as my mother managed to retain despite the depredation of bored children with scissors and belatedly developed film that all came out pink, I feel it my calling to save as many of these silly moments for posterity.
So I will share with you my imperfect life. The moments where I was less than beautiful and the bizarre revelations of the hidden-camera approach to self-awareness. And perhaps, in acknowledging my flaws and letting go of perfection, I can appreciate the imperfect memories that happen when I put the camera down.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Besides the term ‘Paparazzi’ there has to be a word connoting a group of photographers! ‘Flashers’ seems to already be taken, and while ‘Soul Snatchers’ has a nice ring to it—it might get shortened to ‘Snatcher’ I don’t think it will catch on.
If you ever wondered what a Macy’s Day Float would look like in a closet…
I’m skyping with my friend late one night, yakking it up, when I hear a sound from my son’s bedroom.
“Whirrrrrrrrrrr, hisssss, Whirrrrrrrr, hissssss…”
Friend: “What’s that noise?”
Me: “Oh, that’s a video my son took of inflating an air mattress. For some reason, he finds it hysterically funny.”
Friend: “Do you want to go check it out?”
Me: “No, I’m sure it’s just his video.”
We continue talking, ignoring the odd whooshing noises from the other side of the wall, when all of a sudden…
Me: “Wait. That’s not normal.”
Said friend laughs as I dash to check out the ominous sound coming from my child’s room. I fling open the door and it’s all I can do to get it open. I wish I had a picture to show you, but I was too busy rescuing my child from his predicament to grab a camera.*
[Update-News Flash: Child has since repeated the offense and so I have photographic evidence of the claustrophobic effect. Enjoy]
Apparently, while I thought he was being a good boy and bringing his blankets and pillows from the basement, what he’d actually been doing was smuggling a queen-sized, double thick air mattress into his room—a room just barely wider than said mattress. He had inflated it on the narrow space between his bed and his dresser and the gargantuan mass was crushing him to the wall while trying to devour the furniture around it. The motor objected greatly to the compact restrictions.
Despite child’s objections, I removed his ‘toy’ and hid it some place new. I have no idea how he snuck the keys to the laundry room where this was stored, but obviously, I’m going to have to get clever to outwit my child.**
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*Anyone possessing a photo of an inflatable stuck in imaginative (uncensored, g-rated) places may feel free to post them here.
**Although, the odds on me becoming smarter are incredibly low. That, and I’m tempted to let him do it again, just to take the picture. It was that funny.
There is a house, hemmed by hundred-year-old forests. It sits wedged at the crack where the mountain and the trees argue about property lines; each takes a small step here or there, reclaiming what was lost. The crenellated highway cuts through and, playing referee, takes no sides. From the uppermost window you could see traffic zoom by. Only birds know this was once a palace of an impoverished people. Zigzag stairs dash haphazard footpaths—dizzying, transitory indecision leading nowhere. And flower pots wait at the end of the world for owners who are never coming home.