— From the Fool —
My friend Luce said she really liked what I wrote last week, I think because I mentioned her dog. “You oughta get your stuff published,” she said, “There’s a lotta wisdom in there.”
I never thought about that. I didn’t intend to stick in any wisdom. Going after wisdom is like giving orders to a cat. It just wanders off. And then one morning you wake up with it walking across your face.
But I trust her opinion. She reads all the magazines in the supermarket line. “They sorta fill in the gaps of your education,” she says. “Ten beauty tips and ten weight-loss secrets and ten ways to drive’em wild in bed. And it’s always the same ten things,” she says, “but you tend to forget.”
I guess I’m reluctant to shove more wisdom out into the world. There’s whole libraries full of it, but it just sits there crinkled. Or else one guy’s little blurt of wisdom bangs up against another guy’s like bumper cars at some nutty carnival.
It was nice once when I was little and I met this little kid on the beach and we built a big sand castle, huge and beautiful. It wasn’t wisdom. We just did it.
— From CB —
I’m never much satisfied with novels or plays or movies about artists. My BS detector goes on high alert, yes, but beyond that, there’s a special demand. Either it’s about an interesting, problematic life, in which case “artistry” is special-pleading: if the story could stand as well for a plumber as for a painter, it’s a good story; if not, not. Or it’s about that instant of creation when sperm meets ovum and life explodes.
That moment, I think, is inexpressible, ungraspable. Mike Leigh’s film Mr. Turner — J.M.S. Turner is one of those few artists, like Rembrandt, who will hold me for long, long, long, long minutes and walk me away with changed eyes — confines itself to the guy’s daily life and jowly demeanor and casual glances that, if you know his work, suggest the moment of inspiration. Otherwise, a few daubs are there to suggest, oh yeh, the guy’s a painter.
Part of the problem, perhaps, is that most creation doesn’t look like ecstasy, though that’s what we expect. Porn films are in the business of expressing something like that, and yeh, it comes across as a business. But I don’t look any different at the computer when I’m writing a play than when I’m updating our mailing list. I don’t make faces or collapse over the edge of the office chair. There’s nothing photogenic.
So much of the process is just plain frustrating. You lose two hours from a computer glitch. You find the stitches coming out from the velcro on your robe. You spend days casting 36 tiny papier-mache hands and then find, as soon as a pair are attached, that they make an impossible clack whenever they touch, so you start carving another 36 from foam rubber. You keep saying “Edmund” when your line says “Edgar.” You start on the music tonight but then you have to submit the sales tax report. How often did Michelangelo, up on the scaffold, get a blob of paint in his eye? How often did Shakespeare run out of ink?
But strangely, that’s all part of the “magic” of creation. I don’t mean that only as irony: there’s something in the tension that ups the ante. Ceremonial magic relies on strange substances (eye of newt and toe of frog) or elaborate memorized chants, and you need not believe they carry intrinsic power to see that a frantic hunt for “wool of bat” will focus your will to the burning point, as will carving 36 foam-rubber hands.
With luck you’ll avoid some of that frustration. Or you have money enough to hire folks to deal with it — but be careful of hiring folks who aren’t as driven as you. What you’re really aiming to do is to clear your time sufficiently to face the truly gnarly questions that make you bang your head on the wall and, at last, induce a pregnancy.
— From EF —
Fifteen years ago today — February 1, 2000 — we moved into this house and said goodbye to “Dogpatch,” the quirky little house we were renting because it was all we could find on a month-by-month basis. Just a block up Bodega Avenue from the Sebastopol library, it was so tiny that when our daughter came to visit I made her a guest bed in our Dodge van.
Dear Dogpatch. In its youth, it had been dragged back from its original street-side location so the owners could build something bigger, and it never really got its balance. You hiked uphill to the bathroom, and your morning vitamins would roll right off the kitchen table. But it nestled behind a huge jasmine hedge, and that made up for a lot.
The six months of house-hunting had been rough, and negotiations with the seller were rougher, but it actually worked out, and here we were in our very own California home. It was spacious and empty and full of possibilities, but first we had to feel it was really ours.
So we went room by room doing a cleansing, using salt and sage, making it ours. We probably built a fire in our upstairs bedroom fireplace for our First Night. Did it rain that night? Dunno, but I love how the patter on the slanted roof reminds me of sleeping in a tent.
Fifteen years of history, just a bit past two of our “sevens,” our times of major change. Looking back on this past year, I can see the ripples and turbulence that mark our usual transitions. We’re older now. Lear will probably be the last apocalyptically huge project we bring forth. That’s a big thought.
I’m starting to look at closets and shelves in terms of shedding, simplifying, and wondering what comes next. Brigid’s forge is real to me, and I have the bruises to prove it. I’m trying to heed the old demands — cleanse, heal, create.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2015