Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Degas and Heart

Yesterday, I had an e-mail exchange with someone I've met via the internet, a person of courage and formidable intellect for which I have great admiration and respect. Relating the grave personal trial she found herself in recently, she quoted the artist Edgar Degas:
"There is art and there is life; and we have but one heart. We think we have two until it breaks. Then we know there was only one."

I can sit on that quote and think about it forever.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Work in Progress

The painting I'm working on:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Love Letter

Beloved,

I could write You so much. I have "topics," big, small, cute, full of Izy-profundities. But to do that I would have to dig in a little, to reach in, and, out for words, for flow, for a way for words to hold hands, all the while keeping an eye on grammar, in a language called "second" to me.

I'd rather think of You, then, in thoughts wordless. Or, better yet, in fugitive mental pictures. Sometimes they also reach in, and out, to one another, to the me who's often outside of me. Then I could watch all this as if a kind of spectator sports, amused, astonished, or afflicted. Somehow their ghost-like filaments, also reach in and out to form flows, constrained by a grammar and gravity all of their own.

There's an aching to all this, swelling, palpable, and literal in my chest. I remember Saul Bellow in his Anderson the Rain King, said something to the effect that when Anderson sensed beauty approaching, his teeth ached. How well I know that feeling! I used to have to flee the library when suddenly struck by an un-named force out of some words I had read, to pace clumsily all over the campus; round and round till the tide in my chest receded and exhausted. There was no one to tell, no one to make sound to. It came and went silently, in the greatest gush of solitude. Pain resembled ecstasy. Yet without a name. The closest word I had for the whole thing was beauty.

My heart ached then, as it does now. Back then I didn't know what it was aching for; now I am made to understand, so sometimes I weep without tear, or sound. My heart defies the constraint of silence, it leaps up, up, to Beauty, to its Beloved.

To You.

Then, I know once again that word fails, or cracks. What I wanted is a love song, but I'm the poorest soul for poetry. I searched and searched and came to settle for Chesterton's engagement letter to his beloved fiance, on these words, bouncier and sturdier than what could have been my own:

There are four lamps of thanksgiving always before me: 
The first is for my creation out of the same earth with such a woman as you. 
The second is that I have not with all my faults gone after strange women -you cannot think how a man's self-restraint is rewarded in this.
The third is that I have tried to love everything alive,
a dim preparation for loving you.
 
And the fourth is but no word can express that: here ends all my previous existence
Take it, it led me to you.
Unlike Chesterton, I have, in a manner of speaking, "gone after strange women."  Grateful thus more, I am, that I have been Pardoned.

Love, Izy

Thursday, November 10, 2011

For Jan

My friend Jan has been down on her back, twelve days in all. You gotta pity a woman when her only feasible entertainment consists of taking pictures of her own knees and feet. Might as well. With that much time on one's hand while down on one's back, not to mention whose back we're talking about here, I fear for those who find themselves in close proximity, and pray that peace be with them. May the lady of the house not act like she is drinking gasoline and spitting fire, like this woman seems to being doing:

Willem de Kooning, Woman I

As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure that my pal Jan doesn't drink gasoline. She seems to prefer rum or Bailey's Irish Cream. Can you spit fire by drinking rum? 

I just don't believe someone with pretty legs like these, and who wears socks like these, would drink gasoline (or rum for that matter) and spit fire. But I'm pretty sure that someone with pretty legs like them, and who wears lovely socks like them, not only would, but also deserve, to have some shoes like these:


A couple of notes: Willem de Kooning is an artist I like. There's a large hard-backed poster of that very image can be seen in the hall way of the art department where I teach. Hence the association. 

The shoes are the handiworks of Andy Warhol, the enfant terrible, or darling, of the art world, depending on your taste. But I have a tender spot in my heart for Andy. I can't help it. After all the guy is said to have lived and prayed with his mother often, went to mass almost daily, served the poor with monks at a soup kitchen, and left to be found a crucifix and rosary at bedside after death. I came across and bought a little book called Ho Ho Ho by him in a used book store last week. All Christmas drawings, utterly childlike and beguiling. Among them one showing two angels making acquaintance of each other, one rather bashful looking. On opposite leaf a quote of Warhol: "And they get to know you better, and they start to like you." That's the one I wanted to put up here to cheer the spirit of my pal Jan, but alas, the scanner does not work with my Mac, like, a lot of stuff don't work with Macs. Steve, you could have stuck around to get around fixing that. 

Sleep, as comfortably as you can manage, Jan. And I'll see your socks tomorrow.



Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Seven

...if you find yourself obsessing on someone, on some physical injury, or on some painful conversation, you risk becoming a bitter person obsessed with revenge, which is the sin of anger. If you let your soul feel total contempt and loathing for someone, and if you're always insulting and censuring them in your mind, you're living with envy. If you give in to a feeling of malaise and exhaustion, that's laziness. On the other hand, if you find yourself entertaining ideas so pleasant that you could rest in them forever, only to realize that these thoughts are all about your own natural goodness, accomplishments, intelligence, talents, position, or beauty, this is pride. And if you dwell on your wealth and what you own (or want to own), then that's greed. If you're preoccupied with lots and lots of food and drink and only the best will do, you know gluttony. And if you're seduced by an inordinate love for giving or receiving flattery and by a deep-seated need to be liked, or by sexual pleasure, this is lust
- from Chapter 10, The Cloud of Unknowing