Thursday, January 31, 2008

Gallery 4

The artist at work.

Gallery 4

Harper's volcano, with mountains and ocean in the background

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

nothing worthwhile to say

Somebody complained that I hadn't written in a while -- that's so incentivizing.
Isn't that a good non-word? An imago-fictive construct, that word.

These rare nights out serve to remind me of what a light-weight I've become, in terms of Guiness pitchers and literary wit. I come home, put my son to bed, I check my work email (church geek), write my boss, get a temperature reading from my husband, drink some Vitawater, blog a little... where's the sequel to my examination of the influences of Edith Wharton (or whomever it was) and Somerset Maughm? Where's the insightful commentary on The Lord's Prayer in the original Aramaic? Heck, I'm not even using spellcheck. Nope, I'm drunk on beer and this is the minute I possess in which to record my worthless impressions:

I miss having friends who like to go out. I need to work out some well-earned angst. I like guys my own age, and don't find younger men terribly attractive (they all look like they're in junior high school.) I hope I don't puke, having just consumed a handful of those Big Dipper cornchips. I hope Cathie made some progress on the giving statements. I need ibuprofen. Now he's back home doing 9 to 5 -- Living his grey flannel life -- But when he turns off to sleep, oh memories keep -- "More More More" -- Gitchy gitchy ya ya da da... I think Hillary Clinton is just another Washington white guy for President. I'm sad that Edwards won't make it, again. I wish my fish n chips had come with more fish, and real fries. I like Mayslack's bar. It's too cold for romance.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

imaginary church architecture

Last night I dreamt about church again - the church where I work and attend - and as always, it was a completely unfamiliar setting. Each time I dream about church, the building and the rooms are redesigned by imagination -- a different sanctuary, office, meeting rooms, fellowship hall etc -- each dream. I go through several architectual versions per month, and can't recall one dream where the space looked just as it does now, in reality.

In this more recent dream, our prospective Worship & Music director had to give a brief report for the congregation (which was much larger than our current crowd), and in the middle of a sentence she finally decided to take the job and work with us. As if she'd been struck just then with the critical inspiration. So maybe it's more accurate to call this a 'fantasy.'

One interesting commonality among these imaginary churches, is that they are like the real space in that the offices are older and un-beautiful, but the sanctuaries are always gorgeous. Last night the sanctuary looked more modern, with the rounded amphitheater construction and sloping floor, pews deeply cushioned and divided into sections. The room itself wasn't actually so large -- not the sort of space that holds thousands. The pews were painted white, and the walls were light-colored and brightly lit; but the whole space had a very warm and cozy feel in spite of being large. It was filled with people. In an unpleasant dream from more than a year ago the image entailed the sort of vast, Vaticanesque sanctuary I'd never hope to worship in. Garrison Keillor was there for some reason, presiding over an overwrought wedding. Lots of gold paint and ostentatious detail to the architecture. But that was a negative dream overall.

I often dream about other places, homes where I've lived etc, with consistant detail. I'm interested to know how many churches I can invent before those dreams become predictable.

Monday, January 21, 2008

a week with no ending

Rabbits are outside my back door, setting off the motion light. They're eating the burnt crusts of some bread I'd thrown out there last night -- burnt because I was so out of it yesterday I forgot to flour the baking pan, which is just a dumb oversight for someone who bakes as much as I have. At least the rabbits get some nourishment from it. Ugh. The rest of the bread was fine, once I peeled off the outer husk.

The furnace is running, which elicites soft ringing sounds from the windchime hung just inside the back door. It's a good windchime, that I brought indoors for the winter.

I'm tired from church this week. There's more of the same coming up -- taxes, statements, 1099s and w2s, a luncheon Thursday, a workshop Saturday. This past Sunday was the Annual Meeting, the ramp-up to which entailed a lot of stress for everyone involved -- at times the congregation has seemed mutinous, in the past nine months; but Sunday they sat placidly and voted everything through with nary a challenge. That surmounted, unnecessary tension headaches treated, we turned around and threw a neighborhood MLK celebration tonight that was reasonably well-attended. I was really looking forward to it -- there was a strong element of music and performance -- but the whole thing failed to touch me. I enjoyed the music alot. I just didn't feel present. It wasn't the fault of the event, and I heard some people were moved to tears. I just wish I'd been there, so to speak. For the past couple of days I'm feeling a tad disconnected somehow. I assume it's just weariness.

I'm sewing a little project, something abstract out of scraps, with a simple idea in mind: Desire. Only desire -- not conquest or possession, not only lust. Just something evocative of desire. (Some of you will surely wonder how that's possible on a sewing machine. Others won't.) Pictures soon.

Lots of incomplete thoughts right now, though.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lunch with G., part two

This has gone really long, and I hope I’m not just grasping at something ephemeral and impossible to relate.

It was the end of the 3-hour conversation (the sort that ends, like a long pleasant date, with standing at the door in your coat, still talking.) Georgette was speaking openly about death, after hours of touching lightly on the subject from many angles.

She is preparing to begin an artistic meditation on the Kaddish – not simply the mourner’s Kaddish, but as a central prayer of Jewish liturgy. She said “I don’t like to talk about a baby before it’s born…” and she repeatedly looked down and away while she explained some of the roots of the idea. I understood the hesitancy – an idea evolves before a mark is ever made, like a child in the womb, and you can’t make it ready before its time. Speaking of it prematurely might cause it to deviate somehow from its best course. And certainly we all feel some fear of death itself -- So I won’t expose what she has confided. But death was a thread that had woven itself into the conversation from its first lines, subtly but so much so that I felt I had to tread carefully for a short time at the beginning – she referred to a period when her spouse had been ill and I feared the worst. But the sources for that undercurrent didn’t appear until hours later.

Standing by the door in my coat, I responded by talking about Lent. Last year’s Lenten season still makes me fearful of the coming months in an irrational way – between my family and the church there were eight deaths in as many weeks. Not all of the church people were acquaintances, but the repetition and the timing of the onslaught (immediately pre-consolidation) was numbingly harsh. The suffering before the blessing. Georgette and I talked about the artwork I’d started this time last year that was derailed by that experience, and the lingering need to process this somehow. I mentioned that in a significant sense I was more of a witness to mourning than the person immediately affected by most of these losses; and she pointed out that it is the artist’s role to serve as witness. I recall thinking that it must also be the pastor’s role, to some degree.

Days have passed now since I wrote my initial post on this subject, but I still remember the odd and eerie feelings that passed through me during much of my conversation that day. Confluences of people and circumstance recurred as we spoke, resonant experiences that echoed back and forth across our two lives (through years of disconnect) to coincide along similar paths of thought. I remember wondering if its possible to be a lens, as a person – for me to temporarily assume the role of lens in gathering together many people from the corners of my life to combine their energy in one direction, towards one distinct purpose only God would fully know. In some ways I feel I’m doing it now, at this point in my life, but can only wonder if that is my gift – to be a lens, a producer, or as Dean would put it, a caretaker. A facilitator. Someone who tends to people and ideas and helps things happen. Is that a role? Is it just the artist’s job, as Georgette seemed to say? Is it where I’m headed professionally? Or is that not yet revealed to me at all? To be a lens, and a witness.

What does that mean?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lunch with Georgette, part one

Connections, Lens, Witness

I only write this because I need to find within a broad feeling of profound reaction the focus, the crux, the answer. I need to know what this experience points me toward.

On Friday I had lunch with my old friend Georgette Sosin. I haven’t seen her since shortly before my son was born. She is a former mentor, an artist, age 74; her studio is located just a few blocks from the office where I’ve worked since May of last year. For nine months I’ve walked the blocks past her studio, on my way to the mailbox or the coffee shop; at times her car was in the drive, often not, and I was too shy to simply stand on her doorstep and ring the bell.

She took me in hand during a time of deep transition and transformation, when I was about 26 years old. She suggested the arrangement, though I don’t recall the dialogue leading up to the proposal. It was 1996 – I had just begun my work with the Minnesota Historical Society at St. Anthony Falls, and the array of seashore artifacts and found objects in Georgette’s studio echoed the geological and cultural layers found in the landscape of Minneapolis’ birthplace, by the Mississippi River.

Georgette was living in Chanhassan at the time with her husband, a retired physician. They shared a studio in one of the North Loop warehouse buildings in downtown Minneapolis. Henry worked then as now in clay. Georgette is a painter, and to some extent a sculptor; her works are often textural and incorporate relief elements or sculptural forms. Her imagery is often associated with the cosmos, and the patterns and shapes common to natural forms. Her studio contains a carefully arranged selection of fossils, shells, shark teeth, naked twisting tree branches, stones and bones.

I had no evident artistic voice when she took me on. I probably had some talent, but I genuinely can’t recall why she found me worth her time. She knew me as a curator and an organizer, through the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota. This means we would have first met some time in the late 1980s or early 90s. Her work then as now was deeply spiritual, though I don’t know whether that word would have resonated as much for her 12 years ago. The undercurrent of our dialogues in the studio must have skirted such territory; she had such a strong influence on me then. And even now we are still connected. Georgette’s artistic style is nothing like mine, and her work isn’t always the sort of thing I’m attracted to; but the philosophy and the intellect behind her work is fascinating and compelling.

There are maybe four people in the world known to me with whom I feel a connection much deeper than words can describe. There are others with whom I am closer in a daily way, who I love, who are different from these four. All of these people who share my life could be superficially sorted into types, I suppose; but there are no surface indications for why some are embedded within me mind and soul, while others know me through the normal ties with which we bind ourselves to one another. The mutuality of all these relationships varies by degrees over time. Some relationships are on the border between the two types. I wouldn’t want to say who is who, because I know everyone has their own ideas about what should be felt in certain relationships. I struggled myself with those preconceived notions for many years, and it only brought me heartache. I will say that of those with whom I feel most connected, two of them are men and two are women; and while the men tend to be surprised and distracted by the manifestations of connection, the women tend to take it for granted more. Each of them can truthfully say they know me well, and I’d like to say the same of them, and that has to be enough. Certainly I love them all. But Georgette is my superior in many ways, and I cannot guess what she says about me.

It’s interesting to note that at this moment I have more of these people in my life than I ever have. People I truly love, who love me.

Our lunch conversation spanned three hours, many more years, and dizzied me with its steep descent into deeply personal territory. It’s not that there are subjects off-limits to others which only Georgette could speak to – only that she speaks to these subjects in such a way as to manifest visibly for me aspects of my life I could only vaguely perceive before, merely by telling me about her own.

I prayed for guidance on Tuesday, again, and now I feel I should pray for the capability to comprehend the guidance I know I’m receiving.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Julaine in Fiberspace: A Reason to Get Up Earlier on Saturday Mornings

Julaine in Fiberspace: A Reason to Get Up Earlier on Saturday Mornings

Sunday afternoon thaw

After days of feeling trapped indoors and under someone's thumb, I decided I'd had enough. After church and lunch, the kid and I went outside to do some sledding. Lo and behold, it was nearly forty degrees -- the sky was bright, the sun shining, eaves dripping. A great day for sledding, snowballs and snowmen. After an hour of getting sopping wet on the slopes at the park, we came home to the backyard and wandered around. We poked at the chunks of ice recently scraped from the roof; the kid climbed tentatively up the playhouse ladder and slid down the slide into a pile of wet snow. We threw snowballs at each other's feet, and I lobbed a few at the kitchen window. My husband appeared, scowling. "You're going to break the window" he said, frowning at the back door. I threw a snowball or two at the door. We'd gone outdoors to escape the caveman, as far as I was concerned.

"Do you want to go the bookstore?" he asked. Just before the kid and I went to the park, he was grousing at me for wanting to go the mall. I was hoping to get a copy of Quilting Arts. He was complaining about the mortgage payment and acting like my post-holiday season desire for a magazine was tantamount to proposing a trip to the Bahamas. Grumble grumble. "What, you're taking him outside?" He'd asked then. "Yes," I replied. "It beats sitting in here doing the same thing for the four hundredth time in the past two weeks."

So his bookstore proposal was a white flag, or at least a temporary cease-fire.

As we drove over to Roseville I found myself looking at the sky with increasing interest. Even the clouds seemed to have thawed -- patches of blue and streaks of pink tinted the gray landscape and the cottony undersides of the recently-impenetrable overcast. Like river ice, the clouds were breaking and sliding apart, mellowed into harmless rounded bits and cast adrift in the sun.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Alive, alive-o

"Maggie gets angry, but mostly we value her for her tenderness. Even when she knows her husband has lost his heart over a long-gone teammate, and that he's probably gay, she never gives up the ship. She knows that without her in his corner 100 per cent, he'll give up, drown in his own sorrows. He needs her to kick his ass and bring him back to the land of the awake. She wasn't going to be an enabler, she would always discourage him from drinking from the time he got up in the morning till he passed out at night, his crutches tangled up in his boxer shorts. For Brick, drinking is a way out of his tortured memories of Skipper, the boy he loved in high school and college. Taking a drink is "like a switch, clickin' off in my head. Turns the hot light off and the cool one on and all of a sudden, there's peace." Secretly the family has a plan to ship his butt off to Rainbow Hill, sort of a Betty Ford Clinic without the mercy. We love Maggie trying to semaphor the truth into his thick skull by screaming, "Skipper is dead but I'm alive! Maggie the Cat is alive!" Posted by Kevin Killian of San Francisco, CA for Amazon.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

happy new year

Midnight came and went quietly this year. My family was already sound asleep. Got a couple pre-new year emails and sent out maybe 50 well-wishes between home and work -- I can hear fireworks in the distance, and I wonder how many of my friends are awake like I am: some watching TV, some laying in the darkness listening to distant noises, some surfing the Net, reflecting on that New Year's tendency to think we should all be connecting somehow. I went into the bedrooms and kissed the sleeping heads of my loved ones. I ate some Sara Lee poundcake. I drank some VitaWater. It's now 00:26, on a Tuesday, the first day of 2008.

Out there, emergency room doctors and nurses are mid-shift, and maybe the internist next door is on the job tonight -- I could check and see if his car is outside. We call him "Skeeziks" because we don't know his name -- he seldom converses. And he tends to park right in front of our plowed walkways.
Out there, cops are getting into high gear, watching the roads for weaving cars, wrong-way drivers and illegal left turns; pens to their DUI pads. On the news later today we'll find out if anyone got shot on the first day of the year, and they'll show new babies from the local hospitals -- the first baby born in the new year, probably named Aiden or Sophia.
Out there, bartenders are counting the minutes.
Janitors are wishing themselves Happy New Year with a cup of coffee and a doughnut.
Security guards are staring at banks of television monitors, watching a digital clock tick off the new minutes.
New Year's TV specials are wrapping up. The writers are still on strike in Hollywood.
People are praying.
People are crying.
People are hugging and kissing, making phone calls, having sex, turning pages in a book.
People are sitting alone thinking about other people, and wondering what that means.

People are drinking, which I did a little bit of earlier tonight but it didn't seem terribly agreeable.
I am getting old. This year I will turn 40. Most of my friends are also getting older, and staying at home more often than not on nights like these.

My twenties went by in an instant. My thirties have lasted a long while. I have been married throughout the past decade. Married. No one thought it would last -- no one who knew me well before. They thought I wasn't the marrying kind -- and I'm not, I suppose, not a good homebody either, but it's what I wanted, what I still want. Ditto motherhood. I belong to them now, for better or worse as they say, and I'm still finding out what that means. I have about nine months left in my thirties. Have I accomplished the things I once set out to do? Or am I continually revising the list? I'll have to give it some thought.

Becky Cole! From her apartment, who says I need to hurry up and play my next turn at online Scrabble.
Alan Payne! From his Blackberry, not surprisingly -- out tearing up the town. These are my first contacts in 2008. Thanks guys.

Meanwhile, whoever you are, if you read this, God bless you.