Monday, February 28, 2011

good stuff, #1.

this year for christmas my dad got me a subscription to the sun magazine. i would highly recommend spending the money to get this every month. i intend to grow old with it. two of my favorite things about the magazine are: 1. readers write - every publication includes about 5 pages worth of stories/essays written by the readers on a topic assigned a few months in advance. 2. fantastic, beautiful black and white photography to accompany wonderful interviews, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, 2 pages worth of beautiful quotes and an excerpt from a recommended book.

from the website:

The Sun is an independent, ad-free monthly magazine that for more than thirty years has used words and photographs to invoke the splendor and heartache of being human. The Sun celebrates life, but not in a way that ignores its complexity. The personal essays, short stories, interviews, poetry, and photographs that appear in its pages explore the challenges we face and the moments when we rise to meet those challenges.

The Sun publishes the work of emerging and established artists who are striving to be thoughtful and authentic. Writing from The Sun has won the Pushcart Prize, been published in Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays, and been broadcast on National Public Radio.

The Sun invites readers to consider an array of political, social, and philosophical ideas and then to join the conversation. Each issue includes a section devoted entirely to writing by readers, who address topics as varied as Telling the Truth, Neighbors, Hiding Places, Second Chances, and Gambling.

From its idealistic, unlikely inception in 1974 to its current incarnation as a nonprofit magazine with more than 70,000 subscribers, The Sun has attempted to marry the personal and political; to honor the genuine and the spiritual; to see what kind of roommates beauty and truth can be; and to show that powerful teaching can be found in the lives of ordinary people.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

end of february

all day long, i am trying to help 4 and 5 year olds figure out their emotions. i'm trying to help them know what to do when they're angry, or when they're sad, or how to act when they're embarrassed or feel left out. when they're lonely, when they miss their mothers, when they get caught drifting into the darkness of some of their lives. and in the midst of the tantrums, the tears, the picking, the whining, i'm supposed to, somehow, remain calm. and unaffected. and steady. and strong. and in control.

sometimes i feel like the most powerful person on earth. because i can get 8 5 year olds to eat lunch, brush their teeth, go to the bathroom, and take a nap. if you think this sounds simple, i'd like to watch you try.

after i leave work, i often just feel lonely. isolated. terrified of my life. in a day at work, i feel so frustrated, so angry, so mean, so short-tempered, so ugly, so out of control, so powerless - and then at the same time, i feel fulfillment, and joy, and power, and kind and patient and loving. and all of these feelings combined, mixed, churning and boiling and cooling down in my body is tiresome. it's exhausting. i feel hopeless. i feel trapped. i have to open a window. i find myself staring out of the window for 5 minutes without noticing the trance i've fallen into while the kids are playing and screaming behind me. i get lost in the gray. in the tree branches. in the melting snow. in the facade of the abandoned church.

i dream of being in love. i dream about running away. i dream of roads. i dream of silence. i picture water colors moving on a piece of paper, slowly, purposefully and freely. i imagine myself wild, happy and with tears in my eyes because the power of whatever beauty i am experiencing is so big. i dream of the release of this emotion. i imagine having affairs. i dream dreams i'd never even considered before.

and on wednesdays, i leave and go to my painting class.

this week, i was supposed to continue working on a a still life. i'm the only person in the room who is not painting from a picture, except for one woman who is trying to paint some abstract shit. and by shit, i mean, shit. ugly. purposeless. thoughtless. i wanted to do a still life because, in theory, i know that it's the most genuine thing i could do. i'm not going to paint a photograph (because it's stupid. and because i take photographs. why the hell would i try to reproduce a picture i took?), and i'm not going to paint something "abstract" because if i don't know how to paint a vase well - if i don't understand the form and shape and color and texture and shadows - then how the hell am i going to paint abstractly? i struggled with reflections a lot when i was in college. so i wanted to try again. i know that being a good artist is about seeing. it's about being a good looker. a good seer.

i get back to my still life, and i don't want to do it. because it's hard. too hard. panting the reflection of a green piece of pottery in a copper vase. the material behind has all these lines and stripes. so i get frustrated. and start painting something else.

the teacher keeps pushing me to finish it. i keep avoiding him. ignoring him. until he picks up my painting, puts it on a easel and makes me move my body so that i'm in position to paint that still life. and i hate him. and i start to cry. no one sees me. or hears me. and i'm thinking to myself, "WHY CAN'T I JUST DO WHAT I WANT TO DO." i want to throw things. and scream. and break everything.

but instead, i start to paint the still life again. i'm mad. and i'm angry. and i paint over everything. and i'm fucking pissed off. and i look. and i look. and i look. and i paint. and the more i look, the more i see. the more i see, the more i understand. the more i understand, the better i get at representing what i see.

a girl, who i initially hated, like usual, for no reason, walks past me. she tells me how good the reflections look. she tells me that she's been painting for 10 years, and that mine look better than hers. and the teacher tells me that i'm really good with color (which i already knew. my mom told me that when i was 5 and used to pick out her clothes. and my art teacher told me in 3rd grade the same thing. and pat barefoot told me in college too.). i tell the girl that sometimes it's just so hard to see. and she tells me, "yeah, but, once you start to see, it's sort of hard to stop."

and that felt like some sort of truth that settled nicely into my skin.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

february 02, part 2.

i went to my painting class today and spent 3 hours trying to paint an egg that did not exist. it was a study in shadows - i guess, you should know where shadows are and what they look like without actually being able to see them. my body aches from the stool i sat on. my back was bent in strange, uneasy positions. my brain was frustrated, overwhelmed. for three hours, with very few breaks, i was completely fixated on this egg. on its shadow. on its highlight. on the colors. my world became so little - my world was an egg in a 5 inch x 5 inch square. i hated the egg. i hated the exercise. i hated how hard it was. i hated how simple it was - and how difficult it was to do right. i hate how when i look at my paintings, i can't really see them. i can't tell if the colors are right, or the shadow is right, or if the egg actually looked round and alive. i hated the woman who took 10 minutes to do the exercise and moved on to paint an awful rothko replica. i hated her, because her painting of the egg was terrible. who does she think she is? you can't paint like rothko unless you know about color, and shape, and shadow. and i hated her. i wanted so badly to quit. to stop painting the stupid egg and smear color with a huge, ugly, gloppy paint brush all over the walls and ceilings and my face and fingers and canvas and under my show and in my jeans pockets and in her face. but i didn't.

i'm at home now. i can only stand to sit in the dark. this is why painting is good. this is why anything that we actually do that is hard is good. my brain is tired. my body is tired. i am tired. i am speechless. thoughtless. empty. i am nothing.

february 02

i will be happy despite my circumstance. i will be happy despite my circumstance. i will be happy despite my circumstance. there is always circumstance. there is always circumstance. i will be happy despite my circumstance. i will be happy despite my circumstance. i will find beauty everywhere. i will find beauty everywhere. i will find beauty everywhere. i will be happy despite my circumstance. i will be happy despite my circumstance. i will be happy despite my circumstance.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

february 01

this is what pittsburgh looks like.

today i looked out the window and wrote in my notebook, "gray on top of gray on top of gray on top of gray . . . " every person i've ever dated has gotten married to / engaged to the person they dated after me. a boy i used to date just got engaged. it made me sad, because i believed that he would never get married. i used to think he was too brave for that.

i used to think that summer was only for skinny white girls in flip flops and shorts who enjoyed vacations at the beach. love of hot weather i think is a distinctly skinny white girl thing - because if you talk to anybody who isn't a skinny white girl on an exceptionally hot day, they'll tell you, "i'm just trying to find some air conditioning." but a white girl, will say something like, "oh i love summer so much!' while the rest of us are sweating to death and contemplating murder, suicide or going to live in an air conditioned superstore like target or walmart.

i used to like winter a lot. and for a few reasons: i hate being hot. and i used to make myself like things that were difficult: like the hiccups and having the flu. plus, i really hated skinny white girls - so every time they said something about loving summer it felt really good to say, "really? i think winter is better. i hate being hot." it made me feel stronger than them. like - that i was better than them because winter's cold and gray and dark didn't affect me. i was stronger than them and stronger than winter. my mood and my well-being was independent of the season. so, bitch - please.

but this winter might be different. i am weaker now. i am less proud. i have less energy. i don't interact with many skinny white girls who love summer. now, i'm just tired from all this gray and cold and dark.