Friday, December 10, 2010

Gifts That Open Doors

The other morning I woke up with my usual pre-Christmas "haven't done a thing about it yet" panic, which soon set into depression. As I was drifting in this mental downward spiraling vortex of gloom and doom, and bah humbug-ness, with no hopeful thoughts at all, Mark thought he needed to cheer me up some.  So he told me what my early Christmas present was going to be from him. He said that he had taken all of my blog entries from this  past year and had put them together and ordered them as a book thru a company online called blurb. He showed me the mock up of it, layout wise, and the first 15 pages or so. It was stunning to me, that he had done this, having taken many hours to compile and post when I know his hours of down time are so limited. I was at a loss. It was such a nice gesture, so sweet, and yet, troubling.

Looking at the mock up on line, it was a very weird feeling to look at these words I had written and the stories I have told over this past year and to see it about to be contained into a tangible form. My babblings, which I have spewed freely into the dark zone of the cyber world, never knowing much about who read them, if, they were at all,  all written and abandoned, but now were here, hemmed up and documented. He posted the publishing of this stuff on his facebook page and pretty instantly the thing was selling. This I found really both equally disturbing and interesting. I do not think of myself as a writer,  and yet, if one is published and compiled into a book, does this not make one a writer? I write, I wrote, I will have written...on it goes but still, I do not see myself as a "writer". I wondered at my thoughts about this and now this proof in the shape of a book, conflicting them. How does one define what one is, or is it done for you by proof of your actions?

When I was little, I had a grandfather who was the zen master of them all. He was a saint among the gods, at least to me. He was old and he was regal. He had white, and for the day, long hair. He had a rhythm to his days that remained the same, a drifting thru time and space with equal markings of the tempo. He smoked cigars, wore elegant straw hats and the finest of shoes, and always had a white shirt and tie on, except while shaving his face. Then he would stand in the green tiled bathroom in his undershirt, his suspenders over his shoulders, and would take his lathered brush and wipe it slowly over his face to ease the blade's path over his skin.

He told me endless stories, many repeated over and over, but not minded in repetition, about his horses that he had owned as a young man. I used to remember all of their names, in the succession of their interfacing with his life. He actually had one that Ringling Brothers Circus bought, a very clever palomino whose name I also have forgotten. He spoke of them all with a quiet reverence, as they had been his dear friends, admired for their beauty, intelligence, fire, and the freedom they gave him. I never tired of hearing these tales of his horses and I never tired of spending time with him.

He was the first to hang one of my drawings. He put it on his kitchen wall. That one gesture was one of the biggest pivotal moments, a door opening, for me, because someone who I thought so highly of,  had acknowledged my effort and was applauding it.

There is something different to a drawing, a musical piece, or to a bunch of words when suddenly they are pulled out of the shadows of the closet, notepad, or cyber world and placed where they are tangible for all to see and hear and feel. A sketch gains stature when placed on the wall.  It is the revealing of one's imperfections and flaws, making it public, and its a baring of one's soul. It solidifies the ephemeral and makes it solid in time. It says that in this space and time, "I did this thing" and it thereby marks a moment.

I do not remember the particular drawing that I did of a horse, that impressed him enough to get the tape out to hang it on his wall for him to see every morning when he ate his fried eggs and grits, and sipped his hot black coffee. I do remember the amazement I had that he had done that. It never would have crossed my mind to consider myself a drawer/artist of anything as I always was very disappointed at the drawings I did with the kit my brothers had. This kit had a thing where you were to sketch  a copy of a dog, or whatever, to see if, YOU, were really an artist and somehow you didn't know it. Clearly I was not, and yet, here was my grandfather acknowledging my work and appreciating it enough to show others that he admired what I had done. It was humbling and exhilarating at the same time. The problem then arose, what to do next for an encore? How can that gesture be met with anything that can surpass it enough to warrant equal billing?

I do remember the challenge to take new pieces of white paper, and to try to do even better drawings and I started putting in serious time on this now knowing that they would be shared, and, I did so enjoy his compliments. So the wall in his tiny kitchen became my first one person showing, and personal gallery, revolving new pieces, scribblings, as I finished them.

My sweet grandfather died when I was still pretty young, third grade perhaps, so never got to know him any differently than how I remember him from that perspective, and my grandmother moved from that house after he passed and the drawings were lost. He had shown me a freedom, tho, to try anything, drawing, writing, riding a horse, swinging on a high swing set, talking to camellias, it was all good to him, but, in any effort, to do your best. He was a very, wise and gentle man.

So now Mark's having put my words into paper,  is almost as humbling as my grandfather's taping of my drawing, and yet it is encouraging. Do I look for the knock on my door from a major publishing house? No, but is a very nice thing to have one's efforts appreciated, in any form.  So, what to write next? I have no idea and no control. It has been a year of merely responding to the rhythms of my life on the farm, and jotting them down. From here, what will come will come, when it comes. I will leave the muses for that job as they show up at the most unexpected times and places.

As of late I have had more time to write, than paint, or to ride, but I feel good to back semi-literate again after years of not writing. It is encouraging me to finish projects that I had begun but lacked a direction in where that they should go. There is definitely a book a head of Jack, the poor puppy. One too, on the life of my uncle, Wilson, a dear man who happened to have been one of the top 6 couture designers in the '40s, world wide, according to Vogue magazine.  This was a fact that I had not know until fairly recently, having only known him as my favorite uncle as a kid.

It was a very sweet thing for Mark to give me back my words, in a book, a one year's legacy. It was a beginning and a closure of that year's reflection, and now, it begins another. For all of the kind words from those of you who have read this year's epistles, and to those who have already bought the book, I am again humbled, and, I thank you.

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