Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Projecting Art

The boys started Sixth Grade a week ago so I can think of no better post for today than showing you the majority of the art projects they did last year, yeah, in fifth...

(You might remember, I took the summer off.)

Now, I can't say that Warhol would be the first place to start in an Art class.  His iconoclasm requires a broad knowledge of both what came before him and the incredibly strange zeitgeist of the era from whence he sprung.

But, hey, it's a soup can and that's silly:

Z went with Zack's Mystery Soup - no surprise there.  It says right on the label "It's a Surprise in every can.™"  Yep, he added a trademark.

Nick went with Dragon Soup.  I heard it tastes like rattlesnake.  I'm pleased he spelled everything correctly and... wait.  That says "Peebles's" right there at the top.  Possessives are hard.  I like the handwritten font, he makes the lower case "b" like I do, not using the silly bridge thing they teach but a sensible round bottom that looks like the letter.

They moved on from that to the "Crushed Can Project."  As I recall, they were to 'anthropomorphize', their word, a smashed pop (that's soft drink in Ohioese) can.  They used other found and re-purposed materials.  On the left is Zack's lion, majestic and all, surrounded in stars as lions often are.  Nick's is a sloth wearing a panda shirt on a branch, or maybe a crazed ear-less orangutan.  An otter?  (Nick, Dude, I'm sorry, I forgot to ask, hopefully you'll remember.)

Here's a classic.  The string spiraled around other string - all different and emphatically arbitrary colors, it's important to note - on a painted paper plate - again, the colors don't seem to matter.  You probably made one long ago, it's in the curricula with the stretchy string potholders, you remember, the ones that melt and burn when you hold a hot pot?  Let's call them "Stringies..."

Hold on.  Are those the same one?  No one's blue on the outer ring and the other one is brown, right?  Wait.  Is that mine, or yours?  Truth is, it could be anyone's.  (Possessives are hard.)

Let's move on.

This one baffled me initially.  It was like the last two days of school when all this stuff came home and I just put it aside and, well, took the summer off.  I remembered they talked about Impressionism and I think this was to illustrate pointillism.  They painted butterflies on muslin over a piece of rough (80-grit for the art historians) sandpaper to mimic the affect, I think...

Zack's is one of the two and Nick's is the other.

Zack made this groovy Seventies poster, they were heavy on the affirmations.

Meanwhile, Nick was busy making a "Mix Tape."

(Actually, apologies to Nick, I can't seem to find his groovy Seventies affirmation poster.  I remember seeing it, but I think he brought it home mid-year and now I can't find it.  I pretty sure it said "Sensitive, Kind, Loving, Strong" and, of course, "Awesome.")

These two owls made it into the Spring Art Show, which I think we missed because of a sporting event, or Skyline, probably Skyline.  Actually, as I recall, they didn't really want to go.  I don't know why... I may have then.

I think this year's pieces de resistance are the two clay fishes, painted and fired, the whole thing.  This project replaces the ashtray project I did.  Thirty years ago I'd've loved these as ashtrays, truth be told.  Good conversation starters and all.  Man, it's funny how time changes everything and yet, stuff stays the same.

Zack's has a baby fish in its mouth.  (Hey, boys, I've still got them, whenever you're reading this.  They're on top of the bookshelf in your room, have been for years now.  Don't mind the dust.)

I reckon I might have a point here at the end.  Boy I'd like to...

Listen, I should've probably done this piece when the stories were all fresh.  But, in a way, what's interesting is that I am approaching these today much as they might in a few decades.  What might they think of them then.

Perhaps, they'll think, "Man, that sandpaper thing was stupid."

Or, "I remember being really proud of that soup can thing."

Or, maybe, "I remember how proud and impressed Dad was with the fish sculptures."

"Why didn't we go to the Art Show?"

Beyond that, they might be reminded of what a great school system they went to, reminded of dear teachers and old friends; see what opportunity and understanding studying art and Music afforded them.

I imagine them at a distant reunion talking about Mrs. So-and-So, the Art Teacher, and one of the boys pulling up this blog on whatever device there is by then and, misty eyed and wistful, scrolling through these projects and knowing that once life was good and they were very much loved, honored and cherished.

I know I've sort of promised to get away from this sort of post, ones showcasing the stuff they do here, now, at school.  I mentioned I might do this piece and they didn't have a problem with it.  In fact Nick said:  "Oh, yeah, it would be really cool to see those someday when we are all grown up."

Well, here they are boys, but, I'll bet you don't feel all grown up... you never will, but, that's a secret for another time.

Peace, as always, thanks for looking at these, I appreciate you spending the time with me.

Update Sept. 8, 2016

I rarely change or add to or alter a post after I've finished it.  I truly think that creative work must finish, reach a state of completion.  For instance, I've shared here some lame poetry I wrote in the eighties, there were a couple of poems that had some promise and I was tempted to revise them.  I realized that that would mean I hadn't trusted myself, or believed in myself when I originally wrote them - which I did, very much.  I've also written songs and, as I play them today, so many years later, I often think of a better line or a way to change the melody or something.  I don't.  I already finished them.

Sure, around here, I fix glaring typos - of which there are many - and tense stuff, but I never change the gist of the thing.  Today I might.

You see, I forgot the end of this piece, the final image.  Here it is:

The boys both finished the year with high honors, all A's I guess you'd say.  (I threw the awards down there so they'd remember them later, they were proud of those, but they aren't really on point.)  I wanted to say something clever about how all these art projects added to the stellar education they are being afforded, or something like that...

I thought of something else though.  Just as they worked hard and made the best of the opportunity in their Art class they did the same in their academic work as well.  That's a horrible sentence but I can't seem to fix it.

Nick and Zack are seizing their shot at this.  Seeing the importance and working hard in Art and music, coupled with the scholastic work they do in math and science, social studies and language arts, gives them a hand up on the difficult trail before them.  A good song, a heartfelt story, a desperately sad painting, a beautiful new film version of "The Little Prince," all serve us just as importantly, just as nobly, just as essentially, as algebraic theorems, basic chemistry, geography, even history.

Yeah, maybe I just shoulda left it as it was...

I'm gonna tell you the truth here.  When I initially designed and worked through this piece, I had every intention of framing it around one thought.

Lets put an A in STEM curriculum and call it STEAM instead.

I decided not to, mostly because it didn't serve the memory I wanted to put down here, didn't honor the material.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Silence Seekers and Over Thinkers

Marci sent me this quote a few days ago.

I like Prince Ea, I like his positivity and urgency, he seems like a really cool dude - quotable and all.  But, this isn't about the words you see above.

I took that picture of a cold winter's night somewhere close to three in the morning.  That's a nice dry piece of ash lighting up in the fireplace and a candle above it illuminating a corner of the Ansel Adams print above.  In the foreground, a glass of scotch on rocks.  I took the picture for reasons I can't recall.  But this isn't about the picture either.

This is about her, my wife, Marci.  She sent me that quote because she wanted me to know that she knows.  She understands the late nights, the seeking silence.  She understands that I need to sit and listen to the stories the fire will tell, the songs the wind will bring, the poem night offers.

I am so grateful for that.

I love you faithful friend, understander, noticer, wife.

From Marci's ... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ...

"That arrow is not the arrow of destiny."

Or is it?  I never can tell...


(It's funny, I think this quote helped me find the courage to finish and publish Doubting the Minutes which I'd been struggling with.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Doubting the Minutes

(These are the minutes from our recent all-staff meeting.)

Hey, Bill, can you step into my office this morning for a meeting?

You don't have an office.

Yeah well, meet me in the basement.

The basement is a mess and I don't work well down there anymore.

Alright then, right here at the dining room table.   Bring your coffee.

So... you haven't really written or posted anything for a while.   Are you about ready to get started again?

Dude, I've been busy and the boys are always underfoot and I can't find any big chunks of time to get anything done and it just seems like it doesn't matter and my faith is slipping and I'm full of doubt and...

Deep breath, Bill.   Don't be so defensive.

It's just that I'm afraid you're gonna give me a hard time and use that damn stick and...

What stick!?

The one you poke and prod me with.   The metaphorical one.  The one that's worse than a real stick, the "guilt stick" I call it.

Ah, yeah, it is leaning up against the wall there within arm's reach.  How about I "metaphorically" throw it out the window.   Ooh, I know, I'll fling it through the glass door, that'll liven things up.

You'd be willing to do that?   Then what's this meeting about?

Don't narrow your eyes in suspicion at me, you already look grumpy as fuck all the time anyway.

Screw you and...

And, yes, yes I am willing to do that.


Listen, do you feel guilty about not writing practically the whole summer?

I guess, I mean, I feel like I'm supposed to.   I really didn't have the time, sure, I had a couple hours here and a couple there, I guess I shoulda written then, but, it never seems like I can finish a thought and, this may sound weird, but the constant threat that I might be interrupted really nags on me.  There's nothing worse than having a thought whisper out of your head and be lost forever.

Nothing's lost forever.  If it's a good thought, it'll come back.

I don't have time for that!

Don't shout. What did you do this summer when you weren't writing? Remember, I threw the "guilt stick" out the window. (Don't forget to clean up that glass.)

I dunno, I, uh, cleaned and mowed, cooked and watched the boys and went to the pool and...  stuff.

Yeah, I know that.  It still sounds like you're trying to defend yourself.

Well, you do have a history of being sort of judgmental.

Not today.

Isn't it true that you watched movies late into the night?  Isn't it true that you looked at Facebook a lot?  You spent a lot of time reading pieces on Medium and Aeon and in The Atlantic.   I noticed you playing your guitar more, often late at night on the porch.  I watched you watching baseball games and talking to the one you call Kirby late into the nights, beer in hand, laughing and arguing loudly into the quiet night.   I saw you watching people at the pool and church, wondering about them, figuring them.  I heard you thinking, trying stories out, wishing, questioning, hoping, despairing.

Yeah, I guess you're saying I could have been writing all those times, using my time better.

Actually, Bill, I'm not saying that at all.

You see, I think you were writing.  Watching a movie shows you structure and timing.  Looking at Facebook and people-watching helps you invent characters and learn more about human nature.  Reading, as you know, is absolutely essential to writing.  Baseball games are poetry to you and a late night beer and a long conversation with an old friend is fuel for the soul.  And playing music and singing, well, I can't think of a better teacher, as you've come to understand the music is for you and God and Space and Time and not for others, I've seen you grow and get better, learn.

And trying and wishing and hoping and questioning and despairing?  Is there a better definition of writing, of creating, of being an artist?

Why are you being nice to me?

I was afraid you'd ask that.


Because you know I have to always be honest with you, there's no sense in lying to your other self.


Alright, here's the truth.  I think you're a pretty damn fine writer.   I think you've been writing since you were twelve or so, well before you took pen to paper.  I think the pauses you take from it are essential and I think it is essential that you write.

Yeah, that and a buck-thirty-nine will get me a crappy cup of coffee down the street.


Don't what?

Don't... everything... don't interrupt, don't self-deprecate, don't deny or dilute, don't forget, don't not listen, don't doubt, especially that, don't doubt.

I've heard you on many occasions talk about looking at yourself in the mirror and looking back and being comfortable with your reflection.   Lately, I've seen you looking away, looking down, looking out.  Why do you think that is? 

I'm fat?

You know that's not it.  That's a symptom, a symptom of doubt.

Alright, I'll try harder.   I'm not living up to my potential

What're you in high school?   Again, just doubt.

I'm afraid I'm running out of time.  The gray and the wrinkles and the ticking of the clock make me look away from myself.  How's that?

Better.  But, it's doubt again.

How'd'ya figure?

You're doubting what is yet to come. We're not aloud to do that.

Why not?

Because that's the business of Faith.


Dude, doubt is the absence of Hope.  You know that, and, frankly, you're better than that.   I know your hope.  I know that, through the grumpiness and shoulder pain, through the abysmal state of politics, through the hurt and violence that seems unending, through all of that, you have hope.  You've just forgotten it, no, misplaced it.

One of the things I admire most about what you've done with your writing here, is that you've tried to keep the focus on that hope.  Sure, you've gone astray at times, who doesn't?  But, the words we chose so long ago to echo through these pages - Hope, Faith, Integrity, Honor, Cherish, Love - have - echoed that is.

You've done right by your hope, you've honored and cherished it.  Do you know why?

'cause I had to.


For them.


Nick and Zack.

Are you ready to get back to work now?

Yes, I think so.

I'm gonna go get the stick...

Wait, before you do, can I ask you something, since you're being nice and all?

Alright, what?

What should I do about the time thing?  You know, how time feels like an enemy, how not only do there not seem to be enough hours but how quickly they seem to go?  How I'm afraid of it?  How, well, how it feels like closing time?  And I've seen a lot of those.

Well, I guess it time to "start livin' like Summer's over".

Boy that's a good tune, isn't it?

It sure is, and good advice, too.

But, what of the things I was going to do today.  The cleaning and tending and errands and, the homemaking and all.  I mean, really, I've got a bunch of shit to do...

Screw it.

But when will I do it, how'll it get done?   This is what you never seem to understand.   I have responsibilities.  Fridges don't fill themselves, I don't have a goat for the lawn, laundry is not a self-fulfilling prophecy, these things take time!

You're responsibility is to your hope.

That doesn't even mean anything!

Don't get all riled up.  Is there milk?


Well done.  Is the lawn mowed now?

Yes, but...

Good on you.  Is the laundry done?  Is the floor relatively free of debris?  Are the plants watered?

Well, yes...

So, you're good.  So what've you done this morning?  You've been working on this and you played a couple of tunes on the old Alvarez and drank too much coffee.   That speaks more to your hope than housework and errands.   Are you willing to say that running the old Dyson is more important than leaving some words about doubt and fear and faith and, well, hope, here?  For Nick and Zack and Marci and Mom and a few others and potentially many more?

Well, no, I guess not. It's just that I feel like I've wasted and squandered and dreamed away so many hours that now Time is making me pay, speeding up, shortening, pounding... winning.

This is not time wasted:
Dude, Time is not the enemy.   It is not your nemesis, your rival.  It is not the black to your white nor is it the wrong to your right.

Time is your ally.  Time is your friend.  Time nurtured your talents and fruited your hope.  You rode the turtle back of time to get to this place you are now.  None of it is or has been wasted.   Time doesn't waste itself. It doesn't wish it was other than it is.  It doesn't hurry or dawdle.  It is with you.

"...the turtle back of time...?"

Yeah, sorry.  You’re the wordsmith, fix it.

I secretly like it.

You see, everything right now was given you by time.  Every sentence, every word.

You, really, given to you.  You do all the heavy thinking, you walk all the long paths I don't think there's time for, you willingly let go, or worse, hold onto, thoughts that scare me or make me doubt, knowing, as you said, that the good ones will come back or maybe just did.  You're the one who cries on the porch because a song was so perfect, a thought so joyful, a memory so hard.

Yes, that's true.

But you said I was the wordsmith, that the words and sentences were given to me.


I don't get it...

Well, I'm not very good with words, and all, but... I'll try.

The dreaming and the crying and the shouting; the wildness, the tenderness, the memories; the feelings and the intensity of it all; the sweetness and the bitterness of memory and hope, well, they are enough for me.  But, you, you put it down somewhere.  I am not brave enough to do that, I haven't the will, my hope is not strong enough.

To put the feelings I have down, to put words to them, to write row after row of letters and punctuation marks, to codify it, make sense of it... it just seems, impossible.  It's like alchemy to me, shaping my scattered and battered mess of a mind into something that makes sense.  How, well, brave you are.


Yes, that's what you said, "brave."

I didn't say it, you did.

Dude, we all know you do it all, every damn word, including these.  I'm just flattered that you think to give me a voice now and again, a lot of folks wouldn't.

For what it's worth... well, your job is harder.

Will you look at the time?

Really, after all this...

Yep, time to wrap it up. You said you wanted this by this afternoon and, well, is fifteen after noon, so...

Just turn it in when it's done.

Right, thanks.

There's one more thing.


Why don't you go look in the mirror.  I'll wait...



Yes, better.  Thanks, Other-one-me.

Thank you, Bill.   I'm just gonna go get my stick out of the yard.

Why don't you just leave it in the yard?

It's the only power I have.   Don't forget to clean up the glass.  Peace out.



Peace to you too, let's meet on the porch soon.

Don't forget the beer.

And thanks to you for sitting with me on the porch today.  I hope to get into a better rhythm around here, but, I've promised that before.


(Should you wonder more about "Other-one-me" there is a label up towards the top that will direct you to some of our previous, uh, conversations.  The most recent is first so you'll need to jump back to see the first time he interrupted me.  Make sense?  He also admins the "ihiwat" FB page.)