Comfortably Dumb

--Edward Hopper, "High Noon"

–Edward Hopper, “High Noon”

Suicide.  It’s been over six months since I’ve had this urge to google it.  Six months ago, I put that urge away. . .put it in a strongbox and swallowed the key.

This is the last time you haunt the house of my brain .  Here’s your hat . ..don’t let the unlocked door hit you on the way out.

And  here, I hesitate to say,  it is six months later and he’s back, Jack. That asshole with the hobnail shoes, exhausted, nauseous, spent. Stomping around in the kitchen again. . .rummaging through the produce drawer, looking for palpable courage.

The long hallway with all the family photos: every last one of those faces emaciated, expressionless.   You want to save them. . . load them all into boats, bound for anywhere

but here, where the hurt is.

I mean it is one kind of unholy to go there yourself, but you look into that sea of faces. . .so far from shore.  Hands and arms aching all the way to umbilicus that keeps you tethered to heavy heavy heavy.

Holden Caulfield in a Coast Guard boat, waving a white flag.  Enough already.  Uncle.

Uncle uncle uncle.

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My Blue Heaven

--Tess Farnham "My Blue Heaven," mixed media on canvas, 20x24

So in the past, I have admitted to being one of those artists who grapples with intense bouts of sadness, bouts that are at times so gripping and intense you can barely hold a brush in your hand, let alone steady the thing for detail or realism.  The curves turn linear and the lines wave and bend with trembling.  You erase and erase until the frustration just leads to tears and the tearing up of preliminary sketches and grids. 

At some point in this process you finally get so exasperated, you just grab the closest implement of application and let the strokes go where they will.

This piece actually began as a much darker work with lots of primary colors for contrast; it was a piece that I cherished mostly because its importance to a friend of mine, nevertheless, a piece that I had more or less made to suit his tastes instead of mine.

As it happens, I store blank canvases in the same corner of the basement where I store finished works.  And the other night as I was flipping through to find the size I wanted, my eyes fell upon that painting. ..and I started to think of how much I wanted to take out those awful strokes of ocher and red. . . 

So instead of starting fresh, I decided to go to work there. 

After I had taken this painting upstairs, I noticed that there was a tiny ding in the wood support where it had been dropped on the basement floor.  At first discouraged by this discovery, I quickly recovered when I realized I could patch it.

With lacy mesh from an old curtain panel, its mate lost in the fog somewhere now.  A slumping and ravaged mishap in a heap on the chair beside the easel like a castoff bridal veil. 

I cut the bandages haphazardly, applying them to the corners of the canvas as reinforcement. Afterwards, I applied some gel medium and paint to anchor them.

Next came coats of color and gel medium mixed with pearlescent powders to address the areas where the piece had fallen short of my vision of a completed work. Blues and maroons, mixed and unmixed with dabs of this and that and at times patched together with leaves shakily extracted from that cast off curtain.

A couple of hours later,  I was finished.  Happy and satiated that I’d lifted myself out of this sad spell, but also had done sufficient triage to resurrect a work that had gone to a corner of my basement to die.

Letting Go of the Roses

Last  night I awoke to the blinding light of something broke loose from a desperately colorful dream.  I can’t remember the details exactly.  Just that I found myself  kind of breathless and gasping, stunned mostly. ..and in front of me there was something I can only describe as a block of brightness moving away as I reached for it.

Still lost in sleepiness, at first I thought it was some kind of answer to prayer, if I actually did pray. ..I guess I kind of do as I’ve been struggling lately. . . with feeling so spent and tired, and unmotivated to lift a brush for more than a few seconds.  Lately I just pick it up, dip it into something.  . .drag whatever it was across the canvas, sigh and put it back down again.

So anyway looking back on that dream thing, I am thinking if it actually had been something otherworldy or ufo-ish presence I was seeing instead of a sleep-induced hallucination, it would have had softer edges instead of angles probably.  I didn’t see its face either. .so that was kind of suspicious to me as well.

Then this morning, when I went out to the garden, I had to come to grips with the fact that the white rosebush had died finally. ..that the weight of what had been shoveled on top had crushed its delicate root system. . .  a mishap from last fall when my landlady replaced the backyard sidewalk, and in the process hired some brute with a slegehammer and a shovel.

I came home one day to find the roses coated in a layer of concrete dust.  The bush’s base was buried in a pile of dirt and gravel.

I was able to remove most of the gravel at the time, but I guess the trauma of being buried alive was just too much.  The back branches had already gone brittle in March after the first flowering and today I found the ones in front somewhat crushed and crumbling as well.

I will have to take a shovel to it tomorrow. .. heavy gloves and bucket.

At its peak, the thing had spread to about three feet around and five high.  And its blossoms were big and lush, heady with perfume and petals.  Pretty impressive for having just been planted a couple of years ago.

I will miss the roses every time I pass that space.  I will have to fill it somehow.  Maybe next week, or next month, but not just yet.

Painting by John William Waterhouse