If I can show something beautiful, it proves that the beauty inside me can be seen. And has not been lost.
So I keep trying. And if nothing else, I startle at the perturbation of wings. Then, I can see it, too.
The books made a deal with me. They said, give us those buttons and we’ll sit here in the window for you.
Now you make a deal with the picture. Say, I will grant you three wishes – simply tell me what they are and they will come true.
And then wish for everything to be just like this.
I tend to think in terms of “we” – in terms of “one for each.” And yet in the murk of sibling rivalry, I first size up the bigger half, and decide if I want it. Oh, yes, there is such a thing – a bigger half. Split a sandwich between any non-identical twins under the age of 8, and ask them. It’s always obvious which is the bigger half; and the curse of getting the smaller half is in no way cured by the triumph of the receiving the larger half.
“She got more than me.” It doesn’t matter who says it.
“Give your sister a bite of your sandwich,” Mother says, reaching toward your plate to even the score. Or worse:
“You can have an extra cookie. Now eat your lunch.”
At this point, feelings may simmer, or explode. There is no justice in this world, as your permanent, undetachable other self (who is always stealing what you want the most) continues munching what should be YOUR sandwich – or tries to grab YOUR extra cookie for herself. Or, most cruelly of all, eludes the conflict altogether, shrugging off her tinier portion with an escape artists’ precision, spoiling the taste of all that extra peanut butter and jelly with her indifference.
People like to say that you make your own luck, but tulips and peonies and the particular cast of sunlight bouncing around between the Pacific Ocean and the stucco walls of Berkeley tell a different story. Such luck can be hatched or seized, but never made. Maybe I spend too much effort trying to keep that distinction in mind, and I lose out on the hopeful side of hunger.
On the other hand, I did follow the directions I found in my fortune cookie: You will attend an unusual party and meet someone important. So when an invitation presented itself to follow a friend to a gathering of Kung Fu meets Mathemeticians, I went – hoping, like any Cinderella, to meet Someone Important.
And I will tell you what was so unusual about that party. Perhaps because I wanted to find out if my Dessert Oracle was accurate, I carefully listened to new jokes and stories, following along until there was a moment when I felt a “connect.” And of course the more I listened, the more obvious it became: Everyone there was important. Even, maybe, me.
Isn’t that lucky?
There were only a very few minutes when you were in this world without me – April 4th, just about 9 a.m., Chicago, Ill. You braved the newness alone – the exhilarating coldness of air meeting lungs, the whiteness of light engulfing vision all at once. But then I caught up to you. And when I did, I know I felt that I was the one who was no longer alone. That was fifty years ago, today.
Thanks for waiting for me, honey. I owe you one.
In this picture, I love the soft, indistinct words, the smeared edges of light changing the baby’s face from china into rubbed pastel. I made a similar image, sharply focussed on these features :
You’d think it would be easy to admit I prefer to live with blurry vision. Why is it so hard to choose?
Because I am afraid of choosing the “wrong” one. Because I want you to like it, too. You are here, after all, visiting my internet home. What will you think of a picture where nothing is clear? Don’t you want to be absolutely sure what you are seeing?
These images aren’t drafts and they aren’t revisions. It still mystifies me that my brain shut up long enough for me to hear them breathe out their whispered desire to become reality. They are different answers to different questions, and I don’t exactly understand their language. How can I know what purpose they have come for?
If you are thinking it must have been a lot of fun taking the vintage wallpaper book apart, you are one hundred percent correct.
Long before the 1940s wallpaper catalog came into my life, another artist had torn pages of green stripes and calico tulips away from the half-inch long binding staples, leaving stacks of cup shaped scraps clinging to the edge of the book. Naturally, I wonder what those missing samples looked like. They were probably the prettiest ones. What I wouldn’t give know how she used those squares of thick, ink coated paper? Did her children take them to school to make Valentines or birthday cards? Did she cover a notebook or line the walls of a doll house? Or maybe she carried them in her purse as she shopped for perfectly matching carpets and paint, and then, when her decorating was done, laid them on the basement shelf with the leftover cans of paint, and forgot about them? That’s what I would do.
I started taking the catalog apart as a distraction from making a photograph. As usual, I was scared, hiding. If I had known they held a picture, I probably never would have started picking the last little shreds away from the staples. Isn’t that strange? Maybe I’m more afraid of finding the picture I want, than not finding one at all, so I mislead myself into thinking I don’t want to make one. Now that sounds like something I would do.
This tree is putting on quite a show. It’s the only one with berries, a brazen red surprise, surrounded by the hollow remains of tall grasses and silver stalks of spent milkweed. I’ve been trying to get to know it but the wind always seems to get there first, shifting the network of shapes and lines before I can see anything. Finally, today I just gave up. I stuck the phone in front of the reddest branch and wished upon a star for something pretty to happen.
I also bought a notebook today, to write thank yous in. It seems so obvious, why didn’t I think of it before? (Because Oprah did, that’s why. Damn. I forgot that.)
Like I said on day one, giving thanks all month long promised to challenge me. If all you wanted to hear were the good parts, you might want to skip ahead to the end. Let me know what you find when you get there. I’m still sorting this out, myself.