rAt the Renwick. Of particular inteest to my creative partner Isabel Winson-Sagan who started off as a woodworker.
Pop Art? Abstract? Constructivist? Conceptual?
Bodie Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras, NC
Visits from the Wild
Night gives over to light when our rabbit arrives on the patio. We know he’s our rabbit because of the notched ear, the lame hind leg. No hurry hopping to the bowl of wild rabbit kibble poured for him between visits. He’s feral, yes, ears on alert. But accustomed to us. A streak of tame in him, he doesn’t startle to our voices. We watch him from the kitchen door.
cars rev along Unser
I whisper stay
Our rabbit nibbles briefly, then turns to his water bowl, a double bowl left over from the time of two cats. He shares water with doves and finches who converge around the bird feeder. He sips, wiggles his nose, sips again, returns to his kibble, puts his forepaws onto the edge of the bowl and tips it.
a flutter in the pine tree raptor wings
Janet Echelman’s colorful fiber and lighting installation, suspended from the ceiling of the Renwick Gallery’s Grand Salon, examines the complex interconnections between human beings and our physical world, and reveals the artist’s fascination with the measurement of time.
It was overwhelming to see this–just transformative!
Photo by Isabel Winson-Sagan. We were lucky to share the experience.
A lone forest fire spotter sits Zen-like in a tower at the top of a slope in the Gila National Forest as he has done day in and day out for the past twelve years. He cannot read—distracting. He cannot watch television—eyes on the forest. He cannot talk on his phone—bad signal and too much dividing of his attention in case of a fire. He can only sit zazen, staring into the green and blue as they meet just above the tree line on the other shore above the lake below him. He had a canary once, but the canary died. And the forestry department did not approve of the canary.
The fire spotter chose his job and it chose him. He was one of those individuals, along with lighthouse keepers, hotdog stand owners and writers, who must have freedom before they can breathe. Who must be alone before they can ever be with other people. Who must have silence and inertness before any action can arise in them.
When the fire comes, he is then ready, and bolts into action, in the zone required for a sensible and efficient resolution of a dangerous situation.
The lonely lighthouse keeper, wife long dead, groping in the dark on a wind-swept, stormy shore, being overcome with an internal darkness except when in the tower watching out for the boats in distress in the night, is a stereotype that may be closer to the reality than we think. Am I the only person who has ever longed for such an existence?
The independence of the hot dog stand owner-master of his own destiny, answering to no one but himself, is probably a myth. Those buns and condiments have to come from somewhere. But how many of us as working stiffs whose creativity has been stamped out by the gods of bureaucracy have not longed to be our own boss, doing our own thing and doing it in the way we believe to be the most meaningful?
As a writer, I too, must have quiet. I must be alone. No café writing for me. No putting pen to paper before first sitting and emptying my mind of all thought. Only then can the real writing of consequence occur. Only then can meaning come into the writing, for my self and for others who choose to read what I have written.
This piece was written earlier this month in a Tumblewords workshop on zoom from El Paso. The prompt was a painting by Margarete Bagshaw that references forest fire, “The Day The Sun Turned Red” 36″ X 48″
In honor of Indian Market, 2011
Self-portrait, cut from paper. The issue of self-presentation. Can you do it in words?
Photos by Isabel Winson-Sagan from a show at the Hirschhorn Museum in D.C.
Where was I?
National Park Seminary–once a resort, then a school, then military, then a ruin…now a development.
I’m heading back east for the unveiling of my father-in-law’s headstone. Jack (Jacob) Feldman–may his memory be a blessing. I’ll be back to blogging in about a week, and always answering email at email@example.com
The Jewish Cemetery Association of MA says:
The custom of placing a monument over the grave of a departed person is a very ancient Jewish tradition. The Book of Genesis, for example, records that Jacob erected a tombstone (Matzevah) over the grave of his wife Rachel. From Biblical times onward, wherever Jewish communities have existed, Jews have continued this practice of erecting a memorial in honor of their deceased.
The monument is erected to indicate clearly where a person is buried, so that family and friends may visit the gravesite. It is also a way of remembering and honoring the memory of the person who has died.
Today, we refer to the ceremony of formally consecrating a tombstone as an “unveiling.”
There seems to be a cultural consensus that “change is good.” It helps us move “forward.” That is how we meet our “goals.” And yet, as any housecat will tell you—change is also bad. For example, running the vacuum. A bad change. Ditto for redecorating. So, which is it?
I like having a vision, an action item, a focus. Yet I won’t put a positive moral judgement on my goal-oriented personality. Sure, I’m trying to maximize. I have also mislaid my car keys, said something insensitive, and spent money frivolously.
And my forward motion isn’t exactly change. Writing a book, imagining a new project, getting a group to work creatively—that isn’t change. It is more like an expression of the essential part of myself. But that isn’t new.
I’ve lived in the same house for half my life. I’m married to my high school boyfriend. However, this house is thousands of miles from where I was raised. The boyfriend is a second husband. So—change or stability? Obviously both.
I love it when I or a friend can experience a fresh start. There is nothing like a sense of rebirth to keep us going. That isn’t change in the consumer sense—not a new car, or a new to do list. It is change in the more profound sense, as in everything changes no matter how we respond.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. True or false? In some ways yes. Fashion for example looks different but feels identical—a cultural ready made that demands conformity—no matter the time or place. The housecat says—false. A vacuum will never be a comfy nap. If you throw out someone else’s beloved ratty T-shirt (or, God forbid, try and wash the toddler’s blanket) it will be obvious that things have not stayed the same. Things are worse, much worse.
I’ve tried to change my basic character, and totally failed. I’ve tried to change my most neurotic self-destructive traits and had unexpectedly good success. I painted the bedroom apricot and liked it. Years later, I painted the faded walls the same hue and liked it again.
I think I’m not so much a fan of change per se as I am a fan of the ability to develop and grow. To emerge, to stretch, to begin anew. A caterpillar can’t turn into a butterfly more than once, but a butterfly can flutter off in a new wind.
I’m immersed in dreams. Years ago, when dissatisfied with them, I used to add a drone of menace. Now, they auger the sublime and the senseless. They sometimes whisper, “stop making sense” right before dawn. Good dreams beg to differ with the dystopia, never boring, they never run out of color, they teach that beyond the weathered and the liminal is the horizon. They help to internalize the far reaches of dusk and love, and when foul weather ends, there are dustings of clarity, sometimes all the blood of the earth dries in the snow. My mother dances with William Holden in heaven, a rose between her teeth. Johnny Cash sings Trent Reznor in my shower. I’ve camped in a side canyon, serenaded by barn swallows on the far side of Mars. An anarchy of denizens : ghost dancers, rucksack poets, desert rats, Basho, compañeros for the journey. Dream senses of place are replaced at dawn, I wonder. A milagro. The world reimagines itself as unpolluted vistas and the warm coals of sunrise
the last things I hear
rivers bend away from rock
long distance deep sleep
John Macker copyright 2021