I’ve always been a loner. I feel comfortable on the hills, the trails, looking out my window at the blue sky. Listening to the hawks on a cold January day. It’s quiet, my dogs by my side. Or sitting writing or painting in my studio. Nowadays to fill most of my social needs I join conversations on Facebook about instapots and menopause. In my radio interview the other day I said that I don’t have friends coming to my house, I live an isolated life as a stay at home mom, an artist, and a writer. I said my friends who I know and don’t know, my readers, the people who interact with my paintings, the collectors, I must communicate with them, with the outside world. I don’t know why. I am. Everything seems like a possibility. The farther I go into my artistic self the more real I become. The Sycamore tree outside is still bare, the sky is greyish blue. There’s not much warm sun to sit under outside or I would be there now. I’m in the house writing. I’ve been working on my manuscript for my new book. It’s all about babies. It’s raw and uncensored. My fertile and unfertile self. A guy at my art talk last week said while I was talking, and he was holding and leafing through one of my gigantic painterly notebooks, that the notebook was like my baby too, another baby I cared for and gave birth too. I realized that all the art I did during my early thirties has been destroyed and was all about fertility and babies and birth and secrets. They were made from wool, and glue, and plaster, and string, and musty old things. Stockings, black sheer and fishnets. Pods, fertility goddess inspired, death and rebirth. But during this time, I didn’t write. I was scared my husband would read my journal and think I was unhappy, or crazy, or just take everything out of context. So, I squeezed and pounded and stitched fabrics and canvas and old garments. I ripped and tore and scratched. I remember once I was in my studio at my old house, the house Alan and I lived in before this one. It was just a room in the house. Alan and the landlord were outside my room, looking at something in the house. I was working on a painting. I was scratching and scraping the paint off with my nails. I knew I should stop but I couldn’t. My nails were getting ground down, soft and black with paint. I knew the land lord was probably worried about what I was doing and that I sounded insane.
The space in between. In between two paper turkeys that hang on the wall from over a year ago. Above the kitchen table, many meals shared. The crows cawing loud today. What are you cawing about crow? September heat rot summer figs. Dried dark purple corpses, tears down the middle, reminiscence of pink and yellow juicy insides. The leaves on the fig tree so large now, they canopy the sand box, crisp dried fig leaves crunch under my feet. I walk to my green chair I put in the corner at the beginning of summer. I sit down, it’s cool here, the coolest place around. I wonder if I should put away the trucks for the winter? Will they deteriorate if I leave them out in the rain and wind? Should I put up new paper turkeys? These are baby paper turkeys, just dollops of paint, glue, brown and orange construction paper, and googly eyes. Jack and Fiona are three and a half now. Their Thanksgiving decorations this year will be more sophisticated. A few little baby paintings are still taped on the wall. Fiona is drawing “The Green Faced Man” now. Jack rode a scooter down the sidewalk this morning to school and stopped at all the driveways. Time that passes between is a growing time, a learning time. It’s hard to let it go, of the past three years, the baby phase. It slipped through my hands like sand in the sand box. The narrative was set, predetermined. The baby is born dependent on the caregivers, the child learns to be interdependent and become caregivers themselves. I never think about the time they spend away, in their communities without me. I think of them as they are with me. Fiona started helping a younger child we were with yesterday in a very mature way. I can only imagine she is a caring person on the outside. Jack likes talking to everyone. He looks older than he is and speaks clearly. He looks at people’s eyes when having a conversation. What’s happened in between the spaces here- two babies have grown into confident, individual children. Maybe it’s time for new paper turkeys.
O.K., here I am. Two hours left. Paper laid out. Works in progress. Laid out. Second guessing my decision to NOT bring down a mini bottle of SAKE because it would send the wrong message. Change my mind, two hours, enough time to have a mini glass of SAKE, toast the GHOSTS of the season. Here’s a toast to the ghosts of the season. May the other side find you well. A Toast to Earth who’s given us LIFE. A toast to paper and paint and wine. To the Wind. THE FALL. I take a sip; the Sake is strong. Thought it was my imagination. Took more sips, bigger sips. It tastes strong. I look at the label. 14% alcohol. I pour my full glass back into the bottle, leave a sip. Put the Bottle of Sake back in the fridgerator. Fan on. Put on music, continue to work.
Children lose mothers. Mothers lose children. light a candle for us tonight. Paint a picture, say a prayer. Pray for mother’s peace.
Time is almost out. Texture, blue, brown, charcoal. Drawing and painting. Tomorrow is another studio day. Ready to work. Cool breeze, leaves a mixture of green and gold on the Sycamore tree. Bay Area Autumn. My favorite time of the year. Balance time between indoors and outdoors. Watch a cartoon with my daughter. Dolls with button eyes talk. Stitched mouths that open. Make dinner. Call it a night.
A bra is part of a costume. I see it now so clear. Mama, mama, mama. I understand now. We use it for our armor. We use it on our bodies. Protecting us. Protecting them. We use it all the time. It’s so tight and suffocating. Suffocating. Mama, mama, mama, mama, mama. What do you want this time? I’m telling you the answers, no I’m shouting. Oh, babies, babies, babies Can you hear me? You say mama mama, mama, mama, mama. To ask me something. But I have a question for you. Do you think that your body is your own? Do you think you need to hide it from the world? Do I tell you that’s just the rules? Don’t show your vagina in public. Don’t show your penis. And when you get breasts, don’t show those either. That’s just the rules here. Obey and fall in line.
I tell this rule and that rule. The rule the world before them told me. The world I sift through, sometimes on quick sand, sometimes on ice, sometimes on green grass. I look around my studio. Drawings and marks, paint. The real world. My best world. No questions being asked of me, no roles to play or armor to wear. Or is my armor my paint? My paint brush armed with green, yellow, dark blue, palette knife white. Scraping and staining, forming a protective mesh between me and the outside world? It doesn’t matter. I just do it. I work and experiment and ruin. I have time. Time to layer and scrape. Time to mash and spread. All the time in the world. Just as the moments pass away they come just as quickly, one day running out. There’s still the same amount of moments each day until that last day. We have all the time in our world to make a mess, make a masterpiece, make a statement, make nothing, make everything.
The doorway to nowhere but the big blue ocean. That always open doorway. The crevices I crawl in and out of. Again, I crawl into the crevice that says women must cover their breasts while in public. Why? I think it’s an outdated law. If men are allowed women are allowed.
You will survive the doctor says. I sit on the edge of the exam table on a Saturday afternoon. I can’t believe I got an appointment. Just drop me off, I tell Alan. Take the kids to the park. I’ll figure out what to do after. I’m sick again, or having a relapse, maybe rheumatic fever. Maybe I’m just PMS’ing, perimenopause, maybe menopause. I say this to the doctor. I wipe tears off my face. I’m sorry, I’m just breaking down. The nurse took my blood pressure twice, its low, 84 over 55. Same both times. It looks like this has happened before. She says reading my chart. When she leaves the exam room I start to cry. I hope they don’t keep me, I hope I don’t get rheumatic fever or congestive heart failure. Hearts aren’t strong in my family. That’s why I’m taking the celexa. Do you ever meditate? The doctor asks me. I think it would help a lot, she says. I did before. Before Jack and Fiona were born. I tell her. I’ve started going to Yoga again recently, but haven’t been in a month because of this stupid sickness, cough, sinus infection, never ending. How old are your kids? The doctor asks. Three and a half. Yup, do they go to daycare? Yes, I say. You will be sick until they are six she tells me. So, I’m not dying? No, and you can’t get Rheumatic fever since you took the MOX anyhow. My grandpa had rheumatic fever, it kept him from going to d-day she tells me. Everyone in his battalion died. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for rheumatic fever. The doctor tells me. Wow! I say. I tell her how my grandma used to tell us the story of having rheumatic fever when she was a child. How it affected her life. They didn’t have the antibiotics until 1965 says the doctor. There’s always drama around those stories she says. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you are sick with the responsibility of having to take care of kids. Get some rest, drink a hot toddy, and start meditating. Doctors parting words.
My studio is a mess. The whole thing. Paint brushes hard, palette knives covered in dry paint. Works I work and work and work over. Mud and ambiguity. All over the place. Sadness in my heart. The circle of life, the we are who we are fact of it all. The THIS IS WHAT IT IS and accept it. I would do anything to have you back in your studio working my friend. Anything. I see myself in you, you in myself. Line and brush stroke, ink and glue. Ripping and attaching. The highs and the lows. The circle of the dark giant PVC pipe, too dark to see inside. Head first, head lost, if it wasn’t attached. Another toke another joke, another pill another drink, another depression. It’s all the same for you and me. The happiness, the togetherness, the creativity and productivity. It all goes together. The dyad of life. The need for escape. The difficultness of paying the bills on time, of remembering where they were put. The studio needs to be cleaned. I miss my friend. I feel a loss knowing that he’s not in his studio working. The art community is a precious circle. One falls, we all fall. The losses are real. Painting and making, filling the void, the loss, heartache, disappointment, pressure, setback. Do the lines on the canvas fill the space that good, innocence once lived? That bad happened? I put on my crusty apron. I put on my rubber gloves and begin to work. To fill the dark space with grey, blue, pink, green, muted, layered, collage, charcoal. Work is all I can do. I stay afloat. I have the lost souls in my heart. Keep them protected. Foggy mind, draw for clarity. Foggy mind, paint for clarity. Scratch and claw out of the PVC pipe. Once I stop making I stop living.
I sit on my bed, Thursday afternoon. The house is quiet, Jack and Fiona are asleep. I went to my studio for an hour, painted everything I worked on the other day white. I worked on my notebook pages. I start to cough and feel depressed. The flu can cause depression, I read this on the internet. I decide to come inside, rest. Yesterday I woke up in the morning, my eyes bulging with pain, behind my ears hurt so bad I almost threw up. I called my husband, he could be home by 4:00pm. I had to make it through the day on my own with Jack and Fiona. My legs weak, I had a hard time walking from one location to another as Jack and Fiona called me, “Play with me mommy”. Jack mostly watched T.V. and Fiona stuck by my side all day. While I was still in the process of trying to beat this monster that crept into my body to wreak havoc, I took my vitamins, ate cantaloupe, drank lots of water, and did a kids Yoga video with Fiona. My back, arms, legs so stiff and sore as I went into Childs Pose. Fiona held my hand when we did Tree Pose and airplane. I knew that I was going to recover, I still was scared. I was scared to be alone with my children when I was so sick. I felt myself going into some strange survival mode. As I ate the cantaloupe I felt the juice run down my throat, it felt so nourishing. Fiona and I made a smoothie, she cut the banana, put in the protein powder, turned on the blender, she was so proud.
Last night, after Alan was home, I came down to bed. Fiona wanted to come with me. At first Alan tried to stop her. She cried the kind of cry that shows true disappointment. I said, it’s O.K., she can come with me. “Can I sleep in your bed with you?” Fiona asked. “Yes” I say. My body aches, I can’t get comfortable. Fiona starts to bring animals, horses, the Glass Pig, she brings me pretend food. She talks to me and asks me questions. She doesn’t have her hearing aids on and I’m too tired to talk loud or repeat what I’ve said or use sign. I just say “yes” and “thank you” and that suffices. My bed is soft and cozy. Jack played upstairs with Alan the whole time. Fiona took care of me. It was comforting. I remembered myself alone with the flu. When Fiona was talking to me so much I thought maybe I should have her go, be alone. But I decided to let her stay. I enjoyed her company. I remembered the times I went home from work and jumped in bed. I don’t remember missing anyone to take care of me or keep me company. I thought about the times before Alan and I had kids and he took care of me. I thought about my mom and how she took care of me. My mom died very young and healthy, (except for the massive heart attack). I never had the experience of taking care of an aging parent, but Jack and Fiona will. I think they know intuitively that I will die before them. How depressing am I? Fevers and sickness always remind me of my mortality, of my limited energy. I always get a little bit sad the next day when my fever is gone but I still feel tired but the laundries pilling up and there’s calls to make and e-mails to respond to but I can’t.
Jack and Fiona will be up soon from their nap. I hope to be a good mom and wife tonight, to cook a nice dinner and not stress. Be fully present and available. Every moment counts.