A world of contrasts lies between the powerful opposites among all the colors we can see. In the space between those beautiful extremes, between the flame of orange and the deep sea of indigo, between scarlet and emerald, is where we can begin to take the measure of our understanding of the visible world. And in the knowing, we can rejoice in the wideness of the visible world that resides between late-night violet and the dazzling yellow of daffodil petals newly sprung, between scarlet and emerald.
It’s said that if life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade. That’s a charmingly cheery, sunshiny idea, and one that seems plenty valuable to me, if perhaps occasionally a bit difficult to realize. Even life’s complications can have complications.
That’s why your best bet is to have the finest lemonade-makers handily available to you throughout your life.
I’ve always done well in this department. I was, in fact, born to one of the premier practitioners of both literal and figurative lemonade artistry. Having just chatted with her on this, her birthday, I can confirm that she is still as gifted at it as she is a gift. Mom, whatever the lemon crop at hand, makes the finest sunshiny lemonade out of it. The day may be rainy, as it has been up there today, but I could sense the warmth and light as soon as I heard her voice. It’s a grand thing to feel as though I’ve just sipped that most summery citrus drink when I hear my mother’s voice. It makes me glad that she is having an appropriate day of good cheer and pleasantness for celebrating her birthday. And it makes me glad that I have the blessed privilege of having a mom who retains her skills for day-brightening as the birthdays pass. Who knows but what I might master the recipe for lemonade myself, if I stick by her side and learn from the best.
Happy birthday, Mom! May there be many more, each filled with the most refreshing and renewing joys that, if they’re not already as much a treat as you desire, can be converted with a bit of your special knowledge and skill into the most wonderful lemonade. Cheers!
A marvelous post I read yesterday by the amazing Joseph P. Kanski at his blog Implied Spaces—illustrated with his simply spectacular images, each of them in its unique way a self-portrait—mused on the whole topic of self-portraiture and autobiography, considering what the artists and authors in question are choosing to reveal or conceal, to present or pretend. Every time we interact, or for that matter, fail to or choose not to interact, we are making statements. Some of us are constantly focused on, and perhaps occasionally obsessed with, the verity or clarity of what we present to the world.
People in hiding are not limited to refugees and criminals on the run. Many of us assure ourselves that we are being thoughtful, mindful, when we speak and act, yet there are so many more delicate and subtle bits of identity emanating from us at all times that it would be utterly impossible to control every iota of sensory information we convey, never mind how others in all of their complexity are receiving and interpreting the whole. Regardless of the natural intent most of us have to reinforce our own ideals and wishes, we tend to speak volumes in the myriad ways we present ourselves to the world. The challenge to be true to ourselves only increases with maturation and self-knowledge as we grow and age.
In the present culture of self-revelation, this is, as Mr. Kanski observes, a time when any and every image we present is widely and rather permanently available to be seen and interpreted by ever-increasing numbers, most of whom we will never come to know in any true sense. No time like the present, then, for reevaluating what those revelations are, can be, or should be, according to our own estimation. My hopes and fears inevitably become more visible or available for speculation in every self-image that I offer, so perhaps I shall just see how close I can get to telling my story the way I want to tell it.
My latest: Selfie, 2.0.
Where do baby dragons come from, anyway? Clearly every dragon mom needs to find a welcoming, inspiring environment that moves her to nestle in and protect her offspring from their hatching to their fledgling flights. Or a cozy place to knock them out of when she gets fed up with their caterwauling and biting and she can retreat to her peaceful hangout and sip nectar in blissful, scaly solitude again.
So I made this little lady a nest. Full of tiny collected treasures, ’cause I think that might be something a small dragon would like. I mean, I would, and I can be kind of a dragon-lady occasionally. Though I have no intention of laying any dragon eggs or anything like that, in case you were wondering. I doubt I’d be a good enough mother for ’em anyway, being too inattentive for that when I’m already so busy collecting shiny objects and tiny treasures to make fanciful dragons’ nests.
My fondness for cemeteries is always heightened by admiration for their artful and natural beauties in the wonderful array of stonework and iron, stained glass and sculpture that intermingle with splendid displays of wild or planted flowers, trees, grasses, and moss that may be meticulously designed and tended or equally lovely in their rampant and neglected states. I love, too, a cemetery’s history and mystery; the stories both told and untold that rise up from every grave fill me with awestruck wonder as I perambulate and read, rest and imagine. The silence, punctuated by bird sounds, by wind and rain, and sometimes by the talk of others wandering through, gives me room for my thoughts to roam while my eyes are distracted and enchanted by the views.
And though I don’t necessarily wish to keep them company in a permanent way anytime soon, I find the dead in a cemetery very accepting, even friendly, company, so I am rarely melancholy in a graveyard, mostly meditative. And occasionally, amused. I especially like the headstones and monuments that have either their own sense of humor or have in one way or another become more entertaining than they were originally intended to be. I have even devised an artistic category for the rare few sculptures and markers that are evidently the work of good-hearted but slightly under-talented designers and artists, whom some might charitably name folk artists but whose misbegotten and unintentionally horrifying or hilarious (horlairifying?) tributes I dub not so much Folk Art as WTFolk Art.
Whether it’s my irreverence in the face of death’s inevitability or the inspiration of such kindhearted awfulness, I do find that sometimes I can’t help writing epitaphs, myself. Even my own epitaph, or variations thereon, because no one’s better equipped to deride my quaint and odd-acious self than I am, after all. Plus, if they’re terrible verses, I won’t be around to be annoyed by them once I’m dead. Sorry, the rest of you.
How about one for the Sparks family vault?
Here lies Richard in the dark
For having died, he’s lost his Spark,
And yet with Kathryn still he’s yoked,
Even when buried, for she croaked.
But wait! There’s more…a little something just for me:
Who lies below tucked in this bed
With hollow bones and empty head
Could not have left us fast enough;
Perhaps a diamond in the rough,
But her potential, though so pretty,
Stayed all unmet, and more’s the pity.
Love & Homicide in the Wings
A mere moth should never marry A too-pretty Fritillary:
Ay, anterior, posterior, She’ll always act superior,
And opt, yea, to co-opt her an Obnoxious Lepidopteran
To ransom her; by chance some’re Both fancier and handsomer.
Tears will roll like many pennies When he uses his antennae
So he really realizes Not all butterflies are prizes;
Though he scarcely found it scary Marrying a Fritillary,
Someday soon he surely will, her Arrogance the caterpillar
Of his innocent devotion Kill; its wings will know no motion.
Down the alleys ghastly, ill-lit, Flits, forlorn, the moth; to kill it
Is a mercy of the fires On his thwarted old desires—
Clasp a gaslamp, doomed Cecropia! Love you once believed Utopia
Ne’er loved you, never trusted That you weren’t just maladjusted.
Ah! Madame, your Butterfly, alack, will only stab you in the back;
We’re in the process of selling our house, my spouse and I. It’s something we’d considered for a couple of years, downsizing to an apartment closer to a size appropriate for two adults, but we hadn’t made any serious motions because we’d not found anyplace that met our wishes for location, price, condition, and covered parking. (Texas-sized hailstorms, anyone?) When we found such a place, it was when we weren’t really looking anymore, of course.
We’d been out on a Sunday expedition and were heading home when we saw a sign for an ‘upcoming’ listing, called the owner, and discovered that he had something different and probably even better suited to our wishes. Three weeks later, we’re close to closing with buyers. Crazy. What’s fascinating to me, in addition to the oddity of the situation itself, is being reintroduced to the world of Real Estate and its intriguingly arcane, euphemistic, and otherwise idiosyncratic processes and language. Like all other legal and commercial ventures, it’s wondrously weird. Sometimes aggravating, often amusing, and especially entertaining to me when it comes to the times when one party or another is trying very hard to find a word to describe something that is—well—basically indescribable.
I was reminded that both buildings and their furnishings, for example, that are neither clearly classic nor modern can be called Transitional, and that this nondescript term has been so often used in this way that it has become a recognizable style itself, but still lacks many distinct characteristics. It’s more about what it isn’t than what it is. There are long lists of words and phrases and concepts that are equally vague and yet relatively easy to interpret by those of us who have read enough Real Estate-speak and seen the reality of the properties and objects being described to begin to recognize the connections, as tenuous as they may sometimes be, between the word and the actuality.
So when I read “park-like setting,” I am more inclined to think a place is going to require massive injections of cash and labor to sustain its massively over-groomed acreage. “Designer’s dream” usually means someone with far more money than taste hired a person only marginally more skillful to make everything in the building match too well and fit trends so perfectly that they’ll never be wholly in style after their current popularity fades—or, conversely, that some self-declared Artiste so personalized the joint that no one in her right mind would think it anything but a gut job as a purchase. One of the best is always, of course, “starter home” or “DIYer’s delight,” either of which can only mean that the home’s toilet is an open hole in the middle of the living room floor and the last time the roof was repaired it was done with a bright blue tarp.
It’s not so different from the brain shift required of a viewer expecting obviousness and objectivity from abstract images. What looks like neon lights in bokeh, perhaps, or a wallpaper pattern of whimsical orangey bubbles can certainly represent nothing more than a blurry photo of a vintage neon sign or a repeating design made from imagined circles. But it could also be that both images were created, however indirectly, by beginning with the very same photo of a small handful of earthworms drowned in rain, beached on a concrete slab, and desiccated into interesting squiggly shapes in varying shades of brown. Which is what these two happened to be. A DIYer’s delight, if you’re an artist with a post-rainstorm messy patio. A transitional sort of place, I guess, for the worms and for my eye for images, both.