November 18, 2009 § 1 Comment
Lost in jewelry making. My sister is having a party for me at her house, and I don’t have enough stock so I am making earrings and bracelets day and night, while the cats climb on the windowsill to watch, and complain at my focus, and I barely get outside, and the rest of the world dissolves like smoke.
A river of beads an inch deep in my cardboard box riverbed (the crutches came in this box; it’s just the right size) with clasps, earring parts and crimp beads lost in the bright clutter; the tools half hidden the cats chewing on string and jewelry wire. I’m feeling alternately stressed at my self-imposed quotas and lost in the endlessness of it, making one thing after another like the junked-out deity we unspooled from those millions of years ago.
These past several days have been like the seasons when I’d spend weeks alone in Wallkill. The whole city is here around me, but I don’t see it. I hear my neighbor in the hall, catch snatches of conversation, nod to the doormen on the way out, watch the flow of people traffic on the streets: it’s all backdrop. I talk on the phone, feed the cats. I miss the old 12th floor gang.
If it were the old days, I’d wander down to Annie’s when I got lonely. Philip would come over or take me to dinner. Now I’m solitary: my friends are all just a little too far away, emotionally, for me to feel part of anything. I keep thinking of whom to see, dinners, coffee dates, and they’re all good: but they don’t add up. That’s my fault: what I’ve unraveled.
This happened slowly, one thing after another. Charles moving out, then being so wrapped up in Philip, the perpetual drama. Hard to believe that’s coming to an end: at least the particular drama we were part of. What will happen next is unclear.
It’s strange when all of a sudden a packet of years closes off and you realize: that’s the past now. What was the present for a long time—changing, moving forward, but still somehow all the same present—is gone: there was a bridge, a bend in the road, a jump, a cut-off.
So here I am in the new time, and solitude feels okay. I’ve gotten used to it. I have a lot of work. I have to make necklaces, bracelets and earrings. And edit a man’s book. And then, soon, I hope, my own again.
Passion for Solitude
by Cesare Pavese
Translated by Geoffrey Brock
May 3, 2009 § Leave a comment
I’ve been making jewelry for Mother’s Day, hoping to see a little action on my ebay site. It’s hard with a cat in the house, especially one who likes to follow me around. I tried shutting him in the kitchen but he meowed piteously and it was hard to concentrate. So I let him out and fed him to make him sleepy, and gave him a talk about how humans have to work so that cats can be languid ornaments.* Then he sat quietly on the windowsill, watching me.
I love my vintage Italian glass beads, like the ones in the picture above. They were handmade in the late 1940’s, on the island of Murano just off the coast of Venice, craftsmen winding molten glass from the furnace around a mandrel (a steel rod) that was then turned in the flame of an individual gas lamp to shape the bead.
At one time, glassmaking was a jealously guarded craft; each worker knew only a piece of the process, and those who revealed its secrets were put to death. This was in the 14th and 15th centuries, when being put to death was a fairly common occurrence in Italy, as was death of the more ordinary sort, from plague, childbirth, shipwreck and fire. Glassmaking was confined to an island because of its danger in a city of wooden buildings.
I’ve never held a 14th century Venetian bead on the palm of my hand but from pictures, I’d say the ones I have are more beautiful. I like them better than jewels because they’re more painterly, at the same time retaining that balance fine crafts have, the material sharing the spotlight with the artist.
If I had steadier hands, I’d try glassmaking. Just the phrase “molten glass” makes me see a river idling in slow curves down the workshop floor. I want to plunge my hands in it, pull out the beautiful fish. Luckily, what I do requires technique but is more about the artistry of arrangement. Don’t you want to look at my necklaces? Don’t you love your mother enough to buy her one?
I love my mother. She put me to bed between sheets painstakingly sewn from the pages of great novels, and fed me desserts glittering with shards of handmade glass. She wouldn’t dream of letting me go to school. Wizards bespelled into the bodies of frogs were my teachers. This was on an island not too far from here, whose coordinates are still a secret punishable by death.
*A description by my mother’s friend Evelyn of a woman they both knew.
Ned commented on how pretty the Mangalista pigs in my last post were. There was a Times article about them a few months ago and I saved the pic for a future post on pigs, about which I have much to say.
Well, not that much, really. Most of it I learned reading Boink, a lighthearted romp of a book by Mary Roach about science and sex. I discovered that boars are the only other male animals besides humans to stimulate teats as foreplay. And that sows have their clitorises inside their vaginas. (Perhaps when we get this gene-splicing thing right, we can make life easier for our female babies.) Furthermore farmers in Denmark routinely arouse their sows before insemination—done the scientific way—because sows thus pampered are 6% more likely to conceive.
It’s fun to read about these men rubbing and riding the sows (fully dressed, of course, and by riding I mean as one rides a horse), after the girls have been primed by wet kisses from a slobbery ‘teaser’ boar, and before the semen tube is inserted.
Roach also reports that artificial vaginas don’t work for boars as they do for bulls and horses because a boar has a corkscrew penis. Well, come on. If a sow can take it, we can make it. I think the boars are just being fussy.
December 5, 2008 § Leave a comment
I’ve been working madly on making jewelry all day, trying to get it on my ebay site in time to send out a newsletter and perhaps make enough money to pay the fees for my ebay site. Making the jewelry is deeply satisfying, scanning it and photoshopping it is fun; looking it on ebay and seeing what they do to my photos is not fun. I have to work on ways to make the best use of their pitiful platform, being too overwhelmed to attempt my own. I should also put everything on sale, slash prices, 50% off, but how can I do that when I hardly charge more than the cost of making the stuff? I am a bad businesswoman. I love my materials. I take my time. My image of myself is always as a eccentric-gypsy-crazy witch woman in a cave or hut, making art or medicines or magic without heed for the world until the world comes to me and then, since nothing cost anything to begin with, I can sell it for whatever I want. I blame the stories I read as a child. I remember takes of labor–the wheat from the chaff, etc, all those tasks that involved the kindness of elves—the cold miserable years of Psyche’s quest to find Eros after she spilled candle wax on his delicious nakedness because doing it in the dark wasn’t fun and her sisters said he was a monster: fairytales and legends are full of travail. But living in the woods, or an island, or in a cave upon, basically, nothing, what the earth would give freely, was what resonated with me. One might say this was because this was how I already lived, in a house. I was just adding some solitude, injecting autonomy into the easeful days of childhood. But I think artists do live like this, even if only for a few hours at a time.
I am purely happy when I make things, and then the social whirl is is too carnal, like a rib roast of beef salivating on its china platter when you only want a few autumn vegetables with a sprinkling of fresh thyme and a piece of whole wheat bread. If I had no engagements for the next two weeks, I would be disconsolate; having them, I feel pressured. They are stealing me from my leopardskin jasper, my venetian glass, the fantasy novel that will make me solvent.
I went to a party at St. John the Divine last night; the reopening. It was quite beautiful—the huge vaulted space, the tapestries, the crowds—and I saw a few friends, met Jonathan whom Philip has often spoken of. Saw my brilliantly talented painter friend Camilla. Then went home with Philip and he heated me up some frozen tamales from Trader Joe’s and we made love until we got too tired. That middle aged thing—the fucking is nice, but we can finish it tomorrow, right? It was nice to feel excited, your body against mine, tenderness; orgasm is no longer required. Not that it ever was for me, but I’m used to male lust. To feel it changing int osomething–dare I say–softer, is disconcerting but rather pleasant. As long as it’s not because I’m not losing my charm, which of course I must be, but perhaps very slowly
15 years ago I stopped having sex with Charles because, a) it had been deteriorating for a long time, and b) he told me I was too fat; I looked like a ‘giant green hamburger.’ (The green was the tee shirt.) That led to many years of misery culminating in Internet wanderings and Philip: the erotic frenzy of the turn of the century. Now Charles is visiting his old flame–the first time he’s seeing her that I know about ahead of time, and it makes me feel so amazingly calm. Happy for him of course, relieved of my own guilt, but also just calm as if the world is back in order. I don’t know quite how to explain it. I don’t want to think about what they’re doing, feel none of the prurient, anguished left-outness I still often feel vis-a-vis Philip and Christine, but am still glad that there is a story there, real emotion and event happening—just nothing that’s my business
Meanwhile my sister’s boss dropped dead of a heart atttack while running on a treadmill. I’ve always thought they were dangerous. I used to hope GWB would drop dead on one. This man, my sister’s boss, never sounded very nice, and I never met him to care one way or another, but still it is unnerving how death just snatches us. I would like to write more about the underworld before I die and am disappointed to not find one.
November 30, 2008 § Leave a comment
I was going to make a pumpkin-rootabaga-parsnip soup today, with roasted chestnuts on top, but Charles snuck away to the docks, bought a kingfish and proceeded to make chowder. He made stock from the head, vegetables and cilantro (simmered for 45 minutes) then added celery, rootabaga, onion, garlic, cuisinart-pureed raw eggplant and a little cream and “cooked it until it was done.” Grilled fish and red peppers were added at the table. It was the best fish chowder I’ve ever had. The cilantro and eggplant gave it a hint of my favorite Thai green curry, but not enough to distract from the freshly-caught fish.
I’ve been working on my ebay site all morning, though the beach beckons. Describing my necklaces makes me want to create more—or more honestly, makes me want to pile up all the stones and run my hands through them. When I die I want to be buried with beads; not the finished jewelry and not the glass beads, but all the jaspers and agates, and lapis to bribe the devil. William Burroughs was buried with his gun. For a man who shot and killed his wife by accident in a stupid William Tell game, that takes some nerve, the kind associated with disturbed 14 year old boys and male writers of the Beat generation. But I guess he thought he might need that pistol where he was going. Might need to shoot his wife again.
I always thought the idea of a coin to pay the ferryman was odd. If a spirit-being condemned to row the newly dead across a misty river endlessly wanted anything from earth, you’d think it would be a case of whisky—or a goatskin full of fermented mare’s milk, as the case may be. As a child, I was also confused by the ancient custom of putting food in the grave with the corpse. I thought: it’s stupid to think the dead need to eat, but assuming they do need to eat, won’t they get hungry again when they finish the little bit you sent with them? I hadn’t yet gotten used to the idea of being weaned from a familiar, relied-upon substance: coffee, carbs, Prozac. I suppose the dead might appreciate those kernels of corn and wizened apples to help get them through their withdrawal from life. In this light, purgatory is no different than what heroin addicts go through in prison. You’d need it, I think. If an afterlife exists, which I find very hard to believe in but the rumors persist, surely the transition would give you the bends. A hospital room, then…flatline…Heaven? Back up. I’d need a compulsory orientation (folding chairs, bad video), the longer and more boring the better. I’d want to squirm beside my fellow recently-departeds—sorry, arrivals—checking out their reactions, looking for potential friends. And if I died when I wasn’t feeling too bad I’d need a few roundhouse punches to get me over my addiction to the earth. I’d want that smashing-down-to-nothing addicts go through so that simple health becomes a flaming miracle. Even if Heaven is in fact heavenly, I imagine I’d miss the wind in the trees and animals and hot tea. Brew me something foul from a dog’s liver and whack me with a branch a dozen times, I’ll change my mind. I’ll take Heaven.
As for Hell: if I end up there, I can always look for Daddy.