and – up close – if you choose – you will see the foreleg of a winter-dressed pony, the extra cold-weather-coat trapping hair next to the skin of the horse, keeping him warmer. he is stopped, gazing at the distant field, ready to canter into it, the exploding of freedom of movement.
and you blink and it is a cattail. one of many in the field, waiting in the marsh through autumn and winter for early spring. as many as 250,000 seeds, white fluff sailing and transported by birds and breezes. and the life cycle continues.
it is winter in my studio. the rhizomes are gathering underground, together with the cattails. maybe around the spring equinox, maybe a bit later, the shoots will rise out of the ground – like a phoenix out of ashes – and new sprouts will grow and grow. the cycle germinates and pollinates and seeds will fly again. the birds and the wind and i will play for you – seeds and notes flying.
in the meanwhile, i wear my winter coat. it is keeping the heat in. it protects me. insulation for shelter in this long and cold winter, to shield in the storms, to brace in this fallow.
but soon, soon, with the sun and fresh air, the pony will run free.
this installation was beautiful. stunning. olafur eliasson’srainbow bridge was in a room full of light and the spectrum of color was immediately striking. and then, we walked into the room further and all the color disappeared, instead spheres of glass reflected the windows and the water outside the museum. “the appearance of the spheres is unstable, slipping between clarity, colour, and blackness in response to the slightest movement of the viewer.” (olafur) if you stand right in front of one of the twelve spheres, you can see your reflection upside down, teasing you to make faces and play. we could have visited with this piece all day – moving around the room, standing still, watching the light waltz and dip as the hours wore on.
“its [the extraordinary] concern is the edge, and the making of a form out of the formlessness that is beyond the edge.” (mary oliver- upstream)
and so, when we finally moved on, past the sunlit rainbow, i’m quite sure we were both in that dreamy place – the place where you linger in all the vast possibilities that are out there – combinations of color and sound, notes joining together, brushes brushing, harmonics floating above you and bass notes stabilizing your foothold. it is a place of creation, where you feel the tendrils of ideas, of paintings, of songs, of melodies of piano, of sweeping strings and mournful french horns, of spattered acrylic, of photographs with intense depth of field. it is the place we visit on the trail, on the mountains, on the seashore, in our studios. it is beyond the edges of billpaying folders and mortgages, student loans and job searches. it flies past all the details of everyday mundane. it is nebulous and it is visceral.
we moved out of the room – newly equipped with dream – refreshed because someone else had “put it out there”. someone else – also – had vision and the impulse to express it. someone else – also – had stood for long hours, sat for long hours, pondered for long hours in front of canvas or a piano or on a wooden dance floor or waiting for the perfect snapshot. someone else had composed – the extraordinary – from out beyond the edge. and its whisperings fell on our ears, encouraging our response to it and reminding us to jump.
it’s exactly how i draw horses. back in the day i had a book that taught me how to draw them. i was horse-crazy and i studied this book and practiced over and over. i did not retain much of all that study – or all of the other books i read about horses – but i can still draw a horsehead. so when we flew over this island on our approach to the tampa airport, i was astounded to see the first vestiges of my own drawing. i named it van gogh horse – for obvious reasons. high tide and angle and an active imagination helped, but i sure do think it looks like a horse.
it had been three and a half years since i had flown. we’ve read many articles about aggressive passengers and, i must admit, that doesn’t sound too enticing. i can’t imagine being rude to people who are tending to your needs as you zoom through the sky. not to mention all that recirculated air and the folks in the seat behind us hack-coughing. ahem. so it was a little nerve-wracking.
but it was also magical. you forget. i spent a lot of time looking out the window, mesmerized by the cloud formations and the landscape below, checking the flight plan on my phone to see where we were (technology is pretty amazing!) and taking photographs. i looked – i am sure – like the quintessential tourist-on-the-airplane. but i didn’t care. we have driven everywhere in the last years so it was like a small miracle to jaunt from milwaukee to tampa in two hours and forty minutes.
i remember days i flew often. midwest express airlines and real plates and real silverware and gourmet meals and mimosas in the morning or wine in the afternoon. and, the pièce de résistance…warm chocolate chip cookies. it was an experience – a whole experience. i flew midwest as often as i could, flights to los angeles and nashville and south and out east.
the most memorable experience was the – only – one time the airline lost my luggage. i had concerts and appearances in boston and all my attire was in my suitcase. a midwest express representative – jimbo – who is still my friend on facebook – immediately set to helping me, told me to go buy some necessities, including concert attire, and send midwest the bill. i am mostly a jeans-wearing performer – though there were some exceptions that particular trip – so that kept the costs down a bit, but they covered every last thing i needed. customer service at its best. i called all those items “my midwest express collection” and flew midwest loyally until the airline was no longer.
in a memory-filled moment with the smell of baking chocolate chips in my mind’s eye, i googled the milwaukee-based airline and was jazzed to see it is hoping to make a comeback one of these days. i wish them well. here is the best news:
“the airline plans to bring back the cookies if it starts flying again.” (milwaukeemag.com)
i know that can take some time and some luck. but warm chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the airline’s tiny kitchen could encourage me to start flying more again. i mean, people can’t be ornery with cookies.
if i had to draw an airplane experience – even though i am clearly not gifted at drawing – i would draw people in cushy two-across-seats, trays down, real plates and silverware, coffee cups and mimosas, warm chocolate chip cookies, linen napkins. smiles and horses out the window.
it would appear that a giant angel was hula-hooping in the clouds and dropped their hula hoop, which landed in the upper branches of a tree at the botanic garden. or, perhaps, that a spaceship -with no defined interior- had dropped down for a visit. or, maybe, there was a filming of sesame street’s “the letter ‘o'” about to do another take. brightly lit hula hoops of neon light suspended in trees, they cast an eerie glow onto the frozen ground, onto the path. michael bublé sang “walking in a winter wonderland” and we found ourselves inside the magic.
there is definitely something to wandering paths amongst many other people all oohing and ahhing. i had vowed to myself to leave my camera in my purse, but it wasn’t minutes before i failed at this. there were just so many colors and textures to remember, so dreamy. vast installations of creative lighting.
we had hoped to go. the ticket cost was a little prohibitive but we decided – when we woke and new year’s day was to be a little more mild than it had been – to splurge.
we were stunned even at the entrance to the garden, the trees wrapped in lights, every single branch and twig gleaming. we moseyed along the path, pulling over to let groups of people by so that we could be somewhat alone as we strolled.
but this wasn’t a silent and solitary hike in the woods. it was a performance piece we all took in together. each person’s glee added to ours and, dropping all expectations and all analysis of how-do-they-do-that, we were caught up in the captivating displays.
we already have a plan for next year. there are snacks and beverages and fire pits, places to linger, places to immerse. i could stand and watch the water and light “all i want for christmas” over and over and over. i allowed myself to wonder what a garden would look like lit to a piece of my own music.
we talked about our favorite displays driving the backroads. though spaceship fantasies are not my thing, hula hoops definitely are in my wheelhouse and the hulahooplights made my list. by the time we got home we realized that we had listed all of the displays we had seen, each design extraordinary, a celebration of the marriage of color and light and and sound and garden.
our late-night snack had a different air. the gift of being outside in the cold. the gift of beauty. the gift we had given ourselves – permission to splurge a little. a new year and its new intentions.
my nephew called. i guess technically he isn’t my nephew now but neither one of us cares about the technicality of it. we talked a couple years ago but not since. no matter. he was ironing and he thought of me. he described how ironing makes you just kind of slow down and lets your mind wander. and so he followed his instinct and dialed. i told him i was glad he wasn’t thinking of me as he was washing the floor. he agreed and said that a washing-the-floor conversation wouldn’t be as whimsical.
i loved how he used that word. we slowed down our hiking, shuffling our feet through the leaves on the trail, david encouraging me to chat. my nephew and i laughed and told stories, asked questions, laughed some more. later, in some text-reminiscing, he asked me if i still had the beer cap earrings he had bought me when we were together up-north many years back. he said, “you’re one of my favorites.” i walked slowly into flashes of another time of life. it was a gift.
from the deck it looks like a chicken. suddenly a chicken leaf fell from the maple tree and landed squarely on our little curlicue-fence. i stopped at the top of the steps and drew d’s attention to it. “look at the chicken back there!” i insisted. we laughed at the chicken on our fence. ok, not exactly. but imagination is a funny thing. we make castles out of refrigerator boxes and gazelles out of cumulus puffs. we create out of thin air.
“have you noticed that autumn is like a yellow cow?” (pablo neruda) “have they counted the gold in the cornfields?”
we are not alone in our imaginings. pondering leaves, clouds, swirls in the lake’s surface, rocks on the trail, i wonder what it would be to not ponder these things. i feel like i might laugh a little less, like there would be a little less whimsy.
i’m not sure how autumn is like a yellow cow, though i am sure that is valid for pablo. it’s all good. it makes the world go round with a little more pizzazz. there is gold everywhere.
right now i’m just wondering where exactly my beer cap earrings are.
lusting over brochures is kind of my thing. there is nothing quite like the dreamy four-color-magazine-quality-glossy-coated-silk-card-stock intrigue that beckons me, inviting imaginative adventure and exploring. a good brochure will take you there, place you there, let you sink in and never want to leave. i am clearly the targeted recipient of their magic. and i am – ahem – a collector.
like my relationship with catalogs, i can immerse in the story of the place, the action…it’s deeply satisfying.
sometimes we stop at the welcome center and i load up with all the possibilities of our destination, never to crack them open. it’s like having a treasure chest, knowing you have the treasure chest, not-knowing what’s in the treasure chest but knowing it’s enough you have it. a back pocket full of shiny coins, should you need them.
and sometimes we stop at the welcome center and i find something in a brochure that will not let go. i wonder and ponder and strategize and scheme how to get there, how to experience it, how to afford it. i’m a little overwhelmed by the draw of whatever the thing/place/action is, but i know the likelihood of it is relatively dim.
we clicked on an article on the-island-phone the other day. like shiny card stock, it beautifully featured a resort in utah: amangiri. there was nothing about this resort that wasn’t stunning.
i’ve never stayed in a resort, nonetheless one where your pillow-piled-down-comfortered-bed was out under the stars in the desert, your space open to remote canyonlands of red rock. my breathing got more rapid as i showed david. i clicked on “make a reservation”.
$12,000 a night.
deeper reservation diving revealed a range of pricing, verbose reviews, glamorous indeed, this place.
a little fancy.
clearly we won’t be staying there.
but, in the way that catalogs and brochures also function for me, i saved it and looked at it a few more times. i’ll probably glance a time or two more at this wildly expensive place to stay. and then i’ll delete it. because, by then, i’ll be satisfied.
and besides, the tiny blue airbnb house on one of the side streets in the mountain town in north carolina is also magical. it will afford us a chance to unplug, to hike unfamiliar trails, to cook and eat out on the front porch watching traffic go by, to immerse in a new place, a getaway.
we cannot help ourselves. we see stuff. i usually don’t suppose that’s unusual, until someone stares at us – with that blank look on their faces that betrays the “oh-sheesh-they-are-SOOO-weird” thought they are having. and then i realize we might be a little unusual. i shrug it off. “we-are-all-worthy-we-are-all-worthy” i repeat.
the shark was on the side of the trail. lurking. all crusty and gnarly, his face. he was obvious. he was cause for conversation, tales of scuba-diving in cold long island waters and off the coast of tropical islands. we can’t help but see and we laugh and gasp out, “look! it’s a ……..!”
seeing. it’s a burden every artist carries. it’s in the backpack with the parmesan cheese and the twizzlers and the tiny box wine and the kind bars. it’s probably good that we are mostly alone during these moments; our imaginations fly wild and free and we crack ourselves up.
and isn’t that the point? the laughter? i can’t think of anything better than laughing together, even at our own expense. we tell stories to friends, emphasizing the goofy, the silly, the utterly-profoundly dumb, self-deprecating and reveling in it. getting my hair cut and claiming the highest forehead in the guiness book of world records of foreheads. having a pedicure and claiming the biggest big toe in modern history. even, recently, at the doctor’s office, asking, please, for a sticker or a gold star for passing my bloodwork. just silliness. we can’t help it.
but to walk with him and find the sharks on trail and the ducks stuck in trunks (see below) and the tree mooning us (see below) and the desert hills from space (also see below) is to walk inside laughter. it’s to have maybe learned – at long last – not to take everything quite so seriously.
it’s to learn how to get older and crusty and gnarly ourselves and to hold it all lightly.
one of the things i love about our old house are the sounds it makes. it’s like the house is talking to us, saying hi, greeting us, reassuring us. i know that i, more than most, animate inanimate things, including our house. yesterday, i got a little weepy just talking about the possibility of a different vehicle beyond littlebabyscion – ahhh…connection is both joyful and painful in all things. our house is among those, sweet connection to its every square inch.
between our old wood floors creaking, the radiators clunking, the vinyl lap siding expanding in the sun, the rain dripping off the roof onto the window, the gutters’ last licks after a storm, and just general sounds of 1928 settling into 2021, we have a symphony in this home. when you aren’t familiar with a place, these are all passive sounds that could keep you up at night, and i remember when david was first here, questioning the sounds i no longer really heard, the ones that simply faded into the blanket of “home”.
it’s one thing to hear the click of the deadbolt on the front door or the screen door slam or the wooden step-step-step thunks or the whoosh of clothing streaking down the laundry chute – these are all active sounds caused by another person…explainable. it’s the other ones – especially in the wee hours – especially with an empty nest – the ones that take you by surprise, make your adrenaline race, make you wonder and imagine and maybe get a littlebitscared. those are the ones that made him sit up and take notice.
the funniest moment was when our beloved babycat – quite the large cat – was upstairs and decided to come down in the middle of the night. his descending the steps – thud-thud-thud-thud – made david sit straight up in bed, whispering, “there’s someone in the house!”. as he looked around, unsuccessfully, for a weapon (perhaps a bedside book or an iphone plugged in?), i couldn’t stop laughing.
it doesn’t take decades of living somewhere to intimately know a place, to intimately love a place. but, decades of living somewhere makes that place love you back.
once upon a time in the middle of the forest there was a may apple village. canopies of verdant green umbrella-ed a world of little tiny beings living little tiny lives. the village went on and on, deep into the trees. if you got right down on the ground and looked underneath all those canopies you would be amazed at what you saw, er, imagined. the village doesn’t last long. it appears and then disappears, showcasing short-lived flowers blooming and then going dormant in the summer. and the little tiny beings move on.
it is in my nature to try and make people laugh. i want to hear them giggle, guffaw, snort. i want to see cheer on their faces and to know they are amused by some self-deprecating thing i said or some story i told or some weird-action-that-would-instantly-embarrass-my-kids thing i did. i am not afraid to talk for my dog, skip in the airport, talk to strangers in elevators or subways or grocery lines, or make up loud songs-with-his-name i would sing to my cat. the reason i adore rehearsals is the chance to see people, in community, laughing. it’s never about perfection. it’s always about joy.
and so it was pretty darn weird to be on an interview call recently during which … no one laughed. i was stunned by this. i could not elicit one snicker, not even a draw-breath-in-breathe-out-a-soft-‘haha’. it concerned me. after six decades on the planet, i understand seriousness, job dedication, commitment to work. after six decades on the planet, i also understand the best way to get things done is in joy. the big picture. short-lived flowers.
the little tiny may apple village was bustling the other day in the woods. i could see tiny bistro tables and chairs, tiny beings milling about laughing and getting things done. the community was aware of all the work it had to do in the short period of time the encampment – and they – would be there. they were not overwhelmed; they were not undone. they realized that they were each spokes in relationship in the big-picture-wheel.
and they – these tiny beings under their awning-of-green – realized that their mirth was the thing that held the leaf-canopies open and kept things in motion, that kept them sharing and working with each other, through the burdens and the successes, that kept them from being divided and, instead, made them a community of inclusion, exuberant and productive, making their tiny mark.
i prefer to think of it as waxing, not waning. growing in illumination, not heading toward darkness. the moon on our ceiling just above the crown molding shows up from time to time. the conditions need be right, the lighting need be perfect. and then it’s there, waiting to be noticed. i ran for my camera the first time i noticed it, afraid the shadow-and-light interplay would quickly disappear.
like everything else around us – waiting to be noticed – we are always in choice about noticing or not. we can take the time or not. we can nuance our time to scurry past or we can slow down, just a little, to see.
i recently saw an article about spain, a country that embraces the siesta, a time of rest within the day. there is consideration there to move to a four-day work week in an effort to balance work and life. it is hard to imagine that there is much more important than paying attention to that balance. what else is living? why are we rushing through it?
i really love to take photographs. our hikes in the woods and walks in the ‘hood and time-just-being-time are punctuated with my stopping-stopping-stopping to grab a photo here or there. some things are just blatantly beautiful, visible and full of light. they need not beg to be captured on film. others are not so obvious. they are not so visible, darker, perhaps even invisible, courting imagination. on the trail they disappear silently behind the woods-models, the fashionable haute couture of the forest. instead, they are quiet and steadfast. they have a certain je ne sais quoi that cannot be easily named. and they are indeed beautiful.
on the trail, the tiniest pink petals rising from the decayed leaves, the green-and-green variegated leaves tucked behind the flowering shrub, the fallen tree – home to symbiotic white rot fungi – in and amongst the stately, the healthy. the thistles, dried and browned wildflowers, inosculated trees sharing soil, underbrush, like understudies, taking their usual back seat to the crowns of the woodland.
in our daily routine, the way the spring rain forms a heart-puddle on the patio, the way the snow piles on the wrought-iron table, the way rays through the miniblinds shadow the wall, the way barney ages in the backyard, the way wine glasses clinking catch the light, the way the quilt gathers the morning sun, and the way the light in the living room gifts us a waxing moon.
the balance of the obviously beautiful with the less-obviously, less-definitively beautiful.
we take a bit of time as we can – we slow down just a little as we are able – to make sure that we notice the play of light and dark, visible and invisible.
we look around us, through waxing and waning, standing in the light and the dark. to make sure we notice all the beauty of the earth.