The Only Magical World

Digital illustration from a photo: Mythic MirrorThere’s only one plane of existence that is guaranteed to seem perfect and right to you at all times, and that’s the one in your dreaming heart. But the place in the real world that will come closest to that kind of mythic perfection is the one where you can dwell in the center of real, constant and generous love. On the third of August, every year of my life, I get to celebrate such a love because it’s the anniversary of my parents’ marriage.

Their love for each other has withstood many tests and trials over time, but because it was genuine and down-to-earth love from the beginning, the tests and trials have tended to be more externally made and less harsh, perhaps, than they might otherwise have been. And in its best and least challenged days, it shines the brighter because it feeds and is fed by a larger love—for life, for those articles of faith and those people they hold dear—and I, as one of their offspring, get to share in that care and affection, friendship, respect and kind generosity.

This is the sort of beauty and distinction that transcends fairytale happiness and is, instead, steady and sure. Better than supposed Magic and miracles, it is so dependable that even when the sun isn’t shining quite right or the cogs of the world aren’t turning exactly as one might wish they would, it’s possible and natural to have assurance that what needs to be will return; goodness will prevail, and we will all get back to the constant and comforting business of loving and being loved by one another. It’s a potent blend of companionship and  concern and hope that aren’t dependent on spells and manipulations but reside in the everyday promise, and every third of August I get to celebrate it anew because my parents taught me what this kind of love can be.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Sometimes I Surprise Myself

I catch a glimpse of myself in a window or mirror as I pass, and I am astonished to realize that the person I see is Me. It’s not so much that I’m horrified or amused by my rapid slide into aging’s odd forms of pseudo-disguise, by my generally slovenly dishevelment after rigorous housecleaning or gardening, or by my bizarre thoughtlessness about what I left the house wearing (though any of those might conceivably play a role from time to time); mostly, it’s just that I don’t really think that much in general about what I look like and so it always catches me very slightly off guard. My spouse tells me he finds me attractive, and that’s all I care much about, as my appearance goes, short of anyone finding me visually repellant, and thus far, no one has admitted that one to me.photo montageFortunately, the same spouse who is stuck looking at me more than any other person has also acted as my barber and general appropriate-dress consultant for the last eighteen years or so, so if he doesn’t like what he sees, he’s free to recommend a different outfit or cut my hair in a new way. This last summer’s road trip, while it didn’t make it impossible to cut my hair, made it inconvenient enough that we decided to just experiment with growing it out longer than two or three weeks’ worth as has been the norm for all these years. It was mostly just a laziness-motivated decision on my part, but after a couple of extra weeks I started to like the idea of just seeing how my hair grew out after having been so uniformly short for a couple of decades.photo montageTurns out, there’s some slight wave to my hair, an unexpected–ahem–turn after the last number of years having had pretty much straight hair, short as it was. I kind of like that what white hairs I have show up better with the slightly longer look too–an accent I like much better than my naturally bland brownette color. Hey, maybe the streaks of white will further highlight my pasty-pale complexion. Ha! Not for nothing that my Thai college roommate and her friends from home called me Princess Snow White!

I decided to celebrate my new/old (wink-wink) look by trying my hand at jewelry assembly last week, and concocted a necklace out of jewelry findings and parts plus a couple of items I already had among my collected miniature sculptural found-object goodies. While I’m obviously a neophyte at the whole practice of concocting jewelry, I was rather pleased with my little semi-Steampunk necklace, perhaps the more so because the first person who saw me wearing it the first time I did so was very complimentary. Given all of the new bits of image-tweaking, and having been asked by a couple of friends to update my Gravatar now that I have a tad more hair to show, it seems apropos to get around to it. In another slightly surprising event, I managed to take a photo in which my eyes remained open, I did not decapitate my self-portrait or get my usual wildly wiggly motion blur, and most amazingly of all, I don’t mind the picture terribly much. So here we go. Never know what I’ll surprise myself with next.photo

The Icing on the…erm…Chair

Being Crafty is something other people do. I admire the feats of those who can crochet spectacular Afghan blankets seemingly out of thin air or decorate their homes for the holidays with recycled coat hangers and tuna tins and somehow make them look like a magazine cover. People who have the know-how, skill and patience to embroider babies’ bonnets, build palatial birdhouses out of scavenged fence pickets and carve perfect portraits of great historical figures out of turnips impress me greatly.

I, on the other hand, have been known to abandon ship mid-craft, or at the very least change directions radically when I feel I haven’t a hope of getting the hang of what my project was initially intended to be. My youthful embroidery days were ended when I spent a lengthy evening working on the details of some would-be floral tea towel‘s featured bouquet, stood up to gather my sewing and head off to bed, and discovered I’d embroidered through both the tea towel and the lap of my nightgown. My candle-making artistry had only its propensities for melting and burning (and thus, quickly, disappearing) to recommend it. Unlike those who are able to make fabulous sand mandalas with the grains arranged perfectly meditatively into millions of delicate otherworldly patterns would be, if not appalled, then at least mystified and probably saddened, by the strange mud-pies that would be the only produce of my efforts in that direction.

Pretty well any craft that takes any real focus and attention, let alone proficient control of the medium, is likely to remain out of my reach.

There are, however, certain tools, materials and proficiencies in the land of Craft that I can and do manage. One of the media I have enjoyed manipulating for playful, if not crafty, purposes at times is lightweight spackling compound. This stuff, made initially for repair of wounded wallboard and the filling of trim gaps by builders and handy-persons, resembles cheap bake-shop frosting so strongly in texture (and, I daresay, probably in taste, though that’s moot here) that it goes through an icing bag and tip wonderfully well. So it’s great for not only creating faux frosty baked goods but also all sorts of the same kind of detail work that plaster and woodcarving and metalworking artisans have used to create architectural accents and furniture details for eons, especially in combination with other small sculptural elements. Thinning the spackle just enough with water to go through a pastry icing tip and retain its proper density and texture and shape while drying is virtually the only difference. In fact, the spackle can be tinted in many of the same ways as frosting, too, though it may be painted and colored in many ways after the fact.photoIn any event, I’ve had fun with this magical past on occasion. I’ve made customized and personalized ceiling medallions with it. I made a nice big window valance that had all kinds of pieces and parts–food and cookery gadgets and the like–blending its own form and meaning with the rest of the dining room in which it hung. I’ve used it to create baroque picture frames and mirror frames. Probably the most fun project with it so far was making a couple of very rococo side chairs by upholstering them with tapestry-like fabrics and then building equally over-the-top sculptural frames and backs out of small objects, some pre-made and some of my own making from plasticine or wood, bone or clay or metal, and then faithfully infilled with spackle ‘frosting’ before I gilded it all with metallic paints.photo montageWhat’s next? Who knows. But there are boxes full of fun waiting for me to make them into something new, and that little yet persistent itch returns from time to time, so undoubtedly there will be a next thing. Just you wait and see.

Mirrors and Mosaics

Self-Portrait in Tessellation

I never see myself but in the smallest part,

all others quite obscured by my beliefs,

incessant shadows of my little griefs

and the convictions of this moment’s heart–

in tiny pieces shaped by this day’s faith,

see this week’s angle; my fragmented soul

seen but in shards, not as a whole:

instead of spirit, as an empty wraith–

I hope that I will someday finally see

this whole chaotic multitude in view,

convened, a coalescent scene anew,

those fine mosaic atoms that are Me

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Where do we seek for the patterns of ourselves?

Truthfully, I hope never to get the full view of myself–that seems to me something to be experienced only at the very end of life, and as the old story goes, I’m not eagerly “gettin’ up a busload to go today”. Let’s hope the afterlife can wait for me a goodish bit yet. But it’s sometimes edifying to view myself with a modicum of dispassion, a fair step back from the funhouse mirror where I tend to see myself with automatic criticism, for good or ill, and not with honest clarity and fairness.

Ms. CF, that sage lady over at cfbookchick, posted a marvelous piece that should encourage us all to look inward and see whether we’re not a little overzealous in measuring and judging self and others. As she says, “self doubt is a terrible monster,” and it’s frighteningly easy to be caught up in obsessive condemnation of our own failures or shortcomings as well as those we paint on others. Few truly sharp universal definitions of standards and requirements exist to tell us just who, how or what anyone ought to be, so we tend to invent our own more than we’ll readily admit, and so, being judge and jury by default in our own courts–well, it’s easy to take prisoners and not so easy to ever show quite as much mercy as we should. When is it time to let go of all the old baggage, or at least put it away in long-term storage, and forgive ourselves and others?

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We’re all looking for patterns, for clues . . .

I May be Getting the Hang of It

Tumbling on fifty-one years

Of joy and quiet wonder, fears,

Of curiosity and laughs,

Of writing songs and epitaphs,

I think I’m finding here at last

Direction from each annum past

To lead me forward to explore

At least another fifty more

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See, whatever the current state of the union-or-disunion in my being, I’m in a mighty happy spot in life these days. Getting my blogging groove on bit by bit and learning along the way. Surrounded by standouts who take me under their measureless wings and fly me around at irresistibly dizzying height just as though I actually belonged there, and are teaching me how to flap my own flimsy excuse for a set of wings. Clumsy I may be, but having a high old time and loving the exhilarating and weird sensation of the familiar earth being transmuted into something quite new, sometimes shocking, and decidedly intriguing. And people keep popping over to my aerie to drop prizes and presents into my humble and shaggy version of a nest. I’m running out of mantel space in the ol’ nest, and getting quite the kick out of the whole thing, thank you very much. Lately I’ve had another set of trophies and treasures conferred upon me by fellow sojourners in the Merry Old Land of Blog to the degree that instead of falling out of the nest in self-abnegation I’m more likely to be overinflated and drift off in my helium-fillled happiness, giving a queenly wave as I float over thanking the Little People who helped me feel like the grand success I am today.

My more honest self, however, weighs it all in the balance and says that I am simply most fortunate to have these new digs in bloggerville and thus be surrounded by such great neighbors–wiser, more experienced, and incredibly generous souls who raise me up to their natural locations in the heights. Today I am especially cognizant of the gifts shared with us all, and me in particular, with me by two fine exemplars of this communal outreach through art and kind critical support.

I am grateful to dear Geraldine, the Alternative Poet, for granting me the Versatile Blogger Award. Her passion for and championing of contemporary poetry that puts up no walls of opacity in front of readers but rather invites us in with magical and graceful turns of phrase able instead to allow us clearer views through an artful and inspired window is a great gift in itself. She shares not only her own lovely work with us but the safe haven in which the rest of us are encouraged to be our best selves in this vein. I am grateful, too, to dear ‘Nessa, who is inclined to open veins while writing from her Stronghold that sometimes seem to me to put her at fearful personal risk, but does so with such mature passion that it’s compelling even when frightening–all the while offering astonishingly tireless words of kindness and endorsement to the rest of us. None have better deserved the designation Liebster [Beloved] in blogging, and yet here she is handing it along to others, including me.

Yes indeedy, I can still see that oddly, eccentrically fragmented and distorted self-image of mine, but I really don’t dislike or fear it anymore. It’s just one part of who I am, more relevant in explaining my exceedingly long and poky version of Overnight Success than anything frightfully du jour, so I’ll just let it hang around there, cracked mirror that it is, incomplete and insignificant in the grand scheme of my present day. Which is where I prefer to live, relegating my past to the past, my grudges and demons and failures Most Embarrassing Moments and any other unresolved or unresolvable junk to less accessible and current places, and just plain get on with things. Take that, not-so-Fun-house mirror! I have better things to do with my days, and am already having too nice a life, whether it’s deserved or not, to be bothered hanging around in dusty corners staring at what I don’t much care to be anyhow. Toodle-oo! Find yourself somebody else to gnaw at, begone and good riddance! I’m headed back into the sunshine to play!

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